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October "Toby" Harrison

She's heard it all twice over. Just keep the jokes to yourself.

0 · 265 views · located in The Haven Universe

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

Groups

The Citizens of Haven

Description

Name- October Harrison "Toby"
Age- 30
Gender- Female
Physical description-

A stocky woman with a heart of steel. October may look incapable of many things but most of her mass is actually muscle. She doesn't strive for beauty like many woman do but rather to become stronger and better at the things she does. Her face looks almost like a pugs with chunky red cheeks, a wide flat nose and large oval green eyes. Octobers greasy brown hair is cut above her ears with her bangs spiked away from her face. Her brutally sun burnt skin is pockmarked by freckles and various scars. Her most prominant scar stretches from just below her nose to the corner of her lip.

October is shorter than your average thirty year old woman at only 5'3" tall. Because of this most of her clothes have to be tailored to fit her and she must work twice as hard when height obstacles come into play. Typically she dresses light with a snug fit. She avoids heat absorbing colors or anything that would make her stand out in a crowd. She also avoids loose clothing that can get hooked on stuff or be tripped over. As for shoes she wears a basic pair of running shoes.

Other than her general appearance October does have Tattoos and peircings. For Tattoos she has a chinese dragon wrapping around her left arm and a full sleeve on her right. The sleeve includes a blue dragon identical to the red one, mexican day of the dead skeletons, Irelands flag, and three different pin-up girls. Her few peircings consist of her ears, a small green stud in her nose, and a nearly invisible clear stud in her eyebrow.October is easily described as a woman not to be messed with.

Biography- Born and raised in Manchester. Octobers earliest memory is of her daddy walking out with a young woman on his arm while her Ma cried and cried. Her childhood could have been better, but she's glad it wasn't worse. She grew up self dependant because of her mothers deep deppression and learned quickly how to take care of herself. School as a kid was near hell. Most of the kids made fun of her weight, others her height, butvthe general population made fun of the fact that her dad ran out on her.

Octobers only friend in the world was her spunky grandmother who often visited from Ireland. She told October many inspiring stories of her own harsh upbringing and promised it would get better. Only it never did...Even after schools end people still made her an outcast. She learned how to deal with the insults but only after one too many fights. She decided however that things had to change.

At age twenty four she started working out. She worked herself to exhaustion day in and day out until her fat became muscle and beyond. Though she kept her stocky look she gained a wicked strength that later helped her in her job as a construction worker. That year a tragedy also struck. Her grandmother died after a long struggle with illness. In her will she left October with nearly everything she had, including her home in Athlone.

However October couldn't move to Athlone due to a lack of money that could keep her living there for long. So she instead got an extra job to save up money for a move there. She started work as a trainer for larger woman and made quite a pretty penny in the feild. Before she could get enough money though the outbreak happened.

During the outbreak she first made the long journey on foot from Halifax towards Manchester. However on the way she got side tracked, and soon lost in the world wreckage. Her journey to find out if her mother was still alive became second in her mind when she found Haven.

Skills- Strength that allows her to lift, and climb. Her leg muscles allow her to crouch low for cover and her short stature gives her a stealth advantage (however it also makes reaching up high to pull herself on a ledge or grab things much harder). Shes also self sufficient in cooking, cleaning, and sewing. However all those things are obsolete in her eyes. October is also rather good at construction work.

However her people skills could use a lor of work. October is also very jumpy when with other living people.

So begins...

October "Toby" Harrison's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison

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The morning came as it usually does for Toby; with an extreme case of 'not a morning person' syndrome followed quickly by a string of select words. She proceedes from her decidedly uncomfortable bed and to her small pile of belongings in the corner. She doesn't keep much - doesn't like the feeling of loss when loosing an item she's attached to. Toby tries to fumble blindly for her spare change of clothes as her eyes are closed to cling to those last moments of sleep. Eventually she opens them to pull said clothes on.

Today is unusual for Toby. Its her first mission and though it's simple she knows all to well the dangers that come with her involvement. Lady luck often doesn't smile for Toby, not in life, and certainly not in death. She grabs a bag of extremely old stale jerky from her bag and begins chewing loudly on the not so good peice of meat. Would she feel the repercussions later? Most certainly, but she doesn't much care about the state of her internal health anymore. As long as she can run, lift, and climb in her usual way she wouldn't care if she even contracted some sort of deadly disease; or more hilariously in her opinion Stiff Syndrome (as she has dubbed the Zombie problem to be.)

"Honestly, how do they expect us to get shit done." Toby curses as she ignores the weapons closet. She carries in her hands the sawed of shotgun that serves more suicidal purpouses than anything. It almost brings a smile to her face to think of someone even blowing their head off with it. She wouldn't, if it came down between Stiff Syndrome and shooting herself she would rather leave her terrifying mark on humanity.

Siphon Filter is the name of her mission apparently. She doesn't exactly know who comes up with the mission names as she is severely under acquainted with both Monroe and Callie, but she gives whoever it is props for keeping a creative mind. Toby wastes no time making small talk to the Haven leaders - once she's given her mission briefing she gathers what she's taking and goes.

Toby doesn't know the lake district near as well as she should by this point. She starts running circles by the time noon rolls around. By now she should have been done with this mission and now that the sun is nearly at its highest point it will fall faster and make getting the petrol much harder. She stumbles finally upon the farm with very few rays of sun peeking over the cloud cover. Sweat drips heavily off her skin, staininh her once white t-shirt even further.

The farm itself is good in size and eerily quiet. She heads for the nearest vehicle - a large tractor that seemed to have been suddenly abandoned. Blood, guts, and other body parts cover the front of it. Toby quirks a strange little smile as she realizes they are the body parts of dead Stiffs. Her mind buzzes with grotesque images of someone using this tractor to crush the Stiffs.

With daylight fading fast she takes up one of the fuel cans and attaches the hose to the tractor. She takes a deep breath and prepares herself for one of the few worst experiances she's had to be subject to several times in her life. When several hard intakes bring no gasoline from the tank she gives up on the Tractor. Winded and light headed from stray fumes. She casts her weary gaze closer to the farm house. She could have sworn they said this place had plenty more vehicles. She assumes that others have been here recently and took off with the salvagable ones. After all with the Rands and Caravaners tio compete with she wouldn't doubt they've covered as much area as possible. Much like Haven. The only other vehicles she spots are horribly rusted and covered in creeping vines. Toby doesn't bother with those.

They said there would be no reason to go inside the house but from one corner she can see another forgotten farm vehicle peeking out from a large barn; she doesn't quite know the name of this particular vehicle but it looks large enough and unscathed. Half obscured by the farm house wall and over grown shrubbery. Toby jogs that way and peers into the dark barn. Her pulse picks up a few beats as a scurrying noise reaches her ears. A furry little creature half appears into the light, then scurries back into the dark at the sight of Toby.

"Oh god, of course it has to be rats," Toby mutters as she crosses the threshold with the fuel can and hose in her hands. Toby hurries along with her job. Inserting the hose and placing the fuel can down. She only has to take one really hard intake before the horrid taste washes over her taste buds. She spits the hose quickly and aims for the fuel can while choking loudly on the liquid still invading her senses. It fills a little over halfway to the top before the stream sputters and dies. She strings the hose through her belt loop.

A sound catches her off guard suddenly, loud and definantly not a rat. She stands quickly and sets the fuel can halfway in the nearby shrubberybto conceal it. She dons the sawed off with a grim expression. The noise starts up again, lower and more raucous this time. It reminds her of a child's cry. Toby stares at the house with grim finality. They said she wouldn't need to go in....

Toby takes less than a second to make the decision to enter the house. She crouches low and listens for any hiny of Stiff or Human - though surely any survivors would have heard her and came to check out what was going on within the barn...right? Toby creeps along a hallway lined with family photos. She averts her eyes from the picture of a happy family.

She can't bear to see something she didnt have and won't ever have. Even if perhaps her mother survived their two person family couldn't be happy. Even as a kid Toby was on her own, cooking her own meals, signing her own school forms, and putting groceries in the fridge if it happened to be a good week at work. But these people in these pictures surely never experianced such a pitiful existance. They all smile, and its genuine joy in their eyes.

Mmrraaaahhh

The sudden noise to a room directly to her left startles her. She wipes the sweat from her forehead and crouches low. She uses the butt of the sawed off to push the door open after u latching it. She doesnt know what to expect on the other side. Her heart beats so fast it feels like any second now she'll burst. Inch by inch the door opens to reveal a normal child's room. Only...a woman hangs from a noose in the dead center of it. Toby covers her mouth as flies buzz around her and the scent of rot and decay clouds her brain.

Mmmrroooo

That sound again, louder now and more familiar. Its coming from the closet. Toby doesn't want to go in the room but her body reacts with the noise on a more basic level. She gives the woman a wide birth as she crosses to the closet. Once again her fears show freely as she shakily opens the closet door. What comes tumbling out certainly isn't what she expects.

A mottled gray tabby cat with its left ear missing barrels from the closet quickly. Its skin and bones body sagging under the weight of its fur and loose skin. It regards her with a feral look, claws unsheathed and back arched up. It must have been in the closet for a while, though how it got in there she doesn't quite know. She peers closer into the closet and exhales her understanding. "Oh..." more death it seems has struck this house. A tiny body lay curled up in the closet, cans of empty food scattered about. His body is that of a child no older than eight or perhaps ten. Hes in the fetal position, his head bowed and arms crossing his stomach as if in death he still is experiancing the pains of hunger.

Toby uncovers her mouth and looks back to the cat. She won't admit it aloud but her heart aches suddenly. As strong as she is this isn't exactly something she likes seeing. Death is a part of life however and she can't blame the woman or little boy for bringing these feelings out. Toby digs in her pocket and takes out one of the bad peices of meat from earlier. She tosses it to the cat and heads back for the door the house. However a peice of paper at the woman's feet catches her eye. Knowing its a bad idea she still bends to pick it up and scans the chicken scratch words.

"The only way out, is to become one of them."

Toby stuffs the paper in her pocket. She doesnt explore further in fear of discovering the rest of the family. When she steps into the light of day she notices the sun has dropped considerably lower. She takes up the fuel can and as quickly as possible retraces her step back to Haven. She knocks absent mindedly on the gate. She drops the fuel off to Callie, who she is less opposed to talking to - what can she say? She's a sucker for nice people and Monroe just doesn't cut it with his abrasive attitude.

"I had no trouble," Toby reports even though running into bodies was definantly trouble for her psyche. "Its real quiet up there, I'm pretty sure the farm is all tapped out though so finding a new source of fuel might be in order." Toby had only seen the two large farming vehicles though she's sure there's more scattered around that area. However with how little she got she wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the vehicles have also been tapped out. Toby says this all with her usual attitude filled look and her slightly jokong voice. Once her job is done she returns to her bed

Her sadness is slowly replaced by a growing amount of anger and anxiety from being around so many people. As much as she wants to be on her own she's afraid of the repercussions of doing so.

"I wouldnt last a day," Toby says to herself. She sheds her smelly clothes for ones not soaked by fluid. And as she lays back in her bed she thinks about the future and how these things will be from now on. "Stop being pathetic," she chides herself. Toby won't stand to put herself down, not after the hard work it took to get to this point today. She replaces her frown with a half grin meant to make herself feel better. Toby groans at her own actions and tiredly rolls on her side. Sleep takes over instantly, dreams becoming rapid fire nightmares of scared children and the monsters that chase them.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Mark Lawson

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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: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison Character Portrait: Tilo King

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The Tour de Lakes


(Co-written with VindicatedPurpose)


Toby could hardly believe the lack of luck, teaming up. On her second mission, but no less. Honestly she still felt drained by her last mission that had left a heavy weight on her. Now with the threat of another group on their shoulders she has to team up - with a stranger no less. Not that she could judge who was or wasn't a stranger here, considering her lack of socialization. She hopes her partner isnt someone all too bad. Toby throws on her mismatched clothes and heads for the mission Board.
------

He stood there eyeing the bulletin board, giving some thought to his job. Scavengers now had to move in teams of two because apparently, there was an armed band on the loose. It presented trouble, Tilo thought, he chalked up another to the growing list of dangers. He sighed.

"Alright let's see what we have today."

A mission to go grab some chickens had already been taken by another pair, the other two jobs left were a tour of a spa retreat for some fireworks, bikes, and possibly some hunting equipment that could be put to good use. The other job was to escort a technology expert to a solar power plant, and serve as his body guard. Both had medium threat levels, medium was a subjective term though. Tilo scratched his chin, before he heard the approach of a stout framed woman, with an all too apparent scar running from below her nose to the corner of her lip. Tilo gave a single glance, and he managed to acquire all of that, which meant that she indeed stood out of the crowd. He just hoped that she wouldn't be his partner, he was still kind of bonding with Morris Byron's daughter.

Toby stops a few feet from the board, mouth set in a thin frown. Her social graces are telling her to run away before things get awkward but she forces her feet a few steps foreward. She wearily eyes the man at the board - he's older with fading white hair, his appearance contrasting Toby's own, somehow he also reminds her of someone who could be stern- then looks at the missions themselves. Only two were available and out of the two only one caught her eye - Tour De Lakes. It seems the best route considering if she were to take on The Bodyguard job there would be too many people. As far as she's concerned two is a crowd and three is a death sentence.

Toby smiles a little bit. She catches sight of the man once more and drops her smile. She coughs awkwardly and shuffles her feet. What does one say when normally faced with strangers? Toby briefly thinks back to before the Stiffs and remembera brief moments of her life where she had this same problem with people.

"Uh, hey." Is what she finally blurts out, immediately berating herself for acting so dopey, then again for putting herself down.

"Hello," Tilo said with a brief facade of a smile, trying to be friendly, before he returned his attention to the bulletin. It was hopeless, really, to continue prevaricating.

By this point, Delaney had not shown up, which meant one thing, she was already off with another. So much for waiting, Tilo thought, then his mind shifted to the lady beside him. There was a slight dreadfulness creeping up his spine, so he shook it off.

"I suppose I'll be taking Tour de Lakes," Tilo announced, awkwardly.

Toby stills, raising a large brow. Of course she hadnt really expected to be paired up with this guy. She nods and grapples for the words to tell him that she would also be taking Tour de Lakes.

"Me too," she replies somewhat awkwardly. "My names Toby, I suppose we'll be working together on this mission."

A jolt ran through Tilo's ear as she said this, damn. Well it was inevitable, he supposed, maybe he could have taken the Bodyguard job instead. Perhaps he could have held his tongue and wait for another person, there were plenty of other scavengers out there to partner up with. It was a little too late, he realized in hindsight. He gave a mental sigh. Just get back in one piece.

"You have your equipment ready?" Tilo gestured to his knapsack.

"Yeah," Toby says. She turns ever so slightly to show her own empty bag. theres never anything but stale beef jerky in it and a change of clothes. Both of which she left back in her sleepng quarters to have more space. She tries not to act awkwardly as she eyes him wearily. Toby hadn't really thought much on how working together could be.

Usually she strays from being around others, still self-conscious to a near crippling point where day by day she still has to chastise herself for self depreciation. She runs a hand through her short unwashed brown hair and sighs. Could she do this? Probably. But not without stepping out of her comfort zone just a little bit.

"Suppose we best get going?" She asks keeping her tone mildly calm.

------

As the two of them strode down the imagined path upon the map, Tilo held the rifle in one hand, and the couple of rounds in the other, both issued by Monroe. Tilo's eyebrows creased as he stared at the items. As a history professor, Tilo had some knowledge in firearms. In fact, this was one rifle that he knew a bit about. It was a type of rifle called a bolt-action rifle, which meant the user had to put the ammo into a tube and bolt it into place. Sometimes, the user had to bolt every single bullet into place and it was indeed time consuming, despite the fact that the weapon was recognized as the standard equipment from the late 19th century and a little bit beyond both World Wars. There was a reason why a weapon was eventually replaced, as with all things.

Only ten rounds divided into two metal strips of five, he concluded that either he was lucky or Monroe must have been conserving. Then he thought, what if it wasn't enough? There was only one answer to that, run. He pocketed one strip, and inserted the other into the slot, then he bolted it into place. He realized that if they ever found themselves in a group of zeds, he would need to be quicker with the cartridges. Should the case be otherwise, he did not want to imagine the outcome.

He aimed the rifle, squinting at some imagined target in the distance, before he strapped it onto his shoulder. They were on a real scavenging mission, he thought. This was some hotel, it was bound to have large stocks of supplies, but that was only countered by the expanse of halls and floors filled with walking corpses.

The darkened clouds in the distance were easing into the region, rain would soon fall upon them.

Its silent as they walk, but Toby isnt exactly complaining. Rather she is glad for it. Theres time now to recompose herself and contribute working thoughts towards the mission. Hesitantly she faces Tilo, nervously eyeing the rifle. Her trust doesnt run deep in its use. Guns attract attention wich attracts the stiffs.Its easy to shake off the worry gnawing at her gut and to steele her mind.

"Damn," she too notices the darkening sky. A promise of rain. She checks her psck to see if maybe she might have forgotten to take her petrol stained shirt out. Of course she has and she finds herself longing for another layer of clothes if only to stave off the cold seeping into her thick bones.

If theres one thing she has never enjoyed its being out in the cold. They are not really moving fast enough to get warm blood pumping through her veins so she lets the shivers over take her. Nothing like a good dose of Homeostasis to keep the body going. She stoops suddenly to pick a stick up off the ground. Feeling suddenly like a kid as she swipes at withering plants.

"So...this should be fun." Wow, if she were anymore awkard it would hurt. She laughs, aloud. "Sorry, im not good at this partner thing. I have a rather hard time socializing." Toby snaps the stick In two by Accident then drops the two halves to the ground. "We do need some sort of trust level however. All I ask is If I Get bit dont kill me, ill take care of myself."

Tilo raised a brow at that statement. He nodded his head, "Fair enough."

As he said this, the thoughts of the other day crept into his mind. The faces of those bloated corpses mangled and torn in multiple places flashed into his mind's eye. Their arms thrashing about. Their skin no longer a recognizable pigment, but one that was diseased, deceased even. He wondered what it must have been like in those early days, when people tried to escape the stiffs by running into the water, only to find more of them in the lake. The fear, the panic. Some drowned, trying to swim away. Others tried to find boats to escape on. Then he remembered the man and the boy, their plain faces, emotionless, as if their eyes were open, but their minds were closed. Were they like that before? Were they like that at the very beginning?

Tilo just kept walking.

At least they seemed to be on similar grounds. Though Toby suddenly felt a little like everything happening is simply a surreal conjuration of her mind. She watches the sky darken and frowns as the first streak of lightening strikes overhead. It looks like the storm will be a fairly bad one but she knows they will get there soon. There isnt much time to spare as the first pattering of rain starts to stain the dry ground. Shes thankful atleast a little bit of noise to shatter the silence between them. Toby doesnt mind that people dont often get along nor talk to her that much. Shes used to be on her own, has been since a the day her Papa walked out with a pretty blonde hanging off his arm. Even if Mama had shut her weeping mouth to take care of Toby it would only serve to distance them further. As it is TOby still wants to get in contact with her mother, even if they werent very close. She slows her descent as noises from ahead catch her attention, a sound that could belong to a Stiff or perhaps a wounded animal. She holds out her hand, even as she realizes Tilo is ahead of her still.

------

Tilo was almost at a point where he forgot that Toby wasn't beside him. He looked back down the path, the short woman held her hand to him, her face attention elsewhere into the woods. Perhaps it was a zed.

"What is it?"

"Not sure yet," she whispers so low she isn't sure he can hear her. Her face is grim in expression. She remembers the last time she heard a strange noise and followed up on it. However her gut instinct took over, they are close now to the resort and despite the storm rolling in she decides to head for where the noise is coming from.

He saw her mouth a couple of words, and noticed her face seemed disturbed, the cause of which might have been zed.

"Hey wait," Tilo whispered, but she was already going to the source of the disturbance. Tilo readied his rifle with both hands, but kept his eyes on the surrounding to make sure they weren't caught off guard.

Toby looks back at Tilo, mouth set in a grim line as she continues on. "Dont be a baby, if its a Stiff we can just off it." She doesn't let the panic show in her voice but doubts shes masking the steady beating of adrenaline through her veins. Everything sounds sharper and much more clear now. "How close are we to the resort?" She whispers not so lowly this time. "I don't think it was a Stiff," well, atleast she hoped it wasn't a Stiff. Though she would rather face one of them more than a stray Rand or Caravaner.

Tilo fumbled for the map that was folded in his pocket buried beneath the strip of rounds. The small laminated sheet was a geographical one, detailed with woods, and the ascending and descending topographical features of the land. Tilo was used to working with maps as a history professor, often pointing to them and studying them during and outside of lectures. That was his old world profession, now he was actually putting it to practical use by determining where they were, relative to the location of the resort. Luckily, Callie had been kind enough to mark off the location of the resort, Haven, the Rands, and the Caravaners using semi-permanent marker.

Tilo deduced from the map that they were about seven kilometers away, which wasn't far, but wasn't near either.

"We should probably pick up the pace."

------

They had finally reached the secluded resort. It was nestled within the many trees guarding the landscape, sentries covered in branches and leaves. The structure reminisced of the profound influence of Neo-Georgian and Neoclassical architecture, leaning more towards the former in general. However, the columns dominated the Greco-Roman appearance of the resort's entrance. Tilo had a fascination with the culture of antiquity, in particular, Classical Greco-Roman civilization.

Hamilton's Retreat laid on the other side of a long abandoned road that was four lanes wide, stretching on toward towns perhaps hundreds of kilometers away. The parking lot had a few cars left astray in various positions, definitely not parked. Most had their doors open, people tried to escape on foot, Tilo thought. The collective flaying of humanity...how was that possible? This was a secluded resort in the country, they would have had ample time to prepare. The professor discovered a realization about himself, and it was that he had an imagination. He wasn't like other professors who lived in their heads, and slightly to one side. As a student of history, he lived in alternate timelines, and realities, he wondered about multi-verses and hypothetical situations. It was that curiosity, that made him interested in history. He liked to imagine how, or what could have been possible. Sometimes, though, he just didn't want to think about the people here at the beginning of the outbreak.

Tilo was most surprised by its similarities to Stanley Hotel, the one from The Shining. Bloody hell. If Monroe had never mentioned that place, Tilo would never have identified the resemblance. He had seen the movie in the early eighties, around the time of its debut, and around the time his adolescence. To say the movie scared him was an understatement. Tilo had a hatchet. He just hoped for two things, that there wasn't a hedge maze, and that the lights still worked in the building.

Toby certainly didnt care for the sight of the Resort. Not only did it clearly resemble the hotel from The Shining but its entire vibe radiated with creepy, even with the addition of the Outdoor Pursuits bulding. She takes a deep breath of the stale air that seemed to have suddenly sucked the air from her lungs. She wondered if she was the only one suddenly feeling like this just from the sight of the creepy place. She sighs, readies her weapon and shifts her bag to make sure it wont easily get caught on anything. She looks to Tilo wearily, still nervous about the whole team thing. She figures he wont be too hard to work with. Thus far hes been quiet, so much so she actually kind of feels at peace. Even though at that moment her nerves felt all bundled up and could make her spring at any moment - in other words she felt like an impending freak nout could possibly be on the horizon.

Geeze. When had she become so melodramatic? She figures its time spent in Haven thats made her this way. She never had to be subjected to strangers before and now that she is she has to deal with all the anxiety that comes with being around others. Hopefully once inside the resort if anything goes wrong that they would have each others backs. Or at least Toby knew SHE wouldnt just be leaving Tilo to become Stiff Food, she certainly has a little more compassion than that.

"Ive been through a lot so far but this is probably the creepiest place ive ever had to be at through this entire apocalypse." She speaks aloud though not directly to Tilo. If he chose to answer or speak to her than that was his own choice and she didnt want to bother with small talk now that they had reached the resort and the real mission was beggining.

Tilo swallowed some saliva, "I'd...have to say that I agree with you on that one."

"Well, shall we?" Tilo led the way, crossing the four lane road to the other side.

Once they reached the other side, Tilo acquired a better view of the resort. The fountains in the front were dried of water, save a couple of puddles. The trees enclosed the resort like a haunted mansion. There at the center of the fountain, stood a giant white Greek sculpture of a nude woman or goddess perhaps. With her arms cut at the shoulders, her pose acquired a subtle, and ancient melancholy poise. She stared at them with motionless eyes, stalking them as they went. She smiled and laughed in devilish delight.

As they walked past the succubus in white, and neared the giant columns, they noticed that the three revolving glass doors were all shattered. The glass frames of said doors laid in disparate shards upon the ground in a random pattern. Poetically, the resort's logo on the window wall was fractured into a thousand spider webs. Blood was painted in many forms, with hands, or little veins. Pieces of flesh clung to the webs.

Tilo gritted his teeth as he noticed this, which meant that the possibility of zed inside the resort...was very much a reality.

Tilo sighed, "I think this means we'll need to move slowly through the hallways."

"I suppose," Toby answers, though as they move around to view the other side of the Resort. Its decomposed state causes more shivers to run up and down her spine, she raises her arms to rub the goosebumps away.

Toby doesnt want to enter the resort at all but she knows they cant dilly dally outside forever. She takes the lead and steps into the decaying Resort, crinkling her nose at the lingering scent of death that hangs in the air. Blood spatters and streaks the walls and there are obvious signs of the chaos that ensued when everything first started. Glass from windows litters the floor and suggests that someone broke them inward. She takes light steps, in full caution mode now. "Okay, im assuming the storage room will be towards the back of the Resort." Toby says, avoiding contact entirely with anything that screamed creepy at her. The nude statue seemed to have watched her as they walked by and the complete state of disarray that the Resort seemed to have fallen under seems dangerous enough that Toby feels like avoiding it all. She sighs, staying away from walls or open doorways in case anything were to be lurking just inside, waiting for them to pass by to make a grab for them. She half turns back to look at Tilo, as she has gotten slightly ahead of him at this point.

Though something else catches her eye, a tiny stuffed bear laying abandoned against a wall. Its body stained with blood and probably the remains of whatever child had owned it. Toby balks and looks away from it, trying to cover the sadness that lit up in her eyes. "Deeper through we go." she doesnt really want to go deeper into the Resort. Its creepy enough here in the front walkway where the glass from the front doors and various scattered peices of furniture and other such items that littered the place.

"We need to find bikes first, that and the fireworks above anything else, and then we can go look for supplies," it was a perfectly good reason, it was their primary objective after all. In truth, Tilo just wanted to get out and take a breath of fresh air to clean his lungs of the rot.

"Oh yeah," Toby had forgotten all about the bikes. Half due to her brain trying to keep her from jumping at every sound she hears. "I suppose there may be a shack somewhere that rents out bikes, probably close by an exit." She suggests, trying to make up for her earlier mistake of forgetting about the bikes in the first place. She continues foreward, peering closely at any dark spots that may hide any form of danger.

Despite the decay of the manor-like resort, the ornamental gardens remained relatively untouched by man, as the many shrubberies, bushes, and other flora grew to almost envelope whatever humans had designed. The birds and other flora were nowhere to be found. Only the trees and plants were unafraid of the dead. Then of course there wasthe Outdoor Pursuits center that Monroe mentioned, it was there that they would find the bikes and whatever usable equipment. The archery range was an extended field next to the building, with target stands located at various distances from the fence. Behind the stands was a large net that stretched from one side to the other, completely preventing any stray arrow from flying outside of the range. As for the pool, the water was covered in a layer of leaves, save a couple of patches of murky water staring back at them.

They reached the building's entrance, which seemed to have been ransacked, as evidenced by the doors jarred off their hinges. Sunlight bled through the trashed building. They were lucky to have found a pair of bikes buried beneath all the fallen equipment. They propped the bicycles up, and left them leaning against the wall to return to later. Tilo set aside the rifle as soon as he spotted a pair of compound bows, the kind that had the fancy axles at the ends of the limbs. They were relatively unscathed, along with a pack of bolts. The arrows looked durable enough, but he'd have to check with someone who knew things. Tilo stood there waiting for a zombie horde to fall upon their good fortune.

When nothing came, he held his sigh of relief, trying not to tempt fate. They proceeded to enter the fireworks storeroom, and as fate would have it, the room was stocked to the brim with a various assortment of the pyrotechnic devices that would have made any pyromaniac cry with joy. Immediately, the pair set about shoving into their packs what they thought they could bring home, leaving behind the larger canisters of category four fireworks behind. Only licensed professionals could use those. Tilo erred on the side of caution because he didn't want to be responsible for a fire that started at Haven as a result reckless usage of fireworks.

"Look," Tilo found a football lying in some corner. It was the only ball that remained inflated, the others had long been deflated, along with all of the spare tires.

His smile was shortlived though. The instant he took his eyes off of Toby and onto the ball, it reminded him of his sons. He placed the ball inside his pack in a gawky manner, trying to dispel the feeling overcame him.
------

Minutes later they were inside the hotel, and luckily for them, no zed thus far. They passed by the lobby the wrecked cushioned seats and blood everywhere. The stench was copiously wretched, and it climbed through Tilo's nose, almost rotting the insides of his lungs. The odor culminated in restaurant dining rooms, with rotten food and rotten flesh, the definition of disgusting.

They made it inside the kitchen, and were scrounging about inside for any canned foods. Mostly any cans were broken open or horribly dented. Toby examines one that seems okay enough, although the metal of the can itself was dented inwards on the top as if someone had tried to get into it previously but didnt have the tools to do so. She places it in her bag, which now rests on the handle of the bike she is wheeling along with her. This way if they pick anything up she can simply let the bike carry its weight. She checks the kitchen thoroughly to make sure nothing is left behind. Thus far she only found that one can of carrots, and a half eaten box of saltines that were pretty much stale - atleast she knew crackers wouldn't exactly go bad anytime soon.

She looks around also for anything good to use as a melee weapon. Though so far anything good was in bad shape or too broken to serve a purpose. She toyed with the idea of using a skillet from the Kitchen as a weapon but decided that the handles on them would be too hard to keep a grip on. After what seems and feels like forever she stops searching the kitchens and moves over to where Tilo is.

"Ive gotten all I can find from here, find anything good?" She finds its a little easier now to talk to him. She keeps her mind occupied with keeping her eyes out for any wandering Stiffs while waiting patiently for a reply. They have been gone for quite a while from Haven and she wonders if the storm has subsided by this point. Though they hadnt been outside when it started she could faintly hear the sounds of the storm as they went through the Resort in search of the bikes. "We can check some of the rooms as well, see if any guests left anything good behind." She checks her wrist, knowing fully well her broken watch would not be there as she had gotten rid of it some time ago - by now however its a habit she hasnt been able to kick.

"Hmm," Tilo paused in thought, "No that's about it," placing the last of the non-perishables into his pack. The lights in the building were still working, as were the walk-in freezers. This meant that the electricity was coming from somewhere. Haven, didn't have any electricity, so if they could tap into the grid at Hamilton's or at least figure out where the resort drew its power, it would mean not freezing during the winter.

Check the other rooms, Tilo wasn't exactly sure. They had already found what they came to get.

"I mean, we don't really need to," he paused, "But it's been odd that we haven't seen any zed." Once more, curiosity had found its way.
------

West wing, and twenty rooms later. They skipped past the rooms with doors closed, occassionally they knocked on one or another. If they heard snarls, they simply moved away from that room. The rooms with open doors however, were easy traps for those who were careless. So they simply kept their eyes peeled, with the rifle aimed as they approached open rooms carefully. For rooms on either side that were open, they made some noise in attempt to lure any zed out. This method worked well in the West Wing as they managed to scrap some shampoo and conditioner bottles. Interestingly, the open rooms were the only ones that did not have stiffs. It seemed as though the walkers had locked themselves, and fortune smiled upon the pair. They checked to see if the place still had running water, most ran dry once the faucet was turned. There wasn't anything else left to do, until they heard a muffled shattering sound that came from the East wing.

"Shit," Toby curses under her breath as she looks to Tilo. There isnt any time for chatter though, that sound definitley didn't mean anything good was going on here. She heads in the direction of the sound, despite the adrenaline trying to push her back. If she werent scared before she was now, as her heart felt as if it were about to burst from the excitement. "Hurry up!" Toby half shouts as she tracks down the sound that actually wasnt as close as she thought it would be. She stops to catch her barings as they come into clear view of the Laundry room.

"Alright, alright, just keep an eye out for any more of them from those rooms," Tilo dropped his bag in the lobby area beside the bikes, bringing only the rifle with him as they darted through the lobby in the main building and entered the East wing.

Toby nods, having forgotten all about the rooms. She keeps her pace slow now, keeping her eyes on the rooms as she passes by. None of them seem to have been the room that the noise had came from, wich left one last option at the very end of the wing. She hadnt really figured they would need to check out the Laundry room, since it didnt hold food or possible weapons in it. However there must be something in there to have created such a noise. She stops, allowing Tilo to catch up. "It came from there I think," She says, pointing to the room in question. "Lets check it out," Though shes sure thats what they were already doing she doesn't think it hurts to voice her thoughts aloud. She moves slowly and quietly towards the Laundry room, unsure of what they will find.

Tilo nods in reply. As they were merely feet away from the laundry room at the end of the East wing, a fatal sound like a clap of thunder was heard. Blood spurted to the opposite wall of the laundry room entrance, a stiff fell backwards, its head blown apart into bits of flesh.

The professor stopped in his tracks, he held the rifle aimed at the laundry room, waiting for someone to come out. He had never fired the thing before, now would be a test to see if those class lectures on the history of warfare paid off for him.

"Who's there?" Tilo asked aloud, followed by "We're human!"

There was no response.

After moments of waiting for anything more to happen Toby makes the last few steps into full out view of the doorway. Her heart thudding heavily as she tries to ignore the dead Stiff at her feet. She peers in, trying to get her eyes used to the sudden darkness of the room. The only light inside came from two small windows that seemed more like slots in the wall than anything. Inside is how anybody would imagine a Laundry room to look like, with hampers and various machines to get the clothes clean. However anything that still lingered within is either horribly ripped up or bloody, there even seemed to be several piled of sheets stacked up in one corner, as if the sheets were some sort of nest. What really made Toby reel back though was the man within.

"Oh god," There is no doubt that the man is bitten. Not with the copious amounts of blood.

Tilo's expression mirroed that of his partner. The image before him, was no image, but reality. How it happened, Tilo did not care, because it did not matter anymore. The man was still conscious. He gasped for breath, the thing had taken a bite out of his arm and shoulder. The pistol that he had used to blow the zack's cortex into bits, laid in the limp hand of his wounded arm. He recognized that they were human, and his lips began to quiver as he saw the bite marks and the blood at his wounds.

And he cried. With his other hand he tried to cover his eyes as he cried. The sob turned into a wail as he pounded his head in frustration against the wall that he leaned on, trying to bash his head apart to find a quicker death than this. He knew like they knew, it was over for him. In minutes, hours, days even, he would become one of them, a mindless, soulless creature. Perhaps this was not how he wanted to go.

Tilo stood there, unsure of what to do, he looked to Toby. Tilo lowered his weapon, he no longer needed to use it.

She wouldn't fool herself into believing she wasn't compassionate. Sure, Toby felt very little need to keep friends but she still cared about the well being of others. And right at that moment, watching that poor man in his struggles she felt worse than she had during her last mission. She slowly walks towards the man but pauses as her turns to regard her with a less than sane look. She realizes that he is barely alive, hanging on by a single thread. Going insane because he knows that he will be a Stiff. Toby gives a miniscule smile, that could easily be mistaken for a grimace. She always talks about Stiffism as if it were something that would neer affect her, and if it did then she wouldnt care about walking around and tearing things to bits. But when it really came down to it she knew that was no way to go.

This man probably had family, friends, people he was leaving behind all because of a slip up - or however he managed to get bitten. Toby kneels, not too close to the man that he can lash out but close enough she can clearly hear him as he babbles words to himself. "Come here," She says to Tilo, not ordering really but simply suggesting. He should be there too, to listen to the final words of a dying man. "Please," The man chokes out, words wet with the blood that hes been choking up. Toby does grimace then, because its not something she ever wanted to see.

Tilo nodded, silently mouthing 'okay,' as he knelt down beside them. The man continued to sob, his eyes were red by now. His body writhed in pain, in fear, in loneliness, and in regret.

"Hey, its ok." Toby almost laughs aloud at herself, because its not ok. "Whats your name?" Wow, what a question to ask a dying man. But she has a method to her madness and shes sure this man has a few last words.

He gasped, and choked, and coughed, until he could clear some air to speak.

"Wil..William...Rand," he coughed again, his cheeks were still wet. He wasn't ready to go yet, as he closed his eyes shut tightly for several seconds, before he let his head fall back in a surrendering manner.

"In my pocket..." he swallowed. Tilo reached into his pants pocket.

"There's...my wallet," the Rand closed his eyes again. Tilo found the wallet.

"The picture of the boy..." he swallowed some more of his blood and saliva. Tilo unfolded the wallet to reveal the boy.

"He's my son..." the man gasped again.

Tilo stared at the picture for a couple of minutes, he lost the heart to look at the man any further.

"Please," the man continued, "Make...make sure that my family knows...how I went," and he no longer struggled against his fate.

Tilo nodded solemnly and quietly.

"And there's one...one more favor I need to ask of you," William stared at them, and he placed his hand on Tilo's rifle.
------

They wheeled the bikes back to camp in silence.

There wasn't anything else to be said.

As they passed through the gate, they set aside the bikes against the wall, and proceeded to drop their packs outside of the farm.
------

"The zed are all in locked rooms," Tilo reported.

"The place still has running..um...electricity," Tilo couldn't concentrate on his words. Toby was there beside him, she was silent. Over and over, that scene played in his head. William Rand. William Rand. William Rand.

Monroe eyed the older man as he spoke, he sipped his odorous black coffee. Callie noted their expressions, or lack of, perhaps she sensed something troubling them.

"Uh...there's some running water over there...and um..." the professor paused, "There's still a bit of food stores in the freezers. Send some more to that place...I don't think anybody else has thought of it."

"And um, thanks for the laminated map," Tilo nodded toward the school teacher. Toby left, that was all to be said.

"Is..is there anything else?" Callie asked. Tilo paused for a moment, there was. He breathed a sigh.

"We found a Rand there, he was bitten by the time we got there," Tilo paused, "And he knew...that he was about to go."

Tilo showed the leaders the wallet and the boy and explained.

"I um...want to go on that one, and tell them personally."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callie Winters Character Portrait: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney Character Portrait: Tilo King Character Portrait: Erin 'Hoppy' Hooper Character Portrait: Mark Lawson

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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: Jonathan Monroe Character Portrait: October "Toby" Harrison Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Jesus "Matador" Herrera

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A collaboration with Romaneck and UnderSavaveEternity
November 4th
Part 1: Hello
Laney stomped through the snow, unhappy. She wasn't at all sure she'd said what she really wanted to Ben. She'd felt his heartbeat under his fingers. She hoped she'd get to feel it again.

She wrapped her layers around her tightly. Ugh, she hated snow. Sure, London had seen some cold, white winters in recent years, but up here, exposed, away from the comforts of the city, the wind bit sharped and dug its icy fingers deeper. There was no diving into a Costa for hot chocolate up here in the hills.

She rounded a corner and found her partners for this mission waiting for her, Toby and Jesus. Toby she'd seen around Haven quite a bit, but it was hard to get a conversation going with her. Jesus, well. she'd not gone out of her way to talk to him. It wasn't because he had been an even bigger star back in the old world than she was. Not entirely. But he wore his fame so easily, hardly even noticed in fact. And Monroe knew who he was, whereas he called her 'X Factor'. Even Ben knew who Jesus was, even though Laney had thought Americans didn't like soccer - what little she knew about the game anyway. But no, Mexico were America's big rivals, apparantly. Still flustered by her brief meeting with Ben, she merely nodded at her two companions and picked up the rifle and Scav Pack she'd left at the door.

Jesus was deep in thought. Things were simply not the same anymore, and it wasn't just the fact that the whole doomsday had come. It was simply that without Kim... things simply could not be the same, did not felt the same. The task at the forestry office had been his opportunity to redeem himself, to prove his worth... He had done scavenging tasks before, simple things like delivering and retrieving satchels, bringing bottles of water back home - simple stuff. But the minute things began to get dicey, for some reason he had dropped it completely.

And people had not been blind to the fact. Jesus had insisted to be left more scav hunts on his own, yet Monroe had been wiser than that. When a man who has tasted success for so long suddenly can't clean his defeat, they tend to be reckless in their pursuit to reafirm their self-worth, so now seemed to be a good time to have him deployed in a way that would have him be of use without fear of getting himself killed.

Monroe knew that Jesus was a team player, and he also could tell that the safety of others would take priority to the Mexican... or at least he could hope so.

Still Jesus had his doubts. He had heard that there was another group ganging up on them. The so-called rescue mission had turned into an armed assault report. In hindsight, Jesus should have passed on this one. He had never fired a rife before. He had premier aim, yes, but that was with his legs. The only way he could see this working was if at some point he would have to kick the bullets into a goal keeper. The chances of that seemed less than unlikely.

Jesus walked towards the others, he had been the last one out. "Hello people." He had not spent much time around them but they were all Scavs now. Jesus would see if he could have them all wear sport jerseys with numbers on them, to keep the team spirit. "Jesus Herrera at your service, call me J if you have something with taking the Lord's name in vain". He was slightly shocked at how reluctant the people of the old world had been to calling him by his full first name. "Or Matador will do if you remeber my shoots."

"Actually I think we had already met?" he said to Laney. " I think I saw you with one of my mates, Carlos Romano was it? I don't remember really, might be mixing you up with someone else."

Carlos Romano. Ugh. Laney glared at Jesus for bringing up an ugly part of her life in the old world. She'd briefly dated the footballer when she was 17, when the tabloids were just cottoning on to the fact that the child star was becoming a wild child. the Mexican played for one of the London clubs, Arsenal or Chelsea, she wasn't sure, but he was the polar opposite type of footballer from Jesus. Carlos was slow and brutal and had a habit of dirty play - and he was much the same in bed. She'd been blamed for breaking up his marriage, but judging by the number of starlets who had flirted with him that night the Mexico team took over The Cat Club, the damage had been done a long time ago. She hadn't noticed Jesus there, but when 20 millionaire footballers go raging in a nightclub, it's hard to keep track of everyone.

'He was an asshole,' was all Laney replied.

"Well..." Seems like they hadn't parted ways warmly from the disgust in her face. "He was kind of full of himself." He certainly was hoping for a happier reaction, or at the very least a nostalgic one, but they all dealed differently with it. For himself the answer came simply, be swallow, be simple and dont think to much.

Toby hung back as the two other Scavs were speaking. She had noticed the girl - Laney - around Haven quite a bit but never felt any real urge to talk to her. The other one she didn't remember really ever seeing around. Jesus or something, though she had a bit of a problem calling him that. She approached them quietly, as if not actually there in body but definitley in mind. Toby didn't know what to make of them yet, but from the sounds of their conversation they at least had a bit of knowledge on one another. That's good though, the less they knew about her the more leeway she had in a conversation. "Hey there," she started, looking at each of them inquisitively, trying her hardest not to act as awkward as she felt. She would rather have not said anything at all, because at least then she could go along the mission quietly without too much awkward conversations between them. "I'm Toby," she said, though she knew they probably already knew who she was.

The Caravanners' runners - what they called Scavs - arrived shortly afterwards. Laney recognised Jake as he strode forward to shake her hand; he obviously believed in this mission's secondary purpose of fostering good relationships between Haven and Eden Valley Caravan Park. Laney introduced him to Toby and Jesus. Turned out Jake, too, was a Jesus Herrera fan. Behind Jake, a woman in her 30s scowled and toyed with her rifle strap. 'Come on, United Colours of Benetton,' she snapped. 'Let's go find this mystery gang of killers.' Jake made a calming gesture to the woman, patting the air with one hand. 'Sam is still upset about Tim. We all are.'

'Yeah, well, that's why our guy who saw it isn't coming today,' said Laney. 'Too much tension. You met him, Jake, down at the chicken factory.'

'Ben. I remember. Good kid.'

After poring over the map, the group set off for Davis Crag shortly after midday. Thick cloud cover prevented the sun from melting the snow, but there were no further falls. The Caravanners kept up a brisk pace, knowing daylight would be short and they would have to return to Eden Valley before dusk. At least it kept them all warm. Sam strode ahead silently, mouth set in a steely grimace. Jake was pressing Jesus about his soccer exploits.

"The way you scored that goal against the Ajax was the thing of legends!" Jesus was getting to know the so-called Runners. Jake gave off the impression that he was a sport enthusiast; he was a fan of the Chelsea "Yes, im not going to say it was a lucky shot, but the pass that Glenn gave me sealed their fate"

Laney fell back with Toby. 'You okay?' the younger girl said after several minutes.

Toby didn't quite know how to answer the question. She didn't assume the rest of the group hadn't seen their share of horrors, but it felt like since she'd come to Haven, all she'd seen was death. Human death, not just Stiffs. The hanged mother and the starved child down on that abandoned farm appeared in her dreams still, and she'd avoided Tilo since their mission to the Hamilton Hotel; she didn't want to relive the despair in William Rand's eyes.

'Yeah, okay,' she huffed eventually.

That was the extent of their conversation until they arrived at the crag. Sam brought the group to a stop where she'd found her friend's body. The way she glared at the Haven crew, it was clear they weren't beyond her suspicions yet.

'The way Ben told me,' Laney spoke up, 'he was behind some rocks, kind of looking down on it, so he must have been... up there?' She pointed to a crest above them. 'And the gang left...' she pointed up a gravelly ravine up the Crag, 'in that direction.'

Part 2: The Hunt
After an hour examining the area, and with no real leads, the decision was easy to take the path the killers had taken up into the mountains. The going was slow, a 40ft climb with the snow turning to ice in patches. Toby's cheeks burned as she slipped for what felt like the hundredth time; Sam and Jesus had already reached the top of the ravine, a third of the way up the mountain. 'Makes sense, no zombies are going to climb that,' she heard the Caravanner say as she finally joined them. Toby briefly wondered if that was a jibe at her lack of dexterity.

Catching their breath, the group turned to look out over the valley in front of them, taking turns to point out some of the landmarks they'd visited. Laney quickly noted Tull Hollow and Tull Lake, but kept to herself what she'd seen there; she didn't know how far to trust the Caravanners. Toby nodded to Hamilton Hotel, and Jake pointed the road that rounded the shoulder of another high hill that hid Eden Valley Caravan Park off to the east. Everyone automatically turned to the west, where Haven lay over several more horizons.

'If they're up here, they'll have seen us going about our business the last few weeks,' Laney muttered.

'They're not up here,' replied Sam testily. 'There's nothing up here, too exposed.' As if to prove her point, a sharp gust of wind tore at everyone's clothing. Racing through the rocks above them, the wind did a reasonable impression of a groaning zombie. 'No-one came up here, this Ben is telling fibs. Why's that, d'ya think?'

Anger flashed through Laney like a slap. 'Hey! Back off, bitch,' she snapped.

It was a good thing that Jake and Jesus had almost instantly found a common ground. Laney had grown a thick skin even before the fall - being a public figure either hardened or burned you - and this Sam looked like she was a great example of a female canine.

Jesus and Jake were between the pair in an instant. 'Alright Sam, alright," he soothed. 'I'm telling you, that kid's okay. I believe him. And you know Jane does too, so let's just get on with it. Besides,' he said, pointing over the woman's shoulder, then turning her around, 'what's up there?'

A wisp of white smoke contrasted with the dark clouds. It was coming from the other side of the crest of the mountain. Sam turned away from Laney and led the group up a raised ledge of rock. They found themselves looking down on a secluded little valley, almost as if a giant had scooped a handful out of the mountain. Inside the gentle slope stood a stone cottage with smoke rising from the chimney, and behind it a few wooden outbuildings.

'There must be someone inside,' said Jake. 'What about the smoke? Jesus, you want to check it out?'

Straight out of a poor slum, there was a building that had not been subjected to some good maintenance, but there was no question about it... that chimney had not lit itself. "What do you make of it?" Jesus had a bad feeling about this, but then again he had not had a good feeling about anything since Kim had been bitten.

The Eden Valley runners joined Jesus at the cottage. Laney slipped her rifle to her shoulder and squinted along its barrel. Jake gave the door a gentle shove, and even as Sam muttered 'Be careful,' a now familiar growl went up, and from out of the darkness stumbled two of zombies. Jake dispatched the first, a tall, slender being, with a practised stab of a sharpened iron bar through the eye. The creature fell awkwardly and dragged the bar from his hands. As the second creature, a ragged, torn, grey thing that might once have been an old woman, stepped up to him, Jake reached out to grab both its hands to keep it at bay. His right hand passed through thin air - this zombie was missing its left arm from the elbow up - and it pivoted round and buried its face in Jake's chest. Sam and the Scavs sprang forward as Jake tumbled to the ground, but as even as they did, from the door of the cottage a seething wedge of zombies burst out and fell where Jake lay to feast.

'Jaaaaakkkkkke!' The scream burst from Sam like something solid, the woman bent double in shock and anger. Immediately, the zombies who could not get near Jake were alerted; seven or eight stood clumsily and turned towards them. Fear gripping Jesus tightly, sprang to action admist his colliding sorrow and fear being the closest to the cottage when the zombies emerged, blasted one in the chest with his shotgun and sprinted past it as it was knocked to the ground. 'Back to the ravine,' he shouted, dragging Sam after him, his arm trobbed with the kickback of the firearm, but right now his golden rule was in play - Focus on not losing before going for the victory

From their vantage point, Toby and Laney could see at least 12 zombies in the chasing pack, two in particular closing ground on Jesus as he struggled to bring Sam with him. Laney checked her aim and fired. The rifle bucked wildly and slammed back into her shoulder. Beside her, Toby picked up a stone the size of her fist and threw it in a high arc. It caught the nearest chaser in the chest, knocking it to the ground. Then they, too, turned and ran.

The group slipped and slithered down the ravine and, ignoring cuts and bruises, turned to watch as the first zombie stepped onto the steep, rocky incline. It immediately lost its footing and plunged headlong down the 40ft drop, hitting almost every rock on the way down and landing in a crumpled heap. The rest of the pack followed mindlessly; soon there was a pile of smashed bodies at the foot of the ravine. A number tried to stand or crawl on shattered, buckling limbs; the Scavs watched uncomfortably as Sam strode among them, slashing and hacking with a wicked-looking machete. Finally, covered in gore, she sank to the ground, her arms wrapped around her knees.

Part 3: Crosshairs
'Sam?' Toby asked cautiously as she caught up to the woman, who seemed to be feeling a mulitude of angry emotion at the loss of her friends. Toby got it, she really did, but she also knew it wasnt quite healthy for Sam to be holding things in like this. Sam gave her a heart-stopping look that sent nervous jitters through Toby. She tried to keep her facial expression calm and collected. She was still on the ground, hugging her knees in a position that looks all too feeble for the woman. Toby didn't quite know what to say, but knelt down anyway, looking Sam dead in the eye despite the feelings of anger radiating from the woman.

'I know this sucks, but you've got to pull it together, Sam, its the only way you'll make it through this.' The words rushed out of her mouth like a tidal wave she couln't seem to stop, and she somehow felt some of the anger edge off of Sam. 'It hurts to lose someone close, to feel that they aren't here anymore,' Toby stopped to take a stuttering breath. She herself felt weak-kneed now. She stood before giving Sam her final words, 'But he wouldn't want you to lose your mind because of these feelings of anger.'

Laney cautiously approached them. 'Listen, Sam, I'm sorry bout Jake but we're starting to lose the light. We should go...'
'I'm not leaving Jake up there,' Sam stated grimly, hauling herself to her feet. 'Not to become one of them.' It might have been due to their sudden bonding but Jesus could understand Sam here. If he had given the choice to go back for Kim at the hearth of the zombie onslaught he would have done it. "I can go with her" Jesus blurted, but as far as he could tell it had gone unnoticed.

'We should really get back to Haven. Or Eden Valley. You can't help Jake now.'

'Jake bought your little story, you and the Yank. But maybe I don't. So we keep looking for this gang, or maybe I'll start thinking Haven did kill Tim.'

Laney felt she had to speak out, Toby and Jesus weren't going to. 'This is bullshit, Sam, soon we won't be able to see a thing. We're walking into a trap, or more Zeds.'

The older woman whirled around, grabbed Laney by the shoulder, dragged her face up to her own, wild-eyed.

'It's not like before, little girl,' Sam snarled. 'There's no daddy's millions to protect you now, no coppers. It's just you and your friends now. You find one of your friends dead - killed by human hands, not zombies - it's up to you to kill the fucker who did it." She reached behind her and pulled out a pistol, pointing it back up the ravine for emphasis. 'That's what I'm doing for Tim. You telling me you wouldn't to that for your Latino friend there, or or this Ben guy or any of the other happy clappy family you got up at that farm?'

Toby could have ignored the way the woman grabbed at Laney, spouting put-downs. But then, that would have weighed heavy on Toby just as everything else has done. She held her weapon steady, pointing at Sam. She knew this could be viewed as an attack but Toby had her own moral codes to live by, even if she didn't exactly hang around like the others as she could. Any moment Toby could simply choose to be the lone wolf, but at this time she decided its time to stand up and stop acting like she can get by without making a few good friends. 'Back off missy,' Toby hissed. 'I know you think this is the best way to get a point across, but all you're doing is making us all a hell of a lot more nervous.'

'You can think what you want about Haven, but putting other down isnt going to solve your problems.' Toby knew all too well that this was true. 'Lets just stop being assholes to each other so we can get shit done.'

Sam, standing nearly half a foot taller than Toby, appeared to deflate in the face of her harsh words. She let go Laney's jacket, even straightened it for her. She briefly looked down at the ground, swallowed, and then faced the Haven women. She opened her mouth to speak.

Blood splattered across Toby's face.

Toby could have lived a million years without feeling the blood of another woman on her face, she gasped like a fish out of water. Laney leapt between them, thinking Sam had struck Toby, but the Eden Valley woman staggered into her arms. Steam rose into the frigid air from a hot, thick gush of blood streaming from the crook of Sam's neck. As her weight dragged Laney to the ground, another shot rang out from above. Five figures stood at the top of the ravine, two pointing rifles down at the Scavs and Sam.

'Where the fuck - ' Laney cried out, trying to gather Sam in her arms and scramble to her feet at the same time.

'Get down!,' said Jesus, his quick reflexes already having taken him into cover next to a thick tree. 'Its a fucking trap and we took the bait.'

Toby dragged Sam off Laney and behind an rocky outcrop. Laney slid in next to her, dragging the rifle off her back and resting it on the rock. She set it to her shoulder as Monroe had demonstrated, looked along its length and yanked the trigger. There was no way of knowing where the shot went, Laney only knew Monroe would have yelled at her for not using a gentle squeeze on the trigger, but the crack of the rifle reverberated around Davis Crag and the five figures above them dived for cover.

'She's still breathing,' Toby bit out as she pulled the first aid kit from her backpack. 'Can't say more than that.'

Laney racked her brains for more of Monroe's military teachings. There was nothing about leapfrogging with an injured party, but the gang had the higher ground and that was never good news. She fired again, this time with more precision, and was satisfied to see a plume of snow jump up from the top of the ravine. At least that shot had gone somewhere near where she'd intended.

'We've got to get her back to Doc Short,' said Toby. Sam's breathing was ragged but regular as she slipped in and out of concsiousness. 'But that lot will just pick us off.' As if to emphasise her point, a bullet from above ricocheted nearby.

'Eden Valley's closer, right?' replied Laney. 'And the way's less hilly.' She caught Toby's wary look. 'Their leader's spoken to Callie and Monroe. We'll be safe. And we can't lead them back to Haven.'

'How do we...' Another shot whizzed by, and Toby and Laney ducked instincively. Laney wondered if Toby even knew she'd covered Sam's body with her own.

'Jesus,' she called out to the soccer star, louder and slower than necessary. 'Get back to Haven, bring help.' She hoped he didn't think she was being loud and clear because he was foreign. She hoped he could see her winking from here. 'Lose them along the way,' she whispered.

"We'll be here by nightfall" he shouted back. There was going to be vegeance for this outrage. He was going to make sure Monroe took everyone who could use a gun here. They had to bring the flamethrowers and the assault rifles and the AK-forthysomethings here, make a crater the size of Belgium with these cunts.

The Mexican crouched into a sprinting position and Laney let off a volley of shots at the top of the ravine. That much she remembered from Monroe's lessons. Squinting against the failing light, she thought she saw at least four figures moving parallel to the direction Jesus had taken. After giving them a few minutes to clear the area, Toby spoke up. 'Come on, we've got to get her out of here.'

'We're not going to make it to Eden Valley by nightfall,' mused Laney, patting her hatchet without thinking.

'You want to leave her here?' Toby snapped.

'Come on,' Laney replied, slinging the rifle over her shoulder and fixing in her mind the Eden Valley road Jake had pointed out earlier that day. 'I fucking hope Jesus is going to be okay.'

Part 4: Run for their lives
Here he had to think and do it fast. Part of his third world chivarly wanted him to go back and help the women out... there was something just plain wrong about the ladies staying behind while the man took to the hills, but he was the fastest of them all and God knew that, had he stayed, their current predicament would have gone further downhill.

He regained a boost to his pride when he saw that he was being followed... by people with rifles! Motherfuckin' rifles.

The first thing he had to do was lose them. Jesus was not going to chance it on poor aim - if he was caught in an open field he knew he was as good as dead and that, with the snow, the option of hiding was out of the window. The only choice was diving deep into a hive of Z's and praying that they would be more interesed in the second servings than in the appetiser, and with the sunlight starting its rapid decline this was the only outcom that could see him alive and well.

Well, the first option would be getting to the nearby gas station and from there work his way from there. He had gone there only once and it had been a quick lookout for a tire... there were so many things that could go wrong, but as the thunderous roar of a firearm shook his ears he suddenly found worrying less and less about what could go wrong in the far future and more in what could be done to get there.

Taking quick and misleadings turns, the Mexican was gowing bolder that his hand was for once stacked. He glanced backwards looking for signs of his assailants but found nothing. The lingering question on how long had it been sine he lost them left him puzzled. Also it was a relief that came with a sharp guilt, for it was almost a certainty that resources that were not being spent on his persecution would be deployed on targeting those he had left behind. He was not a guy good with math or logistics but the chances of the Scavs and the dying runner were slim, and that was if one was wildly optmistical.

Legs throbbed with pain and his huffed breath against the winter's cold was visible... he was not going to walk out of this as a bastion of health. A flu would be in order and there a the fact that he was working against time, time that drew ever shorter for those that so desperately needed it. Gotta get to Haven... Old man Monroe will know what to do

He clutched the radio tight enough to squeeze juice out of it. He only had to get near enough to get the message, each step taking him closer and closer as the hot sweat clashed against the cold winter winds. Every once in a while he gave a look backwards to confirm if he was leaving a trail or if he had a tail, but all he was could see was the darkness of the night accompanied by the silence of the grave.

The running had slowed down to a jog and from that to a fast walk, pain flared through his kneecaps, the wearied body urging him to stop and take a rest and the temptation to take a seat and catch his breath was eve more alluring. He could get farther and faster if he took one quick break right? Then the image of Toby´s blood-splattered face came crashing to his mind and he found himself renewing his efforts, all that was needed was that he gave the message.

It was all he had to do, dodging zombies was a cakewalk compared to dodging bullets, you could fool zed, you could rattle some cans and zack would answer... but a group of armed nutcases out for blood was frightening. They had always killed at least one of the runners or the scavs on each engagement - people who risked their lives daily to outdo the infected.

But he could not crack, he had to stay focused. It was just a change in the game. Some of the slow people would fall, yes, but those who were up to it would bite back. Nobody fucked up with Haven. Jesus had the feelin that Monroe would wrap this up in no time. He had this "retired badass" feel and look to him, they would sort them out good, and recall these adverse times to pull the through in the dark days ahead.

His radio cracked. He had been pushing the transmiting button all this time... who knows how much time had passed since he had been in range. He was still some 40 minutes or so away from Haven. "Answer back who is this?! Over?" He let the message through and then with his dry and rasp voice gathered as much sense as he could. "It was an ambush, one of the runners is dead and the other gravely wounded! Toby and Byron left beind, over." The answer was inmediate. "Who the fuck is this? What's going on?" Herrera had fallen on his knees. "This is scavenger Jesus Herrera, you need to tell Monroe that it was an ambush, we got an armed group preying on us, Toby and Laney stayed behind to make me slip! They need all the cavalry they can get!"

There was some silence as surely the other reciever chewed on what he just had told and the numerous ramifications that this all entailed. 'Get back here, son,' Monroe snapped. 'Out.'

Soon Jesus sat before Monroe and Callie, panting, gasping. Even for one with his peak fitness, it had been a long run. So he hardly had breath to object when Monroe refused his request to send out the rescue for Toby and Laney. 'We can't see shit, son. We can't risk more lives when we don't even know where they are, if they're alive.'

Part 5: Carry the weight
Laney was happy to let Toby carry most of Sam's weight. With thick bandages swaddling her neck and shoulder, the bleeding had mostly been stopped, but still she was drifting in and out of consciousness, stumbling and occasionally falling. Sam grew heavier as Toby continued on, huffing with the exertion of keeping the woman's weight from dragging them down. It had been a while since she'd had to lift a body, and she was definitely having a hard time lifting one thats nothing more than dead weight in her arms.With Laney insisting on the precaution of following the road from the field side, getting Sam over hedgerows took up valuable minutes.

As dusk fell, progress got even slower. The snow had one silver lining, as it were. Though it hampered movement, it reflected what little light remained. It was this that enabled Laney to see, as she jumped down from the hedgerow into another field, the outline of cluster of zombies up ahead. She couldn't see their exact movements, but the rising howls were enough to send her scrambling back over the hedgerow. Toby had heard it too, and was half-dragging, half-carrying Sam back the way they'd come.

'Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,' Laney muttered under her breath as she took Sam's other arm. The hedgerow held the zombies up a bit, but soon Laney's regular glances over her shoulder revealed darker shadows against the light grey of the carpet of snow. 'Go,' she hissed to Toby. 'Get over the next hedge and we can maybe hold them off.' She shrugged out from under Sam's arm again, and turned to face the oncoming zombies.

Not for the first time that day, the different ages and physical conditions of the zombies had spread out the pack. What must have been a particularly recent victim was closing fast. Laney swung her hatchet down in an overhead chop, hoping to avoid its arms and hit the head in the poor light. She must have swung a fraction of a second too late; her fingers smashed down on top of the zombie's skull as the thick, heavy blade lodged in the back of its head. The now incapacitated creature slumped and tumbled past her, wrenching the hatchet from her hand with a vicious twist that sent shocks through her wrist. There was no time to react to the pain; another dark grey shape loomed up in front of her. With her left hand, she reached across her shoulder and grabbed the rifle by the muzzle and swung it like a club. Her wild lunge caught the creature in the side, sending it sprawling, one grasping arm tangling in the rifle's strap and ripping it from her grasp. She glanced back at Toby and Sam, peered at the approaching pack, and turned on her heels.

'Leave her,' she barked at Toby. Even in the gloom, she could see the shock on the older woman's face.

'Leave her!' Laney screamed. 'Leave her, drop her, or we're all fucked!' She wrenched at Sam's loose-hanging arm with her left hand, tried to pry Toby's grasp loose with her right, only for the pain in her damaged wrist and fingers to make itself felt and force her to give up the fight. A body barrelled into the back of the trio, tumbling them to the ground. Laney sprang to her feet and instinctively held out her hand. The grip that fixed to it was warm and firm, and Laney dragged Toby to her feet, barely conscious of how foolish she'd just been.

As they reached the last hedgerow they'd crossed, the sounds of crunching and ripping reached their ears. As they slithered through the gap they'd made - Laney first, Toby close behind and panting - there was a brief scream; Sam must have regained conciousness just before she died. Laney tugged on Toby's jacket to make sure she followed, didn't return for the doomed woman. Then she remembered her escape from Cromwell, and rummaged around in her backpack for her torch. Switching it on, she threw it as far as she could away from them. Then they clambered over the stone wall, crossed the road and re-entered the field on the other side. Hopefully the multiple barriers would be enough to hide them from the pack of zombies once their distraction was gone. Any more movement would either see them run into zombies in the dark or alert the pack behind them as to their location.

'Toby?' Laney hissed as they hunkered down. 'Toby?'

Don't tell her. You can't be sure.

Laney knew the older woman was the quiet type, but didn't know if the brooding silences were signs of emotional fragility or just unfriendliness.

You have to tell her.

The way she'd spoken up for Laney, the way she'd carried Sam, Laney feared it was the former. 'Toby, there was nothing we could do.'

Quick or slow? It's your last choice.


Her lips were practically on Toby's ear now. 'Toby, we've got to keep warm til it's light.' She huddled up as close as she could get to Toby. Toby was as tense and still as a stone.

Don't touch me, don't touch me.

'Toby?' Laney whispered falteringly, rubbing her fingers together. 'Is this... Where's this blood coming from?'

No no no no no no no it can't be real.

There was silence in the field as the two women sat with their heavy thoughts. The bite on Toby's shoulder stang a little, but the cold creeping over her mostly numbed it. She thought of the woman she'd found hanging from the rafters in the farmhouse, and the child starved in the cupboard. She thought of William Rand, dying alone in that hotel room, his last thoughts with his son. She had no child to think of in this moment, no parent, no lover. Perhaps this was the right thing to happen. The hanged woman waved at her. She heard the starved child's cries. William Rand reached out to her, his lips moving. She leaned closer, staying just out of the reach of his embrace, to hear what he was saying.

'I have Sam's pistol,' he said.

'Toby, I have Sam's pistol,' Laney whispered. 'Do you... do you want me to do it?'

She took the pistol. It was satisfyingly heavy. Things shouldn't be light, not when they're about to do this.

Laney picked up Toby's axe and peered through the darkness. She couldn't make out much, but the reflected light from the snow showed up in Toby's eyes. They were clear, dry and wide open.

'Give me five minutes to get away.'

November 5th
Part 6: Goodbye
Shortly before dawn, as she drifted in and out of consciousness in a small copse, Laney had realised her injured hand had stopped hurting. Her wrist had stiffened up completely, and her first and middle finger were badly swollen. She'd been unable to pull herself up into the high branches of one of the trees because of it, which is why she'd spent the night in a hollow at the base of the tree. Now, as she fumbled left-handed with the gate into Haven, she was thwarted by the shivers that ran through her entire body. She kept seeing Toby's eyes, kept hearing the muffled shot that had cracked open the silence of the night as she'd stumbled away, and cracked open the hard shell Laney had wrapped around her pain and fright at Toby's fate. She'd wept then, and she wept again as she fell into Jesus's arms when he raced down from the farmhouse, his face etched with tension and frustration.