See, yesterday, my family had time to watch a couple of Farscape episodes. (We're midway through season one, since given the show's age and early episodes, my family doesn't watch it too often, in spite of knowing the show matures later.)
That left an impression on my subconscious.
Because last night? I dreamed of what can only be described as an EPIC clash between a crew loosely inspired by Farscape (don't think they were exactly the same)...fighting against the Wraith, from Stargate Atlantis. (Well, not *quite* the Wraith, but they were called Wraith, had superstrength, could drain life, and looked like Wraith. They had what's likely a different culture, though.)
They were in the middle of an absolutely breathtaking fight scene, orchestral music playing and all. And then, I woke up, discovering that I had slept soundly for nine hours.
Anyway, I mentioned yesterday notes I wrote for the vamp/wolf/zomb story. Some additional character notes that I didn't write down there is that there's a werewolf(father)-zombie(walker/mother) couple, who figured they couldn't have children, thus, adapted a baby vampire boy 20 years ago. Only, they recently figured out that she's the one in a million (and, frankly for walkers, one in a billion) zombie that can have a child, so they recently gave birth to a baby girl.
The wolf is someone who in a pack could easily be the alpha male. His pheromones are all over his son, essentially letting all wolves in the area know that this vampire is not for shredding, and if they so much as try, they'll be killed. (The vampire son is completely unaware of this, and for many years wasn't even aware that his parents were a werewolf and a zombie.) Now, said wolf is obviously leading a solitary life, away from other wolves, basically living a normal human life. He's a nice guy, and is completely honest about his feelings, not keeping them pent up. This means that when the full moon rolls around, he takes a leisurely stroll through the forest his home is inside (well, it's part of a development complex or whatever the term is, with other houses around it and roads/private roads a plenty, so not a true forest, but he owns a lot of land that is forest), basically harmless.
The zombie was the source of the local outbreak of zombies. She made sure to be the originator zombie of the zone. One story I'm taking cues from is the webcomic, The Other Grey Meat, which I was an avid reader of back in the day, and basically there's a zombie hierarchy in place. This is in seeming contradiction to earlier notes, but it's really not, at least not by much. Mutated zombies legitimately do hold influence over the horde. AND, zombies do have a horde mentality, making everything equal. However, zombies have an instinctive recognition of who their maker is, and their maker's maker, and so on and so forth. And at the top of the chain, the zombie who holds that recognition is someone who retains some individuality beyond that of a normal zombie. NORMALLY, said zombies are runners evolved into mutants. However, it's possible for a walker to hold that rank, and the zombie mother in this case does. In other words, via the link zombies hold to one another, she bids them to leave her son alone.
But to go into detail about that now that I've explained the characters, the zombies more or less work this way:
The default zombie horde will work as a team, a hive mind directed towards their goal. Everyone is equal in this. Even the top maker is not immune to being influenced by horde mentality. (The mother has, at times, had to be pulled away by her husband from taking part in attacks, because her will only goes so far; the basic swarm is their base instinct.)
Then comes mutated zombies. Mutated zombies can be anywhere in the chain, from most recently created to oldest; it doesn't matter. They act as basically radio control centers, as battle commanders: they help to coordinate the horde. However, while they maintain their individuality when doing so (and thus, may have agendas), they're still working the same base instinct. For example, a mutated zombie cannot direct zombies to attack other zombies in spite of being their controller, because the idea behind mutated zombies in the horde is to increase their deadly infection potential. (This is also why truly intelligent mutated zombies are such a threat: they can direct zombies to deliver bites and then back off, so that the bitten is guaranteed to turn, rather than just be ripped to shreds as zombie food. They can also, by this same logic, determine that it'd be better to have a bitten person become zombie food rather than another zombie.)
A mutated zombie is still an agent of the horde. They don't have to follow the horde's exact will, allowing for deviations, but the more control they exert over a horde, the less individual will they retain and the more they have merged with the hive mind. In essence, for a mutated zombie to control with precision the entire horde, they mutated zombie must, by extent, be part of said horde. It makes a lot of sense to me, not only from a justification point of view, but also as a built-in failsafe. A mutated zombie maintaining their agenda only has weak control; a mutated zombie fully devoted to the cause has full control.
Then, comes the hierarchy in play. The maker-zombie will never give true orders to the horde like a mutated zombie will. They'll instead simply give 'directives', so to speak. It's almost the same thing, but not quite. Orders require proximity, and are specific to the situation. Directives are things inserted into the zombies that the zombies will instantly recognize and follow. For instance, a mutated zombie must give orders for zombies to gather. The mutated zombie's proximity is large, stretching across a whole town (and that's just one mutated zombie; multiple can, like radio towers, exchange signals to potentially cover full metropolises), but it is not limitless. It requires conscious oversight, as an active action. The maker-zombie's directives are automatic, inserted into all zombies, and are a passive action, automatically executed.
Thus, there is a directive in them to never hurt her son. There's a separate directive to recognize her will when she commands it of them, overlapping into an active. While this certainly makes the control of the maker-zombie that of a deeper level, it has its drawbacks. Mutated zombies can control any zombie; maker-zombies only control those beneath them in the chain. There's also the fact that maker-zombies cannot give directives that override zombie's basic instincts, just like mutated zombies cannot.
She can give a directive to not overwhelm the natives of her town because it'd disrupt harmony, but cannot give a directive for the zombies not to spread at all. Nor would she; she likes to have the safety net of as many zombies around as she can safely get away with, but that's another reason the directive not to overwhelm the humans exists: for the sake of not attracting unwanted attention to them. (It's easier to spread in the shadows than in broad daylight.)
I really like the mechanics I'm building up for this story, but if you don't mind...family's coming over again, today, so gotta go!