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A 1000 word story
The Federation compound in the capital was strong. We all knew it. They built it when this shit show started, and it was one of the only places from the old world that was still standing.
There were plenty of outposts and settlements scattered around, and a few of them had a reputation for being safe, but the compound was different. Clean water and electricity kind of different.
When you see this stuff on TV, the government is always the first thing to collapse. It spreads like wildfire, and civilization falls apart overnight. Before you know it, the military either retreats or they get overrun because some jarhead was too proud to admit he got bit and gets everyone killed.
It wasn’t like that, though. They were prepared. There were a shocking number of plans in place when the outbreak hit. Maybe they saw what a joke the last lockdown was and decided to beef up their contingencies. I don’t really know. What matters is that it worked. Fifteen years later, and the compound isn’t just standing—it’s thriving.
Don’t get the wrong idea here. It wasn’t exactly easy. There were plenty of folks who blamed the Feds for what happened—argued that they knew it was coming, so they should have done more to stop it.
No one wanted a war, but the rebels—or the Free State as they preferred to be called—they were stupid enough to take a swing, and the Feds were stubborn enough to swing back. Fed patrols became blockades and moving supplies between settlements meant red tape and bribes. Any sort of misunderstanding turned into a pissing match, and someone always ended up losing their head.
We don’t know who’s responsible, but someone started weaponizing the dead. Neither the Feds nor the Free Sate wanted to take credit for that tactic, but neither side was afraid to use it. One or two well placed corpses could wipe out an entire camp in a couple hours. Once it starts, you either scatter, or you turn. As soon as there’s a bite, everyone’s on edge, and these days most folks don’t have proper trigger discipline.
Truth is, guns are good for two things: making biters, and calling biters. That’s it. Panicked people love to pull that trigger.
Eventually, folks got tired of dying. The Feds and the Free State signed a treaty and drew borders. Tensions were high for a while after that, but over time new trade routes started to pop up along the territory lines, and that seemed to settle things down. Outposts on the fringe started hunting together and protecting each other. It was almost like old times.
About a year ago, rumors started circulating that the Feds were working on a vaccine, or maybe a cure. Something that would end the nightmare once and for all. They denied it at first but changed their tune pretty quickly when the Free State started asking harder questions. The general consensus among the experts was that whatever they had wasn’t ready.
No one knows how, but the Free State got their hands on an early sample and started running some tests of their own. The Feds begged them to stop, but the Free State insisted on pushing the envelope. They argued that we couldn’t afford to drag our feet, so they rounded up some volunteers and shipped them off to a remote testing site they called the Cage.
It was an old prison. Fortified, secured. Volunteers checked in, and the research team administered a “controlled bite.” Then they were given a dose of the so-called cure and locked in a cell for observation. A lot of folks died there. Most of them expected to, but it doesn’t make it easier to stomach.
At first, the only thing this cure did was slow down the transformation. You could see the pain in their eyes as they started to lose control. Even after they turned, there seemed to be some remnants of their old self. Like they knew what was happening, but they had no ability to stop it.
In the rarest cases, some subjects were almost sentient. They weren’t the feral monsters we’d grown accustomed to. That raised some ethical questions when it came time to put them down. Shit hit the fan when the Feds found out that the Free State’s definition of “volunteer” was perhaps a little loose.
Someone attacked the Cage. The Free State claimed it was the Feds, but even if that was true, they had help from someone on the inside. Initially, the attack was supposed to shut down the operation. They were going to purge the test subjects and take the research team into custody. In the heat of the moment, that plan shifted. Most of the more recent test subjects were asymptomatic. Even knowing they were infected, it was too hard to pull the trigger. “What if they cracked the code? What if it works this time?” Instead of ending it, they opened the doors and told them to run.
Most of them ran home.
It didn’t happen overnight, but every last one of those test subjects turned. They turned into something new—something smart. The Free State settlements were eventually overrun. The Feds put out an invitation for any survivors to take shelter at the compound in the capital—if they could make it there.
Thing is, this new breed of biter—they don’t look like the others. Not right away. You don’t know who’s infected until its too late, and the folks that turn, well, they aren’t happy about it. It’s still a death sentence. The new strain eats away at your brain much slower. You can feel it happening The constant headaches. The muscle spasms.
That’s why we’re marching on the compound. We don’t know how much time we have left, but those arrogant bastards tried to play God. Their cure was our death sentence, and we want to thank them for it. In person.
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