Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Unclaimed Lands

This is day two of near single-digit temperatures. For us here in New Haven the weather is immobilizing. It's damn good that we don't have to worry about the undead when it gets this cold, but it has drawbacks, too.

The UAS is far enough south that they aren't having as hard a time getting things done. Those clever bastards are shooting north and claiming empty land. That might seem like an empty gesture since they don't have the people needed to patrol an area hundreds of miles across, but it's actually pretty brilliant. Another example of how they out-politic us.

See, the UAS claims land, then says it's no trespassing for anyone not under their control. We've already agreed that starting a war for no reason is a bad idea, so they know we won't travel onto their land without provocation. The problem is that the land in question creates a barrier between the scattered western groups and the Union, making it much harder to travel between the two. I suppose the idea was to divide and conquer, and as far as strategies go it isn't a bad one.

So, yeah. We won't be able to help our allies out that direction in any real way. The UAS is claiming land at breakneck speeds, and no member of the Union will cross that line. It's a pretty noose.

There's nothing we can do about it, though. I hate to be the one to say it, but the UAS is doing an efficient job of staying ahead of the rest of us. We know another small group, this one further outside UAS territory, has fallen to them. It was another 'join or die' situation, of course. The UAS seems to be accelerating their plans with the western groups.

For now the plan is to buckle down here and worry about the things we can change. New Haven is shaping up quickly since we don't have to defend from the zombies at present. The Box is increasing its capacity for new stuff, forging metals and producing basic technologies with shocking speed. All over the place--at least, when it's not ten degrees out--sections of wall are being fixed and reinforced, new weapons mounted, houses upgraded. There are so many people here to do the work that what would have been impossible a few years ago is now becoming commonplace.

New Haven won't be Eden anytime soon, I know. I'm just impressed with how much ingenuity and passion our people have. Give them a project or the freedom to think up their own and they'll come back with a plan that saves lives, makes something more efficient, you name it. I'm jazzed about it.

One nice thing about the Box becoming more productive is that Patrick doesn't have to be. He still wants to work metal, but the actual demand on him is much less now. He can focus on pet projects or take time off. His apprentices can handle most of the ordinary work from day to day. He has spent the last two days over at my house, helping me with a few of my own projects. I hadn't realized how long it had been since Pat and I just hung out. No personal dramas, no big events, just two friends spending time together.

And, yes, he still tried to catch me off guard with silent but deadly attacks. I am wary of his tricks now.

Pat is already looking for the next thing he wants to do. Working a forge was a dream of his for a long time, and I'm sure if he still had both hands he'd be thrilled to do it the rest of his days. But the joy of the work seems to have receded somewhat, or at least he's ready for something challenging and new. All yesterday he talked about learning to bake. He said he almost opened a bakery once but didn't want to farm the work out to someone else. He wanted to do it himself, from making wedding cakes to mass-producing bread for hundreds of people.

I told him he should be working with the folks who run our mess halls rather than dig through paperwork with me. He told me he was hoping I'd tell him to go do it, like he needed my approval or something. I get that some people around here have a higher opinion of me than they should, but I never expected it of him. I told Pat so, naturally, and he explained that he didn't feel right leaving the forge behind when I was the one who helped set him up with that job. He didn't want me to think...I dunno, that he resented it or wasn't grateful or some other asinine thing. I told him to do what he pleased, it was his life and my opinion there didn't matter at all.

Hell, I wouldn't care if he decided to spend his days talking to squirrels as long as it made him happy.

Happiness might be in short supply when the weather breaks toward spring. We should grab what we can, while we can.

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