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Sarah Hawke (NPC)

A girl with some bite left in her.

0 · 324 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

.: SARAH HAWKE :.

Image


Description:

 Profession: College Student / Nursing Major w/ a Fashion Design Minor.
 Portrayed By: Amber Heard
 Age: 23
 Gender: Female
 Height: 5’8”
 Weight: 119 lbs
 Ethnicity: Caucasian
 Tattoos/Scars: Has a black tattoo of a hawk on the back of her neck, like all her siblings.

Traits:

 Strengths: Medical Knowledge, Loyal, Honest
 Flaws: Madly Impulsive, Wary, Short Temper

Personality:

 Fears: Afraid of losing touch with everyone in her life, afraid of rollercoasters, elevators and helicopters, afraid of losing her eyesight.
 Aspirations: Start her own fashion magazine/company, get married, buy a boat, get a summer house in New Zealand.
 Dominant Emotion: Passion
 Demeanor: Sarah is the youngest of four kids and definitely suffers from that little sibling syndrome. She was incredibly aggressive academically and in sports, earning her accolades and achievements, Valedictorian titles and more. She has always been one to prove that she can do something when challenged and doesn't like to rely on others for help. She holds to her own convictions strongly and is fiercely loyal. Even harder to earn back trust from. But although independent, she always makes sure to do well by others, making sure she never owes anybody anything. She has a frustratingly impulsive sense of self, never failing to be unpredictable and passionate in the things she cares about. Her loud mouth might get her in trouble, but it gets her out of a whole lot too.
 Quirks/Oddities: Eyes are a slightly different color... one blue, one blue/green.
 Skills/Proficiencies: Drawing/Painting, Can Speak: Spanish and Japanese, Certified Life Guard, Javelin Use, Polearm Use, Manual Driving, Advanced Math Skills, Extended Vocabulary, Swimming, Archery, Speech & Debate, Ice Skating, Medical Knowledge, etc.

Equipment:

 Wears her grandma's silver necklace around her neck.
 Aways has her cell phone, chapstick, and gum.
 Now carries a hunting knife and a Colt Python.

History

 Earned a full scholarship to UCLA's nursing school.
 Never had a boyfriend for over a month.
 Has learned a wide variety of words from her time spent in children's Spelling Bees.
 Parents live in Portland, OR. She has one older sister attending medical school in Boston, one older brother deployed overseas in Afghanistan, and one older brother acting in movies in Los Angeles.
 Hopes not to have to become a doctor and instead pursue her fashion career.
 Very close with her brother Calvin.
 Has spent most of her young life participating and competing in things she doesn't care about.
 Recently started using her scholarship money in high-stakes poker games to save up so she can start her company... to great success, I might add.
 Got addicted to cigarettes at a young age, but has kicked the habit twice since then.

So begins...

Sarah Hawke (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: CALVIN HAWKE :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calvin smiled. "Anytime, kid."

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC)

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.: SARAH HAWKE :.


Sarah watched speechlessly as the news reporter continued his report over a frenzy of frightening visuals and documented carnage. The entire classroom sat completely transfixed on what was unfolding on the television in front of them. They watched as a helicopter spiraled out of control, its tail colliding with the side of a tall skyscraper as people plummeted from its insides. Some of the more squeamish students covered their eyes or turned away. Many simply cried, unwilling to believe what they were witnessing.

“If you’ve just joined us, what you are seeing is real,” the reporter continued. He took a moment to collect himself as he straightened his papers and cleared his throat. “Similar reports have surfaced all over the east coast as this… infection… sweeps the nation.” The camera cut to the streets now, where a field reporter jogged between a sea of stalled cars, some on fire, others abandoned. His camera shook as he ran along, as if they were watching Cloverfield instead of live news. “The footage you are seeing is being recorded live by our field reporter, Kyle Reeves. In a short moment, we will be—“ he took another pause, continuing to fidget with his tie as if he could barely breath. “It looks like we’ll be going off the air now while we begin our own lockdown procedures. We advise that you all do the same. Find a safe place off the ground and away from windows. Do not make any attempt to reach loved ones. Stay safe… and may God have mercy on—“

'…Kshhshsshshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…’

The television feed cut out with a sudden intensity as the channel scrambled into empty airtime. Mr. Geoffries, the biology teacher, turned it off and wheeled it back towards the corner of the room. Dull whispers and murmurs blanketed the room as students huddled in small groups, terrified for what was happening to their city. Sarah watched as her teacher slouched back in his desk, his face drained of all color. He pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk and took a long swig from his flask. She wondered if he had a day like this in mind when he stashed it there in the first place.

Sarah tried again to reach her brother, once more dialing his number and holding the phone to her ear. She chewed effortlessly on her thumb, praying that he would just pick up for once. She needed him more than ever... but the line went to voicemail like it had the last several tries. Her friend Katie came from across the room and slid into the desk next to her.

“Sarah, how long are they going to keep us in here?” She asked, looking around anxiously. The school’s lockdown policy had already been fully enforced. It was announced over the intercom the second that the military started quarantining portions of Sunset boulevard. Even if the school released them, the military would never let them pass. She figured with two layers of quarantines, they would be safe where they were.

‘Right?’ She thought to herself, in a moment of doubt.

“I bet this is like, the start of World War III or something,” Katie continued. The girl was oblivious to the facts. This infection, or whatever it was, wasn’t an act of war. It was something worse. An enemy that couldn’t be fought. All of these thoughts raced through Sarah's mind in an instant. She had never felt more helpless in her life. She’d never felt more alone, either. She only wished she knew where Calvin was, and if he was alright. With her mind elsewhere, she barely noticed the commotion starting on the other side of the room. A surge of bodies moved towards the front of the room, and although she couldn’t see what was happening, she could clearly hear Mr. Geoffries’ voice shouting above the others.

“Please, stand back! Make room,” he yelled. Sarah followed the others, standing on one of the desks to get a better advantage point. Sprawled on the ground was one of the junior transfer students who shared a few of her other classes with her. His name was Brian or Ben or something generic, and he was extremely diabetic. The stress combined with his low blood sugar had obviously thrown him into some sort of seizure, and he now laid on the ground convulsing before the entire class. The room they were in was simply a lecture hall, unequipped to deal with any kind of medical situation of this magnitude.

“Do something!” One of the students shrieked, grabbing Mr. Geoffries by the arm.

“W-We have to treat him here… we c-can’t leave the room,” he replied, dropping to his knees beside the transfer student.

“Are you kidding me?” Another student interjected, “the medical lab is just down the hall! We can get him something there!”

Mr. Geoffries rounded on him, pulling a pistol from his waistband. “We are in a lockdown, damnit! We can’t just go waltzing around the building!” He struggled to keep the kid still as the seizures took hold of him even harder. Several of the girls were crying now, as if it wasn’t loud enough already.

“He’s going to die!” One of them cried out, shaking the professor by his sleeve. Some of the other students had already rushed toward the door, intent on breaking out of the classroom, but it was locked. Widespread panic had taken ahold of the entire room as students and teacher alike shouted and pushed and cried. Sarah sank back from the crowd towards her desk, reluctant to get involved. But she was already a part of it…

The transfer student gasped his last few breaths of air and fell into unconsciousness. His chest showed no signs of movement, even as Mr. Geoffries attempted to resuscitate him. The room was quieter now, as the students watched their professor try to breathe the life back into a kid who had been alive only seconds earlier. As it became more obvious that it was a lost cause, Mr. Geoffries shied away from the body, unable to look at any of the students around him. For once, the room was completely silent, save for the hum of passing helicopters and sirens from outside.

“You killed him,” a sobbing girl muttered between sobs.

Mr. Geoffries’ face burned red as he jumped to his feet. “I told you to shutup you stupid bi—AAAAAAGHH!!!!”

The final word barely left his mouth as the Brian (or Ben) the transfer student sank his teeth into the professor’s calf. Suddenly, the room went ballistic again as the students screamed and backed away from the spectacle. Mr. Geoffries shouted out in agonizing pain as he fell forward, pulling his leg from the reanimated kid on the floor. A healthy chunk was pulled clean from his leg as he fell onto his hands and knees. The kid continued crawling towards the professor, pulling him further into his grasp. None of the students moved to help, despite the professor’s cries for help, instead running up the flight of steps towards the doors at the top, praying for a way out. Sarah, having been near the desk already, began rooting through the doors of the desk for the keys that would get them the hell out of that classroom. She tried her hardest not to pay attention to the man being devoured a few feet to her left as she rummaged through all the crap in the drawer... and then it dawned on her.

The keys were likely in Mr. Geoffries' pocket.

Sarah cursed to herself as she looked over the desk at her teacher wrestling for his dear life on the floor.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Briana Hawke Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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# Sarah Hawke #


“C’mon, Brett. Let’s just go,” Sarah whined from the hallway. She had to run to keep up with him as he cruised towards the auditorium. Katie and her friend Theo trailed close behind.

“I’m not leaving without Amber,” Brett called back, “she’s got theatre class.”

Another girl, Katie, trailed behind them as she struggled to keep up. “I can't get a signal! Nobody is picking up. I can't even get onto Facebook,” she cried out between breaths.

None of them chose to acknowledge how odd that actually was. The group turned the corner and found themselves facing the large double doors of the theatre auditorium. Unlike some of the others in the rest of the school, these doors didn’t have windows. Whatever was happening on the other side, the doors were locked. Made obvious after several attempts to wrench it open by Brett. A feat even his muscles couldn’t triumph over.

“What the hell!?” He grunted in frustration.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “It’s a lockdown, Einstein.”

“What about the other doors?” He protested.

“It’s a lock… down…” Sarah repeated. He wasn't necessarily in the running for "Brightest Bulb" in the yearbook.

“This is bullshit!” Brett demonstrated his frustration by kicking the door. Hard. “We have to—“

“Who the hell is out there?” A voice shouted from the other side of the door.

Brett kicked at it again. “We’re students. Let us in!”

“We’re in a lockdown. Why aren’t you in your classroom?” The voice answered. From the pinched, slightly British-sounding accent, Sarah guessed they were talking to Mr. Weston, the voice teacher.

“Mr. Weston, something bad happened to Mr. Geoffries. We can’t get ahold of the paramedics or anything. Please let us in…” Sarah was pleading her hardest. She hoped to God that a less abrasive approach might appeal to his sense of reason.

“W-What happened to him?” Mr. Weston stammered, his voice shaking.

“There was, uh—“ Sarah's words caught in her throat.

“He got attacked, man,” Brett yelled over her.

Sarah listened as she heard, Mr. Weston shuffle around behind the door. "Why don’t you just, uh, go down to the office and—“

BAM!

Brett’s foot collided with the handle of the door again, clanging all the way down the hall.

“Stop it!” Mr. Weston cried out.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Again and again he kicked at the door, denting the metal in.

“Please! NO!!" The teacher continued to cry out. His screams began turning more desperate, as if he was suddenly in danger. "STOP! PLEEEASE!!"

Katie tugged at Sarah's arm, pulling her back from the door. The hallway suddenly filled with the rise of muffled sounds as dozens of terrified screams rang out. Panicked students. Brett backed away from the door too, as it began to shake violently from the other side. As if bending at the frames, the door burst open with pressure from the other side. A wave of panicked bodies surged out, people spilling over each other in a desperate frenzy. Amongst them, a student crouched over Mr. Westons limp body. They immediately took off in the other direction, barely head of the torrential mass of people. Straining desperately to keep her bearings, Sarah buried her face with her arms as she ran and passersby collided with her. She made it a few doors down the hallway before getting knocked to the ground by the sobering blow of someone's shoulder. Sarah hit the ground hard and rolled into the person in front of her, knocking them to the ground as well.

“Molly?!” Whoever he was, the crowd had already carried him away -- lost in the surge of people like a bottle in a flood.

Sarah looked to the girl next to her. Blonde and terrified. “I’m sorry,” she began, “I didn’t—“

Ear-shattering screams seemed to be coming from every part of the corridor, even from where they were running. Parts of the crowd ahead splintered into different directions, some doubling back the way they came. Sarah looked around, unable to see any of her friends from before in the swarming frenzy of bodies. The girl next to her seemed to be in the same predicament.

“This way,” she said, grabbing the girl’s hand and leading her down the stairs nearby.. As they delved deeper into the stairwell, the sounds of chaos resonated louder from above.

The woman pulled her wrist from Sarah's grasp. “W-Wait. My brother—“

Sarah rounded on her. “He's closer to the car than you are...” The woman’s silence was all the answer she needed. Briana turned and continued trotting down the last few steps, the woman following her after a bit of hesitation.

“What’s happening up there?” The woman asked. Her voice shook slightly. Sarah figured it probably wasn’t shaking from jogging down the stairs, but rather from her fear that the world might be ending.

“Haven’t you been watching the news?”

The woman shook her head. “No, I was at the airport…”

Sarah snorted. "Airplanes. That'd be a fun place to be right now." She began to slow down as they neared the hallway. It was likely that there were people still down here. In what condition would remain to be seen. “It’s an infection of some sort, from the looks of it. The media didn’t seem to know how to explain it.” The two of them crept into the hallway in front of them towards the locker rooms, their shoes echoing on the cement floor. “Whatever it is, it’s bad.”

The silence hung for a moment before the woman finally spoke. Where are we going?” She asked.

“These locker rooms let out onto the football field. We can go around the track to the parking lot,” Sarah explained as she ducked into a passing doorway.

“So those… things… up there… those are—?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah said, her gaze dropping to the floor. It was suddenly dawning on her how stupid it was that she was in Biology class when the world ended. It'd be a great story to tell her kids... as if she'd ever have a chance to have any now.

"Listen, my brother--" The woman started, pulling Sarah by the arm.

"If he's smart, he's already running to your car. You do have a car... right?"

"Yeah... and I have the keys...” she replied.

Sarah stopped in front of the girl’s locker room door and looked the girl squarely in the face.

“Then let’s hope we get there before he does.”

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: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.



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

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

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

"Honestly?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



< + >



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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC)

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


Charlie sat outside the bathroom stall, whining at the girl crying inside. Sarah sat on the toilet behind the closed door, drying her reddened eyes with the sleeves of her jacket. She reached between her feet and grabbed an empty box -- shoving the pregnancy test back inside. The stall door opened and Charlie wagged his tail happily. Sarah tossed the box in the trash and walked over to the mirror -- fixing her eyes in its dirty reflection. She stepped back out into the main lobby, holding the door open for Charlie to scamper out. He brushed by her legs, anxious to play with the plastic bag he had been tussling with earlier.

Sarah placed her hands on the cool countertop and took some deep breaths as she tried to calm herself down. It was the only test she had ever failed -- and she was forever grateful for that. Needless to say she wouldn't be doing any more studying. There had been signs over the last couple days, ever since the night it had happened -- but with everything going on there just hadn't been time to deal with it. And poor Rafiq. She had been pretty awful to him given everything they'd gone through together. There was no way he could have known she was dealing with her own things too, but the idea of having a baby in this new world scared the shit out of her. She could barely even protect her own life... how would she ever expect to be able to bring a new one into this world?

She zipped up her duffel bag full of medical goods and threw the bag over her shoulder. It was incredible how much better she felt after cleaning up her own cuts and scrapes, regardless of everything else going on. The spill onto the pavement earlier with the Vespas had only gotten more sore overnight. She was bringing enough Ibuprofen and other meds to keep her mind off the pain for a good long while. Charlie and her had managed to get no further than three steps out of the clinic when Sarah caught a moving shadow out of the corner of her eye. She spun around, drawing her knife and holding it in front of herself.

A tall man in a similar security guard jacket stood with his palms out to her, pistol in one hand. He wore a black beanie over what she could tell was long sandy blonde hair. She held eye contact with him as he tongued a toothpick in his mouth and slowly crouched to the ground, putting his pistol down.

"Now I ain't lookin' for trouble, miss..." he began, standing back up. He kept his arms raised above his head to prove his lack of hostility. "You alone? I mean other then the dog..."

Charlie stood at Sarah's feet, a low grumble beginning to form in his throat. "Back away from the gun," she ordered, gesturing with the knife.

He did so, graciously. "Sure. Sure thing. A gesture of good faith..."

Once he was far enough, she approached his weapon and picked it up, checking to see how many bullets it had. The clip was nearly full. Had the man wanted something from her, he could have taken it when he had the chance -- which meant he wanted something else.

"How long you been followin' me?" She asked, curious as to what he'd say.

"I just saw you go into the clinic is all. I swear..." he replied. "You wouldn't happen to be a doctor, would you?"

Sarah narrowed her eyes at him, keeping the pistol steady. "I was studying to be a nurse before all this..." she replied, offering him the truth.

The man's face lightened up at the news. "Listen, I'll make you a deal. We got a man injured back at one of our holes... you come by and fix him up, and you walk away with whatever you want," he said, smiling as he bargained. "I assume you're with a group or something? We have food, weapons... you name it."

Sarah contemplated the man's offer. It seemed way to good to be true -- and this was assuming she could even fix whatever was wrong with his injured friend. She could be walking into a trap... though it's unlikely he just wanted the meds. There were plenty more in the clinic and he hadn't bothered to ask. Something about the man led Sarah to think she could believe him.

"Fine," Sarah said -- having finally decided. "But I'm keeping the pistol."

The man laughed. "I wouldn't expect it any other way," he replied. "My name's Oliver," he began, "and there's some things I'm going to need to tell you before we go back."

Sarah crossed her arms -- knowing full-well there had to be a catch.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC)

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


"You care repeating that?" Sarah asked as she double-timed to keep up with Oliver's stride. He had longer legs than she did and was making a point of hurrying back to the outpost before the Sun went down. Los Angeles was already a dangerous city at night -- and it was no different now. Sarah rubbed her shoulder where the strap of the bag had reddened it from the chaffing. She hoped they were close, having spent the day on her feet. The few hours of sleep she managed to pack away the night before were barely enough to keep her going -- not to mention that she had had maybe one collective meal over the last 48 hours. It made her lament on the missed lunch date she had planned with Calvin the day before. She pushed the thought out of her mind, not wanting to dwell on him or the days prior. Charlie's paws pitter-pattered across the pavement as he weaved around them, exploring the debris-strewn street and investigating strange odors. Sarah refused to keep walking until she had an answer.

Oliver stopped a few paces ahead of her, pulling a pack if cigarettes out of his jacket pocket. He tapped the pack a few times against his other hand before pulling a smoke out with his lips. He fumbled around for a lighter and lit it, taking a long drag from it and tapping the ashed tip onto the ground. "They're convicts," he continued, "each and every one of them."

Sarah scoffed. "And you didn't think this would've been nice to know before we walked all this way? Kind've a dealbreaker..."

Oliver turned to her, a white puff of smoke escaping from his lips. "They aren't all bad men. I've known some of them for years, and they've already saved my life more than once."

"So that makes you a convict too, I guess... huh?" Sarah asked, realizing with each word that she knew nothing about this man. Everything he had told her was a surefire red flag, but he hadn't shown any other ill will towards her -- and she really did need the supplies he was offering in exchange for her services.

Oliver looked her in the eye, tossing some of the hair out of his eyes so he could look at her more directly. "Would you still come with me if I was?" He asked, bluntly.

Sarah chewed her lip, trying to get a read on the man. Whatever his intentions, she had come too far to turn around and go back on her own -- and in a way, it was her fault all this had happened in the first place. No one had asked her to run off on her own like that. "I don't know..." she replied, looking at her feet.

"Well you don't have to worry, cause I'm not," he replied, heartedly. He flicked his cigarette and picked up the pace again. Sarah reluctantly followed with Charlie close at her heels. "I was a guard at the prison they were stationed at," Oliver began, "When all this went down, I was on a bus transferring about 35 of these men to another facility." He blindly flicked the finished butt of the cigarette off to his right where Charlie was sure to give it a quick sniff before trotting past. "Needless to say, we didn't make it there..."


* * *


A number of blocks further down Oliver raised a hand, signaling for Sarah to slow down behind him. She patted her legs, calling Charlie over to her and bent down, holding him close. He greeted her with a few licks to the face and one lick right to the mouth which she wiped away with the back of her hand. The dog wagged his tail happily, as if he had no idea the state of the world he lived in now. Oliver hugged the corner of the wall they had taken cover behind and put his fingers to his mouth, whistling loudly. A few seconds passed, and a second whistle answered back. Oliver grabbed Sarah by the arm and stepped out from behind the wall, waving his hand in the air. Down a few buildings was a large brick fire station. A man on the roof waved the two of them over, shouldering his sniper rifle. Sarah ran behind Oliver as he crept down the sidewalk, careful to stay low behind the parked cars on the side of the street so as not to be noticed by any of the walkers in the street. A few of the closer ones had already begun to converge on where they heard Oliver's whistle earlier, but they were already long gone. A loud shot rang out from the rooftop as the sniper put down a walker who must have taken notice to them. Oliver led Sarah by the hand into the alley beside the fire station, and lifted up part of a torn chain-link fence for her and the dog to duck through. He passed through last and closed up the gate behind him, sliding a large panel of wood over the hole to cover it from the inside.

"OK," he began, wiping some of the sweat from his forehead, "we're safe here now."

Sarah looked around the yard at some of the idled vehicles. A couple military-looking Hummers and a number of ATV's and motorcycles were parked about, a few looking like they had been through the ringer with paint scratches, streaks of blood, and cracked windows. "I'll be the judge of that," she replied.

Oliver looked at her, wishing she'd trust him. "Look, I let you keep my gun. You'll be safe here. These men may be criminals, but they aren't animals. We have a..." his eyes wandered as he searched for the proper word. "...a code," he finished, glancing back at Sarah. "Any new people we bring in have to be vouched for by someone already in the group. You're my guest here, and no one will mess with you. I promise..."

Sarah couldn't help but trust him and his dreamy eyes. He had been honest with her the entire way here, even surrendering his firearm to her to make her feel more comfortable. She only hoped she wasn't making a huge mistake by coming here. "OK... alright," she replied, deciding to place her trust in this stranger. "I'm with you."

Oliver smiled slightly, and gestured for her to follow him. He traipsed across the yard towards one of the fire exit doors in the back and rapped on it with his knuckles. Two quick knocks, a pause, and then a third knock. She heard somebody fiddling with whatever locking mechanism they had in place from the other side, and the door swung open to reveal a scrawny, slightly toothless man with a shotgun. His face brightened when he saw Oliver.

"Ollie!" The man rejoiced, beaming wide enough for Sarah to get a good glimpse of the severity of his dental damage. She cringed a little bit, wishing she hadn't looked. "Get in here, quick..." he ordered. Sarah entered last after she was sure Charlie was inside, and the man closed the door behind them, locking it. She sort of wished he hadn't...

"Great ass-fucking Moses," another more heavy-set man called out as he sprung from a couch on the other side of the room. He eyed Sarah ravenously, rubbing his repulsive belly. "Did True Blue go out and find himself a piece of tail? I thought you were on a supply run?"

Sarah inched behind Oliver, already feeling exposed and threatened just by the way the men in the room were looking at her. Her fingers crept towards the pistol tucked into the back of her waistband. "Sit your ass back down before you do something stupid," Oliver ordered, pointing his finger at the man. He raised his hands in the air defensively and backed off as him and his buddy guffawed over the exchange. "She's got medical experience," Oliver continued, "I brought her here to fix up our wounded. Where's Buck at?"

The toothless man appeared from behind them, straightening his mustache. "Buck's gone already. Had to brain him before he turned," he admitted without any remorse. "We got new wounded though..."

Oliver furrowed his brow. "New wounded? What the fuck did you guys do?"

"There was a bit of a... situation," he replied sheepishly. The men on the couch looked into their beers, solemnly. "Francis got killed."

"Fuck..." Oliver said, running his hand over his face. "And Bronson?"

"Rallied some of the men to go after him a few hours ago. Took the fire truck too... wanted to make a statement." Oliver shook his head, and looked at Sarah -- wondering if this was the best time to have brought her here. He hoped to hell he wouldn't regret it.

"They still being kept in the rec room?" Oliver questioned. Mustache man nodded, pointing down the hallway next to them. Oliver grabbed Sarah by the arm and started leading her that way. "C'mon." Sarah followed him, not wanting to leave his side for a second while under the roof of these men. She took one last glance at the man on the couch before disappearing around the corner. He blew her a kiss, matched with a devilish wink. Whatever food was left in her curled inside her stomach as she continued down the hallway...

And she couldn't help but wonder just what the hell she had gotten herself into...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


The red-haired man bit his lip and closed his eyes, wincing in pain with a jerk of the leg as Sarah pulled a needle through his skin. She'd sealed up most of the deep wound on his calf, after disinfecting and cleaning it of course. It felt like no amount of schooling could have prepared her for the real thing. Experience was always the best teacher, in her opinion. She wiped her forehead with the back of her sleeve, and sat up.

"Man up, Dax..." she teased, grabbing a dirtied rag to dry some of the blood around the stitches. He scratched his beard, silently ignoring her de-masculization, but Oliver naturally chimed in with his two cents.

He sat with his legs kicked up on a desk in the corner. "Yeah, Dax. Man up," he added from behind an old Men's Fitness magazine. Dax rolled his eyes, folding his arms as Oliver reached for his glass of water as he looked around the room at some of the other patients. Two others slept soundly on the right side of the room on their own cots, having been treated earlier. Two broken fingers and an injured rotator cuff. Charlie stood up from his sleeping place underneath the desk and stretched out, unleashing a long yawn. He sidled up to Oliver, wagging his tail and took some licks out of the man's water as he held it low for the dog.

"So," Oliver began, placing the glass on the ground for Charlie to finish. "You never told me how you survived this long."

Sarah pierced the next notch on Dax's stitches as the man stifled another cry. She pulled it through again, slower this time as she neared the end. Really she just wanted to keep her hands busy so she didn't have to look up at Oliver. "There's not much to tell really," Sarah lied, blowing some stray strands of hair from her eyes. "I was in school... UCLA," she continued. "Escaped with some folks and ended up near here." She wasn't planning on getting anymore detailed than that. No need to advertise their group's location for no reason.

"You're lucky you got out," Oliver chided, setting down the magazine. That first day was unreal... we got stuck on the freeway in the charter bus. We're all jammed up, right? Cause everybody's trying to go the same damn direction out of town. So I'm there up front with the driver... and there's a mesh-wire partition behind me separating me from the prisoners. And all of the sudden, we see people getting out of their cars and running the other direction! No joke. Just running past the bus left and right -- prisoner's faces glued to the windows trying to see what was going on. One guy started pounding on the bus door for us to let him in, but I showed him my shotgun and he ran off..."

Dax was listening with rapt ears, gazing into the floor as he pictured it... nodding at the appropriate moments. Sarah pulled close the last stitch and snipped it free with the scissors. She unwound a fair amount of medical tape and began fastening the gauze to his leg.

"Pretty soon it wasn't people running by us anymore... it was these things." The word hung in the air and Charlie leaned over, resting his head on Oliver's lap as if he knew the sad part was coming. The two looked at each other. "I tried-- I tried to get the gate open as fast as I could, but... I had the keys to unlock the backdoor to the bus. The driver held them off at the front as long as he could... long enough for me to unshackle the prisoners and get the back open.... but they forced themselves inside, and--"

"And he died saving all of your lives," Sarah said, finally looking up to meet his eyes. "You shouldn't feel guilty, you should feel honored-- that someone would do that for you."

Oliver looked at her, his eyes betraying his feelings. He hadn't thought of it that way. It was always his job to protect people, so he couldn't help but feel some sort of responsibility when these kinds of things happened.

Sarah pulled Dax's pant leg back down over the treated wound and placed her supplies back on the table, wiping her hands on a wet rag amidst the deep silence. "I don't have anybody who'd do that for me," she finally said. "The only person who would is probably dead in a ditch somewhere, and the worst part is..." she said, beginning to tear up, "I'll never know if that's true or not." She quickly dabbed her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt with a sniffle. Oliver stood, as if he intended to comfort her somehow... but Sarah mirrored him, standing up too. "I held up to my end of the bargain," she said, crossing her arms.

Oliver looked at her, not understanding the rapidly shifting emotions that Sarah seemed to be exhibiting. He nodded, hesitantly and started towards the door. "You certainly did," he replied, holding it open for her and Charlie. They exchanged a look as she stepped through the doorway.


* * *


Painfully fluorescent lights flickered to life over messy rows of workout equipment and weight racks stretched across a mirror-lined gym -- only the racks weren't full of dumbbells, they were lined with weapons of all shapes and sizes. Several different melee weapons were laid across one bench, ranging from pocket knives to larger blades, a couple crowbars, bats, golf clubs, metal poles, etc. These guys had certainly been busy over the last 48 hrs... or maybe they were allowed to bring luggage along on the bus.

Sarah took in all of the heavy hardware with a sweep of the room. Oliver leaned against the doorframe, watching her pace the room-- touching a gun here and there, but not really knowing what she was looking for. She ran her hand over a silver Colt Python with a wooden handle-- looking like something straight out of the Wild Wild West. Her eyes looked up to see Oliver watching her, when she suddenly felt something. It wasn't heart skipping a beat, but rather the a low trembling in the ground. Figuring it was another of LA's quakes, she paid it little mind-- grabbing hold of a nearby squat machine to steady herself... and then the second shockwave happened, sending Sarah and her surroundings tumbling to the ground. The vacant rumblings of bombs dropping shook the room violently, the hanging lights swinging from their fixtures as dust poured through fresh cracks in the ceiling.

"Get away from the mirrors!" Oliver shouted, grasping the doorframe tightly. Sarah crawled underneath one of the nearby exercise benches and held on to its legs, as glass shattered to the floor around her.

"It sounds like it's right on top of us! What is it?!" She yelled out from her hiding spot. The stampeding footsteps of the other convicts rang out in the stairwell as they spilled out into adjacent rooms, two of them carrying an injured man with a fresh cut on his head. Oliver saw them carry him into one of the deeper rooms and turned to look at Sarah.

She hadn't planned on working overtime tonight.

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: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Freddy Kaufmann (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


Three men had been summoned into the walk-in freezer by Bronson. Two of them dragged Oliver out of the room by his legs, his jacket flaring up behind him as he slid across the metal floor. He was still out cold, and Bronson wanted to keep him that way so the kid would keep out of his hair. He'd hate to have to do something drastic. Bronson pulled the third man into the corner, slinging his arm around his shoulders as he brought him in close. Calvin watched them converse privately from his position on the floor, handcuffed to the metal rack of shelves behind him. Calvin had spit in Bronson's face earlier, forcing his other arm to be handcuffed to the rack -- completing the crucifix-like image, if that as even what the deranged lunatic was going for. The muted thuds of bombs dropping all across the city could be felt in his fingers and toes as the entire metal room shook with each boom. He squirmed on the floor, trying to adjust himself more comfortably, but the cuffs cut into his wrists every time he attempted to turn his body.

Bronson and his cohort broke from their huddle, and turned to him -- their eyes holding a suspicious quality. The revered "Warden" kneeled down at Calvin's side and smoothed out the beard around his lips with a couple careful strokes.

"So," Bronson began, "it has occurred to me that having ordered your sentence, it would be unfair of me to also be the one to carry it out... so I've brought in a man who's work I could not recommend anymore highly."

The man in the background grinned over his folded arms. "Shucks, Boss. That's awfully kind of you," he replied schmoozingly.

"You'll be in good hands," Bronson assured him, slapping Calvin on the face playfully. Calvin flinched away from his hands -- the dirty paws of an uncertain man. Bronson chuckled softly as he stood up to leave. "I gotta go deal with Oliver and find this new doctor of ours," he said to the other man. "I'll let her know to expect a patient soon," he added, helping himself out of the room.

The door closed behind him, clicking as it shut. A heavy silence fell across the room as the inmate shrugged off his jacket and slumped it on top of the rack behind him. He rolled up his sleeves, whistling a little dirty to himself as if he were about to start a day of work and the sun was shining. Neither of those seemed to be the case, and Calvin couldn't help but feel even more off-put about the man.

He suddenly turned to Calvin and slapped his hand to his heart. "Ah shit," he cursed loudly, "where are my manners?" He held out his hand to Calvin. "I'm Freddy," he said, smiling. Calvin stared daggers at him. "Oh right, the uhh--" Freddy pulled back his hand, nodding at Calvin's handcuffs.

"Freddy Kreuger? Man, you're even uglier in person," Calvin muttered, diggingly. Freddy's eyes beamed as he laughed and nodded, the corners of his mouth taut as he held his smile.

"You have no idea how refreshing it is to see that you're just as entertaining in real life as you are in your movies," Freddy admitted, clapping his hands together. He noticed the change in Calvin's expression. "Oh, yeah. Don't think I didn't realize who you were when I came in here. A lot of the other guys are big fans of yours. They played a few of your flicks in the slammer. They'll be bummed out after they find out what we had to do to you...

Calvin gritted his teeth. "Glad to meet such a humbling fan," Calvin replied, gratingly.

"The honor's all mine," he teased. "Now that we've introduced ourselves, I'd like you to meet somebody else," Freddy said, digging into his pocket. He pulled out a small, seemingly hand-carved knife. The edges were crude and sloppy -- some sort of prison weapon no doubt. He held it up in the blue light of the freezer. "This... is Rosalind," he began, looking at the blade, inspecting it lovingly. "She's a cruel bitch once you get to know her. Stolen many hearts -- cause all the boys can't stay away from her." He inched a bit closer. "Rumor has it you have an eye for her..."

Calvin tensed up, the meaning behind those last few words gripping his heart like a metal vice. He had little time to react before Freddy lunged at his throat with his hand, grasping Calvin tightly around his jaw and forcing his head back against the rack. The skin of his neck pinched against the rail as Freddy forced the blade down into Calvin's right eye.

What followed was a mixture of blood-curdling screams, a sensation of burning metal piercing his cornea, a hot white flash and then darkness. First in the damaged eye, and then in both as Calvin slipped into unconsciousness. He heard the careful grunts of Freddy as he deftly maneuvered the knife, as if putting the final touch on a painting he had been working on for quite some time. Everything faded gently to black... and Calvin could have sworn that the last thing he heard as he drifted off was the hollow barking of a dog nearby...



* * *



Image


.: 7 Days Later :.


Calvin's remaining eye snapped open as he jolted awake, beads of sweat resting effortlessly on his forehead. He had dreamt about that same horrific night several times over the passing week as he tossed and turned in his slumber. He rubbed the bad thoughts out of his good eye with the knuckle of his hand and gently felt for the edges of the bandage over his wound. Someone had already cleaned and wrapped it in a makeshift eyepatch with gauze, though a glance down at his shirt showed the bloody aftermath of what had been done to him. He didn't remember anything after he blacked out. They must have had some sort of doctor look at him. He felt around with his fingertips, admittedly still sore around his eye socket from earlier. Looking around, he gathered his bearings enough to sit up on the table -- realizing that he was in a totally different room from before. He could faintly hear some movement and chatter from outside in the hallway, and Calvin struggled to his feet to lean his ear to the door, but his wrist was yanked back by the handcuffs restraining him to the bed. He cursed under his breath, straining his ears to hear the muffled voices outside.

After a brief exchange that he couldn't hear the details of, the lock on the door clicked, and the handle began to turn. Calvin whisked himself back onto the bed, covering himself back up with the woolen blanket in an effort to appear asleep. A cringing creak of rusted metal signaled their entrance, and the door slammed behind them -- the lock clicking back into place. Calvin stayed as still as he could under the covers as he heard their footsteps circle the room. They something metal down on the table nearby, and then stayed silent. Calvin could feel their eyes on him.

"Calvin...?" His heart stopped at the sound of the voice. It belonged to a girl. A girl he knew... a girl he had feared was dead. He slowly rolled over, abandoning his charade of being asleep. His eye welled up with tears as he looked upon the last person he ever expected to see alive...

"How about that lunch you owed me?" Sarah said with a smile, gesturing at the tray of food she had brought in. Tears ran down her cheek as she stared at her long lost brother -- finally found, but not found whole.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Freddy Kaufmann (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

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# Sarah Hawke #


Sarah slurped the last bit of noodle out of what was only luke-warm spaghetti after so many minutes of catching up with her brother. They had barely talked about what had happened since they'd seen each other, instead reminiscing about happier times together. Calvin took a long sip of water and placed his mug back down on the side table. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and flung his legs over the edge of his bed, wondering just how in the world it came to be that he was sitting underground across from his should-be-could-be-dead sister, eating cold pasta... a prisoner in a medical room.

A lot had changed in the last week.

Sarah sighed a deep sigh, full from all the food they had ate. It was the best she had felt since everything had turned to shit. Felt like they had never left each other's side. She always loved how no matter how long she went without seeing Calvin, they always fell right back in stride with one another. It was part of the reason they were closer than any of the other siblings. Calvin looked at his sister, adoringly. The muscles around his eye throbbed in pain as his tear ducts tried to work. It made his other eye water up enough for both of them.

"I don't know what to do anymore," he admitted softly to his sister. She put down her plate and came over to sit on the bed with him, licking her fingers clean as she sidled up next to him.

She wrapped her arms around him tightly and he hugged her back, closing his eye. "None of us do," she said, trying to reassure him. "Everybody's just trying to do their best. Unfortunately for some people that means doing their worst," she said, hinting at Bronson. Sarah's gaze dropped to the ground as she shook her head at the thought.

"I think about all of the things that have happened... that will happen." His thoughts were disconcerting. He had had enough time for reflection during his week of entrapment, drifting in and out of consciousness as they kept him sedated during the early stages of recovery. He had come to the conclusion that he may not be fit for this new world. Whatever that was supposed to mean for him in the moment... maybe it was the drugs talking.

But then he saw his sister -- and if he wasn't so sure he was lucid, he'd have thought her a hallucination. And he remembered what was worth surviving for... that feeling. That catharsis from knowing that there is somebody you'd fight for in this world who would also fight for you.

"Were you already down here when they brought me in?" Calvin asked, shaking his spiraling sentimentality from his thoughts. Sarah nodded, slowly. She sat up, looking him in the eyes as the memory of that night played again in her mind...


* * *


...7 Days Prior...

Sarah rubbed her hands back and forth together as she tried to get the gravel off of her palms. She had stumbled more than a few times in their rush for cover and her palms were worn and bloodied. She wiped them on the front of her pants, trying to brush the pain off as well. Dax sat on an egg crate nearby, dumping the rocks from his shoes. Dust and debris was showering down upon them during their escape, leeching onto their clothes and hair.

"Thank you," Sarah managed, as soon as the silence set in, "for helping me. I saw Oliver go into that room with--"

"Don't you worry about Oliver. He's a tough guy. There's a reason he's made it this far," Dax assured her. He scratched at his beard as he broke eye contact with her as she smiled at him, thankful for his comforting words. It wouldn't have been so hard if he didn't find her to be so darned pretty. He opened his mouth to say something else, but the heavy sound of footsteps stormed towards them in the hallway outside. The door to their room was yanked open, and a tall skinny man, riddled with tattoos stepped through the frame to face them.

"There you are," he growled at Sarah, taking a few steps towards her. Dax jumped to his feet, curling his fist into a ball.

"The hell do you want, Raphael?" Dax barked back at him, stepping in front of Sarah. The two flared their chests at one another like a couple of proud birds. Sarah couldn't help but be slightly amused as she covered her mouth, curious as to whether or not she was about to see a fist fight.

Raphael flipped Dax the bird, playfully. "Warden wants to see the girl. She's... needed," he finished, creepily looking her up and down. Sarah averted her eyes and covered herself up more -- shuddering at the feel of his eyes on her. Her mind raced as she wondered what Bronson wanted with her. Only bad news seemed to come from a man like him.

Dax frowned. "Fine, but I'm coming with her.

Raphael shook his head, clicking his tongue. "The girl only. Them's my orders."

Dax ignored him, looking at Sarah instead and taking her by the hand. "I'm walking you," he said loud enough for Raphael to hear. He turned back to the man with a 'fuck you' look. "Where is he?"


* * *


Charlie's barks echoed through the hallway as he stood planted, facing the freezer door. His tail waved bag and forth in a kinetic frenzy as he howled at the door. Sarah pulled on Dax's arm, as he noticed the dog too. For the last couple minutes they had been relying on each other equally for support as they dragged their wearied bodies down the halls following Raphael to the Warden's summoning.

"Do you hear that?" Sarah asked, referring to the muffled shouts behind the freezer door. Whoever was inside sounded like they were in tremendous pain, and Sarah's heartbeat quickened as the sudden thought hit her that it might be Oliver. Dax tugged Sarah along, continuing around the corner after Raphael.

"Bronson won't want to wait... c'mon," Dax insisted, quietly. Sarah took one last glance over her shoulder at the dog, wondering whether he knew something she didn't. That small thought disappeared along with the dog as Sarah slipped out of view around the corner. After a few more twists and turns, they finally arrived at something that resembled a medical bay. There were three beds, neatly laid out with fresh sidetables on a white tiled floor. On the center bed, Bronson sat in his torn denim vest and matted blue prisoner's coveralls. The last third of a cigarette lingered restlessly in his fingers and he drummed his other hand against his shin in an improvised rhythmic pattern.

"You shouldn't smoke in here," Sarah remarked, icily. The mere thought that this man had hurt Oliver made her blood boil. Whoever he thought he was, he was majorly suffering from some sort of God complex -- what with all the "Warden" garbage and everything. Bronson turned to her, an amused expression widening across his face. He loved a girl with some spirit in her. The cigarette fell to the ground beneath his loosened fingers and he stamped it out with the heel of his leather boot as he stood up to greet her. He spit in his hand and slicked back his wild hair before offering the very same hand to Sarah. She looked him dead in the eye and spit into her own hand, grasping his with as much strength as she could muster. His grip was admittedly tighter as their handshake lingered a moment longer than Sarah wished. She doubted the bones in her hand were all still in their proper places.

"I've heard a lot about you," he began, scratching at his head. "I really do appreciate you fixin' up my boys. He gestured at Dax and his stitched leg. Bronson beamed his million dollar smile. "As promised, you can take whatever you'd like back with you as per your and Oliver's agreement."

Sarah's eyes narrowed slightly, waiting for the catch. A man like this had to have at least a few. "Good," she muttered, resistant to give the man an ounce of gratitude. She had done far more for him than he had for her.

Bronson grinned again, seeing all of this play out in her eyes. Her emotions weren't necessarily buried deep. "Before you go though, there is one more patient I'm gonna need you to take a look at. If it were anything less serious, I'd have us take care of it ourselves... but this one's gonna be a doozy," he said with disturbing excitement bubbling up in his voice.

Sarah's cheeks flushed as she thought again of Oliver. "What did you do to him?"

Bronson cocked his head slightly. "Who?"

"Oliver..."

"Oh, that kid? Big Blue's fine. I only gave him a couple knocks. I needed his attention," Bronson said, his tone suggesting that his actions were entirely reasonable. "And guess what? I got it."

Raphael and Dax shifted uncomfortably near their spots by the door. Either one of them knew it could just as easily been one of them in that same situation. Treading lightly seemed to be the only course of action under this roof. Some commotion broke off from outside down the hallway as another bomb hit the surface above with a loud --

BOOM!

"As for the other guy..." Bronson's eyes lit up, suddenly remembering what was coming. "Well... what I need you to do now, darlin', is go gather your tools and get ready to receive your patient. Time's gonna be of the essence on this one, OK? Can't have this one dyin' on me." Sarah felt Dax's hand on her shoulder, pulling her back towards the door. She started to back up as Bronson fished another cigarette out of his jacket pocket and popped it into his mouth. He met Sarah's eyes as she was ushered out of the room. "I'll light up outside and let this place air out," he offered, as if he was doing her a favor. Sarah could still hear Charlie's distant barks as she was whisked out of the room.


* * *


Dax had offered to carry the tray of medical tools so that Sarah could carry some of the more fragile equipment herself. They rounded the corner and found themselves face-to-face with Raphael and another man, standing guard outside the medical room. He reached behind him with his hand and rapped his knuckles against the door a couple times.

Bronson's muffled voice sounded from within. "Send her in," he ordered. Dax looked to Sarah, and she nodded her consent, placing her tools on the tray and taking the whole thing from Dax's hands.

"I'll stay close," he said, kindly. She smiled at him and turned towards the door, ready to enter. Raphael rolled his eyes as he opened the door and let her in.

Bronson was in an office chair near the bed with the patient. Another man with heavy stubble on his face loomed in the corner behind the bed, biting his nails with calculated precision. Without saying a word, Bronson waved for Sarah to come closer. She inched forward a few steps, trying to keep the try steady as she felt her hands begin to shake. An injured man laid motionlessly across the table in some state of unconsciousness. A blood-soaked towel had been hastily applied to his face to stem the bleeding, but it hadn't stopped the blood from getting all over his clothes... not to mention all over the man in the corner's clothes too. She figured he fancied himself some kind of surgeon from what she feared lied beneath the bloodied towel. Sarah had been so preoccupied with taking in her surroundings that she hadn't noticed that the patient was practically within arms reach... and each step closer to the bed moved her one step closer to a massive revelation...

Her jaw, along with her tools, fell to the floor -- some of the latter shattering as the metal tray clanged loudly against the tile. Bronson jumped back in his seat, slapping his leg with laughter. "And I thought I overreacted when I realized who it was!" he shouted out.

She was looking at her brother--

Or at least what was left of him...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.


"Your... brother?"

Oliver had just finished re-wrapping his mid-section. The remnants of Bronson's harsh beating one week prior had taken their toll on him in many ways -- the worst of which being his cracked rib. He grimaced as he cinched the bandage tight and folded it into itself, tying it closed.

Sarah nodded, chewing on her lip as she paced the room. Dax lingered in the corner, playing with a loose thread in his coveralls. "I waited this long to tell you guys for a reason," she admitted. "I had to know I could trust you."

Dax shrugged, unable to argue her logic in the matter. Oliver said nothing as he pulled his shirt back over his head with a grunt. "So why now?" he asked, bluntly.

Sarah looked him straight in the eye. They had every reason not to get involved with whatever it was she was in the middle of, but she needed their help if she was going to pull off what she intended. "Oliver... you went in that freezer and stood up for Calvin. You don't know what that means to me. And Dax," she continued, turning to the red-haired man in the corner, "you stayed with the me that entire first night while Oliver was away. If I can't trust you two, I can't trust anyone."

The two men stole a glance at one another, clearly moved by her words. She stopped pacing, folding her arms as she tried to command their attention. "I've got a plan... w-we have a plan. Calvin and I. But it's going to take time.

"And you're planning to just walk him out of here?" Dax asked, standing to join them in the center of the room.

Sarah shook her head. "Not exactly." She scooped her backpack from the ground and slung it over her shoulder. "I have to go back and try to touch base with the rest of the people I was with. We're gonna need help on the outside."

Oliver's gaze dropped to the floor. He scratched his head, glancing sheepishly at Dax. "Sarah... it's been over a week," he said, sullenly.

"And they might still be there waiting for me," she fired back. "I have to hope they are. Because I need them." Oliver didn't want to press the matter any further. Clearly the girl had her heart set on freeing her brother as Bronson's captor -- but the poor girl had no idea what kind of wrath that could incur. "I'm heading back now," she continued, threading her arm through the other strap of her backpack. Oliver rose to join her, and she quickly held out her hand. "No-- Oliver, you're in no condition to travel."

"At least take Dax with you," Oliver pleaded, nodding to his friend.

Sarah still refused. "I can't let either of you see where we're hiding."

"I thought you trusted us," Dax protested.

Sarah placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I do. But I don't trust Bronson. I know you'd keep it quiet -- but if he took an eye from my brother, he can certainly get a secret out of you..."

"I understand. And you're right... it is safer," Dax grumbled in agreement. "Just be safe out there, y'hear?"

Sarah pulled him in for a quick hug, giving him a peck on the cheek. The already red man grew even redder as he scratched at the stubble on his face, nervously. "I'll be fine," Sarah teased, "Charlie'll protect me." The dog poked its sleepy face up from underneath one of the kitchen tables where he had been sleeping for the last thirty minutes or so. His tongue arched into a wide yawn as he shook the last bits of sleep off.

Oliver walked over to the door to open it for her. "We'll keep an eye on your brother while you're away," he began. "As long as he behaves, I don't think Bronson intends to do him anymore harm." He picked up the second duffel bag full of guns and food and attempted to hoist it onto his shoulder. As soon as he began to struggle with it, Dax jumped in to take it from his hands, shaking his head at the foolishly injured man. "Are you gonna see him on your way out?" Oliver asked, turning back to her.

"We already said our goodbyes," she replied. They entered the outside hallway and began walking towards the main stairwell, back up to the surface. "You two are the only ones who know anything about this," she whispered, looking around to make sure she wasn't been listened upon. "Bronson can't find out about this or else he'll never let me back in here."

The two men nodded their understanding as they walked alongside her. Other men wandered the halls too, oblivious to the three of them, huddled near the stairwell.

"I already told him about you," she admitted, beginning her ascent up the steps. She stopped before the top and turned back to them. For all they had done for her, she hated getting them involved in this too. "Thank you... for everything," she offered with a smile. Oliver and Dax waved to her as Sarah jogged up the last few steps and made a bee-line for the exit, keeping her head down from the pervy glances she received from nearby lounging inmates. The feet of Alfie, the door guard came into view as she halted before the back door. Charlie, who had been clipping along at her heels, stopped too -- distracted more by the loud noises and drilling next to them. Half of the fire station ceiling had caved in on the middle of the crushed fire truck during the bombings. Debris was scattered everywhere. A small group of convicts worked to clear the pile, shoveling out the smaller pieces and wheeling the mess outside.

The guard held up his hand to Sarah. "And where do you think you're going?" he asked, challengingly. She raised an eyebrow at him, adjusting the duffle bag full of guns on her shoulder.

"I'm free to come and go whenever I please," Sarah spat back. She made to move towards the door but the man stepped in front of her, blocking her way. Suddenly a hand clamped down on her shoulder from behind as Bronson slid into view.

"This man giving you any trouble?" the Warden asked, hoarsely.

Alfie nervously played with the sleeves of his coveralls, evading the man's hard stare. "N-No, Sir... I-I was just t-trying to--"

Bronson held his hand up to the man and crossed over to him, clapping his hand against the man's cheek. He reached behind him and opened the door wide for Sarah to exit. She shot a look at Alfie and his scared-to-shit expression as she slipped out of the door into the hot L.A. sunlight, Charlie trotting after her as he inspected the ground with his nose. Sarah shielded her eyes with one hand as she ducked out from under the outside awning. The crunch of gravel behind her signaled Bronson's lingering presence. She gritted her teeth, honestly hoping to do without an exit interview as she eagerly walked back home to her people.

"We're lucky Oliver found you when he did," Bronson called out to her back. Her steps slowed slightly, still unwilling to give into the conversation. The crunching of the gravel was all she focused on as she marched forwards. "You've done a lot of good for us here..." His flatteries hung in the air, buried in an awkward silence. Sarah neared the chain-linked fence that her and Oliver had snuck through on their way in. She reached down, pulling up the frayed end of the grating and Bronson's hand leapt out, catching a handful of wire. Her heartbeat quickened as her breath caught in her throat -- but he didn't look at her... only outside the gate at the gathering of wandering walkers out in the streets. "It's a shame to have to let you go," he muttered, pulling the corner of the fence up for her. She threw the bags through first before stepping out herself. Again, Bronson unobligingly followed. Perhaps he didn't trust Sarah to be wandering the grounds by herself. There were certainly other secrets being kept hidden amongst the so-called Warden and his subjects. She figured she'd probably rather not know what they were.

The two of them approached the end of the alley and Bronson waved his arm to one of the men on watch across the street -- perched on the roof with his rifle. "Just remember who your friends are..." he advised, signaling to the sniper. The man let out a loud whistle, and suddenly a symphony of gunshots sang out all around the intersection. Walkers were systematically clipped in the head from all sides, their bodies falling to the ground like limp pieces of meat. Sarah covered her ears until the display was finished and the street was cleared. "...and who your enemies are..." Bronson said as he rolled a freshly-lit cigar around his mouth with his tongue. He furrowed his bushy-greyed eyebrows as he took in a few tokes, the smoke curling out from under his lips into the warm summer air.

"Have a safe walk back," he warned, brushing past Sarah as he headed back towards the station. She heard his gravelly steps fade away behind her, leaving her alone to the sound of her own racing heartbeat.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC)

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #

It was like rush hour, but with walkers.

That was the only way Sarah could rationalize the volume of stumbling undead creatures filling the streets and sidewalks around her. She crouched low, holding Charlie by his collar as he eyed the walkers with interest, his tail wagging only the tiniest bit. Her shoulder continued to throb where the strap of the duffle bag had been rubbing her skin raw. The bag rest on the ground now as she and the dog took shelter behind an overturned dumpster. Sarah sized up the flow of walkers, weighing whether or not she'd be able to sneak through without having to divert several blocks out of her way to loop around to the tunnels -- but there seemed to be few options left. The longer she stayed outside, the more likely she was going to be spotted... and she wasn't exactly mobile, considering her baggage -- canine and otherwise.

Sarah wiped the dirt and grime from her forehead with the back of her hand with one quick motion. She wished she could say for certain that a hot shower laid somewhere in her near future... but near futures didn't really exist anymore. One would count themselves lucky to have survived long enough to see the next sunrise in this new and uncertain world. Sarah felt lucky to have made it as far as she had... considering.

Charlie looked up at her, eager to keep moving. He nuzzled his nose in the nook of her arm as she pat his head, giving the street one last scan. If they moved quick, she was certain they'd be able to make it to the courtyard across the street unnoticed. Sarah adjusted the pistol tucked into her waistband and hoisted the large duffle bag back onto her shoulder, switching to the less sore one this time.

"Alright, pooch..." she said, quietly. "Let's go."

Charlie clipped along at her heels, careful to stay close as they maneuvered behind a gaggle of walkers -- near enough to smell the dead on them. The dog's tail slinked back between its legs as they moved along the street, stealthily. The low din of the walkers' groans was just barely enough to cover the pitter-patter of their feet on the hard pavement. Wherever these things were headed, they were all going the same direction.

Good news for her and Charlie. Bad news for whoever lied in the walkers' path.

The two of them had made a successful run towards the courtyard, until the inevitable happened... the strap of Sarah's bag caught on the corner of a downed street sign, severing the fabric in two. The bulk of the bag slammed into the ground, its rapidly adjusting weight bringing her down to her hands and knees with it. She caught herself on the edge of the curb, rolling to a stop in the center of the sidewalk. By the time she looked up, several nearby walkers had turned their attention towards her, swinging their lumbering bodies around to come after her. Charlie bore his teeth at them, the hair raising on his back as a low growl formed deep in his throat.

"Charlie, NO!" Sarah ordered, scrambling to pick up the duffle bag. But the dog was too nervous. A number of walkers split off from the moving pack to pursue their new targets, and Charlie couldn't help but try to get them to back off. He mustered up the loudest bark he could, trying to stave off the incoming horde. "Charlie, stop! she pleaded, reaching out for him with her other hand.

WOOF! WOOF!

More walkers turned towards the sudden commotion, the whole street transforming into a death trap. The nearest walkers reached their arms out towards the dog, who planted himself in front of Sarah, barking and snapping at the beasts. Sarah tried one last time to hoist the heavy bag into her arms before being forced with the difficult decision of leaving it behind. Assuming there was an opportunity, she'd have to come back for it. The first walker was already nearly within an arm's reach, and Sarah quickly dropped the bag and drew her pistol. Oliver had worked with her over the past week on her shooting form and technique -- enough that she could fire fairly confidently and surprisingly accurately. She still had to hold the gun with two hands because of the harsh blowback, but she was at least glad to have made some improvements.

Her thumb slid the hammer back, priming the first shot as she leveled it towards the incoming walker's head. Unlike the targets she had been practicing on, this one was swaying back and forth. She lined up her shot, waiting until it was uncomfortably close before firing. She steadied her arms, careful not to lock her elbows... and let it rip. The shot rang out loudly, exploding the side of the walker's head off into a red mist as it crumpled onto the street. She reset the hammer, aware now that she had the whole horde's attention.

Sarah barely even noticed Charlie's loud barks in the distance. Part of the mob had come between the two of them, and the dog was even more frenzied and worried now as he darted between their legs, dodging their grasping claws. She only afforded one quick glance, knowing that more walkers were just barely out of reach. In anticipation, she took a wide step backwards -- clipping the edge of the curb and falling backwards, barely holding onto her gun. She hit the ground hard, rolling over to right herself just as the next walker loomed into view over her. Sarah whipped the pistol straight into the air and fired up into the walker, catching it right near the collarbone. The bullet tore straight through it, but it kept moving. It keeled over, losing its balance and toppling right on top of Sarah -- pinning her to the ground. It's foully-odored breath washed over her as it snapped its decaying teeth at her face, ferociously. The walker knocked the pistol from her grip, skidding far out of reach to her dismay. Their arms swatted and wrestled with one another as Sarah fought to overpower the larger man to no avail.

And then she saw the blur of a shadow dart into view as Charlie launched himself into the walker from out of sight. The dog clamped tightly down on his upper arm with its teeth. The momentum of the dog's charge was enough to give Sarah some leverage to slide out from under the walker's body as Charlie pulled on the creature and she pushed. The dog shook the walker in its teeth, trying to protect his interim owner. A healthy chunk of cloth, skin, and muscle was torn from the walker's arm as Charlie twisted and pulled.

Sarah, gasping for breath, crawled towards her weapon -- oblivious to the dozens of walkers still lurching towards her and the dog. Once she felt the cool metal of the Coly Python back in her hand, she turned back around to help her canine companion. The walker flailed around, trying to get ahold of the animal, but it was too quick. Sarah struggled to her feet and planted the heel of her boot on the walker's chest, pinning it to the pavement. She clicked the hammer back one more time and unloaded one round into the creature's growling face. Charlie shied back from the loudness of the blast, his ears drooping low as he sulked to Sarah's side. She hugged her little furry savior, quickly checking his fur to make sure he was OK -- and turned back for her bag. She grabbed the end of the strap with her free hand and started dragging it towards the courtyard between the two adjacent buildings with all the strength she had left.

All she hoped was that it was enough to get out of this alive.


* * *


!#% CRASH %#!


The duffle bag landed with a thud as it skidded across the tile floor with the rest of the shattered glass from the storefront window. Sarah slid out of her jacket and laid it over the sharp frame, climbing carefully through. Charlie stood on his hind legs as Sarah bent over to pick him up and bring him inside too.

She turned around to face a darkened bookstore, a spiraling staircase set dead center amongst the many shelves and bookcases. The nearest one looked the lightest, and she quickly knocked the books to the ground so she could drag it over to cover the giant hole she'd made in the front. The giant wooden shelves slid inch-by-inch across the floor as Sarah put her whole back into it, pushing as hard as she could manage. She eventually got the thing situated against the window -- and turned around, slumping to the floor in a moment of deserved rest. Charlie padded over, sitting down next to her -- tongue waggling outside of his bloodied teeth and matted fur. He made a move to lick her face and she quickly dodged Charlie's disgusting lapping tongue. She scratched the soft spot underneath his chin as he rolled over next to her, just as happy as she was to finally be indoors again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Sean Donague

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke & Sean Donague #


Sarah peeked through the crack between the bookcase and broken window out at the brick pavilion outside. Several walkers traipsed along, probably pursuing all the noise she had made earlier. There were no lights inside the bookstore, and the few beams that got through cast a shadowy pall across the desolate insides of the store. Though it turned out the store wasn't quite as empty as Sarah had thought.

Charlie's furry frame lowered to the ground as a low growl amped up in his throat. Sarah turned from the storefront, reaching for her pistol -- which lay on top of her bag. The dog crept forward, peering down the aisle deeper into the store.

"I know you're over there," Sarah said, forcefully. She slowly raised her pistol up in front of her, aiming towards Charlie's point of focus. But just silence. "Just come out, dipshit."

Very slowly, two hands appeared from the far end of the second bookcase down the aisle. Two arms, a head, a body and legs unveiled themselves right afterwards. A man who looked like he had seen better days, limped into plain sight -- blood caked against his sweaty, stubbled face. A crowbar hung loosely in his right hand as he held his other out towards Sarah.

"Put down the gun babe, I'm not gonna bite you," he said, tiredly.

Sarah examined the man. He clearly wasn't there to put up a fight -- unless it was just some kind of ruse to make her drop her guard. Either way, she thought it best to keep her distance. He was the first person she'd encountered outside of Oliver or her old group. Her experiences with strangers in the past had been mixed -- the worst of them being the man who killed Molly's brother to steal their car. It was a blunt reminder of the things people were capable of in desperate times.

"Drop your weapon," she ordered, leveling her own at him. She was not about to take any more chances.

Donague scowled. "You first, kid. This bar here is the only thing keeping me alive," he claimed, gently waving the crowbar between loose fingers. He neglected to mention the small Glock hidden in his pocket, though he wasn't exactly lying. The gun had been empty for two days. "And is pretty much the only thing of value I have.". That much at least was almost true.

"I don't want anything you have," she replied, coldly. "What are you doing in here?"

"Oh, just browsing," Donague replied without humour. "I'm resting, and I'm not pointing a gun at someone while I'm doing it," he added, raising his voice slightly.

She eyed him carefully, not sure what to do with him. She couldn't feel safe with her back turned to someone she didn't know. People were unpredictable. Enough to do some truly horrible things to get what they want. Donague reluctantly dropped his crowbar to the ground with a loud clang and raised his hands into the air. The two eyed each other, waiting for the next move. Sarah lowered her weapon slightly. "Now, go over--"

#%! CRASH !%#

Something loud sounded out from upstairs on the landing above them. Sarah jerked her gun upwards towards the banister up above -- and when she looked back down, Donague was gone.

Shit... Sarah silently cursed to herself as she backed around the bookcase out-of-sight. She turned to move further back and found herself facing a man with a bandana wrapped around his nose and mouth. He lunged at Sarah, getting his arm around her neck and knocking her pistol to the floor. Charlie began barking at the intruder, taking a mouthful of the man's leg as he tried to pull him off of her. The man kicked blindly at the dog, trying to shake it off of him -- eventually delivering a swift kick to Charlie's side and sending the dog tumbling back. Sarah threw her full weight against the bookcase beside them, slamming the assailant against it as books clattered to the floor. She had felt some give on the first push and launched herself backwards a second time, sending her, the man, and the bookcase toppling over. The man lost his grip on her neck enough for her to pull herself free, and she scampered across the scattered books on the ground towards her weapon.

As she crawled nearer, another loud noise filled the air.

#!% BANG #%!

The gunshot rang out loud and clear, echoing throughout the room. Sarah covered her ears and looked towards the stairs where the shot had come from -- there stood a man in a duster with his gun aimed towards the ceiling. A wisp of smoke trailed out from its tip as he trotted down the rest of the steps to the main floor. Sarah continued for her gun, but the bandana man kicked it away. It slid down the aisle towards where she had spotted the first man... wherever he had gone. Two other men from their crew of looters came running down the stairs, having heard the commotion from elsewhere in the bookstore.

"Holy hell," one of the taller men said with a whistle, noticing Sarah on the ground on her hands and knees. "Jackpot."

The man in the duster held up his hand. "Easy, Jeremy. Don't be an asshole in front of the lady," he urged, crossing over to her and offering his hand. She ignored it and rose to her feet -- launching a wad of spit straight into his face as the man jerked his head away. He wiped it clean with the collar of his shirt and wound his arm back, smacking Sarah across the face and sending her back to the floor. "Spoke to soon," he said, driving his foot into her ribs. "This bitch has no manners." Sarah rolled over, clutching her stomach. Charlie launched into a fury of barks, hopping around on all fours. "Somebody shut that dog up, before I tear it's fucking head off..." he ordered, calmly. Jeremy crossed over to it and kicked at it, sending it fleeing back into the aisles with a snarl. He stayed standing there to make sure it didn't come back to bother them.


* * *


Meanwhile, Donague had taken off around a corner. The girl hadn't seemed insane or unreasonable but she had a gun. There was always the chance it wasn't loaded, like his, but he wasn't in the habit of taking stupid risks. Risks, yes. Smart, calculated risks. And there was always the risk of taking a bullet if he went back for the crowbar straight away but he wasn't leaving without it; he'd be defenceless. Even a hardback copy of War and Peace was no match for a tapered rod of cast iron. So he'd give her the runaround, or hope she left soon, and then slip out and grab it. Maybe he could even get the jump on her? There had to be something good in those bags she had. No one carried around that kind of bulk without having something worthwhile. It was during these thoughts that the commotion began.

Donague heard the clatter of a fallen gun, very shortly followed by the barking and snarling of a dog. He crept forward and ducked down, trying to get a view on the situation while keeping out of sight. It was no good being hidden if he didn't know what he was hiding from. He silently cursed the day. It hadn't been a good one. And it was about to take another turn as the bookcase beside him shuddered and swayed, scattering books down on to him. "Son of a-" he started quietly as several volumes tumbled down and bounced off his head and back. Turning his gaze towards the ground to protect his face yielded perhaps the first positive moment of the day. There, just beyond the fallen books, lay the handgun that had been aimed at him not moments ago.

Before he had enough time to form a plan there was another crash and something started to give way. The bookcase came hurtling down towards him, leaving Donague with no choice but to dive back the way he had come and take cover in an alcove. Maybe he could just make a run for it he thought. Then he heard the gunshot.

The man with the duster was not in Donague's line of sight but peering just around the corner of his hiding place he could make out the girl who had jumped him scrambling along on all fours and another man with a bandana standing over her. He saw neither of them holding a gun so knew that this particular bookstore was quite busy today. And apparently filled with guns he realized, as a clattering slide heralded the movement of Sarah's handgun to just a few feet away from him. It was too far to reach out and he couldn't risk being seen so he stayed where he was, shifting from a crouch to sitting on the backs of his heels. He had been sitting for barely five minutes before the girl with the gun had arrived and his legs were filled with a deep, pulsing ache from the hours of running earlier in the day. And from the day before. And the day before that. All he had come in here for was rest. A little respite from the hellish marathon. A bookstore, of all places, should not be the centre of a confrontation. And nobody should be firing a gun and hanging around. His plan had been to just rest a while and move on without incident. But these days nothing went according to plan. He hated that.


* * *


"Now, let's see what we have here," said the man in the duster, attention and gun both focused more on Sarah herself than on her luggage. He looked her over, very unflatteringly, as the other looters watched and jeered. "Jeremy, check her bags" he ordered, not taking his eyes off Sarah even as he tilted his head to the side and bit his bottom lip. "Shouldn't have spat at me," he almost whispered; a crooked, snarling smile appearing on his face. He looked like he had seen something he simultaneously liked and was disgusted by and he took half a step forward, opening his mouth to say something else but being cut off before he had a chance.

"Hey boss, we got another one!"

Duster spun around and saw Donague frozen in a crouch, gun in hand. "Am I interrupting?" he asked casually, straightening up. "I'll just be going then," he added quickly.

"The hell you will," replied Duster calmly. "You with her?" he asked, indicating Sarah on the ground to his side. The tall man, Jeremy, had stopped rooting through the bags and was now standing guard over her.

"No." There was a few moments of silence as though he was expected to say more.

"Why is it that I don't believe you?"

"Because we're in the same place at the same time and it's highly unlikely that she was in fact holding me up when you arrived. That's why. So if that isn't the case then why aren't I trying to stop you mugging her?" High pressure, high stakes negotiation. Donague was in his element. And Duster didn't seem to have an answer for him.

"I just want my crowbar," Donague finished. Duster thought for a moment then nodded. He kept the gun aimed at Donague but turned to talk to Sarah.

"Lose the pants."

Donague's gun was up in an instant. He had been trained to prey on the vulnerable and to exploit weakness but this was something else entirely and it was not something he was comfortable with. Besides, he had a feeling that Duster here wasn't going to let him walk out without a few holes in him no matter how he reacted.

"Go fuck yourself." Sarah had no weapon and was in a compromising position but she was still ready to fight her corner. Donague could relate, but she wasn't the one with a gun pointed at her at that exact moment and she was the reason he was in this position in the first place. He shot her a cold look.

"Everybody just calm down a little," he said, trying to gain some control of the situation. "It doesn't have to go down like this. We could all walk out of here alive and go our seperate ways." He spoke easily and professionally, as though he were back in the boardroom. "I don't want to get shot and I'm sure none of you do either. So let's talk options." He didn't lower his weapon and had no intention of walking away from this without somebody getting hurt, that was inevitable now. But with the current odds it was likely going to be him on the losing side of the equation. Fortunately, as ever, he had a plan. These looters clearly hadn't anticipated the arrival of walkers. Probably hadn't had guns for very long, didn't know the routine. Donague had seen a few times now that firing a gun doubtlessly led to a swarm of them. If he needed a distraction all he had to do was buy some time. That was the plan. But these days nothing went according to plan. He hated that.

Sarah looked up at the guardian angel who had only moments ago been a stranger in her sights. She didn't know what drove him to intervene when he could have just as easily stayed hidden or slipped out unnoticed. Either the man had a death wish or he wanted to keep her alive so they could finish their conversation -- or he could just be plain crazy. None of the immediate possibilities for his behavior rubbed her the right way, but she was thankful nonetheless. The taller thug, Jeremy, leered over her like a lion guarding its wounded prey. Her bag lay just out of reach behind him, still unzipped. She could see some of the other weapons lingering about inside... if only she could reach them.

Duster licked his lips, grinning a toothy grin at Donague. "I thought you didn't want to get involved, Cowboy?" he teased. Bandana had begun circling around to Donague's side. He had unleashed a length of chain from around his waist and twirled it around slowly, anticipating the inevitable showdown. Duster turned towards Sarah again. "Did I stutter? Pants. Off. Or does Jeremy need to assist you?" he threatened.

Sarah glared at the both of them. "I respectfully decline," she replied.

"Is that so? And what makes you think we'd allow you to do that?"

"Because you assholes already fucked up... moreso than coming to loot a bookstore in the first place. Like you all actually know how to read... c'mon. You're too damn stupid." She wiped some of the blood from her lip with her hand as she sat on the dirty floor surrounded by books.

Jeremy looked up at Duster, speechlessly. Neither had expected the girl to have such gall considering her unfortunate position.

"Girl's got a point," Donague replied. "You don't seem like the smartest guy I've ever met but you're not stupid." He was trying to buy some time now, however he could. "So you can do the maths here. I have a gun pointed at you, so if this all goes South I can guarantee a bullethole in that fine coat of yours. But if we take a look through that bag together then maybe we can come to some kind of mutual gain." He'd already caught a glimpse of the contents of the bag and his plan was re-formulating. One way or another he was getting out of here with something to show for it, although he had no way of knowing what else it might hold. He couldn't carry both, not at the pace needed to outrun the walkers, which left him with two options. Either he negotiated with a bunch of sleazy, impulsive, opportunistic sadists, or he helped this girl get out alive and hope she didn't just turn around and shoot him. Gratitude wasn't something he expected to be found in abundance in this new nightmare that was once his home but this bordered on a clever gamble.

Duster chuckled softly, hanging his head. "Who do you two think you are? My therapists? You so much as speak again and my friend over here will smash your princess' teeth into the back of your head." Jeremy smiled at the thought, giving Sarah a foul wink from above. Donague followed the Bandana man as he slowly crossed around to go behind the bookshelf to his right, and he side-stepped to counter and keep his back so he could still see all three men. What he didn't realize was that they were circling him so that his back was to the staircase -- where their fourth man laid waiting.

This took Donague by surprise. He had read the man wrong and his plan was falling apart. So he had no choice but to keep his mouth shut and try to keep everybody in his line of sight while he figured out another way of buying time. There was only one thing he could think of as he slowly stepped to the side. Keeping his gun aimed at Duster and his eyes flickering between the looters who were gradually backing him up Donague did the only thing he had left. He slowly slid one arm of his backpack off and dropped the kit to the floor. Fixing Duster with a stare he pushed the bag with his foot towards the man, far enough to be out of reach. Aside from some tinned food and a collection of gear he had found to be useful there was nothing of particular value inside. But at the moment only he knew that and there couldn't be much time left to kill.

Duster appeared intrigued by the offering but his gun remained aimed squarely at Sarah's head. His gaze was diverted though, and Donague hoped that might be enough when the time came. Since the outbreak he had not once hoped for the arrival of a horde of those sickening, shambling corpses but now he was on the verge of prayer. He just hoped that the girl would be ready too...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Sean Donague

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# Sarah Hawke & Sean Donague #


Sarah watched the bag slide to a stop and gritted her teeth. The man who had seemed like her best chance of getting out of here suddenly appeared to be trying to orchestrate his own escape instead. She watched the man in the duster saunter a few steps forward towards the bag and look at it incredulously. Donague's eyes darted over to meet Sarah's and the two held each other's stare long enough to communicate the situation to one another. It was only then that she heard the scrapes on the pavement outside -- like someone slowly turning up the volume. She hunkered lower to the ground, anticipating the shitstorm that was coming and caught the edge of the crowbar sticking out from behind the bookcase nearby.

The man in the duster looked back up at Donague. "Tryin' to sweeten the pot, eh?" Donague shrugged, vaguely. "Well," he continued, "Let's see what you think this bitch is worth..." He bent down to open the bag and started to unzip it, grinning greedily as he did. Donague watched him closely and saw his eyes flicker up towards the staircase behind him. Donague's eyes narrowed as he looked slightly to his left, unable to make out any movement in his peripherals.

*BAM BAM*

Two loud bangs against the wooden front door. Jeremy craned his neck that direction, and Sarah knew it was her only chance. She flailed back with her elbow, catching the man square in his genitals as she dove forwards out of his reach. He crumpled to the ground in a fat heap -- screaming bloody murder as he grabbed hold of himself to try and quell the pain. She saw Duster shout out and raise his pistol towards her right as she dove behind the nearest bookcase, followed by two more loud bangs -- gunshots. One ripped through the back of the shelf near her head, spraying wooden splinters and shredded pages of books across the aisle around her. She dove forwards, landing on her stomach a little too hard and slightly knocking the wind out of herself. She felt her fingertips brush the tip of the cold metal crowbar, and grabbed it quickly -- spinning around as she heard footsteps approaching fast from behind.

With his nuts shoved up into himself, Jeremy looked a bit funny as he ran towards her. He fought to control his footing as he stumbled across the scattered books all over the ground in the dark -- and Sarah used the distraction as the perfect opportunity to slip around the edge of the bookcase and prime her crowbar. Jeremy's footsteps grew louder and louder as she counted quietly to herself.

One... Two... SMACK!!!

It was too dark to really see which end of the bar hit him, but the man wailed out again, falling backwards into the shelves Sarah had pushed against the broken window -- the crowbar lodged in his face. She ran over to him before he could recover and pulled the bookcase down on top of him, exposing a wall of walkers pressed against the broken window, clamoring to get inside. Sarah hadn't even heard them with all the commotion going on. The walkers began climbing through the breach, spilling out on top of the overturned bookcase as Sarah backed up, tripping over her own duffle bag. She sprawled out onto the floor as the sound of dozens of creatures groaning and clawing behind her grew louder. But the bag was her priority. Her entire last week, the convicts... finding her brother... Bronson... she wouldn't let it all be for nothing. Her breath caught up with her as she snapped to -- lunging for the strap of her bag. She pulled it towards herself, digging her heels against the floor as the heavy bag came scooting towards her. It was enough of a victory that she didn't even notice what was going on behind her...


* * *


Dongue had heard the knocks but when he turned his head it was to watch Sarah deliver an elbow to her guard's groin and dive out of sight. Before Duster could bring his gun up to trail her and stop her escaping, Donague pulled the trigger of his borrowed pistol. The shot mixed with the rapidly growing sounds of chaos in the store, and he saw Duster stagger back. It occured to him that he should fire another shot to be sure, but before he had a chance he was knocked to the ground by a body colliding with him from behind. As he fell, he heard Duster's gun go off and he hoped it was a reflex instead of an aimed shot. It was difficult to tell because he had not seen where his own bullet had landed.

The impact jarred his elbow and knocked his jaw but he had kept himself from being winded and had retained his grip on the gun, though the unseen assailant was now attempting to wrestle it from his grasp. Face down and with a mouth full of dust, there was little that Donague could do to win this fight, so he repeated his previous strategy and dropped the weapon, flicking his wrist to send it to the side. As anticipated the looter struggled to reach it and gave Donague just enough room to twist his leg out from under his attacker. He forced his knee into the ground and managed to wriggle loose with the looter sprawling across the floor to retrieve the dropped pistol. He caught sight of movement and rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding a chain to the back of the head, only to receive the butt of a pistol to his already aching jaw. The shallow angle of the hit from the floor was enough to prevent any breaking of bone but it still split the inside of his cheek and hurt like hell. He flung an arm up and the pair began to grapple again,but Donague took a cue from Sarah and delivered a swift knee between the other man's legs, only to have that knee, and the looter's thigh, whipped with a chain. He shouted in pain, gritted his teeth, then spat blood into the bandit's face. It was just enough to gain full control of the pistol and he rolled onto his back, ready to fire, but saw that the chain-wielding burglar was already heading for the stairs. Instead of tagging him on the run Donague swung himself to standing, but buckled under the pain and landed on one knee to be greeted by disaster.

"Don't you move a fucking muscle!" screamed Duster, gun now leveled at Donague's aching face.

"Fuck." There really wasn't much more he could say about the situation. There would be no talking his way out of this one, not when the round he had fired had passed clean through Duster's bicep. His right arm hung uselessly at his side with blood dripping slowly out of the sleeve, the gun now held in his left. If the man had looked unbalanced before he looked positively manic at this point.

"Fucking right, fuck! Drop the gun!" he replied, still screaming his words. "Now get up!" Donague obliged with a sigh and a wince, pushing himself up with his hands on his own thigh.

"Now what?" Donague asked with apparent resignation.

"Now?" Duster looked wired. "Now you walk, smartass. You walk right out that front door!" The door in question was still under the assault of the horde and sounded ready to give at any moment. He was being made to walk to his own death. He looked over at the door, heard it creaking and heard the moans. The walkers at the other end of the store were past the fallen case and on solid ground and did not look inviting.

"No, not a chance, I'd rather be shot."

"I know you would, but what about your little friend?" Duster grinned a savage smile full of rage and pain and turned to try to place Sarah in his sights. His gun arm turned, scanning the gloom as it went, but the first lifeform it focused on was that of the leaping Charlie, teeth bared beneath snarling lips. The shuffle of the walkers had masked his footsteps and the dog threw himself into the air, jaws clamping down to break skin and tendons in Duster's wrist. The man screamed and fell backwards. It was Donague's turn to smile.

"Things never go according to plan these days" he said, loud enough to be heard over the screams as he bent down and picked up the pistol, knee shaking under the effort. Duster was in the midst of having his good arm torn to pieces as Donague walked over and took aim. "Don't you just hate that?"

He fired one round into Duster's chest and one into his head. The gun clicked to signal it was out of bullets.

Charlie had cowered back upon hearing the gunshots but was now fixing Donague in his sights once again. With nothing but an empty gun, the hound lowered his growling head to the ground, and he felt he had come full circle since stepping inside the store. The dog's hairs bristled along its back as it crept towards Donague, menacingly. Its lips curled back over its teeth signaling its intentions as the dog warily countered the man's movements in the room. The two held each others' gaze as the chaos of the bookstore unfolded around them -- until a hand reached out of the darkness, grabbing Charlie by the collar.

"It's alright," Sarah said quietly to her furry sidekick. "He's with us..."

Donague raised an eyebrow at her. "Is that right?" She reached out her hand, motioning for her gun back. Donague reached over and dropped it into her palm as she tucked it into her waistband.

"Who else is gonna carry the bag?" She said, brushing past him towards the stairs. Sarah turned and whistled back at Charlie, but he was already hot on her heels -- anxious to get away from the party crashing horde of walkers pouring over the corpses of the dead looters behind them. With any luck, the dead looters' bodies would slow them down.

Sarah instincts were telling her to head to the staircase towards the upper landing, hoping to find a different way out -- maybe along the roof. The streets were obviously fucked. "The others ran that way," Donague warned, seeing her eyes linger on the stairs. "I'd be careful." He reached down to loop his arm through the straps and hoist the bag off the ground -- grunting as his muscles screamed. The bag was much heavier than it looked. He hoped this was all going to be worth it, he'd nearly died enough times that day. Donague began to hustle after her, the sound of mawing biters growing behind them, kicking his own rucksack as he went.

They reached the bottom of the steps and Sarah turned to him. "Hold still," she ordered, digging into the bag hanging on his shoulder. She took out her revolver and fished out some rounds for it, reloading all the chambers in case they ran into any other tourists on their way out.

Donague watched her out of the corner of his eye, keeping a careful watch to make sure they weren't snuck up on. "Got one of those for me?" he asked, bruskly.

Sarah looked at him. "I might later. I don't even know your name..."

"You know I could just reach in and grab one? I'm carrying the bag..." He had a point. Sarah sighed and plunged back into the bag, fishing out one of the glocks and an extra clip.

"Take one of these too," Sarah advised, offering him the hilt of one of the hunting knives. He took both weapons, situating them on his person before zipping the bag back up. He looked back at the room and saw that some of the walkers had found the dead man in the duster's corpse and were already well on their way to devouring it. It occured to Donague that it was now too late to retrieve Duster's gun. He swiftly decided the bag was already heavy enough.

"We should go," he said, adjusting the strap on his shoulder. "Keep your eye out for those other two pricks." Sarah nodded, turning to go up the stairwell. "And carry this". She turned to him again and took a step back as the full weight of the satchel was thrust into her chest. It was nowhere near as heavy as the bag Donague was carrying but the combined weight would have him worn out far too quickly. Besides, that bag had been his whole life since he ventured out on to the streets. Charlie padded by both of them, rushing up to the top of the steps to see if the coast was clear. The dog had saved Sarah's life more than enough times now. Who'd have thought an untrained domestic pet would have ended up being the most suited for the end of the world?

"Alright," Sarah said with a deep breath. She crept up the creaky staircase, her gun leveled in front of her as she prepared for the worst. It was fairly lighter on the upper level as they approached -- but the Sun was setting faster each second. Scattered and tossed bookshelves and tables pouring with novels and literature lined the walkways of this particular part of the store. The last remnants of the day's light poured through sequenced skylights across the ornate bow of the ceiling leading across the floor to a door. Their destination. Charlie came bustling out from underneath a leaning bookshelf, his tail wagging in his relentless pursuit of weird smells and sounds. Sarah set foot on the upper floor and cautiously walked down the aisle towards the end. They passed a series of toppled bookshelves and found a dead walker -- the knife freshly hanging from where its ear used to be. A pool of blood had formed a ring around it on the floor, as if circling it to get their attention. Donague lingered at the railing behind her, crouched low out of sight. He gazed down at the floor below, tracking the walker's movements as Sarah continued forwards. She cautiously checked each of the rows to her left and right for their attackers, fearing that they'd be lying in wait.

She had no idea how right she was.

The soft jingling of metal rang out from her left -- starting and than abruptly stopping. Sarah spun to face the sound, leveling her revolver that direction, but it was too dark to make out anything. The sound started again, this time even quieter. Against her better judgement, Sarah stepped into the aisle between the bookcases as lightly as her toes would let her.

And then the walls began to close in on her... literally, not figuratively. The entire bookcase next to her tumbled over, smashing on top of her as the books and shelves tumbled all over the floor. Luckily, the bookcase it had fallen against had held its place and absorbed the brunt of the weight, but the corner of one thick hardback had done a number on her cheek. She rubbed it sorely, feeling the familiar sensation of sticky wet blood on her fingertips as she army crawled towards the opening at the end -- stepping back out into the aisle. Her assailants footsteps had sounded like they had bolted deeper down the aisle towards the door if her hearing hadn't deceived her. Charlie's barks echoed out from somewhere further away. He was clearly in pursuit as well. Sarah stumbled back into the center walkway and turned to see Donague hustling towards her, his weapon drawn. Sarah held up a hand to him to signal that she was alright.

"You just managed to get the attention of every walker in here. They're coming up the stairs," he said, his eyes scanning the adjacent aisles. "What the hell was that noise?"

Sarah finished brushing herself off. "One of 'em jumped me and ran for the back," she explained, sourly. Donague's eyes darted to the door across the way. Charlie was already at it, his paws padding against the wood. The first of the walkers had made it to the top of the steps, the pitch of its growling intensifying as it spotted the two of them standing in the center of the floor. They turned and sprinted full force towards Charlie and the door, holding tightly to the straps of their bags as they jostled around on their shoulders. Sarah reached the door first and grabbed for the handle, but sure enough it was locked. "You've got to be kidding me..." she sighed, running a hand down her face. More walkers had joined the stampede heading their way -- grasping and clawing. Donague pushed her back with one hand and braced himself, kicking the door as hard as he could. It didn't budge an inch. He tried again. And a third time, before doubling over. "Stop," she commanded, "you're gonna hurt yourself." She pushed him out of the way and took a few steps back before launching herself at the door -- to her surprise, it opened right as her shoulder would have connected with it, and she instead found herself travelling through the empty air onto the hard ground.

She skidded to a stop a few feet away and felt the weight of someone's body leap on top of her followed by the cold sensation of metal as a length of chain was wrapped around her neck. Donague leapt into the room, grabbing the man with the bandana by the back of his jacket. The two fell to the ground off to her side and she gasped for breath, grabbing at her throat as she freed herself from his grip. The bastard still had the chain in his hands too, somehow. She rolled onto her side to push herself back to her feet when she suddenly saw their imminent hell. The horde of walkers was right there, mere feet from the doorway. Sarah's heart stopped, and she jumped up -- diving for the handle and slamming the door shut.

A few walkers had already managed to get their hands through the door though, and there was no way for her to close it -- much less lock it. Donague and Bandana tussled on the floor as Charlie circled and barked, adding to the commotion. Sarah dug her heels into the ground, pushing all her weight back against the door as more and more walkers began pushing from the other side. She couldn't help Donague without allowing all of the walkers to get inside -- and then nothing would matter anymore.

They'd all be dead...

"This isn't gonna hold much longer!" she shouted at the two strangers fighting on the floor.

Donague had the other man locked in place from behind but he was strong and had managed to wrap his chain around the media mogul's arm while trying to knock the wind from him with an elbow. Donague meanwhile was trying to to pin him with his knee but neither man was having much luck.

"Give it up!" Donague shouted between blows, "Or none of us are getting out of here!"

Another elbow to the ribs in response. It shifted the smaller man a little and was swiftly followed by a jerk of the banadana-adorned head which caught him above the eye. Donague held on, breathing heavily through gritted teeth stained with blood. But holding on wasn't enough and the man threw himself backwards, gaining ground and twisting to bring himself face-to-face. Donague's newly acquired bag slipped off his shoulder and joined the chain that was now binding the men together. The weight was enough that the chain-wielding rogue could struggle to his knees and force his weight down to gain the advantage. A hand slipped and grappled for purchase around Donague's stubbled, sweat-soaked neck while he tried desperately to shuffle backwards. All the while he could hear the gutteral, primal growls of the walkers trying to force their way in. He flailed his feet and bent his knees but could not shake his attacker off.

"Open the d-" he started to yell, but powerful fingers finally found their mark and gripped his throat like a vice. He clawed at the wrist, nails gouging skin away in strips.

Sarah didn't know what to do. The stranger she had found herself suddenly allied with had told her to open the door and she knew that she could not hold it much longer but she couldn't bring herself to unleash a horde of cannibalistic corpses into the room. The door shuddered again and jolted her forwards and she made her decision to dart away. The door burst open behind her, and at the same moment Donague pulled his knee up to the side and slipped it through the bag's strap before pushing it back down with all his might and a grunt of pain. The chain snapped taught and tugged the aggressor to the side. His grip faultered and Donague clamped his hand around the man's forearm, shoved him to the side, planted his foot against his hip and pushed. The realization was in his eyes before the scream was on his lips. The first two walkers through the door fell upon him as Donague pulled himself backwards along the wooden boards of the floor, foot hooked in the strap to drag the bag with him. Something grabbed him from behind and for a second he thought more walkers had found their way in, but as the hands started to yank him backwards he remembered Sarah and knew it was her.

As he struggled to his feet he drew the glock he had been handed and tried to take aim at the head of the man now beginning to be devoured before him but there were too many bodies crowding over him.

"Let's go!" Sarah insisted. He didn't need telling twice. With the bag quickly in hand Donague limped along as quickly as he could behind his new accomplice and her dog, the agonized wailing piercing his ears long after it had been reduced to a throaty gargle.

Whatever awaited them next didn't matter. They were alive.

For now...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Ashley Valentino (NPC) Character Portrait: Gustav Schmidt (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC) Character Portrait: Boondock Brannigan (NPC)

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.: Epilogue :.

The Second Bus


"We're all dead," Ezrael muttered, quite solemnly. Sweat dripped forth from his hairline as he tightly clutched a book to his chest with white knuckles. His wide eyes looked around the eerily darkened church they had taken refuge in.

"Enough with the monologues, professor!" Ashley barked over at the man. "Make yourself useful and help Gus with the door." A pregnant woman's arms draped loosely over her shoulders and those of the grizzled old mailman with peppered-gray hair, Harold. Luckily, he still had some stamina left-- even in his sixties. They gently set the woman down on one of the church pews as she cradled her arms over her belly. Nearly 7 months, and feeling every day of it.

"How we holdin' up, Brooke?" Ashley asked as she rushed over to a side table covered in religious ornaments and candles and cleared them to the floor. She ripped the shawl from underneath them all and balled it up to place behind Brooke's back for support. The metal trinkets clattered to the floor noisily, alerting the two men near the back of the church-- who both whipped their heads in her direction. One of the shorter ones, a Jewish lawyer with an even more Jewish sounding name shushed them-- raising a finger to his lips.

"We don't know if this place is clear yet," he warned, edging around the pillars down the aisle with his bat in hand. The bright red rug beneath his feet was tossed and torn, jetting unevenly between the benches towards the front precipice. Behind him, a much younger man in a brown duster followed closely-- clutching his crowbar and flashlight tightly as he kept his eye on the creeping shadows.

Gus and Ezrael pulled a large metal mantlepiece over to the large oak doors covering the front and jammed the candleholder through the handles of the door-- barring it shut. They regathered their belongings from the floor and dusted themselves off, returning to the others huddled around the pregnant woman. "How is she?" Gustav asked between heavy breaths.

Brooke waved them off. "I'm fine... really. I just haven't moved that fast in awhile," she said with a smirk. Ashley chewed on her lip, pushing back up off the ground and brushing the dirt off her hands. She drew her flashlight from her hip and clicked it on, pointing towards one of the adjoining rooms. Gustav followed hers with his own beam until they both met, revealing a staircase across the way.

"That'll probably get us where we need to go," Ashley announced, turning back to the others. Gustav nodded to her and unsheathed his knife, gripping it in his hand.

"Let us make way then," Gustav chimed in, his voice thick with a German accent. "Time is of the essence."

Ashley unzipped her jacket and drew her pistol, moving towards the foyer with Gus in tow. She stopped to look back over her shoulder at the others. "Stay with her until we get back, OK? Keep an eye on the front door and shout if you need us. We'll be quick." Harry nodded, as Ezrael fidgeted by his side-- nervously adjusting his glasses. She turned back to Gus as they parted ways, heading for the stairs. "You got the binoculars?"

Gus opened his jacket, showing the lenses of a black pair peaking out from his inside pocket. They reached the first of the thin wooden steps leading upwards and halted. Gus waved his arm forwards, grandly. "I believe the American saying is: 'the first lady?' -- is it not?" he asked, wryly.

Ashley squinted her eyes at him and took the lead, ascending the first few steps at a brisk pace. The winding staircase wound clear around the stone walls several times before plateauing at a large wooden landing. Ashley aimed her light at the bottom of the fixture, illuminating the dangling cord of the tower's bell.

Their destination... and salvation.

"We took too long getting here... that goddamned ash," Gustav lamented, his light bobbling around with each step.

"We took as long as we needed to," Ashley barked back. "And the others--"

"There was no point leaving them behind. It isn't safe out there..."

"Somebody had to stay with the bus. In case they came back," Ashley replied. It wasn't untrue. If the Capitols doubled back and found the bus empty-- they'd likely assume the worst.

Gustav laughed, wearily. "I still don't understand why you'd just leave three behind. What if they get into trouble? Hell-- one of them doesn't even speak English."

Ashley, stopped and pivoted on her heel-- shining her light directly into Gus' face. He brought his hand up to shield his eyes, his fingertips poking out of the frayed holes of his gloves. "Duke's a mechanic. He can work on getting the bus running while we're here. And Claire and Espi are two of the only people who seem to understand one another... so it made sense to keep them together. Espi knows engines too. They can handle themselves, Gus... can you handle that?"

"I'm sorry--" he sputtered. "I just don't see the point of splitting us up like this. Not when we already have the odds against us."

Ashley shook her head, biting her lip. "I can't have you questioning me every step of the way. We made a plan and we're sticking to it. You had your chance to object back at the bus. I didn't hear anybody speak up then."

"Cause they're scared of you, Val..." She tensed up a bit at his admission. Valentino was her last name, etched in black stitching on her officer's uniform and accompanying jacket. Lately, nobody called her Ashley anymore... or even Ash. It was as if they were seeing her less as a person and more as the law as days went by. Nothing she would have wished for had she been given a choice. But some things were simply out of her control. If she had to be bad cop, then the least she could do was play the part well.

"Then they won't let their guard down," she reasoned, turning back up the steps. "Let's get moving. They're waiting on us." Gustav slowly followed, sighing under his breath.


* * *


The lawyer, Ari, brushed his fingers across several draped beads and rosaries near one of the tables by the pillars, briefly noticing the candles burning brightly in various spots of the room. He turned back to Boone, the kid in the duster, and waved his flashlight in his direction. The kid weaved between the pillars to come join him.

"You notice these candles?" Ari asked, gesturing around them.

"What about 'em?" Boone replied, his eyes darting around at the specks of light.

"They're fresh..." Ari continued, pointing out the obvious. The candlesticks were indeed nearly all full, with only the faintest traces of wax on their exteriors. The two shared the same thought in that very instant. "Someone must have just been here." Boone nodded, looking around the church at the areas still left unexplored. The feeling was a bit too unsettling.

Boone adjusted the straps of the backpack slung on his back. "I'll go check that corner over there if you wanna--"

"M-Maybe given the most recent development, we should stick together?" Ari cut in, trying to mask the nervousness in his voice. Boone silently agreed and gestured for the man to follow him, which he did-- albeit a bit reluctantly. The two sleuthed their way back through the pillars and across the aisle right in front of the front dais. They could barely make out the low register of Harry's booming voice talking to Brooke from afar, attempting to keep her calm while Ezrael paced mindlessly in the distance by the front doors, biting his nails.

Ari turned his attention back to the matter at hand-- as his foot caught something on the ground and he spilled forwards onto his hands and knees. His flashlight clattered against the ground, sliding under one of the nearby pews. Boone spun around, illuminating the ground and revealing the source of Ari's predicament. A blood-stained duffle bag, bursting at the seams laid right in his path-- its strap still tangled around his shoe. He shook his leg free, righting himself and wiping his bloodied hands on his pants. "Christ! Fucking filthy floor," Ari cursed aloud.

Boone stepped forward, focusing the light on the bag, whose zipper hung half open to expose its contents. His eyes bulged as he realized what he was looking at. "Holy shit," he muttered, ironically right under a statue of the Lord and savior himself. The bag was full of weapons and ammo clips... boxes and cans of food... bandages. It was Christmas come early. "Are you seein' this, man?" he asked excitedly. Ari came up beside him to gaze down at the treasure trove of supplies buried inside the bag. But his eyes lingered on the bloodstains covering its fabric, the trail leading off onto the stone floor towards their feet. He used his own flashlight to follow the streaks behind them towards the corner they were headed in. Hung tapestries dangled from the ceiling just over their heads, a distraction from the growing amount of crimson blood pooled on the floor. "What the hell happened here...?" Boone asked, quietly-- afraid he was about to have his answer. They widened their steps as they approached the corner alcove, circling the thick pool of blood that now lied between them.

*DONG*

Ari and Boone whipped their heads upwards at the dull, hollow sound of the church bell tolling from above. "Guess that means they found it," Ari said, a bit of relief creeping into his voice at the small victory.

*DONG*

The second one seemed louder, as if the bell were gaining some sort of momentum. Both men continued to edge forwards, flashlights searching each dark crevice and corner they passed... until they turned the corner and both beams came to rest at the same location.

A confessional booth sat dormant at the end of the hall, a circular and undisturbed pool of blood resting beneath its wooden confines. The doors were closed-- the booth itself appearing unmolested.

*DONG*

Boone crept closer, readying his crowbar in case the worst possible scenario decided to present itself. As he drew nearer, a steady drip could be heard somewhere-- liquid on liquid. The hairs on his arms and neck stiffened, as Ari hung a short ways back-- as was his cowardly way. Boone had come close enough now that he was forced to wade through the red tide at his feet. His worn shoes sent ripples across the resting body of liquid as he eased towards the booth step-by-step, holding his breath. The drip-- louder now. The bell...

*DONG*

...louder now. A mere feet away, Boone stopped-- reaching his crowbar out towards the door of the booth. He hooked the tip through the handle of the door and slowly pulled it open, unveiling a horrible sight...

A preacher, in his black garb with white trim -- soaked in the stark redness of his own blood -- was crumpled in one corner, a blade sheathed deeply into the socket of his eye... his bearded jaw hung open in surprise. Opposite of him in the other corner stirred the blood-spattered body of a young girl, her clothing torn-- cradling the matted fur of a golden-haired dog as it huddled beside her in a pool of thick blood. They both shivered fiercely... some combination of the shock and coldness of the night. The girl's bare shoulder bore the distinct marks and scarring of sharp incisors-- the bite readily apparent, even in the dim light. Boone knew in an instant that it wasn't from the dog... her obvious companion. She looked up at him with bleary, reddened eyes-- too exhausted to speak.

*DONG*

They had been right after all. They weren't alone.

But as for Sarah-- she had never felt more so...


.: END OF SEASON 2 :.

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 3

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC)

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


...Three Days Earlier...


"In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...?" Sarah said shifting uncomfortably on the wooden seat inside the confessional booth, trying to remember what came after. All she could muster was a heavy sigh as she dug her fingers into the fur behind Charlie's ears, nervously. "Uhh-- sorry, I forget the next part. Either way though-- forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

She could hear the fabrics of the Priest's robe shuffling as he to situated himself on the other side of the partition. His blurry visage passed between its interwoven frame, barely visible. "Speak your mind, my child..." his grizzled voice breathed out softly.

"I-I did things today... things I'm not proud of. And at a certain point, I realized-- I was going to get away with it all. There's no one to arrest me... no repercussions... no more society. These... things that we're being forced to do to survive... they're horrible." Her voice faltered, skipping a beat as she tried to find her breath. "How are we supposed to come back from this? After everything we've done..."

"It's a blessing that you've come this far on your own," the priest replied gruffly as he rubbed his metal crucifix between his forefingers. "To have survived this long takes true courage. That will never leave you."

Sarah buried her face in her hands, wiping away some of the dirt beneath her eyes. She sat back up, resting the heels of her hands on her knees as she breathed in through her nose, clearing her thoughts. "Listen-- everything leaves you. Everything dies. And all we have... is what hasn't been lost already-- our friends.. our families... our world? Our future?" She shook her head, reaching out blindly with her hand as it found the top of Charlie's head again-- a comforting gesture born out of habit. The dog, after all, had been her only anchor through her whole ordeal. He tilted his nose up at her, nuzzling into the nook of her knee-- happy to have a roof over his head. "I've had enough opportunities to learn that first hand..." Sarah finished, running through the events of the past week in her mind.

The priest exhaled all his breath in one deep sigh. "That's an exceptionally bleak view of things, my child. Hope is all we have left…"

Sarah's eyes began to well up as her hands clenched the fabric leggings of her pants. The truth of his words stung in a special way knowing what she now knew. She didn't have much of that anymore. Hope. Hope was what got you killed these days. It was unfortunate that it was also the only thing keeping some people going. Certainly enough-- irony was alive and well in the apocalypse. The tears, much to her dislike, kept flowing regardless.

"I killed a man today..." she allowed herself to say, her voice strained from exhaustion and regret. She could hear the priest shuffle uncomfortably in his seat on the other side of the partition. "A-And I don't even care so much about that, cause the worst part is... it doesn't matter. We're all already dead. You know that, right? It doesn't matter if we die from a bite or a bullet... we come back. As one of them.”

”S-Surely that can’t be true…” he replied, thinly -- his voice faltering slightly. ”I’ve seen it with my own eyes… we're fucked, Preacher. I took a crowbar and I hit a man in the face with it and left him for those things out there... and I can only feel like I did him a favor. Like I saved him from a worse fate. I don't even feel bad about it. I'm supposed to feel something about it though, right? Then why don't I feel guilty?" A thousand thoughts swirled around her head as the tears continued to flow down her cheeks. She wiped at them with her sleeves as she tried to continue, not allowing the deadening silence to overwhelm her thinking. "Am I a bad person because of that?" She sat up, trying to calm herself down with gentle controlled breaths. "I can't imagine Hell is any worse than this place..." she blubbered, trying to bring some humor into her continuously darkening world. She sniffed back her tears and continued dabbing at her eyes. "I don't want it to get easier. Surviving like this. Killing. But I know it's going to-- and then we're going to be changed... forever. We'll become who we have to just to survive and we won't be able to turn that off. My b-brother--" she stopped as his name got caught in her throat. She squinted her eyes to stem off the tide of tears coming on again and shook her head, solemnly. "You talk about hope... well I promised I'd save him. Somehow. He's counting on me. And he's all I have..."

Charlie suddenly rose from next to her feet, a deep growl bubbling up in his throat as his fur bristled. Sarah laid her hand firmly on the back of his head, trying to steer his attention to her. "And you, of course--" she muttered, looking down at her canine companion. "I'd never forget you, Charlie... never." But the dog struggled from her grip and leapt up towards the latticed partition separating the booths, clawing at the wood. "Charlie! Calm down... what are you doing?"

She tried to pull the dog back from the window so she could get a better look, but he struggle against her grip-- frantically pawing at the window, alternating between it and the door. "Father? Is something out there? What's going on?" But there was only the silence beneath Charlie's intensifying growls and whimpers.


### BARK BARK BARK CRASH!!! ###


The preacher's bloodied hand burst through the wooden panelling followed immediately by his hulking frame, falling onto her and the dog. The milky whites of his eyes bore down on her as she wrestled with his arms and he gradually pinned her into the corner. Charlie went apeshit beside the man, pulling on a huge chunk of cloth and flesh as he attempted to free Sarah from the creature... but the truth of the matter was: the space was just too small. The preacher's pale face gnashed away at her with his teeth, various chunks of wood acting as a small buffer between her and the hideous thing as they got caught up between the two. The weight of his body bore down on her, trapping her further.

Sarah grappled with his arms, fighting to keep him at bay as her hands grew slick with the warm blood coating his freshly cut wrists. It complicated the grip she had fought so hard to maintain as she screamed and struggled to no avail. Apparently that hope he had spoken of had run out. It hadn’t taken him long to give up what little he had left. Sarah wondered how long she’d be able to hold onto her own… if she survived long enough for it to matter at all. She tussled with the flaps of his robes, trying to gain some kind of advantage-- losing sight for a moment of the creature’s face and mouth. The sheer cacophony of the enclosed space mixed with that of Charlie’s frantic barking and the vicious snarls of her assailant raided her senses as she felt her muscles weakening quickly. It was then that the distinct gleam of the dead preacher’s dangling crucifix came into sight between a few folds of his black robe. It was just low enough for her to be able to grab, she thought-- and instantly maneuvered to do so as she countered the weight of the preacher’s body-- rolling to one side with him as he fell into her. To her dismay, however-- the metal she grabbed onto happened to be the sheathe part of an overtly-religious letter opener. It slid off effortlessly, sending Sarah falling back into the corner. Before she could react, the preacher lunged into her shoulder-- digging in with his sharp teeth. A scream erupted from Sarah’s lips as her hands found the blade and ripped it from the chain surrounding the walker’s neck. Without even thinking, she jammed it through the preacher’s pale eye, using it as leverage to propel the beast back into its side of the booth with one large shove. As soon as the blade met its target, she could almost felt the weight dissipate in an instant as the creature fell limp and she threw the creature off of herself.

She collapsed in a blood-soaked heap back on her side of the confessional, grasping at the raw bite on her shoulder-- the tattered remnants of her shirt hanging limply around the fresh wound. Charlie cowered into the corner, still keeping a wary eye on the suddenly motionless corpse mere feet from them. He looked back and forth between the walker and Sarah, his tail retreating between his legs as he licked at her hand.

”Oh my God…” Sarah stammered, the reality of the situation dawning on her instantly. ”No, no, no, n-no, no….”




# # #



”No…. no… no…..”

”Hey-- Hey! It’s all right, it’s all right… you’re safe,” Brooke assured her, placing a hand on her shoulder to quiet her. Sarah’s eyes snapped open as she flailed out-- knocking the tray full of food and water out of Brooke’s hands as it all splattered across the ground. She scurried back on her hands and feet, suddenly aware that one of her arms had been handcuffed to a metal handrail that ran the length of the wall. She tugged at it uselessly as Brooke began to scoop up what she could back onto the tray.

”Everything’s fine,” she sighed, ”I didn’t mean to frighten you or anything…” Her eyes lingered on the shoddy patch job over the girl’s wound; a half-assed job done in the heat of the moment after they had discovered her. As if they didn’t want her infection to get… infected. Sarah looked at it too, making note that she’d need to change that later if she happened to survive another night.

Sarah turned to lay eyes on the stranger in front of he and saw the curve of the woman’s stomach beneath the fabric of her shirt. Sarah’s eyes bulged, and she spoke her first words in several day of silence. ”Y-You’re--”

Brooke nodded, sheepishly-- rubbing her belly softly. ”Yeah…”

”I-I’m so…”

”It’s fine,” Brooke replied, calmly. ”You didn’t know.” She had managed to get most of the spilled food back onto the tray-- at least the salvageable parts. She crossed back over to Sarah and laid the tray on the ground, sliding it over to her. ”I’ll have to go get you something else to drink,” she offered, despondently.

Sarah just looked at her, unsure of who this woman was-- or why she was being kept locked up. Brooke must have sensed the same questions in Sarah’s eyes, because she answered as if she knew what was on the poor girl’s mind.

”It’s only a precaution,” she began, nodding at the cuffs on her wrist. ”You’re free to leave if you want to. Val just didn’t want to risk having you free to roam if--” Brooke stopped, unsure of how to finish that thought. None of them were sure what Sarah’s fate would be after being bitten. But even if she survived by some miracle, surely there was more in store for her down the road. ”Y’know, a lot of us out there have been pulling for you. We weren’t sure if you were gonna make it for awhile there… I really don’t know how you’ve survived this long, to be honest-- but it’s a good thing you did. These are good people. We aren’t your enemies. We just wanna see you get better.”

Sarah believed the words she was saying. She seemed like the honest type. And besides, she had enough problems of her own without needing to lie. The thought of bringing a new life into this world was terrifying, even with an outside perspective. What that would mean in the greater scheme of things was confounding. But to rebuild humanity, they would have to start somewhere.

Why not here?

”My name is Sarah… Hawke,” she managed weakly as a sign of peace.

”It’s nice to meet you, Sarah. I’m Brooke.” She stood up, brushing off her legs. ”I should get you some more water… we have lots to catch up on.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Freddy Kaufmann (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC) Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC)

0.00 INK

The Warden



A pair of brown snakeskin boots rested lazily propped up atop a pile of old books-- thrown to the floor days prior no doubt to free the bookcase up to use as a barricade elsewhere. A thick wisp of smoke curled above Bronson’s head towards the ceiling-- his eyes fixated on a dormant ceiling fan. The room might has well have been spinning though. Nothing ever seemed to go as planned these days. A plan set in motion would derail, deroute, or detour. But that was his job. To keep things on track. In motion.

The door was thrown open shortly after as Kaufman barged in, slamming the door shut behind him. Bronson closed his eyes, averted to the sudden but inevitable disturbance. The gunshots had fired minutes ago, and then ceased as quickly as they began. He knew the situation had been handled, one way or another. Things like that didn’t become important until they became important. This was why he kept people like Freddy around.

The shifty man stopped a few steps short of Bronson and folded his arms, bowing his head in thought. ”It’s nothing we weren’t expecting,” he prefaced, rubbing at the stubble on his face.

Bronson grinned. He was expecting some kind of attempt like this. Not nearly so soon though. ”Which one was it?” he asked, mumbling out of the corner of his mouth as he held the cigar tightly with the other half. Bits of ashed dusted down across his jacket as it rolled around his lips.

”It was Dax. Took Wallace down with him too-- poor bastard,” Freddy began. ”Idiot went down to take a piss alone and caught the bastard sneaking a peek at the transfer. He was, uhh-- shot… so he came back after awhile-- before our guys got there. Santos.... Chance… they went down too.”

Bronson sighed, brushing his long grayed hair back with a stroke of his hand. More men lost. Between accidental deaths and turncoats, his numbers were dwindling-- and fast. He straightened himself in his chair as more books toppled onto the floor beneath his shifting feet. ”And we’re certain he saw the girl?” he asked, warily. The question itself was rhetorical. He knew there was no way to prove it, and besides-- what Dax saw didn’t matter. Parading the girl across the blacktop so blatantly like that wasn’t for him.

”It’s too much of a coincidence. He had to have seen her…” Freddy replied, assuredly. His fingers twitched at his sides, erratically. Bronson always sensed a controlled nervousness coursing through the man whenever they were in situations alone like this. He always found it funny. Another reason he kept him as close as he did.

”And you idiots killed him before he could report what he saw back to Mr. Hawke.” It wasn’t a question. It was the situation as it stood now. A wasted effort. And soon… a forgotten memory. ”There’s no time to fix this, we need to get him ready… now. Find out what he saw, and get him prepped.”

Freddy nodded and shuffled away towards the door without another word. Bronson stood and turned to face the window, stretching the morning aches and pains out of his joints as he reached towards the ceiling-- the trail of smoke following close behind him. ”And have someone clean Wally up for Christ’s sake…” he added as an afterthought.


# # #



# Sarah Hawke #



Sarah twiddled the fingers on her left hand idly, noticing a lack of sensation in them after having her limp wrist dangling above her at the angle it had for so long. She grabbed the railing with her other hand, pulling herself up to her feet to invert her circulation and get some blood flowing. The dizzyness set upon her almost immediately, causing her to waver a bit and clutch the railing even tighter. She felt her heartbeat in her white knuckles, one after the other-- somehow still stable… constant. That was all considering that she felt like the rest of her was falling apart.

The door swung open across the room, silhouetting Brooke’s frame as light poured in from outside and she entered. A bundle of drinks and snacks lined the nook of her arm as she closed the door behind her and crossed over to Sarah, setting the food before her. She stooped slowly, placing the items down gently. Sarah reacted, reaching out with both hands to help Brooke back up-- but her wrist was snapped back violently as the cuffs reached their limit and grew taut. Sarah rubbed at it sorely, wishing this part of the day could be over with already. She and Calvin were more alike than she had previously thought… both marred by their mutual incarcerations.

”I’m sorry I took so long…” Brooke began, brushing her fallen locks back behind her face. Her rosy cheeks heaved in and out with each calculated breath as Brooke kept everything calm and controlled. How she managed to keep it all together, considering, was a real mystery. But she was much more prone to exhaustion these days with her extra passenger. She stood back up, rubbing her stomach gently with her palm. ”We’ve had some… arrivals-- from outside,” she confessed with a bit of hesitation. There was the possibility that maybe Sarah knew these two kids… they were all about the same age, after all. Maybe they were the missing links as to what happened. But why come back if they had anything to do with what happened to the girl? Or the preacher, for that matter…

Brooke thought better than to ask any of these questions aloud while the poor girl was still recovering from her shock. She unscrewed the cap to one of the bottles of water and offered it to her. Sarah took it from her, thanking her with her eyes before guzzling down the first few sips, thirstily. She stooped her head as she gasped heavily, wiping the spare drips from her mouth with the back of her hand. Brooke stood a few paces back from her, playing with her hands-- unsure of how to proceed.

Sarah looked up with her baggy, bloodshot eyes and blinked at her-- aimlessly. ”Do you wanna talk…?” she asked, dryily.

Brooke’s gaze dropped to the ground, uncomfortably. ”Uhh, no-- I mean. Not unless-- do you?

Sarah brought the bottle back to her lips. ”I’m just fucking with you.”

Brooke stood, dumbfounded. This girl was hard to place. Without having known her before her accident, there was no way of telling whether her behavior was a result of the injury or if she was typically this odd. Whatever the case, she didn’t deserve to be held against her will any longer. How long could they possibly keep this up for?

”When’s your boss coming back?” Sarah posited, taking another swig from the bottle. She tipped her head back, gulping it down as she closed her eyes. It was the closest thing to bliss she was able to get, considering her circumstances. Every drop mattered.

”Val isn’t anyone’s boss,” Brooke shot back with perhaps a bit too much edge. Sarah rose her eyebrows. There seemed to be a story there somewhere. The dynamic was unfolding. Whoever this shotcaller was, she’d apparently lost a litte love amongst the others somehow. She then realized that the truth in that didn’t bode well for her situation. It was possible that Brooke could be the only hope in helping champion her escape. Maybe instead of antagonizing her, she should appeal to her senses instead.

Sarah set the bottle down beside her and licked at her lips. ”Sorry,” she began, ”I didn’t mean anything--”

”Right,” Brooke replied, brushing her hands off on her pants. She adjusted her ponytail, cinching her red locks back from her face into a tighter bunch. ”Look, I’m sorry we did this to you. A few of us-- out there-- we tried to stop it… but considering your situation--” she continued, gesturing at Sarah’s bite, ”we didn’t want to take any chances.”

Sarah nodded. ”I don’t hold it against you…” she admitted, settling back into herself.

Brooke regarded the girl with quiet pity. There was only one way she could help her, but not without knowing something first. She braced her hands on her hips, looking at her feet as she cleared her throat-- then she looked Sarah straight in the eyes, a bit disconcertingly. ”What’s happening to you?”

”I wish I knew…” Sarah droned, sourly. ”I haven’t had a chance to really look at it. I have medical training, you know? I’m a nurse… and if I had my stuff--” she emphasized, raising her voice. Brooke glanced back in the corner of the room at Sarah’s duffle bag, draped half-way in a colorful palette made by the light beaming through the stained glass window high above.

”We already took the weapons out, just in case…” Brooke admitted, walking towards it slowly. ”I suppose there isn’t anything in there you shouldn’t have. I can’t uncuff you though,” she finished, her voice remaining firm. ”The key isn’t here...” She must have felt Sarah’s eyes rolling in the dark. ”Not my choice,” she added. Brooke crouched down, carefully grabbing the straps of the bag and beginning to drag it over to where Sarah was shackled. Her movements were graceful, even in her current state. There was some kind of unexplainable easiness to her movements, almost like she knew what she was going to do before she did it. A very calculated grace. It was the first thing Sarah had noticed about her.

”All I need’s my supplies and I can do it myself. I can do it properly… please--” Sarah peeled her tattered shirt away from her clavicle-- still sticky with bloody residue. It was looking worse every hour now. She grimaced as she leaned back, shaking her head. ”Who can I thank for the hackjob on my shoulder?”

”That was me,” Brooke replied, firmly-- her voice lilting just barely. She let the bag slump to the ground and blew her red locks away from her eyes, wondering if there was any use in saying anything else. Decided, she turned to leave. ”And you’re welcome… I guess.”

Sarah slouched deeper against the brick wall, heaving a deep sigh.

So much for appealing to her senses...


# # #



Brooke closed the door from the other side and leaned her arm and forehead against the wood. Her energy was fading by the second. It didn’t help that she was one of the very few competent ones left behind with the balls to do something about their situation. Somehow it always ended up falling on her to square things up. The pregnancy sure did come with some perks… certainly greater leverage, if anything. She looked over her shoulder at the sound of overlapping hushed whispers and saw Ari and Ezrael engaged in a very intense conversation over by the stairs to the cellar. Charlie licked at his chops on one of the benches near Sarah’s door, his ears perked up from the moment Brooke set foot outside the door. They thought it best to keep the two separated until they knew what Sarah’s true condition was.

Brooke used the backsides of the pews to steady herself as she walked towards the lot of them. Harry had joined the group from the other side of the door, closing it behind him as he rose his hands in front of him trying to settle the two neurotic bickering men.

”Gentleman, please--” he begged, trying to quiet them.

”What the hell are you two on about now?” Brooke bellowed, exasperated by just about…. well, everything.

Ari ruffled his jacket, trying to straighten it out-- his chest puffed out like some aggro’d rooster. ”This Saint over here thought it wise to let in a couple of strays.” he spat out, verbally accosting Harry.

”They’re just kids…” Harry reasoned, looking to Brooke. Surely she could understand that. ”And besides, they were here before us… with the Preacher. Before us. Before the girl…” He gestured behind all of them at the door, and Sarah.

Ezrael ran his hands through his hair. ”When they find out it was her that did it--” He shook his head at the possibility. ”How are we going to explain this?”

”Easy,” Brooke replied. ”We don’t. We don’t know what happened. We weren’t there. She’s the only one left who knows the whole story. Her and the dog…”


# # #



.: Fort Fallback :.

"Amoeba Music & Records"



’Mobile in ten minutes, everyone. Ten minutes. Scout teams meet in the garage in five to be delegated into your teams and briefed on your tasks. Everybody else… you know what your jobs are. Quinn out.’

His booming voice squawked out of all of the surrounding intercoms simultaneously, resounding throughout the massive floor of the record store.. Various Capitols bustled about on their tasks, many of them hauling crates of equipment towards the garage to help setup the vehicles. Others simply loitered around, but the tension in the air was palpable. They had all spent so much time trying to push the outside world away and keep things as normal as possible… but that was surely a lie. The truth was-- everyone and everything was in danger. No matter where you were. The ones lost out in the city had it worse, but they all had it bad. Niobe rubbed at her temples as she leaned against the hood of the bus-- it had been a long three days, considering everything they had been through. There had been countless hours of planning and coordination-- spearheaded by various camps in conjunction with Silas, Harper, Stevie, and others who had stepped up to help. She was beginning to get a sense of who really had a voice in a place like this. There were way more Capitols than she had originally alotted upon her first visit to the tower. For a moment, she wondered how many they had lost.

And how many they would find…

Niobe had managed to go wherever she was needed. Most of it involved working with Patrick and Eli and some of the others to rig up the buses and retrofit them to suit the purposes of their trip. The main bus had basically been converted into a mobile command center-- someplace Silas could direct the rescue from as well as a mutual fallback point for all parties. They reinforced the metal siding with aluminum plates, barred the windows-- setup with escape hatches on the top and floor of the bus. Built a table centerpiece with a map of the surrounding areas for his team to coordinate from. It actually felt nice to hold some familiar tools in her hands, she had thought. She couldn’t even remember the last time she got to use a welder. A second bus had also been procured in the days prior, to accomodate the amount of people should the best case scenario play out and everyone be rescued. At least then they’d be able to shuttle people back as needed. It was a pretty airtight plan-- the best they could hope for given the circumstances. Who knew what they'd find out there?

She suddenly realized then and there that she hadn't spent much time thinking about the departed-- aside from George on occasion. Sure, it was possible they managed to escape the walker herd-- perhaps back in the tunnels somewhere? Jessica knew the layout pretty well, and she had Rafiq with her to help look after the others. There were just so many of those things... it was a miracle anyone got out alive at all. Everything had just escalated so quickly.

Niobe noticed a black scuff mark on the hood of the bus and rubbed at it with the butt of her hand in a wide circular motion. The smear dissipated after a few passes and she quick wiped the residue off on her pant leg.

”I wouldn’t bother,” a strained voice called out from around the side of the bus. Patrick came struggling into view, lugging a large plastic crate towards the back. ”It’s just going to get dirty again…”

Niobe blinked slowly. ”Need a hand with that?” she offered, dryly. She had more muscle on the kid by a mile. He did look surprisingly spry though, considering.

Patrick scoffed. ”I can carry a crate,” he chided, using his knee to help prop the box up as he adjusted his grip on it.

”What’s in there?”

”Uhh--” his eyes shot down to the crate, nervously. ”It’s-- it’s just gear. Equipment and stuff for the lead bus. We’re trying to prepare for every situation, you know?”

Niobe shrugged. ”Whatever you say…” A pair of Capitols wandered between them with a larger crate of their own towards the rear of the bus, nodding as they passed. Niobe saw them heave it into the a pair of waiting hands inside the back of the spare bus. Niobe turned back to Patrick, drumming her fingers on the yellow exterior of the vehicle. ”What’s this I hear about you not coming with us?”

Patrick’s eyes bulged a bit. Clearly that news wasn’t supposed to be in the public domain yet, but Niobe was persistent and Carl had a very, very weak constitution. He set the crate down at his feet, carefully-- and stood straight, shoving his hands into his pockets as he wandered closer. ”Yeah, about that--” he swallowed, looking over his shoulder to make sure they were alone. ”Silas asked me and a few others to look into something for him. We’re going to uhh-- go with you guys and take off from the same point.”

Niobe furrowed her brow. What was with the sudden audible? The plan had changed enough over the last few days. What they needed was a firm plan. Unwavering. ”So there’s three teams now?”

Patrick nodded. ”Seems so…”

”Is it really smart for us to all split up again? That’s what started this in the first place...”

”Believe me, if you knew what I knew--”

She crossed her arms suddenly. ”And when will I know what you know?”

Patrick looked around, hurriedly moving in closer in an effort to try to keep her from talking any louder. ”Look-- things are tense around here, OK. I wish I could tell you everything, but there’s a lot at stake. That’s as much as I can tell you… I’m sorry…”

Niobe squared up, pointing a finger in his chest. ”Whatever it was you were trying to tell me earlier, it sounds like you guys are gearing up to go to war. And I’m not convinced that’s something we want to throw ourselves in front of.”

”We just want to go home…” Patrick sighed, wearily. ”None of this has anything to do with us… it’s all bigger than that. We’re just the pawns. All we can do is just keep moving forward until we can’t anymore.”

Niobe toyed with one of her molars with the tip of her tongue. ”Or until you get your ass captured.”

Patrick hung his head, scratching it lackadaisically. He turned back around, crouching to hoist the crate back up and moving to pass around Niobe. Maybe she had been a bit too hard on him. She already had a difficult enough time warming up to any of the other Capitols without purposefully alienating anyone. Patrick and Eli had been two of the only ones who had made an effort to reach out and include her in things. Maybe she owed them more than that.

”So in this analogy,” she called out over her shoulder, turning to face him. ”Shouldn’t we be going for the King?”

Patrick halted in his tracks and knowingly met her gaze. She understood more than he believed.


# # #



"What the hell are you doing?" James coughed out, a half-spent cigar dangling out of the corner of his mouth.

Carl looked up from his seat on the bus, his hands clasped around his satellite phone. Other Capitols hustled about around the bus, loading the side holds with cargo, weapons and gear. A handful of people worked under the hood in the front while the driver responded to commands, testing the shift stick and other components of the vehicle. These people were covering their bases, checking everything, taking all of the precautionary measures they could...

So why did he feel like he was going to throw up?

"I'm, uhh--" he swallowed a heavy gulp-- to maybe help the room stop spinning. Nope. Next idea?

"What's wrong with you? Why are ya just sittin' on yer ass in here?"

Carl closed his eyes, rubbing at his temples. "Can you just please? Can you not... He sighed, burying his face in his palms. "I just-- we were out there... we saw what it was like. How could any of them have survived that...?"

"We did," James grumbled. He dabbed the cigar on the leather of one of the seats, ashing onto the floor. "We've all survived worse things. What else is there to be scared of?"

"That's just who I am!" Carl rasped, throwing his hands up in the air. "I'm that guy! The fucking guy in all those platoon war movies who's hiding behind all the real soldier son his radio while they're actually putting their lives in danger and fighting on the front! I'm not a rescue guy... I don't go do rescues. I mean look at what we're up against!"

James grimaced. "We've got buses. They don't. You wanna be on the side with the buses... trust me." He clapped Carl a little too hard on the shoulder, spilling a little bit of ash from his cigar onto his sweatshirt. He walked past him, climbing out the back door of the bus. Carl brushed his shirt clean and turned towards the old man. "Hey, man-- why the church?"

"Cause I heard bells a ringin'..." James crooned.

"Are you fucking stoned?" Carl berated. "Why are you so calm about all of this?"

James flashed a smile of pearly whites. "Cause this is the world now, kid. Buck up." He took one long soothing drag of his cigar and gritted his teeth as he exhaled a thick curling cloud of white smoke. "Now get out here and make yourself useful." He turned, wandering off in a wispy hazy trail.

Carl could only shake his head, exhausted by it all. He scooped up his phone as he stood up from his seat and shuffled out the front down the few steps towards the pavement. He plopped down hard onto his feet causing his glasses to slide down his nose which he quickly remedied with his index finger.

"Easy there, Cowboy..." Jack's catty voice drawled from next to the folded door. Carl felt his heavy hand pat him hard against the back. What was with all the hitting anyways? "You alright?"

Carl shrugged, rolling his eyes. "I'm great..." he droned, sourly.

Jack squinted his eyes. "Well, listen-- I just wanted to say, before we left-- I know you and James are going on your little secret mission thing or whatever, but I wanted to ask if you'd keep an eye out for our friend, Calvin. He's out there too... we don't really know where..."

"Calvin...?"

"Yeah, that movie star guy... Calvin Hawke. We were with him before all this and... well, things got dicey. But he took a bullet for me... and I owe it to him to find him."

Carl's eyes nearly burst out his head as he suddenly had an epiphany. C-Calvin! Hawke?! You mean Sarah's brother?"

Jack scrunched his forehead. "How do you know his sister?" Then his tone changed as his brow furrowed even further. "How do you know his sister...?"

Carl waved his hands in front of him. "No, no-- it's nothing like that. I mean, I suppose I would... she's pretty hot-- but, ew! No, I'd never-- Jeez... oh man, when she finds out he's alive, she's gonna freak!"

"We have to find them. Both of them. Pass it on to James when you see him," Jack insisted, clasping his hand on Carl's shoulder. He looked him straight in the eyes. "We're gonna find them..."

"FIVE MINUTES!! OUT IN FIVE!! Grab the last of your things, say your goodbyes-- this is it, ladies and gentleman! Meet on the floor in FIVE!!!" Silas' bombastic voice echoed out across the garage-- no longer with the same gravelly tin as from the loudspeakers, but rather in person-- as his large frame came bumbling past in haste. The last flurry of activity commenced as everyone made their last rites and prepared for sendoff. Carl, in all the chaos of the moment looked across the sea of faces for anyone he knew and saw no one-- suddenly feeling very alone...

cron