Unfinished Tales: Blessed at the Geek

#UnfinishedTales are snippets of stories, often just partial scenes, I began to write and then abandoned. Usually I just didn’t have time to focus on them (as there is always paying work to be done), and then the muse moved along. Sometimes I forget I ever started writing them, and have no idea where I was going by the time I found them again. Sometimes I never meant to finish. Don’t begin any #UnfinishedTales expecting complete bit of fiction… or even a story arc. These are the literary equivalent of half-rendered sketches, gestures at the most, and there’s no chance you’ll ever see them finished. If a glimpse into my brain sounds interesting, have a look. Otherwise, skip these.

Blessed are the Geek

Obviously, we hadn’t meant to be ready for the end of the world. We were no more prophetic or brilliant than anyone else. My social circle wasn’t filled with marines, rocket scientists, or disaster planners, though we had one of each of those. There was, really, no special reason why we should pull through the apocalypse in so much better shape than everyone else. We just happened to have developed a Zombie Survival Plan, as a group. So when the dead began walking the Earth eating people, we knew what to do.

The ZSP (Zombie Survival Plan) hadn’t been a serious undertaking. Like many things geeks do it just started as a casual conversation, and blossomed out of control. I think we all have slightly different memories of how it started, but we agree on the broad strokes. Steve and Megan were comparing the original Dawn of the Dead to the remake – Steve favoring the original of course, with Megan much more into the “modern” version – when Steve mentioned we even had a mall we could flee to – Valley Brook Mall — if the Zombie Apocalypse really struck. Megan just snorted, and pointed out Valley Brook had been built in 1974 and had vast stretches of glass and way more room than we’d need. It would be a focal point for a lot of survivors because of the Dawn of the dead movies, likely filled with walkers (she always preferred that term to zombie – “Unless there’s actual voodoo involved”), had very few retailers that would have camping supplies or canned goods, and would be impossible to defend. It was, in short, a deathtrap.

Steve tried to defend his choice, but the rest of us backed Megan, because she was right. Naturally that lead to a discussion of what would make a good anti-zombie fortress. It was soon agreed that not only was Valley Brook Mall a terrible choice, any mall or megastore was likely to be both too popular and too hard to defend to make a good choice. We ran through a lot of other choices that night – the Land Run Amusement Park, Great Rafts Water Park, the country jail, the “Trash Compactor” (an ugly concrete building added to the local university in the 1950s and supposedly designed with no windows in the lower 5 stories so it could be used to protect faculty in case of student riots), but all of them got rejected by the group for one reason or another. By the time we broke up for the night we had all decided “we’re screwed” was the most likely answer in case of a zombie rising, and forgot about it.

Well, all of us but Jeff.

To understand how we came to have a fully actionable ZSP, you have to understand Jeff. Jeff is about a decade older than the rest of us, lives with his father and two brothers in a huge (if dilapidated) house at the edge of town, knows more about computer programming and hardware than anyone else I know, and has no social life. None other than hanging out with us, in any case. He’s an old-school wargamer, runs the university wargaming club (“The Big Boomers”), and doesn’t seem to understand things like personal bubbles, white lies, ambition, or why a story about how a group of green Union cavalrymen charging — in formation — down a hill, through a creek, and up another hill while Confederate cannons fire at them the whole time isn’t interesting the eighth or ninth time you hear it. Or why it’s not interesting at all to anyone who isn’t into tabletop miniature wargames.

But Jeff is also a great guy who never puts his own needs over anyone else’s. And a few of us were into wargames, myself included, so Jeff had become part of our social circle. And once he was part of our circle, we couldn’t have gotten rid of him short of throwing rocks at him, Lassie-style. And Jeff never lets anything go.

So when our group got together again a month later for one of Megan’s Geek Feasts (and honestly that was the only home cooked meals some of us got most months), Jeff was ready to take up the question of where to ride out a Zombie Holocaust. And just as we were all about to tell Jeff we didn’t want to have the same argument over again, Jeff started pulling out paper. Official city disaster plans. Topographical maps. Building codes. Retailer directories. Bike paths. Population density surveys.

Jeff doesn’t do thing half-assed.

About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on September 26, 2015, in Short Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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