Authors: James Harden
Everyone jumps back. We jump back because this is a normal, completely human
reaction to seeing a dead person come back to life. Even after all this time.
Even after everything that we have seen.
Doctor Hunter is about to say something
else, but when he opens his mouth he coughs and spits up blood.
He is dying.
Finally. After all this time, the parasite
And I think to myself that maybe he is
dying because there is no one left alive, no life for him to cling to out here
in the desert.
And I wonder what knowledge dies with him.
What secrets die with him?
“What have we done?” he whispers. “What did
“You know what you did,” I say. “You
unleashed hell on the world. A plague.”
“No, we didn’t unleash it. We created it.
We designed it. But we didn’t unleash it.
He’s talking about the man in the gas mask.
Doctor Kumar Singh.
“What will we do?” he whispers to himself.
“How do we live? What happens next?”
“Where is he?” I ask.
“We didn’t know who he was,” Doctor Hunter
says, ignoring my question. “No one knew.”
“Where is he?” I ask again, louder.
“He controlled everything. He controlled
us. Tricked us. He played us for fools.”
“How?” Kim asks. “How the hell could one
man fool everyone? How could he fool the military and the company? How could he
trick Generals and doctors and research scientists?”
“Because he is smart. Smarter than anyone I
have ever known. But it’s not just his intelligence. He is driven. He wants
this. He wants the world to end. He wants
world to end.”
The man in the gas mask kept talking about
a new world. A better world.
Is this it?
Is this the world he wanted?
“This was his goal,” Doctor Hunter
continues. “His dream, his vision. And he pursued it with the intensity and
single minded determination of a mad man. And he’s done it. He has accomplished
everything that he had ever hoped to accomplish. It’s over. And he won’t stop.
He can’t be stopped.”
Doctor Hunter reaches out for Kenji with
his one good hand. He grabs Kenji’s shirt and pulls him closer. “I tried to
help. I tried to stop it. I tried to contain it. You have to believe me.
Please. Please believe me. I tried. But there’s no stopping this. There’s no
killing it. There’s no killing something that can’t be killed. No killing
something that is already dead.”
“How did he get away?” I ask
“He… he is too good, too ruthless. And now
he is gone. Now he is a ghost.”
It sounds like Doctor Hunter has lost his
mind. And I can’t blame him.
“We ran simulations,” he whispers. “It
showed us everything. It showed us the end. When it’s over, when it’s all said
and done, the Oz virus will wipe out ninety-nine percent of the Earth’s
population. I don’t know what will happen to the survivors, to those
unfortunate souls. But I do know they’ll be scared. I do know they’ll be
My jaw physically drops.
I knew it would be bad, after all, the Oz
virus wiped out pretty much the entire population of Australia in a matter of
weeks. But Australia had no warning, no time to prepare. The rest of the world?
No way. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s too much.
And I was never any good at math, but my
brain can’t help but do the sums. And even in my exhausted state of mind, I see
Ninety-nine percent of the world’s
Ninety-nine percent of seven billion
Doctor Hunter is telling us that six
billion, nine hundred and thirty million people will die.
I don’t believe him. I can’t believe him.
The number is too big to comprehend.
“Are you scared?” he asks me. “Are you
“Ninety-nine per cent?” I ask in disbelief,
ignoring his questions about fear and hunger.
“Maybe more,” he says.
“It can’t be stopped?”
“And there’s no chance of creating an
He looks at Maria. He shakes his head. “Not
in this lifetime. Not in a thousand lifetimes. And I’m not sure if the company knows.
Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But if the company does know, then I’d say
that Maria is no longer a priority.”
“So why did the company attempt to rescue
you?” I ask. “Why did they extract you?”
I am asking these questions even though
they are largely irrelevant. Even though I can probably guess the answer. I am
asking these questions because I want to know the company’s motivation. I want
to know what their next move is.
“Maybe because the company still believes
they can stop it,” Doctor Hunter says. “Maybe they
to believe. Or maybe the company just wants to understand it.
Maybe they still want to control it one day.” He closes his eyes and nods his
head slowly. “That makes the most sense. They want control.”
“What do you mean?” Maria asks. “What do
they want to control?”
“The virus,” he answers. “They want to
control it because they will survive this. They will be a part of the one
percent. And they will rule the ruins. They will rule the survivors. So my
guess is, maybe they want to understand the virus. Maybe they want to conquer
it. Or maybe they want to create another one. Maybe they want to manufacture
more.” He opens his eyes and looks up at Kim. “You will need another injection
soon,” he says, changing the subject. “Or you won’t survive.”
Kim doesn’t respond. She already knows
she’s on borrowed time. And I have no idea how we’re going to get her more NVX.
If I had to guess, I’d say there would be a distinct shortage of such a unique
and powerful medicine out here in the Australian outback. There might be some
supplies down in the Fortress. But there’s no way we’re going back down there.
“The company,” Doctor Hunter says.
“YoshidaCorp.” He looks at Kenji, he still has a hold of his shirt. His hand is
balled up in a fist and it is shaking. I wonder if he is angry. “Your father’s
company. They are just as responsible. They didn’t create it. They didn’t set
it loose. But they made it possible. They provided the environment. They
supplied the resources. Endless resources. Endless capital. The more I think
about it, the more I realize they came to us with a war chest. A war chest of
gold and riches. Your father was always quoting Sun Tzu. Do you know what Sun
Tzu says about the price of war?”
Kenji nods his head. “Yes.”
Doctor Hunter smiles a weak smile. “Of
course you do. You are your father’s son.”
Kim steps forward. “Cut the crap. Kenji
doesn’t need this from you.”
Doctor Hunter lets go of Kenji’s shirt. “I
meant nothing by it. I’m just trying to warn you.”
“Warn us about what?”
“You… you have to consider all
possibilities,” he says, struggling to speak. “You have to consider the
possibility that maybe Kenji’s father was never outsmarted. Maybe he was never
played for a fool. Maybe he knew
“What the hell are you saying?” Kenji asks.
“I’ve been dying for two days and two
nights. I cannot move. I can barely breathe. The only thing left for me to do,
is to think about my life, my mistakes. My own mortality. There are questions
that I do not know the answer to, questions that I will never know the answers
to. And one of those questions is Commander Satoru Yoshida.”
Kenji’s father. YoshidaCorp. What is their
next move? Kenji’s father had always scared me. And even though I barely knew
the guy, and now that I think about it, I really only saw him a handful of
times, he always had this air of seriousness around him. Like whatever he was
doing was super important and he was not to be disturbed. He certainly had no
time for a silly neighbor girl.
“The one thing I do know for certain,”
Doctor Hunter continues. “The company wants to rule the ruins.
They will rule the ruins
. Because as
dangerous as Kumar is, he cannot reach the company. Not anymore.”
“You don’t know that,” I say. “You don’t
know what YoshidaCorp is planning. You don’t even know why they tried to rescue
you.” And for some reason I feel like I’m defending Kenji and his father and
his father’s company. I have no idea why.
“I do know. I know because he told me.
Kumar. He goes by many names. He is a liar. But he was telling the truth. After
years, after decades of lying to me, he finally told me the truth.”
Kim snatches the gun out of Kenji’s hand
and aims it at Doctor Hunter’s head. “You don’t know a goddamn thing, old man.
Now start making sense or else.”
Doctor Hunter is completely unafraid of the
gun. He is knocking on death’s door. He’s been trapped here, dying slowly and
painfully for two days and two nights. He would probably welcome a bullet at
this point. “He’s still out there, you know. In the desert. He’s still alive.”
An image of the man in the gas mask appears
in my mind’s eye.
He looks inhuman. He looks like a monster.
“He’s stronger than anyone. Smarter. He is
driven. He can survive anything.”
He can’t be killed.
“Do you know how he escaped?” Doctor Hunter
asks. “He got the jump on two super soldiers. He was handcuffed, but they made
the mistake of taking his blindfold off. They did this because they wanted to
question him. They wanted to check his vitals. A mad man with vision, with
sight, is a very dangerous thing. In an instant, he had a weapon. In an instant
he had slit the throats of two Evo Agents, two NVX strengthened super soldiers.
With one hand he held a gun, just like the gun you are holding now. He held
this gun and he aimed it at the pilots. He placed his other hand over the
throat of one of the Evo Agents. He told the pilots he could save the soldier.
If they obeyed his commands. If they changed course. The pilots did as they
were told. And then he shot them. He shot the radio so they could not transmit,
so they could not communicate with their dying breaths. He shot the pilots,
shot the controls because it was the only way. He knew this. He knew that
crashing this aircraft was the only way to get what he wanted. And so he did
it. No hesitation. In the blink of an eye, he had killed four men. I was
blindfolded, but I could see it. I could see it before it happened. We fell
from the sky. Heavy. And fast. I was knocked out. Unconscious from the crash. I
woke to the sound of more gunfire. One of the pilots had survived. Or maybe it
was one of the Evo Agents. It does not matter. The fight was over in seconds.
And so I woke to the sounds of men bleeding and choking to death. You see, he
did not stop when the chopper crashed into the Earth. He kept moving. He kept
“Why did he spare your life?” I ask.
“I don’t think he did. He disabled the GPS
tracking device on the Blackhawk. He disabled the NBC suits. He then threw an
invisibility cloak over the wreckage. He knew the company would never find us.
Not for a long time. He knew I was a dead man.”
Doctor Hunter winces in pain. He has a
piece of metal that looks like a warrior’s spear stuck in his abdomen. He is
skewered. Like a shish kebob. He is dying. “Before he left, he welcomed me to
the new world. He said that he was sorry that I would not get to live in it for
“Which way did he go?” I ask. “What’s his
He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters anymore. He has won. It’s over.”
“I stabbed him with a hunting knife,” I
say, boasting. My voice bursting with pride and bloodlust and desperation. “He
is dying a very slow and painful death. Just like you. He won’t make it far.”
Doctor Hunter laughs. He is mocking me.
“You haven’t learnt anything, have you? Even after all this time. After everything
that you have witnessed. You have learnt nothing.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you still underestimating him?”
“He can’t survive this. He won’t.”
“Tell me, when you handcuffed me to the
morgue freezer, when you left me in a room full of infected people, did you
expect me to live?”
No one answers him.
“We are capable of so much,” he continues.
“And he is capable of everything. Do not underestimate his power. Do not
underestimate his ability to survive. To live. To kill.”
I should’ve killed him, I think to myself.
I should’ve ended his terrible and wicked life.
“He is driven,” Doctor Hunter says. “He is
so driven. And now… now he gets to live in the world he created. He gets to
live… and we… we get to die.”
These are Doctor Hunter’s last words.
get to die.
Like death is this great thing.