As the weeks passed Sonia and Padma grew acclimated to their new surroundings. They found new mosquito netting, allowing them to conserve their insect repellant. They were modestly successful in finding food, managing to keep their stores replenished, trying their best to eat what they found that day and only eat from their packs when absolutely necessary. Occasionally they found something less than appetizing, like pet food or uncooked rice which they set aside while they ate a selection from their more appealing pack fare.
Water proved to be no problem; water heaters were plentiful and hose spigots on the side of houses were also a reliable source of potable water. Cooking food was their biggest concern; without the ability to generate heat they were unable to boil water which rendered much of their food inedible. In those cases, they had taken to leaving caches of food hidden away; although Sonia had no firm plans to return to any particular location, she understood that even the most unappetizing food could later be the difference between life and death.
After their first experiences with the infected they learned to move slowly, being extremely deliberate about their movements, especially in smaller more confined spaces. Sonia had started to teach Padma sign language, but the difficulty of making the required motions with the heavy gloves they wore nearly constantly made true ASL impossible; instead Sonia developed a truncated system, something more akin to military hand signals than true ASL. Sonia gradually found herself growing less fearful of the infected; always respectful, to be sure, but more aggressive in her dealing with them. She decided that taking advantage of their weak vision and lack of attention and pressing the attack when she found them singly or in pairs was often the safest course of action.
Sonia was more apprehensive about what evidence they observed of human activity: black smoke rising in the distance, smoldering buildings, gunfire – both distant and not so, random single shots and sustained bursts – screams sounding out and suddenly falling silent, random car crashes and, most of all, the obvious signs of recent feeding by the infected. Every day they observed at least a few dozen infected, sometimes singly but usually in groups of two or three, sometimes packs of ten or more and, every few days at least, great hoards of dozens or even hundreds, attracted by things impossible to identify but which Sonia and Padma both knew were almost certainly other people, trapped as they were in that tree house the day they first escaped the FEMA Hub Facility.
Of course, Sonia and Padma couldn’t consider investigating let alone offering assistance; they scarcely had the means of defending themselves from the small groups of infected they ran across by chance, to say nothing of rescuing of others from the beasts. So they simply continued on, in a silent state of guilty relief, grateful that something had occupied the attention of the hideous monsters.
The two took an opportunistic approach towards bedding down, choosing places based more on spur of the moment suppositions on what would be safe than set-fast rules, preferring to hide behind hedges or under abandoned cars during the day, taking advantage of the cool shaded ground to escape the heat while finding refuge in cars or on roofs or, whenever possible, inside buildings at night.
Sonia tried her best to find locations where they could pass at least a few hours in sufficient safety to take off their boots and air out their clothes and give Padma an opportunity to tend to the wounds from her attack. Sonia’s injuries were healing nicely but the heat and sweat combined to take its toll on their feet, thankfully alleviated with the Lamisil that Sonia found in the locker room at the University.
Sonia added a garden spade she found in a backyard shed to her armory of improvised weapons. As they spent more time moving among the infected, Sonia realized that apart from a firearm with a silencer, no single weapon would ever be adequate for the various situations they confronted. The carpenter’s hammer was by far the effective way to make a quick kill, especially when using the claw end to penetrate the skull, but its short reach made it dangerous unless one had the element of surprise and it had a tendency to stick so Sonia only used it when killing single infected. The aluminum bat was almost as effective as the hammer and what it gave up in killing power it made up for in reach and a more rapid second stroke, although the second stroke required a certain amount of space.
The garden spade gave up quite a bit in killing power, not having the brute skull crushing impact of either the hammer or the bat, but it had a reach that the hammer lacked and, when using short thrusts, its follow up stroke was quick and required little space. Even its lack of killing power wasn’t the shortcoming it seemed; with the infected’s habit of mindlessly lunging at their prey, a swift thrust to the head usually produced some fairly severe results. The infected, despite their brain damaged rage, weren’t immune to the effects of a crushed larynx or shattered eye orbit.
She also did some work on the soccer goalie’s gloves she found in the University Field House; while being thick and padded and excellent for protection they lacked a bit in grip. After searching about she found some silicon sealant which she rubbed on the fingers and palms, drying to leave a rubber like surface.
Still wherever possible Sonia continued to search for a firearm, knowing that her hand tools would be of little use against the other, uninfected threats they might run across.