Don’t Feed The Trolls – Chapter 12
Just when she thought everything was finally settling down, Shelly is once again thrown into the fray. Her friends are stuck on the other side of the Mississippi River, with no weapons, no food, and no chance of survival without her help. Throw in the complete collapse of civilization, extremely limited technology, and hordes of zombies that are becoming more and more sentient every day…
Hey, no one said it was going to be easy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Shelly made sure to update hers just before she left.
Please note: this work contains language and themes that may not be appropriate for young readers.
Nov. 17, 2018
It’s well after midnight. I should be sleeping. Dick’s group is resting and recovering. They look like shit, but Tiny says they’re relatively okay. They shouldn’t need more than rest and food, and we’ve got a whole ass deer being chopped up, stewed up, and ready to be eaten. We’re still planning on staying for two days to let them get proper rest, but then we’re good to go.
The rest of us are supposed to eating good and getting lots of rest, too, for the trip home, so like I said – I really should be sleeping. Instead, I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how to tell you what’s going on, in a way that you won’t immediately blow your top all over my boys. Which is stupid, really. I told Tiny I didn’t see the point, considering I’ll be briefing you on all this before you ever even touch these letters. He says it’s so I have a record of all the details in case I forget later, but I’d like to know wtf he thinks is gonna happen between here and home to make me forget this.
Whatever. Jumping right in, it appears you’re off the hook. Dick swears you didn’t know. The entire team – and that includes Hector, so no getting pissy with him, either – were under orders to not disclose any information until she (it?) is within the fort’s walls, and because the general there apparently outranks you, their hands were tied. Robin will be giving you the nitty gritty when we get back, so I’m not going into all that.
What I will tell you, is that from what I’ve heard? NORAD has a piece of shit running it. The boys say NORAD has anywhere between 5-10 trolls of their own, not including the one they’ve sent along. They’re…different, though. And I don’t mean Poppy’s level of different, either. This is like they’re not even human. They “interface” directly with the computer systems. They’re apparently able to control the black stuff they have in their blood, making it go from a solid to liquid and back again.
Robin says all the trolls they saw there had this weird black cap on at least one of their fingers. He thought it was a tattoo or something, done as a way of telling the humans from the trolls. It’s not. Sarai (I think I spelled that right…she’s the troll medic NORAD sent along) says it works like a scab, but functions as a circuit breaker? Basically, when they need to interact with the computer system, they dissolve the scab and send “a cord of their blood” into the computer system. The cord connects them to the computer and they can do whatever needs to be done through it. No keyboards, no mouse, no anything.
She refuses to say how it works – or what she knows of it, anyway. Claims that none of the NORAD people are 100% sure of the details, and that we don’t have high enough clearance for what they do know. Gray’s theory is nanotechnology, but she says that only explains so much. (Side note: I am bugging the shit out of her and your engineer boys for info on nanotech, cause I thought that was only in scifi books/movies. Are you seriously telling me that we have this now? Or had, since everything went fuck all, but…holy shit, Wills.) Gray and the e-boys were geeking it up earlier. The medics were all involved for a little bit, but then Tiny and Vicki insisted that everyone get some rest.
Sarai did say that even some of the higher ups at NORAD aren’t allowed to know all the details, either, but it was collectively agreed that it would easier for you to have one of the Controllers (what they’re calling them, apparently), to help with the satellites and stuff, rather than trying to send over a human right now. Especially considering the lack of techs they have available. They didn’t get hit hard by the initial outbreak, but people flooded the base, looking for help, and it got bad. They ended up retreating to “the secondary base”? I dunno. You know more than I do about that, I’m pretty sure, but at any rate, they don’t have as many people as they would prefer. They’re training new people every day, but it’s gonna take a while to get the numbers back up.
Not gonna lie, Williams, the “controller” kinda freaks me out. HerIts Their skin is like, grey? Or dark white, depending on how you want to look at it, and her their veins are black. Even the ones in their eyes. They never talk. Or make a sound or do anything human-ish. Also, it’s like the people at NORAD tried to dehumanize them as much as possible. Dick said the trolls on base all have their heads shaved. They wear scrubs…it’s just…I dunno.
The trolls don’t know how to react to it, either. Poppy says it’s not a bad cloud, but she won’t stay near it. Neither will the others. Luna told me she wanted to name it Voldemort, but Ginny said, “don’t.”
Sarai kept a pretty good poker face when Dick was telling me all this, but I get the impression that she didn’t approve of the way things were done back there. She’s fascinated with our trolls. Asked a bunch of questions about how quick they learned, if they appeared to remember anything from their human life, etc. etc.. I told her to talk to them, herself, but I plan on staying nearby. It’s nothing personal. I’m just not taking any chances.
Nov. 18, 2018
The Controller is really something else. She uses diapers, currently. Cloth ones that they have to change on a regular basis. Sarai keeps them in a biohazard container and burns them as soon as she gets the chance. I asked her if the Controller has a name – I hate just calling her “The Controller” – and was informed that the brass at NORAD “do not believe in naming equipment.” I called bullshit because I’ve yet to meet a man who hasn’t named their car, and she laughed. Then she said the only other thing they called her was a word she wouldn’t be repeating, and you know what? It’s a damn good thing I have no plans on heading to NORAD, cause heads would be rolling.
Tiny and Vik approached Sarai about doing a blood transfusion from Poppy to the Controller. Explained about how it seems to be their way of exchanging information and all that. She was a bit leery at first, I think she was worried that it might interfere with the Controller’s “main programming,” but I guess he was able to talk her around, cause she okayed the idea. Now we have a different problem.
When Tiny asked Poppy if she would share information with the troll, Poppy reacted badly. Very badly. Tears and screaming, bad. She’s huddled with the other trolls right now. We’re not sure why she reacted so badly, but every time Tiny tries to get near her, she starts shaking and the other trolls growl at him.
Nov. 19, 2018
We’re not on the road yet. It took us most of yesterday to get Poppy calmed down to where we could talk to her, but we did finally get things cleared up.
If we’re understanding her right, she thought he wanted to give her some of the Controller’s blood, too – an even exchange of information, you know? And she was scared that it would turn her into something like the Controller.
Kinda ironic, when you think about it, really. Once we told her we didn’t want them to exchange info – we just want to take some of hers and give it to the controller – she was okay. Dick had Sarai show her a syringe and explain what it is/does. Poppy had a million questions, but Sarai was (eventually) able to pull blood from her and inject it into the controller this morning. Now, we wait.
So far, it hasn’t taken more than a single full day for the trolls to…absorb(?) the information, but none of our trolls are like this one, and this is the first time we’ve tried doing an exchange via injection. For all we know, here in an hour, she might be asking for her turn to read outloud. On the flip side, it could take a month for the information to process. Obviously, we can’t wait that long, so we’re making plans to leave tomorrow morning.
Oh, before I forget, you’re off the hook for the whole “Major” thing. I was bitching to Dick and Rob about it all, and they were very confused. Said civilians can’t be made major just like that. Asked Jean and BG, and they said it’s more of an “honorary” thing.
I can live with that. I’m not keen on the whole, being responsible for the life and death of people thing, I have enough shit on my plate, and I might’ve panicked a little bit when that came up, so I apologize for going off. If you could just…I dunno, forget that whole part, that would be great. Like…really. Thanks.
November 20, 2018
Cold as shit again. We made it back to the fort though, and got us a nice fire going. Didn’t take near as long this time, either. The boys planned ahead and chopped little bits of wood as we walked, so we have plenty enough to keep it going through the night.
I rode with the new troll today. I know Sarai is here to monitor her, but I still wanted to keep an eye on her, myself. There doesn’t appear to be any changes. Her eyes aren’t even doing the twitching thing. Tiny thinks the virus (or whatever it is) is too strong in her system. She might need more from our trolls to make any real difference, but he’s also leery about trying to give anymore. Sarai said it was because of a taco-something risk. She doesn’t think the taco thing will affect a troll, but she’s not 100% sure.
I suggested waiting another day or two. I mean, we already knew that things might not proceed the way we expected them to. There’s no sense getting ahead of ourselves at this point.
Oh, God…I’ve become the voice of reason. We’re doomed.
Nov. 21, 2018
The new troll started doing the crazy eye thing today. Not much, just sporadic twitches, but…it’s started. We stopped and the trolls all started standing in a semi-circle around the new girl. Just staring. Talk about creepy…They’re not saying “bad cloud” though, so yay?
Nov. 22, 2018
Two days in a row of good weather. Got pretty decent mileage, too.
This morning was weird though. Woke up and the Controller looked different. The veins in her eyes are starting to show a bit of red, and her skin is starting to look less black-and-white tv, and more wannabe goth. There was also a huge pool of grey around her on the floor. No other noticeable change at the moment.
Talked to Sarai. She said that the reason why the Controller looked so weird in the first place was cause of the black stuff in her veins. She says the controller must’ve ejected the black stuff somehow, and that’s why she’s changing color now. We asked if we needed to burn the grey stuff, but she says they’ve had something like this before, and from what they can tell, the grey stuff is safe. Once the virus or whatever is dead, it stays dead.
I’m not entirely sure I agree, so I had the boys sweep it up and add it to the dirty diaper thing. As I said. I’m not taking any chances.
Nov. 23, 2018
We’re making really good time. We’ve also began arguing over a name for the controller. Apparently, we have a bunch of Trekkie’s in this group. The first name everyone thought of was “Data.” Then it moved to “Seven.” Jean surprised everyone and suggested Galatea (sp?) from Bicentennial (sp?) Man. (Side note: apparently there’s a Robin Williams movie I haven’t seen yet. Jean says he has a copy of the movie back home, and the book it was based off. He’s gonna let us borrow it for the next movie night thing we do.) I like the name Galatea…I’m just not sure how to spell it.
We asked the trolls for suggestions, and they said to wait and let her pick out her own name. I suppose they have a point, but I mean…it’s not like she has a lot of experience to pick a name from? We all have lots of pop culture references we can draw from for names. She was regulated to connecting to a computer, and whatever information she gets from our trolls, which is all Harry Potter related. Though it could be interesting to see which character she relates to the most…
Sarai agrees with the trolls about letting her pick out her own name. She also said I was right about sweeping up the grey stuff. There’s too much info in the controller to take any chances.
Nov. 24, 2018
Shoot me now.
We passed by a shop on the way back. It’s called “The Oasis” and was a liquor store. The boys have been randomly singing “Friends in Low Places” for the past hour.
Nov. 24, 2018
We’ve stopped for the night, so here’s your update on the Controller. Her skin tone and color are now within the “normal” human range. She needs some sun, but she doesn’t look like death anymore. Her eyes are still doing the twitching thing, and there was another huge grey spot around her this morning. I finally remembered I have a brain and asked the trolls about it. I figure, if anyone is gonna know about this crap, it would be one of them, you know? According to them, the grey stuff has been “deactivated. No signal detected.” I asked them if it could be reactivated and got a definitive “No.”
The running theory is that she’s expelling the stuff from her veins so she’ll look more human. As she expels it, either she “deactivates” it, or it automatically does it when it leaves her body (I’m leaning towards the former). We tried asking Poppy, but I guess that’s beyond her. She stared at us with this blank look at first, and then told us, “Maybe?”
We’re almost back to Paducah. Fingers crossed our ramp/walkway is still in place for the horses.
Nov. 25, 2018
The ramp is a no-go for now. The boys think a storm must’ve come through or something. There’s not enough damage for them to suspect an attack/sabotage. Doug says we could probably lead the horses up what’s left of the ramp, one at a time, if push came to shove. The problem is the weather.
The wind has been absolutely ridiculous the past couple hours. Sam says he’s pretty sure we’re in for some rain. He doesn’t think it’s anything severe, but he rather strongly suggested we go ahead and make camp for the night. Talked to Doug, and he says there’s no way we’d all be able to get across the bridge before nightfall, sooo…we’re camped.
I’m sitting in my nice comfy cozy tent, listening to the wind pick up. The boys are out there, fixing what they can while there’s still light to work with, but I think that’s about to end. The rain will be here soon, and they’re gonna have to stop. Hopefully it passes quickly though, and they’ll be able to finish it up. It’ll suck if they have to work through the night, but they can always nap as we ride.
More progress. We think.
First off, we stopped for a potty break, and her diaper was clean. Kind’ve a surprise, there, but a welcome one. Then, when we stopped for the night…
Previously, getting in and out of the wagons was a bit of an adventure. The Controller doesn’t know how to climb in and out of the wagon, and if we weren’t careful, she’ll try to walk out of it. The only reason she hasn’t busted her head wide open yet is cause we watch her like a 2 y/o, but anyway. We stopped, and Dick jumped down first. He turned to help her get out of the wagon, and…well, I was behind her, so all I saw was him looking like someone slapped him with a fish. He shook it off, helped her down, but he told me later that, instead of the dead-eyed stare or twitchy-eye thing she’s been having…she looked at him like she actually saw him.
I’ll keep you updated, but it’s looking good so far. Sarai is excited about the changes. I just hope she understands that you guys are definitely not keeping her.
Nov. 26, 2018
Woke up to freezing temperatures and a small puddle of grey around our little friend. The boys weren’t able to finish the ramp last night, but they got most of it done, and finished up this morning. Sam said it should get warmer, the further away from the water we are, so we got across the bridge as fast as we could.
I’m not sure if he was wrong about the distance making these warmer, or if we just didn’t make it far enough, but it’s cold enough we had to stop. The place we’re in now doesn’t have a fireplace, but we’re out of the wind, and there’s enough of us in one room to make it a little better.
The boys are trying to make a giant fire pit in one of the garages to knock some more of the cold out, but I’m not sure how well that’s gonna work. I asked them, why don’t we just plug the solar battery into the house’s system, but, you know. Boys.
On another note, the trolls have finished book 2 of Harry Potter. Tiny told me that when we stopped, Poppy approached him to see about giving the Controller another injection. She doesn’t want her to be “too far behind on the story.” Tiny gave the okay, but checked with Dick and Robin for the Controller. Robin said to cross it with Sarai, and Dick said to ask the troll, too. Sarai okayed it, and even went and explained the injection thing to the Controller like she did with Poppy, then asked her if it was okay. Tiny says she didn’t answer verbally, but she held out her arm, vein up.
I guess, long story short, Controller got another injection. I wish they had crossed it with me, first. I mean, she’s still working on processing the last one. This could speed things up…or it could really set her back.
It was sweet of Poppy to think of her though. Very…compassionate? I think? I dunno, but it’s an interesting development. Before, she showed fear. Now she’s worried about the girl missing out on something…We really need to work on understanding what exactly this stuff does to people.