Spoiler Warning: Letters from the Quarantine Zone is a recap of a playthrough of the board game Pandemic Legacy (an After Action Report, if you will), retold in-character. Though the series does not directly acknowledge game mechanics or cards, it references their content, and the events from the game described within will result in spoilers. This is a work of fiction. You can read the entire series here.
The media has moved on, but the Centers for Disease Control certainly hasn’t. The end of January saw us gain stable footing against the rise of four dangerous new diseases, but within the CDC, we all knew this was just the opening lines of a story that was yet to play out. And, wouldn’t you know, February proved us right.
First, it was the sudden reemergence of COdA in Moscow, accompanied by a staggering death toll. I doubt it will surprise you to learn that we don’t collaborate with the Russian much, even since the Cold War ended, so we initially blamed the near-100% mortality rate on lousy Russian medicine. Desperate for help, they sent us samples and the Black team confirmed: the COdA pathogen is mutating considerably, and we haven’t got the fainted clue of how to cure or even treat it.
At about the time we drew that conclusion, we received word of a major REDRUM outbreak in Tokyo, and uncovered multiple cases of Blue in Atlanta. Knowing we need to buy time for our research teams—and frustratingly limited by the President’s shortsighted funding cuts—we mobilized a medical team under the now-experienced leadership of James “Patch” Adams and our quarantine specialists under command of Cora “Lockdown” Tina. Funny story: they’re actually siblings, and I think that understanding of each other serves them well in the field.
Patch handled the Atlanta issue with expert efficiency and used the time he saved here at home to hump it to Tokyo, where he was able to treat the REDRUM victims without risking a regional outbreak. Lockdown earned her nickname, first by establishing a quarantine zone here in Atlanta to minimize the risk of further spread, and then by remotely managing the total quarantine in Moscow. These efforts, along with Patch’s diligence in cities throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim kept REDRUM well-contained while we sought to a cure for this February strain.
For a brief spell, it seemed that we had contained the threat, but the bitter winter spared no one. Epidemics consumed our attention, from Kolkata to Montreal. We did the best we could, putting our slim remaining funds to work in developing an advanced forecasting algorithm that allowed us to prioritize hotspots. But then, in the scramble to respond—and in the midst of curing REDRUM–we lost our quarantine in Moscow and faced outbreaks there and in Cairo. Fortunately, we were able to charter a flight for Lockdown through Karachi, and she was able to establish a quarantine zone in Cairo while establishing new protocols to restore Moscow’s QZ.
Ultimately, the sacrifice of the Russians, and Egyptians provided us a break, during which Patch’s medical team in the Pacific Rim managed to completely eradicate the February strain of REDRUM. With the threat eliminated west of the Indian subcontinent, Lockdown and Patch were able to adopt a more aggressive posture in Europe and the Americas, and we felt confident we would navigate the remainder of February without incident.
Of course, nothing in this line of work goes as smoothly as you hope. First, a new epidemic claimed Khartoum and pushed London to the brink of panic. With our teams split on either side of the Atlantic, we lacked the resources to address both and found ourselves better positioned to aid London.
Truthfully, it speaks to the resilience of the Sudanese people that they didn’t succumb to outright panic and disorder at the word that help would not come. With little more than the World Health Organization’s meager medical supplies, the Sudanese calmly soldiered on. Such bravery in the face of adversity… it may have saved the entire world.
Soon thereafter, we developed cures for both the Yellow and Blue pathogen strains. Patch’s medical team’s hands-on dedication to the eradication of REDRUM provided key data in developing a cures for future strains. We’ve become remarkably efficient at sequencing the core genome of the REDRUM pathogen, so we’re identifying new strains faster with each passing week. We’ve also found easier agents to counteract and eliminate the pathogen which we’re carefully cataloging for future applications. Barring any twists of fate—Mother Nature being a metaphorical bitch—REDRUM should be a relatively minor threat in the future.
Of course, even if Mother Nature plays along, the US government sure isn’t. We’re just about out of funding here at the CDC. The last of our long term projects has been canceled, and all we can do is be ready to react if we’re needed. I pray these diseases—especially COdA—don’t mutate further. I’m not sure that we can handle more virile pathogen strains without lasting consequences for the entire planet.
But no matter; my teams remain steadfastly committed to preventing a pandemic. I don’t know what would happen if we fail. I hope we never have to find out.