It seems like every time we start to see positives, right when our emotional level starts to finally equalize, bad things happen. This time it wasn't something that happened to New Haven, but it still made for a terrible morning.
We got the word from our watchers about half an hour ago.
The guard our people saved from a zombie attack, who not long after started telling jokes at our watchers across from his position at the fallback point, was just getting off duty. The replacement sentries came to relieve him and his partner as they always did, but with them came a squad of people. That was new.
The additional group wore riot gear. You know the kind: shiny and black, made to stop bullets and knives, covering the entire body. There were four of them, heavily armed and walking with the dangerous step of a wary person expecting violence.
Our watchers couldn't hear the words being exchanged between the guards going off duty and the armed and armored people who took him into custody. It was a quick thing, maybe thirty seconds of heated exchange and then our comedian was handcuffed. His partner backed away, hands raised, which seemed to satisfy the captors.
A man came out from under the darkened overhang of the parking garage inside the fallback point. We'd blocked that off a long time ago, but the Exiles made an opening once they moved in. The man wasn't tall, but our folks relayed that he was big. Broad across the shoulders, wearing a heavy coat and obviously well-fed. Not fat, but built like a lineman. Used to work.
He walked up to the captive guard, squatted down to talk to him. The big guy's long gray hair whipped in the morning wind across both their faces, he was so close. The watchers gave a detailed description of this person--the leader of the Exiles, we assume--and it's one I'll remember. Scar going down the left side of his face, jutting over sharply to just below his mouth. Square jaw, heavy brows. Body language that screamed an absolute lack of mercy.
How could the watchers tell that last bit? Because when the captive guard began to thrash, trying valiantly to get away, the scarred man hauled the poor guy up by his handcuffs. Scar waved away the armored guards as they moved in to help him, instead walking the captive right to the edge of the nearest bridge until the guard's feet stuck halfway over the broken-toothed concrete rim.
Scar didn't shout at our people, didn't make a gesture toward them. He knew he was being watched. Knew that the chance he was being sighted down a rifle scope approached a hundred percent. The big man held the captive guard still with his right hand, and pulled out a heavy revolver with his left. Without preamble, Scar put the barrel against the head of his captive and pulled the trigger.
The spray of blood and brains and pieces of skull made it almost halfway across the river. The guard slumped immediately, and Scar pushed him into the water before turning around and walking away.
As messages go, this one couldn't have been more clear had it been shouted to us from the heavens. We are not your friends, it said. We are not your allies. We abide by the terms of the truce because we have to, but we are and will remain enemies.
That kind of candor would be refreshing if it hadn't cost a man his life. Any movement our attitude toward the Exiles might have made in positive directions has reversed course, hard. Our course of action from here out has to be iron-clad. No Exile can defect, we can't take the risk of one of them being an agent. Now the general population in the fallback point will know that. And the actions taken by their leadership sent a message to those same people: if you have thoughts of reconciliation with New Haven, or are starting to see them as people, or are thinking of leaving...forget it. Those aren't survivable options.
Credit is due to our watchers for not taking the shot they surely wanted to take. It would have been easy to react to cold murder with one of their own, a few ounces of pressure on a trigger. A moment of rage that would have taken one terrible person out of the human race even as it reignited a war.
God help me, I almost wish they'd done it.
Which is idiotic on an intellectual level. We've got crops to grow, projects to build, zombies of all types to defend against, and a hundred other things to worry about. I know that. But what I feel is totally different.
And I'll leave it there before I start a war myself.