Edited By: Planetes
B Military Zone, Emergency Communication Room.
“The summary of the analysis report is out. All the Omegas, whether male or female, have gone through genetic identification. The target is not amongst them.”
The red emergency light flashed, reflecting on the female researcher’s sweaty face. As she sprinted here, her chest was still heaving while she panted. An old man, with a star emblazoned on his shoulder, had his face buried in his palm. He lifted his head after a few seconds. “I got it.”
The old man picked up the satellite phone at the control panel and dialed a password which connected him to a direct line. Thirty seconds felt like forever as he waited for the call to be answered. “Major General Qian, please report the results.”
The old man opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
The awkward silence explained everything.
“We will strictly investigate every city along the route that DC918 has taken. If the plane had crashed, it would have definitely left a trace somewhere.” The voice was very low, and sounded formidable. After a pause, he continued, “Is there any information from Unit 118 of the Classified Battalion?”
“… I’ve sent all 8 of my squads out. 3 have been confirmed dead, the whereabouts of 2 squads are unknown, and another 2 have returned without accomplishing anything. Squad 6 led by Major Zhou had rescued hundreds of trapped civilians, but after the rescue helicopters that were dispatched to assist them had been infected, we have also lost contact with them…”
Major General Qian took a deep breath to steady his nerves, and his voice hardened. “I can send the last two squads out, but we need more information about the target. If not, it’ll be like looking for a needle in the haystack. Without a concrete plan, it would completely impossible to complete this mission!”
“No.” The person on the phone rejected. “In the past few months, the target has only kept in contact with the Ministry of State Security’s Vice Minister Guo. His identity and information has been kept highly confidential, and Vice Minister Guo has been confirmed to have died when transferring between facilities.”
Major General Qian was furious. “No details about his identity, no details about his appearance, and the only thing we know is that he’s vigilant and his stand on politics is ambiguous. How are my men going to find him? Should we broadcast an announcement through the cities and wait for the target to barge in himself?”
“To prevent the target from hiding from the Alphas’ pheromones, all my special force soldiers have been injected with an agent to disguise themselves as Betas. Armed to the teeth, they have all gone deep into where the zombies are, and we have nothing to show for it! For all we know, the target has already died in the airplane crash!”
“If he’s dead,” The voice in the phone was cold and clear. “All our hopes will be… gone.”
The fretful breathing was indistinct over the phone line. Major General Qian shut his eyes weakly. He was about to say something, but a muffled crash was suddenly heard from the corridor outside the Communications Room.
A few researchers rapidly stood up, their faces changing. Major General Qian snapped his head around.
The sound happened again, this time sounding much closer.
“They… they’re here.” Major General Qian swallowed with much difficulty. He hung up the phone, and pulled out his gun.
In the dead silence, the third crash sounded near the door, and stopped.
Everyone’s heart pounded as they stared at that sealed metal door in hopelessness. They could hear the animal-like impatient thuds against the door, as well as the wheezing of the zombies. After about ten seconds, an earthshaking bang occurred!
The room vibrated, and cries were heard everywhere. Everyone watched as the metal door curved in at a terrifying angle—
The next morning, 6am.
The rays of the sun peeked through the clouds, and the air was humid with a salty tang to it. The survivors were roused from their sleep. Some spoke to each other, some leaving the bus to stretch their limbs, and some, wrapped in their blankets, stared out of the windows of the bus in a trance. Zhou Rong had already led some people to inspect the vehicles on the expressway, and as they hoped, there were vehicles whose fuel tank had yet to be emptied. Using clear flexible tubes, they managed to siphoned a few tanks of diesel. Everyone’s mouth had the lingering taste of diesel, and they all stood by the road trying to clear the taste by spitting non-stop.
They departed at 6.30am, arriving at the industrial zone at 7am. The bus came to a gradual stop at a chemical fertiliser plant.
Yan Hao brought a small team to scout the factory, clearing out a pack of more than ten zombies. As they exited, he signalled that it was safe for them to enter.
The plant was in a mess, blood everywhere. However, the facilities had not been badly damaged, and there was even a vegetable plot in the backyard, with a few chickens. In the workers’ dormitory, the thirty-odd survivors divided themselves. Headed by Ding Shi and Zhang Yingjie, the males cleaned up the dormitory, repaired the barbed wire fence, and did a recce of their surroundings. As for the females, in the kitchen they discovered pots and pans, as well as gas tanks, and took up the responsibility of preparing food.
Zhou Rong stood by the tap in the front yard. The water coming out of it was yellow with rust, and he washed his face perfunctorily.
“The terrain here is high, the factory secure. There’s even food supplies stored in the warehouse, and the nearest residential area is 5km away.” One of his special force soldiers, Guo Weixiang was standing behind him and reporting methodically. “If we still can’t get in contact with the military command, we can hold onto this place for some time, and play it by ear from here.”
Zhou Rong did not respond. He stuck his head under the tap and let the water run over him for a moment. He shook the water droplets off, and his short, straight hair stood up stiffly.
“Although there’s no electricity, but there’s a diesel generator in the factory. Yan Hao is now recording down all information of the survivors. He’s organising a team of guards to make sure that there’ll be people patrolling the area 24/7…”
“2 more days,” Zhou Rong interrupted.
Guo Weixiang, “?”
“If there’s still no detonation of the nuclear bomb, I’ll go have a look around B Military Zone. You guys will stay here and help settle the crowd, and wait for news.”
Zhou Rong lifted his t-shirt and wiped his face with it. His camouflage pants hung upon his adonis belt, and revealed his firm eight-pack abs. Guo Weixiang was anxious, following behind him he said, “Rong-ge, you can’t go! To get into the military zone you’ll need to traverse through the entire B City. Unless you fly across it, you’ll definitely meet your death. Have you managed to grow wings or what?!”
Zhou Rong looked at him derisively, “Alright, rich kid. How about you ask your grandfather to dispatch a helicopter here?”
Guo Weixiang was grumpy. “If I could contact him, I’ll get him to send you a F22 combat jet. If there’s even one wheel missing, I’ll consider myself to have lost to you.”
“Rong-ge!” Chun Cao suddenly flew out from the east side of the factory. “Come, quick, we’ve discovered a…”
Reflexively, they thought it was a zombie. However, Chun Cao came running over and grabbed Zhou Rong’s hand, looking nervous, and finally squeezed out her words. “… Pregnant lady.”
Zhou Rong, “Huh?!”
Zhou Rong instantly got a headache.
“… What’s your name?” In the cafeteria, Si Nan asked, astounded.
There were only six females amongst the survivors. The two twenty-odd years old ladies seemed to be friends, and were huddled together throughout the entire journey. It was now the end of September, and the weather had turned cool. One of them was dressed especially warmly, and on the way here, everyone had only thought that she was a little plump, and afraid of cold.
Who would have guessed that she was already six months pregnant.
“Wang, Wang Wen…” The pregnant lady replied, cowering.” I’ve very strong, I can work…”
Her friend, whose features were very good looking, stood in front of her and cut in, “She doesn’t eat much, and there’s no need to take special care of her. If she really needs help, I can do it for her. We won’t drag anyone down, and we can both run very fast. Didn’t we run through the shop building with everyone?”
Si Nan and Yan Hao exchanged glances.
“Don’t abandon her, please?” The lady pled, her eyes shifting between the faces of the two young men.
Although the younger one on the right was handsome, he was taciturn. Exuding a frosty air around him, he did not look like a soft-hearted person.
That special force soldier on the left was very responsible, protecting all the survivors on the bus during their escape. His actions were both gentle and kind.
“We can both have less food.” The lady had already made her calculations. She turned towards Yan Hao, trying her best to blink her already big and limpid eyes at him, imploring, “It’s been difficult for everyone. Her husband is trapped in T City, and we don’t know if he’s alive or dead. If we abandon her, how is a pregnant lady going to survive? Please, handsome, you’re definitely a good guy. I’m Wu Xinyan, you can call me Yanyan…”
Wu Xinyan was really a very pretty lady. Her pleading had a quality that would make everyone favour her.
Unfortunately, Yan Hao did not pay attention to this. After they studied Wang Wen’s belly for a few moments, Si Nan spoke out. “It’s been six months, it can’t be aborted.”
His tone was very matter-of-fact, but in the ears of the two ladies, that was not the case. Wang Wen’s face immediately paled.
Yan Hao hurriedly tried to prevent the situation from deteriorating. “Don’t cry, we’re not planning on making you have an abortion! It’s just… with a baby… diapers and milk powder…”
Yan Hao was flustered. When he saw Zhou Rong’s figure appearing at the entrance of the cafeteria in the distance, he quickly stood up. “I’ll go ask my captain.”
In these people’s eyes, Zhou Rong was a harsh and heartless character. Wu Xinyan immediately panicked, and she grabbed Yan Hao’s hand as he was about to leave, almost pressing it into her chest. “Da-ge1, please!”
Yan Hao swiftly pulled his hand away, and reflexively looked over at Si Nan. “It’s fine, I’ll speak for you.” He rapidly made his way to Zhou Rong.
… Why did he look at me? Si Nan was puzzled.
Next, he saw the look in Wu Xinyan’s eyes — this lady looked at Yan Hao as though he was her saviour, and her eyes were full of apprehensive hope.
Oh, he’s afraid that I’ll tattle to Zhou Rong. Si Nan was enlightened. He studied the backs of the two men, thinking, there’s so many things going on in the romance between two gays.
“Don’t let anyone else know about this first.” After listening to the situation, Zhou Rong instructed after a moment of contemplation. “There’s 30 over people here, and no one knows each other. Ask the pregnant lady to try keeping to herself, and don’t walk around too much.”
Yan Hao nodded.
“Give her an egg from the hen in the backyard everyday, don’t let anyone see you doing this. Everyone’s been under immense stress, and they’re all tensed up. Before we re-establish communications with the base, it’s best to not have any sources of conflict.”
Yan Hao agreed to everything. He saw Zhou Rong was about to leave, and casually asked, “Captain, where are you going?”
“To the warehouse to look for some stuff.”
“What are you looking for?”
Zhou Rong was going to answer before he noticed Si Nan with the corner of his eyes. He realised that Si Nan and Yan Hao had just been sitting together, and his mood sank a little.
“… It’s nothing.” Zhou Rong smiled. “I’m getting some cartons of beer out, let’s have a gathering for everyone tonight.”
Zhou Rong personally went to the warehouse to move a few boxes into the back of the factory, then carried out a carton of beer. During dinner, he called everyone to the cafeteria, and gave a small speech.
“Because of some communication issues, we’re temporarily unable to get in contact with the military zone. However, please believe that the government and the army will not give up on any survivors. The supplies we brought from T City as well as the ones stored in the warehouse of this factory is enough to last us for 3 months. Within these 3 months, we will definitely bring all of you to a secure shelter.”
“It’s fate that has brought us here together, and let us sit here alive. It matters not if we knew each other from before. We will not give up on any civilian, and we hope that everyone would also help and support each other.” Zhou Rong raised his beer can, toasting everyone. He said earnestly, “Thank you, a toast to all of you.” Then, tilting his head back, he took two large gulps of beer.
Everyone was visibly moved. Someone took the initiative to offer him a cigarette, and others started to introduce themselves. “I’m in sales, and was at the mall to meet my client…”
“I’m a security guard at the mall…”
“Telecommunications engineer here. I’m a good-for-nothing scholar!”
“I work in the surgical department of the municipal hospital. Let’s not talk about it…”
“Surgical department?” Zhou Rong’s ears perked up.
He immediately went up and enthusiastically grasped the middle-aged doctor’s hand, and forced him aside. “It’s very good to meet you! May I ask, what sort of patients do you have normally?”
“Do you know how to deliver a child?”
“Yes… A little, I was an intern in the obstetrics department before…”
Zhou Rong clapped him on the shoulder. “I have the utmost respect for the people who save lives!”
That middle-aged man, whose last name was Zheng, had clearly seen Zhou Rong’s resentment towards the doctor back at the shopping mall. Towards his current display of respect, he was very alarmed. He hurriedly toasted him with beer and put a smile on his face, modestly saying that he could do anything, and would be willing to go along with the team’s arrangement.
With a beer in her hand, Wu Xinyan stood up and moved next to Yan Hao. She spoke shyly, “Hi. Thank you for the matter in the afternoon…”
As her head was lowered, her long hair scattered past her cheek, almost brushing against Yan Hao’s shoulder. Her hair was thick and soft, and had a feminine fragrance to it.
Surprisingly, Yan Hao did not wait for her to finish speaking. He stood up from the dining table, “It’s nothing.”
The words, “I’ll like to give you a toast” was stuck in Wu Xinyan’s throat. She watched Yan Hao walk past her and sit down at another table.
Si Nan was drinking plain water and chewing on biscuits. Choking them down, he did not notice that someone had sat in front of him. He looked up, and sent a questioning look.
Yan Hao had thin eyebrows and bright eyes, and his double eyelids were very defined — if he were an actor, many teenage girls’ hearts would be moved by his face. When he looked at people with that complicated yet focused gaze, few could bear to look away, and would meet his eyes.
Si Nan finally managed to swallow the biscuit down, and asked, “What exactly do you want to say?”
Instead of replying, Yan Hao asked him a question. “Are those boxes in the back of the factory yours?”
“Yes. Zhou Rong said that you’re all out of bullets. I want to see if I can make some explosives with nitric acid, glycerin and iron filings.”
Yan Hao was silent.
Si Nan raised a brow. His look of slight query on his face politely signalled that his limited patience while eating was coming to an end.
After a long while, Yan Hao finally spoke softly.
“… The captain is usually busy. You don’t have to look for him. The next time you need something moved, you can ask me.”
“Also, if you need any other help… You can just look for me, no matter the time.”
His attitude was very solemn, to the point where Si Nan could not comprehend it. It took him a few seconds to recall the relationship between the two betas. He immediately understood, and said apologetically, “I won’t do it again next time.”
Lowering his eyelashes, Yan Hao smiled nervously, and walked away.