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Posted By: Mainevent<mainevent117@gmail.com>
Date: 20 December 2007, 6:40 am

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1,365 Days Since Outbreak
June 24, 2574 - Earth Standard

      It was one of those days he knew he wouldn't be able to go outside, where the sun was so low that they'd start especially early. The clouds overhead hung like a damning mist, blocking the only true safety he had anymore. A shrill, intimidating wind shrieked as it swirled through the city, kicking dust and dirt as it went. Through the two-pane plexiglass he watched and waited, cradling his assault rifle in his arms as he rocked back in forth. Though the sun had only risen five hours ago, it was already pretty close to dusk; a tragic flaw of being stuck so near a pole during the winter months on this planet. But then again, he often asked himself, what wasn't tragic these days?

1,364 Days Earlier

      "Lieutenant, we need to evacuate now. They've breached the city and nobody's sure how long it'll be before they get to the pads."
      "I, I need five more minutes to collect my data. Without this data it'll just happen again and we won't be any closer to stopping it than we were this time." The soldier-scientist tapped furiously at his keypad, wishing incessantly that the thing would work faster.
      "You've got what you've got Lieutenant, but when that horn goes off…" Captain Ryan terminated his statement with a distressed glare into the forest.
      "It, it's like it's internal. Almost viral. This data can't be correct then."
      "Then scrap it Robert, and let's get the hell out of here."
      "I don't understand though, I don't understand. It has to be correct, I did it myself. But this doesn't make any sense."
      "I'll give you two seconds to explain, slowly, what the hell you're rambling about before I knock your batshit crazy ass out and throw you into the warthog myself." Jermay Ryan leaned over Neville's shoulder, staring at a text wall of doom. Spreadsheets of data predicting imminent disaster and unstoppable carnage to Neville were only columns of letters and numbers to the layman officer.
      "All of our information about these creatures says they're parasitic. Every encounter with them has proven this to be true. But the outbreaks here, they're occurring too quickly and spreading too rapidly; even for them. I ran as many of our known origins through the database as I could, and they don't match any spread pattern we'd expect from a hive organism like the Flood."
      "So, so what? Someone's spreading it, or they've found a new way to infect us? What are you saying?"
      "I'm saying Ryan that they've mutated to attack our genetic code directly. They don't need direct ogranismal contact with a human host anymore to spread. Somehow they've gone airborne, they're infecting us from the inside." Neville turned to face the man directly, his forehead beading profusely with sweat that ran down the frame of his black-rimmed glasses.
      Ryan stood up, hands bristling through his short-shorn dirty blonde hair before resting on the back of his scalp. He exhaled deeply, not believing what he was hearing but hearing it nonetheless. A blast of dirt blew through the door only seconds before the horn went off. Lieutenant Cortman had arrived late, as usual, but with the unexpected benefit of a covered Warthog.
      "Is all of your shit on file and ready to move?"
      "Yes sir."
      "Then we'll get to the pads as soon as possible and get out of here. We can contact FleetCom from space and tell them that we need a planet-wide quarantine. You and the rest of the eggheads upstairs can mull over your data all you'd like until you figure this thing out."
      Ryan grabbed Neville by his shirt collar and pushed him towards the door, grabbing the BR55 leaning against the doorframe before activating the bunker's security. Neville and Ryan stretched into the warthog's passenger seats before sliding the lightly-armored door mount closed. Cortman floored the vehicle and it's massive engine thrust them quickly onward, spraying dirt and pebbles back into the forest .
      "Captain Ryan, we have a massive problem." Neville said, leaning forward between Cortman and Ryan.
      "Which is?
      "If I'm right, the pad's security protocols are completely inadequate now. They're checking for direct contact infections, not latent or dormant viral infections. We could be evacuating hundreds of carriers right now. We could literally be exporting this mutated Flood strain for them."
      Cortman's face shifted slightly sideways in surprise, but Captain Ryan's face maintained a stoic air of disbelief and fear.

June 25, 2574- Sunrise

      Neville tried to shake the nightmares away like only so much grogginess, but that fleeting sense of dread still lingered. He was soaked in sweat and the almost metallic taste of saliva that'd been exposed to air too long went down bitterly. A rapid and unnerving thump, thump, thump chattered through his chest and he shivered despite having a slightly elevated core temperature level; the fleeting residual effects of adrenaline were always unpleasant as a daily reminder of the twilight's torment. His fingers crinkled across empty bags and finally found a glass. It was three day old brandy at ten in the morning; and it went down like it.
      "Bullet, get over here." He looked around the room, nothing. "Bullet," he repeated again with several whistles. A long black and gray tail weaved between the garbage as the sugar glider scampered to him. The tiny marsupial was fast as lightning and could climb up anything, but not especially smart; he had dogs for that. She hug-climbed her way up his leg and nudged into the bottom of his coral red shirt before using his chest hair as a ladder to his neck. Her tiny head popped out of the collar and stared around quickly before climbing out and curling into a tight ball in his chest pocket. He pulled a mini-wheat from a nearby box and held it out; her miniature human-like hands grasping the sweet treat as she began to feverishly gobble it down.
      "We're gettin' low on these, you better hope we find another box soon." She chatter-squawked her displeasure without stopping her consumption. "Rambo, Tango!" The Rottweiler and Golden Retriever pair stormed into the living quarters hurriedly, panting and nipping at his legs. He ruffled their heads and patted them on the backs.
      Neville turned on the display. Several digital data feeds crawled across the projection. Sunrise was at eight fifteen a.m. Earth standard and sunset would be two eleven p.m. He checked his watch and cursed at the blank screen. It had died overnight; he'd have to go the inside of the city to find the right batteries, and he hated going deep. The inside of the city had been hit worst, and the streets were impossible to traverse by vehicle. At least the dogs would get out, he consoled himself.
      Cloud cover was sparse to none, which was very good; though his late start to an already short day was somewhat irritating. He'd spent several days early on figuring out how to upload the automated water and power station feeds to his station, and everything was greenlit there. The station's artifical intelligences operated them with almost zero human input, and there had been only one temporary glitch in the system so far. Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered to upload the recent media section of his news feeder, as there hadn't been a single change in more than three years, but something irrational inside of him hoped a bit everyday that it would all just change.
      The projection changed to show the most recent data about the H81 Viral Form-Airborne Infectible contagion. Neville's personal research over the last three years had made broad insights towards this "new" and voracious form of the flood organism. He scanned his own three and a half year-old research paper warning of the impending threat.

                  With regards to the possibility of an airborne form of the flood contaminant, and in full understanding that our current knowledge of these beings is in contrast with my hypothesis, I nevertheless urge the panel to address my findings... [following] the death of Organism Zero- the "Gravemind"- it is my belief that the loss of primary hive control and thought processes have driven the parasite to revert to a more primitive form of reproduction... Although no direct form of dispersal beyond direct contact has been verified as of this writing, sporoform release by the infection forms is highly suspect... Retrieval of chemicals produced by recovered organisms also suggests that the Flood forms are capable of producing additives similar to those applied to known synthetic chemical weapons to preserve them longer in the air. A current means of production is under investigation, but the presence of these chemicals is only further indication of a possible airborne infection evolution- or devolution- by these creatures.

      He closed the file for the one thousand three hundred sixty-sixth time. It'd been too late, moved too slowly through proper channels, and conflicted with too many other people's own thoughts to ever do any good; and when the outbreak finally began there was nothing anyone was prepared to do about it. Fortunately, although Neville found that word ironic, it had a seventy-five percent kill rate in healthy humans. For four percent with a special, non-fatal genetic condition, the airborne form had had no effect. Unfortunately, the twenty-one percent that were susceptible changed drastically and quickly. The airborne form, however, was not as potent or integrated genetically by the host. These organisms were equally as strong, fast, and voracious as their counterparts; but, unable to synthesize any of the molecules responsible for cell repair and maintenance as a result of UV radiation, they rapidly went into cell degradation and abnormal apoptosis.
      So Neville traveled by day, foraging for food and supplies. Building by building he searched through the former homes of fifteen million in the largest of twelve cities on a planet roughly the size of Earth. Now it was all a dead zone, restricted on military star charts and censored in official records. The remaining colonies and Earth itself had been plenty busy following the Human-Covenant war to worry too much about a small fringe world colony; more than happy to move on with their own lives than hear any more of death or war. For First Lieutenant Robert Jacob Neville, this was the one thousand three-hundred sixty-sixth day of his new life as the sole known survivor of a terrible outbreak, and like every day before it the day seemed to grow a little shorter as the dusk came a little faster. But he had been the one to predict it's arrival, and he would be the one to fix this. He would be the one to make it right. As every day before it, he would search and gather; hoping to live to the next day. At least, he thought to himself, there'll be a bit of adventure today.