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

Latest Discussions: Impending Pursuit Q&A » Eudaimonia » Loot! » Natural Kinds » I have a funny idea » Life in the 21st century. » Song of the Runes » Plato’s Beard » Clues » Nihilism » Strange Tales From Hadean » Art Gulag [ Come get this Commish! ] » Visibility of Private Universes & Profile Customisation » Presuppositionalism » Aphantasia » Skill Trees - Good, Bad & Ugly » In-Game Gods & Gameplay Impact » Cunningham's Law » The Tribalism of Religion » Lost Library »

Players Wanted: Looking For A New Partner » Hellboy characters » 18+ Writing Partner [Fantasy, Romance, Etc.] » 18+, Multi-Para to Novella Writers please! » Looking for roleplayers » Fun tale full of angels, demons, and humans » Looking for roleplayers » A Fairytale World in Need of Heroes & Villains! » Are You a Crime Addict? » Wuxia RP » Looking for roleplayers » New Realistic Roleplay - Small World Life Ù©( ´・ш・)و » Mentors Wanted » MV Recruiting Drive: sci-fi players wanted! » Veilbrand: The Revolution » Gonna do this anyway. » Looking for Kamen Rider Players » Elysium » Looking for roleplayers for a dystopian past! » Revamping Fantasy Adventure RPG, need new players »

0
followers
follow

Delaney Byron

Actress. Singer. Celebrity. Doesn't matter now.

0 · 196 views · located in Haven Universe

a character in “No Haven”, as played by Faith Fanon

Description

Image
Name: Delaney Orchid Byron. Nicknamed Laney

Gender: Female

Age/Date of birth:21. July 1, 1993

Born/hometown: Mayfair, London

Occupation: Former actress/singer/celebrity. Now she's just doing what she has to survive.

LOOKS
5'7", 120lb. She is slim but athletic. Black hair, brown eyes. A ragged scar runs around the right side of her throat. Her nose, lip and ears were pierced, but Laney took them all out at the start of the outbreak, so now just has tiny scars there instead.


HISTORY
Pre-outbreak:The only daughter of a famous 70s rocker and his third wife, Laney grew up in the glare of celebrity as her mother eked out every advantage of her famous - and short-lasted - connection. She first appeared in TV commercials at the age of three, and by five was starring in the TV show, Laney's Street. By eight, she was appearing in children's films, and in major films by 10. By 14, she'd moved into music, but soon became frustrated with the clean image her record company insisted she keep, and started to act out, getting drunk, swearing at concerts, all the things normal teenagers do - except normal teenagers' mistakes aren't reported by a slavering celebrity media. Her mother - by now divorced - sent her to live with her father, who told both Laney and the hordes of celebrity reporters who dogged her every step that he'd done far worse at her age.

Within a month of her turning 18, a sex tape of Laney and another girl was released online, she and her father together beat up a paparazzo, and she was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. Her record label dropped her as a result, and Laney formed a band so she could play the music she liked. She refused her father's offer to sign her to his record label, trying to make it on her own merits. Of course, her huge celebrity meant disproportionate attention for her band, and even more reasons for serious rock critics not to take her seriously.

Post-outbreak: Laney was onstage when the outbreak began, escaping with a minder. His refusal to let her return to her Mayfair apartment probably saved her life, as London was quickly over-run. They headed north, away from population centres but got separated. Near exhaustion, Laney stumbled upon Haven by following one of the Scavs home, crawling the last mile before collapsing at the gate. After initially struggling to find her feet, and clashing with Haven's leaders, Laney struck up several firm friendships and began to relish the struggle to survive in the 'new world'. Her relationship with the American Scav, Benjamin Kinney, was forged in the fire of their early days in Haven, and Laney now considers her survival as tied to Ben as it is to Haven.

PERSONALITY
In what she calls the 'old world', Laney was used to getting whatever she wants her entire life, and struggled to adjust to a world where her name and face meant nothing any more. The loss of so much power and privilege made her doubt her self-worth. As a result of having to rebuild her self-confidence, she is strongly committed to the new anchors of her life - Haven, her friends, and particularly Ben. Nonetheless, she still displays occasional flashes of A-lister temper tantrums, particularly with people she knows well. Robbed of the chance to indulge her celebrity party lifestyle, Laney has instead come to take on the role of carer and cheerleader for the people of Haven, attempting to ease troubled minds and buoy flagging spirits.

EQUIPMENT
When out on a mission Laney still sports the robust clothes she was wearing onstage at the time of the outbreak - a black leather jacket with inch-long metal studs on the shoulder, skintight black leather jeans, studded belt, and biker boots. Under the jacket she wears layered vests, and has a red hoodie in her pack. Laney's weapons include a machete, her friend Hoppy's cleaver, and a pistol.

SKILLS
As well as singing, Laney can play piano and guitar.
Laney has good endurance when running and swimming.
Thanks to her overindulgent and paranoid father, Laney is proficient in firing a handgun. She also trained with a rifle at Haven.

So begins...

Delaney Byron's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

Laney stared dumbly at the dark blood that thickly coated her arms, chest and hair. The truck jolted and the engine backfired and she dimly heard Shinji swear incomprehensibly as he struggled to keep the battered vehicle on the road. Lying on the flatbed of the back of the truck, she held up a hand and watched the ichor drip from her fingers. The fingers she'd broken that night she'd run into a pack of the dead on just her third mission. It must have been, what, a year ago now? Maybe a little less. It had been colder than it was now. Through heavy-lidded eyes, she looked back at Haven as it disappeared behind the crest of a hill. The wind shifted, and over the scream of the truck's damaged engine, Laney could hear the howls and moans of the horde. There was no smoke, no fire, no explosion or gunfire, not like there had been when Upton Manor fell. Nothing to mark the destruction of their home and the loss of so many friends - part of their lives - except the grating groans of the hellish, relentless undead. She'd made Shinji delay as long as possible, hoping to catch another glimpse of Eric and his mother, or of Ben, before yet another pack of the dead had forced the truck's departure. There had been hundreds, if not thousands, and tears prickled her eyes as she realised the chances of seeing any of Haven's inhabitants again were slim.

'Shoulda lef' me,' her friend mumbled in her lap, interrupting her train of thought. Laney dropped her gaze to her, taking in the fading light in her eyes, the greying skin, the bite wounds that blotted her ravaged arm like obscene, fleshy roses.

'Callie, no,' Laney breathed, the futility, the hopelessness of their situation driven home by Callie's fatalistic words. Callie's breath was coming in short, ragged pants, as if inhaling was painful and brief intakes were all she could manage. Blood ran down from a cut hidden in her hair, and pooled in her eye. Callie blinked feebly and Laney brushed gently at the blood; her caked hands did little more than smear it slickly across Callie's cheek.

'It's... no good.' Callie's arm flopped uselessly as she tried to gesture, and a fresh gout of blood swelled in one of her wounds. Laney shook her head uselessly. A dislodged tear slid down her face and landed on Callie's forehead. She had nothing to say. They had both seen enough to know. Speech was pointless. The woman who had brought Laney in when she was almost dead on her feet in the panicked, chaotic weeks after the outbreak, who have given her food and shelter and the skills to survive, was going to die. They both knew what had to happen next. Perhaps numbed by shock and blood loss, Callie simply nodded at Laney.

Moments ticked by as Laney recalled Callie's kindness. She'd shielded Laney from the worst of Munroe's frustrated outbursts, encouraged her to express herself - after all, what was the point of surviving if you didn't live? Callie's determination had made Haven, and she'd shown the same bravery to overcome Munroe's death and keep Haven alive. She'd stepped aside selflessly as new arrivals such as Laney and Ben took over more active roles in running Haven.

'Laney... you gotta,' Callie winced as her weakened body shivered. Laney closed her eyes and swallowed, recalling the last person who'd been bitten on Haven. All things considered, she'd thought she would have been able to end that life easily, but as she'd stared down the barrel of a gun into those red-rimmed, pleading eyes, she'd been unable to pull the trigger. Even though she'd been doomed as the infection raced through her bloodstream, Kiera had still been full of humanity. A monster couldn't beg like that at the prospect of her destruction. A dead person couldn't cry like that, as if her very soul was being ripped from her body. In the end Ben had taken the gun from Laney's faltering hand. Kiera's wailing had halted, as if in hope of mercy, and Laney had turned away before the gunshot rang out. Ben's old coldness, the silence and the blank look that hid boiling inner rage, had returned for days, and for days they'd avoided each other, Ben going out on missions that began before dawn and ended as night fell, Laney busying herself in unfamiliar tasks around Haven - kitchen duties, chopping wood, working the gradually expanding graveyard, where she tend the new memorials as diligently as she did the old.

The truck lurched as a loud grinding noise emanated from the engine, and it shuddered to a stop. Silence rolled in around the tiny group, punctuated only by hissing, escaping steam from the engine and Callie's rasping breath. They were far enough from Haven now that the horde could not be heard. They could be confident, too, that every creature for miles around had been drawn into the horde; they were safe for now. Nonetheless, they were still miles from the designated fallback house - a stone barn high in the hills where a group of Haven's enemies had once ambushed Laney and a mixed group from Haven and Eden Valley - and there was no way Callie could walk. The blood loss alone would ensure that, even if her legs hadn't been torn and savaged.

'Laney, Callie, we go now,' Shinji said, appearing at the tailgate of the truck. He took in the bloody scene, the teartracks streaking Laney's face, the wreck of Callie's body. 'You have gun,' he said gently, then returned to the cab of the truck. Shinji had had to kill his own wife, Laney recalled. Since then, and his arrival at Haven, the Japanese former tourist had had a fatalistic air to life and death; he contributed as much as any to Haven, and was kind and friendly to all the other inhabitants, but the deaths Haven had suffered appeared not to touch him. Death was to be expected, he'd explained once in halting English, and the dead were as lucky to be dead as the living were to be alive.

Laney leaned across Callie and picked up the pistol from between her feet. Callie nodded weakly, too weak now to talk. She knew she'd fired every bullet from the back of the flatbed truck as the pack had descended on Callie. She shuddered as she closed her eyes and once again saw her friend burst from the gate of Haven, running in determined silence, her injured leg buckling under her, as the truck coughed into life. Laney had screamed at Shinji to reverse as 10 or 12 of the dead had closed on the limping Callie. Her first shot had taken one of the creatures in the throat and knocked it back into two others, and hope had leaped inside Laney as she fired off two more shots that both struck foreheads and dropped creatures. But her next three shots were wild as Shinji reversed the truck, and Callie finally cried out as she was grabbed from behind. She struggled to stay upright and keep moving even as the weight on her back increased and teeth ripped lumps of flesh from her limbs. She was borne to the ground even as Laney leaped from the truck and executed the creatures at point-blank range. Two of them growled and champed at Callie as the hammer of Laney's handgun clicked on the empty chamber. She'd dispatched them with Hoppy's cleaver even as they'd raised their heads to her.

She craned her neck to look at Shinji as he began to trudge uphill towards the fallback house. He'd used Hoppy's cleaver to cut down the creature his wife had become. Maybe... No, Laney told herself. She knew she had to do this herself. This wasn't Kaiko or Kiera, or even Toby, the long-dead Scav who'd been bitten because of their own inexperience and who had submitted to her fate so stoically. No, Callie was her friend. Callie was Haven's mother. She couldn't duck this responsibility.

She unsheathed her machete. Callie's lips moved soundlessly, by now too weak even to speak, as she turned her head, presenting the softest part of the temple to Laney's blade. Laney rested the point on her temple, briefly mesmerised by the indent it made against her friend's skin. She gritted her teeth, looked up to the sky, and lunged down with all her strength.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eric Rand Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Messiah
(Collaboration with Faith Fanon. She did most of the work.)

They reached the stone barn high in the hills as the sun began to dip towards the horizon. They stood panting, looking down the steep incline and finding no pursuers, living or dead. Then Shinji loosened his weapon, lit his torch, and flung open the door. Laney had a brief moment of recollection, the memory of Jake from Eden Valley performing the same movement, only for a pack of the dead to surge forward and overwhelming. A joint party from Haven and Eden Valley had been searching for a mysterious band of hunters, and they'd tracked them down to this spot, with disastrous results. Jake had been devoured alive, and the other Eden Valley representative, Sam, had been shot - her weakened state had caused both her and Toby's deaths. That day, Laney had made what she felt was mistake after mistake.

'It safe, Laney. Come.'

Laney shivered as she followed Shinji into the safehouse. Its stone walls and tiny windows afforded good protection - stopping most noise and light getting out as well as stopping things getting in - but did nothing for its hospitality or comfort. The beam from Shinji's torch lit up the cold, dark interior, revealing boxes of blankets, tinned food, bottled water, a few other supplies, and enough floorspace to sleep 10 people comfortably. There was still ash in the hearth, Laney noted irritably as the weak yellow light flickered across the fireplace. Whoever had been up to check on the safehouse last hadn't performed their duties diligently. The monthly maintenance visits had been Ben's idea, after Laney had suggested the barn as a replacement fallback position when Munroe had blown up the original safehouse last year, and was typical of the competent, self-assured way he'd taken on a leadership mantle in Haven.

Shinji picked up on Laney's grunt of annoyance and stepped towards the fireplace. Laney put a restraining hand on his arm and herself filled a bucket with ash. Grabbing a bottle of water, she went outside and sat on the approach to the safehouse. As she waited and watched, she used the water and ash to scrub Callie's dried, flaking blood from her arms.

The sounds of Shinji tinkering inside the stone barn eventually died away as Laney pondered the fate of the friends she'd woken up with that morning. Stoic, dependable Dom; Alison, the former helicopter pilot who, despite her limp, angrily insisited on going out on missions; the timid Dr Short; Elizabeth Rand and her son Eric who, in the wake of his father's death, had latched onto Ben as some sort of older brother... Ben. Laney swallowed hard as she shucked a thick, grimey mix of ash, blood and water off her arms. She'd last seen him at the door of the farmhouse, calmly but sternly trying to bring order to the defence of Haven. But they'd been caught unawares by the size of the horde. As wave upon wave of the dead hit the walls, the realisation that it was time to flee came only seconds before the perimeter was breached, and all their carefully arranged escape plans had been dashed. She'd run to get the truck and bring it to the back gate, only to find Shinji already there. Callie's failed break for safety had brought a larger pack to them and left the drive away from Haven as the only possible route. Even then, Shinji had had to ram numerous decaying, walking bodies out of the way, no doubt contributing to the truck's eventual breakdown.

The gradually sinking sun filled the valley below with a last blaze of orange light before disappearing behind the hills on the far horizon. As the evening gloom darkened and an autumnal chill fell, Shinji finally broke Laney's reverie.

'We go inside now. We must.'

All part of the plan, Laney remembered as she heaved stiff limbs out of her sitting position. In the dusk, it became impossible to discern between actual movement and the imaginings of a stressed-out, jumpy Scav, never mind between the living and the dead. So they were supposed, according to the plan, to get inside, lock the door, and keep noise and light to a minimum. Late arrivals would knock. That was the plan. Monroe's plan, adapted and finessed for the stone barn by Callie, Ben and Alison. So much for the plan that was supposed to keep them safe in Haven. The only two known Haven survivors sat in deep, uncomfortable silence as Laney pondered the futility of plans.

Hours later, a knock on the door, the agreed the three-knock, two-knock, three-knock pattern, brought them both to their feet. Having spent almost every night next to him in the last 10 months, Laney recognised Ben's breathing before he spoke, before her eyes could pick out his silhouette against the faint moonlight. She threw himself into his arms with a sob.

*

They'd elected not to light the fire, even though previous tests had confirmed the smoke wouldn't be seen against the night sky: somehow, after the trauma that day, even the smallest risk seemed unjustifiable. But, wrapped in two sleeping bags and exhausted by terror, Eric soon dropped into a deep slumber under the watchful eye of the three adults. By the dim light of a single shuttered lamp, they looked from one to the other, none willing to be the first to break the silence and confirm the awful reality of the day's events.

Finally, Ben spoke up, his voice still husky from exertion. 'I passed the truck. Almost ran right into it.'

'It breaks from we hit many of them,' Shinji replied. 'Maybe we can fix?'

'Who's in the back?' Ben asked, ignoring Shinji's question.

'Callie,' Laney replied, biting back a flare of resentment at Ben's terse demands. He was freshly arrived from fleeing the horde; he hadn't had several hours in which to collect his thoughts. 'She was bitten, Ben. Badly. I had to...'

More than a year after the outbreak, there was still no easy way to describe that ultimate act. Toby had spared Laney the painful burden 10 months ago, and Monroe had also taken matters into his own hands when he'd been bitten. She had been doing her best to block out the memory of jabbing a blade through Callie's temple. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

Ben noticed her grief and nodded. The last year had changed them all, but killing the living was the ultimate taboo. He'd killed in anger and he'd killed out of mercy. He knew what his girlfriend was going through.

'We should bury her, Laney,' he said with a gentleness he didn't quite feel. 'And get the truck going again.'

Laney looked up suddenly, her eyes wide in the dim light. 'You want to go out there again? So soon?'

'We can't stay here, Laney. We barely have any supplies. It's not secure. That horde could still come up this way.'

'What if more people come?'

'I saw...' It was Ben's turn to hold back a surge of grief. 'Dom's gone. Elizabeth's gone. Carter... Nobody's left.'

In the heavy silence that followed, Shinji flicked his torch over the small stack of supplies to the toolbox. 'We can fix. I take first watch.'

'I'll take second,' Laney mumbled, in deference to Ben's exhaustion. She hated second watch. Being woken was cruel, and getting back to sleep was difficult.

*

Ben stood up. He was back at Haven, standing right in the middle of it, but it was empty, at least as far as he could tell. There were no zeds and no people. It was just him, alone. He had never seen it like this. There was always something going on, somebody was always out and about, for whatever reason.

Something compelled him from his spot and he wandered, almost aimlessly, to the farmhouse where so much activity amongst the residents of Haven occurred before. Its kitchen was the hub of the little settlement, but it too was empty, strangely enough. What the hell was going on around here?

"Laney!" He called, "Eric! Hoppy!" It all felt natural. There was no click in his brain that told him that Hoppy had died, long months ago. But still, there was no answer, so he went back outside. It was still empty.

"Somebody!" He shouted, his voice echoing over the empty landscape. But, it was no use. He was alone. Stricken, he fell to his knees and looked to the ground beneath him. Quietly, he began to sob.

"What are you crying for?" A familiar voice sounded, a voice he hadn't heard in more than a year. He looked up. It was his brother, Chris. "You're not giving up, are you?" The muscular former Marine offered his hand. Ben took it, his left hand still with all five of its digits. And then, when he was on his feet again, he saw his little sister, Amber, standing just to his brother's side. She was quiet, but she looked at him with that look she got when things weren't going so well; the look that said that everything would turn out okay. It always made him feel better, but not this time.

"It's gone," Ben managed quietly, looking back to Chris, "It's all gone." The buildings all around him suddenly all started to look older and fall apart, as if they hadn't been taken care of in years.

"Not all of it," Chris retorted.

From behind him, Laney approached and laced her fingers in with his. On the other side, Eric had approached and was holding onto his leg. When he looked down to the boy, he noticed that his left hand was missing its pinky finger. And then, behind him, Shinji stood. The only people from Haven he knew were still alive. When he looked back up to his brother and his sister, his heart nearly stopped with who else was standing with them now; everyone from Haven who had died. Callie, Monroe, Tilo, Hoppy, Kiera. They were all there.

"Those people need you. Laney's barely keeping herself together, Eric's just a little boy, and Shinji... He barely knows English. They need you to be strong for them." Chris turned around to look at all of the people that were standing behind him now. "And these people, they wouldn't want you to give up." He turned back to look to Ben. "So, fight. It looks bad, but you still have to fight for what you have left."

It was all too much. Ben stayed silent, but tears welled up in his eyes and started to fall, while he kept his head bowed. When he looked back, his brother and sister were gone, leaving just the dead Haven residents looking back at him, but they said nothing. He extricated himself from Eric and Laney and approached and looked at each of them, but kept his gaze on Tilo and Hoppy longer than the others.

The last thing he saw was Hoppy's grinning face, the one that reminded him so much of his sister.

And then he opened his eyes, tears leaking from his eyes and staining what served as a pillow below. He wiped at his face to clear them away, and then rolled over, expecting Laney to be next to him, but she wasn't. It must have been her turn to keep watch. Gently, he ran his hand over the surface where she'd been resting, and then brought himself to a sitting position. Instead of going back to sleep, he decided he would pay Laney a visit while she kept watch. Maybe he would even take some of her watch time from her, just to give her some more time to rest.

When he had dressed himself, he made his way across the safehouse blindly until his eyes could adjust a little better, and then sought out Laney. She was seated in a chair, holding the rifle they'd all agonised over keeping at the safehouse rather than Haven. It weakened Haven's defences, Ben and Carter had argued, but it meant a better chance for anyone who had to escape. Ben had to concede that Callie and Laney had been right about this one. One more weapon wouldn't have saved Haven today.

"Laney," he whispered, moments before approaching her from behind and putting his arms around her gently, just so as not to startle her.

She looked over her shoulder, only managing a faint smile. "Why are you up? You should be asleep."

"I had a... dream. Couldn't get back to sleep."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," Ben said after considering it a moment, "Not right now. I just want to be here, with you."

For a while, it was silent. Laney remained seated and Ben still stood behind her, his arms around her shoulders. It was hard to know what to say, after what had happened that day.

Eventually, Laney spoke, her voice barely more than breath. 'Ben, what the fuck are we going to do?'

He gripped her tighter, but no words came. Beyond fixing the truck, it was hard to look ahead.

'Everything... everything's gone,' she hissed, feeling the panic well up inside again, the defences she'd put up in front of Shinji and Eric crumbling now she was alone with her lover.

A phrase echoed at the margins of Ben's consciousness. 'We still have to fight for what we have left,' he muttered.

Laney reached up and interlaced her fingers through his, a gesture he'd come to know over the last year. She stifled a sob, and he felt, more than saw, her nod her head. Gripping his hand seemed to ease her trembling; she could imagine his strength flowing into her. Suddenly she yawned.

'Hey,' said Ben. 'Your watch must be near done. Why don't you let me take over?'

'Benjamin Kinney,' she grinned, rising and snaking her arms around his neck. 'I do declare you are a gentleman.'

When they'd first met, the sudden emergence of his dominant personality, following his kidnap and torture, had surprised and frustrated Laney. Now, after a year of relying on each other to survive obliteration, she felt she understood him better than she understood herself. Wrapping herself up in his still-warm sleeping back and inhaling his scent, Laney mused that his need to protect, to do right, motivated him more than anything else - more than fear, more than anger - even more than lust, she smiled secretly. There were stoic, masculine role models in his family, she knew. Her eyes played across the back of his alert shoulders until sleep overcame her.

*

The late summer sun of the next morning was incongruous to the mood of the small party that emerged tentatively from the ravine that led to the stone barn. Ever eager to be of use, Shinji foraged ahead as Ben and Laney flanked Eric, who seemed to have buttoned up his emotions, having woken in floods of tears. The adults had exchanged concerned glances; none of them had much experience of children, and had no idea how he was going to react to the loss of his mother, or the dangers and stresses of life on the road as they sought a new home. Ben had filled Laney in on what the boy had witnessed the day Haven had fallen. Currently he had latched onto Ben, dogging his heels like a puppy, pale and frightened, clutching at Ben's hand at every sudden noise and movement. As a result, Laney found herself burdened with most of what they'd taken from the stone barn safehouse. While everyone, even Eric, carried their own sleeping bag, Laney now carried all the meagre food supply, the rifle, a double water supply, the toolbox, and two spare sleeping bags. These last two items she didn't begrudge, though. When she'd initially objected to taking unnecessary weight, Ben reminded her they'd nothing else for Callie's body. The padded coverings would have to serve as a shroud.

As they crested a hill and the abandoned truck hove into sight, Ben turned to Laney. 'Stay here with Eric,' he said softly. I'll take care of this.'

Laney smiled at his kindness, and shook her head determinedly. 'Gotta say goodbye,' she said. 'Gotta put her to bed.'

Ben grinned awkwardly at the joke. It would have been in poor taste for anyone else to make it, but he knew Laney had meant it with love. He helped her out of her gear, handing her back the two spare sleeping bags.

Callie looked smaller than Laney recalled her, now that all the spark had fled her body. She was heavier, too, Laney noticed, as she rolled her into an open sleeping bag, now that dead muscles and tendon no longer assisted movement. Laney shuddered briefly as she smoothed Callie's hair down over the ugly gash she'd inflicted on Callie's temple, but more than anything she felt a calm that contrasted with the panicked grief she'd felt in the back of the truck yesterday. Shinji paused briefly at the foot of the flatbed and, noting that Laney working dutifully to wrap the body, took the toolbox to the other end of the truck. He'd been some sort of low-level engineer back in Japan, they'd ascertained, and he had a talent for mechanical things.

Laney tied off the neck of the second sleeping bag around Callie's feet, which were already wrapped in the first bag, pushed the dead weight further into the flatbed, and waved for Ben and Eric to join them. Ben threw the gear onto the back of the truck, then bundled Eric into the cab.

'Where are we...' Laney began awkwardly. 'We should find somewhere special for her. She deserves it.'

Ben reached out and took her hand. A frown creased his brow. 'We need a shovel too. I looked, but I didn't find one.'

A cry of frustration rose from the front of the truck, where Shinji had his head buried under the bonnet. They joined him at the front, Ben grimacing at the battered, gore-smeared grille. The bodywork was dented, and both headlight were smashed - Shinji had had to drive through or over several of the dead the night before. Now, he had the contents of the toolbox spread out at his feet, and he was tugging at a clump of bone and rotted flesh wedged between the fan belt and and cog.

'It can not go back, not go front,' he grunted, trying to rotate the belt. 'And it tear. I think it don't live long.'

The sun climbed higher as Shinji struggled to clear the engine of fragments of the bodies he'd hit in the panicked escape last night. Ben and Laney kept watch from the top of the cab, and Eric scrambled up to join them. After a number of hesitant false starts, the little boy spoke up.

'What's going to happen to Mum now? Will she know it's me?'

The adults exchanged a look over his head, Laney nodding at Ben.

'Eric, buddy,' Ben began, barely knowing what he could say to ease the little boy's pain. 'That won't happen to her, okay? It won't, I made sure. She's with your dad and your grandpa now.'

'Really?' Hope flashed across Eric's small features.

'Really,' Ben affirmed, warming to his task. 'And before she went, she made me promise to look after you.'

'Does that mean you're my dad now?'

'Uh... More like a big brother, I guess.'

'And friends,' Laney interjected.

'But Eric, that also means...' Ben began, only to be interrupted by the sound of the bonnet slamming shut. Shinji jumped up on the running board.

'Okay go,' he quipped. 'In, in, we go now.'

Piling into the cab, they waited expectantly as Shinji turned the key. The engine coughed into life. A nervous grin flashed across Shinji's face and the truck lurched forward. Laney leant out of the window and watched as the road to Haven disappeared behind them.

cron