Vass, North Carolina
[Aaron Worth stands in the middle of a field, tugging a hoe through the dirt of a large, walled in garden. Beyond him is a stilted house that is clearly a post-war build. A rifle is still slung on his back, despite the fortification. During the war, Worth served as a special attachment to Army Group South – he was the first of many "Whistleblowers" to aid in the relief of the larger cities of the eastern U.S.]
It wasn’t my idea. A lot of people ask me that. Nope. Some guy with thick glasses must have dreamt this up, because the idea at first seems ridiculous. I know I laughed in the Sergeants face when he proposed it to me. I mean, seriously, take a loud ass train deep into Zackland and hope to God you don’t get bogged down and eaten alive. Yea, sure, sounds like a plan.
So, that is how this whole “Whistleblower” thing got going. Some guy said to some other guy who must have known a guy who said, “Hey! Lets throw any poor, dumb fuck who worked on trains into an engine and send them on their merry way into D.C. or Atlanta.”
[We walk up to the house and sit on the porch. He offers me a glass of water and lights up a Q for himself]
You know, I didn’t smoke before the war.
[He takes a drag and sets it on a butt-laden ashtray]
So, back to this “Whistleblower” business. Yes, I was the first ones in on this crazy scheme. They had this old ass engine ready to go and everything. I swear, you wouldn’t find an engine like that outside of the history books, and that is for damned sure. The military had put this big, giant loudspeaker assembly on top and armored it to hell and gone. They said it would remain stable on the tracks, would be slow, but would be able to push through any Gs that got in our way. Sounds good right? Like being in a tank. [He rolls his eyes]
So they told you it would be safe?
Hell no! Safe? Nothing was “safe” back then. They couldn’t say for sure that Zack couldn’t just knock it over or bog it down and trap me in the city or whatever. I said, “Oh! In that case, why not?” I mean, I had worked on the railroad for a while; it was a hard job with good pay and I got to travel. They had lines up and down the coast, most of which weren’t in too bad of shape. We didn’t lose too many folks; at least not once we set up the basic routine.
What was the casualty rate?
Something like fifty percent at first, but near the last few months, we didn’t lose anybody. It became just another part of the crazy world we had accepted. Drive into town blowing your horns as loud as you can, get the ghouls all hot and bothered, then just bug out with as many moaning Gs as you could.
We must have lost a good chunk of those casualties to ruined lines and blockages. Can you imagine getting stuck in a giant tin can surrounded by Zack trying to scrape their way in? A few guys hung on. Sometimes, we could get to them, but most of the time they just cracked an L-pill and went on to some better place.
[The cigarette in the ashtray has gone out, so he lights another with a thoughtful drag]
Those were hard times, early on. I remember when we had to go into Atlanta. We had gone up through the south, from New Orleans and that area. This wasn’t our first shot at a really, really big city, but fuck! Atlanta. That place was huge, but we had to lure them out to try and bring the numbers in the city down. The brass didn’t want to touch that place and who can blame them? Estimates placed the number of Gs at four to ten million.
Why such a discrepancy?
Well, how could anyone really tell? The days of satellite feeds and all that were long gone. So, they had to guess. A few flights went over on their way through and shot us an estimate. Big swarms. Some of the eggheads said that the area was so dense that it was likely a Chain Swarm effect and had brought in hundreds of thousands from around the entire area.
If you didn’t know, there were actually some survivors too. Can you imagine? That many of those fuckers milling about and some people eked out a living in skyscrapers and all that. How they hung on for so long is beyond me. Shit, I just lived day-to-day at that point. Just before Atlanta, in a live-run in Albany I had lost about four buddies in the span of a week. That is hard on anybody, especially when it looked like we were going to survive this living hell after all
Believe it or not, one of them was bitten while taking a piss outside of the engine warming up outside the city. Hell of a thing, right? Caught with his pants down. Before anyone noticed, the fucker had taken a chunk out of his ass. Being practical as Terry was, he plugged the G and blew his own brains out.
We lost one in an engine overturned into an embankment. The roll must have knocked him out or just killed him. Some Secessionists shot the other two, if you can believe that. They holed up in some big fortress of a house covered in camo netting and shit. They had these big, nasty scoped rifles and a few years worth of practice on Zack. Mick and Joe didn’t even know what hit them, which is a hell of a better way to go than some ways I’ve seen.
What was it like personally?
Are you kidding? It was terrifying. Not one moment went by that you weren’t scared shitless. I must have done it more than anyone and I can’t say I ever, ever wanted to get back in those engines and do it each time, but I did. That was what was needed and it worked most of the time. A few times I bogged down and thought to myself, “Well kid, you had a nice run but your time is officially up!”
A few times we would see survivors. That was hard. They would wave flags and try to get our attention like we were the damned rescue wagon. [He frowns] We had to drive on by groups of people just begging to let them on board. Some would struggle and try to jump on as we went under overpasses and near buildings and shit. I saw more than one fall, more like dozens of them in each city. Hard to imagine that anyone was alive in these places, but the sight of someone leaping to their death just for the hope of rescue was too much for some guys.
In general, though, the idea worked? It brought the zombies out of the cities and into the soldiers waiting for them?
Damned straight. They would have those RSs all set and just go to work once I passed through. Clever, I guess. It still leaves me drenched when I jump ten feet out of bed with a nightmare of Zack or riding in that damned engine for hours and hours with them clawing at the outside. Jesus, I know a lot of those heros go on about how they would do it all over again. Shit. Not me! I am no coward, because I did it, but if I had the option of a nice, sun-in-the-fun vacation riding the waves of the Pacific1. and a trip through Zackland again, which do you think I would take?
1. He refers to the common misconception that sea-going survivors had it easier than the land-based ones.