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The Zombie Survival Guide(16)
Author: Max Brooks

9. Airborne Sweep

What could be safer than attacking your enemy from the air? With several helicopters, couldn’t your team cover more ground in less time with no risk at all? In theory, yes; in practice, no. Any student of conventional warfare will acknowledge the need for ground troops, no matter how superior an air force is. This applies tenfold for hunting the undead. Forget using air attacks in urban, forest, jungle, swamp, or any other canopied terrain. Chances are your kill rate will drop to under 10 percent. Forget also the idea of a clean, painless sweep, even in a high-visibility zone. Your team will still have to mop up no matter how secure it appears. Air support does have its uses, especially in forward spotting and transport. Planes or helicopters, scouting in open areas, can provide zombie location data for multiple hunter teams simultaneously. Blimps have the advantage of lingering over the infested area all day, providing a constant stream of information and warning against possible ambushes. Helicopters can provide immediate assistance to those in trouble, lifting one team to the aid of another. Be cautious, however, about using your “eye in the sky,” so far ahead of the group. Mechanical failures could cause a forced landing in highly infested areas. Not only would the chopper crew be endangered—so would any team member attempting to rescue them.

What about parachuting hunters into an infested zone? This theory has been suggested many times although never put into practice. It is daring, it is courageous, it is heroic, and it is utterly insipid! Forget being injured on impact, tangled in trees, blown off course, lost on landing—forget all the possibilities associated with normal parachute jumps in regular peacetime conditions. If you want to know the true danger of an airborne attack against zombies, try dropping a square centimeter of meat on a swarming anthill. Chances are, that meat will never touch the ground. In short, air support is just that: “support.” People who believe it to be a war-winner have no business planning, orchestrating, or participating in any conflict with the living dead.

10. The Firestorm

Provided the blaze can be controlled, the area in question is suitably flammable, and property protection is not an issue, nothing works better than an artificial blaze. Zone boundaries must be clearly delineated. Set a simultaneous fire to the entire perimeter so that the flames march steadily inward. Do not allow for an escape route, no matter how narrow. Keep watch for zombies that may have wandered through the flames. In theory, the storm will herd the dead into a tight perimeter, incinerating them in minutes. Mopping up will still be required, however, especially in urban areas, where basements and other rooms may have shielded zombies from the flames. As always, use caution, and be ready to deal with fire as a secondary enemy.

11. Underwater Battles

Never forget the possibility of ghouls stumbling into nearby water before you declare an area secure. Too often humans have repopulated “cleared” zones only to be attacked days, weeks, even months later by zombies who have just recently found their way back to dry land. Because the undead can exist, operate, even kill in a liquid environment, hunting them may require occasional underwater warfare. This can be extremely hazardous, as water is not the natural environment for humans. The obvious problems of breathing and lack of communication, mobility, and visibility make an underwater zone the most difficult for hunting the undead. Unlike escaping by water, in which you have the advantage over them, searching and sweeping this alien environment will tip the balance firmly in a zombie’s favor. This does not mean that an underwater hunt is impossible. Far from it. Ironically, its difficulty has been known to keep hunters more alert and focused than in more familiar environments. The following general rules apply to any successful subaquatic hunt.

A. Know Your Zone

How deep is the body of water in question? How wide? Is it landlocked (pond, lake, reservoir)? If not, where are the exits to larger bodies of water? How is underwater visibility? Are there any sunken obstacles? Answer all these questions before proceeding with the hunt.

B. Scan from the Surface

Hooking on scuba gear and blindly diving into zombie-infested water is a wonderful way to mix the two childhood terrors of being eaten and drowning. Never submerge before thoroughly searching the area from shore, dock, or boat. If murky conditions or extreme depth prevent the use of na**d eyesight, artificial means can always be employed. Sonar

devices, common echo rangers found in civilian fishing boats, can easily detect something as large as a human body. Surface scans do not always confirm whether a zone is infested or clear. Underwater obstacles such as trees, rock formations, or sunken debris can obscure a zombie’s shape. If even a single one turns up, however, the next rule should be observed.

C. Consider Drainage

Why place your team in a hostile environment if that environment can be removed? Ask yourself the question: Is it possible to just empty the body of water? If so, even if it costs more time and effort than a submarine hunt, by all means proceed. Most of the time, however, this is not a viable option. To eliminate the menace below, your team will have to follow it down.

D. Find an Expert

Are any of your team licensed scuba divers? Have any of them ever worn scuba gear? How about simply snorkeling while on vacation? Sending inexperienced men and women underwater could kill them all even before they make contact with zombies. Drowning, asphyxiation, nitrogen narcosis, and hypothermia are only a few of the numerous ways that air-breathing animals such as ourselves can meet their fate beneath the waves. If time permits—for instance, if zombies are cornered in a landlocked body of water—find someone to either train and lead your team, or even to undertake the mission on his own. But if you believe that zombies have fallen into a river and could wind up near another town soon, waiting for the experts is not an option. Be ready to take the plunge, but be ready for the consequences.

E. Prepare Your Gear

As with land warfare, the right equipment and weapons will be crucial to your survival. The most common respiratory aid is scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). If none is available, jury-rigged compressors and rubber hoses provide a workable if not perfect substitute. Handheld searchlights are a necessity. Even in the clearest water, zombies could be lurking in sheltered, darkened nooks. Spear guns should

always be thought of as a primary weapon. Their ability for skull penetration from a safe distance is shared by no other aquatic weapon. Another powerful device is the diver’s “bang stick,” essentially a twelve-gauge shotgun shell at the end of a metal pole. Both these weapons are rare, however, in all but coastal areas. In their absence, look for nets, hooks, or homemade harpoons.

F. Integrated Attack

Nothing is more frightening than surfacing from an underwater sweep to find zombies waiting on your boat! Always work in concert with surface units. If your team consists of ten people, take five underwater and leave the rest “on the roof.” This will allow for a quick rescue if the tide of battle turns. A surface group can also aid in scouting, killing, and calling in reinforcements from land. As a general rule of all combat strategies, the more dangerous the environment, the more support is necessary.

G. Observe Wildlife

We have already established that birds and animals can signal the approach of zombies. The same is true for fish. It has been proven that aquatic wildlife can detect even minute traces of Solanum-infected flesh as it floats off a zombie’s body. Once they do they consistently and immediately flee the area. Underwater hunters have always reported zones completely devoid of fish right before encountering an underwater zombie.

H. Killing Methods

Do not discount any of these tactics as fantastic or unreliable. As ludicrous as some of them may sound, all have been repeatedly tested in antizombie, underwater combat. All have shown remarkable success.

1. Sniping:Substitute a speargun for a rifle and water for air, and it is basically the same tactic. As a speargun requires less range than a rifle, the diver will find himself in greater danger. If the first shot misses, never reload on the spot! Swim to a safe distance, lock in another spear, then re-engage your target.

2. Spearfishing:This is used if a head shot proves too difficult. Attach a metal line to the end of the spear, and aim for the ribcage. Once the zombie is skewered, your surface team can haul it up for disposal. Keep in mind that these zombies still have the ability to attack. If possible, try for a head shot from a rifle the second they break the surface. This will require great coordination between a diver and the surface team. One past foul-up resulted in an unwary team hauling what they believed was a destroyed zombie to the surface. Their screams were not heard by the incompetent diver below.

3. Hook and Line:Attach a harpoon to a section of rope. Use it to spear the targeted zombie, then have your surface team haul it up. Boat or meathooks, fastened to the end of the harpoon, decrease the chances of losing your target during the ascent. If the water is clear and shallow enough, the process of harpooning could be conducted entirely from aboard a boat. Again, as with the spearfishing, the “reeled-in” ghoul must be disposed of before it comes close enough to strike.

4. Netting:Surface teams will be your primary source of attack, with divers acting only as scouts. Fish or cargo nets should be dropped on the targeted ghoul, then used to bring them to the surface. One major advantage of netting is that the zombies you haul aboard should be too tangled in the net to strike out at you. Of course, “should” is a very dangerous word. Many a hunter was fatally wounded by zombies that “should” have been easy kills.

I. Specific Rules

Think of bodies of water as different types of terrain. Each will have its own set of conditions and can be as different from one another as a desert is from a swamp. About the only thing some bodies of water have in common is the H2O that covers them. You already have one deadly enemy to contend with. Don’t make another one.

1. Rivers:Constant currents can be both a blessing and a curse. Depending on the strength of its currents a river can wash any and all zombies well away from the initial infested area. Ghouls that fall into the Mississippi near Winona, Minnesota, could easily wash ashore a week later in downtown New Orleans. This creates a sense of urgency not found

with landlocked pools. If possible, set up nets at the narrowest points. Monitor them carefully, and exercise extreme caution when sending divers in to investigate. A strong current can carry them right into the waiting arms and open mouths of their “targets.”

2. Lakes and Ponds:Because they are landlocked (generally), there is little chance for zombies to escape from a lake or a pond. Any undead wandering back to shore could be sighted and killed. Those remaining submerged will be eventually fished out and destroyed. The lack of any current makes them an ideal location for divers. Lakes and ponds that freeze over present a multigenerational problem. If they freeze solid, the submerged will become entombed for the winter, making them almost impossible to find. If only the surface freezes, zombies could still prowl the water’s dark depths.

3. Swamps:These are easily the most frustrating places for an underwater hunt. Their murky waters make diving next to impossible. Their root-riddled bottoms confound echo sounders. In most cases, their shallow bottoms make it easy for a zombie to simply reach up and either grab a hunter or capsize his boat. Hunting in large numbers with extensive use of searchlights and probing poles is the only proven method for sweeping this environment. After one of these arduous campaigns, you will know why so many tales of terror have their origin in the swamp.

4. Oceans:Unless the area in question is a harbor or other semi-enclosed area, forget about any successful hunts in the open seas. There is simply too much space for a real sweep, with depths beyond the reach of all but the rarest and most expensive submersibles. As problematic as this is for aggressive hunting, the threat posed by these undersea undead will probably be negligible. Most will simply wander the ocean floor, never seeing dry land again, until they eventually decay to nothing. This does not mean, however, that the threat should be ignored. Once it has been confirmed that zombies have been washed out to sea, determine the deep-water currents in that area and if—and where—they might take the undead close to land. All coastal inhabitants should be warned and a system of surveillance maintained for some time after that. Unlikely as it sounds, zombies have been known to slouch out of the surf months after an outbreak and on beaches thousands of miles away.

So let’s assume that you have followed all these instructions correctly. The battle is over, the area is secure, the victims have been mourned, the zombies have been burned. Hopefully, this will be the last time you will ever have to raise your hand to undead flesh. But what if it isn’t? What if your struggle was merely one small theater of a greater, allout war between the living and the dead? What if, heaven forbid, it is a war humanity loses?

Living in an Undead World

What if the unthinkable happened? If zombie hordes grew large enough to dominate the entire planet? This would be a Class 4 or doomsday outbreak, in which humanity is driven to the brink of extinction. Improbable? Yes. Impossible? No. Governments of any type are nothing more than a collection of human beings—human beings as fearful, shortsighted, arrogant, closed-minded, and generally incompetent as the rest of us. Why would they be willing to recognize and deal with an attack of walking, bloodthirsty corpses when most of humanity isn’t? Of course, one could argue that logic such as this might stand up in the face of a Class 1 or even Class 2 outbreak, but the threat posed by even a few hundred zombies would surely be enough to galvanize our leaders into action. How could they not? How could those in power, especially in such a modern, enlightened age as ours, ignore the spread of a deadly disease until it reached plague proportions? Just look at the world governments’ response to the AIDS epidemic, and you will have your answer. But what if the “authorities” did recognize the threat for what it is—and were unable to control it? Massive economic recession, world war, civil unrest, or natural disasters could easily distract government resources from a rapidly growing outbreak. Even in perfect conditions, containing anything larger than a Class 2 outbreak is extremely difficult. Imagine trying to quarantine a large city like Chicago or Los Angeles. Of the millions attempting to escape, how many of those would already be bitten, spreading the infection far beyond the quarantined area?

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