*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*- Legion Neurological Memory Simulation *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
Simulated Relative Time: 1:15
Location: Rio City Ruins
"What! NO! We have nothing to do with that heretic!" The armored figure helping me up spoke furiously at the mentioning of Pablo's name, his eyes hidden behind the sinister red gleaming optics of his visor. "We..." He went on to explain but abruptly turned when we heard the converging screams of tiberium fiends onto this place. Those things are attracted by noise and light. They will ferociously assault anyone they deem weak enough to be overcome. Hence, zoners are keen to keep their camps as quiet and dark as possible during the night. The gunbattle moments before must have attracted them by the hundreds. They know we can't hold them back, somehow they always know if their strength outmatches that of their prey.
"Quick! Follow us!" The leader of the squad of unknown gunman ordered. I went to help the wounded Rawne up, but several armored figures had already dragged him up. I felt both relived and frightened. Relieved that I didn't have to exert myself any further, I don't know if I still have any strength left to help Rawne after today's exhaustion. But I was also scared, why did they help us? What are they going to do to us?
But my concerns hardly seemed to matter now as the swarm of nocturnal demons converged onto us. The group ran towards the abandoned funeral chapel I spotted during our arrival. They pushed open the heavy doors with effort. I noticed that the doors were made of multiple layers of scavenged steel plates welded together and the large, gothic windows of the chapel were all boarded shut and reinforced with more steel plating. The gunman must have converted it into some kind of refuge.
The piercing screams of tiberium fiends became incredibly close. I turned and horrifyingly saw their glowing green eyes gliding through the darkness. They are almost upon us.
Once we have pushed through the doors, several of the gunmen immediately went to push it shut. Heavy bangs were heard through the armored doors as the demons put up a very genuine attempt to batter them down. The four gunmen holding back the gate were pushed back a foot when the battering became more ferocious. The demons gave a chorus of piercing screams as if in triumph of their progress.
All of us, including the wounded Rawne who was humping on one foot threw ourselves against the doors. I heard some of the gunmen praying loudly as they desperately pushed against the metal that separated us from the monsters but I was too busy pushing to pay attention to their verses.
A claw emerged from the unclosed slit, a bony hand laced with razor sharp, infectious, tiberium blades. This is the first time I saw a tiberium fiend in such detail, I heard before that they originate from mutated animals. But this claw is, no was, somebody's fucking hand man! The bones that was covered by a transparent green gelatin like goo was somebody's fucking hand! The sight was mindboggling! The arm to which the claw was attached to was clearly of animal origin! The bones of at least two different beings were covered in transparent, weakly green fluorescent jelly like tissue. Veins, pulsing with brightly glowing liquid tiberium ran through the transparent tissue.
The sight was terrifying! But at the same time it was fascinating. I earlier hypothesized that the zombies which nearly killed us were spwaned by tiberium coming into contact with human tissue. Now it seems that tiberium animated through different causes can fuse together to form even more weird things!
My curiosity from the bizarre sight was brutally cut short when the claw viciously flayed around, trying to wound and infect anything in it's path. The apparent leader of the gunman abruptly stopped pushing, wheeled around and slammed his armored back against the doors. He then slammed the butt of his AK-105 against the claw, followed by a loud screech by the fiend to which the claw belonged. The claw momentarily retreated from the gap and gave us the opportunity to push the doors into their locks.
"Click!" That sound means so much to us right now!
Once the doors are locked, the gunmen immediately pushed several heavy crates filled with earth against the doors. To my greatest relieve, the banging noise died down a little when the beasts realized that their claws did little against the reinforced gates.
The fiends didn't gave up though, loud bangs resonated anew when they launched an assault on the boarded up windows, followed by a chorus of even more furious screams, as if the fiends were trying to encourage each other.
Wordlessly, the group of gunman dashed towards a low door next to the weathered altar, long since stripped of anything vaguely valuable. I followed and noticed that not all of the gunmen were armored. Some wore only a heavy hooded coat sewn together from various different sturdy fabric. They wore googles and had their face hidden beneath what seems to be a very crude makeshift respirator. Even more clownish was the sight of some with scavenged motorcycle helmet for the absence of real battle armor.
I came to the low door and noticed that this was yet another entrance to a crypt. I felt a little reluctant to go down into yet another subterranean graveyard. A few very loud bangs against the boarded up windows quickly changed my mind.
We descended into the catacombs. It was incredibly dark, for unlike my earlier venture, this one was much deeper. The group had only a single helmet mounted flashlight on, probably to conserve batteries, which are luxury yet absolutely essential items in the wastelands.
We came down the last of the stairs into a cavern like opening. A dreadful silence, pierced only the tickling of water drops and the low sound of the tiberium fiends upstairs, descended. The burial caverns were large and multi chambered. Through the light by the single, yet apparently high quality very bright flashlight mounted on the helmet of one of the armored gunman, I could see scores of walled up burial niches in the walls and ground as well as a multitude of large stone sarcophagus in the caverns.
I shuddered involuntarily as I learned from our earlier encounter that they may not just contain bodies slowly rotting away. Luckily, the catacomb was formed like a underground apartment, with room like wings on both sides of the central tunnel containing the internments, sealed off by rusty gating and thus giving me some relieve.
The burial caverns were large enough for someone to get lost, especially since we only had one light on. The gunmen all locked hands to prevent this. I was a little impressed by this display of comradice. Even though this was the obvious rational thing to do in a situation like this, don't expect it to see it often amongst zoners. For the most, they would rather squabble amongst themselves straight into oblivion.
"Jose! Jose! You okay! Are you okay!" I heard Rawne anxiously shouting out to me, he was somewhere in the front of the row. But I couldn't see him through the darkness.
"I'm fin…" I tried to shout back but felt someone seizing me by my collar.
"Don't worry I got him." A young adult voice said. He was unarmored, wearing only the heavy hoodie and crude respirator mask with a pair of ski googles and a beat up backpack. He was hold one hand with the gunman ahead of him and with the other he tugged me along with him.
After a few turns inside the depressive catacombs filled with maybe hundreds of internments, some damaged, exposing the bleached remains of someone long dead, we came to a tunnel dug into the ground. It seems the gunmen had dug an escape tunnel out from the catacombs.
Once we descended the very steep escape tunnel, several of the gunmen pushed large rocks they must have prepared earlier to seal the tunnel off. I felt everyone breathing a long sight of relieve when the screams of the tiberium fiends at last died off.
Several more of the gunman activated their helmet mounted flashlights to take a closer look at the situation. It seems that the TibWar2 NOD battle armor were all integrated with the very bright flashlights. I looked around and saw we were inside the partially collapsed sewer system of Rio.
The leader, whose full armor's paint was peeling off, walked towards Rawne and I felt ice run down my spine. Now comes the tricky part. What are they gonna do to us? Are they going to eat us? Maybe not, it would have been much easier to just kill us and drag us down there than to risk us running away and while they had their guns pointed as us now, it wasn't explicit and appears to be just the usual caution every sensible zoner has.
"What are you doing here?" The armored figure interrogated Rawne, his blood red helmet optics looked incredibly sinister in the low light condition. I felt my mind on hyperdrive as it ran across my list of lies and excuses that saved my life more than once in situations like this.
"Our caravan was attacked by mutants, we lost our way here." Rawne said with an exhausted voice. I could see that he was reeling in pain from his wounded leg. Rawne was a quick fingered thief and a superb liar, just as I am. Here in the zones, these are the two golden skills of survival. His answer contained as little information as necessary to answer the question while not divulging anything that might cause a hostile reaction.
"Where were you headed and what group do you belong to" The armored figure asked
"We are members of uhh...John Olwen's clan, we are situated about 40 kilometers north of here." Rawne made up an arbitrary clan leader name. So as to no risk the remote yet real possibility that Carlos had run-ins with the present group before. There are so many group of wanderlings out there and they form and break up so frequent that no one is gonna bother to check our imaginary clan name.
"We were headed to the GDI aid distribution camp and were ambushed by mutants when our vehicle broke down." Rwane went on to explain. It is sometimes wise to give a little more information than asked so as to appear compliant to the interrogation.
If experience taught the zoners one thing, it is that people with power do not tolerate any infringement to their perceived authority. Rawne was wise to play on that inherent human pride and he hadn't divlged anything that might cause a hostile reaction. We are from a clan that doesn't exist, we went were almost everyone in the ruins were headed to today, we happen to have accidents that occur so frequent that it has to be true and we were attacked by things that couldn't possibly be the present group's allies. Masterfully lied Rawne! A lie filled with half truths that makes it indistinguishable from the truth.
The other gunmen gave out noises of contempt at the mentioning of GDI.
"So you too have been deceived by the infidels." The armored figure interrogating Rawne spoke with a sympathetic tone which however resonated with finality that bode absolutely no challenge to his opinion. All the years of me lying my way to survival in the zones gave me the ability to hear much more than the words being spoken.
"I heard there was giant stampede at the GDI camp." The armored figure went on,
I made a mental note when he spoke 'G','D','I' through clenched teeth and in separate letters. So this group of gunmen apparently loathed GDI. I will play on that to get their sympathy if needed be.
"No doubt our demonic enemies planned this atrocity in order to tighten their grip on these lands!" He continued, his words filled with venom. I was a little confused by his words. It didn't seem to me at all that GDI intended to cause the stampede and I was there. They held their fire even when the mob broke through their lines in order to seize the supplies, change it to any clan you care to name around here, the mob would have been machine gunned and their bodies cut up for food. And were it not for the can the GDI commander threw me, we would not have made it through the night in that crypt since neither Rawne nor I had extra supplies with us.
As for Duncan...alas..I felt a surge of saddness in my heart when I thought of him. It is hardly the first time I talked to someone alive just moments ago and now separated in different worlds. There is usually little to regret. But I felt kindness in the ways Duncan talked about his children, and the kind words he gave me, kindness I sorely long for. Too bad, he might have become a great friend to both of us had he survived.
I felt like crying, but no tears came, I used up all my tears long time ago.
"But Still! Our faith is strong! The righteous need not cower before the unbeliever's machinations!" The armored figure spoke to himself in a sing-song voice filled with fire, as if in a prayer "Our faith is what makes us strong! Through our faith we will lead the oppressed to the righteous path!". He nearly growled out his last words. Damn! This dude sounds fanatic in whatever he believes in. It hardly seems a good idea to tell him what I think really happened at the GDI camp. I don't think I should even mention GDI's name in front of this man. But what exactly was his 'righteous path anyways?
"In the name of Kane!" The armored figure screamed with fury, his voice echoed through the dark, empty, endless corridors of the sewers.
"Peace Through Power!" The other gunmen raised their weapons. I noticed that this group of gunmen were well armed, by any standard. There were 16 of them in total, 7 were encased in full NOD TibWar2 battle armor. The rest however only had part or no armor and were dressed in hoodies, stitched together from sturdy, scavenged fabric. Their faces covered with crude, homemade respirators and their eyes covered by glass googles. The hoddie dress is the main 'fashion' style in the zones, as it provides some protection against the volatile environment.
Nearly all of them had M16MKIIs on their backs, first of the 21'st century firearms, last of any small arm made by a nation state. However, they apparently are using older firearms as their main weapons. Probably to conserve ammunition for the MKIIs as their flechett rounds can be very hard to obtain.
"Are you NOD soldiers Sir?" I dared to ask, with as much politeness I could muster. Their fanatic rants, the scorpion tails on their armor and hoodies, their fine equipment and their comradice, compared to any zoner, made me think that this group might be the same kind of remaining, fanatically loyal NOD forces Rawne talked about earlier.
"Yes, we are loyal followers the true faith!" The leader spoke with a voice filled with pride. Hurray! My question scored a hit on his pride, it made him happy! Now Rawne and I might just survive this night if we keep up our sycophantic charade.
"I'm sure you have heard of the teachings of the great prophet!" The leader spoke, his tone bode no room for negations of any kind. It's as if he expect everyone to know and revere Kane, the former leader of NOD. Fact is, while I heard of Kane, I never knew what he preached, nor am I interested. To me, he wasn't anywhere above all the other deluded fools roaming these wastelands, promising some sort of paradise that doesn't exist, with the hopes that some desperate zoner would believe their insane rants and try to buy their way to salvation with plenty of 'contributions' to the 'prophet'.
"Kane lives in death!" The other gunmen said in unison. But this time, their voices were much more restrained, probably to avoid attracting any creepy crawlies that might roam the endless dark corridors of the sewer system.
"It is no coincidence that we came across you in that dark hour!" The leader of the squad of NOD fanatics declared "The spiritual hand of Kane guide the path of the faithful! We! The few but loyal disciples of the true faith devote ourselves to help those in need! To make them see the light of the great prophet!"
Geeee! Now I can see why Rawne said that NOD fanatics can be annoying. This guy seemed to sing out every sentence in prayer style. Still, from his words, my exhausted mind screaming for sleep deduced that what he said about helping people was indeed true, at least in the ways they believed in.
It would seem they helped us in order to help us so that we might see NOD as a savior. But aren't they concerned that people that took their help simply milk them for resources? Or are they counting on whatever small number of people that they helped would genuinely support them? Or do they help people judged by how valuable they are to them? Well all these hardly seem to matter now and I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. The only think I could still think of with my remaining strength was to make them let us live and I can get some sleep.
Then I suddenly remembered Rawne's wounded legs, they might turn gangrenous without attention. "Rawne here used to run with NOD." I guess I was just too tired, these words slipped through my tongue without thoughts. I almost immediately regretted it since I hadn't pounded through what reactions these words would cause. I think my instinct was just to get their sympathy so they might help us.
I could see Rawne's eyes widen with shock when he heard what I just said. His eyes rolled furiously as he considered how to cope with the new uncertainty. As for me, the only thing I could still think of was to pass out into sweet oblivion. I guess I just surrendered to my exhaustion,
The NOD squad leader, or 'Confessor', as Rawne had told me earlier took a long and careful look at Rawne, The red visor of his helmet made him look like some kind of mechanical demon.
"What's your unit son?" The confessor asked, his voice sounding much softer than earlier. I prayed that the words that slipped through my tongue don't bring us more trouble.
"22nd infantry sir." Rawne replied, looking almost as exhausted as me "But I wasn't initiated into the order" Rawne went on to give an explanation of himself. The NOD confessor, seemingly satisfied with Rawne's answer, told us to follow him. Several of the gunmen helped to carry the wounded Rawne and they seem to treat him almost as one of their own. I must say that I was impressed and thankful to this group of eccentric religious nuts. For all their wackyness, we wouldn't have survived the onslaught of the tiberium fiends outside that crypt had they not intervened.
We came after a few more tunnels to what looked like a gated tool room, probably for maintaining the sewer system in it's better days. Once the gunmen sealed the heavy iron doors and turned on the dim, battery powered lights, just enough to make the room visible, I felt such a relive that I almost felt as if I was reborn into heaven.
The group of NOD soldiers set Rawen down on what looked like a makeshift operation table. "Attend his wounds." The NOD confessor nodded to another armored figure. Who fetched some supplies that looked like real stuff! Real medical equipments! Could they perform surgery? About the only ones that could perform anything more than quackery around here were Pablo's men.
I curiously looked around the room. It was evidently a former storage room for maintenance tools, rusty pipe works and other machinery were scattered around. This group of NOD remnant apparently converted the room into a temporary shelter with a number of supplies stored in there, just like that chapel in the cemetery we just fled from. Interesting, they seem to keep a number of hidden, ready to use shelters with emergency exits and probably are constantly on the move. Like Rawne told me about confessor Maicol's squad.
The armored figure tending Rawne pressed some obscure button on his suit. His face mask retracted like a set of door plates. Wow! That's the first time I have ever seen a NOD armor with functioning details.
The retreating face mask revealed a man who apparently had been through a lot, yet I could see an undercurrent of kindness through his wrinkled, aged visage, covered in complete white hair and beard.
It was a curious sight. I have rarely seen anyone like him. It looked almost as if he didn't belong to this place, for his eyes beamed with knowledge. The last person I knew who had some decent knowledge of medicine was old Marcos. A community doctor of about the same age as Carlos and one of the member's of Carlos clan that I consider to be my friend. I loved the moments we had during an evening chat about the old times and when he tried to teach me some medical knowledge.
Alas! Like my other friends he passed away, year ago. No one knows from what. No one in the zones knows what was happening in the zones, and no one cares. With his passing went the last source of medical service of our clan. No one possessed the intellect and patience to learn anything from old Marcos and we simply didn't had access to any real medical supplies.
The NOD soldier tending Rawne switched on his bright, helmet mounted flashlight and checked Rawne's legs, pressed here and there and asked him a series of short, sharp questions and he did it so professionally that I couldn't hold my curiosity anymore.
"Are…you a…real…doctor?" I let out.
He turned his weary eyes to me and an amused smile formed across his face.
"Doctor Valerio here is the jewel of our cabal! We owe him our lives on more than a few occasions." The confessor who still hasn't removed his respirator said with pride. "When the infidels abandoned the working people of Italy, it was me who saved him and showed him the path of the righteous." He continued while giving a slight pat on Valerio's shoulder.
"Well, young man. Looks like you got lucky. No sign of tiberium infections, just a few minor cuts and a disjointed ankle." Doctor Valerio said while giving Rawne's foot a sharp pull to reset it, who winced in pain. Afterwards he applied some kind of antiseptics to the cuts and used a few scrap wood sticks and an old rope that seemed to have been torn off old cloths to fix his foot in position.
"So! There you go, your foot will have to stay still for several weeks. Tell your son he doesn't have to worry."Valeriosaid after finishing bandaging him and assuming our relationship. "He is your son right?" He asked a moment later.
Not wanting to push our luck by introducing new uncertainties. We both rapidly nodded.
I thanked whatever power there was that brought this group to us. At this point I genuinely believed they wanted to help us, especially after they heard Rawne's background. After all, no one and I mean NO ONE, would offer their bona fide medical knowledge and supplies to anyone without demanding premium. Premiums that Rawne and I couldn't dream of affording. If I weren't so tired, I certainly would try to think of ways I could repay their help.
Yet….despite the kindness of their help, I find their fanatical believes incredibly unsettling. All their words, especially that of the confessor, was so filled with venom and finality that bode absolutely no dissent. I shudder of what would happen should we ever run into disagreements. But, I just can't think of anything more than to sleep right now.
"Well, I guess we are all tired, you can sleep over there." the confessor pointed to an empty corner. "We will talk more tomorrow."
Rawne and I settled down there, with as much distance to others as possible. I could see three of the NOD soldiers stood guard as the rest went to rest. All of the armored figures slept with their armor on. It's almost like they had been trained to treat it as their own skin.
"Thanks buddy…..I owe you." Rawne exhaled silently while looking at me. His eyes filled with a curious mix of emotion and blank, hollowness. The kind of eyes that you see in zoners who lived past age twenty, hope and passion evened out by the stark reality.
"No problem man." I replied before immediately falling asleep…no…not sleep. Pass out…pass out it was….
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*- Legion Causal Events Reconstruction *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
Blue Zone B-12 Japan
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" The joyful cries of a three year old girl with long blonde pigtails brought amused smiles from the patrons of the gourmet restaurant here in the heart of Tokyo.
Japan was one of the few places prudent enough to not immediately jump onto the get-rich-quick tiberium bandwagon in the late 20th century and as a result was largely spared devastation by the green pest. All the major Islands were deemed pristine enough to be incooperated into B-12 by GDI, which swallowed up all the remaining nation states during the Times of the Great Upheaval.
As a result, the former country's natural beauties, including the famous Hokkaido hot springs and Mount Fuji became highly priced tourism destinations for blue zone citizens. Of course, because they are some of the last remaining natural landmarks catering to human needs, the tickets to them are, quite literally, their weight in gold.
Yeah! That success! That's only what a successful husband could do, thought William Frank as he watched smilingly his three year old daughter jump onto her mother's lap, giggling happily. They were here to celebrate his wife's birthday. Being the vice editor-in-chief and one of the most renowned talk show host of W3N, the single, largest media body that essentially holds media monopoly in the blue zones. He could afford such an extravagant vacation for the entire family. They had an awesome time in the hot springs, they lived only in the finest hotels and tomorrow they will climb Mount Fuji as a family.
"Dad! It's time to show Mom her present." His 9 year old son and 12 year old first daughter said in unison. Frank smiled as he looked at his wife with affection. It wasn't easy to court her, not at all. She was miss Blue Zone 2025 and a headstrong feminist. It took all of his status, wealth and intellect to win her over. And it wasn't until GDI's plastic surgery technology was advanced enough to ablate pregnancy fat without side effects that his wife, the super model slash women's right activist finally caved in to his constant nagging about have kids. Adding to all these, getting the license for procreation was a paperwork nightmare. GDI strictly curtails the birthrate in the Blue Zones, where death by old age was absent due to her phenomenal medical technology.
But he did it! And he relished the challenge. Frank felt a surge of pride as he though of his accomplishments. He was one of the most successful reporters in all of the bluezones and the audience just loved the talkshow 'William Frank Hour' hosted by him, often interviewing some of the most influential people in the GDI and hence anywhere in the world.
"Close your eyes honey!" Frank said as his children, including the little three year old girl began singing the happy birthday song. As his kids finished singing and he successfully attached the new ornament to his wife's perfect, elfin looking body, the other patrons of this prestige restaurant frequented pretty much only by senators, superstars and congressmen a.k.a GDI supreme council members, erupted in applause.
They were not his guests. No, they were just impressed by the harmony of his family, by the stunning beauty that is his wife and the adorable behavior of his three children. Yeah! Keep'em coming, Frank relished admiration. To him, admiration is a high that not even demons-weed could give him.
His wife opened her eyes and look down her neck. "Oh honey! It's BBBbbbeeeuuuttttiiiffffUULLL!" She squealed as she ran her slender fingers, with skin pale as the light of the moon over the necklace. It was beautiful indeed, made of pure 24K gold and ingrained with diamonds on each chain link and a large central diamond on which a small portrait of their family is etched on.
It was a hefty investment, even for someone of his status. It was made on commission. The piece was made from the finest materials, crafted by hand, by some of the most renowned artists in the blue zones. He knew she'd love it. And he relishes the admiration brought to him by him being able to be such a generous provider.
She gave him an affectionate hug followed by a warm kiss, to the broad smiles of their three kids and the clapping applause of the other patrons.
They finally sat down on the traditionally decorated tatami booth that stood in sharp contrast to the ultra high-tech streets that could be seen through the enormous crystal walls of the gourmet restaurant.
The fugu chef politely settled down the dish on the table, personally. A whopping 128 GDI credits per fish did it cost, not something your average wage earners could afford. While the waiters poured naturally grown green teen into their cups and brought a bucket of ice cubes, harvest from Mount Fuji, one of the last remaining places where you could get this kind of natural luxuries without having to worry about crystals. One of the waiters had the impulse to pat the head of his adorable three year old girl.
"Daddy! I want it too!" The three year old crossed her arms and stood with displeased, raised lips.
"No. Sweet heart, you are not allowed fugu right now. But don't worry we will come here again when you are a little older" Frank said as he teasingly pulled at the pigtails of his daughter. Even though GDI developed an antidote for puffer fish poison years ago and the fugu chef of this particular restaurant is one, perhaps the most experienced one on the planet. GDI, by regulation, forbad the sale of fugu to children below ten, so little Johanne cannot join the family yet.
"But I want to!" The little girl plumbed onto the floor stubbornly. Her big sad blue eyes made her unbearably cute. It melted his heart, but his wife was insistent. She picked the little girl up and a few tickles she was back smiling again.
"Well honey. I'll go be off to my office for an hour, just have to check that everything is in order." Frank said. W3N had studios in every blue zone and as vice editor-in-chief he had his private office in every studio.
"Well don't take too long, you promised to take the kids to the imperial palace museum this afternoon." His wife reminded him.
Frank came out of the gourmet restaurant and quickly hailed for a taxi. These days, taxis are enormously expensive. GDI discourages private transportation in order to reduce environmental stress. As a result, private limousines and taxi rides have become important symbols of status.
"Where to Sir?" The cab driver asked with a slight accent. "W3N head office." Frank replied with pride.
"Hey, aren't you William Frank? Wow! It's such an honor to have be your driver. I love the brutal honesty of your talkshows." The cab driver said.
"Why thank you. It is me who is honored." Frank replied. He gets it all of the time in the streets. He was a celebrity, people love his shenanigans. They love him because he knows how to play on their emotions. He chuckled mentally at the compliments given to him about his talk shows. Quite frankly, they can't get any more vapid and brainless. But they are entertaining and that's what sells. What the market demands, that's what he is going to deliver. That's what made him such a successful man. That's what managed him to court one of the most renowned fashion models in all of the blue zones. Yeah, that's success…. Frank almost felt euphoria as he thought of his position in the world and the bright future. For unlike tycoons of the past, he won't have to part with his wealth and power because of old age anymore.
Still, despite all of his success, there was something that made him insecure. Like a small nagging voice in the back of his mind. After all, his success was not, at least not entirely, his. Frank felt an indescribable feeling of being watched as he thought of his past, his bitter memories as a small time reporter.
He remembered his time after highschool in L.A. back in the old days. The economy was gloomy and society was showing the first signs of the perils to come. The first negative environmental impact of the much hyped tiberium industry was discovered. A train of accidents in the tiberium industry left large amount of farmable lands around the world contaminated. Food prices skyrocket, energy shortage became frequent, even in North America as a lot of energy was being spend on containing the tiberium pest that escaped it's bottle. Giant protests and riots soon followed while world politicians continued their bitter bickering.
Landing a job in such an environment wasn't easy. In fact, it was next to impossible. Frank did well in high school and he loved writing for the school paper. But the stark reality of the job market, with lines around the various employment agencies stretching several hundred meters at times, meant he had a hard time meeting end needs.
Still, his writing and reporting skills landed him a temporary freelance reporter in one of L.A's minor newspapers. The wage was barely enough to keep him alive, forget about family, forget about expectations and pray you don't get sick. That was his day back then.
Yet, he had it infinitely better than most others, as the tiberium pest kept munching away the earth. Radical environmental groups sprang up to stop all tiberium related profiteering. They quickly found natural allies amongst the large number of unemployed and soon to be unemployed camping and protesting for economic and social justice. Their activities were met with brutal response from the tibrium industries, for the cooperation were confident that the tiberium beast could be tamed.
L.A. was a dangerous place to be back then. Bloody, savage street battles were frequent between the protestors and cooperate commandos. But it provided an excellent source of exciting headlines for those that were in places comparably save. That's how he managed to etch out a living then.
Life was hard and uncertain for a small time freelance reporter like him who frequently had to put his life in line attending protests to bring back exciting news. If he were wounded or fell ill, that would have been it. As such, he longed for a tenure employment in a major news cooperation. Away from the streets and to somewhere save, like the city of New York, which by the time came increasingly under the control of the ascending Global Defense Initiative.
However, he quickly found out that anything higher than a glorified day laborer was very much an insider business. Without the proper connections, scoring a real job in the media business in those stormy years was quite impossible. Then there was the first tiberium war, fought between the new transnational superpower GDI and a new, previously unknown fanatical terrorist organization called the brotherhood of NOD.
For a time, social order almost returned, the war temporarily brought people's attention away from their daily problems. But once the adrenaline rush waned after the conclusion of the First Tiberium War, the old problems came back, protests intensives many folds. The job marked turned from gloomy to stormy. The dangerous and exhausting work of his finally took a toll on him, he fell sick. As only a freelance small column reporter, he was promptly fired when he outlived his usefulness, like a horse that broke it's ankle. And with social security in tatters, hospital bills quickly drained away what little life savings he had.
Frank felt unshed tears building up in his eyes when he thought of those times. He had considered suicide. After all, what was before him? A quick death or a slow agonizing one on Skid Row, like it or not, that was the cards that had been dealt to him. He had stolen several bottles of sleeping pills from the hospital just for that purpose.
Just as all hope seemed lost, he got a phone call, on the day he was to be discharged form the hospital due to overdue bills. William Frank still vividly remembered the impatient nurse handing him the phone, eager to get the call done and dispose of the out of cash nuisance that was him.
The unknown caller told him that he had transferred twenty thousand dollars, which by the time had lost much of it's former, highly distinguished purchasing power, to his account, enough to pay for his treatment and nursing care but nothing more. To his confusion, the unknown caller hung up before he could ask questions.
After he was back on his feet and still very confused as to what happened, he got another call, this time the phone was brought to him by a much more polite hospital staff. Apparently they though he had some rich uncle somewhere out there.
The unknown caller introduced himself as 'Deepthroat', Aye, what a name, though Frank, and said that he had watched him for a long time and liked his qualities. Ask as to what Deepthroat was doing, the mysterious caller only said that he was a freelance investigator like himself. And that he's got a highly lucrative job offer for him.
Despite the uneasiness Frank felt dealing with a misterious stranger, he had little choice. Although having regained his health, the chance of him scoring anything more than day laboring was nil. And that kind of job will get him back to where he was in no time. And Deepthroat, whoever he was, already saved him once by paying for his medical bills.
Asked why Deepthroat chose him, the caller only said that he admires his ability to hang on for so long in that kind of social climate.
The next few years were one of danger and yet excitement. The job Deepthroat asked him to do was indeed one of investigations, or maybe paparazzi is a better description. He did a lot of investigative reporting on high level corruptions, digging up dirt on various governmental agencies, cooperates and NGOs but primarily on the new ascending superpower, the Global Defence Initiative.
More than once did the scandals he unraveled brought down figures that could be described as wielding god like powers, and made himself scores of enemies and a reputation for truth reporting. More than a few attempts on his life were made. Yet, Deepthroat's advices and tips always kept him a step ahead of his assassins and targets of investigation. Always, it seemed, Deepthroat only gave him enough advice to barely, very barely escape death by the blades of the assassins who's masters he had insulted with his reports. Strangely enough, Deepthroat always seemed to be able to just give him enough information to keep him alive, as if he was knowingly toying with the poor reporter.
Over the years he had developed a degree of liking and trust to Deepthroat, whomever he was. Deepthroat always seemed to uphold his end of the bargain and was apparently not a businessman who cheated on his clients.
Yet at the same time, Deepthroat was an incredibly enigmatic and unsettling figure. He pooped up messages and instructions at the most impossible places and time. And he possessed a degree of ruthlessness that Frank knew all too well. Frank had no doubt that Deepthroat was every bit as dangerous to himself as he was to his enemies, whomever they were. Quite frankly Deepthroat scares the living shit out of him.
More than once did Deepthroat ordered him to character assassin people who trespass the rules for noble reasons. More than once did Deepthroat order him to blow inflated praises to crocks and shysters who belong to swindler's jails rather than red carpet gala. It all feels almost like he was some kind of chess figurine in a giant plan devised by Deepthroat, as if he was the avatar of Deepthroat's will.
Yet, despite all, he was grateful to this mysterious patron of his. He was saved from certain death by his unnerving patron. And the reporting Deepthroat ordered him to do brought income and status he had dreamed of since high school.
The senators and CEOs quickly learned to fear the comments of the small time freelance paparazzi that could easily make or break their careers. And the public saw him as some kind of Robin Hood that was both willing and capable to stand up to the powers that appeared to control their lives.
Hefty bribes were offered by various agencies to keep the blabber mouth shut and the powerful, newly formed W3N cooperation at last recognized him as a media sensation. He became a shining star.
Contacts with Deepthroat stopped afterwards. It's almost as if he had done his job and his patron rewarded him with his new found status. A few years after the Second Tiberium War which devastated most of the world and saw tiberium spread like wildfire, came the Times of the Great Upheaval. Dark, savage, bloody times it was. Where individual nations couldn't hope to survive and were forced to trade their sovereignty for protection from the Global Defence Initiative. Stubborn nations that sought to make it on their own quickly met their fate by the hungry stomachs of their own population. Desperate! Desperate people, driving by their instincts, willing, and capable, of doing anything, mark these words, ANYTHING to survive.
The chaos was felt even in the higher echelons. L.A. was in turmoil. The many street gangs took advantage of the chaos and fought for dominance in the run-down city even in the eve of apocalypse. In those days William Frank almost found himself confined to the headquarters of W3N in L.A. It was too dangerous to go back to his newly purchased mansion in Hollywood. Sporadic gun fire could be heard throughout the streets day and night.
He was considering moving out of the city and into the sparsely populated countryside. To his great surprise, Deepthroat called him again, telling him to stay in the city and immediately change his dollar holdings to the newly printed, energy backed, GDI credits. Hid did as told, sure enough, a few weeks later the dollar, along with all the fiat currencies of the world went into the tailspin of hyperinflation.
That evening, the president made a somber speech to the nation that tiberium contamination had reached critical levels. The nation couldn't go on by it's own any further. From that day on, the new transnational superpower, the Global Defense Initiative, will officially be the governing body of what was left of the once proud nation.
William Frank couldn't believe it. And he couldn't believe it even more when in the early morning next day. Thousands of GDI soldiers flooded the city. GDI troops appeared in force throughout L.A. and the surrounding areas. The warring hoodlums and street protestors were quickly pushed out of the city and GDI engineer corps began erecting walls around the city's surroundings, everyday the walls grew higher, no one in the city was allowed to go near the under construction walls. Until one day they were as high as mountains and Frank couldn't see the people outside anymore.
GDI didn't gave any explanation to what happened until after the walls were complete. It was decided that not all of humanity could be saved. So the bitter, but necessary decision had to be made to cordon off remaining habitable areas that would be under the direct protection of GDI. These newly formed Blue Zones would serve as a last refuge for human race and staging points for further reclamation operations. L.A. was declared part of the newly formed Blue Zone B-2B, which along with the New York-Washington based Blue Zone B-2A formed the GDI strongholds in North America.
Deepthroat saved him again, had he moved out of the city, he would have been shut out by the newly erected tiberium containment barriers, better known as tib-walls. And since a lot of people in power held a grudge against him it's unlikely that anyone would send an extraction team to bring him back. After all, his skills weren't that important to the survival of humanity.
Before Deepthroat parted with him on the phone, Frank thanked him in earnest for saving his life twice. Deepthroat simply replied that he would ask for a favor in return in the future.
Frank was made vice editor-in-chief afterwards. He was moved to the W3N world head quarters in B-2A New York. Life became incredibly easy and glamorous for him afterwards and his mysterious patron had all but disappeared from his life. Frank hoped that maybe he was killed or busted. That he would never intrude into his life again. For all the favors Deepthroat had done for him, Frank knew all too well that his patron was not someone to be trifled with, the fear Deepthroat brought to him was nearly as great as the fear of death.
The taxi came to a halt in the front of the 890 meter high W3N headquarter in Tokyo. William Frank threw in a handsome tip before exiting the cab. As he walked through the corridors of the luxuriously decorated office building he felt a tingling of uneasiness as if he was being watched.
The feeling send his stomach rumbling, for a moment he felt as if he was going to puke out the fugu he had eaten earlier. He had the ominous feeling as if something undesirable, although not necessarily fatal was about to happen.
"Good day sir!" A feminine voice greeted him when he entered his personal office. His secretary said while looking at him with kissy eyes. He smiled back. Oh he loved his family, his wife, his kids. But he was a successful man wasn't he. Being successful meant it was his right to enjoy himself wasn't it. Wasn't it what natural selection was all about? He enjoys his time with his family. But he also enjoyed his time with his secret other lovers, scattered throughout the different blue zones to each he frequently had to travel for his media duties.
He sat down by his desk, into the 12000 credit real leather chair, shuffling through his emails while his mind wandered. It was strangely difficult to concentrate today, even the many implicit advances made by his secretary/mistress failed to better his mood. He couldn't help but feel extremely nervous.
"Ring Ring Ring!" Frank almost got a heart attack when his phone rang. Hesitantly, with cold sweat in his palms, he picked it up.
"Hello, Frank….." a sultry, bisexual voice spoke, followed by a string of clownish laughter "Ehr her her her her….!"
For a long moment he couldn't speak, "You!" Frank finally replied through clenched teeth.
"Did you missed me baby?" The voice asked, with a slick tone saturated with both gay and lesbian undercurrent.
"What do you want!" Frank replied, suddenly angry. He felt his brain fill with blood. His mind clogged over and his nervousness took almost his breath away. There was no doubt about whom was on the other line.
"Ayeee! Always straight to the point, aren't Ye? I was hoping we could chat a little longer after so many years sugar." The voice said as if addressing a lover, but in a tone saturated with sarcasm as if spoken by an aging street whore.
"What do you want!" Frank replied with a dark tone. He tried to sound brave, but in reality, he was so scared that his mind was a complete blank.
"Well then, dear. I need to go to the airport…now….so we can continue our romance you owe me from the last time." The voice squealed with girlish giggle.
"And if I refuse!" Frank angrily retorted, having being on top of the world for many years. He was unused to anyone giving him orders, especially in a deranged, sexually ambiguous tone.
The caller snickered in a dark, sinister tone. "Well well well! My little darling has grown up at last. How can you say something like that to me dear! I'm hurt Frank, I truly am..." The voice sounded as if it was crying and laughing at the same time. William however, knew better than to pay attention to the lunatic performance of the caller. He waited for the caller's reaction
"And I suppose your wife won't be happy to hear of your escalades with that lovely lady next door." The voice replied with words filled with venom.
William Frank felt his brains explode. How in seven hell's name did that unhinged lunatic found out about his relationship with his secretaries? He couldn't let that out! He couldn't! His wife would divorce him instantly and his kids would be traumatized. The many people in power he had pissed off in the past with his paparazzing would relish the chance to smear his reputation into the swine stall!
"Okay…okay…okay…" Frank had difficulty breathing as he spoke in a short hushed voice. His ego build over the years in W3N blown away like ashes in the wind. "I'm sorry! Okay! I'm really sorry! I got carried away…I….I'll do what you want. Please….just… leave…my…family alone."
"That's my boy…." The voice made kissy noises as if thanking a lover. "Oh and how careless of me…but I thought you were in your hotel room first so I left a message on the answering machine there." The voice roared with clownish laughter before hanging up.
Frank jumped up and stormed out of his office to the elevator, to the confused looks of his secretary.
"What's happening, I just brewed some coffee for you?" She asked.
Frank gulped a few times, having trouble to find a correct answer. "Dear, I'm in some really deep shit right now. I'll call you back as soon as possible."
Frank got into a cab as soon as he hit the street.
"Hey! Your are William Frank are you not? I…." The excited taxi driver asked once he noticed the famous reporter. But this time, Frank was in no mood for conversations.
"DRIVE!" Frank roared with anger and frustration. The cab driver looked as if being hit by a beer bottle and stepped on it.
His mind was racing. That message on the answer machine in their hotel room was not some mistake. Frank calculates the time, his family planned to return to their hotel on foot and do some shopping on the way. That leaves him just enough, just enough time to get to their room and delete Deepthroats message about his sexual escalades and find some excuse for his sudden depature. That was not some freaking mistake, that was a power demonstration, Deepthroat made his point loud and clear. Frank's head and he felt like throwing up, whatever Deepthroat had in mind for him, he's not gonna like it.