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Erin Hooper

"So, what's going on, what can we do now?"

0 · 672 views · located in The Haven Universe

a character in “Live Together or Die Alone”, as played by Rann


The Citizens of Haven


Erin ‘Hoppy’ Hooper

Age: 19

Gender: Female

Physical description:

The most notable thing about Erin is her bright red dyed hair, that's fading at the roots, giving her this bizarre look. There's signs of scissors shearing through it, chopping it just above the chin in length, while it used to be longer. Going down, to her face, you have two, usually narrowly mischievous eyes, glinting deviously as her mouth shows a hint of an upward curve at the corner- her trademark wicked smirk. She's got a slight figure, just barely reaching 4"11, and weighs in at around 102 on a good day. She likes to wear big baggy sweaters and hoodies, and has simply shirts and jeans to accompany that. She also slouches pretty much all the time.


Born in Cardiff, Wales, Erin, at first, seemed like an ill omen, causing the death of her mother, Kathy (33) during childbirth, and ended up with only a father, Walter Hooper (28) for a parent. People had expected the successful banker to resent Erin for taking away his beloved wife’s life, but, on the contrary, he himself felt somewhat guilty and ended up doting on his new daughter, to try and fill up the lack of a mother figure in her life. So he raised her while he could, teaching her what he that was traditional feminine values, such as chastity and compassion; things that, while Erin loved the love and attention, she didn’t really absorb it all that well, and instead had a mask that showed off the qualities in question.

When she was five, it was found that Erin was almost exceptionally smart, answering questions quickly in class, and always paying close attention to the lessons. It was all for the praise and the attention, however, rather than actual wanting to learn. She even met a close friend, who’d stay friends for life, Laura Reinhardt, and from her she gained the nickname Hoppy. Erin loved the name to the point of wanting everyone to call her that from then on.

At seven, her father would start dating a woman named Hannah Slater, a young and brilliantly pretty woman, and she piqued Erin’s natural inquisitiveness and penchant for mischief, but the young Erin still had no idea why. When first bringing it up with Walter, he claimed that she was just upset because there wasn’t as much attention going to her, and reassured that he always loved her the most. A few years later, at twelve, the two adults were officially engaged, leading to Erin stalking Hannah one night, into a night diner, and overhearing that Hannah’s plan was almost ready to spring, to extort money out of Walter by beating him up for ‘sleeping with my woman’. Hence, a Badger Game, and when she brought it up, once again Walter didn’t believe her, so she tried to call the police for aid, who didn’t believe her account and said they’d ‘look into it’ vaguely. It was too late, though, and she one day woke up to hearing her father being beat up, and giving up copious amounts of money to the thug. It was also too late for Walter to apologize to his daughter, who at that point, stopped thinking of him as the all-powerful Daddy.

This put a great amount of stress on Hoppy’s psyche, ruining her grades and making her lash out against several of her female teachers in class, as well as being, subconsciously, a little too friendly and close with older males. It even put a little strain on her friendship with Laura, who, upon graduating from High School, forced Hoppy into renting an apartment with her. They shared the cost, of course, with Hoppy finding several part time jobs, not being accepted into the University of Cardiff, unlike Laura, who also had part time with her friend during the weekend. Hoppy, well, after a while, she started getting uncomfortable thoughts about her best friend, thoughts of lust and even more than that. Knowing her friend was strictly heterosexual though, Hoppy had to bottle it up and hide it from her, or else risk losing their friendship. So, instead, Hoppy turned to flirting with older men to satisfy her base sexual urges, but finding herself empty love-wise.

That’s how her life was when the outbreak began. The bus she was in was one of the earliest parts of the city that was attacked, forcing her to try and get to the extraction point by foot. Erin’s first stop was her apartment with Laura, but there was no one there. She then ran over to her father’s house, but found that empty as well. And, as a coincidence of checking up on them, she ended up missing the chance o be extracted; the zone becoming overrun by the time she got there. So, she decided to try and wait it out on the road, aimlessly travelling and trying to get it into her head that things had changed drastically, hanging on desperately to the belief and hope that she'll live to see Laura and her father again one day. It wasn’t long until her abode was snuffed out, and while still in deep shock, she ran and was found by one of the scavengers, who brought her to Haven.

Hoppy is a pretty fast sprinter, but can only keep it up for a short amount of time.
She has pretty good instinct too, and a lot of the times tell when someone’s lying to her.
Her best skill of all is the happy mask she wears, to keep people from seeing deep inside of her.

So begins...

Erin Hooper's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Rann
Shit was just getting worse and worse, huh? Sending everyone out in twos, Hoppy really felt a little worried. All she was really good at is stealth, sneaking in unnoticed- virtue of her stalking she did way back then. There was no way she could have known she’d end up considering her light-footedness and generally good situational awareness would be her biggest value one day- but then again, no one here were really counting on a goddamn zombie apocalypse.

Zombie. I still hate that word. Sounds so stupid.

As she sauntered down the stairs, she caught the slightest glimpse of Monroe, one of the leaders here in Haven. The guy, just seeing him, it brightened her day just a little bit, and Hoppy shook the tiredness off, randomly taking one of the jobs from the board. The hoodie’d girl stretched a little before getting some a little drink of water, relishing the moisture pouring down her throat. Nibbling at a granola bar (damnit, she used to hate these, and now they’re a pretty damn awesome treat, what happened to the world, huh?) she read the job she’d chosen. Bodyguard.

She leaned back in her chair, with a small, almost pitying chuckle.

“God, shoulda known I’d get a combat-ish job someday.” She murmured, and then chomped down on the rest of the bar. Hoppy shrugged a little, a single name popping into her mind: Chip. The man that had found her and took her to Haven in the first place. She’d go up, jump into his cot and tell him to wake him the hell up. Since she couldn’t handle guns at all, the damn recoil scares the shit out of her; this man would probably be able to use the scoped rifle. All she needed was the meat cleaver she’d always used.

“G’damnit, Hoppy, I’m tryin’ to wake up, you didn’t have to jump on my fucking head!”

The man was still rubbing his head sorely after the girl woke him up in what was most likely the rudest way ever. He scratched at the unshaven stubble starting to grow on his chin, and was uncomfortably aware of the morning glory that all men had; the stiff and slightly painful feeling. Especially in front of a girl young enough to be his daughter.

“Y’get that notice, Chip?” She asked the man, looking up at his face when she asked. “Bout the armed gangs, hunting down Haven? We won’t run into them, hm?”

He grumbled something inaudible, and the girl offered him the notice.

“You suck at picking, Hop.” Chip said sourly, but patting her head affectionately all the same. He made sure to get one of the hunting rifles being given out for protection, and Hoppy still had that cleaver, tucked into the belt of her jeans, the blade shimmering evilly in the glint of the sunlight.

The two met Gary a ways south of the farmhouse. He had his glasses pushed up; sweat glistening in the cold October morning air. On his back, he toted a large black backpack, probably filled with whatever he needed to use to diagnose the solar panels. It was a pretty major job- if they could get a working solar panel over at the farmhouse; that meant electricity. Power. Heat, all that stuff, for the coming winter. Even just a little luxury like heat could go a long way, because in the winter, they’d have to keep morale up somehow. And if everyone was cold all the time, well, it’d be easier to slip up and get yourself killed.

“It’s south of here, the plant,” The technician said, a little nervously. “Thanks for coming, and let’s hope we get out of this mess alive, shall we?”

The burly man comfortably held the rifle to his right shoulder as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And in his red and white plaid shirt, he even looked like one of those redneck hunters in America. How they even managed to get guns, Hoppy didn’t have a clue. She certainly hadn’t even seen one in person until Chip had found her, about two or so weeks ago, aiming something he called ‘Harry’ at her.

Hope he doesn’t need to shoot anythin’, right? God, I still hate the damn sound of the guns.

“Hey hey, so,” Hoppy began talking, somewhat panicked. “Let’s not go in all guns a’blazin’ and stuff, please? Once we’re at the Plant, I’ll run ahead, like a scout or something. I’m faster and quieter than you both, so, uh, I can scout out the best ways and shit like that.”

Chip looked initially worried, but when the girl shot him a wide toothy grin, he patted her on the head again, telling her to do her best, and make him proud. He still didn’t manage to shave yet, and it felt rather awkward having the stubble out like that.

The tech, Gary, also looked relieved when Hoppy told them the general plan. He probably wanted to avoid the direct violence route as well. He wasn’t keen on having a young woman put herself in danger, but it was true that she was faster than them both at running. And his sharpshooting skills, unfortunately, only existed on the Xbox, playing those first person shooters such as Call of Duty, Halo, among others. He was great at them; one of the ones to call the others noobs and chortle unpleasantly, even being a grown, if wispy, man.

While idly chatting about, generally unimportant trivial things, dark clouds were rising. Was it a storm? Who knew, but the District might be in for bad news, if it was.

It was roughly noonish by the time they had reached the fence surrounding the plant. Chances are there weren’t many Zeds there, but that didn’t mean it was totally safe. Hoppy took the initiative; finally serious, as she chopped away at the steel wiring of the fence with her cleaver. It took some effort, but she looked as if she was enjoying herself, and maybe ten minutes later, there was an opening wide enough to even fit the comparatively giant Chip.

Immediately upon seeing the panels, Gary started muttering and took out his equipment; making his diagnosis. Thirty minutes, he’d said. That wouldn’t take too long.. but Hoppy was getting stir-crazy just waiting around. She wanted to do something, and maybe there’d be useful stuff inside the office building.

“I’ll scout around, I guess.” Hoppy said tersely, breaking a glass window and hopped in through the wreckage.

Y’know, Chip’s a nice guy. He puts up with a girl like me and protected me when I was still terrified of everything. Must’ve caused him quite some trouble, I bet... but I gotta do what it takes to help out Haven. The longer we last, the better fer all of us, ri-

A zed, animalistic and feral, made a running leap. Almost as if by reflex, Hoppy dodged out of the way and chopped at its ankle, crippling it. She made a grunt as she took another step back, mind still on auto-pilot while the zed was crawling frantically, making those eerie nightmarish noises. Another chop, and the sinew around the neck was weakening. Another. Blood oozed dully out of the wounds; little bits of neck flesh splashing around her already stained hoodie. Another. The head bent crookedly as steel hit spine. It was more than grotesque, the once human creature... monster crawling and clawing at her, it’s head bent unnaturally sideways; one ankle hopelessly mangled. Hoppy did one last chop, utterly severing the head from the base of the neck. After that, she stood there panting for a few minutes, and fought the urge to throw up. It was sudden, it was debilitating, and it took up probably too much energy to hold it down.

I’ll never get used to this shit.

She rounded a corner, seeing a hallway filled with numbered doors, eventually reaching 120. There were also stairs at the end of the hallway. Some of the doors, well, they were broken down, and she could peer inside, seeing nothing really of importance. A few of them had zeds in it, and Hoppy kept those doors shut tightly, while room 113 had the body of a man, a tight noose around his bruised, purple neck. Claw marks were there, as if he’d died while desperately trying to undo the noose. Suicide. She frowned distastefully before closing that door too.

Overall, it was dark and eerie, but she didn’t want to turn any light on. The Zeds would be attracted to it, and even if they were bumbling about outside the plant, they’d nonetheless flock to it. The windows, at the very least let in some of the afternoon light.

In the end, Hoppy managed to gather up a bunch of files that looked important somehow, a few labcoats as spare clothing, and two unopened bottles of water, looking almost comical as she carried those things out, along with the cleaver waving around with each step.

“Some more shit.” She said with gritted teeth, unable to really remove the sight of the hanged man. “Notes, files, whatever. Maybe it’ll help.”

Gary thanked her, still going through everything, when they all heard mass groaning. Did Hoppy make too much noise? Still, whatever it was that had attracted them, it didn’t matter at this point. Maybe ten or so started charging at them, like a barbaric little army. Chip let out a cry of warning, to the tech who gave the zeds a cursory glance.

“A few more minutes!” He called. “Try to hold them off, please.”

“Goddamnit!” Chip growled, taking careful aim with the rifle and downed one of the zeds with little effort. Just killing one didn’t help much, though. Things looked grim, but they also needed the data on the panels to figure if they could be of some use. The prospect of power wasn’t a tiny thing, after all. “We need to move now, Fowler!”

“I said a few minutes!” Gary sputtered, still obstinately standing and running tests. So, there was only really one thing to do, right?

Hoppy dashed to the side as fast as she could, turning on her flash light and aiming it at the zeds. The nine of them left made a mass turn and now were hounding her. Chip yelled with sudden anger and worry- the hell was the girl thinking? He took another deafening shot; Hoppy flinched at the sound and very nearly tripped.

Panic. Adrenaline. Blood pumping desperately through her system, keeping her moving. The zeds were right on her heels; she needed to go faster. Faster, longer, harder, whatever. She didn’t even allow herself the luxury of thought- all that mattered was sprinting for as long as she could, trying to block out the moans and yelps of the infected; their rotting stench.

Until Chip fired at the wall with his Harry. And pretty much all save two zeds turned once again and moved towards Chip, standing rather far from both Gary and Hoppy. Spinning around, she chopped rapidly through the two zed’ s knees and, with heightening panic, tried to wave her flashlight again to get the zeds to turn back on her.

But now, the zed swarm was between Chip and the other two. He stood defiantly, Harry to his chin, even after the end. Gary didn’t let her watch. There’s no way he’d have let Hoppy watch it happen.


The way back was pretty silent. Although Gary had finished the tests and his report, Hoppy really didn’t want to think anymore; her mind numb. What would she do now? She wasn’t really close to anyone else in Haven. She’d be all alone again, just like when the zeds first came. Isolated from everyone else.

Gary had tried a few times to say something to the girl, but she wouldn’t really respond. He felt bad about the death, sure, but the data was more important. And Chip had to have known what he was signing up for, right? What it meant to be a Scav. And death, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of the deal. Not everyone makes it out alive.

But he couldn’t say that to the girl.

After they got back to the farmhouse, the two of them reported in to Callie, the teacher, the results of the mission.

“They’re definitely useable.” Gary said. “The panels. If there was some way we could get one over here, it’d help out everyone, Callie. There are some zombies still there, though, so it might take a group to do it. Heck, we lost one. Chip Mayberry. “

Hoppy, still feeling lost and listless inside, gave her usual cheery smirk to the school teacher. “I’m okay, if you’re wondering.” She lied easily. “It is how it is here, after all.” She then opened Gary’s pack, and handed over her items to Hallie; the lab coats and the bottled water.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Messiah

Collaboration with Rann

November 5th, 2013

Part One: Introductions


Ben watched Laney exit to the farmhouse. The encounter had left him a little... empty. Ever the optimist, he was hoping she would have said something a little more positive. But, he knew what she meant. One or both of them could be dead by this time tomorrow. Nothing was certain, but, if you asked him, that was an argument for taking a chance. He sighed, turning back to the job board.

The crunching of snow from behind him alerted to the presence of someone else approaching. Hoping and half-expecting it to be Laney again, he turned around to see that it wasn't. It was a different girl - perhaps the most unique-looking out of any of them, particularly with that red hair. Silently, he wondered if she was able to keep it that color since the start of this whole thing. Surely, hair dye wasn't a common thing. Then again, it's not like it's very valuable anymore. If people had it before, they still probably had it sitting around in their house.

"Caravanners or a truck. Truck seems easy enough, right?" he asked, partly to himself. Then he added quietly, "I hope."

"I'm going to get the truck. You want to come?" It was blunt, but he wasn't the type to beat around the bush. At least, not mostly.

"Eye-ah" The girl, Hoppy, said cheerfully, in greeting. "Don't mind knockin' about wit' ya." Silently, she added that finishing with the power business would help give her closure to the whole Chip being dead thing. She had jumped into the room where he had slept just this morning, so the reality of it still hasn't completely sunk in just yet. That's not no business of Ben, here, though, and chances are that he wouldn't see past the Stepford smile. "Just get in, nab the truck, get the 'ell out, easy quickie."

"Time to check in with administration. I'll be back."

He returned to the farmhouse and to where Callie and Monroe were situated. They both gave him funny looks as he approached. Hers was more of a look you got when a mom learned of her son's first girlfriend, and his was a little more scrutinizing. He could just imagine it: 'What the hell are you doing, kid?' Monroe would say. And then they would argue, inevitably leading to one of them storming out of there in anger.

Thankfully, none of that happened.

But, she'd probably already told him. Great. With an eyeroll, he set down the notice for the job down onto the table in front of them, not bothering to say anything.

"The bikes are around the corner," Monroe announced.

"Bikes? What good are bikes going to do in the snow? They're just regular bikes, right? We're going to end up wheeling them along, or leaving them somewhere after we get stuck."

Typical city boy, right? The only time he rode a bike was when it was on a city street - a clear city street, at that.

"Fine. Don't take the bikes if you don't want," Monroe snapped back impatiently. He was always impatient, or he seemed that way, anyway.

Ben exited the farmhouse to find the girl lounging against the board, waiting for him. "Ready to go?"

Hoppy nodded, flashing her signature grin, and a peace sign. "Aye-aye" She had already gotten her cleaver, just in case things went down badly like it did on her last job. Still, and this was pretty unusual for her; she had one of the Harry's slung over her shoulder. She still didn't want to use it, of course, but like Chip had shown her, you never know when it may be needed. Being afraid of it wouldn't help none, 'specially after attending that class by Monroe. She knew the basics on how to use it, it's just, the noise. The goddamned noise. "Its main purpose is the dignity of not turning, if there's no other way out of a rut," Monroe had said during the class. "And it leaves one less bastard to deal with later." She'd wanted to die with a bunch of people she loved, though, not with half her face blown off. Not that she brought it up during the class at all.

She had a request, though, to get things clear before heading out. Her awesome hair dye was fading, and that was a crisis, if there was any. She saw the brown roots not too long ago while examining herself in a mirror... so she had to ask. No point stayin' quiet 'bout that, at the very least. She just didn't feel... right, if that mattered in this world. She didn't feel right, and at the moment, Hoppy really wanted to have as many things going for her as possible. and having obnoxiously red hair was like having moral support, or something.

"C'n we make a small bit of a side route?" Hoppy asked the American casually, hands still buried in the wide front pocket of her hoodie."Fancyin' more red dye. Oh, and, m'name's Hoppy." She stuck her hand out to greet the American, since this was probably their first ever conversation.

"Ben." He put his own hand out, shaking hers in return. "You don't really need the dye, do you?" Ben murmured, but shrugged, and the girl took that as permission to raid the salon in Cromwell before getting the truck for their job.

With a bit of a hop and a skip, as well as a flash of a snide smirk, Hoppy left the farmhouse first, anxious to get things over with as soon as possible, rubbing the handle of her cleaver as she walked, and shuddering slightly as the cold wind hit her straight on. It was crisp, and uncomfortable, but at the very least it lightened the air, making for easier breathing. With a dark murmur, "Least it in't pelting."

It took him a second to realize what she'd said. Her accent was different than any of the others'. Quite a bit different, actually. "Yeah. Still cold as shit," he complained, pulling his jacket over himself with an annoyed grunt. This weather was making it difficult to stay positive. It wasn't that he didn't like winter, but the cold got to him, and this was colder and snowier than he was used to back in Seattle. Having a city close to bodies of water kept the climate rather temperate. It didn't normally get too hot in the summer and it didn't get too cold in the winter.

Still, despite his less-than-positive attitude, after a while in silence, he decided to try and make conversation.

"So, where are you from?"

"Wales." She explained easily.

"Oh yeah? That explains the accent. Not really an expert on the subject," he shrugged. She seemed pleasant enough, but at the same time, it was kind of off-putting. The world had gone to shit and here she was, acting a bit like it hadn't. Unless...

Then he remembered, Chip had gone out once and brought her back. But, he wasn't around anymore, so that meant...

"I'm sorry about Chip. I didn't really know the guy, but he seemed like he was a good one." It was awkward and it was a downer, but he really felt for her - losing someone that she cared about a lot in this world, maybe her only real friend anymore. At the same time, he considered her lucky in some respects. Lucky in that she knew what had happened to him. But, Ben... he would probably never find out what happened to the people from the old world that he loved - not unless there was an afterlife and he got to see them there. And he never really was a staunch believer in God or Heaven. If anything, this... apocalypse... it made him doubt the existence of such things even more. Certainly, many prayers had gone unanswered in the last few months, and the ones who did pray, it didn't do anything for them. The only thing he could be sure of anymore was his own actions. Nothing more.

"Mmm." She said absently, now purposely looking away from the American. Everyone seemed to bother her about Chip, and she really didn't want to get into it. It was easier to just pretend that everything was okay; that she was mostly getting along happily. So in typical Hoppy fashion, she decided to pull the subject onto Ben. "How's it gone fer you, Ben? Bein' away from ev'ryone you know and such."

"It sucks," he said flatly. "I have nobody to look for. I had nobody with me when everything went to shit. Pretty much everyone I've run into is either looking for someone or had someone they were with." Angrily, he sighed, "And you know the worst part? I know that I'm probably never going to know what happened to all of them. They could be alive. They could be dead. They could be undead. I have no idea," He threw up his arms in exasperated defeat, turning his head away from her to keep her from seeing the tears that had begun to well up in his eyes.

He wiped at his eyes before turning his head back to her, "Sorry. I just-- It's hard." His voice then went quiet, "You know, sometimes, I think that maybe I'll get to see them again after we're all dead, and I think that maybe if I... end it, that I'll get to see them sooner." Again, he turned his head away, shamed over his admission, "But, then I think... that's not what they would want. They'd want me to keep fighting for as long as I could. So, I keep fighting. I don't give up."

Why had he just told her all of that? He barely knew her. She'd only just given him her name earlier that morning. Maybe he really was desperate to get that off of his chest.

She didn't really know what kind of response to expect from Ben, but in hindsight, she supposed she was kind of an idiot to spring it on him and expect anything good. Everyone was missing people, but for Ben, it was probably even worse than anyone else. He'd have to fight and eventually die over here in Haven, unless somehow society fixed itself and he could go back to America. She made a little frown at his words- was this suicidal ideation? It couldn't be, right, or else he'd already be gone. Still, it was troubling and she didn't entirely know how to deal with it. Thinking quickly, the girl bumped his shoulder, forcing a wider grin. It'd be better to try and keep this easy, and not bring up the super emotional topics. That was her mistake.

"Eye-ah, c'mon, mun" She smirked. "You 'oughta stick around- there're rumors, y'hear, you and Laney..."

Hoppy giggled a little bit, a tiny blush showing on her cheeks. "They're true, right? Wherever the 'ell your family and friends are, imagine when you tell 'em 'bout the little baby Bens you made!"

With a grunt, he rolled his eyes, but he couldn't help but laugh a little bit at that, "I guess it was stupid of me to think that people would keep something like that quiet, right? There's really no point in denying it, so, yeah. We kissed. It's true." And then he raised his eyebrows,"I don't know about that. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but..." he sighed, this time, a little calmer, "But, maybe I have another reason to stick it out, now. Another reason to come back."

Just as long as she kept the dumb excursions to a minimum, anyway, he thought.

At Ben's blatant admission, she giggled nervously. He was meant to squirm uncomfortably, but he wore it proudly, that they had kissed. The fact that romance even bloomed in a hell like this, it was almost like a beacon of hope for some of the scavs. It was like an idealistic hint that not everything is completely gone, that one day things might go back to how they were meant to be. And it seemed Ben was successfully talked out of the possibility of suicide, if he even considered it, it seemed the diversion was a success. Hoppy mentally pumped her fist, and unconsciously developed more of a bounce in her step.

"And, oy mun." She laughed again. "They cun, you know, use guns o'er there, amirite?" She paused a little, trying to work it out in her head without sounding like a ridiculous twyp. While she wanted to appear generally happy and totally okay, there was a limit before it got obnoxious. "Prob'ly awready dealt with the whole thing over there, and are workin' on gettin' society back up."

"Could be. Let's hope they send reinforcements over here soon. I want to get the fuck out." He adjusted the weight of his backpack a little bit, "But, if anyone can keep them safe, it's Chris," he mumbled. He turned to look back at Hoppy, "You remind me a little bit of my sister."

"Then she be'er be tidy splendid like me." The girl smirked at Ben, lightheartedly, and suddenly feeling even more than when first taking it, the change in weight she still needed to get used to. The stupid sawed off shotgun was messing up her stride, since most of the time she just went with the cleaver. And she knew if things, somehow went bad, she wouldn't be able to run as fast as she was used to; obviously something to worry about. Making a bit of an uncomfortable frown, she shifted the Harry a bit, before making a brief but sure scowl. "Stupid. It's just a run 'n grab job anyways, 'innit a bit thick to bring it?"

"You never know what you're going to run into. Hordes. Gangs. Can never be too careful these days. One thing I've learned is that there's no such thing as simple. Not anymore." As much as he would like to believe that this would be a simple run and grab, he knew that the likelihood was much less than the likelihood of shit going bad.

"I s'pose." The girl looked a little miffed, but she accepted the answer, because it was most definitely true. She still didn't want to tote around the heavy Harry, though. It was an almost pointless hassle, because she was pretty sure she could outrun all but the fastest Zeds. "If there weren't no snow... biking this'd be easier." She mumbled to herself, disgruntled.

Part Two: Cromwell


It didn't take much longer until Cromwell was in view. Ben stopped, surveying the area. It was quiet, but he knew that was a deception. Somewhere underneath this peaceful place was a powderkeg about to explode. This is where Kim had been bitten. This is where Laney had nearly gotten herself killed. This was not a good place to be. At the very least, he hoped that the snow would slow any adversaries down at least as much as they did Hoppy and himself.

"Let's be quick. I don't want to be here any longer than I have to be." This probably wasn't the best time or place to be looking for hair dye, but he had doubts as to whether he could persuade her to give up the task. Besides, people still had to hold onto some of the things from the old world, or risk becoming something other than human, "I think the store's on the west side of town. Get in, get out, and I'll keep watch from outside. Gill Mechanics is on the north side of town, it looks like."

"That's posh." She murmured and after peering at Ben a little, she tried the front door to the hair salon, finding it locked. She made another scowl before smashing the glass window with her cleaver, raising her arm gingerly to shield her eyes from any of the flying glass shards. Once that was cleared, the girl hopped over the sill and quickly tried to navigate herself around the place. The lobby looked pretty gruesome, for certain, dreary and abandoned, with faded peeling posters on the walls and one of the seats were stained with what looked like old blood. If the door was locked, Hoppy wondered, how could there have been blood? Deciding not to think too hard about it, she moved past the lobby into a lightless corridor.

She clicked her tongue distastefully, and with a minor shrug, turned her flashlight on. It was weird how creepy things were when you could only see a little bit of it at a time, the small light patch swamped by darkness, but there it was. She needed the dye, in any case, and was willing to search the whole frickin' place to get it. Not like anything would decide to just jump out at them, right? And, sure enough, she eventually found herself in one of the unlocked rooms where the actual styling was done, seeing a few bottles scattered on the floor, as well as a plugged in hair straightener. Looking at it made her feel more than a little wistful, because her poofy mop of hair wouldn't flatten no matter how much she brushed it. Sure, it was a trivial thing, but she still wanted to at least feel like she looked nice. Was that too much to ask for in this sort of world? Probably, she thought, probably. But it didn't matter, since all she had to do was find where the dye was stashed.

Accidentally cutting her finger while trying to reach into a cabinet on some remnant glass, Hoppy shone her flashlight into it and found exactly what she was looking for- about two bottles worth, maybe enough to last her a couple months. Hoppy hastily shoved it into her pocket. Smirking victoriously, she sucked the blood off her finger while faintly hearing a familiar and terrifying moaning noise. A zed, somewhere in here. She knew better than to fight it though; it was dark and she couldn't see a damn thing. Panicked, but almost silently, she made her way out, and ran to catch up to Ben, waving at him.

"Got the loot!" She cheered brightly. "Just in time, there perhaps be a Zed followin' us now jest."

It seemed like he'd been out there forever. Every little noise got him on edge, and when she re-emerged, it was all he could do to avoid breathing a sigh of relief, "Right. Okay. Just keep an eye out for it, then. We should get going." If he seemed a little antsy - a little on edge, it's because he was, "I don't like this place," he mumbled, mostly to himself, "I don't want to be here any longer than I have to," he repeated, making his way north towards Gill Mechanics.

Gill Mechanics wasn't far; Cromwell wasn't a very big town. The trek was eerily quiet, especially for what he knew was lurking in the shadows. He just hoped they could get in and out before attracting too much attention.

A short time later, they came upon the building for Gill Mechanics. He approached the door and pulled on it, to no avail; it was locked. Turning to look at Hoppy, he held his hand out, "Stand back." Once she had, he took the sawed-off and slammed it into the glass on the door, shattering it. Slowly, he reached inside, unlocking the door before pulling it open, "I'm going to take a look. Keep an eye out, okay? Let me know if you notice something."

"Ben?" Hoppy asked him, almost jittery, nervously. "That zed earlier, I reckon it's got friends, so, er, let's hurry it up. And you weren't quiet when breakin' the glass.." She heard the defininte growling moans, and clutched her Harry in a hard sweaty grip. This was lookin' more and more like a repeat of the Silent Valley mission... she didn't want to see someone else end up dead because of her.

It didn't look like anybody had really been in this place since the outbreak. The windows weren't barred, and there was nothing on the walls that indicated anything; no blood, no bullet holes, nothing. There was a clerk's desk in front of him and, to his side and behind him were waiting room chairs.

With windows unbarred, there was light enough for him to see around the room. Behind the clerk's desk, he saw a door that perhaps led into a garage. And that's where he decided he would go. First peering over the counter for any hiding monsters, he hopped over the counter after discovering that there were none.

Luckily, the door to the garage hadn't been locked - though he couldn't figure out why the front door was and the garage wasn't. Once the door opened, he took a cautious look around. The truck was there, but slumped against it was a body. It looked either dead or undead, he couldn't be sure. That was until he saw its arm move ever so slightly. Unhitching his hatchet, he walked cautiously towards it, raising the weapon up. Before it could react, he brought the hatchet down into the top of its skull and pulled it out, causing the body to slump down even further.

The garage had one of those metal corrugated doors that you could slide up, and whatever was inside could drive out. He approached it, put his hands underneath the bottom of it and began to lift, as slow and careful as he could. Thankfully, it wasn't too heavy.

Part Three: Separated

As he lifted the door up, he could've swore he heard a whistle. He stopped, listening for the noise again. When he didn't hear it again, he continued to pull the door up. Once it was at the top of the track, he exited the garage and rounded the corner where he saw Hoppy waiting.

"Psst. Over here," he called as quietly as he could while still getting her attention. He ushered her into the garage and towards the truck, "Can you drive?"

"I'm a bad job at it," she responded.

"It doesn't matter. We need to go," he whispered, turning around at the sound of the moaning and groaning of the undead. They were starting to emerge from their hidey-holes, and there were a lot of them. A lot.

As Hoppy was trying to start the vehicle, Ben had gone to the entrance and was looking out. More and more of the things were gathering and they had seen the pair and were ambling towards them.

"Shit," he muttered and then called to Hoppy, "Get it going!"

"Aye, I- it i'nt working!!" she cried out, frantically turning the key over in the ignition again and again.

"Give it some gas!"

She did and the engine roared to life. Once it had, she brought it forward and out into town, leaving Ben some fifty feet behind it. The truck had gathered the attention of most of the horde and they were now stumbling in that direction. Now the horde was directly in between Ben and the truck.

"Go!" he called to Hoppy in the truck, "I'll meet you back at Haven!" There was no real time to argue. If she did, the truck would be surrounded and she would have a difficult time getting out, very possibly leaving her trapped with no way out, aside from, well, the shotgun.

With a dark sense of dread, Hoppy nodded and left Ben behind, to fend for himself. "I'll come back fer you." She muttered angrily, thumping the wheel. "Fuck, I will. Laney's waitin' fer you too." The girl gulped unsteadily as she kept driving, seeing Ben's figure get smaller and smaller in the distance until she couldn't distinguish him from any of the zeds that were now swarming. Who knows where they'd come from, maybe even from the damned detour she basically forced upon him. That had wasted time, and obviously attracted a few of the zeds in the beginning. Not as if she could go back for him now, though, and she narrowed her eyes, finally letting down the mask, with no one to see.

Once again, someone's been lost, and it's her fault. She killed yet another person. She hadn't meant to, of course not, but that's just how it worked. Hoppy mentally cursed herself even more, and her mood continued to spiral darker and darker as she frantically hunted for a safe place to hide the truck. First it was Chip, her stupid attempt to make a diversion ended with him taking the aggro and killing himself. And now, she abandoned the American because of her need for some useless red hair dye.

She was just a burden, after all; something to bring the whole community even farther down. And Hoppy began to hate herself for it. She finally found a place near the outskirts of Cromwell, after breaking into a house and forcing open the garage, she wheeled the truck into it clumsily, and closed the garage door. So no loners could find it, and steal it away for themselves. What would she do now? Go back for Ben? Or just give up, and not even-

No. Just giving up wouldn't solve a thing. If she did, it'd be the same as simple suicide, and Hoppy knew pretty well that there was no way she'd just throw away her life like this, when she still had yet to find out if her father or Laura had survived the outbreak at all. She wouldn't let herself die before then.... so she had to try and make herself even marginally useful. So she grabbed the radio and tuned into Haven.

"Haven?" She asked uncertainly, holding back the despair in her voice to try and soud as neutral as she possibly could. "Uh, anyone... anyone hearin' this? It's Hoppy."

She heard a male voice at the other end. Monroe. Cursing herself again, Hoppy fine tuned the dial until all that annoying static disappeared, or at the very least kept to a minimum.

"We've got a rut 'ere." Hoppy said again, and heard Monroe gruffly mutter 'well, talk then'.

"Got separated from Ben, um, I dunnae if 'e's even alive just now. Got the truck, 'n I hid it in this place, but... what do? There were lots of Zed and I, um..."

"Did you even pay attention during damn class?" Was the harsh response, and Hoppy sucked in her breath hesitantly. "Not... completely, sir. Uh-"

"Just get your ass back here, we'll think of someway to fix this."

She nodded numbly. "We ain't gonna abandon him, 'aight?" Her voice betrayed her frailty as it trembled; tears threatening to form in her eyes, but she successfully choked it all down. "Won't be the reason another'un buys it."

Back in Cromwell, Ben stood, having watched Hoppy drive off in the truck. Most of the horde had gone off in chase of it, but he couldn't count on it drawing them all away. There was no way he could just stand around. He had to find a way out of town, and fast. There was no telling how fast that horde would be back on him, as soon as they realized they couldn't get at Hoppy.

Now he had to find a way back to Haven on his own. It was possible that they would send somebody back for him, but he couldn't count on it, and he wouldn't have asked anybody to come back for him. He was on his own now, but this was not a time to panic, nor was it a time to despair. He wasn't dead yet.

A sound caught his attention, and he looked around for its source, but saw nothing.

Part Four: Brothers

There it was again: "Psst." This time, there was more; it was definitely a person, "Hey! You! Over here!"

Frantically, Ben looked around and saw the face of a man peeking around the corner of a building and, perhaps against his better judgment, he ran to the man, who pulled him around the corner and out of sight, allowing Ben to rest against the outer wall of the building and catch his breath. The other man did little to acknowledge Ben, instead keeping his eyes focused on where he'd come from.

He was shorter and considerably more pudgy than Ben was, and he also appeared to be at least ten or fifteen years his elder, as he had begun to bald.

"They'll go back to the shadows soon enough. Just don't let them see you here."

The next ten or fifteen minutes were spent in silence as the man kept watch and Ben leaned up against the wall. Once the man was sure the threat had passed, he turned to Ben, gave him a smile, "Lucky we found you, huh?"

Ben glanced around quickly, "We?"

"Yeah," the man nodded and, as if on cue, a man dropped down from the roof onto the ground behind Ben, causing him to start, "Me and my little brother." The first man adjusted his pants slightly before nodding, "The name's Mike, and that's Shane."

Shane was tall. Taller than Ben. And he looked like he weighed more, but not in the way Mike did - it looked like muscle. Frankly, Shane looked rather intimidating.

Nodding to Mike before turning and doing the same to Shane, he responded, "Ben. Thanks for the save."

"Sure thing! We try to do our part to help people out, now."

"Well, that's nice of you. Not enough of that going around these days."

Mike chuckled, "Tell me about it!" He gave Ben a rough pat on the shoulder, "Say, where are you from? Your accent doesn't really sound local."

"Nah. American. I was on vacation when shit hit the fan."

"Shit," Shane muttered.

"Sounds rough. Got a place to stay for the night?"

Ben didn't really know these guys. And this seemed a little fishy. No matter what he said, there could be problems.

"No," he lied. He didn't want to risk Haven on a couple of unknowns like Mike and Shane.

"Damn. How have you managed to survive this long?" Mike asked, seeming a tad surprised.

"Luck, I guess. And family." Another lie.

"The girl in the truck?"

"Yeah. She's my sister."

"Won't she be worried about you?"

"Well, yeah, but--"

"Let's go back for her!" Shane suggested, perhaps a little too eager. Unnoticed by Ben, a derisive look was given to him by his brother.

"No. We already came up with a plan if we ever got separated." Lie upon lie was stacked up now, all in the name of protecting everyone else. He feared he was too deep to get out of this. Then again, maybe these two really were okay and he was just being paranoid.

"Tell you what, Ben. We've got a little place you can stay, if you're sure your sister's going to be alright."

A frown crossed Ben's features briefly. He really had no idea whether or not to trust these guys. But, he'd dug himself into a hole with his set of lies. If he said no, they'd become suspicious and he'd have to come up with even more lies to cover those up. Pursing his lips, he nodded, "Okay."

"Great!" Mike clasped his hands together and they marched out of town, Mike in front and Shane in back. Most of the trek was taken in silence, except for a moment in the middle where Mike spoke up again, "You said you came here on vacation. Family vacation?"

"Oh. Yeah. My parents, my brother, my sister, and me."

"So, is it just you and your sister now?"


"I know how that goes. Everybody's lost somebody. I'm sorry to hear it."

"Thanks," Ben mumbled, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly

Several minutes later, they came upon a farmhouse flanked by a barn. They looked like they were fairly taken care of - well, at least under the conditions of the world. The wood on both structures was dark, almost black, but it looked natural. If Ben knew more than nothing about carpentry or forestry, he could say what kind of wood it was, but he didn't, and he couldn't. The house was two stories tall with a window that looked out directly onto them. It reminded him a little bit of Haven, but not as well fortified, and not nearly as busy. Both probably because of its location. It seemed more out of the way than Haven was, but he knew nothing about how things were before.

Ben squinted at the house, trying to decide if he'd actually seen someone in the second-floor window, or if he'd just imagined it. If there had been, it was gone now.

Part Five: Trouble


They walked up the steps and Mike pushed the door open. It seemed pleasant enough inside, and it reminded him a little bit of what he'd imagined the inside of a ski lodge to look like; a fireplace, a couch sitting next to it, a simple dining room, and a kitchen with no walls separating any of it.

"Nice place," Ben said absently, taking off his jacket and hat and offering them to Shane when the younger brother held out his hands for them wordlessly.

"Thank you. We do what we can to keep it presentable. You never know when guests are going to show up. It's gotten a little more difficult these past few months," Mike responded, smiling pleasantly. Shane returned from putting Ben's jacket and hat away, giving his brother a knowing nod.

Ben took a seat on the couch, looking into the inactive fireplace, and folding his arms over his chest. He wanted to spend as little time as possible here. Maybe he could spend the night, and then sneak out early in the morning. He'd have to come up with a way to cover up his tracks so they couldn't track him back to Haven.

While he sat at the couch, Shane and Mike were in the kitchen. Ben couldn't really see them, even when he tried, but Mike was quick to re-emerge, "You look hungry. Would you like me to make you something?"

Ben was getting hungry. He had barely eaten since he'd woken up, "Yeah, sure."

"Something to drink while you wait? We've got beer. You Americans love beer."

"Sure, I guess," Ben shrugged. An odd request, but he hadn't had the luxury of alcohol in a long time. It was probably worth a lot these days, though.

"Great! Shane?" The brother nodded and fetched a bottle of beer, popping the cap and offering it to him as he sat down.
Ben nodded a thanks and took a drink, smacking his lips. It tasted a little funny. Maybe just a little stale, but he didn't really know what stale beer tasted like.

"Something wrong?" Shane asked, raising a brow.

"No, just... a little different than I remember."

"Hmm. Maybe your taste buds are different than ours. American and all."

And then everything started to get fuzzy. Apparently, he'd said something to Shane in response, but he couldn't remember what it was, for some reason. He tried to focus, squinting his eyes in the direction of the brother who was sitting next to him, but it was getting harder as the seconds went on. Then, he couldn't be sure, but it looked like Shane was smiling at him. Something was said behind him, but he couldn't make it out.

Then, everything went black.

Part Six: Captured

Ben began to come to some time later, and he shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from his head. He realized then, that he had woken up because someone was slapping him.

"Time to wake up, piggy! We're in for a long night!" Ben's eyes hadn't quite readjusted, but it had sounded like Shane.

Once his eyes were open and he was aware of what was going on around him, he found himself in a different room with no idea how long he had been down there. It was cold. A basement, maybe. He was sitting down, and his hands and feet were taped to the chair he was seated in. But, what he noticed more than anything was that he was now completely naked.

He looked up to see Shane standing over him, holding one of those multitools, and the blade was out. Immediately, Ben realized what had happened. How could he have been so stupid?

Shane laughed, leaning much too close to Ben; he could smell the man's breath, rotten. The man brought the knife up to eye level, keeping a steady grin on his face.

"You and I? We're going to have some fun."

To be continued...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Jesus "Matador" Herrera Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Messiah

Collaboration with Rann

November 5th, 2013

Part One: Hopeless

Late Evening

Click. Click. Click.

Shane sat across from Ben, silent. The latter kept his head down, but he knew that the younger of the two brothers was staring at him. He could hear the clicking of the man's knife blade. In and out. In and out.

Ben looked up and Shane looked to him, smirking lopsidedly, "Does that bother you?" to which Ben gave no response.

Shane held in his hand a wallet now, and Ben recognized it as his own. He pulled out his driver's license.

"Benjamin Robert Kinney. Born August 20th, 1991, from... Seattle, Washington." He looked up, "Seattle, huh? How is Seattle?" Again, Ben gave no response. "The silent treatment, huh? Fine, then. But, you won't be quiet for long." Shane stood up, circled around Ben, and leaned in to whisper, "I promise."

He sat back down and looked to his license again, and laughed, "Oh, would you look at this. You're an organ donor, too! How... poetic."

The brother went silent again after that, putting Ben's license back into his wallet, and the wallet back in his pocket, and then resumed his routine.

Click. Click. Click.

Part Two: Getting Ready

After hearing her name, Hoppy left the briefing. She didn't care about Mark, or Caravanners, or whoever else was going to accompany them on the rescue hunt. None of that mattered. She fidgeted restlessly in the front of the barn, watching Monroe leave, as she gripped the cleaver tightly in her hand, occasionally swinging it around with a frustrated grunt. This was bullshit, wasn't it? It just wasn't right! While Ben might be lying, dead in a gutter from the zed swarm, she was sitting around, idly, as if none of it mattered in the slightest, while the higher ups did their thing, just talking about useless crap. What did it matter? What needed to happen was saving Ben! With an angr snarl, she thought about Laney. The actress... was it too much to think they've become friends in that short time? The small girl swung the cleaver again, wiping sweat off her brow at the exertion. Then again. It felt... good, imaigning a zed was there, taking the blow; blood and sinew fracturing as the stel blade chopped its way through. It felt natural. And that Laney, thinking that she couldn't handle it, because she was just a fucking little girl, or whatever it was, that pissed her off almost as much as the sitting around and chatting. In her mind, if she was ready to go up and charging into the rescue, after all this endless toil and weariness, then why couldn't anyone else grow the damn balls and get moving?

She scowled as she swung the cleaver down once more, this time striking at one of the bottles of dye; red ooze gushing out in spurts, a few drops getting onto her hoodie even, other parts splattering out onto the ground. It was red- it could have been blood. And the object she had just obliterated could have been a zed.

It should have been a zed. They should have been on the way to Cromwell by now. It's damn cold, and Ben was still out there.

And it was the idiotic girl's own fault, anyways, wasn't it?

"Best t'go alone..." She muttered to herself, drinking a swig of water; gulping the liquid down. "Else I might kill whoe'er else knocks about with this mess." She glared angrily at the red dye spurts. There's no way they were worth Ben's life. If getting rid of them would somehow help them find him, then she'd gladly destroy it all. The girl then set down the second bottle and began practicing her cleaver swings again. The better to kill Zeds with, right?

Part Three: Witnesses

Shane was getting impatient. With his head lowered again, Ben could see Shane's leg shaking. He even stood up once or twice, paced around the room and circled around Ben again. Ben had even once heard the brother muttering to himself, "Hurry up. Hurry up."

Finally, after what must have been ten or fifteen minutes when he heard a door creak open. It sounded wooden, and it sounded big.

Where the hell was this place?

Shane had noticed the noise as well, and stood up and walked out of the room they were in. Ben could hear them speaking, but if he were to guess, they really had no intention of hiding what they were saying.

The first voice was that of the young brother, "Can I start now?"

"After I talk to him," Mike responded.

In response, Shane seemed to giggle with delight before entering the room once again. As he did, he stepped towards Ben, brandishing his knife, but didn't use it. Instead, he simply stood a foot away, looking down on Ben. A moment later, Mike entered the room as well, bringing in a folding chair of his own. He set it down and took a seat upon it. What Ben found odd as he looked at the older brother was that he held a pencil and a notepad.

Mike leaned forward and looked Ben in the eyes, "Ben. I'm going to be honest with you. You won't be leaving here alive. But, you can help us."

"Fuck you," Ben spat.

"Let me explain. I'm here to record your final moments, but if we were just to kill you here and now, we wouldn't get to experience this intimate moment with you, and pain is a powerful way to get people to reveal the kind of person they really are." He looked to Shane at that, "And that's why my brother is here."

Ben looked to the man standing over him as well; he was shaking - no doubt with excitement - and he was grinning. With a disgusted scoff, Ben shook his head and turned back to Mike.

"So, please. If you would like to cry, scream, beg, or anything else, don't hold back. This is a haven for your feelings."

Haven. The word echoed in his brain, and he shook his head once more, as if trying to shake it out of his mind.

"Fuck you. You're both psychopaths."

Mike shook his head, then narrowed his eyes at Ben, "Don't even pretend like you know us." He motioned to his brother,"Okay," Mike said, leaning back in his chair, "You can start now."

Part Four: Going Out Again

"So that's where you were, Hoppy." Mark had come out, giving Hoppy somewhat of a cautious wave- she was in the middle of another swing of the cleaver, the second bottle of dye already exploded, and red spurts of liquid decorated the area where she sat. "I... hey, you mind if I sit down with you?"

The girl shrugged, and hooked the cleaver back into her jeans strap, looking almost dazedly at the spattered dye. Her restless fidgeting should have been a sign to any, really, that she really wanted to head out and just find Ben, alone or otherwise. That made her, at least at the moment, a loose cannon, and possibly a danger to the whole mission, if they had to chase and restrain her at the same time looking for the American. So he placed a hand on Hoppy's shoulder, getting her attention.

"Right, let's get going." He said kindly, looking into her eyes. "The Caravanners will rendezvous with us at Cromwell; they're probably already moving out. It won't be long until we're there, and we'll have Ben safely with us, with the truck. You'll see, it'll all-"

"Dun' be on spec, you twyp." Hoppy spat, before quickly getting up to her feet with a dirty scowl. Mark let out a sigh, before talking again.

"Look. You lost Chip, you think you'll lose Ben, and that's shit, okay?" He paused. "You probably lost all your friends and family from before too. We all have, right? You're not the only one here who's lost people, so you know we're working our asses off to keep that number a minimum." His voice started shaking as he thought, almost wistfully of Kim. "I lost someone... really important to me... and I don't want anyone else to feel that, if I can help it, okay?"

She shrugged impassively, frowning again; the two of them leaving Haven; next destination would be Cromwell. It was chilly, still, and Hoppy's body was worn, but the faster they went, the more they'd warm up.

"We're doing our best here. Don't think we don't care if Ben buys it or not, Hoppy." He gave her a reassuring smile; anything to try and make sure she wouldn't just run off at her first chance and recklessly shoot herself into Cromwell. "Just think, the smile on old man Monroe's face once we're all home safely, and he walks in, sees Ben home alive, safe and sound. Hell, something like that'd even make that guy grin."

He considered again, and let out a little chuckle. "Well, maybe a small grin."

"I en't need any o' you." Hoppy murmured, looking away. "I bet I could find 'im all on me own, an' be back on time. I oughta-"
The hand on her shoulder squeezed it tight, trying to calm the active girl down at least a little bit. She was already itching to get moving, and leave Mark behind. He'd only slow her down, right? "At least give us until we secure the truck." Mark offered. "You need at least one of us for driving it back, don't you?"

Hoppy grunted, obviously disliking it, but it was true. She doubted her driving skills were sufficient in doing anything extensive with the truck. So as much as it irked her, the frustrated girl paced herself along with Mark's stride, scowling at the man. "If youer'all 're too slow..." She trailed off. This really was a drag, waiting like this. Moving a bit away from Mark, she started, once again, practicing her swing to work off the pent up stress.

A minute later, Jesus arrived. Mark turned and offered a small smile, "Okay, then. I think we're ready to go." Looking between both Hoppy and Jesus, noting the awkward silence, before nodding and heading out, the other two following him close behind.

Part Five: Torture

Shane stood close with his knife in hand, looking Ben over carefully, as if looking for a good place to start. In fact, that seemed to be exactly what he was doing.

After a minute or two of this, he stopped searching and held out his knife. The metal blade stung the flesh on the right side of his abdomen. He winced, but he didn't allow himself to show more than that. In fact, he held his head up and looked at Mike in a specific act of defiance.

The younger brother stood up once again, looking Ben over carefully again, before stabbing the metal into his right bicep. Pain shot through his arm. He ducked his head down, letting out a quiet groan. There was no way he was going to scream or beg; he wouldn't give them that satisfaction, no matter what they pretended they were doing.

The two brothers looked to each other, and Shane spoke up, "He's a tough one, isn't he?"

"Mm," Mike grunted, looking back to his notepad, tapping it with his pencil, "Remember Edmond?" he asked, perhaps a little too casually.

"Oh yeah. Seemed like a real tough guy at first, didn't he?" He chuckled, leaning down to Ben, "Had him squealing about his girlfriend before too long and how she died in his arms. Turns out he wasn't as tough as he'd pretended to be."

"Ben, do you have a girlfriend? It's okay. You can tell me."

It reminded him of the typical therapist that you'd see on TV, 'How does that make you feel?' Except this was one fucked up therapist.

Then, his thoughts went to Laney. How was she taking this? Did she even know yet? He didn't imagine it would be long if she didn't already, and he could only imagine what she might be feeling right now.. If their positions were switched, he'd be going crazy and probably would have done something stupid by now, like go out and look for her, probably on his own.

"No," Ben responded. It wasn't entirely untrue.

"How about family?"

"I already told you about them," he murmured.

"You didn't tell me their names."

"Fuck you."

"Have it your way. Shane?"

"With pleasure."

Part Six: Runners

"You know." Mark tried to break the uncomfortable silence. Hoppy was clearly rushing. Earlier on, she'd only subtly increased the pace in their walk, but now she was moving on pure adrenaline in a light jog; Mark was starting to pant too, but Jesus was more used to this kind of thing. But they both knew it'd be useless to try and convince her to slow down. He wasn't keen on it, either, seeing the glinting cleaver in her pocket; seeing how emotional she was at the moment, and wondering just a little bit if it was that time of the month for her, she just might end up turning the blade on him. If that made him a coward, so be it- but maybe it was better she keep her energy up like this. So she wouldn't lose her motivation and completely wear herself out.

The girl cocked her head in his direction, making labored breaths as she walked with short, quick steps.

"Tilo." Mark said, remembering their talk not too long ago. "I think he's worried about you, you know."

A little 'hmph' from the girl.

The man let out a bit of a sigh as they kept on their tiring trek.

"Doctor Short also told me about your..." He coughed. "Confr- talk. Talk with Laney."

"Her own fault." Hoppy muttered, shooting him an angry glare. "Dusn't think I c'n handle this." She was still angry at that whole thing. Who was Laney to tell her to just leave it to Monroe? Couldn't she understand that she had to do this? That it was her job to fix? It was infuriating. It was frankly, insulting .She's doing fine, isn't she? Just ignore the bags under her eyes, and the fractured mask that couldn't form like it used to. She still had fight left. She'd get Ben back.

No matter the cost.

"Laney en't gunnae be able to do shit. anyways." Hoppy gestured at nothing in particular. "Hurt like she i-"

"She had to watch Toby die, Hoppy." Mark interjected with a tense frown. The girl stopped in her tracks, whipping her head back at the man behind her. Someone had died? No one told her anything about that! How could- no, that;s just the nature of this shit, isn't it? This stupid new world they found themselves in; and the more people they lost, the darker this world became. And Ben could just possibly end up on that growing list, too. "More than that, the two others with them all died, too."

A forty percent survival rate. That's just insane. Hoppy shook her head, now feeling the beginnings of guilt for what she'd said to Laney. She was already in shock and mourning for the ones lost, wasn't she? And then now Ben could be one of them too. And, Hoppy realized darkly, it was her own fault. Laney was right to lash out at her. Hoppy'd have done the same, if things were reversed.

It wasn't too long until the pair reached the outskirts to Cromwell- a sight Hoppy dreaded to see. This was where she'd messed up bad, wasn't it? It was almost like a haunting reminder of her sins. She gripped the handle of her cleaver hard, and made out two figures waiting there. The Caravanners, two men who looked friendly enough, waved them over.

"You're the Caravanners, right?" Mark talked first, while Hoppy stayed behind with an impatient frown and Jesus stood behind her, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. Goddamn introductions were a waste of time. "I'm Mark, and this is Hoppy. She's the one who got the truck earlier. And that's Jesus," he motioned to the third member of their group.

The older man, maybe thirty or early forties with greying hair introduced himself with a nod of the head, as Ronnie. He regarded the two Scavs almost apprehensively, reserving judgment for now. He then turned to the younger man, younger than Hoppy herself was, in fact, probably mid-teens. He was missing an eye, or maybe it was injured- an eye patch was over it. Not that it really mattered- they were just cannon fodder for the Ben search, after all, Hoppy figured. The younger man called himself, ironically, Benson, earning a dark glare from the hoodied girl.

"What first, then?" Ronnie asked, seemingly taking charge. "You need the truck secured, but there's also that... Ben, of yours, we need to find."

"If he's even alive," Benson said sardonically, chuckling a little. It was that instant that Hoppy brandished her cleaver and pointed it towards him, almost quivering with anger. There was a tense silence- all eyes on the girl. Benson held his smirk; a lip curling almost cruelly, utterly ignoring the blade aimed at his throat. This was frustrating. And Hoppy really really wanted to lunge forward and cleave him with it... but that wouldn't solve anything. It might just start even more trouble between the two groups. And everyone would blame it on her- another fuck up made by Hoppy.

"Shut up." She said quietly, and let Mark pull her aside and give her a disapproving glance. As the three chatted and planned, Hoppy thought- there was no way she's hanging around with these idiots. She'd rather bash her head against a wall for eight hours, and that's a stupid idea, of course. In her head, a plan formed to leave them behind, and she; with an almost twinkling smile, feeling triumphant at the return of her mask, "Truck first." She said. "So we c'n up an' get in an' get Ben out ASAP. 'e might be injured."

Yeah, definitely no way she'd hang around with these fools, even as they shrugged and more or less agreed with her. Benson still gave her a hard, piercing look, though, making the girl return it coolly.

Part Seven: Threshold of Pain

Ben's vision had gone blurry, and his right arm had started to go numb. Shane hadn't let up. In addition to the gash on his abdomen and the stab wound in his arm, he had accompanying gashes on his left leg and his back, near his left shoulder blade. The younger brother had also taken to hitting Ben in the face to the point where his right eye had nearly swollen shut, and his head had become increasingly difficult to hold up.

But, Ben wouldn't give up. He didn't scream, and he didn't beg, and it seemed to frustrate the brothers - Mike in particular, who kept prodding him for information.

"I guess you really are a tough guy, huh?" Shane grunted out, rubbing the fist that he'd used to hit Ben, and then struck another blow, this time in Ben's ribs.

Ben doubled over and coughed, having just had the wind knocked out of him. When he'd recovered, he lifted his head to look at Mike once more. This time, he chuckled, seeming to catch him off-guard, "I bet this frustrates the shit out of you, doesn't it?" Ben spat out some blood at Mike's feet, "You're used to people just howling like banshees, aren't you?"

Mike sighed and stood up, then looked down at Ben, "Defiant to the end." He motioned to Shane, who turned and looked at his brother. They both exited the room and Ben lowered his head so that his chin nearly rested on his chest, thankful for the respite, as brief as it might be. All he wanted to do now was cry, or scream. The pain was getting to him, and he just wanted to be back at Haven with the people that he cared about. But, he would not give in. He wouldn't give the brothers the satisfaction of letting them know that they'd gotten to him. No. If this is where he was to die, he would die strong and defiant.

"This isn't working!" Shane said. He was getting frustrated too.

"I can tell. Maybe we should just move forward."

"Yeah. Fine." Shane sounded indignant. Probably because he wouldn't get to play with their captive much more.

"I'll be back. You wait out here until I get back."

This could be an opportunity. With Mike gone and Shane outside for who knows how long, he might be able to start getting himself free. He had to believe that he could still make it out of this alive. What he would do after getting himself free, he didn't know, but giving up now wasn't an option.

His arms and legs were held to the chair with duct tape. First he tried wiggling his left arm, and it budged a little, but he had to think of something else; it was unlikely that the wiggling alone would be enough to free his hand in time. After a moment of thought, he ducked his head down to his wrist and began chewing on the tape. This might not be fast enough either, but maybe... both at the same time would be enough. The door creaked open again and Ben quickly pushed the tape back down with his chin, trying to make it look like he hadn't been doing anything. Hopefully the brothers wouldn't notice.

Both brothers entered again, and what Mike was holding made Ben's heart race, and his eyes go wide.

The older brother held in his hand a set of bolt cutters.

No. No. No. What were they going to do?

It didn't take long for him to find out. Shane approached and held him down with one forearm while holding the fingers of his left hand - all but his left pinky. Then, Mike stepped up, holding the bolt cutters. He pulled the arms open, to open up the head of the tool. The opening was then placed so his pinky finger was between the blades. He struggled, trying to move his hand out of the way, but he hadn't chewed through enough of the tape.

Ben could feel the metal pressing into either side of his finger, and the moment before seemed to last forever.

And then, with a grunt, Mike closed the arms.

Ben screamed. Blood poured.

He remained conscious long enough to see the brothers step back, and the older one bent down to pick something off of the ground.

Then everything went dark.

Part Eight: Tricky Hoppy

It was really terse. Hoppy couldn't help but wonder why, exactly, did the Caravanners even come to help? What use would they be? What if they killed Ben upon finding him? She frowned more as she realized that they most likely didn't know what he looked like- and if Ben is bloodied and hurt, they might even mistake him as a zed and kill him with those rifles of theirs. The sound still echoed in her mind- when Chip had done himself in. Ridiculous. Do guns have to be so loud and terrifying? That's just... she had to stop thinking on this track. Not like she'd be with them for much longer.

"So, where'd you leave the truck?" Ronnie asked her, turning away from his talk with Mark about random, useless things.

"Just somewhere." Hoppy muttered, trying to block them out. The house wasn't far- just a few more turns and then that'd be it. It's weird how empty these streets were though, not even a hint of zed. WAs something going on elsewhere that might be luring them away? Hoppy didn't care all that much about the reason- as long as there were less of them. She knew she probably wouldn't be able to slash through the skin with the heavy blade of hers, in her current state. So damn tired.

Benson caught up and nudged her, startling her into a jump. "Didn't drive it back?" He jeered. "You can't drive, or something?"
Another chilly glare found itself on the younger boy. "I c'n drive fine." She said with a pleasant smile. "'was more convenient t'ave it 'ere."

"Don't see how." The boy prodded her again, shrugging. "I mean, driving back to Haven or whatever, then driving back here, it's faster than just walking."

He really was getting on her nerves. If it took too long, Hoppy really thought that she might end up snapping and driving the cleaver into his gut. This cocky kid sure as 'ell deserved it, didn't he? The bastard just didn't know when to shut up. Boiling internally, she made a self deprecating smirk. "Might be I'm stupid, en't it?." She said, and turned back to the deerted streets. The house was right there now, the garage door was still closed. So no one had broken in and taken it. Hoppy let out a relieved sigh, and saw a few other houses with garages around. A nasty grin appeared on her face.

"So." She said, getting Mark and Ronnie's attention, and gesturing at the assorted houses. "It's 'round 'ere, somewhere. I... summat forget which'un." She made an apologetic face.

"We'll have to just search each one then." Ronnie said, cracking his knuckles, and moved up to the closest one. Hoppy quickly glanced over at Benson, Mark, and Jesus, all watching the older man. As he forced the garage open, he looked back at them, calling out, 'Not this one!", and tilted his head in the direction of the next house; Mark and Benson following. No one was paying attention to Hoppy, were they? She immediately bolted in the other direction, towards Gill Mechanics, where she'd last seen Ben, leaving the four men behind.

Part Nine: Now's Your Chance

Ben regained consciousness a while later. He had no idea how long he'd been passed out. Slowly, he opened his eyes, but kept his head down. The realization of what had just happened came over him again just as the pain did. The throbbing in his left hand was nearly unbearable. There was no end to it. But, he had to keep himself quiet. The brothers didn't need to know that he'd regained consciousness. His jaw clenched and he kept quiet, despite the pain.

Not far away, he could hear them talking; apparently they still thought that he was unconscious. At least for the moment.

"Someone's going to come looking for him," Mike was saying, "He mentioned a sister."

"So, what do we do?" Shane asked in response.

"What do you think? We go get them."



"I should go."

"No, Shane."

"Why the hell not? You think I can't handle it?"

"Remember earlier? You got way too eager to go back and look for her. You almost fucked it up." Mike was getting impatient.

"Fuck you."

"Shane, I need you here to look after him, make sure he doesn't try anything."

"Fine," Shane grunted, agreeing reluctantly, "Don't take too long."

"I won't. Oh, and if he's dead when I get back, there's going to be hell to pay."

"Yeah, yeah. Get going. You're wasting time."

Ben expected Shane to return, but he didn't. Thank goodness. He could go back to trying to free himself, and he had to hurry. It wasn't just his life in danger now. If anybody had come looking for him, they were now in danger of being captured by the brothers, just as he had.

Again, he ducked his head down, this time to his right arm which, as if in response to the extraordinary pain in his left hand, had gotten its feeling back. It still hurt like a bitch, but it was a duller pain than in his other hand. He began to chew on the tape and wiggle his arm back and forth. A few times, he bit his own arm, drawing blood, but he didn't care. All that mattered now was getting his arm free.

Finally, after a few minutes, he was able to yank his right arm free of the tape. Wasting no more time, he began pulling the tape off of his other arm, and then his legs, careful not to make too much noise.

He was free.

Part Ten: Where Are You?

The four that remained continued to search for the truck. It wasn't until a minute or two later that Jesus piped up, finally noticing they were one short. "Guys? Where's Hoppy?"

Mark looked around frantically, "Shit. Where the hell did she go?"

"Probably ditched us, stupid f--"

Ronnie stopped Benson from finishing his sentence by putting a hand on his shoulder and shaking his head, before offering, "She couldn't have gotten far, could she?"

"I hope not." Mark looked around, "Alright, let's find the truck and get to Cromwell. Maybe she's there somewhere."

Seriously, this was ridiculous. They hadn't followed her so far, at the very least. Hoppy buckled over in the last place she'd seen Ben, almost balking at the gloominess of the building. No zed in sight whatsoever. What was going on, where were all of them? It was creepy, and she didn't like it. At least there was no trail of blood or anything, or even worse: Ben's corpse. That's probably the only mercy here. But that had the problem- there's no real trail to track Ben at all. She scowled and kicked an idle can at the wall, with a grunt, before taking the cleaver out and tossing it into the air, catching it by the handle with apparent ease.

"Fuck." She muttered quietly. "The 'ell are you, Ben?"

She was frustrated. She was tired. She had no idea what to do now, so she just plopped herself down, her limbs sighing in great relief, being finally allowed a little rest. The world seemed to twist around her, making her almost lurch with a sudden wave of nausea. Gripping her head irritably, she realized that she'd pushed her burdened body to it's limits, hadn't she? And it was all to no end- there was still no sign of Ben at all. She'd failed, miserably and utterly. And she didn't have enough energy to head back to Haven either- nor had she remembered to bring a radio.

It was almost funny- going this far only to be, pretty much stranded, and having it entirely her own doing. She had tried though... but there's nothing really to show for her effort.

A quiet sound came through the darkness. Almost like a hiss. But, it was hard to tell where it had come from, or maybe it hadn't been real at all.

But, again, the sound came, accompanied with words, "Hey! You!" And a man approached, slowly, and carefully, "That's not really a good place to be resting, don't you think?"

Hoppy turned towards the voice, surprised. It wasn't Ben, he didn't have that almost barbaric American accent, but it was someone else. Maybe he had, at the very least, food or something, right? She got up with great effort, before steadying herself by leaning on the wall.

"Who's you?" She asked pointedly. "I c'n rest where I want..."

"Sorry, I didn't mean-- There could be those dead things hiding out here, you know? It's not safe." The man stepped forward, offering a hand, "I'm Mike."

She looked at the hand for a few moments before deciding that there couldn't really be any harm in it. "Hoppy." She replied, giving her own name, with a bit of a shrug. "An', there arn't any zed 'round today... the streets're stupid quiet. I dun' like it."

"They could come back here anytime." Mike adjusted his pants a little bit, "What are you doing here, anyway?"

Hoppy took one more cursory glance around the room, not really wanting to accept any help. But, unfortunately, there was still no sign of Ben at all. "Jus' lookin' fer sum'un." She sighed tiredly. "Some'un I was with til yesteday, last saw 'im 'roud 'ere." She turned to the man, Mike. He might have seen him, right? There was always that chance. "You seen 'im?"

Then she wondered- what exactly was Mike doing here, anyways? There's not really much except for a truck that was no longer there, right? "What're yew doin' 'ere?"

His face seemed to light up at her admission, "Oh! Maybe you're the one I'm looking for. We might have found this person you're looking for. Me and my brother saved him from a horde, but he got hurt, so we had to take him back to our place." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "He wouldn't tell us if he had anywhere else to go."

A rush of relief poured through her body. In that instant, the weary and on the verge of giving up Hoppy shot up; eyes bright and considerably lightened. If anything, she looked almost like how she used to, before the stress kept on piling up. "Take me to 'im, then." She said quickly, with new enthusiasm. "'How bad's the injury?"

"Nothing too serious. We're not doctors or anything, but I think it's just a sprained ankle. But, lucky for him we came along. He might not have gotten away otherwise." With a waving motion with his arm, he added, "It's this way. Follow me."

Cracking a bit of a grin, Hoppy followed along, staying just a few paces behind him. "Thanks." She managed. "I'm all tired; been runnin' non-stop since we got split up. 'e'll be glad t'see me, though, innit right?"

"Definitely. He seemed worried about you."

"You got, I dunnae, a drink or anythin'?" She asked. "At youer place, I mean. I'm sorry t'ask, but... I cud really use a refresher before takin' 'im back."

"Yeah. We've got drinks." He continued to lead her away from Cromwell. It didn't take long for the silhouette of what appeared to be a house to appear on the horizon, "It's just up there."

Mike was friendly to Hoppy. Maybe a little too friendly.

Hoppy looked pensively at Mike, noting the house. Something seemed a little off to her, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Now that the elation had burned out, she could actually think, at least, a little bit. And she had that weird prickling feeling she always got whenever someone was lying... but why would he be lying? It was a bit unsettling, but that might just be due to the antagonizing Benson from earlier, or the eerily empty streets with nary a hint of a zed wandering around.

They had found the truck and had made their way into Cromwell - which was eerily quiet. In the past, Cromwell had always been ready to explode with activity, but the dead seemed to have vacated the area entirely. After a few minutes driving around town, they had found Gill Mechanics.

"This must have been where they found the truck. Maybe this is where they got separated," Mark announced as he brought the vehicle to a stop. Mark and Jesus exited the cab while Ronnie and Benson hopped down from the back of it. "Can anybody track at all?"

"I can, just a little," Ronnie responded, "That's why I was brought along."

"Convenient," Mark nodded, "Well, do your thing. Let us know what you come up with."

The two members of Haven kept an eye out while Ronnie searched the area for clues and Benson just... stood around looking indignant, as youth tended to do, even before the world went to shit.

"Here!" Ronnie called, "It looks like somebody was sitting here recently. Someone must have come up and led them away. It could have been your friend."

"Great. Where do they lead?" Mark asked.

"South out of town."

"Back in the truck," Mark ordered.

"Fantastic," Benson grumbled, climbing back onto the bed of the truck with his fellow Runner.

"Where are you going, Hoppy?" Mark whispered to himself, starting the vehicle and heading south out of town.

Part Eleven: The Tables Have Turned

Slowly, Ben pushed himself against the door and peeked out to see Shane with his back to him and looking out into the open world. They were in the barn. It had been dark, and he couldn't see much past the room he was in at the time, but he probably should have figured it out. The room he'd been captive in was one of the feed stalls that you saw in a barn.

Shane had the barn door open, and distilled moonlight passed through clouds and into the barn.

Ben could get the jump on Shane, but he had to find a weapon first. He crept out into the large open area of the barn and looked around frantically. At his left was a piece of wood - a 2x4. Quickly and quietly, he picked it up, then approached Shane from behind. He raised the piece of wood up, just in time for Shane to turn around. Without so much as a second of hesitation, Ben swung, hitting him in the face and knocking him down to the ground, stunned.

He then reached down, taking Shane's knife off the ground, which had been dropped when Ben delivered the blow, and pointed it at him.

"...please..." Shane mumbled dazedly, "...don't kill me..."

Ben stood where he was, staring down at Shane with contempt and rage. He deserved worse than death. He deserved the same treatment that he'd delivered to Ben and probably to countless others who hadn't been as fortunate as himself.

"I guess we're finding out what kind of person you really are, aren't we?" he sneered. All he wanted to do was to cause pain to this man, and he wanted to do it slowly, but...

"No," Ben said aloud, "I'm not like you." He then crouched down and put the blade to the man's throat, "But, I can't let you live."

And, with a swift motion, Shane's body went limp and collapsed to the ground with a steady pool of blood gathering beneath him. Ben stood back up and spat at Shane's lifeless body, "Coward." Before stepping away from Shane's body, he searched his pockets and found his wallet with his license in it. Really, he had no reason to keep it, but he didn't want to lose it. Maybe it was a connection to the old world, like with Hoppy's hair dye.

That hair dye. If she hadn't made them stop for it, they might not have gotten separated, and he might not be where he is now. He grew angry, and he couldn't tell if he was angry at her for making them stop, or if it was at himself for being so stupid as to trust these guys. Whatever it was, he wheeled around, flinging Shane's knife at the back wall. It thunked into what looked like a door - a door that didn't seem like it belonged. As if it were made sometime after the barn had been built.

He walked to the back and to the door. It wasn't locked. He pulled the door open. As cold as it was in the barn, it was even colder in this room.

But, what really got him was the contents of the room. For almost a minute, he stood staring in shock, unable to find proper words. He had to shake his head, and then he closed the door, turning to leave the barn. How--

An explosion sounded and Ben ran towards the entrance of the barn as fast as he could and ended up in the snow - still naked - and looking around. Off in the distance, he could see a fire burning. That was likely the source of the explosion.

"What the fuck..." he muttered to himself, squinting at the blaze. That couldn't have been good. He only hoped that nobody he knew was in trouble.

No matter. There would be time to worry about that later. Now, he had to focus on Mike. As long as he was alive, Hoppy and anybody else was still in danger, but Ben couldn't just go chasing after him. He had to find a way to get the jump on the other brother just as he did with Shane.

First thing's first. It was getting cold, and he had to find his clothes. The house was a good a place as any to start.

The door to the farmhouse wasn't locked either. Obviously, neither of the brothers had expected Ben to escape, so there was no need to lock it, right? The house was warm. Well, not all that warm, but it was better than the barn or the cold night air. He went upstairs, looking through the rooms, hoping to find his clothes. There were three bedrooms. One of them was neat, the second was slightly less neat, and the third...

The third bedroom was the largest of the three. In the center of the floor were piles of clothes. This must have been where they put the clothes of everyone they'd captured before. Right on top of the piles were his own clothes, right down to the hat and socks. And off to the side, amongst all the shoes, were his boots. His backpack was hanging on a hook in the closet.

Gingerly, he pulled on his clothes. They stung, but if they kept him from freezing to death, then he would have to push through the pain. He also made sure to pull the left sleeve of his jacket down to cover his hand.

The bed in the room was neatly made and didn't look like it had been slept in in months. Off to the side of the bed was a dresser. Maybe there was something in there.

He pulled open several of the drawers and most of them had nothing in them. There were two that did, however. They were small drawers, normally used for socks or underwear.

The first one seemed a little heavy, and as soon as he opened it, he understood why. Inside was a pistol and a few magazines. Before he took them, he looked around, as if expecting someone to be watching. Carefully, he took the weapons and its ammunition and put them in his backpack. Nobody else needed to know about these yet. But, he couldn't help but wonder where these came from.

Then again, no doubt the brothers had come across all types. It stood to reason that at least one of them had a gun and some ammunition for it.

Once the drawer was emptied and its contents were in his bag, he closed it and opened the other. Inside this one, he found a book. It didn't have anything particularly distinguishing on its cover. He took the book and set it on the bed. Also in the drawer, previously next to the book was a set of various personal identification cards. He pulled them out and looked through them, sitting down onto the bed as he did.

These were all the people that they had captured in the past. Men and women both.

Putting the cards down, he turned his attention to the book. He opened it and began to read...

Part Twelve: On Their Way

She hadn't really thought of the risk before, but it's entirely possible. Being a girl... it made her inherently more vulnerable to predators, didn't it? Not just because of being, in general, physically weaker than men, but because of the fact that... well, 'making love' would hardly be anyone's priority right now. Or even worse- the birth-giving capabilities her body had might be a good pick for extremist groups trying to survive. She knew that that was why Chip had been so protective of her, before he died, for sure. Because of the risks involved. And with her, possibly overly keen instinct, she had to make sure this wasn't some sort of trap. Of course, that explosion earlier might have been why she's so on edge too. It was loud and sudden, and too similar to the shot of a gun. It reminded of things she really didn't want to remember at a time like this.

Before they could take another step, Hoppy slid the cleaver over Mike's shoulder, resting against his throat. Her face was dark, impassive.

"Youer lying." She muttered. "I dunnae what exactly- but you arn't talkin' to me straight. So I suggest now start bein' straight with me." She pressed it closer to his neck flesh, hoping the cold of the steel alarmed him. "Or I might ju's kill you, 'ere an' now."

Mike straightened himself up and stopped his progress. Despite his predicament, he remained calm. Maybe he was used to this kind of reaction. It was hard to tell.

"Alright. You want to know what your friend told me? He told me that you were his sister, but I can tell by your accent that isn't true. You're not American." He shuffled his feet a little, "As soon as you opened your mouth, I could tell he lied about that. And he also told me that he had no where to go, but that was probably a lie too, wasn't it?"

Sister? How could that even- no matter, it was still a lie nonetheless. Hoppy pressed her lips tighter together as she thought, not moving the cleaver a centimetre from the intended victim. Why would Ben have lied about her? Couldn't he just say 'a friend'? Or perhaps- well, for one, it meant for sure that Mike and his unknown brother were untrustworthy. And such, it'd be better to leave out any details about Haven, she thought. Hell, that might've been why Ben lied too. To keep them out of Haven. It made sense- the more people, the harder it'd be to feed everyone. Less food to go around, of course.

That didn't change that it was a lie. But then again, everyone lied, old world and new world alike.

"Dusn't answer me." She said coldly. "Yew still arn't tellin' me the straight, Mike. Why were you so... quick t'agree to me havin' a drink? That stuff's rare these days, an' you dun' gain 'nythin' from lettin' me 'have some."

"Look, we really don't want you two around any longer than we have to. No offense. My brother doesn't do well with strangers. If a drink will help you get you on your way faster, then that's what I'll give you." Again, Mike shuffled, but kept his eyes and his head facing forward.

That also made some sense, didn't it? Hoppy considered... but then something else came up. If the brother didn't do well with strangers, why not just leave Ben to die? Surely that's a normal thing to do these days- you look out for your own, and fuck all the others. They didn't matter in the slightest. And that was still nagging at her.

"So why'd yew save 'im in the first place." She shot at Mike with her words. At least he wasn't trying to get away from the blade; it'd be a quick and easy chop, just in case she had to do it. And she would, wouldn't she?

Mike sighed impatiently, "I couldn't just leave him to die, not in all good conscience. My brother wasn't around when I found him, but he'll manage, at least until you both go. Besides..." Mike turned his head to look at her, "Do you think he's going to take kindly if you walk up to the house without me?"

Things were still nagging uncomfortably at her mind, but she was anxious to find Ben and go, already. Then find the others, and get the hell back to Haven and get some well earned sleep. In a different situation, Hoppy would have continued the questioning, but she was pressed for time here. Her strength was ebbing away, in any case. Hoppy lowered the weapon grudgingly, refusing to look Mike in the eyes.

"Fine," she spat. "Let's jus' get this over with, then. Hurry up." She took a few steps forward before the world went all wobbly once again, almost losing her footing. With an irritated curse, she steadied herself. How pathetic, showing weakness after a threat like that. If it really was a trap, she really couldn't do anything about it like this. The sooner they ended this, the better.

When the weapon was lowered, he relaxed a little bit and rubbed at his throat, "The sooner, the better," he mumbled.

Part Thirteen: The Journal

The inside cover of the book had a name written on it.

Michael Beckett

Ben opened to the first page.

August 18th, 2013:

Mom got bitten today. We went to Cromwell to look for food, but there were so many of them. We managed to escape, but only just barely. I don't know why I let her come along. She just wouldn't take no for an answer. When the time comes, I'll have to put her down. I can't ask Shane to do that. It would destroy him. He feels bad enough about letting her get bitten in the first place.

He turned to another page further along.

August 29th, 2013:

We're running out of food. It won't be long before we starve. Shane has suggested that we go to Cromwell to look for food again, but the last time we went, Mom got bitten. He's determined that it won't happen again. Maybe he's right. We have to do something. If I die, I'd rather do it trying to stay alive, rather than sitting here hiding while we slowly starve to death. Yeah. He's right. We need to go to Cromwell.

The next entry.

August 30th, 2013:

We ran into a couple people who had the same idea that we did. They wanted to check Cromwell for supplies - food in particular. The four of us were chased off by a group of them before we could get any food or supplies, and now they want to stay with us. We can barely support ourselves, how are we supposed to do anything to help an extra two people? I don't know what to do.

The next entry seemed to be written in more of a hurry, and certain parts of the page were wrinkled, as if those specific spots had gotten wet.

August 31st, 2013:

We had to do it. Our food is running out, and we can't go to Cromwell without risking being attacked. We didn't have a lot of choices. I pulled Shane aside and once we'd talked about it for a while, we agreed that we had to do it. They fought back, so we had to knock them out and put them in the barn. The father was first. His name was Alan Rogers. The young woman, his daughter Katie, is still alive. I think I can still hear her. I almost couldn't hold it down. What would Mom say about what we've done? We had to do it. God forgive us.

Ben stared at the page, not daring to turn it for the page. Not yet. He'd remembered seeing their faces when he looked through the identification cards. Alan, an older man with gray hair and a beard, and Katie, a woman maybe a few years older than he was with bright red hair. Not like Hoppy's, but they called that hair color red, even though it was usually more orange.

He flipped to another entry.

September 3rd, 2013:

We had nothing left from Alan, so we had to take from Katie. She cried, and she screamed, and she begged. I told her that I was sorry, and we had to do it. We would starve without them. Her screams are gone, but I can still hear them in my head. They won't go away. I'm so sorry. I'll never forget you two, sacrificing yourselves so that we can live. She'll last us another few days.

God. It was almost enough to keep him from reading on, but there was some morbid sense of curiosity in him that wanted to know more.

He skipped ahead some more, and some other words caught his attention.

...found some more in Cromwell...

Some of that he didn't want to read, but some other things caught his attention.

...I think Shane is starting to... like all of this. He told me that he enjoyed hearing Katie cry and beg that night. He asked if he could start... hurting them while we held them. I didn't want to disappoint him. I said yes.

There was so much that Ben would be willing to do for his brother, but letting him torture people?

Ben continued.

September 16th, 2013:

I've decided to write down what people say when Shane is doing what he does. A lot of them confess things they've done, or tell us about their families, or their lovers. It's really touching that they would share these things with us, but they are their final moments, so it's... not all that unexpected, I guess.

September 20th, 2013:

Shane suggested we keep mementos from everybody. These people are giving up their lives so we can survive, so I told him yes. He suggested we keep their heads first, but I told him no. That would suggest that we do this only because we like it, like we want to take trophies. We should be respectful of their sacrifice, so I told him we'd take fingers only, and bury the heads.

October 15th, 2013:

God, what have we become? Shane has enjoyed this almost from the start, but I keep telling myself that I don't, that I'm only doing this to survive. And then I let him torture them. And then we started taking their fingers. It's too late to stop. I can't tell Shane to stop. I can't stop. There's no going back. If God exists, He will not forgive us.

What the hell did that mean? Of course he could stop. What a load of bullshit. He probably enjoyed it as much as Shane did, but just didn't want to get his hands dirty.

At last, Ben turned to the final entry in the journal.

November 5th, 2013:

We came across another person in Cromwell today. His name is Ben, and he's an American. We haven't had any Americans yet. I wonder if they're any different? He's tied up in the barn now, but he won't talk. He won't cry. He won't tell us anything. Why not? We're just trying to help him get his feelings out there. We don't normally take their finger until after they're dead, but I think if I do it before he dies, it may help get some of those feelings out there. We also have to be careful. His sister drove off yesterday when they attracted a horde. She may come looking for him. I'm going to have to try and find her.

That fucker.

Part Fourteen: Reunion

November 6th, 2013

Early Morning

Ben stood up, closed the book and tossed it back onto the bed angrily, before pulling on his backpack.

It was then that something caught his attention outside. He crept to the window and peeked out to see Mike returning, but he wasn't alone; Hoppy was with him.

"Shit," Ben muttered to himself as he unsheathed his hatchet and made his way downstairs. He found the downstairs bathroom and stepped inside, moving to the shower and hiding behind the curtain, just in time to hear the front door open.

"You said you wanted a drink, right?" Mike asked, his steps getting audibly louder.

"Make it quick." Hoppy grumbled. "Don't fancy passin' out 'ere when we should be gettin' outta the way."

Ben poked his head around one side of the shower curtain and saw Mike walk past the open bathroom door as he did. He had to do this right, and he had to it quick. It was more than likely that the drink he was going to give her would be laced just as his own had just hours ago.

"You like beer?" Mike asked, "We've got plenty of that."

Hoppy shrugged with distaste. "Get rid of the headache, innit right?" She glanced around a bit. "Where's Ben, then?"

"He might be out in the barn. I told him he could look around while he waited for me to come back." There was the unmistakeable sound of a bottle being opened, "And it might help with the ankle. 'Walk it off', you know?" Mike chuckled.

"Aye, I'll jus' take a bit o'it.." Hoppy murmured, grabbing at the bottle. "Ta, maybe."

Ben was now out of the shower and hiding in the dark of the bathroom. Mike walked past once to give her the bottle, back again to the kitchen, spoke up, "I'll go and check for Ben in the barn. I'll be right back." And then, again, Mike walked past the open bathroom door, intending to go outside. No doubt he believed that, by the time he got back, Hoppy would be out of it.

Ben wouldn't let that happen.

As soon as he saw Mike pass the door, he leaped out from the shadows, brandishing his hatchet. Before Mike could react, Ben had buried it into the back of his head. The older brother was dead, but Ben didn't stop. He brought the weapon down onto his head over and over and over again. Blood splashed his face and his clothes as he lie on top of the man who had nothing but a bloody pulp left for a head. Finally, Ben let the weapon slip from his grasp and it clattered on the floor.

With his chest still heaving, he looked to Hoppy, "Don't... drink that."

Hoppy was staring at the scene. Not exactly in shock, per se, but it was a surprise. And it made things clearer in her mind- why she had that nagging feeling of a lie in her head. Where was the other brother, then? And what was the trap, in the first place? She had the burning desire to ask those questions, hoping it wasn't anything too bad.. Ben was alive, wasn't he? She had to do something first though. Hoppy lowered her head just a bit, not having the will to see his face.

"Sorry." She said in a strained voice, threatening to cry again. "It's my fault, an', I- I'm sorry. I'm... I tol' Laney an' she's... she's worried fer yew an', I jus'... She paused, gathering her breath. "I'm sorry, Ben, It should'a been me who got left be'ind."

This was the last thing he wanted to hear right now. The assault on Mike had taken a toll on the strength he had left, but with what he could muster, he picked up his hatchet and pulled himself to his feet. He wiped his face off with the sleeve of his left arm and stared straight at Hoppy once more.

"Just stop. Don't cry. Don't apologize. It doesn't matter who should have been left behind. It was me. Unless you have some way of going back to change that, move on."

The words stung more than she'd wanted to have been affected by them. It hurt like, like fuck. And she deserved each bit of it. In a way, this hurt even more than if he'd had struck her, because at least she'd have the physical pain to ease her mind of what she did. She held the tears back, out of shock and guilt and pure willpower, and straightened up. In a meek voice, "Ta, fer savin' me..." and gingerly turned away to hide her face from him, burying herself deeper in the hoodie.

Part Fifteen: The Truth Revealed

Right now, he looked bad. His right eye was nearly swollen shut, and his expression was filled with rage, and in a way, the rage dulled the pain - like some kind of anesthetic. So much so that he didn't realize that his left hand was still in pain until he looked to his sleeve and saw that it was still covering his hand entirely.

He watched her carefully until she turned away, "Be glad I did. Things wouldn't have gone well for you."

"What'd they do?" She asked, still refusing to look at him; shrunken into herself. "Why're yew all... like this, now?"

Ben stepped past her and out into the open air, motioning for her to follow him, without actually saying it. He led her into the barn. Still at the entrance to the structure was Shane's body with his throat cut open. At the back of the barn was the door that didn't quite look like it belonged.

Behind the door was a grisly scene. It was like something you'd see at a butcher shop, or a market. The room was ice cold and, from the ceiling, hanging upside-down from hooks were three human bodies - two male and one female. They had each been disemboweled and decapitated. In addition, each of their left pinky fingers were missing.

Hoppy took a glance at the scene and instantly buckled up; body collapsing onto her knees at the heel realization. Eyes wide, pupils dilated, and guts hurling, sick globs of vomit leaked through her fingers as her body shook in the crumpled pile she was. It was sickening and horrifying all at once... and it had almost happened to her. She lay there for a few minutes, registering the scene. Recovering as best as she could from the retching, she wiped her hands on her hoodie gingerly and took an aside glance at Ben's arm. Was his pinky finger, also... Idiotically and impulsively she pulled on his left sleeve, not saying a word.

"Hey!" Ben shouted in a mix of pain and anger, "Don't. Fucking. Do that." The look in his eyes was one he'd never had - one that nobody had ever seen. For a moment, he looked about ready to strike, but he stopped himself, remembering who he was staring at. He pushed his way past her and stood at the entrance of the barn, resting against the doorway. Though the body was still there, Ben didn't seem to notice. In fact, he seemed to shut out the rest of the world around him for a moment or two, closing his eyes. God, he was so tired.

And, indeed, once she had pulled the sleeve back, there it was, a bloody stump where his left pinky finger had been.

Hoppy shrunk again; both at the stump of a pinky finger, and the almost violent reaction of someone she'd once considered a friend. She squeaked out a miniscule 'sorry' before closing her hand over her mouth again- not wanting to anger Ben even more. With one last look at the grisly barn, she followed Ben out, looking down at her feet as they moved.

"Yew... did th'right thing." She mumbled quietly. "Killin' 'em. I'd- I'd 'ave dun it too. They'ere, they were scum, Ben! Worse'n that. Be'er off dead"

"I know," he said quietly, opening his eyes slowly. Truth be told, he knew it was the right thing to do. They probably would have come across another member of Haven in the future, if it hadn't been him. They might not have been so lucky. But, he'd never killed a person before. Within an hour, he'd killed two and had come dangerously close to harming a third - someone that he could trust. Killing someone, no matter how necessary, wasn't something that he could just get over. Not right away.

He should have thanked her for coming to look for him. He should have apologized for how he'd talked to her - how he'd almost hurt her.

But, he didn't.

Instead, he chose to change the subject, "Did you see that explosion? Any idea what that was about?"

"Aye, I saw it." she said, still in that tired and tiny voice. They just had to find the others now, and then get the hell out of this stupid town. But Ben- was it really okay? He... he's changed. And, he might be dangerous now... Hoppy shook her head fiercely. No, it'd be fine. It's Ben. If anything, a certain red-haired girl deserved the shaft more than Ben did. At least he wouldn't accidentally get people killed or traumatized or whatnot. At least he was useful.

"Dunnae what it was 'bout, though." She raised her head a tiny bit, slightly relieved at the more neutral topic. "We c'uld check i' out on the way back...if yew'd like?"

He thought about it for a moment, but then shook his head, "No," he decided, pushing himself up from his resting position. "I don't think either of us are in any kind of shape. The explosion probably drew every dead asshole from miles around."

"'Splains why the streets're empty." She sighed sadly, still keeping a careful distance behind him. "Least that's goin' fer us, innit?"

Ben nodded, "Right." He looked back to her, his face more neutral now, "We'd better get going while it still is going for us."

Right, Ben still didn't know, just yet. Might as well tell him, right? "Mark an' two 'vanners came with me t'find you." Hoppy said, and made a scowl. "The kid's a fuckin' twyp, callin' me stupid an' shit... 'E's got yer name, sorta. Benson. Complete arse'ole."

"And now they're probably looking for you too, right?" He sighed, "Jesus Christ. What the hell's Monroe thinking? Caravanners?"

Hoppy let out a nervous laugh, as she realized that yes, they probably were looking for her. Not that it mattered much either way- they were useless. "Din't need'em t'find you, anyways." She said, then turned her mind to Monroe. What had he been thinking? He said he'd- right. Hoppy decided to tell Ben- "'e said 'e'd 'ad sum'thin' to deal with." She offered, hopefully helping a little. "Erm, I dunnae what exactly.. c'uld it be related t'the explosion?"

He had a brief sinking feeling as soon as she said that he had something to deal with, and he'd come to the exact same conclusion she had, just a millisecond before she had said it, "Could be." If it was true... Well, there was nothing they could do for him.

"Whoever's idea it was. Trusting Caravanners is a bad one."

Part Sixteen: Safe At Last

Briefly wishing Monroe well in her mind, Hoppy gulped it down, and turned her thoughts to the Caravanners. Ronnie hadn't talked much- but there was that Benson. That damned despicable bastard. "Arrogant trash." Hoppy muttered, unconsciously gripping the handle of her cleaver more tightly, feeling the pressure in the back of her head grow with the tension. Before she could reply to Ben in agreement, they heard a voice wafting back at them. It was Mark's, in an imploring tone. Quickly, Ben pulled his sleeve back over his left hand and turned his attention to the sound.

"-not as bad as she seems, okay?" Mark was saying, as he and the two Runners got out of the truck, while Jesus sat in the passenger seat. "She's.. just impulsive. Probably at the end of her wits, I daresay. Don't be so quick to judge her."

Benson's sneering voice. "Praps she thinks she's too good for us." He laughed snidely. "thinks she can take on armies of zed by herself. From what we've heard, this is her fault anyways, isn't it?"

Hoppy's teeth clenched- hand gripping her cleaver hard. At least they found them, and sure enough, the truck was there too.
"Shut up!" She hissed, making the four men notice her and Ben- at least a relieved smile from Mark. "I found 'im on my own, d'in't I?"

And she'd nearly gotten herself captured for her trouble.

"So you're good for something after all, what a shock."

The girl really wanted to kill the kid. She wanted to stick her blade through him. He deserved it, didn't he? He was such an arrogant little bastard. Ignoring her fatigue, Hoppy made to lunge forward for the kill.

Ben had seen her grip her weapon tighter. Just as she made to lunge for the Caravanners, Ben stepped in front of her and towards them, "Look, kid--"


"I don't give a shit. Shut up."

Benson opened his mouth to speak and Ben stepped even closer, "I said shut up." He looked between both Caravanners, and then to Mark, who now had something of a frown on his face, "If you continue down this road, you're not going to like where it ends." And to accentuate his point, he put his right hand on the handle of his own weapon. "Get out of here and walk your worthless asses back to your camp before I get impatient."

The three in front of him seemed a little taken back at the words that had just come out of his mouth - particularly Mark. Here was Ben, this normally friendly man, all but threatening these Caravanners who had been sent to look for him. For a while, neither Ronnie nor Benson moved. Ben continued to stare the pair down until, finally, the older man took hold of Benson's arm and began leading him off.

"Come on. Let's go," the older man said.

Ben continued to stare after them until they were far enough away for him to be sure they wouldn't come running back. He then turned his attention to Mark and Hoppy, offering nothing more to say than a simple "Let's go."

Hoppy shot Ben a grateful smile- so he hadn't gone completely psycho. And it stopped her from having to kill someone- Hoppy faintly knew that she'd have regretted taking a human life, no matter how much shit they talked. Climbing onto the truck, she held out a hand for Ben to join her, hoping that he'd take it. "Ta, Ben." She smirked. Mark opened his mouth, almost as if he wanted to ask what had happened to Ben, but in the end he just murmured a 'welcome back, you two', before starting the engine with an ease that made Hoppy annoyed and envious at the same time.

Ben took her hand and used it to help pull himself up onto the truck.

They left the truck in the same area Hoppy had earlier, but in the garage of a different house, and made the remaining trek back on foot. It wouldn't be long now. Ben would be home soon.


He'd never considered Haven home before. If this were the old world, it wouldn't be, but this was close as he was going to get, probably until the day he died.

The four of them finally pushed their way through the gates of Haven. Ben had no idea what time it was. It was sometime in the morning.

He didn't really care, though. He was just glad to be back.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Alison Carter
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6th November


Ronnie and Benson were hiking their way home in silence when Benson finally spoke. “So what the fuck was that all about?”

“I know.”

“We risk our necks to save their guy and they freak out?”

“I know.”

“What was with that guy, he looked like he weighed about as much as a friggin spaniel dripping wet and he’s going all Billy Badass.”

“I know.”

“And the girl... actually I don’t know about her. Was she all there?”

“All there?”

“You know all that Eye-ah, Yew stuff. Was she like, retarded?”

“She’s Welsh. My Mother was Welsh so watch your mouth.”

“That’s unlucky.” Benson said with a frown. “Doesn’t excuse them pulling a fucking blade on me. Haven is fucked up.”

“I know.”


6th November


Jane listened as Ronnie and Benson gave their report and felt hopelessness wash over her. She had worked so hard with Callie to improve relations between the Caravaners and Haven and this latest escapade would just fan the flames.

She had no doubt Ronnie and Benson would waste no time telling all the Runners how terrible Haven was and that all the Scavs were psychotic. She decided to wait until later though to speak to Callie. She was tired and annoyed. There was no sense in speaking now.


6th November


Callie was still in bed when Gary rapped on her door.

“Callie, it’s Gary. Someone called Jane is on the radio she wants to talk to you or Monroe.”

Callie rolled over and sighed. She’d been crying but now she just felt empty. Monroe for all his faults had been her closest friend and now he was dead. Now Haven needed her but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to help.

She thought about the old adage “If you save a life you then become responsible for it.” She and Monroe had saved everyone in Haven that made her responsible for them.

It was that thought that made her get out of bed.


6th November


Jane Meadows was extremely pissed off and it took everything Callie had to calm her down, eventually she did.

“Look Callie I like you, but your people are not doing you any favours at the moment. My Runners are annoyed and sceptical, the last thing they need is your people running around pulling blades on them when they are trying to help.”

“Jane I know they were under a lot of stress. Our guy was missing.”

“And my guys helped find him.”

“I know, I’ll deal with it.”

“Ok I think it would be best if you keep you keep your people out of our area for the time being.”

“Agreed. Cuts both ways though.”

“Yeah I have them briefed, they can follow direction.”

With that the call ended and Callie felt the implication of her last comment.


6th November


"Where's Monroe?"

Callie looked up from the spot on the table she had been staring at and looked up to see Tilo standing in the doorway.

“Dead.” Callie said quietly. “How was your sleepover?” She remembered Tilo’s radio call from the previous night with a chuckle. Tilo relayed the efforts of the mission and gave Callie the contact information he had received from the Rands. She was intrigued by the mention of Richard Brand. She had never heard of the man but Tilo’s description gave her the Heebie- Jeebies as one of her old students might have said.

“Good work I’ll get in touch with them and see if we can’t work something out.”

Tilo got up from the kitchen table and said his goodbyes. Before he could leave though Callie stopped him.

“Oh and Tilo.”

He turned with a questioning look in his eyes.

“There’s no need to call me Ma’am on the radio. I’m not the Queen.”

Tilo gave his agreement with a smile and left. Callie sighed and felt a little better, at least something had gone right. Her next meeting was going to be more difficult.


6th November


Ben looked like shit but Callie found it hard to find sympathy for him. He’d been though a terribly traumatic experience but at this point it was harder to find someone who hadn’t. Jesus was shuffling uncomfortably at the back of the group and Hoppy looked a little nervous.

“Good to have you back Ben and well done taking out those freaks. Hoppy and Jesus good job getting him home safe.”

She then sighed.

“Bad job pissing off the Caravaners though. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get on good terms with them? Then you three muck it up because you can’t keep your emotions under control.”

The dam had broken and she was shaking with anger now but doing her best to keep her voice measured. “What do you think, this a game? They were there to save your life Ben. Your life that needed saving because you messed up, a screw up that cost people their lives. You got off light losing a finger. Hell you should have been happy to see them, but you got prissy because someone made a joke? Your actions may have lost us an ally and put even more Scavs at risk. Then Hoppy you pulled a fucking blade on our allies. Jesus Christ, what were you thinking? Were you thinking?”

She shook her head and tried to let the anger fade. “It’s not a fucking action movie and none of you are Bruce Willis. We have to work as a team the actions you took will have an impact on somebody down the line. Just, just... grow up.”

Callie sighed and pointed to the door. “Get out of my sight.”

They shuffled out and Callie dropped her head into her hands. She had hated being so brutal but it was true their actions had knocked Haven back.

Then Mark cleared his throat and walked in.

“Would you like a cup of tea. Kettle’s on.” Callie said trying to appear perky.

“I heard about Monroe. What happened?” Mark said unable to keep the concern from his face.

“He led a horde Zombies away from Haven and rescued the helicopter pilot. Got bit in the process.” She was speaking matter-of-factly as if Monroe was someone she had never met.

“So what, did he turn?”

“I told you he led the zombies way. Blew up the Jones Farm and drew them in for miles. Cleared the way for you guys.”

“Woah...” Mark said as he sat down at the table opposite Callie. “Are you ok?”

“Yeah fine... it’s just...”


“It just doesn’t make sense.”

“What doesn’t?”

“Who lives and who dies. I mean Monroe was worth something, he could have helped. Yet he dies and we get Ben back. Monroe dies and we get Hoppy back who can’t tell friend from foe. What do we get for his sacrifice? We get a fucking cripple pilot who crashed the first helicopter I’ve seen in months. How is that a fair trade? A useless boy, a stupid girl and a cripple in exchange for the only actual person around here worth something?”

Mark sat in stunned silence. “Callie you don’t mean that... Ben was tortured.”

“Was he? That sounds terrible.” She deadpanned. “He was the idiot who got caught. He felt his life was more important than the people who would have to go save him. That’s the reason the Scav’s have Harry’s. Nobody says it but that’s why. So the Scav won’t put anyone else at risk saving you.”

“Callie, he was drugged, he lost a finger.”

“Monroe lost his life because Ben fucked up. We lost the only person worth a damn around here because a pilot couldn’t keep her Helicopter in the air. We might have lost an Ally because Hoppy couldn’t keep her emotions under control. You think anyone here is able to do half the things Monroe could? So what you want me to feel bad because he’s got to hear high four jokes for the rest of his life? You want me to feel bad because the pilot is going to have a limp? Please.”

“That’s life Callie. We don’t get to choose who lives and who dies.”

Callie wiped a tear from her eye and shook her head gently.

“Besides Monroe was crap at carpentry.” Mark said with a hopeful smile.

Callie took a deep but didn’t smile. Instead she stood and pushed her chair in.

“It’s time to go see our guest.”


6th November


Carter woke slowly and shook the grogginess from her head. She felt like tenderised steak but at least she was alive. She was wearing an oversized tee-shirt that said “Med in Cumbria” that had a small cartoon of a mountain above it and a pair of lose shorts. In addition she had a few blankets thrown over her but her feet were cold and she when she took a look she saw a large cast on her left leg.

“Great.” She muttered. At least she had been taken care of which was a good sign. The downside was that her right wrist was tied to the metal headboard of the bed. Carter groaned again.

The room appeared to be some kind of medical centre, in the corner of the room she could see her flight suit in a waste paper bin. It looked like it had been cut to ribbons.

She then heard approaching footsteps and quickly feigned sleep.

“She’s still asleep?” A man’s voice asked

“She should be awake by now...” responded a woman.

“That’s fine it’ll mean less screams when we cut her up...”

Carter was filled with panic but remained still.

“We saw you flinch, you’re fooling nobody.”

Carter cursed inwardly and opened her eyes. She saw two women and a man standing in front of her. She recognised one of the women vaguely but the other two were a mystery.

“Captain Carter, My name is Callie Winters, this is Doctor Short and this Mark. Welcome to Haven, we have a few questions.”

Carter remained silent and just stared at Callie.

“Captain, We fixed your leg, the ropes were necessary because we didn’t know if you’d turn violent, still don’t. One of our people died saving you and you have taken up our time and supplies. I’d start talking if I were you because I’m at about the limit of my generosity.”

Carter thought quickly back to her escape and evasion training but found it lacking. It had been based on the idea that if caught a pilot would only have to hold out for a day so operational security wouldn’t be impacted. There was no operation to secure though.

“I’m not a Captain, I’m a Flight lieutenant. No such thing as a Captain in the RAF.”

“Riveting. Where were you going?”


“I don’t have time for this Lieutenant, can you be more expansive?”

“Scotland, BUTEC.”

Callie raised an eyebrow.

“BUTEC. The British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre. It’s where the sailors test out their new toys. Submarines and that kind of thing.”

“Why there?”

“It’s the last location we received a transmission from. Sounded like they were holding out better than we were.”

“Where was that?”

“RAF Valley in Wales. We were being overrun so we pulled the plug.”

“Are there other helicopters in the area?”

“They’ll be long gone by now. There wasn’t a lot of fuel so it was rationed. Nobody had full tanks and everybody knew it was a one way trip. BUTEC or bust.”

“So do you still believe BUTEC is the best place to be?”

“I heard it was, good luck getting there though. Last we heard the place was pretty much under siege. We were only going there because we had choppers.”

“Callie I need to check her for infection.” The mousy doctor said.

“What she hasn’t been checked!” Callie said in shock as the man aimed his sawn off shotgun at Carter.

“Oh no I meant her wound.” The doctor said.

Callie and calmed down and the Doctor set about her work.

“We’ll be back later... Thank you for cooperating.”

Carter shrugged and lifted her tied hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Callie smiled faintly and walked toward Carter. She cut the ropes with what appeared to be kitchen knife.

Carter nodded and let the doctor go about her work.


November 8th 2013


They had been afloat for months and Shinji Yamada was starting go out of his mind with boredom. There was nobody to speak to on board and his smattering of English wasn’t enough to have a conversation with anyone. So far he had please, thank you, yes and no. It made conversation difficult to say the least, this was compounded by the fact his bride spoke excellent English.

His Honeymoon trip had been the doing of his new father in law Okamoto-san whose hatred for his new son in law was only out weighted by his love of his daughter. Shinji had to admit it was something of a Cinderella story. He had been working as an intern at Okamoto communications alongside Kaiko Okamoto, at first he didn’t make the connection between the pretty girl and corporation she was interning with. Apparently Okamoto-san believed his daughter should learn the company from the bottom up even though she was the heir apparent.

Shinji’s easy going personality and fondness for practical jokes at the expense of their stuffy manager piqued Kaiko’s interest. Shinji’s friend Jou convinced him to ask the girl out knowing full well who the beautiful girl was in the hope that he could prank the pranker. To Jou’s surprise Kaiko agreed. It wasn’t exactly a world wind romance and Shinji nearly passed out when he learned he was dating the bosses daughter. The first meeting didn’t go well due to a combination of Shinji’s fear and Okamoto-san’s intense dislike. Nevertheless the older man could see Shinji made his girl happy and he accepted him only for this fact.

It was a long relationship but the engagement was short and the wedding lavish perfectly befitting a daughter of a powerful businessman, Jou of course drew attention to how much of a fish out of water Shinji was in such decadence.

With that the pair where packed off of their travels. They had visited New York, Las Vegas, Paris, Berlin, Lake Como, London and Edinburgh on a detour. Shinji had become slightly obsessed with finding the perfect bottle of Whiskey to present to his father in law on his return knowing the man was something of a connoisseur he hoped this would make him happy.

Thus far his efforts had been in vain. It was then that he had the idea to visit Ireland in the hopes that he could find an Irish Whiskey to present the old man with. Scotch whisky was so cliché these days and a good Irish whiskey would be an interesting talking point for his father in law. Kaiko was happy to go but only if they travelled by Ferry as she was sick of flying. Shinji was happy to accept and they set sail on P & O European Highlander Ferry for what they were assured was the shortest fastest crossing from Cairnryan to Larne.

That had been four months ago when the outbreak was in its infancy. They had been refused entry at Larne due to the quarantine and when they tried to return to Cairnryan the same thing had happened leaving them adrift in the middle of the Irish Sea. In the early days some of the passengers had stolen life boats in an attempt to get to land but that happened less often now. They had heard stories of how bad things were on land and most people knew they were safer on board the Ferry.

Shinji passed the time reading books on his Nexus Seven Tablet. He’d been smart and stocked up on as many books as he could before he left, he also spent some time trying to pick up English so he would know what was going on around him. His English was still remedial though and he knew that Kaiko got frustrated trying to teach him all the time. For the time being she had to act as their voice onboard the Highlander.

Also on board and having difficulties was Alice Oakes. Alice had been travelling on the Highlander with her two young children Ben and Katie. She had booked a cabin on board was only seen on the decks to get food and never with the children. While some may have thought this strange most put it down to Alice’s fear of the other passengers. They’d seen the Walking Dead and everyone knew things could get a little strange in close quarters under such strange circumstances.

Alice however was hiding a much darker secret.

Ben and Katie were infected.

Katie had been running a fever when they boarded but back then nobody was checking for signs of illness. She’d died on the first night and attacked her brother. Alice was able to restrain the child using belts but she knew her son was infected as well. She had considered getting help but she knew what would happen to her children and she couldn’t bring her self to do it. Instead she simply tried to nurse them back to health even as they snapped at her.

In the cabin mounds of uneaten food lay in piles beside the tied children, they were hungry but not for what she offering. She had to gag the children to prevent the moaning but there was little she could do for the thrashing.

It had been four months and questions were starting to circulate that eventually came to the attention of Stephen McFadden. McFadden was a deckhand at least that’s what it said of his pay check in actuality he was a waiter. It wasn’t a bad job though kind of like being an air steward except on a boat, going to less glamorous locales, for less pay. He had wanted to be an air steward but got Airsick, for some reason though his sea legs were strong though.

McFadden had heard the rumours of the strange woman who nobody saw very much and decided it was time to do a courtesy call. Stephen knew what it was like to be different but he’d learned it was better to be honest with people as with a lack of information people often came up with their own erroneous ideas.

He informed the Captain who agreed that Stephen should check it out. He told Emma Riley, another water waiter, to help him. Stephen was pleased as he’d been trying to ensure everyone on board was kept entertained and calm. His mother had always said the devil made work for idle hands. It was about the only piece of his mother’s ideology he could agree with, the rest had driven a wedge between them the size of the Irish sea.

Emma and Stephen approached the door and gave it a quick rap. The response was a knock on the door and a muffled voice.

“That sounded like come in right?” Stephen asked.

“I think so.” Emma replied. She was only seventeen but that was same age Stephen had been when he’d started four years ago. Emma was still saying all the things he’d said back then.

“I’ll only be here of a year or two then I’m travelling...” Was a popular one.

Stephen saw a lot of himself in the young girl but the truth was they were stuck on the boat, not because of zombies. If the outbreak had never happened both of them would still be on the boat. They were victims of circumstance and apathy. The Highlander was their home.

Stephen produced a key card and slid it into the lock. “House keeping! We’re just here to make sure everything is...”

He stopped as he took in the nightmarish scene in front of him.

A woman was lying in the middle of the room with her entrails strewn liberally around the floor of the cabin. Hunched over her was a small blonde girl and boy. The girl was wearing a set of Beauty and the Beast pyjamas which were covered in blood and gore while the boy was wearing an oversized Manchester United jersey with Herrera on the back.

The little girl lifted her head and with a burst of speed neither was expecting sprinted towards Stephen and sunk her teeth into his thigh. Stephen screamed and kicked the girl away before following Emma who was screaming down the corridor. This of course led to more confusion as people exited their own cabins to see what the problem was. The children raced around the corridor causing chaos wherever they went.

Shinji was in his Cabin with Kaiko when they heard the screams.

“何?” Kaiko asked as she went to the door but Shinji stopped her.

“それは危険に聞こえる. 外出しない”


“悲鳴は通常悪いです ”

Kaiko nodded and sat beside him on the bed. They listened to the screams and held hands while Kaiko sobbed quietly.



It had been almost four hours since the outbreak and the Highlander was now firmly in control of the undead. While the crew and passengers had tried their best to contain the outbreak they had failed and now the undead were in every part of the ship.

Including the bridge.

Of course there was simply no way for Kaiko and Shinji to know this which why it came as such a surprise when the ship finally ran aground. It sounded like an explosion had gone off below them and the impact threw Kaiko clear across the room. She smacked her head with a sickening thud on the dresser and Shinji screamed as he raced to help her. She was breathing but out cold.

Shinji lifted her and placed her in the bed before spending a few moments considering what to do. Finally he decided he would need help.

He lifted a pen and some P&O trademarked stationary and scribbled a hurried note. That explained he was going for help and that she should remain in the cabin. The words were in Japanese which he hoped would prove to her he was the one who had left the note.

He was about to leave when he got an idea. He pulled on a thick Barbour coat he bought for travelling through the rainy UK. Now he wore it in the hopes the tough material might prevent anything from sinking it’s teeth into him.

He then slowly approached the door and placed his ear to it. He could hear nothing so he slowly unlocked and opened it.

The hall way was clear but he could hear faint moaning coming from every nook and cranny of the ship. The ferry was beached on its side so the hall way wasn’t exactly level as the Bow was lower than the stern but the angle wasn’t so pronounced that walking was impossible. The boat did shift on the loose sand however as waves crashed against the side.

He locked the door behind himself and pocketed the key before slowly creeping along the halls. Kaiko had her own cabin key he had set on top of the note.

Shinji didn’t like being on the cabin deck. There was nowhere to run except back the way he came and the narrow hallway meant if he did encounter something he’d be unable to get past. He hadn’t seen a real live zombie yet but knew enough from movies and what Kaiko had told him the others were saying.

He made it to the staircase when he heard a roar from behind him. He turned and saw two bloody zombies behind him.

“くそ” He exclaimed before racing up the staircase and slamming the door shut behind himself. He let out a sigh of relief and turned to see he was standing in the middle of the shopping area of the ship. There was a small shop that sold Irish and Scottish themed tat, a coffee shop and about twenty zombies.

Shinji didn’t say anything he just ran for the nearest door which led outside to the deck. There was no time to close the door behind himself and soon he found himself running for his life across the deck that was slick from seawater and heavy rain. He threw himself up a set of stairs but the undead were still on him eventually he came across a ladder that he quickly mounted and rapidly climbed. Below him at least twenty zombies were clawing after him. It appeared they had no idea how to use the ladder.

“少なくとも彼らは愚かであ” He sighed before he kept climbing.

He was about to peak over top of the ladder and take look at the upper deck when a body suddenly flew over the top of him and plummeted below. Shinji nearly let go of the ladder through fright but held firm. The falling zombie was followed by two more that landed with a sickening thud beneath him. Even on the way down Shinji could see them grasping for him.

“本当に愚か”He climbed to the top of the ladder and pulled himself up onto the deck and looked around. The upper deck seemed clearer but it was difficult to tell in the night.

He crept along the deck straining to hear of signs of movement over the lashing rain. He was making his way towards the stern when he noticed the rainwater running along the deck was getting darker. A few seconds later he found two mutilated bodies huddled together on a bench. He avoided looking at them and kept walking but one of the bodies lunged forward in an attempt to grab him. Shinji threw himself against the railing and nearly fell over while the zombie slipped and smashed it’s face off the deck with a sickening crack. Shinji screamed but the zombie was unfazed and struggled to its feet.

Shinji ran as fast as he could toward the stern but quickly ran out of boat. He was overlooking the lower deck which was bathed in darkness apparently electricity wasn’t working on all parts of the boat.

The zombie was advancing on Shinji when its head popped open in a flash of brilliant red light. And it collapsed to the ground. It landed beside the flare round that had killed it.

“Are you normal?” Emma Riley asked over the howling wind while still pointing the empty flare gun at Shinji. Her P&O uniform was soaked through and the Flare gun was shaking in her hands.

“私は英語が話せない”Shinji answered.

“I can’t hear you!” Emma called.

“ありがとう. 私が死んだと思った” Shinji replied.

“You don’t speak English do you?” Emma said as she approached the strange man.

“No English.” Shinji said. “Kaiko. 妻. キャビン内の無意識.” He then mimed hitting himself on the head and falling unconscious.

“Yes you need to hit them in the head to kill them.” Emma nodded.

Shinji, not understanding what she had said, was pleased though as it appeared the young woman was less stressed now and she had lowered the weapon.

“It’s ok. I’m going fire another flare and we’re going to get rescued “Ok?”

Shinji knew Ok but that was about it. “はい!” Then realising he had spoken in Japanese repeated “Yes.” In English.

Emma then reloaded the Flare gun and aimed at the sky. She fired the round and let out a little squeal at the recoil. She watched as the little flare hung in the air for around thirty Seconds before it fell back down to earth and the beach below. Shinji mean while had used the brief flash of light to look at the lower deck. It was swarming with zombies and all of them were straining to reach the upper deck. It was surreal because Shinji couldn’t hear them moan over the wind just see them stretching soundlessly upward in the dim red light. They would be unable to reach him but if he wanted to get off the boat he’d need to find a way down from the upper decks to the lower ones and a way to safely get to Kaiko.

“Come on I know somewhere safe and dry.”Emma said and Shinji turned. He started at her blankly and she gestured for him to follow her.


Emma had been able to survive through sheer luck, the zombie children had attacked Stephen first and soon his screams drew more people and targets for the tiny shin chompers giving her time to escape. Well escape was a relative term, she had escaped from the lower decks which were by now swarming with undead. She was still trapped on the upper deck though.

She led Shinji into the Security room where she had been able to hold up. The CCTV gave her a pretty good view of the area. She was soaking wet but the man seemed to be quite dry in his coat. She removed her polyester navy blazer that was a part of her uniform and set it on the back of the chair beside the CCTV terminal.

Shinji immediately felt chivalrous looking at the drenched young woman who had saved his life so he removed his Barbour jacket and gave it to Emma.

“Oh Thank you.” Emma said she wasn’t going to take it but she was freezing.

“Emma? Are you there? Our Scavenger saw the Flare. Help will be there soon.”

Emma ran to the survival radio she had gotten from the small wall mounted pack she got the flare gun.

“Callie, it’s Emma. Good there’s a lot of zombies here I mean a lot.”

“You’re doing great Emma just stay calm have you found the person you saw on the camera?”

“Yes he’s here with me. I don’t think he speaks English. He seems cool though.”

Shinji watched as the girl spoke on the radio but it was all just noise to him. He considered English to be such an ugly language but he would have given his right arm to be able to speak it at that moment.

Suddenly the room was bathed in darkness and the CCTV terminal went dead.

“Callie we just lost power.” Emma said she felt her heart rate start to beat faster.

“That’s fine, the Scavs won’t miss a beached Ferry. Check the emergency pack there might be candles or glow sticks.

Emma found both but only cracked one glow stick. She figured starting a fire was far too likely with the candles.

“Ok, Ok. When will you be here?”

“I’m not coming, its a few friends of mine. When they arrive give them the radio and make them confirm their identities with me ok?”

“Yes sure.”

“They’ll be there in a few hours until then you should conserve the battery. Do you have a watch?”


“Ok every half hour turn your radio on for five minutes and give me a call.”

“Ok Callie, hurry.”

“They’re on the way. I’ll speak to you in half an hour.”

Emma sighed and flicked the radio off. Immediately Shinji started talking.

“私たちは、私の妻を救うために必要” He cried. But even in the dim green light of the glow stick he could tell the woman had no idea what he was talking about.

He showed her his hand and pointed to the wedding ring.

“I know it’s pretty romantic in here buddy what with the mood lighting and all but I’m not about to come on to you.”

Shinji pointed at the ring. “Kaiko.” He said.

Emma nearly slapped her head over how dense she had been.

“Your wife? Is she alive?”

“Wife!” He nodded vigorously.

“Is she alive?” Emma said while making a happy smiling face “Or Zombie?” and she switched to a stiff armed zombie impression.

Shinji replied with a big smile on his face. “Kaiko.”

Emma then lifted the glowstick and walked across the room to a laminated copy of the ship floor plan.

“Where is Kaiko?”

Shinji didn’t know what the words meant but was able to put enough together from Kaiko’s name and the floor plan. He studied the map for a few minutes. Obviously he was having trouble reading it. Finally he produced his key card and showed it to Emma.

She looked at the card and saw the room Cabin number was 24 #1 or room 24 on first deck below the main deck. Emma sucked her teeth and made a face Shinji knew was bad in any language.

“Ok I’ll let the rescuers know.”

Shinji nodded responding to her tone rather than the actual words.

“Emma.” The girl said while gesturing to herself.

Shinji bowed slightly and then pointed to himself. “Shinji.”



The Love Boat.

November 9th 2013


Suggested Number of Scavs – 2

Area –Seascale beach

Objective- Investigate ship wrecked P&O ferry.

Information- Sorry to wake you. We just received a distress call from a ferry that has run aground near the Town of Seascale. From the flare they sent up it looks like they are somewhere near the Seascale Golf Links course which overlooks the sea. It’ll take a couple of hours to get their as their flare was pretty far out.

We’re in contact with a survivor of the crash called Emma Riley she’s apparently with another survivor who doesn’t speak any English. The Ship is firmly under the control of the dead but hopefully you’ll be able to get them out.

It’s been lobbing it down all night so you’d do well to wrap up warm at least it seems to be melting the ice but these days the snow is never too far away. I recommend you bring some blankets or something as Emma was complaining of being very cold. We need to look out for hypothermia.

There might also be some cargo worth taking like food or other supplies so keep your eyes open.


Bonus Missions.

Relight my Fire.

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1

Area – Woods around Haven

Objective- Collect Firewood

Special Equipment- Empty rucksacks.

Information- It’s cold. Real cold.

We need to get some kind of wood collection set up so we don’t end up looking like Arnie in that Batman movie. The mission is simple enough head out and grab some wood. Avoid green leaves as apparently when they burn they make white smoke. If everybody does a little soon we’ll have a stock pile going. Just makes sure you don’t carry so much you can’t run anymore.


Gone Huntin’

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1

Area –Woods around Haven

Objective- Go Hunting.

Special Equipment- Scoped rifle.

Information- Food is getting pretty scarce lately and with the cold weather it’s vital to keep our strength up. There’s a lot of animals still roaming around the place. Sadly I’m sure you noticed the farming livestock has taken a hit from the cold and the fact there is nobody there to look after them.
Wild Animals and Game are loving the new found freedom though.

I’m sending two of you out to go hunting in the woods around Haven it’s up to you whether you stick together or not. If you choose not to please ensure you wear the high visibility jackets. It’ll make you more noticeable sure but at least you can out run a Zombie, Usain Bolt can’t out run a bullet. God could you imagine what he’d be like as a Zombie?


Anyway remember whatever you kill you gotta be able to carry home so don’t shoot deer or something you can’t back.

Actually now that I think about it, there’s a strong possibility one of the local farms is a dairy. If you find a Cow maybe you could bring it back. Alive. It would be nice to have milk in the coffee. Chances are slim though given how long it’s been since the outbreak.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Rann
The Love Boat.

Collaboration with Faith Fanon

November 9th 2013, 0020

Part 1: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Laney barely heard the knock above the noise of the storm lashing Haven. She crept to the door to find Callie there, looking tired and drawn.

'Callie,' she whispered. 'Everything okay?'

Callie stared vacantly for a moment, as if looking over her shoulder, then returned to the real world. 'A ship has run aground. There are survivors. It can't wait.'

Laney flicked a glance back at Ben's sleeping form. They'd argued over the last few days about the dangers of trusting strangers. 'I'll get Hoppy. She's pretty fly at getting in and out of places.'

Soon the three women were sitting around the table in the Command Centre, the younger pair looking at the map as Callie outlined the mission. The information imparted, Laney and Hoppy spent 10 minutes around Haven gathering equipment they might need; Laney went to Monroe's armory for a scoped rifle - for all the good it would do in this kind of dark - and a flare gun; Hoppy grabbed a couple of blankets and, almost as an afterthought, a large man's full-length raincoat. She would be swamped in it, for sure, but it might do someone some good. Hoppy almost decided on ditching the cleaver - hell, she was attached to it far too much as of late. But in the end she brought it along with her, hugging it to her body as if it were a beloved pet.

Callie stopped them at the door. 'Remember, be careful with your torches.'

'We know. Light discipline,' Laney replied. She reached out and squeezed Callie's arm. 'Get some rest, okay?'

They donned waterproof layers and ducked out into the driving rain. As if by way of greeting, a gust of wind sprayed cold water straight into their faces, taking their breath away.

'Fuck it, Hoppy, we're gonna drown before we even get to the sea,' gasped Laney, turning west at the gate onto the road. 'Hey, where are you going?' Hoppy had turned east.

'Y'don't think I'm walkin' all that way, do ya?' she shot back. 'I'm usin me head, not me legs.' In response to Laney's puzzled grunt, she expanded: 'Still got that truck stashed down Cromwell. pretty sure I remember where it is.'

After a couple of minutes outdoors, their eyes had adjusted to the dark enough that they could see the outline of the road and the verges; they broke into a light jog, silent but for the rasp of their breath, until they reached the outskirts of Cromwell. They slowed to a cautious walk as Hoppy cast her mind back to the events of that traumatic day in Cromwell, and Laney, hatchet in hand, tried to stare through the dark and hear above the howling wind for dangers, dead and alive. 'C'mon, Hoppy, where is it?' she asked nervously.

'It's 'ere, it's 'ere. Stay close. It's just...'

Hoppy's thoughts drifted back to the rescue mission to save Ben. After scaring off the 'vaners, essentially, the four from Haven, after some thought, stowed the truck in a different area - still a ways from Cromwell, in a reddish house that looked oddly barnlike in its design. There was a garage there too, of course. Originally, Hoppy had wanted to just get the hell back to Haven with the truck - but Mark was in charge, and he was set on leaving it a bit away from Haven. In any case, Hoppy returned to the present, and located the quaint red house, thinking that it looked pretty different in the middle of a storm. "That'un," she pointed, anxious to find a roof to block the rain.

Laney was almost as glad to get out of the freezing rain as she was to find the truck. She threw back her hood and dragged off her woolen hat, using it to wipe the rain off her face.

'Yew wanna drive?' offered Hoppy.

'Um...' Laney paused. Oh well, there was no getting around it. 'I don't know how.'

'Heh,' cried Hoppy, secretly amused, secretly glad of this talent her friend didn't have. She shot Laney a little devious smirk; head sideways at her. "Another'un of Laney's little skills, aye?"

'What? I lived in London and I was stupid rich. I got taxis everywhere.' Somehow Laney didn't feel as defensive about this failing in front of Hoppy as she might have in front of Tilo, Callie or any of the others.

'Aye-uh, well get in then. I'll be youer taxi t'Seascale,' Hoppy teased. She started the engine, slipped it into gear, and eased the truck out onto the road. It was nerve-wracking, really, as Hoppy stared at it. Driving it out to the road, sure, why not. But actually driving it... last time she'd done something like that, it resulted in Ben... Hoppy shook her head, not wanting to fall back into the old doldrums of after the rescue mission. She had to focus to prove that she wasn't a waste of space. After a couple of minutes of silence, as Hoppy got used to the mechanics, she asked: 'Sooo... whose bed did Callie drag yew out'a tonight?'

'Hoppy!' Laney screamed in pretend outrage, laughing at the girl's cheek.

Hoppy grinned at the reaction, and that she'd guessed right. 'So it's official then?'

'Official?' Laney smiled to herself, recalling the stolen nights she'd spent with Ben. In an environment like Haven, she hadn't expected it to go unnoticed. 'I'd hardly call it that, it's just a coupla rolls, y'know?'

'Oh.' Hoppy was disappointed Laney had poured cold water on the subject so quickly. 'Was lookin' forward to knockin' 'bouts with baby Bens!'

Laney fell silent for a moment, staring out the window as they passed Haven. Light discipline seemed to be in full effect there.

'I don't know. I should be okay,' she said quietly. Hoppy glanced over. The singer had suddenly gone very serious. 'I mean, I should get my period any day now anyway, so I should be okay, right?'

Hoppy realised the reason for the sudden change in Laney's demeanour. It wasn't advice she felt particularly well-equiped to give - unwanted pregnancy in the zombie apocalypse. With an uneasy frown, and a bit of an unsettling thought - would she ever have children of her own one day?- before turning her attention back to the road, feeling slightly more awkward in the silence. She was racking her brain for something to say when, in the headlights in front of them, a zombie stumbled onto the narrow road. She fought the instinct to floor the accelorator and run it down, instead slamming on the brakes, not wanting to risk damaging the truck. There was a much better, up-close and personal way to deal with the damn thing, after all.

"This'un's mine." Hoppy said with a bit of eagerness. Gripping the black handle of her billhook cleaver, Hoppy made a small jump down onto the road and into the dark, whipping wind and rain. She shivered a bit; goddamn it was cold, wasn't it! But when she heard the characteristic moan under the storm, she knew what she had to do. The zed made an attempt at a lunge - Hoppy stepped to the side, before slamming the side of the cleaver down onto the neck of the undead monster, smashing it to the ground. She made a small celebratory sound, relishing this. She hadn't killed a zed in so long, after all. She made a few quick chops, and the head of the zed fell, severed unceremoniously. Seeing the flesh and sinew, Hoppy felt exhilirated. She'd done it, after all! The girl then pulled the damn thing off the road, with a grunt of effort - damn, was that tedious. Wasn't long, though, until she returned to the vehicle, drenched but with a new light in her eyes.

"Feeling 'bit like the old me ag'in." She said cheerfully to the singer, before revving the engine once again. Laney grinned back, pushing her previous worry to one side.

Part 2: Superzombie, Dah-Dadada-Dah-Dah!

'Gosforth Road and Cross Lanes. Turn left,' Laney confirmed, flicking her torch from the road sign back to her map. 'We can dodge the village and get to the golf club. There's a little pier where we might find a... Hang on... what the...' she trailed off.

Hoppy shot her a concerned glance. 'What is it?'

'Sellafield's just up the road.'

'The nuclear power station? Wow. Is that still... y'know... active?'

'Yeah.' Laney cast her mind back about 10 years, certainly to when she was a clean-cut child star. Her father had been invited to discuss Sellafield on a lot of serious news programmes, due to the charity single opposing nuclear power he'd written and performed in the 80s, alongside a bunch of other stars of the time. She seemed to recall the serious news programmes were discussing Sellafield's decomissioning. 'I don't know. Better ask Tilo. Or Rishi.'

'Radioactive zombies.' Hoppy chuckled. "Nuclear zombies. Superpowered zombies!"

'Like we don't have enough to worry about.' Laney sighed and folded her map. Hoppy eased the truck back into gear, and they drove down the little lane, rolling to a stop in front of the clubhouse. Laney was about to jump out when Hoppy jerked the gears again and performed a neat three-point turn, almost surprised at the fact that she'd pulled it off with aplomb. 'Easier t'get out,' she explained, using the mask to look as if she knew she could do it. 'Always plan youer way out, learned that in Cromwell with Ben.'

From the safety of the truck, Laney flashed her torch across the front of the clubhouse, picking out the smashed remains of floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows that must have afforded little protection from the undead horde. There was no reaction to the little lightshow, and the Scavs jumped down from the truck. Laney paused in thought for a moment, then slid the rifle back onto the passenger seat. The rain hammered down as they dashed to the corner, and Hoppy was just about to dart round to the back, where the pier was located when Laney grabbed her arm.

'Hold on,' she hissed. 'There's a bar in there.'

'Laney, no detours!' Hoppy shot back. 'I tol you what 'appened in Cromwell.'

'Come on, girl, when's the last time you had a drink? Come on, one bottle.' And with that, Laney stepped over a remaining shard of window and into the bar. She could feel the shattered glass grinding and crunching under the soles of her boots, but no sound could reach above the driving rain and howling wind. She flicked on her torch, and immediately wished she hadn't. The walls and the bar were all splattered with high splashes of brown - dried blood - and wide pools of the same dead fluid marred the once-plush carpet. Avoiding these, she sidled over to the bar and flashed on her torch once more, and bit down on her lip to stop crying out. Under the cash register, lying on its side, was a head - just a head - and when the light landed on it, its eyes flew open and it began to mash its jaw up and down. Not having any lungs any more, it couldn't produce the charactaristic moan, but even in this extreme condition, its monsterous instincts remained. Laney lifted her hatchet - she barely thought of it as Toby's any longer - to finally put an end to the creature, when her eyes fell on a metal icebucket.

'Look what I got,' she cheered when she returned to Hoppy at the corner. 'Vodka!' She held up a cardboard box holding three bottles and a bucket.

'What's under the towel?' Hoppy sounded cross at Laney's reckless detour. Moreover, it was for liquor. Not only did she dislike the bitter and strong taste, but Hoppy was bitterly reminded of the two brothers, and how they used beer to... get their victims, essentially.

'It's a surprise,' Laney shot back, hurrying to dump the box on the flatbed of the truck. 'Come on.'

After a few minutes pacing the shoreline behind the clubhouse, they found the pier. Several small boats moored there were half-submerged or more, but at the end, riding high on white-capped waves that flashed in the torchlight, was a sleek-looking motorboat. They stood at the end of the pier, watching the craft rock up and down. Beyond it, they could see huge bulk of the ferry ship a little way, listing slightly to the left. To port, Laney corrected herself, recalling a luxury cruise with her father. They called left port when at sea.

'Y'know anythin 'bout speedboats?' Hoppy queried nervously, clutching the giant raincoat closer to her, further dwarfing herself in its bulk.

Laney tried to make herself sound braver than she felt. 'I steered my dad's a couple of times. It was... uhhh... nicer weather.' She sat on the pier and lowered herself gingerly down, then reached up to help Hoppy in. She pulled uselessly on the starter cord of the motor with her left hand. Hoppy had a couple of turns, to no avail. Finally, taking a joint grip on the handle, they threw themselves backwards and the motor sputtered into life. Laney laughed as she picked herself up, took the handle and gunned the engine.

Her laugh was cut short as the engine screamed and the boat lurched high into the air.

'Laney, yew twyp!' Hoppy yelled from where she lay in a puddle in the bottom of the boat. 'Yew din't undo the rope tyin' us to land!'

A deft blow of her hatchet set them on their way, and Laney guided the boat out to sea towards the stern of the ship. 'I don't want to be too near land,' she yelled over the whipping wind and the roaring engine. 'Zeds probably fell off the ship, and if we're in the shallow, they can reach up and grab us.'

By the time they reached the stern of the ship they were about 100 metres from land. They were drenched from sea spray and rain, but the breakers had given way to swells of five feet or more. Hollow booms and metallic rattles emanated from the ship as it rocked gently with the power of the sea. Either side of the raised car ramp on the stern was a railed platform, pretty much at sea level. Laney brought the boat as close as she could to the starboard platform and, at the top of a swell, Hoppy reached out and grabbed the rail. The falling swell dropped the boat from under Hoppy's feet, leaving her hanging on for dear life, her feet kicking to find purchase beneath her. The boat clattered violently against the platform and caught underneath it as the swell rose again, pitching the boat sideways and throwing Laney off her feet. She grabbed at the rail as the freezing seawater rushed in around her up to her waist, shocking the breath out of her. Hoppy grabbed her under the shoulder, and together they scrambled over the rail, gasping for air, and watched the motorboat sink below the surface. A stairwell led up to a walkway that wrapped around the body of the ship at lower-deck level and they dragged themselves up it, out of the rain.

'That din't go well,' Hoppy spat out eventually. Laney already had her backpack off.

'Radio's bust. Flares are bust. Food's bust,' she said, throwing each item into the sea as she named it. 'Hey look,' she said, showing Hoppy the bottom of her nearly-empty pack. 'Water bottle's still in one piece!'

Hoppy stared back at Laney dryly, looking almost ridiculously unimpressed. She was wet and annoyed, and there was still a whole damn lightless boat to search, wasn't there? It took her half a mind to keep from freaking out at Laney, only relenting at the last moment, luckily not having grabbed at her favorite blade. Hoppy scowled and murmured something that sounded akin to 'useless twyp', but otherwise didn't respond. So they had no food, in case this damn thing would take days to search. No flares, so they can't call for help. There's rain anyways, so was there really any use in using them? No radio, so they can't report into Haven in case things go wrong. Hell, they didn't even bring any Harrys, did they? But at least they had water, something they oh so desperately needed right now.

Damnit, this was going to be tiresome. And terrifying. It really wasn't one of her favorite prospect things to do; head into an abandoned ship in the dark with enemies that could possibly be surrounding you, with no way of knowing, until it's too late. She whipped out the cleaver; of course she was foolish to even hope for a gleam to shine off of the blade, wasn't she? Everything was going wrong - going to hell, just like all her other missions. Would the same pattern follow? Would it be Laney who got hurt for her sake this time? Hoppy made a defeated shrug, trudging forwards, aimlessly, making sure of her footing - the leaning ship meant all the walkways were at an angle. Least it'd be better if she could be the one to get hurt this time. And on top of all of this was a treacherous climb. And almost as if sensing the sudden foul mood, Laney spoke up.

"Hey, c'mon. Least we're at where we wanted, right? And you still got your pack."

Yeah. There's at least that.

"Sorry." Hoppy said quickly, forcing an easy grin. "Jus' wasn't prepared fer that! Bit on edge, it's nuthin'!"

'Okay. We gotta hurry up though, I'm gonna freeze in these wet jeans.'

Part 3: Boarding Party

The two girls went navigating through the ship, ears peeled for the sound of moaning, too afraid to dare calling out to Emma. You never knew was was lurking in the dark, after all. Still, Laney looked tempted to search the rooms, just in case there was something valuable hidden away - Hoppy almost had to drag her away from looking in one port-hole; too paranoid to want to do anything but finish as soon as possible. She was freaked out and on edge, and the iron smell of the boat now seemed to mix with an iron smell of sanguine. Definitely unpleasant. Her boot kicked against the soft squish of a corpse, and Hoppy screamed immediately, blindly slashing ahead of her with the cleaver, almost knocking Laney's head clean off.

"Hey!" Laney shouted, indignant. "Be careful where you wave that thing!"

The singer felt around where she heard the squish, and sure enough, her hands touched the cold meaty flesh of the corpse. Both girls shuddered deeply as they realised what had happened.

"M-me bad." Hoppy uttered bashfully. "Dunnae what came over me righ' t'ere."

The now brown-haired girl wiped the sole of her foot on the wall, wincing at the squeak that resounded against the cold steel. And it was right at that moment that they heard that same nightmarish moan - they couldn't tell from where. Hoppy shot Laney a fearful glance. What the hell, man, how do you fight when it's so dark? She swung the cleaver blindly, not hitting anything but empty air. Sudenly remembering Laney, Hoppy sheepishly stopped swinging it, and instead held it in a defensive position, ready to lash out in case anything came out of the darkness.

'Okay, we got to stick right together, I mean right together,' Laney demanded. 'Give me your hand, I don't want my head chopped off.'

The moaning continued, but it didn't get any louder; maybe the zed just wasn't approaching them. Hoppy wanted to leave this part at least; the corpse lying there was disgusting her more and more.

"Le's get on wit'it." Hoppy murmured, pulling on Laney's finger and continuing down the walkway. "Shudn't waste time 'ere."

The growls increased as the two girls walked - just how any of them were around, anyways? Must've been a hell of a lot, just barely out of sight. Where the hell are they? Hoppy was on edge, jittery and nervous, and she had a feeling that Laney wasn't really taking this so well, either, if the tight grip on her hand was anything to go by. If they were suddenly swarmed, both of them were fucked. Utterly fucked. Nothing they can do about that either; helpless to luck right now. She had to think of a way to alleviate this tension - she couldn't damn take it at all. Talk more about Ben? Or maybe thank her for the mooncup? It had come in handy, after all. Then she thought- dude, there were so many zed on-board. If they managed to get on land... that would make everything harder for Haven in the long run. What's the best way to get rid of them, when they're all here, in one spot?

"Explosion." Hoppy muttered. She paused, to listen for any growls that might've been getting closer - none that she could tell - and extrapolated. "Dun' wanna risk more'o these gettin' on land, y'know? P'raps we culd, I dunnae, blow up the ship?" She shrugged, unsure how to even go about blowing it up, but damn wasn't it a tempting idea?

'I like your style, you fucking psycho,' Laney whispered back. 'Let's get to the survivors first. Callie said one was crew, maybe they'll know how.'

Laney tried to recall all she could about the luxury cruise liner. It had been a lot bigger than this, but surely the principles would be the same.

'The survivors radioed Callie, so the best bet is they're on the bridge or nearby,' she whispered in Hoppy's ear. 'That's gonna be up on the top deck. So all that moaning and groaning must be coming from the cabins on the other side of this wall. Or on the main deck.'

Hoppy was about to respond, when her foot slipped - for no apparent damn reason. Walking at an angle like this was exhausting, especially in the dark, with all the zeds all over the place. She grabbed onto a door handle at the last second, stopping her from completely falling and possibly slipping down to where they'd started. She cursed in annoyance, but steadied herself before catching up with Laney - accidentally pulling down on the handle by accident. Of course, as you'd expect, the door swung just a tad. And all of a sudden it seemed as if some of the groaning, at least, had lost a muffler.

"Well, shit." Hoppy sighed. "Dunnae ev'n where we are, do we? Or 'ow t'get to the bridge? Outrunnin' this many of'em in an upright ship's not my style."

'We've got to find a stairs. That'll take us onto the main deck, right where that moaning's coming from.'

'Oh great.'

'Yes, but listen,' Laney went on. 'The angle means most of them will have just naturally ended up on the lower side of the slope, so if we find a stairs on this side, we should be able to sneak right past them.'

"Unless I trip ag'in." Hoppy said dubiously, deadpanning.

'You trip again, I'll chuck you over the side. Come on, there's a stairs up ahead.'

Laney put a foot on the first step, and tried to push out of her mind what lay above them. There could be any number of Zeds immediately above them, and she could be poking her head out into the midst of them. Still, that was the risk they all took now. Stepping outside of Haven, climbing a stair, death could come at any minute. But staying put - holed up in Haven, at the foot of a stairwell - meant death too, just a slower form. She swallowed, trying to bury her fears, and climbed the rest of the stairs, hoping the dark and the howling wind would mask her whereabouts from the zombies' senses.

There was slightly better light on the deck than there had been on the ramp-level walkways, but a fresh assault from the wind and rain at the greater elevation. Laney shook her arms and legs, trying to get the blood flowing in her numb limbs again. The moaning was louder but it seemed to be coming from the port side of the deck: as Laney had predicted, gravity had naturally brought the zombies to that side. She gestured to Hoppy to follow, realized the Welsh girl might not be able to see her, and hissed back: 'All clear'

Hoppy was grateful that Laney had whispered - she was just sort of standing there, staring at nothing in the blackness. She nodded - before foolishly realizing that Laney couldn't see it, and then whispered her thanks with a hushed, 'Ta'. Carefully managing her footsteps, the younger girl took an experimental step - she was more unsteady than she thought - but she managed to follow Laney without much incidence. She took a sad look at her cleaver as she heard the moaning increase - no way the little guy could take them all on for her.

Laney took her friend's hand again and led them forward until they spied the next stairs. When they emerged again from the shelter of the stairwell, they were both nearly driven to their knees by a blast of wind; there was no more cover now they were on the top deck, and the wind was even more ferocious at this height. A metallic banging sounded ahead. Laney tried to curse, but the gusts ripped the air straight from her mouth. Instead she pointed with her hatchet at the silhouette of the bridgehouse ahead of them, a slightly darker outline against the heavy black rain clouds. Leaning into the wind, they struggled to keep their footing as they crossed the wet top deck. As they reached the bridgehouse, the wind died suddenly and, no longer pinned shut, the wheelroom door slowly creaked open. Hoppy's grip on Laney's hand grew that much tighter. The wind picked up again and slammed the door shut with an almighty clang, and both girls yelped.

'If they're anywhere, they're in here,' Laney yelled over the wind. 'Got your torch?' As Hoppy reached into her backpack, Laney yanked the door open, bracing it against the buffeting wind.. Hoppy played her torch across the interior as Laney called out: 'Hello?'

The torchlight lit up the inside of the wheelroom, and the girls just had time to see the nautical instruments drenched in blood and gore, before three zombies jerked into life and dashed towards them. Laney let go of the door and the wind slammed it shut, crunching on a dark-uniformed sleeve from which protruded a grey-skinned hand curled into a claw. Hoppy lost no time in hacking the hand off with an almost eager grin, heavy thumps came from inside as the zombies thrashed against the door. It flew open again, spilling the undead creatures, clumsy as they were, onto the deck in front of them. In a flurry of falling blades, they were dispatched.

'Now what?' asked Hoppy, almost shouting.

Laney pointed to another door on the bridgehouse. Hoppy pointed her torch at it, picking out the word 'Security' stamped on it. Laney tugged her towards it, but Hoppy pulled Laney back and gestured over the bow of the ship towards the village. 'I thought I saw a light.' The two girls scanned the village, and so were caught unawares when the door behind them opened. 'Hello, are you the people from Haven?' came an Irish accent. 'I'm Emma.'

Part 4: Shot In The Dark

Finally out of the howling wind, and with a locked metal door between them and the zombies, Laney realized how cold she was. The Asian man Emma had indicated was called Shinji went wide-eyed and turned away as Laney kicked off her boots and peeled the soaked, freezing denim from her legs. As Hoppy got on the radio to Haven, Laney dragged a blanket from her backpack and wrapped it around her waist.

'Sorry bout that,' she grinned. 'Our leader warned us about hypothermia. Didn't realize she coulda been talking about us.' She handed a blanket to Emma, taking a close look. The Irish girl was younger than her and Hoppy, although not by much, and looked tired but resolute. As she slipped the blanket around her shoulders, her mask of determination slipped, and an expression of pure exhaustion crossed her face, but the Asian man put a comforting hand on her shoulder, and she rallied.

'Callie? Callie? Haven, aye-uh, are yew gettin' t'is? Hoppy 'ere.' The radio crackled and buzzed. Clearly the storm was interfering with reception. '... ferry... Emma... back...' was all they could make out.

'Callie, if yew c'n 'ear me, We've found the survivors. We'a gun bring'em back t'Haven now."'

'... Hoppy... careful... Haven...' Then the radio cut out entirely. Hoppy shot Emma an annoyed glare, before desperately pressing the power button again.

'There's no power,' Emma said apologetically.

'We know. We just climbed it,' Laney smiled ruefully. She flashed Hoppy's torch around the security room. 'Nice place you got here. Got any trousers?'

The windowless security room was a tight fit for four people, about 10 foot square. Opposite the only door was the radio set. To its left, there was a tiny table and two chairs, and to its right were two lockers. Laney flung them open. The first contained two bottles of water, six chocolate bars, and four tins of tuna. Obviously supplies were running low, though a bottle of vodka seemed almost untouched. The second locker contained a handful of flares - Emma had the flare gun tucked into her waistband - and two boilersuits. The Asian man turned away again as Laney threw off her blanket and stepped into the boilersuit. It was much too big for her, so she improvised by tying the arms around her waist.

'Okay, let's get out of here,' she stated, dragging her boots back on. 'Know how to lower the lifeboats?'

'Yes, but...' replied Emma. The Asian man grabbed her arm and pointed to his ring finger which, Laney noticed, bore a silver wedding ring. 'Shinji's wife is stuck in a cabin. Kaiko. We can't leave without her.'

'Well, that's a 'ell of a rut.,' Hoppy grimaced at Laney. 'Fancy I shud'nt run off like last time, aye?.'

Emma pointed out the location of the cabin on the lower deck. Laney figured it was near the door on the lower deck Hoppy had opened when she slipped.

'And how many Zacks?' she asked.

Emma's face fell as she considered the question. 'It was summer when we set out, so we were nearly full. Probably seven hundred.'

'Fuck...' was all Laney could muster. She heard Hoppy's deep intake of breath beside her, who muttered 'explosion' again, almost dreamily.

'But a lot of them were in their cabins when they... when they turned,' Emma said quickly. 'And they can't open doors.'

'This ship doesn't have cabins for seven hundred,' Laney queried. Shinji's eyes darted from one to the other as he tried to grasp the tone of the conversation

'Okay, okay,' replied the Irish girl. 'But on minus one, most people were in their cabins. The biggest group of them is on the outer main deck or in the bar and food court on the inner main deck. If you avoid them...'

'Laney, we can't leave 'er there,' Hoppy said matter-of-factly. 'C'mon.'

The Scavs made for the door. Shinji followed, but Laney put her hand on his chest. 'Sorry, man, we're used to this. You're not.' He said something she didn't understand, and Laney turned to Emma. 'Look, tell him to stay here. Hoppy and I got our backs, he'll only be in the way.' He stepped forward again, and Laney raised her voice. 'No,' she shouted, pushing him in the chest.

Stepping back out into the cold and the wet and the dark, the temptation for the Scavs was to rush to the lower-deck door. But over the sounds of the ship and the howl of the wind, they could hear the moans of the zombies on the main deck, and proceeded with caution, again holding hands. At the door, Hoppy held up the torch: 'We goin' in?'

'I'm not going in there in the dark, Hops,' Laney shot back. Her teeth were chattering, half from the cold, half from fear. She pried open the door and Hoppy flicked the beam inside. The corridor was narrow and, most importantly, empty. They crept inside, glad to shelter from the elements, but hearts beating hard at the thought of exploring this zombie-filled dungeon. Hoppy shone the torch on the nearest doors.

'Room 40, 41,' she muttered. 'All the forties are on this corridor, Emma said, so all the thirties are the next corridor, and the twenties the next, and Kaiko's in number 24.'

They were passing Room 44, on their left, on the way to the main connecting corridor, which ran perpendicular to the forties corridor, when a thump came from the other side of the door, and a low moan started up. The girls froze in terror. There was another thump from 44, and the moan rose in volume, and was answered by a similar sound from Room 45, on their right. The eerie chorus was soon echoing from every room on the corridor. Hoppy flashed her torch down the connecting corridor, found it clear, and the girls scampered to the intersection with the thirties cabins corridor

Hearing a sudden voice and catching sight of beams of torchlight, Hoppy pulled her cleaver out, holding it out nervously and shushing Laney. She could almost make it out; it was somewhat of an argument, in the direction of the twenties corridor, mixing in with the steady groan of the zeds that littered the ship. As if acting as a scout, the almost-brunette went ahead, her footsteps pattering across the floor in time to catch a brief snippet of conversation.

"Dude, her accent." A gruff, loud, and self-important voice shot out. "I don't even know what the hell she's saying."

"Might be others." Another one, slightly nasally. "If we kill her off -"

A third, distinctly female voice broke out, panicked and slightly accented weirdly - was she over-stressing certain consonants? Hoppy wasn't really sure, but it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that it's Kaiko, right? The wife of that Shinji, that they left back there. "Don't kill me!" Kaiko cried. "We have food, supplies, anything but please, I -"

The sound of flesh hitting flesh, and a 'shut up, bitch". It was certain, though, that there were others here. Hoppy scowled, figuring about four or five in the other group, if you didn't count the woman... presumably Kaiko, and pattered her way back to Laney, biting at her lip, apologizing at leaving her without a torch. In a strained tone, she described what she'd just seen and heard, and then turned to Laney for a judgment. She really wanted to just lunge in and kill them - didn't Laney even have a gun? But, well, she'd learned at least a little from Callie's angry lecture - it'd be better to not act on her stupid impulses right now. "Ta," she hissed."Fer not bringin' Shinji in 'ere with us. 'E'd prob'ly rush in."

'Where the hell did these guys come from?' Laney whispered back.

'Remember tha light I saw in the village?'

'We're not the only ones who saw the flare then. They must have found the door open.'

'Can't let 'em catch us, if'n that's the way they gun' treat a woman,' Hoppy snarled. Her mind flew back to the ordeal Ben had suffered. Unconsciously or not, Hoppy's fist clenched harder on her blade.

The moaning from the corridor behind them was dying down. Maybe even zombies had an attention span problem.

"So." Hoppy took a worried glance back in the direction the voices were coming from. "What d'we do? Save 'er? Go back?" She was at least relieved that the zeds had apparently quieted down. The incessant moans were screwing with her head.

Laney hesitated. She'd come on this mission intent on saving two people. On finding there was a third, she'd resolved to rescue that third. She couldn't turn back just because an additional difficulty had presented itself. 'We gotta save her,' she replied. She knew it was what Hoppy would have done regardless, and her friend's instinctive bravery lent her courage. 'Just gotta be smart.' There was another smack of fist on flesh from up ahead, and another scream. Fuck smart, Laney reasoned. Gotta be quick. She grabbed Hoppy's hand and pulled her back to the forties corridor. Outside Room 44, she stopped and gripped the handle. She mimed counting one-two-three and swinging her weapon. Hoppy nodded and readied herself, cleaver up. Laney yanked the door open, the zombie lurched out, and Hoppy stabbed it straight through the eye, stepping nimbly aside as it fell.

'Open all the doors, then book it in here,' Laney whispered. In no time, the doors to 40, 41, 42 and 43 were open, and seven zombies were stumbling into the corridor. Laney and Hoppy had already slipped into 44, and listened as the undead passed their cabin, honing in on the sounds of Kaiko's tormentors. Once the zeds were at a safe distance, the two girls gently opened the door to Room 44. They shared a silent nod as they stalked their way down. This was going to be tough, of course; timing had to be impeccable. If they were too slow, the zeds would either be all dead, or they'd have already killed all of the new arrivals. If they were too fast, well, the Scavs themselves would be targeted, wouldn't they? It was a tense few moments; especially when the guns started firing - two shots echoed, so... two guns? Immediately upon hearing the chorus of gunfire, Hoppy let out a whimper and knelt down instinctively to block her ears; memories of Chip flashing through her mind. His suicide. The damned roar of the Harrys.

Laney noticed the shorter girl stop and turned back to help pull her up. "It'll be okay," she said encouragingly. "C'mon, Hops, get it together."

Hoppy nodded weakly, and gulped hard.

"Ta." She murmured, forcing herself to ignore the loud sounds of gunfire. She shot Laney a grateful little grin, before the two girls heard one man cry out: "Give 'em the girl! Let's just run for it!" Hoppy clicked her tongue angrily and charged forward with a sudden burst of speed - Laney not far behind, muttering 'shitshit' as she followed.

The first thing Hoppy did, with no hesitation whatsoever, was swing her cleaver into the back of the knee of one of the men holding some sort of pistol, making him cry out and buckle down onto the ground. He fired a reflex shot - and the bullet embedded itself into Hoppy's chest. She fell, back hitting a wall, and then sliding downwards, before hopping back up, silently thanking her adrenaline for blanking out the pain. She was obviously slower now, though, and heard the sounds of more struggle, and one of the zed was already chowing down one one of the men; unearthly screams shaking the slanted corridor. Did Laney even notice that she got shot? Once she found an opportunity, she swiftly eliminated the zed, as well as the man, before he could turn. Better than he deserved, Hoppy thought. It'd have been better for him to suffer as an undead.

Laney, meanwhile, after kicking a zed away from the terrified Kaiko, was met with a sudden "You look familiar." The singer glanced back and, in the intermittant light from swinging torches, saw one of the men, tall and shaven-headed looking at her in recognition. "Like a celebrity that I don't quite... Byron." He nodded. "Delaney Byron. Yeah, I remember your sex tape." Swinging a bat at a zed, the man crushed it's skull with ease, before roving up and down Laney's body with lewd eyes. "Looks like we got lucky." He said with a sick smirk. "Your friend -" gesturing at Hoppy, who gingerly slashed her way through another undead, "- isn't so bad, either. Didn't expect to see a celeb, though. Thought there was a whole high-class shelter for people like you, the 'rich' people."

"That doesn't matter now, prick" Laney spat, rushing at the man with her hatchet, only to have her swing blocked by the bat, and the man's greater strength let him muscle the hatchet back and deliver a swing to Laney's body - only just dodged with a step back, before grunting and doing an overhead swing. The man smiled cockily as he blocked that hit too, and aimed a kick at Laney's stomach, who didn't have enough time to react. She crumpled, and the man chuckled lasciviously as he leaned down to lift Laney - Kaiko, frozen in horror, could only stare at the scene - before the blunt end of a cleaver slammed into the man's arm, knocking him off balance. Hoppy grimaced as she grabbed Laney's hand.

"T'ey got all the zed already." She scowled with urgency, oblivious to the blood leaking through her shirt. "Only one'a 'em dead. I en't lettin' 'em get us, Laney!"

'Hoppy, you're...' Laney couldn't bring herself to say it. Depending on the nature of the wound, her friend could already be dead.

Hoppy seemingly ignored her and, with Kaiko between them, the three girls rushed through the corridor, going as fast as they could to return to Shinji and Emma back at the bridge, ignoring the indignant yell of the man, trying to make them come back. "We're not leaving yet!" He shouted. "We'll get you, you sluts!"

While Laney focused on her injured friend, and the careful way she ran, rather than the typical reckless sprint of hers, no one noticed that Kaiko was nervously hiding her hand under her sleeve, not letting anyone else see.

"You okay, Hops?"

"Just tidy."

Part 5: The Breakfast Queue

Hoppy looked pale, not tidy at all. It was already pretty hard to move very much; she wondered just how much blood she'd lost. Back at the bridge, the rain still slicking down, Kaiko and Shinji embraced each other in desperate relief, whispering in rapid Japanese. Although the Scavs couldn't really understand it, the most common word or phrase used was 'yokatta' or 'shinpai' or 'sukidaiyo', not that anyone really could understand it. Hoppy recognized 'arigatou', though.

'What are you doing out here?' Laney demanded, cradling Hoppy's head on her lap. 'You should have stayed put.'

Emma walked up with a worried glance and tore up some strip of plastic. In her other hand was a bottle of vodka. Hoppy recoiled a bit in Laney's arms - wasn't that going to sting like fuck?

"I only know a bit of first aid. You'll need a doctor to take the bullet out..." Emma muttered, looking at the wound after she'd pulled the shirt off. It looked pretty deep - and, well, the pain was slowly ebbing in now. Hoppy's face contorted in pain as Emma's hands prodded it. "Okay, you ready?"

"Do I really gotta?" Hoppy whined, glancing at Laney, who nodded. The cleaver girl acquiesced and stayed still, hissing in pain as the alcohol seeped into her irritated wound, mixing with the blood. It hurt. It hurt like fuck, and Hoppy flinched backwards when she felt it. She felt Laney's fingers dig into her shoulders as her friend held her down. Sure, it was necessary, but it still hurt real bad. At least she wasn't bleeding out or anything. Damn bullet's good for something, at least. Just in case, though, Emma carefully tied the strip around her waist, over her shirt.

"Why's it plastic?"

"Since it's a chest wound." Emma paused a little. "Some air might travel in and out as you breathe. It's called a sucking chest wound. I did what I could; plastic to stop air from exiting, but we should get to Haven quickly. Else your lung's going to collapse."

"Ta." Hoppy grumbled grudgingly, still smarting over the first aid. She knew she should have felt gratitude for the help, but she just glared bitterly at Emma. Goddamn did her chest hurt, and she figured it wouldn't be long until she was too weak to move and help out. A few hours at least? Calm though, despite possibly dying. Maybe she got used to it all already.

"We can't stay here." Laney said, after looking Hoppy over. "They'll know we're here; we have to move."

Emma looked up, chewing her lip. "How long until we can get off the boat?"

"Not until it's safe. Hoppy's injured, and I don't know if any of you three' - gesturing at Shinji, Kaiko, and Emma - "can keep up if things get bad."

Kaiko turned to her husband and muttered things rapidly back and forth to make sure he understood. Hoppy looked a little irritated, but, well, it was necesary, unless they were just going to keep the Japanese man in the dark. It sickened Hoppy more and more, seeing how people can get once the world more or less ends and civilized society bails out. The people get ridiculous. Disgusting. Hoppy briefly wondered if she was getting just as bad as they were too. Months ago, killing people was the farthest thing from her mind. Months ago, she was a happy, carefree university student, with tender feelings for an old friend. An old friend who could very well be dead by now. Damn if that wasn't a depressing thought.

Kaiko and Shinji turned to the group with thankful smiles.

"My husband and I would like to thank you all for saving me." Kaiko said cordially. "We're sorry for the trouble, and for you getting hurt!"

Time to use the mask. If she didn't stay energetic, everyone'd start worrying, wouldn't they? "I'm doin' fine." Hoppy shrugged, gritting her teeth. "Aye, Emma?"


"Anywhere we c'n 'ole up?"

"Just the security room." Emma said after some thought. "Yeah. We can lock the door, there, and if we're careful with food,.. yeah. Just have to wait the pirates out, right?"

'Alright, it'll do for now,' said Laney. It was time to take charge. 'But we're not holing up long. I don't know how long Hoppy's got, and I'm not risking her life for yours.'

Shock at Laney's bluntness crossed Emma and Kaiko's faces and, after the translation, Shinji's. Regardless, Laney hurried everyone into the security room, locking the door behind her.

'Emma, you know how to lower the lifeboats? Can you do it while you're in it?' The Irish teenager nodded. 'Good,' Laney continued. 'Now, are there any left?'

'There's one, maybe two on the portside main deck,' she replied. Laney rubbed a hand across her face in frustration. The same side as the mass of zombies. She looked down at Hoppy, lying under a blanket, pale and shivering. The Japanese couple were huddled in a corner, holding hands and conversing quietly but urgently.

"G'damnit, Laney," the injured girl muttered. "I'm tired."

'I know, hun. Don't worry, I'm gonna get you back home, don't worry.' Hoppy squeezed Laney's hand gratefully, and lay back down.

With that, Laney grabbed her hatchet, Hoppy's torch and Emma's flare gun and stepped back out into the driving rain. She wished she felt as confident as she'd sounded. But trapped on this giant, foreign hulk of machinery, with hundreds of zombies and an unknown number of raiders standing between her and rescue, with her friend's life depending on her, Laney felt utterly overwhelmed. As a lump formed in her throat and, as she began to panic at her indecision, Laney wondered whether this was what Monroe had felt every day. Was this the pressure Callie seemed to be cracking under?

And that thought got her moving. First she crept behind the bridgehouse to the port side of the top deck. It was still hard to see anything, but Laney fancied it was getting lighter. Certainly she could make out a packed wedge of bodies standing against the rail on the port side. In fact, they filled half the whole deck, from bow to stern. There were hundreds, as Emma had suggested, but she could only make out one lifeboat. Laney calculated she had perhaps an hour of darkness before dawn. After that, no diversion, no matter how big, would keep Hoppy and the others from being seen as they made for the lifeboat. That would mean staying in the security room for an entire day. Hoppy wouldn't last that long, even if the raiders didn't find them.

Almost as if on cue, gunfire echoed from the lower deck. The shaven-headed raider who'd taunted her as they fought had hinted that there were more of them on board, but there was no way of guessing how many. Since they hadn't appeared yet on the main deck, Laney guessed they must be looting cars on the vehicle deck or cabins on the lower deck where she and Hoppy had rescued Kaiko.

Taking a deep breath, Laney scampered down the starboard stairwell to the main deck. The moaning of so many zombies mixed with the howling wind to create a bone-chilling sound. On and on and on it droned, almost hypnotic. Laney felt like she would be hearing that sound in her sleep forever. Luckily, more gunfire from below snapped her out of her reverie, and she snuck down to the lower deck walkway and prised open the outer door to the cabins Hoppy had opened hours ago. Holding her breath, she dragged the corpse from Room 44 and wedged the outer door open. Then she dropped a flare in the doorway, fired a flare into the corridor and, ignoring the yells from within, retraced her steps to the main deck. She dropped another flare halfway up the stairs to the lower deck walkway, then, heart in her mouth, cracked as third flare and stood out in full view of the horde on the main deck.

'Breakfast's ready, bitches!' she screamed. She had only to wait a split second before the horde began to move towards her like a damburst. She dropped the flare at the top of the stairs and followed the path of flares she'd laid.

The headstart she'd given herself was only just enough. She dashed past the doorway to the cabins, remembered at the last second to vault the corpse Hoppy had freaked out at when they first boarded, and slipped more than stepped down the stairs to the ramp-level platform she and Hoppy had climbed onto from the speedboat. She held onto the rail, again lashed by sea spray, ready to jump in and take her chances in the waves if some of the horde followed her.

But a minute's wait told her nothing was coming. The shuffling and groaning from the walkway above told her a seemingly endless procession of zombies were now trudging into the lower level, following the trail of flares. If the raiders survived that, well, she'd ask to join them, no matter how sleazy they were. Laney tightened her makeshift belt, thrust her hatchet into the folds of her clothes, and then threw herself into the sea.

Even though she'd steeled herself, the shock of the water took Laney's breath away. She surfaced momentarily, gasping and spluttering, and then sunk beneath the foaming surface again. The cold seemed to have sapped the strength from her muscles, the very lifeblood from her arms. Then she thought of Hoppy in the security room, shivering and pale as shock set in, and she flailed her arms, reaching air again. She thought of Ben, sleeping with the kind of peace he thought he'd left in the brothers' barn, and she kicked her legs. Inch by inch, stroke by stroke, Laney struggled from the starboard platform to the portside platform, and hauled herself up over the railing. Safe again, she lay gasping like a fish out of water, then struggled to her knees, and finally her feet. She dragged herself up the stairs to the lower deck walkway, and stood listening at the foot of the stairwell up to the main deck. The night sky was a little lighter, she noticed, but the hypnotic stereo moaning of hundreds of zombies appeared to be gone.

As lightly as she could on legs that appeared to be turning to jelly with the cold and tiredness, she sprang up the stairs, and the next flight, and banged on the security room door.

'C'mon, c'mon, c'mon,' she urged. Slower than she would have liked, the door swung open.

Part 6: Dawn

There was blood pretty much everywhere. On the walls, stained over the security systems, the radio, pools of it covering the floor. The stink of the iron-like odor seeped through the entire room. Two bodies lay on the floor, seemingly locked in an embrace, drenched in bright red gore. The Japanese man stood over them, still as a statue, Hoppy's cleaver hanging loose in his hand. Eyes wide in horror, Laney took it in. It was, really, a scene for even the strongest stomach to churn over. Her gaze scanned quickly over the huge, blood gouge hacked into the dark hair of Kaiko, then the bloody, chewed, pulpy mess of Emma's throat. The only other girl still alive glanced over with a labored breath - her world was spinning, the edges of her vision were greyed out and fuzzy, she wanted to throw up the little food she had in her, and she didn't know how long until she fainted - but someone had to explain it to Laney, what the hell just happened.

"Fuck." Hoppy wheezed. "Kaiko... she turn'd." She gestured at the now visible bite mark on the japanese woman's hand. "Bit Emma. 'ad to kill 'er. Got... tired an' then this'n - " pointing tiredly at Shinji. "kill't her 'imself. Let it 'app'n, too, 'e let 'er turn."

Laney was speechless as her horrified gaze flitted form Hoppy, to the grieving Shinji, to the mangled bodies on the floor.

"I'd 'ave kill'd 'im, if'n I could." Hoppy sat down; legs no longer really supporting her. "'Bout to faint 'ere, Laney."

'We'll deal with him later, Hoppy. Now, we gotta move,' Laney urged. 'We don't have much time.' She tried to lift Hoppy's dead weight, but her own tiredness foiled her. 'Come on, help,' she growled at Shinji. The bewildered tourist was still kneeling by the body of his dead wife, seemingly immoveable. 'Come the fuck on,' Laney snapped again, and grabbed him by the arm. He looked over woefully, uncomprehending. Laney swore again, then began rattling off words. 'Go. Safe. Leave. Home. Haven. Fuck. Please.' At 'please', a light of recognition entered Shinji's eyes. Laney repeated herself, gesturing at Hoppy's prone form, then the door. Finally, he helped lift Hoppy, and the threesome staggered out the door.

'Gonna be alright, Hoppy, gonna be alright,' Laney found herself muttering. They reached the stairwell, and to her relief, the main deck seemed empty of movement in the pre-dawn grey light. They manouvered Hoppy down the stairs and halfway down the length of the main deck to where the final lifeboat hung. Laney was just pondering that only Emma had known how to release the lifeboats when the sound of crashing glass rang out behind them. Hoppy slumped to the ground as Laney and Shinji spun around to see zombies tumbling awkwardly out of the window of the food court situated at the back of the main deck.

'Aw fuck,' groaned Laney, drawing her hatchet. 'Get her in the boat.' Shinji's lack of movement told her he hadn't understood. 'Hoppy! Boat!' Laney screamed at him, pointing at one and then the other, and turning to face the first zombie to approach. An overhead chop split its skull, and a glance behind her revealed Shinji struggling with Hoppy.

"Yew c'n ju's- ... ju's leave me." Hoppy protested, even as the Japanese man more or less hustled her over the high edge of the lifeboat. She was trying as best as she could to not just get in; wasn't she slowing them down, anyways? And to follow with the traditions of her past missions, well, someone was going to die, or at least get left behind or something. Might as well let it be the one with a bullet in her chest.

'Stupid talk, Hoppy,' Laney growled. 'Get in the fucking boat.' The zombies were obstructing each other climbing through the broken window. The long shards of glass were tearing terrible holes in their limbs and torsos, but still they pressed on. Another flopped out, and as it righted itself, Laney darted forward and hacked at the back of its head. She danced back from the grasping hands protruding from the window.

With a frustrated sigh, the cleaver girl gave the aforementioned weapon to Shinji, and pointed him at the zombies after she acquiecsed to Laney. It wasn't really worth distracting her right now, anyways. The Japanese man took it and, looking hesitant, afraid; but also determined to avenge his wife, joined the fray, hacking off at an undead hand.

'Laney,' came a weak cry from the lifeboat. 'Look 'oo's here.'

Laney dragged herself up the side of the lifeboat. In one end lay Hoppy, looking like a rag doll. In the other, bleeding and battered, but still able to aim a gun, was the Delaney Byron fan they'd tangled with outside Kaiko's cabin. Blood was crusting up on a snarled, ragged wound on the back of his shaved head.

'Take me with you,' he panted, pointing the gun at Hoppy, who just sort of stared at the feared weapon. The barrel was long and thin. Rimfire, Laney realised. That's how Hoppy was still alive. That didn't mean the threat could be ignored, though. A headshot or a hit to a major artery would prove as fatal as the biggest caliber ammo.

'Fuck off,' Laney snapped.

'Take me with you or your girlfriend gets it.'

Laney threw herself over the side of the lifeboat, weighing her hatchet.

'Put the axe away, bitch,' the man screamed, the pistol waving from Laney to Hoppy and back. .

'Gotta get the boat loose, don't I?'

"'E's bit, Laney." Hoppy murmured, tense. "I see the teeth marks."

'Take it easy, Hoppy,' Laney soothed. 'I'll take care of both of you.' Just then Shinji launched himself into the lifeboat. His jaw was clenched, and Hoppy's cleaver held aloft. His right arm was smeared with thick gore, but there was no sign of fresh blood. He screamed something at the sky. Laney thought she made out the word 'Kaiko'. Suddenly zombies thudded against the high side of the lifeboat, arms reaching for the living inside. Shinji turned the cleaver on the arms; soon the bottom of the boat was littered with limbs. Laney looked wildly around for the release mechanism. The moaning grew louder, and as a grey dawn broke, hundreds of zombies were now visible on the main deck. They began to climb up on the backs of the armless zombies at the lifeboat; soon they would fall right in.

'Aw fuck,' Laney groaned again, and swung her hatchet at the four ropes holding the lifeboat in its cradle. The boat lurched as the first rope gave way, and everyone fell to one side. Holding on to the side, Laney severed the second rope with a single blow. Laney grabbed Shinji, pointed to the cleaver, then to one remaining rope, then to her hatchet and the other remaining rope, and held up three fingers in front of his face. He nodded, they braced themselves for the fall, and, as Laney screamed 'Three!' swung at the ropes.

Everyone screamed as the lifeboat plunged, and the screams stopped abruptly as the boat splashed down, jarring everyone to the bone.

Laney dragged herself from the bottom of the boat, scrambling for her hatchet. She spun around to face the raider with the gun. He was still pointing it, but the sneer on his face was gone. Instead, his throat appeared to be sneering; Shinji had sliced him from one corner of his jaw to the other, and blood and his last breaths made a collar of red foam around his neck. Shinji held out the cleaver, handle first, to Hoppy, and bowed his head.

'Sorry,' he stammered.

Hoppy weakly lifted her head over the lifeboat as the raider died, and let out a feeble spewing of guts; panting hard after the fact, moaning at her dizziness and her exhaustion. "Fuck," she said again, settling down, almost starting to cry. At least the gun wasn't aimed at her anymore. She gratefully nodded at Shinji, taking the cleaver and letting it rest on her lap, shivering. "I was s- scared." She admitted. With a great effort, she managed to speak again. "A-arigatou? Is that it?"

'Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu,' he replied. 'Arigatou, arigatou,' and burst into tears.

The brief respite was interrupted by a splash next to the lifeboat. They looked up and saw zombies plunging over the railing towards them. One particularly big creature fell close enough to smash its head against the side of the boat; brains, bone and ichor splashed the three of them. Laney looked wildly around for a motor, then grabbed at the oars stowed in the sides.

'Aw, fuck,' she repeated, locking her oar into place, and gesturing that Shinji do the same. 'Where's my fucking motorboat?'

November 9th 2013, 0805

By the time, they neared the shore, Laney's shoulders ached. The rest of her was numb from the cold. Though Shinji battled manfully with his oar, he was obviously tiring. Hoppy had turned pale blue and fallen silent again. Though it meant an extra 10 minutes rowing, Laney directed the lifeboat back to the golf club pier; at least she knew there were no zombies there. They bundled Hoppy out of the boat, then, gripping her under an arm each, the dragged her back to the truck, and bundled her into the cab.

'Do you drive?' Laney asked, then, noting the baffled look on Shinji' face, pointed to him, made a steering wheel gesture, then pointed to the truck. He nodded and jumped into the driver's seat. Laney squeezed in beside Hoppy, putting her arms around her friend in an attempt to keep them both warm.

With a trembling hand, Hoppy did her best to pat Laney on the shoulder for getting them out of this mess, more or less alive. Dazedly looking around at the relative safety of the truck, she let her eyes close and slipped into a fitful rest.

'Told you it'd be alright, Hops,' Laney said, her voice a whisper near exhaustion. 'Okay, Shinji, let's go.'

The Japanese man, leaning heavily on the steering wheel, looked puzzled. Laney gestured forwards with her spare hand. 'Please, arigatou.' He seemed to get the idea, and the truck rattled away from the golf club.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Messiah

Collaboration with Selene Durlan and Rann

Part One: The Americans

November 10th, 2013

Before Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two: Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anything useful?" She asked curiously.

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

"Useful stuff indeed. Especially the flares."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Three: Hoppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Four: Into Kendal


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

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

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

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

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

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

"One of those things wandered into the road."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben didn't really want to think about it.

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

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

One step at a time.

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

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

Part Five: The Longest Mile


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

"I heard something."

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

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

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

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

"Run. Now!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe. Move. Breathe and move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Six: Getting Worse

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

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

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

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

So they waited.

Part Seven: Westmorland Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he realized...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Jay, huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

It went silent again as he read over the list.

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

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

Jay nodded.

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

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

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

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

"Right," came Jay's reply.

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

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

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

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

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

Part Eight: Down the Hall

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

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

It would have been bad.

Part Nine: Jay and Kiera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was a rather quick topic change.

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

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

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

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

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

Part Ten: Medicine

Late Morning

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

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

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

The flares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Prenatal' it read on it.

God damn it. There were just reminders everywhere.

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

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

Then he heard a scream.

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

No. No. No.

If something had happened to Kiera--

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

Not that way.

Now he had two groups after him.

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

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

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

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

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

"Kiera! Jay! Where are you?"

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

Where the hell did they go?

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

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

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

To Ben's relief, another voice sounded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Take us there."

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

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

The paramedic looked between Ben and Kiera hopefully.

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

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

Part Eleven: On the Brink

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

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

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

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

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

Part Twelve: Urgency

Early Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We're on our way back."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How is she?" Ben asked.

"She'll live."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She's coming."

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

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