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Rafiq Chedidi

A Lebanese deli employee who also plays chess.

0 · 259 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

Rafiq Chedidi

Image

 Name: Rafiq Chedidi
 Portrayed By: Elias Zayek
 Profession: Lebanese deli employee
 Age: 25
 Gender: Male
 Height/Weight: 5’8 / 151 pounds
 Nationality/Ethnicity: Lebanese American
 Tattoos/Scars: None
 Clothing/Outfit: Casual. Specifically at the time of the outbreak, a grey-white button neck t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans and sneakers.

Traits:

 3 Strengths: Athletic, Strategist, Loyal once earned
 3 Flaws: Guarded, Easily pressured, City boy

Personality:

 Fears: Disappointing people he cares about, Coming out (he’s closeted gay), especially to his parents, Needles, Damaging his eyes, Vomiting
 Aspirations: Going to college, Being accepted as a “true” American, No longer having to hide his sexuality, Visiting Lebanon
 Dominant Emotion: Cautious
 Demeanor: Rafiq is a genuine nice person, funny and tries to please the people he cares about. However, he is uncertain about his place in the world, being stuck between his very traditional parents and the freedom of America. He wants to be seen as an American, but feels that most (white) Americans only view him as Arab. On top of that, he’s gay, which he desperately tries to hide. This has made him cautious and reserved, not easily showing the back of his tongue. He can hold a conversation well enough, but never about personal issues. He doesn’t easily stick up for himself, but does try to be aware of the feelings of all the people in a group. He’s good at creating plans and strategies, but not always at expressing them.
 Quirks/Oddities: Plays with his fingers while thinking
 Skills/Proficiencies: Excellent swimmer, Chess player, Cooking, Speaks Arabic, First Aid training

Equipment:

 Carries a hunting knife at the start of his story. He will discover that knives are also his weapon of choice.
 Will carry a gun if he has access to one, but has no experience with them. Does not carry one at the start of the outbreak.
 Wears his grandfather’s silver watch.

History:

 Born to Lebanese immigrants who own a popular Lebanese deli
 Has one sister, who now lives in Sacramento with her husband
 Met best friend Nasir in kindergarten. They have been inseparable ever since.
 Joined swim team in high school. Won several events.
 Ran away from home when seventeen for two days. Nobody knows why.
 Pressured by parents to work in their deli after graduation.
 Saves money for college.
 Joined local chess club two years back. Is surprisingly good at it.
 Is arrested seven months ago for no reason at all. Becomes more distrustful of cops.

So begins...

Rafiq Chedidi's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“Shit! Oh shit!”

The blood was still dripping from the knife. Rafiq’s running motion stained his hand and put blood spatters on his clothes. He did not care. Instinct made him hold onto the knife. It’s function the only thing that made sense right now.

“That... it bit me! That thing bit me!” Nasir shouted behind him in disbelief. Rafiq glanced behind at his friend. He did not appear to be hurt. The street they had ran into was empty. Rafiq slowed down and placed a hand on Nasir’s shoulder. “You’re alright?” Rafiq asked worriedly. Squatting down, Nasir rolled up the right part of his trousers. A small bite mark was visible, barely breaking the skin. “Yeah,” Nasir sighed, “It’s just a small mark. Nothing drastic. I’ll be fine.” He stood up again and looked Rafiq in the eyes. “But you... you stabbed the thing,” Nasir hesitated, “the child. No, it was not a child. Not really. I mean...” Rafiq looked away. “I know,” he said.

It had been a child. Once. Rafiq knew that for sure. But he had not realized that in that moment. He only wanted to safe his friend.

It seemed ages ago that he and Nasir had been at the swimming pool, doing their laps as usual. It was one of Rafiq’s favourite pastimes, being able to let go of everything. Just him, his friend and the water. Gliding along as dolphins. How he wished he could return to that moment. Back when his world had not turned crazy. Instead, his mother had called when they had left the pool. She had been hysterical, shouting in that Levantine Arabic dialect of hers. Some crazy people were trying to get into the deli. They had not seem normal. She had even called them demons. Rafiq had not understood what she meant. Now he feared he did.

On their way to the deli, they had seen abandoned cars, scared people running around and buildings on fire. It was like Los Angelos was under attack. Then they had seen it. A group of those things. Hunched over a mutilated corpse, they were feasting on it. Rafiq had felt sick to his stomach, but Nasir had pushed him on to go further. Quickly after that, they had come upon a group of people who had just forced their way into a weapons store. The whole situation was chaotic and threatening. Yet Nasir had argued to go inside as well, for they clearly needed a weapon too. Rafiq had been reluctant, but did not have much time to even consider it. Because in that moment, they had come.

A group of those monsters had sneaked up on the looters, their growling noises drowned out by the angry shouts of the people in the store. Two people were already grabbed before anyone noticed what was going on. Everyone screamed, some stood frozen in fear, others tried to scramble away. The monsters had kept coming, grabbing everyone they could. Before they had a chance to react themselves, one of those things, a boy not even ten years old, had made his way towards them. Nasir had tripped, out of fear or something else, Rafiq did not know. The child had grabbed Nasir’s ankle and tried to bite him. It had been a rush of the moment thing, but somehow Rafiq had picked up a hunting knife - dropped by one of the looters? - and had stabbed the boy in the face. This had given Nasir enough time to get away, but the child had not seem disturbed in the slightest. While a part of his nose was falling off, he kept coming towards them. Rafiq and Nasir had ran.

Rafiq tried to push those thoughts out of his mind. “Come on, man,” he said, “we have to find my parents.” They ran along the streets, knowing the way like the back of their hands. They passed other people. People who were running as well. People who were trying to barricade their shops. People who stood still, drenched in sweat or blood. Some even called for help, but Rafiq ignored them. He knew he had to find his parents and that he was running out of time.

They even occasionally caught a glimpse of those not-quite-people, either shuffling around or trying to get into a building. Without a need to communicate it, Rafiq and Nasir avoided them as best they could. Thankfully, none of the things were noticing them. “At least,” Rafiq said, “they do not appear to be fast. We can probably outrun them.” Nasir smiled faintly. “Thank Allah for that.”

They were nearing the street where his parents’ deli was located. Rafiq held up his hand. “Wait. My mother said they were trying to get in the shop from the front. We better get around the back.” Nasir nodded and they took a turn into one of the alleys. It was deserted, but they could still hear noises all around them. Sirens, cars, people. Growls. The alley was dark, as it always was. Nobody had ever bothered to put up street lamps. Without being able to see, they slowly made their way forward. Rafiq could feel his heart thumping in his chest and never felt this scared in his entire life. What if one of those things was hidden in the alley? What if something had happened to his parents? He did not want to think about it.

Thankfully, they found the distinct red back door of the deli without incident. It was still locked. “At least nobody got through here,” Rafiq sighed with relief. Nasir let out a small groan. “You’re okay?” Rafiq asked his best friend. Nasir looked up at him and tried to smile reassuringly, but failed. “Yeah. Just nauseous. From seeing all this shit, you know.” Rafiq considered him from a second, then turned his attention back to the door. “Okay then,” he said and took out his keys. He unlocked the door and carefully made his way inside.

They entered from the storage into the shop. The deli was quiet. Familiar smells from the herbs and other products reached his nose. He turned the corner and had a full look of the shop. The front door was open, but the place was empty. “Mother? Father?” he said in Arabic. No answer. “They are not here...” Rafiq said quietly. The place was undisturbed, save for a shelf at the front. Lemons, tangerines, pomegranates and mangos were strewn about everywhere. Rafiq sighed defeated and turned towards Nasir. “You better close the door. I’ll check the office. Maybe they left a message.” He opened the door to the office and hoped against hope that his parents would be in there. They were not. He walked over to the desk, but could not find any messages.

“Ra... Rafiq?” Nasir called from the front, “you better get over here.” The way Nasir had said it filled Rafiq with a sense of dread. Something was wrong. Something was horribly wrong. He slowly walked towards the front of the shop. Nasir had closed the doors and was now pointing at something outside. Rafiq came up to him and looked through the glass doors. “What is it?”

Then he saw them. His mother and father. But they were not really them. His mother’s arm was torn off. His father had a gaping wound in his stomach, intestines spilling out. They were shuffling around, unseeing, unknowing. Without any hint of humanity left. Rafiq looked at them in horror. Nasir gave him a tight hug.

Rafiq could do nothing but to keep staring at his dead parents in shock.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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# Sarah Hawke #


Sarah sprinted through the bleachers with Molly in tow. Like a lighthouse in the fog, two beams of headlights cut across the parking lot where her brother sat in his car. She waved her arms, beckoning at him, and he kicked the car into gear peeling up next to them. In the background, dozens of other students tore through the sea of cars, chased by whatever infected things chased them. Sarah got in the backseat so Molly could sit next to her brother. She slammed the door shut, and the kid peeled out.

"Holy shit is it good to see you," he said, eyes darting out the window. "Is this really happening?"

Molly leaned back in her seat. "Y-Yeah... I think it is."

"Molly, I saw one of them-- I saw it..." the kid trailed off, shaking his head. Molly put an arm on his shoulder and looked back at Sarah.

"We saw it too..."

The kid looked back at Sarah through the rear-view mirror. "Who's your friend?"

Sarah crossed her arms. "Sarah. Hawke."

The boy smiled. "You're Calvin Hawke's sister?"

Molly turned around in her seat. "Someone just mentioned him on the news..."

"What?" Sarah said, jumping forward in her seat. "What'd they say?"

Molly turned back around. "Some Channel 8 reporter mentioned she was with him. Ya know Daniel, if it wasn't for her I probably wouldn't have made it... out... of--" Her voice trailed off as something outside the window caught her attention. Her brother seemed to notice it to, as he began to slow the car down. Sarah leaned forwards in her seat, trying to get a better view.

Several feet in front of them, a man in a shredded suit stood with gun pointed squarely at them. He panted heavily, gesturing with his gun.

"Out."

Molly's brother pulled the parking brake and began to unbuckle his seatbelt. She grabbed him by the arm. "What do we do?"

Sarah unbuckled her seatbelt too. "Just get out of the car."

They each slowly opened their doors as their hijacker circled around towards the driver's side door. Once he was near enough, he grabbed Daniel by the arm and dragged him away from the car onto the pavement.

"C'mon, he didn't do anything!" Molly screamed out. "Sarah, do something!"

Daniel swatted at his attacker as he was forced onto the ground, he punched the man in the face and flipped him over, wrestling for his weapon -- but ended up with the tip of the pistol placed square against his head. "Get your hands off me, asshole!" he shouted, swinging furiously.

"Please," Molly begged, "we'll take you anywhere you want! You can go back with us!"

The hijacker pinned the kid down with his knee and stared into Molly's eyes.

"There's no going back..."

BANG!

Molly fell back into Sarah's arms, unable to look at the horror in front of her. Tires squeeled out in front of them as their car sped off down the road. The two girls clutched each other in the middle of the street, unsure of where to go. Molly sobbed into Sarah's shoulder wishing that today never happened.

Sarah looked around for a street sign to figure out where they were. There were too many trees around blocking the street lights for her to make out anything definitively. Out to their right was a small strip mall with a row of storefronts. It seemed quiet enough to take shelter in for the moment, so Sarah led Molly across the street that direction. As they got to the corner, Sarah was able to get a better look at the array of stores. There was a hair salon, a bank, taco joint, ice cream parlor, and a deli. All the shop's lights were off except the hair salon's, which flickered in and out silhouetting a few stray walkers on the walkway in front of the windows. Sarah squinted her eyes as they crouched by the brick wall, trying to make out any movement in the shops ahead.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Bang!

The noise snapped Rafiq back into reality. “What was that?” He asked Nasir, who had sat down on the stool behind the counter. He appeared tired. Nasir rubbed his eyes and said, “What was what?” Rafiq shook his head. “Never mind.” He looked back out through the glass doors. His parents and two other walkers had turned their attention to something else, slowly moving away from the shops. Rafiq suddenly felt madness coming over him. He turned back to his friend. “You look like shit. Why don’t you go into the office and grab some aspirin or something?” Nasir did not protest, but simply stood up and entered the office.

With his friend out of sight, he picked up the hunting knife that he had dropped on the floor earlier. He silently opened the door and stepped outside. He was not sure what he was doing. He took a step forward. Somehow he felt a sudden need to get close to his parents and do something. He took another step. He had to put them out of their misery. If only he kept really quiet. They would not hear him and...

Then he noticed the two girls opposite in the street. They were crouched down and staring at him. He stared back. In the faint light of the moon, he could just see that they were both blond and in their twenties. One was holding on to the other. Sisters? The other one was staring at the knife in his hand, still bloodied from before. Suddenly he realized how he must look. And how stupid he was. What was he thinking?! He must have gone insane.

Movement at the end of the street caught Rafiq’s attention. An entire group of walkers was coming towards them! The girls did not seem to notice, but were still staring at him. He beckoned them to come over. One shook her head, still staring at his knife suspiciously. Rafiq lowered the knife and pointed behind them in a panic. They both looked back and one of them screamed, “Sarah!”, which only focused the walkers attention on them. The other girl – Sarah - pulled the screamer up and pulled her along towards Rafiq. “Follow me,” he whispered.

They ran back into the deli and Rafiq closed the doors behind them. Knowing the glass wouldn’t hold long, he looked at Sarah, who seemed to be the more assertive of the two. “We need to lower the security gates, or they’ll get in. Grab that piece over there and start turning it.” Sarah did what she was told immediately. As they lowered the gates, Nasir walked back into the shop. “Wow! Who are you? Where do you come from?” Rafiq shot him an angry look. “Not now!”

He could see the walkers coming closer. They were groaning angrily, hungry for something. Just as the gate hit the pavement, the first walkers reached the shop. They grabbed the gate and began clawing at it, the chains rattling under the pressure. “Do you think it will hold?” Sarah whispered. Rafiq nodded. “It should.”

They spent the next few minutes without speaking a word, all holding their breath in fear. The rattling of the gate was nerve wrecking. The growls the undead made was downright terrifying. Suddenly, without warning, the walkers lost interest or were distracted by something else and moved away from the deli.

It was Sarah who broke the silence. “Thank you. They would have caught us if it weren’t for you.” She looked at the knife, the suspicion on her face not entirely gone. “The way you were standing out there. With that knife. Well, we just...” She looked away. The other girl began sobbing. “Ow Daniel...” she moaned. Sarah walked over and patted her on the back. “This is Molly. She... she just lost her brother. My name is Sarah.” She looked up at the two Arabic men, clearly expecting their names as well.

Rafiq tried to be reassuring in his tone, but was not sure if he succeeded. “My name is Rafiq. This is my friend Nasir. I’m sorry about your brother.” “Yeah, I’m sorry too,” Nasir said, “Some of those things got Rafiq’s parents as well.” Rafiq closed his eyes, not feeling like discussing this. Molly wiped away her tears. “My brother was not killed by those things. Some bastard killed him for our car. Shot him in cold blood.” She said sadly. Nasir sagged to the floor, raising his arms in despair. “What has this world coming too!” He exclaimed.

Sarah looked at Nasir, worry showing in her face. “Are you okay? You look ill.” Nasir smiled that smile that he used when he did not want to show how bad things were. “Don’t worry. It’s just my luck to contract the flu at the end of the world,” he said jokingly. “I’ll be fine.” Sarah was not convinced but decided to let it go for now. Instead, she said, “So, what now?”

Rafiq considered for a moment. “We have to get out of here. It will only be a matter of time before they, or some looters, come back.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.


Speckled beams of light shot through the slitted metal gate as dozens of walkers poured against it, clawing and scraping with their bloodied hands. The shadow of their backlit silhouettes played over the four huddled strangers in the dimly-lit deli like a dark fog. Sarah broke the silence with a sniffle. She had run out of the classroom with nothing but her t-shirt, and it wasn't until now -- when she had finally stopped running -- that she had started to feel the deep coldness of the night air.

Rafiq glanced over at her. "Are you crying?" he asked her quietly.

"No, I'm not crying," she snapped back.

"Hey, you--" she said, calling over to the young man's friend. He had his back slightly to them on the farther side of the shelf of goods, scratching at something on his leg. Once he realized she was talking to him, he quickly stopped.

He looked around at the others. "Who? Me?" Sarah continued to glare at him.

"There's blood on his pants!" Molly exclaimed, pointing at Nasir and backing away.

Rafiq stood up, raising his hands in defense of his friend. Sarah had backed Molly up towards the main isle, huddled together. "No, no, no. He's fine! Just a small gash. Tell 'em, Nasir."

His friend shrugged, wiping some of the sweat from his reddened forehead. "I really do feel fine. It's no big--"

"Were you bit?" Sarah yelled, cutting him off. Her hands had balled into fists. She still didn't know what the cause of all this was, but knowing the nature of infection this was something airborne or biological. All it could take from one of these things is a bite or scratch -- a little blood in the wrong place -- and it could be game over. Would he change instantly like a werewolf? Or did it takes hours? Days?

Werewolves, Sarah? Really? she thought to herself.

Nasir looked to Rafiq nervously. Their eyes spoke to each other.

Rafiq smiled slightly. "Simply a cut."

Sarah narrowed her eyes at the two, no closer to knowing if she had just been played. Trust was going to be a hard thing to earn back after what she had just seen done to Daniel. People were desperate enough to do anything to survive -- and that was almost more terrifying than the mass of biters staring at her through the grated door. "C'mon, Molly. We're leaving," she said taking the girl by the hand. She began leading her towards the rear exit, praying that none of those things had managed to come around back.

"Please," Rafiq protested, "we-- we need help. If we want to get out of the city, we're going to need each other."

Sarah turned on him, throwing her hands in the air. "Look-- I appreciate you taking us in here. You probably saved us from being those biters' dinner right now. Don't think we don't appreciate that. But--" she turned to look at Molly-- the poor girl's eyes looking at her with the weariness of a thousand lifetimes. She had seen more today than she could have stomached in her whole life. "What we saw out there--" Sarah lowered her gaze to the floor. "Nothing's ever going to be the same again. Not after this. How are we supposed to escape this?"

The two boys looked at one another, solemnly-- and suddenly an idea hit Rafiq, perking him up.

"Would a Vespa help?" he asked, excitedly.



~ + ~



Minutes later, Rafiq cracked open the door, pressing his eye to the crack to scan outside. The street lamps really were vacant in this area and the general clamor of the city was making it difficult to really hear anything distinctly -- especially with the horde of walkers causing a ruckus on the other side of the store. He turned back to the others, gripping his knife. "I think we're as ready as we're gonna be..." he said. The others nodded, and Rafiq gently stepped out into the night, making sure to keep his head on a swivel as he crouch-ran towards the two parked Vespas. "Ever driven one of these?" he asked.

Sarah ran her hands along the grooves of the handlebars, feeling the smooth metal against her fingertips. "My oldest brother had a bike growing up. He used to take me on a few spins with that thing. Can't be any harder than this, right?"

Rafiq tossed his set of keys to her. "Then Nasir and I will take the green bike so you two can ride together."

Sarah nodded. "Thanks..."

She rose her leg over the bike, mounting it as Molly took the same position behind her gripping her tight. Molly poked her head over Sarah's shoulder. "This is gonna be cold, isn't it?"

Sarah grinned. "First one with tears dripping down their face loses."

Molly butted heads, playfully. "You're on."

It was nice seeing her in somewhat better spirits. It had been less than 30 minutes since the incident happened -- it was almost like she couldn't bare to think of it with everything else to worry about. Rafiq had taken his spot on the bike behind Nasir. They looked at the girl's nodding to let them know they were ready.

"So where are we even going?" She couldn't believe she hadn't thought to have asked earlier.

Nasir looked up at the sky, as if surveying the stars. "East. North-East? Probably our best bet. We don't want to get pinned with our backs to the ocean."

Against her back, Sarah felt Molly lurch forward at the mention of ocean. "Ocean? That sounds safe. Maybe we can find a boat."

Sarah asked the obvious question. "And anyone here know how to operate a boat?"

The dead silence was the only answer she needed.

Molly sat back in her seat, folding her arms. "We could find somebody down there who does?"

"Seems like a long ways for a longshot," Sarah expained, brushing her hair back from her face. "East it is." She revved the Vespa to life, brilliant white lights instantly illuminating the alley around them -- and echoing all around. Nasir quickly keyed the ignition on his moped and started backing it up.

"Stay close," he warned, kicking off the ground into the night. Rafiq hugged him tightly from behind careful not to fall off the bike. Sarah leaned into the handlebars as she hugged a turn and felt Molly do the same. The biters only heard them coming a second or two before they actually made it to the street, but the Vespas sped by them before the walkers even had a chance. The dead horde began turning around and stumbling their direction down the road. How many hours it would take them to catch up the pace they were going gave Sarah a slight sense of relief, but she knew full well that there were thousands, possibly millions more of them to worry about.

In Nasir's headlights ahead she could see the outline of a tipped-over bus covering 3/4 of the road. The street was littered with glass and a few stray corpses of those fortunate enough to have escaped a worse fate. Sarah took a moment to examine how worse off the walkers were than she was. It wasn't a great time for anyone or anything anymore. Nasir began using his legs to walk the bike around the tight corner as he slowed down. But before he even got few steps, the familiar growl of a nearby biter sounded out from somewhere nearby. And then, like a chain reaction, more of them began calling out from the other side of the bus. Nasir wrenched the handlebar, sending his bike into high gear through the crack between the wrecked vehicle and building. Sarah knew she only had a split moment to make a decision: there was an alley to her right, but it could easily be a dead-end... or-- she plunged through the opening in the same, but possibly less successful fashion as Nasir did. By the next moment, she was past the edge of the bus and saw the size of the swarm with her own eyes, every reflex in her body wanted to turn into the alley, but she hunched down into the bike and plowed through the divide.

Rafiq turned around on his bike up ahead, flashing a big grin and thumbs up--

And then his eyes bulged.

Sarah looked to the side and saw the swiping limb of a passing walker. She managed to duck just in time-- just in time for Molly to get snagged by its fingers. In that moment-- three things happened.

The walker was jerked in the direction of the bike, its limb crunching as it ripped near out of its socket. Molly, on the other hand was violently yanked backwards, losing her grip on Sarah and the bike. Sarah was pulled back by the girl as well, forcing the Vespa into a wheelie. The bike flew out from under Sarah as she, Molly, and the walker skidded down the road. The Vespa veered off ahead, straining to stay balanced on its wheels before giving out into a bus stop bench nearby. It was a blur in every sense of the word, but Sarah felt her shoulder hit first. After that it seemed like multiple parts of her body were colliding with the pavement at the same time. She rolled to a stop several feet ahead of where Molly lay, motionless. The walker whined a weak growl as it tried to regain its composure. Sarah rolled on her side, howling inwardly-- her face red. She didn't have the air in her lungs to scream out in pain. That was gone too.

A hazy figure slunk in towards Molly as Sarah blinked and blinked to try and clear her vision. Sarah didn't need to be able to see to know what it was... and she was too far away. Gritting her teeth against the pain, Sarah put one elbow in front of her-- forcing her body across the pavement towards the girl. She wasn't about to watch another person die in front of her.

She didn't get far before she heard the distant hum of the boys' moped heading back her way. Sarah collapsed back on the pavement and turned, raising one hand in the air so they'd see her. A violent gust of wind blew by her as Nasir deftly maneuvered the bike around her and towards Molly. Rafiq readied his knife as Nasir lined up with the encroaching walker on his right side. As they began to pass one another the walker turned, rearing its hideous face-- just in time to receive Rafiq's blade. The knife lodged firmly into the beast's face. Rafiq began losing his balance and tumbled off of it onto the ground far less roughly than the girls had. He rolled to a stop mere feet away, sliding to a stop on his ass, eyes as wide as the moon. Sarah guessed he hadn't done something like that before.

*COUGH COUGH*

Molly wreathed to life a few feet away, as she got her breath back. Nasir had abandoned the moped and ran over to Rafiq who was nearest to him. Sarah looked past them at the shambling bodies of the walkers they had attracted with all the commotion. "You guys!" she yelled weakly, pointing past their heads. Once they saw what was happening, Nasir pulled Rafiq to his feet and the two boys split to attend to the girls.

"Oh my God..." Rafiq muttered, kneeling by Sarah.

She winced a bit, as she straightened herself up with his help. "Is it that bad?"

"No, you just-- we got lucky," he replied, pulling her to her feet.

The herd of walkers was closing in now, both from the way they were coming and the way they came from. Surrounding buildings boasted chained doors and boarded windows -- a deterrent to both the walkers and Sarah's group from getting inside.

"We shouldn't have left the deli!" Rafiq said aloud, mostly scolding himself. Nasir appeared from behind with Molly-- half carrying, half guiding her.

"We ain't dead yet..." Sarah breathed out, each word coming out with a little less air. She raised her hand to point past them where the bike had peeled out. Black skid marks tracked right across a manhole in the ground that was cracked open a few inches. Two frightened eyes peered out from under the metal lid, staring right at them...

And Sarah stared right back.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafiq plunged the knife downwards.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


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

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

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

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

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

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


~ + ~


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

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

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

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

The woman furrowed her brow. "Doing what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.



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

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

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

"Honestly?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



< + >



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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“That’s disgusting.” Rafiq looked at the body in front of them, or rather, what remained of it. The head was torn open, brain matter scattered all around it. Limbs were gnawed on and the chest area was completely hollowed out. The person was unidentifiable, safe for a blood-smeared name tag with the name Aubrie.

“Poor Aubrie,” George said flatly, “she was a nice girl.”

“You knew her?”

“Yeah, I usually shop here. Or well, shopped.” He waved vaguely in the direction of the cereals. “My house is nearby.”

That explains why George had suggested coming to this place, Rafiq thought to himself. They had needed food and like the pilot had said, this grocery store was quite sheltered. No looters had gone through the place yet. By the looks of Aubrie and two other bodies though, the shop had been overrun by walkers.

George turned away from the body and opened one of the two backpacks they had looted earlier. “Alright kid, we better not waste any more time. You take the left side.” And with that, the older man walked away.

As he walked over towards the first aisle, Rafiq saw a magazine stand from the corner of his eye. Instinctively, he looked for the gay magazines. It was something he always did, back before everything had gone to shit. From since he was a teenager, he would pretend to look at the car and sports mags, secretly glancing at The Advocate or Out. He would always try to tell himself to buy one someday. But he never did.

He could just grab one now and nobody would ever know. In a moment of temptation, he took the nearest he could see. The front had a picture of a half-naked dude and text that hinted at the proper ways of grooming. A smaller photo of the actor Calvin Hawke was set in the bottom right, with speculation about a possible gay role in one of his next movies.

“You stupid,” Rafiq said to himself. He dropped the magazine on the floor. What was the use of a gay mag now? None of the stories would matter anymore and all the people mentioned were probably dead anyway. Instead, he grabbed a couple of comic books and stuffed them inside his backpack. The boy back at the maintenance might like those, and otherwise he and Carl will.

He sighed and started to look for some canned beans.

---

George looked at both sides, but he could not see Rafiq. The boy was still busy on the other side. Eagerly, he opened the beer can and took a sip. A sweet bitterness touched his tongue. It felt as if the liquid filled his entire body. Content, he took another sip. It felt good.

He had deserved it. He didn’t had a drink since all of this fuckery had started. He knew the others, especially Niobe, would not approve, but he did not care. He could be dead in the next hour, for all he knew. One drink could do no harm.

The can was already empty. George sighed. He had emptied it without even realizing it. “Nice going, you asshole,” he muttered and took another can. He was going to hate himself for it tomorrow, but that was a problem for then. He took another sip and looked at the variety of alcohol in front of him. He better took some of the stuff with him, in case they were going to be holed up for a while. He would be of no use to anyone if his nerves would get the better of him.

Besides, he was annoyed that Charlie had run of with the girl. He could not blame Sarah for it, but he could not help feeling slightly betrayed.

The second can was empty now. George’s body desired a third, but he mentally pushed the urge aside. He knew he was an alcoholic, but he was not stupid. This was not the moment to get drunk. Two cans would have to do.

He filled his backpack up with some of his favourite brands.

“AAAH!” A panicked shout ran through the shop.

---

Rafiq pushed the door back, but the walker was already halfway through. It clawed angrily, a face contorted in a horrible snarl.

Tunk

Rafiq felt another body colliding with the door. There was a second walker inside! He knew he could no longer hold the door and sprung back. That was a mistake, as he tripped backwards over the backpack. He had dropped it when he had heard the walker in the other room. The door swung open and the two walkers came in. Lacking coordination, one bumped into the other, causing the other one to fall.

This gave Rafiq just enough time to roll sideways. The one of the floor was crawling towards him. Rafiq kicked it in the face. “George!” He shouted.

Sliding backwards, he tried to reach for the knife. Unfortunately, he was too close to one of the shelves and hit some bottles of milk instead. They fell to the floor and shattered. Milk spilled over his hand and into his pants. Rafiq barely noticed. The two walkers were still coming toward him. One crawling, the other shuffling, as its right foot was somehow barely connected to the rest of the body.

He grabbed another milk bottle and threw it at the walker that was still standing. It hit the monster right in the face, causing its head to tilt back. Yet, it was not bothered in the slightest and kept walking forwards, arms held up in front. Rafiq could clearly see the bright pink nail polish on the fingers, decorated with glitter.

The back of his head connected with a wall. He had somehow ended up in a corner. He was trapped! He took a hold of the shelf and without thinking, pulled himself upwards. For a fraction of a second, he hoped that this caused the shelf to fall on top of the walkers. It did not.

The walkers were getting closer, but at least he was standing and able to defend himself. Rafiq took out the knife and stood in a defensive position. Or at least what he thought was a defensive position.

The pink-nailed walker had now passed the other one. Rafiq inhaled deeply and swung with his knife. He hit Pink-Nail right in the face and sliced of part of its nose. It staggered back slightly. Taking his chance, Rafiq stabbed the walker through the eye and into the brain. He could hear a loud crack. Pink-Nail fell to the floor.

The other walker was now close to him and tried to reach his ankles. Rafiq stomped on the creature’s right hand, breaking it. He then kicked the walker in the head once more before planting the knife through the back of its head.

With both walkers truly dead, he dropped back on the floor, his heart thumping rapidly.

At that moment, George came running up the aisle, gun in his hand.

“Well,” he said after taking in the scene, “it appears we forgot to check the storage room.”

Rafiq cleaned his hand on his t-shirt, only know noticing that it was wet from the milk. “You think?” he shot back sarcastically.

George helped Rafiq back on his feet. “What’s done is done. Now we should...”

A click of a door made him stop talking. The sound came from the storage room. Rafiq tightened his grasp on the knife. George raised his gun. They both looked at the storage room.

An elderly man came through the door.

“Tha-thank you,” he said slowly, “I was.... those monsters got me trapped in the back office.” The man smiled at them in gratitude. “If it had not been for you, I would never have gotten out.”

Rafiq and George looked at each other. Not only was the man very old. At least ninety.

He was sitting in a wheel chair.

The man would never be able to survive.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

The man in the wheelchair looked at him curiously.

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

George sighed and crouched down next to the man.

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


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

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

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

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

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

“No, that’s not...”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, but he clearly does not-“

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

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

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

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

With that, he walked away.

Rafiq followed him in silence.

---

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re okay?” Molly asked.

“Yes, just tired. How are you?”

“I’m alright.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least someone was happy today.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, yeah, where is George?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

BOOM!


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

BOOM!

BOOM!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They are trapped,” Rafiq said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another bomb fell, clearly audible this time.

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

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

Niobe and George briefly exchanged looks.

Another bomb.

Niobe nodded.

“You heard the boy! Let’s go!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

0.00 INK

Dyomie Thornes
Marie Thornes


Dyomie sat down, giving her injured leg a break, Marie looked down at her worriedly, but Dyomie just ignored her gaze. That would be something to address later. Then they heard the bombs starting in the distance. Marie sat down and curled into her older sister, Dyomie watched Phillip with great intensity to make sure he wasn't honestly stupid enough to go running outside at this moment. She was about to stand up and say they should get deeper into the metro tunnels when heavy footsteps could be heard in the distance. Dyomie looked and sure enough Natasha was scrambling towards them.

"Son of bitch," Dyomie said, shaking her head. In all honesty she hadn't thought that this woman would actually make it back to them. Phillip in a completely emotional scene ran towards his girlfriend and hugged her. This is exactly why she was never in a relationship, way too cheesy.

"Come on, we have to hurry," Natasha said. She nodded to Dyomie in approval of keeping Phillip safe, the thief cringed at that, Great now a cop is approving my actions. This is just fantastic, she thought. They all grabbed their bags and started to move hastily down into the tunnels. Dyomie held a flashlight as they got deep enough no light could be seen. The walls and ceiling rumbled around them as the bombs hit the ground, sending small pebbled raining on their heads with a boom that made Dyomie and Marie want to ever their ears.

It was Dyomie who had heard the voices first. She pushed Marie against the wall, hoping the others would do the same. "There are people up ahead," Dyomie mouthed, she handed Marie one of her walkie-talkies as well as pulled out her pistol. She dropped her bag on the ground, "I'm going to go talk to them, if things go wrong find another tunnel to go," she whispered. At this point Dyomie felt it was a bit redundant to say 'and protect Marie with your life', plus it would also put Marie in a worse mindset. Without any answers, Dyomie nodded and walked up to the corner. She looked around the corner and saw a train cart that was trapped, a few others were moving around it trying to help whoever was inside.

"George! We have to get back to the maintenance room! We'll figure this out later!" a boy shouted to the others.

A woman nodded, "You heard the boy! Let's go!" As the people moved it looked as though they were coming towards them. Dyomie crept around the corner, staying close to the wall, her pistol cocked and ready to fire if needed. She then stepped out in front of them, a safe enough distance between both groups.

"Stop there or I'll shoot!" Dyomie yelled at them, her pistol raised, "What do you want?" Her hand was steady and her eyes narrowed. There was no way they were going to get passed her until she knew for sure they were safe.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.
# Sarah Hawke #


BOOM! BOOM! B-BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

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

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

If only she knew...


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

BOOM!

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

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


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


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

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


.: END OF SEASON :.

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“Ow come on Rafiq, I’ve been stuck here forever.” Molly looked at him with her best Puppydog-eyes impression.

“I know, but it’s not safe out there,” Rafiq responded weakly. He knew the argument didn’t hold much water.

She jumped on that fact immediately. “You and the others have been outside multiple times now. I can handle myself. I’m a big girl you know.”

“But you’re ankle...”

“Is fine!” She made a twirl, showing how the sprained ankle no longer affected her. Nevertheless, she winced a little. The injury clearly wasn’t healed yet. She knew that he knew. “We don’t have to go far. I only want to step outside and see the sun.”


She turned around and looked at Wayne, who was laying in his bed and had been observing the situation with a bemused expression. Spending his days in the makeshift ‘sickbay’ corner must have made him very bored. “Come on Wayne,” Molly pleaded, “help me out here. Fellow patients should stick together.”

Wayne laughed at that. “Not so sure what your problem is Rafiq. If it were me, I’d take this beautiful lady outside in a heartbeat.” He gently placed a hand on his stomach and added dramatically, “Alas, I’m in no shape to do so.”

All of sudden, Wayne retched and spit some of the content of his stomach in the bucket next to his bed. Both Rafiq and Molly turned away from the sight. This was Rafiq’s cue to leave. He hated vomiting.

“Alright, alright. I’ll take you outside for a second,” he said. Molly hugged him gratefully and winked at Wayne. “See you later Wayne. Do get better.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said with a face distorted between a grin and a grimace.

Molly took Rafiq’s arm into hers as they left the room. It was a thing she did to show affection, Rafiq had noticed. So had Carl, apparently, as he had often tried to help her escort through the rooms. The three of them had gotten along quite well, all things considering. Marie often hang out with them as well. That was, when her sister was not around. Rafiq was not sure what her problem was, but he felt like Dyomie had a huge chip on her shoulder. Especially when it concerned Marie.

Just as he was thinking about her, they ran into Marie.

“Where are you going?” She asked.

“Outside,” Molly beamed, “Rafiq is going to show me the sun.” She pulled him closer, but Rafiq instinctively took a step backwards. Marie seemed to notice, but instead smiled faintly at Molly. “Sounds nice,” she said.

“You want to come?” Rafiq asked. He suddenly realized how it might look if he took Molly outside alone.

Marie shook her head, “No, I’m sorry. I promised to help Jessica out with the laundry.”

“Alright,” he said, “maybe another time.”

“Maybe.”

---

They walked pleasantly towards one of the entrances of the metro tunnels. Despite Molly’s injury, it didn’t take them long. At least she was able to walk at a more or less normal pace.

Rafiq pushed open one of the doors and peered through. The area was free of walkers. Of course, despite the hell it had put them through, the bombing had at least been somewhat effective. There were still some stragglers here and there, but the number of walkers in the immediate vicinity of their hideout had decreased drastically.

“Oh my god,” Molly said slowly as she stepped outside. Looking at her expression, he realized she had not yet seen the aftermath of the bombing. The city was not completely destroyed, as he had feared a while back, but some of the buildings were severely damaged. Add that with the eerie emptiness of the streets and it must be a difficult sight to take in.

“Yeah, they hit the city pretty hard,” he said.

“It’s a ghost town.”

“Zombie town.”

She did not laugh at the joke.

“You think he’s still out there?”


“Who?”

“My brother.”


That had been one of the things that had made him and Molly bond so quickly. Both of them had lost family in the early hours of the outbreak, something the others hadn’t experienced for themselves. Everyone feared and wondered about their family, but the two of them were the only ones who knew for sure that the people they loved were gone.

“I don’t know.”

Molly had told him what had happened to her brother, Daniel. He had been killed by a car thief, but she couldn’t remember if he had been shot in the head or not.

They both stood there for a minute in silence, enjoying the sunlight while remembering the people they had lost.

All of a sudden, she grabbed him by the hand and pulled him towards the nearest building.

“Let’s get a better view,” she said.

“I thought we weren’t going far.”

“As if the building across the street is far.”

He had to admit she had a point and so he followed her.

The door of the building was locked, but someone, maybe from their own group, had smashed one of the windows in. Rafiq helped Molly through and then stepped into the room himself.

“Be careful,” he whispered, “there can always be some hidden.” He shuddered, remembering that one time in the supermarket. He often wondered what had happened to the old man in the wheelchair.

They quietly made their way to the roof, which was easily accessible through a number of stairs. Outside, two directions were obscured by the other buildings, but the south and east were clearly visible. Rafiq had not have time yet to view the city like this. He gasped, just like Molly.

The city seemed wrong. Off. Lifeless. The bombing had changed the city in something that was still recognizable, but different. A knot tightened in Rafiq’s stomach. With everything that had happened, this was somehow the most depressing view so far. It told him their truly was no way back. The world had changed and they had to live by its new rules.

“What’s that sound?” Molly asked.

“What sound?”He answered. Defensively, he took a hold of his knife. He hadn’t let go of the thing ever since it all started.

Then he could hear it too. A mumbling of growls and grunts was coming from the street below. They looked over the edge of the roof. A small number of walkers had grouped together and were scuffling about aimlessly. They had not noticed there were two humans up on the roof, but had somehow decided to stop in front of the building they were in.

“Dang it,” he whispered in an annoyed tone.

“What do we do now?”

“We wait.”

But that proved futile. As he said it, Rafiq could see movement from the corner of his eye.

He turned around and saw that something had made it to the top of the roof.

They were trapped.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Three walkers stumbled through the door. One had a hole in its chest, the other had a missing arm. The third walker seemed to be in perfect condition, or as much as a walker could be.

Rafiq gulped. He could feel sweat trickling down his back. Molly had now seem them to and let out a small gasp. Then she looked at Rafiq in horror. She didn’t say anything, but she clearly was hoping he knew what to do.

Thankfully, walkers were slow and stupid. It was probably the biggest advantage the living had over them. They had to take advantage of that now, or he and Molly would be done for.

“Move away from me. Keep moving around,” he said to her, “don’t let them corner you.” He pulled out his knife. He was tempted to get his gun, but the noise could alarm the other walkers on the street. He would only use that as a last resort.

Molly did as she was told and this clearly distracted the walkers. Two went in her direction, while the other one went straight for Rafiq. He hoped that Molly’s injury wouldn’t slow her down too much. If she could give him enough time, he could take care of the first one and then help her out.

It was the one with the chest hole that came for him. Rafiq quickly sprinted towards the creature. The walker clawed at him, but he had anticipated that. At the last second, he jumped aside, missing the outstretched arms. The dead thing tried to turn towards him, but it was too late. Rafiq quickly stabbed it through the right ear, plunging the knife straight into the brain.

As the walker fell to the ground, dead for good, Rafiq could feel his blood pumping in his throat. He was operating on pure adrenaline.

He was relieved to see that his sudden movement had distracted the second walker, focusing its attentions on him. From a quick glance, he could see that Molly had been able to avoid the third one, but it was edging closer towards her. He had to act fast.

This time it was the walker without an arm. It had been a woman once, though her features were already too deformed to make out anything else. It was already close to him, so he had to change tactics. Rafiq took a defensive stance and held his knife up high. George had told him how this pose would probably not work against a human opponent, as someone could easily knock the knife out of your hand. However, a walker would not be focused on the knife and did not protect its face. An easy target.

The creature was near enough now that he could smell it. Predictably, it raised up its arms as it tried to grab his hand. Rafiq easily avoided them and jabbed the knife forward.

He heard a muffled scream. Distracted, he quickly looked aside.

His heart sank.

Somehow, Molly had fallen down. The walker was on top of her.

Cold fingers touched his own arm. The distraction had made him lose focus. The knife had only pierced the eye of the walker and was now stuck in the socket. The creature had a tight grip on him, bringing his arm to its mouth. Rafiq tried to pull away, mustering all his strength. The creature would not let go, so instead, he made himself fall down.

The sudden change of weight made the walker lose its balance. It fell on top of him. Rafiq took a hold of the knife with his other arm and trusted upwards. He heard a sickening sound and then the creature moved no more.

He got up as fast as he could. Molly was still pinned beneath the walker.

Its teeth were on her neck.

He half ran, half stumbled towards her, fear grabbing a hold of him.

Then he noticed something strange.

The walker was not moving. Only Molly was.

“Molly?”

“Yes?”


Relief swept over him. She was still alive.

He pushed the walker off her. She was trembling and covered in guts and blood.

“Are you alright?” He asked her, “were you bitten?”

She slowly got up. “No,” she said, “I don’t think so. I... I did it Rafiq. I killed it.”

She held up a kitchen knife. Where she got it from, he had no idea, but it did not matter. She was safe.

“Congratulations,” he replied sheepishly.

She started laughing and he laughed with her. Exhausted, they fell to the floor. But they couldn’t stop laughing. Everything about the whole situation was so ridiculous.

After a good three minutes, he finally made himself stand up again. He slowly walked towards the edge of the roof and looked down. The group of walkers had moved on towards the next group of buildings.

“We should get back,” he said.

“Yes, I think I’ve had enough for one day.”

He opened the roof door and walked down the staircase. She followed him.

“Thank you,” said Molly from behind him. Her voice had gotten its strength back again.

“What for?”

“For saving me.”


He shook his head and chuckled. “Saving you? You saved yourself.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the other two. You’re much better at this surviving thing then me.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. Once your ankle is healed, you’ll be able to do just as much as me.”

“You really think so?

“Of course I do. We’re all the same. Nobody know what he or she is doing. We’re just doing the best we can.”


No reply.

He looked back.

A walker was sinking its teeth into the back of Molly’s neck. Her expression was that of complete confusion, but she didn’t utter a sound.

“NO!”

Shock, anger and desperation all welled up in him at the same time. He rushed back up the stairs, not even realizing he had pulled out his hunting knife. The walker was gorging on Molly’s neck, blood gushing everywhere. It did not notice Rafiq and a quick stab through the ear took it out.

It fell and slid two steps down the stairs. Molly fell as well, but Rafiq caught her. One look at her face and he knew he was too late. Dead eyes were staring up at him, frozen in the same look of confusion as before.

Hot tears filled his eyes. His heart was racing. It had happened so quickly, he could not even process it. Where had that thing even come from?

He looked up and noticed that one of the doors leading towards a corridor was open. They had failed to check it and Molly paid the price.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered, still holding the dead girl in his arms. Some people, colder or more rational people then him, would now check the rest of the building for it to be safe. But to him, it that moment, it did not seem to matter.

Angrily, he kicked the dead walker in the head. It rolled down the stairs even further.

What was he going to do now?

He sat down on the stairs, gently moving Molly’s body into his lap. Her neck was nearly bitten in half, so he had to support her head with care.

After one long look, he closed her eyes. He knew what had to be done next.

“You were wrong,” he said, “I couldn’t save you.”

She looked almost peaceful now.

“And my best is clearly not enough.”

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wow, Rafiq, watch out!”

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

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

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

“She’s dead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He hesitated. “Are you sure?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

= George Remington =
% Jessica Abbott %


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They took another corner.

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

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

They took another corner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Honey, I -“

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

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

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

“Excuse me? Who made you boss!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“That’s not all though.”

“No, it’s not.”


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

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

“Shot at you?”


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

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

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

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

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

It was Lily who spotted them first.

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %

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

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

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

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

*CLICK*

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

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

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

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

Rafiq dismissed it, “Just some strange weather.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alright, we better clean this place up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I believe you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Rafiq swallowed. “Cocaine.”

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

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

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

“You want us to start a drugs operation?”


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

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

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

“I suppose.”

“Then this could be our perfect bargaining chip.”


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

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

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

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

“I’m... I’m not.”

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“One swing,” said Diego, impressed.

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

“You know me. Always going full throttle.”


---

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

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

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

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

Rafiq hadn’t known how to respond to that.

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

“Someone is coming,” George suddenly said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

“Well? Are you going to answer me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are the other two?” Diego asked.

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

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

Liar, Bethany thought to herself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They went through each room systematically. Looking through drawers, behind cabinets, inside flowerpots. Rafiq knew what they were looking for, but neither Bethany or Diego had deemed it necessary to inform him. Not that he really blamed them. Who would openly admit to be looking for cocaine in front of a complete stranger? Even these days.

He kept following them around, just in case. Rafiq considered just coming clean and giving them the suitcase back, but he ultimately decided not to. He didn’t even know why not. It was not that he was afraid of the couple. He might have been, once, but meeting a potential drugs dealing couple was no longer on his list of things to be afraid of. Besides, as far as he could tell, they had been honestly upset and surprised by the bodies in the conference room. Rafiq suspected these two were a lot of things, but they were no killers.

No, Rafiq didn’t know why he kept the suitcase hidden from them. But he did.

Bethany was contemplating a bottle of hand lotion. She opened it and sniffed it in a way women do in the commercials. Smiling faintly, she applied it on her hands.

“You don’t have to follow us around, you know,” she said.

Rafiq shrugged, “I know.”

“So don’t.” Her eyes peered at him intensely, but Rafiq didn’t look away. Her face betrayed an annoyance as she left the room.

Her husband did not follow her immediately, but lingered instead. He watched his wife leave the room and then turned his attention on Rafiq.

“You look different,” Diego said.

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t look at her as most men do.”

Rafiq blinked in surprise, “I... what... she’s your wife. I...”

Smiling, Diego stepped closer. “And I’m the luckiest man in the world because of her. But that doesn’t mean other men do not want her.”

He was getting even closer, uncomfortably so. Rafiq felt a prickle of sweat forming on his brow. Diego’s smile had turned into a charming grin. Too charming. “And it also doesn’t mean I would only want her.”

Rafiq could feel his heart racing, thumping in his chest. What was happening?

Diego finally moved away and looked out of the window with his back turned. Rafiq just stood there, perplexed. He suddenly felt very exposed. In a way he hadn’t felt for a long time.

---

Position. Dive. Swim.

Get out of the pool.

Position. Dive. Swim.

Get out of the pool.

Position. Dive. Swim.

“Beat you again, Raf!”

“No you didn’t! I was clearly faster.”

“No way!”


Rafiq pointed at the times on the board and raised his eyebrows victoriously at his best friend. Nasir made a face and splashed some water at Rafiq. He was rewarded for this with a punch on the shoulders.

“Like it matters. Terry and Jude are still faster than the both of us.” Nasir said.

This time it was Rafiq who made a face. “At the 100 meter, yes. They’re not beating me on the longer distances though.”

“Didn’t Terry beat you on the 200 last week?”

“Ow, shut up.”

“Get out of the pool, boys! Next lap!”[/b] It was coach Stevenson. Rafiq and Nasir quickly got out of the pool and got back in front of the platforms. They were primarily practicing their diving techniques today, but that didn’t mean the coach didn’t want them to finish their laps as fast as possible.

Rafiq could feel Stevenson standing behind him. The coach was a big and burly man, whose presence was always felt. He was tough, but it was only because he wanted his boys to succeed.

“Rafiq, before I forget, I’d like to see you after practice. Before you take a shower. We need to discuss some of your techniques.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the coach walked away, Nasir looked at his friend. “Your turn for secret training tips from the coach?”

“Apparently. It has been a while.”

“Should I wait for you?”

“No need. Who knows how long it will take. Go home.”


The training lasted fifteen more minutes. As Rafiq stayed behind, most of the other boys left. Only Jude was still there, who was talking with coach Stevenson, who in turn checked his watch. He then looked over at Rafiq and said, “I’ll be there in a second, Rafiq. Need to figure out some administrative stuff with Jude.” Rafiq nodded and the two of them left.

He said down by the pool and submerged his legs into the water, gently moving them back and forth. Rafiq was excited. Private lessons with the coach always improved him as a swimmer. The man had a knack for making you refine your techniques. Rafiq loved swimming, ever since he was a little boy and he was proud that he was one of the best in the city, if not the state.

Footsteps on a wet floor signalled the coming of the coach. Except it wasn’t the coach. It was Jude. “What is it?” Rafiq asked.

“The coach send me. He has some family emergency and has to go. Your lesson is postponed.”

Rafiq looked at Jude with concern. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, I don’t think it is anything too big. Suzy is probably in a panic again.”


Suzy was the coach’s wife and while the coach never spoke about it, all the boys knew that she had psychological problems.

Rafiq followed Jude to the locker room. They talked about the coach and his wife. All the boys respected the coach and none of them blamed him if he had to leave early. He would make up for the lost time at the next training.

The locker room was already empty as they entered. “Guess it’s just us,” Jude said as he took off his swim briefs. Completely naked, the seventeen-year old boy stepped into the shower section. Rafiq stared at Jude’s ass for a second, before catching himself. He always felt disgusted with himself when he looked too long. Most of the time, he managed to not even notice the other boys in that way, but it happened once in a while. The other boys were muscular, well-build and attractive, especially Terry and Jude. Most disturbing were the dreams he sometimes had about his fellow swim mates.

After checking that nothing from his body had involuntarily reacted, he took off his own swim briefs and followed Jude in the showers. The warm water felt good and Rafiq could feel his muscles relax. Jude was two showers over and scrubbing his hair.

“You’re going to try out for the Pacific Swim?”

“I think so. You?”

“Yeah, if I can fit it in.”


As he said it, Jude glanced at Rafiq and smiled in a weird way. There was a sparkle in his eyes and Rafiq could feel his own stomach make a jump. Confused, Rafiq turned his attention to his own feet.

“You know Rafiq, you can look at me.”

His feet were becoming more interesting by the second, lifting one of them to peel away some old skin. From the corner of his eye, he could see Jude change showers, getting closer to him.

“Really, I don’t mind. I look at you too.” A pause. Then, “You’re quite hot, you know that right.”

Rafiq felt himself turning red, desperate and sick. Reluctantly, he had to admit to himself he had fantasized about this, in the deepest corners of his mind, but he had never imagined...

“I... I don’t... I’m not...”

“Look at me, Raf”

Rafiq looked at Jude. The other boy had come even closer now and his body was clearly showing excitement. Rafiq tried covering his own parts, but he knew it was too late. Jude had seen it and smiled mischievously.

“I knew it,” Jude said, “don’t worry Raf, I won’t tell the others. They are all stupidly straight anyway and don’t notice these things.”

Rafiq stammered, “I’m... I’m not gay...” It came out extremely pathetic.

Jude was extremely close now and was stroking Rafiq’s arm.

“Of course not.”

And he kissed him.

For two seconds, Rafiq let him. Only then came the old feelings back. Disgust, guilt, shame. He recoiled from the other boy and jumped out of the shower. Still wet, he put on his clothes as quick as he could. Jude had come after him, still naked, but now looking concerned and slightly ashamed.

“Rafiq! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t... I don’t know what came over me. I just saw you and...” he touched Rafiq’s back, who sprung back.

“Stay away from me,” Rafiq hissed and in tears.

He ran out of the room.

That night, Rafiq did not come home.


---

“I said, it is snowing outside.”


Diego’s words made Rafiq snap back into reality and pushed Jude away from his thoughts.

“Snowing?”

Through the window, Rafiq could indeed see that grey flacks were falling of the sky. But he was sure it wasn’t snow.

“You and Bethany might want to stay a little longer...”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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% Jessica Abbott %


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


---

This was ridiculous. This whole day was ridiculous. To think that just this morning, he had actually thought that things would get better. Instead, everything had turned into a disaster.

Wayne and the woman, Bethany, were in front of him, while Diego kept close to Rafiq, making sure he wouldn’t run away or something. Every time Rafiq tried to distance himself from the man, Diego would gently tap him on the shoulder.

They entered one of the side rooms, where Diego closed the door behind them. Wayne was still looking at them defiantly. Rafiq just wanted it to get over with. He had never cared about the cocaine in the first place. As far as he was concerned, they should just give it back to Bethany and Diego. Make it their problem. But for some reason, Wayne didn’t seem to agree. Rafiq suspected it was simply a matter of pride, but it could be something else. How well did he know Wayne after all? The man could be a junkie, for all he knew. Maybe that’s why Wayne’s been feeling ill these last few days.

Still, Wayne was a friend.

“Now, about our...” Bethany began.

“Why should I listen to you?” Wayne responded angrily “you are just with the two of you. We have a whole group. Why am I even going along with this?”

Because of their attitude, Rafiq thought to themselves. They might just be with the two of them, but it was clear they weren’t afraid of confrontation, unlike most people. Rafiq suspected they had often got what they wanted that way.

“Because you people are trespassing on my property,” Bethany said calmly, “and you have something that’s mine.”

“Prove it.”

Bethany raised her eyebrows in an obvious feint of surprise, “Really? You want us to go through this again? Your friend here,” she gestured towards Rafiq as she said it, “more or less admitted it.”

Wayne looked at Rafiq, clearly hoping for support. Rafiq shook his head. “Come on Wayne, let’s just give it back to them.” He couldn’t help noticing the disappointment entering Wayne’s eyes. Regardless, Rafiq had to convince him to give it back. It was for the best of the group. “It’s theirs, not ours.”

“At least one of you is sensible,”
Diego said with a grin, “tell me where it is.”

“It’s in the storage room.”

“We already looked in there. Where is it hidden?”


Rafiq glanced at Wayne, hoping for some help, but the man held his stubborn defiance in place. Rafiq sighed, “I don’t know. I was making sure nobody was disturbing us, while Wayne hid it.”

“You greedy bastards,” Diego said, though his tone hinted more at approval than anything else. Still, Rafiq felt hurt.

“It was not like that. We didn’t want anyone else to know, not yet, because we’ve had a long day ad it would only complicate things.”

Bethany laughed at that, “And things got complicated anyway.”

“I’m not trying to excuse ourselves here,” Rafiq said, tired. He could feel his head pounding. The day was getting to him, he knew. “Wayne, just tell them where you hid it.”

“No.”

“Wayne, please. What’s the point?”

“The point is, Ra-fiq,” Wayne put extra emphasis on the name, “that I don’t feel like getting bossed around by Pinky and the Bitch Brain over...”

This time Bethany was not fast enough to stop Diego. He punched Wayne full in the face, who staggered backwards. He blinked in surprise and stood completely still for a full second. Then he blinked again and focused his attention back on Diego.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Wayne hissed.

“Oh, shouldn’t I have,”
even though he said it mockingly, Rafiq didn’t miss the fact that Diego looked at Bethany as if he expected her to stop him. She didn’t though; instead she simply rolled her eyes.

Wayne took this moment to swing back. Diego managed to block it, but he miscalculated the force behind the punch and lost balance. Wayne took the opportunity and pushed the stronger man to the ground, falling on top of him and trying to pin him down.

As they continued their struggle on the ground, Rafiq watched at the scene not sure what to think of it. They were fighting, sure, but neither of them seemed to be intend on seriously injuring the other. Bethany tip-toed around them and walked up to Rafiq.

“Shouldn’t we stop them?”
He asked her.

“Nah,” she said, “let them get it out of their system.”

“Their system? You mean...”

Bethany merely shrugged, “Men.”

Rafiq snorted. Then giggled. Then outright began laughing. This made Wayne and Diego stop their little brawl, who looked at the Arab boy in confusion. Rafiq didn’t even notice. He continued laughing uncontrollably, doubled over.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

They were being chased by the undead, Molly had been killed just a few hours ago and most of his group had gone missing.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”


His parents were dead, so was his best friend and he had no clue what had happened to his sister.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”


And these two grown man were fighting over some cocaine.

This day truly was ridiculous.

As Rafiq kept having the giggles, Wayne and Diego tried to catch their breath. They looked at each other, suddenly gained an understanding and then Wayne slapped Diego on the back as if they had become best friends.

“So, dude, how about we share?”

Diego grinned at that, “How about 70-30.”