It has been almost 30 years since the great pandemic of 2020 and many alive today have no idea what life was like with rationing, quarantines, mass testing, or the nightmares of schooling in such a time. Dr. Ronald Jefferies was one of them.

 He was born after the pandemic and thus had no experience other than the constant reminders from his mother and father. They both worked two jobs for most of Ron's life but tried to give their son everything they could, and what they couldn't he would have to get for himself. At 26, he is one of the first recipients of the new Federal trial program to fund higher education shortages in critical positions. He has a phone call from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland and it appears they like his application.

 Meanwhile, Commander William Goodwin just kissed his family goodbye and is climbing into the transport vehicle that will take him to the launch tower.  Missions to Mars are fairly common now and the fanfare is minimal except for families, launch employees, and the die-hard aero geeks. The payload bay is full of cargo and resources to continue the expansion of the Mars habitats. It's not terribly exciting, but at least the treks only take around 2 months round trip thanks to the new anti-matter drives on the latest shuttles.

 After losing the appointment to the Joint Chief of Space Operations, Lt. General Niah Sidney-Miles doesn't have time to sulk. Her new superior, in title only, has tasked her to review an old Top-Secret plan detailing the requirements to successfully perform an evacuation to Mars. She can only think this is some sort of cruel joke or power play by General Gruber but refuses to let him rile her up. In the weeks to come, she will realize that this wasn't a joke after all and that the pages in her hand are the start of the most intricate exodus in the history of the human race. 

 Across the pond in London, Heathrow airport is packed with fans returning from the 2048 Olympic Games in South Africa. One passenger, Charles Shaffer, is feeling a bit worse for the wear and starts thinking he should have skipped that last glass of wine on the plane. The rash he got from his crappy hotel sheets has only gotten worse over the last 5 days and is now quite agitated. He has his wife call the dermatologist and she makes an appointment for 9am Monday morning and they recommend an ointment he can use over the weekend. Charles will never make it to that appointment and will instead later be referred to as Patient Zero for the worst virus the planet has ever seen. A deadly virus that targets skin cells... by their pigmentation.


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