Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tracking Changes

All across the country, people are seeing changes in the undead, now that they know to look for them. There are obvious ones, like the extra-tough zombies we ran across, and more subtle differences. Reports indicate that some zombies are working in coordinated, leaderless units when they hunt. Others point to some smarties, the smart version of zombies, becoming sharper and even more clever.

The advantage human beings have over the mindless swarms is that they're mindless. We're clever and can think on our feet. We face an enemy that for the most part has been predictable and relatively easy to kill. The game is changing on us, and no one likes it. The good news is that we've managed to catch many of these changes before they could be sprung on us.

The community we're in right now, our latest stop, is the one that's noticed the small coordinated groups. It was something the survivors had to look for, but once they saw it the truth became obvious.

It's only in the last few weeks that they've had to start hunting. Most of the year the residents here (the folks call it Sparta) just trade for most of their food. What they farm and hunt gets stocked up for the winter. Though I've never mentioned it by name, I've talked about Sparta before. They're the people who're sitting on top of a stock of fuel whose volume is measured in the tens of thousands of gallons. This stop is especially important, as Sparta is bound to become a hub of activity. We're negotiating trades for fuel to make pretty much every other trade we've brokered possible.

As I said, they've just now started hunting for the season. A couple of their hunters, some very sharp-eyed women who look as tough as Mason, noticed movement in the distance. They thought it might be a deer, so they stalked very carefully in the direction of the motion.

It was a deer, all right. And four zombies took it down in about twenty seconds. One startled it, flushing the animal out into a small copse of trees, and another popped out in front of it to make it stop. That was when the other two hit it from the sides, breaking the poor thing's legs and tearing into its flesh.

Apparently, those particular zombies are pretty fucking strong as well. Deer are all muscle.

The hunters (huntresses?) made a quick and quiet retreat back to Sparta, where they reported the odd behavior. That was a few days ago, and further observation has proven this to be a trend in the area rather than a one-time thing.

Coordination like this would only be truly dangerous for a person alone, unarmored and unarmed. I don't know any survivor anywhere that would be out alone without protection and something bite-proof on. So I'm not as much worried about the activity itself as I am what it portends.

We've dealt with marauders. That's had its ups and downs, but generally their numbers are so small compared to the rest of us that they aren't a threat to any given group of survivors. We've faced a lot of threats, and until now I thought we had the primary one, zombies, under control. The rules are changing right in front of us. We can't be sure of anything anymore.

Some of the worst damage done to my own home was at the hands of Smarties. The major attack this summer was run by a small group of maybe fifty smarties somehow commanding a horde of over five thousand regular undead. Fifty moderately intelligent beings, and the force they brought against us was nearly fatal.

You know what I'm thinking. I'm imagining what even fifty VERY smart zombies could do. Just by themselves. Worse would be their capabilities when blessed with a contingent of extra tough or strong zombies. Or ones that can work together seamlessly. Or god knows what else.

It's good that people are being proactive. I'm glad to see we aren't brushing aside the threat or marginalizing it. Survival is a long-term game.

One I intend as many of us as possible to win.

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