First Day In the Field

“Are you ready?” echoed the voice. From what Cardel could tell, the voice was coming through the speakers in the top corners of the room. It was a plain, female sounding voice. Almost like whoever was on the other side was bored. Kind of like they’d done this hundreds of times already.

But this was Cardel’s first time. The room was AC controlled and he hadn’t even stepped outside yet and he was sweating bullets already. The suit was thick and heavy. From the manual he’d read it was a re-appropriated bomb disposal suit.

“Are you ready?” The voice repeated. Cardel had nearly forgotten about the question entirely.

He cleared his throat and nodded. His throat was raw and dry. When he tried to talk there was just the echo of breathing.

“You’ll be fine. This has been done hundreds of time before you. The process has been perfected.” The seemingly omniscient voice above told him. “Now grab the helmet beside you.

Cardel suddenly remembered he was sitting. He smiled at his stupidity and grabbed the helmet off the table next to him. It was easily three times the size of his head. There as a glass visor in the center that gave him a wide field of view. He lifted it up and over his head and slid it into the notches that surrounded his neck. It gave a satisfying hiss as it clicked into place.

“Great. Now check your pistol.” She said plainly.

Cardel looked down at this right leg. Strapped to the side of the thick cloth was a small revolver. He pulled it out, counted each individual bullet, and set it back in the holster.

“Excellent. You’re doing great. Just remember that the pistol is only to be used in cases of emergency. We’re not sending you out there to kill them.” Said the voice in a dry, not really comforting manner. “Take the case to your left and open it.”

Cardel did as he was told. Within the case were several syringes. Seemed to be ten or so, by his quick count. Part of him couldn’t believe there was all this set up for only ten syringes.

“Alright, close it, and we’ll be good to go.”

Cardel followed his directions and stood up. Sirens began going off. Yellow emergency lights began rotating. The lights dimmed in the room and the bay door just feet ahead of Cardel began to rise.

The sun started to creep in, piercing the dimmed lighting. Cardel took in a deep breath. His exhale blew sweat from his upper lip onto the glass screen just inches away from his noise. He grimaced because he knew that he wouldn’t be able to wipe it away. He’d just have to hope it dried and evaporated soon.

The door had practically opened all the way now. “Good luck out there.” The woman told him.

Cardel shrugged, whoever she was up there couldn’t have been more of a buzzkill about things. He gripped the case in his hand and took a step outside.

The sun immediately forced him to squint. He put a hand up to shield his eyes while they adjusted. After a few moments of hard blinking Cardel was able to see a bit clearer.

The city ahead of him would be considered a village by most people. In fact the building he just stepped out of was the most modern thing these people had seen for miles.

But then again, these weren’t exactly people anymore, were they? Cardel wondered absently to himself.

But that was going to change, he told himself. That’s what his job was. He readjusted the grip on the case in his left hand and continued moving towards the village outskirts.

He could already hear the soft growls of the village’s inhabitants. It had been a long time since he heard them this calm. Or heard them at all for that matter, he’d been inside the CDC outpost longer than he’d remembered.

The heat was beating down on him like he wasn’t wearing anything at all. Or maybe it was worse. Cardel didn’t really know. He wished he had had more water before heading out.

But here he was now, moving just beyond the edge of the village limits. The growling was growing a bit more energetic. They clearly sensed his presence. Probably smelled his sweat, or heard the lumbering footsteps he was taking.

The first one approached him carefully. It was a young woman. She was dressed in American looking clothing. She was probably one of the later victims, after aid had arrived. She limped over to him like her leg was broken. That was good, it would give Cardel time to set up.

He kneeled down and set the case down in front of him. He took a moment to scan the area around him. He couldn’t take too long because the louder she got, the more of them would follow her calls.

Cardel flipped the case open and pulled out one of the syringes. He popped the cap and set it back in the case. He checked the levels of the serum for no reason other than that’s what he’s seen in television. That’s what he was supposed to do, right?

The woman was roughly a yard away from him at this point. She was attempting to claw at him already. Cardel almost felt bad for her. At least she would be taken care of in a few minutes.

Cardel positioned the syringe properly in his hand. Then with a swiftness that was perhaps a touch too harsh, he jammed the syringe into her shoulder. The woman pawed uselessly at his arm. He was now very thankful for the heavy outer suit he was wearing.

He pressed the serum through the needle with his thumb and waited. According to the literature he’d been given, it was only supposed to take a few seconds before the victim fell unconscious.

One… Two… Three… Cardel couldn’t help but count each second as it passed. The woman continued to paw at him. Sweat was running down her dark skin as she continued to overexert herself.

Finally, after he reached fifteen seconds she began to fall into a deep sleep. Cardel lowered her to the ground and placed the syringe back in its slot.

He looked out at the rest of the village beyond the body of the unconscious woman in front of him.

It was going to be a long first day, Cardel thought.

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