“My surname’s Zhou, and Rong comes from armed forces and horses 1, not Huang Rong-meimei 2.”
“We’ve been squatting in this unlucky T City for more than half a month already, and haven’t even got a cent of our field allowance. We’re nearly out of ammunition and rations as well, and in this chaos, when we need fuel for our vehicle, we also have to sneakily do it as though we’re thieves.”
“How do you think this virus broke out? Is it a mutation from rabies, or is it a crazed war tactic employed by American imperialism and the western powers to target our country? A couple of days ago I was still following a news broadcast, and last night the television signal and the short-wave broadcast have both been disrupted, what a pity for <People’s Urban Management Team> and <People’s Broadcast> that I’ve been following unceasingly for more than half a year. However, the one that I find the most pitiful is still...”
Zhou Rong lit his cigarette, inhaling deeply. He turned to see his team members trembling with fear. The window of the vehicle was wide open, and the wind whistled in.
“He... he left already,” One of the men said. “He just left through the window...”
“When did he leave?”
“When you mentioned the news broadcast.”
Zhou Rong was silent for a moment, then said regretfully, “What a pity, I was about to recommend him the eighth season of <People’s National Development and Reform Commission>.”
The zombie horde had already been lured over to the southeast side, and there were only ten odd living dead roaming the on the road. The young man somersaulted and landed on the ground, in a few steps he retreated to a corner of a wall, and quickly made his way into the disorderly pharmacy.
The light bulb flickered above his head, and on the walls were splashes of fresh blood. On top of the shattered glass counters were mutilated remains of corpses, and one could imagine what sort of horrifying scene it was when the virus broke out here.
With the rise in calls for racial and gender equality, the ban on Omega pheromones suppressors had been lifted in many countries, but it was still a prescription drug that was strictly controlled. The young man raised his carbine in front of him, walking around the pharmacist’s corpse that had fell on the counter, and with the butt of his rifle, he shattered the glass counter. Seeing that familiar auto-injector, he let out an undetectable sigh of relief, and swiftly removed the packaging and injected the medication into the vein of his arm.
The drugstore should have been looted a few times, but there were still some goods left around, like protein powder, energy bars, and energy drinks etc. From a corpse he picked up a bloodstained canvas backpack, and swept everything he could take with him into it, and even found two packs of water purifying tablets.
After he was done, he looked up. Through the fragmented mirror next to the counter in the distance, he saw himself.
The motorbike helmet and jacket had the rusty smell of blood on them, and the colour of his jeans could not longer be distinguished. On his ankle boots, dried flesh and blood clung to them.
He suddenly discovered something, and pulled his zipper down slightly. From within his collar, he pulled a pendant out.
It was an ordinary brass medallion. About the size of a pocket watch, when the young man opened it, an old photo was found inside, under a thin layer of crystal glass.
A young couple was hugging a boy of about five or six years old and smiling at him. The wife was caucasian, with flaxen hair and amber eyes. Even through the limited capabilities of the photography skills from the past, her outstanding beauty was obvious. As for the husband, he was asian, his looks refined and elegant, full of a scholarly air, and had an extremely familiar face.
— His face.
The young man closed his eyes, unable to control his gasps. In his mind flashed a few incomplete images: a bumpy plane cabin, screams, corpses, flying bullets, a suitcase that gleamed cold and bright...
The image suddenly zoomed out, and under the cold, cloudy morning sky, army boots tread across the grass and dew. A voice bawled in every soldier’s ears, “... no tomorrow, there’s no hope. Waiting for help that would never come, and any mistakes made will lead to our doom...”
“On this planet, you’re earth’s last hope in fighting the undead!...”
The young man subconsciously shook his head. He wanted to massage the point between his brows, only to touch the hard surface of the helmet.
The next moment, a strong force coming from his side caused the young man to fall to the ground — with a loud crash. Instinctively, the young man wanted to grab his attacker’s throat, but within seconds the ear splitting roar of gunfire echoed throughout the room!
Under the hail of bullets, the storeroom door by the side burst open. Behind the door, a few living dead had been thrown to the ground, twitching and convulsing, and soon became a motionless pile of flesh and blood.
Zhou Rong put down his gun, spitting out his cigarette butt and casually ground it out with his boot. “Are the both of you ok?”
The young man shoved his “attacker” away and sat up, massaging the spot between his brows as his head pounded.
“Hi, we happened to see the zombies coming from the storeroom just as we came in...” Yan Hao climbed up, and held his hand out to the young man sitting on the floor. The latter grabbed his hand, pulling himself up, then picked up the motorbike helmet. “Thanks.”
Yan Hao, “...”
Hottie Yan looked away, although he had managed to hide it, but the flush on his fair cheeks was still very obvious. He coughed forcefully, “No... nothing.”
Zhou Rong found it interesting, after stroking his chin, he smiled, “You’re here to look for food?”
— If the apocalypse masses had to vote for the ten lousiest pickup lines, this line would definitely be at the top of the list.
The young man did not reply. He picked up the backpack and tossed it over his right shoulder. Carrying the carbine he had stolen from Yan Hao with the muzzle pointing to the ground, he walked round the both of them and headed out of the door.
Unexpectedly, when he walked past them, Zhou Rong grabbed his arm. “This...”
“You followed me?”
The two people looked at each other from a close distance. In the chaos of the drugstore, there seemed to be an invisible bowstring gradually drawing tighter. A moment later, Zhou Rong smiled modestly, “Your words are so hurtful...”
“... We’re clearly only taking responsibility for the safety of the lives and assets of civilians.”
The young man re-assessed Zhou Rong carefully, and felt that he had misjudged this person. He should not be from the local forces, but an army riffraff who had usurped the military equipment after getting dishonourably discharged.
“Don’t consider about it anymore, just go with us. No one is eyeing those two packets of biscuits in your bag.” Zhou Rong flicked away a shred of flesh on the young man’s shoulder, not getting disgusted by it. “We’re going to the city’s underground shelter to rally with the rest of the team, link up with the civilians there and transmit our location signal to the base. We’ll inform the local government to send a helicopter here to pick us up — they’ll be detonating a nuclear bomb in T City tomorrow. Here, this is my ID.”
With his bloodstained fingerless glove, Zhou Rong carefully pulled out a kraft envelope from his chest. In it was really a missive about the troop with an official red stamp on it.
He arrogantly waved it in front of the young man’s eyes, then, treating it like treasure, he tucked the missive back into his protective vest. “You won’t be able to go anywhere alone. It’s not good to have such individualistic heroism, you should go along with our arrangement... What should we call you?”
A moment of silence, the young man’s eyes swept across the floor. There happened to be an overturned box of medication at his feet, and on it were the words “XX Si Nan Traditional Chinese Medicine Co., Ltd. (Batch No. 2011XXXX)”.
“... Si Nan,” The young man said hoarsely.
“Nan from northeast3.”
Half an hour later.
“Their body fluids are highly toxic, and after being bitten, it’s a 100% chance of being infected and dying, followed by the mutation. The mutation rate varies amongst people, and the quickest mutation rate that has been observed for now is 50 seconds, counting from the moment the infected victim’s heart stops. The slowest one is about 24 hours, and during that time, the infected victim’s body would go into rigor mortis and decompose at the same rate as an ordinary corpse.”
Si Nan looked up, “Where did these observational subjects come from?”
“A few of my team members,” Zhou Rong said as he drank some water.
On the two sides of of the vehicle compartment, seven to eight special forces soldiers sat on each side, and continuous jolts could be felt as the vehicle ran over the zombies blocking the roads.
Next to Zhou Rong, Yan Hao retrieved a paper bag from behind him, and signalled Si Nan across him to take it.
— In the paper bad were a few high protein chocolate bars and some hardtack.
Si Nan casually tossed the paper bag back to him, pointing at his own backpack, implying that he had his own rations. He immediately asked Zhou Rong, “You’re from the local base troops?”
“When the outbreak of the virus just started, an expert had thought that it was collective rabies. As such, the first batch of infected victims were sent to the military to be kept under observation, and the local garrison was naturally obliterated.” Zhou Rong shrugged, expressing a courtesy show of grief. “If you go to the military camp now, there should be tens of thousands of living dead armed with weapons trapped in there, a dense sea of chaos... it’s basically a claustrophobic’s nightmare.”
“Then why did you come to T City?”
“To carry out our mission.” From the side, Yan Hao said softly.
Si Nan took a quick glance at him, while he gazed at the floor of the swaying vehicle with great concentration, his lips tightening into a thin white line.
“We came to carry out our mission, but we got unlucky and bumped into a zombie outbreak. As such, our mission was changed on the spot, and we decided to go to the shelter to save the ordinary citizens.” Zhou Rong asked idly, “What about you, lad?”
Si Nan did not reply his question. “What happened to your mission?”
He thought that this team’s objective was the same as Tang Hao’s, that they were all here to capture Omegas from the war zone — the so-called precious and critically important resources. Who knew, Zhou Rong sighed and sorrowfully said, “This time, I’ve been... The target of the mission has died, I’m afraid I’ll have to face disciplinary action when we go back...”
“He might still be alive,” Yan Hao suddenly said quietly.
The team members all looked at the both of them. Zhou Rong asked him, “If you freefall from a height of 9000 metres, will you be able to survive it?”
Yan Hao fell silent.
“Rong-ge!” The driver shouted from the front. “The map has been updated with the latest traffic information, come and take a look!”
Zhou Rong stood up and walked to the driver’s compartment, and clapped Yan Hao’s shoulder heavily when he walked past.
Si Nan suddenly realised that whenever he talked to Zhou Rong, Yan Hao would often appear, passing him something or interrupting, as though exerting his presence.
Yan Hao suddenly covered his mouth with a fist and coughed, passing him a box of Zhonghua lights. “You want a smoke?”
Si Nan looked very much like an asian, but his eyes were amber just like his mother. When he stared motionlessly at a person, there was an illusion of being stared at by a cold, inorganic object.
He stared at Yan Hao in this way for over ten seconds before shaking his head. “No, thanks.”
Yan Hao was a little nervous. He smiled at him, then pulled out a cigarette, but did not light it. He only flipped it around his fingers, as though using this gesture to soothe his emotions.
Soon, Zhou Rong returned to the rear compartment carrying an equipment bag. He sat down boldly, digging through the bag as he exclaimed, “It’s so not easy — according to our current speed we’ll need another two hours before we reach the shelter, but we don’t know how big are the packs of zombies around there. I’ll go up and sweep our surroundings with the vehicle’s machine gun along the way, you guys should hurry up and grab some sleep... why, lad, why are you looking at me?”
Zhou Rong opened up the metal case that held the firearms. From one of the tool slots he took out a ruby ear stud and put it on his right ear.
Si Nan, “...”
Si Nan sat opposite the two them, and his eyes shifted from Zhou Rong’s ear to Yan Hao’s ear. Two identical ear studs glittered at him in the dim light of the vehicle.
At that moment, his confusion was cleared up, he felt that he seemed to have understood something.
“Excuse me.” Si Nan said sincerely, standing up and patting Yan Han’s shoulder. Without turning back, he went to the front compartment and sat next to the driver.
Yan Hao, “... ???”
A strange deathly stillness fell upon the rear compartment.
Still, Si Nan was very kind and ignored it. He nodded his head at the driver, apologising for disturbing him, then closed his eyes and snoozed.
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