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The Dead Files

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The Dead Files
By Suzanne L. Feld
Rated NC-17

 

July 2010

“Shouldn’t we see them by now, Mulder?”

“They’re around here somewhere, Scully. Just look for any people who aren’t shambling or drooling blood.”

Scully sat back in her seat, lips compressed. That he could make jokes during the end of the world annoyed her to no end—and yet didn’t surprise her at all. “Didn’t he say they’d be stopping in Forrestown if it wasn’t too bad?”

“Yeah, for supplies before they moved on to Fort Benning, though I still think that’s a mistake,” Mulder said as the Hummer crawled along the ragged-looking, abandoned main street of the small Georgia town in the bright midday sunlight. “I think there’ll be more zombies there than in most places outside of cities.”

“It would be worth risking it to get the weapons, if it hasn’t been overrun,” Scully pointed out. “But you might use up even more ammo getting to it, if it has.”

Mulder just grunted in reply, and they were quiet as they both looked out the Hummer’s high, narrow windows at the silent, empty town, occasionally dodging vehicles abandoned randomly in the road. They saw very few corpses, though they knew that the reanimated dead were around. Last they had heard from Washington, they were everywhere—and their numbers were growing every day.
Though they both felt that this invasion of the living dead was their fault, Scully tried not to dwell on it, since there was very little that they could do about it at this point. Just before they’d left DC, a team of research scientists led by one of the foremost cancer researchers in the country and guarded by a squad of regular Army soldiers had been dispatched to an underground bunker in Florida to work on the problem. If anyone could figure out how to cure this infection, Scully thought, Dr. Logan would. She had been tempted to join them, but knew Mulder wouldn’t go. Besides, there was little use for a doctor who specialized in pathology these days.

The original plan had been for her and Mulder to get to Atlanta and the main office of the Centers for Disease Control, since they had lost contact with all of the other satellite offices except the one in DC. That one had been overrun and the last two scientists there sent to Florida with Dr. Logan’s group. They had an Iridium satellite phone to stay in touch with Skinner, which they used to check in daily. He, along with most of the other FBI higher-ups and their families in some cases, was deep in a bunker beneath the Hoover Building. The power was mostly out so cell phones were unreliable, and who had landlines anymore?

Though she hadn’t particularly wanted to come with Mulder on what she thought was a wild goose chase, at that point there weren’t many choices. It was that or evacuate to a National Guard base with the rest of the staff and patients at Our Lady of Sorrows, and she knew that was a terrible idea. From her own experience growing up, she didn’t think that the base was secure enough to keep everyone safe, though by that point the hospital was being rapidly overrun. Mulder had been talking about heading for Washington anyway when Skinner contacted them regarding this assignment; it had seemed like nowhere was safe. They hadn’t seen any reanimated corpses around their remote farm house, although it was just a matter of time, Scully supposed, before they would had been found by the walking dead. Being on the road seemed safer than trying to board up the house, though she hoped they’d be able to return there… eventually.

Something caught her eye, distracting her from her depressing thoughts. “Hey—I saw something moving down that street,” Scully said, reaching across the Hummer’s wide cabin and grabbing Mulder’s bare forearm. “Turn around and go back, let’s check it out.”

He swung the big SUV in a circle which was, Scully thought, like riding an elephant around the inside of a circus ring, and shortly they were turning back onto the street where she’d seen the movement. To her disappointment, it turned out to be nothing more than an open suitcase of clothes in the middle of the street. The garments, which looked to have been thrown from an adjacent porch littered with other luggage, clothing, and bodies, fluttered in the summer breeze. A lone arm, the blood on it long since dried to brown flakes, sat on the steps leading down from the porch. Scully looked away before she could see any further carnage; though the dead had never bothered her before, in the last month she’d seen enough corpses both animated and motionless to last her the rest of her life.

Instead of dodging it, Mulder rolled over the suitcase, the big Hummer barely jolting. Scully sighed and looked forward out the windshield as they continued down the side street, then made a right turn and headed back to the main street.

Suddenly the police radio under the dash crackled, startling them both. But rather than a voice, they heard nothing but static for a few seconds before it once again fell silent. They weren’t sure what that was, but it was happening on all channels sometimes as often as four or five times a day. Mulder thought it might be zombie police officers trying to use their radios out of sheer half-remembered habit, since they’d seen other walking corpses trying to do similar things, but Scully thought it more likely that it was civilians trying to figure out how to use cops’ radios. Either way, the only transmission they had picked up so far that made any kind of sense was the one that they were following, from a deputy named Grimes who had a small group of people he was trying to get to safety. He kept attempting to reach someone named Morgan on his police radio, and so far they had followed three of his calls as he reported his group’s location, obviously hoping that this other person would find them. Though they’d tried to call him back, the hastily cobbled-together police band radio they had put in the Hummer was not able to call out.

Scully looked around the roomy interior of the big SUV, once again relieved that they had found the beast. Though the FBI-issue Ford Expedition they’d left DC in had been a good vehicle, it hadn’t had the extra safety features of the Hummer H2 they’d stumbled across at a dealership in Durham with the keys in it. Gas had been getting hard to find; not because of a lack of it, but rather finding places that still had the power to run the pumps, and dealerships were often their best bet since many had auxiliary power. When they’d seen the large used car lot in Durham, they’d pulled up to the pump and while Scully kept a lookout Mulder filled the tank on the Expedition. It was then that she’d spotted the Hummer across the lot, noting the large sign on the front that advertised its extra safety features. Once again they disagreed on how it came to be at the dealership: Scully suspected that it was sold by a disgraced politician while Mulder thought it a repo from a drug lord. Either way, the big vehicle had bulletproof windows and armor on the doors, with a large, carpeted cargo area in the back that was long enough for them to sleep in after they’d removed the back seats, as long as Mulder scrunched up his long legs a bit. It was a little cramped with all their gear and food, but far safer than anywhere else they’d tried.

They had removed the police radio from the Expedition using tools from the dealership’s garage and installed it in the Hummer as best they could, but since neither were mechanics it barely functioned. While they were able to hear transmissions, they couldn’t reply. Luckily Deputy Grimes reported their location every time his group stopped, including the shocking report of the Atlanta CDC building being blown up. Hopefully, they could find the group before long and verify the information before reporting it. Last they had heard, the others were looking for supplies, mainly food and water, while moving south towards Fort Benning.

“If we don’t find them today, I think we should call Skinner and tell him what we’ve heard,” Scully said, scrutinizing the abandoned stores as they turned onto Main Street again. “Let him decide if he wants us to take their word for it or go take a look for ourselves.”

“I tend to believe this Grimes guy,” Mulder said, the Hummer crawling along under its own power with the engine at a low, muted growl. “Can’t imagine why he’d lie about it, especially since he’s trying to leave a trail for this other guy to find him.”

“Makes sense,” Scully agreed, then pointed through the windshield as they went around an overturned delivery truck that had blocked their view ahead. “I see a camper up there, Mulder, an old one like Grimes described. It’s in front of a grocery store.”

“Could be them,” Mulder agreed, tapping the gas so that the Hummer grumbled and cruised along at a slightly faster pace. Scully unsnapped her seat belt and reached down into the footwell to pick up and check her suppressed MP5K submachine gun. She made sure the magazine was secure and the gun on semi-automatic before slipping the strap over her shoulder. It had been a long time since she’d trained on this type of weapon, but she was getting used to it fast. Though she had half of a thirty-bullet magazine in the gun, Scully got two more out of the console between the seats and tucked them in the waistband of her shorts. They had learned the hard way not to skimp on bullets.

Mulder pulled up next to the old tan Winnebago, and they saw the chopper parked a short way from the propped-open double glass doors of the small supermarket it was in front of. The antiquated yellow Jeep was on the other side of the camper. With a glance at each other, they confirmed that this was the group they were looking for, since Deputy Grimes had described his caravan several times. They then stepped out of the vehicle with weapons at the ready. Scully was glad of the Hummer’s air conditioning when she went out into the hot, humid air, and that she was dressed in a thin tank top and khaki cargo shorts. Mulder was dressed similarly in baggy navy blue and orange basketball shorts and a plain white undershirt, the kind unfortunately often called a wife-beater. They both, however, wore heavy sweat socks and tough hiking boots, having learned quickly that sturdy footwear was a must when being chased by zombies over rough terrain. Scully missed her four-inch heels and was heartily tired of the crick in her neck from looking up at Mulder when they were standing, but even though she could run well in heels, she wasn’t about to test that with a bloodthirsty fiend on her tail.

Scully paused after she climbed down and closed the door quietly, taking a deep breath. The air smelled fresh and clean without the stench of death that she was, unfortunately, getting far too used to. If there were walking, rotting corpses around, Scully usually smelled them before she saw them, so testing the air had become second nature. Still, she held the small but deadly submachine gun at the ready.

“Hello the store,” Mulder called, low, from the other side of the Hummer, keeping his voice down so no zombies would be alerted to their presence, and probably not wanting to startle the humans inside the store into shooting at them. “Can anyone in there hear me?”

They heard faint thumps from inside the store, and then a male voice with a smooth Southern accent called back, equally low, “Who’s out there?”

“My name is Fox Mulder, and I’m a consultant for the FBI, and my partner Dr. Dana Scully is with me,” he replied. “We’ve been following your radio transmissions. We good to come in and talk?”

Scully heard faint voices, then the same man’s voice called, “Come on, but keep your weapons pointed down at the ground.”

She was glad they didn’t ask them to put down their guns, because there was no way she was going anywhere without some type of weapon. She folded down the stock of the MP5K and tucked it under her arm, letting it hang from the strap. Together she and Mulder moved towards the doorway, looking around for shambling corpses on the street, but all was quiet and still beneath the hot Georgia summer sun.

They paused just inside the doorway, letting their eyes get used the dimness since the lights weren’t on; the power was off here as it was in many of the towns, though not all, they’d passed through. It was a medium-sized, small-town grocery store, with four shoulder-height shelves lining the interior on either side of a wide central aisle that ran from front to back, with three checkout lanes to their right while two rows of dimly shining metal shopping carts were to the left. The two large windows on either side of the front door were covered with huge displays of two-liter bottles of soda inside and large sale signs on the outside, making the interior dim but with just enough light to see clearly. The store was a mess, with the green smell of rotting produce and sticky-sweet soda pop heavy in the air while rolls of toilet paper, rotting fruit, smashed boxes of cereal, and everything between littered the floor.

The next thing Scully noted was a cluster of people behind what looked to be an empty shoulder-high glass and enamel meat counter near the back of the store, which she could see straight down the wide middle aisle. Closer, half behind the front row of shelves, a lone man in a brown sheriff’s hat and uniform had them covered with a revolver, though she noted that the hammer wasn’t pulled back. “So y’all been followin’ us?” he said, gesturing with the handheld police band radio he held in the other hand. “Now why would you be doin’ that?”

“Our assignment was to make contact with the CDC in Atlanta, but when we picked up your first transmission, we decided to follow you instead to get the low-down,” Mulder said easily, standing relaxed with his Sig Sauer pointing down at the floor but with his finger on the trigger, not the guard. “We’d like more information before we report back to Washington, if you don’t mind.”

“You said you’re FBI?” the deputy asked, not moving from his shielded position.

“I’m a consultant for the FBI, and my partner here is a doctor,” he said, and Scully saw several of the distant group stir. “We used to be agents, so that’s why we were sent.”

“Do you have anyone who is hurt, or needs to be looked at?” Scully said, noting how the people in the back had reacted to Mulder’s announcement that she was a doctor.

“Naw, we’re all good,” the other man said, then lowered his gun to his side and stepped out from behind the shelving, waving for the group in the back to come forward. “Rick Grimes, former deputy of King County.”

He didn’t come close enough to shake, instead going over to a thin, dark-haired, worried-looking woman and putting his arm around her as Mulder and Scully introduced themselves to the rest of the group, who did the same in return. There were eleven people altogether including Grimes, as well as two children who looked to be about ten years old or so, and quite the mixed bunch. As they talked, Scully studied them, especially the other deputy, introduced as Rick’s partner Shane. She noted that he got an odd look on his face whenever he glanced toward Rick, who still stood with his arm around Lori as he talked with Mulder. Unlike Rick, he was not wearing his deputy’s uniform but instead khakis and a tight black t-shirt that showed off his muscular chest and biceps. She also noted the brown-haired, well-built man who stayed around the back of the group, looking around alertly with a crossbow resting on his shoulder. Then there was the large, burly black man called T-Dog, who she already noted paid close attention to everything but didn’t say much. He had kind but worried eyes, and gave her a half-hearted smile when he saw her looking at him. The young Asian man, introduced as Glenn, had a machete in one hand which he swung absently as he listened to Rick and Mulder, occasionally tugging on the brim of his black and white baseball cap.

The almost-bald skinny woman, one arm around her daughter, had moved farther back after the introductions, along with a tall, clearly annoyed blonde woman and a tired-looking older man, talking among themselves. Scully had caught an odd vibe between Dale and Andrea, and wondered at their relationship. They didn’t seem familiar enough with each other to be related, and yet there was no romantic feeling coming from them, either. She didn’t know if they would stay long enough to figure out the dynamics of the group, but had to admit that she was intrigued. There had to be small groups like this all over the country, people banding together just trying to survive. These were the first people they’d talked to since leaving DC three days earlier, although admittedly they had been avoiding contact until they found this group.

Scully took a moment and studied the two children, who, though looking rather hollow-eyed and tired, didn’t seem underfed or ill in any way, and gave them both a gentle smile. The little girl shyly smiled back at her from her mother’s side, and Scully wondered about the pair; there was an air of melancholy about them even more pronounced than any of the other survivors they’d met back in DC.

“Shit, Carol, duck!” the handsome, lanky redneck, who had been introduced as Daryl, yelled, yanking his crossbow off his shoulder and going into a firing stance. The skinny woman and her daughter hit the deck, as did pretty much everyone else except Glenn, Mulder, Scully, Rick, and Shane, who all drew their weapons or brought them up to the ready, looking around frantically. By the time Scully realized what was going on, a quarrel had drilled through the head of a zombie who had entered the store behind them. It folded to the floor like a collapsed sack of flour. “Try not to use guns,” Glenn said, brandishing the three-foot-long machete he held in one hand. “Noise brings more of ‘em.”

The others scrambled back to their feet, milling around between the shelves, murmuring among themselves in low voices. “That’s why I use this,” Daryl said, inserting a new dart into the crossbow and cocking it with the ease of long practice. “Silent an’ deadly.”

Scully lifted the muzzle of her MP5K, which had a dark grey cylindrical suppressor covering the end of the barrel, and tapped it. “The silencer isn’t perfect, but it helps,” she pointed out as she unfolded the stock and lifted the gun into position, facing the door. “And I can get a lot more of them with this than with one crossbow bolt at a time.”

“You’re gonna have your chance,” Rick said from where he’d moved over by the door, peering out. “More walkers comin’. Glenn, Dale, whyn’t you take everyone back behind that meat case in the back and we can pick ‘em off as they come in the front.”

The big black guy, introduced as T-Dog, hesitated and looked at Rick, the head of the fire ax he was holding resting on the ground. “Where you want me?”

“Go with them, m’man, we got it here.”

Scully saw the sullen look on his face as the brawny man stomped away after the others, but had no time to wonder again about the undercurrents of the group as they prepared for the attack. She could only hope there weren’t too many of the reanimated dead that they’d have to fight off to get out of the store; they sometimes roamed in packs, and that was deadly, although single ones could often be easily outrun. From her own informal studies of the reanimated dead Scully had noted that the older the zombie, the slower it was, which made perfect sense due to decay of organic matter.

The four former law enforcement officers plus Daryl backed up to the shelves where Rick had been shielding himself when Mulder and Scully came in, the ex-FBI agents on one side and the rest on the other. Mulder had holstered his unsuppressed Sig and instead accepted a tire iron from one of the others before they left, a steely-eyed blond woman who looked vaguely familiar though he couldn’t have said why. He stood behind and to the left of Scully, being tall enough to see over the shelving while she leaned around it.

A faintly moaning zombie shuffled through the open doorway, its head cocked sideways and almost resting on its shoulder from what Scully suspected was a broken neck, but it was barely inside before it fell over the previous one. Shane waved everyone off and darted forward to bury his machete in its head, then retrieved the crossbow quarrel while he was there and returned to the shelving where Daryl and Rick waited.

Two more appeared, but before they could also stumble over the inert corpses just inside the door, one fell with a crossbow bolt through its eye, the other crumbling with a neat, bloodless hole in its forehead from Scully’s submachine gun, then three more went down. She glanced over at the men across the aisle and saw that Daryl was lined up for another shot. The two of them were holding off the zombies just fine, and Scully began to wonder—

Suddenly screams rang out from the back of the store, and while they all jerked around to look, only Shane and Rick left their positions to go see what was happening. Scully saw that the rest of the group was fleeing toward the front of the store and behind them, more walking dead coming through the black hanging strips over the door behind the meat case. The tall woman, Lori, had the little girl’s mother with one arm around her shoulders, the other over her mouth and muting her screams.

“Didn’t you check the back?” Mulder hissed over at Daryl.

“We just fuckin’ got here before you came along,” he growled back without looking at them, sighting his crossbow as more zombies appeared in the opening. “Left the front doors open so we could get out if any were in here. Probably woulda finished checkin’ the whole goddamn store if you hadn’t distracted us.”

“Asshole,” Mulder muttered, hefting the crowbar and stepping around Scully. “You good here?”

“Yeah, go, we’ve got this,” Scully said, then felt Mulder run his hand briefly over the back of her head before he hurried away. Mulder had gotten much more affectionate than he’d ever been since the zombie apocalypse had begun, and Scully guessed it had to do with several close calls they’d had. Though they’d almost lost each other many times during their years with the X-Files, seeing a yawing corpse about to bite into your partner of almost twenty years did something to a person, she supposed.

More zombies appeared at the front and without discussing it, Scully took the ones on the left while Daryl got the ones on the right as fast as he could reload. Though they were piling up in the doorway, it barely slowed down the ones behind. One tripped and rolled over the half-dozen or so bodies in front of it. Before either could shoot, the walker had stumbled to its feet and was almost on top of Scully, who had to lean around the shelving whereas Daryl was firing over it. Letting training take over, Scully reversed the MP5K and slammed the butt into the dead woman’s sternum. When the corpse stumbled back, Scully flipped the weapon around and nailed it through its gaping mouth with one quick shot. When it fell, she looked up to see that five more walkers were stumbling over the pile of bodies.

Scully socked the stock of the gun into her shoulder again and began to methodically pick them off, the closest first. Both she and Daryl nailed the same ones a few times, but there was no time to argue about who was going to shoot what as more zombies crowded in through the wide doors. She didn’t know if Daryl had any military training or not, but since she knew how hard it was to hit something as small as a human head, often while both shooter and victim were moving, she was quite impressed that he hadn’t missed yet. Most military and law enforcement professionals were taught to shoot for center of mass, which did absolutely nothing to the zombies, barely even slowing them down. Scully supposed Daryl, like most survivors, had gotten an awful lot of practice shooting at heads lately.

She risked a quick glance back to see that several people were clubbing zombies back by the meat case, while the bulk of the group was hiding between the shelving. They seemed to have everything well in hand, so she turned back to see three more ghouls shambling into the store.

“I’m almost out of bolts,” Daryl called over to her in a low voice. “How you holdin’ up?”

“I’ve got two more magazines, but I can’t hold them off by myself,” Scully said just loud enough for him to hear. “I think now’s not the time to worry about noise.”

“Got that.” Daryl fired a few more quarrels in rapid order as she picked off more zombies as well, then set the crossbow on the top shelf and pulled a large revolver from the back of his pants. As deafening gunshots filled the air, Scully noted that he was much less accurate with the weapon; he missed almost as often as he hit his target. Even more walking dead crowded in behind the ones already inside, and Scully realized that if there was ever a time for a full automatic, this was it. With a glance down, she shifted the lever to full auto and then raised the submachine gun again, bracing and reminding herself that the muzzle would lift during auto fire, ready for the recoil. Then she let loose.

Even silenced, the MP5K made noise as it spit bullets in a steady stream, zombies flipping back onto the ones behind them and up against the soda bottles in front of the windows. Despite struggling to hold the gun steady, Scully felt the barrel lift and released the trigger just long enough to correct her aim. Another half-dozen walking dead were in by the time she was ready to fire again.

“I’m right behind you!” she heard someone call but she didn’t turn, instead opening fire again. This time, more prepared for the recoil and how the gun handled, she sprayed bullets at just above shoulder level, mowing down a group of ten or more before the magazine was empty.

“Cover me—gotta reload,” she called to no one in particular, pulling one of the other magazines out of her waistband. She released the spent magazine and it bounced off the cement floor with a hollow clang. Shots rang out from what her practiced ear told her were at least three different guns, and when she looked up again Mulder and the two deputies were standing in the middle of the aisle between her and Daryl, firing at the oncoming horde. “You take care of the ones in the back?”

Mulder grunted. “Yeah. T-Dog got around the other side of the case and closed the door,” he said. “Weren’t that many inside.”

The shooting seemed to go on forever; Scully’s arms were growing sore and tired but there was no time to stop, even though she was missing more often. She finished off the second, fifteen-bullet magazine but as she reached for the third, Mulder put a hand on her shoulder. “Take a break, they seem to be thinning out,” he said, tilting his head towards the front of the store. A pile of dead bodies at least four feet high slumped into the building, reminding her of the spoof movie Hot Shots Part Deux but sans humor. She could see a few other zombies still milling around outside, falling from the occasional shot before they got near the doors.

“That must have been a huge herd,” she said, setting the gun, which had tendrils of pale smoke wafting from the barrel, on the empty metal shelf in front of her and shaking out her arms. “I hope it’s about done.”

“You say they run in herds?” Shane called from where he stood over by Daryl. “How many is usual?”

“We’ve seen a few that have had five, six dozen at least, but this is far more than we’ve had to deal with at one time,” Mulder replied, then lifted his revolver, sighted and fired through the doorway. A zombie head disappeared. “They don’t seem to be going anywhere in particular, at least until they sense movement. Then they’re like a flock of birds wheeling all at once.”

Daryl let off a shot that nailed another, then there were no more walking corpses to be seen outside. “How the hell we gonna get out of here?” he said with annoyance, gesturing at the pile of rotting bodies sprawled in front of the doorway. “I ain’t climbin’ over that. I don’t think any more can get in, but now we can’t get out.”

“How many were in the back, d’ya think?” Rick turned to Shane. “I think—“

“I noticed a bulkhead door on the side of the building when we came in,” the tall older man, Dale, interrupted as he came over. “There should be a way down into the basement or cellar and maybe we can get out that way. “

“Let’s go check it out,” Rick waved to Shane to join him. “Y’all wait here in case any more try to get in.”

Scully noted that both T-Dog and Dale looked a bit put out, but once again decided not to get into the group’s problems; she and Mulder had enough. Speaking of… she moved over next to her partner and murmured “So, think we should call Skinner when we get out of here?”

Mulder took her arm and led her to the end of the empty shelving unit, the others still in the main aisle. “Let’s give it a little more time, stay a day or so with them and get a feel for whether or not they’re telling the truth,” he said, leaning down closer to her ear. “There’s something here that doesn’t meet the eye.”

“Learning skepticism, Mulder?” Scully teased, glancing into his shadowy, worried eyes. “But I agree, there’s something off with this group—I’ve noticed it more than once. I don’t know where they’re staying, but we’re sleeping in the Hummer tonight, as usual.”

Mulder’s chameleon eyes went from concerned to sensual in less time than it took him to blink. “You can bet on it, Scully, you can bet on it.”

* * *

Daryl retrieved most of his bolts from the pile of zombies at the bulkhead doors, then Scully went out with he and Rick to clear the few remaining zombies from around the store. As soon as they were outside, Dale climbed up on top of his camper with his binoculars and stood guard, swearing that they wouldn’t get taken by surprise like that again.

Glenn took off by himself to reconnoiter the other stores, but came back before long, reporting that there was nothing else worth bothering with in the town. Even the local watering hole was empty of of pretzels and peanuts, never mind booze.

The others, along with the two agents, went back into the store via the bulkhead doors and gathered what supplies they could, though pickings were slim. The place had been looted previously, and what hadn’t been taken had been gotten into by animals, everything from deer to mice. Still, they found a few cartons of untouched boxes of cereal and granola bars at the bottom of one stack and cans of assorted vegetables in the storeroom. Then, though it wouldn’t hydrate like water and was better than nothing to drink, they also loaded up all the soda they could find.

As they worked together digging through boxes in the storeroom, Lori told Scully, “We’ve been staying in the basement of a church near here. It’s about as safe from walkers as you’re going to get if you’d like to join us tonight. I know Rick won’t mind.”

“Is that what you call them? Walkers?”

Lori nodded. “Seems fitting, doesn’t it?”

Scully nodded, lifting a box of decaying lettuce to find rotting heads of broccoli beneath it, and set it back with a grimace. She hated to see wasted food. “Anyway, we’ve been sleeping in our Hummer since we found it,” she said. “Apparently the dead can’t smell us in there because we’ve seen them go right on past, and I doubt they could get to us even if they knew we were in there.”

“I understand that,“ Lori said easily, glancing at her son, who was carrying bottles of soda outside under Carol’s watchful eye before looking through another stack of empty boxes, making sure there was nothing left in them. Scully had noticed that both women kept a close eye on their children, making sure they knew where they were every minute, and didn’t blame them. Her thoughts often went to William, and she prayed frequently that he was safe wherever he was. “How long are you going to stay?”

“We don’t know yet,” Scully said, standing and putting her hands in the small of her aching back, sore from being bent over for so long, then leaning back so it crackled refreshingly. “Our mission was to make contact with the Atlanta CDC, but since they’re gone, I guess we’ll just head back to Washington.”

“How is it there?” Lori also straightened up and looked down at the shorter woman, arms akimbo. “Any more civilized than here?”

Scully shook her head despairingly. “A good amount of people made it to bunkers and survived, but it’s just as crazy on the streets as anywhere else, maybe more so since there are zombies, uh, walkers that keep getting loose when people stumble across them in buildings,” she said, resting one hip against a wooden box on the pallet of rotting vegetables. “The DC Metro Police tried going door to door to eradicate them, but that turned into a disaster fast—they lost over half the officers in just the first few days. Now there are SWAT teams moving from rooftop to rooftop to shoot the ones in the street, but it’s like holding back the tide with a bucket.” She sighed, remembering how crazy those last days in DC had been. “Mulder and I should have seen this coming… “ she said without thinking, and then realized what she was saying and cut herself short, though she really wanted to tell someone and get that secret off her chest. “We had to deal with zombies back in ‘99,” she explained at Lori’s quizzical look. “We thought they were all gone, but apparently not.”

Lori opened her mouth but then Rick called from the other side of the storeroom, “I think we’ve got everything, folks, let’s move on.”

Glad that she hadn’t had to try to explain any more yet—especially her and Mulder’s role in this epidemic—before she was ready, Scully followed the others out into the bright sunshine and, thankfully, fresh air.

* * *
Later that afternoon, they pulled the vehicles into a circle, including a large white panel van which T-Dog had the keys for. Mulder and Scully tied a clothesline hung with cans and bottles through the vehicles’ door handles which would warn of anyone trying to breach the perimeter, while the others made a large bonfire to cook over in the center of the circle. Daryl had shot a goat that they’d seen wandering the streets as they left the town, which was was now roasting over the bonfire. Several other survivors were in the RV’s tiny kitchen, cooking what little they’d found in the grocery store. Mulder and Scully had offered some supplies, including several packages of cooked and reheatable instant rice, snack cups of applesauce, and a few candy bars to be shared as dessert. All of them were drinking the soda from the store, and Scully suspected that more than one cup was spiked with something a little stronger, though she and Mulder preferred to keep clear heads.

After the meal they sat around and relaxed in a variety of folding chairs, some which had been dragged over from the nearby church where the group was staying. “I miss our camp in the mountains by the quarry,” Dale said with a sigh, stretching his feet out towards the fire and leaning back in his old camp chair, tilting his stained white hat back on his head. It had gotten dark while they ate and now the fire flickered red and gold on their faces, occasionally sending twinkling sparks spiraling up into the night sky. “If ya gotta be somewhere during the end of the world, that was a pretty nice place to be.”

“Yeah, too bad my sister got killed up there,” Andrea snapped, glaring over at the older man. “It wasn’t exactly a paradise in my book.”

Scully glanced at Mulder, who sat close to her, and saw his eyebrows go up, but neither commented.

“I told y’all it was dangerous, but nobody listens to me,” T-Dog said from the other side of the fire, leaning forward in his chair and putting his elbows on his knees. Scully had noted that he didn’t say a lot, but carefully watched everything and was one of the first to pitch in to help when it was needed.

“Now, y’all, that’s all over and done with, let’s not get started on it again,” Rick said, clearly the peacemaker of the group. “How ‘bout we hear from our guests how it is north of here?”

All faces turned to the two agents, and Scully inclined her head at Mulder. He shrugged and took a drink of his diet soda from the red Solo cup in his hands before saying, “What do you want to know?”

They were peppered with questions, most of which Mulder answered before telling the story of their journey south. “Far as I know, there’s no government left, no President or anyone in charge,” he ended. “There’s plenty of bigwigs left in the bunkers, I’m sure, but I don’t have a clue as to who thinks they’re in charge.”

“Jesus,” Shane said, heaving a deep sigh. “I was kinda hopin’ there was some authority left.”

“Me too,” Dale said dispiritedly.

Mulder turned to Rick, leaning forward in his chair, elbows on knees, dangling the empty Solo cup between his legs. “So, the Atlanta CDC building is completely gone? How many people were left when you got there?”

Rick narrated their time at the CDC, with a few comments from the others, and explained about the woman who had stayed with the doctor and that both were killed. Scully noted that Andrea glared at Dale when that subject came up, and mentally shook her head. Whatever was going on with those two was serious, she thought, and would probably erupt and cause serious problems within the group if not settled. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be staying long enough to offer their services, even if Mulder ever used his psychology training.

“Well, I don’t know about you good folk, but I’m ready to hit the sack. We getting a move on in the morning, Rick?” Dale said, standing.

The deputy nodded, also getting up, the others rising with him. “Yeah, soon’s we finish packing up,” he said. “Mulder, Dana, y’all gonna stay with us in the church tonight?”

Mulder shook his head and put his arm around Scully. “Thanks, but we feel better sleeping in the Humvee—it’s got bulletproof windows and armor on the body,” he explained. “And unless those walking corpses have a thinking locksmith among them, they’re not getting in.”

A few chuckled, and the gathering broke up. Scully pitched in and helped clean up after the meal while Mulder was off talking to Rick and Shane, and found herself once again working next to Lori. They wrapped what was left of the roasted goat into a waterproof tarpaulin that Dale provided, storing it in the old Jeep Cherokee’s cargo area. As they were about to turn back toward the others who were a few feet away, Lori put a hand on Scully’s arm and stopped her. “Listen… do you think you can, uh, examine me before you leave tomorrow?” she said hesitantly. Scully couldn’t read her expression in the dark and stayed silent, waiting. Finally, she added, “I… I think I may be… pregnant.”

Scully’s heart sank. “Normally that’s good news, but in this mess of a world… well, let’s see what we can find out,” she said as Lori’s hand fell away from her arm. The taller woman hung her head, dark hair falling down on both sides of her thin face. “I’m guessing you don’t want anyone else to know?”

“No, and I haven’t said anything, though I do seem to be showing signs,” Lori said. “But I can’t be very far along, I’ve only missed one period.”

“I’ve got my full kit with me, so we should be able to find out in the morning,” Scully said, then noticed Mulder waving at her from the other side of the fire. “I better go. Wake us when you guys get up, okay?”

“Will do,” Lori said as they parted.

* * *

Though they had gotten in the habit of sleeping naked in the Hummer, Scully felt a little more inhibited with the others around and donned one of Mulder’s grey t-shirts. She was already snuggled down in the nest of sheets, pillows and the light blanket they slept in, the interior of the vehicle nice and cool as she’d run the air conditioning on high for a few minutes before shutting it down, when he returned from one last bathroom break. He lifted the tailgate and scrambled in quickly so they wouldn’t lose too much of the cool air. Then Scully hit the lock button on the key fob in her hand and set it on one of the low, carpeted benches lining the cargo bay’s sides so they could find it easily in the morning.

“What’s this, Scully? Getting modest all of a sudden?” Mulder sprawled out next to her and plucked at the shoulder of the oversized t-shirt she wore, the sheet pulled up to her waist. “I’m missing seeing some skin, here.”

She wasn’t, Scully thought, eyeing Mulder’s mostly-naked body. He had worn his basketball shorts for his brief trip to the outdoor latrine but wore nothing else, and his big, lean body seemed to fill her vision. Just as she liked it. “I don’t want anyone looking in and seeing us naked if they get up before we do,” she explained. “Besides, I'm not sure we should—“

“Unless you flat out tell me to stop, Scully, I am making love to you as long as I can, just like every night since we left DC,” Mulder said, his voice taking on that husky tone she knew all too well and which caused an aroused jolt in the pit of her stomach when he wriggled out of the shorts, his substantial, half-hard cock springing free. “You know as well as I do that either or both of us could die at any time. We went far too many years denying ourselves to do so again.”

While talking, Mulder’s hands had been busy, one sliding around the back of her neck while the other slipped down beneath the light sheet to find that the only thing she was wearing was the shirt. He inhaled sharply, then shifted so that he was leaning over her. Though it was dark in the back of the SUV, there was just enough moonlight that she could see his face, and watching him lick his lips just before he bent over to kiss her made her arousal peak and simmer. He kissed her both lovingly and with insistence, showing how he felt about her better than words ever could. She spread her legs as his warm fingers slid between them, rubbing her soft lower lips without entering her, brushing her clit and spreading her already-prominent wetness around even more. Scully wrapped her arms around his neck and moaned into his mouth, and while his hips pushed against her side, the large hot lump of his erection showing just how ready he was. Though she was normally up for a nice long bout of foreplay, Scully decided that between how aroused they both were and her concern over the others seeing them, they could abbreviate it for once.

She broke the kiss and moved her mouth down to suck on his strongly corded, stubbled neck briefly, then used her left arm and leg to roll them over, squirming her body on top of his. She braced her hands on either side of his head, knees flanking his narrow waist, and lowered her forehead to his in their unique caress before kissing him briefly. “I don't feel like waiting tonight, I want you now,” she whispered huskily against his lips. “You ready, G-man?”

“Born ready, G-woman,” he grated, squeezing the full cheeks of her bare ass. “Love it when you take charge. Use me and abuse me, baby.”

She slid her lower body back, but the angle was wrong and the head of his cock slid against the inside of her thigh. With a groan of frustration, she reached back to grab him. But Mulder was quicker and her hand touched his, then caressed it briefly, as he lifted himself to her waiting body. “Teamwork,” she breathed as she leaned down a little more and backed onto him, feeling his large cockhead part her lips easily and begin to slide in. Mulder's hands moved to her hips, slipping under the shirt, not directing her but holding her steady. Scully threw her head back, glad for the Hummer’s high roof as he slipped deep into her body, filling and stretching her deliciously. She was biting her lip to keep her moans and cries in; she had become quite vocal during sex with Mulder, but she wasn't sure if anyone outside could hear them if they came out of the church for any reason, such as needing something from the camper they were parked behind, not to mention attracting any walkers that might be nearby.

Mulder moved his hands up to her shoulders and tugged her down on him, wrapping his arms around her waist, then began to thrust shallowly up into her. She slid her arms beneath his shoulders, now regretting the shirt as she couldn’t feel Mulder’s skin against hers, but she had no inclination to stop and remove it. He groaned loudly when she pushed back onto him, obviously not feeling the restraint she did about being quiet. Scully went past the point of caring at his moans; between his hefty cock moving deliciously inside her and the rubbing of his pubic hair on her clit, exposed by her spread legs, she was rising rapidly towards orgasm. Though she'd never been easily or multi-orgasmic before Mulder, it was yet another thing he'd changed in her life. “Ahhh, gonna come,” she gasped in his ear, moving her hips faster, hands tangling in his thick, soft hair.

He doubled his efforts, thrusting up into her as fast and hard as he could in their position, his hands on her ass pulling her down with each stroke. It wasn’t long before the orgasm swept over her and she cried out, arching her back and pushing back on him as he kept thrusting into her spasming body. It was exquisite, and she drew it out as long as she could, but she finally collapsed onto him. “Jesus, Mulder,” she murmured into his shoulder, panting, feeling her heart pounding as the contractions of her vaginal muscles faded away.

“Love making you come, Scully,” he husked in her ear, moving his hands to her waist beneath the shirt and gentling his strokes to long and slow. “God, nothing feels as good as you do.”

“You too,” she sighed, feeling her arousal rising yet again, already. She had never before reacted to a man like she did to Mulder; had never known she could, before him. Languidly she rose to hands and knees, then leaned down and kissed him long and thoroughly, sucking on his lips and tongue, exploring the inside of his mouth as if she hadn't done this hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. He responded enthusiastically, seemingly trying to map every tooth in her mouth while they played back-and-forth with catching each other’s tongues. She was sliding up and down on his heavy cock, not caring if she was shaking the car or if anyone saw or heard them. He moaned into her mouth, his hands sliding up to cup her full breasts beneath the shirt, just as their lips broke apart and they panted for air after the marathon kiss.

“Slow down—slow—” Mulder gasped, his hands going to her rib cage to slow her movements. “Don't wanna come yet. More.”

Scully knew what he was asking and slowed her strokes, moaning softly under her breath at the incredible pleasure of sliding up and down slowly on his thick penis. Though they were no stranger to quickies, both of them liked to draw out their lovemaking as long as possible, and despite skipping the usual foreplay this time, she understood that he didn’t want it to end too soon. Scully lowered herself down to her elbows, sliding her arms under his shoulders again so that they were nearly nose to nose, close enough that she could see his eyes, using her legs to slide up and down on him slowly, emotion rising in her. “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” she panted softly, holding his gaze. “How hot, how crazy you make me? You are my everything, Mulder, the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“My world is in your eyes,” he said softly, then tilted his head and with one hand, cupped her hair and pulled her down for a long, slow, emotional kiss. When it ended he rolled to the side, not disengaging their bodies, then shifted them both so that he was on top. He scooped her knees over the inside of his elbows and nearly bent her in half as he leaned over and put his hands by her shoulders, murmuring, “This good?”

“Not complaining here,” she breathed as he began to thrust deeply into her. She couldn’t move in this position, but loved being able to look down and watch him go in and out of her, his cock’s veined sides glistening with her juices. This was another position where her widely spread legs allowed his body to rub and push against her clit, bringing her to another orgasm almost before she knew it between the wildly erotic view and sensations. She came down from the euphoria with her hands clutching Mulder’s broad shoulders, his passion-suffused face watching her with narrowed eyes. “Come in me,” she breathed, moving her hands to his chest and caressing the strong, moving pectoral muscles, running her fingers through the scattering of hair. “I want to watch you come, Mulder. God, you’re hot.”

“Jesus, Scully!” She watched with love swelling her heart as he shuddered and cried out above her, his body jerking strongly against hers as he poured his essence into her. When it was over he carefully let her legs down, then collapsed on top of her, landing with his elbows braced and holding his chest up off of hers as they both panted. This was one of her favorite times in this horrible, strange new world, when they found complete solace in each other and managed to forget the atrocious happenings around them for a short time.

He rested his damp forehead against the ball of her shoulder. Scully had her arms looped loosely around his lean waist as their breathing gradually slowed to normal. Finally, with a kiss on the tip of her nose and a long drawn-out groan, Mulder disengaged and rolled over to lie next to her, sprawled on his back with his knees bent due to the length of the cargo hold. Scully turned onto her side and threw an arm over his chest, but didn’t cuddle too close as they were both sweaty and warm, and the interior of the car had become humid from their exertion. Eventually one of them would climb up front and turn on the AC for a short time again before they would be able to sleep, but for the time being they dozed in safe, sated comfort.

* * *
Scully woke the next morning before the sun was completely up and laid still for a moment, remembering where and when she was. Since this epidemic had begun earlier in the year, she’d been plagued with nightmares and often woke disoriented, so she had trained herself to stop and wait before getting up after awakening. Mulder still snored quietly on his side, turned away from her with the sheet tangled around his legs, and she lifted herself up on her elbows to look out the Hummer’s high, narrow windows. Nothing moved that she could see, the embers from last night’s bonfire just barely smoking in the early dawnlight. She knew if she got up it would wake Mulder, but she had little choice—her bladder demanded it. Though she was dying for a shower or, even better, a bath, Scully knew that there was little to no chance to get one. Yet again, she reflected on the fact that of all the things they’d lost in the zombie apocalypse, not being able to bathe was one of her biggest ordeals.

She managed to pull on a pair of clean underwear and shorts while lying down before he stirred and rolled over. “Scully? You gettin’ up?”

“Yeah, need a bathroom break. I’ll be fine, the warning system is still up,” she said, referring to the untouched clothesline of bottles and cans that ringed the parked vehicles. It was a system that she and Mulder had come up with which worked well to warn them if there were walkers about.

He cleared his throat and got up on one elbow, mahogany hair crazily tousled and bristly beard stubble darkening his cheeks and jaw. Due to the heat he usually shaved, saying that it was too hot for a beard, often while adding that he missed having one. “I’ll go with you, same reason,” he rasped, kicking off the sheet. “Any idea where my shorts went to last night?”

“You didn’t put them up, you find them.” Scully was referring to her habit of setting clean, folded clothing on the Hummer’s rear benches the night before, so she could quickly dress in the morning. Mulder, on the other hand, usually had to go digging through their bags, which were stored behind the front seats, before he could find something to wear. She reached over and got her gun from the front seat, opened the rear hatch, and stepped out cautiously, waiting while he dug through their bedding to find clothing. It was a beautiful clear morning, faint fog in the field next to the church beyond the circle of cars, the grass sparkling with dew as the sun cleared the building.

As they walked back from the far edge of the car circle the camper’s door opened and Glenn stepped down, rubbing his eyes with one hand. “Early to bed, way too fuckin’ early to rise,” he said in a groggy voice, going to sit in one of the chairs near the dead fire from last night with a can of Dr. Pepper in one hand. “At least Dale put a few of these in the camper fridge and they’re almost cold. Man, I’d give anything for some real coffee.”

“Get the fire going and we might be able to help you out with that,” Mulder said, heading for the Hummer as Scully sat down in a camp chair across the fire from the younger man, resting her MK5 against the side of her chair. “I don’t know how real you’d consider it, but we’ve got some Starbucks Via instant.”

“We’re really low on water,” Glenn said dejectedly as he stirred the ashes in the makeshift firepit with a long stick. “It’s what we were mostly looking for yesterday. I don’t think we should use it on coffee.”

“Soda will do for now,” Scully said, pouring two red Solo cups of Diet Pepsi from the dew-coated two-liter bottle she’d left under her chair last night and handing one to Mulder as he came over. “We can share some of our water if you need it that badly; we’ve been raiding coffee shops—it seems that looters tend to forget that most of them carry sandwiches and bottled water along with coffee.”

While they were talking, several more people came around the camper, ducking beneath the clothesline. Lori and Carl weren’t among them, so Scully went over to Carol and asked where they were. “Going through the clothes closet we found in the basement,” the older woman said, tearing open one of the granola bars that they’d found in the store the previous day. “I saw her talking to you yesterday—is everything okay?”

“Yeah, she’s just worried about malnutrition,” Scully dissembled on the spur of the moment. “She told me that she hasn’t been feeling well but doesn’t want to worry Rick, so I’m going to take a look at her and Carl today and see if that’s the problem. Would you like me to examine you and your daughter as well?” she thought to add. She was setting up the framework for Lori’s examination, hoping that she could throw Carol and anyone else who saw them off the real track. Though it had been many years since she’d had to lie for a living, it was apparently like riding a bike, Scully thought with some discouragement.

“No, no, we’re fine,” the other woman said hastily, then ducked her head and moved away, going to stand by Daryl’s chopper, which was parked inside the circle. Scully shrugged and went to the Hummer for her doctor’s bag, then retrieved her gun and headed for the church, catching Mulder’s eye and indicating where she was going with a tilt of her head. He started to rise from the chair he was sitting in but she waved him back with a smile, shaking her head and holding up the gun. She’d be fine the dozen or so steps over to the building, she was sure.

She found Andrea, Lori, and Carl in the church’s basement rec room, which had several doors leading off it for multiple escape routes, she noted absently. They had two Coleman lanterns for light, as the power was still off. They were kneeling on the floor sorting through several large black plastic bags of clothing, with one large pile behind them and a smaller one in front. “This stuff is shit,” Andrea said angrily as Scully entered the room, throwing a handful of material behind her and standing up, dusting off her hands with sharp, jerky movements.

“Well, what do you expect, this was a homeless shelter,” Lori said with some exasperation, but also gave up and stood, then caught sight of Scully. “Morning, Dana. Sleep well?”

“About as well as ever,” she said, then quickly added as she reached them, “I was just telling Carol how worried I am about possible malnutrition. I’d like to check anyone who isn’t feeling well, either constipated or with diarrhea, or any type of stomach problems or recurring headaches. Didn’t you say yesterday that you were having gastric distress, Lori?”

“Yeah, I’ve been having some… problems,” she said with a glance at Andrea, making it clear that she didn’t want to say any more in front of her.

“Mom, can I go find Shane?” Carl looked up at his mother hopefully, and she tousled his shaggy brown hair.

“I’ll take him, Lori. This is a waste of time.” Andrea clapped the boy on the shoulder and they left the room with one of the lanterns, leaving the two women alone.

Scully held up her doctor’s kit, which was packed into one of her old soft-sided leather satchels. “Now or never. Is there a table around here where you can lie down? That would work better than having you on the floor.”

Lori picked up the other lantern and led her to another room which had a large, scarred worktable and open metal folding chairs set back against the walls. Closing the door behind them, Scully noticed large posters with scripture verses on them peppering the walls, and several stacks of Bibles on a side table with blank yellow notepads and pencils scattered next to them. She looked around, reminded of the room where she’d gone to Bible study class for her confirmation into the Catholic church, and felt a sharp pang of sad nostalgia. “You’d better be quick, they’ll come looking for us.”

“Take your pants and underwear off, and climb on up there,” Scully said, pulling a pair of blue nitrile gloves and a bottle of lubricant out of her bag. There was no time for melancholy or being distracted by memories; she had a job to do, what she loved best. No matter what else she had done for a living, she was a doctor first and foremost. “I’m sure Carol and Andrea will tell everyone I’m checking you for malnutrition.”

A short time later Scully tossed the soiled gloves into a nearby wastebasket, which was still half-full of construction paper scraps from what she thought had been poster-making, and shrugged at Lori, who was putting her jeans on. “I feel some swelling and sponginess in your uterus, and your breasts are swollen, but it could just be part of your normal cycle—I’m sorry,” she said gloomily. “I can’t say for sure you’re pregnant, but I can’t say you’re not, either. Without a speculum or ultrasound, I just can’t do anything more.”

“Dammit,” Lori said despairingly, sitting down in one of the chairs to pull her grimy white sneakers on. “I really wanted to know one way or another. What should I do if I am, Dana? How can I bring a child into this world?”

Scully sat down next to her. “Let me tell you something, Lori. For most of my adult life I thought that someday I would settle down, get married and have kids, after I made a difference with the FBI. It wasn’t until I found out that I was barren that I realized how much I wanted a child. To my shock, I got pregnant ten years ago despite the odds and had a healthy baby boy.” She took a deep breath, fighting back the tears that the memories of William always brought on. “But I couldn’t keep him safe from our enemies and I had to give him up, and now I don’t know where he is or if he’s even still alive. But,” she lifted her brimming eyes to Lori’s shocked ones, keeping the tears in check, “I have never regretted having him, even when we weren’t sure if he was… human. Long story,” she added quickly, then reached out and took the other woman’s hands. “You could find somewhere safe in this insane world to raise this child, or you could continue to have to live like this, running and hiding. Just don’t do something you’ll forever regret, for the wrong reasons,” she said, feeling the tears finally break loose and stream down her face. Now crying as well, Lori reached for her and the two women clung together for a time, taking comfort in the simple consolation of another caring human.

“One more thing I have to tell you, and I hope you’ll be judicious with who you share this with,” Scully said a short time later, after they’d moved apart and each dried their faces on their shirts. The crying had been a relief to her after holding it in for so long, and for Lori as well, she was certain. “Mulder and I, we’re responsible for this zombie infestation. It’s our fault.”

“What? How? Aren’t you FBI agents?”

“We were. Another long story; we both left the Bureau in 2002 and now Mulder’s a consultant for them, and I was a pediatric specialist until all this broke out. But back in December of 1999, we had a run-in with a bunch of extremists that called themselves the Millennium Group, who believed they could bring about the end of the world by reanimating four of their deceased members. In stopping them, several people got injured, among them a pathologist who was autopsying one of the reanimated bodies.” Scully rubbed her neck in remembrance of where the long-ago zombie had scratched her. “She survived and we thought nothing of it, but after the zombie outbreak began, we found out that she had died naturally of a heart attack—and came back,” she added gloomily. “It never occurred to any of us who worked that case that she was carrying the pathogen to reanimate the dead, and by the time we figured it out, it was too late.” She looked over at Lori, who was leaning back against the big table with her arms crossed over her chest. “I gave what information I had to a group of doctors who went to a bunker in Florida to work on this, and hopefully they’ll find a cure—or at the very least, a way to stop the dead from coming back any longer. Then maybe once we wipe out the ones out walking around, things can go back to… normal. Unfortunately, we don’t have that original body, so we don’t have the pathogen that started all of this, but hopefully they can come up with something.”

“Wow,” Lori said, eyebrows raised, with a clearly disbelieving air. “You’re sure it was you guys?”

Scully stood and picked up her bag and gun. “As we can be. I don’t want this to be public knowledge, but I thought you should know. That’s the main reason we’re out here, and were hoping to make contact with the Atlanta CDC.” Truth be told, it was good to get it off her chest, Scully thought; it was a heavy secret to be carrying around. Besides, after they left it was unlikely they’d ever see this group of people again.

“Hey, y’all still down here?”

At the sound of Rick’s voice out in the hallway, Lori leapt up and opened the door, then went back and got the lantern from the end of the table. “Yeah, over here, babe,” she called. “Dr. Scully was just taking a look at me, I was afraid I was getting, uh, rickets or something.”

“She’s fine,” Scully said truthfully as they went out into the hallway. “I’d suggest trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, maybe find a library with books on what naturally growing foods you can eat, like dandelion leaves and wild onions, for vitamins and iron.”

“I’ll see what we can do,” Rick said, slinging an arm around his wife’s shoulders but looking at Scully. “Don’t need nobody coming down sick. Your man said he’s about ready to go, said to let you know he talked to your boss and you guys’re heading back to Washington.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured,” Scully said as she followed them down the dark corridors to the stairs and then cautiously though the heavy metal doors to the outside, all three pausing and looking around for walkers before continuing. Lori lifted the lantern and turned it off, while Scully slung the strap of her MK5 over her shoulder as they walked to the vehicles.

Mulder was handing a medium-sized box of full Dasani water bottles to Dale as she came up behind him, saying, “That’s really all we can spare, we need to have enough to make it back to Washington in case there’s nowhere safe to stop. After that horde we dealt with yesterday, I don’t want to assume that we’ll be able to forage the way we did on the way here.”

“Oh, I understand, I understand,” the older man said, taking the box and then handing it to T-Dog, who was beside him. “Thanks a lot, this will be a big help.”

“Yeah, we appreciate it,” the stocky black man said, lifting the box slightly before he turned and carried it into the camper.

“Just remember to fully boil any water you get from lakes or rivers if you run out of bottled water,” Scully said, stopping next to Mulder. “Even if it’s running water, just to be safe.”

“So we about ready?” Mulder turned to her. “I talked to Skinner on the sat-phone and he said to head back, only one other team is in touch and they’re assuming that all the CDC offices have been compromised.”

“So what… well, that’s a conversation for later,” she said, aware of the others listening to them. “We all packed?”

Mulder nodded. “I kept out a few granola bars so we can have breakfast on the road.”

“Then I guess it’s goodbye,” Scully turned to Dale, who was still standing nearby. “And good luck.”

“God knows we’ll need it,” the tall old man said as he shook her outstretched hand. “All of us.”’

Goodbyes were said to the others, Lori giving Scully a tight hug and a meaningful look as they parted.

Once they were on the road, just a few minutes away with the group out of sight, Scully turned in her seat to face Mulder. “I have to tell you that I, ah, told Lori. About us being responsible for all this, I mean.”

“No worry, I told Rick too. And you’ll never guess what he told me.” Mulder glanced over and Scully raised her brows at him. “The doctor at the CDC, the one who blew up the building, told him that all humans now carry the pathogen for reanimation so no matter how we die, we’ll come back.”

“Holy shit. Dr. Logan needs to know that,” Scully said, stunned. Though they had suspected it, they hadn’t been sure, and now that a virologist had confirmed it, it was urgent that the team of doctors working on this problem know that.

“Yep. Skinner told me where the Florida team’s supposed to be and suggested we try to find them. I didn’t want Rick’s group knowing where we were going, but check the direction we’re heading.” Scully leaned over to see that the compass on the inset dash showed a large red S. “I don’t know what we may face going further south, but it’s worth a try.”

“’If tomorrow comes’,” Scully said softly, putting her hand out, which he took. It was a line from a song they both liked, and he knew what she meant. They rested their linked hands on the console as they drove off into the unknown.

finis