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Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

A Californian Congress Member.

0 · 109 views · located in Season 2

a character in “The Walking Dead: Online”, as played by Captain Calamity

Description

.: Annabelle Mae McCallister :.

Image


Description:

 Portrayed By Kathy Bates
 Californian Congress Woman
 63
 Female
 5'3" / 161 lbs
 Southern / German / Irish
 Cesarian scar.
 Wears a blouse and/or long skirt when in a professional setting. Outside work, she enjoys jeans and a collared shirt or button-up. She rarely accessorizes her hair, but wears an array of jewelry, each with a significant meaning.

Traits:

 3 Strengths
Amazing Cook: All those home-cooked meals really paid off.
Green Thumb: From her time on the farm, she can get anything to grow.
Faith: The Lord protecteth thee... or something; her strong optimism is infectious.

 3 Flaws
Religious: Though also one of her strenghts, her faith can be blinding at times.
Naive: Annabelle has a hard time grasping how harsh the world can really be.
Worrier: She likes to know things are being handled; uncertainty is troubling to her.

Personality:

 Fears
Losing Faith, Not Having A Bible On Her, Sinning, Death.

 Aspirations
To do good by her country, to make her sisters proud, to see her children become the people they want to be.

 Dominant Emotion
Hope

 Demeanor
Annabelle is as sweet and charming woman as you're likely to come across. She is virtuous and contemplative at best, offering wise advice and solace to anyone in need. She tries not to ever come off as preachy, but tries to share her love with all. Since the disaster started, she has become a bit shell-shocked. Her faith has been rattled. She has a pragmatic optimism that is inspiring if not a little sad. She is quite domestic but never afraid chastise or scold someone who has earned it.

 Quirks/Oddities
Mumbles prayers to herself under her breath when in tough situations.

 Skills/Proficiencies
Excellent Public Speaker, Knitter/Sewer/Stitcher, Excellent Cook, Knowledge of Plants, Herbs & Spices, Farming Background, Horseback Riding, Random Family Home Remedies, Brilliant Debater, Guitar Player, etc.

Equipment:

 Usually carries her purse with lipstick, keys, make-up, kleenex, phone, nail file/clippers/polish, etc.
 Has a sun hat for bright LA days.
 Wears several rings, a gold necklace, and metal wrist band.

History:

 Born in Tennessee on a farm; the middle of three sisters.
 Taught how to run a farm, cook, sew, etc. throughout childhood.
 Surrounding farms are purchased and re-developed; farm foreclosed on.
 Family moves down to Carlsbad, CA to stay with other relatives.
 Annabelle applies to and is accepted to UCLA's program; studies Political Science.
 Joins debate team, runs for student administration and becomes Vice President.
 Hired as Campaign Manager right after college for Congressman William Hunt.
 Runs for office herself after working for various administrations in her 20s/30s.
 Becomes a congresswoman of California one month before her mother dies of heart failure.
 Works in between Los Angeles and DC for years; seeing family she can.
 Is in LA for a district conference when all hell breaks lose.

So begins...

Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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# Sarah Hawke #


"What are we going to do with the body?" Sarah asked, breaking the silence. Rafiq was still crouched over his friends motionless corpse, maybe secretly hoping he would back to life. It had all happened so suddenly after their escape from the street. One second he seemed fine and the next--

Sarah didn't even want to think about it anymore. Carl and Niobe stood by silently... respectfully. Molly sat on a large pipe nearby, nursing her injured ankle-- her eyes red and tired.

Rafiq turned to the others. "Go on ahead... I just need some time," he said.

Sarah shook her head. "How will you know where to follow us?"

"She's right," Niobe spoke from behind them. "I'll stay behind with him. You guys go on ahead."

Rafiq look at her appreciatively, not expecting her of all people to do something so kind. Niobe tucked her pistol into her waistband and went to find somewhere to give the kid some space. Carl put a hand on her shoulder as she passed but she barely noticed, walking past him down one of the other tunnels. Carl reluctantly started walking down the sewer the way they were heading. Sarah helped Molly to her feet and followed after him, taking one last look back at Rafiq. He didn't deserve that. It could've gone down another way -- maybe. But it was already in the past, and would be a part of him forever... for better or worse. He held eyes with her until they disappeared around the bend.


~ + ~


The three of them trudged along the narrow walkway on the side of the sewer bank. There were handrails to use for support, but Sarah feared she'd catch something worse than whatever infection was out there if she touched it. Her shoulders were already starting to hurt from carrying the brunt of Molly's weight. She had no idea how Nasir did it for so long-- maybe the adrenaline? Surely they'd be able to find crutches or something to help the poor girl once they got somewhere safe.

And that place arrived not a moment later. Carl opened the hatch on a causeway over on the side of the tunnel and cold fresh air poured in from the other side. He held the door open wide as Sarah helped Molly through, and then closed it tight behind him. There were finally lights in whatever hallway it was they stepped into. Carl continued leading them through some another hallway and stepped into what looked like some kind of maintenance room. There were doors that led to countless other rooms, Sarah imagined. Seated at a table in the corner was an older woman with brownish-grey hair and a young boy with a baseball cap. They were in the middle of a card game under the candlelight. The woman jumped up when she noticed Carl was back.

"Oh, thank God," she exclaimed. "We were starting to worry about you two-- wait where's Niobe?" She noticed the woman wasn't with them once Carl started to shut the door behind the two girls.

Carl threw his backpack over on the ground and went to the upended vending machine that had been bashed open. His feet crunched the glass as he shifted his weight, looking around in its interior for something to eat. "She's fine. She's back with another survivor we found..."

The woman furrowed her brow. "Doing what?"

Carl pulled a bag of Doritos from somewhere and popped them open. " Probably fucking," he said, nonchalantly. The woman's look changed, as if she were about to slap him across the face. "I'm kidding, Jesus-- err, not Jesus but-- no, you know what? Just calm down. They aren't out there sinning... they're paying their respects."

That shut her up. She suddenly felt very foolish. "Oh... well-- I'm sorry," she said to the girls opening up her arms to embrace then. Very awkwardly, she managed to pull them all in for a three person hug. She noticed Molly wince a bit and looked her over. "Dear, are you hurt?"

Sarah wrenched Molly away and helped sit her down at one of the benches. "I think she may have sprained her ankle... and she has glass all over her hands."

"So do you, honey..." the woman replied. Sarah hadn't even taken the chance to look herself over yet. Things had gone by too quickly.

"Where are the others?" Carl asked, plopping down at the table. A few chips spilled on the cards and the little boy glared at him.

The older woman turned to him. "Jessica is covering the tracks west of us, and George has east with his dog-- out in the patrolman kiosks on the platform. One of 'em would probably welcome being tagged out right about now as a matter of fact..."

"I just got back!" he shouted with his mouth full, spraying more chips on the table.

Sarah dragged a chair over for Molly to elevate her foot on while she examined it. The girl blankly stared at her reddened foot, no trace of emotion in her eyes. Maybe it had just been too much death for her. Who knew what else she had dealt with tonight...

"Just stay with me, Molly. You're the only one here I can trust now," Sarah whispered to her. She grabbed a dirty towel from nearby and tore it into strips to wrap her foot. "We don't know these people and Rafiq hasn't given us any reason to trust him-- especially after Nasir. If you get a bad vibe from these people just tell me and we'll get out of here together." The girl's eyes looked up and met hers, watering a little. She didn't nod, but Sarah knew she understood. It felt good having somebody on her side during all of this.

But who knew... these people could turn out to be alright.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

When the others had left, Rafiq went to work on Nasir’s body. He knew that it was impossible to give his friend a proper burial, especially being in the sewers, but at least he could try to leave him behind with some respect. With some difficulty, he managed to move Nasir to the side of the wall. He covered the head wound with a cloth he knew Nasir kept in his pocket. When he wanted to place the hands in a dignified position, Rafiq noticed the leather bracelet his friend wore most of the time. It had been given to Nasir by an ex-girlfriend, but he somehow had not gotten rid of it. Rafiq unclasped it and put it on his right wrist. It would be the one thing to remember his friend by.

He then prayed for Nasir, saying the Salat al-Janazah out loud. He was not entirely sure he was doing everything correct, only having been to an Islamic funeral two times in his life, but it would have to do. In his mind, he not only prayed for his friend, but for his parents as well. And everyone else he may have lost.

Niobe was walking towards him. “You’re muslim,” she said. It was a statement, not a question.

He nodded. He was definitely not the most religious person, but in this moment, it somehow felt good to acknowledge his heritage. “Cool,” Niobe said without judgement. Rafiq turned around and wiped some dirt – or was it blood? – of his face. “Thank you for staying with me,” he said. Niobe shrugged in a way that indicated that it was only the natural thing to do. Then she pointed to the way the others had left. “We better go. This place should be safe from those walkers, but I’d rather not find out.” Rafiq nodded in agreement. After everything that happened, he was still alive. And he was determinant to stay that way.

---

Rafiq woke, still groggy from a deep sleep. He looked around and saw other people laying on the floor as well, asleep or trying to. For a couple of seconds, he was confused and disoriented. Then, everything that had happened rushed back and he groaned. He remembered now. Everything had gone to shit.

Only one man was sitting up. He scratched a dog behind its ear and looked at Rafiq with a faint smile. Rafiq did not recognize him. Earlier, Niobe had lead him to some sort of maintenance room. Sarah and Molly had already been there, as well as some other people. An older lady – was her name Annebelle? - had hugged him and a boy had looked at him curiously. Rafiq did not recall much of what happened after that. Exhausted from fear and grief, he had simply fallen asleep on the floor.

“Good morning. At least, I think it is morning,” the man said quietly as to not wake the others. “Here, have a couple of cookies.” Rafiq took them eagerly, not realizing until now how hungry he was. “Thank you,” he muttered.

“They tell me your name is Rafi?” The man inquired. “Rafiq,” Rafiq corrected. “Rafiq,” the man said, “I’m George. And this is Charlie.” George’s voice had gone a pitch higher as he had said that in an endearing way. The man clearly loved that dog. Rafiq smiled at Charlie, who came over and licked his hand. It felt good to find some friendly people.

He looked around and saw a woman he did not recall from last night. She was sleeping next to the boy, with her arm around him protectively. Rafiq figured it must be the mother. Niobe and Carl were not here. George noticed his searching gaze.

“They are out on watch,” he said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.” Rafiq nodded, he could see the sense in that. “Do you know what happened?” he asked George. After everything, he still had no clue what was going on. George shook his head. “I don’t really know. One moment, everything was fine, the next, the dead are walking and killing everyone. Annabelle thinks it is the wrath of God.” He patted Charlie on the top of the head. “Personally, I think it is some type of epidemic. But it is widespread. The entire nation was hit. Maybe the entire world.”

Rafiq swallowed the last bite of his cookie. The entire world? That would mean that no rescue was possible. That they would be stuck in this situation for as long as the epidemic lasted. George seemed to have the same thought. “It seems we will have to adjust to this new world for at least a while. And the best way to survive is to stick with the right people.”

George gestured to the people around them. “Apart from Niobe, who somehow is born for surviving the bloody apocalypse, these are probably not the people best suited for the situation we are in. But they are good people. And that is what’s important.” He looked at Rafiq intently, as if he was making a decision. “You seem like good people as well. After what Niobe told me you did after what happened to your friend... well, I feel you would do the right thing when it came down to it. You can join us if you promise me one thing: to put the safety of this group above anything else.”

Rafiq nodded and shook George’s hand. “I can do that,” he said. And he meant it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Unsure on what to do, Rafiq picked up the backpack. It was heavy with food and two sleeping bags, but he would manage. He placed the bands on his shoulders and fastened them.

The man in the wheelchair looked at him curiously.

“What are you doing?” He asked. “Are you guys stealing from the shop?”

George sighed and crouched down next to the man.

“Sir, how long have you been trapped in there?”


The man closed his eyes in a way that made it seem like thinking about the progress of time pained him. It was difficult to make out his facial expression, hidden beneath a layer of wrinkles and dark red spots.

Just as Rafiq began to wonder if he had forgot the question, the man spoke up. “I think a day. Maybe. I was here with Regina. Like we usually do. Coming to this shop I mean. She’s lovely. She is the only one that still takes me out of the house. Have you seen her? Regina?”

George smiled faintly. “No sir, we have not. You see, there has been a... uh...”

“Crisis,” Rafiq spoke up, realizing that George was not sure on how to explain the situation to the man. Quickly thinking on the spot, Rafiq managed to spun a story to the man about how a virus had affected some people to become extremely violent. It was not that far from the truth, Rafiq figured, but he did not dare to mention that the dead were actually walking. He was not sure how the man would react to that.

“I see. That’s horrible,” the man said faintly. “And you boys are taking the opportunity to plunder this place.”

“No, that’s not...”

“Don’t lie to me.” The man slowly raised himself an inch from the wheelchair and gestured towards Rafiq. “I know how you people are.” The comment made Rafiq take a step forwards, anger flaring up at him for a second. Then it went away again. He was not entirely sure if the man was being racist or referencing something else.

The man must have noticed his movements, because he carefully glided a meter backwards with his wheelchair. “Look, I do not condone what you are doing. But you saved me from them,” he quickly glanced towards the bodies in the corner, “So I will give you time to go. I will wait here for the police and explain things to them. They surely will be here soon.”

“I don’t think that-“ Rafiq was about to say that the police would not come, but George cut him off.

“I think that’s for the best. We go.” And with that, George walked back towards his own backpack and shot Rafiq a look that said ‘do not argue, follow me’.

As they left the shop, George barred the door. Through the glass, Rafiq could see the man sitting in his wheelchair, watching them.

“We are just leaving him in there?” Rafiq asked.

“You heard the man. He wants us to leave.”

“Yes, but he clearly does not-“

“No. But what else do you want me to do? We can’t take him with us.”

Rafiq swallowed hard, not sure how to react to that. He knew George was right. It would be impossible to take the man into the sewers. Yet, this did not feel right to him. Not at all. It made him feel sick to his stomach. Was it going to be like this? Survival of the fittest? Leave the weak behind? He was not sure he was ready for that.

“But, at least I could go back and tell him the real situation,” he said in a last attempt to do something. “I should not have lied to him. He needs to know.”

“But you DID lie to him.” George scratched the stubble on his chin and looked at Rafiq with a hardened expression. “And I think he’s better of not knowing. Look, I locked him inside the shop. Maybe he gets lucky and the bombs kill him quickly.”

With that, he walked away.

Rafiq followed him in silence.

---

They got back to the maintenance room without incident. They had not spoken for the entire trip, but there was a silence acknowledgement they would not tell the others what had happened.

Annabelle was the first to greet them. “Where are the others,” she asked with a hint of panic after seeing their faces.

“Don’t worry. We just split up to cover more ground.” George hugged her briefly.

Molly was playing cards with the boy Samuel. Jessica was standing near the other door, which was halfway open to let her see into the tunnel.

Rafiq put the backpack down next to the table and sat down. He was disgusted and ashamed with himself.

“You’re okay?” Molly asked.

“Yes, just tired. How are you?”

“I’m alright.”

They looked at each other awkwardly. He and Molly had been through hell together, but they were still complete strangers.

“Have you brought a lot of food?” Sam asked excitingly, seemingly not very worried about the current state of the world. A thought struck Rafiq how both the old man and this young boy were, in a way, still complete innocents. It made him shiver.

He pushed the backpack towards Sam. “Have a look. I also brought you a couple of comics.”

“Really? Awesome!” The boy turned over the backpack and pulled everything out. He quickly found the comics and rushed over to his mother.

“Look mom! And I’ve not even read these yet.” He picked one out and showed it to her. “Well, except for this one. You bought that one just two weeks ago.”

Jessica squeezed him in the shoulder with affection “I remember. Go on, you can read them over there,” she said. She mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Rafiq. He nodded.

At least someone was happy today.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“Another can of beans.” Rafiq placed it next to the others.

“Well, at least we won’t be lacking for beans for a while,” Molly said while scribbling it down in the notebook. Feeling useless because of her ankle, she had asked Rafiq to help out making an inventory of everything that they had. Figuring out rations was probably a good idea.

“I don’t like beans,” Sam said from behind his comic. His mother looked at him reproachfully. He did not notice, as he was already back in the wonderful world of the Marvel universe. It suddenly hit Rafiq that the kid was probably reading the last story Marvel would ever publish.

The door flung open and Niobe and Carl sashayed in. Annabelle peeked in behind them, smiled and then returned to her watch duty.

“Where is George?” Niobe asked, dropping a stuffed backpack near the others.

“Hello to you too,” Jessica responded with a tinge of sarcasm.

“Yeah, yeah, where is George?”

“On watch,” Rafiq said and nodded towards the other door. “Did something happen?”

She simply looked at him for a second and then went to find George without saying another word. Carl shrugged at them apologetically.

“What’s her problem?” Molly asked indignant.

“Nothing,” Carl said. He reached over to a bag of potato chips, but thought better of it when he saw the way Molly was looking at him. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Anyway, we ran into some people. Niobe wants to talk with George first before we decide... uh... on things.”

Rafiq looked at Molly, who seemed equally confused. “Things?” He asked, “what things?”

Carl thought for a second but then figured there was no point in lying.

“We got to Capitol Records, where we ran into a bunch of-“


BOOM!

The sudden noise made him shut up as a shock all went through them. For a moment, they all just sat there. Stunned.

BOOM!

“The bombs!” Rafiq shouted, “Get down!” He hoped he could hear them, but if they did not, they all seemed to have the same idea, as they all crouched down on the floor. Jessica ran to her son and covered his ears.

BOOM!

BOOM!


Annebelle scrambled back into the room, having realized that the room was safer then the tunnel outside. Jessica had told them earlier that this room was as earthquake proof as an underground place could get. They had hoped this would be the same for bombs as well.

BOOM!

BOOM!


It felt different from an earthquake though. There was a lot more noise for one thing. And it was apparent that the danger came from above. Rafiq had instinctively wrapped his arm around Molly, who in turn was holding his other hand.

The bombs went on for a while longer, but then eventually died away. Rafiq could feel his heart racing and sweat was trickling down his forehead.

Once they were sure it was over, Rafiq helped Molly up. She was a bit pale, but otherwise not in any visible signs of panic. The others seemed to cope as well, considering the situation. It was unnerving to think what would have happened if they had not been here. This was not the moment to just sit down though.

“We have to make sure the others are okay,” Rafiq said. He picked up one of the flashlights they had collected earlier.

“What about Sarah?” Molly asked. Rafiq swallowed hard. He did not want to think it, but if the girl had not gotten underground, she was probably dead. It made him feel sad.

“One thing at a time,” he heard himself say, although it came out a lot colder then he meant too. He turned around and left the room. Carl and Jessica followed.

The tunnel was dark. The bombs must have cut of the power, Rafiq thought to himself. Thankfully, George would not have gone far.

Just as that thought came into his head, they could make out George and Niobe leaning against the wall. They appeared alright.

“Oh my God, you are okay.” Jessica said loudly and ran towards them. George held up a hand and indicated for them to be quiet.

“Yes, we are alright,” he said in a low voice, “and you guys?”

“We are all fine,” Rafiq whispered. “What’s happening?”

Niobe took a step away from the wall and looked at something a bit away from them. It was a train, derailed. “Just before the bombs fell, this group ran inside that train. They have not seen me or George. We were lucky. That railcar not so much.”

They carefully shuffled closer to the train. Those people might be in need of a help. At the same time, they might be trouble. Or worse, they might have died and turned into walkers. George lifted his gun and Rafiq and the others did the same.

Suddenly a light fell upon them. It danced away and around them. Someone inside that train was trying to get their attention.

“They are trapped,” Rafiq said.

“That they do,” George said in a flat tone.

Rafiq was the first to reach the train. Through the glass, he could make out a number of people. There were ten of them, including a little girl. They would outnumber his little group, but then again, they did not seem particular dangerous. It was quite a mix match of people.

The woman with the flashlight was shouting something, but he could barely make it out through the thick glass. It was clear what she wanted though. Getting out.

He looked at George, remembering what happened earlier that day with the man in the wheelchair. If he did not want to help these people...

Thankfully, George was not that cruel. “Alright,” he sighed, “let’s try to get them out. Still, be careful everyone.”

Rafiq gave the woman in the train a reassuring smile, which seemed to ease her tension a bit. She said something to her fellow people and backed away. Together with Carl and George, Rafiq tried to pull the door open. With the way the train had fallen, this proved to be quite difficult, as the door was heavy and gravity against them. Yet, they managed and after a couple of grunts and cursing, the door swung open.

The woman with the flashlight was the first to get out and was about to say something, until she saw the gun in George’s hand, who was pointing it straight at her. “What the...” she began.

“Look,” George said, “we don’t want to do you guys any harm. But I’m sure you understand that we have to make sure you are not the wrong kind of people.” He placed a deliberate emphasis on the word 'we'.

A man propped his head behind the woman. He was angry, “Come on! We already had a shit day!”

George narrowed his eyes, but focused his attention on the woman. “You seem like a reasonable lady,” he said, “I only ask of you people to get out of the train one by one and see if you are carrying any weapons.”

The woman nodded. “That is only sensible,” she said.

They did as George asked and got out of the train one by one. They all lifted their hands in the air upon coming out, indicating that they were not holding any weapons.

“Alright,” George said, “that was not that bad, was it?” As he said that, he lowered his gun as a sign of goodwill. They all just stood there, not sure what to do next.

At that moment, they could hear another bomb falling in the distance. It was not close enough to do any damage, but nearly all of them looked up at the ceiling regardless.

Another bomb fell, clearly audible this time.

Later, he would be amazed at the fact how he was the one who had made the decision. But at that moment, all Rafiq could think of was to get everyone to safety.

“George!” He shouted, “we have to get back to the maintenance room! We’ll figure this out later!”

Niobe and George briefly exchanged looks.

Another bomb.

Niobe nodded.

“You heard the boy! Let’s go!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.
# Sarah Hawke #


BOOM! BOOM! B-BOOM!

Thunderous quakes shook the ground as dozens of convicts shepherded a hooded man down the halls towards the kitchens. Their riotous noise-making was almost enough to overpower the sound of the distant bombs dropping, but not quite. The captive was corralled across the kitchen tile and thrown into the walk-in freezer. Sarah struggled on the tips of her toes to see what was happening, but the halls were packed with too many bodies. Through the heads of the men ahead of her, she managed to see Oliver force himself into the freezer with a bearded man and the prisoner.

BOOM!

Another explosion in the distance, followed by the aftershock of a neighboring building crumbling to the ground. Sarah looked at the mob of strangers scrambling for cover all around her, feeling absolutely lost and alone. A passing shoulder knocked her to the ground, and Dax -- having witnessed Sarah's fall -- limped over to help her off her hands and knees.

Her eyes lit up when she saw who it was, his bright red hair like a lighthouse amongst the chaos. "T-Thank you," Sarah managed to blurt out. Dax pulled her to her feet, nodding curtly.

"This way," he ordered, starting down one of the side halls. She took his arm, helping to steady the man as they moved away from the frenzied crowd. Sarah looked over her shoulder one last time, hopelessly checking for Oliver in the mass of convicts. She hoped that whatever was happening behind that freezer door had nothing to do with him -- however serious it looked.

If only she knew...


* * *


Inside the freezer, Bronson slammed Calvin against the metal rack, cuffing his right hand to one of its legs. Oliver closed the door behind him as he entered, turning around just as Bronson ripped the bag from Calvin's head. He squinted against the crystal blue fluorescent light -- a bandana crudely tied around his head and mouth in a makeshift gag. His reddened eyes glared back and forth between his two captors as he sat on the freezing plate floor, shackled to the rack behind him.

Oliver shook his head, running one hand over his face to calm his nerves. He waited a beat for Bronson to speak, but knew that the man probably felt he had nothing to explain. Since things had gone down, Bronson had assumed total authority over the surviving convicts, including Oliver -- so much so that the men had coined the monicker "The Warden" for their bearded leader. The assumption was that his orders went without question, his means and deviances without mention -- and in return he would provide security, safety, and sustenance for those who followed him. And the cycle continued, and continued... leaving Oliver as the only real voice of reason. Had things gone down differently, Bronson would have likely killed him during their escape from the prison bus, but he recognized that Oliver was the only reason they survived in the first place. He wondered how long that immunity would hold out for -- given the way things had been going lately.

"What the hell is this, Everett?" Oliver asked, jabbing a finger at Calvin.

Bronson sighed, dramatically. "Now why would you go and use my name -- my God-given birth name -- in front of our prisoner?" Oliver rolled his eyes, as if that was the point here."Are you fucking stupid?"

"Explain this before I get pissed," Oliver replied, already tired of these games. Calvin wrestled with his wrist against the pole, testing the strength of his bindings. Bronson served up a sharp kick in the knee to shut him up, and Calvin yanked his leg back in pain.

"Maybe if you had been around today when I needed you, we wouldn't be in this situation," Bronson chided, circling the floor. "This man murdered my brother," he explained, turning to look at Calvin. The two glared at each other for more than a moment, reveling in their dislike for one another. "He was smart enough not to resist me when I found him, and so I've brought him here to serve his sentence."

Oliver shook his head at the ego of it all. "Serve his sentence? Listen to you! Did you really just break out of prison to start another one?" he scolded. "You ever think of asking him why he killed your brother?"

"Finally, someone with some sense," Calvin chimed in from the floor. Bronson delivered another sharp kick, this time to his shin. His handcuffs rang taut against the rack as he winced in pain, grasping for his leg. Oliver leapt forward, placing his arm across Bronson's chest as he wound up for another kick -- this one aimed at Calvin's stomach.

"You really gonna put hands on me, boy?" Bronson asked, calmly. Oliver eased up, eyeing the man with suspicion. He knew from their time together in the joint just how unpredictable the man could be. It was a very calculated impulsiveness -- one that treaded the fine line between genius and suicidal. But there was something in Oliver's eyes that Bronson didn't like. He wound back, quickly striking out with his elbow against Oliver's jaw. The man reeled backwards into one of the other metal racks, gripping it with all his strength to keep himself steady. Cansan d bags of food clamored on the ground as they were knocked free of their shelves. Bronson was already on him again, this time driving his knee into Oliver's stomach. His limp frame dropped to the ground, effortlessly. This was the real Everett T. Bronson... the "Warden" that everyone whispered about. He reached down and drew a knife out from Oliver's waistband.

BOOM!

The Warden turned to Calvin, examining the knife in his hand like a surgeon with his tools. He inched a few steps closer to his prisoner, pondering his fate...

BOOM!

Another bomb dropped as he placed a foot on Calvin's chest, pinning him against the rack. His other hand grasped Calvin's handcuffed wrist and braced it to the pole, holding the knife close. But, no... it didn't add up. His brother was an idiot -- too much so to be considered his right hand man. Besides, such a small knife would take too long for a proper severing, and Bronson hated doing a messy job. He backed off a bit, watching Calvin wreathe and squirm against his restraints in protest.

BOOM!

Dust sifted down from fresh cracks in the ceiling, falling past Bronson's judging eyes. What was his brother to him? What punishment fit the crime? He supposed that in a way, he was his eyes and ears. Always the talker, never the thinker -- his dear baby brother. That seemed fair enough -- an eye for an eye.

Having finally decided, he looked Calvin straight in his... for the last time.


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


The bold young woman kept her weapon held high as she popped out from behind the corner of the overturned train car. The girl kept a steady aim on Niobe as others from the group crept out from behind the car. Niobe watched as the girl's eyes widened and she adjusted the grip on her gun.

"Easy there now, kid," Niobe muttered, keeping as still as could be. Another girl came up from behind the armed one and put her hand on the gun, lowering it.

"There's a little girl with them," she said, nodding in Lily's direction. Dyomie noticed what she was talking about and dropped her guard a bit. Natasha joined them, sauntering out from her hiding spot with her weapon drawn -- Phillip close behind. They looked just like the rest of them... as if they had just been through Hell and back.

BOOM!

They all braced themselves as the entire platform shook again, the metal rails ringing like church bells as parts of the ceiling crumbled from above loosening the tracks. Niobe sized up the four newcomers.

"Look," she called out, "this is the most people I've seen in one place since this all started... so I know I'm not crazy when I say we need to stick together if we're going to have any kind of future here. None of us know each other, I know... but that's the situation we're in." Harper looked at Nathan -- and Steve, who stood behind Lily with his hands on her shoulders. "There's no more how do-you-do's, no more shaking hands and talking about the weather. There is only one thing... survival."

BOOM!

The hanging silence was stifled by yet another explosion. "She's right," Rafiq added, pushing to the front of the crowd. "We can't keep pointing guns at each other when the real enemy is out there." He pointed up towards the streets above. "We have to go deeper into the tunnels until the bombings stop."

Dyomie squinted her eyes, still unsure of what to do. "We don't know you people," she protested in defense of her situation.

Niobe lowered her weapon, slowly -- too tired to put up with anymore of this. "And you're not going to at the other end of a gun," she preached.

Jessica lovingly squeezed her son's shoulders as she edged towards the front of the group. "There's a junction about a quarter mile down the tracks that could hold all of us. It might be tight, but the foundation should hold until all of this settles down," she advised, looking around the group.

Jack crossed his arms. "One of our friends is still out there," he protested, pointing behind him. "Calvin could have made it somewhere safe before the bombs got this close..."

Harper's gaze lowered to the ground. "So the best possible scenario is that Calvin's holed up somewhere with a bunch of psychotic escaped convicts?" Molly stood next to her, chewing her lip in thought. Something they had mentioned caught her ear, and it all suddenly added up in a flash.

"Calvin... Hawke?" She asked, hanging on their every breath. Harper looked around at some of the others, not quite understanding. He was enough of an established film personality that anyone with a TV would know the name, but Molly's face didn't show the excitement of a fan... it showed nothing but worry and panic.

"Uhh, yeah... Calvin Hawke," Harper replied to the girl.

Molly looked Rafiq dead in the eyes. "That's Sarah's brother..." she said, loud enough for everyone to hear. Rafiq furrowed his brow, sad that she wasn't here to rejoice in the news that her brother is alive... or at least, was a minute ago. Only time would tell how many deaths they'd be mourning in the inevitable aftermath of the bombings.

"Who?" Harper asked eagerly, her interest peaking.

Rafiq shook his head. "One of our own is missing too," Rafiq replied, somberly. "Sarah." Harper traded a look with Nathan through the crowd.

"Two of our own," George corrected, bristling at the thought of his poor dog.

Rafiq nodded. "His dog went with her..."

Niobe holstered her gun and took in the group. "There's nothing we can do for them now," she insisted. As much as they all hated the thought, she was right. It was only them now -- they had to keep moving. "Jessica, lead on..." Niobe commanded. The group slowly started trudging along, helping each other around the wreckage of the train cars and debris. Dyomie glanced back at Marie and the rest of her group, slowly stowing her pistol and following suit. Jessica pulled to the front, guiding the group deeper into the blackened metro tunnel. The pitter-patter of over a dozen different footsteps trailed behind her as more bombs thudded against the surface above. Niobe gritted her teeth as she ran, hoping she knew what she was doing. Whatever this new world was, it was clear that the rules were made up as you went along.

If this really was the end... she had a feeling it was only just getting started.


.: END OF SEASON :.

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Harper flickered her eyes open quickly, hearing footsteps pattering not far from her head as she rested on the cold cement floor. She tilted her head and looked up; Nathan was crouching down low, resting his hand on her arm. "Hey," he said softly, "I saved you breakfast. I think it's time to wake up now."

She blinked and stared ahead vacantly for a moment, and then leaned up on an elbow and rubbed her wrist across her eyes. "Yep. Sorry. Just got tired... really tired."

Actually, she wasn't telling him that the only way she could get to sleep at night was by taking a tablet of Xanax, making getting up in the morning far more difficult. She was well over halfway through the bottle that Stephanie had been carrying in her leather satchel, still being kept safe by Harper herself.

And the only person who knew Harper even needed any Xanax was Stephanie herself, wherever she might be, and she hadn't mustered up the desire to tell anyone else about it at that point.

Nathan put an arm out and took a seat next to her as she sat up. "I've never seen you this tired. It's been like this for a few days, hasn't it?"

Harper nodded and smiled only the very slightest bit. "Yeah, I guess... maybe I'm just having a hard time, you know, adjusting."

The corners of Nathan's mouth curled up as he offered her a Snickers bar and a small bottle of apple juice. "Looks to me that you're doing just fine. At least you can sleep."

Harper took a bite of the candy bar, chewing politely but just slightly ravenously when as she studied the purple lines beginning to show under Nathan's blue eyes. She wasn't sure that she looked or even felt better than he did. "Maybe a little too much." There was an awkward pause. "What are you up to today?"

"Steve and Schantz need someone to go on a run. Turns out that that's me, so I'll be out with them. Need anything while I'm out, dear?" he teased.

She smiled and unscrewed the cap to the juice. "Oh, you know." She took a sip. "Face wash. Lipstick in this one shade called 'Purple Plasm.' Lots and lots of feminine products." She laughed.

Nathan rolled his eyes and put his hands up. "You could just say, 'No thanks, Nathan, I'm totally good, thanks for asking!'"

"I'm totally good, thanks for asking," she parroted with a silly wink, and continued to drink. "Actually. What I would do for a cup of coffee," she said speculatively.

Nathan snapped his fingers. "Done. You will have a cup of coffee."

"Thanks, Nathan," she laughed after she finished the juice. "I really appreciate you helping me out."

# # #

Nearly everyone at the station was headed to the Society of Professional Journalists L.A. Chapter's Distinguished Journalist Awards Dinner. After the event, the WEND-TV crew decided it was best to leave the venue and hit the town on a busy Saturday night.

Harper didn't have much of a social life; she went to work, came home, slept, got up, read newspapers and websites, and went in to work. Occasionally she went to go have a drink with co-workers, but maybe twice a month. By far, her closest friend at work was Nathan On her days off she'd go running at Venice Beach or go for a drive up and down the coast, all on her own. Despite her outward friendliness, she still felt painfully shy and didn't much feel like exposing her flaws to others at work. That's how drama and rumors get started.

But tonight, she was happy to go out with the group. It was a good night to get dolled-up, pull out pairs of high heels that ordinarily would never fly in most situations, and have fun.

The night flew by, eventually finding the group dwindled to about seven people gathered in a small hotel bar at 1:30 a.m. Nobody had designated themselves as a designated driver, and by this time most of the group had sought cabs home.

Nathan turned to Harper and glared at her challengingly. "Are you going to wimp out and go home?" he asked teasingly.

Harper giggled profusely. She'd had way too much to drink. "I'm no wimp!" she declared, slapping her palm on the table before her. She took another swig of the beer in front of her and shook her head. "You're the wimp."

"That makes no sense!" he retorted, shaking his head and raising his hands inquisitively in front of himself.

Kyle waved his hand as he picked his wallet up from the table. "I'm out!" he announced. "You guys gotta get going. Things are closing down soon and all the cabs are going to get taken."

"Ehhhh, go home, smartypants," Nathan drawled back mockingly.

Kyle rolled his eyes and left the two alone.

Harper laughed and stared up at the ceiling as she leaned back into her side of the booth. She wore a short emerald-green cocktail dress, her dark hair pinned back. A pair of sparkly earrings dangled from her ears. Nathan only owned one suit, not because of being particularly disadvantaged, but because he hated wearing them. "Harp!" he said to her nonsensically.

"Nathan!" she bellowed back, propping herself up on her arms to sit up properly and look ahead at him. "I'm drunk!"

"So am I!" he blasted in return. The two laughed. "I've never seen you this drunk!"

Harper cracked up again and grabbed her purse and put it on the table. "Really. I better get a cab like Kyle said. So I can go home."

Nathan sat up quickly. "So soon?" he asked, a lilt of disappointment in his voice. She nodded wobbily. "But Haaaaarperrrr..."

"You are SUCH a whiner!" she said through a crinkly laugh. "You are always griping about something! Or at someone!" She hiccuped quickly. "It's like you never shut up!"

Nathan balked and laughed. "Oh, now you're going to share what you think!" he returned. "I see. I see. You have to be drunk to do that."

She finished off her beer. "You just happened to get me at a great time," she slurred.

Nathan rolled his eyes. "But we always work together."

She laughed. "You see me every day and NOW you want to complain to me?"

He chewed the inside of his lip. He felt nervous. "No, I'm just stating the obvious!" he zapped out.

"Nice comeback, but I've got to go home," she said quickly, pretending to be annoyed.

"Hey, I'll walk you," he offered rushedly, whipping out his wallet and tossing a few dollar bills onto the table. He scurried after her as she made her way to the door. "You can't go out there by yourself!"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes I can. Watch me."

Nathan kept pace with her as she waltzed playfully ahead on matte satin black high heels, humming some silly tune. He stuck his jacket across her shoulders, the arms flying below the hem of her dress. She stopped briefly and cast a squint-eyed glance at him. "Fine, walk with me until I find a cab." She hiccuped again and resumed her silly trot down the sidewalk. She always came out of her shell once she'd had a few drinks.

Nathan was thrilled. He had waited how many months to talk to her outside of work, one-on-one. At work they had a job to do, and he couldn't waste time on socializing. She was always kind to him, very bright, and flat-out gorgeous.

Of course, he had no idea what to do or say.

Just as he worked up the courage to put his arm around her narrow shoulders, a cab rolled up. She whisked into the backseat and waved Nathan in. "Let's split the fare!" she offered brightly.

He climbed in next to her and watched her as she sank into her seat after giving directions to her apartment. His ears pricked up. "That's where you live??" he remarked. "I'm just a few blocks away!"

She laughed. "Then the fare won't cost much at all!" She sat up and stared up through the sunroof at the tall buildings towering above. Nathan stared, watching her eyes sparkle and her lips curl into a smile. "I love tall buildings!" she sighed contentedly. He watched her knees shift into a comfortable position. She looked unbelievably happy, being drunk and staring up at the sky.

There weren't many times where Nathan was tongue-tied, but this was one of them. No music blared in the cab. Just the sounds of the air rushing past the windows. He watched her soak in the sights, not even looking back at him. Clearly, she was very comfortable in his presence.

Just as he summoned the nerve to move his hand over hers, the cab stopped. He recovered by grabbing his wallet and forking over enough money to cover the fare. Harper blinked, not even done rustling through her small purse. Nathan waved her off nervously. "I got it." She smiled and exited the cab.

Harper stood on the sidewalk and waited for him. It was a serene ride back, the two utterly exhausted after a long night out. She suddenly remembered that she had Nathan's jacket around her shoulders and pawed at the sleeves. "I'm swimming in this," she declared through her hazy state. Nathan slowly ascended onto the sidewalk from the street. His face was drained of color, and he'd shoved his hands in his pockets. She frowned. "Are you all right?"

Nathan withdrew his hands and held her shoulders carefully, staring her right in the face. Clumsy drunk move. "... Harper, I..."

Harper's face froze in the expression she'd been wearing. Suddenly, it registered. Oh. No.

"Harper, I've really liked working these last few months with you," he started, "and I really think..." He trailed off. Harper stared back, trying very hard to hide her surprise. Her arresting bright eyes were very exciting, but also very intimidating. "I really like you, and I really think that..." He trailed off again. He blinked and sighed. "Ahhh, I don't know what I'm doing here... Help me out..."

She chewed the inside of her lip, her intoxicated state lifting greatly with the fast twist her stomach took when he'd started talking. She smiled meekly and took a breath. "Nathan, that's very nice of you," she offered calmly.

There was a long pause. Nathan's heart sunk. He'd finally met someone who piqued his interest for more than two days, and finally decided to say something after months of cautioning himself to slow down, and... this.

His caution didn't extend beyond that moment. "That's it?" he asked, taken aback. "I... I tell you that I think you're incredible, and that was very nice of me?"

Harper shook her head and brought her wrists up to pull Nathan's hands from her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Nathan," she said confidently. It didn't sound unsympathetic, but she was clear.

"Harper," he said, "I work with you almost every day and I really feel like... like, I like you. A lot. We get along really well."

Without skipping a beat, she answered, "But you had no idea I lived so close by. Obviously we aren't that close." Nathan swallowed and looked down at his feet. That hurt. "Nathan, we spend a lot of time together. I see you more than I see anyone else." He blinked, while still looking downward. "You're my best friend in Los Angeles. If I don't want to date *you*, then how can I want to date *anyone*?"

The argument appealed to him in a way, but it still didn't settle well. "I think... I'm not just anyone. I really think that we would make a great match," he said quietly, still running a few syllables drunkenly, wanting badly to lean his head in and just kiss her, like he should have already been doing.

Harper stepped backwards just slightly, and bore a restrained but friendly smile on her face. "I love seeing you every day. The way things are now are... nice. Maybe it'll work someday. But today it won't." She held her purse in front of her and nodded. "I'll see you on Monday morning?" she asked quietly.

He nodded wordlessly as he tried to casually mosey off as though nothing had happened. It was a failure. A dismal failure. It had gone so poorly that she hasn't even gotten mad at him. He played the exchange again and again in his head, angry at himself and wondering if she seemed to play it off like he had said something insignificant and meaningless.

He dropped his keys on the kitchen counter as he walked into his apartment. He didn't even bother to remove his shoes as he walked into his bedroom and collapsed onto his mattress. He rolled over on his back, incredulous that she lived so close by without him knowing. That, and he completely forgot to get his jacket back from her. He picked up his phone and sent a quick text. His wristwatch bleeped to tell him it was 4 a.m. He looked up at his headboard and shut his eyes.

# # #

Harper popped the pill in her mouth and took quick sips of water to help it coast easily down her throat.

She couldn't believe Nathan had done that. Of course she liked Nathan—he was funny, he was handsome, he was talented, and he was just the kind of guy any girl would love to meet. But not only did she just not want to be tied to anyone at the moment, but she just didn't think that dating a co-worker was a great idea.

At least that's what she was telling herself, she wisely reflected. Things hadn't been easy for her since moving out west. Los Angeles was completely different than what she was used to. The weather was nice, of course. She really enjoyed her job, especially spending days laughing and working smoothly with Nathan. By far, he was the best videographer she'd ever worked with in her seven years as a reporter, even easier to work with than the cool-headed videographer, Mark, who'd accompanied her during her embed assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what could she do in a place where she didn't feel quite so comfortable yet? As much as dating Nathan sounded like it could be fun, she just didn't see it working out long-term, either. Staying in Los Angeles did not seem like a goal worth planning for. And what was the point in getting physical if it was just going to be messy in the end?

She settled onto the floor pillows by the loft's window, wearing an oversized gray t-shirt and a pair of short red gym shorts. The view outside was terrific, looking over West Hollywood toward the shoreline, at least on a smog-free day. The palm trees were a novel addition along the streets and the beach, glowing green thanks to streetlights.

She took a deep breath and felt her brain become slow. She bit her thumbnail and continued to stare outside. She wondered how Nathan would be Monday—angry? Sad? Calm? Would he pretend that it never happened?

Harper's body started to feel warm. She curled up under her blanket and sighed heavily. Maybe she could date him. Maybe. Wouldn't he be a fun person to be with? Maybe. But tonight, she just didn't have those answers.

Her phone chirped low. A text from Nathan read, "Whatever you say, boss."

She smiled slightly and stretched out, a little relieved as she drifted off to sleep.

# # #


Nathan blinked and smiled back. "You're welcome... well, I guess I better go find you some coffee. See you later," he said as he straightened his legs and stood to quickly walk away, trying hard to avoid the urge to reach out and touch Harper on the arm. It was getting worse. For about a month he hadn't forgotten about being turned down and had tried his hardest to forget the attachment, but had been unsuccessful, even before the disaster struck. Add several days' worth of surviving together and that made it all so much worse. And it was especially getting bad now that people in the group were starting to talk more amongst one another.

"Nathan," a low, calm voice spoke, interrupting his concentration. The shorter man nodded to him from his spot keeping watch with Carl, the guy with the comic shop. "Ready when you are."

Jack. Nathan especially despised Jack. He hadn't liked the remarks he'd made about Harper at the station, and didn't like the way he looked at Harper back at the sign several days ago, or the way he'd stuck by her at the metro station. He didn't know anything about the guy but just knew he couldn't stomach being around him. Harper was kind to him, which made things worse. She'd smile and ask him a lot of questions about his background, where he came from... and he'd answer them. That sure got under Nathan's skin.

"Yep, just letting Harper know it's time to get up."

Jack looked at him directly in the eye. Nathan was a lot bigger than he was physically, but not mentally stronger. "Oh, she all right?" he asked, making sure to let as much concern creep into his voice at possible.

Nathan inwardly seethed. "Just having a tough time getting up," he said simply.

Schantz stepped through the two men and started off toward the exit. "Hurry up, it's already 9!" she said quickly. "If we don't get a move on someone's going to find that stash we came upon."

"Yeah, yeah, Miss Manners, real intimidated," Nathan volleyed back airily. "We're all getting out pretty quick, here. Don't worry."

Steve caught up, holding a found shotgun. He tossed a golf club to Nathan and a long-handled garden cultivator to Schantz. "Any minute now," he said as he looked over to Jack and Carl. "Anything we should know before we duck out, gentlemen?"

# # #

Harper checked over her list before popping her head into the office. George looked up from his spot, staring down at the surface of the table staring at the assembled ammunition. "Hey," she greeted, holding up a small box. "Brought something for you guys."

She set the cardboard box down on the table. George eyed Harper suspiciously, then the box. "What is it?"

Harper gestured her palm at the table. "I've thought a lot about it, and I think you guys should have this."

George picked up the box carefully and thumbed the flimsy cardboard lid open. An assortment of 9mm shells, about two dozen. He looked back to Harper. "Where did you get these?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "We met a girl last week and she ended up getting sick at the camp we were at," she recounted. "We have her stuff."

"Where's the gun?" George inquired, picking up a few shells and inspecting them under the hanging flashlight's beam.

"She didn't have it when she was with us," Harper volunteered. "If she's still around, she still might not have it. These should help. I think she'd want these to go to good use."

George smiled and placed the box alongside the shells already on the table. "Well, thank you, that'll go a long way," he remarked. "But I have to ask why you took this long to share the wealth."

Harper nodded, her face bearing a slightly annoyed expression. "Well, I didn't know if I should be giving someone else's possessions away, so it kind of took me a while to justify." She then pulled her notepad out of her back pocket. "And I want to help. I have a lot of ideas on how we can make things work."

George raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? In what way could you help?" he laid out heavily. "I think that we've got things under control."

Harper nodded. "No, you're doing a great job," she assured him, "I just have some ideas about what we should do about how we organize our time and manage our resources. Such as, we should be recording everyone's clothing and shoe sizes so that way when someone goes to-"

George held up a hand. "All willing to hear your ideas," he said slightly irritably, "but I'd like to have everyone all sit together and talk about it."

Harper nodded. "Sure," she said as she tucked the notepad back into her pocket. Seemed like George didn't want to discuss it at the moment. "Thank you," she nodded at him, turning on her heel calmly to head over to the de facto rec room.

Jack and Annabelle sat at the table over a deck of cards, talking quietly. Harper pulled up a chair to sit at the end of the table, and laid her notepad down in front of herself. "I'm sorry to interrupt you," she said plainly, and slightly airily thanks to the medication. "James. Annabelle. I want badly to help, but I don't know if I can get them to listen. I'd like to ask your advice."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Annabelle Mae McCallister

---

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Come, my people, enter you chambers,
And shut your doors behind you;
Hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.

Isaiah 26, 19-20




“What are you reading?” The little girl’s high voice rang through the room.

Annabelle closed her Bible and looked up. Lily was standing a small distance away, holding one of Sam’s comic books.

“The Bible, sweetie.” She beckoned the girl to come closer. “You do know the Bible right? God’s word?”

The girl nodded solemnly. “Yes. Mom reads from it sometimes. Not to us though. She has this children’s Bible for me and my brother. She says that is easier.”

“I’m sure she is right.” Annabelle looked at the girl with all the warmth she could muster. Lily had not mentioned a brother before, as far as she was aware. In fact, Lily had not talked much of her family at all. Considering the situation, this was not entirely strange, but it made feel Annabelle uneasy all the same. Instead of a family member, the girl had clung onto James. The man was nice enough, but not really a good influence on a kid. In that regard, Annabelle was happy that Jessica tried to take care of the girl on top of her own son.

“Your brother? What’s his name?”

“Harry. He and I were...” the girl suddenly stopped talking and looked away in pain. A terrible memory was plaguing her, Annabelle had no doubt. She quickly changed the subject.

“Well, if you want, I can read the Bible to you.”

The girl nodded in the way children when they did not really want something, but were too polite to say so. Annabelle laughed. “Alright, maybe not.” The girl turned red. “You know what, we could ask Jack to look for a children’s Bible on one of his runs. Would you like that?” The girl nodded again, this time more sincere.

Annebelle knew that Jack would be able to find such a thing. A couple of days ago, he had asked everyone if they wanted to have something other than food or basic survival gear. Initially, Annabelle had objected of course, but the man had insisted. So, she had told him about how she loved to knit. The sweetheart had brought her all the stuff she needed the next day. The first sweater was nearly finished and it would be his. Jack was a good man. Troubled, but a good man at heart.

“Why is God doing this to us?”


The sudden blatancy of the question startled Annabelle. Lily was looking at her most sincerely though.

“I... I don’t know, sweetie.” And that was the truth. Ever since this all startled, Annabelle had wondered the same thing. She knew God had a reason for everything, but what it was, she had no idea. Annabelle did not, could not, believe that this was God’s wrath or punishment. God was good. God was love. He would not do this to harm his children. Would he?

“But know that God is looking out for you. For me. For all of us here.” She rubbed the girl on the cheek. “Go on Lily, go read your comic.”

“Okay.” The girl walked away.

Annabelle looked down at her Bible. She had read certain passages over and over by now. Somehow, she kept coming back to Isaiah, and the verse troubled her. The text spoke about singing of joy while the dead return to life. But Annabelle had not much to sing of joy about. While unconsciously touching her wedding ring, she thought about her husband and children. Her sisters. She prayed they were alive and well.

Suddenly someone dropped in the chair next to her, returning Annabelle’s thoughts to the present. It was Jessica.

“Pfft, I think I’ve seen enough laundry to last me a month,” the single mother said exhausted.

“I should have helped you.”

“Ow come on Annabelle, I already told you, you do enough for us as it is.”
Jessica took a small sip of her water. The woman never ate or drank more then she had to, preferring to give most of her rations to her son.

“I suppose you’re right,” Annabelle said, although she did not agree with that. She felt responsible for all these people. She knew it no longer mattered much, but up until two weeks ago, she was a congresswoman, elected by the people of California to represent them. These were the people she was supposed to represent. The least she could do was try to help them out. Speaking of helping out...

“Has Harper spoken to you?” She asked Jessica.

“Harper? Not about anything in particular. Or wait, she did mention this Calvin Hawke again yesterday”

Annabelle sighed. “Yes, well, she does that every day.” Truth was, Annabelle wished they could help that man out. What happened to him sounded horrible. But at the same time, it also sounded dangerous and ill-advised. A lot of people could get hurt. And she did not want that.

“No, she wants to organize our group better. I think she wants to be our leader.”

Jessica laughed. “She’s welcome to it. Who else is there? George? He’s spending most of his time drunk, angry or both.”

That was true. George had the qualities to be a good leader, but he seemed to get more paranoid with every passing day. Annabelle was not sure what to do about that though. He had saved her on that first day, when that first walker had come towards her. She still owed him for that. At least the benefit of the doubt if nothing else.

"Maybe I should have her and George sit down together..." A plan began to form in her mind. She trailed her finger over the cross on the front cover of her Bible. God surely would not want her to just sit around and do nothing.

"Wait, maybe we should all sit down together. It is time we finally came together as a group and form a long-term plan."

Jessica nodded in agreement and was just about to say something, when a head appeared around the corner.

“MOM!” It was Sam. “Lily has the comic I want to read!”

Jessica rolled her eyes at Annabelle. “I better deal with this.”

Annabelle chuckled. It was good to know that even through all this, children would still be children.

She returned to her Bible, her head filling with ideas of forming a council.




For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

Isaiah 26, 21

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

After one last look at Molly’s body, he closed and locked the door behind him. She would be safe in there, he hoped. At least for the time being. Maybe the others would want to go back for her body. He did not know. As far as Rafiq was concerned, he had said his farewell.

He didn’t know how long he had been sitting on that staircase, holding her. It felt like a lifetime. But at some point he had gotten up and looked around the building. He had quickly found a small room with a bed in it, empty. He figured it would be as good a final resting place as any. At least it was better than the sewers, where he had left Nasir behind.

He had placed her on the bed and said a small prayer. Rafiq didn’t really knew her beliefs, but he was quite sure Molly wasn’t Muslim. So his prayer had been short and neutral, without any mention of Allah or the Prophet. He was not the type of person to force a religion on anyone. Especially not on a dead girl.

As a final act, he had taken the silver necklace from around her neck. He knew it was a gift from her ex-fiance. She had not told him why she kept such a thing from a relationship that ended badly, but it had been special to her. And now it would be special to him, just like Nasir’s bracelet. After he stuffed the necklace in his pocket, he touched the leather bracelet, feeling the words. Only iron strikes iron.

He got back down the stairs to the ground floor and listened carefully. There did not seem to be any walkers around. He peered through the broken window where he and Molly had gotten through just a while back. At least there was nothing in front of him.

Rafiq stepped through the window and looked around. As he turned towards the right, his heart stopped in his throat. A large mass of people was visible some distance away. No, not people. Walkers.

They had not noticed him, either too occupied or simply too far away. He reached for his gun and knife all the same and dashed across the street. Keeping one eye on the walkers, he ran towards the entrance of the metro station. Just as he was nearing it, someone was opening the door. Instinctively, he raised the gun.

“Wow, Rafiq, watch out!”

It was Marie. Thankful, he lowered the gun. “Sorry,” he said, “can’t be too careful.”

“I understand. I came looking for you guys.” She looked behind him. “Where is Molly?”

He averted her gaze. He did not want to talk about it. Not yet. But he knew he had no choice.

“She’s dead.”

Marie’s eyes grew wide with horror. “Dead? What do you mean? How...”

He held up his hand to silence her. “Not right now. Please. There is a large group of walkers up ahead.” He pointed down the street. Marie got out of the doorway and looked around the corner. She went as pale as snow. “Ow my God,” she mumbled, “that’s why... There were shots from the other entrance. That’s why I came looking for you guys. Did Molly... Did Molly get caught by them?”

Rafiq pulled her back into the entrance way. “Another walker,” he admitted, “dead now.” He could feel his head spinning from all the new information. If the others were caught up with that bunch of walkers... He did not have a good feeling about this.

He looked Marie straight in the eyes, trying to get her attention. “Marie, listen! We don’t have time for this right now. We need to get down to the others, figure out what is going on!”

With that, he sprinted away, back to their improvised underground shelter. Marie followed close behind, until he heard her gasp.

“Wait!” She shouted loudly. Too loudly. He turned around, fearing another walker attack, just as it had happened with Molly.

He was relieved to see that this was not the case, but Marie had turned towards a sideways corridor. “My sister. Dyomie. She needs to know about this!”

“Wait, what? She is not with the others?”

Marie’s eyes bulged with panic. “I don’t think so. She went to Natasha. I have to find them.”

“Then I come with you.”
He did not want to leave another person alone.

“No, you can’t. I know the way by now. She won’t be far. Rafiq, you need to get down towards the others. There are children down there! They need you more than I do.”

He hesitated. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I think nearly everyone else had gotten towards the other entrance. Where the shooting came from. The kids need you more then I do.”

He nodded. Marie would be fine, he told himself, the walkers were on the other side. She would get back in time. With her sister and the cop. She’d be fine. And she was right, the children might need help.

So they parted ways, Marie going through one of the maintenance tunnels as a shortcut to get to the area with the train car, and Rafiq towards the hideout.

After a quick sprint, he reached the door towards the main room. He noticed there was nobody on guard duty. He swung open the door and nearly ran into Wayne. “Wow!” The black man shouted in surprise, “there you are!”

Rafiq shook Wayne’s outstretched hand while catching his breath. He looked around the room. Besides Wayne, there was Philip, watching the other door while holding a gun, and Annabelle was trying to calm down the kids.

“Where is Marie?” Philip asked, “she went looking for you guys.”

“And Molly, where is she?” Annabelle inquired, while stroking Lily’s hair.

“Marie is fine,” Rafiq assured Philip, “she went to look for her sister. Molly...” he looked away, not knowing whether he should tell them in front of the children.

Wayne caught his look though, and knew what it meant. “Oh shit,” he muttered.

“Marie told me what happened,” Rafiq went on, trying to avoid the matter of Molly’s death. “You heard shooting?”

“Jack did, a while ago now,” Philip responded, gesturing his gun in the direction of the door he was guarding. “We’re not sure what is going on, but it does not sound good. And nearly everyone is out or went out to check. Wayne and I stayed behind, to protect the place.”

Rafiq chewed on his lip, knowing that he had to take action. “That’s not all of it,” he said, “I saw a large horde of walkers outside. From what I can tell, they could be near that entrance.”

Annabelle’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “Dear Lord in heaven...”

“What do we do?” It was Sam, frightened, but trying to be brave and helpful at the same time.

Wayne began to cough, his illness clearly not over. Philip simply stared at Rafiq, not making any indication of wanting to take the lead.

Rafiq nervously scratched the stubble on his chin. “We can’t leave. Not yet. The others will probably make their way back here. But when they do...”

“The walkers will follow them,” Wayne said, groaning.

“Yes, so we need to gather everything of importance and be ready to leave when they arrive.”

“And if they don’t come back?” Philip asked in a tone that did not please Rafiq.

“They'll come back.” Rafiq said. He looked at the children. "They'll have to."

They all went to work, finding the backpacks and stuffing them with food, weapons and ammunition. Over the last couple of days, they had gathered enough backpacks for each individual. They were filling all of them, hoping that its owner would come back to pick it up in time.

Rafiq found a piece of pen and paper and wrote down a message to the others. Just in case.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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= George Remington =
% Jessica Abbott %


There had been hazy nights before. Mornings where he still woke up in a drunken stupor. But whatever this was transcended all past transgressions. George rolled to one side, clutching his swollen face in agony. He gazed at his bloodied palms through watery and swollen eyes, the rest of his surroundings catching up to him in a blur. The sting of the cold stone subway platform still clung to his skin, even as he righted himself -- dust falling off of him like somebody shaking out and old rug.

His vision focused more and more with each slow blink of the eyes. But nothing around him made any more sense still. Two blurry figures stood atop an overturned Metro train, firing careful shots into undead stragglers running rampant across the platform -- pouring into the tunnel from the streets above. Dead bodies fell limply to the ground as bullets found their targets time and time again.

George struggled to his feet, wobbling a bit as he regained his balance. He felt around his body with his hands, trying to assess what kind of bodily harm he had succumbed to -- but honestly, his entire body ached.

A stranger's face ran past in a blur, offering him nothing but a passing glance as the woman hopped the tracks, disappearing behind the train. George rubbed his eyes, trying to get his mind back into focus, but everything was just a daze.

"That's him right there!" a familiar voice called out from behind him. He spun around, nearly losing his step -- but Jessica caught him by the arm before he had a chance to fall. "Help me get him out of here," she shouted to the blonde haired woman next to her. The wide-eyed woman grabbed George's other arm and started ushering him across the tracks as Natasha and Dyomie emptied their clips into the wave of walkers rushing into the tunnel.

Schantz limped close behind the rest as they retreated toward the commons. "C'mon, you two!" she shouted to the girls on the train as she hobbled across the tracks. "This place is done for!"

Natasha cast a sideways glance at Dyomie who just kept firing away. She shrugged back at Schantz. "Go on! We'll hold the fort!" she called back with a wave. Schantz knew it was bullshit, but she wasn't in a position to argue. They might be suicidal, but at least they had guns.


* * *


"Over this way," Althea shouted -- waving the beam of her flashlight back and forth at them. The hail of gunfire drummed in the background, further down the halls behind them. Jessica and Lisa pulled George's limp frame through the doorway and rolled him onto the ground -- unconscious once more. Schantz followed last, closing the door behind her as she braced herself against the frame weakly.

Rafiq came rushing up from the small crowd. "What-- is that all of you?" he asked, worriedly. "Who are these people?" Lisa and Althea looked at the group of strangers surrounding them, not a familiar face in sight -- save for Tara's.

"Oh, Rafiq!" Jessica cried out, pulling him in tightly for a hug. "We were so worried about you and Molly... we thought--" She looked around the crowd, her spirits fading fast as she realized whose face was missing. She looked back at him, crushed. "Oh, Rafiq..." she said, sadly.

"What happened to George?" Lillian asked, kneeling down to inspect him.

Tara looked at Jessica and the others. "It's a, uh-- long story, kid."

"What about the rest? Marie just left to go find her sister and Natasha! They're still out there!" Phillip protested.

Tara cut him off, sharply. "All our friends are out there. If they aren't here now, they ain't comin'. You didn't see what we saw." She wiped some of the blood from her nose with the back of her sleeve with a sniffle and went to sit down.

"We're not just leaving them out there," Phillip demanded, moving for the door. Jessica reached for him as he forced his way out the door, but it was too late.

"We can't keep spitting up like this!" Wayne shouted. "We have to stay together. We're stronger that way."

Rafiq nodded, shutting the door behind Phillip. "He's right. We can't keep running off like this. If this is who we have, then we have to leave before more of those walkers get down here."

Jessica chimed in, rolling up her sleeves. "Where did you pack my blueprints?" she asked, walking over to a nearby table. Rafiq ran over to a roughly organized pile of bags and backpacks and fished one out of the back. He unzipped it, puling out several blue sheets and laying them out flat. Jessica squinted her eyes, tracing her finger across familiar angles and notations. "This room here... that's us," she began. "Since the main entrance is full of walkers, that means Platforms A and B are completely compromised. But-- the service tunnels should lead us back to the street." She bit her lip as she roamed further down the blueprint. "It would let us out right on Santa Monica boulevard."

"You think that's far enough away from all this?" Wayne asked, unsuredly.

"We have to hope so," Jessica replied, brushing her hair out of her face. "We can leave out the back as soon as we're ready."

"And the others?" Annabelle asked, somberly. "Phillip is right. They might need our help."

"We're no good to them here," Tara mumbled. "We've got the kids... injured... sick..." she gestured at Annabelle, "old."

"And not enough weapons either," Rafiq admitted, trying to help reason. He reached into his pocket and fished out the note he had been working on. "Look, I started writing a note... for whoever comes in here after us. We'll write down directions and leave it here on the table under the lamp for them to find."

Tara shrugged. "It's the least we can do, I guess."

"Let's get to it then, folks. Grab what you can," Rafiq said, rubbing his hands together. "And somebody wake George up..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They took another corner.

The group walked through the corridors in near grim silence. Only Jessica would occasionally order them to stop so she could look at the blueprints. She and Rafiq were leading them, both holding a flashlight to light the way. The bombing had disrupted the power in this area of the tunnel system. The lights were not completely gone, but flashed faintly in and out of existence. It made the entire atmosphere eerie.

Rafiq tried to walk at a brisk pace, so they could reach Santa Monica Boulevard before the horde of walkers potentially could. Still, he couldn’t walk too fast. This wasn’t a group of athletes he was with. Wayne was still feeling ill, Schantz and George were injured. Sam and Lily were children and Annabelle a grandmother. Apart from Jessica, the only ones who still seemed capable were the two new woman, Lisa and Althea, but Rafiq didn’t know them or what they were made off. On top of that, most of them had a backpack with them, burdening them even further. It was a necessary evil though. They needed the backpacks, for there might not be time in the near future to scavenge for food.

They took another corner.

His own back was sore and he felt emotionally drained, but Rafiq tried not to show it to the rest. Without ever meaning too, he had become the leader of this band of misfits. Niobe, Harper, Jack, Dyomie and James, people who would all be a better fit them him, were not here. Part of him wanted George to take over, but the man was not thinking clearly at the moment and besides, he seemed to be distracted more and more of late anyway. At least there was Jessica, who shared the responsibility with him.

“Is everything alright, dear?” Annabelle’s voice suddenly came from behind.

Rafiq and Jessica turned around to see what was going on. Wayne had sat down on the floor, his backpack clutched in his right hand. The children took the opportunity to sit down as well.

“Just dizzy,” Wayne said, “need to stop walking for a sec.”

“What’s wrong with him?”
Asked the dark-coloured woman, Althea. Her question seemed genuine.

“The flu,” Wayne responded, “or something. Nothing to worry about, I can assure you.” He flashed his white pearly smile at the woman, clearly in an attempt to charm her. Althea looked away uncomfortably. The warning look Lisa gave him made him shrunk back.

“We can’t stay here for long Wayne,” Rafiq said, knowing that another walk was the last thing Wayne’s body needed, but also knowing that they had no choice.

“It’s not far, anyway,” Jessica said, pointing at something on her map, not entirely realizing that Wayne couldn’t see it. “Me and Rafiq can scout ahead and see if Santa Monica is clear.”

“Can I come with you?” Sam looked at his mother, the fear in his eyes betraying his calm demeanor.

“Honey, I -“

“I can go,” Lisa dropped her bag on the ground and stepped forward, “you stay here with you son.”

Jessica mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ to Lisa and showed her and Rafiq how to get to the Metro Station. Suddenly George was standing next to them as well. “I’m coming too.”

Lisa looked him over and said, “No, you’re not.”

“Excuse me? Who made you boss!”

“Nobody did. In the state you’re in, you’ll just be a liability. “ She exchanged a knowing glance with Althea, “Among reasons.”

“Like I care what you think. Come on, Rafiq, let’s go.”

Rafiq turned and looked at his old partner. “No George. Lisa is right, we’ll be faster with just the two of us.”

He braced himself for George’s reaction, expecting it not to be pleasant, but instead the old man just stared at him, flabbergasted. Jessica laid a hand on his shoulders and pulled him back. He followed her and took a sip from his water bottle. Rafiq had the feeling it did not contain water.

He and Lisa found the door towards the subway station easily enough. Rafiq opened it carefully while holding the hunting knife in his other hand. Lisa had raised her gun.

The station was empty, save for one walker who for some unknown reason was cuffed to a railing. The creature wore a police uniform and his gun was still in its holster. Rafiq walked up to it, stabbed it through the earlobe and took out the gun. He gave it to Lisa, who checked it.

“Still fully loaded. Did not fire a bullet once.”

“You would expect a gun to see more use these days.”

“Who knows. A free gun is a free gun.”


They went over to the escalator, which surprisingly was still working. Red spots of blood were coming and going as the steps went up and down. Rafiq stepped on one of the clean ones and rode upwards. For one moment, he allowed himself to feel the rush he always had when he got on an escalator. The things had always fascinated him. He remembered days as a child where he would ride them a couple of times in a row while his mother did some shopping. For that one moment, he could almost feel normal again.

As he and Lisa got to the surface, they stepped off the escalator and into the afternoon sunlight. The immediate vicinity was clear of walkers, though there were some in the distance they had to be careful of. It was not entirely clear whether they had been spotted or not. To their left was a row of food shops, a gas station the their right.

“If some of these cars work, maybe we can fill them up here,” Lisa suggested. The streets were filled with cars, apparently abandoned in a hurry.

“Maybe. But I do not wish to leave. The other group could be coming right after us.”


He pointed towards a building opposite the street. It was a bit taller than the surrounding buildings and the roof would give a good vantage point. It turned out to be a spa centre, specializing in skin care. Yet, as they walked up to it, they saw something else.

A large message was painted on one of the windows, reading ‘Carry, I took Stella to my parents. Please come!’ Underneath the message were the bodies of a man and a young girl, both shot in the head and chewed on by walkers. “Ow God,” Lisa stammered.

Rafiq passed the scene and peered through the windows of the spa. The place was dark, but as far as he could tell, there was no walker activity inside. Still, the place looked large. He rather had a bunch of other people with him to clear it out.

“The area is safe enough. Let’s go back,”
he said. Lisa agreed.

As they made their way back, something Lisa had said bugged him.

“What did you mean about George, when you said: among reasons?”


Lisa looked at him, as if she was trying to assess his character. George had looked at him the same way a week before, but something told him Lisa would not appreciate the comparison.

“I don’t find this George very trustworthy,”
she said.

“That’s not all though.”

“No, it’s not.”


They were silent for a while and Rafiq began to think she no longer wanted to talk about it. Then she said: “He shot at us. Or at least, I think he did.”

Rafiq felt like he should feel shocked. The fact that he wasn’t was even worse.

“Shot at you?”


“Yeah, but like I said, I’m not sure. I was in another car, some distance away and everything was very chaotic. But before all hell broke loose, I thought I heard a shot. Look, he may have aimed at a walker, I don’t know. But something seems off about him.”

Rafiq knew better then to defend George. He hoped it wasn’t true, but he hadn’t been there.

They turned the last corner of where they had left the group.

What they found was downright bizarre. Two people were holding down another person on the floor, who was resisting heavily. A fourth person was slumped against the wall.

The scene was dark and it was hard to tell who was who.

It was Lily who spotted them first.

“Something happened,” she said matter-of-factually.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %

"STOP IT! You're killing him!" Annabelle shouted from behind the pile of tussling bodies. Wayne laid another one into Henry as him and George struggled to hold him down. Tara sat back, slumped against the stone wall -- trying to catch his breath. Her right cheek sported a brand new shiner, courtesy of the enraged stranger. Althea and Lisa knelt at her side, making sure she was alright.

"Get off me! the man spat, kicking his feet out wildly. George rolled off of him, too exhausted to continue wrestling with the man. Wayne stood up, begrudingly. Taking a few steps back with his fists still balled up.

The man wiped the blood from his lip and spit on the ground, sitting up just barely. He rose to his feet and made like he was going to charge Wayne again.

"Don't do anything stupid, man..." Wayne pleaded. Henry looked around the room at the others, panting heavily in his drunken stupor. The world had fallen to shit outside and here they were, a bunch of people fighting each other. He took a step towards Wayne.

*CLICK*

"Lillian!" Jessica shouted out. The girl was pointing a pistol right at the man's head. Jessica quickly snatched it from the girl's grip, shooing her away from the men. "Where did you get this?" she demanded, holding the girl by the arm.

Lillian shook her hand off. "Seriously? There are guns lying around literally everywhere..." she said sarcastically.

Jessica couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked at Rafiq who shook his head in dismay, shrugging his shoulders.

"Enough of this!" Jessica shouted. "Rafiq tell me you found something?"

He nodded his head, happy to be able to deliver good news for a change. "We found a spa... it looks sturdy enough to be able to house the lot of us. And it's close. Only a few blocks south of here."

Jessica nodded. "Good... take everyone up there," she requested, grabbing him by the shoulder. She turned to the others. "George, Tara... stay behind with me. I'm gonna need help with our new friend."

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

"Rafiq's gonna need your help getting everyone up there safely," Jessica replied.

Everyone began to disperse slowly as Rafiq took Wayne, Lisa, Althea, Annabelle, Samuel, and Lillian to the surface. The girls helped Tara up before heading after the rest of the group. They slowly made their way down the dark corridor towards the service exit Rafiq had found. Once they were gone, George took the gun from Jessica's hands and turned to the menace who had shown up on their doorstep, looking at him one drunkard to another through blurried eyes.

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Their small group made it back to the surface without any incident. As expected, none of the walkers had come any closer. The children had a bit of fun with the escalators, before they all stepped into the sunlight.

Wayne stood there, grinning like a child. “God, I forgot how good the sun felt . This is exactly what the doctor ordered.” It was true. He already seemed much better than before. Rafiq couldn’t help noticing how handsome Wayne could be and smiled despite himself.

“What is that?” Althea pointed at something in the far distance. Some sort of weird cloud had formed in the distance, just visible above some of the lower rooftops.

Rafiq dismissed it, “Just some strange weather.”

“That’s not caused by weather,” Annabelle said barely audible. She looked nervously at the children, then back at Rafiq. “That’s caused by something nuclear.”

“Nuclear?” Asked Lisa, “Did they bomb another city?”

Annabelle sighed, in a way that indicated she did not want it to be true, but knowing it was so. “Yes. And they must have used something more heavy this time.”

“Is it safe? With the whole radiation thing I mean.”

“Mostly, I think. The wind could be problematic. I think it’s better we stay someplace inside, for the time being.” Annabelle looked at the children again, but they were hardly bothered by the news. With all the stuff that has been happening lately, this did not seem to matter much to them anymore.

Rafiq gestured towards the spa he and Lisa had scouted out earlier. “Right, then I suggest we go in there. It has not been cleared yet, so be careful.”

As they went over to their new safe house, they all saw the scene of the man and the child with the message for Carry. None of them said anything, but it felt to Rafiq that all of them became somewhat quieter than before.

He stopped by the door and everyone took out a weapon, even the children, who both had a knife of their own. “I’m not going to ask where you got those,” Rafiq said to them and then opened the door. The lobby was empty. Posters and signs with all sort of health and beauty tips were everywhere, promising the woman (for some reason, all of them were directed towards woman) a clean and clear skin, a youthful look or the perfect getaway from the husband and children.

“Alright, we better clean this place up.”

They split up in groups. Rafiq and Althea went one way, Wayne and Lisa the other. Annabelle, Sam and Lily stayed behind to watch the entrance.

Most of the rooms were sparsely filled, mostly containing one or two beds or lounging chairs with a cabinet that contained all sorts of skin products. Althea got particular excited over finding a special crème for her skin, stating that it was developed for black woman only. There were also locker rooms, a small swimming pool, a sauna and a ‘meditation room’, which was decorated with rocks and plants. The place was nice, if not a bit clinical, assuming all the facilities were still working. Good news was that there were no walkers, or even dead bodies, to be found.

They got back to the entrance, but Wayne and Lisa had not gotten back yet. Annabelle had sat behind the reception desk, but Lily and Sam were both still guarding the door, holding up their weapons in all seriousness.

“They won’t give the knives back to me,” Annabelle said with a disapproving tone, “and honestly, I don’t know anymore if that is a good or a bad thing.”

“They’re not yours, right?” Althea asked.

Annabelle laughed at that, “You’re sweet, but we both know I’m way too old to be their mother. And no, I’m not their grandmother either.”

At that moment, Lisa and Wayne got back from upstairs. Wayne was covered in blood and guts, but where Lisa looked annoyed, he for some reason appeared quite happy.

“You had an encounter?” Rafiq asked as he went up to them.

“Yes,” Lisa said, “two of them. There were some other bodies as well, but they were already truly dead.”

“One of them came really close to me,” Wayne said conversationally, as if he just not had a brush with death, “but wonderful Lisa here took them out.” He winked at her. She rolled her eyes and walked away.

Wayne turned his attention back on Rafiq. “You want to see?”

“No, I believe you.”

“No, I think you really want to SEE.” Wayne put emphasis on his last word, which made Rafiq curious. What could be so important about a couple of dead walkers? He followed Wayne back up the stairs. There were more rooms here, some reserved for spa treatments, but towards the back there were rooms strictly meant for personnel. Wayne opened a door that had a sign on it: ‘Meeting room’.

There were five bodies in the room. Two were still seated, heads resting on the table. Both of them were woman and it appeared they had been shot. A third one was over by the window, slumped down and his leg in a strange angle. The last two were closer towards the door and it was clear these were the two walkers Lisa and Wayne had taken down. Not only did they have fresh wounds, if you could call them such, but they both had that weird sickly greyish look all walkers had. None of the other bodies had the same colouring. Apparently they had never turned.

On the table were a couple of suitcases. One of them was open, stuffed with a large amount of cash.

Rafiq whistled. “That’s a lot of money. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much in one place.”

Wayne laughed at that. “I know, right. There is easily a couple of grand in there.” He took out a couple of stacks and threw them in the air. “Of course, not worth jack shit anymore.”

“Indeed. So, is that what you wanted to show me? Suitcases filled with useless cash?”


Wayne checked the door, but none of the others had followed them. “Not exactly,” he replied mysteriously, “Lisa thinks there is only money here, but I peeked inside one of the other suitcases.”

As he said that, he unclasped another one. It did not contain any money, but small bags. Filled with white powder.

Rafiq swallowed. “Cocaine.”

Wayne’s eyes sparkled. “Isn’t it great.” He opened another suitcase, which to Wayne’s delight was filled with cocaine as well.

“I wouldn’t call it great,” Rafiq said, “I don’t use that stuff.”

“Neither do I, man,” Wayne responded defensively. He opened the fourth and last suitcase. That one contained more money. “But think about it. Money isn’t worth anything anymore, but this,” he held up one of the bags, “this could be pure gold.”

“You want us to start a drugs operation?”


“Not especially, but there will be people out there who would want this stuff. Desperate people. And desperate people are willing to trade a lot for this.”

“Desperate people might do more than just trade,” Rafiq said uncertainly. He had always tried to stay away from drugs. Being near this large an amount made him uncomfortable.

Wayne unconsciously scratched the back of his neck and had an expression that said 'I don't get why you're not on board'. “Come on buddy, don’t be like that. I’m not saying we should advertise ourselves to every crack head and crook out there, but there will come a time when we need to make a trade. I’m sure of that. Don’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“Then this could be our perfect bargaining chip.”


Rafiq looked on as Wayne closed the suitcases. Part of him knew that they should use every resource they could find. But another part of him wanted to throw all the stuff away. It felt all wrong.

“And what if I were to give you a kiss?”

“Excuse me?”
Rafiq felt himself turning red. Did Wayne notice him looking?

Wayne laughed with that bright smile of his. “Come on, I’m just joking. Didn’t know you were such a homophobe.”

“I’m... I’m not.”

“Alright then. Just help me hide these, would you.”

Rafiq grunted something in agreement. Maybe be he was just being too cautious. It was not like there was still police around to arrest him again.

Shortly after, he helped Wayne to hide the two suitcases in one of the other rooms.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield

---

His lips were on hers. His mouth was as passionate as ever, just as intense as their first kiss. Romance novels often described how a man’s tongue would explore a woman, but Diego was far beyond that point. He was on familiar ground and loved every second of it. She could tell.

Bethany let it go on for a while, feeling the same intense longing to touch him. It had been three days now since the last time they had sex, and even that one had been quick and inside some dirty room. Diego grabbed her behind more firmly and pressed her closer against his body. She could feel his heat. She could feel him. All of him.

Yet, she had to break it off for now. It would have to wait. She turned her head away from him and checked the alley again.

“I think it’s gone,” she said to her husband, “we can go on.”

Diego was slightly out of breath, which she knew was just an act, and leaned with one hand against the wall. “A pity,” he said, “I could have used a couple more minutes.”

“I know you do, dear.” She responded with a last kiss on his mouth and moved into the alley. Diego picked up his metal baseball bat and followed her.

They moved through the streets like cats, staying to one side and always keep an eye on their back. It had been just the two of them since it all happened and so far it was working. Both still alive, reasonably well fed and without any injuries. The only real problem had been the fire, destroying everything they had, including the suitcases. Bethany felt like cursing again. They had enough cocaine to last Diego a long time, he didn’t use that much after all, but then some idiot had decided to burn a pack of walkers by setting their building on fire. It had destroyed everything, including their apartment. She had a suspicion that the arsonist had died in his own fire, but didn’t really care either way.

Part of her wanted to leave all this drugs business behind, but she knew that Diego would sooner or later need some of it. Without it, he could go into withdrawal and they could not use that right now. Rehab would have to wait until they found a place that was safe and secure.

So now they were on their way back to the spa, retrieving the final two suitcases they had been unable to carry a few days back. If they were still there. Gonzales could have picked them up by now, but it was more likely he was dead. So many people were these days.

“Watch out,” Diego hissed and she was pulled backwards. In front of her eyes, she could see a rotten hand clawing out, just where her head had been a second ago. It had come from her right side, so she hadn't heard it coming. Bethany felt a mixture of shock and excitement well up in her. Adrenaline pumping, she watched on as Diego took his bat and bashed the walker’s head in. The first swing made it stagger, the second made its eye and nose explode, the third got through the skull and into the brain. Another walker appeared and without thinking, she took the bat from Diego’s hand. Swinging with all her might, she bashed its head against the wall, crushing it between bat and stone. It completely tore open, blood, flesh and brain spattering everywhere.

“One swing,” said Diego, impressed.

Bethany wiped the bat clean on the clothes of the walker the best she could before handing it back to her husband. She gave him a playful peck on the cheek.

“You know me. Always going full throttle.”


---

They didn’t move fast nor with any apparent purpose, so the effect was not immediately apparent, but it appeared to Rafiq that the number of walkers in the street was slowly increasing. It made him feel uncomfortable. He hoped the others would show up soon. If they had to move again, he wasn’t sure they would ever be able to find each other. He particularly missed Carl, Niobe and Marie and hoped they would come back soon.

George was looking through the binoculars, not saying a word the whole time. That suited Rafiq just fine. Jessica and Tara had vouched for the new guy from the tunnels, Henry, but George was still angry about it. That was probably the main reason why he had been volunteered to take the first watch on the roof. Rafiq had felt it was best to join him up there.

Although he knew it probably wasn’t the best timing, Rafiq had then told him what had happened to Molly. He had expect some loud angry cursing, or even a slap in the face, but instead George had just stared at him. For a while it looked like the message didn’t even come through, but then tears filled in the eyes of the older men.

“I miss Charlie,” was the only thing he had said.

Rafiq hadn’t known how to respond to that.

So they had just sat there, on the rooftop, looking at the walkers on the street and the entrance to the metro station. Hoping that some familiar faces would show soon.

“Someone is coming,” George suddenly said.

Rafiq perked up and looked the metro station. There was nobody there.

“Where?” He asked, “I can’t see anybody.”

George pointed a way to the left. Near the gas station were two figures, a man and a woman. Rafiq didn’t recognize them, but they were clearly still human. Probably stragglers looking for a safe place.

“They are heading straight for this place,” George said. He took out his gun. Alarmed, Rafiq stepped in front of George. “There is no need for that,” he said, “there are just two of them. I’ll see what they want. You,” he gently lowered the gun in George’s hand, “you stay here and watch for the others.”

Rafiq quickly got off the roof and rushed down the stairs. Thankfully, the building was not too large and he got to the main lobby before the couple did. Jessica, Sam, Annabelle, Althea and the new guy Henry were still there. They all tensed as Rafiq rushed into the room.

“Someone is coming,” as he said it he could see some of them reach for a weapon. “Just two,” he added quickly, “they are probably just looking for a place to hide.”

Just a few seconds later, the couple stepped in. The man was fit, handsome and looked to be from somewhere in South America. The woman was older, but still exceptionally beautiful. Even Rafiq could tell. She was the kind of person that would attract all the attention the moment she stepped into a room.

The woman looked at them with some confusion, then composed herself. The man raised his baseball bat, which was red with blood.

“What are you doing in my spa?” She asked without any apparent concern that she was outnumbered.

---

When the people did not respond, Bethany bopped her head sideways.

“Well? Are you going to answer me?”

A young man stepped forward, deliberately standing in front of the child in the room, blocking the boy from her view. Clever, she thought to herself. Protecting the weakest member of your group from the unknown.

“We’re sorry,” the Arabic man said, “I didn’t know this was your spa. We were just looking for a place to wait for our friends.”

“And you thought the best way to do that was to break into my business.”

The man, who was about the same age as Diego, turned slightly red. “Yes, no, well...”

“She’s just messing with you,” Diego laughed. Bethany couldn’t help but smile.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “you’re welcome to the place. I doubt we’ll ever open it again. I’m just here to pick up some stuff.”

“What stuff?” Another man asked, much older than the other one. He was also a bit ruffed up for some reason.

“None of your business stuff,” Diego said to him, raising his tone with a hint of threat. Bethany briefly touched his hand as a warning.

“You’re Bethany Whitfield?” an elderly and somewhat overweight lady asked. Bethany nodded, asking with her eyes how she knew that. The woman picked up on it. “I saw your name on one of the rooms. I thought it was a beautiful name. My name is Annabelle.”

Bethany didn’t really know if the compliment was sincere or not, but she took it all the same. “How nice of you to say, Annabelle. This is my husband, Diego.” Diego nodded in response. Out of politeness, the others introduced themselves as well. It was funny to Bethany how civility hadn’t completely died out yet. The only one who didn't introduce herself was a dark-skinned woman, who was sitting in the waiting area and seemed to be observing the situation.

She turned her attention back on the younger man, Rafiq, who looked like the one in charge, although Bethany didn’t really know why.

“Look, we won’t bother you long. Just need some of my personal belongings. Hope that isn’t a problem?”

Rafiq shook his head. “Can’t see why not.”

With that, she and Diego made their way up the stairs. To her annoyance, Rafiq followed them.

“We know the way, thank you,”
she said with all the authority she had.

“There are other people in the building,” Rafiq answered, with more backbone in his tone then Bethany had expected out of him, “No need to alarm them with your presence.”

Bethany looked at Diego, who shrugged in a ‘what-are-you-going-to-do’ way.

They got to the meeting room where they had left the suitcases and stopped. Rafiq’s eyes got larger and said, “You want to go in there?”

“Yes,” Diego said, “what we want is in here.”

“But... uh... there are dead bodies in there.”

“Dead bodies?” Bethany exchanged looks with Diego, who looked just as confused as her. What was this Rafiq talking about? There hadn’t been anyone here when they left. Bethany opened the door and looked inside. There were indeed five bodies in the room.

“Wait,” Bethany said to Diego, “is that Gonzales? And that Kimberly and Thea? What were they...” She didn’t understand what had happened. Gonzales, maybe, but why were Kimberly and Thea back here? Although it probably didn’t really matter anymore why, it made her feel uneasy all the same.

Then she looked at the table properly. Diego noticed at the same time. They walked towards it and both opened a suitcase. It were the ones filled with money. Useless.

“Where are the other two?” Diego asked.

Bethany looked at the door where Rafiq was standing. He looked back.

“What two?” He asked, “this was how we found it.”

Liar, Bethany thought to herself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


"I'm telling you, it was Oakland..." Rafiq protested, shoving his hand back into a bag of potato chips. Annabelle bundled up some of the woolen bathrobes tighter around her feet, much like the rest of them had -- into various makeshift beds around the cold tile floor of the spa. The Sun had long since set, and the night grew colder with each passing second of the blackening nuclear shroud.

"It doesn't matter," Wayne chirped quietly from his corner. Sam lay asleep next to him buried next to Jessica in his own assortment of robes and towels as he snored softly. "Coulda been Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco... it doesn't make any difference. It'll be Chicago next week. Portland after that. We might be losing cities, but we've already lost-- shit, probably half the world..."

"Language," Jessica chided, softly. Wayne rolled his eyes and dug for another handful of chips as Annabelle wiped her mouth dry after a botched sip of her iced tea, appalled at Wayne's blatant pessimism.

She pat her shirt dry with the towel draped around her shoulders and placed her drink to the side, behind . "They wouldn't bomb Los Angeles again would they? I mean-- with one of the big ones?"

George's halting footsteps interrupted that thought, signaling his return from the rooftop where he had posted up with his fellow drunken compatriot, Henry. That was -- until the hazardous ash started falling from the sky. "You talking about the grand finale," George jabbed, setting his rifle against the wall and rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as he searched for a place to sit. "It's a genius plan, really... use the first bombings to lure all the walkers into the city center-- and then... He mimicked an explosion with his hands quite dramatically as he found an open spot on the floor and settled in. He looked around at the others' tired faces, barely lit by the lantern resting in the center of their circle. "What better way to solve the whole 'end of the world' problem, eh?" He was surprisingly chipper after his brief stint on watch, especially considering the havoc he had that night. But a heavy silence descended on the group as the logic of it all rang true. Any doubt at all the city was safe would be reason enough to get out of Los Angeles, but George's observation wasn't without reason. They may have been sitting in the eye of the storm all along, oblivious to the real disaster that lay ahead of them. Now with the group divided again, any imminent escape seemed fruitless at best -- at least at the moment.

"You're on watch by the way, mate--" George called out to Wayne on the opposite side of the circle. The abrupt breach of silence prompted the man to stir to action immediately. He checked for his pistol beneath his shirt and, once satisfied, stepped through the sea of legs towards the stairs to the second level where more windows lied. Tara was still somewhere up there with the other girls, keeping an eye on the boulevards to the west. Wayne trudged off towards his duties, attempting to pass by Diego -- who had been leaning against the frame of the door to the stairwell, eavesdropping on his guests' conversation. He stroked his chin bemusedly, looking from Rafiq to each of the others in the circle as Bethany stepped in front of Wayne, blocking his way.

"So..." the stubbly man began, strutting towards them. "When's check-out?"

Jessica sensed George's hairs bristling on his skin-- and interjected. "Listen, we didn't mean to break in here or anything... but it's not exactly safe outside. Surely, you understand that-- right?"

"Of course, I do. I absolutely comprende," he said half-mockingly, "it's just that I think some of your friends may have taken something that doesn't belong to them."

Jessica furrowed her brow, looking around at the others. "I'm sorry-- I'm not quite sure what y--" Diego turned around mid-sentence, cutting her off. He walked back to the door frame and reached behind it -- pulling a briefcase out and setting it on the floor. He set his shoe on top and slid it across the tile towards the circle.

"Look what I was able to... sniff out," he quipped as the briefcase slowed to a stop. A playful grin spread across his face as he motioned at the luggage with his finely attended eyebrows. "Why don't you open it, Rafiq?"

Rafiq flinched at the sound of his name, suddenly aware of everyone's eyes on him. His lips twitched as he tried to decide how to respond to Diego's command. "L-Listen," he started with a stammer, "it wasn't my idea-- we just thought t-that--" his neck craned towards the stairwell, hoping Wayne would be there to help him explain. Diego tracked Rafiq's eyes and rounded on Wayne like a dog on a leash. It was his fault after all, and Rafiq was in no mood to take the brunt of the punishment. "Look, it's all here! We didn't do anything with it or nothin'."

Diego hung his head, rubbing his hands over his face in disbelief. He crept forwards, closing in on Rafiq as he crouched down over the briefcase. Rafiq quickly kneeled down, flicking the clasps open and popping the top, revealing its heart-breakingly empty interior. He had been duped. His heart froze in his chest as Diego came to a stop above him. "Why don't we go for a walk," he insisted, adjusting the pistol in his waistband. Jessica watched George's eyes flick towards his rifle -- leaning on one of the columns adjacent to him. She moved closer to Sam, praying that the situation would defuse quickly. Her other hand fumbled for her knife near her bag under the covers. Rafiq swallowed hard, his eyes darting around the floor as he desperately tried to muster up a plan.

"I think this guy should join us," the blonde woman advised, quite matter-of-factly. She sidled up next to Diego, eyeing Wayne up and down.

"Like hell I should," Wayne protested, backing away with his hands in the air. "What are you trying to insinuate, "Sun-Tan Barbie" ...?!"

Diego was in his face in a flash. "What did you just say to her?" Both fists were clenched like two small wrecking balls. Bethany placed a hand on his shoulder from behind. Her cool touch immediately began to simmer him down.

"Easy, honey--" she purred. "These are our guests," She crossed over to the lantern on the floor and crouched down. Whether or not she meant to be seductive didn't matter cause she did and she was. Bethany swept the lantern off of the floor and held it up above her head, illuminating the room with its vibrantly orange glow.

"Let's give 'em the grand tour."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

- The Spa -

"Somebody needs to do something," Annabelle demanded, her face flushed red with seriousness. She stood adjacent Jessica and George outside the arch to the main hallway, talking in hushed tones. Rafiq and Wayne had just been dragged away to God knows where by the spa's owners. The couple's vague threats and accusations were unsettling to say the least, but it was possible that they weren't entirely without merit. What did they really know about each other, after all?

"You wanna borrow my gun?" George offered, mockingly. "What are we supposed to do? We're their guests. Besides, if Wayne and Rafiq were poking their heads where they shouldn't have-- then that's on them..."

"My, my... aren't you the diplomatic one," Tara muttered under her breath as slipped into the room behind George and the others. Lisa and Althea flanked behind her, likely the ones responsible for the shoddy patch job on Tara's nose and face. They had done the best with what they had, but the poor girl had taken a punch and some pavement during the hasty retreat from the tunnels, and the evidence was still quiet evident. The girl had certainly seen better days, but -- then again -- who hadn't? Just because they were in a spa didn't mean they were on vacation. They widened their circle to allow the others to step into the conversation with the rest of them, though there faces betrayed their obvious eagerness to know what was going on.

Lisa pulled her sleeves down around her arms, rubbing them to warm herself against the creeping cold. "We passed, uhh-- is it Radeef?" she asked them, timidly.

"Rafiq," Jessica corrected, a bit coldly. These newcomers had barely been with them for half a day and they had already made themselves at home. Though that seemed to be the trend these days. Nobody knew a damned thing about each other anymore. Instead, a person was defined by what they could do or what they might do.

Lisa nodded emphatically with a broad smile. "Yeah! Him and that Wayne guy and that odd pair who are claiming to own this place..." she listed them all off on her fingers, as if it were too many people to keep track of.

"They do own it," George said, trying to return them back to their original train of thought. "There's pictures of them all over the back offices." The others looked around at each other, accepting the news whether they wanted to or not. "That's why I'm saying-- unless we want to be back out on the streets, we have to play by their rules. That's the only way. I think we've made enough trouble for one day."

Tara couldn't believe her ears. "We?"

George's gaze bobbled to the floor. "You know what I--"

"What? You... what? What did you do today, George? "

"I-I just meant that--" he stuttered aloud.

"You shot a bunch of innocent people and broke the group up." Everyone's eyes darted to Tara in all her bluntness. But it wasn't an uncontrollable outburst -- it was a statement of fact. At least it was for Tara. The truth therein was arguable, depending on who you asked. Tara jabbed her finger into his chest with each name she rattled off. "Harper... Nathan... Steve... they're gone. Because of you, George."

"James..." Annabelle added quietly.

Tara nodded. "I saw Niobe and Carl too, but I don't think they made it into the tunnel before--" Her voice cut out as she suddenly found herself unable to find a word that could describe what had happened. It was too many things to too many people. The group was in pieces now -- and like a shattered mirror, she wasn't quite sure how to put them back together again.

"I was trying to help you," George reasoned, weakly. "You were all bloodied up, being c-carted through town by these strangers-- the likes of w-which I've never seen. Heavily armed and all..." Everyone's eyes rested on the poor English pilot as he pleaded his case, somberly. None of them wanted to relive those moments. He looked Tara dead in her swollen eye. "You looked like you were in a bad way and I tried to save you. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That's what we're here for, right? To help each other? Strength in numbers and all that..."

"To be honest," Tara began, "I don't know what you're here for." She turned her back to him and stalked off down the hallway, anxious to distance herself from the rest as she went to go cool off. The groups attention wandered back to George, who shifted uncomfortably.

"I'll, uhh--" George cleared his throat, tugging at his collar. "I'll go back out on watch, I guess... since when is preoccupied and all. " He rasped, a bit shakily. He stepped away, taking to the staircase in the other direction. The others watched him go and looked at one another awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

"I wish we could have all seen it through his eyes," Lisa bemoaned. "For clarity's sake, I mean. We've all made mistakes--"

Jessica scoffed, zipping her jacket up as the cold became too much for her as well. "No," she began, "Tara's right. He's got some things to atone for still. But he'll be OK. She sounded pretty convinced, despite the facts.

"I just hate seeing people hurting is all," Lisa said, craning her neck back towards their makeshift circle of beds, scattered across the tile haphazardly. "Hey-- where's your boy?" she chimed suddenly, turning to Jessica. The single mother spun around and spotted her son's empty sleeping bag as panic instantly gripped her heart.

She wished she knew the answer.

* * *


The gallon of orange juice crashed against the ground, splintering open as its liquidy sweet contents seeped all over the grocery store's polished tile. Lillian hopped back, reflexively -- managing to almost save her shoes from the inevitable splatter. Orange splotches stained the once clean fabric-- something to serve as an unfortunate future reminder of her past clumsiness.

"Shit!" her babysitter, Amber, exclaimed from beside her. The fright had nearly caused her to drop the handfuls of different colored lipsticks she had in her hands. "Lillian-- damnit..."

"You're not supposed to say that word," Lillian threatened, digging her foot into the ground around the spill as a store clerk shuffled into sight behind her. Amber caught his eye and gestured down at the mess.

"I'm really sorry, sir--" she shrugged, "kids... y'know?" The scraggly-haired clerk rolled his eyes and pushed past them through the rubber doors into the storage room to grab a mop.

"Must be great to be a kid and have everyone clean up after you," Amber groaned as she retook her cart and continued down the aisle. Lillian jogged up and leapt onto the side of its frame as her babysitter struggled to keep it rolling straight. "Get off you little brat," she snapped at her. Lillian dropped down with a childish scowl, falling in line behind the even brattier girl.

"You're a hot girl. Like you ever have to do anything..." Lily snapped back, sassily.

Amber tossed the lipsticks into the cart, screeching it to a halt. "What did you say to me?" she asked -- lividly.

Lillian started skipping away. "Sorry-- I don't like to repeat myself."

She turned the corner and danced across a row of televisions and plasma in the electronics department, all blaring the same channel at different volumes. She stopped for a second, lured by the digital cacophony washing over her as she stood complacently -- her eyes darting from screen to screen. A man with white hair uttered the same words no matter which television she watched. A few other nearby shoppers noticed the screens as well, reading the subtitles as they appeared on the screen:

'--Detailed reports are varied at best, describing the affliction as some sort of rapid mutation reminiscent of existing familiar viral strains. Police are establishing quarantine zones and escalating activity in some of the greater metropolitan areas as confirmed reports are corroborated across the seaboard.--'

The reporter covered her ears against a background of departing helicopters and masses of people moving quickly in every direction. Lily slowly peeled away from the screen and scanned the checkstands for Amber, unable to see through the maze of legs and bodies beginning to hurriedly move across the floor. The newscaster continued chattering behind her.

'--Meanwhile, similar reports are surfacing out of Beijing, Paris, and London confirming the reports that the virus has in fact spread transcontinentally--'

The televisions soon faded out behind her as well, becoming nothing more than a distant muffle as she wandered towards the store's entrance, the most likely place she thought she might find her missing babysitter. Lily peeked down the aisles as she wandered past them, searching for any sign of her teenage handler. She passed one of the checkout kiosks where an irate black man seemed to be in the middle of chewing out the cashier over some sort of nonsense. The girl over the counter listened to him aptly, her nervous expression nearly comical as she smiled and nodded over and over apologetically.

"I don't care what your store's policy is, it's just 12 items. What difference does it make?" the man protested, irately.

"I'm sorry, sir--" the girl blurted out. "It's just that the store's policy says--"

"Do you know who I am?" the man continued, grabbing a Wired magazine from behind him and slapping it down on a counter. "That is who I am."

The girl barely looked down at the publication in front of her. "I understand that, sir-- I just--"

Lillian's little legs passed the squabbling adults, rounding the corner of the last set of shelves until their voices faded away too. In truth, she didn't actually want to find Amber. The girl smelled like lip gloss all the time and was generally unpleasant to be around -- a typical text-crazy firecracker like most girls her age. She was, however, Lily's ride home. That counted for something at least. Lily ducked under a passing cart with rolled rugs draped across it, its handler oblivious to how close they had come to clocking the small girl in the head.

Lily ran her hands over her head, flattening her hair back down as the cart rolled through the mechanized doors leading out to the parking lot outside. Rows of cars filled the parking lot as raucous car horns squawked back and forth at one another -- dozens of anxious drivers all stuck in an unfortunate gridlock.

The doors slid closed again with a clunk, bringing Lily's attention back to the checkstands behind her. By some miracle, Amber's pitifully cliched Uggs came marching through the end of the hair products aisle. Lily felt the relief wash over her, thankful that she wouldn't be appearing on the side of a milk carton anytime soon. She had apparently doubled back to the hair products and make-up section to grab a few things, and Lily stupidly realized that was the most obvious place to have looked for her.

Girls were so predictable sometimes.

Lily waved her arm at Amber, squeezing past a couple loading their cart with some firewood to try and get her attention-- and the babysitter's eyes flashed her direction. A blinding white light silhouetted Lily against the floor in front of her. She looked up to see Amber shielding her face with one hand-- falling backwards onto the tile. A figure leapt across her peripheral, grabbing Lily by the arm and pulling her into the nearest checkstand. The older man, her savior, hit the ground with barely any grace at all, rolling across the tile long with her-- his cowboy hat toppling off his head onto the floor. Amber reached her arm out towards Lily from across the aisle just as a blinding white light splashed over her shrieking visage -- the sound of a revving engine drowned out by the glass it had shattered... right as it crashed through the storefront.

"LILY-- LOOK OUT!!!"



* * *



"Look-out..." Sam called down to her, perched atop a stack of boxes. He held a hammer in one hand-- the other holding tightly onto the windowsill next to him. The grated screen of an air vent hung slightly above him, it's metal plating winding its course across the ceiling from wall to wall. "Y'know, like-- you keep watch and make sure no adults walk in here..."

Lily scrunched her nose, hopping off the table and wandering towards the door. "Sounds boring," she groaned. She peeked out the door into the hallway, lowering the beam of her flashlight so it wouldn't spill outiside. "What are you even doing?" she asked with a hint of annoyance. She didn't know why she hadn't asked earlier when he was stacking up the cardboard boxes.

Sam began loosening some of the screws on the screen with the corner of the hammer's blade. "There's something going on with those two people from the spa," he began in a hushed tone.

"What'd they do?" Lily asked-- attempting to hide her obviously peaked interest. She closed the door again behind her and walked over towards Sam and his boxes.

"They didn't do anything," he replied, smirkingly. "I think Rafiq and Wayne took something from them..."

A mystery. Just what they needed. "Bullshit," Lily said, mockingly.

"I'm telling you, it's true. This vent runs along this wall into the hallway and through all the rooms here," he explained, excitedly. "They're in the big room with the table-- next door. I wanna hear what they're saying,"

"That's a dumb idea," Lily challenged, "you're gonna get caught..." She realized she was mostly just saying that because she hadn't thought of the idea herself.

Sam turned back to finish prying the screws out. "Only if I don't have a look-out..."

Lily tried to contain a smile as she walked back over to the door to post up outside. She looked back over her shoulder at the young boy, his tongue hanging half-say out of his mouth as he carefully worked a screw out of its place with extreme concentration. She pushed the door open just enough to look through the crack-- when suddenly the whole door was yanked open. Lily lost her grip on the handle and fell forward onto her hands and knees. Henry jumped back-- also not expecting to have run into anyone in the dark. His flashlight clattered against the round, skipping out of reach.

And then it happened.

The sound of tumbling boxes -- bursting from their foundation and spilling across the floor -- followed by a loud crack. Henry hurried over to the flashlight, kicking it as he reached to picked it up. He swung it into focus over Lily as she struggled back to her feet. She held her hand out in front of her, blocking the light from her eyes.

"A-Are you OK?" he stammered. She could smell the liquor on his breath even from where she stood. She didn't answer -- instead whirling around and darting back into the room. Without her flashlight, she realized quickly that she couldn't quite see where she was going. But what she felt was unmistakeable. "Hey-- Where are you going?" Henry stepped into the room, scanning it with the light. It danced across the fallen boxes on the floor, illuminating the red sheen of the pool of blood at Lily's feet. Her hands shook by her side as the beam finally came to rest on Sam's motionless legs, splayed out next to one of the massage tables-- its metal edge still rich with the boy's dripping blood. Lily stared at the spreading pool of liquid as it seeped around the toes of her shoes-- covering up the stains left by the orange juice all those days before.

Henry hiccuped, moving a few steps closer. His eyes too fell upon the horrible scene laid before them. "Mother of God..."

Thunderous footsteps came rumbling down the hallway outside, signaling the approach of the others. It was then that Lily realized that she was still the look-out. She kneeled down beside Sam, the warm blood soaking into the threads of her skirt. She had to warn him.

"They're coming, Sam--" she whimpered. "Just hold on... they're coming."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield


The sound of the crashing boxes was still ringing in her ears. The unexpected sound put her and the other three – Diego, Rafiq and Wayne – on immediate high alert. Had they missed something? Was there still a walker about? They all ran out of the room and turned a corner. From the sound of it, Bethany figured it came from the storeroom in the back.

She had been the first one out of the room and had thus gained a bit of a head start on the others. She first saw the man (what was his name again?) standing unsteadily on his feet, looking at something on the floor. She then noticed the girl, who was...

“Oh Christ...” Bethany muttered under her breath. There was a lot of blood. Too much blood.

The girl was gently tucking the boy’s hand. “Sam,” she said in a whisper, “be okay. Please, be okay.”

Bethany quickly glanced at the drunk while stepping past him, his face had gone completely pale, and then crouched down beside the girl. It was difficult to see in the shine of the flashlight, but she thought Sam was still breathing. Bethany took hold of his wrist and felt for a pulse. She wasn’t quite sure what a good rhythm was supposed to be in a situation like this, but at least she felt something. He was still alive. She tried to release Lily’s grip on the boy, but the girl was resisting.

“Come sweetie,” Bethany said compassionately. She had not much experience with children, but that didn’t really matter right now. It was basic human decency at work.

“I... I won’t leave him alone,” Lily responded. “I can’t.”

“We need to make room. I’m sure somebody here knows what to do and they will need room.”

“Will he be alright?”


Bethany knew that lying would get them nowhere. “I honestly don’t know.”

At that moment, the lights came on. Diego must have found the light switch, Bethany thought, but she didn’t look up to check. The scene in front of her was now in clear view and it was gruesome. Sam had fallen down from the stack of boxes and first hit one of the massage tables before crash landing on the floor. His left leg was at an unnatural angle, twisted at the knee and already starting to get swollen. Sam had fallen on the back of his head. A large pool of blood was forming at the boy’s head, mixing with another smaller pool coming from either his back or shoulder; it was hard to tell. Bethany wasn’t sure, but she thought she could even make out some bone fragments mixed in with the blood. The boy appeared to be unconscious. Small mercy.

The others from downstairs had heard the commotion as well and had come up to the room. It was like all hell breaking loose.

“What has happened?”
“What was that sound?”
“Is it a walker?”
“SAAAAAAM!!!!”
“OW GOD!”
“FUCK!”
“IS IT A WALKER?!”
“NO, NO WALKER!”
“SAAAAM!!! SAAAAM!!!”
“LET ME THROUGH!”
“PLEASE! HELP HIM!”
“Ow God...”
“WHAT HAPPENED?”
“He.. he fell...”
“HOW?!”


The mother and one of the other woman had knelt down near Sam. Bethany had moved Lily away from the body, but already lost the girl to the clutches of somebody else. The brunette clearly knew what she was doing, first checking the broken boy’s chest, then went on to listen at the mouth and nose for breath and felt the cheeks for respiration. She said something to the mother, but Bethany couldn’t hear what with everybody trying to get into the room. They all wanted see what was going on. To do something. But it was only getting crowded. It was not helping.

“ALRIGHT! EVERYBODY OUT!” Bethany shouted at the top of her lungs. That got everybody’s attention. The situation was so severe that everybody immediately knew what she wanted and they backed away from the room. Before closing it, she locked eyes with Diego.

“Get the first aid kit,” she said, “there should be one in my office.”

He nodded and as he sprinted away, she closed the door and turned her attention on the woman doctor (at least Bethany hoped she was a doctor). The mother was muttering at her son’s side and clearly in a state of shock.

“What can I do?”

The doc looked up and her eyes sent a chill through Bethany’s spine.

It was one that said ‘there is nothing we can do’.

Yet, there was also an understanding between the two women, two complete strangers, that they had to do something. For the mother’s sake, if for nothing else.

“Help me stop the bleeding first.”

---

Rafiq Chedidi


The silence in the hallway was deafening. The blood. The shock. The fact that it concerns a young boy. The strange realization that accidents still happen, even with bloodthirsty zombies creeping around everywhere. Rafiq’s hand was shaking uncontrollably. He clenched his hand in an attempt to control it, but it only seemed to help slightly. He felt so helpless. Once again, he was completely helpless. Molly...

Everyone was standing with their back to the wall, having made room for Diego when he went to look for the first aid kid. Annabelle was standing to Rafiq’s left, holding Lily in her arms and stroking her hair. Although the girl’s cheeks were still wet with tears, she was no longer crying. Her focus had hardened again, just like it had been before the accident. The girl had only allowed herself to act like the child she was for the shortest of times.

It was her that broke the silence.

“What will happen now?”


“I’m sure Lisa will be able to patch him up again, darling,” Annebelle said soothingly.

“Don’t lie to me,” Lily responded with indignation, trying to wrestle free from Annabelle’s embrace, “I know it’s bad. I know he will die.”

“You don’t know that. It’s in God’s hand.”


“Like he cares anymore,”
the girl said, breaking free from the hold.

Rafiq crouched down beside her, looking her straight in the eyes and hoping that his voice was the same way as if he was speaking to an adult. “What happened in there, Lily?”

“Sam fell.”

“Yes, but how?”

“Because...” the girl thought for a moment, as if she had to decide whether a lie would be in her best interest. It took a couple of seconds and everyone in the room was looking at her, but Lily did not seem to notice. Or she didn’t care.

“Him happened. The drunk one.”
She pointed straight at Henry, who for a moment did not seem to realize what was happening, before standing up a little more straight and holding up his hands.

“Now, hold on a minute...” he said. Lily did not seem to care and went on.

“Sam and I were, uhm, playing with the boxes. Building a tower, that sort of thing. Then he came in and scared us. Like... like it was a joke.”

“That’s sick!” Wayne exclaimed.

“Wowowowow! That’s not how it happened!” Henry jumped forward, but was knocked back again, because just at that moment Diego came by with the first aid kit. It made Henry fall back to the wall and falling down.

“Sorry dude,” Diego murmured, before rushing to the storage room, not realizing the situation he just disturbed.

Lily looked at the man on the floor defiantly. “That is how it happened! You scared us and now Sam is dying!”

Henry’s eyes opened wide, confused and angry. “You’re lying! You lying bitch!”

“You say what?!” One of the woman said shocked.

Henry tried to crawl towards Lily, but George and Wayne stopped him in his tracks by holding him down by the shoulders.

“Now, calm down!”

The man was wroth and drunk and did not hear what George was saying. He appeared to become more dangerous by the second. “She’s lying! She’s lying!”

“He’s drunk.”
“He completely lost it.”
“We can’t have him around the kids.”
“SHE’S LYING!”
“We can’t have him around us.”
“What should we do with him?”
“We should lock him up?”
“She’s lying.”
“And then what?”
“We can’t just lock somebody up.”
“Then what would you have us do?”
“Shit, I don’t know.”
“She’s.. lying...”


Rafiq’s head was racing. The instant Henry had lost control, he knew what had to happen. It didn’t even matter much if it happened the way Lily said it happened. Nobody really knew Henry and the man was clearly unstable. Potentially dangerous. Too dangerous to keep around. Rafiq knew it had to be said.

“We kick him out.”

Everyone, including Henry, looked at Rafiq.

“But that’s dangerous. With the nuclear fallout. The walkers.”

Rafiq knew that. It may be a death sentence for the man. But they didn’t know him and he was threatening the group. He was threatening Rafiq’s group. Rafiq was no longer going to put any of his friends in danger. No longer. Not anymore.

The Rafiq of old would not have done this. But the world had changed and so had he.

“We kick him out. I know it’s hard, but it’s our only option. We have to think of ourselves.”

Some people nodded, others stared blankly at the floor. Rafiq locked eyes with George, who nodded in understanding, but appeared to not be fully behind it at the same time. You are our drunk George, Rafiq thought, you are part of the group. It is not the same.

The drunk man saw what was happening, having lost his fight upon realizing that his entire standing with the group had dissipated within mere minutes. Rafiq couldn’t help but feel some pity for the man. But instead of changing his mind, he steeled his heart. It had to happen.

"Anyone objecting?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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- The Spa -


Lily watched as all the adults yelled over one another. Random limbs webbing together in efforts to hold Henry and herself back from one another like some back alley brawl taking place in the hallway.

"You guys! YOU GUYS!" a voice boomed out above the nonsense. The limbs ceased flailing, and the group parted to reveal a bleary-eyed Jessica standing outside the doorway to the storeroom. Everyone traded ashamed looks, straightening their shirts and sleeves and dusting themselves off from the ground. All eyes were on her now. Bethany crept out just behind her, also curious what was happening,

"Do we really need to be doing this? Right this very second?" she asked, tiredly.

Rafiq spoke up first. "We're sorry, Jessica... we were just--"

"I don't care," she said, quite honestly. "Just-- please..." She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, gesturing towards Annabelle. "Annie, I thought he might want to see you. You'd make a happy sight when he wakes up," Jessica said-- her exhaustion evident in her drawling speech.

Annabelle put her hand over her heart. "Oh, bless my heart. Of course, honey. We should say a prayer for him anyways. She steered Lily over towards Althea by her shoulders. "Why don't you stay with Althea here, darlin'-- just while I--"

Lily squirmed out of Annabelle's hands and straightened her shirt, raising her eyebrows at Annabelle in an 'are you serious?' kind of glare. As much of a kid as she still might be, she hating being corralled like an animal. She turned and stalked down the hallway-- away from all the noisy adults. "Don't worry," Althea assured her, "I'll keep an eye on her." She turned and jogged down the hall, catching up with the small girl just as the two of them slipped out of sight around the corner. Annabelle breathed a heavy sigh and turned to join Jessica, watching the others as they all waited patiently to continue their argument. Bethany held the door open for Jessica who took the handle and closed it behind herself and Annabelle, leaving them all with a knowing look as she too disappeared.

Rafiq looked back to the group and more specifically -- at Henry. The drunk leaned carefully against a tall metal rack -- smart enough not to have made any further movements during the distraction. George and Wayne lingered close-by, in case his drunken bender did eventually will him to do something stupid. Tara stood close behind Rafiq -- keeping a safe distance from the man who had already hit her one time too many for one day.

A melodic voice suddenly broke through the tense silence -- an observer, from the outside. "You guys are quite the HBO drama, aren't you?"

Wayne glowered at Bethany -- her lithe frame leaning against a metal sink fixed to the wall. "Hey, Sunshine-- I'd keep quiet about things you know nothing about."

Bethany cocked an eyebrow at his cutting response, before rolling her eyes and looking around at all the strangers surrounding her. They somehow still didn't understand. "I think we already established that since you are guests in my spa... I can do whatever I want. So why don't you back off, Chris Tucker?"

George did his best to stifle a laugh. Wayne ignored him, rapidly changing the subject. "So what are we doing with boozy over here?" he posited, jerking his thumb at Henry.

Tara pushed past Rafiq. "You heard the man. He goes."

"N-Now just you wait a minute--" Henry blubbered, "you're gonna believe a bratty little shit's fairy tale story over my word?"

"Over the slurred word of a drunk? Yes." Tara said, bristling as the man stepped nearer, her fists already clenched. She didn't realize how badly she actually wanted this.

"The truth is, none of us know who you are -- and people are more dangerous than walkers anyways. I think we've all realized that now. It'll be best if you just go." Rafiq tried to make the cruel words sound somewhat polite. But there was no way to send someone to their possible death nicely.

"Someone going somewhere?" a voice asked from behind them. Diego stood in the doorway, shutting it behind him. He rubbed the blood from his hands with a towel before stuffing it into his back pocket.

"Henry's taking a trip," Tara replied, cooly.

Diego nodded, clearing his throat. He stepped over towards them and fished something out of his pocket. "Then you think you can bring back any of the stuff on this list?" He held out the torn piece of paper to Henry, who reached for it -- but Tara snatched it from his hand first.

"What is this?" she demanded, scanning it with her eyes.

"Stuff Lisa says she'll need. Stuff for the kid," Diego answered with a solemn tone.

Tara ended up asking the question on all of their minds. "Where are we supposed to get all of this?" She shook her head as her eyes trailed down the list. The handwriting was hurriedly and messily scrawled, some of the words long and disorienting -- even at first glance.

Bethany crossed her arms. "There's a hospital not too far away from here," she offered, dryly. It seemed the most obvious choice... which was the problem.

Rafiq waved his hands in front of him. "No way they'd still have anything left worth taking. It's been over a week..." Bethany shrugged and looked down at her feet.

"Got a better idea, friend?" Diego asked.

"I do," Henry called out, wiping his hair back from his face.

Tara turned to him, threateningly. "I don't care what you have to say,"

"Then plug your ears." He straightened himself upright, tugging down at his shirt -- looking around at the others in the hallway through his blackened eyes. "My father... died today." The room grew uncomfortable, as one-by-one they exchanged quick glances with each other. "It's not a big deal... I knew it was coming. Kind've softened the blow for all the rest of this actually now that I think about it." A half-hiccup-half-burp barely escaped his mouth -- deftly blocked his balled fist. "But there's a medical clinic in this plaza that we used to take him to -- about three stores that way." Henry raised his arm to point between George and Tara's heads to the wall behind them. They looked at one another first and then behind them, as did everyone else.

"Through there?" Diego asked, walking up to the wall and running his hands across the cool worn drywall. He looked over his shoulder at Henry, who nodded gruffly. "They're all adjacent walls. That's not a problem. I can get through there," he said through a wry smile.

"That way we wouldn't have to go outside..." Rafiq said, thinking aloud.

"Anyone able to confirm this bullshit?" Wayne called out from the sidelines, gesturing at the drunk in the corner.

Henry glanced at him with one raised eyebrow. "Why is everyone so damn hostile? I'm trying to help you here!"

"I think what Wayne's trying to say is: what's in it for you?" Tara explained.

Henry rolled his eyes, rubbing his hand over his face. "Look, you wanna kick me out? Fine. At least give me a chance out there. There'll be gear in the clinic to help me to get far far away from all y'all." Their plain silent expressions looked back at him. "You at least owe me that much..."

Rafiq looked from one face to another, searching for any idea of how the group felt about all this. It was the most humane option on the table, unfortunately. He didn't like the idea of following this stranger on some expedition to retrieve supplies that may not even exist though. But what other option did they have?

"I guess that's the plan then," Rafiq sighed, reluctant to accept it for what it was.

Diego tagged Wayne on the shoulder. "We'll need tools to cut through this drywall. Come with me." The two of them went to the door of the storage room and quietly opened it, stepping inside. Tara pushed past Rafiq with her tongue in her cheek as George watched her stalk off.

"I'll go round up some of our masks we use for the water treatments. Might help keep whatever's in the air out there out of, well-- you." Her bobbed with each step as she headed the other direction, back towards the front offices and steam rooms.

George looked over and met Rafiq's weighted glance. "You made the right call, Rafiq."

He shrugged. "Somebody had to."

Henry leaned back against the wall, slumping down to sit on the ground. "Thanks, kid."

"I didn't do it for you," Rafiq replied, coldly. He rubbed his arm, glancing over his shoulder at the door to the storage room -- knowing full well that every second wasted was a second closer to losing another member of the group.

"Let's go round up the rest of what gear we have," he offered to George. The Englander nodded, and sprung into step beside Rafiq, who had stopped in front of Henry. He looked down at him on the floor. "We're your chaperones. Let's go."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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"You're not telling the truth."

Lily spun around to find the source of where the unfamiliar voice spoke up from. Althea had done a fine enough job of staying under the radar during the past several hours. But now she drew her spine up to her full, formidable height, folding her arms across her chest and staring at the young blonde girl with not a single slip of warmth in her dark eyes. She stepped forward and looked down at her.

"Tell me what you were building with those boxes," she interrogated smoothly, her eyes continuing to bore directly into Lily's.

Her eyes blinked wide just for a moment before she opened her mouth. "I dunno, a town or some shit," she blurted out fast, her eyes darting to her left.

"You just said it was a tower," Althea retorted back, tilting her head. "And what are you doing, walking around on a ton of cardboard boxes? You're old enough to know you can't stand on one of those. Don't you know that's dangerous?"

"I-"

"-and that guy? Seriously? He's not in any state of mind to pull himself together, much less jump out and say 'boo.'" She jolted her head in the direction of the room Henry was still in and narrowed her eyes. "What's the matter, girl? Too scared of some slow guy saying 'boo'? Of course not. And that's why I don't believe a word you're saying about why your pal is bleeding all over the floor in that room. What happened, Lily?"

Lily glowered back. The two stared at each other almost fatally. Finally, Althea lifted up a finger, pointing it into the air frustratedly and gritting her teeth intensely. "You might get your way this time, girl, but next time you won't be as lucky." She paused. "Next time, you think of you getting shoved out there, kid. Just unlucky. All the bad things people do? They always come back around."


# # #


Lisa was silent as she internally counted Sam's faint pulse, staring intently at her watch. It was important to keep the atmosphere calm. "He's got pretty low blood pressure," she reported softly as Jessica re-entered the room. The woman pulled off her jacket and tennis shoes, bundling the shoes up inside the garment and handing it to Jessica. "Here, set it under him," Lisa instructed gently as she carefully lifted Sam's shoulders and head upward, "this oughta help get the blood flow to his heart. That's what we need right now."

Diego popped his head back through the door frame with Annabelle not far behind. He looked down at Lisa and nodded triumphantly. "Looks like we're going to get him some help," he reported, eyeing the pool of blood on the floor just briefly. His face flashed an unseemly shade of white before he swallowed and then looked back at Lisa. "Good news, right?"

"Yes, Diego, that's terrific news," Lisa responded calmly as she still watched Sam's shallow breathing, not allowing her voice to raise to its normal relatively high decibel range but instead keeping it at a respectable whisper in order to keep things calm for the boy. She glanced up at Diego with an apologetic expression. "Look, I hate to ask this, I know how bad it is... but I'm wondering if maybe we could get some more towels to soak up his bleeding. And to clean up the floor." She looked over at Jessica. "After we get him in a safe place I'll take care of that and you stay with him."

Diego looked down on the floor, eyes scanning about as though trying to survey the area. "Where do you think we should put him?" he asked. "This is no place for a kid with a busted-" He stopped his sentence as Jessica's eyes flashed. "... who needs help. We've got plenty of beds. You know, for clients when they come in." Annabelle's face peeked from around Diego's arms, which were folded nervously across his chest as he pressed a knuckle against his cheek anxiously.

"Perfect," Lisa answered with restrained enthusiasm, still trying to keep her voice low. She looked down at Sam, then bolted her eyes back at Diego. "Maybe we can carry him to one of those beds. Can you and a few talented gents carry him in a robe if we put him on it?"

Diego blinked vacantly. "I'm not following."

Lisa pursed her lip. She wasn't thinking of the right word. She lifted her arms up as though pinching the corners of a large sheet. "You know, put him on a robe, and get a few people to carry him by holding up the corners?"

"That might be a little dangerous," Annabelle offered, her eyebrows knitting together with concern. "Is there anything else we can use to transport him?"

"Anything with wheels?" Lisa added, "because if not, the robe is our best bet. It may not be ideal but we don't exactly have a gurney here."

"I can grab a few bedsheets," Diego spoke aloud as he set out down the hallway, leaving the three women silently staring down at Sam for several long, uncomfortable seconds.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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= George Remington =

George sifted through the shelf with both hands, his flashlight gripped in his teeth. Rolling around behind a bag of dry food was a familiar can of dog chow, which he grabbed -- rolling its metal frame around in his fingers to display the logo. A yellow lab grinned toothily on the cover, traces of green fields behind him with his tongue lolling out. A happy dog. A familiar dog. George chewed his lip, blinking vacantly as his mind wandered. That was, until he felt Rafiq's stare from out of the corner of his eye. The young man wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve and leaned his crowbar against the doorframe with a heavy sigh.

"Diego's working on the next wall now. It'll be your go once he needs a break. Henry's on watch out front to make sure we don't draw any walkers." Rafiq rattled all the info off breathlessly, continuing to sop up the beading sweat on his cheeks and forehead. His eyes eventually fell onto George's hands.

George held the can of dog food up. "For when he comes back,'" he said as he reached into his backpack, swinging it around his shoulder and stuffing the can inside. "I sure hope she's been feeding him..."

Rafiq scratched at the stubble forming around his chin. "I'm sure they're both fine, George. Sarah--"

"--is already dead," George finished quite bluntly, cutting him off. The man straightened up, zipping the bag closed and slipping his arms back through. He shook his head, running a hand the length of his face as he looked up at the ceiling, chuckling softly. His sad, hollowed eyes finally fell upon Rafiq. "We all are..."

Rafiq grimaced. "W-Why would you say something like that?" He quipped, bridling with anger. Was it possible the man was still drunk?

"Because it's true," George replied, tiredly -- as if just now admitting it to himself. "Niobe told me everything-- from what she found out from our neighbors... whatever they call themselves. The Capitols?"

Rafiq's eyes narrowed, trying to comprehend what George was saying. It was all too much to take in at once. He inched a few steps closer, aware suddenly that he was being let in on a secret nobody else knew about. George continued, lowering his voice to a hushed tone.

"I've only taken her at her word since then. Never even seen these Capitol people-- but then Henry confirmed it when he told me about his father. About how he passed in the hospital..." George shook his head again, as if he was hearing it all over again. "He came back, Rafiq. No bite. Nothing. And he still came back..."

Rafiq's eyes widened at the thought. "S-So we're all... infected?" He stammered, still searching for the right answer. A different answer. Anything else.

George simply nodded. There wasn't anything left to say. Except one thing. "When we let Henry go... I plan on leaving with him."

Rafiq wasn't sure if someone needed to pinch him or what. It seemed like his whole world was suddenly being turned upside down. He had always shared a certain kinship with the man, ever since he had sort of forced Rafiq into some sort of post-apocalyptic apprenticeship-- but it seemed like he was suddenly confiding alot in him-- despite how much they'd grown apart since George's unravelling. "What are you talking about? You're seriously going to leave right when one of us needs our help?"

George shrugged. "What? You need me to protect you? You think any of those people want me with a gun in my hands after what happened? Nothing I do will help. There's no going back for me. You saw what I did..."

"Actually, I didn't. I have no idea what you did, and I don't care. I know what kind of man you are, George. At your best and at your worst. And we need you."

George sighed. "You're just one man. The others-- they won't be so willing to forgive. The best thing for everyone is if I just go."

Rafiq slammed his fist against the flyer-laden cement column next to him, random pieces of paper falling to the ground. "Damnit! You heard Jessica-- back in the tunnels. We can't keep splitting up like this! We're too few already..."

"I'm sorry, Rafiq... I am. But there still have to be consequences... even in this fucked up world, where nothing seems to be going right-- it leaves alot more room for the wrong."

A stiff silence deafened the room with nothing other than the occasional clinking of Diego's sledgehammer echoing from outside the door. The two of them just stared at each other, leaving the rest unsaid. George slung his backpack off his shoulder again and tossed it near the door, walking past Rafiq and grabbing his crowbar on the way out. "Guess I should help pick up the pace, eh? Life's too short."

"Sam's sure will be," Rafiq jabbed over his shoulder. "Don't do this, George..."

But the man was already gone.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


"This has been the longest day of my life..." Jessica sighed by the candlelight as she gently stroked Sam's hair. His brown locks fell back over the gauzed wound with each pass, a sharp contrast against the dirtied white linen. Annabelle leaned against the metal rack behind her, a blanket pulled across her lap-- her eyes heavy with sleep. "Hard to believe that this morning I was doing laundry and trying to figure out if
I should have beans or canned fruit for lunch. The day escalated quite nicely, if I don't say so myself."


"Today tested us all, my dear--" Annabelle bemoaned. "I'm just not certain if we passed or not..."

It was the first attempt at humor that Annabelle had made since Jessica had known her-- and it made her genuinely laugh out loud, which she promptly stifled with a snort. Something about the dryness and seriousness of the delivery was just too much. The sweet old woman didn't have a drop of darkness within her. Not so much as one bad bone-- not that she had seen yet. It was a quality sorely needed and horribly undervalued these days.

Annabelle smiled sweetly. "It's so heartwarming to see you in good spirits, dear..." she continued. "Nobody could have ever guessed that something awful would happen like this. You can't blame yourself for it."

Jessica adjusted her legs, setting Sam's head gently on the makeshift pillow beneath it. "We've done what we can for him..." She pulled another of the blankets over herself, making sure her son was properly coated as well. Her eyes lingered on his chest, heaving gently with each shallow breath. There was no way to tell his father, her ex-husband, what had happened. If he was even alive to care. She somehow felt guilty about that, like it was some kind of secret she desperately needed to share -- if not to him, then to the others... Harper, Carl... they'd all come to know Sam in their own ways too. His death would go quietly. Unnoticed. Unavoidable. She sighed. "I had to fight his father so much to get Sam for his birthday last week-- that day when everything happened." Annabelle looked up from her spot on the floor, her brow furrowing. "He demanded half of the day with his son. So, I told him that I would get the first half of the day... those were my terms. Jessica ran her hand through Sam's hair again. "He could have been with his father that morning, and I would have no clue if he was alive or dead right now. Annabelle reached over and rubbed Jessica's arm as the two looked at one another, smiling through their tears. "At least this way I'll know..."

Annabelle returned her hand to grasp Sam's, mumbling a prayer under her breath. "At least if he goes he'll have gone peacefully and not to some walker..." Annabelle breathed. "God forbid if it came to that."


* * *


$$$ Lillian Strong $$$


TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Lillian's shoes clattered alongside the store as she full-on sprinted towards the storage room, where Sam's ailing body lied along with some of the others -- her sneakers skidding across the pet store tile as she rounded a corner of shelves. The noise at the other end of the shop of the men tearing down the wall all but masked her frantic footsteps.

But what had she just overheard? She knew George was a drunk. That much was obvious. But why would he make something like that up? And Rafiq sure seemed to believe him... it really was the end of the world.

And if it is true... then--

She reached the first hole in the wall, the one back to the spa, and clamored over the pile of rubble and drywall on the ground as she pulled herself back through -- putting her thoughts on hold as she found herself suddenly face-to-face with Wayne and Bethany. They both jumped to a start -- weapons at the ready as they laid eyes on Lillian. The girl held up her hands, instinctively -- looking both of them over. Their shocked faces were enough to give away the fact that they had no idea how she had snuck past them earlier.

Wayne's lips sputtered as he tried to find the right response. "B-Th-H-How did-- Lillian! What the hell were you doing in there?"

Bethany cocked to one hip, folding her arms. "How'd she get past us?" she asked with a tone.

Wayne threw his hands in the air. "Don't ask me! We haven't left this spot since we got here." He scratched the back of his head, rolling his eyes. "Or at least one of us hasn't... Tinklebell."

Bethany's nostrils flared as she turned to face him, jabbing a finger in his chest. "Hey, it's not my fault that I have a small bladder."

Wayne scoffed. "You're not even drinking anything. Where is all this liquid coming from? Or are you just scurrying off to enjoy some of that recently reclaimed blow? It'd be pretty rude of you not to share..."

Bethany's eyes became to shallow slits. "Are you serious?" Wayne looked at her. Seriously. "Go fuck yourself." Bethany flipped him the bird over her shoulder as she turned to stalk back down the hallway, not towards the bathroom-- but anywhere other than where Wayne was. She only got a few steps before she stopped and realized the same thing that he did in that moment.

"Uhh-- where'd she go?" Wayne asked with a gulp.


* * *



TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

The traction on the spa tile wasn't much better Lillian noticed as she sprinted around yet another corner. The dust caked on the soles of her shoes from the hole in the wall definitely wasn't helping. She slipped slightly, catching onto the wall just barely saving her from a fall and took the brief reprieve to catch her breath. She checked over her shoulder quickly to make sure nobody was too close behind her and set off again, using her arms to help propel her forwards as she tried to slow her fading momentum.

She couldn't be too late. She couldn't be. She was supposed to protect these people.

*WHAM*

Lillian collided face-first into one unlucky person's chest as she blindly rounded the next corner at full speed. She hit the ground hard, finally taking the spill she had so narrowly dodged moments earlier. Althea braced herself on the corner with one hand, rubbing her solar plexus with the other as her face scrunched up in pain.

"Christ, kid--" she managed, her voice hollow from the wind knocked out of her. "Damn near broke my ribs... what are you doing? Get up..." She reached down and pulled Lillian up by the scruff of her jacket, just enough for her concealed pistol to fall to the ground, clattering loudly in the muted silence of the hallway. There was no point hiding it. Althea had already seen it. She knew that. And Lily had already received one blunt lecture too many from the rough-and-tumble broad. If she knew what Lily had just learned-- but there was no time to explain. She would have to understand...

"Please--" Lily pleaded, "I have to--"

She reached down for her gun, but Althea yanked back firmly on the collar of her jacket, pulling both of Lily's arms back at the shoulders. "Again, Lily? What the hell is wrong with you?" the woman scolded. Lily struggled and flailed forwards, trying to free herself from Althea's tight grasp. "You not getting enough attention or something? Cause I think you've caused enough trouble for one day. I thought we took this from you once already?"

"Let me go! Get off me!" Lily protested, irately -- her arms swinging wildly. Althea deftly used her other free hand to avoid the swatting limbs as they washed off of her. The kid was persistent if nothing else. Unfortunately for Althea, she was unpredictable too.

Lillian suddenly dropped to her knees and dove between Althea's legs, pulling her down into herself in a forced somersault as she regrettably held onto the hood of Lillian's coat. She let go in time to save herself from a full face plant as she caught herself on her own two hands -- face down on the floor, but she immediately felt the full weight of Lillian's shoes against her back as the kid scrambled back over the top of her for the gun. Althea grappled for one of Lily's legs, finding a firm grip and pulling back with what strength she could muster -- only until the unwelcomed second leg came around. Althea turned barely in time for the shoe to glance off of her cheek, but her vision had been jarred into a thousand stars as she clutched at her face in pain.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Althea blurted, propping herself up on her knees. She dabbed at her cheek with one hand, checking for blood -- but it had only grazed her slightly, to her own relief. She could hear the scrape of the handgun being picked up off the floor, and suddenly Althea tensed. This kid was cracking and was clearly capable of far more than she had anticipated. And now... she was armed. The woman kept her gaze on the floor.

*CLICK*

"That better not be pointed at me..." Althea mumbled, the tenseness evident in her voice.

She heard Lily sniffle before she spoke. The girl was clearly crying, as evident in her voice. "Don't follow me..."

TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Althea rose to her feet, wiping the dust off her hands-- and followed.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


Lisa pressed two fingers against Sam's neck, holding the pulse in his wrist with her other hand. "His pulse is getting faint..." she warned, setting Sam's arm gently back by his side. Jessica dabbed some of the sweat off of his cheeks with a dry rag, trying to normalize his temperature. Lisa frowned. "If we don't close this wound-- he's just gonna keep bleeding. He can't keep going like this."

Jessica nodded through teary eyes. "They're working as hard they can. They'll be b--"

*SHIK SHIK SHIK*

The metal handle of the door shook violently from the other side -- even more banging accompanying the already abrupt noises. Jessica rose from the floor as Lisa helped Annabelle up -- each of them slowly approaching the front of the storage unit. Annabelle decidedly hung back close to Sam, in case the worst possible scenario lied outside the door on the other side.

"Did we bring any weapons?" Lisa queried, the answer already evident in the tone of her voice. Jessica shook her head, inching closer towards the door -- stepping as lightly as she could.

"Oh, be careful honey--" Annabelle bemoaned, covering her face with her hands. "Don't open the door 'til we know who's out there..."

Jessica turned and put her finger to her lips, quieting them all as she finally reached the doorway. The handle had all but stopped moving -- but then the muffled shouting started. "Those are voices..." she whispered, pressing her ear close to the frame. Neither the voice, nor whomever they were talking to were discernible through the thick metal. There was only one way to find out. Jessica grabbed for the handle and opened it slowly as she took a deep breath. Lillian's frantic shouts poured inside in an instant.

"Get back!" she shouted, with her hand raised in the air. The pistol hung loosely in her grip-- Untrained. Unwavering. Althea, only a mere few steps away, stood silently with her hands raised above her head. Her eyes met Jessica's, who finally laid sight on the girl and the gun. As soon as the door swung wider, the pistol was suddenly pointing at her. Lily's hands shook as her attention was split by the two women suddenly surrounding her. Her eyes began to well with tears as she realized that Jessica was alright.

"J-Jessica..." she stuttered.

"Lillian-- w-what's happened? What's wrong?"

"I thought you guys were--" she wiped at her cheeks with her gun hand, and Althea took a step closer. Lillian's gun was back up in a flash. She struggled to speak through her tears as she stepped countered towards Jessica, trying to get a peak through the doorway. "Sam... is he--"

"He's fine, Honey..." she said, subtly reaching out towards the girl. "Everything is going to be f--."

Annabelle shrieked from behind, causing all of them to jump. Lillian's gun rattled in her grip. "His chest! He's stopped breathing!"

Lisa was over him in a flash, ripping open his shirt and exposing his small chest which had indeed gone silent. She braced her hands together over his ribs, counting and pushing and breathing -- everything synchronized... professional. She pinched his nose and propped open his jaw, blowing air through the passage to bring him back however she could. Again. And again. Jessica, Lillian and reluctantly, Althea-- all stepped closer inside, each as unsure of what to do as the next. Lisa took full advantage of the space, continuing her maneuvers at a rapid pace -- exhausting herself as she tried desperately to save the boy's life.

Althea's booming voice suddenly sounded out from the back of the crowd. "Lily... what the hell are you doing?"

The girl had moved around the circle to face the spectacle, her gun trained on the struggling pair on the ground. Her chest heaved with each heavy breath as Annabelle gasped with shock, backing away. Jessica's eyes narrowed instantly as she keyed in on Lily. "Whatever you're thinking of doing, Lily--"

"This kid has lost her marbles..." Althea said, exhaustedly.

But it was Lily's voice that boomed this time.

"I'M NOT A KID!" she shouted, fiercely. "You all have no clue... no idea...you just think I'm some crazy kid! She sniffed back her tears again and again, keeping her gun trained on the both of them. "H-He's gonna come back, Jessica..."

"Of course he is... that's what Lisa's trying to do. You need to put the gun down..."

"Not like THAT!" she shouted even louder. "If he dies he'll come back-- as one of them..."

Althea had had enough. "What is this girl even talking about? Is somebody gonna do something about this or am I gonna have to?"

Jessica shook her head, trying to comprehend the panicked girl. "What are you--"

Annabelle stepped in from the corner, her face heartbroken at the little girl. "Well you, young girl, can point that thing wherever you like. Someone has to try and save this poor boy..." The old woman struggled to her knees, using the table beside her for support-- positioning herself over Sam. Lillian fought back more tears as she kept the gun firmly in place.

"Annabelle, please--" Jessica began, her voice breaking at the thought of all this. The world had already turned to shit and yet somehow it had managed to get even worse.

"He's just a child!" Annabelle cried from the floor. She picked up where Lisa left off, working his chest and pinching his nose as she leaned down to put some air into his system. And like the miracle they needed, his eyes fluttered open-- his cloudy iris barely visible under the milky ashen orbs where his bright young eyes had once been.

Lily noticed the change almost immediately. "S-Sam...?" she whimpered, her feet inching backwards apprehensively.

*CHOMP*

Sam's teeth suddenly clamped down over Annabelle's lips and chin-- holding on for dear life as she rolled to the side, bringing the boy along with her. Lily fell backwards in shock, skidding to a stop beside the table as the room ignited with panic. Jessica collapsed to her knees with an ear-splitting shriek as Lisa grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back away from the thrashing forms in front of her.

The two bodies struggled with one another on the ground-- Annabelle's muffled screams undercut with the vapid snarling of the newly awakened Sam. Althea motioned towards Lily with her arm. "Give me the gun!" she shouted quickly. But Lily's trembling hands could do nothing but manage to keep her gun poised in front of her.

Jessica saw Lily from her spot on the floor and leapt to her feet, shrugging out of Lisa's grip. "Lily-- don't!" she pleaded, bounding towards her as tears flowed down her cheeks.

"Jessica!" Lisa's voice washed over her ears as Jessica lunged forwards, reaching for the girl's weapon with both arms.

"LILY! Look at me!" But Lily had closed her eyes tight... squeezing the trigger even tighter.


* * *



*BANG!*

Diego's arms halted mid-swing-- sledgehammer poised for another blow at the wall. His neck whipped over his shoulder towards the spa at the sound. Henry stepped back from the front windows, leaning into the aisle the same direction -- a crowbar dangling loosely from his hands. The two looked at each other as George and Rafiq's footsteps came quickly their way. They skidded into the foyer behind Diego, weapons already in hand.

"You guys hear that?" Henry grunted from across the floor.

"The gunshot?" Rafiq asked with wide eyes.

Henry looked back towards the spa, licking his teeth. "The church bells..."