Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Death Race

There's something incredibly wrong with being up at four in the morning. Today, I did it because my brother and I decided that the best way to test our trainees, to make them think very hard about what they're going to be facing in the event that they cover for me or Dave, was to catch them off guard. What better way to accomplish that than waking them out of a dead dead sleep and giving them a false emergency to deal with?

We had just woken up the first two of them, a husband and wife team, when the alarm bell went off, signaling a zombie attack. It was a two-bell alarm, meaning that about two hundred of them were concentrated in a small area against the walls. Normally, that wouldn't be cause for all that much concern. With the trenches, traps, and stakes we have outside the walls of the compound, it's impossible for too many of them to gather against the wall itself and try to break through it.

Not impossible, I guess, but very difficult. The whole reason we have sentries and guards is to pick off the undead as they wind their way through the defenses, reducing their numbers to within safely manageable limits.

This morning it wasn't so simple. Shortly after the two-bell alarms went off, the incessant jangle of the emergency alarm followed it. That's a big bell we took from the old catholic church downtown, which we only use when some major shit is going down. In this case, it was the goddamn smarties, proving to us once again that we can't underestimate them.

Smart zombies had apparently been watching our work on the walls, noting that certain areas had been the focus of our attention. There is a spot, where the annex and the original compound come together, that has degraded pretty badly. It's a corner that seldom sees any trouble, but is at the bottom of two hills. Water tends to gather there when it rains, and the damage the constant runoff has done to the hastily built connection between the two parts of the compound is pretty extensive. That's where the smarties chose to hit.

The emergency bell was being sounded because the swarm that came after us was actually able to make a small breach where the wood had rotted away. Not enough for more than one of them to squeeze in at a time, but scary as hell nonetheless. Truthfully, a huge part of why our mostly haphazard and thrown-together wall has held up this long is because we've take measures to assure that no big groups can easily beat on it for any length of time. It's pretty sturdy, and reinforced from the inside in a lot of places, but there are weak spots. Usually we put a car or something equally heavy right behind such places until we can reinforce or rebuild, but the corner that was attacked this morning didn't have anything like that. It was scheduled for repair starting at daybreak.

The fighting wasn't really all that bad given how small the breach was, but it still shook people that a section of wall actually failed. I made it to the hole about the same time Dodger did, and I asked him to hold off on attacking the swarms outside, to give my trainees a chance to shine. So I asked them what the best way to disperse the zombies outside the wall would be, and they gave me several answers before deciding on one.

They suggested Ammonia, which they shot down themselves before I could. Too windy, too dangerous for our defenders, who couldn't withdraw as long as there were zombies coming through the hole. Then it was flights of arrows, but the sparse lighting would have made that a waste of materials. Then they gave me a very good answer: Tank.

Not an actual tank. THAT would have been awesome to watch. No, what they were talking about was something Dodger has had Will Price working on for the last week or so, ever since we started bringing the flexfuel vehicles up here from the various state parking lots. Will has been working long, long days on various projects, doing the grunt work of three people. Dodger has been feeding him and giving him a place to sleep, since Will has been very determined in his efforts to improve the defenses.

When Dodger let slip that we'd hit upon a way to vastly stretch out our fuel supplies, Will took that as a chance to tell him about an idea he'd had for a while but hadn't seen as being viable given our need to ration gasoline. It was for a vehicle like the ones he used up in North Jackson last year, when Will had been a hero instead of an indentured criminal. The scout vehicles he had used to run strikes on the zombie swarms there had given him an idea for an assault vehicle we could use in case of a big attack.

Take a heavy pickup or SUV, armor the thing up nicely. Not so much that you bog it down, but thick wire screens over the windows with small holes in them for weapons ports. Reinforce the engine mounts and eny weak areas like the axles, radiator, all that. Add a structure to the outside that includes a bladed scoop on the front, and heavy blades jutting out from all sides. It looks sort of like a mixture between a snow plow and a hedgehog, but the damn thing works.

Dodger actually let Will drive the thing, since it was a maiden voyage. Will was the one who knew it best, and had the highest chance of not rolling the thing. There were two others in the Tank with him (this version, the first, is made from an SUV. Has backseats.) to make sure he didn't try to escape. I don't think driving away ever occurred to Will. He was having way too much fun plowing through the milling zombies, letting out his frustration on them, to think of anything else.

It wasn't pretty, but it was functional. The scoop on the front broke ankles and legs, sometimes cleaving all the way through. There were about fifty left crawling when all was said and done, easily killed by the cleanup teams. The blades on the sides of the vehicle didn't work quite as well. One of them snapped off after the first few hits, though it killed the ones it did hit outright before failing. The problem seems to lie in bracing, or so I'm told. Will says he's going to improve the design in the next few days.

One aspect of the Tank that I hadn't been aware of was a last-minute idea Will had had, which was adding a chain with a heavy weight to the back of it. As I watched from the wall, I kept wondering why he was whipping the Tank around so much. I thought he was just trying to swipe the thing into groups of zombies. In reality he was making that chain whip right after him, breaking yet more legs out from under the undead and crushing the skulls of many he'd cut down.

All in all, a pretty effective way to disperse a crowd. My trainees made a good call. Will made a good thing, which means that perhaps a few more people might be willing to give him food or shelter down the road. Above all, we now have what seems like a good way to keep big groups from doing us harm.

Now the trick is going to be getting the walls inspected thoroughly, and reinforced very well. That sounds like a job for my minions.

I love having minions.

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