It’s a hard thing to determine the cause of, and reason for, a disease and its subsequent spread. It’s a harder thing to do that while the disease is still present. It’s even harder to do so almost 100 years after the contagion is released and while the disease is still present in the atmosphere.
But, as they say, it’s a living.
A yawn here, a sneeze there. If you’d noticed it, it was too late. The hospitals were overflowing within days and a week after that, it was global. It moved fast; too fast for us to do anything about it. It was the most aggressive pathogen we had ever encountered and for all we knew it was created out of nothing, by nothing. The little research we had time to do showed it had no genetic relationships with any other organism on the planet. Many claimed it was the righteous wrath of God. We knew otherwise, we knew this was just plain dumb luck.
“That was an excerpt from the journal of one of the original scientists from when this thing was in full effect. We don't know what this contagion is or what it does, not entirely. We do know it’s airborne and is still present in the atmosphere. Level 5 containment suits at all times.”
“I already know what you're going to ask, and we have a L5 decon canopy arriving in fifteen hours. Until then you are to make your way from here to the area we have designated Area One. This is where we believe the original contamination event to have occurred. Geneticists, you will work there alongside the bio-chemists. Figure out what it is. Is it natural? Is it native? Whatever info you can get. Upload instantly. Understood?”
A small, unenthusiastic cheer went up from four or five people across the group from me. There were 18 of us. The geneticists and bios were the capital-I important ones, the rest of us were, I don't know, glorified explorers, I guess. Management called us fodder. An old word, not sure what it means. Point is, they get the lab as well as the suit between them and the virus and we get just the suit as we quote explore unquote this dead city.
“What are we looking for?” someone asked at the end of our briefing.
“Anything that could potentially shed some light on what happened.”
“It was a century ago, Mike. What are we going to find?” I could always count on Ed to say what I was thinking.
“That’s Lieutenant,” Mike said, pronouncing the lieu like leff. “And that's the point. You're all new eyes. You might find something everyone else missed. Get cracking. Fifteen hours, then we bug out.”
Ed and I split off together, as we usually did. We knew we were marking time here, but this was technically our job, so we did make an effort to look around and see if anything jumped out at us, which of course, we would have missed anyway, since I was a geologist and Ed was a, well I'm not sure what he was these days, but certainly not anything useful in this place.
It was interesting the way the city was laid out. We found a map under some rubble which showed that it spun out of a central series of buildings in a spiderweb pattern. We were in the southern area of the city, near the education precinct, if we were translating the map properly. Area One, where the quote real unquote scientists were was up in the northwestern area. We headed east into what was labelled Civic Facilities. We assumed that there would be some sort of record keeping over there and met up with another group of exploring fodder and we all headed off. Ed introduced me to one of the other … somethings that he had been working with for the last few months. It was obvious he was trying to set us up. Like he did every so often, or when he had been talking to Mum. I contemplated throwing a rock at him, but the atmosphere made me rain check that for later.
“Whats your name?” Ed’s friend asked for the thousandth time.
“Not gonna happen, buddy,” I told him again. “Ed plays games. Whatever he told you about me is not true. Promise.”
“Aw, nah, Eddie isn't like that.”
“I grew up with him, remember? He does this all the time. Trust me, whatever he said, it isn't true.” Truth be told, I wasn't terribly upset by the game. It was kinda fun finding out what Ed had told these guys about me.
The guy, whatever his name was, kept trying to talk to me as we made our way to the Facilities precinct. We expected record keeping, and to be fair we did find it; A large building, or, more specifically, a pile of rubble that used to be the records building. And while we marked it as a place worth investigating, there wasn't really any evidence that anything survived. At any rate, the historians would have a field day.
No, the records building wasn't the interesting thing we found. We found a hospital. It was partially crumbled, but by and large it was still in one piece.
The four of us marked it high importance and started looking through the entrance way. While we were searching, more of the fodder arrived. We had 8 hours left on the clock, and the group of us had split up to see what was left inside.
Ed and I went downstairs, he said there’d be a morgue down there and that was more than enough for me to follow. Of course, he meant there would be death records and not the usual reason he would drag me to a morgue.
We couldn't feel anything through the suits we were wearing, but as we went down stairs, the air felt thicker, harder to walk through. Entering the morgue was a chilling experience. The back wall was covered in steel doors, each of which we knew held a single corpse. But on the table, in the centre of the room lay two bodies. One, the patient, was naked and partially autopsied, the other was the coroner, slumped across him.
“Look,” Ed said. “Recorder.”