Tuesday, July 31, 2012


You know as well as I do that the world as it is requires hard, sometimes terrible choices. I don't have to give you examples. You understand. Survival is the bedrock element upon which everything we do is based. Without that as our driving force, we would make mistakes too large to live through. Pretty much every other thing going on in New Haven at the moment--the expansion, the Exiles, food struggles, and even the new plague--is out of my thoughts. Instead I'm focused on a tragic situation that nearly took my breath away when I learned of it.

And I am not alone in this. Most of the citizens here are heartbroken at the moment. Not just because of the bad news at the root of our sadness, but at the necessary decision that came as a consequence of it.

About an hour before dawn, a messenger arrived from Louisville. I've been negligent in mentioning the Louisville crew for a while now. They've been trying to grow much as we have, taking in people from the outside and working to build a serious central location for everyone to live in. Somewhere they can farm and defend, somewhere rock solid and safe.

It was going well enough until the new plague hit them. The Louisville group suffered some harsh losses, but managed to keep attracting newcomers. After all, the plague was everywhere. No harm in bringing people in when everyone is already getting sick.

After Kincaid's idea to burn the illness away with saunas spread, our friends in Louisville began to improve, then prosper. They treated their ill and moved into their new home, a location I still plan to keep secret. The messenger this morning brought dire news, a quick and mournful shift in their fortune.

Much as we've seen here on a very small scale, the people in Louisville have come through the new plague more prone to catching an illness. Someone must have carried a nasty bug in with them, because in a matter of days more than three quarters of their population have developed serious symptoms. Maybe not so bad in a world with hospitals, abundant doctors, and facilities to produce medicine...but in the world that is, bad enough to cause a lot of worry. Vomiting and diarrhea, sharp fevers and profuse sweating, weakness and a few others. Very, very easy to spread, and with all the hallmarks of an outbreak of a nasty flu.

Their community has gone from growing to a grinding halt in half a week. Without the kind of infrastructure we've built here and with so many people sick, life in Louisville has become nearly impossible. The sick people rely on those still well to make them food, keep them hydrated. Water there is easy to get from the river, but needs to be filtered and purified to drink. That takes time and energy, and when three of four people are on their backs, the rest become overwhelmed quickly.

Naturally the messenger asked for our help. We had to turn him away. While we have extra people here, probably enough to see them through this crisis, we simply can't risk it. Sure, putting off our expansion plans to give some help wouldn't be the end of the world (again) but our immune systems are likely just as compromised as theirs are. Anyone we might send to Louisville would probably end up sick, and would bring that home to us.

I was with Will when he gave the messenger the council's decision. No one from New Haven would be sent to help. Any citizen could choose to go of their own free will, of course, but they would not be allowed back through our gates for at least sixty days. A long time to make sure that any sickness wouldn't be carried back here, but again a needed precaution. So far, no one has volunteered to go.

I don't like it. No one likes it. I know that we might be consigning good men and women, people who have fought by our side, to a slow and painful death. Tears keep trying to form in my eyes as I write this, because I know that many of them probably hate us for this. I would hate us, too, even knowing how hard this decision is.

I'm reminded of a very early lesson back in college. My primary teacher in my Fire/Rescue classes told us that the first duty of a firefighter is to survive. The job, he said, was to save lives if possible but also to manage risk. Danger is an acceptable part of the situation, but there are degrees. You might go into a burning building to try to rescue a person, but when the floor ahead of you falls away, it's time to back out and cut your losses. Your life isn't less important than those of the people you're trying to help.

Risk is fine. Every day we live is filled with it. But something like this, something so potentially deadly to so many of our people, isn't acceptable. I write that with a heavy heart and more sadness than I can express in words, but also with resolve. I hope the Louisville folks pull through, and if we can think of ways to help that don't expose us to the disease rampaging through their ranks then I'll be the first to volunteer to go.

Until and unless that happens, I'll keep them in my thoughts. Because for now, that's about all I can do.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Surface Area

One of the advantages to having our teams out clearing away the undead is the freedom we have to work outside with minimal protection. True, the local zombies are extremely pissed off at the assault teams, which means the odd straggler our other workers come across have to deal with unusually aggressive enemies, but it's well worth the price. For their part, the teams seem to take a twisted pride in being the object of so much hate from the undead.

As long as our numbers hold out--and they are so far, no crippling outbreak of the newest version of the plague yet though a few more people are sick--then we'll have people out there working on the expansion. We're moving in three directions, primarily, since the last expansion takes up a good chunk of our western wall. The small groups moving around are putting up posts on the southern edge of New Haven at present. That area has traditionally been our weakest front, and once the expansion actually takes place there will be some advantages to starting there.

You may remember that the southern edge is where one of the abandoned nursing homes is. We've got plans to set it up as our central clinic. My mom's old house has been our medical center for so long that it's going to take some adjustment for all of us to deal with the change, but it'll be a good one. More room, more resources, a more centralized location for the new New Haven.

After the southern area is done being dotted with posts to hitch the sections of wall to (hopefully coming soon!) then our people will work on the entire eastern and southeastern section. We were going to avoid moving into the southeast if possible because there isn't a lot of residential space over that way, but Will and Dodger have made a pretty strong case for going there. The medical pavilion we'll be engulfing is full of brick buildings with a lot of floor space. Good for group dwellings and emergency defense. Also, the idea is to keep New Haven as square as possible to reduce the number of guards and sentries we need on the walls.

That area will be farmed heavily next year. We already have a ton of wild greens growing there, though the heatwave has been less than kind to them. Great thing about clover is that as soon as the rain starts up--and it has, this month--it starts growing like mad again. We can fill a lot of bellies if need be.

The biggest and hardest part of the expansion will be annexing the neighborhoods across the road from New Haven. There's a whole hell of a lot of houses over that way, butting up against my old high school and middle school. We're going to take them all. Some of those houses are crazy huge and were expensive back when money was still a thing, while an older adjoining set of neighborhoods are filled with more modest homes. It goes without saying that people will be assigned places. If we leave it up to them it will be inevitable that tons of people will want big houses. And everyone is going to have to share.

Depending on how many sections of new wall we can get in our mitts, we might try to expand all the way to the schools. Those things are on a lot of arable land, and they're built like fortresses. That's not in our current game plan, but it's a nice dream to have. If for no other reason, we'd like to have the schools for the number of folks we could move in there. Yeah, it'll all work with just the houses, but that's not an ideal situation and isn't meant to be a permanent one. As time goes on, we plan on using the surface area we have available to its fullest capacity: we want to build upward. Dave has been keen on this for a long time. He even has some ideas how to integrate living spaces with vertical farming.

I'd love to move outward, but we have to think upward with such a large population. Babies are going to be born and we'll need space. Given our recent (and now very recent) bouts with illness, I'm of the opinion that clustering ten or fifteen people to a house is not a sustainable or smart way to do things. We'll need people more spread out for the sake of their privacy as well as preventing a disease from rampaging through our citizens with ease because they're packed together like sardines.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Growth Spurt

You may remember a while back--a long while back--that we once had plans to expand New Haven in a very specific way. That idea was derailed by a series of events beyond our control, and though current events are trying to do the same thing we've decided to use that old plan as the basis for our current expansion.

At the risk of making us appear weak at a time when several major aspects of our future are balancing on a fine edge, I can't help but share. We're seeing cases of the new plague come up again at a rate that makes us pretty sure this is a variety brought in from the outside. That itself isn't surprising; we expected it. We aren't back to a point where we have to worry because so many people have become ill again, but six falling ill in one day, two of them people who have had the plague before, is something to be concerned about.

As always, our dedicated medical staff are on the case. Though somewhat more resistant to heat than the previous strains, a nice hot sauna seems to do the trick. Our clinical people are on the ball with the newest outbreak, and it's a major advantage that people with symptoms know better than to write them off as a summer cold. People get sick, they come to the clinic, and the illness is treated as fast as humanly possible.

If recent history is any kind of measuring stick then this whole situation could turn bad very quickly. We don't know if previous exposure makes a person more or less likely to get sick again. We don't know if the new version is more or less virulent than the old one. Just as before, there are a lot of factors in play that we have no way of understanding other than guesswork based on evidence before us. To gather that evidence, people have to get sick. A lot of them.

On top of that, a few prior victims of the new plague have fallen ill with what looks like regular old illnesses. Maybe the trauma of the zombie plagues fighting in their lungs has weakened immune systems. Since the people in question all live and work together and have similar symptoms, this probably isn't as big a deal. I know when I get sick Jess usually follows or vice versa. The situation isn't more than a blip on the radar right now, but long experience coupled with a healthy desire not be caught off guard means I'll be keeping an eye on this even if no one else does. Which they will. Which probably makes me paranoid and overprotective.

Considering the work ahead, I don't think being overcautious is a bad idea. One interesting thing about the next phase of our plan is the amount of work that is being done off-site to make it happen. Part of the reason we abandoned our original expansion plan was due to the difficulty we foresaw in setting up a new wall around any areas we wanted. The idea was to go eastward, which we began with the annex of the smaller neighborhood next door. That didn't end so well. You may recall that the wall there was breached and the place set on fire. That's why the whole thing is a big farm now.

But the people coming to join us have been working with the brainy engineers in North Jackson on a solution. A way to quickly put up walls and cordon off sections of neighborhoods and empty land for our use. The idea was taken from the smaller expansion we did with shipping containers not long ago. Those giant metal boxes don't need supports or any more work than putting them into place.

So the NJ people came up with the idea to cut a bunch of shipping containers up, put hinges on the edges, and send a bunch of them (salvaged from defunct trucking companies and railyards. Thanks, Michigan, for being full of those things) to us on flatbeds. Many varieties of the them will fit together snugly if you lay the sides flat, meaning large numbers of the cut-apart boxes can be moved at once. Just slice 'em up, stack the pieces like paper, and away you go.

It does represent a heavy investment in fuel, which we're struggling to find more and more, but we've got enough ethanol to make that stretch for a long while if we use vehicles that can burn it. North Jackson has a couple heavy trucks that can. We've got a small team of people working on setting up support posts for the new walls even as I type this, based on the specifications sent to us by the folks in NJ. I'm curious to see how this will work out. It's a brilliant idea, honestly. Instead of using a whole shipping container to make a wall section, we'll be using the hinges to put half a box together. A ninety-degree angle, tall side standing up, short side on the ground. A little welding of braces, then attaching the thing to the posts our people are placing, and voila.


It's a great idea, and it means being able to grow at a much faster rate than we could have ever hoped for. Most of the work is going to wait until we have the hands to do it, but with this plan in mind I see not just a greater possibility that it'll work, but a high probability that it will. Think about that. More than two thousand people living here, working together. Making the future happen as one.

We'll certainly have to dodge some obstacles to get there, but when was the last time our lives were easy?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rain Catcher

For days on end we've had rain and storms, but yesterday morning they got bad. Not enough to knock down houses, but nearly enough rain to drown us out. Between clearing out as many zombies as possible from the local area and trying to get some groundwork laid for the big expansion, we've been busy. Our plumbers and the people helping them haven't been wasting any time, though. 

The first of the giant cisterns is already filled. Instead of taking a long time to build one big enough to service all of New Haven, the decision was made to build smaller (but still big) reservoirs spread out over a large area. Several reasons: the water pressure inside the tanks will be less, which makes it more manageable. Losing one won't be as damaging. 

It's also less work. Which means we can bring running water to sections of our home one at a time. For now the quick reservoirs will be pairs of tanker trailers buried underground and fed by catch basins. Depending on what sizes tanks we use, each site will hold between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water. 

Filtration is something we're still working on, but most of us have systems at home if it comes down to that. In general, we're doing pretty well. 

That's a lot more than I can say for the Exiles. In all the recent craziness I've drifted away from talking about them much. Partially because of how busy I've been, but also because they seem to be less of a threat than ever. 

The lookouts tell us that the screens they erected in front of the fallback point to block our view have been shredded by the storms. That side of the river still has a lot of trees, unlike New Haven which has had all trees within a hundred yards cut down long ago. That means during heavy winds a lot of debris gets thrown around. We've had gusts up to seventy miles an hour lately. 

Since killing Scar and his lieutenants, the Exiles seem to be aimless. Sure, they're still farming and trying to turn those buildings and their patch of land into a home, but there are signs that some vital thread that held them together is gone. Maybe it was fear of Scar that united them, made them work as a whole. It's a stark reminder that while some of those people were once disciplined survivors from right here where I live, the majority were marauders. Many small groups grown set in their ways. 

I hate to give the murderous fucker any credit, but Scar seemed to keep the Exiles focused and on task. Guard duty there used to be clockwork in its efficiency. Now we see a lot of erratic behavior, missed shifts, arguments between people, and, worst of all, some deaths at the hands (teeth) of wandering zombies. People over there are dying because no one has taken up the reins of leadership. At least, I assume that's the case. I don't know. 

Strange as it is to say, I feel a little sorry for them. I don't feel less anger or hate toward them than I did, but there's tinge of pity now along with those emotions. It would be almost impossible not to. Those folks stood up to a tyrant and made the hard choice, the dangerous choice. They risked everything for a chance to make it on their own. They fought for freedom, twisted as it was. 

Facing the daunting task in front of us, I remember sharply being where the Exiles are now. They're just beginning the massive work we started two and a half years ago. It's vivid in my mind, those days of workign breakneck speeds to make something better than I had. Being afraid of the chaos outside, not knowing where the future would take us and only having myself to blame for failures. 

We're doing that all over again right now, and that makes me pity them. We've got a huge support structure to help us out. Years of practice and friends to lean on. A safe home with resources we can utilize. The Exiles aren't as blessed. They aren't helpless or without means, but we've surpassed them now. 

I feel for them, but it's the generalized sadness I have for all human beings enduring a struggle. As hard as it is to say, despite the fact that they have children there and are to all appearances trying to be better people...

I'd let them die. I won't advocate breaking the truce and making war on them, but neither will I suggest offering them any help. It might hurt me to do it, but I could watch from the cliffs as the last of them passed from this world and not lift a finger to help. I feel that way for a variety of reasons, a slew of them over time that add up to the inescapable sense that the risk of every helping those people could never be outweighed by any possible good. 

Each of my reasons is the result of a corresponding number of bad decisions both large and small from the Exiles themselves. I believe in redemption and moving forward. I'm no angel. I won't kill them without cause, but I won't risk anything to help them, either. 

New Haven is growing into something more, something amazing beyond our imagination. At the moment it's as simple as running water, but even that is an achievement in engineering to be proud of. Step by step we'll add on to what we have. 

I can't help but think of what's ahead for both groups. I don't wish them well, but as time goes by I become less interested in them as long as the Exiles leave us alone. Maybe a strange reason for peace, but given all we have and are working on, and thus stand to lose, it's one I'll take in a heartbeat. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Okay, I don't want to give a blow-by-blow on how the big fight went down yesterday, because I wasn't actually there. I know the generalities of the thing, and our people were brilliant and methodical.

The basic idea was to herd the zombies where we wanted them. That was actually pretty easy since they were butted up against a steep hill. Our folks slathered ammonia around the entire area, pushing the undead into a smaller and smaller area. Up the hill, in fact. Which was where the archers were waiting.

Firing down on the New Breed trying to climb the hill was the safest and most efficient way the team leaders could come up with to cut down a large number of them relatively quickly. Moving uphill slowed the zombies down quite a bit, and the fallen bodies of the front lines made it that much harder for those behind to trudge upward.

New Breed, not being stupid, will only walk into a death trap for so long before deciding to do something else. We've known for a while that the undead will travel through areas contaminated by ammonia if they have to. They did. Funny thing about the zombie sense of smell; when they move through areas they don't like, such as a cloud of ammonia, they invariably go where the smell is weakest.

We knew that, too.

Which was how the attack teams managed to get the undead to walk around in a section of woods liberally mined with small balloons filled with alcohol-laced gel. Well, some of them. Others were packed with thermite gel. Pretty much all of them burst when the zombies stepped on them. For the record, those fuckers still don't like fire at all.

The path was chosen carefully by our folks out of concern for starting a wildfire we couldn't control. When the flames hit, the undead panicked. Those that didn't have their legs burned to useless sticks by the rapid spread of the fire ran like hell through the areas of heavily-concentrated ammonia. That slowed them down and made them less sharp.

It helps that there were auxiliary units placed around the area for just that scenario. Turns out the workers that migrated to aid with building our infrastructure were quite happy to lend a hand.

It wasn't beautiful or perfect. Five people were seriously injured, and two died. More than five hundred zombies were killed, though. Not bad numbers, though of course we can never replace those we lost.

Efficiency could have been better. The whole deal took nearly three hours if you count the time spent performing coup-de-grace on the hundreds of injured zombies. The hard part wasn't making the situation less dangerous, our weaponry and planning did that. No, it was maintaining the patience to treat every zombie crawling toward our fighters as a true and deadly threat. Kill a few clawing their way across the dirt toward you and it starts to seem like an easy job. Until one bites you on the leg or manages to trip you. Our teams had to move in roughly circular groups to keep eyes all around for sneaky undead trying to do just that.

Of course there was a lot of hand-to-hand, but that's really not interesting to me at this point. Our people are practiced at fighting fully functional zombies in teams, which are easy to spot when they're moving about unhindered. It's almost funny to me that the injured undead were more of a threat, but it's the truth. Those not crisped below the knees were so dazed by the fire and sudden violence (not to mention the ammonia) that they could barely manage a straight line, much less a cohesive front.

It was a big victory. Our people cut them down like so much wheat. Wow, I totally wrote a blow-by-blow. Ha. I didn't mean to. I wanted to tell you about some other stuff going on, but that'll just have to wait until the day after tomorrow, as I'll be off as usual in the morning. I may be a little high on victory at the moment. I better go.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I almost had to ask Kincaid to write another post today, because I really wanted to go out with the assault teams as they take on the big nest of zombies we found yesterday. They should be starting their attack within the next hour or so, but obviously I won't be joining them.

It's almost funny, because they want me to stay here for my safety. Seriously. Worse, after I talked to a few of the team leaders about it, I have to agree. I'm swiftly falling behind in training and experience. Basically as far as assault teams go, I'm a relic. Oh, I can defend the walls and fight like a bastard in a pinch, no doubt about that. But these people have been out fighting every other day, and training for eight hours on their off days. They've evolved new methods and techniques and become very efficient and practiced with them. I can't hang with that unless I give up everything else I do and join the assault teams full-time.

It says something about how good they're getting at their job that they only held back from hitting the swarm of nearly five hundred zombies we found yesterday because I was there with a scout team. They didn't want to risk our safety. Keep in mind we were outnumbered ten-to-one, and those crazy bastards thought those were decent odds.

The speed with which they came up with a plan of attack was mind-boggling. Less than ten minutes after getting all the reports from the various teams, the leaders had hammered out a basic strategy. I couldn't find anything to criticize in their efforts, either. They had some ideas I'd have never considered.

And some weapons I didn't know we had. For example, small canisters of pressurized ammonia. We usually use empty propane tanks for that, but they're heavy and hard to carry around in a fight. At some point recently an enterprising person found some canisters that can be filled and refilled with pressurized ammonia and water. Basically a mister with some muscle in it, but that's awesome. It allows pinpoint control of where the ammonia goes, which means we--they--can herd the zombies exactly where they want.

That's where the killing happens.

This isn't the first time I've been replaced. I mean, I've never really been the driving force in ground fighting or anything, but I've worked and led teams since New Haven was just the compound. It's just strange to know that there are people out there doing the fighting for me, and in ways I just can't compete with. It isn't bad. I don't feel depressed over it. Knowing me, I probably should.

But I just don't feel that way, which is really odd. Normally I take this kind of thing personally, but the team leaders didn't treat me like a kid or anything. They pointed out that I defend our home regularly. It's just that the assault teams are becoming more and more specialized and I would be risking everyone's safety by trying to fit in without the same training.

I'm fine with that. Which caught me off guard. I think it's because I'm really quite happy that we're finally at a place where we can specialize in things. There will be people whose main responsibility will be defenders of New Haven, out there on the walls or in the hills kicking ass and clearing out the undead. We'll have more than a handful of medical staff who have in-depth training on how to diagnose and treat patients.

I'm a generalist who has experience doing a lot of things, but because of that I can't focus on one long enough to become an expert at anything. I'm smiling as I type that. I used to have this hope that New Haven would turn into this huge community of people that can do every person's job and have all the skillsets they'd need to survive. I don't think that's feasible. I think every person should learn the basics about a lot of things, survival training included, but that idea is only good for starting over. For the simple things.

To move past where we are right now--and I'm deeply proud of what we've done in New Haven, our accomplishments go far beyond mere survival--we have to start specializing. Maybe I can learn a new skillset soon, once I'm totally redundant. I'd like to.

For bodies to grow, cells have to differentiate into muscle fibers, cardiac tissue, organs. For a complex living structure to exist long-term, this simply must happen. I think my eyes have been opened this morning.

Now, to wait for news from the teams. Full account of the assault tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out of Action

Hey, this is Kincaid again. Josh is away for the day. He said he was out of action, but the opposite is true. He's in the field this morning with one of the attack groups. There's a big congregation of zombies nestled inside a stand of trees that butts up against the bottom of a cliff. It isn't that far away, and he needs eyes on the target to decide how many people to dedicate to wiping out the group.

So here I am again, filling in and without much to say. Guess I could mention that the treatments for the plumbers went well. They're resting up now. It's looking like the large convoy of workers will be here tomorrow at the latest. That means we can get a start on the new infrastructure. I'm excited about that since I've been sponging myself clean for the last month. Even minimal running water will make that job a lot less work.

I've been assigned to the plumbers, by the way. Me and a small team of men are providing most of the protection until the support convoy gets here. Since the people I'm watching out for are safely inside while they get their strength back, I don't have much to do.

But I guess I can share some of what I've picked up while on guard duty. The coolest thing so far is the reservoir they want to build here. At first the idea was to daisy-chain a dozen or so large tanks from fuel or milk trucks together and wall them up. Then put a lot of tarp and canvas out to act as a huge funnel for rain. It's still something worth doing, I think. The plumbers have another idea that goes along with it. They want to dig a huge underground reservoir, a big open pit. Line it with sand on the bottom and fuse it into glass. Maybe do the same with the walls if they can figure out out. Then just top it with some custom-made materials and use it as a cistern.

It's a good idea, I guess. But I'd be worried about the glass parts breaking under the weight of all that water. There are some other problems that seem likely, but I don't want to piss in anyone's cereal. Some of these people are experienced civil engineers. They know what they're doing better than me.

I should probably mention to them that not far from here is an abandoned train with about twenty tanker cars on it. That might make a difference. Doesn't mean getting them here would be easy or even possible, but they need to know. I think tankers of whatever type would be a better idea. We know they work for sure. I'd rather not risk my own drinking water on any wild ideas.

One thing I learned out on the road was to keep things as modular as possible. Made sense then, we were always moving around to stay safe...and for other reasons. We had to be able to pick up and go at a moment's notice. Having to haul our own gear gave us a damn good reason to make sure it was all tough and reliable. Use a lot of small gas cans instead of one big tank and you don't risk the entire supply on one wild bullet. Put small bundles of food in varying locations in each vehicle and you don't starve if you and the group get separated. Just make sure the vehicles run well and can each last on their own without help. Armor them individually and don't solely rely on the camp to keep you safe.

Guess I'm babbling. Sorry about that. I haven't had much sleep. See, when my active job is on hold, everyone thinks what I wrote up there, that I don't have much to do. So a lot of folk ask me for help with this and that. I don't like to say no if I can help it. Writing here today has been a nice break from the busyness. But maybe some sleep is in order.

Unless my plumbers feel up to going out this morning. In that case I'm pretty much screwed all over.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Looking back over the last few years, I've come to recognize how things go in cycles for us. Hard times and good, one after the other. Starvation and plenty, danger and safety. It's obvious on the large scale with, say, the pattern of zombie activity. Staying relatively quiet in the winter and active in the summer. Also on the small scale with swells in attacks followed by short periods of calm.

That off-and-on pattern seems to apply to most aspects of our lives. The most important one at the moment is the new plague. It started off very slowly and built to a dangerous crescendo, killing people and weakening us as a community almost to the point of collapse. Then it leveled out and we found a way to treat the illness, which has worked so far. The numbers of sick people have dropped off as new cases became sparse.

Today that pattern changed. It's so frustrating to think you've got a problem solved only to see it spring up again. This time it's our plumbers that are ill, and it's most of them. We're trying to figure out why the majority of them would fall ill all at once when our data so far implies that the new plague takes a while to get working and that there seems to be no external factor that causes it to attack.

But here you have it. Sixteen men and women who feel as though their lungs are in a vice. We're treating them, of course, but it's a new twist in a situation we thought we were beginning to understand. The only significant factors I can think of off hand are the zombie attack--meaning widespread exposure to a possible mutation in the plague itself--and the weather, which has been crazy. Was the dust storm part of it?

I fucking hate that we don't know. Not simply for my own curiosity, but because being able to work out why might give us somewhere to work from. Maybe a way to predict how the plague changes and spreads.

What worries me the most is that we'll get a group of newcomers in here (and there are a group of them hitting the gates sometime in the next few days--the workmen for our plumbers) that will bring a variant of the plague that will hit us all over again. One that may not be vulnerable to heat, or be more damaging to human tissue, or any number of other problems. Or, god help us, many of them at once.

And what happens when we bring people in here who don't have any resistance to our own strain of the new plague? My brain hurts just trying to lay out the lines of probability.

I know that in the end all of our problems fall under two categories, which are 'things we can affect and change' and 'things we can't'. I know intellectually that human creativity and ingenuity have upper limits. I can wrap my head around the concept. It just doesn't make my heart any lighter, though. It doesn't heal the sting of knowing that somewhere down the line, chancy fate is going to start the cycle spinning all over again like some giant wheel of fortune and it could land on 'unsolvable problem'.

We've done well so far. Two and a half years in, and we've weathered worse than I would have imagined possible. I mean, come on: the apocalypse happened. Most of humanity is dead. We're alive and thriving. I just hate that we have to continue to face such terrifying and potentially deadly threats constantly. It's hard and wearing on the soul. Especially right in the middle of the largest project we've ever attempted. We're too invested in the expansion to stop, and so far none of the people who are moving here have voiced objections because of the new plague claiming more victims.

They say they could get sick and die where they are, so they might as well go where they want to be. Can't argue with the logic, though I'm disheartened that circumstances force us to be so fatalistically honest. All I can do is hope that eventually fate will stop spinning the merry-go-round and let us move on to a safer and less volatile future.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rolling In

We've had another delay in the work that we're trying to do. Yesterday afternoon the first of what would be many severe thunderstorms rolled in on us. Normally we aren't worried about fighting in the rain, but winds reached frightening speeds and lightning was everywhere. Would our people have been okay? Probably. But why spit in the face of chance when playing safe doesn't cost us much?

No good reason to. Turns out that was the right decision to make. The rain the day before must have watered down the ammonia residue enough that the New Breed were no longer put off by it, because once the storms broke they were on New Haven like a fat guy on free cake.

Damn, I made myself want some cake just then.

Anyway, zombies came at us in waves, but none of them seemed overly creative in their approach. There was a mix of New Breed and old school zombies in the crowd, but the New Breed seemed duller than usual and less coordinated. We've speculated that the new plague might be affecting them as well, and this is another example of why we think that. New Breed don't usually just scoot up close to the wall and leave themselves open to having arrows put through their brain pans. Yesterday a good number of them did, and our archers and crossbowmen made sure they were obliged.

Another fun silver lining is that these little respites give us a chance to get to know all the new arrivals. Granted, there are too many of them to even meet all of them in that short a time, but hanging out with small groups and having a good time is awesome. I managed to kill two birds with one stone; getting to know some of the new folks while also using that time to gauge how the assault teams are doing. I mean, the numbers are all well and good, we know they're effective at their jobs, but actually having a conversation with the people whose boots are on the ground is infinitely more informative.

I think the honest assessment on both sides is that yeah, there are differences that make things difficult at times and maybe even frustrating, but that's vastly overwhelmed by respect for how effective everyone on the teams is at their jobs. No one expects seamless integration and frictionless teamwork at this point. Hell, the new people haven't been here long enough to even remember the names of all the New Haven natives that go out on runs with them. I'd say for the length of time we've been doing this, things are going quite well.

One small bone of contention is the differences in tactics. The new arrivals are still falling into the rigid habit built into them by constant training, sometimes without meaning to. That causes some confusion when integrated teams are out risking their lives to fight the undead, and it's something they're working on. On 'our' side--New Haven natives, that is--there seems to be some reluctance to use even the more effective maneuvers the newbies bring with them. I'd like to think we as a species have learned our lessons about pissing contests and who has the better system. Insert mandatory joke about penis size here. Whatever.

But people will persistently continue to be people, apocalypse or no. We're imperfect gems, each and every one of us, and that shows more easily in dangerous situations. Dodger is going to have a talk with our folks about adapting whatever tactics work into our fighting repertoire, and Will and I are trying to work some of our own techniques into the stringent exercises the newbies use in their practice. A little of both worlds seems like the best way to go.

Now if these damn storms would let up for a while, we might be able to try some of these ideas out. Maybe a few extra training sessions with the whole gang. Smoothing out all the rough bits seems like a perfect distraction from the boredom of not risking their lives, yeah?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Like Kansas Said

The title is referencing the song "Dust In The Wind". Because for whatever strange fucking reason, we got hit by a big ass dust storm yesterday. I can only assume--based on reports from friendly communities--that the drought we've been in is worse in the southwest.

It wasn't so bad here that we couldn't see, and it was definitely dust and not heavier particulate matter, but most of us stayed inside. Guards wore protection over their faces, covering the eyes and mouths and using makeshift filters to keep that crap out of their lungs. We were pelted with dust from the southwest off and on for about two hours before one monster of a thunderstorm came in behind it and drenched us.

Luckily we've been hoping for rain and everyone had their gear ready to capture as much water as possible, because New Haven needed it.

Somewhere not too far from here there's a stretch of old farm or something that is so dry it's sending us love letters in the form of desert weather. That's...weird. I mean, I know that during the dust bowl way back in the day, the arid conditions sent up similar clouds if on a much larger scale. It's just strange to be living in a future no one expected, getting reminders of a past none of us remember directly.

Speaking of unexpected things: the dust storm has had a strange effect on the local zombies. All the assault teams came in early yesterday when the wind and dust made it too dangerous for them to continue working. This morning, what do we find outside? Dozens upon dozens of blind zombies. The lucky ones simply have debris caked on their eyes so thick that they can barely see. Others must have suffered a good deal of erosion damage the old peepers. They've just got these half-deflated ruins where eyeballs should be.

Easy pickings, let me tell you. Zombies may rely on their sense of smell for a lot of things, but the organism in them still needs to see. This is a pretty useful bit of info to have. I wish I had the time to test the effects of different things on zombie vision. I feel stupid for not doing it months ago when I had the chance.

I'd love to go on, but all the zombie bodies out there won't burn themselves. I got volunteered by Will because I was smart enough to mention that my mornings have been relatively free. I'm brilliant.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Retention Disorder

Our attack teams continue to do well, cutting down zombies in decent numbers without any major incidents. It's likely, given my personal responsibility for the program, that I'll be mentioning it in most of my posts. Barring disaster of large changes, those updates will be like this one: short and uneventful.

This morning I'm more interested in what our plumbers (I hate calling them that since they're really doing a much larger and more complex job) are up to. One of them came by this morning to look at the pipes under my house, and he had this battery-powered device with him that looked like a metal detector on steroids. He walked around my yard for a little while looking thoughtful and taking notes as he used the thing. Told me he was figuring out where the pipes were.

I did a little asking around. What I was told surprised me.

I've assumed that much of the work these folks were going to be doing within New Haven itself would be helping each of us create new systems to carry water. Modular ones that don't rely on a larger delivery network. Makes sense, right? I mean, if some disaster looms and causes damage to a big system, we're all in trouble. Modular systems mean each of us have to haul or capture our own water, but damage to one part of New Haven--be it zombie attack, natural disaster, or plain old human violence--would drastically lessen the impact on the community as a whole.

The reality is way different and far more awesome. I don't mind feeling like and uneducated rube about this, because these guys and gals know what the hell they're doing.

New Haven itself, which was just the neighborhood I lived in before The Fall by necessity turned it into a fortress, has a relatively close-off water and sewer system. We won't have flush toilets or be able to use the sewers since we won't be able to treat our waste or clean any of that water (though there's discussion about showers whose wastewater goes to irrigate our gardens, but that's just an idea at the moment). But the plan for the core of New Haven, the old neighborhood itself, is brilliant. It's also going to take a lot of work.

With that in mind, another hundred people are on their way. These will be mostly laborers to manage this plan, though thirty of them will be dedicated guards to protect the plumbers and the people working for them when they're outside the walls.

The plan itself is to dig a lot of holes, and using the wide array of spare parts laying the end of the world conveniently left laying around, change the way our plumbing works. New Haven's existing water mains other water lines will be turned into a truly closed system. All sewer lines will be closed off as well, for safety, probably at the houses themselves. Once the system is closed, the real work will start.

A network of above-ground shutoff valves will be installed to protect the water supply in case of a break. Street-by-street, this will happen. Each house will have a modular system (most already do, but the few that don't will be upgraded) whose reserves will be topped off by the larger system. Redundancy. Who'd have thought we'd live long enough to be able to implement redundant systems?

I'm not fussed about the lack of working toilets or sewers. We've become used to using everything, even storing and using our urine to make ammonia (poor quality though it may be) to use against the undead. Maybe I'm a bit nostalgic for showers, but even without them I'd be fine.

Having on-demand water in our pipes would be amazing. Yeah, we have to stop up our drains and reuse whatever comes out of the tap (at my house, it will probably go to water the plants) but that's nothing really new. Certainly not a dealbreaker.

The biggest reason all the new people are coming is that a major piece of infrastructure is needed before the system can be completed. New Haven is on a hill, and at the top a whole new section is going to go up quickly. Not large compared to the last expansion we did, but the idea is to use a dedicated section to capture and retain up to a hundred thousand gallons of water. Bigger if the plumbers can figure a way to store more than that. I'm not even sure how they're going to manage what they're planning now.

God, this wouldn't have seemed like such a big deal a few years ago, but too many days drinking ladles of dodgy-looking water out of buckets in between zombie attacks has a way of making new plumbing seem like magic. I hope this works, because this system is going to be the prototype for the huge expansion we're going to build soon.

Damn. Just realized that with another hundred people coming, we're going to have to find some place to put them. Getting a bit crowded lately. Guess I should see how that's going, then come back here for the first reports of the day from the attack teams.

The future is one hell of a lot of work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bustle and Flow

I wasn't kidding about things getting busy around here once we started cleaning out the undead. If anything I underestimated how much work it would be to constantly revise and update our game plan. New Haven is a hive of activity, but the good thing is that it isn't constant. I sort of thought that I wouldn't have any time at all to do other stuff but manage the assault teams, but night is actually pretty quiet. Our people--and all of them are our people now, spilling blood together makes you family--have to head back home before darkness falls.

It also helps that the constant updates mean that by the time our teams head out in the mornings we've go game plans ready for them. That gives me all morning to spend with Jess if she's free, or on other things if she isn't. Reports don't start coming in until late morning, which is when the crazy starts.

The good news is that the assault runs are going well. Our people are steadily taking down zombies and finding out a lot about their movements and gathering points. One major piece of information uncovered so far is the fact that there are a lot more of them out there than we thought. The teams are ranging pretty far from home, up to thirty miles in a given day, and many of the New Breed seem to be foraging for old school zombies. Kind of makes sense as they're easy prey. New Breed are breaking their teeth trying bite us. Maybe this is a good sign.

Even though there are far more of the enemy than we expected, they're spread out and easier to surprise. Nipping at the small groups and only harassing the larger ones into running where we want them isn't nearly has hard as fighting a large-scale conflict.

What we're really getting concerned about is water. We aren't in any danger of running out or anything, though our crops are taking up a tremendous amount of it. We've had a few light showers in the last two days but they've been brief and nowhere near enough for our needs. Other than those overcast days we've gone weeks without rainfall. The reserves here are getting small very quickly.

Our plumbers assure us that when they're done we'll have water reserves like we've never imagined. As it is now, we can haul it from the river or any number of large creeks. We've got a few trucks that work for that purpose--my favorite combo is using a small fire truck pump to fill empty tankers and bring them back here--but that's slow and takes up fuel. Better if we had rain to fill our cisterns and reservoirs here rather than send people out to bring the stuff here in ten thousand gallon increments.

Then we have to filter it, disperse it, and do the whole thing over again. It works, but with the constant heat our needs are spiking. We're sending people out several times a day to make water runs. Our crops alone require thousands of gallons. People have to drink a lot to keep hydrated even if they're just walking around, and about zero percent of us are doing that little. Hell, at any time we've got fifty people out with the assault teams, that many again manning the defenses, and a hundred more working on various projects. Even the people who aren't pulling a shift are still working their own gardens and whatnot. We're all doing something.

Thankfully water is a problem that we can solve, if not in a way we can sustain forever. Our food supplies are holding up well, hugely aided by the fact that all new arrivals bring a lot of food stores with them when they come to keep from depleting our reserves. Jess is back to running our agriculture full-time now, and Will is working with her to figure out what we'll need to make sure winter won't be a death sentence by starvation. It's not a great time to start more crops, but there are many workable options on the table.

But, you know, I still got to sit down with my wife and chat this morning. We even played a hand or two of cards. The last few days have been even more hectic than I imagined, but they've settled into a pattern of chaos if that makes any sense. I'm really hopeful things are going to work out. So far, so good.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Combined Attack

No matter how many times you go out to face the undead, there's still that moment of cold fear when the violence is about to start. Deep down, you know there's a chance that when the fray begins everything could be over for you in a matter of seconds. Something as simple as a misaligned piece of armor or missing piece of thick cloth around your neck, and lights out. We're fragile creatures, and there's no time I become more aware of that than when I'm facing down a vicious, hungry zombie.

That's why we cheated like crazy.

It felt nice to let the mixed teams sit behind the north gate while we cleared a path for them. Not being stupid, we've spent much time and effort on prep work for things like this. Nothing like showing the new guys what we can do with some ammonia, thermite, and a willingness to jump the wall at the right time.

One team of thirty people can pack a hell of a lot of punch when the enemy is running away in a scatter. And on fire. I wasn't one of the folks who took to the field, but I did manage to take down two New Breed before the gas was released. When our people had pushed the swarm back across the road, the gates opened and the assault team took over.

I'd love to say it was perfect, but it wasn't. Taking two groups of people, essentially strangers to each other, and only giving them a short time to practice means there are going to be kinks. I think of it like cutting wood: you can use an ax or a chainsaw to get the result you want, but the process is completely different. Our people have used a variety of methods to fight the undead, while the folks from up north have practiced the same efficient techniques over and over again until they had a strong and deadly routine to use.

Generally I'm against set patterns, but these people know what they're doing. Flexibility in their tactics, keen instincts for when things go bad, and a willingness to take orders when they see things getting dicey. I watched from the walls as the combined force harried the undead running away, and how they dealt with the zombies that turned back to fight. Given the short time the groups had to integrate, I'm surprised it worked out as well as it did. No deaths, a few injuries, and a kill ratio of 3-1.

Going forward we'll try to smooth things out and get that ratio higher. Taking down three zombies for every person we put on the field isn't going to be enough to cut down the numbers fast enough to get the expansion well under way by winter. We're cutting it close by starting this late in the year. Damn plague made things much harder than they should have been, but we'll soldier on. If we can treat and release everyone who is sick right now in the next week (and manage not to have a huge wave of new people come down ill) then we'll be on track to start construction in the next month.

That's making a lot of assumptions, the main one being that no more mass migrations of zombies come across the bridges in Louisville and head this way. If we could manage river crossings without them, I'd suggest blocking them permanently to cease the flood of zombies hitting us and Louisville.

As a shakedown run, things went well. Teams are out even now--in fact, at all times when there's light enough to see by--and the process really is underway. A lot of it is scouting and engaging when they have to. Getting a detailed look at where concentrations of zombies have formed and what patterns they move in is crucial to the overall campaign. We have to manage killing them in large numbers without pushing them to attack here out of desperation.

Ah, I almost forgot to mention that another group of people arrive today. This is a much smaller unit of specialists, only twenty of them. We've got soldiers and people damn capable of waging a war on the undead, but to move forward we need more than just strength of arms. When you build something new, you need people who understand the foundations of things, the roots of civilization.

So, this group? Plumbers. When I first learned about this my initial thought was "Oh, shit! What if one of them is named Mario?"

I'm a child of the eighties. I don't think there will ever be a separation between plumbers and video games for me.

We've been using extremely primitive and often thrown-together plumbing for a long time now. Obviously the old infrastructure isn't very usable for us. Or, at least none of us have the knowledge needed to make the massive reservoir a few miles down the road really work to our advantage. We're pretty sure it's empty by now, and we've captured enough water to have a huge stockpile. Our team of plumbers--I call them that, but some of them are civil engineers who've worked on large-scale water transportation systems--assure the leadership here that they can set us up for the future. Most of the early work is going to happen inside New Haven, setting up for the big stuff outside.

Funny, all the things we took for granted. Jess and I are used to washing each other's backs now, so long removed from regular showers. We've got the old solar camp shower, which is a deceptive name since it's just a dangling transparent bag that heats up water, but in this season it would be criminally wasteful to use it.

I don't know if showers will end up being in the cards, or if we'll even be successful with this. No one expects miracles. We're just hungry for results, maybe a little impatient to see these changes come.

The idea of a nice long shower, though...dear god.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prep Time

Just a fast note here to let everyone know that today is the day. We're sending out our first teams on a shakedown run outside. I intended to get into detail here, but we've got some last-minute details to deal with.  Mostly in the form of a whole mess of zombies gathering close. Guess they've been following our scouts around. Maybe they know something's up.

Whatever it is, we have to strike out at them. Too many for the teams to break through. We'll make a space and then see what the teams can do.

Long post tomorrow, sorry.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Making Time

More than ever I'm trying to make time for little things. Jess getting sick and coming so close to disaster--hell, all of New Haven doing the same thing from time to time--makes those small moments together all the more important. As we treat the new arrivals and our own ill people I try to remember to enjoy the breaks when they come.

This whole expansion process is going to consume a lot of time and resources, and chances are that none of us will get a full night's sleep until it's done. Yeah, most of the physical work is going to be done by the people coming here, but that doesn't leave the rest of us off the hook. We aren't just expecting them to build a community for themselves and let that be the end of it. They're joining us and will be doing one hell of a lot of work that benefits everyone. We have to show willing. Do the groundwork and fill in the gaps. We're all in it together.

But it really is a lot of work. And time will be short. That's why I took some extra time this morning to give Jess a massage after we woke up and had breakfast. A little thing, maybe fifteen minutes, but it started her day off right. We'll be starting the cleanup around New Haven tomorrow afternoon if the number of ill newcomers stays where it is or drops. We weren't planning on sending them all out at once anyway, so at least starting the project is feasible.

Once we do, time for back rubs and shared meals might be hard to come by. Not only will we be dealing with managing the cleanup of the New Breed and other zombies around New Haven, but also the consequences of that. I'm to be in charge of constantly monitoring the cleanup reports and allotting resources for the teams, making their schedules and the like, but that's only half the problem. What happens when we send our people into the field and deliberately poke the undead with a stick? We've faced the New Breed before, and we've had to change tactics to fight them often. They watch us, they learn.

They figured out that hemming us in here while the new plague ravaged our people was a safe play. They seemed to know that while our home might not be an easy target, at the very least we couldn't manage any serious assaults on them.

The scout trip I took was quick and dirty, but it doesn't give us any idea how many of them are out there. We still have farmland in this county and a few of the surrounding ones that we haven't been able to tend. What if another huge mass of zombies has accumulated in Shelby county, for example? We're gunning for them on purpose, but it's not crazy to say that doing so is probably going to invite retaliation. To accomplish our goal of reducing the local population of undead to manageable levels so the real work can begin, we almost need them to do it. Flush them out, and hope to god we can deal with the flood.

So, yeah. Probably going to be a busy guy for a while. Even if everything goes as planned I'll still have to help oversee the expansion and the migration, right along with all the details that come with them. I think we have the food issues hammered out, but there are so many others...

I don't even want to think about how rough things will get if there are way more New Breed out there than we estimate. Doing all that and having to fight at the walls or in the field? Ugh. Just like old times.

I think I'll see if Jess wants to take a walk or something. I get the funny feeling we won't be doing normal things like that very much in the days ahead.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


As we feared, more people on the team of newcomers have fallen ill since the first group showed symptoms. More at one time than our sauna was really capable of dealing with, so my Dave and his workers took one of the shipping containers and made us a much larger version.

It works, no doubt about it. We can treat ten people at a time in there. It would be more than that but Gabby, Evans, and Phil want a 1:1 ratio for all patients in the sauna. One caregiver for each of them just in case the heat (or the violent death of the plague in their lungs) causes problems. It's faster than what we had, but not perfect. Then again, what is? What ever was even before The Fall?

There's a sense of careful hope in the air unlike anything I've seen since founding New Haven. We've always been a relatively positive group of people, especially given the awful circumstances we've had to work in. What many of us are feeling now is the kind of restrained wild optimism that most of us have refused to allow in our hearts since The Fall. The atmosphere of this place has changed. People discuss the future much more easily now, planning for the huge expansion we're on the cusp of and beyond. The idea that we'll have electricity to spare is mind-boggling to most people, and that's just one example of the changes that are coming.

What surprises me is how scared people are, including myself. Fear has been a part of our lives for a long time, but the very slow changes in New Haven over time because of our many setbacks has had a dampening effect on it. Strange, I know, but the constant strife and serious danger made the sometimes terrible conditions we live in seem somehow normal.

Not that New Haven isn't one hell of an accomplishment in its own right, but we're a lot more worried now because of what we stand to gain. Not long from now might be a time when we don't have to worry about being outnumbered by the zombies outside the wall. There will be enough people here to have a dedicated force of protectors large enough that we can stop requiring the majority of people to do time defending the place. We've built a lot here, preserved a piece of civilization and nurtured it as best we could.

Soon, though, we'll be magnitudes larger and more complex. We'll have the numbers we need to allow some people to specialize in things, to gain the skills and knowledge we'll need to go beyond wood-fires and candlelight. We'll have enough people to do Big Things again, at least compared to what New Haven has managed until now.

It's cautious hope, but it still comes with a zeal and fervor I haven't seen before. It excites me because we're being handed the chance to shine, to grow quickly. I've said before that fast growth can be painful, and I stand by that. We're tossing the dice by bringing in ten times our current population. That's hard to wrap my head around, really. The citizens of New Haven, tough and strident survivors all, will in one stroke become the minority population.

We could live in fear of that, but I think we've grown enough as people to choose trust. We've got enough to worry about--the undead pecking away at our defenses, the new plague tenaciously hanging on among our people, the Exiles possibly double-dealing and planning something sinister--that it would be suicidal at worst to screw this opportunity up. New Haven's current population won't be swallowed by the people joining us, it will be integrated. We'll doubtlessly face problems as that integration happens, but we'll deal with them. We'll work things out. We'll heal whatever ills may rise between the two groups, just as we've put so much effort into healing the plague in the people who have already joined us.

Hope and worry go hand in hand nowadays. But unlike the world that was, we can no longer afford to let fear stop us from trying in the first place.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Bad news this morning. We were going to send out our hundred new arrivals with our teams of people that will be working with them on a practice run this morning. You know, shake down the moves, learn how each group thinks, figure out the best way to integrate forces.

That's on hold for a day or two, because we had a fairly large setback. Ten of the new arrivals woke up sick with the new plague, along with five of our own people. Since Kincaid's brilliant idea to overheat the sickness using a sauna, the plague has become more of a nuisance, a sort of background problem, rather than the main attraction it was even a few weeks ago.

People who come down with the sickness can be cured now but that doesn't mean everyone is at full strength right away. Even folks that haven't been under the influence of the new plague for very long need at least a day to recover. North Jackson has been extremely careful about the illness (though that didn't stop them from suffering some casualties, albeit a smaller percentage than most places) and we didn't really consider the fact that the new arrivals may not have even been exposed.

Then there's the high possibility that the new plague itself evolves. We've seen ample evidence that the zombie plague takes many forms and mutates at a rate to make evolution theorists faint. Could be that whatever strain these people may have been exposed to is so different than ours that they've got no defenses against it. Doesn't really matter, I guess. The old hot box does the trick.

Honestly, I'm kind of glad it happened this way. I don't want anyone sick, and I certainly wouldn't say this if anyone had died, but it's good to have reminders now and then that many things are out of our control. We're on the precipice of a huge change. We're at a point where caution is second nature, so it's not that I'm afraid that we'll suddenly forget how dangerous the world is. We just have too much at stake to plan this expansion without leaving some breathing room in there for what we don't expect.

I'll keep an eye on the situation, as all of us are, and we'll move forward from there. I'd love to write a longer post, but frankly there just isn't time today. Need to make sure no one else is coming down ill. Mainly because the thought just occurred to me that if our new plague is a different strain, maybe the newcomers brought a strain of their own. That's a chilling thought.

Maybe I'll check a couple times. Can't let the plague catch us off guard again, not when we have means to fight it.

Monday, July 9, 2012


This is going to be one of those weird and scattered posts, mainly because I've been awake all night. I'm really not sure how I keep managing to do that without caffeine but somehow I'm not exhausted and dumb. I've been busy as hell since my post yesterday, first with the outline for our plan of attack, then catching up on replying to a ton of messages from people, then making a late run out with a scout team to check out the layout of the zombies in the area.

After all that was said and done, I came home to edit and revise the plan of attack. Will had a meeting with the team leaders from North Jackson that arrived yesterday, along with Dodger and the people from here that will be going with them. Everyone had ideas on how to make the trip safer and more efficient, so I decided to skip sleep in order to get ahead of the curve on our game plan.

That took me until about four this morning, which was right when a small but strong group of New Breed hit the wall right where the annex and the east wall meet. Fortunately we've moved back to full compliments of guards and sentries, or things could have been messy. Fully half of the new arrivals ran like hell from the expansion (the one made of shipping containers, not the large expansion we'll be starting soon. Duh. They aren't time travelers.) and surprised our guards on duty by running about thirty feet north and jumping off the catwalks and over the wall.

The numbers were about even: fifty people to fifty New Breed. Not that there was any sort of competition, mind you--those people know their business and have a lot of practice working as a unit. They sleep with their weapons right next to them and don't hesitate.

The front rank, ten of them, had shields and bashed the closest zombies in backward with them. The folks behind them had long catchpoles, basically just a big fork with two tines that they used to trip any zombies close enough. To the sides were ten archers, two teams composed of three bowmen and two crossbowmen. The remaining twenty in the back rushed through the middle as the zombies were bashed, tripped, and transfixed on arrows, and waded into the crowd. Those folks all wear armor of one kind or another and they're damn efficient at what they do. Our guards were so shocked by the ferocity of the newcomers that a few of them forgot to fire their arrows.

It was pretty amazing, I have to tell you. I got a case of the warm fuzzies just seeing the last few minutes of the fight.

Also, I'm a lot more comfortable knowing just how terribly good these people are at this kind of thing. I knew they had practice since they helped clear the undead from the environs near NJ, but seeing them in action was a bit like watching fifty Masons cut loose. Mason was scary dangerous and never showed a trace of fear, but he was just one man.

And like Mason, these people are mortal. They're citizens of New Haven now, part of our community. Their lives are as important as anyone's and losing any of them as we lost Mason would be awful. I guess that's part of why I'm so happy they seem to have their shit together. Being an army of one is fantastic, but being part of an actual army is way better.

The last few hours of this morning I spent finishing up some odds and ends, one of which was looking over comments on the blog. One struck me as particularly relevant to current events: a reader out there, probably a survivor who has been out of the loop for a while as many are, asking about survivors outside of the US. Basically they wanted to know what we know about who may be alive out there, and where.

I've touched on this before, but it bears repeating and updating from time to time.

We have a hard time getting in direct contact with other continents. We have allies in southern Canada and some acquaintances farther north. Mexico is a bit of a no-man's land, mostly avoided due to a serious glut of Marauders in the very far south of the US. We know from Becky--who made her way here through ten kinds of hell and across an ocean--that there are plenty of folks left alive in Europe and the middle east. From third and forth-hand sources we know that there are some strong communities of survivors in northern Africa and probably spread all over that continent, though as with most of the world communication with them is almost impossible. I've heard that India is essentially a dead country, which shouldn't surprise anyone. The population density there was a worst-case scenario for the zombie plague.

Asia I have no solid or believable news about, though the Chinese and the Russians have long histories of surviving against ridiculous odds and overcoming impossible foes. I wouldn't be surprised if someone rolled up into Moscow and just ran into a group of old Russian women sitting around a campfire made of zombie corpses, drinking good vodka and telling dirty jokes.

Most of the eastern hemisphere is out of touch with us, and the lovely people at Google can only do so much. Few cell towers work on that side of the world, and the ones that do don't necessarily communicate with the satellites Google uses to keep us all talking to each other.

I wish that weren't the case, I wish it very badly. Just as the people who've moved from North Jackson are our brothers and sisters, people worthy of our support, respect, and concern, so are those nameless people struggling half a world away. Some of those folks helped Becky survive and get closer to home, so I owe them an endless debt for returning a person I love to me. I wish I could tell them myself what that means, but I can't.

Maybe someday, but all things in their time. That just isn't right now.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Herd Thinners

Later today we'll be meeting the first group of settlers from North Jackson. This is an advance unit composed of soldiers that want to migrate south and folks who don't have proper homes due to the overcrowding at NJ. They won't be working to bring resources here. That comes next, the official first step in our huge expansion. Before we can break ground, haul in thousands of gallons of fuel, tons of food, and frightening amounts of propane, we have to clear the way.

A hundred people will be coming in today, all armed to the teeth and experienced with on-the-ground survival against overwhelming forces of zombies. This will be the only set of immigrants that will be wholly composed of adults. No kiddos allowed for this one given how dangerous it's going to be.

A hundred people whose only purpose is killing zombies. Who will bring with them armor, vehicles, and weapons built toward that end. It gives me a little chill thinking about it.

While we certainly need to thin the number of zombies around here down as much as possible to begin work on the expansion, it's going to be awesome for us in general. People are still really nervous about the New Breed incursion, and the constant bustle of zombies has made it difficult to manage the simplest trips outside. Now that we're getting people well by slightly cooking them alive (I feel like a supervillain typing that...) the situation isn't quite as bad, though we're not anywhere near full strength.

So, yeah. Armed group of people dedicated to relentlessly slaughtering the undead irritating us like sand in a wound? Total win. We're thrilled at the prospect of not having that pressure on us.

We're going to send some of our own people out with them, naturally. We know the area best. The newcomers will be doing the lion's share of the fighting, but we'll have some skin in the game as well. Not just fighters, but also planning the strategies and tactics the fighters will be using against the undead. I'll be organizing all the logistics--fuel allocation, food and water, schedule rotations. Basically my normal job, but while the teams are operating, this will be my only responsibility.

Ah. Will just sent me a message. He wants me to have an outline of everything I just described ready by morning. That's going to take a lot of time and work. Guess it's a good thing we're in another calm spot and I don't have much news to share, isn't it? I love that Will sees me as being capable of doing just about anything he asks, but I begin to wonder if he thinks I'm a miracle worker. This must be how Scotty on Star Trek felt.

I was planning on going outside the walls today with a few scouts to get an idea of how the zombies are moving so I could develop a strategy, but that will have to wait.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

...But Before We Begin...

There's a lot of risk involved in this huge project. We're going to expand our population by a factor of ten. The sheer logistics of the situation are dangerous by themselves. We'll be tapping every source of fuel we have and can locate to make transporting people and materials possible. Moving so openly is going to invite attack, that's a foregone conclusion.

That's totally ignoring natural disasters out there, zombie attacks at home, or old enemies making moves against us.

It's going to be a process. Long, grueling, and probably pretty fucking boring most of the time. We're choosing to be slow and methodical because careful people have much less chance of being shot in the face or getting their intestines ripped apart for an appetizer. The only reason the whole process has a shot at working is because we aren't going to have to divert our people to make it happen. In fact, our own workforce will be bolstered by the folks coming here while a dedicated group of them work on expanding New Haven. It's a mutually beneficial situation; we get more security and a chance to grow in ways we couldn't have dreamed of a year ago, and they get away from North Jackson's cramped quarters into a place that desperately needs them, with tons of room to expand.

Everyone is really excited and super hopeful. I feel the need to be the voice of caution here. Growth is good, and we don't face much risk of unknowns here. NJ is very similar to New Haven in how they handle rules and laws as well as the expectation we have for each other. But growth is often difficult and painful. It's not going to be sunshine and rainbows shooting out of everyone's asses nonstop. No two wholly different groups of people, total strangers, can just meet up and mix perfectly with no friction. We've taken in enough people here to know the drill and to prepare for it. I just don't want anyone getting so excited they make avoidable mistakes.

It's going to be a while before the big work can start. There are some minor details to work out, like securing enough extra fuel to cover any unforeseen problems in the transport process. There are also a lot of dangerous cargoes that need to be hauled first and with minimal staff before the main construction here can begin.

AHHHH! This is a problem! Too many damn details and every time I go to write anything about this grand plan I start to go off on tangents. Can't afford to do that too often since we've got enough things to worry about here.

Food shouldn't be too much of an issue. I know that sounds insane but our transplants are bringing literally tons of preserved foods with them. Many, many tons. But that doesn't mean we can last forever, and this brutal heat wave is hurting our crops. We've got cisterns all over the place but no amount of water can stop the sun from damaging our food...and we're going to need every scrap to keep up with the new mouths to feed.

We've got options, but they require some risk and travel. And while the zombies are less obviously threatening during the hotter parts of the day, the sight of them wandering around inside New Haven has all of us a little on edge. The kind of on edge that makes people shoot first and apologize later. The Exiles don't seem to be moving toward threatening behavior at the moment, but none of us trust them at all. I don't know that a decade living across the river from them would be enough for that to happen. It might be stupid and overly cautious, but we've got to plan every move on the assumption that they're just biding their time in order to hit us at exactly the right moment.

The one bright spot at the moment is that we're pulling ahead in the race against the new plague. It's not a done deal by any stretch, but it looks like most of the people that were going to get sick have done, and better than half of the ill folks are healthy enough for the sauna. Most of the rest of them want to try it, but Evans and Phil are still worried over how the insanely hot air will affect their already very bad breathing.

I always try to end on a note that sums up how I feel or gives some small portion of context to the post, but today I can't do that. We're at a crossroads of such vast importance that I'm having a hard time pinning down any part of it. So many things can go wrong, so many plans and hopes ride on this working out, and there are so many situations we're currently dealing with that it seems completely fucking crazy to even try this.

So instead of some parting line that might or might not be moving, seem wise, or appear insightful, I just want to say that I'm hopeful this all works out. I'm equally scared that it won't, and things here will stagnate and begin to fall apart, and that it will. Because then everything will change. I still see New Haven as my place, a small home that I helped found and design. What will it be when and if it covers five times the area and there are teams of people doing the jobs I've done? Who will I be when I'm a redundant part in a larger machine, no longer a loud voice among a small group.

Honestly, I really am terrified at both possibilities, but I lean toward seeing the changes happen. They're frightening but exciting, and I think ultimately positive.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Divergent Evolution

The cleanup is almost done. Really, it's done but Will is adamant that we do one last detailed sweep of the main section before we move everyone back in. Other than that, local news is thin on the ground. The old adage is true--no news is good news.

So I don't feel bad about taking today to share the news we've been sitting on for a while now. All the agreements have been made, all the plans finalized. I can now happily tell you that in the next few months, New Haven and Franklin county are going to be getting some upgrades. Also, visitors. Well, not really visitors. Permanent citizens.

Two thousand of them.

It's going to take some explaining, I know. You may have noticed that I haven't been talking about North Jackson very much lately. That's an intentional thing, because we were asked by the leadership not to draw any attention to NJ. The reason was simple: where New Haven has stagnated under a plethora of awful situations, NJ has been expanding in every way imaginable. We started out as similar kinds of places, but things change over time. New Haven has done well, but North Jackson has truly bloomed.

There are almost five thousand people there now. That's an insane number, it really is. So much work has been done around the place that I'm told it's almost unrecognizable from my last trip there. The heart of the place is still the factory complex, but very few people live inside it now. Over the last year the complex has been converted almost completely back into a place that makes things. North Jackson might be the last true industrial center in the country. Much of the machinery there is old-school hand equipment, but there is more reliable electricity being generated there than any place I know of. That's in part because they've been producing solar panels and wind turbines. I understand that making them from scratch, by hand, is very difficult.

There are many hundreds of acres of farmland being cultivated around NJ now, and tiny dwellings dot the landscape. They've been busy up there, hauling things from all over the state to use in their expansion. Rabbits are pretty much the best source of meat they could come up with. It hasn't been a flawless trip, though. There have been bumps along the way, hungry times and everything from discomfort while living outdoors as homes were being planned to severe danger as swarms of zombies have menaced the area.

How does this apply to us? Why does it matter? I'm getting there, calm yourselves.

The constant stream of people migrating to NJ brings with it a huge labor pool, loads of supplies, and the most important commodity in the world: information. This part of the country is filled with resources that just need to be located.

NJ hasn't been turning people away, but they've reached a point where the population is almost too much to deal with. So over the next few months slightly less than half of those folks are going to be coming here. We aren't going into this blind, of course. They're bringing food of all kinds, supplies, and the like. They're coming in groups and will be hauling in trucks carrying shipping containers to further expand New Haven. As you can imagine, we're going to need to make this place a lot bigger. Plans have been laid out for more farming, the kind we can secure, so that next year when the supplies start to run low we won't have food riots. The million details we've had to work out have all been considered and dealt with. I won't go over all of them here.

Yes, it's a ton of work. Yes, it's risky for us to expand so much so quickly. But in return for taking the pressure from NJ, we're getting the gift of new citizens. And they're doing the work of making their settlement here workable. Oh. And NJ is hooking us up with a ton of new power generation equipment. More solar panels, more turbines, and the tools and knowledge to make the stuff ourselves. We'll become an industrial community ourselves even if it is on a much smaller scale.

As you can imagine, the new plague has slowed down this process. NJ has been very careful about the plague and caught some lucky breaks with the rate of infection. We feel confident now that we can begin the process. New Haven has struggled through a lot of shit over the last few years, but we're happy to take this as a win. In one stroke we'll become the largest community in the area and magnitudes stronger than we've ever been. It's scary and exciting.

It kind of feels like the future is right around the corner.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I'm writing this from New Haven's expansion and fallback point. Because yeah, yesterday's attack was unexpectedly fierce. Everyone has been evacuated into the expansion. Even as I write this, teams are scouring the main section of New Haven for zombies.

Basically we were hit with a tight column of undead that slammed into a single point on the wall like a spear. The front section, the tip of the spear, was mainly composed of old school zombies pressed into attacking by the New Breed behind them. Inside the thick line of attackers were zombies carrying logs to use as ramps, just like the night before. They came in fast and way too concentrated for our people to hold off. If there hadn't been two hundred of them focusing on that one spot to overwhelm us, I'd have called it a suicide run.

A lot of them did die in the initial approach, compound bows and crossbows thrumming out arrows and bolts at the enemy with clockwork regularity. A dozen of our best defenders stood their ground against the onslaught even as the undead breasted the wall, while others rang the bells and called for a retreat.

Even running from a fight, I can't help being damn proud of our people. Able-bodied adults either moved toward the breach or oversaw the evacuation depending on their assignment. Older kids did their duty in helping the younger ones get to safety while the adults covered them. It was orderly and went mostly to plan.

It cost us lives, though. Only two of the twelve at the wall managed to pull back in time to get behind the lines of defenders that rushed in to help. Ten souls gone, just like that.

But hundreds saved. That's a big fucking deal to me. To all of us.

New Haven hasn't been totally abandoned, of course. There are still folks in the watchtowers feeding us reports by walkie-talkie every few minutes. There are still guards and sentries running the walls and using some of the individual house defensive positions. We've got eyes on the enemy, no doubt, and we've been long prepared for something like this. Caches of arrows and bolts ready to be used. I'm told someone is camping on the top of my own house, picking off the zombies still roaming around and eating the truly ancient beef jerky I made and stored on the roof for just such an occasion. My apologies to that guy's intestines.

The latest estimate has the remaining number of zombies somewhere around a hundred. We haven't been able to totally shut off the flow of them over the wall, but we've got people out in tanks dispersing large groups and mowing down smaller clusters. Our people walking the streets of New Haven itself are engaging zombies pretty much constantly, but they're being careful about it. I've got a round of that duty myself in about an hour.

We're uncomfortable, cramped, and out of sorts. But we're alive. I wanted to share my big news today, but it's going to have to wait until tomorrow at least. I want to dedicate the proper time and space to it, not leave you with a footnote and a ton of other questions.

I want to spend some time with our sick people, too. Kincaid's simple yet brilliant solution to the new plague is working, but it isn't perfect. A good number of the people who were too sick to do anything for themselves weren't allowed to do the treatment because Evans and Gabby didn't think they could survive it. Also, people are still getting ill. It's much more manageable, but still terrifying to deal with. Especially since Phil, one of our two doctors, got sick day before last. I had no idea until this morning. It's easy to minimize one problem in the face of another (or several, as the case may be) but the new plague is still here, still hurting us.

At least behind the steel walls we're in now, the New Breed can only hem us in and not actually get to us. Small comfort, but with everything going on it's one we'll happily take.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Breeze In

The early hours of the morning got fairly cool. With that surprising chill wind came the New Breed. You almost wonder if they were just waiting for it to come for us. All in all it wasn't a bad one, though the New Breed did manage to get over the wall in one place. We still had minimal crew there this morning, but we were prepared. Everyone knew to secure their homes before they went to sleep, and the standing order was for our guards to pull back from the wall if they found themselves badly outnumbered.

Not that it was all that risky. The New Breed were...not right. Maybe it's being so damn hungry, but I tend to think they're getting hit with the new plague. I remember that attack quite a while back where the zombies hitting us seemed like they were sick. I'm willing to bet the new plague was the culprit. Our research at the time seems to bear that out, and the ones Gabrielle cut up this morning have the same symptoms.

But you know, it's actually way more important to me how well we reacted to this assault. Weeks have gone by without a major fight, and when it comes more than three dozen zombies actually get inside New Haven. Our people did exactly what they were supposed to do, and those who were on call to respond to the bells were efficient and careful. House-to-house fighting in the dark, chasing down stragglers, and not one of our people was killed. A few minor injuries, sure, but that's a small price to pay.

I've said many times that getting complacent is a sure way to get dead. I think we've reached a point where we no longer have to put much effort into reacting to danger. We're practiced enough at it that it's now second nature. Sort of like learning to drive; at first you're shaky and concentrating way too hard, but eventually you just get into the flow and do it. We're there.

There are a lot of big things just over the horizon that I want to talk about. I'm hoping that by tomorrow or the day after at latest I'll have the go-ahead to share. There have been plans in motion for a long time that are finally coming to fruition. It's not a matter of 'if' anymore, only 'when'.

I hate to be vague, but I don't have much choice.

Ah. Shit.

Alarm bells again. Short pattern. Another breach.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Family Matters

We've had an eventful weekend. Severe windstorms Friday night and severe thunderstorms the whole time since have sidelined my ability to post. Sorry about that, but I'm willing to bet a good number of you out there haven't had the ability to access any sort of communications in that time, so we'll call it a wash.

The harsh weather and brutal heat (in the hundreds again) conspired to keep most of us inside. Sure, there were guards and sentries out on the walls, but only a skeleton crew. We're still enjoying an extended break from zombie attacks because of the heat. Most of us hung out in our homes or those of our friends, working on small projects and generally spending time together.

I'm really glad for the inclement weather. It gave me a chance to meet someone new and to get a better understanding of what family is.

Her name is Judy. She's one of the few older folks in New Haven. I don't know what her age is exactly, but her hair is more gray than not and she has the worldly air of a person who has Seen Things. In the constant bustle of activity as we've dealt with the new plague (the treatments for which are going fairly well), dealing with the New Breed zombies incessantly buzzing our walls (though no right now, ha!) and the hundred other details of daily life, I missed the fact that Judy took over the education of New Haven's children when Aaron left.

She's a funny lady. She talks fast, corrects herself often, and never shies away from uncomfortable truths, even ones about her. By sheer chance she was over at my house last night as Jess, Becky, Patrick, and I played cards by candlelight. She was good conversation. I learned a lot about her, and since I'd only met her once or twice since she joined New Haven, there was a lot to learn.

She was a teacher before The Fall, but other than the fact that she has taken on that same role recently, her history before the world fell apart is mostly irrelevant. What caught my attention is how, since coming here, she's made herself everyone's favorite aunt. Not in a biological sense, of course, since she has no family here. Judy always made herself available to watch kids or to help out when someone was sick or injured. She spent a tremendous amount of her free time doing this. Flittering between houses, using her personal time helping out. Just amazing.

To be honest I'm not quite sure how she ended up at the house last night. I think Pat might have invited her to join in the card game. It's been a while since the zombie threat has been low enough and people have been healthy enough to allow for a little R&R. When she showed up I expected to deal her in. Instead she chatted with us as she made snacks and filled drinks, laughing at our dirty jokes and telling far, far dirtier ones of her own.

I asked her why she does it, why she tends toward serving others rather than sitting back and relaxing. She told me that she has always been that way, and loves to see the little bits of happiness that she brings people. It was a simple answer and a good one.

People see her as family. Judy has become a part of many people's lives in New Haven. Not in a huge, flashing-neon-sign kind of way, but with a thousand small acts of love. In a way it's a microcosm of New Haven itself; she supports the group, the group supports her. She has become family in the ways that matter.

Many of us are that way. Family was and is important to me. Before The Fall, my extended family was gigantic and spread out all over the place. That didn't stop us from keeping in touch and caring about what was going on in our respective lives. I've been blessed (and damn lucky) that so many of my family members have survived, but I never forget how many have passed on. In some small way, New Haven itself has become a surrogate for those who have gone on. Though I have actual family here, it feels like many of my friends and neighbors have become family as well. I feel that deep sense of belonging, anyway.

Maybe I'm just blathering at this point, but I can't help thinking that by helping nurture this place and by putting so much of myself into it, that I've given my family a small portion of immortality. Though most of them are gone, their spirit and values live on here.

We live and die for one another. We help when others need it, and get help when we need it. There are shoulders to cry on, ready hands to shake in moments of triumph, and words of comfort when we fail. If that ain't family, I don't know what is.