A man named James Cole wakes up in a prison cell that looks like the world's worst dog kennel. The man in the next cell over, Jose, informs Cole that he has volunteered. Sorry, that should read has been volunteered.
After being taken away for "volunteer" duty, Cole straps into a homemade hazmat suit that is one part rain poncho, one part scrapyard art. Nope, he's not a cosplay enthusiast; he's heading to the planet's disease-ridden surface.
Cole takes an elevator to the surface to explore the ruinous remains of a snow-covered Philadelphia. There, he collects samples of living creatures, such as a cockroaches and spiders, but steers clear of the bears and lions roaming the streets—they won't fit in his jars.
Among the ruins, he finds a bit of graffiti: a giant red "12" and a monkey.