Thursday, February 28, 2013

One Small Step

I doubt many of you out there want to hear about how I feel, but that's what you're going to get today. As always when the anniversary of The Fall is near, I become even more reflective of my life and experiences in the world as it is today.

Two days from now it will have been three years since all of this began. The end of the world, such as it was. Now we find ourselves past that end and into new beginnings. Hell, past even those. We're actively building a new society. Much like the old one, we fall victim to the bad choices and worse reactions that have plagued humanity since the first caveman realized a spear could kill his enemy as well as his dinner.

It's a delicate thing to try to explain, but I'm going to try:

We're changing. All of us. Everyone in New Haven, every survivor out there, is a dynamic being. We aren't solid things that endure and never change. We are shaped by the forces we survive and combat. The zombie plague and the sporadic threats brought against us by relatively small groups made us tough and reliant on each other. We knew then that the zombies were enemies to all, and even if there were more of them, we were different. We could think. We were people.

The marauders and other groups were smaller in number, and we always had the comfort that the majority of survivors opposed them. We reconciled ourselves to murdering them hand over fist because we knew they were that small minority who lost some essential human qualities when everything around them disintegrated. They were the borderline cases, people who were held in check by society, glued together by the pressure of the overwhelming majority pushing at them with laws and tradition and group morals. Turns out the few of us left after The Fall weren't enough to keep that going.

Now, things are different. Now we are embroiled in what can only be the opening stages of a war that may end civilization in this country as we know it. Our enemy, the UAS, aren't marauders. We can tell ourselves whatever we want, but the facts are there. These people are probably decent folk for the most part. Their leadership was and is arrogant, to be sure, but while we can fiercely disagree with their aims and methods, when you get to brass tacks they just want what the Union and the Westerners want. To live. To survive and grow. To have stability and safety.

That's the truth, and no matter how angry you are at the UAS, no matter how much you hate them for the things some of them have done, you'd better remember it. I have had the good fortune these last months to spend a lot of time dealing with my own problems. I've been so lucky to have supportive friends and access to all the help I could ask for the get my head on straight. I'm not there yet, and may never be. All of us are works in progress, after all.

Because I've been so introspective, I can more easily see the changes in others. War, and having an enemy of the magnitude represented by the UAS, has curious effects on individuals and groups. I see the light going out of people's eyes. I see my friends becoming more focused but darker human beings. Those who are the most angry about recent events are obvious in this way; they want to fight, to kill the enemy and to destroy the threat. But even people like Jess aren't immune. She practically lives in the greenhouses now, because the war effort means we need to be able to produce as much food as humanly possible. She's wearing herself out trying to ensure our well-being. She's worried about the fight to come and terrified that she will somehow fail her people.

I said that--all of that--to say this to each and every one of you: think twice.

I'm not claiming moral superiority here. I'm willing and ready to kill any enemy that attacks my home or my people, without hesitation and with absolute prejudice. It's not your willingness to fight or to put every ounce of your effort into assuring the safety and well-being of your people I want to caution you about.

It's getting caught up in the mob mentality. The UAS will come, that's almost guaranteed. They will probably mobilize in numbers that mean we'll have to destroy them or be destroyed. But on the off chance that things don't go quite that badly, I want you to remember that these are human beings. They're like us in a lot of ways. Things have gone far off the rails from an ideal situation, but I'm begging each and every one of you to remember the decency and open-mindedness that allowed you to take that one small step toward trusting strangers to create the communities we wish to protect.

Beckley is a small-scale example of this. Many of you don't trust him--and I wouldn't want him with a gun at my back just yet--but most of you accept that he might be genuine. The most common thing I hear about him is that he's the exception. That he's one of the very few in the UAS who might have seen the light.

But what if he isn't? What if Beckley is what he appears to be; an average guy? What if our enemies are so much like us that a concentrated effort might change the perceptions of not just a few, but many? Maybe thousands? Yes, they will probably come at us and we will almost certainly have to fight, but even then I implore you to keep an open mind. Every meeting of the two sides should contain the possibility for peace. What I'm asking is that you not forget Beckley's example when the time to act is upon you. I ask that you try to communicate when possible, to change the hearts of your enemies and show them the decent human beings I know you to be. It may not be possible in some scenarios, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least say this. I know there must be others who want peace. I know you aren't as bloodthirsty and as driven by lust for revenge as some of you seem. I see the good in you, my people, my fellow survivors, every day.

All I ask is that you allow that light to come out more, so that others might see it and find their way.

I mentioned that one small step each of us took when our groups and communities began to band together. I would never ask anyone to do something I am not, powerless though I am to make you heed my words. So as of tomorrow I will begin counseling sessions with Beckley, who in his life before The Fall was a therapist. I will spend time with him as a human being and let him in on my deepest secrets and fears. I will open myself to his trust and hopefully he will do the same. It may not be defending the wall together with weapons in hand, but it's something. It's a beginning.

In the days and weeks and months ahead, there will surely be chances for other beginnings. If what we've built together has any meaning to you, then you'll remember these words when that chance is in front of you. We are better than the worst urges within us. We must move beyond the simple needs of survival and the practicality of the gun. We are growing and evolving as a society; it cannot be centered on violence forever.

This is my hope. It may be futile and naive, but I have always been as honest with you as possible. You are my friends and family, my fellow survivors. All I ask is that you accept the possibility that the enemy might have the potential to be the same.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Victim Zero (Again)

[This is an out of character post]

Today 'Beckley' posted on the blog, leaving me free to do some other stuff. I'm working hard on 'Next' and am planning to rewrite some of the early bits of 'Victim Zero' today--early bits being all I have so far. Both books are coming along, and I'm hoping to have the first draft of 'Next' done by mid-April.

But as you may have noticed on the Living With the Dead website, there is a widget to the right for the 'Victim Zero' campaign on IndieGoGo. There are 52 days left as of this writing, and we're currently at $646 of the $5,000 goal. At the $1,000 mark I will host an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit for at least two hours, and as an extra incentive I will offer to do a Google Hangout as well.

If you can't back the Victim Zero Campaign with money, that's okay. Going to the link and sharing the campaign page, telling your friends about it, or generally spreading the word will help, too. Remember, backing the project nets you some cool stuff. I'd love to see some forward action over the next few weeks. I *really* want to host the AMA and Hangout, so please show your support.

Big hearts and hugs and whatnot to all of you.


Getting to Know You

Hey everyone, it’s A.J. again.  Mr. Beckley if you’re nasty.  Josh has given me permission to occasionally post here.  I guess it makes sense from a propaganda standpoint to have the voice of a defector ring out for people in UAS territory.  Still, that’s a very cynical way to look at it and I like to believe that Josh is a standup guy who just wants another point of view as he continues to work as the historian to all mankind.

So to those people in the UAS who have access to this blog, I want to tell you a little about this new home I have.  New Haven is fantastic.  But first, let’s start with the lies.  I have no doubt the UAS has told you all that I and the three others that left with me are locked up or being tortured for information.  We were all debriefed, of course.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but being questioned in a small room seldom is.  There was no torture, no one went Jack Bauer on me, there were just questions.  Unfortunately I didn’t have much to tell them.  It’s not like I was in a compound with the higher-ups in the government.  I just lived in a UAS town with my laptop.  I only started getting attention from the more important UAS figures when my posts on the blog got noticed.

Let’s talk about the good in New Haven.  They have…and  am not even joking about this…they have cheeseburgers.  God help me, real cheeseburgers.  Do you have any idea how completely at a loss I am for words right now?  They’re not free, of course, you have to barter.  It’s worth any price, though.  This couple makes the burgers and they gave me one for free when they found out I was a defector from the UAS.  It was refreshing to know that there was someone willing to accept me at face value.  When I told them that, they pointed out that whether I’m exactly what I say I am, or whether I’m a spy, there’s nothing they can do about it.  So why not believe the option that causes the least amount of pain?  So I shut up and ate my burger.

New Haven itself is a tightly run ship.  I’m not going to discuss all that for two reasons.  One, Josh already talks about the goings on and I don’t want to just parrot information.  Second, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m passing information about defenses.  But what I will say is that people are specialized here.  Since the fall we’ve all had to do everything.  I’ve had to defend our walls before, I’ve had to go out foraging, I’ve been on an undead raiding party.  It didn’t matter that I’m a horrible shot or that I favor a baseball bat over an assault rifle.  We defend what’s ours and we all do what’s asked so that everything gets done.  New Haven has been settled for so long, and has enough people, that they have their own force patrolling the walls.  They have their own force of beaters to go out and trounce some undead booty.  There’s no rotating schedule among the population at large.  People all have jobs, but they’re jobs that they actually know how to do.  When the powers that be in New Haven asked me what job I could do, I didn’t know how to answer.  I’m so used to being put on a schedule and having a new job each week.  These people are not savages or anarchists like the UAS tells you.  They’re organized and disciplined.  They have developed their own metropolis here and it’s closer to the world that was than anything else I’ve seen since the Fall.

Oh, and the medical facilities here are phenomenal compared to what I’ve seen in this post-Fall world.  I paid them a visit to introduce myself and give them my medical information.  All of the workers are great people and the hospital itself looks pretty much like a pre-Fall hospital.  That is almost as incredible to me as the cheeseburgers.  In a world where people can die from a scrape because penicillin is no longer readily available, this hospital – fully stocked and manned by professionals– is nothing short of a miracle.

Let’s touch on the bad.  I don’t want to seem like I’m whitewashing everything.  New Haven isn’t perfect.  It has its seedy areas as well.  Walking through the place, there were certain houses that looked more rundown due to their occupants being slobs.  At least one place was pretty clearly running a gambling establishment with a bouncer out front who had a jailhouse swastika tattoo on the side of his neck.  Another house looked to me to be a speakeasy (if the exiting drunks pretending to act sober were any indication.)  Yet another house had its owner sitting in a window in her underwear, pretty obviously looking for clients.  She was also scratching herself in a profoundly unladylike way.  You’d think that would deter people, but she didn’t have long to wait in that window before someone came in.  And then he appeared to insist that she keep the curtains open.

So New Haven is – gasp! – like any other city that used to exist.  It has some good parts and some bad parts.  And the people are the same.  A lot of people have given me their support.  Still, there are others that clearly hate me because I once believed in the UAS.  If I go for a walk around town, a long walk, mind you, there will be at least one person who will spit in my general direction.  Or at least glare at me until I walk away.  One kid, maybe thirteen, threw a muddy rock at me once.  That’s as bad as it’s gotten, though.  Just some cowards throwing mud and their own spit.

What this all comes down to, though, is that by living here, I get to be myself.  It goes back to what I said before about specialization.  I don’t have to do a stint on the wall or in the kitchens.  If I want to go back to being a therapist, I’m allowed to.  Hell, I’m encouraged to.  It’s a way for me to pull my weight and I do think that, given recent traumas we’ve all experienced, it’s a necessary service to have.  Of course, I don’t know who would want to have a therapist who was involved with the UAS, but the point is that I get to find that out if I choose to.  This is a place that can be a home, not just a place to survive.  The time for survival is over.  We have to start living again, otherwise mankind truly is extinct.

So, in closing, I want everyone in UAS territory to realize that there are other options.  You want to stay with the UAS, fine.  But know that there’s a whole world out there.  One with cheeseburgers, with a stabilized work force, one with floating craps games and hookers with Chlamydia.  It’s a real world, not a shadow of what once was promising to resurrect a world long dead.  And it’s run by people who don’t gas children in their beds like mass-murdering cowards.  Think about it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Using Every Moment

The mood around New Haven is...complicated. The people here either read my posts or know someone who does. They're kind of a water-cooler discussion topic. Thus, everyone here has some kind of opinion about the fact that we hit the UAS where they live. I'd say we bloodied their nose, but that's not accurate. 

What we did was kick them in the balls. Hard enough and personal enough that they need time to recuperate, but it made them mad as hell and probably beyond reason. That we were totally justified in doing so is unimportant to the enemy, and even if they had full access to the facts it wouldn't much matter at this point. There is, after all, a huge difference between a war distant from your home and one literally happening inside it. Once your place of safety and comfort gets hit, all other factors cease to be relevant. 

People here are happy to know our troops will be safer during the immediate drawback of UAS forces. They're moving back home for the most part and for the moment, which gives us breathing room. No one here has any doubts about how the whole thing is going to play out, though. New intelligence puts the number of people in the main UAS camps near twenty thousand. God only knows where they're all coming from, but it's an army's worth of people to be sure. And most of them are really pissed off at us.

I feel as though some kind of fundamental shift has happened. I can't explain it very well. I see my friends, who all had so many doubts, steel their resolve in the face of a fight we know must come to our doorstep. People who feared the kind of people we were becoming are now embracing the reality that we absolutely must fight to stay alive. We're well over the precipice now; there isn't going to be a diplomatic solution to this.

The world is warming back up, but no one around here seems concerned about the undead. Zombies have become something of a background worry given the incredible danger we're all about to face. 

Beckley is going to post tomorrow, and I hope you enjoy it. His impression of New Haven and his style of writing are welcome sunny spots in all this terrible news. I know I'm not the only frustrated person who wishes we could call all this fighting off and just move forward without more bloodshed, but I also know I'm not alone in recognizing the futility of that hope. We deal with what is, not what can't be. 

Then again, maybe some of the UAS who actually get to read this blog will read Beckley's piece tomorrow and find a little hope in it. I know the rage many of the enemy feel at having their home attacked, and I know that for some of them, no reason on our part is good enough to justify that attack. I can hope, however, that there will be others like Beckley, men and women who see the value in living and letting live, who are willing to swallow their pride and anger and take a hand at peace. 

I'm going to cover that in my next post, which will be the day after tomorrow, which is the last day of this month. Strange to think that it'll be three years since The Fall in just a few days. Stranger still to realize that we've survived all this time through the plague of the dead only to fall into the same old predictable human patterns again. We fight to dominate and control and to own, despite the fact that our low numbers guarantee as much land as anyone will need for many generations. 

It saddens me. At the same time I take a great deal of pride in the people around me. All of them are tough and brilliant, willing to go the distance to protect the group even if it means doing terrible things. It's not much of a bright spot, but it's what I have. 

It's a part of the infinite pool of hope we have for the future. Yes, war is coming and on a scale most of us have never dealt with. Yes, the Union could fall. But until and unless that happens, we will use every moment to better ourselves and our home. We will build right up until someone strikes down our work. We will plan for tomorrow to the last day of our lives. 

We are survivors. To do less would be impossible.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Angels Weep

I've written a lot--a hell of a lot--over the last three years about how humanity has had to change because of The Fall. Some of that has been personal. You've seen this blog for the last six months. I'm damaged goods, but I've made efforts to heal. Maybe even hidden some of the pain when it became too much for me to talk about it every day.

I've covered society-wide changes as well. I've tried to couch as much of my, and our, experience in this evolving world in terms we can all grasp and relate to, but even there I've failed at times. A better man than me might have been able to express who Patrick and Becky and Will are as people, might have captured their essence and those of my other loved ones in such a way that it made a difference not just to us, but to our enemies.

Maybe if they saw us as people with hopes and dreams and fears and worries, this whole war could have been avoided. Then again, that's a lot of responsibility to heap onto my own shoulders, and frankly even my own neuroses won't go that far. I might have made a difference there, but things are as they are and there's no use crying over what I can't change.

I'm at peace with not being allowed to leave. That's a quick reversal, but the reason is simple: the war took a turn that scares me beyond belief. I was informed early this morning and I've been sitting here staring at the screen as I try to wrap my mind around exactly how to say this.

I'll just say it and be done.

Yesterday, fourteen teams of Union soldiers along with seven teams of people from the west struck at the heart of UAS territory. The goal wasn't to engage in traditional warfare. There was no shock or awe involved. In no way do I blame our coalition forces for their actions. Faced with a large and much better-armed enemy, survival is reliant on unpredictability.

Those twenty-one teams hit the three major bunkers where a huge number of UAS residents still live. Being bunkers, a direct assault was pointless. Designed to withstand nuclear attacks, after all. Our teams, and even the westerners fall into that category since they fight the same enemy, have been working at this for at least eight days.

The UAS takes materials into their bunkers like clockwork. In theory every trailer packed with propane or water or whatever is supposed to be inspected, but the UAS is made up of people just like anywhere else. Unlike them, we actually see those human beings as people. I know I feel a small degree of sadness for them.

We haven't got any idea what the casualty list looks like, but the point of hiding explosives in those tanks of propane wasn't to kill a lot of people at one time. Nor was the act of contaminating nearly every drop of water with so much salt that it became undrinkable. Surely there were deaths when those sticks of dynamite went off, especially in such a relatively small space as a bunker, but those have to be acceptable losses.

The point was to drive them out, to force the UAS onto the surface with the rest of us. It took our very best people to manage these jobs without being caught, and while I don't know the precise mechanics of how they did it, I'm pretty sure this isn't a trick we can pull twice.

What it means for the war overall, no one can say. We've dealt them a huge blow, but it's possible restoring the bunkers will be priority one. It's possible that the damage to all three isn't as bad as we think it is, and this will be a minor setback. The volume of things we don't know could fill a solar system.

What's frightening is what we do know. We know that two of the Union teams were run down and captured. In the aftermath of their actions, angry UAS citizens lynched half of them before any semblance of order could be restored. When the leadership finally managed to pull things together, the other half were given a barebones trial right there on the smoking plains amid the fires and chaos of escapees from the bunker, and were put to death. The method was brutal; the crowd moved in right after the sentence and stabbed at them, tore them apart. The remaining Union soldiers watching this unfold--two of them under cover in the crowd before finally escaping in the night--saw it all. They heard the cries of hate and anger and fear. They heard the threats. They saw the determination.

I wonder how well-informed the citizenry of the UAS can be. If they know what their leaders have been doing, then they have to know we're in a fight for our survival. Something like this was bound to happen. The sad, sad reality is that our watchers on the ground there saw a people who might not have been committed before, but are now. For them the war is no longer an abstract. It's a personal and vicious thing.

Once things in UAS central calm down and get organized, we're in for it. The intent of the Union/Western forces here was to strike a blow that would weaken the enemy and demoralize them for long enough that we could build ourselves up, then strike the coup-de-grace. We did manage to buy time, for now, but we underestimated the reaction. Far from slowing this war down, all we've done is earn a short period of rest before an entire furious populace comes down on us like the hammer of God.

I'm fine with staying home and not heading to the front because it's perfectly clear that the front will eventually make its way here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No Quarter

I have been in discussion with the council for most of the last two days. Against the advice of every one of my friends except Will, who abstained from giving me his opinion, I have asked for the right to join up with troops who will take the fight to the UAS borders. Because what we have now is no longer a war for our freedom versus the UAS fighting to control. This is a war of survival on both sides. The UAS sees us--all of us--as a threat to their very existence. They aren't coming for us to bring the Union or the western groups under their control. They're out to exterminate, because the leadership there realizes they've picked a fight that has escalated out of their control.

I should mention that the council voted overwhelmingly to deny my request. The reasons? Let's see: I've been depressed. I've been unpredictable. I've expressed a desire to see the fighting end. I've questioned the actions of our leaders. I've spent time advocating other solutions than violence in the face of overwhelming opposition.

In short, they don't trust me to do it. I don't understand how one man could so badly threaten a group of soldiers when he's burning to accomplish their goals, but there you have it. Apparently I've gone from being something of a folk hero around here to being seen as an unstable guy who can't be trusted to defend his people.

And you know? As much as it pisses me off, I can still understand. All of those things are true, though I'd argue that context matters more than the council admits. I'm benched, and if I'm being kept out of the larger fight now, when it matters more than ever, then I can't envision a situation where I'll be allowed to do my part. Sure, I can go outside the walls and fight the undead, maybe even take on the UAS if they make it this far into Union territory, but I won't be trusted to go out into the world as I once was.

I begin to wonder exactly what we're fighting for. I've spent the last three years surviving just as much as any other person. I've dedicated much of my time and energy to helping as much as I can. Yet here I am, a free man, sitting in my own home being told I can't leave to defend what may be an emerging nation.

Maybe it's those kind of thoughts that keep me from the front lines. One of the reasons the council gave me, that the undead would rise soon as the seasons change, is certainly true enough; yesterday was so warm that our scouts saw a few zombies on the outskirts of the county. They were moving freely. My home may need me here to defend it.

But I can't help feeling that in the urge to resist those who would oppress us, we've become too cautious and perhaps a shade oppressive ourselves. I'm not averse to having leadership with ultimate say about defense and how we operate as a community, but it seems to me that volunteers for dangerous front line combat should be given a chance. What do they think I was going to do, commit suicide by UAS? Run? Or suddenly decide that the people and land I've bled for were worth less to me than enemy lives?

If that was the idea, then the council can go fuck themselves. Every single one of them who voted against me. Some of the them--many of them, to be honest--are friends. I know them well. That's a big part of why this hurts so much.

It's their call to make, but that doesn't mean I have to like it at all. I have work to do here. Paperwork.


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Wicked Wind

Some days, some news, hits you so hard that words seem impossible. Not the formation of the thought, you understand, but trying to use language to express the depth of your disgust and outrage. Sometimes it's all you can do to stop yourself from grabbing a weapon, hopping in a car, and aim to lash out at the bastards responsible.

The enemy must have thought we'd give in long before now. Maybe they were under the mistaken impression that we didn't have the stones to see this fight through once we stepped into it fully. Whatever the reason, the stakes have been upped considerably from even the insanity they pulled at North Jackson.

A community in the south, one not too far from where Block was, has been taken by the UAS. Every person there is dead. The small community, about two hundred people, was called Garton. It's empty of everything but corpses now, and those will have to go without burial. The UAS isn't allowing anyone to come close, but they aren't going in themselves. It's a warning to the rest of us, you see. It's a way of telling us how far they will go to force the opposition--us--into quitting.

One of the last survivors in Garton managed to shoot off a message before she died. She said the killers were one of the teams of operators we know are moving about Union territory. They waited until the wind was right, then released gas that swept across the town. Apparently someone broke into their sewer system, which had been closed off and all the old pipes emptied of water, and released more gas there. Across the wall the wind came, bringing death, and when people retreated into their homes, more of the stuff boiled up from their drain pipes.

Why do tyrants always think acts like this will cow the people they're trying to control? Why do they never learn?

I could say a lot of things today. I've seen Patrick and Will already this morning, and their reactions were both severe. Will is enraged and determined, but I saw the hurt in his eyes. Pat is sickened, as am I. Our reactions to things like this tend to be pretty close, even if I show it more.

So many things I could say. It all seems so inconsequential. How do you mourn for people you never knew, but felt a connection to anyway? Garton was a part of the Union. They made the choice to stand with us no matter what, and look how it ended. We have to honor that commitment and their memory, make sure things like this can't happen again.

We have to take steps.

I think I'll go say some of those things to the council.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Air Power

A few people have mentioned the concern that the UAS may have sustainable air superiority--in other words, planes, pliots, fuel, and ammunition. If that's the case, the argument goes, then things can and will get very bad for us.

So far we haven't been bombed, which doesn't mean it won't happen. I tend to think the UAS would have used shock and awe tactics if they were going to. Their leadership are people who used to send troops in for little or no reason, and spent ridiculous amounts of money and manpower showing the natives of whatever country how hard their fist could strike. Unless more has changed than I'm aware of, I can't see them avoiding those tactics if they had the ability to use them.

Could be wrong, but that's pretty much my entire opinion on the matter. The only thing I'd add is that if they do actually have a field of planes and pilots to man them, there's not a lot we can do about it except duck and cover.

Right now the war is at something of a standstill. Who'd have thought the weather would hold out being so bad for this long? Here at home you wouldn't even know we're in a conflict if it weren't for some of our people heading to North Jackson to help out. The undead, however many of them are left in the county, aren't showing themselves. We have regular teams of Beaters going out with soldiers in an attempt to find those that remain, but so far we've come up empty.

For the moment, things are quiet. Big K and I are working on the survival manual, our records, and various other small projects, but that's all fairly easy stuff. New Haven is doing pretty well right now. Jess is still busy getting her seedlings and sprouts going in the greenhouses. Will seems to be taking it a little easier; I heard he asked someone out on a date the other day. I haven't seen Becky in a fair bit, Patrick is taking every third day off from his usual work and picking up new skills. I tried to find Rachel yesterday, but her husband told me she's spending a lot of her free time honing her fighting skills, which still seems really weird to me. Seeing her in combat just doesn't compute.

Steve and I have sort of reconnected. I don't know that I mentioned it, but Courtney is out west. She was the diplomat we sent out with Ketill and his people. Not all of that scenario was a sham, after all, and while we expect her home within the next few weeks, Steve is missing her hard. He didn't go with her because he had the flu at the time. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even know until a few days ago. But the timing was critical, the caravans couldn't wait, and Steve was contagious.

Of all the people I have known for any length of time, Steve has changed the least. I'm not sure what it is about his personality that somehow manages to resist being broken down or bent into new directions. The violence of the new world hasn't made him harder; it's almost as if he was always that way but needed a situation around him for it to show. He's still the happy, funny, imminently understanding guy he has always been. It's like...he's just more. More of who he was, the new aspects of him just uncovered by the tempest of The Fall.

He worries just like the rest of us, but even with his wife out of state and in considerably more danger than the rest of us, he still sits and listens when I have problems I want to share. It's never about him. There's a zen quality in him for how things are. He really seems to accept the things he cannot change just like the serenity prayer. He has been coming by in the afternoons to just hang out recently, and being around him makes me feel so normal I get afraid I'll slip and forget for a while I'm living in a world of the walking dead and violent human enemies. That's both a good and a bad thing, I suppose.

I wish I had his resilience. But a wise man once said that wishing for what can't be is a fool's game. Instead, focus on what is, and what you can change.

So it goes with airplanes and enemies. Only worry about and plan for what you can actually do something about, and leave what you can't up to fate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Beckley

Look, I realize a lot of you out there are kind of weirded out that Beckley is posting on the blog, and that he's no longer a part of the UAS. It trips your finely honed bullshit sensors and makes you want to know what he has done to earn my trust, etc. I get that, I really do. But the flood of worry and anger over the last day has made me realize something really important. Well, two things, actually. 

The first is that while your concern is truly appreciated and it does warm my heart, it's between Beckley and those of us who've spent time learning about him to know how he has earned our trust enough to allow him space here. It's that simple. In this situation, I get that I'm Dumbledore and he's Snape, and all of you out there are the Order of the Phoenix, questioning my judgment. That's okay, it really is. You have every right to do so, and I'm actually glad you wonder. Because that means if I do really screw up and trust some psycho that has me blind to his craziness, you'll speak up and maybe save me from myself. That's awesome. 

But the fact is that beyond the Harry Potter comparison, this is my business. Mine and Beckley's. I've got the backing of my own people on this, and if nothing else you can see it as an exercise in strategic optimism. He is former UAS, after all. That has to be helpful for us, right?

The second thing I realized, both before Beckley posted and much stronger after I read the comments on the blog questioning him, was that we've maybe gone too far over the 'untrusting curmudgeon' line. 

I want you to read this post and think about it today. I really do. Because this matters.

Look, we trust each other. Trust between strangers in small groups was how most people made it through The Fall to begin with. We put our lives in the hands of others, trusting that they would not make a fist. From there we formed communities--in the tens and hundreds and thousands--and we trusted each other to work for the group, to sweat and bleed and kill and die. 

Now we've formed a network of communities, based on trust, which is itself based on shared values. We demonize our enemies because they're violent, arrogant, hateful, thieving...because they don't share the values and haven't endured what we have. They are an enemy that needs to be fought, for sure, but by closing ourselves off to those of them who begin to see a better way, we risk becoming them. 

Beckley made the choice to leave. He stood up and saw the terrible things being done in the name of the UAS, and he couldn't have those actions on his conscience. He's a good man who was--was--part of a group that does terrible things. If the UAS keeps on, we'll do our best to stop them and if we have to we'll do as we did with the Hunters and eliminate them root and branch. It's harsh, but may be necessary.

Along the way there may be others who choose to give up that life. We cannot close ourselves to them no matter how suspicious of them we may be. What we did with the hunters was maybe too far. It was overkill, and in the press to make sure our own people suffered the smallest losses possible, we murdered many innocents. 

In our struggle to survive we've faced a lot of challenges and done a lot of bad things for good reasons. I'm not saying it wasn't the most pragmatic course or the safest for our own people. But I see what happened to the Hunters as being a part of the same problem some of you are having with Beckley. Where would we be now if we hadn't thrown out the lines of trust in the first place? Where might we be now if we'd have taken greater risks to allow those Hunters who wanted to defect do so, and save the lives of their noncombatants? I don't know. I can't know. 

That unknown haunts me. 

So, please, just think about it. We're the last human beings alive, a great civilization brought low. We'll always do what we must in order to live, but it should always bother us. We should always question our motives and wonder if there are people on the other side who secretly want to join us. In order to avoid becoming the villain, we must always take a critical look at our own actions. 

And in times when the choice is between moderate risk and trusting someone, we should stop and think about how important our principles are to us. Food for thought, I hope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paradise Lost

Hey everybody.  This isn’t Josh so I guess some introductions are in order.  This might get long and I apologize.  As you can see, my username is Beckley.  I’d rather not put my full name out there just in case there are any that wish me ill for reasons that should be fairly clear in a minute.  If you really need a first name, call me by my initials, A.J.  It makes me sound like a frat boy, but that can be part of my penance.  You probably know me better as the UAS propaganda guy.

Yeah, that anonymous poster defending the UAS?  That was me.  There’s so much I want to explain, but another part of me is horrified at how I apologized for these selfish pricks and tried to explain away their atrocities.  A while back I decided to defect from the UAS and via e-mails to Josh I was able to make that goal clear.  I dropped seemingly benign lines like, “I would like to see Montana” and how the Union will “tremble once again at the sound of our silence.”  All lines from Hunt for Red October.  I started nerdy dialogues on why Damar was the best character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  This had the double benefit of referencing the fact that Damar was a defector, and also being absolutely true.  I would off-handedly mention that I had song lyrics running through my head, which just so happened to be verses to “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.”  I thought I was pretty clever.  It went right over the heads of my UAS monitors.  But Josh got it.  Nerd.

So New Haven was able to orchestrate a way for me and a few others to get out of UAS territory.  I won’t discuss how or exactly when since I don’t want to endanger the operatives that the Union has roaming about in UAS territory.  With this post, I do want to make a plea to the UAS, but first I feel I owe an explanation to all of you.  It’s easy to judge me for being a collaborator and I’m not trying to shirk my responsibility.  But things aren’t black and white out there.  You know that.

I’m not from the UAS bunker.  I’m not even from the southwest.  I always said, back before the dead rose, that the world would end before I’d ever move to the southwest.  God clearly exists and has a sick sense of humor.  I have lived a bunch of places, but I spent my childhood in New England.  I lived outside of New Haven, actually.  The Connecticut one.  For the record, this means that I’m probably the only guy in New Haven with an actual New Haven accent.  It’s pretty wicked awesome.

The apocalypse hit me hard.  Obviously that was the case for all of us, but I really didn’t take it well.  I was a therapist working in Pittsburgh before this all went down.  People looked to me to have answers to their problems.  And when the dead rose, I just couldn’t handle it.  Everyone I ever knew was dead and walking and there was nothing I could do about it.  I made new friends only to watch them get bit or murdered by marauders, then rise again and get put down.  I’ve done things to assure my survival in this world.  Terrible things that I don't want to go into.  To put your mind at ease, at least, I was never part of a marauder gang, I’m not a rapist, and I’m not a child molester.  I am a murderer though.  We’ve all had to become that.

Due to the dead, marauders, and other issues, Pittsburgh became unlivable for me, so I decided to move to New Haven.  The Kentucky one.  This was during the amnesty for marauders thing they did a while back.  I figured I could get amnesty in case my past tried to catch up with me, and I’d have a new place to live.  So I started walking.  And walking.  I missed the amnesty deadline, so I just kept walking.  I walked for days, weeks, months.  I was like a zombie myself.  Just shuffling across states, dragging my baseball bat behind me.

And that’s when I came across my salvation.  I want you to fully understand how lost I was.  I’d spend the adulthood of my young life caring for others.  And now I had no one, no purpose.  I wanted to die, but I just wouldn’t.  Somehow the zombies never managed a bite, no matter how sloppy or reckless my bat and I got.  One time I put a revolver in my mouth with the full intention of pulling the trigger.  I ended up sobbing myself to sleep and waking up with the muzzle still in my mouth and this horrible taste of metal that stuck with me for days.  Finally I found people.  I think I was halfway hoping they’d kill me, but they welcomed me.  And that’s when I discovered the miracle.  These people had a central government.  Not only was it a government, but it was the government.  A piece of America had survived.  My family, friends, fellow survivors, they were all dead, but here was something that endured.  I was a convert from that moment.

I needed the UAS, needed to know that things were going to be ok.  That things were going back to the way they were.  I was pissed when people didn’t want to join and actively opposed the new order.  You were a bunch of spoiled, ungrateful children.  So I told you all off on this blog.  But on some level, I think I knew I was pining for a reality that could never exist again.  And I knew that the UAS was not the blameless force for good I desperately wanted them to be.  I got word from above that the UAS wanted me to start spamming the blog with propaganda.  A dick move to be sure, and one that I refused.  That’s when I was told they wanted the online confusion to cover for upcoming action.  The implication of breaking the peace was too much for me to justify.  I got out.

And now there are these attacks.  These wasteful, cowardly attacks.  What was served by that?  I even posted a few comments about that too, blasting the UAS for destroying resources.  All anonymous, of course.  Internet sockpuppeting after the apocalypse.  It’s how I roll.

So that’s me in a nutshell.  I want to end this long rambling post with a plea to the UAS:  Stop.  Seriously, just stop.  You have skills and resources that would be a boon to the human race.  But what are you doing with that potential?  You’re killing people and you’re destroying the infrastructure you claim you want to create.  Both human and industrial potential is wasted by your grab for power.  Look, I don’t know what’s going on at the highest levels of government.  Maybe you realize you’ve gone too far.  Maybe you’re just angry and afraid.  But nothing is served by the extreme nature of these attacks.  Attempting to poison an entire city?  Bombing greenhouses and crops?  There’s no justification for this.  Not when we need each other to survive.  At the end of the day, those shambling corpses are our common enemy.  You are not the American government.  You never will be.  The US government is dead.  So is your family.  So are your friends.  All we have is each other, and this shitty excuse of a world overrun by the dead.  Society is already torn down.  Are you really going to burn the rubble just so you can rule over ashes?

Please.  We can talk this out.  Just stop.  Please.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Last night the UAS mounted a daring raid against Block. You remember the place, yeah? It was where the gang and I holed up for a while on our trip across the country.

They came at dusk. A small force, three heavy attack vehicles, and less than fifty soldiers. They were aided by a team of operators that slipped the walls there, weakening the gates to allow an easy entry.

I won't keep you waiting: there are no survivors left in Block. Oh, they weren't killed by the UAS. Not a one. In fact not a hair on the head of a single resident of Block is even out of place. Those folks are smart and clever, having caught the infiltrators well before they could do any real damage.

We've suspected for a while that Block would become a major target. It makes sense strategically, after all, since the place is basically a fortress anyway. It would make an excellent forward position for the UAS as they slowly creep sideways across the country into occupied territory. It's also well known that the people of block rely more on stout defenses than skill in combat or strength of numbers. Made it an obvious soft target.

So the Union has been planning the evacuation for some time. Many of the women and children have been gone for almost a week, leaving mostly single men behind to put on a show of being populated. When the UAS showed up, a few shots were fired, enough to give the impression that the place was going to be defended. The gate was indeed weakened and easy to take down, and the small but deadly UAS force made entry in scant time.

By then the remaining citizens were escaping through the sewer system, tunnels carefully tended for just such an occasion. I can only imagine the look of surprise on the faces of those soldiers as they hit the empty courtyard between those massive buildings. Must have set off all kinds of 'oh shit' sensors in their brains.

Then, well...

Then Block fell in on them.

It's amazing what one guy who used to do demolitions can accomplish with enough TNT and time to figure out the most devastating way to use it. Sixty explosions in twenty seconds, the first few designed to cut off every avenue of escape as the towering concrete structures suddenly became shining examples of Objects In Motion.

The infiltrators were in the top floor of the main barrack. The windows were left open. I wonder if they survived the fall long enough for their counterparts to hear them scream? Who knows.

Block is gone. Where once a stalwart collection of buildings stood, where good people made their homes, there is now a pile of rubble that rises to an impressive height. Don't be sad for the people who abandoned it; they aren't. It was an important place to them, truly, but in the end only a place. Their lives and health--not to mention denying the UAS any useful sites or materials--are of much higher value. They've moved back to a secondary location, a prepared community built from prefab materials specifically designed for the world as it is now. It's not that far from Block, the new place, but almost impossible to find if you don't know where to look. It's safe and capable of sustaining a large group for a long time. It's a new home, and in the long run perhaps a better one.

Ask any citizen of Block if losing their home to blunt the ambitions of the UAS and kill some of their best soldiers was a trade worth making, and I can almost guarantee what the answer would be. Just ask yourself what you'd say in the same situation. Give the enemy nothing he can use. Give him no quarter, no mercy. Above all, save your own.

Worth it? You bet. Every time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Routine Affair

I get the feeling the UAS isn't going to back down no matter what happens. Pride is a strange thing, and while we don't suffer from the kind of criminal stupidity needed to die on the sword of pride, I can sort of understand why they're forging ahead with their plans even knowing how dearly it will cost them.

Take this morning, for example: right there on the edge of UAS territory, where they are known to patrol heavily both day and night, hang the bodies of seven of their operators. These people were caught trying to rig a grain silo with explosives in such a way that it would topple onto a community's wall. This was a good two hundred miles inside the border, and the folks that caught these assholes yesterday had to work at it to make sure they could move and prepare the bodies.

No, they weren't alive when they got strung up. We're hard, not cruel. Death was a given as they're enemy combatants--infiltrators, even--but they were quick deaths.

The Union is treating this as a routine matter. We'll make the point in similar ways as often as we need to until the UAS finally gets it. Simple as that.

I feel I should cut away here to mention that my wake-up call today was Will Price knocking on my door. I answered, sleepy and freezing cold, and he slugged me in the gut. Then we sat down and had coffee.

Turns out the council read my post yesterday and decided a day off for Will was in order. They made it clear that no one was questioning his ability to perform his job, but others have had the same concerns I expressed. Will wasn't very happy about it--he did punch me in the stomach, after all--but he's a stickler for rules, so he is spending the day doing anything but work. I suggested he try to find a reasonably attractive person, play them with sweet words, and attempt to spend a little time pursuing mutual pleasure together.

He gave me the flattest look I've ever seen from a human being and told me it wasn't that easy. I replied that there were plenty of people around here who'd be happy for a bit of commitment-free sex. It's not like we have video games to keep up entertained any longer, right?

The subject seemed to make him uncomfortable, so I let off. Will left after half an hour, told me he was going to find something to do. I wonder if someone will find him hunched over looking at some men's magazine, but secretly hiding a copy of The Art of War or whatever inside it. The guy really needs a social life. If I knew more people I'd try to set him up, assuming the attempt wouldn't get me shot.

I deserved the little love tap he gave me, but I'm no dope. I won't stick my nose in where it can get slapped off. I try not to repeat mistakes. Being human, I usually fail at that.

We're closing in on the third anniversary of this blog, and I feel weird about that. I'm so proud of what we've managed, and of course so sad at all we've lost. It's a strange feeling to celebrate the adaptability of survivors, because like most things it has two sides. That ability to cope and align ourselves to new situations has allowed New Haven and groups like it to make great leaps forward from where we started after The Fall. But it's that same malleable nature that allows us to kill enemies and hang their corpses up as warning signs to their brothers, and to keep doing it as long as we have to.

I can't see an end to this conflict any time soon, but I try to keep perspective. Where we've been, where I've been, and the healing that has happened for the group, the society, the race, and even just for me. It's never perfect; nothing ever is. But it's what we've got. It's what we fight to keep.