Clips 5 & 6 – With Friends Like These…

"Hey Sam" said Eight, oh-so-casually. "It occurs to me that we haven't really shown Five here the neighborhood – or the neighbors." I can already tell which direction this is headed, and I don't like it. In fact, that statement sums up the whole of my relationship with Eight pretty darn well.

There was a brief silence, and then Sam started in, somewhat uncertainly, "Y'mean New Canton?"

"I sure as heck don't mean the zombies," Eight retorted, looking over at me with a grin.

I kept running without so much as glancing in her direction. I could still see her in my peripheral vision, though, and I'm sure she knew it.

Sam still didn't sound all that convinced. "Do we … WANT to start a war with New Canton?"

"Just a little payback, Sam." She kept her voice light, but there was an edge to it. "Doncha remember how they herded those zoms toward us when they were building new barracks?"

Even though we're miles away, I can picture Sam up in the comms shack, squinching his mouth up the way he sometimes does, rubbing one hand over the bridge of his nose. "Awwwwh… yeahhh, but…"

"If the Major were here, we'd check with her," Eight cut in before he could protest further. "As it is, New Canton's to the north. Our exit is to the north. You know it makes sense." She enunciated that last part so hard that she was practically spitting.

Right, I thought, though I didn't say a damned thing aloud. This is all about what makes sense. Sure, Eight. And when we get back, we're going to get hot showers and pedicures.

"Speed up – quick – towards New Canton," Eight told me, and lengthened her stride, hacking a bit in the process, without giving me a chance to protest.

Not that I would have anyway. Normally I'd trust Sam over Eight in a heartbeat. But then, he's back at Abel, nice and safe – hopefully. He's not the one out here in the field, running beside me.

And of course there's the little matter of the gun.

We ran on for a little while, backpacks beeping, before Eight sort of started edging toward me. I was a little creeped out – even more than usual, that is – until I looked over and saw the fence and gate to what I guessed was New Canton a few hundred yards away. I couldn't help noticing that Eight had begun veering toward it even before it was in sight. I didn't want to think about what that might mean.

There was a clatter of gunfire, and then a voice. It was over a loudspeaker, though, instead of through our headset – and it was definitely not Sam. "STOP! In the name of New Canton, not a STEP further!"

It was the guns that slowed me down, rather than the shouting. Eight shouted at me as well, reminding me that there was an enormous pack of zombies behind us, as though I had forgotten about that.


I mean, granted, I sure as anything don't want to be a zombie snack. But I'm not particularly keen on getting shot, either.

We were now less than a hundred yards out. "Stop!" came the shout over the loudspeaker. "Stop or we shoot to kill!"

"Keep going!" insisted Eight.

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. But by this point, the noise and the lights from New Canton had attracted the attention of the swarm, and when we began to turn slightly, I could see that they were heading for the gates rather than following us anymore.

There was more gunfire, but thankfully, now it was aimed at the zombies rather than at us. "Township SCUM!"

"Wahoooo! Well, THAT'S one way to take down a bunch of zoms!" Eight crowed. I shot her a dirty look and she rolled her eyes at me. "Oh, don't worry about New Canton. They've got the firepower to deal with them. Means you and me are home free." She put a hand to her headset. "Hey, Sam! How's the gate coming?"

There was a pause – probably he switched over to another channel to radio Janine or one of the techie sorts. "Yeah – nearly there. Come on in if you're not dragging a pack behind you."

We'd been out for a while, but we'd zigzagged a bit, so I figured we probably weren't more than ten minutes or so away from Abel. Thank God. I made a mental note to find out who was in charge of assignments and cozy up to whoever it was so that I'd never ever get paired up with Eight again.

She didn't actually turn off her headset, but she ever so carefully moved the microphone away from her mouth, and lowered her voice. "I guess this turned out to be less of a good time for a little chit-chat than I hoped, Five. Truth is… I wanted to find out if I could trust you." I could tell by the set of her jaw that she still wasn't sure about it, but she went on anyway. "There's some pretty strange stuff going on 'round here. The major's called away on urgent business. Someone brings a chopper down, firing from the middle of the zombie wilderness. And YOU turn up like a white knight. Too. Damn. Convenient. Five."

Fortunately, before she could continue making idiotic accusations, there was a sigh of relief through our earpieces. "Got 'er working again! Ahhh! Welcome home, runners. Great run – not a SINGLE hostile ANYWHERE near our gates."

"Oh, YEAH. Me and Runner five here make a GREAT team. We'll be going out together all the time. Won't we, Five?" She started hacking again, as though that was the best way to convince me.

I hate you so much.

Sam didn't sound as sure, though. "Uhhh… yeah… mmm… maybe not next time, though. We're getting reports that there might be a child stuck in no-man's land. Get some rest, Runner Five, because we'll need you to do another fast run as soon as you can."

He sounded a bit apologetic, but after the time I'd spent with Runner Eight, heading out to face the mindless undead sounded almost pleasant in comparison.

[AN: Hurray! I finally finished. The closing sequence (Missions 21-23) is coming up next, because I have some ideas for what happens immediately after you hear the final ## Mission complete. Hope you like it! DON'T FORGET TO REVIEW! ]