Infection: Chapter 1 – Outbreak

8:02 A.M. (00:02, GMT. February 26, 2026)
South China Sea
CNS Changzheng 11
Type 95A fast attack nuclear submarine

Captain Hao Cheng looked at his second officer as he entered the control room. He only had three hours of sleep and a quick cup of coffee. Playing hide-and-seek with that American attack submarine kept him up until early morning. Captain Hao just agreed to grab some rest when his executive officer confirmed that they’re safely out of detection range.

“That American is still around?” the captain asked as he adjusted his eyepatch. A useful habit picked up since his first deployment. The red illumination in the room during a low-level light condition wreaked havoc on one’s sight unless proper precautions were taken. He heard some officers in the Western navies also use the eye-patch.

“Yes, Xiao. He’s trying to find us. Probably excited about finally being able getting our signature. But he’s in the wrong place. We still know where he is. Our new sonar model has definitely longer range.”

The captain moved to one of the console operators.

“Where is he?”

The man pointed to a spot on his digital screen. Captain Hao smiled. He was in command of the finest and most sophisticated nuclear attack submarine of the South Seas Fleet. A variant of what was declared to be the Type 95. He knew that the news of the Type 95 being the primary production model was pure misinformation. It was the Type 95A which was the true production model, a model the Western navies suspected to be in service but they couldn’t validate its existence. It even looked like the Type 95 prototype. The advanced submarine model adopted the USS Virginia design by having a mastless layout. The inconvenient and hull-penetrating periscopes have been replaced by a photonics system. Control of the vessel, as with the American submarine, was done by a pilot and co-pilot. It was faster and quieter than even the German electric models. The advanced rim-driven pump-jet propulsion system was proving to be all its designers had promised.

It was something to report back to Yulin, he mused. A far cry from the times when even the Japanese navy could force a Chinese submarine to surface. Like that Shang-class incident back in January 2018. That was humiliating.

“Xiao. Sonar has something,” his executive officer whispered. The captain quickly moved to the person pointed out by the officer.

“Xiao. A loud crumpling metallic sound from the location of the American submarine. Then nothing,” said the petty officer.

The captain knew his men. They were the finest the navy could produce. Something as incongruous as that statement would be founded on a fact.

“Were there contacts before? After I left the control room, I mean.”

“Faint and intermittent, difficult to track. Rudders couldn’t be detected. Excellent design.”

“And now?”

“Nothing, Xiao.”

He turned to the man whose console he had visited. The submariner was looking at him and shook his head.

What happened? An accident?

Then he heard several gunshots. It sounded like a pistol being fired in a hurry. At the highly unexpected sounds, some technical personnel stood up in their stations. Some looked where the noise came from.

Ta ma de! Now what? he thought, immediately glancing at his XO. There was no need to give instructions. The man was on his way. As the captain stood there, waiting for the officer to report back, another fusillade exploded. In the cramped and isolated space of the 500-feet long vessel, the gunfire was deafening. Captain Hao was furious. He wanted to rush to the scene, but discipline and experience prevailed. At the back of his mind, he gave thanks that only frangible ammunition was issued. Full metal jacket heads allow the possibility of hull damage. The sudden sound of a struggle at his back caught his attention. He swiftly looked in the direction of the commotion.

In the reddish illumination of the control room, he could see uniformed personnel shoving and hitting others. Though shocked at the sight, he still noticed that the people they were trying to push back were naked, their uniforms gone. For some reason, the roseate glow of the lights reflected off their bodies. As he watched, one of the figures touched the face of an ensign who was trying to kick him back. The ensign suddenly stopped struggling as his uniform disappeared and a film rapidly engulfed him. It covered the person’s body from head to foot in barely two seconds, revealing the man’s naked body sheathed in what appeared to be a metallic sheen. Then the figure turned and rushed towards him.