They have different names for us: the infected, the diseased, the contaminated, the rebels, and that god-awful Z-word. The “politically correct” term for our group is the United Factions of Infected Persons. The unpolluted, in their endless arrogance, see themselves as man always has: Earth’s perfect species. We, the infected, are associated with the virus that plagues us and treated as a substandard race.
It’s been twenty years since the discovery of what pop culture has labeled “patient zero”. Containment was quick and forceful, but the originals, what we call the early infected, were just outside of Chicago. The city was on a widespread lockdown, reinforced by the National Guard, within twelve hours of discovery. Flights nationwide were grounded for two days and, excluding a three-day lift on the ban, commercial flight would remain grounded thereafter. Contamination spread throughout the nation within eighteen days.
Symptoms included scarring, partial blindness, wild aggression, hair loss, skin discoloration, and most importantly, a largely weakened immune system. What no one anticipated, however, were the advantages. Building muscle became not only easier, but essentially hereditary. We became faster, stronger, and able to heal from non-infectious wounds at an alarmingly quick rate. In addition, our other senses heightened incredibly despite our prevalent blindness. Transformation into what we would end up becoming took a week or so but without additional infections, never killed us.
The government has since taken a position of letting us survive on our own without regulated quarantine. It took ten years to establish an official meeting with Congress, but when it happened, rules were established among both governing agencies that have since been followed with only minor incidents occurring on either side. It was then that The Code was established:
1. Do not hurt the uninfected.
This came during a time when curiosity got the better of many people, leading them into faction camps. Some were there to visit; most had violent intent, ultimately leading to numerous deaths.
2. Full-face infection masks must be worn in “clean zones”.
It may seem harsh, but this rule has proven beneficial for both parties, as they keep outside infections from harming us, while providing an extra layer of security for the general population.
3. Residence must not be taken within clean zones.
4. All weapons must be assigned to Faction officers.
Congress matched both of these regulations and guns and knives were stripped from all clean zone occupants. However, there are still violators on both sides. Many infected live underground in the sewers of major cities, which are established clean zones. We call these people Squatters. There are also the Scavengers, which live along the outer walls of clean zones; the Rebels, which aren’t part of the United Factions; the Displaced, those wanderers without a faction; and us, the Outsiders. We have established our own camps across the country, which range in population from a dozen to many thousand.
The Outsiders are the most organized, and the only ones with any form of government. We work closely with Squatters and Scavengers to provide security and make sure that the Code is followed, as well as provide assistance where we can. The Rebels mostly keep to themselves, occasionally brewing sporadic conflict among different clean zones. They are largely anarchists, but have smaller factions that sometimes grow to the hundreds. Rebels kill and are killed regularly. The Displaced are rare, but they exist. All Displaced are by choice, as all factions are, technically, open to join.
The sterile, as they refer to themselves, also have rules. They are not to visit faction camps, for one. While we are a governed body and although a normal person may be safe visiting an Outsider camp, it remains incredibly dangerous for a lone uninfected to travel alone outside of a clean zone. The sterile are not authorized to kill an infected following the Code. Lastly, communication is forbidden between both races, with the exception of administrative business.
Militias of uninfected do exist outside of clean zones and, like the Rebels, cause the most problems for the contrasting breed. The sterile do feel protective of the militias, even with their different views, in a similar parental regard that we feel over the Rebels. A war remains outside the clean zones, in our territory, with militias and rogue states that do not accept the laws passed down from federal government.
A declaration of war has been threatened too many times, and other factions have been facing infractions from the clean zones for months. St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus have all begun unauthorized efforts to clear the underground of Squatters and death tolls have been rising. An emergency meeting at a federal level in Washington, D.C. has been called to calm the storm, but I am wary. As an official in the United Factions, I know that we have worked hard to prevent loss of all human life without meetings.
Now we are meeting, at my request, to discuss options, but something feels wrong. It’s as though minds have already been made and fates decided. I must try to maintain peace, for it seems that I am only one of few who think it is possible. Their kind, like all of mankind before it, remains endlessly arrogant, maintaining the notion that they are the superior race, incapable of extermination. The truth is, however, that the only way that all of the factions can possibly unite is to go to war.