Aboard the Mauro Altieri, Three Thousand Feet Above Vaalajarvi, Finland. The narrator is with General D’Ambrosia aboard the Combat Information Center (CIC), Europe’s command and control dirigible. He tells the narrator he was shocked and reluctant to go to war against the zombies. He was afraid he’d be sending his soldiers to die since there were 200 million zombies for them to contend with. The prospects for victory were slim. Everything he knew about war had to be thrown out the window since this new enemy was unlike any that humanity had ever known—it didn’t need to be “bred, fed, and led” like people, and “Zack operated [by] swelling his ranks by thinning [theirs].” This enemy would “never negotiate, never surrender.”
D'Ambrosia was reluctant to lead his soldiers to what he considered would be certain defeat against their fearless, ever-multiplying enemy. He knew from the start that this war would be a very difficult one. D’Ambrosia seems to be a considerate leader who valued his soldiers’ lives, unlike the Chinese politburo who had no problem with sending their huge armies to certain death, and unlike the Russian authorities who resorted to the Decimations to ensure that their soldiers followed orders.
Denver, Colorado, USA. The narrator has just finished dinner with Todd Wainio at his house. He tells the narrator that the “new army” was “like stepping back in time.” While the army he’d fought with at Yonkers had been completely mechanized, this time the soldiers marched on foot carrying Lobos, using a few vehicles only to carry their ammo. Their BDUs (battle dress uniforms) were light and comfortable, and were interwoven with Kevlar, which were bite-proof threads. Their primary weapons were standard infantry rifles that were very basic but “super accurate.” The rifles had a flip-out spike that was about eight inches long that they could use if they didn’t have their Lobos handy.
The U.S. Army was much better prepared for their fight against the zombies this time around. They had learnt from their mistakes at Yonkers, and had kept things very simple, using only the most basic weapons that would be effective against the zombies. They had developed an impressive technology to keep their soldiers safe—their uniforms were made of “bite-proof” material. This time around, however, they used fancy technology for a reason, rather than having it be an end in itself or to only impress other people.
This time, it was very important for the soldiers to be able to have the endurance for long battles, and many otherwise good soldiers couldn’t take the long hours and the strain. The new army was composed of many former civilians who could stay calm under pressure, and Wainio says that they were all “veteran[s] in some sense” since they had survived until that point. For instance, his battle buddy was a 52-year-old nun who’d protected her Sunday school students for nine days, armed with nothing but an iron candlestick.
The army had completely changed the way they thought about fighting, and had even changed their recruitment policies to include civilians who could endure a long battle and stay calm under pressure. This kind of adaptation seems smart and essential since they were fighting an enemy that was very different from others that they had fought before. Wainio mentions that life during the outbreak had been so hard on everyone that he considers anyone who had survived until that point to be a “veteran.”
At around 1 p.m., they got ready for battle at Hope, New Mexico. The Canine Units were bringing the zombies in and the soldiers loaded their guns and waited. They could see “Gs on the horizon, hundreds,” and Wainio began to shake. They called the dogs off and played loud Iron Maiden songs to entice the zombies, which also worked to “psych” the soldiers. Then the music faded and as the zombies crossed the markers on the ground, the front line was ordered to fire. The soldiers didn’t miss a single shot. They had been training in this exact way for months, and it was almost instinct now. They had been trained to fire “one shot every full second. Slow, steady, mechanical-like.” They were taught to pace themselves, and not hurry or panic. The Recharge Teams or “Sandlers” made sure their guns didn’t run out of ammo.
At the Battle of Yonkers, the slapdash battle plan had proven to be ineffective. This time around, the higher-ups had understood their enemy better and had carefully and responsibly planned for the fight. They had even put careful thought into choosing the locale for this fight, choosing Hope, New Mexico, for the positive connotations of its name. Despite the intensive training and the careful preparation to “not hurry or panic,” Wainio mentions that the sight of the zombies approaching was still a terrifying one.
The battle continued into the night, with swarms of Gs approaching nonstop. There was a pile of corpses and the soldiers kept shooting “every head that popped over the top.” The zombies started approaching from all directions, and the soldiers were ordered to form a Reinforced Square, a technique they’d picked up from Raj-Singh. They kept their ammo and supplies in the center of the square. If the soldiers needed a short break, they had to just raise their guns and a Sandler would take their place. They also had Knock Out teams of “combat shrinks who were observing everyone’s performance” and would identify who needed a rest even if they hadn’t asked for one.
The army superiors had planned on the battle being a long one, and they were proved right as the zombies kept approaching the soldiers well into the night. However, the training and careful preparation seems to have paid off as the soldiers didn’t miss a single zombie. The careful preparation for battle also included rest breaks for the soldiers with psychiatrists present to identify the soldiers who were getting tired—these steps were respectful and considerate of the soldiers.
At around 4 a.m., the number of zombies started reducing, and finally stopped. The officers began looking relieved. In the light of the day, they saw that they “were totally walled in [by corpses], all sides were piled at least twenty feet height and over a hundred feet deep.” The next day, everyone felt optimistic after their first success.
Ainsworth, Nebraska, USA. Darnell Hackworth and his wife run a canine retirement center for veterans of the army’s K-9 Corps. He tells the narrator that the dogs don’t get enough credit for all they did. Their first important job was triage, or to sniff out the infected. Later, they were trained to lure zombies towards the soldiers, like at the Battle of Hope, and also to work as decoys to keep them away if the soldiers weren’t ready for them yet. They could also sniff out zombies from long distances and warn their handlers, and were also sent deep into infested territory wearing harnesses that had video cameras.
Hackworth details the ways in which Canine Units played their part in the war against the zombies. They were essential aids to soldiers, and their work helped save human lives.
Hackworth says that many dogs died in duty, and a large number of their handlers ended up committing suicide when their canine partners died. In fact, handlers were recruited for the ability to form deep bonds with the animals. Hackworth himself had been hired for this reason. He’d run from his house after the outbreak, and was sick and weak. Yet, when he’d seen two men mistreating a dog, he had fought them. The Guardsmen who broke up the fight had told him they had a job for him.
Hackworth describes how much soldiers loved their dogs, demonstrating the human capacity for kindness and attachment even at a time of crisis. Once again, the narrator emphasizes how feelings and emotions are what connect people (or in this case, dogs and people) to one another, and that’s why they’re so important to his narrative.
Siberia, The Holy Russian Empire. The narrator meets Father Sergei Ryzhkov, an old cleric, in a primitive shantytown. During the war, Ryzhkov served as chaplain at a Motor Rifle division. Unlike the Americans, they weren’t organized and suffered “many needless deaths.” When soldiers were bitten, their comrades did not want to kill them—it reminded them too much of the decimations. So, their leaders—officers and sergeants—were forced to do it, which was very damaging for them, and led to alcoholism and suicide. Another option was to let the bitten soldiers kill themselves, which was heartbreaking to witness.
The American troops seem to be famous all over the world for being organized and efficient. In contrast, Russian troops had too many casualties—too many of them were bitten by zombies and had to be killed. This seems evidence of their army’s lack of organization and planning, and, by extension, a lack of concern about its soldiers it was carelessly sending into battle.
Ryzhkov says that he was a religious man in a country that had forgotten religion, so none of these soldiers turned to him for comfort. As a chaplain, his only duties were to collect letters that the soldiers wrote to the families, and to distribute vodka. After one attack, he was walking among the bitten soldiers when he decided that he would be the one to kill them and save their souls from Hell. He realized that only holy men “should bear the cross of releasing trapped souls from infected bodies.” This message spread to every chaplain and civilian priest, and became known as the act of “Final Purification.” It was the reason Russia “emerged from that war as a nation of faith”—its people realized they could turn to God for “direction, courage, hope.”
Ryzhkov, as a religious man, believed that the soldiers’ souls would go to Hell if they committed suicide, so he wanted to spare them this fate by killing them himself. He seems to have meant well. He says that many religious men around the country took on this duty, and claims that this is why Russia became a religious country during the war—people began to turn to God once more since religious men took on the difficult burden of killing the infected, which was something that no one else wanted to do. They began seeing religion as a source of comfort once again.
The narrator asks Ryzhkov if those ideas were “perverted for political reasons” since the president had declared himself head of the Church. He wants to know if it’s true that priests were organized into “death squads” and assassinated people by falsely claiming they were infected. He asks Ryzhkov if that’s the reason he was moved to this shantytown. Ryzhkov evades the questions.
The narrator’s questions imply that Ryzhkov’s idea was used and perverted for political purposes. The Russian president used the excuse of religion to murder dissenters and consolidate his power. Ryzhkov seems to have just been a pawn who had a convenient idea, and he has now been cast aside into obscurity. The Russian president’s cruel actions can be contrasted with the American president’s ideals of democracy and justice since he insisted on having elections despite the zombie crisis.
Aboard USS Holo Kai, Off the Coast of the Hawaiian Islands. The narrator speaks with Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Choi inside a minisub called the Deep Glider 7. The ship lowers them into the ocean as Choi tells the narrator that his war hasn’t ended since millions of zombies are still being washed up on beaches everywhere. That’s why he is diving now to see how “to find them, track them, and predict their movements.”
Ten years after the war, American forces are still finding and disposing of zombies in the ocean. Even though the fighting has ended, the exhausting war against the zombies seems to be dragging on.
Choi wears an Atmospheric Diving Suit (ADS) when he works, which looks like “a space suit and a suit of armor all rolled into one.” It protects his body from pressure even at great depths. While mesh suits are much more agile, they don’t protect the wearer from zombie bites, which the ADS does. Also, ADS models have 48-hour life support, so divers can just wait for help to arrive if they get attacked by a zombie horde. Since it is impossible to fire a gun underwater, the weapon Choi uses is an M-11. It attaches to his forearm and fires four-inch-long steel rods. Initially, DeStRes thought they were too expensive but changed their minds after divers were attacked by a horde when they were trying to repair a natural gas platform.
Divers like Choi use new technologies and weapons that protect them from underwater zombies. While the U.S. seems to have recovered quite well from war, army spending still seems to be controlled by the DeStRes, suggesting that the coffers are no longer as full as they used to be.
The minisub reaches the ocean floor, and Choi spots some zombies. The narrator sees around 60 of them approaching. Choi begins to fire darts at their chests, and says it is hard for him not to kill them, although he knows it is important to study their movements to set up “an early warning network.” Choi tells the narrator that soon, they’ll be using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for recon dives. The narrator says that he knows there is a lot of controversy about using ROVs for battle. Choi says that will never happen because droids lack “heart, instinct, initiative, everything that makes us us.” They might be cost-effective but can never replace ADS divers. He says that he’ll quit the navy if the divers are ever replaced with machines.
The zombies are being studied and observed so that the navy can better understand their behavior and movements. People are no longer terrified at the prospect of zombies taking over the world, but are still working hard to eradicate them. Choi insists that the divers who perform this dangerous task could never be replaced by robots because human excellence and instinct could—and should—never be replaced.
Quebec, Canada. Andre Renard meets the narrator in his small farmhouse and asks that he keep his exact location a secret because he doesn’t want to be found by people. He says that all the other countries had it easy compared to those like him who battled the zombies under Paris, which has several tunnels underground. A quarter million civilians tried to take shelter in these underground tunnels during the Great Panic, and they had become infected. Renard and his fellow soldiers had to fight them in the dark, dank tunnels, with just one pair of night vision goggles per platoon and not enough batteries for their flashlights. The filters in their gas masks had expired, and they had to use hardwired radios to keep in touch since airwave transmissions often didn’t work underground.
Renard and his team undoubtedly had a difficult and frightening job in Paris during the war. They were also hampered by a severe lack of equipment, suggesting that the French government didn’t give as much consideration to the safety of its troops as the American government did. The narrator hints that Renard is still resentful about this, which is why he is hiding away in an isolated farmhouse in Canada and doesn’t want to be found by people.
It was easy to get lost in those tunnels, and the maps they had were outdated. Sometimes, they’d hear another squad being attacked underground but wouldn’t be able to place their location because of the echoes. And other times, the screams would come from members of his platoon but it was hard to find them in the winding tunnels. They often reached them too late to save them and had to fight their reanimated friends.
Renard’s descriptions of the horrors they faced in the underground tunnels are truly terrifying, and once again highlight their lack of resources as being a big problem in their underground battles.
They had to fight the zombies at very close range, just inches from them, because they couldn’t use firearms underground since the air around them was too flammable. The only thing they had that was similar to a gun was a carbon dioxide pellet gun that had maybe six shots. They had to be careful while aiming their shots because if they struck the stone walls of the tunnels, they might have caused a spark and then a fire. The best way was hand-to-hand combat, but the narrow tunnels gave them no room to swing a weapon. Their weapon of choice was one consisting of steel spikes that Renard had designed. They put the spikes through the zombies’ eyes or down on their heads.
Again, his descriptions highlight the difficult and dangerous—and logistically difficult—job that Renard and his colleagues had.
The men tried to cover themselves in armor of some kind—“chain mail or heavy leather” that ended up being “too heavy, too suffocating.” Unlike the Americans, they didn’t have bite-proof battle uniforms though they could have certainly used them. They had to wade around in water in the tunnels, and sometimes the zombies attacked them from under the water. At such times, they retreated and sent the Cousteaus in, “scuba divers trained to work and fight specifically in those flooded tunnels.” They, too, didn’t have the right safety gear to protect themselves and “had a one in twenty chance of survival.”
These descriptions once again show how Renard and his team of brave French soldiers had to take on the zombies without any protective gear or special weapons, which made their already risky task even more dangerous. Since their government didn’t provide them with enough resources, they tragically took to wearing armor that they had put together themselves, which hampered their movements. In comparison, the American soldiers seemed to be extremely well-equipped, probably due to the efforts of the DeStRes and because they had considerate leaders like the American president and D’Ambrosia in charge.
Renard is angry that their authorities had hurried them to go in and fight “at a time when the war was winding down all over the world.” They lost 15,000 soldiers in just three months. In contrast, the English had taken five years to slowly and carefully clear the whole of London because their general had believed they had “enough dead heroes.” France, however, wanted a lot of heroes since they had lost at other wars in Algeria, Indochina, and against the Nazis. Renard’s brother, too, had died in the war while storming a hospital filled with hundreds of zombies.
According to Renard, the French government was in an unnecessary hurry to clear the zombies out of Paris. They acted without a plan and without resources, which led to too many soldiers dying. The government only wanted to make up for indignities of the past and wars they had lost, which is why they were in a huge hurry—they didn’t care about the personal cost that this had on their soldiers.
Denver, Colorado. The narrator has accompanied Todd Wainio to a neighborhood picnic in Victory Park. There hasn’t been a single zombie sighting all spring. Wainio says the entire campaign to eliminate the zombies in America took three years as the army advanced slowly across the country. They went on foot, and their orders were to advance slowly, making two thorough sweeps. Some of the older zombies, the ones who had been infected at the start of the war, were decomposing, and some couldn’t even stand. Whenever they spotted zombies, a Force Appropriate Response (FAR) Unit would stop and take them down. The number of the zombies they found determined the size of the FAR.
Wainio describes the very organized and methodical campaign that the U.S. Army waged against the zombies. Unlike the French, the American troops didn’t hurry through eliminating the zombies and made sure to do a thorough job while maintaining their own safety.
Wainio explains that they also made it a point to stop every night to rest and says that they also couldn’t fight in heavy fog. Also, they had promised to help the armies in Canada and Mexico fight zombies after they had secured America, which extended the fighting, though Wainio was discharged before that. He also adds that one of the biggest things that slowed them down was “urban combat.” Clearing suburbia was very time-consuming.
Wainio explains why the campaign took so long, and that it extended even past the three years because the U.S. Army helped Canada and Mexico, too. The soldiers weren’t rushed, but their job was still difficult and tiring.
Wainio was in Army Group North, which he was initially happy about because he thought that meant he would encounter mostly frozen Gs in cold weather. However, he hadn’t considered the problems of quislings and ferals. They eventually discovered that they could rehabilitate ferals but not quislings, but many soldiers were badly hurt while trying to capture them. There were also packs of F-hounds—feral dogs—and F-lions or huge, feral cats that attacked humans. There were some people the army nicknamed LaMOEs (Last Man of Earth) who had successfully fought off the zombies and didn’t want the army to show up and change their lifestyles—and so attacked them, too. The cold also was a huge problem, with Gs getting buried and covered in the snow and reemerging as soon as it turned warm.
Wainio describes the difficulties he experienced while fighting the zombies in the cold. Interestingly, some of the army’s biggest challenges didn’t come from zombies but from human beings. They worked to rehabilitate ferals. After trying and failing to rehabilitate quislings, they gave up on them, but not before they managed to hurt many soldiers. Some civilians, too, were hostile to the army and tried to attack them. The zombies seem to have not only caused death and destruction but also changed the very fabric of society which made the army’s work more challenging.
The narrator wants to know what it was like to liberate “the isolated zones” and Wainio says that each one was a struggle. One area was surrounded by a million zombies, and liberating it made the Battle of Hope seem small in comparison. Some of the military personnel in these zones were happy to be rescued, while others believed they needed no rescuing. Civilians, on the other hand, were usually happy to see the army and would greet them with cheers. Sometimes, though, a few of them would be angry that it took the army that long to get there, and that they’d lost their loved ones by then. Very rarely, they came across entire towns that were angry because they’d been abandoned by the army earlier.
The people who’d been abandoned outside the safe zone would have suffered the most during the zombie crisis, and they were sometimes angry that the army arrived too late to be of any help to them. This must have also been immensely difficult for soldiers like Wainio to hear since they’d been working so hard to help people like them. Even though the army had accomplished so much, they also had to face the fact that they had failed to save many.
The secessionists or Rebs took an even stronger stance against the army and shot at them as they approached. The army superiors sent special units to deal with the Rebs. Wainio once saw tanks headed their way and knew the Rebs had put themselves in a tough spot.
The Whacko had mentioned in his section that the president had believed that the Rebs were very dangerous and needed to be eliminated. Wainio’s statements show that this is indeed what happened.
The narrator asks him if he’d heard about the questionable survival methods some people in isolated zones had used, and Wainio says that he didn’t want to hear about them even when those people wanted to talk. He says he didn’t want to bear more burdens. Wainio did talk to some of them later, and even read about the trials, but feels that he can’t judge them since he wasn’t there and didn’t have to live through the things they did.
The narrator and Wainio do not mention any details about the “questionable survival methods” they discuss, but imply that it was some kind of criminal activity since there were “trials” later. Jesika Hendricks mentioned that people in cold places had resorted to cannibalism to survive, so it might be that. In any case, Wainio says he is in no position to judge people’s actions since he wasn’t there to know how bad they had it. Clearly, many people resorted to desperate—and probably illegal or horrifying—ways to survive.
While historians say that American casualties were way less than other countries, Wainio says they were still very high. Also, the statistics ignored deaths that were not caused by zombies and there were plenty of those. Many soldiers died of illnesses. Others died from LaMoEs attacking them, like one of Wainio’s friends. Some died from decrepit buildings collapsing on them, which is what happened to another soldier he was in love with. There were also many psychological casualties. Wainio says that the president was one of these people.
Even though America fared better than most nations, it suffered many casualties, too. Wainio, too, suffered great personal loss as he admits that he’d been in love with one of the soldiers who had died. Others, like the American president, died of stress and heartbreak. The price for humanity’s survival was a high one.