Chapter Thirteen

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I sat patiently, listening to Bill as he ran through the safety procedures on the ship before briefing us on their rescue mission.

“Our next stop is Melbourne,” he said into the microphone, rattling off the induction like he had already done it a thousand times before. “Following that, we’re headed to Adelaide, then Perth, then we’ll set sail to the United Kingdom, where plans are being put into place as we speak, to provide you with food and shelter. This will be a long journey – around five weeks – so it’s important that everyone follows the rules here.” He took in a deep breath and surveyed the room before delivering the next piece of news.

“This will come as a shock to many of you who may not know this, but the outbreak was not an accident.” A few horrified gasps could be heard from around the room, but Jo and I sat unaffected by the revelation, having heard the rumours on our journey.

“I’m sorry to tell you that this was an orchestrated terrorist attack," he said. "It was highly sophisticated and very well planned, taking the entire nation of Australia by surprise. All we know right now is that people, who have been dubbed suicide bio-bombers, turned themselves into Patient Zeroes in public places like festivals, community events, train stations, sports arenas, and city centers. Before entering these highly populated areas, they injected themselves with the disease and timed it so they would turn while surrounded by the unsuspecting public. It’s believed over one hundred of these bio-bombers were strategically placed at certain locations at specific times to have the biggest effect possible. It’s believed it took years of careful planning, not just to engineer the virus but to plan the localized attacks. Multiple government and international agencies are working around the clock to find the people responsible, but right now we don’t have any more information than that. It’s been extremely difficult for any details on how it started to come to light, as much of the evidence has either been destroyed or cannot be investigated because Australia is still a highly volatile area, and may well be that way for years to come. I’m afraid to say that this is a mess that won’t be cleaned up for a very long time.”

A woman near the front of the room began to wail, and he glanced at her with sympathy before continuing.

“None of us here can even begin to imagine what you’ve all been through. I promise we are doing everything we can to give you all you need to get through this. This is the largest mass evacuation ever attempted, and there will be some unexpected challenges along the way. But we have almost two dozen ships and thousands of volunteers from all over the world here today with one aim in mind: to get you out of here safely.”

Hearing those words made me tear up, my emotions forming a lump in my throat as I tried to hold it in.

“We volunteers are here to help in any way we can,” Bill continued. “If you ever need to locate a volunteer, we’re the ones wearing orange vests and the green and gold ribbons. These ribbons are being worn by people all over the world. You don’t know this, but this event has brought the world together in a way that has never been seen before.”

He touched the ribbon, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. “Millions of these ribbons have been sold to raise money to provide you with everything you need. What’s more, they’ve become a symbol for solidarity and peace. So, please know that the entire globe is behind you, praying for you, and supporting you.”

If there had been anyone in the room who wasn’t weeping before, they were after hearing that. It was incredibly touching to know that we were in the thoughts and prayers of the whole world. I wiped my tears on the back of my hand and sat up straighter in my seat to get a better view of Bill as he spoke.

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