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located in The Haven Universe, a part of Live Together or Die Alone, one of the many universes on RPG.

The Haven Universe



Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan
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Collaboration with Selene Durlan and Rann

Part One: The Americans

November 10th, 2013

Before Dawn

Ben hadn't slept well. He had an arm draped around Laney. At the moment, all he wanted was to stay where he was, but if he didn't get going soon, Hoppy wouldn't make it. He'd wanted to go to the Rands', but getting the girl lying in that room what she needed to survive was more important to him. All he'd said to people the past day is that he was going to do what he had to to keep people in Haven safe. Now, one of their own really needed him. The trip to Kendal was more important than the one to the Rands'.

So, he got up, and dressed himself. Within his pile of clothes, he still had his pistol and the ammunition that he'd found at the brothers' house. After checking the safety on it, he tucked the weapon into the back of his pants and the ammunition into his backpack. He didn't know what would be in Kendal, and he wanted to have a backup plan.

It was early. There were still two or three hours until dawn. Ben hated to work in the dark, but they needed the extra time.

Once he had all he needed, he went to the door. As he was about to open it, he turned towards the bed and the sleeping Laney and watched her for a moment or two. Briefly, he smiled, and then carefully opened the door and exited the room.

The nightmares had returned and would likely occur with greater frequency if she didn’t bolster her dwindling cache very soon. After a particularly vivid nightmare and sleep deprived night, Kiera was staring at the wall in her room weighing different solutions to her current dilemma. Traveling to the town of Cromwell and scouring the pharmacy there had crossed her mind, but it would be difficult to find a plausible reason for heading there and she didn’t have time to wait for a legitimate job listing. Kiera began running her fingers through the end of her braid in an attempt to soothe her panicked thoughts, the action barely making a difference in her anxious mindset.

Ben made his way to the door that he was pretty sure was Kiera's and knocked, lightly at first. There was no response the first time, so he knocked again, louder this time.

There’s someone at the door. Kiera suddenly realized after the visitor starter knocking louder on her door. It was odd that anyone would do that, unless they needed something. Maybe they want to borrow a cup of sugar? She thought with a small smile.

Cracking the door open just enough for her body to fit in the opening; she saw Ben standing there, though his appearance was quite different now. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise at the sight of his haircut, Kiera found herself missing his shaggy locks, but she acknowledged this new style was more practical for everyday life. What was he doing knocking at her door though, wasn’t he getting enough attention from Laney?

“Hi Ben, nice haircut.” Kiera said in a neutral tone.

"Thanks," he mumbled, rubbing his head lightly and glancing around for a moment. Not that he was expecting Hoppy to show up, but he kept his voice low, just in case. "I've got to go to the hospital in Kendal. I could use some help."

Kiera didn't know what she had expected him to say, but it certainly wasn't that. She paused for a moment, realizing this request could fix everything, she barely managed to reign in her relief before replying. "There's a hospital in Kendal? Of course I would be happy to help. I guess Dr. Short is ill-equipped to handle a bullet wound with what supplies she has now. Do you know how to get there?" She asked, her mood already beginning to lighten.

"Yeah," he replied, "It's south and east, thirty miles or so. It's not too small, so it should be hard to miss." He neglected to mention how dire the situation was. At least for the moment; he would tell her, but not while he was potentially within earshot of Hoppy.

"I'll give you a few minutes to get your things ready, if you need to. I'll be outside." Ben gave her a nod, and then headed outside. It was dark, and it was cold. He pulled on his wool hat and leaned against the job board, waiting.

"Okay, I'll see you out there then."

Self-absorbed ass. she thought venomously. Apparently he was in quite a rush to leave and he expected Kiera to fetch her own pack. What a gentleman.

Kiera dressed quickly in her winter clothes, ensuring her slingshot was placed securely in her jean’s pocket before leaving her room. She walked to the command center and was surprised by the new face she saw there. The helicopter pilot was sitting in Monroe’s old seat; it was odd to see the grizzled man’s position being given to this new woman, especially with the former soldier’s death being so recent. Still, she was making herself useful and Kiera couldn’t fault her for that. After collecting her pack and an empty duffel bag from the pilot, she left the farmhouse to meet Ben by the jobs board.

“I’m ready to go.” Indicating the deflated duffel bag, “I brought this along in case we find other useful stuff in Kendal.” She said with a smile. “Let’s hope we don’t have to walk the full thirty miles.”

"We can't afford to. There's no way we'll be able to make it back in time," he answered with a frown, feeling more free to speak now that they were outside. "This is a little time sensitive. If we don't make it back in time, Hoppy probably won't make it." Then he added, "We should probably look for a car."

Kiera hadn't realized the severity of Hoppy's condition until Ben informed her, by his tone of voice she now realized why he had seemed to be in such a hurry while speaking outside her room. She felt less insulted by his earlier behavior, Hoppy needed the supplies they were going to retrieve if she was to have any hope of recovering.

As much as he would like to stop and chat - maybe - he didn't want to waste time, so he walked to the gate and pulled it open, allowing Kiera to pass through and closing it after.

He held the list of items they needed and squinted at it as it fluttered in the gentle breeze. It didn't really do him any good, not being able to read it in the dark, so he stuffed it back into his pocket for now.

"Bunch of antibiotics, chest tubes, and some other stuff," he said, mostly from memory. "I'm not really a medical professional. You know much about that stuff?" he asked, turning to look where he could make out the darkened figure of the young woman walking with him.

"Me neither, math was my specialty in school. The medications should be clearly labeled at least, but the other stuff might be tricky to find. Once there is more light I'll take a look at the list, maybe I will recognize some of the items on it." Kiera stuffed her gloved hands into her jacket's pockets, she couldn't wait for summer to arrive. The constant cold and darkness made the living dead seem even more terrifying.

"Mm. Great," he grunted, though he wasn't really directing his obvious frustration at her. Just at the situation in general. "We'll figure something out."

The pair walked in the crisp darkness, each staying alert to their surroundings and keeping a sharp eye out for a working vehicle.

"So, why did you ask me to join you on this mission?' Kiera asked quietly.

Ben didn't want to tell her outright that she was too green, so he tried to put a helpful spin on it. "You want the truth? Well, you haven't been out much. I thought this would be a good chance to get you some more experience while still having someone around who's been out more." What he didn't tell her is that he wanted to see what she could do and how well she could handle a situation like this. He didn't want her to misinterpret that as if it were some kind of test, when he really didn't mean it that way.

Kiera gritted her teeth after hearing Ben's response. She appreciated the way he phrased the statement, but the overall meaning was still clear. Ben thought she was a weakling, which didn't entirely explain why he asked her to join him on such a critical mission. Was he taking responsibility for the preparedness of everyone? In the end it really didn't matter why he had asked she decided, rather it was important that they would help save Hoppy's life and Kiera would get what she wanted out of the trip as well.

"I can appreciate that, though I'm sure Laney would have enjoyed going with you, she and Hoppy are very good friends. Always joking about babies and such things." Kiera spoke lightly, but she watched for Ben's reaction to her words.

Ben raised an eyebrow. How blatant could that have been?

"Yeah. They are, but I'm good friends with Hoppy too, and we can't all go out on the same thing. There are other important things to be done. Laney knows that," he said, intentionally glossing over the mention of babies. He hadn't even talked to Laney about it, so he definitely wasn't going to bring it up with Kiera. And it wasn't like he was good friends with her. If this had been Hoppy, on the other hand, he might be more inclined to talk about it.

"And I thought I could help you out at the same time," he continued sincerely. "That's all."

Removing her glove, Kiera resumed pulling at the tail of her braid. It helped take her mind off the building jealousy she felt. The rich and famous really did get it all, though would it last? Somewhere Kiera knew it was the withdrawal speaking, making her irritable and nasty when she would normally be calm and composed. If she had any hope of befriending her scav partner, she needed to be less prickly. With an iron grip she quashed down the roiling emotions that threatened to ruin everything till there was nothing but a vast silence in her mind. She knew it was only a matter of time before she was ambushed by the feelings once more, but for now she was free of them.

“How kind of you to think of that. It is true I haven’t been out of Haven much, but I did manage to survive long enough to reach it at least. Honestly, you don’t need to worry about me slowing you down. I understand how critical it is for us to return to Haven as fast as possible.” Kiera spoke politely, but firmly to Ben.

She could appreciate his concern for her survival abilities, after all this was the first time they had gone on a mission together. She felt actions would speak louder than words and he would just have to see her in action for him to believe.

"I'm not--" he began, frustrated. But, then he just shook his head. He hadn't meant that she was going to slow him down, either. She was a part of Haven, and because of that alone, he was willing to trust her, even if he didn't know that much about her. They were all in this together now, for better or for worse.

They took the next five or ten minutes in silence. He didn't know what to talk about, and he wasn't enthusiastic about bringing up his past; just another painful reminder of what he would never see again and how things never would be again.

Part Two: Transportation

It was at the end of that five or ten minutes that he spotted something up ahead. He couldn't quite make it out, but it definitely wasn't human or formerly human. They didn't come in square shapes. As the pair got nearer, Ben could see that it was a car. Its right-side door, the driver-side door hung ajar.

Ben stopped, and he took off his backpack in order to take out his flashlight. He clicked it on and approached the car carefully. Kiera followed close behind, both scanning their surroundings carefully for signs of the dead.

The scene before him wasn't a pleasant one. The driver's seat, the dashboard, and floor in front of it were covered in blood. There was also blood on the inside of the open door. He noted that the blood seemed fairly fresh, as if whatever had occurred here was somewhat recent.

Kiera stood near the rear of the car on the driver's side, keeping an eye on the road while Ben examined the vehicle. She gripped her weapon tightly, the steel pipe had always been handy, and its previous owner had modified the end of it. A two-inch long stake was attached to the pipe at a ninety degree angle, the perfect tool for splitting skulls open. She willed Ben to hurry up, she felt uneasy standing out in the darkness, especially while standing next to a fairly fresh crime scene.

The wind wasn't helping either, each sway and creak of the foliage made her nervous. Suddenly in the shadows, she spotted a knee-high creature moving, traveling away from the scavs through the weeds, it had the shape of a dog, but with the darkness she couldn't be sure of what it actually was. As if sensing her eyes, the animal froze and turned around. Then the dog-like animal stared towards the trees that were next to the driver's side of the car. It stayed like that for several seconds, before turning tail and trotting away. Kiera looked back towards Ben in order to tell him about what she had seen, when her eyes passed the exact spot the animal had stared towards. The color drained from her face.

A distinctly human shape was running awkwardly towards the car. The uneven and haphazard gait indicated one thing, they had a runner that was headed towards them with deadly intent. Kiera felt rooted to her spot, staring in horror as she watched the walker close the distance between the rotting mouth and its distracted prey, Ben. With that realization, she sprang to action, rushing to step between the walker and her partner.

One final exhale of breath and Kiera swung her weapon, the flat side of the pipe made a sickening squishing sound against the walker's skull. The corpse staggered but remained upright, Kiera was thrown off balance from the swing causing her to stumble into Ben, sending him sprawling forward into the interior of the vehicle. The flesh-eater recovered quickly and reached towards Kiera, the movement was halted by a decisive spiked blow to the side of the walker's skull that caused its body to go slack, bouncing off the side of the car once, before laying crumpled on the frosted ground, the weapon still lodged in place.

Liquefied breakfast sprayed across Kiera's shoes and the ground, sinking to her knees, she took in shaky breaths, hardly believing what she had just done.

Ben had heard the sound of moving feet. It didn't sound like the steps of Kiera - too uneven. He reached towards his right hip, fumbling to get to his hatchet. As he was about to pull himself out of the car and turn around, he was hit from behind and sent into the car. He reached his right hand down to the floor to brace himself, and found his hand pressed into a hard metal and plastic object that felt like a set of keys.

Wrapping his fingers around the object, he pushed himself up from his spot and turned towards Kiera, who was on her knees. His entire front was covered in blood that had been on the seat.

Well, that's one way to clean it up, he thought.

He took in the scene, and held out a hand, in an offering to help her up, "Nice work. Thanks for that." Now, he really was glad that he had decided to bring her along and not go on his own.

In his other hand, he held the keys to the car, "I found the keys," he chuckled, "I'll drive."

At the sound of Ben's voice, Kiera returned her attention to the present. She looked up at him and gladly took his outstretched hand.

"Sure, anytime." She said, her voice shaking slightly. "And here I was hoping I would get to see your hot-wiring skills." She added with a smile. Stepping up to the corpse she pulled her weapon free, wiping the gore from it, she did a quick check of the walker's pockets. A small pocket-knife and wallet being the only contents, she placed both in her coat pocket. Someone should know who the man used to be.

"Yeah. I have no hot-wiring skills. They don't teach you that at community college."

Kiera gave a small smile, "Luckily it wasn't necessary." With a shaky stride, she walked around and sat in the passenger seat.

Before going to the driver's seat, Ben opened up the door behind it and put his backpack in the seat there. He leaned to his left slightly and he got an idea.

Ben moved to the back of the car and stuck the key in the lock of the trunk and opened it up, hoping to find something.

Sure enough, there were bags back there. First, he opened a suitcase. Clothes. All he could tell from it is that there were clothes in that one. Which made sense. It was a suitcase.

The other bag, however, was a regular backpack. He picked it up and shook it around a little bit, and then pulled open the main pocket to find a can of beans, some batteries, and a roll of duct tape.

And, finally, next to the bags, Ben saw a few small cylindrical objects. Picking one up to inspect it, he found that they were flares.

"Not bad," he said to himself, "Could be a lot worse."

He shrugged and put the flare back into the trunk before closing it and making his way back to the driver's side. Without much regard to the blood that was left (he had plenty of it on him already, anyway), he sat down, closed the door, and started the car.

"Found some stuff in the trunk," he announced, fiddling with everything on the dashboard, trying to find out where everything was. Windshield wipers. Lights, which as soon as he turned on, he promptly flicked off. There wasn't much need for them. The danger of attracting attention was much more worrying than the danger of running into another car or run off the road.

"Anything useful?" She asked curiously.

"Clothes, food, batteries, duct tape," he replied, shrugging, "Flares, too."

"Useful stuff indeed. Especially the flares."

Ben brought the car out of park and started off down the road.

"This is the first time I've driven on this side of the car."

"That's not very comforting." Kiera teased. "At least you can drive on the right side of the road if you want, no cops around to stop you."

As they pulled out onto the road, Kiera unbuckled her seatbelt and turned around to examine the rear seats. Nothing but trash and old newspapers unfortunately. Worth a try, she thought before turning back around.

"And how much driving have you done on the wrong side, exactly?" he retorted quickly, in a likewise manner.

Kiera gave a mock scoff of indignation. "About none, though I planned to try before, before the...I guess now is my opportunity to do it. I would like to try my hand with it on the way back if you don't mind." Saying the last part in a sugary tone.

"Sure. I'd better not regret it, though," Ben joked, though eyeing her with a serious expression.

One dramatic eye roll later, "Please, I've only totaled a car twice, but I don't intent to make this one my third." Kiera left the statement hanging, leaving it up to Ben to figure out if she was joking.

"Twice? Jesus. You know how many I've totaled? Zero." He shook his head, but he also hadn't told her that he hadn't driven much at all in the past couple of years, having choseen to bike or ride the bus to college.

"I am going to regret this," he muttered to himself.

Kiera laughed, "That's too bad, it's an experience that shouldn't be missed." She stared out the window and watched as the scenery raced by, the usual drowsiness she always experienced during car rides, was beginning to take hold. Covering a wide yawn, she turned to Ben, "Mind if I take a quick nap?"

"Be my guest. Don't want you falling asleep in the middle of a horde," he said, smiling faintly. "We should be there in forty-five minutes to an hour." If this had been just a regular day in the old world, that thirty miles would have been over in thirty minutes, but he was driving slower now; he didn't want to take any chances.

"Thanks." Kiera said, gratefully leaning against the window, her mind already drifting to relaxation.

Part Three: Hoppy

Hoppy was frustrated. Sure, breathing was harder now. And she ran out of energy as soon as it appeared. But, c'mon, she's injured, it's just her shit healing up. No biggie, right? She sat on her bed, staring at her numb leg with furrowed brows, and a scowl on her face. The problem was that leg. It wouldn't really move right. Some sorta nerve damage or something, probably, but that'd be fine. It had to be. A speedy scav without full use of her leg? Not really a good thing. And moreover, she didn't want to be the useless one anymore. She'd had enough of that. The sooner she could actually do something, anything, the better it'd be, and the sooner she could relax.

First she had to stand up. Baby steps, baby steps.

So she tried. And once again, utterly failed to raise herself up any significant height before plopping back down onto the bed with a tired wheeze. Damnit. At least she had enough sense not to actually walk or whatnot. Because she'd probably end up dead, and dead was always worse than anything else. And, as if on cue, Doctor Short burst into the room, with a cross face.

"I thought you agreed not to keep trying to get up." She said admonishingly. "Rest up, that's all you can do."

For some reason, it seemed as if everyone around her was giving her pitying looks. Even Shinji - and he couldn't even speak english. She tried to ignore it- pity was definitely not her thing, after all. Who could possibly like being looked down upon. Hoppy pouted up at the Doctor, feeling a bout of dizziness wash over her, making her lie back down onto her back, snuggling herself into the sheets.

"I'm ju's... so bored." Hoppy whined. "The others are all out an' I'm jus' layin' 'round 'ere like some twyp. Nothin'g to do, Doc..."

There it was again. Another pitying look. Hoppy shuffled in her bed, feeling the urge to sleep come over her. She ignored it as best as she could, ignoring the pain and the trembling and the slight blue tinge of her skin that just refused to go away.

Part Four: Into Kendal


It went quiet then, and it stayed that way for close to a half hour. Ben allowed himself to slip into his own thoughts as the car pushed on further along the road southeast to Kendal. The world around them seemed so much more threatening in the dark. Hidden dangers became even more hidden, and the cold was even colder. Thankfully, dawn was nearing and they were already well on their way to the hospital. He was confident that they could get in and get back to Haven with time to spare.

Briefly, he glanced over to Kiera, whose breathing had slowed and steadied. When he looked back up, he saw a figure wandering into the road. With a start, he came back to reality and jerked the wheel to the left, trying to avoid hitting the thing, but there was a heavy thump as he clipped it with the right side of the car.

He stole a glance backwards, but he wasn't about to stop to see if it had survived. Instead, he looked ahead again, focusing his attention on the road once more.

There was neither solace nor peace for Kiera in the dream world, the same dark scenario, set on loop kept her trapped in terror. She called out for help or rescue, the sneering faces of her tormenters closing in on her, making it hard for her to breathe or think. Suddenly everything in her dream tilted alarmingly, causing her to wake and realize that the car's sharp movement was what caused the shift in her dream.

Now fully awake, Kiera looked around in confusion. She couldn't see an obstacle outside of the window that would have caused such a drastic action.

Turning to Ben she asked, "What was that?"

"One of those things wandered into the road."

"Oh, so you just committed a hit-and-run for the first time then?" Kiera teased, trying to lighten the situation that had jolted her awake. Hopefully he had been too busy with driving that he hadn't noticed her fitful sleep.

Without a word, he scoffed lightly and looked over to her and shook his head. "We're getting close," he said, deciding to change the subject.

"Thank goodness for that, I was just starting to like being in a car again." She replied, executing a luxurious full-body stretch. "Well I should probably take a look at the list from Dr. Short before we arrive and now that there is enough light to actually read."

"Right." He lifted his hips up off the seat lightly and reached into his pocket with his right hand and offered it over to Kiera once he had it in hand.

Taking the slip of paper, Kiera pulled the Rishi's small book out of her pack and began meticulously copying the entire list to a blank page in the book. A few of the medications she recognized, but others were completely foreign and finding the equipment would be another challenge.

Handing the list back she said, "Now we both have a copy, just in case something happens to the original." Turning her attention to the slim volume in her hands. "Have you read Rishi's book yet? He lists some rather interesting observations about the walking dead."

"No. I haven't really looked at it." He offered no reason as to why, but he hadn't wanted to tell her that he hadn't read it simply as a matter of pride. With Tilo, he had done a lot of talking about how Rishi was wasting his time, and he didn't like to admit when he was wrong. As far as he was concerned, Rishi was still a little crazy. Whether or not he was actually looking for a cure, Ben still thought that way.

"That's okay, though it might be worth reading if you're bored at Haven some afternoon." Kiera left the topic at that, knowing her nerd side had been the reason that she had picked it up in the first place. The subject was unpleasant for many people, but she felt it was better to know what was ahead before encountering it yourself.

Ben smirked to himself, keeping his eyes on the road. He didn't get bored often at Haven. Not anymore, especially with Laney around. She definitely kept things interesting.

"I'll take that into consideration," he said with a nod.

Taking advantage of the lull in conversation, Kiera took the opportunity to learn more about her scav partner.

"You know it's nice to hear a fellow American accent, not that I've grown tired of hearing the unique accents of our fellow scavs, quite the opposite actually. I have been feeling left out, an ugly duckling of sorts. Have you felt the same way?"

"Never thought I'd hear another one again, myself," he said of American accents, "For a while. Not so much anymore. The problem I'm having now is trying to get people to take me seriously. I get back after this," he held up his left hand, missing its pinky, indicating the incident that caused it, "And I get chewed out for overreacting because of a joke, but I'd actually just stopped Hoppy from gutting that Caravanner. Then, I find out that the leader of that gang of five is with the Rands, and I get laughed off when I tell Callie we have to end the threat."

Kiera was surprised by how much Ben divulged to his passenger, she couldn't tell which statement required a response and which needed to simply be heard and acknowledged. Placing a firm hand on his left shoulder Kiera spoke, "Well, I take you seriously and the others can get stuffed with their own words. You have proven your loyalty and dedication to Haven over and over. No one can deny that fact and I'm sure that if push came to shove, we would all be standing there beside you. That's what family does after all."

"Thanks," Ben answered lightly, "Maybe this whole thing will help," he said, shrugging, "Not that that's why I'm doing this. Saving Hoppy's life is more important than going to the Rands'."

"You're welcome. Don't worry about Hoppy, she is a tough gal and we'll be back before you know it." Kiera would learn that she spoke too soon, up ahead there was a blockade across the road that prohibited further car travel.

Ben pulled the car up behind another stopped car, and stopped the engine, but he didn't get out right away. Instead, he peered ahead at what looked like a large sign. The car in front of them wasn't the only stopped car. Several cars were stopped in both directions and they all appeared to be empty.

"I guess this is where we get out," he said, getting out of his own side before retrieving his backpack from the back seat. "We're on foot from here to the hospital."

Then, he went to the back of the car where he opened up the trunk of the vehicle once more. He emptied the contents of the backpack into his own pack and took the flares, offering two of the four to Kiera, "Never know when you'll need these, right?"

Kiera reluctantly stepped out of the car, they would have to walk from here on out it would seem. "Right." She said, slipping one flare into her jean pocket and the other in her backpack. "Make sure to lock the car before we leave, you know this is a dangerous neighborhood after all." She reminded him, only partly joking.

Ben had gone forward a little ways to get a better look at the red and white sign next to what looked like a makeshift military barricade. With Kiera quickly following close behind him.

Identification required. Please have it ready when you come to the gate. Military presence is minimal within the town of Kendal.

There was more, mostly about how to conduct yourself in the city. Avoid contact with people who are acting strangely. Don't let anyone bite you. How it's better to be safe than sorry. Typical stuff.

"Great," Ben muttered to himself. Things weren't looking up for them. By the sounds of it, Kendal was overrun, or close to it. He didn't like it, but they couldn't turn back now. There was too much riding on their success.

"Apparently," he replied, turning back towards the car to make sure that it had been locked before making his way to the gates of Kendal again.

Kiera heaved a sigh, also having read the ominous sign she was not looking forward to what might be ahead of them. "I guess we better start walking." She said in an exasperated tone.

"Nothing else to do," Ben said, shrugging, and heading north into town. Several miles northwest of Kendal, he had come across a split in the road, and had taken the road to the right. He had to drive a little further, as that road took them southwest of town, but it would end up saving them time on their way to Westmorland.

The town of Kendal was bisected by a river, running north and south. Right now, they were on the west side of the river. Westmorland, on the other hand, was east of the river, which meant they needed to find a place to cross somewhere in town.

If there hadn't been trees right along the west bank of the river, almost all the way through town, they could have seen the hospital from where they were.

It was peaceful here, but there was a line between peaceful and eerily quiet, and Kendal definitely flirted with that line. A town of this size (granted, it was no where near the population of Seattle) should not have been this quiet, though. So, maybe it didn't quite flirt with the line. It was eerily quiet. No vehicle engines, no chattering of people. All they could hear was the chirping of birds. This was still the time of day, early enough after dawn that birds were loudest.

He knew what these quiet and peaceful towns could hold, if Cromwell was any indication. And Kendal was quite a bit larger in size and population than Cromwell.

"Keep an eye out," he whispered to Kiera, "There are lots of places for those things to be lurking."

"I will." She replied in an equally quiet voice. The silence was beginning to wear on her nerves, she tried to dismiss her fears merely as paranoia, but a nagging feeling of dread caused sweat to break out across her forehead. Kiera was thankful that Ben was leading them, he didn't seem entirely at ease but he seemed to be far less fearful than his scav partner.

Ben's heart was pounding so loud that he was sure Kiera could hear it. If Cromwell had so much hidden in it, imagine what Kendal was hiding. By the looks of it, this town was supposed to have a population considerably larger than Cromwell's. The hordes there were bad enough to chase the scavs off, then the ones here...

Ben didn't really want to think about it.

For the first quarter mile or so, the only buildings were houses on their right. On their left was a large open field. It only took a look in that direction to see that there was little threat from that direction.

The rest of the way, they would not be so lucky. For the rest of the way, they would have buildings on both sides of them, and any one of them could be hiding a horde twice the size of the one in Cromwell, or even larger.

One step at a time.

He was afraid, but he had to try and keep himself from showing it, as much as possible.

The next half mile, they stepped carefully, looking all around them for any sign of the undead - for any reason to start running. Every little sound caused his heartbeat to speed up. The tension was killing him. He almost wished they would just hurry up and show themselves.

Part Five: The Longest Mile


At the end of the half mile straight stretch, they had to make a right turn. Before making the turn, Ben stopped and looked around, holding a hand up.

"I heard something."

"Ben?" Kiera didn't want to alarm him, but she had just spotted a large group of walkers through the trees, rapidly approaching on the pair's left. The runners were already out in front of the pack, at least a dozen of them raced towards Ben and Kiera.

He hadn't been imagining things. In front of them, out of the trees, a few of the undead things came out. And then a few more. Then a lot more.

"I see them," he said, stepping back. But, then he turned his head to look where Kiera was facing. More of them.

"Shit," Ben muttered and looked back, before putting a hand on Kiera's shoulder, and urging her in the direction they needed to go; east across the bridge.

"Run. Now!"

There was no way they were going to be able to stand up to this many of them. There had to be at least fifty now, and more were coming.

Arms swinging in rhythm to the frantic pounding of her feet, Kiera glanced back to make sure Ben was following as she dashed madly to the bridge. This was not good at all. The horde marching steadily after them, while the fast ones sought to reach them first. It was a terrifying possibility, the pair couldn't afford to slow even a bit, or they would be caught. Judging distance was not one of Kiera's talents, the bridge seemed impossibly far now that they were being pursued by hungry corpses.

Chest heaving Kiera finally set foot on the bridge, a small miracle lay before them. Multiple abandoned cars created a maze like obstacle course ahead of them. Kiera smiled despite her current predicament, the uncoordinated walkers would be slowed by the vehicles, giving the pair a greater lead on the pursuing pack. Dodging doors and debris, Ben and Kiera crossed the bridge without incident. Glancing back, she was pleased to see the majority of the walkers being slowed by the labyrinth only a few fast ones managing to keep up.

The quarter mile they had just run hadn't been a picnic. But, they couldn't really afford to slow down much now. They still had another mile to Westmorland. Surely, the longest mile of their lives yet.

Several more cars littered the road ahead of the scavs, forcing them to weave in and around the hunks of useless metal. Thankfully just a scant handful of the slow type opposed their journey down Burton Road, cul-de-sacs stood empty and abandoned, broken windows and overgrown lawns showed just how many people had been lost in the few short months since the outbreak. Ben and Kiera pressed steadily forward, Ben had retaken the lead with his long legs while Kiera struggled to keep up with his pace. To make matters worse, her arches had started to burn and her duct taped shoe began to separate once more. Kiera could only hope it wouldn't trip her before reaching the hospital.

Ben only had two things on his mind right now; breathing and moving his legs. He could barely feel his legs and his lungs were struggling to take in air, but he couldn't stop. They were behind them, and there were far too many.

Breathe. Move. Breathe and move.

Another glance back showed a greatly reduced number of pursuing walkers, only six runners could be seen following the fleeing pair. Still not great odds, but it was better than the fifty-plus they had started with. Why are there so many freaking roundabouts? Kiera thought angrily, swerving to avoid what must have been the third or fourth circular mound of cement and grass that they had encountered since entering Kendal.

In the run to the hospital, Ben had made sure not to get too far ahead of Kiera, and every couple of seconds, he had looked over his shoulders, both to make sure she was keeping up and that the runners weren't getting too close. The thing about runners is that they don't get tired. They can run forever. Anybody with functioning lungs, such as the two hapless Americans running for their lives, couldn't.

It was about 100 yards from the hospital where Ben turned around fully and stopped for a half-second; long enough to point towards the hospital. He would have said something, but he didn't have the breath for it.

That half-second was long enough to realize that stopping was a mistake. His legs and his chest were on fire, but somehow, he managed to get his legs going again and his lungs to take in and push out air again.

As he got going again, the nearest runner lunged at him, only to miss and fall flat on its face comically. Though, Ben hadn't seen, he only heard a thump of a body landing on the pavement, and didn't bother to look back.

They crossed the parking lot in front of the hospital, both scavs panting heavily as they neared the homestretch. Eyes bulging in exhaustion, they had seconds to choose the right entrance. The main entrance looked fortified and likely to be locked, Kiera spotted a small side entrance with a small awning covering it. That became Kiera's only focus, reaching the door before the fast ones caught up.

"This way." She called hoarsely to Ben as she veered towards the entrance. Barely slowing down, Kiera rammed her full weight into the door half expecting it to be locked. The door gave in easily to the body slam, the unused force propelling Kiera to land face down on the linoleum floor, leaving the task of securing the door up to Ben.

Ben was through the door shortly afterwards. He skidded to a stop just before tripping over Kiera and looked around quickly. Only feet away from where he stood was a gurney. Careful not to roll it over the other American, he pushed it against the door and pulled it down so it was on its side. Then, he found some chairs by a nearby reception area and piled them against the door. He wasn't exactly confident that this would hold. What he really needed was some kind of metal piping that he could put between the door handles, but anything he could think of, he might need; a flashlight or a weapon. This would have to work for now.

Once the door had been barricaded, he turned his attention to Kiera, putting his hands on his hips, and trying to catch his breath.

"Are you alright?" he asked with some concern, offering a hand to her for the second time today.

Part Six: Getting Worse

Hoppy had fallen unconscious pretty abruptly, and hadn't really stirred or awaken in the three hours that Short had been watching her. Doctor Short sighed; there really wasn't much of a chance for the girl to survive this. Even with Ben and Kiera heading out to get the medical supplies, she wasn't very hopeful of the Welsh girl's chances. The only sign she was still even alive was her rapid, fitful breath, and the quick rise and fall of her chest. Chances are, she'd die within the next twelve hours or so, if the medical equipment didn't come in time. And even if it did, she wasn't exactly sure if she'd be able to guarantee her survival.

It really was a shame, wasn't it? The girl was already a rather important part of Haven - her brimming energy often raising morale for everyone. Short was prepared to do what she could, with what supplies she had. She was about to start doing diagnostics of her symptoms again when - A knock at the door, and the Japanese man sauntered in as he usually did, and sat down on the chair, gazing worriedly at Hoppy's form, almost the picturesque definition of guilt.

"Hoppy daijoubu?" He asked, and Short more or less blinked in confusion. What was he asking? What was he trying to say? The man looked a little more weary as he tried again. "How... Hoppy? Alive?"

Short nodded grimly, and the man sighed with abject relief. He gazed up at Short, almost as if asking for permission, and the doctor moved aside for him to approach. He stood, looking into Hoppy's pained expression, and started rattling off a speech in Japanese - presumably trying his best to connect with her, to help her heal. Short felt bad - but she couldn't understand a single word. After the speech was done, Shinji, with a bit more of a peaceable face, sat back down and waited. That was all they could really do, after all.

So they waited.

Part Seven: Westmorland Hospital

Kiera struggled to rise, but her legs stubbornly refused to cooperate, each heaving breath doing little to relieve her shaking muscles. The desire to flee remained strong in Kiera's blood, despite her limbs' inability to do so. Looking down at her shaking hands, she slowly brought them up to her face and pressed them against her pale cheeks in a feeble attempt to convince herself that everything was fine. When it really wasn't. The hallway ahead of them was long and filled with shadows, crumpled documents and sheets of paper littered the smooth floor, the walls painted a neutral cream gave an almost normal feel to the place. Their current location seemed to have escaped the bloody carnage that the battle between the living and undead had no doubt caused in the rest of the hospital. A small shelter of calm in a stormy world.

Sharp thunks and low growls could clearly be heard from the other side of the door. Silence would be the best course of action to dissuade the runners from continuing their assault on the blocked entrance. Thanks to Ben's quick thinking, the gurney and stack of chairs prevented the walkers from pursuing them into the building. Neither scav had planned on sprinting the final mile while being chased by the undead. High on adrenaline and heart's racing madly, they were both very grateful to be alive.

In another gesture of chivalry, Ben turned his attention to Kiera, who was still kneeling with her hands against her cheeks. Rivulets of salty drops trailed down her sweaty cheeks. How very close they had come to dying was starting to sink in. Kiera inhaled sharply, trying to hold back the rush of emotions that threatened to swallow her entirely. Then Ben was there, offering his hand, giving her hope and comfort. Like a person sinking in quicksand, Kiera grabbed the offered branch from the tall and sturdy American.

Grabbing his wrist, then his elbow, and finally his shoulder, she forced her legs to stretch out and begin to hold her upright once again. Barely six inches apart, Kiera noticed the amazing depth to his aqua blue eyes, the shadows creating an air of mystery to his chiseled features. The pounding of her heart and wheezing of breath left her feeling giddy.

Pressing down on his shoulders, she evened the height gap between them. She found herself nearly mesmerized by his eyes. His rate of breathing was nearly as frenzied as Kiera's, a final moment passed before she broke eye contact. Closing her eyes, she leaned in.

As her lips softly touched his, tiny currents of electricity radiated across Kiera's body, she suddenly felt warm, joyful, and safe. She thought about pulling away but found herself unable to, choosing to deepen the contact instead; till she lost all sense of the world around her. .

Ben blinked, caught completely off-guard by her reaction and her boldness. It took him a moment to realize exactly what had happened, but before he could really react, a sound down the hall behind Kiera caught his attention. He pulled his head back, and stepped to her side and walked down the hall.

About halfway down, a figure stumbled and tripped out of one of the doors, landing on its stomach. Thinking it a walker, Ben unsheathed his hatchet. It rolled over, just as Ben was raising his weapon to strike it down.

Then he realized...

Fear was plastered all over the figure's face and he seemed paralyzed, only able to brace himself for Ben's attack.

"Jesus, man," Ben said, lowering his weapon, "Say something next time. I was about to kill you."

Ben sheathed the weapon as the other man stood up, "Sorry. For what it's worth, I'm glad you didn't."

"Yeah, me too," Ben replied with a nod. He took in the appearance of the man. A few inches shorter than himself with dark skin and dark eyes. He looked to be somewhere in his early thirties, but that's not what interested Ben most.

The man wore a green uniform and a hat of a similar color to his uniform covered his head, and it had the medical symbol emblazoned upon it - the blue star with the snake wrapped around the sword within.

It didn't take long for Ben to figure out what that all meant.

"You're a paramedic," the American man blurted out, a small sense of relief washing over him, "We could use your help."

"Well, seeing as you didn't kill me just then, I think I might have to owe you one," the paramedic responded with a half-hearted smile. Then, he stuck his hand out to Ben in a friendly gesture, "I'm Jay, by the way."

For a long moment, Ben just looked down at the man's hand, as if it were a foreign gesture to greet someone new that way. But, finally, he relented and shook Jay's hand, a carefully neutral expression on his face. He didn't want to seem too happy to see the guy, as useful as a paramedic would be.

"Jay, huh?"

"Yeah. Short for Jason, but everyone just calls me Jay."

"Well, I'm Ben, and that's Kiera," the younger man said, thumbing over his shoulder in her general direction, before turning and heading back in her direction with Jay following behind.

The sudden lack of Ben's presence had caused Kiera to return her attention to the current situation. She looked around and spotted him creeping down the hallway. With a perplexed look, she recovered her weapon from the ground where it had fallen and waited for Ben to finish investigating. A man emerged from one of the hospital rooms, from what she could see, he looked to be dressed as a paramedic. She watched as the two men talked, only a few snippets reached her ears, otherwise they could have been talking about the weather for all she knew. While Kiera waited patiently for them to finish, she took a moment to inspect her gear and make sure nothing had been lost on the mad dash to the hospital. Finding everything intact she saw the two men heading back towards her.

After a moment of silence, Ben spoke up again, "I don't want to be rude, but we're a little pressed for time. One of our friends has been shot, and we don't have the proper medical supplies to treat her. Neither of us are all that knowledgeable in the medical field, so we could use some help finding what we're looking for."

"Oh! Of course," Jay responded, looking between the two Americans, "Do you have a list or something?"

Ben nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling out the piece of paper that he had taken the day before and offered it to Jay.

It went silent again as he read over the list.

"Well, not all of that medication is here, unfortunately, but you should be able to get by with what we do have here. You'll find most of it that way," he said, pointing towards the southeast part of the hospital, "The other stuff, we've got, but it's in that direction," and he pointed a different way, to the northwest part of the building.

"Go figure. We'll have to split up. Jay, you know what those chest tubes and things all look like?"

Jay nodded.

"You go with Kiera and get those. I'll go find the medication. Meet back here in..." Ben paused, shrugging, "An hour?"

Kiera was extremely relieved to discover that the paramedic recognized all of the items, this development would save them lots of time that they would have spent searching for everything on their own. Still reeling from residual endorphins, she didn't protest when she was paired up with the paramedic to get the equipment.

"Sounds good, see you in a hour." Kiera smiled, a faraway look in her eyes.

The banging on the door they'd come through intensified and Ben wheeled around, startled by the rise in volume. "We'd better not waste time," he said sternly, staring at the door.

"Right," came Jay's reply.

When Ben turned around, he saw a metal object hanging from the paramedic's belt. It looked a flashlight.

"Wait!" Ben called out, stopping the other two, "Hold up. Can I borrow your flashlight?" he asked Jay.

"Fl--?" Jay looked confused for a second, but then he realized what he meant, and pulled it off of his belt before offering it to Ben. He took it and darted back to the door and jammed the object between the door handles, offering a little more fortification against what was outside.

"You'll get it back when we leave," Ben assured him, "Kiera's got one if either of you need to use it."

“Good thinking.” She told him, sparing a quick wave goodbye before hurrying in the direction that Jay had pointed.

Part Eight: Down the Hall

Light filtered into the hallways as Ben progressed to the southeast portion of the hospital. Some doors were closed, giving the area a strange staggered lighting effect, but there was enough light that he didn't need his own flashlight. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Strangely enough, the area they had entered seemed fairly untouched by the world, but as he moved further into the southeast part of Westmorland, he saw it get more and more dire. Dried blood and gore stained the walls. There were bullet holes all over. It seemed that this area had been an area of incursion for the military, or maybe the police. Several of the doors that were closed, Ben noted, held a groaning individual behind them. He was thankful that all they knew how to do with doors was to bang on them, otherwise, well...

It would have been bad.

Part Nine: Jay and Kiera

Twenty feet down the hall, Kiera realized she had just agreed to accompany a complete stranger, who could very well be just as dangerous as the carnivorous dead she had faced outside. Who was to say he was even an actual paramedic, he could have very easily taken the uniform from the original owner. With that thought in mind, she glanced over at him. He looked normal enough, but that wasn't proof of his sanity. Kiera decided to strike up a conversation, maybe she could learn who he really was with that tactic.

Speaking quietly, Kiera complimented him. "Looks like you did a good job clearing the walkers out of here."

"It certainly took a while, let me tell you. The place was infested at first." Jay replied, a note of pride in his voice. "So, you're both Americans, did you get stranded here while on holiday?"

"Something like that. We met after the outbreak occurred." She kept her guard up, ready to fend off any specific questions about where Haven might be located.

"How did your friend get shot? Did you leave them alone? How many are in your group? Concern for an abstract patient's welfare caused the man to wrinkle his brow in thought.

Kiera felt her muscles tense, "She was out looking for food when she was attacked by a bandit. Our group has a doctor in it, that's who wrote up the list." Eyes narrowing slightly, she skirted around his last question. "Enough to keep us safe and guard the wall."

The rooms they passed stood with doors opened, Kiera was sorely tempted to enter each one and check for useful things, but she kept reminding herself about Hoppy. Without saying a word to Kiera, Jay entered one of the rooms and returned carrying a bright red fire axe that he calmly rested over his left shoulder.

I knew it! He's an axe murderer! Kiera barely kept herself from squeaking in surprise.

Noticing her overt expression Jay tried to explain. "I rarely need to use this thing, but occasionally a biter gets in somehow and this has been very useful in those situations. I figure better safe than sorry, especially with such, lovely company with me."

Creepy. She tried to ignore his awkward attempt at flattery and resume the earlier conversation.

"Have you been alone here since it started?" Kiera asked, curious to see if there were other people sheltering in the hospital that he had failed to mention. More paranoid thoughts crowded into her mind, making her feel fidgety and anxious to be reunited with Ben.

Jay paused before responding, flashes of emotions darting across his features. "There were eight of us that survived the initial wave of infected, we made small runs to the cafeteria, till one day Lori got bitten. She kept it hidden and we only discovered it after she turned and had eaten both her children while they slept. One by one everyone left or died, till it was just Doc and me. And now it's just me."

The part about the children, Kiera could have done without hearing. "I'm very sorry to hear that." She had no words of comfort for a situation like this, everyone had their own horror stories, you either lived with them or let them destroy you.

"Where did you live before all this?" She asked, trying to take his mind off the dark past.

"I'm a Kendal native, born and raised." Jay replied, thumping his chest with his fist. "I know every inch of the city like the back of my hand."

"That's handy." Kiera said, realizing his knowledge would be invaluable if they ever decided to return to the city.

"And we are here." Jay finally announced by pointing to a glorified storage closet.

Taking a quick peek inside, Kiera was disappointed to only find medical supplies, which was good news for Hoppy, but not what the American was looking for. Still she scoured each shelf for it, Jay watching her curiously. With a sigh, she gave up. There was no way she could make it to the pharmacy without being thoroughly questioned by Ben and Jay. She tried to think where else they might keep it in a hospital.

Kiera passed the duffel bag and list to Jay, "Would you please find the correct items? I'm going to take a quick look around."

"Sure, I'll see what we have." Jay agreed readily. Placing the bag on the floor he got right to work.

Taking the path in the opposite direction from which they had approached, Kiera entered a wide open room. Eight curtained off beds, four on either side greeted her, though the cabinets lining the wall caught her attention right away. Leaving none of them closed, Kiera checked each one in turn, but was sorely disappointed when they only contained cotton balls and tongue depressors. Next on her list of places to search was the first bed, pulling back the curtain she was greeted by a grisly scene. On the bed was the remains of a female jogger, or at least the lower half of her was still there. From past experience, Kiera made a quick check underneath the bed just to be sure it was clear. Thankfully it was only vacant and dusty.

She almost stepped back out into the main room, when her eyes fell to the shoes on the corpse's feet. Purple with lime green stripes and they were Nike too. Kiera felt guilty thinking about stealing from a dead body, but a glance down at her own footwear made her reconsider. In less than two minutes she had swapped shoes with the unfortunate woman, the new pair was a bit tight, but overall a decent fit.

The second and third bed were mercifully vacant of deceased patients, but also lacking in other areas as well. The fourth bed had a rolling table next to it with an assortment of tools, recognizing a scalpel she placed the sharp tool in her backpack, she also grabbed several vacuum sealed needles. The hope that she would find what she was looking for grew less and less. She turned to the other wall and was about to search the other half of the room when she heard a rhythmic thumping coming from a private hospital room.

For several seconds she was torn between investigating the sound or ignoring it and continuing her search. Curiosity won out. Kiera slowly approached the room, clutching her pipe tightly she carefully looked into it. Just as she had expected, a walker was inside the room and it was causing the noise. The decaying thing was facing away from the door and was fixated on a standing wooden closet, over and over it crashed against the wood, gnashing its yellow rotted teeth. While she stood there, the door of the closet opened a fraction of an inch, allowing a small black furry body to squeeze through and make a run for the door. The rodent sized animal raced towards Kiera, as it passed around her shoes, she uttered an involuntary shriek of alarm, dropping her weapon and stomping her feet to discourage the animal from climbing her legs.

In her panic over the furry creature, Kiera had completely forgotten the true danger that resided inside the room. It was also bad luck that it was a runner, by the time she raised her eyes the thing had crossed half the room, arms outstretched to hold her in a bloody embrace, Kiera turned sharply, tripped, regained her footing and raced back towards the spacious area she had just left.

She looked for a weapon of some sort to fend off the approaching monster. A toppled IV stand was what she decided to wield. Holding the pole like a spear, the runner rushed straight onto the end of it without thinking. The force of the attack drove Kiera against a blood splashed wall, driving the pole deeper into the abdomen of the walker. With a wet squish, she had completely impaled the walking corpse and still it walked closer, sliding down the pole to its pinned prey. The rollers of the stand pressed against her chest, Kiera watched in horror as certain death drew closer. Clawed hands reached for her. Milky cataract covered eyes staring hungrily into her own.

Upon entering arm's length the walker caught her right arm in a death grip.

Drawing her arm to its hungry mouth, the walker sank its gnarled teeth into her forearm. The agony was intense. Kiera's scream echoing across the large room and to the halls beyond.

Just when she was accepting her fate of being eaten alive, the jaws suddenly relaxed, a fiery red blade splitting open the head of the walker. Kiera fell to the floor along with the limp body of her attacker, she cradled her injured arm.

Jay stood above her, the axe's blade dripping inky walker blood on the floor as he pulled it free from the biter's skull.

"Let me see your arm." He said quietly, but firmly.

Kiera tentatively raised it up for him to see. Jay gently held it with both hands, calmly taking stock of the injury, he pushed back her thick coat sleeve. His fingers expertly checking to see if her arm was broken.

"You're lucky, the coat saved your bacon. Though you're going to have one helluva bruise after this." Jay told her with a bemused expression.

"I guess." She said grumpily. Kiera's arm felt like it had been caught in a vice. She found that moving her hand was slightly painful, but tolerable. Lucky indeed.

Jay quickly helped Kiera to stand. Once she was upright, he held her hand for several seconds afterwards, half-closed eyes shifting across her entire form. Heat crept up Kiera's throat under the scrutiny of Jay's intense gaze.

Politely extricating her hand, Kiera mumbled a hasty thank you and hurried to retrieve her weapon. The close call had thoroughly banished any thoughts of continuing her search. Jay and Kiera walked back to the supply closet in silence. Jay had nearly filled the duffel bag before being forced to leave in order to rescue her. Along with the requested items, he had also packed additional useful supplies. Which probably made it way heavier than it would have been otherwise. Great.

While they finished packing the duffel and Kiera's pack, she began to wonder if there was another place that contained medications besides the pharmacy. As casually as possible, Kiera turned towards Jay and asked, "So, is there a place where meds are stored besides the pharmacy?"

"Yes, but isn't your friend going to get that stuff?" His eyes narrowed, searching her face for answers as to why she wanted to know that kind of information.

Sensing his suspicion, she shrugged in a casual manner. "I think it's better to be prepared by having plenty rather than too little. Where is it located?"

Jay stopped packing to take a side-long glance at Kiera. "I can understand that. Those cabinets are located in the southwest part of the hospital. Though by what your companion said, time is short and the sooner you get back to your wounded friend, the better."

The smallest trace of rage began to infiltrate Kiera's thoughts, to be so close but unable to reach her goal was infuriating. Her frustration grew as they finished loading the two bags. In a gallant gesture, Jay placed the duffel strap over his own shoulder as they exited the supply closet, saving Kiera the burden of carry the bulging duffel. Turning back the way they had come, Kiera stopped and gestured in a suspiciously southwest direction.

"Where does that hall lead? Can we get back to our meeting place by going that way?"

"It does, but it will take longer to get there if we do. I really think we should go back the same way. That way isn't very safe." Jay replied, his eyes darting back and forth between the two paths.

"Good to know. I still think we should take, may as well see if there is anything useful, right?" Kiera said with a wide smile.

Power walking in the chosen direction, Kiera was pleased to see Jay dutifully following her. Reasoning that taking the longer route would give her time to convince Jay to lead her to the cabinets. The tall man pulled at the strap across his shoulder, his axe held tightly in his free hand, he kept his eyes trained on the woman ahead of him. Unaware of his stare, Kiera tried to scan each room as they passed, but in truth she was only able to view a brief shot of the possible contents in each. All the doors are opened and walker free. Why is Jay saying it's dangerous? Didn't he claim to have cleaned all of them out?

A soft humming broke the eerie silence of the clinical environment. Jay repeated the tune several times.

"Hmmm, hhmm, hmmm, hm. Hmmm hhmm, hmmm, hm. "

Looking back at Jay, Kiera had a weird sense that she had heard it before, but couldn't quite place what is was or where she had heard it.

"What are you singing?" She asked pleasantly. Kiera had slowed her pace a bit so they could walk shoulder to shoulder.

"A silly rhyme that popped into my head. Sorry if it was disturbing you." Jay gave Kiera a wink, "You'll be back with your friend before you know it don't worry about that." He started to pick up the pace on his own.

That was a rather quick topic change.

Just as Kiera was opening her mouth to express her desire to drop by the medical cabinets, she saw a closed patient door. Which was a curious sight alone, but the extensive amount of blood smeared across the door jam and floor outside of it was a shocking contrast to the limited amount of blood she had seen in other parts of the hospital so far. At least a dozen crimson handprints outlined the opening, there also seemed to be a large puddle spreading out from the door. Kiera turned back to Jay, looking for an explanation.

"What's in there?" She choked out. The fact that Jay had the expression of a caught fox wasn't reassuring in the slightest.

His response was instantaneous. "Nothing!" He exclaimed in a blatantly deceitful voice. Jay quickly stepped in front of her to block any further scrutiny of the door. "Let's keep moving."

Kiera felt drawn to the door, trapped by a desire to know what lay beyond, regardless of the consequences.

Side-stepping the paramedic, she grasped the slick door handle, out of the corner of her eye she saw Jay dart towards her.

Part Ten: Medicine

Late Morning

Ben proceeded down the hallways. A few signs here and there had directed him in the direction of the storage room. He figured that would be the best place to start.

As he rounded the final corner to the storage room, he had to stop. In front of him was a group of ten or twelve walkers. They were idle, and didn't seem to notice him yet. He pressed his back against the wall, around the corner from the small horde. They were right in the way. And he couldn't turn back.

Resting his head up against the wall and closing his eyes, he took in a few deep breaths. He was so close now. He just needed to find a way to get past--

The flares!

Jerking his head up, he reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the flares he had kept for himself.

After a little bit of trouble, he ignited it, before rounding the corner and tossing it as far as he could. It landed at the end of the hall, a good ten or fifteen feet from the group of undead. They all raised their heads and turned towards the burning flare. As their idleness wore off, they began to stagger towards the bright light.

As soon as his chance came, he moved from his spot and slipped into the storage room that they had been guarding.

The room was lined with metal racks that served as shelves. Ben didn't really know where to start, so he just turned to his right as soon as he entered the room. He had no idea whether or not the things would be coming back, or if they'd stay where they were at, by the flare, once it had burned out. Every time he came to a new medicine, he had to check the list again to see whether or not it was on the list. Too many -nols and -cins and -cilins.

A groan sounded from behind him and he turned around to see a walker wandering back to in front of the open doorway.

"Shit," he whispered to himself, looking into his backpack at what he'd gotten. He had some of what was on the list, but there was no way he was going to get a chance to check everything in the room and still be able to get out.

When he turned towards the door, he saw a large round bottle of pills in the center rack.

'Prenatal' it read on it.

God damn it. There were just reminders everywhere.

"Fine," he muttered indignantly, taking the bottle and stuffing it into his open backpack. Still open, he threw it on his back and ran out the open door.

The undead immediately turned their attention to the living, breathing, fleshy thing that had crossed their path and became alert. As he exited the room, he barely managed to avoid the arms of the nearest one. They were after him now, and he took off in a dead sprint, not bothering to think about what direction he was headed. He just needed to be anywhere but here.

Then he heard a scream.

Almost involuntarily, his head snapped towards the sound. He took off again in the direction that he'd heard the sound.

No. No. No.

If something had happened to Kiera--

Then he rounded another corner, only to come face-to-face with another group of them.

Not that way.

Now he had two groups after him.

Finally, he managed to find a hallway that looked familiar. The rooms all looked the same, but he recognized a spot of blood and brain matter that decorated the wall.

In another minute, he was standing at the entrance that he and Kiera had come in at, but they weren't there. He wasn't sure how long he'd been, but he wasn't willing to wait much longer, so he called out.

"Jay! Kiera! We have to go!" He had no idea whether or not they were near enough to hear him, and he made sure to look back to the hallway he had come from every few seconds, just to make sure that nothing was coming. Unfortunately, he wasn't so lucky. It was another minute that he saw the first of what was sure to be at least fifteen walkers, so he ran again, into the northwest portion of the hospital, where he figured the other two were going to be.

Around a corner, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath, before taking off again.

He skidded to a stop at an intersection and called out again, fearing the worst.

"Kiera! Jay! Where are you?"

At first, there was no reply, so he bolted to his left and continued down the hall. Every time he came to an intersection, he called out but still, there was no reply.

Where the hell did they go?

Finally, having made his way into the southwest part of the hospital, he called out again, his tone a mix of concern, impatience, and exhaustion.

"Kiera. Jay. God damn it, where the hell are you?"

Kiera's ears were still ringing and she felt nauseous, but at least she had finally gotten what she wanted. Four bottles rattled quietly in each coat pocket. She was itching to leave the whole bad event behind her. Returning to Haven with Ben would be a huge relief to her exhausted psyche. At the sound of Ben's voice, she felt her heart skip a beat, a delighted smile covering her face. Jay had a very different reaction to hearing Ben's voice, an expression of complete surprise flitted across his face, almost as if he had just heard a ghost call his name.

To Ben's relief, another voice sounded.

"We're over here." It was Jay.

Finally. What were they doing all the way down here?

Ben followed the sound of his voice and soon found the pair standing near an open room.

"I heard a scream. What happened?" Ben asked, looking between Jay and Kiera, who seemed to be doing their best to avoid looking at each other, "She didn't get--"

"No. It tried to, but it didn't break the skin. That coat she's wearing saved her," Jay replied.

Ben allowed himself to exhale a little in relief. As long as they could make it back to the car now, he wouldn't have to explain why he was coming back with another dead Havenite, or why he wasn't coming back with one at all. But, he couldn't spend too much time at ease. For all he knew, the horde could be on their way to them. At the very least, they couldn't go back the way they'd come.

Overwhelmed with relief, Kiera bolted forward and wrapped Ben in an affectionate embrace.

Surprised yet again by Kiera's actions, Ben patted her awkwardly on the back with one hand, "Good to see you're alright," he said genuinely.

Ben had wanted to ask what happened to cause them to end up here, but they didn't have the time."We have to go. There could be any number of those things on their way here right now. Where's the closest exit?"

"There's a side door that way," Jay said, nodding in an easterly direction.

"Take us there."

Several minutes later, they stood at the exit at the east part of the complex.

"Look," Jay piped up, "You sound like you've got a good group. If you let me come back with you, I can help with your friend who got shot."

The paramedic looked between Ben and Kiera hopefully.

Ben was silent for a while with his head lowered, considering the options. To be honest, the only reason he could think of to not let him come along was that he might do something dangerous. But, he couldn't condemn him for something that he might never do. Finally, he nodded, allowing the paramedic to join them on their way back.

Kiera wanted to speak up, to shout NO WAY! but she didn't and her silence gained them a third person, a paramedic, and something else.

Part Eleven: On the Brink

This was bad. This was really bad. Hoppy's heart rate had skyrocketed, and the wrappings around her chest were bleeding through again - and she was letting out little whimpers, as if in agonizing pain. Doctor Short turned to her, and did her best to try ad stabilize her - but there wasn't much she could do, was there, with the current equipment? Shinji himself looked in alarm, and knowing that his medical expertise was most likely worthless, he dropped to his knees, as if in prayer to the Shinto Deities, and started muttering random Japanese, 'Kami-sama wa Hoppy tasukete kudasai, onegaishimasu" frantically, as if it could help.

If gods really existed, would any of this have happened? Would they have allowed the dead to walk the earth? If yes, then why would they save the life of one girl? Why would they remotely give a shit; they'd probably be occupied with other, more grand scale things.

It was pointless. Both for Shinji's worthless pleas, and for Short's attempts. Hoppy was quickly deteriorating - pale blue, almost constantly shivering, weak shallow breaths going out as quickly as they went in. She didn't have any more time; no time at all, and for her to survive, the rescue team had to hurry up and get back to Haven. It was crunch time now, if they wanted any chance of saving her. Short, torn between continuing to watch Hoppy, as well as wanting to try and make contact for them to hurry up, finally decided to rush over to Callie at the transmitter; short of breath, puffing.

"Callie." She said in a rushed voice. "Hoppy's not going to make it unless they hurry up. Please -" She panted hard. "Call them . Tell them to get back here. There's no time. There's just no time."

With that, the doctor sprinted back to the med room, and continued to do what she could to delay the girl's death as much as she could, with a deep sinking feeling at the back of her mind that all of this would be for naught. There was only so much she could do, but she couldn't shake the thought that Hoppy was going to die.

Part Twelve: Urgency

Early Afternoon

Thanks to Jay's knowledge of the area, they managed to get out of town a different way and avoid the horde that was surely waiting for them on the return trip through Kendal. The route had been a little longer, going south from the hospital, then west, and then north until they got to their car, but they avoided any contact with the undead.

Ben tossed the keys to Kiera, allowing her to drive on the way back as he'd agreed. He sat in the passenger seat, while Jay took the seat behind him.

The drive on the way back started out quietly with Kiera focusing on the drive, while Jay seemed distant, and Ben's mind was elsewhere. Ben was grateful that nothing had happened to Kiera, and maybe he had Jay to thank for that, but he was also concerned about why they'd ended up where they had. Jay knew the hospital; at least he gave off the impression that he had. Something was up. Maybe he shouldn't have suggested they split up.

He just hoped they weren't too late to save Hoppy, or this would have been all for nothing.

"-ell- is any--dy g---ing th--?" A voice crackled over his walkie-talkie.

Ben picked it up, "Hello? Who is this?"

"--s Callie," came the reply, "Is th-- Ben? What's ---r sta--s?"

"We're on our way back."

"--rry. Hop-- won't -ast much lon--r."

"We're hurrying," Ben said, his heart dropping. Hoppy was right on the brink. They might not make it back in time, but they had to try.

Ben looked over towards Kiera, who had apparently been looking his direction when something in the road caught Ben's attention. Two somethings, actually.

The first thing, clearly a walker, was wandering out towards the middle of the road. But, the second something, lying out in the middle of the road, trying to crawl away...

"Stop!" Ben shouted, and the car screeched to a halt. Ben jumped out of the car and ran up to the undead, brandishing his hatchet. He took one swing and planted the blade into the top of its skull. Then, he turned to the figure lying in the road.

It was a woman, probably a few years older than he was. She looked frightened, and in a considerable amount of pain.

", please..." she cried out weakly to him. Ben took a look at her. Her dark brown hair was matted, and her face looked like she had been crying, but that's not what concerned Ben the most. The woman's left leg was bent in a manner that legs weren't meant to bend. He had to briefly turn away, where his eyes caught tire marks on the pavement, contorted in a manner as if the car had swerved to miss something, not far from where the woman was lying.

Ben shook his head, and Jay came up to him.

"Help me with her," Ben said, motioning towards the car.

"Right," Jay answered with a nod and stepped over to open the door on right side, behind Kiera's seat.

"This might hurt a little," Ben told the woman, as he put his arms underneath the woman's shoulders and lifted, while Jay was on the other side of her, lifting her legs, careful to not move them as much as possible, but, sometimes it just wasn't possible.

The woman screamed out in pain, as they brought her into the car and set her in the back seat, lying down. Jay got in the other side and put her head so it was resting on his right leg. Finally, after closing all the doors, Ben got back into his own seat.

"Go," he said, nudging Kiera. And then the car was off again. Once they had accelerated, Ben looked over to the other American, "Faster. You're American. I know you can."

Kiera shot Ben a look, but nonetheless accelerated well past the posted speed limit.

Ben then looked over his shoulder at Jay and the woman, who had her eyes closed.

"How is she?" Ben asked.

"She'll live."

With a nod, Ben went silent again, looking out the window at the world passing by.

In another twenty minutes, they saw Haven. When they stopped, Ben got out and took the supplies, "You two, take care of her. I'll get these to Short."

Without bothering to wait for a response, Ben had the gate open and was running towards the farmhouse, both bags in hand.

The woman was heavier than Kiera had expected. Being worn out from the long journey and the events that transpired, Jay was forced to shoulder most of the woman's weight on the slow walk to their makeshift hospital room.

He burst in through the door and was by Doctor Short and Hoppy in another few seconds.

"How is she?" Ben asked, catching his breath, and thrusting the bags towards Short.

"Not good. I just hope you didn't get here too late. Where's Kiera?"

"She's coming."

Short then took the bags and took out what she needed - the antibiotics and the other supplies from Kiera's bag, before handing them back to Ben.

Finally back in Haven, with what they needed, Ben walked out of the room slowly and all but collapsed into one of the dining room chairs, waiting to hear good or bad news.