The truly awesome thing about the Union is that each person in it is a survivor. At some point or another every one of us had to keep safe using nothing but the available materials and our own wits. It's harsh and cold to say this, but The Fall did sort of force the most able survivors to thrive or die. Don't get me wrong, most of us got really lucky, and I believe that many more people would have survived if the plague hadn't spread so far, so fast.
But those of us who are left? We're good at staying alive. We're also really good at killing.
Yesterday K and I helped Dodger and a few others test out a new vehicle they've been working on. We've had our tanks for a while now, the tricked-out trucks that can run down the undead with nary a hitch. The monstrosity I was allowed to drive is something else entirely: a weapon designed to mow down the undead in droves. It started life as a pickup truck. Add a new engine, a lot of armor, and some very clever mechanical attachments custom-made over at the Box, and what you end up with sort of looks like a helicopter got nasty with an armored car.
The thing is awesome. It carries huge expanded fuel tanks and runs on ethanol. It has a range better than a thousand miles--much better if the giant extra tanks in the bed are filled to the brim--and the capacity to run its attachments for as long as the engine is going. You get inside, push a button, and two motorized aluminum arms spread out from the sides, extending a good seven and a half feet. They're actually props for the spinning blades that begin to whir as soon as the arms are extended. They can be adjusted in height, speed, and angle.
It's like something out of a movie. We tested it on a group of zombies bottled up at one of our choke points, and the thing works like a freaking charm. The idea was to send it down south to help thin out the swarms, and we're still going to do that. If the chopper (yeah, I just named it that) holds up, it can mow down a swarm with truly ridiculous speed.
The reason we're not in a rush is because late yesterday evening, Will came by to tell Dodger and the rest of us working on the chopper that other communities have been coming up with creative solutions to the vastly increased zombie population. A few greatest hits:
One group killed several deer and dressed the carcasses, pinning them to an abandoned vehicle in the path of a nearby swarm almost a thousand zombies strong. At a distance of a thousand feet, the group watched the swarm center on the car, and then from behind armored glass they hit the detonate button on the forty sticks of dynamite rigged to a radio transmitter. Helped that they packed about five hundred pounds of nails, ball bearings, and gravel into the car. Made a nice shrapnel bomb that greatly reduced the number of functional zombies in the swarm.
Another group started circling around their swarm and harried them forward with ammonia, which forced half the zombies to run off a dead drop, falling a hundred feet into the rocks. Then they started burning the rest as the humans stood in the ammonia cloud, much dispersed and harmless to them, but still overwhelmingly powerful to the zombie sense of smell.
A third group also used the ammonia method, but they herded their swarm into a prepared area; they'd cut down a lot of trees, creating a barrier that they then close off around the swarm with minor difficulty, ten men with chainsaws working as thirty others defended them. Once trapped, it was easy enough to light the whole thing on fire, as the floor of the trapped area was littered with plenty of flammable material. They threw in some thermite and gasoline just to make things interesting.
Patrick has volunteered to go with the small convoy that will be taking the chopper south. He's supposed to relieve Steve and send that group back up this way, and it bothers me to get one of my friends back only to see another leave. But the truck has to get there, and Pat is definitely capable of driving it with one hand and a hook, so I can't think of a reason other than my own selfishness why he shouldn't go. He wants to be proactive, and given how effective that has been with the other communities all over the Union, I think it's a good thing overall.
The mass gatherings of the undead work against them; they're a larger threat, yes, but they're slower and tend to react in unison to things. It makes dealing with them more predictable. I have my fingers crossed that it stays that way, and that my friends remain safe.