When a massive pig die-off happens that originated out of China, the world points their collective fingers of blame, but soon the same worldwide die-off happens to cows starting in India, then chickens in the USA. Before anyone can pinpoint a cause, the world has suddenly lost a great deal of its livestock and game animals. Frantic and searching for answers, the big fear being if this jumps species to humankind, then what, the death rate is one hundred percent.
Told from three perspectives, The President of the United States, a USDA scientist, and the crew of the International Space Station, Yocto moves at a very fast pace and in the end delivers the knockout blow the reader deserves, but might not see coming.
Karen Bascom was facing impending death and the countdown was not even kind enough to be in her native language. The Russian Cosmodrome official that was sending her to a certain fiery demise did so with words that were not natural to her Western mind.
If this flight were predicated on her ability to understand the written Russian language, this flight would never have happened. Fortunately, there was phonics, and she knew by the sound she just heard shey-st—they were at six in the countdown to launch them into Space. Ah-deen was the sound that would launch them, as that was the sound of number one.
She looked over to Dr. Anatoly Dernov through the shield of her spacesuit and received his reassuring gaze back. He let her know, “It’s going to be alright, Karen.” And then she heard the sound she knew would come: Ah-deen. As the G’s pinned her with the most incredible force imaginable, she begged God to spare these people. She had selfishly joined NASA knowing full well that she was cursed and now she was subjecting innocent lives to the thing she knew was coming—her impending doom. All the signs in her life were pointing to it.
She waited for the shudder that would soon become a wobble; then she would be free of her burden as the craft vaporized with her in it. But as the seconds passed, Karen realized her demise would not come from their launch into Space, which was good because no innocents had to die because of her own encumbrance. As they left Earth’s atmosphere and headed for the International Space Station, she wondered just how her end would come. One thing was certain in her mind—this would be a one-way trip. *** The alarm clock sounded its chime and Jack Zarifis was awakened to face another day of sadness and heartbreak. It was August 15, and even though he lived right on the San Francisco Bay, he still needed a fan at night to keep cool. It was not always like this.
efore Christy left him, he used to spring into his days with vigor. Indeed, he had been warned by his friends, as well as by his family, and even at times by her—but he never listened. Then he found the letter. So typical of her to avoid the actual confrontation of breaking up.
Although he was an American Greek living in the Bay Area of San Francisco, he was heavily steeped in the Greek tradition and culture, which included marriage and its sanctity. That was something she never seemed to get, that marriage was not a napkin that once soiled was to be thrown in the trash. Yet when it came to love, the heart wanted what the heart wanted, and even though his inner voice was telling him, “No,” his romantic heart said, “Yes.” From the moment he saw her on campus in their junior year of college, he could think of little else, as often happened when love struck one down. Greek or not, Christy was his “love at first sight” girl. Jack had to learn the hard way that there was nothing in this world lonelier and heart-wrenching than when only one person was still in love, especially when that other person was indifferent. Unrequited love . . . Christy was spoiled, pure and simple.
She had been at Cal Davis on her daddy’s money, having no real direction, quite different from himself. He got there on grades and determination, knowing early on the direction he was going, clearly wanting to work in the field of microbiology for the agricultural industry.
Christy had lived her whole life in Los Angeles, and she was a fish out of water in Northern California, but her dad wanted her to get a four-year degree. Davis was a well-respected institution and a easy commute home if she wanted. Jack knew, looking back, that he could not have made a more poorly suited choice for himself if he had tried.
Jack had always been laid-back. He had grown up on an island with the same group of friends that he had known since he was five, and his version of the world had very few monetary tags on it. It had more to do with comradery, community, and plain old having fun.
Christy was his polar opposite. She had very few friends other than some gay guy named Stephen whom she had grown up with; and the mall stores, of course, there was always that. He had first noticed her after he had gone swimming one day on campus. She had been swimming, too, and when she got out of the pool, he had observed what he always knew existed, the perfect woman. She had long, dark wavy hair, and a slightly dark complexion with brown eyes that led him to believe that she might have some Hispanic in her ancestry.
She had on a blue, two-piece bikini that complimented her perfect figure; her breasts were slightly larger than what he preferred, but their shape was sublime. A hint of her nipples could be seen through the fabric of her bikini, which, of course, Jack only glanced at. Just the sight of her stirred something in him that he had never felt before, but it was her stomach that stole his heart. Her stomach and waist were heavenly, and her bikini bottom was low cut and revealed the top part of her groin that would have housed hair if she had had any. Instead, the smoothness that lay there was the stuff he could find only in his wildest imagination.
Everything about her, from her amazingly full lips to her perfect buttocks, was beyond description—and it was for that reason, and that reason alone, that he did not listen to anything anyone had to say about her, even his mom. When he saw her that day, he knew he was going to make a move; he had to, or he would never have forgiven himself. Of course, he had been hitting the gym a lot and was certainly yoked back then, so his confidence level was at least at the point where he felt he would not get laughed at. What he did not expect, though, was that the attraction was mutual. In the now, he swung his legs over the bed, forcing himself into the day.
He still had the house they had shared in Modesto, but he had fled there a month after she had left, not able to stand thinking about her all the time, what with all the constant reminders in the house. Although he had spent less than three years with her there, it somehow felt like the bulk of his lifetime. Even though she was materialistic, cold hearted, and shallow, his physical need for her overrode it all. Sure, he had that voice in his head that often told him that he loathed her behavior, but then he would look at her and it would all melt away.
The only true bond they had was their mutual love of the Sierras, not a short hour away. They were both avid hikers and spent a lot of time hiking. But even there, they were on the same planet but still worlds apart. He clearly remembered times when he would stop to be amazed at a king snake—after catching it, of course—or some blue-bellied lizard, and she would quickly get annoyed at the break in the exercise. He now realized it was because her true intent was not to be at one with nature, but that all she cared about was her looks and never getting fat.
She knew her greatest commodity was her looks, and her mom taught her all too well how to use them. Why won’t my mind let this go, she is not right for me! He looked out the window onto the canal as the sun was rising over the Hayward hills. Nestled just inside the San Francisco Bay, his parent’s neighborhood in Alameda was interlaced with waterways that added aesthetics to the already picturesque island town. He grew up in this house. And it was where he first grew the muscles Christy liked so well while rowing around the waterways during the summer of his sophomore year of high school.
Moving to Modesto was the biggest mistake he could ever have made, yet it was the only decision he could have made that would have let him keep his sanity. His GPA upon graduation was a 4.4, so it was no surprise that the USDA had laid a job out for him even before he graduated. He went to work in the Animal and Plant Health Safety Division (APHIS) of the Veterinary Services Program (VS). His starting salary was enough for them to buy a house right out the gate, which had them in a starter apartment for only a few months.
The rift came because she wanted to live in the Bay Area itself and have him commute two hours every day to and from work. She did not want to live way out in the country. Finally, he found a new housing development that appealed to her materialistic side.
First, by showing her that their house was the biggest in the sub-division, and then by showing her that they were only a few miles from a brand-new mall that had all her favorite stores. He further convinced her that The City was only two hours away and they could always go there on weekends. At first, it all was working, especially since she had found a job that allowed her to stay home and work from her home office.
In his mind, he thought he had pulled it off—even after that evening, they had been barbecuing in the backyard and there was a shift in the wind, a shift that brought a smell they had never encountered before in Modesto. It was pure manure. And it closed the night down for Christy, she making quite the dramatic show of it. He stayed and finished cooking the food, but when he brought it in, she was laying back and the eye cover was on.
Once the eye cover was on, he had learned not to talk to her or try to reason out what had happened, as it never went his way. Coming back to the present, he pulled on his PJ’s and padded out to the living room where his mom was watching TV from the couch, his dad next to her in his recliner. His mother greeted him, “Good morning, Son.” “Good morning, Mom.” His parents were watching the Greek news channel, as usual.
Both his parents were newly retired, as his father, Nick, had sold his automotive business the previous year. His twin sisters and older brother had moved back to Greece two years before, so the only thing keeping his parents here was their concern for him. Jenny Zarifis never liked Christy from the onset; even after Jack pointed out that they could be the “names both end in ‘Y’ twins.”
Suffix similarities aside, his mom’s instincts that the girl was going to break her son’s heart were correct. It was funny, though, when he told her that Christy wanted him to commute from the City to Modesto, his mom blasted the idea as selfish minded, yet now suddenly, when he was faced with the 6 AM departure time in order to live with them, she did not seem to mind so much.
In reality, Greek moms were like Jewish moms, and Jewish moms were like all moms—they were worrywarts. Very few of them ever thought that a girl was good enough for their offspring, especially if they were not of their chosen nationality. He got his coffee and sat down, and suddenly his attention was focused on the TV screen. There was a news story out of China: some ten thousand pigs were found floating in the water source for Shanghai. He was watching a crane with a cargo net pulling the pigs out of the Huangpu River.
Those crazy Chinese are all out of balance. Why do they always seem to be at the center of these types of events? Jack worried that this was the first salvo in what was to be a long war on drug resistant bacteria now that it was discovered that China had been using their last line of antibiotic defense in their livestock feed.
Now that colistin had started failing, a new drug resistant world was now underway, and Jack realized he could be seeing the first wave. For such an ancient people, it seemed that Western greed had taken a grip on China’s sense of right and wrong.
Jack could not even imagine what life would be like in the United States if there were an outbreak here like the one the news was reporting from China? He immediately headed out to his office in Modesto; there was nothing like an emergency to get his mind off Christy.
The drive was an hour and a half, and unfortunately it was too early for his staff to be in, so he could not do the remote office thing while driving to work. His department was the OIEA (Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit) and he knew that this morning’s news that he woke up to was going to make his immediate future a busy one. His boss was none other than agency legend, David Ho.
David was Chinese, but he stood six foot three. He was very light-complected and freckled, which led Jack to believe that Ho was of mixed decent, but the subject had never come up, and Jack was okay with letting his heritage come out in its own time. It was not happenstance that he had ended up working for David Ho, as David was the one who recruited him from UC Davis.
Jack was in the top percentiles of GPAs in the school, but that was not what attracted David to him. For David, the whole package counted: Family, volunteerism, activity, personality, and even fiscal responsibility. David was looking for quality Americans who could see the big picture as described in their agency’s mission statement—and did not look at the job as a revolving door to making higher connections, and ultimately become a lobbyist. He wanted patriots as well as laborers.
David recognized that his department was the first line of defense that his country needed to maintain their standard of living, and the people he was placing in position now would be here long after he was gone. Jack was part of that legacy. Jack cleared the Oakland Hills and observed the soft morning sun casting its glow over the Livermore Valley below. He was of the fortunate crowd, the ones heading east in the morning. On the other side of the freeway lay the unfortunate sect, the ones heading west in heavy traffic. Their trail of stalled misery lined up all the way across the valley floor. He turned on his preferred news channel on satellite radio and almost drove into the center wall within thirty seconds.
Jack was sipping his too hot coffee, which burned his lip, and then unceremoniously dribbled down his chin. While he was trying to manage not to stain his shirt and maintain the car with one hand, the radio said something impossible. It said word was coming out of China that every pig in the country had died.
Get it Now!
Get your copy of YOCTO now on audiobook or in paperback.
Interface With Tim
If you'd like to reach out to Timothy Jon Reynolds with questions, comments, requests for live bookings, or bulk orders, please fill out this form.