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The Scorpion Syndrome

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Note: The following material has been classified as a 'Core Secret' by the United States National Security Agency and is only available to the directors of the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Centers for Disease Control and the commanding officers of the Office of Naval Intelligence and the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. The unauthorized disclosure of this material to individuals other than those specified here constitutes a felony under the Espionage Act of 1917.

The following transcript is a reproduction of the comments entered into the logbook of the USS Scorpion, a US navy nuclear submarine which lost contact with the US military between May 20 and May 21 of 1968 after completing its surveillance of a Soviet naval task force. The heavily damaged logbook was covertly recovered from the Scorpion's wreckage by divers from the Office of Naval Intelligence on November 18, 1998, thirty-three years after the wreckage's discovery. For security reasons, only the comments entered into the logbook will be included in this transcript; all other information, such as that pertaining to the speed and location of the vessel, has been censored in accordance with Department of Defense policy.

May 15, 1968: Today has been relatively uneventful; the only remotely atypical occurrence was the removal of an Interior Communications Electrician for health reasons. It appears that the electrician, I believe his name is Joseph Underwood, has come down with an affliction which closely resembles the flu. Tomorrow we depart Rota and head out of the Mediterranean Sea, much to the dismay of my crew, who have been enjoying our brief stay in Spain.

May 16, 1968: Our ship's departure from the Mediterranean Sea has been successful. We are set to rendezvous with the John C. Calhoun, a ballistic missile submarine, and provide noise cover for it as we both head out to the Atlantic Ocean so as to avoid detection by Soviet attack submarines.

May 17, 1968: We have received orders to observe and listen to a Soviet naval task force, which includes a guided missile destroyer and an Echo II class submarine. I must say, our new assignment sounds rather interesting. In other news, I have observed that some members of the crew are beginning to display extremely erratic behavior, some of which borders on paranoia. They are oversuspicious of one another and often describe hearing strange noises. I can't really blame them though. After all, we are fighting a virtual war, and it is better to be over-vigilant than to be too lax.

May 18, 1968: As we draw nearer to the Soviet task force, it seems more and more likely to me that we may have a traitor in our midst. Many of my men have reported a feeling that they are being watched and the sheer amount of complaints I am receiving is too large to be coincidence.

May 19, 1968: We have been experiencing major problems with our communications equipment, and though there is a fair probability that this may simply be the result of the Soviets testing out new jamming techniques (The CIA released a report on new jamming technology under development by the Russian Air Force.), I cannot shake the feeling that there may be foul play at work. Perhaps more importantly, I too have been experiencing the feeling of being watched, even when I am alone in my cabin.

May 20, 1968: Something has gone terribly wrong. Our communications equipment has all but ceased to work and now a small fraction of my crew has been experiencing what I believe to be terrifying hallucinations which have left them screaming in fear in their cabins. The unceasing howls make it close to impossible to sleep. Dark shadows and eerie noises pervade every nook and corner of our vessel. May God deliver us from whatever evil lies in this damned ship.

May 21, 1968: Three men are dead. They were lying in their cabins, screaming with terror, when suddenly, a dark red liquid, which we later identified as blood began pouring out of their eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and pores. After about five minutes of hemorrhaging, they began to vomit a putrid, greenish yellow pus and eventually fell unconscious. Two died of blood loss, but one choked to death on his own bodily fluids. More than three fourths of my crew are in the grip of terrifying hallucinations, but I am beginning to wonder whether they are hallucinations after all. I feel as though I am in a constant state of fear and I can sense an evil presence watching my every move.

May 22, 1968: My ship is overflowing with blood! Everywhere I look, blood. Horrible sounds of suffering and terror penetrate every room on my boat. I can hear the tortured screams of children. I see the terrible, dark figures of horrid phantoms. I see their long, spindly arms reach out and tear the blood from my crew. And worst of all, I hear the thunder. But I know that it isn't thunder. I know what those crashes are. And I know, that, in my madness, with a turn of a key and a push of a button, I must have brought them upon the Earth. I am so sorry.

The submarine's log ends here. It is presumed that the Scorpion was crushed by the water pressure two days after the end of the log.

The following is an excerpt from a report prepared jointly by analysts from the CDC, DIA, and ONI in 2006 on the events that occurred on the USS Scorpion.

"...and upon the inspection of the recovered portion of the wreckage, hazmat teams from the CDC were able to identify a dormant pathogen, the likes of which had never been seen before...After closer analysis of the bacterium, it was determined that, using recombinant DNA, the germ was engineered to force the body of the infected individual to produce an immense amount of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, the hormone most closely associated with fear. In addition, it targeted the amygdala, the section of the brain which processes memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions, especially that of fear. It also causes disseminated intravascular coagulation, which in turn leads to severe hemorrhaging and improper clotting. This will usually lead to death due to blood loss and shock. Based on this and the DIA's analysis of the ship's log, the pathogen which wiped out the crew of the Scorpion was in fact intentionally engineering to gradually induce its victims into a state of intense terror, beginning with paranoia and slowly increasing in severity, forcing the infected to experience their greatest fears, and eventually killing them via blood loss in a manner similar to that of African hemorrhagic fevers, such as Marbug and Ebola. This bacterium is likely the product of the now well-known Soviet biological weapons program, which is known to have weaponized eleven other biological agents, including Yerisinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague, and Variola, the bacterium which causes smallpox..."

The pathogen discovered on the Scorpion was code named the Scorpion Syndrome and was studied extensively by the CDC and USAMRIID. In addition, the US government engaged in secret talks with the Russian Federation on the extent of old Soviet biological weapons programs, eventually concluding that one sample of the Scorpion Syndrome bacterium would be kept at USAMRIID's Bio-safety Level 4 Laboratory. However, the US has never been able to confirm that all other weaponized stocks of the disease were destroyed.

Note to Readers: While this story is fictional, almost all of the science and history which is not obviously a product of my imagination is accurate. Though the Scorpion Syndrome disease is false, the Soviet Union did engage in the biological weapons program which I described in the story. Additionally, the USS Scorpion was a real nuclear submarine which went missing on May 20, 1968. All the names and dates in this story are accurate and all medical and military terminology, intelligence agencies, and military units have been factually represented.

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