For the twentieth time today I find myself staring at SCUGS, the stuffed Eagle on my workstation and wonder what the hell I'm doing. I should be grateful; I could be out there running like everyone else.
I've finally finished my Necra Depletion Report for the first squad I was given. I still remember them, trapped outside when I couldn't work out the difference between a safehouse and an abandoned supply depot. It's all there in the report; it's been forwarded to Central. My fate is in their hands.
The radio crackles again, the familiar voice of Emogene echoes through my headset. She's tired now, the last eleven days have done that to her. She never knew when she left her house she'd be my eyes on the ground.
This time it's just a standard four hour check in. Things are going well; other people’s deaths have taught me how to avoid foolish mistakes. What began as a team of three recently became a foursome. Today has been the huge gamble.
They've gotten the hell out of Hollywood. Over the hills and north, the new NECRA upgrades helped them rendezvous with other survivors. They stumbled on a whole stock of food, and more importantly they have hope.
Twelve of them sit in a string of safehouses now, resting and recovering from a day where at my urging they pumped their bodies full of drugs and painkillers so they wouldn't stop, We chat for a while, try to come up with a plan. She believes I have all the answers, and I know that without her being there I would be powerless.
For a moment I catch sight of Robert Hatch sitting at his workstation, reviewing satellite data, and scribbling furiously. He's the only one of us who still uses his real name when he talks to the outside world.
I tell Emogene to rest and recover. Now she's got to find enough food and water for twelve people. Scanning the frequencies I see there’s another two trapped survivors near her latest shelter.
Tomorrow she'll be responsible for 14 lives.
I power the console down and go to sleep on my bed. Other operatives continue to work, listening to life and death. I never talk to them anymore. Locked up in safety, well stocked and free from fear, they aren't important anymore.
Two weeks of success. I thought after the loss of my squad Central would have relieved me of my position, to face a firing squad, or worse. All I received was a simple two line Acknowledgement. I don’t even know if it’s from a person or automatically generated.
Finally I've got Emogene's Necra File transferred to me. Apparently there was a problem with the spelling of her name. At last I have a picture of her. She looks much younger than I remembered. She's even smiling.
Two weeks without losing a single survivor. That's Emogene's gift to me, keeping the ragtag band of individuals together. In the end there were 15 of them, well fed and watered. Armed and secure and setting up their own infirmary.
Then Griffith Manor Park Happened.
SCUGS readouts showed density at 10%, and there were 9 well armed survivors. Margarito takes almost half an hour to tell me the story, but I already knew what had happened.
Emogene is gone.
I take comfort in the fact that she received a decent burial. Half her team had been equipped with shovels, and in these times it's a rare honour. When I die, I'm sure my colleagues will receive condolences from NECRA. Who knows if that will be an automated message as well.
I've rung the changes. The Squads are splitting now, with three leaders instead of one. Margarito, Leo and Dante. Less responsibility for them, more help from me.
It’s no coincidence that they're all male.
Standard procedure after a fatality is to shred the deceased file and recycle the paper. They're no longer important and we need to manage every resource.
I shred the file, but I keep the picture. It's pinned above me work station on the blank wall. Looking around for signs of dissent, only Hatch seems to notice. He nods at me, and then returns to his writings.
I smile grimly to myself. I need two more good weeks.
Another day, another death.
This one is different as it happens to be Phillips - NECRA operative Number 44-127. He used to sit behind me, at console six.
From what we can work out he'd been using the Amphetamines designed for field operatives on himself. With most of us working shifts no one had noticed that he'd been awake for six days.
His body now sits in the refrigeration unit, on a shelf between the frozen meat and the ice cream. We can't get outside for a proper burial. Thankfully someone covered him in a sheet before he froze solid. Its so strange seeing the empty chair all the time.
There's another problem. NECRA guidelines specifically state that any unexplained death must be reported to the Internal Affairs Team. No one here wants an agent cleared to use lethal force arriving.
So we lied. As far as Central knows he's still alive. We take turns to file his reports, scan for survivor activity in his sector and take his shifts.
Things are finally slowing down. Fewer and fewer survivors are radioing for help from our sector. It seems more operative stations have come online.
Heche, the youngest operative here has suggested in light of Phillip's death that we work in pairs, checking each other for signs of fatigue, making sure we don't give suicidal orders. It's a good idea and it also means I can share my guilt.
My squads continue to grow. Leo and his team have almost reached the Coast. One of them is a motorboat mechanic and they plan to create a safehouse on one of ships still in the docks. I'm not going to tell them not to. It's good they have their own plan.
To the north, Margarito's team are well stocked and safe in a NECRA safehouse. Zombies seem to becoming better at attacking the apartments they normally hide in. Tomorrow they plan on raiding a nearby Police Department.
More new survivors worry me. A squad of three has become six, and because of that they have no food or drink for today. Its a real problem that's just become worse.
NECRA Directive 83 - Scarcity Warnings.
The whole city is running out of food. No one's making anything, no ones growing anything. We still have mouths to feed and parched throats to wet.
...and then there's Flora.
Flora Porch, Hippy through and through, took herself and two other girls across the Hollywood hills past a couple of schools, found them all enough food and drink for two weeks and even a water purifier for her trouble. For a women who loves everyone, a gentle ramble has turned into a journey of self discovery.
Tomorrow will be hard for those still trapped in L.A. It's time for all of them to get out of this damned city.
I prayed for two good weeks.
I'm halfway through now.
Things seem to be improving at NECRA. Several bulletins have been recieved, there's no doubt they're from real people.
NECRA Issue 14b. Software patches have now enabled webcams in NECRA safehouses to connect with the Network.
NECRA Hazard warning 12092. A reminder to all NECRA Operatives, please ensure your teams stay inside state boundaries. The ongoing situation at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station has yet to be resolved satisfactorily.
NECRA Standard Personal Message. Congratulations! After analysing your monthly report you have been awarded the designation of NECRA Operative. Please consult your hierarchical diagram (H17-a) for your new command position. May we take this opportunity to remind you to report all suspicious or potentially threatening behaviour immediately to Central.
I don't really have any time to celebrate. 43 survivors are now relying on me. Heche spends as much time organising my teams as he does with his own survivors. I'm worried that one day he'll have to make a decision about who to save.
I'm starting to forget their names. Thank God for the webcam updates. Its amazing what you can power with a solar cell. The wall to my right is now plastered with their NECRA I.D. photos. Emogene's picture still remains in the centre. She started this, it's important never to forget that. Its messy, but it helps me whenever a new face appears on the monitor.
In fairness all the walls are slowly being covered. Hatch used up half our supply of Ink Cartridges to print out a map of California stapled in small pieces to the bare concrete of the south wall. We all mark out squad positions on it. The last thing we want is squads running into each other in a darkened Government Building.
Looking at the State it amazes me how disparate and numerous my squads are. Leo's tracking south along the coast, with a smaller team in parallel hunting for routes through the red zones.
Margarito and Dante are both Driving north west towards San Francisco Bay. It seems they've made a wager; first one to Alcatraz gets the water condenser and security shutters they've found.
Flora is heading eastwards, towards San Dimas. For some reason she believes its got a Mall and an "Excellent" water park. Heche laughed when I told him, but the joke's lost on me.
Finally there's the newer survivors. They're a new challenge. Hershel and Otha were part of a German tour group. The language barrier isn't helping. I've sent out an open broadcast to the other operatives for a German speaker. For now the only word I've managed to learn is "Leiche", it's a start.
And then there's Alex. When he was rescued, he refused to leave his college. He's still there, a single survivor scavenging just for himself. He seems to be doing better than anyone. I'm guessing the zombies don't think chasing after a single man is worth it when survivors are around every corner.
I've stopped scanning for new emergency broadcasts. I've reached my limit. Forty three lives is enough responsibility for me.
I don't want to end up like Phillips.