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Chuck Cherry (NPC)

A sportscaster who just can't sit still. (DECEASED)

0 · 119 views · located in Season 1

a character in “The Walking Dead: Online”, as played by Fear of a Female Planet

Description

Portrayed by: Jude Law

Profession: TV Sports Anchor

Age: 42

Gender: M

Height/Weight: 5'9" / 180 lbs.

Hair/Eyes: Light Brown / Blue

Nationality/Ethnicity: American

Tattoos/Scars: N/a

Clothing/Outfit: Work slacks, white collared shirt, blue tie

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Traits:

MBTI type: ESTP (Extroverted Sensing Thinking Prospector)

3 Strengths:

Fast Talker - Chuck subjects himself daily to the art of the play-by-play: fast narration of sporting events to tell an audience either over the TV or radio what's going on. As a result, he's a keen observer who can turn words around quickly and easily.

Athlete - Chuck grew up as an avid baseball player and heads up the station's softball team in the citywide competitive league. He still stays in good shape.

Strategist - After observing and becoming a student of sports for the better part of his life, Chuck's got an avid appreciation for the mechanics of sports and the rules of competition, not to mention being able to get into the heads of coaches and play-callers.
 

3 Weaknesses

Alcoholic - Chuck's got a bit of an attachment to alcohol. He's been in AA for several months and has made progress on his recovery.

A Little Creepy - Another of Chuck's many vices is the opposite sex. He was known around WEND-TV for chasing young interns and hitting on new female reporters.

Prima Donna - Chuck's got a bit of an ego problem that naturally comes with top-market sports anchors, and he lends himself to being frequently impatient.

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Personality:
Chuck is an outgoing, social person who loves to laugh and talks fast, but with a short attention span and a tremendous ego.

Fears:
Relapsing into alcoholism, the LGBT community

Aspirations:
Jump out to ESPN

Dominant Emotion:
Excitable

Demeanor:
Hyperactive

Quirks/Oddities:
Cracks lame jokes when he's nervous

Skills/Proficiencies:
Fast talking, a solid foundation of statistics/probability, running, jumping, swinging a bat!

History:
- Born in south Florida to a lower middle class family
- Avid baseball player; went to Louisiana State to pitch
- Graduates from LSU with degree in Communications in 1994; goes to work as a sportscaster for a small station in east Texas
- Heads to a station in Dallas in 1998
- Lands job in Las Vegas in 2000; meets and marries his wife
- Offered evening gig at WEND-TV in 2005
- Wife splits from him in 2013 due to alcohol abuse and longtime infidelity

So begins...

Chuck Cherry (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

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Harper Hopkins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence. And then-- her voice.

"Calvin?"

"Harper! Are you guys alright?"

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hey... are you alright?"

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

KSHSHSHSHSSHSHHHhhhhhh

"Harper? Hello? ... Shit."

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

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

THUD!

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

"Shit, you guys, we gotta hustle!"

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

They had to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uhhh, I dunno--"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Calvin..."

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

Suddenly they heard footsteps from down the path...

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

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

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

"Chuck? Buddy?"


< + >


...Two Hours Earlier...

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

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

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

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

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


< + >


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calvin shuddered. Nothing sounded more dangerous right now.

*CLANG CLANG CLANG*

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Seriously?"

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

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

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let's go."



* * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack pumped his shotgun. "Do the rest?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BANG! BANG!

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bingo."

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He didn't know which would be worse.

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

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

SMACK!

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BANG!

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

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

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

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

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

"Some situations call for swifter retribution..."

CLICK. BOOM!!

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

So much for no one else dying...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

"What the hell was that?!" Nathan said as the car came to a jarring stop after spinning out wildly off the side of the road.

The firetruck had seemingly come out of nowhere, sirens blaring and lights obnoxiously flashing, causing Schantz to lose control of the vehicle as it clumsily lurched to avoid them. The urgency with which it flew down the road just served to heighten their nerves; just moments ago they saw what almost looked like a straight line of fire cut through the congestion of buildings not far from them. It was hard to register what they'd seen--this kind of thing just wasn't supposed to happen.

Schantz quickly put the car back on the path and continued climbing up, up, and up the hill. They followed the heavy tracks of the firetruck that had just whirled past them to a small clearing featuring about ten nervous people, shielding their eyes from the oncoming headlights.

"Hey, they came into the newsroom with the girl who got bit," Nathan said, pointing toward Jack and Lillian. Neither Harper nor Schantz had been in the newsroom during the chaos that had erupted after those newcomers had entered, leaving Nathan as the only one capable of making that connection.

Schantz stopped the vehicle and stepped out onto the dusty ground at the same time as Nathan did, both approaching the group. Harper took the opportunity to quietly sneak a tablet out of the clear orange prescription bottle from Stevie's satchel and wandered to stare out at the view over the city, featuring rapidly-catching fires that originated with that first strike from the sky.

She couldn't even pay attention to the conversation going on with the main part of the group. Schantz and Nathan were talking with the man in the leather jacket and a few other people who stepped forward, filling them in about what had transpired. She watched the fire spread over the metropolis below, her mind suddenly freezing as she began to think about her family back east, Stevie at the camp, and other co-workers and friends who must have been worried about the same things she was... if they were even alive.

Harper felt the back of her pant leg tug. She turned to look down, and saw a small blonde girl staring up at her. "You're only wearing one shoe," she said simply.

Harper looked down at her feet and smiled at the one worn white flat. It was a little pathetic. She laughed a little and turned to the girl and nodded. "You're right," she said. "Looks like I'll need to fix that soon, huh?"

"I hope so," the little girl responded, "because it looks like you're going to need them." She looked down and dug her toe in the ground. "I'm Lillian. I remember seeing you on the TV in that office. Are you Harper?"

Harper nodded. "I am. It's nice to meet you. Have you seen Steve?"

Lillian shrugged. "He and James and Wayne went to go look for Calvin... but Calvin came back and they haven't yet."

Harper's eyes widened. "He did? Where is he?" she asked, looking around in all directions and preparing to step off toward him to ask him what happened--and instead saw a familiar figure lying on the ground, his head drenched in a thick pool of blood starting to turn to mud thanks to the dust. Her face went white. "I... Lillian, is that-"

"Yes, that's Chuck," she said. Harper noticed that she was nervously keeping her back toward the corpse. She then began to spill the beans in a somewhat jumbled but precocious childlike fashion. "No one's telling me anything. But I think that Calvin and Jack got into trouble. Chuck came back alone a long time ago, and then James and Wayne and Steve went to look for them, and then Chuck set off fireworks even though people told him not to. Then Calvin and Jack came back with the van, and then this firetruck showed up with these people. They shot Chuck in the head and took Calvin with them." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a familiar-looking set of keys. "Calvin dropped these. But I picked them up after the firetruck left. I think they belong to the van."

Harper's mouth hung open in shock. She looked at the small group talking, and caught Jack's eye and then looked back to Lillian. He looked back at her for about a second too long before Nathan was able to track what Jack was looking at. Nathan's face twitched just slightly, veiled frustration in his expression as he looked back at Jack and continued to participate in the conversation.

"Thank you," Harper said to Lillian as she took the keys. "Stick with us, all right?"

Lillian smiled and pointed to the group. "You need to go talk to Jack and the others."

Harper complied, wondering if she was strangely obeying a child's orders or if the little girl just happened to say exactly what needed to be done.

"Harp, we've got to make a decision," Schantz said as the taller woman approached. "Chuck's dead, and-"

"I know," Harper said quietly, bringing her hand up to her mouth anxiously, partially annoyed that the Xanax hadn't yet kicked in and partially to demonstrate interest in the conversation. "Lillian's filled me in." She tossed the keys to Nathan and looked toward the van, thrilled to see a familiar large green rucksack stashed in the back, visible through the open back doors. Excellent--they'd brought the bag containing a few things she kept at the station in case she had to rush out of town for an assignment or stay late due to breaking news: her flak vest and helmet from her overseas assignment, an extra bag of makeup and a hairbrush, a blanket, a few bottles of dry shampoo kept for emergencies, a few books, a change of clothes and a pair of backup boots, and odds and ends from her desk such as pens and notebooks and even a flashlight. She'd even had that rucksack overseas with her to carry whatever she had.

A few other people were packing up their vehicles, and preparing to leave. Harper watched them momentarily and then looked again at the others. "It might be good if we left." Her eyes also looked up to the sky to watch another jet careening high above their heads. Larger, clunkier aircraft rumbled low over the city below.

"Where would we go from here?" Nathan asked. "Higher ground seems safer."

Jack shook his head and pointed at Chuck. "Are you kidding? Now those assholes know where we are. We can't stay here."

"But where do we go?" Nathan asked irritably.

"There's an underground tunnel system," Schantz volunteered, "that's got the railway, and lots of other spots, too. I think it's our best shot. We have to go underground."

"What makes you so sure that the bombs won't affect that?" Nathan posited curiously.

Schantz shrugged. "I dunno, we used to do it during tornados back home. We had a shelter under the house through these doors we'd lock behind us. If the sky turned green, we had to be down there in three minutes or we were going to be screwed. Same principle could apply here."

The jet soared once again above their heads. A couple of cars took off down the long dusty path to the highway.

"Jack and Schantz are right," Harper said quickly, seeing Chuck's stiff corpse still down in the muddied pool of blood in the corner of her eye. "Those people sound absolutely horrible. We have to plan how we're going to get Calvin back."

Nathan nodded, and Schantz shook her head. "We can't worry about that right now," she quipped fast, "for all we know, he's dead and the same thing can happen to us if we go near those creeps."

Harper took a breath. "You're right, we should first worry about where to go," she said, "but we have to go back and get Calvin."

The jet circled above again.

And then it hit Harper fast. They were surveying the area before letting another set of bombs cascade down onto the ground. The hill might be next.

Harper pointed fast at Nathan and the keys. "Nathan, get the van prepped and ask if anyone wants to ride with us, right now," she instructed, "Tara, get the SUV cranked up. Lillian and I are coming with you." She worked hard to keep the panic from showing in her voice.

Jack turned to Schantz' direction, but looked mostly at Harper. "I can drive if you wa-"

"Nope, you're coming with me," Nathan broke in quickly, "let's get these people in." Jack stared again at Harper and then took off with Nathan, rounding up the remaining four at the hastily-made camp.

"Follow me!" Schantz called out at them as the three headed to the SUV, Harper quickly snatching her pack out of the back of the van before running with them. Harper sat up front with Schantz and let Lillian take the backseat as the engine started and hummed to life. Within moments the two vehicles were on the ground, thrumming down the hill.

"Look!" Lillian pointed from the backseat at a truck coming up the hill. "It's James and Wayne and Steve!"

Schantz clicked the headlights at the truck, which complied in stopping and turning around to follow the news van down the hill. Harper was glad that the other three would be able to join them, after all.

After a short few minutes but several miles away, as Schantz once again drove as fast as she could, the rearview mirror showed them a massive blast of fire, followed by loud rumbling bangs. These bombs were close. Lillian scrambled into the cargo area to gape out of the back window as Schantz guided everyone toward the nearest underground metro entrance as fast as she could.