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November 15th, 07:43

November 15th, 07:43

Jack was subdued after that, clutching his rifle tightly in a ready carry rather than slung over his shoulder. Without needing to be told, Seb had taken up the rear, leaving the now very-jumpy Jack and Don in the middle. Michaela edged forward, bringing her rifle up and sighting carefully, not for the first time grateful that Rob had been busy mounting tritium sights and and lights on all rifles to be carried in the field. She'd been using firearms since she was a young girl, but living in the city had never been conducive to having any of her own, and certainly nothing close to the arsenal that Rob and his friends had been amassing over the years.

The light revealed a small group of figures in the next car over, shuffling toward them. Michaela couldn't see them all clearly, although her weapon light revealed the milky, sightless eyes of a middle-aged man, face pressed up against the thick glass, fingers leaving streaks of ichor next to his face.

“We can't go through there. Too many of them.” She said, just loud enough for the others to hear.

“How many?” Don asked.

“Hard to tell. At least eight.”

“That's not that many. Can't we just put them down and keep going?”

She shook her head, then realized they probably couldn't see her. “No way. I am not wasting ammo on a group of contained zombies, and that much noise will deafen us and bring every zombie in a two-kilometre radius down on our heads.”

With more grumbling than she would have strictly liked, they backtracked, ignoring the corpse they were leaving behind, and slid down the ladder back to the ground. When she was sure everyone was behind her, Michaela started forward again, her whole body still thrumming with adrenaline from their most recent encounter. It was the first time she'd been so close to a zombie since the last time she'd been in the city, and it was all but impossible to keep the memories from flooding back: the low moans, the stench, the grasping fingers tangling in her hair, pulling out handfuls by the root. She'd cut off all her hair, and all of Kitty's too, once she realized the danger. That was one of the first rules they'd come up with: keep your hair short, don't wear anything the zombies can grab hold of or that can get snagged anywhere.

That was why she and the others now looked as though they'd spent too much time in an army surplus store: BDUs, webgear, and whatever equipment they thought they'd be able to carry long distance without getting too tired or weighed down. It had taken a lot of arguing to convince Jack —and by extension, Don— that they didn't need to gear themselves up as though they were getting to be extras in the next Ramo production. Rob's unwavering enthusiasm for cool-looking gizmos hadn't helped, but at least he had a solid understanding of what could and couldn't be carried over such a long distance. Jack and Don might be good hunters, but they were used to carrying all of their equipment in a truck, and motorized vehicles were a bad idea at any time these days: they broke down, ran out of gas, and most importantly so many of the roads leading in and out of the city were packed to overflowing with abandoned cars. There had been panic in the first days of the outbreak, and everyone had tried to leave the cities, causing traffic jams that went for miles. Then some of the drivers and passengers had succumbed to the bites they'd sustained, some from loved ones, some from complete strangers; there had been dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of the glassy-eyed dead, stumbling between the idling cars, beating decaying hands against rolled-up windows, heedless of the terrified screams coming from inside.

They'd taken a car to within about twenty kilometres from the city, and then had biked the rest of the way in. None of them had been particularly pleased about their chosen mode of transport, but it was the only way to cover ground at a reasonably fast pace without running the risk of catastrophic technical failure. They'd taken the back roads, and come in through the Turcot shipping yards, where there was enough open space and smooth surfaces to prevent nasty surprises, and slipped into Angrignon metro station after securing the bicycles outside. Not that anyone was likely to steal them, but she'd reasoned that they were better safe than sorry. Coming back in a hurry only to find your ride gone was not a scenario she envisioned with any enthusiasm.

“I hate the dark,” Jack muttered from behind her as they walked past the last train car. It was the first time he'd said something that wasn't a joke, or inappropriate, or made him sound like a jackass. “You can't see what's coming at you.”

“Ta gueule.” Seb sounded nervous, though, rather than annoyed.

“Quiet!” Michaela stopped, and felt Jack pull up behind her, startled. “Do you hear that?”

The four came to a halt, and for a moment all she could hear was the sound of their breathing, fast and rhythmic in the heavy air. She held her breath, pulse pounding in her ears, and when that sound died down another took its place: a soft, scrabbling, scraping sound. A dry, rasping moan came from the darkness, followed by another, and then another, each slightly different from the last.

“Hostie,” Seb breathed. “Y'en a une chiée.”

Jack hefted his rifle. “Let 'em come.”

“We should go back. Try going overground.”

“Trop tard.”

Michaela swallowed hard, and Don made a strangled sound in his throat, as she realized that the sound weren't coming only from beyond the last train car.

They were also coming up behind them.

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