For weeks there have been secret meetings and communications among a large coalition of allied survivor groups. I won't name them, though you know that we and North Jackson took part. There were others. Every one of them donated resources, people, and time to the effort.
Scouts with broad and deep military training went out into the wild and tracked down the Hunters, following them home. Since finding them initially, there have been no less than three sets of eyes on their compound. This was not a smash-and-grab operation. Careful observations were recorded and shared, plans were formulated and discarded and the whole strategy started over again. The average citizen, myself included, was kept totally in the dark about the existence of this ongoing campaign.
The green light was given on the day our runaways asked the council for permission to leave. Those people were not actually giving up on New Haven. Turns out we were being observed ourselves, and Will knew that. I was passed false information to give those people a reason to leave with provisions. They were part of the assault team that would strike at the Hunters where they live.
Lived. Past tense.
I've seen and done terrible things since The Fall. All of us live with the knowledge that when everything falls apart, unthinkable options become inevitable choices. We've faced the undead too many times to count. We have starved and will be hungry again, been ravaged by disease in what is certainly only the opening act to the pestilence we'll face over the coming years. We have been at war with someone or another nearly without fail for more than two and a half years.
Probably our greatest challenge is facing the truth of what we've done this week. When we're the ones with the power, not the ones outnumbered and desperate. True, the Hunters started this. We are justified in doing whatever it takes to protect ourselves. Still...there are levels.
The Hunter compound was huge. More than a thousand feet on a side, the walls stood strong. Made of many different components and materials, I'm told they looked like our own walls back in the early days. Buildings inside rose to two and three stories, most of them built from scraps and raw materials scavenged and stolen. The hill their compound sat atop was covered in empty rows of tilled dirt where food had been harvested not too long ago.
For a group that plans meticulously, the Hunters didn't seem much prepared for an attack. The coalition took out their sentries and scouts in the wild, removing the watchers capable of giving warning. The area they'd taken over wasn't heavy on zombies, either. Probably why they chose it in the first place.
Our people emerged as one from the trees framing the Hunter compound. The vehicles used were armored--heavily--to protect our drivers and troops from rifle fire. Not that we gave them much chance to shoot; a lot of resources went into this. Heavy guns from all sides sent a blizzard of lead into the enemy position, suppressing pretty much any resistance. A dense concentration of gunfire centered on the main gate and the narrow road that went up to it. The wall in that section actually started to come apart from the sheer force of so many bullets.
Under that covering fire, aimed high to prevent any accidents, came a truck modified with thick armor plates on its backside. Just another precaution, in case a bullet came too close.
When the gunfire started, the Hunters probably thought we would act in a manner consistent with other people, like marauders or the Hunters themselves. We've struggled too hard to waste food and trade goods. I imagine the white flag went up pretty fast when the gunfire started cutting their people in half. But when they saw that truck move to the gate, if any of them were in a position to see it, they had to know there wasn't going to be any orderly ransacking. No merciful reprieve from us, people known for giving second chances.
When two five-hundred gallon propane tanks get parked right next to your front door, you can be pretty sure it's not a gift. Any Hunters capable of seeing those tanks probably weren't able to see the forty pounds of dynamite strapped to the bottom of them.
A small chase vehicle followed the truck in, and as soon as the parking brake was thrown, the truck's driver dashed to the tiny armored car behind him and they took off at top speed. Less than thirty seconds later, every member of the strike teams pulled back into the treeline and backed away.
The explosion was enormous. Not as powerful as you might think, but the pressure wave was more than enough to knock a hole in the place you could drive a fleet of vehicles through. Most of the interior was wood and caught fire immediately, driving the Hunters away from the main gate.
Our people moved back in and unleashed a torrent of flammable material on the walls, even using a repurposed airport pump truck--a small firefighting truck built out of a Humvee--to fire a stream of homemade napalm over the wall and into the compound itself. Shock and awe was more than enough to reduce resistance to zero. The attack was too coordinated and merciless. Estimates put the number of people killed in the explosion alone at nearly a hundred.
We burned that place to the ground. Our people moved in as the flames spread, shooting any that ran away and feeding every drop of fuel they'd brought for exactly that purpose into the fire. Smaller propane tanks were even used, hurtled into the flames by crude but effective catapults made from spare timbers and easily assembled as the Hunters retreated further inside.
All told it took about twenty minutes to reduce the place to a giant fire pit. Maybe an hour and a half to make sure every part of it was too hot for anyone to have survived. The cleanup afterward took nearly two full days, but the few survivors that were found, all tucked away in basements originally intended to be escape tunnels, were methodically questioned and then executed.
The final numbers took my breath away. One thousand, six hundred and fifteen people died in that inferno. Of that there were one thousand, four hundred and thirty-two adults. One hundred and eighty three of the dead were children. Some of them only infants.
That hurts. Those kids were innocent, their only crime being in the care of murderers who knew their actions would lead to no good end. I cried--hell, most everyone did--when I found out the real cost of this attack. Those kids shouldn't have died. We shouldn't have been put in a situation that required us to do it. We shouldn't live in a world where that necessity exists.
The Hunters were a threat not only to us, but to any and all communities they could reach. They've murdered countless people, attempting total annihilation of all community members in an attempt to remain uncaught. They failed in that. Because of their choice to be violent and aggressive first and to not even attempt cooperation with anyone else, they earned no pity.
I'm told the commanding members of the coalition didn't know children were present. I don't know if that's true, but even if none were sighted (reasonable given the terrain and difficulty seeing inside the place) it should have been assumed that kids lived there. Hard to avoid that nowadays unless you just murder children when they come along.
I'm not saying we shouldn't have attacked. We absolutely had to. This was not an optional thing at all. Doesn't mean I'm not disgusted and angry about the results. I am. You can do a terrible thing and know that it was required, and know that you would do it all over again. Ultimately the Hunters knew that we would have left them in peace if they had done so to us and the other communities they attacked.
There's not much left to say. It hurts so much, knowing so many people died to preserve even more lives. It's shitty and makes me want to punch something as a distraction, but I can't sit here and try to justify the whole thing over and over again. It was awful, and truly terrible. It was also the right choice.