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.