I pulled the cord and the parachute deployed, now I sat high above the world soaring like an eagle. I looked down upon my prey, the start of the end. It looked back up at me, fear in its eyes, the feeling of regret and sorrow filled my throat choking the air out of me.
Then I breathed in the air, a new air. The air of ground zero.
"It was Febuary 17th, 1988 when I was born. Small town in Texas, not really anything special but it was home for me. I grew up with Ma and Pa on a small farm. I was a surprise, as my Ma had an issue that prevented her from easily havin kids, I was a good little parting gift for her. She knew I would grow up strong.
Pa raised me from the ground up, taught me how to shoot at age 7 and put my ass to work as soon as I could walk. I worked all around the farm, dealing with all sorts of animals and the occasional outsider. The loss of Ma really hit Pa quite hard when I turned 13, began to hit me, kick the dog he said he cherished.
I had taken belts before, but that damn beating served as a reason I wanted to leave as soon as I did.
I turned 18, graduated high school, and booked on out of that fuckin house, flipping the bird at my dad while I was at it. I went to the city and got a job at a local grocery store and looked towards college. When I got my first paycheck, rented an apartment and everything, it really did show I could do it. I saved for a year and then finally applied for TSU.
I prayed to god I would get in. I opened the mail and there it was, a stamp of approval.
College really did teach me a lot, like how much I wasn't prepared for this bullshit. Tests and exams, classes and buildings. I struggled, but I was stubborn and almost failed my first semester. I started to major in Biomedical Engineering and sat next to this real pretty girl. She was really something else.
When she noticed I struggled she didn't think twice about helpin me out, even going as far as to "tutor" me on the weekends. Coming from a southern kid from a farm, she made me think twice about city folk.
Her name was Sasha, an immigrant from Bulgaria, English wasn't her first language but she knew how to speak it pretty damn well I'll say. I learnt a bit of Russian too, atleast that's what I think it was.
I got my Bachelors then applied to a bunch of places, and eventually got a thumbs up from a small research firm named Requiem."
It dawned on me those first years working at Requiem, the place was a mess of research. I steadily rose in the ranks of Requiem and soon I was making pretty top dollar. Sasha and I were still together too, even going as far to think of marrying. In all honesty, I was scared of meeting her family.
I was right, they were damn scary but they accepted me.
Thought about inviting Pa, even went as far to call him and visit the farm. I saw a sign at the front, "Hamshire Family". I knocked on the door and asked around where he was...
"He died a few years ago sadly man, I thought he was the only one who lived here."
It hurt a lot that day, knowing that old fuck was dead. I took a walk around town that day, got drunk then passed out crying on the couch. I didn't get to say goodbye, what was his last thought of me? Me being a dumb kid and flipping him off? I went to his grave the next day and laid some roses on his grave. Sasha stood over me, grasping her belly and my shoulder. I promised that was the last time I would cry in front of her, she didn't care though even as she hugged me.
Over the next few years, I stayed at Requiem and took turns with Sasha helping Elliot, our son. He made me happy, his first steps and even his first words came and went like a hurricane of emotion. My life was finally good, no loose ends, nothing to stop me. I stood at the highest peak, looking down upon the world below me.
I received a call from work at around 1 am a few weeks after Elliot turned 5. It was urgent.
Those god damn ruski fucks, what have they done? The government contacted us first, there was an outbreak and it was much worse then what we were told. South Zegoria was plagued with an infection the likes the world hadn't seen since the Black Death. It scared me more than anything, but luckily the higher ups told me that everything would be alright.
Shocker, it didn't. The world was in panic mode now, countries were slowly succumbing to the infection and the UN and NATO could hardly stop it. However, some good benefits of Requiem and being slightly higher up on their research team meant something good. A safe place. We packed our things, took a private jet and traveled to Iceland.
Military and security made sure we didn't have the infection probably 15 times over, at this point we were thoroughly scared of the implications of the infection. The good thing was that I would be safe here for a long time and provisions were set for around 100 years. Requiem became a small bastion of hope for governments, we received some samples of the infection and it was nothing we had seen before.
Soon enough there was much more than just a few countries that fell, but dozens. I worked everyday, fighting over a cure. There had to be something in this infection. Eventually though, I was called to the CEO's office. Alone. His name was Sam, a chap from the good 'ol areas of Scotland. He sat me down, poured some whiskey then let down a file. 2 teams have been deployed in the last 2 and a half years of the infection going global, both deployed to Ground Zero of the infection. They were determined to find a "cure".
Sam took a seat and the last sip of his whiskey. He asked what I would do for my family.
"Everything." I responded. He smirked and told me what Requiem really was.
His words scared me, but it was the truth. I would now be called for deployment. My family would be safe but, only if I did Requiem's research.
Maybe humanity could start again, who knows anymore. I strapped myself into the plane and prepared for my stop, South Zegoria.
The chute was caught on a tree, I took a knife out of my boot and cut the line falling a good few meters before hitting the ground.
I looked around the landscape for a bit and prepared my gear. I took off the gear and put on the paramedics jacket and other doctor accessories and burnt the rest. I took a look in the duffel bag of supplies and saw a picture of Sarah and Elliot, there was writing on the back:
"Know what is at stake Edgar."
It was night when the helicopter descended upon the airstrip, my old lab laid in ruins, my body ached and my gun nearly empty. A group of special forces looking soldiers approached me as I limped out of the hangar, their lasers trained on the infected that approach. One set a blanket over my shoulders and within 30 seconds I was back into the air again. One of them took off their gas mask and asked for the research notes and I took out a hefty binder and placed it into his hands. He put it in the back of the helicopter and my eyes closed almost automatically, I could finally rest.
When I came to again, I was in the most tedious detoxification and chemical hazmat room I'd ever been in. Orange hazmats approached me and made sure none of the infection could be on me. I asked one if I could see my family and they nodded.
"Only after we get you out of that shitty getup and you talk to boss, you'll be allowed back onto the premises." He said in a Scottish accent.
I allowed them to conduct tests, and like the beginning 15 passes of making sure I held no trace of anything harmful.
My stuff was taken off me and there was a silence as I entered the CEO's office. I sat down before him with the blanket and new fresh clothing on my back, he sighed and tossed aside my research binder onto his desk. I knew there would be no end to this endeavor and so did he. He told me that what I did learn about Ground Zero was already known and that from what other agents have gathered it wasn't anything that they could screw with. There was a hint of surprise when he said that I had figured out some things that they didn't know, after all I guess I wasn't as useless. To him it wasn't as powerful as the experimental treatment, which he said needed "human testing."
My return was short lived and I was told that I would leave in a week and be back to that fuckin country within 10 days. I spent every minute with my family, Elliot and Sasha saw what I had became when I was in there and it scared them how long I would remain after this. They hugged and kissed me with every bit of strength they had before I returned to the daily routine. This time it wasn't wasted with research but instead with a rifle at the range and self defense training. Those special forces guys were the CEO's goons. However they taught me everything they could in the time they had. Torture resistance was also tested right afterwards and after that more survival training.
I was tired but every lesson strengthened my resolve and being able to go home to my family made my respite more worthwhile.
When I awoke on the 6th day, my family hugged me again and I walked into Sam's office with only an expression before he slid a stainless steel box and a key back to me. He grinned and when I opened it a pistol and more pictures of Sasha and Elliot laid in it. He spoke clearly,
"You're going back, but not alone. Report back to us at least once every 3 days. Also, I hope you respect the new preparations we took to ensure your success this time.
Do your job Edgar. We'll try and support you as best we can. Time is running out, even here we're running low on resources. Your family will be kept safe, but the rest of Requiem may not. This is the only time we can do this Edgar, make it count."
The trees became closer and closer but I knew not to get stuck like a complete dumbass. I stuck the landing in a clearing and buried the packed parachute as best as I could. There was more provisions for my journey including some better equipment and protective clothing this time, but I knew that even as I entered a new man, the country would not have changed so easily. I took out the yellow radio and entered the series of passkeys.
"Edgar here, I've landed safely. Phase 2 of infection research begins now."