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"Guys! Guys, get in here!" Deon shouted, his voice echoing off the empty walls

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"Guys! Guys, get in here!" Deon shouted, his voice echoing off the empty walls. He sounded out of breath. "You have to hear this!"

Zelda paused mid-swipe. Her pipe was almost back to its shiny self.

Any minute now, someone would reprimand Deon for being too loud. They had to be careful about such things, or they would draw the Rotters' attention.

A few seconds ticked by, but still, she heard nothing. Odd. Guess she better go see what Deon was so excited about.

She gave her pipe one last swipe with the rag before tossing it aside and returning her weapon to the holder she'd made for it. The chill of the metal seeped through her t-shirt along her spine.

Deon and two others had been sent out on patrol earlier this morning. Maybe they had found something . . . or someone.

No. Zelda tamped the excitement down. They couldn't have. It had been almost two months since they'd last seen anyone—anyone living, that was.

And she would know because she had been looking.

She joined the others who were gathering in their multi-purpose room, which functioned as a meeting place and a cafeteria of sorts. The two dozen members of their survivor group selected seats from the random pieces of scavenged furniture and whispered amongst themselves as they waited to hear what Deon had to say.

Deon himself stood at the front of the room, dressed in a tank top that showed off his muscled arms. He rubbed a dark hand over his shaved head and bounced on his toes.

In contrast, Nevan, Deon's ever-present shadow and boyfriend, stood silent and stone-faced to his right. He wore a loose long-sleeved shirt, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans. His cheeks sported a new sunburn he must have picked up on their patrol round.

Zelda eschewed the old office furniture, instead choosing to stand against the wall in the back. Cooper joined her a few seconds later.

"Any idea what this is about?" she whispered.

"Not a clue."

A few more stragglers wandered in and found seats.

"Don't keep us in suspense," Lucas called out. "Tell us already."

"Alright, alright. I was waiting to make sure everyone was here, so I didn't have to repeat myself."

Oscar, their group leader, patted his gray hair back into place as he surveyed the room. "Go ahead. I think that's everyone now."

Deon exaggeratedly cleared his throat. "Our story begins this morning. The day was bright, not a cloud to be seen."

A couple of people groaned.

"We know what the weather is like," Emma said from somewhere in the front. "Get to the point."

Deon sighed. "Okay, so there we were doing our usual patrol, and we're over on 3rd street when Nevan," he jerked his thumb at Nevan as if everyone didn't already know who he was talking about, "said he saw a flashing light."

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