January 8th, 2248: 1825 Days after Incident Zero.
Nobody knows where the plague first started.
Some say it was infected monkeys, some say it was a freak accident at one of the R&D labs, the tinfoil hat-wearing types say it was a bio-weapon from The Government, but sit beside a smart-looking chap in Fighting McDougall’s, and he’ll give you little more than a half-hearted shrug before going back to nursing his beer.
What we do know, is that it changed everything. The things that people took for granted in life became scarce, people became more paranoid, it was the end of the world as we knew it and we didn’t feel fine.
Mick adjusted himself as he walked back to his post in The Old Quarter. First piss-break in what seemed like forever and he knew the next would be long after changeover. He was a burly sort with a thick Irish accent. Before his newfound life as a member of the 104th division of The Liquidators, he worked in a shipping company. He slung his beaten-up old rifle back onto his shoulder, sat down and rolled a smoke by candlelight.
“Alright, Mick?” asked Carlos, a talkative spanish man who lost his accent long ago. Mick nodded in silence, then lit his smoke.
“Gettin’ too old for this shite.” Mick replied, taking a drag. “When did the others say they’d be here?”
“Another hour. Then you can get back to your shithole of a pub.”
The Old Quarter was ostensibly a place of refuge. Infected hardly -if ever- got in, and they didn’t last long if they did. ‘Nothing personal’, Mick would tell himself if he ever had to deal with them. “This is going to hurt me more than it does you”, “It’s not your fault”. All reassurance for himself that he was just doing his job, his bit for those who survived.
“They say Old Hadley got blood on him. Screamed at his family to kill him.” Carlos said.
“Hadley? Shit.” replied Mick. “Who snuffed ‘im?”
“Overwatch caught up just in time to see Moira crack his skull with a brick.”
“Send my regards, will you? They were a good family. Put me up many a time when Laura and Thomas didn’t make it”
It almost seemed like a horrible dream to Mick, losing his wife and son. He tried his best to stay well away from his old home, drinking at McDougall’s to forget, to forgive himself.
A torch light shined into Mick’s face, he grumbled and aimed his rifle.
“Who’s there?” he yelled.
“Put the rifle down, you oversized Leprechaun.” replied a voice. “It’s the search party from Overwatch.”
Mick put out his cigarette and stood up with a sigh. The owner of the voice was Butch, Mick’s drinking buddy and fellow Liquidator, though, higher in rank and having the dubious honour of serving The Overwatch, basically the shredded remains of authority in The Old Quarter. Butch was a foot shorter and slightly more built than Mick, and sported a five-o-clock shadow. Mick walked over to greet him.
“What have they got you searching for this time?” Asked Mick.
“Supplies, mostly. Overwatch got news that a trade caravan didn’t make it through the Wastes. We found fuckall. Chances are, raider’s nicked ’em.”
“Bastards. Why doesn’t The Overwatch just send out escorts?”
“We’re needed here. You want to play babysitter? Go right ahead.”
‘Ha, if only.’ Mick thought. He had been wanting to get out of The Old Quarter for months now, somewhat doubtful that he’d be missed if he just packed up and left. But where would he go? What would he do? The Wastes were dangerous and raiders were becoming more organised. Going out alone was suicide, even with Kevlar and a rifle. He could take Carlos, perhaps. But he was too green, only having earned his stripes a week ago. Besides, he was getting too old and couldn’t bear to take supplies from The Old Quarter without earning them. Excuses ontop of excuses. The Old Quarter was safe and nothing ever happened. Mick preferred it that way.
Butch and Carlos exchanged pleasantries and they were back to their post almost as if nothing happened. The next hour was mind-numbing. “Nobody ever comes down here”, Mick thought to himself. “Nobody except for Overwatch goons and the occasional refugee from the Metro”.
Finally, Riley and Sean, their replacements, turned up to take the morning shift. Mick kicked Carlos awake, then they both stood up and gave a quick salute.
“G’mornin, you lot. Have fun watching this shitheap.” Mick said.
“Good morning to you too, Mick.” replied Riley. “Anything to report?”
“Nothing down this way aside from Butch’s team coming back.” Carlos replied.
“Alright. Enjoy your meals, fellas. Hopefully McDougall’s isn’t serving the same slop as last week.”
As Riley and Sean shared jokes, drank, and shared what was left of their tobacco, Mick ambled his way back down the cold, echoey tunnel towards The Old Quarter. To raise a glass to those they lost, to drink, to forget that this was his life now.