Wrote this a while ago, but I did it on paper so it's just been sitting, waiting, unshared. This started off as the same setting, and indeed same character, as the thing about cold medicine, but it somehow managed to drift sideways into another world. I can actually pinpoint the exact word where the shift happened. That word is Erin. The character of Erin, and her associated backstory, do not really fit into my original, very vague, concept of what kind of a world the first thing was set in.
Where massive plot holes exist, I maintain that they are probably Erin's fault
I saw an oil rig once when I was little. It's my first memory. My family went on a cruise, as we made the journey from port to the open ocean we passed through a forest of them. I remember looking at one through the railing at the edge of the ship. It was like a great metal island on stilts, towering into the air. Like a floating island from a children's story, only it wasn't among the clouds in some far off place, it was right in front of me, with others stretching off into the distance until they dotted the horizon.
People like to hear me talk about it, they like to hear me describe what it was like to see it tower up above, they like to hear about the cranes atop it and how it felt like if that safety rail weren't there I could reach out and touch it. They expect me to remember what color it was and are disappointed if I admit that I can't. I think the reason that they care so much is that it gives them a connection to a bygone time, it allows them to imagine a golden age when men could build such things and humanity ruled over nature.
What they forget is that even at the height of civilization when those behemoths were actually in use a significant portion of oil production in the country was from little wells in the ground. They'd just sit there, in the woods or on a farm, collecting oil while the world ignored them.
Erin's father didn't forget about them. Before the last gas pump ran dry, before the last abandoned car had been siphoned, before the great hulking tanks had been emptied, he was out finding those wells. He claimed the abandoned ones and made deals the owners who hadn't abandoned theirs. By the time the masses came to grips with the idea that no more tankers would make harbor he was the local oil industry.
Of course, I'm told, oil in it's pure form isn't that useful. It's just gunk that burns. We live in the woods; everything burns. To save a portion of prefall technology required refined oil. Erin's mother had foreseen that and, by the time crude was coming in she was ready to make it into something people could use. A business partnership made sense, things progressed as things do, and that is why Erin exists.
To be honest, besides generators (for the perimeter floodlights) and one other thing I have no idea what they use the gas for. But that other thing is pretty significant. Anyone who can muster a helicopter in this day and age is practically a force of nature.
Erin is heir to that force of nature family, but she'd also a part of the new generation, raised with no concept of how things used to be. She has no idea how the powerful are supposed to act. That, and she wasn't raised on stories of islands in the clouds, she was told stories of independent little princesses who ran away to have adventures with dragons. I suppose it is unsurprising that more often than not she can be found outside the walls.
But to truly understand her you need to realize that she didn't want to be the little princess, she wanted to the dragon. Which is why, multiple times now, I've had my ass pulled out of the fire by a great flying metal beast piloted by an upstart from the post fall generation.
I like to think that if I had a daughter she'd be a lot like Erin.
Actually, it seems like nothing I'm writing in this setting goes the way I expect. The “Maybe we're overreacting,” person in the following was originally supposed to be a completely reasonable non-dickish individual, and may very well become one again should I ever try to convert these various scenes into a semi-coherent narrative. He just felt like a bit of an ass as I was writing this. The reason he likely won't stay an ass if this is all combined into a single story is that in the larger context I don't think it makes sense to have an asshole in the room.
“Maybe we're overreacting.”
“They have a fucking tank.”
“Yes,” It was the kind of annoyed yes that indicates the person saying it doesn't understand why the person they are responding to deserves a response or is even in the same room as them. “I know that,” he paused, apparently for effect, but unless the desired effect was to have me think he was a prick I don't think it worked out how he'd hoped, “but they can't fit their entire army inside it. If they take heavy losses they'll have to retreat.” He made a show of turning his entire body to face me, and said, “Taking the tank with them.” He turned back to the others. “They can't beat us.”
I suppressed the urge to throttle him, put some effort into keeping a civil tone, and said, “I don't think they need to.” I stepped up to the map and pointed, “If we're right this is the route they'll be taking. Right through the old city.”
“So, if you go there and do everything right - tread softly, cover your scent, take every precaution - you're guaranteed to stir up ten to a hundred zombies. That's one person. When they march an army through there, the sound and stench of countless soldiers combined with whatever noise a tank makes is going to wake things that haven't stirred in decades.
“We're talking about thousands upon thousands of walking dead. They'll be no bother to the army, it's moving too fast for the zombies to catch it, but they will catch its scent and they'll follow it,” I traced my finger along the map, from the old city to our town, “right to us. When they get here what do you think will happen if a tank has knocked holes in our walls? The army can simply move off. We can't. This is our home, everything we depend on to survive is here. We can't pick up and leave. How do you plan on holding off a horde like that? How many bullets do we have, how many arrows?
“The army can simply wait until we've all been eaten or turned, then they can pass by upwind, lead the zombies away, and circle back to collect their spoils.
“They don't need to beat us, they just need to weaken our defenses.”
No one spoke. I broke the silence by adding, “That's just with the local help. We have no idea what's already in their wake. Imagine if they're coming here by way of New York.”
“We don't need to worry about that,” Erin said. “Zombies wouldn't follow them for hundreds of miles, not at the speed they're going.” She was right.
We just needed to worry about several thousand local zombies.