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Writing While at War

Zombies Versus... Directed Energy Weapons

Zombies Versus…Directed Energy Weapons
by David Dunwoody

In this edition of ZV we’re going to look at some modern weapons technology which, at first, I thought would provide an ideal defense against an undead army. We’ll also check out the legendary Hydra because I want to talk about zombie Hydras.

• • •

A DEW transfers a type of energy to specific targets with either lethal or non-lethal effects. They do not employ projectiles, appearing invisible to the naked eye and passing right through walls. Depending on the DEW, the range can be adjusted to envelop larger targets - such as, you know, a mob of undead. We'll specifically address DEW technologies meant to be employed against people. Are any of these feasible against zombies?

An Active Denial System works by using microwaves to heat the target - specifically, the water in the skin. It may not take much to make a living being very uncomfortable, but what if the target doesn't feel pain? What if the target is a desiccated hunk of undead jerky? What level of intensity and exposure would be required to cook this zombie into submission? Well, perhaps at the very least you could boil the eyes out of its head and leave it sightless.

Similarly, high-powered sonic weapons can destroy eardrums, and in fact can also affect eyesight. These weapons confuse and nauseate humans and are great for dispersal; whether sound would deter a hungry zombie is another story. But hey, at least by this point we’ve made them blind and deaf, and that’s a start.

Lasers! They travel at the speed of light (reducing the problem of a moving human target to near-zero) and won't run out of ammunition given an ample power supply. Wind? Recoil? Giving away your position to a horde? No need to worry about these factors when you're behind a laser cannon. Just don't run out of juice - and that's one of the many problems with lasers. They give off heat that necessitates large cooling systems, which themselves can cause firing delays. Laser beams can also become defocused and lose energy in an effect called "blooming," an effect exacerbated by smoke and dust. Any form of precipitation can absorb and/or scatter a beam. You'd have to wait for a clear, perfect day to do your best work and those days, even in the apocalypse, are made for slacking off. Dammit.

My biggest gripe is that there still isn't a compact laser pistol for those of us who don't own a military. Lugging around a bulky laser rig and keeping it sufficiently powered/cooled is a major hassle, and even in lasers which rely on chemical reactions rather than electricity, the above problems crop up. I was pretty high on lasers before I began researching them. I blame every space opera ever.

There are still other directed-energy weapons, though. The "electrolaser" has been described as a giant long-range stun gun. Reading about it reminded me of the lighting gun from the Quake franchise. Could knock some zombies on their asses for sure. The invisible payload of another type of weapon, the ion weapon, damages the central nervous system. Now that’s what I’m talking about! And the laser pulse of the in-development pulsed energy projectile causes the target to be hit by a shock which induces temporary paralysis.

Military might aside, many law enforcement agencies (check local listings) also employ DEWs like "dazzlers" to stun targets. Such weapons may prove useful in the hands of Joe Average, but most of the tech we've covered is not only impractical for a zompoc but simply inaccessible to you and me. I ain’t no fortunate son, no.

Zombies Versus…the Hydra

You know the basics of the Lernaean Hydra. You cut off one head, two grow in its place. Heracles bested the beast by cauterizing the stumps with fire to prevent new heads from sprouting. I thought it might be fun to pretend that the Hydra were real (as real as zombies, anyway) and that the undead ran afoul of the mythical monster.

In Greek mythology, the Hydra hangs out under the lake of Lerna, guarding an entrance to the underworld (a likely place to cross paths with zombies). Both its breath and blood are extremely poisonous – fatal to a mortal man, but perhaps only disorienting to a zombie. The number of heads the Hydra has vary greatly by source, be it a written legend or a work of art. And, of course, the number of heads can only increase unless one is smart enough (and quick enough) to scorch the creature’s neck stumps. Let’s assume our zombies aren’t that bright. Their only advantage is that the Hydra’s feared bite poses little threat, and that their own bite is worse than lethal.

My question is what would happen when the zombie infection polluted the Hydra’s venomous blood. Why would a zombie bite the Hydra, you ask? Let’s say it was a defensive bite. So now the Hydra’s infectious too - a Hydra whose victims die instantly from its poison, then rise from the dead to flank it. That’s one intimidating picture, even if you’re a Greek superhero. The Hydra itself - already invulnerable as long as it retains at least one head – is now a zombie factory. Every nip it takes out of an unfortunate combatant is going to create a new zombie satellite and make things that much harder for the heroes trying to sever those heads. The heads that, if severed, may only give rise to more plague-spreading mouths.

Only Heracles was ever able to defeat the thing and even he endured one hell of a struggle. The goddess Hera, who had raised the Hydra specifically to kick Heracles’ ass, sent a giant crab as backup for the multi-headed monster. Heracles simply crushed the crab underfoot but he may have faced a far greater challenge if Hera had sent a zombie virus instead. Surrounding villages, formerly terrorized by the Hydra, would now be mobbing Lerna as reinforcements for the fearsome beast.

These days, we’re told, both the fallen Hydra and the crab (Cancer) are commemorated by Hera in the form of constellations. Imagine how different things may have been with a zombie twist. The night sky would be way more crowded (Constellation Zombie 1, Constellation Zombie 27, Constellation Zombie 388); while Heracles (his name Romanized as Hercules) would have needed a looong vacation before engaging in the next of his Twelve Labours.

And I would have for sure watched that show with Kevin Sorbo.

• • •

Suggestions for future versus scenarios? Tweet me @daviddunwoody – or use the Facebook page for my Permuted zombie series: https://www.facebook.com/empireseries. You can also get ahold of me through www.daviddunwoody.com.