The world is a new place. Only around two million people live; the rest are either dead or undead. Most of humanity congregates in what is left of major cities, while the rest reside in small, autonomous villages. The year is 2036, roughly twenty-five years after the outbreak of Serum-349, which transformed ninety-nine point eight percent of the world's population into horrifying, undead monstrosities. The world's water supplies were tainted with the serum, making it nearly impossible to survive without being infected.
The world is dominated by private military forces, namely a group known as Steelewood Industries Incorporated, who possess the single largest army on the planet. Other groups exist, however, none have the power to challenge Steelewood. Unfortunately, Steelewood does not always look out for the best interests of the world as a whole. Instead, they are a corrupt organization with a hunger for power.
Still, not all is so bleak and hopeless. The possibility for zombie infection has been almost completely eliminated thanks to an inoculation developed by a repented scientist who originally worked on Serum-349. Due to the humanitarian efforts of a single group operating aboard a ship, the S.S Holdsworth, the inoculation was distributed to almost all of the world. Several billion zombies still live all around the globe, but it is assumed that, eventually, they will all die out.
This is the new world.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
After about two pints of ale too many, Master-Sergeant Boris Ivanov finally sighed and decided it was time to leave. Briefly, he considered the uniform he was wearing, how he should feel guilty for letting himself go. Then remembered how meaningless it was and resigned his guilt. The Russian Army, which existed only in Saint Petersburg, the sole remaining Russian city, and was actually owned by Steelewood Industries, had very little power. There were days when Ivanov considered giving up. Alas, if good men failed, only the bad remained. And there were days when Ivanov no longer saw himself as a good man.
This, sadly, was one of those days.
He paid the bartender, straightened his uniform, and then walked out into the frigid, Saint Petersburg night. The streets still felt so bare and empty. There were once nearly five million people in the city. Now, only about two hundred thousand remained. Ivanov sighed, shook his head, and carried on his oh-so-merry way.
And then he was tired. He needed to lie down. But there was no bed... no, no bed in sight. Why not lie down here? Ivanov let his legs stop standing and he collapsed to the ground. Within his seconds, his eyes closed and his mind slipped away into the unconscious....
Ivanov awoke to freezing water splashing upon his face. He shook and fought to catch his breath. His eyes snapped open and he took a good look around. There was little to see. He was in a rusted room, tied to a chair behind a steel desk, wearing nothing but his undergarments, and it was very, very dark. Before him was a man wearing an all-black, very expensive-looking suit. Literally everything on it was black; the shirt, the jacket, the tie, the pants... even his hair. Ivanov was instantly prepared to take this man seriously.
The man in black pulled a chair up in front of the desk and sat. The man only stared. Ivanov looked into his eyes. They were a bright blue and had a quality to instantly instill fear. Also, if Ivanov's persuasions were elsewhere, he might have found them quite beautiful. But- wait what was he thinking? Simple. He wasn't. He was too busy losing a stare off. Ivanov realized this and then sighed before he finally asked in Russian, “What is this? Why have you brought me here? And where is my uniform?!”
“I removed it,” the man in black replied, also in Russian. “I wouldn't want you to get it all wet and bloody.”
Ivanov scoffed, “How kind of you.”
“You won't think I'm kind by the time I'm done with you.”
“What are you going to do?” Ivanov asked nervously.
“You will refer to me as 'the Shadow',” the man in black told him as he stood. “I want you to know what to call me so that you will remember me when I am done. I want you to remember me so that you can tell the world of me.”
“The world must fear me.”
“It is working so far.”
“I know,” the Shadow said smugly. “I have that... quality.”
“Why have you brought me here?”
“You're going to answer some questions,” the Shadow sat down once again, this time setting down a folder. He opened it and pulled out a picture of a ship. “Tell me what you know about this ship.”
“That is the Holdsworth. Surely you know of it.”
“I know of it, yes, but you know more. Didn't you serve on it?”
“Yes, but after the Russian government stopped giving them military support, I transferred to ground duty... six years ago.”
“Tell me about the ship.”
“She's about a handysize cargo ship converted to handle more crew, nothing really spectacular about it.”
“How much crew?”
“Sixty, give or take.”
“That's quite a few for a cargo ship of that size.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Any other modifications?”
“Their engines have been upgraded-”
“Now, what can you tell about this man?” the Shadow asked as he revealed a picture of a bearded man probably in his fifties or sixties.
“That is the ship's captain.”
“What is his name?”
“You do not know?”
“What is his name?”
“Why do you want to know? You did not need to kidnap me to get this infor-”
“Tell his name or I'm going to start becoming unpleasant a little earlier than I intended.”
“Very well,” Ivanov sighed. “His name is Hank Mitchell.”
“Tell me about him.”
“I barely knew him. He is American and he was in their military before the outbreak. Since I still barely speak English, I was unable to really have conversation with him. But he is a great man and I was proud to take orders from when I served him. We did many great things together.”
“And who is this?” He showed a picture of a woman with graying red hair.
“That is Lena, his wife and first mate. She is... interesting.”
“And who is this?” The next picture was a young man in his mid-twenties.
“That looks like... it is! That is Liam Mitchell, Hank and Lena's second child!” Ivanov could not help but smile. “My, he has grown since I have seen him.”
“And this is their daughter?” He showed another picture.
“Yes, Emma! She is, without doubt, her father's child.”
“And who is this?” The final picture was of an aging Asian man.
Ivanov suddenly drew quiet, “I- I will tell you nothing.”
“Don't make me ask again.”
“Are you with Steelewood?”
“So what if I am?”
“I cannot- I will not take the chance that you are Steelewood. You cannot know.”
“Suppose I am. Why can't I know?”
Ivanov kept silent.
The Shadow rolled his eyes, “I suppose you are going to make this difficult.”
Ivanov was still quiet.
The Shadow sighed, stood, and then threw the table across the room in one swift motion. It slammed into the wall, making a roaring clang. With a growl, he demanded, “You are going to tell me everything you know about this man and what he has to do with the Holdsworth and her crew!”
“Go to hell!” Ivanov spat.
The Shadow pulled a taser from his jacket and fired the cartridge into Ivanov's chest. Without hesitating, he fired a charge. Ivanov screamed. “Let's start simple, Ivanov. Tell me the man's name.”
“No!” Another charge, another scream.
“His name is Doctor Shigeru Fujikawa,” The Shadow said bluntly. “And, since you were wondering, yes, I am with Steelewood. We know about Fujikawa's scheme to create a new global communications network and we want it stopped. Now.”
The Shadow scoffed, “I'm interrogating you.” He gave Ivanov another charge. “You are going to tell me everything. You can do it now and spare yourself or you can do it later and I will make it hurt. The only thing set in stone is that you will tell me everything. And even if you somehow don't tell me, even if I grow impatient and somehow accidentally make you die a slow, painful death, I'll still find out what I need to know. Days are coming soon where there earth will no longer be divided. Days are coming soon when the Shadow will cover and unite all. The world will be protected and shielded. The undead will never be a threat again. Humanity will stand together under the Shadow's banner.” The Shadow grinned smugly, “Now, tell me about this plan of theirs. Start at the beginning.”