Okay, where to begin. I could discuss how I think this can serve as a new take on the zombie genre (more techno-thriller than apocalyptic), I could talk about how this is my extrapolation of the core canon of the Resident Evil series but can stand on its own, I could skip right to the part where this ties into my previous post about "non-fantastic superpower" action. . .I think I'll start with a description of how life is different in this setting, which until ten years ago was identical to our own.
You see, ten years ago- 1998- was the first zombie outbreak. A small midwestern city was lost after a pharmaceutical company's secret attempts to create a biological weapon were more succesful than they could have ever imagined. The zombie virus was a combination of two other viruses; a bacteriophage aimed at increasing the subject's physique and a highly lethal strain of ebola. The former was the result of an older research project that had been deemed a faliure because the growth was always uncontrolled and led to mutation and death on the part of the subject, while the latter was proving impractical as a biological weapon because the modifications that had increased the virus's lethality also virtually eliminated the incubation period, meaning that subjects died without having any chance to pass the infection on. It was theorized that the physical enchancements provided by the former virus would keep the subject "alive" for at least a day. In some ways, you could say that the results were an unprecendented success- after all, the result was an amazing biological weapon.
Now, you have to understand- there was no "apocalypse". The release of the virus (actually a deliberate act of corporate sabotage) may have wiped out most of a single town's population, but even in the face of such an unprecedented threat the government was able to set up a quarantine and then heavily bombed the region. The outbreak was contained, and while at first the corporation was able to persuade the goverment that the zombie-creating virus had been a prototype for the physique-enhancing bacteriophage and nothing more eventually the truth was uncovered and the corporation shut down. But the virus remained.
The next outbreaks occurred in the third world. Attempts were being made to create additional samples of the virus from existing ones, and not everyone had the sense or resources to take adequate precautions. In some cases these too were contained, but in others they went unnoticed by higher authorities for far, far too long. And not all attempts to produce additional samples of the virus were so unsuccesful. The threat of bioterrorism was now a far, far greater threat than before.
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, viral outbreaks occurred in multiple first-world cities. Before the end of the year the use of the virus as a biological weapon was confirmed in multiple third-world conflicts. The world was quickly approaching a state of panic, and things were changing as a result. It was about this time that the term "Dead Zone" began to be used.
A Dead Zone is an area that has seen a zombie outbreak. In a first-world nation a dead zone tends to be several miles across, its borders rigidly patrolled by a military personnel; meanwhile, the majority of several african nations is considered to qualify as a dead zone. These regions often retain an active zombie population and in a portion of cases are also affected by nuclear fallout. Not only that, dead zones are rumored to contain populations of what the media refers to as Bio-Organic Weapons; cases where the victim has survived both the more immediately lethal aspects of the virus and the ensuing mutations, often resulting in a warped monstrosity. B.O.W.s, while rare, are much less so among animals, who can be infected even if the results are not usually in turn infectious.
While only a small percentage of the world's total population has perished, the general mood is still one of extreme paranoia and isolation. Politicians are elected on the basis of how well the public feels they can protect them, and nations dedicate their military to securing the boundaries of dead zones and the borders of nations against hypothetical incursion.
Of course, the rush to quarantine dead zones means that there's still going to be some people inside. But sending in military forces will inevitably lead to huge losses and has proven to severely hamper enlistment efforts. That's why, as the next post will delve into, it's a good time for PMCs.