Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fire, Ice, and the Science of War

(Courtney, checking in.) Nonstop activity here, weapon building, supplies being run from Point A to Point B, shouting orders, words of encouragement, people hustling to their next station, the steady hum of industry becoming the dull roar of warfare. My brain is buzzing, and it feels like I've been plugged into a computer to aid with the processing of data, the solving of problems. Strikes and counter-strikes to coordinate, wounded to tend, gotta say the right words to the right people to keep morale up, feed and water the fighters, rest them, then send them out again. Reload the weapons, recharge the fighters. Time and resource management game to the Nth degree, pixels streaming past and navigating by instinct alone. I've honestly never felt a high like this before. I'm in the zone, woefully inadequate as that phrase may be at conveying the rapture and, I suspect, had I time to sufficiently contemplate it, horror, of the situation. Jack gives me a knowing, almost-smiling look from time to time, as if sharing some inside joke, and I smirk back as an automatic reply, sometimes varying it by rolling my eyes slightly, but truthfully I can only speculate as to the intended meaning of this exchange. Data in, data out. This missive is no respite, it's just another checkmark I can make on my never-ending mental to-do list, another tiny increase in the progress bar. Let everyone know we're okay, move on to next project. Ping? Pong.

We've been burning and blasting those rotting bastards for hours or days now, but we'll soon be adding a new element to our repertoire: ice. That's right, we plan to freeze them, and though this may have limited success in the short run, when are we going to have such a wonderful chance to test these new weapons against such large numbers? Area effects deal extra damage to swarms, you know. Liquid nitrogen, dry ice, these guys have been working on this as an alternate form of food preservation, when refrigeration isn't an option, but there are these machines like sandblasters, except they fire little pellets of dry ice, being modified for maximum portability. Dry ice bombs, sadly not as effective yet as they will be soon, are filling the battlefield with a lingering fog that is so melodramatic and perfect, I can't help but laugh, despite the daunting numbers of our foes. Enough liquid nitrogen and we'd reduce our enemies to powder, but that's a bit of a fantasy as well. There are endless waves of zombies, which means endless waves of test subjects, which means as soon as one prototype fails of succeeds, adjustments can be made, and it can be immediately tested again. We've been trying to take out as many of those smart ghoulish types as we can, so they don't get the benefit of a learning curve in relation to our newer tactics, but I'm sure a few have slipped through the cracks, so to speak.

Will and Steve are fighting together like they've trained to do it for years, or at least months. Their assaults are coordinated, fluid, and, dare I say it? beautiful to watch. Vehicles zigzagging across the battlefield, the crack of weapons fired, the thwacking impact of a pipe and the ensuing whoosh of flames, the trails of's like some over-budget blockbuster being shot all around the compound. The two of them come back thoroughly fatigued, but EXULTANT. Their eyes gleam, they high-five and leap and cheer, and Kimiko looks worried as she hands them water and urges them to rest, but this bravado is what's powering them and so many others right now, and I'm not going to be the one that tells them to stop.

Jack briefs them on the modifications we've made to the weaponry, shows them how to properly handle our little chemical grenades so they don't get frostbite on their hands, and the two of them are enthralled. Will has no doubt been privately longing for an opportunity for his abilities to really shine, and, I suspect, is genuinely relieved to be following orders again. Steve was running messages, tinkering in the lab, backing up the medics, and manning the wall, and running at insane speeds to fill in whatever position needed an extra bonus Steve. Once he saw Will gearing up to go outside the compound, though, he didn't hesitate even a moment to volunteer. Jack somehow knows just what to say to get the two of them fired up, which they pass on to the other warriors. Amadi smirkingly warns me that he thinks Steve and Will might both propose marriage to Jack at any second. I quip back that they'll have to beat me to it, but they're welcome to try. Amadi is an utter genius at chemistry who has been helping translate some of my half-baked plans and strategies into innovations that will actually work in a universe that operates according to the laws of physics. I say, "We need to do this," and he says, "Here's how."

Some part of my mind is screaming at me to get everyone to safety, to pull my people off the battlefield, to keep Steve far away from such a hideously dangerous position, but I, too, am caught up in the moment. It's as though the difference in setting between a residential neighborhood and a factory has flipped some switch in all our brains. Everyone is where he or she needs to be, everyone is doing more than seems possible. The compound in Kentucky is full of people, and feels like a living entity, a child that we are nurturing and teaching so that it will grow up strong and brave and free. The compound here is full of machines, and feels like a machine. Each weapon we build is a part of that machine, and we ourselves are spinning, whirring components in this machine as well. This is the heart of it, then, the part that enraptures and terrifies me. Is that what Jack was trying to get across? A chill is doing its best to work its way through me, giving me goosebumps, but I have no time for chills. Any one of us has plenty of reason to be afraid; any one of us may die in this unprecedentedly vicious battle. But the compound will not fall. We are smarter, faster, better prepared. The ghouls can adapt to our strategies, but we adapt faster. We will prevail.

The last time I checked outside (funny world where "getting some air" necessarily includes shooting shambling corpses from atop a wall) the smoke from various explosive devices and the fog from dissipating dry ice covered much of the battlefield in a haze so perfectly befitting a zombie movie, I had to make a concerted effort to stop laughing, lest I disturb my more stoic fellow combatants, or bungle a crucial shot. It's too cinematic. My ears keep straining, I think, to hear the orchestral score triumphantly playing in the background.

Oh, yes, one last thing. We could really use some ammunition. As we've proven over and over again today, practically anything can be a projectile weapon with the proper preparation, but a victory with fewer casualties would be so much more desirable.

I need to go. Lisa has been pacing back and forth across the room, waiting for me to finish, though only now she tells me it's because she has a few contacts who might be able to help us out. Cryptic, but hopeful. Also, it seems she neglected to mention that Jack wanted to see me for something. (she wanted to go with the group that was testing weapons, and has been somewhat sulky since Jack told her no. Not really sure what is going on with that power dynamic, except that Jack is a bit protective and old-fashioned about women in some ways, though progressive in others...) In a moment I'll leap up in a way that is hopefully not too reminiscent of an eager puppy, and see what it is that he needs. Love to everyone back home. We're going to win this fight, but I apologize in advance for the pain our losses are likely to bring. Later, guys.

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