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Christoph Brinkmann
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Who I am isn’t important. If you must give me a name, call me Sanger, after the protagonist in “The Most Dangerous Game.” I may not hunt animals but my colleagues and I have been hunting, after a certain fashion, for the cures for 4 of the most insidious superbugs we had ever seen.

January 1st began like any other - people trying to imagine the beginnings of a new year while casting aside the hangovers of the previous night. Things were relatively calm, but we received a priority message advising of some outbreaks in major cities. Nothing too unusual. We suspected that we’d spend some of the taxpayer’s money, do some research, fly out to the major hotspots and call it a day.

That was our first mistake.

Within a few weeks, one of them, codenamed “COdA”, a virus that had swept through Africa, South America and even some of the southern United States mutated beyond the point where even our strongest antivirals could help to stop it. We were advised that our research team would continue to look for ways to kill it but in the meantime we had to contain what we could and work on eliminating the other superbugs. Johannsburg got hit hard in particular and any hopes of establishing a foothold there to help contain the epidemic had vanished. Still, we remained hopeful that we’d seen the worst and things would calm down.

That was our second mistake.

February arrived and normally this is a time of couples wining and dining each other or buying buttplugs (seriously, ask any company that makes them - Valentine’s Day is HUGE for those things.) This time, however, the COdA virus decided to gift itself with the ability to resist every major treatment we had at our disposal and Congress decided to give the gift of cutting our funding, citing our “major successes.” We did manage to gain a new face, a quarantine specialist who helped standardize the quarantining process across the globe. Some countries would be hesitant to accept our help at first, but soon it became obvious to even the most obstinate world leader that it mattered less which country we were from than the fact that we were equipped to handle these superbugs. In the end February also proved to be a successful month.

March was a disaster. There’s no other way to put it. While we gained more help, and now were authorized to build military stations to help coordinate with the military forces both domestic and abroad, the COdA virus continued to spiral out of control and Congress, in their infinite wisdom chose to once again deeply cut our funding, feeling that we had a good enough grasp of the situation to justify their actions. America had been affected the least, so it seems the order of the day was, “Not my backyard, not my problem.” If any good came out of March, it was that they learned - painfully - just how bad things truly were getting. More cities across the globe began rioting and our pilot, while still doing a great job, saw some of it up close and personal. I don’t think he was quite the same after that. Such is the way of things - the price in lives and mental scarring must be paid before more funding would be approved.

But the worst hadn't arrived. Not by a long shot.

April began much like March had. We continued searching for a cure to no avail when an emergency alert pushed through. COdA had mutated again, and now the infected presented symptoms unlike anything we'd ever seen. The virus caused an acute, violent rage in its hosts while also turning their skin clear. In time these victims would colloquially be known as “The Faded.” Sprouting in Africa and South America, they started spreading, albeit in smaller numbers to the other continents. Our quarantine specialist proved surprisingly effective where she was deployed. A little secretive, but no denying that she got results.

By May, while things were worse, we now began to acquire the means of combating the spread of this horrifying disease. If one can call what we did “combating” it, anyway. Colonel D. Jon Mustard joined us as the liaison between the CDC and the US military. The UN appointed him with a specialized task force with the authority to attack swarms of the Faded. All of us including the colonel were given the power and resources to create roadblocks and other active quarantine measures that proved more effective than our standard quarantine process. There was much controversy over such draconian measures, including amongst our colleagues, but ultimately the alternative seemed to let the Faded run amok while we searched desperately for a cure that might never come. I shared, and continue to share the view that we acted rashly, that perhaps there was another way, but in the end I was overridden. Towards the end of May, however, things began looking up. Colonel Mustard and his task force was mobilized to hotspots where the Faded were getting out of control. I don’t envy those soldiers one bit - having to shoot civilians simply because they were infected by a disease we couldn’t cure, treat or even slow down. The colonel confirmed my dreaded suspicions that this was not lost on the men. Many of them came back looking like someone ran over their puppy. Others seemed to have hardened themselves, or as the colonel put it, “The part of them that made them human had just died.” But despite this, there was a major breakthrough that led to the disease codenamed “Black” that would make it far easier to treat and cure. We walked into June with our heads held a little bit higher; we were of course nowhere near done but after groping around in so much darkness for the last few months, we’d finally found a small bit of light.

June was a bit of a mixed bag. The CDC authorized additional equipment for us to use, and some of it was deployed within weeks. The Faded proved almost uncontrollable in South America, to the point where the whole continent at one point was given a travel advisory, and the colonel didn’t make it through the month unscathed. As if that wasn’t enough, a cargo container holding some Faded was sent to Manila, so at that point the Philippines had now also been infected. Overall, however, we did manage to succeed in dealing with the other superbugs and secured a military base in Cairo. It took a lot of funding to achieve this victory, however, and I suspected that this would make a difference in July.

This is perhaps one of the hardest entries I’ve ever had to put in. It seemed like, from our smashing successes in late July and August that we’d turned a corner on this thing. We had learned much about the other superbugs affecting the planet and curing outbreaks was proving to be little more than an inconvenience. We had a powerful, interconnected network of military bases across the globe in major hotspots that allowed us to deploy practically anywhere in record time. During that time we found a virologist who had made some serious headway into identifying the COdA mutagen and preliminary treatment showed a lot of promise. Weeks later we found an immunologist who had the resources to create a vaccine; we’d simply need more information on the virus, which was forthcoming everyday, and some DNA samples from the infected. We were in the middle of the planning phase for the latter when a high priority alert went out. We were tasked with finding someone who the CDC claimed was “a paranoid soldier spreading panic.” Forced to head back into Faded territory again we suited up and created search parties to find this individual, arrest him if need be. Red herrings and false sightings were the norm, but eventually we got lucky; an anonymous tip came in about a soldier matching the description we were given in Bogota, Colombia. We were forced to make our way through the slums, which were already dangerous before, now we had to contend with rioters, Faded and agitated cartel members. I had received firearms training before, had prayed I would never have to unholster my weapon outside the gun range. A man named Tomas stopped me and the party I had organized. His gang approached us and were clearly spoiling for a fight, but more importantly, they wanted someone to blame for all the carnage. Through our interpreter, he mentioned that his own son, only 7-years-old, was brutally killed by his own mother after she’d turned Faded. In her grief over what she’d done she took her own life. I replied that the infection hurt all of us and that we were close, oh so close to finding a cure. He screamed that he didn’t believe us and I thought for a moment that that was it; that this would turn violent but he stayed his hand. One of his crew, who’d stayed somewhat out of sight up to this point came forward, clearly infected. I offered one of the vaccine dosages we had in exchange for safe passage. He took it on the spot. In moments he was visibly looking better. We found the soldier not long after this, with Tomas’ help. At first he was almost as uncooperative as our aforementioned host, believing us to be assassins sent to silence him. After convincing him we were no threat he revealed the horrific truth about COdA: It was never a naturally evolving supervirus. It was engineered, and the people responsible for engineering it had successfully infiltrated the CDC. Even worse, our quarantine specialist was one of them. Suddenly so much began making sense - her inexplicable effectiveness, our many, many setbacks on getting this thing under control, thus making the use of draconian methods to contain it necessary, it was all part of a larger scheme. Even worse, the military base network we spent so much time, effort and resources building and priding ourselves on was now expanding as a result of this splinter group. It called itself Zodiac and intercepted e-mails indicated they were plotting even worse. During the last week of September we gathered a small circle of the people we knew, beyond a doubt were trustworthy and could not be blackmailed into turning on us, and began planning our next move.

October and November were both a blur. I'm surprised to have this little bit of downtime as we head into December. I hear Chicago got some snowfall. Seems forever ago the last time I saw the snow.

Anyway, Corporal Zach Roote had been put under suspicion as part of the Zodiac group, but he pleaded with us to let him prove his loyalty. He did more than that - he wound up using his military credentials to help get some C4 planted in key locations in the military bases we'd erected across the globe. October also proved key for finding a vaccine, for we found "Patient Zero", the one who began spreading COdA. How he survived as long as he did I will never be able to guess. He nearly shot himself when we found him, as he was lucid enough to realize what was going on around him. Once again Corporal Roote, proving his reliability and resourcefulness was able to talk him down and we got the DNA samples our teams would need to create a vaccine. During the latter part of October and beginning of November the vaccines began churning out at classified locations. I was fortunate enough to be amongst those who would hand out the vaccine and cure the ones who were in dire need. We began our efforts in Africa, eager to dispel the notion that we were leaving the people there to their fate. The Zodiac group had now fully infiltrated the CDC and sent us a threatening e-mail stating they would eliminate us, and we had some close calls, but it was soon rather apparent that this was bluster. By the first week in November the last of the military bases we'd set up were destroyed and by the third week, we managed to create enough of a vaccine to send it worldwide. With the help of local governments, COdA was eradicated in Africa, then Europe, then North America, then South America and finally Asia.

So why do we not yet celebrate, you ask? Zodiac is still not eliminated, and just this morning, 6 AM local time, we received one more chilling message - that they have a new version of COdA that they'd been creating this whole time, and soon it would be unleashed, undoing everything we'd previously done. Fortunately Bobby (our dispatcher, remember him?) was able to backtrace the IP address to Atlanta, and there was heavy movement into the city from a group of unmarked trucks and planes, all matching profiles of Dark Rainbow, a black ops mercenary group sometimes seen at the military bases that were nothing more than craters now. No way in hell that's a coincidence. So we begin the race to track down and contain or destroy what we're calling COdA 2.0. The entire world is watching, and also the stakes. No pressure. Just another day at the freaking CDC.

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