Monday, September 5, 2011


A bit of a confession: I fibbed a little about when we were leaving.

I've been on the road with my team for about six hours now. We left at midnight with a group of soldiers from North Jackson on their way back home to resupply. It seemed better to start our trip off going in a direction we're familiar with, to a place that's very friendly with us. It'll also be a nice jumping-off point to the larger journey, which first will take us to Canada.

We're going to spend a few days with the folks in NJ. There have been a few changes in our relationship with them in the last week, and I've been itching to tell you about it. I haven't thus far only because nothing in our negotiations was set in stone, but I can proudly say that things are officially better for all of us after finalizing our agreements.

It's pretty simple: in return for providing the people of North Jackson with a reasonable amount of medical supplies, we're getting a permanent contingent of soldiers and workers assigned to us. They'll rotate out on a regular basis, and there won't be a lot of them, but their entire purpose is to help New Haven work on our various projects. The soldiers will help bolster our defenses. We'll share the fruits of our labors with the people of NJ, obviously, and their engineers will give us a hand with any design problems we may encounter.

This is a big deal for a lot of reasons, the most obvious and important being zombies. The numbers of them around New Haven right now are pretty small, but our scouts have seen swarms roaming not too far from Frankfort despite our daily efforts to clear them out. It's an unavoidable fact of life that there will always be more undead out there, and that we'll need constant protection from them. Especially when working out in the open.

Oh, one other thing we're providing for NJ as a part of this deal--we're training doctors. We've done something like this before, giving a bunch of their people a decent grounding in emergency medicine, but this time Evans and Phil (maybe Gabby if she has time) will be doing some intensive training over a long period of time to a few candidates who've spent a lot of time teaching themselves the basics. I doubt we'll be churning out physicians with the wide breadth of knowledge the pre-Fall docs had, but frankly doing that seems like it would be a waste. Right now what we need are men and women who can diagnose and do surgery to meet the basic needs of the people. The good thing is that the bare bones of medicine don't actually take that long to learn.

I know, that sounds crazy. It isn't, really. People who're learning medicine in the here and now don't have four years of pre-med to do. They don't have a lot of classes to take. They'll learn their anatomy and physiology by doing and watching. It's much easier for most people to learn about the human body, how it works and how to fix it, by observing and participating. In the world that was, we had time to let our medical students work slowly toward their practical education. The world that is requires them to learn on the fly, which greatly accelerates the process. Also, no math classes or fillers, so the whole thing should go quickly.

That wasn't where I intended this post to go, but I'm glad I wrote about this. It's important to me to chronicle the way some things have changed, and the rapid pace with which our students learn skills isn't limited to medicine, though it's a good example. Most things are like that now, people learning by doing, unencumbered by all the useless crap they don't need. Not to say there won't be classes, but Evans is of the opinion that it's far more important for a student to understand how, say, a finger works and know how to set the bone than what the scientific name of it is.

Down the road when we have things like hospitals again, that may change. For now, it's enough to have the skills.

Our agreement with NJ is important. It serves as a template for cooperative effort and mutual gain that I'm hoping to replicate with many of the groups we're going to be visiting. The world is a bigger place than it was two years ago, our settlements struggling most times and groups of living humans far apart. Few of them have the resources to make regular travel possible. The best chance we have, and by 'we' I mean humanity in general, is to work together to make the highest number of people possible safe and productive. If that means scouring the country for vehicles that can run on E85 and setting up a distribution network for fuel, then that's what we'll do.

That's presuming a lot, I know. We still need to meet many of these people, set up channels of trade, and figure out what resources will be needed to make those trades possible. It's a daunting challenge.

Right about now, I'd love to say something epic and inspiring about how I never back down from a challenge. Cue music from Rocky, and start montage. Right?

Except that's not true. I have doubts like anyone else, and before The Fall I was as prone to laziness and procrastination as anyone else. I feel that I've grown more mature and determined since then, but here I am riding in our vehicle, armed and armored, festooned with extra storage and fuel tanks, writing twice as many words as I intended. Putting off thinking about how big the job ahead is.

It's a roundabout way of saying I'm worried about failing, I know. But I am. The difference between the old me and the me that writes these words is that where before I would give up before even trying, now I'll do everything I can to make it work. I'm still scared to fail, but if I do it won't be from lack of effort.

Whew, okay. Time to wake up a few of the others. Dawn is coming, and it's going to be a long day.

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