Sheldon lifted Zombie Three of her feet and whirled her around.
'Sheldon! Drop her! Now!'
Sheldon gently put Zombie Three to the ground. 'She isn't a zombie! Our Penny is all right! Aren't you Penny?'
Howard looked at… whatever Penny was. Her eyes weren't glazed over and she appeared not to be hurt. Her expression was completely blank though and she didn't respond to them. Howard lowered his bow.
'You thought you were bitten and the shock made you act the way you did Penny. But you aren't bitten and so you're not turned. If you were turned, you would have attacked us. You didn't so therefore you are not a zombie,' Sheldon explained to their taciturn friend.
For a delightful moment Howard believed Sheldon's reasoning to be solid, but then he recalled something. Before he could voice his thoughts, Sheldon spoke again: 'I heard you fell near the mall. Do you believe to have been bitten in your leg? Let's check that, shall we?'
Sheldon knelt down and examined Penny's legs in the light of his head-light.
'There's some damage here. Well, that must be caused by the little shovel that naughty zombie carried with it,' Sheldon reasoned. 'Raj told me about it.'
A tear tickled Howard's cheek. Sheldon slowly moved up the torn left leg. He gasped. 'It is a bite-mark.' he whispered. 'Oh Penny…'
Could it be possible, Howard thought, that Penny was still turning? The thought he'd had when Sheldon had told Penny that she wasn't a zombie, returned.
'Those zombies didn't respond to her Sheldon! When someone is bitten, zombies see a meal. If she is somehow still turning or if the process hasn't started yet, which would all explain for her not wanting to eat us, the zombies would have eaten her.'
Howard hit Penny in the face.
'Howard!' Sheldon exclaimed.
Penny remained silent. Howard took her hand and started walking. Penny moved clumsily but Howard simply dragged her along.
Tom hurried up the wall, his rifle over his shoulder.
'I'm sorry,' Sarah C said. 'I know it's your evening off but I'm not yet that good at reading light signals.'
'Go to tower two and get the lamp,' Tom ordered, annoyed that Sarah hadn't done so already.
By the time Sarah returned, Tom had seen the full message.
He signalled back and the incoming signals stopped.
'Penny, Howard and Sheldon will spend the night in house zero. All is well.'
Sarah told Tom about Penny leaving and Howard and Sheldon joining her. She suggested they were working on a scientific experiment and mentioned that the shed might have imploded.
'I'll sleep in tower two, just in case there's another light message,' Tom replied. 'Call me the moment it starts.'
At the start of their wake the shadows cast on Penny's face by flickering candles made Howard wish they had the benefit of daylight, for his vivid imagination pictured her features to change into that of a hungry zombie, though at the same time his logical brain reasoned that having seen what he'd seen, Penny wouldn't turn. He was no fool though, so he'd used his belt to tie her to a kitchen chair. For hours now he and Sheldon had tried to make Penny talk by chatting about various topics, from little Niels to how they planned to welcome Pete and Hank but Penny wouldn't speak and she sat with her eyes closed.
'It must now be approximately nine hours after she was bitten,' Sheldon said.
'Once we've handled the robbers, we should ask everyone for blood and DNA samples, the Torsvik people and the Stein people too. We have to assign someone exclusively to zombie lab work, as I suggested on numerous occasions already.'
Howard, though he hadn't planned to fall asleep, dreamt of sentient zombies.
'Why would they have gone there?' Leonard said. He and Raj stood on the wall and stared in the direction of the village. The copper ornament on the church's tower caught the light of the upcoming sun.
'I don't know.'
'Daniel was a bit pissed for not being involved as "head of security". He thinks that Sheldon came up with a way to fight Pete and Hank and that Howard and Penny went along to help him.'
'Some security man not to check data. The gate's log says that Penny left first.'
'It also says that she went to the Nielsen place to drop supplies. House zero wasn't mentioned. She always sticks to the rules. It doesn't make sense.'
Leonard shrugged and added: 'If there was an experiment, why didn't they ask us to join them?'
'You have a wife and a child on its way. I have Sarah. And we don't come outside the wall that often anymore. They might think we are not - '
Raj covered his mouth with his hand.
'What?' Leonard said, alarmed.
Raj didn't tell Wyatt about his true fears, but the fact that he was obviously worried was enough for the farmer to tell the construction team to remain within the wall for now. Daniel assigned those who would have guarded them to make defence tools. The shield raised from tower four informed the Torsvik farm of code beige.
Once they'd left the safety of the farm and mounted their two wheeled horses, Raj turned around for what he hoped was a reassuring wave at his Sarah. Leonard was glad that Livia was in the classroom already and didn't know about his outing. They travelled in silence until they spotted three dead zombies near the collapsed shed. They both stopped.
'Someone got angry,' Raj observed in a small voice as they stared at an utterly ruined head.
'Yeah,' Leonard managed in reply.
They continued driving and found more dead zombies.
'According to their message they're all right,' Leonard said. 'I do think you're wrong.'
Raj could tell that his friend was lying but he said: 'I hope so.'
'After all these years. She can't be…'
The cry of a bird made Sheldon sit up with a jolt, remembering where he was and why. His painful back made him groan and that woke up Howard. Penny was gone. The men grabbed their weapons.
Raj and Leonard reached the T-junction. Staring in the direction of the mall was Penny. She didn't carry any weapons but she stood tall and straight.
'Penny!' Leonard cried out triumphantly. He dismounted.
A zombie wearing a green sweater emerged from behind a house but Penny stayed where she was.
'Penny! Come here! Run!'
Raj and Leonard readied their bows. Leonard's arrow hit the zombie's leg.
'Fuck! You aim for the zombie, I'll get Penny.'
Leonard started running but he inconveniently moved in Raj's field of vision, preventing him from finishing the zombie. The creature ignored Penny, who was close by, in favour of Leonard.
It took Raj a moment to realise what he'd seen. 'Holy Krishna!' he cried out. At the same time the thought hit Leonard, who, instead of turning around, kept running ahead, though this time into a direction as to avoid the zombies.
Raj now had a decent chance to shoot but he stood there trembling and by the time he got to his senses Leonard had sought safety between some foliage. Green Sweater followed him in its clumsily yet determined way. There was a sound of someone falling and a cry of pain. Raj recklessly entered the thorny bushes and ended up nearly a hundred feet away from Leonard, who was flat on his back and using his arms and one leg, moved away from the zombie that had just dropped itself next to him.
'Here zombie, get me!' Raj screamed as he readied his bow. From a small distance he heard Howard and Sheldon cry out for Penny. Leonard took his knife and in an attempt to pierce the zombie's skull he stabbed its neck but at least he managed to hold it off a bit. From behind a bush the familiar shape of Penny appeared. Raj whimpered and stood frozen. In his mind's eye he could see Penny devour Leonard as well as himself. He closed his eyes but opened them again on hearing an unexpected sound.
Penny had smashed the zombie against a tree, head first.