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Snippet #2447060

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: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Alison Carter
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Big Brother/Sea King Down

November 11

New beginnings
Laney rolled over in bed, reaching for Ben. She'd called him 'cowboy' last night. He'd liked that. But his side of the bed was cold and empty. Of course, she realised, Ben had left early. It was a long, dangerous road to Kendal. Pushing the shiver of fear she felt for him back down into her subconscious, she dressed warmly and dragged herself downstairs.

Haven was quiet, with Hoppy sedated in her sick bed, with Ben and Tilo out on their respective missions, Jesus still missing. Laney found herself wondering ruefully whether men ever realised how much their deep, rumbling baritones filled a house - a home. Of course, the most conspicuous absence was Monroe's, his sharp Ulster phrasing shot through with barely contained anger. In contrast, Callie and Carter, the rescued helicoptor pilot, had their heads together in the Command Centre, speaking quickly and lightly. Had Carter stepped into Monroe's military shoes already, Laney wondered. Had Callie forgotten her friend already?

Picking at a dry, flavourless granola bar, Laney turned away from the scene bitterly and stomped dutifully to the jobs board. Ignoring the leaflet bearing Rishi's distinctive neat handwriting, she found the only other job was indeed from Carter. Another sign she was taking over Monroe's juristiction. At least it seemed like a pretty straightforward grab-and-go mission. Despite her willingness to dislike Carter, at least the pilot shared some of Monroe's better qualities; she was efficiant, to-the-point, and her mission was directly related to the survival of Haven.

Placated slightly, she glanced at Rishi's mission, and gave a laugh that was half amusement, half astonishment. First of all, all of the Scavs were aware of what happened when you severed or crippled one of Zack's limbs. The just kept coming. And Monroe's parting gift at the Jones farm had told them everything they needed to know about the effect and the attraction of fire. But singing to one of them? Telling jokes? Threats? The man was even more insane than she'd previously imagined. Nonetheless, after a moment's thought, she reached up and pulled the leaflet off the noticeboard. If she took a couple of these cameras along to the helicopter crash site, perhaps Rishi would find enough in the footage to keep him from any more idiocy. Anything that kept him from letting his pet zombie loose could only be a good thing.

'You alright, Laney?' Callie asked as she came in to double-check the crash site location on the Command Centre map. She nodded briefly. 'Mmm-hmm.'

'Everything okay with you and Ben?' Thi time Laney looked round. Callie hadn't raised the subject of their relationship with her much; Laney wondered whether she was genuinely interested or saw it only in terms of something that could strengthen or weaken Haven. Moreover, she knew Ben and Callie had been at loggerheads recently, so she didn't want to give too much away. 'All good,' she replied, with more cheer than she felt. 'It's just a worry whenever anyone goes out, you know?'

'Hoppy needs everything he'll get.' Laney was surprised when Carter spoke up. Perhaps Carter was just trying to integrate herself, make a connection with the longer-standing members of Haven, but Laney bristled nonetheless: This new arrival hadn't earned the right to speak about her friends like this, let alone sit in Monroe's place.

After gathering her Scav pack and a scoped rifle, and extricating herself from the awkward conversation wth the women in the Command Centre, Laney knocked on Gary's door. 'Yo, M, where's my invisible car?' she called with more enthusiasm than she was currently feeling. The workshop inside was an Aladdin's cave of wires, monitors and sleek black and silver casings; Laney had the sense that the technician was making up for lost time following the installation of the solar panel.

'Well, there was gonna be a black Bond,' Gary grinned back. 'Why not a girl Bond too?'

He took her through some of the equipment Ben and Tilo had scavenged from Cromwell and, with Laney's insistance that he be able to keep her hands free, suggested a lipstick camera on a headband that strapped over her woollen cap. Initially amused with Gary's fumbling attempts to secure the headband, Laney grew frustrated when it slipped for the fourth time.

'You have too much hair,' he whined. She realised he was nervous about touching her, being in such close proximity. Some men were just like that. However, whether it was out of respect or fear of Ben, or whether he was just unused to being around women, there was no time for this kind of modesty any more.

'Oh, fuck off, Gary,' she snapped, her patience worn thin and their shared James Bond joke now long forgotten. 'Look, this isn't working. Forget it, Rishi can film Zack himself.'

'Wait, wait,' he replied with a sudden burst of enthusiasm. He rummaged through a pile of junk in a corner and emerged triumphantly with a bicycle helmet. He slotted the camera neatly into one of the structural gaps of the helmet. 'Ta-dahhh!' he beamed. Nonetheless, to fit the helmet on her head, she had to let her hair down out of the tight bun she normally wore for missions, leaving it hang in a thick curtain behind her. Laney spared Gary the embarrassment of feeding the wire under her clothes at the back and clipping the power pack and memory unit to her belt. A few tests, and she was ready to set out.

'I look ridiculous,' Laney grumbled out loud as she caught sight of her reflection in the window as she left Haven. Turning her head this way and that, she had to double-check that the camera was still tucked away in its little crevice.

Life and death
Shoulders hunched and head down in an attempt to keep out the biting wind, Laney realised she hadn't been outside Haven on her own since her imprompt mission to Cromwell's pharmacy over a month ago. More than once on the way, she found herself lifting her head to voice some concern about the mission, or quip about Rishi's sanity, only to realise Hoppy, Kiera, Jesus, Toby - all the people who had accompanied her recently - were all elsewhere. Some moreso than others...

Had it been a month ago? So much had happened. It had been the first day of her last period, of that much she was sure. She totted up everything that had happened since, losing track several times. Certainly, if Gary's camera set-up stopped working now, all she would return with was a film of her counting on her fingers and muttering to herself. There was no privacy, wearing one of these cameras, that was for certain. What would she do if she needed to pee? Finally, she thought she'd got the dates straight in her head, double- and triple-checking them with a sinking feeling. She'd miscalculated the days, counted too few. Her period wasn't as late as she'd thought, but on the other hand, the risks she'd taken with Ben were far greater.

This wasn't good news. This was fucking bad news. Like anyone who'd had a scare, Laney had contemplated what it would be like to get pregnant before. But she'd always thought her wealth and influence would protect her from the worst of it. Even if she didn't opt for a termination, she could have counted on the best medical care, and a paid army of nannies, cooks and cleaners. Personal trainers and cosmetic surgery to help her star in the 'post-baby bod' features the gossip rags loved so much. Now that the old world was gone, it would all fall on her, provided both she and baby survived the rudimentary care Dr Short was set up to provide. Her hand dropped instinctively to her lower stomach as she grappled with the enormity of bringing up a child in this new, brutal, uncaring world. Tears blurred her eyes.

Laney's next thought was of Ben, and she gave a little laugh as she contemplated that he would probably take it in his stride far more than she would. She'd seen it in him these last few days, as his anger and panic at his capture finally settled down; now, he sought out, even craved, responsibility. She knew that protecting and improving Haven, for Ben, was a way of exorcising the demons that fed on his perceived helplessness to protect himself from the brothers who had tortured him. In a sense, she realised, a baby might complete him; certainly it would give him something more to fight for, a Haven within Haven. And Hoppy too, it seemed like she'd been talking about Baby Bens since the moment they'd first kissed.

If Hoppy lived that long. The realisation hit Laney like a punch in the chest. If Ben lived that long - if she herself survived that long - or anyone else in Haven for that matter. The feeling of hopelessness that landed squarely on her shoulders stopped her in her tracks. She swallowed deeply, the strap of her helmet digging into her throat. And thus it was that she was standing still when, too late, her mournful thoughts were interrupted by the sound of pounding feet and a ragged snarl. Something slammed into her back, bearing her to the ground. She got one hand out to break her fall, but the left side of her face scraped long and hard along the road, and the heavy landing knocked the breath out of her lungs. Her rifle skittered across the road. The snarl reached a frantic pitch as vice-like fingers closed on her shoulders, and a sharp pain at the back of her scalp incongruously reminded her of schoolyard fights as her head was jerked back and forth by the hair. As she fought for breath and the savage growls rattled in her ears, Laney realised the zombie had a mouthful of her hair.

Dragging air painfully back into her lungs, Laney managed to scissor her legs and kick wildly, tumbling herself and the creature behind her onto their sides. She screamed as it yanked harder on her hair, snapping her head back, its foul stench filling her nostrils alongside the raw, metallic smell of her own blood. She swung her hatchet back behind her, but she couldn't generate enough force at the awkward angle to do any significant damage; the skull was too tough. She butted her head backwards and felt it connect; momentarily, the tugging on her scalp stopped. Laney took advantage of the brief respite to swing her hatchet over her shoulder, smashing the zombie's wrist. She wriggled out of its grasp onto her hands and knees, eyes watering at the pain in her scalp, and tried to rise, but found herself still tethered to the ground by the zombie's grasp on her hair. But seeing her scramble away, its mouth dropped open into another moan, her hair fell free, and Laney was able to dive to one side as it crawled awkwardly towards her. She was about to rear up and smash her hatchet down through the top of its head when she remembered the camera she was wearing. She sidestepped neatly as the zombie lunged from a kneeling position, and when it sprawled out flat on the road, she sat heavily on its back, her knees pinning its shoulders.

Drawing a deep breath, she hacked at its left arm just above the elbow until it hung by sinew and threads of skin. What would have been agony for the living provoked nothing more than the usual groans and snarls from the zombie. Pausing to swipe sweat from her forehead, Laney looked up and down the road. It was a risk to let the creature keep making noise, possibly attracting others, but the way was clear for now. She turned to the right arm, and once that too had been brutally seperated from the body, took several steps back and watched in horrified fascination as Zack scrabbled pathetically on the ground, unable to push itself upright with its stumps of arms. Eventually it knelt up and began staggering to its feet; without arms to properly balance itself, the zombie plunged headlong into the ground again.

'Sorry, Rishi, don't have time for this,' she said out loud, bringing her hatchet down hard. She tentatively raised a hand to her left cheek. The blood was running freely from a ragged cut; panic electified her as she briefly struggled to remember how she'd got the wound. The fall, not a bite, she recalled with relief, seaching her first-aid pack for a bandage.

'Hope that was some help,' she muttered, nudging the now-still corpse with her toe as she set off for the crash site again.

Trading places
Laney heard the gunshots before the crash site came into view. She vaulted the stone wall into the neighbouring field, unslung her rifle and hurried to a wall on the crest of the hill. Without even using the scope, she could see two figures standing on the body of the helicopter. One was firing a handgun down into a mass of zombies, while the other swung a melee weapon at any clutching hands that came too close. Several bodies lay prostrate on the ground nearby. No zombies were feeding on these, so Laney assumed they were former zombies, felled by the gunman on the helicopter. Looking through the scope, Laney saw the shooter, a man in his fifties, hold up his gun, glare at it in frustration, and holster it in favour of what looked like a crowbar. His companion was a teenager or young man, his beard growing in patchy around his cheeks and neck. She counted nine zombies still reaching and clawing at their prey. The men were high enough up the helicopter to be out of reach, but that same height meant anyone swinging at the zombies' heads risked falling from the uneven platform of the helicopter.

Taking her time, resting the rifle on the stone wall, Laney focused on the tallest zombie - the easiest target as well as the creature most likely to grab one of the men - and trained the scope's crosshairs on its head. Unlike when she was returning fire the day Toby, Jake and Sam died, Laney had time to draw breath, relax, and squeeze the trigger gently as she exhaled, just like Monroe had shown her. She practised the motions three times, then let out a whoop of delight as her first shot sent a gout of black gore fountaining up from the skull of the tall zombie.

The sudden casualty did not go unnoticed by the men on the helicopter. Both jumped back in alarm, the younger barely keeping his balance, then both crouched, scanning the horizon. Laney stood, holding her rifle aloft triumphantly, and the men waved, one letting out an indistinguishable holler. She knelt again to take out the remaining eight zombies but, under pressure to perform in front of the men, her next three shots missed, piercing the body of the helicopter. She wiped her brow, drew another deep breath, and let her mind wander back to her training with Monroe, and the next two shots found their mark. She continued until only one zombie remained - she wanted to keep her five remaining bullets - and vaulted the wall and trotted down to the crash site, scanning left and right for movement. The men on the helicopter called to the zombie and banged their weapons on the metal, keeping its attention until Laney buried her hatchet in its skull.

'Well hello,' called the older man, beaming widely. He was tall and thin, all knees and elbows. 'That was some top-notch shooting. I'm Charles, and this is Benson.' The younger man - he looked about 15 or 16, now that Laney got a closer look - nodded his thanks unsmilingly.

Benson's scowl suddenly reminded Laney what happened last time a Scav had trusted two strangers, and she stopped herself from putting her hatchet back in her belt. 'Laney,' she replied. 'Where are you two from, then?'

'Eden Valley - ' Charles began, but Benson, eyes following the movement of Laney's hatchet, cut across him. 'What you thinking?' he grunted, his stare boring into her. 'We're not gonna hurt you.'

Charles glanced nervously over at his younger companion.

'So you're Vanners, huh?' Laney queried. The adreneline of her victorious sharp-shooting had faded, leaving her feeling drained and uneasy. 'I spoke to your boss, Jane Meadows, not so long ago.'

At the mention of his leader, Charles seemed to perk up, and Benson toned down his sullen glare. 'So you must be one of the Scavs from Haven then,' the older man quipped.

'That's right,' Laney said slowly. The older man's forced cheerfulness was unsettling her as much as his companion's hostile attitude. There was silence, as if they were waiting for her to give her name.

'This stuff's ours,' Benson blurted out suddenly, fixing Laney with his stare again.

'Now, Benson - ' Charles cautioned.

'The stuff's ours,' he insisted. 'What's with the stupid hat?'

'I just saved your asses, we're closest to Haven, and the pilot is with us, so it's at least half ours,' Laney said firmly.

'We coulda handled them, no problem,' Benson spat. 'You missed half your shots anyway.' Charles looked helplessly from one to the other. It was obvious the older man couldn't assert any authority over the teenager. Laney wasn't going to get anything for free here. She clenched her jaw as frustration rose up inside her. She couldn't see how she was going to force this stubborn teenager to give up the bounty the helicopter still contained. He sat astride it territorially and crossed his arms.

'What's in there, anyway?' she said conversationally to Charles. Perhaps the older man would grow a pair if she could cut Benson out of negotiations.

'Well, lass, there's a couple of fine-looking guns, some rations, a few bits and pieces,' he replied, gesturing to two dufflebags just inside the helicopter. 'I think someone already took all the medical kits though. But look, we bagged it all up before those zombies came down. Straight out of the woods they came. Oh, they're horrible things, aren't they?'

'There's more than you can carry,' Benson spat, glowering.

'Look, your boss and mine both want Haven and Eden Valley to work together,' Laney began. She realised how weak she sounded, but she knew she couldn't beat these two men in a fight, and the thought of aiming her rifle at them struck her as ridiculous; they would know as well as she that she wasn't willing to kill them over so little.

'Trade,' Benson grunted suddely, a leering smile creeping across his face. Laney and Charles alike looked at him in surprise.

'You're Delaney Byron,' said the teenager, suddenly jumping down from the helicopter. Laney took an instinctive step backwards, looked up imploringly at Charles. The older man looked helplessly from Laney to Benson, then stammered: 'Ooh, I need a wee.' He scrambled down off the helicopter with little agility or dignity. 'I'll just be over here,' he quipped, trotting in the direction of the stone wall that bounded the field, some 20 metres away.

'You're Delaney Byron,' the teenager repeated, closing the distance on Laney. 'I seen you eat pussy.'

'Benson, be nice,' came Charles' wavering call from the stone wall, where he had his back to the escalating confrontation.
Laney's mouth felt dry as she called: 'Charles, put your puppy on a leash.' She'd mustered all her bravado, but Charles merely stared at the forest in front of him. If the situation hadn't been so tense, Laney would have laughed at how long he was taking. A dark grimace of anger crossed Benson's pimpled face.

'Trade, you dyke bitch,' he snarled, grabbing his crotch. 'Pussy for supplies.'

'Suck zombie dick, Benson,' Laney snapped back, facing him down. His fist shot out, dislodging the plaster and reopening the ragged cut on her cheek. Laney hit the ground hard, her vision blurred, and she hardly had time to struggle to her hands and knees before Benson threw himself bodily on her back, forcing her to the ground again. Above his rhythmic panting and her own yell, she heard Charles say weakly: 'Come on, now, Benson...'

Pain shot through her as Benson knelt on the small of her back. This couldn't be happening. She felt his fingers dig into her skin as he gripped her tightly belted waistband. This couldn't be happening. He slammed a fist into the back of her skull and she stopped struggling, stunned. This couldn't be happening. He flipped her prone body over and grasped the front of her belt, lifting her bodily as he wrenched at it.

Suddenly it wasn't happening.

An unearthly, high-pitched shriek whistled from the brutish teenager as he fell flat onto Laney. Hot, thick, metallic-tasting liquid splashed all over her. With a yell, Laney heaved his prone body off her. Benson's cheekbone was crumpled in like an empty eggshell. Laney spied chunks of milky-white bone - cheekbone? jawbone? teeth? - before blood flooded in the gaping wound. There was a whiplike crack, and a clod of earth flew up in the air beside Laney. She whirled around, but couldn't see the gunman.

'You shot 'im,' Charles screeched like an old woman, running over, piss all over the front of his trousers. 'You shot 'him!'

'Not me,' gasped Laney, still scanning their surroundings for the shooter or shooters. 'Hide, you fucking prick.' But Charles was already gone, skinny arms and legs pumping like a chicken, heading for the stone wall again. Laney flung herself in the direction of the helicopter, landing next to the dufflebags.

Benson sprawled on the ground, gripping grass, kicking his feet, emitting an animalistic groan from deep within. Then the groan changed to a wet choking sound as blood began to fill his throat. The sound of a bullet riccocheting off the side of the helicopter, a foot from Laney's head, made her scream, hands flying up to her ears. With a final, helpless glance back at Benson, now kicking and writhing much less, she yanked her Scav pack off her back, hoisted one of the duffle bags, and sprinted for the wall where Charles had pissed.

Halfway there, she felt like a hammer had struck the bag on her bag, bucking her sideways. As she staggered, she heard a man whoop, then, as she righted herself and made the wall, a second man shouted: 'Again, again.' Splinters of stone spun up from where another bullet struck the wall, one gashing her thigh. Staying in the cover of the wall, she crawled for a minute to where the forest came down the hill to meet it. At least this stretch of wood should be zombie-free; they'd all been drawn down to the helicopter. She took one last look back and saw two men in camoflage jackets, carrying hunting rifles, standing over Benson's now still body. Of Charles there was no sign. One of the men pointed to where she'd vaulted the wall. The other gestured to the remaining dufflebag and something inside the helicopter. Not waiting for them to make a decision, she readjusted the dufflebag and made haste for Haven.

A quick inspection at the gates of Haven told her what she'd suspected; her dufflebag contained two modern assault rifles, the kind she'd seen in Hollywood blockbusters, two pistols, and a couple of boxes of ammo. One of the rifles had a dent in the body, where the unknown gunmen's bullet had struck. She hoped it still worked.

Darting into one of the outhouses, she retrieved the bucket she'd brought back from Seascale Golf Club and hung it, undead head and all, on a hook by the door to the shed where Rishi was keeping his pet zombie. Then she made for the farmhouse, tearing at the uncomfortable strap of her helmet.