~ Chapter Twenty-One ~

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"That's the reason we haven't returned to base in the last two days." The Sergeant told Carter and Holloway as the trio peered around the rear of the bus. "We'd been going out every day to search for Doctor Holloway, but then, one morning we were spotted, and they just kept pouring out of an alley way—as if there were no end to them. We were already out the door and we couldn't risk having them destroy the lab. So, we tried to lead them away instead."

"Why not just shoot them all now?" Suggested Holloway. "There's no more than fifty over there now. I'd say our odds are pretty even."

"We can't. My men expended a lot of their ammunition saving you and your people last night. We're lucky if we have fifty bullets left between us." The Sergeant admitted grimly.

"Then, what would you have us do, Sergeant Bradman?" Asked Carter.

The Sergeant put a hand to his stubbled jaw and wiped at his cheek as he considered a strategy that might get them to the outpost with the least number of casualties.

His brows furrowed, and he shook his head.

"What is it?" Holloway asked, having noticed Sgt. Bradman's motion.

"We need to lead the infected away, but—" He started, still a bit unsure.

"But what?" Holloway spat impatiently.

"—the infected have been acting differently." Replied Sgt. Bradman. "They remember."

"What?" Holloway and Carter gasp.

Sgt. Bradman sighed heavily, as if the whole world weighed down on his shoulders.

"We need to get to that outpost." Holloway implored.

"I know." Sgt. Bradman pursed his lips together for a second before continuing. "And, I think I know how we can't lure away the infected." He turned his attention to Carter. "I need you and your group to be the bait that leads them away."

"Why us?"

"Like I said, the dead are remembering things. They know my soldiers by our uniforms. The last time we tried to trick them, only half followed. The rest stayed behind, and we couldn't get close. I lost three good men during that attempt. I won't make that mistake again." Sgt. Bradman explained.

"How many people do you need as bait?" Asked Holloway.

Sgt. Bradman frowned at the Doctor, a silent question in his stony gaze: Why?

Holloway hesitated, reluctant to specify the reasoning behind his interest.

"All of them. The more the merrier." The Sergeant said plainly.

"There's one I need alive." Holloway tried to speak softly so no others would hear, except for Sgt. Bradman and Carter.

"The more bodies we have to lure the infected away with, the better. Why do you need one to be kept alive?" Sgt. Bradman's face remained unreadable.

"I understand that. But, it's not just anyone that I need." Holloway gave a pointed look into the group. "I need her."

The two men followed his gaze.

"I need Perri. She's the key to creating a cure." Holloway stated. "I need her alive."

~~~

"Perri?" Jack muttered to himself as he stopped dead in his tracks.

What did they want with her? He wondered.

He had missed the conversation the three men were having, but when he drew nearer, that one word stood out above the rest.

Perri.

Jack started his stride again and moved along the side of the bus, toward the three men.

A horrible sound sent the group lurching and gasping.

A screech had pealed through the quiet. It sounded like a warning.

Several soldiers found the source within seconds and let out silenced shots, dropping an infected that had been perched atop a nearby vehicle.

Everyone looked around with wide eyes, searching for more infected—all panting as they tried to force their pounding hearts back down their throats.

After a moment, three soldiers called out one by one, "Clear."

Sgt. Bradman thought to poke his head around the corner of the bus to check if the infected had heard the commotion and were aware of their presence. He suspected that if they had noticed, he'd already know about it. But, then again... the dead had been acting differently as of late.

He peeked out at the crowd of infected and a near-silent gasp, involuntarily, escaped his lips.

Fifty-plus infected were staring right back like the predators they were.

Every single one darted into a sprint at the same time. All headed straight for the bus.

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