Extras - Lore, Page 2
GENERAL WORLDBUILDING cont'd + THE INFECTION AND THE UNDEAD
ON THE ZONES
Zeus is the biggest and oldest zone, it inhabits tens of thousands of people right now, most of which are (working class) civilians. They have a higher quality of life than in any other zone (nowhere near the one WE have, but more like that of the post-industrial revolution world with obviously some differences) and they can enjoy life’s little pleasures, which is hinted at a bit by Modra’s character design: he’s got dyed hair and tattoos on his face and he’s used to “luxuries” such as showers and having electricity. The zone is very large and most of it is surrounded by a tall mostly-concrete wall (most zones are surrounded by some sort of walls or tall fences to keep undead from wandering inside), although some poorer settlements have risen outside the walls as well and even there people live in relative safety, since Zeus hasn’t seen a proper horde in years. They are also very strict about letting outsiders in (or their own residents out) and do ID checks and check for possible infections at the gates to make sure they won’t let infected people inside.
Nyx is, like said in the comic, military-only and civilians are rarely let in apart from trade caravans. They’re the “headquarters” although the General of Zeus is considered the highest standing military officer, with General of Nyx coming in close second. They mostly train troops for other zones and they’re the ones to call if things go south anywhere. The zone was built around the ruins of an old hospital, so they also handle a lot of medical things and civilians tend to spread fear-mongering rumors about them doing EXPERIMENTS or something at Nyx because they have no idea what’s going on there except MILITARY and OLD HOSPITAL.
There are four “frontier zones”, smaller mostly military-only settlements to the north, east, south and west, that are considered the “boundaries” of liveable land (and beyond which military doesn’t bother to go apart from expedition or two every now and then). To the north are mountains that are difficult to cross because of the weather. To the west there’s an ocean, and to the east another one. To the south there is the channel. Beyond that are southern lands.
Hecate is a quite large mostly-civilian zone to the south although there is a strong military presence as well since they are very close to another “old city”. There are three notable “free” military-less zones: Hades, Hermes and Io. All of them, as names indicate, have at one point been military outposts, but have been abandoned for one reason or other.
There are still artists and musicians around, of course. Musicians make do with what they have: their instruments can be very old leftovers from before the apocalypse, but there are people who know how to build new ones living, having been taught the craft by their parents. (Most “rarer” professions that don’t have much practical use in the society of No End now go in the families, with parents teaching their kids the secrets of their trade). Music probably doesn’t get recorded, unless in Zeus possibly (and it’s probably not recorded digitally, because working computers and such are relatively rare and used for things a bit more important than recording — or making — music), where they also broadcast live music over the radio and throw concerts. Traveling musicians taking their bands from one zone to another to perform to people for money.
And I guess for every rule there’s an exception: probably some civilian somewhere in Zeus owns a computer and recording equipment and has FL Studio (or a friend who knows how to program in C++ or something) and eventually brings the revival of EDM, haha.
Old music from before the apocalypse still exists on CDs and other recordings (data on CDs decays really fast though? Please suspend your disbelief for that) and especially bars and clubs and other establishments of such nature are always interested in buying more. They also usually have old stereos and loudspeakers to play the music.
Same deal with art, except that it’s been reduced even more to a “just a hobby” status. Zeus is once again the place where there might be an art gallery or two where local artists can showcase their stuff, and there’s even probably a comic strip in their newspaper (which also employs a graphic designer or two with illustrations being photographs and drawings). Digital art is of course dead. Tattoo artists prosper in Zeus (and other places as well), but many of them don’t have actual tattoo needles and use other methods instead. Architecture flourishes! Photography is very much alive.
The TV does not exist. Movies, perhaps. Definitely some filming equipment has survived the apocalypse, but broadcasting on TV would probably be too expensive to do (the radio is really the main source of entertainment with radio-plays and music and news and even novels being read on the air). Have I now covered most audio/visual art?
What comes to writing, there are books printed in Zeus as evidenced by the fact that they have a newspaper, and also in the first chapter extras the industrious E. Brooks had recently written a book about the history of Zeus.
Basically it helps to think No End’s our world during or right after the industrial revolution while they still might have knowledge of things they do not (yet) have the resources for: service sector isn’t too big yet while production still nets in the most profit. The world’s still in the process of rebuilding itself after a catastrophic event. Some of our more technologically advanced stuff still exists and works (TVs, computers, smartphones, what have you) but there’s always the problem of having the electricity or battery power to keep them running since there’s always more important uses for electricity, and there are no networks. The radio is “primitive” enough to keep working and broadcasting without draining too much resources.
ON CRIME AND THE MILITARY
When the military is involved, things concerning laws get uglier: murder is generally something you get executed for. Things like insubordination and smaller infractions, things that go against the code of conduct, etc. it’s discharge from military, and depending on the severity of the crime, either honorable or dishonorable. Generally dishonorably discharged personnel will get marked for generations and their children, for example, will have no chance to ever serve in the military, and any family member already serving will get discharged as well. They’re also sometimes thrown in civilian jail, if the crime was severe enough. Since the military is based so much on old military families, that’s actually a pretty good crime deterrent and makes people think twice before committing any serious crimes. Honorably discharged personnel just get civilian status (and will maybe serve time, depending), but their families can remain in the military and their children will be able to enlist.
If Cotton & co. got caught by the military, they would get firing squad, definitely.
And then sometimes you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and you make someone higher ranked and more respected look bad, and even if you did nothing wrong, they’ll make it seem like you did, and you’ll be lucky if you get a dishonorable discharge. Like in first chapter Wight told about someone he knew who got court-martialed after executing a fellow soldier who got infected during patrol, just like military personnel are instructed to do according to protocol, and because the infected person happened to be the General’s son… they made it look like Wight’s friend jumped the gun, didn’t make sure that the victim really did get infected (his entire squad witnessed against him, scared they’d get discharged if they took his side), and so he got firing squad for murder.
The corruption aspect is huge.
ON NYX CALLSIGNS
The callsigns are solely assigned to know that a soldier comes from Nyx. They also usually keep their turquoise-accented uniforms rather than take on the colors of their current zone. The callsigns are assigned randomly from a list of birds (non-commissioned officers), snakes (commissioned officers) and mythological creatures of usually undead origin (spec-ops) or assign one that has been lately “freed” because the person has died or transferred out of Nyx permanently, giving up their callsign.
For the record, there isn't a person with the callsign "zombie" though. Spec-ops are elite soldiers who are supposed to be exceptionally good at getting rid of the undead. The names sort of reflect that: they, too, are immortal, just as dangerous as the undead.
The callsigns are important enough that many people call others, even significant others or family members only by their callsign (Cotton, Wight, Robin, Crow).
The zone uniform accent colors are as follows:
Nyx: Turquoise + special sleeve insignias (bird, snake, pentagram)
WHY FLIGHT ISN'T A VIABLE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
ON ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Feral cats (seen in Hades!) are kept around for vermin control, same with feral dogs -- in zones specifically, outside they're getting killed if they're forming packs because obviously they can mess up biodiversity in the area and hunters don't want a pack of feral dogs out there killing all the deer. Obviously stuff like this can't be monitored as well as needed, but military is doing some effort to keep game in the, uh, game.
Dogs are also companions (very good on the road, can keep an
eye on undead and e.g. hold them down for easier kill, animals are
immune to the virus). The dog at the gates of Hecate is indeed a military dog
trained to smell wounds, which are pretty good indication of a possible
infection (it probably wouldn't smell anything weird about Wight,
because he doesn't smell like a corpse and his wound is long since dried
so there's no blood to sniff out either).
Domesticated cats are kept as companions in zones, just like dogs.
Horses are kept around and bred because they're the best and fastest mode of travel and work horses are used to move supplies, plow fields, move snow, etc.
What comes to livestock, sheep are the most favored animal because you can get the fur, the milk and the meat, and they're not as hard on the environment as cattle. Cattle is mostly kept in bigger zones (like Zeus, and you saw some in Fen Mills as well) and everything from the animal is going into use. Pigs are the bottom of the barrel livestock, mostly kept by the kind of people who call pork a "luxury meat". Chicken are also kept pretty often, eggs are good.
Anyway the (boreal) animal kingdom is sort of flourishing without much human intervention, people find the companionship of a cat or a dog or maybe a workhorse just as important as we do now and keeping livestock in bigger zones is a thing because people need to eat and clothe themselves. (Smaller gimmicky zones like Io mostly get their food from dedicated hunters who prowl the area above for meat and skins.)
THE INFECTION AND THE UNDEAD
There are no known cases of drinking contaminated water and getting the infection that way (the virus does infect both through blood and gastrointestinal tract, since you can get infected from all undead bodily fluids), but I doubt it’s possible in the case of this particular fictional virus. I’ve always imagined it doesn’t survive outside the host at all and becomes noninfective within minutes. A lot more people would have died during the apocalypse if it didn't.
I still wouldn’t go drinking from a water source that’s been contaminated by undead bodies, though, (for the very obvious reason of DEAD BODY IN WATER), not without extra precautions, and I figure most small water sources (wells, etc) are strictly guarded to prevent undead from ending up in them.
It’s probably obvious I haven’t done enough research on virology to know much about this stuff, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong! (I should really just read up on stuff and come up with at least somewhat plausible scientific explanation for the virus, even if it will never come up in the comic).
THE INFECTION AND GENETICS
The reason Wight and the twins haven’t turned lies in genetics (yeah, that means that if Jenn were to get infected there’s a chance she could turn out sentient as well). I don’t think there is such thing as full immunity, but Wight and the twins definitely have something (a very rare mutation) in their genes that prevents the virus from functioning completely like it should.
Their senses are dulled, so they’d feel at most slight discomfort at most when hurt. Almost everything that applies to regular undead applies to them (they’re for all intents and purposes dead, their hearts don’t beat, they don’t breathe, they don’t rot, if they get wounds they won’t heal, they won’t die unless you destroy their brains, presumably they also still carry the infection and they can infect others, etc.), they just have, for some genetic reason, retained sentience after turning.
There might be more undead like Wight and the twins (although the mutation is very VERY rare), but they might have never survived because infected are killed before they become undead. That's standard military protocol, and civilians don't like risking their lives either. People don't have the chance to find out.
If some lone traveler out there got infected and turned out like Wight, why would they ever tell anyone that they're infected and dead, but sentient? They would definitely end up as military's guinea pigs (why does Wight have a very high "alive only" bounty on his head?), and chances are people wouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt and would kill them either way because they ARE infected, despite being fully sentient and perhaps benevolent.
So there might be people like Wight and the twins, but they stay in hiding. Who knows!
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF THE INFECTION ON THE UNDEAD
People turn so quickly from the infection that necrosis or rot doesn’t really have the time to set in around the possible bite wound.
They lose body mass (muscle, fat) over time. All the regular undead you’ve seen this far have been quite skeletal things, yeah? The same has happened to Wight and the twins, just… not as drastically, as proven by the fact that Tora has breasts, which would likely shrivel away really fast. But yeah they’ve all lost some weight since turning.
The undead also do not rot. They smell rancid only after they've fed and the meat spoils in their stomach. No, they do not get any nutrition from the meat they consume: they eat until they're full and then just regurgitate everything in their stomachs. They get no sustenance from food, whether it’s normal food or human meat or whatever; why they attempt to eat the flesh of their victims is as much of a mystery as why they don’t rot or what keeps them going in the first place.
There’s also more stuff that’s in our series of “suspend your disbelief” and the undead also “lose their colors” over time, which is why Wight’s eyes/hair/complexion are lighter than Jenn’s (they used to be the exact same color) and Ratan for example has completely white hair and both of the twins have sort of ashen brown skin.
ON DESTROYING THE UNDEAD
Yeah they’re immune to everything but very traumatic physical damage to the head or destruction of the entire body by e.g. burning. They’ll live through everything else: you can even lop off their heads and the head would remain animate as long as the brain stayed intact (rest of the body would stay dead in that case, ofc, so no there are no headless zombie bodies roaming around). Not sure about neurotoxins actually, but since they resist all illnesses, I think the whatever virus makes them undead makes them resistant to poisons and such as well.
Just a concussion wouldn’t probably be enough, the head trauma needs to be massive enough to damage the brain so much any normal person would die from it instantly and then some.
Physical damage to body parts other than the head remains because they are still technically dead so the body doesn't heal from injuries, so right now Ratan for example is unable to use his left leg below the knee. Since the undead can walk etc. their somatic nervous system obviously works, but if some major muscle or a nerve is severed/bone broken, the limb naturally cannot be used (small injuries have no bearing since the undead can’t feel pain and will keep walking even with a slightly broken leg as long as the injury isn’t grave enough to prevent moving). In Ratan’s case Wight managed to shoot him – likely severing some nerve and bone – so that he cannot use the leg anymore since he couldn’t stand back up.
You obviously cannot cure death, so yes, a cure would have to be used before a person turns or quickly after, where the timeframe to save someone is the equivalent of how fast you need to save a person who has no blood flowing into their brain before brain cells start dying. Something around ten minutes?
Vaccine is a more likely result.
Also the undead are sort of “frozen in time” so they don’t rot, but yeah they’re most definitely dead and as such their internal organs are not working and they’re braindead, so curing someone from that wouldn’t be possible. That’s why creating a vaccine is the first priority.
And yes, there is always ongoing research going on on the undead, mostly in Nyx because of the superior medical facilities. People are still trying to find a cure or a vaccine or any way to slow down the infection or anything at all, or different ways to kill the undead aside from destroying the brain, and crack the mysteries there still exist about the infection.
However due to the undead nature of the test subjects the researches don’t really need many of them at any one time and they don’t expire easily, so, yeah, most of the time people just shoot the undead they run into. Only sentient undead would be invaluable test subjects and likely help the most in creating a vaccine.
ON UNDEAD AGE
There can be undead that are over 80 years old in the old cities because the bodies don’t rot or age or “die” unless the brain is damaged enough. Most undead out in the wilds are younger: military personnel turned on patrol, people from small settlements overrun by a horde, travelers that have been victims of singular attacks, etc.
THAT LITTLE GIRL
The little girl eating her family (you can assume most if not all of them were undead as well when the girl ate them, but how she managed to come on top against adults is a mystery. Maybe her family, even as undead, were reluctant to attack their own daughter?) is sort of explained in chapter one extras. There is this little quirk to the way the undead behave: they can form these giant groups, hordes, to travel and hunt together in big wide spaces, but when two or more are confined in a small, constricted space together for a longer time, they can become aggressive and turn on to each other quite quickly, eating or tearing each other apart. Maybe they sort of realize that they are stronger as a group, but when locked up in a small space it becomes some sort of “survival of the fittest” thing?
Yeah, in Hades they deal with undead hordes (which can easily be made up of hundreds of undead) by barricading the gates and standing on the walls and firing at the horde until no one is left standing. Other zones use stuff like actual cannons, rockets, mortars, ballistae: anything that can destroy a bunch of undead quickly and without wasting ammo, and many use fire, stuff like Molotov cocktails or explosives, because fire is one of the sure-fire (har har) ways to destroy the undead. Also EXPLOSIONS. When people are sure there aren’t any late-comer stragglers around, they put up the bonfire and burn whatever remains of the corpses. And that’s how pretty much every walled zone deals with a horde.
All and I mean ALL zones, even the smaller ones, are surrounded by some sort of fences or walls because the undead cannot climb and fences are an easy way to keep stragglers out. These are usually zones that are literally in the middle of nowhere (with no old cities closeby) where hordes are rare. Small zones with concrete or other durable walls just often stay put and wait for the horde to pass or call the military for reinforcements because they rarely have the firepower to deal with bigger hordes. Smaller zones with just fences usually have several scouts out around the clock to alert the zone of hordes so that they can evacuate and hide. Big-enough horde will just mow chicken-wire or weaker wooden fences down without trouble. They deal with hordes by going into hiding and attempting to stay hidden until the horde has passed: they are not equipped to deal with them, and they can then send the word out that there is a horde on the move to warn others.
Hordes usually come out of old cities which is where majority of undead still are and sometimes they just get together and start roaming and sometimes they roam out of the city. If they don’t immediately run into a zone that can obliterate them (such as Hades or Hecate, which is also close to an old city), they can wander into the wilds, where they in turn can obliterate small unprepared towns and random travellers, bolstering their numbers. Sometimes random straggler undead you always find in the wilds get together for some reason and can slowly form a horde.
If the military finds out that there’s a horde moving somewhere out in the wilds, they basically send out an army to take it down. They’ll do pretty much anything to prevent a horde from hitting Zeus (although Zeus is well-equipped to DEAL with a horde, it’s growing so rapidly that a lot of settlements have risen OUTSIDE the zone walls and they have to keep expanding and moving the walls constantly, always leaving some part of the zone somewhat vulnerable), which is why Zeus hasn’t seen a proper horde in over 25 years.
Hordes are what make the undead truly dangerous: when they’re alone they really don’t pose much of a threat unless they can get a jump on you (or you don’t have any idea how to deal with one).
"THE UNDEAD" vs. "ZOMBIES"
If there’s even a single instance in the comic where any of the main characters (except Maverick) refers to the undead as "zombies” without appropriate context, I’ve been sloppy with the script: generally everyone avoids using the z word and people just speak about the undead, the infected or the living dead. Especially the military is rather strict about using “undead” (or “infected” if the person in question is only infected but not dead yet) in official reports and “infected” shows up a lot in medical reports etc. (Their reasoning for this is that “zombie” was before the apocalypse the word used in a religious context and in generally, outside of vodou, regarded as a myth and bad horror movie antagonists, and suddenly reanimated dead were everything but fictional, so in the beginning they were trying to draw a strict line between fact and fiction). Civilians usually just use whatever possible word they can think of to use about reanimated dead people who crave living flesh and are kept “alive” by some weird-ass infection. Sometimes that word is zombie, but usually people take after military conventions and “undead” is the go-to word.
ON UNDEAD ATTACK
The undead tend to go straight for the face or extremities which are usually not as protected as other body parts (and easy to grab), and second of all they won’t try to bite you through your clothing: they will first try to tear it off to find flesh to bite.
The "moving pretty fast after having spotted prey" part is more that they can STRIKE really fast when they get close enough. Like, throw themselves at prey, and then exert strength unusual to them so that they can actually hold the prey in place. For example, in chapter 10 Cotton holding the sharp end of his poking stick up after he noticed the zombie coming up from the water was a conscious defensive choice: he was assuming it would throw itself at him and then get impaled in the process.
Generally the undead move very sluggishly, they can't run. Or, well, I suppose they can attempt to, but they most likely just end up falling over. Wight (and the twins) retain all motor function, so they can not only run and, like, jump rope, if they wanted to, they have their fine motor skills as well, as should probably be pretty obvious from the fact that they can all e.g. use weapons accurately.
THE BOGLANDS UNDEAD
They are bloated by water.The undead do not decompose, but being constantly in a very, very wet environment and probably even spend time underwater can actually cause the bodies to start breaking down a little and kickstart the decomposing despite the virus having stopped it initially.