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by Ed Murphy
Category: Science Fiction/Horror Dream Realm Award Finalist
Description: When she called him a savior he actually began to comprehend what he had accomplished. By any measure he wasn't a savior in the sense she meant it. But she was dying and any hope was worth hanging on to. As events unfold the fragile existence of man is threatened by his own creation. Through it all one man seeks to find the ultimate solution for mankind's ills. What he uncovers is so shocking and powerful it leads to world changing events unfolding in the White House and the Vatican--from space to the ocean depths. Cure Complex is what we all dream of ... in the end it's the ultimate nightmare. Before long mankind will embark on a horrifying journey leading halfway between salvation and damnation. No one will escape. In a time of hope.... In a world of change... fear and courage, love and hate, trust and deceit battle for mankind's ultimate dream. A new beginning... [Cover art Dirk A. Wolf]
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2003
eBookwise Release Date: September 2003
13 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [313 KB]
Reading time: 195-273 min.
"Buy this book. It's well worth the price! Be prepared, you won't want to put this on down until the last page is turned. Mr. Murphy's talent astounded this reviewer. There isn't any aspect of this book I wouldn't recommend. He explains the technical terms with simplicity the average reader can understand. All of his characters, both evil and good, show a huge amount of depth. The author is amazing at tying up details and making the reader believe the story completely, to the point of getting chills. Cure Complex is a superb read. As an author, Mr. Murphy belongs right up there with Robert Ludlum, John Sanford and John Grisham. 5 Stars!"--K.L. Frizzell, Simply Ebooks
"Author Ed Murphy has a unique talent of developing a cast of memorable characters that toy with our emotions. Murphy's plot is intriguing and makes us wonder: What would happen if a cure were discovered for the ills of humanity? If you read Cure Complex, you'll find his take on this fascinating subject. And maybe you'll formulate ideas of your own."--Michael L. Thal, Scribes World Reviews
"Speculative fiction at its finest, Cure Complex, set in the near future, presents a complex and frightening extrapolation from a seemingly simple what if. Thoughtful, insightful, and riveting, the book takes off like a rocket and gives the reader a wild ride through a future that could possibly exist. This is a book that has to be read, re-read, and considered. A debut book, Cure Complex promises a great future for the author. Congratulations, Mr. Murphy, you have written an incredible book. Very Highly Recommended!"--Patricia White, WordWeaving.com
"Behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch."
-- James Russell Lowell, "The Present Crisis," 1844
New Mexico, 1947
DEKE CARTER followed the narrow curved path leading from the parking area to the main observatory building. He moved with the quick cadence he learned in the Navy. In the calm silence of the evening, stones crunched loudly under his steps.
The trip from Albuquerque with the monthly supply of photographic plates for the telescope's cameras was monotonous. But the winding road climbing to the summit of Butte Peak was a challenge. Its twists and turns required his concentration and skill. He used extra packaging to cushion the fragile cargo against the jolting trip up the mountain. The packaging made the boxes noticeably heavier. He was thankful he was in excellent shape.
Deke maintained his lean muscular physical condition by continually exercising -- to the annoyance of his friends. Over the years his good looks and charming personality touched the hearts of many women. Deke was always the center of attention, but he preferred not to be. He dreaded being singled out in a crowd. His friends affectionately nicknamed him Rod, claiming he always drew the lightening.
The high altitude of Butte Peak demanded he acclimate his breathing to the thin air. The work he was doing didn't lend itself to keeping a body in shape. Sitting on a chair for most of the night was much too sedate. Without fail, Deke pushed himself to exercise. He was on the hiking trial no later than 6 a.m. He runs a minimum of five miles a day. It kept him mentally and physically sharp.
Lacking outside stimulation, he provided his own motivation. In his early teens he was overweight and classmates teased him relentlessly. He never made it to the top of the climbing rope in high school gym class. From then on, he made up his mind to get into shape. He dedicated a year to weight training and to strict dieting. Dropping from 250 pounds to his now sleek 170 pounds was only possible by constantly focusing on the goal. He applied a method of body conditioning he read about in a book published in 1938 -- The Total Body Book by someone named Kellogg. It was cutting edge thinking. All he cared about was the fact it worked. People who knew him in his early days didn't recognize him right away. His new look took them by surprise.
He never forgot the teasing he put up with; the emotional pain haunted him. Now, when he got up in the morning deciding if he should run or not, he remembers Louis Wilcox. In high school Louis was his nemesis, his anti-hero. At what exact point all that changed he couldn't recall. The bloody nose he gave Louis was his crowning achievement on his journey to manhood. He laughed out loud whenever he thought of it. Anytime he got into a fight his mom would say "such boyish things" and scold him for his actions. But from that day forward his classmates admired Deke, and Louis became his friend. He'd received word Louis Wilcox died on Iwo Jima leading his men into battle. He gave his life to save them. Deke would have expected it of him. Louis thrived in harm's way.
The one and only time they both came close to getting expelled from Jackson High School was in the execution of a daring raid on the girl's locker room. It all started as a bet. They were too proud to turn down the challenge from the guys they hung out with. They would go in and grab as many of the girls clothes they could. Unfortunately for Deke and Louis Miss Clark, the girl's gym teacher, was in much better shape then they were. She ran them down and cornered them in the showers. Her muscular build was too much for them. When she caught them she held on to both of them with ease.
Slipping and sliding around on the wet tiles they fell in a heap on shower room floor. Steamy water ran at full pressure and the girls showering yelled as they tried to cover up.
The three laughed so hard they cried. She glared at them and whispered in her deep voice, "You two get outta here and don't let me catch you in here again or else." She winked at them and smiled. They were lucky. Wet, but lucky. Deke's mom would have never understood. Louis' dad would have beaten him to within an inch of his life, if he were sober enough to do it.
They both went on to their classes that day, soaking wet. They got some strange looks. Nonetheless, they escaped the wrath of Miss Clark. She was placed high on their most favored teacher list. Deke loved that part of his life; he felt good about recalling it. He did so more often now. Secluded on Butte Peak for months at a stretch provided him with lots of time to think.
In the crisp evening twilight he could make out a few sand devils swirling on the desert floor far below the Butte Peak summit. As the western sky turned from pink to blood red the sand devils took on a ghost-like quality. Sand devils fascinated him; they gave the desert southwest a special uniqueness. When low cross wind currents occurred, and hot and cool air merged, the sand devils appeared and went about the task of sculpting the beauty of the barren landscape. Highlighting an area here, darkening an area there, constantly changing the view.
A legend of the Indian tribes of the area held that sand devils were evil omens. The legend detailed how angry spirits would emerge from their hiding place in the Cave of the Winds and dance across the open desert. The Great Spirit dance of swirling arid soil was a foretelling of dreadful events to come
One legend told of the prehistoric Sinawa Indians of Arizona vanishing from the face of the earth because of a monster sand devil. The spiritual keeper of the water became angry with the tribe for building a dam on the small river flowing through the settlement. The Great Spirit summoned all the coyotes of the earth to howl. They created a sand devil so powerful it destroyed all the Sinawa. The spirit made an example of them to insure that other tribes in the area would treat the land with dignity and respect.
Deke often visited the cliff-dwelling ruins left by the Sinawa. Ever since he had been a little boy, he took an interest in archeology, often daydreaming of digging up ancient artifacts from the hot sand. News of the expedition into the Valley of the Kings in Egypt had made headlines. When other boys went swimming or played ball, Deke pretended to dig up King Tut's Tomb in his back yard. Curse and all, he laughed to himself. There were unconfirmed reports of ancient scrolls being discovered in caves by the Dead Sea. He could only imagine the revelations they contained.
He changed his mind about archeology when he was stationed on board a ship for three months. He would lie on the fantail and gazed up at the stars for hours. He fell in love with the night sky. It reminded him of the tales told around the campfires of his youth.
His dad and uncles told stories of lost Indian hunters who lit campfires in the sky so everyone could see where they were and guide them home. He loved the peace and quiet of the sky. He looked up now and saw the first hint of the coming dark. His thoughts returned to the Sinawa. Their dwellings, a few artifacts and some cave drawings were the only tangible evidence the tribe ever existed. Some of their culture and art was preserved in a few mud and clay buildings -- in buried pots, and scattered arrowheads. He recalled an ancient Indian chant attributed to the Sinawa Warriors. No one knew exactly where it came from:
"I wait for the coyote howl,
Canyon wall and river deep,
Red, red sunset,
Dark, dark night,
The moon and warrior watch,
The wind and ghost never sleep."
The Sinawa tribe vanished from the face of the earth. No distinct archeological clue to where they went could be found. The question remained unanswered as to what became of them as a civilization. Unless the legend was true.
Current thinking, based on newfound evidence, was a supposition that a great tornado caused extensive damage and left the tribe disoriented and exposed to attack from rival tribes. Their only option may have been to leave the area, as though they were scattered to the wind.
Deke found it hard to imagine not a trace of what happened to them was ever found. No physical evidence existed indicating where the tribe had gone. Most likely they were absorbed, or killed off, by other tribes. Many tribes claimed kinship over the centuries. No one knew who the rightful heirs were to the mysterious Sinawa Indians. They existed, and then they didn't.
The deepening red hues of the desert twilight caught his attention again. Deke paused once more to gaze at the darkening landscape below. The stark desolation painted in crimson red was a reflection of the primordial world from which man was born. The cauldron of star stuff roiling in a frenzy to become -- teaming with the soup of life -- the first living thing.
To say Deke loved his current job was an understatement. He was absolutely one with his work. He'd just concluded his hitch in the U. S. Navy. His main billet was to prepare star navigational plots for the pacific fleet during the war.
No one credited Deke with being a serious astronomer, until the publication of his paper, Vicar of the Stars, put the question to rest. He acquired the notoriety necessary to secure the residency position at the Butte Peak Observatory. His appointment ended his self-imposed exile from the civilian world.
Like so many men who were separated from their girls for long periods of time, the war cost him his true love.
Stella Benton was special. The one in a million girl who comes into a man's life and forever changes it. She felt very comfortable to him; he knew he could spend his entire life loving and taking care of her.
Stella was the daughter of Herman Benton, owner, fashion designer, and proprietor of the local clothing store. The Benton family amassed enormous wealth. They earned the respect of the citizens of New Hampton by building a hospital and library. Stella's mother, Cora Benton, accepted the responsibility to be the champion for all of the major charities in New Hampton.
Herman was not pleased with Deke; he wanted to ensure Stella had the best or everything, including a husband. In his opinion, Deke was not the best. He considered him an obstacle on Stella's climb to fame. Herman often envisioned his daughter married to a surgeon, attorney or a U.S. Senator, and perhaps as First Lady of the United States -- like Eleanor Roosevelt. She could do it. He had no doubt about it.
Deke's father worked at the local roundhouse. Trains were his life, seven days a week. So was the beer. Deke's father ended up dead in the street on the day Deke turned sixteen. It was a hard life. Deke's mom passed away when he was twenty.
He started seeing Stella after he met her at a school dance. In fact it was the first dance Deke ever went to; he was shy. Louis and his other friends dared him to go, hoping he would raise some hell. But he danced with Stella. She changed his life. He loved how soft she felt, how wonderful she smelled, and how sweet and tenderly she spoke. He fell in love -- deep and hard, head over heels in love. The kind of love where you see the silly fireworks, stars and spinning wheels. It made him blush.
He walked her home. They kissed good night on her porch. He was walking on clouds. They became serious a few months before Deke joined the service. They started to talk about marriage and kids. Stella's father could not accept the turn of events.
Deke received her letter six months after he arrived in Hawaii. She'd met someone and they planned to marry. She'd found another to love. The hurt ran deep. It left a scar on his soul. He stayed in the Navy to hide his pain but it wasn't long before he knew he could never bury his feelings for Stella, he loved her so dearly.
Deke tried to drown his pain by visiting the local bars. It was the same path his father had taken -- life at the bottom of a bottle. He didn't like the possible outcome. With encouragement from friends, he knew he needed to get on with his life. No one could do it for him.
Since starting his Butte Peak residency, he occasionally corresponded with old friends at the naval observatory in Washington, D.C. He sent them pertinent information concerning possible star plots for ships at sea. Deke enjoyed staying in touch with his friends in the Navy. He thought of them often. He knew deep down he would never have friends as close as those he had made in the service. There was something about shared misery and many hours of discussion over a few cool beers that cemented inseparable bonds.
He paused again -- something he did often at this altitude -- to breathe in the fresh air at 9,800 feet above sea level, untainted by the rest of the world. The air and fast walk had put him in a reflective mood.
The trip to Albuquerque was a morale booster. He'd managed to turn it into an overnight stay. Deke would do anything to prolong contact with people outside of his small world of stargazing; the isolation at the summit was taking its toll on his emotions. He dedicated the last two years of his life to his work. He'd been having thoughts of leaving the summit -- perhaps moving into a teaching position. He would settle down and start a family when the right girl came along.
As he approached the observatory building, the glistening silver dome reminded him of the Buck Rogers movies of his youth. In spite of his thoughts of leaving the summit, Deke kept a fresh enthusiasm for his profession. He maintained a child-like wonder when looking at the stars.
He believed studying the mysteries of the universe contributed to the understanding of the present. The observation of light traveling from hundreds of millions of years ago marked the pathway to the future with the knowledge gained. Deke knew some day man would make the leap into space and perhaps visit a distant star.
Einstein forever altered the simple observation of the universe. He did it with a profound yet simple mathematical equation: E=MC 2 . It was religious in its implications. The divine law of physics: Matter always was and always will be and it can never be created or destroyed; only converted. The essential truth of pure physics, a small amount of matter contained an enormous amount of energy, was at the core of the shift in man's social and political thinking. For the first time in the history of human beings they had enough energy at their disposal to destroy themselves. From now on, mankind would search and struggle for ways to counterbalance the prospect of total annihilation.
At any given moment, the equation converting mass to energy was taking place in the tens of millions of stars Deke observed with reverence each night. Astronomy was the remarkable tool to understanding the surrounding vastness. He understood and mastered how to use that tool.
As he pressed the door buzzer to the main observatory entrance, a faint sound rolled across the Butte Peak summit -- a long, staccato howl answered by a similar call from an adjoining peak. The skin on his arms tingled. Coyotes! Hearing coyote howls on the summit were unusual.
The Indians wrote legends about the coyote, too. They howl and take to high ground when frightened or when they sense something unusual in nature. Deke never heard the coyotes at this altitude; he made a mental note to ask the rangers in Two Creeks about the howling when he made his security check on the two-way radio.
The evening was calm and clear, except for the few sand devils dancing far below. The coyotes' howling continued. It shrouded the air with a feeling of foreboding.
Professor Bradford opened the door with a jolt. Not offering a greeting, he turned and walked back to his desk, making a few barely audible grunts under his breath.
Deke stepped inside and set the box of plates on the floor. He reached up and snatched his pair of red lens night glasses; they snapped off the hook. He put them on. It would take ten minutes for the glasses to adjust his vision to the low light required inside the observatory. Until his vision adapted to the dimness he would have to make small talk with Bradford.
Charles Bradford was the preeminent astronomer in the U.S., which is why Deke wanted the assignment at Butte Peak. Just to work with, and learn from Bradford, he would forgive him his social shortcomings. After all, Bradford had discovered more galaxies than any astronomer in history. The Bradford Comet would return in 1999.
Deke Carter and Charles Bradford were opposite in almost every way. Deke was a risk taker, always pushing beyond the set limits of the established structure; Bradford was a careful meticulous person, reluctant to change. Deke was lean and energetic; Bradford was 60 pounds overweight.
"How are you tonight, Professor?" Deke forced himself to be as pleasant.
"As well as you can expect," Bradford said with a huff. "I had to take the six to midnight watch last night. I assume you were carrying out other observations in Albuquerque. You should have been here helping me." There was a hint of scolding in his voice.
"I apologize. Gary said he was going to fill in for me." He looked at the empty seat at Gary's workstation.
"He received orders by special courier Friday night. He left Saturday morning." Bradford jotted down something on the paper attached to his clipboard. "Transferred to the Naval Observatory in Washington." He looked up from his writing. "As of today this operation boils down to me and you for the next three to four weeks." He continued to make notes. "I've already started working on his replacement." He returned to his paperwork.
Bradford moved to stand behind the photo desk at the base of the telescope. His reading glasses slid down his nose as he looked up. Deke and Gary Holmes often joked about Bradford looking like Ben Franklin. They half expected to find him outside flying a kite on some dark and stormy night.
Deke regretted not having the opportunity to say good-bye to Gary. Gary Holmes worked long and hard over the last eight months verifying Deke's work. He could look at the photos taken by the scope and make detailed drawings entirely from memory. Gary was three years younger than Deke, and on rare occasions he joins him on the trip to Albuquerque.
A few times they smuggled beer back with them, keeping it outside in a special place, well hidden from Bradford. Fortunately Bradford never found out. He would not have tolerated what he would have considered adolescent behavior.
Deke glanced at Bradford with a frown. "I picked up the new photo plates you recommended. God, they are expensive. Four-twenty a piece! I used my own cash to the sum of sixty-three dollars." He turned his pants pockets inside out. "I'll put it on my expense voucher." Deke walked over and handed Bradford the receipt, shoved his pocket lining back inside and smiled at Bradford.
"I'll set the coordinates for tonight's target observation, Professor." Deke put forward his best effort to please Bradford. He always treated the professor with respect, even though Bradford could be a royal pain in the ass -- especially when he didn't get his way.
"The Zodiacal light and the quarter moon make Cassiopeia a logical choice for tonight," Deke said with authority. "I've been doing a preliminary study of a new galaxy. I suspect a red giant in the lower quadrant." Deke tried to sound excited, hoping the enthusiasm would catch on with Bradford.
"I've estimated the total mass of the galaxy to be under 300 billion stars." He started to set the coordinates for the telescope's mechanical adjustment. "We're right at the limit of our viewing power. I'd give anything to have the 200 inch scope at Palomar." Deke put his hand on the back of his neck and rubbed, trying to work out the stiffness from the long walk to the observatory.
"It's just like you Deke. You're never satisfied with what you have. If you want to study a red giant, why not Betelgeuse in Orion instead of some obscure galaxy?" Bradford remarked in his dry, matter-of-fact, listen to what I say voice.
"No challenge, Professor. All the conservative astronomers are studying Betelgeuse. There is no gain to be made in following that group." Deke hid his agitation as well as he could. Bradford's constant digs got on is nerves.
"You're too unconventional." Bradford peered over the top of his glasses again. "I don't want to see your brilliant talent wasted on unproductive work." Bradford put just the right amount of conviction in his voice.
Deke understood what Bradford was getting at; the politics of astronomy were much more complicated than the mechanics. "I'll do my mandatory paper on Betelgeuse, professor," he said, making no attempt to hide his anger. "I'll submit it before year end."
Deke approached the 160-inch telescope with reverence, the way a priest approaches an altar. The Butte Peak observatory came into existence just prior to World War II. The 160-inch mirror was the first of its kind to be cast and polished to such perfection. The Italian firm of Rocalli and Fuch developed the pouring art in Milan. The quality rivaled the clarity of a flawless diamond.
The military kept its hand in the Butte Peak operation, first as an auxiliary Naval Observatory, and then as an Air Force support operation.Since the end of World War II, the University of California's astronomy section, affiliated with the California Institute of Celestial science, took over the day-to-day operation of the observatory.
Deke was one of the few young astronomers on the scene who took his work seriously enough to make significant strides in data collection and analyses. The exacting methods he displayed for detail set him apart. Perfection was his goal and nothing less would satisfy him. His experience in the Navy prepared him well for his current assignment.
Developing navigational charts for the growing industry of American commercial aviation was a new requirement.
With regular transcontinental flights increasing as civil aviation came of age, reproducible and easy to read charts were required for the pilots of the new era.
The observation of Cassiopeia, the constellation near the star Polaris, was an important phase in developing east-west star plots. The discovery of the galaxy behind Cassiopeia was an additional benefit. The discovery of a red giant within the galaxy was exceptionally good luck.
Deke meticulously set the coordinates to move the telescope one-quarter degree of arc. After the clank and grind of the telescopes pivot mechanism ceased, he removed his red night lenses and placed his right eye on the cross-hair scope sight.
When asked what it was like to view the heavens through the observatory telescope, Deke often recalled the book of Genesis. The power of the words of creation was fitting for such a wondrous sight. How magnificent it was to behold the universe within the dark and quiet confines of the observatory. He often thought of the observatory as a vast dark empty cathedral. He shut off all outside interference. He was left with his thoughts and the vastness of the universe to keep him company.
The act of pondering a distant star electrified him. The implications of starlight and his own mortality merged. With the dawn of the atomic age, ushered into the world less than 300 miles away, man willingly brought the face of the Sun to Earth. Man became intimate with the power of creation -- the handiwork of God. Now man could recreate a portion of God's handiwork on the surface of the Earth. The consequence of that singular act was profound.
Cassiopeia's five stars aligned dead center on the cross hairs of the star field's viewfinder. Minor adjustments would not be required.
Outside of the Milky Way, far beyond Cassiopeia, lay the newly found galaxy. When Deke first sighted the galaxy, he wired the International Astronomical Association with the find. Upon reviewing the records, the IAA replied, the official 'M' designation would be assigned as soon as the find was verified. 'M' indicated the prestigious Messier classification. The galaxy was reported in the past but no official entry was applied for, no record was kept of the discovering astronomer.
"Deke, I'll get new plates. I used all of the ones from the desk file last night." As an afterthought he added, "thanks for setting tonight's coordinates." At least Bradford's mood seemed to have improved.
"Okay, Professor. I left them by the door." Deke spoke loudly so Bradford could hear him some 30 feet below. "I'll start the radar scan procedure just for drill." Deke was left alone with the stars.
As he peered into the eyepiece, the small hairs on the back of his neck began to tingle. His heart rate increased. His hand trembled slightly as he held the adjustment knob. The color of light in the suspected red giant began to rapidly flicker and blink. It changed.
He reached over and started the light wave spectrum recorder. He desperately tried to keep his eye on the target scope. In an instant, the supernova burst into the field of view behind Cassiopeia. Deke knew a supernova was last observed in AD 1054 when the Chinese recorded the Crab Nebula.
"Professor, come quick!"
Copyright © 2002 by Ed Murphy