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Someone screamed, a woman, I think. Her voice came from really far away. Did a group of people run into problems on their way to the garrison? With the announcement the chief insisted on pushing out, everyone nearby with a radio knew to come here. If raiders took advantage of that fact and deliberately targeted the people who left the safety of their bases, their payday would be huge and their risk minimal. With such a perfect opportunity to attack, why wouldn’t they? And after attacking, they’d be able to find out which base those people were from to occupy it. But the thing is, raiding groups are pretty rare. They were relatively successful during the first few months after the outbreak, but without gas and no trucks to refill the gas stations, their mobility was severely hampered, and their lifestyle unsustainable.

So if the cause of the scream wasn’t raiders, then there’s two other options: the woman was attacked by her companions, or the group encountered a herd of infected. Either one is likely. Or maybe she encountered a bear. Do bears even exist in this area? Now that I think about it, can bears become infected? That’d be scary as hell. A thousand-pound killing machine that isn’t afraid of bear spray. If guns hadn’t been outlawed over two decades ago, maybe bears wouldn’t be so scary. But without guns, how are people supposed to kill infected bears? Traps, I suppose. Maybe we should widen the moat outside.

Someone nudged my side; it was Jen. “What do you think?”

“Infected bear.”

“…What? You think that scream came from someone being attacked by an infected bear? Do bears even exist around this area? Or do you know something that I don’t?”

Jen was staring at me. I couldn’t tell what kind of expression she had on her face thanks to her motorcycle helmet. “I mean, what else could it be? There aren’t many raiders left. And if it were a herd of infected, don’t you think these people would’ve noticed or saw signs of them?” I gestured behind myself towards the prisoners inside the quarantine zone.

“Maybe she was attacked by her companions,” Jen mumbled. Before she could continue, there was another scream, a deeper one. It sounded like someone being surrounded by infected: loud at the start and even louder for the next few seconds. Then, there was a chorus of screams. It probably wasn’t an infected bear. If there was one bear, it’d target a single person while the rest could escape. Only the unfortunate person would scream. Unless…, it was a group of infected bears?

“Uh….” Jen took her helmet off and cupped one hand around her ear. Her face paled. “I think we have a problem.”

“I think it’s an infected herd.” What else could it be? A group of infected bears, but they also fall under the category of infected herd. “The first scream probably came from the group’s scout. Now it sounds like they’re surrounded.” The screams were still continuing. “If they weren’t surrounded, they wouldn’t be screaming.” People don’t yell in fear of attracting more infected, but if there were infected on all sides already, it’s not like yelling would cause any problems.

Jen bit her lower lip. “What do we do?”

I shrugged. “Nothing. It’s not our job.” Even if a herd of infected attacked the garrison, they wouldn’t get very far. The moat outside is enough to stop them since infected can’t climb. If they somehow find a way across, they’ll get caught in the concertina wires and easily picked off with spears. When we first came here, the garrison didn’t have barbed wire, but somewhere along the way, a group of hunters picked it up. The chief decided against painting it with infected blood, so the painters have been relatively free. Sarah and Michael still make stink sauce though.

The faraway screams stopped, and Jen sighed. “Even if the hunters went out starting from that first scream, they probably wouldn’t have made it to save them.”

“You never know, the group might’ve survived.” It’s highly unlikely, but there’s a chance. The people who’ve made it thus far aren’t ones to be underestimated, but the screaming really made it seem like they were in a dire situation. “At least, if there was a herd, the hunters would find traces of it, and everyone coming here will be more aware once that information’s announced.”

Jen sighed again and put her helmet back on her head. There was a ringing sound, like metal banging against metal. It sounded familiar…. A herd of infected. Metal banging against metal. I’ve encountered this before, haven’t I?

“Uh, Chris?” Jen asked. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Smart infected?”

“Yes.”

Is it really the infected that we encountered that night? To think it’d be here nearly two months later. How unlucky are we? Maybe it’s a different smart infected, or even a person leading a herd around. “I’ll let the chief know what I think.”

Jen clicked her tongue. “Every time you go to the chief, that’s more work for me. I swear, after you leave, everyone suddenly needs to pee.”

“Do you want to go instead?”

“No,” Jen said. “He likes you more; you go. Don’t you want to talk about the cure with him too?”

“If that herd’s really being led by the smart infected, I’m not sure we’ll have the leisure time to talk about the cure.” I grabbed my spear that was leaning against the wall and nodded at Jen. “I’ll be right back.”

Jen nodded back. “Don’t get lost.”

Should I run? Or would a brisk walking pace do? I have to alert the chief, but the damage is already done: a group of people were wiped out by a herd of infected that was purposely being led by someone. But the chief might not have sent out a group of hunters, so if I run, I might catch up to them. However, will me telling them change their minds about going out to investigate? Of course not. So it doesn’t matter if I run or walk. I’ll walk. I wonder, if the herd really is being led by the smart infected, can it conquer the garrison? Probably not. I don’t think I’d be able to bring down the garrison if I led a group of infected. How can a smart infected do it?

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