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The Nation of Interest

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What Is Death?

WHAT IS DEATH?

For humans, there is a biological definition. It’s when the heart stops beating. Why do you ask?

YOU TOLD NATHAN THAT YOUR FATHER’S DEATH WAS WHEN HE LOST ALL OF HIS MEMORIES… IF YOU ERASE MY MEMORIES, HOW WILL I LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES? HOW WILL I GROW? AND HOW WILL I REMEMBER YOU?

***

While dying may be the hardest thing to comprehend, for any forms of life, it might just be the easiest thing to do.
One moment, you are alive. And then the next, you are not. It’s easy. It’s quick. But maybe it’s… more than that. Maybe, just maybe, when you die, you don’t… die.

Everyone dies alone. But if you mean something to someone, if you help someone or love someone, if even a single person remembers you, then maybe… you never really die at all…

So, maybe, as Sargeant Lilly Muller charged into that alley full of Zombies, maybe it wasn’t the end. As she shouted at Red to save Ten Thousand, while she held the Zombies off, maybe she wouldn’t really die. While she screamed, as the zombies bit into her flesh, tearing her apart, slowly, but painfully… maybe she would be okay. And as she pulled that last grenade off of her belt, as she killed herself, along with tens of Z’s, as she saved the man she loved and the woman he loved… maybe she would be remembered. Maybe this wasn’t the end for her, maybe she wouldn’t die, maybe she would be okay… Maybe she would be remembered.

That was the last thing to go through Lilly’s mind, before her eyes opened.

“Ugh…” The young marine muttered, her hand coming to her face to remove the electronic glasses from her face. She felt uncharacteristically tired, as her eyes scanned the room around her. Where was she? Was this the purgatory that was known as Zona?
The girl winced as she pulled an IV out from her inner arm and slowly stood up. Her legs felt like jello, like they might collapse at any moment. But she didn't have time to regain her composer, she had to find out where she was, and if anyone else was there with her.
Sarge looked around the room, to try and find anything that could be used as a weapon. Obviously, her gun was not by her bedside. The room was almost completely empty besides a few objects. A chair, a mirror, a small bedside table, and a lamp sitting on top of the table. The marine tossed the lamp onto the bed and snapped a leg off of the table. Yes… that would work excellently to deliver some Mercy.

When she approached the door, it was locked. There was a keypad next to it. Of course there was. The woman hadn’t used a computer in eight years, but sure. Let her try and figure this shit out.
Of course, Sarge had a history of being spontaneously violent, so she just stabbed the keypad with the table leg until it shorted out, and the door opened. When she stepped outside of the room, she noticed a few things. She was in a long hallway, with many other doors. It looked like maybe it was a hospital. And there were no guards, which Sarge found increasingly weird.

“... 10K?” The girl called out, quietly, as she looked through the small windows on the doors, seeing if there was anyone inside. She grabbed her neck and winced once more. Her throat was killing her. Like it had been months since she’d had any water. But that wasn’t the only thing she’d noticed, with her hand on her neck. She also noticed that she didn't feel any bite marks. But the last thing she remembered before waking up here, was being bit. And not only that, but she could also feel her pulse. She was… alive?
But she couldn’t focus on that now, as she looked inside the room across from hers. There was someone in there. Their face covered with the same electronic glasses as she had had on.
“H- ah…” She winced in pain, as she tried to speak again. It hurt. Her throat was so try. She couldn’t talk.
So, she stabbed the keypad next to that door, shorting out that one, too. The door opened, automatically, just like hers had. She ran over to the bed, hoping it was Red. That was the only person it could be. She was small, white, with longish brown hair. But when she removed the woman’s glasses, it wasn’t Red. In fact, she’d never seen this woman before in her life.

Upon opening her eyes, the woman looked at Sarge for a moment. It look her a total of two seconds to seem to realize where she was, and then jump out of bed, pushing Sarge against a wall, her arm against her neck.
“When will it stop, huh?!” The woman shouted, glaring at the young marine, “Is your boss too scared to kill me like a man!? He has to slowly take over my mind!? I will kill you!”
Sarge held her hands up in defense, dropping the table leg onto the floor. It took all of her strength, but she was able to choke out, “W-wa… water.”
The other woman narrowed her eyes at Sarge before glancing over at the glass of water on her bedside table. She slowly backed off of the marine and handed her the glass of water. It wasn’t until then that she realized that Sarge, too, was wearing a hospital gown.
“You… don’t work for them, do you…?” The woman asked, as Sarge downed the entire glass of water. It wasn’t until she finished the glass that she shook her head at the woman.
“No, I just woke up. I’m… I don’t know where we are…” Sarge shook her head, a little relieved that she could speak now. Her throat still hurt, but… less.
“The belly of the beast, I’m guessing,” The woman looked up at the small camera one of the top corners of the room, “... Shit.”
She grabbed her chair and threw it at the camera, effectively breaking it. Sarge gave her a funny look, “...Who’s watching us?”
“Samaritan,” The girl breathed out before looking at Sarge, “We have to get out of here. I have to get back to my friends, I have to warn them--”
“Warn them what?”
“... I think I gave away their location. Seven thousand simulations and this piece of shit found them. I have to go. Tell me, were there guards out there?”
“... None,” Sarge shook her head.
“Damn it! That means they all left to kill my friends. We have to go!”
“I can’t go!” Sarge said, “I have to get my friends. I think they’re around here, somewhere.”
“... My friends are literally trying to save the world, I think it’s safe to say saving my friends are a little more important than saving yours. We’ll come back for them, but we really have to go!”
“My friends are important, too!” Sarge shouted, starting to get really pissed off at this woman, “We have the cure! We have The Murphy!”
“... What the fuck is a Murphy? We have an all-seeing God. Literally more important than whatever you’re talking about! If we don’t warn them, they are going to die, and the end of the world will happen!”
“What planet are you living on!? The end of the world has already happened! There is no God!” Sarge shouted, “And if we can’t get the cure, we are all going to turn Z and die!”
“... What the hell are you talking about?”
“The Zombie Apocalypse…? What are you talking about?”
“... God, you are crazier than Root.”
“I don’t have time to decipher whatever language you are speaking! Please, just help me get my friends out of here, and then we can go save your God!... Jeez, that sounds weird to say aloud.”
“Says the person talking about zombies,” The woman rolled her eyes, “Fine. Let’s go.”
“What did you say your name was?” Sarge asked, picking up her table leg, as the woman picked up the chair again and threw it at her mirror, shattering it to pieces. She picked up one of the shards, gripping it so tightly, it drew blood.
“I didn't… Shaw.”
“Sarge,” The marine nodded, leading the other woman out of the room. “Now, what the hell are you talking about, God? Like Murphy is the blue messiah? Tell me Murphy isn’t your God.”
“I have no idea who or what Murphy is,” Shaw said, as Sarge broke another keypad, “I’m just trying to save the world from impending doom.”
“Aren’t we all?” Sarge asked, rushing into the room as soon as the door opened.

***

“So, how did you and your friends get caught up in Decima’s crossfires?” Shaw asked, as Sarge ran into the room, hurrying over to the person lying on the bed.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Sarge admitted, “Maybe they wanted the cure. We were standing in their way of getting it.”
“You keep talking about this cure, what cure? What are you trying to cure?” Shaw asked, leaning against the doorway.
Sarge removed another set of electronic glasses off of the woman lying unconscious on the bed, “Have you been living under a rock for the past eight years? We’re trying to cure the Zombie virus.”
“Zom…?” Shaw frowned, looking more confused than before, “Eight years?”
“... Sarge…?” The woman lying on the bed groaned, “Where…?”
“I’m not sure,” Sarge shook her head, helping the woman to her feet, “Do you know where 10K is?”
“10K…? I… I don’t know,” The woman rubbed a spot on the back of her left ear, which was red and sore, “Sarge… you died.”
“... Maybe this is Hell?” Sarge suggested, with a small grin, “Sun Mei, what happened? The last thing I remember is trying to save 10K in that alley back in Pacifica.”
“I… God, a lot happened,” The woman, Sun Mei (who was pretty hot, if Shaw did say so herself), frowned, in confusion, as they made their way onto the next room, “10K got his hand cut off. We had a funeral for the bombing victims-- including you, even though you did bomb yourself… Oh! I found the cure!... And then I think I died.”
“You died?” Shaw asked, stealing the woman’s focus, “This is important, when did you die?”
“I was with Red just… moments ago. I was turning, so Red shot me with a dose of my last cure attempt. And it worked. But she accidentally stabbed me with a beaker from my office. That was the last thing I remember.”
“Sarge, what is the last thing you remember before waking up?” Shaw asked, turning to face the marine.
“I literally just said. I was in an alley, Red and I had ran in after 10K. I told her to grab 10K and I would hold off the Z’s. Uh, she had to cut off his hand and… I got bit. I was going to turn, so I pulled my grenade. Went out in a blaze of glory.”
“So, you both died and that’s when you woke up?” Shaw asked, “I went through over seven thousand simulations. Every time I died, I would wake up, back here. And every time they would start another simulation.”
“What are you talking about, simulations?” Sarge asked, “What simulations?”
“What would you say if I told you that Zombies don’t exist? That everything you think you’ve been through in the past two years was all fake? A simulation made up by an evil, all-seeing eye? A… god, if you will.”
“Well, that wouldn’t make any sense, considering we’re living in the apocalypse for eight years,” Sun Mei shook her head, “Zombies would still exist.”

“Unless… just stick with me for a second, I’m going to sound insane, but it will make sense. You know how when you’re asleep, and you’re dreaming, it can feel like a lifetime goes by, when in reality, it’s only been a couple hours? I have been here for seven thousand simulations. It feels like I’ve been here for a thousand lifetimes, but I know, logically, I couldn’t have been here that long. I have lived seven thousand simulations in the time you guys have only lived one.”
“If that’s the case, then… Warren and the others are still trapped in it,” Sarge said, looking back and forth between the two women, “We have to wake them up.”
“But when we wake them up… it’s going to kill them in the simulation…” Sun Mei pointed out, “We could be killing them off, one by one, and the others could live months before we can wake them, too. It’s going to be… agonizing. The trauma they could endure by losing everyone…”
“So, we need to gather them all together. Try and wake them all as quickly as possible,” Sarge nodded.
“Okay… let’s do it,” Shaw agreed, “Bring everyone out into the hall.”
“And hopefully… they die quickly enough that no one has to suffer watching everyone else die, and being alone,” Sun Mei nodded, “Okay. Let’s go. Let’s do it.”

The three women split up, each going into another room. There were eight more rooms in that hall, and in each room, another bed. And in each bed, another member of Sarge and Sun Mei’s team, unconscious, stuck in a Zombie Apocalypse Simulation.
The whole ordeal was starting to piss Shaw off. There was a zombie apocalypse simulation and Samaritan didn't put her in it!? She would have killed it in the apocalypse!

It only took a couple minutes for the three women to gather the rest of the team into the hall. Shaw looked over at the other women and asked, “Is this everyone?”
“Looks like it,” Sun Mei nodded, “Okay. How do we want to do this? Wake them, three at a time?”
“Yea,” Sarge nodded, “I’ll wake 10K, you wake Red, Shaw, you wake that old guy. Doc.”
“Got it,” Shaw nodded, “Count of three?”
“One…”
“Two…”
“... Three,” The three woman pulled the electronic glasses off of the member they were supposed to be waking. Then they moved on to the next three.
“Warren, Addy, and George,” Sarge said, showing Shaw who George was, so that she could wake her.
“One…”
“Two…”
“... Three,” And the women woke the other three women.
“Okay, now Kaya and CZ,” Sarge instructed.
“One…”
“Two…”
“... Three,” Sun Mei and Sarge woke the last two members of their team.

***

“What the hell… where are we…?” The youngest man in the group asked, sitting up, shortly after everyone had been woken up.
“10K,” Sarge hurried back over to his side, as soon as she had pulled the electronic glasses off of Citizen Z.
The boy looked super confused, which… was to be expected. After all, he had watched that woman die, “... Sarge?”
“Hey, baby,” The young marine let out a soft, teary laugh, placing one hand on the side of his neck, “How you doin’?”
“... You’re alive,” He breathed out, ignoring her question. With weak arms, he pulled the girl into a hug, “Wh… how? Where? Wh… what the hell is going on, Sarge? Are we dead?”
“Really depends on how you perceive death,” Sarge laughed, pulling away from the hug.

“Oh, my God… Tommy!” Another girl, the only person younger than the boy, 10K, spoke up, looking over at him, with wide eyes, “... Your hand.”
“My h…?” The boy looked down at his hands to realize… they were both there. He’d lost his hand the same day he lost Sarge. And now he had them both back and… God, it was all just so confusing.

A few feet away, another woman was coming to. Older than Shaw, but not by much. She was the leader of the little team, “What the hell? Somebody explain what the hell is going on. Where’s Murphy?”
“... I don’t have time to go over this again,” Shaw decided, her hand still bleeding from where she’d cut it on the shard of the broken mirror, “I’ve wasted too much time. I need to get to my friends, if it isn’t already too late.”
“... Let’s split up,” Sarge decided, “Half of us will go with Shaw, help her save her friends. The other half will stay here and try to figure out how the hell we got here.”

“Okay, but we have to go now,” Shaw said, impatiently.
“Okay, okay,” Sarge nodded, “I’ll go with you.”
“I’ll go, too,” Sun Mei raised her hand.
“I’m in,” Warren agreed, “I know how I would feel if my team was in danger.”
“I’ll come, too. For tech support,” The guy with the weird name, Citizen Z, spoke up.
“Me, too. I’ll go,” 10K nodded.

“Tommy,” The girl, Red, said, incredulously.
The boy narrowed his eyes, looking confused, “... What?”
“... Uh,” The girl grabbed his arm pulling him away from the rest of the group, Sarge eyeing them, suspiciously. There was definitely some drama there. Drama Shaw did not have time for.

“What?” 10K asked, again, pulling his arm away from Red.
“Are you sure you can trust her, Tommy?” Red asked, glancing over in Sarge’s direction, “We watched her die. Months ago. We both saw her blow herself up.”
“So? We also watched Sun Mei die. I’m pretty sure I died… more than once. There’s gotta be some sort of explanation. I trust her, Red. She’s saved my life… a lot of times.”
“Really?!” Red snapped, “You trust her? Or you just want to trust her? Because you’re in love with her!?”
“She is standing right there! I can see her! I can smell her! I can touch her! She is real, Red! Don’t make this about your insecurities!”
“ … My… are you serious right now!? My insecurities!?” Red snapped.

“Leaving,” Shaw shouted over her shoulder, heading out of the door, pulling Sarge behind her. She could appreciate love triangle drama as much as the next sociopath, but the woman she cared deeply for could be dying. And if there was any chance of saving her, she had to try.

“ … We’ll talk more later, okay?” 10K said, lowering his voice, “I love you.”
The girl hesitated, but after a moment, she nodded, “... Yea. I love you, too… Be careful.”
“You, too,” The boy nodded before hurrying after the rest of the group, who was following behind Shaw, who was in a hurry to try and save her friends.

***

Several Months Ago

“... When you told me to stop looking for Shaw, I did,” A woman who had become known as ‘Root’ said, looking up at a security camera in a high corner of the roof she was standing atop, “But now I need you to help me. … I can’t do this alone.”

You see, it had been months since Samaritan got their hands on Shaw. Months since Root had seen the woman she loved. And there was nothing she could do to help her. Nothing she could do to save her. All because there were forces at play. Two gods at war. And the god that Root had spent so long following, doing Her bidding, helping Her… She wouldn’t help back. Not when it meant something. Not when it mattered. So, if Root really meant so little to Her, would She care if she died, too?

The woman, Root, stepped onto a pile of empty crates, pulling herself onto the ledge of the roof (which was at least two feet taller than the rest of the roof), resulting in her friend’s panic, “Oh, dear…”

“Harold taught you blackjack and chess,” Root continued, as she struggled to her feet, “I wonder if he ever taught you to play chicken…”
Harold, perhaps Root’s best friend, looked up at the woman, a mixture of fear and confusion written across his face. Why was she doing this? What could she possibly gain from plummeting off of a roof? How would that help her find Shaw? How would that do anything but kill her? Their god didn't care for them. She couldn’t care for them. It wasn’t in Her code.

“I am going to walk across the ledge with my eyes closed until A),” Root said, looking up at the security camera, “You help me find Sameen, or B) I fall tragically to my death.”
Harold looked up at the woman, walking across the ledge, her eyes closed, trying to follow her, so he could catch her if she fell onto the roof, instead of off. This plan was foolish and perhaps just crazy enough to work.

Each step Root took, brought her closer to falling off, the wind violently attempting to shove her to one side of the other.
“Ms. Groves!” Harold Finch attempted, to no avail. The woman took another step, her arms out to either side, trying to balance herself.
“You calculated the wind speeds, so you know how treacherous this is,” Root said, a small smile forced onto her lips as she took another step, “You have to ask yourself what’s worse: the two of us working together, or me… taking this next step alone.”
Her heels tried to snap under her weight, the wind trying to force her off of the roof, unbalanced and unafraid… there was no stopping her. Not unless she got what she wanted. Not until she got Sameen Shaw.