Friday, October 10, 2014

The New Barbarians-02

I now lead a raiding band of four men. The women, wisely, stayed behind to handle the children and household matters. Our lives now revolved around keeping our household well-supplied. Fortunately, we could raid ruins for some years yet before we had to rely primarily on our own manufactures, assuming--and, as we now faced a full-on zombie apocalypse, it was a smart assumption--that a recovery was not coming anytime soon. It would be a few years yet before the older boys would be ready to join the men and I on our raids, and this was a fragile time. We presumed that contact with others, living or dead, would be dangerous and should be avoided for now.

The radio I kept was our secret weapon. By now survivor groups either organized or, as I did previously, got rolled over by better ones. However, I also began hearing reports that the zeds weren't just mindless shamblers attracted to noise. Rather, they seemed guided by some form of intelligence and would collude as if controlled by a hive mind. My own encounters lead me to accept these reports as genuine. So, when we made a raid upon a nearby department store to acquire supplies, we took our time scouting the place, on the assumption that these hive-mind zeds would have sufficient presence of mind to ambush survivors at likely locations to raid.

I was right about the scouting, but wrong about the threat. We got into position and saw another band, not so disciplined or equipped--they looked like part of a street gang that somehow escaped the inner city and stayed alive this long, but had damn near gone feral--and clearly unwanted folks in my domain. I signaled to the others to take them down, and in a coordinated maneuver we quickly spotted and beheaded them all. Just to be sure, we also destroyed any mostly-intact heads and torched the corpses.

We cleared the store, located the supplies we sought, and controlled our exit properly. It was on the exit that the expected threat occurred, and we saw the zeds we prepared for. I called for our exit contact plan to go down, and fortunately the men kept cool and did what I told them to do. We escaped and evaded, and when we returned we hunkered down for the planned amount of time just in case. Three days passed, nothing came, so we relaxed and started anew.

We had repeated experiences of this sort. Outsiders, unsuitable for alliance or assimilation, encroaching on our lands often shadowed by bands of zeds. After a few such episodes, which I came to track on a map, I sat the men down after dinner one night and walked them through the notations on the map.

"See this?" I said, "It shows a consistent pattern. Outside bands of near-feral scroungers, often from the cities, shadowed by zeds. They come here, and we put them down. The intervals between episodes decreases with each recurrence. What does that look like to you?"

"The zeds are driving them into us."

"Yep. Someone's certain that we're here, and wants us out. They're looking to nail down where we're at."

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