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Carl Dupree (NPC)

Comic Book Entrepreneur.

0 · 219 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

.: Carl Dupree :.


Image


Description:

 Portrayed By Seth Rogen
 Owner of Pandora Comics and Store; Writer for 'Unplugged' video game magazine.
 33
 Male
 6'1" / 246 lbs
 Jewish American
 Has a tattoo of the red shell from Mario on his wrist.
 Carl feels most comfortable in a sweatshirt or a short-sleeve collared plaid shirts and slacks. He often has to wear a pair of glasses, mostly for reading.

Traits:

 3 Strengths
Loyal: Maybe its all the comics he's read, but Carl can get behind a cause he believes in.
Clever: A wild imagination can produce some of the best ideas.
Calming: Carl has a settling aura about him; able to take someone's mind off anything.

 3 Flaws
Cowardly: Carl will never be the first one to volunteer for something dangerous.
Dependent: Striking out on his own would never serve Carl well; he needs the group.
Unathletic: He won't likely be the most graceful; lack of stamina.

Personality:

 Fears
Small spaces, drowning, snakes, getting hit by lightning.

 Aspirations
To one day have a top-selling comic, to have a movie made of one of his comics, to build his own house, to have children.

 Dominant Emotion
Nerdy

 Demeanor
Carl is the everyman. He is affable, funny, and a natural conversationalist. He carries with him a wild imaginative, something that has aided him in his work. He loves debate and discussion and hates silence. He'll always be the first to speak up about something but the last to volunteer for anything. A strong backbone is something he does not have, and he isn't suited for the violence such as he has seen now. He is loyal, trusting, and altruistic with barely a bad bone in his body.

 Quirks/Oddities
His eyes will sometimes glaze over if he's daydreaming about things.

 Skills/Proficiencies
Artistic, Adv. Math, Vast Vocabulary, Archery, Darts, Geographical Knowledge, Can
Hold Breath For Long Time, Loud Whistle, Strong, Quick-Witted, Adv. Tech & Computer Skills

Equipment:

 His trusty reading glasses.
 Always keeps a Sharpie on him and a Swiss Army knife.
 Prefers small guns or blades. First weapon he grabbed was a movie prop axe from his comic shop.

History:

 Born in Vancouver, WA to two archaeologist parents.
 Home schooled until 7th grade as parents traveled for work.
 2001. Best friend dies in car crash with a drunk driver; Carl takes break from school.
 Class of '03 -- Gets degree in Graphic Art at Whitman College; Minor in Writing.
 Gets job as Junior Animator at Dark Horse Comics in Oregon.
 2013. Proposes to girlfriend of four years; sets date for the following July.
 Returns from Paris honeymoon a few days before the infection hits.
Falls in with Niobe and others and immediately heads for the metro tunnels.

So begins...

Carl Dupree (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Instinctively, Rafiq ran over to the manhole, ignoring the bruise that was about to form on his ass. Sarah followed close behind him, slightly wobbly from shock, presumably forming some bruises of her own, but otherwise fine. “Please, help me get this open,” he said both to her and the person beneath the cover. In some other situation, Rafiq had probably been surprised to find a person lurking from the sewers. Right now, their simply was no time to think it over.

The walking dead were coming towards them, aroused by anger, hunger or some other ungodly force. Rafiq and Sarah tried to pry the manhole open, but getting a grip was difficult. He could hear the person in the sewers whisper with somebody else. “Please, open it!” Rafiq pleaded. “We are sitting ducks out here!” Sarah added. They could hear a faint “Alright” and somebody pushed the cover towards them.

Nasir and Molly had reached them now. “I think she twisted her ankle,” Nasir said, eyes fearfully darting between all of the dead people surrounding them. Rafiq was sure that his friend wasn’t doing so well himself, but did not mention on it. Ever since Sarah had made that comment back in the deli, Rafiq feared that Nasir was suffering from something worse than the flu. But Rafiq could not bear losing his friend, not so soon after his parents. So he tried to push it from his thoughts.

They managed to get the cover of the manhole and the sewer person revealed himself. It was a big young man with what could best be described as a goofy expression. “Well, come on then. We don’t have much time.” They could clearly hear the walkers now and quickly followed the man into the hole. None of them thought twice about entering the sewers. Facing certain death did that to a person. Rafiq was the last the go in, the walkers mere meters away. While holding on to the ladder with one hand, he tried to close the cover with the other. It was difficult and heavy and he could already see one of the dead trying to get to him. Pushing with all his strength, he managed to close the hole halfway, but then a grey hand grabbed his. As a reflex, Rafiq pulled back and got lose. He climbed down two rungs. “Quick! Quick!” He screamed, hoping that the rest had already managed to get down. The creature tried crawling into the hole, but was thankfully not small enough to fit through entirely. It was stuck at the midsection, clawing angrily. Rafiq climbed down as fast as he could.

Below, the others were waiting on him. Beside their rescuer stood a woman. She looked either African or Caribbean and even Rafiq could see she was beautiful, despite the dirt all over her face and clothes. “Did you close it?” She asked him. Rafiq looked up, but it was too dark to see if the monster was still there. “Not entirely,” he admitted, “but the first one got stuck.”

The man grinned and slapped him on the back. “Don’t worry about it. Even if they do get through, they’ll fall to pieces on the floor.” Rafiq and Sarah both stepped away from the ladder, as if that was just about to happen. The man looked them over. “Anyway, my name is Carl and this is Niobe. We have a group not far from here.” Niobe snorted at that, as if she did not really consider it a group she would ever be a part of. Despite that, she said, “You can join us. Safety in numbers, right? “

---

“They are called walkers.” Carl had talked most of the way. Due to Molly’s ankle, they did not move fast, but Niobe had assured them that the sewers were safe. The place was dark, damp and stinky, but Rafiq did not really care. At least they were alive.

“Walkers? How do you know that?” Rafiq asked. “They said so on the news. Before they went out,” Carl said and fumbled about in his pockets to pull out a phone. It was not a phone Rafiq was familiar with. “Made it myself,” Carl said proudly. “Still has signal and stuff, even though most of the phone companies went dead. You see, mine taps into the satellites directly and...”

Sarah interrupted him. “It works? Can I use it? I need to know what happened to my family.” Carl looked at her apologetically and shook his head. “No, not here. Even my phone won’t pick up a signal in the sewers. That’s why I was up there near the street. Was trying to get on the internet and find out more information.” Niobe laughed at that. “Updating your Facebook status, you mean.” Carl smiled wickedly. “Well, the status alive has never seem more appropriate. Anyway,” he looked back at Sarah and Rafiq, “even if we do get a signal again, your family still needs to hold on to a phone that ALSO works. It would be an extreme long shot.” Rafiq placed a hand on Sarah’s shoulder in sympathy, but she shrugged him off.

At that moment, Molly gave a small yelp. They all looked back and saw her and Nasir lying on the floor. Molly quickly scrambled on her feet again, but Nasir kept laying still. He had been supporting the girl, but was now in dire need of help himself. Rafiq quickly rushed towards his best friend. “Nasir? Nasir! Are you okay?” He asked. Nasir was not responding and a knot tightened in Rafiq’s stomach. This was bad. He knew it. “Come on Nasir, wake up!”

Sarah and Niobe had crouched down beside him, while Carl had grabbed a hold of Molly. Niobe looked Rafiq in the eyes and said, “What’s wrong with him?” Rafiq felt tears prickling his eyes. “I don’t know,” he responded, “some kind of flu.” He took Nasir’s hand in his and squeezed, hoping it would somehow bring him back. “Please, we have to help him.”

He then saw a hand moving near Nasir’s legs. It was Sarah’s. She was revealing the spot where the walker had bitten his buddy. “You... you said it was a cut,” she said with a mix of accusation and disappointment. Rafiq swallowed. “I know,” he said, “I’m sorry. I thought it was. Maybe. But what does it matter? It’s just a small bite.”

Sarah closed her eyes in frustration. “It’s not,” she said, “I don’t really know what is going on, but this virus, or whatever it is, must be transmitted somehow. It could be the air, but the more I think about it, the more that seems unlikely. That makes direct contact the next likely thing. Perhaps through touch, perhaps through blood.”Rafiq could see that Niobe backed away slightly, despite of herself. “You think he will become one of them?” Molly asked timidly. Sarah shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Hell, how should I know? It’s just a guess.”

“No!” Rafiq shouted angrily, which was very unlike himself, but these people could not know that. They all backed away from him and Nasir. “He can’t die! I won’t let him! We can’t let him!” Tears were running down his cheeks. “He’s just unconscious. Please, we have to get him to the hospital.” He knew that was a stupid thing to say, but he had to try something. Anything.

“No hospital is gonna help us,” Niobe said not without pity. She sighed and stared at her friend. “What are we going to do Carl? Fuck, this is messed up. What if...”

Nasir made a movement and Rafiq breathed out in relief. “See, he’s not...” It happened so suddenly that Rafiq simply had no time to react. Nasir grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him down. Sarah immediately jumped on her feet. Rafiq looked Nasir in the eyes and for a fraction, his only thought was “that are not the eyes of Nasir”.

He would have died there if it had not been for Niobe. Before Nasir could bite Rafiq, she took Nasir’s head and smashed him down on the floor, holding it in place. Nasir did not seem to care and kept trying to bring Rafiq’s face to his mouth. Only then did Rafiq respond and pulled away from his friend. “Ow god, ow god,” Molly murmured in the background. Nasir growled and trashed about, but Niobe did not release her hold. “Guess that proves your theory,” she said to Sarah with a hint of sarcasm. In the meantime, Carl had restrained Nasir’s legs.

Sarah pulled Rafiq away and slapped him in the face. “I’m sorry, Rafiq, but Nasir is gone. It sucks. Give... Give me the knife and I’ll stop him.” Rafiq shook his head. “No.” Sweat was dripping from Sarah’s face. He knew his face would not be much different. “No. I’ll do it.” He glanced at his friend, now dead and turned into a monster. “I owe him that.”

He released the hunting knife from its holder and held it firmly. Funny how everything had changed so quickly. Just a minute before, he was pleading for Nasir’s life. Now, he was about to plant a knife through the skull of the person he had cared about the most. He felt sick. He felt tired. He felt disgusted. But he knew that it was the right thing to do.

For the last time, he looked at Nasir. Niobe was still holding him down firmly. She was stronger then she looked.

“I’m sorry, buddy. See you on the other side.”

Rafiq plunged the knife downwards.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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# Sarah Hawke #


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

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

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

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

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

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


~ + ~


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

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

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

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

The woman furrowed her brow. "Doing what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)

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.: Sarah Hawke :.


Sarah rubbed the last bits of sleep from her eyes as she stepped out onto the platform from one of the metal corridors. She had left to go find someplace to pee but was lured by someone's whistling nearby. As she stepped through the doorway she found Carl and Niobe. The whistling culprit turned out to be Carl-- sitting atop a trashcan as he fumbled through a rendition of some Jock Jams song while Niobe belted out push-ups on the ground.

"Good morning, sunshine!" Carl called out, noticing Sarah slip in. She managed a weak wave as she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering. It was ten times colder out in the tunnels than in the accessways. Now that she was closer, Sarah realized she was looking down at train tracks.

"These sewers connect to the metro tunnels?" Sarah asked, glancing around.

Carl nodded. "Some of them do. It's the easiest way for us to get to upper ground. All those turnstiles and escalators make it difficult for the walkers to get this far down here. We've only had a few stragglers."

"Pretty smart. Whose idea was that?" Sarah questioned.

"Jessica's," Carl replied, sliding off of the trash can. "She's a civil engineer. Err-- was a civil engineer. She knew this place existed, and once we found some service maps -- the rest was cake." Sarah was impressed. Not everyone would've thought of coming underground. Surely it was safer than being on the streets-- both from walkers and people. "How's your friend? "

"Oh-- Molly? Sorry, it's just funny... I've known her for like less than 12 hours... it's wild how much can happen in that amount of time." Carl hung his head. Clearly he had experienced the same awful day she had. Neither of them really wanted to dwell on it. "Her ankle will be fine," she continued. "Is she alright though? I don't know... are any of us?"

Niobe pushed out one last strained push-up and jumped to her feet, brushing off her clothes. "We could be a lot worse," she said, walking over to grab her gear from a bench. Sarah hoped she hadn't offended. Surely she had gotten off lucky-- and Niobe was right: it could be worse. The woman shrugged her backpack over her shoulders and checked the clip in her pistol. "Once George and Rafiq get back from checking out the south tunnel, we're going to be heading to the surface to try and get a signal on Carl's phone. While he worries about that, the rest of us will be gathering supplies..."

"We could always use one more," Carl offered, cutting Niobe off. She glared at him-- clearly having almost been to her point.

Niobe sized the girl up. "You been toe-to-toe with these things yet?"

Sarah shrugged her head. "No... but I'm an excellent shopper."

Even Niobe had to grin at that. She lifted her leg, planting her boot down on the bench to unsheath a large hunting knife from around her ankle. Niobe spun the blade around in her hand offering the handle to Sarah, who looked at it... uncertain.

"Then why don't you take a stab at it?"

Sarah looked the woman in the eyes and took the knife, awkwardly trying to tuck it into her belt. Niobe unclasped her ankle sheath and handed it to the girl. "For when you don't need it," she said. "Aim for the head. The only way to take these things down is through the brain. Make sure you have enough room to grapple with them, causes chances are they're bigger and stronger than you..."

Sarah nodded as she fastened the equipment around her ankle. Inside the patrol kiosk next to them she could see a jacket slung over the back of an office chair. She reached through the window and tugged it free of the chair-- sliding her arms into the sleeves.

"It's not stealing if nobody catches you right?" she asked, zipping it up.

Niobe shook her head. "Whatever you say, kid. Go on inside and let the others know where we're going. Jessica is going to have to be on watch til we get back-- and I think I see George's flashlight. Hurry back."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

It was strange to carry a gun. George had given it to Rafiq earlier when they were checking out one of the side tunnels. “Just in case,” he had said. Rafiq had never handled a gun before and hoped that George’s brief explanation on how to use it would be sufficient. Thankfully, the tunnel had been empty.

That small adventure had only been the prelude to this one, Rafiq mused. They were on their way to gather supplies. Food, sleeping gear, weapons. Anything else they might need. Rafiq had stuffed a bag with food back in the deli and it had been well received by the group. Yet, they all knew they needed more if they were going to survive the next couple of weeks. “The city will be stripped clean soon enough,” George had said, “so we need to find supplies while we still can.” And thus Rafiq had set out with George and his dog, Sarah, Niobe and Carl.

Niobe carefully opened the door towards the hall of one of the metro stations and indicated them to be silent. Rafiq could hear the faint noise of walkers in the distance, growling like feral animals. He swallowed and felt his heart thumping in his throat. Niobe opened the door further and looked into the hall. She looked back and smiled wickedly. “Walkers,” she said, “three of them. But they are stuck on the turnstiles.” George took out his knife and walked towards the door. “I’ll take care of them.”

Putting her hand on his shoulder, Niobe stopped him in his tracks. “No. They can do it.” She glanced meaningfully at Rafiq, Sarah and Carl. “Consider it a practice round.” Rafiq briefly exchanged looks with Sarah. She looked slightly queasy, but nodded. Together, they walked through the door and took out their knives. Carl was lingering though. “I’m not doing that,” he protested, “you can’t make me.” Niobe responded by pushing him through the door.

Looking at the walker in front of him, Rafiq noticed how the man was middle-aged and wearing a business suit. The eyes had gone grey and without expression. His throat had been ripped out, parts of flesh dangling grotesquely. “He’s no longer human,” Rafiq told himself. “He’s already dead.” With a sigh and a silent prayer, he stabbed the man through the eye. The walker gave a small noise and then slumped over.

Sarah had dispatched of hers as well, but was now trying her hardest not to throw up. Rafiq did not look at her. He absolutely hated the sight of vomiting. After some more protest, Carl was stabbing the third walker several times. “I hate you,” he grunted, “I hate you all.” It was not clear if he meant the walkers or the group. In the way Niobe was laughing, it was probably the latter.

After that, they quickly got to the front entrance of the station. The sun was shining and it felt like it was going to be a warm day. Rafiq allowed himself a moment to enjoy it.

“Alright! It’s working!” Carl suddenly shouted, holding his phone triumphantly in his hand. Niobe quickly kicked him in the shins. “Shhh, be quiet.” They all stood still for a couple of seconds, but there was apparently no walker in the vicinity. “Where are the walkers,” Rafiq asked in a whisper, “I thought we would at least see a couple of them.” The others shrugged, wondering the same question themselves.

“Any news?” Sarah asked Carl. Carl was busy typing something and did not look up. “Wait a sec, I’m texting my parents. You know, they live in Canada. Might not be as bad over there.”

George was visibly getting annoyed at the hold up. “Come on,” he said, “you can text while we walk.”

Without looking back, he crossed the street towards a row of shops, his dog closely behind. They all followed him. George headed straight for a shop that was specialized in outdoor camping, but it quickly became apparent that it had already been looted. The store was not completely empty though and they quickly gathered a couple of backpacks, sleeping bags, flashlights and some other gear.

Rafiq was collecting things with Carl, who was not that big of a help. He kept checking his phone, occasionally cursing for losing connection. “Hey,” he suddenly said, “what is your full name?” Rafiq was taken aback for a second, but felt no reason to hide his name. “Rafiq Chedidi. C-H-E-D-I-D-I. Why?” Carl showed him the phone. “Someone has set up this site,” he said, “IAmStillalive.com. Very crude, but you can leave your name and the data to let people know you are, well, still alive. I...” He typed something and looked up sadly. “I’m sorry, dude. The name Chedidi did not leave any results.” Rafiq felt a knot form in his stomach. “No, I wouldn’t think so,” he said, “my sister could be alive, I suppose, but she’s not the type of person to find a site like that.” He looked over at the other side of the shop, where Sarah was looking through a shelf with Niobe. “Maybe you could try the others though. Sarah might...”

Suddenly, a loud noise came overhead the shop. They all looked up. It sounded like an airplane. “What was that?” Sarah asked with a hint of hope. They rushed out of the door and looked up. In the air were three small fighter aircrafts and two helicopters, circling the city.

“What are they doing?” Niobe asked, looking at George as if he would have an answer. “Not sure,” he said, “they seem to be scouting the area.” “Are they looking for survivors?” “Don’t think so. They are too small for rescue operations.”

A thought struck Rafiq. “Maybe that’s why the street is so empty. The walkers must have followed the noise of the planes.”

“Maybe they are doing that on purpose,” Sarah said, “luring all the walkers away.” “Maybe...”Rafiq said. But he was not sure. Where would you lure the walkers towards? No, the pilots were most likely gathering intel on the city. Maybe the military was planning on retaking the city!

His thoughts were interrupted by Carl, who was staring at his phone in horror. “Ow God... no...” he said. “What’s the matter?” Niobe asked.

“This site... it just said that... they bombed New York. The military completely nuked the place.”

All five of them stared towards the aircrafts in the sky, suddenly completely aware of why they were up there.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.



George was the first to break the silence as the rest of the group watched the aircraft disappear from sight behind a tall building in the distance. He whistled to Charlie -- who had taken interest in a mangled corpse on the side of the road. The shepard mix sniffed around the body, likely picking up dozens of disgusting smells amongst the rubble and decaying flesh. He was an obedient dog, however, and hurried to George's side when he heard the familiar trill of his whistle. George reached down with one hand and fed his furry friend a treat -- which the dog accepted graciously. He wagged his tail happily as he leaned into his master's leg.

"George... how good's your sight these days?" Niobe asked, shielding her eyes from the Sun. Though no longer in sight, the distant roar of the aircrafts' engines filled the streets -- the sound likely bouncing between buildings and drawing surrounding walkers inwards towards the inner-city. As solid a plan as any... if their intent was to assemble and then bomb as many walkers as they could. Civilian casualties wouldn't be a total loss either -- as the military knew full-well that every non-infected person was just a walker waiting to happen.

George wasn't sure he was going to tell anyone else, but it was obvious by the type and grade of the aircraft exactly what their intent was -- and it wasn't good. "There's likely some sort of proxy or window of time that -- when the window closes -- will not be very fortunate for anyone still in the city." He ejected the clip from his pistol, and checked the ammo count, quickly jamming it back into the handgun. "Judging by their trajectory, I'm going to say we should be expecting some company coming from down that street..." he said, gesturing with his hand. "Niobe?"

"Honestly?"

George flashed a charming grin. "I wouldn't have it any other way, love."

"I think that they're gonna be comin' anywhere south of the hill. Flying in as tight of a formation as they did really focused the sound."

George couldn't hide that he was impressed. He crossed in towards her, Charlie following at his heel. "And so...?"

She looked around at the buildings on the street -- weighing her answer. "We either get inside or get to higher ground -- move roof to roof."

Sarah pushed her way in towards the circle. "I vote roof." Rafiq had been leaning over Carl's shoulder to get a view of the satellite phlone. His mouth moved slightly as he read whatever was on the screen. Sarah reached over and slapped his arm. "Hey-- surf Facebook later. Vote."

Rafiq and Carl looked up to see the three of them staring over -- waiting for an answer. They looked to one another slightly and shrugged, nodding their heads.

"We're with you guys," they said almost simultaneously.

Sarah squinted her eyes at them, smiling. "Creepy." She sheathed her knife and rubbed the bruise on her neck. "Lead the way..."

George and Niobe took point, bringing them in towards one of the main alleys to get them to the next boulevard. Charlie weaved in between them, racing ahead with his snout to the ground to see if he could find anything. They neared the intersection between four buildings and lined up crouching against the wall. Carl crept up to the front, panting from all the running.

"I know you guys want to do some roof surfing or whatever-- but in order for me to pick up any distant radio signals on this sucker, I'm gonna need to get somewhere really high," he started giggling a little bit, realizing that he just said 'really high'.

George looked to Niobe. "I don't remember seeing anything from the street, do you?" She craned her head upwards, trying to remember.

Sarah-- eager to know what was going on-- pushed past Rafiq to join the front, as he followed close behind. Soon all five of them were huddle together near a dumpster and pile of cardboard boxes. "If Carl's going off on his own mission than there's something I wanna do too..." she blurted out.

George shook his head, firmly. "No, we are not breaking the group up... we need to stay together. There's strength in numbers."

Niobe looked at Sarah, studying her closely. "She might be right, George. They managed to survive on their own for this long. Now they know more-- and they're armed." George wouldn't have ever admitted it, but she was right-- they could accomplish much more by at least breaking off into three groups.

George sighed. "Fine... what did you have in mind, Sarah?"

Sarah looked around at the others, thinking of how to say what she wanted to. "I, uh-- I'm a nursing student at UCLA-- or I was... with Molly's ankle and, I mean-- who knows what could happen to any of us. I just want to be prepared is all. "

The others all nodded their heads in silent agreement. Nobody was going to shoot that down.

"It's a brilliant idea," George admitted, nodding his approval. He looked to the others. "So how are we doing this-- "

"SSSSHHHHH!!" Niobe hissed, pulling George back from the corner. The rest of the group lined back up against the wall, fumbling for their weapons. Sure enough, the distinctive groans of numerous walkers began echoing down the alley. Sarah couldn't tell from where she was. She felt Rafiq's hand on her shoulder.

He leaned in to her. "Let me go with you..."

Sarah shrugged his hand off. "I'm going alone."

Carl was right in front of her and heard her a bit too clearly. "Hell no you aren't. Why you would go out there by yourself? That's suicide."

"I can move faster by myself," Sarah said defensively. "And we don't have a lot of time to argue." She turned abruptly, bumping into Rafiq as she shoved past him and ran down the alley. Charlie tore off after her, hurdling one of the cardboard boxed as he soared past Carl's head. Niobe turned just in time to see Sarah slip around the corner.

" Where the fuck-- Was that Sarah?!" She asked, grabbing Carl by the arm.

"She just took off!" He shouted back. George threw his arm back, shushing the two of them. He had his knife in his hand and was poised at the corner, waiting for the first walker to cross.

Rafiq looked down the alley, feeling like someone had to go after Sarah-- but she had made it pretty clear what she wanted. He mumbled a silent prayer for her now, wherever she was. He looked up just in time to see George lunge out at the walker-- sticking the blade up through its neck into the brain. He grabbed the back of its head with his other hand and gently lowered it to the ground, quietly. A second walker was not far behind, and George braced the head of his bounty with his foot and yanked his knife loose. Niobe grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him back around the corner.

They looked at each other. "Go get Carl some place high," George said, wiping his knife clean with his shirt. "Get on that radio and bring us back some good news." The two embraced-- and Niobe led Carl down the alley by his collar. George watched the two of them go, and then glanced over to Rafiq-- who looked back with big round eyes. "Guess you're with me kid. Still got that knife?"



< + >



Sarah glanced at one of the street signs hanging from a fallen traffic light. Painted in white letters across the metal plate was the name of one of Los Angeles' premiere streets: Hollywood Blvd. It was a massive street, running the length of West Hollywood all the way through Los Feliz -- but anywhere along that path was nowhere she would want to be when the first bombs dropped. The underground tunnels were starting to sound like the perfect safe place -- from both walkers AND the bombs.

Between two skyscrapers down the way she could make out the distant cluster of the military aircraft in formation. They combed the city at a low altitude from what looked like Long Beach up through Redondo, Manhattan, and Venice Beaches-- and then eastward over Hollywood and Downtown.

It didn't take much to figure out what their "blast zone" would likely be-- and that's if the bombs really did drop. Maybe the New York story was bogus? But if it wasn't... Los Angeles was easily #2 on whatever list New York was on-- and that would mean trouble.

Charlie ran over after finishing his inspection of a tipped trash can and licked her hand, affectionately. She sighed, petting his head and shouldering her bag to continue westward toward the clinics she hoped hadn't been raided yet.

She wouldn't know whether it was worth the risk til she got there.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC)

0.00 INK

+ Niobe Kajja +


"So you can like break into anything, is that it? Is that like your super power?" Carl asked as he crawled through the broken glass window into the lobby. Niobe helped pull him through as he slid as he regained his footing.

"I don't like breaking into things," Niobe replied, matter-of-factly, "I do it cause I have to."

"Spoken like a true criminal," Carl said, smiling. The two of them crept through the empty dark lobby of the Capitol Records building. They had maneuvered past a makeshift barricade of desks and chairs to get inside -- noting that there were likely some guests on the inside. But it's 50+ floors had to have some useful supplies in them, not to mention the height needed to catch a signal on Carl's phone. He hunched over a panel near the elevators, adjusting the glasses ln his nose. "Hey, I think this place still has power..." he said, turning to Niobe. He punched the button with his thumb and the yellow arrow lit up. "Which floor?"

"Might as well go as high as we can. We'll have a decent view while we're up there," Niobe replied. They waited a few moments until the elevator rang open.

"Apres vous," Carl said -- ushering Niobe in first. She stepped inside and punched the "R" button for roof access. The metal doors closed behind them and the elevator lurched into motion. Carl twiddled his thumbs against the handrail as they zoomed upwards in silence. "What d'you think of the new people?" He asked, making small talk.

"So far they've been a bunch of drama queens," Niobe said, raising her eyebrows. "They seem alright though."

Carl nodded. "That Sarah chick seems like a bit of a loose cannon..."

"Yeah, we'll see." The elevator began to slow to a halt -- and the doors parted to reveal two armed men with rifles leveled at them. Carl put his hands up, but Niobe's flew to her pistol. It was out in a flash before either man had a chance to react.

"Don't you fuckin' move," the shorter one ordered. He looked over to his friend without moving his head. "I told you I heard the elevator, Patrick."

His friend hit him in the arm with the butt of his gun. "Eli! Don't use our real names you dumbass!"

"You just said my name!"

"Fuck you, dude!"

Niobe eased up a little bit, glancing over at Carl who put his hands down. She looked at the two men. "Since I just had more than enough chances to take you guys out, I'm assuming your harmless," she said, lowering her weapon.

The two men looked at each other and did the same. "And I'll assume the same since you didn't shoot us," Eli replied. "Welcome to the Capitol."



* * *



Niobe and Carl followed the young men through a labyrinth of cubicle walls and hallways, leading them by flashlight. Even though there was still electricity, they were smart enough not to light up their whole building like some sort of huge beacon. Judging by their welcome, they had likely had some not-so-friendly encounters since the start of thing.

"We're interns here," Eli began, gesturing to Patrick. "All the others went home to be with their families, but we're both from the east coast... so we stayed."

"How 'bout you guys?" Patrick asked from the back of the group.

In her mind, Niobe laughed at the thought -- the thought that this was the world they lived in now. There were no "hello's" or "what do you do for a living's?" -- it was just a gun to the face and a "what's your story?". "I was at the coffee shop next to this nerd's comic book store," she replied, pointing her thumb at Carl. He waved, sheepishly. "We're holed up with a group not too far away... came here to try and get a signal and see if we couldn't find some answers."

Eli opened a door to a bigger set of offices, holding it open for the others. "You came to the right place then," he replied with a smile. Niobe stepped through to find over a dozen other people all either lounging around or working on some task. Two people poured a map in the corner, lit by candlelight. A father and his boy curled up underneath a few coats in the corner. Eli weaved between a few desks further on towards the back of the room where a glass partition revealed a beautifully furnished office with a bar. A man sat casually on the corner of the desk -- in mid-conversation with a woman about Niobe's age. She stood up and left the room quickly once the two of them arrived, and the man stood to greet them.

"Who do we have here?" He asked, studying the two of them.

Eli had walked straight for the bar, pouring a glass of the brown scotch into some empty glasses -- spilling enough to show how unaware he was of how nice the scotch was. "These two showed up in the elevator with their radio looking for answers," he said, sniffing the bottle before putting it back down.

The man walked around his table and sat down in the large plush chair, drumming his fingers on the wood desk. "Well, I could save you the trip up there and answer anything you'd like to know. I've had my own ears out there since the start of this," he said -- offering the two of them a seat. Carl sat first, placing the satellite phone between his legs. Eli and Patrick left the room, closing the door behind them. "I'm Silas Quinn," he began, grinning widely. "You guys look like you've had quite the day..."

Carl laughed, taking off his glasses to wipe the lenses on his shirt. "I gotta say, sir, you've got quite the set-up here. Do you know what it's like outside man? I slept in a sewer last night..."

Niobe shot Carl a look, shutting him up instantly. They didn't know these people and surely didn't need to be giving away and of their whereabouts to strangers. She turned to Silas. He was a strapping man -- tall with broad shoulders. Even Niobe couldn't help but find him attractive and somewhat... dominant. She crossed her arms. "So what questions should we be asking?"

The smile on the man's face faded, and his gaze drifted past Niobe's head out into the rest of the office where several others bustled about. "I think the question everybody has on their minds now that they've realized they aren't waking up from some nightmare is 'now what?'..." He frowned, looking back at them. "The reality is, that three of the five refugee camps that have been broadcasting over the last 24 hours are now transmitting distess signals. One of the five stopped broadcasting anything at all."

Niobe bit her lip. "And the military? We saw a bunch of aircraft earlier, circling the city."

"Their lack of presence is a bit troubling, to be honest. I know they have their hands tied with these camps, but there seems to be no ground effort here where it matters. There seems to be no rescue effort."

Carl cleared his throat before he spoke. "You don't think they'd bomb us, do you?"

Silas laughed -- realizing quickly that Carl was serious.

"What exactly have you heard about New York?" Carl asked, glancing at Niobe nervously.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, yeah, where is George?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

BOOM!


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

BOOM!

BOOM!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They are trapped,” Rafiq said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another bomb fell, clearly audible this time.

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

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

Niobe and George briefly exchanged looks.

Another bomb.

Niobe nodded.

“You heard the boy! Let’s go!”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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 :.

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle rolled his eyes and left the two alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe hung upside down by her legs, squeezing out vertical crunches on the walkway above Carl. She breathed out a growing sequence of numbers, never once faltering in her execution. The past week had been many things for many people, but for her -- it had just been frustrating. Before any of this had happened she had no one but herself to look after, and suddenly she found herself becoming more integrated and more indebted to a group of people who had been complete strangers a mere week ago. As she grunted her 99th crunch, she stopped for a brief moment... letting her arms dangle towards the landing below. Her stomach growled as she took in the inverted vista of the city, admiring it for what it was now: a half-broken wasteland full of the hungry living and the hungry dead. She clasped her hands behind her head for one final crunch, hitting a 90 degree angle with total precision.

Niobe reached up and unhooked her legs, freeing them from the metal beam that had supported her for so long. She gently lowered herself to the platform below and dropped to her feet. Using the hem of her shirt, she wiped her face clear of sweat, taking extra time to clean out her eyes and ears. Carl sat with his legs crossed on top of a wooden crate nearby, his satellite phone held close to his ear as he manipulated the controls with his other hand.

"I think this thing is running out of batteries," he said, shaking the phone. He adjusted the glasses on his nose and looked over at Niobe. She was damp with sweat from head to toe and probably looked like she had just sprinted 5 miles. "Hey," Carl called out excitedly, "you did it!" He put the phone in his lap so he could clap his hands together, half-ironically.

Niobe offered an elaborate bow in return, smiling as she walked over to him. "No luck?" She asked, jumping up onto the crate beside him. Carl scooted over to make room and handed her the phone.

"Nothing," he said somberly. He grabbed the pair of binoculars from next to him and gazed out West towards the Capitol Records building, or at least what was left of it. The last time they were there, the leader of their group had told them to contact them around noon in one week. There had happened to be too much wreckage to between them to make any physical contact in the last week, not to mention things their own group were dealing with. It wasn't until they had scaled the building they were on now, that they discovered the true extent of the damage. Half of the circular white Capitol Records tower had caved into itself, exposing the interior floors level-by-level as if someone had cut a slice out of a multi-layered cake. They hadn't heard a single peep on the frequency they had agreed to meet on over the last hour either.

Niobe sighed, setting the phone back down on the crate. She hopped down, rubbing the crooks of her knees where the soreness from her impromptu workout session was beginning to set in. "So what do we do? Go back?"

Carl shook his head, draping the binoculars around his neck. "I'm gonna stay up here 'til tonight I think, he replied. "I'm the only one who knows how to use the phone, and I'm not of much use on runs or back at camp. Might as well see if I can pick up anyone else on a different frequency, and who knows... maybe one of the Capitols will call?"

Niobe admired his unabashed optimism, something she wished she could at least fake. "I'll run back to camp and get you some food then," she offered, grabbing her bag off the ground and slinging it around her shoulder.

Carl smiled at her. "Oh, sweet! I'm freakin' starving. Luckily I've got games programmed into the phone to pass the time," he said with a chuckle.

Niobe patted him on the shoulder as she passed, shaking her head. "I'll be back soon." She climbed down the ladder onto the outside patio of the apartment complex they were on top of and carefully crawled through the broken window of a bachelor suite's living room. She brushed the loose glass off of her and headed for the stairwell.


* * *


Carl's thumbs danced across the screen of the phone in a flurry as he bit his lip in absolute concentration amidst his pursuit of crushing candies. He finished the level, doing a little dance in celebration of his new high score. He took another bite of the candy bar he had been smuggling in his pocket the entire way, half-melted, but better than anything he'd tasted in the past few days. He had snagged it when him and Niobe first entered the suite and were checking it for walkers or people. It felt wrong not to share, but in his mind he justified it with the fact that Niobe wanted to stay in shape and didn't need to be eating candy bars.

He wiped the remnants of chocolatey fingers on his pants and grabbed the binoculars to do some more sight-seeing. The Capitol building was still lifeless, its ravaged interior dark and empty. He wondered what must have happened to the Silas Quinn and the other people living there. They may have had time to escape having discovered early on the intentions of the military's bombings.

His gaze fell a few boulevards across city streets and parking structures and suddenly a few moving blurs flashed across his lens. He swung the binoculars after them, compensating for their movement and quickly made out the three separate vehicles driving in a distanced line through Hollywood boulevard. They maneuvered around the wreckage and debris-filled streets, dodging stray walkers as they cruised eastbound. The thought never even crossed his mind that they were heading towards the metro tunnel.

"And where do you think you guys are going?" he said out loud to himself. He reached down and took another quick bite of his candy bar struggling to keep the binoculars focused on his targets, but his eyes fell upon something else. Something worse.

"What... the... fuck...?"


* * *


Niobe shadowed a small gaggle of walkers, hugging the outsides of parked cars as she attempted to to stealthily move down the sidewalk. They gurgled and dragged their feet clumsily as they traipsed down the middle of the street. There seemed to be a larger amount of them out this afternoon... moreso than usual. She ducked behind a bus stop partition and readied her gun just in case things decided to sour along the way. As if someone had read the thoughts in her mind, a string of automatic fire sounded off in the distance, its shots echoing all across the tall buildings surrounding her. The surrounding walkers turned towards the sound, beginning to shamble that direction as if of one mind. Niobe watched until she had an opening and stayed as low as she could as she ran towards the disturbance... and towards her people.


* * *


Minutes later, Niobe found herself showing up fashionably late to a total clusterfuck. Her eyes followed the rifle-bearing muscle man as he sprinted towards the catastrophe down the street -- an overturned car. Others ran towards it from even further away. Small blurs in the distance. Smoke from the car wreckage rose in a steady cloud above as a small fire undoubtedly burned from within. She crept around to the other corner of the brick wall she was using as cover to get a better look at the woman closest to her. The brunette with glasses quickly trotted over to one of their vehicles and opened its door, rummaging through its insides.

Niobe knew it was her best chance at making a run for the metro tunnel while no eyes were on her and their group was distracted. There was no way she was going to intervene and make all of their problems her problems. That was the last thing the group needed. They had vehicles. They'd be fine. They'd survive.

She told herself all of this in her own head. Justifying her intentions to leave them alone.

And then she saw him.

Sprawled across the street, face down in his own blood. Her heart was gripped with sudden panic and fear, as she stopped dead in her tracks, gazing down at George's body. Had the man with the rifle shot him? Was he dead? He wasn't moving... She changed course for the woman and the car, denying all her previous instincts as her defensive nature kicked into gear. She raised her pistol at the woman's exposed back and gritted her teeth. "Don't move," she growled, readily intending to plant a bullet in the girl if she made a sudden move. The woman was smart enough to stay still until told. "Now get out... slowly."

Carl suddenly called out to Niobe as he rushed up from behind, "Don't! Niobe, NO!" She swung her gun around on Carl, stopping him dead in his tracks. He threw his arms up as he recoiled. Sweat had drenched his shirt, and he panted loudly as he tried to regain his breath. His eyes flashed towards George's motionless body on the ground. G-George...? What happened to h--"

"Carl?" Niobe asked, interrupting him.

He turned back to her, shaken up... rattled. "W-We have to go," he ordered, pulling her by the arm. "They're coming!"

Niobe yanked her arm free of his grasp. "What are you talking about, Carl? Who's coming?"

Carl stared her straight in the eyes. "The walkers... all of the walkers."

Behind them, Stevie slowly drew her ruger out from the waistband beneath her shirt. Schantz's face was pressed against the window of her vehicle nearby as she watched the spectacle play out before her eyes. She banged on the glass, fumbling weakly for the handle of the door to get out and intervene -- knowing she was the only one who could see what was about happen. As she opened to the door to get out, the full weight of a walker's body slammed against the door, pinning her leg in it sharply. She let out a short scream as she struggled to try and get back inside the car, but a second walker's hand was already blocking the frame. They clawed and thrashed at the car door trying desperately to get to her as she fought them back.

They weren't coming. They were already here.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Stevie wheeled around once she heard Schantz' uncharacteristic scream of panic, and lunged into the car through the driver's seat. She shelved her handgun near the pedals and shoved her arms underneath Schantz' armpits in an attempt to drag her across the console and remove her from the reach of the walkers.

"Quick, help us!" Stevie called back to the two who showed up. "Take the gun!"

The pretty black woman and the curly-headed man with the glasses sprang into action; she rotated about the car to distract a few of the walkers from the window, while he snagged the Ruger and followed suit. Stevie pulled Schantz into the driver's seat, Schantz kicking her legs frenziedly, narrowly escaping a series of bites and scratches. Schantz yanked a utility knife from her jacket and held it up tepidly, still weak. Stevie grabbed the knife from her hands from behind and then pulled the driver door shut, cramming a protesting Schantz uncomfortably into the seat as she scrambled feet-first over the console. As she slid into the passenger's side, she slammed her feet against the door, knocking the three gathered walkers back a few feet.

Stevie noticed that the other two had easily taken care of the walkers they'd drawn away, and had looped around to the back of the vehicle to grab the unconscious sandy-haired man off of the ground. She let one of the walkers that had reeled back come closer to the open passenger door as she flicked open a blade on the knife, and sank it into its forehead with a fast jab to stab through its skull.

One of the other walkers had resorted to crawling on its hands and knees back toward the door, and raised one hand to grip the door itself, and before Stevie knew it, had taken a hold of her right foot with its other hand. She let out a desperate shout, cuing herself to stab the knife ahead, but as she let the blade run downward, it sank its teeth into the yellow leather. She let out a loud scream as she drove the knife into the biter's skull. "Help!" she shouted as she kicked her foot. The walker's teeth stubbornly held fast onto the boot.

The black woman whirled around within view of the door and drove the Mazda's antenna, which she'd wrenched off of the hood just moments before, into the eye of the other walker hovering nearby and pulled Stevie from the seat. The other stranger set the unconscious man into the spot Stevie had just occupied and slammed the door behind them. Schantz cast a concerned glance out the window, but knew better than to try to get out again after getting her leg battered by the door.

The pressure that the walker's teeth had dispersed onto the boot was miserably painful. Stevie held back a scream and dug the knife into the walker's skull again in an attempt to loosen its trapping jaw. No luck.

The other woman pointed to the sidewalk and began to drag the deadweighted walker toward it. "This way, now!" she cracked sharply. Stevie hobbled her good foot over and obeyed the woman's command to stretch her leg out. "You've been bit?!" she asked hastily.

Stevie set her foot with the attached walker down on the sidewalk's edge as the man in the glasses directed Schantz to try to drive the remaining blocks to the metro station for help. "Hey, hey, you can't take that!" Stevie shouted.

"It's not far, and we'll get together from there!" he responded.

The woman smashed her foot down on the walker's jaw, just so that it would loosen Stevie's foot, but not without excising another pinch. It almost felt like her foot was very quickly run over by a large truck. Stevie shut her eyes and fought back another shout of pain.

She kicked off the walker as the woman looked down at the boot to inspect the bite. Curiously, there was no blood; just a set of incisor indentations and two embedded teeth. But no blood. The leather boots had been the right choice, after all, when she'd picked them out to wear nine mornings ago. The woman looked up briefly at Stevie and nodded. "Can you walk?"

Stevie nodded as she only slightly winced in pain. "Yep," she said, then saw the Nissan cruising up out of the corner of her eye. Lisa was plastered against a window with a white face, looking back at the wrecked truck, while Althea very calmly drove ahead. "Hey!" she called to the man, "wave them in, they're with us!" He nodded and pointed ahead for them to follow the Mazda, then looked to the couple of walkers that came upon them after the several they'd just dispatched.

Just then, several gunshots rang out, mowing down four of the dozen or so walkers who'd just come into view.

# # #

Harper followed Laura, one of the women from the Hollywood sign who'd opted to accompany them a week earlier, to the largest common area of the station, carrying her vest and helmet with her. "What's going on?" she asked as she walked in.

James gestured toward the wall, where the few guns that the group possessed were propped up along with items such as a few golf clubs, Nathan's metal bat, and a few garden tools. "Take your pick, kid, I know you can shoot," he scratchily instructed. "Jack says he's heard gunshots and our three ain't back yet. Got a hunch that this has got something to do with it."

Harper knew she wasn't strong enough at the moment to handle a bat, choosing instead to grab the scoped hunting rifle. "You sure about that?" she asked somewhat skeptically.

Jessica popped her head in, panting heavily. "There's a car coming," she managed between breaths, "Tara. George. Not going good. People out there. Better go!" she insisted.

Harper followed James and Laura down the long tunnelway to the exit of the station according to Jessica's instructions. They met Jack at the top of the stairs, who motioned for them to follow closely behind.

"The hell's going on out here?" James growled raspily.

"A crashed truck down the way there," Jack responded as the Mazda drove up, "and we've got two coming in."

The Mazda slowly wheeled its way closer, followed by the Nissan. Not far behind was Jessica, who stepped out to assist Schantz in getting out of the car. The Nissan also parked; a tall black woman exited and immediately ran to the Mazda to help extract George from the seat and drag him to safety. A smaller woman with shorter blonde-brown hair exited to help, both following Jessica's lead.

"They're fine," James barked sharply as the group ogled the scene, then turned their attention the other scene in the street. "Carl and Niobe, see 'em? Let's go!"

They made a run for it down the street. At one point Harper climbed into the bed of an abandoned truck and decided to peel off the walkers closing in on what turned out to be a small trio.

"Just like shooting deer," she murmured, hoping to assure herself as she concentrated on landing shots with the assistance of the scope. She let off about four shots before climbing down from the truck bed to join them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)

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Stevie continued to work in tandem with the other two strangers in heading off the oncoming slew of walkers. When the four went down in a rapid succession of gunfire, she was thrilled to see more people jump into the fray: a younger brown-haired woman with a bat, an agile poker-wielding man in a white t-shirt, and an older man with a machete.

"We've got to help everyone back there!" Stevie insisted to the newcomers, pointing back toward Thomas and the rest of the crew as they frantically worked their way into the overturned truck.

"Not so fast, Glasses!" the old man barked as he whirled his arm and wrist to expertly topple a walker with a clean swipe of his weapon. "Thanks to your mess, our location's blown! We've got to get out of here!"

Stevie looked down the short road and felt her heart jump into her throat. There was no telling what had happened to anybody riding in the truck. Nathan and the older man belonged to this group of people, as far as she could tell. And Thomas, Holloway, and Clarkson had been there with her longer than anyone else had on this strange journey... Especially Thomas. The thought of leaving without him and the others made her chest tighten with anxiety.

"We didn't shoot!" she countered back defensively, ramming her knife through an undead nasal cavity.

A few more shots rang out from the direction of the tunnel. Stevie clicked her eyes over briefly, instantly recognizing the slim, dark-haired woman pulling the trigger of a scoped hunting rifle, catching walkers' heads with precision. The old man immediately picked up on the expression on her face after a brief glance. "You know her?" he prodded aggressively.

Stevie nodded and then inserted herself back into the fighting fray. "As a matter of fact, I do," she said. "I met her before with Tara and Nathan!" She swiped the blade behind a walker's ear as it made a lunge at the other woman carrying the bat.

"Come on!" the man in the white t-shirt urged, interrupting Stevie and James' discussion. "Walkers are thinning out. We need to get going, right now!" he insisted to the small group.

"I can't leave them behind!" Stevie said exasperatedly, pointing back to the small group at the truck. She realized that she now couldn't see what it was that they were doing due to the flux of walkers crowding around them, obscuring her view.

"You've got no choice!" the black woman said, starting on a mad dash toward a nearby alley. "This way, you guys!"

Stevie shook her head. "No, no, I really can't--" She was interrupted by the old man rushing ahead and grabbing her by the arm as though completely unafraid of anything she might say or do in reaction. "Hey, no, I can't leave him behind!" she repeated, her voice rising in volume and laced heavily with frustration.

James didn't let go. He continued to pull her along.

# # #

Harper watched from her perch on the back of the truck as James struggled to pull a frantic Stephanie in the direction they needed to go in. She took a quick glance through her scope at the direction the smaller woman was looking in; she was surprised to recognize the man from the FEMA camp, easy to pick out in a crowd due to his height. He and another uniformed man plus Nathan and Steve were dragging someone... or were they hiding? It was hard to tell, but with the traffic of walkers flooding the expanse between the two different groups, leaving was the best option.

She hopped down and made a beeline for Niobe and Carl as they ducked between two buildings. Jack followed suit and soon James was able to convince Stephanie to come along, with Laura in tow clutching the bloody baseball bat.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)

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"Come on, up! Up! Now!" James shouted upwards at Stephanie as she climbed up to the roof via a utility ladder following behind the others. The old man sure had a way of motivating others to do exactly what needed to be done when push came to shove. Harper watched from above as the petite woman cycled her boots upward rung by rung, climbing closer to the top with every motion. James kept pace behind her, then slowed down after he realized that he was out of reach of the walkers' graspy hands, more resembling hooks than anything human at all. "Hurry up, Glasses! We're not going to pull you up ourselves!"

Harper watched as the girl obligingly scrambled up the ladder at exactly the pace James had wanted her to go, and then decided to just extend her hand downward to assist her ascent onto the roof. That was easily about eight stories' worth of height that everyone had bounded up rapidly.

"Thanks," Stephanie panted after she knelt on the ground to catch her breath. She, like the others, was covered in dust, from the top of her head down to her ripped stockings.

Harper nodded and extended a hand to help her up. "I'm really happy to see you," she said in an attempt at an appropriate but warm greeting.

Stephanie offered a short smile before looking in the direction of the overturned truck. She rushed to the ledge of the roof in the spot where the view of the scene would be most optimal, and looked down over the edge only to gasp loudly. One of the largest swarms of walkers she'd ever seen rushed the intersection that the truck lay overturned in. Scores upon scores of undead teemed about the silver vehicle. She could have sworn that she'd spotted dismembered body parts, and, sure enough, the remnants of Maria's blood-stained shirt started to circulate through walkers that tossed the useless thing off and away to another walker who in turn shoved it away, and so on, until it spiraled out on the outer valence of the gathered horde.

Harper sauntered over to her side and watched as she swallowed the lump forming in her throat. She even had to wonder what became of Nathan or Steve... but for now she couldn't worry about that. She watched Stephanie wring her hands nervously and ball her hands up into fists, holding them against her stomach anxiously. "Do you see them?!" she blurted out nervously, her voice straining with worry. "I... I can't see any of them!"

Niobe and Carl watched as James cleared his throat and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Now, can you tell me what the fuck transpired down there and caused all this?" he demanded impatiently, tossing the massive knife he'd been wielding down at his feet. "In fact, I'm not asking, I'm not requesting--I'm telling you. Spill it. Now."

Stephanie kept her arms in front of her, freezing them in place as she gritted her teeth. "You made me leave them," she said stiffly, continuing to stare down below, looking for any sign whatsoever of Nathan, his friend, Terrence, Spencer... and Thomas. The more her eyes darted about, the more nauseous she became.

"Goddammit, you're not listening to me!" James fumed, his voice a special kind of gravelly angry.

Harper jumped back as Stephanie whirled around and clenched her fists down by her sides, narrowing her eyes angrily. On a certain level it almost looked as though she were pleading him to stop antagonizing her. "No, I'm not listening to you!" she yelled back with equal vigor. "Now back the fuck off!"

James glared at her. "Look, Glasses, I didn't see a wedding ring on your finger, which means you better snap out of it and fly right this instant!" he snapped rapidly. "If that wasn't family, you've got no room to be like this."

Harper stepped between the two and held her hands up. "Hey, hey, let's take a minute," she ordered dryly. "She'll tell you what happened. Give her a few minutes. Waiting isn't going to get us killed, is it?" She turned her face to the older man and tilted her head inquisitively. He let out an exasperated sigh from his nose and begrudgingly nodded. He spat on the ground as he turned on the heel of his boot to put some distance between himself and the feisty girl who apparently wasn't afraid to yell back at him. Harper turned back to Stephanie, who had already been returned to the ledge to continue watching the scene. Her face was fallen and ashy as she watched the horde hack at the truck filled with fresh death. One thing the walkers couldn't do was unlatch the cover of the truck bed, thankfully, but that wasn't what Stephanie was focused on.

"Is she going to be all right?"

Harper turned suddenly to meet Jack's concerned expression. Laura, Niobe, and Carl stood in a small cluster, watching with great interest. She nodded to them and looked back to Jack. "I think so," she said matter-of-factly, almost absent as she said it as she continued to focus on Stephanie. "I've never seen her like this before."

Jack blinked. "Wait, is this the girl you met on that boat?" he asked, drawing conclusions based on what information Harper and Tara had earlier shared with him as the group swapped stories throughout the week that had gone by since they went underground. Harper nodded slowly. He furrowed his eyebrows and briefly studied Stephanie's body language. "Who's down there?"

Stephanie turned around, looking as though she was struggling to hold back tears. "Tom's down there," she said, dread filling each syllable she spoke. "And so is Terrence. And Spencer. Jordan. Maria. Alejandro." She turned her eyes to Harper and sighed. "You guys told Tom to come look for me last week. And he found me." Stephanie turned to stare again at the scene below, searching for any details that perhaps they were okay.

It suddenly clicked in Harper's mind. She frowned deeply. The tall soldier that had come to say goodbye to Stephanie when they were all lined up against the cold metal wall on the frigate--the same soldier that she, Schantz, and Nathan had flagged down through the fence at the FEMA camp when things were starting to go very poorly. He'd recommended that they make a run for it after they told him that Stephanie was under quarantine in a medical unit. They'd helped Stephanie, and he helped them.

What a horrible way for their paths to cross again.

# # #

It had been twenty minutes since they'd come onto the roof. James' temper had quelled considerably and so had Stephanie's. The girl explained that their group had loaded up three vehicles full of supplies the previous night, and happened to run across a fairly skittish George after encountering Nathan, Steve, and Schantz.

After Stephanie finished explaining what had happened, there was a thick haze of silence that hung over the roof. The afternoon sun still bore overhead and the sounds of the roaring, starving walkers below was thankfully faint due to their height above the concrete below.

James dragged a hand down his jowls, blinking his eyes in near disbelief. "Well, ain't that a son of a bitch," he grumbled, looking down at his boots.

"George did seem a little bothered today," Harper observed aloud. "He was pretty tense when I'd talked to him this morning." Niobe nodded her agreement.

"We'll need to verify this," James said, putting a hand up. "I don't know if we can trust you," he said pointedly to the girl in the glasses.

Stephanie rolled her eyes and sighed. "No, it's not that you don't trust me, it's that you don't believe me," she corrected emphatically, a lilt of frustration laced into her tone. "And it doesn't matter to me if you believe me or not. I know what I saw."

"Actually, it's pretty important that we believe you," Niobe spelled out. "Who else can corroborate your story?"

"Tom," Stephanie answered simply. She then looked over at her shoulder toward the ledge and then turned her attention back to the others. "Well. Maybe Tara. Maybe she saw some of it."

"So it's George's word versus yours," Niobe countered.

Stephanie shrugged. "We never shot," she said plainly.

"But you said your guy, there, drew a weapon on him," Jack said thoughtfully. "Man's got a right to defend himself."

"Well, 'your guy, there,' drew a weapon on me, first," Stephanie corrected, her brown eyes boring intensely into his. "Tom was trying to help me."

Harper shook her head. "Well, we aren't going to solve the world's problems right now," she offered calmly. "For now, we just need to-"

And suddenly, a bright flash shone from the north. "Cover your eyes!" James shouted instinctively, years' worth of bomb drill training in childhood and tours in Vietnam taking a hold of his reflexes as he reached forward to push those closest to him, Carl and Laura, down on the ground. The others followed suit. A loud BANG! thundered out across the city and the roof refuge began to sway as the road shook. After several seconds, everyone slowly opened their eyes and stood, wandering to look north at the massive ball of fire showing up over the horizon.

"What the hell was that?" Carl asked peculiarly.

"I think that was San Francisco," James glumly answered.

A hush fell over the group.

Until, the sound of several scraping feet all heading in one direction began to heap itself toward the direction of the sound. The small group rushed to the ledge on the north end of the building and peered downward--walkers were starting to amble curiously and purposefully toward the sound of the bomb, or whatever it was, that had lit the sky.

Harper looked curiously at Jack, then back down below. Weird.

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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Christopher Jones

Christopher had found the building he was staying in 5 days ago, and so far, it was shaping up to be a decent shelter. The building had plenty of food and was adequately defended from the walkers. However, the mechanic wasn’t sure it could hold off against a horde of them, obviously attracted by the recent explosion, so he prepared to escape. As he gathered up his supplies he pondered his current situation.

While he had gathered enough food for several months, Christopher was somewhat worried. Not of any physical condition, but of loneliness. It seemed like a somewhat silly concern, but he’d seen what happened to people who were deprived of human interaction. He had seen and talked to so many of them that he could spot the signs. Basically they had behaved much as a young child would, with limited social and mental capabilities. They could also hallucinate.

Christopher knew that he would not survive if he lived without any human contact for a long time, nor would he want to. So he resolved to set out and find people he could interact with. Of course, there were a large number of walkers outside, and even if he could somehow manage to find humans without getting bit, there was no guarantee they’d be friendly.

Christopher’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard a loud crashing noise downstairs. The walkers. The former gang member stuffed whatever he could into his satchel and walked at a fast pace to the ladder to the roof. Walking at a normal speed wasted precious time, but running quickly would make him vulnerable to ambushes. There were many different routes through the building, and it was very likely that the walkers could wander up the ramp used for disabled employees at the former workplace. Christopher’s wise decision prevented him from dying in the building, as there was indeed a walker in the next corner. Christopher thought for a moment as to the method he should dispatch the walker. His shotgun, while most certainly effective, would alert even more walkers. His pocket knife? He didn’t think it had enough of a reach to take out the walker without getting too close. His fists? No. No way. Christopher bit his lip and narrowed his eyes. He was in trouble.

Just as the walker was about to close in there was a thump on the roof. This was all the chance Christopher needed. Quick as lighting, Christopher slammed the butt of his rifle into the walker’s face. The force of the impact shattered the walkers’ nose and flung him to the ground. Quick as a wink, Christopher maneuvered to the side of the walker, raised his foot, and brought it down on the walker’s head. CRUNCH! The walker’s face was now a mess of blood, rotted teeth, and skin, but Christopher wasn’t done yet. He continued to stomp on the walker and finally jump on him with all of his might.

Not wanting to look at the surely disgusting area where the walker’s head used to be, Christopher was about to continue onward when moans very close behind him prompted the man to literally leap out of harm’s way. Christopher turned around to see 2 walkers facing towards him. Christopher didn’t think that his previous strategy would work against more than one walker, and even if it did, he wouldn’t have enough time before more walkers showed up. Now would be a good time to run. Christopher bolted for the door leading to the ladder at a speed even a professional track runner would be impressed by. Once inside he slammed the door shut and was pleased to discover it had a lock. Right before the walkers busted through, he locked the door.

After that little encounter Christopher took a moment to catch his breath. He didn’t expect that little adventure to tire him out so quickly. I’m getting old, He thought to himself. The statement was not thought with bitterness or anger; merely a statement of fact. He wondered about the walker he had so brutally eliminated and pondered for a moment whether walkers feel pain. Despite everything, he didn’t hate the walkers. They were just animals following their instinct. Which was not to say he would complain if they were completely eliminated from the earth, nor would he forget the suffering they had caused. But he didn’t want them to suffer. What was the point? It wasn’t as if they would regret at the last moment their deeds, and it wasn’t as if killing them in a certain manner would help anyone. The best thing to do would be to survive.

He had rested long enough. The walkers moans’ were starting to gain in number, and if they broke through before Christopher escaped, he was dead. Christopher climbed up the ladder with haste, unlocked the ceiling door, (he had found the key and kept it in his pocket at all times) and opened it. It took his eyes a while to adjust to the sudden bright light of the sun, during which he finished climbing up. When his eyes successfully readjusted, he found himself looking at a surprised group of people. Hoping to break the ice, Christopher said, “Just so you know, there's a bunch of walkers downstairs. Say, are you looking for a group member? I may be old, but I can fix up cars, and the like, and I have experience shooting. Also, do you know what caused that huge explosion?”

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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Seven pairs of eyes set themselves upon the man who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, standing in a doorway that must have led down below into the building.

Niobe held up a hand and gestured to the others in the group. "You do not want to cross us right now," she insisted darkly, signaling for him to move away from the door and toward nearest outermost section of the roof. "Are you alone? We're searching you." She glanced back briefly at Carl and Jack, who immediately stepped forward to carry out her quick orders. She jogged ahead to the door from where the man had come in from and slammed it shut, in case there were indeed walkers that may have been making their way up to the roof, as he'd said.

"Ten bucks says that was a nuke," James drawled grittily, looking at his watch and staring northward.

Harper folded her arms across her chest, casting him a sidelong glance while facing the newcomer. "I'm not asking because I don't believe you," she started, "but I do want to know why you think it was a nuke. It could have been anything."

"That's right," he sighed resignedly. "What are you, maybe 30? You're too young to have seen old film reels about nuclear annihilation or sat under your desk in a bomb drill." He laughed out loud, mostly to himself. "You don't even know what the Cold War was. Well, maybe this old cat here could relate," he gestured toward the stranger, who cooperated with Carl and Jack in allowing them to search anything he had on him, "but anyway, that blast matched what they said would happen. A big, bright flash. A delayed blast. I learned how to count the distance between me and bombs while I was in Vietnam. Younger than you are, I might add." He turned his head back toward the north. "Don't forget the mushroom cloud. Which, you might recall, we saw. You can still see it, in fact." He gesticulated his hands anxiously toward the aforementioned cloud. "Gets worse and worse..." he muttered, trailing off.

There was a short silence that hung over the group as everyone exchanged glances. Harper pursed her lips and looked around. "Well, if that's the case, then what do we do?" she spelled out, as though detachedly and coldly reviewing their options. "The walkers are heading that way. If what this guy says is true, then this building is saturated with them and we can't go in through the door, there." Harper nodded toward the entrance the stranger had appeared at. Sure enough, the curious warbling of a couple of walkers echoed muffledly from the metal door.

Stevie peered down in the direction that two of the vehicles holding supplies had gone, spying them amidst the throng of undead piling northward, wandering in and around the entrance of the metro tunnel clearly labeled by the crooked signs close by. "There's enough room for almost all of us in those, just down there," she offered, waving and pointing down to the site. "I've got spare keys in my pocket." She shook her jacket by her side, keys jingling to confirm. "It'd be a tight squeeze, but we could do it."

"So, we'd have to go back down the steps," Harper said, turning from Stevie to the iron curling over the ledge connecting to the utility ladder they'd ascended to reach the roof, "back around the building, and get through the street, then pile into the vehicles?"

James shook his head. "I think it's better if we just go back through the building," he disagreed gruffly. "We don't know how much fuel is in those things, and we need to be under a roof, not on top of one." He looked toward the new man, who'd received a relieved nod of approval from both Jack and Carl after an extensive search. "What do you think? And what's your name, anyway?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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Christopher Jones

Christopher followed all of the young black women’s requests. They were all reasonable, and the fact that the group hadn’t shot him on sight implied that they were the people he was looking for: The ones that still understood the importance of civility. While he was being searched by the two men, he took the time to observe some of the members of the group.

The first one he noticed was the black women, for obvious reasons. She acted tough, and he admired that in a person whether they were being true to themselves or not. It might’ve been because he was raised in a tough environment, but he felt that in difficult situations, one needed to show the toughest face they could. It could literally mean the difference between life and death.

The second person he noticed was one of the men searching him, the one without the glasses. For a reason he couldn't quite understand just yet, he got a bad vibe from him. He ignored it though, as it was crucial for survival that everyone was to get along. Christopher would keep an eye on him, just in case.

Christopher then noticed the man speaking up, the old one. Instantly, Christopher could feel a kinship with this man. Although he looked quite a bit older than Christopher, the ex-gang member was probably the closest to the man in age. Christopher sensed that he’d been looking for someone he could relate to, and even though Christopher and the old man came from very different worlds, the mechanic had a feeling they shared at least one thing in common: The desire to impart wisdom to the younger generation.

Christopher stopped his analyzing of the new group and listened to the old man’s words. At the mention of, “this old cat here could relate”, Christopher’s mind skipped back to his childhood.

By the time Christopher was born, the red scare of the 50’s was long since over, but the cold war’s last gasps were felt greatly during the 80’s, when Christopher was a teenager. The schools no longer taught the ineffectual “duck and cover” methods of the 50’s, but the threat of Communism was still very real. Maybe China…

No. There was no time for guessing what caused it and what it was. With his voice quieted, so as not to attract the walkers, Christopher said, “If it was a nuclear bomb, then we need to get out of here, and fast. Even if it wasn’t, there will be less walkers in a less populated area.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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"Everything is just fine."

"Excuse me?"

Stevie continued to look toward the cloud climbing further into the sky, and then back at the intersection below. The horde almost looked like it was thinning and dissipating, at least to a point. The truck looked as though it was almost completely unsalvageable. At minimum, it wasn't meant to be driven. The metal frame of windshield and doors were twisted into a nearly unrecognizable state. Bloody handprints were splashed about messily on the scratched paint. No sign of anyone... no boots, no clothing, no recognizable trace of Thomas or the others. She turned her head to look at the two other cars down by the metro entrance. Just a few blocks away. This was totally doable.

"Everything is just fine," she repeated to the group, looking over her shoulder back at them as she rested her hands on the ledge. Maybe she said it more to convince herself of that. "We can make it. They're starting to slow down. This can totally work, if we hit it right." She turned around fully. "I've got the keys and it's my crazy idea. I'll go, myself."

"You're not going down there alone, Glasses," James barked. "We don't even know if it's a good idea or not."

"We just need to drive the cars over here, have everyone get in, and we're all right," she reassured him. "And, look, the first 24 hours after a bomb are the most dangerous." She pointed up at the heavy plume of debris surging up into the atmosphere, higher as higher as the minutes went by. "We need a roof over our heads. Even if it's a car roof."

"But you're still breathing outside air," he argued back.

Niobe released an exasperated, heaving sigh as she suddenly set off toward the ladder. "I'm not going through the building just to create more work," she grumbled loudly.

Carl clamored after her. "Hey, hey!" he called quickly, visibly panicking as she made her descent. "I really don't think you should-"

"Excuse me!" Stevie rang out in rushed politeness, working her way around him and grasping the handles of the ladder to make her way down. She looked at Carl, focusing on his face rather than becoming preoccupied with the long climb downward. Her fear of heights was paralyzing, but this was no time to allow the phobia to take over. She worked her feet down one rung at a time. "Can you guys maybe... find a way to distract them?" She kept going.

# # #

Niobe motioned for Stevie to stay still. Their steady meander toward the cars had been surprisingly easy, weaving between other dead vehicles and stepping about as quietly as possible. Carl's creative approach to distracting walkers must have been manifested into the shrieks of car alarms pealing out not far away; the few walkers who had indeed been in the street had begun to stumble toward the high-pitched din and allowed them a decent way to make a break for it.

She looked over her shoulder and studied the small woman. She wasn't sure about her yet... She certainly wasn't afraid of James, as she'd demonstrated. Considering the circumstances, a little bit of emotional distress was to be expected, of course, but she seemed to be all over the map. She and Carl had watched most of the dialogue unfold and had, for the most part, remained quiet, except for a few brief interludes. Yet, here she was, the only other person down on the ground, pistol in hand and keys to two vehicles in her pocket. Crazy or just headstrong, it didn't matter, as long as she was dedicated to reaching their destination.

Niobe turned her attention back to the street before her, and slowly slunk ahead. She waved her hand, beckoning Stevie to follow. At the end of their quiet dash, success--they'd reached the cars.

Stevie smiled as she brandished one set of keys and handed it to Niobe. She nodded as she unlocked the Mazda's driver door. The evidence of Schantz' severe nosebleed was indicated by the rusty pools on the upholstery and the iron'ish smell wafting about inside the confined space. Niobe nodded at her as she climbed into Nissan. The two quickly placed their keys in the ignition and thrummed the engines to life, preparing to pilot closer to the six left behind.

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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James shook his head as he peered over the edge of the roof while Harper stood next to him, staring intently through the rifle's scope as she followed the two women below as they snuck their way to the cars near the metro entrance. If any walkers were to pose a direct threat that Stevie or Niobe couldn't handle, she was ready to eliminate it herself from above.

"Shoulda gone through the building," he grumbled as he, too, watched them. "Woulda had a roof over our head and everything. This is ludicrous."

*CLUNK*

The top of the roof offered possibilities in terms of distracting walkers on the street. A few lawn chairs were scattered about, and a large cellophane-wrapped package of bricks sat near the door from where Christopher had come. Carl, Laura, and Jack gleefully lobbed bricks from the roof onto cars below, testing to see if they'd been outfitted with sensitive car alarms. Sure enough, a black Corvette began to shriek in protest at having been rattled by the unanticipated brick.

Carl pumped his fist and high-fived Laura enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah!" he cheered, a big grin instantly appearing on his face. "We shoot, we scoooore! Let's do it again!"

The three laughed as though Carl's joke was the funniest they'd heard in a long time. It probably was.

James rolled his eyes and turned back to Harper, who was still focused on the scene below. "Acting like a bunch of children," he gruffed bitterly. "Waste of time."

"Well, we are where we are," Harper sighed back, blinking and pulling her eye away from the scope momentarily to look at the older man directly. "You might be singing a different tune if this works."

"We could have just gone through the building like I'd said in the first place," he stubbornly ruffed, flexing his fingers and gripping the ledge distractedly. "Woulda been a lot simpler."

"Niobe said she didn't feel like creating more work for us by going through the building," Harper recounted, "and I'm pretty sure she meant she didn't feel like running into more walkers than necessary." She turned her focus back onto the street, then picked the rifle back up to her eye level. "Look. They made it."

The two watched as the silver and red vehicles slowly made their way toward their building, keeping quiet and inching along in order to avoid detection. A few walkers in the distance appeared to notice them and slowly bobbled and ambled toward them, but not quickly enough to put them in immediate danger.

"Hey! They did it!" Carl's voice boomed from behind. James and Harper jumped, startled by the sudden sound unexpectedly coming up so close behind them.

"Dammit, Carl!" James exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.

Harper continued to look downward. "They sure did," she said flatly in an effort to hold back any premature excitement.

# # #

Both cars parked in front of the building, and both drivers peeked around in order to make sure it was safe to open their doors quietly.

Niobe paced toward Stevie. "Any reason why we didn't go into the alley, where the ladder is?" she asked quietly when she came within a few feet.

Stevie gestured to the entrance of the alley and shrugged. "It looks too narrow," she pointed out. "Let's just wave them down. And it'll be easier to get out of here this way."

Niobe stared at her for a brief moment, then walked past her toward the mouth of the alley. "Fine," she uttered as Stevie skittered after her. They jogged to the metal railing of the ladder, where Niobe turned toward her again. "After you," she permitted, waving a hand at the bottom rung.

Stevie gritted her teeth and looked up. "I'll slow you down," she said quickly. "I'll just wait here for you guys and show them the way. Mind asking your friend if he can bring my gun down with him?"

Niobe blinked, unsure of what to think. She sighed and began to palm her way up to the top. Stevie hung back on the ground, relieved that she didn't have to once again channel all her strength into not imagining herself falling and slipping. She stretched her arms above her head and glanced about. The silence was eerie... no cars, no passerby conversation, no airplaines, not even the sound of air conditioning churning from within a building. But silence also meant that nothing was coming her way.

And then it hit her. Niobe was well on her way back up to the roof and within sight, sure, but for the first time in a while, she was alone. Normally she relished the feeling of finally having a moment to herself. But not this time.

# # #

"So, where's your buddy?" James growled as Niobe took a moment to catch her breath after reaching the group's level.

"Down below," Niobe panted slightly, then took a deep breath and stood up straight. "She's down there. She said she'd help." She looked around at everyone and beckoned them toward the ladder. "I've got keys to one, she's got keys to the other. There's only enough room for maybe three in hers, five in mine."

"Shotgun!" Carl rang out cheerfully.

Niobe smirked and pitched her set of keys toward him. "After you, my friend."

His grin collapsed into a straight line. He and sheepishly looked at the ladder, then back to Niobe, then sighed as he slung a leg over the edge of the roof and began to slowly make his way down. "Y'know, I could just go last and still have shotgun," he commented as he disappeared over the other side.

Harper hid a laugh behind her hand as she stepped forward and followed suit. James, Christopher, then Jack came after, one by one, waiting until the previous person was at least safely halfway down the building before making their own climbs down, leaving Laura and Niobe up top by themselves. "Ready to roll?" Niobe asked.

Laura nodded. "I got it, you go ahead and I'll bring up the rear," she offered.

*THUD*

They darted their eyes at the door. Two snarling walkers burst from the metal barrier, taking less than a second to examine their possible prey before burling toward the two women. "Go!" Laura barked at Niobe, who vaulted over smoothly and began to make her way down. Laura pressed the backs of her legs against the inner wall of the rooftop and watched them come closer, peering back over her shoulder to ensure that Niobe was a safe distance down before she herself would descend. She then looked back at the walkers and felt her heart begin to pound.

# # #

"All ready?" Stevie asked Carl, James, and Christopher as they settled into the Nissan. She leaned through the open driver's side window and smiled at James and winked. He rolled his eyes and looked out his window on the right side of the vehicle. Stevie inwardly laughed. She loved it when she could just smile at anyone who had given her any ounce of a difficult time if it would cause them a moment of angst. A silly source of amusement at a time like this, but the plan had worked.

"Yep, just going to wait for our esteemed driver, then we ought to be hunky dory," Carl said as he buckled his seatbelt. He reached over to stick the keys in the ignition and switched the radio on, cruising through the channels. Static. Static. Static. And more static. He could have sworn he'd heard muffled voices on at least one setting--but the frequency sounded weak. Distant, maybe? "So, who wants to argue with me over what station we listen to?"

Stevie smiled and stood up straight and looked back toward Jack and Harper, who leaned against the Mazda, chatting quietly. She tilted her head in curiosity--Harper's face was tightly drawn, and even though she couldn't hear their conversation, she wondered what exactly it was that they were discussing.

Niobe dropped down, within view of the two vehicles, and motioned to the others frantically, trying not to shout and possibly draw in attention. She then pointed up at the ladder. Laura was about halfway down the side of the building and there were a couple of walkers clawing pointlessly up top. Suddenly, one of them heaved itself over the side and tumbled toward the ground. It all happened so fast--the walker fell directly onto Laura, sending her tumbling down with it. The two bodies hit the ground with a sick crunch. Stevie gasped and covered her hands with her mouth. James immediately opened his door and grasped the handle of his long knife purposefully as he sprinted toward the scene, pushing his physical limits considering his age. Jack and Niobe rushed after him instinctively. The others' faces went white as they witnessed the two bash in the skull of the offending walker before stooping down to take Laura's pulse. It didn't take long to figure out from their body language that Laura was gone.

A couple of distant guttural shouts curdled out from behind the vehicles. Harper and Stevie whirled their heads around just in time to see a sizable swarm heading toward them, and then another from the opposite side. They scrambled into the Mazda as Christopher shut the passenger door to his right, and Carl frantically pressed on the buttons on his own door to roll the driver's window up.

Harper looked at Stevie from her spot in the passenger seat, and watched her wince as the walkers began to swarm the cars. Soon they couldn't even see the Nissan through the thrashing mess of faces, hands, and teeth bashing onto the windows. The car rocked with the force the walkers pushed onto it from all sides. "Are you fucking kidding me?" Stevie breathed, hitting the locks on all the doors and gripping the steering wheel tightly, despite still being in "Park." She knew perfectly well that they were safe, but the sight was still incredibly disconcerting. No way to back up, no way to move forward.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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The car jerked from left to right, fists pounding on the exterior and groans waning muffledly through the glass and creaking metal. Harper clutched the shoulder strap of her seatbelt while Stevie continued to grip the steering wheel with tensed white knuckles.

"I can't see the other car," Harper muttered loudly, peering intently through the shifting series of faces outside. Suddenly the hard heel of a hand bunted like a rock against the glass, inches away from Harper's face. She let out a loud scream and leaned away from the window, backing into Stevie. She pulled Harper in and reached back for the handle of one of the fencing weapons. She yanked one forward and quickly bent the blade to point safely toward the cracking glass. Harper gripped the handle and pointed the weapon purposefully toward her feet.

"Just hang in there," Stevie said steadily, "we'll be okay, we just need to stay calm..." She trailed off, glancing around at the gray and green faces cramming noisily around them. She took a deep breath and kept her face still, trying hard to hide her panic.

Harper eased back into her seat and reached for the rifle, set on top of the boxes of ammo stacked in the back. She handed the epée to Stevie and pointed the gun ahead, preparing to shoot if necessary.

A loud horn sounded a short distance away, drawing the swarm away toward the origin of the sound. The two women held very still and sank down into their chairs. They watched as a yellow school bus pulled up in the middle of the street nearby, each window filling up with a face, arms, and firearm of some kind, targeting walkers and taking them down easily.

Harper turned to look back at the Nissan--still intact. She caught Carl's eye as he stared beyond the Mazda toward the bus, then followed the trail of a couple more straggling walkers as they went on. Niobe jogged by, accompanied by James with his machete. The old man enthusiastically chopped ahead, connecting with walkers' heads and sending them toppling down. He almost made it look easy.

Harper turned her head again and watched as Carl signaled something; Niobe beckoned widely with her arms. A small group of people with pistols raced out to the Nissan and pulled Carl and Christopher out, then ran them onto the bus. Harper let out a brief yelp when she felt the door behind her open--Jack stood there with the fire poker he'd been carrying around for days. "We're heading to the bus," he informed them, "Ni and Carl are saying they've met them, so we better go, now!"

"What about the ammo and everything in here?" Stevie asked, looking around. Would all that work have been for nothing, after all?

Jack shook his head. "Maybe we can come back," he offered carefully, "but for now, let's go!" As he offered Harper a hand to pull her from her seat, Stevie pulled a Sharpie from her coat pocket immediately after springing from her own side and began to scribble something on the driver's side window. She tossed the key under a floor mat, slammed the door shut, and darted toward the bus with the others. After everyone jumped inside and ducked into the faux-leather seats, the diesel engine roared to life as it propelled the group forward toward their next destination. Harper could have sworn that she saw Lauren struggling slowly after them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC)

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+ Niobe Kajja +


The nearest Capitol pulled the folding door shut as the bus rumbled to life, tearing forward across the littered street ahead. Harper, James, Stevie, Jack, and Christopher were all ushered towards the back of the bus by a few others as various weapons were thrust into their hands. They stepped into the open spots near the makeshift shuttered windows to help clear the sides of clinging walkers. A heavier-set woman rose from her seat near the back upon seeing the sudden strangers around her.

"Uhh-- excuse me?" she said loudly, waving at the driver through the front mirror.

Eli jerked the wheel to the left, his teeth clamped down on his lip as he fought with every muscle to not flip the bus. "They're friends," he shot back without taking his eyes off the road. Patrick held on tightly to the back of the driver's seat as he exchanged quick handshakes with Niobe and Carl. They held onto whatever they could to keep from falling over as the bus violently swerved through the streets. A small gaggle of walkers splattered across the front of the bus as Eli braced the wheel for impact.

"Wish we were meeting again under better conditions," Patrick said, disparagingly.

Niobe squeezed his shoulder, her face damp with sweat as she breathed quick and shallow breaths. "We're very-- thankful," she managed.

"Yeah, man--" Carl butted in, "We were in a pretty shitty spot back there."

Niobe turned to look towards the back of the bus where her friends were -- each of them involved in some activity amongst all the moving bodies. "Where's Silas?" she asked, noticing his absence.

"He's back at HQ," Patrick replied.

Eli shook his head, somehow having managed to listened to their little conversation despite the clusterfuck of a road he was navigating through. "Alright, Cobra Commander--" he teased. He glanced at Niobe in the large rearview mirror. "He means Amoeba. Y'know, the record store? We relocated there after the Capitol was hit."

Carl frowned. "We wondered what happened to you guys."

Patrick shrugged, glancing between the two of them -- until something took his focus past their shoulders. He shoved past them, walking towards the back of the bus. His gaze shot out the back window into the growing darkness of the night. "Eli!" he shouted back, pushing past some of the other passengers as he fought towards the front. "Eli-- the b-bus... it's gone." Everyone onboard lurched forward as Eli applied the brakes slowly, turning onto a side street.

"What the fuck, Speed Racer?" Jack shouted out from his spot near the window, drawing his head back in. Others around him did the same, wondering what was happening as well.

Eli stood from his seat to face the hushed crowd. "Where's the other bus?"

Muted voices and whispers bubbled up from the group as they pressed their faces against the windows, anxiously searching outside for any sign of their tandem vehicle.

"Oh, God..." somebody cried from deeper back in the bus. "C-Claire... Boone... Gus? They all made it right?"

"We can't stay sitting here!" another voice shouted out. Several others seemed to agree as the hype built inside the bus. Eli looked pleadingly at Patrick, but they both knew it before they said a word. There was no going back. Black ash had caked against the edges of the buses windows, a reminder of the ticking clock to get indoors -- lest they risk further... biological problems. Eli slid back into the driver seat and flipped the bus back into gear, lurching it forward. His white knuckles gripped the wheel as they dipped around the next corner, gunning for home.


* * *


"Once the gate's shut, you high-tail it indoors," Eli warned Patrick. "I'll back it up against the rear exit and come in that way, but you'll have to unlock the door for me from the inside." Patrick nodded his understanding and clasped the man's hand tightly as the last few passengers exited the bus and filed into Amoeba through the side exit as one of the Capitols held the door open. A makeshift, wire gate had been erected over one side of the alley -- wide enough for vehicles to move through, and fully retractable. A clever feat of engineering given the circumstances. Several of the Capitols helped the more injured members of their party inside as Harper, Jack and the others followed.

But it was Stevie who ended up coming in near to last. Her eyes adjusted to the light and met his, and their breath caught for just a moment. It wasn't love at first sight or anything like that -- but rather like the remembrance of a distant memory... as recent as it may have actually been. He walked towards the door with several other armed Capitols in tow to receive their injured allies, rolling up his sleeves as they approached and slowing to a stop and he recognized who he was was looking at.

"Stevie...?" the man's coarse voice asked -- disbelief in his eyes.

Silas knew this woman. And she knew him.