Accounts from the Gulf Exclusion Zone

Subject: Lt. Adrian Navarro (Callsign: Bravo One)

Interrogator: Pierre Dubois

So, Pierre, you wanted to know about the Gulf Event from a grunt on the ground, hmm? I'm sure your bosses are feverously watching the newsfeeds, downplaying the scene, lying that it's all under control. They're looking over every fucking sensor feed around the perimeter, trying to search for some sign that this is over, praying that their enemies don't make another beeline for freedom beyond your fences.

Evolution and life aren't things you can always contain. History and biology are full of fucking examples. But, I'll spare the rant. Your bosses want to know what we saw in there, how this whole thing started. They fear they'll end up worse than me. That's why they send someone expendable. Oh, come on, Pierre, you don't think so? You're too low in the fucking food chain to matter, and they know I can tell a veteran from a mile away.

Yes, I can sense your fear. I see blood-flow to your eyes increase by twenty-three percent. I sense mild perspiration changing the electrical resistance of your skin by half an ohm. I see the way you avoid eye contact with what's left of my face. I've been seeing these things since the Event, and using more words far above my fucking pay-grade. This should not be what worries you. I'm not here to kill you, I'm here to warn you. I'm here to warn you, and the chickenshit bastards listening in on us, that they're just fooling themselves.

But I know they're still clinging on too tightly to the image that it's under control. Self-deception is more fucking addictive than Smack, as it's been since the caveman days. If they didn't still have that image, they'd be raining antimatter down on that god-forsaken corner of the Everglades. Why antimatter? Because I'm sure you recall what happened when the fuckers dropped those nukes on the Malay Peninsular Exclusion Zone.

All it did was spread them. The Nanofractals had anticipated it, and like seeds blowing in the wind, spread their metallic tendrils outside the perimeter. They had to double the size of the Zone after that. So, since nukes don't have enough "kaboom," they'd definitely stick with antimatter for a second round of containment. You need to destroy every fucking nanomachine of theirs, or else they'll regenerate.

Not that they'd do it unless they'd be absolutely sure they'd have to. Oh, come now, Pierre, are you naïve enough to think they wouldn't leave a little area of Nanofractals intact because they provide us with useful technologies to plunder? I'm sure you know those new exomesh suits, the ones covered in nanobots they sent us in with.

You know how in the ad, they deploy a squad of cloaked, nigh-indestructible soldiers right into the middle of an intense firefight? The reality doesn't quite work like that. The batteries barely allow few minutes of real cloak time with the active camo, and with the maximum "armor" setting, you're immobile as a statue. Even then, a big round will still punch through it like tissue paper. Talk about false fucking advertising, right? Then again, your bosses probably didn't even know it would perform the way it did. They just stole the technology from the Zone and slapped some patents over it.

It's just my luck my squad gets to the poor saps to try them out first against their original designers. We go in under orders to help beat back a massing of 'em near the perimeter. The Frakker force was comprised largely of attack drones and a few squads of those human-sized war-bots, or so we were told. The CO said that we had to stop the Nanofractals, or else the West Miami refugee camps would be overrun and infested.

Well, guess what? They fucking lied. The Frakkers weren't massing ground forces. They were massing in clumps, forming those disgusting, pulsating spires you see whenever they infect somewhere new. Only this time, they came up with something new. They weren't planning on trying to break out by aping human fighting tactics or spreading aerial spores.

Now, Pierre, I'm sure you seen the propaganda films and stock footage of their earlier, clumsier attempts to break out. The Frakkers assembled humanoid war machines resembling infantrymen, lookin like gray and black statues made of blocks. They had rifles, energy weapons, gunship support, armor drones, and artillery support from anything that would be identifiable to someone with half a brain. Form begets function, especially with Frakkertech.

They evolved into that state after the Quarantine Incidents set up the current Zone boundaries. Since we'd routinely go in and clean them out with ground forces after softening them up from the air, they mimicked what they saw, and even developed a few tricks we didn't have. Do you think we'd have active camo, battlefield nanotech, ultra-efficient solar cells, intelligence augmentation chips, and these wonderful suits if we didn't recover spoils from our little skirmishes with them, Pierre?

To them, however, it wasn't just a chance to smash some enemies and loot their bodies. To the Frakkers, it's always been about survival. They're evolution machines, and damn good ones. After all, you'd need to waste an antimatter warhead or two to sterilize an area for sure. I remember those interviews I saw of Dr. Will Drexler, the man who designed the initial batch, mentioning how his miracle machines would allow us to turn Mars into a habitable planet within a century. Hilarious in hindsight, don't you think?

So, anyway, we start knocking down some of those spires, when we start getting the Frakkers fighting back in the way we were expecting them to. They come out, we put our new tools to the test. We put down suppressing fire. The bastards take cover, and we flank them with the active camo, flushing those box-men out of their hidey-holes. The bastards seem to be playing defensively, hiding and during their best to wound us with small arms fire and small explosives. I even caught a few AP rounds in the chest, and I'd be fucking dead if not for the nano-mesh repairs this thing did to keep me going. We kill a few squads worth of the disorganized bastards. Honestly, we expected more. On all our previous excursions, any gunfire brought more Frakkers than hornets after kicking their nest.

The moment they gave up, I immediately knew something was wrong. Like a hammer about to fall, we expected all hell to break lose any second. We listened to their wireless transmissions, hoping to find something beyond the static and white noise. We expected artillery and fire from gunships to rain from the sky, we expected nanoswarms to rip us apart, we expected fleets of armored war machines to converge on us from all directions, and honestly, we'd be less disturbed by the fucking Rapture than what happened to us.

One of the spires we were in the process of demolishing blasted a beam of some sort at our gunship. At first, we thought it was just some new anti-air defense, but we saw the unmanned gunship was still in the air, except for one small thing. The gunship's sleek, shark-like form had what I could only describe as a tumor on one side. The fucking thing was a lump of grayish-purple crap that kept growing.

Unsure of what was going on, we tried to reestablish contact, but it wasn't responding to communications. We expected the thing would open fire on us, but it just hovered, shrugging off all our attempts to bring it down. The craft continued to mutate, turning into shapes that would give Salvador Dali nightmares. How it managed to stay in the air as long as it did, I'll never know. Eventually, it just fell to the ground into a blob of tissue, and oozed into some pipe at the base of a ruined spire. The pipe made a long, deep slurping sound as it consumed the blob that was once a VTOL, sending it deeper into the Zone.

It was about then we decided to make a tactical withdraw from the Zone. We got transmissions from other squads about similar things. Some of the poor bastards got converted and slurped down like a spaghetti dinner. We stayed the hell away from any spires and things sticking out of the ground, and kept our ears open for any more transmissions over the Frakkers' wireless.

We were almost home free when we got a huge data burst transmission from our missing squad-mates. It was encrypted, so we all just copied it and expected to let the intel officers sort it out. The transmission, we estimated, could easily reach a few hundred miles based on power, source, and duration. We weren't intending to stick around for much longer than we had to. We configured those nanotech suits into running machines, and darted as fast as we could through the swamp to the edge of the Zone.

When we got back, we were in for another unpleasant surprise. Some of the people who had taken damage had unexpected surprises when we pulled them out of their suits. The same purple crap that had mutated the gunship was growing out of the suit and into their wounds. They immediately quarantined all of us who had taken hits, and got to work trying to vivisect us. A medical professional with an optional Hippocratic oath tried squeezing me out of the suit like toothpaste from a tube. Most of my body had been turned into that abominable sludge, fused too deeply with the remains of my body and the suit.

From what I understand, they kept us alive as science experiments. Now, Pierre, from what I understand, that purple crap appeared on plenty of your bosses' other pilfered technologies. Nanotech suits, implants, robots, nanotech, and other fucking pirated crap began going purple and gray, and integrating themselves into existing infrastructure. Know what I think happened?

That's right, Pierre. They recognized us as potential infection vectors. We became an inverse Trojan horse. They used our com channel to trigger some trap or failsafe they'd hidden deep within their technologies, ready to awaken into something like this. The Gulf Event gave me this new body, a wider vocabulary, and heightened senses, and I suspect similar enhancements were given to the others. The Frakkers are evolution engines, and I wish I knew what they're evolving into. The only question now is, what happens now?