酷兔英语

February 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence

that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

THE PLAGUE

By TEDDY KELLER

_Suppose a strictly one hundred per cent American plague

showed up.... One that attacked only people within the

political borders of the United States!_

Illustrated by Schoenherr

* * * * *

Sergeant Major Andrew McCloud ignored the jangling telephones and the

excited jabber of a room full of brass, and lit a cigarette. Somebody

had to keep his head in this mess. Everybody was about to flip.

Like the telephone. Two days ago Corporal Bettijean Baker had been

answering the rare call on the single line--in that friendly, husky

voice that gave even generals pause--by saying, "Good morning. Office

of the Civil Health and Germ Warfare Protection Co-ordinator." Now

there was a switchboard out in the hall with a web of lines running to

a dozen girls at a half dozen desks wedged into the outer office. And

now the harried girls answered with a hasty, "Germ War Protection."

All the brass hats in Washington had suddenly discovered this office

deep in the recesses of the Pentagon. And none of them could quite

comprehend what had happened. The situation might have been funny, or

at least pathetic, if it hadn't been so desperate. Even so, Andy

McCloud's nerves and patience had frayed thin.

"I told you, general," he snapped to the flustered brigadier, "Colonel

Patterson was retired ten days ago. I don't know what happened. Maybe

this replacement sawbones got strangled in red tape. Anyhow, the

brand-new lieutenant hasn't showed up here. As far as I know, I'm in

charge."

"But this is incredible," a two-star general wailed. "A mysterious

epidemic is sweeping the country, possibly an insidious germ attack

timed to precede an all-out invasion, and a noncom is sitting on top

of the whole powder keg."

Andy's big hands clenched into fists and he had to wait a moment

before he could speak safely. Doggone the freckles and the unruly mop

of hair that give him such a boyish look. "May I remind you, general,"

he said, "that I've been entombed here for two years. My staff and I

know what to do. If you'll give us some co-operation and a priority,

we'll try to figure this thing out."

"But good heavens," a chicken colonel moaned, "this is all so

irregular. A noncom!" He said it like a dirty word.

"Irregular, hell," the brigadier snorted, the message getting through.

"There're ways. Gentlemen, I suggest we clear out of here and let the

sergeant get to work." He took a step toward the door, and the other

officers, protesting and complaining, moved along after him. As they

drifted out, he turned and said, "We'll clear your office for top

priority." Then dead serious, he added, "Son, a whole nation could

panic at any moment. You've got to come through."

Andy didn't waste time standing. He merely nodded to the general,

snubbed out his cigarette, and buzzed the intercom. "Bettijean, will

you bring me all the latest reports, please?" Then he peeled out of

his be-ribboned blouse and rolled up his sleeves. He allowed himself

one moment to enjoy the sight of the slim, black-headed corporal who

entered his office.

* * * * *

Bettijean crossed briskly to his desk. She gave him a motherly smile

as she put down a thick sheaf of papers. "You look beat," she said.

"Brass give you much trouble?"

"Not much. We're top priority now." He ran fingers through the thick,

brown hair and massaged his scalp, trying to generate stimulation to

his wary and confused brain. "What's new?"

"I've gone though some of these," she said. "Tried to save you a

little time."

"Thanks. Sit down."

She pulled up a chair and thumbed through the papers. "So far, no

fatalities. That's why there's no panic yet, I guess. But it's

spreading like ... well, like a plague." Fear flickered deep in her

dark eyes.

"Any water reports?" Andy asked.

"Wichita O.K., Indianapolis O.K., Tulsa O.K., Buffalo O.K.,--and a

bunch more. No indication there. Except"--she fished out a one-page

report--"some little town in Tennessee. Yesterday there was a campaign

for everybody to write their congressman about some deal and today

they were to vote on a new water system. Hardly anybody showed up at

the polls. They've all got it."

Andy shrugged. "You can drink water, but don't vote for it. Oh, that's

a big help." He rummaged through the clutter on his desk and came up

with a crude chart. "Any trends yet?"

"It's hitting everybody," Bettijean said helplessly. "Not many kids so

far, thank heavens. But housewives, businessmen, office workers,

teachers, preachers--rich, poor--from Florida to Alaska. Just when you

called me in, one of the girls thought she had a trend. The isolated

mountain areas of the West and South. But reports are too

fragmentary."

"What is it?" he cried suddenly, banging the desk. "People deathly

ill, but nobody dying. And doctors can't identify the poison until

they have a fatality for an autopsy. People stricken in every part of

the country, but the water systems are pure. How does it spread?"

"In food?"

"How? There must be hundreds of canneries and dairies and packing

plants over the country. How could they all goof at the same

time--even if it was sabotage?"

"On the wind?"

"But who could accuratelypredict every wind over the entire

country--even Alaska and Hawaii--without hitting Canada or Mexico? And

why wouldn't everybody get it in a given area?"

Bettijean's smooth brow furrowed and she reached across the desk to

grip his icy, sweating hands. "Andy, do ... do you think it's ...

well, an enemy?"

"I don't know," he said. "I just don't know."

For a long moment he sat there, trying to draw strength from her,

punishing his brain for the glimmer of an idea. Finally, shaking his

head, he pushed back into his chair and reached for the sheaf of

papers.

"We've got to find a clue--a trend--an inkling of something." He

nodded toward the outer office. "Stop all in-coming calls. Get those

girls on lines to hospitals in every city and town in the country.

Have them contact individual doctors in rural areas. Then line up

another relief crew, and get somebody carting in more coffee and

sandwiches. And on those calls, be sure we learn the sex, age, and

occupation of the victims. You and I'll start with Washington."

Bettijean snapped to her feet, grinned her encouragement and strode

from the room. Andy could hear her crisp instructions to the girls on

the phones. Sucking air through his teeth, he reached for his phone

and directory.

He dialed until every finger of his right hand was sore. He spoke to

worried doctors and frantic hospital administrators and hysterical

nurses. His firm, fine penmanship deteriorated to a barely legible

scrawl as writer's cramp knotted his hand and arm. His voice burned

down to a rasping whisper. But columns climbed up his rough chart and

broken lines pointedvaguely to trends.

* * * * *

It was hours later when Bettijean came back into the office with

another stack of papers. Andy hung up his phone and reached for a

cigarette. At that moment the door banged open. Nerves raw, Bettijean

cried out. Andy's cigarette tumbled from his trembling fingers.

"Sergeant," the chicken colonel barked, parading into the office.

Andy swore under his breath and eyed the two young officers who

trailed after the colonel. Emotionally exhausted, he had to clamp his

jaw against a huge laugh that struggled up in his throat. For just an

instant there, the colonel had reminded him of a movie version of

General Rommel strutting up and down before his tanks. But it wasn't a

swagger stick the colonel had tucked under his arm. It was a folded

newspaper. Opening it, the colonel flung it down on Andy's desk.

"RED PLAGUE SWEEPS NATION," the scare headline screamed. Andy's first

glance caught such phrases as "alleged Russian plot" and "germ

warfare" and "authorities hopelessly baffled."

Snatching the paper, Andy balled it and hurled it from him. "That'll

help a lot," he growled hoarsely.

"Well, then, Sergeant." The colonel tried to relax his square face,

but tension rode every weathered wrinkle and fear glinted behind the

pale gray eyes. "So you finally recognize the gravity of the

situation."

Andy's head snapped up, heated words searing towards his lips.

Bettijean stepped quickly around the desk and laid a steady hand on

his shoulder.

"Colonel," she said levelly, "you should know better than that."

A shocked young captain exploded, "Corporal. Maybe you'd better report

to--"

"All right," Andy said sharply.

For a long moment he stared at his clenched fists. Then he exhaled

slowly and, to the colonel, flatly and without apology, he said,

"You'll have to excuse the people in this office if they overlook some

of the G.I. niceties. We've been without sleep for two days, we're

surviving on sandwiches and coffee, and we're fighting a war here that

makes every other one look like a Sunday School picnic." He felt

Bettijean's hand tighten reassuringly on his shoulder and he gave her

a tired smile. Then he hunched forward and picked up a report. "So say

what you came here to say and let us get back to work."

"Sergeant," the captain said, as if reading from a manual,

"insubordination cannot be tolerated, even under emergency conditions.

Your conduct here will be noted and--"

"Oh, good heavens!" Bettijean cried, her fingers biting into Andy's

shoulder. "Do you have to come in here trying to throw your weight

around when this man--"

"That's enough," the colonel snapped. "I had hoped that you two would

co-operate, but...." He let the sentence trail off as he swelled up a

bit with his own importance. "I have turned Washington upside down to

get these two officers from the surgeon general's office. Sergeant.

Corporal. You are relieved of your duties as of this moment. You will

report to my office at once for suitable disciplinary action."

Bettijean sucked in a strained breath and her hand flew to her mouth.

"But you can't--"

"Let's go," Andy said, pushing up from his chair. Ignoring the brass,

he turned to her and brushed his lips across hers. "Let them sweat a

while. Let 'em have the whole stinking business. Whatever they do to

us, at least we can get some sleep."

"But you can't quit now," Bettijean protested. "These brass hats don't

know from--"

"Corporal!" the colonel roared.

* * * * *

And from the door, an icy voice said, "Yes, colonel?"

The colonel and his captains wheeled, stared and saluted. "Oh,

general," the colonel said. "I was just--"

"I know," the brigadier said, stepping into the room. "I've been

listening to you. And I thought I suggested that everybody leave the

sergeant and his staff alone."

"But, general, I--"

The general showed the colonel his back and motioned Andy into his

chair. He glanced to Bettijean and a smile warmed his wedge face.

"Corporal, were you speaking just then as a woman or as a soldier?"

Crimson erupted into Bettijean's face and her tight laugh said many

things. She shrugged. "Both I guess."

The general waved her to a chair and, oblivious of the colonel, pulled

up a chair for himself. The last trace of humor drained from his face

as he leaned elbows on the desk. "Andy, this is even worse than we had

feared."

Andy fumbled for a cigarette and Bettijean passed him a match. A

captain opened his mouth to speak, but the colonel shushed him.

"I've just come from Intelligence," the general said. "We haven't had

a report--nothing from our agents, from the Diplomatic Corps, from the

civilian newspapermen--not a word from any Iron Curtain country for a

day and half. Everybody's frantic. The last item we had--it was a

coded message the Reds'd tried to censor--was an indication of

something big in the works."

"A day and half ago," Andy mused. "Just about the time we knew we had

an epidemic. And about the time they knew it."

"It could be just propaganda," Bettijean said hopefully, "proving that

they could cripple us from within."

The general nodded. "Or it could be the softening up for an all-out

effort. Every American base in the world is alerted and every

serviceman is being issued live ammunition. If we're wrong, we've

still got an epidemic and panic that could touch it off. If we're

right ... well, we've got to know. What can you do?"

Andy dropped his haggard face into his hands. His voice came through

muffled. "I can sit here and cry." For an eternity he sat there,

futility piling on helplessness, aware of Bettijean's hand on his arm.

He heard the colonel try to speak and sensed the general's movement

that silenced him.

Suddenly he sat upright and slapped a palm down on the desk. "We'll

find your answers, sir. All we ask is co-operation."

The general gave both Andy and Bettijean a long, sober look, then

launched himself from the chair. Pivoting, he said, "Colonel, you and

your captains will be stationed by that switchboard out there. For the

duration of this emergency, you will take orders only from the

sergeant and the corporal here."

"But, general," the colonel wailed, "a noncom? I'm assigned--"

The general snorted. "Insubordination cannot be tolerated--unless you

find a two-star general to outrank me. Now, as I said before, let's

get out of here and let these people work."

* * * * *

The brass exited wordlessly. Bettijean sighed noisily. Andy found his

cigarette dead and lit another. He fancied a tiny lever in his brain

and he shifted gears to direct his thinking back into the proper

channel. Abruptly his fatigue began to lift. He picked up the new pile

of reports Bettijean had brought in.

She move around the desk and sat, noting the phone book he had used,

studying the names he had crossed off. "Did you learn anything?" she

asked.

Andy coughed, trying to clear his raw throat. "It's crazy," he said.

"From the Senate and House on down, I haven't found a single

government worker sick."

"I found a few," she said. "Over in a Virginia hospital."

"But I did find," Andy said, flipping through pages of his own

scrawl, "a society matron and her social secretary, a whole flock of

office workers--business, not government--and new parents and newly

engaged girls and...." He shrugged.

"Did you notice anything significant about those office workers?"

Andy nodded. "I was going to ask you the same, since I was just

guessing. I hadn't had time to check it out."


生词表:
  • extensive [ik´stensiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.广阔的;大量的   (初中英语单词)
  • research [ri´sə:tʃ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vi.调查;探究;研究   (初中英语单词)
  • protection [prə´tekʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.警戒;护照;通行证   (初中英语单词)
  • running [´rʌniŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.奔跑的;流动的   (初中英语单词)
  • desperate [´despərit] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.拼死的;绝望的   (初中英语单词)
  • patience [´peiʃəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.忍耐(力);耐心;坚韧   (初中英语单词)
  • lieutenant [lef´tenənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.陆军中尉;代理;副手   (初中英语单词)
  • safely [´seifli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.安全地;平安地   (初中英语单词)
  • remind [ri´maind] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.提醒;使记(想)起   (初中英语单词)
  • standing [´stændiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.持续 a.直立的   (初中英语单词)
  • indication [,indi´keiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.指示;征兆,迹象   (初中英语单词)
  • yesterday [´jestədi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&ad.昨天;前不久   (初中英语单词)
  • system [´sistəm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.系统,体系,制度   (初中英语单词)
  • florida [´flɔridə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.佛罗里达   (初中英语单词)
  • identify [ai´dentifai] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.认出;鉴定;验明   (初中英语单词)
  • poison [´pɔizən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.毒物 v.毒害 a.有毒的   (初中英语单词)
  • mexico [´meksikəu] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.墨西哥   (初中英语单词)
  • contact [´kɔntækt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.接触;联系 v.联络   (初中英语单词)
  • relief [ri´li:f] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.救济;援救;减轻   (初中英语单词)
  • barely [´beəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.公开地;仅仅   (初中英语单词)
  • whisper [´wispə] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.耳语 n.低语;沙沙声   (初中英语单词)
  • pointed [´pɔintid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.尖(锐)的;中肯的   (初中英语单词)
  • breath [breθ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.呼吸;气息   (初中英语单词)
  • throat [θrəut] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.咽喉;嗓子;出入口   (初中英语单词)
  • opening [´əupəniŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.开放;开端 a.开始的   (初中英语单词)
  • wrinkle [´riŋkəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.(使)起皱(纹)   (初中英语单词)
  • overlook [,əuvə´luk] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.&n.俯瞰;忽略;观察   (初中英语单词)
  • reading [´ri:diŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(阅)读;朗读;读物   (初中英语单词)
  • sentence [´sentəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.判决 vt.宣判;处刑   (初中英语单词)
  • suitable [´su:təbəl, ´sju:-] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.合适的,适当的   (初中英语单词)
  • awhile [ə´wail] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.少顷;片刻   (初中英语单词)
  • whatever [wɔt´evə] 移动到这儿单词发声  pron.&a.无论什么   (初中英语单词)
  • abruptly [ə´brʌptli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.突然地;粗鲁地   (初中英语单词)
  • worker [´wə:kə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.工人;劳动者;工作者   (初中英语单词)
  • virginia [və´dʒinjə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.佛吉尼亚(州)   (初中英语单词)
  • uncover [ʌn´kʌvə] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.揭开(盖子);揭露   (高中英语单词)
  • publication [,pʌbli´keiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.发表;公布;发行   (高中英语单词)
  • strictly [´striktli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.严格地   (高中英语单词)
  • sergeant [´sɑ:dʒənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.警官;军士   (高中英语单词)
  • saying [´seiŋ, ´sei-iŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.言语;言论;格言   (高中英语单词)
  • warfare [´wɔ:feə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.战争;斗争;竞争   (高中英语单词)
  • sweeping [´swi:piŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.掠过的 n.扫除;清除   (高中英语单词)
  • precede [pri´si:d] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.领先;先于   (高中英语单词)
  • invasion [in´veiʒən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.入侵;侵害;侵犯   (高中英语单词)
  • colonel [´kə:nəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.海(陆)军上校   (高中英语单词)
  • buffalo [´bʌfələu] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.水牛;野牛   (高中英语单词)
  • alaska [ə´læskə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.阿拉斯加(州)   (高中英语单词)
  • stricken [´strikən] 移动到这儿单词发声  strike的过去分词   (高中英语单词)
  • predict [pri´dikt] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.预言;预告;预示   (高中英语单词)
  • encouragement [in´kʌridʒmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.鼓励;赞助;引诱   (高中英语单词)
  • frantic [´fræntik] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.发狂的;急忙的   (高中英语单词)
  • plague [pleig] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.瘟疫 vt.使…染疫   (高中英语单词)
  • gravity [´græviti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.严肃;严重;重力   (高中英语单词)
  • tighten [´taitn] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.(使)变(拉)紧   (高中英语单词)
  • emergency [i´mə:dʒənsi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.事变;紧急关头   (高中英语单词)
  • surgeon [´sə:dʒən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.外科医生;军医   (高中英语单词)
  • cripple [´kripəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.跛子 vt.使残疾   (高中英语单词)
  • eternity [i´tə:niti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.永恒,来世,无穷   (高中英语单词)
  • upright [´ʌprait] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.直立的 ad.直立地   (高中英语单词)
  • fatigue [fə´ti:g] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.(使)疲劳(劳累)   (高中英语单词)
  • senate [´senit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.参议院;上院   (高中英语单词)
  • significant [sig´nifikənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.重要的;意义重大的   (高中英语单词)
  • copyright [´kɔpirait] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.版权;著作权   (英语四级单词)
  • corporal [´kɔ:pərəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.肉体的,身体的   (英语四级单词)
  • pathetic [pə´θetik] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可怜的;悲哀的   (英语四级单词)
  • boyish [´bɔiiʃ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.少年的;幼稚的   (英语四级单词)
  • blouse [blauz] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.女衬衫;短上衣   (英语四级单词)
  • briskly [´briskli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.轻快地;活泼地   (英语四级单词)
  • trying [´traiiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.难堪的;费劲的   (英语四级单词)
  • generate [´dʒenəreit] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.创造;发生;引起   (英语四级单词)
  • congressman [´kɔŋgresmən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.国会议员   (英语四级单词)
  • accurately [´ækjuritli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.准确地;精密地   (英语四级单词)
  • glimmer [´glimə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vi.闪光   (英语四级单词)
  • vaguely [´veigli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.含糊地,暖昧地   (英语四级单词)
  • version [´və:ʃən, ´və:rʒən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.翻译;说明;译本   (英语四级单词)
  • headline [´hedlain] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(报纸的)标题   (英语四级单词)
  • hopelessly [´həuplisli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.无希望地,绝望地   (英语四级单词)
  • tension [´tenʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.紧张;压力;拉力   (英语四级单词)
  • apology [ə´pɔlədʒi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.道歉(的话);辩解   (英语四级单词)
  • upside [´ʌpsaid] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.上边,上段,上部   (英语四级单词)
  • diplomatic [,diplə´mætik] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.外交的   (英语四级单词)
  • epidemic [,epi´demik] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&a.流行病(的)   (英语四级单词)
  • ammunition [,æmju´niʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.军火,弹药   (英语四级单词)
  • haggard [´hægəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.憔悴的   (英语四级单词)
  • matron [´meitrən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.主妇;护士长   (英语四级单词)
  • retired [ri´taiəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.退休的;通职的   (英语六级单词)
  • unruly [ʌn´ru:li] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不守规则的   (英语六级单词)
  • helplessly [´helplisli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.无能为力地   (英语六级单词)
  • flatly [´flætli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.平淡地;断然地   (英语六级单词)
  • biting [´baitiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.刺痛的;尖利的   (英语六级单词)
  • speaking [´spi:kiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.说话 a.发言的   (英语六级单词)
  • hopefully [´həupfəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.抱着希望地   (英语六级单词)
  • helplessness [´helplisnis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.无能为力   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 17:41:03
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