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calnadmicd


Neither Quinn nor I spoke as we drove through what was left of Santa Cruz. There were no signs of any movement and the buildings were becoming further and further apart, rendering visual tracking more reliable than it was before. I began to relax as I took the exit to Highway 1, heading toward the south. We would connect with Highway 152 and make our way towards Watsonville and meet up with the van we had left there.

Watsonville was another of Northern California’s cities that was lost to the undead. It was surrendered to the infected shortly after the summer of 2014, though it was much safer than Santa Cruz due to its close proximity to the protected farming community of Gilroy. This meant that while no one was honestly willing to live in Watsonville for fear of the zombies coming down from Santa Cruz for a midnight snack, the people of Gilroy were not about to allow the infected to have it either. They go into the city three times a year with flamethrowers and machine guns and clean the place out. This allows Watsonville to remain deserted while the people of Gilroy can keep feeding the rest of California.

I pulled off to the side of the road near the ruins of a small town named Aptos. It was right off the onramp to Highway 1 and there was flat ground in all directions, allowing us a broad line of sight and helped us keep track of anything that might have wanted to snack on us. My bike was beginning to run a bit rough so I needed to check everything out and getting some gas wasn’t a bad idea either. Dirt bikes have a rather small tank and we’ve already gone quite a few miles without adding anything to it. Better safe than sorry.

Quinn turned toward me as she dismounted the bike, a huge grin plastered on her face. The wind had blown her hair about wildly, causing it to stick up in places that I’d not seen too often outside of the bedroom. “That,” she started, sounding like she had just had the biggest, most life-changing religious experience in all her years of living, “was the single coolest thing I think I’ve ever seen you do. In fact, I’m almost positive it will be the coolest thing you will ever accomplish. And here I thought you’re entire existence had been made apparent when you met me but obviously I was wrong. It was actually when you decided, ‘Hey. Why don’t we go over the zombies?’” she paused for a moment to gain a bit of effect before continuing, “I think you just may be cooler than God, Rach.”

“Yet another chance to become the stereotypical old lady with a cat farm under her house, ruined by your inability to become a Happy Meal for the locals. Really, you should work on getting chewed on a little more, Quinn. You haven’t had it done enough lately.”

I hopped off of the bike and began to assess the damage my suicidal jump had caused it. The most obvious issues seemed to be fairly minor but I fully intended to get someone to check it out as soon as we got back home. Some of the damage was a bit much for my admittedly limited mechanical knowledge but for now, it would get us to where we were needed and that was fine with me.

“Don’t worry about the ruined chance, Rach. I’m sure I’ll provide you with another one soon enough.”

“It is with that knowledge that I can easily admit that I await that chance with extreme giddiness,” I replied with sarcasm dripping from my voice. I balanced the helmet against the wind screen before turning to the right saddlebag and pulling out the gas can inside. Setting the can on the ground, I dug about and pulled out the first aid kit. Turning to Quinn, I opened it up. “Blood test time.”

“Rach—“

“You know the rules, Quinn. We have been in the field and have been in contact with the infected. We shall not return to the base until we’ve both had our virus levels checked and we can guarantee that we do not have elevated levels. You can thank your friendly local that you wanted to play patty cake with, for had it not decided to grab you, perhaps this wouldn’t be necessary.”

I extracted two small handheld testing units, holding out one for her to take. “No levels, no van. No van, no bacon. No bacon, no joy. Would you like to acquire that joy, Quinn, or would you rather stand in the middle of nowhere and wait for the infected to come and make bacon out of you?”

“You are slowly melting away the cool factor you just got, Rach,” she muttered while grabbing a test.

“I would rather be uncool, Quinn, than undead. Now, shall we see if I have to shoot you today?”

Moving with a synchronicity born from long practice, we broke the biohazard seals and popped the plastic lids off our testing units, exposing the sterile metal pressure pads. These basic field tests only work once but they are a necessary part of field work and they are rather cheap. You need to know if someone has started the viral amplification process and it would be much preferred if that was before they started chewing on your tasty meat.

I unsnapped my right glove and pulled it off, shoving it into my pocket. “On three?”

“On three,” Quinn agreed.

“One.”

“Two.”

We both reached out and slid our index fingers into the unit the other was holding out. Call it a quirk of ours. Also call it a much needed early warning system. If either of us waits until the other says three, something is most definitely wrong.

The metal was cool against my finger has I pressed down on the pressure pad, a soothing sensation followed by the sharp pain of the tests needle breaking the skin. Diabetes tests don’t hurt; they want you to keep using them and comfort makes a huge difference as to whether you will or not. Kellis-Amberlee blood testing units hurt on purpose due to the fact that if you start amplification, you won’t feel the pain and that is another warning sign that you should probably be shot on sight.

The LED lights on the unit turned on, one green and one red, flashing in an alternating pattern. The flashing slowed down and eventually stopped, the red going out and the green shinning brightly. Still clean and I let out a breath as I noticed the light on Quinn’s indicated the same fate as my own.

“Guess you shall live to see another day, dear Quinn. Should I count myself lucky?”

“Of course. Maybe next time, right?” she replied with a grin. She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek as I handed her the test in my hand. Allowing her the job of cleaning that up, I turned back to the gas can sitting next to the bike. While I refilled the tank, she replaced the plastic covers to the units, triggering the internal bleach dispensers before pulling out a biohazard bag and dropping the tests inside. The top of the bag turned red as she sealed it, melting itself closed. The bag itself was triple-enforced making it next to impossible to reopen it. Still, she checked all the seals and edges before putting it and the first-aid kit back into the saddlebag on the bike.

While she was busy taking care of the containment steps, I was busy emptying the contents of the gas can into the tank on the bike. We had been running so close to empty that the thought of hitting empty during the chase shook me to the core. If we had run out of gas while being chased…

Best not to think about it. I took the empty gas can and placing it back in its proper place before turning toward Quinn. I watched as she climbed back on the bike, clicking my tongue in disapproval.

“What are we forgetting to do?”

“To go back to Santa Cruz for postcards?” she supplied hopefully.

“Helmet, Quinn.”

“Rach, we’re on a flat road with no chance of running into infected. I highly doubt that we will get into an accident.”

“Helmet. I am not arguing with you about this point any longer. You will put it on or I won’t move the bike from this spot.”

“I didn’t have to wear it just moments ago,” she fought back.
“We were being chased by a horde of undead looking for their next meal. I did not have time to reiterate the importance of helmet safety and that was no fault of my own. Had I enough time to actually tell you to put it on, I assure you I would have. Helmet, now. Otherwise, you shall continue the rest of this journey on foot and I will make sure there is no bacon when you get back to van, hours from now.”

Rolling her eyes at me in a manner I was all too familiar with, she unstrapped her helmet from the left saddlebag and shoved it onto her head. Turning back to face me, she responded coldly, “Happy now?”

“Ecstatic,” I replied while placing my own helmet on my head, “Let’s get out of here, shall we?”

The rest of the way to Watsonville was uneventful. The roads were empty, clear of cars and undead alike which caused a great joy inside me. Call me dull but after flying through the air trying to escape the undead, I had seen enough zombies to last me a lifetime and I was thankful to not have a repeat encounter on the way home.

Our van was parked on the outskirts of town with at least twenty feet distance between it and any standing structure nearby. Standard safety precautions. It was pretty hard to sneak up on someone when there was nothing to cover you from sight. I pulled up next to it and cut the engine, Quinn jumping off the bike before it even completely stopped. While I was removing my helmet, I heard her open the door and shout out, “Hey Britt! How was the footage?”

Ah, the enthusiasm of the young. Not that she was really much older than I. We were both adopted and neither of us came with an original birth certificate but the doctors had estimated that I was around three weeks older than she. Not that you could actually tell. Sometimes I could swear she was years younger than I and the doctors simply made a mistake on the paperwork. Setting my helmet down, I tugged off my gloves and slung them over the handlebars before following her to the van at a much slower pace.

The inside of the van was a testament to what a person could accomplish with a lot of time, a bit of money and three years of night classes in electronics. And the internet as well. We never would have figured out where all that wiring should go had it not been for people chiming in from all over the place. Quinn’s mother had installed reinforcements and security upgrades, supposedly as a favor to us but Brittany had disabled them as quickly as they had been put in. That didn’t stop her mom from trying to breach it every so often however.

After several years of work, we managed to turn the inside of a mostly gutted Channel 7 news van into a state-of-the-art traveling blog center, complete with camera feeds, a wireless tower, a self-sustaining homing device and so much back up storage that it made my head spin just trying to think about how it all works. That Brittany’s job, along with being the perkiest, blondest and most outwardly flakiest member of our little blog team. And she did all four jobs extremely well. Most people thought Brittany didn’t even know how to turn on a computer, let alone make sure no one else could hack into our systems.

Brittany herself was sitting cross-legged in one of the three chairs that was crammed into what little remaining floor space the van had left, looking thoughtful has she held a headset up to her ear. Quinn was standing behind her, bouncing from one foot to the next in excitement as she watched the footage replay on the screen in front of her. Sometimes I wonder how I put up with her line of work and what it entitles her to do.

Brittany didn’t seem to realize I was there but acknowledged my presence as soon as I closed the van door. “Hey, Rachel,” she said in a rather dreamy and detached tone.

“Hello, Brittany.” I moved over to the little mini fridge and pulled out a Coke. Quinn preferred her joy in meaty strips of fake bacon while I preferred my joy in the form of a cold, overly caffeinated drink from a can. I told her that those meat strips would be the death of her on the field, she told me that I shouldn’t wonder why I get so many migraines when all I drink is Coke. “How are we looking?”

Brittany gave me a thumbs up, actually looking animated for a brief moment before adding, “We’re looking good.”

Brittany’s real name was Georgette Meissonier. Like Quinn and I, Brittany was born after zombies became a common, everyday occurrence, during the period where George, Georgette and Barbara were the most popular names among girls. She was the Jennifer of our generation. Most of the girls just rolled over and took it in stride. After all, George Romero is considered one of the accidental saviors of the human race and its not like being named after him is uncool. It’s just rather common and Brittany hated being anything remotely common.

Brittany was all about cool professionalism when Quinn and I found her at a job fair a little while back. That lasted for all of about five minutes. We introduced ourselves and she responded with, “I’m cute, blonde and I act like a cheerleader on most days with just the right amount of spouting nonsense. What do you think I should call myself?”

We stared at her blankly and she muttered some nonsense about a pre-Rising TV show filled with singing teenagers and a cute blond cheerleader that was ditzier than the average cheerleader before dropping the subject all together. Not that I cared in the least. As long as she did her job and kept our equipment running in top shape, she could call herself whatever she wanted. Plus, having her on the team provided an air of the exotic: She was born in Alaska, the last, lost frontier. Her family moved after the government declared Alaska a lost cause and ceded it over to the infected.

“Okay, I got it,” she announced, disconnecting the headset and leaning over to turn on the nearest feedback monitor. A single image of Quinn poking at the zombie with her hockey stick came up on the screen but no sound emitted from the van. A single zombie moan could attract a horde from up to a mile away if you’re an unlucky person and soundproofing the inside of a vehicle made for field work was stupid and unsafe. Soundproofing works both ways and zombies tend to surround structures on the off chance that there was something inside that could satisfy their craving for something to eat and chase after. Opening the van doors only to find ourselves completely surrounded by the undead would be less than ideal for surviving and that’s exactly how we would find ourselves had we decided to soundproof the van.

“The image is a little fuzzy but I can clean it up much better once I have a chance to hit up the source files. Rachel, thanks for remembering to put your helmet on before driving off. That front mounted camera worked wonders.”

To be completely honest, I hadn’t remembered the camera on the helmet at all. I was too busy trying to make sure we didn’t become snack foods and mindless undead to actually remember that the helmet would be filming the entire suicide jump from atop my head. Still, I nodded in agreement, taking another sip of my Coke before saying, “How many of the cameras continued to film this excursion into the undead territory?”

“Three out of the four. Quinn’s helmet didn’t come on until you were almost here.”

“Quinn didn’t have time to put her helmet on since she was busy trying to make sure she had a head to put that helmet on,” Quinn protested.

“Quinn should stop talking about herself in third person,” Brittany said as she brought up a close up image of our blood test results. “I want to use this image on the main site. What do you think?”

“Whatever you say, Brittany. You know I don’t care about the graphics.” I watched the screen broadcasting our main external security camera. It was showing off an undisturbed, unmoving landscape. Nothing moved in Watsonville.

“And that would be why your ratings aren’t higher, Rach. I like the lights. I want to use them as a slow fade for tonight’s segment with a caption that says something about ‘How close is too close?’” Quinn replied, leaning back in her chair.

“’Close Encounters on the Edge of the Grave,’” I muttered, moving toward the screen. The outside was a little too unmoving for my liking and I’ve long since learned to listen to my instincts. God knows Brittany and Quinn weren’t listening to anything except their chatter about tonight’s posts. Maybe I was being paranoid but the outside was beginning to unnerve me.

Quinn grinned, “I like that, baby. Grayscale the image except for the lights and use that.”

“Got it,” Brittany typed herself a quick note before shutting down the monitor. “Anymore plans for this afternoon?”

“Getting back to civilization. As much as I enjoy being in the middle of an abandoned city with nothing out there but the air we breathe, I’m beginning to dislike the lack of movement. I’m on the bike and I’ll take the lead.”

Brittany looked a bit confused. She was a Fictional; her style of blogging was completely self-contained and the only time she ever sees the field is when Quinn and I drag her out to work the equipment. Even then, she rarely leaves the van and this gives her no reason to pay attention to the monitors of the outside of the van.

Quinn on the other hand, sobered immediately, asking, “Why?”

“There is nothing moving in the city at the moment. Something should be moving,” I responded. I opened the back door, scanning the landscape. It had taken me a few minutes—perhaps a few too many—to notice what was so unnerving about this situation but once I did, it was all too clear what I had missed earlier.

There should always be something moving outside, from feral cats to rabbits to deer. We had seen everything from goats to someone’s abandoned Shetland pony but the point was that there was always something moving outside. Nothing clears out wildlife like the infected, however and it was only just now becoming apparent that the infected had cleared out everything in the area.

“Shit,” Quinn grimaced.

“Shit, indeed. Buffy, grab your gear.”

“I’ll drive the van,” Quinn answered, moving toward the front of the van while I was getting ready to hop out the back.

Brittany looked between us, confused and a little worried. “Okay, so does anyone want to fill me in?”

“There isn’t any wildlife, Britt.”

I paused while putting on my gloves to finish the sentiment. “And we would like to remove ourselves from the area before we get some com—“ I didn’t get to finish my statement before the sound of a low moan reached our ears.

“Right, race you home!” Quinn shouted from the front while Brittany tossed me a sympathetic look before locking up the back of the van. I heard all three bolts click shut and I knew that no matter how much I screamed, they wouldn’t be letting me back inside anytime soon. Rules of the field: Once the door is locked, it doesn’t open again. Not if they wanted to live anyway.

Quickly putting on my gloves, I grabbed my helmet and pulled it on before hopping on my bike and starting it up. There were no zombies in sight but the moaning from the north and the east was getting exceptionally louder as time passed. As I got ready to pull out in front of the van, I knew Brittany would be checking the security cameras and fastening her seatbelt while wondering why we were reacting so badly to the sound of zombies that weren’t in range of sight and probably no where near close to us. I hoped that if there was a God, Brittany would never have to find out the answer to that question.

The van pulled out, bumping and shaking as it made its way onto the freeway. I gunned the engine on the bike and took off in front of the van where Quinn could see me and we could both keep an eye on the surrounding area for anything that may be blocking our way home. It was a simple safety precaution but it has saved a lot of asses in the last twenty years or so. We rode that way, separated by a thin piece of broken road all the way out of the valley, through the South Bay and into the cool, welcoming air of Berkley, California.

Home sweet zombie-free home.


From the blogs of Brittany and Rachel

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Seriously epic. I am loving this. So detailed and self-contained and I love being halfway in the dark at the moment. Can't wait for more!

Hopefully by Saturday I should have the next chapter up. :D

Awesome! So this blogging thing is what they do for money? Who's paying them?

That it is. I'm not entirely sure how they get paid or where it comes from. I don't think it was ever addressed in the book but I'm guessing with ads and perhaps subscribers?

What book is this based on, If you dont mind me asking. i'd really like to read it.




p.s i LOOOOOOVE this.

Feed by Mira Grant. It's a good read. :D Also, thank you for loving this!

Alright alright, I'll bite. (I'm normalab on ff.net) This is hilarigreat.

Just don't bite me, yea? ;D Thanks for reading :D

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