“Lights on,” Drescoll calls, walking across the open area to a bank of light switches, turning them on, flooding the area with light.

The roll-up doors, through which the night runners gained entrance, stand open to the night beyond. There’s not a night runner in sight nor is one to be heard in the darkness outside.

“Horace, shut these doors and seal them up. Green Team will stay here with you. I’m heading to the control room,” Drescoll says.

Stepping back into the interior proper, the moans and screams have ceased. Cressman approaches, “What do you want to do with the bodies?”

“Make doubly sure none of them are still alive. There’s not much we can do tonight. We’ll clear them out and burn them in the morning,” Drescoll answers.

In the control room, Drescoll watches the tapes of the evening. He sees Alan open the gates and the night runners pour through moments later, eventually passing out of sight. Continuing to watch, he sees them reappear, run through the open gate, and vanish into the night. He pauses the replay frequently looking for signs of Lynn. He is eventually rewarded by the sight of her blond hair as she is carried away by several night runners. The surreal nature of the night increases as he repeatedly watches her limp body being lugged through the gates and off into the darkness. It’s like they specifically came for her, he thinks, watching one last time. But that makes absolute zero sense.

Leaving the control room and after ensuring that all of the doors are secure, he gathers the teams, along with Bannerman and Frank. He gives a brief of the evening’s occurrence and what he saw on the videos. The group is stunned by the news of Lynn and after much deliberation, not one of them can figure out the why of it all. For all intents and purposes, they should all be dead by now.

“This thing with Alan has me worried,” Frank speaks up, changing the conversation.

“Me too,” Drescoll agrees. “We still have another like him in our midst. I want a twenty-four hour watch on Julie. She is not to go anywhere without someone with her. For now, she is to be kept in her room and escorted when she eats or needs to use the facilities. This is for her protection and ours.” With some hesitation, the others agree.

“Now, I recommend we put a curfew into effect. Anyone needing to use the facilities after hours will need an escort. I understand people not being able to sleep and wandering around at night. I don’t have a problem with that, but they need to be escorted as well. The warehouse is off limits and no one is to be allowed near the doors at night,” Drescoll states.

There is no dissension. Knowing the fear factor is still high, they discuss guarding against making rash decisions, but they all agree to these rules for the interim.

“Tomorrow, we need to clean up the interior and dispose of the bodies. It’s a mess down there so we’ll keep everyone upstairs until we’ve managed that. We also need to send out search teams for Lynn at first light. I don’t know what in the hell happened here tonight, but we need to see where they took her,” Drescoll says.

The shock of the evening’s events prevents much conversation — everyone is still digesting what happened.

Taylor reports that the injured soldier is unconscious but stable. “He’s gone through two bags so far, but the doc says his signs are stable. Although his wounds were deep, they were clean and he should recover.”

After briefing the rest of the survivors, Drescoll stands with Green Team overlooking the first floor. With the fear strong, there’s little sleep for anyone. There’s a lot to do come morning, but they still have to make it through the night. Worry about Lynn occupies his mind, and he is anxious for morning so they can mount a search. The smell of hundreds of bodies lying unmoving on the floor below barely penetrates his consciousness. He blames himself for the loss of Lynn. It’s not that anyone could ever have seen this one coming…but that doesn’t alleviate his sense of being responsible.

With a heavy sigh and an even heavier heart, he lowers his head and waits for the first rays of light to pierce the darkness outside.

“I’m sorry, my friend. Fear not. We will find you and come get you.”

* * *

Sandra sees the images from her pack as they rush upward and envelop the female. She watches as they knock her down and begin to carry her down the stairs. The two-legged ones are still firing into the pack and she senses the continued loss of her numbers. Looking upward, she notices her pack has gained the floor where the two-legged ones are holding out. She knows she and her pack can gain the upper hand and destroy the lair. The thought of killing all of the two-legged ones while she has them on the run passes through her mind; however, she also knows that continuing the assault will cost her more of her pack. She has her prize and knows that she must save what is left of her numbers. She will need all she can if Michael decides to confront her. No, she must pull back and use the rest of the night to find a lair. She sends the message to pull back.

Exiting the lair, she leads her pack across the grassy plain and through the open portals. The night air feels good as she lopes along with her pack following. The interior of the two-legged ones reeked of their scent. She hadn’t been sure of how much longer she could control the anger and hunger of her pack that the scent of the two-legged ones brought. She had barely been able to control her own.

Passing through the gates, she feels eager and what could almost be construed as gleeful. She doesn’t know if the female is still alive or dead. At this point, Sandra doesn’t really care and almost hopes she is among the dead. It’s only important that the one who is so transfixed in her mind believes that she is alive. However, if the female is still alive, she will keep her that way. Whatever the case, she will ensure that the one she wants believes that the female still lives and comes to get her. With those thoughts in mind, she runs on into the darkness with her prize in tow.

It takes some time searching, but Sandra eventually finds a place to house her pack. Throughout the search, she feels several in her pack leave for Michael’s lair. Others follow as they feel more secure with him than with her. Sandra senses several images from those leaving. They are angry that she pulled them back when they could have fed on the two-legged ones. Rather than confront her about it, they decide to depart. She knows it won’t be long before Michael finds out what she has done. There is no doubt he will be angry, not just because she ventured forth and challenged his authority, but because she didn’t finish off the two-legged ones when she had the chance. He will be upset that she has potentially stirred up the ones who reside behind the giant wall.

It’s not as if they weren’t already stirred up, she thinks as she feels yet more of her pack head toward Michael. What Michael will do about it remains to be seen.

With those leaving, her pack dwindles from the thousands it once held to hundreds. It’s not near enough to hold out if Michael decides to finish them off. She knows those staying with her are loyal and will stay with her to the very end. If Michael does show up, she’ll move and try to stay out of his path. That might make it tough as she’ll have to hunt a wider area for food. She’ll be cautious where her pack hunts as she doesn’t want to tangle with Michael.

Sandra and her pack enter the large, sprawling building. The interior smells of those that died months ago — more of a musty odor than the reek of decay. She’ll direct some of her pack to begin cleaning out the dead two-legged ones with the coming of the next night. The others she’ll send out to hunt; some to gather fresh meat, and others to search nearby buildings for the alternate food sources. She will do as Michael did and begin to store against leaner days.

With regards to the female, if she’s alive, she’ll post guards with her day and night. With the two-legged ones awake during the time of the great burning light, she’ll send an image out of the female then in the hopes that the one she sensed long ago will see it and come. Sandra feels that he’ll come during the day, so she’ll keep some of her pack awake then to watch for any intrusion. However, she has the feeling that she’ll know when he draws near in time to be ready.

With those images occupying her mind, she settles in a large room with her pack around her and rubs her slightly bulging stomach, comforting the young one inside.

* * *

With the night passing and the sky above the mountains about to lighten, Michael stands by the entrance door to their lair waiting for the return of the last of those out hunting. Sandra and her pack haven’t arrived yet and he worries about what she is up to. He sensed some of her pack throughout the night and knows she went toward the two-legged lair again. There was a moment in the night when he sensed images of the pack inside and was pleased — perhaps he should have listened to her a little more. That was it, though, just a brief glimpse.

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