SPOILER WARNING: The following text contains spoilers for Pandemic Legacy Season 2. You have been warned.
We began the month by running through the motions: delivering supplies to our grid, but it all felt hazy and lacking a true purpose. The truth is that after last month's revelation it was painfully clear that the consensus among the people who had tried to make this work for seventy years was that there was no hope at all. We saw our boats being loaded and leaving as usual, but it no longer felt like we were supplying a lifeline to anyone. It was similar to a sinking ship with no working engine rescuing a man in the middle of the ocean.
Viktor was probably the one that showed it least. The big man did look more pensive than usual, but he announced he was going to Lagos with his crew to set up a more permanent supply center there. Before leaving he reminded us that if the JADE lab is in South Africa, we'd need a good base of operations to head inland. He rarely says much and we'd never heard him take over this way, but he asked if we could split our efforts. He asked us to resume the search efforts in Buenos Aires, go to London and look for ways to head into mainland Europe, and keep the grid well-supplied. Without a better plan, we all set out to do as he asked.
Searching the ruins of Buenos Aires wasn't easy, but we made some significant progress. On the fifth day we were able to access what the locals had identified as the lab, but all we found was a burned down husk. What the fire hadn't destroyed looked like it had been raided years ago, and there weren't any signs of use. We were about to leave when Dante froze in place, his eyes fixed on a spot close to the ceiling. What he was seeing was a small security camera, but its light was most definitely turned on. This prompted a new search of the place, and in the lower level we found a shut elevator door that wouldn't open. It didn't look any different than the others in the building, save for the fact that another tiny camera was blinking in the corner on that area, pointed straight at that door.
There was electricity in the air generated by sheer excitement. We scrambled all over the place, trying to figure out a way to open the door as if the meaning of life itself was behind it. It must have been reinforced, because it proved impossible to force, but then Ibrahim had an idea to do something simple: He found a large piece of cardboard and in big, bold letters wrote "We're from the Havens. If this is OPAL, we need to talk". Then he held it up in front of the camera and waited. It can't have been more than a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Then, the door groaned in protest and slid open and revealed a small elevator car with no working overhead light.
Hearts pounding in our chests, we were about to cram in there, when Ibrahim pointed out that we should keep the number of people small. Not only for the sake of safety, but also because whoever was down there might not react well to a large party. It was quickly decided that Ibrahim and I would be the ones to go down there.
After a tense but brief ride down in absolute darkness, the doors slid open to reveal a fully equipped lab with computers and other devices running. We had never seen so much functioning technology and in such pristine conditions, and it felt like we were seeing something from the future instead of gadgets that were probably over half a century old. In the middle of this large space a man was standing with a handgun pointed straight at us.
It took a bit of work, but we found out that his name was Darío. He had quite literally lived his entire life down here, and he was the grandson of one of the original scientists assigned to OPAL. Unfortunately, he was also the last one. Darío told us how they had stopped using their satellite transmissions to ask for help years ago, since they seemed to attract the Hollow Men. He also said that two years ago the other three remaining people in OPAL decided that they needed to take a chance and head topside for a long journey, as OPAL had made a significant breakthrough. The scientists left with the intention of reaching Lake Baikal in Russia, where the main lab was located. Just like that, we suddenly knew the location of PEARL, but we also confirmed that no one had actually heard from them in decades.
Darío agreed to help us by giving us a copy of their breakthrough. It wasn't a cure exactly, but it was an antigen that would make people need less of our supplies to form an effective defense against the plague. This was a godsend, as it meant that if we could produce it quickly enough - and Darío's information was so detailed we didn't anticipate any problems doing so - our limited medical supplies would go much further than we anticipated. As much as we insisted, Darío chose to stay down there. He had never seen the outside world with his own eyes, but he was reluctant to leave the relative safety of the only place he knew. Ibrahim decided to stay down there for now, learning about how the labs operated as well as anything he could about the research that OPAL had done. He didn't say it, but I'm certain he also stayed because he felt that two years of no human contact was too much for the human mind to bear. We promised to return soon with some fresh supplies for them and perhaps a handful of people who could assist him in the lab.
As icing on the cake, we received a radio report from Lima, saying that they had managed to open a route to Bogotá, where a few more survivors were eager to be included as part of our network and assist in any way they could. Needless to say, we considered the expedition to South America a total success and we sailed back to our havens in much higher spirits than we had left.
As it turned out, the team that had been sent to London had some good news as well. They were able to move inland, and they eventually made their way to Paris, where a significant amount of people were still hanging on. The French didn't have an open network of roads, but they still maintained some simple radio contact with other cities, which made it clear that at least Frankfurt, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg still had survivors in them. Generally speaking, they found Europe to be struggling just as much as the rest of the world - hanging on by the barest of threads. Naturally they were suspicious of us, as they thought we wanted what little they had. However, they were so low on rations that when they realized we were actually bringing supplies to them all of the usual mistrust against us vanished without a trace. It had been a while since we had seen so many smiling faces. When the night came, songs were sung around the base of the Eiffel Tower and we felt that even if it was only to give this night to these people, perhaps our efforts had been worth it.
The very next day, our hosts took us to a nearby military base where we were given a gift of our own: functioning aircraft. Some old codgers had decided to keep taking care of these relics, even after many unsuccessful attempts to find a better place to go to. Our supply centers could be adjusted to include a landing strip, and the havens already have old runways that we could put back into use. This would be tremendous in our efforts to get around our ever-growing grid.