CATACLYSM: THE BEGINNING OF THE END
AUGUST 25, 2024
ALPHA BASE HEADQUARTERS
The ashes and dust blanketed the ruins of the city around Komodo like snow. He was standing amidst the wreckage of a burnt out city bus where he had taken shelter when the building came down. General Smith soon joined Him. The silence, only broken by the occasional crash of debris and crackling of fire, enveloped the two friends as they stood there side by side staring at the massacre before them. Eventually, Smith spoke up;
“What do we do now, sir?” Smith asked softly.
The silence swallowed them up again and neither one broke their gaze. After another long pause, Komodo took a deep breath and replied,
“There’s nothing we can do, Smith. Nothing.”
They stood there a little longer until Komodo walked forward and climbed out of the wreckage. He stood in the middle of his city, taking in the scenes of death and destruction that now filled the streets.
“Even war wasn’t this horrific,” he said looking down at his boots. He picked up his foot. There was a broken picture frame underneath it. Komodo kneeled down and took the photograph out. It was a picture of a little girl, no more than eight years old, playing on a swing on a summer day. A fresh blood stain smeared the upper left corner.
“This time, no one deserved to die.”
Smith looked down solemnly and wiped the dust from his face. Komodo put the picture in his front chest pocket and stood back up. The sun was beginning to set. It wouldn’t be a dark night for the raging fires and the lights of the rescuers hopelessly searching through tons of smoldering rubble would light up the sky. Komodo turned and started to walk towards Alpha Base. Smith jogged after him. When he caught up with his Commander, he asked,
“Is this the end of the world?”
Komodo stopped. He turned slightly so that he could see Smith out of the corner of his eye and said,
“Unfortunately Smith, this isn’t the end of the world.”
“What do you mean ‘unfortunately’?”
Komodo turned so now he could see Smith fully. Smith stood there, waiting for Komodo to respond.
“This isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately, this is not the worst event we will see in the next few days. This is only the beginning of the end. Today we saw the end of modern technology; electricity, air travel, mass communication, and such. All compromised. The lights have gone off never to turn back on.”
“But we can fix it, can’t we? We have the best programmers and technical engineers the world has ever seen! There must be a way!”
Komodo stared blankly over Smith’s shoulder, watching the sun set. Then he spoke.
“There has always been a way to fix it before. But this is different. We’ve been defeated.”
Defeated was a word Komodo had never used. Smith could see in Komodo’s eyes that there was no way to fix this. They had been defeated. Just as the sun slipped below the horizon, Smith asked one last string of questions.
“There will be worse events? What is it we’re dealing with here? An Apocalypse? A new start?”
A single tear fell from Komodo’s eye. He continued to stare blankly at where the sun had been moments ago before it set.
“We are talking about a Cataclysm…A series of events more devastating than just apocalyptic. This is…the death of the Earth…and maybe mankind, too…”
“How can you be so sure that this will only get worse?”
“I just know…” he said staring blankly at the hazy sky, trying to keep himself together.
Komodo and Smith made their way through the debris-filled streets back to Alpha Base. The rescue crews would be busy all night. Komodo would have to make a statement to not only the remnants of the nation, but whatever was left of the world over shortwave radio in the morning. Komodo couldn’t think of anything that would fix what had happened. There was never any thought of a cyber-terrorist attack on this scale. No one could have been prepared.
The next morning, though most technology was still compromised, the press filled the presentation room. Komodo was dressed in his best looking suit with a lightning bolt pin on his left side. He removed his hat and addressed the crowd.
“…Last night’s events could not have been expected. They came without warning and left us with thousands of questions. The most important of these questions is the one that asks ‘What will we do next?’ There have been an incredible amount of casualties worldwide; we expect the numbers to be in the two hundred to three hundred million range. That number comes from the handful of countries we are still in contact with. The death toll could well exceed…one billion. All available emergency service units have been hard at work picking through the rubble in search of survivors. The SSIGSF has been out of contact for nineteen hours now. We are trying to get a distress signal out to them the best we can…”
While speaking to the planet, Komodo noticed a man in the back of the room that didn’t seem to be acting normal. He proceeded anyway.
“We ask that anyone that has a functioning communication device to please lend it to the emergency crews. We are having a very difficult time organizing rescue efforts with only megaphones and hand signals. We will be setting up temporary shelters once the roads have been cleared…”
The strange man turned to face him. Komodo couldn’t see the man very well as he tried to finish his speech. The man looked sick. He was having trouble walking straight, or for that matter, even standing up. His limbs dangled without any signs of control. His skin was a sickly pale-yellow. Komodo kept an eye on him as he continued.
“Hospitals are overcrowded so we will also try to set up medical tents on every block of Alpha Base City. Water, food, and small medical kits will be handed out as well…”
And that’s when it happened. The man in the back groaned and then grabbed hold of a reporter and sinking his teeth into him. There was a blood curdling scream and Komodo instantly knew what had happened; the man had been infected with the TXT-91 reanimation virus; one of the most lethal and infectious diseases on the face of the Earth.
He pulled out his Beretta M9 from under his suit and took aim at the infected man. The press dove for cover as Komodo opened fire on him. He let out a strange shriek as he was hit. The lifeless body released its death grip on the bleeding reporter and slumped over against the wall. The injured man dragged himself away from the corpse. Komodo stepped down, gun still in hand, and ordered,
“THIS AREA IS NOW UNDER CLASS SEVEN QUARENTIENE! Everyone! Stay back!”
Komodo motioned for the other reporters to move away from the body and the writhing man. He pleaded weakly;
There was nothing Komodo, or anyone in fact, could do for him. There was no cure for TXT-91A or B; both had a one hundred percent death rate. He walked quickly over to the Emergency Supply box on the wall of the presentation room and opened it. Komodo began to hand out medical masks to the crowd as the guards tried to keep everyone under control.
“Everyone put these on,” Komodo ordered.
Each of the reporters took a mask and put it on quickly. Komodo spoke into his sleeve where the hidden microphone was.
“This is KO-ALPHA-7 requesting immediate quarantine and evacuation; one casualty and one critical. Class Seven Quarantine for TXT-91 outbreak; all units respond. Repeat: Class Seven Quarantine for TXT-91 outbreak; all units respond.”
The sounds of sirens wailing and rotor blades chopping the air soon drowned out the noise inside the presentation room. There was a pounding on the double metal doors. Komodo walked backwards and opened it, letting the hazmat team enter with guns at the ready. They moved quickly, securing the reporters swiftly and silently. The infected man was zipped up in a body bag and carried out. One of the hazmat soldiers ordered through his gasmask,
“Who was within five people of the casualties?”
A handful of the reporters stepped forward uneasily.
“All of you over there. MOVE!”
The reporters, frightened, obeyed and followed two more soldiers who handed them hazmat suits. The reporters got into them and then waited as a third soldier sprayed them with antiseptic foam. They were led away by all three soldiers. They would be taken to the hazmat containment truck outside where each would be cleaned properly with a special chemical bath. Komodo and the hazmat team lead the rest of the reporters out as the cleanup crew entered to decontaminate the area.
Outside, Komodo met up with General Smith, Captain Jericho, and Captain Alonzo.
“What the hell is this?” Captain Jericho exclaimed.
“TXT-91 infection. One casualty, another soon to be…” Komodo replied solemnly.
“Is it all under control now, sir?” Captain Alonzo questioned.
Komodo sighed and looked up at the ruins of the Grand Tower.
“I hope so. The last thing we need is a TXT-91 epidemic.”
A soldier bumped into Alonzo carelessly. The soldier stumbled but kept walking away.
“Hey buddy! Watch where you’re going!” Alonzo said angrily. When the soldier didn’t turn around, Alonzo followed him away from Jericho, Smith, and Komodo. When he caught up with the man, Alonzo aggressively put a hand on his shoulder, stopping the man.
“Aren’t you forgetting to say something?” Alonzo said impatiently.
The soldier groaned and turned around. Alonzo’s eyes widened and he took his hand off the soldier’s shoulder. He walked backwards and tripped, falling to the ground.
Komodo was still explaining what had happened in the presentation room to Smith and Jericho when they heard gunfire. All three had their weapons shouldered not even an instant after they heard them.
“Where’s Captain Alonzo?!” Jericho shouted.
“I don’t know but I think those shots came from him. Let’s go!” Komodo ordered, sprinting down the road in the direction the shots came from, Smith on his left and Jericho covering his right.
They got to where they heard the gunshots, finding only a few drops of blood and some spent cartridges. Komodo bent down and picked one up while Smith and Jericho covered him.
“These are Alonzo’s alright; he’s the only one in our division who needs these kind of cartridges,” Komodo concluded, turning one over in his hand.
Just then, there were some groans and sighs from around the corner. Komodo directed Smith and Jericho over to the wall with him. Komodo held up three fingers. Then two. Then one. All three stealthily turned the corner of the building facing an alleyway.
“JESUS!” Smith whispered quickly.
The alley way was filled with TXT-infected citizens. All of them were aimlessly wandering the dark street in their undead trance. They seemed so harmless until one noticed Komodo, Smith, and Jericho. It grunted and started coming toward them, others soon following with a quickening pace. The three raised their guns and opened fire, taking down as many infected as they could while walking backwards away from the horde. When Komodo’s clip emptied, called to the others,
They turned around, sprinting back towards the crowd outside Alpha Base.
“EVEYONE GET OUTTA HERE NOW! IT’S A TXT OUTBREAK! MOVE!”