16th April 2008

12:00 pm, Alderney Island, Liberty City

(16 Hours Quarantine Remaining)

Niko peered out through the metal bars across the small window, noticing the surprisingly well crafted welding and metalwork on it, and all the other windows of the large open plan room, a direct contrast to the haphazard arrangements of stained sofas and scuffed wooden tables around them. Although it looked like the murky den of a group of meth addicts, the large room formed the 'conference room' of the large hotel in the centre of Alderney City the Lost Brotherhood had appropriated for their new fortress.

"That's some good metalwork there…" he said absently as he turned to look at the other occupants of the room. Terry and Clay looked almost bored after the desperate battle at the prison barely a few hours ago, whilst Johnny's eyes were alert and on edge, as, surprisingly, were Roman's. Brucie meanwhile looked completely out of it, probably due to the fact Niko had found him drinking straight vodka and tequila shots from one of the hotel's many bars, evidently trying to forget the events of the past few days.

"We have a mechanic downstairs who can do anything with metal. He deigned our new pipe bombs and armoured our vehicles so those Retcher things can't melt through them like they did with the police's equipment."

Roman slammed a fist on the table. "Look, enough of this! We need a plan!"

Johnny smirked. "A plan eh, little man? To do what exactly? This building is the most fortified place in the city since Algonquin fell. Nothing short of a cruise missile is going to keep us down."

Roman laughed hollowly. "Heh…that's funny. Our enemy has exactly that at their disposal."

"Our enemy? Governor Reed is a blackened stain in the prison. Dimitri Rauscolov's gang got torn apart by zombie dogs a few days back. Hell, even Francis-fucking Mcreary got shot in the back by his own secretary if the stories are true! There is no one left to fight. And if what all the rumours and emergency broadcasts weren't a total pile of horseshit, the military's going to be rolling in here in about…" he said, glancing at his watch. "…sixteen hours. We just have to sit tight."

Niko pushed off the windowsill and turned to face the others.

"No… Roman's right. The bastard made things so much worse for everyone in here, and, to be perfectly honest, might have had a hand in this whole plague! I'm talking about Director Ross of the CIA."

"You mean the guy that Mcreary went and declared war on?" Terry said with a laugh. "If anyone went on the radio and said that kind of shit about me I would burn down his home too! I saw Director Ross once in Liberty City. Making some speech about national security at City Hall. Guy is a bit creepy looking yeah but saying he caused the whole outbreak…"

It was Niko now who slammed his fist on the table. "Look! I know over here in Alderney things have been different. I get that you think you had it bad. But Liberty City has been hit hard. And those CIA men in black are the only constant through this whole shitstorm. Every time a defence zone falls, a group of survivors goes missing, or the police seem to have been going some way to sorting this mess out- they have been there. I saw those government jets bombing the city. I watched men in black helicopters gunning down civilians and police. And I've seen bodies laid out in the street with rounds in their head like some fucking Nazi war crime! I am telling you- the CIA have more than a hand in this. They've got a fist rammed up Liberty City's ass and they ain't going to stop until every one of us is dead!"

"What about the military?" Clay asked evenly. "All we need to do is wait until they come in and get them to sort this whole mess out."

Niko shook his head. "By the time the military roll through here it will be too late. The CIA can just have the lot of us arrested on the spot and shipped off to some far off prison. What happened in this city- the madness, the death, the whole meaningless insanity of it all. That story-it's never going to be told unless we go out there and bring Ross to justice."

"Look, it's a great idea and all…" Johnny began. "But we can't fight the government. As soon as we threaten Ross he can just fly back to that fleet and have the military drop a few airstrikes on our heads. Either that or he can have a whole regiment of Marines here in minutes to reinforce him. We're just a biker gang, Niko. Sure, a few of my boys were in the army back in the day. We even have a ton of LCPD military grade weaponry we managed to salvage when Algonquin fell. But fighting the CIA taskforce, its madness…"

Niko smiled. "Yes, fighting him and the military is madness. But if we can find some way to draw him and his men out, something that only he and his black ops boys can risk going near, something that he can't get the army involved in, that's how we get him out in the open. And then…we get revenge, but only after we make him confess to every crime, every murder, and find out why the hell he is keeping this nightmare going."

"Drawing him out…" Johnny said with an approving nod. "Sounds good. But how are we going to get him out? What do we have that could possibly be so important he only trusts himself and his most loyal men to retrieve it."

Every man around the room looked at each other. Then Roman piped up.

"Niko! Do you remember when that CIA taskforce attacked the Triad? We found a…it was a mask. Green jade, in a wooden box. I didn't think much of it at the time but…"

Suddenly the double doors at the far end of the room were pushed open and a skinny Lost member, his leather jacket looking far too big for him, ran in, clutching an object close to his chest. Niko couldn't see it, but he felt uneasy. There was something…wrong, with whatever that man held. Something he had felt before, but couldn't put his finger on.

"Johnny!" the man called out, and Niko could smell the drink on the man's breath from metres away, could see the way he swayed on the balls of his feet.

Johnny turned, a furious look on his face. "The fuck, Rico? You can't just barge in here, drunk and stinking like a toilet…"

Rico laughed, the sound slightly slurred. "Hey…hey…I like, had something to…to show," and the man drew the object out from under his arm, and Niko felt his eyes widen as he saw what it was.

A mask made of pure jade, seeming to hum with an unearthly energy.

"Funny isn't it?" Rico asked with a gormless grin on his face.

"The mask!" Roman said with a triumphant smile on his face. "Of course! Wherever that thing goes the CIA seem to be there soon enough. It must be…"

As Roman and the others began talking in low voices about the possible significance of the mask, Niko watched Rico look at the mask, a dumb look of drunken bliss on his face. But, as he continued to look into the mask's empty sockets, a change seemed to come over the man. The grin vanished, replaced by a blank expression like someone in a trance. Turning the mask in his calloused hands, Rico looked at it one more time, and, as Niko realised what was happening, he ran forward, shoving Clay and Terry aside in his haste.

"Hey!" Terry shouted, but Niko didn't hear him, only saw Rico place the mask on his face and let out a blood chilling scream, which even Niko found frightening. Instantly the man fell face first onto the scuffed wooden floor, the mask slamming into the hard floor but not breaking, while Rico's body was cold and pale as Niko ran a desperate hand across it, searching for any sign of life.

"There must be some kind of poison on it…" Roman said blankly. "Maybe a failsafe or something to stop thieves?"

But Niko wasn't listening. He had felt movement beneath his hand. He was already reaching inside his suit jacket for his gun- a shiny new Desert Eagle he had picked up from the Lost's huge armoury- when a cold hand gripped his arm in a vive like grip, and Rico's corpse began to move.

"Fuck!" Niko cursed, slamming the butt of his gun into Rico's now undead arm and leaping back as his grip slackened for a second.

Instantly he and the others raised their pistols, emptying their guns into Rico's undead form as he stood up, the mask clattering off his face to reveal a fixed expression of pure pain and agony, which was quickly blown apart by the men's high calibre rounds.

As Rico's bloody corpse hit the floor with a dull thump and splat of blood, Niko turned to the others, lowering his smoking Desert Eagle.

"I think we may have found exactly what Ross wants."

Johnny nodded quickly and asked. "What now?"

Niko smiled grimly. "Now? Now we go to war."

000000

The undead form of Rocco Pelosi dug its yellowing teeth deep into the unmoving corpse of his uncle, Vince. Rocco's once handsome face and elegantly trimmed beard were now covered in blood and pieces of grey meat, half of his face missing where another zombie had torn it off minutes before he himself succumbed to the disease that had wiped out 99% of Liberty City in days.

For a second the former Ancelotti enforcer looked up, his blank grey eyes staring out at the devastated form of the bridge linking Uptown Algonquin and Alderney City. The zombie had no interest in the burnt out cars and crumbling form of the walls of the Algonquin Safe Zone at the other end of the bridge, a relic of safer times. It only sensed the approach of a large amount of fresh meat, not the carrion it was used to. With most of the few survivors in Alderney with the Lost Brotherhood or already dead, fresh meat was becoming hard for the undead to find.

As he looked up, for a second zombie Rocco could see a large group of armoured figures on horseback at the far end of the bridge, before there was a muffled crack and he fell back with a spurt of blood onto the body of his uncle, a rifle round inserted neatly between his eyes.

On the other side of the bridge, in the shadow of those same Algonquin walls that had kept Liberty City and Alderney divided, Agent Hill lowered his rifle.

"That, my friend, is how you shoot." He declared with a laugh to his companion as they advanced forward, their horses whinnying softly, the clatter of weapons and clicks as armour and sidearms were checked filling the air.

"Nah you ain't no sniper, mon. I would have taken dem zombies down before you even saw dem if…"

Agent Hill laughed. "If what, Jacob? If you could see through that cloud of smoke you seem to surround yourself with 24/7?"

Little Jacob laughed with him, stubbing out his spent joint on the battered front of the LCPD issue riot gear he wore, this one marked by three stripes of green, yellow and black ,while adjusting his grip on the green painted AK he carried in the other hand.

Behind them came the four hundred survivors of the LCPD, all decked out in midnight blue riot gear, their horses similarly armoured with leg protection and face shields, along with a contingent of fifty surviving Yardies in an eclectic mix of protective gear in garish colours and bright suit jackets.

"Enough of the banter, boys. We have work to do." Ordered an authoritative voice, and the two men both nodded, losing the smiles and gripping their weapons tighter as another figure clattered in alongside them.

"Of course Commissioner Mcreary." Agent Hill said softly, smoothing out his blue suit jacket and adjusting his tie beneath his thick ballistic vest.

The figure beside them smiled. Dressed in a flowing midnight blue overcoat and riot gear from head to toe, her coppery brown hair done up in a tight bun and her right leg ending in a steel prosthetic tipped with a wicked looking spike, the new commissioner looked left and right at her two lieutenants.

"Let's clean up this city boys." Kate Mcreary shouted, raising her rifle to the sky. "Let's make Director Ross pay for what he did to Liberty City!"

And, with the triumphant roar of hundreds of men and women ringing in her ears, Kate leaned low in the saddle and galloped across the bridge, a war cry on her lips and revenge in her heart.