Faberry Week, Day 2: Zombie Apocalypse
This is loosely based on Ender's Game, except they're not preparing a battle against Aliens but Zombies. My sci-fi influences also include Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed and generally Isaac Asimov. You will definitely find references and blatant borrowing from them. I plead guilty.
This will also be a multi-chapter fic that I've had in mind for a long time now. Since I didn't have a Tumblr (until someone messaged me about Faberry Week), I had no idea about the themes. So, I just think it's fitting to give my contribution, even if this is just the first chapter. (Oh, and well, now I do: turningartfaberry)
To those who are reading my other WIP fiction "How much for an hour?" don't worry, it will NOT go on hiatus. I will do the impossible (exaggeration much, lol) and finish the two.
Quinn silently let out a sigh of relief after the monitor has been removed from her nape. To say she felt freedom was an understatement.
The small octagon-shaped chip inserted just underneath the first layers of skin basically hooked her up to Gaia—the artificial intelligence that governs the Empire.
Quinn Fabray has been marked early on in her life. She was extremely intelligent, logical, calculating and her personality can be summed up as unexcitable.
Many times, Assembly-25, the unit assigned to recruitment for International Defense has placed Quinn in various situations that had tested her temper but her reaction was consistently calm, collected and always found a way to come out as the winner—by negotiation or by force.
She was the perfect candidate to lead the future crew that was tasked to ensure Earth's survival against the unverified, sporadic but escalating reports of mutations found among the great civilization rivers.
A-25 was originally organized a century ago during the great battle against the Buggers—an alien civilization that threatened to wipe out the whole galaxy. The hero of the whole struggle was a young boy named Andrew Wiggin, whose brother Peter became the Earth's Hegemon. Andrew, or Ender to his battle school friends, was eventually exiled to another galaxy. He was a hero, but also greatly feared. If a young boy can lead an army against superior life-forms to victory, citizens shuddered at the thought of him becoming a man.
He was a potentially dangerous weapon.
And no man was more pleased over his departure than Peter himself.
Peter was a ruthless leader in the tradition of Genghis Khan but had the diplomatic genius of Julius Caesar. During his lifetime rule, there was order. He quashed any signs of resistance and did everything for the greater good. He had the charisma that made people fall into hero-worship.
Pacem In Imperii.
Peace in the Empire. That was the Hegemon's battle cry.
It took twenty years for peace to be fully restored after Peter's death by a group of resistance fighters that eventually formed the core group of what would be known as The Assembly. They had become the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient world government. In short, they have replaced God and any other forms of natural and supernatural leadership and governance. The Assembly is made up of 6 leaders representing the 6 habitable continents with Gaia as the arbiter and final word.
The idea was to avoid one ambitious person to attempt a monopoly of power.
The idea was to avoid another Peter Wiggin that would leave a power vacuum in his death.
People will die but Gaia will continue to exist and will always be objective, lacking desire for authority and influence.
Peter would have been extremely offended if he saw his direct descendant, Quinn Fabray, being treated as a lab rat by what he would have considered at a group of weak individuals hiding behind perverted ideas of democracy and power-sharing.
Good thing he was already dead.
Quinn never liked Peter Wiggin.
Surely, no man was close to a god-like persona without a form of psychosis or two. That was what Quinn thought. She never liked the highly articulate historical narrative found in her textbooks based on Peter Wiggin's autobiography.
No, she didn't like Peter Wiggin, the loved.
She was drawn towards Ender, the loathed.
She spent so many hours staring up in the star-lit sky and wondered if his Great-grand uncle Ender still roamed the universe. Age was stunted in hyperspace; and so Quinn had always imagined Ender to still be young—maybe in his late twenties—arriving on earth to live with them.
He was her hero. He was the one who sacrificed his life for the greater good.
Yet he was short of being forgotten, if not for being a footnote in Peter's biography or the mention of the soldiers that fought the Buggers.
Quinn feared she would end up like him. Reviled, or worse, forgotten.
She was happy for a brief moment when, after 3 years she was told the monitor will be taken off from her.
She had thought it meant she failed the exam.
She would finally have a normal life, instead of being avoided by kids in her school.
Nobody liked the special kid who was bound for Battle School.
Everybody hated the special kid who will be the hero that will save the world.
Quinn sat silently with her older sister Frannie holding her hand.
A tall blonde woman walked inside and sat on the opposite side of the huge oval table. "Quinn Fabray," she nodded several times without any variety of formal introductions and motioned the girl to follow her in her office.
Frannie reluctantly let go of Quinn's hand after the younger blonde whispered, "I'll be okay."
"How does it feel now that the monitor's gone?" the woman sat down and extended her hand towards the chair in front of her work table.
Quinn obeyed and turned so that she can directly look at the woman. "Elating, I guess."
"Why would you say that?"
"Because that means I get to be normal again."
"You know, most kids loved the fact that they had the monitor on. That thing made them feel exceptional."
"If by exceptional you mean people are nice to your face because they are scared you would do something to them, then yes, it makes one exceptional."
"How did the monitor make you feel, then?"
"Ostracized. Like I'm some form of a freak. People already treat me differently because I'm related to the Hegemon. The monitor seemed to have confirmed that ruthlessness is genetic."
"Dispositions are genetic, Quinn, but not how we choose to use them."
Quinn nodded and tried to digest what the woman just said. "I don't know your name."
The woman smiled. "Captain Sue Sylvester of A-25."
"So you're the person who made my life a living hell for three years."
Sue shrugged. "You can see me that way, or the person who built your character. We'll work on your perspective. In fact, based on our findings," she lifted a finger then opened a folder, "that's one of your biggest flaws. You're a pessimist, Quinn Fabray."
Quinn tightened her lips and glared at the woman.
"We'll work on those death glares, too. You need to be more…gregarious as a potential leader."
"I don't want to be a leader. I don't want to be anything that is connected to The Assembly."
"Everyone is connected to The Assembly, Quinn," Sue patiently drawled out. "Our unit numbers are quite telling. A-1 to god knows how many we are now. I don't keep tabs. All I know is every aspect of our lives are regulated by The Assembly."
"I thought I failed the exam."
"Because we had your monitor removed?"
The blonde teenager nodded in response.
"We removed the monitor, because we already have everything we need to know to confirm your recruitment. You will be on your way to Battle School tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning? That's unfair! What will happen to my sister?"
"Your sister is, sadly, normal. She has a family, Quinn. Nothing's going to change in her life."
"Are you blind?" Quinn sighed in exasperation. "Every Battle School student's families have been stigmatized for bringing up freaks in this world."
"They are well compensated."
"Money isn't everything!"
"Quinn Fabray." Sue shook her head and leaned back with her hands clasped together. "This is your second biggest flaw. You love your sister so much that it clouds your judgment. Do you understand that what you're going to do is for your sister? A cataclysmic event is threatening to end our civilization. If people like you do not sacrifice their lives, where will we all end up in? What will we become? Where will your sister be?"
Quinn remained silent and sulking. An argument would have been futile and a waste of energy when she knew she had lost.
"Will I be allowed to return to her when all of this is over?"
"I cannot make any promises of that sort."
"Will you at least promise me that A-15 will take care of them?"
"Until they die."
"Can I spend the night with them without the home monitors on?"
"I will make sure you will have your privacy for the night."
"What am I supposed to bring with me?"
"You don't need clothes or your Assembly-issued Tablet. We will be providing you with a new one in Battle School. You can…bring a photo of your family if you want."
"You may go. I will personally escort you tomorrow from your home to the launch ground."
"Okay." Quinn stood up. But before turning the door knob, she looked at Sue one more time.
"What is it?"
"If the rumors are true about hypermutations. Why are we using the old Battle School launch ground? They're not Buggers from outer space."
Sue grinned widely. "You'll see."
"That's her?" First Lieutenant Will Schuester exclaimed while watching footage of a small teenage girl running away from a group of A-88's—curfew enforcers—daftly. "That's the descendant of the great Julian Delphiki II?"
Sue laughed mockingly. "Never judge a soldier by her appearance, Lieutenant. Do I have to remind you that Julian Delphiki II was called Bean by Ender because of how puny he was?"
Will pursed his lips and nodded. "I suppose."
"How cute that her name is Rachel Berry."
"Life's sense of humor."
"Yes and she seems to be the uncontrollable one."
"Quinn has an almost detrimental dependence on logic. She needs someone who is intuitive by nature."
"Why does that make you sound like a matchmaker from hell?" Will sighed.
Sue smirked and raised an eyebrow after watching 2 A-88's finally catching Rachel. "I might as well be, Lieutenant. I might as well be," she laughed despondently as she continued to watch Rachel struggle and curse while being carried away. "Come on, the descendant of the great Bean deserves our welcome."
Quinn heard a commotion outside her waiting room.
She had spent the night with her sister crying incessantly and her nephew literally hugging her leg. They discussed nothing about Battle School despite the looming issues such as the huge possibility of never seeing each other again. Quinn took hundreds of photos. She turned off her Tablet and put on her hacker device that she had not used in years. Turning on the optical data gloves and virtual glasses, she spent the rest of dawn uploading those photos in different nodes and encrypted boards.
She will not be forgotten.
Now, she was busy trying to outwit a game that seemed to be designed never to lose against the human player. Quinn looked up when the commotion escalated. She stood up and peeped through the small square window provided on the door.
She saw a girl being dragged to Sue Sylvester's office and heard cuss words the blonde genius had not heard before. That brought a small smile on Quinn's lips. That girl was giving The Assembly such a hard time that she instantly gained Quinn's respect.
After a couple of hours, the steel door opened and in comes Rachel Berry still cursing the high heavens. Quinn stood up and stared at the brunette.
"Why the hell are you staring at me?"
"Because you're the only other person in this room. I much rather stare at you than the tablet screen."
Rachel frowned and glanced at the tablet Quinn was holding.
"Oh. I've seen those things before."
"You've never had one?"
Rachel scoffed. "Do I look like an Assembly student to you?"
Quinn surveyed the brunette's appearance. "You look normal to me."
"Not normal and proud of it," Rachel chuckled as she lifted her jacket's sleeve.
No bar code.
"How did you manage to—"
The smaller girl shrugged. "I was raised by the nuns at Rotterdam."
"Rotterdam," Quinn gasped. "That's where Julian—"
"Yeah, yeah. Julian Delphiki II. I've heard about him. He's apparently my great grandfather. Whatever."
The blonde gazed at Rachel intensely. "Ender Wiggins is my ancestor."
"You've…not heard of him?"
Quinn pulled a chair and offered it to Rachel. "Ender Wiggins. Hero of the Bugger War. He went to Battle School with Julian—Bean. With Bean. Your ancestor."
Rachel raised her eyebrows. "And?"
"And…" Quinn twisted her lips. "And I don't know. Just. You don't find it amazing? That we're both here now. Descendants of the Bugger War heroes."
The brunette crinkled her nose. "Not really. I just agreed to be here because that tall blonde chick promised me free food and lodging. I'd do anything to get out of the monastery for once."
"So, so, you weren't tested?"
"Tested for what? I'm not sick."
"Tested to qualify for Battle School."
"Nooo. What the heck is that?" Rachel was now wide-eyed and expression filled with worry. "I was not told of any Battle School."
"It's—" Quinn looked around. "I'm—we're going to Battle School. We're going to be trained to go to war."
"Oh no, no, no, no, no." Rachel shook her head several times. "I'm not going to be a soldier to any Assembly excursion."
"But you are now."
"You seem to be unusually calm about this."
"They have observed me for three years now. I'm used to it and I have accepted what they want me to do."
"Damn it," Rachel kicked the table leg then stood up. "Hey!" She slammed her palm against the steel door. "I have been deceived! I'm not going to Battle School or any school for that matter!"
"We're leaving in an hour," Quinn mumbled.
"Hey, I said—WHAT? AN HOUR?"
"Then we need to find an escape route," Rachel growled before looking around the room.
"There's no use. You won't find any secret tunnel here."
"I never believe there's no escape to anything. There's always a weak poi—" She grinned widely and looked up. "Point." She lifted her finger and pointed at the exhaust screen.
Quinn breathed in. The proverbial burst pipe. Rachel climbed on top and started to pry the exhaust open.
"I can't believe it's that easy," Rachel laughed while waving the exhaust screen at Quinn. "Come on."
Quinn stared at the potential exit route. "We will get caught. They could be watching us."
"Look, if this room is actually monitored, don't you think they'd be barging in by now?"
Quinn didn't say anything but continued to stare at the hole in the ceiling. "That's…that's very plausible. But they could also be just waiting in the end. Besides, we don't even know if it leads to an exit."
"Then we'd have to risk it."
"And then what? What are we going to do? They'll be able to look for us."
"They'll be able to look for you because you have a barcode. Not me."
"So, why were they able to get you in here?"
"Huh," Rachel frowned. "I didn't think of that."
"They probably have known your whereabouts since you were born. After all, you're related to Bean."
The brunette blinked then sighed.
Quinn extended her hand and pulled Rachel down from the table.
They stood closely against each other and stared into one another's eyes. It was Quinn who broke the silence. "We're stuck here. Might as well form an alliance."
"Why would we need to form an alliance?"
"I've heard stories about the school. They will pit us against each other. But there's no need for us to see each other as competition."
Quinn's mouth quirked upwards. "Because it will frustrate them."
Rachel broke into a huge smile. "I get your point."
"Am I right or am I right, hmm, Lieutenant?"
"How are you right, Captain?"
Sue smiled. "Did you see the hesitation in Quinn? She just met Rachel and yet, she showed implicit trust. On the flipside, since when did Rachel ever listen to anyone?"
Will read Rachel's profile again and nodded. "As usual, you are right, Captain."
Sue clicked her fingers. "What's the latest report on Mekong?"
"There have been sightings of hypermutated giant catfish to the estimated size of sixteen feet."
"Sixteen feet? That's a lot of fillet."
"Uhh, yes," Will juggled several folders and opened one. "Locals have tried to capture it but they claimed it moved at an exceedingly fast speed. There are also reports of rising spider bites that induced some natives into zombie-like states. They're currently being observed by A-30."
Sue sat down and furrowed her brows. "Have they given us any hypothesis at all as to what's causing all of this?"
"They are looking into water compositions. Rivers are the common theme."
"True. They seemed to be contained right now."
"I would hardly consider reports coming from Mekong, Amazon, Yangtze, and Zambezi as contained. But," Sue yawned, "I should trust those science geeks at A-30. Is it time?"
Will glanced at his wristwatch and nodded.
"So...you can actually hook up your tablet to every single node in the Web?" Rachel whispered while she huddled closely to Quinn who was showing off her Net skills.
The blonde swallowed at the proximity then nodded. "It's not—not everyone can. I mean, what I'm doing is technically illegal."
The brunette gazed at Quinn and gave a closed smile. "You're a hacker, aren't you?"
"I could—I mean, I know how to. I thought I would be one later on."
"I didn't know that's a career option."
"A-31 hires hackers."
"Ah. So you'll work for them."
"I didn't say that," Quinn frowned. "I just meant to give you an example that being a hacker can be career."
"Easy, blonde one. I was just teasing you."
Quinn's frown broke into a smile. She couldn't help it. Rachel's smile was infectious.
"So…how come you were not schooled?"
"Nuh uh. That's a wrong assumption. I was schooled by the nuns."
"Oh. What…what exactly did they teach you?"
"Everything I need to know in order to survive."
"World religions, languages, maths, literature, history, yep, the works."
"So how come you don't know about Ender?"
"I said history, not science fiction."
Quinn's face flushed in red. "That's not—"
Rachel laughed and nudged Quinn. "I was kidding. Wow. You have no sense of humor. I know about Ender, alright? I was just being annoying earlier. And if you really are Ender's descendant, that means you are also the Hegemon's descendant. He was Bean's enemy."
"They're relationship was a lot more complicated than that."
The brunette shrugged. "Sure. How come you didn't claim to be related to the Peter Wiggin?"
"I just…I saw more of our Battle School connection with Ender, that's all."
"Huh," Rachel nodded, "Okay."
The stared at each other again but disrupted this time by the door swinging open.
Sue marched inside with her hands behind her. "Alright, lovebirds. Time to leave."
They were led inside a tube that descended at a moderate speed. "Underground instead of space," Quinn breathed out in awe.
Sue smiled and nodded at her. "You will find the game rooms to be simulations of the different earth topographies."
Rachel's eyes were wide. "Who are we fighting?"
Quinn looked to her direction. "Zombies."
"Zombies," Rachel repeated. "Like, for real."
"Technically speaking," Sue interjected, "zombie-like creatures. They go through several stages with one common thread."
"And that is?"
"Their mutation would be exaggerated forms of their original species. Say, a fish becomes ten times larger, or a spider becomes venomous when it's not supposed to be."
"So, we're talking of animals?"
Sue sighed. "That would be simpler, don't you think? We won't be wasting our time here. Once humans become infected, they enter into a coma. There have been reports—and I'm sure with Quinn's vast reach in the Web she is very much aware of the rumors—that once they wake up from the coma, they enter into a zombie-like state."
Rachel stuck out her tongue in disgust. "Rumors. So if there was some form of truth to it, I'm sure the Assembly has seen some, I don't know, evidence of these things."
"That's the thing, isn't it?" Sue frowned as they entered the Battle School. "There are."
Quinn simply nodded while Rachel sputtered.
"I see Quinn has done her job researching," Will finally quipped.
"Why are we needed for this?" Quinn frowned again.
"Because we need all the great minds we can have," Sue winked.
"She's awfully unprofessional. Flirting with you like that," Rachel whispered to Quinn.
The young blonde blushed profusely. "She's not. Shut up."
Rachel smirked before she found herself blushing as well when Quinn held her hand as the huge door towards the building proper slowly opened. "This is it," the blonde whispered.
Quinn didn't let go of the brunette's hand while they were being escorted towards their assigned room. "Are you scared?" Rachel mumbled.
"It's just…training isn't it? I mean, it's not guaranteed that there would really be an 'apocalypse' right?"
"Yeah. But," Quinn exhaled sharply. "I don't do well with people."
"They're worried about the un-dead taking over, and you're worried about socializing." Rachel couldn't help but chuckle in amusement.
Quinn's reaction is to hold the other girl's hand tighter. "You're…really scared."
"Human beings can do more damage than zombies, Rachel. We are worse monsters because we hit the emotions and mind. Zombies just…wanna eat us."
The smaller girl opened her mouth but immediately shut it tight when she heard Will talk. "This is the Green area. Obviously because you're greenhorns," Will smiled before calling a tall boy. "Finn Hudson is your Squad leader and Noah Puckerman, is your Platoon leader."
Both boys grinned then nodded before walking past them.
"You'll meet them later at your Squads common room. Right now," Will smiled again. "I hope you find your room to be at least comfortable enough."
"Anything's better than Rotterdam," Rachel chuckled.
Quinn stepped inside quietly. "Top or bottom?"
"Oh, well I can be both," Rachel replied absent-mindedly as she looked around their rectangular room.
"Uhm, I was talking about the, uh, bed arrangements."
"Exactly—oh." Rachel turned pale. "You mean," she chuckled nervously and stared at the two level bunk beds. "Yeah, yes. Well, I can take the top."
Quinn bit her inner cheek to stop herself from laughing. She sat down on the lower bed and studied the corner post and pulled out a monitor/table. Rachel silently sat next to Quinn and watched the blonde work.
"Logging in. I think…this is connected to the Web."
"And we'll find news about this hypermutations. Well, more like gossips from the different chat boards. But they're generally accurate. So much stuff out there that The Assembly is not telling us."
"Quinn. We're inside Battle School. They could be monitoring us right now."
"We are. But if they don't want us to be connected to the outside world," Quinn gasped softly then grinned. "They wouldn't let us get access. But we have."
"Yeah." Quinn's eyes roamed around the screen, touching a few buttons and making swiping motions.
"I'm getting dizzy with what you're doing."
"You'd need to learn how to do this as well. Here. Take a look at this."
Rachel knelt behind Quinn and read over her shoulder what seemed to be more like running headlines. "Reports of A-30 presence found in near the Amazon river. News of hypermutants found near the French Guiana territory. Locals have reported of disturbances caused by Assembly units. We ask the question, are they there to suppress the hypermutation process or causing it?"
The two girls looked at each other.
Rachel reached out and swiped the screen for more news while Quinn continued to stare at her. "You like this, huh?"
"It's…interesting. Let's see…what else…Quinn, look at this one."
The blonde's gaze snapped back towards the screen. "Is Gaia losing touch? We thought it was meant to be an arbiter. Why has it been siding with the hawks consistently for five major defense policies?" Quinn blinked. "You think there's a connection between the two?"
"I've always been suspicious of a government being led by a…machine."
"Gaia is more than a machine, Rachel. It's an Arti—"
"Exactly, Quinn. Artificial."
"It's meant to be infallible."
"A machine is still man-made and can be controlled or redesigned."
"I still don't see how that can be connected to zombie sightings."
Quinn shook her head. "News about Gaia is always political. The dissidents may just as well be behind these gossips."
"Okay, so why are there dissidents if Gaia is meant to be good at decision-making?"
"I don't know. Maybe because there are just people who can never be satisfied and are fault-finders."
"Or maybe they see certain truths that we can't right now. Teach me how to use that thing soon and I'll find more news for us."
"I don't think so, Rachel. I don't want us to get into trouble."
"What are they going to do to us, Quinn? Kick us out? So what? You'll go back to your home, and I'll be back with the nuns."
The blonde chewed her lip for a moment. "Okay, fine."
"Aren't you afraid they would find out too many things, Captain?"
"Quinn will find out whether we like it or not. I have a feeling she already knows more than what we are led to believe. It is in her nature."
"And what will happen when she figures it all out?"
"We'd either have an enemy or ally. There's just no in between."
"Rachel is more important."
"Because she has influence over Quinn."
"And that is why you have to make sure their bond is tested in order to be fully forged."
"I'm just curious, Captain. How did you know they would hit it off right away?"
"Loneliness is a very strong force, Lieutenant. Stronger than gravity."