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 Post subject: Escaping the Junkyard
PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 10:58 pm 
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To view the wakizashi and saya this story depicts, look here: viewtopic.php?f=33&t=68386

It was already hot enough at eight on Monday morning when I turned off the access road of Loop 410 and north up Roosevelt that my seatbelt pressed against my shirt left a sweaty ghost of itself. August in Texas gets to be mighty miserable, and it doesn’t start to cool down until midway through September. Today promised to be like every other day of the past half a month: dry, hot, and miserable. That’s why I was trying to get an early start on my day at Ashley Salvage. At least when I made it in to the shop afterwards I would have the big pedestal fan keeping me from soaking in sweat.

Ashley wasn’t far from 410. Although there was population both north and south, the stretch where Ashley and a couple of other junkyards stood was fairly sparse. The left side of the road, where stretches of thick huisache and mesquite thickets filled the space behind the fence, served as an informal marketplace. Beat-up pickups selling watermelons, flats of St. Augustine grass, simple wooden furniture, and puppies dotted hither and yon. I saw one trailer, the biggest of them all, selling gangsta T-shirts, neon beer signs, and stainless katanas in bright colors. A slovenly-looking guy wearing one of the T-shirts with a marajuana leaf emblazoned across the chest lolled in a chair next to the katana stand. I rolled my eyes.

Across from the gates of Ashley Salvage and a bit north, a green Dodge squatted down under the weight of its load of watermelons like a huge frog on a lily pad. I thought about it for a fraction of a second, and decided that a juicy watermelon would sure enough hit the spot about mid-afternoon. Since I was going to the junkyard simply to scout out some steel stock to cut up for anvils for students in my blacksmithing class to buy, I decided there wasn’t any reason for me to drive on into the junkyard. ‘Sides which, there was a live oak tree next to the Dodge whose shade would keep my pickup from becoming a blast furnace while I was doing my thing.

Five minutes later, having purchased a watermelon and stowed it in the passenger side floorboard, I crossed the street and ambled through the chain link gates of Ashley Salvage. I knew pretty much where to look for the stalks of five by six steel cutoffs, but wasn’t sure since things did get periodically shuffled around. It could be an hour or so before I was finished, especially since I also wanted to peruse the current inventory of scrap and see if there was anything useful, so I had slung my canteen around my shoulder before locking the pickup doors. Armed with my tape measure, a little notebook to write down measurements, a pencil, and my cell phone, I headed for the most likely spot for the anvil stalks.

No more than fifteen minutes later, the air was split by what I took to be a sonic boom. I was mildly surprised, since I couldn’t recall hearing one since I had moved to San Antonio two and a half years ago. There were quite a few military bases around, though. Maybe it was something to do with one of them. I shrugged and was about to go back to writing down the length of one of the anvil stalks that I had found when I noticed something floating out of the corner of my eye. It was a parachutist.

He was floating down lazily, hanging almost inert. My initial reaction was that he must have been a pilot who ejected and the sonic boom I had heard was actually a jet crashing. Then I saw that there were dozens of them floating down. Scanning the sky in confusion, I saw something like a short shipping container suspended by a pair of parachutes just as the view of it was blocked by the office building. I heard tires screeching and the sound of metal impacting, so it must have landed on the asphalt of Roosevelt Avenue. Was it some kind of paratrooper training mission that had gotten off course?

The first parachutist I had seen floated towards the shack by the small scales used to weigh the metal that customers bought. I saw the old reprobate in the cowboy hat who usually manned these scales come out and tip his hat back on his head, looking quizzically at the form drifting in his general direction. Five feet above the ground, a pair of small flashes blossomed on the parachutist’s harness, and he dropped the rest of the way. They were explosive charges that had disengaged him from the ‘chute. That certainly wasn’t any kind of standard paratrooper or parachutist technique I had ever heard of. What in the nine circles of Hell was going on? I walked quickly toward the scale shack, keeping my eyes focused on the parachutist lying crumpled on the ground.

I was a good hundred feet away when the figure on the ground lurched to its feet. The reprobate scale man was saying something I couldn’t hear and reaching out his hand to help steady the parachutist when two things happened almost simultaneously: the reprobate’s eyes opened as wide as they could and a split second later the parachutist grabbed the extended hand and dragged it up to his mouth. I heard the reprobate scream, and I saw him jerk his hand away missing the last two digits. I saw the parachutist stagger towards him, arms raised and hands grasping. The parachutist closed on the scale man and bit his neck. The young man with the spiked earlobes who also helped man the scale shack emerged from the interior and pushed the parachutist back. Holding his gushing neck with his mangled hand, the reprobate reached into his pocket and pulled out a little shiny automatic, chambered a round with difficulty, and fired six rounds into the parachutist’s chest. I could see the body rock back a little, then the figure resumed its forward motion, arms grasping and mouth gaping wide to bite again. Two more shots rang out and I saw the head snap back and the parachutist collapsed altogether and lay perfectly still. The reprobate’s legs buckled as the man with the spiked ears tried to catch him. By the time I got close, he was unconscious. All attempts by the young man to stem the blood from spraying out were futile. It wouldn’t be long before he stopped breathing.

My legs shook in reaction. It didn’t help at all that a strong smell of putrefaction filled the air. It didn’t help that the parachutist’s skin was gray and shriveled so that the lips pulled back from the teeth. And it sure as Hell didn’t help that I could see that the man with the cowboy hat gasping out his life at my feet had hit dead on with every shot he fired.

I suddenly heard screams. I raced around the corner of the scale shack and saw that the shipping container-looking thing had landed right in front of the gates to the junkyard. A door, hinged at the bottom, had opened and I could see dozens of figures slowly pouring down the ramp and milling around. A youngish man in sunglasses and a bright green safety vest pounded toward the junkyard gate, a clipboard incongruously still clutched in one hand. Two more men ran to help. They rolled the gate shut and slid the bolt, locking a padlock in place. Three of the figures had made it through the gates first. They converged on one of the men, clutching at him, dragging him to the ground, collapsing on top of him, and...feeding. The man who had held the clipboard hauled off with one boot-clad foot and kicked one of the things in the head. It shook itself a bit and continued chewing. A second kick brought distant crunching sound and it collapsed. Turning to another of them, the young man brought his boot up into the ribcage. No effect.

I glanced desperately around. A piece of half inch rebar lay on the ground a few feet away. I grabbed it and ran, my canteen swinging and banging wildly against my hip. The screams of the man being devoured were horrible to hear. I swung at the nearest slavering thing without slowing as I reached the little group. A shower of indescribable gore slurped in an arc and the form collapsed. The third one, the one that had been kicked in the ribs, continued gnawing on the screaming victim’s chest, completely oblivious to the deaths of its comrades. It took four hits from the rebar to take it down.

I straightened dizzily and glanced around. Screams filled the air. Two cars, coming from opposite directions, had hit the container and been rear-ended in turn. One of the cars had actually been partially under the container when it landed. A chain reaction of collisions stretched for yards in either direction and screeching tires indicated that motorists were still trying to avoid adding their numbers to it. The sounds of the terrified passengers attracted the shambling things, who stopped milling and began moving toward the vehicles with terrible purpose. I vomited.

After washing my mouth out with a little water, I followed the two men who were dragging the still-screaming third toward the office building. Zombies. Whatever else was going on, whether I was dead and in Hell or insane or actually living through this, I was dealing with zombies. It was incredible in its truest sense; not credible, not to be believed. But I had just witnessed enough to know that it had to be dealt with for what it was, whether or not I actually believed what I saw.

Chaos erupted inside when we opened the door. No point in going into the details of staunching the wounds and bandaging as best they could. Eventually the poor guy passed out. It got really quiet, and then someone turned on a radio.

“...repeat, the United States appears to be under an unknown form of attack from an unknown antagonist. Several ships that appeared to be normal civilian container ships and oil tankers, while docked in major U.S. coastal cities on the Eastern and Western seaboards as well as the Gulf coast, suddenly launched unknown types of missiles at 8:53 Eastern time this morning. These missiles then targeted both the port cities the ships were at as well as other major cities across the U.S. At this time, the number of ships, the number of missiles, and the number of cities targeted are all unknown. It appears that several of the missiles are still in flight en route to target cities and the Air Force has scrambled interceptor jets at bases across the nation. Missile defense systems are being deployed, although they are designed to deal more with intercontinental ballistic missiles rather than short-range attacks such as this.

“A number of missiles have already detonated above their targets. We are waiting for confirmation from official sources about the types of warheads, but at the moment damage seems to be almost non-existent, meaning that biological agents or low-level radiation warheads such as neutron bombs may be deployed. Officials urge citizens to remain at work or home, sealing off all airflow as tightly as possible. Please stay off the streets, but do not panic if you are currently not in a building. Proceed calmly to the nearest building and take shelter. Panic could cause as much death as a bomb blast.

“At this time there is no official statement about what country or organization may be behind this unprecedented nationwide attack. Homeland Security has issued a red level alert, which is to say the threat is severe. All military personnel, including National Guard units, must report for duty immediately...”

I stepped back outside while I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. Suzanne was already at work by now. I called her office number and was relieved to hear her typical cheerful corporate greeting. “Suzanne, honey, listen to me. Call me back on your cell phone and then go into the break room and turn on the T.V.”

“What’s going on, baby?”

“Just do it. I’ll explain when you call me back. Take your purse with you. I love you.”

After what seemed like an eternity but was only about ten seconds later, my phone buzzed. “What is it, baby? Are you ok?”

“We’re under some kind of attack. I’m ok, but I’ve witnessed some of it and I can’t tell you without you thinking I’m joking. Turn on the news so you can see for yourself.”

I heard the T.V. turn on in the background, although I couldn’t much tell what it was saying. Suzanne was really quiet. She finally said, “Are you all right? What have you seen?”

“Baby, I’m fine at the moment. Don’t laugh, but from what I can tell someone has figured out how to make zombies and are using them as bioweapons against us. I saw one of them get shot six times in the chest and act like it was nothing, but finally went down with a head shot. I..I killed a couple of them myself by beating them in the head with a piece of rebar. They were...eating a guy when I did that. He’s still alive last I checked. They’re taking care of him –“

She interrupted me. “Are you hurt anywhere?” After my negative, “Where are you?”

“I’m down at Ashley Salvage. My pickup is outside the fence and there’s a lot of those zombies between me and it. Listen, go downstairs and head for my apartment as quickly and as carefully as you can. Where are your parents?”

“They’re in Oklahoma still.” I could hear the T.V. fade out.

“Then they’re probably better off than we are.” I heard her talking to her co-workers in hurried tones before she returned to me. “Listen, baby, head for my apartment. Keep your pepper spray and your knife handy the whole time. Get up the stairs as fast as you can and lock the doors. You know where the shotgun is. Get it as soon as you’re in. Rack one round into the chamber and load another shell so it’s full and then kick the safety off. Barricade the windows with the mattress and box springs and the door with some of the book shelves. Then start getting supplies together. Use the backpacks and bags in the closet –food first, then medical supplies, then clothes. Be as quiet as you can while you’re doing all this. When you’re done, wait quietly for me. You can keep tabs on the radio, but stay quiet. I’ll come get you and we’ll head to the farm.”

“Screw that, I’m coming to get you right now.” In the background I could hear her little Saturn’s four banger rev like she always had to do when starting it. I could picture the smoke clouds pouring out the tailpipe. She was already outside and in her car.

“Baby, there’s nothing you could do down here but get yourself killed. The gate’s blocked and there’s a lot of those things out there. Besides, the Green Monster might not make it.” Her poor little car had a transmission that had been on the verge of dying since six months after she bought it, drank oil like other vehicles drank gas, needed water pumps replaced almost as frequently as oil filters, and had a nasty habit of dying on her if she tried to drive it further than it took to get to work or school. If she had the money she would have replaced it years ago, but it somehow lingered on in its unreliable reliability. “Give me some time and I’ll figure a way out of this and meet you at the apartment. I’ll try to keep in touch, but the phone system might go out. I’ll knock “Shave and a Haircut” three times so you know it’s me. Listen, baby, if I don’t make it by dark, then try to get out on your own. Get north and try to get to the farm.”

She was crying. She was very strong, but sometimes things were overwhelming for a minute and she just had to let it out. She’d be ok after that. “Listen, baby, I need to go see if I can figure out a plan. I’ll try to call you back here in a few minutes. Call me when you get to the apartment, ok?”

The phone was dead. My cell phone bill was low each month, but the service was craptastic. It wasn’t an unusual thing for a call to get dropped four or five times in the course of a conversation. I desperately dialed her again and again. No luck. It wouldn’t even dial the number. Finally, I headed back toward the junkyard’s office.

A group of people walked out the door as I approached, arguing. A young Mexican man holding an aluminum bat in his hand seemed to be the center of the argument, though he didn’t say anything. He just strode determinedly toward the gate, the brim of his cowboy hat low and his brown eyes smoldering. Beyond the chain link lay a scene of terrible devastation. The zombies feasted ravenously on the motorists. No living thing stirred on the road; only the dead.

They were all dressed in plain gray coveralls with no pockets, no insignia, no sign of any sort to indicate their point of origin. All races were represented in such a mix that they could have been the makeup of any American city. No way to tell who had attacked us at this point. No way to know who to counterstrike. Even the level of decay varied, some fresher than others.

Without hesitation, the young man climbed up the gate, navigated the razor wire, and dropped down to the ground. The zombies nearby immediately moved toward him, walking at a relatively fast walking pace. He strode aggressively toward the nearest one, a grim set to his jaw. As he got in range, he swung the bat one-handed, catching the zombie across the upper left arm. A sharp crack rang out and the zombie staggered sideways with its arm flopping, knocked off-balance. Immediately following up, the young man smashed the bat two-handed into the zombie’s head, catching it at the jaw joint. Congealed gore splatted and the lower jaw hung askance from the ruin of the face. Before he could finish off his first victim, the man had to deal with three more. Battering aside reaching hands, he took a step forward. The first zombie, down on one knee, swung its broken arm at him from behind. It flailed and fluttered horribly, but the hand grasped his belt. With a heave, the zombie jerked the man backwards, not down but off balance. It was over at that point, all but the screaming. Being eaten by zombies is always made horrific in the movies. It’s much worse in real life. Our bodies don’t really pull apart like the special effects make it look like. Our teeth and jaws aren’t made for killing, only chewing. It takes a long time to die by being eaten by a zombie, and it’s unpleasant the whole time.

Before he was dead, I stepped in front of the group staring helplessly at him, the women crying, the men with clenched jaws and pale faces. “All right, that’s enough. We can’t do a damned thing for him. Lets get back into the office and assess the situation and come up with a plan.” They slowly walked back. I followed.

The air conditioning dried the sweat off my face quickly. I heard someone telling someone else that Carlos was dead. It was like being in the Tower of Babel after that. I couldn’t tell a single thing that was being said. I whistled as loudly as I could and shouted, “Hey!” Things quieted down and everyone looked toward me. It was like being back in front of a room full of high school seniors on my first day teaching English, except that I really might die. “All right. We’re trapped here and we need to get out. We need to get our priorities straight, figure out solutions and alternatives, and then get out of here without ending up like brave Carlos. Ok?”

One of the Mexican women who had been outside when Carlos died (man, I sure hoped he was dead by now. I couldn’t heard any screams over the sound of the air conditioner.) sniffed and said, “The man on the radio said to stay inside, though.”

“Ok. So say we stay inside. How much food do we have? How long do we have water? Does anyone know we’re here? Are you sure that any rescue personnel are not too busy dealing with any of those zombies landing in the main part of the city to make it out here? Do we wait to deal with this until it’s obvious no one is coming?” I glanced at my cell phone. It was 8:59. Wow. “It’s been slightly under an hour since the attack was launched, and I’ve seen two people killed by it and another badly wounded. How many of the people in the cars outside got away? Imagine how bad it’ll be up in the city if some of the zombies made it there. You think they’re not going to be a little bit busy downtown? C’mon, we need to at least look at plans.”

Safety Vest walked up to the counter. “You got any ideas?” he asked.

“I have the starting of one. How about you?”

“Well, the entrance is blocked. The fence all the way down is pretty much blocked by the wrecked and abandoned cars, so we can’t just knock the fence down and get out. We could use the claw on one of the excavators to reach over the fence and move some cars or that thing that they parachuted down in.”

“I was thinking the same thing. But there’s a damn lot of those zombies out there. We need a way to protect ourselves from them. Any guns here?” A moment of silence answered me. “All right. We’ll have to improvise. These things seriously seem to be something like Romero zombies, like from Night of the Living Dead. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. Nanotech, a virus, Hell, voodoo for all I know. Maybe Haiti’s attacking us.” That got a bitter laugh or two. “But their behavior is very similar. They move fairly slowly, but if their numbers are big enough, like what we’re dealing with outside, they can trap you. And if they do, they eat you. No pain, no apparent vital organs. That guy at the scales shot one six times through the heart and lungs without bothering it at all. Destroy the brain is the only way to kill ‘em. And that’s not easy. Carlos hit that one a pretty good lick upside the head and it wasn’t quite in the right spot. It cost him. One of them that I killed took four hits to do it. We’ve got to be careful.”

An older blond woman spoke up. “Listen, we try to get through those things and get out and we’re just asking to get swarmed and killed. I say that we just sit tight and wait for rescue. I mean, my husband is working downtown. He’ll come looking for me or send the police. It’s just a matter of waiting.” Murmurs of agreement sounded from about two thirds of the women and a good handful of the men. I considered what she had said.

“Look, I really don’t think that anyone is coming. However, it might make sense to sit still and see what happens, observe what the zombies’ behavior is like, and ruminate over a course of action. I don’t want to wait too long, though, and I don’t want to just sit quietly. My girlfriend is waiting for me, and I told her to head out of town if I didn’t make it by night fall. I can’t call her and let her know what’s going on. How about this: we put together a small team to sweep the yard, making sure that there aren’t any more zombies in here. I know that at least one was parachuted in and I saw a whole lot more floating down on parachutes. Likely whoever launched the attack cluster bombed us with zombie paratroopers that would spread out and cover a lot of ground, as well as the shipping container-looking things that holds a whole bunch of ‘em at once. We don’t need to be surprised by any teeth at our backs while we’re trying to get out. Then we can assess the situation and see what to do. ‘K?”

Everyone agreed that it sounded reasonable. We ended up leaving the women who worked the office indoors with instructions that we would knock “shave and a haircut” when we needed back in. The men armed themselves with what was available inside: a few ball pein hammers, mostly, with one fellow ill-advisedly taking a length of chain. I still had my piece of rebar. We set out into the heat and the door slammed and locked behind us.

We stayed in a group, tightly knit but far enough apart that we could maneuver and not hit each other accidentally. It took an hour to sweep through the yard, but it was worth it since we found six zombies shambling about looking for a free lunch. After we covered everything, we headed back toward the office. As we passed by the scale hut where the reprobate lay next to the first zombie, I couldn’t help but look at the old cuss. He had at least managed to take one of them out. I just about came unglued when he sat up and turned his bleary gaze our direction. I think we all kind of jumped. Safety Vest took care of the job; as much as he had annoyed me, I would have had a hard time whacking the reprobate upside the head.

A thought hit me upside the head just then. Glancing toward the main gate, I saw mangled Carlos on his feet, missing too much of himself to be alive, pawing at the chain link. They really were like Romero zombies. That meant that we had left the women locked in a building with a dying man who at any moment might become a nightmarish bioweapon. I broke into a run.

The poor guy who had been so badly chewed up had died while we were making the rounds. When I breathlessly explained to Safety Vest, he grabbed a big pair of ChannelLoks out of a bin, gripped the body by the cuff of its jeans, and dragged it off the counter and outside into the dust. The bloody ball pein did its job again before the fellow could reanimate and come after anyone.

I stood outside, ignoring the heat, ten feet away from the gates. I could just see my pickup out there. Besides just being a way of getting out of here and to Suzanne, it had all kinds of stuff in it that would be useful. The back seat was crammed full with camping gear that I had never gotten around to putting away. There was a machete and a light camp ax as well as a Cold Steel Spetznaz shovel, a little tent, a CamelBak day pack and my larger frame backpack with some basics in it, various knives, my Mexican wool poncho. Heck, probably had some jackets still sitting under the pile left from last winter. My tool box, some rope. All kinds of useful stuff for getting out of Dodge. All separated by fifty yards and a whole lot of hungry undead. Even if I got out to the pickup, I’d be vulnerable until I could get the door unlocked and get inside.

I was watching them. My stomach churned, but I was watching their behavior. They couldn’t move very quickly. Avoiding them individually would be fairly easy. It was when they were in a big mass or if they surprised you that you needed to attack them. Then it needed to be something you could pull quickly, deploy in a blur, do some severe damage. Poor Carlos over there, lusting after my flesh, had hit that one zombie some pretty good licks, but he hadn’t done the job. I needed to aim carefully, but I also needed something that could cut bone, drop a limb if it was reaching for me or crunch into a skull and deep into the brain. Something sharp.

Fast, light, with enough power and a sharp enough edge to cut off an arm or into a skull. My mind immediately formed a picture. I remembered that I had absently shoved my notepad and pencil into my pocket when I had spotted the first paratrooper. I pulled them out and quickly rendered something like what I wanted. I based it heavily off the CRKT Hisshou, a Japanese-style knife with a foot-long blade. It should fit the bill to be light and quick to maneuver yet provide enough of a punch. Leaf spring would be the material, of course. No point in leaving the handle flat; it’d be uncomfortable and probably hurt the first time I hit something. Nothing really obvious to wrap it with; my paracord was in the backpack in the back seat of the pickup in the hole in the bottom of the sea over there. An integral socket handle was the trick. It’d fill the hand comfortably and absorb shock, and would be a very strong tang/blade transition. A little bit of an integral guard to keep my hand from accidentally sliding up on the blade if I needed to stab into an eye socket or something. Not bad!

I walked back into the office. They were sitting around the radio. I listened for a minute, but there wasn’t much more information that we didn’t already have except for a list of cities that had been confirmed to be hit. It was sickening. I asked, “Are y’all still planning on waiting for a while?” They were. “All right, but I can’t just sit right now. I need something to defend myself, and it would probably be a good idea if we rigged up some weapons for y’all as well. I have an idea that might be a bit elaborate for myself, but it would occupy my mind for a while. I could use a bit of help, and then I’ll help y’all set up to make something to poke their brains.”

Safety Vest, Spike Ears, and another other guy came out to help me. My mind had already come up with the basics and I worked on the details. I would work in the shed where they sold remnants of square tubing and such; open, plenty of ventilation, protection from the sun, access to power. I needed a forge; I’d use a couple of the cutting torches they had out in the yard to cut up the large chunks that couldn’t get cut apart by the shear on the end of the excavator arm and some firebricks from the old aluminum furnace that they didn’t use anymore to put together something that would let me heat the steel. I needed an anvil; one of the chunks I had been looking to cut up into block anvils for students. I needed oil to quench in; there was a cement pit with motor oil glistening in it and plenty of empty barrels lined up next to one of the fences.

The four of us climbed on one of the fair-sized forklifts. Safety Vest drove where I directed. We picked up the two torches first, grabbing a leaf spring and a goodly number of fire bricks as well. On the second trip we got some more fire bricks and the anvil chunk. I stayed at the shed and began setting up the forge with Spike Ear’s assistance while the rest went to see about getting a barrel full of motor oil. There were a few tools in the shed that would be very useful: a vise, a chopsaw, and an angle grinder.

I stacked the first several bricks and then left the rest to Spike while I marked my blank on the leaf spring with a piece of soapstone I found. I went a little bit larger than the Hisshou’s twelve inch blade, but only by a couple of inches. If they were further away than that, I should be able to avoid them. If they were that close, I wanted to be able to swing quickly and maneuver. It was awkward cutting with the long torch from the yard, but I managed to keep the line fairly straight. I directed Spike to start grinding the torch marks away while I rounded up the last few items I needed from the office.

The people in the office were still glued to the radio. I found a couple of pairs of ViseGrips, some ear plugs and safety glasses, and a medium coarse sandpaper flapwheel for the angle grinder. I still needed a mandrel to help clean up the socket as I rolled it. The ChannelLoks that Safety Vest had used earlier caught my eye. Their handle would do. A poorly-made three pound cross pein hammer rounded out my collection and I made my way back to the shed. I checked my cell phone. No bars, and the morning was rocking along. I sure hoped Suzanne had made it to the apartment ok.

The oil barrel was waiting on me when I got back, and the basics of a dry-stacked forge shell were done. A few minutes later and I had one of the cutting torches rigged up for the burner, somewhat precariously balanced. It would do. There was no point in adding the second torch until I was ready to heat the whole length of the blade to quench it.

I got the makeshift gas forge going, then talked about brain pokers with the guys. We agreed that a length of good-sized rebar about two and a half feet long cut with the chop saw to a sharp angle should be good. Grinding the nubs off the shaft of the rebar for a foot behind the point would help with penetration and cut down on the chances of the spear getting stuck. The guys started on this while I commenced work on my quasi-wakizashi.

I began with the blade, holding the tang with a pair of ViseGrips. The cross pein was larger than I like to work with and the face really needed the sharp bevel dressed, but it would have to do. I took three heats to counterbend the blade toward the cutting edge before starting on forging the bevel. I lost count of the heats as I worked my way from the base of the blade toward the tip, but it went fairly quickly. For the most part, it was just another day at the office for me. The forging setup was a little more improvised, but not by much. The material was the same except that I typically use veggie oil for my quench. Working on ground level was kind of hard on me, but a folding chair from the scale shack helped. I didn’t forge quite as close down to the cutting edge as I typically do, but I would grind it to an edge with the angle grinder. Before long, I had the major forging done on the blade. From a sickle-like profile, it now actually had a bit more backward curve than I wanted it to end up with. Not a problem as the oil quench should straighten the profile somewhat.

I swapped ends of both the waki and the hammer and began to spread the tang as wide as I could with the pein. It was tedious, and I felt very conscious of the time slipping away as I worked, but I knew that if the blade fell out of my hands it would do me no good. Finally, I had it spread out a bit wider than my palm, with the integral guard drawn out a bit further than I had torched it out. I stuck the tang back in to heat and set up my mandrel. I used my little work knife that I had forged out of a Jeep coil spring a couple of years back to strip the rubber off the ChannelLok handle, then set it next to the vise. I opened the vise jaws a couple of inches. By this time, the now thin metal of the tang was hot. I pulled it out, lay the tang across the gap between the vise jaws, and used the cross pein to begin rolling the fishtailed tang into a tube. I took a couple of heats to get it about halfway, then began to work it the rest of the way on the face of the anvil block. I messed up as I got it closer to being closed, but managed to open the worst of it back up and re-roll it. Finally, I clamped the ChannelLoks tightly in the vise jaws so that the stripped handle protruded out for my mandrel, and I worked on cleaning up the waki handle’s seam. I even rolled the end of the socket over on itself like I typically do, hammering it flat so no sharp edge would wear on my hand and cut my palm. In the end, it took longer to make the handle than it had done to forge the blade, and it was without a doubt the ugliest one I had ever done, but it was comfortable and strong and wouldn’t transmit shock any more than a wooden handle would have.

I spent a few minutes sighting down the blade and lining up the spine and edge. It was not as good as I normally do, but it would fit the bill and I couldn’t afford to spend any more time on it. I ended up with a fairly decent approximation of a short wakizashi. My tape measure told me that the blade had ended up fourteen and a half inches long, approximately. I actually kind of wished that I had my touchmark with me so I could stamp the blade. I laughed at that little bit of useless vanity, killed the torch, swigged some water from my canteen, and left the wakizashi propped against the vise while I went inside to check the news and cool down for a few minutes. I had forged for about two hours.

The news couldn’t tell us much except that the devastation was spreading. We had already figured out how the zombies operated, and imagining the chaos unleashed when they had descended upon heavily populated areas of the major cities was disheartening. I gave the blade and myself twenty minutes to cool down. The fellows who had been making the brain pokers had finished up about a half hour before me. Some people had brought their lunches, while others had intended to go buy theirs from one of the fast food joints a couple of miles up the street. Those who had food shared with those who didn’t, and I hungrily stuffed a quarter of a tuna salad sandwich in my mouth. I did learn that Safety Vest had checked in the old reprobate’s pockets after he had rendered his corpse harmless and found that there were no more magazines for the little .32 pocket pistol. The guys had managed to make three brain pokers per person there, so that was a little encouraging.

After the cool down period, we headed back out. The other fellows mostly just watched in order to have something to do while waiting, but I did send them on errands to help out. While I started grinding the bevels of the waki with the hard wheel of the angle grinder, they set about procuring a bucket of water, a one inch bar of mild steel iron and some baling wire, and some grease rags. I swapped to the flapwheel on the bevels. I didn’t have as steady a hand as I would have liked, and I was getting some waves and thin spots on the bevels. Files would have been nice, but there were none to be found, not even Pakistani specials. I sighed and worked to keep as steady as I could.

As it came down to almost a cutting edge, the wakizashi reached the point where it came alive. All quality blades do this, though not necessarily at the same point in the process. If I didn’t screw it up some point down the line, I could tell this was going to be a good blade.

I ended up working the bevel on a medium-smooth chunk of cement, well-soaked in water. That took a while but did the trick. I moved to a broken piece of cinderblock, then sharpened with a broken brick. I wanted it almost to its final edge when I heat treated. I thought ruefully of the .30 caliber ammo can in my pickup that held all of my sharpening supplies. Sure would be handy right about now.

Finally I had the edge where I wanted it to be. I prepared to heat treat. I set up both torches this time and lit off the forge. The oil barrel was placed nearby where I could go straight from the fire and into the quench. I would use the ChannelLoks as a pair of tempering tongs by wiring a piece of the one inch mild steel to each jaw. Some grease rags stood close at hand, ready to do their job. Good to go.

I heated the waki blade edge up, careful not to bump it against anything and bend the blade while it was hot and soft. I kept moving it in and out, making sure the whole length heated evenly. At last when it was glowing a good orange, I pulled the blade and dunked it point-down into the oil. Whew! I had good reason to use veggie oil at my shop; the smoke from the motor oil was foul. It didn’t flame too much, thankfully. I bobbed the blade up and down, making sure that it didn’t go side to side. It needed to cool evenly so it wouldn’t warp. After an appropriate interval, I pulled the blade out and checked it. No warping, but the profile had bent forward a fair amount, straightening the blade to where it only had a slight curve. It had actually ended up pretty much dead on to where I had wanted it. Nice!

I heated and quenched twice more, then wiped the blade down with a grease rag. It was still too hot to touch. I used the cinderblock to sand off the burnt-on oil down to the bare metal. I killed one of the torches on the forge and slid just the jaws of the improvised ChannelLok tempering tongs into the fire. I hoped the baling wire, which would certainly heat up more quickly than the one inch square, would hold. All four of us watched in anticipation as the steel began to glow. It looked like it would work. I soaked a relatively clean grease rag in water, then grabbed the ChannelLoks with a pair of ViseGrips and dunked the handles so I could use them without burning myself. I clamped the jaws of the improvised tempering tongs on the spine of the blade down at the base of the blade and waited.

Nothing apparent happened. The other three leaned forward. I don’t know what they were expecting, but I knew to be patient. As the glow of the tong jaws dulled, I finally spotted a light straw color blooming on the blade steel around where the tong was clamped. I let the color travel down to a bit past the middle of the blade before I stuck the tongs back in to heat. Now that the blade’s steel was up to temperature, this would go more quickly.

The colors continued to slowly run toward the edge. They stopped a half inch shy, as I had thought might happen. When the tongs had reheated to a bright orange, I clamped them again in the same spot on the spine. As the colors began to move again, I slid the tongs down to the next section of blade. I kept a close eye on the edge. I let the color run to a dark straw on the edge, running through brown, purple, and dark blue up on the spine, then cooled just the edge down with soaked rag. Steam hissed. By this point, the next section of the blade was tempered and I moved the tongs down. A half dozen or so heats later, I had the whole blade tempered as I wanted it, including drawing the temper on the tip back to a softer, tougher degree.

A few minutes on the brick with some water, and I had a fairly decent edge on it. It even shaved hair a bit roughly on my arm. That should do the trick. I checked my cell phone again. Still no signal, and I still had a couple of hours till my self-imposed time to go. Now what?

Well, now that I had a relatively sharp, relatively long blade, I could use a safe way to carry it. I sure wasn’t going to abandon the wakizashi as soon as I made it to the pickup. I recalled a pallet that I had seen in the yard and an idea presented itself. I would make a saya with a shoulder strap, something I could easily put on or take off. I set to work.

I knocked one of the boards loose, careful not to break it, and pulled the nails out. I marked the length of the blade plus a bit more with my pencil, then checked the width. It should do. I pulled out my Leatherman Core, the single most useful item I had ever bought, and opened the saw blade. It took a few minutes and several rest breaks, but I finally sawed the board to length and then ripped it lengthwise to give me two relatively equal boards.

I had made a couple of wooden scabbards before, but nothing this long and certainly not in as little an amount of time as I now had. No time for a nice fit; I had to make it work. I checked the remnant of the board left after I had cut the length I needed. It was just right. I used the wakizashi blade itself to split off a piece, then drawknife and even chisel with the tip until I had a roughly wedge-shaped piece of wood as long as the side boards. I assembled the sides together with the wedge between them at the bottom and the tops held together, forming a pie slice-shaped cavity just right to hold the wakizashi edge-uppermost. I clamped everything together with the ViseGrips, took a couple of nails from the pallet that I had straightened, and carefully nailed them through the three layers. I slid the blade in again. It was a decent fit, but the tip poked out the back. I had mismarked or miscalculated. I decided to kill a couple of birds with a singular stone. Straightening a third nail, I hammered it through where the two side boards came to a point, near the opening. I tested again and found that the integral guard securely locked against the nail, but that a bit of the tip still poked out the back. I’d deal with that in a bit. Rather than risk splitting the wood with another nail through the top, I wired the back end of the saya with a piece of baling wire. Now to suspend it from my shoulder.

A mangled Jeep Cherokee provided a seat belt strap that would work just dandily as a shoulder strap. I looped it around the front of the saya, punched holes through with the awl on my Leatherman, and sewed through it rather crudely with some baling wire. I carefully sized it to hang at my waist, made a loop at the other end of the saya, and repeated the process. I slung it over my left shoulder so that the saya rode at my right hip and started laughing. The other guys joined in. It looked quite silly and totally badass at the same time. It worked well, though, and I had even made it ambidextrous so Suzanne could wear it as well since she’s not a lefty like me.

It was time to make our final plans and for me to go, whether anyone else did or not. The sun was getting low. I checked the valves on the cutting torch bottles out of habit, making sure they were closed, and we walked toward the office. Carlos still clawed at the chain link, even though he had worn through the flesh of his fingertips some time ago. His new friends did the same.

Inside, I grabbed a roll of duct tape from a bin and pulled a corrugated box out of the trash. While the others discussed what we would do, I worked on finishing up the saya. I made a cardboard cap for the end to keep the tip of the blade that poked out from jabbing me and drawing blood at a time when I didn’t need any distractions. I secured it with duct tape and then turned my attention to the mouth of the saya. I had discovered that although the fit was relatively good, there wasn’t anything to prevent the blade from sliding out if the saya tipped down. I took another strip of cardboard and fed it into the opening down one side. I left a good three or four inches protruding from the mouth, wrapped it around the outside, and duct taped it in place. The blade slipped in and out with a tiny amount of reluctance, but would not slide out even when held upside down. It would loosen up over time, assuming that I lived long enough to give it time. All of the functionality taken care of, I wrapped the whole length of the saya in duct tape to make it more homogenous in appearance and keep any splinters form the board from jabbing. It actually ended up looking fairly decent.

Everyone had finally come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to be rescued and that if we were going to get out, we had better do so while there was still some daylight. There were fourteen people now, and nine vehicles. Mine was the only one outside. Cars and zombies were massed outside the gate, blocking it entirely.

The plan we worked out was this: We would line up the vehicles in a convoy, with Safety Vest’s Dodge dually leading the charge with its heavy bumper and grill guard. The rest of the vehicles would follow with the three cars in the middle and the pickups on either end. Then we would use the claw on the end of the excavator arm to reach over the gate and move the container, cars, and zombies to clear a path as much as possible. The excavator would then roll over the gate and any of the undead still in the area, creating a path for the convoy to punch through. The excavator moved slowly enough that the zombies could keep up with it, but it could clear a radius around itself with the claw. I would ride on the excavator while one of the guys who had helped me drove me over to my pickup. The rest of the convoy would drive past the zombies, south towards 410. When they reached a clear spot, they would stop and wait on us. I’d drop the excavator driver off with them, and we’d go our separate ways. The most dangerous part would be when the excavator guy and I had to get down off the machine and into my pickup.

We walked out in a group and everyone else began lining up their vehicles while the other guy and I walked into the yard toward the excavator. We shook hands as we went and I found out his name was John. He carried two brain pokers in reserve and one at the ready, while I kept my waki unsheathed. He climbed up the tread of one of the excavators and into the cab, me clinging to his heels. We picked the one with a four-fingered grasping claw at the end of the arm as being most useful. The sweet diesel smell of the cab reminded me of my dad’s truck driving days and of my time cutting and raking hay. Time to roll.

We lumbered up to the gate, moving at a zombie’s pace. They milled purposefully at the gate, pushing against it. Their tenacity was diabolical. John rolled right up to the gate, pushing it back a bit with the treads, and swung the big arm out over the road. The claws scrabbled at the opening of the container, finally got a decent grip, and he lifted it and swung outwards, releasing the claw as he did so that the container flew several yards before crashing to the dust. He crushed the cab of the Toyota pickup that had wrecked into the container on the north side as he grasped it and tossed it as well. Then he picked up the little mid-‘80s Oldsmobile that had been on the south side, the one that the container had partially landed on. He didn’t throw this one just yet. Holding it with the excavator’s claw, he swung it like a giant metal flyswatter. Bodies splatted and rolled horribly. John couldn’t reach out too far and he couldn’t get those right against the gate, but he cleared a pretty good swath that slowly filled up again. He cleared it again and yet again. That was most of them, and there was a big enough gap in the wreckage for the vehicles to drive through. He looked over his shoulder at Safety Vest sitting in his Dodge. Safety Vest flashed us a thumbs up, rolled his window down, and pointed forward while honking to make sure everyone knew it was time to go. He rolled his window back up.

The zombies were still clawing at the gate as John rolled the big excavator forward. The gate tore loose and flopped over, pinning most of them under it as the treads ground across the chain link. John paused slightly at the gap between the vehicles and swept the claw back and forth again to clear out a cluster of them since the convoy would have to slow as they moved past the blockage and turned left. He then angled slightly right and rumbled toward my blue Chevy half ton, looking so small and vulnerable and welcoming. The convoy surged behind us, getting around the wreckage and down the road past the zombies as fast as they could. I saw one of the cars lose a rear view mirror and the zombie that grabbed it lose its hand. Then I focused on what lay ahead of us.

There were a dozen or so moving toward us, following the excavator. We were moving slightly faster than they could walk, which gave us an advantage. I dug into my pocket and pulled out my extra set of keys, handing it to John with the pickup key held separate from the rest. He rolled close to the pickup, leaving enough room for me to back out from under the tree and get going. As soon as he stopped moving and set the boom down, I hit the door of the cab and scrambled down the tread, John at my heels this time. A zombie lurched from behind the live oak and stumbled towards us, so that it stood waiting at the end of the tread. It was the guy I had bought a watermelon from. The arms stretched forward, the mouth gaped hungrily. I swung and the blade of my wakizashi clove through the top of his skull. He crumpled and I leaped over him to the ground. Two more zombies moved in before I could get close enough to my pickup door to feel safe. I chopped through the forearm of one, dropping the hand to the ground, and followed up with an overhead swing down into the brain case. The other one I hamstrung and left struggling to turn over so it could drag itself toward me. That was fine for now.

I could see John was on the other side of the pickup, opening the door. I got in a moment after him. I had a few seconds to spare, so I pulled a grease rag out of the door pocket, wiped the gore off the blade as best I could in three quick swipes, dropped the rag to the ground, slammed the door, sheathed the waki, and jabbed the key into the ignition. I fired it up, ignoring the whining buzzer that protested me cranking the pickup without my seatbelt being on, and dropped it into reverse. I spun the tires backing up, and I felt the driver’s side rear wheel hop over the hamstrung zombie. Slamming into drive, I spun the wheel hard over to the right, slung the rear of the pickup around in an almost-doughnut, and followed after the convoy, driving on the shoulder until I was past the mass of wrecked vehicles.

I glanced over and saw John grinning wildly. He had lost the other two, but his remaining brain poker had obviously seen use. I hit eighty by the time we approached the brake lights of the convoy a quarter mile down the road and slowed down. John shook my hand and gave me the extra set of keys back as I dropped him off with Safety Vest. We waved and honked, and then I headed towards 410. As I passed the stand with its glowing neon beer signs, I saw the fat slob stumbling toward me, his throat torn out. He still held the cast resin tsuka of one of his stainless steel katanas, the blade nowhere in evidence. The tang had snapped off down inside the handle. I looked down at the ugly integral socket handle of the wakizashi next to my leg and began to laugh hysterically.

As I pulled onto 410, I tried my cell phone again. One bar. My heart fluttering, I dialed Suzanne. She answered on the first ring.

As fast as I could, I told her, “Honey, I’m alive and fine and headed your way. I’m taking the long way to avoid any traffic congestion, but I’ll be there. Just wait on me and keep safe. I love you with all my heart.” The signal faded just then and the bars refused to return, but my mind was far more at ease as I drove down the empty freeway. Time to get home and get out of San Antonio. We’d be ok now.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:23 pm 
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Ok you got me all stoked up to make the zombie killer i have been planning for a year..every maker has one in his mind..thanks a lot another project..great story also..later Luke


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:01 pm 
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Cool story--I didn't know you could forge AND write ;)

Seriously, that's a pretty cool little story. Any thoughts on continuing it?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:11 pm 
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Thanks, guys!

Luke, them danged ol' zombies ain't gonna kill themselves! Get to grinding! :)

Wastelander - Oh, yeah. English major. This was done quickly late at night while I was tired, and I'm sure reflects that, but it's not the first fiction I've written. No plans on continuation; this story developed as I figured out why I would be in the situation for the k.i.t.h. In a junkyard, vehicle outside the gate, trapped inside with a day's worth of water, need to make a weapon to get out. Ok. Needed to still have power so I could run the angle grinder (my own stipulation), so it must be right after the outbreak before chaos destroys utilities. I had Ashley Salvage on the south end of San Antonio firmly in mind, so I had to figure out a logical reason why that fairly empty area that doesn't have much population would suddenly develop enough walking dead to trap me inside. Also had to come up with logical reasons why they didn't just immediately roll over everything undead with an excavator, giving me time to make a wakizashi and saya. Since the actual waki was made in my shop where I already had a forge set up, it seemed logical that to still get a setup going and make all of that in a day I had a few guys helping round up materials. Having fulfilled the needs of explaining the scenario, the story is done as far as I'm concerned. Anything beyond that would be a fairly standard zombie apocalypse story, with the addition of having to figure out the country of origin of the bioweapons and our military struggle against said country while dealing with the zombies.

The old reprobate and Spike Ears are the actual scale men at Ashley, and everyone else is just kind of generic scrap yard people.

By the by, I'm in the process of reading "Deadly Vanity". I had started a while back and gotten distracted. Good stuff! I'm at the point where the characters are holed up in the farmhouse and Colorado just had his eye socket glued shut.

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Nice! Like the fact the story was based on a blade that the author forged himself.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:09 am 
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Storm Crow wrote:
Thanks, guys!

Luke, them danged ol' zombies ain't gonna kill themselves! Get to grinding! :)

Wastelander - Oh, yeah. English major. This was done quickly late at night while I was tired, and I'm sure reflects that, but it's not the first fiction I've written. No plans on continuation; this story developed as I figured out why I would be in the situation for the k.i.t.h. In a junkyard, vehicle outside the gate, trapped inside with a day's worth of water, need to make a weapon to get out. Ok. Needed to still have power so I could run the angle grinder (my own stipulation), so it must be right after the outbreak before chaos destroys utilities. I had Ashley Salvage on the south end of San Antonio firmly in mind, so I had to figure out a logical reason why that fairly empty area that doesn't have much population would suddenly develop enough walking dead to trap me inside. Also had to come up with logical reasons why they didn't just immediately roll over everything undead with an excavator, giving me time to make a wakizashi and saya. Since the actual waki was made in my shop where I already had a forge set up, it seemed logical that to still get a setup going and make all of that in a day I had a few guys helping round up materials. Having fulfilled the needs of explaining the scenario, the story is done as far as I'm concerned. Anything beyond that would be a fairly standard zombie apocalypse story, with the addition of having to figure out the country of origin of the bioweapons and our military struggle against said country while dealing with the zombies.

The old reprobate and Spike Ears are the actual scale men at Ashley, and everyone else is just kind of generic scrap yard people.

By the by, I'm in the process of reading "Deadly Vanity". I had started a while back and gotten distracted. Good stuff! I'm at the point where the characters are holed up in the farmhouse and Colorado just had his eye socket glued shut.


Now that you mention it, I believe that I remember you saying you were an English major. I was not, but I never went to college so I never had the opportunity, though I did answer every question correct on one of those "adaptive" English tests for college placement that is supposed to become more difficult as you answer more questions correctly. I kept waiting for it to get challenging and then it was over :(. In any case, I liked all of the reasoning displayed in this story, and for some reason the fact that those are real places--even though you are probably the only one on ZS who knows of them--makes it more down-to-earth and real.

Glad you're liking my story so far, by the way! I haven't edited the thing at all, except for some on-the-fly "wait, that last sentence didn't make sense" editing, so I'm sure it's full of grammatical errors and plot holes. Still, I try to keep it on track with the outline I wrote up when I started, although my success rate with that is now 100% :P

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Great story. I'm just happy a Toyota got it in the story! :wink:

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Interesting idea, but I still prefer the feel of wood in my hands.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Gun Nut - Yeah, but an Olds bit it, too! Oh wait, it was a mid-'80s Olds. Never mind. ;) Actually, I have nothing against either Toyota pickups or mid-'80s Oldsmobiles (don't really care for the latter); they were pretty much random choices.

By the by, I was actually down at Ashley Salvage today and sure enough, there was a trailer selling flats of St. Augustine grass, another selling gangsta T-shirts, and a place selling stainless katanas. Accurate depiction! :)

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:15 pm 
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Question. I recently bought a sweeeeeeeet fantasy sword at the mall with retractable dual-ended blades and an awesome genuine cast resin dragon spine vertabrae handle--could you grind a cutting-edge on it for me? How much would it cost to get it chromed?

Ok, that was evil...I'm sorry...ok I'm not sorry (evil laugh). What's funny is you know I'm not too far off. Exhibit A--Mr. Jim Bowie Guy (inside joke fellow zombie lovers). I loved the excavator claw. Definitely more useful than the fifty cent claw machine at Walmart and much, much more entertaining. I just wish the operator was maniacally singing John Denver's "Sun Shine On My Shoulder Makes Me Happy" at the top of his voice (twitching between laughs). Obviously the operator of such a big claw, and big treds, as a character, would have an Enormous!!! Shvan-Shtooker!!!! Looking forward to part 2.


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Excellent story, loved how you got right into the thick of things and then slowed a bit to explain the weapon making :) I particularly loved the zombie paratroopers!!

Thanks for one entertaining read, made my day sir 8) looking forward to "next" if you feel so inclined!


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Cool story enjoyed the he'll out of it. Makes me want to try and forge my own knife. Great another hobby I can illaford and have no time to do it in.

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walterde wrote:
Cool story enjoyed the he'll out of it. Makes me want to try and forge my own knife. Great another hobby I can illaford and have no time to do it in.


You can build a forge setup for around $50 ;)

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Wasteland Leatherwork
Karate Obsession - My Martial Arts Blog
The Wasteland Crow Project - My Collaboration with Storm Crow
Deadly Vanity - My Zombie Apocalypse Novella

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