Announcements: Initiative: Promoting Forum Roleplay » Universe of the Month! » Finding Universes to Join (and making yours more visible!) » Guide To Universes On RPG » Starter Locations & Prompts for Newcomers » RPG Chat — the official app » USERNAME CHANGES » Suggestions & Requests: THE MASTER THREAD »

Latest Discussions: Satire & Comedy » Platonic numbers » No complaints (a little bit of rappin) » Any multi-player roleplay videogamers here? » Needing a woman's perspective on a concept » Gluts and Gaps » Universal Basic Income » Impending Pursuit Q&A » Eudaimonia » Loot! » Natural Kinds » I have a funny idea » Life in the 21st century. » Song of the Runes » Plato’s Beard » Clues » Nihilism » Strange Tales From Hadean » Art Gulag [ Come get this Commish! ] » Visibility of Private Universes & Profile Customisation »

Players Wanted: Kingdom come looking for roleplayers » The Last Dragon! » Roleplay Return for 1 x 1 » Players wanted for a science fiction adventure. » Players needed for Fantasy Romance reboot » One(1) male & Two(2) Female Roles OPEN <3 » Talmora: Kingdom of magic » Looking For A New Partner » Hellboy characters » 18+ Writing Partner [Fantasy, Romance, Etc.] » 18+, Multi-Para to Novella Writers please! » Looking for roleplayers » Fun tale full of angels, demons, and humans » Looking for roleplayers » A Fairytale World in Need of Heroes & Villains! » Are You a Crime Addict? » Wuxia RP » Looking for roleplayers » New Realistic Roleplay - Small World Life ٩( ´・ш・)و » Mentors Wanted »

Live Together or Die Alone

Live Together or Die Alone

0 INK

An RP focusing on long posts and character development set in the Zombie Apocalypse.

3,895 readers have visited Live Together or Die Alone since Bosch created it.

Introduction

You’ve been running for hours and you’re starting to feel it. The stitch in your side has been a near constant companion but you know if you stop they’ll be on you in seconds. Even now, after so long and so far, they’re still snapping at your heels.

You had to leave all your gear at the camp, no time. Even if you do escape what’s the chances you’ll survive the night?

No shelter,

No food,

No weapons,

No torch,

No hope.

Of course the little voice is there telling you it’s all over. Your own personal cheerleader.

“You’re fucked, game over. Surviving six months of the zombie apocalypse was a good innings. Can’t say you didn’t have a good run.”

Ha Ha, very funny. You hate the voice but proving it wrong is what keeps one foot going in front of the other.

The stink of death is overpowering, getting nearer. You think you might throw up from it or maybe it’s the fatigue.

The overgrown wet grass whips against your legs and you tell yourself all you gotta do is make to the tree line, just the tree line and then you might have a shot.

You’ve been telling yourself that all day.

Just to the end of the street...

Just out of the city...

Just to the next house...

The next car...

The next rock...

The next body...

You just need to keep going, this can’t last forever.

Your lungs burn as you suck down another ragged breath and your dumb legs stumble on.

At least six fast ones behind you now.

They won’t get tired.

Question is...

How the hell are you getting out of this one?

Or does it all end here?

Image


How the RP works.


Hello in this section I’ll explain how this RP will work please take a quick look as it maybe a little different from things you’ve done before. Basically the RP can be broken down into steps.

Step 1. The GM (that’s me Bosch) will post Missions in the IC section of the RP. These Missions will be clearly titled in the IC post.

Step 2. The RPers (that’s you) read the mission and choose one. They state which mission they would like to undertake in the OOC section of the RP. This is to prevent two people doing the same mission. The Missions are allocated on a first come first serve basis.

Step 3. After declaring your interest you can get writing. Remember from the day you say you want mission you have one week to complete your post.

Step 4. Once all the posts have been received the GM will create a post that deals with the epilogues of each mission and their impact on the setting. The GM will also post a new selection of jobs at which point we go back to step one.

This is the basic setup of the RP however there is more to it.

Missions come in three flavours which will be described below.

Solo Mission.

In this mission your character will be alone or with NPCS. The Solo aspect refers to you as a writer not your character. It means you won’t be collaborating with anyone. We have occasional missions like this and they intended to be shorter and less plot heavy. Sometimes the story might dictate missions are Solo efforts.

Collab Mission.

This is a mission when two or more characters from the same group go on a mission. You will be writing this as a collaboration with other RPers from the same group. For example two runners go on a mission together or two scavs go on a mission together.

Intersection Mission.

The Lake District is not big and the groups are close together so odds are Runners and Scavs will bump into each other. The GMs will indicate OOC when two missions are likely to intersect. Obviously it’s up to you guys if they actually do.

We treat situations like these as collabs but instead of leaving together the characters meet in the field. It is up to you how the characters interact but THE RP IS NOT COMPETITIVE.

We are all writing a story here and in terms of OOC communications we are all working together. If someone asks me to “settle a fight” or anything ridiculous of that nature I will send you packing. If you want to “fight” there is an arena on the site for that. Everything we do here is collaborative that means the outcome of conflicts is agreed on ahead of time. I’m pretty easy going with rules and don’t like being all GMey but this is something I have a zero tolerance on. Agree the outcome of a conflict ahead of time or don’t have it.

We’re telling a story here not competing.

Other features we have are areas for more traditional RPing called the Farm IC and Eden Valley IC.

The Farm IC and Eden Valley IC.

Ok these are OOC topics but we treat them as IC. Here you can do traditional “Real Time” RPing. You must obey a few simple rules though.

1. The main RP always takes precedent over these. If a post doesn’t fit in the timeline the IC will nine times out ten be ignored or changed.
2. Your character cannot move between areas. If a runner ends a job in Haven they are then part of the Haven IC until their next job. No teleporting.
3. I personally don’t get involved in the IC’s with my characters as they aren’t really my thing and keeping the plot going and coming up with missions eats up most of my RP time. That doesn’t mean I don’t monitor it but it does mean sometimes I can miss things.
4. No combat in the ICs this includes between writers and between NPCs.


The Setting.


In August, 2013 a series of viral outbreaks started to target major European cities. The virus was particularly contagious and fatal. While Governments struggled to initially deal with the outbreak a new problem quickly presented its self. The infected who died were reanimating with murderous intent. The situations quickly devolved thanks to how contagious the disease was and the slowness of the Government’s response.

In a few short weeks the dead outnumbered the living in the UK. Survivors fled from cities and tried to just stay alive whatever way they could. As the weeks turned into months it became clear the UK Government would not be coming to help anytime soon.

In the Lake District two groups quickly formed the Rands and the Eden Valley Camp site. The Eden Valley group quickly became known simply as the Caravaners or Vanners. The outbreak tested both Groups but they survived and started to forge their own communities. The Vanners led by Jane Meadows and the Rands led by Ken Rand.

Around a month after the initial outbreak two Survivors called Jonathan Monroe and Callie Winters who were travelling together stumbled on a Farmhouse in the Lake District and decided to fortify it. They decided to call the place Haven. In the next few weeks and months Haven grew into small community that is ever expanding.

With more people however came more problems. Food, medical supplies, clothing, entertainment and information were all in short supply. It was for this reason Winters formed the Scavengers, a group that would leave the safety of the Haven and go into the wild to recover items that could help the community.

Around the same time supplies had also begun to run low in Eden Valley and members of the community, part motivated by hunger and part by cabin fever, offered to explore the local area and recover what they could. They became known as the Runners.

You are a one of these community members.

A Scav or a Runner.

The Scavengers.



Winters originally formed the Scavs as a way to ensure the people of Haven had adequate supplies. However there role has expanded significantly over time.

All Scavs are issued with the same very limited basic kit. This consists of a first aid kit, a map and a radio. The radios are used to stay in touch with Haven but given the mountainous geography of the Lake distract they don’t work so well in valleys. All Scavs augment their basic kit with items they find in the field, what your Scav carries is up to you.

Scavs tend to loners, athletic and have decent survival skills, although those traits are possessed by a surprisingly diverse group of people in the aftermath of the dead rising.

The Runners.


The Runners are the Scavangers opposite numbers from Eden Valley. While they are a large group they have been able to ride out the Apocalypse in their camp site so they have very few new people just like the Rands. Haven on the other is made up almost entirely of non locals so the Scavs tend to have more field time.

They are a larger and better equipped group than the Scavengers as Eden Valley was full of camping supplies. All Runners are issued with the same basic kit. This consists of a first aid kit, a map and a radio. The radios are used to stay in touch with Eden Valley but given the mountainous geography of the Lake distract they don’t work so well in valleys. All Runners augment their basic kit with items they find in the field, what your Runner carries is up to you.


Image




The World outside your door.


The world beyond the communities is full of Zombies and other survivors. So let’s talk about them.

Both communities are near a small town called Cromwell. Cromwell has been picked pretty clean in the chaos of the outbreak but there are still some goodies to be found.

The Lake District is a mountainous Region in England’s north west near the border with Scotland. It has many hills (called Fells by locals), Lakes and woodlands.

Wildlife in the lakes represents a good cross section of British wildlife such as Red Squirrels, Wild Fell Ponies, Fish, livestock such as sheep and Red Deer. The abrupt decrease in human population has lead to an increase in the amount of wildlife in the region.

Some Survivors are just trying to survive while others are going to be assholes. It may turn out that the people left alive are more deadly than the Zombies. Nevertheless Characters must work together if they are to succeed.

The Zombies.


First off all Zombies in the LTODA cannon follow some rules which are documented here.

They go by many names Walkers, Stiffs, Roamers, Zack, The Undead, Lucky, Zed and many others No matter what you call them the zombies come in two flavours Slow and fast.

Slow Zombies are those that have been infected for a longer time while Fast zombies are the newly turned. The reason for this is degradation in muscle fibre. As the Zombies are dead they are unable to heal themselves which means over time their bodies become weakened due to wear and tear. This means the most powerful zombies are those that have just turned while older zombies are more likely to be weaker. It would take years for a zombie to become so decrepit that it would no long cause a threat.

It may be a mistake to think of the zombies as being either slow or fast instead it's better to think of it like a spectrum.

Image


The Groups


Haven


A small mongrel group made up of all sorts founded by Callie Winters and Jonathan Monroe. They operate out of a defended Farmhouse they call Haven. Haven Farmhouse is on the crest of hill giving them a view of the overall area.

The place is under a constant process of construction as the survivors try to better their defences.

They have Scavengers who go on missions for the community. Your character can be a Scavenger.


The Rands


A group of Locals living out of a stately home called Upton Abbey. They don’t like outsiders who they class as tourists but understand good relations with neighbours are necessary. The group was led by William Rand and his Father Ken.

Recently the Rands have been all but wiped out after a large horde attacked them. The group it thus spread all over the place.

The Caravanners


A large group of refugees living in a caravan site, they are led by a woman called Jane Meadows. They are a large group and while Meadows is the leader her position is tenuous which means she must keep control using diplomacy. They lack local knowledge but have numbers and have worked hard to secure their perimeter. They are quick to panic however possibly given their fish out of water nature.

They have had the most interaction with Haven although this has been marred by confusion and for a while many voices in the community were calling for a war with Haven. This was because Haven Scavs had been confused with the Gang of Five. A murderous group of Hunters.

They have runners who go on missions for the community.


Loners


Individuals or very small groups who are either passing through or trying to find a place to stay. It’s impossible to predict what they are like. They might be like Natalie and Daddy a pair of psychotic killers or be friendly traders.


Important Events


August 2013 - Viral outbreaks across Europe, possibly rest of the world.

September 2013 - Haven founded and Scavengers formed.

October 2013 - The RP begins.

Late October 2013- Death of William Rand.

November 4th -Death of October "Toby" Harrison.

November 5th- RAF Helicopter Crash, Death of Jonathan Monroe.

November 10th- Death of Jesus Herrera.

November 11th- Death of Tilo King, Richard Brand and Destruction of the Rands. Upton Abbey overrun by Zombies.




The Character Sheet


The CS will be pretty basic because the whole point is we get to learn more about your character through your writing. With that in mind though we are striving for realism so keep in mind we don’t want Ubermen running around but at the same time your character must be capable of surviving. I know it seems contradictory.

Consider the CS an audition of sorts and it’s the only writing sample we ask for so, make it pop.

The Basic CS should include the follow sections.

Name-

Age-

Gender-

Physical description-

Biography- Include pre outbreak and post outbreak information.

Skills- Skills will develop as the RP rolls on so don’t feel pigeonholed.

The buzz words for the CS are realism and potential. Feel free to include any additional sections.

Toggle Rules

Rules Bleugh. It’s pretty simple really, abide by the rules of the site, GM decides all issues and we’re here to have fun. I’m sure we’re all rational reasonable people and there will be no need to get all enforcey.

Here's a few guidelines though that will probably help the whole thing run smoothly.

1. Some Jobs are collaborations. Communication is key in these situations. I know it's just an RP but we're all here to RP and that makes it important.

2. All jobs must conclude in a single post. Two Parters, while fun, can be a difficult to run.

3. Please use dates and times on jobs. They don't have to be totally accurate just give us an idea when events are occurring.

4. If you choose to kill your character you don't lose your seat at the table rather I will hail you as a God among Mortals and you get to make a new one. This is a very lethal world and your character is a product of 21st century pampering. While we all like to imagine ourselves as surviving the zombie apocalypse the probability is low, there's always more zombies than survivors after all.

5. NPCS that have a CS are Unkillable, NPCS without a CS are killable. It's my responsibility to make sure everyone important has a CS.

6. Jobs must be in no later than one week after they are accepted. Let me know you'll be late and it's cool. The Max I'm willing to wait though is two weeks. After that I'll conclude the Job.

7. In matters of Chronology the main RP always takes precedence over the Farm IC. Sometimes this can lead to paradoxes but use your imagination.

8. If you have a holiday or exams or some other big deal thing coming up let me know and we'll stick your character on Pause for a couple of weeks. Maybe they got the flu or a sprain.

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 12 authors

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

(Co-written with Messiah)

November 9th, 2013, 0900

Recording

Part 1: A Quack And A Zed Walk Into A Bar

Ben woke up to an empty bed. He sat up and shook his head, getting rid of the cobwebs.

After getting dressed, he made his way downstairs, he was intercepted by Doctor Short.

"I need to change your bandages," she said.

In response, Ben grunted, reluctant, but he went along with it. He didn't want to risk infection.

"I don't think you should be going out in your condition," the doctor told him as she wrapped him up again like he was a Christmas gift.

"I don't have that luxury," Ben answered, "Haven needs me."

Her face had contorted into an disapproving frown, but she really couldn't argue with it. With Monroe and Toby dead and others unable to go out, they were dangerously low on manpower. As much as Ben would like to stay in Haven and rest, he (and the rest of the settlement) couldn't afford it.

After being bandaged again by Doc Short, Ben was out the farmhouse door and up to the job board.

He approached the job board and took down the notice with his right hand, his left arm hanging loosely at his side. The more he read the notice over, the deeper his scowl became.

"What the hell is this?" he muttered. Rishi really was certifiable. This read like it was going to be a relatively simple run-and-grab job. Cameras, laptops, cell phones. But, it was in Cromwell. Cromwell is where he got fucked over last time. It was never going to be simple.

Better than Edinburgh, he thought.

That wasn't what concerned him the most, though. It wasn't a secret that Rishi had been keeping one of those things in one of the houses. Laney had almost killed it and the doctor. That was bad enough, but the fact that he'd named it and called it a man? That's what got him. This thing was no longer a person, and it sure as hell wasn't a pet.

------

Tilo was up for the day's job. He bent and turned his head in several motions trying to prevent the onset of vertigo while increasing his declining flexibility. He made some arm circles, trying to warm up his shoulders. Damn he was getting old. He had just finished breakfast, eggs, as usual. He walked along until he reached the job board where he saw another fellow. This other fellow had brown, unkempt shaggy hair. If it wasn't for the outbreak, he probably would have had a haircut. Tilo wasn't one to judge, seeing as how he was starting to look almost like Gandalf, without extensions of course. He needed a shave, a haircut, and much much more. Referring back to the younger man, Tilo had no idea who he was, probably another scavenger.

He approached the lad, gave him a quick nod before he checked the board. There was only one brief there, and beside it was a notebook that had been pinned to the board. The title page was listed as "The Zombie Guidebook." It piqued Tilo's interest, it was a new kind of volume. The first one produced in this world, or at least in Haven.

Normally, Ben might have been a little more friendly, but he just wanted to get this over and done with. He turned slightly at the sound of the approach of another; it was the old man. Ben hadn't had a chance to talk to the guy, well, at all. Though, he had heard that this was the guy that had went to the Rands a few days ago.

They weren't trustworthy either, as far as Ben was concerned.

"We've got a bit of shopping to do," Ben said, tapping the job on the board, "Cameras, batteries, phones maybe." He didn't waste much time getting to the point. "I don't want to hang around here longer than I have to. You can bring the book with you if you want."

Tilo sensed that he was a terse fellow. He was going to be a tough nut to crack, but the professor did not expect everyone to be an easy socializer. Especially anyone around Haven, they had all seen their share of the apocalypse.

"Uhm, I don't think that would be necessary," Tilo stated, unsure what use the guide would have. He would have preferred time to read the guide and decide whether it was worth bringing along.

"We should probably pack our things," the old man pointed with his thumb back to the farm.

The place was Cromwell. Tilo had been halfway to the town before so he knew the direction somewhat. All they needed were shotguns, and a pack to carry things.

Ben had forgotten his own backpack - or maybe forgotten wasn't the right word. He wanted to see what the job had been first, and now he was glad that he did. The gun that he'd taken from the brothers at their farmhouse was still in it. Now that they'd be packing things in and out of bags, he wasn't fond of explaining why he had a gun, nor was he fond of explaining why he had hidden the weapon. That probably wouldn't go over well, but refusing would be suspicious. Maybe he could hide it and the ammunition.

"Yeah. Probably. I'll take care of it. Wait here. Unless you need to get your own backpack."

Whether or not the old man decided that he wanted to get his own pack, it didn't matter to Ben. He would go get his own and then the shotguns.

First, he went to his room to get his backpack. It was a round-about way to do it, but he wanted to hide what he had in his backpack first. Some of his clothes littered the floor and, he decided, that would be enough until he got back. Quickly, he pulled out the gun and the ammunition for it, gathered up his clothes and hid everything within them.

Shortly after, he made his way back downstairs. Things were still tense between Callie and himself. He had made no effort to talk to her since their heated exchange upon his return a few days ago, and once he got to the command center, he only uttered a single word: "Shotguns." which she returned with shortly, not uttering a word in response. Once he had the weapons in hand, he returned to the job board.

Tilo had his pack ready with him as the younger man came back with a pair of sawn-offs. He did not have anything inside, since this was strictly a grab and go sort of deal. No maps, no binoculars, no fireworks, and no torches. However, he did have his walkie-takie with him; if there was one thing that was important, it would probably be the walkie-talkie. Without it, scavengers were pretty much blind in the wilderness.

He took one of the firearms and gestured to Ben, "After you?"

With a nod, Ben stepped towards the gate, pulled it open and, after the other man had passed through, pulled it closed again. He was glad to be off. Even though it was nice to get some rest, he had been going a little stir-crazy over the past couple of days, and really wanted to get going. Now that they were out of Haven, he felt a sense of relief, as if a large animal had gotten up off of his chest.

Off to Cromwell again. He didn't like the idea, naturally. They needed to stop sending Scavs there. There had been too many close calls in the otherwise innocuous town. Laney had nearly been killed. Ben and Hoppy had been separated by a horde and both had nearly become victims of the cannibal brothers. And it wasn't like the town had a lot to offer anymore. It had nearly been picked clean of most things useful. Except Rishi now, he wanted them to find cameras for some scientific documentation, or something.

He was wasting his time.

But, maybe with the explosion at the other farm, they would have time to look around town without being hassled by the undead.

"Waste of time," Ben muttered indignantly.

Tilo caught the tail end of that statement, "What was that?"

The fellow had muttered something about the mission, but Tilo didn't hear him. He spoke with an American accent, and as far as Tilo knew he was perhaps one of only two Americans in camp, the other being Kiera. He stood a bit taller than Tilo, and his hair fit the description of 'Ben.' However, he didn't want to jump to conclusions regarding this younger man's name.

"I'm sorry, uh I didn't catch your name earlier? My name's Tilo," the old man said as they continued on the gravel path toward Cromwell.

"Ben," he answered, glancing to the man, "I said it's a waste of time. What's he trying to accomplish? A cure? It's a waste of time. We should be trying to survive, not trying to find a cure."

So this was Ben. That explained his bleak outlook of the future. Tilo couldn't blame him, if the rumors were true, then he'd been through a lot. He didn't want to interject with a comment, but the young man seemed very cynical, more so than Tilo. And the professor thought he was the old man.

The sun was rising along the east, but the orange rays eventually caught them in the eyes through the forest.

The old man squinted as they continued, "Well...I never thought I'd meet an American who was so...out of hope, if you will," Tilo tried to tailor his words, careful not to offend the younger man.

"As far as I can tell, we're...surviving. At some point though...we have to look to the future," Tilo paused, "I don't think I could fault him for trying. The past few weeks, or months for some, have been hell. I don't know how much longer we'll need to survive."

What was that supposed to mean? 'An American who was so out of hope'? Did all Americans have to be twits with their blinders on? Ben shook his head a bit.

"It's naive to think there's a cure. He's got us going out on these things, and they're just pipe dreams. We spend too much time thinking about the future, we forget about what's going on, right here, right now."

He sighed, "Truth be told I might have been like him, but then I realized that's not how the world works anymore. You're not guaranteed anything. You're not even guaranteed to be alive tomorrow."

"And now he's got one of those... things in our camp, and he's named it, like it's some pet. It's idiotic, and it's dangerous."

He didn't say it, but he was under the impression that Rishi probably wouldn't be of much use if he weren't doing whatever it is he was doing. Ben also got the feeling that Rishi himself felt that way too.

Maybe he wouldn't feel that way if he'd get out of that room every once in a while and do something useful. It might not be a bad idea to have mandatory weapon training, in case of attack. That way, there wouldn't be any liability when it came to defending Haven.

Tilo tried to comprehend the process of thought that Ben was going through. He felt the urge to interrupt him at several points, but he decided to hold off until he was done. Politeness and listening used to be British past times, they weren't any longer.

"I...I don't care what he does with it. As long as he doesn't let it loose. But tell me then, if we're not even guaranteed to be alive tomorrow...why does it matter that it's dangerous?"

Ben scoffed and smirked, though it was not out of humor, but rather because of how ridiculous that had sounded to him.

"Because survival is the name of the game, and that thing puts us in danger of not surviving. Haven's the only thing that matters to me anymore, and I don't want some nutjob who thinks that there might be a cure screwing it up."

Ben's scoff, followed by game, made Tilo raise his eyebrows. He didn't really know what to say.

"Okay, so we go back there and we put two shotgun shells into its head. And then what? Continue on like this? Go out and find food and stuff and try to pass the winter and hope that we don't freeze to death. And if it's not winter, then here's to hoping that we don't get our heads blown off by some rogues. And then after that we can hopefully repeat this each day, each week, each month, each year. And then we die of old age right? Is that what life is now? I don't know about you mate, but four or five months ago, my oldest son just got accepted into university," Tilo paused, his lips quivered.

His breath faltered, maybe it was the cold of winter setting on.

"That was eighteen years of work between my wife and I, raising him. Dreams, hopes, ambitions...and in a matter of days, gone like the flickering of a candle," Tilo swallowed, "You know growing up in Colchester, I never," Tilo had an anguished smile, "I never thought that by the time I turned forty, I'd have to be fighting for my life. But to call this, life...this?" he gestured to the woods, to the both of them.

"Is this life? Is this worth...surviving? This existence?"

"I think it would do the world, and myself, a lot of good if I just offed myself right now with this," he shoved the shotgun forward.

"I'm sure you have family and friends back in the States, and I'm sure you missed them like I miss my family. Giving up on them, would be like this," his eyes went to the shotgun again.

Then he fell silent, he said what he wanted to say. Whether or not it would catch on, he didn't know, and maybe he didn't care. He was old, and he was tired, and he knew he was tired of living like this.

"Nobody ever said it was fair. The world now, it takes and it takes, but it never gives anything back," Ben said flatly. Maybe he could have been more understanding; he had certainly been at the point Tilo had just described.

"But, offing yourself right here is not the same thing. We would be weaker without you. Could you just kill yourself knowing that your death might result in the death of someone else because you weren't around to help?" His brows had furrowed, but he was staring straight ahead, "That's why I came back. I could have given up and let those assholes kill me, but I didn't. Haven is weak enough as it is."

It was a little bit callous, maybe, seeing the people of Haven just as numbers to make it stronger, but if you weren't strong, you didn't get to survive. And then you could be out on your own again, if you had even managed to survive at all.

"As for my family and friends..." he paused, swallowing, "It's not giving up, it's moving on. I should have moved on a long time ago. They're thousands of miles away, and even if they're still alive, I'm not going to get to see them again. I've decided to accept that and move on. Focus on the present instead. And right now, in the present? Haven is all I've got."

"Yeah," Tilo replied solemnly.

Everyone had their stories and their reasons.

------

Part 2: A Finger and A Revelation

They had spent about an hour or so walking in pure silence, silence of voice that is. Nature was always restless, there would always be a bird chirping, or some leaves falling. And then of course there was the wind that murmured, and the snow that fell.

Tilo decided to break the proverbial ice this time. He was curious about the stories of Ben being tortured as the tale went. And if it was true, he didn't want to pry deeply into the wound. Ben did make a mention of "assholes" before, which seemed to confirm his thoughts. He must have been through a lot. Tilo did not really have the vocabulary to describe people going through traumatic experiences anymore. Everyday, somebody at Haven would have experienced one. In his mind, the thought went about in circles to the point where it had lost its meaning, almost like if one were to say 'peanut butter' over and over again. In time it just becomes an unintelligible pile of deformed mush. He wanted to empathize, but how could he? Death was part of him and part of everyone at Haven wherever he, or they went.

In the old world, death was just a word, or a world that seemed far off in the distance. It was something that people didn't think about until they were Tilo's age. It was something that made people think of how they were going to "leave" the world. For people younger than him, it was all about invincibility and carpe diem and living fast and being young. Or that was how life told the story. All of those things dissipated like the vapor of breath that Tilo exhaled in the cold weather.

"So, I heard you were captured," Tilo said.

There it was. Ben knew that it was only a matter of time before he brought it up. He goes away, gets captured, beaten up, and loses a finger, then, when he comes back, everyone suddenly wanted to play counselor. Mark. Laney. All he wanted to do was to move on - to forget about what had happened as best as he could, but with everyone reminding him of it made that mighty difficult to accomplish.

Ben was a little resentful of how people treated him since then, like he was on the verge of a breakdown, or that he was dangerous. There wasn't anything that was going to make him hurt another person from Haven, no matter how crazy he thought they were. At least not until they became a danger to the settlement - if it ever came to that.

And he wasn't special either. Plenty of people had gone through more than he had. What about the people that the brothers had actually killed? He had been lucky. He had been stupid. He had been weak. All he wanted was to move on and learn from the experience, but everyone else wouldn't let him move on.

"I don't want to talk about it," Ben said simply, hiding the resentment that still lingered.

Ben seemed hesitant to talk about his experience in Tilo's eyes, and when he finally opened his mouth, those were his words. So was it traumatic? Tilo wanted to know, but he stopped himself. Maybe that was the reason why he said those things earlier, or maybe it wasn't. Maybe he was still reeling from the fact that he had been captured and tortured. And Tilo would have guessed that the people around Haven were just as eager as he was to know. They might have been pestering him for days. That deflated a man's ego faster than a needle popping a balloon. Ben reminded him a bit of his son, Edmond. Prior to the outbreak, Edmond was in the phase of secrecy, as if every question was like a bullet that needed to be dodged. Tilo was just doing his job as a parent. The old man respected Ben's wishes and chose not to pursue the subject any further, despite his curiosity. So he simply replied with a curt nod.

He was glad for Tilo's reaction. It had seemed that nobody really cared what he wanted in regards to the situation. When he told them he didn't want to talk about it, it didn't stop them from coming back sometime later and asking if he was sure. Ben knew they cared about him and what happened to him. They wouldn't ask if they didn't. But, there again, they weren't willing to let it go. If Ben wanted to talk about it, he would do it on his own terms, not on theirs.

In response, Ben nodded as well, "Thanks," he said, flexing the fingers on his left hand. He could still feel his missing finger. It was moving in unison with the others as he clenched and unclenched his empty hand.

If there was anything he could take from losing that finger, it was that he was thankful it wasn't a more useful one, like his thumb, or his index finger, or even... his middle finger.

Inwardly, he chuckled, thinking about flipping someone off. It wasn't an obscene gesture over here, but he was sure they knew it was in the States.

Then, he glanced to Tilo briefly, and he remembered one of his first conversations with Laney, about her trip out with the man he was out with now. At the time, he had been angry about what she had told him, that Tilo had "said some inappropriate things". He had forgotten all about that until now but, now that he had talked with him, he didn't seem like the kind of person that would say some inappropriate things as she said he did.

It was old news, but he was curious about it.

"That time that you and Laney went out, what happened?" he asked bluntly. He purposely neglected to mention what she had told him had gone down.

That was quite a long time ago in Tilo's mind. He wasn't even sure if he remembered the general details about it. They...went out to investigate something. It was a boat, if Tilo remembered correctly. He also remembered about the conversation they had about music. And about how she was Morris Byron's daughter, looking back, at the time she seemed big. Big as a celebrity, she wasn't a 'muggle,' if that was the appropriate popular term for it. She was related to a rocker, that was definitely something. Now she was...Laney, just a normal human being who had been through a lot.

They talked about the things they missed, she missed music, and perhaps deep down maybe she missed her father. Tilo missed his family, and he missed music, or the pleasure of music. It was a facet of civilization, something that used to exist. It was beautiful and melodious, and it was one of the things that made life worth living. Tilo knew that Laney would have been able to put it into better words, music was her domain. People could all agree that music was a sort of universal language as it was known then, before the outbreak. It was something that brought people together, and it was powerful indeed. Then Tilo drifted back to the mission that he and Laney went on. They were in the forest, and they reached the lake. The boat rested in the middle of the calm waters, and Laney decided to be the one to try and swim to it.

"Well...um," Tilo wasn't sure if he wanted to talk about it. Perhaps it couldn't hurt to tell someone about it, what was there to hide? Was there something to hide? If there was, Tilo had forgotten it.

"We were sent to investigate a boat," Tilo paused, trying to recount the event, "No, yacht, yacht. It was a yacht."

He cleared his throat, "We came to the shore. Laney tried to swim to the boat. And then...out of water there was mass of zed. They were swimmers, that's what I call them. Their heads were bobbing to the surface trying to get a bite of her. She had been pulled down into the water."

He saw the faces of the undead again. They were bloated, their eyes were milky white, and their skin discolored. Their blood was dried and wet all the same because of the water. The outer layer of their skin peeled or hung unnaturally. Their fingers had chipped or broken nails. They clawed at him with their mutilated faces and their straining screams echoed in his ears. Tilo closed his eyes, trying to shut out the blood curdling images.

"So I got on a little boat and paddled out to get her and then..." he was reminded of the two people on the boat, the man and the boy. They had on their worn, apathetic faces, and blood-shot eyes. Tilo would have mistaken them for death and his child.

Tilo's eyes went to the side, unsure if he should add that little detail, "I pulled her out of the water when I got to her and we just got back to Haven."

So he decided to keep that secret to himself. That little demon was still inside him, and he realized that he had forgotten about it a long time ago.

"That was it."

Ben nodded slowly in response. Something seemed a little fishy about it. Their stories about what had gone down seemed to match in some respects, but both of their stories seemed a little scant on details.

Perhaps against his better judgment, he asked a follow-up question.

"What was your discussion about afterwards?" Again, he neglected to say what Laney had told him.

After all, he had witnessed it, but he hadn't caught what it was about.

Tilo shook his head, his eyebrows creased confusedly, "I don't...recall Laney and I having a discussion afterward."

"Mhmm." It was evident that Ben didn't believe him, but he also didn't particularly feel like pressing the issue. Something had definitely gone on, but he had possibly forgotten it just like Ben had forgotten about what Laney had said until just a little while ago, so he went quiet again.

At least for a few minutes.

"Heard you went to the Rands' place. That seemed to go okay. I mean, you didn't come back missing a finger or anything."

Maybe the finger joke was just a lighthearted comment. Unbeknownst to Tilo, Ben had lost a finger. Nobody told him, they just said he was tortured.

Tilo chuckled, "Right, um. I don't know about them. They're living like none of this happened. I mean, they're not surviving. Their leader, Ken Rand is a pretty, pretty shrewd fellow. Hopefully he'll come around."

Tilo paused, "But there was this one fellow, Richard...he had black hair underneath a dark grey beanie. He barely shaved. And while I was there, I can honestly say...he gave me the creeps."

Ben stopped dead in his tracks, "Kind of skinny? A bit shorter than me?" He hadn't gotten a great look at the guy he was thinking of, but based on what he could tell, the man had been shorter than himself by a few inches.

"He was short, but not skinny. He definitely had a couple of kilos on him. He had this strange look in his eye, like he had not slept for days. An insomniac or something."

Maybe he had misremembered the guy's body type, but the rest of it sounded right.

"Did you ever find out about Tim?"

"Tim?" who was Tim, Tilo had never heard of him. He was never mentioned at all by either Monroe or Callie, "Who's Tim?"

"Tim's the guy who got chased up a tree by a bunch of geeks. I was sent to try and help him, but another group got there before I did. They killed the zombies." Ben paused. He hadn't forgotten about one of his first forays out into the wilderness, "Tim got down. He mentioned Haven to them, think that's where they were from. The leader of this group asked where Haven was. Tim didn't really seem sure. He said something about it being a few m--" Then he corrected himself, "--meters away."

"And then the leader executed him. I saw it all. This guy sounds a lot like the guy who killed Tim. Is he with the Rands?"

"The fellow I saw is with them, yes. He's part of their scavengers, hunters actually...because they actually have outdoorsmen, unlike us," Tilo chuckled, "Are you sure it was him?"

"Sounds about right." He scowled as he began walking again, "No. Not until I see him. I have to go to the Rands' place. If it's the guy I'm thinking of, then they're harboring a murderer who's responsible for this whole thing between us and the Caravanners." Then, he added, "Not that we can trust them, either."

"You said there was a group?"

"Five of them, yeah. Including the guy in charge."

"Now that I think about it. When I was there, he came back alone. In fact, if I remember correctly, the man had said that four others were at Cromwell, but that was on the fifth. They're probably all back at the Rands."

"Son of a bitch," he muttered, "That has to be him. Fuckers are keeping murderers there." He was angry now, but he was much more subdued on the outside than he was on the inside. This guy, the one Tilo had described, something had to be done about him.

"I have to go to the Rands'," he repeated.

"Alright mate, calm down. We need a good reason to show up there. I mean, if we come barging into the place, it's going to make them suspicious," Tilo paused before adding, "Funny thing I remember, when he came back, he started interrogating me. I think he asked me about Haven, 'how many people died,' or 'are the leaders still alive' and some other stuff. I thought it was very odd of him to ask such questions."

He still didn't trust the Rands. Honestly, the only people he did trust these days were the people who were in Haven, maybe except that military woman that he saw in the infirmary when he first went to get patched up; he didn't know her. And, although he wasn't distrustful of the man, he was wary of Rishi.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm sure somebody will think of something."

That sealed it. Without even seeing the man's face, Ben was now convinced that this was the man he saw execute Tim in cold blood.

"That's got to be him," he muttered, then spoke up a little louder, "Let's hurry up and get this thing finished so we can get back to Haven. This is important."

Certainly more important than cameras, he thought as he increased his pace towards Cromwell.

Tilo matched him, his pack not slowing him down especially with this recent turn of events.

------

Part 3: Holiday Shopping

It was near noon when the two men reached Cromwell. The cold was a bit more bearable up in the north of England. Unlike London, when it was grey almost all day and into the night, Cumbria did not suffer from lack of sunlight. The winter was decent, the sun at least was able to make it through the clouds in November. It was just November though, winter would not be official until December.

The town of Cromwell had devolved into a village with the lack of a human presence. Before the outbreak, the town was fairly lively, now it was just an aggregate of various buildings with their comely rooftops nestled within the green hills. Automotive vehicles were abandoned in the streets, newspapers and other trash littered the ground.

The wind moved through the empty town calling out to the long abandoned homes and businesses, which replied with echoes of silence.

It only took him one visit, but Ben hated Cromwell. He hated everything about Cromwell. The eerie quiet. The hidden dangers that normally lurked there. It seemed like it might have been a nice place before the outbreak, but he didn't really care anymore. Any trip to Cromwell couldn't go fast enough, in his mind.

He drew out his hatchet once they were well inside the confines of the town.

"Just in case," he muttered to himself. Chances were that the fire and explosion had drawn most of them off. But, there was no telling if they were going to return or not. Ben didn't want to take any chances.

"Want to check out the electronics store first? I think it's pretty close to the grocery store and the pharmacists. There might be stuff we can use there." There were a couple things that he wanted to look for.

Tilo nodded. He had never actually been to Cromwell before, but he heard the reports. He wasn't one to ignore the warnings. His grip on the sawn-off tightened. The town seemed empty, but every house probably held a horde of zed ready to pour out like ants from a nest.

Their steps were marked by the cracking of shards of glass and other debris strewn on the ground. They soon happened on the electronics store. It was a small, locally owned shop as evidenced by the name, Torrhen's Electronics. It seemed as if every store in town was named after someone, Gill Mechanics, Torrhen's Electronics, Johnson's Pharmacy, and of course Rand Grocers. The store itself was smaller than the average RadioShack. The windows had been shattered completely with the pieces of glass gathered in disparate arrangements on the sidewalk by the street lamp.

Slowly, Ben crept into Torrhen's Electronics, glass crunching underneath his winter boots as he went. Aside from the natural light that filtered in through the windows, it was fairly dark.

"Keep a lookout. I don't want anything sneaking up on us."

When they had entered, a walker had begun to get up with a groan. Admittedly, Ben had missed it when it had groaned, due to the crunching of glass underfoot. But, as soon as it rose, he caught a glimpse of it.

It was a large one. Large in the sense that it was very... rotund, anyway. The man that it had used to be clearly worked here, as it was wearing a shirt with the company's logo on it.

"I've got this," Ben announced as he glanced back to Tilo.

He approached the zombie and gave a heavy overhand swing of his hatchet, burying it into the top of its skull and making short work of the opponent.

Ben glanced down at the thing, sighing a little, and shaking his head.

"See what we can get," Ben said as he looked around. Most of the store's inventory seemed relatively intact. Cameras, camcorders, some of those pay-as-you-go phones, and some batteries - though there were less batteries than there were anything else. That made sense. Batteries weren't just for cameras anymore. A lot of things used batteries. Flashlights, walkie-talkies, radios.

"There might be more in the back."

Ben stepped to the door that led to the storage and tried the knob. It didn't budge. Locked.

"Damn it," he cursed, under his breath. But, then he remembered the geek (probably an adequate description, in more than one way) he'd just killed. The guy had worked here and there might be a key on him.

He retreated back to where the walker had fallen and began searching it. It didn't take long. The keys were hooked onto one of its belt loops. First, he slid his hatchet away and took out his knife; he wasn't going to bother trying to unhook it. Instead, he was just going to cut it free.

Once he had it, he marched back to the locked door. Before unlocking it, he turned and motioned to the old man.

"Over here."

If the zed did not have the keys, they probably would have tried hacking apart the knob perhaps until the door opened and allowed for entry. Tilo followed him closely, stepping over the portly corpse of the employee with its head now smashed.

They entered the storage room which was filled with racks as high as the ceiling and many cages with small boxes, no doubt packaged with devices inside. They were labeled with images of phones and other devices. Other boxes were plain nondescript cardboard lined together behind a label on the shelf. Some had brand names on them, others had model names. The larger boxes were inside cages, denoting their value, or former value. The world now had no need for currency. The cages themselves were protected with padlocks. They could try rummaging through the cabinets near the door for the keys to the cages if necessary.

That could have taken too long.

Ben had proceeded through the locked door with caution, in case there was a nasty surprise waiting for them. The back was void of the undead, which made sense. The door had been locked, but better to be safe than sorry, as the saying goes.

"This place is clear. You want to see what you can find? I want to go check out the grocery store and the pharmacist, just across the street. Maybe see if you can get a camera working?"

"Uh sure," Tilo shrugged.

"I'll be back. Shout if you need help."

"Shout?" Tilo questioned.

"Whatever. It's across the street. I'm not going to hear you otherwise. Unless you actually want to walk over to come get me."

Of course, if he was attacked, he might not be able to come across the street to get him.

The old man went toward one of the many storage shelves and decided to open one of the boxes with the image of a camera on the side.

As Ben left, in hindsight Tilo realized that it would have been best to let someone younger handle technology. He was decent as far as professors went, but he was not as savvy. The camera was buried beneath the styrofoam casing, which Tilo stripped. He searched for the power button and pressed it. No reply. He had forgotten to put the battery pack in. He opened the slot, popped the battery in, and pressed power. It turned on, fortunately, and he turned it off and unpopped the battery to preserve the power. Then he looked back at all the boxes lined throughout the large dull storage room. To go through each box and test the batteries would be like an algorithm, which wasn't very time-friendly at the moment. He would have preferred sweeping all of them into his pack, but that wouldn't leave space for many.

Ben trekked across the street to the grocery store which connected with the pharmacy. This store was even darker than the electronics store that he had just come from. As soon as he stepped into the building, he could hear the tell-tale noise of the undead. But, it didn't sound like they were alert yet. The noise reminded him of... snoring, and it sounded like there was more than one.

Quietly, he crept through the store. He had to deal with these before he could really go searching through the store. Otherwise, they could sneak up on him while he wasn't as alert.

As he progressed through, he kept constantly turning and keeping on the lookout.

Finally, he spotted the source of the noise - or at least some of it. Down the aisle that was labeled 'soda' were three walkers. His presence at the end of the aisle alerted them and they turned their heads toward him suddenly.

They advanced - two of them slowly and the other much more quickly. Ben stepped back, holding his hatchet, and allowing the quicker one to get near him before he swung his weapon. It ended up in the thing's head, just as it had the one at Torrhen's. However, unlike then, he lost his grip on the weapon as the corpse fell to the floor.

"Shit," Ben whispered, eyeing the two advancing walkers. He didn't have time to pull the weapon out and strike at these two, so he had to think quickly.

He rushed to the stand that was now empty and put both hands on it and used the strength he had to pull it down. With a loud crash, it fell on top of them, trapping them.

Ben sighed and turned back to the first corpse, intending to extract his weapon from its skull. Instead, he came face-to-face with a fourth walking corpse, startling him.

Without thinking, he swung his left arm, striking it in the side of the head and sending it toppling to the floor. And, before it could get up, he raised his leg up and brought his boot down heavily onto its skull, sending blood and brain out like he had just squeezed out a glob of toothpaste.

First, he checked himself for bites or scratches and sighed in relief once he realized that he had none of either.

"No bites," he said quietly, going back to get his hatchet back from the first body. He still had to finish off the two that were still trapped by the shelf he had pulled down.

Once he had it in hand, all it took was two quick strikes to end their existence for good.

"Assholes," he muttered as he finished them off.

As he expected, the store didn't have much of anything and what it did have wasn't much use to them.

On to the pharmacist.

Johnson's was empty of walkers, allowing Ben to look around freely.

He was surprised to find some painkillers left. These might help with his hand. He had been having trouble getting to sleep some nights because of his hand. It had gotten better, but only slightly.

The pain pills were a nice surprise, but that's not what he was really looking for. And when he finally found what he was looking for, he looked around furtively before stuffing them into one of the side pockets of his backpack.

Condoms.

Ben then turned and was about to make his way out of the pharmacy when the thought came to him...

He might need a few other things, so he grabbed them and put them into the same side pocket.

Morning-after pills and a pregnancy test.

The last thing he wanted at this point was to have to deal with anything like that. He was pretty sure Laney didn't, either. It wasn't like she could afford it, what with her going out the same as him.

Hoppy had joked about 'Little Baby Bens', but realistically, that wouldn't be good. Not right now, and probably not for a long time.

He zipped up the side pocket and made to return to the electronics store.

Now he could leave.

Back in the electronics storage room, Tilo decided to simply unbox the phones, cameras, and batteries into his bag. The manuals did not matter, at some point people could figure out that a three pronged plug would not go into a two holed outlet. Batteries and the respective devices they went in worked the same way. After that was done, Tilo looked up to the cages at the top shelves. Those were probably the laptops.

He looked around for a step ladder or something to elevate him up there. Eventually he found one set aside in the back of the room, hidden behind the many rows of storage shelves.

As he got up to the higher levels, he pulled out the hatchet and proceeded to smash apart the latch that was held together by the padlock. He proceeded to open the door and he set aside the hatchet. He looked for the smaller boxes, which signified more compact devices. Compact devices meant an easier return trip to Haven.

Once he had found two or three suitable boxes, he proceeded to open them. Then he tried to make room inside his pack for the notebooks. He looked to the power cords, unsure if they would be of use. It couldn't possibly hurt, if in the near future the outlets at Haven were powered directly from the Silent Valley plant. At that point, they wouldn't need to make a return trip just for cords. Tilo smiled smugly, foresight, he supposed. It wasn't really much to be proud of, but then again there wasn't anything left in the world to lay a claim of pride on anymore.

Once all of that was done, he zipped up his pack, reholstered the hatchet, and grabbed the sawn-off and proceeded to leave the store.

Outside, Tilo met Ben, who had returned from the grocers and the pharmacist.

"Find anything?" Tilo shifted his pack, which had gained considerable weight.

"Some painkillers," he said as he shrugged, "That's about it. It's been picked clean for the most part." Obviously, that wasn't entirely true, but he didn't really feel like discussing his sex life with someone who wasn't much younger than his father had been.

"Mmm," Tilo eyed the streets around them. The place was a wasteland of a village. There wasn't much else left to be done. Tilo noticed a pillow in the middle of the street, strange.

"Well," Tilo sighed, "I guess..." then he remembered the truck.

"You want to try the petrol station?"

Ben glanced around, spotting the strange place for a pillow, that seemed to have something tied around it. He took a few steps towards it.

"Did you want to check out the pawn shop? I've still got plenty of room in my pack."

"I'm out of room, filled to the brim. Couldn't hurt could it?" he saw Ben walk toward the pillow, evidently the awkwardness of the object attracted them somehow.

A few more steps and he was standing over the object, "Might be worth checking out."

He knelt down and untied the cloth around the pillowed object, revealing a walkie-talkie, much like an oyster might open up to reveal a pearl within.

"I don't believe it," Ben said as he picked up the walkie-talkie. He tested it a few times, "Dead as that guy in there, though." Idly, he motioned to the electronics store.

Was that a hint of humor in his voice? It was difficult to tell.

"Hmm?" Tilo saw the walkie-talkie.

"This has to be the one that Laney tossed to save herself, right?"

Tilo was unaware of the event that Ben referred to.

Ben shrugged and clipped it to his belt, "Let's go to the pawn shop."

------

Part 4: What Tastes Worse Than Gasoline?

The pawn shop was just like the electronics store. Windows blasted. The place was wrecked. The neon signs out front just pieces of bulbs on the street. Jewelry was taken, no doubt by bandits and looters. As if gold mattered anymore in this world, and most of the time it wasn't even real gold if it came from a pawn shop. Those poor pathetic fools. Most of the items were junk anyway, but a scavenger's job was a scavenger's job. The items were stacked in an irregular manner, lacking order, or rather separation. They weren't divided into categories, they were just assorted throughout the store. Most of the shelves were bare with the exception of large television sets and radios. Those did not work anymore.

Most of the rifles on the shelves behind the counter had been taken, leaving behind one or two. It was actually pretty hard to find something useful among a mess of items. Whether or not they would find something useful, remained to be seen.

Tilo walked around a shelf of magazines and records. He passed by several taxidermic animal heads. What in the world did people need those for back then? Tilo did not know, even though 'back then' was a mere couple of months ago.

Near the back section was a rack lined with guitars. Some had been smashed apart, their strings and wooden bodies on the ground. The ones that were untouched gave Tilo an idea. He was reminded by what Laney had told him during their trip to Tull Hollow. It would be a nice gift, he thought, especially since Christmas was rolling around. He wondered if anybody still celebrated that anymore. Still, if there was anything to raise morale, this would be one of them. He grabbed the one that looked the most pristine. He was not a guitar expert, so he simply picked the one that looked decent in his eye.

Ben had taken to looking around the shop for anything that Rishi had asked for, or anything else that might have been useful. He passed by a shelf that had a bunch of video games on it. Before walking by it completely, he stopped and looked at what they had.

Nothing but crap and old games. But, crap and old games were the only things that could ever be found at a pawn shop. Stores that sold new games usually wouldn't pay much for them if they took them at all; if a game was old, they wouldn't even take it for trade. If they can't sell it for good money then they don't buy it.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Tilo holding something big, and it wasn't until he turned that he saw it was a guitar.

"What are you doing?" he asked, raising a brow. The old man didn't really seem like the type to play guitar.

Tilo looked over to Ben, "Oh, this. I was reminded by what Laney told me. She used to be a musician, I thought this would be nice for her. What do you think?"

Of course.

Part of him wanted to protest and say that they really didn't need it, but the other part of him thought of Laney. How she was really the only person he really felt comfortable with right now.

The old man looked back to Ben, "Don't worry, I'll tell her it was from you," Tilo reassured him.

He was aware of their blossoming relationship, if one could call it that. Anybody who didn't know about it was definitely out of the loop.

"She'll like it," Ben answered quietly, cursing himself silently for not thinking of it first. He resumed his search for anything useful, while remaining mum on the topic of who it was from.

The pawn shop didn't have much in the way of what they had been asked to pick up. A few cameras, a laptop, and some rechargeable batteries.

"I think that about does it," Ben said finally, a hint of exasperation in his voice. He wanted to hurry up and get back to Haven. The news of this Richard was too important to leave for long.

"Ready to go to the gas station?"

It was a good idea. The truck would need gas. Who knows when else they would need the truck, aside from taking the solar panel back to Haven, of course.

Tilo nodded, "Let's go,"

He strapped the guitar to himself and the pair left the pawn shop.

The gas station was at the edge of town, as many were. Ben was glad to be nearly done, but he remained wary. Maybe Cromwell was mostly empty, but there was no telling if there would be anything to come at them from the wilderness.

They had a couple problems, though. They had no gas cans, and they didn't have any way to siphon the gas.

"We should have planned this better," Ben said with a frown.

"We could check inside, see if there are any jugs left."

Ben nodded, "There might be a way to siphon the gas around here, too. Let's check inside first."

The glass on the station's doors weren't smashed, but they were smeared with blood, marked with hands. The shelves were bare, most of the stocked items were probably expired, such as the candy and sweets that lined the entrance. The freezers were offline, which meant the milk and other liquids that needed refrigeration were beyond the point of consuming.

They looked around the isle that usually had petroleum-based products such as motor oil, and other liquids such as anti-freeze, and coolant. There was maybe one gas jug laying around for them to find. The question remained as to how they would get the gas from the pump into the jug, if there was any petrol left in the station.

Crouching slightly, Ben reached for the jug. Before standing, he shook it.

"Empty. Figures. Never can catch a break, can we?" He took the jug outside and set it down next to a car that had been parked at the station. "Now we need a siphon. There's a better chance we find something in the cars. I don't even know if we can get anything from the pumps."

"I'll check the counter, see if I can turn one of them on," in reality the chances were slim that the pumps were still operable, but it never hurt to try.

Most of the buttons on the keyboard didn't help their cause. The power was out. Tilo decided to just bash the keyboard with the hatchet. That didn't solve anything, he sighed.

He returned outside, "Pumps are out of the question. You sure you want to try...you know..." Tilo was referring to the crude siphoning method that involved tasting gasoline.

"Unless you want to leave without getting gas," Ben suggested, shrugging, "Tasting gasoline wouldn't be the worst thing that's happened to me this week."

He made a good point about the gasoline, "We just came to get cameras and stuff. What do you think?"

"I think that we don't know how much gas is in the truck right now. We don't know how much we'll need, and we don't know if we'll be able to have another opportunity to get any."

"Mm, I'll look for a tube or something."

Minutes later Tilo returned from the adjacent car wash with a thin plastic hose, which he handed to Ben.

As he took it, he knelt down beside the car, pulling the flap open and taking off the gas cap. He snaked the tube down into the tank, putting his mouth around the other end and inhaling deeply.

After a few tries with no results, he pulled his mouth away, allowing himself to catch his breath and expel the presence of gasoline before he passed out. There was definitely something down in the tank.

And then he was at it again.

Finally, after another try or two, the golden-brown liquid came up through the tube. Ben coughed and spat some of it out as he put the other end of the tube into empty jug.

"Okay. Maybe I was wrong. That just might have been the worst thing to happen to me this week."

Tilo stood there trying to imagine the taste. It made him self-conscious of the taste of his saliva, which in an instant turned gross. He decided to lean against the car as a lookout against a possible ambush.

And then, the ever inconvenient, annoying, and inappropriate car alarm went off.

"Oh...shit." Tilo said with a Londoner's accent.

The blares scratched the silence of the quaint village, and perhaps began to attract zed from all over. There was perhaps no way that they were going to turn it off, and to try would have wasted their time.

"Let's get out of here."

Ben jumped at the alarm and turned towards it. He scowled briefly, but then extracted the tube from the car and picked up the nearly half full jug.

He didn't know a lot about cars, but he did know that they could shut it off by disconnecting the battery, but he didn't know if they had the time. Some cars had a hood that wouldn't open unless you pressed a button while the car was on, and the alarm that was going off was part of a fairly new vehicle, so that was very much a possibility.

Ben glanced towards the main part of town and saw a few bobbing heads rising up the hill slowly. They definitely didn't have time to turn it off before who knows how many were on top of them.

"Right. The truck's this way. Follow me."

He intended to leave the jug somewhere near the truck and take the siphon back to Haven. They might have another opportunity to get gas - though probably not from Cromwell.

They made a stop in the outskirts of the town. He pulled open the garage door that they'd left the truck. His heart leaped up in his chest when he saw that the garage was empty.

"Shit. Where the hell did it go?" He took a step back to look at the house. This was definitely the right place; this was where they'd left it.

Tilo came in behind him, the garage was bare aside from old tools and cobwebs, "Are you sure this is the right house?"

"It's got to be. Look," he pointed to the ground, where he could see tire tracks in the ground, "There aren't many people who know where we hid this. Mark, Laney, the--" He stopped himself, frowning deeply.

"Who else?" Tilo noticed the pause.

"I think those Caravanners who went with Hoppy knew where it was, too."

Tilo left Ben to himself in the garage, he stepped out to keep an eye for stiffs being attracted by the car alarm. The heads were in the distance, and they were moving at a slow pace. They weren't much of a threat where they were, but carelessness could lead to death.

"We can get this sorted when we get back. You have any space in your pack? I think I'm carrying too much in mine to slow me down," plus the guitar, Tilo would have added.

"Yeah," he said, nodding, pulling open the main pocket on his backpack, after setting down the jug. All that was in there right now were the painkillers he'd gotten from the pharmacist and the few things that he'd gotten from the pawn shop.

Tilo opened his pack and transferred some cameras, batteries, and phones to Ben's pack. He didn't peer inside to see the condoms buried beneath the drugs.

"Alright, I think that's good," Tilo re-zipped the pack.

From there they made their way out of town. The car alarm still ringing in the distance. They made sure to avoid the car entirely and went around the area where the dead were congregating.

After zipping back up his own backpack, Ben tossed it back over his shoulders and trotted a ways until he was sure that they weren't going to be followed by the small horde. As much as he wanted to get back and inform Callie of what they'd discovered, there was no sense in keeping like this all the way back to Haven. It was still going to be a couple hours or so before they passed through the gates again.

He made sure to keep the jug. Truck or no truck, gas was one of the most valuable things these days.

About halfway back to Haven they decided to lay in wait at the crest of a hill and watch for any zed that had followed them. It wasn't really necessary since they had not seen any of the faster ones, indicating that the slow stiffs most likely would have lost their trail by that point.

A minute or two like this passed in silence before Ben decided to stand up slowly. As far as he could see, in all directions, there was no sign of them.

"I think we're good. The alarm was too much for them to resist, I guess."

"I suppose." Tilo relaxed his hold on the shotgun.

------

Epilogue

November 9th, 2013, 1500

Now that they were out of town and out of harm's way for the moment, Ben allowed himself to relax slightly. He wasn't particularly happy with how their trip to Cromwell had ended, but they had gotten away from it without harm, so he kept quiet. In fact, he kept quiet most of the way back to Haven. There wasn't a lot to talk about, he thought, and there wasn't a lot he wanted to talk about. At least nothing that they hadn't already.

The return trip was silent, and uneventful. Before long they finally reached the gates of the farm, where the truck sat, waiting for them.

Ben dropped his shoulders, relieved to see the truck and relieved to know that he wouldn't have to explain the missing truck to Callie.

Without a word, he shook his head and set the jug down on the bed of the truck and entered Haven.

They dropped their sacks outside of Rishi's room, the door was locked. He was probably in there writing equations, as Gary had told them. The furniture was probably stacked in the middle of the room to allow the genius space to work. And if he wasn't, he was probably locked in the southern outbuilding, experimenting. Tilo hadn't given a second thought to the man being experimented on, or what used to be the man. He was zed now, and to an extent, a guinea pig.

"Go on ahead. I'll catch up."

As soon as Tilo was out of sight, Ben opened his backpack once more and took out what he had gotten from the pharmacists and stuffed it all into his pockets.

Moments later they were both inside the kitchen of the farmhouse, Callie was beside her war map.

"The uh...truck's outside?" Tilo asked.

"Hoppy and Laney," Callie replied, "What do you guys want?"

Ben didn't waste any time.

"I need to go to the Rands."

"What?" she responded dryly, her look, one of impatience.

"The guy that killed Tim is with them," he said bluntly, "He and his gang are the ones causing all of these problems. I need to see his face. I need to make sure." He was staring at Callie grimly. "He's a threat."

"I'll go with him, they know me," Tilo added, Callie glanced over to Tilo before Ben continued.

"And we have to end it."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Jesus "Matador" Herrera Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
November 9th 2013, 0430

Upton Abbey.


Ken Rand awoke with a gun being pointed in his face.

He didn’t need any light to know who was behind it.

“Richard. Come to kill an old man in his bed?”

“It’s the only way Ken, the strong keep the weak and that’s not happening at the moment.”

“And I suppose you are the strong?”

“In Upton I am.”

“Strength doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun boy.”

“It’s just a tool.”

“So what are you hoping people will believe I died from lead poisoning? You can’t shoot me.”

“I’m not going to. You’re going to take these.”

Brand tossed a bottle of pills onto the bed.

Ken lifted them to his face and tried to read the label. They were medication for his heart.

“You’ll have to shoot me, I’m not taking these.”

Richard produced a large knife with his left hand. “Or I could use this. Just know my next stop will down the hallway, Elizabeth and Eric’s room.”

“You bastard you wouldn’t get away with it.”

“Yeah I would. People want a strong leader. I tell them I saw someone running off in the direction of the Caravaners and I’m fine. People will believe what I tell them too because they’re scared. Everyone wants an older Brother.”

Ken looked at the mans gleaming eyes and knew he was serious. “You won’t harm Eric?”

“Scout’s honour.” Richard said. “Bottoms up Ken.”

Ken unscrewed the lid of pill bottle.

#


0900


Sandra was carrying a tray containing Ken’s breakfast she made her way up the stairs towards his bedroom. On the staircase she passed Elizabeth and Eric who were going the opposite direction for their own breakfast. After a cheery hello she was on her away again.

She reached the door to Ken’s room and with the grace that comes from practice opened the door with her elbow.

“Rise and shine!” She said in sing song as the door swung open and bounced off something behind it. She gave it nudge but it didn’t budge. When a grey arm reached around and grabbed her ankle she let out a loud scream and dropped the tray. She fell hard on her back as Ken Rand flung the door open. Sandra could see he had turned. His eyes were cloudy and his hand cold on her ankle. He was pulling himself towards Sandra with his teeth bared.

Instinct kicked in and Sandra drove the heel of her trainer swiftly into the Zombie’s face. After a few more kicks she was able get clear of the beast.

“Help! Ken’s.... HELP!”

She ran for the stairs while Ken crawled after her, his legs as useless in death as they had been in life.

As Sandra ran down the stairs she passed two hunters travelling the other way. Except this time there was no cheery hello.

The confirmation came in the form of a gunshot that echoed through Upton Abbey.

#

The entire of Upton Abbey was in an uproar. First there was the fact Ken Rand was dead, secondly there was the fact he’d turned despite not being bitten and lastly there was the issue of who would lead the Rands now. The impromptu meeting was being held in the dining area as the populace tried to deal with the confusion. It was perfect for Brand’s purposes.

He stepped forward and raised his arms in an attempt to calm the crowd.

“I’ll lead. It makes sense that the Hunters have more say over how Upton is run. We need to be strong now, it’s what Ken and William would have wanted.” He shot a wink at Eric who buried his face deeper in his mother’s leg. “As for why Ken turned that’s beyond me but there’s no point in dwelling. It happened and we have to move on.”

As he predicted fear was a great motivator and everyone agreed, only Elizabeth kept silent.

He had no idea why Ken had turned he thought the heart medicine would just kill him not turn him. It was of no matter now his plan was complete he had complete control of Upton. There maybe a few people that would oppose him like Elizabeth but a blue blood like her wouldn’t present much of a threat.


November 9th 2013, 1020

Callie stood in the doorway of Doctor Short’s Medical area watching the mousy woman work. It was a strange thing to see. From the second Callie had told her Hoppy had been wounded the Doctor had set about marshalling her resources. She was brimming with confidence and had no problem ordering those around her unlike her normal persona.

Carter was sitting on her bed watching the scene as well. She had offered her basic first aid training but Short had politely yet firmly declined. By the time Laney and Hoppy arrived the Doctor was ready to deal with the trauma. It took about an hour of work but eventually Short was able to stabilise her. Callie was concerned that the Doctor was having to bastardise a lot of the equipment she was using and could already see that the Scav’s would have a something of task on their hands if they were too save Hoppy’s life.

“Bollocks!” Short cried and a spurt of blood erupted from Hoppy. “Callie, get here now.”

Callie rushed to Short’s side and got her first good look at Hoppy. The girl had gone very pale and was naked from the waist up where Doctor Short was working on a small but very bloody wound. Bubbles of blood were erupting from it and Hoppy’s breathing was faint.

Short directed Callie to put pressure on the wound while she prepared some plastic sheeting and duct tape.

“It’s the pressure, it keeps blowing the dressing off. I don’t have the equipment to deal with this kind of Trauma.”

Callie kept the pressure on the wound until Doctor Short had applied her dressing.

“She needs blood.”

“What is she?” Callie asked.

“Not a clue. I’m AB negative, so I’m no good.” Short explained.

Callie shrugged. “I don’t know what I am.”

“I’m B positive.” Carter called from her bed.

“That’s no good either. We need someone who is O negative, universal donor.”

Callie nodded and raced out of the medical room in search of blood.

#

1050

She came up empty nobody had O Negative and Callie silently cursed herself for not thinking about getting a Blood Type chart up and running sooner. She was about to give up when she noticed him sitting silently on the living room couch with his head in his hands.

Callie wasted no time.

“Shinji. What Blood type are you?”

He looked up and Callie could see tears in his eyes. She remembered he’d lost his wife only hours before but now wasn’t the time for compassion.

“Hello Shinji.” He said morosely.

“Yes, Hello. What Blood Type?” Callie said.

He stared dumbly ahead.

Callie swore and ran to the kitchen where she picked up a pen, paper and kitchen knife. She returned to Shinji and showed him the palm of her hand and sliced it. She flinched at the bite of the knife and let the blood fall onto the page. She then did an equals sign and scribbled AB+.

“Oh Shinji.” Exclaimed suddenly comprehending.

He grabbed the pen and hurriedly wrote O-.

“Hoppy. Needs you.” Callie was wildly gesticulating trying to covey her meaning to the only man who could save Hoppy.

“Hoppy, yes.” Shinji said getting off the couch.

Callie took him by the hand and marched him to Doctor Short who wasted no time setting up a transfusion. Shinji was sitting a chair opposite Hoppy although he had positioned himself so he wasn’t looking at the girl given her some privacy.

“Ok Callie she’s stable but she won’t stay that way. My Blue Peter efforts won’t last long we need serious equipment to deal with this kind of trauma. I’ll prepare a list and you need to get the Scavs out. I reckon she’s got about a day. Shinji can only give so much blood.”

“Alright I’ll get people on it.”

“Good, but first let me patch that hand.”

#

Haven

1500


"And we have to end it."

Callie looked tiredly at the two men but couldn’t help the grin spread over her face which quickly turned into peals of laughter. She was giggling for a full minute before she got her breathing under control.

“We have to end it?” She said wiping a tear from her eye. “You guys sound like John Wayne or something. I’ll give you pair that you’re always good for a laugh.”

She sniffed. “Back in reality land you need to understand the Rand’s hunters are a larger group that know the area well, have weapons training and have killed in the past. You two are a History Professor and a Computing Student, so if you guys are done with the Rambo routine we have real problems. Hoppy is conscious but very sick and she’s going to get worse if she doesn’t get medical help.”

She produced a mission briefing and slid it across the table.

“Hoppy has been shot and the Doc says it’s pretty bad. She needs specialist materials if Hopster is to have a chance at survival. That takes precedent over a suicide mission to assault the Rands. Work it out amongst yourselves who goes. I’ve got Jesus ear marked for a special mission so it’s between you two, Laney and Kiera. We need those supplies within the next 24 hours.”

Job

Scrubs.


Suggested Number of Scavs – 1


Area – West Moreland Hospital

Objective- Recover Medical Supplies. Chest Tubes/ thoracic catheter, Asherman Chest Seals, as many of these as possible. Azithromycin, Clarithromycin, Clindamycin, Voriconazole, Cefdinir, Cefixime, Ciprofloxacin, Doxycycline, Fluconazole, Levofloxacin, Linezolid, Loracarbef, Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim.

Information- Hoppy has been seriously wounded but thanks to Doctor Short and Shinji she is now stable. She’s lost a lot of blood and the Doctor is worried about her lung collapsing all together. Apparently that’s really bad.

She’s put together a list of items that she can use to save Hoppy’s life however they are not in her GP practice in Cromwell. A lot of his stuff is pretty specialised so it looks like you are going to West Moreland Hospital in Kendal. The meds are all types of Antibiotics that do not need to be kept cold. It’s unlikely the hospital will have them all just grab what you can some is better than none. Kendal is a pretty big town, at least it’s big for the Lake District so keep your head on a swivel.

The Doc reckons any immediate danger to Hoppy has passed but she is suggesting Hoppy will not survive with the supplies the Doc currently has. It’s your job to get out to Kendal and back before any harm befalls her.

I’m getting pretty sick of putting up those crosses so be careful and get the supplies. If it comes down to it though your life outweighs the supplies.

Callie.

#

Upton Abbey

1900



Sandra came to her in the evening when all was quiet. Eric was asleep but Elizabeth was just staring at the ceiling. She was wondering how best to escape Upton. She had a feeling though that Brand wouldn’t make it simple. Perhaps she could reach out to Haven, their Professor King seemed nice and more importantly smart.

A knock at the door broke her train of thought. Elizabeth got out of bed and answered .

“Sandra, come in.”

Sandra slunk in like a thief and Elizabeth could relate to her feeling of paranoia. Now Brand was calling the shots the atmosphere at Upton had already begun to change. They spoke in hushed voices on the far side of the room so as not to wake Eric.

“Lizzie, I found something and I don’t know who to tell.”

“You can tell me. What is it?”

“This morning when I was cleaning up Ken’s room I found this.”

Sandra produced a small pill.

“What’s this?”

“It’s heart medication. I found it in Ken’s bed.”

Lizzie stared blankly.

“Ken has different types of Meds for his heart. Some he takes daily and I look after them. Others he takes only when he’s having an attack.”

“Ok.” Elizabeth said still not understanding the importance of the heart meds.

“This is the type he takes daily so there is no reason for him to have them, I control the administration of Meds and I’m very precise about it. Even if he did have them he would have known these aren’t the right type of Meds to combat an attack. He may as well have eaten Tic Tacs.”

“So you think he died from a heart attack but took the wrong meds?”

“That’s what I thought at first but with Heart meds being so rare I can account for every pill, this one isn’t one of mine.” Sandra said. “If he was having a heart attack he was taking the wrong Medication that he shouldn’t have even had in the first place.”

“Right that dosen’t make sense Ken is meticulous.”

“Exactly but I checked my stores anyway and they are all present and accounted for.”

“So either Ken had a supply you didn’t know about...”

“Which is impossible.” Sandra interjected.

“... or someone gave him a few of these.”

“A lot of those. I think he was murdered. In a high enough dose that would trigger a heart attack. Ken knew it would be undetectable without a clue so that’s why he dropped a pill for me to find.”

“So you think it was murder?”

“In my opinion yes.”

“That doesn’t explain why Ken turned though.” Lizzie pondered.

“I know I can’t explain that. Maybe the pills were laced?”

“If the heart pills would have done the job why... why zombify him?” Lizzie said after trying and failing to find a better word.

Sandra shrugged. “Whatever is happening it stinks and the suspect list isn’t exactly long is it?”

“No.” Lizzie said.

“So what do we do? Brand is a psycho, he can’t run this place.”

“I know I was thinking of running to Haven with Eric but it’s too dangerous.”

“I could make it.” Sandra offered.

“It will make you look suspicious though.”

“Yeah well it’s better that then letting Brand remain unopposed, nobody here is going to do anything about it.”

“Alright. I’ll cause a distraction so you can escape tomorrow morning, at guard change would be a good time. Go to Haven and give this to Professor King.”

Lizzie quickly scribbled a note and folded it into William Rand’s wallet which she then handed to Sandra.

Sandra nodded.


#

November 10th 2013,
1100


Jesus was sweating under his multiple layers and was wondering how he got himself into this situation. He was standing in the middle of Silent Valley Solar Energy Plant with Mark the Haven Guard/ carpenter and Gary Flower who was so scared he was shaking like a shitting dog.

It was a peculiar saying he’d picked up from the English locker rooms and he found it apt. It made sense though last time Gary had been to silent valley he’d seen Chip die and nearly died himself. Figured that the guy would be nervous.

They were loading up the last of the solar panels, Mark and Jesus were there for the heavy lifting while Gary was there to make sure they weren’t damaging the panels when they cut them down. Mercifully they were light but as reported they were awkward to carry even with two people, Monroe had been wise to get the truck.

In a way they were putting all their eggs in the solar basket as they had used the fuel earmarked for the generator to make this run. The truck had been used frequently over the last few days and was in the red when Mark had gone to turn it over. Callie had agreed with the decision rationalising the fuel would run out anyway so they may as well use it trying to get the solar panels.

Mark slid the last Solar panel into the truck and dusted his hands.

“Job done let’s get back.”

“Wait do we not need a battery or something, you know so we can store the energy for use in the night?”

Mark and Gary glanced at each other, both surprised at the intelligent question from the footballer.

“Ideally yes but that’s a job beyond Haven. Besides I’ve been stockpiling rechargeable... well everything. The idea is we charge everything up during the day so it’s ready for use during the night.” Gary said quietly.

“I see well let’s get the show on the road then.” Jesus nodded. Mark climbed into the back of the truck with his rifle while Jesus and Gary climbed in front. Gary was driving and Jesus was keeping his eyes peeled.

They were leaving the plant when Mark curled his nose up in disgust. It smelt like rotten barbecue. He looked to his left and saw a naked and badly burnt zombie staggering after the truck.

“Jesus Christ.” Mark muttered as he tapped on the cab. “We got one following us. Shit make that two.”

In the cab Jesus could see more in the distance.

“Shit. We’re gonna get surrounded.” He said.

Gary’s hands were shaking badly now. “What do I do?”

“Chill. Nobody ever did anything by freaking out.” Jesus said with an easy smile.

Jesus rolled down his window and called to Mark.

“Take the long way home, I have distraction devices so I’ll lead them away. Once you get to a road you can pick up some speed and put some distance between you and them. I’ll loop round and come back home later.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah I need a run anyway.” Jesus smiled, wound up his window and prepared his gear. He then stepped out of the Cab and began his run calling to the zombies as he ran.

#

November 10th 2013,
1440


The Zombs had been pretty persistent but Jesus saw that as a good thing, it meant there were less on Mark and Gary. He’d run further south than he’d intended and he figured it was time to loop back first he had to shake the Zombs.

Every Scav had their own method but Jesus found the best way was to enter a building and close doors between him and the horde. They got snarled up in the building giving him time to escape via a back door. He found a large farmhouse that looked like it would do the trick and made a run for it. He ran inside and up the stairs. He left the front door open but closed every other door. It would ensure the zombs got well and truly entangled inside the structure.

He left via a bedroom window and soon found himself on the ground leaving the house in his dust.

He slowed to a jog as he wanted to avoid making too much noise and he’d been running for hours so he figured he deserved a break. His clothes were a mess of sweat and dirt. Jesus thought it might be time to retire his teeshirt.

It was a cool day but the snow had for the most part been melted by the recent heavy rain. There were multiple ice patches and according to Gary more Snow was on the way. Jesus shrugged. He liked the snow.

He’d been running for about an hour when he stopped to check in with Haven. He spoke to Callie and gave her his position. He figured he’d be home in a couple of hours at his current pace. He was in no rush, there was a lot of bad feeling in Haven at the moment due to the number of deaths. He’d been toying with the idea of leaving as at times it felt like tensions would boil over.

Jesus was thinking about this when he heard the moan. He dropped his hand to his hammer and stopped running.

It wasn’t a normal Zed moan, no this was more controlled. He then realised he was hearing sobbing, a child’s sobbing. He kept the hammer out and followed the sound. If it was a kid he couldn’t leave them but at the same time he wasn’t about to walk around unarmed.

He found a burnt out Nissan in a clearing and approached with caution. He peaked into the back seat and saw a girl in a school uniform hugging her knees and weeping.

“Are you ok there?”

The girl looked up and wiped the tears from her face. She had long red hair and her face was blotchy from crying.

“Hi my name is Jesus. Do you need help?”

“Hey-Zeus?” The girl repeated.

“Yeah. What’s your name?”

“Natalie. I’m lost. My dad went out for food and told me to stay here, he hasn’t been back for days.”

Jesus noticed Natalie glance over his shoulder. He turned his head and in his corner of his eye detected a flurry of motion. He didn’t have time to react as the axe swung down and into the top of his head. His attacker tried to pull the axe free but it was firmly wedged. Jesus collapsed and began convulsing.

Natalie leapt out of the car and over Jesus, who was no longer capable of comprehending much, and hugged the man who had swung the axe.

“We did good Daddy!”

“Sure did pumpkin. Lot of meat on this one and that looks like a nice watch!”

“Yay!” Natalie cried as she jumped up and down.

Daddy then pulled the axe free of Jesus’ head and swung it again.

#

November 10th 2013,
1650


Gary and Mark were tinkering with the Solar panels and Callie was monitoring radio traffic for the runners still out in the field. Jesus was still out there although he had checked in a few hours ago. A knock at the door pulled her from her post. She turned and saw Carter standing in the doorway.

“Hey want some company?” Carter asked.

“Yeah sure come in.” Callie nodded. She knew this moment had been coming and how she handled it would decide a lot. She had to size up Carter while she was doing the same to her. It was the kind of thing Callie excelled at.

Carter hobbled in on a pair of makeshift crutches and sat at the end of the table.

“So you’re the boss?”

“It’s not really like that, I was just first here.”

“That’s not the vibe I’m getting, you call the shots.”

“I guess but it’s more democratic than that.”

Carter nodded. “I see.”

They lapsed in to silence for a few seconds.

“I, uh, wanted to say thanks for saving me. I know you lost one of your people.”

“Yeah we did.” Callie let the words hang. “We couldn’t leave someone out there though. There’s survival and then there’s being an asshole.”

“I’m glad you did. Your man was very professional, Forces?”

“Yeah he was army or something.”

“It showed. Very controlled. I, uh, know you were close and set this place up with him. I just wanted to say, I appreciate it.”

“Don’t mention it. Time may come you have to do something similar.”

Carter nodded.

“I saw one of your people got captured and slapped around a little.”

“Yeah Ben. He’s dealing with some issues, but he’s not a bad a kid. We just don’t really have time for mental break downs right now. We’ve lost two people in the space of a week.”

“Losing people is hard. We took a lot of casualties defending Valley.”

“RAF Valley in Wales? You mentioned that before.”

“Yeah pain in the arse it was. We should have retreated much sooner but Command and Control had totally collapsed.” Carter shook her head at the memory.

“So the military isn’t functioning anymore?”

“What can I tell you? When the police and civilian services got overwhelmed they called in the Forces to try to control the outbreak. Course that didn’t work because we had no idea what we were dealing with. Lost a lot of people, people with the skills to survive this kind of thing. The brass is probably still out there, our guts their glory you know?”

“I think I can relate, except I’m the brass.” Callie frowned.

“Heavy rests the crown I guess.”

They lapsed into silence again and this time it was Callie who broke it.

“Monroe was the only person we had trained in any kind of combat, you got any training like that?”

Carter shook her head. “I’m a chopper pilot. I got escape and evasion training and I can operate some weapons systems but I was usually above the action.”

“Sorry, weapons systems?”

“Guns. I can work most weapons the RAF are issued with, combat theory isn’t my bag though. That’s army stuff.”

Callie nodded.

“What I can do is operate a radio and run ops. We had to work our own mission plans and that meant map studies. I can help you out with that kind of thing.”

“You want to help with the admin?” Callie said with a sceptical eyebrow raised.

“Yeah it’s not like I’m running anywhere any time soon.” Carter said pointing at her leg.

“Ok you can help. We have one Scav in the field at the moment. I guess you should get familiarised with the area. Monroe organised all the maps, they’re beside the bread bin behind you.”

Carter twisted awkwardly and grabbed the files. She smiled at the cover which was very precise and neat. It was organised in the fashion of an old school Map Book. Before the outbreak it was all digital, this was something of a throwback for Carter. She buried her head in the books and started studying.

#

November 10th 2013,

1700


Doctor Short had long since stopped taking blood from Shinji, in fact she’d taken more than she should have and now had the man under observation in the bed that had been occupied by Carter. Hoppy was stabilised and was even up and talking but Short was never far from her side. She had broken two ribs, Pneumothorax, a punctured lung and blood loss. Short was convinced the equipment on the list would allow her to treat the wounds but it was a matter of time, Short’s makeshift dressings would only last so long. She needed the correct equipment to deal with injuries or Hoppy would die.

This was frustrating to Short as Hoppy’s injuries where entirely treatable it was simply the lack of supplies. She needed the chest tube apparatus to stop to lung collapsing. Once she had that inserted the treatment plan became simple. Ensuring the wound was kept clean, allowing the ribs to heal and finally the removal of the tube. It would take weeks but Hoppy was lucky to be alive. The bullet had passed straight through her and avoided all major internal organs, save the lung. She had been particularly lucky as the bullet passed close to her spine. That would have spelt the end on her Scav career at least.

With nothing else to do Short checked the pulses of her two charges.


#

November 10th 2013,

1720


The panels were up but they hadn’t got the opportunity to get a full charge. Mark was sitting in his Crow’s nest with the scoped rifle when he heard a twig snap somewhere below outside the perimeter.


He lifted his large lamp and shone it in the direction of the noise. The Lamp had once been used in rabbit hunting now it served a different purpose. The beam found a bedraggled looking woman making her way up the hill towards Haven. She had her hands raised above her head.

Sandra called out. “My name is Sandra Hargrave! I am unarmed and need to speak to Doctor, I mean Professor King!”

“Tilo?” Mark muttered. “Where are you coming from?”

“Upton Abbey! King will know me I have a message!”

“Ok approach the gate then turn around and get on your knees then interlock your fingers behind your head!”

Sandra complied and Mark went outside, by now the entire of Haven was out and looking into the darkness with weapons drawn. Mark tied Sandra’s arms and marched her to Callie.

#

Carter, Tilo, Callie, Sandra and Mark were all in the kitchen. Sandra was starting to feel like a criminal but in a way she could understand the suspicion.

“Speak.” Callie said.

“Elizabeth Rand sent me. I have a message in my jacket pocket.”
Mark started rifling through her jacket which he removed when he was checking her for weapons. He produced a small black wallet and shrugged. Recognition flashed in Tilo’s and Callie’s eyes.

Mark tossed the Wallet to Callie and sheet of folded A4 tumbled out onto the kitchen table. It said Professor King on it and reminded Callie of the notes the kids in her class used to pass.

“Guess that’s for you Tilo.” Callie said. Tilo lifted the letter and quietly read it before handing it to Callie who read it aloud.

“Professor King,

I apologise for intruding but Upton Abbey is in trouble. Ken Rand has been killed and I suspect it was murder as does Sandra who you hopefully remember from your visit here. She can fill you in on the details.

I implore you to help us, the people here are scared and are reaching out for anything. Unfortunately that seems to be resulting in the wrong people getting in charge.

If Sandra makes it this far please ensure she is not mistreated.

Yours

Elizabeth Rand.


“I’d give her high marks for penmanship.” Callie said after a beat.

“This Kenneth Rand what makes you think he was murdered?” Carter asked.

Sandra explained that Ken was taking heart medication he shouldn’t have had that would have been ineffective.

“What about suicide? I’ve seen it happen to the strongest.”

“No not Ken, besides there was no way he got those pills on his own.”

“That you know of.” Carter said.

“Let’s go back to this Zombie situation. You say he turned without being bitten?” Callie asked.

“Yes well I suppose he could have got bitten on the face. The Hunters used a shotgun to put him down, there wasn’t much left of his head. If he had been bitten though that Zombie must have been the dairy milk man of Zombies because he didn’t leave a trace.”

“Weird. I’ll ask Rishi about that.” Callie said.

“So you want us to send one of our guys over there? You know one of your people has been running around murdering other survivors? A Gang of Five of them actually.” Carter said. Callie had spent the afternoon filling Carter in on the history of Haven.

“No but I bet I know who was responsible. Brand?”

Tilo nodded at Callie. That was the man he and Ben had concluded to be responsible.

“Let me guess he’s the one you think killed Rand?”

“Yeah both of the Rands probably.”

“Ok we need to take a look at this guy. Make sure he’s not a threat.”

“So what do we do? We can’t attack them, they out number and outgun us.” Mark said.

“I know.” Callie muttered.

She thought for a long moment while staring into space. When her thoughts came back to the room she found herself staring at Tilo.

The History Professor.

“Greeks bearing gifts.”

Mark looked at Tilo who appeared to be as confused as he was.

“This Brand guy. Sounds like a narcissist or a psychopath or whatever, means he likes it when people play up to his sense of superiority. So we use that as a cover to get in there and see what the hell is happening.”

“Narca-what? I thought you were a school teacher not a head shrink.” Mark said.

“You never watch Criminal Minds?”

“What?”

“Nevermind look. If we go over there, say we want to start the trades that Ken Rand proposed and play up to his ego he might just let us inside the building. From there Tilo can work out what the hell is going on once he has a word with Elizabeth Rand. See what I mean?” Callie explained.

“What if it all goes wrong?” Carter asked.

“Well if Tilo doesn’t check in then we tell the Caravaners we know who killed their guys and see what happens.”

“You mean start a war?” Carter asked.

“Don’t be melodramatic. They are the two biggest groups around here, we side with the Caravaners and take the Rands out. It’s a win win. We get back in with the Caravaners and protect ourselves from the Rands.”

“Then why not tell them now?”

“Because they lost people to those assholes and they will want blood. It’s clear not everyone supports Brand but I don’t think the Caravaners would see it that way once the bloodlust descends. They’ll slaughter everyone or be slaughtered in the attempt.”

“Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” Carter offered. “I mean think about it. We let the Caravaners know what we know then let them go to war with the Rands. If the Caravaners win their numbers will have been thinned making them less of a threat and if the Rands win hopefully we could steamroll the survivors.”

Everyone in the room looked at Carter with wide eyes and Mark’s jaw actually dropped.

“I’m just saying.” Carter shrugged.

“That might be too far at the moment. The Caravaners can still be allies and we can’t assume Brand is evil. The evidence is pointing that way but it’s from conclusive. We need an investigation.” Callie offered although Carter’s callousness had shocked her.

“So the plan is to use the trade agreement to play up to Brand and make contact with Elizabeth Rand?” Mark asked.

“Correct. I say we send Tilo he knows the area and has a relationship with the people.” Callie said.


“I see. Will he be able to take care of Brand if it comes to it?” Carter asked.

All eyes fell on Tilo but Callie saved him from having to answer. “Tilo is smart and knows what’s at stake he can deal with it whatever way he needs to.”

Carter shrugged. “Fair enough what are you going to trade?”

“Haven’t thought about that.” Callie mused.

“We were carrying a lot of supplies might be something there worth salvaging. Food, that kind of thing. I think you guys should hold onto the weapons.”

“Yeah I think so too. What kind of weapons, we talking here?” Callie asked

“Couple of 9mm Browings , probably a few SA-80s. Nothing too heavy.”

Callie stared blankly. “I do people stuff, we had someone else for the guns. What does that mean?”

“Pistols and assault rifles.” Carter said simply.

“Ok so sounds like we got our selves an honest to God Scav mission. I’ll prepare the briefs.”

Job


An Inspector Calls.

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1


Area – RAF crash site. Upton Abbey.

Objective- Recover items to trade with the Rands from Crash site. Investigate death of Kenneth Rand.

Information- Ok so this one is a little complicated.

A woman called Sandra Hargrave arrived at Haven carrying a letter from Elizabeth Rand for Tilo. Sandra and the letter tell us things may have gone a little bad in Upton and it would be in our interest to check it out.

Elizabeth and Sandra believe and Man called Richard Brand is responsible for the death of Ken Rand. This is part of his powerplay to take over Upton. Apparently Brand believes himself to be a strong leader and the only one who worthy of leading. We intend to use his narcissism as a method to get inside Upton.

You will visit the downed RAF chopper and try to retrieve whatever you can. Not weapons though. Use the items as a way to ingratiate yourself with Brand. Play to his ego. Once inside locate Elizabeth Rand and get to the bottom of this mystery. Find out if Brand killed Ken and try to work out what Brand’s plans are for Haven. This could get ugly and there is a very real possibility you might need to kill Brand. It would be far better if you make this look like an accident. Talk to Doc Short or Rishi about how to achieve this.

Lastly it would appear Ken Brand turned despite not being bitten we’re looking into this but be aware he may have been poisoned. Odds are they could try the same trick twice assuming that’s what they did to begin with.

If we don’t receive a radio transmission at every four hours we will assume you have been captured and tell the Caravaners what we know. We want to avoid this as it will lead to a massive loss of life.

Good Luck.

Callie.


Bonus Mission.

Sea King Down.

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1


Area – RAF crash site.

Objective- Recover weapons and Items from the Sea King.

Information- When my Sea King went down it was loaded with supplies weapons, MREs, Medical equipment and ammo. By now the Zombie activity should have returned to normal so you can pop in and pop out without too much bother. Also of note is a radio equipment that would help boost the signal of the Haven Comms allowing for less atmospheric and geological interference.

A. Carter

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

November 9th, 2013

0925

It was absolutely brilliant.

Rishi had managed to compile several small handbooks containing his observations on the nature of the undead. It was fairly short, speaking relative to most novels, only ten pages of his small and neat handwriting. It gave him a sense of accomplishment, knowing that he was contributing, in some small way, to the way of human life. The Scavs had their wits and their weapons, and the actions they took were necessary for the continuation of their lives without a doubt, but Rishi tended to be more forward thinking. True, his work wouldn’t show immediate results, but he was patient. If he learned anything from his four decades of schooling, it was patience. The payout for all the toil he had gone through the past couple weeks had presented itself in the form of the pocket-sized handbooks bound together with his sewing needle and some glue. He included ten extra blank pages in addition for the Scav’s to write in, should they’ve found it necessary. For some strange reason, it was as if they had an endless supply of pens and paper, so there was more than enough to hand out to everybody, not just the Scav’s.

“Finally.” Dr. Sharma exhaled as he leaned back in his chair. He sat back and admired his handiwork. He attached a pen to each and went downstairs to the command center with the notebooks in hand.

“Ms. Winters, I have some good news!” he exclaimed when he saw her scrambling some eggs. She turned around and gave Rishi a weak smile. Rishi was aware that she had taken Monroe’s death as a heavy blow, but his quirky mannerisms remained the same around her regardless. There was no need to drop morale any more than it had already been.

“What is it?”

“I’ve finished writing up new guidebooks for everyone! I have taken the original mass of paper and ink back to work out of, and in its place, I have created several pocket-sized and to the point versions of my earlier work. I understand that only a handful managed to skim the original, and it was laced with personal opinions and other unintelligible scribbling, but these copies are clean cut and easy to read!”

He dropped the lot of them on the table and handed one to Callie to look over. With a slightly tired, but quizzical gaze, Callie looked it over.

“Half of this book is blank?”

“Yes, of course they are. I added in the extra pages so that everybody could take notes, or jot down their thoughts whenever the need arose. I understand that some of our populace has taken to expressing their feelings in a more…recreational manner, but I figured it would help. I know it helps me.”

Rishi grabbed a pen out of his pocket and gestured for Callie to take it.

“I know it isn’t much, but here you go. I will hand these out to the rest of headquarters, just be sure to inform the Scav’s that these are here for the taking.”

When she took the pen, Rishi immediately turned and grabbed books for the rest of the residents of Haven that were present.


November 9th 2013

1600

“Mr. Fowler! Look at all this wonderful equipment the Scavs brought for us!” Rishi exclaimed as he burst into the techie’s room without warning.

“Fuck!” the man said as he jumped straight off the couch. “Dear god don’t you knock?”

“Waste of time. Gary, you must have a look at these! There are the new super phones, a dozen or so top of the line video cameras, and the new 50 Terabyte laptops! They were even so thoughtful as to pick up cables and chips for us to use.”

Though the larger man was livid at Rishi’s sudden intrusion, his anger began to subside once the professor began listing off the brand new equipment. Gary noticed Rishi was carrying a sack full of the stuff he mentioned.

“Think of it as an early Christmas present.” Rishi said as walked over to Gary and handed him a laptop with some cables. “I hear you’re going to go out tomorrow?” Rishi asked.

“Thanks. Yeah, we’re going to grab one of those solar panels. I’m just going through my files on it right now.” He sat back down, setting the laptop to the side. When the professor didn’t leave, Gary shook his head ever so slightly and threw Rishi a frustrated look. “What?”

“I will need your assistance with a project of mine once the solar panel is installed.”

Well?”

“Many of these cameras aren’t designed for use by our Scavs. They need to be less hand-held and more ‘attachable’ to the user. I have drawn out some diagrams for you to look over.” Rishi said as he reached into the sack and produced more paper. “There are several different versions I had in mind, but I need your assistance taking the cameras apart and re-organizing them into proper Scav-Cams.” Gary took the papers and looked through them quickly. The drawings were surprisingly good. There were depictions of makeshift helmet cameras to shoulder mounted cameras and even wearable lipstick cameras. “As you can see there, once I re-program this one, we will essentially have homemade nightvision goggles, albeit visible, but far less so than the torches. In this one, the Scavs will essentially have a rear-view mirror at all times, and with this one, they will even be able to zoom in, effectively creating binoculars! All the while, we are recording the footage. What do you say?”

Gary sat on his couch bent over in serious concentration. Unlike his first awkward dealings with the professor, he was actually presented an opportunity to work on something else worthwhile, something challenging. Instead of balking at Rishi’s enthusiasm, like the others surely would’ve over such a project, Gary simply nodded his head, the gears clicking in his mind as he looked over the drawings.

“I think a couple of these are doable. This nightvision idea you have is good, but it’s too bulky.”

“So you’ll help me with these then?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I can do this. It’s better than cleaning the chicken coop.”

“Wonderful! I will leave these here with you then. There are some others that I’m keeping for now, as I will still have to hand out something to the Scavs.” Rishi placed the sack of cameras on Gary’s desk. “And please, do come back alive. I would hate to have to do this myself.” Rishi said as he turned and left Gary’s small room, the icy glare of the techie stabbing at the professor’s back as he exited the room.


November 10th 2013

0444

Rishi woke early as usual, grateful his sleep cycles granted him the time he needed to conduct his research. With the camera’s they brought him, he could finally reach out beyond the walls of Haven. He was simply not cut out for dirt work, and it showed when had to escape from Cambridge. Because of the safety concern posed by letting Watson free to roam, he couldn’t conduct any more real research without the proper tools. Dr. Short made it very clear to him earlier that she would not surrender any more supplies to his work either. So much for professional courtesy.

He grabbed his glasses and began scratching out another job for the Scavs, excited to see the outside world.

Job


Big Brother

Suggested number of Scavs – x

Area – anywhere

Objective – Simply to observe and record.

Information – Thanks to the efforts of the Scavengers Kiera and Tilo, I have managed to compile a relevant series of guidebooks on zombie behaviour and biology. Unfortunately, due to the hazard of setting Watson free, I cannot obtain further information regarding the nature of the undead. However, once again thanks to the efforts of Tilo, and another Scavenger by the name of Ben, I may continue delving deeper. You may notice the aforementioned booklets on the tables, if you have not already received one, as well as a number of camera-phones. These phones have been charged and programed to function normally. What I require of you, is to take two or three of these devices with you, and walk around, recording the undead, and anything else of particular interest.

Since you are once again actively seeking out the presence of the undead, the mission is of course, dangerous. Though there are tests I will need you to conduct in the field in my absence, I urge you to use discretion when it comes to whether or not you follow through, as the hazards may very well outweigh the benefits reaped.

I have outlined below a number of tests you may try to accomplish throughout your journey.

• Flick your torch on and off repeatedly directly at one or more subjects from a distance
• Shine your torch around varying surfaces nearby one or more subjects
• Moan like one of the subjects whilst nearby
• Throw a Molotov cocktail directly into one or more subjects whilst remaining undetected
• Light a fire nearby one or more subjects and observe
• Sever the arms of one or more subjects, retreat, and observe
• Puncture the torso of one or more subjects, retreat, and observe
• Gouge the eyes or otherwise blind one or more subjects and observe
• If eye gouging is successful, move around subject constantly making different noises
• Break, sever, or otherwise severely cripple the legs of one or more subjects and observe
• Throw the remains of a dead animal directly at one or more subjects from a distance
• Throw the remains of a dead animal nearby one or more subjects from a distance
• Throw a living but crippled animal directly at one or more subjects from a distance
• Throw a living but crippled animal nearby one or more subjects from a distance
• Throw the remains of a previous subject directly at another subject from a distance
• Throw the remains of a previous subject nearby one or more subjects from a distance
• Talk to one or more subjects
• Sing to one or more subjects
• Verbally threaten one or more subjects
• Tell jokes to one or more subjects
• Laugh at one or more subjects
• Launch fireworks directly into the sky above one or more subjects and observe
• Splash liquids directly into a subjects face
• Make an excessively loud noise nearby a subject

These are of course just a sampling of tests you may conduct during your excursion, though you may also include any you feel relevant. I will be on the radio during the entirety of your mission, along with Ms. Winters, and will be here to advise you should the need arise. I understand that the danger of operating at night will increase the level of potential danger exponentially, and thus, until I have prepared appropriate night vision, this operation will be performed solely throughout the daylight hours.

Special Equipment – If I have not already given you a booklet and a pen, there are several on the counter nearby for the taking. Several cellular devices are also required, as I need you to record your ongoing throughout the day. I will also recommend you take several food items with you, as this will likely be a long excursion.


Rishi


November 10th 2013

1830

Rishi was tinkering with the laptop he claimed for himself back in his room. Gary had hoarded a surprising number of programs since the start of the apocalypse, some of which had Rishi physically pump his fist into the air when he saw them. Some of them had already been used the maximum number of times, but Rishi was a world class computer programmer. Hacking was but child’s-play, though the lack of internet was upsetting. There was so much knowledge that had been acquired over the past few decades, and now most of it was inaccessible. Such a waste.

“Rishi, its Callie. Do you have a minute?”

“For my saviour, anything. Come in, come in.” Callie opened the door and looked around at the scrawling on the walls before making her way to the pile of furniture in the middle of the room. Since the beginning of winter, Dr. Sharma had re-arranged everything to resemble an imaginary fort a child might make, though it resembled an artificial cave more than anything. He reasoned it would help keep him warm, which was met with ridicule. Unlike the others who had seen his room for the first time, Callie didn’t appear surprised or curious. She didn’t seem fazed at all by the professors antics, and instead retained her typical easygoing yet businesslike attitude.

“So” she said as she pulled a chair up to the table “I heard a rumour recently.” She continued, as she crossed her arms over the back of the chair.

“I assure you Ms. Winters, I did not consume Mark’s secret stash of cookies.”

Callie let out a single high-pitched laugh as her head fell into her arms, shaking the entire time.

“Oh, were you talking about Ben and Laney?”

“No,” she said still shaking her head, suppressing another laugh at Rishi’s expense. Once she composed herself, she looked back at him. “No, nothing like that. I just had a visit with a messenger from the Rands.”

“Oh?”

“While we were talking, she mentioned that one of the people in their group had turned, but the strange thing is there were no bite-marks.” She said plainly. Her face became hard to read after that point. “Seeing as how you’re spending time with one of, you know, them, I figured you might have some insight into why that happened.”

Rishi’s brow furrowed heavily as she spoke, his curiosity sparking.

“What did you say?”

“She said the man was on heart medication, and that he might have taken the wrong pill. The Rands that found him apparently blew his face off, but from her account, there wasn’t a zombie anywhere near him at any point. Do you have any idea what might have caused him to turn?”

“You say there were no bitemarks?”

“Supposedly.” She said, shrugging her shoulders.

“If that is truly the case, then our situation might be far more dismal than previously thought.”

“Why is that?”

“If he turned without being bitten, then there are several potential reasons as to why that may be, and none of them are good. Where is this woman? I need to speak with her right now. Where is she?” Rishi stood up, knocking his chair over in the process, and rushed to the door as he talked. Callie reflexively stood and followed the man, worried at his reaction.

“She’s downstairs in the family room, Rishi, what’s wrong?”

The two of them quickly made their way to Sandra, Rishi explaining on the way.

“So far, we have only seen bitten people turn, so it’s safe to assume the typical method of transmission is in the saliva. Of course, I don’t have a microscope, so I couldn’t confirm this, but because we hadn’t seen any other method of transmission, I thought it was safe to assume the bite is what got you. If there are other methods of transmission, we are vulnerable to infection without further information on the virus, or whatever it is that is doing this to people.”

Callie didn’t say anything, but she understood very well what the professor was saying. When they came to the woman, Rishi began speaking without introducing himself.

“What were the circumstances of this person’s death?”

“Pardon?”

Callie quickly came up behind him and cleared the situation down, explaining to Sandra the hypothesis Rishi came up with. She once again explained the situation to Rishi in detail. When she finished, Rishi’s face had fell into his hands.

“What is it? Rishi, say something!” Callie said as she grabbed his arm and gave him a shake.

“Callie, do you know how many germs we carry around in our mouths?”

“Rishi, what does that have to do with any-”

“There is no transmission!” He yelled at her, Sandra simply staring in a shocked sort of awe.

“Rishi, calm down. Tell me, what are you talking about?”

“People don’t die because there is a virus in the saliva that slowly turns them into a zombie Callie. People die from the bite wounds because of infection brought on by the germs in our mouths! They just die Callie, they just die. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. Callie, this is very important. We might all be zombies already.”

“Excuse me?” Sandra said, clearly outraged at the statement.

“Slow down. We might all be zombies?” Callie said, motioning with her hand for Sandra to calm down.

“Yes. How do you explain so many people turning at once, all throughout England? Everywhere at once? Look, not all of us might be infected, but I would reason otherwise. It would be safer to think that all of us have contracted this ‘zombification’ process, and that if one of us were to pass away, we would come back regardless of the circumstances surrounding our deaths.”

“Can you be sure?”

“I would need to see it for myself, but I believe that might be the case.”

“I can’t listen to this.” Sandra said, getting up and leaving the room. Rishi looked at Callie and sighed.

“I am going to watch over Hoppy while we wait. Mark told me about her condition, so if she doesn’t make it, I need to be there to make sure…” He trailed off as he let out a sight. “Let's just hope that for once, I am wrong.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Erin Hooper
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Messiah
Scrubs

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

Dawn

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

Mid-Morning

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.

"...help, 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.

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Messiah
(Please disregard multiple posts!)

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Messiah
(See above.)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Alison Carter
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

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.

Epilogue
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.

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
Please Ignore. I'm all thumbs.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

An Inspector Calls

November 10th, 2013

Upton Abbey


Ewan Alden had not received any transmissions from the rest of the gang of five through the radios that they were carrying or were supposed to be carrying. And any attempts he made to call out were met with static.

The situation at Upon seemed to be deteriorating by the minute as of the day before, when Ken Rand had to be put down by the hunters remaining at the abbey. People were still fearful and wondering how their elder leader turned. There was hysteria. At first the hunters went through checking everyone for bite marks, they began combing the halls of the manor, hoping to find an undead roaming about. However, none were found and they began to closely examine the late Ken Rand's body. They saw that he had no bite marks or wounds of any kind on what remained of his body after Richard Brand, almost remorselessly, blew off his head. They concluded that the only possible place he could have been bitten would have been on his head. It was inconclusive. That news made it even worse. People began to fear that there was some new form of transmission of the zombification.

Richard Brand, opportunistic, a word to describe the man, seized the initiative. He quickly took command, even though past incidences have proven that he was far from the sort of leaders that Ken and William were. Of course, he was a hunter, and they supplied the most in terms of food and safety. And by that point, news of William's death had reached everyone. The confusion as to how he died though was a result of the ever accurate rumor mill. That worked in Brand's favor. The mantle of leadership was up for grabs, but there were no claimants aside from Richard. The hunter smiled upon his fortune, and handily took his throne.

This only added insult to injury, especially to those who perceived the feud between the Rands and Brand's group and sided with the former rather than the latter.

From there, the ground seemed to shift. At once, Richard made it clear that the four hunters of his clique had probably turned or killed themselves to prevent turning. It would explain why they did not return to Upton. Most of the remaining hunters immediately fell under Richard. Those who were formerly with Kenneth grudgingly accepted him as leader, only Rory went so far as to make a claim for Elizabeth, saying that this was her father-in-law and husband's property. They spat on the boy and sent him out into the garden to tend the crops. Property in the new world belonged to the one with guns not to the one who held onto a defunct legal document.

Interestingly, in the old world, the legal document was just more than paper. There was an arsenal of guns behind it, so it was actually nothing new, not that many people cared. Except paper no longer had the support of guns.

------

That same morning it came to Richard's attention that one of the residents at Upton, Sandra Hargrave, had gone missing. She had been the caretaker for Kenneth, and she was a close friend of the Rands through her connection with the late elder. Richard knew all of this. He also knew that she was responsible for managing his medication. He wondered if she discovered what happened and immediately fled. It would only make him wonder more as to whether or not she told anyone anything before she left.

"Do you know where Sandra is?" Richard inquired.

"Sandra?" Elizabeth had a quizzical expression.

"She's nowhere to be found. Do you know where she could have went?" Richard raised his voice.

"No, I have no idea." Elizabeth replied.

It was bad enough that he could have been responsible for both her husband and her father-in-law's death, and now he was attempting to make advances on her. If not that, then perhaps threatening her and and her son's lives.

"So she just up and left then?" Richard said, like a wide-eyed maniac.

Elizabeth tried to come up with a possible reason to dissuade Richard's doubts.

"Maybe the incident yesterday took a heavy toll on her."

"But do you know how dangerous that was? She could have left the doors open to zed as she left. I'm damned surprised she managed to get past the night watch."

Elizabeth nodded in silence.

"Did she tell you anything? Before she disappeared?" Richard seemed to calm himself, it was atypical of him to do so.

"No, nothing."

"I know you're still a bit down after what happened with your father. If you ever need anything, I'm here for you." Richard's attempt at sincerity was disgusting.

"I'm fine." Elizabeth said, rebuffing him.

Richard simply nodded his head and left Elizabeth in the hallway.

Elizabeth knew Richard was going after the various people who were with her husband and father-in-law's side before they both perished. Sandra believed he was responsible for turning her father into a stiff, and the fact that he was the one to pull the trigger only added to her suspicions. It was possible to say that he could have been responsible for William's death as well, since they were out on their trip to Hamilton's resort. Elizabeth instinctively believed that he had injured Corporal Fields to prevent him from accompanying William. She imagined that Richard had probably trapped her husband somewhere and left him to die. She imagined him laughing with those four others when they had done it. She imagined William's last moments, the same image coming forth to her mind's eye as the one she conjured up when Professor King told her about his fate in the first place. And the sexual advances that her husband's killer made only discomforted her even more. These thoughts flooded her mind. She was upset, angry, disgusted, disturbed, sad, horrified, fearful, anxious, and even helpless. But perhaps not...hopeless.

At the same time, the cocktail of emotions was too much for her. Taking a page from British politicians, she tried to hide herself beneath her exterior and maintain a stoic countenance to prevent the man from becoming suspicious. She hoped that Sandra could get help, as she passed word to whoever still sided with her. Rory promised to stay quiet, and Dominic promised to always look behind himself. They were capable people.

------

November 10th

0900

Haven


Sometime after Tilo had recovered from the news about Hoppy, he decided to shut himself in for a bit to think. He slept, he ate, and then he slept. He felt no desire to talk to anyone, there was a lot already weighing on his mind. And it seemed to him that, as each day passed, the more his family slipped from his memory. The other day he cursed himself in angered silence that he forgot his youngest son's name. He knew he was only in his mid forties, but it stung him a bit. Secretly, he felt ashamed. He spent an hour to two writing Horatio's name over and over and over on a sheet of stationary. He never told anyone about the incident.

The old man looked over the notes he had written while he was at Upton. He was glad that the sheets weren't as badly crumpled as he expected them be as a result of the return trip, and that the ink had not smudged.

Ken Rand was born in London, and he later moved his home to Liverpool, on the west coast of England to expand his business of greengrocers. He met Theresa Kenny there in 1976, and in that same year, William was born. This made William 37, compared to my 45, it was only an eight year difference. From there, young William attended a preparatory school from 4 to 11. After that he attended senior school until he reached adulthood. Both schools were independent schools, unconfined by the national curriculum, and paid for in full by the elder Rand. I think it would not be too much to conclude that William had a quality education. After that, William enrolled in the University of York's law program. When I spoke with the elder Rand, he said that the only thing his wealth did, was giving his son opportunities, and he emphasized that it was his son who made the choices that got him where he was in life...

Tilo had asked people around Haven about Monroe and Toby.

Some say Monroe was born in Belfast in 1975 or 1976. They said he was in the Forces as part of the Paras. He joined mainly because he wanted to get away from the Troubles. I remember hearing about that, just a lot sectarian violence that did not needed to happen. He received a military cross for actions in Sierra Leone. After he left the army he became a contractor, but he never settled down. Truth be told, I can see why that was the case. He was probably unaccustomed to civilian life, and accustomed to military life. Institutionalized, I suppose. His personal life was riddled with womanizing and alcohol, at least that's what I heard. When I came to Haven, I saw none of that. In fact he was more of a gruff no-nonsense type, sobered up even. And maybe he talked about me behind my back, he was a soldier, and I was a...well...a student. One thing that I will never forget about the man, he often drank this rank smelling coffee that rotted the nostrils. And for some reason, and maybe this is pure coincidence or maybe not, but it seemed as if whenever I was there, he would be drinking it. Of course, I'm hoping that as the days go on I'll remember him by just more than that. He did what he could to prepare us, us as in the Scavengers of Haven...

He stopped there and moved on to another piece. Cramps? No, he had none of that. His mind was too busy thinking about people to worry about a little hand fatigue.

I was kind of sad to find out that nobody knew about Toby. In fact, I kind of beat myself up for not knowing her real name in the first place. The only people around who actually knew her real name were Callie and Mark, October Harrison. Since this is what I would hope to be my memoirs, I want to honestly say that, when I first met her I dreaded the possibility of having to work with her on a mission. It was the scar above her lip that made the first impression for her. She was shorter than me, and stouter framed, and somewhat more muscular. Her arms had tattoos, which I only found out about after our mission to Hamilton's retreat. She was not really sociable, but maybe that was just me or the rifle that I held. I doubt I looked intimidating because she knew that I had no prior experience of using such a firearm. I later found out that not many people knew her. She was almost like a ghost. She seemed to be the self-reliant type. Mark told me that she had made her way on foot all the way from Halifax. I think lesser people would have crumbled before reaching Haven. I don't think she deserved her fate, but then again I'm not God, and I don't get to pick and choose who lives and who dies. Food for thought I suppose.

As Tilo's hand cramped again, he heard a knock on the door, goddamnit. He took a moment to let that sink in, had he just swore under his breath at a minor annoyance? It seemed his fuse was getting shorter. He immediately hid the guitar in the corner, covering it with his sleeping bag.

"Who is it?"

"Tilo it's Gary, open up."

"Have you checked this out?" Gary handed Tilo what appeared to be a small booklet.

"What is this?"

"You saw Rishi's book that was pinned to the board right?"

Tilo nodded.

"This is a pocket sized version that the man spent, who knows how much time, to make."

Tilo skimmed a few pages.

"He ran some tests over the zed that he's got locked up in that building, and he managed to write down what he could find. By the way, is it true that you actually found him that specimen?"

"Well I..."

"Actually, how did you even manage to catch one and bring it back here?"

"It's a long story," Tilo waved his hand, "Um, I'm a little busy right now Gary, could you?"

"Uh...yeah, sure," but before he left, "You've been in here the entire morning. I didn't see you get breakfast. Are you okay Tilo? About the whole Hoppy thing?"

"I'm fine," that was a partial lie, "Mark was kind enough to leave a plate of eggs outside," Tilo smiled.

He reached over to the cabinet, where he left the empty plate, and handed it to Gary. Once the man had taken the plate and left, Tilo shut the door.

------

1230

By about early afternoon Tilo decided to check the job boards. He found that the only job around was one by Rishi. Tilo simply looked past it, too tired to try another one of the man's forays. He was sure that Callie sent word out for medical supplies, as to where, Tilo did not know. He was a non-native. He drifted along the farm, hands in pockets, the cold beating against him.

He entered the infirmary, or what was supposed to be the infirmary. Doctor Short did what she could to convert the large room into an adequate facility for the sick, the injured, or the wounded. Hoppy was sleeping, her face growing almost as white as the snow outside.

Doctor Short came in. She started coming into the infirmary at intervals to watch Hoppy's progression. They were both quiet for a time.

"I told Callie to tell Ben and Kiera to hurry," she finally said.

Tilo glanced at the doctor, observing her concerned expression.

She sighed, "I don't know if she's going to live."

It was a mental thing for doctors to prepare themselves for the worst. They out of all people, with the exception of perhaps soldiers, dealt with death almost on a daily basis. And as each day passed, they accumulated a mental and emotional conditioning that made the burden less burdensome.

"How is she?"

Doctor Short shook her head, unsure if there were any words left to express.

"I think she's the first one I actually managed to..." she searched for the right words, "give a chance to."

"Kim was already bitten. I heard about Toby. And Monroe..."

"She'll pull through doc," Tilo said, trying to reassure the middle aged woman, calming her nerves.

Tilo left after Doctor Short told him she would watch over Hoppy's condition.

1500

The day passed by quickly. Tilo occupied himself in his room. He had told Mark and anyone who came to his door to tell others not to disturb him. He was still intent on writing. Once his first pen was out, he placed it aside on the desk, and grabbed another one. Every couple of minutes he would write about one person and then move on to another, jotting down notes about them. He skipped around. Then he would stand up to stretch his arms or walk around. His solitude was incomplete because he had a companion, which was the mid day sun permeating into the lightless room. He had gotten used to living without light.

As soon as it got dark, Tilo made sure to turn off the power in his room. It was one of the little things everyone had to do to ensure that the petrol would not run out. 'Light discipline' was what Callie and Monroe had called it. Their earlier attempts at finding an alternate source of power were not fruitful, so they made sure that scavs tried to grab a jug of petrol every now and then. Once they found out about the Silent Valley plant, they began drawing up plans and trying to find a way to set up a panel, or a couple of panels, at Haven to make sure they didn't freeze through the winter. Cumbria was well to the north in the Isles, and the Isles themselves were just as far north as they could get. As a result, winters came early, unofficially. Tilo felt this winter seemed colder than usual, perhaps it was due to the lack of heating.

He wanted to write what he could about anybody. He tried to capture his thoughts in little snippets. Then he went about trying to strum the guitar that was to be Laney's present. He had played a bit when he was younger, but he gave up on it once school picked up and he had to redouble his efforts on his studies. Now he just played a note or two and tried to hum a song. Then he would sigh. Then repeat the entire cycle again. At some point Mark had left a cup of ramen with some canned sausages outside his room, which Tilo had almost kicked over as he stepped out.

Mark was thoughtful. He made sure that everyone maintained their strength. He definitely deserved a couple of words. Tilo had heard about Kim. The old man admired how Mark continued on, giving what he could to Haven, despite his loss. It was probably one of the toughest losses a person had to deal with. Nobody would have known just by looking at the man. In a way he was sort of like Monroe, but a bit more polite and less unsavory.

Speaking of unsavory, Tilo stepped out of his room and entered the bathroom. Nobody really used it anymore, since there was no running water. The mirror showed him that his beard had grown almost as thick as the bark on an oak. He looked like a caveman.

He saw what he wanted to see and returned to his room.

------

1730

Tilo sighed. He wiped his forehead and massaged his scalp, racking his brain for anything more he could write down about anyone. He leaned backward in his chair, hands behind his head, content with what he managed to do. He let out one long exhale in the silence of his room. Then he decided he would go check on Hoppy again, but as he reached for the door he heard a knock that made him jump.

"Tilo open up! It's Mark, someone from the Rands is here for you."

Tilo immediately opened the door.

"From the Rands, you mean Upton?"

Mark nodded, "Comon', Callie and Alison are already in the kitchen with her."

Her? Was it Elizabeth Rand?

"Alison?"

"The pilot that Monroe saved," Mark said as they went down the stairs.

Then they entered the kitchen, where the pilot had taken Monroe's seat at command. Her appearance at the coffee table was an incongruity in Tilo's mind. Maybe he wasn't used to seeing someone else in that poorly fashioned seat. She had a cast on her left leg and a makeshift crutch resting against her seat. Short blonde hair, her face was straight to the point.

Callie sat beside the middle aged woman that Tilo seemed to recognize. She was the same woman who tended to Kenneth.

"You're..."

"Sandra Hargrave. Thank God, you're here Professor."

The formalities were cut short as Callie commanded, "Speak."

“Elizabeth Rand sent me. I have a message in my jacket pocket.” Mark checked her jacket and found a wallet, it was the one that belonged to William. And with it there was a note with Tilo's name on it.

"Guess that’s for you Tilo.” Callie said.

The old man read the letter to himself before he gave it to Callie to read aloud.

“Professor King,

I apologise for intruding but Upton Abbey is in trouble. Ken Rand has been killed and I suspect it was murder as does Sandra who you hopefully remember from your visit here. She can fill you in on the details.

I implore you to help us, the people here are scared and are reaching out for anything. Unfortunately that seems to be resulting in the wrong people getting in charge.

If Sandra makes it this far please ensure she is not mistreated.

Yours

Elizabeth Rand.


------

“So the plan is to use the trade agreement to play up to Brand and make contact with Elizabeth Rand?” Mark asked.

“Correct. I say we send Tilo he knows the area and has a relationship with the people.” Callie said.

“I see. Will he be able to take care of Brand if it comes to it?” Carter asked.

All eyes fell on the old man, but by God he was thankful that Callie saved him from having to answer. “Tilo is smart and knows what’s at stake he can deal with it whatever way he needs to.”

Carter shrugged. “Fair enough what are you going to trade?”

“Haven’t thought about that.” Callie mused.

“We were carrying a lot of supplies might be something there worth salvaging. Food, that kind of thing. I think you guys should hold onto the weapons.”

“Yeah I think so too. What kind of weapons, we talking here?” Callie asked

“Couple of 9mm Brownings, probably a few SA-80s. Nothing too heavy.”

Callie stared blankly. “I do people stuff, we had someone else for the guns. What does that mean?”

“Pistols and assault rifles.” Carter said simply.

“Ok so sounds like we got ourselves an honest to God Scav mission. I’ll prepare the briefs.”

Everyone was still somewhat mystified by how Ken Rand died.

Tilo tried to wrap his head around the idea, but he couldn't. "I still can't...he turned without being bitten?"

"Well, I didn't really get a good look at him when I saw him, but I'm sure he wasn't bitten anywhere on his head. We checked his body and everything,"

"And the head?" Mark asked.

"Brand blew it off with a shotgun," Sandra said matter-of-factly.

"You know what, I'm going to go talk to Rishi about that," Callie promptly left the coffee table.

The room was bathed in silence, before Mark finally spoke. "Well, it must have been a long trip, and you're a guest. So I'll get you some water."

"Thank you." Sandra said, she was no longer as visibly shaken as she was before when Tilo saw her.

------

1800

"...seen any other method of transmission, I thought it was safe to assume the bite is what got you. If there are other methods of transmission, we are vulnerable to infection without further information on the virus, or whatever it is that is doing this to people," Rishi's voice echoed down the stairs, he was followed immediately by Callie.

When Rishi entered the kitchen, he immediately spotted the visitor and shot out, "What were the circumstances of this person's death?"

“Pardon?” Sandra was caught off guard, as was everyone else.

------

“There is no transmission!” He yelled at her, Sandra simply staring in a shocked sort of awe.

“Rishi, calm down. Tell me, what are you talking about?” Callie asked.

“People don’t die because there is a virus in the saliva that slowly turns them into a zombie Callie. People die from the bite wounds because of infection brought on by the germs in our mouths! They just die Callie, they just die. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. Callie, this is very important. We might all be zombies already.”

“Excuse me?” Sandra said, clearly outraged at the statement.

Mark, Tilo, and Alison looked at each other with raised eyebrows and wide eyes. They thought he was mad, but this much? It was almost astronomical.

“Slow down. We might all be zombies?” Callie said, motioning with her hand for Sandra to calm down.

“Yes. How do you explain so many people turning at once, all throughout England? Everywhere at once? Look, not all of us might be infected, but I would reason otherwise. It would be safer to think that all of us have contracted this ‘zombification’ process, and that if one of us were to pass away, we would come back regardless of the circumstances surrounding our deaths.”

“Can you be sure?”

“I would need to see it for myself, but I believe that might be the case.”

“I can’t listen to this.” Sandra said, getting up and leaving the room. Rishi looked at Callie and sighed.

“I am going to watch over Hoppy while we wait. Mark told me about her condition, so if she doesn’t make it, I need to be there to make sure…” He trailed off as he let out a sigh. “Let's just hope that for once, I am wrong.”

"Wait hold on," Tilo said.

Rishi turned as he heard this.

"We were wondering if you knew of any...possible method of killing someone..." Mark said.

"Well yes, there are plenty..."

"But making it look as if it were by accident," Tilo finished the sentence that Mark began.

"Oh?" Rishi's eyebrows were raised, "And who do you want killed?"

"A bastard named Brand," Alison blankly stated, "Not Russell Brand, another one."

He paused for a moment, not catching the pop culture reference. Then he began to think, trying to comb his memory for any novel information that might help.

"Amanita phalloides. A deadly basidiomycete fungus found throughout most of Europe. The primary toxic agent is alpha-amanitin, in short, acute liver failure and eventually death. Toxicity can not be reduced by cooking, freezing, or drying. Half of it is enough to kill a man," Rishi said.

"If you do manage to find one, try slipping it into a meal reserved for this Brand fellow. Once he consumes it, it'll take some time before the abdominal pain kicks in and gastrointestinal symptoms appear. These will be delayed anywhere from six to thirty hours. The man is sure to die within a matter of days afterward as long as you make sure he ingests it."

"And where might we find these?" Tilo said.

"Right, right, um, they form mycorrhizae with many broadleaved trees such as oaks, chestnuts, and pines. The fruiting bodies are most likely to appear during the summer and autumn. I'm not sure about the winter. They are white in appearance, look for a large and conspicuous flat or convex cap, that is pale in the ranges of yellow to perhaps olive green. Young ones look like eggs coming out of the ground. The smell has been described as sweet, but I don't suggest inhaling it. However, I do advise you gather a large number of them, to guarantee the man's fate because there are a number of edible species out there that are similar in appearance. The taste has been described as sweet, which will work to your advantage at disarming any suspicions from this Brand fellow," Rishi paused to sigh, "Anything else?"

"Thanks Rishi. By the way, how do you know all of this?" Mark said.

"Call me a renaissance man, anyway I'll go check on Hoppy," before he went out the door, "Be sure to take a copy of my little pocketbook. They're flying off the shelves!"

Callie chuckled at that.

"What happens if I can't find one?" Tilo looked to Callie.

"Find one, or improvise," Alison cut in and Callie shrugged.

------

1900

After dinner, Tilo sat outside on the steps of the porch in the cold for a bit. He tried to feel the cold again. The night was dark and the farm house was silent. The only light was the candle that Doctor Short had lit in the infirmary to keep watch over Hoppy.

Mark came and sat beside Tilo. The man sighed.

"Cold isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"Are you ready for tomorrow?"

Tilo exhaled through his nose, "I don't think I could be more ready. I've got the sawn-off if it ever comes to that."

Mark stared at Tilo, unsure what to say.

"So you've got the panels charging?" Tilo asked.

"Yeah. Gary and Jesus were with me. Jesus hasn't checked in yet, that's got me worried."

"You think he's..."

"There's a high chance. But the kid's a footballer, he's supposed to be fast. He should have been back before nightfall."

"It could have been the Rands."

"Could have been, or even the Vanners."

Tilo looked at Mark.

"As much as Callie wants to trust them, I can't. I think the pilot had the right idea." Mark spit.

"It's already bad enough we have to fend off zed, but other humans?" Tilo asked.

Mark shrugged, "Get some sleep old man, you've got a long day tomorrow."

------

November 11th, 2013

0400


Tilo put everything he needed into his pack. The map and compass were on hand, he had the sawn-off and a couple of rounds. His hatchet was holstered into a belt loop. It was still fairly dark, so he decided to bring a flashlight. The radio was turned off to conserve the little battery power it had. He also carried a canteen half filled with water. He knew a trip in the cold was sure to dry his throat.

The old man had on the pack and stepped outside into the winter sky. No lights, no city. He was surprised to see all the stars glittering above against the black velvet of night. He exhaled, his breath swirling with frost from the cold.

He stood on the porch a bit to watch the horizon above the line of trees. Time seemed very slow and non-existent.

Callie was up behind him with a thin sweater so she held herself to brace the cold, "Beautiful isn't it?"

"Hmm?" Tilo turned around.

"Monroe once told me that as a child he would often look up into the sky and imagine that he was a bird. He wanted to fly far away from the Troubles. I suppose he got his wish."

They lapsed into silence for a time.

"I couldn't have sent Ben."

Tilo looked at her with a quizzical expression.

"He would have gotten both of you killed. Matters like this need discretion."

The old man nodded before he started to leave.

"Come home safe, Tilo."

"I'll try, ma'am." Tilo looked back with a smirk.

Callie simpered, she mouthed "I'm not the Queen," before turning in.

------

0500

The path to the crash site was clear. It was located near Jones' farm which was the opposite direction of Upton. The place had seen much blood and fire.

The chopper itself was strewn atop the crest of a hill. One of its rotors was lodged into the ground, while the other three were bent. The paint had begun to fade and snow had gathered into icicles. Its cargo content had spilled out beside the shrapnel and other parts of the chopper. It seemed as if the chopper had been searched through, but not fully cleaned out. Tilo left his sack outside and went through the cabin hatch that remained upturned and not buried in the snow. Most of the space still had cargo, the average Sea King could hold about twenty to thirty people.

He pulled out the flashlight and kept it dimmed so as not to attract any undead. As he went in, he saw several corpses, rotten. Maggots and flies. They were still in uniform with blood dried. The skin had darkened on those who had pale complexions, and it became cracked on those with dark complexions. One of the corpses was impaled on a long pipe with a sharpened tip. Another one had a limp grip on a pistol. Tilo retched at the sight.

The old man spotted some duffle bags. He rubbed them, feeling out the solid and metallic items inside. They had handles, they were probably the weapons. He remembered that the pilot said they should keep those for Haven. Another scav would be sent after him to retrieve. The old man then rummaged through the other strapped packages looking for kits with the red crosses on them. He found only a few remained, which he shoved into his sack. He turned to look at the deceased. He would have buried them, but he did not have the tools. He would have uttered a prayer if he was Catholic, but who said he needed to be Catholic to do so.

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..." Tilo paused trying to remember the next verse.

He was not one to attend church much in the old world, but he did study the Bible for other purposes. He wanted to curse himself at observing how age had ways of deteriorating a person's mind.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will...be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."

"Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us...from evil," he drew a breath from the air.

Then he slung the pack over his shoulder and forged on with his shotgun in hand, trying to erase the sight that he just witnessed. The night was behind him and the day was before him.

------

0730

Once Tilo reached the valley with the many hills he began to search for the mushrooms. The trees of the valleys were tall and stood with splayed branches. He combed the ground while keeping his eye out for zed. The brush on the ground consisted of dead dry leaves that had fallen off from the trees to prevent water loss. Fauna no longer roamed freely, they were shut in their little nests or dwellings, contemplating the weather outside. They balled up inside their fur coats and closed their eyes, hoping that this year's winter would be shorter than last year's.

The pebbles, leaves, grass, and snow formed a sea that covered any possible mushrooms that Tilo could find. If what Rishi had said was correct, it would be incredibly hard to identify the white mushrooms against the white snow.

Fortunately, the sun began to rise in the eastern sky. The rays of orange and gold melted away the night and shone clear the forest path. It felt warm. The white clouds though, distilled the light. It was not as clear as it could have been.

Tilo continued looking at the bases of the trees, where the ectomycorrhizae would be.

Then he found some of the caps that indicated mushrooms. They were brown though, and so he moved on. He knew that the mushrooms he was looking for would be nestled near oaks and pines, however, he was not a tree expert. All he knew was that the Lake District had many pines and oaks.

After searching for what seemed to be an eternity, he found some of them. They were young ones, recently sprouted from spores. They looked like eggs. Then he found some more, and as Rishi had advised, it would be safe to gather a large sample. So he did. They had wide flat caps and yellow to olive green coloring on top.

Once the rest of the space in his pack was filled with the poisonous things, he thought about whether he should radio into headquarters about his progress. It couldn't hurt, he supposed.

"I found the medical supplies. I left the guns where they were, and I managed to find the mushrooms that Rishi spoke of."

"Good job Tilo, over," it was Alison.

He was unaccustomed to her voice, after being so used to Callie and Monroe.

"Where's Callie? Over."

"She went to check on Hoppy, anyway I've got to go, you can check back in about an hour. Over."

"Got it. Over and out."

Tilo clicked the little walkie-talkie off and slid it back into a sidepocket before he continued.

------

The trek was quiet. No birds anywhere. Just snow and trees, and the occasional babbling brook that had a few chunks of ice in it. His throat was sore with the cold, and every so often he pulled out his canteen and took a swig of water from it.

He continued walking, eyes always darting side to side. The zombie threat at times seemed present at times and absent at times. He walked past a line of trees until he spotted a shadow in the distance. His shotgun grip tightened and he inched forward to the figure slowly. As he crept closer, the figure made no motion to turn around and face the old man. Once he got close enough to see it clearly, he determined it was zed by the color of its skin. It was no natural living hue.

However, the thing made no move whatsoever. Tilo noticed the icicles that had accumulated on its elbows. Maybe it was frozen, but he did not want to assume. So he grabbed a pebble and tossed it in front of the stiff.

No motion.

Tilo then whistled, no motion.

Maybe it was frozen, he decided to test even further. He whispered to it, still no motion.

So instead of firing his shotgun, he decided to save the rounds and just use his hatchet instead.

He swiped the head clean off the body, unbalanced it fell forward while the head rolled to a stop on the ground.

Tilo walked on.

Some time as he continued walking, he decided to start singing. The quiet was unnerving and he felt the need to calm his mind. He began to hum a favorite tune of his.

"Yesterday..."

"All my troubles seemed so far away," he hummed in between.

"Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh I... believe... in yesterday..."

"Suddenly... I'm not half the man I used to be..." he hummed, "There's a shadow hangin' over me... oh yesterday.. came suddenly..." Tilo hummed, he had forgotten the other lyrics.

It didn't really matter.

"Yesterday..."

"All my troubles seemed so far away..."

"Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh I... believe... in yesterday..."

"Suddenly... I'm not half the man I used to be..."

"There's a shadow hangin' over me... oh yesterday.. came suddenly..."

And he repeated those lines for a time.

------

0700

"Is everyone ready?" Richard loaded the last round into his rifle.

The hunters nodded in agreement. Dominic had taken off his bandages, the bruises on his head had disappeared. This only revealed the unflinching gaze with green eyes the man had that made him a threat in Brand's view.

He was taking Dominic, Finley, Ewan, and four others of his loyalist cadre with him on a hunting mission. He told them that they were going to be searching for a new source of food. Perhaps they might try for Penrith or Appleby. He left behind most of the hunters that were loyal to him to guard Upton for his return. They weren't as loyal as the four, but the shift in the situation made them willing dogs.

"Safe journey lads," one of the remaining hunters said to the group as they left. Then they proceeded to lock the giant main doors of the manor.

Elizabeth was having a private conversation in her room between her, Rory, and Talisa Alden.

"Are you sure it was him?" Talisa questioned.

"Who else could it possibly be?" Elizabeth said in a hushed voice, "You've seen how the man acted when William was gone."

"I don't know. What can we do with him? He's restored order for the time being, it isn't so bad," Talisa tried to pacify her.

They didn't know that Talisa was actually sleeping with Richard. She had her needs.

"I'm not so sure about that," Elizabeth said.

"Well...what do we do?" Rory looked at her with concern.

"I sent Sandra to Haven to get Professor King, I hope to God he has a solution. In the meantime, keep on the lookout for him."

------

0830

The topiaries and manor, once again illustrated old world splendor before Tilo, but he ignored it and made his way quickly to the door. He had a mission. However, he stopped halfway to report back to headquarters.

"I've made it to Upton, over."

"Good job Til--"

"Callie?"

...


There was static and then the battery died. He looked at the thing, pressing several buttons, trying anything to revive the talker. Still nothing, he decided to just slip it back into his pack. He looked at his sawn-off, they would probably confiscate it like last time. He decided to place it inside the pack, removing several medical kits for space.

The great doors opened before him once he reached them, to welcome him were four men who looked completely unfamiliar. Tilo should have expected the changing of the guard.

They pulled him in at gunpoint, asking him questions.

"Slow down mate," Tilo pleaded, his hands in the air. It was almost like deja-vu.

"Who are you? And where are you from? And what's in the bag?" A burly hunter asked him, his beard almost as thick as Tilo's own.

"Tilo King. Haven. I came here with some supplies for Mr. Kenneth Rand," Tilo said, showing them the kits in hand.

Then he unslung his sack and rifled through the bag, making sure they could not the shotgun. Once he pulled another kit out, the hunters lowered their guns.

"I didn't ask what you were here for, but he's dead anyway. You came here for nothin'."

Tilo already had beforehand knowledge, but he knew it was best to hide the fact that he knew. So he tried his best to portray shock and confusion, which partially succeeded. He was never the actor, but he had to up the ante.

"When? How? What happened?" Tilo asked in false exasperation.

"Two days ago, on the ninth. The old man turned, someone was screamin'. The old man was a crawler. Had to put him down."

Tilo kept on a confused face before Elizabeth and Rory came through the hallway. Her eyes widened as Tilo could see, and she acted quickly.

"Professor King," she said, hoping her little stunt would lower their guard.

"Miss Elizabeth. I'm so sorry to hear about..."

"It's okay..." Elizabeth looked to the rest of the hunters who loitered about, unsure what to do, "You guys can return to your post, he's a friend."

"I don't know about that, Miss Rand. Richard said we shouldn't let strangers into Upton."

"Well, he's been here before, so he's not a stranger. Now go on," she emphasized with gestures.

Jeremy scratched his beard, sighed, and left them alone.

Minutes later, Tilo was in Elizabeth's room.

"So what do we do?"

Tilo showed her the mushrooms and explained.

------

0900

Richard and the band of hunters laid in wait at the crest of a hill overlooking a field that was a chopper crash site.

"What are we doing here Richard?" Dominic asked as they sat against some stones for cover, "There aren't any zed around, we should just loot the chopper."

"Just waiting," he said, watching the chopper for activity. Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw two men.

Immediately he grabbed his binoculars and examined them closely, it was an older man probably in his fifties. He had a rifle with him, and accompanying him was a younger fellow. The younger fellow had a beard, pimpled face, and he was armed with a machete or some blunt object, Richard couldn't tell from the angle and distance.

Richard and the hunters watched the two people circle the chopper, inspecting it. Then the hunters spotted the zeds, swarms of them coming from Jones' farm.

"Shouldn't we go help them?" Dominic asked.

"No, those bastards deserve to die," Richard said.

"But they're people," Ewan protested, "Each one we can save is one less we can fight."

"You think so mate?" Richard's eyes bulged psychotically.

"They're just like us, willin' to do anythin' to survive. I'm willlin' to bet my life that when the chips are down, they'd stab m-.. us, in the back for potatoes."

Everyone remained silent after that.

"'Sides, they were responsible for William's death," everyone stared at him in shock.

Dominic, and Finley were caught off guard by that statement. They heard from Professor King that he had to kill William before he turned. The news about how William died was kept a secret between those who were present when Professor King was there. Among them was Kenneth, Dominic, Finley, Elizabeth, and Rory. Nobody else was in the parlor when he spoke. Now that they heard Richard denouncing the Caravanners as the ones responsible for William's death, it made them suspicious. They looked at each other and shook their heads subtly, remaining silent. In the corporal's mind, he came to the realization that Richard had a hand in William's death, and he would find out. He was injured the day Richard and William went out to Hamilton's retreat, which was the day that William disappeared.

"That's right, they killed 'im. I saw it with me own eyes. Wankers even killed Abel and the other three. Damned sick of them."

Richard's ploy was working, from what he could tell. There was no one else proving him wrong. He peered into his binoculars again to see that the two people had noticed the zed. They realized they were surrounded, and so they decided to climb the chopper.

------

Elizabeth entered the kitchen with a plastic bag. Flora was chopping some vegetables, but she noticed her walk in.

Mrs. Wilson was maintaining the fire of a stew. With the lack of power, they had to rely on a fireplace cooker that was previously installed in the abbey before the elder Rand bought the home. Elizabeth approached her and showed her the bag full of mushrooms.

"Where did you get these mushrooms?" the old lady inquired.

Elizabeth whispered into her ear, "Nevermind that. These...are for Richard."

She emphasized her meaning with a sharp glare, the old lady looked frightened, but she understood and nodded.

"It won't matter if you cooked it or cut it. Just make sure he gets it."

Elizabeth left the bag beside the old woman and promptly exited.

Flora watched the two of them from afar, unsure what was going on. She sneaked slowly behind the older woman and peered into plastic bag. She saw mushrooms. As a city girl, she wasn't really sure what the mushrooms were for and why the two were acting so fishy. A new ingredient to liven up the spirits, she supposed. But, what if they were poisonous? Flora had never given a thought to such things when she lived in the old world.

"Valerie? What..?" Flora pointed to the bag full of mushrooms.

"Oh dear me," the older woman nearly jumped, she was startled by the younger woman.

She panicked slightly at the inquiry, "Oh these? Um...new ingredients that the hunters found. White mushrooms. Haven't had any here yet."

"These are pretty big for white mushrooms."

"They're like that before you cook them," Valerie hoped that the girl would stop asking questions soon.

"Ah," Flora accepted the answer and returned to her place, cutting vegetables, "But..."

"Hmm?" The Mrs. Wilson nearly jumped again.

The older woman had a mental sigh, unsure how far she could have continued with the farce.

------

0930

"Your sister-in-law's got a fine ass mate," Richard said to Ewan who sat quietly with his rifle.

"Aw cheer up, don't be a bore. It was a compliment," Richard laughed.

They had been watching the pair fight off the hordes that were now gathered. The two strangers managed to thin the ranks of the dead, until the older man appeared to have run out of bullets.

"Damn it I need to go help them," Ewan said.

Richard grabbed him by the collar, "Don't be a fool Ewan," he swallowed, "They killed William. And now you're gonna go save them?"

The hunter knew how to act. His eyes had crocodile tears that lent an intensity and conviction that convinced the other man. Ewan believed him, so he sat down.

Richard peered into his binoculars again; he saw some cracks ring from a nearby hill just past the field enclosed by the stone wall.

"A newcomer," Richard watched her closely.

She had dark skin and wavy hair beneath a ridiculous looking helmet. For some reason she looked familiar, then something clicked in his mind, it was the same woman that shot Abel.

What are you up to? he wondered.

She came to the chopper once the zeds had been cleared and the two men on top jumped down to meet her. They conversed for a bit until the older man went to the wall...to piss.

Then suddenly the younger man smacked the woman to the ground and jumped on her.

"A little tiger aren't we? Look at that wee bastard. He's been deprived," Richard snickered, "Dom, I think this one's for you. You can be her knight in shining armor."

Dominic scoped the rifle and aimed at the younger man who was on top of the woman, and he pulled the trigger. The kid doubled over from what he could see.

Richard whooped, "Good shot!"

The boy was still writhing on the ground in pain, another hunter, Clive, ended that pain.

There were some faint screams and the old man disappeared into the woods. Dominic pulled the trigger again and missed the woman, who scrambled to safety behind the chopper.

"Damn it man, I thought you were in the Forces! Didn't they teach you how to shoot?" Richard taunted.

Dominic shrugged it off. The man's insults were only skin deep in his mind, but his motivations were dubious.

One of Richard's loyalists grabbed his own rifle and checked for the woman who appeared from behind the chopper and made a dash for the wall where the old man pissed.

The hunter pulled the trigger, hitting the duffle bag, but hoping that it penetrated and got through to her leg.

"Again, again," Richard yelled.

The hunter missed her as she crawled.

"Shit," the hunter sighed. The woman appeared to have escaped.

"Clive, Finley, go check out the chopper." Richard descended the hill heading in the opposite direction, followed by Ewan and two of his loyalists, "Ewan, you're with me."

"Where are you goin'?" Dominic asked from the crest.

"You, Simon, and the others go check the chopper for supplies. I'm takin' these three to Penrith. Just head back to Upton when you're done."

"Penrith? What for?"

"Supplies," Richard yelled back, but he whispered to himself, "And business."

He wasn't really going to Penrith.

------

Two men walked along a forest road, one was armed with a pistol and a crowbar, the other with a shotgun.

"Somebody oughta do something about those Haven people. We haven't heard anything from Jake or Sam since they went out with them. They've been missing for six fucking days," said the first one.

The second man sighed, "I miss her too man, but...you have to accept the possibility that she's..."

"Gone? No. Fuck that, she's still alive somewhere and I need to find her," the first man spat.

The two were knocked over by another man who seemed to be running for his life. They fell against the brush.

"Jesus Christ it's one of them!" said the second man.

The first man had his pistol ready and was about to fire until, "Charles? Charles is that you?"

"Oh fuck, thank man," Charles was out of breath.

"Charles what happened? And where's Benson?"

"It was..it was.." Charles tried to catch his breath, "Bitch from Haven. She shot 'im."

"What? Haven?" the second man stood up.

"Bloody hell I knew it! We need to tell Jane," the first man's triumphant appeal was cut short when he fell to the ground at the sound of several cracks.

Then the second man jerked as the pellets hit him and fell over. Both of their bodies were slumped on the ground, blood pouring profusely from their wounds. They coughed up blood and choked for air.

"Ah shit!" Charles, completely stunned for a moment, got up and ran off in the direction the two men came.

Out of the nearby brush, Richard stepped out and took off his beanie, revealing his flowing hair that had not been shaved. He ran his hand through his hair and looked off in the direction that the old man had run. This would be as far as they would track him. He pulled out a pistol and fired several rounds randomly into the same region that the old man fled, hoping he would hear them on his run back to camp. It would be a nice little signal, Richard thought. Once that was done, he holstered the pistol and looked down at the two lifeless bodies.

"Sorry mates. A man does what he needs to do to survive."

He pulled out a Bowie knife from his jacket, and proceeded to sever the heads from the corpses. Blood squirted onto his jacket and face which he wiped off. It took him a couple of minutes, but he managed to brutally decapitate them.

Then he carved into their stomachs crudely the word, "Haven." He put the beanie back on, and then he slipped back into the woods.

------

Tilo sat waiting in Elizabeth's room. The door opened and Elizabeth came in, followed by Rory.

"He can be trusted," she said of Rory.

"Professor King," the lad nodded.

"I hope for my son's sake," Elizabeth paused, "That we can weather this storm."

"I know I won't be strong enough to take over, but I need to be once Richard is out of the picture," she turned to Tilo, "You should probably leave Professor, I don't know what Richard will do if he found you here. He might already have suspicions, what with Sandra gone already. The man is a pure psychopath."

Tilo shook his head, "No, I think he's responsible for more than just sir Kenneth's death. I have to find closure for my friends."

"And we have reason to believe he was responsible for the deaths of several people from Eden Valley."

"The caravan park people?" Rory asked.

"Yeah, I don't know if he's trying to orchestrate a war between us and Eden Valley over misconceptions."

"Dear God, he is mad." Elizabeth covered her mouth with her hands.

------

1100

"Shit!" Simon screamed, as a zed lunged at him. He blew its skull to bits, but more of them came after that one.

"Look it's the kid!" Clive pointed out as he spotted the re-animated corpse of the kid that he had killed. Wounds and everything in his torso where the hunter had shot him.

"Damn thair a' place. Jist keep shootin'!" Finley howled, as a bullet from his rifle connected with another zed.

"Comon! Let's get out of here! Leave them damn it!" Dominic waved at them and they began their dash back toward Upton through the woods.

The hunters dropped whatever supplies they were carrying to lighten the load to allow them a quicker pace. They were being pursued by a horde of walkers that had appeared out of nowhere. They had left the crash site about twenty minutes ago.

One of the hunters, Clive, was unaware of the wound he had acquired on his arm when the undead came out of nowhere. Amid the fear and the adrenaline that was pumping him onward to Upton, he completely lost sensation of the pain.

-----

Back at Upton, Tilo and Elizabeth were seated in the parlor. The former's stomach was grumbling, he was hungry for not eating breakfast. Mrs. Wilson told him that he could dine with them during lunch.

"He's back!" Rory swung down the stairs.

Tilo was slightly startled by the younger man, but he was a foreigner, unaware of their routines and protocols.

It was usually the person on watch's job to tell the hunters at the door to open up for any friendlies they spotted from the window on the second or third floors.

The hunters immediately opened the door, Tilo remained in his seat, unaware who had returned. Perhaps it was Richard. Several men shuffled in and they conversed in the hallway, their voices mingling in the air.

"Aw fuck, I'm hungry. Mrs. Wilson is lunch ready?"

"Almost," a soft sweet voice replied from the kitchen.

The words were crude and impolite, and the tone was coarse, carrying the air of a scoundrel. It was Richard.

The man stepped into the parlor, and placed the gun on an end table. He noticed Elizabeth and the old man that visited before.

"Lizzie," He nodded, "And you," he looked to Professor King.

"I remember you...you're..."

"Professor King," Tilo answered.

Richard chuckled, "Yes a professor. A Professor King, or a King Professor."

It wasn't really funny.

"You were here last time, when Kenneth was still here."

"Yeah. I've heard, I'm terribly sorry to hear about it."

Tilo noticed that the man fell silent, whether it was half-hearted or earnest, he did not know. He leaned toward the former though, Brand could not be trusted.

"Is he joining us for lunch?" Richard asked Elizabeth.

She nodded,"Yes."

Ever since Kenneth departed, Richard became increasingly verbal, forcing Elizabeth onto the defensive. She forced herself to voice her opinions, lest she came off weak and be swept aside by Brand and his cronies. Upton Abbey belonged to her family, and she had to try at least.

------

1200

Mrs. Wilson sent Flora out, the kitchen was all hers now. She decided to create a separate, smaller stew just for Richard. The water vapor continued to rise from both pots as she managed and took care of them.

She pulled the large white a. phalloides from the plastic bag that Lizzie had given her. There were a lot, and every single one of them was for Richard. She swallowed before she set to work. She hoped the things would not release any poisonous spores that might kill her. Immediately, she took the knife and began slicing the mushrooms and then dicing them until they were bite sized bits. She cut several down even further until they resembled cheese gratings to ensure that if he did not eat the large chunks, he would at least sip the soup with the little grains in it. Then she balled the plastic bag up and hid it inside one of the counter top drawers.

She wiped her head of sweat, and every few minutes she checked behind her back to make sure no one was entering the kitchen. She swallowed, and proceeded to dump the many mushroom chunks into Richard's stew. Then she stirred them and she was about to taste the flavor on accident as she raised the spoon up to her lips. Then she remembered not to, breathing heavily at her very close call with death.

She proceeded to spoon Richard's bowl first, get it over with. The old woman made sure that she scooped all of the white chunks into his bowl.

------

Elizabeth, Tilo, Richard, Ewan, and only the other hunters were eating at the table. Everyone else was eating elsewhere.

Mrs. Wilson watched closely as Richard looked at the bowl of soup. It looked as if he wasn't going to eat it.

Shit, Tilo thought. He might have to improvise and devise another method of killing Brand. In the meantime he hoped the man would at least sip the soup.

"What is this white stuff?" Richard asked, unfamiliar with the new ingredient.

Tilo and Elizabeth were both cold with fear, as Mrs. Wilson answered.

"Oh those?" Mrs. Wilson paused, "Those are mushrooms, we started grow'n them recently."

"Mushrooms?" said one of the hunters, "'Ow come I didn't get any?"

Richard had no hint of suspicion, as he finished the soup. Tilo and Elizabeth were relieved.

"Oh..." she was panicking, Elizabeth and Tilo eyed her as they spooned some of the other soup into their mouths.

"Well, ay suppose I may hae scooped th' only mushrooms of th' soup intae Richard's bowl," she smiled, "We only had two."

"Seconds Miss," Richard handed her the bowl.

Mrs. Wilson took the bowl and went directly into the kitchen, once she was beyond the conversation of the table, she breathed a sigh. Anxiety washed away from her.

Once lunch was finished, most of the hunters disbanded and headed back to their posts.

Only Richard remained with Elizabeth and Tilo. And so there they were, the man who had robbed them of their friends and families.

Tilo was never a man of action, but he wished to God at that moment that he had a shotgun or something to shoot the man with, and clean this pestilence from the face of the Earth. The old man, however, kept his emotions tightly knotted in this confrontation. Any sudden expressions would only give the man a hint.

"Trade huh? I don't think you'd have anything that we would need, or want." The man's voice was dry and rough.

"Not even medical supplies?" Tilo tried to played it cooly.

Hoping to bide some time, maybe he would be lucky enough to see the mushrooms take effect. Highly unlikely though, as Rishi said, the symptoms would be hidden anywhere from six to thirty hours after ingestion. Of course, that was only for one mushroom. Neither of them, Tilo or Elizabeth, knew that Mrs. Wilson added all fourteen mushrooms into Richard's stew.

"You guys will need it more than we do." Richard said calmly.

Tilo's eyebrow raised.

There was a brief moment of silence before Richard communicated his thought fully.

"That's right I killed your friends."

What was that?

That's right I killed your friends.

Did he just say that?

"What...what are you...?" Tilo was lost.

Elizabeth stared on in horror.

Why would he...

"I know all about your little group. And frankly I'm fuckin' sick of you pricks coming into our territory. You made it out of here last time, but you won't be making it out this time."

"Richard!" Elizabeth cried.

"Shut up woman," as he said this, there were several large thumps coming from the foyer, the sound of glass breaking and screams followed after.

"What in Go...?" Richard's attention was toward the direction from which the sound came, and they immediately rushed to the main hallway.

They found two hunters, Clive and another hunter holding the front doors as they were being beaten upon by the zed outside. Cracks rang out from the second floor.

"Shit they're fuckin' everywhere! Get a board or somethin' to cover the damn door!"

Simon was sprawled on the ground bleeding out of a wound on his abdomen and others on his arms. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. Dominic and Ewan were tending to him, they examined his body for bites. Mr. Wilson came with medical kits.

"What the hell happened?" Richard stared in complete confusion.

"It was th' feckin' kid, ah swear," Finley cried with his Scottish accent.

"We were coming back from the crash site and zed just came out nowhere, one of us misfired and shot Simon by mistake."

By this time, Finley's wife and daughters came to see what was happening.

"Just keep shootin!" a voice screamed from upstairs.

Rory came down the stairs, stopping halfway, "We need more gunners up here, there's stiffs everywhere outside!"

"We'll pull him out of here, Rory come and help." Dominic and Finley dragged the wounded Simon into the back.

The hunter holding the door back against the beating bodies saw that his partner had gone limp. Clive had a feral look in his eyes. They had turned milky white, then the hunter noticed the bite on Clive's arm.

"Jesus..." his prayer was cut short.

Clive dove for him and sank his teeth into the man.

The doors, with no one to hold them, fell open with a giant thundering.

And the bodies poured in like a wave, falling over, because the entire time they had been pushing against the doors.

"They're inside!" someone yelled, and everyone began to flee.

Tilo and Elizabeth fled down in separate directions, Brand and another hunter ran in another direction.


------


Halfway down the hall Elizabeth met up with Dominic and Finley.

"Fuck! Behind you!" Finley fired a round, the walker's head exploded into bits against the wall.

"Elizabeth we gotta get out of here quick!"

"But my son!" she protested, the tears of fear and panic streaming down her face.

"We can't stay comon'!" Dominic grabbed her wrist, but Finley stayed behind.

"Fin! What are you doing?"

"Ah need tae fin' mah fowk," Finley disappeared into another room.


------


Tilo did not know where he was running, just that he was running somewhere. The manor was filled with twisting hallways and rooms all interconnected. He wanted a god damned map or maybe even a lighted path to tell him where to go. Fueled by adrenaline, and fear, and perhaps something greater.

Then he spotted something hiding in the corner. It was Eric. Screams, cries, gunfire echoed in the hallways. Bones broke and unnatural growls followed.

I couldn't save your father in time. I won't make that mistake with you.

He grabbed the boy and held onto him as the child buried his head into Tilo's shoulder, and the old man ran for dear life, away from the hordes.

A zed fell out in front him and almost made his bones jump out of his skin, but he darted past the slow walker.


------


Several weird things were happening in Richard's mind at this point as he tried to recover his thoughts. He was wondering what the hell was going on.

"Keep shooting!" Richard screamed, firing his assault rifle. The repetitive rattles shook the entire room and perhaps even the ground they stood on. Blood popped and mists of red sprayed the walls.

He spotted Rory running, this was his chance to clean out the pests he thought. But weren't there greater concerns to deal with? Brand didn't think so.

He fired seven rounds that hit Rory, the impact sounded like hard snowballs as the boy shrieked with a cracked voice and fell over.

Then a sharp pain jabbed Richard in the stomach. What the hell? And it got increasingly worse. He fell over in wrenching torment, his insides were being clawed apart. He felt a great pain build up at his rectum, boiling almost.

"Argh what the fuck..." Richard tried to speak, sweat almost covering his face.

The vein on his forehead bulged and he was sucking his breath in to deal with the agony.

"Mate, are you alright?" the burly man, Jeremy was still firing.

Richard got up and tried to walk away, but only succeeded in stumbling.

"Where the fuck are you goin'?" Jeremy cried, but he had to maintain fire on the undead.


------


Tilo was running for a bit, his breath was nearly gone, the weight of Eric was slowing him down, but he couldn't drop the child. He continued until he felt two incredible shocks hammer him in the back.

He cried out in pain. And immediately he was sent skidding to the ground into another room, but he was still conscious enough to make sure that Eric wasn't the cushion for his fall.

Tilo and Eric fell beside a hunter covered in blood.The deceased man had a dead man's grip on the shotgun.

It was Richard who had shot him in the hallway. The man's discomfort now doubled to the point where he could barely gather breath. It shifted from his stomach to his nether regions and then back and swirled around like a hurricane.

"Goddamnit!" he cried like a demon.

Tilo held the child, who was crying in his arms. Tilo was aware of the possibility that he had been shot. He took his free hand and rubbed the area that was throbbing on his back and brought it to his eyes.

Thick, dark red, hemoglobin and plasma covered his shaking hand. And he gasped for air, the sting slowly spreading across his back. He looked at the child whose teary eyes looked back into Tilo's for hope.

This is the end

Dominic and Elizabeth had ran past many of the gunfights, the zombies, and the dying. They even ran past Brand, noting the man clutching his stomach tightly and they reached the room Tilo was in.

"Eric!" Elizabeth cried, grabbing her son from Tilo's hands.

"Mommy!" the boy reached out to her.

"Professor King! We need to get you out of here!"

With what little strength he had left, "Leave me...go...there's too many of them."

"We can't leave you!"

"He's right Elizabeth, we gotta go before they surround the place," as the corporal said this, they heard zed coming from down the hall, someone cursed and screamed in agony.

"Elizabeth comon'! We don't have time!" Dominic had his shotgun, peering out the hallway.

She was reluctant to leave, but she saw Tilo nod to her. She left, mouthing two words. Thank you. Tilo gave one last glance to the child that resembled William.

And then they were gone.

Gunfire and screams continued.

Tilo laid there thinking. He looked over to the dead hunter, and pulled the man's bloody grip off the gun with his own bloody hands. He ignored the pangs on his back as his breath faltered.

He looked up through the windows where the sun shone through, and he wondered if there was another reality in which this never actually happened. He wanted to laugh at himself about how his last dying moments mirrored the way he lived, but he knew he didn't have the strength to do so.


------


1430

After trekking through the wilderness on nothing but fear, Dominic, Elizabeth, and Eric reached the walls that Tilo knew.


------


Gunfire and screams continued back at Upton.

Tilo was thinking about whether he was selfish for saving only Eric and not other people.

My only friend the end.

Alright everyone, smile! This one's for the album.


Horatio, are you alright?

My boy's going to university...

He missed his boys and his wife.

The faces skipped past him, as he faded in and out of reality. He didn't have time to cry, because time was gone.

He saw a zed out of the corner of his eye, it seemed to be a slow one. His dizziness getting the best of him.

He pulled the shotgun's barrel up to his chin. He would miss the friends at Haven. He didn't even get the chance to spend Christmas with them.

Were they worth it?

Yes.

Tilo's last feeling was his finger pulling the trigger.

Beautiful friend, my only friend, the end.

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

N/A

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

N/A

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

N/A

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

...

Did you not read the first three?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma Character Portrait: Alison Carter
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
November 10th. 2013

Haven.

Early afternoon


Carter was getting sick of being off her feet the entire time and had taken to pacing the kitchen as a way to keep active. She was standing by the window when a flake of snow impacted on the pane. She looked up and saw the clouds had turned a light grey but she knew better.

“There’s a white out coming.”

“How can you tell?” Callie asked from the table.”

“My office was the sky. Trust me.” Carter answered.

A silence fell between the two for a few moments before Carter spoke again.

“The colonials are back... and they brought a friend.”

Callie’s chair screeched on the tile floor as she pushed it back and raced to meet them. By the time she arrived at Doctor Short’s medical bay the doctor was already working on Hoppy.

Callie went back outside where she met with Ben, Kiera and the new arrival.

“So I take it this guy is trust worthy?”

Ben shrugged so it fell to Kiera to speak0. “He helped us get the things Hoppy needed. He’s an EMT.”

“You’re a Paramedic?”

“Yep. Name’s Jay I...”

“I don’t care right now. We have a wounded girl in there. Go and see if you can help Doctor Short.”

"Yeah before I do though there's a dead woman in the back of the car."

"What?"

"You said she'd live!" Ben stood anger or possibly grief flashing in his eyes.

"Yeah she would have if we got her to a hospital in time. Could have been an internal bleed."

"Alright I think I have a man who can deal with that. For now get in there and help Doctor Short."

Jay nodded and stepped back into the room. Through the door Callie could hear muffled voices which quickly went from annoyed to calm and professional.

“Good find. We need someone like him, I don’t think we’ll be able to dispatch Doc Short if something happens to a Scav in the field so he can fill that role. Anything else to report?”

“Who’s the new kid?” Carter said stepping into the corridor.

“Jay, a paramedic. Ben and Kiera say he’s ok.” Callie said, the fact that neither of the scavs had actually said that slipping her mind.

“Good. Another saw bones is... good.” Carter said nodding as she turned and hobbled back to the Kitchen.

#

After Callie had received a fuller debrief from the pair she returned to the kitchen where Carter was updating the medical supplies list.

“What’s with the new hairdo?” Carter asked Callie.

“What? I haven’t had a chop in weeks.” Callie said as her hands instinctively went to her hair.

“I meant Ben.”

“Oh, I like it.” Callie noted. “Reminds me of Britney.”

“Britney?”

“Spears.”

Carter shook her head. “Your taste in music is terrible. It’s not a bad idea though. Long hair can be grabbed and pulled down. He’s thinking.”

“Yeah I suppose so. You know I’ve been thinking too. It’s been weeks since I’ve been outside Haven...”

“So? You’re not missing anything, it’s not exactly Ibiza out there.”

“Yeah I know, that’s what I mean is I’m worried about being out of shape.”

“Oh my God Callie, we’re not having a ‘does this make me look fat talk’.”

“No I mean before we found Haven and defended it Monroe and I ran everywhere. I mean we had to live on our wits. Now I’m thinking about what I said about Short.”

“What?”

“That now we have Jay he’ll be able to respond if the Scav’s get into serious trouble. Like an ambulance. I was thinking though what happens if we have to run?”

“Well I’d be up shit creek.” Carter said lifting her crutch to demonstrate her point.

“Well we’re not going to leave you are we? I mean the support people at Haven are getting it a little too easy. The Scav’s go out most days so they’re pretty athletic and Mark works out but apart from that everyone is just sitting.”

“Mark lifts weights. Great for manhandling, sure, but not so great for running.” Carter said finally seeing Callie’s point. “You want to run a PE class?”

“I think so. If Zack is going to get me, he’s still going to have to work for it.”

#

Tilo was fully briefed for his trip to Upton Abbey and Sandra was under close watch although no longer bound. Callie was feeling nervous again but instead of fretting and going over the endless maps of the area or searching the airwaves for traffic she pulled on her running shoes.

She spent an hour just going around the perimeter of the Farm. It wasnt a long distance but she did it multiple times. It reminded her of a Louis Theroux Documentary about American prisons and how the inmates just endlessly did laps of the exercise yard while devising new ways to stab each other with toiletries.

It was cold and as promised the snow had begun to fall lightly but it wasn’t lying becuase of the wet ground. The grey clouds had turned a nasty looking black though and Callie hoped Carter was wrong.

Callie had surprised herself and she had been able to run for quite some time. Her problem had always been pacing. She’d go too fast at the start and have nothing left in the tank for later. It was a constant battle to refrain from going too fast. She came to a halt and resolved to do the same thing again the next day.

She jogged back to the farm house and got ready for bed.

#


September 21st 2013

The M6.

North of Liverpool.


Callie wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked slowly while she shivered in the wind. The cold air was cutting under the motorway overpass and the column she was leaning against provided little protection. She was somewhere north of Liverpool on the M6 and was dog tired. She glanced at the street light overhead and remembered the weird orange light they used to emit. Now it did nothing but she could see the stars.

At least she would have been able to if she wasn’t under a motorway underpass.

Her outbreak story was similar to most. She’d fled to her mother’s house and spent a few weeks there but she’d left after the old woman turned. She then travelled to the Anfield Evacuation site when she heard military choppers were on the way. However on her arrival she could see the place was chaos. Thousands of people were straining to get in and it was clear the place was a powder keg. The sight reminded her of the pictures of the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina.

Callie was smart enough to turn back, if America couldn’t get it together enough to make that work there was no way the country that elected David Cameron would be able to.

Without a plan or place to stay she decided her best bet was move north, the City was becoming increasingly dangerous and the undead seemed to be everywhere. This was how she found herself on the M6 with nothing to her name.

Then she remembered the weight in her pocket.

She snaked a hand into it and produced a tin Heniz Baked Beans. She flipped the tin and looked for the ring pull. She checked the other end and came up empty. That was Callie’s breaking point.

“Oh fuck it!” She roared.

“Shhh!”

Callie nearly jumped out of her skin when she noticed a man standing at the far end of the underpass. He was dressed warmly and was carrying a large rucksack.

“S-s-s-sorry.” Callie stammered.

“What’s the matter?” The man asked as he slowly approached.

Callie quickly got to her feet and took a step back.

“Look I ain’t gonna hurt you.” The man said as he took another step forward. Callie dropped her hand to her pocket and produced a large kitchen knife.

“Ok. Ok. Be calm.” The man said as he raised his hands. “I just want to give you something.”

“I bet you do creep.”

“Look it’s not like that. You want to stab then stab away.” The man said as he slowly took off his rucksack and opened it. After some rummaging he produced a tin opener. “I see your problem.” He said pointing to the dented tin of Baked Beans that Callie had dropped when she sprung up.

“Oh.” Callie said but she kept the knife pointed at him.

“Look, my name is Jonathan Monroe and I don’t want to hurt you. I haven’t eaten in a while and I was wondering if you’d like to split that?”

Callie glanced wildly from Monroe to the Tin of Beans. “You Scottish?”

“Northern Irish. Your accent is all over the shop.”

“Born in London, but I grew up in Liverpool.” Callie replied.

Monroe nodded. “They give you a name in either of those places?”

“Callie Winters.”

“Ok Callie. I’m going to pick up the beans and then open the beans. Are you ok with that?”

Callie nodded and the man approached the tin like it was liable to explode at any moment. His overly dramatic gestures brought a faint smile to Callie’s face. He fanned his fingers like Indiana Jones might do and quickly snatched the tin off the ground. He then exhaled loudly and mock wiped his brow.

“That was a close one.” He said as he opened the tin. He then returned to his rucksack and produced a white plastic spoon. He sunk the spoon into the cold beans and took a bite.

“Yeah, they’re clean.” He said with his mouth full. He then walked up to Callie and gingerly handed her the tin.

Callie took the tin with her left hand but still hand the knife in her right.

“Gonna have to put something down.” Monroe said with a smile.

Slowly Callie slid the knife back into the pocket and Monroe relaxed slightly. She took a bite of the cold beans.

#

? ? ?

Broadgreen Primary School,

Liverpool.


Callie was back in her classroom now, looking at a room full of people. It wasn’t her class though. Instead of children sitting at the desks there were adults. Slowly she realised who they were. Tilo, Shinji , Hoppy, Monroe, Mark, Laney, Ben, Carter, Kim, Toby, Gary, Rishi, Kiera and Jesus.

“What is going on...” Before she could complete her thought the bell rang and Kim, Toby and Monroe stood and shuffled towards the door. Monroe stopped and picked up the rucksack, or as he had called it his Bergen, he’d been carrying the first time she met him.

“Monroe wait. What’s happening?”

Monroe stopped and looked at Callie like she had two heads. “It’s the bell, I’m going home.”

“Wait but what about the rest?”

“You’re the teacher.”

“But I don’t know what to do.” Callie protested.

“You’ll figure it out, Heinz.” He said with a wink.

He then walked to the door and stepped out of the classroom. Callie was going to run after him but stopped. The rest of the class needed her.

#

Haven

November 11th

Morning.


Callie woke abruptly as if from a nightmare but instead of the usual weighty feeling in the pit of her stomach she felt good. Hopeful, for the first time in a long time, this was a feeling she could grasp.

She swung her legs out of bed and made her way down stairs to Gary’s room. She knocked the door but didn’t get a response. She twisted the knob and stepped in. Much like where she had been sleeping many unconscious bodies were strewn about the place. Despite the recent losses Haven was still a very small place.

She found Gary curled up in a corner and gently shook him awake.

Gary flinched and knocked his head against the back wall.

“Jesus Christ Callie, you scared me half to death.” Gary muttered.

“I need help with something.” Callie whispered.

“What now? It’s...” He looked for an alarm clock that wasn’t there. Gary wasn’t much of a morning person. “It’s really early.”

“It’ll only take a moment.”

“Yeah... just give me a sec, I’ll meet you down there.” He said defensively.

“No you’ll fall back asleep. Come on it’s important.”

“I know Callie, just, just give me a moment.”

“Gary you would sleep thought anything, get up.” Callie said.

“Callie I’d put a tenner on it he’s sporting morning wood.” Mark said from across the room followed by a few muffled laughs from the supposedly sleeping room. “It’s biology.”

“Gross.” Callie said as she stood back up. “Meet me downstairs when you’re... awake.”

Callie then left the room.

“Thanks Mark.” Gary moaned.

“What? It’s a natural thing.” Mark replied.

“Yeah well I don’t have one and now Callie thinks I do.”

“Really?” Mark said with an eyebrow raised.

“Really, I don’t.” Gary replied.

“Stand up then.”

Gary waited a moment. “Fuck you.” He said, beaten.

“That’s what I thought. Think about Grandma or a sad puppy or something.” Mark said as he rolled over in his sleeping bag. “Usually works for me.”

#

Ten minutes later Gary joined Callie in the room Gary was using as a tech lab of sorts.

“Mark was only kidding around earlier, I was just prett...”

Callie raised a silencing hand. “Enough biology. I’ve had my fill of bloke problems for the day and I haven’t had breakfast yet.”

“Uh ok so what’s so important?” Gary said happy the conversation was moving on.

“I want you to get this working.” Callie said as she produced a small black mirror.

“Really? Is that the best use of resources?”

“Yes it is. There’s surviving and then there’s being an asshole.”

Gary nodded. “Sure all it needs is a charge.”

#

Later

Carter was already getting pissed off with the crutches. She’d only ever broken one other bone, her finger during a squash game. As she hobbled down the hallway and into the Kitchen though she could hear something new.

Something Bad New.

Carter stepped into the kitchen and saw a beaming Callie Winters sitting at the kitchen table with a very depressed looking Mark Lawson and a very confused looking Shinji Yamada.

“You must be kidding me.” Carter exclaimed.

“She’s flipped.” Mark said. “I haven’t heard this since the nineties.”

“Is this Aqua?” Carter asked.

“You bet ya!” Callie said happily as her head bopped to the music.

“これは地獄です” Shinji said.

“In English.” Callie said in what Carter assumed was her teacher voice.

“Shite.” Shinji said slowly trying to approximate Mark’s scouse accent. Mark tapped him gently on the shoulder and nodded.

Carter walked up and approached the source of the music. It was a black I phone with a photo of an elderly woman as the desktop. Carter turned the volume down and turned to Callie.

“What is going on?”

Callie frowned like a thespian but quickly explained. “Things have been a little tense around here recently and that’s not healthy. I figured the group could use a morale booster. Then I saw Laney and Tilo singing so I thought music would be a good way to build morale.”

“So you got them Aqua?” Carter said. “That would drive anyone to suicide.”

“Hey that’s my best play list.” Callie said. “Ok it’s not to everyone’s taste but I’ve said to Gary, it’s ok if people want to charge MP3 players and listen to some music. It’s not that big a drain on the Solar panels and he says if the only thing they having running is music a charge should last for ages.”

“So I’m guessing the phone can’t make calls or get internet access?”

Gary, who had just entered the kitchen, answered her question.

“No, while the Net and phones are all controlled by computer programmes those programmes and hardware need engineers to keep them running, not to mention electricity. Callie’s I phone is little more than a cruel and unusual torture device now.” Gary said while shaking his head. “I feel like Oppenheimer.”

“Right. One more question.” Carter said.

“Shoot.” Callie said.

“Does this thing have Candy Crush?”

#

Later

Carter and Callie had decided on a playlist that suited both of them but to an observer it sounded like the playlist of someone in the grip of a dissociative identity disorder episode. It swung from bubblegum pop to dubstep.

Carter adjusted her leg which was propped up on a chair opposite her and took a drink of tea.

“You know it’s funny. This feels like any other office job.” She commented. “I don’t know why you stick to that coffee, you haven’t even touched it.”

“Yeah but I like the smell. It feels like the staff room at school.” Callie said with a shake of her head. “We used to fight over the radio in there as well. Radio 1 vs Classic FM. Well the rest did I was normally too busy getting caught up on marking.”

Carter laughed. “A school teacher. I was thinking about that earlier when you told Shinji to speak English. Guess you’re still teaching in a way.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty big career change I guess in some ways. Similar in others. You want what best for the kids but want them to be able to cope in the real world. Back then it meant singing ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’ now it means making sure everyone is armed.”

“So that means you view us a kids?”

“No that’s not what I meant... I mean I just feel... responsible. Does that make sense?”

Carter smiled and returned to her notes. “Completely.”

“Excuse me, I wondering if I might have a word.” It was Rishi standing in the corner of the room nervously.

“Go for it.” Callie said casually.

“It’s a delicate matter.” Rishi said shakily.

Callie looked at Carter who shrugged.

“Ok.” Callie said as she left the kitchen and stepped into the hall with Rishi, the man kept walking though and brought Callie to the room he had been using as his lab. He sat on his chair and exhaled loudly. Callie eyed Watson suspiciously.

“This thing had better come up with a cure. God the risk we’re taking Monroe would have had kittens. You still got that shotgun?”

“Yes it’s... Where is it now?” Rishi mumbled

Callie shook her head and lifted a stack of papers covered in insane scribbles from the top of the Harry. “You need this in case that gets lose.”

Rishi didn’t respond.

“Ok Rishi you’re freaking me out now.”

“I reviewed the Tape of Byron’s last outing.”

“Ok and? She got the guns and did your research.”

“Perhaps you should watch the video.”

Rishi played a short video clip of Laneys encounter with Benson and Charles.

“What the hell?” Callie said when the recording had ended.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was going to go to Byron with it directly but...”

“No do not do that. Tell nobody of this we don’t know how Laney will want to play this situation. Let her work it out on her own and come to us if she needs it.”

“Alright. What about her attackers.”

“I know the name Benson, it’s not exactly common.”

“Really? Well I’ve done my part now back to the research.”

"What about the woman Ben, Kiera and Jay brought in?"

"The test are on going but she..."

"She turned." Callie said flatly.

"Yes but that doesn't mean the theory is completely sound."

"Good indicator though."

"Yes but more tests are required."

"So where is she?"

"Dead. For good. I thought two test subjects might be a little dangerous even for me. Now if you don't mind..."

He bundled Callie out of the room and towards the door she stopped just short though.

“I have one question, Rishi.”

“I removed Watson’s vocal cords. I’m attempting to study communication between the undead.”

“How’d you know I was going to ask about that.”

“Of course you were its elementary my dear Winters.” Rishi said with massive smile obviously pleased with his attempt at humour.

#

Callie went directly to the radio and got in contact with Jane Meadows.

“Jane I was wondering about two of your runners. A guy called Benson, he was part of the rescue mission to save one of our runners and another older guy.”
“Charles, have you seen them?”

“Uh no why?” Callie lied.

“Both have gone missing. They left camp just after they rescued your man.”

“Missing?”

“Well maybe that’s a bit far. They left took weapons and supplies too. We guessed they had just left the group.”

“Right well they assaulted one of my people.”

“My God, what?”

“They assaulted one of my people.” Callie repeated.

“Are they alright?”

“Yes I think so but I’m just giving a heads up. Those guys are dangerous.”

“That doesn’t make any sense Benson was always so... I mean he was always one of the first to volunteer. He volunteered to find your man.”

“People change I guess.” Callie said.


#

1430

Haven.


Dominic Fields stumbled towards Haven with Elizabeth and Eric Rand in tow. When a voice called out from the town. Instinctively he pushed himself in front of Elizabeth and her child.

“Who’s that?” A Scouse voice called out.

“Do not fire! We have a child!” Dominic shouted.

“I know retard, I can see you. Who are you?” Was the reply.

“I’m Dominic Fields, from Upton. I’m with Elizabeth Rand. Tilo King sent us.”

“Did he? Well then he would have also mentioned told you we don’t let armed strangers inside our walls. Drop the guns.”

Dominic complied and set his weapons on the ground in front of him. After a few moments a squat but strong looking man was standing in front of him.

“Hands behind your back there chief.” He ordered

Dom got a sinking feeling as his hands were tied behind his back and he was marched into Haven with Elizabeth and Eric in tow.

#

Later.

He was sitting in a kitchen looking at two women who had introduced themselves as Callie Winters and Allison Carter. He could tell Carter was forces from her demeanour, maybe Green Slime or something, but the other woman was different, He couldn’t draw a bead on her.

He’d briefly seen Sandra when Elizabeth and Eric had been reunited with her. Dominic though had been marched straight to the kitchen.

“You say you’re from the Rands?”

“Yes. Tilo king told us to come here, if you want we’ll be on our way...”

“Where is Tilo?” Carter asked.

“He’s back at Upton.” Dominic answered.

“Why isn’t he with you?” Callie asked,

“He got... held up.”

“Held up how?” Callie asked but she could feel the bottom of her stomach in free fall.

“I didn’t have time to check he...”

“Held up how?!” Callie repeated, this time shouting.

“He was shot.”

“What?” Callie screamed. “So you fucking left him?”

“You cunt!” Mark roared as he lifted the butt of his rifle and crashed it into Dom’s face.

“Enough!” Carter screamed and Mark stopped before he could land another blow but he kept the weapon held high. Mark’s eyes shifted to Callie who nodded almost imperceptibly. Mark lowered the Rifle and exhaled loudly like a bull getting ready to charge.

“Take a walk, Mark.” Carter said.

Mark slapped his palm against the wall and roared but he complied.

The passage of events had surprised Dom, Mark looked like a goon but he was a goon who knew his place. It was also apparent while Carter appeared to be in charge the loyalty was to Callie.


“Where was the last place you saw Professor King?” Carter asked. Callie was sitting in her chair quickly going through the map books.

“I don’t know... at Upton Abbey.”

“Be specific. I can have Mark come back in.”

“The library on the ground floor. It’s a mess over there Zombies breeched the walls, the place is crawling. ” Dominic replied. Silence fell as the two women started scribbling on their respective pieces of paper. Dominic thought for an instant about attempting to flee but there was a small Asian guy clutching a shotgun staring directly at him.

“Got it.” Carter said after a few brief seconds and she slid a page to Callie.

Callie lifted the page and her maps then raced out of the kitchen.

“You better pray they find that guy alive or these people will kill you.” Carter said matter-of-factly. The only other person in the room was Shinji so only Dom comprehended her words.

Dominic looked at the floor and remembered the wound he’d seen Tilo with. There was no way, bar a miracle, that King had survived.

#

Callie crashed into the room and bundled a crumpled piece of paper and a map into the hands of the first Scav she saw.

“Tilo’s hurt.”

Job.

King among Men.


Suggested number of Scavs
– 3


Area – Upton Abbey


Objective – Rescue Tilo King.


Information – Tilo King is missing presumed wounded somewhere inside Upton Abbey. He was last seen in the Library on the Ground Floor. Attempts to reach Tilo via radio have proved fruitless. We believe Upton Abbey has been over run. Bring the Paramedic Ray, whoever to provide first aid to Tilo.

A. Carter.

“Hurry.” Callie said as she returned to the Kitchen.

#

Dominic was scared but he could understand where the fury was coming from. Haven had lost one of their people and in a way it heartened him to see them react in this way. It was clear to see they cared for each other, something that had been missing in Upton.

“Were you one of the Hunters?”

“Yes.” Dom replied honestly.

“What happened to Richard Brand?”

“Don’t know. Last I saw of him he was face down outside the Library.”

Callie allowed herself a smile of satisfaction but it occurred to her she had better warn the Scavs of the possibility that Brand was still alive she stood and walked into the hall of the kitchen where the Scavs tasked to get Tilo were prepping.

“There is a possibility Richard Brand is still alive. I’m going to talk to Elizabeth Rand but theres time for you pair to wait. Go and I’ll brief you on the run.”

The Scavs nodded and stepped out into the cold air.

Callie continued to where Sandra and Elizabeth were sitting. The boy was clinging to his mother and clung tighter when Callie entered. She figured in a year or two he would have old enough for her class. Gary was sitting in the corner with a Harry on his lap watching the two women.

“Hello I’m sorry about all this but we’ve had some real problems with the Hunters and Richard Brand over the last few weeks. You understand the need for caution.”

“I was just explaining that to Mrs Rand.” Sandra explained.

“Yes I understand.”

“Good. Now I’ve just sent out a few of our Scavs to rescue Professor King but I need to know what the situation is at Upton Abbey.”

“It’s overrun. Dead everywhere.” Elizabeth said.

“What about Richard Brand?”

“He ate the poison Professor King brought. Last I saw he was bent double in pain.”

“What about Tilo, Professor King?”

Elizabeth looked at the ground. “I am so sorry. Had I known when I sent that...”

“Did you see him die?”

“Excuse me?”

“Did you watch Tilo King die?”

“No, but I mean, his wounds were severe...”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No.”

“So then if you didn’t see him die and you aren’t a doctor you aren’t really in any position to say anything about who’s alive are you?” He voice cracked as she struggled to keep emotion from it.

“Callie.” It was Gary who had spoken. “That’s enough.”

Callie could feel a headache coming on.

“You’re right, sorry.” Callie said. Her rage was misdirected and impotent the only ones who could make a difference were the Scavs.

“I understand. Doctor King, Tilo was, is a good man.” Elizabeth Rand as Callie made her way back to the kitchen.

Once she arrived Carter was still in the middle of her questions. Callie didn’t say a thing but instead walked straight to the radio and contacted the Scavs on the way to Upton.

After she had identified herself she turned and looked at Dom. Both he and Carter had stopped speaking and were looking at Callie.

“Scavs, Richard Brand ate Tilo’s poison but we don’t know if he’s alive or dead. Just a heads up.” Callie said. Her eyes never left Dom’s face and he knew it was a test to see how he’d react. He tried to give nothing away.

“Ok let’s go over this again, Dominic...” Carter began.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tam Ferris
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

November 11th 0900pm

The past month and a half had raced by faster than Tam could keep up with. Jane was doing her best to hold the Vanners together, and much to no one's surprise, the tension was reaching an apex which looked like no one was going to be able to come back from. The last few days the Runners had managed to accrue themselves a hefty stash of supplies so it seemed for the moment any hostilities among the group itself were at ease while the Vanners were assured of survival for at least another month.

Survival... Tam scoffed at his own internal conversation. What did that even mean nowadays? As the stars shone a dull luminescence across the camp park, Tam turned to face the road and sat down on a camp chair positioned on top of one the blockading caravans of the camp. He had a megaphone at his side and scanned the dully lit streets for signs of danger while pondering his situation of late. Was this surviving? Living on the edge of starvation and exhaustion? Or was this just some sort of prolonged death? Like a cancer that was riddling the world. Tam shook his head and lit up his last cigarette - he'd have to make a note to look for me when he ran next.

Tam returned his thoughts to the past few weeks, what had happened, what was happening. Tim's death was of no great deal to himself personally. Sure the guy had been stand up, selfless even. But the fool had had to make sure that the camp was never without and couldn't ever bring himself to kill anything. Tam shook his head and sighed. His death was still something the Vanners couldn't afford and that was enough to make him angry, especially since it seemed it was an uneasy truth that there had been another group aside from the already established around the district moving about... A group that seemed to kill and ask questions later. Tam gritted his teeth, he wasn't so convinced as Jane was that Haven was as squeaky clean as they pretended to be, but still, apparently there was proof they weren't the fucking murderers running around. Tam had even, to be safe, suggested to Jane they make contact with the Rands, but she quickly shot that down.. Why? Because they seemed unstable to her. But to Tam, every fucking person nowadays was unstable in some form or another... All Tam knew was that he wasn't going to go out like Tim did, and on the principal of the matter, he'd get some form of vindication for Tim.

0930pm

Tam was nodding on and off already. It had been nearly sixteen hours since he last slept, but he was proud and wasn't going to let his duties slip. His head lulled for a second time and suddenly he was forced awake by the piercing scream of one of the girls on the other side of the camp... No, not just any scream - Jane's.

Tam was on his feet in a split second and suddenly had to pause as his eyes adjusted to the subtle light of the night sky. Another scream echoed from the Caravan Park, this time from closer to Tam's position. Then more screams and suddenly the camp was filled with an uproar of yelling and horrified survivors. Tam began to focus on the screams around the park and then Jane's voice called out across the growing raucous.

"We've been compromised! Dead's in the camp! I repeat... DEAD'S IN THE CAMP!"

That was enough to send Tam into full swing. He grabbed his megaphone and pulled it to his mouth, taking a deep breath before repeating Jane's own words.

"Get your weapons and start defending Lads and Lasses! We're in trouble!"

Tam picked up his own makeshift spear from next to his seat and looked down to the street, more zombies were being drawn in. What the fuck had happened? Tam jumped from the caravan and landed into an ungraceful and unbalanced roll, slightly winding himself. Getting to his feet, he was met by a frenzied Jennings who looked sick to his stomach,

"They came in through the back of the camp Tam! Someone didn't seal the back entrance properly... they've broken through the fucking fence! There's no way to stop them!"

Jennings fell to his knees crying. Tam not wasting any time picked the man back up by his collar.

"How many? twenty? More?"

"About fifteen Tam... But they're recently turned! Running at everyone!"

"Fucken' hell. Right, they might be fast, but fifteen aint much. You take Andrew and Charlene and get to the top of the front barricade and make sure the ones massing on the other side don't get in.. if they do on that front... We are fucked."

Tam gave Jennings a stern look and the man nodded in acknowledgement and left Tam, screaming for Charlene and Ronnie. Tam rolled his shoulders back and took off towards the other side of the camp towards the uproar. As he rounded a caravan Tam was met with a raging war between persistent unbroken monsters and about six Vanners trying to defend the back entrance. Nearly the whole back fortification had been destroyed. Tam couldn't begin to understand how they managed to get in exactly, but that was a problem for later.

"Thank christ!" Jane Meadows suddenly called out.

Tam looked to his right and saw the woman with another group of about six behind her. She'd rallied enough to make the fight closer to even,

"Get your shit together everyone! And watch their fuckin' teeth!"

0300am

It was a long and drawn out fight for the Vanners. It seemed like every undead they dispatched, another would show up. Tam had guessed the din of the camp had just started attracting every fucker that could hear within distance to them. For every one someone killed, it seemed like another one was right behind them to replace them. It only lasted a few hours, but the Vanners had been in a struggle for the most of it, luckily having only one runner get bitten. The horde had been more than exhausting and trying. All those who were fighting to keep the camp from becoming a waste were more than finished and tired by the time the horde thinned to nothing. It was in the early hours of the morning that a heavy cloud of rain had started falling too. Almost all visibility was shot, but when everyone seemed burnt out it had also seemed they'd won for the moment in surviving. Tam rested against a nearby caravan as everyone collapsed to the ground trying to regroup. Suddenly Jennings was at his side.

"Tam, you seen Jane? We got some problems she needs to know about."

Tam looked to Benson and rolled his eyes,

"What now?"

"It's something that Jane really needs to hear. Y'know, leadership stuff..."

"Christ Benson. Last I saw, she was running to the admin building..."

"What? In the middle of all that? What for..."

"The fuck do I know? Just go tell 'er what'er you gotta tell 'er you git."

Jennings stood up and could visibly be seen gritting his teeth. But the man didn't hang around to lecture Tam on his etiquette and set off towards the park's admin building. It was only a few minutes later suddenly Jennings was calling out for Tam again. Tam rolled his eyes and shook his head. Apparently Jane wasn't good enough for whatever information he had. Tam got to his feet and glanced over the tired looking survivors, who all now looked nervous as Jennings began reciting Tam's name again and again, now with fear in his voice.

"Alright ladies and gents. Pick your shit up and start on look out. We won't be able to fix this mess up til first light. I wish you could rest, but we ain't got that luxury. I'll get Jane back here in a minute and we go from there ok?"

The surviving Vanners all nodded wearily and Tam set off towards the admin building, the headquarters of sorts for the Vanners at the moment since Jane volunteered her van as a blockade. Tam worked his way through the camp and spied the nervous onlookers gathering in the sort of centre of the encampment. They all looked scared and worried, as though something worse than the defenses being broken had happened. Tam suddenly was met by a teary eyed Jennings from the crowd.

"IN HERE! Jesus Tam... Somethin' ain't right..."

Jennings led Tam to the admin building and stopped just at the door, looking to Tam nervously.

"Look.. it's barred up..."

"Well, unbar it then"

Tam looked to Jennings with a look of disdain and incompetence towards the man. How Jane had picked runners at times was something that made Tam worried. Especially in regards to Jennings who seemed to be running back and forth between cognitive and stupid since the recent meetings with the Haven Scavs, it was like the man was loosing the plot.

"Listen Tam.."

Suddenly a loud bang hit the other side of the door. Then another thud and another. Tam felt his teeth grit as he realised the complications of the situation. Another bang and Tam looked behind him to the rest of the surviving Vanners who weren't currently protecting the broken perimeter as they gathered behind him.

"Everyone get back. This ain't gonna be pretty..."

0600am

The sun was finally rising when Tam allowed himself a rest. Sitting behind the desk of the main office in the admin building, Tam scrunched his noise in disdain as the coagulated coppery smell of stale blood perverted the room. The middle of the Camp park was filled with the surviving Vanners who were trying to anticipate what their next move was going to be... There were no desirable options and morale was more than gone at that point.

Tam breathed deep, rising to his feet, he stepped over the corpse of Jane Meadows, now mangled by teeth marks and a skull filled with a makeshift spear. He moved into the reception room and over the second corpse - the one that had been trapped in the office with Jane, ultimately, the corpse that was her downfall. Tam closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose and he stepped out into the crisp morning light, greeted by a sudden uproar of yelling and questions.

"What happens now?"

"Will we have to leave?"

"We're going to have to separate! Aren't we?"

"What happened to Jane!?"

"Everybody just cool it!" Tam shouted.

The campsite went quiet and Tam brushed a hand through his hair. He sighed again, opening his eyes and adjusting to the dawning light. The camp grounds were in much more disarray than originally visible during the night. Clothes, blunt weapons, blood... They all littered the ground. The frenzy and confusion had caused people to gather, drop and take things all over the place in the panic. Corpses littered corners of the grounds, but mainly an unceremonious pile littered the broken perimeter where about five Vanners still kept guard while the rest decided on what to do.

"Alright, alright... Just give me a moment.."

"What do we do!?" Jennings then asked tentatively.

Suddenly it was Annie, one of the runners who had initially sided with Sam, the woman who accused Haven of killing Tim, who now spoke up.

"For god's sake Jennings. Pull your damned head in. And all of you too. We're ok for the moment so let the man breath..."

"Why are you all looking to me?" Tam said suddenly. "Why do you want to know what to do from me?"

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Looking back and forth, it was hard for anyone to voice an opinion, or more appropriately to convey what they were all thinking at the time. It was Annie who spoke up again,

"Because you idiot. Who else is going to lead us!? We all know she's dead Tam... The question is, why and what are we going to do now she's gone. We've all been talking, and none of us think we can do the job. Granted some of us thought Jane was blowing smoke out of her arse at times... We can't deny we can't all run this show together at the moment. You're the only other person among us who has the cool to help us along the way..."

Tam rolled his eyes and looked to the crowd of about twenty before him. He shook his head and looked to the ground, running his hand across his beard. Tam tried to convey that he didn't want the role. Everyone just continued to stare. Everyone just kept staring, unnerved... waiting for a response. It wasn't entirely unexpected. But the fact of the matter was that the responsibility was given to Tam without their thinking too much about it. Tam sighed and shook his head again.

"Alright... Alright. I'll do it. But only for now!"

Tam looked to everyone again who seemed to have sighed a collective breath of relief.

"First things first. We gotta get our shit together. Everyone start cleaning up this mess, we got a long way to go today before we can feel safe. God knows too it's gotta be done by sundown."

Tam turned on his heel, pinching the bridge of his nose again before deciding on what needed to be done next...

Job.

Haven a rough day: Collaboration

Location: The Old Primary School by the Lake.

Look, I ain't gonna lie to you... We're up shit creek without so much as our hands to bail us out. I know it's a lot ter ask of you right now. Consideren' you probably helped defend the camp last night... But life ain't fair and we got fucked like a Glasgow hooker back in the 1800's. It's time to pull our pants up. I need two of you to go meet a Scav from Haven by the ol' primary school down by the lake nearby. I got into communicado with Haven and explained to them our shituation. They've been kind enough to lend us a drill, and a few building supplies to help us make sure we don't have a repeat of last night again. It's a pretty straight forward job and I tried my best to get you out of heavily infected zones.. But I'm only going by what the Lass in Haven has told me is safe. All of Jane's intel on the Lake District was destroyed last night when she was... Anyway. I asked for light weight supplies, nothing too heavy, so it should just be a drill, screws and a few other things we'll need. After you get those, just get your tail back here. And for god's sake. Be fuckin' careful.

Job.

Gettin' our shit back together: Collaboration

Location: The Old Mill three miles North of the Camp.

I ain't gonna lie to ya. We had a new arsehole torn for us last night. We need to play doctor today and make sure the proverbial doesn't hit the fan again. Lucky for us there's a mill about three miles north of here. It's secluded enough I think that it should be infected free... That being said, I think the horde from last night came from the North. But tough luck is tough luck. I need two of you to get together and bring us back either sheets of iron or a nice stash of wood. It ain't gonna be easy but the best part about this task is, coming back is all down hill. Chances are there ain't gonna be a working car around these parts at all. But if there's even a truck that you can fill up with the supplies and then coast the downhill back here... Well, i'll bare me arse and call you all the saviours. But really the bottom line is... I need two of you to get us some supplies so we can assure we ain't looking at becoming course two tonight. Good luck.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

(Co-written with Rann)

Welcome Party

November 11th, 2013

Hoppy woke up.

It was a fitful sort of thing, the whole ordeal. The struggle between life and death. There wasn't any of that cheesy, cliche'd shit you'd expect of a near-death situation. Just an impending darkness and the vague feeling of needing to fight, rather than blindly accept and go with whatever flow there may or may not have been. And damnit, Hoppy really liked a fight. She knew it was close - given the tube sticking out of her chest and all that. And the pitying looks everyone gave her more or less made sense now. They'd written her off as dead.

Luckily, she didn't like to meet expectations. Never did, really. And this time she'd defied it, just like any other time. She still felt odd in the head - sedatives were probably still in effect, after all. A good thing, because it meant she didn't have to feel the pain of a fucking tube possibly poking into her lung. Her chest was tender, though - didn't need feeling to know that. But breathing wasn't so bad now. Though her leg still felt awkward and alien-ish. Like it wasn't a part of her. She scowled impatiently at it, even as Doctor Short - and this new guy who introduced himself as Jay - tended to her, giving her tests and examinations and whatnot.

Apparently she checked out, and when Hoppy asked for a wheelchair - because fuck, she didn't want to just sit around like a dead weight for however long it took to recover - they gave it to her, more or less easing her into it carefully, which annoyed her even more - being dependent like this was fucking annoying. She almost wondered where the wheelchair came from - but more or less expected Gary to have rigged it together somehow, since her leg was fucking up since the gunshot on that damn boat. Even after waking up, she was relying on people. Being a drain. But there wasn't anything to do about it. And - she realized that she owed Mark an apology for before. The shame somewhat burned at her mind - also she was really damn hungry. So after Short went to call up Mark - the man sauntered into the room, with a nod of the head, and a look of relief.

"You've been out for a while." The man remarked, and Hoppy gave him a bit of a nervous grin in response. How to talk to him? What to say to him? There really wasn't much to it, was there? "How are you feeling?"

Well, that more or less cut out a chance to apologize right then.

"...Tidy." She made a flawlessly acted chuckle - put on the mask, as usual, right? So people don't worry as much as they probably would have. So they'd be at ease. If anything to help, Hoppy could at least do this much. "Feels like I c'n go an' kill zacks 'gain! Easy, easy."

Mark just nodded, and Hoppy was sure he was somewhat dubious, but chose not to contest the lie.

"That's good. Once you can go out on the field again, things should be easier." He patted her on the head, earning another wry smile from the Welsh. "Glad you pulled through. We all are. Almost had to pull Shinji away from his watch of you."

They both laughed a little then, and a pleased feeling set over Hoppy. Though, it was time to get to business. She had to get caught up to speed on whatever she may have missed. Being out for about thirty hours probably meant she missed out on some events. And almost as if on cue, Mark also adopted a more serious face, looking almost slightly ashen. Hoppy, too, wiped the easy expression from her face, and the tone of the room quickly became more somber.

"Tilo went to the Rands." Mark said, and Hoppy's attention went to the man that had invited her for a nice, light-hearted chat under the tree. He was peculiar - and heck, she'd almost embarassed herself pretty badly in front of him that one time. Knowing that for his name to come up probably meant something bad had just happened. Her heart went to her throat as she thought - what if he died? - but she forced it out. Negative thoughts are what made her reclusive in the first place. And that was a disastrous few days for her. Had to at least pretend to be positive. Upbeat. The things Hoppy usually carried with her within Haven. Whatever reason Tilo's name was brought up, they'd be able to handle it. It won't go down like it did with Chip. Or Toby. Or - a painful pang - Monroe. Damnit, they wouldn't lose anyone else. They'd already lost way too much. Hoppy's eyes darted around for her cleaver, the weapon's prescence usually giving her a sense of calm, as if the blade soothed her, whispered that it'd protect her, and by extention, help protect Haven. "To investigate about recent events concerning Richard Brand. Pretty... bad shit. We lost contact of him, Hoppy, so..."

Damnit. Goddamnit. That was it. She was going out, this very damn second, to Upton Abbey, wheelchair and injury be damned. she'd wheel herself there through sheer force of will because fuck they couldn't lose another one. Not another damn person. She couldn't let it happen. She didn't want to be alone again, like she was before Haven, and arguably, at some times, even before the apocalypse even happened. She made a determined face and started pushing on the makeshift wheels, somewhat awkward, out of the room, only to have the handle grabbed by Mark. She glared at him fiercely, resolutely. Because fuck. Just fuck.

"En't losin' anyone else." She muttered. "Let go a' me, damnit ta' 'ell, Mark. En't g'na sit 'round an' wait fer the news like some useless twyp."

"Calm down." The man sounded almost weary. "Don't go off again like you did in Cromwell, okay? Just... stop acting and listen. There is something you can do here, you know. A way to help. You won't just be useless."

She stopped tersely, waiting for an explanation. Because she sure felt like a worthless sack of meat; powerless to do anything right in this world.

"A man, from the Rands is here. In Haven, with two women. Sandra and Elizabeth. He was there when the whole thing happened. Callie-" Mark paused, taking a breath. "You're good at reading people, right, Hoppy? We could use you to help... interrogate him, discern the facts of what happened. Name's Dom." He then turned the wheelchair so that it faced him, Hoppy staring into his eyes. "You can help in this way, at least for now. And once you're better, you can be back out there, doing your thing again. So don't think you're useless."

Hoppy didn't answer, but she as at least calmed down. The girl now was trying to wheel herself in the other direction, to where she assumed the "interrogation" was taking place.

"Anyways, I'm off." Mark said. "Gotta meet up with some people from Eden Valley. You, take care of yourself, alright?"

"Aye." Hoppy murmured in response, already groaning at the effort of using her arms to more or less move the weight of herself, and the wheelchair. "Oh, an', Mark?" He stopped walking. "Can' yew get someone t'get flour, milk, eggs, sugar? an' git Gary t'make a non 'lectric teamer or summat. I got an idea t'cheer things up 'round 'ere." The usual smirk splayed across her face, and a devious narrowing of her eyes. "A real good idea."

----------

1520

The rifle butt to the face did not help Dominic's case. In fact, he believed it revived the other bruise he received in late October. His hands were bound, he wished they weren't. He wanted some ice or something for the bruise, he felt like a headache was about to come on. His lips were chapped, he had been running for most of the day without water to handle his thirst. He watched the two women eye him and circle him like vultures.

"Okay let's go over this again, Dominic..."

He sighed, head fallen to his lap. He felt as if they were getting nowhere. He stayed silent for a moment until he noticed the woman had a cast on her leg, "Where'd you get that?" he nodded to her leg.

"I'm asking the questions here."

"Look I've told you everything that I know."

"Did you?"

He glared at her in silence, she was unsympathetic, what could he do?

"When did Tilo arrive at your place?"

"I wasn't there when he arrived. I was out with some hunters to check out a chopper crash site, RAF I'm sure."

"How do you know it was RAF?"

"I recognize them from a mile away, I was in the Forces."

Alison's curiosity was kindled, "Forces?"

She began to come around, believing that people who used to be in the military could be trusted to some degree.

"British Army. Um, Second battalion. Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. I am, or was, a Kingsman. I was in Afghanistan through most of..."

"That's not important right now." Callie interrupted.

Carter gestured to herself, "I was the pilot of that chopper."

Now that made some sense to Dominic, it explained why she was wearing military fatigue. It also explained that her short hair was a result of military regulation and not bad hairstyle choices.

"You went down on the fifth? I saw a plume of fire that night coming from the west."

Before Alison could reply, Callie cut in, "Let's get back to you, what happened after that?"

She was slowly losing her temper at the fact that they digressed into a tangent.

------

"I tried to get Mrs. Rand out of there. We passsed through the halls, found Richard on the ground holding onto his pistol. When we saw Professor King on the ground with Eric, I could pretty much tell what happened. Professor King was running with Eric until they went past Brand who shot him in the back."

Callie let out an impatient sigh.

He continued, "Richard, I don't know what happened to him for him to be on the ground."

Dominic sighed, "It was a damned warzone over there."

"He insisted that we leave, he already knew that..." Dominic trailed off.

"Knew that what?"

To the side, and just entering, was the wheelchair girl, more or less glaring at the new guy. Her brow was furrowed, and her face was drawn in a taut, angry expression. "An' call 'im Tilo, fer fuck's sake. It's 'is name."

Dominic looked at the girl, then back at the two women who stared at him.

"Do I have to spell it out?" he waited for a response, "...that he was a goner."

Hoppy then directed her glare to Callie, as if trying to get some sort of explanation. Tilo wasn't allowed to die, after all. With some more effort, she manuevered the wheels so that she ended up positioned next to the school teacher.

"And did you know he was a goner?" Callie ran her hand through her hair.

"I..." he paused, "I didn't."

"I'm...I'm sorry," Dominic said calmly.

He saw their expressions, they had lost somebody important to them he guessed. He knew what that was like, Afghanistan and Keswick was enough for him.

"...If'n 'e's dead," She said, ignoring the apology - it wasn't going to help anyways, wasn't going to do anything. "Coulda at least got the body back 'ere. Twyp."

Callie took a breath of forced calm, trying not to lose her head. She turned to Hoppy with a raised voice, "Would you please cool it?"

"I had to get Mrs. Rand out of there, it wouldn't have done any of us good if we tried to carry a wounded man out of that place. We were barely lucky enough to get out ourselves."

This time Carter spoke, "And are you sure he's one hundred percent dead? No chance to get him medical help? We do have a paramedic here, just recently."

"Well I wouldn't have known that would I?" he countered.

Dominic continued in a subdued tone, "We were gone by then. I had to save Elizabeth and Eric first. I owe it to William for what he's done for me."

In a more snide tone. "An' yew decided, 'fuck all' for whatever Tilo did over there." Hoppy was still in a dark mood, but at least she didn't look as if she wanted to cleave at a certain someone's neck.

"Hoppy!" Callie snapped before she returned her attention to the soldier, "So you just left him there to die?"

"Between a woman and child, and a wounded man, who would you save?"

Soldier's logic.

"I'd save Tilo." Hoppy said clearly. "'E's one a' us, ent 'e? Trust 'im more than any Rand or 'Vanner."

Carter sighed, and shot Hoppy another warning glance.

"Stop or get out," Callie lashed at Hoppy, her eyes had turned red.

Hoppy frowned, and took a few breaths. She was supposed to help somehow. This wasn't really helping at all. She remembered the feeling she got when Mike was trying to reel her in - that litle nag at the back of her head - and shrugged. She wasn't getting any of that from the new guy.

The wheelchair girl shook her head grudgingly. "I dun' think 'e's lying. Jus' a twyp, Callie."

The ex-soldier scoffed at the comment, if he ever stayed with the Haveners, the wheel chair girl would be one of the people out to get him.

"You're staying here until our people come back from Upton, and then we'll decide what will happen to you," Callie eyed the man suspiciously.

Hoppy nudged Callie, at that, an idea striking her.

"I'm g'nna bake sumethin'." She murmured, gesturing at her more or less physical helplessness. "Since I can't... move much, you be me 'ands or summat." She frowned further. "En't lettin' yew outta me sight 'til the others git back. Gives us stuff to do when waitin', too."

------

Dom had nodded off, sitting there staring at people was awkward enough for him. Not talking to them was boring enough for him. And it was around the time of day when people were most vulnerable to sleep. It could not be helped. Just a little bit, rest the eyes. Just a little a bit before he wakes and faces the world around him.

"Wake up," a sharp voice jabbed.

His eyes flit open, trying to adjust to the single light in the farmhouse kitchen. His little rest disrupted. His eyes roamed around to a sight that seemed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, maps stuck with pins and marked with red circles.

"I bet you're damn tired after leaving a friend of ours back there to die right?" Carter glared at him.

Dominic glanced at her, the ropes on his wrists felt tighter than before.

"Sleep deprivation," he blinked with a daze, "Were you about to get a bucket of water for me?"

"Don't push your luck," Carter said, "How did you even manage to become a soldier?" her tone cut deep beneath the belt.

Dominic looked at her as she said this, what was she trying to do?

"Don't throw stones when you live in a glass house, last I checked you're the pilot who crashed a chopper and killed everyone inside."

The pilot remained silent, unfazed by the comment.

"Stay on topic. Was Tilo dead when you found him?"

"No."

"So why did you leave him?"

The soldier hesitated for a moment, "Because he was wounded."

"But he was still alive."

"Wounded and alive in a mansion filled with zombies means dead and zed."

"Are you sure he couldn't stand up and walk? Are you sure it wasn't another hunter holding Eric?"

Dominic's brow was raised, "What...? He...he was wounded, two bullet holes in the back of his jacket. I saw him, I saw Professor King. He had grey hair and was wearing the leather jacket that he wore the first time he came."

"Tilo didn't leave Haven this time with a leather jacket. Are you sure it wasn't someone else?"

He shook his head confused until he realized something, "I know what you're trying to do." Dominic returned her gaze with his own stoic visage.

"You can try every damn trick in the book that you want, but I know what I saw. I saw him get shot."

"You saw him get shot?"

"I mean, I meant I saw the wounds on his back."

"Did you shoot him?"

Dominic was irate, "No. I already told you that he was shot by Richard."

"So you saw him get shot by Brand?"

Dominic paused, "No."

"So it's possible that Richard didn't shoot Tilo?"

Dominic shook his head, unsure where she was going, "Possible. But unlikely."

"So you just assumed that he was shot by Richard," Carter paused, "And then you assumed that none of you would have survived if you tried to pull him out of there."

Dominic avoided her gaze, lost in his own thoughts. His lips were still chapped and his heart was sprinting just as it had been the entire day.

Carter pulled him back, "You made two assumptions that might cost you your life."

There was a lapse of silence.

The man finally spoke, "As a soldier, I've learned it's the only thing you can depend upon in a life or death situation."

"This isn't a war," the pilot stated.

"It isn't?" the soldier gave her a blank stare.

She understood very clearly what he meant.

"You're no court martial, and even if you were, I don't regret what I did. There was the possibility that we could have gotten out of there with Professor King, but then there was also the possibility that none of us could have gotten out of there alive. So I made a decision."

"That was better than nothing," he concluded.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

(Collaboration with Messiah and Faith Fanon)

A King Among Men

November 11th, 2013

Part 1: Four's also a crowd

Ben happened to be the first Scav that Callie had seen. Oddly enough, he had just been passing through on his way to see Laney. Callie ushered him over and stuffed a crumpled piece of paper and a map into his hands.

"Tilo's hurt."

Surprised, to say the least, Ben took what she offered to him and looked down at both. The words that he'd wanted to say became stuck in his throat when she spoke. The map was, well, it was a map, and the other piece of paper gave a little bit of detail ont he situation. Most notably, the words 'missing', 'overrun', and 'fruitless' caught his attention.

"Take the medic with you. Jay."

With both map and instructions in hand, Ben rushed to the room that he and Laney had been sharing.

"Tilo didn't make it back," he announced to Laney, barely through the door, "He's missing. Injured." Maybe dead, he thought. He didn't want to give up hope, but realistically, the chances weren't good.


Quickly, Ben tossed on his backpack. Everything else he needed was with him already.

Ben's forthright manner jerked Laney out of her half-doze. Despite her panic attack the previous night, she'd slept well. Now, she pushed all those issues out of her mind as she swung her legs out of bed. Even the little information Ben had imparted spelled trouble. Relations with the Rand group Tilo was visiting were tense to say the least.

She hurried to the armory for her scoped rifle and a Scav Pack. She also grabbed one of the pistols she'd recovered from the Sea King crash site, loaded it and tucked it into the back of her jeans. It had been six months since she'd last visited a gun range, and her confidence with the rifle was growing, but it felt good to handle a pistol again. Passing the Command Centre on the way back, Laney was halted in her tracks by the feeling someone was staring at her. True enough, Callie was ignoring Carter's urgent, low tone and fixing Laney with a scrutinizing look. She'd seen the tape. Laney realized with a chill. Though she was trying to keep the memory of Benson's attack buried, so stop the feeling of helplessness overwhelm her, the fact that someone else in Haven had witnessed her humiliation threatened to rob her of all her courage and determination. Rishi must have seen it too, and maybe Gary. As if trying to escape the feeling of desperation, Laney hurried from the farmhouse.

Ben was pursing his lips and scratching his stubble as he tried to make awkward conversation with Jay when Laney barreled from the farmhouse. She took a deep breath of sharp winter air, exhaled with a sigh, and strode for the gate. The two men shared a surprised glance and hurried after her.

Kiera had slept well ever since her trip to the hospital, and the night before was no exception. She awoke refreshed and energized, ready to take on the day. The days had grown colder, so kiera hurried to put on warm clothes. After suitably bundled, she knelt down on the floor and pulled up one of the floorboards.

Walking lazily down the hall, Kiera suddenly heard urgent voices in the command center. She recognized one of them as Callie and she was saying something about Tilo being injured. Slightly embarassed at eavesdropping, Kiera quickly retreated to her room before she could be spotted. She stood just inside her door waiting for Ben to knock and tell her about the situation, when no one came, Kiera realized she would have to invite herself on the rescue mission.

With Laney leading the way, and Jay soon with them, the trio walked out into the cold, snowy air of the Lake District. As they were about to pass through the gates of Haven, a voice called out, causing them both to turn.

Like fleeing thieves, Ben, Laney, and Jay were sneaking away from the farmhouse without her. Angrily she stomped after them.

"Hey, Tilo is my friend too. I'm coming with you three." Kiera told them decisively.

Ben looked between the two women hesitantly. This is what it all led up to, it seemed. He didn't particularly have a good feeling about this, seeing as they both... wanted him, or whatever, but they would probably need all the help they could get.

"Alright. Fine," Ben relented, earning him a distasteful scowl from Laney. For a moment, he felt like giving them both a warning about trying anything, but when push came to shove, they were part of Haven, just as he was. He had faith that they would both put the needs of Haven above their own.

But, just to be safe, he allowed the two women to go ahead of him, just so he could keep an eye on them both at the same time. Jay joined Ben at his side.

"What are we expecting to find?" the paramedic asked.

"Tilo, a horde, and a whole lot of bodies," Ben replied. At least, those were his expectations.

"A horde?" Laney called back from where she'd walked besides Kiera in silence. "So is Tilo actually missing or..." She let the question hang unanswered in the air, alongside the clouds of steam that came up from everyone's breath.

"I don't know," Ben admitted quietly after a long moment of silence.

A gust of wind blew directly into their faces and Ben had to duck his head down to keep the snow from ending up directly in his eyes. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and shivered a little. It seemed colder today than it had ever been before, at least since he arrived at Haven; even colder than the night he had escaped the clutches of the cannibalistic brothers. Laney flexed her right hand. The fingers she'd injured were healing, but they stung in the cold.

"Well, we gotta go look anyway, right?" she urged, partly to herself. "Even if... Well, we need to know what's going on over there."

Ben nodded, "Yeah," he kept his head low still, and all he could see of the two in front of him were their lower legs.

They were at a distinct disadvantage here, as none of them had ever been to Upton. The only that had, well, that's exactly who they were out looking for. "We need to be careful, though," he added, "Especially if there's a horde."

"Yeah, stick close," Laney urged. "If this snow gets any heavier, we could get split up. And we won't be able to hear Zack coming." She looked around nervously. Though the road was clear, outlines of the stone walls, hedges and fields around them were blurred. Only a mile out of Haven, the countryside should have been full of familiar sights. But now, any nook or cranny could be harbouring a deadly threat. Laney shook her head. Her eyes were beginning to water from squinting. Just then, there was a blur of movement further up the road to Upton.

"Zombies," she hissed, swinging her rifle off her shoulder. Around her, she sensed her fellow Scavs tense in preparation for the imminent conflict. There was a flurry of panicky movement from Jay, obviously unused to dealing with the undead in the open countryside. A blurred figure ahead of them shot forward. Laney gasped. It was moving faster than any zombie she had ever seen. Almost instantly it was upon them, giving her no time for a shot. The rifle was proving useless in the snowy conditions.

Kiera stepped forward, her arms out, and Ben was about leap at her and drag her from certain death when she spoke out: 'Here, boy.'

The dog's different behavior was curious. It had never approached so closely before; still Kiera reached out to the dog and tried to call it closer. The brown dog halted a few feet in front of the group, its little tail wagged slowly as it paced back and forth in front of them. Two short whines could be heard from the dog.

"Cute," remarked Laney, grudgingly amused. "What's he trying to say?"

"Any kids trapped down the well, Lassie?" joked Ben.

"I don't know. Probably just nervous about meeting so many people." Kiera said from her crouched position.

The dog suddenly seemed to lose interest in the group and with a final whimper; they watched as the dog trotted off happily in the direction of Haven, a strange reminder of the domesticity and peace of the old world. Distracted, no-one was quick enough to look around to see whether the howling behind them was the winter wind or approaching undead. It was only the slap-slap of running feet that belatedly alerted them, and Ben managed to get his hand around the throat of the zombie that crashed into him, and kept its jaws at arm's length as it bore him to the ground.

Laney rushed to the struggling bodies, instinctively yanking on the zombie's collar to keep its jaws from Ben's flesh. Kiera and Jay faced the direction from which it had come; even in the poor visibility, they could easily make out a large wedge of bodies approaching.

"There's a lot of them," Kiera called out in warning. Laney pulled her hatchet out of the zombie's skull and, as Ben rolled the corpse off him, looked around.

"Over the walls, quick," she called, pulling Ben to his feet and towards the closest stone boundary, the left-hand wall. Kiera and Jay scrambled over the wall closet to them. In seconds, the two pairs were separated by 20 or more howling zombies.

"Kiera, Jay," Ben called over the noise. The wind seemed to snatch the words from his mouth. He and Laney could just about hear an answering shout from across the road.

"Shit, Ben, we can't leave them over there."

"We can't leave this many Zeds this close to Haven either," Ben shot back, stepping forward, hatchet raised, with a grim look on his face. Laney heaved a deep, resigned breath and joined in, hacking first at the grasping hands and then at the heads of the mindless horde.

On the other side of the wall, Jay continued to call to Ben and Laney. Kiera tugged nervously at his sleeve. "Jay," she urged. "Jay."

As another body added to the press of creatures trying to reach Kiera and Jay, a stone slid from the top of the wall. Two zombies pressed into the gap, and a stone slid from either side of them. In no time at all, the wall had fallen to half its height in a metre-long gap, and zombies were tumbling over it. By the time the first zombie had righted itself and scanned the area for its prey, Kiera and Jay had fled.

Despite the cold, Laney was sweating as she felled the last zombie. Her shoulder ached from swinging her hatchet. Even before they'd taken down the last of the horde, Ben and Laney had seen what had happened opposite.

"What do we now?"

Ben chewed his lip as he mulled it over. "We go after Kiera and Jay," he then said decisively.

"But, Tilo-" Laney started.

"Laney, we have to consider the very real possibility that he's..." Ben didn't finish the sentence. He had the feeling she knew what he meant, and he saw her hang her head. "If they need us, we can't leave them."

It wasn't a decision he liked making. Tilo could still be alive, but the chances were slim.

"What if he's..?" The words died on her lips, and she hung her head, avoiding Ben's gaze. "Okay." She took one last look back at the road as they hopped the wall. She was sure they could track the zombies, given the settling blanket of snow. At the same time, the thought of Tilo lying hurt, or at the mercy of the Hunter Ben said ruled the Rands... "I hope he's okay."

Unbidden, unwanted, the memory of what Kiera had said, about Ben kissing her, crept into Laney's mind.


Part 2: Back to back

The slope was steep beyond the wall, Kiera and Jay struggled not to trip as they madly dashed down the hill. On either side of the pair, bodies rolled down ahead of them, creating a hazard for the survivors at both ends. They broke through the line of disoriented walkers, using their momentum to create an open path ahead of them. Having no idea of the pursuing number behind them, Kiera spared a glance back. About six walkers remained right on their heels, while another four or so were still righting themselves from their sudden tumble.

Jay rapidly pulled ahead of the shorter American, causing Kiera to wonder if he might actually leave her to fend for herself. Barely eighty feet had been covered by the pair, but Kiera was already feeling a sharp burning in her lungs and her legs had started to ache. Each step grew slower and shorter than the last, till she was less than two feet away from the closest walker.

The appearance of a small stand of trees caused Jay to swerve towards them with Kiera quickly changing her direction as well. Taking large strides Jay scrambled up into the first tree. Kiera felt an ominous brush across her back as she struggled towards the safety of the trees. With the help of a second wind, she reached the tree that Jay was situated in and raised her hands for help. An indifferent stare met her desperate gaze. Kiera waited a moment longer, but when no help was offered she dodged around the trunk and raced towards the next available tree.

With an uncoordinated leap, Kiera secured a handhold on one of the lowest branches. She attempted to swing both legs up, but a pair of clawed hands halted her progress. Kicking with her free leg she managed to loosen the grip, but the precious seconds that she spent struggling enabled her other pursuers to arrive and grasp her other dangling leg. Their combined strength weakened Kiera's grip on the branch, the bark scraping against her gloves. For a horrifying moment she caught sight of Jay, watching her struggle from his safe perch with a look of mild interest.

Then the branch slipped from her grasp.

The sudden lack of opposing force caused the surrounding walkers to fall backwards, with Kiera landing on top of the tangled heap. Reacting immediately, she clambered off the pile and grasped her pipe weapon, ready to take down as many as possible before they overwhelmed her. Desperation made her swing with every fiber of muscle, she managed to bring one down with a single overhead swing, but two more seemed to take its place.

Kiera's circle grew tighter as the walkers rushed in to overcome her with superior numbers. Then she caught sight of a red blur out of the corner of her eye. Jay entered into the fray, cutting down the stragglers that were nearing the circle. Slowly he made his way closer to Kiera, till the pair stood back to back against the never-ending onslaught.


Part 3: Side by side

Ben and Laney trotted across the field, following the tracks that the smaller horde had made in giving chase to Kiera and Jay. Now, neither of them were trackers in any sense of the word, but these tracks were particularly difficult to miss in the snow, considering the amount of them and how recklessly they ran after their prey.

For a while, the tracks went east, away from the road. Laney, trailing Ben by several yards, watched the movement of his lean back, his rangy shoulders, the back and shoulders she'd clung to night after night, and fought to repress doubt. After all, she considered, how well did she really know this man? Their intense love-making, their rambling, intimate, hushed conversations, couldn't make up for the fact that he'd had 22 formative years that she knew very little about. She wanted to take Ben at face value but perhaps there had been a lesson in Benson's assault on her. Perhaps men were hardwired a certain way. Perhaps, after the end of the world, certain biological urges couldn't be resisted. Perhaps there was some truth in what Kiera had said.

"I'm not giving up on him," Ben said, cutting the silence, "I just -"

"What happened at the hospital with you and Kiera?" Laney interrupted.

A dawning realization came over Ben. Was she worried that he had feelings for the other American? He saw how his choice to go after Kiera might have raised suspicions in Laney, but this wasn't about that.

"I told you what happened, didn't I?"

"Did you?"

"Yes!"

With his eyes on Laney, he had almost missed the sudden sharp turn that the tracks made.

"Do you really want to go over this now, Laney?" he asked, turning with the path of tracks.

Laney sighed, about to respond when they both saw what they seemed to be looking for. A group of undead had swarmed towards a group of trees. One of the trees held a lone figure perched in it, but that was all he could see. Then another figure rose up and started swinging something. The figure from the tree dropped down and started helping out.

Ben motioned to Laney and they picked up their pace, Laney pushing aside her irritation at Ben and Kiera alike. He drew his hatchet as he moved towards the group. About twenty feet from it, he whistled sharply, causing about half of the attackers to turn their attention towards him. They shambled in his direction, slowly at first, but then their pace increased.

"Yeah, that's right. Come on," he muttered with determination, raising his weapon up in preparation for the first runner. He planted his hatchet firmly in the top of its skull as it got near.

Another two crashed into the back of the newly dead again corpse, knocking Ben back and almost causing him to fall onto his back. His grip on his weapon had been strong, and he kept it in his hand, even with the momentum of the other two runners barreling into the back of the first. But, instead of loosening freely from the top of its head, the bladed weapon took a direct route forward, ejecting the front of its skull and bits of brain past Ben as he staggered, and leaving an open and bloody cavity in the front of its head.

He had to put his left hand on the ground to keep himself from falling completely. Pain shot through his hand as his knuckles scraped along the ground, severely irritating the wound he had sustained while in captivity.

The runners had not been quite so lucky as him. When they collided with the other, their legs got tangled up with each other and they were sent sprawling to the ground.

Laney was at his right and, before either of the two runners on the ground could get up, she executed them both. But, that left her vulnerable to another as she bent down to do it.

Ignoring the pain in his hand, he ran at it, leading with his left forearm out in front of him. Caught completely unaware, the thing was blindsided and was sent to the ground in a flailing mess of arms and legs. Ben had braced himself for the hit this time and remained standing. Then he stepped over to it and raised his boot up to crush its skull.

He turned to see the fifth and final runner they'd attracted being felled by another one of Laney's swings.

The sharp whistle that drew half the pack's number away, gave Kiera just enough breathing room to search for their unexpected saviors. Despite the still present danger, Kiera found herself smiling as she caught sight of Ben and Laney. Their presence gave her a renewed sense of hope and determination. Jay spotted the pair soon after and a similar expression crossed his face.

Fighting back to back, Kiera and Jay made quick work of the remaining walkers. The four scavengers stood amongst a field of death, staring at one another, grateful to still be alive. Stepping over the scattered corpses, Kiera and Jay went to rejoin their rescuers.

Just out of Laney and Ben's hearing range, Kiera leaned towards Jay. "I won't forget what you did." She said in a threatening tone.

"Neither will I, my dearest." Jay replied in a sickeningly sweet tone. He suddenly leaned in even closer to Kiera and inhaled conspicuously, "Mmmm." he whispered in her ear, before straightening and approaching the other pair with a pleased expression.

Ben held his wounded hand close to his chest. It hadn't quite fully healed. When Short had changed his bandages the day before, he had spied signs of healing on his stump. She had told him not to aggravate it. Slowly, he brought his hand up and saw a spot of red underneath the bandages. It hurt, but it was nowhere near how bad as it had been before.


Part 4: Stately home

A full circuit of Upton Abbey told them one thing: The ground floor at the very least was over-run. A large group, 15 or so, were gathered aimlessly at the main doors in what the Scavs were coming to understand as 'rest' mode. Others were bunched in threes and fours around the grounds. Using the scope on her rifle, Laney couldn't detect signs of life through the upper-story windows, although that wasn't confirmation that there were no survivors. The foursome took cover in a knot of trees behind Upton.

"Okay, how the fuck are we going to get in there?" Laney groused.

"What, none of you have been in here before?" asked Jay.

"No, going in blind," Ben confirmed. "You're from round here though, right?"

"Aye," Jay responded, "though I ain't ever been in here."

"Well, what's that, then?" asked Ben, pointing past some outhouses to a single-storey extension at the back of the imposing building. It was grey and dull, not ornate like much of the rest of Upton.

"An extension, a laundry or summat," Jay shrugged.

"If we can get up on that, then in a window..." Ben reached into his pack and pulled out bunch of fireworks. "Right, wait here. When the geeks go for the fireworks, get up on the laundry roof. Meet you there."

Ben took off in a low dash. Watching him go, Laney felt a pang of fear for him. Time and again, Scavs' experiences had shown there was safety in numbers. She looked from Jay to Kiera and, still distrustful of the American girl, urged: 'Jay, go with him. Watch his back.' She ignored the betrayed look from Kiera next to her. I'll keep you where I can see you, she thought to herself.

"Okay,' Laney spoke up, half to herself. 'If you own a stately house, where do you keep your ladders?"

Ben felt like a man under fire, darting from one piece of cover to the next, trying to get a good position from which to light the fireworks. At a low wall, he stopped, catching the sound of footsteps behind him. Putting his hand on the handle of his weapon, he wheeled around, about to raise it, when he saw that it was Jay and not a runner.

That was the second time he'd nearly killed the man, mistaking him for a member of the walking dead.

"Laney ask--" the paramedic began, but he stopped when Ben pressed a finger to his own lips in the universal hushing gesture.

This was a good spot, he decided; it was close enough to attract a crowd, but far enough away that Laney and Kiera, and shortly afterwards, Ben and Jay could go and get on top of the laundry room. It was also fairly near the entrance to the house itself. Hopefully, it would attract some from within the house as well and make some parts of the house safer.

Ben pulled out a matchbook that had come with the fireworks. He struck it and lit the fuse and started away in his crouching dash. But, he noticed that Jay was frozen in his spot, staring at something. Reaching out, he took Jay's arm and yanked him along harshly and gave him a scrutinizing look as they rushed for better cover, further away from where the dead were sure to come.

Minutes later, a burst of colored light erupted in the sky. Around the grounds, countless undead heads snapped up, and the horde shuffled in the firework's direction. As the light extinguished, a second firework went up, then a third. As the horde shambled to the front of the house, Laney emerged from the tree cover, followed by Kiera. They darted up to the closest outhouse. Peering in the window, Laney spied a ladder, and turned to point it out to Kiera when a zombie lunged against the window, shattering the glass and drawing an involuntary shriek from Laney. She flung herself back, landing in the snow, as Kiera stepped forward and hacked at the creature's head.

The ladder was tangled in amongst a garden hose, shears, and several other implements. Minutes passed and metal clanged on metal as the women worked together to free it. Frustrated and impatient with the delay, Laney was glad to get out of the musty, claustrophobic outhouse. Her relief turned to shock, however, when she saw a group of six zombies approaching from the trees where the Scavs had hidden. Whether they'd been attracted by the fireworks, her shriek or the noise they'd made freeing the ladder, Laney didn't care. The zombies had spied Laney and Kiera, and they were fast.

"Up on the roof," she yelled behind her, tugging at the ladder to hurry the American. They covered the remaining 20 metres at full speed, kicking up snow. Laney thrust her end of the ladder up against the gable end of the laundry extension, and shot up it almost before Kiera had planted it on the ground. As she swung herself up onto the roof, a scream came from below, laced with fear.

"Laneyyy! Help!"

Kiera was halfway up the ladder. gripping desperately to one of the rungs and kicking out at a zombie that had reached up and locked its hands around her left ankle. The first few kicks kept its head and deadly jaws out of range of the foot it had grasped, but then another zombie arrived and grabbed her right foot too. Now only the strength of her arms was keeping Kiera out of reach. A terrible thought entered Laney's mind. Two more slavering zombies arrived staggered up, threatening to unbalance the ladder. Kiera screamed again as it wobbled, staring at Laney, immobile and stony-faced, with wide, pleading eyes.

Laney seemed to shudder, then reached behind her, under her jacket and Scav Pack, and whipped out her pistol. Two-handed, she fired five shots in rapid succession. She didn't take in how many shots hit their mark, but the zombies dragging on Kiera slumped to the ground, and the American scrambled to the roof, panting and weeping. Laney put her arm awkwardly around Kiera's shoulder and patted.

"It's alright, hun, you're not bit, you're not bit." She leant over the edge of the roof and, emptying the clip, put down the remaining four zombies. She was settling down to wait for Ben and Jay when a cry rang out from inside. They were on their feet in an instant, smashing a window to gain access to the main building. Laney didn't even have a second to contemplate what she'd considered doing to Kiera.


Part 5: Ghost house

Ben and Jay remained in cover until the fireworks went off. The rudimentary explosives were sure to keep their attention for a while; long enough for everyone to get inside the house.

Once the fireworks had gone off, the pair made their way in a circle towards the back of the house, careful not to go too fast and run straight into a crowd of zombies. Part way around, they heard gunshots. Ben risked to bring himself to a standing position and looked around, but saw nothing.

"Come on," he whispered, beckoning to Jay with a wave of his hand.

They arrived around the back of the house to find the bodies of several walkers and a ladder pushed up against the laundry room, but no other sign of Laney or Kiera.

"Laney!" he called quietly, and then a little louder, "Kiera!"

No response.

Ben ascended the steps of the ladder and looked between Jay and the open window. In short order, both men were on top of the laundry room. The younger man peered through the window and noted a drop of a foot or two down to some stairs.

He brought himself back out to look at the paramedic and gave him a smile that lacked any emotion.

"You first."

"What?" Jay stammered in response.

"Don't worry. I'm right behind you." Ben was still mindful of the reaction Kiera had had towards the man when they reunited in Westmorland. He didn't want to give the man an opportunity to leave Ben alone.

"Alright," the paramedic answered uncertainly before ducking through the window and dropping down to the floor. A few seconds later, Ben dropped down behind him.

"You okay?" Ben asked.

"Dandy."

"Good. Let's go," came Ben's response, stepping down the stairs.

Once they reached the bottom floor, the pair took a left turn down a corridor. They stepped over a body who lacked a head, possessing nothing but a bloody stump there instead. As they continued, they stopped and listened briefly. There was an almost perpetual groan coming from the house, and not the type of groan you'd hear from an old house like this. This was more akin to a groan a fleshy thing would make.

"We have to be careful," Jay whispered, apparently having heard the sounds as well. Ben nodded. They were on the lookout for Laney and Kiera, for Tilo, or for anything that they could take back to Haven.

Slowly, Ben poked his head around a corner, but immediately pulled it back. Down the hallway was a small crowd of the undead, idle, and waiting for a sign of their prey to show up. Thankfully, they hadn't seem to notice them. But, that also probably meant that Laney and Kiera hadn't gone that way. Regardless, they couldn't risk it.

Instead, they decided to return the way they had come, but instead of going back up the stairs, they continued past it and down the other side of the hallway. Again, Ben looked around the corner cautiously, but saw no undead. Silently, he motioned to Jay and they moved down the hall.

Then, they came upon an intersection, and dashed straight across. That brought them to a corridor that took a right turn. This time, Jay was first to the corner and checked around the corner. He held his hands out, signifying that it wasn't stopped, so they returned to the intersection and darted across it once again, heading back in the direction of the stairs they'd come down.

Once they'd reoriented themselves so they looking across the intersection again. Left would lead them to the group they'd seen first. Straight across would bring them to the other group. Their only options wewre to go to the right, or to go back. So, they went to the right, which led to another right turn, but that led to a dead end.

There was an open door down that hall, and when they approached to it, he could hear the raspy sounds of at least one walker. Neither of them really knew if they had ways of communicating and bringing more to them. At first, they were going to turn around and go back before it noticed them, but then Ben saw its face. From his position, he could only see the side of it, but he wanted to be sure. Slowly, he entered the room and waited for it to turn and notice him.

In front of him was the face that he swore he'd never forget. It was the man who had killed Tim. It was the man who had caused the deaths of Toby and the other Caravanners who had been killed. It was the man that had caused all of the shit for Haven and the people at Eden Valley.

Richard Brand.

His reanimated face was contorted into a snarl as it lunged for Ben. Roughly, Ben shoved it back and he drew his hatchet and planted it into the top of its skull. Limply, it collapsed to the floor, and Ben freed his hatchet, but he didn't stop. He just kept hacking at it, over and over until there was hardly anything left of its head.

With his chest heaving from anger and exertion, Ben turned around to face Jay, who just stared on in shock, but was unable to find any words for what he'd just seen.

"He deserved worse," Ben breathed out. He deserved a lot worse.

Jay nodded complacently and followed Ben back the way they had come, towards the staircase they'd descended a short time ago. Towards the end of this corridor - once they'd reached it once again - was another room. The door was open on this one as well.

Carefully, they stepped in and closed the door.

Lying on the floor was a body. Ben checked it. A small red circle in the center of her forehead gave the clear indication that this young woman had been shot in the head, possibly to prevent reanimation, or, more likely, just out of cold ruthlessness.

"They're everywhere," Jay whispered worriedly.

"I noticed."

It was then that Ben got an idea.

"We can't let these get back to Haven. If that horde we came across on the road was from here, then they can get to Haven. This many could overwhelm us."

"What do we do, then?" Jay asked.

"We burn it down."

"Burn it down? What about the other two?"

"I know," Ben shot back quickly. He was already in the process of taking out his walkie-talkie. "Laney? Kiera? Anybody there?"

They got no response.

"Shit," Ben muttered and he tried again with no luck.

"We'll just have to hope they can find a way out." Ben shook his head, his features dropping slightly. Although he acted calm and detached, on the inside he was far from either. He felt helpless. Not knowing where they were was killing him. He'd never forgive himself if either of them died in the fire, especially Laney. But this was for Haven, he told himself. If they left this alone, it could potentially cost the entirety of Haven.

"If we can get this room going, the rest of the house should go with it. Pull some stuff into the center of the room."

Ten minutes later, the pair had a pile of things in the center of the room; tables and chairs mostly. Ben took out a matchbook - the very same that he'd used to light the fireworks earlier and, once a match was struck, held the flame at the bottom of the pile. He struck another match and lit the middle of the pile. Finally, he took a third match and started a fire at the top of the pile. In a few minutes, a blaze had started, with the flames licking the ceiling of the room.

The pair stepped back and out of the room and watched as the fire spread through the room; across the floor, up the walls, and finally catching the ceiling.

As the fire clawed at their feet, Ben motioned towards the stairs, "Okay. Time to go."


Part 6: Tilo

The window had opened onto a small wooden staircase that was functional rather than formal. Racing up it in the direction of the cry, Kiera and Laney passed several doors. 'High up,' Laney blurted out as they passed each one. 'It came from higher up.'

Eventually, four stories up, they came to the top of the small staircase, a metal door in front of them. Turning the stiff handle and pushing it open, they were hit by a blast of icy air as they stepped out onto a section of flat roof. Both women tensed as movement across the roof caught their eye. This movement, though, was away from them; no zombie ever moved away. Nonetheless, they remained alert as they approached what looked like a heap of rags.

Closer inspection revealed an elderly man wrapped in several coats and blankets. His formless appearance was topped off with several woolly hats.

"You're... you're... you're not one of them," he eventually stuttered, his teeth chattering behind a wispy grey beard.

"Have you been out here since the horde came?" asked Kiera, her voice full of concern. "Come on, we have to get you inside."

"Nooo!' howled the man. 'Theyre in there. They'll get me!"

"Who?" demanded Laney impatiently. "The Zeds?"

The man merely shook his head and huddled up under his blankets.

"You mean Brand and his men?" A nod from within the blankets. Laney voiced the fear that had gnawed at her since she first glimpsed the sheer number of zombies in and around Upton. "This many zombies, you're probably the only human left in Upton." There was a gasp beside her as Kiera took in the unspoken meaning. 'Brand and his men are either dead or gone," Laney finished.

"Tilo?" asked Kiera. "Have you seen Tilo King? He was visiting from..." At the sight of the man's blank face, Kiera trailed off.

"Come on, we've got to get going," Laney urged. "You can't stay up here. Come on, you'll be alright with us."

"Laney, we've still got to find Tilo," Kiera said as they reached the back stairs. Laney raised an eyebrow archly, still unhappy with the American. "Or at least find out what..."

"Hey, sir," Laney nudged the elderly man as they descended the shabby stairs. "Where's the Rands' bedrooms? Ken and them?"

"Th- third floor," stuttered the man, pointing to the door in front of them. "Right here. But you can't go through there!" He threw himself in front of the door. "The zombies!"

"We have to find our friend," Kiera countered. The man shook his head, wild-eyed, refusing to move. Kiera opened her mouth to speak again, but stopped as Laney grabbed one of the man's coats and pulled, sending him tottering off-balance. She was surprised by how light and frail he was, but she was losing patience. The longer they stayed in Upton Abbey, the more her fear for Tilo's safety turned into dread at his death. The more time she spent around Kiera, the stronger her doubts grew about Ben. She just wanted to get the job over with. She wrenched open the door, anger making her incautious.

"Tilo was looking into some guy's death," she said over her shoulder. "So my guess is he would have started in the guy's bedroom."

Kiera felt sorry for the poor man, she put a comforting hand on his arm. In a whisper she asked. "What's your name, sir?

The personal question seemed to snap the man out of his stupor for a moment. His eyes completely clear of hysterics, he replied. "Ian Wilson. Do you know if anyone else has survived? My wife Valerie?"

"Elizabeth, Eric, and Dominic made it to our gates today. I don't know where your wife might be." Kiera realized that Laney had kept walking out on to the third floor without her. "Stay here." She whispered to Ian.

Kiera followed Laney out onto the third floor. Ian's whimpers were cut off as the door to the back stairs swung shut. The corridor was wide, and richly carpeted, running from the back of the stately home where the back stairs was, right up to its front and an ornately paneled window, through which Kiera and Laney could see. Ancient portraits, mostly of men in old-fashioned dress lined the walls, and through an open door they could glimpse a luxurious four-poster bed. Soaked into the carpet, splashed onto the walls and paintings, and staining the bed sheet was dark brown dried blood. As Laney strode past the opening, Kiera spied movement within, and yanked the door shut as three zombies rushed at them.

The noise as their bodies slammed into the door, their growls, sparked a similar reaction behind a closed door in the next room, then another next to that. Kiera and Laney looked at each other in wide-eyed panic as the volume rose along the corridor. From around a corner at the top of the corridor shuffled five zombies, alerted by the groans of the others. Kiera and Laney darted down the main staircase, their footfalls muffled by the thick carpet, and crouched out of sight. Seeing and hearing nothing, the zombies stumbled to a halt halfway down the corridor, going into 'rest' mode as the undead trapped behind the doors quietened down.

"Laney, Kiera, come in," the radio crackled. "It's Ben." Kiera fumbled with the off button.

Too late. The zombies' heads snapped round and arms shot up as they located the source of the sound. Kiera and Laney were already on their feet, taking the stairs two at a time. As they approached the second floor, a group of zombies below them took up the mournful cry.

The women hesitated for a split second, then Laney pointed at an open door equidistant between them and the closing group on the floor below, and pushed Kiera ahead of her. Neither of them had time to think that it was the first time running towards zombies could save them.

Gripping the jamb, Kiera swung herself through the doorway. Laney stumbled through it behind her, her momentum carrying her to the floor, and Kiera slammed it shut. Any hope they'd had that their pursuers would continue down the corridor were dashed by the growls and the sound of fingernails dragging and scraping on the other side of the door. Kiera leant against the door, in part to catch her breath, in part to add her weight to the barrier; she was jolted and buffeted as the zombies on the other side sought to break through.

A split-second glance on her awkward entry had told Laney the room was empty of upright threats. Now, still on her knees, she had time for a better look. A cursory inspection took in the room's rich surroundings, but Laney's attention was immediately drawn to what she'd initially mistaken for a pile of clothes and debris on the other side of the room, near another door. The dramatic splashes of blood on the wall and floor, soaked into the carpet and turning brown, told her otherwise. She looked away, but a detail caught her eye. Only one other person in Haven besides her wore a black leather jacket - Tilo.

She crawled a little closer, then averted her eyes. The detail of the lapels told her it was Tilo's jacket, but the body lay in a wide puddle of blood. Laney felt the blood drain from her face, and she looked back at Kiera, tears brimming in her eyes. The American's face fell.

"Take the door, Laney," she said softly. Laney obeyed mutely, almost numb. She felt disconnected from herself as she felt the zombies thump the door behind her, watched Kiera kneel by the body. There was an ugly, gaping wound on the neck and what could only be a bullet hole in the middle of the forehead, just below the rim of his woolen hat. The story of this dark-haired young man's last minutes alive was quite clear, but it was also quite clear he wasn't Tilo. Kiera ran her hands over the slumped body, and found two small circular ruptures in the back of the jacket. Though the jacket was stained with blood, the body in it only had that sole bullet wound. Kiera slipped a small notebook from the jacket pocket.

"It's not Tilo," she told Laney. "But Tilo's..." Kiera would have liked time to express what the kindly professor had meant to them all, how he had been a solid rock in a sea of stormy uncertainty, but there wasn't time. She opened the door in the far wall and peered out. The way was clear. In the brief respite, Kiera took stock. The look of misery plastered across Laney's face as she stared dully at the body and took in Kiera's full meaning was so great she put their previous enmity to one side.

"Come on, Laney," she urged, holding out her hand. "We need to get back to the back stairs." She sniffed. It took a moment to register, but the crackle on the edge of her hearing confirmed what her senses were telling her; Upton was on fire.


Part 7: Fire with fire

For the second time in minutes, Kiera and Laney found themselves running towards danger. The flames were already licking the first flight of stairs as they reached the window out onto the roof of the laundry room. Perched on the end, huddled up against the cold, were Ben and Jay.

"Your doing?" Laney asked when she'd caught her breath.

Ben nodded. "We tried to warn you."

"And you almost got us killed," spat Laney. "Fire and zombies."

"Laney..." he said in a conciliatory tone, reaching out to her.

She flicked his hand away and pointed back to where flames were now licking at the broken window. "We could still be in there!"

A slight sense of victory flitted through Kiera as she witnessed Laney pull away from Ben, but the feeling was gone in an instant when she remembered that they had left someone behind. "Laney!" Kiera gasped. "What about Ian? The old man..."

Ben stared at Laney for a moment with a dejected look before he shook his head and turned away. His relief at seeing Laney and Kiera okay had turned to a mix of anger and sadness at Laney's reaction and the slowly dawning realization that Tilo wasn't making it out. He'd recognized it as a possibility before, but it was only just now that he was beginning to realize it as a reality.

A chill ran through Laney, but she found herself saying dully: "He would never have made it anyway."

Kiera's eyes narrowed at Laney's dismissive words about the elderly man. Perhaps she was ultimately right, but the way she said it gave Kiera an unsettling feeling.

"Uhhh, I hate to interrupt," came a cautious interjection from Jay, "but we're standing on the biggest zombie beacon for miles around. Do you think we should get moving?"

By the time any of the other three had started climbing down, Ben was on his way away from the burning abbey. He wasn't interested in staying any longer, nor was he interested in making any conversation. It was obvious that Laney wasn't going to be reasonable. In her eyes, he felt, he was already guilty; of making the first move on Kiera and of not taking Laney and Kiera into consideration when starting the fire.

The other three hung back, and Ben was grateful for it. He didn't want to talk to any of them at the moment, and if he did, they wouldn't be nice things.

Ben didn't stop. He didn't even look back. He just kept walking.

The journey home was interspersed with narrowly avoided encounters with the undead. Every zombie for miles around appeared to be honing in on Upton. Black smoke thickened the sky. The glow from the flames held back the falling dusk. The unmissable beacon meant avoiding a confrontation was a simple matter of ducking down behind hedges whenever zombies were sighted. They soon passed.

Laney kept her distance from Ben until they passed the point where the first group of zombies had chased Kiera and Jay away. Her thoughts flitted between Tilo's demise and the impulse she'd had on the laundry roof to leave Kiera to the zombies, leaving her exhausted. In the end, she sidled up to him and slid her hand into his.

Ben looked at her. He couldn't figure her out. She was pissed at him for going after Kiera. She was pissed at him for almost getting her caught in the fire. But, here she was. As angry as he was at her in return - and he was angry at her - he didn't rebuff her. In fact, he was happy to have her there, for whatever her reason was.

He didn't say anything to her, though. He just sighed and gave her hand a squeeze.

Kiera stuffed her hands into her coat pockets to prevent them from clenching in plain view. She shot daggers at the reunited pair, deeply disappointed that their squabble had been resolved so quickly. Moving her left hand in her pocket, she brushed across a small circular piece of metal and what felt like a thin deck of cards. Kiera was sure the pocket had been empty before she left Haven, so she wasn't sure where or what the objects could be. She was sorely tempted to pull them out and examine what they were, but she knew Jay would undoubtedly want to see what they were also. Kiera left the objects alone.

"What's in the shed?"

Kiera nearly jumped out of her skin upon hearing Jay's question. Her mind was confused for a moment as she tried to figure out what he could be talking about. Oh. Her first instinct was to lie, but she knew that if he went to investigate it himself he would easily discover the truth.

"A walker." Kiera stated calmly. She waited for the sound of shock or disbelief, but she was waiting for something that would never happen.

Jay grinned widely. "So that's why the Indian man spends so much time in there. I was beginning to wonder what he was up to." Dropping his voice for effect, Jay whispered: "You know, having one of them inside the walls is dangerous. It could get loose and eat people." He laughed manically at his own joke.

Kiera's brow furrowed as she realized the full scope of her dilemma. Up on the roof, the American was nearly positive that she had seen something dark in Laney's eyes just before the pop star had rescued her. It was easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and difficult to remember that anything could happen and danger could come from anywhere. The thought was chilling, to say the least. Kiera probably would have been more alarmed if it weren't for the chemicals that swirled in her veins. She felt herself beginning to drift into a calm detached state, where only the constant rhythm of her feet kept her grounded in reality.

Jay's smirk faded when he noticed Kiera zoning out. He elbowed her sharply in the ribs.

She shot him a venomous look at the rude awakening. Kiera felt the least he could do was leave her in peace after everything he had done. Crossing her arms indignantly, she was forced to watch Laney and Ben holding hands as they accompanied each other to Haven, oblivious to all else, while she was left walking with Jay.

Without warning, Jay started humming the same tune that he had performed at the hospital. After several repetitions he fell silent once more.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Allison Hartford Character Portrait: Luca Dobre
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

Haven-A Rough Day

Her pack felt odd on her back. She only had the first aid kit with her. When she arrived in Eden she had a pack full of books and a few clothes. Ally hadn’t planned on this taking too long. She had a large knife in her belt. She wasn’t good with a gun and had opted not to take one.

Luca was still covered in dirt when Tam announced the jobs, he considered changing, but he felt that would be disrespectful to Karen's memory. He wore his mud-splattered jeans and flannel shirt, each step felt heavy as he approached the park's entrance. The question that weighed heavily on Luca's mind was how much his son had seen of the events that led up to the breach. The boy had already witnessed things that no human should ever have to experience; there was a small chance that he had slept through the noise and only awoke after the breach had begun. Luca really hoped that that was all his son had seen.

She stood on the edge of the camp. Her stomach hurt. She was still new at doing runs but she understood that she needed to help in this. There were no injuries that needed tending and Ally did not want to just stand around when there were so many other things to get done.

She looked over her shoulder and spotted her partner for this run. Ally gave Luca a slight nod. She knew him, though not well.

Returning the nod, Luca approached Ally till they stood a comfortable distance apart. He recognized her as the woman with doctor training, who was always the person they relied on when the inevitable injury or sickness struck the camp. He thought it was odd that she wanted to leave the safety of the park, but he couldn't deny that the idea of having a competent medical professional by his side made him feel more at ease. Her attractiveness didn't hurt either.

Ally turned and looked at the trees beyond. They were heading out there and there was no telling what they would run into.

“Are you ready?”

"I am, let's go meet this privileged Havener."

Ally gave a short laugh and wrapped her arms around herself. “Privileged? Is there such a thing anymore?”

"Yes," Luca replied decisively. "As long as we humans exist, there will always be an imbalance of power and wealth among different groups. I suppose we should be grateful that Haven is willing to share their materials with us."

It felt like they fought and scrounged for everything. Sure Haven had it good in some ways but in the end were they really that much better off?

The woman started walking. Perhaps Luca wasn't wrong about the imbalance but everything still felt like a struggle, no matter the camp you lived in.

The air was cool and winter would be fully on them soon. It’s only late October....no, no...it’s November. That made Ally’s shoulders hunched. Months had gone by since the outbreak and she had lost track of time.

She looked over at Luca, “The breach last night....hard to believe it happened.” She shrugged. “I never thought we were so vulnerable. I don’t even know what happened. One minute I am finishing inventory and the next I have hurt people waiting for me to fix them. Then there was the screaming....”

Ally shook her head trying to shake out the memory of the sounds.

At the mention of the breach, Luca set his mouth in a grim line. "Hopefully Tam will figure out how they got in so it never happens again. We deserve to feel safe in Eden." Though he secretly hoped for the exact opposite result from Tam's investigation.

“Investigations just turn into finger pointing and blaming each other.” Ally wrapped her arms tighter around herself.

The wind had begun to pick up, which caused Luca to sink his face deeper into his scarf. Probably another snowfall was on its way, something that Eden Valley could certainly do without.

Her eyes were scanning the area for signs of anything moving. She had a knot in her stomach. Why am I doing this? I am not made for running out to get things. Self doubt was her one companion in everything Ally had ever done. Except medicine. That was the one place that voice didn’t appear and remained blissfully silent.

“Oh goody windy too. That might make it easier to smell them coming I guess...”

Luca gave a short laugh, "Let's hope we can't, only large masses of them can be detected by their smell which usually means you are close enough for them to pick up your scent too."

The very thought of a large group wandering out here, so close to the camp made Ally shiver. "Yeah, I could do without smelling them..."

The wind blew as they walked. The camp grew smaller behind them and before them stretched trees and brush. Ally looked back over her shoulder once but could no longer see the camp.

“Who is watching your son?”

"Freya has been kind enough to help me with Tobar. She has treated him like her own grandson ever since we arrived." Luca replied.

In truth, the silver-haired scottish woman had almost become a surrogate parent to the young boy. Luca found himself nearly unable to spend time around Tobar, each interaction became a painful reminder of how he had failed to save the rest of his family.

Her voice was lowered now that they were further from the camp. It seemed like the danger was more real once they could no longer see the fence. Despite the breach Ally still felt it was safer there than out here in the unknown.

The trees were spread out offering lovely scenery but little cover from the wind. The pair managed to find a trail, though slightly overgrown it would make for better footing as they moved. It also meant having a reference point for the way back.

The grass rubbed against their legs and Ally fell in behind Luca as they walked. She kept looking around them, watching for signs of anything that might be lurking near by. She reasoned that if they were new she would hear them running through the brush. If they weren’t well, there would be time.

Behaving like a protective bantam rooster, Luca reflexively squared his shoulders and strode confidently down the forest path. He knew the true reason why Ally dropped back was the narrow path, but his pride preferred a different explanation. His only regret being that he couldn't sneak nearly as many glances at her with this new walking arrangement.

Her shoulders felt tight. In truth her whole body was tense. Her hand occasionally went out touch Luca’s back as if reassuring herself that he was still there. They had grown quiet as they walked, both focusing on their journey instead of conversation.

At first Luca thought he imagined the light contact, but by the second and especially the third time Luca knew it wasn't just his imagination. He felt a smile beginning to cross his face, though he had a suspicion that her light brushes were likely due to unease about the darkened surroundings. He wanted to give her words of encouragement, but he found himself at a loss for the right words.

They had no real way to know how long they had been walking but the tree cover grew denser after a time and the light grew dimmer. The trail suddenly felt smaller, more cramped. Ally started to walk closer to Luca, almost bumping into him several times.

The lessened distance between the pair, caused Luca's pulse to quicken as he subconsciously sensed her anxiety and began to feel an equal amount of apprehension. Ally's growing fear was slowly infecting Luca.

It was harder to see now. Before the trees were spread out giving them plenty of space to spot things that might be moving in the grasses and weeds. Now it was hard to see anything but tree trunks.

The blessing was the trees cut some of the wind down. The unfortunate part was the wind began to cause the tree branches overhead to creak eerily. Their soft footfalls were accompanied by a chorus of creaks and crackings.

The trail moved upward on a small hill and as they moved down it grew a little darker. The wind in the treetops picked up and Ally wondered if a storm might be coming in. It would make things harder for them if they had to find shelter out here.

Crack!

Ally stopped dead, eyes darting this way and that. What? Where?

A branch, large and heavy fell on the path behind them.
Her heart was pounding. She hadn’t even reached for her knife. Turning she looked at Luca. Her face had lost all its colour. She licked her lips and tried to hide how frightened she was.

The sharp crack had startled Luca nearly as greatly, though he kept a firm hold on his outward expression. When he turned to see Ally's pale face, he realized the amount of courage it must have taken for her to leave Eden Valley. Even after the alarming sound, she was putting on a brave face. He admired her effort and was thankful that she hadn't panicked. Being level headed in an encounter with the dead could easily mean the difference between life or death.

“Wind is pretty strong.”

Luca gave a quick smile. "It is. I promise to not let you blow away." The small joke a weak attempt to lighten the situation.

She tried to smile at his joke and it was a good attempt but her heart was still racing. "Good to know." She reached out to touch his arm. "Thank you Luca." She knew he was trying to reassure her and she appreciated it.

Luca gently covered her delicate hand with his own. "You're welcome."

They resumed their trek. The pair went silent again as their senses were all focused on keeping them alert. Ally’s shoulders hunched over as she walked.

The cold was starting to seep into them. The wind was beginning to howl louder. Ally stopped. “Do you hear that?”

A moan. A definite moan. Ally stared wide eyed at Luca. The moan was loud and did not seem to have a definite point of origin. Ally had goosebumps now. She couldn't see anything that might be making the noise. Her heart was pounding. Where are they? Where?

Freezing in place, Luca's hand instantly sought the handle of his long hunting knife. His eyes scanned the surrounding trees as he tried to locate what had caused Ally to stop and ask if he had heard something. Small beads of sweat clung to his forehead while he silently listened for his worst nightmare to become a reality.

There again a moan. A low, long sound that made her blood drain from her face. She looked around frantically. Ally couldn’t see it. She could hear it but she couldn’t see it.

“Luca? Do you...do you see it?”

“No. Keep a sharp eye out though.” Luca said in a low voice.

Her voice was little more than a whisper. The moan pierced the air again. Ally turned to look back down the path the way they had just walked. She half expected to see something coming towards them. Once more the moan hit her ears and she turned to her right, sure that it had come from there.

“I don’t see it!” This she hissed at him.

Ally hadn’t taken her knife out of her belt. The weapon was forgotten as she tried to locate the source.

She looked left. It did not sound like it was getting any closer though it sounded as it it was all around them. Her hair stood on end and a light sweat formed on her back. Could it be? Are we surrounded?

Ally slowly looked upwards. Do they climb trees? The very idea that the things might climb, might be above them just waiting seemed preposterous but she was not ruling it out at this point.

“Luca....”

She was looking upwards at the treetops but she began to inch closer to him until her back bumped into his arm. “Could they be in the trees?”

At the mention of his name, Luca looked to Ally and followed her gaze upwards. For a split second his mind envisioned an infected zed dropping down on them from the branches above, but the reality was a less frightening explanation. Almost laughing aloud, Luca dropped his hands to his knees and released a shaky breath. Upon straightening, he turned to his frightened companion.

"It's the wind. The bloody wind through the branches nearly had us scared to death." Luca released another cloudy breath, his heart beat slowly returning to normal.

Ally’s gaze lowered to Luca. He was breathing a bit harder and she was trying to wrap her head around his words. Wind...trees...

She heard the moan again and this time Allison heard it for what it was. She cast her eyes down to her feet. “Right, the wind.”

Her heart was pounding, her pulse was racing and fear had left her full of adrenaline. That now changed to embarrassment, anger and nausea. How could I have been so stupid? Wind in the trees. Not something coming for us.

She had set them both on high alert and clearly Luca had been as on edge as she herself had been and all for wind blowing in the trees. Ally swallowed against the lump that formed in her throat. He is going to regret being stuck on this mission with you. Panic much?

“We should keep going...”

Ally muttered it into her sweater, just loud enough for Luca to hear her. She then turned her face away from him and fought back the tears that she was so close to shedding. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

Too late. A trail of hot, wet tears began to form down her cheeks as her body came down from the rush of the situation. Ally didn’t want him to see her crying so she turned her back to him and tried to stifle the sobs.

The wind overhead moaned again as if mocking them. Ally put both hands to her face and her shoulders shook.

Luca tried to ignore the soft distressed sounds from Ally, but he couldn't bring himself to treat her so callously. He felt very uncomfortable with the situation, he wasn't sure if a comforting gesture would be well received or appropriate. From years of marriage Luca knew that telling her to suck it up was out of the question, so that left the consoling option.

He took a hesitant step closer and draped his left arm across her back and rested his hand lightly on her left shoulder. Luca gave her shoulder a gruff squeeze.

An arm came around her and Ally wanted to crawl away and hide. He was comforting her like one might a child after they did poorly on a test. She felt idiotic. Why am I doing this? I shouldn't have volunteered. I am going to get us killed.

"Don't be upset, it was an honest mistake. The wind had me fooled as well and it is better to be watchful than caught off guard." Luca said diplomatically.

Luca's words sounded reassuring but Ally knew if she hadn't overreacted, hadn't grown so panicked he would have never been so on edge. Her tears slowed and through a small hiccup she managed to say "Right, watchful."

While he felt bad that Ally had been frightened by the moaning sound, her reaction gave him serious doubts with regards to her ability as a runner. Luca wasn't sure if he could rely on her if they encountered real danger. It was too late to do anything about it now, so he just had to hope that everything would go smoothly for the rest of the day.

Luca dropped his hand from her shoulder and ran his fingers across his knitted hat. "Let's keep going, the school can't be that far away now." He smiled at Ally, trying to put her at ease and show that he wasn't holding a grudge over the event.

His hand moved from her shoulder and Ally shrunk into herself as much as she could. She rubbed her arms against the cold and then looked up at Luca. "Yeah we should keep walking."

They started down the trail again. She fell into step behind him and after a few moments of silence Allison tapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks. You know...for well...just thanks."

Luca was startled out of his wandering thoughts by the unexpected shoulder tap. "Don't mention it." He replied, still keeping his voice low just to be safe. "I'm sure you will find your runner legs soon and feel more comfortable out here."

Ally went back to looking and listening for signs of anything moving around them. The ones that had breached the camp had been fast, new dead from what she was told by the people she helped. She worried that they would be caught off guard though she now worried she would overreact again.

The wind still moaned at them as they kept moving. They cleared some of the denser parts of the trail and soon the trees began to thin out again and there was more open space and tall grasses. Ally was breathing easier knowing that it would give them a better line of sight to have fewer trees. They seemed to be leaving the forested area for one that resembled the outskirts of a rural town. She hoped that meant the school would not be too much further.

The wind buffeted them more now. Less trees meant they were now taking the brunt of the cold but it also meant the wind was no longer tauntily moaning at them. The grass moved in the breeze.

Ally was looking behind them, checking their flanks when the movement started to their left and towards the front where Luca was. Whatever it was, it was about five maybe six feet away and moving quickly through the grass. She didn't see it at first but as she turned her head to front she saw the grasses moving. Was she imagining it? She did not want to cause panic like she had before.

The grasses moved more and it was heading towards them. Her eyes went wide. Low to the ground, moving fast... She was filled with a sense of horror as she realized it might very well be a child. An undead child intent on them. She moved quickly towards Luca with a yelp of fear and grabbed the back of his shirt, burying her face against him. No movement was made towards her weapon, no instinct to fight just hide against the man in front of her.

Luca had once again fallen into a daydream, blissfully unaware of the moving grass to their side. It was only the sudden yelp from Ally that brought him out of his quiet musings. He quickly scanned for whatever had caused her to cry out and cling to his shirt. Luca smoothly drew his hunting knife, fully aware that he didn't have time to pull out the shotgun from his pack. The patch of wildly swishing grass grew closer, Luca's heart leapt into his throat as he instinctively put his left arm out in an attempt to further shield his companion from what was rushing towards them.

"Aahhhh!" Luca gave a battle-cry, intending to bury his weapon in the first undead skull that appeared. He bent his knees ready to engage the first attacker.

Luca screamed, making a noise meant to scare off any opponent and bolster himself for battle. Ally simply clung to his shirt. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her knuckles were white. Please don't die..please don't die....

A piercing screech suddenly filled the air as three pheasants flapped noisily into the sky. Baffled for several seconds, Luca rather sheepishly realized he had just yelled at a couple of harmless birds. While he normally might have been angry at his foolish behavior, he was grateful that he hadn't been forced to meet an actual zed. For the third and hopefully last time, Luca felt his pulse slow and his muscles relax. He rubbed his cap back and forth trying to shake off the remaining tension.

The noise that followed was the most confusing thing Allison had ever heard. There was a flapping of wings and then everything was once again still. Ally frowned into Luca's back. His body relaxed under her hands. It was then that she pulled her face away and peered around.

"Where....where is it?"

Luca looked over his back, only just realizing that Ally probably had no idea what had just happened. Wordlessly he pointed to the sky, trying to lessen her embarrassment from causing another false alarm. As his heartbeat slowed further, Luca became fully aware of how close they really were to one another. He wondered if she normally behaved like this or it was just the high pressure circumstances that caused her to be so familiar with him.

There was nothing. Nothing but the grass, themselves and some birds. She looked around still scared but more unsure now that there appeared to be no threat. She hadn't imagined it, she had seen the grasses moving. Am I crazy? Ally ducked under Luca's arm. She was close to him, practically hugging him with her left arm.

Luca pointed. Her eyes went to where the birds were disappearing into the distance. Birds? Ally turned and hugged Luca. Her face was against his chest. "I'm sorry. I thought...well I thought it was something running at us..."

The words were mumbled into his shirt. She felt as if once again she had cause so much panic for nothing. Her body grew warm as a wave of embarrassment washed over her. He thinks you are useless you know. Bet he was happy to have the 'doc' with him and now he knows you are like dead weight. Bound to get him killed Once again the urge to crawl away and hide was overwhelming.

He wanted to feel angry at her mumbled apology, angry that this was the third near heart-attack he had received since leaving Eden, but looking down at her face pressed into his muddied shirt he felt ashamed for thinking those unkind thoughts about her. Luca placed a hand on her back, both in an effort to calm her and make her aware of the continuous embrace she was engaged in. The contact wasn't unwelcome by any means, but Luca felt anxious standing out in the open with Ally during such a sensitive moment.

She was coming down from the latest wave of adrenaline and suddenly became aware of the fabric against her forehead and the presence of a body in her arms. Ally dropped her arms and slowly backed away. Great not only does he think you are a high strung idiot he also thinks you have no concept of personal space. Well done.

Thankfully Luca didn't have to wait long before Ally dropped her arms and stepped out of the embrace, though a part of him missed her closeness he had to remind himself they were on an important mission for Eden and the rest of their group was depending on them to bring back the supplies. Almost regretfully, Luca straightened his shirt and regained his serious demeanor.

Ally blushed, turning bright red. She turned and looked down the path. "School shouldn't be far right?"

Luca pretended not to notice the sudden high color in her cheeks. "Yes, about another five to ten minutes up the road." The memories of their previous scares still fresh on his mind, Luca took off his pack and pulled out the shotgun. Replacing the pack on his shoulders, he held the shotgun firmly in his right hand. "I think it's a good idea to keep this handy, just in case." He told Ally before continuing their journey to the schoolhouse.

The rest of the walk was uneventful. No odd noises, no rustling in the grass. Both were still on alert knowing full well that at anytime danger could rear its head.

As they hoped, the path did not go on for much longer before they could see a building in the distance. A fence, damaged in many places, surrounded what was likely once a decently kept schoolyard. The building itself was two story and brick.

As they drew closer broken windows became visible. Like a lot of things now the school had seen better days.

The path led to the fence. At one time a person might have had to climb it or begin the trek around but now there were places where the chain link had been pulled back and the pair easily fit through a hole.

Ally swallowed and scanned the yard. Something about the fact that it was once a school made her stomach tighten.

“Where do you think this person will be?” She whispered to Luca. She silently prayed that they would not have to go too far into the building to meet the contact.

"I'm not sure, probably we should check the front entrance first, then we can look from there." Luca replied in an equally quiet tone.

Luca felt an involuntary shiver pass down his spine as they continued to approach the school. He could only hope that they would be fortunate enough not to run into any dead children while inside the rundown structure. As the pair drew closer to the entrance, they saw that the large double doors were wide open. The weather was to thank for hiding any indication of the inevitable violence that had to have occurred on the front steps of the school. A passerby could almost imagine that the school had been condemned, rather than the more sinister reason for its current vacancy.

The entrance hallway was dark compared to the outdoors, though there was still plenty of light from the windows to see fairly clearly. Luca gripped the shotgun tightly as he stepped deeper into the darkened hall. Each shadow seemed to have a menacing air to it, reaching towards the runners with dark intent. Scanning to the left and right, Luca was disappointed and relieved to see that they were the only ones moving inside the building.

Speaking quietly over his shoulder, Luca continued to look for the Havener. "I don't see anyone. Let's go check this left hall, see if the person is waiting down there."

The pair walked as silently as possible past all the empty and disheveled classrooms. While they walked Luca began to feel a prickling sensation on the back of his neck, almost like someone was watching them. The runner tried to brush the nagging thought away, but it stubbornly refused to leave. Luca took a quick glance back at Ally, curious to see if she felt the same way.

She remained quiet as they entered the building. She feared making the whole thing awkward again and the place gave her chills up her back. Her eyes took in the sight of overturned desks, discarded coats and random shoes. Ally kept looking around seeing no sign of someone waiting for them but she couldn't shake the feeling that something else was in the school.

The look Luca gave her told her he felt the same. She came alongside him. Ally's voice was low and she leaned in so only he could hear. "Is something following us?"

"I don't know." He replied honestly. "We need to keep a sharp lookout for whatever it might be."

Luca wasn't sure if it was a good thing that Ally agreed with him. This was the same woman who had thought the wind blowing through the trees sounded like moans of the undead. Maybe some of her paranoia was starting to wear off on her partner and it really was all just in their head.

As they continued down the hall, Luca noticed that not all of the doors were open as he had first thought. At least three of the classrooms were closed in this particular hallway. Despite knowing that it might be dangerous, Luca became unable to resist approaching the closed door nearest to him. Carefully he pressed his ear to the door and listened for movement. It was silent at first, but gradually he started hearing quiet moans, the sound slowly grew louder, followed by a sudden screech of a desk as one of the dead likely bumped into it. Luca could almost feel the press of the zed on the other side of the door. The moaning was still realtively quiet, but a scratching sound could now be heard on the solid wood. The most disturbing thing Luca found about this new sound, was that it seemed to be emanating from hip height. A somber glance at the placard next to the room, confirmed his suspicions.

"Don't even think about opening that door, boy." A voice growled menacingly from behind the pair.

Whipping around, Ally and Luca stared wide-eyed as a lone figure emerged from the shadows. Luca held the shotgun defensively as he tried to gauge the intentions of the person before him.

"I wasn't going to open it." Luca replied indignantly. Now that the stranger was out of the shadows, he took in the man before him.

Ally simply stared at the new arrival. She edged a little closer to Luca but didn't hide behind him. The man was big but it was muscle big. To the point where his coat seemed snug on his arms and shoulders. Bald but bearded and he had an air about him that said 'do not mess with me'. Ally wasn't sure if Haven sent him because they thought Eden might cause trouble or because he was the best suited for making the run.

"Hmph. I assume you two are from Eden Valley then." The man said gruffly.

After a moment's hesitation, Luca replied. "Yes. My name's Luca and this is Ally. Who are you?"

The man seemed to visibly relax after hearing Luca's words of confirmation, but Luca still felt suspicious of the stranger.

"I'm Mark, from Haven." The man said with pride.

Ally offered him a sort of half smile.

"We were told you were able to bring us some tools and things to help us out?"

She really, really hoped he was not goign to give them a hard time. It was bad enough that there was so much danger out there, they didn't need to be fighting amongst themselves.

Mark looked them over critically. There was something akin to amusement in his eyes. "Yay I got a drill, couple of hammers, some nails and screws too. You know the basics."

Ally didn't like the way he spoke to them. It seemed like he was almost mocking them for needing Haven's help.

"How is your scavenger, Ben doing?" Luca interjected. He hoped to disarm the gruff man by reminding him how the caravanners had helped Haven in the past.

"He's alright." Mark replied, a hint of gratitude sneaking into his voice.

The trio lapsed into silence as they set about transferring the items from Mark to Ally and Luca. They divided the things up between their two packs so no one person carried it all. As promised there was the basic items one would need to do basic repairs. Ally noted a few screwdrivers, some nails, a hammer and a drill along with other things she didn't know the name of. The bags were weighed down with the tools from Haven, though they were not full or overly cumbersome. Ally had to admit the man was gruff but he had come through. It wasn't a lot but it was enough to help them get things fixed.

When it was done Luca gave Mark a nod of thanks. Nothing more was said. Mark turned and with the same speed and quiet as he appeared he vanished down the hall.

She moved across the classroom towards the windows and watched the man head off towards Haven. They too would be heading back to Eden, back through the trees and brush. She vowed not to let herself get spooked by things that were not there.

Ally’s hand came down on the window sill. She bumped into a basket. It was a pile of work the children of the class had once done. It was waiting for the teacher to mark the pages, maybe put a little star sticker or write ‘good job’ on them. It would never happen. Both the teacher and her students were no longer here and would not be coming back.

The woman looked away from the basket unable to think any longer on the children that once filled this place with laughter and learning.

“Hey.....”

Something caught Ally’s eye. It was a container of crayons. She smiled a small crooked smile.

“We should take these back with us.”

She crossed the room and scooped up the container. She turned to Luca. “I bet we can find a few supplies in this place. Staplers, paper, pencils. Maybe even some books. I know seems silly but just think it might help, you know make people be able to relax. Really though, pencils and things are always handy.”

Luca felt skeptical about wasting time and adding more weight to their packs just for some useless school supplies. The sooner they returned to Eden, the better. Crossing his arms, Luca was about to suggest they leave, when an image of his young son crossed his mind. Tobar would be delighted to have paper and crayons again. Luca cracked under that compeling argument and quickly found himself searching right alongside Ally.

Ally ran up to where the teacher’s desk sat. In other rooms some of the desks had been overturned but this one sat as it should. She pulled open a drawer.

“Look! Elastics, erasers, paper clips....”

Another drawer opened and Ally started to laugh. “Oh someone liked to sneak a little fun into their morning coffee it seems.” She reached down and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

“But there is a hole punch and three staplers, man they were a hoarder.”

She placed her bag on top and began to scoop in anything and everything she could find. Ally looked up at Luca. “Shall we check out a few more rooms?”

Luca found himself cracking a wide smile at the humorous commentary she gave for each discovered object. "Why not." He replied agreeably, already setting off to scour the next room.

The last thing she grabbed from this particular desk was the bottle. She slipped it into her bag along with everything else.

For the next 25 minutes the pair quickly ran from classroom to classroom trying to find whatever they thought could be useful. In one room they found bowls, a sweater in the closet and loads of construction paper. Rolls of scotch tape and duct tape. Rulers, tacks, chalk and other basic school supplies found new homes in their bags. They grabbed as many books as they could manage as well. Ally even grabbed a few coffee mugs.

As they made their way back towards the main entrance, avoiding closed doors, Ally stopped. “A broom closet! Where would the janitor’s office be? There would be tools and other things in there! What if it wasn’t raided?”

The possibility of finding a fully loaded broom closet was too tempting to pass up, even though Luca wasn't entirely sure what might actually be found in such a room, he readily joined in the search for said treasure trove.

The duo began to roam the halls frantically looking for the office of the custodian. When they did manage to locate the little office it seemed that someone else had already scavenged what they could. Perhaps the very tools Haven gave them had once had a home in the office.

Ally’s face was crestfallen. She had really hoped that if they had found more tools, more supplies that would help them fix the breach and do maintenance that it would help offset the panic she had caused on the trip in.

“Oh well, it was worth looking.”

She shrugged and headed back the way they came. “Let’s head off before we get caught out here at night.”

Luca was considerably less upset than Ally over the empty closet. He was actually quite pleased with what had been given to them by Mark and he was looking forward to seeing how excited his son would be to have art supplies once again. Luca tried to convey his positive mindset to his partner as they set off for Eden Valley. They passed back through the yard, out the fence and back onto the path.

"That was a good idea to bring back school and art supplies. I know that my son will love being able to draw with crayons and pencils once again, not to mention the other survivors who could certainly use a creative outlet after the recent breach. My personal favorite pastime is wood carving, I used to carve all manner of designs on chests and other wooden pieces." Luca fell silent for a moment, realizing he had just shared several personal details about himself that he would normally have kept private. Clearing his throat, Luca looked over to Ally. "What are some of your hobbies?"

She was glad that she was walking behind Luca again. He couldn't see the grimace on her face. "Hobbies?" Here he was a man with a talent, something creative and she was a boring former med student who didn't have a life before all hell broke loose. "I don't have any unless you count cramming for tests and not sleeping as hobbies. I read a lot..."

Ally didn't add that all she read was textbooks or medical journals. "So carving? That takes a steady hand."

It was something she could relate to. The ability to carve details into wood meant a practiced steady hand, not unlike what it took to stitch someone up or use a scalpel.

While Luca wouldn't consider himself to be a particularly clever fellow, he could tell when someone was trying to deflect questions about themselves. He let the topic slide for the time being, but he was determined to learn more about the quiet doctor.

"Well we will have to find you one then. Everyone should have a hobby, even if it is small thing. Keeps the mind busy." Luca replied with a wink.

My mind is plenty busy trying to figure out what I am going to do if people start to get really sick this winter. She had been doing some reading up on more natural medicines, ways to help lessen colds and flus without the use of antibiotics. Finding a stash in a hospital would be a god send but Ally couldn't wait for a miracle. She needed to think ahead now. People were counting on her to take care of them.

"Everyone should have a hobby...sure." Ally blushed a little when Luca winked at her. He was being nice to her despite the way she had acted on the walk to the school. Her hope was that the way back would be less stressful.

When Ally mentioned that carving must require a steady hand, he saw an opportunity that might allow him to speak with her again when they returned to camp. "I learned from my father, my family owned a small furniture shop. And it does take a steady hand, mistakes in wood are hard to correct, but with skill, they can be covered.Would you like to see a few small pieces I have been working on?"

Her teeth nipped at her lower lip. He was offering to show her his work. She wasn't used to people being so open and personable. Ally tended to be closed off and professional. After faltering for a moment Ally managed to find the words. "Yes. Yes that would be nice."

"Great!" Luca replied a bit over eagerly. He chastised himself for sounding so excited.

Ally missed the excitement in his voice as she was too wrapped up in her worry that he would realize just how socially awkward she was.

The shadows around them had begun to gradually lengthen. Though it would still be many hours before dusk, Luca didn't want to spend any more time away from Eden than he absolutely had to. He was eager to begin the repairs and return the camp to its former glory. The soft rattling of pencils reminded him of the other reason why he hurried to return.

The runner pair had lapsed into companionable silence for the last half an hour. Ally seemed to prefer the quiet presence of another person rather than lively conversation. Luca didn't mind, especially during a time when the slightest sound could mean the difference between safety and death. He had learned that lesson the hard way.

The wind still blew fiercely, threatening to divert Ally and Luca from their set path. The buffeting gales were deafening, so much so that they nearly missed the desperate scuffle occurring just over the hill and to their left.

"Do you hear that?" He softly asked his partner.

Ally wasn't sure she could hear anything over the wind. She had hunched her shoulders and put her face into her sweater to help keep the chill out. After her over reactions to wind before she decided to be very cautious. Ally strained her neck as if it would help her listen better. She frowned. Not the wind this time. There was something happening. Her mouth went into the straight line.

"Yes."

Luca dropped his pack to the ground and started slowly moving towards the sound. Any thought he had of merely imagining the cries and groans was quickly swept aside as he drew closer.There was a distinctly female voice among the groans of the undead, Luca noticed with alarm. Cresting the hill, he beheld a very unique sight.

Ally dropped her pack gently beside Luca's. She drew the knife from her belt and followed closely behind. She too could hear the groans and gurgles of the undead and the sound of a woman fighting for her life.

Not far from where he stood there was a small older woman, swinging a rolling pin in an almost comical fashion at two attacking zed. Luca hesitated for a moment, trying to weigh the different options that lay before him. He glanced back at Ally who stood just behind him, a wave of guilt swept over him as he realized that he had been tempted to leave the woman. It was obvious that Ally would not have agreed to leave the woman, so with a yell to distract the gray-haired woman's attackers, Luca charged down the hill while brandishing the shotgun menancingly.

Knife in hand she stood behind Luca. She gave him a nod as looked at her. Ally had no idea he had been contemplating leaving the woman. She followed him down the hill.

Luca continued yelling as he ran down the hill, one of the zed whipped its head around to locate the origin of the sound. Having spotted or smelled the approaching human, the corpse turned from the woman and began a stumbling gait to meet the new food source. Luca slowed his pace down the hill, having no intentions of colliding with the zed while he had a strong downward momentum going. When the zed was four feet away, Luca leveled the shotgun and blasted the corpse's head clear off its shoulders.

Ally darted around Luca, knife in hand. Her goal was the woman. She sprinted hard down the rest of the hill. The woman was still swinging the rolling pin at the remaining assailant. Ally approached at a good speed. She was breathing hard and ignored the burning in her legs. Her eyes were focused on the clawing hand that was reaching to the woman. With a grunt Ally brought her large knife down in a chopping motion. The blade contacted bone and it lodged in a bit before cracking. Though not a newly dead as others this one was certainly not old either. Ally gritted her teeth as kicked a foot out on the zed's torso. With a kick and a yank she freed her knife.

"Come on!"

Ally grabbed the woman's arm and yanked her as hard as she could. Her head turned to where Luca stood, gun in hand.

"Shoot it!"

The thing was already trying to come after the women. The older woman, clearly more physically fit than Ally now grabbed her and pulled her away. She urged Ally to go faster and the younger woman tried. Her chest hurt, her legs hurt but fear was a great motivator.

Another shot rang out. Something hit the ground but the women kept running up the hill. They ran until they were back at the trail, back at their packs and only then did Ally turn around. Luca was sprinting up the hill towards her and she could see there was nothing moving now at the bottom of the hill. She put her hands on her knees and took great heaving breaths.

Taking the time to catch their breath all three said nothing at first. The runners finally took a good look at who they had just rescued from certain death. The woman appeared to be in her late fifties or sixties, with silvered hair and wrinkles from an active outdoor life. The small woman still held the rolling pin defensively as if she expected another zed to suddenly pop out of a bush. Luca valiantly stifled a laugh at her feisty behavior, but he was actually very impressed that she had managed to survive for so long.

The old woman was the one to break the silence first. "Who are you lot?"

"We're from Eden Valley, I'm Luca and this lovely lady is my runner partner, Ally." Luca said grandly, while making a sweeping gesture from Ally's head to feet. He hoped the survivor would feel more at ease by seeing another woman and realizing that they didn't mean to do her any harm.

Ally gave Luca a skeptical look as he called her lovely. He was making a show of it for the woman she realized but it was still an odd way to describe her. Ally offered the older woman a friendly smile. She said nothing about the rolling pin though she knew it wouldn't have been her weapon of choice.

It seemed to do the trick, the woman let the rolling pin drop to her side and her face visibly relaxed. "Pleased to meet you both. I am Mrs. Valerie Wilson." She replied politely. "I fear I may be the only survivor from Upton Abby. Have you heard any news about my husband or other survivors?"

Luca was shocked to hear that something catastrophic had happened to the Abby. While the caravanners kept mostly to themselves, the runners all knew that the Rands had successfully held the Abby since the beginning of the outbreak. Had they been overrun or attacked?

Ally frowned. She kept to herself in the camp, more concerned about medical supplies and taking care of people than what went on in the other areas that held survivors. There was gossip and rumours of course but Ally tended to ignore it all. The expression on Luca's face indicated he knew of Upton but he was shocked so Ally didn't think he knew what the woman was talking about.

Ally put her knife back in her belt and shouldered her pack. She made herself as unobtrusive as possible.

"No, we haven't heard anything about it. What happened?" He asked, concern shown clearly across his face.

The old woman heaved a sigh, she had already suspected the worst had happened to her friends and family, but it was still hard hearing the truth from strangers. Still, she wanted to share her story, so that at least someone would know the truth and be able to remember those that had fallen at Upton. Mrs. Wilson began sharing stories of the people who she had come to love and care for at the Abby. Each one tugged at her heartstrings, especially little Eric, his death was probably the most tragic to the old woman. Finally her tale reached to the horde that suddenly set upon and quickly overwhelmed the Abby's defences, creating chaos and death across the elegant estate. She told of her narrow escape out a window and the difficult journey that followed, though she refrained from mentioning Brand and Tilo to the fixated runners.

Ally listened growing sadder and more sick to her stomach with each word the woman said. She shrunk in on herself, eyes filled with tears. That could be Eden. We could be wiped out, last night could have gone to hell worse than it did. There was no comfort in Valerie's stories just foreboding.

Luca rapidly blinked his eyes to clear the moisture that threatened to spill out. "I'm deeply sorry for your loss." He felt touched that she had shared the experiences and history of the Rand members with them. There was tragedy everywhere you looked, so it was nice to hear stories that proved friendship and community could still exist in a broken world.

Mrs. Wilson remained silent, the effort of telling her story seemed to have drained the older woman.

Ally cleared her throat. "I think you should come with us. We are heading back to Eden. You can't just stay out here."

Her hands were shaking now. The adrenaline from the fight had worn off and the emotions were getting the better of her. She shoved her hands into her pockets. Ally's eyes went to Luca. They spoke a silent apology for not asking him first but she couldn't in good conscious just leave the woman out here.

"What do you think?" She asked Luca and Valerie.

Luca agreed with Ally's decision to invite Valerie back to their camp. He couldn't in good conscious leave a defenseless woman out in the cold, especially one who had survived through so much already. For the first time, Luca noticed that the older woman wasn't wearing any gloves. Quickly he pulled off his own and held them out to her.

"We could use a good cook back at our camp, Jake's food could kill rats. Though you can't tell him I said so." Luca said while clutching his stomach comically.

Ally just shook her head at Luca’s embellishing of how bad the food was. A smile tugged on her lips.

Valerie accepted the gloves gratefully, handing over her rolling pin for Luca to put in his bag. "Thank you both very much. I will gladly accept your invitation."

The trio set off down the trail towards Eden. The older woman linked arms with Ally and Luca on either side and with a captive audience, she began telling them stories from when grown children were young.
---
The trio walked for a good length before finally taking a rest. At some point Valerie ended her stories and they moved back into a single file. They were alert but the trio all showed signs of fatigue.

"Rest time."

Everyone seemed to agree judging by their small groans that signified stiffening and sore muscles.

Ally sat just to the side of the trail and rested her legs. It had been a long day and she was beyond exhausted. I am so not used to this... She knew that is she was to survive, to be of any use in the long run she needed to get faster, more steady and less panicky. She needed to be more like Valerie and Luca. Less high strung. Ally sighed and rested her arms across her knees. Her head hung down and she closed her eyes.

Luca watched as Ally sat down on the side of the trail. The woman was tough, he hadn't expected that she would have held up so well. Being a runner wasn't for everyone, it was a dangerous and nerve-wracking job. From her earlier reactions it might have been more likely that the woman ended up dead than charging into a fight.

Luca led Valerie to a large rock where she could rest before they started walking again. The older woman put a hand on his arm. "I need to tell you something about your fellow runners." She said softly into Luca's ear.

"What is it?" He asked, not having the slightest idea what she was talking about.

Valerie pointed further off the trail; Luca easily catching her meaning. Whatever the woman had to say, she didn't want Ally to hear it. Likely wishing to spare the young woman from further distress.

With a shotgun in one arm and Valerie on the other, Luca walked out of sight from the trail.

Ally didn't notice Luca and Valerie head off the trail. She was tired. She wanted to go back to Eden and crawl into her bed. Body ached with the exertion. She rolled her shoulders and then looked up. Everything was quiet. Her eyes darted around the trail and at first she thought her mind was playing tricks on her. She couldn't see either of her companions.

"Luca?" Ally whispered his name as she slowly stood. She turned around and around looking for them. Have they walked on? I thought we all stopped. How long did I close my eyes? Why would they leave me? Panic set in as she frantically scanned the area for some sign of their whereabouts.

A gun went off breaking the silence and her thoughts. Allison's eyes went wide and she turned to face the direction of the sound. Luca has a gun. An attack? Ally took off in a half jog towards where she heard the sound. She picked her way as quietly as she could through the brush. There was something just behind a pair of trees and Ally slipped up to them. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she slowly peered around the tree.

Luca stood fixed in place, his entire front plastered with hot blood and tiny chunks of gore. He instantly regretted standing that close before pulling the trigger. With the shotgun still smoking slightly, he carefully leaned over to make sure that it was truly a clean shot. His concern was necessary, at such close range and to the head, there was hardly a recognizable feature to identify the deceased.

Ally thought she was going to be sick. Horror filled her as she stared at Luca. He stood over top of a body, gun in hand and covered in blood. Ally took in the figure on the ground and she knew it was Valerie. She covered her mouth holding in a cry as she turned and pressed her back against the tree. He killed her. He killed her...oh my god.... The woman they had saved, the woman they had been walking with and talking to. Dead. She is dead.

She hadn't thought of Luca as a killer, not in the sense of another person but now he was standing there over the body, covered in blood and Ally began to wonder who they had sent out with her. Would he kill her too? Her whole body was shaking and she tried to figure out what to do. She peered around the tree once more to assess the situation.


Dropping to his knees, Luca began digging for the second time in one day. The freezing wind quickly chilled Luca's hands to the bone, forcing him to retrieve his lent gloves and continue working. The manual labor relaxed his racing heart and caused him to remember his partner. Had she heard the sound? How could she not have? Standing suddenly, Luca wondered what she must have thought after hearing the gunshot and if she had seen anything. He stripped off his coat and placed it over the grisly incident. Figuring that there was no need for her to see the details of the shotgun's handiwork up close.

He was standing and looking around. He is looking for me. I should run...run.... Her legs wouldn't move. Ally pressed herself back against the tree. Her lip trembled and she closed her eyes. Tears ran down her cheeks and she tried to hold in any noises she might make. I can run, go back to Eden and tell them. They won't let him back in once they know. What would happen if Luca found her or caught up to her? Her hands were in fists. What do I do?

"Ally?" Luca called out tentatively as he continued walking back towards the path.

Oh god...oh god...what do I do? He was calling out to her. It was like something from a horror movie she liked to watch back when there had been time for things like that. Ally could hear his footsteps as he carefully walked towards the path. She remained behind the tree and took a deep breath.

"Luca? I am here...." She let the words trail off as she stepped out from behind the tree and faced him. Her eyes were wide and her cheeks red. Don't look scared or he might know that you know....

Shit. Luca had wanted a chance to explain himself before Ally started drawing conclusions about the scene. His blood-spattered appearance certainly didn't speak well for his case. First, he forcibly relaxed his muslces and let his hands fall naturally to his sides. If she bolted Luca knew he would have an even harder time convincing her it had been the right thing to do. He didn't know where to begin at first, but he finally found the words.

"She was bitten." He said somberly. "She pulled me aside while we were resting and told me the bite had happened just before we rescued her. I'm sorry I didn't tell you immediately."

Ally was wary. She kept her eyes on him as he told her that Valerie had been bitten. Her gaze moved over his form taking in the blood that was splattered all over him. She nodded. "Bitten. Of course."

She took a step backwards. "She walked with us that whole time and didn't say anything." Ally was trying to figure out why the woman hadn't said anything before, why she had told Luca and not both of them. Luca seemed sad about the whole thing but Ally wasn't convinced. Her heart thudded in her chest. Run, run, run.... "She told you and just let you shoot her?"

Her face was pale as she took one more step backwards.

Luca should have expected Ally to have questions and suspicions about the circumstances, but he felt slightly insulted by her skepticisim. Still, he knew she had a right to ask questions and if answering them put her at ease, he was happy to sit there all day if necessary.

"No. Some people have trouble accepting their fate, I think she was trying to put off the inevitable as long as possible." Luca's eyes darted away from Ally as he answered her second question. "She told me and we both agreed it was for the best."

Though she was terrified beyond belief Allison decided if he wanted to prove Valerie had in fact been bitten, that shooting her had been out of mercy than she wanted proof. Trembling with fear, voice low Ally looked squarely at Luca. "Show me. Show me her bite."

It stung to hear Ally want visual proof of his claims, he wanted her to see him in a positive and trustworthy light. The wary and frigtened expression she currently wore was disheartening to Luca. Though secretly he knew he had no right to judge her completely reasonable reaction to a shock of this type. Luca should have been grateful that he was getting out of it so easily and with very minimal repurcussions. Valerie had made dubious accusations about people and events that she couldn't possibly have known whether they were true or not.

"Okay. I'll show you." Luca didn't know what else to say. He hoped seeing a bite with her own eyes would be enough proof that he was telling the truth.

Walking in front of the trembling woman, Luca approached the coat covered body. Gently lifting Valerie's right arm, he rolled back her sleeve to reveal a gruesome bite. Little drops of blood still traveled out of the wound to splash the frozen ground with tiny bursts of red color. He let Ally view the wound for several seconds, before rolling the sleeve back down and placing the arm respectfully across the woman's chest. Luca stood up and gave a questioning look to his partner.

"I'm very sorry that I caused you so much distress. In my attempt to spare you, I only made the whole situation far worse. I hope you can forgive my failure on this subject." Luca said with a thoroughly exhausted expression on his face.

Ally was breathing hard. She stood there and the fear ran out of her body leaving her chilled. The bite was very visible. "I am sorry...I..." Her eyes were on Luca as he recovered the bite on Valerie's arm with her shirt.

"I just heard the gunshot and then saw you..." Her reasoning now sounded hollow. She should have trusted him but she didn't know him well enough to just believe what he said. She was working with him though and if they couldn't trust each other what good were they as runners. Ally was pale and looked on the verge of tears. She stepped towards Luca but stopped at the sight of all the blood on his clothes.

"I don't need to be spared but I understand why you tried. I am sorry I didn't believe you about the bite."

Her eyes spotted the disturbed earth. She looked at it and then back at Luca. Guilt sat even heavier now. He was digging her a grave. "I will help."

The pair of runners kneeled down together and resumed digging the grave. Ally pulled out her knife and used it as a makeshift shovel. They worked tirelessly.
----
They walked away from the mound both looking worse for wear. The packs were pulled on once more and there was silence between them as they walked the path back to Eden Valley. Ally reached out and held Luca's hand. She said nothing but it just seemed like they could both use some human contact.

The camp appeared before them. Though they were returning with the tools and some other items from the school it didn’t feel like a successful run

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Elliot Xanshi
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

Gettin' Our Shit Back Together

November 11, 2013


Pops and cracks came from each of Elliot's joints as she stretched her limbs and torso, the aftermath of their attack late at night had dragged long into the early hours that ended with grim news. Festering thoughts were pushed deep into the recess of her mind, especially in daylight with their perimeter breached, there were more important things at hand to occupy her thoughts.

Volunteering to run the collection of fence material would keep her focus and would be part of an improvised morning exercise, though she wasn't sure if Josh would think the same.

With long-legged strides, Carl walked in haste towards the asian pretty boy, tossing the haversack at the dawdling teen.

A scowl.

A curl of the lips.

"Right. I'm taking over Josh's spot cause he seems a little high-in-heaven and I don't want to have to wait for the two of you to take yer time with them supplies," the drill tone order cause a slight disheartening in Elliot, irritated by his attitude and dreading the most likely infuriating trek to the mill.

Before the asian could respond or retort, Carl had already turned heels and headed out, his skin itched at the thought of their safety area being open and vulnerable for too long. The sooner they got the supplies, the sooner they can bar up the entrance and the longer they would survive in this hell on earth. Maybe he could get a little attention with the stuff he'll bring back

The breaching area looked like all hell broke loose with broken dirbries, fresh and not so fresh blood painted the ground they walked on and bodies, litters of them scattered like autumn leaves. The world outside their little community was like a winter wonderland, contrasting greatly to the gruesome artwork back inside. Bare branches with a few evergreen here and there blanketed by white powder, the whole scenery made Elliot thought of it as a black and white horror film or game setting, expecting one of the many monsters that the internet had conjured up to pop up and chase them. She snorted at how ridiculous the thought was given their current situation, a yawn escaped her gaping maw before hugging herself for warmth, looking at Carl's back as her mind wandered.

Elliot didn't know much about the guy in front of her, only knowing that he was arrogant, prideful and stupid. She was impressed that he was striding head on without pause through the bushes and trees, but she would've liked it better if he didn't make small remarks that were rather offensive and a tad racist, unsure if he knows what he's saying or just an ignorant moron who likes to mouth off.

"...ing kids population would be low cause majority are a bunch of weak pu-"

"What's in these bags?" Elliot interrupted one of Carl's ungodly tangents, preferring to hear something that made her feel assured then agonise over what they should do while he complain about everything but himself. She needed to organise her thoughts and plan out how they are going to get the materials back and how they would need to deal with the roaming corpses around if they so happen to appear in vast quantities. It was already bad enough that she gets nervous waiting while doing nothing but barging head first towards the mill without a basic plan was suicide!

A bit ticked off for being cut off, Carl looked over his shoulder to see the pretty boy was keeping up with him steadily, assuming that he would've lagged behind and complain to him to 'take it easy'. Like hell he would do that if that happened.

"The usual kit stuff, nothing complicated that you wouldn't understand."

That abrupt answer was the last thing Elliot got from Carl before he turned his head around and blab some more, teeth gritted together behind pursed lips, contempt boiled deep in her gut.

"Kacking prick..." The muttering blew out into white mist blown away by the wind.

Carl ignored the muttering, focusing on the direction they had to take to reach their intended destination with careful measured steps, checking behind every tree they had passed and sneaking around bushes to make sure they weren't going to be jumped at unsuspectingly.

Elliot watched the surreal-ness that is Carl, only a few feet behind gave her a full view of his little 'sneaking about' for a while now, especially when they passed trees with thick trunk or when there's a bush just reaching the knees. They were wasting more time than she had wanted to, ready to snap at him before she noticed the slight hesitance in his pace. She felt god smacked by the realization of Carls action.

"You have got to be kidding me," she looked at him with utter astonishment, never in her lifetime have she meet anyone as clueless and bleak as Carl.

"Assumptions, assumptions. You can't prove nuthin'," Carl deflected Elliot's accusation, clearly peeved by their predicament.


1005

The day was beginning to show but hidden behind heavy clouds as snow coated both Carl and Elliot, curses and blame being batted around for nearly the majority of their trekking and feel the pressure on finding the right way to the mill. Elliot, the least bit impressed by Carl's ability to find a solution, took matter into her own hands by simply using the sun's position and their shadows. Once she got the idea on the coordination, she began to jog in haste as to make up for lost time, feeling her thigh and calf muscles beginning to burn.

Sounds of heavy footsteps crunching atop dead leaves, twigs and thin layer of powder were mixed in with shaky breath as the two runners were screwed for time if they didn't reach the mill in time before midday.

Elliot, intending to continue the pace of her jog till they reached their destination couldn't help but hear odd intervals of footfalls between Carl and her own feet, the sudden dreaded feeling began to curled itself deep in her stomach. It was faint enough that she can brush it off as nerves but she couldn't stop noticing how they seemed to have an extra or two pair of feet hitting the frosty snow. We shouldn't've argued earlier. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! she berated herself.

Oblivious to Elliot's thoughts, Carl focused on keeping level headed and circulate the air flow in a constant rate to keep up the pace he was in, jogging up hill in the damned snow was horrible to anyone's legs.

As the sounds of Carl's deep breathing changed, Elliot could hear it a bit clearer with something else to them, something that really got her heart pumping and muscles working, her legs taking faster steps and practically leaping forward, wanting to distance herself from the noise behind them somewhere. She could hear her partner was also speeding up by the synchronising footsteps they took.

"Why the hell are you speeding up?!" the sudden loud question cut through the silence with such intensity that it scared the heck out of Elliot, almost causing her to trample over herself.

"Shut up, Carl! Fuckin' shut up!" Elliot hissed lowly to the idiot with much venom as the sound she had been wanting to put distance between them was closer than before. This only egged her faster in the direction she assumes is still north, not giving a single care whether Carl can keep up with her sudden persistency to outrun their rotting enemies, knowing full well what they were capable of.

Tired? Yes. Panic? Yes. Was he angry? He was freaking furious. Carl hadn't a clue about the damn walkers behind them and when Elliot began to bolt, he knew something was up and followed right behind, taking a quick look over his shoulders to make out blurry figures in the snow fall heading for them. He wanted to strangle the pretty boy, let the walkers get to him and ruin up his image. The only problem was that the asian bastard was faster than him, even only being a couple of years older, he wasn't used to this long period of mobility.

Scenarios of all manner spread like wild fire inside Elliot's mind, rushing to find a certain event that matched their situation and use it to get to safety. The trees and bushes around them were becoming sparse, long branches not there to snag at her hair, clothes or where-ever it could get a hold of and slow them down. Apart from the stampeding horde behind them and their terrifyingly loud animalistic cries, there was another sound that came ahead of them, creaks and groan of something huge and heavy that brought a sense of hope inside Elliot. They managed to find it, but the corpses found them first.

"Mill up ahead!" Her breathless voice yelled out, no point in being quiet anymore.

Thanking god that it snowed to slow down the walkers enough, Carl was feeling the burn a lot more in his lungs then he is feeling it in his legs, which were numb and losing all manner of sensation at that moment. With trees beginning to thin around them, there was no chance of stopping and climbing up one to hid themselves from being mauled at. He wasn't sure if he can cover the distance to the mill with how shitty he was feeling then, a brief thought of just letting the walkers get him shocked him enough that he was determined to get to the mill. Whatever it takes, he wasn't going to get eaten.

Elliot was focused in her running, when the sight of the wooden structure came to view, she nearly cried out in joy but knew that she didn't have time to feel that way, not with the danger right on their heels.

It was all flat and clear running for the two of them as gravity no longer pulled them down, sprinting hard towards the wooden windmill and buy some time inside it. Carl looked over his shoulder again to see how far they've gotten away from the walkers, but what he didn't take account for was that gravity still applies to them and not being burden down by their weight anymore, they were charging at them with speed that shoot fear throughout his body, looking straight ahead to see Elliot not so far away from him and he could see that his footing was shaky. He had to buy himself time and just make up an excuse once he was inside.


1050

The sensation when falling was one that anyone can say is a shock to the body and Elliot was definitely shocked as she felt herself being taken off balance, the feeling of wet and cold mush pressed against her hands first before her entire body wasn't pleasant, shooting her body with icy cold stings. She saw Carl leaping over her to sprint ahead without looking back, her expression livid and black.

Carl didn't think twice about what he did, nor did he care as long as he had the walker be busy for a while, the mill mere metres away. There was no sound behind him apart from the horde, expecting a cry of betrayal or something that sounded angry, but the growls were the only angry thing he could hear. He tore at the wooden door, grunting at the effort of getting the rustic hinges to comply before slipping through the small opening. Closing the door was harder but he managed to pull them shut, peering out to see the hordes coming but there was no sign of Elliot anywhere.

Ignoring the fact that he was stuck inside, Carl raked through the bag for the gun he stuffed in there somewhere, mentally chastising himself for not having it out to begin with. He tucked it behind him, looking around for a way out or an idea on what the hell he was going to do now. He definitely had to continue with the mission, spending his time to check out things inside the mill and pilling up the suitable materials near the door. The stuff he collected weren't much, especially if they were to board up the perimeter but better than nothing.

Carl doesn't know how long he's been scavenging, but he jumped out of his skin when a loud slam come from somewhere above him, his heart slamming against his rib cage.

"What the fuck?!" he cursed under his breath with frantic eyes searching the ceiling, his head swivelled from left to right whilst crouching low to the ground, straining his ears to catch the noise of whatever it was up there. He made his way towards the stairs that lead up towards the second level, the trap door was open but the thump and shuffling noises weren't coming from that floor.

There were lots more stuff on the second floor though that can wait as Carl got a much bigger situation, no doubt that he wasn't alone in this windmill and he wasn't sure if it was a walker or living person. He walked slowly, alert for any sudden human or inhuman noises, picking up the faint sound of objects scrapping the wooden floor briefly and following the noise trail towards the second stairs. The door was pad locked as something above it tried to pull it open to no avail, after an angry tugging it went silent.

Taking the gun in his hand, Carl slowly began to make his way towards the door, creeping up the steps one at a time, hearing nothing from above him. As if it heard him, there was a loud whack at the wooden door that caused him to flinch backward, lose his footing and tumble down the steps.

The state of mood Elliot was in is between a murderous intent and lost of inhibition, which is practically the same thing if it ended with Carl's skull crushed under her boots. The snow, which is a first she seen and experienced, wasn't dampening the darkening fire that burnt inside her, added with the lack of sleep and gruelling body work with corpses all night as the catalyst, she was in a fragile state, a ticking time bomb.

She hacked at the door with brute strength, sound of a body falling down only brought a wry smile from Elliot that matched her bilious eyes. Having a better idea, she brought down the hatchet against the old hinges that broke in contact. The wooden panel feel to the first step down, bits and pieces of the door flow as the hatchet chopped away at the wood.

Hiding behind crates and barrels, Carl crouched close to the floor with a tight grip on his gun, wincing at the pain he got from falling. He carefully peered around the corner to see the mangled door dangling loosely but no sign of the aggressor yet. Whoever it was, they were fast at getting the door down.

Elliot stood in front of the crates and barrels that Carl hid behind, hatchet hanging loosely in her right hand as she contemplated about Carl's life and his deserving of it, wondering what's it like to break through her moral-restraint and do what she really wanted. Killing someone she really hated or deserved to die was always one of the things she wanted to try to do, one of the things on her illegal/immoral bucket-list. Society had gone to shit, there's no one to tell her that she can't kill someone, it's about survival of the fittest now, a Darwinian era but, she was the only one stopping herself.

It was quiet for sometime but Carl didn't want to be the first person to out himself, which will be placing him at a disadvantage. There was a faint scrap close to where he was as his eyes grew wide and froze on spot, waiting for the next sound. He yelled out as the crates he's been leaning on was pushed hard against him, those stacked on top fell and buried him underneath. Kicking and pushing the objects off him, he grasp around blindly for his gun that he had dropped, eyes searching the room for whoever it was.

"Hey." Elliot merely said to the guy who left her as bait. He didn't answer her but gapped like fish out of water, probably surprised to see the person he had offered to the walkers standing over him. She just sneered at him before kicking his gun over, not wanting to take too much time anymore. "Get your ass up, we got work to do."

Carl was surprise to see Elliot up and standing, though her appearance was something else like she's ran through a sprinkler of blood. He followed his blood drenched partner back down the ground floor, the atmosphere between them was thick and tense, hopefully they would get the job done without anymore problem.


1400

The wind had picked up as the day passed, the big sail above them creaked as it slowly turned. Both partner had salvage as much materials they can, Elliot having found a cart that is used to transport loads of hay and pulled by horses. Carl as usual was mouthing off about something that she didn't give a two cents about, ignoring him to the best of her ability and wished she was deaf at that moment. It's bad enough that she had nothing else to listen to, but manoeuvring a heavy cart wasn't an easy task, especially when they were going down hill for three miles and chances of them getting attacked again was still in her mind.

Carl liked to talk just cause he can and think that people like hearing him talk, so Elliot being the only one who hated that was an oddity to him. The asian he knew off were loud and talkative but here he was with one and this one was the quietist one he have ever met.

"You should loosen up a little, sure we're working and I like to get back as much as you do but you're just so damn quiet." Opinionative.

"Shut. Up." Stoic.

A breath of disbelief escaped Carl's lips as he rolled his eyes, feeling his grip slightly loosening from the cart handle and quickly fixed his grip, not wanting the whole thing to start running away on them.

Tam was right when it was all down hill from the mill, having reached back to the Vanners in half the time it took them to get there. They haven't met any major problem during the trip back, just one stray but it went down without a hitch.

Carl was now boosting about their mission while Elliot was completely exhausted and easily reactive to anything anyone says, and after the event with Carl, she was ready to explode.

View All »Arcs

Arcs are bundles of posts that you can organize on your own. They're useful for telling a story that might span long periods of time or space.

There are no arcs in this roleplay.

View All » Create New » Quests

There are no quests in this roleplay.

Add Group » View All » 4 Factions to align with

Here's the current leaderboard.

Haven

The Citizens of Haven


Eden Valley

Characters that call Eden Valley home.


The Rands

Characters that are in the Rands


Eden Valley

Characters that call Eden Valley home.


Events

Soon™.

Game Master Controls

Welcome home, Promethean. Here, you can manage your universe.

Arcs

Arcs are bundles of posts from any location, allowing you to easily capture sub-plots which might be spread out across multiple locations.

Add Quest » Quests

You can create Quests with various rewards, encouraging your players to engage with specific plot lines.

Add Setting » 1 Settings for your players to play in

Settings are the backdrop for the characters in your universe, giving meaning and context to their existence. By creating a number of well-written locations, you can organize your universe into areas and regions.

Navigation

While not required, locations can be organized onto a map. More information soon!

Collectibles

By creating Collectibles, you can reward your players with unique items that accentuate their character sheets.


Once an Item has been created, it can be spawned in the IC using /spawn Item Name (case-sensitive, as usual) — this can be followed with /take Item Name to retrieve the item into the current character's inventory.

Mobs

Give your Universe life by adding a Mob, which are auto-replenishing NPCs your players can interact with. Useful for some quick hack-and-slash fun!

Mobs can be automated spawns, like rats and bats, or full-on NPCs complete with conversation menus. Use them to enhance your player experience!

Current Mobs

No mobs have been created yet.

Spawns

Locations where Mobs and Items might appear.

Events

You can schedule events for your players to create notifications and schedule times for everyone to plan around.

Permissions

Add and remove other people from your Universe.

The Forge

Use your INK to craft new artifacts in Live Together or Die Alone. Once created, Items cannot be changed, but they can be bought and sold in the marketplace.

Notable Items

No items have been created yet!

The Market

Buy, sell, and even craft your own items in this universe.

Market Data

Market conditions are unknown. Use caution when trading.

Quick Buy (Items Most Recently Listed for Sale)

Open Stores

View All » Add Character » 34 Characters to follow in this universe

Character Portrait: Callie Winters
Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe
Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison
Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
Character Portrait: Jesus "Matador" Herrera
Character Portrait: Tilo King
Character Portrait: Erin Hooper
Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan
Character Portrait: Alison Carter
Character Portrait: Ken Rand
Character Portrait: Richard Brand
Character Portrait: Mark Lawson
Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada
Character Portrait: Tam Ferris
Character Portrait: Elliot Xanshi
Character Portrait: Allison Hartford

Newest

Character Portrait: Luca Dobre
Luca Dobre

Romani Traveler

Character Portrait: Dominic Fields
Dominic Fields

The smoker

Character Portrait: Elliot Xanshi
Elliot Xanshi

Everyday is an act until night comes

Character Portrait: Tam Ferris
Tam Ferris

Ain't it cruel... Life?

Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada
Shinji Yamada

The Reluctant Linguist

Character Portrait: Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson

The Guard

Character Portrait: Richard Brand
Richard Brand

The Hunter.

Character Portrait: Ken Rand
Ken Rand

The Wheelman.

Character Portrait: Alison Carter
Alison Carter

The Fly Girl.

Trending

Character Portrait: Luca Dobre
Luca Dobre

Romani Traveler

Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison
October "Toby" Harrison

She's heard it all twice over. Just keep the jokes to yourself.

Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
Benjamin Kinney

The tourist on a vacation from Hell...

Character Portrait: Dominic Fields
Dominic Fields

The smoker

Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada
Shinji Yamada

The Reluctant Linguist

Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe
Jonathan Monroe

Solider

Character Portrait: Erin Hooper
Erin Hooper

"So, what's going on, what can we do now?"

Character Portrait: Alison Carter
Alison Carter

The Fly Girl.

Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
Rishi Sharma

Cambridge Professor

Most Followed

Character Portrait: Tam Ferris
Tam Ferris

Ain't it cruel... Life?

Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada
Shinji Yamada

The Reluctant Linguist

Character Portrait: Elliot Xanshi
Elliot Xanshi

Everyday is an act until night comes

Character Portrait: Luca Dobre
Luca Dobre

Romani Traveler

Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison
October "Toby" Harrison

She's heard it all twice over. Just keep the jokes to yourself.

Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan
Kiera Trennan

Turns out, math can be useful after all

Character Portrait: Richard Brand
Richard Brand

The Hunter.

Character Portrait: Ken Rand
Ken Rand

The Wheelman.

Character Portrait: Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson

The Guard


Fullscreen Chat » Create Topic » Live Together or Die Alone: Out of Character

Discussions

  • Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Most recent OOC posts in Live Together or Die Alone

There have been no posts in the OOC topic for this roleplay!