Leanne approached the corpse on the table with some trepidation.
She couldn’t get used to it. Somewhere after seventy-five she had lost count.
The last one hadn’t been completely neutralized, either. She paused, one gloved hand about to unzip the body bag, and steeled herself. The other hand reached for the large red panic button.
“You won’t get the jump on me, this time,” she warned the thing. Her voice echoed against the firm plastic concave mask covering her face. “Begin recording, Nigel.”
She knew that her assistant was already scribing her every move. Suppressing an internal sigh, mourning the loss of computer technology, she revealed the remains of the zombie to the stark fluorescent light of the autopsy room.
“August 4, 2119. Subject is a male, approximately six foot four. Immediate cause of death appears to be extreme brain trauma.” Leanne probed the exposed tissue delicately, removing a sample and inserting the piece of grey, claggy flesh in a specimen tube. “The bio-suit tag indicates that this was Sergeant Ron Turner. Serial number T96987822. Nigel, where was Sergeant Turner deployed?”
“The Algonquin Ridge.” Nigel’s voice was muffled, like her own must be. Sealed against the bacteria or virus or whatever malevolent infectious thing was turning the men against each other.
“Damn,” she whispered. “That’s the last line of defence.”
“So it won’t be the machines that kill us, after all.” Leanne muttered. “That was off record, Nigel.”
“Of course, ma’am.”
Leanne continued her examination, resuming her clinical notes, but part of her mind returned to the past. To memories of sunrises and camping trips, programmable playthings, her parents’ automated house. The privileged life of her childhood, before the artificial intelligence built by humans turned on them…
Ever since the initial uprising, humanity had been pushed to the brink of existence. The pockets of resistance who had survived the first devastation of nuclear warfare had managed to gather what technology remained and apply it to the war. Their greatest achievement was the development of the bio-suit.
Engineered by the best scientists, each suit was grown organically using the soldier’s own DNA in combination with biological elements from sea stars, crocodiles, and elephants. It became, literally, a second skin — one that was incredibly tough, gave the individual fifty times their normal strength and endurance, protected him or her from the elements, and could withstand even the armour-piercing bullets used by the machines.
Where, in the first battles, a soldier’s high-tech exoskeleton was vulnerable to computer virus, the bio-suit gave humanity’s armies their first real advantage against the machines.
Until the mutations began to show themselves…or whatever it was.
Leanne was part of a team determined to find the source of infection. The families of the resistance soldiers were being kept in the dark, she knew, because as soon as a mother or a father or a sibling found out that the bio-suits were slowly turning good people into flesh-eating, single-minded monsters, they’d insist that the military leaders stop using them.
Privately, Leanne agreed. What was the point of the protection, if it created zombies?
Professionally, she searched for an answer.
And somewhere, out there, the battle for domination between human and machine continued…
Lost in her thoughts, Leanne didn’t realize at first that the corpse’s eyes had opened.
Alive or dead? What will happen to Leanne and Nigel? Keep your eyes peeled for A Quick Bite of Flesh — the zombie anthology clawing its way from the earth at Hazardous Press!