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Short novel (150 pg about), likely mid-1970s. Going entirely on memory here:

Someone (investigative journalist? conspiracy theorist?) gets the feeling that The Military (US) is doing something very odd in a lab in his town. I recall it being located on the outskirts of a base or airfield, hidden in plain sight kind or thing. He becomes obsessed based on the ridiculous security.

He partners up with someone who is an electronics/computer/security expert and they break in. They end up getting infected with a skin-melting disease. Ends with the disease getting out, and an Air Force general ordering all information about it released to every dermatologist in the world, then killing himself because he has it too.

Don't want to read it again, but it anyone recognizes it:

They find grotesque bodies in the lab, but were they actually aliens like they believed? Or was the whole thing really trying to cover up the disease, not that they had discovered aliens?

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This is The Fortec Conspiracy (1969) by Richard M. Garvin and Edmond G. Addeo.

Cover of "The Fortec Conspiracy"; the subheader reads "The suspense of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN.  The vision of 2001.  A nightmare reality all its own."  The background of the cover is a dappled yellow at the top, suggestive of clouds, shading to orange at the bottom.  Standing against the background are 5 human-sized bell jars, highlighted in pink, each of which contains an awkwardly posed naked human male, as though they had been frozen in agony and suspended weightless inside them.

('FORTEC' is the Air Force Foreign Technology Division, hiding the bodies from an alien saucer crash.) The MC's brother is the electronics expert. He catches the disease first; the MC infiltrates the super-secret facility (ridiculous security) & finds his brother's corpse in a tube filled with liquid - his hands look like bloody pig's knuckles. The MC pukes, then finds out he has the disease too. I distinctly remember the general in charge of the project diving his plane into the ground after he is diagnosed. The ending hints the disease will spread across the world.

3
  • I remember this and was going to suggest it also.... One other detail, I think the general (might have been the MC) realizes that before he knew he had the disease, he had probably infected his family who he had visited a day or two before. – NJohnny Mar 7 at 6:24
  • So Lee, there definitely were aliens? I seem to remember not being convinced one way or the other. – Maury Markowitz Mar 8 at 12:26
  • There definitely were aliens & they had the disease. It's funny how much I remember this mediocre story, which I read when it was first published. Today I have trouble remembering what I did last week. – Lee Eckhardt Mar 8 at 14:12

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