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Calvin Hawke

A famous Hollywood actor in the role of a lifetime.

0 · 317 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

.: CALVIN HAWKE :.

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Description:

 Profession: Actor
 Portrayed By: Aaron Paul
 Age: 30
 Gender: Male
 Height: 5’8”
 Weight: 163 lbs
 Ethnicity: Caucasian
 Tattoos/Scars: Has a black tattoo of a hawk on his ankle. His siblings all have the same. Missing his right eye.

Traits:

 Strengths: Gift of Gab, Multilingual, Jack-of-all-Trades
 Flaws: Insomniac, Afraid To Commit To Things, Fear of Heights

Personality:

 Fears: Being alone, Being responsible for someone’s death, Heights, Spiders, Death by drowning/asphyxiation/suffocation.
 Aspirations: Winning an Oscar, Building his own house, Having kids, Visiting New Zealand.
 Dominant Emotion: Empathy
 Demeanor: He typically likes to lighten the mood with a joke or witty banter, but he can be serious when he needs to be. He can usually handle responsibility well, but he constantly doubts his ability to lead or make decisions. Oddly enough, he is very shy. Once he gets to know someone, he is able to open up. He is generally a trusting and empathizing individual, but he would do anything he could to protect those he cares about. Incredibly defensive when pushed, but able to keep calm and rational under pressure. Will often do whatever needs to be done, regardless of the approval or support of others.
 Quirks/Oddities: Sometimes talks himself through things.
 Skills/Proficiencies: Small Firearm Use, Archery, Swimming, Various Accents/Dialects, Can Speak: French, Spanish, and a little bit of Latin, CPR, Motorcycle Operation, Manual Driving, Boy Scout Survival Skills, Basic Sword Fighting, Yellow Belt in Kung-Fu/Jujitsu, etc.

Equipment:

 Wears a non-descript silver ring on his right hand.
 Most comfortable with a pistol.
 Wears a necklace with a gold ‘fleur-de-lis’ on it. Gift from ex-girlfriend.

History:

 Recently, he starred in a summer blockbuster action flick that catapulted him to stardom.
 Earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as a drug-addled piano savant in "The Black Keys"
 He has learned a variety of skills through the different roles he has played... mostly action movies.
 Parents live in Portland, OR. He has one younger sister attending medical school in Boston, one older brother deployed overseas in Afghanistan, and one younger sister attending UCLA. Also has an ex-girlfriend that lives in Burbank.
 He is sick of playing leading man roles; feels that it's too much pressure.
 He had a falling out with his parents when he decided to move to LA to pursue acting too. They’ve made amends since then, but they don’t talk much.
 He is very close with his siblings; closest with his youngest sister.
 Nearly drowned in a water-skiing accident which is the root of his fear of drowning.
 Regrets the last words he spoke to his father before leaving home.
 Regrets not spending more time with his brother before his deployment overseas.
 Regrets the break-up with his ex-girlfriend.

So begins...

Calvin Hawke's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke

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.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


Calvin's cell vibrated, shaking him from his sleep with a muted buzz. It had somehow managed to become pinned under his back at some point during the night, and he was hungover enough that he thought it was his head ringing. Calvin rolled to one side, just enough to pull it out from under himself, and pressed it to his ear.

"Hello…?” he asked, groggily.

“Morning, beautiful. Have you looked outside today?” The voice on the other side belonged to his talent agent, Ross Summers, sounding as excited as a kid on Christmas eve. Calvin sat up, rubbing the last bit of sleep from his eyes. The previous night had been spent celebrating the red carpet premiere of his latest film, “Lockdown”. He got home at 5 a.m., and then the real party began. Oddly enough, all of it felt like it happened weeks ago. 

“I was actually sleeping. Believe it or not…” Calvin grabbed his remote and parted the wall of curtains. At the touch of a button, they began to scroll sideways revealing the beautiful Los Angeles skyline. He took a moment to stretch, taking it all in, and then collapsed back down on the edge of his bed, careful not to wake the girl on the other side. “What am I looking at, Ross?”

“Well it might just be me, but I think the Sun is shining a little brighter today. Don’t you?” Ross always spoke in theoreticals. Calvin could tell he was in one of his moods that only came with good news. “Have you read the reviews?”

“Screw reviews. You know I stay away from those things. I'm not in the habit of believing what some repressed basement rat has to say about me."

“Would you believe $73 million domestic?"

Calvin was glad he had already sat down. $73 million would have been an awesome opening day for any movie. The rest of the weekend would easily triple that, making his film one of the largest openings of all time. Unexpected and unbelievable.

“Holy shit.”

“Holy shit is right. This is huge. You’ve got a 98% on RottenTomatoes.com right now, bro. We are on track to topple The Avengers, The Dark Knight, all of ‘em. Not to mention Conan tomorrow night, and SNL at the end of the month…”

Calvin couldn’t help but smile. “I can’t believe it.”

“We’ll go out and celebrate tonight. How’s Koi? 8:30?” Calvin could hear him shuffling papers in the background.

“Sounds good. That should give me some time to get this alcohol out of my system.”

“Alright, beautiful. See ya then. And let me know how the meeting goes today, yeah?”

Calvin cursed to himself, silently. “Right… yeah, I will.” 

“You forgot didn’t you?” He had.

“No, no, no. 10 o’clock. I’ll be there.” He glanced over to the clock on his wall. It was already 9:13 a.m.

“Good. Give ‘em hell. And, hey… Calvin?”

“Yeah?”

“Welcome to the world, baby. I love you.”

“Love you too,” Calvin replied, shaking his head. He set the phone on his bedside table, and looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to break through the hanging smog over downtown Los Angeles. And now that he thought about it, Ross was right…

It did seem a little bit brighter.

The nameless girl next to him suddenly rolled over, clutching the sheets against her as she stretched. She was only nameless because he couldn’t remember it. It had been a long night.

“Was that your mom?” She asked through her yawn.

Calvin laughed. “Might as well be.”

She smiled, and kissed his elbow. “Come back to bed…”

“I can’t. I spaced a meeting. What do you think? Shower or Breakfast?"

The girl raised her eyebrows at him suggestively and he suddenly realized the stupidity of his question as the two of them raced to the bathroom.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC)

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.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


It was past lunch already, and Calvin still hadn't eaten. The simple meeting quickly turned into a meeting, a video conference, and an impromptu screen test. All of the buzz surrounding his new movie had suddenly made Calvin a hot commodity, and Paramount wanted to grab him for their next vessel before anyone else did. He never thought that this would be the movie to turn him into the prettiest girl at the ball, not that he could complain.

His Lamborghini pulled up a few feet in front of him. The valet tossed Calvin his keys and pocketed the generous tip handed to him with a smile. With the rest of the day off, Calvin was looking forward to finally getting some food and relaxation. He had rushed out of the house without a proper shower or breakfast and still felt hungover from last night’s party. Food never sounded so good. Something greasy, preferably.

‘If this god damn traffic would move…’ Calvin thought to himself, as he adjusted his rear-view mirror. His eyes caught the flashing reds and blues of an incoming batch of cop cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. Nothing out of the ordinary for Los Angeles, and certainly a good explanation as to what was holding up the freeway. He took the next opportunity to duck off the nearest exit in pursuit of some grub. He swung into an open parking spot across the street from one of his favorite 24-hour diners, locking his car with the remote as he hustled over to the restaurant.

The place was moderately empty, which was surprising. The spot was a neighborhood favorite, serving a mostly traditionally diner-styled menu. Only one waitress seemed to be working and was currently tied up at another table, so Calvin grabbed a menu from near the host kiosk and plopped down in the nearest open booth. He had turned his cell phone off going into the meeting and having just remembered, turned it back on. Five missed calls flashed across his screen after the opening logo played out.

“What the…” Calvin said, trailing off. His ex-girlfriend, Hannah, had called three times. It was a bit odd, considering they hadn’t spoken since the incident at her birthday earlier that year. That call would have to wait. The next name to pop up was that of his little sister, Sarah. Calvin cursed to himself under his breath. They had made plans to get lunch that day. The second thing he totally forgot about. He quickly dialed her number.

She answered almost immediately. “Hey, Hollywood. What’s up?” Calvin hated that nickname.

“I’m so sorry I missed lunch. There was a meeting I forgot about, and the after-party went a little late last night.”

“Eh, I figured it was something like that. No bigs.” It wasn’t the first time he was forced to bail on plans. Unfortunately, his career didn’t allow for a lot of flexibility or free time. He knew Sarah was tough enough to roll with the punches, but it wasn’t a reputation he was fond of. Since his split with the ex-girlfriend, his sister was the only good relationship he had left in this city. A little girl in the booth across the restaurant was peeking at Calvin from behind her menu. She nudged her brother, whose eyes nearly bulged out of his head when he saw who it was. Calvin gave them a small wave, and they both retreated back into their seats, giggling.

“Well, hey, I’m at that diner I took you to after your volleyball game last weekend. Wanna meet me here?”

“Can’t. AP Chem starts in five minutes," she replied hastily.

Another missed lunch. It was hard to keep score anymore. “Shit. I’m sorry, Sarah. Look, I’ll make it up to you tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry about it. It's not like you don't have a lot on your plate. Congrats, by the way.

“Oh... thanks," Calvin said, feigning excitement. "Yeah. Things are good." It all kind of seemed pointless when you didn't have anyone to share it with.

“Hey, I gotta go. Tomorrow, OK? Bye, bro-bro.” Click. Calvin pocketed his phone with a sigh. He stared blankly at his menu, not really reading anything in particular. There was too much running around his head. Added to that list was what Hannah wanted. If it was important, she would have left a message. They hadn't talked for over 5 months, after all.

“Excuse me,” a voice suddenly said from beside him, breaking his train of thought, “are you ready to order?”

“Oh, uhhh…” He looked up at the girl. She was cute, in an odd sort of way. Riddled with freckles and sporting big green eyes… eyes that got even bigger when she realized who she was talking to. “Your nametag is upside down,” he said. It was. She hastily adjusted it to face the right direction.

“Thank you,” she said nervously. “Um. Did you have questions about the menu… or anything?”

“I’ll, uh… I’ll have a club sandwich and a rum and coke.”

She tucked her hair behind her ear, blushing slightly. “This is a family restaurant...”

Calvin suddenly realized. “Oh, shit. Right. I mean, fuck-- Sorry." He was the one blushing now. A closed bar... great. "Just a coffee then.” She nodded, taking his menu. “Kind’ve dead in here, huh?”

The waitress opened her mouth to answer, but stopped when she felt something brush by her. At her waist, the little girl from the other booth stood with her crayons and a piece of paper in hand.

"Can I have your auto-graft?" She asked, looking pleadingly into Calvin's eyes.

"How about I do you one better?" He said, taking the crayon from her. Calvin quickly sketched out a picture of the little girl with a cape and princess tiara riding a unicorn. It wasn't his best work, admittedly, but it wasn't half bad for a crayon drawing. He slid the paper towards her and handed her her crayon back. The girl held the picture up to the light and took it in with big, starry eyes.

"Whooooaaaaa...." She said, softly. "Thank you."

Calvin smiled. "Anytime, kid."

The girl attacked him with a surprise hug and practically skipped back to her table. He sheepishly looked around the restaurant, hoping that he hadn't created to much of a scene. "I think she's in love with you," the waitress teased as she grabbed his menu.

"Not really my type..." Calvin replied.

Another wave of sirens tore through the street outside, as she walked back to the kitchen.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


"Remind me why I'm doing this again?" Calvin asked as Ross fiddled with his collar. He had been quite persistent on Calvin wearing something a little nicer than his typical wardrobe for his meeting. The news network WEND-TV had called to set-up a pre-interview for a story on Calvin and his budding career. It would be great publicity and would likely inspire other magazines and news networks to approach him.

Ross grabbed Calvin and shook him by the cheeks, playfully. "Because the fish are starting to bite, and this is part of what we have to do to make sure they stay hungry." Calvin swatted Ross' hands away and moved towards the window where he saw a news van turn onto the street from a ways down. He reached into his pocket to silence his phone, and though he'd never admit it, he was also checking to see if there were any other unexpected calls from ex-girlfriends he hadn't talked to in months. But there were no calls. And no bars either, oddly enough.

"I just spent two months doing press junkets. Do I really need to do another interview for this movie?"

Ross laughed to himself, as if Calvin was the most naive person on the planet. "Calvin. Baby. You don't get it, do you?" He grabbed a magazine from a pile on his desk and threw it down on the coffee table beside Calvin. Underneath the title lettering was a photo of Calvin atop the hood of an old Camaro. The caption read: "Hollywood's Golden Boy". "They don't just want some story about what you ate at the craft services table on set... they want your story."

Calvin let that sink in a moment as he continued gazing out the window. The van had pulled to a stop in front of Ross' office. A man unloaded some equipment from the back, while I woman led her way up the steps towards the front door. It wasn't long before Ross' intercom buzzed.

His secretary chimed in from the other side, "There's a Ms. Hopkins here for your 4 o'clock."

Ross sent a thumbs up Calvin's way and keyed the door. "Send her in."

The door opened and a thin woman entered, followed by a stockier gentleman carrying a large cargo box. The woman headed directly for Calvin and held out her hand, making firm eye contact. "Harper Hopkins. WEND-TV."

Calvin shook her hand. "Calvin Hawke."

"Of course," she replied as she broke off to help her colleague unpack. "This should only take an hour or so," she began, "we're just going to chat for a bit so I can collect some talking points for the real interview."

Ross sidled in from behind his desk. "And will you be needing me for this, or--"

Harper gave the man a scan from head-to-toe. "I think Calvin will be able to help us with everything."

The agent cleared his throat and grabbed his cell phone off the table. "Right. Well, let me know when you're finished. I'll be next door." He gathered his things and left the room hastily. Nathan, in the meantime, had just finished attaching Calvin's mic.

"Alright," he began, "you're good to go, dude. Err-- Mr. Hawke."

Calvin smiled. "Dude's fine."

Harper had taken the liberty of attaching her own mic and had taken her set with a pen and a pad. Calvin sat in the lounge chair across from her and fiddled with his mic a bit so it wasn't poking into his chest. She looked over to Nathan and signaled for him to start recording.

"So. Calvin Hawke. Tell me... why should I be doing a piece on you?"

The question was insanely blunt, but extremely valid. And Calvin had no good answer.

"Uhhhhh... I don't really know how to answer that."

He wasn't sure if she was a really good interviewer or if she was just toying with him. Either way, he felt like he was floundering. She followed-up quickly. "You've been interviewed dozens of times already about your new film. Do you even have anything left to say?" Her queries lingered quite loudly in the deadly silent room. Nathan looked back and forth between the two, awkwardly.

Calvin adjusted in his seat and leaned forward. "You want a story? I'll give you a story."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins


"... and, you wouldn't believe it, but now every time I see a mouse on TV, I think of that ONE guy," Calvin finished, cracking up with the silly memory he'd gone into details about. He was now obviously feeling far more comfortable in front of the rolling camera than when the interview had started out.

Harper doubled over in laughter. This was one of the most fun interviews she'd conducted in weeks. "Great, now that's exactly what I'm going to think of, too," she said, jotting down the approximate timecode at which he'd wrapped up, for the purpose of easier work in the editing bay back at the station. "I'm going to tell you I've never seen any of your movies. Is that bad?"

Calvin shrugged his shoulders and raised his palms, contorting his face into a comically quizzical expression. "Ahhh, I don't know, you seem to be surviving somehow," he shot back. "I don't know how, but here you are. Loser."

Harper laughed again. "All right, all right, so why don't you tell me which should be the FIRST movie starring the great, acclaimed Calvin Hawke that I should watch?" she asked, playfully hunching her head down between her shoulders, dramatically sticking her head out as though expecting the answer of a lifetime.

Calvin jokingly chewed the side of his lip and tilted his head. "Gosh, there are just so many good ones, you know?" His words spilled out in a sticky-thoughtful manner. He set his face ahead to look back at Harper. "How about you just start with the one that just came out that you just asked me all these questions about? Start at the end, work backwards! You won't be disappointed."

Harper's stomach hurt from all that laughter. "Goooooood God," she howled. "Ehh, man, sucks that we have to get back." She looked back at Nathan. "What do you think? Are we good?"

Nathan had been working to hold back his amusement. "This is gold," he replied, shutting off the red "Record" button and clicking the "off" switch. He then reached down to another device that had been rolling, positioned not far from Calvin's feet: a small cassette recorder that looked like it had seen better days.

Harper blinked for a moment as she looked at it. "Dude, were you skipping class and trying to figure out what the professor said later?" she quipped quickly.

Nathan shook his head and laughed. "No, no, no," he rolled happily, "and, I hope you don't mind, man, but I carry this in my pocket for interviews I get super-psyched about. These days everything is digital. Ever had a camera or an SD card or an external hard drive crash on you? Man, it's a motherfucker." He caught himself and turned red. "Uhh, sorry... totally let that slip... okay, I'll say, it's a big huge expensive problem to fix that you just feel like you can have a nervous breakdown over. Man, it sucks. I wanted an audio backup of this interview in case anything went bad. This was just so cool, man."

Calvin shrugged as he unclipped his lapel mic and handed it back to Nathan. "No sweat, it's all right," he said. "Analog, man. That can't get screwed up. I'm glad you were excited."

Harper stood and pulled off her own mic as Nathan packed up. "Well, Mr. Hawke, I gotta tell you, I'm a lot more informed than I was when I got in the door," she said. It really had been a good interview. It was very rare to find people who were good in front of the camera who also had interesting things to say. Bummer that she was unlikely to run into him anytime soon, since, after all, funny people are hard to come by. "Thanks for a good interview. That was a lot of fun."

Calvin held out a hand to Harper and shook her hand. "Miss Hopkins, don't tear me up too badly," he joked. He then extended a hand to Nathan. "Dude, a real pleasure."

Nathan smiled and slid his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose and on his eyes. "Man, been an honor," he replied. He pulled out his cell phone and smiled again. "Uh... would it be all right if we snapped a photo? My brother won't believe me if I tell him."

Harper took a peek out of the window as Calvin cheerfully agreed to a picture. As the two goofed off she peered downward onto the street. There were a couple of cars on sidewalks with flashing lights that stayed remarkably still, as though they'd been abandoned. The driver doors were open. There seemed to be more people on the street than usual, hustling quickly and nervously; this wasn't the part of town where pedestrians liked to stroll close to 5 p.m., as most people were getting into their cars at this time. Los Angeles wasn't really a walker's city, anyway... that was a tag for New York to wear.

"I'll walk you guys out," Calvin offered, breaking Harper's concentration.

She blinked and looked toward the two men. "Oh, yes, that would be great," she sputtered. "I was just looking outside. It's, uh, pretty hairy out there. Calvin, is this normal for this time of day?"

Before he could respond, a shriek broke out, muffled by the shut door. "HOLY SHIT!" was the also-muffled shout that accompanied it.

Calvin opened the door and raced out, Nathan and Harper not far behind. Ross' secretary stood there in shock, blood spurtling down the front of her shirt and dripping onto the ground. She held her arms in in the air, her hands shaking like leaves in the wind. Her face was ashy, her mouth hung open in disbelief. "I thought it was the mailman! H-h-h-he was supposed to pick up a package this afternoon, and-and-and Ross and-and-and-"

Calvin waved his hands. "Stop, stop, lie down, we're going to call 9-1-1, don't say a word!" he instructed quickly. "Nathan, the bathroom's over there, go grab a towel so we can stop the bleeding! Harper, get out your phone and call 9-1-1! Right now!" He helped the secretary down, so that the blood wouldn't gush as quickly from her throat due to gravity's natural pull toward the ground.

Nathan took off, opening the glass-paneled door that led down a hallway, where the office's two bathrooms were located.

"N... n-n-n.... Nooo!" the secretary insisted between wet, uneven breaths as Calvin brought her down to the ground. "D-d-don'-"

"No, don't talk, don't talk right now, we need to help you!" Calvin's voice was smooth but tense. "Stay down, just stay right here and we'll get help."

Harper was dumbfounded as she watched, and even more dumbfounded when she heard that repetitive, infuriating "out of service" message crop into her ear. "I can't get through," she said creakily, trying her best to keep calm despite the poor woman bleedin on the ground. "I'll try again, I'll try again right now."

She eyed the wound from the place she stood, confused. Was she stabbed? That had to be the explanation. There was no gunshot that she'd heard. If the woman had been stabbed, then that sure was one deep dig; usually these kinds of stab wounds didn't bleed so profusely unless there were many of them in the same place. How could someone have perpetrated such an attack, and so quickly? Who would be so bold? No doubt there were enough security cameras here to cause a reasonable amount of concern for anyone who was considering such a crime.

But then she noticed the jagged flesh around the area that the blood kept pumping from, turning a startling green and black at the ends. That sure didn't look like a stab wound to her.

Calvin must have noticed it, too. He looked back to Harper with large, saucer-like eyes. The only sound in the room was the woman's labored, squishy breathing. They likely had the same questions on their minds.

"WHOA!"

Nathan was running at breakneck speed down the hallway he'd disappeared down, clutching a couple of sage green hand towels. A nanosecond's glance at the hallway showed two dark figures tearing after him, not fast, but something scared Nathan to this point. Harper dropped her phone and raced to the door, instinctively slamming it behind Nathan after he barreled through and bracing her body against it, locking her wrists to secure the handle.

She let out a scream when she turned her head to look through the glass.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Edmund Remington Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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Edmund Remington


"Wonderful, Therese. I'm very proud of you."

Edmund elegantly clapped for all of his students as they completed the routine they were currently working on. Therese, obviously the most experienced of all her classmates, had managed to impress everyone with her graceful moves and gestures. It had been a few hours since class started and Edmund had managed to teach them the rest of the routine before the end of class.

After the students changed back to their everyday wear, they gathered their belongings and prepared to leave. Edmund gave them all a warm goodbye and adjusted his glasses before taking a look at the bags of clothes he purchased earlier that day. Now that he was alone, changing into the outfits and using the mirror to his advantage would be perfect. Grabbing a random bag, Edmund headed to the changing rooms and put on the clothes. He then turned all of the studio's lights on and adored himself in the large mirror placed in front of the dancing space.

"Handsome, as always."

Therese appeared out of nowhere, a small grin on her face. She was basically mocking her teacher's vanity with no shame or humility at all. Edmund let out a soft laugh.

"This black sweater fits perfect over my shirt. Black and white: the perfect combination," jokingly spinning around to show Therese all of the outfit, Edmund looked up and down at his own reflection, "I know I'm fashionable. No need to remind me, Therese."

"Of course, I never have to remind you. You remind yourself all the time."

Therese slowly glided towards Edmund, her hands behind her back. She was acting very unusual; the majority of the time, Therese was bubbly and talkative. However, at that moment, she seemed shy and secretive.

"Is everything all right, Therese? Why didn't you leave with the others? Class is over."

Now feeling a bit awkward as Therese continued to make her way closer to him, Edmund crossed his arms and began to step back. The lights began to flicker, making the situation have a creepy feeling.

"Edmund, I've always adored you very much," whispered Therese, now almost face-to-face with Edmund. She brought her arms in front of her and in her hands was a rose with a note, "ever since you began teaching me, I admit, I began to obsess over you.

Edmund swallowed, sweat beginning to form at his forehead. This girl was almost ten years younger than him and was now pronouncing her long-time love for him; things could not get worse. Grabbing the rose and taking another step back, Edmund nodded at Therese and motioned to the door. "Look, I'm flattered, but you're just too young for me. I think you should leave."

The room was silent. Therese looked down at the shiny floor with a look of major disappointment; the man she had loved for so long rejected her. Edmund looked above as the lights began to flicker. One completely went out. "I completely forgot to pay the light bill," muttered Edmund, trying to fill in the awkward silence between him and Therese. The light that went out was joined by another and soon enough, all the lights just died all together.

"You're right, I should leave," uttered Therese, still looking at the ground.

Click!

Edmund's attention was turned to the front door. It was too dark to notice, but there was now someone else in the room. The person left the door open and were making their way towards the two.

"Sorry, I left my bag here. Did you guys notice how crazy it is outside? Everyone's panicking over something."

It was just one of Edmund's students. He turned on his phone's flash to aid him find his bag in the darkness. Therese sighed and began her way out of the studio. Edmund sighed with relief, glad that the situation was over. He looked over to the student who left his bag and was about to say something when a shriek rang out by the open front door.

Edmund and his student immediately looked at the door. On the ground was Therese, her eyes wide open in horror and her body shaking. There was a pool of blood forming around her head and there seemed to be a bloody bite mark on her neck.

"Holy fuck!" cried out Edmund's student, and he immediately dashed to the hallway that led to the emergency exit. Edmund just stood there in shock, his hands shaking. Mumbling Therese's name, Edmund raced to her. As soon as he reached her, he spotted a horrifying, human-like figure feeding away on Therese's lower body.

"Oh my God."

Whatever was eating away at Therese looked up and took notice of Edmund. It stared at him and was about to pounce when a noise out in the streets stole it's attention. Whoever or whatever made the sound was probably delicious to the human-like creature as it hurdled towards it, completely forgetting about Therese or Edmund.

"Ed-Edmund. P-Ple-Please, help," her body was shaking and some of the blood began to turn into disgusting shades of green and black. Edmund desperately wanted to assist her but knew that there was probably nothing he could do; Therese was a goner for sure and he was lucky that the thing that was eating her was distracted by something. There were screams outside and Edmund didn't take the chance to see who was the creature's next victim; he quickly sped his way out of the emergency exit in the back and looked for a place he could take shelter in.

A few minutes away from the dance studio was the news station and there was an awfully large amount of people running around near it. Not wanting to stay in the same spot too long in fear of the creature finding him again, Edmund had no care in the world and just dashed as fast as he could towards the news station; in his mind, being around a large group of people when there's flesh-eating things running around was way better than being alone. After a few minutes of running in the open, he finally reached a point where he joined in with the crowd of bustling people. Edmund checked his pockets and realized that he left his phone back in his old pants at the studio.

"My luck," he mumbled. Turning his head towards the news station, which he found himself in front of, Edmund felt the need to barge in. He could definitely learn more about the chaos going on in there, with all the large amounts of televisions and radios in there. Plus, his uncle, Charlie, was the assignment editor there and he would most surely know lots about the situation with the human-eaters.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


Nathan jumped through the doorway, spilling the towels all over the floor. Harper slammed the door shut behind him and braced herself for the inevitable impact of Nathan's pursuers. She screamed as the first walker threw its body against the door. The creature began pawing and thrashing on the other side as Calvin began trying to drag the secretary back into Ross' office where they could try to barricade themselves.

“Nathan! Give me a hand,” Calvin shouted to the cameraman. He was on his hands and knees trying to scrounge up the fallen towels, but abandoned his task when he saw what Calvin was up to. He came over and grabbed the girl's arms. Calvin already had her legs. “On three,” he said, looking Nathan in the eyes. “One... two... th--”

“AAAAAAAAH!” Nathan yelled out, as he fell forwards onto the girl. The secretary had grabbed onto his forearms and was pulling him in towards her. He managed to pin her head against the ground with his knee, and the girl suddenly started violently clawing and twisting on the floor. Harper stared at the poor girl's clammy face. Her eyes had become cloudy, like an animal at the end of its life. Blood poured from inside her mouth as she gnashed her teeth ferociously. It was like she had lost all sense of her old self and become a rabid husk of a human being. “Get her off of me!” Nathan shouted, struggling with the girl. Harper saw that Calvin was occupied with her legs and began to run over.

“No,” Calvin began, “hold the door! We can't let them-- SHIT! Harper, look out!” She was able to see it in his eyes before she heard it. The sound of thousands of shards of glass shattering apart behind her as the second walker hurled itself through the window next to the door. It was Calvin's agent, Ross. Or what was left of him, at least. The side of his face had been mostly torn away, and his suit was streaked with blood. Calvin reached out for Harper, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of Ross' claws.

“I'm losing my grip!” Nathan shouted out from beside them. The girl hadn't seemed to lose any energy as she thrashed about, and to be honest, for a girl her size she was giving Nathan quite a run for his money. There seemed to be a limited number of options at this particular point.

“Back into the office, GO!” Calvin ordered. Harper scrambled to her feet, kicking Ross away from her as she went. Calvin ran over to the secretary's desk and grabbed her office chair, as Nathan tried to untangle himself from the enraged girl. Ross clamored to his feet, fixated on Nathan. As he began to lumber over, Calvin grabbed the back of the chair and ran it against him like a lion-tamer, piercing the agent's torso with the two top legs. He yelled at the top of his lungs as he ran Ross back against the door. His body dropped to the floor, impaled by the chair, but otherwise undeterred. Calvin looked into the eyes of the man who had once made his career, and didn't know who he was looking at anymore. Ross' eyes were grey and cloudy, like his secretary's, but there was no hint of recognition in them... no life. He was suddenly snapped back to reality by Nathan.

“CALVIN! Come on!” He shouted from the doorway to the office. Calvin spun around and ran by as Nathan delivered a hard kick to the secretary's chest, sending her reeling backwards. He slammed the door behind Calvin and the two of them cleared Ross' desk and began dragging it over to block the door. Harper was at the window, peering through the blinds.

“What the hell is happening out there? What is this?” She asked, sullenly. A car was on fire in front of the building, and the red and orange light reflected across her eyes. The sun had mostly set now, and the street lights were waking up all along the sidewalks. Occasional silhouettes were scuttling around. Likely more of these walkers or others trying to find sanctuary. The two men had fixed the desk against the door, and were sitting on the floor catching their breath.

“I have no idea...” Calvin said between breaths, “but I think we're safe in here for now.”

Harper looked back at the two of them and crossed her arms. “We can't stay here for long. Disasters of this scale always warrant looting. Trust me, I'm a reporter. I've seen it. Now that the Sun's down there's going to be more to worry about than monsters going bump in the night.”

Calvin shook his head. “You really think there's going to be looting going on with something like this going on outside? You saw those things out there...”

“I don't know what I saw,” Harper said, indignantly.

The silence hung over the room like a dark cloud with nothing but the distant wails of sirens and desperate clawing of the secretary's nails on the outside of the wooden oak door.

And suddenly the day didn't seem so bright anymore...

[ Cue Soundtrack In Seperate Window: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWxQVLQmp3I ]

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins

(NOTE: Edits made, ~11am PST 3/26, because writing after two glasses of wine is not a great idea!)

The metal desk was heavy; heavy enough to keep the clawing, corpulent-looking secretary from burrowing her way through if she did happen to even scratch through the massive oak door.

At least they had that going for them.

Harper pursed her lip, and turned to peer again out the window. They had to be four or five stories up off of the ground, so they were a fairly safe distance up from the street and possible looters, or worse. On the downside, there was no way to climb or drop down safely.

Slow-moving figures dotted her line of sight occasionally. A few people darted quickly through the streets. Office windows across the street were lit on a fashion similar to theirs, even with similar faces that could be made out from their distance away. They weren't the only ones watching the events slowly unfolding below.

"Look," she said as she opened the window and gestured Calvin and Nathan to check out the window, "we can't get down from here, and it's getting darker. It's either we go back through the door, work our way through and get to our van, or we stay up here until we can see on the street."

Nathan looked over his shoulder at the door, the sound of the woman's guttural throat gurgles making him shudder, and looked back to Harper. "You can't be serious."

Harper furrowed her brow and pointed out the window. "Nathan, there's just no way," she fired back, trying to restrain herself from panicking. "Remember that long elevator ride? I don't remember us bringing parachutes, so the only option for us that doesn't involve breaking legs is out that door, right there." She pointed toward the growling noises.

Nathan shook his head. Calvin stared out the window, eyes bulging at the sight of the unseemly quiet mayhem down below. One of those slower-moving figures dragged itself below a lit streetlight. The newly-illuminated figure looked a lot like the secretary--limp neck, lips bared back to reveal gnashy teeth. Overall, almost unhuman. It toddled out of the circular field of light and wandered back off into the dark. "She's right," he said, "and if we don't make a break for it now, we'll have to stay up here probably for a long while."

Nathan looked around Ross' office, desperate to find some way to manage the threat outside of the door and make it to safety. It wasn't guaranteed safety, but it might be better than what they'd have up here. Clearly, they'd need backup methods of reasoning with the three people out there... if they could even reason at all.

Finally, his eyes landed on a set of golf clubs. He briefly reflected on their inherent pretentiousness, and then dashed over and reached for three of them. "I have no clue what any of these do," he reported almost sheepishly. "If this idea sucks, then be my guest and find another one. I really think we should stay up here and wait for the sun to come back out."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


Nathan grabbed a 5-iron from the set and tossed it to Calvin. Harper too. They all looked at one another, awkwardly.

“It's not the worst idea...” Nathan said, sheepishly.

“There were two of them out there before,” Harper began, gesturing with her club. “Who knows how many there are now. Are we really going to fight our way through five stories of those things?”

Calvin shook his head. “There's still power. The elevators should still work.”

He set his club down on Ross' desk and shook the mouse on its pad to wake the computer out of its screensaver. A cheesy picture of Ross in front of a huge private jet disappeared in an instant, revealing a screen gridded with security camera feeds. The top ones showed the entrance to the building, lobby, and elevator room. Below were feeds of various intersecting corridors, each one melting into the next.

Nathan touched the screen with one finger. “Look...”

It was a live feed of Ross' lobby. His huge disfigured frame slammed against the door, while the secretary helped. Splinters of the wooden chair stuck out at odd angles from his torso. They still showed no signs of tiring. Four other walkers lingered about in the background, pacing aimlessly.

Harper slowly backed away from the monitor. “Six...”

Calvin sighed. “Six.”

Nathan looked at the two of them. “Guys, c'mon. We can do this. They're slower than we are.”

Calvin pointed back at the screen. “The 23 year old girl out there practically had you pinned to the ground, Nathan. We know what these things are capable of. Ross, alone, has like a hundred pounds on me.”

Nathan tossed his club on the floor, angrily. “So what, then? We just hide here? Wait for the cavalry to ride in and save us?”

"We have no idea what's going on out there! This could be the start of something bad, man. I mean, maybe we're being attacked? This could be some kind of pre-invasion. Chemical warfare. In which case, we need to get the hell out of Dodge. The real disaster may not even be here yet."

Nathan's face whitened a bit as he stared at Calvin. If this was, in fact, a large-scale disaster, it was unlikely that any help was going to come soon. Calvin realized he couldn't possibly fathom the scope of what was happening. He turned back to the window again, feeling the gravity of the whole situation weight in on him.

And then something caught his eye...

A Jeep appeared as if from thin air at one of the far intersections down the street. It's jet black frame flew effortlessly by abandoned cars and debris on the road. A couple blocks closer and Calvin could see that a number of walkers were hanging onto the vehicle from all sides. The driver wheeled the car back and forth trying to shake them off, all while trying to maintain control of the vehicle.

Harper watched him, intently. “What the hell is he doing?”

The driver slammed the side of his car against a passing Subaru, clipping two of the walkers in passing, but his rear tire caught on the front of the other vehicle, fishtailing him into a deadly spin. He yanked the wheel in the other direction as he tried to compensate, but totally lost control as soon as his tires hit the sidewalk. The steps acted like a ramp, propelling him straight into the second floor of the building. All three of them fell over as if rocked by some kind of earthquake. Picture frames and hanging fixtures shattered all around them as they fell to the ground.

Nathan ran back over to the computer. Several of the security feeds showed nothing but smoke and debris now. A couple were nothing but a black screen. “Jesus Christ... The building's on fucking fire!” Calvin struggled to his feet and held out his hand to help Harper up. She limped over to the monitor to see the damage. Calvin watched her eyes widen in horror. “We gotta get out of here. Give me a hand with this desk,” Nathan shouted at Calvin.

“I think I've got a better idea,” Calvin replied, gazing back out the window. He immediately began to tear down the green curtains lining the edges of the windows, and dragged them over to Ross' desk where he began clearing a space. Below him, he reached into one of the desk drawers for a pair of scissors. Inside he also found a half-empty flask, some Ibuprofen, and a small revolver. “Harper, start tying these curtains into a long rope. Use the scissors to strip them if you have to.” He tossed her the pair of scissors and checked the revolver for ammo. Three bullets. He holstered it in his waistband. “That'll come in handy...”

“What about me?” Nathan asked.

Calvin looked behind him and gestured at the window. “I need you to knock out both those panes of glass."

Nathan grinned, mischievously. “On it.” He picked up his golf club and started smashing out the corners of the tall windows, clearing any and all shards from the frame. Harper had already begun tying some of the strips of curtain together, and Calvin grabbed the end and carried it with him to the window.

“Mind filling us in on... um... whatever this is?” Harper asked. It was only a fair question after all.

Calvin looped the curtain around the post between the two windows and started tying it into a thick knot. He leaned his head outside the window and looked far down below. “I'm gonna drop down to the next level and see if we can't go in through the window there. Might be our best bet to get to the stairs or an elevator unseen,” he replied, cinching the knot tightly. “And since it's my idea, I figured I'd be the one to go sight-seeing.”

Harper closed another knot and brought her end over to Calvin. “Whatever happens, you've already given me a great story,” she said, handing him the curtain.

Calvin smiled and started tying the two ends together. “Just pick a good picture for the cover.”

Harper raised her eyebrow. "I think the coming of the apocalypse might take cover over you, Golden Boy."

Nathan grabbed the last loose end and started to make a harness around Calvin. “You know, you don't have to do this...”

“Yeah, but we already tied the curtains together...” Calvin said, adjusting the curtain around his waist so that it would give him all the vertical support he would need to be lowered down. It kind've reminded him of the harnesses he worse when he used to go rock climbing up in Oregon. “Alright, let's do this before I change my mind.” Nathan and Harper kneeled down at the edge of the window. Calvin lowered himself down onto his chest and pushed his legs out first, careful not to catch any stray pieces of g lass. Once he was fully out the window, he pressed his shoes against the side of the building and held onto the curtain with bow hands so that it was nice and taut. “OK... slow now... slow...” he said as they began lowering the curtain. The next floor started to come into view after the first few steps. Whoever's office it was, the lights were off, and the reflections from outside made it hard to see through. Beads of sweat poured down Nathan's head as he held on tightly to the curtain. Calvin signalled back up to him. “A little further...”

Nathan leaned in. “What did you say?”

“A little bit furth--”

SQUEEEEEEEP!!

Calvin's foot slipped off the glass, causing him to slam against the window. Nathan braced his shoulder against the post and re-adjusted his grip as all of Calvin's weight bore down on him from below. From the other side of the glass, something began to stir. But the glass was still too tinted to make out anything. Calvin cycled his feet against the glass before finally finding traction again. His whole body was vibrating from his heart pounding in his chest. He looked up at Nathan. “My bad...”

He could faintly hear Harper laughing from somewhere up above. Once he had found his footing again, Calvin prepared to push off from the window. He bent his knees, took a deep breath, and launched backwards. He kept his feet forward and braced his knees for the impact, colliding with the glass with no more grace than a bird. “Ow, shit!” He exclaimed loudly. Now he knew where all the money went in the building. Shitty chairs. Slow computers. Damn good windows. Calvin reached behind him and fumbled for the revolver. He spun a bullet into place and cocked the hammer back. Shielding his face with one hand, he silently counted to three before kicking off from the window once more and firing one round through the glass. The bullet pierced a clean hole, leaving a brilliant cobweb of splinters across the window pane. Calvin curled into a ball like a little wrecking ball and bowled through, sending thousands of little shards everywhere. He slowly swung to a stop, catching his breath. “I guess I can scratch that off my bucket list...” he said.

Harper rolled her eyes at Nathan before starting to funnel more slack for him to lower to Calvin. The cameraman laughed to himself. “Whatever you say, Miley Cyrus. Tie us in down there and we'll grab everything else and come down.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins

Nathan and Harper looked at one another as they pulled the end of the long length of the tied-together curtain. "All right," Harper said, staring Nathan straight in the eyes and helping pull the end into the room, and held it up for him to take. "You've got to go first. Help Calvin out, and I'll follow down right after."

Before Nathan could argue back, a loud crunch splashed out from the other side of the room. They snapped their eyes over just in time to see a gray-skinned version of the secretary pop through shoulder-first, caught in a spiderweb of the wooden door's splinters.

The door wasn't as strong as it looked, after all.

Harper turned, panicking just slightly, to Nathan and shoved the tail end of the curtain into his hands. She took the other end, scrambled to one side of the office, and looped the length around a strange, cemented-in sculpture of Buddha (what kind of person had this office, and why on earth did he choose to spend money on this?) about ten feet behind her. She stepped forward purposefully after she fastened it for safety. "If the curtain slips, Buddha here will be your last resort," she said as she took a hold of part of the curtain. "I'll rub his belly for good luck, okay?"

Nathan opened his mouth. "I'm way too heavy for you to--" His eyes caught a glimpse of the secretary, snapping her jaw and snarling as she kept lunging forward to make more progress through the door. He turned back to Harper. "Okay, okay, okay," he said quickly, as he sprinted toward the open window pane, "but you're not getting away with this next time. Next time, I'm going to tell you to go first."

She waved him on. "Hurry!" she snapped. "Get down, now, I'll hang onto you."

Nathan shook his head as he quickly tied the end around his waist, tucked the golf clubs under his arm, and then started to climb down. Harper dug her feet into the ground and tightened her grip on the curtain. Within seconds, the curtain jerked her forward as Nathan hit the length of the curtain. Harper sucked in her breath and locked her knees, immediately regretting offering Nathan an opportunity to go down first. She might not have thought this through, as Nathan was definitely way bigger than she was. As he had attempted to astutely point out. However, there she was, partly aided by the fact that the curtain caught itself roughly over the windowpane, helping slow the descent of the fabric.

Within seconds, Nathan found himself on the same level as Calvin, and tossed the end of the green curtain outside of the window for an easy ascent back up to Harper. "Harper, let's go!" he shouted upward as he did so, peering upward to check on her progress.

Harper's arms felt like jelly. She let her body fly on autopilot as she perched at the window, winding her arms to pull the length upward. The sections of the fabric that had rubbed against the windowpane had taken a serious beating; the ends and the middle were lightly cut and fraying off in long strands. Harper grimaced as she inspected part of the damage. There clearly wasn't much life left in this thing.

A loud metallic bang crashed from the end of the room. Still clutching the curtain, Harper spun around. Her mouth dropped open when she saw a second body come through the wooden door--Ross, the agent, pieces of the chair still sticking sorely out from parts of his chest and face. The desk rumbled and budged just an inch or two in protest of the immense power of their attempt to get through the door.

Harper looked at the Buddha statue, and cringed. *Dear God, Buddha, Vishnu, whatever your name is, please just let this curtain stay around this thing until I'm done,* she mentally pleaded in vain. She was feeling a little desperate.

She stuck one leg over the windowpane, and heard the desk bang again. It had now jumped almost an entire foot away from the door, giving the secretary enough room to consider sliding through the new gap of space and ambling toward the window. Harper let a long section of the curtain go down before her. She'd have to let herself down slowly. She let the length down, tugging it against Buddha when she reached the end. She gripped the slightly-frayed section she'd landed on, and started to step her way outside the window to rappel against the building's outer surface similar to how Nathan and Calvin had done.

Slowly. Slowly. One, two. Holding herself onto the curtain with one hand gripping, the other hand carefully lowering to grasp a new spot. Holding that hand onto the curtain and moving the other one down until it found a new spot to grab. Repeat. Repeat. Slowly. Harper mentally talked herself through the process of lowering down into the window below.

Harper heard a loud crash shot straight out of the window when she was ten feet away from her destination, Nathan standing at the gaping entrance ready to help. The door had given in, and the desk flew forward. She felt a brief bounce on the curtain as the desk was hurled to one corner of the room, colliding itself with the taut green fabric anchored to the statue. Harper froze in place and widened her eyes, briefly trying to work out what to do. Three sets of pallid, splintered, red-spattered hands forced themselves over the windowpane, and three heads took turns peeking down over the edge. Harper couldn't believe it. Their faces were sullen and contused, their eyes were blank and lifeless. At least, that's what she could glean from the brief time she spent staring up in shock.

"Harper, come on! You've got to get down now!" Nathan insisted. He reached out cautiously to work to grip the end of the curtain. "I'll stabilize you. But you've got to get down!" he repeated.

She snapped out of her fascination with the figures above and focused on one-two'ing her way down to safety. Seconds later, Nathan helped pull her onto the stable floor and grabbed her hand as the three rushed through the door to the hallway connected to this office. The fire alarms were screaming, and the elevator lights flashed red. No way they could use them.

"Over here!" Calvin called out, spotting the heavy doors leading to the stairwell. Those figures on the camera had been moving so sluggishly that it seemed unlikely that they would be able to enter through the huge metal doors.

The stairwell was, as he'd predicted, empty, with flashing white lights and a muffled, buzzing version of the shrieking fire alarm. Calvin led the way down and onto the ground level. "So, uh, Ross gave me a ride today, so, uhh," Calvin said as he peered through the small window of the door, "a little help? I remember seeing you guys take a van here."

Nathan reached into his pocket and pulled out a jangly set of keys. "We'll give you a ride," he said as he handed a golf club to Harper. "But first, we've got to get through this hallway."

Harper looked through. She could see the van through the glass-faced lobby. She remembered being so excited that the two-hour spot was open right in front of the building--good parking wasn't easy to find. She shifted her eyes toward the inside of the lobby. Two slow men were hovering toward the elevators. Nobody was outside, at least that she could see. "See them?"

She moved aside so that Calvin and Nathan could peek through. Nathan turned to him. "Okay, so... you're fast," he said, "I'll give you the keys. Open up the back door. I'm following you guys."

Harper shook her head. Nathan shook his head back. "No, no, you're going second," he said quickly, "not first, and not last. You follow behind Calvin, and I won't be far behind you."

One-by-one, the three quietly moved from the door to the lobby entrance. Calvin dashed ahead, thrusting the keys into the lock, pulling the doors open, and jumping in. He waited for Harper, perching at the edge of the van floor. Harper fleeted her way through the lobby, holding her golf club ahead of her, also eluding the two lurching men. She made her way out to the van door, and accepted Calvin's hand, pulling her up and inside.

Nathan's entrance into the lobby yielded different results; the two caught noticed of him, and started to stumble toward him. He whipped his golf club in front of him, hoping to scare them off. Nope. They just kept coming, with no fear whatsoever of the slashing stick. Nathan whipped it ahead again as he stepped backwards, this time connecting with one of the figure's left shoulder. A clean chunk careened through the air. No scream of pain, no wincing--the figure kept coming forward. Unexpected.

Nathan dropped his club and made a run for it. He threw himself in the back of the van and jumped inside, pulling the huge doors shut behind him. Calvin slapped the keys into his hand. Nathan rushed up to the front seat, started the ignition, and tore off.

Calvin stuck around in the back while Harper buckled herself in in the front passenger seat. He watched nervously as Nathan shifted gears and the vehicle spun into a higher speed, weaving around cars that lay still in the street. Traffic began to pick up once they hit the freeway as they ventured further into the city—but it was nothing like the outbound lanes.

Harper tried her cell phone again. "This is absurd," she said with flat frustration. "I can't get a signal. I have no clue what's going on."

Nathan reached out a hand and slapped the radio function on the dashboard. Harper tuned the dial until she found a station that wasn't overcome by static.

"... if you're hearing this, we advise you to stay in your homes and lock the doors. Let no one inside, not even if they say they know you..."

Harper looked to Calvin, who looked back with the same puzzled expression that she had. Nathan's eyes got bigger, but he kept his head turned forward to keep an eye on the street.

After ten minutes' worth of dire, scary radio, they arrived at WEND. It was by lucky chance that Ross' office had not been far away.

"Nathan, did you record with the dash cam?" Harper asked as Nathan put the van in "park."

"You bet," he answered squarely, "I'll snag the SD card and bring it in."

Harper turned back to Calvin. "This is where I work. I think we should be safe here."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


Harper took the lead as the trio sprinted to the front door of the station. By the time they reached the door, she already had her keycard in her hand, ready to swipe. Her hand stopped mid-way to the scanner as she peered through the porthole windows in the door and saw stacks upon stacks of equipment and metal cases piled high in some sort of desperate makeshift barricade, blocking them from entering. Whoever had set it up was likely still inside. And safe.

"Huh..." Harper muttered out loud. Clearly, she wasn't expecting to find herself on this side of the fortification. It only figured that they weren't the first ones to try and head through the front of the building. Nathan arrived at the door last, panting heavily. Harper turned to him. "They plugged the entrance," she said, gesturing for him to take a look. Calvin kept his eyes alert, scanning the darkness around them for any signs of movement. They had passed through a gated parking lot to reach the station, and he silently prayed that they had slipped in unnoticed. On the drive over, they had seen everything from lifeless bodies in the street to rampaging looters, demolishing storefronts and taking anything their arms could carry. Looting flat-screen TVs seemed to be an odd priority as the world was burning down around them, but who was he to judge... he had four different 3D TVs in his loft.

"What about the service door?" Nathan asked, bringing Calvin's attention back to the matter at hand. Harper's eyes lit up at the suggestion, and she bolted towards the back of the building. There were fewer lights on this side of the building for some reason, so they proceeded cautiously. The road began to slope down into a loading dock next to the service door, the last two viable options for getting into the building. Nathan lifted the chained rope for Harper and Calvin to pass under before ducking through himself. Again, Harper ran to the door and, card in hand, swiped again. A small LED light flashed briefly from red to green, and Harper pulled the handle of the door, swinging it open. "Thank God..." Nathan exclaimed, passing through first. He flashed a beaming grin and turned back to the two of them. "If that hadn't worked I'd have totally driven the van straight through the--"

"LOOK OUT!!" Calvin screamed, pointing past Nathan's head. A figure had emerged from behind the lockers and was charging up behind him, fast. Luckily, Harper had already been fumbling around for the light switch and hit it just in time to... well... shed some new light on the situation. The fluorescent bulbs flickered to life above them, revealing a disheveled man in a tattered suit poised with a bat in his hands. A flash of recognition and relief danced across his eyes as he saw who the intruders were.

Harper gave a sigh of relief. "Damnit, Chuck. You scared the hell out of us..."

The newscaster lowered the bat. "Harper?" He buckled over, hands on his knees. "Holy shit. I thought you were-- you guys scared the shit out of me. Christ... We thought you guys were gone." He took a few deep breaths to try to gain his composure.

Nathan clapped his hand on the man's shoulder. "Good to see you too, Chucky."

Chuck jerked a thumb towards the stairs behind him. "Steve's gonna want to see you, Harper."

She nodded and turned to Nathan. "Grab the van and get it in the garage. It might be our only means of getting out of her if we need to, so stock it up with whatever you can. You got that SD card?" He rummaged around his pockets, roaming for the card, and eventually tossed it to Harper who gave the two of them one last glance before heading up the stairs.

Chuck picked up his bat and offered it to Calvin by the handle. "I think you might need this..."

Calvin accepted the weapon and looked at Nathan, who signaled that he was good to go. As Chuck retreated up the stairs, the two of them ducked back out the service door and headed for the van. The constant wail of sirens and calamity around the city seemed closer now, oddly. Calvin was no stranger to the occasional blaring siren, having lived in Los Angeles for the last eight years, but this was something different. Something worse. The ferocious roar of helicopter rotors soared over the parking lot as a military chinook flew close overhead, followed by another. Calvin could faintly make out the shapes of the soldiers hanging from it's frame and wondered whether they had any better idea of what was happening. Somehow he doubted it. The two men continued to keep low as they hustled to the van. Other cars sat vacantly in the parking lot offering poor visibility of their surroundings, and they approached cautiously as they neared their vehicle.

"I think we're good," Nathan whispered as he looked around. Calvin stayed close behind him as they ducked behind a nearby Ford Focus before their final approach towards the van.

And then they saw them...

Several dark silhouettes slowly shambling through the parking lot from the way they came in. Calvin's heart leapt to his throat as he grabbed Nathan's shirt and threw him to the ground behind an adjacent car. "Shit," Calvin cursed quietly, "we've got company."

Nathan hugged the rear side of the car and peaked over to see what Calvin was talking about when suddenly somebody's hulking frame slammed against the car window from inside. Nathan jumped back, losing his footing and falling backwards into another parked car. The keys that were in his hand skittered across the ground, sliding to a stop behind the wheel of a nearby Harley. Instantly, Nathan's collision triggered the car's alarm, triggering a chain reaction across the parking lot. Painfully loud beeps, boops, and faux sirens echoed back and forth between the sea of cars, alerting every walker within a mile radius... if not further. From inside the Ford, the walker smeared its bloodied face back and forth across the window, gnashing its teeth at the two of them like a caged animal. "Shit, shit, shit..." Nathan repeated as he scrambled across the pavement. Calvin swung his head around, confirming what he feared to be true... dozens and dozens of walkers converging on their position. And fast.

"Get down!" Calvin ordered, pulling Nathan back down to the ground. The two of them sat motionlessly with their backs to the car, each pulsing siren like another nail in the coffin.

"What do we do?" Nathan bemoaned. They were running out of time and they both knew it. Calvin wasn't religious... but he had never prayed so hard for anything in his life. "Nathan..." The cameraman looked at him, panic-stricken. "The keys..."

"H-How...?"

Calvin tightened his grip around the weapon in his hand. "Like a bat out of hell..."

The two of them took off around the car in opposite directions, Nathan heading for the keys, Calvin for the van. Several walkers took notice of Calvin immediately as he approached them, bat in hand. The first opened its mouth in a grotesque snarl as Calvin swung hard at the side of its head. He connected forcefully, nearly knocking the bat out of his grasp, but the walker reeled sideways as it went down for the count. The sound of the blunt impact seemed to incite the surrounding walkers even more as they bee-lined for Calvin. From behind him, he heard the scrape of keys on pavement as Nathan scooped them up from under the motorcycle. Calvin threw a second swing, but was intercepted by the walkers flailing arms, affording him a mere glancing blow off of its body. It let out a bone-chilling scream as it staggered to the side, barely maintaining its balance.

"Behind you!" Nathan shouted out from somewhere amongst the cars. Calvin pivoted in place just in time to see three more walkers funnel in towards the van. They were bunched together so tightly that Calvin couldn't get a good swing in at any of them without hitting the other. One of them reached out for him with two groping arms and Calvin sent the hilt of the bat squarely into the beast's nose, sending him back into the crowd. He swung the weapon a few more times, batting the flailing arms away from him. Nathan had successfully navigated his way to the van and, being the only one without a weapon, started scaling the ladder on the back. The walkers had begun tightly circling them, affording little chance of escape, and Calvin followed Nathan's lead and vaulted onto the front hood of the news van. Nathan had reached the roof and offered Calvin his hand, pulling him up the rest of the way where they both remained barely out of range of the walker's reaching limbs. "What do we do, dude?! There's too many of them!" And he was right. Calvin searched frantically for any opening, anything at all...

And then the idea seemed to come to both of them at the same time as they looked at each other, then down at their feet. They were standing on top of a sun-roof. In a last ditch effort, Calvin flipped the bat around and jammed it through the pane of glass, shattering it. Nathan lowered himself through into the drivers seat, followed by Calvin, as the walkers began pawing ferociously at the outside of the van, filling every window frame with their bloody and maimed visages. Nathan jammed the keys into the ignition and their chariot roared to life. Calvin wiped some of the blood off his face with his sleeve, and looked at Nathan.

"Punch it, Chewie..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Edmund Remington Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins


Steve was waiting for Harper as she rushed to his office, ascending the stairs with Chuck.

He was tall and thin, with salt-and-pepper hair and an air of tension about him wherever he went. Everything had to be done quickly, whether it was ordering coffee, tying his tie, or even a visit to the doctor. At the moment his hair, usually neatly coiffed, was ruffled. He'd removed his suit jacket and rolled up his oxford blue sleeves up around his pointy elbows. He'd long ripped off his tie. His face was lined with concern and fraught with nerves, and his hands were shoved into his pockets.

Harper caught the look on his face the moment she whirled into the newsroom and spotted him standing up straight as a rail in his office door frame. She'd come to appreciate his mannerisms over the months she'd spent at WEND, but this was a look she'd never seen before.

"Hopkins!" he called out from his side of the newsroom, shouting out over the sound of phones ringing. The landlines hadn't gone out yet. "Did McDonald bring b-roll? Evans is looking for it."

She flicked the SD card from their dashcam at the aforementioned editor, who rushed it down to the edit bay to cycle it into the video rotation. Through the large plexiglass window looking into the studio she could see George and Maxine at the desk, shuffling through papers and glancing up at the camera while speaking. They obviously weren't relying on the teleprompter, but instead relying on expedient handing-off of new scripts and snippets of information ferreted from the newsroom. The corner of the studio with the greenscreen reserved for weather was dark. Weather was not the most sought-after topic on tonight's broadcast.

"What's the plan?" she zapped out as she hurried in, dropping her bag on her desk.

"First off, let me just say I'm glad you're here," Steve started. "We had Reeves out there, but we lost the signal with the live truck about an hour ago."

Harper's face drained of its color. "You don't mean--"

"No, I don't know what happened," he interrupted impatiently, "but whatever it is, it isn't good. If he and Ann got out safe, then they're on their way. But we need you up on the roof."

"The sun's down!" Harper interjected furiously, pointing out the window at the dark violet sky. "You've got to be kidding me!"

Steve raised his hands and waved them. "We've got no live truck," he emphasized again, calmer than usual. "You're the only reporter here."

Harper opened her mouth to say something, but stopped. She looked over her shoulder at the newsroom. George and Maxine had been working at the station for at least two decades, but no longer had reporting duties. Producers and editors shuffled their way from desk to desk, answering phones, taking down notes, and typing updates and printing them for submission to the anchors on the desk.

There were zero reporters in this newsroom. Except for her.

Her mouth hung halfway open in shock as she turned back to Steve. Her lower lip quivered uncharacteristically. She wanted to throw up.

"Harper," Steve said slowly. She'd never seen him handle a serious crisis, or heard him call her by her first name, but now she realized that this usually-buzzing character was hired as News Director of a top-market station for a reason: he was cool under duress. He moved his forearms in front of him and gently held the sides of her arms, and looked her right in the eyes. "I hired you for a reason. I hired you because I know you'll do what it takes. Get your IFB, grab a mic, and head out on the roof. Schantz is already up on the roof with a camera ready to go."

She stared back, and pulled herself together. She swallowed reflexively and nodded, glancing briefly at the family photos on Steve's office walls. He was keeping it together despite having several reasons to be scared, himself. "You got it, Steve," she responded weakly, and quickly ran to her desk to pull out her earpiece. She fished her compact out of her bag to check her makeup, quickly blotted her face with a bit of foundation and blush, smeared gloss on her lips, and took off for the elevator after snatching her bag from the desk.

The ride up felt like an eternity, the first several seconds that she had in hours where she'd stood still. She wondered if this was happening all over the city. She wondered if this was only happening in L.A., or if it was happening in more places. What about her parents? What about her friends? Her brothers? Her sister? Her grandparents? Were they worried about her like she was worrying about them? She started to think again about Steve's family pictures again.

The elevator door opened the instant that her stomach squeezed into a ball. She looked around for a brief second, found that she was alone, and vomited into the trash can beside the elevator door. She stared at the white wall blankly for a moment to refocus herself, then spat the remnants out of her mouth, yanked a Kleenex from her bag and dragged it across her mouth, then set straight out for the double-doors leading out onto the roof.

She burst through and caught Schantz's eye as she hurriedly paced toward her. Tara Schantz was another photographer, who had always expressed preference for doing rooftop shoots, and had been working at WEND for about four years. "Harp, it's you!" she exclaimed. "Steve just told me to come up here and wait for whoever he could send up. I'm really glad to see you."

Harper tossed her the other end of her IFB, and Schantz tossed her a mic. Schantz plugged the connector into a box by her feet while Harper clipped the lavaliere mic on her shirt collar. She paused for a moment to look over the ledge of the building, up several stories from the ground. Street lights lit the ground sparsely, aided by the glows emanating from buildings. Car alarms blared down from the newsroom parking lot as a vehicle screeched around. On another side of the building, a crowd of people just like the secretary, Ross, and others they'd seen on the road swarmed a red Corvette. In other spots, people who still seemed to possess life about them ran toward buildings, zipping about, some carrying children or helping others limping along. Her heart sank as she thought about what the UCLA Medical Center must have been like at the moment, and what those with the children must be thinking.

"Ready?" Schantz broke in, aiming the camera lens coolly at her face and focusing. She flicked on the camera's light. It seemed as though either she wasn't bothered by the whole thing, or that it hadn't sunk in yet... or she just wasn't going to let any concern cross her face. "They're going to toss to you soon."

Harper's IFB flickered on. Maxine's voice filled her ear.

"Welcome back. You'll notice that the station currently isn't airing advertisements but instead we're airing public service announcements from the United States Department of Homeland Security, urging you to stay in your homes and remain safe. We at WEND-TV are urging you to do the same thing."

George's voice. "One of our reporters made it back to the station and we've got her live on the roof of WEND-TV... Joining us now is Harper Hopkins. Harper, are you up there?"

Harper's eyes shot up to the camera's eye. The way Steve had made it sound, they simply needed someone to tell them what was going on down below. She understood why he sent her up above now. Her brain flexed quickly into the uncomfortable position of being the person in front of the camera being interviewed. "George, Maxine, I'm here," she responded in a conversational manner.

"Harper, describe the day you've had and how you got back."

"Well, the day started out with WEND-TV photographer Nathan McDonald and I heading out to interview Hollywood's Calvin Hawke. While we were there, we encountered a couple of, uh..." her brain scrambled for the right words.

"Walkers," George's voice broke in, "we hear that they're being referred to as walkers."

Without skipping a beat, Harper coolly pressed forward. "Thanks, George. We encountered a few walkers at our interview location and had to leave. We managed to climb out of the building after a Jeep crashed into the side of it and started a fire. We got into our WEND-TV news van and left. We actually brought Mr. Hawke with us. That's the short version of the story."

"Harper," Maxine started, "you came into contact with these walkers. What do you recommend to our viewers that they should do in case they encounter one?"

Harper blinked and felt her stomach jump again. This was heavy, to be making life-or-death recommendations to whoever may be watching. "Well, the best thing to do is to avoid them entirely. If you're in a safe place, stay there and do not risk coming across one at all. That's the first thing. But if you can't stay where you are because you're in a dangerous place, grab something to defend yourself with. A long object like a bat or a golf club might be the best thing. If you have a firearm, even better. You have to keep them away from you. They're very strong. Keep your eyes open and move quickly to where you have to go to be safe. But I really don't recommend moving anywhere unless you absolutely have to."

"WEND-TV's Harper Hopkins, joining us on the station's rooftop," Maxine summarized for those who may have recently tuned in, "Harper, can you describe what's going on around you?"

Schantz plucked the camera off of its heavy tripod, and Harper moved along to step toward and gesture at the street. Schantz pointed the camera downward as Harper spoke off-camera. "Obviously there are walkers out on the streets, and people who are working to scramble to a safe place," she narrated. "You can see cars through the streets. Walkers are coming after the cars. What you're seeing now really ought to show you why you need to stay indoors and out of harm's way-"

"Harper, can we rely on you to stay up on the roof and provide us with updates from time to time?" Maxine interrupted quickly. "We've got a few new breaking news updates."

The camera turned back to Harper. "Sure thing," she responded politely, "back to you, Maxine and George."

# # #

Down in the studio, Steve himself handed a paper to George, only his hand and shoulder visible on viewers' televisions. George popped his eyes on and off the sheet and the camera as he read through the updates.

"We're getting reports that traffic is at a standstill on all outbound lanes. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the State of California, and the Los Angeles Police Department highly recommend that you stay in your homes. All medical centers and hospitals are asking media outlets to spread the word that no more emergency patients are being accepted at this time and all ambulances are occupied."

He continued to sputter off news updates from the sheets, inwardly panicking at having to read these unbelievably grim sentences.

# # #

Nathan shoved his foot down on the gas pedal, burning black marks onto the pavement as the van hurled forward, sending the small crowd of walkers throwing themselves on the hood of the van reeling backwards. Nathan grinned at the satisfying crunching noises from below his feet and kept the van on a hard trek forward. He flipped down the driver's seat visor and jammed his thumb on the garage door opener, whirling the van toward the opening door.

Calvin's eyes were flashing giddily as the vehicle pulled into the safe bay. Nathan quickly thumped the button again in order to hasten the door's closing. The thick, heavy metal doors careened down steadily as walkers stumbled toward them, closing just in time to keep them out.

After the door thudded shut, Nathan leaned back in his seat, looking up at the broken sunroof and laughed hysterically. "HOLY SHIT!" he shouted, "dude, I canNOT believe we just pulled that shit off!"

Calvin let himself laugh for a moment. "You're... you're not kidding," he said, his head spinning. "I wasn't really sure what was going to happen for a bit there."

Nathan opened his door, exited, and beckoned for Calvin to follow. He inspected the outside of the van... messy bloody prints were everywhere. The smell was horrendous. Nathan stopped in his tracks when he noticed a series of long scratches, peeling the paint off in messy chips. A fingernail was embedded into the end of the trail. He let out a sigh of relief for being on the inside, and not on the outside again with them.

The stairwell ended up being safe after keying in. They hustled up the stairs and entered the newsroom. Nathan nodded to the other staff in there, about eight that he could spot.

"Nathan." Charlie waved his hand at the pair, standing beside a tall, handsome man with glasses who looked extremely uncomfortable.

Nathan stared at the stranger briefly. "Who's Mr. Cool, over here?" he asked quickly.

"Nathan, this is my nephew, Edmund." Nathan reached out to shake Edmund's hand. "He came here because it's safe."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins 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)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


The sound of running water was the only thing Calvin could hear as he ran his hands over his face. It had felt like forever since he had had a bit of peace and quiet. Bloody streaks swirled around the porcelain sink and down the drain. Calvin tore a few paper towels from the dispenser and patted his face dry, staring for a moment at his tired eyes in the mirror. The automated faucet stopped itself, and a gentle silence hung over the bathroom as he just stared. The eyes looking back at him weren't the ones he remembered, nor the ones he needed right now -- but sleep was still far away. He wondered where Sarah was and whether she was having better luck. Hopefully she had friends to help her get away because Calvin knew there was nothing he could do to help her now. If there was time, he would come back for her... but it just wasn't safe to stay in the city any longer.

Calvin stepped out into the hallway, brushing his hands dry on his shirt. Nathan leaned against the wall with a couple bottles of water. He tossed one to Calvin and twisted his own open, taking a long nice pull from it. "Thanks," Calvin said, opening his. Nathan chugged the last of his water and executed a hook shot into the trash can at the end of the hall. The empty plastic bottle ricocheted off the rim into the waste bin with a clunk.

"What a crazy day," Nathan lamented, wiping his face clean. "I wish I knew this was going to happen. I wouldn't have bothered doing my taxes this year."

Calvin choked on his water a bit, laughing. "I'm sure there's worse regrets than being a good taxpayer," he mused. Nathan shrugged and started down the hallway. Calvin followed as the two of them entered the tiled floor break room. Motion-sensored fluorescent lights flickered to life above them. On top of the fridge in the corner, a small TV showed Harper on the roof mid-report. The camera slowly surveyed the cityscape, trails of billowing smoke reaching up to the sky in what looked to be a city in flames.

"There's a career-maker," Nathan said as he tossed Calvin a bag of chips from the snacks shelf.

"Probably more of a career-ender really..." Calvin replied, pulling the bag open. He put on a voice: "I'm Harper Hopkins, signing off from the end of the world."

Nathan swung his leg over a chair nearby, saddling it as he dug into a jar of peanut butter with his finger. He licked his thumb clean and jerked it at the television. "You think she's gonna be OK?"

Calvin crunched down on a chip. "Who, Harper?"

"She was kind've quiet on the drive back."

"We all were," Calvin said, thinking. "She's probably just trying to make sense of this like anybody else. She may actually be doing better than we are. Harper's had experience with this kind of thing, after all, working out in the field like she has."

Nathan looked back at the TV at her. "I guess you're right..."

Calvin saw the look in his eyes as he watched the reporter do her thing. Whatever it was, there was something there -- something in that look.

"What about you," he started, "are you alright?"

Before Nathan could answer, his eyes widened at something on the screen. Calvin turned to look just in time to see Harper's camera operator swing around to focus on a truck careening through the parking lot towards the station. The two of them took off sprinting towards the garage to receive the incoming survivors. As they burst through the main floor, Nathan grabbed Chuck and one of the nearby assistants to help. The four of them tore down the stairwell and into the garage. Nathan immediately hit the button for the door as the rest of them scrambled to find weapons nearby. Chuck grabbed hold of his old bat, while Calvin acquired a crowbar from a shelf nearby. The automatic door began winding up into the roof as the sounds of chaos spilled in from outside. Screeching tires preceded the truck as it suddenly came spinning into view from around the corner. A couple of walkers clung desperately to its frame as it came barreling towards the garage. An older man was behind the wheel, gripping it for dear life as he fought control. A couple of men stood in the bed of the truck attempting to knock off the clinging monsters. Calvin retreated a few steps out onto the loading dock as he waved his arms to flag down the incoming survivors.

"On your left, Calvin!" Nathan shouted out from somewhere behind him. Calvin turned to see a handful of walkers stumble down onto the main portion of the ramp beside him. He felt the others at his back as he approached the first of them. He jabbed the straight end of the crowbar through the forehead of the closest walker, its body crumpling into a heap before him. Nathan came flying into sight next to him, driving a screwdriver into the temple of his assailant as the others swung their weapons wildly at the remaining walkers, warding them back away from the door. The truck cruised between the railings, laying on its horn loudly. Calvin hugged the railing as the truck skidded to a stop behind the news van. Once they were clear of the door Nathan hit the button again, sliding it closed. A rogue walker fell loose from the truck and tumbled to the ground in front of them. One of the men in the back of the truck hopped down beside the creature and plunged what appeared to be a fire poker into the back of its head. The man twisted the weapon free from the back of the walker's head and wiped it clean on his pant leg.

The other guy, a black man in a beret, jumped down from the bed of the truck and clapped a hand on Calvin's shoulder. "Thanks for the assist, man." Calvin nodded as he passed, eyeing the rest of the group as they exited the truck. The cab door opened up and a small girl stepped down. She was quickly pushed out of the way by the older man who had been driving. He reached into the front seat and began pulling out a fifth member of their group. Another young girl, this one maybe 18 or 19, fought back tears as they moved her carefully. She put her arms around the black guy and the man with the fire poker as they lifted her from the truck, and it became apparent to that she was severely injured and still bleeding.

"God damnit, get her upstairs!" the old man shouted at the two of them. Nathan gestured for them to follow him as he ran ahead. Calvin followed behind as the group of survivors burst into the newsroom loudly. Someone shouted out an order to clear some space as they set the girl down gently onto one of the desk. The girl screamed bloody murder as they struggled to keep her in place.

"Jack," the old man shouted at the guy with the fire poker, "get us some towels -- something to stop the bleeding!"

"C'mon--" Nathan said, motioning at the messy-haired man to follow him. The two raced off down the hallway as Calvin took the man's place lending his hands to help the flailing girl. In the corner of the office, the little girl watched silently as she hugged her little stuffed panda to her face.

"What happened?" Calvin asked.

The old man shot a look his way. ”She was attacked by one of those damned things." He explained, applying more pressure to the girl's neck. "Would've torn her right out of the car if we didn't get out of there like we did..."

"It's the little one's babysitter. We found them in a grocery store." The black man went on to explain. "I'm Wayne, by the way... this here is James. The kid is Lily." Calvin nodded to them. "And this here is Amber, I think." He finished, looking down at the injured girl.

"Not for long she isn't... where are those damned towels?" James growled.

He dabbed at the bleeding wound with the collar of her shirt, revealing more of it to Calvin. He could distinctly make out deep bite marks around her collar bone. It had already turned a nasty greenish-purple and begun swelling. "One of those things did this?" Calvin wondered aloud. Whatever these creatures were, they were not to be underestimated. He had seen the damage they could do, not to mention the damage they could take. If they were to do anything else, they were going to need to arm themselves or they wouldn't last long. Calvin looked into the eyes of the poor girl on the table and saw her eyes fluttering, desperately clinging to consciousness -- he feared there would be more blood shed before the day was over.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins 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: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins


Nathan dashed down to the stairs to the photographers' floor, where a large set of lockers and even showers hung off via a hallway from the main room. Jack wasted no time behind him, cycling his legs down the concrete staircase.

He'd only just landed in L.A., and this was the kind of greeting he'd gotten upon his long-awaited return. It had been a surprisingly uneventful arrival; calm flight, calm disembarkment, calm afternoon and night... but not a calm late morning, when his plans were interrupted by a lousy, ghoul-faced tourist in sandals who thought it would be a great idea to bust his door down. One broken lamp and a short car ride later, he found himself clutching his pistol, hiding behind a dumpster not far from the Los Altos Apartments on Wilshire Boulevard.

Nathan skittered to the lockers and snagged a hold of the stash of spare towls. "Here, man, thanks," he said as he tossed two rolled towels to him, then plucked the first aid kit from a higher shelf. "Let's head back up."

Jack said nothing as he continued to keep pace with the tall blond-headed jock with the vest. Now wasn't the time to ask or answer any questions.

Nathan burst through the door to the newsroom and came upon the scene--Steve Hilpin and the old man arguing, while the girl continued to bleed on the desk. The news director looked as though he was having far better luck at containing his frustration, while the old man's face was burgundy as he pointed to the desks. The little girl gripped her panda for dear life and the producers and editors buzzing in the newsroom stood nervously, unsure of what to do.

"Sir, we can appreciate your position, but, once again, we need those desks to do work," Steve insisted firmly.

"Goddammit!" James fumed. Calvin was still perched next to the girl, gripping her white-knuckled hands as she dug her nails into her own palm to brace against the pain. "What 'job' are you doing, staying on the airwaves so your coporate shill ratings will go through the roof??" he demanded.

"People are depending on us to give them information on how to survive," Steve responded immediately. "There is no handbook on how people can work through this."

"Hey!" Calvin interjected, "we're wasting time!" He, Jack, and Nathan were working together furiously to press and hold the towels straight onto the girl's gaping neck wound. James abandoned the argument and joined in, providing a fourth pair of hands in holding her shoulders down as she started to shake vigorously, her body in shock due to the blood loss she'd sustained by that point.

# # #

"Clear," Schantz piped after the newscast's director buzzed into her ear to let her know the broadcast was wrapped. "George and Maxine want to talk to you."

Harper nodded as the two started to pepper her ear. "Next time pick it up a little, Harper," Maxine's voice edged up, making a poor attempt at covering her needless criticism with sappy sweetness. "You look like you haven't slept in days."

Harper rolled her eyes. "Wow, Maxine, you try having the afternoon we had," she shot back flatly. She pulled off her blood-flecked jacket, the warm night air and her nerves starting to become uncomfortable. She smoothed out her gray summer cotton slacks and re-clipped her mic to her lavender-purple tank top.

Maxine huffed. "You have no idea," she said, "one of them came at us when we were downstairs in the lobby coming in to work. Chuck smashed it in the head with a baseball bat. You have no idea, Harper, how awful that was!"

Harper rolled her eyes. "We'll talk, Maxine," she said dismissively, finding the idea of being lectured by the nearly-geriatric plastic surgery addict about who had the worse experience with walkers quite repulsive.

"Hey, Harper," George broke in. "We're sitting on the desk and... whoa, a bunch of people just came in... they've got this gir--WHOA. She's bleeding!?" George's voice was usually smooth and contained, but now it sounded startled and scared. "They've put this girl on the desk. Harper, she's bleeding. Two people running away--Steve and this old man are starting to get real mad at each other... Whoa, Maxine, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she insisted, clearing her throat a little. "My eye's itchy, that's all."

"Actually," the newscast director broke in, "Maxine, you look sweaty. Are you hot under the lights?"

"No, no," Maxine snipped in. "I'm feeling fine. Just fine. In fact, I'm actually a little cold." She cleared her throat again.

"We've been sitting here for five hours and you haven't gotten up once," George stated. "But in the last few minutes your eye's gotten really red."

"What?!" she exclaimed. A moment of silence over the earpiece as she clicked open her mirror compact. "Jesus! I've got to cover this up!" A rustle of activity as she forked her way through her portable makeup bag that she kept pegged behind her chair in case of on-air makeup emergencies.

"On again in 30," the director spoke calmly, "can you do this, Maxine?"

"Of course I can," she retorted back. She cleared her throat.

"Schantz, Harper, standby. George and Maxine, stand by."

# # #

Nathan breathed a sigh of relief as the bleeding seemed to stop beneath the pile of soppy towels. He kept his blood-soaked hands on his corner of the towel to continue to apply pressure, not daring to lift his hands.

The staff who had been staring wide-eyed at the scene while phones continued to ring off the hook were on the receiving end of a very harsh stare from Steve. They immediately set about going back to their work. Calvin stood up, catching the glimpse of the petrified little girl standing all by herself. He smiled tepidly, a sudden thud of guilt pounding his head about her having to see all this unfold right in front of her. He looked down at his bloody hands. Not exactly the most reassuring-looking person in the room.

James rose and turned back to look at Steve. The news director glared and shook his head. "Hey, sweetheart, I've got coloring books in my office," he said to the girl, beckoning for her to enter his glass-paned office. He walked over slowly to her and started to help her along. Calvin watched as Steve quickly set her at his desk and pulled out a box of coloring books. Clearly, he must have been a parent.

Calvin looked through the window to the studio and noticed that the older, platinum-white-haired woman at the desk was raising a fist in front of her while coughing frequently. Her left eye was looking red and swollen; several minutes before, he hadn't taken notice of that detail when he'd first entered the room. "Is that the green room over there?" Calvin asked out loud to the staff. A few nodded toward the direction of a black door beside the studio. "All right. I'm getting that lady some eyedrops. She looks like she could use them."

Nathan and Jack remained with the prone girl breathing raspily on the desk. In front of them a television monitor played the broadcast, rolling back and forth between the two anchors on the desk and Harper up on the roof. Both men watched, catching bits and pieces of the low audio. "Oh, who's that?" Jack asked casually, his eyes lighting up a little too enthusiastically for Nathan's liking. "She's on the roof?"

Nathan looked sidelong at him, a brief pang of irritation coming out in his facial expression. "No one you need to know," he retorted quietly.

Jack raised an eyebrow. He'd not known this guy for twenty minutes and already found a trigger. "Geez, sorry, didn't realize she was already taken," he responded, knowing how he sounded every ounce like he'd intended to provoke the defensive younger man.

"It's not like that," Nathan blasted back sharply. "Seriously, don't even tal-"

"Uhh, guys," Calvin broke in. He hadn't even entered through the door to the green room when he saw the older lady pass out on the desk, hitting her nose head-on. He watched as George cast his eye quickly to her, and Harper came on the monitor suddenly to cover the brief interruption caused by the commotion.

"Shit," Nathan muttered as he saw Maxine's head thunk down. In all the year's he'd worked at WEND, he'd never seen Maxine sick, weak, or with a stitch out of place. Instead, he knew her as being a ragingly disconnected old bat who took vacations when sweeps weren't in effect. Now she was a ragingly disconnected old bat burying her face in a hard, shellac'ed surface.

Nathan watched George jump visibly after Harper signed on, who worked hard to disguise her nerves as she no doubt heard the commotion in her earpiece. He mouthed something to Maxine, who didn't respond. George reached over to shake her, and she fell heavily off of the desk. George's hands clasped to his mouth in shock as he let out a yell. The newcast director's voice blared out over the newsroom's PA system. "Steve, everyone, we've got an emergency," the voice smoothly but tensely called out. "Maxine's not breathing."

Next to him, Jack jumped just slightly. "Hey, guys, she's not doing so good," he nervously barked. "She's not breathing..."

Nathan snapped his eyes downward and watched as the girl's jaw slacked open. He lifted his hands up and watched for a moment. This was the second dead girl in one day. He stared for just a second.

It was then that he remembered what had happened to the secretary. Without even thinking, he swept his arms out and pulled Jack back as teeth clicked up viciously toward them. Jack reflexively whipped his fire poker out from a spot on the desk in front of him and slashed it down on her torso. Nathan jumped back and watched helplessly as she leapt from her spot, having turned her attention on a producer just feet away who felt like he'd been on hold for hours.

It was then that Maxine also sprang into life, almost in a reanimated fashion. George sprang from his seat, forgetting that he was leashed to his desk via the IFB in his ear and the lapel mic clipped onto his suit jacket. He tugged back sharply, and lost his footing and fell off of the raised platform the desk was mounted on. Through the window, one could see him grasp at his ankle after he hit the ground, his other hand trying to yank his earpiece out of his ear. Maxine darted over the desk rapidly.

The director's voice came over the PA system again. "Guys, Maxine's attacking George."

"Jesus Christ!" Wayne shouted in bewilderment as he backed away from the commotion.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins 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: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


It was like somebody had flipped a switch and all hell had broken loose. Calvin watched as several WEND employees abandoned their cameras and desks, frantically running for the exits, as if outside was going to give them any reprieve. A scream rang out behind him as the once-dying babysitter lunged over a nearby worker. Jack's fire poker dangled from her chest like some sort of weird fashion accessory as she chomped down on her victim's shoulder. Calvin had a brief remembrance of watching preying mantis hunt and trap food in the grass behind his house when he was younger. Though much more graceful and infinitely less terrifying, the approach and execution were nearly identical.

To Calvin's left, Harper's head director, Steve, took refuge behind his large oak desk with the little girl, trying to get out of sight. Jack had dropped the rest of the towels and scrambled to find his footing as he ran back into Nathan. Another scream... this one from in front of Calvin. He turned just in time to see a cloud of papers float through the air as the lead anchorman was set upon by his co-anchor. Calvin turned and locked eyes with Nathan, the only guy in the room he knew he could rely on -- and no words were spoken. They knew what they needed to do.

Nathan took off first, heading for the stairs to the rooftop accessway. He bolted right past Chuck, who clutched his wooden bat for dear life, unsure of how to help. Jack gestured at Nathan as he ran off. "Where the hell is he going? We've got to get out of here!" he shouted.

"Back to the truck, GO!" Wayne called out, grabbing Jack by the sleeve. The two of them raced down the staircase towards the garage, without hesitation.

Calvin went for the office, nearly pulling the glass door from its frame. "Steve, we've gotta go!" he shouted, "grab the girl." The two peeked out from behind the desk.

"I'm not abandoning this office," he said, gripping his chair.

Calvin narrowed his eyes. "Do you really want to die here? It's not the time to be honorable, it's time to survive."

The office director gulped, and looked at the little girl. He looked past Calvin at the chaos unfolding all around the newsroom. With all the glass windows it felt like he was inside some kind of fishbowl. He turned to the girl. "C'mon, stay close to me."

They retreated out from under the desk and lined up beside the door behind Calvin. He peered through the blinds out at the newsroom floor, measuring what they were up against. Calvin suddenly recognized the feeling of cold steel against his lower back and remembered the pistol had taken from Ross' office. He pulled it from his waistband and checked it to confirm what he already knew: there were two bullets left. Calvin handed his crowbar to Steve, who took it reluctantly. "Aim for the head," he advised, "and do whatever you have to to keep that girl alive."

The man nodded his understanding, and Calvin pulled the glass door open by the handle. The cacophony from outside the office spilled in, as Calvin's heart began to beat faster. Nobody was going to call cut if he missed his mark here. There were no do-overs or re-takes. He couldn't afford to screw up now. There were too many people counting on him.

As they stepped out of the office, Calvin shielded the other two with his back, aiming the revolver at the babysitter and her first victim. She had taken a nice piece of the WEND employee's face off during the assault, but enough of it remained to turn and see Calvin. It's hulking frame rounded on Calvin, oblivious to anything around it as it stumbled towards him. The girl noticed too, growling with anticipation as she shambled behind.

Nathan still hadn't returned from the roof with Harper. He knew it would be a deathtrap to follow after them, but they were running out of time. The two newscasters and a couple of their camera crew had already broken through the partition to the studio, dragging their bloodied bodies across tables of equipment and soundboards.

Steve hugged the girl close to him as he rushed towards the stairwell to join the others. Calvin backed towards the door, stretching his neck to see if there were any other survivors on the floor, but all he could make out were the droning walking corpses of his undead pursuers. He stood defiantly in the doorway, unwilling to closer the door... knowing full well he'd be closing out any hope of Nathan and Harper getting back safely.

The first walker was within arms reach now as it groped the air trying to get ahold of Calvin. He leveled the revolver at its head and placed his finger over the trigger. Two bullets wasn't a lot, though, and it seemed like a waste. Cursing to himself, he holstered the gun and drew out the pair of scissors he had swiped earlier. Calvin launched himself at the babysitter, driving the blade through her temple and kicking her to the floor. He composed himself barely in time to receive the next assailant, but the walker tripped over the babysitter's corpse and latched itself onto Calvin's pants. The two of them stumbled backwards to the floor with a crash. The walker snarled and snapped its teeth, ferociously, clawing at Calvin with its sharp nails. He kicked and kicked at it trying desperately to separate himself from the walker's clutches, and eventually gained some traction on the ground. Calvin scuttled towards the stairwell using the doorknob handle to pull himself up. He felt the tug of something at his leg and looked down to see that he was partially entangled in the walker's headset.

A thought suddenly crossed Calvin's mind as he grabbed hold of the mic and earpiece and rolled through the doorway. Steve slammed the door shut behind him, blocking any other walkers from entering the stairwell. The little girl watched precociously from a few steps further down. The old man helped Calvin to his feet, and brushed him off. "Close one..."

"You're tellin' me..." Calvin said between breaths. He lifted the headset to his ear and called out, hoping to god that the lifeline to his only friends would somehow come through. "Harper? It's Calvin? Do you read me?"

Silence. And then-- her voice.

"Calvin?"

"Harper! Are you guys alright?"

He could hear the wind blaring against her mic. "We're stuck on the roof," she began, "Maxine and some of the others are blocking the stairwell and we don't have any weapons up here."

Calvin closed his eyes, silently cursing to himself. Steve took the girl by her shoulders and started to lead her down to the garage. As the pair stepped through the door, Calvin could make-out loud voices coming from inside. "There's even more of them down in the newsroom. Steve and I and some of the others made it to the garage..."

Her voice cracked slightly as she said, "We're separated?"

"Looks like it," he said as he ran his hand through his hair. It seemed to be one thing after another. Every person, every minute, a new obstacle. "Sit tight. I'll think of something."

Calvin plugged the earpiece into his ear and jogged the rest of the way down the stairs. He had a feeling he was about to step into a whole different shit show.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins



Nathan burst out of the stairwell door, rushing as he burst out onto the rooftop and met Harper and Schantz mid-shoot. Harper did her best to not look terrified as she regurgitated statements that had been thrown out by George and Maxine earlier.

He looked over to the small metal "hangar" housing the news department's traffic chopper, operated in conjunction with a radio station's traffic service. The station's pilot for the day had stayed out of the way of the broadcast, preferring to keep in touch on the emergency radio and look over the edge of the roof on occasion.

Harper kept talking. Schantz kept filming. Nathan headed over to the pilot to ask what was going on up there; the pilot informed him that all aircraft were encouraged to stay out of the air and stay safe on the ground if there was no immediate emergency situation. The station's location in West Hollywood was headlong through massive looting and carnage, but not nearly as bad as downtown L.A. or the residential neighborhoods.

At some point, Harper stopped talking. Schantz looked up from her camera. Their newscast director had abandoned the booth and was screaming within earshot of his microphone.

There was no broadcast.

Schantz smushed the "record" button off and stood back from the camera. "Hey, anybody there?" she asked into the channel, hoping desperately that someone had taken the a portable headset that connected to the frequency.

Harper frowned, then glanced at Nathan talking to the pilot. He'd come back to check on them, after whatever had happened downstairs. That was awfully considerate of him.

"Nathan!" she called out, gesturing him over to her as she picked up the cords coming from her earpiece and mic. "What happened down there?"

He left the pilot to monitor his radio and rushed to her, standing in front of both her and Schantz. "Okay, here's the deal," he said, raising his hands in front of him. "Maxine's dead." The two women's jaws dropped. "And that's the good news. The bad news is, these other people came in the newsroom and brought some dying girl with them. We tried to help her, but she started to go crazy, bit a few people... Maxine did the same thing. Except she was in the studio. She totally ate George's face."

"What do we do?!" Schantz asked anxiously. "We can't stay here. We've got to go."

"Come on, you guys have to follow me back down," he said to them quickly.

A loud bang came from the area of the elevator and stairwell. Through the windows of the metal door they could see Maxine's bloody face and smashed nose, ahead of a few other similar faces. On their side, smooth doorknobs made opening the door harder than a handle or push-lever would have. Wrenching hands punched the metal by the glass.

Safe, for now.

"Nathan, there's no way I'm following you that way," Harper said after a brief moment of surprise.

The channel fizzled to life when Calvin buzzed them via the other portable headset. After the quick exchange, the four communed close to the helicopter.

"Okay," Harper said, calmly looking at the pilot, "we're going to need to leave the roof. You're going to take us."

The pilot nodded. "Yep, I can," he said immediately, "but this is a small chopper. Can't hold much more weight."

"That's all right," Harper answered quickly, "we don't have much up here to carry down. This is the only way out. We need to go to a safe place."

"What about a military base?" Schantz blurted out. "They've got walls. And guns. Lots of guns."

Nathan nodded to Harper. "We went to Seal Beach a few weeks back, remember?" he asked. "It's just south of here. We can fly down that way."

"They'll want to know who we are," the pilot stated calmly, "but I bet lots of people are heading that way."

Harper nodded. "Yes, but they won't have a helicopter. And I see no other way of getting down."

Nathan had to agree with her. There were no ugly green curtains to get them out of a jam this time.

The door banged. Schantz drew in a sharp breath. "Oh shit, oh shit!" she said quickly. She pulled off her headset and handed it to Nathan. "I'm helping the pilot. You, figure it out with the others." She took off with the pilot to help with flight prep, something she'd done what had felt like a million times before.

Nathan jammed the headset on and clicked to talk to Calvin. "Yo, Calvin, mind grabbing some gear out of lock number 56? I've got my favorite tripod and metal bat in there," he called out. Harper made a few numbers with her hands. "Oh, and Harper's is number 40. Just bash the locks, don't worry about combos. Open all the lockers and take what's there if you want. I'll take the flak if this whole thing's a joke."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins 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: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


If this was some kind of joke, Calvin didn't want to be around for the punchline.

He stepped out of the coolness of the stairwell into the garage. Jack, Wayne, James, and Chuck were heavily engaged in some argument. Steve had taken Lily to the corner and sat her down on a spare tire, trying to distract her. Calvin stepped into the huddle of men to interject.

"What the hell is the problem down here?" he asked in frustration.

Chuck backed up against the control panel to the door, wielding his bat as he tried to fend off the others. Jack circled the newscaster like a prowling cat. The mustached man, thankful of Calvin's return, tried to appeal to him in his moment of need. "They were trying to open the door and let in every one of those drooling freaks from outside!" Chuck shouted. "They'll compromise the entire station."

Jack thrust a finger at the bumbling man. "Compromise? Did you see what just happened up there? You already lost the station."

Calvin threw himself between the two of them, pushing them back from one another. Getting under Jack's arms, he was able to get him pinned against the side of the truck. They were now face-to-face, eyes locked. "I don't think we lost anything. I think a some cowboys came riding in and dropped a damn bomb on our lap... that's what I think happened." Jack wrestled himself from Calvin's grasp, glaring at him as he walked away.

"Where are the others?" Chuck asked, quietly.

Calvin shook his head. "I don't know who's left, but some of them are trapped on the roof. I just talked to Harper," he said, tapping his earpiece. He hoped they had figured something out, because he had no idea how he was going to get through to them with the newsroom in the state it was. "Look, we're safe in here, OK? There's no point in rushing off before we've had a chance to talk things out."

Wayne scratched his head, "Alright. What do you have in mind?"

Calvin looked around at the others, face-by-face. "I was thinking about this earlier. We need to get to high ground. Somewhere entrenched... secluded. If there's any chance of us getting rescued, it's going to be from somewhere accessible. We have got to get out of this city before we go down with it."

James, who had been sitting in the truck the whole time, chimed in from behind the wheel. "What are we waiting for then?"

Calvin bit his lip, a bit unsure of how to proceed. He suddenly remembered what Harper had said to him. "There should be some lockers in that storage room over there. Wayne, why don't you take Jack and see what you can find in there," he began, pointing to one side of the room. "Chuck, search the news van for anything useful... see if you can find us some radios." The man nodded and crossed over to the vehicle, sliding the side door open to reveal its cluttered interior. Streaks of bloody handprints still covered most of the panelling from their close call with the walkers earlier.

Calvin ducked his head into the open passenger seat window of the truck. James had lit up a cigarette at some point. He held it in his lips with no hands, puffing away. "James... you uh, keep doing what you're doing."

The man grunted, a plume of smoke billowing out from beneath his stubbled lip. "Mmhmm."

"Steve, can I get your hand over here?" The ex-news director stood up and came over to Calvin. "How's she doing?"

The two of them looked over their shoulders at the little girl on the tire. She had found a loose rock somewhere and was scraping out little chalk drawing on the concrete floor. "Honestly, I don't know," Steve replied. "I haven't heard her say a single word this whole time."

Calvin couldn't blame the kid. "Listen, can you help me rummage through the garage. We're looking for anything that'll help: weapons, tools, food, clothing. Pack it into the truck if you find something." Steve nodded his head and put an arm on Calvin's shoulder.

"I'm glad somebody down here's taking charge."

Calvin shrugged. "I'm nobody's leader..."

"Why not?" Steve asked, lowering his voice. "Seems to me you're just the kind of guy they need right now. A face they recognize. A face they can trust."

The thought was interrupted by Chuck, who sat on the edge of the van grunting as he struggled with some tangled cords of various gadgets and recording equipment. Steve wandered away, beginning to scrounge through different drawers and cabinets for any supplies.

"Why aren't we packing the van?" James asked, sternly.

"We can't take both of these. If they happen to make it back down--" Calvin stopped a second, weighing the chances of that ever happening. "I just don't want to leave them without some way out of here."

Between them all they only had a bat, a crowbar, a knife, some scissors, a gun with two bullets, and a rifle with however much ammunition. They weren't necessarily equipped to throw down, but they could manage. At least they were in greater numbers now. Both a blessing and a curse, really.

Calvin joined in and began scouring the garage for stuff just when his mic chirped from the other side. He put his hand up, adjusting it in his ear for better sound. "Harper? Hello?"

"Calvin..." Her voice sounded a bit thinner now that they were further apart.

"Hey... are you alright?"

"We're fine, listen Calvin... we've got a way off the roof and we've got a plan. Just sit tight, and we'll--"

KSHSHSHSHSSHSHHHhhhhhh

"Harper? Hello? ... Shit."

The feed cut out with a sharp hiss as something loud drowned Harper out on her end. For whatever it was worth, they had found a way to get off that roof. But it sounded like Calvin and the others would be on their own for awhile. That changed things only slightly. Calvin grabbed a small toolbag off of one of the shelves and started packing anything that caught his eye, a wrench, a handsaw, duct tape, wire cutters...

Suddenly, something echoed out in the stairwell. Wayne had just unloaded arms full of gear into the bed of the truck and heard it too. "Did you--"

THUD!

Another one. This one was closer. Wayne and Calvin approached the door, leaning their ears close. The sounds were unmistakeable, as splintering wood signaled the walkers descent down the stairs. Wayne jumped back from the door.

"Shit, you guys, we gotta hustle!"

Everyone in the garage kicked it into overdrive as James keyed the truck's ignition and revved the engine. Jack came jogging out of the storage room with another metal bat and some backpacks jammed full of stuff. He swung them up into the back of the truck and hopped in himself. Lily got into the middle seat next to James and began buckling herself in.

Calvin turned to Chuck and the van. "Guess you're with me. Hit the door and let's go." The newscaster dropped the wires he was working on and threw the equipment back into the van. He ran to the control panel near the garage door and looked back at the others to make sure they were ready. Jack tapped his bat against the side of the truck.

"If you're done pressing my buttons, maybe you can press that one," he offered up, dryly. Chuck tossed him one of the walkies he found in the van and punched the controls as the door rose to reveal the blackened lot outside. James kicked the truck into reverse, tearing back out of the driveway and spinning it around to point the nose the other direction. Calvin started the van and followed, giving one glance at the news station through his side mirror. Every part of him hated leaving Nathan and Harper like this... but they had to do it to survive. On top of the roof he could see the rotors of the news chopper start to spin. He could see Harper and the others climb into it as the gentle hum of the blades grew louder and louder.

Calvin just hoped it wasn't the last time he would ever see them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins


Schantz jammed the tripod in the door's handles as Nathan pinned the door shut. While Harper shut off her IFB channel, the small helicopter started to prep for takeoff, its rotor blades starting to whir centrifugally to life.

Harper ran over to grab her large purse and her jacket that she'd removed earlier. "Harp, those people are STRONG," Schantz called over the noise. "I don't know how long that thing is going to last."

They got their answer when they heard the sharp whine of fast-bending metal. The top-of-the-line, titanium-reinforced tripod was no match for the walkers in the hall as they succeeded in busting the doors off of their secured runnings. A few more good pushes and that thing would crumple out onto the ground.

Schantz ducked under the spinning blades and hurled herself into the seat next to the pilot, motioning for the two to join. Nathan and Harper started to sprint ahead, just as the tripod predictably sprang apart. Maxine and two editors started to break toward them, snarling like vicious primeval predators. Nathan looked over his shoulder as he pushed Harper ahead, shocked that the wild-eyed, messy-haired, thrashing bony walker rushing toward them was so much unlike the old Maxine, slow and dramatic and sour-faced, without a single hair out of place.

Nathan skittered under the helicopter's blades and climbed in. Harper threw her bag ahead into Nathan's hands and made her way inside. A lot easier than they thought it would be. Nathan pulled the small hatch shut seconds before the trio smashed into the side of the chopper, their bodies smashing against the hull. The small craft lifted off of the ground and took off southward to Seal Beach. Harper was glued to the window, observing the fast-moving rush of bodies, face and arms as they got smaller and smaller. "Buckle up!" the pilot attempted to shout over the engulfing noise.

Too late. Harper fell face-first into the wall as the craft banked a hard left to circle off in the correct direction. Nathan, who had already secured himself in the bench seating behind the pilot and Schantz, instinctively pulled her away and close in, wrapping both arms around her waist. She kicked her feet onto the wall to stabilize herself. Nathan pulled her in a little more. She reached a hand up to her face and grimaced as she felt a trickle of blood. "FUCK!" she burst out, the first moment she had shown any sign of real panic in hours. Nathan kept her pulled in as the craft leveled once again, gripping tightly to keep her head up and away from the door or the ceiling. It briefly made him think of the night he met her, after the station welcome party when a group decided to go out on the town. The two danced for what had seemed like hours to Nathan. Very enjoyable hours.

Harper breathed heavily, briefly staring ahead, adrenaline rushing. If she had a reply, Nathan didn't hear it over the noise. He loosened his grip so that she could set herself into her own crash webbing, seated close to him on the bench.

The pilot shouted above the noise once more, knowing full well that not everyone in the craft had a headset to hear him better with. "JUST AHEAD, IT'S SWARMED!"

Harper's jaw dropped as she saw Seal Beach from overhead. The Naval Station stood out sharply, fires blazing off of the customary cookie-cutter buildings littered across the installation. Just off the shoreline a few frigates sat atop the orange water, some spewing flames of their own. One, however, featured people dotting along its surface, broken away about one hundred yards away from the others.

The pilot took a hard dive toward the frigate. Nathan swiped his arm behind Harper and covered her head. Schantz gripped the edge of her seat and turned behind to the two. She mouthed something, but the pilot inexplicably lost control of the craft and suddenly the water was above their heads.

SMASH.

Shutting his eyes, he unbuckled Harper's restraints and set himself free next. The doors had blown their way open. Harper's bag flew off of her, becoming disattached from her shoulder, as she sped kicking for the surface, grabbing Nathan's hand and pulling him up with her.

The four popped their heads above the surface of the water, drifting in a messy spiral thanks to the still-spinning blades as the helicopted submerged further and further beneath the surface of the water. They'd barely missed the frigate.

"HEY!" Nathan managed up to the crew looking over the edge of the floating safe haven, his boundless energy powering the volume of his shout, "A little help?!"

Harper blew the salty water out of her nose and worked her way to Nathan to float beside him. Schantz approached as well, her wet hair matting flat on her head as she struggled to keep above the choppy water. The pilot had started to swim on his way over, but let out a yelp as he was dragged beneath water. He splashed back up. "HELP!" he called out.

"Just swim!" Schantz responded to him. "Just swim over!"

Harper yelped suddenly when she felt a cold, squishy hand grip her heel. "They're in the water!" she screamed, kicking her white flat off along with the walker's hand.

The pilot disappeared back below the water, then popped back up, a raw, salt-rotted face ripping his collarbone to chewed ribbons.

Harper screamed again, feeling some kind of relief when she saw Schantz lift up into the air. She looked over and saw Nathan struggling similarly, kicking his legs down and smushing a face below the surface. "Come here!" he shouted to her as he took a hold of a lowered harness.

Without thinking she flailed her way toward him, the cold blast of Pacific water switching fast into frigid ocean breeze as she sailed into the air. Nathan held her again tight around the waist, very close, and she flung her arms around his neck to stay stable. The next thing she knew, Nathan hurled her over the metal rail aboard the surface of the frigate. She coughed and rolled over on her side, curling into a ball as she caught her breath. Nathan followed suit, flat on his stomach beside her.

Schantz was already up, a blanket draped around her shoulders and holding a bottle of water, standing in front of a small group of assorted sailors and a few others. She stared at them wordlessly, too tired to think.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


"Drive right up onto the trail here..." Calvin chimed through the radio in his hand. James and the others followed closely behind in the truck, kicking up dust as the front wheels jumped the curb onto the dirt path. The idea to head behind the Hollywood Sign came as Calvin watched Harper and the others take off in the helicopter. The bright white letters served as the best beacon while it was lit. Surely others would have the same thought and approach.

They had to.

As Calvin slowed the van to a stop, he was finally able to look over his shoulder at the beautiful vista of Los Angeles. It was usually a jaw-dropping view, but the night's events had cast a gloomy look over it now. Fires burnt brightly in the corners of the city while smoke billowed out into the blackness. Lights of stalled cars shone from the freeways, unmoving and lifeless like the dead that walked amongst them. Calvin stepped out of the car and pocketed the keys, walking back to receive the rest of the group.

James pulled up beside the news van and pulled his parking brake. For the first moment since this had all started, they were finally feeling like they may have found some refuge. Doors opened on both sides of the vehicle as people poured out of the insides and bed of the truck.

"You sure we're safe up here, man?" Wayne asked without delay. The others gathered around Calvin, awaiting an answer.

He nodded, gesturing around him. "I was just up here the other day filming a scene for something, and I remembered them having trouble getting the equipment in because the trail is only accessible from two sides." The others looked around, taking notice. "If we can get a couple of more cars to block the ends, we'll have steep hills and fences at our front and back, plus a view of the city. It's our best bet of getting seen."

"It sounds perfect," Steve declared from the back.

Calvin grinned. "That's because I think it is."

Chuck pushed his way towards the front of the group. "So what now? We have no food, no weapons... nowhere to sleep, other than that filthy truck and the house of wires," he said, jerking his thumb at the news van. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I still feel exposed.

"You're right, Chuck. That's the next plan..." Calvin said, moving over to the van. From inside the glove box, he pulled out a map of the city. "I saw this in there back at the station." The group huddled around him as he laid the map flat across the hood of the truck. Wayne unpocketed his iPhone and used it to flash some light. Calvin laid his finger on the map just south of where they were. "There's a small strip mall that we passed on the way here that should have food and gear we could use. I'll take a small group of us there to see what we can find, and also see if we can't grab another car or two. In the meantime... James, Steve, Wayne, Chuck and Lily will stay behind to setup camp, start a fire, and settle in."

"I brought all my camping gear in the truck. Not enough for everyone, mind you," James called out from near the driver's side.

"Then we make do with what we have," Calvin replied.

Wayne pulled a knife out from a bag in the passenger's seat. "I'll check out our perimeter and see how far down we should put these cars."

Calvin nodded. "Good. We can rotate one guard at each end throughout the night so we can all get a little shuteye. Or try, at least..."

Jack leaned over the top of the cab from the bed of the truck. "And that leaves you and I to go on the suicide mission then, yeah?

"I can't split us up too much. Some of you have to stay here," Calvin reasoned. James and Wayne were hardly enough to defend against any number of scenarios that could happen while they were gone. They'd also be able to move quicker and quieter with fewer people. "We'll head out in 15 minutes. Make a list of anything specific you want us to look for and we'll try our best to bring it back. Let's line these vehicles up in their positions, pointing the way we came in case we need to make a quick exit."

Everyone looked around in the dead silence once Calvin finally stopped talking. He had been mulling all these ideas in his head ever since they fled the station. Steve had said that these people needed somebody to call the shots. Calvin knew he was no more qualified than any of the rest to be making any decisions -- but they seemed to trust him... or at least agree with his ideas. He'd see how they warmed up to him after a bad call.

"Ready, break?" Wayne asked. Calvin nodded and begun folding up the map as the group divided up. James reached into the cabin and grabbed his rifle off the dash. He checked it for ammo and shoved the butt of it into Calvin's hands, forcefully.

"If you're going on foot, you'll need this..." he said. "There's more shells in the glovebox." The old man started walking away, but stopped and turned back. He took off his leather cowboy hat and ran his hand through his hair. "You know, there was a time when I'd have told someone to go fuck themselves if they asked me to move my truck..."

James removed his pendant from the hat and pocketed it. Then tossed the hat to Calvin who caught it, smiling.
"But I guess you're the sheriff around here now, Hollywood."

Calvin set the hat on his head, evening it out. Even with less hair than James had it seemed to fit pretty well. The old man stalked to his truck and turned it around, following Wayne up the path a short ways. Jack lingered nearby, waiting for to be told what to do. "We're going in on foot, so why don't you grab a backpack and something to defend yourself with."

Jack smacked his forehead, dramatically. "That's what I was forgetting," he said sarcastically. He shook his head laughing at Calvin as he stalked away. Chuck, who had watched the whole exchange, approached. He stood in front of Calvin for a beat, unsure of how to say what he wanted to say.

"I want come with you," he finally blurted out.

"Uhhh, I dunno--"

"I don't trust you going out there with Jack alone," Chuck continued, cutting him off. He glanced in Jack's direction nervously, to make sure he wasn't being overheard. "Having me there might force him to cooperate, ya know?"

Calvin shrugged. It wasn't like Chuck would be more useful if he stayed behind. "Fine," he began, "Grab your bat and a bag. We'll head out soon."

Chuck excitedly scurried back to the van to collect his things. Calvin scanned the road, watching as everyone busied themselves with their tasks. At least they were able to follow instructions, he thought happily. He hoped he was making the right decision by having them stay here -- but how could be any worse than the rest of Los Angeles? At least here they had a view.

Calvin turned to look out at it once again and saw Lily, sitting on a large rock. She looked out upon the city with childlike wonder, both seeing something for the first time and seeing something for the last time. He sauntered over to her and sat next to her. She had sort of kept out of sight since the other survivors arrived at the station. Calvin figured she was likely in shock. He still hadn't been told the whole story about how this crew got together. That was something he would have to remember to do at some point.

He looked over at the little girl. "Crazy day, huh?" he asked, softly.

Lily shrugged, wiping at her eyes. She wasn't crying anymore, but it was evident that she had been. Her nose sounded slightly stuffy as she spoke. "Are you a cowboy now too?" she asked him.

Calvin remembered he was wearing the hat now. "Oh, uh-- I guess I am. James made me sherrif."

She turned her gaze back to the view. "Like Woody from Toy Story?"

He couldn't help but smile at that. "Yeah. Just like that."

"That's pretty cool..."
Calvin looked back at the city too. This poor girl was traumatized. It was slowly catching up to her, and he couldn't help but wonder how she'd be a week from now. A month? A year? Would this even last this long?

"Hey, you know what?" he asked. The girl raised an eyebrow in anticipation. "While I'm gone, I'm gonna need someone to look after the camp. Someone with good instincts."

Her eyes lit up a bit. He had her attention, finally. "I have those!" she said in a hushed whisper.

Calvin leaned in, talking quieter. "That's why I came over here to talk to you. I need you to be my eyes and ears while I'm gone. Can I count on you?"

She held out her pinky. Calvin embraced it with his and the pact was made. He clapped her on the back as he got up. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Calvin..."

She nodded, looking back out through the "O" in Hollywood towards the city. "Come back quick, OK?" He nodded back, and traipsed over towards Chuck and Jack who waited near the news van. James and Wayne were just now returning from the other end of the path with some gear -- a tent, firewood, axe, canopy...

They had enough to stay occupied for awhile. Calvin met eyes with James from across the way and waved goodbye. The three men gathered their belongings and started the walk back down the hill into the city. Sadly, the night was just beginning.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


James grabbed one of the unlit logs and used it to fiddle with the fire a bit, opening it up so the fire could breathe. He tossed the piece of wood into the center once he was done with it and leaned back into his folding chair. A half-empty beer rested loosely in the built-in cup-holder-- he grabbed it, taking a sip, and looked across the fire at Wayne. The ex-DJ sat on top of the trucker cab with his feet on the hood, clutching a metal pole in his hands. He spun it lazily in his fingers as he gazed out towards the vista of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Lily and Steve sat with their backs against a fallen tree trunk they had managed to drag over for seating. They huddled under a blanket, warming against the flames.

None of them had been able to sleep all night, what with the constant helicopters, explosions, and gunfire. The scariest part of the whole night happened to be the sudden lack of sirens. It was as if all emergency personnel suddenly went silent-- and there were too many ways that could have become a possibility. As per Calvin's prediction not a single walker ended up stumbling upon their camp... nor any survivors. They had lucked out with their location-- a small sanctuary amidst the chaos.

Suddenly they heard footsteps from down the path...

The first rays of sun were just beginning to break over the hills, silhouetting whoever was approaching in darkness. The figure scrambled up the dirt road, tripping over himself in his haste. Wayne and James had already jumped to their feet and taken their positions behind the truck, shielding themselves from whatever was coming-- James with his knife, Wayne with his metal pipe. But as the figure drew near enough they recognized it as Chuck. Although it looked more like a walker than the Chuck who had left the camp the previous night. The right half of his torso and legs were covered in blood and residue, smeared to bloody perfection all over his body-- the fabric of his clothing torn and shredded as if by some animal. His bat dragged on the ground, as he slowed to a stop and collapsed in front of the truck.

Wayne hurried over to him and cautiously helped him up. "Chuck?! Holy shit, bro! What happened to you guys?"

Steve tossed Wayne a water bottle from over the truck and he handed it to Chuck, who uncapped it-- splashing half of it on his face before drinking the rest. He threw it to the ground and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand-- staring at the questioning eyes of the men standing around him. Tears ran down his already wet cheeks as he struggled to find the right words to begin...

"Chuck? Buddy?"


< + >


...Two Hours Earlier...

Calvin held his flashlight close to the back of the food label, carefully inspecting its date of expiration. The cleared ones went into his backpack, like the can of fruit cocktail he had just cleared. He put the flashlight in his teeth as he knelt down to unzip his bag and stuffed the can inside-- zipping it up.

In other rows of the store, Jack and Chuck perused other stocked merchandise. It had seemed that during their rush out of the city, not everybody had thought to hit the local stores. At least not the obvious ones. They were presently inside a Save-For-Less discount store. It didn't have the quality food or diverse selection of the more name brand grocery stores, but the food was in bulk-- and it was still food. The men had entered quietly from the back after crossing from rooftop to rooftop to get down the street. The van had been parked just at the bottom of the hill behind a construction site, so as not to draw to much attention to their entrance into the city-- and then they walked the rest of the way. It didn't feel like a typical LA late night, with the roads still full of moving cars and people walking the streets. Since the night was almost over, the city had quieted down as the living hunted for some place to hide and the dead hunted for the living. They still had to get while the getting was good-- and this was the third store they had hit that night. If all went off without a hitch, they'd be returning with a van full of awesome stuff.

Calvin had just begun browsing a new aisle when he saw a few signal flashes from Chuck's flashlight on the other end of the store. He shouldered his bag and walked over to him, where he also met Jack. He hadn't been over to this side of the store yet and quickly understood Chuck's urgent signals when he saw the massive find... the three of them stood in front of what looked like several rows of camping equipment, outdoor furniture, hiking gear, etc.

"Jackpot," Jack growled, clapping his hands together. He was nursing a cigar in his mouth, worrying Calvin as to how hard he was actually scavenging for useful supplies.

"Good find," Calvin said, clapping Chuck on the back. "Let's find a couple duffle bags and see what we can get back to the van." The other two nodded and split off to different aisles. Calvin swung his flashlight to face the aisle he was in and saw various gardening tools and equipment. He squinted his eyes, and tipped his hat back with the flick of a finger. He was already liking his options...


< + >


Chuck was the last of the three to drop his duffel bag in a pile by the back door. They had gathered some prime equipment for the campsite-- almost to the point where they were sad at how much they'd have to leave behind... surely they weren't the only ones who realized the opportunity in looting what they could now and not waiting til the sun came up. By the end of the week the city would be stripped of supplies and goods.

"Why don't you guys bring these first three bags out to the van while I load the last couple. I want to do one more sweep of that other corner of the store before we take off. Now that I've seen this, I bet they have pharmaceuticals and meds here..." Calvin said, craning his neck towards that part of the store. Chuck picked up one of the bags, and opened the door for Jack. Jack grabbed the other two overly-stuffed duffel bags and started to walk outside.

"You're covering me then," Jack argued on his way out. "I ain't carrying two bags by myself." Chuck laughed as the two disappeared into the night. Calvin let the door swing shut as he grabbed an empty bag and headed towards the opposite corner of the store. He passed a group of weirdly placed mannequins, some of which had fallen to the floor during the night's events. Calvin rounded the corner and found himself facing rows of medicine, kits, creams, ointments, and the like. Apart from the specific ones they would need, Calvin tried to grab anything that looked like it could be useful. The door to the back office had been left open in their abrupt exit, and Calvin helped himself to the few brands of sleeping aids he was familiar with. There was no knowing when a normal night of sleep would come again. As an afterthought, he grabbed some nicotine gum and patches too-- for the inevitable raging withdrawals someone was bound to have.

He was half-way through the label on the back of a box called Niconol, when the front door burst open-- nearly flying from its hinges. A man in a sweatshirt and beanie came barreling inside, slamming the door behind him. He reached up and shut the blinds covering the window, moving across the storefront in a low crouch as he peered outside at whatever he was running from. Calvin had already ducked down in the aisle and drawn his revolver-- all two bullets of it. He crept back down the aisle, taking refuge amongst the cluster of mannequins he had passed earlier. He watched through the legs of one of the porcelain statues as the intruder nervously wiped the sweat from his brow.

Headlights danced across the shuttered windows, playing shadows across the whole of the store. The vehicle creaked as it swung to a stop in front of the store. Calvin could hear feet hit the ground as several individuals exited from inside. Whoever this man was... he was outnumbered-- and in a horrible hiding spot. For a brief moment, Calvin considered calling out to the panicked man and offering him solace amongst the mannequins-- but he knew how likely it was that the man was just as dangerous as the ones hunting him. That wasn't worth risking his own life for, unfortunately.

He could hear someone outside rustle with some chains as the sound of metal on metal echoed from the front door. The intruder had barred it shut with something he found, so that they couldn't get inside, but by the sound of it-- they had conceived a backup plan. An engine revved itself into high gear, tires burning rubber against the concrete as it peeled out. They finally caught tread and the truck ripped the front doors out of their hinges-- the glass partitions shattering as they were dragged down the road. Whatever these guys intent, subtlety was not part of it. It was likely they'd alerted every walker within a mile radius with that display.

"Woo, doggie!" one of the men yelled from just outside the door. "What say we tie those there chains to this fuckers teeth when we find him, Reggie?"

His chubby friend stepped through the door first, his rifle at the ready. "That's a dumb fucking idea... teeth is too small for chains. Besides, Bronson wants him alive."

Wherever their prey had gone, he was no longer anywhere near the windows. He had probably sunken deeper into the aisles once he realized what they were doing. Calvin looked at the back door, wondering how long he had until Jack and Chuck walked carelessly back inside. That could blow this whole thing up all too quick.

"Come out, come out, wherever you arrrre..." the bigger of the two sang out. Whoever these guys were, they wore identical coveralls-- though it was too dark to make out the logo or insignia on them. Could be a rogue biker gang for all he knew...

Calvin shuddered. Nothing sounded more dangerous right now.

*CLANG CLANG CLANG*

Several metal objects rang loudly on the linoleum floor from another corner of the store. The intruder had just given away his position, and the two men went into hot pursuit-- splitting up to approach the corner from both sides. Calvin held his breath as he heard the men struggle with their prize, forcing him to the ground. His shoes squeaked against the tile as he fought to gain traction. Shortly enough, he heard the bone-crunching blows of gun against bone as they subdued the poor man and dragged him towards the front of the store. The captured man screamed and begged for his life as they dropped him near the front door.

Their driver wasn't as stupid as he had looked-- having driven around the block to distract the horde of walkers from the grocery story to open up an exit route. The roar of the truck rumbled back into range as it approached from down the street. One of the two men stuck his head out the window to see how far out it was-- and then said the last words Calvin needed to hear...

"Shit, man..." one of the thugs whispered.

"What?"

"There's two fools bee-linin' towards the back of the store... you see 'em?" he said, pointing at the hill.

The man cocked his rifle. "Oh, I see 'em alright."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


"Go around the side and flank 'em," the shorter of the two men ordered. Reggie, the fat one, nodded and braced his rifle as he ran towards the corner. Calvin inched through the maze of mannequins, quietly stepping over one that had fallen against a shelf. The man reached down and held his knife to their captive's throat as he pulled him up from the floor. "C'mon you piece of shit!" He barked, dragging him towards the back door. The poor man scrambled on all fours trying to keep up -- but he was pretty badly busted up from what they did to him earlier. When the two of them finally reached the door, the man pulled his pistol out with his other hand and pointed it at the door.

Calvin could hear muffled yelling from the side of the door. "Open it!" Somebody shouted angrily.

The door opened to reveal Jack. He had the fat man's barrel to the back of his head and was shoved through the doorway. As he stumbled to a stop between the two bandits, he placed his hands on his head and casually looked around for Calvin. "Where's the other one?"

The fat man grinned. " Knocked his ass out in the alley here..." Reggie replied proudly.

The other bandit shook his head-- still holding the knife to the man's throat. He used his pistol hand to gesture behind him and Calvin took his opportunity-- lunging out and slamming the but of his gun down on the man's hand. His pistol clattered to the ground at his feet and Calvin slid up behind him placing his pistol against his head. The man with the knife to his throat started crying, nervously.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." Reggie said from behind Jack. He leveled his shotgun against the back of his head. "Don't do anything dumb."

Calvin squinted his eyes at the man. "You mean dumber than what you've already done?" Calvin replied. The man in his sights laughed uproariously.

"This one's got cajones, Reggie! I like him. See, me and Reggie here come from a much bigger group of guys. Whichever way you wanna look at it, if we go missing-- they's gonna come looking for us."

Calvin looked the man fat man dead in the eyes. "In a matter of minutes, my friend out there is gonna wake up-- and then you're gonna be outnumbered. I can wait here all day... you better hope your friends come fast."

Reggie adjusted his grip on the shotgun, licking his lips nervously. He looked to his friend for some sign of what to do but got nothing. For sake of better mind, Reggie leaned back through the doorway to look for Chuck.

"Uhhh... Francis," Reggie began, "he ain't out here no more."

"Seriously?"

"Oh no--I see him. He's running up that hill towards the Hollywood Sign..."

'Chuck you son of a bitch,' Calvin thought to himself. The man was a proven coward now -- and might have gotten the both of them killed if not for Jack's quick thinking. Knowing it was his only chance he reached down with one of his hands and blindly grabbed the shotgun barrel, yanking it clear of his head. Reggie instinctively pulled the trigger-- unloading a full round of buckshot into the chest of Francis' captor. Calvin attempted to duck behind the two of them for cover but was winged in his right shoulder, sending him and the others to the ground. The blast had all but ruptured Jack's eardrum, and a steady stream of blood poured out-- he gripped his injured hand, burnt raw from the piping hot shotgun barrel. All he could manage to do was fall forward as he lost his equilibrium. It cleared Calvin's line of shot, and he took the chance to fire one of his rounds into Reggie's chest. The thug reeled backwards into the wall beside the door, his shotgun slipping from his hand onto the floor. Jack reached out with his leg and kicked the weapon far from reach.

Calvin tugged Francis away from the shredded body of his former human shield and threw him into the middle of the floor. His fat friend coughed up blood from his position by the wall as he watched him with terror. "Please," he begged, "we'll split this place with ya!" Jack laughed a bit, spitting some blood onto the floor. "You don't gotta kill me!" The blood-curtling din of moans and growls began to rise from the vacant front doors of the building. No doubt some mixture between the shouting and the gunshots had attracted them in thick herd as they crawled over shattered glass to get inside. Jack picked up the dying Reggie's shotgun and pumped the empty shell into the air.

"I ain't got time to do math..."

BOOM!

Calvin looked away as Jack ended the man's life. In a way, it felt like killing him twice-- knowing full-well that he'd never come back to fuck with them again. Jack pressed the barrel of the gun into the ground, trying to support himself as he struggled to stay standing. His ear was bleeding even more now, and his vision had begun to go spotty. Calvin got under his arm to support him as he dragged him towards one of the side doors. The walkers had begun to close in-- many becoming distracted by the fresh corpses on the floor nearby. The two men used the opportunity to slip into the stairwell and get as far away from there as they could. They scrambled up the dark flights of stairs-- ever-aware of the raucous sounds of their pursuers echoing from below. Calvin through his shoulder into the doorway at the top and the two of them spilled out onto the rooftop. The bright sun was blinding, and Calvin had to shield his eyes down from its beams. At his feet was a metal pipe, which had clearly been used for something similar before. Calvin grabbed it once Jack was clear and slammed the door shut-- jamming the pipe into place. He slumped to the ground with his back against the door, breathing in the fresh outside air. Across the rooftop, a man's dead body sat folded into itself, a bullet hole barely visible on the side of his head. A pistol rested loosely in his grip beside him near some binoculars. Unlike him, they weren't dead.

In fact-- Calvin wasn't so sure he had ever felt so alive...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


"And so you just left them there!?" James shouted furiously. Chuck had finally finished his rambling tirade as he regaled the group with the night's events and his friends' demise. Finally having a moment to gain his bearings, Chuck realized that there were more people in the camp now. A Volkswagen bus and Toyota Corolla parked on the other side of the path, making a large wall against any roamers. A few unfamiliar faces looked on from the distance as all eyes were on him.

His hands shook a bit as he tried to twist the cap back on the water bottle. "It was the only chance I had! I-I swear!" James slammed his fist down on the hood of his truck and walked away.

Wayne crossed his arms. "And that's the last thing you heard -- gunshots?" He asked anxiously.

Chuck nodded, lowering his gaze to the ground. Whichever way he put it, he looked like a coward. But he was alive -- and that was all he cared about. Steve rubbed Lily's shoulders, trying to comfort the young girl who had already seen her fair share of loss and death for the day. James suddenly came marching back to the small huddle with a canvas bag. He pulled down the hatch of his truck and threw the bag down, spreading a small array of weapons across the bed of the truck.

"Some of the others pitched in..." James said gruffly, he pulled a handgun from the pile and offered it to Wayne, who took it and began inspecting the weapon.

Chuck looked around, enamored. "N-No! No fucking way are we going back out there!"

"You aren't," James replied, handing a small rifle to Steve, "we are." The man had to let go of the little girl's hand to grab the rifle. He looked at the girl as he accepted it reluctantly. Chuck threw his hands up in the air, laughing obnoxiously. James marched straight over to him and grabbed the collar of shirt-- throwing him against the side of the truck. "You left our friends down there... not to mention the van. I don't know what those men intend to do to them, but I'm not gonna sit around and find out." He lifted his elbow from Chuck's throat and the man fell to the ground gasping. James walked back towards the driver's side.

"Let's go."



* * *



All he could hear was the metal clanging of the chains struggling to hold the door shut as a group of walkers banged against it from the other side. Calvin had tossed their previous tenant over the edge of the building as fodder for the walkers -- possible bait to lure them away from the stairwell. They had searched his body beforehand finding a half-empty pack of American Spirits, a lighter, a map of Los Angeles, and a pair of binoculars -- along with his pistol and a spare clip. Further exploration of the roof had shown no alternative ways down, save for an unpowered window-washer's lift and a locked fire escape, unfortunately -- and so they waited.

Jack laid in the nook of the wall's corner where the most shade rested. He closed his blistered eyes -- trying to catch whatever sleep he could while they waited. Calvin had torn off part of his pant leg to wrap Jack's burnt hand until they could go back and get the bag of medical supplies.

Calvin sat with his legs dangling over the storefront, almost far enough to touch the huge unlit "S" of "Save For Less". The red truck had come and gone twice in the last couple of hours, but the density of walkers in the area made it nearly impassable. He had surely returned to find his two lost comrades -- or what was left of them. Calvin felt a nasty taste in his mouth and spit over the edge, landing on one of the walkers' heads below.

In the distance, a tight cluster of planes had circled back around for another pass. They had been roaming the skies as far back as he could remember since the Sun had come back up... but he had never seen them land for anything. Small helicopters would occasionally break out of formation and hover closer to the city to get a better look at things, but they seemed to be searching for something... or someone. The biggest plane in the lead veered its nose turning them north as they soared up the coastline -- far far away.

It had been the most momentous 24 hours of Calvin's life -- not that he felt like reflecting on the particular events that had to do with those 24 hours... Calvin looked over at Jack, realizing that he knew nothing about the man. He had no idea what his last name was, what he did for a living, where he grew up... yet somehow their paths had become intertwined indefinitely. He doubted either of them would ever forget what went down between them. At least Jack was somehow managing to sleep a little bit of it off.

His train of thought was brought to a halt as the distant whine of a blaring siren overcame the maw of walkers. A low rumble of roaring engines accompanied the assembly of vehicles as the truck from earlier led the motorcade into the shopping mall parking lot. At the center of the pack, riding proudly, rode a fire truck -- an American flag flying like a banner from its back. Men hung off of its top and sides as if it were some kind of amusement park ride. The vehicles rammed through the mob of walkers in the lot as the beasts clawed at its sides to no avail.

Calvin hopped back over the ledge and ran over to Jack. "Hey, man! Wake up!" He said, shaking him by the shoulders. Jack's eyes rolled open -- coming into focus.

"What? What the fuck is it?" He moaned, ribbing his eyes as he sat up. Calvin was already scrambling around him gathering their stuff. "What's that noise?" He asked -- the sirens even louder now as the vehicles had plowed their way into the parking lot.

Calvin grabbed the full pistol and loaded a fresh clip, then handed Jack his shotgun. He grabbed it, letting out a huge yawn. "They're back," Calvin said, running over towards the front of the building. Jack finally began to get the picture and followed with his weapon. They crouched against the short wall above the store's sign and peeked over into the lot below. The other vehicles had abandoned the fire truck now and it stood alone -- a bright red mass in a sea of walkers, their hands groping and pawing from all sides. The truck was just tall enough that its inhabitants were safe inside and above. One such inhabitant crawled through the porthole onto the ladder and stood up. Like the others, he wore a grey jumpsuit -- on top of which he wore a sleeveless black leather vest. He stroked his beard as he raised a megaphone to his mouth and waved his hand.

"Hello up there!" The man shouted through the megaphone. "It's OK, you don't need to stand up or anything. Chances are if one of my men has a shot, he's gonna take it -- so I'd advise keeping your head down." Calvin looked at Jack, unsure of what to do. "Fact of the matter is, I've got reason to believe you killed some of my men. Now, I don't know how many of you there are up there... I don't imagine it would take more than one of you two kill those two idiots, but one of those idiots happened to be my younger brother."

Jack rubbed his face with his hand. "Shit..."

"So I hope you don't mind if me and my boys come up there, and we can figure out what we're gonna do about that..."

The whinnying of the motorized ladder rang out as the front began to extend out and raise toward the roof. Other men began climbing out onto the top of the fire truck to start their ascent, assessing their weapons and gearing up. Calvin thought back to his earlier assumption of some biker gang affiliation and realized how way off he must have been. These men were armed, dangerous, and prepared. Calvin hoped he was at least one of those things as he peeked over the edge of the wall to get a view.

"What the hell do we do, man?" Jack asked, his voice shaking a little bit. Calvin shook his head and looked backed up at the sky. The cluster of aircraft from earlier had doubled back already but were even further away now.

"We have to get off this roof," Calvin said -- searching around for options.

Jack stood up and followed him. "How? We already looked for a way off..."

Calvin suddenly got an idea -- but it was going to take both of them. "I think I have something... follow me," he ordered, running back to the front of the wall. The white tip of the ladder was just coming into sight over the ledge. They hugged the side of the wall right beneath it, with their weapons. Calvin turned to Jack. "We're gonna take their ladder to get to the next roof. Hold off whoever tries to come up and I'll, uh--"

Jack pumped his shotgun. "Do the rest?"

Calvin grinned and braced himself against the wall. "On three..." Jack nodded, readying himself for the count. They bobbed the three count and Jack sprung up from the wall firing off two blasts towards the men on the ladder. Bullets rang out on the metal and stone around the two of them as the thugs returned fire. Calvin grabbed the center rung of the end ladder piece and pulled down on it, using the wall as leverage. He used all of his weight to pry it out of its bracket but it wouldn't budge.

"Jack!" He shouted, "Give me a hand here!" Jack fired off one more round at the attackers and then dropped his shotgun, grabbing hold of one of the rungs and joining Calvin in his attempt to snap off a piece of ladder. Scattered bullets rang out around them as the men began filing up the ladder. Losing one's balance meant plunging into the mob of walkers below. Whoever these men were, they wanted revenge badly enough to risk their lives doing it. There would be no time to explain that what was done was done in self-defense -- Calvin was sure they didn't care. This was personal to them... and it was about to get very public.

"Cover me, for a sec..." Jack requested as he let go of the ladder and scooted down its length a bit. He took out his pocket knife and began unscrewing the bolts to release it from its track. Calvin hung from the edge, looking over and meeting eyes with whatever brave thug had volunteered to come up first. The man saw him and raised his gun for a shot, firing one off wildly. Calvin ducked quickly, and jumped up -- firing off a couple of his own. His target ducked, catching one of the bullets in the neck. He fell sideways off the ladder, trying to grab hold he was lost to the walkers like a bottle at sea. "Two more bolts on this side," Jack continued, biting his lip.

"The harder you make this, the worse off it's gonna be for you..." the bearded man hollered out from below. He laughed into the megaphone, hoarsely -- a voice addled by too much tobacco.

"I got it," Jack called out, happily tucking the knife in his pocket. The end section of the ladder unhinged and fell to the rooftop, clattering loudly. Calvin gestured to the east side of the building where the gap was smallest.

"Set us up," he ordered, "we're getting out of here." Jack nodded and scurried away, holding the ladder piece with his good hand. Calvin peaked over the ledge again, checking the thugs progress, and saw that they were already half-way up. A streak of red light sped into sight as a flaming bottle came soaring by Calvin's head and splashed against the roof in a fiery pool.

"Not so close to the ladder!" The bearded man scolded.

Calvin looked to Jack for his signal. Across the way, he deftly slid the ladder into place -- spanning the gap between the neighboring building. He wiped his brow and looked back at Calvin, preparing for what was next. "GO!" Calvin shouted out. He knew it would take Jack longer to get across with his injuries, and he had to buy him more time. Before he even had a chance to make a plan, the first raider reached the wall -- lunging over with one arm and grabbing Calvin by the neck. Having heard Calvin's shouts, he knew exactly where he was and took full advantage. The two struggled in an awkward position as the thug tried desperately to hold on. His grip was the only thing keeping him from falling.

Calvin reached above him and grabbed his attacker by the hair, pulling him over his shoulder with a fistful. He used the butt of his pistol to smash the man's hand -- his knuckles audibly crunching against the metal of the gun. The thug yelped, retreating his hand away -- just in time for Calvin to kick away with his foot. As his assailant reeled in pain on the ground, Calvin struggled to his feet and walked a few steps towards the stairwell.

BANG! BANG!

The second shot broke the chain, freeing the dozens of trapped walkers behind the door. They spilled out onto the rooftop ambling in all directions as Calvin tore off towards the side of the roof to join Jack. His injured friend had just made it to the other side and offered his hand to Calvin -- who carefully crawled across the ladder, trying not to look down. Bullet fire sang out behind him as the invading thugs were intercepted by the horde of biters. Calvin gripped Jack's hand as he was pulled over to safety on the preceding ledge. He looked back at the swarm of bodied mauling, flailing, and fighting and felt happy for one second that he was on a different roof.

"Let's keep going," Calvin suggested as he pulled in the ladder. So far, it had done a better job of saving their asses than Chuck ever did...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


Chuck grabbed the pair of binoculars out of the man's hands as he sat by the fire. He stormed over to the vista of Hollywood and put them to his eyes, muttering curses under his breath as he watched the dust trail of James' truck kick off into the distance.

"You could of just asked, guy!" The frustrated man yelled over at him from the campfire.

Chuck continued to ignore him as he scanned the cityscape -- over past the rooftops of houses and businesses towards the news station. Plumes of smoke billowed out from other parts of the city as a number of fires burnt brightly. In the air, a formation of aircraft caught his eye as they sped into view from behind the USBank tower downtown. Circling below were a number of helicopters, none of which he recognized from before. It was the first time he had seen anything since that morning, and given the sudden dire circumstances -- he couldn't think of a better time to signal for help. He ran over to his bag and dug through it, furiously looking for the flare he knew he had packed.


* * *


Calvin jumped the last few rungs of the maintenance ladder to the ground, reaching up to help Jack do the same. He had managed pretty well with his injured hand, but Calvin knew that would only last as long as his adrenaline did. Jack's shoes hit the pavement with a thud, and the two of them were off again -- kicking up old newspapers from the dirty dark alley as they ran along. They had left behind the shotgun and ladder during their escape from the roof. Bronson was sure to have enjoyed Calvin's farewell present -- a mob of hungry walkers. It at least bought them enough time to escape from his assault.

They approached the inlet from the alley onto the street and Jack motioned for Calvin to get down. Two men dressed like the other raiders jogged down the street trying to flank them, but they had overshot the alley. A steady stream of walkers stumbled across the intersection at the far end -- drawn to the sirens of the fire truck, so the raiders were forced to duck into the next alley to cross over to the adjacent street.

"OK, go..." Jack ordered, stepping away from the wall onto the street. He hustled across the street, tucking in behind a shattered bus stop with a car lodged into it. They scanned the windows of the shop across the way, wary of any movement from the raiders, and continued creeping down the sidewalk.

"We need to get back to the van," Calvin cautioned, "all our stuff's in there and there are just too any walkers out for us to get back on foot."

"It's gonna be dark again soon too," Jack added.

Calvin hadn't thought of that. They had to get back to the hill as soon as they could to warn the others about what happened. This guy, whoever he was, above all else was relentless -- and he didn't want to stick around long enough to find out what else he was. Jack suddenly stood up as something caught his attention down the sidewalk a ways.

"You're gonna hate me for this, but I have an idea," he said , smiling as he pointed over to a bicycle on its side.

"You gotta be kidding me," Calvin protested, "I'm way too sore for that..."

Jack crossed over to the bike and righted it, dusting off the seat. "I'm not seeing very many other options here, Hollywood."

Calvin frowned, giving up as he tightened the straps on his backpack. "How the hell are you going to hold on with one hand?" He swung his leg over the bike, bracing it for Jack to get on .

"You worry about yourself," Jack replied as he hopped into position atop the handlebars. "You remember where the van is?"

Calvin nodded, using his legs to guide the bike onto the street where there was less debris. He began pedaling, eventually gaining enough momentum where he could steer comfortably. "I do," Calvin answered with a grunt as he spun his legs into motion. "I feel like there's an E.T. joke to be made here," he said between breaths.

"Save it for when we get to the van and duck through this park over here," Jack ordered -- pointing with a nod and gripping the bike as Calvin forced it onto the path. A few straggling walkers limped through the grass, hustling after the two of them as they sped past them on the trail. Sweat began to bead on Calvin's forehead. He pedaled even harder, knowing that every second spent in the city was a second closer to being found.


* * *


"Would you turn that goddamn siren off?" Bronson shouted down at the fire truck. The driver inside clipped it off with a chirp immediately, letting the lull of hundreds of clawing and snarling walkers settle over them. One of his men pressed his boot against a downed walker's head and shot two rounds into it, exploding it across the white floor.

A couple of others jogged up the maintenance stairwell, stepping over the dozens of dead walker bodies littering the rooftop to get to Bronson. "They ain't in the other building either," he explained, panting heavily. "Our boys are checking out the back to make sure those tourists didn't dip out, but we ain't seein' 'em."

"I think we scared 'em," the other man added. Bronson glared at him, running his hand through his beard once.

"My point wasn't to scare them..." he began, walking over to the edge of the building to gaze down at all the creatures below him. "I had an ant infestation in one of my wood cabins up in Washington one Spring, and after failing so many times to get rid of them -- I finally found a solution. Y'see, no matter how many of them I killed, they always came back -- and in bigger numbers too. So what I did was took a dab of poison and put it along their trail. They scooped it up and ran back home with it -- straight to the nest. Killed every last one of them. That's the key to solving a problem... you gotta get it at it's source."

To the north, a bright red flare shot out into the sky up by the ridgeline. A whispy red chem-trail misted behind in its path. All of the men on the roof shielded their eyes against the setting Sun as they watched the pulsing light of the flare fade away in the air.

"Are we the poison in that analogy?" He asked, timidly.

Bronson smiled as his eyes followed the trail of smoke down towards where the Hollywood Sign rested -- like a finger pointing down from the Heavens.

"Bingo."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


Calvin carefully maneuvered through the back of the news van, careful not to trip on any spare wires on the floor. There had been no time to pack things in any organized fashion when they were at the station, and the loose gear had since rolled around making quite the mess inside the vehicle. They had abandoned the bicycle a short ways down the road and snuck the rest of the way in on foot. It had seemed to take forever, navigating through alleys, backyards, and parks to get back to the van -- and they had only needed to dispatch of a couple walkers who were lingering by the van when they arrived. Calvin's only assurance came from the fact that he alone held the keys. He knew Chuck would have surely stolen it, had he been given the chance. Anything to save his own ass, apparently.

A loud zip sounded off from the front cabin of the van as Jack closed one of the backpacks and tossed it back with the rest of the gear. They had been able to hydrate themselves and clean up slightly with what supplies they had with them. Still no food though. Their brief reprieve had allowed his body and nerves to cooldown a bit, and he was now beginning to feel the strain of the last couple days on his body. If he didn't eat something soon, he felt like he might pass out.

Jack snapped his fingers to get Calvin's attention. "Hey, I think I see an opening..." he said quietly from the front seat.

They had been sitting idle for the last 15 minutes waiting for a long string of walkers to pass by so they could get through to the road back up to the sign and Griffith Park. Going around was not an option what with Bronson and his men at code red. As anxious as they were to return to the camp, it wasn't worth risking being discovered or jammed up by a herd of walkers. Calvin crawled into the driver's seat and peered out the front window towards where Jack was looking. Sure enough, he was right. A tight group of walkers moved with purpose southbound on the street leaving a healthy gap behind them. The connected street looked clear too. It seemed as good a chance as any.

Calvin took a deep breath, placing one hand on the steering wheel -- the other hovering over the keys, dangling from the ignition. "Alright. Here we go," he said, giving Jack a sideways glance. He twisted the key and the van whined to life -- its familiar purr was oddly comforting. Very gently, Calvin applied some pressure to the pedal and began accelerating the vehicle, trying to keep the engine from roaring too loudly. Several of the walkers ahead had already turned towards them, drawn by their approach -- but the dark was working in Calvin's favor. Not 15 feet from the herd, Calvin pressed the pedal down as far as it would go and flipped the headlights on at the last possible second, illuminating the incoming herd with a ghastly white glow.

There was too much happening to really tell, but Calvin could have sworn he saw some of the walkers raise their hands in front of their faces in some reminiscently human attempt to block the light from their eyes. The distraction was enough for them to squeeze through the gap in the herd as Calvin steered them through to the other side. By the time the walkers had turned to pursue them the van was already more than a block away, speeding towards the hill... and an uncertain welcome.


* * *


The camp buzzed with frantic activity as Chuck ordered the newcomers to help him search for more flares or something to signal the aircraft with. The jets and helicopters had moved in a straight line up into North Hollywood -- either having missed or actively ignoring Chuck's distress flare. He figured they had to be doubling back soon, and wanted to be prepared when they did.

A man stepped out of one of the tents, holding a small duffel bag high in the air. "This one's got some fireworks in it!" he called out to Chuck, who raced over to grab the bag.

He let out a gracious laugh. "I remember these," he began, pulling out one of the roman candles. "They were from an old holiday party at the station."

"Won't those make a lot of noise?" One of the girls asked from a foldable table nearby. She watched Chuck suspiciously as he continued to pull out an assortment of fireworks -- studying his arsenal.

"Have you seen where we are?" Chuck questioned, waving his arm about. "We have hills on both sides of us, cars for barricades... I haven't seen a single roamer up here yet."

"Seems reckless is all," she added, turning back to her game of cards.

Chuck grabbed the bag and started walking towards an open spot behind one of the cars. "Well I'd bet it's going to get us rescued a lot quicker than your stupid fucking game of cards." The woman glared at his back as he went. He had certainly spent no time making friends with any of the newest arrivals. It seemed pointless when death was just around the corner for each and every one of them. What was the point? He fumbled around in his pocket for his lighter and flicked the flame to life, holding the roman candle as far from his face as he could. Fireworks still made him nervous for some reason. "OK, stand back, " he warned the few people behind him. Raising his arm up, he aimed the stick into the air as it fired off its first shot. A brilliant white flare ascended into the darkening sky, ending with a loud pop -- followed by another flare, and another...

Before the last streaks of the firework's smokey aftermath had disappeared above, they heard the familiar sound of tires treading rocks and dirt. The news van flew into view around the farthest bend, kicking up a trail of dust. Chuck's eyes widened, as his mind wondered who was behind the wheel. It could easily be more of the men who attacked him... or Calvin and Jack.

He didn't know which would be worse.

Calvin steered the van beside some of the other vehicles and put it in park, quickly hopping out. Several of the other survivors stared at him in awe -- either recognizing him as the celebrity he was or simply shocked by how wretched he looked strewn in blood and filth in his ripped clothing. He immediately spotted Chuck in the crowd and made a bee-line towards him, but not before Jack brushed past him.

Chuck smiled, his mustache twitching nervously. "Y-You guys... you made it out alive. I can't believe--"

SMACK!

The sports anchor hit the ground hard, reeling from Jack's punch. He covered his split lip with his hand -- feet slipping in the dirt as he tried to back away from the crazed man. But Jack made no move to pursue him any further, instead walking back towards the news van to unwind -- shaking the pain out of his fist. He didn't mean to punch him with his burnt hand, but the cloth wrapped around his knuckles had probably lessened the pain a bit for both him and Chuck.

"You deserved worse than that," Calvin scolded. Chuck struggled to his feet, unable to look him in the eye. "Those flares you fired? They're gonna lead those maniacs straight to us! We have to pack up and leave, NOW." he continued, lividly. Surrounding survivors looked around at one another with uncertainty, and something became suddenly apparent. "Where's James and the others?"

Lily stepped out from the crowd, looking up at Calvin with her big round eyes. "They went to look for you. I though we were safe from the monsters up here?" she asked, twirling her hair around her finger. Calvin looked at the kid with remorse, knowing he could never tell her everything that happened. He couldn't even admit most of it to himself. All eyes were on Calvin as the silent crowd looked on with a mixture of confusion, fear, and anxiousness -- and he suddenly realized as he looked around at the sea of faces before him.

"Chuck didn't tell you anything..." he said, more as a statement than a question. Calvin brought his hand up to his shoulder where the pain of his shrapnel wound was beginning to throb. These poor people were lost and scared, and he had no idea what to say to them. He knew three people out of this group of nearly twenty, and between those three... he really didn't know much.

"INCOMING!" the older man with binoculars shouted from the other barricade. The group surged towards the hillside where their eyes fell instantly upon a cavalcade of vehicles tearing up the dirt road. It obviously wasn't James' truck, and he didn't need a second guess to figure who it was.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


Calvin whipped around and cupped his hands around his mouth. "JACK!" he called out. His friend's head popped out of the passenger window. The look on Calvin's face said the rest. Jack ducked back into the car and ripped open his backpack and grabbed a fresh clip for his pistol -- then ran towards the group. Calvin stood up one of the trail's benches and waved his arms frantically trying to get the group's attention as they talked over one another in a panic. "Everybody, please! Get behind the other barricade! Anyone who can--" he stopped himself short of saying what he was going to, realizing with one glance that none of these people were fighters. They had no idea that there was a worse threat than the walkers out there -- and that this particular threat had happened to show up on their doorstep.

"Just let me handle this," Calvin said with a sorrowful breath. The bearded man had come for his blood surely, but nobody else had to get hurt. He was going to see to that. The crowd began to disperse, and Chuck quickly stepped to Calvin's side.

"Your just gonna talk to this psychopath? He's gonna kill you."

Calvin pointed at the incoming hostiles. "He has us backed against a wall and he knows it. We're on his time now. Just stay hidden."

Chuck scoffed, walking away shaking his head. Calvin put the man out of mind and turned to Jack -- grabbing him by the shoulder. "Stay down and don't show your face, OK? I can't risk him seeing you," he said, quickly.

Jack's brow furrowed, not understanding. "But, I can--"

"Please," Calvin begged, "it doesn't have to be both of us. You gotta look after Lillan if things go bad..." He pulled his new friend in close, forehead to forehead. "You're the only other one who knows what this guy is truly capable of. You have to tell the others... it's gotta be you." Jack looked at him, reluctantly nodding his head in agreement. He ran after the rest of the group, helping to usher them behind the wall of vehicles for their safety. The first arrival was a jet black Jeep, a few men standing in its rear quarters gripping the frame for support. They spilled out of the car before it slowed to a stop, raising their weapons towards Calvin and the others. He raised his hands in a silent surrender, his eyes searching for their leader. Another couple vehicles pulled up beside the Jeep, forced to stop as they neared the camp's barricade.

All of the dirt they had stirred up whirled by in a great gust, and Calvin turned his head away from it, protecting his eyes and mouth. As the cloud of dust cleared, the silhouette of a taller man strode into view as he approached alone. He stopped a good 10 feet in front of Calvin, placing his hands on his belt. "Now hold on a second," he began with a grin. "Calvin Hawke?" Calvin just looked at him, simmering with rage over the fact that he was now face-to-face with the man who had made his day a living hell. "Well fancy finding you up here. Me and the boys used to watch your movies all the time in the joint. You really helped us pass the time," he said, glancing back at his soldiers.

Calvin's stomach turned. These men were escaped convicts... murderers, rapists, kidnappers... they could have any laundry list of charges and even a longer list of character defects. This was not going to end well. "What do you want from us?" Calvin asked, finding the courage to speak.

Bronson chuckled softly. "What do I want? A nice IPA and a burger sound pretty nice right now, but they wouldn't do much for my real appetite. See, I got a hunger for justice. Something was taken from me today, and I expect payment. It's how the world works. Hell, it's even how prison works. Nothing's for free, you understand?" Calvin narrowed his eyes, his finger inching towards his pistol. "I got reason to believe that some members of your group are responsible for the deaths of some of our own, and unfortunately... I wouldn't be much of a leader if I let that slide."

"They attacked us," Calvin said, trying to reason with the man. "Didn't leave us much of a choice."

"Now that's where you're wrong. See I know my little brother, and as stupid as he can be... he ain't unreasonable. Compliance goes a long way, y'see, and had you cooperated with them today... we wouldn't be having this conversation." The playful grin had disappeared from the man's face, and he looked into Calvin's eyes sternly. "I know there were at least two of you down there. Reggie was put down with a pistol, ended up turning. He made an ugly fucking biter, I'll admit that much. My brother didn't have the opportunity for a second chance though. His head was blown off by a shotgun. Hell -- probably did him a favor." He inched a few steps closer. "So now I need a favor from you. Hand over the guilty parties so I don't have to get violent. Cause I really do hate it... violence. There was enough of it in this world before all this shit happened. I thought I was at the end of that road... set to rot to death in that jail cell. But I got a new lease on life. A second chance. I didn't think I believed in second chances, but well.... here I am. I want to extend the same kindness to you folks. Hand over the culprits in your group so they can do their time, and I promise them a fair trial. You have my word on that."

There was only a certain number of ways this could play out, and none of them were good. Calvin forcibly admitted that to himself. What he could do though was protect the others. There had been enough bloodshed in the past days -- of humans both undead and alive. What was the point of fighting each other with those things out there. The world had already lost enough, and Calvin was done. He reached his hand into the back of his waistband and pulled out his pistol. Several of Bronson's men leveled their weapons when they saw what Calvin was reaching for, so he slowly reached his arm out in front of him and tossed his pistol at Bronson's feet, looking him dead in the eyes,

"It was me," he said, his voice unwavering.

Bronson clicked his tongue in disappointment, digging the heel of his boot into the ground. He placed his hands on his hips and looked around. "Yeah, I was afraid you were gonna say that. Which is a shame, cause I really am a big fan." He crouched down, carefully craning his back to pick up the surrendered weapon in front of him and looked at it. "The awkward part now is that I know you weren't alone. My men saw another man on the roof with you."

Calvin's heart skipped a beat as his plan to keep Jack safe from this suddenly turned into a delicate situation. He hoped Jack had taken his word and hidden somewhere well out of sight before things turned ugly. His mind raced, thinking of the first excuse he could muster. He was Hollywood's 'Golden Boy', damnit -- and he was going to put his acting chops to good use when he needed it the most. "He didn't make it back..." he said, averting his eyes to the ground, as if it the memory was too fresh a wound.

Bronson studied Calvin, eventually nodding his head. "My condolences," he said, feigning his sympathy. "Well, shall we get to it?"

BANG!

Calvin flinched as a loud shot struck Bronson in the head, sending him off his feet into the hard dirt ground. His entourage of men behind him began lighting up the barricade of vehicles with their weapons as the dozens of survivors behind them shrieked in panicked terror. Calvin dove to the ground and immediately spied his handgun -- which had fallen onto the ground near Bronson when he fell. He rolled over and begun army-crawling towards it -- Bronson's back to him, unmoving... when suddenly he wreathed to life with a loud gasp of breath and put his fingers to his lips, belting a loud whistle.

"CEASE FIRE!!!" He boomed, loudly. His lap dogs obediently let up on their fire as Bronson stood back up, brushing himself off. As he turned, Calvin could see that a healthy chunk of his right ear was missing. Blood gushed down the side of his face and neck from the ruptured cartilage. He put a hand to it and looked at how much blood there was, muttering a curse to himself. Without a moment's hesitation, he walked towards Calvin and picked up the pistol, then stormed towards the bullet-riddled barricade. Moans and cries of pain from some of the injured wailed out above the deep silence -- all you could hear was the crunch of Bronson's boots. As he rounded the truck, he saw none other than Chuck... face down in the dirt with a scoped hunting rifle next to him. He clutched the back of his leg where one of the stray bullets had torn into it. Bronson reached down with his hand and grabbed Chuck by the hair -- dragging him back into the middle of the road near Calvin. He threw him face first into the ground and stretched his arm out placing the gun to Chuck's head. The foolish man looked up at Bronson with red, watering eyes and slowly raised his arm up to point past him.

"L-Look..." the sportscaster said, pathetically. Calvin glanced over to see a few jets screaming into sight from the West. "I told you they'd come!" Bronson even looked behind him, curious now as to what the idiot was talking about, but you could already hear the jets fierce roar.

Calvin's eyes widened as he realized what was happening. Those weren't like the aircraft from before. "Holy shit, everybody GET DOWN!" He shouted, running for cover. The first of a series of bombs boomed loudly off deep in the distance, its rumbles vibrating the very ground they stood on. A long and towering plume of fire rolled in the path of the jets like a tidal wave, engulfing any structure or being in its path. From even miles away, Calvin could feel the warmth of the explosions on his skin.

Before he got too far, he felt a tight grip on his collar as he was whipped around to face Bronson and thrown to the ground. His fierce eyes narrowed at him as he turned and stalked over to Chuck -- who was crying even harder now as he stared blankly into the sky, tears streaming down his face. He had watched his hopes and dreams go up in flames. There was no coming back from this. Bronson put his gun to the man's head and looked back at Calvin.

"Some situations call for swifter retribution..."

CLICK. BOOM!!

Calvin managed to avert his eyes just in time to miss Bronson put the man out of his misery. He had seen enough for one day. He heard the crunch of Bronson's boots walking back to him and felt a familiar hand rousing him to his feet once again. "Saddle up!" he shouted to his gang, spitting on the ground as he walked towards the jeep.

So much for no one else dying...

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)

0.00 INK

.: 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 :.