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Mann Alone

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In 2027 a new much more deadly pandemic is sweeping across the world eliminating all human life. The Isle of Man alone may be saved if its top pathologist, an abrasive character called Dr Vin Singh, can persuade its Government to take the actions needed. This creates conflicts with his own son's fiancee desperate for her sister to be allowed to return to the island. Working against him are the Health Minister, a vain man wanting popularity; and also a racist and slightly unhinged rabble rousing religious minister with political influence. Dr Singh finds an unlikely ally in "Major" Peter Quinnel, a farmer who is also leader of the Army Reservists. Peter feels compelled to use artillery to deter a repatriation flight from landing, and later artillery is used to sink a blockade breaking Russian yacht. There are more tensions with a requisitioned cruise ship hoping to bring people home to the Isle of Man, and someone being discovered to still be alive on the British mainland. The story concludes on a fairly upbeat note with an Epilogue by a key Government official who has befriended Dr Singh. This describes how life goes on with significant adjustments being required, including organised parties retrieving materials and goods from a mainland devoid of life.

Drama / Scifi
Philip Kelly
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Chapter 1, Monday 5 April 2027 “Are you crazy? You are saying that we should impose an immediate indefinite embargo on goods or people entering or leaving the island? Do you remember how difficult it was just stopping the movement of people in or out seven years ago, and it didn’t stop Covid 19 getting here anyway. I can’t ask the Minister to try selling that to the rest of the Council of Ministers.” This was David Quayle speaking. His title was Chief Executive of the Health and Social Services Department. This meant he was the top official in that department of the Isle of Man Government. He was talking to Dr Vihan Singh, who had followed him into his office at 8.30 that particular Monday morning. David knew that Dr Singh was the senior consultant at the Pathology Department at the main hospital, and that he had been a rival candidate for his job. But he had had very little previous contact with him. Dr Singh, feeling very agitated, said, “Look have you been following the news at all? There are very few signs of life left on madagascar. This ultra pneumonia virus will appear soon on the continent of Africa, because people will have been taking flights to Johanesburg from Madagascar. Luckily, flights to Paris from Madagascar stopped about four weeks ago, because of some industrial dispute in France, so it may take a little longer to get to Europe. But it seems nobody who gets this virus is surviving. It might be too late already, but we ought to at least try to save the people on this island.” David Quayle replied, “I think you are exaggerating the threat. We have had new diseases before which created some alarm, Aids, Sars, Ebola and of course Coronavirus, or Covid 19. None of them did or should have had much impact here. We obviously had some Aids cases amongst our LGBT community. Oh yes, I think we had what, about twenty five to thirty Covid 19 deaths in the end, but the main problem with that was the economic damage done by the shutdown. And now you want to repeat that? In my experience, it is much too early to take such extreme measures.” Dr Singh said, “What do you mean ‘in my experience’? You are just a jumped-up social worker, whereas previous chief execs in this department have at least come from a health background. I am a very well qualified and experienced microbiologist, and I have never seen or heard anything like this. All the people in this field I have spoken to over the weekend are absolutely terrified. And with flights linking nearly everywhere these days, ultra pneumonia is going to spread rapidly. It seems to be extremely contagious, and with a 100 per cent fatality rate. But, with 14 days delay before there are any symptoms. As I say it may be too late already. I feel absolute dread to be honest. My son Matthew is still in London, after a weekend conference, and I am expecting him back this evening. From a selfish point of view I would like the port and airport closures to happen after he has got back, even if the right thing to do is to close the airport and ports immediately. Look, apart from hoping for the best, we could all pray for deliverance I suppose. I have rejected all religion personally, as lacking any rational basis and pandering only to human weakness, but if anyone else wants to pray to God, or any other deity, that this virus somehow does not spread through Britain, Europe and the rest of the world, even with no vaccine, that is fine by me. And, if their prayers achieve such a miracle, that would be great. In the meantime, let’s have a complete embargo on all contact with the outside world. And if praying does work, then we can say sorry for all the fuss, and reconnect ourselves to the rest of the world.” Dr Singh was red eyed and shaking slightly. David had not tried to interrupt him. He felt a chill, as he realised, not only that Dr Singh was absolutely serious, but that he was probably right in predicting the doom of most of mankind. After a short pause David said, “Okay Dr Singh, I know that you are the well respected Senior Consultant in Pathology at Nobles Hospital, our main pathologist in other words. Whilst I may be a jumped-up social worker, I like to think I take Public Health very seriously, and obviously we have to listen to your concerns. And maybe you are right. Oh, and just for the record, I do have a religion. My particular weakness, as you put it, is Christianity, even if I don’t go to church except on Christmas Eve. We will both go and see the Minister of Health and Social Care, as soon as we can get hold of him. He might be in his office already, because there is a Council of Ministers meeting at 10am, and I know he wants a quick run through some budget figures with me first. His office is on the same floor as the other ministers, although I used to be next door to him. Things are always being reorganised, mainly to give the impression of improving efficiency, although most of of the time it has the opposite effect. Anyway I digress, when urgency seems to be what is required. I think your first name is Vihan, isn’t it?” Dr Singh had calmed down a bit, “Yes but most people call me Vin. I am sorry about the jumped up social worker remark.” David replied, “That’s alright Vin, call me David. Don’t worry about the remark; I like to know what people think about me, even if usually they don’t tell me to my face.” He smiled at Vin in a friendly way, and went on, “But I think I will do most of the talking, because we want to get the Minister on our side if we can.” Vin responded, “Oh I don’t know; I seem to have been persuasive with you. Perhaps I will call the Minister an old fool, and see if that does the trick.” Vin smiled weakly at David. David said, “Well yes I am 53, and the Minister must be at least 5 years older than me, but he is a bit vain, so I don’t think you should try that! Anyway, you must be about 60 yourself?” “61 actually, but feeling a lot older sometimes,” Vin replied. David said, “Tell you what, you wait here, whilst I go up to his floor to see if he’s in his office and will speak to you as well as me. He wouldn’t like it if if I take you in unannounced.” David’s office was on the 2nd floor of the main Government offices in Bucks Road, in Douglas. Douglas was the key port and main town of the Isle of Man, or just Mann as it was sometimes called. The island was a Crown dependency in the Irish Sea, about 30 miles long roughly north to south, and about 13 miles wide, in the shape of a badly damaged rugby ball. In the 2026 Census it had a population of 84,000. This would have been the same sort of size of population as a fairly small local authority would have had in England, but being a Crown dependency meant that the Isle of Man Government, even then, had complete internal responsibility for all aspects of life. Only Defence and Foreign Representation were provided by the UK Government. A few minutes after he had disappeared David returned, and he took Vin with him up to the Minister of Health and Social Care’s office on the 3rd floor. The Minister, Adrian Kelly, sighed and frowned, “Look David, I know you said this is urgent and vitally important, but I am meeting the rest of the Council of Ministers at 10am, and the budget for health spending and hospital services, which we’ve both worked on, is first on the agenda, so you and I are being distracted from that. Anyway, sit down both of you.” Adrian was looking at David, so he decided to speak, “Minister, you must be aware of this new virus, possibly a new strain of flu, ultra pneumonia?” “Yes, doing a lot damage in Madagascar, but how does that affect us?” Adrian replied. David said, “The thing is Minister, any kind of flu is very hard to contain. In theory, when it is airborne, it can only spread a few feet through the air, before it starts to perish outside a host body. However the incubation period is about fourteen days, so that the infection is spread by people who do not even realise they have the infection.” Vin thought, that to be having such a damaging impact, the ultra pneumonia virus must actually be carrying considerable distances in the air, but he was warming to David, and decided not to comment. Adrian said, “Okay, I still don’t see how this affects us, when the virus is restricted to Madagascar.” David answered, “Well the trouble is that this particular virus seems to be very contagious, and to have pretty much a 100% fatality rate. Dr Singh here, who has good contacts with other microbiologists around the world, has advised that no one who has manifested its symptoms seems to have survived. There seems to be very little sign of remaining life in Madagascar. Almost certainly, infected people will have already flown from there to Johanesburg. All strains of flu are generally very adept at being spread to other passengers on an aeroplane, and aeroplanes link nearly everywhere in the world these days. It might have got to Britain already!” Adrian replied, “So basically you are saying that it could spread to the Isle of Man. Well how can we stop it? I recall we tried sort of quarantining, or embargoing, the island from outside contacts with the Covid 19 pandedemic, and it didn’t really help much.” David said, “Well let’s look at the precedent of the Cornavirus pandemic. Luckily that did not did ultimately kill more than about thirty people, I think. And no one seriously tried to stop us from closing our borders. Our problem was that we did it too late, and we allowed some of our fellow islanders back in, even though they were in so called isolation in a hotel for a while. It might cause quite a stir this time if we close, without any notice, all access to Mann for all traffic – sea and air, passenger and freight. And, we would have to exclude fellow islanders trying to return home. It would be dangerous not to. With someone, such as yourself, arguing the case for principled and decisive action, we might be in time to save the people of this island. The Manx people will eventually come to appreciate the actions of those involved.” David paused briefly. He knew that Adrian’s twin sister was married to the British Prime Minister, and he decided to mention it, “I hesitate to mention your relationship with the British Prime Minister, but is it possible that you could persuade them to lend their Coastguard and military support to our own Coastguard and police, in keeping our ports and coastline closed to outsiders? That is assuming our Government decides to implement an embargo.” Adrian said, “Okay I hear what you are saying. I would just like to get my own bearings on things from Google.” He started clicking on the mouse of his PC, whilst Vin restrained a strong urge to shake him. After a few grim minutes of netsurfing, Adrian looked at Vin and said, “Dr Singh isn’t it? Is there anything you would like to add to what Mr Quayle has said?” Vin replied, “Minister, I think Covid 19 was nothing compared with ultra pneumonia. The embargo for Covid 19 was too late. Even so, and even if we had had no lockdown or social distancing of any kind, it still was never going to kill more than, say, two or three hundred people, with an average age of dying from it being 79 years. With ultra pneumonia, if it gets here, it will simply kill everyone. So we must give the people here a chance, and close the airport and ports to all traffic as soon as possible.” Vin looked him in the eyes as he spoke, “If you persuade the rest of the Government to agree, when people look back, you will be seen as a hero.” David winced. Adrian’s lip curled. Adrian said, “There is no need to insult me, by suggesting I am mainly interested in some sort of ego trip. I want only to do what is right and necessary. I am persuaded that this matter should be raised urgently with the Council of Ministers. As I said, we are meeting this morning, and I will see if I can get it included in the agenda. David, after we have run through the budget figures, I would like you to come with me to the meeting. I will join you in my secretary’s room, after I have made a quick phone call.” David and Vin left the room. Vin looked at David and said, “Sorry, I don’t think that last remark about the Minister becoming a hero helped.” David replied, “Don’t worry. Your sincerity seems to override your occasional crass remark, even with our vain Minister. Anyway, he is vain – don’t tell him I said so – so it probably didn’t hurt. I am not sure who he is calling, probably organising purchases of supplies for himself, which will soon be in short supply. He clearly doesn’t want you anywhere near the rest of the Council of Ministers, but I have an idea. I have a good relationship with the Chief Medical Officer of England. If I give you his phone number can you ring him, tell him what is happening, and try to get ideas and support from him.”

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