Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Books for the Rich, Glasses for the Poor

(Yes, there is more for 2552, but I don't feel like having weeks go by without Anarchy Zone Material to share)

Sing-sing entered the lounge, lower hands reflexively clenching and clenching, her antenna quivering.  She quickly scanned the room, then made her way over to the counter and pulled herself up, antennas quickly swiveling to look behind the coffee maker and behind the old computer.

"Excuse me, Mr. DeZufingia - have you seen my lenses?"
 Diego sat up from his prone position on the couch. "Those glasses things? Uh, no - no I haven't?"
   "Thank you." The alien squeaked, "I must have left them at the village this time."
   "Is this a major problem? Do you need to go home? How good is your eyesight with out them, might I ask? You don't use them much."

The alien folded her back legs, giving the impression of a sitting dog, flicked on the translator unit, and moved the microphones into pickup position on either side of he mouth.A few test beeps later, and the modulated voice replaced he own high pitch.
   "My eye sight is perfectly fine. In both sets. Better than average actually."
   "You've got more than one set? Where is the second?"
   "Obviously, the [low chirping] are the main set, with wide angle vision and good acuity in low light. The [loud mew] are low angle of vision - telescopes really, but very high magnification."
   "I'm guessing there is some adaptation that means you don't get sick when you move the antennas about."
   "That should be obvious"
   "So then what are the glasses for?"

Sing sing stood up, her antennas once again bouncing, and he lower hands wringing, she sidestepped a bit to the left, and then began to walk fight, not looking at Diego. She then turned off, and removed the translator, lapsing back into her high pitched natural voice.
   "Well, um...I I"
   "Something wrong in the translator you can't use it."
   "Not something - you politely speak of. Or that I want the machine to record."
   "That thing has been recording all of our conversations?!" Diego shot up, now towering over the alien, who began backing away.
   "That is how it works - and this is a mutual learning you know. I am not a [lapse into rapid natural Citizen language]!"
Hobbes rushed into the room "Diego - what the hell are you doing to her?"
   "Nothing! I just got a little angry that we were being recorded."
   "It is a radio station Diego"
   "I mean the translator device."
   "Oh. Well, you haven't said anything wrong in front of her - have you? You're not part of some anti-alien guerrilla group and haven't told me?"
   "Of course not!"
   "Then what is the problem? The aliens want to learn about us too - that is why they consented to lend us one for a few weeks."
   "Its just...right. I just like to be notified if I'm being recorded. It runs in the family. Papa wouldn't even say 'good morning' until his body guards swept the house for police listening devices."
   "Sing-sing, its alright. He didn't mean to hurt you. Just surprised. We forget that standing up can scare you. Diego, sit down, and calm down. No Mexican Special Service here. Besides, didn't you leave the family?"
   "The Grupo de Operaciones Especiales can be a bit overzealous, but yes. Wait - what do you know about my family?"
   "Nothing major, we can discuss it another time when your more comfortable."

Hobbes shook his head and left. Diego sat back down, clasping his hands in his lap. "I am sorry. I know that you were about to say something difficult, and I hop that you still feel safe enough to share it."
   "Will you explain why you always get so mad when people ask about your family in return?"
    "If you can forgo the recordings, yes. Later."

"Thank you for the apology. As to what I was going to... Well. I'm poor. Not the most prominent family, and one of the most junior workers in the fleet. Setting out with a colony does mean an automatic promotion and pay raise - but its in name only really. Arguably I still have a few years of apprenticeship before I can vote on guild matters."
   "How old are you?"
   "Eleven or twelve. I think. Its hard to tell, years and seasons are very different here than at home."
   "I apologize for going further off topic, but that does raise two other questions - would you know what a citizens life span is for point of comparison, and what is the name of your home planet anyway?"
"Fifty or sixty years, though the average was getting closer to seventy. As to the name - that is sacred. It is not to be shared."
   "I apologize for the rudeness, miss sing-sing. May we return to the question of glasses?"
   "The easy way to put it, is we see a different spectrum of colors than you do. Those eight-sided signs along the roads are really dark and odd to us, the downward triangles less so, and the ones that note hospitals are about where things get easy."
   "Can you see ultra-violet?"
   "I don't know what that means."
   "So the glasses alter the colors?"
   "No, well, sort of.. more like you only see the best parts at a time."
   "Sounds right, but I don't know. What I do, is that good books use special ink, it even seems to glow. But its expensive and fades, unless its printed on the right materials and preserved, which is even more expensive. Cheap books do not, but are hard to read for long."
   "Can I apologize for scaring you earlier by reading it for you?"
   "Well, you can not read our language... but Mr. Hobbes did suggest something by a man named Aech-Gee Wells?"
   "Was it 'War of the Worlds?'"
   "You know it?"
   "I don't think he was being serious."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Alternate D&B Setting: Unit 2552 Part Two

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, 2552 does not look for cream of the crop recruits. That would be both too obvious to oversight, and those solders would be better for spetsnaz or naval infantry battalions anyway. Instead, selection seems almost random, covered by accidents that conveniently sideline troops with the right blood type, rh factors, and good grades in science or technical matters. From there, it is a forced reassignment on "medical duties", "special assignment" or "political relocation" to the main base in the central Asian republics. 

Once there, training seems normal - except for an oddly large number of doctors on the sidelines, and a far earlier and more intensive introduction to NBC warfare techniques. After the first eight weeks of training, the injections start. 

"Washout rate" at this point can be as high as 46%. Side affects can include loss of appetite, sudden necrosis and gangrene, mental instability, migraines, open sores, strange cravings, light sensitivity, chronic muscle aches, heart attacks, seizures, ringing in the ears, and gas. However,those who remain will have a notable advantage over those who have not received the serums. Their bones become fifty percent stronger than base-line, their low light vision improved, hearing slightly better, fatigue lessened, and reaction times slightly better than normal.

After this, the real training and introduction to the unit begins.

Unit Weaponry
Despite the connotations of being a special elite unit, 2552 is mostly equipped with an assortment of obsolescent weapons. Notably, the main weapon is not the AK-74, nor the older AKM, instead standard issue is the SKS carbine. Most of the creatures involved are not phased by suppressive fire or need to be hit accurately - making the semi-automatic rifle preferable.

Even older weapons have a place as well. The PPSh-41 submachinegun of world war two manufacture is greatly appreciated. It is small and maneuverable in tight confines, a 71 round drum magazine can provide lasting fire support. Furthermore, 7.62x25mm pistol ammunition delivers sufficient stopping power, while still reducing the risks of ricochet and over-penetration compared to rifle caliber weapons. Another consideration is that a few million are sitting in old warehouses, and no one is going to notice them diverted to black projects.

Another surprisingly old weapon is a TOZ manufactured copy of the Browning Auto-5 Shotgun. It is a robust weapon capable of quickly firing five sixteen gauge shotgun shells.

Handguns are a matter of individual preference. TT-33 pistols pistols are the most common side arm, as they share ammunition with the PPSh and are easy to acquire from overlooked stocks. The Nagant revolver with its silencer is also appreciated, as using guns in confined spaces can result in hearing loss, and in turn, inability to notice some enemies.

Although most of these weapons are twenty to forty years older than the uses, they are issued a great variety of custom ammunition types. This includes heavy subsonic rounds to protect hearing and bullets made from unusual materials or coated with special toxins for dealing with certain oddities.

Other Gear
Given their proximity to stores of dangerous compounds, it is not uncommon for the unit to operate in bio-chemical defense gear. Night vision gear, and other optical enhancements are given on a case by cases basis - however such equipment is rather rare in the soviet military at this time, so its unlikely to be granted.

The signature equipment of the group, however, is the "biological shield jacket". It appears to be the rather normal heavy canvas and wool winter coat issued to most soldiers. It is made from far more exotic materials though, and is impregnable to many types of acids and chemical weapons. Steel bars and mesh at strategic points protect the wearer from bites and claws, and though its bullet resistant to only small caliber rounds, the protection includes the entire torso down to just below the knees.A small glycol based cooling unit similar to those used by space walking cosmonauts makes the heavy coat bearable to wear in all conditions, and a drug injection system can keep a solider going for extended periods of time despite injury or exhaustion.

The unit is surprisingly well equipped with aircraft for rapid transport. This includes two dozen AN-2s, four an-26, a dozen Mi-8s, and  three mammoth Mi-26 cargo helicopters. A number of these are specially equipped for either laying mines to prevent traffic into and out of zones of concern, as well as testing for chemical and biological contamination.

Operational Deployments
Standard deployment consists of sixteen to forty-eight man platoons, which are in turn broken down into four man kill teams. Weaponry varies depending on environment, but each team is usually given two SMGs, a shotgun, and a rifle, or two rifles and one each of the other weapons.

Most of the time, it is fairly simple. Animals or prisoners are released into a testing environment, followed shorty there-after by a batch of specimens. After 48 hours, the unit is sent in to sweep the facility and liquidate anything that remains.

Sometime involvement becomes more complicated when a potential pathogen or subject escapes. The unit is fully capable of tracking these things down, though outside their bunkers, there are no identifying insignia, and the members are encouraged to hide their faces at all times - usually with a gas mask.

Unit 2552 is highly mobile and spends most of its time in tents or en-route. Most testing is in fact confined to the central Asian republics, this is just a method to confuse oversight.

A few permanent facilities do exist, but they usually have the cover of a normal looking hospital, prison, or power plant. beneath are extensive reinforced concrete bunkers and laboratories. Most rooms are filled with double-walled stainless steel tanks containing unknown substances capable of wiping out cites. Others are dull blue administration areas and greenish living spaces. But there are also extra large arenas, some like old forests, some replicating towns or the inside of manufacturing plants, surrounded by cat-walks and bullet proof glass so that almost every centimeter can be watched.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alternate D&B Setting: Border Unit 2552 Part One

Russia took horrible losses during the first world war, the Soviet Union took even worse during the second. After that, they were desperate to not see these events repeat. This went so far as to letting people starve so the money could be spent on nuclear bombs. Poorly tested aircraft were rushed into production - early MiG-19s lacked sufficient heat shielding between the engines and fuel tanks, leading to a few mid-air explosions.

Perhaps the brightest jewel in this crown of fear was Biopreparat. (Биопрепарат, "Biological substance preparation") Tens of thousands of scientists and workers preparing biological weapons.

What if they had gone father than just plague and pox? What if they really had been researching for a way to make super-soldiers or a method of putting those historic high casualty figures to good use?

That is where unit 2552 comes into play. Officially, it just another unit of border guards in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Their mission is to assist KGB militsya (police) in controlling the flow of shipments and contraband into and out of the area - at least the traffic they aren't bribed to ignore. Members of the unit are also present to protect the military facilities, watch transfers of weapons grade material, and occasionally assist in readying the weapons.

The real purpose, is somehow more sinister yet. They are there to monitor the progress of even more secretive programs, and to eliminate any specimen or witnesses left at the conclusion of the test.

Of course, filling the warheads is still part of the mandate. After all, which is more likely - world war three, or a zombie outbreak in Tajikistan? Turkmenistan maybe...

There are two modes for the 2552 setting.

The first is in the late 1970s and early 80s when the USSR is still a superpower. Experiments are in full swing, as is the units funding, and recruitment. Dealing with defectors and spies is part of the job, as well as this month's abomination. Ideally, this means working in contained underground complexes, but as the sverdllovsk anthrax outbreak proved sometimes, things got out of hand.

A second version appears after the fall of the Soviet Union. With little paper trail to prove the unit exited, and Biopreparat largely dismantled, the former soldiers find themselves with little support. Many of the left over creatures are forgotten as well. Some are just the ones too dumb and hardy to die, others smart enough to avoid termination after multiple attempts. Beyond just hand picked soldiers, the possible players are government agents, news reporters, foreign intelligence, or simple citizens whose loved ones disappeared in the hills of Azerbaijan - all trying to cover up or investigate the last great secret of the Soviets.

Part two will deal with the equipment, operations, and adventures of Unit 2552.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beer and Bread for the Boys

My son is at the point where he is finding every joke funny. The same goes for his father. I really wish we had a better supply of water, fruit trees, even milk. Real cow milk hasn't been seen in years. Beer just isn't meant for children.

Dysentery and cholera are meant for them even less though. No one has yet encountered a hangover that is restraint to multiple types of antibiotics. A lot of diseases these days can't be cured with anything less than nano-medicine, and that isn't easy to come by. Even for children, beer is simply the safer option. Of course, they will be hearing an ear full when they sober up in the morning about excess.

At least I know they're getting enough fluids. Nutrients? Boy that is a gamble. We ration out vitamin pills when we can get them, but otherwise its just track what is in the food. Pretty hard when no one has that memorized, and we can't look to the sphere to see what we're missing, and order vegetables from it. We're never sure if the level of B vitamins are right, and protein... god - you know how many of us were vegetarians before this? And shooting your own animal on top of that? There are some people who like it, its a change. With the ecology falling apart, bad economics forcing cheaper food, and just a general desire to feed as many as possible - meat eating was expensive and in a real decline. Turkey or chicken occasionally, farm raised bison or ostrich., rabbits were plentiful, but you didn't have to look at their cute twitching noses first.

Of course, you didn't have the annoyance of them descending like locusts on your vegetable garden. Any that I eat, I do with revenge now.

The old future history magazines my grandfather read always seemed to believe by this point we'd be taking all our food in pill form. Just a quicker and easier way to prepare for our twenty hour work week at the atomic powered factory we'd fly to with jet belts.

We've got bread when we can, livened up with jelly when possible. We tried making butter from milk other than cow... No one has decided to give it a second chance. We got fruit and pickles mostly, thank god we had someone who made them as a hobby. Business actually. He ran a microbrewery restaurant - which has become the de-facto center of our little outpost.

Smart man. Most of us were inclined to make a run for the hills, or try to find a military base. He said no, everyone gather at the restaurant. The outdoor raised patio is a good scouting vantage, solar panels on the roof provide power, and the fermentation vats will be key to a new society. They give us pure drink, and more pure alcohol for use as fuel, disinfectant, chemical synthesis, and a trade good. There might be only three dozen people here, but short of a fortified NEST, an old brick restaurant isn't bad.

Oh look, I have to go help john again. I swear, the eight year old holds his liquor better!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Rotary Wings

Klaus heard them first. He usually did. The cochlear implants could cause some pretty splitting headaches and sometimes present terrible feedback, but they were better than being deaf, and a bit of tinkering meant they could be superhuman for a short while. His pale face just lit up, a grin rapidly spreading.

However, it was David who got scared before him, dragging his smaller and younger friend off to the side of the road, pushing him into a ditch, and breaking a few low branches to cover them. The bigger person was dark, scared, and a little too rough.

"Wa-what are you doing?"
"Keeping us safe, what do you think?"
"I hear helicopters - doesn't that mean other people have found us?"
"It depends on how you define people Klaus."

Klaus gave a sideways glance. It was mannerisms like that that which made him look too young to shave, rather than simply fastidious about appearance. "I don't understand?"
"Six to four says they're citizen helicopters."
"Aliens in helicopters... but aren't they too small to reach the collective and control column and see out the windscreen?"
"Not if they built them. Its not like they have space ships, walking, and noting in between.

A machine appeared over the horizon, looking like a hybrid between an old airplane and an inverted dragonfly. The front had two large bulges slung from underneath the front, looking much like transparent compound eyes, and an arched, but narrow fuselage following behind it. Large antennas splayed out in a V from just behind the spheres. A bit farther back, twin engine pods jutted out on top, a set of counter-rotating helicopter rotors rising up in between. From there, the fuselage contained another two meters, before thinning out to a downward angled strut and not retracting tail wheel, looking much like a stinger. Small downward canted wings were located behind the engines, but their shape was hard to notice thanks to the yellow and green disruptive camouflage.

"Half Beard" David announced after it passed, sure to announce both syllables. "Its often used as a flying crane - the bubble cockpits in front
"How do you know so much about it?"
"I was in the army. You really learned to loathe those choppers. Without tanks of their own, their usual counter to ours was to send out attack helicopters with missiles. Our anti-aircraft weapons did a number on them, but when you have only seonds to see one pop out from behind a hill or building, some are going to get off shots. That kind isn't even the dedicated tank hunter. Those are more wedge shaped with barbettes on the side."
"Isn't halberd a human word?
"Its half beard, but yes, you're correct. We gave them nicknames in the old NATO reporting name tradition - Fighters with F, Helicopters with H, Power armor with T and so forth. We don't know the real names, and it probably sounds like "squee squee squee" to human ears anyway. Speaking of - do you still hear it?"
"No, its gone."

David removed the cover, stood up, brushed the dirt off, and then helped Klaus stand. "There are really only two vehicles the citizens don't have. No tanks, and no large ships. Of course, given that the space ships are only so big, not transporting a large blue-water navy is kind of understandable."
"Why not?"
"I don't know. I guess they just have a different history. Tanks as we know them started with the first world war, and evolved in the second. No battle of the Somme, no showdown at Kursk, nor a need to rush the Fulda gap."
"Why haven't they built any since they saw ours?"
"If they're smart, they have, we just haven't seen any yet. God help us if they do - fuel shortages aren't going to let us meet them on even terms."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

365 Footnote

Today marks one year of producing this blog.

In that time, there has been: 
  • One new edition
    • The entry announcing it has been visited 113 times
  • One Addendum
  • 165 Posts Total
    • Thirteen 104.3 broadcasts
    • Thirty Three Academic Articles
    • Sixteen for the Planetary Citizens
    • Thirty Six combined for the city states
  • Circa 2,500 page views total, averaging about 208 per month
    • At about thirteen posts a month, there should be between twelve and twenty people reading this regularly. Thank You.
  • The Game Files page has been visited 112 times
  • Most visits have been from the USA (1,622) followed distantly by the UK (205)
    • While I would love to think I have a following in Iran, I'm pretty sure those 80 hits were just a spam bot, since they all appeared in the same week. They haven't been counted in the above view total.
  • Most vistiors have come from
  • I have received zero e-mails about the game, and eight comments.

What are some of the things I want to focus on in the next year of the blog?
  • Citizen Vehicles
  • Cybernetics
  • Tesla Transgenics
  • Food and Drink
  • Internal Conflicts for Tesla, Vegas, and New Birmingham
  • Right Thought
  • Bounty Hunting
  • Disease and Minor Injuries
  • Other Nations
  • More Sample NPCs and Scenarios
Furthermore, there are three big projects:
  • Collect the stories into one document after editing
  • A supplement about Antagonists, Armaments, and Automobiles
  • A novella to be posted by chapter for the three weeks I'll be out of the country in November for my sister's wedding.
For those of you who haven't noticed, there is a page dealing with my request for play-testing in the upper right hand corner, under the secondary link to the main rules. Sorry if its not more prominent, but adding another button to the top bar throws off the lay-out too much.

That is the reckoning for 2010-2011. Once again, thank you to all who have visited my little corner of the net.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Undead Tracking 102

Everyone back from their coffee break? Ok, good. Lets get on with part two - following reanimates in the wilderness. I hope you already know a little about wilderness survival and tracking, or at least know someone who has been hunting and can give you tips, cause I'm not about to go into depth of footprints and running patters and and all the outer stuff some Indian scout knows by heart. Just what is pertinent to reanimates.

The good news is, for at least some of them, its not that hard. A type one is fairly uncoordinated. and walks upright and stiffly like a person who has cracked a rib or two. They're pretty oblivious to pain and discomfort, so they aren't inclined to walk around minor obstacles like mud puddles and low branches. Generally they leave fairly regular tracks at a marching pace, and broken twigs or dirty footprints behind them. Really, the only difficulty here is that there still just the size of people, and the woods are large.

Alphas are a bit trickier. They're more human like in movement, and while still fairly dense most of the time, they don't always take the path of least resistance like their brethren. Type ones will attempt to walk around big obstructions like rocky outcroppings and abandoned cars, alphas will weave through or climb up. They're still not careful, and they damage things in ways people don't. If you find an old car - you pop open or pry up the hood, check the handle to see if its unlocked, then carefully break glass to open the door. Reanimates will step on the hood, put a foot through the windshield, struggle to pull it out, and keep going.

Twos are a bit more vexing. They stagger more than the ones and alphas, have kind of a hunched profile, move drunkenly. But aside from sidewinder like tracks, they're a lot more careful about the environment. No airborne ranger or criminal trying to shake a tail, but a two doesn't just call out "I'm here". However, they do drip that silver pus stuff occasionally, or slough off hand sized chunks of skin. All the others seem to stay intact despite what should be harsh conditions of weather and starvation - these ones just seem to shed anything that isn't necessary to being a Beta as time goes on.

Betas are a problem for trackers, because - you never know who is tracking who. These ones ambush, harry, and travel in small packs of four to a dozen. You're best thinking of them as slow wolves that can climb trees. Be sure to look up. Sometimes they will even make large nest like hunting blinds. Ones go around, alphas will try to find a path, but a Beta will always default to going up if that is an option.

A Type Three is kind of the worst of all of them. On one hand, it leaves pretty clear trails like a type one and  like an Alpha, it doesn't always take the path of least resistance. Of course, "path of least resistance" is kind of relative when it can punch through brick walls. It usually goes through obstacles, not around them.  It has climbing ability on par with the various twos. But, it can also ambush you like a Beta. Somewhat worse actually. A beta will just come from above or below, but won't actively make a new door. Nor do betas have night vision optics or other tracking systems, while a type three might. Remember, these are cybernetic enhanced reanimates, if not up to the level of assimilating armor and cars like the Lambda.

Now, as for the lambda. I'll let each of you guess and give you two hints - its two words, one begining with an S, and the other with an M...

...Nice try, but it isn't "Scorch Marks". Silent Movement.

No one has really tracked these things in or out of a city. Once the thing is there, and encounters resistance, it will make itself known. Smashes through walls, throws concrete traffic divider sections, will even collapse small buildings to trap it prey.

But until then, they don't seem to wander that much. Maybe they're territorial. Possibly the damn things are built on site. They have been encountered in the wilderness, but don't usually seem to be transient like the others.

During the break, I was asked if I'll talk about tracking type four and five reanimates. It had crossed my mind, but there wasn't much that originally occurred to me to say.

No one has really confirmed seeing a type four, and type five, well reports differ and aren't all that reliable. Its generally agreed that a five in intelligent, and capable of taking on many lesser reanimates or armed humans by itself.

There are a lot of theories as to what a five might be. A citizen infiltrator that looks human. Some sort of government super soldier kept under-wraps that escaped during the event. A transgenic experiment from the free city of Tesla. A few wackos think they are vampires. Laugh if you want to, but it isn't a conclusion derived without evidence.

Now that I think about it, there is one thing about the type four. Now this isn't widely accepted, but they might be some sort of controlling intelligence for lesser reanimates. As I said before, most of the time, reanimates move like herded cats...

I didn't? I thought I... Well damn. Good catch sir. Right. Groups, groups groups. They come together somehow. No one has heard them speak, or even moan - many of the ones the boys in lab-coats have dissected lack vocal cords. No scars, just no voice box. Creepy. Don't really seem to be pheromones either. Best anyone can guess, its an organic cellular network, but that wouldn't have sufficient transmission range...

Speculation is going to get us nowhere at the moment. Anyway, they tend to be disorganized groups, but groups none the less. Ones will form gangs of anywhere from a half dozen to nearly a hundred. No apparent communication or leader, but they just kind of wander about in a general direction, occasionally just freezing for a few minuets to listen or watch for movement. Alphas tend to be either on the edges of these groups, or as lone scouts. Twos might be part of this, or off on their own, six to a dozen. Betas are not usually seen as part of these gangs, but might follow one opportunistically, waiting to strike at someone who gets overwhelmed or distracted by the horde. Entire platoons thirty or forty threes, and perhaps a dozen lambdas at a time were spotted during the event, smashing through army strongholds, but no one has reported that many in one place in a long time.

If you're an optimist, that means there aren't that many left, or are too spread out. If you want to be a pessimist, its unlikely anyone would see that many and survive to report it, so gangs that size could still be around.

Back to type four. If you see reanimates moving in formation, get the hell out of dodge.  Reports talk of them marching in lock step, even rows. Betas on the sides like chariots supporting the legion, Twos or Threes at the front like screening tanks.

Of course, the only people who have seen that are friends of this guy with a radio that heard a broadcast from California. And we all know how much comes out of eternally dark citizen infested California, now don't we?

This information will save your life if you're trying to find them, or avoid them. But what life is worth saving if you're spending it all in an old classroom? That is enough for today. Class dismissed!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Undead Tracking 101

Attention! All right, at ease - take your seats gentlemen ...and gentle women.

As you might have inferred from the blackboard, we're talking about trackn' Reanimates. Its actually a pretty simple process, you just need to ask the right questions.

Question the first - Why the F-- am I doing this? Aren't the ones that just beat down our gates or jump out of old buildings enough? Well, its hard to argue for greater numbers, the important thing to remember is they are an awful lot like driver ants. Usually, there is a large group in one area, they send out feelers, and when there is no prey left, they go in a big cluster in a fairly straight line. So if you can track them, you can get their bases, or you can warn others what direction the things are heading in.

Mind you, that is an imperfect analogy. There can be free patrolling ones, and sometimes they just go dormant rather than move. Some patrols have returned with real horror stories of a pass that is clear all summer, just to have reanimates out the wazoo when the weather turns bad. Better to think of them as minefields with crafty engineers shuffling them about than purely dumb ants.

OK, so you want to figure out where they are, or where they're going. Well, there are two general things to look for, travel, and damage. Damage is the bit easier one, less ambiguous if it was a person or not. Fist of all, how do they get in and out.

Basic type ones lack even the ability to use tools, so they just bang the doors, windows, or anything else. If they get in and get to a person, it usable takes a couple of them to take the person down, and they will bludgeon the person into submission first, so there is usually signs of a big struggle, and at least some blood spatter from an occasional cut - though since they don't use knives and still have rather human teeth and jaw muscles, don't expect much.

Alphas can use tool, but only in a basic manner. A crowbar to them is just additional leverage to hit things, not a way to pry open hinges. If they get something sharp, they will cut with it, and if they find guns - that is a good sign its a reanimate actually. Humans will use suppressive fire - holes everywhere, or intentionally shoot off hinges. Reanimates only shoot at what they see, without wild fire nor do they ballistic-aly master-key doors.

Twos and Betas are stronger, and somewhat less human in ability. They can carry off a grown man without blood trail, and smash in light doors without much trouble. People killed by these things and not dragged off tend to be rather more mangled - broken arms, claw slashes, necks twisted three-hundred or more degrees around. Twos are fast, so they often go for attacks on open terrain lesser ones wouldn't, and then basically half knock down, half drag the victim away. Betas are more jumpy, and will often try to climb roofs and find skylights or other ways from above, so they tend to leave less visible signs of forced entry, at leas when you initially look at the doors.

You sir in the back, got a question. Reanimate blood? That is a good one. Its strange, but they don't really bleed much. It has a more gel or toothpaste like consistency, so it doesn't really flow out unless its a really major wound. Even then it stops quickly, and unless you actually remove the head, they can re-attach the limb. A limb actually. I've seen them use ones that weren't originally theirs. That includes Betas replacing their stretched and talon like appendages with a normal human arm, and type ones with a type three's. How that adapts after-wards... your guess is as good as mine.

On to type three. If the twos are assassins, agile and picking off the vulnerable, threes are ...hmm. No, better analogy - Betas are a katana or rapier. Elegant, one stroke, quick in and out. A three is like a mace or claymore - big, destructive, break the lines. You just don't want to see the bodies they leave behind. Or it may just be the ones they leave behind are those too damaged to reanimate, and where they were careful we don't see. But what we do - arms ripped off completely, heads flattened, spines broken in no less than three places.

As to the signs of a Lambda reanimate.

Scorch Marks.

These don't take prisoners. And they use anti-tank weapons, or simply toss around two hundred kilo objects like child's toys. Either you plan well and keep out of their way, or your remains fit in a soda can.

Scorch Marks.

Take a break and let that sink in. We'll reconvene in ten to discuss following them around.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

...That Wears the Crown

The study was dark polished wood. Or, at least looked that way to most who were used to offices of acrylic and glass. Most of it was actually fairly cheap and just heavily lacquered to hide the tool marks and other signs of amateur workmanship.  Reverend Luther Powell had been many things, but professional carpenter was not one of them. To his credit though, he did try to make everything himself, and aside from the electrical wiring, most of the renovations in the house were done with his own hands. The bookshelves were straight and workman like, the desktop surface level if you left the plate glass centered, and the chairs - were bought at a shop after one of the power tools broke.

Most of the other decorations in the room were of more passable quality. Brass lamps picked out by wife Mary, and artwork gifts from friends and parishioners lined the walls.

Duncan Moses Powel, was nigh perfect in every way the furniture was not. An imposing - if young - presence, tall, strong, and and built to last through seasons of football and water-polo. But most people didn't see him as a demigod figure, instead noticing the priests vestments he tended to wear, or else simple overalls and shirts. Lacking the army command expense of Luther, Duncan tried for the role of village priest and man of the people instead.

He was opposite in almost every way to opponent in the Texas arcology. But there were some unfortunate similarities- the burdens of leadership. 

Electricity and Safety, the two demons that bedeviled the good state. Keeping the people content with the ways of the city state required providing them amenities and illumination - but the local production facilities were not increasing output to match the populace of the towns. Even with every adult male trained in the use of a weapon, there was always the threat of those ungodly creatures. Rare was the day that less than a dozen congregated outside the gates of the ABERHAM research campus, and there always seemed to be a steady stream of them from the concrete islands of New Orleans, the ruins of Mobile, swarms from the crater that was the original Birmingham - scouts had tracked one group all the way back to the CDC campus in Georgia.

And then there were the heretics. Duncan was willing to soften his father's language to just the lazy - but then mother would chime in that sloth is a deadly sin. Whatever name was attached, the problem was, people just weren't willing to empty their hands of the old ways and grab onto the rope of right conduct. Perhaps women had shown themselves equals in the past, but now a steady home environment and division of labor was required. Certain devious lifestyles had been allowed, but now that the time had come to rebuild civilization, the obligation was to do so correctly and by the book.

It was always a bit vexing that the population could at once be growing too fast for the services, and yet not fast enough as outsiders were reluctant to join the church.

Nothing would take him from his father's shadow, but he hoped to shine a bit of light on his own. Duncan had never wanted to be a senator or president, but now he was in charge of both the physical functioning and spiritual security of over a dozen villages held together by his father's dream.

He removed the interface glasses and rubbed his temples, then swiveled the chair to look out the window. A few taps on the suit's arm turned down the air conditioning another two degrees. Rank had its privileges.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heavy is the head...

The office was decorated in somewhat out of date "dream wave" style. No straight lines when gentle curves could be used instead, almost everything a clear acrylic except for one white patch on the desk that held its internal electronics. Blue painted natural bamboo mats covered the floor, off setting the otherwise sterile lack of color on the walls or in the furniture. At quick glace, it looked like a floating white panel and trio of cushions floating over an ocean, before one picked up the furniture edges. A large picture window faced West, framing the sun as it turned the landscape red at dusk. Despite the UV filtering glass, there were still differently colored regular patches on the wall where the current occupant had removed the former's personal effects and photos.

Victor H.R. Seagram was also a bit out of date in style. Most people had given up on older forms of dress. Wearable computers were a bit stiff, and after too much flexing and washing, simply broke, even if there were no tears or holes. Nor did the weather this time of year really lend itself to large patches of skin covered by plastic fibers.Indeed, it was often warm enough in the buildings that there was a movement to make public nudity allowable. If that was the only issue he had to worry about, he'd have found religion just to than god for it.

But the man who insisted on suits or sport coats to keep to appearance of his job as mayor had far bigger things than that. (And the answer would continue to be no - people had standards, after-all). Citizen recon-aircraft had been spotted last week, an Argentine submarine had been tracked, and there were only a few months more of uranium for the power plant.Weather like this wasn't helping the farms either. And yet another group of teenagers ran off of r a three day adventure in the old cities. If the police couldn't keep their own kids in, how were they supposed to keep things out?

And those damn god squads. The witch burners in Birmingham had been making overtures to join for two years, maybe more. Certainly it could help the supply situation, and in theory, double the amount of US territory considered under government control - even if it wasn't necessarily the old congress.

Mr. Seagram had be considering a run later in the decade, mayor of an arco project was a pretty good resume for being a representative.

But now they were just getting nasty. Trade deals had been getting less and less fair, and now it seems some church affiliated groups had actually attacked some wasteland patrols. Rumors had it that the other city state was gearing up for a conflict.

And on a purely personal level, he couldn't well deal with a group that thought of his mothers and an abomination.

He removed the interface glasses and rubbed his temples, then swiveled the chair to look out the window. A few taps on the suit's arm turned down the air conditioning another two degrees. Rank had its privileges.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Human Space Travel Overview

Its more than a little ironic that the humans conform more to science fiction than the aliens. The citizens are not a hive mind, but the human sphere was an attempt to invent a computerized one. Citizen armies used careful tactics, area denial, and targeted infrastructure during the event, while desperate humans attacked piecemeal - rather than the reverse as seen in B-movies. To the dog sized aliens, humans are the towering monsters. But most of all - human space ships are the stuff of imagination, citizen ones, rather ungainly.

Of course, there is no one ideal design of human spaceship. Indeed there are over a dozen types, though they are split into four main categories:
  • HOOT: Human Occupied Orbital Transport
  • CAT: Cargo Access Transport
  • LRET: Long Range Exploratory Transport
  • HIDEN: HIgh DElta-V Nuclear

HOOT units are the usual space plane many think of - sleek spearhead shaped craft that carry brave people into orbit. There are numerous ways of getting these craft off the ground - some are released from piggy-back aircraft, and others accelerated along a launch ramp like an old V-1 buzz bomb. Once airborne, the choice doesn't end, a combination of hydrogen-oxygen propellants, Bio-kerosene , or even powdered metals sublimated by a ground based laser.

All have in common, however, small size and layers of safety systems to keep humans safe during launch, maneuvers, and re-entry.

CATs are the classic "Big Dumb Rocket" or sometimes exotic launch technologies using lasers use to put large objects into space. A lack of human passengers makes them cheaper to operate, and allows for higher accelerations and faster launches.


Although citizen ships look nothing like classic flying saucers, LRETs do. These are giant wheels, spun to produce artificial gravity, thus keeping the occupants healthy for long flights.

Time is money, and if a problem were to arise on either Mars, or an asteroid mining outpost, a conventional Holman transfer orbit could take years. Thus a small number of unmanned, fission powered nuclear rockets are kept in lunar orbit, ready to run on a 2g brachistone trajectory (that is, constant acceleration until the half way point at 19.6 meters second, then reversing and breaking at that rate) to quickly move materials around the solar system.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Caravan Master

Quinn looked like he was sewn together from old leather and scrap metal. His face showed a dozen deep scars, mostly on the same side as the clicking cybernetic replacement arm, which managed to look rusty and dull despite being made out of nigh impossible to corrode metal oxides and ceramics. If there was any further scarring, it was hidden under a pair of work overalls and tactical vest, every one of the dozen pockets bulging with something or other. Metal fingers drummed on the table as he waited for the beer to arrive.

Joey was about the same size as Quinn - which is to say, large - but didn't seem to exert the same air of confidence and menace. Rather timid in nature, he probably never would, unless a close range grenade changed his disposition and complexion - as one had for his new boss.

   "Joesph - describe a type two for me."
   "What - I'm sorry sir?"
   "Describe a type two reanimate. I want to be sure you've got a good eye before we take you out."
   "Of course, course. They're the ones that look sick. Not just unkempt, but downright mangy - lost hair, lost skin, oozing sores. They stagger when they walk, tend to be more hunched over - unlike the others that keep in a straight line."
   "Good. How do you tell an EVANS from an Eisenhower?"
"Eisenhower - that is the power armor - right? Kind of space suit thing - fishbowl helmet with visor, big flat squared off chest, arms and legs look a bit too short for human proportion, but its overall about seven feet tall. I don't think I know what an EVANS is."
   "You don't really know what an Eisenhower is either. Close, but all wrong on the head. Even if you can't tell the size of a PA, always look at the head. The MacArthur - big round head, a sensor dome really - its above the pilot. Eisenhower looks like an old fire-helmet, kind of peaked, a bill running down the back to protect the neck. EVANS looks like an old sthalhelm."
   "Don't apologize! Its not like you run into these things every day. Its just a good idea to know what your dealing with, because on the rare occasion you do come across one, something important is happening."
   "So, what is an EVANS?"
   "Short answer, stealth power-armor. Its all angular, with some odd spikes that redirect radios or act as antennas or something, and a big cape that helps hide its heat signature. The damn thing looks like something out of an old anime really - the evil wizard's signature armor."
   "How did something like that get built?"
   "You're asking the wrong person. All I do know is if that waitress doesn't hurry up..."
   "You mean the one behind you?"
   "Damn it!"

The blond lady put down two mugs of warm ale on the table, and a loaf of fresh bread. Fancy establishment - most just had a front counter and a person calling numbers. Given the need for workers elsewhere, the service industry had be rather hard hit as of late.
   "That reminds me kid, this is a rather weird place. Not many stores let you shop yourself anymore. Its always a keeper behind the counter looking through shelves and finding the order, no sense in letting people try to pull a fast one."
   "McGinty takes it as a matter of pride that citizens can see for themselves the community stocks, rather than have one person take up the book keeping. The fact that we hanged his predecessor for altering the books might also have something to do with it."
   "Could've sworn the past tense was hung, but the neck is snapped all the same."
   "Well, lets turn this quiz away from language to more practical matters. What can you tell me about the types of multi-fuel vehicles available..."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Political Citizens

Great way to start the days after a make-up week, I know. Fourth of July celebrations and the recovery had me away from my computer longer than expected.

Hobbes was his usual self - tall, lanky, balding on top but a neat beard below - and stretched out on the floor looking over the details of some tiny mechanism. It was like a cat playing with a mouse - the project would be almost done, and then into pieces again. As Diego often pointed out - "I'm glad you don't deliver babies that way".

Sing-sing on the other hand, had affixed a small band around her neck, and then folded up a pair of extending arms to put lenses in-front of her larger eyes to do some reading. It didn't strike anyone as the most efficient way to build a pair of glasses - but a normal pair of frames wouldn't really work on here ear-less horse like face.

The alien spoke first, shrill and high pitched, but a valiant effort to avoid using the translation device. "Diego When might get back?"
   "Its a pretty bad storm out there. I'm half inclined to turn the transmitter on charging batteries be damned to give him a better beacon."
   "I past offer to go. Eekaidie has warm units and cargo can carry."
   "Even if you claimed to be our friend, I don't think the people would appreciate that machine appearing on their doorstep. Besides, it can't be easy to haggle through a vocorder. Diego could sell ice in Siberia."
   "He's good."
Sing-Sing gave an acknowledging whistle and a quick head horizontal shake.
   "So long as the one who is always touchy about family and government is away, I might as well ask - what is the Planetary Citizen government like?"
   "I try not to be present for that either."
   "You seem to be willfully ignorant of most aspects of citizen life."

Sing-Sing unclipped her glasses, and replaced them with the microphone for the translator. It gave a few warning tones and then stated "fast rocks skip on slow water under five blue moons."
   "Why does that machine always say that?"
   "It is a tongue-twit-er in our lang-wage. A good test for systems. Supposedly. Or the people were tired of boring mono-tone."
   "The machine has improved quite a bit. Bored they may be, the designers did a good job. Now, as for politics?"
   "Old style gov-ern-ment is based on the rule of four. True to Beu-orc-ra-see, that takes ten people. In ideal, one decides, two debate each side of issue for them. Three do re-search or find papers to assist the two. Four carry out the will. Some times this means spread word of law. Many other take it to mean to kill offenders. The one is often a family head, the two are representatives such as members of other family or heads of guild."
   "Hmm, kind of like a trial. A judge listens to the prosecution and defense. The three find the evidence and needed paperwork."
   "So if that is the old style, is there a new one in place?"
   "That is fine for one family or guild. But how to represent a large number of people? We elect groups, the one who has the strongest coalition assigns a temporary leader, that the others proceed to complain about, rally against, reshuffle, and any appearance of work getting done is by chance."
   "A rather cynical parliamentary democracy. Well, its nice to see all those old movies are wrong about us being invaded by single minded tyrants or hive-mind insects."
   "Of course, supposedly the Eye [long squelch] flowing [shorter squeal] [static]..." Sing sing stamped her back feet, shifted her head up, and her lower hands turned palm up "You don't have the word for it in your language. A brotherhood of professional killers."
"Hey, my mother... oh... that is kind of rude. But it might be something similar." She paused, "Stop Laughing."
   "Sorry, its just amusing to figure out what is a dirty joke or an epithet to aliens.But, I can see why a shadow government of killers would be something to avoid."
   "Just like Mexico was, "Diego cut in, "I'm back by the way. They didn't have that soup you liked, but they did have some nice winter brews. Anyone want to cook while I change?"
  "Well, given that she is an insectivore and can't read most of the cans, I guess its up to me."
  "Ok, see you in five."
   "Well sing sing, I guess we'll have to continue this later, if its all right with you."
   "I'll think about it."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hunter's Legion

Known Markings:
A large triangle with its hypotenuse facing up, with the bottom half covered by a smaller triangle in a similar orientation. From either of the angled sides of the smaller triangle, and the center top of the large one is a is a right angle crook. Overall, it gives a very rough impression of an eagle with wings spread.

Members are encouraged to have the glyph on armbands or other adornments, but otherwise there is no standard dress code.
The group is run rather like a parliamentary monarchy. Octavius Hunter maintains himself as the moral center with oversight, but most decisions are determined democratically by a representative from each century (80-100 people).

Estimated Forces:
 So far, they are far short of the 1000 member goal, counting only 345 in the ranks.
Notable Equipment:
The Legion is not particularly well equipped, but it does have a lot more good will than most groups. Oftentimes, the group will donate equipment to those who need it. However, the group has managed to acquire a few pieces of very heavy equipment - helicopters and tanks - though only about a half dozen of each. However, as tools to resupply those in need or break blockades, they have earned quite a bit of non-combat goods in thanks.
"As the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. But it may well have been created in one. No projects, no armies, no planning - just people agreeing that they had something good worth protecting." - Legionnaire Octavius Hunter.
Octavius saw the Event as the sad ending of a chapter of humanity. However, this also meant a new chapter was beginning. A chance to inscribe a new book of life, a clean sheet free of previous injustice. 

Mr. Hunter set the goal of creating a full century of a hundred men, then expanded it to a full cohort of ten such centuries. He felt that if he could raise a full thousand people dedicated to helping others without allegiance to an old state or new city, he could truly change the world.
So far, he counts about 345, though a number of these are not quite the good people he'd like. 
Many see Hunter as too soft hearted for the zone. He often grants refuge, and although he might expel a member based on accusations, he won't turn them over to a mob or settlement seeking damages or revenge.
More of a problem is that there are more ruthless people who want to run things. They're just waiting for the legion to get strong enough and then stage a coup once a full army can be theirs.
For the time being though, it is still a nomadic group dedicated to delivering messages, helping others, and combating bandits. This has earned a lot of good will from other groups, even the notorious tower Reversed is fairly respectful of them. However, many of the bigger establishments find the group troublesome. New Birmingham doesn't like the idea of new Romans, the US government finds their refusal to commit themselves to the old nation troubling, and bandits in general don't like a bunch of goody-two-shoes.  It is unknown ho long the Legion can last under these conditions.
As an aside to new readers - this blog will be returning to its normal Monday-Wednesday-Friday Posting beginning next week,  and will continue as such barring the need to make up for further missed entries. Thanks for making June the month with the highest amount of views yet.