The Legend of Fort Bacon
by Jonas Kyratzes
Prison cell audio: Subject 17, formerly Lt. Daniel Stoller.
So, you may be wondering how a good New Jericho boy like myself ended up in a New Jericho prison. Well, it's quite the story. Not sure it's a good story, but at least it's, uh, memorable, I guess? And since I figure y'all don't have anything better to do, how about I tell that story, like we used to tell stories around the campfire when we were out hunting...
I was born in 2024, and the world wasn't all too pleasant a place even then, though things were still holding together. I was five when the first mist came. I remember seeing it on the television, people disappearing and all. Scared me real good, but also made me think let's go fight that stuff, find out what makes it tick and kill it, like a superhero taking out the bad guys.
Anyhow, my dad worked for Vanadium, Tobias West's company, so when West founded New Jericho, we were right there, part of it from day one. That's why I'm loyal to New Jericho, even now, and always will be. They saved us when nobody else would. They can be harsh, and they have a lot of rules, but those rules ain't for nothing. You know how many government shelters went down because they let in one guy who swore he wasn't infected? You see, what they didn't fully understand back then, and I suppose it ain't that different now either, is the infection doesn't work at t
he same speed on all people. Sure, most folks go immediately, but not everybody. With some, it's slow. Those crazy-ass Disciples even say that with some folks, it's just the body that changes, and the mind stays free, but our scientists say it's just a matter of time, and I'd trust one of our eggheads over an Anu freak any day of the week.
I signed up for military service the moment I was eligible, which made me a full citizen. That's how it works with us, you see. You gotta prove yourself to get anywhere, not like with Synedrion. No disrespect, I mean I know y'all mean well, I'm sure your havens are very nice, but New Jericho is about merit. Loyalty, too, but you have to earn that loyalty first. Ain't no such thing as a free lunch, West used to say.
In my training it turned out I had a pretty good eye for shooting stuff at a distance. Give me a sniper rifle and half-decent conditions, and man, I can hit anything, moving or stationary. On my first day of training, I took out one of them crab-men in one hit. Boom. That got attention, and pretty soon I was out in the field with a real squad, taking down the enemy one headshot at a time.
I was pretty good at the whole military discipline thing, too, at least at first. I like my day to be structured, makes it so much nicer when you do get to relax. So long as I was stationed in the capital, I was all good. But I was itchin' to do more, to really get out there and do some damage. That's how I ended up here at Fort Freiheit. Did you know that's German for freedom? Seems funny to me now, what with my current situation and all.
So, where was I? Right, I asked for a transfer, and I got one. Seeing Fort Freiheit for the first time was a real eye-opener. In the capital, you can sort of imagine we're all safe, that no matter what the enemy throws at us, humanity ain't going nowhere. Guess that's probably what it feels like in all the Synedrion havens, and that's one of the big problems with you folks. No disrespect, I know you're trying to build a better world and all that, but the world ain't good, friends, it's awful, and it'll keep being awful until every last abomination out there is put down. That's what I came to realize out here.
You see, this place really got battered something good. Without Colonel Harlson in charge, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be a single soul left breathing. Still, you could tell it'd taken a real toll. On my first day, I saw a guy with a big black stain on his uniform. Nobody would ever dare walk around like that back home, let me tell ya.
The squad I got assigned to had a nickname: the Hunters. There were five of us: Sullivan, Bennett, Jacobs, Cole, and myself. Now, I was very good at being a Hunter, but it took some adjusting first. See, the Hunters didn't work like an ordinary squad. We didn't patrol, didn't wait for orders, didn't follow a plan. We roamed, we tracked down nests, we looked for opportunities and we seized them. We were out there more than just about anybody else, taking down some pretty big beasts without getting a scratch. While everybody else was trying to hold down the fort, we were thinning out the enemy population.
Sometimes it was almost like the stories you read about how the world used to be: five friends sitting around the campfire somewhere out in the wild, relaxing after a long day of hunting, talking and laughing without a care in the world.
Strange things start happening to you when you're out there a lot. When you're in a haven, safe behind the walls, your day nicely divided up into tasks, your mind stays focused. But out there, your imagination starts to wander. You get all kinds of funny ideas, and all the rumors you've heard suddenly start seeming like maybe they could be real. Who knows what's out there in the mist, right?
This one time, we met some folks from another haven, one of the independents. They were out scavenging, nearly got themselves trampled to death by a Chiron. After we saved them, we got to talking, and cause we told them we were the Hunters, they told us this story they'd heard, about some New Jericho guys who got so sick of New Jericho grub, they started their own haven. And they actually go around hunting the same abominations we do, or did, and they don't just kill them - they eat them! And get this, they called their haven Fort Bacon, cause that's what they've got that we don't.
Now, we were all pretty sure this was just a tall tale, but it got us talking. Man, Sullivan said, the grub really is shit. Them protein bars, God knows what's in 'em. And how many potatoes can a man eat? Jacobs said she'd kill for a real burger, and Bennett said he'd give an arm for a slice of bacon, and then it just got worse and worse, our stomachs all rumbling at the thought of foods we couldn't have. We used to make fun of Synedrion, called you guys tree-huggers, but turns out you guys grow meat in a lab. New Jericho, you know, we don't hold with that gene manipulation stuff. I mean, that's what the enemy's doing to us, why do it to ourselves? We have real cows, real sheep, pure as pure can be, but we'll need them when we rebuild the Earth, so real meat is real expensive. On my salary, I could barely afford to buy a steak once a year, and in any case here at Fort Freiheit there were no such luxuries.
You know how it's like when you get to talking? Especially when you're hungry? I mean, I bet you get that too. Sometimes the rules you're supposed to be following don't seem so important anymore, and you start wondering. First as a joke... then as just a theory, not something you'd ever do, not you, but if somebody did... and then... then suddenly you're roasting a mutant leg over a fire to see if it tastes like bacon.
And you know what? It did. I swear to God, it did. Not like chicken, you know, like they say? Tastes like chicken. No, it tasted like thin, crispy bacon. Oh man. When I think about that, I almost don't regret it. Course I do regret it, very much, cause poor Cole turned almost right away. His skin started changing, going hard. We knew it was too late.
I've heard it said that New Jericho kills anyone mutated, but it ain't true. We got protocols. If it's just an arm or a leg, we amputate, fit you with a prosthetic and you're right as rain. But if it's in the bloodstream, if it's right inside you, changing you, then it's not just a matter of duty, it's a kindness to put you down. Cole begged us to do it, to let him die a human being. We obliged him, and I ain't ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes.
We talked about what to do next. Jacobs said we're such dumbasses, we should blow our own heads off and be done with it. Sullivan said we should go back, turn ourselves in, see what happens. Maybe we'd get lucky. Bennett looked like he'd gone a bit crazy. I ain't going back, he said, and I ain't killing myself either, not unless I start to change. I don't want to live like this anymore, this damn misery at Fort Freiheit. I'm gonna find Fort Bacon and join 'em. I laughed and told him there was no such place, but he said he didn't care, he'd find something like it. Jacobs damn near shot him right then and there, but I stopped her. We'd already lost one friend.
So we let Bennett go. Last time I saw him, he as heading west with nothing but his rifle and enough water to last him a couple of days. I doubt he made it far, but some part of me hopes he's still out there.
Sullivan turned as we were heading back. Jacobs put him down. Not much later, she told me she could feel her mind becoming distant, like she wasn't herself anymore. Before I could do anything, before I could even say maybe you're just tired, maybe it's nothing, she put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
When I got back, every single alarm went off the moment I walked through a Purity Checkpoint. But I'd already made up my mind to tell the truth.
Like I said to Harlson, I'm real sorry we disappointed everyone. But you know, we were just a bunch of dumbass kids. We should have been getting drunk at frat parties, not hunting mutants in the wasteland. We messed up, but that doesn't mean we're traitors. I'm not Subject 17, I'm a New Jericho soldier, and if you give me a chance, I'll prove it. No matter the cost.