Authors: Frank Herbert
"You will think of using atomic sterilization upon the targets of my revenge. Don't do it. I will turn against you if you do. The plague must run its course in Ireland, Great Britain and Libya. I want the men to survive and to know what it was I did to them. You will be permitted to quarantine them, nothing more. Send their nationals home—all of them. Let them stew there. If you fail to expel so much as a babe in arms who belongs in one of those nations by reason of nationality or birth, you will feel my anger."
The President finished reading O'Neill's atomic warning...
Berkley books by Frank Herbert
THE BOOK OF FRANK HERBERT
CHILDREN OF DUNE
THE DOSADI EXPERIMENT
THE EYES OF HEISENBERG
GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE
THE JESUS INCIDENT
(with Bill Ransom)
THE SANTAROGA BARRIER
THE WHITE PLAGUE
THE WORLDS OF FRANK HERBERT
The author gratefully acknowledges permission from the following sources to reprint material in their control: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., for lines from "Sailing to Byzantium," by William Butler Yeats, from
copyright 1928 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., renewed 1956 by Georgle Yeats; and lines from "Remorse for Intemperate Speech," by William Butler Yeats, from
copyright 1933 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., renewed 1961 by Bertha Georgie Yeats.
New Directions and David Higham Associates Limited for lines from
Poems of Dylan Thomas
by Dylan Thomas, copyright 1939 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.
This Berkley book contains the complete
text of the original hardcover edition. It has been completely reset in a typeface designed for easy reading, and was printed from new film.
THE WHITE PLAGUE
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with
the author •
G. P. Putnam's Sons edition / September 1982 Berkley edition / December 1983
All rights reserved. Copyright © 1982 by Frank Herbert. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
A BERKLEY BOOK ® TM 757,375 Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016. The name "BERKLEY" and the stylized "B" with design are trademarks belonging to Berkley Publishing Corporation.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
To Ned Brown
for his years of friendship
There’s a lust for power in the Irish as there is in every people, a lusting after the Ascendancy where you can tell others how to behave. It has a peculiar shape with the Irish, though. It comes of having lost our ancient ways – the simpler laws, the rath and the family at the core of society. Romanized governments dismay us. They always resolve themselves into widely separated Ascendants and Subjects, the latter being more numerous than the former, of course. Sometimes it’s done with great subtlety as it was in America, the slow accumulations of power, law upon law and all of it manipulated by an elite whose monopoly it is to understand the private language of injustice. Do not blame the Ascendants. Such separation requires docile Subjects as well. This may be the lot of any government, Marxist Russians included. There’s a peculiar human susceptibility you see when you look at the Soviets, them building an almost exact copy of the czarist regimes: the same paranoia, the same secret police, the same untouchable military, and the murder squads, the Siberian death camps, the lid of terror on creative imagination, deportation for the ones who cannot be killed off or bought off. It’s like some terrible plastic memory sitting there in the dark of our minds, ready on the instant to reshape itself into primitive patterns the moment the heat touches it. I fear for the shape of things which may come from the heat of O’Neill’s plague. Truly, I fear, for the heat is great.
– Fintan Craig Doheny
May the hearthstone of hell be his bed rest forever!
– Old Irish Curse
an ordinary gray British Ford, the spartan economy model with right-hand drive customary in Ireland. John Roe O’Neill would remember the driver’s brown-sweatered right arm resting on the car’s windowsill in the cloud-filtered light of that Dublin afternoon. A nightmare capsule of memory, it excluded everything else in the scene; just the car and that arm.
Several other surviving witnesses commented on a crumpled break in the Ford’s left front wing. The break had begun to rust.
Speaking from her hospital bed, one witness said: “The break was a jagged thing and I was afraid someone would be cut if they brushed against it.”
Two of those who recalled seeing the car come out of Lower Leeson Street knew the driver casually, but only from his days in postal uniform. He was Francis Bley, a retired postman working part-time as a watchman at a building site in Dun Laoghaire. Bley left for work early every Wednesday, giving himself time to run a few errands and then pick up his wife, Tessie. On that one day each week, Tessie spent the morning doing “light secretarial” for a betting shop in King Street. It was Tessie’s habit to spend the rest of the day with her widowed sister who lived in a remodeled gatehouse off the Dun Laoghaire bypass “just a few minutes out of his way.”
This was a Wednesday. May 20. Bley was on his way to pick up Tessie.
The Ford’s left front door, although appearing undamaged by the accident that had crumpled the wing, still required a twist of wire around the doorpost to keep it closed. The door rattled every time the car hit a bump.
“I heard it rattling when it turned onto St. Stephen’s Green South,” one witness said. “It’s God’s own mercy I wasn’t at the Grafton corner when it happened.”
Bley turned right off St. Stephen’s Green South, which put him on St. Stephen’s Green West, hugging the left lane as he headed for Grafton Street. There were better routes for him to make his connection with Tessie, but this was “his way.”
“He liked to see all the people,” Tessie said. “God rest him, that’s what he said he missed most when he quit the postal – all the people.”
Bley, slight and wrinkled, had that skin-stretched cadaverous look that is common among certain aged Celts from the south of Ireland. He wore a soiled brown hat almost the exact shade of his patched sweater, and he drove with the patient detachment of someone who came this way often. And if the truth were known, he rather liked being slowed by the heavy traffic.
It had been cold and wet through most of spring and, while it was still cloudy, the cloud cover had thinned and there was a feeling that there might be a break in the weather. Only a few of the pedestrians carried umbrellas. The trees of St. Stephen’s Green on Bley’s right were in full leaf.
As the Ford inched along in the congested traffic, the man watching for it from a fourth-floor window of the Irish Film Society Building nodded once in satisfaction.
Right on time.
Bley’s Ford had been selected because of this Wednesday punctuality. There was also the fact that Bley did not garage his car where he and Tessie lived in Davitt Road. The Ford was parked outside beside a thick yew hedge, which could be approached from the street along a path shielded by a parked van. There had been a van parked in this covering position the previous night. Neighbors had seen it but no one had thought to comment at the time.
“There were often vehicles parked in that place,” one said. “How were we to know?”
The watcher at the Film Society Building had many names but he had been born Joseph Leo Herity. He was a small, solidly fleshy man with a long, thin face and pale, almost translucent skin. Herity wore his blond hair combed straight back and hanging almost to the collar. His light brown eyes were deeply set and he had a pugged nose with prominent nostrils from which hair protruded.
From his fourth-floor vantage, Herity commanded an overview of the entire setting for the drama he was about to ignite. Directly across from him, the tall trees of the green formed a verdant wall enclosing the flow of vehicles and pedestrians. The Robert Emmet statue stood opposite his window and, to the left of it, there was a black-on-white sign to the public toilets. Bley’s Ford had stopped with the traffic just to the left of Herity’s window. A white tour bus with blue-and-red stripes down its side loomed over the small Ford. Traffic fumes were thick even at the fourth-floor level.
Herity checked Bley’s license number to be certain.
Yes – JIA-5028
. Then there was the crumpled left front wing.
The traffic began to inch forward, then stopped once more.
Herity glanced left at the Grafton Street corner. He could see the signs of the Toy World shop and the Irish Permanent Society on the ground floor of the red brick building soon to be taken over by the Ulster Bank. There had been some protest about that, one ragged march with a few signs, but it had died out quickly. The Ulster Bank had powerful friends in the government.
Barney and his lot
, Herity thought.
They think we’re ignorant of their scheme to make a peace with the Ulster boys!
Again, Bley’s Ford inched toward the corner, but once more was stopped. There was heavy foot traffic where Grafton took off from St. Stephen’s Green.
A bald-headed man in a dark blue suit had stopped almost directly beneath Herity’s window and was examining the cinema marquee. Two young men pushing bicycles threaded their way past the bald-headed man.
The traffic remained stopped.
Herity looked down at the top of Bley’s car. So innocent-looking, that car. Herity had been one of the two-man team to emerge from the yew-shrouded van near Bley’s parking spot the previous night. In Herity’s hands had been a molded plastic package, which they had attached like a deformed limpet under Bley’s car. At the core of that package lay a tiny radio receiver. The transmitter sat on the windowsill in front of Herity. A small black metal rectangle, it had a thin wire antenna and two recessed toggle switches – one painted yellow, the other red. Yellow armed it, red transmitted.
A glance at his wristwatch told Herity that they were already five minutes past Zero Time. Not Bley’s fault. It was the blasted traffic.
“You can set your bloody watch by Bley,” the leader of their selection team had said. “The old bastard should be running a tram.”
“What’re his politics?” Greaves had asked.
“Who cares about his politics?” Herity had countered. “He’s perfect and he’ll be dying for a grand cause.”
“The street’ll be full of people,” Greaves had said. “And there’ll be tourists sure as hell is full of Brits.”
“We warned ’em to stop the Ulster boys,” Herity had said.
Greaves could be an old woman sometimes!
“They know what to expect when they don’t listen to us.”
It was settled then. And now Bley’s car was inching once more toward the Grafton Street corner, toward the mass of pedestrians, including the possible tourists.
John Roe O’Neill, his wife, Mary, and their five-year-old twins, Kevin and Mairead, could have been classified as tourists, although John expected to be six months in Ireland while completing the research called for under his grant from the Pastermorn Foundation of New Haven, Conn.