Storage Space.

By Nullification

Storage space for Immortuae,just in case I lose everything else somehow or forget a password like an idiot. Feel free to read.
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Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

It was as though the world had imploded upon itself in just a matter of days. There was no warning, it just happened overnight, one second the world was bustling and bright, vibrant and full of life and now it lay in smoky ruins, a ghost of what it once was. Scientists always professed that there would be another mass extinction, another mass cull of a species like it did with the dinosaurs all that time ago but no one took the science seriously. It had gotten them nowhere and now it held no ground; it had happened and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Among the initial chaos, fortresses erected across the countries, not run by military or government but by simple people who had survived the initial outbreak. They were not home to many, a survivable outpost at best for a handful of fortunate wanderers who came across the havens. Fear was what kept people alive, many said it was the love for those around you or the stubbornness at simply refusing to cave but it was fear, it always had been just the sheer idea of dying such a horrible death or the fear of being alone at the end.  
Sharp blue eyes surveyed the horizon dotted with silhouetted trees as dawn broke over another cold morning, breath exhaled in clouds of condensation. Not much kept the cold out these days but they managed just fine, a tattered and well-worn coat slung over a thin figure with a smash of dark hair. It was never actually quiet now; she couldn’t remember the last time there had been simple silence around her and a sense of serenity. It was gone with the rest of the world and she shifted from the high spot overlooking shoddily made walls to climb down to ground level. This had once been a marvellous little village, hosting farmers markets and nurseries, the sign of a crucifix set against a pale pink sky reminded her that there was no God and if there was, then He had abandoned them to this plague.  
“Hey, what’s the report?” A man with a gun hung loosely around him approached, dressed in camouflage but there were chunks of clothing missing and it was patched up with something leather by the look of it. He had fair features, almost considered too pretty for something like this outbreak. The woman regarded the man for a brief moment, flexing her cold fingers and shrugging.  
“There was a couple, didn’t bother with the gun, too much noise.” She gestured up where she had left an old hunting bow for him to use if he so desired to at least and he stretched his arms over his head in a theatrical manner with a stupid grin on his face.  
“Why have they got you doing this, anyway?” He asked her, she knew him by Jay, what his full name was remained a mystery and whatever it was before didn’t really matter anymore in the grand scheme of things. A name was just a name, no one even put them on gravestones anymore.  
“Need the numbers I suppose after the last accident.” The female responded, cringing at the thought. Jay quietened at that and just gave a sharp nod of understanding.  
“Did no one come back, not even one person, Cass?” He asked and Cassie just shook her head. A scouting party of about ten sent to the city to try and gain supplies and they had been ripped apart. She hadn’t seen it; it was rare she was ever allowed to leave the safe confines of the walls.  
“Where’re you heading now? Back to the infirmary?” Jay asked and she just nodded, at least it would be warm there and she knew winter would come soon and that would bring about a whole host of new problems. The conversation was done as Jay climbed up to the outpost to keep an eye and Cass moved on. Everyone had to do their share of watches and hers had just so happened to land on the midnight until dawn watch, she never felt the exhaustion nowadays, there wasn’t time for it. A slip in judgement, a pause or hesitation could cost anyone their life. That was where Cass came into it.  
She had been a nurse almost when the outbreak hit, only a few months off of finishing her schooling for it. She never told anyone much about herself, never spoke of a family or friends, she kept to the infirmary and was a ‘valuable asset’ according to the higher ups that ran this place. She was very rarely allowed outside and put at risk. There had been a doctor but he had been torn apart a while ago, now it was just Cass and she hoped for everyone's sake that another medical professional showed up soon but as the days crawled by, the chances got slimmer and slimmer. There were others, there had to be because the thought that their little outpost of almost one hundred was the last was a much too depressing thought to carry.  
Cassie found herself back in the infirmary. It was nothing special, an old community hall that had been converted with beds and what meagre supplies they had left over. An old, rickety safe held most of the medications but only she had the key to them. She slid into a chair, dusty but soft as she stared at the hall. There were only two patients currently, save for whoever would come in later with a cut or bruise needing checked out. An older man, Harris, he had been a farmer and had helped cultivate some of the soil for crops and even rounded up some farm animals. He was a good man, Cassie always thought, he had trained up three younger men to take over the farming aspect but now his old age was getting to him. Cassie supposed it was a heart problem, maybe cancer somewhere and they couldn’t treat him, she could only make sure he didn’t suffer. The other was a young man, one of his lungs had collapsed and again, Cassie could do nothing for him except slow the inevitable and eventually put him out of his misery when the time came. For now, they both slept soundly and she found that to be a quiet reprieve.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

“Hey.” A soft voice sounded and jolted Cassie from her stupor. A blonde woman with mousy features eyed her over and handed over a chipped mug full of black coffee and Cassie nodded to her, grateful for the relief a hot drink would bring.  
“Rhona.” She greeted and sighed out as she leaned back in the armchair that overlooked the two patients.  
“It’s getting colder, we’ll need more blankets and food.” Rhona remarked. She was a rather strange woman, older than Cassie by several years but somehow seemed more innocent. There was something about her that told Cassie she had just given up, that she was defeated and there was no fight left in her. That was dangerous and she didn’t know how to rekindle a fight in someone who had readily lost the will. She stayed surviving because the haven made it so, there was no other reason. She was only alive because other people made it so, she wouldn’t be drawing breath if she was alone.  
“We’ll manage, I’ll speak with Ryan and Chris later.” Cassie remarked and took a drink of the hot liquid, immune to the scalding it left on her tongue because caffeine and heat were such precious resources to her. She rubbed her temples and swallowed the bitter liquid, it tasted awful but she wasn’t about to decline the offer. She needed it, more than wanted it. Rhona just gave a nod, despite living in a group, so little seemed to be said and Cassie always enjoyed the quiet and her own company, it helped her to focus on things that needed to be done. The less people knew about her, the less they would grieve when her time was up and she figured every day was a blessing. Their stories didn’t matter, how they got here and what they needed to do and who they left behind, this plague had been a year, maybe more given time was so fickle. Cassie knew it was safer to blend into the background and trust no one with her story.  
Rhona eventually left her to her own thoughts and Cassie wrapped her fingers around the mug, leeching what heat was left in it after it had been drained. Once, she had hoped the military might just eradicate everything, that they might just drop a bomb or something but they hadn’t. It had spread, it had gotten worse and like any other infection, it had mutated into something terrible. The corpses walked, they evolved and each day there seemed to be a new subspecies of these things emerging. Cassie wished it had been like the movies, where they were slow and plodding and some were like that but others could run, others crawled like spiders and others seemed intelligent enough to wait in the shadows and yank their victims down. Every moment was horrifying and not one person in this Haven had been spared seeing death at its most gruesome and spine chilling. Cassie pulled out a journal, testing the pen and starting to scribble down some notes.  
Ever since she had made it here on nothing but pure luck, she had kept a journal. It documented the infection and how it seemed to spread, how it evolved and the people she met. Their full names, so that if anyone came looking for a relative, she would remember. Most of the names in the journal were dead now, she had been sure to write whether they survived or not, that way no one went looking for a corpse.  
Cass tipped her head back and closed her eyes to the world, revelling in the quiet of the hall for some time as she mulled over everything and for a split second, she thought she might even be fortunate enough to get some sleep in but the doors opened with purpose and three men poured in, dragging a lame man in. There was a smear of blood behind him, where his legs dragged and she furrowed her brow, getting to her feet and eyeing them, gesturing to a free bed.  
“What happened?” She asked and the men each looked at each other when the ginger haired man was set on the bed. He was bleeding from his side and Cass thought maybe it was a shrapnel wound, maybe something had collapsed.  
“We found him at the gate, he was just lying there. Cass, he’s-” Before he could finish, Cass noticed. There was blood pouring from his mouth and he gurgled. She opened his mouth and recoiled slightly. His tongue was gone, missing and it looked like it had been sliced off.  
“Jesus Christ, what is this?!” Francis, one of the men she did recognise looked like he might throw up at the sight. Cass looked him over and then to his side, it was a wound but not consistent with a tear or smash injury from something falling, it was a knife wound. Cass immediately felt her heart rate go up by several beats per minute, this wasn’t an accident. This was an attempted murder and despite living in the centre of an undead apocalypse, murder wasn’t something that sat well with anyone. They still needed some sort of law, some sort of rules to abide by.  
“Go and get Pete, let me see if I can salvage this but-” Cass didn’t think she could. She didn’t think this was something she could finish as she lay him on his side so he could spit up the endless amount of blood that was seeping from his mouth. Cass hands shook as she applied pressure to his side, ignoring the horrible groans that came from him.  
“You, get me a syringe from the bottom drawer, now.” Cass said. She couldn’t fix this, she looked to the man, eyes full of empathy and utter defeat. His lips were tinged blue, face red as he struggled to bring in enough oxygen through the blood-filled gasps. The other men helped as much as they could and Cass administered a shot of the liquid, instant pain relief and it was a mercy. He stopped struggling so much and Cass moved him over as far as she could without tipping him off the bed.  
“I can’t save him.” She whispered to Jacob, the tallest of the men and he paled some. The look on Cassie’s face told him everything he needed to know and he gave a curt nod.  
“Sit with him, I need to tell Pete.” She muttered just as the older man graced the scene.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

Pete was one of the entities that ran this place, he did a wonderful job and was one of the more approachable of the four leaders.  
“What the fuck happened?” He asked and Cass pulled him away from the scene, the three men taking their place around offering what little comfort they could to a dying comrade.  
“He was stabbed, his tongue was cut out.” Cass explained, someone dying wasn’t usually a huge affair, it was just part of life now in all of its gore and grotesque nature. Pete eyed her over, trying to judge whether she had her facts right but Cass was very rarely wrong and this was her forte of expertise.  
“You’re sure?” Pete grunted and Cass glanced to the man and then back to Pete and then nodded.  
“It’s a knife wound in his side, Pete. His tongues been cut out, he can’t tell us who did this. I’ve given him pain relief but I can’t save him.” She murmured, “He lost too much blood.” She confessed and stitching a wound in his mouth wasn’t a good chance of survival and he had lost so much blood already.  
“Is he comfortable?” Pete asked after a minute and Cass looked over, she wasn’t sure but he seemed to have stilled.  
“He’ll likely pass out, then drift away. He doesn’t seem in any pain.” She gave as a professional answer as she could and Pete swallowed, clued away by his Adams apple bobbing. He left her to go and see the man, Cass figured he must have known him by his response and she knew what would happen after he did drift away.  
It wasn’t pleasant and she didn’t want to be the one to do it either. Cass instead sat in a chair, watching the goings on and the gentle assurances from the four men became a silent vigil. It didn’t take very long, only minutes and Pete caught her eye and she pushed herself up once more, going over and trying to find a pulse, checking numerous times but there was nothing.  
“He’s gone.” She said very quietly and Francis looked away.  
“Who’s doing it?” He asked after a minute and Pete reached to his hip and pulled out a hunting knife. Cass took a step back and she gave a nod. He wasn’t a man anymore, just a corpse that would come back in a few minutes.  
“His name was Jackson.” Pete said and he placed a hand to the deceased’s shoulder before jutting the knife in cleanly and into his skull through his temple. The spatter of what little blood was left in his system pooled on the ground and Cass's jaw clenched at the sight but she didn’t move.  
“We’ll take him out back.” Pete said softly and patted Cass on the shoulder before he and Jacob lifted the corpse, draping a ratty blanket over his features and carrying him through to the back of the building and out to an enclosed area. Cass followed and stood by the door, watching with an expressionless look on her face as they doused him an accelerant. It didn’t take much and they moved dry twigs and sticks brought in from the surrounding area. A quick spark of a match and the body caught fire, it was the best way to get rid of the dead and it was best done quickly.  
“You’re sure this was murder?” Pete muttered, questioning her for a second time as he stood at her side. He sparked up a rolled-up cigarette. He offered her a drag and Cass gratefully accepted, taking a long inhale and handing it back. She held her breath for a few seconds before exhaling the plume of smoke.  
“Yeah, that’s not an accident. He didn’t do it to himself.” She pointed out, no one could have done that to themself. If he wanted to kill himself then he could have just shot himself in one of the old houses or wandered out into the woods and waited for the undead to eat him. Whoever did this wanted him to suffer.  
“We can’t have a murderer inside these walls, Cass.” Pete said and Cass knew that. She was worried that the spread of panic would cause a mob. Tensions were already high and every single person in this haven was able to kill, but killing the living and few survivors left seemed oddly heinous by nature. They had enough to contend with between surviving day to day without worrying about one of their own taking lives.  
“What will you do?” Cass asked as she watched the corpse of Jackson burn.  
“We’ll need to figure out who it is and why.” Pete remarked, although it wasn’t as though they had a detective ready and waiting on the side-lines. This would need a very careful amount of control so there was no panic.  
“Keep it quiet for now.” Pete warned and Cass just nodded, she figured it would be that way for a while.  
There was a sombre ambience that wouldn’t go away, the blood was cleared up and the body taken care of in the most tribalistic of fashions. Nothing was spoken between those who had witnessed it and heading down to the canteen area, an old, degraded school cafeteria, was silent. There was no mirth or light hearted conversation going on as they sat at the table and eyed over the food. They did remarkably well for food, hunting parties often found rabbits and even the occasional deer and the vegetable gardens were doing better now everyone had the hang of growing them. Still, Cass found herself missing a simple burger more and more as the days went by. She eyed the stew, rabbit again by the look of it or at least she hoped so. Times had been harder than this in the beginning and at one point the folk who made the food told her not to ask what the meat was. Cass figured it was horse or something, she had survived either way and that was the important thing now, surviving regardless of the cost.  
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Jay sat beside her, chuckling a little and he eyed the others. Cass pushed a smile and shook her head,  
“Just tired. How was watch?” She asked as she started to eat some of the stew. She missed bread, she missed it a lot actually but it was impossible to come by and she was yet to see anyone clever enough to make it.  
“Quiet. They sent out a scavenging party at dawn.” Jay remarked with a shrug as he dug into his meal with fervour and Cass figured they would. Even with the small bounty they had here, they always needed more. Now there was a murderer among them somewhere, a cruel one at that and it just added extra tension to the already sparking air. The scavenging party would be back soon, with any good fortune unhurt. It was unlikely but they could hold out some portion of hope. Jay reclined after eating his portion, it was small but it kept them going and the portions would only get smaller as time went on thanks to winter fast approaching and the need to conserve what they had already to try and not starve through the cold.  
Cass was slower, everything that happened had thieved away her appetite and eventually she relinquished her scraps to Jay who didn’t argue and seemed to know better than to question. She was a medic, a nurse in every sense of the word and some days she had to deal with some more than questionable situations that were enough to put anyone off their supper. Sleep would fix it, a new day usually roused her out of the slump but it seemed to be lingering a little more today. Jay knew better than to bring it up and make a big deal. Cass would talk it out at some point when it wasn’t raw.  
Cass pushed herself up to stand and then headed back to her small cot bed in the back of the infirmary. She fumbled around for her only weapon that had dwindling ammunition and shoved it under a pillow. She was hardly a firearms specialist but she knew it could pack a punch and it was some sort of pistol that would save her life in a tight spot. If it didn’t save her life then it would at least alert others that something was wrong and she gave a check over the two patients she had, neither was looking good but a few scant hours of sleep would help her out and she would wake and take a look over them. Alarm clocks were out, most people relied on their body clocks and it wasn’t as though anyone got a full eight hours anymore.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

It was pitch black when she woke, getting up immediately and going to check on the two in their beds, both sleeping soundly and resting. She couldn’t offer any more than that as she fixed the blankets around them both to keep out the nip in the air and she fixed some of the cheap, solar lanterns in place around them. She didn’t know what time it was, just that it was either the middle of the night or the very early hours of the morning. Peter must have upped the night watches, she could see more torchlights and movement outside than usual, she had to wonder who actually knew what had gone on the previous day. Cassie cringed at the memory of the blood and folded her arms across her chest.  
“Thought I’d find you up.” Jay had come in at some point and Cassie looked over her shoulder at him. She offered up a half-assed smile and he handed her some black coffee, it was bitter but it was hot and she wouldn’t say no. Coffee was one of the things that never really expired and even if it did, she was passed caring.  
“Peter told some of us what happened, you alright?” Cassie’s behaviour at dinner made perfect sense now that hindsight was in play and he understood what was going on. He rubbed the back of his neck and watched the dark-haired woman sip at her beverage.  
“I’m fine, what did Peter say?” Cassie asked after a moment of thought. It wouldn’t do anyone much good to know that the place was being stalked by a murderer with some sort of motive.  
“He said no one is to go around by themselves, those of us that know are to keep an extra eye on things.” Jay remarked, peter never was one for words and there was little he could do without causing panic. Subtle changes seemed to be the best way to go about this entire ordeal. Cass figured as much and she knew that Jay and the handful of others would have to remain completely vigilant about any suspicious behaviour.  
“Peter ought to tell everyone. At least then, everyone would be on guard.” Cass pointed out. Jay shrugged a little, far be it from them to make any judgement calls. The mere idea of running an encampment to this level was baffling and he found himself actually missing the tit for tat politics he had grown up with. Cass took his silence as disagreement but didn’t press the matter much further, it was hardly worth squabbling over semantics.  
“They’re sending another patrol out.” Jay remarked, “I was asked to bring you along.” So, the coffee had been a peace offering then, a bribing mechanic and Cass didn’t look away from the window as she mused over the idea. She wasn’t being asked, orders were orders and she eventually nodded to him.  
“I’ll get my things ready; God knows you lot could use someone who knows what they’re actually looking for when it comes to medicine.” She muttered. Perhaps the thought of getting away from this place for a while might clear her mind.  
“Meet us at sunrise at the eastern gate.” Jay said and patted her on the shoulder before retreating before the dark-haired woman could change her mind on the matter.  
Dawn didn’t bring any warmth with it as the sun threatened to break the horizon and spill out a new day. She rubbed her eyes and fastened the satchel to her person; it was empty besides an old pistol that threatened to misfire every three or so shots and a hunting knife for the times they needed to be quiet. These sorts of things were beyond dangerous and Cass knew each venture out with the safety of the gates was a risk they took with their lives but as she rolled up to the gate, she could see it was a decent enough line up. Jay, Francis and a few other experienced scavengers.  
“What’re we looking for?” She asked them as they readied up the scuffed and damaged van, loading it up.  
“Fuel, and the other patrol that didn’t come back.” Francis remarked casually, “Plus whatever we can find on the way.” Cass only raised an eyebrow, if the patrol hadn’t come back then they were likely dead but it made sense why they wanted her along in case there were injuries and she could salvage them. They couldn’t afford to lose gunners and even worse, the patrol probably had supplies on them that they so desperately needed. The van was a tight squeeze, shoulder to shoulder as the five of them crammed in and Jay was behind the wheel with Francis playing lookout in the passenger side.  
“They headed towards the city outskirts, planned to hit a couple of old convenience stores just in case they had anything left.” David, an older man with a scruffy beard said as he scratched at it under his chin. He had seen plenty patrols and Cass was almost sure he came back from each one three years older and angrier at the world. He’d lost his wife not long ago, a heart attack, Cass remembered her fondly as a sweet woman with a kind heart never meant for this world. That would be enough to destroy anyone's optimism and she often wondered why he kept going. Cass had never made it back to her parents, she presumed they were dead given their elderly state when this all broke out and she knew it was too dangerous to even try to find out. Acceptance was part of this ordeal and it was easier to accept what had happened and start as fresh as she could.  
Rain began to patter down on the windshield of the car and Jay slowed his pace down given the wipers barely worked.  
“Hold it, pull over.” Francis called and Jay slammed the breaks, causing everyone to jolt forwards and he clambered out into the pouring rain. Cass shifted to peer forward but the rain was slick against the glass distorting her view of everything as she gazed at whatever Francis had managed to see. He came back after a few minutes, soaked to the bone and he held up a rucksack that was once a beige colour but was stained and tattered.  
“Christ, that’s Greg’s.” Jay muttered, there were darker patches on the bag that Cass knew were blood and she swallowed. No one would have left that behind willingly. Cass wasn’t even sure where they were or how far from the spot they had been.  
“Looks like he was heading back.” Francis said quietly and Cass rolled down her window, ignoring the rain. There didn’t look to be any dead around and she felt an uneasiness creep into her stomach. She knew damn well Greg had been a good fighter and a better shot. Cass ran a hand down her face and the journey moved on in silence.  
Cass watched the wet lands go by and a few trashed houses littered the sides of the road before Jay finally stopped. 
“Keep quiet, any dead, take them out silent.” Francis remarked as he got out. The doors weren’t shut all the way to stop the imminent bang they made. Cass eyed the area, it had once been a small town and there were looted shops around, most of them were lost causes but it was worth checking. People in their panic, usually left things. Cass followed the handful of others as she peered in shop windows, most of the shop fronts had been broken into and Jay stuck close with her. He nodded into what looked to be an old general store and Cass just followed his lead with the others and they dipped inside, careful not to disturb the broken glass underfoot.  
It was derelict.  
Cass always used to hate the jingling music they played in these places, now it was just haunting to think that the bare shelves would forever remain unstocked. There were patches of dried, scabbed blood littered around, evidence of the massacre. Flies buzzed around the patches, disturbed by the new visitors. Cass eyed the shelves, a few cans with faded labels remained and the men wasted no time in shoving them into their bags. It was food, they needed it and whatever it was, they would make work. Cass moved through the aisles and her hunting knife was held fast in her hand in case, it wasn’t unheard of to have the dead creep up or spring from somewhere nearby. The medicine aisle, it was stripped back to skeletal remains but what did remain was still worth taking. Pills, bandages, a first-aid box was left under a small gap and it seemed untouched. It wouldn’t help with major injuries but it was better than nothing. She crammed it into her bag and moved along, careful to remain within hearing distance of the others just in case something happened.  
A shuffle caught her attention and she pressed against the shelves, that way nothing would be able to sneak up on her and she listened closely. It was the other side of the aisle and she slinked along, finding an opening and peering through. The smell hit her first and she pulled her scarf around her nose and her steps were quiet as she made her way up behind the once human, it was the head or nothing and these things still decayed which made their bones soft so slipping the hunting knife into its skull was almost nothing. It had been more difficult in the early days, jamming any sort of weapon into a skull of hard bone required good strength and so many had perished getting it wrong but now the creatures were gooey. The dead didn’t get a chance to make a sound as it collapsed to the floor in a heap of sickening noises of squelching flesh and snapping rubber band bones. She didn’t recognise whoever it had been and they looked to have been standing here for an eternity. The blood was dark and long dead, giving it an almost black look as she wiped her hands on her tattered and worn jeans.  
“Everything alright?” Jay appeared at her side and Cass nodded, checking the pockets of the dead. Nothing was found and Jay just looked her over, he was checking for a bite or scratch but she looked clean and Cass knew it was protocol. A bite would get you infected; on occasions she had seen scratches do it too but those were only from old dead. She would do the same and look over anyone who had been out and about. It wasn’t a risk anyone could take and everyone always gave the same resounding statement when it came down to it; ‘Shoot me before I end up like that’. Their wishes were always met, no one wanted to see anyone turn out like that.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

Cass shot her head up when the sound of loud scraping and a bang was heard, 
“Jesus they’re going to wake the whole fucking city.” Jay muttered before the two of them headed towards the back of the shop to see Francis and David shoving open the back store doors. The keypad lock system had long since been bust to all Hell and Jay hissed at them to keep it down. There was no further movement on the shop floor though and Cass ducked in behind them. The store looked just as cleared out as anywhere else, but there remained a few packets of pills, some liquid medicine and she figured she could make use of it.  
“That’s fresh.” David muttered and gestured to the back exit where a flimsy fire exit sign sputtered with its last legs. Cass followed his gaze to see fresh smears of reddish blood.  
“Did they come through here?” Cass asked after a moment towards Jay and Francis,  
“Must have, we always stop here.” Francis remarked and Cass figured as much but she pushed forward and pressed on the exit bar as the door clicked open and there were a few cars scattered and torn up outside. The loading bay was silent and Cass eyed it over, beside one of the large trucks, there was a gas cannister, left unattended and she moved forward to pick it up, it was almost full and she looked to the others.  
“Cass, I think we found them.” Jay whispered and Cass looked over her shoulder to see a gruesome scene. One of the men lay on the floor, his entrails ripped out being feasted upon by another of their men. Jay hopped down, the creature so involved in its meal it didn’t hear the small sounds and Cass stared in disbelief. The feasting man, Fred, was missing chunks of flesh as testament to where he had been downed and the man on the floor was beyond recognition. They were only days old.  
“Put him down.” David muttered and Francis approached, a strike from behind as both were laid to rest.  
“Must’ve been set upon while filling the cannister.” Cass said quietly and the four of them stood there in quiet, as if holding some sort of minutes silence for their comrades.  
“Come on.” David grunted, “Let’s head back, we’ll take it slow in case we find Greg.” He said and Cass figured Greg must have fled from the place when it had gotten too hot to handle.  
A few more growling dead were dealt with on the way back towards the car and Cass made to get in the vehicle, this time choosing the passenger's side. She stopped when she noticed a piece of paper. That wasn’t there before and she picked it up, unfolding it. In dripping ink, the words ‘We are watching you’ was spelled out and she looked around the buildings. This wasn’t a dead; this was a person and she handed the note to Jay who thumbed over it. The ink didn’t smudge which meant it wasn’t recent and must have happened while they were in the shop.  
“Another group?” Francis asked from where he was peering over the shoulder, “Some survivors in the town?” He suggested and David scoffed as he found a stale cigarette in his pocket and lit it.  
“Ain’t no one surviving in this town, that’s a threat. Let’s get back.” He muttered as he exhaled smoke with every word and Cass just nodded in agreement. If they were being watched, she would rather deal with it where they couldn’t be watched from afar. It did seem like a threat, if they were friendly why wouldn’t they just make themselves known.  
The drive back was slow and the rain didn’t let up but Cass kept her window down, looking in the undergrowth and treeline for any sign of Greg. He had been a ginger haired man so easy to spot, and as tall as a tree to match. He was hard to miss but even with the painfully slow journey back towards ‘home’, the lack of visibility and chances that he could have staggered off anywhere made it almost impossible.  
“Let’s pull over, wait for ten minutes.” Francis said and Cass looked to Jay who just returned the same doubtful look but figured there was no harm in it, if it made Francis feel like he had done everything he could to find the man. The engine shut off and all that remained was the drum of the rain outside.  
“He would’ve shown himself if he heard a car, mate.” Jay said after some time of silence but Francis didn’t respond, he just kept looking out the windows like a nervous deer. He was frantic and Cass pitied him. He must have been close to Greg, or simply didn’t want to admit that all of the scavengers had been set upon. David remained quiet the entire time, just taking the odd drag off the cigarette between his lips before it was finished and he tossed it out of the open window and into the rain to extinguish. No one wanted to be the first person to point out that the ten minutes were up when it came around and Cass focused her attention on watching the treeline and undergrowth for any sort of movement. It seemed impossible with the rain and maybe on a brighter day they might have noticed some tracks or signs of a scuffle but while it was raining, the task was insurmountable.  
“Hey, hey!” Francis grabbed their attention and practically flung himself out of the car, haring towards a figure stumbling out of the bushes some metres up ahead.  
“You’re fucking kidding!” Cass muttered as she got out and drew her hunting knife just in case this was a dead that Francis was throwing himself towards. She ran behind him with David and Jay in tow. There it was, the flash of red hair and Cass couldn’t believe it. Francis had Greg hauled up to his feet and was already walking him back. Cass felt a lurch in her stomach, they didn’t know if he was infected or not.  
“Wait, we need to check him.” Francis stared at her in shock at those words. They couldn’t risk taking an infected back into the haven like this and Cass knew it was heartless but an outbreak within the walls would be devastating. Jay agreed and Greg didn’t seem to have the strength as he was pulled back to the van and everyone set upon him, checking him for bites or scratches. He looked fairly banged up but there were no noticeable injuries.  
“Get the shirt off.” Cass muttered and his torse showed no signs of a bite. Greg turned around everyone drew back in horror. There was no bite but carved into his skin, scrawled across his back was the word ‘Pig’.  
“What the fuck.” David grumbled as he stared and Cass echoed his words as her thoughts. The important thing right then was that he was clean and Greg couldn’t tell them anything right then, he was dehydrated and weak from what was probably a day of walking, not to mention fighting if he had survived this long. The journey back to the Haven was completely silent save for Greg’s rasping breathing. Cass wasn’t sure what to say, or what to do. She wasn’t even sure if she could fix Greg up but she would have a better idea once they got back. Francis was cradling Greg like some new-born babe, a man reduced after seeing his friend like this. It was sad in so many ways, Cass thought.  
“You think this is connected to the uh, the tongue?” Jay asked as he looked over to Cass. Cass started slightly, shaken from her thoughts by his question and she narrowed her eyes as she tried to look outside through the cold rain.  
“I hope not.” She muttered. How could it be? Greg had been out, scavenging, the other had been inside the very walls. That would mean an infiltration and Cass wasn’t sure they were able to deal with that kind of thing.  
The gates opened and they pulled up.  
“Francis, take him up to the infirmary. I’ll be there in two minutes.” Cass said to him. She was no leader and nor could she give out orders but when it came to anything medical, people listened to her. She wasn’t a miracle worker, but she was the best this place had and she was working with very limited resources. She climbed out the car and Jay stopped her with a hand to her arm.  
“Will you need any help?” He asked her and she paused for a moment, usually she would shoo away any concerns but there was something unsettling about all of this.  
“I’d appreciate it.” She said to him and Jay gave her a grin and a nod, helping her with her bags as they both headed back to the infirmary. Francis was hovering like a worried mother and Cass knew that wouldn’t help anyone.  
“I’ll send Jay to get you. Let us get him settled.” She explained and Francis scuffed his feet, he looked utterly torn between what to do but eventually, he relinquished to Cass and shuffled out. Francis was no use to anyone worrying and he would be too invested to be calm through this.  
“Strip him.” She said to Jay as her fingers started on his remaining clothing. He was bruised horribly; his limbs were half frozen but there was no bite mark or scratch. He looked like he had been beaten to a pulp by something.  
“Greg, stay with us buddy.” Jay encouraged and Cass looked him over. He was rough and he would need a few days of rest and hydration before he would be up for anything.  
“It can wait until morning.” Cass said to Jay with a knowing look. Everyone had questions but they would need to wait until Greg could even form a sentence. They changed him into warm clothes and Cass pulled a blanket over him. She brought water to his lips where he drank greedily and then he stilled, asleep.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

“What did you think?” Jay asked as they both sat at one of the tables and she breathed out.  
“He might get an infection; he needs rest and water.” Cass murmured to him, unsure of how to properly process any of this information. They were being watched, targeted even and it wasn’t something unusual, survivors fought over scraps but this was different.  
“D’ya think this has anything to do with the tongue thing, the other day?” Jay asked her and Cass paused. If it was connected then that meant they were at risk within the walls from an outside threat.  
“Maybe, better to wait until that’s definite.” She pointed out. It would still need to be reported to the head guys but Cass's job was done right then, she needed to look after her patients. She looked to Greg and motioned for Jay to give her a hand rather than standing around looking somewhat useless. She gently peeled back his shirt and took it off, ignoring the groans of protest at the pain as she got a basin of clean water and dripped some alcohol into the basin along with it. Makeshift disinfectant but it would only stretch so far. She pulled a blanket to his lower half and covered him adequately, looking him over. Gentle dabs over the assaulted area and thankfully, Greg seemed completely out of it and didn’t seem to recognise the sting that would be present by such an action. Cass eventually let him rest and she would do what she could to keep him drinking. He could say his own piece when he was able.  
“Coffee?” Jay offered and Cass looked to him, nodding. Thankfully, coffee didn’t really spoil and enough scavenger trips had brought back granules of the liquid energy to keep people going. It wasn’t an essential, more like a small memory of home, an echo of what was. She was left in the silence of the makeshift infirmary, save for the ragged breathing of Greg as he tried to sleep but was more unconscious than resting. Cass checked him over, the level of disturbance in her stomach only deepened because there were more questions than answers. At least he was ‘home’ and somewhat safe.  
“Here.” Jay stuck a mug of coffee under her nose and Cass took it, wrapping her fingers around the hot ceramic. It almost burnt her tongue but Cass didn’t stop herself from taking a few swallows of the liquid.  
“You should get some sleep.” Jay remarked to her and Cass snorted slightly at the offer. She couldn’t sleep, this was going to be a long-haul thing now.  
“I’d love to, but if he develops a fever or temperature or anything like that, then I have to be able to get to him immediately.” She pointed out, only being practical. Thankfully, Jay seemed to understand.  
“Yeah, I ought to go and get myself on patrol.” He remarked and retreated, Cass heard the door close and she was left in the quiet. She rubbed her eyes and set her coffee down on her desk, settling behind it in the crappy armchair that had been roughed around too much. It sank in defeat when she relaxed on it and listened to the ragged breathing in the room.  
There were a few gunshots as time went off, no doubt picking off the odd dead corpse that strayed too close and she didn’t pay it too much attention, eyeing the papers in front her. She found a pen that still had some ink left, noting down her findings and illustrating it. A missing tongue, then whatever had happened to Francis, it was awful. She wasn’t even sure if there was an answer, they might not even be connected but they had happened so close together that it seemed unbelievable to her that they couldn’t be. She didn’t know what the hierarchy was planning, with any luck it would be something decent. Cass didn’t have enough supplies to be dealing with a new body every day and if they were lucky, they wouldn’t have to. Corpses didn’t write on people's flesh, they just devoured it as and when they pleased. Francis’ attack must have been from another person. They had wiped the group and left him alive though, to send the message and Cass gave up after an hour or so of racking her brain to try and figure out what was going on. They hadn’t wronged anyone, taken in who they could so why would anyone want to send such a cruel message in such terrible ways?  
“Have you not slept?” A voice alerted her and she realised it was Francis, the rasp in his chest was worrying as she got to her feet and approached him, checking him over.  
“Someone’s got to keep an eye on you.” She chuckled in response, although it was strangled in her throat some. He seemed to be conscious enough, so that was enough for now. He was hardly fit for anything else and she offered him some water. He drank, greedily.  
“What happened to you?” Cass asked, at least in the quiet he wouldn’t be hounded for answers off of everyone. It was peaceful, he had the quiet and she wouldn’t press him, not like this. She could see his consciousness slipping and she was pleased he had managed to drink at the very least.  
“They came out of nowhere Cass, we tried to stop ‘em.” He managed quietly, “Thought I was dead. I woke up at the side of the road and the biters weren’t even around, just bodies.” There was a croak to his voice that Cass didn’t like the sound of, he probably had a torrent of broken ribs and she wasn’t in the business of doing surgery. This wasn’t a hospital.  
“Do you remember if they said anything?” She asked him and Francis gave a spluttering laugh.  
“They laughed at us, they took the others down like they were nothing and they just laughed.” He murmured but Cass could see he was losing the battle with staying awake so she let him slip back to blackness in peace. He hadn’t given any answers, not really. She ought to report to the others and she glanced around to see everything seemed safe enough and she ducked outside, shielding her eyes against the light.  
“Jen, watch them, come get me if anything changes.” She said to the mousy haired teenager who was hovering nearby and she nodded with a mock salute before heading inside.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

“You look worse than a corpse.” Andrew, one of the head-honchos approached and Cass nodded, she couldn’t even fight him on it because if she looked even slightly like how she felt, then she looked bad.  
“Where’re the others?” She asked him, flatly. Pleasantries could wait for a short amount of time at the very least.  
“In the cafeteria.” Andrew remarked and gestured for her to follow, guessing that she had some sort of information otherwise she wouldn’t be asking at all. She followed and moved along with him, the cafeteria was quiet but it was too early for breakfast to be done and ready to be served. At least there was fresh eggs from the chicken coop they had managed to salvage and raise a handful of hens in, they weren’t endless though and the hens were already starting to look old as it was.  
“Cass has some news.” Andrew announced and Cass took a seat at the table, looking around at them all.  
“Well?” Peter asked as he took a drink from a chipped and worn mug.  
“Francis woke.” Cass started and folded her arms, looking to them all, “He can’t remember much, he said they laughed and killed the rest of the party. He’s in bad shape, but they left him deliberately at the side of the road.” She explained, “He’s a warning, I think.” She finished and eyed the stunned faces around the table.  
“A warning to us?” Peter asked and she nodded. She couldn’t imagine the reason why they would need a warning. They had a lot that people wanted but as far as she was aware, they had never turned anyone away, nor come into conflict with anyone else.  It was strange and she wasn’t entirely sure if the big guys would know of a reason why. She figured it would be extraordinary for anyone to lash out like this, it had been nothing short of cruel and inhumane.  
“We should double our patrols and watches.” Peter said finally and Andrew folded his arms over his chest,  
“We already have as many as we can spare doing watches, he went out with a group of six, so they must have had more people than them for that to go so bad.” Andrew commented and Sara, an older woman who was starting to go grey and had been a logistics specialist in the military tutted.  
“We send out bigger groups, no one leaves alone and we boot up the radios again, we’ll have to spare the batteries.” She murmured. Cass looked between them, feeling somewhat lost.  
“Will he live?” Peter cast to her as she listened and she just shrugged.  
“He could have an infection, not to mention the trauma. They beat him pretty bad and the knife wounds go pretty deep, I don’t have much left to treat him but I’ll try.” She explained to them. The wounds had hardly been hygienically. They understood at the very least and Cass was relieved she didn’t have to argue her point. They couldn’t spend all of the antibiotics on one person, resources were too precious.  
“There might be another group out there, looking to take from us.” Sara muttered; it wasn’t a farfetched idea. They were deep into the end of days and people needed food and it was becoming scarce in supply. Everyone had to protect what was theirs and it was becoming difficult to even fathom making it through a week outside of the safety of a community.  
“Have we pissed anyone off?” Andrew asked, rather bluntly and a silence fell as Sara and Peter exchanged looks.  
“Not that I know of, we haven’ turned anyone away for a long time and don’t suppose we have any need to.” Sara said, she usually kept logs of who came and who left. She was good that way, nothing escaped her notice. Peter was abnormally quiet.  
“A scavenging party raided smallholding not too long ago, said it was stocked up. They waited for an hour, so they say. Said it was stocked up really well. Freddie said there was fresh tyre marks but no one showed up.” Andrew explained. Cass thought for a while, 
“Who led that party?” She asked and Sara sighed out,  
“Jay did.” She muttered, “With Francis.”  
As it was, Jay was brought in and the questions began.  
“How long did you wait?” Peter asked him as they sat in the cafeteria with Andrew denying anyone entry to their little alcove so they could all speak together.  
“An hour, maybe two? Francis noticed the tyre tracks; he was worried someone might come back and if they did, we could take them in. No one turned up.” Jay explained but he looked worried, like a child being told something was their fault.  
“Did it look lived in?” Sara asked, looking lost in thought.  
“Yeah, I guess it did, they had cans upon cans, bottled water and medicine, even a couple first-aid kits.” Jay explained to them, “Look, we waited, we didn’t know they were coming back, and we left them with a quarter of their stuff.” He added for good measure.  
“Were there guns on that trip?” Peter asked, ignoring his added extra for the moment and Jay shook his head,  
“No, there was a packet of cigarettes and an empty ammo box. We didn’t see any guns or ammo while we were there. Do you think this has something to do with what happened to Francis?” He asked, the concern making his voice pitch.  
“We’re exploring every option, you need to stay in the walls though, if they recognise you then...” Peter trailed off and Jay huffed some, running a hand down his face.  
“We didn’t know anyone was there.” Jay added, Cass believed him. He wouldn’t take off of a small group, it wasn’t their way and he would have pushed to have them come back with them.  
“It doesn’t matter now; someone could have seen you and now the group is on the warpath.” Andrew piped up, he had been a teacher once upon a time and Cass still wondered how he was so good with organisation and he was a damn good shot with the rifle he carried.  
“We’ll find jobs for you in here, we can’t risk anyone else being gunned down in the roads.” Peter said, making the decision as he usually did and Cass didn’t disagree.  
“I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to take off anyone. It isn’t our way.” Jay murmured before pushing up, no doubt frustrated at being kept a prisoner in the walls. Cass eyed him and got up after him, following him out.
Nullification     52d ago
Resident Fey

Jay kicked over a garbage can in frustration.  
“I can’t just stay here and play nanny and I won’t. I’ll find them myself, I’ll apologise, tell them it was my call.” He vented and Cass watched him, calm as ever, letting him get it out of his system, “We didn’t see a soul, not for two hours, and it was getting dark. We had to get back so we loaded everything up and just left but we left some cans and medicine and water. Anything we didn’t need. We just thought with it coming so close to winter, we needed to stock up. No one would leave all of that stuff unguarded. Then the dead showed up, we’d made too much noise and we panicked. We just left.” Jay remarked, a hand running through his hair as he finally looked to Cass.  
“I know, everyone knows you wouldn’t have done that.” She assured him, “Come on, we’ll go up on watch, get your mind off it and we can talk there.” The towers made for more privacy than anywhere else here, everywhere had ears and the slightest rumour set the bored tongues wagging. Cass waved down one of the men,  
“We’ll take over, go get some lunch.” She remarked and he didn’t argue, keen to be relieved as he hopped down and she clambered up in his place. Jay followed, albeit slower and less enthusiastic.  
“If this happened because of me Cass, I don’t know what I’ll do.” He murmured as he eyed the clearing.  
“It was a mistake, an accident. You didn’t mean it and besides, we could use the extra pair of hands around here.” She remarked to him, they needed to reenforce the walls for winter, if the dead came around then they risked a haemorrhage in the defences and then they would be in trouble. It was always good to have more gunners around too.  
“I’ll need help with Francis too.” She explained, “Getting him back up and walking, he’ll need support.” She remarked but Jay didn’t seem keen and he kept his eyes on the perimeter.  
A few shots were fired to take out some wandering dead that snarled and staggered forwards, nothing unusual for the most part. 
“There’s more every day.” Jay murmured, “They’re leaving cities now, nothing to eat anymore. They’re spreading out.” He explained to her, “You don’t get out much, you haven’t seen it.” Jay murmured and Cass shot him a look.  
“I was in the hospital when this started, working a backshift and people started coming in with a fever. They had bite wounds and we thought maybe some sort of new strain of rabies but it wasn’t. Watched one of the surgeons stitching someone up have his cheek bitten off. We didn’t know what was going on, then the military showed up, said to kill anyone with symptoms. We didn’t have to, they opened fire on anyone with so much as a sweat.” She muttered and leaned on the rickety fence of the lookout point, “Me and a few others stayed as long as we could, couldn’t get hold of our families, phone lines were packed up. We grabbed our stuff and left. The streets were a warzone.” She expressed with a dry laugh.  
“You had a family?” Jay asked, surprised and Cass shook her head,  
“No, no one. My parents lived in a home, both of them, I doubt they’re around anymore but they haven’t been for a while. Dementia.” Cass explained with a shrug, “I left the city, there were a few of us. One got bitten, he turned and we had to put him out of his misery. We wandered for days, weeks sometimes, sleeping on the roads so the dead wouldn’t get us in the forests.” She remarked to him with a smile,  
“Sorry, I didn’t mean-” Jay started but Cass just shrugged,  
“I don’t know how bad it is now, but we’ve all seen the beginning.” She remarked and he nodded gravely.  
“We should keep you inside too, people out there will do crazy things for a doctor, for anyone who knows anything about medicine.” Jay murmured and Cass knew that much was probably true.  
“Yeah, I figured you’d say that. Hey-” Cass cut off as something caught her eye and she looked out, then down the scope of the rifle. They weren’t dead, they were people and she nudged Jay to mimic her.  
“What the Hell?” He muttered. There was about twenty on foot, others were packed into shabbily armoured vehicles and they were sauntering up, but they were armed and Cass whistled, alerting the other watches.  
“I thought it was too quiet.” Jay said and Cass shot him a look before cambering down and heading for the gate, almost bumping into Peter, Andrew and Sara.  
“I have a feeling they’re not here for a tea party.” Andrew said as he climbed up to look over, a thin runway the lookouts walked above the gate. Cass followed, mostly to see if there were injured amongst their ranks, it wouldn’t be the first time some desperate wounded had hobbled to the gate in search of aid.  
“Open the gates!” A ragged looking man called, his hair salt and pepper and his eyes were dark. He looked unkempt, but not underfed and he certainly didn’t look injured. There was a thick tension, this was a force, hardly a welcome party. Cass stayed quiet, better to let the others tread the mine-field. Her eyes shifted as Jay spoke up, shuffling forwards and he stood beside Cass with the rifle in hand. The walls would hold, or so every person present hoped. A convoy was hardly a good sight, too many wanted what they had for this to be a neighbourly greeting.  
“Can we help you?” Jay asked finally and Andrew was listening intently from his position. The gates didn’t move. They wouldn’t without a command and others had scurried out of their dwellings to listen. The nerves were friction in the air, like electricity snapping and crackling.  
“You’ve done enough! We’ve come to take ours by right.” The man out in front said, he was eerily calm, like this was a regular Tuesday for him.  
“What do you mean?” Jay called and glanced to Andrew and Peter. They looked just as confused but for a split-second Cass saw something else there, fear.  
“We’re your rejects, stupid boy.” The man chuckled and Cass was confused. This place didn’t reject anyone, they were a haven for everyone unless they were dangerous or bitten. Even in the past they had homed a bitten person so they could have a peaceful death and she glanced to Peter and Andrew expectantly. They were sheet white.  
“You’ve got it crossed; we don’t deny anyone. Only bitten and risky.” Cass spoke up and eyed them over. Maybe they were simply confused, starvation and dehydration would do that to people. These people looked fed though, she couldn’t understand it. Most of them sported knives, machete type weapons along with a splattering of guns handed out amongst them.  
“Ask him.” The man ahead jerked his head towards Peter who was standing and watching, his face had grown ashen and Cass raised an eyebrow, she wasn’t the only one staring at him. He had to have some sort of explanation, a flat denial of their accusations. There was nothing though. He was simply silent in his moment and it spoke sirens call for what he had done.  
“I’ll tell you what, we’re good people. We even cleared a bunch of dead guys for you in the area, we’ll give you a day to figure out what you want to do. Don’t worry, we’ll come back. In fact, we might just stay here the night. Don’t go too far.” The man chuckled and signalled to the others to stand down as they started to retreat a safe distance. All eyes moved to Peter.  
“Council meeting, now.” Jay ground out with a terse voice Cass hadn’t really heard him use before. She nodded and the watchers on the gates started to usher people back into their homes, doing the routine of ‘there’s nothing to see here, folks’. There was everything to see and Cass followed Jay down to the community hall, clearing everyone out of the cafeteria area as everyone took a seat.  
“You’ve got some explaining to do.” Andrew started as all eyes turned to Peter who sat at the head of the table.
Nullification     47d ago
Resident Fey

“I found them, a group of them. They were sick, I thought they’d been bitten or something and were hiding it. They had this shabby little smallholding, there were five of us and we didn’t think they would make it. They said they wanted a community but our stockpiles for winter are already bad, we didn’t think we could take anymore mouths to feed. I did it for the Community.” Pete said, his voice even but his eyes looked away in shame and disgust for himself. He knew he’d made a mistake, Cass figured as she watched him shift slightly in his chair. She drew in a deep breath but Andrew spoke up before she could ask her own questions,
“That’s not your call, we put this stuff to a vote and Cass does the health checks and we interview people. It’s a group call, not yours alone.” Andrew remarked, his tone scathing and Cass figured he was right but Pete wasn’t necessarily in the wrong either. He made a point, they were struggling to feed the mouths they had, five extra would only add to the stress of it.

“I didn’t think, I thought it was for the best.” Peter explained, his voice a little firmer. There was no right and wrong in this new era, Cass figured.
“And Jay and the others must have come across the same place and took their stuff?”  Cass remarked and Jay dragged a hand down his face,
“I guess so, not that we knew.” He said, adding the last part because he had known nothing of Pete’s exploits.
“Who did you take with you?” Cass asked Pete and he shrugged,
“Greg, Jackson, Lisa and Damien.” Pete answered and a shocked silence fell over them all.
“Greg was branded at the side of the road and left for dead, and Jackson is actually dead. Lisa and Damien will need to be kept inside the walls.” Andrew spoke up and David nodded from where he was in agreement, no one objected on that front. This had been vengeance, not cold-blooded murder then and Andrew sucked in a breath through his teeth. He was an idiot, Greg and Jackson didn’t deserve it. The question remained how Jackson had perished though and Cass was curious as to how exactly Jackson had been harmed whilst inside the walls and it wasn’t like the man could tell them right then either. He was dead, all for a miscommunication and now the very murderers stood at their gates.

“A mistake was made; we need to figure out what to do about it.” Cass spoke up, breaking the tense silence that lingered heavily over them. She swept her hair back,
“We could offer them a place to stay?” Jay offered up, speaking up finally from where he sat brooding over whatever ideas filtered through his head and Cass knew that look, he was troubled, they all were.
“They killed Jackson; Greg might not make it.” Pete pointed out and Cass sighed, they had done so for a vengeance and Cass knew every single person huddled in the cafeteria area had done unthinkable things to survive this long so she had no doubts no one was in a predicament to judge right that moment.
“There were wrongs on both sides, besides if we take them in, its more scavengers and more ground we can cover. They have vehicles, guns, and they can obviously take care of themselves. They look well fed, a little scuffed around the edges but it's better than waiting on a fight to break out. The dead we can deal with, but the dead and a group that want our throats cut? We can’t deal with that.” She pointed out in retaliation. David was oddly quiet, listening as opposed to going for his usual gun-Ho attitude. Cass glanced over at him, Francis was nearby, waiting expectantly. No one had the answer.
“We can offer it to them, if I were them, I wouldn’t be accepting. We can at least find some sort of negotiating ground.” Francis piped up, there had to be a middle ground where everyone could at least open a discussion. It wasn’t the best solution but it was one if the only ones they had that would avoid conflict and a fight at their gates.

“What if they accept the offer?” Cass asked after a few moments, they couldn’t really trust these people to live side by side with them. They had shown up with guns and an axe to grind and people were already afraid.

“Then we monitor them, heavily.” Peter said after a few moments of thought passed. There were exchanged looks at that, doubtful ones. No one said anything though, they didn’t have an answer to this. This hadn’t happened to them in the year and a half they had spent here. Winter was fast approaching and they couldn’t feed an extra thirty people, maybe more, as well as their own.


“Suppose its settled then.” Jay muttered from where he was sulking about the entire ordeal. The situation wasn’t fair, but nothing was in these times. Cass didn’t like it anymore than anyone else and knew it was an incredibly risky move and even if they did enter negotiations, then what? It wasn’t as though they could play happy families. Stranger things had happened though in this day and age, there were people in this place from all walks of life and different background, it wasn’t as though anyone was innocent. They had all done things to survive. Peter led the way up to the walkway above the gate and looked down at the group as they milled around. They were getting comfortable, Cass realised, ready to spend the night. She glanced over her shoulder at the civilians, they could all defend themselves but not against vehicles and heavy guns, they had children.

“We want to talk.” Peter said and the leader chuckled, looking to his group for some sort of back up to the laughter and they obliged.

“Talk? Why would I do that, you’ve already proven you couldn’t care less about anyone not inside your walls.” The man shouted up and Peter was growing agitated with his games and snarky attitude.
“Look, we are willing to talk, to come to an agreement. Come inside, you and a handful of your people, we will talk it out, no weapons.” Peter was trying desperately, Cass could tell. No one wanted this to go bad.

“No.” The man remarked, shaking his head and twirling his machete experimentally. He wasn’t stupid, Cass figured, if he came in here he had no reason to trust they wouldn’t cut him down where he stood, “You come out here. In front of everyone, we'll talk where everyone can see and yeah, no weapons.” The man bartered and Cass sighed out. It would be too late if it went bad but to her surprise, Peter nodded and eyed the others.

“Jay, Cass, Andrew, on me. The rest of you watch, if it goes downhill, lock the gates and defend this place.” Peter muttered and Cass looked between the men. It would be too late for them to retreat if it went bad and they were going in unarmed.
Nullification     47d ago
Resident Fey

Peter waved a hand up, the gates creaked open, shoved by brawny men at either side and ropes hauled. It was basic infrastructure and all of these gates had been here, it had been a gated community most likely. Cass hadn’t seen it until after. It was home and Cass didn’t feel like giving up home anytime soon. The wind was cold as they walked out, making a show of dropping their guns and anything else they had on them by the gate, they could run back if things went poorly but there were guns on either side, locked behind their leaders, ready to go at the slightest command.


The man stepped forward, a grin on his face and his hands splayed out to show he wasn’t carrying anything.

“Well, isn’t it nice to see you all up close and personal.” He said, “Introductions, let’s nor forget our manners.” He announced and looked around at his captive audience, “The name’s Jeffrey! And it is my pleasure to meet you, finally. So, who have we got here?” He turned his dark eyes to the group before him.

“Peter. This is Jay, Andrew and our doctor, Cassandra.” Peter spoke up and Cass nodded in affirmation.
“Cassandra, the Greek Goddess of foresight.” Jeffrey sneered some but the pleasant smile never left his lips. He wasn’t so old, Cass realises, just his unkempt features made him look ragged and aged.

“We are sorry for what we did, it was not our intent to hurt.” Peter started but Ieffrey cut him off with a laugh and faked gasp of shock,

“Oh, it wasn’t? You thought leaving us, sick and cold, starving was an act of gracious kindness? Forgive me if I’m not going to thank you.” Jeffrey snapped and Cass watched each movement closely. Jay was beside her, doing the same judging by his stern face and quick moving eyes.

“You have a doctor, you could have brought us to her to inspect, make sure we weren’t infected.” Jeffrey remarked and Cass glanced away. Peter had made a mistake that affected everyone and she couldn’t defend him on that but they were trying to make it right. She realised she was the only woman there, Jeffrey had come forwards alone but his men were hovering behind him, it would be easy for them to charge in and it would happen quicker than the others could open the gates that was for sure.

“Please, we want to apologise. To make it right.” Cass spoke up, watching Jeffrey as he turned his eyes to her, looking straight through to her soul but she didn’t flinch.

“Make it right? We lost some of our people. We were watching children starve to death, now unless you can revive the dead in a not so freaky way, you can’t undo it.” Jeffrey muttered and Cass sighed out.

“Fine, if we can’t do anything to make it right then answer me a question.” Cass remarked and watched Jeffrey closely as he sauntered around like a cockerel showing off his feathers, “How did you get to Jackson?” Cass asked finally, genuinely curious of the answer because he had somehow got Jackson inside the walls.

“Ah! Yes, what a shame about him, he seemed like a nice guy, strong guy right? He was on watch that night, it didn’t take much for someone to coax him to the walla and use a knife through the gap.” Jeffrey said and Cass furrowed her brow. They must have grabbed his collar and done it through the small gap. Cass made a note of that, they would need to fix up the slatted gaps in the fence. They had never had trouble before but she didn’t want to take any risks.

“He die?” Jeffrey asked and Cass nodded, adjusting her feet and folding her arms. Jeffrey only nodded in reply and looked to the others,

“I lost six people to the cold, to starvation when you refused us. You’ve lost one.” Jeffrey remarked, “That doesn’t really add up now, does it?” Cass felt her stomach drop, he wanted a life for a life, even in all of this madness and chaos where the dead were rising and trying to eat the living, he wanted vengeance.

“Or something of equal worth.” Jeffrey said and his eyes glinted with an idea. Peter eyed him over questioningly.

“How about, we stay on your land, we do a good job of clearing out all the dead and protecting you in return for a share of food and a loan of your good doctor here?” Jeffrey remarked, “Then it all stops. No more conflict, no more killing. We call it square because you save more lives than you end.” Peter looked to the others, winter was coming fast and he wasn’t entirely sure they could expend that.

“You can’t live out in the open in winter, you’ll freeze to death.” Cass spoke up.

“Nah, we can set up shelters next to your walls, and I’m sure if it gets too chilly you’ll invite us in.” Jeffrey gloated and Cass had never met someone so sure of themselves before. It was the best option they had and Peter looked to Cass,

“Are you okay with it? We’ll send an escort with you.” He offered and Jeffrey cut in sharply,

“No escorts. She’s not going anywhere, we’ll give her back.” He assured and Cass swallowed,

“One escort.” Jay interrupted them and Jeffrey smirked when Jay spoke up and 3yed him over.

“Fine, because the man with the biggest balls who isn’t bowing down to me told me. You could learn a thing or two, Petey boy.” Jeffrey laughed and eyed Cass over.

“Go and get your things, I’ll be needing some of them looked over.” He remarked and ruined his back, walking off as if they were old friends just catching up. Peter exhaled a heavy breath and headed back inside.
Nullification     46d ago
Resident Fey

“Are you insane? Sending her there with one escort?!” Jay fumed as the gates closed behind them.  

“It’s the best we could do, if we refuse then they fire on us. All they want is some food and a doctor.  We made the mistake of turning them away before.” Andrew pointed out and Cass remained quiet as she hitched her gun back up onto her hip, letting them talk amongst themselves. She moved back to get her things from the Infirmary, revelling in the quiet and Jenny looked up.  

“I’ll explain when I’m back, I need to take the kit with me, can you watch over for a bit longer?” Cass asked and Jenny nodded but looked concerned. Cass didn’t want to explain any further for fear of worrying her more. Cass hauled the bag up; basic essentials save for a few things and she wasn’t keen on handing out her supplies to these newcomers but they were left with little choice. The tension was thick the moment she exited the Infirmary.  


“I’ll escort you.” Jay said as he fidgeted and waited by the gate, fixing the rifle in place. It wouldn’t do them much good if something did happen, two versus thirty. Cass nodded, needing to believe it wouldn’t come to that as she waved for them to open the gate.  

“We can see you from the topside, anything happens just run.” Peter said and Cass sighed out, all of this over a miscommunication. A stupid miscalculation on Peter’s behalf and then Jay’s. Francis was keeping watch above and Cass knew he was a goof shot so at least there was that on her side. She ducked outside and the gate closed behind her. She moved around to the east side of the compound and saw them setting up tents and fires. Jeffrey was waiting for them and he smiled.  

“Ah, come on. We’ve got some people for you doc.” He said and Cass eyed the group. They looked healthy, if slightly underneath and she moved behind Jeffrey, Jay keeping close proximity behind her.  


In the centre of the camp, they made up which was shielded by the vehicles on the out rims, there was a puddle of people.  

“Elias here has had a nasty cut on his arm, been getting sick.” One of the men chirped up from somewhere and Cass nodded, gesturing for them to make an orderly line so she could see each of them. Jay stood at her side as she set up her things as best, she could.  

“How did it happen?” Cass asked the young man standing before her, his arm was red and angry looking around the gash. He ought to have got stitches but it had scabbed up enough to not need them and she could tell it was infected.  

“Snagged it on something, not a dead, we were walking through some building and I went to jump down, next thing I knew there was blood everywhere.” Elias said and Cass nodded, made sense and the injury looked consistent with his story.  

“I’ll dress it, I can spare a couple antibiotics.” Cass said, uneasy with the number of eyes on her right then as she pulled out some bandages and two pills handing them over to him. They were strong antibiotics; with any luck they wouldn’t need much. She carefully wrapped his arm tight and ignored his wince. He lumbered off and went to sit. Jeffrey was watching with keen interest from behind her, leaning on a post with his arms crossed, the machete catching the light at his hip. It was a casual reminder that she was in hostile territory.  


“You learn all that before this?” Jeffrey piped up. Cass didn’t look up from her next patient as she inspected them. A chesty cough, nothing to worry about for now except getting plenty of fluids. She didn’t carry cough drops around on her, no one really did.  

“I was two months off graduating.” She said, keeping her eyes firmly on her job as she ushered the next one forward, a woman who looked like she hadn’t slept in a long time and had a limp in her right leg.  

“We aren’t bad people.” Jeffrey started and Cass snorted some, moving her dark hair from her eyes to inspect the woman’s leg. It was difficult, this wasn’t the Infirmary she was used to with beds and tables. She would’ve done a better job inside but that was out of the question.  

“Tell that to Jackson and Greg.” Cass muttered, “Not to mention the other men you butchered to get to Greg.” She added for good measure, “You’ve sprained it, you need to rest it, keep it elevated for a few days. You could also use some more food.” Cass said to the women who just stared at her like some porcelain doll.  

“Have you got anything for the pain?” She asked hesitantly and Cass shook her head. It wasn’t worth wasting painkillers on this sort of thing.  

“You brought that on yourselves.” Jeffrey said, nonchalantly. Cass still refused to look at him as the woman limped off.  

“It was a mistake. We aren’t bad people either.” She pointed out to him, “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.” She shrugged and rolled her shoulders to work out the aches.  

“You’re here because you don’t have a choice. Those walls won’t stand forever and you lot were frightened at a show of force.” Jeffrey said, bluntly and Cass closed her eyes.  


“I would have helped these people either way, difference is you didn’t ask and you wanted to prance around with guns.” Cass said, her tone sharp and Jeffrey grinned and moved close behind her, Jay shifted with his rifle.  

“Kind people don’t last long, look around you, there’s none of them left, doll face.” He whispered in her ear and Cass narrowed her eyes. She nodded to Jay when Jeffrey retreated, if they shot now then they would be gunned down.  

“We'll need some daily visits for a while.” Jeffrey carried on like nothing happened. 

Cass didn’t want to be anywhere near this place for more than she had to be but he was right, they didn’t have a choice.  

“Right, well.” Cass started to pack her things back into a bag, thankfully not down many supplies, “Most of them need to eat more, drink more.” She advised and Jeffrey smiled at her, as if silently gloating.  

“We’ll look after them.” He assured.  

“Yeah, thanks for your time, Jeffrey.” Cass said curtly and Jeff grinned,  

“Call me Jeff.”  
“Open up.” Peter called when Jay and Cass came back, they looked unscathed and Cass stepped into the area.  
“You alright?” Peter asked as he hopped down the rickety steps that had been fashioned together with rusted nails and the occasional plank of wood. It was hardly sturdy but it worked well enough.  
“Fine.” Cass remarked, a little too sharply to be kind about it. It hadn’t been the worst experience in the world but she didn’t want to go back tomorrow, maybe Jeffrey would grow tired at some point if she just refused to bite back.  
“They want another council meeting, this time with people from the community.” Peter said and Cass groaned and dragged a hand down her face. She wanted to sleep, it seemed too long since she had slept and if she kept this up, she would make mistakes with her treatments. She paused and Jay put a hand to the small of her back,  
“C’mon. After that you can rest.” He murmured quietly and Cass was in no fit state to argue as she moved along the streets and into the cafeteria area. She was late to the part, or so it seemed, as she made her way up to sit with the others, dropping the bag at her feet and sitting down. Being able to sit was a relief in itself but all at once it was like exhaustion hit her. She slouched some and eyed the expectant faces around the hall. She wasn’t sure what they could possibly told to make them feel better about this situation, it was a defeat, they had lost by sheer means of intimidation and nothing any of them could say would make it better. They were supposed to be the ones protecting these people, making the tough calls and here they were, sitting like ducks waiting to be shot.  
“What exactly is going on?” a woman with fiery red hair piped up from her spot, a toddler on her lap and Cass let her eyes fall onto them. She watched them and was still perplexed anyone could have a child in this, although life wasn’t as harsh in communities like this but it was by no means easy and normal. The dead didn’t discriminate.  
“It’s the best agreement we could come to, they live outside the walls. They need a doctor and food; this could become a mutually beneficial deal.” Peter said and Cass noted how he expertly he left out his own wrong doings in the entire endeavour. She didn’t speak up and highlight them, the thought of a riot sparking was tangible in the air.  
“Winter is around the corner; we can barely feed ourselves.” A man snapped from somewhere near the back and Cass glanced over but couldn’t see in the midst of faces who it was.  
“Yes, and we plan on speaking with them to try and get them to hunt too.” Peter explained and Cass raised her eyebrows at that, Jeffrey was barely cooperating as it was and if they were spoon-feeding them already, they had no need to go out and hunt. Again, she held her tongue and mused over the idea, it was possible they could speak with him. Jeffrey was aggressive, desperate even but not entirely unreasonable.  

“We want you to know that you are safe, we will increase some watches so there won’t be any more of this.” Francis chipped in, “We need to work together.” He added for good measure given that things were uncertain right then and could lead to discourse. Cass watched as everyone mumbled among themselves and started to filter out of the hall, a few looks were shared over their shoulders and for a second, she wondered if they had failed them. Cass got up and headed out, the sun was starting to go down and she still needed to check on Greg. She doubted he would be in any good form and had no intentions of telling him their agreement.  
Cass looked over Greg when she returned to the infirmary and sighed softly, he was feverish, spelling out an infection in swing. Jenny was sleeping at the desk and she moved over,  
“Hey, go on. Get some rest.” She murmured to her and Jenny didn’t want to argue as she lumbered off to sleep in the tiny home she shared with her nearest and dearest. Cass looked over Greg and wet a piece of cloth, placing it on his forehead in hopes to bring down the fever.  
“How’s he doing?” Jay entered and Cass glanced up towards him,  
“He’s burning up, I’m trying to bring it down but he might-” Cass cut off, knowing full well that she didn’t need finish that sentence for him to understand. Jay turned his eyes down to Greg and swept back his hair. Cass remained quiet as she tried to pour some water down his throat in a small amount just to keep him hydrated. She fixed his blanket and was relieved at least Greg was swallowing the fluids. Cass retreated and left him to try and rest as best he could but he was struggling. It would take a while, if he came through this, before he would be able to get up and move around let alone do any work.  
“I’ve got a watch, I’ll keep an eye, go on and get some sleep.” Jay explained, and Cass didn’t bother to argue as she made her way to the back room and settled down on the bed she had, giving into sleep she so desperately needed.
Nullification     46d ago
Resident Fey

“Hey wake up.” Francis was over her when she opened her eyes and Cass jolted up, staring at him. For a split second she grew anxious. Was someone hurt? Francis looked calm enough and he eyed her over,
“Jeffrey wants you.” He remarked and Cass flopped back down, groaning. She felt she hadn’t slept enough but it was late morning by the look of it and she shoved herself up. She gestured to Francis to give her some time and she would be out. Greg looked better, Jenny was sitting with him and keeping him cool.
“He looks better.” Cass observed as she picked up her bag and Jenny nodded, spewing out some explanation about keeping him hydrated and Cass watched her, an immense feeling of pride swelling within her. Jenny was young, Cass had taken her on to teach her the basics so that she would remain of use and this place would have someone else if anything happened to her. Jenny had surpassed her expectations and the two had a kindred relationship, apprentice and mentor.
“Thanks, I have to head out again.” Cass excused herself and Jenny ushered her to wait as she got up and went over to pick up a plastic bottle of dark liquid,
“Mrs Fredrick made some juice from cranberries and blackberries she found. It’s good, healthy too.” Jenny expressed and Cass took the bottle with a smile. She thanked the younger woman and exited the Infirmary.
Peter was waiting for her, with an old shopping cart that was littered with cans of food and some pasta packets along with large bottles of water. Cass eyed it over, it was a lot for them and would hit hard.
“For his people. It’s all we can afford right now.” Peter explained but Cass had already deduced that, “We want you to talk to him, he speaks with you, ask him about his people hunting and helping us out for what we’re giving them.” He added and Cass was unsure. Jeffrey wasn’t the sort to listen to others, in fact, he seemed the opposite and half the time spent with him had been him jeering at her.
“Right.” Cass said flatly. She wouldn’t go against the council and their wishes and if it helped keep some sort of peace then she would try.
“Who’s escorting me?” She asked him, unenthusiastically and Jay stepped forwards.
“Jay is going with you again.” Francis said as he approached and she sighed out. Jay ambled forwards and pushed the cart, although the wheels were getting rickety and made an unholy noise as it traipsed forwards. Cass shrugged her bag Iver her shoulder and didn’t utter another word.
“Have you even slept?” Cass asked when they were outside of the gates and walking around towards the makeshift camp. There were more tents up and more fires. The breeze was cold and Jay flashed her a smile.
“I managed a couple of hours after the watch.” He said to her, even though there were dark circles around his eyes and his walk was heavier than usual. She watched him stumble a few times and shook her head. She would make sure he rested that night, even if she had to assert her status in the community.
“Let’s get this over with.” Jay said, trying to remain as chipper as he could for both of their sakes.
Jeffrey was waiting for them and led them to the same spot once more. There was less this time, thankfully and Jay gestured to the cart.
“It’s as much as we can spare.” He commented, “Right now, at least.” There was enough to keep his people going for a while, maybe a a week if they were careful enough. Jeffrey clapped his hands, grinning.
“Ah, fantastic effort. I’ll look through this while you guys do your duty.” Jeffrey said and started rifling through everything. Cass looked over the man from yesterday with his cut and she didn’t expect much improvement from yesterday.
“You should prioritise the injured for the rations.” She said as she looked over to Jeffrey who chuckled. He knew what he was doing, or at least he projected that energy.
“I know, don’t you worry.” Jeffrey said and Cass turned back to her work.
“Our community was wondering if you and your group would help hunt and provide.” Cass spoke up, her expectations already low for him. Jeffrey was quiet, for the first time as he inspected a can of baked beans like they were the burning bush. He looked towards her,
“Interesting.” He said as he tossed the can in his hand and looked to Jay and then Cass, “You want us to go providing for you?” He questioned. Cass glanced to him as she changed the bandage of Elias’ arm carefully and washed it.
“And what do I get from that?” Jeffrey asked them both as he approached and watched Cass do her job, feigning interest. Jeffrey’s hand went to her shoulder, travelling to the crook of her neck, “I’m sure we could make some sort of arrangement.” He cooed quietly and Cass wrinkled her nose in disgust and pulled away. Jay moved forward with his rifle ready in front of him,
“Get away.” Jay muttered, no doubt his temper was short because of his lack of sleep and Cass got to her feet, rounding on Jeffrey.
“Leave it.” She said and glanced to Jay. If he opened fired like that, it would spell doom and she looked to Jeffrey.
“Well, look who can’t handle a little joke.” Jeffrey chuckled and waved a hand, the men around them backed down and Cass glared at him.
“I can negotiate different terms but we can’t provide for two groups.” She remarked, “Our people would starve and freeze.” Cass remarked. They were trying to be amicable but it was difficult and Jeffrey wasn’t helping. A noise startled them from the little standoff they were having.
“Dead, incoming from the east, about fifteen.” A woman came staggering in, and their camp came to life. They grabbed up guns and headed out, leaving a speckling of men to take care of the injured and unable to fight.
“Stay here.” Jeffrey snapped and grabbed his own machete from his hip. Cass looked to Jay and she shrugged some.
“We ought to help.” Cass said and reached for her gun but Jay stopped her with a hand to her arm,
“Don’t. We stay here, we can’t risk it.” He murmured, “Better here protecting the others.” Jay said to her calmly. Cass hesitated, hand hovering over gun. Jeffrey and his crew could make it look like an accident too easily out there and she looked to Elias as she fixed the final piece of bandage in place.
“Yeah, we’ll defend the encampment.” She mused, it was a fair point. She looked around the area as everyone scampered in the direction of the thicket of woods to take down the possible threat.
“Keep the vulnerable in the centre of the camp.” Jay said to the others and moved towards the outskirts with his rifle. Cass followed, gun drawn as she stood at his shoulder, scanning the treeline for any movement. Others were trying to huddle in tents and keep quiet, as if that would save them.
“Look alive.” Jay said from beside her as snarling ebbed into the air and the dead ambled forwards. Some must have slipped through the cracks and Cass lifted her gun, staring down sight of the pistol and taking a shot at one of the decaying bodies. She turned the skull to paste and looked behind her. Jeffrey’s people had children they were scared and crying and she looked up at the walls of the community, the watchers were starting to raise their guns and pick off the dead. The snap of bullets was loud in her ears and she knew to crouch slightly to avoid being taken out by accident.
Nullification     39d ago
Resident Fey

“How did they get past the others?” Cass called above the ruckus as she fired a few shots and then switched as the dead grew too close, yanking a knife from her belt and lunging, knife squishing through the softened skull. She yanked it free and looked over to see Jay doing the same, both of them flecked in dead blood. The smell would never cease to amaze her flaring nostrils as she brought the back of her arm up to try and shield it. Jay didn’t answer her question and he backed up some towards the fortified walls.
“There’s too many, we need to get inside.” He said to Cass who shook her head. There were injured out here, people who couldn’t fight and would be chewed up if left alone. Not to mention, if Jeffrey came back to his people dead then it would only cause more tension. She grappled at Jay to keep him at her side,
“We stay until the others return. We can’t leave them to die.” She yelled and Jay groaned, looking around but he wouldn’t leave her out here to the same fate. He looked up at the wall, signalling for Peter and the others to come and help but as Cass turned to watch, she saw them turn their backs, stop shooting and leave. There was little time to react, instead she lunged again to knock a dead away from tearing up one of the tents. There was screaming from nearby, Cass shifted to see one of the woman with a dead chewing into her shoulder. She was as good as dead as her screams turned to gurgling, pitiful gasps.
“Watch your back.” Jay called and fired a shot loosely with his rifle, blowing off a dead’s head from behind her. Cass stared at him and nodded, moving back to the fray as she cut down what dead she could. More gunfire permeated the air and she looked over to see Jeffrey and the others running forwards from the treeline, gunning down the animated corpses one after another. Jeffrey caught her eyes and he gave her a nod of approval before the last of the corpses were taken down, lips and black blood piling up in no time.
Cass was breathing heavily, drawing in deep lungs worth of air. She was doubled up and Jay approached,
“Alright? No marks?” He asked and Cass shook her head, she had survived without injury save for a few knocks and scrapes. She was going to feel it tomorrow,
“I’m fine, I’m fine, you?” She asked him, looking him over through bloody hued vision.
“I’m fine, take more than that to take me out.” He chuckled some at her and Cass rolled her eyes. She looked back to the walls to see the others resuming their position and she got to her feet properly. They had left them there to die, to perish among strangers and the vulnerable.
“Hey.” Jeffrey’s voice broke the thoughts and Cass sucked in a breath, waiting for the snide comment, “Thank you. If you dint mind we’d like to take care of our dead.” Jeffrey explained and Cass nodded, grabbing her back and hauling it up over her shoulder. The weight almost sent her off kilter.
“I can take it.” Jay offered but Cass was walking before he could take it. She moved towards the gates, spitting out some grime. The gates opened and inside there was a puddle of officials, Peter among them and Cass dropped her bag on the ground. Whatever energy she had left, she used to moved over to Peter who was stammering and she clocked him straight in the jaw with her left hand. She recoiled slightly as pain shot up her hand.
“You measly maggot of a man.” Cass hissed at him as he picked himself up from the floor. No one moved an inch,
“Cassandra I can explain.” Peter said as he got up, standing over her and looking around the others, “We thought there was too many and opening the gates would have invited them inside.” Peter explained and Cass stared at him.
“So, you’re plan was to let us all die out there?!” Cass demanded as she refused to shy away from his gaze. He had made a grievous error, a terrible one and Cass was beyond livid at his judgement call. Jay could have died out there, shoulder to shoulder with her and a group of injured and sick who hadn’t the means to protect themselves.
“Coward.” Cass spat the word out at Peter and shoved past him, towards the I firmly to get washed up. Murmurs broke out in the crowd that had gathered and people were dispersed but Cass didn’t look, nor did she bother to speak anything else into the air. There was no excuse for what Peter had done. It didn’t matter what personal bias was going, what tensions, there were survivors out there. Cass eyed Jenny when she entered the Infirmary and Jenny looked her over, opening her mouth to speak but Cass held up a hand towards her, she didn’t want to talk.
“I just need to wash up and get changed. No bites, no cuts, I’m fine.” She said to the other woman who just gave a nod. It wasn’t the first skirmish they had gotten into and nor would it be the last. It had been particularly stressful and Cass was no closer to calming down as she ducked into the back room. Thankfully, their closed community had some solar panels set up gratuities of the local engineer who could put together a toaster from some warped metal and crooked wires. Winter meant there was less electricity and the water wasn’t exactly hot but Cass scrubbed dried blood and grime from her flesh, checking herself over for any cuts or bites but she was safe, at least for another day.
Cass found some fresh clothes, thankfully clothing was in plentiful supply and she shrugged into a cardigan, fumbling with the buttons as she found a pair of worn out jeans. It was better than the viscera covered other stuff. She wasn’t even sure thay would come out in a good wash but she would try later on.
Nullification     32d ago
Resident Fey

“How did they get past the others?” Cass called above the ruckus as she fired a few shots and then switched as the dead grew too close, yanking a knife from her belt and lunging, knife squishing through the softened skull. She yanked it free and looked over to see Jay doing the same, both of them flecked in dead blood. The smell would never cease to amaze her flaring nostrils as she brought the back of her arm up to try and shield it. Jay didn’t answer her question and he backed up some towards the fortified walls.  

“There’s too many, we need to get inside.” He said to Cass who shook her head. There were injured out here, people who couldn’t fight and would be chewed up if left alone. Not to mention, if Jeffrey came back to his people dead then it would only cause more tension. She grappled at Jay to keep him at her side,  

“We stay until the others return. We can’t leave them to die.” She yelled and Jay groaned, looking around but he wouldn’t leave her out here to the same fate. He looked up at the wall, signalling for Peter and the others to come and help but as Cass turned to watch, she saw them turn their backs, stop shooting and leave. There was little time to react, instead she lunged again to knock a dead away from tearing up one of the tents. There was screaming from nearby, Cass shifted to see one of the woman with a dead chewing into her shoulder. She was as good as dead as her screams turned to gurgling, pitiful gasps.  

“Watch your back.” Jay called and fired a shot loosely with his rifle, blowing off a dead’s head from behind her. Cass stared at him and nodded, moving back to the fray as she cut down what dead she could. More gunfire permeated the air and she looked over to see Jeffrey and the others running forwards from the treeline, gunning down the animated corpses one after another. Jeffrey caught her eyes and he gave her a nod of approval before the last of the corpses were taken down, lips and black blood piling up in no time.  


Cass was breathing heavily, drawing in deep lungs worth of air. She was doubled up and Jay approached,  

“Alright? No marks?” He asked and Cass shook her head, she had survived without injury save for a few knocks and scrapes. She was going to feel it tomorrow,  

“I’m fine, I’m fine, you?” She asked him, looking him over through bloody hued vision.  

“I’m fine, take more than that to take me out.” He chuckled some at her and Cass rolled her eyes. She looked back to the walls to see the others resuming their position and she got to her feet properly. They had left them there to die, to perish among strangers and the vulnerable.  

“Hey.” Jeffrey’s voice broke the thoughts and Cass sucked in a breath, waiting for the snide comment, “Thank you. If you dint mind we’d like to take care of our dead.” Jeffrey explained and Cass nodded, grabbing her back and hauling it up over her shoulder. The weight almost sent her off kilter.  

“I can take it.” Jay offered but Cass was walking before he could take it. She moved towards the gates, spitting out some grime. The gates opened and inside there was a puddle of officials, Peter among them and Cass dropped her bag on the ground. Whatever energy she had left, she used to moved over to Peter who was stammering and she clocked him straight in the jaw with her left hand. She recoiled slightly as pain shot up her hand.  


“You measly maggot of a man.” Cass hissed at him as he picked himself up from the floor. No one moved an inch,  

“Cassandra I can explain.” Peter said as he got up, standing over her and looking around the others, “We thought there was too many and opening the gates would have invited them inside.” Peter explained and Cass stared at him.  

“So, you’re plan was to let us all die out there?!” Cass demanded as she refused to shy away from his gaze. He had made a grievous error, a terrible one and Cass was beyond livid at his judgement call. Jay could have died out there, shoulder to shoulder with her and a group of injured and sick who hadn’t the means to protect themselves.  

“Coward.” Cass spat the word out at Peter and shoved past him, towards the I firmly to get washed up. Murmurs broke out in the crowd that had gathered and people were dispersed but Cass didn’t look, nor did she bother to speak anything else into the air. There was no excuse for what Peter had done. It didn’t matter what personal bias was going, what tensions, there were survivors out there. Cass eyed Jenny when she entered the Infirmary and Jenny looked her over, opening her mouth to speak but Cass held up a hand towards her, she didn’t want to talk.  

“I just need to wash up and get changed. No bites, no cuts, I’m fine.” She said to the other woman who just gave a nod. It wasn’t the first skirmish they had gotten into and nor would it be the last. It had been particularly stressful and Cass was no closer to calming down as she ducked into the back room. Thankfully, their closed community had some solar panels set up gratuities of the local engineer who could put together a toaster from some warped metal and crooked wires. Winter meant there was less electricity and the water wasn’t exactly hot but Cass scrubbed dried blood and grime from her flesh, checking herself over for any cuts or bites but she was safe, at least for another day.
Nullification     24d ago
Resident Fey

Cass found some fresh clothes, thankfully clothing was in plentiful supply and she shrugged into a cardigan, fumbling with the buttons as she found a pair of worn-out jeans. It was better than the viscera covered other stuff. She wasn’t even sure that would come out in a good wash but she would try later on, or ask a favour from one of the girls who knew what they were doing. Her boots were the only thing she couldn’t replace, they still held up despite everything and Cass had become rather fond of them. Cass figured they must have been some sort of walking boots but they were heavier somehow, she was lucky they didn’t cause blisters or any pinching pain. It was easier to take the blessings where they came these days.  
Cass gathered her clothes and bundled them in her arms, setting them down in a small pile nearby the door and she glanced over the patients, it was imperative someone was around just in case they expired, that way the bodies could be burnt. They tended not to bury the dead in these trying times, watching corpses come back to life was considerably disturbing and the last thing anyone wanted was for their relative to claw their way up through the ground, knives weren’t all that accurate in destroying the brain and they couldn’t waste the bullets. However, once they were burnt, there was always a nice memorial place for them in a lush garden some of the residents had put together for such occasions. Cass figured it was better than nothing and given the circumstance the world found itself in, they ought to be grateful for what little they did receive after their death providing it wasn’t walking around trying to chew the faces off someone.  

Everyone remained sleeping and Cass slumped into a chair finally, she liked the peace in here, as morbid as it was most of the time, it was comforting. Everything outside this place was hectic, loud and without an end but in here, it was different. It was quiet, silent almost save for the odd shuffle of feet outside, or the chatter or occasional explosive laughter. She wasn’t sure what there was to laugh about anymore, they had a second group outside their walls and apparently their leader was such a coward he would let innocents die to save his own skin. That wasn’t true though, what Peter had done was to try and protect an entire community. She tipped her head back on the chair, exhaling and closing her eyes.  
Sleep wouldn’t come no matter how much she tried to ease into the chair, agitated by everything that happened, stiff and sore from the exertion put onto her muscles from earlier. It didn’t really make any sense, at one point her sleep addled brain was even questioning whether they were truly the good guys in all of this. They had turned their back on a small encampment that needed help, although Cass knew that thinking was flawed given Jeffrey and his group of outsiders had rolled up with a handful of vehicles and guns ready to fight and destroy the community. Still, they had been desperate and she opened her eyes to see it was late afternoon judging by the heat and light. She must have slept, or it was more like unconsciousness. She pushed herself up and went to inspect the only two patients she had. 
Greg was looking better, but he still had a long way ahead and she figured it was good there was no infection clipping his heels and the most he would have to contend with was a nasty scar. She couldn’t fix that; it would hopefully fade over time and she watched him drink and manage to sit up on his own and she smiled at him.  
“What’s going on?” He managed to croak out once his throat was moistened up. Cass eyed him over, then again it wasn’t as though this place was soundproof and she didn’t want to be the one to express what was happening here.  
“I heard the gunfire, Cass.” Greg remarked, exasperated with her pause no doubt and Cass was jolted into responding immediately.  
“Just some corpses.” She said to him, he wasn’t yet strong enough to process what was actually going on and even Cass wasn’t sure how long this tepid agreement would last without one side starting something. It was like a barrel of oil waiting to explode and all it would take was a match on either side. Jeffrey led his people, but he couldn’t account for all of their actions, just the same as they couldn’t account for everyone's.  
“It’s alright though, taken care of.” Cass assured and Greg just nodded in acceptance much to her relief.  
“Want a book or something?” She asked him and Greg grinned some and nodded to her,  
“Please, it’s awful in here, I love the quiet but it gets to you after a while.” Greg responded and she nodded as she went to her desk, fishing out a couple of books he could choose from and she plucked up an apple and pear. He ought to try eating, she would bring him something proper from the cafeteria area later on if he was able to manage. Being spoon fed soup and gravy couldn’t have been all that satisfying.  
“I got a question for you actually.” Greg interrupted her thoughts as she put down the supplies for him and she eyed him expectantly. Greg seemed a little awkward and he struggled to find the words. “Jen, she uh... Well, you know?” Greg asked and Cass raised an eyebrow and bit back a laugh, shaking her head.  
“Go for it, sport.” She encouraged and gave him the green light, as far as she knew Jenny was a free agent and she figured Jenny had been looking after him most of the time so it was only right that there was some sort of bond. She wasn’t Jenny’s mother either. Greg settled with his book and Cass left him to it.  
Cass pushed out of the doors and up the couple of steps before eyeing the area. It was oddly quiet and she shrugged over her supply kit and made for the gate doors, giving a wave for them to open it up. They still had an agreement and she intended on upkeeping it. If this whole thing fell apart then it wouldn’t be on her head.  
“Hey!” Cass paused and grit her teeth as she turned to see Peter jogging towards her. She folded her arms and was rather pleased to see he had a fine bruise on his cheek from her assault.  
“You’re supposed to take an escort.” Peter huffed and Cass had to bite her tongue and she shrugged,  
“I’ll be fine. They’ll need the help now more than ever.” She remarked coldly and Peter scoffed at her stubbornness.  
“There’s a meeting at sunset, be back by then.” Peter remarked, flexing his authority in a last quip but she didn’t really react except for giving him a mock salute and turning and making her way out of the gates and following the wall down to the camp. It looks emptier than before and she sighed out. No one liked death, she wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  
“I didn’t expect you’d come back.” Jeffrey remarked and Cass could see his cocky attitude had returned with abundance and she shrugged, “No escort this time?” He added and Cass shot him a look,  
“Not this time. Anymore injured?” She asked him and he gave a nod before gesturing her over to the tent and Cass followed. They were cooking something that smelled good and her eyes sought it out to see a hog over a fire. She hadn’t eaten, she realised and she pulled her eyes away from the sight.  
“We found these when we were out hunting, figured you could use it, start making up medical records.” Jeffrey commented and pointed to the table. On it, were numerous folders and papers, complete with pens and such. Cass contemplated for a while, it wasn’t a terrible idea for both communities and it would add to her list of duties but if something did happen to her then at least Jenny would have something to refer to.
Nullification     24d ago
Resident Fey

“Planning on sticking around?” Cass asked him as she started to unpack everything and another orderly cue started up and she began checking people over. No bites, at the very least and Jeffrey lounged in a chair behind her, a couple of armed men keeping watch.  
“Safest we’ve been, not safe on the roads anymore and those rust buckets are going to run out of fuel really quick.” He said and Cass figured maybe he didn’t know Peter had given an order to let his people die out there. That was probably for the best.  
“The weather will turn soon; you won’t survive in tents and cars.” She responded to him. Jeffrey seemed undisturbed by the fact and Cass was unsure if it was an act because he seemed like a man who knew the risks of the world around him.  
“That’s my next request of you, doll face.” He said as he leaned forwards and Cass eyed over a cut on someone’s arm. She glanced towards him as she wrapped a thin layer of bandage around the man's arm.  
“We want to move in. You have houses in there, you found some old gated community and I know there aren’t enough of you to use all those houses.” Jeffrey said and Cass raised an eyebrow at him, wondering if he had received a knock to the head.  
“Peter won’t go for it; you’re all strangers and we have a process. You already messed that up by killing our people, branding them and rolling up on us like something out of a movie.” Cass replied to him, a little more sternly than she had intended and she clipped the bandage and sent the man on his way.  
“It might sound better coming from his resident nurse, besides, most of us are able and we can scout and hunt pretty damn well. You need the bodies, and your men killed our people too, they just didn’t pull a trigger.” Jeffrey reminded Cass as though she had forgotten and Cass shook her head. It would never work. Even if Peter agreed, the others in the community wouldn’t go for it and it would become a civil war.  
“Give us a chance, my people will freeze out here, we have women and children, families for Christ's sake.” Jeffrey actually sounded desperate and it took Cass off guard slightly as she gave him her full attention.  
“I’ll ask, but don’t get your hopes up. I’m only the medic there, I don’t get too much sway. You’d have been better speaking with Francis or Jay.” Cass muttered and finished up. She started to pack her things away after a long day and one of the women, a red head with a spattering of freckles hidden underneath grime and speckles of mud set down a bowl of what looked like stew.  
“Thank you.” She murmured and Cass was a little taken aback, these people were sharing what meagre food they had with her and she almost felt a tug of guilt. She looked to Jeffrey, about to ask if it was alright but he gestured for her to go ahead and she sat down.  
“We’re just people, doll face.” Jeffrey said to her and Cass tried some of the stew, half expecting it to be poisoned but it tasted great and it was warm. She glanced to the skies, she had about an hour before the meeting happened back in the community and she was dreading it.  
“What will you do if they refuse?” Cass asked Jeffrey as he sat opposite her with a bowl of his own and he sucked on one of his fingers.  
“I’ll do what I have to, to keep my people alive.” He replied and expertly skirted around her question. Cass was pretty sure she didn’t want the answer, or maybe Jeffrey didn’t have one. They had guns, heavy ones and the cars but Jeffrey had already said they wouldn’t get far in them now that fuel was running out.  
“Have you got somewhere for the winter?” Cass asked him in between mouthfuls and Jeffrey laughed a little at that,  
“If I did, I wouldn’t tell you, we have some supplies in a place, yeah, but I’m not going to tell you where am I? Let us stay and we’ll be glad to share them around. I’m a lot of things, but I’m a man of my word.” He expressed and Cass had no way of knowing that was true or not. Then again, he hadn’t tried anything with her and she was here without an escort.  
“I have to head out. You have my word; I’ll speak with everyone.” Cass said as she finished up and set the bowl aside before taking everything, including the papers and folders he had gotten for her and heading back towards the gates.  
The sun was a crisp warmth as it made its way to die behind the horizon once more and she set everything down in the infirmary, glancing to see Greg and Jenny playing cards and she grinned some to herself. A little good news for a change was welcome, she wouldn’t ever begrudge it in these times. She gave Jenny a pat on the shoulder as she headed out for this meeting Peter had called and part of her was raring and ready for a fight. She tried to smother it though, these things could get explosive as it was and she knew that no one needed any more animosity right then. It wouldn’t help if everyone was on the brink of ripping their neighbours to pieces. It was already packed when she entered and Cass chose a spot at the side of the room, it looked like it used to be an old sports centre or something of the like, the flooring long since damaged. None of the chairs matched, some were old garden pieces, some were more like dining sets, scavenged from all sorts of places and Cass was just fine standing and waiting. Of course, Peter took the floor and Cass found he rather enjoyed doing that lately. Jay was there, overlooking everything and he looked slightly off-colour, Cass noted. 
“Anything new, before we start?” Peter asked and the members of the community shuffled and a few coughed to fill a silence.  
“More sightings on the east side.” Francis piped, “We’re working on making sure there’s no gap.” He said in relation to the walls and Cass figured it was no different than usual and she kept her mouth closed for now, waiting for her moment to broach the subject of Jeffrey and the others. Peter had called the meeting for a reason and if it were up to Cass, the community would be putting someone else in charge right then given his incompetence but it was her opinion and it would only cause discontent and she figured those things happened naturally when everyone was at the same consensus. Cass knew this was about Peter saving his own skin after yesterday, making himself look good and she figured it was safer for everyone if they just accepted it. He wasn’t the strongest leader but he hadn’t failed them yet and even yesterday she could see some semblance of sense in his decision even if she didn’t agree with it right then and there, hindsight was a beautiful thing. There were other matters brought up here and there, small things that seemed trivial in the grand expanse of everything going on but if it helped keep things normal then no one really objected. The general concern was supplies, on the run up to winter they needed more to keep them going and she knew how rough a winter up here could get. They risked being snowed in or under, not to mention the foundations of the place freezing over along with its people.
Nullification     8d ago
Resident Fey

“What about the people outside? Will they be here forever?” Another woman spoke up, Cass felt like she ought to remember their names but right then her head was swimming with the pressure of what she needed to ask. She supposed she could gauge their reaction before asking and she folded her arms and sank to sit on the window frame.
“Ah, yes, well things are somewhat tense right now as I am sure you are all aware.” Peter fumbled his words and Cass raised an eyebrow, he wasn’t much of a speaker and Jay caught her eye, he watched her quizzically and Cass just shook her head. The worst that could happen was a lynch mob started and chased her out of the community for asking. She doubted it, she knew they were good people in these walls and the actions of one coward didn’t exemplify the others. Cowardice could be catching though and she wanted it to stop here.
“I have a question, from those outside of the walls.” Cass spoke up and it wasn’t often she spoke at these things, unless it was something medical and she moved to stand beside Peter, eyeing the community that had become like an extended mash of family. Peter cast her a look but couldn’t have objected.
“Their leader, Jeffrey, he fears for them in the winter.” She said, starting as best she could. Jeffrey and his group had killed a pocket of them in retaliation but she had given her word she was ask for him, “He has asked for refuge for his people within the walls, so they can survive winter.” Cass said and the uproar was deafening. She looked around, some people looked simply unsure and wary of the offer, others were up in arms from their seats. Cass took a step back and watched them all individually.
“They’re murderers!”
“They’ll kill us in our sleep and take our supplies!”
Peter gave a nervous chuckle and Cass looked towards him, almost glaring.
“Now, now, I’m sure Cassandra means well by asking, she is a nurse after all, it is her job to care.” His tone leaked in sarcasm and it took everything Cass had not to snap at him. This wasn’t up to her, it had to be out forth to everyone and she was trying to think on her feet.
“I understand your trepidation. There must be some agreement we can come to that doesn’t result in people freezing and starving to death.” Cass offered up as she looked around the room. It qasnt a heroic speech, right then she wasn’t sure Jeffrey and his people even deserved it and she hadn’t forgotten their actions. At some point though, they all had to be better, they had to take the high road.
There was an unusual silence that spread across the room, it was eerie and uncomfortable. She wasn’t sure that she liked it but it seemed the room was split going from the faces. Miss Terry, an older woman who had only survived all of this by the grace of the community around them, slowly stood on tottering legs.
“We should be grateful for all we have here, we don’t know how many people are still alive out there, it may well only be a few thousand. The dead outnumber the living and we are so fortunate to have this. We shouldn’t let people starve or be eaten by those hell hounds out there.” She said, her voice had seen a thousand years worth of death and Cass nodded to her.
“These people are murderers, torturers even!” A man called out from the front few seats and Cass eyed him over. Miss Terry chuckled,
“All of us are. Is there a single person here who can say they haven’t maimed or murdered to get here, stolen supplies, done terrible things? I’m an old woman, but even I have.” She remarked and it seemed to quieten the man.
“Perhaps we could do it slowly. We could take in the women and children first.” Jay offered up a peacemakers solution. It wasn’t a terrible idea but people still seemed wary, women could be just as dangerous as men in these trying times and children were taught how to protect themselves and fire guns. It was disturbing to see how things had changed and Cass set her dark eyes over the room. At the very least it had gone quiet as people actually considered Jay’s proposal. Cass glanced to him and offered up a very small smile of gratitude. Peter seemed to be fumbling over words.
“We take a vote.” Francis remarked, it was the fairest way to do it and come to a quick conclusion.
“An anonymous one, for everyone’s safety. We’ll make sure you can write down yes or no. You drop them in, uh...” Jay looked around and found a tattered box and set it on the desk, “In here.” He finished and Cass wondered if he had done this before. He seemed to be political, he knew how to appeal.
“Everyone gets a vote.” Jay added for good measure. Peter scoffed from nearby and Cass shot him a look. He was acting like some put out little toddler.
“Agreed.” Cass said and dug around in her pocket, she didn’t have a pen but Jay and Francis seemed to have it covered as Francis tore pages from an old notebook and Jay fished around in drawers for pens.
Scraps were handed out, pens shared between rows and Cass took her own piece of paper, turning it over in her fingers for a while as she really thought about it.
“Also, this vote is only for the women and children. We can discuss letting their fighting force in at a later date. Personally, their reaction to us housing only their vulnerable should tell us what we need to know.” Jay remarked. Cass figured it would be the same way if they declined.
“Myself and Francis will count the votes, we will count them when everyone has voted and then we’ll call another meeting in the morning.” Jay finished and Cass scribbled down her answer on the piece of paper. A scrawled out yes, messy and she handed the pen to the man sitting near her and she folded the piece of paper over. She approached Jay and dropped it in the box.
“I’ll be around.” She said to him quietly and Jay nodded to her, leaning down to whisper,
“You’re doing the right thing, Cass.” He gave her shoulder a squeeze and she nodded to him, feeling a little lost as she headed outside into the fresh air. It was growing dark and she eyed the speckled starry sky above. She would need to update the other group and she drew in a breath. She figured it wouldn’t go down very well and Francis caught up to her.
“Want company?” It was evident where she was going. Cass shook her head,
“I think it’s better I do it in person and alone, considering they asked me to pass the news.” She murmured and Francis nodded. Cass snatched his arm before he could leave,
“The patients in the Infirmary, they need a vote. Make sure you go to them.”
“You know what Greg’s vote will be.” Francis told her and Cass shook her head,
“It’s fair.” She said to him, everything needed to be fair. If the vote went a way that Peter didn’t like then he would use anything to squirm out of it.
“Anything happens, scream.” Francis said and gestured to the guys up on the wall. Cass knew she would be fine and she moved outside the gates, signalling to the guys up top. They would be able to see her and she moved around the wall.
“Ah, if it isn’t my favourite nurse!” Jeffrey got to his feet from beside the fire he was crouched at and Cass looked around,
“Can we talk? In private?” She asked him, it was probably best his people heard this from him and not a stranger. Jeffrey glanced to one of the shoddy tents and gestured for her to go ahead. A few wolf whistles echoed out and Cass rolled her eyes.
“Please, take a seat.” Jeffrey gestured to the fold out camp chair and Cass didn’t move, drawing in a breath.
“Let me guess, bad news right?” Jeffrey sighed as he leaned back in own chair, the soft mud squelching as he did and Cass shook her head.
“Not entirely. They’re doing a vote, to let just the women and children in for now.” Cass expressed and eyed Jeffrey over, trying to find a hint of reaction from him. He remained stoic however, but Cass could see the cogs turning on his face.


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