Friday, May 31, 2013

Gravedigger

Well, until we get our trial or whatever it looks like house arrest is going to be the thing. Not just that, though. Jess and I were conscripted to help clean up the piles of zombies outside the walls. I would say that the worst part is being locked up in my own house, but really scraping up rotting corpses has that beat pretty badly. Even worse than that is being cut off from everyone.

I thought about it as I worked to clean up that horrific mess. There aren't a lot of examples over the last three years where I've been totally isolated from the entire community. Here and there, but usually only because of circumstances. Not because anyone was forcing it on me. I can't feel the pulse of Haven. I don't know how the people feel about what we did or what's happening to us right now.

Not that their judgment at all changes things that have already happened. I'm not hoping to use that sentiment for ridiculous political purposes. More, I'm worried that some might see our isolation and near-certain punishments as wrong. A few people have said they think we did the right thing. I've heard that much.

But if there's anything you should have taken away from this blog since it began, it's that whether you're dealing with living people or dead ones, there are always consequences to our choices. We did what we felt was right, even though it broke rules. We are willing to accept the consequences of that choice. No one need stand up for us or fight for some perceived injustice.

I don't have much time, just please everyone remember that we chose this. Don't go one way or another, just let the wheels turn. Things will work out.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

House Arrest

When we returned home yesterday I thought our group would be slapped in chains without hesitation. It didn't help that the front gates were mobbed by undead, requiring us to get out and fight while the defenders on the wall cleared them out. To think, I used to complain about our front door sticking. Fighting a few dozen zombies just to get inside is a bit more annoying.

Haven looks bad. Inside the wall hasn't changed over the last week and a half, but outside is very different. Seems the outer defenses gave in at several key places, allowing larger numbers of zombies to move in and attack our walls again. Not such a big deal considering how much time we spent without the outer defenses at all, but irritating for the people who started farming in the new space. All that has to wait until and unless something can be done to shore up the perimeter.

The buffer is down in a bunch of spots, too. I understand that some maintenance was being done on those parts while we were gone, a plan to strengthen and reinforce the cabling that keeps the undead from swarming the wall. Maybe even enough to slow down humans, too. Turns out the timing on that was badly executed; the work crews had to run inside when a section of the outer defenses fell, letting a horde of undead in.

The numbers aren't the major factor in how dangerous the zombies around here are becoming. There are a lot of them, to be sure, but what I saw out in the world is happening here as well. They're starving. The strongest of them, the most vicious, are preying on the weak in their desperation to husband their strength. They're using that strength to come against Haven, and it shows. The walls are stained with the ichor of constant attacks, the bodies so numerous they can't be collected and burned with any regularity.

And we're all locked in our houses. Becky isn't allowed to leave her lab. Patrick is thankfully in the clinic and not in any trouble--why would he be?--but Kincaid and the rest of us are on house arrest. I only saw Will for a brief minute yesterday. He was more angry than I've ever seen him.

Jess has been relieved of her post, her duties spread out among her many assistants and trainees. Even before The Fall she had a hard time dealing with any period of her life that lacked work. Now she's home with no ability to leave, and it might drive her insane.

K is here, a small concession from the council that also serves as a double-edged sword. K worked here in the house while I was gone, continuing our effort to put together this place's history and chronology and tinkering with the survival manual. He's working right next to me as I type this, yet I have the sneaking suspicion I'm allowed to continue on with his help because they want him to replace me should I also be relieved of my duties on a more permanent basis.

You know, the kind that comes with incarceration. Or whatever passes for it nowadays.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deadfall

I'm writing this post, as I have done before, from the top of a building. I can't help it; I enjoy watching the scenery in between words and paragraphs.

Right now that scenery is, in the immortal lyrics of Man Man, trying to eat me alive. We're taking our time getting home for several reasons, including but not limited to the serious repercussions at the end of this trip. I can't imagine a world where we don't get thrown in irons. I look out at the zombies in front of me down in the parking lot and I know it could be worse.

Pat is alive. Damaged and hurt, maybe broken so badly he can't heal straight, but alive. He's here to at least make the effort. He asked about his daughter almost at once. Not hard to see him finding a damn good reason to overcome the horrors in his recent past.

Whatever punishment comes is worth it. Put me in a cell, make me work the fields, cut off my own hand. I don't care at this point. We risked a lot to get this far and I won't apologize for it. And if we hadn't come on this trip I might not be so close to the undead. I might not be seeing what I'm seeing.

These ones here? They're starving. I've watched the New Breed among them prowl the edges as the old school zombies that make up more than half the crowd expend their last stores of energy. The dead can walk, can survive trauma no living thing could tolerate, but even with their altered biology and ability to store up a tremendous amount of excess food and to use it efficiently, there is no free ride. Years of natural selection did its job; the wild animal population seems to be only the strongest, fittest survivors. No easy source of fuel there. What people are left haven't been easy meals since right after The Fall.

And so I glance up now and then to see a New Breed pounce on the twitching body of an old school zombie that ran out of juice. The strange hibernation they fall into in winter apparently happens when their energy reserves get too low. Not death in the strictest sense, but something enough like it to make no difference. When the New Breed strike they send their weaker brethren to whatever waits Beyond, tearing at their flesh to sustain a better and more capable predator.

Not that the New Breed look exactly healthy, either. Many of them are showing signs of wear. Too many months spent damaging the tissues of their bodies out in the woods and in cities. Their feet are mangled, the tough tissue under their human skin showing through when they walk. It's the same all over their bodies; without proper healing they just sort of...erode. Disturbing but fascinating.

I've been sitting here for more than an hour in the hot sun, sweat beading on my forehead and running down my face, but I can't bring myself to stop watching them. The weak fall, the stronger devour them, but in the end I can finally see that dead things, no matter how evolved, can never truly take the place of the living. In time all of them will starve and die out. It's just our job to outlast them. Hard to imagine that world, but given the crystal skies and warm rays right now, signs are looking good.

They fall slowly, but the dead do fall. It's up to people to stand against them until the last is gone. Preferably together when possible.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Landslide

A landslide is a cataclysmic moment in time that changes the topography of an area instantly and for all practical purposes, forever. A point of fracture, earth trembles and shifts, and suddenly the situation is totally different. Things are in a new configuration. Sometimes that's a good thing, though usually it's not.

Kincaid isn't apologizing for hitting the switch and blowing up the explosives. He doesn't seem to feel a bit of remorse that hundreds of tons of stone rolled down on those people, nor concerned about the consequences that come along. I spend most of yesterday waiting for the flood of outrage to hit us, mostly from the UAS citizens that communicate with us and read the blog but also from our own folks.

Feedback has been thin the last week or so. The tense situation seems to have put most people into a breathless state, not wanting to so much as hit us with an errant leaf in fear of throwing things out of whack. Imagine my surprise to discover that a great many people in the UAS had no idea people were being tortured. Seems my honesty about how Haven and the Union function has been fuel for the fire in UAS propaganda. I say an honest thing, point out a hard decision and explain that we weren't happy to make it, but the UAS leadership just highlights the cruelty in our actions. Never the regret or necessity.

Which had an interesting effect: people in the UAS thought we were monsters to one degree or another (which makes sense given the constant effort to compare us with zombies) but they also began to trust that though it would be brutal honesty, we--I--would give them the truth. Trusted enemies, you might say.

So when the word went out that someone was being tortured by their people, an activity the leadership assured them was only something savages in the Union would partake in, their citizens got angry. Very angry. There's a wave of people questioning the things they're hearing. We might try to kill them, but at least the Union and I won't lie about our motives. Every time we've made a promise we've kept it, right up until Kincaid blew that wall of rock.

Details are sketchy about the blast itself, though I've heard a few things from third and fourth hand sources. People evacuated as soon as we took Patrick away. Casualties were probably low.

I'm not happy about Kincaid breaking trust but after talking to him about it I understand why he did it. No matter how much I talk about survival by whatever means necessary, Kincaid is truly the only person I know who understands that concept. I still hope for some kind of honorable behavior. He sees more clearly than I that this is a war. No playing nice by rules. The UAS only treated with us in this case because we managed to suss out one of their weapons depots, basically unguarded so as not to draw attention to it. We held a sword over their heads and they even risked the lives of their people by coming after us. They broke trust first. We'd have been justified in hitting the switch then.

What Kincaid did wasn't right, but it was smart. He gave the people time to run and showed the enemy that we're unpredictable and unafraid to take risks. With a simple gesture of his hand the man taught our enemy not to test our resolve. It bothers me, but I see the wisdom in it.

We're still on the road right now. Camped at the moment and letting Patrick's injuries have a break from the brutal jouncing they get when we're underway. That truck isn't the smoothest ride in the world. We're far away from any occupied areas and major arteries of travel. There don't seem to be any zombies about, though that will change soon enough when we cut back toward the highways and head home on a more direct route.

No undead out here and no signs that the world ended either. The big old farmhouse we're parked in front of is faded and drafty, but it looks like it has been that way for decades. Not run-down at all. Just lived in and comfortable. The kind of place you can sit on the porch and drink summer tea while the kids play in the yard with your pack of dogs. It's nice here. Peaceful. No hungry corpses snapping at our flesh. No politics or war or enemies. Just the land and the sky with us in between. I long for a life so idyllic.

Back home again soon, and into the maelstrom.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Control

It was later than we expected. Two men--large men--supported a third as he hobbled unsteadily toward the chosen location. They were big guys, those human crutches, but the man between them much bigger. Even from a distance I could see his injuries. Or at least the bandages and stitches that held them closed.

His face was without any kind of covering, as per our demands. I knew it was him long before I could see it. The body language was right, the shape of him familiar. It was Patrick.

And it wasn't.

Without a doubt the physical body in front of me was him. I'd even say the hard glint of recognition in his eyes, a spark of hope so faint but beautiful it nearly made me weep right there, was even him. But God, what changes. Pat lost a lot of weight over the last few years, but a diet heavy in protein and a lot of hard work made him muscular for the first time. No longer. His frame was slimmer than I'd ever seen. He had been starved.

And cut on. Tortured. The marks were plain to see, within and the ones that were skin deep. I've been in dark enough places to know when a person has given up looking for the light. I saw that in him save for that brief flare of hope.

I was tense until Pat was in the modified wheelchair we'd brought with us. I was tense after that, too. But when I saw him I realized how much hate a human being can have in them. Every moment of anger, every instance of lashing out the undead for the horrors they'd caused, all of them put together didn't approach a fraction of a percent of what I felt when I saw him. Not just the injuries to his body; the brokenness of him as a person. Pat always soldiered on, seeing the beauty and good angles to everything.

The UAS took a piece of art and shattered it. The man who could make anyone laugh and fill children with hope no matter how grim the day was gone. Rage unlike anything I've ever felt flooded through me as the others approached to bundle Pat off to our truck. My grip on the dead man's switch was so fierce I thought I might break it. I wanted to. I wanted to let the explosives do their work. I wanted to see the bodies fly, pieces tumbling through the air. Not just objects in space but proof in living scarlet that the enemy would suffer in turn for the suffering they caused.

I didn't, though. My mind has always been that way. The more worked up I get the stronger that bastard little angel on my shoulder becomes. Not that he advocates good for its own sake. He just screams consequences at me. Doing this would just make things worse. It would prove that the Union wouldn't work in good faith in its own dealings. It would show a profound lack of honor to the rank and file members of the UAS that might be on the fence about this war.

So I held back. I got in the truck and Becky switched detonators back over, handing the new one to Kincaid .
As we left the area, just at the outside of the effective range of the thing, Kincaid smiled at me. And said, "We did it."

Then he hit the switch.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Skin of Our Teeth

I bet a lot of you out there thought the UAS got us. Since I'm writing this and you're reading it, you can safely assume that wasn't the case. Not for a lack of effort, of course. Once I put my post up the other day they knew we knew they would make a stab at catching us. Must have been genuinely worried about our explosives near the armory, though, because they were quiet and careful about it. We were already on the move before they came looking.

Kincaid was on duty near the armory when I warned him what was likely to go down. He didn't detonate the explosives, but he did change over to a dead man's switch. We planned for something like this.

So now we're camping out in the open, totally visible. We've sent new communications to the UAS. The next tiny mistake on their part and the bombs go off. Beyond that, there are a few hundred roving survivors--not marauders, just sort of modern Gypsies--who have offered to wreak havoc within UAS borders if anything happens to us. They just contacted me out of the blue.

The deal has changed. Either we see Patrick by the end of today, alive, or at dusk the switch goes off and people die. I have no doubt that an explosion the size of the one we have planned will also draw the attention of every zombie within five miles. It's not the kind of thing the ignore.

I feel...weird. Excited, sure. I've been cooped up at home for the most part, or at least within the walls of Haven, for almost a year. Maybe more than a year? It's hard to even track at this point. Far from the anxiety I felt at violence seven or eight months ago, I'm finding myself enjoying defending our wee slice of the world. It's not a joy to kill the undead, exactly, but the gorgeous weather and rolling land is wonderful. The work might be awful but I'll be damned if I don't look forward to going out to clear away the enemy.

I'm nervous about getting Patrick back. I don't want to kill these people. They're the enemy, but I don't hate them. We can't screw this up or break faith. It's selfish of me and Jess, but if there's a chance we can't walk away. I won't apologize for that.

I just want my brother back.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Small Hope

It's hard to push down the rising feeling of joy I have right now. The last week or so has been alternately boring and scary as hell, but I've been so focused on the mission that maybe I haven't conveyed that as best I could. Really that isn't surprising since most of the fear comes in the form of the everyday stuff we're used to dealing with: zombies, enemies, being discovered. It also helps that we're in a hidden spot with relative comfort. We're too far away for the little generator that powers our cell transmitter to be noticed. 

But today is different. The twin feelings of unbridled hope mixing with the nightmare worry that we will somehow screw it all up have reached a powerful crescendo. This morning the UAS contact confirmed that at least as of two days ago, Patrick was alive. Taken as a high-value information resource. 

Which pretty much means that unless he talked at the onset, he has been tortured. 

I don't know what my expectations are in that area. We have a standing policy that anyone captured in exactly this situation is supposed to give up what they know. We've got enough military people in our ranks to understand that eventually everyone will talk no matter how much training they've had. Also that it's impossible to give that kind of resistance training to even a fraction of our citizens. A stark reminder that no matter how much fighting we see or survival we manage, we're not really soldiers. Not in the modern sense. 

I'm torn about it because if Pat really is still alive, I'm afraid his stubborn and honorable streak may have kept him quiet. I know him better than almost anyone and it's easy to imagine him making jokes in the face of pain, starvation, even amputation. The guy cut off his own hand, after all, and wrote a blog post about it that made me laugh out loud. 

For his sake I hope he gave up every shred of knowledge without a fight. The idea that the friend I mourned for is still alive is amazing. Knowing he might be living every moment in agony because of his own foolish pride hurts. Pat is deeply informed about the operations of Haven and the Union. He's aware of every shred of data we gathered from studying the undead. He has been here since the beginning.

There are few people better informed. Myself, Jess...

Huh.

Goddammit. I just realized why Will and the council are so furious but wouldn't say it. They were afraid of the messages being intercepted, lest they give the UAS ideas. Have to admit, it seems obvious. Might as well say it here because I think everyone else probably figured it out by now. 

The people in this truck are all equal or greater sources of information than Patrick. Son of a bitch. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting Game

We're still camped out. Last night Kincaid and I spent a long, long time leading the swarm of zombies away from our position, thinning them out as we went. It's funny how little realizations can come to you at the oddest times. In this case, both of us were wearing our heavy armored clothing, which is proof against bites, claws, and basically any zombie getting an easy piece of us to snack on.

Our gear is a bitch to put on. Heavy double-knit cotton fabric sandwiched with aluminum rings in the form of chainmail, thick plastic armor plates here and there, and layers upon layers of clothing. Helmets, of course, and the whole deal weighs upwards of thirty, forty pounds. That's before weapons, backpacks, and all the other crap we carry with us in case we get separated and have to live out in the wild until we can make it back.

The New Breed have changed things a lot. It's not as safe as it once was to wander among the dead. Sure, if it's old school zombies we're dealing with we can cover ourselves in zombie gore and pass for one of them. Smarter undead usually know the difference, but the armor has been a game-changer from day one. Now, though, they understand that killing us outright isn't the best way to do it. Wear us out, slow us down, and get us weak. Then it's easy enough to pile on a lone survivor and slowly tear away the layers until they get to the sweet candy center.

That was what the zombie tried to do to us last night, but Kincaid and I work well together as a team. We took turns thinning the herd, one of us rabbiting out in front while the other circled wide to come in and pick off the dead from the sides. It's never boring, but it is time-consuming and exhausting work. Especially since you have to constantly be aware that one misstep can mean a dozen bodies piling on you at once.

Still, it's more interesting than just sitting here letting them pound away at the truck while we wait for word from the UAS. We did get a message from them telling us they had the matter under discussion. Jess got that one when she was away from our camp on watch duty near the UAS facility we're threatening. One of us is always within sight of it in case the UAS need to communicate with us or to blow the explosives if they decide to get frisky.

On the other hand, we've had enough communications from Haven to last a lifetime. Will is furious, the council only slightly less so, but the general tone from the people at large in Haven is positive. I'd like to point out that each person on this trip made a choice and had the right to do so. We aren't property. We're free people. Leaving isn't something Haven has laws against. Stealing all the gear we needed to make the trip is another issue entirely, but the weird thing is that Will and the council aren't even berating us about that part. It's the fact that we're out here at all that bothers them.

However you want to cut it, it's done. We left, we're in a situation we can't abandon, and the chips are going to fall how they may. Best for us to keep our minds on the business at hand and get it done. We'll deal with the consequences later. Right now they're just a distraction.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Deal

I try my best not to lie to people if I can help it, I really do. Also, these zombies are being a huge pain in the ass. 

When I said that Jess and I were going on vacation, that was a lie. We did leave Haven, but we didn't do it alone and not for a break from working. It was a necessary lie for several reasons. One was that we didn't want the UAS to suspect we were coming their way. Another that we weren't exactly given anyone's blessing to take this trip. In fact, Will and the council pretty much forbid us. The third and most important reason was because telling that lie put enough suspicion on me here at home that Kincaid was totally able to slip under the radar and steal all the things we needed. 

Explosives, mostly. 

What the bloody hell am I talking about, right? I can hear the question all the way from where I am--which is undisclosed, but since we took the same old vehicle my people use for deep scouting, I have a mobile transmitter with me--and that's pretty far from home. We're currently riding out the storm of undead around our truck, a mob at least a hundred strong who took us a little off guard last night. We're far from patrol routes, but we're deep in UAS territory. took us two days to get here, another to set up our surprise, and then as we wait for a response this morning a swarm manages to get close to us without warning. 

It's me, Jess, Kincaid, a couple named Alex and Greg who work for Kincaid, and Becky. I think Becky is the one they're missing the most, but she's also the person who makes our most dangerous things. She wasn't going to let us get away with hundreds of pounds of explosives without her along. I'll happily testify to that at the trial. 

Why did we do this? What was the risk for? If you've been paying attention you probably already know. We think Patrick is alive, or at least that the body we found wasn't his. I tried to keep it low-key, but I put feelers out to everyone I could, asking for any of the refugees from the UAS forces if they'd seen anything within a set of criteria; big blonde guy with one hand, had they heard anything about a vital capture mission, lots of things like that. All I got back was one weak hit, but it was enough to make me believe in miracles. 

We're pretty sure Pat is being held. So like any good friend, I planted bombs around an important and somewhat vulnerable enemy facility. Was it easy? No. Not at all. It took all of us working in the dead of night, and even then we had to settle for placing the explosives in such a way that they'd cause a catastrophic rock slide rather than destroy the place directly. The security was pretty good. 

We gave them our rules: no one leaves the place, and if they do we hit the switch. No one attempts to move toward us except for a designated person waving a parley flag to let us know not to shoot him in the face. The deal is that we get Patrick back in exchange for not raining down a few hundred tons of boulders on the people inside. Which, given the fact that the place seems to be an armory, would probably not be so good for them. 

Now we wait. I suppose it's possible they could just figure out where we are and shell us or bring an army against us, but that would mean the loss of the armory. At the first sign of trouble, we push the button. Not that I expect them to be able to find us, of course. 

That's the deal: you give us one man back, my best friend, and a hundred people get to live in return. The clock is ticking, because if these zombies start to break through, I'll make sure to detonate before I die. Time's a-wasting. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

[Hiatus]

[Out of character post]

Hey, all. This is Josh (obviously) and I wanted to let you know that starting today, which is Friday (also obviously) LWtD will be on a four-day break. I'll be back to normal on Tuesday. Everything is fine; Jess and I are going on our first real vacation. I'll even work it into the story somehow. Just a friendly word so you don't get all panicky that something happened to me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fresh Air

There's a lot going on, but then there's always a lot going on. I have yet to hear back from any of my contacts in the east about Aaron, which in all honesty doesn't bode well. I'm still mulling over the facts about Patrick after a lot of discussion with Gabrielle and a few others on the medical staff.

Here's the deal: the planting is done for now. The next round isn't due for three weeks, when the current batch of seedlings and sprouts in the greenhouses are expected to be strong enough. Jess has been working her ass off all winter and most of the spring to get us where we are, and for the time being the rest is maintenance.

I make no claims to deserving any kind of break, but I'm taking one anyway.

The swarms of zombies are a constant problem but with so many people back home--not to mention new helping hands in the form of deserters from the UAS--we're covered. All our bases are covered. While Jess and I feel a powerful sense of responsibility to Haven and our people, the simple truth is that both of us are approaching burnout. We eat, we sleep (a little) and we work. That's it. When you're too tired to talk about your day, too tired for sex, and too numb from exhaustion to do anything but scarf down a handful of tasteless food and crash, it's time for a break.

Weird as it sounds, Jess and I are taking a vacation. Four days out of here. Not far away from Haven in reality, but no communications or contact. There are literally no problems so large they'd need us directly. Jess has trusted people working under her to manage our food production. And frankly this blog can go quiet for half a week while I recharge my batteries.

There's no need to worry, no need to fear. The wife and I will still be inside Haven's boundaries. Not within the defenses but well within the scope of our close scout groups. There's a little cabin next to a lovely pond out in the country, far away from prying eyes and swarms of dead people.

When I got married I didn't expect the need to be armed for vacations. Which just goes to show you that I had no idea what marriage was all about. We'll be back on Tuesday. Until then, be safe.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Uneven

In one place, a big chunk of the UAS army is thwarted, a smaller chunk dead as a result. In another they push through after their people spend a lot of time and effort cleaning out as many of our traps and obstacles as they can. Thus a community is taken by surprise and falls. A third of the people in it died, though believe it or not that's a pretty good number. 

The UAS didn't take many chances with Pearson, the little town they hit. Shelling from a distance, they released several volleys in short order. The people in Pearson  were alerted a few minutes before the attack came thanks to a few brave scouts. Their evacuation plans were excellent and the people no-nonsense about following them. Losing a third of the population is hard and terrible, but in this situation it's a best-case scenario. Nothing short of science fiction could have stopped those mortar shells from hitting, and the damage they did was catastrophic. I have a sneaking suspicion that casualties would have been close to 100% if the good people hadn't leaped into action the way they did. 

From what I understand the UAS targeted the side of the town farthest from their position. Makes sense. That must have seemed like the most likely escape route. Pearson is part of the Union, though. We've all had way too much experience trying to get out of tight spots to trust just one major avenue of escape. That's part of why so many people got away; the bolt holes and hidden doors built all through their walls. Those people scattered into the night. 

The reason Pearson was targeted is clear. Being the closest agricultural center to UAS territory, with hundreds of acres of crops, the place was almost destined to be hit fast. Faster than we expected, clearly. But not faster than we planned for. 

I imagine the UAS thought the people would run in fear, keep moving through the night, and leave the town and its environs in enemy hands. And why not? Hadn't they just lost a huge portion of their friends, family, and neighbors? That expectation is rational. It's not at all what happened, but I get it. Because the UAS, no matter how much time they spend fighting us and dealing with us as a reality, never seem to learn the fucking lesson. 

The Union is full of people, civilian and former military alike, who have had to toughen up beyond all reasonable expectation. We can watch a friend become a wet conglomeration of flesh chunks and bone from a mortar shell and keep on walking, never letting the mission leave our minds. We'll weep about it later and lament his passing, but our people do so only after the job is done.

Which is why most of those hundreds of acres are still on fire as I write this. We've got a whole third of the nation to plant in. We've been at it for a while. Hell, we even have contingents of people from the eastern communities setting up farms out in the boonies. Large-scale operations that will feed many, many thousands. We've got backups for our backups where food is concerned. 

You can come at us all you want. We can't stop you. But you'll have to kill every single human being in the Union to be free of us, and to be sure we don't do the same to our other crops. In the end you might win, but all you will take is the scorched earth we leave behind and an unending war with the scattered remnants of our people. That I can assure you. 

Consider it. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life Chaotic

A lot of things happening at once. So hard to manage it all.

If you read my last post, you know I have suspicions about Patrick. I don't want to get my hopes up, so I'm putting a pin in that for today. Someone posted a comment yesterday asking about Aaron, and whether I'd heard from him in a long while. Somewhere in the bustle and insanity over the last few months--longer, really--we lost touch. I've heard bits and pieces, rumors that he died, rumors that he lived, but nothing concrete. Shitty friend that I am, I spent my time worrying about my own life and not inquiring about his. I've sent out feelers and hope to know more very soon.

Much bigger, so big that I have to once again brush those personal issues aside to report it, is the movement of the UAS across our territory. I said they were taking it slow, which makes total sense given our penchant for laying traps, the huge swarms of zombies, and the fact that they don't have to fight anyone to take new ground at the moment.

We set back their ability to homestead by a good bit by destroying the ones they were building, but the raw numbers they have will overcome the deficit soon enough. What matters this afternoon, and sorry for this post being so late, is that they've sped up their flight deeper into Union territory.

So much that they weren't being as careful as they should have been. Oops.

I admit to being a little saddened to learn they've proven quick learners at how to effectively manage large numbers of zombies. My hope was their momentum would be blunted by the sheer weight of bodies. Turns out snowplows are pretty good at cutting a path through crowds. Simple, effective, and honestly kind of brilliant. I never thought of that.

That being said, there's just no way for them to catch everything our people have thrown at them. They thought the front lines were thick with traps, but those were the outer regions we only started prepping after we found out the UAS was going to be a threat. The inner areas of the Union have been held by us for much longer. All major paths and a lot of minor ones are laced with traps. Most were intended to stop the undead, but not a few are aimed to kill living enemies. Every one of them are a victory, no matter how small. Picking off soldiers one at a time is grim and necessary, but the dark thrill of knowing you just reduced the threat to your home by one is no less satisfying for how wrong it feels.

The biggest part of the story is the loss of nearly two hundred soldiers and a few dozen vehicles on a bridge in northeast Arkansas. Let's be honest here: they've read this blog, the UAS. They know our tricks. Granted we had our people be subtle about it, piling the explosives underground next to the bridge supports with antenna for the signal a good distance away and connected by a buried wire, but still. You'd think they'd have been a little more cautious about bridges.

Not so much.

At the cost of one very bored observer tucked away in a blind and only relieved from his post every two weeks, we cut the advance units of the UAS army badly. Not enough to kill the larger force but sufficient enough to slow them out of fear, to make them more cautious. Also forced them to find another bridge, and you can bet they checked the damn thing top to bottom before risking more lives than the person searching it.

My heart hurts a bit to know so many people lost their lives needlessly, marching forward under orders that came down the chain like shit rolling downhill. This whole war is pointless and avoidable, but my own dark streak felt some satisfaction at thinning the enemy down without losing even one Union life. It's a weird contrast of emotions, and it bothers me continuously.

But you know? I can live with it. I really can.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Day After Mother's

Yesterday was Mother's day, and I wish I had posted something moving and inspirational about her. You all know she was a huge part of my life, the single best influence I had and the strongest guiding force in every way I can think of. I wish I had said those things then, but something came up that left everything else in the dust.

The advance scout unit that found the remains of Patrick and the others came here to return them to us. I didn't want to look, but I had to.

Funny thing, though...

Pat was, at that point, mostly a skeleton. Big and missing a hand, and at first looking at his body was not the same as looking at a zombie. In every important way they are identical; dead people (except one moves and the other doesn't) who have moved on from the world. I forced myself to be in the room as Gabrielle systematically took him apart, examining him in the process. We don't have a lot of free space for graves--mostly our people get cremated--but Pat's daughter should have a place she can visit, even if only a plot the size of a few shoe boxes where his bones can rest.

Oh, the funny part. Right. Pat's hand was gone, yes, but you may remember me telling the story about the time he was stabbed a whole bunch. If not, a short refresher: he was working in a gas station and got robbed, stabbed thirty or forty-something times, and rose up like some bloody spirit of vengeance to scare the shit out of the men who attacked him. He always laughed about it despite the obvious difficulty he had with the memories.

Once he even gave me a detailed list of the worst stab wounds. The scar on his face was the most obvious and thus got the most time dedicated to it. As I looked down on those bones, the first thing that came to mind was that I could see the jawbone perfectly. Clean as a whistle, you might say. Pat told me more than once that the steak knife--who the fuck uses a steak knife to rob a place, anyway?--was one of those thick ones with heavy serrations on the edge. That he felt it grind against his jawbone as it went through his cheek.

Deep enough to leave a furrow. Obviously that kind of thing might not be visible to the naked eye, so out of morbid curiosity I asked Gabby to fire up the old portable X-ray machine and take a snapshot. If nothing else it would make a dark (and amusing) picture to share with people who knew him. The kind of thing Pat himself was known for. Might be hard to understand if you didn't know him personally, but it fits.

Here's an interesting fact about bones and X-rays: once a bone heals from a break or really any sort of damage, the healed part comes in more dense than the area around it. X-rays work by differentiating densities of materials, so no matter how old the damage it's always obvious in the light of radioactive pictures.

The part that made me giggle? There was no sign of that furrow in the jawbone of that body. Not so much as a graze.

Interesting, don't you think?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Seems the remaining UAS infiltrators (and doesn't that just sound so very James Bond, calling them that?) weren't as careful as they should have been. After a week of hunting them down Kincaid gave up the chase. The guys were just too good.

Now they're dead. Explosives have a way of doing that to people.

I'm less interested in the details than I am expressing the profound relief all around that this threat is gone, but because some of you will want to know, we did it by setting traps. The rain over the last week has been off and on, but when it has been going it's for hours at a time and never anything as simple as a drizzle. The undead have been using the rain for cover as they attack, and we knew it would only be a matter of time before the infiltrators took advantage of that again.

So we created a few weak spots. Places in the wall where, from the outside, our defense appeared weak. Less people on those sections of wall, damage unnoticed and not repaired. It was a gamble on our part but Dodger and Kincaid were certain it would work. And wouldn't you know it? Presto. Dead enemies.

I wish I knew who was watching from the hiding places, but those names haven't made it this far and probably won't. I'd like to thank whoever it was for braving the outside world, the undead, and managing to stay hidden long enough to observe our enemies coming at us. And further, to thank them for having the fortitude to hit that switch when the time came. It's a hard thing to coldly end lives, even those of our enemies.

It was a risky solution, and one that unfortunately won't work against the larger UAS army. Things on that front have been quiet for a variety of reasons. They weren't going to chase our people back from the front lines, of course, not after all the traps we set for them in the first place. They learned that lesson in blood and death and human suffering. Also because the same problems we're facing here, they're also dealing with: shitty weather and lots of zombies. It's another example of the difference between us. Our people have had to learn the hard way to function without infrastructure and machinery. We can survive out in the wild if we have to, and we know all the little tricks for dealing with zombies.

The UAS is a force definitely powerful enough to crush us if they could hit all at once, but like most traditional military structures--which is a loose comparison, I assure you--they are chained to their vehicles, their supplies, and the support apparatus. Actually, that's false: they're much more attached to those things than the old US military would have been. At least those people were soldiers; these are mostly normal folk pressed into service.

God, I wish we could solve the UAS problem on the large scale the way we took out these men. They're progress across the Union is slow and unsteady, but whatever roadblocks are in their way won't stop them. They're slogging through the mud, mowing down the undead, and working their inexorable way toward our outlying communities. First contact could be as little as a day away.

Then the war stops being 'out there' and begins being at our doorstep.

God help us.

Friday, May 10, 2013

So It Goes

Hey everyone, this is Beckley.  Insert witty one-liner here.

There’s been a lot of death recently, a lot of chaos.  You’ve heard from Josh about that and you’ve heard from Kincaid as well.  I thought I’d weigh in too.  It’s been rough recently, and that’s putting aside all the stuff with the UAS attacks.  The zombies have been relentless, as they always are.  It’s gotten quieter; as Josh mentioned the hospital is now clear, with one incredibly sad casualty.  Still, I know I haven’t seen swarms this bad for a long while.  When I was back in UAS territory, the rule of thumb was don’t engage.  When you engage the dead, you attract (and inevitably create) more of them.  Yeah, I know that approach has seemed shortsighted and cowardly to a lot of you.  It seemed to work, so I don’t know that I’d call it cowardly.  Shortsighted, though, absolutely.  If there is one word I’d use to describe the UAS (and “greedy,” “selfish,” manipulative,” and “assholes” were already taken) that would be it.  But prior to living in UAS-land, I did my fair share of dealing with the zombie hoards.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I lived in Pittsburgh when The Fall occurred.  Right smack dab in the middle of the city.  As you can imagine, being overrun was a common occurrence.  The group I eventually hooked up with got dealing with them down to a science.  Let the dead smash the walls for a while, then lure them to a specific area and send out some beaters.  We were nowhere near as coordinated as your Spartans, but we got the job done and kept them at manageable swarm levels.  Until the marauders came.

I’ve been looking for ways to help out, but I tend to feel like a third wheel.  I have never been a good shot with guns, let alone arrows, so I’m not much good there, though I have been trying to learn and practice.  And as for the ground fighting, like I said, I will bash some serious zombie brains, but I just don’t compare to the trained Spartans with their shields and spears.  I try to be available if anyone needs something, though.  Run for stuff if needed, collect arrows once the dead are down, that kind of thing.  A lot of my free time seems to be spent on walks around Haven with my baseball bat.  Since the zombies got in, I just feel safer having it with me.

And now we’ve got the UAS closing in and people are tense.  Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be a ton of hate thrown my way.  I’ve tried to stay visible around town and get to know some pillars in the community (like the cheeseburger couple).  So people have gotten used to seeing and hearing about me, which helps in the acceptance department.  Plus people are learning to tolerate me because I’ve always got some luxury items to trade.  That trade has really taken off, actually.  Mainly that’s thanks to the guys who go out for supplies and bring back cool stuff they stumble upon and trade it for the remaining (expired) candy, (expired) soda, spices, (mainstream and adult) DVDs and magazines I’ve got in stock.  And of course I’m seeing some people for therapy, but I can’t really talk much about that because even though there’s no one to take away my license (also expired) I still take confidentiality seriously.

Like I said, though, people are really tense and everyone is wondering what will happen next.  And they wonder what Kincaid is doing.  Some think that he’s going to save us all; others think he’s going to smack the hornet’s nest and bring holy hell down on us.  Ultimately that’s out of our hands, though.  Even if Haven sent people out to stop him, Kincaid doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you can find easily.  As for what he’s doing, I know I personally can’t condone it.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel he’s totally justified.  These are extreme days and we are dealing, quite literally, with the extinction of our race thanks to the zombies, but also due to the selfish recklessness of the UAS.  So I understand that he’s doing what needs to be done.  But at the same time, that doesn’t make it morally right.  The man has a taste for killing, causing pain, and separating from society and he’s feeding that right now.  He may be doing it for all the right reasons, but it’s still a destructive force and it’s pulling him away from the community that he’s working to save.  Regardless, he’s out of our control and he’s going to do what he’s going to do.  And even though I know I disagree with the morality of it, I know I won’t lose any sleep if he succeeds in his goals.

I feel like I’m kind of meandering from thought to thought, but really that encapsulates how everyone feels right now.  They don’t know what to expect.  It’s one thing after another.  The unknown is all consuming, so our thoughts are in a dozen places at once.  All we can do is focus on what we know.  The UAS is coming.  There’s nothing we can do to stop that.  Just hope that our forces hold out or that maybe the dissidents behind enemy lines gain momentum.

Because make no mistake, there is dissent in the UAS.  There has to be.  Josh’s blog is a matter of public record online and you can’t fully stop the spread of those ideas, particularly as the UAS has been expanding so quickly.  You know there are people that have been co-opted into the UAS who want nothing to do with them.  They will start to fight.  Those overwhelming thoughts you’re having about the UAS, the zombie swarm outside, and Kincaid doing his Kincaid Thing?  That’s nothing compared to what the Powers That Be in the UAS are going through.  They’ve got their own zombies, an influx of new citizens who don’t speak the same language they do, the war with the Union, the war with the Western Territories, and probable dissent in their territory, to say nothing of a massive amount of territory that they can’t possibly hold or protect for an extended length of time, and very little food to provide for the people they made promises to protect.  Think your mind is being pulling in a hundred different directions?  Just imagine dealing with all that.

Regardless of what happens in this war, the UAS cannot stand as it currently exists.  It will either collapse due to a Union victory, or implode and fragment under its own bloated self-importance.  All we can do is focus on those things we can control.  And we can hope that the death stays to a minimum because there’s already been enough of that.

I think I need another walk.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Left Behind

The hospital is clear, but not without losses. Only a handful of people took injuries during the long fight with the undead, mostly because we were being as careful as possible to avoid it, but inside the hospital things were a little different. Not a single man or woman died on the field, but the simple physics of sunlight did more damage than a swarm of the undead. 

I've been in that hospital quite a few times over the years. I remember very clearly how warm the rooms facing the sun can be. Someone in there had the idea--a good one, in my opinion--to set up the nursery as far from the fighting as possible. The top floor, then, as distant as you could want. There were enough children, ranging in age from newborn to toddlers, that it became difficult for the two person team to manage getting between the five rooms set up for the kids on a regular schedule. 

The sun came out sometime while they were making food for the little ones. The room with the newborns in it got hot. Really hot, and no air conditioning to cool them. We don't know if there was something wrong with the baby to start out with or if perhaps he was dehydrated, but one of the newborns succumbed to the heat. He died. 

I was one of the people out there fighting to keep those people safe. It felt at times like I was sweating blood with the effort, and even though in my head I know we saved two hundred people from starvation and eventual death, the terrible wails of that little boy's mother make me feel like a failure. If only we had been faster, maybe there would have been more people to watch the kids. Or maybe they would have been moved closer to the ground floor. A million maybes and could-have-beens. I've been thinking about it for the last day without pause.

In the grande scheme of things that one little boy's life is like the rest of ours: not much. If you look at the world and the survival of humanity, none of us seem especially important or big. We're numbers in the equation, small ones at that. 

But damned if my head and heart don't disagree on that. We're all important. Each of us, the nameless child included, represent small threads in the ragged tapestry that is humankind. It's too easy especially after all we've been through to look at the numbers and coldly say that the losses were minimal. It's a distraction from the truth that a child died. It's a way to allow ourselves ignorance of the real pain his parents are experiencing, the loss leaving them crippled. Thinking about it in real terms with real consequences means we have to consider the implications for every decision we make in the same way. 

Which, when you think about this war, changes things a lot. 

I could say that we scored a great win here, fighting back against the odds to secure the lives of a lot of people. That's not a lie. But my soul is telling me that instead we suffered a narrow defeat, that one lost child a greater tragedy than we are willing to admit to ourselves. I guess it's up to you to decide how you see it, but I've spent too long glossing over the hard reality by looking at the larger picture. I don't judge you for it, only myself, and I find my own motivations wanting.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Slaughterhouse

What a pair of days this has been. Our people are still trapped in the hospital, but we're at the end of our effort to get them out. Trying to keep a group safe while they plugged the leak in our outer defenses was hard, and a lot of yesterday was spent swearing loudly as more zombies came through the gap while our folks tried to do their job.

The whole time I was picking off the undead at the repair site, a group of a hundred fighters tried to thin the herd around the hospital itself. Granted, I was busy, but I got a lot of glimpses of the activity over there since it wasn't all that far away. You might be thinking we stood our ground, both groups, against the swirling tide of bodies against us. Like heroes from some story.

Nope. We had to pull back and regroup a dozen times only to fight our way back to our positions. Some enterprising genius brought in a portable cage for some people to fight from, a ring of archers with spearmen behind them. But the undead will only attack that kind of structure so many times before they realize they can't get through the bars and stop bothering. The piles of bodies around the cage got in the way, too, but it was a good idea.

After the first hour my hands started to go numb from loosing so many arrows. I pride myself on being a pretty good shot, and Big K is much better than I am, but no one can keep up speed and accuracy over so much time. The spirit was willing but our bodies are only capable of so much. We ended up spelling each other, each taking ten minutes while the other stretched and rested their tortured fingers.

It was during those breaks I watched the carnage unfold. By my estimate more than seven hundred zombies filled the area at one point, most of them clustered on the hospital. A few wandered over to the wall around East, which suited us since the guards there found them easy pickings. The entire hospital area is fairly closed-off, which would have been a lot more helpful if the swarm decided to spread out at all. They could have made it over to the Box, where a warm reception awaited, but they didn't. The undead were singularly drawn to the easy meal--us on the outside trying to fight them, and the two hundred people in the hospital itself.

I watched men and women squelch through mud to hack away at the teeming mass of bodies only to be pushed away by the weight of the undead. Over and over again they slogged forward only to trim the edges of the swarm and pull back once more. Hard as they tried it was impossible to get a solid footing for attack; the ground was against us, the lay of the land itself not at all suited for attack. All of us looked like amateurs out there, constantly venting our frustration as we moved in and out of combat--K and I included--and seemed to get nowhere.

But we kept going. Little by little my group closed the gap, slowing the flow of bodies through it and finally cutting it off. The trapped zombies died by inches, slow and difficult for our people, but they finally began to thin out. As of about an hour ago less than three hundred are left, and we now have twice the number fighting them as we did yesterday. That place already looked like a slaughterhouse when I left last night, and I can't imagine how much worse it is today. Over that stinking field of bodies, torn limbs, and destruction, our people will keep fighting. Until the job is done or they die trying.

Say one thing about Haven's people; we're stubborn. We don't give up no matter how stupid it makes us look. When we've got the enemy in our teeth we lock our jaws down and shake that bastard until he stops. Stops moving, stops fighting, stops everything. We learned that lesson early.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Urgent Care

Yesterday it stormed all day long. Rain for twelve hours, sometimes so dense it became impossible to see for more than fifty feet. The remaining UAS operatives used that chance to hit us hard. This time it was by drawing a herd of several hundred zombies toward the hospital where we have a secondary clinic and a lot of people housed. The outer defenses are close to there, only a hundred feet or so, and the UAS blew open a hole big enough for several semi trucks to drive through.

So, yeah. The hospital is still surrounded. We tried and tried to get in close to fight yesterday, but the UAS didn't leave much to chance. Once that first swarm was through the breech they must have gone out to find more, drawing them close and pointing them our way. Our people fought in the mud and water, blood and bodies squelching in the quagmire, only to have another wave descend on them an hour later. We had no choice but to retreat. The conditions were just too rough, too dangerous.

The people in the hospital are safe. We're not idiots, after all. We made sure to modify the place heavily before risking so many lives. There are no entrances for even the most dedicated zombie. Every person that comes and goes has to walk out through an entryway that has three heavy steel doors in it. Think of it like an airlock system. There's only the one way in or out on the ground floor, which is part of the problem.

Safe, yes, but our people will also start to get hungry. Water isn't as much a problem since we've set up rain collectors that feed down the building into the living areas, but there's not a lot in the way of calories in there at any given time. Enough for a day or two, sure, but when the UAS hit there a larger than usual group of people were waiting at the clinic for treatment. More mouths to feed, less food to do it with, especially considering the attack came right before a load of food was to be brought there.

As shitty as it sounds, it takes a long time to starve. We've got people over that way right now trying to clear the swarm and seal the breech, but it's a lot of work. The current estimate is five hundred zombies crowding the place and the ground is still saturated. Fighting in the muck is a good way to get your head split open and your face eaten.

We're working on it, but it's taking time and caution is the word. Thankfully we're not stretched as desperately thin as we were a few days ago: people are starting to filter in from the front. Many of them will rest for a short time, resupply, and head back out. Enough will be staying to help out, though, and in the event this fight gets truly bad we can always call for help. On a good day in good conditions five hundred wouldn't be an insurmountable force. Just another reminder that no matter the victories we've had over the undead in the past, things can change in an instant. There are two hundred people inside that hospital right now. Men, women, children. They're not in a position to do much fighting, not without endangering the whole group.

It's up to us to help them, and we will. More specifically, I will as soon as I'm done here. My duty starts in half an hour. K has the truck ready to roll and stocked with enough arrows to last until our arms wear out. We'll get it done, God willing.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

One Down

[Post by Kincaid]

Hi Kids. This post is directed to the UAS. I want you to understand something about consequences.

Look, we all know you have the advantage over us. You've got more people. More gear. More of just about everything except food. Over the last week we have learned quite a bit about your operation from the defectors who left your side. I've talked to a bunch of the ones that came here to Haven.

Oh, and I've been talking with the captive I took two days ago, too.

Yeah. His name is Mark. He was part of the team that bombed Haven not long ago. Wish I'd have found him sooner, and the rest of his crew. But that's life. You don't always get what you want.

Mark isn't, that's for sure. He's still alive, and based on his injuries I would guess he is not happy about that at all. I'm not saying that every UAS soldier that comes this way is going to get the same treatment. Obviously we just don't have the manpower for that. And to be honest I'm kind of enjoying my role as the resident bad guy. I'm doing the job no one else wants to do. I don't like the work itself, but it's the funniest goddamned thing: I truly feel like I'm performing vital work for my people.

It's strange that I identify so much with Haven and the Union. Lot of my fellow citizens don't trust me, even more just don't like me. Former marauder, who can blame them? Weird as it is I do love this place. I find myself willing to go to any lengths to keep it safe. In all honesty I'm not opposed to venting my rage on one of the men responsible for harming my home.

Mark has spent the last five hours looking at a loop of his own intestines. It's tricky, cutting just right so you don't do any serious damage. Harder still to pull out just enough of the gut to really make the guy realize he's seeing something that should stay internal. Mark is talking, you might even say he's singing, and the information coming through his lips is good stuff.

You might think I'm going too far. Maybe. I'm going to keep at it, though. This guy is an enemy. He bombed my home. This is what he gets. The fucked up part is that this is the least of it. When I'm done--since he can't read this I can let the cat out of the bag--I'm going to make sure he lives. Not whole, of course. He's going to cause no more problems for my people. Maybe I'll take a hand. If I'm in a good mood I might just break all his fingers, but then he'd have trouble doing hard labor for the rest of his life.

What I'm saying is, Mark's getting off easy. The rest of you out there, coming for my country and my community? There are going to be consequences. You can be sure of that. Even if you knock down the walls here and scatter us in the wind you won't stop us. Whoever is left will make keeping this country a nightmare for you, every day of your lives. You will wake up to the news that some of your people vanished in the night. Or that your fields were burned.

If I have my way it'll be much worse than that. You might defeat us, but the cost is that you'll have to spend your lives hunting us down or never know a moment of peace or rest. For my part, I'll hit you where it hurts the most. I don't even need to say it, do I? You can figure it out. I've already got one of yours. I've spent a lot of hours getting creative with his skin.

And what I've done to him is the least of it. I'm saving my best ideas for the rest of you.

One down. Who's next?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pretty Noose

I'm in a crunch for time this morning. We're not under attack or anything, not just yet, but it's possible the Union has doled out just enough rope to hang ourselves with. I've mentioned our plan to draw back closer to home and tighten the borders. Today we're seeing that idea in motion, and the UAS leadership decided to make one of their rare communications with us.

The gist of it is that they're committing to a drive that will follow us back to what are essentially our new borders. Though most of our people began to pull back several days ago, the rear guard are watching for attacks. The UAS kind of doesn't even need to attack, because the rear guard are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the enemy. I'm still of the opinion that this is a good move for us, but we didn't expect a reckless push by the UAS. They've been relatively cautious so far. We thought our people would have more time.

So it goes that we're planning for the worst. The expectation is that the enemy will move swiftly and pound the hell out of the new front line as swiftly and with as much force as possible. We haven't had as much time to entrench ourselves there as we did at the first front. The UAS knows this, and they're hoping to punch a hole right through. Their message was partially a warning, one last plea for us to give up and let them take over, and partially an exercise in arrogance because they know that us knowing their intentions won't do a damn thing to change the outcome.

If they do push after our people, we can expect heavy losses. The rear guard will fight like ten kinds of hell to get us every moment they can, but if the UAS does hit the fallback position with the vast army they have, well...the communities of the Union are but a short step after that.

And we've got a lot of preparing to do, so I'll leave it at that. There's nothing I can say here that can drive the point home more than that simple knowledge. They're a spear thrown our way, and all we can do is try to dodge the point.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MayDay

Assumptions have a way of coming around and biting you in the ass. Yesterday was hot and humid, a good day for planting, working the earth. Would have been nice to do if not for yet another fucking wave of zombie attacks. At least this one happened in the sunlight, but damn if it wasn't brutal even drawing my bow in my heavy armor. The UAS group Kincaid is hunting didn't try to hit us again during the attack.

The rest of the Union wasn't so lucky.

It had to have been planned beforehand, of course. Twenty-seven communities and bases were hit all on May the first, all around the same time. Some had breaches in their walls like we did, caused by explosives somehow moved in undetected. Three had their water supplies poisoned. Several others farther south planted their fields earlier than we did only to have them razed--two burned, three destroyed by vehicles--by the groups hiding within our borders.

None of the attacks alone were world-shattering, but as a psychological tactic the attacks were brilliant. Their intent was to show us that the UAS can hit us with impunity. That they can sneak people in at will and damage us as they please. The idea is to keep us scared that they might appear at any time.

To a degree I think it worked, but I can't help pointing out here that we're already scared all the time. Again, it's the primary difference between people who lived through The Fall in a bunker and those of us who scraped by out in the world. We've been living in fear forever, and we're used to it. Combined with all the recent setbacks, this doesn't exactly shatter our world.

I mean, it sucks. Bad. It's a lot of work to fix and it makes life harder for all of us. It's infuriating and surely makes a lot of people despondent. It just isn't going to break us. Kincaid is right: we can't afford to give in to sadness or anger.

The only good news is that the bulk of our forces will be in their fallback positions by the weekend. About half of the people Haven sent to fight will be home shortly after that, the other half staying at the new front to man the defenses. Protecting less land and letting the UAS take much of the space between is disheartening but ultimately good policy. Just as we here in Haven retreated back behind the walls when it became clear that the outer defenses weren't solid enough, so too do Union forces retreat and concentrate their efforts on a smaller area. Given the vastness of our territory, a few hundred miles of dirt we aren't currently farming is a small sacrifice to avoid total destruction.

Still, there's a lot of heartbreak going around right now. These attacks on the communities are bad, no matter how you many think I've brushed them off. I really haven't, I promise. I just don't think documenting every shred of human suffering that comes from them helps anyone but our enemies. The people in those communities and bases know without me telling them how bad it is. Everyone in the Union has suffered something like this either recently or in the past. Painting it on a banner for everyone to see serves no good purpose.

But my heart does go out to all of you. I know it's tough, especially right now given how shorthanded we are, but I also know you're tough. I know you'll push through and soldier on. We're sure to deal with more and worse zombie attacks as summer rolls in. The war probably isn't going to solve itself, either.

What, you were expecting some kind of silver lining there? Do you want me to say that the rough times will get better magically and the future we all dream of, full of peace and sunshine and fluffy bunnies hopping across the meadow will be here tomorrow? Sorry. I have more respect for you than that. Things really will get better, but only because we will make them so. We'll fight and suffer and some of us will die to manage it, but I've taken your measure. I know you can do it. I know we can do it. No doubt at all.

Getting there means pain and work. We'll have to shoulder it as best we can. When the load becomes too heavy, we will share it with each other as we've always done. That has always been our strength: in the fights against the undead, our shields lock together to form a wall. In our everyday struggles we share effort to feed and house and provide safety. In war with living folk our unity of purpose weaves us into a single fabric much stronger than our individual threads. Because we work together, we can take one hell of a beating. We're all mature enough to recognize that will happen no matter what we do. No use crying about it or beating our chests to the heavens.

We'll bear up and keep on, and deal with the pain. We have no other option.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Any Means

[Post by Kincaid]

Well this is getting to be a regular sort of thing, isn't it? Posting twice in one week.

I know a lot of you are angry and scared. That's natural. These UAS bastards hit us hard, they hurt people. They broke our defenses even if it wasn't the disaster they wanted. Your reaction is the same one I had, so don't get offended here. Or do. It's whatever.

This is what they want. Don't know if any of you thought that out, but it's obvious. They want us emotional and thrown off kilter so we make mistakes. It's real easy to let the worst parts of yourself take the wheel. If there's anyone that knows that better than me I'd like to meet him.

Problem is that we can't afford for everyone around here to go nuts. All of us want to find the UAS if they're still close by. All of us want to put our hands around their throats and watch them die. It's an understandable reaction, like I said, but it's also a bad idea. We have a war going. Everyone needs to be on their A game.

So I'll make you a deal: all of you keep on keeping on, and let me handle it. Dodger is the man with the plan where defense is concerned. I help with that, but let's be honest here. I'm the one most of you hate or at least dislike. I knew there wouldn't be much welcome for me here when I took the amnesty. I know my past puts up a wall between us. Some people have a hard time believing I've got the good of Haven at heart. I get it.

I'm not making this offer to appease anyone. I'm going to hunt these men (or women, I'm not picky) down and capture them. I'm going to immobilize them. Then I'm going to ask them questions. One way or another they will answer.

Then I'm going to kill them. No trial or other niceties. Just dead. I really don't care if they're reading this. You might think me promising to kill them would make asking questions pointless. You might be right. But I think it's important to make the distinction clear between fearing death and avoiding pain.

Too many of you are distracted by this. It may not be obvious but I've seen enough to know you need to get your shit together. Little things like the cook screwing up the stew yesterday. One of the guards on the wall talking about the attack so angrily that he missed a small group of zombies closing in. People being short with each other, huddling and whispering in corners. Tension. Friction.

Problems. Exactly what the UAS wanted. I hope I don't have to say this enough times to get really exhausted with the repetition, but you people need to wake the fuck up. You've done a lot, survived a lot, and that makes you feel powerful. Better, maybe even superior. In some ways that's probably true enough.

But you react the same way other people do. You die from a gunshot like anyone else. Your skin isn't any more immune to the teeth of a zombie because you've made it this far. You're smart and strong and lucky and the problem is that you know that. Stop letting the situation screw with your heads. You all came through as bad or worse circumstances without losing your shit. Don't let it happen now. Keep your heads level and when you start to think about it, just remember that while the monsters who did this are still out there, you've got your own monster on the case.

Me.