Contagious Page 136

And if you lived through that, your body would feel the effects of radiation for years to come. The cancer rate in southeast Michigan would skyrocket.

The initial blast caused an estimated 58,000 deaths. Another 23,000 died within days as a result of burns and shock-wave-related injuries. Combined, the blast caused 81,000 deaths. In the five years that followed, another 127,000 would die of persistent injuries, cancer and other radiation-related causes.

In those years, through all the scandals and congressional inquiries and public outcry, President John Gutierrez, his staff, the Joint Chiefs, Murray Longworth, Margaret Montoya and Clarence Otto would ask themselves every day . . .

Was it worth it?

As brutal as it sounded, it was.

They had destroyed the spores, killed Chelsea and brought down the Orbital. They still didn’t know what was supposed to come out of those gates, what the angels really looked like and what damage they might have caused.

They didn’t know, and thanks to those who gave their lives, they never would.

In the weeks after the explosion, as FEMA, Homeland Security and a dozen other agencies and charities converged on the Motor City and its suburbs to help the survivors and bury the dead, two small, manned submarines began picking up the only solid enemy remains.

The pieces of the Orbital.

Nine hundred feet below Lake Michigan’s rough surface, the Orbital’s wreckage lay spread across the lake bed, a collection of twisted, warped and broken rubble.

One piece, however, remained mostly intact. This object had been engineered to survive such crashes, to endure almost any type of damage in order to ensure delivery of its contents.

That particular object was about the size of a soda can.