Well, yesterday wasn't a loss in the end. Actually, we made out better than we hoped for.
When we drove away from the town flooded with chemical spills, I said that there was a glum feeling of failure among us. There was--right up until we hit our next target. The closest town that Jess and I had scouted last time we were up here was a good piece bigger than the one shrouded in chemicals. We considered it of less value, because there wasn't food to be found as there was in the place we had to abandon.
No surprise stock of canned goods, but upon closer inspection we did discover what appeared to be an abandoned stronghold. It was this big set of apartment buildings, looked like housing projects. The people that had lived there at one point erected walls and stockpiled all sorts of interesting things. We did find a little food, actually, maybe a few hundred cans of veggies and some sacks of dry pasta, but that isn't more than a day's worth for the residents of NJ. The great finds were more subtle but useful things.
All sorts of homemade items. Almost every apartment we went into (and there were about fifty of them) had a jet stove--one of those tiny stoves made from spare metal that are designed to burn wood with crazy efficiency. There was a lot of stock metal--round bar, flat bar, all sizes and shapes, which the people here used to make weapons, but also to fashion some very clever items that met specific needs.
For example--the wall there isn't as sound as others I've seen. Not because of poor craftsmanship, but because the complex is set on a steep hill, making it hard to build evenly. There were gaps where a determined zombie could probably work his way through or over. Solution? A sort of angled spike with a barb on it, attached to the weaker sections of wall. A heavy spring was linked to a section of wall, and when a zombie climbed it, the movement of the wall under the zombie triggered the release of the spike, impaling the zombie and filling the gap in the wall with its pinned body.
That's freaking creative! There were all sorts of things like that around. All of it made by hand, and the metal worked at, you guessed it, a small forge the folks here had set up. God knows how long it took them to figure out how to build one, get the supplies, and get it done. It didn't take us all that long at my own compound, but we had the advantage of having Patrick, who had grown up obsessed with learning to blacksmith. He knew all the details, all we had to do was give him supplies and people.
Aside from the apartment complex, the cache of building supplies that Jess and I marked were still there. We loaded up what we needed and headed back to the apartment complex. It seemed as good a place as any to rest. Too bad the people there seemed to have abandoned it--and it is abandoned, there were signs that no one had been there in a few months at the least. One thing that makes me wonder what happened there is the surprising amount of fuel left behind. I'd think that if you were picking up and making a run for it, you'd put every ounce of diesel and gas you could in spare tanks. Though we haven't found even one body, and no signs of forced entry (the place was locked up tight when we got to it), there are dozens of cars packed into the parking lot, all with fuel. Most with more than half a tank. Not to mention a giant plastic drum full of diesel, at least three hundred gallons of it.
One last thing we found here: some sort of lab. At first glance I thought it was a meth lab, but that was just because so much of it was slapped together from whatever the people that lived her could find. There are cannisters of stuff in there, and large drums that are sealed tight. We're going to look at it a lot more carefully before we leave out. Might be something useful.
There are three more big stops for us before we head back to North Jackson. A few minor stops along the way, but I think we can manage it all in a few days. The only real trouble we've run into so far is the chemical spill, though with the warm front that has moved in, the zombies around these parts have become a lot more active. No sluggish movements from exposure to extreme cold. Just as fast and dangerous as ever. There will undoubtedly be crowds of them, but the modifications to our trucks (gotta love cow-catchers) should make driving through them easy enough. We aren't planning on staying exposed long enough to attract groups of them at our stops, but we can run if we're suddenly set upon by the undead.
...I find myself feeling a powerful yearning to be back at NJ. It's funny how The Fall seemed to separate people into two basic categories, and helped those who wanted to live in peace get along with others of the same mindset. I always felt friendship toward the people at NJ, Jack's compound, whatever you want to call it. However, I didn't see them as more than that before our recent tragedy brought us together. I feel like I'm away from family right now, family in pain. I want to be there to hold their hands and keep them smiling. I don't know if that's weird to you, but it's both reassuring (that I can build new bonds) and frightening (because I am afraid to lose any more of them) to me.
I share the anger against our attackers. All of us do. And honestly, it's getting harder and harder to ignore the urge to do something disturbing and permanent to the Richmond soldiers. The desire to march home, back to Kentucky and to the compound, pulls at me all the time. To step right up and just lose control on those bastards for everything they've done...
Good thing I'm stuck on this run, no chance to give in, or I might. Just not today...