The alarm rang, waking Serge up from a deep sleep. It was five in the morning. The briefing was in one hour. He drew back his curtains and looked through the window with bleary eyes. It was raining again. A hard, chilly rain that seeped down your collar so you were cold and wet all day. It was both good and bad news for Serge. Good news because the rain always helped him fall asleep, and bad because his team was being deployed today. Of all the days why did it have to be now? Oh well, he told himself. It could be worse. He could be one of those Red Halo operatives patrolling the sea wall. The work was boring and there was no shelter there. One of his old comrades from the marines had told him that colds were starting to become common among the sea watch.
He started his morning calisthenics. As he did his exercises he let himself get lost in thought. His view from the pull-up bar let him see out the window. The trees had changed color a while ago and now most of the leaves had fallen off. Winter was almost upon them. He wasn't particularly looking forward to it. Winters at the Island were generally mild, but still too cold for his taste. He missed Marseilles' Mediterranean climate. Perhaps he might see his home again. He would need an ocean-going vessel and a crew for that, but it was still feasible. Maybe once he got to France he could look for clues leading to his family's whereabouts. Maybe they had fled to Corsica? Perhaps they had found refuge in the Paris catacombs? Those last, troubled phone calls he had made from Montreal had been so vague. No point in dwelling on that now, though. Now it was time to face the daily grind. He finished exercising and went to the shower. It didn't take long at all because most of the other teams were still sleeping off last night's hangovers. At least he could use as much hot water as he wanted. He dried off and suited up in his foraging gear. Then draped a poncho over his shoulders as he headed out the door.
He trudged through the rain to the briefing room. As he peeled off the poncho and hung it from a coat hook he noticed several people at the briefing officer's desk. He recognized the mustachioed bald guy and exchanged nods with him. The three other faces were familiar, but Serge had never spoken with them before. They were in deep conversation with one another and had their backs turned towards him. Serge put his notepad and pen down and turned towards the breakfast table. There was the usual pot of coffee and selection of pastries. What was unusual, though, were the trays filled with scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, and sausage. Non-infected NEVER got so much of this stuff for free. Either it was a token of appreciation for his team's last two successful missions or the brass wanted to feel less guilty about sending them off on a suicidal task. Whatever, food was food and he was going to enjoy it. Serge heaped his plate and waited for the team to show up.