Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mad Method

Four this afternoon is zero hour. New Haven is now playing host to a large contingent of volunteers from the Louisville area. Becky has been hard at work, missing sleep and recruiting workers to make as much thermite as possible. We've got a plan, and it's going to be incredibly risky.

The good news is that our scouts have been busting ass to keep tabs on the zombie swarm in Shelbyville. We know where they are, about how many of them we'll be facing, and what the terrain looks like. We're sending seventy people of our own, enough to do a lot of damage when working in tandem with our guests. We're splitting the thermite evenly between home and the folks going out. There should be enough gel bombs for each of us to have one.

I'll explain Becky's genius idea to weaponize the thermite tomorrow. It's not all that complicated, but I'd rather not brag on her behalf before we've used the stuff in the field.

Um. I'll be honest: she told me not to. She doesn't want me to get people's hope up if these weapons fail utterly. She hits hard, so I'm doing what she tells me.

We've actually got a pretty good strategy worked out for the fight. I'm not trying to sound overconfident, but I think we've worked out a good way to engage the New Breed on open ground without losing cohesion given that more than half our force are people we haven't fought with before. Again, that's almost a post by itself and I want to do it justice. Because my brother Dave worked out the logistics of the thing, and it's beautiful. Solves a lot of problems we'd face in dealing with the New Breed on their own turf.

I can tell you why we're confident. Becky's idea for turning the thermite into a useful weapon is part of it. Dave's work with portable defenses is another. But we wouldn't even be considering this move if the results of my tests with our captive New Breed hadn't yielded shocking and frankly amazing results.

You may remember me saying that we would be testing direct and indirect heat on the zombies in question. The indirect heat method turned out to be less useful than I'd have hoped. A flare of thermite had to be within a foot of the test subject to have a serious effect on it. That's not due to any lack of heat--the stuff burns at something like three or four thousand degrees--but more because it burns really fast. A flare going off within a foot will do immediate damage to the zombie. Past that and the zombie's reaction to the white-hot fire is quick enough and the distance great enough that they only take minor damage. That is, within two feet of a thermite flare, they'll lose some of the strength to their toughened skin.

So, if we had tons of the stuff, we'd be able to set traps around New Haven and weaken an attacking swarm. Assuming we could set off the stuff without too much trouble. Really not an option.

Direct heat, however, has a much more useful and interesting effect. Basically, it well and truly fucks a zombie up.

It was a bitch getting one of my test subjects strapped down, but SO worth the effort. I put a very small amount of thermite on the thing's wrist. Smack in the middle of the joint. The amount was tiny, about the size of a grain of rice. Took me a few tries to get it lit, especially because the zombie was trying his damnedest to pull his hand away. When I finally got the magnesium striker to catch the thermite, the burn lasted for about three seconds.

The zombie's hand and arm up to the elbow stopped working. Completely.

That blew me away. I expected it to do some damage to the thing's skin, sure, and to burn through and cause some structural chaos...but at no time did I expect the results I got. I was so stunned that I had to show Evans and Gabby right away. Had to understand what had happened. Because we've done a lot of bad things to zombies before. Even setting them on fire usually takes a while to kill them. This was really fast.

After removing the zombie's arm, I took it to the people with the fancy medical degrees, who dissected and studied it. When you flay open a zombie's body, you can see the tendrils of material that make up the plague organism. The color varies, but usually the fibers of the parasite are a pale purple or a dark red. The test subject's arm contained blackened ash up to the elbow.

Evans thinks the initial burn heated up the portion of the organism under the flesh, which through some mechanism we don't understand tried to shed the heat, causing the temperature of the surrounding tissues to rise. Which caused the newly heated portions to shed the get the idea.

What it boils down to is that a very tiny amount of this stuff on the skin is incredibly damaging to the undead. The huge temperature change over such a short period of time basically cooks the plague out of that area. And if the reaction of the zombie I was testing direct heat on is any indication, this is one of those things that causes great fear in the undead. Maybe not because of pain, since they don't seem to feel it, but maybe by the unnerving experience of suddenly losing a big portion of itself.

After a few more tests, I killed the subject with a shot to the head. Took a few tries, as the thickened skin and underlying fibrous armor (not to mention the skull itself) can take a lot more punishment. In the end, I used a blob of thermite gel (I love you, Becky) about the size a big cherry to manage it. Right on the thing's crown.

Five seconds of burn, no more zombie. That is what we're taking into battle today. If we're insanely lucky, it'll work.

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