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Twang.

Upon hearing that familiar sound, I turned around and dropped down, using my backpack to shield myself as much as possible from the incoming arrow. There was a swishing sound followed by a squelch and a high-pitched, ear-splitting shriek. One of the hunters that Matt had sent with me, Nelson, was lying on the ground a couple of feet away from me with an arrow sticking out of his groin. He vomited inside his helmet, splattering the visor, hiding his terrified face from view. He had dived to the side when he heard the bow being released, but it seemed like the smart infected was expecting that, shooting in the direction that Nelson had dodged instead of directly at him.

“Nelson! Shit!”

“Get down!”

The other three hunters copied me, turning their backs and crouching. I slid off my backpack and turned around, keeping it in front of me as a shield. That’s when I saw it: the smart infected. It was still wearing Patrick’s camouflage clothes, but now it was wearing Spencer’s helmet too. The caltrops must’ve been its doing as well. They were only scattered towards the front of the ranger station where the opening to the fence was, but Brett had stepped on one despite us coming from behind. And while all of our attention was focused on the ground, the smart infected had time to ready its bow and ambush us.

Twang.

Another arrow flew towards us. I raised my bag up, protecting my face despite having a helmet on. There’s was a thudding squelch, but no one screamed. The arrow had struck Nelson again, and he had already passed out from the first one.

“Nelson!”

There was no response. I lowered my bag. The smart infected was nocking another arrow. Not only that, but Nelson’s shriek seemed to have attracted many infected’s attentions. More and more of them were showing up on the other side of the fence, but thankfully, they couldn’t climb over. The oddest part about them was their attire.

“Are they wearing bowls on their heads?” Brett asked, his voice strained. There was a bloody caltrop next to his boot. While making those caltrops, I made sure the ends were barbed like a fishing hook to make tearing them out impossible without losing a large chunk of flesh. Now that I think about it, I probably shouldn’t have done that.

“Fucking hell, why aren’t you shooting back?” Vlad asked. He was crouching while holding up his backpack, but he was a large fellow. If anyone was going to get shot past the bags, it was him. “Are you just going to wait until it runs out of arrows or something?”

“It’s going to shoot whoever drops their guard first,” Perry said. “If I stand up and draw my bow now, it’s going to shoot me. And Nelson’s down for the count.”

“Useless!” Vlad picked up a caltrop and tossed it aside before crawling towards me. He grabbed Nelson by his ankle and dragged him across the ground. “Stand up, Perry; I’ll shield you.”

Perry hesitated, but Vlad stood up, holding Nelson out in front of him like a human shield. “What are you waiting for!”

Perry dropped his bag and climbed to his feet. He reached behind his back and drew his bow before grabbing an arrow from the bag hanging around his waist. “Alright, step aside for a bit.”

Vlad moved out of the way as Perry nocked his arrow. Why wasn’t the infected shooting?

Twang.

I thought too soon. An arrow cut across the space between us, heading towards Perry. Vlad grunted and swung his arms, placing Nelson directly in the line of fire. It seemed like the arrow would’ve missed even if Vlad hadn’t done anything, but better safe than sorry. There was a squelching sound as the arrow dug into Nelson’s back. Vlad moved Nelson out of the way, and Perry returned fire. His arrow flew through the air, heading straight for the smart infected. But it ducked behind the fence, and the arrow went over its head, embedding itself into the wall behind.

“This isn’t going to work,” Perry said. “We’re out in the open while it has cover.”

“Then what do we do?” Brett asked. “There’s a shit-ton of caltrops. Running is suicidal.”

“So is waiting,” Vlad said. “We’ll slowly approach. Single file, get behind me. I’ll use Nelson as a shield for the arrows. When we get close enough, Bern and Brett kill the infected with your spears. If the smart one tries to snipe us, you keep it locked down with arrows, Perry.”

It wasn’t a bad plan. “Let’s do it.” As long as the infected were kept behind the fence, we wouldn’t be overrun. If they’re kept in place like that, unable to reach us, it’s no different from shooting ducks in a barrel. But would the smart infected really let us do that? It’s shown an intelligence far higher than what I expected. “But be careful.”

With that, Nelson took the lead, held up by Vlad. Brett followed close behind, limping along while leaving a tiny trail of blood. I went next while Perry came last, an arrow nocked but his bow pointed at the ground. For some reason, the smart infected wasn’t shooting at us. Maybe it knew it was pointless with Vlad using Nelson as a human shield?

The distance to the fence wasn’t very far, but it felt much longer than usual. No one spoke. Every so often, Vlad would brush aside a caltrop with his foot. “We’re almost there,” Vlad said. “Remember the plan. Make sure the smart one can’t shoot at us, Perry.”

“Got it,” Perry said. “When we’re this close, as long as it shows its face, it’s dead.”

“It’s wearing a helmet, remember?” I reminded Perry. “It’ll be better to aim for its arms, so it can’t fight back. If you shoot its head, it might not die.”

“Got it,” Perry said again. “Just leave it to me.”

Vlad stumbled, the right side of his body sinking down. Nelson fell to the ground as Vlad dropped onto his left knee, his right foot stuck in a pit of sorts. “What the fuck!?” he shouted and grunted, holding onto his calf. “A hidden trap! My fucking foot!”

The hole that Vlad’s foot was stuck in wasn’t very deep, but that didn’t matter. Inside of it, there was a bloody spike pierced through the center of Vlad’s boot.

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Virlyce

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