Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Pallbearer: Fevers In Berlin Part 1

Turn That Frown Upside Down

There was a wall between Takt District and I. No wall made of steel or masonry. A wall of trucks, armored vans, and flames.

I had parted company with Beast... Czernabog... Nikolas... whatever the hell he felt like calling himself, once the plant was turned into rubble. A word of direction to his brother's makeshift grave and I was on my way. Too close to bother stopping now.

Cassie, I'm coming home.

Or at least that's what I thought. Then, as I lumbered through the city, I caught radio chatter between West Worthington ground forces.

"Keep the contamination wall up. Another band of stragglers is heading your way. I don't care if you see your mother, you better make sure she's nothing but ash, do you understand me?"

"Sir, what's going on? Why are there so many?"

"The Disciples are deliberately infecting themselves. It's a virus Freeman. They don't give a shit about viruses. They can put themselves back together out of spare parts."

"Then... why infect themselves?"

"They're carriers. Whoever built this goddamn flu just handed them the perfect weapon to wipe out the competition."

Built? Man-made flu?

I needed in. I needed Cassie.

So I went under. Down an access pipe to a water regulation station thirty feet underground. Then, I started blasting through walls.

"Neil, why do you always frown at me?"

"My forehead's smiling at you upside-down."

"Be serious."

"I thought you didn't want me to frown."

"I'm just trying to plan ahead. We don't know what'll happen tomorrow. Or the next day. We could die. Overrun by Sleepers or Judges or God knows what else."

"I know what you're trying to do Cassie. I understand. Really. But what you're asking is insane. No one quits West Worthington. Just like no one quits East Fredricksburg."

"Sure they do."

"Like who?"

"Devlin. Tim Devlin. He quit."

"And died in a hideous car wreck three days later. His wife and kids too."

"C'mon Neil..."

"C'mon what? What the hell am I supposed to do? At least here we can pay the bills."

"Yeah, I'm sure our coffins will reflect how good the company was to us."

"Damn it Neil!"

If silence were a color, ours would be the black that has no shine, no glimmer, no sparkle.

"Listen... Cassie... I've got a place in Takt. It's a slum but if something ever goes wrong, there's where I want you to go. Dump your suit, whatever you've got with you. Even toss your clothes as soon as you can. No one will go looking for you. Not there."

"Expecting something?"

"Just prepared. I don't trust the company either hon. I just don't see any other road right now. Alright?"


But it wasn't fucking alright. Her safe haven was infected with the Berlin Flu. That's what they said it was over the comms.

It starts with creaking joints and a headache. You start to vomit, just like any other flu. Then it turns red as every vein in your body starts falling apart. And you keep vomiting, over and over. Until it's just like borscht from Berlin.

The Berlin Flu.

I slipped out the back of my Brute and sloshed around in the frigid muck. Fucking snow. Never snowed before in Chrysalis. Why not now?

I snagged hold of a ladder heading up and pulled myself up to a uncovered manhole. A brief look revealed...


And more snow.

No patrols though. That was a positive thing.

I climbed the rest of the way out and ran through the snow drifts to the small set of apartments a couple hundred feet away. They reminded me of the cheap hotel I lost my virginity in. Heh. Didn't lose. Just misplaced.

A small front office, already abandoned. I cut to the left and trotted up the stairwell. 3rd floor. Apartment 3-G.

The carpeting was red. It was never red before.

Always a putrid green.

I ran faster.

"Cassie? CASSIE?!"

No keys. I kicked open the door.

"Hi Neil. I was hoping you'd come. A little later than I hoped though."

Her hair was dried and starting to crack. Her lips had already split. Her soft white skin that had drank up fake bake suntans was mottled and greying.

"Jesus Cassie... what happened?"

She smiled. She always smiled. Even though her teeth were starting to rot from the acid.

"This little fly caught the flu. What can you do? It's not red yet. I probably still have couple days. Can't believe the bleeding hasn't started."

She was laughing.

"I haven't held anything down for days. Sorry I'm such a mess."

She went to stand and tipped over. I caught in the gentlest bear hug I could and still felt her bruise.

"I knew you'd come, my burly brute. Sorry honey... Sorry I'm not... looking better."

"You're still looking just fine hon. Everything'll be alright."

I kissed and cried and kissed her again.

Fuck the flu. Bury us both. Gimme my shovel.

And then three words passed through my Brute's ears by way of the comms.

"...transporting the cure..."

I pulled back, smiling into Cassie's eyes.

"...not for distribution. Testing and marketing needed yet..."

Funny the difference one more sentance can make.

"Neil, you're frowning."

"Don't worry baby. I won't be for long. Neither will you. I have go in a little bit. St. George and I have to run to the drugstore."

"So... So soon?"

"Yeah. But right now, I'm gonna hold you and keep you safe."

She smiled.

And so did St. George as I reloaded.

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