I do not own World War Z. Zombie Works and the Decaptain are real. I neither own nor work with them. Don't sue me.
Boulder, Colorado, Untied States of America
[Richard Anders has been a blacksmith for twenty-five years. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, he spent his pre-war years at a small business making replica medieval weapons; he now runs one of the largest smithies in the country. Richard meets me in the small kitchen attached to his private workroom. After his apprentice sets out refreshments on the much battered wood table, Richard comes in, sits down, and helps himself to a large mug of hot chocolate and a cookie. His black hair is still wet from the shower. Less than five foot eight, with a jaunty grin, potbelly, and bushy beard, he resembles someone's eccentric bachelor uncle. But his heavily muscled arms and neck serve as constant reminders that he is directly credited with saving more than ten thousand lives before and during the war and within Military circles has earned the near reverent nickname, Eitri1.]
"When I told my parents I wanted to be a blacksmith, I think you could hear the screaming in Space. You see, Mom and Dad were professionals, lawyers. They didn't want their son pissing away his life on some kitschy do-nothing skill; especially after Louie2 ran off to West Point. They wanted us to go to school, be, I don't know, dentists or therapists, or something. But I loved to work with my hands. They tried to talk me out of it and when that didn't work they gave me the cold shoulder."
Did you hear from your family often?
[Richard smirks at me.]
"My parents? No. They'd call now and then, mostly to bemoan my career choice. My brother Louie? All the time. We called each other every Sunday, five O'clock on the dot. We'd talk about sports, girls, our bosses, whatever. It was our little ritual. In the eight years since we left home, we never missed a Sunday. Then one Sunday, Louie didn't pick up at five. I must of called him ten times; he finally picked up around eleven. We talked about the usual but his heart wasn't in it. He sounded horrible, all tired and beaten down and every time I asked him what was happening he would grumble something about a mission. I knew he couldn't talk about most of his work. I got the feeling he wanted to talk to me about something important, so I just asked him. His reply was about the strangest thing I'd ever heard. He wanted to know what kind of swords was best for decapitations.
I thought it was a joke. I told him katanas were best for straight decaps but they were a little light if you wanted to say slit a skull open. He asked what kind of sword I would choose for that. I told him a claymore, you know like Braveheart; then he asked if I could forge him one. That knocked me flat; Louie was Special Forces, he had the best equipment on and off the market. What the hell did he want with a clunky sword? He just asked if I could. I told him I'd do my best and call him if I got something. Right before he hung up, he added it couldn't just be a fancy wall decoration; it had to be battle-ready blade.
I went to work the next day thinking about what Louie had said to me. Katanas were the best kind of swords for beheadings but I couldn't forge one. Claymores were good for bashing and crushing but most were at less four feet long so they were kinda a pain to lug around. I started sketching out something that would be the best of both of them. I looked up some things on the internet and talked to some friends of mine. We all got really into it. It was fun. After a few weeks, we had made one hell of a sword, and the first one I called was Louie. He came to pick up the next day. Rolled right up to my forge in one of those big army jeeps. Everyone who helped me was there. We all wanted to see the look on his face when he saw it."
Did he like it?
[Richard sets his cup down on the table with a thud.]
"You kidding. He was thrilled! Three and a half feet of bright, springy steel, heavy enough to crack a skull but light enough to carry around, perfectly balanced and sharp enough to cut bone like butter. One of us had this sheath made so Louie could carry it on his back. I even acid burned Louie's name right into the blade."
[Richard leans back, hands on his belly and grinning madly.]
"It was a labor of love. Louie swung it twice and started grinning like a maniac. He asked me how much it had cost me to make it. I told him it was a gift, from me to him. Louie smiled and hugged me tight, told me that it was the best gift I'd ever given him. I just said I'd remember that next time he had tickets to the Super Bowl. Louie punched my arm and asked me what it was called. I thought about it for a minute, and told him it was the Decaptain, cause Louie was a captain. He just grinned at me. He drove away with it strapped to his back.
Things went back to normal after that; Work, Beers with the guys, Calls from Louie. He didn't say much, cept to thank me for the Decaptain. Than two months after, this army grunt walks right into the shop and asked the manager if this was the same shop that made Captain Anders' sword. The manager, Lewis, said it was and this guy up and asks how much for five dozen of them! Lewis had to scrap his jaw off the floor to answer. The grunt didn't question the price; just filled in a check, handed it to Lewis and told him he'd pick them up in a month.
That was the first order we got from the military. More came in and Lewis had us expand into a whole line of weapons. Our biggest seller was those throwing knifes/pitons/tent stakes. Designing and forging the weapons was a lot of work but Lewis was happy. We went from squeaking by to rolling in it.
But about six months before the Great Panic rolling, Louie called me at lunch on a Tuesday. He said he needed to talk to me and was stopping by that night. He arrived around midnight. He was in this beat-up old car, his Decaptain over his shoulder, and rifle and a dog in the front seat. I saw Louie get a bag out of his trunk and I let him in. He wasn't looking too hot. He had bags under his eyes and he was all jumpy. He keep muttering over and over 'not working, not working. So stupid.'
Finally I asked what the hell was going on. He told me that he went AWOL because he had to tell me something, that he had to warn me. He was really freaking me out. Louie opened the bag and pull out this big jar with a fucking human head in it. I tackled him right there. I thought he'd gone nuts. I was trying to get him in a headlock when I felt something tugging on my pants. I looked down and saw the head with my pants in its jaw.
It came this close to my leg.
[Holds up thumb and forefinger less than a hair's width apart.]
Its eyes were fixed on me. Louie just looked at me and said 'See.'
After that Louie told me about the Alpha Teams, about his missions. How at first it was one or two missions a month, then five a month, then ten a week, all over the country. How the whole thing was spiraling out of control and the government was only concerned with keeping it hushed up and how he went AWOL to try and warn as many people as possible. The whole time, I kept glancing at the head. It was still staring at us, biting the air. Louie and I took the head to my forge. We told everyone at work and they went and got their families. Everyone I knew came and looked at this living, moving severed head."
And that's when you formed Zombie Works?
"You talk like I came up with the idea. No, Louie was the brains behind it, the only thing I did was make the weapons, maybe find some people to help Louie out. You know wilderness experts, martial artists, a web designer for the site."
You had a website?
"Yeah, that's how we got the word around. At first, we only got you know, nerds and fringe freaks. College kids who thought it was a joke, people looking for something to do, the occasional pyshco. But as the problem got worst, more people came in. We got people from as far away as Québec and LA. We told them the truth, offer our classes in defense and survival, sold them our weapons. As got more members, Louie started forming them into a kinda anti-zombie militia. Teams that patrolled their neighborhoods and help the army and cops pick up the slack. After everything went to hell and the army pulled back, I pulled up stakes and headed to San Francisco. Spent the rest of the war in the forge, making Lobos and Decaptains. A lot of survivors stopped by to see me. They said the training had helped them and their families survive."
[He takes a long swig of his chocolate.]
"I think they would have been fine. Most people are a lot smarter and tougher than they think they are."
Is it true you forged the first Lobo?
"People said that I did, but I don't know. All I know, some Jarhead came in with a drawing and a car hood and asked me if I could help."
What happen to Louie?
[Richard stars into the dregs of his chocolate, his mouth twitching.]
"Bout three months after Zombie Works formed, couple of Army CID agents came to my house. Louie didn't put up a fight, didn't try to run. The only thing he said was to keep Zombie Works running and try to keep Mom and Dad safe. He was always nicer to them. They went and sent him up to Fort Carson3. He was still there when Denver went white. I moved out here to try and find him, still looking. People say I'm a hero because of Zombie Works but I was never in danger. My belly was always full; I had work behind the Rockies Defensive Line and a soft bed to go to at night. So when people come and call me a hero, tell me that Zombie Works or the Neighborhood Security Teams that were based off it saved their lives, I tell them the truth.
I'm not the hero of the family. My brother gave up his whole life to the people of this country. He fought night and day to keep them safe, went against orders to prepare them for the worst, surrendered without a fight and faced his crimes when the time came, and spat in the face of a fate worse than death. So, when people call me a hero, I tell them the truth. I am not a hero. I was never brave enough to be one.
I call my mom every Sunday now. Five O'clock. I tell her about work, about my search for Louie. She's so proud of me now that smithing is this big thing. I try not to be bitter about it. Louie wouldn't want that."
[Richard escorts me to the door of the forge. The snow is still thick on the ground. In the courtyard of the forge, a sword is stuck straight up in a round slab of concrete. On the blade, there's a faint etching. It reads: To my baby brother, Captain Lawrence Joseph Anders.]
1: Eitri: The Norse Mythological Dwarf that forged Thor's Hammer, Mjölnir.
2: Green Beret Captain Lawrence Joseph Anders.
3: Fort Carson, Colorado; The Army Incarceration Facility.