Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The basic things are fascinating to look at now, all this time later. Jess is setting us up with a rabbit warren to provide regular meat. I'm not a fan of eating the whole animal, but with them being such a constant supply of meat, even in winter, there isn't much choice. Not that the area we're moving to doesn't have game to hunt, but that's always an iffy proposition. We'll have potatoes galore since we can grow literal tons of them in a very small area, as well as other veggies.
The place will have a fence heavy--should have already, actually--heavy enough to repel zombie incursions of at least moderate size. K and Kincaid are managing that part, using what we know to fabricate a defense as efficient as it can be.
Judging by the activity around here, that's going to be important. As the season passes, we're seeing less and less old school zombies mixed in with the swarms. We've known for a while that the overall population of the undead appears to be declining, which makes sense. We've been killing them off for years, and there is only so much food easily available. Add that to the New Breed eating the old school zombies when food is scarce, and it makes perfect sense.
But while the larger scale indicated the numbers are dropping, it's a relative data set. There are still untold swarms of them out there, and the percentage of New Breed among them is growing. Smarter, stronger, faster, more difficult to kill. We've grown used to fighting the New Breed, using our advantages to their fullest. We tend to put the undead in situations where their cleverness and mutation-driven improvements mean little or nothing.
That said, we're seeing them in larger and larger concentrations, and that's bad. The New Breed are going to become a larger problem very quickly. And while our new home is in an area with extremely low population density--virtually empty, now--there exists every possibility we'll see an influx of zombies at some point. It's not chance; we're certain the undead use smell to track prey, much stronger than our own senses. They've proven time and again they'll follow the trail of people for hundreds of miles. All it will take is one band cutting across our path, and we're in for fights.
Which circles back around to the work we're having to do. It's going to be Haven in miniature. I watched a group of archers slide along an undamaged section of wall this morning, firing at a small group of New Breed smart enough to escape detection. Most of the exterior traps and defensive measures are depleted and broken from the war, leaving our people dependent on manpower for defense. Haven is big, requiring our folks to move place to place. One good thing about our smaller compound will be how much less of it there is. A good thing considering the smaller group of people living there.
All told it should work out. We'll have electricity on the regular thanks to North Jackson gifting us with the necessary equipment for generation and storage. Our sister community has been rebuilding for a long time, but it shows a lot of heart that they'd be willing to help us even though their own home is still damaged.
I can't stop thinking about the potatoes, you know? It's such a simple thing, just a little brown-skinned tuber sitting in the dirt, but without it all the other stuff would be impossible. We're human beings, right? We've rebuilt some technologies, survived the worst, fight the dead, plan for the future. None of which could happen without the humble little spuds growing even now in the ground of our new home.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
This isn't the first trip they've made to the place we're planting our flag. I may have mentioned others leaving before. It's a long drive but one our folks can now make in a single day since the roads between are clear. Even the undead tend not to show up over most of the distance. The area had such low population density even before The Fall, now it's virtually empty.
The entire point of this trip is to finish preparing our new home for the migration. Much has already been accomplished; the place has a temporary fence around the main living area, there are weapons and supplies hidden around the property. With the war over in this part of the world, supply lines between Haven and the other communities within the Union are up and running. Which means the two places still refining fuel are happy to help us out. Will and the council are giving us access to all the ethanol we need--our vehicles are all flex-fuel--to mix with the new gas coming in. We're going into this ready as we can be.
This trip is the last touch. Jess and K are working on getting food ready. For now we'll be transplanting a very small fraction of the crops Jess has been growing here. Enough to get us started. Sure, we'll take insulated containers full of frozen meat with us when we go. There's enough to spare. We'll need more than perishable goods to make this a long-term thing. Jess is on top of it, as always.
After all the weeks and months of fighting and killing, destroying things, K and the others are going to spend a few days planting and growing. Building. Creating. A handful won't come back from this trip, instead staying at our new place to guard against any marauders or just curious travelers who might wander by. We are, after all, reproducing most of the advances found in Haven at the new homestead in miniature. Electricity, cold storage (eventually), running water, all that good stuff. It's too cherry a target to leave undefended. The world might be a nicer place than it was two months ago, but that doesn't mean it's safe. Not by a country mile.
Really, we could have already left if not for my injuries. Most of the preparations are done. The rest of the work could be finished while we're moving in. I'm the last holdover, the only person still healing to the point where self defense isn't possible. Is it likely I could ride in the back seat without ever needing to raise a finger other than to take bathroom breaks on the way there? Sure. Given the easy trips between Haven and our new home the others have been quietly taking, it borders on certain.
My wife isn't taking that chance. K isn't keen on anyone going who can't at protect themselves if the worst happens. I'm healing fast--really fast, actually--but Phil and Gabby tell me the deep tissues need a few more weeks before I risk straining them too much.
Based on how Jess and K have been acting, though, I'd almost say they're giving me this time to get used to the idea of not being here any more. Haven that was New Haven that was The Compound that was the neighborhood I grew up in means the world to me. This was my home long before The Fall. It's in my blood to love it, to love the people here who I've shared and suffered so much with. All the bad memories and the good.
For all her other amazing qualities, Jess isn't as sentimental as I am. She loves me, though, and I think she wants to give me all the time she can. K is a friend, maybe a better one that I thought possible in the beginning, and he's similar. The difference being Jess is wired that way, not building emotional connections to places and most people by design, while K seems to avoid it by choice. Understandable given the way the world is.
So I'll spend the next few days and weeks tying up loose ends and letting people know what they mean to me. I'll say goodbye to my brother and the rest of my surviving family. Then off to that next adventure.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Part of Your World
Friday, July 26, 2013
Man of Two Worlds
I can't think of a better person to help foster understanding between the camps. Not just because Beckley was originally from the UAS. Hell, that's the minority reason in my mind. The guy is pretty self-deprecating, but he's sharp as broken glass. He doesn't see himself as brave, not wanting to fight the undead because of his lack of experience, but I've seen him calmly sit between two violently angry people and act as the rational party to talk them down. Bravery isn't just for the battlefield. Therapists maybe just show it in other ways.
The man himself was surprised. Beckley is humble in ways that mystify me. He never saw the offer coming, mainly because he doesn't see himself as the kind of guy to accomplish great things. For all the glory many of us grant the fighters out there killing zombies or defending us from living enemies--deserved, no doubt--it's so easy to forget the way the world was, which is the way it's looking to be again.
Large groups of people form communities. Communities, like stars, clump together to form sets of communities. Those sets reach a critical density and nations form like galaxies. When those worlds collide, the forces tend to grind against each other. Look at all the wars in humanity's past. See all the other conflicts, too. Almost every problem large groups of people faced had people working to fix them on both sides. Men and women trying to create some understanding, a bit of common ground to stand and build on.
That's Beckley. He may not be a diplomat, and the UAS aren't, for the most part, our enemies, but that doesn't mean it isn't a challenge. We need unity of purpose now more than ever. There needs to be someone to move between who knows both sides and who can keep calm no matter how heated the argument. A different kind of bravery, as I said, but just as important. The stakes are just as high as any war.
I don't envy him his new place. My own experiences have mostly been ones without expectations. Being a voice of experience is much easier than having to keep both sides talking. Beckley will have to work under conditions where he has no real power but a lot of responsibility. I can't imagine doing it. Seems like a nightmare to me. But hey, he's happy. Proud, even. He knows the score and isn't showing much fear of dealing with the pressure. Me, I'd rather fight for my life every day. Give me zombies any time.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
It's not a bad idea at all. The main problem is how much work it is. We can only spare so many people for so long. Dave, after thinking about it for a few minutes, shot up out of his chair. The idea hit him like...well, like a ton of bricks. We can kill two birds with one stone; excavate the clay to build an underground dwelling, or even several of them, to house some people. Then use the clay we hauled out to make bricks or outright shape it into structures using forms. Modern construction methods applied to ancient materials techniques. Bricks would be better since they allow for more granularity and specificity in the buildings themselves, but Dave seems pretty excited. The idea is build the new homes, long multi-family deals, right next to the troughs created by digging up the materials to make them.
He's all excited by the idea and pissed at himself for not thinking of it. Dave is under a lot of stress, and it gives him tunnel vision. He focuses on the problem at hand without backing up to think of previous solutions.
It'll be labor-intensive, but once the plan is all laid out we'll have the bodies to do it. That's contingent on this idea being deemed workable, of course.
This is just one example of the larger problems Haven is facing with such a huge influx of people. Same thing happened when all the North Jackson folks migrated this way. Population bumps are good in the long run and a nightmare in the short. I have no doubt my brother and his folks will work it all out. Hell, if nothing else they can just bring in the county's school buses and those from surrounding areas and use them for short-term housing. I've heard of other places doing the same.
The defensive groups are working their asses off trying to clear away as many of the undead as possible. The big swarm wasn't the only group, nor the last. Zombies still stream in from the west toward us in bursts. Sometimes only a few dozen in a day, other times hundreds an hour. The good news is the UAS (soon I'll have to come up with a name for them since they're joining up here...) are becoming familiar with both the local geography and the tactics we use against the unead. Dodger and Kincaid tell me they're even growing more comfortable with the idea of being out among zombies with just melee weapons. They're adapting well.
I deeply hope this peace works. The problems are large but not insurmountable. At least the physical ones. The survival ones. What to eat, where to live, how to fight. Those things are all real items people can deal with. Measurable factors. I'm more concerned about the human element, the long-term ability of all sides to deal with the reality of the situation. I tend to be positive on that score; all of us have had to swallow our pride and our hatred on more than one occasion. Kincaid and his former marauders are a perfect example of that. If we can learn to live with them, to accept those people, then the UAS shouldn't be any harder.
On the UAS side, I think they're seeing the truth of things. They were fed just enough grains of fact about us to make them wary, and enough lies to make them afraid and angry. Not huge obvious things, but lies both subtle and fitting to the slender facts they knew to be true. Now they're growing used to the way things really are. They've surely seen some brutal, awful actions on our part, but we've never shied away from that. We've always been honest. Haven has always owned up to its mistakes, even the huge ones.
The conditions are strong. The foundation of this strange alliance is being built on honesty and full disclosure, as well as mutual acknowledgement of both sides' mistakes. I'm hopeful and proud of both sides for getting to this point. It restores my faith in people a little bit just seeing these small steps.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Sunday, July 21, 2013
First: the UAS sent to push against and into the western territories aren't as disciplined as the lot we've got here. Rather than try to integrate their army as a cohesive whole, which would have been impossible considering the number of pure civilians in it, the former UAS leadership chose to make the groupings as socially viable as they could. By that I mean they sent out whole communities of people who knew each other as units. Hundreds of people willing to kill and die for each other makes for a determined and focused force. The problem with that arrangement is those groups tend to have the same prejudices and ideas. A portion of them get angry about something and most of the group follows suit. It makes sense from a sociological point of view. Hell, we've seen it here in Haven enough times to know how easy groupthink is to fall into.
So take that mentality, the smaller armed forces going up against the western communities, and add to it the broken reports about the UAS leadership being overthrown. Imagine how those people reacted after months of dealing with some of the more...enthusiastic resistance they've seen in their part of the world. Not the measured responses we've given, but brutal displays and ruthless killing on the part of the western defenders. I'm not judging that since their homes were being invaded, only mentioning it as a point of reference for the mindset of the UAS in the area.
Add to that the much larger numbers in the west, the nightmarish efficiency with which they defend, and the total lack of any effort on the part of the western leaders to approach peace, and you've got a recipe for slaughter. Neither side wants to approach the other with anything but a closed fist. It's bad enough that when the reports came in to Haven and the local UAS, a good number of the latter's soldiers deserted. Took arms and vehicles and set out, certain their discontent could be better vented a thousand miles away.
How they plan to get there with the fuel they've got, I don't know. There are people on both sides of the issue still refining crude oil reserves into gasoline and diesel fuel, but it's a slow process that produces relatively small quantities. And it's doubtful any of them will trade with soldiers who have nothing of value they can part with. Taking fuel by force isn't an option, really, since every place that makes fuel is heavily defended. That's all ignoring the lack of food, the dangers of hitting zombie swarms, and the thousand other dangers the deserters ignored.
A lot of bad things can happen out on the road, and every inch of that journey is bound to be hostile. I can respect the desire to join a fight you believe in, but giving up peace to do it? I don't know, it makes any pity I might have had for them evaporate. There aren't enough people left on the planet that we can spare so many to needless stupidity. Best of luck to them, I guess.
I for one am just glad that fight is too far away to hurt us, at least directly. Maybe that will change, but by the time that might happen I'll be long gone from the game, living somewhere separate from the madness of people in large groups.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
No I'm writing from my phone again today. Been a long time since I've had to do that, but for once it doesn't bother me. The cleanup outside is nearly done, and while there was some upset around Haven, people are mostly dealing with the attack and it's consequences. There have been some calls to overhaul the way we deal with disaster and unplanned swarms of zombies, even a fairly large group who want to completely redesign our defenses given our new coalition. The UAS forces here are beginning the long process of integrating with the rest of Haven. Trust is thin but the fact that any exists in the first place is kind of astounding.
Even as I watch team leaders and defense coordinators hash out the details of any new plan, my own group prepares to leave. That's why I'm writing from my phone--Jess and K took my laptop to begin organizing a running list of all the things we'll need to take with us to compare with what we'll actually be able to take. I'm out of the game on this one. I was told in no uncertain terms that until we leave I'm on strict light duty. No stress, no fighting.
So I'm parked up here on the top of the house in our little homemade perch, umbrella overhead as I watch the activity around. I hear the others packing and discussing the move. I see the shifty-eyed stares between Haven citizens and the slowly migrating UAS. The weird thing isn't the huge number of changes going on, it's the fact that I'm already in the frame of mind where I'm not gaming out the possibilities.
The front of my kind and the back are in agreement on the facts. I know in both places that I'm leaving and the instinctive urge to examine all the consequences just isn't there. The horizon is there in front of us, and the change is getting closer. It feels like a bigger change than even The Fall, in suddenness if not in scope. The world fell apart a little at a time and snowballed into hell. This is different, a deliberate severing of ties. Something new and amazing and different.
I'm already there. It hasn't happened, but the mindset is overwhelming. Which is why it's torture for me to sit out the planning of it. I need work to occupy my brain. I need to be a part of this. Too many years throwing myself into projects to be sedate now...
Thursday, July 18, 2013
The UAS/Haven joint forces were doing the best they could to take down or divert the swarms flooding in across the bridges and through Louisville toward us. There wasn't a mistake that caused the defense to buckle; it was sheer numbers. You can only stretch your people so far and put them under the weight of so many bodies before something snaps and the enemy gets through. That's what happened yesterday morning less than twenty miles from here.
Thousands of zombies, all penned up, broke through. Our defenders did their best to stop them before they got close. The rest of us retreated to safe areas. My house is still sound, the place easily capable of locking down and protecting us from the undead for any reasonable length of time. Others aren't so lucky and had to pull back behind barricades and the like. Just as a precaution, you understand. The joint units might have buckled under the numbers, but they didn't stop. They pulled back and fought the good fight.
They just didn't do it very well. Again, that's no one's fault. Our people are well versed in fighting the undead in almost any scenario, but the methods they use aren't suited for large-scale combat operations in the open and with a traditional military force. The Haveners out there didn't have the collapsible diamond bulwarks they'd normally have used, and the UAS aren't trained with them at any rate. Most of the things we use to combat zombies are custom designed and require practice.
Basically what happened was everyone stepped on each other's toes and a big chunk of the swarm made it here. Enough reconstruction has taken place that Haven itself was defensible. People who couldn't fight were tucked away in the bunkers our people made sure to put aside for exactly this scenario. Everyone else--except for me, tucked away in my house--fought from the walls or formed units just outside. Those brave (and probably insane) people formed human walls in front of the parts of Haven that still have breaches.
It was a long and torturous day, blazing hot and bloody. Men and women defended Haven while others accidentally pushed the horde against us. The outer defenders were trying to help, we all know that, but they increased the pressure. In one spot the Haven defenders had to pull back through the breach and actually fought zombies on the streets. It took hours to get everything coordinated and squared away. Far from our brightest hour.
But you know? It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Frankly it's probably a good thing we had a nice hard clusterfuck early on in this cooperative effort. Smooth sailing for too long means the inevitable mistake will just be bigger when it finally happens. The reconstruction was slowed down by the attack--the cleanup of which is still going on--but ultimately it's probably a good thing. Reminds us not to take anything for granted, or to feel too safe.
As if any of us were worried that would happen.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Twisted Nerve Redux
I've been walking about, trying to get my strength back as I heal. It's a slow process summed up best by long periods of reduced functionality and meticulous effort not to further injure myself, punctuated regularly by bouts of intense frustration and sharp pain. Yesterday I twisted my back, which is stiff from my immobility, a bit beyond the point I should have pushed it.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did this wee bit of spinal reorientation not fighting zombies or defending my home from an invading army. There was no great threat that required me to sacrifice my health in the name of the group. The fact is, well...
The truth is that I was just sitting on the toilet and turned too sharply. I'm officially old.
I've been listening to people talk about what's going on out there. I know there are still fights in the surrounding areas, some UAS loyalists finally losing their patience and getting into brawls with the rest. I hear our own people talk about the wide-ranging effort to build a real perimeter against the zombies once more flowing across the bridges toward us in their regular migration. Gripping tales of heroism and narrow escapes. You know the drill, right?
Yeah, me too. And here I am laid up in bed because my stupid ass couldn't think for two minutes about being careful not to move too fast. It would be funny if it weren't so damn painful. If you've never had sciatic pain before, trust me; it's no joke. Your leg feels like a live wire got shoved all the way through it from your hip to your toes, and that fucker rarely loses power. It sucks in a dozen languages.
That being said, I am pretty happy to hear some of the plans for Haven. The UAS have been working with Will and the council to create a kind of pilot program here. If it works, the idea can be used other places. The basics are simple; the UAS will officially move in, bringing not only their gear and weapons but families and whatnot as well. They'll provide security along with some of our people, as they've already been doing, and in exchange for providing full-time protection our folks will work at the things they're good at. Not that we aren't awesome at killing, but the UAS has better equipment and numbers, and frankly less diversity of skills than most of our folks.
The idea is to create a huge safe zone so the families of the men and women defending the perimeter can live safely inside along with our people. Our people will continue to farm inside and outside of that zone, as well as rebuild and expand Haven itself. Enough that within a year or two, more UAS can move here along with more Union folks and start the process over again so Haven can grow even larger.
It's ambitious as hell, but a natural extension of what is already happening. And writing all that in a rush took my mind off the fact that my leg feels like Zeus himself chucked a lightning bolt at it. I'd rather be out there fighting zombies any day.
Monday, July 15, 2013
It is, however, an interesting bonding experience. Since hostilities ceased, groups of UAS all over the Union and the country at large have been focusing their efforts on dealing with the world they live in rather than killing the survivors in it. Some are resistant, striking out on their own and wanting nothing to do with other groups. Less, but still a decent number, are rebellious and still violent in their support of the UAS, which doesn't exist as it did a month ago.
I've talked to the local UAS leadership, though, and they're kind of blown away by the creativity and depth of experience our people are showing them. We don't just share the best methods of dealing with the undead, but also the theory behind it and the findings of all the research and observation we've done. Years of accumulating little tricks have given us an arsenal to share with anyone who needs the help.
That doesn't help the victims of human violence out there, but if the world were perfect I wouldn't be writing this.
Too many people are suffering the consequences of this war. Not just the fight itself, but even the peace has unintended side effects no one could predict perfectly. When it was a large-scale conflict there were obvious targets, clear objectives. Now the UAS has splintered into many groups outside their main force which still retains control in the central US. Some are isolationists, others rebellious. It leads to a lot of unpredictable fighting and raids, hungry or angry (or both) people who don't want to be a part of what's going on.
Not just the UAS, either. There are plenty of independent groups who've helped us out over the months and years who feel the same way. Some were trusted friends. Now the whole world is chaos. Much less deadly than the war itself, but less contained, at that. The stress of knowing the box of worms we've opened along with this blistering heat is enough to make a man weep.
I think I'll take a nap.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
The Long Goodbye
I wish I could help more. Healing from my injuries is keeping me fairly inactive. I've been sick and hurt so much over the last few years that I've grown used to it, I suppose. But that doesn't make it any easier to sit still while other people are getting the work done.
I have noticed a few things in this strange little time where I have to sit back and relax. People have been coming by the house, which we're back in for the time being. Usually only a few a day, though the number varies, but all of them come to talk to Jess and I. Some want to say goodbye, acquaintances we haven't seen in a while. Others are total strangers who feel some obligation to us. That's a weird feeling, you know? I understand how people get the perception, but it's a false one.
So, for the record: your thanks are appreciated but unnecessary. Really. Jess and I might have had started this place, had the idea, but it was all of you who built it. I've said it before and it remains true. You're welcome for the very small part we played in making Haven what it is, but as I look around and see people walking the streets in safety without the benefit of a fully-repaired wall, I can't help but wonder at how far our community has come. And not because of us by any stretch.
I see a former enemy out there now clearing space around our home so the rebuilding can happen without interruption. I smell the burning of the undead in their pyres, see the tension drained from tired faces. I see people repairing power and water lines, putting our home back the way it was. Maybe making it better.
That's on you. On all of you. You're the ones who were willing to put aside the killing, the hate, and take a risk. You were brave enough to let an enemy in after he gave his word for peace. You risked it all. YOU did that, not us. Whatever good things are happening, however this place grows and becomes a true Haven in the days ahead, that's on all of you.
If I'm belaboring the point a little, it's because what I see around me is so amazing. Really, the scope of change and growth in our little town as well as the potential for the future sort of blows my mind. I can barely wrap my head around it, yet people are stopping by my house thanking me for it. That's like a journalist taking credit for a Pulitzer-winning article he didn't write. My ego would love to agree with you, but it's just not true.
Instead, let me thank all of you. I'm leaving this place for a new adventure--hopefully not the kind where I get shot a bunch of times--and I don't contemplate that move without deep sadness. All other considerations aside, this is still my home and you are still my family, my friends. We're a community, and it tears me up to even think about leaving. But I can do it. Not because I'm strong, but because I've watched all of you over the last few weeks. You've banded together in ways that give me real hope for the future. I know my home will be in good hands, growing and thriving, because of you. I planted the seed of the idea, Jess watered and fed it, and the rest of you made this place grow into the vast, complex garden it is today.
I can leave happily enough because I know you'll keep the place vibrant and alive should I ever want to come back to visit. Even should I die the first day out of Haven, I could do so knowing joy that my old stomping grounds have become a place where humanity truly lives once more.
Again, that's because of you, not me.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Not a lot of time today. Jesus, I sound like Josh when I type that in. We're still cleaning up the mess. It's a much bigger problem than you might think. Then again, all of you have seen war and death, so maybe you understand.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the war is over. I don't want to have to fight or kill. Beckley might think I'm some brutal killing machine without a conscience. That's okay. But he's wrong. I just take the more realistic view on things.
If the Union hadn't spent months secretly expanding the crop production of every major community, where would we be right now? If Haven hadn't put people on projects like turning one of the buildings over next to the Box into a huge working freezer, would there have been enough food to keep us and the UAS fed? A lot of good people died to make this peace happen, and I mean that literally. Another thousand mouths to feed and none of the logistics would work out.
And while Josh and the others can and should talk about the happy sunshine of peace, I'll be the one to remind you all about the stink of death still hovering here. You can pile up the bodies all you want, but it takes time and fuel to burn them all. Disease is only a bad whiff of air away for some of the people handling the job. Not to mention how scarring it is to turn over a ruined corpse to find a missing friend.
Others have no other job but to scrub blood off the walls. It's everywhere, seeped into cracks and dark places. That's what this world does, you know. Gets inside your head and sets up shop. Peace is good, I'm happy for all of us. But that doesn't mean the rest of it goes away. Some stains stay with you forever, or as closer to it as any of us will get.
You'll excuse me if I don't show the kind of trust a lot of others are. I still watch the UAS when they come close. Knowing they're setting up shop here just makes the decision to leave with Josh and Jess and their group that much easier. A few people from the old days are coming with us. The rest, I don't know. I'd rather take my chances somewhere new, somewhere isolated, where the enemy is at least something I can put my head around.
Zombies I can predict. People? Never. Never in all my days.
Just keep in mind when you sit down in your clean homes behind your rebuilt walls that the people you're sharing meals with were once enemies. Enjoy peace while you have it, but never fully trust. Dogs can bite twice if you let them.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Not much of a surprise, either. Many people predicted it, and once the UAS realized our food reserves are far, far more substantial than their original estimates...let's just say a hungry man is easy to convince.
You might be asking if this means the Union is joining up with the UAS. The honest answer for the moment is that I have not the slightest idea how this all works. I know Will is still in charge here and the Union isn't going anywhere, but I have a hard time imagining men as powerful as the local military commanders are willing to submit completely. It's all very much above my pay grade.
A lot of people are wondering how it's all going to fit together. I'm curious, though not enough to go back on the decision to leave. The specifics are still pretty fuzzy, though I get the impression something like the arrangement North Jackson has going on is happening here. The idea that the UAS would be protecting us is interesting at the very least. I think it, if that's the case, we'll see more of their people retire from active military-style service and more of ours taking it up. An integrated force is the only kind all sides will be able to live with, much less trust.
We'll see. Or rather, you will.
I've got virtually no time today, so I'm cutting this short. K is nagging me to help him finish the survival manual before we all leave. It's sort of our goodbye to this place, a last gift.
Monday, July 8, 2013
One man saw the wind and decided he'd go out with a bang. His name never filtered down to me. He was just some guy from the UAS who hated the idea of making peace with an enemy who tried to blow his head off a few weeks ago. He was a Believer, capital intended. He had conviction and the grit to see it through. I can respect that even now.
He stole out of the UAS camp sometime yesterday after a week of angry bitching about how he'd like to stick it to the Union one last time. Armed and armored with pilfered gear, he worked his way through the woods and slipped past patrols. He got inside our defenses.
The local UAS leaders warned us something like this might happen, and again when they realized their wayward soldier was missing. The guy managed to gun down four people working on the perimeter defenses before our sharpshooters took him down. Managed not to kill him, too. His armor kept the worst of it off him, instead damaging his arms and legs enough that fighting back wasn't an option.
The UAS offered to let us deal with him. Will, being somewhat diplomatic, handed the job over to the man in charge of the local UAS. As I understand it, the trial was short and to the point. The man was strung up from a tree and suffocated to death. Our medics did the bare minimum to keep him alive when they arrived on the scene. No one around here would let him walk away from killing four people in cold blood. Patchwork bandages and sutures gave the killer just enough time to feel the rope tighten.
I'm reminded of Omar Little from The Wire. There are many differences between our killer and the fictional character, but what struck me was the similarity they shared. Both of them seemed to have a code. That and a willingness to risk all for a decision made in the name of justice, maybe revenge. What he did was wrong and I'm glad he's dead, but you can't deny the strength it took to knowingly undertake a suicide mission.
Perspective is a strange thing, I guess. From his point of view, the soldiers around him were traitors. In bed with an enemy he believed were the worst kind of people. Murderers at the very least. As sickened as I am that Haven lost four precious lives, I can't hate the man for what he did. I'm angry, sure, but not too long ago many people in the Union thought the same about the UAS. I could name names for an hour without stopping, listing off people I know personally who expressed their urge to kill every one of the enemy.
Those same people are now cooking and serving that same enemy meals on a regular basis. Some are even going on patrols to clear out zombie nests. Working side by side. Every spectrum of malcontents has their extreme examples, and the man hanging from that tree was one of them. Someone who couldn't let evil--evil as he saw it, anyway--go unpunished. A man whose views and feelings were impossible to separated or reconcile from the situation in front of him. It's a sad day all around, no other way to put it. I wish someone could have convinced him otherwise before this tragedy happened.
Now we're five people poorer, and no one is happy.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
They've swept the area so clear of zombies it's almost unreal. The one thing the UAS has going for them is weaponry and ammo, almost a ridiculous number of both. They're letting our folks patrol with them and even giving them guns--which they give back at the end of shift--to better clear out all the little hidey-holes we know about. It's an awesome use of resources in the truest sense of the word. I can't believe the UAS are willing to expend so much to protect this area, especially so soon after an armed conflict.
I don't know if there are larger things I'm unaware of behind this, but right this second I don't care. Haven is being worked on in the open because there are no zombies close enough to hurt anyone. Between UAS patrols and our own folks, there is now a free zone five miles across, centered on Haven. No zombies, no enemies breathing down our neck.
Almost like home. You know what I mean? The way the world used to be. I'm told people are working on the walls, fixing houses, my brother David doing his best to manage it all. Our home is going back up at a remarkable pace. Amazing what you can accomplish with the right conditions.
All of that makes me very happy, it honestly does. At the same time it's bitter knowing that soon enough I'll be leaving it behind. I don't regret the choice at all, I'm just stewing in how much I'll miss the people and the place. My brother and I, for example, have grown very close since The Fall. Without jobs and distance between us, we've had the time and conditions to become great friends. It's hell, knowing I won't be able to see him whenever I want. We won't be a world away or anything, but even short distances nowadays are potentially lethal. Saying hello every weekend or month is out of the question.
It comes down to life, really. Doesn't matter what the world is doing, whether it's chaos or ordered. People change. Things change. There is no perfect homeostasis, everything in a closed system where nothing can vary. We all have paths to choose, ways we want our lives to go. Mine is with my wife and a cluster of similarly-minded people. We need something smaller, more isolated. Something private and safe. Well, safer.
Dave and I grew up together, but when he moved out of the house and started a career we drifted apart. There was no fault in it; the man was building his own future. He got married, started a family, had a life of his own to manage. Those were all good problems to have. If it left him less time for his little brother, I certainly never held it against him. His happiness was always the important thing, just as mine was. It's the distance between us that made the times did see each other that much better. Reconnecting, laughing, sharing history. Beautiful stuff.
When The Fall hit us it was the shared loss that brought us closer. Dave is a busy guy around these parts, and if neither of us makes the effort it can be a week or more between seeing each other. Again, no fault. Not in him or anyone else I care about. We all have our own lives to lead, our own choices to make. I know for certain that the people I love and respect understand my choice to leave. But that doesn't mean we won't all miss each other terribly. I sit here in the wheelchair they hauled me to Haven in, watching people laugh and joke as they rebuild. Kids roam the streets even with rents in the walls, because there are enough people out there making it safe that they can, for a little while, just be kids again.
I see the home I fought so hard to defend rising from the ashes again, the love of its people so clear and pure, and pride burns in me. Pride and sadness. I love it here, in ways I can never express, and the people are dear to me. The only consolation I have is knowing that when we leave, behind us will be a place not dead or dying, but growing and evolving once more. When the day comes I can walk--or roll, depending--out of Haven, I can do so knowing I'm leaving it in better shape than I found it.
That'll have to do.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
To keep it short--and I have to since I stupidly popped some stitches last night and have angry doctors to deal with--the UAS military nearby reported the coup to us this morning. Senior members of that organization made fast moves for their base to lay out the situation for the leadership. A bunch of men in a room deep underground who didn't want to listen.
You might be hoping to hear the UAS grand poobahs got killed, but they didn't. When the old men started squawking about the military, throwing out words like 'treason' and 'betrayal', the man in charge of the military ordered them removed. Thirteen ex-senators, congressmen, even a justice from the SCOTUS, all put in cuffs and thrown in tiny rooms to think about it.
I didn't get to talk to the man himself, but Will came by to pass on the news. Basically every old-timer in the UAS leadership becomes a simple citizen from this point out. The people will hold elections, vote on measures going forward, the whole democratic process. They're doing it fast, too, because the simple math means they have to make nice with the rest of the country if they want to eat.
As for being traitors and betrayers, well...
The men leading the UAS army are the ones betrayed. Them and every person under their command, plus every citizen in their territory. They could've traded for food, set up shop and started something productive with the rest of us, except for the men running the show. A hundred or so people if you count the leadership and their support staff, telling lies with kernels of truth in them to whip up opposition against the rest of us. A war predicated not on ideology or principle, but for simple gain through force.
Power, basically, gathered at the cost of lives. Now the truth is in the open; that even after all the deaths and blood between us, we're still willing to take a chance for peace and mutual prosperity. It was our actions that put the final nail in the coffin, you see. Hear all you want from the higher ups about the enemy, how we're evil backstabbing murderers, but when that enemy stands in front of you with open arms and with no weapons, the ruse is impossible to maintain.
Trust is slim, but there. We're putting out the olive branch, which is a small gesture but a damn sight better than the old UAS leaders would have allowed. It's a new day. A good day. Something new is being born, better than the thing it replaced.
I love watching people choose to live free.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Haven isn't destroyed, not really. Were the place a pile of rubble I would have taken it better. The walls will take a lot of work to fix, pocked with small craters all over and totally destroyed in sections. The buffer is a huge tangled mass of broken posts and cable, which is actually a good thing. Zombies get caught up in it and have a harder time getting into Haven itself. Still going to be a hard time clearing them all out until the repairs are done, but it's something.
Most of the homes are standing but riddled with bullets. I feel their pain on that front. West--the section made up of shipping containers--is virtually untouched. No one knows why, really, since that was the side the UAS attacked from. I chalk it up to one of those weird things in life, like finding a straw jammed through a piece of wood after a tornado, right next to a perfectly healthy baby sleeping in their stroller.
My own home was in pretty good shape, all things considered. Not right at the edge, its proximity to West must have been enough to shield it from the worst of the attack. My roof has certainly seen better days and the crops in our yard are dead or dying, but the house itself didn't take serious damage. Mostly cosmetic stuff. Thank baby Jesus for the person who decided every house in this neighborhood should be brick.
After I wrote that paragraph I stopped for a second and realized my house will only be my house for a little while longer.
What used to be the clinic before we moved it, my mom's old place, is gone. Must have been hit by an artillery round or something. When I saw it from the back seat of the armored vehicle, this huge pile of broken masonry and shattered wood, some part of me that held on through The Fall died. Mom would have been the first to tell me it's just a place. Only a house. It stopped being my home many years ago.
Still, I have a cane made from the wood of the giant tree from the front yard. After we cleared Haven of all trees a few years back, I carved the stump and lacquered it after mom died. The kind of memorial she would have liked; out there in nature among flowers and other growing things.
That's gone, too. All things must eventually pass, sad to say. Our lives and memories are all we have. I'm sad about it now, but I know mom's house was only a place in time and space. The good times and bad, the moments that shaped me into the man I am today, will always be with me. Just as she is, this place will sit in my heart until the day I die.
Haven--both the place and its people--is bloody and bruised. A few broken bones and some ugly scars. But as bad as it is, there is still life. Still a place to come back to and build back up. Where two of us come together, there is opportunity for some great work to be achieved. We will all carry the Haven that fell to the enemy in our hearts just as I do my mother and the place she made home. We'll keep those remembrances safe and in our minds as we--you--rebuild. New. Better. Stronger.
And as this place becomes home for all of you again, you can keep the anger you feel toward the men and women who were our enemies close. As those people show willing to be better, to do better, and to take their place in a world of peaceful if uneasy cooperation, you can look back on what they were and what they did and wonder at the people they're showing themselves to be. Do that. Remember, if only to deepen your understanding of how much they'll exceed your hopes.
That's my hope, at least.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Both Kincaid and I may have said things about my injuries, but both of us have been either hazy or under pressure. For the record, if such a thing matters, I took three bullets. No need for the gory details, but I'm lounging for a while. Secondary injuries were less severe, and thankfully the bullet wounds were all non-critical (if terrifying at first glance) but even so I'm healing three big ass wounds right now and a dozen smaller ones. The doc stopped counting stitches after a hundred.
My leg, my upper chest, my arm. All hit but while they hurt like hell I'm still relatively mobile. I wouldn't want to fight a zombie, but hobbling around my tent is doable.
A bullet, especially one from a rifle, does a lot of fucking damage. I'm in ridiculously good shape for a guy with three of them recently yanked from his body. You can thank my dutiful wife for that. She's the one who made me put on the armor. One good thing about raiding armories is the plentiful supply of military-grade protection. Didn't do a lot of good for my arm and leg, but those weren't core shots. Not grazes, either, but not too deep.
The bullet in my chest/shoulder area hit just at the edge of one of the ceramic plates. The armor ate some of the momentum but shattered and the bullet tumbled into the seam between plates. Tore a hole the size of a golf ball in the material. Lead and ceramic all jammed up inside me. Lots of blood. You know the drill.
I got lucky as hell. That more than anything was the deciding factor in choosing to leave. Beckley's eulogy came perilously close to being necessary. The peace with the UAS is fresh and dangerously shaky, so we're taking advantage while the opportunity exists. Somewhere far enough from everyone else to give us time to settle into some kind of normalcy before the dust settles and this stops being a world of taking and holding.
Because it's coming, you know. Both sides--all sides, even the west and the ones who don't realize there are sides--know we've experienced a watershed moment. The world nearly died and we almost killed what's left. All of us hold some blame. People are realizing it. They're seeing the truth, that we have to overcome our differences and live practically. To stop the bullshit, inside our communities outside between emerging nations. There isn't a person I've talked to who doesn't see the danger we've just lived through and realize we're past the point of simply maintaining.
We're moving forward. If this peace can hold long enough, others will be able to do the things Haven and North Jackson have done. I have hope one day soon we'll see lights on in every community, bright points against the darkness. Our people, which when you get to the most fundamental truth is all people, will put down roots. And as all things do when they're given the chance, they'll grow and expand.
I have hope this will happen. For the first time in ages I have some small expectation to go with it. I've lost the motivation to be here in the thick of things to watch it happen is all. I'm ready to retire to somewhere less busy and full of people. I'm happy to leave the next little bit to others. From what I'm seeing, our tomorrow is in good hands.