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Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC)

A little lost girl in a lonely world.

0 · 201 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

.: Lillian "Lily" Strong :.

Image



Description:

 Name
Lillian Annabelle Strong

 Portrayed By
Young Chloe Grace Moretz

 Profession
Kid

 Age
10

 Gender
Female

 Nationality/Ethnicity
French, Irish, American

 Tattoos/Scars
Has a one inch scar on her elbow from a playground accident.

 Clothing/Outfit
Loves the color purple and hates the color pink, so most of her clothing follows those rules. She wears lots of loose shirts and capri pants or shorts. She sports tennis shoes and a two-strap backpack with a lightning bolt on it.



Traits:

 3 Traits
Quick Learner -- Lily is exceptionally bright, often picking up things simply by observing.
Mature -- For a kid her age, she gets it. She takes life in stride.
Small -- She can fit in areas that most people couldn't, making her a great asset.

 3 Flaws
Naive/Gullible -- She is too young to know better; easily deceived.
Jealous -- The unfairness of the world can really get to a kid.
Distractable -- Sometimes has a hard time focusing.



Personality:

 Fears
Afraid of the Dark, Afraid of Spiders, Thunder, Clowns, Sharks, Tornados, Bees, Snakes

 Aspirations
Wants to become the first female President / Astronaut; Wants to build her own Dream Castle, Wants a Horse, Wants a Billion Dollars, Wants a Cute Husband, etc, etc, etc.

 Dominant Emotion
Curiosity

 Demeanor
Lily is the epitome of a care-free kid. Fresh out of third grade, she sees the world as hers to conquer. She is less fascinated by what she studies in school, and more interested in being active and doing things. She loves to work with her hands, whether it's helping her mom with the garden or learning how to fix a TV. Even if she didn't quite understand it, she still thought it was cool. She is rarely quiet and never one to refrain from speaking her mind or asking a question. That is, once she's gotten comfortable with someone. She can be extremely shy around those she doesn't know, or just simply ignore them altogether.

 Quirks/Oddities
Makes random noises with her mouth when she's bored. Will also use hands to play with face and put it in weird positions.

 Skills/Proficiencies
Can Whistle, Tie Shoes, Do A Hand-Stand, Advanced Somersaults, Horseback Riding, Soccer, Gymnastics, Basic French, Can Cross Eyes, Use Chopsticks, Ride A Bike, Full Knowledge of Alphabet, Good With Dogs, etc.



Equipment:

 Any item/weapon that your character typically has on them?
Usually has a hairtie or hairpins and some chalk for if she gets bored.

 Do they carry any keepsakes, trinkets, or valuables on them?
Keeps a locket with a picture of her parents in it.

 What is their weapon of choice?
Lily isn't much of a fighter, but she could likely handle a knife or handgun to some extent if she needed to.

 Is there a special piece of clothing or jewelry that they typically wear?
Her locket is very special to her.



History:

 2004. Born to Daniel and Jenna Strong in San Fransisco.
 2004. Move to Los Angeles for work. Brother Harry born.
 2005. Accident on playground; in hospital for a week.
 2007. Meets boy at daycare; agrees to marry him.
 2011. Lily sees Wall-E for the 1st time; declares it the best thing ever created in the entire world.
 2014. Parents seperate; Lily goes to live with grandparents while they reconcile.

So begins...

Lillian "Lily" Strong (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)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What happened?" Calvin asked.

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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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)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

They had to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uhhh, I dunno--"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Calvin..."

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

Suddenly they heard footsteps from down the path...

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

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

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

"Chuck? Buddy?"


< + >


...Two Hours Earlier...

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

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

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

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

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


< + >


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calvin shuddered. Nothing sounded more dangerous right now.

*CLANG CLANG CLANG*

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: 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: 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)

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.: 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)

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"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.

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: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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The small group rushed down the still-running escalators and down into the tunnels, the electricity somehow providing light despite the odds. The entrance had been smartly but simply barricaded and they'd left the vehicles in that vicinity, hauling whatever they could out of them just in case they weren't there later.

Harper dashed ahead, finally wearing a pair of boots and able to rush and keep pace with the others, hauling her tan rucksack on her back. The trains weren't running, and the platform was oddly vacant. Lillian held Schantz' hand, who carried her own duffel bag that had been pulled out of her own locker. All three rushed down, two other women accompanying them. The men had insisted on them going ahead while they kept an eye on the walkers lumbering their way toward the metro. A train filled the tunnelway; Schantz and Harper forced the doors open and crammed themselves inside, ducking down onto the floor. The others filtered their way down and stuck themselves through the train's door.

The ground rumbled above them.

"Hit the ground NOW!" James shouted out loud.

Everyone dove down onto the rubberized floor of the train, a huge "BOOM!" shattering through the underground tunnel and nearly shaking the stopped train on its tracks. The lights flickered on and off. Steve covered Lillian's head with his arm.

Another "BOOM!" cracked above and rumbled the train off and on its tracks again. Nathan spotted streams of dirt flying down onto the platform from the ceiling, but the foundation still held, all the same.

"BOOM!"

The train jumped upward off of its tracks, thumping heavily down at an angle, lying almost on its side, propped up by the ledge of the platform. There were surprised yelps or exclamations of pain as everyone slammed up against seats and windows, unprepared for the impact.

"BOOM!"

The car jolted and shook over and over again.

"BOOM!"

"BOOM!"

"BOOM!"

It went on and on and on, until finally the train stopped shaking and the noises stopped.

Harper opened her eyes, which she'd squeezed shut as their safe haven tipped over. She also found her hand squeezing Jack's, who was hunched uncomfortably by a nearby bench seat. Jack grinned broadly at Nathan, who glowered darkly at him from just a few feet away, even though he was just as shocked and jarred as anyone else by getting bounced around like a town inside a snow globe.

And then the lights flickered off, even inside the car. A long, awkward pause followed.

"You've GOT to be kidding me," Wayne blurted out with nearly perfect timing.

# # #

It had been a long, awkward trek downward. Nathan and Jack didn't click back at the station, and they certainly weren't clicking now, either.

After James' truck screeched to a stop and whirled behind them, they finally hit Mulholland, and followed Schantz as she wound through. Nathan wondered if she wasn't trying to get everyone into the underground metro.

"You're awfully quiet." Jack finally broke the silence. "Your name is Nathan, right? Didn't catch your name back at the station. Things kinda happened fast."

Nathan nodded. "Yep. That's me. Jack, huh?"

There was another long pause.

"Calvin told me your name. So that's Harper, huh? You're her camera guy." Jack cracked a small grin in the corner of his mouth. "You must love your job."

Nathan bristled. He didn't at all like the idea of this guy being near or talking about her. "We're a good team," he warned, "I've been working with her for months."

"So is that why you ditched us?" Jack asked slowly. He saw Nathan's face turn red. "Help your girlfriend out?"

"First off, nobody ditched you guys," Nathan insisted angrily. "We couldn't go down. Walkers in the hall and in the elevator. We had to fly out. Crashed in the water. Got out, somehow. You try it sometime," he added, curling his lip as he jerked the steering wheel to follow close but expediently. Those jets were continuing to circle up above.

"What's the second part?" Jack queried nonchalantly. Nathan looked toward him, confused. "You said, 'first off.'"

"Oh." Nathan frowned. "Second off, she's not my girlfriend."

Jack glanced out the window and nodded. "That's interesting." He knew full well that he was getting on Nathan's last nerve, for no other reason than to simply entertain himself at Nathan's expense.

Nathan felt his stomach flip. He could feel his dislike intensifying for Jack. He inwardly resolved to do what he could to keep Harper away from someone that he just had a bad feeling about.

"We've got company," Jack broke in, pointing to the concentration of walkers just ahead.


# # #

Harper steadied herself and pulled the pack from her back, reaching inside and pulling out her flashlight. "Is everyone okay?" she asked as she flicked the switch on and a circle of brightness shone through the window facing the platform. She directed the beam around the car, taking note of everyone's faces with alert expressions. "Everyone here?" Several noises came back acknowledging her question.

James let out a long sigh. The still darkness made it difficult to understand others without seeing their faces. "We've got to get out of here," he said simply. "Think that everyone can lean over and tilt this tin can back up?" The group promptly climbed up toward the diagonal ceiling. "On the count of three... one... two... THREE!"

The effort exerted by the ten people hurling themselves against the railcar's window proved laughably futile. As this railcar was connected on both sides to others, weighing it down considerably.

"Worth a shot, right?" James cracked, his dry voice trying hard to shield any worry. "Can we get that door open?"

Harper continued to shine to the flashlight through the window, spotting the silhouettes of a couple of figures out on the floor. She froze as she studied their movements, and could feel a collective silence and holding of breaths as others noticed them. Luckily, they were not staggering around lifelessly or aimlessly... they were real people. She tapped her flashlight on the glass and shifted the flashlight's beam quickly back and forth, hoping to get their attention and obtain help.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.
# Sarah Hawke #


BOOM! BOOM! B-BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

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

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

If only she knew...


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

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


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


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

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


.: END OF SEASON :.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja

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Natasha Dean
Phillip Wilson


Natasha sat at a table, her muscles were still sore from the push to make it to the metro tunnels without getting incinerated, the build up of lactic acid certainly made most of her muscles sore, especially in her legs for a while after the run, but it was still sore to move them too much. She looked at the bag before her, she got enough guns and ammo from the weapon store to arm the group, but Natasha didn't know whether or not to trust the people down here, she had very little reason to trust any of them. Natasha would have to talk about it with Dyomie but she'd have to look for her first.

Natasha pushed herself up from where she and Phillip had made their bed, as she managed to limp away Phillip noticed her from the fire barrel and ran over. "Hey, hey! Take it easy." He warned her, his voice laced with worry and sincerity, but Natasha shook her head at him.
"I'm fine, Phillip, it's not like I broke a bone, it's just tired muscles." Natasha told him, before pushing away from him. "You don't have to worry." Natasha placed a kiss on his lips before heading off to look for Dyomie. The bag was hidden where no one would even think to look for a bag full of weapons and she was sure no one had saw her place it there, so Natasha went to the place where she had hidden it.

On her way there, she noticed Niobe storming out of one of the offices, Natasha gave her a weak smile, but she was unsure whether or not Niobe even noticed or not, she just looked so angry. Natasha thought nothing of it and continued on her way, passing by Lillian she gave the young girl a smile. "Hey there, how you holding up?" She asked the young girl, no doubt this entire event will have caused a lot of emotions to flow through the girls mind, Natasha wondered where her parents must have been during the outbreak but didn't think it polite to mention it to anyone. She stayed for a few minutes to talk to the youngest of the group before excusing herself and making her way to the weapons.

It took her awhile to get there, it was right where they had met the other survivors, the over turned station car and she smiled to the person on watch, "Hey, I'll take over, you go get some rest." Once sure they had left, Natasha used her flashlight to locate the vent shaft she had stashed the guns in, having found it she pulled them out and checked everything was there, once sure everything was there, she took out her walkie talkie, she and Dyomie had decided to have a private wavelength, both Phillip and Marie were on the wavelength but they rarely had their radios on now that the group was relatively safe down here. "Hey, Dyomie, I need you to come back to the over turned car, help me keep watch." Aware that Dyomie might be around someone that would wonder, she added the last part just to be sure.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Annabelle Mae McCallister

---

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

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

Isaiah 26, 19-20




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

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

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

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

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

“Your brother? What’s his name?”

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

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

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

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

“Why is God doing this to us?”


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

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

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

“Okay.” The girl walked away.

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

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

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

“I should have helped you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Isaiah 26, 21

Setting

Characters Present

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

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= George Remington =
% Jessica Abbott %


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They took another corner.

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

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

They took another corner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Honey, I -“

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

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

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

“Excuse me? Who made you boss!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“That’s not all though.”

“No, it’s not.”


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

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

“Shot at you?”


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

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

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

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

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

It was Lily who spotted them first.

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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% Jessica Abbott %

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

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

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

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

*CLICK*

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

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

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

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

Rafiq dismissed it, “Just some strange weather.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alright, we better clean this place up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I believe you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Rafiq swallowed. “Cocaine.”

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

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

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

“You want us to start a drugs operation?”


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

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

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

“I suppose.”

“Then this could be our perfect bargaining chip.”


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

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

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

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

“I’m... I’m not.”

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

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

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

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

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

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% Jessica Abbott %


Tara's hand balled up into a tight fist as she narrowed her eyes.

@#! SMACK !#@

But it was George that threw the punch. His already swollen hand collided with Henry's stomach with a sickening thud, doubling the man over onto his hands and knees. He wretched onto the ground in his drunkenness as the girls jumped back in surprise.

"Listen here, you fool..." George snapped at the man, "We've been in these tunnels for over a week, and the last thing we need is some drooling drunkard telling us our affairs."

The man struggled to his feet, pointlessly pulling at his already wrinkled and dirtied shirt in an attempt to straighten it. He glared at George. "And yet you still let a drooling drunkard lead your people?" he said with a laugh.

Jessica stepped forward. "He is not our leader," she muttered, jabbing a finger at George.

"But you're right... this is all his fault." Tara added.

George spun around to face the accusatory women. "Whose side are you on?" he barked at them, waving the gun around non-threateningly as he gestured.

"The side that lives, George." Tara replied, crossing over to Jessica. She turned back to the two men behind her. "I get that you were trying to protect us George, I do. But this is a result of your actions. Our friends are scattered outside... who knows where? You saw what happened the last time we encountered strangers. Do we really have to attack every person we come across now? Is that who we are? Are we that scared?"

Tara's words rang out inside the cold stone foundation of the tunnel corridor. They weren't rhetorical questions by any means, but the weight of them silenced the four of them while they attended to their own thoughts. Who knew who anybody was these days. You slept and fought next to strangers, people with no names, no histories.

George shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Tara..."

"Save it," she said, sullenly. "I just want to go and find my friends. Can we do that?"

Jessica nodded, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Of course we can."

"What about him?" George queried, looking at the new stranger. The man leaned back against the wall with his hands on his knees, spitting the remnants of the foul taste in his mouth onto the ground.

Jessica cinched her backpack tighter around her shoulders. "He already heard where we're going. There's nothing we can do stop him from following us..."

"Yes, there is." George answered, firmly.

"Nothing we will do," Jessica replied, correcting herself. She looked at Henry, looking him up and down. "Don't go that way," she advised to him, gesturing towards the way they. came from. With that, her and Tara set off quickly up the stairwell towards the street exit to the spa.

George watched them begin to go, and started to follow -- turning back to take one last look at what could possibly be the only man who truly understood George amongst all these other people... the group whose trust he had deservedly lost. Henry held George's stare as he cleared his throat, spitting another glob of red phlegm onto the ground -- and then disappeared from sight as George slipped past the corner.


* * *


Lillian kicked at a crushed soda can on the ground, ricocheting it against the receptionist's desk next to her. It skittered across the floor to a stop near a bunch of other littered trash and rubbish. She wished she were back in the tunnels. It smelled weird in the spa -- some amalgamation of lotions, oils, and incense. Lily scrunched her nose as she pushed through a door into one of the next rooms. Lisa popped out from behind the open doors of a wooden cabinet and beamed uncertainly at the girl.

"Oh... hi, sweetie. What are you up to?" she said, taking towels and stacking them in her arms.

Lillian kicked at the floor, sighing. "Nothing. It's boring in here," she complained. She jumped up on the counter next to her and started to re-tie a shoelace that had come undone.

Lisa managed to smile at the girl's childlike angst. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a kid at a time like this. Not quite old or strong enough to contribute, but smart enough to not be left completely in the dark. She didn't know which was better -- protecting them from the truth or protecting them from this world. Perhaps one would lead to the other. "I'm sorry, honey." Lisa said, placing the towels on the table behind her. "At least we're safe here though, right? That's a good thing."

"We're not safe here..." Lily replied, blunty. "There's no food, there's walkers everywhere outside, weird people attacking us... and we don't have any weapons! Stupid Jessica took my gun!"

Lisa furrowed her brow, closing the cabinet and crossing over to the girl. "That wasn't your gun," Lisa said softly.

"It wasn't hers either," Lillian replied, snarkily.

Lisa crossed her arms. "Lily, it's dangerous to be around weapons you don't know how to use. You could have hurt that man back there. You don't ever point a gun at a person unless you intend to kill them..."

"That is what I intended to do."

"I'm serious," Lisa said, her tone changing.

Lillian tied the knot on her shoe tight and hopped off the counter to face the woman. "So am I. That man hit Tara. And he was about to hit somebody else too until I stopped him." Lisa frowned at the truth behind Lily's tirade, not knowing what to say to the girl. "Calvin told me to look after everyone, so that's what I'm doing. Nobody else is..."

"Who's Calvin? Lisa asked.

"My friend..."

Lisa raised an eyebrow. "And where is he now?"

Lily looked away -- a clearly sensitive subject. "The bad guys took him away and we couldn't stop them -- cause they had guns..." She brushed past Lisa, childishly pushing over her neat stack of towels on the table as she walked by. The woman watched the girl disappear through the door into the back of the spa. Althea walked in behind Lisa looking refreshed.

"Found some tubs with water still in them. I think it's safe enough to use to clean up a bit. Wouldn't drink it though..." she said, rubbing her hair dry. She looked at Lisa who had tears in her eyes. "What's wrong? I thought I heard loud voices in here..."

Lisa rubbed her eyes. "Oh, nothing. It was just Lillian." She sniffled lightly "Said she pulled the gun on that guy cause her imaginary friend Calvin told her to..." she continued, laughing slightly.


* * *


Jessica pushed the door open slightly, peeking out onto Santa Monica boulevard to see if it was still as clear as Rafiq had promised. Several walkers straggled about, heading north to join the dense group already collecting around the main metro entrance. She looked past a few abandoned cars at what looked like their destination, nestled between two taller buildings on the far side of the street. She shut the door, turning back to George and Tara.

"I think if we go quick and stay low, we can make it across."

George scoffed. "You think?"

Jessica shot a look at him. "Is anything certain anymore?" It was enough to shut him up. Tara pulled her hunting knife from out of her bag and slung it back over her shoulder. Jessica looked at George who was checking the clip in his pistol. "No guns," she warned. George rolled his eyes and stuffed it back into his waistband, standing to turn and kick a piece loose from a network of pipes against the wall next to them. The metal bar clattered against the ground loudly as George bent down to pick it up. The three of them looked at one another, silently psyching themselves up for what lay ahead.

"On three?" Tara said, quietly.

Jessica looked past her shoulder. "How about four?" she asked, gesturing behind them. George and Tara turned around to see the last person they expected to find...

Henry. In all his drunken glory.

He nodded to them, saying nothing. And they nodded back.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

- The Spa -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"James..." Annabelle added quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She wished she knew the answer.

* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls were so predictable sometimes.

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

"LILY-- LOOK OUT!!!"



* * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it happened.

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will he be alright?”


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“What can I do?”

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

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

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

“Help me stop the bleeding first.”

---

Rafiq Chedidi


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

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

It was her that broke the silence.

“What will happen now?”


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

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

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


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

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

“Sam fell.”

“Yes, but how?”

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

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

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

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

“That’s sick!” Wayne exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, calm down!”

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

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


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

“We kick him out.”

Everyone, including Henry, looked at Rafiq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anyone objecting?”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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- The Spa -


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shrugged. "Somebody had to."

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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"You're not telling the truth."

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

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

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

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

"I-"

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

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


# # #


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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