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Kiera Trennan

Turns out, math can be useful after all

0 · 572 views · located in The Haven Universe

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

Groups

The Citizens of Haven

Description

Image
Name: (Kie) Kiera Trennan

Age: 21

Gender: Female

Physical Description:

Kiera used to feel embarrassed about her body, but now she has more practical concerns, like survival. Standing a sturdy 5’7” 130-140lbs, Kiera is neither delicate beauty nor lithe athlete. Kiera has a look of youthful innocence about her, despite being nearly twenty-two. She has dark green eyes, accented by long black eyelashes. She tends to keep her wavy shoulder length chestnut colored hair in a ponytail or braid, though this style doesn’t prevent her from pulling at her split ends when she feels anxious. Kiera has a bad habit of biting her nails, so she is always trying to hide her hands from the view of others. Another bane of her existence was and continues to be acne; she still carries the scars from past flare ups on her cheeks. Her otherwise pale complexion is also dotted with numerous freckles; most are located on her face and arms. Kiera has a slight bump in the middle of her nose, where it was broken several years ago by an over-eager bouncing dog.

Kiera has taken to wearing sturdy jeans and denim jackets since the outbreak and she is by no means above wearing a plastic trash bag for a rain coat. Her trusty pair of gray and pink sneakers are starting to show some serious wear and tear. Kiera was even forced to put duct tape on the toe of her left shoe in order to keep it together. Kiera hardly ever takes off her silver necklace with the small eagle pendant because it is the only personal belonging that survived the outbreak.

Biography:

Kiera grew up in a typical suburban home in Colorado U.S.A., but her childhood was anything but typical. By fifth grade Kiera had attended at least seven different schools; it was all in a quest to give their daughter the best experience possible her parents had said. When it came time for sixth grade, Kiera’s Mother decided it was time to try homeschooling. This style of schooling worked well enough there were ups and downs, but overall she gained a maturity greater than her peers from this approach to schooling.

At seventeen Kiera began attending a local community college where she discovered her affinity for math. She studied long and hard for each test, math was not an easy subject for her, but she was determined to stick with it. After transferring to a four-year college, she finally received her bachelor’s degree in math. To Kiera this seemed like the perfect time to take a small break from school. So, on a whim she applied for an internship as a teaching assistant in the UK, this would be her first trip to Europe. Two weeks later Kiera was hugging her family goodbye and boarding the plane that promised excitement and adventure.

All hell broke loose barely three days later.

Kiera barely managed to survive each day, scavenging what she could and trying to stay hidden. She was on her last legs when she stumbled upon Haven, half-starved and slightly crazed; Kiera spent her first week in Haven curled in a fetal position mewing pathetically. She has improved since then, but she is still very anxious and easily startled.

Skills:

Kiera has mad Math skills. She has finally seen the value in all the application problems her teachers had assigned in class, too bad it took a huge disaster for her to realize how useful the subject can be when applied to real world situations.

Kiera is a decent shot with a slingshot that she found in a deserted backyard. She uses it to move the Dead away so she can sneak past them, rather than recklessly attacking.

Kiera is a very patient person, a trait that has saved her behind more than once

So begins...

Kiera Trennan's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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(co-written with VindicatedPurpose)

Bring Zack Back

Tuesday - November 4th, 2013


"Oh...bollocks. How are we going to catch one of them? They're not fishes!" The other jobs had been taken.

"I am Dr. Rishi Sharma..." Tilo read through the brief.

"Hmm, so he's the wanker who's been keeping me up. I expected more from a doctor," he wondered aloud.

The cold crept on and took a heavier toll against the older people, like Tilo. To exacerbate problems, he had to deal with the maniac that kept him up for the past several nights. Tilo woke up late that morning. He decided he could no longer continue losing the battle against age, now that he no longer lived in the old world. Of course, it was easier said than done. They were sleeping comfortably enough in the bags, and there were spare sheets and blankets to go around.

However, as he read through the only brief available, he had his hands in his pockets. If it wasn't the zombies, it was going to be the cold. The old dog, however, flatly refused to let the beginning of winter claim him. Once he finished, he paused and tried to figure out how he would go about trying to capture a zombie. He felt like he needed to sit down, scratch his chin, and plan it out.

"What's wrong with using a dead one?" Tilo closed his mouth as he said this.

They were practically dead, but Tilo meant the ones that were no longer walking and eating.

Kiera had been avoiding the job board, choosing to pass the time by pacing back and forth across her small room. Now that the day of her first mission had finally arrived, the young woman seemed to be plagued by self-doubt. Kiera knew she couldn't hide from it forever, so with a final deep breath she set out on the path to the Jobs Board. The stalling tactic had worked in a sense; the other jobs were already taken before her arrival which prevented her from agonizing over making a decision between them. However, the one that remained sent a chill down her spine. Bringing back a fast, carnivorous corpse would be no easy task. At least the pills would kick in soon, which reminded her that the stash was getting low.

Tilo saw the younger woman approach the bulletin, so it would seem she was his partner for the day's adventure. She had brown hair and was of shorter stature than he was. He had never seen her before, but then again he had only joined Haven about two weeks ago. There were plenty of others who he failed to get a name from.

"Ello!" Tilo said, he was sitting on a log again, near the board. He wasn't sure if she noticed him.

Unable to find another excuse to look busy, Kiera turned and smiled at the man that sat nearby the board. She had noticed him, but her shyness had prevented her from walking up directly and speaking to him. However, she had taken the time for several sidelong glances while she pretended to be fascinated by the posting on the Jobs board. Blushing slightly she replied to his greeting.

"Hello. My name is Kiera Trennan, from the looks of it I guess it will be the two of us going on the Zack mission. I know I've seen you around Haven, but I don't believe I know your name. How would you like me to address you?" Perhaps she had overdone it with the formal greeting, but Kiera always felt that it was better to be overly polite than unintentionally rude to a new acquaintance.

"Well, they used to call me Doctor King," Tilo grinned, he recognized the American accent immediately, and deduced that she was another Yank.

"Not the American civil rights leader, I was a professor. Emphasis on was. But you can call me Tilo or Mr. King now, not that it matters." Tilo coughed.

The wind was getting to him a bit.

"Really, what subject did you teach? I have a Bachelor degree in Mathematics and I was eventually planning to become a teacher myself, probably at the high school or college level." This was quite the pleasant surprise. By Tilo's appearance she had assumed he would be the gruff "no-nonsense" survivalist, but this was a much better discovery to be sure.

"Ah," Tilo warmed up to the thought of fellow intellectual, one that was actually sane.

"Well I am a history professor. Was...was, I keep forgetting that," Tilo could not forgive himself for that. He needed to move on from everything, everything except his family.

"So, a bachelor's in mathematics?"

"Yes indeed, it wasn't easy let me tell you, but I fell in love with the tricky subject, algebra especially. Though it is such a shame it has gained such a bad reputation. Look at me carrying on, next I will be trying to teach you factoring." She actually felt relaxed in his company.

"Hmm," Tilo's short chuckle turned into a laugh, it was perhaps the first time he had actually laughed in a conversation with someone ever since the beginning of it all.

"Not if I teach you a thing or two about Cicero first. But anyway, we should probably get going."

"I wouldn't mind that too much." she replied with a laugh. "Yes, please lead the way."

------

The weather had changed rather rapidly. It had gone from a slight chill in the air to full blown snow almost overnight, though that was probably exaggerating the situation a bit. Snow and rain, either one or the other, on the isles. It made living in Britain a bit depressing at times. At the same time, however, it challenged people to rise above the gloom, one that was now compounded with the walking dead, to maintain a sense of optimism. The kind that John Lennon talked about, British socialism.

Tilo hefted the long pole on his right shoulder as they walked. His other hand was free to carry some rope, while Kiera walked with the pack slung across her shoulder with duct tape, magazines, and the other equipment that was now standard with Scav kits. These items included a first aid, a hand-cranked flashlight, walkie-talkies, and a map. Life would have been much easier had they had a dog catching pole, the kind that could be lowered onto the neck of a dog and then tightened to control it. Life was not easy.

"Have you given much thought as to where we'll find a live one?" Tilo looked over his shoulder to the mathematics graduate.

Despite everything that had happened, Kiera still couldn't deny the beauty of this place; one could almost believe everything was normal, almost. The illusion easily shattered by the scenes of carnage both along the road and the ones unseen just out of sight. Drawn away from her somber thoughts by Tilo's query, she tried to think of places they might find a Walker.

"Hmm, I think we should stay away from populated areas, while we might have a better chance of finding a fresh one, I think the danger of being swarmed would be too great. Plus, I haven't stretched properly for a mad dash for my life." Kiera added with a small laugh. "Seriously though, maybe our best bet would be to stray from the road and hope we find a lone one in good condition. What do you think?" Finally coming abreast of Tilo, she watched for his reaction.

"Ehm," Tilo cleared his throat. She made a couple of valid points, in particular the one about the swarm stuck out in front of Tilo. The last time he had faced a swarm was on a lake. He was lucky that they were bloated corpses and not...well, swimmers. A swarm on land was a different thing, and Tilo did not want to find out how.

"Very well, I don't know if we'll find one soon if we are to search the lone roads. So...you're American?"

"Yes I am, from the squarish state of Colorado in fact. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit my lack of geography knowledge, so I will have to ask what part of Britain you're from." The ignorant social bubble she grew up in was showing like a bad dye job, Kiera really wished she knew more about the land where she would likely spend the rest of her life barring a miracle.

"Squarish?" Tilo looked at her, "Right...well I'm from Colchester, it's northeast of London. You know where London is right? It's on the Thames River. Actually that doesn't really matter, you probably don't know where the Thames River is," Tilo paused, she had something to say.

"Well you certainly have more experience with the Walkers and scavenging in general, so I would be glad to hear your opinion of the best place to find one." In a moment of distraction Kiera noticed the trees along the road with leafless branches**

The old professor, or rather middle aged professor, chuckled at her statement as he continued walking.

"Experience? I've only been here for about two, three weeks, I haven't done much around here. So I wouldn't really know where the best place to find them would be. For all we know we could walk into a live one on this very road."

"Oh, don't be so modest, this is my first mission, so you're an expert compared to me."

Then along the way, he neared a tree and decided to drop the rope and place the pole gently on the snow covered grass beside the gravel path. The frost bit him like a viper, winter had just begun. They might need gloves to keep their hands covered as the cold encroached upon them.

"I think we should consult the map before we continue," Tilo said as he rubbed his right shoulder.

"Good idea, make sure to hold it the right way though." She said in a teasing tone. Kiera had learned that lesson the hard way.

Tilo gave her a sharp glance, followed by a lopsided grin.

"I'm a history professor...we practically sleep with maps."

"Thank goodness for that. I would probably get us lost in a small stand of trees." She replied with a laugh, as she gazed over his left arm at the foreign and confusing piece of paper he was intently reading.

The laminated sheet found itself within the grip of Tilo's left hand as he attempted to search for their location via his right index finger. He popped off the digital watch, underneath there was a compass. The red arrow began to orient itself, and once it had found north, so too did the pair.

"Okay so we left Haven here..." Tilo began to trace their path.

"Fifteen kilometers from here, and we might reach Cromwell. Let's hope we'll find something between here and there."

------

About a mile back, Kiera had begun to develop the start of a blister on her right heel, it was slowly getting worse, but she refused to acknowledge it. The boots she wore were far from a perfect fit, about a half size too small, though it was better than wearing her sneakers to death. They seemed to have traveled a good distance, likely halfway to the town, but Kiera didn't want to sound ignorant by asking Tilo how far they had actually traveled. The pair had spent much of the time walking in silence, broken by short conversations about trivial topics. Finally she decided to just ask him, perhaps more due to the blister than anything else.

As casually as possible, Kiera asked the burning question on her mind. "How far from Haven do you think we are?" Hastily adding, "I was never a big walking fan back home, so distance is not something I tend to keep track of." as a way of explanation for her sudden interest.

Tilo pursed his lips, recognizing that she was probably a bit sore, as he was. In fact, he might have been sorer, considering he was lugging about the pole.

"Um, I really don't know," Tilo said simply, sort of shrugging. They had been walking so long past many trees and shrubs that were almost slowly losing their leaves.

The ground was covered in a soft, thin layer of damp snow, above a layer of dirt.

"But we can take a break here if you want. It's surprising to see that we haven't found any stiffs at all so far. Isn't that a bit bizarre?"

Did he suspect her desire to take a break? She wondered. In times past she would have claimed to be fine and insisted that they continue, but this was a different world and time, where even a small mistake could mean a particularly gruesome death.

"Just for a minute or two if you wouldn't mind. I think I need to adjust my sock really quickly. Then we can continue on."

Something about her reminded Tilo of one of his students. He saw it often, not so much lately, but he knew she tried to maintain an unfaltering facade. In a time like this, it became incredibly difficult to continue with it.

"No it's quite alright, I'm.." he rolled his shoulder, "Aching a bit. Besides we're not really in a hurry. Let them come to us, and if we don't find one today, then we can try again tomorrow. We at least need to be able to make it back to Haven by the end of the day."

"I'll make it fast then, I don't like to think about the possibility of being forced to spend the night away from Haven either." Kiera decided to keep the pack on her shoulders since the fresh snow would probably wick onto the bottom if she set it down. Taking several steps away from her companion, so he wouldn't see the state of her socks, Kiera opted to stand while removing her blister causing footwear. She barely noticed the steep embankment towards her left, normally having great balance; she was forced to hop around awkwardly clutching her boot in one hand while adjusting her sock with the other due to the lopsided weight from her backpack. Luckily all her hopping had brought her near a tree that stood on the edge of the embankment, reaching a hand out to steady herself, Kiera made the mistake of looking back at Tilo. Without any guidance from her eyes and the single foot stabilizing, she was suddenly off balance and leaning at an alarming angle.

Tilo had his eyes away, watching the trees again, but he turned just as Kiera began to slip off the embankment. He reached out toward her as she went down. Too late she tried to recover, but she just succeeded in looking ridiculous by wildly pin wheeling her arms, the boot flying from her hand before she pitched backwards down the hill. During one of the rotations she felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder, but it was quickly forgotten when she took a mouthful of dirt and snow as she landed face down on the next turn. Finally she reached the bottom, in a snow covered pile, Kiera checked for injuries. None seemed to be immediately apparent, so her next task would be to find her missing boot. Perhaps Tilo hadn't seen her embarrassing fall. That would be a nice thing. She finally spotted her footwear a few feet away, a few awkward hops later and she had reclaimed it. Her sock looked worse than ever though. She let out a sigh, oh well.

Tilo ran to the edge where Kiera had tumbled from. Terror shot through his heart like an arrow. He was about ready to fear the worse as he heard her roll down the side, small pebbles and dirt chasing after her. As Kiera looked up the embankment, she noticed the fall had only been seven or eight feet. Unfortunately, her embarrassment did not end there. Tilo had seen the whole thing and was peering down at her, a concerned expression on his face. Scrambling up on hands and feet, Kiera tried to regain her composure before facing her scavenging companion.

"Are you alright?" Tilo was about to make his way down to help her, but he saw that none of her limbs had broken or fractured during the slip. A slip like that often turned simple missions into dangerous ones. If she had twisted her ankle, and they were on the run from a horde. It was not a pleasant thought, but then again, it never was.

Safely on the path once more thanks to a help up from Tilo, she tried brushing the worst off, but she only succeeded in smearing it further, making a muddy mosaic across her coat and pants. Awesome. Another load of laundry that she would have to scrub by hand at least there wasn't any sewing to be done.

"Sorry about that, thought I would take a peek down the bank real quick, and then took a mud bath while I was down there." She said with a nervous laugh, trying to play the whole event off as a silly accident. Truth be told her shoulder felt like it was wrenched at the very least. Her foot made a squelching sound due to her soggy sock, her blister was going to love this development.

Tilo had no words to say as he looked on, mentally though, his brain was running on mach three out of anxiety. This one incident reminded him of the many times his sons would get into trouble, the many times they got scrapes, and the many times they injured themselves. It was a normal thing for boys, that was Tilo's way of thinking, but he had no conception of how to treat a younger woman that was barely older than his sons. Protective, over-protective maybe, would have been a word. The close call with Laney weeks ago, and now this, all were accelerants of his gray hair. Age was a nemesis that perched atop his shoulder like the raven from Edgar Allan Poe's poem.

"Try and be a bit more careful next time, yeah?" Tilo smiled with raised eyebrows.

"I will. Sorry you had to witness my clumsiness in action. Well, I guess that was a bit longer of a rest than it should have been. Should we resume our stroll?" She asked, finally able to calm down from the shock of her tumble.

"Are you sure? You barely had time to adjust your sock..." Tilo gestured to the now soggy, deformed, mushy cloth called a sock that Kiera was wearing with her boot.

With a bright blush, Kiera consented and quickly proceeded to wring her sock out as best as she could.

------

They were within a network of various gravel paths and dirt roads that intermingled and went many directions with no destinations. They continued along through the snow and beyond the trees. The snow had melted slightly, leaving a few puddles. Winter was not in full bloom yet. It still had a ways to go before the great blizzard could unleash its fury on the isles. As the sun began to pass over its apex point in the sky, Tilo guessed it was about an hour or so after noon, they chose to take a short break. It also gave Tilo a chance to drop the pole, which was taxing on his shoulder and arms at this point. It was already past noon and they had yet to find one, which meant that they were to turn back if they planned on being in their sleeping bags at Haven before night blanketed the sky.

"I think we should turn back," Tilo sighed.

Kiera couldn't deny the relief she felt when Tilo was the one to suggest turning back. The pain in her shoulder had gotten worse once the initial shock had worn off, but she was determined not to complain about the injury. The stupid blister was a constant sharp pain, regardless of how she stepped the thing found a way to chafe and burn like a hot poker.

"What terrible luck. The one time we go out to seek one, they disappear like cockroaches run from light." She replied with a small scowl.

As they rested, nearby a man was on a bike. He was riding slowly, in a tempo that seemed to lag behind a person's pulse at rest. Part of this was due to the fact that he was hunched over the bike, while his legs pushed forward as if he had the heavens upon his shoulders. This man was no titan like Atlas, he was only a man in a white coat. This signified that he must have been a scientist or doctor perhaps. He didn't seem conscious, or rather he seemed half-conscious. His motile functions driven by will perhaps, or by a single voice in his head, where there used to be a chorus of vocals that conversed of various ideas. The pair exchanged concerned glances before they returned their attention to the half-awake man on the bike riding down a road to nowhere.

"'Ey mate, are you lost?" Tilo voiced his thought to the man.

He continued on as before, it seemed as though Tilo's call slipped past him.

"'Ey I'm talking to you!"

His left leg, then his right leg, pushing down. The pair walked over to him, and stopped the bike in its tracks. The man seemed to stop pushing, aware that he could no longer do so.

He lifted his head back, there was blood and dirt wiped on his face and on his wide framed glasses. His mouth kept itself open, trying to draw oxygen. The blood did not seem to come from any wound on his face. The startling feature, though, was the wound on his neck. It was concealed when the man rolled forth, grinding on his bike mindlessly. The bite itself was red with his blood, and his flesh was torn off in chunks like ground meat. It was clearly a bite. It was nearly a miracle how he managed to balance and push himself forward on a bike with a wound of that size.

His face seemed clammy and sweat beads formed on his forehead. Standing a step behind Tilo, Kiera spotted the gruesome wound and her hands flew to her mouth in shock, stifling a loud gasp. How was he even still moving with such a severe injury? Fascination and fear kept the young woman rooted to the spot, staring wide-eyed at the man on the bike. Unsure of how to react, Kiera looked to Tilo as she tried to process this awful discovery.

"What should we do?" She whispered to Tilo, while also keeping a watchful eye on the unsteady stranger.

Kiera wanted to help the man who was in obvious distress, but she knew a bite like that could have only been caused by one thing. Simply by his current behavior, the bite was probably several hours old already and there was no telling when he might suddenly turn. For her friend in that abandoned warehouse it had only taken four hours till he had succumbed to the infection and rose again as one of them. Pushing that dark memory away, Kiera took a tentative step towards the man who had an almost glazed expression on his face.

"Hello there, my name is Kiera and this is my friend. We don't want to hurt you. We're just passing through the area. What is your name?" Kiera kept her hands away from her body in a gesture of peace, she didn't want to risk spooking him by hiding her hands.

"Cree-Craw toad's foot, geese walk barefoot." He said with an eerie sing-song tone in his voice. His eyes seemed to clear a bit after uttering the sentence of nonsense. "I'm on my way back to my flock, I have food for them in my pocket. You may call me doctor," The doctor's eyes suddenly becoming unfocused again and began to dart rapidly back and forth as he finished speaking.

Perhaps the fever was causing hallucinations or he might just be crazy. It was kind of suspicious that he was heading in the direction of Haven, alone, bitten and unarmed. He might not even be an actual doctor for all they knew, a white coat wasn't proof of the credentials he claimed to have. A thought suddenly occurred to Kiera. This man was obviously doomed to die and rise again as a Walker, but why should his death be just another statistic. What if he could help the living?

Cautiously backing away Kiera returned to Tilo's side. Speaking in a low whisper, she proposed her idea to him. "Maybe we can learn more about him on the way back. If there is another group of survivors out there, we should try to figure out where. What do you think?"

As Tilo was about to reply, "I need to get to them! I need to get to them!" The man blurted out, startling the both of them, but he remained weakened.

When he finally settled down and closed his eyes, Tilo whispered "There's no telling how long ago he's been bitten."

He eyed the man with caution, "I think we should tie him up first."

Whatever response Kiera had been looking for, that was not what she had expected Tilo to suggest. However, everything was different now, it was better to be cautious than too trusting, still her conscience whispered the injustice of what they were about to do. It was prudent, he thought. The bite was a zombie bite, at least that was the appearance that it kept. If indeed it was not a zombie bite, then they had a dying man on their hands. And how he died...would be an interesting question to think about. At least if he turned or when he turned, he would be restrained.

"Maybe we can ask him questions once he's tied up."

"Okay, it's probably safer for him and us that way." Kiera replied, keeping her doubts about their decisions to herself.

They set about pulling the man from the bike and laying him on the ground flat on his stomach. The two proceeded to place the pole on his back, Kiera went about tying the man's hands and feet in knots bound to the pole. Then they proceeded to roll him over and see if they could comb him for some answers. The doctor, or whatever he was, seemed out of it still. How could you coerce a semi-lucid person to reveal the location of their base? Maybe with a bit of kindness first, then a harder approach if necessary.

"Let me see if I can get something out of him. I'll try talking about his flock and see if he gives any clues."

"You don't want to grill the lad, he's almost about go," Tilo watched the dying man stumbling in and out of consciousness, it was the second of this kind of encounter.

Tilo was again reminded of William the other day, just thinking about it gave him a headache. The emotional burden of one man was enough, to learn more about this man felt like reaching a critical mass.

"Just a few questions, then we can start heading back." Kiera strode over to the Dr. and crouched down, she had to lean in close to hear his wavering voice. Probably it would just be more rhymes, but maybe some of what he said would prove useful.

"They need...they need me," delirium shook him.

"Who?" the pair asked him.

"I don't have much time, I need to...to..."

"To what?" Tilo asked, the lack of concreteness in his words puzzled them.

"I need to get to them before...before..."

"Before? Before what? Hey!" Kiera tugged at his shoulder when he finally passed out.

"You're right, he's just spewing more nonsense. Let's start heading back to Haven before it gets much later. How should we carry him and the bike?" She asked her Scav partner.

Tilo looked at the man strapped to the pole and the bike painted with blood. He tried to think of a way that they could carry while wheeling the back home.

"Monroe, this is Tilo, are you there?"

The gruff man's voice buzzed through the walkie talkie, "Yeah what is it?"

-------

Tilo led the way, his shoulder supported the pole which he gripped with his left hand. His right hand was free to push the bike along, while Kiera pulled up the rear holding the weight of the pole on her end with both her hands. The added weight of the man made their return trip considerably slower. They kept the man's head inside of a drawstring bag that they tightened at the neck. They kept their conversation to a minimum because at any moment they were waiting for the growl that meant the man had become one of them. The pair tried to keep their eyes on the surrounding woods, always cautious of any ambush by zed or otherwise.

Kiera's shoulder was excruciatingly painful from walking with the pole, each bounce and shift exacting an additional dose of pain. Taking one step at a time, trying to breath through the worst of it. Then, a sudden spasm from the trussed up doctor nearly yanked the pole from her hands. He jerked violently twice more then hung limp. Her heartbeat sped up, this was the time. When he passed from the world of the living to whatever state the Walkers could be called. She held her breath, dreading the sounds he would likely be making for the rest of the trip. She locked eyes with Tilo across the length of the pole. One of her eyebrows raised in question.

"I think this might be it. Do you think the bindings will hold? He's probably going to rise as a very strong Runner." She asked the question while taking nervous glances at the man strung between them.

Tilo felt it as well, the man began to twitch and jerk. His covered head began to convulse and a bit of moaning was heard. A final cry of humanity tried to escape from his mouth but died in his throat. They could hear his teeth gnashing and his incisors trying to bite at the air. His fingers bent in an awkward manner as if they tried to break free from his skin, which had by then began to turn an inhuman color. Secretly though, Tilo felt a bit of remorse in the way they used this man. His fate was his own though, he would eventually turn and then be offed by the living. Maybe they were putting him to better use in finding a cure. And perhaps all of the twitching, the tics, and the jerks were actually just part of the animal inside Tilo. The animal that no longer had guilt or sympathy. Then he wondered, what had this man actually done to earn his sympathy, or lack of, for that matter. He was simply another human being. Tilo felt like giving him a couple of rites, but the time to do so had long passed.

The unnatural sounds and movements coming from their captive really put the situation in perspective. While the pain from her blister and shoulder were quite intense, that was nothing compared to being a hands length from something that has a desire to kill and consume you with brutal savagery. Kiera vowed to keep this lesson in mind when she felt the responsibility and hardships of survival beginning to weigh on her. This could happen to her or anyone at Haven, unless they stayed vigilant.

It was significantly harder to hold the pole now that a Walker was strung across it. First she had been grateful to be on the end where she could keep an eye on him, but now every creak and sway tested her nerves, the fingers never ceasing to bend and claw for the two meals that remained just out of reach. One particularly strong swing caused something to tumble from the Doctor's white coat pocket. A small human hand lay in the feathery snow. Stifling a scream of horror, Kiera straddled the appendage as it passed beneath her. Why was there a hand in his pocket? She tried to think of a plausible explanation for it, but nothing came to mind. She immediately wanted to tell Tilo about the discovery, by sharing the burden of it, maybe it would lose some of its horror. Something stopped her though. Maybe it was a look in Tilo's eyes that hinted the depth of what he had lost during the collapse of society, the kindness that he had shown to her throughout the day. No, she would carry the burden of this revelation. Or rather revelations; three more severed hands fell from the pockets before they were finally empty.

After traveling awhile, Tilo had drown himself in his thoughts. Their marching pace only furthered his daydreaming regardless of the walker that hung from the pole like a roasted pig and snarled like an alligator. They were carrying a man who had turned, the wrenching sounds that the man made with his mouth made his blood curdle slightly and his sweat cold. The pole felt as if it was ready to slip from his hands. The snarls and growls happened every couple of minutes accompanied by rough snifffing and some tugging on the pole by the stiff. Tilo just tried to ignore it all, concentrating on the road home.

Time seemed to pass slowly during the journey back especially for Kiera, when it wasn't her shoulder, blister, thirst, hunger, or the walker that was on her mind, she spent staring at the back of Tilo's head. More than once a rogue thought about the former professor had illegally jaywalked through the regular flow of her thoughts. Something to explore in the future, figuring out how to escape the friend-zone would be step number one. While Kiera was busy running mock scenarios about Tilo, she suddenly spotted movement in the nearby trees.

Thankfully it was not a Walker or another person, but some sort of animal by the looks of it. A dog she realized with surprise, from her current distance it was impossible to tell the breed, only that it was brown, medium-sized and wearing a blue collar. She also thought the dog might be carrying something in its jaws. Kiera tried to grab the binoculars from the backpack in order to see better, but they remained stubbornly out of reach. Besides, all the time spent reaching and stretching the dog had fully disappeared back into the trees. Almost making her doubt the dog's appearance at all.

------

Evening, the sun began to dip down on the horizon, and the sky shaded itself blue. The gate of Haven was a welcome sight from a daylong trek. The body still struggled within the blindness of the drawstring bag drawn over the man's head. By now the wound had decayed like the rest of the man's skin, it had turned from red to a numbing black and purple. The ripped pieces of flesh surrounding the neck wound dangled like peeled skin or torn sheets, the blood had dried onto the bag itself.

They took the hogtied zombie around to the south building, where Dr. Sharma and his device were nowhere to be found.

As they laid the pole down with the zombie flat on its stomach, the doctor appeared from the building with a cup of ramen and a fork in his hands. His mouth fell agape.

"What the hell took you so long?"

After the zombie had been secured by Dr. Sharma, the pair headed to the farmhouse to return their gear and report in. As they walked Kiera tried to figure out how to broach the subject that weighed on her mind. Once she brought it up, she knew there was no taking it back. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it just as quickly, later she promised herself.

In the command post, Monroe sat with his feet on an old wooden desk. An alert and intense expression on his face, despite the lateness of the hour.

"So, you two finally made it back. I was beginning to wonder if you'd be spending the night out there." He said gruffly as he expertly checked the gear for damage.

"It took a bit longer than we expected, but we found one that was in pretty good condition." Kiera answered quickly to explain their tardiness.

"Anything else to report?"

"No sir." Kiera replied.

Turning to face Tilo, she couldn't tell how he felt about the lie, but he kept quiet and didn't contradict her. Once Monroe was satisfied that everything was in order he sent the two Scavs off to their rooms. The pair stood in the hallway, the events of the day stretching between them. What the hell! Kiera thought, going for the full hug. She held the gesture a bit longer than necessary, but not uncomfortably so. Tilo felt a bit uncomfortable when she wrapped her arms around him. The day must have been tough on her, he returned the hug only lightly because he himself was tired.

"Sleep well." She said while stifling a yawn.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
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Mission Impossible
Collaboration with Selene Durlan

Waking Bad
Stiff and sore would be a major understatement for how Kiera's injured shoulder currently felt. Rest had not helped to relieve the constant ache that pulsed down her arm in waves, a small mercy at least was that her blister seemed to be healing well, which meant no more awkward hoping around on one foot for her. Really Kiera should have allowed Dr. Short to take at look and make sure nothing was permanetly damaged from her tumble down the hill. But with the recent deaths and the appearance of a critically injured pilot, Kira would have felt guilty for taking up the doctor's time for a relatively minor injury, so she was determined to grin and bare it for the time being.

Why did the Apocalypse have to happen in Winter? Kiera thought wryly. Why couldn't it have been Spring? Taking a quick leap from her warm comfortable nest, Kiera rapidly tossed on a thick sweater, hat, gloves, sweatpants and boots before even thinking about braving the cold weather just outside the Farmhouse door. Halfway out the door, she suddenly remembered her stash hidden beneath the floorboards in her room. Kiera had been rationing the pills for a while now, but eventually they would run out and then there would be a problem. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that and an upcoming mission would provide an opportunity for Kiera to replenish her dwindling supplies.

Once Kiera felt suitably clothed she headed out to the job board. With the other jobs taken, the only one that remained was another mission for the reclusive professor that spent most of his time scribbling on walls and scaps of paper if the rumors were to be believed. Kiera really hoped it wouldn't involve any more contact with live Walkers, she still felt unsettled after her last encounter and would prefer not to repeat such an event.

"Edinburgh, I wonder how far that is." Kiera wondered aloud, her breath forming small clouds in the early dawn's chilled air. In times past, she would have clung to sleeping in even for a few minutes longer, but now the early risings felt natural and even enjoyable to Rookie Scavenger. Kiera attempted to rack her brain, trying to think of who might be available to accompany her on this task. Finally the answer presented itself, though she had doubts if it was really the best idea. Laney had been recovering ever since her disasterous last mission where two of Haven's recently aquired allies and a fellow Scav, Toby had lost their lives. Laney had suffered an injury to her hand and who knows what kind of emotional trauma from the experience. Maybe she would welcome a chance to "get back on the horse" so to speak and start to put the mistakes of the past behind her.

Kiera approached Laney's room with caution, unsure if she was about to awaken a slumbering wolverine. She entered the room and called out to the sleeping figure, eventually able to rouse the snoozing Laney, though she gave Kiera an aggravated look. Which was actually understandable, given the fact that they hardly knew each other if at all and Kiera had just invited herself into Laney's room without asking permission first. Cringing mentally, she needed to turn this first encounter around or this first impression might hang between them like rotting meat.

"Hi, sorry I barged in like that, I should have knocked before entering." Kiera said guiltily. "I'm Kiera by the way and I believe your name is Laney. I've never met a celebrity in person before, I guess I should have brought something for you to sign." She said with a smile in an attempt to brighten the mood as Laney propped herself up on her elbows, her face screwed up in displeasure at being woken. It was probably best to leave certain topics alone while in Laney's presence or at least until Kiera had a better grasp of what type of person this former actress really was. Kiera decided to press on with the interaction. "There was a job posting on the board today, I know you're still recovering, but it is more of a team job rather than a lone wolf one. Would you be interested?" Realizing she had left out any details about what the mission entailed Kiera hastily glanced to the paper and summarized the first few parts of it. "We're supposed to travel to Edinburgh, to the Ros-"

'Edinburgh? Gimme that.' Still scowling, Laney snatched the job list from Kiera's hand and peered at Dr Rishi's tiny, neat script. That was a bit rude. Kiera said to herself while she waited for Laney to read the description of the mission herself.

'Edinburgh's hundreds of miles from here.'

What? Kiera's eyebrows shot up in surprise, Traveling hundreds of miles in a heavily populated Walker territory, that would be crazy!

Her frown deepened as she scanned the job. 'Watson... outbuilding... perceptive capabilities of the reanimated...' Laney stared at Kiera. 'Man in the outbuilding? Does this mean what I think it means?'

Kiera shrugged her shoulders, "I don't know what he does with his time."

Laney held her tongue at the American's answer, and returned to the notice. 'Dangerous substances... apocalyptic disease... combust the entire...' She couldn't hold it in any longer. 'Combust the fucking facility with us inside it?' she shouted. 'What the fuck? Have you actually read this shit?'

Slowly it was beginning to dawn on Kiera that maybe this had been a bad idea to wake Laney. From the colorful language she was currently using, it was obvious this task was not a great idea according to Laney. "Well I-" Kiera tried replying, but Laney continued with her line of questioning without pause.

'And you're okay with this? Heading out like happy fucking campers for a city crawling with Zeds, hundreds of miles away, to pick up deadly fucking poison and bring it back here? And if we spill any we have to set ourselves on fucking fire?!' She balled up the piece of paper and hurled it across the room. The lightweight missile bounced unsatisfyingly against the wall. Laney had wanted it to smash, to destroy the wall, anything to reflect the anger that seethed inside her. Monroe was dead, Toby was dead, Ben was as good as dead, and this pampered Indian doctor, who had yet to set foot outside the safety of Haven, wanted her and this American to go on some suicide mission. And that wasn't all...

'Does this guy seriously have a live zombie in Haven?'

"Listen, I'm not happy with the situation either, but we are both Scavengers for Haven and it is our job to go out there and do whatever is necessary to ensure this small farm continues to exist. If that means treking a long distance for something, then so be it. And yes there is a Zombie in Haven, Tilo and I risked life and limb by going out and managing to capture a live one. I do not want to see all that hard work go to waste by us not at least giving this mission a shot. At least it will give you something to stay busy with." Kiera felt commited to seeing this through to the end, one way or another she was getting Laney out of that bed and into a better mindset.

Laney heaved herself off the bunk, rolling her eyes. She saw the bunk opposite her was empty. 'There's something I gotta do first. Stay busy.' Kiera left as Laney dragged on warm layers of clothes, hampered by her splinted right hand.

Breaking Bad
She eventually found Callie out by the chicken coop, standing alone in the half-light of dawn, wobbling the imperfect workmanship. Laney recalled who built them, who'd given the chickens such stupid names. Nasri was the only one she could remember. She hoped she wouldn't forget humans' names so quickly.

Now that Monroe was gone, Kiera had to find the right equiptment herself. Eventually after several tries she was able to successfully assemble both packs, though Kiera hoped they wouldn't need to use the fireworks or flares. Stringing a pair of binoculars around her neck, she did a final gear check before walking to the Farmhouse door. Laney was still speaking with Callie, so Kiera leaned against the door frame while she patiently waited for them to finish.

'I'm sorry, Callie,' Laney whispered. It felt so inadequete, and a hot wave of shame rolled through her. She put a hand on Callie's shoulder, felt how slender she was. Laney realised the former schoolteacher wasn't a lot older than her, in the grand scheme of things. There'd never been the slightest hint of a physical relationship, but Callie and Monroe's friendship, strange though the pairing was, had been obvious. She wondered if Callie had come to respect the short-tempered soldier by the same route Laney had. She wondered if he'd given her a nickname like the rest of the Scavs?

'It's how he would have...' She couldn't finish the phrase, it seemed such a hollow sentiment. How could Laney know how Monroe had wanted to go? Really, she'd barely known him. 'We won't forget him, okay?'

Callie simply nodded, her back still to Laney. The resignation Toby displayed in her final moments sprang to mind, the perfect balance of weakness and bravery, and Laney struggled to push from her mind the thought that every single one of them was doomed.

She turned to find Kiera watching from the door of the farmhouse. 'Come on then, what's the plan? Got everything we need?'

Handing a pack to Laney, Kiera began to lay out the plan. 'I think we should stay away from Cromwell, you know how dangerous it is. So maybe the Jones farm, where Toby found gas - sorry, I should say petrol now, shouldn't I? The Jones farm, where Toby found petrol -' she gave Laney a wan smile '- is the best place for finding a vehicle.' She kept it simple, not wanting to draw more scorn from her current companion.

Laney half-listened, not objecting - yet. It all hinged on finding a vehicle, then on finding one with enough petrol to get them to and from Edinburgh. If that unlikely eventuality came to pass, she'd speak out then. She hefted her share of the equipment awkwardly with her left hand and followed Kiera down the road. Her right hand ached in the cold. The snow that had fallen in the last couple of days had settled in, reinforced by a typical British winter day. Grey clouds hung heavily over the hills of the Lake District, obscuring the higher peaks. It hardly seemed as if the sun had risen at all. Cold gusts of wind blew the damp inside the girls' protective layers. After half a mile in silence, Laney realised her reluctance for the mission was making her surly.

'So, um... Where in the States you from?'

Taken by surprise at Laney's sudden interest in talking, Kiera was unsure of how to respond at first, as she still felt wary after witnessing the woman's earlier outburst. "I'm from Colorado. It's about in the middle and has the shape of a square."

'Colorado? Yeah, you're gonna... I mean, over here we know about New York and California and not much else.' She shrugged. 'Whatever's on TV. I mean, everyone was an expert about Albuquerque all of a sudden, back in the old world...'

"Well I can't say I would be much better at identifying the geography of Europe unfortunately." She replied with a short laugh.

'You know Breaking Bad though?'

"I know about that show. I didn't know it was broadcasted to other countries." Maybe this mission wouldn't turn out so bad after all, Kiera had just found a common interest with the former pop-star.

'Yeah, did you watch it? I wonder how that was gonna end."

"You bet, every Sunday evening I was glued to the tube. Me too, I always envisioned Walt getting away scott free, though that's probably not how it ended." Kiera said with a small sigh. "I guess we won't know how a lot of things turned out."

"True that. Hey, you know what I'd love?'

"I would personally love to eat a funnel cake again, dusted with plenty of powdered sugar."

'Yeah?' 'I'd love just to order a pizza and watch TV. Smoke a couple of joints and veg out. Weird, huh?'

Kiera mentally paused for a moment while she tried to remember what type of drug a joint was. "Whatever works, I guess." Kira replied while looking away, talking about drugs made her uncomfortable especially since collecting supplies for Dr. Rishi wasn't the only reason she was keen to get to Edinburgh.

Laney watched her turn away. She didn't feel like she was getting through. Maybe she'd been a bit too upfront about her party lifestyle. she'd forgotten Americans could be a bit staight-laced. How come so many teachers had made it to Haven anyway? First Callie, then Tilo, now this subdued maths teacher. Hell, even Monroe had been a teacher at heart. She remembered his praise for her at his military lessons and smiled, then recalled how poor a shot she'd been with the rifle, and the outcome of that failure, and fell quiet again. Fuck making an effort.

The silence prevailed until the road began to climb towards the crest of a hill, then a low groaning reached their ears. As they approached the top, the noise amplified and seemed to come in stereo. Kiera and Laney stopped at the top of the hill. Half a mile ahead stood the smoking ruins of the Jones farm. Around it, and dispersed throughout the farmyard, milled more zombies than they could count. The thick press of creatures had spilled out across the road and down the hill. The women scampered back into cover, shocked at the numbers massed in front of them.

'It's gonna take a long way to get round this lot,' Laney whispered eventually. 'I think we should get back to Haven.'
'What about Edinburgh?' Kiera hissed. 'What about the stuff for Dr Rishi?'

'Look, we're two steps outside our front door and there's a hundred Zeds. How many more do you think we'll see before we get to Edinburgh? How many do you think are in Edinburgh? I don't know if you were near any cities when the old world went to shit, Kiera, but you gotta know that's where you find them most.'

'So that's it? You're not even going to try?' She could feel her chance slipping away. Had she really thought the unpredictable former celebrity would be the one to help her? Pretty soon she would be forced into more drastic action.

Laney caught the pleading tone in Kiera's voice, but pushed it to the back of her mind, angered by the second suggestion of the day that she wasn't committed to Haven. She'd never say others hadn't done more, and she'd never forget the ones who'd paid the ultimate price, but she knew damn well she wasn't going the same way as Monroe, Ben or Toby just because this brainbox American wanted to suck up to the rest of what represented Haven's intellectual cadre.

'Haven't you been listening to me, White Bread? Hundreds of miles, millions of Zeds. And that's not all.' She took a theatrical look at the hills around them. 'That gang that got the Caravanners is still out there, and there'll be a lot more like that, and worse.'

'I can't believe this,' Kiera snapped back, struggling to keep her voice down. 'Are you giving up on us, on Haven? It doesn't work if we just sit there waiting for the zombies to finish us off. At least Dr Rishi is trying to do something. Monroe and Callie were trying to do something. I'm starting to think you didn't even want to come on this mission!'

'You know what? You're right! I never wanted to go with you,' Laney spat. 'Don't you think it should be the army or the government or whoever else official is still out there should be the ones dealing with anthrax and a cure and all this heavy science shit? Instead of some guy - one guy - in a shed on a farm? Don't you think "just outside Edinburgh" is a bit vague? I mean, Ben and Hoppy went looking just outside Cromwell, and only one of them came back, and all they were looking for was a fucking truck!'

As Laney's voice rose, Kiera peered over the crest of the hill. Peering through the binoculars, it looked like a couple of zombies' heads had turned in their direction, though none made a move just yet.

'Laney, keep it down,' she hissed, gesturing towards the horde around the ruins of the Jones farm.

'Fine. Fuck you, fuck this mission and especially fuck Dr Rishi. I'm going back home and put an end to his fucking science experiment before someone else gets fucking bitten.'

Taking It Badly
Laney turned on her heels and began striding back to Haven, her fingers playing across the grips of the hatchet she'd taken from Toby. Though she'd had a head-start, and she was normally fit and strong, the after-effects of the fever had weakened her, and Kiera caught up with her easily before they reached the gate to Haven. Laney scanned the farm's outbuildings.

'Which one is it?' she demanded, pointing with her hatchet.

'What are you going to do?' asked Kiera.

'I told you, White Bread. I'm going to smash its head in. Then Rishi's.' Laney stomped towards one of the outhouses.

'But he needs it!' Kiera responded, hurrying close behind. 'He's working on a cure or something.'

'A cure? You for real, girl?' Laney spun round abruptly, bringing her face to face with Kiera. 'He's working on a cure in a fucking shed?'

The American returned the Englishwoman's stare. Although she normally avoived confrontation, Kiera was beginning to feel like Laney had been unfairly blaming her all day for the troubles that had befallen Haven and its inhabitants. Annoyance at the way she was being treated began to well up inside her, a secret rebellious voice. She followed as Laney peered in the window of one of the outhouses.

The outhouse contained tools, lengths of wood, and other building materials, but the windows of the building behind it were blocked out with black plastic bags. A padlock held the door shut. 'What's behind door number 2,' Laney muttered, drawing Toby's hatchet from her belt. Unused to swinging with her left hand, and unused to the different length and weight of this weapon, Laney's strike skittered weakly off the lock and jarred her arm.

'Laney, stop it!'

Two more blows in quick succession found their mark more accurately, but still were too weak. Cursing in frustration, Laney shouldered past Kiera and smashed one of the windows with the back of the hatchet. The sharp smash of shattering glass was almost immediately followed by a muffled growling from within the outhouse. Laney ripped away the black plastic and peered into the gloom. Despite Kiera's story, she hadn't quite been able to believe someone would keep a live zombie on the farm, but there, strapped to a chair by arms, legs and neck, was a savagely writhing figure. The drawstring bag over its head couldn't disguise its hungry lunges.

'Laney!' Kiera grabbed her by the shoulder, tried to turn her away from the window, to face her. She felt her pulse jump at the prospect of physical confrontation.

Laney shrugged off her grasp with a flick of her arm, at the same time wriggling the backpack off her back. 'Get the fuck off, White Bread!' she snarled. For Monroe, for Toby, for Ben, the captured zombie had to die.

'Hey! What is happening over there?' came a call from the farmhouse itself. The sound of smashing glass had brought Dr Rishi out.

Laney dropped her hatchet, reached inside the backpack and drew out a flaregun. 'I'm gonna blow this fucker's head off.' She leant in the window and aimed, recalling all the time she'd spent at the gun range with her father. It was only a distance of feet. Even firing left-handed, she was confident of ending this threat to Haven's safety. Suddenly she was flung backwards onto the cold, wet ground, and cried out as her injured fingers instinctively tried to break her fall.

Kiera stood over Laney, shocked at herself. 'You can't...'

The pain from her fingers and the humiliation of her tumble soaked through Laney just as the mud soaked into her back. Tears of self-pity filled her eyes as she slowly picked herself up. Just then, Dr Rishi arrived at the outhouse.

'What are you girls doing here?' he cried, puzzled rather than angry. 'Why aren't you going to the Roslin Institute?'

From her half-crouched position, Laney barrelled into Dr Rishi at the waist, knocking him to the ground. All the complaints she'd made to Kiera about the mission, about the unfairness of Dr Rishi, all of her pain at the loss of Monroe, Toby and Ben, burst out in an incoherent roar. She stood over him, brandishing the flare gun, her teeth bared. Mud dripped from her hair and tears from her eyes as seconds ticked by and she stared through Dr Rishi's askew glasses. Once again she recalled the bravery, the nobility almost, of Toby's last minutes. There was nothing but fear in this man's eyes.

Kiera could feel herself holding her breath. Tempermental and distraught the former star might be, but surely she wasn't going to kill one of Haven's leaders? She was on the balls of her feet, ready to throw Laney to the ground again, but scared her intervention might trigger the flare gun.

'Laney!' The voice calling from the farmhouse was cracked and tired, but still strong. It was a voice Laney had feared she would never hear again. She flung the flare gun to one side and rushed to the farmhouse.

Kiera watched her go, then knelt down to Dr Rishi. 'Doctor, I'm so sorry about that. Are you okay?' The mission had gone badly to say the least and now she was left to explain the reason for the failure as Laney stopped suddenly in front of Ben. She looked at his bandaged hand, the dark hollows around his eyes.

'What happened?'

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
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November 4th through to November 6th

Things were going swimmingly, even with the limited equipment Rishi had. Once Watson was secured, Rishi went about tailoring the surrounding with plastic bags and paper and staples to further isolate the room from its surroundings. Great care was taken so that the room could be completely blacked out if need be, and footsteps muffled out. Rishi’s adrenaline was rushing through his system, keeping him awake for longer than normal. The idea that he could be helping, contributing to the situation in some way gave him solace, and gave him excitement he hasn’t experienced since before the outbreak.

The tests were fairly simple, and they could be crucial in the creation of a guidebook or manual. Every bit of information he could garner about the subjects would be useful. It was unfortunate that he didn’t have the appropriate facilities or test groups to be able to come up with solid results, be he worked with what he had. The first thing Rishi did was leave Watson alone once the room was properly set-up. He would leave for an hour to write up several hypotheses, and return to see if the subject ceased its writhing. It could be different from subject to subject, but it would give Rishi a starting point to work with. Seeing that Watson was completely still after he returned, he lightly brushed the Watson’s left arm to see if it would elicit a response. Strangely enough, it didn’t begin writhing violently as Rishi had suspected, but it did turn its head to the direction of the touch. It looked as if it were trying to move its body to investigate the touch. It didn’t even vocalize as much as he thought it would.

That was new.

Rishi waited and watched quietly for a full twenty-two minutes before Watson began to regress into a more apathetic state. Rishi waited for a full half-hour before it returned to its apathetic state, and repeated the procedure on its opposite arm. Watson imitated its response again, but instead of calming down in twenty-two minutes, it took nearly a full hour for it to return to its vegetative state. Rishi brushed its left arm once more, in the same place as before, with the same pressure as before, and Watson once again attempted to move its body towards the feeling. Watsons activity continued for slightly over an hour, and once it had calmed down, and Rishi had repeated the procedure again on its opposite arm, it’s vocalizations became slightly louder, and it took nearly an hour and a half for it to calm down.

Interesting. There is an increase in time length of activity every time I graze its arm. It’s not aggressively pursuing interest though…Its sense of touch remains intact. The fact that it isn’t trying to engage in violent actions might be some sort of mechanism to store energy. That could mean it is able to differentiate between its target and its surroundings. Though it is likely that executive functions are absent, its actions are reminiscent of more instinctual patterns found in earlier organisms. Parietal lobe is functioning…It has a functioning brain, which means it’s getting the required fuel. Drawing breath is necessary…But…how does that explain the reanimations? Potential electro-chemical reactions brought on by the contagion itself is plausible, but that would require blood flow. Perhaps transmission vectors are different than expected? Hmm...I’ll put that aside for now.

Dr. Rishi moved onto the next part of his test, and physically grabbed Watson’s left arm. This immediately drew its full attention, and Watson began writhing aggressively and moaning loudly. Rishi let go of its arm and waited for it to calm down. Instead of regressing back into full vegetation, it gradually calmed down into its apparent ‘search mode’ after a half hour of struggling, and an hour and a half after that it completely regressed back into its vegetative state. Rishi repeated the procedure on its opposite arm and garnered a similar response, with the writhing and the searching lasting only slightly longer than previous. Dr. Rishi collected himself and withdrew into the main building to refresh himself with some water and a couple eggs. He pondered over the results as he took his time eating.

So it is able to clearly differentiate between being grabbed and simply brushing by an object. The time difference suggests that its amygdala could be putting it on higher alert the more sensory information it receives. One rustle in the bushes is something to investigate, but two rustles isn’t a coincidence. It does retain some sense of predation, basic instinctual concepts. So far, as a whole, they seem to lack idea of self-preservation, and only seem to act on some morbid sense of hunger…This seems very reminiscent of parasites. Ophiocordyceps, Paradoxum, Sacculina, these are all parasites that take control of the host’s cognitive functions in order for it to complete its lifecycle…But, where is the cycle? Maybe this isn’t parasitic…

He continued his musings all the way back out to the outbuilding, and once again quietly slipped into the room with Watson, careful not to disturb it. With him, Rishi brought his sewing needle. His next test was to determine its ability to sense pain. He quickly pricked its left forearm, and it brought Watson to its investigative state. Dr. Rishi continued through most of the night repeating the procedure in different parts of Watson’s anatomy, and it drew nearly identical responses.

Quite intriguing. Watson, and likely the rest of the reanimated population are unable to sense pain, though they are clearly aware of touch and pressure. There must be damage to that part of the brain…but if it is consistent with every subject, then that clearly shows that there is some sort of intentional re-wiring that happens after death…no, that may not be correct. Based on the reports, people expire after being bitten at different rates…this could mean that there is some sort of catalyst in the saliva that sets off the chain of events…The rewiring happens as the person is dying, which would explain the vastly different rates of expiration and reanimation. Since every brain is different based on personal experiences, the contagion would have to work through more or less connections. If what I’m thinking is true, then that means not only does body mass and heart conditions affect the rate of degradation and alteration, but also how many neural connections the subject has. Essentially, people who are generally more intelligent may take longer to turn than others, which would explain why the athletes tend to last longer than their obese counterparts…

Dr. Rishi retired for the night, content with his results. After approximately four hours of sleep, he was up again, ready to complete more tests. He moved onto testing its thermoception, and placed a lit candle underneath its hand. It didn’t move its hand away, even as its flesh began to cook. In fact, it even began to lean towards the heat, shifting its body weight towards the warmth.

You are just full of surprises aren’t you? Its sense of temperature seems to be intact, though I have a suspicion that is simply in order to find body heat of its currently living counterparts. Watson is also slightly cooler to the touch than I am, though that could just be because of the environment. Attracted to heat, attracted to feelings, but you only react violently towards something recognizably human, at least, from what I gather…

Dr. Rishi pulled the candle away after searing part of Watsons hand, and it seemed to fall back into its normal vegetative state almost immediately. Rishi waited for fifteen minutes, weighing his options, before going back to test a new hypothesis. He once again grabbed one of Watsons arms, and it immediately began to move to attack Rishi. Instead of pulling away, Rishi held onto its arm. He held its arm for a full hour before letting go, noting the lack of change in Watson’s behaviour.

Confirmed. Watson is capable of discerning my human nature, though I’m still not entirely sure how. It could be a combination of factors, but regardless, it can tell the difference between the clasps on its wrists and my own hand. This is very disturbing…

Instead of waiting for Watson to calm down, Rishi took the bag off its head and unwrapped the duct tape around its nose, unplugged its nostrils, and put the bag back over its head. He left the room and returned several hours later to a dormant Watson. He made his way into the corner of the room, and sat for approximately half an hour before Watson became active. It went into its search mode, unclear of which direction it should be heading, and after fifteen minutes of whipping its head in multiple directions, it eventually focused its attention in Rishi’s corner of the room, and began writhing. Rishi sat there for nearly two hours, and placed the plugs back into Watson’s nostrils, and left the room with more thoughts to ponder.

Sense of smell is acute. It’s able to smell my presence, and it doesn’t seem to adapt to my scent, which means my smell in particular is its main focus. Lack of sensory adaptation, as well as sensory amplification indicates a very strong change in perception of smell. Could it be because of a change in olfactory sensory neurons, or another change in the brain itself? Memory retention of smell and forms of humans is remarkable, though this could be a by-product of some sort of neural pruning…The lack of regression in terms of aggressive behaviour when in contact with a living human suggests that its ability to adapt to new circumstances may be hindered…maybe its ability to form new memories is non-existent…Too many variables to look into at this point as far as that is concerned…

He left the outbuilding to make himself some breakfast, and jotted down some point form notes from his observations.

• Three stages of awareness: Dormant, Searching, and Attacking.
• Feels no pain.
• Is able to differentiate people from objects, as far as touch and smell go.
• Enhanced sense of smell.
• Incapable of turning away from obvious human presence.
• Goes dormant with lack of stimulation within two to three hours
• Rate of change from living to reanimated could be partially determined by neural pathways.

Once he finished his breakfast, he left his notes on the table. When he came closer to the outbuilding, he hear the voices of a couple women. Why was there anybody else in the outbuilding? It sounded like the girl he met earlier and another familiar voice which he could not put a face to.

“What are you girls doing here? Why aren’t you going to the Roslin institute?” Those words landed him on his back with the dark skinned woman on top of him threatening him with a flare gun. Rishi nearly shat his pants when she pointed the weapon at him, and rightly so. Luckily for him, she threw the weapon aside and flew away in another direction shortly after. “Phew.”

After getting to his feet, he had a few questions for Kiera about the events that had conspired while Rishi was busy in the outbuilding.


November 8th

It was jarring, to say the least. Even without the events of the deaths and torture of the people of Haven, and the refusal of anybody to go on the Roslin mission, Rishi was experiencing feelings of dread. After going over several dozen more tests with Watson, he came to the conclusion that whatever it was that had decided to bring it back to life had repurposed it entirely for one mission: to spread. It may have been painfully obvious to most people that of course it would spread, but the difficulty wasn’t in the what’s. It was never with the what’s. It was in the why’s, and that was Dr. Rishi’s speciality. Why was that its mission? Why go through that process? Why go through all the work of jumpstarting a host back to life, or semblance of? Something of the level of complexity shown in the whole process would take generations and generations of evolution to come to be. There was absolutely no indication of the contagion to have evolved from anything remotely resembling anything analogous to any other human affecting contagion. Even in cross species contamination, there were no contagions that even closely resemble what was present in Watson’s case. That meant it was more than likely engineered. For what purpose remains unclear, but that hardly mattered. But that meant if it was engineered, there would be an origin source, and if Rishi were able to locate the original sample…

Of course, that was just a pipe dream. There was no way he could find it. He was more likely to be struck by lightning. Regardless, Dr. Rishi has gained valuable information based on his tests that he was working into turning into a sort of ‘zombie guidebook’ for the Scav’s to use as a reference when dealing with the undead. Of course, there was only one copy at the moment, but left it out on the table by the job board for the Scav’s to peruse at their leisure while he compiled more notes. In it contained rudimentary notes and observations regarding the entire spectrum of the undead's sensory perception, as well as behaviour patterns and likely timelines for turning into one of them, based off of level of fitness, proximity of bite wounds to major blood vessels, physical make-up, and level of brain activity.


Job

Recording

Suggested number of Scavs – x

Area – Cromwell/any farmhouse along the way.

Objective – find devices capable of recording video, and record your surroundings on your way back to Haven.

Information – Understandably, there seems to be a lack of interest in travelling towards Edinburgh. Of course, the Roslin institute is the closest facility I am aware of to our current location, which for the time being, makes it inconvenient. The results of my baseline tests on Watson have revealed quite a number of surprising facts, which I have detailed in the pages of the ‘book’ nearby for your benefit. While I’m sure you are well acquainted with a large portion of the material covered, there are a few portions which you should read over, as I have gleaned some new information from the man in the outbuilding.

As for the mission at hand, it certainly sounds like a simple task. No doubt there are still piles of working batteries lying around, and any cellular device works wonders. The small electronics shop or the pawn shop in Cromwell will no doubt still have a decent supply of working camera’s, batteries, and memory cards available, if most people’s priorities remained reasonably intact. Gather as many as you can to bring back to Haven, and if possible, several laptops as well.

What I require is for you to take these cameras with you wherever you go. It will be unnecessary to record absolutely everything you do, but from this point forward, you should carry a recording device of sorts with you. Aside from the obvious properties of capturing evidence, depending on the device, you could create a reliable distraction for the undead or even living people, which may come in handy in certain situations.

That’s all for now.

Rishi

Characters Present

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

Collaboration with Selene Durlan and Rann

Part One: The Americans

November 10th, 2013

Before Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two: Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anything useful?" She asked curiously.

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

"Useful stuff indeed. Especially the flares."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Three: Hoppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Four: Into Kendal

Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

"One of those things wandered into the road."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben didn't really want to think about it.

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

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

One step at a time.

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

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

Part Five: The Longest Mile

Mid-Morning

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

"I heard something."

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

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

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

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

"Run. Now!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe. Move. Breathe and move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Six: Getting Worse

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

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

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

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

So they waited.

Part Seven: Westmorland Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he realized...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Jay, huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

It went silent again as he read over the list.

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

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

Jay nodded.

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

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

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

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

"Right," came Jay's reply.

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

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

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

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

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

Part Eight: Down the Hall

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

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

It would have been bad.

Part Nine: Jay and Kiera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was a rather quick topic change.

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

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

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

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

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

Part Ten: Medicine

Late Morning

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

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

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

The flares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Prenatal' it read on it.

God damn it. There were just reminders everywhere.

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

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

Then he heard a scream.

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

No. No. No.

If something had happened to Kiera--

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

Not that way.

Now he had two groups after him.

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

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

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

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

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

"Kiera! Jay! Where are you?"

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

Where the hell did they go?

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

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

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

To Ben's relief, another voice sounded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Take us there."

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

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

The paramedic looked between Ben and Kiera hopefully.

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

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

Part Eleven: On the Brink

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

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

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

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

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

Part Twelve: Urgency

Early Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We're on our way back."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How is she?" Ben asked.

"She'll live."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She's coming."

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

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma Character Portrait: Alison Carter
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#, as written by Bosch
November 10th. 2013

Haven.

Early afternoon


Carter was getting sick of being off her feet the entire time and had taken to pacing the kitchen as a way to keep active. She was standing by the window when a flake of snow impacted on the pane. She looked up and saw the clouds had turned a light grey but she knew better.

“There’s a white out coming.”

“How can you tell?” Callie asked from the table.”

“My office was the sky. Trust me.” Carter answered.

A silence fell between the two for a few moments before Carter spoke again.

“The colonials are back... and they brought a friend.”

Callie’s chair screeched on the tile floor as she pushed it back and raced to meet them. By the time she arrived at Doctor Short’s medical bay the doctor was already working on Hoppy.

Callie went back outside where she met with Ben, Kiera and the new arrival.

“So I take it this guy is trust worthy?”

Ben shrugged so it fell to Kiera to speak0. “He helped us get the things Hoppy needed. He’s an EMT.”

“You’re a Paramedic?”

“Yep. Name’s Jay I...”

“I don’t care right now. We have a wounded girl in there. Go and see if you can help Doctor Short.”

"Yeah before I do though there's a dead woman in the back of the car."

"What?"

"You said she'd live!" Ben stood anger or possibly grief flashing in his eyes.

"Yeah she would have if we got her to a hospital in time. Could have been an internal bleed."

"Alright I think I have a man who can deal with that. For now get in there and help Doctor Short."

Jay nodded and stepped back into the room. Through the door Callie could hear muffled voices which quickly went from annoyed to calm and professional.

“Good find. We need someone like him, I don’t think we’ll be able to dispatch Doc Short if something happens to a Scav in the field so he can fill that role. Anything else to report?”

“Who’s the new kid?” Carter said stepping into the corridor.

“Jay, a paramedic. Ben and Kiera say he’s ok.” Callie said, the fact that neither of the scavs had actually said that slipping her mind.

“Good. Another saw bones is... good.” Carter said nodding as she turned and hobbled back to the Kitchen.

#

After Callie had received a fuller debrief from the pair she returned to the kitchen where Carter was updating the medical supplies list.

“What’s with the new hairdo?” Carter asked Callie.

“What? I haven’t had a chop in weeks.” Callie said as her hands instinctively went to her hair.

“I meant Ben.”

“Oh, I like it.” Callie noted. “Reminds me of Britney.”

“Britney?”

“Spears.”

Carter shook her head. “Your taste in music is terrible. It’s not a bad idea though. Long hair can be grabbed and pulled down. He’s thinking.”

“Yeah I suppose so. You know I’ve been thinking too. It’s been weeks since I’ve been outside Haven...”

“So? You’re not missing anything, it’s not exactly Ibiza out there.”

“Yeah I know, that’s what I mean is I’m worried about being out of shape.”

“Oh my God Callie, we’re not having a ‘does this make me look fat talk’.”

“No I mean before we found Haven and defended it Monroe and I ran everywhere. I mean we had to live on our wits. Now I’m thinking about what I said about Short.”

“What?”

“That now we have Jay he’ll be able to respond if the Scav’s get into serious trouble. Like an ambulance. I was thinking though what happens if we have to run?”

“Well I’d be up shit creek.” Carter said lifting her crutch to demonstrate her point.

“Well we’re not going to leave you are we? I mean the support people at Haven are getting it a little too easy. The Scav’s go out most days so they’re pretty athletic and Mark works out but apart from that everyone is just sitting.”

“Mark lifts weights. Great for manhandling, sure, but not so great for running.” Carter said finally seeing Callie’s point. “You want to run a PE class?”

“I think so. If Zack is going to get me, he’s still going to have to work for it.”

#

Tilo was fully briefed for his trip to Upton Abbey and Sandra was under close watch although no longer bound. Callie was feeling nervous again but instead of fretting and going over the endless maps of the area or searching the airwaves for traffic she pulled on her running shoes.

She spent an hour just going around the perimeter of the Farm. It wasnt a long distance but she did it multiple times. It reminded her of a Louis Theroux Documentary about American prisons and how the inmates just endlessly did laps of the exercise yard while devising new ways to stab each other with toiletries.

It was cold and as promised the snow had begun to fall lightly but it wasn’t lying becuase of the wet ground. The grey clouds had turned a nasty looking black though and Callie hoped Carter was wrong.

Callie had surprised herself and she had been able to run for quite some time. Her problem had always been pacing. She’d go too fast at the start and have nothing left in the tank for later. It was a constant battle to refrain from going too fast. She came to a halt and resolved to do the same thing again the next day.

She jogged back to the farm house and got ready for bed.

#


September 21st 2013

The M6.

North of Liverpool.


Callie wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked slowly while she shivered in the wind. The cold air was cutting under the motorway overpass and the column she was leaning against provided little protection. She was somewhere north of Liverpool on the M6 and was dog tired. She glanced at the street light overhead and remembered the weird orange light they used to emit. Now it did nothing but she could see the stars.

At least she would have been able to if she wasn’t under a motorway underpass.

Her outbreak story was similar to most. She’d fled to her mother’s house and spent a few weeks there but she’d left after the old woman turned. She then travelled to the Anfield Evacuation site when she heard military choppers were on the way. However on her arrival she could see the place was chaos. Thousands of people were straining to get in and it was clear the place was a powder keg. The sight reminded her of the pictures of the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina.

Callie was smart enough to turn back, if America couldn’t get it together enough to make that work there was no way the country that elected David Cameron would be able to.

Without a plan or place to stay she decided her best bet was move north, the City was becoming increasingly dangerous and the undead seemed to be everywhere. This was how she found herself on the M6 with nothing to her name.

Then she remembered the weight in her pocket.

She snaked a hand into it and produced a tin Heniz Baked Beans. She flipped the tin and looked for the ring pull. She checked the other end and came up empty. That was Callie’s breaking point.

“Oh fuck it!” She roared.

“Shhh!”

Callie nearly jumped out of her skin when she noticed a man standing at the far end of the underpass. He was dressed warmly and was carrying a large rucksack.

“S-s-s-sorry.” Callie stammered.

“What’s the matter?” The man asked as he slowly approached.

Callie quickly got to her feet and took a step back.

“Look I ain’t gonna hurt you.” The man said as he took another step forward. Callie dropped her hand to her pocket and produced a large kitchen knife.

“Ok. Ok. Be calm.” The man said as he raised his hands. “I just want to give you something.”

“I bet you do creep.”

“Look it’s not like that. You want to stab then stab away.” The man said as he slowly took off his rucksack and opened it. After some rummaging he produced a tin opener. “I see your problem.” He said pointing to the dented tin of Baked Beans that Callie had dropped when she sprung up.

“Oh.” Callie said but she kept the knife pointed at him.

“Look, my name is Jonathan Monroe and I don’t want to hurt you. I haven’t eaten in a while and I was wondering if you’d like to split that?”

Callie glanced wildly from Monroe to the Tin of Beans. “You Scottish?”

“Northern Irish. Your accent is all over the shop.”

“Born in London, but I grew up in Liverpool.” Callie replied.

Monroe nodded. “They give you a name in either of those places?”

“Callie Winters.”

“Ok Callie. I’m going to pick up the beans and then open the beans. Are you ok with that?”

Callie nodded and the man approached the tin like it was liable to explode at any moment. His overly dramatic gestures brought a faint smile to Callie’s face. He fanned his fingers like Indiana Jones might do and quickly snatched the tin off the ground. He then exhaled loudly and mock wiped his brow.

“That was a close one.” He said as he opened the tin. He then returned to his rucksack and produced a white plastic spoon. He sunk the spoon into the cold beans and took a bite.

“Yeah, they’re clean.” He said with his mouth full. He then walked up to Callie and gingerly handed her the tin.

Callie took the tin with her left hand but still hand the knife in her right.

“Gonna have to put something down.” Monroe said with a smile.

Slowly Callie slid the knife back into the pocket and Monroe relaxed slightly. She took a bite of the cold beans.

#

? ? ?

Broadgreen Primary School,

Liverpool.


Callie was back in her classroom now, looking at a room full of people. It wasn’t her class though. Instead of children sitting at the desks there were adults. Slowly she realised who they were. Tilo, Shinji , Hoppy, Monroe, Mark, Laney, Ben, Carter, Kim, Toby, Gary, Rishi, Kiera and Jesus.

“What is going on...” Before she could complete her thought the bell rang and Kim, Toby and Monroe stood and shuffled towards the door. Monroe stopped and picked up the rucksack, or as he had called it his Bergen, he’d been carrying the first time she met him.

“Monroe wait. What’s happening?”

Monroe stopped and looked at Callie like she had two heads. “It’s the bell, I’m going home.”

“Wait but what about the rest?”

“You’re the teacher.”

“But I don’t know what to do.” Callie protested.

“You’ll figure it out, Heinz.” He said with a wink.

He then walked to the door and stepped out of the classroom. Callie was going to run after him but stopped. The rest of the class needed her.

#

Haven

November 11th

Morning.


Callie woke abruptly as if from a nightmare but instead of the usual weighty feeling in the pit of her stomach she felt good. Hopeful, for the first time in a long time, this was a feeling she could grasp.

She swung her legs out of bed and made her way down stairs to Gary’s room. She knocked the door but didn’t get a response. She twisted the knob and stepped in. Much like where she had been sleeping many unconscious bodies were strewn about the place. Despite the recent losses Haven was still a very small place.

She found Gary curled up in a corner and gently shook him awake.

Gary flinched and knocked his head against the back wall.

“Jesus Christ Callie, you scared me half to death.” Gary muttered.

“I need help with something.” Callie whispered.

“What now? It’s...” He looked for an alarm clock that wasn’t there. Gary wasn’t much of a morning person. “It’s really early.”

“It’ll only take a moment.”

“Yeah... just give me a sec, I’ll meet you down there.” He said defensively.

“No you’ll fall back asleep. Come on it’s important.”

“I know Callie, just, just give me a moment.”

“Gary you would sleep thought anything, get up.” Callie said.

“Callie I’d put a tenner on it he’s sporting morning wood.” Mark said from across the room followed by a few muffled laughs from the supposedly sleeping room. “It’s biology.”

“Gross.” Callie said as she stood back up. “Meet me downstairs when you’re... awake.”

Callie then left the room.

“Thanks Mark.” Gary moaned.

“What? It’s a natural thing.” Mark replied.

“Yeah well I don’t have one and now Callie thinks I do.”

“Really?” Mark said with an eyebrow raised.

“Really, I don’t.” Gary replied.

“Stand up then.”

Gary waited a moment. “Fuck you.” He said, beaten.

“That’s what I thought. Think about Grandma or a sad puppy or something.” Mark said as he rolled over in his sleeping bag. “Usually works for me.”

#

Ten minutes later Gary joined Callie in the room Gary was using as a tech lab of sorts.

“Mark was only kidding around earlier, I was just prett...”

Callie raised a silencing hand. “Enough biology. I’ve had my fill of bloke problems for the day and I haven’t had breakfast yet.”

“Uh ok so what’s so important?” Gary said happy the conversation was moving on.

“I want you to get this working.” Callie said as she produced a small black mirror.

“Really? Is that the best use of resources?”

“Yes it is. There’s surviving and then there’s being an asshole.”

Gary nodded. “Sure all it needs is a charge.”

#

Later

Carter was already getting pissed off with the crutches. She’d only ever broken one other bone, her finger during a squash game. As she hobbled down the hallway and into the Kitchen though she could hear something new.

Something Bad New.

Carter stepped into the kitchen and saw a beaming Callie Winters sitting at the kitchen table with a very depressed looking Mark Lawson and a very confused looking Shinji Yamada.

“You must be kidding me.” Carter exclaimed.

“She’s flipped.” Mark said. “I haven’t heard this since the nineties.”

“Is this Aqua?” Carter asked.

“You bet ya!” Callie said happily as her head bopped to the music.

“これは地獄です” Shinji said.

“In English.” Callie said in what Carter assumed was her teacher voice.

“Shite.” Shinji said slowly trying to approximate Mark’s scouse accent. Mark tapped him gently on the shoulder and nodded.

Carter walked up and approached the source of the music. It was a black I phone with a photo of an elderly woman as the desktop. Carter turned the volume down and turned to Callie.

“What is going on?”

Callie frowned like a thespian but quickly explained. “Things have been a little tense around here recently and that’s not healthy. I figured the group could use a morale booster. Then I saw Laney and Tilo singing so I thought music would be a good way to build morale.”

“So you got them Aqua?” Carter said. “That would drive anyone to suicide.”

“Hey that’s my best play list.” Callie said. “Ok it’s not to everyone’s taste but I’ve said to Gary, it’s ok if people want to charge MP3 players and listen to some music. It’s not that big a drain on the Solar panels and he says if the only thing they having running is music a charge should last for ages.”

“So I’m guessing the phone can’t make calls or get internet access?”

Gary, who had just entered the kitchen, answered her question.

“No, while the Net and phones are all controlled by computer programmes those programmes and hardware need engineers to keep them running, not to mention electricity. Callie’s I phone is little more than a cruel and unusual torture device now.” Gary said while shaking his head. “I feel like Oppenheimer.”

“Right. One more question.” Carter said.

“Shoot.” Callie said.

“Does this thing have Candy Crush?”

#

Later

Carter and Callie had decided on a playlist that suited both of them but to an observer it sounded like the playlist of someone in the grip of a dissociative identity disorder episode. It swung from bubblegum pop to dubstep.

Carter adjusted her leg which was propped up on a chair opposite her and took a drink of tea.

“You know it’s funny. This feels like any other office job.” She commented. “I don’t know why you stick to that coffee, you haven’t even touched it.”

“Yeah but I like the smell. It feels like the staff room at school.” Callie said with a shake of her head. “We used to fight over the radio in there as well. Radio 1 vs Classic FM. Well the rest did I was normally too busy getting caught up on marking.”

Carter laughed. “A school teacher. I was thinking about that earlier when you told Shinji to speak English. Guess you’re still teaching in a way.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty big career change I guess in some ways. Similar in others. You want what best for the kids but want them to be able to cope in the real world. Back then it meant singing ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’ now it means making sure everyone is armed.”

“So that means you view us a kids?”

“No that’s not what I meant... I mean I just feel... responsible. Does that make sense?”

Carter smiled and returned to her notes. “Completely.”

“Excuse me, I wondering if I might have a word.” It was Rishi standing in the corner of the room nervously.

“Go for it.” Callie said casually.

“It’s a delicate matter.” Rishi said shakily.

Callie looked at Carter who shrugged.

“Ok.” Callie said as she left the kitchen and stepped into the hall with Rishi, the man kept walking though and brought Callie to the room he had been using as his lab. He sat on his chair and exhaled loudly. Callie eyed Watson suspiciously.

“This thing had better come up with a cure. God the risk we’re taking Monroe would have had kittens. You still got that shotgun?”

“Yes it’s... Where is it now?” Rishi mumbled

Callie shook her head and lifted a stack of papers covered in insane scribbles from the top of the Harry. “You need this in case that gets lose.”

Rishi didn’t respond.

“Ok Rishi you’re freaking me out now.”

“I reviewed the Tape of Byron’s last outing.”

“Ok and? She got the guns and did your research.”

“Perhaps you should watch the video.”

Rishi played a short video clip of Laneys encounter with Benson and Charles.

“What the hell?” Callie said when the recording had ended.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was going to go to Byron with it directly but...”

“No do not do that. Tell nobody of this we don’t know how Laney will want to play this situation. Let her work it out on her own and come to us if she needs it.”

“Alright. What about her attackers.”

“I know the name Benson, it’s not exactly common.”

“Really? Well I’ve done my part now back to the research.”

"What about the woman Ben, Kiera and Jay brought in?"

"The test are on going but she..."

"She turned." Callie said flatly.

"Yes but that doesn't mean the theory is completely sound."

"Good indicator though."

"Yes but more tests are required."

"So where is she?"

"Dead. For good. I thought two test subjects might be a little dangerous even for me. Now if you don't mind..."

He bundled Callie out of the room and towards the door she stopped just short though.

“I have one question, Rishi.”

“I removed Watson’s vocal cords. I’m attempting to study communication between the undead.”

“How’d you know I was going to ask about that.”

“Of course you were its elementary my dear Winters.” Rishi said with massive smile obviously pleased with his attempt at humour.

#

Callie went directly to the radio and got in contact with Jane Meadows.

“Jane I was wondering about two of your runners. A guy called Benson, he was part of the rescue mission to save one of our runners and another older guy.”
“Charles, have you seen them?”

“Uh no why?” Callie lied.

“Both have gone missing. They left camp just after they rescued your man.”

“Missing?”

“Well maybe that’s a bit far. They left took weapons and supplies too. We guessed they had just left the group.”

“Right well they assaulted one of my people.”

“My God, what?”

“They assaulted one of my people.” Callie repeated.

“Are they alright?”

“Yes I think so but I’m just giving a heads up. Those guys are dangerous.”

“That doesn’t make any sense Benson was always so... I mean he was always one of the first to volunteer. He volunteered to find your man.”

“People change I guess.” Callie said.


#

1430

Haven.


Dominic Fields stumbled towards Haven with Elizabeth and Eric Rand in tow. When a voice called out from the town. Instinctively he pushed himself in front of Elizabeth and her child.

“Who’s that?” A Scouse voice called out.

“Do not fire! We have a child!” Dominic shouted.

“I know retard, I can see you. Who are you?” Was the reply.

“I’m Dominic Fields, from Upton. I’m with Elizabeth Rand. Tilo King sent us.”

“Did he? Well then he would have also mentioned told you we don’t let armed strangers inside our walls. Drop the guns.”

Dominic complied and set his weapons on the ground in front of him. After a few moments a squat but strong looking man was standing in front of him.

“Hands behind your back there chief.” He ordered

Dom got a sinking feeling as his hands were tied behind his back and he was marched into Haven with Elizabeth and Eric in tow.

#

Later.

He was sitting in a kitchen looking at two women who had introduced themselves as Callie Winters and Allison Carter. He could tell Carter was forces from her demeanour, maybe Green Slime or something, but the other woman was different, He couldn’t draw a bead on her.

He’d briefly seen Sandra when Elizabeth and Eric had been reunited with her. Dominic though had been marched straight to the kitchen.

“You say you’re from the Rands?”

“Yes. Tilo king told us to come here, if you want we’ll be on our way...”

“Where is Tilo?” Carter asked.

“He’s back at Upton.” Dominic answered.

“Why isn’t he with you?” Callie asked,

“He got... held up.”

“Held up how?” Callie asked but she could feel the bottom of her stomach in free fall.

“I didn’t have time to check he...”

“Held up how?!” Callie repeated, this time shouting.

“He was shot.”

“What?” Callie screamed. “So you fucking left him?”

“You cunt!” Mark roared as he lifted the butt of his rifle and crashed it into Dom’s face.

“Enough!” Carter screamed and Mark stopped before he could land another blow but he kept the weapon held high. Mark’s eyes shifted to Callie who nodded almost imperceptibly. Mark lowered the Rifle and exhaled loudly like a bull getting ready to charge.

“Take a walk, Mark.” Carter said.

Mark slapped his palm against the wall and roared but he complied.

The passage of events had surprised Dom, Mark looked like a goon but he was a goon who knew his place. It was also apparent while Carter appeared to be in charge the loyalty was to Callie.


“Where was the last place you saw Professor King?” Carter asked. Callie was sitting in her chair quickly going through the map books.

“I don’t know... at Upton Abbey.”

“Be specific. I can have Mark come back in.”

“The library on the ground floor. It’s a mess over there Zombies breeched the walls, the place is crawling. ” Dominic replied. Silence fell as the two women started scribbling on their respective pieces of paper. Dominic thought for an instant about attempting to flee but there was a small Asian guy clutching a shotgun staring directly at him.

“Got it.” Carter said after a few brief seconds and she slid a page to Callie.

Callie lifted the page and her maps then raced out of the kitchen.

“You better pray they find that guy alive or these people will kill you.” Carter said matter-of-factly. The only other person in the room was Shinji so only Dom comprehended her words.

Dominic looked at the floor and remembered the wound he’d seen Tilo with. There was no way, bar a miracle, that King had survived.

#

Callie crashed into the room and bundled a crumpled piece of paper and a map into the hands of the first Scav she saw.

“Tilo’s hurt.”

Job.

King among Men.


Suggested number of Scavs
– 3


Area – Upton Abbey


Objective – Rescue Tilo King.


Information – Tilo King is missing presumed wounded somewhere inside Upton Abbey. He was last seen in the Library on the Ground Floor. Attempts to reach Tilo via radio have proved fruitless. We believe Upton Abbey has been over run. Bring the Paramedic Ray, whoever to provide first aid to Tilo.

A. Carter.

“Hurry.” Callie said as she returned to the Kitchen.

#

Dominic was scared but he could understand where the fury was coming from. Haven had lost one of their people and in a way it heartened him to see them react in this way. It was clear to see they cared for each other, something that had been missing in Upton.

“Were you one of the Hunters?”

“Yes.” Dom replied honestly.

“What happened to Richard Brand?”

“Don’t know. Last I saw of him he was face down outside the Library.”

Callie allowed herself a smile of satisfaction but it occurred to her she had better warn the Scavs of the possibility that Brand was still alive she stood and walked into the hall of the kitchen where the Scavs tasked to get Tilo were prepping.

“There is a possibility Richard Brand is still alive. I’m going to talk to Elizabeth Rand but theres time for you pair to wait. Go and I’ll brief you on the run.”

The Scavs nodded and stepped out into the cold air.

Callie continued to where Sandra and Elizabeth were sitting. The boy was clinging to his mother and clung tighter when Callie entered. She figured in a year or two he would have old enough for her class. Gary was sitting in the corner with a Harry on his lap watching the two women.

“Hello I’m sorry about all this but we’ve had some real problems with the Hunters and Richard Brand over the last few weeks. You understand the need for caution.”

“I was just explaining that to Mrs Rand.” Sandra explained.

“Yes I understand.”

“Good. Now I’ve just sent out a few of our Scavs to rescue Professor King but I need to know what the situation is at Upton Abbey.”

“It’s overrun. Dead everywhere.” Elizabeth said.

“What about Richard Brand?”

“He ate the poison Professor King brought. Last I saw he was bent double in pain.”

“What about Tilo, Professor King?”

Elizabeth looked at the ground. “I am so sorry. Had I known when I sent that...”

“Did you see him die?”

“Excuse me?”

“Did you watch Tilo King die?”

“No, but I mean, his wounds were severe...”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No.”

“So then if you didn’t see him die and you aren’t a doctor you aren’t really in any position to say anything about who’s alive are you?” He voice cracked as she struggled to keep emotion from it.

“Callie.” It was Gary who had spoken. “That’s enough.”

Callie could feel a headache coming on.

“You’re right, sorry.” Callie said. Her rage was misdirected and impotent the only ones who could make a difference were the Scavs.

“I understand. Doctor King, Tilo was, is a good man.” Elizabeth Rand as Callie made her way back to the kitchen.

Once she arrived Carter was still in the middle of her questions. Callie didn’t say a thing but instead walked straight to the radio and contacted the Scavs on the way to Upton.

After she had identified herself she turned and looked at Dom. Both he and Carter had stopped speaking and were looking at Callie.

“Scavs, Richard Brand ate Tilo’s poison but we don’t know if he’s alive or dead. Just a heads up.” Callie said. Her eyes never left Dom’s face and he knew it was a test to see how he’d react. He tried to give nothing away.

“Ok let’s go over this again, Dominic...” Carter began.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Kiera Trennan
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(Collaboration with Messiah and Faith Fanon)

A King Among Men

November 11th, 2013

Part 1: Four's also a crowd

Ben happened to be the first Scav that Callie had seen. Oddly enough, he had just been passing through on his way to see Laney. Callie ushered him over and stuffed a crumpled piece of paper and a map into his hands.

"Tilo's hurt."

Surprised, to say the least, Ben took what she offered to him and looked down at both. The words that he'd wanted to say became stuck in his throat when she spoke. The map was, well, it was a map, and the other piece of paper gave a little bit of detail ont he situation. Most notably, the words 'missing', 'overrun', and 'fruitless' caught his attention.

"Take the medic with you. Jay."

With both map and instructions in hand, Ben rushed to the room that he and Laney had been sharing.

"Tilo didn't make it back," he announced to Laney, barely through the door, "He's missing. Injured." Maybe dead, he thought. He didn't want to give up hope, but realistically, the chances weren't good.


Quickly, Ben tossed on his backpack. Everything else he needed was with him already.

Ben's forthright manner jerked Laney out of her half-doze. Despite her panic attack the previous night, she'd slept well. Now, she pushed all those issues out of her mind as she swung her legs out of bed. Even the little information Ben had imparted spelled trouble. Relations with the Rand group Tilo was visiting were tense to say the least.

She hurried to the armory for her scoped rifle and a Scav Pack. She also grabbed one of the pistols she'd recovered from the Sea King crash site, loaded it and tucked it into the back of her jeans. It had been six months since she'd last visited a gun range, and her confidence with the rifle was growing, but it felt good to handle a pistol again. Passing the Command Centre on the way back, Laney was halted in her tracks by the feeling someone was staring at her. True enough, Callie was ignoring Carter's urgent, low tone and fixing Laney with a scrutinizing look. She'd seen the tape. Laney realized with a chill. Though she was trying to keep the memory of Benson's attack buried, so stop the feeling of helplessness overwhelm her, the fact that someone else in Haven had witnessed her humiliation threatened to rob her of all her courage and determination. Rishi must have seen it too, and maybe Gary. As if trying to escape the feeling of desperation, Laney hurried from the farmhouse.

Ben was pursing his lips and scratching his stubble as he tried to make awkward conversation with Jay when Laney barreled from the farmhouse. She took a deep breath of sharp winter air, exhaled with a sigh, and strode for the gate. The two men shared a surprised glance and hurried after her.

Kiera had slept well ever since her trip to the hospital, and the night before was no exception. She awoke refreshed and energized, ready to take on the day. The days had grown colder, so kiera hurried to put on warm clothes. After suitably bundled, she knelt down on the floor and pulled up one of the floorboards.

Walking lazily down the hall, Kiera suddenly heard urgent voices in the command center. She recognized one of them as Callie and she was saying something about Tilo being injured. Slightly embarassed at eavesdropping, Kiera quickly retreated to her room before she could be spotted. She stood just inside her door waiting for Ben to knock and tell her about the situation, when no one came, Kiera realized she would have to invite herself on the rescue mission.

With Laney leading the way, and Jay soon with them, the trio walked out into the cold, snowy air of the Lake District. As they were about to pass through the gates of Haven, a voice called out, causing them both to turn.

Like fleeing thieves, Ben, Laney, and Jay were sneaking away from the farmhouse without her. Angrily she stomped after them.

"Hey, Tilo is my friend too. I'm coming with you three." Kiera told them decisively.

Ben looked between the two women hesitantly. This is what it all led up to, it seemed. He didn't particularly have a good feeling about this, seeing as they both... wanted him, or whatever, but they would probably need all the help they could get.

"Alright. Fine," Ben relented, earning him a distasteful scowl from Laney. For a moment, he felt like giving them both a warning about trying anything, but when push came to shove, they were part of Haven, just as he was. He had faith that they would both put the needs of Haven above their own.

But, just to be safe, he allowed the two women to go ahead of him, just so he could keep an eye on them both at the same time. Jay joined Ben at his side.

"What are we expecting to find?" the paramedic asked.

"Tilo, a horde, and a whole lot of bodies," Ben replied. At least, those were his expectations.

"A horde?" Laney called back from where she'd walked besides Kiera in silence. "So is Tilo actually missing or..." She let the question hang unanswered in the air, alongside the clouds of steam that came up from everyone's breath.

"I don't know," Ben admitted quietly after a long moment of silence.

A gust of wind blew directly into their faces and Ben had to duck his head down to keep the snow from ending up directly in his eyes. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and shivered a little. It seemed colder today than it had ever been before, at least since he arrived at Haven; even colder than the night he had escaped the clutches of the cannibalistic brothers. Laney flexed her right hand. The fingers she'd injured were healing, but they stung in the cold.

"Well, we gotta go look anyway, right?" she urged, partly to herself. "Even if... Well, we need to know what's going on over there."

Ben nodded, "Yeah," he kept his head low still, and all he could see of the two in front of him were their lower legs.

They were at a distinct disadvantage here, as none of them had ever been to Upton. The only that had, well, that's exactly who they were out looking for. "We need to be careful, though," he added, "Especially if there's a horde."

"Yeah, stick close," Laney urged. "If this snow gets any heavier, we could get split up. And we won't be able to hear Zack coming." She looked around nervously. Though the road was clear, outlines of the stone walls, hedges and fields around them were blurred. Only a mile out of Haven, the countryside should have been full of familiar sights. But now, any nook or cranny could be harbouring a deadly threat. Laney shook her head. Her eyes were beginning to water from squinting. Just then, there was a blur of movement further up the road to Upton.

"Zombies," she hissed, swinging her rifle off her shoulder. Around her, she sensed her fellow Scavs tense in preparation for the imminent conflict. There was a flurry of panicky movement from Jay, obviously unused to dealing with the undead in the open countryside. A blurred figure ahead of them shot forward. Laney gasped. It was moving faster than any zombie she had ever seen. Almost instantly it was upon them, giving her no time for a shot. The rifle was proving useless in the snowy conditions.

Kiera stepped forward, her arms out, and Ben was about leap at her and drag her from certain death when she spoke out: 'Here, boy.'

The dog's different behavior was curious. It had never approached so closely before; still Kiera reached out to the dog and tried to call it closer. The brown dog halted a few feet in front of the group, its little tail wagged slowly as it paced back and forth in front of them. Two short whines could be heard from the dog.

"Cute," remarked Laney, grudgingly amused. "What's he trying to say?"

"Any kids trapped down the well, Lassie?" joked Ben.

"I don't know. Probably just nervous about meeting so many people." Kiera said from her crouched position.

The dog suddenly seemed to lose interest in the group and with a final whimper; they watched as the dog trotted off happily in the direction of Haven, a strange reminder of the domesticity and peace of the old world. Distracted, no-one was quick enough to look around to see whether the howling behind them was the winter wind or approaching undead. It was only the slap-slap of running feet that belatedly alerted them, and Ben managed to get his hand around the throat of the zombie that crashed into him, and kept its jaws at arm's length as it bore him to the ground.

Laney rushed to the struggling bodies, instinctively yanking on the zombie's collar to keep its jaws from Ben's flesh. Kiera and Jay faced the direction from which it had come; even in the poor visibility, they could easily make out a large wedge of bodies approaching.

"There's a lot of them," Kiera called out in warning. Laney pulled her hatchet out of the zombie's skull and, as Ben rolled the corpse off him, looked around.

"Over the walls, quick," she called, pulling Ben to his feet and towards the closest stone boundary, the left-hand wall. Kiera and Jay scrambled over the wall closet to them. In seconds, the two pairs were separated by 20 or more howling zombies.

"Kiera, Jay," Ben called over the noise. The wind seemed to snatch the words from his mouth. He and Laney could just about hear an answering shout from across the road.

"Shit, Ben, we can't leave them over there."

"We can't leave this many Zeds this close to Haven either," Ben shot back, stepping forward, hatchet raised, with a grim look on his face. Laney heaved a deep, resigned breath and joined in, hacking first at the grasping hands and then at the heads of the mindless horde.

On the other side of the wall, Jay continued to call to Ben and Laney. Kiera tugged nervously at his sleeve. "Jay," she urged. "Jay."

As another body added to the press of creatures trying to reach Kiera and Jay, a stone slid from the top of the wall. Two zombies pressed into the gap, and a stone slid from either side of them. In no time at all, the wall had fallen to half its height in a metre-long gap, and zombies were tumbling over it. By the time the first zombie had righted itself and scanned the area for its prey, Kiera and Jay had fled.

Despite the cold, Laney was sweating as she felled the last zombie. Her shoulder ached from swinging her hatchet. Even before they'd taken down the last of the horde, Ben and Laney had seen what had happened opposite.

"What do we now?"

Ben chewed his lip as he mulled it over. "We go after Kiera and Jay," he then said decisively.

"But, Tilo-" Laney started.

"Laney, we have to consider the very real possibility that he's..." Ben didn't finish the sentence. He had the feeling she knew what he meant, and he saw her hang her head. "If they need us, we can't leave them."

It wasn't a decision he liked making. Tilo could still be alive, but the chances were slim.

"What if he's..?" The words died on her lips, and she hung her head, avoiding Ben's gaze. "Okay." She took one last look back at the road as they hopped the wall. She was sure they could track the zombies, given the settling blanket of snow. At the same time, the thought of Tilo lying hurt, or at the mercy of the Hunter Ben said ruled the Rands... "I hope he's okay."

Unbidden, unwanted, the memory of what Kiera had said, about Ben kissing her, crept into Laney's mind.


Part 2: Back to back

The slope was steep beyond the wall, Kiera and Jay struggled not to trip as they madly dashed down the hill. On either side of the pair, bodies rolled down ahead of them, creating a hazard for the survivors at both ends. They broke through the line of disoriented walkers, using their momentum to create an open path ahead of them. Having no idea of the pursuing number behind them, Kiera spared a glance back. About six walkers remained right on their heels, while another four or so were still righting themselves from their sudden tumble.

Jay rapidly pulled ahead of the shorter American, causing Kiera to wonder if he might actually leave her to fend for herself. Barely eighty feet had been covered by the pair, but Kiera was already feeling a sharp burning in her lungs and her legs had started to ache. Each step grew slower and shorter than the last, till she was less than two feet away from the closest walker.

The appearance of a small stand of trees caused Jay to swerve towards them with Kiera quickly changing her direction as well. Taking large strides Jay scrambled up into the first tree. Kiera felt an ominous brush across her back as she struggled towards the safety of the trees. With the help of a second wind, she reached the tree that Jay was situated in and raised her hands for help. An indifferent stare met her desperate gaze. Kiera waited a moment longer, but when no help was offered she dodged around the trunk and raced towards the next available tree.

With an uncoordinated leap, Kiera secured a handhold on one of the lowest branches. She attempted to swing both legs up, but a pair of clawed hands halted her progress. Kicking with her free leg she managed to loosen the grip, but the precious seconds that she spent struggling enabled her other pursuers to arrive and grasp her other dangling leg. Their combined strength weakened Kiera's grip on the branch, the bark scraping against her gloves. For a horrifying moment she caught sight of Jay, watching her struggle from his safe perch with a look of mild interest.

Then the branch slipped from her grasp.

The sudden lack of opposing force caused the surrounding walkers to fall backwards, with Kiera landing on top of the tangled heap. Reacting immediately, she clambered off the pile and grasped her pipe weapon, ready to take down as many as possible before they overwhelmed her. Desperation made her swing with every fiber of muscle, she managed to bring one down with a single overhead swing, but two more seemed to take its place.

Kiera's circle grew tighter as the walkers rushed in to overcome her with superior numbers. Then she caught sight of a red blur out of the corner of her eye. Jay entered into the fray, cutting down the stragglers that were nearing the circle. Slowly he made his way closer to Kiera, till the pair stood back to back against the never-ending onslaught.


Part 3: Side by side

Ben and Laney trotted across the field, following the tracks that the smaller horde had made in giving chase to Kiera and Jay. Now, neither of them were trackers in any sense of the word, but these tracks were particularly difficult to miss in the snow, considering the amount of them and how recklessly they ran after their prey.

For a while, the tracks went east, away from the road. Laney, trailing Ben by several yards, watched the movement of his lean back, his rangy shoulders, the back and shoulders she'd clung to night after night, and fought to repress doubt. After all, she considered, how well did she really know this man? Their intense love-making, their rambling, intimate, hushed conversations, couldn't make up for the fact that he'd had 22 formative years that she knew very little about. She wanted to take Ben at face value but perhaps there had been a lesson in Benson's assault on her. Perhaps men were hardwired a certain way. Perhaps, after the end of the world, certain biological urges couldn't be resisted. Perhaps there was some truth in what Kiera had said.

"I'm not giving up on him," Ben said, cutting the silence, "I just -"

"What happened at the hospital with you and Kiera?" Laney interrupted.

A dawning realization came over Ben. Was she worried that he had feelings for the other American? He saw how his choice to go after Kiera might have raised suspicions in Laney, but this wasn't about that.

"I told you what happened, didn't I?"

"Did you?"

"Yes!"

With his eyes on Laney, he had almost missed the sudden sharp turn that the tracks made.

"Do you really want to go over this now, Laney?" he asked, turning with the path of tracks.

Laney sighed, about to respond when they both saw what they seemed to be looking for. A group of undead had swarmed towards a group of trees. One of the trees held a lone figure perched in it, but that was all he could see. Then another figure rose up and started swinging something. The figure from the tree dropped down and started helping out.

Ben motioned to Laney and they picked up their pace, Laney pushing aside her irritation at Ben and Kiera alike. He drew his hatchet as he moved towards the group. About twenty feet from it, he whistled sharply, causing about half of the attackers to turn their attention towards him. They shambled in his direction, slowly at first, but then their pace increased.

"Yeah, that's right. Come on," he muttered with determination, raising his weapon up in preparation for the first runner. He planted his hatchet firmly in the top of its skull as it got near.

Another two crashed into the back of the newly dead again corpse, knocking Ben back and almost causing him to fall onto his back. His grip on his weapon had been strong, and he kept it in his hand, even with the momentum of the other two runners barreling into the back of the first. But, instead of loosening freely from the top of its head, the bladed weapon took a direct route forward, ejecting the front of its skull and bits of brain past Ben as he staggered, and leaving an open and bloody cavity in the front of its head.

He had to put his left hand on the ground to keep himself from falling completely. Pain shot through his hand as his knuckles scraped along the ground, severely irritating the wound he had sustained while in captivity.

The runners had not been quite so lucky as him. When they collided with the other, their legs got tangled up with each other and they were sent sprawling to the ground.

Laney was at his right and, before either of the two runners on the ground could get up, she executed them both. But, that left her vulnerable to another as she bent down to do it.

Ignoring the pain in his hand, he ran at it, leading with his left forearm out in front of him. Caught completely unaware, the thing was blindsided and was sent to the ground in a flailing mess of arms and legs. Ben had braced himself for the hit this time and remained standing. Then he stepped over to it and raised his boot up to crush its skull.

He turned to see the fifth and final runner they'd attracted being felled by another one of Laney's swings.

The sharp whistle that drew half the pack's number away, gave Kiera just enough breathing room to search for their unexpected saviors. Despite the still present danger, Kiera found herself smiling as she caught sight of Ben and Laney. Their presence gave her a renewed sense of hope and determination. Jay spotted the pair soon after and a similar expression crossed his face.

Fighting back to back, Kiera and Jay made quick work of the remaining walkers. The four scavengers stood amongst a field of death, staring at one another, grateful to still be alive. Stepping over the scattered corpses, Kiera and Jay went to rejoin their rescuers.

Just out of Laney and Ben's hearing range, Kiera leaned towards Jay. "I won't forget what you did." She said in a threatening tone.

"Neither will I, my dearest." Jay replied in a sickeningly sweet tone. He suddenly leaned in even closer to Kiera and inhaled conspicuously, "Mmmm." he whispered in her ear, before straightening and approaching the other pair with a pleased expression.

Ben held his wounded hand close to his chest. It hadn't quite fully healed. When Short had changed his bandages the day before, he had spied signs of healing on his stump. She had told him not to aggravate it. Slowly, he brought his hand up and saw a spot of red underneath the bandages. It hurt, but it was nowhere near how bad as it had been before.


Part 4: Stately home

A full circuit of Upton Abbey told them one thing: The ground floor at the very least was over-run. A large group, 15 or so, were gathered aimlessly at the main doors in what the Scavs were coming to understand as 'rest' mode. Others were bunched in threes and fours around the grounds. Using the scope on her rifle, Laney couldn't detect signs of life through the upper-story windows, although that wasn't confirmation that there were no survivors. The foursome took cover in a knot of trees behind Upton.

"Okay, how the fuck are we going to get in there?" Laney groused.

"What, none of you have been in here before?" asked Jay.

"No, going in blind," Ben confirmed. "You're from round here though, right?"

"Aye," Jay responded, "though I ain't ever been in here."

"Well, what's that, then?" asked Ben, pointing past some outhouses to a single-storey extension at the back of the imposing building. It was grey and dull, not ornate like much of the rest of Upton.

"An extension, a laundry or summat," Jay shrugged.

"If we can get up on that, then in a window..." Ben reached into his pack and pulled out bunch of fireworks. "Right, wait here. When the geeks go for the fireworks, get up on the laundry roof. Meet you there."

Ben took off in a low dash. Watching him go, Laney felt a pang of fear for him. Time and again, Scavs' experiences had shown there was safety in numbers. She looked from Jay to Kiera and, still distrustful of the American girl, urged: 'Jay, go with him. Watch his back.' She ignored the betrayed look from Kiera next to her. I'll keep you where I can see you, she thought to herself.

"Okay,' Laney spoke up, half to herself. 'If you own a stately house, where do you keep your ladders?"

Ben felt like a man under fire, darting from one piece of cover to the next, trying to get a good position from which to light the fireworks. At a low wall, he stopped, catching the sound of footsteps behind him. Putting his hand on the handle of his weapon, he wheeled around, about to raise it, when he saw that it was Jay and not a runner.

That was the second time he'd nearly killed the man, mistaking him for a member of the walking dead.

"Laney ask--" the paramedic began, but he stopped when Ben pressed a finger to his own lips in the universal hushing gesture.

This was a good spot, he decided; it was close enough to attract a crowd, but far enough away that Laney and Kiera, and shortly afterwards, Ben and Jay could go and get on top of the laundry room. It was also fairly near the entrance to the house itself. Hopefully, it would attract some from within the house as well and make some parts of the house safer.

Ben pulled out a matchbook that had come with the fireworks. He struck it and lit the fuse and started away in his crouching dash. But, he noticed that Jay was frozen in his spot, staring at something. Reaching out, he took Jay's arm and yanked him along harshly and gave him a scrutinizing look as they rushed for better cover, further away from where the dead were sure to come.

Minutes later, a burst of colored light erupted in the sky. Around the grounds, countless undead heads snapped up, and the horde shuffled in the firework's direction. As the light extinguished, a second firework went up, then a third. As the horde shambled to the front of the house, Laney emerged from the tree cover, followed by Kiera. They darted up to the closest outhouse. Peering in the window, Laney spied a ladder, and turned to point it out to Kiera when a zombie lunged against the window, shattering the glass and drawing an involuntary shriek from Laney. She flung herself back, landing in the snow, as Kiera stepped forward and hacked at the creature's head.

The ladder was tangled in amongst a garden hose, shears, and several other implements. Minutes passed and metal clanged on metal as the women worked together to free it. Frustrated and impatient with the delay, Laney was glad to get out of the musty, claustrophobic outhouse. Her relief turned to shock, however, when she saw a group of six zombies approaching from the trees where the Scavs had hidden. Whether they'd been attracted by the fireworks, her shriek or the noise they'd made freeing the ladder, Laney didn't care. The zombies had spied Laney and Kiera, and they were fast.

"Up on the roof," she yelled behind her, tugging at the ladder to hurry the American. They covered the remaining 20 metres at full speed, kicking up snow. Laney thrust her end of the ladder up against the gable end of the laundry extension, and shot up it almost before Kiera had planted it on the ground. As she swung herself up onto the roof, a scream came from below, laced with fear.

"Laneyyy! Help!"

Kiera was halfway up the ladder. gripping desperately to one of the rungs and kicking out at a zombie that had reached up and locked its hands around her left ankle. The first few kicks kept its head and deadly jaws out of range of the foot it had grasped, but then another zombie arrived and grabbed her right foot too. Now only the strength of her arms was keeping Kiera out of reach. A terrible thought entered Laney's mind. Two more slavering zombies arrived staggered up, threatening to unbalance the ladder. Kiera screamed again as it wobbled, staring at Laney, immobile and stony-faced, with wide, pleading eyes.

Laney seemed to shudder, then reached behind her, under her jacket and Scav Pack, and whipped out her pistol. Two-handed, she fired five shots in rapid succession. She didn't take in how many shots hit their mark, but the zombies dragging on Kiera slumped to the ground, and the American scrambled to the roof, panting and weeping. Laney put her arm awkwardly around Kiera's shoulder and patted.

"It's alright, hun, you're not bit, you're not bit." She leant over the edge of the roof and, emptying the clip, put down the remaining four zombies. She was settling down to wait for Ben and Jay when a cry rang out from inside. They were on their feet in an instant, smashing a window to gain access to the main building. Laney didn't even have a second to contemplate what she'd considered doing to Kiera.


Part 5: Ghost house

Ben and Jay remained in cover until the fireworks went off. The rudimentary explosives were sure to keep their attention for a while; long enough for everyone to get inside the house.

Once the fireworks had gone off, the pair made their way in a circle towards the back of the house, careful not to go too fast and run straight into a crowd of zombies. Part way around, they heard gunshots. Ben risked to bring himself to a standing position and looked around, but saw nothing.

"Come on," he whispered, beckoning to Jay with a wave of his hand.

They arrived around the back of the house to find the bodies of several walkers and a ladder pushed up against the laundry room, but no other sign of Laney or Kiera.

"Laney!" he called quietly, and then a little louder, "Kiera!"

No response.

Ben ascended the steps of the ladder and looked between Jay and the open window. In short order, both men were on top of the laundry room. The younger man peered through the window and noted a drop of a foot or two down to some stairs.

He brought himself back out to look at the paramedic and gave him a smile that lacked any emotion.

"You first."

"What?" Jay stammered in response.

"Don't worry. I'm right behind you." Ben was still mindful of the reaction Kiera had had towards the man when they reunited in Westmorland. He didn't want to give the man an opportunity to leave Ben alone.

"Alright," the paramedic answered uncertainly before ducking through the window and dropping down to the floor. A few seconds later, Ben dropped down behind him.

"You okay?" Ben asked.

"Dandy."

"Good. Let's go," came Ben's response, stepping down the stairs.

Once they reached the bottom floor, the pair took a left turn down a corridor. They stepped over a body who lacked a head, possessing nothing but a bloody stump there instead. As they continued, they stopped and listened briefly. There was an almost perpetual groan coming from the house, and not the type of groan you'd hear from an old house like this. This was more akin to a groan a fleshy thing would make.

"We have to be careful," Jay whispered, apparently having heard the sounds as well. Ben nodded. They were on the lookout for Laney and Kiera, for Tilo, or for anything that they could take back to Haven.

Slowly, Ben poked his head around a corner, but immediately pulled it back. Down the hallway was a small crowd of the undead, idle, and waiting for a sign of their prey to show up. Thankfully, they hadn't seem to notice them. But, that also probably meant that Laney and Kiera hadn't gone that way. Regardless, they couldn't risk it.

Instead, they decided to return the way they had come, but instead of going back up the stairs, they continued past it and down the other side of the hallway. Again, Ben looked around the corner cautiously, but saw no undead. Silently, he motioned to Jay and they moved down the hall.

Then, they came upon an intersection, and dashed straight across. That brought them to a corridor that took a right turn. This time, Jay was first to the corner and checked around the corner. He held his hands out, signifying that it wasn't stopped, so they returned to the intersection and darted across it once again, heading back in the direction of the stairs they'd come down.

Once they'd reoriented themselves so they looking across the intersection again. Left would lead them to the group they'd seen first. Straight across would bring them to the other group. Their only options wewre to go to the right, or to go back. So, they went to the right, which led to another right turn, but that led to a dead end.

There was an open door down that hall, and when they approached to it, he could hear the raspy sounds of at least one walker. Neither of them really knew if they had ways of communicating and bringing more to them. At first, they were going to turn around and go back before it noticed them, but then Ben saw its face. From his position, he could only see the side of it, but he wanted to be sure. Slowly, he entered the room and waited for it to turn and notice him.

In front of him was the face that he swore he'd never forget. It was the man who had killed Tim. It was the man who had caused the deaths of Toby and the other Caravanners who had been killed. It was the man that had caused all of the shit for Haven and the people at Eden Valley.

Richard Brand.

His reanimated face was contorted into a snarl as it lunged for Ben. Roughly, Ben shoved it back and he drew his hatchet and planted it into the top of its skull. Limply, it collapsed to the floor, and Ben freed his hatchet, but he didn't stop. He just kept hacking at it, over and over until there was hardly anything left of its head.

With his chest heaving from anger and exertion, Ben turned around to face Jay, who just stared on in shock, but was unable to find any words for what he'd just seen.

"He deserved worse," Ben breathed out. He deserved a lot worse.

Jay nodded complacently and followed Ben back the way they had come, towards the staircase they'd descended a short time ago. Towards the end of this corridor - once they'd reached it once again - was another room. The door was open on this one as well.

Carefully, they stepped in and closed the door.

Lying on the floor was a body. Ben checked it. A small red circle in the center of her forehead gave the clear indication that this young woman had been shot in the head, possibly to prevent reanimation, or, more likely, just out of cold ruthlessness.

"They're everywhere," Jay whispered worriedly.

"I noticed."

It was then that Ben got an idea.

"We can't let these get back to Haven. If that horde we came across on the road was from here, then they can get to Haven. This many could overwhelm us."

"What do we do, then?" Jay asked.

"We burn it down."

"Burn it down? What about the other two?"

"I know," Ben shot back quickly. He was already in the process of taking out his walkie-talkie. "Laney? Kiera? Anybody there?"

They got no response.

"Shit," Ben muttered and he tried again with no luck.

"We'll just have to hope they can find a way out." Ben shook his head, his features dropping slightly. Although he acted calm and detached, on the inside he was far from either. He felt helpless. Not knowing where they were was killing him. He'd never forgive himself if either of them died in the fire, especially Laney. But this was for Haven, he told himself. If they left this alone, it could potentially cost the entirety of Haven.

"If we can get this room going, the rest of the house should go with it. Pull some stuff into the center of the room."

Ten minutes later, the pair had a pile of things in the center of the room; tables and chairs mostly. Ben took out a matchbook - the very same that he'd used to light the fireworks earlier and, once a match was struck, held the flame at the bottom of the pile. He struck another match and lit the middle of the pile. Finally, he took a third match and started a fire at the top of the pile. In a few minutes, a blaze had started, with the flames licking the ceiling of the room.

The pair stepped back and out of the room and watched as the fire spread through the room; across the floor, up the walls, and finally catching the ceiling.

As the fire clawed at their feet, Ben motioned towards the stairs, "Okay. Time to go."


Part 6: Tilo

The window had opened onto a small wooden staircase that was functional rather than formal. Racing up it in the direction of the cry, Kiera and Laney passed several doors. 'High up,' Laney blurted out as they passed each one. 'It came from higher up.'

Eventually, four stories up, they came to the top of the small staircase, a metal door in front of them. Turning the stiff handle and pushing it open, they were hit by a blast of icy air as they stepped out onto a section of flat roof. Both women tensed as movement across the roof caught their eye. This movement, though, was away from them; no zombie ever moved away. Nonetheless, they remained alert as they approached what looked like a heap of rags.

Closer inspection revealed an elderly man wrapped in several coats and blankets. His formless appearance was topped off with several woolly hats.

"You're... you're... you're not one of them," he eventually stuttered, his teeth chattering behind a wispy grey beard.

"Have you been out here since the horde came?" asked Kiera, her voice full of concern. "Come on, we have to get you inside."

"Nooo!' howled the man. 'Theyre in there. They'll get me!"

"Who?" demanded Laney impatiently. "The Zeds?"

The man merely shook his head and huddled up under his blankets.

"You mean Brand and his men?" A nod from within the blankets. Laney voiced the fear that had gnawed at her since she first glimpsed the sheer number of zombies in and around Upton. "This many zombies, you're probably the only human left in Upton." There was a gasp beside her as Kiera took in the unspoken meaning. 'Brand and his men are either dead or gone," Laney finished.

"Tilo?" asked Kiera. "Have you seen Tilo King? He was visiting from..." At the sight of the man's blank face, Kiera trailed off.

"Come on, we've got to get going," Laney urged. "You can't stay up here. Come on, you'll be alright with us."

"Laney, we've still got to find Tilo," Kiera said as they reached the back stairs. Laney raised an eyebrow archly, still unhappy with the American. "Or at least find out what..."

"Hey, sir," Laney nudged the elderly man as they descended the shabby stairs. "Where's the Rands' bedrooms? Ken and them?"

"Th- third floor," stuttered the man, pointing to the door in front of them. "Right here. But you can't go through there!" He threw himself in front of the door. "The zombies!"

"We have to find our friend," Kiera countered. The man shook his head, wild-eyed, refusing to move. Kiera opened her mouth to speak again, but stopped as Laney grabbed one of the man's coats and pulled, sending him tottering off-balance. She was surprised by how light and frail he was, but she was losing patience. The longer they stayed in Upton Abbey, the more her fear for Tilo's safety turned into dread at his death. The more time she spent around Kiera, the stronger her doubts grew about Ben. She just wanted to get the job over with. She wrenched open the door, anger making her incautious.

"Tilo was looking into some guy's death," she said over her shoulder. "So my guess is he would have started in the guy's bedroom."

Kiera felt sorry for the poor man, she put a comforting hand on his arm. In a whisper she asked. "What's your name, sir?

The personal question seemed to snap the man out of his stupor for a moment. His eyes completely clear of hysterics, he replied. "Ian Wilson. Do you know if anyone else has survived? My wife Valerie?"

"Elizabeth, Eric, and Dominic made it to our gates today. I don't know where your wife might be." Kiera realized that Laney had kept walking out on to the third floor without her. "Stay here." She whispered to Ian.

Kiera followed Laney out onto the third floor. Ian's whimpers were cut off as the door to the back stairs swung shut. The corridor was wide, and richly carpeted, running from the back of the stately home where the back stairs was, right up to its front and an ornately paneled window, through which Kiera and Laney could see. Ancient portraits, mostly of men in old-fashioned dress lined the walls, and through an open door they could glimpse a luxurious four-poster bed. Soaked into the carpet, splashed onto the walls and paintings, and staining the bed sheet was dark brown dried blood. As Laney strode past the opening, Kiera spied movement within, and yanked the door shut as three zombies rushed at them.

The noise as their bodies slammed into the door, their growls, sparked a similar reaction behind a closed door in the next room, then another next to that. Kiera and Laney looked at each other in wide-eyed panic as the volume rose along the corridor. From around a corner at the top of the corridor shuffled five zombies, alerted by the groans of the others. Kiera and Laney darted down the main staircase, their footfalls muffled by the thick carpet, and crouched out of sight. Seeing and hearing nothing, the zombies stumbled to a halt halfway down the corridor, going into 'rest' mode as the undead trapped behind the doors quietened down.

"Laney, Kiera, come in," the radio crackled. "It's Ben." Kiera fumbled with the off button.

Too late. The zombies' heads snapped round and arms shot up as they located the source of the sound. Kiera and Laney were already on their feet, taking the stairs two at a time. As they approached the second floor, a group of zombies below them took up the mournful cry.

The women hesitated for a split second, then Laney pointed at an open door equidistant between them and the closing group on the floor below, and pushed Kiera ahead of her. Neither of them had time to think that it was the first time running towards zombies could save them.

Gripping the jamb, Kiera swung herself through the doorway. Laney stumbled through it behind her, her momentum carrying her to the floor, and Kiera slammed it shut. Any hope they'd had that their pursuers would continue down the corridor were dashed by the growls and the sound of fingernails dragging and scraping on the other side of the door. Kiera leant against the door, in part to catch her breath, in part to add her weight to the barrier; she was jolted and buffeted as the zombies on the other side sought to break through.

A split-second glance on her awkward entry had told Laney the room was empty of upright threats. Now, still on her knees, she had time for a better look. A cursory inspection took in the room's rich surroundings, but Laney's attention was immediately drawn to what she'd initially mistaken for a pile of clothes and debris on the other side of the room, near another door. The dramatic splashes of blood on the wall and floor, soaked into the carpet and turning brown, told her otherwise. She looked away, but a detail caught her eye. Only one other person in Haven besides her wore a black leather jacket - Tilo.

She crawled a little closer, then averted her eyes. The detail of the lapels told her it was Tilo's jacket, but the body lay in a wide puddle of blood. Laney felt the blood drain from her face, and she looked back at Kiera, tears brimming in her eyes. The American's face fell.

"Take the door, Laney," she said softly. Laney obeyed mutely, almost numb. She felt disconnected from herself as she felt the zombies thump the door behind her, watched Kiera kneel by the body. There was an ugly, gaping wound on the neck and what could only be a bullet hole in the middle of the forehead, just below the rim of his woolen hat. The story of this dark-haired young man's last minutes alive was quite clear, but it was also quite clear he wasn't Tilo. Kiera ran her hands over the slumped body, and found two small circular ruptures in the back of the jacket. Though the jacket was stained with blood, the body in it only had that sole bullet wound. Kiera slipped a small notebook from the jacket pocket.

"It's not Tilo," she told Laney. "But Tilo's..." Kiera would have liked time to express what the kindly professor had meant to them all, how he had been a solid rock in a sea of stormy uncertainty, but there wasn't time. She opened the door in the far wall and peered out. The way was clear. In the brief respite, Kiera took stock. The look of misery plastered across Laney's face as she stared dully at the body and took in Kiera's full meaning was so great she put their previous enmity to one side.

"Come on, Laney," she urged, holding out her hand. "We need to get back to the back stairs." She sniffed. It took a moment to register, but the crackle on the edge of her hearing confirmed what her senses were telling her; Upton was on fire.


Part 7: Fire with fire

For the second time in minutes, Kiera and Laney found themselves running towards danger. The flames were already licking the first flight of stairs as they reached the window out onto the roof of the laundry room. Perched on the end, huddled up against the cold, were Ben and Jay.

"Your doing?" Laney asked when she'd caught her breath.

Ben nodded. "We tried to warn you."

"And you almost got us killed," spat Laney. "Fire and zombies."

"Laney..." he said in a conciliatory tone, reaching out to her.

She flicked his hand away and pointed back to where flames were now licking at the broken window. "We could still be in there!"

A slight sense of victory flitted through Kiera as she witnessed Laney pull away from Ben, but the feeling was gone in an instant when she remembered that they had left someone behind. "Laney!" Kiera gasped. "What about Ian? The old man..."

Ben stared at Laney for a moment with a dejected look before he shook his head and turned away. His relief at seeing Laney and Kiera okay had turned to a mix of anger and sadness at Laney's reaction and the slowly dawning realization that Tilo wasn't making it out. He'd recognized it as a possibility before, but it was only just now that he was beginning to realize it as a reality.

A chill ran through Laney, but she found herself saying dully: "He would never have made it anyway."

Kiera's eyes narrowed at Laney's dismissive words about the elderly man. Perhaps she was ultimately right, but the way she said it gave Kiera an unsettling feeling.

"Uhhh, I hate to interrupt," came a cautious interjection from Jay, "but we're standing on the biggest zombie beacon for miles around. Do you think we should get moving?"

By the time any of the other three had started climbing down, Ben was on his way away from the burning abbey. He wasn't interested in staying any longer, nor was he interested in making any conversation. It was obvious that Laney wasn't going to be reasonable. In her eyes, he felt, he was already guilty; of making the first move on Kiera and of not taking Laney and Kiera into consideration when starting the fire.

The other three hung back, and Ben was grateful for it. He didn't want to talk to any of them at the moment, and if he did, they wouldn't be nice things.

Ben didn't stop. He didn't even look back. He just kept walking.

The journey home was interspersed with narrowly avoided encounters with the undead. Every zombie for miles around appeared to be honing in on Upton. Black smoke thickened the sky. The glow from the flames held back the falling dusk. The unmissable beacon meant avoiding a confrontation was a simple matter of ducking down behind hedges whenever zombies were sighted. They soon passed.

Laney kept her distance from Ben until they passed the point where the first group of zombies had chased Kiera and Jay away. Her thoughts flitted between Tilo's demise and the impulse she'd had on the laundry roof to leave Kiera to the zombies, leaving her exhausted. In the end, she sidled up to him and slid her hand into his.

Ben looked at her. He couldn't figure her out. She was pissed at him for going after Kiera. She was pissed at him for almost getting her caught in the fire. But, here she was. As angry as he was at her in return - and he was angry at her - he didn't rebuff her. In fact, he was happy to have her there, for whatever her reason was.

He didn't say anything to her, though. He just sighed and gave her hand a squeeze.

Kiera stuffed her hands into her coat pockets to prevent them from clenching in plain view. She shot daggers at the reunited pair, deeply disappointed that their squabble had been resolved so quickly. Moving her left hand in her pocket, she brushed across a small circular piece of metal and what felt like a thin deck of cards. Kiera was sure the pocket had been empty before she left Haven, so she wasn't sure where or what the objects could be. She was sorely tempted to pull them out and examine what they were, but she knew Jay would undoubtedly want to see what they were also. Kiera left the objects alone.

"What's in the shed?"

Kiera nearly jumped out of her skin upon hearing Jay's question. Her mind was confused for a moment as she tried to figure out what he could be talking about. Oh. Her first instinct was to lie, but she knew that if he went to investigate it himself he would easily discover the truth.

"A walker." Kiera stated calmly. She waited for the sound of shock or disbelief, but she was waiting for something that would never happen.

Jay grinned widely. "So that's why the Indian man spends so much time in there. I was beginning to wonder what he was up to." Dropping his voice for effect, Jay whispered: "You know, having one of them inside the walls is dangerous. It could get loose and eat people." He laughed manically at his own joke.

Kiera's brow furrowed as she realized the full scope of her dilemma. Up on the roof, the American was nearly positive that she had seen something dark in Laney's eyes just before the pop star had rescued her. It was easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and difficult to remember that anything could happen and danger could come from anywhere. The thought was chilling, to say the least. Kiera probably would have been more alarmed if it weren't for the chemicals that swirled in her veins. She felt herself beginning to drift into a calm detached state, where only the constant rhythm of her feet kept her grounded in reality.

Jay's smirk faded when he noticed Kiera zoning out. He elbowed her sharply in the ribs.

She shot him a venomous look at the rude awakening. Kiera felt the least he could do was leave her in peace after everything he had done. Crossing her arms indignantly, she was forced to watch Laney and Ben holding hands as they accompanied each other to Haven, oblivious to all else, while she was left walking with Jay.

Without warning, Jay started humming the same tune that he had performed at the hospital. After several repetitions he fell silent once more.