The novel Vector is basically about the concept of bioterrorism and the extent by which it can be utilized as a weapon of mass destruction. Allowing such weapon to fall into the wrong hands can be equated with devastation of unknown proportions, especially with the increasing discontent, poverty, limited resources and other problems plaguing the world today. Dr. Jack Stapleton is the Medical Examiner assigned to investigate the death of Jason Papparis, a rug dealer who died because of anthrax powder inhalation.
The cause behind Jason’s death was not easily diagnosed, and primarily, it was seen as influenza aggravated by pneumonia. Upon autopsy however, Dr. Stapleton was able to determine that it was not just a simple case of flu and pneumonia, which somehow led to some presumptions that the anthrax virus may have come from the rugs Mr. Papparis sold. Conducting his own private investigation on this case allowed Dr. Stapleton to collect further evidence that the virus did not come from the rugs but from a mysterious source.
As the story unfolds, it relates the story of Yuri Davydov, a Russian immigrant to the US. Yuri used to work in a biochemical lab in Russia, and he was quite knowledgeable in creating bio-weapons. The accidental death of his mother and the loss of his brother lured him to try his luck in the land of milk and honey. He married an African-American woman to get his green card, but his alcoholism and inability to rise above his poverty were starting to depress him and making him hate what used to be the country of his dreams.
He was able to meet two underground terrorists who created the People’s Aryan Army, Curt Rogers and Steve Henderson, and together, they devised a plan which they called Operation Wolverine. With this plan, they intended to spread a biochemical weapon through the airconditioning system of the Jacob Javits Building by faking a fire incident, and then spraying another batch of the virus in Central Park. Yuri is responsible for the anthrax virus which was sent to Mr.
Papparis supposedly as a test of its potency, and was later found to be of good quality. Yuri gets to meet Dr. Stapleton initially during the latter’s investigation of Jason Papparis’ office. Dr. Stapleton and Yuri’s paths meet again as Yuri’s wife, Connie, dies allegedly because of asthma and some respiratory illness. In actuality, Yuri poisoned her with Botulism toxin as part of their plan to secure Operation Wolverine, a finding which Dr.
Stapleton eventually came to find out but did not really expect Yuri to have been responsible for. Dr. Stapleton only wanted to forewarn Yuri about the possibility of the poison still being in their house and Yuri is caught red-handed so he locks up Jack and Laurie Montgomery in the basement but he made them his witnesses by telling them everything about the PAA’s plans. This is due to the fact that Yuri senses Curt’s personal bias and he anticipated being just another pawn in their game, and eventually being eliminated.
Curt ultimately shoots Yuri in the head, and the original plans proceed but are foiled because Yuri creates a fake mixture which Curt and Steve believe to be the anthrax virus, hence, the city is saved. Meanwhile, as Curt, Steve and their comrades are celebrating while escaping the supposedly successful operation, they excitedly opened the envelope from Yuri which contained the instructions for making the anthrax mixture. The envelope contained the anthrax powder which was sent with a puff into the air inside the vehicle, and was Yuri’s way of getting back at the group which double-crossed him.
1) The importance of Jason Papparis — owner of the Corinthian Rug Company — with the anthrax virus is that he is the first victim in the story which became the precedent for the interest and deeper investigation by Dr. Jack Stapleton into the concept of biochemicals and bioterrorism. If not for his case, and the natural inquisitiveness of Dr. Stapleton, things would have gone differently, especially since the initial investigation yielded a very common case of influenza and pneumonia.
Influenza and pneumonia are two very common illnesses which can be remedied with rest, fluids and sufficient antibiotics. But since Jason Papparis’ case was different specifically because of the swift progression of the illness which took only more or less 24 hours, Dr. Stapleton suspected something fishy going on. It was just fortunate that an autopsy was conducted and the extent of damage and bleeding to the victim’s upper respiratory system was discovered at the outset. The absence of pneumonia on the lungs further confirmed Dr. Stapleton’s original suspicions that this was not just an ordinary case.
And then again, later on, when the brain was examined and found to be bleeding as well, Dr. Stapleton was able to arrive at a better diagnosis for the illness which afflicted Mr. Papparis, brought about by anthrax inhalation as related to a similar case which he was fortunate to have handled previously. 2) Curt and Steve thought that Yuri was a loose cannon because his thoughts and ideas were very different from theirs. They found Yuri a mysterious person because someone with his capabilities should not be driving a cab in New York.
In addition, Yuri also defended Stalin, a renowned Russian leader who caused the killing of millions, as not being that bad – an idea which Curt and Steve found unacceptable, due to the great number of deaths associated with this leader. Not having any knowledge about Yuri’s bio-weapons background further added to this weird notion, especially since they had to supply Yuri with “crazy stuff” like dirt from a cattleyard in Oklahoma and fermenters from a microbrewery in New Jersey. Curt and Steve somehow wanted to get some proof that Yuri’s claims were legitimate and that he really knew something about bio-weapons.
And then again, when Yuri tried to contact them at the Fire Department, Yuri was regarded as jeopardizing the security of the operation because he was Russian and both Curt and Steve did not want anybody to know about their possible involvement with a foreigner, which could possibly implicate them with terrorist activities and ruin their plans altogether. 3) Yuri’s disillusionment at the extensively-hyped American dream was the deep-seated bias against foreigners which is predominantly shared by the pure white Americans.
It was also wrongly perceived by the people in communist Russia, where the situation is not really that bad, since there is lesser social conflict compared to the situation in the US. After all the hardships that Yuri had gone through just to make it to America, his expectations of freedom, riches and a good life were all shattered because in the US, he had to work for 12-14 hours daily just to survive. What’s more, he even had to become a victim to either the criminals in Washington, or the tax collectors in the government.
Yuri had already come to a point where he already wanted to give up on his life in the US and go back to Russia, hence his cynicism directed at the Americans, and his resolve to use his knowledge to exact his revenge. On the other hand, Curt and Steve had their own share of negative experiences with the US government having both been part of the military. Curt became the leader of an elite Marine reconnaissance team wherein a recruit died, and upon inquiry, Curt was held responsible for the blame, thereby precluding any further opportunities for advancement in his career. Thus, Curt opted out.
Similarly, Steve’s application as part of the Green Beret was lengthy and frustrating but he finally landed the post. However, within the 21-day assessment process, Steve came down with the flu and had to give up his training. Upon returning, Steve was informed that he had to go through the same grueling procedure from the beginning, leading to Steve’s disgust and final decision to give up his military career. Curt and Steve felt that they were shortchanged for their efforts since they merely wanted to serve their country, and yet they were rejected and not given the credence they thought they deserved.
4) Yuri was important to Curt and Steve because Yuri was knowledgeable in bio-weapons, having been a former laboratory technician working in biochemical labs in Russia and Siberia. Yuri is instrumental to creating the weapons that they were planning to use in bringing to fruition their plans of actualizing Operation Wolverine. Yuri worked for two years at the Sverdlovsk pharmaceutical plant, and Yuri knew that it was not really a factory for medicines but a KGB cover for the massive Soviet bio-weapons program.
The factory where Yuri worked was called Compound 19, and he was tasked to do cleaning jobs of the inner biocontainment core. This was where Yuri was working when the accident occurred where Yuri unintentionally released anthrax spores into the atmosphere and killed hundreds of people, including his own mother Nadya. Yuri was pointed to as the scapegoat for this disastrous occurrence and Yuri suffered much, but had to be held in military stockade for a while.
After that, he was sent to Siberia, and Yuri had the opportunity to work in another biochemical facility called Vector, where he specialized in improving Botulinum toxin and weaponized Anthrax. His brother Yegor was not affected by the anthrax, but he was not allowed to visit Yuri either in the military stockade or in Siberia. Later on, after he graduated, Yegor signed up for the military and became one of the first casualties in Afghanistan. 5) The People’s Aryan Army or PAA is a group which was spearheaded by Curt Rogers.
It is a group which is based in New York, and its members are mostly skinheads, who do the dirty work for the group leaders. The group head/s capitalize on the hatred and violent nature of their recruits and were bound by a common denominator of hatred for the Americans. The PAA provided the manpower for the accomplishment of the group’s mission, while Yuri provided the biochemical weapons. Basically, the group’s dedicated mission was to destabilize the government and get back at the system which somehow worked against them and hurt their chances at establishing a better future for themselves.
Curt recruited members with the same inclinations and leanings — a trait which Yuri also demonstrated — hence, they used each other for their mutual benefit and advancement of interests. 6) The first casualty is of course Jason Papparis, the owner of the Corinthian Rug Company who is significant being the novel’s first anthrax victim. He is important because his case triggered interest in bio-weapons and its use in the US. Another casualty is Connie, the wife of Yuri, whose case added color to the otherwise drab and monotonous routine of the medical examiners.
Hers was initially called a case of asthma and respiratory illness, but later on was discovered to be a case of poisoning through botulism toxin, another bio-weapon. Nadya, the mother of Yuri, was also a casualty in this novel, when she also became an anthrax victim because of the unintentional spread of the toxin when the factory’s filters were opened, causing the spread of the anthrax spores to the environment. Yegor, Yuri’s brother was also another casualty after having gone to war without his mother, and his brother detained without any visiting rights.
His role is significant because he adds to the melodrama in the life of Yuri, after losing his job, his mother, his freedom, and then his brother. Lastly, the policeman — who was run down by Curt while they were taking the sprayer truck which Yuri requested — is also another casualty in this novel, who is also significant since his appearance on the scene and how he was quickly eliminated illustrates how inhuman the PAA group can be. 7) Operation Wolverine is the PAA’s plan of calling the attention of the world to their cause.
This operation was meant to create panic, chaos and death to a large segment of the US population. With the use of the anthrax virus which Yuri was tasked to create in his basement laboratory, the plan was to put the anthrax powder into the airconditioning system of the Jacob Javitz Federal Building which is a government agency, thereby poisoning its occupants as well as its immediate neighborhood. There was also a plan to spray the anthrax powder by means of a sprayer truck at the Central Park so that a greater number of the masses will be affected and not merely the government employees.
By resorting to these plans of action, each member would somehow be able to get a dose of his revenge at the negative manner by which the US has maltreated them as individuals. Ideally, this is the scenario which Curt and his group wanted to happen but the circumstances changed especially when Curt decided to shoot Yuri on his forehead which only set off what Yuri had already forethought. 8) Curt and Steve conducted a fake inspection of the Jacob Javits Federal Building because they wanted to check the access points and the manner by which they could carry out the plan they outlined for Operation Wolverine.
Curt managed to come up with an alibi based on an violation which happened during the last fire inspection of the same building. Upon seeing that the violation was already corrected, Curt manipulated the situation further so that the building’s electrician would allow them to check the HVAC system, the main control console and the main air induction mechanisms in the building. Everything was shown to them with the building assistant not having a slightest idea that he was already being an accessory to setting up the final stages of a terrorist plot.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning System and its main purpose is “to help maintain good indoor air quality through adequate ventilation with filtration and provide thermal comfort” (US Environmental Protection Agency). The HVAC sucks in fresh outdoor air into the building, and also disposes the stale air outside so that a good quality and supply of air circulates throughout the building. Without it, working or staying in a building for a long time will not be possible because of lack of air.