Chapter 1:

Two Weeks after First Infection

In Fairfield, Pennsylvania, skyscrapers were once proud spires of human achievement. Now they were skeletal fingers beseeching heavens for aid, salvation and hope against the spreading Infection. Amidst the dank fog, in one of the cities numerous snaking alleys, there was movement. This was not the random shuffling of feet accompanied by the orchestrated choir of moaned grunts and shrill groans. The pair of dumpsters were haphazardly scattered on the left side of the alley and from the wall to the right, a long-suffering but now silent air conditioner protruded from the wall. The power to this particular block had failed ten or eleven days ago. Normally, tenant complaints would have sent a repair crew scrambling. But since the Infection began two week ago, things had been anything but normal or routine.

The fog hovered at the mouth of the alley, as if it knew what lay within. Illumination came from one emergency light, and a barrel fire that had been burning for hours. Four shapes became visible within the fogbank, and there was the quiet sound of footsteps. A pair of black scuffed and marred leather shoes kept pace with a pair steel toe capped boots. The former was slow and cautious; the latter was heavy and smacked of overconfidence. Cautious, rapid, but determined and also trailing behind were a pair of Converse sneakers. Their leader was a pair of lovingly maintained standard issue combat boots.

God, if he was home in the heavens was obviously displeased with the creations he had gifted with free will. The skies rumbled and then flashed. Lighting illuminated the foursome and the cluster of fallen together bodies, and the flies that buzzed. From the center of the tangle, rose an arm. This group had stood their ground and foolishly, fought to the last. Presumably, the last human standing had reached out for nonexistent assistance as his fingers were shattered and his thumb shorn off as he was devoured alive. The secondary signs of decomposition had already set in, marking the bodies as several days old… good news for the survivors: The feasting horde had moved on.

A gentle crunch and William Overbeck – Bill to his fellow survivors – emerged from the dank with his assault rifle held loose but ready. Death and destruction and general mayhem assailed his sense but he was calm, cautious. Several tours in Vietnam had left him with too many bad memories, and a sixth sense about everything. There was something …off, "Hold up." His voice was gruff, and it echoed off the narrow walls of the alley, perhaps seven feet apart. Behind him, three more survivors emerged from the fog.

He studied the decaying bodies. Some were clearly survivors. Others were the remains of infected or as Zoey - the converse-sneaker wearing eighteen years old - had begun calling them Zombies. The similarities between the two "species" were few, the major one being that they both hungered for human flesh. Where Zombies are slow, and passive-aggressive, the Infected are incredibly fast, aggressive-aggressive and come in a multitude of "special" mutated varieties.

That thing which was "off" Bill saw in the next flash of lightning. There was a green something that only covered the human remains. It was like slime. Taking a knee, he ran his fingers through the muck, taking a very cautious sniff as he smeared it between his fingers, It did not squelch, so much as squish, and even in the poor lighting of the alley, it was the dark green of freshly cut grass, "Never seen anything like this before."

Another flash of lightning, this time accompanied by a crack of thunder as the steel toe capped boots of Hell's Legion Biker Francis stepped forward to contribute his two cents, "Jesus! Don't let that stop you from smearing it all over yourself." There was no way the crew cut; tattooed biker could have seen the frown that crossed Bill's face, but then, he was looking away, right up to the moment Bill wiped his fingers on the man's leather vest.

"They're changing." Bill replied as he pushed a surprised Francis aside and continued walking down the alley.

"Aw! Damn it Bill! It stinks!" Black and bald, Louis gave off a hiccup of laughter at Francis's discomfort as he shot Zoey a look. She smiled back, but the sudden cry wiped the smiles from all their faces as they froze, Louis and Francis tightening their grip on their MP-5 Submachine gun – compliments of a SWAT officer who no longer needed it - and Remington 870 Wingmaster pump action shotgun respectively. Bill had barely taken two steps forward as Zoey pulled up next to him.

The sound came again, with a heart wrenching but chilling clarity, emanating from behind the solitary door that lead in to the alley. The emergency light, threw a dim pool of half-light as the sound crystallized in to the sobs of a woman, in the throes of agony and loss. Zoey swept a lock of stray auburn hair out of her eyes, "Someone's still alive." She was not sure if it was a statement or a question.

Bill crouched, cursing his shrapnel torn knee as Zoey took position beside him. Wordlessly, the other two turned to cover opposing ends of the alley. The slightest of nods spoke and included, "Good luck," "Stay safe," "Keep your eyes peeled," and "Open that door, carefully." The doorknob rattled noisily and the hinges squealed as a mouse caught in the jaws of cat would. The crying echoed from the back of the shadow filled room, louder and more mournful than ever.

"Over there," whispered Bill with a directional nod towards the rear of the shadow shrouded room. With the flick of her thumb, Zoey brought the flashlight taped to her M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol to life. To her right, Bill's gut was acting up. Not acid reflux or indigestion, but the same gut that kept him alive in 'Nam. He swept forward in a crouch casting his own long shadows across the floor. There were shelves along the left and right had walls, effectively cutting the size of the room by a third. The shelves were stacked with boxes of god only knows what as the flashlight swept across a bedraggled clothing that looked as if they had been discarded in a rush, "Hello?"

"Hello?" repeated Zoey. She was two steps behind Bill, but caught the flicker of movement and turned her light towards the sobbing. It looked more and more like a human girl as the weak beam of light revealed her curled on her knees, "its okay. We're going-"

A flash of lightning illuminated the room for a fraction of a second, and the military trained eye noted the grey first. He reached out and snapped Zoey's light down before it would have brought it out of the shadows. The grey was the familiar grey of infected flesh, and only one Infected cried. And they were well within its definition of "personal space," "Witch!" They were crouched perhaps three feet from the most dangerous of Infected, "Light's off!" he whispered, as both of them kept their eyes fixed on the crying creature as they slowly backed towards the door.

Outside, Francis and Louis kept a watchful eye on opposite ends of the alley. Perhaps the crying of the Witch, but it was more than likely the slime that still stank and stained Francis's vest. The first sound of trouble was a coarse chuckling cough. Louis, whose hearing was marginal sharper due to gossip mongering coworkers, caught the sound. Francis turned just as Louis whispered, "Shit."

It was the sound of feet and shoes pounding against the pavement, their footfalls getting louder, their cries more audible as they closed in. From the same bank of fog that had so conveniently shielded the foursome earlier, emerged the leaders of the oncoming horde. The current world record for the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds. World record sprinters can reach forty-five kilometers an hour over short distances. Nobody had clocked the top speed of an infected but it was a safe bet that the average human would have difficulty outrunning one. "Shit," said Louis.

"Shit!" repeated Louis. Francis took aim and fired, dismembering the leader. The horde did not mind. There were many more of them closing the distance. "Shit!" shouted Louis as he barreled in to the storage room to gather the others.

Francis stood his ground, grinned and began picking them off as they closed. More and more of them died which suited Francis fine. That was why survivors have guns, "Damn vampires!" he growled.

"They're comin!" screamed Louis seconds before artificial light flashed over the scene: Bill and Zoey crouched scant feet from the woman, rocking back and forth, crying over her bloody talon crusted hands. He had barely a second to register the sob that changed to a growl as the light illuminated her. Moments after that, blonde hair turned white whipped around as its angry glowing red eyes bored in to Louis, "What the…"

"Run like hell!" Louis question and Zoey's shout overlapped as the creature reared to its feet. Bill shuffled back and cut loose a short burst, knocking the Witch back a step and off balance. Two bullets, one half-step stagger, and half a second of bought time was enough for Bill to throw himself in to the alley and for Louis to slam the door in its face.

Leaning against the doorframe Louis had a moment's respite before she was pounding on the door. At her first blow, it seemed that the door would hold. Her second blow cratered the door. The third carved through the thin metal backed wood and a grey arm and hand that ended in foot long talons flailed about in search of whoever had disturbed her soulful mourning. Louis screamed in retaliation and fired, emptying the magazine through the gaping hole in the door.

Giving the Witch something to cry about Louis did not see his fellow survivors in action, but then, he did not need to. Long days and nights together had built bonds of trust. The protruding arm twitched feebly, "How. Do. You! Like. That!" shouted Louis at the cracked doorway as he swapped in a fresh magazine.

One of the infected dodged its way through the shell shower only to lunge in to the butt of Francis's shotgun with skull shattering force, "Stick together!" roared Francis as he pumped another cloud of buckshot in to the horde. He paused to reload as Zoey snapped off rapid, well-aimed shots with her matched pistols. Bill's assault rifle, a relic of sorts had better range and he picked off a flanking group with a long burst that bisected the alley, "Reloading!" Bill called as he shuffle stepped back and Louis immediately filling the vacated slot in their firing line with controlled bursts to maintain their rate of fire.

The creature had been lurking on the roof top, following them for the better part of a city block, always at a distance. Now it had a chance. Bills ejected and slapped home a fresh magazine when the creature dropped on to the second level fire escape behind and took aim. A high, strangled hiss echoed throughout the alley. It was a cry that no human throat or vocal chords had a hope of emulating as the creature's muscles contracted and sent a wet whip darting through the air. The whip was smooth, muscular and pinkish, like human intestines and could reach several dozen meters to easily wrap itself around Bill like a boa constrictor.

His shout was silenced as the Smoker crushed the air from his lungs. He was barely able to gasp, his voice drowned out by the roaring gunfire and howling Infected. Francis sensed more than heard the ambush as he stole a glance and then turned to find Bill dangling some five feet off the ground. He recognized the length of constricting muscle, had been its grasp more than once, and could sympathize with the veteran's plight.

While the virus, disease, or simply, infection had mutated everyone it tainted, some were tainted to a greater degree than others. The common infected that made up the bulk of the hordes, were semi mindless, unintelligent and overly aggressive, reacting to sustained loud noises and flashing lights. The "Smoker" as the survivors had taken to calling this particular type of infected resembled the average infected but it was taller, almost seven feet tall. Growths, boils and pustules decorated its arms and continuously gave off spurts of green smoke or spores and oily blood. Its bloated face is a large tumor and mutations to the facial bones and jaw structure allows a Smoker to launch a tongue like appendage up to thirty meters to snare prey. With its whip of a tongue coiled and tightening, Bill was finding it harder and harder to breathe. He actually found himself grateful that the tattooed biker with a lambda symbol cut in his hair had actually noticed his predicament, "Hang on!" shouted Francis.

Bill was convinced his ribs would crack before Francis would take the shot. Four shells remained in the breech, but Bertha's recoil meant he would only get one good shot. Francis lined up the jerking, twitching head of the Smoker as Bill began to shuffle off the mortal coil. There was a gasping cough, as if the Smoker could not believe that the blast had reduced is face to the consistency of ground beef accompanied by a puff of nauseating smoke as it coughed its last. The explosive decompression of the Smoker's body blew its corpse off the fire escape.

Two weeks of close quarters fighting had taught them the average horde numbered between thirty and fifty individual infected but when the so called "special infected" started showing up, the horde's numbers would double, for each special infected that appeared. Zoey reloaded for the umpteenth time and risked a glance over her shoulder, partly to check on her companions, partly to make sure that they had a viable line of retreat, "Guys?"

Francis nodded to Zoey who sighed with relief as she turned her attention back to the horde. No one incapacitated. There had been several close encounters and near fatalities when it came to Special Infected like the Smoker. The pair of infected lurking in the shadows snarled and charged. The Remington 870 Wingmaster bellowed once and Francis changed hands and fired one handed, "Merry Christmas" remarked Francis, his way of shrugging off any thanks for lending a helping hand.

The military would have used the Infected as the perfect suicide shock troops. The Infected do not know fear, do not retreat, and gradually gained ground against the two survivors gunning them down. Two weeks before, Zoey had been a first year university student, and half way through the academic year. Having spent most of the semester holed up in her dorm room watching horror movies and gaming, the university's administration had given her a flat ultimatum: Get your grades up or get out. Now, her professors were infected or dead and her "studying" was paying off - cold comfort at best.

Her left weapon ran dry, meaning that she had one or two rounds left in the right. She fired the last two bullets and screamed a warning to her comrades, "Fire in the hole!" The homemade pipe bomb, complete with a smoke alarm's flashing light and beeper flew from her hand with as much strength as her petite frame could muster.

The first beep from the device successfully attracted the attention of the horde. For all of their potential military advantage, the generic infected lack any real intelligence, wisdom or common sense. By the time it had bounced once and beeped for a second time, the entire horde had turned their focus on the small device. A series of quick bursts ripped apart the few stragglers too close or too far from the blast. Bouncing once more, it came to halt as it beeped yet again. The survivors took cover behind the dumpsters and a moment after the fourth beep, Zoey proved the practical application of her education, and graduated at the head of her class as a pyrotechnician.

Fire and shrapnel lanced across the alley and dagger like shards of metal eviscerating the horde. The foursome rose and slaughtered the remaining Infected. The firefight over, they moved through the ocean of corpses that reeked of stale iron and decay. Louis and Francis shared equally grim expressions, while Zoey coughed once and covered her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her jacket. Bill seemed the most unaffected as they reloaded. Perhaps only two minutes had passed when they heard it.

They could not place the sound for a moment, having heard few sounds that related to the civilization that they once knew. Louis was the first to recognize it and his eyes darted skyward. The whirling of the chopper's blades erased the night's momentary silence as it cast a searching beam of light, and hope, down in to the alley, and also highlighting, something else for only a moment, "Hey! We are not infected! Hey!" none of them noticed the hunched half-crouched figure on the roof, its growls drowned by the passing of the chopper.

This particular infected had been following the survivors for the better part of a day, and had watched the Smoker attack and meet its demise. Patience was about to be rewarded as Louis broke away from his companions and chased the chopper in to the street. It moved using protruding pipes and the walls to follow its prey, and finally halted, hanging over the edge of a building with one arm as it coiled its legs in anticipation. Louis watched the chopper curl around a skyscraper and vanish. "Damn it!"

The infection had mutated some people differently, probably something to do with the endless miniscule variations in human DNA, and created several strains of "special infected." This particular mutation had lead to an overdevelopment in lower body strength. Duct tape battened downed the sleeves and legs of the dark hooded sweatshirt and equally bloodstained sweatpants. Four stories aboveground, the coiled legs pushed off the wall accompanied by a high-pitched shrill scream, advertizing a successful hunt. The scream would have, should have stunned its prey, but Louis brought his Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun up and spun just in time to catch a double armful of hungry pouncing Hunter.

Caught in each other's embrace it slammed Louis back first in to the pavement, and the overdeveloped legs effectively pinned Louis across the chest as it slashed down, each hand essentially a cluster of claw tipped hypodermic syringes ready to infect its prey – if it didn't kill it first. "Get it!" Louis dodged the first and second swipes that raked furrows in the asphalt. In desperation, Louis managed to block several of the blows but could feel his strength waning against the Hunter's sheer determination and savage ferocity, "Get it off! Get it off me!"

His cries were a prayer and the prettiest and youngest of his fellow survivors answered them. With the advantage of youth, she broke in to a sprint and lowered her shoulder. She had never been a football player, or even remotely sporty but professional linebackers would have been proud. Her shoulder punted it aside and the bullets began to fly. The first bullet slammed in to the hunter's shoulder, keeping it off balance as the diminutive teenager's hail of bullets made it jerk and dance to the beat of the barrage. The muzzle flashes lit up the scene for Louis including the bloodied, eyeless sockets and face of his would be assassin.

Drawing his pistol, his hand wavered and his first shot went wide. The second barely grazed an already wounded shoulder. Then a burst of rage and adrenalin steadied his hand. His third shot took the Hunter through the throat, splaying it across the back of a parked sedan, blood leaking from its dozen plus wounds. Perhaps the white sedan took offense to the Hunter's blood upon its already dusty and debris scattered paintwork. Alternatively, the car alarm was just attempting to do its job: Warn off intruders.

However, in a city that essentially belonged to the infected, the loud strident beeping echoed off walls and building, down alleys and even in to the sewers beneath the streets. Individual sounds, no matter how loud such as gunfire, explosions, flashing lights will attract the attention of the infected for only a few seconds. The continuous wail of the siren was the perfect long-term attractant. "Oh…this is going to get bad," muttered Bill.

"No shit old man," thought Francis. The screams and howls of the oncoming horde confirmed what twenty-meter tall shadows, cast across abandoned buildings made clear: There were coming. Instinct took over, as the foursome crept past the still shrieking car and flashing lights as the screams of the Infected ricocheted off the buildings and echoed in their ears. The shadows moved from building to building, getting smaller as the infected closed the distances, putting their numbers in the hundreds.

Standing in the street, they adopted the square formation they had instinctually developed to cover every possible line of attack. They had clear lines of sight down alleys to their three and nine o'clock positions, the road to their six, with the quarantine fences at their twelve. The quarantine fences were chain link steel, bolted in to the ground. Originally, they had been setup and electrified to contain and isolate infected streets, neighborhoods, then districts and then the entire city. Electrified or not, the fences had only slowed the viral spread of the infection.

The fences served to slow the infected because it took them valuable seconds to find hand and footholds in the steel lattice and climb over to continue the attack. Ever the optimist, Louis found himself thinking that things could be worse. There were dozens climbing the fence as he flicked the selector to full automatic. They could handle dozens of infected. They had killed dozens each! Things got worse: The first wave of an incoming tide rounded the far corner of the city block and charged up the street towards them. Louis tried to stay positive: Things could not get any worse.

A brutally loud roar drowned the howling and Francis had a front row seat to the action as a car picked itself off the pavement with a crunch and flew. The airborne vehicle bounced once, then twice as it skidded through the pressed ranks of common infected. It bounced a third time, spinning bumper over bumper before crashing in to and tearing down a fourteen foot stretch of the quarantine fence. Zoey felt the breeze off the flying automobile that came to a rest on its roof, tires spinning as they noted the front and rear doors on the driver's side had been cratered. She shot Louis a glance and he silently agreed: Things could definitely not get any… Louis clamped down on that line of thinking. Having a positive attitude in a crisis was one thing, but at the rate his was bringing in bad news, it was going to get them killed. This was as bad as things could possibly get!

They heard the heavy footfalls, each thundering stride of an infected demigod. Just as the hordes do not care for their individual lives, neither did the massive sinewy, muscled titan. It punched through the Infected running around him and picked up individuals to use as clubs to batter others out of its way. If the Witch were the most dangerous of the infected when angered, then this was the strongest and angriest of all. The pink-skinned monstrosity barreled towards them and Louis took an involuntary step back, and continued stepping back, "Run or shoot?" Louis's voice was a little frantic as they began to back up. It continued to cut a swathe of butchery in its effort to reach the survivors. Its huge muscled arms matched an equally enormous torso the width of a car engine that was a stark contrast to a small, almost shrunken head. It ran like a gorilla, on its hands more than its legs. "Run or shoot?!" Louis asked at a yell over the oncoming chaos.

William Overbeck, recipient of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals, sized up the oncoming Tank, the Infected and had a split second recall of Saigon in April of '75 and Operation Frequent Wind, and the fall of the American embassy in Saigon, "Both!" he yelled.

They four ran and Zoey lead them as the rest fired in a desperate and futile attempt to slow the charging Tank, "Will bullets even work on that thing?" Zoey wondered. They had emerged from an alley only minutes before and were now running in to another one with a horde of infected and a Tank chasing after them "Absolutely lovely!" she thought as she pumped another pair of shots in to an Infected, "Reloading!" she shouted.

Louis had rattled off an entire clip of bullets and he knew he was hitting the target but it was like poking a stick in to termite mound; all he was doing was pissing off an already enraged monstrosity further. They rounded a corner in the alley and almost stumbled to a halt as the Infected swarmed from the opposite end of the alley. "Get to the roof!" Louis pointed to a ladder and Zoey was the first to jump, catch and run, instead of climb.

Radiating an aura of mean Francis turned and jumped on to the derelict hulk of a car and brought Bertha to bear, "Go! Go! Go!" he shouted as he set his sights on the corner. The ground trembled and the buildings shook as in a seizure. It was close. Behind him, Louis emptied the last of his magazine in to the horde, and leapt for the ladder. Bill and Zoey both providing covering fire in different directions as Francis waited with eight, twelve gauge double ought buckshot shells.

"Come on, come on!" he taunted the Tank. It worked as the beast rounded the corner in an apoplectic rage, right in to the clouds of buckshot that peppered its chest and head. That only made it angrier and it responded by smashing Francis to the ground with a corpse club. Stunned, Francis had barely sat up and was left to spectate as the Tank prepared to grind him in to the concrete.

Modern soldiers wield the M16A4 assault rifle that can only fire in three round bursts. With a flick of his thumb, Bill's Vietnam era M16A2 demonstrated and proved the value of being able to "rock and roll" as he poured thirty 5.56mm rounds in to the flank of the beast. Point blank range and accuracy did what they could not on the move: Wound it. But also grab its undivided attention. Bill ducked beneath the tree trunk like arm and the backhand stroke that collapsed the wall of a building as Zoey and Louis rained bullets from above.

Pushing Francis up the ladder, Bill dropped the spent magazine and scrambled for his next to last one only to come face to face with a snarling infected, arm drawn back and raised. Behind him, there was a grunt accompanied by the sound of crumbling stone and tearing metal as a chunk of concrete took flight. Louis scrambled up, narrowly evading the impromptu projectile, "Heads up!" Francis dodged back, hanging on to the ladder with the tips of his fingers as the rock came to a rest on the first level of the fire escape. The Infected hissed in Bill's face for a second and lunged forward with its teeth bared. There was a "zip!" and a "squish!" as a bullet entered the top of its head. Bill blinked and looked up in surprise, "Go on! I'll hold them off!" called Zoey from up high, playing bodyguard as she cut down the Infected one bullet at a time. Bill scrambled up the ladder, stealing a glance over his shoulder at the tank, now standing tall.

What the Tank lacks in agility it compensated for with brute strength. With a roar, it took three magnificent strides and leapt. Metal bent and the fire escape broke free of the wall as the one-ton tank gained its footing and went after Bill. Zoey rocked on her feet and continued to fire down as Bill scrambled up. She hesitated for a split second, as Louis pulled a slightly dazed Francis on to the roof of the building, and then continued shooting. She knew she was hitting it, and hitting it in the face but it just got angrier and more determined to kill someone.

The Tank's destructive progress unbalanced the already fragile structure, jarring Bill hard enough for his rifle to go spinning in to the alley. He almost went back for it, but took Louis's outstretched hand as the entire structure swayed unsteadily, as the Tank tore its way on to the second level of the fire escape. Zoey rocked and swayed as she emptied another two magazines in to the Tank's sunken head and face. It grabbed the ladder and pulled, tearing it free, along with most of the supports holding up the structure. She slammed hip first in to the railing as the entire structure tilted dangerously. Pain flared in her mind and one gun went spinning in to the darkness of the alley below. The Tank reached up with a single massive hand, inches from grabbing Zoey when the metal structure gave a shriek. So much weight, so high up exceeded all real and imaginary limits and tolerances of the fire escape as the few remaining load bearing beams snapped like twigs. The entire structure, torn completely free of the wall seemed to hang still for a moment, and then began to fall.

Hair flying wild around her face she ran and jumped, barely able to push off the trailing edge of the falling structure to gaining precious inches in height, arm outstretched overhead as she shrieked the first name to come to mind, "Francis!" Her hand barely cleared the edge of the roof and she felt herself reach the absolute apex of her jump. Terrified, she stared upwards for a fraction of a second, wondering where the others were, and had all but given up hope when she felt flesh beneath her outstretched hand, and fingers that coiled firmly around her wrist. Instinctively, she did the same, and found herself staring in to Francis's eyes that spoke, "Thanks… I knew you wouldn't leave me." It was an awkward moment for Francis as he read her eyes.

Life, it seemed, was not without a certain sense of irony. She stared down, beneath her feet as the fire escape collapsed in on itself, the roar of anger, and perhaps protest not lost over the sound of shattering metal. The Tank struck the ground like a bomb, sending up clouds of dust and broken stone as the buildings trembled at the impact. Seconds later, the fire escape had its revenge on the tank and the remnants of the horde as it crushed them in a cocoon of broken metal.

Francis dug deep and with an explosive burst, pulled Zoey up, high enough for Louis to grab her and collectively pull her on to the roof. Exhausted, they fell in to a heap for a moment and then awkwardly spread themselves out. Francis had half a decade on Louis, who had at least a decade on Zoey. Francis collapsed backwards, coming to lean against the cool brownstone that soothed his aching muscles. Zoey sprawled on to the roof as Louis slumped to his knees.

"We made it!" An elated Louis threw out between gasps as he wiped the sweat away from his smiling face. His tie had been crooked long before their latest encounter, and his white shirt was grey, and black and drenched in sweat and tainted blood. But he didn't really care at that moment, "I can't believe we made it!"

With his back to them all, sitting on the steps that would have lead to the now destroyed fire escape, Bill pulled the sweat soaked cigarette from behind his ear. A series of deep tears through the heavy fabric of his jungle fatigues marked a close encounter with either a Witch or a Hunter. Nobody had asked him about it. There was the trademark flick of a lighter, a brief pool of yellow orange light as he lit up, "Son, we just made it across the street." Bill took a drag, "Let's not throw a party until we are out of the city." He exhaled, pushing another cigarette behind his ear.

They strolled to the edge of the building and looked down, four stories in to the streets. Where streetlights still functioned and the burning wrecks of vehicles were still smoking the light revealed hundreds of infected. They stood still and swayed, wandered and walked the streets, or hammered away at each other. It was clear that they were waiting for the next thing to trigger a killing frenzy. Bill, Francis, Louis and Zoey: Four survivors, four guns, knee deep in the twice dead, standing against the walking dead had not come this far, to die.