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Mark Lawson

The Guard

0 · 948 views · located in The Haven Universe

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

Groups

The Citizens of Haven

Description

Name- Mark Lawson

Age- 27

Gender- Male

Physical description- A muscular man who always seems to be a couple of sizes too big for what he is wearing. He is often seen with a full beard and a bald head.

Biography- In the real world Mark was a night club bouncer from Liverpool. In a way he serves much the same purpose in Haven. He is used primarily for security and manning guard posts. His size means he really doesn’t have the speed to be a Scav so he spends most of his time around the Farm. He used to be intrestred in MMA but he is smart enough to know grappling with a Zombie isn't wise.

He was in a relationship with Kim Reynolds a Scav who died at the beginning of the RP. For a long time he harboured a grudge with Monroe over her death. The two men settled their differences while working together.

So begins...

Mark Lawson's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Bosch
Epilogues.


The petrol would help keep the generator running long enough for Gary to get the information they needed as soon as the hard drive was recovered. Toby had done well for her first mission although something about the woman troubled Callie. After Toby had retired she asked Monroe about it in the kitchen but he remained unconvinced.

“You really can’t see it?”

“See what Callie? She’s fine, no broken bones and still breathing. That’s ok.”

“No she’s... heavy. Something happened out there that’s weighing her down.”

“We’re all heavy now Callie. We all got something to carry. She’ll be fine in a couple of days, just needs to compartmentalise.”

“Don’t you mean process?”

“No... I don’t. Something’s you can’t process. You just lock ‘em away keep ‘em real deep and then dig ‘em up every so often. I tend to do it over a bottle of Bushmill’s. We all deal with things in our own way Callie. It’s not like the kids you taught, just leave her be.” Monroe shrugged and left the living room. “I’ll get the kettle on.”
He was walking through the hallway of the Farmhouse when Delaney practically collapsed through the door looking like hell. He was about make a quip about this being a far cry from the O2 Arena or Simon Cowell’s yacht but stopped himself when he saw the stress on her face. There was a time for humour and this wasn’t it.

“Well done kid. Go get cleaned up suppers almost ready.” He offered with his best approximation of a smile.

Delaney’s report was what Winters and Monroe had expected but they needed her to check it out any way. The boat was news though.

“A boat could be a way outta here.” Winters said and Monroe rolled his eyes.

“Callie there’s nowhere else to go. This is home now.” Callie shook her head, she’d been running for so long it just seemed natural to keep going. “We’ll need to get someone on that. They might be open to trade, maybe they fish or something.”

“I’ll put one of the Scavs on it.” Callie nodded.

#

The next morning Monroe was still working with Mark augmenting the defences of Haven by building a large fence. Mark was still grieving the loss of Kim but as Monroe expected labour was helping keep his mind off it. Monroe believed a lot of depression was due not keeping the body active, at least that’s what he told himself. He knew the real reason he worked so hard to exhaust himself was so when he went to bed at night all he could do was sleep and not think about the things he’d buried.

They were just adding struts to the walls they had already built from lose wood and spare corrugated cladding. Monroe knew the job was great but it was already October and Winter could take down his walls faster than a crowd of Zombies.

“MONROE! QUICKLY!” Callie yelled out of the Kitchen window.

“Sounds bad.” Mark said. Monroe nodded and ran to the kitchen where he saw Callie fiddling with the dial on her Radio set.

“There’s someone on the radio.” She said frantically.

“What are they saying?”

Callie held her hand up and spoke into the radio.

“Yes that’s better we have you now. Who is this?”

Monroe heard tinny voice on the radio but couldn’t hear what was being said.

“Right... Right... Ok... just calm down... How many? Hello Hello?” Callie tried to get the signal back but had no success.

“What? Is one of the Scavs in trouble?”

“Not one of ours. A guy called Timothy says he’s been chased up a tree but a crowd of about ten Zombies.”

“Well sounds like Timmys shit out of luck.”

“What, you want to leave him?”

“I don’t want to but we can’t ask one of our people to risk themselves.”

“So we leave him to die?”

“What if it’s a trap?”

“You sound like Ackbar.”

“Who’s that?”

“Nevermind point is. He sounded scared. We can’t leave him to die.”

“It’s acting. We could be sending out a Scav to save evil Daniel Day Lewis!”

“We could be but WHAT does it say about us if we don’t?”

“It’s say’s we’re realists.”

“He could be one of the Rands or the Caravanners. This could be our in with those groups.”

Monroe went quiet which was a sign he was thinking deeply. “Ah... I don’t like it.” He finally grumbled.

“You don’t have to.”

Jobs.


I’m on a Boat.

Area- The Lake near Tull Hollow.

Objective- Investigate the Boat sighted by Delaney Byron

Information- One of our Scavs was out on a job in Tull Hollow where they found a devastated campsite however while there she also spotted an anchored boat in Tull Lake. We need you to investigate the boat, make contact with any survivors or scavenge the place for whatever you feel will be of use.

Be careful as you will have to a bit of swimming to get on board and the lake could contain Zombies. Also try not to get the Sawn off wet. Won't fire if it's sodden.

Monroe.



Helping hand.

Area- Davis Crag.

Objective- Rescue Timothy.

Information- We have just received a panicked cry for help over the radio and need a Scav to go check it out. We have currently lost radio contact with Timothy who is at Davis Crag and was able to climb a tree to evade a pack of about ten zombies. Unfortunately now he’s stuck up a tree and is exhausted. He needs someone to lure the zombies away to give him time to escape. That’s where you come in.

Monroe isn’t convinced this is safe though and is worried it’s a setup so he’s authorised use of one of his special weapons. It’s called a Webley revolver. Apparently it was pretty popular during WW2. Monroe was able get one working again by cannibalising an assortment of other guns. It’s ugly as sin and very heavy but it can hold six rounds which is a step up from the sawn offs. We only have one of these revolvers and Monroe would very much like it back safe and sound.

We’re also giving you a firework satchel. It’s just a satchel filled with things that go bang. Use it to lure the Zed’s away from Timothy so you can both escape.

Use caution on this one. You are guaranteed to find something. Either a crowd of Zeds or an ambush.

C. Winters.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait:
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(Co-written with Faith Fanon)

Tilo King had arrived in Haven about a week now, and he was still getting to know everyone. He came unexpectedly, that might be an overstatement. At the time, surviving settlements were consolidating, and he just showed up on the doorstep as if the zombie horde had only just begun. For the student of history, and father of two, it did. After eluding the first wave on the day the stiffs came, Tilo had been trying to survive and find his family ever since. Seeing the situation at Colchester, Tilo didn't know what to think. Maybe, maybe they survived. Both boys could care for their mother if anything had happened to Tilo himself. He knew that, or maybe he didn't. He didn't know.

He wasn't that physically fit, or able compared to most of the others at Haven. However, he realized that it was something he'd have to manage or he'd be left behind. The group here, in his mind, consisted of various peoples from many walks of life. He was surprised to see the diversity when he first showed up. One of his fears was that this little place would be overrun pretty soon, it had happened at various other places that he stopped at. Maybe he was a bringer of ill-fortune.

Rubbish.

Forget about it, he thought. He was suprised at how superstitious he'd gotten. But sometimes, and this might be one of them, a person must find some consolation, or solace in what ways they can.

----

She got the distinct feeling Monroe wanted her to stay on the farm and help out, but after last night, Laney had set her mind against getting lumped with the domestic chores, and helping out on the barricades with Mark was creeping her out. The man was almost like a zombie himself now, methodically lifting and securing lengths of wood, backwards and forwards, unspeaking, almost unseeing. Any attempts at conversation were met by a dull stare, utter silence and then the cold shoulder. Sure, he'd lost someone - a fellow Scav, who'd died right here in Haven after being bitten on a mission - but who hadn't? So when the new guy, Tilo, had volunteered to go back to Tull Hollow to check out the boat, Laney had blurted out her offer of help immediately.

She felt some resentment towards him, for volunteering for what should have been her mission, and towards Callie and Monroe for accepting. It just reinforced her fear that she'd let the group down, that she could have done more. She felt like letting Tilo go on his own. He wasn't all that, let him face the unknown by himself. But after an hour on the barricades with Mark, she'd swallowed her pride. When she saw him sitting outside, hunched and nervous, she realised all new Scavs were scared. It was only natural. This guy was just trying to make his way same as anyone else.

---

Tilo sat on one of the logs that was set aside on the grounds as part of what was formerly a firepit. Now it was just a hole in the ground. He sat with his knees bent and his hands clasped together. He didn't sign up for this job, but on the day he came, Jonathan Monroe, one of the leaders of Haven, made it clear that everyone would have to do their part if they wanted to eat. Tilo's stomach told him that even though he was in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, he still had to eat. Tilo's head told him that even though he was hungry, he was in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

He didn't care, the primary goal on his mind was to survive and find the whereabouts of his wife and kids.

So he sat there and waited. One of the other 'scavs,' short for scavengers, went out to Tull Hollow the other day to check for any survivors. As an urbanite, Tilo wasn't much familiar with Tull Hollow, perhaps he might have overlooked the place as he referred to the Romans and their northward expansion. If there was anything important at Tull Hollow in history, it was perhaps a camp for some druids and their followers. Nothing more than a footnote in history.

Having a guide who survived a trek to and from the region seemed a prudent idea, on the part of the volunteer who chose to lead the way. Delaney Byron, Tilo remembered hearing something about her in the news. He didn't really keep up much with popular culture, as he relied on his sons to do that for him. From what he knew, she was the daughter of Morris Byron, or rather, the late Morris Byron. Tilo didn't know if the rocker had survived, but he did enjoy the man's music. Tilo's adolescence practically revolved around the man, him and other musicians such as Elton John, the Beatles, and Rod Stewart.

The thoughts dissipated, as Delaney Byron appeared from the farmhouse, or as Monroe put it, the 'command post.'

----

"Hey," she nodded at him. "I'm Delaney." She looked him up and down. He was younger than her father, but still what she would call old, even though he was probably not much older than Monroe. It was the educated air that clung to him, she guessed, compared to Monroe's robust physicality, that had that effect, she supposed.

"Okay, let's do this thing," she announced, setting off down the road. She'd been here a day or two longer than Tilo, no more, but the fact she'd been out on a mission and he hadn't, that she'd survived and come back, made her feel capable, at least in his presence.

"Right then," he gestured for her to lead the way and he followed.

The way they went about, it seemed like he was on a hike, since he had to carry a bag among other things. The hatchet was something that he was never accustomed to using, but he knew he'd eventually have to learn. He held it with both hands, almost with a death grip. They came to the S-bend, Laney casting sly glances at her new companion. He wasn't of the generation that would know much about her career. Mostly she was glad, but part of her was disappointed - that same disappointment she always felt when confronted with the transcience, the artificiality of her celebrity. It wasn't important, in the grand scheme of things. Not like her dad's had been. People would remember things he'd made forever. At least, that's what people had thought, back in the old world.

"So I hear you're Morris Byron's daughter?" Tilo attempted to socialize, although it wasn't a priority for him at the moment. His eyes scouted the surroundings, trying to spot any zack.

'Yeah, I am,' she replied, glad to be talking about her father, not her own career. 'You... I don't know... you into him? This way," she said, vaulting the stone wall.

Tilo climbed over the wall, and once he got back on the ground, he began, "Well I'm a history professor, or I was. Before that I rocked out to your old man, the Beatles, Elton John, that sort of thing."

"Elton John? Yeah, my dad knew him, believe it or not. He used to play me Goodbye Yellowbrick Road all the time when I was little, the whole thing, on vinyl."

"Oh, no kidding?"

"Yeah, taught me to play it too. On piano. The song, I mean, not the whole album."

"Well I'm not surprised, I suppose Sir Elton was very much a family friend."

"Not really, I think they fell out when I was little. When they were both cokeheads." Laney saw they were nearing where she'd come across the stream, and directed them to the right, towards Tull Hollow.

"That's one of the things I miss most about the old world, my piano. I used to write all my songs on it. I wouldn't even mind if I just had a guitar again." She pointed out the tops of the trees to Tilo. "Over there. I mean, do you think we'll ever get things like that back again? Pianos, records, that kind of thing?"

"Honestly? I don't know. They seem like luxuries now. But um, I think everybody needs some music these days. And I'm hoping it comes back."

It was the most Laney had spoken to anyone since the outbreak. Come to think of it, she was struggling to remember the last time she'd spoken to anyone like this. Tears of loneliness pricked her eyes. "What about you, what do you miss?"

When posed with the question, he wasn't sure if he should answer it, or rather, could answer it. He wanted to give the most obvious answer. However, a part of him was afraid that, by doing so, he had already accepted that they were gone. They were people, not musical instruments. Once they were gone, they were gone, and he wasn't prepared to accept that.

"Um...well...," his head shifted away from her, trying to find some comfort in the trees. He perceived that they offered none, so he went out with it.

"I miss my wife, and my sons," he paused, continuing along behind her, "I don't know if they're still alive."

Laney opened her mouth to fill the silence. She'd resigned herself to her family being dead long ago. It wasn't her place to tell this man how to deal with his grief, so she kept quiet.

"That's the aspect I hate the most, the uncertainty," then he began to chuckle at himself, "In the end, it's just fear."

"Look at me, I'm a history professor," he paused and let out a low sigh, "The subject teaches you to realize the uncertainty of the future."

As he said this, he heard a slight crunch among crumpled branches on the ground.

"Speak of the devil," he whispered.

They crouched low, keeping their line of sight in the direction of which the noise came. Tilo's hatchet grip only tightened.

It was a loner, the thing moved at a snail's pace through the woodland. Its entire left jaw was gone, and the irises of its eyes were a milky white. It was male, Tilo knew that, but genders didn't really matter any more with those things. Blood, both wet and dry, was smeared across its face in random patterns almost like tribal markings. Its skin had turned a very sickly pale brown, some had turned into the literal definition of white, and various other colors that fell in between the two.

"Should we let him go?"

Laney recalled the sting of cowardice she'd left when she told Callie and Monroe she'd left a Zed wandering around the trees, and hefted her hatchet. "Come on, there's two of us. Besides, we don't want any of them waiting for us when we come out of the lake."

Tilo looked at Laney, then he eyed the zombie once more, and he agreed that she was right.

"You go left, I'll go right. Which ever one it turns its back to... Pow!" Laney didn't let on it was Barney's tactic. It had served them well.

---

They stood by the water's edge, looking out at the boat. "Looks like one my dad had in Jamaica," Laney said. "Could be 10 people out on it. Fuck, that water looks cold." She looked Tilo up and down, then flung her backpack, jacket and hatchet to the ground. "I used to swim every day nearly, I got this." Then she stripped off her jeans, hoodie and T-shirt. "Oh, come on," she said, looking the staring man levelly in the eyes. "I wore less than this in my videos." With that, she threw herself into the water.

"No, it's I just I was about to jump in myself. But I see I've been relegated to rearguard," he shrugged it off and kept watch on their rear for any more stragglers.

For all her bravado, for all that she'd braced herself, the shock of the cold took her breath away and momentarily she foundered, sinking below the surface. Then she found the bottom with her feet, breached the surface again and took a deep breath. 'Fuuuck,' she cried, looked back and winked at Tilo, still standing on the shore, and struck out with powerful strokes towards the boat. It was a good 100 yards out from the shore, so Laney was able to observe it at length as she closed on it. The truth was, it was a lot less sleek and stylish than her dad's Caribbean yacht, but it was about the same size, so there could be as many as 12 people squeezed onto it, the survivors of the camp. But there was no-one to be seen above board, no signs of life at all. No deck chairs, no casually discarded clothes, leisure items, nothing to indicate it was inhabited at all. Then, about 30 yards from the boat, Laney thought she glimpsed a face at one of the port-holes but, treading water and looking again, she couldn't make it out. She swam closer, and then, when she got within 10 yards of the boat, a head popped up from where she guessed there was a short stairs down into the cabin. It was a red-haired boy, somewhere between 10 and 14, she guessed, and he was struggling against something. Something was pulling him back.

"They're u-ugh," he choked out, craning his neck, then disappearing from view. Laney trod water, trying to catch another glimpse of the boy. A quick glance behind her failed to locate Tilo on the shore. Sudden fear, a sudden feeling of exposure, rattled her nerves. The boy shot up from below deck again and she heard him cry, loud and clear, "They're underwater, under the boat," just as bone-cold fingers closed on her toes.

---

Water closed over her head and rattled into her lungs as Laney was pulled under, then, with an instinctive kick she broke free from the tenuous grasp. She rose spluttering, and swam several strokes away from the boat. Unable to catch her breath, she found it hard to keep her head above water. On the deck of the boat, a red-haired man now stood behind the red-haired boy, their struggle evidently over. Laney tried to tread water, her throat retching against the swallowed lakewater, her lungs tight as a fist.

From afar, Tilo could not recognize the situation, was Laney drowning? He wasn't sure, but she looked as if she was being pulled under. Zombies under water? She was taking in water, and everytime she went up, her gasp for air was much larger than the last.

"Damn!" he swore, and paced about, with his eye on the girl and the two figures on the boat, whom he could not seem to make out.

She held out a hand beseechingly to the boat's occupants, black smoke and red dots beginning to float before her eyes. She felt a hand brush against her thrashing legs. She kicked away again, and coughed, water gouting from her lungs, and finally drew in sweet, life-giving air. The pair on the boat continued to look on, both mouths open, eyes gaping. The man held the boy's shoulders. The chilling terror at drowing gone, rage at their inaction surged through Laney.

"You fuckers!" she screamed impotently, her throat raw.

She looked around again; her struggles had taken her almost round to the other side of the boat. Certainly she couldn't see Tilo on the lakeshore any more. The lake was murky, and the sun reflecting off its surface made even harder to see what lurked beneath, so, hoping she had put enough distance between her and the submerged zombies, Laney dunked herself. In the grainy, dark silence, a solid wall of limping, crooked bodies shuffled towards her, a forest of reaching arms and grasping hands. There was no way of getting closer to the boat; the horde of zombies must spend every moment under it, mindlessly drawn by the sounds of its inhabitants. Laney came up for air and looked again at the man and boy on the boat, noticing the deep, dark hollows around their eyes.

"What the hell are you waitin-" Tilo stopped his cry as he tried to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Why weren't they reaching out to help her?

His call would only attract more from beyond the woods, if there were any.

He searched about on the shore trying to find a sizable boat that would not tip over if more of the swimming ones came for him like they did for Laney. But he only managed to find a canoe with a passenger capacity for at least two people. He dropped the hatchet into the canoe and immediately grabbed the wooden oars and began rowing to her. He struggled furiously, paddling toward the yacht, and from the corner of his eye he spotted more zed coming above the waterline.

Oh bloody hell. Where did they come from? It didn't matter, he had to focus, she was struggling to maintain her breath, while avoiding the teeth of those things that were once human. He had to get to her before she was bitten. Meanwhile, the man and the boy on the boat just stayed there, not moving an inch, indifferent to her cries.

"For God's sake help her!" Tilo growled, still no movement, what was the matter with them?

"Delaney, swim toward me!" He motioned with one hand, paddling with the other.

She kicked and kicked, while her arms stretched to their limit with each stroke as if she tried to pull the boat toward herself. Tilo paddled even more, trying to close the gap between the two of them, with the swimmers, or gurglers floating behind her. She grabbed onto the side, and he hauled her over, letting her lay across the canoe, as he rowed them back. She was still breathing hard, her voice almost gone. The scream in the water that she gave was taxing on her singer's vocal chords, not to mention lungs.

"On the boat," she gasped. "There's something.. wrong with them."

"We can't go back there, those things will swarm us," Tilo was just focused on getting out of there.

"Keep your hand on my hatchet, and watch out for any that might try to board," Tilo rowed, and breathed. Rowed, and breathed, trying to calm himself. Laney let herself be dragged through the water. She didn't think she'd have the energy to strike out at anything that approached them.

"Don't say anything, just check if you were bitten anywhere," he looked back after every other stroke he made to keep track of the distance he was putting between them and the yacht. Just a little bit more, just a little bit more. They were going to make it, they needed to make it.

He lifted Laney up from the boat, while the zeds were still on their approach. They had landed far from where Laney had ditched her backpack and clothes for her swim, and the closing zombies made it too dangerous to return for them. Tilo gave one last look at their dreadful faces, of the zeds, and of the two survivors on the small yacht. They kept a pace that was just shy of sprinting, his equipment slowing him down, and Laney's exhaustion slowing her down.

----

Back at Haven, Tilo panted, and took very long breaths, his hands on his knees, as he tried to recirculate what little saliva he had in his dried mouth. He sweated, he squinted, and he realized he was old.

He may have been old, but he still had enough breath to ask Laney, "Are you alright?"

She nodded, still a bit shaken by the encounter. "Tilo?" she asked.

"Yes?"

"Lend me your shirt?"

----

Tilo stood there for a second, in front of the two leaders of Haven. Should he tell them that there were two survivors still trapped on the yacht? Or should he keep that to himself, and leave the two to whatever fate they chose?

"Everybody was turned, as far as Laney and I could tell. From the boat to the lake, the place is swamped with them," Tilo turned to leave, but he stopped himself and added, "But...if you do come back there, remember to pack some firepower."

Then he left the 'command post,' leaving Callie and Monroe to their devices.

"Yeah, forget Tull Hollow, forget Tull Lake," Laney added. "The place is swamped. Okay, I've got to get dressed." She hurried out of the room after Tilo.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Bosch
Monroe hefted the wooden pallet into place and waited for Mark to raise the hammer. He looked over at the young man who was looking glumly into the distance and lowered the Pallet.

“Let’s take five.” Monroe said setting the Pallet on the ground as a seat. “You’ve been grinding those teeth all day mate. What’s the problem?”

Mark looked at the ground and took a deep breath before sitting down on the pallet beside Monroe.

“Why? Just tell me why you sent her.”

“We needed the information on that drive, someone hadda go.”

“Why her though?”

“Back then we only had a couple of Scavs, its dangerous work Mark, she knew that.”

Mark made an annoyed grunt and rubbed his forehead.

“Look I know it’s shite and makes no sense. We don’t get to decide who lives and who dies. There’s no author to all this, no sick bastard sitting at keyboard coming up with ways to torture us. This is just life, it’s just war.”

Mark sat next to Monroe on the Pallet. “I just... She was only person I’ve ever loved... Really loved I mean.”

Monroe rolled his eyes. Kim Reynolds had settled when she began a relationship with Mark and it was clear to everyone he had invested more in it than she had. In fact Callie had suggested the arrival of Jesus Herrera would cause a lot of problems if a love triangle occurred. Callie had been so worried and unsure but Monroe just had a quiet word with Kim and she said she understood the situation. Kim had been a pragmatist like Monroe.

“Mark it’s goona hurt mate. You just gotta aim that hurt where it belongs. Those fucking Zombie bastards. They took Kim, we just stay focused on staying alive and the pricks don’t win.”

“Yeah... I’ll try better. It helps working.” Mark said after a long pause.

“Good Lad. I’ll grab us some water and we can crack on.”

Monroe got to his feet and marched towards the farmhouse. Mark was staring daggers at him the whole way there. “Fucking Mick...” He muttered.

#

Inside the Farm house Monroe grabbed a jug of water and filled two cups. The water was collected in a bathtub Monroe had ripped from the Bathroom, modified and installed outside. It needed to be boiled before it could be drank but it was better holding your mouth open every time it rained.

“How’s it going with Mark?” Callie asked from the Comms desk where she was monitoring the Scavs currently on Jobs.

“I think me wants to give me a dig.”

“Really?” Callie said her eyes going wide.

“Yeah probably wouldn’t be a bad thing... bit like milling.”

“Milling?” Callie asked.

“Controlled aggression exercise in the Paras. It’s like boxing but it only lasts a minute. Idea is you give it everything then stop. Shows you can avoid the red mist descending and you aint afraid to get hit. Course the lads used it to work out any issues they had with eachother.”

“Sounds terrible.”

“I guess... Sorted out any personality clashes though pretty quick.”

Callie turned and looked Monroe in the eyes. “You will not do that here.” She said sternly.

“Course.” Monroe said before cracking a smile. “Is that your scary teacher voice you used on the kids?”

“I find it works just as well on over grown children...” Callie said before returning to her Comms. Monroe shook his head and brought the mugs back outside to continue his work.

#
Later.

Monroe gleefully received the Webley revolver from a panting Ben and immediately set about checking the weapon.

“What the hell happened?” Monroe asked as he unloaded the revolver.


“Where’s Timothy?” Callie cut in.


“He’s dead.” Ben explained. “Some group got to him before I could. I saw them kill him and take his stuff.”


“Who were they? How many?” Two more questions by Monroe.


“I didn’t recognize them. Didn’t think it’d be a good idea to ask, either. Five of them.” Ben rubbed the back of his head, “But, the thing is…”


“Yes?” Callie looked to him curiously.


“They asked about Haven. This guy Tim didn’t know exactly where we are, but he did know we’re within a few miles--” Ben gave a brief shake of his head, “—I mean kilometers.” He corrected himself, “So, I don’t know. They’re dangerous. We definitely don’t want them finding this place. Good news is, they didn’t see me.”


Ben turned to leave, muttering as he went, “Probably would have killed me if they did.”

Once Ben had left the room Monroe began speaking. “Shite they didn’t see him but he probably left a trail all the way here. Fuck with all the Scavs going out there’s multiple trails to follow leading here.”

“How likely is it they’re trackers though, I mean they’re probably city boys.”

“It’s likely but we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

“Also why were they asking for us by name? I mean we’re tiny compared to The Caravanners or the Rands.”

“Probably know better than to fuck with the Rands and there’s too many Caravanners. We’re easy pickings.”

“What about the Scavs?”

“They’ll need better weaponry and maybe we shouldn’t be sending them out alone any more. We’ll get less done but two heads are better than one.”

“Alright what about guns?”

“I’m working on it.” Monroe said.
#
It turned out he was not working on it.

Jesus’ report told of his failure at securing the hard drive and Callie was sympathetic.

“There was nothing he could have done. The place was crawling with infected.”

“I know but we needed that Intel, it would have told us who owns guns in the area, whose weapons we could have borrowed.” Monroe allowed himself a sigh before moving on no point dwelling. “I guess the Rands will have already pinched the majority of the weapons anyway.”

“So the Scav’s are doubling up now?”

“Yeah at least until we work out what’s going on with those bastards the Yank saw.”
#

"Everybody was turned, as far as Laney and I could tell. From the boat to the lake, the place is swamped with them," Tilo turned to leave, but he stopped himself and added, "But...if you do come back there, remember to pack some firepower."

Then he left the 'command post,' leaving Callie and Monroe to their devices.

"Yeah, forget Tull Hollow, forget Tull Lake," Laney added. "The place is swamped. Okay, I've got to get dressed." She hurried out of the room after Tilo.

Monroe raised an eyebrow at Callie. “You think they’re? You know?”

“No what?”

“You know... She’s wearing his shirt.”

“Christ, Monroe he’s old enough to be her Father.”

Monroe held up his hands in an I give up gesture. “So what are we thinking here? Stick a red pin in it?”
Callie nodded and drove a small red pin into Tull Lake, it denoted the place was crawling with Zombies, the forestry office also had one.

“Was a bit weird though, I mean they didn’t bring anything back.”

“So?” Monroe said.

“Well I just mean if they made on board the boat surely they could have grabbed something.” Callie wondered. Her career had been spent listening to tall tales about dogs eating homework and the like, Kids might not be as good at lying as adults but the principals were the same. Something was off about the way they had acted maybe Monroe had picked up on it too but his imagination didn’t stretch much past the scandalous.

“They said the place was crawling. Probably lucky to get out of there.” Monroe said finally before returning to the map. Callie nodded and dismissed her suspicions, she’d been cooped up in the kitchen all day and was probably going a little stir crazy.

#

Eden Valley Camp Site.

The Eden Valley Camp Site was the Location the Caravaners called home. The group had been successful due their large size. However in the early days a lack of direction lead to many losses. Eventually the Caravan Club Committee that had planed parties and events took on a new role as the leaders of the group. It was a bizarre twist but the sense of community the Caravaners had built up around the Caravan Club Committee structure had translated well the Deputy Chair was now the Chair as her successor had died before the community had gotten prepared. Her Name was Jane Meadows and the success of the Camp had been mainly due to her take charge nature. She had used smaller caravans to create a wall around the Site that helped stop roving bands of the Undead getting in. It made her laugh how everyone had once viewed her as a dippy hippy but now seemed fine with the Caravaners form of communism. There had been some descent from the people whose caravans she’d used to build the wall but she made a point of including her own Caravan in the list. It meant there was less sleeping room but with all the camping gear they had no body didn’t have a place to sleep.

Like Monroe and Winters, Meadows had set up a group of Scavs although she called them her runners and their role was much the same. There was something of a problem with the Runners though as a man called Timothy Greaves had not reported in. They had been able to pick up some communications between him and Haven though. It seemed Tim was trapped up a tree and needed help. Haven agreed to help and sent out one of their Scavs. The Caravaners could hear the conversation but some reason could not be heard. None of them were expert in the use of radio equipment so their comms were something of a trial and error affair. Jane felt it would be only fair to send one of her own Runners out to help the Scav from Haven. Jane hoped the operation would lead to a partnership with Haven. The Scav she had sent was called Samantha Low and she had just crashed through the door of the Caravan Jane was using as an office.

She was sucking in air and trying to get the words out but it was just coming out in a garbled mess. Jane told her to sit and grabbed the woman a towel and a glass of water. She was sweating profusely and looked like she’d just ran a marathon. Once Sam got her breathing under control she finally delivered her report.

“I found Tim. He’s dead.”

“What? Infected?” Jane asked.

“No gunshot to the head.”

“Are you sure he hadn’t been bitten?”

“I checked him myself he was clean. They executed him.”

“They?”

“Haven, who else?” Sam said after gulping down some water.

“We can’t know...”

“I know what I saw, Jane. Tim laid out on his back with a bullet in his forehead.”

Sam stood and went to leave the caravan.

“Sam you need to keep this under wraps until we know what’s going on.”

“No way Jane I’m telling the other runners. You can’t keep this from them. What if they happen upon a Haven Scav?”

Jane slowly nodded. “Of course.” With that Sam left to inform the rest of the Caravaner Runners about the threat from Haven.

#


Jobs.


Notice.

Given recent reports of an armed gang in the area all Scavs are to operate in teams of two. Be aware there are at least five and we have a report they are looking for Haven.

Additionally Monroe is releasing one scoped hunting rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition to each team in addition to normal Scav equipment.


The Tour de Lakes.

Area- Hamilton’s Retreat Hotel.

Objective- Recover bicycles and Distraction devices (Fireworks).

Information- Right Hamilton’s is one of those fancy resorts for rich arseholes, you know the deal. Five star service where minimum wagers give the whole Sir and Ma’am thing to the wealthy. It’s a health spa and kind of looks like the Hotel from the Shining, Don’t tell Callie I said that she’s worried it’ll freak you out.

Anyway Hamilton’s offers adventure retreats, Spa days and fine dining we’re more interested the adventure aspect of things. Word has it they got all sort of gear in there in but we want two things in particular bikes to increase the range of our operations and Distraction devices. Now if one of you arseholes shows up on a fucking Harley I’ll break you in two myself. I want mountain Bikes, repair kits, spare tyres and anything else you can grab.

Hamilton’s is famous for it’s firework show they put on at the weekends. I want as many of those fireworks as you can get your mitts on. Zombie’s like loud noises and pretty colours so we can use ‘em as distraction devices. More and more Zeds have been approaching the walls. So far we’ve been able to drop ‘em silently but we’d rather just lure ‘em the other way.

Obviously be careful when handling the explosives. The Doc’s good I don’t think she can reattach fingers.

Like I said it’s an outward bound place so there might be bows we could use or at least a football for a kick about.

The place it’s self is massive and consists of the hotel and outdoor pursuits center round the back. The hotel is made up of three parts the main building, east wing and west wing. The main building has a reception area, restaurants, bars and the Spa. The wings are guest rooms. Out back the Outdoor Pursuits centre is a more modern looking building. It has a pool, Archery Range, Climbing wall and a storeroom. The Storeroom is your target. Take what you can carry.

The place was populated at the time of the outbreak so assume the dead have taken it. Any reports we have received have not suggested anyone is alive but shadows walk past windows and there are Zeds in the grounds.

Good luck and try to keep away from the Spa, I don’t think they’re doing hot stones anymore.

Monroe.

The Bodyguard

((Based on an idea by Black Hoodie))

Area- Silent Valley Solar Energy Plant

Objective- Bring Gary Fowler to the Silent Valley Solar Energy Plant.

Information- Gary is Haven’s Technological expert and we need you to accompany him to the Silent Valley Solar Energy Plant. The Plant is reasonably large but has few buildings. It’s mainly made up of large Solar Panels that kind of look like Trees if Trees were designed by Apple. The plant is made up of technical equipment, offices and a reception area. In total the Plant is a small two story office building. When the Solar Fields are taken into account however the full size of the place is around 4km.
The field is fenced off to deter vandals which means there shouldn’t be many zombies inside. We don’t think anyone has been there yet which means the Zombies inside are going to be in good condition. That means they are still fast and strong, still dumb though.

It’s your job to Get Gary there and back out in one piece, his role is to take a look at panels and see if there is any way to get one back to Haven or tap into the grid. He says his work should take around Thirty minutes and is strictly research. Gary is probably not as experienced around Zeds or active as you are so make allowances for his reduced stamina and knowledge around Zeds. We offered to send one of you out with a camera instead but he insisted he needed to see the place himself. He can be quite stubborn so be prepared for that to.

Good luck.

Callie.

Chicken Run.

Area- Brakenbacker Farm.

Objective- Get chickens.

Information- I know this one is a little weird. The problem is Winter is Coming (yeah I said it) and we haven’t really had time to prepare, we reckon we can still get by with scavenging as most locations haven’t been picked clean yet but we need to start thinking about renewable sources of food. I feel Eggs are a good place to start.

Brakenbacker Farm is one of those horrible battery farm places that crams the poor animals on top of each other and forces the poor little buggers to lay all day. I think they will be much happier in Haven.

Brakenbacker Farm is farming on an industrial scale so it’s quite a large complex however many of the systems are automated so there are probably not a lot of people around the site at least before the outbreak. This has the added bonus of ensuring the Chickens are still being fed, at least we hope.

We’re going to send you out with a bag for a couple of chickens but remember they will probably keep squawking so one of you should catch the little buggers while the other keeps watch. I’ve got Monroe building a coop so they should have a nice home by the time you get back. We only need a couple so don't grab too many.

If you are feeling strong a bag of grain would be great too.

Just think of the omelettes!


Callie.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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#, as written by Bosch
Friday, November 1st, 2013.

Haven

0830.


The three chickens pecked around the Coop Monroe and Mark had built and for a change Callie was happy with their work. She had a hard time christening the birds, Monroe had wanted to call them Pellegrini, Hart and Nasri, he figured it would piss off Herrera too much though so it was Callie who chose the names in the end. So it came to be the three chickens were known as Liz, Natasha and Katona after British pop group “Atomic Kitten.” Although everybody had taken to calling them “Atomic Chicken”.

“It’s my era.” Callie explained with a slightly embarrassed smile when Toby raised a questioning eyebrow.

Atomic Chicken seemed to enjoy their new home in Haven and Callie was already incredibly pleased with how the mission had gone. Monroe however was more concerned with the chance meeting Laney and Ben had with Jake. He was speaking to Callie while she fed the new arrivals.

“I don’t know, at least he didn’t kill them. Last thing we need is the whole thing turning into a bloody shootout. We need to clear this up with the Caravaners. From their perspective we look guilty as sin.”

“They did well though, their runner knows the truth and they survived together.”

“We still need to speak with their leadership, get this thing cleared up.”

#

1230


“Aww fuck.” Monroe moaned when he heard the report of Chip’s death and the trip to the solar plant. He had known Chip to be one of the more capable members of the Haven community and his loss would be felt. “We didn’t need that. Chip was a good one.”

Callie noticed Monroe was now calling Chip by his name, before he had called him “The Rescue Ranger”. Apparently dying meant you got your name back. Callie and Monroe were in the kitchen going over the new information gathered by the scavengers and listening intently to Gary Fowler’s report.

“What did you find Gary? Is the Solar plant worth anything?” Callie asked.

“Yeah can we tap into their system?”

Gary smirked, Monroe was one of the many people who viewed computers as a magical box that could achieve anything. In Gary’s experience it was usually due to a combination of ignorance and Hollywood.

“No we can’t tap into their system.” Gary explained enjoying his chance to display a bit of technical knowledge to the shaved Ape and Callie. “We’d need to lay a lot of cable and... it’s just not feasible. However we could install some of the Panels here.”

“How could that work?” Callie asked. “Those things are massive.”

“That’s logistics which makes it a problem for the Scavs. They’re not too heavy, just awkward and long.” Gary said with a shrug.

“Yeah.” Monroe said absentmindedly, he was already trying to come up with ways to get around the problem. “Can we take the panels apart? Move them in chunks?”

“I wouldn’t. Putting them back together would be a nightmare. You’ll need to dig them out and bring the whole structure back here in one piece.”

Monroe nodded the job would be a tricky one but with planning anything could be achieved.

“What about Hoppy?” Callie asked.

“What about her?” Gary asked.

“She was pretty close to Chip, how’s she taking the death?”

“Seemed uh... a little shell shocked but I guess that’s normal considering. It was pretty bad in there. Didn’t really think we’d make it out... but we did.”

Monroe nodded. Gary wasn’t big on feelings and in a way that was a good thing.

“I’ll keep an eye on her just the same.” Callie said.

#

Eden Valley Camp Site.

17:30.


The sun had already begun to dip below the skyline which meant and communal fire had been lit. It was covered over with a tarp to block the majority of the light and there was a strict no green leaves policy to avoid too much smoke. It was a risk but Jane Meadows, the leader of the Caravaners, knew the importance of warmth and light especially now. Before the outbreak Jane had worked a lot of odd jobs, just enough to pay for her next holiday. In no particular order she’d been a taxi driver, masseuse, weed dealer, fast food employee, cleaner, Pet Smart employee, Tesco shelf stacker, dry cleaner, Waitress and holistic therapist.

By far her worst job had been in a call centre. The hours were long and she remembered some days your shift would mean the only time you’d see the sun was through the window and 15 minutes at lunch. There had been one guy who brought a special lamp to work that was supposed to mimic sunlight. He claimed he had a condition call SAD, which stood for something but Jane couldn’t remember what it was. She just thought it was utterly tragic that someone had to spend their days looking at a fake sun while working in a shitty call centre.

It was true though people did tend to go a little funny when they don’t feel the warmth of the sun. That’s why she ensured the communal camp fire was always lit at night. Kept the place and community warm.

At least that was the idea, on this evening the community wasn’t feeling too warm towards Jane Meadows. She was trying to lead a group discussion with a group of incredibly pissed off runners when Jake returned from his mission. The rabble was lead by Samantha Low and they were demanding some action be taken against Haven.

“Tim was executed, Jane. Executed. These Haven people are bad news. We all knew the outbreak would have caused some people to go a little crazy, that’s what’s happening at that farm.” Sam said reiterating the point she’d been making for the past half hour.

A roar of support came from the assembled runners while Jane held up her hands in an attempt for calm.

“Sam you’re drawing conclusions here based on incomplete information. I agree it looks bad for Haven but they have never done anything like this before.”

Samantha was about to respond when Jake stepped forward and cleared his throat. He'd had to take a much longer route back to Eden Valley due to a horde of Zombies. He'd only just entered the conversation and figured it would be best to explain what he knew.

“I met some Haven runners while I was out. They saved my life, well we saved each other’s lives. They were just a couple of kids, said their guys had nothing to do with Tim getting killed. In fact they said there’s a gang roaming around the place and they shot Tim.”

“Lies!” Samantha cried, although her outburst didn’t get the same roar of approval this time. Jake was offering new information and he was a trusted member of the Caravaners as well as a respected runner. His word carried weight and went a long way to strengthening Jane’s appeal for calm.

“It’s not Sam. I liked Tim too but if they wanted to take me out they had more than enough opportunities.” Jake explained.

Jane felt the need to press the advantage.

“Sam is right, we need to be sure about what is going on, however I don’t think Haven have anything to do with Tim’s death. They are in as much danger as we are so maybe we should just go talk them.”

“All right but I’m going.” Sam said in a tone that made it clear she stating a fact not asking permission. Her argument had taken a hit but Haven wasn’t off the hook yet as far as Samantha Low was concerned.

#

Saturday, November 2nd 2013.

Haven

0700


Callie woke and took a few a seconds to shake off the drowsiness of her night’s sleep. It also took her a few seconds to notice her breath in the air but when she did she moaned. She pulled herself out of the sleeping bag and wandered to the window. She raised the blackout blinds and saw the rolling hills of the Lake District were covered in Snow.

“Bugger.” She muttered.

She got washed and dressed then went to Kitchen where she saw Monroe sitting at the table wrapped in a couple of Layers with one of the white lab coats Hoppy had scavenged on top.

“Didn’t take you for the scientist type.”

“You seen outside? It’s camo.”

“Where were you?”

“The roof, it was my Stag.”

Callie knew he meant he had been on guard duty the previous night. She had quickly picked up the odd vocabulary a mixture of a Northern Irish childhood and career in the army had given Monroe.

“You want a coffee?”

“Naw I’ll crash out now, be up by noon.”

Callie nodded and was about to speak when the radio crackled to life.

“Haven. This is Eden Valley Caravan Site. We need to talk.”

“Aw bollocks. I’ll get a coffee after all.”

Callie dropped into her seat by the radio while Monroe poured two cups of Coffee.

“This is Haven did you say Eden Valley?”

“Rodger. My name is Jane Meadows I’m the leader here. Who am I speaking to?”

“I’m Callie Winters and I’m with Jonathan Monroe.”

“Are you in charge?”

Callie looked at Monroe who shrugged.

“I guess... I mean we’ve been here the longest.”

“Well I understand we might have had a bit of a misunderstanding...”

#

0955

Monroe was in awe, somehow Callie had had tuned Jane Meadows from a mysterious voice on the radio into a what any passerby would assume as a life-long friend. It was a power Callie had that Monroe just didn’t possess. He called it witchcraft, Callie called it basic social skills.

“So the problem seems to be this wandering band of psychos, you say your runn... sorry, Scav said they asked Tim about Haven before shooting him?” Jane concluded.

“Yeah our Scav saw the whole thing.” Callie was being careful not use any real names as, while she was getting on with Jane Meadows, the fact remained she was just a voice on the radio. For all she knew she could be talking to the very person that had killed the Caravaner runner.

“What do you say to a joint investigation? Maybe we can track these people down?”

“Your runners and our Scavs?” Callie repeated to buy time so she could look at Monroe who nodded and shrugged at the same time a gesture Callie took to mean “I’m ok, if you’re ok.”

“Alright we’re game.”

“We’ll send two runners to you. One of them will be the same one your runners met earlier so you’ll know it’s us. I’ll send them on Monday.”

“Alright Jane it’s been real nice talking.” Callie said as she hunched over the table and let her tone drop. “I gotta warn you though don’t try to fuck us Jane, don’t you ever try to fuck us. So long as we both keep that in mind, everybody will stay happy.”

“Sure thing Callie, we just want to get these assholes out of our area. I’ll send our runners with another freq so you guys can have a more secure line to us.”

“Great can’t wait to work together.” Callie said, her tone bright and cheery again.

She ended the conversation and turned to Monroe.

“So whadda you think?”

“ ‘Don’t ever try to fuck us?’ I didn’t have you pegged as a Scarface fan.”

“A Uni boyfriend loved it, I must have seen ten times. I couldn’t think of anything intimidating to say!”

“Clearly. We should get a notice up.”


#

1600

Monroe took a swing from his coffee and eyed the battered pair standing in front of him. He’d seen it before, the thousand yard stare. Tilo and Toby had clearly been through the wringer. They delivered their report and Callie made no attempt to interrupt.

Once they concluded their harrowing tale silence fell on the room.

“I’m sure he was glad of the company in his final moments. At least you were able to give the dignity of not turning.” Callie said finally.

“Aye and good work securing those supplies. They’ll come in handy.”

Tilo handed over the wallet "I um...want to go on that one, and tell them personally."

“Of course Tilo, you’ll get first refusal. It might be a good idea to explain what happened and the family will probably appreciate this.” Callie said as she accepted the wallet from the sad eyed man. She’d heard his story and couldn’t begin to imagine the pain over his missing family.

#

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013.

1103


'Fuck you Monroe, I had to get tampons,' Laney snapped. The soldier's jaw dropped, his eyes bulged. The vein throbbed double-time. In the end, he muttered 'You deal with this'.

“You owe me a fucking Radio, X-factor.” Monroe growled before turning on his heel and leaving.

Callie sighed before turning to Laney. “He’s right you know that was pretty reckless. You should have told me. I’d have sorted it. What if the walkie thing hadn’t worked? We would have had to send someone out to get you, endangering them. That’s why Monroe’s pissed, don’t take it personal. He wants us to be a bit more Girls Aloud and a bit less Mariah Carey...” Callie said with a smile hoping the joke would help break the tension.

Delaney looked at the floor and reminded Callie of one of her students. Some responded to yelling while others responded to the “I’m not angry just disappointed” routine. Callie patted her on the back and took the mooncup.

“Thanks and chin up. I’ll handle Monroe, his bark is worse than his bite.”

#

1115

Monroe was seething and walked outside to get some fresh air. Discipline was sorely lacking in Haven but he was working with Civilians, what did he expect? It’s not like he could beast them, He supposed that’s why he had Callie. It was her job to do the people stuff, it was his job to do the zombie stuff.

He took a deep breath and tried to regain a sense of calm.

“You ok?” It was Gary.

“Yeah sure.” Monroe said although he wasn’t ok. He turned to look at Gary. “Piece of advice though, Never work with children, animals or people you have been on top of the pops.”

“I’m pretty sure Top of Pops got cancelled, like a couple of decades ago.” Gary offered.

Monroe shook his head and trudged off through the snow. For some reason he found himself looking at the wall he and Mark had built together that kept the farm secure. It was obvious to him the bits he’d built at the start compared to the bits he’d built later. His ability was getting better with practice. A few weeks ago he couldn’t mend a chair but now he was building Chicken Coops. This resulted in one of the few epiphanies Jonathan Monroe would experience in his life. The last one had occurred in 2004 in a bar in a the Philippines when he realised few women have Adam’s apples and fewer still have a five O’clock shadow to rival his own.

Unlike the epiphany of ’04 this was a happy one.

He left the wall to go see Mark who was asleep in one of the converted outer buildings. The Farmhouse was starting to get a little cramped.

“Wakey, wakey hands off snakey!” Monroe cried as he stuck his head round the door.

“Aw Christ Monroe, what is it now? I was on guard last night. I’m knackered.”

“I know you were. Problem is X-Factor got out past you and near got her face chewed off by some Zeke down in Cromwell.”

“Oh shit is she alright?”

“She’s fine. My radio is another story...” He mumbled but quickly moved on. “Point is I want you to know this situation has led me to a conclusion. Youse uns don’t know the first goddamn thing about Soldiering. How would you? It’s my fault and I’m gonna fix it. 1500 hours today in front of farmhouse, I’m going to be taking a little class. Pass it on.”

Then Monroe was gone leaving Mark huddled in his sleeping bag. “When the hell is 1500 hrs?” He wondered.

#

1500

Monroe looked at the assorted faces assembled in front of him. Gary, Mark, The Doc and some of the Scavs had come to listen to his little presentation.

“Right ladies and gentlemen I know its cold but this important. Today I’m gonna teach you all a little bit about what I know. What I know is soldiering. Today everyone is going to become competent in three things, weapons handling, fire and movement and orientating. We don’t have a lot of ammo to spare so all the drills are gonna be dry.”

After this Monroe went into his spiel about the various weapons available in the armoury, even weapons the Scavs didn’t usually get to use. They covered the use of the Webley revolver (Monroe’s prized possession), the Harrys, how to work a hunting rifle scope as well as reload and maintenance drills for all weapons. He then explained the basics of fire and movement which for their purposes basically amounted to covering retreats. He explained these in the context of a gun battle but explained the same principals could be used to create distance between a small team and a horde of the undead.

“It’s pretty much like leap frog, while someone is moving someone else is firing. You just keep leap frogging until you extricate yourself from a situation. The trick is you need to trust your team, it all falls apart if you break rank. Nobody never won nothing on their own.” He glanced at Laney and smiled. It was as close as Monroe could get to extending an olive branch.

“What about Olympic sprinters?” Callie called from the rear of the group. “Far as I can tell they do that all alone.” She had enjoyed learning more about the weapons and the skills Monroe had taught. It had been a fun day and a way for the group to let their hair down while taking part in exercises.

“You know what I mean.” Monroe moaned with a smile on his face.

Finally he moved on to basic orienteering skills like how to work a compass, how to read a map, what a contour line is and how to orienteer one’s self using the sun and stars.

“Right so that’s enough for one day. If any of you have any questions I can help with I’d be happy to. I’ll be holding these little classes every week and they’ll get more advanced as we go. I know Doc Short wants to give you all a brief about basic first aid tomorrow, it’s always good to know what bit goes where. If anyone else would like to step up and teach us a little something about what you know that would probably be worthwhile too. Now though I think it’s time for dinner.”

“Yep, it’s Omelettes tonight.” Callie said with smile but the news was met with a groan, the egg based cuisine was getting old.

“Poached eggs then...” She said hopefully.

#

2100

The farmhouse was quiet as everyone had taken themselves off to whatever nook or cranny they’d claimed as their own. Callie and Monroe were in the kitchen going over the jobs they’d post the following day.

“So Monroe was the school thing today your attempt to make peace?”

“No, idea what you’re talking about. I’m just helping out the only way I know how, and my way is educating feckers.” Monroe said deflecting her question. “It was a bit of Craic though.”

A silence passed between them and Callie sighed. She had gossip and had to tell someone, it was bad habit she’d picked up in the staff room. Monroe wasn’t perfect but would have to do, it was too good not to.

“Soooo have you heard the gossip?” She said in the least nonchalant way possible.

“I don’t really do gossip.” He said without looking up from his map.

“Everyone does gossip Monroe, it’s what separates us from the animals. The gossip is, right, you know Laney and Ben...” Callie raised her eyebrows what cocked her head to the side. “You know.”

“What X-factor and the Kid who looks like Scooby-Doo’s stoner mate.”

“Ben doesn’t look like Shaggy.”

“Shaggy! Thank you that’s been on the tip of my tongue since I met the guy.” Monroe cried with satisfaction. “Anyway what about them?”

“They’re... Boom chicka wow wow.” Callie sang with a smile on her face.

“What even is that... are you saying they’re bumping uglies?”

“Well no I think they’ve just kissed but you know... it’s adorable.”

“Shaggy took his time, that’s for sure, he was following her around like a wee love sick puppy. Scrappy doo.” Monroe said with a glint in his eye.

“Oh be nice. It’s cute.”

“Yeah, well just look at Mark and Kim. These days it’s best to keep feelings like that at arm’s length.”
Callie was silent for a moment. “Jesus, Monroe I can see why you don’t do gossip, you depress the hell outta everyone. What’s on the to do this week?”

“Well we got the date the Caravaners so we’ll need to send three on that and I’ve got an idea for the Solar panels but we’ll need supplies.”

“Ok Rishi said he needed some help with things, so he’ll be taking two as well. He’ll write his own briefs though.”

“Bloody right he will. Looks like our dance card is all full up so lets get these things written up.”

They sat down and began writing their briefing packs, abruptly Monroe stopped writing.

“Aww no...” “

“What?” Callie asked suddenly concerned.

“I was just thinking about X-factor and Shaggy.”

“And?”

“Tilo’s gonna be crushed.” Monroe said while shaking his head.

Cassie face palmed and let out a long moan. “Never in my life have I met someone so rubbish at gossip. You don’t even try to pay attention do you?”

Monroe tutted and returned to his briefing.

#

Monday November 4th, 2013.

Jobs.

Getting to Know You.

Suggested Number of Scavs- 3 (plus 2 Caravaner runners.)

Area- Netherland Wood, around Eden Camp Site and Haven Farm.

Objective- Work with the Caravaner runners to learn more about the Gang of Five currently in the area.

Special Equipment- Scoped bolt action Hunting rifle with twenty rounds.

Information- We’ve made some friends, which is nice. They’re from Eden Valley Camp Site which is where the Caravaners call home. It looks like there was a lot of confusion on their end about our involvement in the death of one of their runners called Tim (The call their Scavs, Runners weird right?) It’s all been cleared up now though and we’ve been in touch with their leadership via radio.

Anyway we’ve decided the best course of action is to go on a joint mission to see if we can’t learn more about the Gang of Five. The two Runners you’ll be going out with are called Samantha and Jake. Jake is the guy who helped out Laney and Ben while they were picking up ‘Atomic Chicken’. From what they said he seems pretty cool, we have no information on Sam.

Their leader has suggested they have some information relating to the location of the gang but we’ll see how that goes. Monroe has issued the use of scoped rifles for this mission, hopefully you were paying attention during his class.

Callie.

GTA


Suggested Number of Scavs- 2

Area- Cromwell, Gill Mechanics.

Objective- Retrieve a flatbed truck and stash it.

Special Equipment- Bicycles.

Information- Right our resident Tech Geek Gary seems to think he can jury rig up a couple of solar panels to give Haven some electricity. This is vital as the nights get longer. We need to start using rechargeable batteries and quite depending on the generator anytime we need some juice, petrol is scarce enough.

Gary, Hoppy and Chip went on a mission out to Silent Valley and scoped out the solar panels problem is they are a pain in the arse to carry especially when you got a couple of Zombs on your back. Not to mention we’d need to make several return trips even if everyone in Haven was helping.

So we need a vehicle and a big one at that to accommodate the panels.

As luck would have it there should be a flatbed truck in Gill Mechanics in Cromwell at least there was when Kim was last out that way. They mainly do agricultural machinery so even if the Flatbed is gone you might be able to find something capable of carrying the panels. All you gotta do is get to the mechanics, get an appropriate vehicle and stash it somewhere that’s not at the front door but close enough we can get to it easily. Beauty part is the mechanics should have the keys so you don’t even need to hotwire it or anything.

Once you get the Truck stashed we’ll work on a plan to retrieve the panels. You may as well take the recovered bikes and throw them in the back of the flatbed once you get it.

Monroe.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Ken Rand
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#, as written by Bosch
Epilogues.

November 4th.

Upton Abbey.


Kenneth Rand watched his Grandson Eric playing with two Tonka trucks in front of a smouldering fire place and sighed. Eric’s father William had been missing for about a week and attempts to find him had not been successful.

Ken knew this was bad. His son had been a rarity in a life, a strong character with a gentle soul. He would gladly get punched in the mouth if it spared someone else the same fate. Kenneth had no idea where he got it from, most likely his mother. Ken had made his money the old fashioned way, by screwing over anyone who got in his way. It was the kind of attitude that made Britain Great.

Now Ken was an old man and he knew in this new situation the disappearance of his son was very bad indeed. He was an old man who had been waiting for a massive heart attack or just plain old age to kill him before the dead rose. Now his life expectancy was around the same as his grandson’s. That made him impossibly sad.

He had bought Upton Abbey with the money he had earned through his numerous lucrative business dealings. Upton Abbey had been the standard stately home until Ken got his hands on it. The aristocracy had been dying since World War 2 and the slow collapse of the class system. In the 21st century being successful wasn’t as much an accident of fate as it had been in the past. Now it didn’t matter how many titles you had C.B.E., M.B.E., Lord or Sir. None of it mattered. The only thing that mattered in the modern UK was bank balance.

At least it had until the outbreak now they were back to a time before the class system, now power rested with the strong.

He was dragged out of his thoughts when the door swung open and his daughter in law, Elizabeth, walked into the room. Ken couldn’t lie his son had chosen a beautiful woman as his wife, she was an upper class, head girl, boarding school type. If Ken hadn’t been such a successful business man odds were his son would have never met his wife or if they did through some twist of fate she would have just seen him as a working class bum. Ken’s money had opened a lot of doors for his son but it was William who had to walk though them. Ken had hoped to do the same for his grandson but the world was a different place.

“Hi Ken how are you? Thanks for watching him, we’ve just finished dinner.” Elizabeth said with a smile as she ruffled Eric’s hair. The boy looked up and beamed but continued playing with his toys.

“Felling good Lizzie. I think this one might be a little builder in the making.”

“Oh an architect!” Lizzie said with a smile.

Ken smiled and nodded but he’d been thinking more of brickie than architect. It always entertained him how Lizzie’s mind always went to a middle class career while his was still operating on working class mode.

“Dinner’s going out now. I’ll bring him back when he’s fed.”

“Ok I’ll get something later.” Ken said as Lizzie led the young boy out of the room.

“Is Dad home yet?” Eric asked as they made their way down the staircase and toward the dining area.

“Not yet sweetie. He’ll be home soon though.”

Eric nodded, he was still young enough to take his mother’s word as Gospel.

She led him down into the dining room where the Rand’s were getting fed. The only actual Rands in the room were Eric and Lizzie, the rest were just locals that William and Ken had taken in. Upton Abbey though had slowly became known as the Rand’s over the years Ken had lived there.

Lizzie got Eric settled with his dinner and a spoon then went to help serve the in the kitchen. She entered the kitchen to a scene of anger between Mrs Wilson and a Hunter called Richard Brand. The Hunters had been pushing their luck since the disappearance of William who had been able to keep them in line. Lizzie understood them in a way they were young men risking their lives but a lot of them had started to view themselves as the most important people in Upton Abbey, the ringleader was Richard brand.

Mrs Wilson, a matronly woman in her middle sixties, was holding firm to a bowl of soup that Richard Brand was tugging at.

“What is going on?” Lizzie asked.

Brand turned and immediately let go of the bowl.

“I was just explaining to Mrs Wilson here that Hunters get more food.”

“Richard, that’s not how things work, everyone gets the same.”

“Not anymore. The hunters take more risk so we deserve more food.”

“That’s not what William said. Everyone gets the same here.”

Brand sighed and looked at his cronies who were watching the spectacle. Brand was aware he was in danger of losing face.

“Yeah well William isn’t here. When he comes back send him to talk to me about it.” Richard said before snatching the bowl from Mrs Wilson. “Seconds for the Hunters from now on.” He then walked over to his group who whooped and high fived.

Lizzie was going to say something but all of a sudden felt very vulnerable. Richard was looking at her like he wanted her to make a thing of it. He looked at her like he ached for the confrontation. Lizzie instead decided to go and help Mrs Wilson with the dishes and avoid the confrontation.

“He’s a right wee toerag.” Mrs Wilson whispered under her breath. “Where’s William?”

“I don’t know...” Lizzie said.

#

November 5th

0900

Haven


Callie called Tilo into the Kitchen and handed him the wallet he had recovered from William Rand.

“It’s been pretty dead around here Tilo so I was thinking it might be time to call in with the Rands. You said you wanted first crack at it so here you go. We don’t know much about them except they’re pretty much all locals and know the area like the back of their hand. We’ve had some reports from runners that they aren’t too friendly but all that info is in the briefing pack. Head over there and see what you can learn.”

Callie walked over to the map and pointed to Upton Abbey. “They’re holed up here, Upton Abbey, it’s a bit of a trek but the road should be safe enough and not too strenuous. I hear it’s an old stately home so the place might be of interest to you.” Callie said with a hopeful smile.

“The place is owned by an old guy called Kenneth Rand, he’s a rich guy, like has a butler rich. William was his son. We don’t know much else about the family but I’m sure you’ll find out more once you get there. Keep your wits about you though, could be walking into the Texas Chainsaw massacre for all we know.”

Tilo was about to leave when Callie stopped him. “Your Briefing pack.” She said with a smile as she handed the older man the notes and Map Callie had prepared for him.

Job

I think this is yours.

Suggested Number of Scavs- 1

Area- Upton Abbey.

Objective- Make Contact with the Rands. Return wallet. If possible forge beginnings of an alliance.

Special Equipment- N/A (The wallet I guess)

Information- Hi guys on a previous mission Tilo and Toby found the mortally wounded William Rand who requested we return his wallet to his family and explain how he died. Tilo has requested this mission personally so he gets first refusal.

Upton Abbey is an old fashioned Stately home, the kind of place you see in BBC Emily Bronte dramas. Apparently it’s quite nice. Its owned by the Rand family Ken the Grandfather, William the Son and a Grandson. There are other families living there but who knows how many. What we do know is a sizeable contingent of local Towns people took shelter in Upton Manor during the outbreak. Their version of Scavs are called Hunters and they know this place like the back of their hand. They would be a useful ally.

The path to Upton Manor shouldn’t be too infested with the undead and I hear the walk around the grounds is quite nice. They have a hedge maze! Isn’t that ace?
Anyway accept their hospitality whatever form it takes and report back. Remember to stay in radio contact so if you get in trouble we’ll know. Have Fun! You know after you tell the guy his son is dead, don’t be smiling when you do that.

Callie.

#

November 5th.

1200


Monroe sat silently in one of the upstairs bedrooms and stared at a spot in the middle of the room. He’d made a decision that resulted in the death of his own people. He thought long and hard about what he could have done differently that would have resulted in Toby still being alive.

Callie was doing her people person thing on the Radio and trying to smooth the whole thing over with the Caravaners. Laney had also been on the radio giving her version of events but it was up in the air how the whole thing would pan out.

Monroe stood and started pacing. He was pissed and punched a wardrobe, he then let out a long sigh. Pointless impotent aggression wouldn’t solve anything, made him fell better though. Don’t get mad get even he told himself repeating it like a mantra.

“Monroe?” He knew it was Callie.

“Yeah?”

“People are getting worried about you. You’re not acting yourself.”

“Maybe this is myself Callie maybe I’ve just been acting.”

“Monroe you’re not making sense.”

Monroe turned and slumped his shoulders. “I just... fuck I’m so sick of losing people. I could have gone out, done something...”

“Then we’d be mourning two instead of one.” She said as she moved from the doorway and into the room.

She pulled Monroe into a hug and the gruff man complied. “I’m just so fucking pissed. I really need to end these bastards.”

“And we will but there’s no sense going off half cocked. Come on lets go get a cuppa.”

Monroe nodded and smiled. That’s why Callie was the people person.

#

November 5th

1730


“Dolphin five- eight reporting critical engine failure. We are going in hard over... Fuck where even is this...” Michael Hailsham cried into his radio.

RAF Pilot Alison Carter was doing her best the keep the Sea King in the air but it was a losing battle, Her Co pilot Michael Hailsham was doing his best to communicate his location to whoever was listening. They had been defending RAF Valley with a tiny force made up of Search and Rescue Crews, Fire-fighters and RAF regiment members. They had defended RAF Valley Airfield to the best of their ability but soon they found themselves completely abandoned.

Waves of the undead crashed into their lines and each encounter whittled down their remaining supplies and men. Eventually it became clear the only course of action was evacuation. Alison being a Search and Rescue Force Pilot was tasked with taking evacuating her crew as well as two RAF Regiment airmen and three civilians in addition to as much gear as they could fit in the helicopter. It meant the Sea King was packed to the gills and she wondered if that had anything to do with the current catastrophic failure.

Suddenly the Chopper levelled out and Alison felt in control. She smiled briefly but that turned to horror when she realised the pedals were unresponsive.

The chopper started to spin and she cried out.

“We’re going down! BRACE BRACE BRACE!”

She tried to pull up but the Helicopter was spinning so violently she had no idea if it made any difference. All she could see was intermittent flashes of Green grass and grey sky.

#

Haven


Callie listened intently to the radio but she couldn’t make out the garbled message she increased the volume in time to hear.

“Brace Brace.” Followed by a loud hiss of static that made her grab her ear.

“What the hell...” She muttered but she wasn’t confused for long as Monroe burst through the door followed by Mark. They made a line straight for the pantry armoury. Where Monroe grabbed a Rifle and his Webley.

“What’s going on?” Callie asked suddenly confused.

“Didn’t you see it?” Mark asked dumbfounded.

“Sea king just went down to the west. Passed right over our heads.”

“What the hell is a Sea King?”

“RAF search and rescue helicopter. Mark and I are heading out see if we can’t get some survivors or supplies.”

Just as the words crossed Monroe’s lips the radio crackled to life. Monroe dove for the set hoping it would be from the downed chopper. Instead Hoppy’s voice filled the airways. She explained that she had gotten separated from Ben but that she had succeeded in stashing the vehicle.

“Fucking Shaggy’s got lost.” Monroe said dropping the headset. “Hoppy is on her way back here but someone is going to have to try find him. Hell some people are going to have go find him.”

“What about the chopper?” Callie asked.

“I know I’m thinking.” He said abruptly.

Monroe looked at Callie whose face was blank, he knew she was overwhelmed. This was the deal, she did people stuff and Monroe did zombie stuff. This definitely fell into his domain.

“Right here’s the deal. I’ll go to the crash site secure it and gather up any survivors. Mark you are gonna take two Scavs and have Hoppy here lead you to where she last saw Shaggy. You good with that?”

“Yeah sure Monroe but...”

“Are you good?”

“Yes I’m good. I just don't see why we have to go now. He's only lost, we'll go looking tomorrow.”

"Yeah tell it to Toby." Monroe said frown while Callie shuffled her feet. “Remember to use your radios and move as team. Be methodical in your search and look for trails. Callie get on the blower to The Caravanners see if they have anyone in the area that can help out.”He sighed Mark was looking like Monroe had just asked him to do brain surgery. “Well fuck off then, get it done.”

Monroe collected his own gear and was walking out to the bike shed when he saw Callie running from the Farmhouse.

“Monroe where are you going?”

“I’m doing the crash site while The Scavs are gonna rescue the damsel in distress.”

“Who is going with you?”

“Harry and Mister Webley.” He said lifting the sawn off shotgun and revolver.

Callie shook her head she wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “No way Monroe it’s your own bloody rule nobody goes out alone, you wanted to crucify Laney for doing the same thing.”

“She’s a fucking popstar, I’m a professional solider. It’s apples and oranges.”

“I’m going with you then.”

“Don’t talk shite, we need you here to run comms, what if Shaggy calls us or we pick up something from the crash site? Who else am I supposed to take? The Scavs are all tied up, Rishi would fill his under crackers before we got out the gate and I’ve seen corpses more athletic than Gary... literally.”

Callie stood in silence unable to think of a point to argue.

“Just be careful.” She said finally.

“Never knew you cared.” He said as he grabbed a bike and wheeled it across the Farmyard to the gate. He noticed Gary was manning the gate and he had the same wide eyed look Callie had earlier. He wanted say something encouraging but couldn’t come with anything that wouldn’t sound too Hollywood or sappy.

Gary swung the Gate open and Monroe wheeled the bike out onto the snow covered road. He tested the tire pressure by giving them a quick squeeze and decided they were too firm so he released a little bit of air that should make it easier to pedal although he didn’t plan on doing much pedalling.

Haven Farm was at the top of small hill which meant so long as Monroe stuck to the road he should have a pretty clear run down. From there the bike would be less useless but he’d re evaluate the situation once he got there.

He was about to get on the bike when he saw Hoppy make her way up the hill. She looked totally shattered from her ordeal and now Monroe was going to have to ask her to head out again. He stopped her and briefly explained the situation.

“Hoppy, Mark is getting a team together to find Shagg... Ben. They’ll need you to lead them out to where you last saw him. Just hold it together kid. Just one more run. All you gotta do is point the way and then hang back.”

Hoppy was gasping from her trek but Monroe could tell from the look or her face she had a lot more questions.

“I got this other thing to do. Mark will brief you up. Good luck.”

With that he was off quickly descending the hill and aiming for Jones Farm.

#

Job

GTA 2: Team GB to the Rescue.


Mark looked at the assembled Scavs and cleared his throat.

“Hi everyone so Monroe has to go this chopper crash and Ben has gone missing so that means we gotta head back to Cromwell to get him. Hoppy is gonna lead the way and point out where this Mechanics garage is. He’s probably holed up in there pissing himself.” He swallowed hard. He was nervous. Sure he was good with a rifle but going to Cromwell was a totally different thing from Guard duty.

“So it’ll just be the two of us to begin with but the Caravaners are sending out some of their people to meet us and help with the search. Callie seems to think it’ll only be two but that’s better than none. Hoppy is also coming along to point out where we’re going.”

He handed out the Harry’s and grabbed a scoped rifle for himself.

“I’m pretty good with the rifle from doing guard duty so often but you guys are the Scav experts so if one of you would rather take it that’s ok.”

He let the Scavs organise their own equipment and then they were off, only a couple of minutes behind Monroe who was heading South to the crash while the search team would be going west to Cromwell.

#

November 5th

1745


Carter shook herself awake and everything was sideways. She shifted her weight and her left leg cried out in agony. Definitely broken.

The helicopter had landed on its side with her side in the dirt. She looked up at Hailsham but she immediately knew he was dead. His neck was twisted and his head was resting unnaturally low on his chest.

“Anyone still with me back there?” She croaked.

A grunt from behind her told her at least someone was still alive.

“Wake up! Come on!”

She looked out of the window of the Sea king and could see a zombie shuffling toward the crash.

“Any fucking time now would be just super!” She cried keeping her eyes on the zombie.

“Ugh. Hell of a landing Captain.” Muttered one of the RAF regiment guys from behind her.

“Who’s that?”

“Gupta Ma’am.”

“What kind of shape are you in?”

“Left arms broke. Reloads might be a problem.”

“Can you shoot?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“We have incoming on my twelve o’clock. Pass me the weapons and ammo. I’ll work reloads.”

“Rodger.” Gupta said as he passed all his magazines into the cockpit and climbed on top of the downed Chopper. He smashed the co-pilot’s window so he could pass the rifle down to Carter who would then reload. He raised the SA-80 selected single shot and took aim at the nearest undead.

Carter for her part had the second SA-80 loaded and ready to go. She then turned her attention to trying to raise anyone on the radio.

“This is downed RAF helicopter Dolphin Five-Eight requesting support from anyone. We have wounded and are in danger of being overrun we need an evacuation immediately.”

The radio crackled and Carter strained to hear faint voice.

“Hold ti... on the way... ven... old tight.”

“Repeat last?” Carter said trying to control the stress in her voice.

“Reload!” Gupta called and Carter passed the fresh SA-80 up to him and took the empty one. She slammed in a fresh magazine and tried the radio again.

#

November 5th

1820


Monroe ditched the bike at the entrance to Jones farm and jogged toward the farmhouse. In the drive he noted the many vehicles including a snow covered Rav 4. He kicked open the front door of the house and glanced to his left. Sure enough there was a little key holder on the wall. Monroe quickly glanced at the keys and grabbed the Toyota keys.

He then bounded out of the house and climbed into the vehicle. It took a second for the engine to kick over but eventually it did.

Monroe lifted the radio and called Callie.

“Callie it’s Monroe. Anything from the crash site?”

“Yeah we just got a burst but it was real garbled. Sound like there’s at least one person alive.”

“Right I’m just leaving Jones farm now and I got a car. Where are the Scavs?”

“They left right after you. They’re probably half way to Cromwell by now.”

“Good. There are more Zombies the closer I get to the crash. It must be drawing them in from all over. Their path should be pretty clear.”

“Ok at least the Scavs are heading in the opposite direction. What about you though? You can fall back or maybe the Scavs could use your car.”

“No if we start deviating it will result in confusion and then a clusterfuck. They have their area of operation and I have mine. Depending on the shape of this crash zone I might need help shifting casualties though.”

The engine finally roared to life and Monroe dropped his boot. “I’ll call back, once I get there.”

#

November 5th

1855


Gupta was doing well keeping the zombies at bay but he kept having the drop his firing line closer to the downed aircraft as more and more zombies stumbled near. Carter pulled the SA-80 down and noticed it was slick with blood.

“What’s happening up there Gupta? This thing is covered in blood!”

“I think I might have got nicked in the crash.” He said. Carter handed up the weapon and looked at Gupta who was very pale.

“Jesus, are you bleeding? Have you dressed it?”

“Haven’t really had the time, Ma’am.” Then he resumed firing.

Carter tried to protect her face from the falling hot casings. She could hear something in the distance, it sounded like a car horn.

“Reload!” Gupta said as he lowered the rifle and handed it Carter.

“Last mag.” She shouted up.

Gupta remained still for a moment. “Is that a...”

Carter looked out of the window and a small silver jeep mowing down zombies on it’s way to the crash site.

It slid to a halt beside the chopper and a short balding man jumped out.

“Fucking run you daft bastards!”

“We have wounded.” Gupta cried, he then pointed to the back of the helicopter.

“Cover me then!” The balding man cried as he clambered into the chopper and started feeling for pulses.

“They’re dead, it’s just the Pilot.” Gupta shouted.

“Right.” The man said gruffly. “Alright what we got here.” He stuck his head in the cockpit and looked at Carter.

“Can you move?”

“Broken leg.” Carter said.

The man frowned. “This is going to hurt.” He grabbed her under her arm pits and told her to release the harness holding her in place. His strong arms lifted her clear of the cockpit but her leg hit every surface on the way out. She tried to muffle her screams which came out like roar.

He hefted her out and into the backseat of the Rav4. Of course hitting her leg on the lip of the door. That was enough to send her over the edge and make her pass out.

Gupta was still firing when the bald man shouted up to him.

“Right, Rock Ape let’s get fucking moving.”

Gupta turned and half slid half fell off the helicopter. The bald man was helping him up when a shot rang out which found Gupta. The Bald man looked down and half of Gupta’s head was missing. He threw his head up and caught a glace of a fleeing man wearing a red coat. He could sense movement out in the woods as well.

“Fucking cunts!” He screamed as he climbed into the car. He gunned the engine and tore down the snow covered road.

#

November 5th

1930


Carter’ s sleep was disrupted by Monroe’s screams. She opened her eyes in time to see the RAV4 crash into a very large tree. At least her leg didn’t hurt anymore, now it was her nose that was the source of agony. Broken in the crash.

“Hold on I’ll get you out.” Monroe said as he struggled past the air bag and opened the door. He climbed out of the car and immediately slipped in the snow. He was concussed from the car crash and shook his head in an attempt to clear the cobwebs. He’d been driving too fast, hit a patch of ice which had sent the RAV4 off the road and into a tree. At least there was some distance between them and the horde of Zombies on their ass.

Carter looked for Gupta but found herself alone. She knew what that meant. Outside she heard a scream followed but the unmistakable sound of a shotgun blast. Then Monroe was at her door.

“What’s your name sweetheart?”

“Captain Alison Carter.” Normally if someone had called her Sweetheart she’d have decked them but now wasn’t the time for outrage. “What was that?” She asked.

“Nothing, a Zomb, it’s dead now. I’m Monroe. I’m gonna have to lift you again but I need you stay quiet.”

Monroe lifted her out of the vehicle and dragged her some distance from the vehicle before returning. He tore the bottom off his lab coat and then opened the petrol cap. He stuffed the rag into the cap and with his last match lit the end.

He then hurried over to Carter helped her to her good foot. He then turned round and knelt allowing her to jump on his back.

“We’re gonna be moving fast there’s more than Zombs on us, hold tight and if it gets too much tell me so I can stop. You can’t pass out again becuase I can’t carry dead weight.”

“I can do it. Just move.”

Monroe started moving toward Haven again, this time with a heavy burden.

They kept staggering forward even when the RAV4 exploded. Monroe hoped the noise and fire would lure the Zombies off them at least for a while.

#

November 5th

2010


Monroe and Carter struggled up the hill and Monroe could feel himself starting to weaken. In his head all he could hear was Staff Andrews who had conducted his selection for the Paras. Jones had hated Monroe which made sense because nobody likes a lippy Belfast Boy. The hate Jones had piled on him acted as fuel for Monroe who used it again to help him get Carter up the hill towards Haven.

“I’m approaching Haven from the South. I have one wounded and Zeke right up my hole. Those gang of five fuckers are here too.”

“Ok Gary will be there to meet you.” Callie said on the radio.

“The Scavs aren’t all back yet?”

“Not yet they should be on their way though.”

Monroe’s stomach dropped.

“Alright. Fine have Gary be ready to take wounded, I’ll lead the horde away.”

“What?”

“I’ll need some matches or a lighter or something and a ton of distraction bombs, Callie.”

“What is happening Monroe?”

“Get the lighter and bombs, Callie. Confirm that you understand me.”

“Yes.”

“Good now go.”

A ten minutes later he finally reached Gary and saw he wasn’t alone. Callie was standing beside him.
Monroe handed the wounded pilot over to Gary.

“Monroe what the hell is happening?”

“There’s a ton of those things on my arse. Someone has to lead them away or else the Scavs won’t be able to get back in and Haven will be swarmed.”

He handed her his radio and medical pack.

“Don’t you need this?” then she noticed the blood running freely down Monroe’s arm and landing on the snow.

Monroe shrugged before pulling up his sleeve exposing the large bite mark on his arm. He’d received it during the car crash from the Zomb with the Harry. The skin around the bite was already turning grey.

“Reckon I got an hour or two left. Fucker isn’t clotting neither.”

“No Monroe you can’t... we’ll get the doctor maybe we can cut it off or something... stop the infection. Rishi’s smart, he’ll come up with something.”

“My heart’s beating faster than priest on a school bus. This shite has been pumped into every organ, vein and artery I got.”

He grabbed the satchel full of distraction devices off Callie. He was about to run off when she grabbed him and started dressing the wound. Monroe shrugged but figured it was a good idea. He was already feeling light headed from blood loss.

“Look get her into Haven, then lock down, keep the place quiet and don’t attract the Zeds. The crash has pulled them all out of the wood work. I’ll lead them down to the Jones farm, you remember where Toby got the petrol that time. I’ll draw ‘em all down there and clear the way for the Scavs to get home.” He explained.

“Monroe I don’t know what to...”

“Time’s ticking here Callie. That Pilot was in a RAF chopper she knows something about what is going on. It’s up to you to get it out of her. She was going somewhere, and I’d bet anything it’s safe.”

Callie dumbly nodded as finished dressing the wound and Gary just looked on slack jawed.

“Right then, I’ll be going.” He said finally and for the first time since she’d met him Callie saw fear behind his eyes. She threw her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug.

“You don’t need to do this. If we just sit down and think I’m sure we can come up something. The Doc can at least make you comfortable.”

For a second Monroe was tempted but he could already hear a low pitched moan from the ghouls behind him.

“I’m sorry Callie.” He said as he pulled away. He grabbed the bag and quickly started to jog back down the hill. He didn’t want anyone to see the tears in his eyes.

#

November 5th

2030


Gary brought Carter straight to the Doctors while Callie went about securing Haven and telling everyone they had to lie low.

She went back to the kitchen and tried to raise the Scavs still in the field.

“Haven is in danger of being swarmed. We’re trying to draw them away but at the moment there is a lot of Z activity near the base. Stay away from Haven until we give you the all clear.”

She hoped the Scavs had heard the message. At least Zombie activity in the area around Cromwell should be slightly down making their search a little easier.

#

November 5th

2130


Monroe was dying and wondered if turning hurt everyone as much as it was hurting him. He’d seen people turn before and they always seemed to be a mild pain Monroe was in agony but he kept dumbly staggering forward. The Jones farm house was in sight and all he had to do was push it out for another hundred yards. He’d already been running for over an hour which he figured wasn’t helping. Any other time he’d seen people turn they had been made comfortable not taken part in a foot race with undead.

He tried to think about what he would do when he got in there but his mind was drifting to Callie, Tilo, Ben, Hoppy, Mark, Laney, Rishi, Gary and Jesus. They were the goal now, he’d done his best to keep them alive and maybe they’d be able to keep the place going without him. In fact he knew they would. His type of person was a dying breed, a necessary one now, but an evil one none the less. He stuck has hand into the satchel, lit two more distraction bombs and dropped them behind him as he ran. He’d been dropping them every so often to draw as many Zombs to his position as possible. He felt like the pied piper, except with improvised explosives instead of a flute and rotting corpses instead of kids.

Finally he made it to the front door of the Jones’ farm but stopped when he heard voices from inside. They were muffled but he could hear stress in the tone. He grabbed the Harry and slowly let himself in.

He found them in the living room.

One was on couch moaning from a wound his side. The other three were gathered around looking at their wounded friend. The first thing Monroe saw was the red coat. He was going to announce his presence but figured that was foolish, he had the drop on them. He could kill two birds with one stone. He lifted the Webley and shot the first one in the head.

They all had their backs to him and by the time they knew what was happening Monroe had killed three.

He turned the gun on the man on the couch.

“Why the fuck...” He mumbled.

“I’m from Haven.” Monroe said with a shrug.

The fear in the man’s eyes was replaced momentarily by recognition. It was enough for Monroe who fired his last bullet into the man’s face.

Then he heard another shot.


Monroe had been shot once before in Sierra Leone. That time his nation had given medal this time this time getting shot meant he’d just failed to save Haven. He collapsed to his knees and another shot rang out hitting him in the back.

It was his own fault really, they were called the gang of five for a reason. He’d failed to identify all the targets and now he was going to die and the Zombies would lose intrest leaving Haven firmly in the shit. He fell onto his back and looked at his killer.

It was a man he’d never seen before but he wasn’t looking at Monroe. He was standing in the hallway looking towards the door. He then turned aimed the rifle at Monroe and fired.

It went wide though but the man didn’t check his kill instead he was fleeing.

The moan from outside told Monroe all he needed know. The horde was nearly upon him.

Monroe tried to stand but that wasn’t happening he was too weak and the wood floor of the house was slick from the blood of four men. Instead he dragged himself toward the door way and out into the hall. He glanced towards the front door and could see running Zombies at the far end of the drive way he figured he had thirty seconds before they reached him.

He crawled into the kitchen which was opposite the front door of the house and kicked the door closed behind him, immediately bodies crashed against it. With a bit of luck he bought himself and extra few moments, maybe the bodies in the living room would also distract them.

He made his way to the cooker and ripped the gas line out. He listened for the hiss as gas slowly filled the kitchen. The door creaked and strained against the weight of the zombies that were pushing against it. Now he had to wait until as many zombies as possible had gathered around the farm house. The explosions would take a few and the fire would drawn a few in for miles around. Fire would kill a zombie eventually and make them so feeble they presented little threat it was the best he could do.

He sighed, and tried to catch his breath which was coming in ragged gasps. He wasn’t long for the world.

“Come on Lads I’m in here! Lets go! The train is about to leave the station, please mind the Gap! I wanna see your heres Johnny faces!”

He was just rambling nonsense, singing half remembered songs just to keep the noise level up the door began to buckle and snatching hands were reaching through a section they’d already broken through.

“Georgie Georige, they call you the Belfast Boy, Georgie Georgie keep your feet on the ground... I’ll... Uh... When you're left and think I'm long gone, I'm going to drop the Ex Bomb...”

He shook his head when he realised what he was singing.

“Christ I am not dying singing that... Green on, we’re airborne, we know we are the best, When you put that beret on you know you passed the test...”

Then the door gave way and wave of the undead collapsed into the kitchen. They fell over eachother in their desperation to get to him. Monroe produced the lighter Callie had given him and flicked the thumbwheel.
His thumb slipped because it was wet from gore and sweat. He tried again but it slipped.

The Zombies were getting to their feet.

“Aw fuck me.” He moaned as the first one sunk it’s teeth into his shin.

He grabbed the Harry and aimed at the zombies head. He pulled trigger firing the round and igniting the gas.

#

November 5th

2140


Richard Brand looked back in time to see the Jones’ farm go up. He had no idea what had just happened but his entire team had just been taken out and now the place was crawling with Zombies. They were being drawn to the inferno he could see zombies stagger into the fire and wander around like horrible twisted beacons. From where he was standing he could smell the burning flesh. The inferno was drawing zombies out of the dark woods and would give Brand the time he needed to escape.

He understood the importance of being strong and it was something he’d drilled into all the Hunters. He was the leader because he’d dealt with all the problems that had come his way when William Rand had questioned his methods he’d seen to it that William had an accident. It was only a matter of time until the food started to run out and the other groups got desperation. Brand simply understood the importance of the pre-emptive strike.

He kept running an eventually made his way back the Crash site which was empty now. He passed the body of Gupta without a second glance. Instead he went straight to the Helicopter and grabbed some of weapons and supplies from the back. Just enough to show when he got back to Upton Abbey.

Once he had grabbed enough he made his way back home.

#

November 5th

2140


All was silent at Haven, no lights were on and every window was covered. They had been lucky and the horde had seemed to follow Monroe’s trail of destruction but there were still a lot of zombies very close to the farm. It would only take one to notice signs of life and the farm would be swarmed. If that happened they didn’t have the resources to fend them off. In fact Monroe and Mark’s carpentry would be unlikely to withstand the onslaught for long. Callie though that wouldn’t be too bad at least it meant they wouldn’t have to starve to death. While she’d been out on the road with Monroe they’d heard stories about the siege of Chester. Apparently the ancient walls of the city had found use again but they quickly turned into a tomb of all who lived there. Last she had heard the city was under siege by thousands of zombies. With no way in or out it was only a matter of time before the city was over run or starved to death.

She looked over at Gary who had a Harry pointing directly at the kitchen doorway. Callie respected that in a way. He’d decided he was going to at least try to take a few with him rather than use the Harry as most Scavs did.

Then they heard it. A dull distant thud that was unmistakably an explosion. Callie felt an emotional swell, she knew Monroe was dead no way would he let himself turn and no way would he leave a body. No she knew he’d have been as close to the explosion as possible calling in zombies from as far as possible, away from Haven and the crash site.

They sat in silence for another few hours before deciding to check outside. When they emerged from the farmhouse the coast was clear and where Jones farm once stood there was the smouldering embers of a blazing inferno.

“I’m going to bed.” Callie said with finality as she turned and trudged back into the farmhouse.

Doctor Short had spent the evening working on her new patient, the RAF helicopter pilot whose only identification was the name on her flight suit. Carter. Gary had dropped her off and the first thing Short did was check her for signs of bites or infection. Finding none she set about dealing with Carter’s broken left leg. Short preformed a closed reduction to ensure the bones of the leg were correctly aligned which thankfully hadn’t been too much of a problem because Carter was unconscious when she arrived. If she hadn’t been Short would have had to use some anaesthesia or Carter’s screams would have woke the dead. She then set about cleaning and stitching the numerous contusions and lacerations the pilot had suffered as well as dealing with the broken nose. She was wrapping up around the same time Monroe was redecorating the kitchen.

Despite the numerous medical procedures she had been subjected to Carter didn’t wake up until late the next morning when she had a lot of questions to answer.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Jesus "Matador" Herrera Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Messiah
GTA 2

Collaboration with Rann

November 5th, 2013

Part One: Hopeless

Late Evening

Click. Click. Click.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click. Click. Click.

Part Two: Getting Ready

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

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

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

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

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

Part Three: Witnesses

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

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

Where the hell was this place?

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

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

"After I talk to him," Mike responded.

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

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

"Fuck you," Ben spat.

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

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

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

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

"Fuck you. You're both psychopaths."

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

Part Four: Going Out Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Five: Torture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How about family?"

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

"You didn't tell me their names."

"Fuck you."

"Have it your way. Shane?"

"With pleasure."

Part Six: Runners

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

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

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

A little 'hmph' from the girl.

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

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

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

No matter the cost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Seven: Threshold of Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben screamed. Blood poured.

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

Then everything went dark.

Part Eight: Tricky Hoppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Nine: Now's Your Chance

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

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

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

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

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

"We?"

"Me."

"I should go."

"No, Shane."

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

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

"Fuck you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was free.

Part Ten: Where Are You?

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

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

"Probably ditched us, stupid f--"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Definitely. He seemed worried about you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"South out of town."

"Back in the truck," Mark ordered.

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

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

Part Eleven: The Tables Have Turned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Twelve: On Their Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Thirteen: The Journal

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

Michael Beckett

Ben opened to the first page.

August 18th, 2013:

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


He turned to another page further along.

August 29th, 2013:

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


The next entry.

August 30th, 2013:

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


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

August 31st, 2013:

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


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

He flipped to another entry.

September 3rd, 2013:

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


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

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

...found some more in Cromwell...

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

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

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

Ben continued.

September 16th, 2013:

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


September 20th, 2013:

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


October 15th, 2013:

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


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

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

November 5th, 2013:

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


That fucker.

Part Fourteen: Reunion

November 6th, 2013

Early Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben wouldn't let that happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Fifteen: The Truth Revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, he didn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Sixteen: Safe At Last

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Benson."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home.

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

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

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Erin Hooper Character Portrait: Alison Carter
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#, as written by Bosch
6th November

0430


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

“I know.”

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

“I know.”

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

“I know.”

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

“All there?”

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

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

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

“I know.”

#

6th November

0520


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

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

#

6th November

0940


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

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

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

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

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

#


6th November

0950


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

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

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

“And my guys helped find him.”

“I know, I’ll deal with it.”

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

“Agreed. Cuts both ways though.”

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

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

#

6th November

1100


"Where's Monroe?"

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

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

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

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

“Oh and Tilo.”

He turned with a questioning look in his eyes.

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

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

#

6th November

1230


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

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

She then sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

Then Mark cleared his throat and walked in.

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

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

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

“So what, did he turn?”

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

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

“Yeah fine... it’s just...”

“What?”

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

“What doesn’t?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time to go see our guest.”

#

6th November

1300


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

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

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

She then heard approaching footsteps and quickly feigned sleep.

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

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

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

Carter was filled with panic but remained still.

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

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

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

Carter remained silent and just stared at Callie.

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

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

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

“Riveting. Where were you going?”

“North.”

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

“Scotland, BUTEC.”

Callie raised an eyebrow.

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

“Why there?”

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

“Where was that?”

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

“Are there other helicopters in the area?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carter nodded and let the doctor go about her work.

#


November 8th 2013

2130


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice however was hiding a much darker secret.

Ben and Katie were infected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“それは危険に聞こえる. 外出しない”

“なぜ?”

“悲鳴は通常悪いです ”

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

#

0045

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

Including the bridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

“私は英語が話せない”Shinji answered.

“I can’t hear you!” Emma called.

“ありがとう. 私が死んだと思った” Shinji replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ok, Ok. When will you be here?”

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

“Yes sure.”

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

“Yes.”

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

“Ok Callie, hurry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your wife? Is she alive?”

“Wife!” He nodded vigorously.

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

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

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

“Where is Kaiko?”

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

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

“Ok I’ll let the rescuers know.”

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

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

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

#

Jobs

The Love Boat.


November 9th 2013

0020



Suggested Number of Scavs – 2

Area –Seascale beach

Objective- Investigate ship wrecked P&O ferry.

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

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

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

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

Callie

Bonus Missions.

Relight my Fire.

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1

Area – Woods around Haven

Objective- Collect Firewood

Special Equipment- Empty rucksacks.

Information- It’s cold. Real cold.

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

Callie


Gone Huntin’

Suggested Number of Scavs – 1

Area –Woods around Haven

Objective- Go Hunting.

Special Equipment- Scoped rifle.

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

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

Scary.

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

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

Callie.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Alison Carter
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An Inspector Calls

November 10th, 2013

Upton Abbey


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

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

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

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

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

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

------

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

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

"Sandra?" Elizabeth had a quizzical expression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth nodded in silence.

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

"No, nothing."

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

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

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

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

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

------

November 10th

0900

Haven


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

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

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

Tilo had asked people around Haven about Monroe and Toby.

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

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

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

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

"Who is it?"

"Tilo it's Gary, open up."

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

"What is this?"

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

Tilo nodded.

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

Tilo skimmed a few pages.

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

"Well I..."

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

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

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

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

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

------

1230

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

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

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

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

Tilo glanced at the doctor, observing her concerned expression.

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

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

"How is she?"

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

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

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

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

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

1500

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

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

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

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

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

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

------

1730

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

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

Tilo immediately opened the door.

"From the Rands, you mean Upton?"

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

Her? Was it Elizabeth Rand?

"Alison?"

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

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

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

"You're..."

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

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

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

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

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

“Professor King,

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

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

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

Yours

Elizabeth Rand.


------

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pistols and assault rifles.” Carter said simply.

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

Everyone was still somewhat mystified by how Ken Rand died.

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

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

"And the head?" Mark asked.

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

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

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

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

------

1800

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

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

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

------

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you be sure?”

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

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

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

"Wait hold on," Tilo said.

Rishi turned as he heard this.

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

"Well yes, there are plenty..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Callie chuckled at that.

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

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

------

1900

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

Mark came and sat beside Tilo. The man sighed.

"Cold isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"Are you ready for tomorrow?"

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

Mark stared at Tilo, unsure what to say.

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

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

"You think he's..."

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

"It could have been the Rands."

"Could have been, or even the Vanners."

Tilo looked at Mark.

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

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

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

------

November 11th, 2013

0400


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

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

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

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

"Hmm?" Tilo turned around.

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

They lapsed into silence for a time.

"I couldn't have sent Ben."

Tilo looked at her with a quizzical expression.

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

The old man nodded before he started to leave.

"Come home safe, Tilo."

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

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

------

0500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

------

0730

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where's Callie? Over."

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

"Got it. Over and out."

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

------

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

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

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

No motion.

Tilo then whistled, no motion.

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

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

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

Tilo walked on.

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

"Yesterday..."

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

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

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

It didn't really matter.

"Yesterday..."

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

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

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

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

And he repeated those lines for a time.

------

0700

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

------

0830

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

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

"Good job Til--"

"Callie?"

...


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

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

They pulled him in at gunpoint, asking him questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't know about that, Miss Rand. Richard said we shouldn't let strangers into Upton."

"Well, he's been here before, so he's not a stranger. Now go on," she emphasized with gestures.

Jeremy scratched his beard, sighed, and left them alone.

Minutes later, Tilo was in Elizabeth's room.

"So what do we do?"

Tilo showed her the mushrooms and explained.

------

0900

Richard and the band of hunters laid in wait at the crest of a hill overlooking a field that was a chopper crash site.

"What are we doing here Richard?" Dominic asked as they sat against some stones for cover, "There aren't any zed around, we should just loot the chopper."

"Just waiting," he said, watching the chopper for activity. Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw two men.

Immediately he grabbed his binoculars and examined them closely, it was an older man probably in his fifties. He had a rifle with him, and accompanying him was a younger fellow. The younger fellow had a beard, pimpled face, and he was armed with a machete or some blunt object, Richard couldn't tell from the angle and distance.

Richard and the hunters watched the two people circle the chopper, inspecting it. Then the hunters spotted the zeds, swarms of them coming from Jones' farm.

"Shouldn't we go help them?" Dominic asked.

"No, those bastards deserve to die," Richard said.

"But they're people," Ewan protested, "Each one we can save is one less we can fight."

"You think so mate?" Richard's eyes bulged psychotically.

"They're just like us, willin' to do anythin' to survive. I'm willlin' to bet my life that when the chips are down, they'd stab m-.. us, in the back for potatoes."

Everyone remained silent after that.

"'Sides, they were responsible for William's death," everyone stared at him in shock.

Dominic, and Finley were caught off guard by that statement. They heard from Professor King that he had to kill William before he turned. The news about how William died was kept a secret between those who were present when Professor King was there. Among them was Kenneth, Dominic, Finley, Elizabeth, and Rory. Nobody else was in the parlor when he spoke. Now that they heard Richard denouncing the Caravanners as the ones responsible for William's death, it made them suspicious. They looked at each other and shook their heads subtly, remaining silent. In the corporal's mind, he came to the realization that Richard had a hand in William's death, and he would find out. He was injured the day Richard and William went out to Hamilton's retreat, which was the day that William disappeared.

"That's right, they killed 'im. I saw it with me own eyes. Wankers even killed Abel and the other three. Damned sick of them."

Richard's ploy was working, from what he could tell. There was no one else proving him wrong. He peered into his binoculars again to see that the two people had noticed the zed. They realized they were surrounded, and so they decided to climb the chopper.

------

Elizabeth entered the kitchen with a plastic bag. Flora was chopping some vegetables, but she noticed her walk in.

Mrs. Wilson was maintaining the fire of a stew. With the lack of power, they had to rely on a fireplace cooker that was previously installed in the abbey before the elder Rand bought the home. Elizabeth approached her and showed her the bag full of mushrooms.

"Where did you get these mushrooms?" the old lady inquired.

Elizabeth whispered into her ear, "Nevermind that. These...are for Richard."

She emphasized her meaning with a sharp glare, the old lady looked frightened, but she understood and nodded.

"It won't matter if you cooked it or cut it. Just make sure he gets it."

Elizabeth left the bag beside the old woman and promptly exited.

Flora watched the two of them from afar, unsure what was going on. She sneaked slowly behind the older woman and peered into plastic bag. She saw mushrooms. As a city girl, she wasn't really sure what the mushrooms were for and why the two were acting so fishy. A new ingredient to liven up the spirits, she supposed. But, what if they were poisonous? Flora had never given a thought to such things when she lived in the old world.

"Valerie? What..?" Flora pointed to the bag full of mushrooms.

"Oh dear me," the older woman nearly jumped, she was startled by the younger woman.

She panicked slightly at the inquiry, "Oh these? Um...new ingredients that the hunters found. White mushrooms. Haven't had any here yet."

"These are pretty big for white mushrooms."

"They're like that before you cook them," Valerie hoped that the girl would stop asking questions soon.

"Ah," Flora accepted the answer and returned to her place, cutting vegetables, "But..."

"Hmm?" The Mrs. Wilson nearly jumped again.

The older woman had a mental sigh, unsure how far she could have continued with the farce.

------

0930

"Your sister-in-law's got a fine ass mate," Richard said to Ewan who sat quietly with his rifle.

"Aw cheer up, don't be a bore. It was a compliment," Richard laughed.

They had been watching the pair fight off the hordes that were now gathered. The two strangers managed to thin the ranks of the dead, until the older man appeared to have run out of bullets.

"Damn it I need to go help them," Ewan said.

Richard grabbed him by the collar, "Don't be a fool Ewan," he swallowed, "They killed William. And now you're gonna go save them?"

The hunter knew how to act. His eyes had crocodile tears that lent an intensity and conviction that convinced the other man. Ewan believed him, so he sat down.

Richard peered into his binoculars again; he saw some cracks ring from a nearby hill just past the field enclosed by the stone wall.

"A newcomer," Richard watched her closely.

She had dark skin and wavy hair beneath a ridiculous looking helmet. For some reason she looked familiar, then something clicked in his mind, it was the same woman that shot Abel.

What are you up to? he wondered.

She came to the chopper once the zeds had been cleared and the two men on top jumped down to meet her. They conversed for a bit until the older man went to the wall...to piss.

Then suddenly the younger man smacked the woman to the ground and jumped on her.

"A little tiger aren't we? Look at that wee bastard. He's been deprived," Richard snickered, "Dom, I think this one's for you. You can be her knight in shining armor."

Dominic scoped the rifle and aimed at the younger man who was on top of the woman, and he pulled the trigger. The kid doubled over from what he could see.

Richard whooped, "Good shot!"

The boy was still writhing on the ground in pain, another hunter, Clive, ended that pain.

There were some faint screams and the old man disappeared into the woods. Dominic pulled the trigger again and missed the woman, who scrambled to safety behind the chopper.

"Damn it man, I thought you were in the Forces! Didn't they teach you how to shoot?" Richard taunted.

Dominic shrugged it off. The man's insults were only skin deep in his mind, but his motivations were dubious.

One of Richard's loyalists grabbed his own rifle and checked for the woman who appeared from behind the chopper and made a dash for the wall where the old man pissed.

The hunter pulled the trigger, hitting the duffle bag, but hoping that it penetrated and got through to her leg.

"Again, again," Richard yelled.

The hunter missed her as she crawled.

"Shit," the hunter sighed. The woman appeared to have escaped.

"Clive, Finley, go check out the chopper." Richard descended the hill heading in the opposite direction, followed by Ewan and two of his loyalists, "Ewan, you're with me."

"Where are you goin'?" Dominic asked from the crest.

"You, Simon, and the others go check the chopper for supplies. I'm takin' these three to Penrith. Just head back to Upton when you're done."

"Penrith? What for?"

"Supplies," Richard yelled back, but he whispered to himself, "And business."

He wasn't really going to Penrith.

------

Two men walked along a forest road, one was armed with a pistol and a crowbar, the other with a shotgun.

"Somebody oughta do something about those Haven people. We haven't heard anything from Jake or Sam since they went out with them. They've been missing for six fucking days," said the first one.

The second man sighed, "I miss her too man, but...you have to accept the possibility that she's..."

"Gone? No. Fuck that, she's still alive somewhere and I need to find her," the first man spat.

The two were knocked over by another man who seemed to be running for his life. They fell against the brush.

"Jesus Christ it's one of them!" said the second man.

The first man had his pistol ready and was about to fire until, "Charles? Charles is that you?"

"Oh fuck, thank man," Charles was out of breath.

"Charles what happened? And where's Benson?"

"It was..it was.." Charles tried to catch his breath, "Bitch from Haven. She shot 'im."

"What? Haven?" the second man stood up.

"Bloody hell I knew it! We need to tell Jane," the first man's triumphant appeal was cut short when he fell to the ground at the sound of several cracks.

Then the second man jerked as the pellets hit him and fell over. Both of their bodies were slumped on the ground, blood pouring profusely from their wounds. They coughed up blood and choked for air.

"Ah shit!" Charles, completely stunned for a moment, got up and ran off in the direction the two men came.

Out of the nearby brush, Richard stepped out and took off his beanie, revealing his flowing hair that had not been shaved. He ran his hand through his hair and looked off in the direction that the old man had run. This would be as far as they would track him. He pulled out a pistol and fired several rounds randomly into the same region that the old man fled, hoping he would hear them on his run back to camp. It would be a nice little signal, Richard thought. Once that was done, he holstered the pistol and looked down at the two lifeless bodies.

"Sorry mates. A man does what he needs to do to survive."

He pulled out a Bowie knife from his jacket, and proceeded to sever the heads from the corpses. Blood squirted onto his jacket and face which he wiped off. It took him a couple of minutes, but he managed to brutally decapitate them.

Then he carved into their stomachs crudely the word, "Haven." He put the beanie back on, and then he slipped back into the woods.

------

Tilo sat waiting in Elizabeth's room. The door opened and Elizabeth came in, followed by Rory.

"He can be trusted," she said of Rory.

"Professor King," the lad nodded.

"I hope for my son's sake," Elizabeth paused, "That we can weather this storm."

"I know I won't be strong enough to take over, but I need to be once Richard is out of the picture," she turned to Tilo, "You should probably leave Professor, I don't know what Richard will do if he found you here. He might already have suspicions, what with Sandra gone already. The man is a pure psychopath."

Tilo shook his head, "No, I think he's responsible for more than just sir Kenneth's death. I have to find closure for my friends."

"And we have reason to believe he was responsible for the deaths of several people from Eden Valley."

"The caravan park people?" Rory asked.

"Yeah, I don't know if he's trying to orchestrate a war between us and Eden Valley over misconceptions."

"Dear God, he is mad." Elizabeth covered her mouth with her hands.

------

1100

"Shit!" Simon screamed, as a zed lunged at him. He blew its skull to bits, but more of them came after that one.

"Look it's the kid!" Clive pointed out as he spotted the re-animated corpse of the kid that he had killed. Wounds and everything in his torso where the hunter had shot him.

"Damn thair a' place. Jist keep shootin'!" Finley howled, as a bullet from his rifle connected with another zed.

"Comon! Let's get out of here! Leave them damn it!" Dominic waved at them and they began their dash back toward Upton through the woods.

The hunters dropped whatever supplies they were carrying to lighten the load to allow them a quicker pace. They were being pursued by a horde of walkers that had appeared out of nowhere. They had left the crash site about twenty minutes ago.

One of the hunters, Clive, was unaware of the wound he had acquired on his arm when the undead came out of nowhere. Amid the fear and the adrenaline that was pumping him onward to Upton, he completely lost sensation of the pain.

-----

Back at Upton, Tilo and Elizabeth were seated in the parlor. The former's stomach was grumbling, he was hungry for not eating breakfast. Mrs. Wilson told him that he could dine with them during lunch.

"He's back!" Rory swung down the stairs.

Tilo was slightly startled by the younger man, but he was a foreigner, unaware of their routines and protocols.

It was usually the person on watch's job to tell the hunters at the door to open up for any friendlies they spotted from the window on the second or third floors.

The hunters immediately opened the door, Tilo remained in his seat, unaware who had returned. Perhaps it was Richard. Several men shuffled in and they conversed in the hallway, their voices mingling in the air.

"Aw fuck, I'm hungry. Mrs. Wilson is lunch ready?"

"Almost," a soft sweet voice replied from the kitchen.

The words were crude and impolite, and the tone was coarse, carrying the air of a scoundrel. It was Richard.

The man stepped into the parlor, and placed the gun on an end table. He noticed Elizabeth and the old man that visited before.

"Lizzie," He nodded, "And you," he looked to Professor King.

"I remember you...you're..."

"Professor King," Tilo answered.

Richard chuckled, "Yes a professor. A Professor King, or a King Professor."

It wasn't really funny.

"You were here last time, when Kenneth was still here."

"Yeah. I've heard, I'm terribly sorry to hear about it."

Tilo noticed that the man fell silent, whether it was half-hearted or earnest, he did not know. He leaned toward the former though, Brand could not be trusted.

"Is he joining us for lunch?" Richard asked Elizabeth.

She nodded,"Yes."

Ever since Kenneth departed, Richard became increasingly verbal, forcing Elizabeth onto the defensive. She forced herself to voice her opinions, lest she came off weak and be swept aside by Brand and his cronies. Upton Abbey belonged to her family, and she had to try at least.

------

1200

Mrs. Wilson sent Flora out, the kitchen was all hers now. She decided to create a separate, smaller stew just for Richard. The water vapor continued to rise from both pots as she managed and took care of them.

She pulled the large white a. phalloides from the plastic bag that Lizzie had given her. There were a lot, and every single one of them was for Richard. She swallowed before she set to work. She hoped the things would not release any poisonous spores that might kill her. Immediately, she took the knife and began slicing the mushrooms and then dicing them until they were bite sized bits. She cut several down even further until they resembled cheese gratings to ensure that if he did not eat the large chunks, he would at least sip the soup with the little grains in it. Then she balled the plastic bag up and hid it inside one of the counter top drawers.

She wiped her head of sweat, and every few minutes she checked behind her back to make sure no one was entering the kitchen. She swallowed, and proceeded to dump the many mushroom chunks into Richard's stew. Then she stirred them and she was about to taste the flavor on accident as she raised the spoon up to her lips. Then she remembered not to, breathing heavily at her very close call with death.

She proceeded to spoon Richard's bowl first, get it over with. The old woman made sure that she scooped all of the white chunks into his bowl.

------

Elizabeth, Tilo, Richard, Ewan, and only the other hunters were eating at the table. Everyone else was eating elsewhere.

Mrs. Wilson watched closely as Richard looked at the bowl of soup. It looked as if he wasn't going to eat it.

Shit, Tilo thought. He might have to improvise and devise another method of killing Brand. In the meantime he hoped the man would at least sip the soup.

"What is this white stuff?" Richard asked, unfamiliar with the new ingredient.

Tilo and Elizabeth were both cold with fear, as Mrs. Wilson answered.

"Oh those?" Mrs. Wilson paused, "Those are mushrooms, we started grow'n them recently."

"Mushrooms?" said one of the hunters, "'Ow come I didn't get any?"

Richard had no hint of suspicion, as he finished the soup. Tilo and Elizabeth were relieved.

"Oh..." she was panicking, Elizabeth and Tilo eyed her as they spooned some of the other soup into their mouths.

"Well, ay suppose I may hae scooped th' only mushrooms of th' soup intae Richard's bowl," she smiled, "We only had two."

"Seconds Miss," Richard handed her the bowl.

Mrs. Wilson took the bowl and went directly into the kitchen, once she was beyond the conversation of the table, she breathed a sigh. Anxiety washed away from her.

Once lunch was finished, most of the hunters disbanded and headed back to their posts.

Only Richard remained with Elizabeth and Tilo. And so there they were, the man who had robbed them of their friends and families.

Tilo was never a man of action, but he wished to God at that moment that he had a shotgun or something to shoot the man with, and clean this pestilence from the face of the Earth. The old man, however, kept his emotions tightly knotted in this confrontation. Any sudden expressions would only give the man a hint.

"Trade huh? I don't think you'd have anything that we would need, or want." The man's voice was dry and rough.

"Not even medical supplies?" Tilo tried to played it cooly.

Hoping to bide some time, maybe he would be lucky enough to see the mushrooms take effect. Highly unlikely though, as Rishi said, the symptoms would be hidden anywhere from six to thirty hours after ingestion. Of course, that was only for one mushroom. Neither of them, Tilo or Elizabeth, knew that Mrs. Wilson added all fourteen mushrooms into Richard's stew.

"You guys will need it more than we do." Richard said calmly.

Tilo's eyebrow raised.

There was a brief moment of silence before Richard communicated his thought fully.

"That's right I killed your friends."

What was that?

That's right I killed your friends.

Did he just say that?

"What...what are you...?" Tilo was lost.

Elizabeth stared on in horror.

Why would he...

"I know all about your little group. And frankly I'm fuckin' sick of you pricks coming into our territory. You made it out of here last time, but you won't be making it out this time."

"Richard!" Elizabeth cried.

"Shut up woman," as he said this, there were several large thumps coming from the foyer, the sound of glass breaking and screams followed after.

"What in Go...?" Richard's attention was toward the direction from which the sound came, and they immediately rushed to the main hallway.

They found two hunters, Clive and another hunter holding the front doors as they were being beaten upon by the zed outside. Cracks rang out from the second floor.

"Shit they're fuckin' everywhere! Get a board or somethin' to cover the damn door!"

Simon was sprawled on the ground bleeding out of a wound on his abdomen and others on his arms. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. Dominic and Ewan were tending to him, they examined his body for bites. Mr. Wilson came with medical kits.

"What the hell happened?" Richard stared in complete confusion.

"It was th' feckin' kid, ah swear," Finley cried with his Scottish accent.

"We were coming back from the crash site and zed just came out nowhere, one of us misfired and shot Simon by mistake."

By this time, Finley's wife and daughters came to see what was happening.

"Just keep shootin!" a voice screamed from upstairs.

Rory came down the stairs, stopping halfway, "We need more gunners up here, there's stiffs everywhere outside!"

"We'll pull him out of here, Rory come and help." Dominic and Finley dragged the wounded Simon into the back.

The hunter holding the door back against the beating bodies saw that his partner had gone limp. Clive had a feral look in his eyes. They had turned milky white, then the hunter noticed the bite on Clive's arm.

"Jesus..." his prayer was cut short.

Clive dove for him and sank his teeth into the man.

The doors, with no one to hold them, fell open with a giant thundering.

And the bodies poured in like a wave, falling over, because the entire time they had been pushing against the doors.

"They're inside!" someone yelled, and everyone began to flee.

Tilo and Elizabeth fled down in separate directions, Brand and another hunter ran in another direction.


------


Halfway down the hall Elizabeth met up with Dominic and Finley.

"Fuck! Behind you!" Finley fired a round, the walker's head exploded into bits against the wall.

"Elizabeth we gotta get out of here quick!"

"But my son!" she protested, the tears of fear and panic streaming down her face.

"We can't stay comon'!" Dominic grabbed her wrist, but Finley stayed behind.

"Fin! What are you doing?"

"Ah need tae fin' mah fowk," Finley disappeared into another room.


------


Tilo did not know where he was running, just that he was running somewhere. The manor was filled with twisting hallways and rooms all interconnected. He wanted a god damned map or maybe even a lighted path to tell him where to go. Fueled by adrenaline, and fear, and perhaps something greater.

Then he spotted something hiding in the corner. It was Eric. Screams, cries, gunfire echoed in the hallways. Bones broke and unnatural growls followed.

I couldn't save your father in time. I won't make that mistake with you.

He grabbed the boy and held onto him as the child buried his head into Tilo's shoulder, and the old man ran for dear life, away from the hordes.

A zed fell out in front him and almost made his bones jump out of his skin, but he darted past the slow walker.


------


Several weird things were happening in Richard's mind at this point as he tried to recover his thoughts. He was wondering what the hell was going on.

"Keep shooting!" Richard screamed, firing his assault rifle. The repetitive rattles shook the entire room and perhaps even the ground they stood on. Blood popped and mists of red sprayed the walls.

He spotted Rory running, this was his chance to clean out the pests he thought. But weren't there greater concerns to deal with? Brand didn't think so.

He fired seven rounds that hit Rory, the impact sounded like hard snowballs as the boy shrieked with a cracked voice and fell over.

Then a sharp pain jabbed Richard in the stomach. What the hell? And it got increasingly worse. He fell over in wrenching torment, his insides were being clawed apart. He felt a great pain build up at his rectum, boiling almost.

"Argh what the fuck..." Richard tried to speak, sweat almost covering his face.

The vein on his forehead bulged and he was sucking his breath in to deal with the agony.

"Mate, are you alright?" the burly man, Jeremy was still firing.

Richard got up and tried to walk away, but only succeeded in stumbling.

"Where the fuck are you goin'?" Jeremy cried, but he had to maintain fire on the undead.


------


Tilo was running for a bit, his breath was nearly gone, the weight of Eric was slowing him down, but he couldn't drop the child. He continued until he felt two incredible shocks hammer him in the back.

He cried out in pain. And immediately he was sent skidding to the ground into another room, but he was still conscious enough to make sure that Eric wasn't the cushion for his fall.

Tilo and Eric fell beside a hunter covered in blood.The deceased man had a dead man's grip on the shotgun.

It was Richard who had shot him in the hallway. The man's discomfort now doubled to the point where he could barely gather breath. It shifted from his stomach to his nether regions and then back and swirled around like a hurricane.

"Goddamnit!" he cried like a demon.

Tilo held the child, who was crying in his arms. Tilo was aware of the possibility that he had been shot. He took his free hand and rubbed the area that was throbbing on his back and brought it to his eyes.

Thick, dark red, hemoglobin and plasma covered his shaking hand. And he gasped for air, the sting slowly spreading across his back. He looked at the child whose teary eyes looked back into Tilo's for hope.

This is the end

Dominic and Elizabeth had ran past many of the gunfights, the zombies, and the dying. They even ran past Brand, noting the man clutching his stomach tightly and they reached the room Tilo was in.

"Eric!" Elizabeth cried, grabbing her son from Tilo's hands.

"Mommy!" the boy reached out to her.

"Professor King! We need to get you out of here!"

With what little strength he had left, "Leave me...go...there's too many of them."

"We can't leave you!"

"He's right Elizabeth, we gotta go before they surround the place," as the corporal said this, they heard zed coming from down the hall, someone cursed and screamed in agony.

"Elizabeth comon'! We don't have time!" Dominic had his shotgun, peering out the hallway.

She was reluctant to leave, but she saw Tilo nod to her. She left, mouthing two words. Thank you. Tilo gave one last glance to the child that resembled William.

And then they were gone.

Gunfire and screams continued.

Tilo laid there thinking. He looked over to the dead hunter, and pulled the man's bloody grip off the gun with his own bloody hands. He ignored the pangs on his back as his breath faltered.

He looked up through the windows where the sun shone through, and he wondered if there was another reality in which this never actually happened. He wanted to laugh at himself about how his last dying moments mirrored the way he lived, but he knew he didn't have the strength to do so.


------


1430

After trekking through the wilderness on nothing but fear, Dominic, Elizabeth, and Eric reached the walls that Tilo knew.


------


Gunfire and screams continued back at Upton.

Tilo was thinking about whether he was selfish for saving only Eric and not other people.

My only friend the end.

Alright everyone, smile! This one's for the album.


Horatio, are you alright?

My boy's going to university...

He missed his boys and his wife.

The faces skipped past him, as he faded in and out of reality. He didn't have time to cry, because time was gone.

He saw a zed out of the corner of his eye, it seemed to be a slow one. His dizziness getting the best of him.

He pulled the shotgun's barrel up to his chin. He would miss the friends at Haven. He didn't even get the chance to spend Christmas with them.

Were they worth it?

Yes.

Tilo's last feeling was his finger pulling the trigger.

Beautiful friend, my only friend, the end.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Richard Brand Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Rishi Sharma
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...

Did you not read the first three?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Dominic Fields Character Portrait: Alison Carter Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper Character Portrait:
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(Co-written with Rann)

Welcome Party

November 11th, 2013

Hoppy woke up.

It was a fitful sort of thing, the whole ordeal. The struggle between life and death. There wasn't any of that cheesy, cliche'd shit you'd expect of a near-death situation. Just an impending darkness and the vague feeling of needing to fight, rather than blindly accept and go with whatever flow there may or may not have been. And damnit, Hoppy really liked a fight. She knew it was close - given the tube sticking out of her chest and all that. And the pitying looks everyone gave her more or less made sense now. They'd written her off as dead.

Luckily, she didn't like to meet expectations. Never did, really. And this time she'd defied it, just like any other time. She still felt odd in the head - sedatives were probably still in effect, after all. A good thing, because it meant she didn't have to feel the pain of a fucking tube possibly poking into her lung. Her chest was tender, though - didn't need feeling to know that. But breathing wasn't so bad now. Though her leg still felt awkward and alien-ish. Like it wasn't a part of her. She scowled impatiently at it, even as Doctor Short - and this new guy who introduced himself as Jay - tended to her, giving her tests and examinations and whatnot.

Apparently she checked out, and when Hoppy asked for a wheelchair - because fuck, she didn't want to just sit around like a dead weight for however long it took to recover - they gave it to her, more or less easing her into it carefully, which annoyed her even more - being dependent like this was fucking annoying. She almost wondered where the wheelchair came from - but more or less expected Gary to have rigged it together somehow, since her leg was fucking up since the gunshot on that damn boat. Even after waking up, she was relying on people. Being a drain. But there wasn't anything to do about it. And - she realized that she owed Mark an apology for before. The shame somewhat burned at her mind - also she was really damn hungry. So after Short went to call up Mark - the man sauntered into the room, with a nod of the head, and a look of relief.

"You've been out for a while." The man remarked, and Hoppy gave him a bit of a nervous grin in response. How to talk to him? What to say to him? There really wasn't much to it, was there? "How are you feeling?"

Well, that more or less cut out a chance to apologize right then.

"...Tidy." She made a flawlessly acted chuckle - put on the mask, as usual, right? So people don't worry as much as they probably would have. So they'd be at ease. If anything to help, Hoppy could at least do this much. "Feels like I c'n go an' kill zacks 'gain! Easy, easy."

Mark just nodded, and Hoppy was sure he was somewhat dubious, but chose not to contest the lie.

"That's good. Once you can go out on the field again, things should be easier." He patted her on the head, earning another wry smile from the Welsh. "Glad you pulled through. We all are. Almost had to pull Shinji away from his watch of you."

They both laughed a little then, and a pleased feeling set over Hoppy. Though, it was time to get to business. She had to get caught up to speed on whatever she may have missed. Being out for about thirty hours probably meant she missed out on some events. And almost as if on cue, Mark also adopted a more serious face, looking almost slightly ashen. Hoppy, too, wiped the easy expression from her face, and the tone of the room quickly became more somber.

"Tilo went to the Rands." Mark said, and Hoppy's attention went to the man that had invited her for a nice, light-hearted chat under the tree. He was peculiar - and heck, she'd almost embarassed herself pretty badly in front of him that one time. Knowing that for his name to come up probably meant something bad had just happened. Her heart went to her throat as she thought - what if he died? - but she forced it out. Negative thoughts are what made her reclusive in the first place. And that was a disastrous few days for her. Had to at least pretend to be positive. Upbeat. The things Hoppy usually carried with her within Haven. Whatever reason Tilo's name was brought up, they'd be able to handle it. It won't go down like it did with Chip. Or Toby. Or - a painful pang - Monroe. Damnit, they wouldn't lose anyone else. They'd already lost way too much. Hoppy's eyes darted around for her cleaver, the weapon's prescence usually giving her a sense of calm, as if the blade soothed her, whispered that it'd protect her, and by extention, help protect Haven. "To investigate about recent events concerning Richard Brand. Pretty... bad shit. We lost contact of him, Hoppy, so..."

Damnit. Goddamnit. That was it. She was going out, this very damn second, to Upton Abbey, wheelchair and injury be damned. she'd wheel herself there through sheer force of will because fuck they couldn't lose another one. Not another damn person. She couldn't let it happen. She didn't want to be alone again, like she was before Haven, and arguably, at some times, even before the apocalypse even happened. She made a determined face and started pushing on the makeshift wheels, somewhat awkward, out of the room, only to have the handle grabbed by Mark. She glared at him fiercely, resolutely. Because fuck. Just fuck.

"En't losin' anyone else." She muttered. "Let go a' me, damnit ta' 'ell, Mark. En't g'na sit 'round an' wait fer the news like some useless twyp."

"Calm down." The man sounded almost weary. "Don't go off again like you did in Cromwell, okay? Just... stop acting and listen. There is something you can do here, you know. A way to help. You won't just be useless."

She stopped tersely, waiting for an explanation. Because she sure felt like a worthless sack of meat; powerless to do anything right in this world.

"A man, from the Rands is here. In Haven, with two women. Sandra and Elizabeth. He was there when the whole thing happened. Callie-" Mark paused, taking a breath. "You're good at reading people, right, Hoppy? We could use you to help... interrogate him, discern the facts of what happened. Name's Dom." He then turned the wheelchair so that it faced him, Hoppy staring into his eyes. "You can help in this way, at least for now. And once you're better, you can be back out there, doing your thing again. So don't think you're useless."

Hoppy didn't answer, but she as at least calmed down. The girl now was trying to wheel herself in the other direction, to where she assumed the "interrogation" was taking place.

"Anyways, I'm off." Mark said. "Gotta meet up with some people from Eden Valley. You, take care of yourself, alright?"

"Aye." Hoppy murmured in response, already groaning at the effort of using her arms to more or less move the weight of herself, and the wheelchair. "Oh, an', Mark?" He stopped walking. "Can' yew get someone t'get flour, milk, eggs, sugar? an' git Gary t'make a non 'lectric teamer or summat. I got an idea t'cheer things up 'round 'ere." The usual smirk splayed across her face, and a devious narrowing of her eyes. "A real good idea."

----------

1520

The rifle butt to the face did not help Dominic's case. In fact, he believed it revived the other bruise he received in late October. His hands were bound, he wished they weren't. He wanted some ice or something for the bruise, he felt like a headache was about to come on. His lips were chapped, he had been running for most of the day without water to handle his thirst. He watched the two women eye him and circle him like vultures.

"Okay let's go over this again, Dominic..."

He sighed, head fallen to his lap. He felt as if they were getting nowhere. He stayed silent for a moment until he noticed the woman had a cast on her leg, "Where'd you get that?" he nodded to her leg.

"I'm asking the questions here."

"Look I've told you everything that I know."

"Did you?"

He glared at her in silence, she was unsympathetic, what could he do?

"When did Tilo arrive at your place?"

"I wasn't there when he arrived. I was out with some hunters to check out a chopper crash site, RAF I'm sure."

"How do you know it was RAF?"

"I recognize them from a mile away, I was in the Forces."

Alison's curiosity was kindled, "Forces?"

She began to come around, believing that people who used to be in the military could be trusted to some degree.

"British Army. Um, Second battalion. Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. I am, or was, a Kingsman. I was in Afghanistan through most of..."

"That's not important right now." Callie interrupted.

Carter gestured to herself, "I was the pilot of that chopper."

Now that made some sense to Dominic, it explained why she was wearing military fatigue. It also explained that her short hair was a result of military regulation and not bad hairstyle choices.

"You went down on the fifth? I saw a plume of fire that night coming from the west."

Before Alison could reply, Callie cut in, "Let's get back to you, what happened after that?"

She was slowly losing her temper at the fact that they digressed into a tangent.

------

"I tried to get Mrs. Rand out of there. We passsed through the halls, found Richard on the ground holding onto his pistol. When we saw Professor King on the ground with Eric, I could pretty much tell what happened. Professor King was running with Eric until they went past Brand who shot him in the back."

Callie let out an impatient sigh.

He continued, "Richard, I don't know what happened to him for him to be on the ground."

Dominic sighed, "It was a damned warzone over there."

"He insisted that we leave, he already knew that..." Dominic trailed off.

"Knew that what?"

To the side, and just entering, was the wheelchair girl, more or less glaring at the new guy. Her brow was furrowed, and her face was drawn in a taut, angry expression. "An' call 'im Tilo, fer fuck's sake. It's 'is name."

Dominic looked at the girl, then back at the two women who stared at him.

"Do I have to spell it out?" he waited for a response, "...that he was a goner."

Hoppy then directed her glare to Callie, as if trying to get some sort of explanation. Tilo wasn't allowed to die, after all. With some more effort, she manuevered the wheels so that she ended up positioned next to the school teacher.

"And did you know he was a goner?" Callie ran her hand through her hair.

"I..." he paused, "I didn't."

"I'm...I'm sorry," Dominic said calmly.

He saw their expressions, they had lost somebody important to them he guessed. He knew what that was like, Afghanistan and Keswick was enough for him.

"...If'n 'e's dead," She said, ignoring the apology - it wasn't going to help anyways, wasn't going to do anything. "Coulda at least got the body back 'ere. Twyp."

Callie took a breath of forced calm, trying not to lose her head. She turned to Hoppy with a raised voice, "Would you please cool it?"

"I had to get Mrs. Rand out of there, it wouldn't have done any of us good if we tried to carry a wounded man out of that place. We were barely lucky enough to get out ourselves."

This time Carter spoke, "And are you sure he's one hundred percent dead? No chance to get him medical help? We do have a paramedic here, just recently."

"Well I wouldn't have known that would I?" he countered.

Dominic continued in a subdued tone, "We were gone by then. I had to save Elizabeth and Eric first. I owe it to William for what he's done for me."

In a more snide tone. "An' yew decided, 'fuck all' for whatever Tilo did over there." Hoppy was still in a dark mood, but at least she didn't look as if she wanted to cleave at a certain someone's neck.

"Hoppy!" Callie snapped before she returned her attention to the soldier, "So you just left him there to die?"

"Between a woman and child, and a wounded man, who would you save?"

Soldier's logic.

"I'd save Tilo." Hoppy said clearly. "'E's one a' us, ent 'e? Trust 'im more than any Rand or 'Vanner."

Carter sighed, and shot Hoppy another warning glance.

"Stop or get out," Callie lashed at Hoppy, her eyes had turned red.

Hoppy frowned, and took a few breaths. She was supposed to help somehow. This wasn't really helping at all. She remembered the feeling she got when Mike was trying to reel her in - that litle nag at the back of her head - and shrugged. She wasn't getting any of that from the new guy.

The wheelchair girl shook her head grudgingly. "I dun' think 'e's lying. Jus' a twyp, Callie."

The ex-soldier scoffed at the comment, if he ever stayed with the Haveners, the wheel chair girl would be one of the people out to get him.

"You're staying here until our people come back from Upton, and then we'll decide what will happen to you," Callie eyed the man suspiciously.

Hoppy nudged Callie, at that, an idea striking her.

"I'm g'nna bake sumethin'." She murmured, gesturing at her more or less physical helplessness. "Since I can't... move much, you be me 'ands or summat." She frowned further. "En't lettin' yew outta me sight 'til the others git back. Gives us stuff to do when waitin', too."

------

Dom had nodded off, sitting there staring at people was awkward enough for him. Not talking to them was boring enough for him. And it was around the time of day when people were most vulnerable to sleep. It could not be helped. Just a little bit, rest the eyes. Just a little a bit before he wakes and faces the world around him.

"Wake up," a sharp voice jabbed.

His eyes flit open, trying to adjust to the single light in the farmhouse kitchen. His little rest disrupted. His eyes roamed around to a sight that seemed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, maps stuck with pins and marked with red circles.

"I bet you're damn tired after leaving a friend of ours back there to die right?" Carter glared at him.

Dominic glanced at her, the ropes on his wrists felt tighter than before.

"Sleep deprivation," he blinked with a daze, "Were you about to get a bucket of water for me?"

"Don't push your luck," Carter said, "How did you even manage to become a soldier?" her tone cut deep beneath the belt.

Dominic looked at her as she said this, what was she trying to do?

"Don't throw stones when you live in a glass house, last I checked you're the pilot who crashed a chopper and killed everyone inside."

The pilot remained silent, unfazed by the comment.

"Stay on topic. Was Tilo dead when you found him?"

"No."

"So why did you leave him?"

The soldier hesitated for a moment, "Because he was wounded."

"But he was still alive."

"Wounded and alive in a mansion filled with zombies means dead and zed."

"Are you sure he couldn't stand up and walk? Are you sure it wasn't another hunter holding Eric?"

Dominic's brow was raised, "What...? He...he was wounded, two bullet holes in the back of his jacket. I saw him, I saw Professor King. He had grey hair and was wearing the leather jacket that he wore the first time he came."

"Tilo didn't leave Haven this time with a leather jacket. Are you sure it wasn't someone else?"

He shook his head confused until he realized something, "I know what you're trying to do." Dominic returned her gaze with his own stoic visage.

"You can try every damn trick in the book that you want, but I know what I saw. I saw him get shot."

"You saw him get shot?"

"I mean, I meant I saw the wounds on his back."

"Did you shoot him?"

Dominic was irate, "No. I already told you that he was shot by Richard."

"So you saw him get shot by Brand?"

Dominic paused, "No."

"So it's possible that Richard didn't shoot Tilo?"

Dominic shook his head, unsure where she was going, "Possible. But unlikely."

"So you just assumed that he was shot by Richard," Carter paused, "And then you assumed that none of you would have survived if you tried to pull him out of there."

Dominic avoided her gaze, lost in his own thoughts. His lips were still chapped and his heart was sprinting just as it had been the entire day.

Carter pulled him back, "You made two assumptions that might cost you your life."

There was a lapse of silence.

The man finally spoke, "As a soldier, I've learned it's the only thing you can depend upon in a life or death situation."

"This isn't a war," the pilot stated.

"It isn't?" the soldier gave her a blank stare.

She understood very clearly what he meant.

"You're no court martial, and even if you were, I don't regret what I did. There was the possibility that we could have gotten out of there with Professor King, but then there was also the possibility that none of us could have gotten out of there alive. So I made a decision."

"That was better than nothing," he concluded.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mark Lawson Character Portrait: Allison Hartford Character Portrait: Luca Dobre Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Haven-A Rough Day

Her pack felt odd on her back. She only had the first aid kit with her. When she arrived in Eden she had a pack full of books and a few clothes. Ally hadn’t planned on this taking too long. She had a large knife in her belt. She wasn’t good with a gun and had opted not to take one.

Luca was still covered in dirt when Tam announced the jobs, he considered changing, but he felt that would be disrespectful to Karen's memory. He wore his mud-splattered jeans and flannel shirt, each step felt heavy as he approached the park's entrance. The question that weighed heavily on Luca's mind was how much his son had seen of the events that led up to the breach. The boy had already witnessed things that no human should ever have to experience; there was a small chance that he had slept through the noise and only awoke after the breach had begun. Luca really hoped that that was all his son had seen.

She stood on the edge of the camp. Her stomach hurt. She was still new at doing runs but she understood that she needed to help in this. There were no injuries that needed tending and Ally did not want to just stand around when there were so many other things to get done.

She looked over her shoulder and spotted her partner for this run. Ally gave Luca a slight nod. She knew him, though not well.

Returning the nod, Luca approached Ally till they stood a comfortable distance apart. He recognized her as the woman with doctor training, who was always the person they relied on when the inevitable injury or sickness struck the camp. He thought it was odd that she wanted to leave the safety of the park, but he couldn't deny that the idea of having a competent medical professional by his side made him feel more at ease. Her attractiveness didn't hurt either.

Ally turned and looked at the trees beyond. They were heading out there and there was no telling what they would run into.

“Are you ready?”

"I am, let's go meet this privileged Havener."

Ally gave a short laugh and wrapped her arms around herself. “Privileged? Is there such a thing anymore?”

"Yes," Luca replied decisively. "As long as we humans exist, there will always be an imbalance of power and wealth among different groups. I suppose we should be grateful that Haven is willing to share their materials with us."

It felt like they fought and scrounged for everything. Sure Haven had it good in some ways but in the end were they really that much better off?

The woman started walking. Perhaps Luca wasn't wrong about the imbalance but everything still felt like a struggle, no matter the camp you lived in.

The air was cool and winter would be fully on them soon. It’s only late October....no, no...it’s November. That made Ally’s shoulders hunched. Months had gone by since the outbreak and she had lost track of time.

She looked over at Luca, “The breach last night....hard to believe it happened.” She shrugged. “I never thought we were so vulnerable. I don’t even know what happened. One minute I am finishing inventory and the next I have hurt people waiting for me to fix them. Then there was the screaming....”

Ally shook her head trying to shake out the memory of the sounds.

At the mention of the breach, Luca set his mouth in a grim line. "Hopefully Tam will figure out how they got in so it never happens again. We deserve to feel safe in Eden." Though he secretly hoped for the exact opposite result from Tam's investigation.

“Investigations just turn into finger pointing and blaming each other.” Ally wrapped her arms tighter around herself.

The wind had begun to pick up, which caused Luca to sink his face deeper into his scarf. Probably another snowfall was on its way, something that Eden Valley could certainly do without.

Her eyes were scanning the area for signs of anything moving. She had a knot in her stomach. Why am I doing this? I am not made for running out to get things. Self doubt was her one companion in everything Ally had ever done. Except medicine. That was the one place that voice didn’t appear and remained blissfully silent.

“Oh goody windy too. That might make it easier to smell them coming I guess...”

Luca gave a short laugh, "Let's hope we can't, only large masses of them can be detected by their smell which usually means you are close enough for them to pick up your scent too."

The very thought of a large group wandering out here, so close to the camp made Ally shiver. "Yeah, I could do without smelling them..."

The wind blew as they walked. The camp grew smaller behind them and before them stretched trees and brush. Ally looked back over her shoulder once but could no longer see the camp.

“Who is watching your son?”

"Freya has been kind enough to help me with Tobar. She has treated him like her own grandson ever since we arrived." Luca replied.

In truth, the silver-haired scottish woman had almost become a surrogate parent to the young boy. Luca found himself nearly unable to spend time around Tobar, each interaction became a painful reminder of how he had failed to save the rest of his family.

Her voice was lowered now that they were further from the camp. It seemed like the danger was more real once they could no longer see the fence. Despite the breach Ally still felt it was safer there than out here in the unknown.

The trees were spread out offering lovely scenery but little cover from the wind. The pair managed to find a trail, though slightly overgrown it would make for better footing as they moved. It also meant having a reference point for the way back.

The grass rubbed against their legs and Ally fell in behind Luca as they walked. She kept looking around them, watching for signs of anything that might be lurking near by. She reasoned that if they were new she would hear them running through the brush. If they weren’t well, there would be time.

Behaving like a protective bantam rooster, Luca reflexively squared his shoulders and strode confidently down the forest path. He knew the true reason why Ally dropped back was the narrow path, but his pride preferred a different explanation. His only regret being that he couldn't sneak nearly as many glances at her with this new walking arrangement.

Her shoulders felt tight. In truth her whole body was tense. Her hand occasionally went out touch Luca’s back as if reassuring herself that he was still there. They had grown quiet as they walked, both focusing on their journey instead of conversation.

At first Luca thought he imagined the light contact, but by the second and especially the third time Luca knew it wasn't just his imagination. He felt a smile beginning to cross his face, though he had a suspicion that her light brushes were likely due to unease about the darkened surroundings. He wanted to give her words of encouragement, but he found himself at a loss for the right words.

They had no real way to know how long they had been walking but the tree cover grew denser after a time and the light grew dimmer. The trail suddenly felt smaller, more cramped. Ally started to walk closer to Luca, almost bumping into him several times.

The lessened distance between the pair, caused Luca's pulse to quicken as he subconsciously sensed her anxiety and began to feel an equal amount of apprehension. Ally's growing fear was slowly infecting Luca.

It was harder to see now. Before the trees were spread out giving them plenty of space to spot things that might be moving in the grasses and weeds. Now it was hard to see anything but tree trunks.

The blessing was the trees cut some of the wind down. The unfortunate part was the wind began to cause the tree branches overhead to creak eerily. Their soft footfalls were accompanied by a chorus of creaks and crackings.

The trail moved upward on a small hill and as they moved down it grew a little darker. The wind in the treetops picked up and Ally wondered if a storm might be coming in. It would make things harder for them if they had to find shelter out here.

Crack!

Ally stopped dead, eyes darting this way and that. What? Where?

A branch, large and heavy fell on the path behind them.
Her heart was pounding. She hadn’t even reached for her knife. Turning she looked at Luca. Her face had lost all its colour. She licked her lips and tried to hide how frightened she was.

The sharp crack had startled Luca nearly as greatly, though he kept a firm hold on his outward expression. When he turned to see Ally's pale face, he realized the amount of courage it must have taken for her to leave Eden Valley. Even after the alarming sound, she was putting on a brave face. He admired her effort and was thankful that she hadn't panicked. Being level headed in an encounter with the dead could easily mean the difference between life or death.

“Wind is pretty strong.”

Luca gave a quick smile. "It is. I promise to not let you blow away." The small joke a weak attempt to lighten the situation.

She tried to smile at his joke and it was a good attempt but her heart was still racing. "Good to know." She reached out to touch his arm. "Thank you Luca." She knew he was trying to reassure her and she appreciated it.

Luca gently covered her delicate hand with his own. "You're welcome."

They resumed their trek. The pair went silent again as their senses were all focused on keeping them alert. Ally’s shoulders hunched over as she walked.

The cold was starting to seep into them. The wind was beginning to howl louder. Ally stopped. “Do you hear that?”

A moan. A definite moan. Ally stared wide eyed at Luca. The moan was loud and did not seem to have a definite point of origin. Ally had goosebumps now. She couldn't see anything that might be making the noise. Her heart was pounding. Where are they? Where?

Freezing in place, Luca's hand instantly sought the handle of his long hunting knife. His eyes scanned the surrounding trees as he tried to locate what had caused Ally to stop and ask if he had heard something. Small beads of sweat clung to his forehead while he silently listened for his worst nightmare to become a reality.

There again a moan. A low, long sound that made her blood drain from her face. She looked around frantically. Ally couldn’t see it. She could hear it but she couldn’t see it.

“Luca? Do you...do you see it?”

“No. Keep a sharp eye out though.” Luca said in a low voice.

Her voice was little more than a whisper. The moan pierced the air again. Ally turned to look back down the path the way they had just walked. She half expected to see something coming towards them. Once more the moan hit her ears and she turned to her right, sure that it had come from there.

“I don’t see it!” This she hissed at him.

Ally hadn’t taken her knife out of her belt. The weapon was forgotten as she tried to locate the source.

She looked left. It did not sound like it was getting any closer though it sounded as it it was all around them. Her hair stood on end and a light sweat formed on her back. Could it be? Are we surrounded?

Ally slowly looked upwards. Do they climb trees? The very idea that the things might climb, might be above them just waiting seemed preposterous but she was not ruling it out at this point.

“Luca....”

She was looking upwards at the treetops but she began to inch closer to him until her back bumped into his arm. “Could they be in the trees?”

At the mention of his name, Luca looked to Ally and followed her gaze upwards. For a split second his mind envisioned an infected zed dropping down on them from the branches above, but the reality was a less frightening explanation. Almost laughing aloud, Luca dropped his hands to his knees and released a shaky breath. Upon straightening, he turned to his frightened companion.

"It's the wind. The bloody wind through the branches nearly had us scared to death." Luca released another cloudy breath, his heart beat slowly returning to normal.

Ally’s gaze lowered to Luca. He was breathing a bit harder and she was trying to wrap her head around his words. Wind...trees...

She heard the moan again and this time Allison heard it for what it was. She cast her eyes down to her feet. “Right, the wind.”

Her heart was pounding, her pulse was racing and fear had left her full of adrenaline. That now changed to embarrassment, anger and nausea. How could I have been so stupid? Wind in the trees. Not something coming for us.

She had set them both on high alert and clearly Luca had been as on edge as she herself had been and all for wind blowing in the trees. Ally swallowed against the lump that formed in her throat. He is going to regret being stuck on this mission with you. Panic much?

“We should keep going...”

Ally muttered it into her sweater, just loud enough for Luca to hear her. She then turned her face away from him and fought back the tears that she was so close to shedding. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

Too late. A trail of hot, wet tears began to form down her cheeks as her body came down from the rush of the situation. Ally didn’t want him to see her crying so she turned her back to him and tried to stifle the sobs.

The wind overhead moaned again as if mocking them. Ally put both hands to her face and her shoulders shook.

Luca tried to ignore the soft distressed sounds from Ally, but he couldn't bring himself to treat her so callously. He felt very uncomfortable with the situation, he wasn't sure if a comforting gesture would be well received or appropriate. From years of marriage Luca knew that telling her to suck it up was out of the question, so that left the consoling option.

He took a hesitant step closer and draped his left arm across her back and rested his hand lightly on her left shoulder. Luca gave her shoulder a gruff squeeze.

An arm came around her and Ally wanted to crawl away and hide. He was comforting her like one might a child after they did poorly on a test. She felt idiotic. Why am I doing this? I shouldn't have volunteered. I am going to get us killed.

"Don't be upset, it was an honest mistake. The wind had me fooled as well and it is better to be watchful than caught off guard." Luca said diplomatically.

Luca's words sounded reassuring but Ally knew if she hadn't overreacted, hadn't grown so panicked he would have never been so on edge. Her tears slowed and through a small hiccup she managed to say "Right, watchful."

While he felt bad that Ally had been frightened by the moaning sound, her reaction gave him serious doubts with regards to her ability as a runner. Luca wasn't sure if he could rely on her if they encountered real danger. It was too late to do anything about it now, so he just had to hope that everything would go smoothly for the rest of the day.

Luca dropped his hand from her shoulder and ran his fingers across his knitted hat. "Let's keep going, the school can't be that far away now." He smiled at Ally, trying to put her at ease and show that he wasn't holding a grudge over the event.

His hand moved from her shoulder and Ally shrunk into herself as much as she could. She rubbed her arms against the cold and then looked up at Luca. "Yeah we should keep walking."

They started down the trail again. She fell into step behind him and after a few moments of silence Allison tapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks. You know...for well...just thanks."

Luca was startled out of his wandering thoughts by the unexpected shoulder tap. "Don't mention it." He replied, still keeping his voice low just to be safe. "I'm sure you will find your runner legs soon and feel more comfortable out here."

Ally went back to looking and listening for signs of anything moving around them. The ones that had breached the camp had been fast, new dead from what she was told by the people she helped. She worried that they would be caught off guard though she now worried she would overreact again.

The wind still moaned at them as they kept moving. They cleared some of the denser parts of the trail and soon the trees began to thin out again and there was more open space and tall grasses. Ally was breathing easier knowing that it would give them a better line of sight to have fewer trees. They seemed to be leaving the forested area for one that resembled the outskirts of a rural town. She hoped that meant the school would not be too much further.

The wind buffeted them more now. Less trees meant they were now taking the brunt of the cold but it also meant the wind was no longer tauntily moaning at them. The grass moved in the breeze.

Ally was looking behind them, checking their flanks when the movement started to their left and towards the front where Luca was. Whatever it was, it was about five maybe six feet away and moving quickly through the grass. She didn't see it at first but as she turned her head to front she saw the grasses moving. Was she imagining it? She did not want to cause panic like she had before.

The grasses moved more and it was heading towards them. Her eyes went wide. Low to the ground, moving fast... She was filled with a sense of horror as she realized it might very well be a child. An undead child intent on them. She moved quickly towards Luca with a yelp of fear and grabbed the back of his shirt, burying her face against him. No movement was made towards her weapon, no instinct to fight just hide against the man in front of her.

Luca had once again fallen into a daydream, blissfully unaware of the moving grass to their side. It was only the sudden yelp from Ally that brought him out of his quiet musings. He quickly scanned for whatever had caused her to cry out and cling to his shirt. Luca smoothly drew his hunting knife, fully aware that he didn't have time to pull out the shotgun from his pack. The patch of wildly swishing grass grew closer, Luca's heart leapt into his throat as he instinctively put his left arm out in an attempt to further shield his companion from what was rushing towards them.

"Aahhhh!" Luca gave a battle-cry, intending to bury his weapon in the first undead skull that appeared. He bent his knees ready to engage the first attacker.

Luca screamed, making a noise meant to scare off any opponent and bolster himself for battle. Ally simply clung to his shirt. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her knuckles were white. Please don't die..please don't die....

A piercing screech suddenly filled the air as three pheasants flapped noisily into the sky. Baffled for several seconds, Luca rather sheepishly realized he had just yelled at a couple of harmless birds. While he normally might have been angry at his foolish behavior, he was grateful that he hadn't been forced to meet an actual zed. For the third and hopefully last time, Luca felt his pulse slow and his muscles relax. He rubbed his cap back and forth trying to shake off the remaining tension.

The noise that followed was the most confusing thing Allison had ever heard. There was a flapping of wings and then everything was once again still. Ally frowned into Luca's back. His body relaxed under her hands. It was then that she pulled her face away and peered around.

"Where....where is it?"

Luca looked over his back, only just realizing that Ally probably had no idea what had just happened. Wordlessly he pointed to the sky, trying to lessen her embarrassment from causing another false alarm. As his heartbeat slowed further, Luca became fully aware of how close they really were to one another. He wondered if she normally behaved like this or it was just the high pressure circumstances that caused her to be so familiar with him.

There was nothing. Nothing but the grass, themselves and some birds. She looked around still scared but more unsure now that there appeared to be no threat. She hadn't imagined it, she had seen the grasses moving. Am I crazy? Ally ducked under Luca's arm. She was close to him, practically hugging him with her left arm.

Luca pointed. Her eyes went to where the birds were disappearing into the distance. Birds? Ally turned and hugged Luca. Her face was against his chest. "I'm sorry. I thought...well I thought it was something running at us..."

The words were mumbled into his shirt. She felt as if once again she had cause so much panic for nothing. Her body grew warm as a wave of embarrassment washed over her. He thinks you are useless you know. Bet he was happy to have the 'doc' with him and now he knows you are like dead weight. Bound to get him killed Once again the urge to crawl away and hide was overwhelming.

He wanted to feel angry at her mumbled apology, angry that this was the third near heart-attack he had received since leaving Eden, but looking down at her face pressed into his muddied shirt he felt ashamed for thinking those unkind thoughts about her. Luca placed a hand on her back, both in an effort to calm her and make her aware of the continuous embrace she was engaged in. The contact wasn't unwelcome by any means, but Luca felt anxious standing out in the open with Ally during such a sensitive moment.

She was coming down from the latest wave of adrenaline and suddenly became aware of the fabric against her forehead and the presence of a body in her arms. Ally dropped her arms and slowly backed away. Great not only does he think you are a high strung idiot he also thinks you have no concept of personal space. Well done.

Thankfully Luca didn't have to wait long before Ally dropped her arms and stepped out of the embrace, though a part of him missed her closeness he had to remind himself they were on an important mission for Eden and the rest of their group was depending on them to bring back the supplies. Almost regretfully, Luca straightened his shirt and regained his serious demeanor.

Ally blushed, turning bright red. She turned and looked down the path. "School shouldn't be far right?"

Luca pretended not to notice the sudden high color in her cheeks. "Yes, about another five to ten minutes up the road." The memories of their previous scares still fresh on his mind, Luca took off his pack and pulled out the shotgun. Replacing the pack on his shoulders, he held the shotgun firmly in his right hand. "I think it's a good idea to keep this handy, just in case." He told Ally before continuing their journey to the schoolhouse.

The rest of the walk was uneventful. No odd noises, no rustling in the grass. Both were still on alert knowing full well that at anytime danger could rear its head.

As they hoped, the path did not go on for much longer before they could see a building in the distance. A fence, damaged in many places, surrounded what was likely once a decently kept schoolyard. The building itself was two story and brick.

As they drew closer broken windows became visible. Like a lot of things now the school had seen better days.

The path led to the fence. At one time a person might have had to climb it or begin the trek around but now there were places where the chain link had been pulled back and the pair easily fit through a hole.

Ally swallowed and scanned the yard. Something about the fact that it was once a school made her stomach tighten.

“Where do you think this person will be?” She whispered to Luca. She silently prayed that they would not have to go too far into the building to meet the contact.

"I'm not sure, probably we should check the front entrance first, then we can look from there." Luca replied in an equally quiet tone.

Luca felt an involuntary shiver pass down his spine as they continued to approach the school. He could only hope that they would be fortunate enough not to run into any dead children while inside the rundown structure. As the pair drew closer to the entrance, they saw that the large double doors were wide open. The weather was to thank for hiding any indication of the inevitable violence that had to have occurred on the front steps of the school. A passerby could almost imagine that the school had been condemned, rather than the more sinister reason for its current vacancy.

The entrance hallway was dark compared to the outdoors, though there was still plenty of light from the windows to see fairly clearly. Luca gripped the shotgun tightly as he stepped deeper into the darkened hall. Each shadow seemed to have a menacing air to it, reaching towards the runners with dark intent. Scanning to the left and right, Luca was disappointed and relieved to see that they were the only ones moving inside the building.

Speaking quietly over his shoulder, Luca continued to look for the Havener. "I don't see anyone. Let's go check this left hall, see if the person is waiting down there."

The pair walked as silently as possible past all the empty and disheveled classrooms. While they walked Luca began to feel a prickling sensation on the back of his neck, almost like someone was watching them. The runner tried to brush the nagging thought away, but it stubbornly refused to leave. Luca took a quick glance back at Ally, curious to see if she felt the same way.

She remained quiet as they entered the building. She feared making the whole thing awkward again and the place gave her chills up her back. Her eyes took in the sight of overturned desks, discarded coats and random shoes. Ally kept looking around seeing no sign of someone waiting for them but she couldn't shake the feeling that something else was in the school.

The look Luca gave her told her he felt the same. She came alongside him. Ally's voice was low and she leaned in so only he could hear. "Is something following us?"

"I don't know." He replied honestly. "We need to keep a sharp lookout for whatever it might be."

Luca wasn't sure if it was a good thing that Ally agreed with him. This was the same woman who had thought the wind blowing through the trees sounded like moans of the undead. Maybe some of her paranoia was starting to wear off on her partner and it really was all just in their head.

As they continued down the hall, Luca noticed that not all of the doors were open as he had first thought. At least three of the classrooms were closed in this particular hallway. Despite knowing that it might be dangerous, Luca became unable to resist approaching the closed door nearest to him. Carefully he pressed his ear to the door and listened for movement. It was silent at first, but gradually he started hearing quiet moans, the sound slowly grew louder, followed by a sudden screech of a desk as one of the dead likely bumped into it. Luca could almost feel the press of the zed on the other side of the door. The moaning was still realtively quiet, but a scratching sound could now be heard on the solid wood. The most disturbing thing Luca found about this new sound, was that it seemed to be emanating from hip height. A somber glance at the placard next to the room, confirmed his suspicions.

"Don't even think about opening that door, boy." A voice growled menacingly from behind the pair.

Whipping around, Ally and Luca stared wide-eyed as a lone figure emerged from the shadows. Luca held the shotgun defensively as he tried to gauge the intentions of the person before him.

"I wasn't going to open it." Luca replied indignantly. Now that the stranger was out of the shadows, he took in the man before him.

Ally simply stared at the new arrival. She edged a little closer to Luca but didn't hide behind him. The man was big but it was muscle big. To the point where his coat seemed snug on his arms and shoulders. Bald but bearded and he had an air about him that said 'do not mess with me'. Ally wasn't sure if Haven sent him because they thought Eden might cause trouble or because he was the best suited for making the run.

"Hmph. I assume you two are from Eden Valley then." The man said gruffly.

After a moment's hesitation, Luca replied. "Yes. My name's Luca and this is Ally. Who are you?"

The man seemed to visibly relax after hearing Luca's words of confirmation, but Luca still felt suspicious of the stranger.

"I'm Mark, from Haven." The man said with pride.

Ally offered him a sort of half smile.

"We were told you were able to bring us some tools and things to help us out?"

She really, really hoped he was not goign to give them a hard time. It was bad enough that there was so much danger out there, they didn't need to be fighting amongst themselves.

Mark looked them over critically. There was something akin to amusement in his eyes. "Yay I got a drill, couple of hammers, some nails and screws too. You know the basics."

Ally didn't like the way he spoke to them. It seemed like he was almost mocking them for needing Haven's help.

"How is your scavenger, Ben doing?" Luca interjected. He hoped to disarm the gruff man by reminding him how the caravanners had helped Haven in the past.

"He's alright." Mark replied, a hint of gratitude sneaking into his voice.

The trio lapsed into silence as they set about transferring the items from Mark to Ally and Luca. They divided the things up between their two packs so no one person carried it all. As promised there was the basic items one would need to do basic repairs. Ally noted a few screwdrivers, some nails, a hammer and a drill along with other things she didn't know the name of. The bags were weighed down with the tools from Haven, though they were not full or overly cumbersome. Ally had to admit the man was gruff but he had come through. It wasn't a lot but it was enough to help them get things fixed.

When it was done Luca gave Mark a nod of thanks. Nothing more was said. Mark turned and with the same speed and quiet as he appeared he vanished down the hall.

She moved across the classroom towards the windows and watched the man head off towards Haven. They too would be heading back to Eden, back through the trees and brush. She vowed not to let herself get spooked by things that were not there.

Ally’s hand came down on the window sill. She bumped into a basket. It was a pile of work the children of the class had once done. It was waiting for the teacher to mark the pages, maybe put a little star sticker or write ‘good job’ on them. It would never happen. Both the teacher and her students were no longer here and would not be coming back.

The woman looked away from the basket unable to think any longer on the children that once filled this place with laughter and learning.

“Hey.....”

Something caught Ally’s eye. It was a container of crayons. She smiled a small crooked smile.

“We should take these back with us.”

She crossed the room and scooped up the container. She turned to Luca. “I bet we can find a few supplies in this place. Staplers, paper, pencils. Maybe even some books. I know seems silly but just think it might help, you know make people be able to relax. Really though, pencils and things are always handy.”

Luca felt skeptical about wasting time and adding more weight to their packs just for some useless school supplies. The sooner they returned to Eden, the better. Crossing his arms, Luca was about to suggest they leave, when an image of his young son crossed his mind. Tobar would be delighted to have paper and crayons again. Luca cracked under that compeling argument and quickly found himself searching right alongside Ally.

Ally ran up to where the teacher’s desk sat. In other rooms some of the desks had been overturned but this one sat as it should. She pulled open a drawer.

“Look! Elastics, erasers, paper clips....”

Another drawer opened and Ally started to laugh. “Oh someone liked to sneak a little fun into their morning coffee it seems.” She reached down and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

“But there is a hole punch and three staplers, man they were a hoarder.”

She placed her bag on top and began to scoop in anything and everything she could find. Ally looked up at Luca. “Shall we check out a few more rooms?”

Luca found himself cracking a wide smile at the humorous commentary she gave for each discovered object. "Why not." He replied agreeably, already setting off to scour the next room.

The last thing she grabbed from this particular desk was the bottle. She slipped it into her bag along with everything else.

For the next 25 minutes the pair quickly ran from classroom to classroom trying to find whatever they thought could be useful. In one room they found bowls, a sweater in the closet and loads of construction paper. Rolls of scotch tape and duct tape. Rulers, tacks, chalk and other basic school supplies found new homes in their bags. They grabbed as many books as they could manage as well. Ally even grabbed a few coffee mugs.

As they made their way back towards the main entrance, avoiding closed doors, Ally stopped. “A broom closet! Where would the janitor’s office be? There would be tools and other things in there! What if it wasn’t raided?”

The possibility of finding a fully loaded broom closet was too tempting to pass up, even though Luca wasn't entirely sure what might actually be found in such a room, he readily joined in the search for said treasure trove.

The duo began to roam the halls frantically looking for the office of the custodian. When they did manage to locate the little office it seemed that someone else had already scavenged what they could. Perhaps the very tools Haven gave them had once had a home in the office.

Ally’s face was crestfallen. She had really hoped that if they had found more tools, more supplies that would help them fix the breach and do maintenance that it would help offset the panic she had caused on the trip in.

“Oh well, it was worth looking.”

She shrugged and headed back the way they came. “Let’s head off before we get caught out here at night.”

Luca was considerably less upset than Ally over the empty closet. He was actually quite pleased with what had been given to them by Mark and he was looking forward to seeing how excited his son would be to have art supplies once again. Luca tried to convey his positive mindset to his partner as they set off for Eden Valley. They passed back through the yard, out the fence and back onto the path.

"That was a good idea to bring back school and art supplies. I know that my son will love being able to draw with crayons and pencils once again, not to mention the other survivors who could certainly use a creative outlet after the recent breach. My personal favorite pastime is wood carving, I used to carve all manner of designs on chests and other wooden pieces." Luca fell silent for a moment, realizing he had just shared several personal details about himself that he would normally have kept private. Clearing his throat, Luca looked over to Ally. "What are some of your hobbies?"

She was glad that she was walking behind Luca again. He couldn't see the grimace on her face. "Hobbies?" Here he was a man with a talent, something creative and she was a boring former med student who didn't have a life before all hell broke loose. "I don't have any unless you count cramming for tests and not sleeping as hobbies. I read a lot..."

Ally didn't add that all she read was textbooks or medical journals. "So carving? That takes a steady hand."

It was something she could relate to. The ability to carve details into wood meant a practiced steady hand, not unlike what it took to stitch someone up or use a scalpel.

While Luca wouldn't consider himself to be a particularly clever fellow, he could tell when someone was trying to deflect questions about themselves. He let the topic slide for the time being, but he was determined to learn more about the quiet doctor.

"Well we will have to find you one then. Everyone should have a hobby, even if it is small thing. Keeps the mind busy." Luca replied with a wink.

My mind is plenty busy trying to figure out what I am going to do if people start to get really sick this winter. She had been doing some reading up on more natural medicines, ways to help lessen colds and flus without the use of antibiotics. Finding a stash in a hospital would be a god send but Ally couldn't wait for a miracle. She needed to think ahead now. People were counting on her to take care of them.

"Everyone should have a hobby...sure." Ally blushed a little when Luca winked at her. He was being nice to her despite the way she had acted on the walk to the school. Her hope was that the way back would be less stressful.

When Ally mentioned that carving must require a steady hand, he saw an opportunity that might allow him to speak with her again when they returned to camp. "I learned from my father, my family owned a small furniture shop. And it does take a steady hand, mistakes in wood are hard to correct, but with skill, they can be covered.Would you like to see a few small pieces I have been working on?"

Her teeth nipped at her lower lip. He was offering to show her his work. She wasn't used to people being so open and personable. Ally tended to be closed off and professional. After faltering for a moment Ally managed to find the words. "Yes. Yes that would be nice."

"Great!" Luca replied a bit over eagerly. He chastised himself for sounding so excited.

Ally missed the excitement in his voice as she was too wrapped up in her worry that he would realize just how socially awkward she was.

The shadows around them had begun to gradually lengthen. Though it would still be many hours before dusk, Luca didn't want to spend any more time away from Eden than he absolutely had to. He was eager to begin the repairs and return the camp to its former glory. The soft rattling of pencils reminded him of the other reason why he hurried to return.

The runner pair had lapsed into companionable silence for the last half an hour. Ally seemed to prefer the quiet presence of another person rather than lively conversation. Luca didn't mind, especially during a time when the slightest sound could mean the difference between safety and death. He had learned that lesson the hard way.

The wind still blew fiercely, threatening to divert Ally and Luca from their set path. The buffeting gales were deafening, so much so that they nearly missed the desperate scuffle occurring just over the hill and to their left.

"Do you hear that?" He softly asked his partner.

Ally wasn't sure she could hear anything over the wind. She had hunched her shoulders and put her face into her sweater to help keep the chill out. After her over reactions to wind before she decided to be very cautious. Ally strained her neck as if it would help her listen better. She frowned. Not the wind this time. There was something happening. Her mouth went into the straight line.

"Yes."

Luca dropped his pack to the ground and started slowly moving towards the sound. Any thought he had of merely imagining the cries and groans was quickly swept aside as he drew closer.There was a distinctly female voice among the groans of the undead, Luca noticed with alarm. Cresting the hill, he beheld a very unique sight.

Ally dropped her pack gently beside Luca's. She drew the knife from her belt and followed closely behind. She too could hear the groans and gurgles of the undead and the sound of a woman fighting for her life.

Not far from where he stood there was a small older woman, swinging a rolling pin in an almost comical fashion at two attacking zed. Luca hesitated for a moment, trying to weigh the different options that lay before him. He glanced back at Ally who stood just behind him, a wave of guilt swept over him as he realized that he had been tempted to leave the woman. It was obvious that Ally would not have agreed to leave the woman, so with a yell to distract the gray-haired woman's attackers, Luca charged down the hill while brandishing the shotgun menancingly.

Knife in hand she stood behind Luca. She gave him a nod as looked at her. Ally had no idea he had been contemplating leaving the woman. She followed him down the hill.

Luca continued yelling as he ran down the hill, one of the zed whipped its head around to locate the origin of the sound. Having spotted or smelled the approaching human, the corpse turned from the woman and began a stumbling gait to meet the new food source. Luca slowed his pace down the hill, having no intentions of colliding with the zed while he had a strong downward momentum going. When the zed was four feet away, Luca leveled the shotgun and blasted the corpse's head clear off its shoulders.

Ally darted around Luca, knife in hand. Her goal was the woman. She sprinted hard down the rest of the hill. The woman was still swinging the rolling pin at the remaining assailant. Ally approached at a good speed. She was breathing hard and ignored the burning in her legs. Her eyes were focused on the clawing hand that was reaching to the woman. With a grunt Ally brought her large knife down in a chopping motion. The blade contacted bone and it lodged in a bit before cracking. Though not a newly dead as others this one was certainly not old either. Ally gritted her teeth as kicked a foot out on the zed's torso. With a kick and a yank she freed her knife.

"Come on!"

Ally grabbed the woman's arm and yanked her as hard as she could. Her head turned to where Luca stood, gun in hand.

"Shoot it!"

The thing was already trying to come after the women. The older woman, clearly more physically fit than Ally now grabbed her and pulled her away. She urged Ally to go faster and the younger woman tried. Her chest hurt, her legs hurt but fear was a great motivator.

Another shot rang out. Something hit the ground but the women kept running up the hill. They ran until they were back at the trail, back at their packs and only then did Ally turn around. Luca was sprinting up the hill towards her and she could see there was nothing moving now at the bottom of the hill. She put her hands on her knees and took great heaving breaths.

Taking the time to catch their breath all three said nothing at first. The runners finally took a good look at who they had just rescued from certain death. The woman appeared to be in her late fifties or sixties, with silvered hair and wrinkles from an active outdoor life. The small woman still held the rolling pin defensively as if she expected another zed to suddenly pop out of a bush. Luca valiantly stifled a laugh at her feisty behavior, but he was actually very impressed that she had managed to survive for so long.

The old woman was the one to break the silence first. "Who are you lot?"

"We're from Eden Valley, I'm Luca and this lovely lady is my runner partner, Ally." Luca said grandly, while making a sweeping gesture from Ally's head to feet. He hoped the survivor would feel more at ease by seeing another woman and realizing that they didn't mean to do her any harm.

Ally gave Luca a skeptical look as he called her lovely. He was making a show of it for the woman she realized but it was still an odd way to describe her. Ally offered the older woman a friendly smile. She said nothing about the rolling pin though she knew it wouldn't have been her weapon of choice.

It seemed to do the trick, the woman let the rolling pin drop to her side and her face visibly relaxed. "Pleased to meet you both. I am Mrs. Valerie Wilson." She replied politely. "I fear I may be the only survivor from Upton Abby. Have you heard any news about my husband or other survivors?"

Luca was shocked to hear that something catastrophic had happened to the Abby. While the caravanners kept mostly to themselves, the runners all knew that the Rands had successfully held the Abby since the beginning of the outbreak. Had they been overrun or attacked?

Ally frowned. She kept to herself in the camp, more concerned about medical supplies and taking care of people than what went on in the other areas that held survivors. There was gossip and rumours of course but Ally tended to ignore it all. The expression on Luca's face indicated he knew of Upton but he was shocked so Ally didn't think he knew what the woman was talking about.

Ally put her knife back in her belt and shouldered her pack. She made herself as unobtrusive as possible.

"No, we haven't heard anything about it. What happened?" He asked, concern shown clearly across his face.

The old woman heaved a sigh, she had already suspected the worst had happened to her friends and family, but it was still hard hearing the truth from strangers. Still, she wanted to share her story, so that at least someone would know the truth and be able to remember those that had fallen at Upton. Mrs. Wilson began sharing stories of the people who she had come to love and care for at the Abby. Each one tugged at her heartstrings, especially little Eric, his death was probably the most tragic to the old woman. Finally her tale reached to the horde that suddenly set upon and quickly overwhelmed the Abby's defences, creating chaos and death across the elegant estate. She told of her narrow escape out a window and the difficult journey that followed, though she refrained from mentioning Brand and Tilo to the fixated runners.

Ally listened growing sadder and more sick to her stomach with each word the woman said. She shrunk in on herself, eyes filled with tears. That could be Eden. We could be wiped out, last night could have gone to hell worse than it did. There was no comfort in Valerie's stories just foreboding.

Luca rapidly blinked his eyes to clear the moisture that threatened to spill out. "I'm deeply sorry for your loss." He felt touched that she had shared the experiences and history of the Rand members with them. There was tragedy everywhere you looked, so it was nice to hear stories that proved friendship and community could still exist in a broken world.

Mrs. Wilson remained silent, the effort of telling her story seemed to have drained the older woman.

Ally cleared her throat. "I think you should come with us. We are heading back to Eden. You can't just stay out here."

Her hands were shaking now. The adrenaline from the fight had worn off and the emotions were getting the better of her. She shoved her hands into her pockets. Ally's eyes went to Luca. They spoke a silent apology for not asking him first but she couldn't in good conscious just leave the woman out here.

"What do you think?" She asked Luca and Valerie.

Luca agreed with Ally's decision to invite Valerie back to their camp. He couldn't in good conscious leave a defenseless woman out in the cold, especially one who had survived through so much already. For the first time, Luca noticed that the older woman wasn't wearing any gloves. Quickly he pulled off his own and held them out to her.

"We could use a good cook back at our camp, Jake's food could kill rats. Though you can't tell him I said so." Luca said while clutching his stomach comically.

Ally just shook her head at Luca’s embellishing of how bad the food was. A smile tugged on her lips.

Valerie accepted the gloves gratefully, handing over her rolling pin for Luca to put in his bag. "Thank you both very much. I will gladly accept your invitation."

The trio set off down the trail towards Eden. The older woman linked arms with Ally and Luca on either side and with a captive audience, she began telling them stories from when grown children were young.
---
The trio walked for a good length before finally taking a rest. At some point Valerie ended her stories and they moved back into a single file. They were alert but the trio all showed signs of fatigue.

"Rest time."

Everyone seemed to agree judging by their small groans that signified stiffening and sore muscles.

Ally sat just to the side of the trail and rested her legs. It had been a long day and she was beyond exhausted. I am so not used to this... She knew that is she was to survive, to be of any use in the long run she needed to get faster, more steady and less panicky. She needed to be more like Valerie and Luca. Less high strung. Ally sighed and rested her arms across her knees. Her head hung down and she closed her eyes.

Luca watched as Ally sat down on the side of the trail. The woman was tough, he hadn't expected that she would have held up so well. Being a runner wasn't for everyone, it was a dangerous and nerve-wracking job. From her earlier reactions it might have been more likely that the woman ended up dead than charging into a fight.

Luca led Valerie to a large rock where she could rest before they started walking again. The older woman put a hand on his arm. "I need to tell you something about your fellow runners." She said softly into Luca's ear.

"What is it?" He asked, not having the slightest idea what she was talking about.

Valerie pointed further off the trail; Luca easily catching her meaning. Whatever the woman had to say, she didn't want Ally to hear it. Likely wishing to spare the young woman from further distress.

With a shotgun in one arm and Valerie on the other, Luca walked out of sight from the trail.

Ally didn't notice Luca and Valerie head off the trail. She was tired. She wanted to go back to Eden and crawl into her bed. Body ached with the exertion. She rolled her shoulders and then looked up. Everything was quiet. Her eyes darted around the trail and at first she thought her mind was playing tricks on her. She couldn't see either of her companions.

"Luca?" Ally whispered his name as she slowly stood. She turned around and around looking for them. Have they walked on? I thought we all stopped. How long did I close my eyes? Why would they leave me? Panic set in as she frantically scanned the area for some sign of their whereabouts.

A gun went off breaking the silence and her thoughts. Allison's eyes went wide and she turned to face the direction of the sound. Luca has a gun. An attack? Ally took off in a half jog towards where she heard the sound. She picked her way as quietly as she could through the brush. There was something just behind a pair of trees and Ally slipped up to them. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she slowly peered around the tree.

Luca stood fixed in place, his entire front plastered with hot blood and tiny chunks of gore. He instantly regretted standing that close before pulling the trigger. With the shotgun still smoking slightly, he carefully leaned over to make sure that it was truly a clean shot. His concern was necessary, at such close range and to the head, there was hardly a recognizable feature to identify the deceased.

Ally thought she was going to be sick. Horror filled her as she stared at Luca. He stood over top of a body, gun in hand and covered in blood. Ally took in the figure on the ground and she knew it was Valerie. She covered her mouth holding in a cry as she turned and pressed her back against the tree. He killed her. He killed her...oh my god.... The woman they had saved, the woman they had been walking with and talking to. Dead. She is dead.

She hadn't thought of Luca as a killer, not in the sense of another person but now he was standing there over the body, covered in blood and Ally began to wonder who they had sent out with her. Would he kill her too? Her whole body was shaking and she tried to figure out what to do. She peered around the tree once more to assess the situation.


Dropping to his knees, Luca began digging for the second time in one day. The freezing wind quickly chilled Luca's hands to the bone, forcing him to retrieve his lent gloves and continue working. The manual labor relaxed his racing heart and caused him to remember his partner. Had she heard the sound? How could she not have? Standing suddenly, Luca wondered what she must have thought after hearing the gunshot and if she had seen anything. He stripped off his coat and placed it over the grisly incident. Figuring that there was no need for her to see the details of the shotgun's handiwork up close.

He was standing and looking around. He is looking for me. I should run...run.... Her legs wouldn't move. Ally pressed herself back against the tree. Her lip trembled and she closed her eyes. Tears ran down her cheeks and she tried to hold in any noises she might make. I can run, go back to Eden and tell them. They won't let him back in once they know. What would happen if Luca found her or caught up to her? Her hands were in fists. What do I do?

"Ally?" Luca called out tentatively as he continued walking back towards the path.

Oh god...oh god...what do I do? He was calling out to her. It was like something from a horror movie she liked to watch back when there had been time for things like that. Ally could hear his footsteps as he carefully walked towards the path. She remained behind the tree and took a deep breath.

"Luca? I am here...." She let the words trail off as she stepped out from behind the tree and faced him. Her eyes were wide and her cheeks red. Don't look scared or he might know that you know....

Shit. Luca had wanted a chance to explain himself before Ally started drawing conclusions about the scene. His blood-spattered appearance certainly didn't speak well for his case. First, he forcibly relaxed his muslces and let his hands fall naturally to his sides. If she bolted Luca knew he would have an even harder time convincing her it had been the right thing to do. He didn't know where to begin at first, but he finally found the words.

"She was bitten." He said somberly. "She pulled me aside while we were resting and told me the bite had happened just before we rescued her. I'm sorry I didn't tell you immediately."

Ally was wary. She kept her eyes on him as he told her that Valerie had been bitten. Her gaze moved over his form taking in the blood that was splattered all over him. She nodded. "Bitten. Of course."

She took a step backwards. "She walked with us that whole time and didn't say anything." Ally was trying to figure out why the woman hadn't said anything before, why she had told Luca and not both of them. Luca seemed sad about the whole thing but Ally wasn't convinced. Her heart thudded in her chest. Run, run, run.... "She told you and just let you shoot her?"

Her face was pale as she took one more step backwards.

Luca should have expected Ally to have questions and suspicions about the circumstances, but he felt slightly insulted by her skepticisim. Still, he knew she had a right to ask questions and if answering them put her at ease, he was happy to sit there all day if necessary.

"No. Some people have trouble accepting their fate, I think she was trying to put off the inevitable as long as possible." Luca's eyes darted away from Ally as he answered her second question. "She told me and we both agreed it was for the best."

Though she was terrified beyond belief Allison decided if he wanted to prove Valerie had in fact been bitten, that shooting her had been out of mercy than she wanted proof. Trembling with fear, voice low Ally looked squarely at Luca. "Show me. Show me her bite."

It stung to hear Ally want visual proof of his claims, he wanted her to see him in a positive and trustworthy light. The wary and frigtened expression she currently wore was disheartening to Luca. Though secretly he knew he had no right to judge her completely reasonable reaction to a shock of this type. Luca should have been grateful that he was getting out of it so easily and with very minimal repurcussions. Valerie had made dubious accusations about people and events that she couldn't possibly have known whether they were true or not.

"Okay. I'll show you." Luca didn't know what else to say. He hoped seeing a bite with her own eyes would be enough proof that he was telling the truth.

Walking in front of the trembling woman, Luca approached the coat covered body. Gently lifting Valerie's right arm, he rolled back her sleeve to reveal a gruesome bite. Little drops of blood still traveled out of the wound to splash the frozen ground with tiny bursts of red color. He let Ally view the wound for several seconds, before rolling the sleeve back down and placing the arm respectfully across the woman's chest. Luca stood up and gave a questioning look to his partner.

"I'm very sorry that I caused you so much distress. In my attempt to spare you, I only made the whole situation far worse. I hope you can forgive my failure on this subject." Luca said with a thoroughly exhausted expression on his face.

Ally was breathing hard. She stood there and the fear ran out of her body leaving her chilled. The bite was very visible. "I am sorry...I..." Her eyes were on Luca as he recovered the bite on Valerie's arm with her shirt.

"I just heard the gunshot and then saw you..." Her reasoning now sounded hollow. She should have trusted him but she didn't know him well enough to just believe what he said. She was working with him though and if they couldn't trust each other what good were they as runners. Ally was pale and looked on the verge of tears. She stepped towards Luca but stopped at the sight of all the blood on his clothes.

"I don't need to be spared but I understand why you tried. I am sorry I didn't believe you about the bite."

Her eyes spotted the disturbed earth. She looked at it and then back at Luca. Guilt sat even heavier now. He was digging her a grave. "I will help."

The pair of runners kneeled down together and resumed digging the grave. Ally pulled out her knife and used it as a makeshift shovel. They worked tirelessly.
----
They walked away from the mound both looking worse for wear. The packs were pulled on once more and there was silence between them as they walked the path back to Eden Valley. Ally reached out and held Luca's hand. She said nothing but it just seemed like they could both use some human contact.

The camp appeared before them. Though they were returning with the tools and some other items from the school it didn’t feel like a successful run