This is a piece of the Shattered States that came about early and caused a slight headache for me. I imagined a terrifying being hunting Cassidy and Lloyd after they did something to make it mad. Then I came up with a better idea. They were going to be tracked down by an inhuman assassin. Pretty simple way to fit that in since Lloyd was an escaped prisoner and the warden wasn’t fed his own spleen. In fact, the warden is still dining on the finer foods while his prisoners suffer.
I came up with a figure who was covered in rags, had blister-covered skin, above average strength, and felt no pain. Of course I called it . . . absolutely nothing for two weeks. I had to figure out where this thing came from because the Plague Bogs didn’t make sense and nothing else was that destructive. Not even Nebraska. Then I remembered that I nuked Washington D.C. before the story starts to remove the federal government from play and plunge the country into more chaos. (This is fiction, NSA. Or is it NASA that spies on people?) Anyway, I thought it would be interesting if a new threat emerged from this disaster.
Enter the Half-Deads! These are people who didn’t die immediately from the bombing and radiation. They had a bizarre natural resistance that didn’t keep them healthy, but led to a slow demise. Half-Deads take assassination jobs for the medicines that will keep them alive and numb the pain they feel every minute of the day. Their touch is radioactive and their medications give them an almost invulnerability to minor damage. Guns are the best bet for them, but they still have a working mind and will strike from the dark or in areas where you’re vulnerable. Also they don’t really care about getting shot in the limbs since they never notice. These really are the most fantastical of the creatures in Crossing Bedlam.
I did put a little more into them that may play a factor in future stories. For nothing other than supporting character backgrounds. Half-Deads have a 5-7 year lifespan, so you would think they’d be gone by the time the story starts. Well the originals are probably long dead, but they are known to kidnap innocent people. Their victims are brought to D.C. where they are turned into Half-Deads and released into the world. Nobody knows for sure because the area is plain lethal. Some studies have shown that Half-Deads are able to sense when someone has enough radiation resistance to survive the transformation. This comes from how a person reacts to their touch or bite, which is why they don’t always kill on the first strike.
Honestly, I don’t know how often they’re going to appear in the other books. The main purpose for the Half-Dead in Crossing Bedlam was to have something preventing Cassidy and Lloyd from turning back. They have to keep moving and this thing can’t be easily killed. For Cassidy it’s because she’s terrified of the thing like everyone else in the Shattered States. Lloyd is different in that he can’t get close to it and has to think of a way around its lethal touch. Yes, it’s kind of like a monster vs monster thing.