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So this is the Breakfast in Bed. Compared to the ranger station I ran, its defenses are subpar. Their fence isn’t really a fence, just a trench dug around the building with spikes protruding out of the ground. An infected might stumble and fall onto a spike, but the next infected bastard would walk right on its corpse. If a horde the size of the one that destroyed my place invaded, this fence wouldn’t hold them back for more than three minutes. It’s not like the fence I created held back that horde, but the circumstances were different. “Oi! Anyone there?”

The Breakfast in Bed is a two-story building. It looks like they’ve added a few separate sheds in the back, similar to the smoker shed I had set up. From a window on the second floor, a head appeared with a pair of binoculars held in front of its face. I waved because waving was the polite thing to do. Not unexpectedly, the person waved back before shouting something. Then, the door to the Breakfast in Bed opened, and five people came out, four of them pointing bows and arrows at me while the fifth had a short spear and shield.

“Put your bag on the ground. Hands in the air,” the man with the shield said. “Any sudden movements and we’ll shoot.”

I did what he said because I didn’t want to get shot. Pretty simple, really. “Strict as always, aren’t you, Matt?”

“Bern? That you?”

“The one and only.”

“There hasn’t been any response from your radio for a while. Was the station really overrun?” Matt asked. He pointed the spear at me and tilted it up a couple of times, indicating for me to raise my hands higher.

“Yeah, I’d reckon at least a hundred fifty of them attacked us. Remember how we broadcasted about the smart infected? It was leading them.”

“Really?” Matt raised his eyebrows as he approached me. His shield and spear were still readied in front of him. Wrapped around his shoulder, there was a coil of rope. “Turn around, hands behind your back. We won’t mistreat you, unless, you know, you’ve been infected.”

Every group has a quarantine in place. I turned around, putting my hands behind my back. The rope was rough against my wrists, but thankfully, the camouflage clothes I was wearing was thick. Other than having my arms bound, I wasn’t uncomfortable. “Matt, you know how fortified my station was, right?”

“Yeah, what’d you have? The tree snares in the surrounding woods. The caltrops, tripwires, and that spiked fence, right?” Matt spun me around and gestured for me to follow. “Normally, I’d gag you, but you seem like you have a lot you want to say. Have you eaten yet?”

“I’m quite hungry, actually.” The bag I packed for emergencies had enough food for a week, but only if it was eaten sparsely. “A bed to sleep in later would be nice too.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Matt said. “I’ll get you one, but only out of respect for the elderly.” He walked into the building, and the four men with archers glared at me but didn’t make a move. I assumed they wanted me to go first, so I did. They filed in after me and closed the door. The interior had been remodeled, but not by a lot. Furniture as arranged into a barricade, and the ground was stained black. Evidently, many infected had died in this spot. But if they were to survive against the horde I fought against, their defense was far from enough.

Matt led me to a room in the back. “This’ll be where you’ll be staying for the next three days. There’s a bathroom, but the water doesn’t work, obviously. Just shit in the bucket and throw the crap out the window.”

So that’s why the place smelled like shit. The smell wasn’t as pungent the last time I came here. “Got it.”

Matt pulled a chair out from underneath the desk in the room. “Alright, tell me about the smart infected,” he said and sat down. “What makes it special?”

What made the smart infected different from the others? Lots of things. “For one, it can climb trees.”

“Really?” Matt frowned. “I honestly didn’t expect that.”

“I didn’t either. I saw someone wearing camouflage up in a tree—”

“Must’ve been some shitty camouflage.” Matt coughed. “Right, go on.”

“I thought it was a person, but when I went to check it out, there was a horde of infected underneath. I ran for my life. Later on, I saw the camouflage-wearing infected standing in the back. It shot at me with an arrow.”

Matt’s brow furrowed. “It can use a bow and arrow?”

“It can do more than that. A lot more.” I shook my head. How do I fully convey the danger? “You know how we had holes in the walls to poke at infected in case they surrounded the place? Well, while one of my people was poking at the holes, he noticed smoke was coming out of it. And when he bent down to check what the hell was going on, he got stabbed in the eye.”

“What do you mean smoke?”

“The smart infected had a lighter. It was lighting its underlings’ clothes on fire. I think it was trying to burn down the building.”

“You’re shitting me,” Matt said. “Really? You sure it’s not a twisted fuck pretending to be an infected?”

“Absolutely. Yellow eyes, pale skin, and most importantly, it wasn’t being attacked by its minions.”

“But it was wearing camouflage clothes, right? You’re sure it’s not a person?”

“Earlier, one of our hunters was killed by it. He spoke about it through the walkie-talkie, how there was an infected shooting at him with arrows. I’m almost a hundred-percent certain that the infected took his clothes after killing him.”

“Jesus.”

“Matt, you have to take this infected very seriously. Your place is way less defended than mine was, and I lost.”

“It’s not like I can build a fence that quickly,” Matt said and shook his head. “There’s only seven of us here, including you.”

“This is going to sound a bit crazy, but hear me out.” I don’t know when the horde will arrive. I don’t know if it will ever arrive. But there’s one thing that’s certain. Something that dangerous can’t be allowed to live. When a bear eats a human, we put it down. The concept is the same here. This infected leader isn’t just eating us, it’s actively hunting us. “Instead of building defenses and waiting for the smart infected to show its face, let’s assemble a squad, go back to my place, and kill it.”

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Virlyce

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