Sarah appears more comfortable with this line of approach. “It began with mobilising all military personnel who had ever fired a gun and sending them out into the field.
“When quantities were stretched, we requested non-military personnel who had weapons experience step forward. We couldn’t be discriminatory in a rudimentary game of us versus them. Anyone who wanted to join, even for a short period, was given lucrative incentives to do so. That gave us sufficient numbers. The problem initially was that we only had time for a very abrupt briefing about what we knew which, given we had troops in position in key territories within 24-36 hours of NZ striking, was very little.
“I wouldn’t say we were going in blind but we required veterans of ground campaigns in places such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to lead the rest. The first wave of Preservers to hit the ground consisted of intelligence gatherers. We needed to evolve our tactics and the only way to do that was to confront the enemy head on. We sent those men and women into action poorly prepared but I don’t regret that decision and neither does anyone else. We did what we needed to.
“If your mission here is to identify heroes, Mr Wright, then those who perished in that first week are the ones who taught us how to win this war. In fact, in our Z-Day Anniversary message to the population, we will be announcing our intention to build a cenotaph in every capital city of the world engraved with the names of the fallen.”
The detail is important here so I ask how many names.
“We’ll never be completely sure but best estimates are between 25 and 30 million Preserver deaths, globally. With civilians included the total is of course significantly higher.
“When including those that died in the first wave and the casualties in the two years since, we are working to a model of between 900m and 1 billion dead.”
Sarah lets the numbers sink in to see if I am desensitised to such wanton waste of life. I am honest with her, asserting my ambivalence. I am inherently aware of the sorrow attached yet witnessing so much of it first hand in the has made many of us unable to suitably gauge severity.
So I don’t want to dwell on death here, rather than celebrate the path to our remaining life. I ask her what those valiant Preserver units found when stepping face-to-face with the new enemy.
“It was clear from the moments after the Blood Turned that the incongruity of the incident struck too many people and left them unable to react suitably. So, when we regrouped and redeployed, we made sure we had real-time images of Zombies everywhere. We had drones sweeping through streets, CCTV picking up footage of cannibalism, each and every method we had at our disposal to show our soldiers – and, via the news, citizens who hadn’t come across one yet – exactly what these things looked like. We suspended the disbelief. Once we did that, a realisation was reached.
“We found that NZ might have had the numerical edge, at least in the beginning, but they didn’t have the brains — quite literally, in fact.
“They proved to be an infinitely feebler foe than we fooled ourselves into believing was true. They are slow and uncoordinated and a locked-and-loaded Preservers unit, sweeping buildings and streets in huge numbers and at great pace, shaped a clear mismatch in our favour. Once we had those teams out into the streets and utilising their skills – their cognitive abilities – we could begin to take back what belonged to us.”
An infinitely feebler foe than we fooled ourselves into believing was true. I assume at this point that she making an indirect reference to the Purge Act, the legislation put in place by the Preservation to ban any Zombie-related content created before the Blood Turned. The Zombie media, the films, books and comics, produced by creative minds such as George A Romero and Robert Kirkman, invariably portrayed our near-extinction in a post-apocalyptic barren wasteland at the hands of a pack of Zombies. In that scenario our lives are defined by dwindling natural resources, with the population decimated and totally helpless.
It was important to ensure the public couldn’t confuse the fantastic from the fact. The Preservation struck agreements with major platforms such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and countless others to prohibit the promotion of any unofficial Zombie content (i.e. not pre-approved by the Preservation) under the threat of significant penalties. Those security measures used to forbid the billions of videos, images, articles and posts from being found on the internet even removed the mention of the word itself, requiring all publishers, even yours truly, a freelance writer, to apply for a licence to use it.
You probably had to hand over your favourite DVDs and comic books for disposal. There aren’t too many copies of Max Brooks’ World War Z still in circulation, that’s for sure, and owning The Walking Dead box set could either land you a huge fine or jail time.
The Purge Act was immediately followed by the Mandatory Census of 2014. The Census’s primary objective was to gather a blood sample from every individual on Earth to test, store and retain for study. The Preservation believes that it has 99 per cent of the global population registered in the biggest medical database of its kind in existence. But, as a secondary motive, new technology attached a naturally reproducing diagnostic into our DNA strands and this has become our method of identity in Society 2.0, replacing usernames, passwords, email addresses and other means of verifying you are who you say you are.
Known as the Personal Indicator (PI), it is fingerprint recognition dialled up for a new era and is virtually impossible to fake. It has worked perfectly alongside the Purge Act to destroy the Zombie fake news and properly regulate online content in Society 2.0. No false personalities, pseudonyms or unaccountable personas can exist so, if illicit Zombie-related content made it onto any online portal, the publisher could be tracked via their PI, then identified and prosecuted. Actions have consequences now. If you are abusive, insubordinate or are attempting to incite in any way, you had better be ready for a visit from the Preservation.