Investigator-General Narses didn’t care about D.C.’s public transportation strike -- or the conspiracy theories that swirled around it. The city had turned unbearably hot and muggy, while public paranoia cooked up reasons to explain the Skyway’s closure. It was when the mosquitoes arrived with the summer heat that Narses was reminded about his own reasons to distrust the government.
He’d had just returned from the MZ, spending days on the US-MX border. Usually his visits meant he enjoyed the rewards of his new position. Paperwork. Stuck behind a desk with the operational logistics of Stormchaser countermeasures seemed a piss-poor reward for a veteran military “first responder.” He missed the field. Worse, and something he’d never admit to his young wife -- he missed the Front.
So, he jumped at the chance to join the Hot Shots. He knew a few of them from his days as a Stormchaser. They’d been young pups then. Rookies. Now, these young pups were the best of the best. When they asked “the old man” to join them, he’d jumped at the chance to don the bright thermal fluorescent overalls and a kevlar-armored jacket. To the urban disturbances of the Front he went. Happy to act young again.
Zone 545352. On the grid-works, lines and numbers denoted urban concentration. To the Hot Shots, the location was a suburban neighborhood, where family homes burned bright in the desert morning, torches without a wind to bend their fiery columns.
Drywall and fake lawns were incinerated by noon.
By late-day, the toxic fumes of furniture and plastic linoleum turned suburbia’s air into the atmosphere of an alien world.
The only sign of life was a swarm of mosquitoes.
The Hot Shots moved from street to street, and used demolition charges to destroy buildings. The fireline seemed to hold. After the 20th hour, Narses felt the strain in his fifty-something-year-old body. Begrudgingly, “the old man” volunteered as the lookout.
The last thing he heard from the Hot Shots was news about the deployment of fire shelters. Narses knew this was a last resort, and watched in horror as fires swept through their position. He was the first to enter the charred scene, the horrific aftermath, the first to accompany all 19 bodies out of the Front.
Personal reasons motivated his role as an Investigator-General. He went back to Zone 545352. Magnificent desolation to some -- to most -- a crime scene. Robotic Houndz accompanied him, and it was with their infra-red eyes that he found the thermal signal. It was faint, but it was real.
Mosquitoes. But not the biological kind. Drones.
He guessed the drones were military manufacture, supplied to Diversionary companies on the Front. The software of the Mosquitoes had been re-programmed to start fires. Hacked-bugs.
The Hot Shots never had a chance.
The Houndz used “extant field-pings” to identify “cybershifts” in the blogosphere, signs of insurgent signals. Nothing. He went deep and high into the comm-spheres of the transcorporate-owned “warring intranets.” Amidst cyber-silhouettes, he found the genesis virus of the zombie. It appeared to terminate inside the Commonwealth of the Californias. But Narses’ higher rank as an Investigator-General allowed him to discover its true terminus.
Working in the field -- the Front -- now had a new meaning.
He had a lot of work to do in Washington D.C.
Conspiracy theories didn’t sound strange anymore. Some said the Skyway’s managers had refused their employees demands because of an imminent terrorist attack.
He just feared acts of terrorism that were done in the name of the state.