New Year's day 2035 and we are sat round a table in the briefing room in the Atlanta Research center. Brad Freedom, Liberty Survivor, Hank Action, me (Harmony Swift) and the head of operations for Atlanta. Our first briefing as a operational team; ahead of our first shift working for ICDC. None of us expected to be here for at least another six months and looking around the table I can see the excitement tinged with anxiety about what is ahead of us.
The head of operations gets to her feet at the front of the room, behind her on a large screen is a world map with a worrying number of flashing squares, which from our training we know to be disease outbreaks.
"Good morning team! Happy New Year!" she starts "Let us hope it is a good one for all of us. Now I know you weren't expecting to be working a live shift just yet and I know you have only completed three of your nine months of training. But as you can see" gesturing to the large map behind her "disease outbreaks have picked up considerably over the holiday period; and unfortunately a number of our more experienced agents have... how should I put this... become 'lost'. And to be perfectly honest" she hurried on "the first three months teaches you all the things you need to do for the job and the remaining six were really just learning what to do when. All of which you will pick up as you go!
"Objectives for your first shift." she says with a smile "Simple really. We have four diseases which are currently out of control across the four continents. You need to get out there, get the diseases under control and find cures for all of them. Just like we did in training! Go get 'em team!"
And with that we are on the job. Our team consists of
Brad Freedom - Medic
Liberty Survivor - Scientist
Hank Action - Dispatcher
and me Harmony Swift the... yeah well I didn't quite pick a specialty yet. I was planning on doing that in the last six months of my training, so I guess I'll just call myself a Generalist and make sure I work extra hard to make up for my lack of specialization.
We sit in the briefing room looking up at the map with all its flashing cubes. We've looked at this map many times before, played through scenario after scenario in the training simulator, taking on different roles and winning and losing in multiple ways. But they were just simulations, every time at the end we would press the reset button and everything would be back as it was before and we would all go home. This time it is different. This time our decisions have consequences that we are going to have to live with for the rest of our lives.
Thankfully the Americas are not in any immediate danger, but we do have some major problems in Africa, the middle east and Asia so we decide we better get out there and start treating people and seeing if we can find a cure. Everyone else heads to the airport to catch direct flights out to affected areas while I head to the vehicle pool and check out one of our mobile hospital trucks. Its a hell of a drive down to San Paulo, but at least the truck drives itself and I can get some research done on the journey. From there I take the supersonic hovercraft to my first destination Lagos.
Lagos... Of all the places I had to go for my first mission, it just had to be Lagos didn't it? As I roll off the hovercraft I wonder how much the city has changed since my father first arrived here some twenty years ago. I push thoughts of my father out of my mind and get down to business treating the local population. From the reports we have had things are pretty bad here and it doesn't take me long to realize the reports were right.
It takes a few days work in the mobile hospital to treat everyone and get the disease under control in the city. With that done I catch up with the team at out morning meeting. Hank has set up a temporary base in the airport in Khartoum and is busy co-coordinating everyone else from there. Brad is doing some serious disease cleanup in the middle east around Baghdad and Liberty is also in the middle east scouting out location for a new research center and she thinks she is making some progress on the disease which is prevalent in North America and Western Europe, currently just code named "Blue". I mention I also have made some progress on a cure for Blue on my journey down to San Paulo. Typical humans huh? Spending our time researching the disease affecting our homeland. But it is OK we just about have the Grey disease under control now and we'll get to the Asian Red one pretty soon.
Unfortunately we did have an outbreak in Riyadh which has upset the local population a little, but Brad has got the area under control now. A couple of days in and we are feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, we've got Africa and the Middle East back down to controlled levels, next we will be heading east and getting "Red" under control.
The next day's meeting and the head of operations joins us via video link from Atlanta. "Team, there have been some unfortunate developments overnight. Firstly there has been a second epidemic so please mobilize your personnel to address the resulting disease." a long pause before she plunges on "Secondly the disease previously code named Red which is currently ravaging Asia has mutated. The sub-strain C0da-403a has become dominant and what is more has become resistant to all currently known cures. The field hospitals we have will continue to work but it is going to take twice as long to treat people. But worse still we are unable to find a cure. Everything we try here has no effect. So immediately I am updating your objective to cure those other three diseases and just keep Coda under control as much as you can. Atlanta out."
We all sit there looking at each other in stunned silence across the video link. This never happened in the simulation, you could always find a cure. "Don't worry" says liberty "they are working on it as hard as they can. They'll come up with something, we just need to do our jobs and find the cures for the other three. I have found a location for a new research center in Delhi and local staff are moving in today. Harmony, let's meet in Milan and we can compare notes on where we are with Blue."
Finally things are starting to look up: Brad is working miracles keeping Red under control in Asia, we all but have the cure for Blue; we're getting there with Grey and Yellow... Well OK there's still some work to do on Yellow, but we'll get there.
And then the news comes in on an emergency builtin from Atlanta. There have been two more epidemics. Back. To. Back... I sit there in my hotel room in Milan staring at the screen. I can't help but think back to our instructor at the academy when we did the training on back to back epidemics. It was a fall day at the training facility in Fort Gillem and we were all in a small room with the instructor leading the class. "I don't even know why they insist of putting this section in the training manual" he laughed "the chances of this ever happening in the real world are practically zero. But they say we have to cover it, so here it is". "So here it is" I think to myself. Algiers and Mexico City and thinking back to the training we all know what will happen tonight. Algiers will outbreak. It is a certainty.
I wake up the next morning and fire up the new bulletins looking for the report of the outbreak, but it is not there. I scan again, still no. I get on our morning call. "What happened?" I ask "Or rather what didn't happen?". Brad replies with a confused look on his face "We don't really know... It must have just been one of those 'quiet nights' the veterans used to tell us stories about during our training. A night when you are expecting the world to go to hell, but somehow whatever gods might be are smiling on you."
Well there is no time to question what happened, Liberty has the Blue cure and has uploaded it to our data center. She is going to head to Algiers and start the cleanup there. While Hank and Brad continue to fight the mess that is Asia. I will continue to wipe out Blue across Western Europe before heading back to the states to deliver the cure there.
"Err guys..." says Hank as we are about to close the meeting "one more thing... So I was re-reading my training manual last night and realized I'd forgotten some of it. As well as organizing ground transport for you all I can also call in the ICDC private jet to fly you to each other in an emergency... I guess we might have found that useful before now?" " Don't worry" I say "it might have saved us a bit of time here and there, but now we know we can definitely make use of it going forward. In fact as soon as I am done in North America can you arrange for it to pick me up in San Fran and fly me to Cairo to meet up with Liberty and compare notes on Grey?"
We are feeling close to curing Grey now. Hank passed Liberty some research he had done and hopefully with my notes Liberty will be able to assemble the cure. Then we just need to work out Yellow. And talking of yellow we got some more bad news last night that there was an outbreak in Los Angeles. Brad is going to leave his fight against Coda in Hank's hands and head over there to calm things down.
Next morning and Hank has a plan. He has arranged transport for Brad from LA to New York via Washington which will take Brad through the last Blue infected cities and eradicate Blue! Though Brad has come up with a new name for Blue. He calls is Argh. He says that's the noise people make when you administer the cure to them and it seems to have stuck with all if us. So today Brad made it to New York and wiped out the last of Argh from the world. Success!
We are joined again at our morning meeting by the head of operations. "Team you are out of time this shift. Time to stand down and go get yourselves some R&R before your next deployment. You failed in your objective to find cures to the remaining three diseases out there, but you should be pleased with yourselves for what you have achieved. The work you did in curing Blue, sorry Argh has moved us forwards greatly in our understanding of that disease and we feel we will have a head start on what ever variant of it next emerges. And I am happy to say I have just got off the phone with the Prime Minister of India who has agreed to a permanent research center in Delhi for the foreseeable future. So good work on your first shift, go see your friends and family and I'll see you again in a week."