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by Laura Millett 2 months ago in fiction · updated 2 months ago
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Search and Rescue

Photo by Darklabs India on Unsplash

Wastelands of decimated populations fell before the smooth, silent propel of ANDIE. ANDIE had been gliding along the steel tracks of Europe since Outbreak IX had begun; fast and deliberate ANDIE’s crew had no intention of slowing down until a new green zone was formed. Until then ANDIE continued its new mission of transporting quarantined survivors, clearing them for safety and ensuring that a once overpopulated world could manifest some normality.

Before the world was brought to a stop ANDIE was one of many overnight trains, a safe investment in lowering carbon emission. Of course, the new fleet became a way of gradually reducing flights as plane trips were once again only afforded to the elite and wealthy. With airplane companies closing; many pilots found themselves retraining as train drivers of the monstrously giant sleeper fleet that were injected firstly into Europe’s daily schedule.

The demand grew for the steel hotels to become just that; hotels of luxury, of convenience or of economic ease. Unfortunately, once the outbreak hit many trains became the scenes of death and miraculous, poisonous rebirth. Of course, it started how any other would begin. A mysterious beginning. A lack of understanding. A colossal amount of unnecessary deaths.

As ANDIE stormed through the frost-bitten Scottish highlands its normally large lights flickered and dimmed. A sign they were now entering a known red zone.

The lights from the train ceased. Roars and screams echoed around the metal structure. Speed increased. Faster until daylight was reached.

“ Is that the last of them?”

“ Yes, except for this one, he’s –“

“Put him in the quarantine section for now.”

Aboard each train there had been space for a variety of Royal Suites; taking up half of a carriage each. Ideal space for makeshift hospital rooms. As Bruce opened his eyes he engulfed the delicate paintings on the ceiling with gold gilding across the door. Letting his eyes fall to the floor he noticed clinical white and steel. Steel that covered the walls, the bed, the binding across his wrists. Clunking an alert to nearby makeshift doctors, the noise startled Bruce.

“Calm, please calm down.”

“Whe - wh -“ the words could not escape his mouth.

“You’ve had quite an experience, sir. Please lay down until the anaesthetic wears off.”

His eyes followed the softly spoken doctor. Followed them around his metal prison, around his belongings and finally around to his side.

“Just nod or shake your head to my questions. Okay?”

Bruce nodded his head.

“You’re in the quarantine section of ANDIE. A rescue and repopulation fleet. Do you know your name?”

His head shook.

“Neither do we sorry, but if you have been inked or chipped we may be able to tell you, in due course.”

“Bu -“

“Now, now, please lay back down. There is no need for this overexcitement. We’ll attend to you in the next few hours. Get you washed, changed and refreshed. Does that sound good?”

His head nodded.

Whilst the smug caregiver left the room, Bruce was left to ponder who he was, where he was and most importantly; what this strange contraption was. With his eyes becoming heavy the questions were enough to render him defenceless into a slumber submission.

“He had an inking on his neck.”

“Part of the first wave then.”

“What was he doing in a red zone?”

They hoped their answer would arrive once his inking was scanned. An answer that would decide his fate to be reintroduced into a civilised society or thrown from a moving train to his ultimate demise.

“For now, let’s treat him as we would any other survivor and keep in the medical carriage until his 48 hours is done.”

Sliding his newly acquired bracelet up the metal frame, Bruce dragged himself upright. Surely there had to be a clue somewhere in this room? His eyes danced about under the dealthy blue light until his free hand was forced to secure the throbbing pain plaguing his thigh. With that, a familiar face returned to the room; placing her hand on his forehead she cooed a gentle request.

“Please, try to keep still. My colleague here just needs to scan the inking.”

Bruce moved in pain as the old laser scanned the etching in his skin. Hot and tender flesh began to swirl around the available nostrils until a quiet ping signalled the search had been completed.

“Thank you for your cooperation. Here let me change that dressing.”

“Thanks,” Bruce’s voice was weak but through it the humming of the train could be heard.

“So, we might as well get to know each other whilst you’re in this quarantine. My name is Heather, advanced medical practitioner aboard ANDIE.”

A small smile received this warm yet clinical welcome.

“Where am I? What happened?”

Heather sighed heavily as she tightened the dressing, blood splattering across her protection equipment.

“You’re thankfully onboard ANDIE, the train originally part of relocating those who could afford to be relocated.”

“ANDIE? I think I remember people bought tickets? In the first wave?”

He was right. When the first wave arrived those wealthy enough to be transported out of the U.K. and into Europe left. However, no one knew at that point that the virus took 48 hours to take hold of a person. 48 hours and a reasonable human being would viciously attack and kill anyone around them. No one liked to use the word zombie but that’s what they were. Of course, by the time ANDIE arrived in France many had begun to change whilst others who had recently become infected travelled further; spreading the virus as they went.

After that, ANDIE and the rest of the fleet became search and rescue, then eventually carrying quarantined passengers to new green zones.

“We travelled up to Scotland once we heard a new trial had taken place but then…”

“Then what?”

“The green zone fell and we once again became search and rescue. Only -“

“Only there isn’t many survivors?”

“We pulled you from a group. Thankfully you’re here now.”

The group Heather referred to was a corporation of vigilantes warped enough to collect survivors. Collect and deliver them to those wanting to feed family members they could not accept were no longer themselves. Or those looking to make money from horrific games that threatened the survivors’ wellbeing and safety.

Bruce sat upright trying to remember any details that would allow him to recognise his own face or story. As Heather finished binding his wound she wiped sweat from his brow and injected painkillers to help with the pain.

“That should help. Now, try and get some rest, okay?” He nodded his head in compliance.

As warm as Heather could be not everyone welcomed Bruce’s arrival as thankful event.

“His name is Bruce Williamson, had been a landowner after the first and second wave hit. But his land was overrun by the third wave.” The train’s captain became more concerned with every word spoken.

“Where did he go afterwards?”

“Captain.” His second captain lowered his voice to an intimate level. “James, the record indicates he was part of Project V.”

“That’s not possible. There are no known survivors from the experiment.” James looked through the evidence of Bruce’s involvement in Project V.

Project V had been a way to isolate specific genes that prevented the virus from mutating or developing. A way for a vaccine or cure to emerge.

“So he was infected and survived the 48?”

“Yes sir, on multiple occasions. He is a carrier of the virus.”

“So he is immune.”

“Yes sir, but the virus can travel. In his sweat, in his blood, in anything that comes from him. Sir, our worry is not him turning at the 48…”

“But who he will infect.”


About the author

Laura Millett

Horror and dystopian enthusiast trying to bring a new twist to morbid tales.

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