A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO THE INFECTION

The timeless battle between man and zombie has been...well, timeless. Up until recently, the concept of the walking dead has been dismissed as fantasy and folklore, left to fester in the shadows; the minds of horror film directors and writers of sorcery books. After all, there's no such thing as the walking dead, right? There surely can't be such a thing as a zombie?

Zombies, no. Walking dead, perhaps.

Surely the reader of this collection of notes will realize that the world of reason has been turning upside down quite frequently as of late. Apocalypse suddenly becomes a real possibility, and creatures deemed to be too horrible to be real are all of a sudden roaming the streets of our long-abandoned cities and towns. The living dead may be staggering about our own homes at this very instant, vomiting their bowels all across the floors we so fervently kept clean back when we owned the world. Back when humanity was on top. Back when we had all the time in the world.

Times have changed.

My name is Emilia McEst. I am a scientist of the medical community. I was "enlisted" into the service of the Civil Emergency and Defense Agency (CEDA) approximately 2 months ago, and I now believe that I am well and truly a member of an endangered species. If not now, then in the near future. Humanity's future looks bleak; where are we to live, if not our own planet?

My colleagues and I have been researching the Infection for quite some time now, and have uncovered many mysteries surrounding a race that we long believed to be nonexistent, as well as an enemy that, until now, has completely been shrouded in shadow. Though we have learned many things, I find it rather deplorable to say that we know much about them; in fact, I can say with absolute certainly that we haven't even broken the surface yet. Right down to their origins, there are simply too many variables that remain unknown for any one of us to even so much as think we know much. The very idea makes me laugh...and peeves me to know end. Underestimating the enemy has been the final mistake for far too many beings and societies throughout history, and we are no exception to this rule. Falling short of the margin is absolutely detrimental to any cause, be it a company, a civilization, or a species. If we draw the line beyond the true meridian, then we might as well do ourselves in right now. There is too much at stake to get cocky now; we've lost too much to prove we've learned absolutely nothing about competence, let alone how to survive this cataclysm.

Though CEDA won't admit it, that doesn't change the truth; old protocols and methods simply aren't going to cut it. This whole "hide the truth to prevent panic" bullshit is only going to help fertilize the seeds of distrust that have already been planted in the hearts of just about every survivor in existence. The only thing this policy will succeed in doing is riots and bloodshed. Secrets and lies are only going to get people killed and make our survival as a species that much harder. What most people, CEDA included, fail to realize is that we're not just talking about defeat or admitting fault. This isn't some political fiasco or petty war of faith or terror; this is the battle. The battle. The war to end all wars. Defeat will not just mean our deaths. It will mean the death of every last person in the world. If we lose, Man--humanity; the only thing we've ever known--will become nothing more than a discarded photo in the history book of time. There will be no recovery. There will not be any future for us if we don't succeed.

CEDA doesn't realize that our very species is in danger of being erased...forever.

Of course, as incredulous as the concept seems, I'm not at all surprised--leave it to a rabble of shell-shocked, power-hungry politicians to stare death in the face and not even realize how much is truly on the line. Leave it to a bunch of money-grubbing bureaucratic half-wits to lose sight of the greater picture. After all, in their world, there is no end. Time will go on indefinitely, as will their careers, their wealth, and their glory. They've got a reputation of immanent failure to keep, and they're not about to give up their petty squabbles of imaginary fame and prestige to smell the kettle boiling. Your destiny of failure awaits, CEDA; don't let us down now, you fucking morons.

At this point and time, I've come to the sobering conclusion that, unless something changes, humanity as we know it is well and truly doomed. We can't hide out forever. It's only a matter of time before the Infection evolves to a point past human comprehension, and the greater-fit will come out on top, as they always have in the past, and always will in the future. Unless humans find a way to come out on top, rather than hiding in the shadows waiting for a salvation that never comes, man will go extinct, and will forever be lost to the bowels of history. It's simply the way of things. Societies have either been forced to adapt, or they did not, and consequently disappeared from the face of the map. Species either changed to their environment, or they did not, and simply faded out of existence like a candle on the end of its wick. At this point, humanity will either change for the better, or it won't, and die out as a result. The concept is sobering and distressing, mostly because of the truth in it. My superiors won't admit it. At least, not in person; they can't bring themselves to look me in the eye and admit that their species is dying out. I find it difficult to say it myself, but the truth is the truth. No amount of denial or ignoring is going to change what is and what is not. Only action will...and we all know how good CEDA is about that. Fucking imbeciles. They're no better than a bunch of errant children that don't want to accept what they don't want to hear. Their immaturity and childish behavior is going to get us all killed, the half-wits!

Well...as I was saying, times have changed. Either we must change with it, or we will be left behind to be forgotten. I demand change--not as petty revenge for all the wrongs that have been inflicted upon me, but for survival as a species. We must change. The failure and inability to do so is the very basis of extinction, and so help me if I'm just going to sit around like a good girl and wait for orders from my dumbass masters! If God wants us to die out, he's going to know he was in a fight, so long as I have something to say about it.

The steps and successes to any endeavor begins and ends with one simple concept: knowledge. Knowledge is everything. It's more than just power--it is the will, the way, and the very thing that makes or breaks anything in life, be it political, economic, or in reality. Knowledge is the ultimate sword and shield; it makes, it breaks, and it protects. In the world of humans, knowledge is God. Take its words, and you will succeed. Forsake it, and you are bound for failure. In any conflict or situation, the amount you know and the knowledge applied to the situation ultimately decides the outcome. Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance only leads to failure, and failure is unacceptable. Therefore, the more knowledge gained and applied, the greater the likelihood of success. The more we know, the more power we have. Knowledge truly is power.

Therefore, it can be said that our extent of power is deplorable at best. We know very little about the Infection, other than how to effectively kill them, and even that is getting shadier and shadier as the Infected continue to evolve. Time is of the essence, and we are in desperate need of more time. Unfortunately, I am neither superhuman nor a god, and can only make the best out of what time has been given to me. As it is, I feel I have worked to the very best of my abilities, though my efforts to increase that limit is tested every day. My only goal in all of this is that, somehow, my efforts will benefit someone in their time of need, and that I may somehow be the one responsible for saving their life. That is my only wish. The CEDA has lost sight of the "Common Good," but me? I know exactly where our efforts should lie; whether CEDA wants to admit it or not, we should spend less time sacrificing parts of the whole for the greater good and more time saving every last life that we can. Doing anything short of that is not the common good and, therefore, is unacceptable and self-trumping. We can't sacrifice the very thing we need for survival. There can be no more sacrifices. Humanity as a whole cannot take any more losses. Humanity as a whole needs to learn...and survive.

ZOMBIES VS THE INFECTION

The first thing that is notable about the Infected is their resemblance to the stereotypical "zombie," which many people have come to refer to them as. While it is true that they both appear to have common similarities, there are simply too many differences to be able to put the two together in the same classification. Some of the most notable points I would make are as follows:

Zombies cannot climb-While it is true that the age-old image of the typical zombie is quite earth-bound and incapable of scaling surfaces, be it short and rough or smooth and high. The Infected are quite capable of maneuvering vertical obstacles to the point of superhuman-proportions. If it has height and an edge, an Infected can climb it. Though the methods of doing so vary by form, for the most part, Infected are not deterred by mere walls or structures. They are far more capable of locomotion than even the most able-bodied humans.

Zombies can only be killed by a shot to the head- This is easily the most notorious and well-known rule of zombie-hunting--go for the head, and the heart will follow. It's the only way to kill them in the movies, after all. While it is true that a head shot will instantly kill most forms of Infected, this is by no means the only method of extermination; merely the most effective and instantaneous. For the most part, any sufficient amount of damage inflicted anywhere on the body--including the limbs--is enough to render an Infected incapable of further survival. Head shots are a recommended method of dealing with the average Infected, but this isn't the only method of disposal. Just shoot it enough anywhere and you're pretty much guaranteed a kill.

If you are bitten by a zombie, you will become one of them- Perhaps the second-most well known trait of zombies is their method of infection--biting. If you're so much as scratched by these monstrosities, you will inevitably join the walking dead yourself. For the most part, this remains true with the Infection. The only notable detail is that there is an ever-elusive element that renders individuals immune to the Green Flu strain. Some forms are more potent at infecting than others--for example, being bitten by a Common or a Hunter is nearly a guaranteed infection without immunity, whereas it is impossible for the strain to be spread by forms like Chargers and Spitters. It is unknown why some forms are capable of spreading the virus while others are sterile, but this is simply to be taken in stride and worked with. We don't have the luxury of exploring such an off-topic and virtually meaningless point in the Infection's architecture as infection capabilities. After all, apart from praying that you're getting hit by one form and not another, what difference will it make?

Zombies cannot run- Due to a combination of technical default and on-screen efficiency, zombies in the movies are incapable of moving anything beyond the snail-paced "zombie walk." This rule is completely violated in reality. Every single form I've ever seen is capable of matching, if not exceeding, the maximum speed capable of being exerted by humans. If it came to a race between man and Infected, man would always bite the dust, and the Infected would always bite the man. You can't run, and you can't hide. If you don't have a gun or a weapon, you're pretty much screwed. Anyone ever tried outrunning a Charger, or even a Jockey, and come out on top? No? Didn't think so.

Zombies decay over time- It's a well-known fact that zombies are dead and, as a result, continue to decay as they go about and kill everyone. Despite their apparent tendency to rise from infected corpses, the Infected aren't truly dead. They are living, breathing creatures, just as alive as you and me, albeit a bit more grotesque. The ability to be alive while being dead is a paradox capable of being met only in the movies, I'm afraid. The fact that Commons smell so damn bad is because the blood and bodily fluids no longer being used and stained across their body is beginning to ferment or decay. The Infected themselves are as alive as anything else. A common misconception--there is no such thing as "undead" life forms. They're either dead, or alive. And, in this case, they are very much alive.

Zombies eat peoples' brains- Ultimately, a zombie's quest for blood is satiated only by a healthy helping of human brain tissue. This can be from one of many thing, but in the end, this is proven completely false. The Infected show no desire to ingest the bits of human that they do in fact rip off of their prey, and the only reason they'd use their mouths at all would be to inflict further damage or spread the infection via salivary excretion. The closest to human consumption can be readily pointed to Smokers, who use their tongues as weapons, and even they show no desire to consume anything of their victims apart from their life energies. Infected don't eat brains. They don't eat anything, actually. It's been on more than one occasion where someone has asked me(including myself), "What keeps them going?" Even I, the scientist, cannot say.

Zombies moan- Sexual references and wise-crack remarks aside, zombies are notorious and easily identified by their blank stare and low, groaning noises. Mostly, this was just to get an air of fear about them in the world of entertainment. With that in mind, it is noted that Infected do in fact absently garble and let out incoherent noises as they stagger about aimlessly, some of it even reaching the border of coherency. They don't "groan," per se, but do let out audible noises and sounds that I would compare most closely to static on a radio or television. It's the presence of a failed audio capability; if you listen carefully, you can actually make out random words and phrases in the otherwise unintelligible nonsense they emanate, but I believe this is simply the damaged human brain using its now useless speech-mechanism to absently voice out its shattered thoughts and memories. In a way, their garbled nonsense is the neurological static coming from their ravaged brains. They may be talking, but Infected themselves have no idea what they're saying or doing. I don't think they're even intelligent enough to have methods of communication, let alone comprehension of human speech. Special Infected emit a wide variety of noises, but these tend to simply be war cries or mindless gibberish rather than any real language.

Though it may not fit in or betray any of the "rules" set up by Hollywood movie directors, the Infected all seem to share the common ability to be able to withstand falls incredible heights--anywhere between 50 to 100 feet straight down--without suffering damage upon landing, so long as they land on their feet. Why this is, I'm afraid I'm at a loss. There's absolutely nothing in any of their architecture, bar a fair few, that permits such a feat. Quite literally, with the numbers and data in front of me, it's impossible. That said, I've seen the lowly Common Infected fall off a 5 story building, stand upright, and then proceed to stagger about aimlessly as though nothing had happened. I don't understand it. They shouldn't be able to do something so...extraordinary. This just serves as a reminder as to how very little we truly do know about the Infected...

THE INFECTION

Contrary to common beliefs, the Green Flu epidemic was not in fact the same Infection that rampantly roams the streets in the form of reanimated deceased humans. Based on research on the field that both I and several of my colleagues performed and some evidence inadvertently found post-Infection, I believe that the Infection has been around far longer than people realize...and that it was everywhere. Our greatest enemy was among us the whole time.

Let's review what happened before the Infection. At a glance, it would appear as though everything was normal. The cities were alive with people, everyone behaved as they should, and people were allowed to move forward with their petty day-to-day lives. Interests could be freely pursued at a whim. Wealth and fame could be gained and lost at an equal and opposite rate. However, under the surface, I believe there were many forces at work here...and it may have been the cause of our apparent state of "apocalypse."

Based on collective reports, I was able to determine that the Infection first broke out in Pennsylvania, specifically in a city called Fairfield. The exact events remain unclear, but it was evident that some kind of plague was spreading about the country side at an alarming rate, and the CEDA eventually stepped into the picture while preaching precautions about the rapidly increasing cases of "Green Flu." The Green Flu virus was sounds about the same as the Infection we all know. Named so for the tint of sickly green that flushed an infectant's skin, the Green Flu was documented to be an airborne, highly-contagious virus that displayed symptoms similar to rabies and a severe case of the flu. The unfortunate infectant would display abnormal behavior, flush a pale green color, and become increasingly paranoid and violent, displaying similar mental degradation as patients with a severe history of psychosis and dementia, sometimes even killing others or themselves in their inexplicable bursts of psychotic rage. This sudden and unnatural rise in blood pressure and adrenaline often resulted in cardiac arrest and heart attacks, as the heart is simply unable to support that kind of extreme activity in such bursts, and it wasn't uncommon for those infected with the disease to suddenly drop dead on the spot for no apparent reason. Eventually, symptoms escalated to unnatural cases of necrosis and mutation before the Green Flu perfectly resembled the Infection we all know and love, reanimating corpses and turning perfectly healthy good Samaritans into blood-thirsty monsters. The horde-mentality kicked in, and the rest is history, no matter how much we wish we could forget it.

Though the Green Flu cases can be traced back to a single case and scenario, the disease itself was not the initial Infection. In fact, I believe that every single person capable of being infected at this point was already contaminated with the Infection by the time the Green Flu "broke out." For about 10 years or so, confidential reports--some of which I filed--were documented showing a growing concern for an unknown pathogen and bacterial presence in both the bloodstream of numerous patients and water sources all across the country. This pathogen displayed similar behavior and evolutionary potency as the common flu virus--a strain that evolves and changes faster than any other life form on the planet--but was remaining dormant and in trace amounts throughout the infected. The immune system came to welcome this pathogen as the body adjusted, and soon the red blood cells of every infected became the steeds of a pair of potent, dormant virus cells. The exact nature of this virus strain is yet to be determined, if it ever will be. The infected showed no abnormal symptoms and were never brought in concerning the virus itself, and scientists were beginning to think that perhaps this "pathogen X" was merely a dead strain--a breed of virus that could infect hosts, but couldn't multiply and cause damage, remaining dormant until its lifespan dwindled away and it died. That is, up until the Green Flu appeared. The patients diagnosed with Green Flu all had incredibly large amounts of the pathogen X in their blood stream, nearly identical to the dormant version of its strain, but unnaturally aggressive and prevalent against all methods of treatment. The virus was so powerful that it couldn't even be stopped by its host's death--in fact, upon the patient's demise, the virus tripled in activity! It was even more deadly in a deceased person than one capable of spreading it via transmission! Some unknown element had suddenly kicked the strain into overdrive, starting from Pennsylvania and spreading all across the United States until we reached our current condition.

As I looked through the files and lab reports, I became more and more skeptical at the "Green Flu" breakout until at some point I realized that the ominous pathogen X and the Green Flu were the one and the same. The Green Flu was simply an active version of pathogen X, which had remained dormant up until the point where it had infected every possible host and could wait no longer to spring from its hibernation. Eventually, I realized that there was no Green Flu--merely another more aggressive side of pathogen X. Of course, there were those that were not infected by one means or another. These were either those immune to the virus, or those somehow lucky enough to have overcome the once-dormant strain or somehow avoided infection entirely. The latter of the two were merely infected by the strain itself as the activation hormone was circulated; rather than exclusively the chemical, bits of the virus itself would flow into the victim and ultimately bring them to the same fate as the others. The immune--and whatever makes them such--remain untainted.

Up until this point, everyone had assumed that the two strands had nothing to do with each other, and pathogen X had quickly become forgotten as the dreaded Infection spread to other-worldly proportions. The truth is, no one was ever infected with the Green Flu; the "Green Flu virus" was merely the observable cases of symptoms and ailments caused by pathogen X. Pathogen X simply activated via some kind of outside force and was identified as a whole new strain of virus, because of its complete flip-flop in demeanor fro a harmless wisp to an unspeakable pandemic. The variable that activated the disease is a mystery; all I can say is that something near the area of Fairfield, Pennsylvania opened Pandora's box on the face of the earth.

Upon activation, pathogen X begins to produce massive amounts of a type of pheromone that could be excreted via fluid transmission or other methods of sexual contact, similar to the way AIDS or Herpes gets around. Once fully active in a host, the virus would continue to produce this pheromone and spread it to other infected individuals, who would become active and work to spread the activation chemicals in a similar manner. The infectants' mental state would degrade to the point of complete mental collapse, leaving room for only the most basic of instincts. Somewhere along the line, the disease became fatal, and the strain evolved accordingly to be able to keep all of the hosts it could. And, there's only one way to use a host that has died: bring it back to life. Using a myriad of electrical fibers that the pathogen evolved at an incredible speed, the Infection could kick-start the host's heart similar to the way a defibrillator unit would jolt one's heart in an ER, then evolving to the point where it could begin altering the host's form into any way it saw fit. The foundation of creating the horde we all know: viral recombination. This is the method of which it twists and alters its host into the forms we see. It takes the genes and DNA of the now decrepit host, peels them apart one by one, and then plugs them back together again, sometimes with rather...dramatic results. As the bodies began to find their final shapes, the virus then began work on reconstructing the brain to a point, creating levels of intelligence in their "Special Infected" that could rival that of a human. The outcome: a bigger, scarier, and more deadly infection and infestation than humans had ever thought possible prior.

THE INFECTED

As I'm sure all survivors are aware, the Infection has become more than just a subliminal trace of unknown pathogen in the blood of the infected. They are a living, breathing entity, bringing death to man in a variety of exciting and exotic new flavors. Be it by blunt-force trauma, the scratching out of vital organs, or by burning alive with potent chemicals, the Infection is indisputably a force to be reckoned with. Survivors beware: these badasses aren't just screwing around. They mean business, and that business is painful death and conversion to their own ranks, should your compatibility be sufficient for such.

Common Infected- As their names suggest, Common Infected are the more common form of Infected encountered and make up the very backbone of the horde itself, being the stage most immediate after initial infection. They're easy to come by, and die even easier--they can be seen staggering about infected regions with no direction in mind, stumbling over nothing and losing their balance on air as they groan, mumble, and vomit their innards along the paved roads and highways once used by man. They're neither bright nor hardy, just as likely to drop dead on the spot as they are to die from being shot or run down by their own brethren, but the Commons are nothing to be laughed at. Despite the fact that they're almost completely useless, used as cannon fodder and carelessly mowed down by even their own Infected kinsmen, the Commons are no laughing matter. They destroyed our civilization all by themselves, and underestimating the enemy--as stated above--is the most foolish error one can make.

Commons aren't as much a member of the Infection as they are a force of nature to be manipulated and curved to the Infection's uses. They have a very intense horde mentality and have an unrivaled sense of determination and willpower--Commons will often relentlessly pursue a target for days on end until it either loses its scent, gets a new target, or dies from exhaustion. Upon sighting a target, a Common will become enraged and home in on its prey like a heat-seeking missile, charging in recklessly and with animalistic enthusiasm. This makes up the basis of the Commons' attack strategy--rush and swarm; overwhelm the opponent's ability to process information with such suddenness and aggression that no effective counter-measure can be put into place. Thus, the "horde," which is almost exclusively the Commons' method of attack. Either you will find one or two dozen scattered about randomly, or you'll be backpedaling furiously in an attempt to evade an oncoming wall of snarling, snapping Infected. There is no gray area. You're either seeing idle Commons, or facing a horde.

The anatomy of a Common Infected is one that varies by host; for the most part, these Infected retain all of their bodily structures and internal components, up until the point where damage is inflicted upon them one way or another. When that happens, they forcibly upchuck their damaged innards and vomit them all over the ground, resuming their staggering about as their body regenerates their spent parts. They don't actually use any of these body parts anymore; they don't eat, and that alone voids all of their digestive organs. Why their bodies insist on regenerating and keeping these dead weights around is beyond me, although I suspect the Infection simply doesn't want to waste its effort on reshaping and perfecting its mindless pawns. Why polish and perfect something you're going to be going through like nothing?

The Commons are the type of Infected most influenced by the environment and other outside forces. For instance, should the Infection strike an amusement park, one will see Commons and Infected unique to that region in the form of Clowns or other such types of Infected, which I call "Uncommon Infected." Despite being a common species, the Infection's variance by host is an incredibly wide variety of Infected and other forms of undead, ranging anywhere from simple citizens, construction workers in full outfit, all the way down the spectrum to fully-armed and armored riot police in the metropolitan areas. The amount of variety is both incredible and perplexing. Why would one single type of virus turn and create so many different varieties of Infected? What purpose would it serve, apart from strategy? What kind of natural phenomenon displays strategic choices in evolution over such a short period of time? Is there something governing the Infection's evolution? Unfortunately, I can't say for sure. There is still too much that we don't know about the Infection. While I suspect some kind of greater entity pulling the strings, like a group mind or collective intelligence, I'm afraid that the answer may never become apparent. We don't know enough to be able to learn those things. Therefore, the fullest extent of knowledge we can go for is what they are, how they fight, and how to kill them. Unsatisfactory it may be, but it's all I can do to benefit humanity at this time.

Boomers- Boomers were the first of the "Special Infected" to become prevalent in the horde, appearing only a week after the initial infection. Their presence on a battlefield is, uh...well, they look like a bit of a joke. A ridiculously obese Infected waddling its way up the street, gurgling and overall sounding like the worst case of indigestion in history doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of many. They're easy to see, easy to spot, and easier still to shoot. They die quite quickly, often proving to be no more hardy than the Common Infected--perhaps even less so. But, odd-looking or not, Boomers are a threat, and like any threat, underestimating them can be a fatal move. It's best to take even the most laughable Infected quite seriously.

As their bloated appearance suggests, the Boomers originally evolved from fat, over-sized humans, turning the host's anatomy into a resource to be manipulated. Like the Commons, the Boomer's attack strategy is simply--rush in as fast as possible to inflict the most damage over as short a period of time manageable. However, rather than smacking and beating its prey into a coma, the Boomer has a different form of attack. Upon sight, a Boomer will rush out from its hiding spot and vomit a wave of viscous green bile on the target, choosing then to either hastily retreat or charge in for a more physical engagement. While it may only seem to be a disgusting annoyance more than an actual threat, the Boomer's bile is more than just a sick form of warfare: it's a weapon. The excreted bile emits a powerful, offensive odor upon contact with living flesh, arousing all nearby Common Infected and urging them to rush in and attack the unfortunate victim splattered by the sickly sludge, summoning a horde as the stench fills the air. The unlucky survivor now finds himself both swarmed and unable to see due to the viscous, reeking bile covering his body and eyes, adding further to the survivor's already bad luck. Upon death, a Boomer has a similar effect on a survivor unfortunate enough to be within immediate range. The Boomer's highly-pressurized gut bursts from the sudden change in pressure, exploding in a similar fashion as a water balloon pricked with a pin or tack, hence the name "Boomer." The bile splashes out in all directions from the explosion and, in a similar manner to it's vomit-attack, attracts the horde to the highlighted survivors with often less-than-pleasant results. In combat, Boomers can either be completely useless or brutally dangerous. Needless to say, these bulbous flesh-sacks are better handled from afar, where the explosion is unlikely to be of concern.

While it may seem like these Infected are anything but eager to lend a helping hand, a well-handled situation involving a Boomer can make its presence a welcome sight on the battlefield. While it only shows interest in vomiting on survivors and humans, the Boomer's bile works on all forms of life--including the Infected themselves. Whether it's jumping to the side at the last second, exploding them in just the right spot, or milking their decrepit corpses to make "bile bombs," Boomer bile is just as effective on any form of Infected as it is on a human. Ever see a horde rip itself apart? Toss in a bile bomb, take a few steps back, and enjoy the show(Instant zombie soup--just add Boomer). Don't let your guard down, though--only the Commons are aroused by the smell of Boomer bile. In the event of being slimed by a Boomer, survivors need to both think calmly and work on their toes--in a best-case scenario, the horde will be several seconds away, leaving survivors enough time to prepare for the attack. First, the group should group together against a wall, preferably a corner, with the bile-covered survivors in the back(if all survivors are slimed, simply press against the wall and hope for the best; shoot everything and anything not right next to you. You should know the rest). With the clean survivors in front, the horde will have to physically reach past the unmarked targets to get to more tantalizing ones in the back, which will be extremely difficult with four-plus guns a-blazing. The simple-minded Commons will pay no heed to the survivors not marked by the bile, and will exert all effort exclusively against the ones that are dripping wet and slimy. In a best-case scenario(which will be quite achievable, if the situation is handled well), no survivors will receive any damage, and the rapid-drying bile will evaporate from the survivors previously marked without incident. As an added bonus, the way ahead for about 20 meters will be clear--all the Commons in the immediate vicinity will have been put out of their misery already.

Necropsy reports for a Boomer is...less than exciting(a dead Boomer leaves only behind its lower torso from the gory explosion). Getting a live subject was a thrilling experience for me, for up until then my focus had been on simply killing every Infected in sight, keeping as much distance between us as possible. The power in their limbs, the dexterity of the fingers not consumed by the fleshy boils, the unique, indescribable aura of rawness...it was truly like riding a pony for the first time(if ponies were decrepit humans that we need to hook a funnel to the mouth and forcibly drag to my lab for study). When it was chained to the table, I won't lie; I wasn't exactly eager to be around a walking fleshy water balloon in a room full of sharp, pointy objects. Needless to say, the examination began slowly(I don't care if it's a good cause or not, I'll damned if I'm going to have one of those things explode in my face!). It took time, but in the end, I was fully familiar with navigating the Boomer's innards. At this point, I can safely dissect and peel apart a Boomer(without the explosion) with my eyes closed. Not that I'd ever trust an Infected enough to close my eyes around it(I don't care if it is chained to a table; those sons of bitches are insanely dangerous!).

The anatomy of a Boomer is simple and easy to remember. The large, bulging gut of a Boomer is the bile sack, serving more like a gall bladder than anything else. Pinched over by the base of the remainder of its spine is a liver-like gland that constantly excretes large amounts of horde-attracting bile, which funnels into the bile sack. The throat is directly connected to this sack and is set up similar to a human diaphragm, giving it the ability to heave up its "stomach" contents and vomit anywhere and everywhere. Other than spongy, liquefying bones and spiderwebs of interlocking tendons and muscle, there is nothing else(of interest or otherwise) to take note of. The Boomer evidently evolved during times where survivors were abundant and the rate of kills was both dependable and reliable; the Boomer's bile-maker never quite stops producing bile, even when the bile sack is filled to the brim. Eventually, if no bile is excreted after a period of about 24 hours(as I discovered first-hand), the Boomer's bile sack ruptures and results in an explosion customary to a Boomer's death...albeit especially bile-filled(goddammit, my lab reeked of Boomer for weeks. I am never bringing a live Boomer into my lab again. They can just keep milking them down on the Boomer farm to make more bile bombs; if they drag one of those things up here, I'll shoot it while they're holding it, see how they like it!).

Hunters-Next on the evolution list was the Hunter, appearing into the horde about one and a half weeks into the Infection alongside the Smoker. Apart from a strange choice of fashion and a unique growling and screaming, the Hunter appears to be nothing more than an elite-version of the lowly Common Infected. Crouching down and slinking about in the shadows of alleys and buildings, the snarl of a Hunter is enough to make even a fully-armed special-forces soldier think twice about taking another step forward(training be damned, there's no way in hell anyone could get me to wrestle one of those jumpy bastards). The whole hoodie-thing really gives them the appearance of someone(thing) you really, really don't want to interact with, too. Suffice to say, the feeling is well-founded.

Unlike the reckless berserk strategy of the Commons, a Hunter's method of attack is far more restrained and effective. Whereas its kinsmen would rush in head-first in an effort to deal as much damage in as short a time as possible before their untimely demise, a Hunter will stick to the shadows and cling to walls and high-rising structures like an acrobat, stalking their prey until an opportune moment presents itself. Using a set of enlarged, throbbing muscles in their arms and legs, a Hunter will crouch down on all fours before vaulting itself through the air claws-first, often clearing enormous distances in a single leap towards their prey. I personally have seen Hunters clear entire buildings and land on their targets with uncanny pinpoint accuracy, killing the man with the sheer force of the impact alone. For jumps with smaller distances and less significant impacts, the dagger-like nails on the ends of their fingers serve as wonderful scoops for digging out human throats and rearranging intestines. While pounced, a survivor is both pinned and helpless, unable to move or defend themselves as the Hunter slashes them apart. If you travel alone or find yourself separated from the group and become pounced, you're fucked. That's all there is to it. Unless you have a second set of hands to shoot or shove the thing off you, your death is as immanent as it is painful(trust me, I've witnessed a Hunter killing people first-hand; it's not pretty, nor is it humane). While its teeth are impressive and gnarled, looking a bit like the set of chompers on a tiger shark, a Hunter's weapon of choice is its claws, only ever using its teeth as an intimidation and for survivors or to infect those not immune to the disease(Hunter mouths are loaded with glands producing the viral strain).

The method of fighting a Hunter is one of teamwork and caution. Upon hearing the customary growling of a Hunter, survivors should group together and proceed slowly, eying the corners of buildings and hallways with unwavering severity. If you see motion, shoot first, ask questions later. When injured, a Hunter will rise from its pounce-position and immediately leap backwards for cover, crouching down in a secluded spot nearby to wait for its pursuers. With the trap set, all the Hunter has to do is sit down and wait for its attackers to get hot feet and charge forward. This is exactly what the Hunter wants--if you have no choice but to advance into a spot a Hunter is crouched and waiting, move forward as a group, the person in front followed by a team mate merely inches away. This way, when the Hunter pounces, the reaction can be swift and effective without risking damage on the pounced survivor. Don't bother aiming for a weak point--if you see a Hunter, shoot it as much as you can or shove it back into a wall, giving it no time to jump back and reset the trap again. Four armed survivors against one Infected aren't good odds, especially so when the Hunter can't attack. Keep it on the move and in close quarters, and you should be able to put it down relatively quickly. The only real way to be killed or wounded by a Hunter is if you either wander off too far from the group, get ambushed, or rush ahead recklessly into the trap that so readily awaits you. Stay calm, be vigilant, and stick together; everything should be fine from there.

I was about as eager to bring a Hunter into my lab for examination as one would expect, given their ferocious reputation. Necropsy reports are safer and do provide their own benefits, but it's nothing compared to the extent of knowledge one can learn from dissecting a live subject. You know what, I was downright terrified of the prospect of tracking down one of those jumpy hood-wearing bastards, and having to wrestle them into the confines of my lab(do you blame me? Those things are damn scary!), but we got a lucky break. While going out and preparing a trap for one of those freaky bastards--baited with the scent of meat and a live primate in a cage--we managed to hit a Hunter mid-jump with a net-gun, which knocked it off balance and sent it careening off course and into a car(with an alarm set on it, of course). After dealing with the horde that ensured from the ruckus, we then discovered that the Hunter had broken its neck from either the impact or from being trampled by Commons, paralyzing it from the neck down and effectively incapacitating it for its journey. We returned home without incident(from the Hunter, anyway).

The interior of a Hunter resembles that of a normal Infected, bar extremely powerful sets of muscles in each of its limbs capable of giving it such jumping capabilities. In such up-close quarters, this was when I first learned about the fact that Hunters are blind--beneath their hoodies, they have either damaged eyes or no eyes in the sockets at all, using extremely acute senses of hearing and smell to pinpoint survivors' locations(there is also a device in the Hunter's ears that resembles the echolocation receivers of dolphins and bats; perhaps that's why they scream and growl so loudly?) Early on I had always been curious about their appearance--or rather, the rolls of duct and medical tape coiled tightly about their ankles, thighs, wrists, and biceps--and this only increased into fascination as I realized what effect this had on the Hunter's anatomy. The reason you've never seen a human vault itself up 40 feet in the air is because it's physically impossible--the amount of strength necessary to do so would require the mass and density of muscle that would bulge far beyond the confines of the skin and, basically, explode the muscles right out of them like they were implanted with cherry bombs. Yet, inside a Hunter's limbs, there lies an extremely dense amount of muscles and tendons, an amount of which would normally result in just that. How do they keep themselves from bursting at the seams? The answer is all over them: the tape on their limbs keeps the places where their skin would burst reinforced and anchored shut. The hoodieitselfis quite taut around the Hunter's frame, which also helps it maintain muscular integrity. This Infected manages to hold its muscles inside its body by dressing appropriately for the part. This itself was fascinating, but it only drew up more questions. How is it that an Infected incapable of functioning a door handle can harness the dexterity necessary to wrap tape around itself and slip into a particular kind of clothing? Better yet, how does a Hunter know that it has to do this? Were they like this post-Infection, or did they have to don the outfits themselves? Are they even intelligent enough to do that? Without the technology, equipment, and expertise to find out, I'm afraid this will have to be filed away as one of those mysteries that we can't shed light on at this time. Goddammit...

Smokers- As soon as reports of Hunters began pouring in, Smokers suddenly came into the picture, adding to the already considerable chaos and bloodshed. Breaking regularly into loud and extensive fits of coughing and hacking, this Special Infected seems about ready to keel over without any outside assistance, barely able to breathe, let alone do harm to anyone surrounding it. But, as stated above for the other Infected, do not underestimate the enemy on appearances alone. Though they seem terminally ill, Smokers are in fact primed and ready for the kill, equally capable of inflicting harm as any other Infected. They, like their counterparts, are quite dangerous.

Just like the Hunter, a Smoker prefers a "stalk-and-sneak" strategy over the "rush-in-and-pray-you-don't-get-shot-before-killing-something" technique of its lesser kinsmen, wheezing at survivors from more distant and out-of-the-way places, such as hills or rooftops and windows of surrounding buildings. Using a long, rope-like tongue, a Smoker is able to effectively lasso a survivor from afar and drag them away from the group, dangling them there for other Infected or drawing them in further for the Smoker itself to claw apart. Though the original impression would be that a Smoker would be able to only snare survivors from a relatively short distance, this is not at all true. Severed Smoker tongues on the field alone have been measured to be dozens of meters long--the longest measured, kept coiled up in my lab, is over 60 meters in length! That's the height of an 18-story building! Such a length proves inaccurate when fired, but the concept remains the same: Smokers tongues are fucking long. As long as you see it and/or it can see you, you're in danger of getting snared and dragged off to your death. As if this isn't bad enough, Smokers have a partner species: Hunters. When a survivor is dragged off or freed from the bounds of a Smoker tongue, the average survivor's first impulse will be to charge off after the momentarily incapacitated and immobile Smoker for an easy kill. This is where the Hunter comes in; hiding around a corner or from its stalking spot, the Hunter will be able to ambush and pounce the reckless survivor, leaving the Smoker able to snare the survivor that comes to the aid his comrade if it doesn't have one snared already. This tag-team hunting is both effective and deadly; small groups should approach occupied Smokers with caution, regardless of your sureness that the Special Infected is alone.

Being the second Special Infected scheduled to be brought in for live examining, I was less than enthusiastic, as I was still trying to air out my lab and rid my workspace of the stench of Boomer bile. My protests went unheard(bigsurprisethere) as the trap to catch a Smoker was set up. The concept is simple--when a Smoker snares a survivor, they are unable to move or otherwisedefendthemselves, leaving them at the mercy of the survivors that come to their companion's aid. Basically, we tethered a man down to a fortified structure, waited for a Smoker, and then--once the man was snared yet unable to be dragged away--we would rush in and detain the Smoker. Being physically awkward and weak, the Smoker itself wasn't the problem--rather, it was the Hunter lying in wait(which is when we first discovered the Hunter and Smoker's whole tag-team deal) that caused the difficulties(it was my first time getting pounced; needless to say, I rather enjoyed the upcoming Hunter dissection). After dancing around with that bastard for a while, we finally managed to bind and gag the Smoker, who had been tugging on the bait this entire time--it seems they can't detach their tongues at will. The bait was less than pleased, as the constricting power of the tongue left large blood-blisters and bruises where it pressed into his skin, despite the padding. We had to forcibly keep the two separate(for the Smoker's safety) as we came back to base.

The inside of a Smoker was just what I imagined it to be--a large, empty space in the gut and abdominal-area designed to store coiled-up tongues, muscles about the diaphragm designed to fire the organic projectile as if through a spring-loaded cannon. The tongue itself can range anywhere from 20 to 100 meters in length, ready to be fired to its full length upon demand. The tip is made of a tough, leathery tissue that prevents the snared survivor from breaking free from its position, though those not snared should be able to break off the tender, fleshy tissue above with relative ease. All along the inside layers of the enlarged lungs are a series of rapidly-working muscles and glands that work together in a sort of organic conveyor-belt to weave up new tips for the ends of the severed Smoker's tongue, which is constantly growing at the base to replace where it was broken off. However, it should be noted that the fresh tissue woven together in the lungs is quite fleshy and delicate, perhaps even more so than the tender flesh behind the end of the tip. In order to make the ends more sturdy and unable to be broken off, the Smoker's lungs are filled with a putrid concoction of tar, sulfur, and other potent and slightly toxic fumes, using the heat naturally generated by the tongue's "weaving" process to smoke the tongue into its final solid and leathery state. The Smoker's persistent coughing and hacking fits are not because they're choking on their own fumes, but because they're using the convulsions generated by the human cough-reflex to continually cycle the fumes inside its lungs to keep the smoking process working efficiently, and to force the newly-created tips down its throat to connect to the base of its awaiting tongue. These fumes are constantly flowing about the Smoker's innards in an attempt to further temper the rest of its tongue, and the fumes sometimes leak out up the trachea and spew out its mouth, giving the illusion that the Smoker is in fact coughing up clouds of smoke due to some kind of severe smoking habit. To keep the smoking-cycle most effective, a Smoker's lungs are pressurized and explosively decompress when ruptured or upon the Smoker's death, hence the smokescreen left behind, serving as a Smoker's final act of revenge from beyond the grave. Due to the dominant presence of tar and the trace amounts of nicotine found in the walls of the Smoker's lungs, I believe that the original hosts for the Smoker sub-species were all smokers to some extent, and that the Infection used the elements present to its advantage, though there's no proof of this. Due to the lack of survivors not immune to the Infection within our area of work, witnessing the infection-process is a rare occasion; one I have yet the blessing to bear witness to. For my own sanity, I suspect that it's better that way...

Tanks-The Special Infected appearing just shy of two weeks after initial Infection is the dreaded Tank, just as hardy and unyielding as the machines of war they share their names with. Dominating the battlefield with a bellowing roar and arms the size of full-grown men, the Tank is agreeably the most powerful and dangerous Infected form yet to emerge from the bowels of the horde. Whether it's smearing children across the pavement or pulling men apart by their genitals, there is nothing about a Tank for one to turn one's nose up or laugh at, bringing a whole new element of terror to the already horrifying Infection. After all, what greater enemy is there than one you can't beat on any front?

Though they choose the same reckless attack strategy of the lowly Commons, a Tank's sheer power and strength makes up for the overall mindlessness of their method of assault, taking down and maiming their opponents with terrifying efficiency and brutality. As one would expect, Tanks don't play well with others--upon announcing their arrival, most Infected will turn tail and retreat to a safe distance, not wanting to get in the way of the Special Infected that will literally run them down should they get in its way. The overall intelligence of a Tank is somewhat lacking(as one would expect; all brawn and no brain), this doesn't make them any less deadly to go up against--their hides are more than capable of taking a full-on beating from a mini-gun without stopping or even slowing down, apparently incapable of feeling or responding to pain in their blood rage. Anger seems to be the very fuel of a Tank's war engine, using extreme amounts of adrenaline and pent-up frustration to force the brute head-first into the fray. This frustration is also one of its many flaws--idle Tanks have been known to suddenly snap with no apparent reason, often going rampant for hours at a time, upturning structures and tearing apart everything it can fit its meaty hands around, be it Infected, human, or an inanimate object. Perhaps this just goes to show that nothing can control the potency of a Tank; not even the Tank.

Because of the incomparable power and strength of a live Tank, the only information I've been able to gather is from necropsy reports, as no one is willing(or even capable) to subdue and detain a living, breathing Tank. The information thus acquired is therefore limited, but is the fullest extent that I am able to obtain. Unless we find a bear trap big and powerful enough to bring a Tank down, that's the way it's going to have to be(I wouldn't bring one of those bruisers into my lab if I had a gun at my head). Basically, all I've been able to confirm and look into are the Tank's physical attributes; tough, leathery skin nearly 3 inches thick, capable of withstanding extreme amounts of damage from firearms and medium explosives; incredible bone density and muscular mass, stronger than reinforced titanium and weighing half a ton all together; a disproportionately small brain for the creature's size, going further to prove that Tanks are all brawn and no brain; and, of course, there is the fact that it's arm muscles are so enhanced and powerful that, upon mutation, the host's jaw was crushed into its head and eventually fell off--there simply wasn't enough room, given the sheer size of the behemoth's chest. I'm amazed these bastards are even able to stand upright, given the size of its legs! Perhaps this is why it runs on its arms?

Having had only one nearly fatal encounter with the dreaded Tank, I can safely say that unless survivors work as a group, there won't be much of a future ahead of them, unless they plan on living in a puddle of themselves for the rest of their pitiful existence(as was nearly my case). Because of the lack of Infected stupid enough to get within the brute's immediate vicinity, the battle with a Tank will be with the Tank and the Tank alone--a good thing, too, as it's unlikely already fucked survivors would appreciate the help from other Infected! There's one word I use when asked for advice on battling a Tank: backpedal. Run backwards, run backwards fast, and do a lot of it. A distant Tank is a hindered Tank--as long as you maintain a distance and dodge and weave around the numerous objects it's bound to throw at you(its favorites being cars and chunks of concrete), the only thing you'll need to do is stay moving and unload all of hell into the bastard. It's a surprisingly simple strategy that can work oddly well, given the extremity of the situation, but the trouble is that Tanks seem to be aware of this weakness of theirs, loitering about in relatively tight quarters with limited visibility and maneuvering space. If you ever find yourself in that predicament(as I did), all I can say is that I hope you have some big-ass guns and can run like hell, or else you might be in a spot of trouble(as if finding a Tank at all isn't trouble enough...).

Chargers- Dashing in around the third week of Infection in the southern regions is the Charger. Along with a somewhat lopsided appearance and a trumpeting cry, the Charger added a new element of brute strength and agility to the horde that the others couldn't, sometimes being compared to a combination of a Tank and a Hunter. They have an odd sort of look about them that makes them seem almost comical, but like the others in the horde, Chargers aren't to be taken lightly, despite their homely appearance. They, like all other Infected, are quite dangerous.

Whereas Commons rush recklessly like overzealous infantry, Chargers sprint forward into the fray like a cavalry brigade. Lowering their massive right shoulder and using their stubby legs to propel them up to speeds of 60 miles per hour, Chargers let loose their battle cry as they lance a survivor out of the group like a fleshy torpedo, grabbing them with their massive arm and repeatedly smashing them into the ground until their spines break and their bodies snap in half. With hides made of leathery natural armor, a Charger is quite hardy and capable of withstanding large amounts of damage, seconded only by the mighty Tanks themselves. The entire concept of a Charger's attack seems to be to rush in and forcibly separate the group, dashing off with one of the survivors as the others are thrown aside by the sheer momentum of the Charger's charge as they try to figure out what the hell just hit them. This strategy is especially effective when teamed up with a horde or other Special Infected, blowing apart and stunning the group as one survivor is already being taken out of the picture.

In the event of a Charger attack, survivors will have little time to take in the situation before either responding to the Charger's incoming or already undergoing attack. Speed makes up the very basis of a Charger's attack strategy--rush in, charge forward, and beat the hell out of everything, somewhat similar to that of a Tank or Common, but like the Tank, the Charger's physical attributes make up for the zealous simplicity of their assault. Based on their extreme speed and ability to plow head-first into structures without taking damage(although their exposed skulls tend to suggest otherwise), Chargers are best handled at a distance, preferably before entering their charge-state. Head-shots work very well, as most of the skull has been worn away via damage from previous charges, though it can be a bit difficult to shoot, as their heads are proportionately small and they don't usually tend to stay still or in one spot for very long. The best chance to score a head-shot on a Charger would be after it's already charged and when it's grabbed a survivor, just before it begins pummeling them into nothing; if the survivor managed to keep a hold on their weapon or can reach their sidearm, that survivor will have a tantalizingly good view of the Charger's head, which would provide an instant kill. If the survivor responds quickly, the Charger can be killed often before ever inflicting any pummeling-damage on its victim, instantly derailing the scenario via a bullet to the brain. However, this is rather difficult to achieve, as the Charger leaves very little time for the incapacitated survivor to whip out a weapon, not to mention the fact that said survivor tends to be a bit winded and-or dazed from the attack. Usually, the survivor will have to rely on his/her comrades to rescue them. When a Charger begins its charge, it is unable to turn or otherwise change its direction until it either crashes into something or loses momentum; survivors should use this as an opportunity to evade impending doom and sidestep at the last second, unloading their weapons into the now dazed and slightly wounded Charger. Go for the paler flesh of the left side of their body--the other side it can take a sound beating with.

When I received my first Charger for study, it was originally in an attempt to find and hunt down another Smoker, my last subject having died via surgical complications. The first time I was ever charged by a Charger was mind-numbing--I literally had no idea where I was for the first few seconds, working on auto-pilot to take out the fleshy bullet that suddenly streaked by and pinned my companion. The usual strife ensured, and upon releasing his previous victim, the Charger then targeted me and, fortunately, missed. It charging head-long into the side of a building and smashed through the solid brick wall, eventually landing head-first inside of a rather large jukebox and was electrocuted into a coma. After the usual recoveries, we decided to scurry along home with a Charger rather than one of those long-tongued freaks of nature.

A Charger is most noteable for its lopsided appearance, wielding one unnaturally large super-arm and one limp, useless arm that seems to be shriveled up and withering out of existence. What appeared to be some kind of horrible incompatibility of the host of a Tank was actually a fully-functional form of Special Infected built exactly how it was meant to be. The larger arm is made of a thick, leather-like material comparible in durability to that of a Tank hide, deforming its shape and giving it that distinguishable silhouette from a distance. The other arm...honestly, I have no idea what that dinky little thing is all about. All of the bone and muscle appears to have melted away and shifted to other parts of the body, specifically the arm and right-half of the torso. All that remains of the now-useless limb is the tiny, baggy outline of its former host's arm, which appears to be on the verge of falling off. While it is reasonable to presume the host of the Charger was right-handed, the overalls the Chargers all wear seem to suggest that the host was a farmer of some kind, perhaps using its right hand more than its left on the field. Why its left foot appears swollen and bursting through its shoe, I have no idea. Perhaps it was originally evolving to have only two arms, one made out of its leg? This deformation doesn't appear to have any effect on their behavior or attack strategy, apart from having a favored foot to push off with when charging. Apart from unevenly-distributed muscles and bone density and emphasis on sections of its body, there isn't much more to comment on about a Charger, which I have deemed to be a dangerous but unusually boring form of Infected to have to examine.

Jockeys- When I first saw a Jockey, I thought it was some kind of horribly disfigured Common Infected, bounding about and giggling like some kind of maddened mutant. As I began to see more and more of them, however, I realized that I had discovered a new form of Infected--one that emphasizes the efficiency of group work and collective effort within the horde. The way it bounces around and laughs maniacally is enough to make even the most war-hardened soldier stop and scratch his head or stifle laughter of their own, but rest assured, these little freaks aren't some kind of figment of your imagination to be taunted. They're real, they're dangerous, and they're not to be taken lightly(even if they are easy to insult).

On its own, a Jockey is a joke on the Infection's part, more of an annoyance than an actual threat to one's life. Their manic state, elongated limbs, and hunched-over appearance make them seem a bit like the zombified-offspring of Gollum and the hunchback of NotreDame, completely deep-fried brains and disfigured back to boot. In a group or when combined with Special Infected and the horde, a Jockey becomes that much less funny and annoying and that much more deadly and difficult to deal with. Bouncing around and scuttling closetothe ground, a Jockey will have no trouble at all navigating the landscape as it seeks out and attacks an unwary group of survivors. Using its elongated limbs to leap up and wiry-profile to wrap itself around a survivor's head and shoulders, a Jockey clings on a survivor's upper body, using them as a shield against the surrounding humans and literally riding its victim about like a horse, piggybacking and beating its pelvis about the survivor's shoulders like....well, it's less than a little degrading to be in the survivor's position. Embarrassment and humiliation aside, the Jockey shifts its weight and claws at the survivor's face and head to cause the survivor to stumble, effectively able to extend a limited amount of control over the survivor. If left unattended, a Jockey will yank and steer the unfortunate survivor into one of many hazards to do the survivor further harm, its favorites being hordes, groups of idle Commons, Spitter goo, Witches, and other Special Infected, sometimes even guiding them off the edge of a building or high-rising structure. By itself, this will simply be an annoyance and slightly peeving until the Jockey is knocked off and eventually killed; combined with other Infected, this could very much spell serious injury, if not the end, for the unfortunate survivor(to add insult to injury, the Jockey's appearance of humping the survivor doesn't really make going through such an incident much better).

Jockeys are easily one of the most identifiable Special Infected, due to their bizarrely unique profiles and insistent giggling that can be heard from a fair distance away, being ambushed by a Jockey is almost completely out of the question. Stealth is not an element for a Jockey to work with. That said, the creature's size and unusual agility makes up for the obviousness of its presence, making it even more dangerous when fighting other Infected or a horde--already occupied and distracted survivors will be easy pickings for the nimble little freak, using that same obliviousness of the survivor's teammates to effectively slip away with its makeshift steed to make a quick getaway and an easy kill. Being small and frail by nature, killing a Jockey you see coming is an easy matter; it's the one you don'tsee coming that causes to problem. Groups that stick close together and keep an open ear and eye should be able to derail the Jockey's attack with relative ease, though sometimes this simply can't be helped, given the loudness and attention-consumption of the other Infected'sattacks. Staying close together and being vigilant works most effectively in preventing disaster, but as far as strategy goes, that's about as much as I can provide. There's no real way to properly combat a Jockey in battle, apart from the usual "shoot-everything-that-moves" tactic used for the rest of the horde. Either you're on top of it, or you're not. That's about all there is to it.

My first Jockey was captured during an accident...more so on the Jockey's part than from human error. While traveling about in the field, one of my colleagues--a rather burly latino man nicknamed "Lopez" by his fellow men-in-arms--came across a rather rambunctious and enthusiastic Jockey, which proceeded to then jump up onto him and ride him about like others of its kind. However, unlike its other victims of smaller proportions, Lopez wasn't exactly on the dainty side--being stocky by nature and fully suited in heavy CEDAcombat gear tends to make one resemble a Tank more and more--and didn't budge when the Jockey attempted to guide him about haphazardly. Instead, he calmly returned to basewithhis hitchhiker companion, much to the surprise(and amusement) of his colleagues, myself included. After a round of snickers and wise-crack remarks, we managed to pull the little bastard off and drag him down to my lab for study. Apparently, having the smallest-profile Infected and largest-profile human put together doesn't work out as the Infection originally intended.

Right away, I had suspicions and hunches about the origin of the Jockey, which only served to be confirmed as I began my research. The first area I began examining was the growth on the Jockey's back, which appears to be made of a cluster of tumors slightly cancerous in origin, possibly having been so prior and manipulated by the Infection as time went on. The white undershirts and boxers of the typical Jockey seem to suggest that the already small Special Infected was even smaller before undergoing its ungainly mutations, the sizes and proportions of which seem to match that of the average "midget," pardon the term. Cancerous midgets; an interesting host choice to be certain. As I went on to the creature's oddly well-developed and large brain, physical and psychological comparisons to medical records show that the brain of the host had mutated to the point of nearly perfectly replicating a state of Mania, hence the creature's insane and constant maniacal laughter(I knew the little bastards were crazy). Maniacal, cancerous midgets? Now it was just looking strange; what in God's name would the Infection want to choose such an ungainly host for? Better yet, where is it getting all of these hosts from? Getting one of any of the traits above would prove difficult enough, but all three together? There seems to be too many Jockeys out there for that unlikely combination. Given the collective evolutionary traits of the horde, I suspect that perhaps the horde only had to pick one host with a status typical to that of a Jockey, then using anyone else in a similar mental state, medical condition, and/or physical type as a roster for all three of the traits. It already knew that it needed the cancer and the mania--perhaps, after knowing how to make these traits prevalent, all it needed was a midget to fit them into? Without witnessing the infection-process first-hand, I can't say for certain. Given the bone structures, patients of extreme arthritis also seem to be viable hosts, but again there's no way for me to know at this time. Either way, I can reasonably say that Jockeys are one of the freakiest variation of the horde I have yet to see emerge. Only a bunch of zombies would want those little bastards bouncing around...

Spitters-Quite possibly the ugliest and most disgusting Infected I've ever seen is the Spitter, combining the apparent ability to spit acid with its grotesque appearance to add a whole new element of combat to the horde and forcing a whole new kind of death upon survivors(not only can you get pulled apart and torn open, but burned alive as well! Isn't life in post-zombie-apocalypse just grand?) Another joint-attacker, Spitters are difficult not to take seriously, perhaps just as difficult as restraining the urge to gag upon sight. The Infection's really racking up it's ugly-meter with this one...

As well as joining the Smoker on the sidelines as a long-ranged attacker, the Spitter is the only Special Infected, bar the Witch, that is exclusively female in appearance. This may or may not make a difference in combat, as it's generally hard to tell from a distance--those sons of bitches are ugly!--and usually isn't of much concern to anyone, except for when insulting(using "bitch" instead of "bastard"). On its own, a Spitter is relatively easy to handle and kill without incident, as their fields of flesh-burning goo are somewhat simple to maneuver when not distracted by other threats. In the event of a group attack or when combined with other Special Infected, however, a Spitterisnotorious for the inherent ability to make a survivor's already fucked-up life miserable. After all, as if getting pounced by a Hunter or strangled by a Smoker isn't bad enough, the only thing that could make it worse is if you were being baked alive by highly potent chemicals. The Jockeys are especially fond of Spitter goo, making it a point to steer any survivor being ridden into the noxious field of slimy green death. The Spitter has two methods of spitting--firing membrane-encased acid bombs from a distance, which breaks upon hitting an horizontal(NOTvertical, merely bouncing off of such planes for some reason) surface and spills into a field of acid with a large area of effect, or opening up their ganglymaws at close range and spewing their stomach-contents out of its mouth directly like a fire hose, having a similar effect, bar able to be applied to survivor bodies directly rather than burning at their feet. They also have claws on their hands, which are long but not particularly sharp, perhaps why it favors its acid over melee assaults.

Handling a Spitter is easy in itself--simply aim for the glowing green thing, shoot, and wait for that satisfying splat of acid that follows its death--but its tendency to attack subtly and from distant and out-of-the-way locations sometimes makes this difficult. The times when it attacks with a group(which will be 70% of the time) makes it even harder. In the dark or from a distance, a Spitter is somewhat easy to spot, being the only Infected that glows in the dark, but actually shooting a Spitter at its favored ranges of "far" or "farther" makes this somewhat tricky. Combined with the awkward, strange gait displayed as it walks, a distant Spitter becomes a difficult Spittertoshoot, its ungainly almost bird-like walking style providing a sort of makeshift "dodge and weave" maneuvers that work rather poorly at close range but can make a sniper's life miserable. Killing it when you've hit it isn't the hard part; actually hitting the bitch is what gets people annoyed. Like the Jockey, there's no official "strategy" that can properly combat a Spitter; just hit her, and her relatively frail and acid-filled form(with which she is not immune to her own excretions) will do the rest. If you manage to puncture her stomach, there's always the added bonus of watching her melt and burn apart from her own acids(see how she likes it!), which should serve as extra motivation for snipers to aim carefully.

It took a while for me to actually find myself in the custody of a live Spitter; because of her tendency to keep her distance and potent bodily excretions, handling and subduing a Spitter proves to be a sizable challenge in and of itself. Early on I had decided not to go out and prospect for the Infected myself; the last incident with a particularly eager Charger and CEDA'snewpolicy of "kill all carriers" only proved to properly motivate me to become a sort of techie/shut-in around the HQ. I can live with staying indoors--after all, what's there to see out there anymore? Zombie apocalypse? Burning cities? Mounds of decaying corpses? Shattered remnants of once world-famous monuments? Not exactly a charming scenery one wants to go right out and take a big wiff of. When they dragged one of those long-necked freaks into my lab, I just strapped it down and (carefully) peeled it open, not bothering to ask any questions about their little expenditure. Judging by their willingness to be rid of the thing and excess force used to do so, I imagine the experience wasn't exactly a bed of roses. Don't ask, don't tell; works for me. It's probably better that way, anyhow.

One of the most common misconceptions people are under(myself included, prior to examination) is the very attack method the Spitter uses to inflict harm. Being rather appalled by the sight, I wasn't exactly eager to be poking about one of thosefreaks of nature, so I decided to start with the goo the bitch was so fond of. Due to the appearance of high potency and extreme acidity, one would assume that Spitter acid is just that--highly-potent acid. However, as I began tests, my skepticism only increased on such assumptions to the point where I was genuinely trying to prove it one way or the other. While it's true, Spitter goo's ability to burn through just about everything and its green appearance tends to be that of acid, but the amount of heat generated and its tendency to stay undiluted in water betrayed this title. Spitter acid isn't actually acid--rather, an extremely potent mix of chemicals mutated from the stomach's original enzymes and acidic compounds that produces a heat-level to a point that it replicates the reaction of highly-concentrated sulfuric acid. The way it works is that, in a Spitter's stomach, the stomach's normal acids were, as expected, altered dramatically from their original state. However, a series of poorly-made combinations between some of the more common and readily available chemicals within the Infection's field of manipulation created a mixture of viscous green slime that had an acidity level of approximately 6.9 on the pH scale. The acidity of Spitter acid is nearly identicaltothat of the average citrus fruit--not exactly the extreme melting-power the Infection was going for. Rather than completely dump the variation, the Infection combined a new chemical to the mix to further alter the otherwise harmless chemical, eventually creating a rather potent chemical reaction with only one product: heat. And a lot of it. Spitter goo is a very potent combination of chemicals that, upon activation, creates an extremely powerful exothermic chemical reaction that creates heat and only heat, therefore making said product in extreme amounts, making up for its lack of acidity. This explains why Spitter goo doesn't dissipate in water like acids would, and why its able to ignite items such as gas cans and oxygen tanks, whereas an acid could not. This would also explain why Spitters have been unable to evolve an immunity to their own goo, when they would quite easily be able to do, if their concoction was in fact an acid. This applies not just to the outside, but the inside of a Spitter as well--Spitters are just as vulnerable to their own goo in their gut as their skin is, hence why they burn open upon death. They would burn open when alive, too, if not for one of their goo's more unusual traits: the exothermic chemical reaction that gives its goo its potency cannot occur if the goo is in motion. This explains why the goo from a Spittershot activates after a brief pause when the goo is spreading out across the ground. This would also justify the Spitter's unusual, slightly pigeon-toed walking style; it's keeping its stomach contents in motion and preventing itself from burning in half, which would be why they suddenly gush out all their goo upon death when they're no longer moving. Though being god-ugly and the perhaps most repulsive creature I've ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on, that's not to say that Spitters are incapable of being more than what they appear. Even if they "appear" to be the most ugly fucking thing I have ever seen in my entire life...

Witches-The final form(as of 4 weeks post-Infection) and perhaps the least understood of the Infection is the ominous Witch, arguably one of the most dangerous and lethal Infected to date, between it and a Tank. In comparison with the other Infected, there's something about a Witch that just makes it seem like it doesn't quite fit in the horde. It's the only Infected that does not actively seek out and hunt down survivors, and its overall unwillingness to move from a decided spot is also quite strange. Their hosts appear to be teenage girls and remain comparitively unaltered by the Infection, though this can be countered by one of many things. Unlike the other Infected, the Witch appears to contain a level of humanity that others of their kind lack, though they are just as dangerous, if not more so, than as any horde or Special Infected out there.

Easily one of the strangest methods used by the members of the horde lies with the Witch. Not bothering to seek out its prey, a Witch appears to want nothing more than to be left alone, wandering about aimlessly during the daylight in an effort to find somewhere dark and secluded from the rest of the world. After finding a suitable location--either in a dark room, alley, or collapsing in the middle of the street at night, a Witch will sit down, hunch over, and begin to cry. Literally. No tears come from her eyes, as they were one of the many things deteriorated to help with the other mutations of the body, but the wailing sobs of a Witch can be heard over distances up to a mile away, if the Witch is loud enough and the scenery is peaceful. When the Witch is crying, she will remain in that position for an undetermined amount of time before either the sun rises and disturbs them or if angered by survivors. Both "Wandering" Witches(found exclusively during the daylight) and sitting Witches are to be avoided at all times--"frightening" a Witch is the worst mistake one can make, unless in good circumstances or company(thosefoot-long claws aren't just for show). Despite her frail appearance, Witches are capable of withstanding extreme amounts of damage, amounts of which would even make a Tank falter, which goes to help forward the argument that Witches are the most powerful Infected form in the horde, rather than the Tank. Witches are the only Infected that will not actively seek out their prey, as well as the only one that displays any emotion properly besides confusion and anger. Becauseof their odd behavior and pitiful appearances, many a survivor have felt things other than contempt towards the Witch, going as far to feel remorsefor their kind and even attempting contact with them. While it is permissible to assume this is one of their weapons, using the compassion of humans against us, the possibility of an Infected individual retaining some kind of level of self-awareness and humanity is a thought that makes many a mind wander. Perhaps this is why the Witch cries, and why she wants nothing more than to be alone--becauseshe knows what she's become and is ashamed, not wanting to have to hurt anyone because of her horrible mutation. Perhaps her rage of being startled is the part of the Infection that took her over--the indescribable, uncontrollable rage and lust for blood. Maybe that's what she hides away, leaving herself to lament about her dwindling humanity. Why the Witch cries has been one of the most tantalizing and mind-racking questions ever raised, pondered by survivors and CEDA alike, and it's one that many a survivor--most of which are smeared along the long-abandoned walls of the dead cities of man--have been unable to resist tempting fate over. Being one for answering such questions, I myself found it particularly hard to resist.

In a situation involving a Witch, survivors are to turn off their flashlights immediately--one of the things that angers Witches the most is a bright light. Survivors are then to move slowly and remain quiet as they attempt to discern the Witch's location as soon as possilbe, making it a point to avoid that location should the situation permit. Witches will ignore silent, slow-moving survivors all around her unless they get too close, in which case she will begin to growl, slowly rise up off the floor, eventually howling screams and, if the survivor remains an antagonist against her, attack. Dashing at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour--easily able to outrun a human being--a Witch will tirelessly pursue the foolish survivor that startled her and that survivor alone, only switching targets if someone else blocks her path for too long. She will then slash visciously at the unfortunate survivor with her foot-long claws in a swift uppercut-motion and, if this does not instantly kill or decapitate the survivor, will then proceed to tear away at her victim like a chainsaw to a block of Styrofoam. When said survivor is dead, the Witch will scream as if suddenly realizing what she's done and take off running, completely ignoring all other survivors or Infected as she tears off to somewhere unknown and disappears. Being attacked, touched, or shot will instantly anger a Witch, which is why survivors should make it a point to watch where they aim when they hear the telltale cries of a Witch(during the night, this is easy; just shoot everything not sitting down). The red illumination from their eyes gives them a distinguishable glow, which should help to further identify a Witch in the dark areas they prefer. Wandering Witches are also relatively easy to spot, given their method of staggering about slowly and the way they cover their head to shield the sunlight. Though they stand upright and move, Wandering Witches are disturbed just like normal Witches, except for the way they growl and raise their claws out threateningly the angrier they get. If there is an area that you must get to that a Witch is blocking and there is no alternative route, survivors will have to work very carefully to pass by without disturbing the Witch. If she is in the middle of a hall or a doorway, a survivor should either dash past her as quickly as possible or, if absolutely necessary, jump over her head. The Witch won't be any more angry than normal at the nearness of you--she'll likely be pretty pissed, perhaps even going into that screaming growl as she shakes her head and fists angrily, but given enough time and distance, the Witch will calm down and resume her crying, leaving it safe for the other survivors to follow suit and eventually leave the area. Be sure not to touch the Witch, as this will piss her off completely and evoke an attack!

Being one of those minds that considered the exact level of humanity within a Witch, I myself found myself in a perplexing situation. Necropsy reports would only confirm the physcialattributes of a Witch, which wouldn't help anything at all. No one can detain a Witch--they're either too frightened to approach, not strong enough to hope to overpower her, or too stupid to remain undetected for long. I had to get a bit clever with how to handle this, and after reviewing tape after tape of Wandering Witches move about, I finally came up with an idea. Finding a Witch isn't that hard, although it isn't particularly easy--it took us the better part of a week to hunt one down. We kept an eye on it until day came, where it roseup off the ground and began "Wandering," like all Witches do during the day. Then, we had to act carefully; using large, light barriers made of cardboard and plaster, we created walls that would shield us from the Witch's sight and keep her from advancing, as they are unwilling to come into contact with solid objects due to their apparent sensitivity. We discovered that, as the Witch wandered about, she was was unable to approach our "walls," and that if we moved slowly enough, we could manage to remain undetected and move along with her, effectively making a "hallway" that she had no choice but to walk down. Keeping pace, we slowly guided her towards the base, which had been cleared due to my "encouragements" and my convincing that this would work. Slowly, carefully, we guided our Witch down our "hall" until we came into the halls of the base, guiding her down to a nice, secluded room for her to have some solitude...but not before she scared the piss out of us. Walking down the hall that led to my lab, one of my colleagues stubbed his boot in on of the doorways. The Witch stopped on the spot, raised her head, and overall just gave us all a heart attack. After determining the area was secured, she then continued on her way and ended up in her new room without incident. If I ever find who designed this facility and made that hall so damn long, I'll make him wish he could jump in there with her with an air horn and squeaking clown shoes.

Basically, these last few weeks have been spent mainly on having "counseling sessions" with our dear Witch friend, going into her room regularly and testing out her behavior and personality traits. Apart from the common bitchiness of Witches and the need to be absolutelyalone, I've discovered quite a few interesting things about the Witch's psychology. For starters, after regularly creating noises that would make her start and then waiting until she relaxed to repeat so, she appeared to become accustomed to the noise, ignoring it as it continued and its intensity increased to the point where I myself couldn't stand it. The same applied for my presence; when I got close enough to make her annoyed, I'd back away and wait before doing this again. After doing this numerous times for several days, she became accustomed to my presence, enough so to the point where I can move and speak freely to and about her, getting up to mere inches away(I don't dare make physical contact; not yet, anyway. I'm quite content with being in one piece, thank you very much). Now that she's used to my being there, I will go in every day for about an hour or two and simply talk with her about random things; something that happened, things I'm interested in, basically just to have a one-sided conversation with her and get her quite comfortable with human contact. I've been doing this for about a week now and, upon reviewing the recorded tapes, I'm able to determine that, over time, her sobs while I'm talking have become....quieter. I'm not sure if this is a glitch in the recording software, whether it's just the Witch keeping track of her outside elements, or if she's actually listening to me, but it's indisputable; each time I talk with her, her crying gets just a little softer each time. I don't know what this means, really; it could in fact mean that she maintains a certain magnitude of intelligence behind that facade of a monster, or if her actual cognitive abilities can register curiosity with the unknown. Either way, this could mean something big in the effort to cure the Infection; if we can revert her back on a psychological level, what's to say we can't change her physically, while we're at it? Better yet, what if this works for all Infected, and not just Witches? Could we very well cleanse the minds of our once-human brethren? The idea is enough to keep me going--even if it's just this one girl, the concept of helping, possibly even curing the Infection, is more than satisfactory in my quest to aid the common good.

((Note!))

Though this is all I have for the documented Infected forms, that's not to say that these are the only Infected out there; the horde is constantly evolving, and at a rapid pace impossible to track. It's been a while since I've gone out and seen what the Infection has to offer, and I don't doubt that there are other speices of Infected constantly emerging elsewhere in the world. I have simply yet to record them. As always, survivors are strongly urged to keep an eye out for anything that doesn't look like the usual Infected; people in my line of work can use this knowledge to help save lives and keep humanity going that much longer.

**

I realize that publishing such a documented piece of material is a risky move, with my superiors forbidding such information to be spread about the survivor population, but you know what? I don't care. I no longer care what they think is right, or what they think they can gain from keeping our only surviving people in the dark. I honestly don't care. CEDA may think that it's helping humanity with their foolish endeavors, murdering everyone that so much as blinks in the Infection's direction, but they're not. It's obvious they're not. Killing the very thing we would seek to protect--our population, our species, our future generations--is a grievous sin, an incalculable error at this time, and completely unacceptable. I abhor everything the CEDA has done these last few arduous months, and my work is for the good of the people that still walk this earth and the people alone. I do not work at the behest of a corrupt and blinded organization of pompous, spoiled bureaucratsthat can't even think about tying their own shoes without wondering how much money they can scam people out of it. My hand is not governed by the CEDA's fools and bastards-for-hire that would fuck their own mothers to make an extra coin; I work for humanity. Not the worthless scum that serves as a remnant of a government that should have died out long ago, not the whining pussies that bark orders about and chastise others for things that they would do regularly and all their lives, and not the miserable pains in the asses that would turn on us if it meant preserving their own worthless existances. My loyalty does not lie with the CEDA, or their sinful and devious motives and decisions; my one and only obligation lies with the survival of our race, and the people that make it up. CEDA be damned; my heart lies with the people around me. Nothing more.

This is the great war for survival--the battle for humanity--ever approaches its climax.

My name is Emilia McEst...and may God help us all.

Because, if we fail, nobody else is going to have the power to do so.


Author's Note

Yo, readers out there. I hope you like my little L4D Zombie Survival Guide. I've been tossing this about for a while now, and I finally decided to buckle down and just do it. It was a bitch to write, but I'm glad it's finally finished. It's the single longest document I've ever written in my entire (fucking) life. o_e I think I've developed some rather sizeable arthritis from all the typing, so flames will be answered via the blunt-end of a pick axe. Teehee. ^^

The overall plotlessness of the Left 4 Dead universe has driven me crazy since I started really looking into the plot(or, perhaps, the lack thereof). Basically, the entire sotry is that there was an infection that created zombies that broke out 2 (or 3, depending on the game) weeks ago, and that a bunch of people need to escape it. That's it. There's nothing about the zombies, nothing about the infection, nothing about anything and it's driving me batshit crazy(er)!!! This oneshot is designed to help fill out the shape of the otherwise skeletal Left 4 Dead games, and hopefully improve the satisfaction of said games with a heaping-helping of in-depth knowledge about the Infection and the zombie horde. Know thy enemy and all that.

Well, that's all for now. I'm considering doing a story based off of this, so keep an eye out for that. Happy zombie apocalypse, everyone! ^^

(If you see any deleted spaces in there, it's from my computer. I'll fix it up nice and neat later on, no worries.)