Thursday, December 1, 2011

Absolute Zero

Absolute zero is the theoretical point where all motion ceases on an atomic and subatomic scale. It can't actually happen in physics.

However, the fight I took part in last night was so calculated, so cold, that it came close. And certainly all motion in the zombies ceased as a result.

They came much sooner than we thought possible, but that didn't matter. I'd seen the people of Harlen preparing for hours and hours, and nothing they did was hurried or half-assed. All of them knew they'd be ready long before the threat was on us, and they were right. We were waiting for the undead to appear, calm and collected.

I'd been given an overview of the defenses, of course, but seeing them in action was a real lesson in what a group with a truly unified purpose and people to spare can accomplish.

It was about an hour after sunset when they came. Down the road as it cut through the distant trees, then spreading out across the vast, grassy field that takes up the entire northern side of Harlen's exterior. As the zombies moved forward, finally walking instead of running as they'd have to have done to get to us so quickly, I heard generators hum to life. I looked around me and saw arrows nocked but held loosely, not ready to be fired.

When the swarm got to the line of stakes marking a distance from the walls of four hundred feet, a signal bell rang. All across the huge field, starting all the way back to the treeline and stopping a bare thirty feet from the wall, sprinklers popped up, the force of the fluid in them raising them from the earth. The zombies took no notice as they walked across the field, letting themselves get soaked all the way through by homemade napalm.

Yeah. Fucking napalm, pumped through sprinklers. The brilliance of it fills me with awe.

The first fire arrow was launched from a heavily modified bow, and only then when the lookouts verified that the swarm had fully left the road, the totality of their number on the field. The fiery missile flew almost to the treeline at the back of the swarm, igniting the volatile liquid covering the ground and the dead and sending roaring sheets of flame toward the zombies at the front.

Being smart (for zombies), the forerunners noticed the blistering fireballs heading for them and ran for it. They were free and clear to hit the wall until they came upon the marker for two hundred feet, and then several hundred zombies seemed to just vanish.

They'd fallen into the covered pits, of course. Deep ones, almost twenty feet deep and ten wide. I should mention that it's only two pits, actually. Two very long ones bracketing the road, which for obvious reasons can't have a big ass pit in the middle of it. The pits actually filled up pretty quickly, the zombies in the back pushing their brothers in their burning terror.

Quite a number of undead made it over the road in that initial push, perhaps four or five hundred, and they were peppered with fire arrows, not having yet had the pleasure of being ignited. Many of those same zombies got to meet some radio-controlled devices set up along the road and the inner field, mostly heavy blade traps and other homemade weapons. Oh, and there were a hell of a lot of land mines, also remote detonated. Those were placed last to avoid accidents.

Eventually the pits filled, and other zombies walked right over the corpses of their brothers. The mines had all exploded, the traps and automated weapons clogged with the body parts of zombies or out of ammo. When that awful fifteen minutes was over, the remaining zombies, some burned badly and others lucky enough to have missed out, gathered to hit us like the hammer of god. There were about two thousand of them left. None of them had any logs to scale the wall with, the fires made sure of that. And they surely weren't going to jump up and grab us, our protections too high. We'd watched at least two thirds of them die, leaving them confused and uncoordinated.

So they gathered, trying to come up with a plan. It terrifies me that zombies can plan now, especially on a large scale.

Well. Not those ones. They can't plan anything anymore. They're all dead, you see.

It was just as the remaining zombies began to gather into a group that we hit them. Arrows, bullets, very large rocks, everything we could use. Of course, they retreated back toward the treeline and the road. They might have made it if not for the three thousand men and women who'd worked their way to the edge of the battle, surrounding the field on all sides. The zombies had no chance as the reinforcements closed in, many of them having walked for hours to get to Harlen to give us aid.

The zombies had nowhere to go, and five hundred of Harlen's bravest poured down the road toward their prey, closing the circle. Every man, woman, and child (I heard the youngest in the assault forces was twelve) used a ranged weapon. The zombies simply couldn't weather the fire.

The level of preparedness here, the level of cooperation and coordination, is completely unreal to me. These folks have managed something almost impossible: they've focused on using every advantage they have over the undead while exploiting the zombies' disadvantages mercilessly. By meticulously crafting a battle plan and training accordingly, they've managed to give birth to brilliantly efficient methods of defense. Over nearly two years, they've lost people. But they've learned, and every attack is better managed, more tight and lean. The two previous large-scale attacks went without casualty.

I'm happy to say that this is the third. Not one human being was killed.

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