Breaking and Entering

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Spacekid just wanted to get inside the school already. Cadavers had gathered outside the gates and were ramming stupidly against the teetering fence. Spacekid figured the perimeter fence hadn't seen this kind of action in quite a long time-if ever. Having circled the entire main structure, checking every door for a way in, the team had found, much to each member's pleasant surprise, that they would have to shatter a window of one of the classrooms in order to enter their new home; The building seemed effectively locked down, though it was anyone's guess as to whether this was simply due to the building having been properly locked up for a summer vacation that never ended, or if it indicated that the building had been used, at least for a time, as a harborage against People and cadavers.

The answer presented itself soon after Sands had smashed in the window with a brick he'd found in the hard, yellow grass.

"The windows are covered with something," he said while bashing a mystery layer of crinkly material inward with the elbow to gain an unobstructed view of the classroom.

"A77 Lead paneling," grunted Rowan with hardly any hesitation. "Someone persevered long enough to make an effort, then."

"Good," said Rehearsal. "Radiation inside the structure might be tempered a bit if we're lucky."

"Not enough to make a real difference," Rowan said as he leaned his head through the broken window and used his helmet to brush away some remaining shards of glass. As soon as he could, he twisted his body to get a look at the insides of the classroom's other windows. He clicked on his helmet's embedded external lighting fixtures to help shed some light on the subject. "It's been done to all the windows and some of the walls, but in a rather slipshod way. They were trying to conserve paneling, I'd say, probably didn't have enough A77. The air-drops targeted schools, jails, and hospitals-just one package per structure. The flight crews themselves would have Turned before they could come back with more."

Watching Rowan lean bravely into the dark window, leaving his helmet vulnerable to attack from inside the classroom, Spacekid started to worry that whoever had set up the paneling would have heard the recents sound of shattering glass and would now be on their way to deal with the intruders.

"Still," said Rowan, his helmet still inside the window. "Paneling couldn't help but absorb a flavoring of radiation. If it's consistent throughout the building, the survivors might have bought themselves a few extra weeks before Turning. Good for them. It's a moot point I'm afraid, as they've surely degraded to cadavers by now."

Rowan finally withdrew from the window to let Sands, who had been rearing to climb into the dark classroom ever since he'd shattered the glass, finally get his jollies. With his usual catlike grace, Sands climbed through the broken window frame, his wiggling boots, momentarily protruding from the widow frame through which Sands had squeezed through, sparked off a high-pitched giggle from inside Spacekid's helmet. Then Sands let himself tumble the rest of the way into the darkness, his body slamming into a glossy one-piece desk. Spacekid couldn't see this from where he was standing, but he knew the sounds. School sounds. Desk legs screeching on the tiled floor. As Rowan had done, Sands clicked on his helmet lights to give himself a cleaner view of the room's nooks and crannies.

"Room's secure. A total wreck, but no cadavers hiding under this mess. They're waiting for us somewhere inside, I take it."

Rowan turned back to the perimeter fence, which had started to rattle and creak violently. The horde of cadavers was now thrusting against the chain-link as a single body. The length of fence adjacent to the astronauts' current position had already begun to fold inward from the strain.

"We have to get out of their line of sight," Rowan said. "Might calm them down. We lose the fence, we're in a world of hurt."

Rowan and Rehearsal fished Spacekid through the window into Sands' awaiting arms. Then they did Citro. Then they climbed through themselves. Rowan wouldn't let them leave the classroom without propping the displaced lead paneling back against the hole in the window. As Sands and Citro kept an eye on the door, Rowan and Rehearsal used one of the room's many student-desks to keep the light lead paneling fixed in place. "No chances," Rowan said as he readjusted the desk to better support the panel. "We take every precaution."

With nothing else to do, Spacekid peeped through one of the exposed slivers of light between the haphazardly placed lead panels covering the windows. The cadavers outside had noticeably eased off their assault on the fence but the damage was already done: past the brief stretch of dead grass, the fence had been folded at a dramatic angle toward the school, a bobbing wave of chain-link crested no more than six feet up. An enterprising People, with but a single hop, could conceivably drag himself over the crest and enter the property that way. Spacekid scanned the crowd of cadavers for People, but, for the moment, saw none.

"Now," said Rowan after giving his workdesk/scaffold a final adjustment, "We check out our new digs."


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