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Haytham Collins

I *will* protect my brother. He's all I have left.

0 · 361 views · located in Area 2

a character in “Blindsight”, as played by Xunnamius

Description

Haytham Collins (Theo)
"I can do this. We can do this."

Image

5'7" with light brown skin. Thin physique. The image pretty effectively communicates the rest.



Age: 16, almost 17
Gender: Male
Archetype: Tech Savvy/Hacker




Personality

Haytham will do anything for his brother. Anything. Even if they fight sometimes... he's all that's left.

Haytham, a being of base logic, is a seeker of thrills and a calculated risk taker, allowing him to make moves and execute tactics that others might not be so quick to volunteer for. He'd also never fired a gun in his life (outside of video games) before this whole zombie thing, which certainly came as an inconvenience. He learned his way around a firearm quickly, however.

While his brother is more of an in-the-moment tactical operator, Haytham is definitely a strategist. He goes into situations with a pre-planned agenda, attempting to spin contingencies in his mind for any and every possibility—with varying levels of success. His mindset can be accurately summed up in one quote: "the key to strategy is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory."

He has a singular goal now: survive with his younger brother, Maximus. Everything else comes second.



Skill Sets

Intermediate-level cracker (aka "hacker"). Can get into many low and mid-level systems thanks to training from his father—especially if he is at the terminal itself rather than trying to access the system remotely. He's never managed to breach a high-security system before (although he has tried!). Can figure his way through just about any system once he gets in, but that's the hard part, isn't it? Getting in.

"It's all about your vulnerabilities. Your exploits. Your bad passwords. But unless you're lucky... your biggest obstacle is time."

He does not like to be called "hacker." Hates the movies and how "hacking" is portrayed in the media. You can't walk up to a keyboard, tap a few keys randomly, throw out some jargon, and then see a system compromised. It's simply not that easy.

Arguably athletic (but doesn't play sports), good reflexes, great proportions; knows a little bit of martial arts.

Tenacious; high mental fortitude and endurance; unequivocal sense of purpose (to protect his brother).



History Since December 21st 2012

My father was a self-proclaimed "bit-lord". It was a term he came up with to describe himself when my brother and me were still little kids. "I am still the bit-lord!" he'd proclaim in the purposely pretentious voice of a comic book supervillian, coming out of his office—we called it the den—with his hands out before him, palms up. "Bit-lord!" we'd cry, my brother and I. We'd race to meet him in the hallway, competing to see who could bow the most fancily, pretending we were in a royal court and that Dad was king. Max, my little brother, would always do something funny afterwards and we'd all laugh.

He never stopped calling himself the bit-lord. Even when we grew up, we knew that when he said "bit-lord!" it meant he had completed another job successfully.

Mom had some sort of government job. She never really talked about it except with Dad, though I guess I never thought to broach the subject myself. She went on business trips a lot, but always made sure to be home as much as she could. She'd never let a business venture get in the way of her family, but, due to the nature of Dad's work, she had to "keep the books busy" she'd always say. That required frequent meetings, dinners, and trips.

My father was what is known as a "hacker" by the non-technophile hollywood hackers are real life crowd. More accurately, he called himself "an elite cracker". Someone who breaches high security networks to compromise computer systems for fun and profit. His particular specialty was data destruction. A client would want something gone, and he'd erase it from the digital face of the earth. He had to be pretty good too, because we never worried about money. In fact, we lived in a pretty huge house on the eastern edge of the city, near the lake. After every successful job, he'd celebrate by coming out of his room and reasserting his status as the "bit-lord," and we'd bow, laughing. To us, it was just a game.

We knew nothing of the stakes. Nothing of the constant risk of exposure, and how hard my father tried to keep his work sandboxed away from his family. His real life.

I came home from high school one snowy night in November, 2012—a month or so before the virus hit our city—to my mother and father having a heated debate. They were discussing something big. They had to be, since they were speaking in hushed whispers in the hall instead of relaxing on the couch or talking in the kitchen. They only did that when it was really serious, mostly so they could hear if me or my brother was trying to listen in on them. I had gotten better at sneaking though, and managed to catch the tail end of their conversation.

Yes, eavesdropping is bad and all that. Sure, whatever. The last time they talked like that, they were discussing euthanizing our old dog, Cashous, who had developed canine colon cancer. It had to be important, so I listened.

"But Gerard, this is huge! We're potentially talking billions of dollars, and that's just the principal. There's no way we can turn this down."
"I'm just not sure, Jay. Even if their finances check out, there's some bad stuff circulating around the boards about these guys."
"Don't tell me you're a Paradome conspiracy theorist now?"
"Hah! No. A conspiracy requires multiple parties, Jay. Apparently, this is Paradome—alone. And if this evidence actually pans out..."
"You know, if you accept this contract, you'll be closer to them than anyone else. You'd get to see for yourself how Paradome really operates."
"And the kids would be set for life."
"Yes baby, the kids would be set for life. And then some. Trust me. Do it for all of us."


I did a silent double-take. Billions? Of actual dollars? Wow.

Paradome. At the time, it had become a household name of sorts. They had a hand in everything, from food to detergent to computer operating systems and hardware manufacturing and everything in between. More and more items could be traced back to them, and they were becoming bolder about it by the day, eventually releasing commercials and TV interviews touting their accomplishments. They even made my little brother's asthma medication.

That same night, my parents called me and my brother into the living room. There, we discussed Dad's new contract. My father's profession was not a secret in our household, although we could never speak of it to outsiders. Anyway, he had accepted, and was going to be working for "Paradome" to attack certain high security networks, making irrecoverable specific sets of data Paradome wanted erased. They were going to be paid an unimaginable amount of money for this.

I pretended to be surprised that night, but slipped when I said "billions" before they did.

For the first few days, my father seemed to be full of jubilation. He always got that way during a job, especially when things were going well. We even went to six flags—the amusement park—twice in the same week, something we had never done before. I joked with Mom about not going to college since we were going to be mega-rich. In hindsight, she didn't seem to find it all that funny.

A week after accepting the job, things noticeably changed. My father became much more distant. He stopped smiling altogether, wearing instead a bothered grimace. He shut himself in the den for hours and hours at a time, which was normal, but this time he kept the door locked. He never locked us out before. He always let us come in, happy to give us a brief overview of what he was doing.

As the days went by, he never once came out of his room to declare that he was the bit-lord. When he woke us in the mornings for school, he always seemed tired. Exhausted. Even when we were really little, my father loved to teach us about computer stuff... but even that became rare. He never taught me any of "the good stuff," though. Always said I was "at that bad decision age".

That didn't stop me from learning a little something on my own.

Eventually, to the chagrin of my mother, he'd stopped talking about his progress on the Paradome contract entirely—like he wasn't doing it anymore. Not a single mention. If any of us tried to bring it up, he'd get up and leave without a word. They even fought once you know, in front of me and Max. It was the first real fight they'd ever had—my dad ended up sleeping in the den that night. He seemed really angry about it. About everything.

It was a beautiful Friday morning on December 21st, 2012. My brother and I were finishing off our breakfasts when something on the TV caught my eye. The news was on and the talking heads were spinning. The headlines were big, red, and bold: "CDC network compromised. Possible connection to Hacktivist group". The lady was talking about how a large important chunk of data in respect to a CDC investigation into Paradome had been thoroughly wiped out.

I stole a glance over at my father, who was looking at the same headline. Mom was flying back from an overnight dinner meeting in DC, so it was only us three at the table. He did not return my gaze; he only stared at the flat screen, shaking his head softly. He seemed conflicted about something. Earlier, he had told us that we wouldn't be going to school today.

In a few hours, I found out why. It started as a sporadic blitz of news reports coming in of "pandemic-like outbreak in Africa" followed by "international terrorist attack," but the scariest reports by far were of the "unidentified humanoid threats". It wasn't soon before the major news networks went down, following other channels. Dad was calm though. He told us everything would be okay. That he'd make sure we were safe.

That's when they reached our house, those "humanoid threats". Shortly after taking the Paradome job, my father used the money to invest heavily in a high-tech panic room, among other things. We were never allowed to go around it; but on that day we were hastily shoved in—my brother an I—but my father didn't step in with us. "I have to get your mother from the airport." He had said to us. "When I leave, do not open this door until I return. Understand?" We nodded earnestly, scared and confused. At that he hugged Max, telling him he was loved. Then he hugged me, slipping something into my hand as he did. It was his favorite satellite phone, sporting a small USB flash drive on a keychain. "Everything's there. Everything, Haytham." I remember him cupping my face in his hands. "My first-born son. My boy. I love you." He turned to leave then. It'd be the last time I ever saw him and I didn't even know it. He looked me in the eye. "Keep your brother safe."

At that, he pressed a button and the large steel door protecting the room began to close.

"I'll be back." He lied. "Right back. I promise."

We were in that panic room for a long time, Max and I, as the world around us fell apart. Eventually, we started going outside. We had to... we were running out of food and water. Thankfully, my father had the foresight to outfit the panic room with guns: pistols, shotguns, legal assault weapons, and some I couldn't even identify. Quite the collection, though we did go pretty apeshit with the munitions at first.

Still, life was not easy. Not out there. Not with those... things roaming the streets.

One night while on the run, when all seemed lost, we received a branch of hope. A light in this infinite darkness.

We were contacted by A.

So begins...

Haytham Collins's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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A wrote frantically as his mind tried to process everything he was discovering. It was unbelievable, unthinkable but in all honesty, it made sense in some sick way. Paradome couldn't be the monolithic corporation it was today without harboring untold secrets and the like. A clenched his fists, his train of thought momentarily lost as he internally punished himself for helping Paradome. But then he breathed deeply and reasoned within for what seemed like the hundredth time "Paradome has everyone fooled." He sighed angrily.

A shook his head and removed his glasses, bringing his thumb and index finger to the bridge of his nose as a headache began to set in, then fear, then anger again, then a sense of hopelessness. A had to right these wrongs, he did the snooping, he found out what they were up to, and he took it upon himself to stop them. Paradome will pay that is A's mantra for now. Feeling the momentary headache subside, A put his glasses back on and continued his search back into Paradome's hidden files.

It was only ten minutes later A was able to crack back into Paradome's systems but what he found horrified him. Absolutely nothing was there. Their entire system was wiped, everything from the scandalous to the mundane was wiped clean and A could only guess moved to a different server. "Fuck you." he grunted at his screen as he frantically began to put all his skills to use looking for what he needed to publicly out Paradome... An hour went by and nothing.

A was losing hope. He had literally discovered the biggest global scandal the world would likely ever see and everything he had to stop what was happening was suddenly gone. They must have found out someone was in their system. A panicked for a moment, would they find out who hacked them? But then he calmed down, probably not... A had stolen Paradome's founder's identification so his hacking couldn't be traced back to anyone but the man who knew all about what was happening... It wouldn't be long before Mr. Wh--e changed his details. That meant A was going to need to move fast right now to find the information he needs before his simple identification theft is ripped for underneath him and he'll have to start breaking into their systems more carefully.

Days passed and A had lost his easy access to Paradome's inside. His demotion also meant his access through the entire corporation was reduced to not much more than the ability to open locked doors. Unfortunately for Paradome A had already found ways to bypass their securities and he was still searching their servers and databases for all the information he'd found, but nothing was coming up yet.

It wasn't until two weeks after A learned the truth that he found at least a little of what he was looking for. It was the solid information he needed, but it was, for lack of better words, a sort of map that would lead him to the truth again... A was left stranded and even more stunted than he was before when he learned where the truth was sitting... All he needed, every bit of information A needed to bring Paradome down was stored onto other devices, devices however that were stuck within the American Quarantine zone.

A cursed a loud at the sudden realisation that all hope was lost. He had no physical way of getting what he needed, and if he couldn't get the external drives and data Paradome had within the quarantine zone, they were going to get away with it. But it was only a few hours after A had begun to lose hope when he hatched another plan...

Logging back onto Paradome's surveillance network A was able to use the CCTV camera's that were dispersed among the streets and insides of the buildings all through the quarantine zone. From there A found and tracked various survivors who had managed to remain alive over the past three months. He worked fast, using cross-referencing networks, identification databases and more, A was able to contact and learn the names of all the survivors he'd managed to successfully contact. There were enough of them to ensure A that together he and the survivors could stop Paradome and he could rescue them.

Within the american quarantine zone A was able to find survivors scattered throughout the two zone areas, 1 & 2. Getting a hold of the survivors within the city was easier than those in Area 2. The suburbs were definitely quieter than the city... But the streets were perhaps more terrifying when A was able to see the bigger variety of infected that roamed the seemingly perfect streets of Lassidus countryside and suburbia. But A eventually was able to contact survivors there. It was probably mostly luck on his part that for some reason Paradome was still letting the internet and electricity run through the quarantine zone... Though he suspected it was largely a show for the unaffected parts of the world... Paradome was pretending to contact people on the inside. "What a farce" A commented to himself as he watched their reports.

When A managed to get a hold of the area 2 survivors, he directed them to the local police station in the outer suburbs. Bordering the countryside, A was confident they were less likely to run into huge hordes of infected there. Oddly enough Paradome still had CCTV camera's this far out of Lassidus, but it was probably a good thing in hindsight because A could watch as area 2's survivors made it the police station there and after they had become acquainted after a few minutes, he piggybacked the phone lines into the quarantine zone and was able to call the phone at the reception desk in the police station. As one of the survivors answered, A began to, without hesitation tell them what exactly they were getting into.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Maximus Collins
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Max squinted, the harsh florescent lighting of the police station irritating his eyes. He shifted the weight of the bag on his back from his left shoulder to his right, giving his muscles a small but greatly appreciated respite. He was currently making his way through the police precinct's 911 dispatch center, wading through the mess of overturned desks, scattered paperwork, and the occasional dead body.

The place reeked of the mold and the rot.

It was ironic, really: being summoned to this place by their eye-in-the-sky patron, A. Max had always admired cops, said "they help people". Ever since he was twelve years old he was dead set on becoming one, no pun intended. When he made his wishes known one day, Haytham just laughed at him—son of a virtual crime family turning to the law? Hilarious!—but Dad had taken it more seriously. "Knowing a cop would make a lot of things easier, right?" His father joked with him that day. "I don't think being a bad cop would be that good for me, Dad," he had responded, a smile upon his face. They both shared a good laugh.

Max was sincere though, and his father knew it. So Max was summarily enrolled in the Explorer Program for Law Enforcement—a program that provides kids with the opportunity to learn about what being a cop is all about. He went on ride-a-longs with a few of the different departments at the precinct, always asking questions, though he never did see anything cool like a drug bust or something. He even got into competitive Paintball and Airsoft, dominating at tournaments held at Lassidus's massive football stadium.

"My little brother, the pig."
"
My big brother, the hacker."

Max sighed, remnants of the distant past bringing a smile to his face. It was why he knew the layout of this building so well. His dreams were all here.

Well, of course, that was before the world went to hell in a clown car.

It was because he wasn't paying proper attention to his surroundings as he moved forward that he was surprised. In one moment, Max was standing, and the next, he was on his rear. He'd run into something. Something humanoid in shape and likeness.

Max didn't immediately look up at what he'd bumped into. He already knew what it was. He raised the pistol in his hand to fire, aiming and pulling the trigger all in one smooth motion; however, instead of the righteous clamor of gunfire, he was met with a click-click as the slide locked back.

Empty.

Shit. That wasn't supposed to happen. He'd only counted 13 shots—he was pretty sure he hadn't used the entire mag!

Max looked down just as fast as he'd looked upward, electing to focus on reloading rather than analyze the figure in front of him. Staring and gawking... that's how you end up dead in this world. The humanoid in front of him took a step forward. Still deigning not to look up, the boy stifled a panic attack—he didn't have time for any more hesitation. Just like getting stalked by a forward in Airsoft he repeated in his mind over and over, ejecting the spent magazine with a twist of the wrist, sending it flying off to the side, grabbing another magazine from his jacket pocket, and slamming it home into the empty slot at the bottom of the handgun—a Glock 19, which was swimmingly similar to the RAP17 "Glock" he used for Paintball. He finished reloading the weapon in a matter of a few seconds, releasing the slider with a tug, taking comfort in the Glock's new heavier weight.

He'd been practicing speed reloading non-stop since this whole infection mess began, and it was paying off. Again.

He finally looked up, about to aim his pistol at this unknown thing, fully taking in the scene in front of him.

OOC: He just bumped into either Lauren, Briar, or Allison!


**Yesterday Afternoon**


Haytham was furiously tapping on his keyboard, issuing adb commands to download files from the local server in their panic room through USB to the mobile device on the desk next to him—a custom satellite phone. He had four huge monitors in front of him: three side to side on the desk and a fourth screen hanging from the wall above, looking down at him. This fourth screen featured a checkerboard of different camera angles from the closed circuit cameras located all throughout their house. Some of the squares had nothing but gray static playing over them—the zombies had gotten to those areas, destroying the cameras within. Others spoke of a specious serenity, scenes still and untouched, as if the undead were not currently tearing through their defenses and pouring into this place.

BANG!

"Is it done yet, Theo?!" Max pressed, poking his head out from the ventilation shaft in the side of the wall.

BANG! The whole building seemed to reverberate with the force of the impact as dust shook loose from the ceiling, gliding to the floor in waves.

Haytham didn't look over at his brother, instead focusing on the triad of screens directly in front of him. Over the past few weeks, he'd been trying to break through some sort of "network restriction" that effectively sequestered the networks within the quarantine zone from those without.

It wasn't easy.

Someone was trying to prevent survivors from contacting the world at large. Someone big and powerful, with a huge team of professionals, because Haytham, as good as he believed himself to be, couldn't find a non-transient path around their constraints. They had to be pros, had to be... however, they weren't perfect. Their internet "block" was obviously still a work in progress, for Haytham had managed to find a route through which he could access the open net and draw down some data—though after about half an hour his playmates on the other end shut him down.

Again, whoever these guys were, they were good—but Haytham didn't come out of the encounter empty handed. Within that thirty minute window he didn't go to a forum. Didn't send any emails. Didn't try to get people to believe the things that were going on in Area 2. He didn't have time for that. Instead, he had done what any computer scientist would in his situation: he downloaded Wikipedia. Yes, downloaded the entirety of Wikipedia, all 10+ glorious gigs of it. More specifically, he snagged a freely accessible dump of their database from their CDN. At the same time, he got a hold of some road and image map data from Google Maps—data on the entire Area 2 quarantine zone. It was this enormous amount of data that he was rushing to stuff in to the satphone a few inches to his side.

They'd be needing it soon.

BANG! BANG!

"Theo..." Max began again, but Haytham cut him off.
"Just climb up, Max. Take the green bag and the shotty," he said, referring to the large green satchel that held what remained of their food and bottled water and their last remaining shotgun. "I'll meet you on the roof once this download finishes."

Max wore a conflicted look for a moment before nodding. "Okay Theo, I'll see you upstairs." He disappeared back into the ventilation shaft. Their little panic room was really more like a panic suite—complete with two small bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower and running water, the main control room, and a large partially-stocked storage room full of all sorts of goodies. About a month after the turmoil that was the sealing off of Lassidus and the formation of the Area 2 quarantine zone, they essentially ran out of food and water. Without the access code to open the panic room's door, the only way they were able to stay alive was by busting a hole in the wall and forcing their way into the secondary ventilation system that serviced the panic room. The wide and sturdy shaft lead straight up to the roof.

That first climb was the hardest, but they only had to do it once. Max had the brilliant idea of tying a rope to one of the exposed rafters on the roof, letting it hang down through the vent. Instead of an arduous and quite dangerous climb through to the roof, they simply had to make their way up the rope.

BANG! Haytham shook his head, refocusing himself. The Wikipedia dump had been copied over to his phone successfully, but the Google Maps data was taking quite a bit longer. It was barely 70% complete.

"Hurry hurry hurry." Haytham muttered to himself, standing. The monsters were almost through the steel door of their panic room. They had attacked in waves this time, as if dispatched specifically to their house... and something new was among them.

Heuristics. The art of solving problems based on past experience. That was the secret to survival here. During month two, all Haytham and Max did was survive on Heuristics. They tested different hypotheses. Once, while the sun was going down, they stood on the roof of their house, directing a laser pointer into what remained of the eyes of some of the nearby zombies. The infernal creatures would only react after a prolonged period of exposure, or to the sun itself coming up.

Heuristic one: The shambling zombies around here couldn't see anything outside of big bright flashes of light. They don't get you by seeing you.

After further experimentation, they figured that not only couldn't they see all that well—if at all—but they couldn't "feel" either, through touch. These creatures operated solely on the sensations of hearing and smell. They tested this hypothesis too one day, wrapping themselves in clothes they managed to appropriate off of a zombie they'd downed. Standing motionless and smelling like decaying flesh, any zombies that wandered toward them continued on, seemingly disinterested.

Heuristic two: Moving around outside becomes much easier if you smell as dead as a zombie and make as little noise as possible.

How's that for problem solving?! But something went wrong on this most previous run of theirs. They'd... attracted the attention of something. Something different, and heuristics don't work too well on different.

BANG!

It was that "different" zombie that was here now, huffing, puffing, and blowing their god damned house down. The two boys never got a good look at this abomination. They didn't even come into contact with it—they saw only evidence of its existence: the devastation left in its wake.

BANG!

The door, reinforced as it was, wouldn't be able to take the beating for much longer. Its middle section had began to cave inwards, and disparate hands were protruding from its now-exposed flanks. The zombies were coming in. Time was about up.

The data transfer on his computer read 91%. This was gonna to be close.

Instead of standing around, Haytham dragged the black satchel back over to the vent opening. This bag contained all their non-foodstuff: rope, tape, a few antibiotics, Max's asthma medicine, small solar cell and charging station, a thin ultrabook, several boxes of ammunition and magazines, and some other stuff. Haytham made a quick run into the storage room then, grabbing several of the remaining guns off of their racks and stuffing them into the sides of the satchel. Three Glock 19s, one handgun he didn't recognize, and one assault weapon—the Galil. He recognized it as a "7.62mm Galil SAR" thanks to the Wikipedia database he downloaded—all he had to do was look up the engravings he found on the weapon. He lay the dangerous device down on top of the black bag, wondering to himself how his father had managed to acquire such an obviously illegal weapon before his thoughts returned to purpose. He turned back to the computer desk.

BANG! The hole in their defenses was wide enough now that Haytham could hear the creatures moaning, scratching and clawing at what remained of the door. Some of them were able to force different body parts through the expanded openings. They were going to rush him very soon.

He had to get out.

Haytham looked back at the computer screen. 98%. Fuck.

He looked back at the Galil lying on top of the satchel. He didn't want to waste ammunition down here—not when they'd be on the run for a while. Every shot would count, and his accuracy wasn't too stellar.

With a satisfying ding, his computer alerted him to the successful completion of the copy operation.

"Yes!" Haytham shouted triumphantly, disengaging the device from the USB cord and stuffing it into his jacket pocket as fast as humanly possible. It was just in time, too, because the smaller of the zombies had successfully forced their way through the wounded security door. They began to crawl slowly along the ground towards him. Without wasting a moment, Haytham pressed a combination of keys on his keyboard. A red window popped up on the fourth screen.

YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENGAGE THIRD PROTOCOL
THIS FACILITY WILL BE LOCKED DOWN AND INACCESSIBLE UNTIL THE PROTOCOL IS DISENGAGED
ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO DO THIS?
Y/N


He tapped Y, not waiting around to see if it worked or not. He knew it did. He'd run the drill a hundred times.

A timer appeared on the screen.

1:58 SECONDS UNTIL LOCKDOWN!


He had to get out of the ventilation duct before the system activated. His father had installed special safeguards in the secondary vents to protect the panic room from intruders. Third protocol would seal the windows, doors, everything in the entire house. He'd be trapped in this place... with this horde. They'd tear him apart.

Just then, with one final BANG, the steel door let out a tortured shriek, hinges exploding from the walls as the slab of metal fell to the ground, exposing the room to the horde on the other side. Haytham didn't even look back. Didn't have the time. He just kept moving forward, stuffing himself into the ventilation shaft head first, pulling the satchel and Galil after him. The horde rushed the opening, reaching for him, but he'd made it too far in for them to grab him.

Still, one of them managed to grab the bag.

"Hell no you don't!" he bellowed, heaving at the satchel with all his might, pulling the sack and, unfortunately, the zombies in closer, almost trapping his legs. Losing interest in the bag, the creatures set their sights upon Haytham, attempting to crawl over the obstruction and each other in order to reach the boy's warm flesh. The shaft was too narrow for Haytham to pull the Galil out from under the zombies' decaying corpses, so he simply kicked the closest one—straight in the face. Again and again he kicked until the zombie, face literally broken in, fell backwards and off the bag, entangling itself within the others. They were all moaning with anger, reaching for him.

Scooting backwards across the dusty metal of the shaft, Haytham finally encountered the rope that hung down from the opening in the roof, several meters up. Yes! The large vent took a sharp 90-degree turn straight up, allowing him to stand. Using the strap attached to the Galil, he swung it around his shoulders, the gun hanging from his side. He then tied the bottom of the rope to the satchel and began furiously climbing, refusing to look down at the claws reaching from below.

"Haytham, come on!" Max shouted down the tunnel at him. "Come on come on!"
"I'm coming, hold on!" he shouted back, climbing as fast as he could.

As he neared the top, something clicked below him. Looking down, he noticed a section of the vent closing itself, slowly. Third protocol. Haytham poured all of his energy into scaling the remaining length of the rope, pulling himself out of the hole and onto the ceiling with Max's help. He didn't have time to relax, though. The vent was closing, and their ammunition bag was still down there.

"Pull pull pull!" Haytham exhaled excitedly, pulling at the rope with as much strength as he could muster. Max joined in. Together, they managed to pull the black bag up through the shaft a few seconds before it closed itself. They shared a relieved sigh.

Max grinned. "That was close, huh."
"Yeah," Haytham agreed, "too close." He stood, freeing the satchel from the rope. He swung the large bag over his other shoulder, strap across his chest, and tossed the rope over the side of the roof. It was almost long enough to reach the ground. "We have to get out of here before whatever the hell that was decides to come after us."
After a brief once-over, Max determined that the grounds below were clear of enemies. "What was that thing? Why was it able to break through our defenses?"
Haytham shook his head. "I don't know," he began, grabbing the rope and beginning his descent, "but I don't want to find out. Let's go. Now."

Haytham and Max escaped from their own house that day, never to return. Between them, they had the Galil and an Ithaca 37 pump-action shotgun. They had run out of ammo for the Galil, and were down to their final magazine—32 bullets. On the other hand, the shotgun Max held, the Ithaca, they still had a few boxes of ammunition for. The boys also had the three Glock 19s as well as an unidentified revolver—Haytham couldn't find an entry for it in the Wikipedia database.

They avoided small hordes for most of the day, following their satphone's GPS and the downloaded maps to the nearest "safe point". The safe points were Haytham's idea: small homes or apartments they'd scouted out and cleared beforehand, for use in emergencies. Right now, they only had two.

They came upon their safe point as the sun began to set. After checking the perimeter of the building for busted windows or open doors, they concluded that the place had not been breached in any obvious way. Still, they entered the home cautiously, pistols drawn.

Inside, the house was gloomy. Dinnerware lay scattered about the dining room amid streaks of dried blood. The windows were boarded up—something Haytham and Max had done the last time they visited this place. It was their backup joint, after all. Max went on to clear the rest of the rooms while Haytham took in the scene, shaking his head slightly. He thought about them every time he walked in to this house—the family that lived here was probably attacked right before they sat down for dinner.

Except they didn't have a panic room to run to.

Max returned a few moments later. "It's all clear, bro. All the boards are still on the windows and everything." His eyes darted across the room, skipping over the bloodier parts. "Nice place, huh." Haytham gave him a look.

That night, the brothers sat upon the algid off-white tiles of the bathroom floor, back to back, door locked and secured with a large oak chair wedged under the handle, guns off at their sides. After a small meal of raw chicken noodle soup from a can, Haytham elected to take first watch while Max slept. It'd taken a while to get used to sleeping back to back, but over the months of venturing outside and scavenging for food, they'd developed quite a few tactics on how to stay alive outside of the panic room. Heuristics aimed at solving the problem of survival in a post apocalyptic world. This was one of them.

It wasn't until a few hours later—with the moon high in the sky—that Haytham became aware of a sound... scratching? He adjusted his posture slightly, trying not to wake Max. He appreciated his younger brother's slow rhythmic heartbeat. He was alive.

They were both still alive.

The scratching sound was coming from the boarded up window. Suddenly a howl pierced the gentle ambiance of the night. With their backs together, Haytham could feel Max's breath quicken as he awoke. Neither of them moved. Neither of them said a word. Neither of them made single noise. The howl had sounded like it was really close... Haytham turned his head to the small bathroom window, where the scratching sound had originated.

"Max," he whispered as softly as he could while still being heard. "The window."

There was a reason Haytham and Max did not travel at night or enter large dark buildings when they started leaving the safe house a couple of months ago. Sure, it was harder to see and thus easier get surrounded and all that, but those weren't the main reasons. Although the boys had only ever come into direct contact with the shambling slow-moving zombies, they knew that there were other things out there somewhere... and they only seemed to come out at night.

Another howl pierced the night silence. Something was definitely out there.

Max reached for the shotgun, but Haytham grabbed his hand. If they engaged this... whatever it was, they'd blow their cover. They'd have to run... at night. They'd never survive. Through his hand, Haytham could feel Max trembling. Maybe they were both trembling. After a few minutes, the scratching sound subsided—the thing at their window had lost interest, moving on. There they sat, all night, backs together, shaking, hoping, praying, as the creatures outside danced about in the moon-lit half-light, howling at each other.

Needless to say, they didn't get much sleep.

Morning didn't come quickly enough, but it did come. It always comes. Haytham managed to nod off for a bit and was enjoying the tranquil blackness when someone shook him.

"Theo!" Max had an urgent tone. "Theo! Theo!"
Haytham opened his eyes immediately, grabbing for his gun. "What is it?!"
Max turned, pointing to the black satchel. Someone was vibrating within, making a soft buzzing sound. Huey recognized the vibrating pattern almost instantly. Standing, he walked over to the bag, removing the jacket he'd stuffed hastily into the top compartment. From the pocket of the jacket he pulled the satphone.

It was vibrating. Someone was calling them.

"Is someone calling...?" Max asked, looking at Haytham. The elder brother simply stared down at the device in his hand. Who could possibly be calling them at a time like this? The number said "BLOCKED". Haytham's eyes drifted to the caller's reported ID, which consisted of only a single letter: "A".

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You know, they never do talk about using the bathroom in the zombie survival movies. Have you ever seen Will Smith stop for a bathroom break in the middle of exploring an abandoned New York city or getting chased by a gaggle of enraged zombies? Yet, it is a quintessential and, unfortunately, daily component of the human condition.

Their old panic room had a bathroom with a shower... well, before it was overrun by the undead. Guess that means no more showers for a while. Shame. Then again, they could always just clear out another house for a night, board up the windows and stuff. Lassidus's plumbing network still seemed to be active, although the power grid was already starting to fail, leaving certain portions of the city to the clutches of darkness.

Haytham completed his musings at about the same time he was finished decorating (vandalizing?) the wall. He started out trying to spell his name, but settled for something that looked like an H. It was only after he returned to decency and walked back out into the hall that he realized Max was missing from his post.

Worry instantly set in like a ton of bricks—a fist straight to the gut, but he squelched the sensation with cold hard logic. If there was danger, Max surely would have warned him before taking off. Something must have attracted his attention. Haytham turned, scanning the hall. The door right across from him had been opened. The placard on the wall next to the opening read:

911 Dispatch Center


Ah, right. A phone. The mysterious A had said to wait for a phone call. If there was a phone that was still operational in this dump, the dispatch center would be their best bet. Still, it was pretty dumb to just away like that. Haytham sighed, noting internally that he'd have to scold Max once again for his lack of foresight. They had made a cursory sweep of the building after entering, but that didn't mean everything was all safe and clear. They had to stick together or else—

Haytham heard commotion from within the room. Click. Haytham's eyes grew wide.

That was the sound of an empty gun.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins
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"The hell do ya think your doin' here? This ain't no place for no goddam kids, dumbass."

Max gulped. Utoh.

He was honestly surprised. This guy wasn't a zombie! That means he's still alive, like Haytham and himself. Hope filled the boy's eyes. Could this be A?! ... no. This couldn't be A. He had remembered A's call—Haytham had put it on speakerphone. This guy didn't sound like A at all. In fact, he sounded kinda dangerous. Looked just as dangerous, too. The man's expression was a mix of confusion and a sort of brutal preparedness.

Max gulped again, eyes flicking to the gun the man held almost cavalierly in one hand before returning to his face.

"U-uh..." Max stammered.

This guy had a complete advantage. Sure, they both had guns, but this guy was standing—he had the full range of motions at his disposal. Max was sitting—more specifically, a sitting duck. His actions while on his ass were extremely limited. If he tried to get up, this guy would probably shoot him. He'd already lost the element of surprise as well. Maybe if he just shot him now? No way. If Max even tensed as if he were going to fire his weapon, he knew this guy would shoot him dead. Even if Max did manage to fire off a shot, again—full range of motion. This dude could easily throw himself to the side. Max, on the other hand, would probably take a bullet to the chest.

In paintball, this is the part where you raise your gun into the air and surrender.

There is no surrender in real life. Not here. You just get dead.

Max could feel himself sweating. This wasn't good at all. If only he'd stayed with Theo— Right! Max flashed an uncertain smile, not dropping his weapon but not making any sudden movements. All he had to do was stall for time.

"Um... half-pint? Kid? Me? ... no. A kid wouldn't walk around with a loaded weapon, right?" He gulped again, hoping to assuage his own fears. He couldn't stop his voice from shaking, and mentally kicked himself for it. He just had to keep talking, even if it was bull. "Hey, are you A? You kinda sound like him..."

Max was out of things to say. Maybe he could bring up the weather next? But the stranger seemed impatient. He didn't look too happy about meeting Max. The boy closed his eyes. Please Theo...

That's when he heard the familiar jingle of a Velcro strap slapping against the metal frame of a weapon. Usually the result of a large gun being brought to bear against an enemy. Max had heard this sound recently...

The Galil!

"Make a single move fucker and I'll decorate this room with you." Haytham muttered menacingly, jamming the muzzle of the 7.62mm Galil SAR into the stranger's back. After hearing the commotion, Haytham had maneuvered down the hall and entered the room from behind their guest. His finger was lightly squeezing the trigger, ready to end this potential enemy at the slightest provocation. He might not be the best shot, and might've forgotten how to disengage the safety a few times, but he wouldn't be missing at point blank range. The safety was disengaged. He had made sure.

"Drop the handgun and kick it away, hands up," Haytham commanded.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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#, as written by Deguu
Fuck....Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Lauren clutched her bag to her chest, panting heavily, stinking in a very un-ladylike way of sweat and fear and blood. Her bloodied hands were soiled with dirt and tree bark, and her clothes were torn, but she victoriously clutched a crumpled piece of paper. Breathing hard, Lauren looked down at the horde that were moaning and scratching vainly at the tree below her, and felt the adrenaline kick in. She laughed. Well, not so much laugh, as stand on a very shaky branch and totter dangerously back and forward as she attempted to laugh, though water leaked from her eyes as she suddenly realized the humor of it.

She had risked her life for a picture, and was now stuck up a tree with at least a dozen of those things attempting to climb up. Sure, if she was on the ground, she'd be torn apart limb from limb, with her entrails painting the side of her house and her clothes torn apart and flung aside. But she wasn't. So, therefore, Lauren reasoned that she had more than enough cause to find some sort of humor in her situation. To her chest, she clutched a black duffle bag with the bare essentials for survival kept tight inside. She had a spare change of clothes. A mirror. Enough tinned food to feed her for a week, and a bottle of water. A knife. She grimaced at the thought of her scarce belongings.

Her bag was held securely in her arms as she sat down exactly where she was, with a leg on either side of the tree branch, and peered through the dark night to watch the zombies below her with a weary sigh. They were all general, run of the mill, average zombies. All mindless. All dead. And without a single brain cell between them. Lauren smirked as she watched one of the smaller ones jump up to try and catch her, over and over again, after falling and rather elegantly smashing its face on the damp, muddy ground. It's the small things in life that you should appreciate.

Lauren looked up, meditatively chewing her bottom lip as she went through the memories of the past few days. For the past few months, she had been living in a tree in the forest on the edge of the zone. It hadn't been comfortable, but it had been safe. Out there, there were few monsters. After all, there was no reason for them to venture so far from town. Lauren had set herself up in a large oak, which she had turned into a sort of shelter. She had strung a tarpaulin over the higher branches, tying it down with cable ties, to keep the rain off, and she had salvaged food from the surrounding woods. It was bountiful this time of year, if you knew where to look.

She had always told herself that nightmares were good. A positive sign. 'Cause if you dreamed of good things, then that had to mean you had given up the fight for survival. Bad dreams made you sleep light. They meant that even when you were asleep, you were aware of the complete fucking wrongness of the world she now lived in.

And one night, Lauren had dreamed a memory. She had been a child, maybe seven or eight, and she had been sat on her mothers lap. The radio had been on in the background, and her dad was fiddling idly with his guitar in front of her as her mother combed her hair before bed. It was more of a feeling, than a dream, but it was strong. For one night, she had slept well, with the feeling of soft hands running through her clean and conditioned hair. At the thought of it, Lauren rose a hand to touch her own hair, as it was now. It was coarse, rough, and stuck out at strange angels even though it was tightly tied back.

After she had that dream, she had left, and the rest pretty much told itself. Stumbling home to attempt to find a salvageable picture of her family, she had walked tiredly among the wreckage.

Her childhood toys were strewn carelessly around the front room. Untouched. Faded. Little more than a memory of an older, happier time. She had wandered upstairs to her parents room, where she had slipped their favorite wedding photo into her bag. Lauren was just about to leave when a slow, red, flashing light caught her attention. The phone was flashing with the eerie promise of hearing human tones through the voice mail. Unable to resist, Lauren had listened, and taken notes when the strangers tone had spoken her name with an authority that told her that there was no way this man was dead. With a slow shudder, Lauren left her parents decrepit room.

She had almost walked into her childhood bedroom, when she had heard tapping from within. Lauren froze.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

There were soft growls emanating from the back of the room. The sounds of ripping, and tearing, and snarling. And it was only then that, with a thrill of sharp fear, Lauren had distinguished the stench of decaying flesh from the smells of her dying home. And it was then that the monsters had smelt fresh, live meat.

Lauren had leaped over the banister, falling to the ground floor with an agile she didn't even know that she possessed, and had then climbed the tree in the garden. She had cut her hands as she climbed. It was an old dead thing, though it supported her slight weight, so she couldn't care less.

She glanced down. The monsters were still there, though many of them had grown bored. And the rising sun urged them away out of its piercing light. Lauren sighed with relief, and rubbed her aching thighs as she opened up the screwed up note she had made, and read it. A date was written at the top. She had lost track of passing months a long time ago, but if she had had to predict what month it was, it would be the one that she had scrawled in her unpracticed handwriting at the top of the notepad page a few hours before. It read only:

Go to police station ASAP. Meet others. A.

Well, fuck. What a literate teacher she had turned out to be. Lauren found herself smiling as she watched the last of the monsters retreat, and the sun rise over the horizon.



Midday




The sun was at its highest point as Lauren approached the police station. She was exhausted, having had no rest the previous night. She shaded her eyes with one hand as she looked ahead, and frowned at what appeared to be the police station straight ahead, and the echoing click of an empty gun. Lauren frowned and started to walk, and then to jog, and then to run forwards. Was there another person? Someone living?

Sure, she knew that anyone with a gun probably wasn't the sort of person she would normally want to get too chummy with, but this wasn't normal circumstances.

Lauren burst into the police station, looking around at the sight before her.

Well. Holy shit on a stick.

This was awkward.

Lauren looked at the array of guns before her, taking in the scene with one quick glance. Two kids. Likely brothers. A man, around her age. The older brother held a gun to the man's back. And he obviously knew how to use it. And Lauren had just burst in on this intimate scene like a bull in a china shop.

"Shit, kid. Put that down" She spoke without thought as to how her words sounded "What the hell is going on?"

It was all like some bad movie.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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When the kid started stammering like some kind of nervous fucking wreck, Briar almost felt sorry for startling the poor lad.

...Almost.

It was sort of comical. The kid was seriously tweaking out. Like he was on drugs or something. Jesus, what was his deal? What was he freaking out so much about? Christ, he needed to calm down. Briar really didn't want to deal with this kid at the moment. The kid looked too wired, and his constant stammering and twitching about and whatever wasn't doing all that much for Briar's headache. Fucking hangovers. He took another drag on his smoke, not completely listening to the kid's yammering. He exhaled, raising a hand to his temple and massaging it in an attempt to ease his cranial suffering. This kid... God. Briar was so fucking glad he didn't have any. He didn't think he'd be able to deal with them. Mouths with legs and assholes, basically. Damn kids. Always freaking out about something. If it wasn't a new toy on the market, it was the fact that a grown man was standing over them, handgun at the ready, looking down at them like they were maniacs. Kids!

He straightened up, taking another puff of his cancer stick. The kid had mentioned A, which probably meant that he wasn't alone. Well, Briar doubted that A would be out there contacting little kids to do his goddam dirty work, at least. If Briar were him, he certainly wouldn't want little barely-pubescent runts out doing business for him, or with him, as a matter of fact.

Briar glanced around for a bit, taking in the scenery for no reason other than to take his mind off of damn kid. Idly, he wondered, if the kid wasn't (in theory) by himself, who was with him-

"Make a single move fucker and I'll decorate this room with you."

Son of a bitch.

Briar sighed heavily. Dear lord, his head hurt like a motherfucker. He really, really did not want to have to deal with this situation right now. He knew he should've never left his house. He knew it. He'd gotten one email from a complete stranger, and decided to follow its directions. Where had it gotten him? A run-down police station, with a possible crack-baby and his backup, and the muzzle of a gun pressed uncomfortably into his back. This is what happens when you take orders from other people.

"Drop the handgun and kick it away, hands up," barked the gun-wielder. Briar sighed again. Did he really have to deal with this asshole? It was too early, too damn early...

He made no move to acquiesce to the new character's demands. Instead, he stood still, nonchalant as you please, until a new person burst onto the scene in a rather... ungraceful manner. To put things lightly, the entrance could have been a tad more... discreet, to say the least.

Briar turned his head slightly to examine the newcomer. It was a woman, and she looked to be around his age, too. Not bad looking for a dame, not bad looking at all. A sight for sore eyes after not seeing another human being in God-knows-how-long. "Shit, kid. Put that down," she said, and Briar couldn't resist a ghost of a smirk. "What the hell is going on?"

"I think, my fair, fair lady," he began to speak without thinking, and yet, he knew exactly what he was saying. Briar was like that. He just knew, when it came to socialization of any sort, really. "That there has been a teensy bit of a misunderstandin'. However," he paused for a moment. Jesus, this headache was making it hard to communicate. "I do believe that I have things under control. Don't fret." With that, he turned his head back to facing forward, and changed his tone, so that it would become more obvious who he was addressing then.

"First of all, before you go gettin' all trigger-happy an' shit, I do believe that we can come to a fair understandin' of these here... perplexin' events. Now, before we get down to business, let's clear some things up, shall we?" He cleared his throat for emphasis, before going on. "First and motherfuckin' foremost: I ain't droppin' my gun anywhere. An' I sure as hell ain't kickin' it, either. So, you can forget that wet dream. Second: a cigarette break, if you will." Here, he slowly moved his hand up to his mouth, took a hold of the cigarette there, and took a puff, exhaling upwards. That felt better. Replacing it, he continued to talk smoothly around it. "Third: as I was sayin', I ain't droppin' my gun, buddy. However, I would gladly have holstered it, had you been decent enough to ask me. I'm a gentleman, see. In fact, I probably would have done so if you hadn't asked me to. I would have, I really would have been happy to, but, see, you had to pull a weapon on me, when I ain't done nobody no harm here. Now where, pal, do you see any sorta sense in that action?" He waited a beat. Silence. Perfect. Christ, fuck this headache.

Briar continued: "Now then, I'm sure you're a respectable person-" As if, little bastard. "-And I'm positive you know common sense when you hear it. Am I right? Of course I am. In that case, I will be turning around now, after I slowly and ever-so-fucking politely holster the precious weapon you attempted to make me kick away in a most inefficient alternative." With that, he kept his word, and slipped his lovely Beretta into its holster, all the while mentally cursing out the schmuck that had dared to command him to part with his beautiful gun. Like hell, asshat. "And now, as I mentioned before, I will now be turning around and stepping away from you two, eh...." He searched for an appropriate word. "...companions. Now, if you would be so kind as to refrain from shooting me, that would be just peachy."

All the while spitting the foulest of profanities in his mind, he very slowly turned around, until his chest was facing the muzzle rather than his back, and his eyes caught sight of his potential aggressor. He didn't look too old, either; certainly younger than Briar himself. Jesus, kids these days.

He shrugged casually, relaxing himself further in the presence of the stranger, as if to say, "See?" Then, he took several steps to the side, away from the two (who looked to be brothers, now that he thought about it), coming to rest up against a paper-strewn desk. He pulled his cigarette from his mouth- it was pretty much done at that point. Briar cast it aside and lit a new one as his eyes scanned the other three. "I take it we're here for the same general purpose?"

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Haytham had already thought up a strategy. The man, faced with the prospect of certain death, would bend to his will, dropping the pistol and raising his hands. He'd then tell Max to stand. Now that'd be two guns trained on this stranger. From there, they'd be able to ascertain this guy's true agenda.

Flawless. You know, just like in the movies.

Imagine Haytham's surprise when the man made no move to discard his weapon. Time seemed to freeze then. Is this guy insane? Will he turn on me? ... No, that'd be illogical. Yeah, illogical for me, but for him? Haytham frowned, acutely aware of his half-clenched finger depressing the Galil's trigger. The strain was causing his hand to tremble slightly. He'd have to make a decision about pulling that trigger very soon.

Just then, a loud bang almost made that decision for him. The sound reverberated all throughout the building. Haytham winced. That clamor would alert anything in this place to their location. Not good. He flicked his eyes to the side, sneaking a peak at this newcomer. She was female. "Shit, kid. Put that down," she commanded. Haytham winced again. "What the hell is going on?"

When the stranger spoke to the newcomer, a new possibility rose into Haytham's mind. Could she be an accomplice of his? Was she armed? Instead of acknowledging her command or her question, Haytham made a nodding motion to Max with his chin. A silent "stand up". If this woman was armed, Max would have to cover her. When Max stood, he seemed to instantly grasp the situation, aiming his weapon at the newcomer like a professional. Haytham chanced a small grin as the words "Mexican standoff" bounced around in his mind. The kid was a much better shot than his older brother.

"Third: as I was sayin', I ain't droppin' my gun, buddy." Haytham frowned again, refocusing on the man whose unprotected back he had jammed his assault weapon. Shoot him, the cold, logical voice in his head instructed with an almost sensual susurration. It was the same source of logic that governed all his actions. That walked through his strategies with him. That allowed him to suss out algorithms for breaking into other people's systems. The voice of unadulterated ratiocination—bordering on instinct—that had kept him and his brother alive all this time.

Shoot him before he shoots you. Shoots Max. His trigger finger twitched, yet he hesitated. "Killing" zombies was one thing, but shooting another person? A living person with a heartbeat? Wasn't that a bit counterintuitive in this brave new world? He was going to shoot Max, the voice countered.

Again he almost applied the tiny amount of pressure necessary to activate the weapon in his hands. Again he hesitated. Was he about to shoot Max? He didn't seem to be aiming at him. "And I'm positive you know common sense when you hear it. Am I right?" Through his own internal moral turmoil, Haytham had been listening intently to what the man had been saying. The noun "common sense" had caught his attention, though the stranger kept talking.

If this guy holstered his weapon, it'd be okay not to shoot him, right? That made sense.

His logical voice remained silent as the man holstered his weapon. "In that case, I will be turning around now..." Haytham managed to exude a sort of stoic calmness, but internally he was panicking, oscillating wildly between Shoot him before he turns! and Don't shoot! Don't shoot!

Eventually, the man completed his 180, now face to face with his would-be executioner. Haytham met his eye—he always made a point to try and look people in the eye, especially people he'd just met. He could see the contempt there. The malice. The darkness. It was chilling. This person was dangerous. You could still pull the trigger.

Haytham narrowed his eyes, to which the guy responded with a casual shrug. He seemed to relax then, bleeding the tension from the situation. Unconsciously, Haytham lowered his weapon slightly, mirroring the demeanor of his counterpart, though when he noticed, he returned the rifle to its upright position. Interesting.

A few tense moments after the guy stepped aside, Haytham moved to stand beside Max. They each had their guns trained on their respective targets.

"I take it we're here for the same general purpose?" At that, Haytham raised an eyebrow, but not before Max tipped their hand. "So A sent you guys here too?!" He directed the question at the woman, lowering his weapon.

Haytham sighed. He wouldn't be so quick to trust these people.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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#, as written by Deguu
Lauren almost stumbled as she entered the building, and found one of the kids instinctively aiming his gun at her. For a moment she froze, and looked down at him, glancing to the side at the man who was also being held at gun point. The situation, in retrospect, was quite amusing. Two fully grown adults, with their lives in the hands of two kids...one of which didn't look like he had even hit puberty yet. She giggled. It may have sounded like a nervous giggle, as she rose her hands in front of her to display that she wasn't about to take a weapon from her pockets. Her bag hit the ground with a dull thump, and she grimaced as she reminded herself that her picture was in there.

As the other man, Briar, turned so that his chest was now facing the gun, she found herself raising a brow. These were kids. Sure, they obviously knew their way around a handgun, but neither of them had the guts to pull the trigger on a living breathing human being. Hell, not even she had the guts to do that. And that knowledge made her relax somewhat.

"And I'm positive you know common sense when you hear it. Am I right?"

That was the man. She smirked. Even she could hear how patronizing he sounded. Bloody men. This was all just a big testosterone induced stand off. No doubt they'd be best of friends soon, all with a beer watching the football. Well, she reasoned, that was probably what things would be like under normal circumstances.

Lauren then stepped away. She didn't think that she would be shot, and after the day she had had, she was in a reckless sort of mood. She moved to a filthy, paper strewn desk, and sat cross legged on top of it. She was in the corner now, where she could see the rest of the room around her.

And then the last cards were played. A. Lauren took her crumpled and barely legible note from her pocket and rose a brow as she was asked by younger kid if she had been sent by this 'A' character.

Lauren began to speak slowly, gently. "Right...guys...Um, this is all really pleasant. I mean, it's great to see other human beings. Like, alive for a change," She nodded to the kids who were evidently brothers, "You two are obviously siblings. It's only right that you'd be against me...us" She then glanced with a small smirk at the man, and spoke to him with her voice all but dripping sarcasm "And I apologize, kind sir, but you seem to be a bit of a down talking prick. You want to get a bullet in the brain? I don't..." She then spoke to the room in general, shrugging slightly. "Yeah, some guy 'A' asked me to come here. I wasn't sent, but things have been particularly difficult recently so I chose to come here, savvy?" She grinned "And if 'A' sent you too, then I don't think 'A' would appreciate you killing off his other contacts so early in his little game. And if you choose to kill us, anyway, I'd appreciate if you just did it. We're all in the same boat here, guys. We may as well work together"

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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"And I apologize, kind sir, but you seem to be a bit of a down talking prick." Both Haytham and Max glanced sideways at each other. Haytham was able to stifle a laugh, reducing the sensation to a mere smirk. Max, on the other hand, audibly snickered, though he brought the back of his hand against his mouth in an attempt to hide it.

Whoever this lady was, they liked her—she seemed pretty cool. Haytham's eyes flicked back to the only other male in the room, who was busy puffing his cigarette. He made a face. Second hand smoke is dangerous, don't you know? Haytham sighed again. Max was already in the process of holstering his weapon. The woman was unarmed. The dangerous man seemed content at the moment. He seemed to be the only one left who was still tense.

Slowly, he lowered his weapon, letting it hang from his side, but kept one hand on it. He'd be ready for anything. Still, if they were going to be standing around here, they might as well be strategic about it. Tentatively turning his back on the other three, Haytham waded through the overturned desks and scattered papers back to the entrance where Max had initially entered the room. He poked his head out into the hall, looking left and the right. All clear. He then closed the door and latched it.

If the zombies come, it'd be better to have them funnel in through one entrance instead of two.

Haytham had already thought of an escape route, should the need for a quick escape arise. He and Max could always follow the path they'd used to enter this place, but in reverse. Further, should that prove blocked by the infected, they were on the first floor of the police precinct building, so they could easily jump out of one of the windows. Haytham glanced at the row of windows on the opposite side of the room. Most of them looked rusted shut.

I guess that's what throwing chairs through glass panes is for, he joked to himself.

That's when another thought struck him. He walked back towards Max, standing next to him. After a moment, he sat down on the ground, the Galil on his lap. Max followed suit.

Haytham addressed the woman for the first time, purposely ignoring Ciggy—yeah, he'd nicknamed the cigarette-smoking stranger. "Hi, I'm Haytham. That's Max," he said, pointing to Max with his thumb. In response, Max smiled. "So... do you know if anyone else is coming?"

The setting changes from Area 2 to Quarantine Zone - America

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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#, as written by Zander
OOC: And, I forgot to hit the Area 2 button. Darn. I'll do that next time, bear with me.

“No one really understands, do they? Everyone always thinks they’ll be such a badass when disaster strikes. They daydream about stopping the gunman that enters a school building; they imagine fighting when everyone else cowers. They imagine being the god-damn hero. Everyone always wants to be the hero. They think they’ll be cool when disaster strikes. They think they’ll be the savior when Armageddon or apocalypse or whatever the hell you call it comes striding in, head held high like the bastard it is. They think they’ll be the one to stand up to it. That they’ll be the one to put him in his place and save the day.

“Everyone wants to be the fucking hero. They all want to be superman. The badass. The savior. Not for the reward of helping people, but for the high it brings. The eyes looking up to you, the praise, the ego boost. Everything. Everybody wants to be the hero. But, in truth, few actually live up to their fantasies. The ones that are heroes, well, they don’t sit there and fantasize about it. They know that bein’ a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t really a high-paying job. Yet it’s the dream job… people just don’t understand, do they? They don’t understand how hard it is. How much responsibility it is. How easy it is to fail. They just…they don’t understand. I don’t even think I understand. Not fully. Hey—are you listening, or are you just gonna sit there and drool?”

“Mmph…grw….hng…grrRAWrGr…”

“I know you’re in there somewhere. Go on, hun, say something.”

The creature only looked up at her, a seemingly exasperated demeanor taking over its rotten features. At least, that’s what it looked like to Allison. Who knows if they could feel anything beyond gluttonous desire, in reality. But, you can’t crush her efforts, right? This small hope at reform was all she had at the moment. Sighing, she leaned back on the roof of the old fire station and listened to the zombie’s vain attempts at reaching her. It was getting smarter, indefinitely, trying new routes to climb up to the roof, but it still failed each and every time. Allison had saw to that with her slicking the side of the building and, if worse comes to worse, with her 5 foot 6 inch long copper pipe. Never underestimate a chick with a stick. It was pretty easy to wap them on the head—maybe knock off an arm or something—if they ever got too close.

“Let’s try something…simpler. What’s your name, hun? I’m Allison,” she paused briefly, waiting for an answer she knew wouldn’t come, “Y’know, you look like a Benjamin to me. Why don’t I call you Ben Franklin? That’s a good name. An intelligent name. And, you always want to be one of the smart ones. The smart ones always cover their assess. It’s much better to be smart than strong.”

Evidently, after nearly two days of trying, the damned thing finally gave up and hobbled off. “Oh, are you leaving?” Called Allison, genuinely sad to have lost her patient. Ben was making some progress, she thought. She was getting several different noises, instead of the usual moans. She got growls, too. That was great process. Maybe the speech part of the brain was starting to re-form neurological connections or something? Maybe…? It was a long shot, but whatever kept the girl sane.

Sitting up, she took a spray can from her bag. There wasn’t anything in her bag, no gun, no food, just a little water, some empty bottles, a few assorted cans, trash, and little devices she rigged up. As much as it went against societal norms, she really did live day-to-day. There was no stockpiling. Everything she stockpiled just got re-gifted to some lost soul. It was what it was. Hell, even cats and stray dogs had joined her entourage in the past. Some still found and followed her every once in a while.

The zombie was still only a few feet away. It was slow, as most her “patients” were. Carefully sitting up on the roof, she sprayed the back of his head with the neon green paint, marking him like all the others she encountered. It didn’t like the gesture, obviously, but was soon on its way half an hour later. Once Ben Franklin had officially left her company, she scanned the surrounding street.

It WAS the fire station, wasn’t it? Hell, it’d be just like her to read it wrong and go to the wrong place and then be completely lost and let the guy down. What a failure, sometimes. Damn it all.

What did that text say? It said to go to a station and wait for a phone call. Well, there’s the first problem. Her phone almost NEVER gets service. So, she should probably be inside by a landline. Then, id all she can recall is the word “station,” there’s a million places she could narrow it down to. Fire station. Train station. Imagination station. One of the six thousand gas stations—god, she hadn’t even thought about gas stations. What was it? Shell? BP? 7-eleven? Kroger, Wal-Mart, or Target? Meijer? There were so many freakin’ gas stations! Then, it could be stationary—so a hallmark store? Isn’t there a central station somewhere? That was it. She was in the wrong place.

Great. Just great. Peachy. Lovely. Fantastic. Oh, damnation. Now she’d have to find this mysterious station. Fuck this scavenger hunt!

~~~


I can’t tell you how long she wandered around for. It was the gas stations she tried first, with no luck—of course, and then she more or less gave up and just walked aimlessly.

Eventually, though, it hit her like a dampened towel. God, did it sting. It was so fucking OBVIOUS. The police station. Obviously. Jeez.

Finally finding her way to the mentioned building, she paused at the doors, listening intently. It was quiet, but she could make out the sound of a door closing inside. A door closing? Closing? If she knew one thing about zombies, it was this: they don’t pick up after themselves. Thus, they do not close doors. They just don’t do it. So, either Ben Franklin gained a few million brain cells or there were people in there. PEOPLE. God, people. Civilians. Individuals. Humanoid creatures that didn’t enjoy devouring flesh. Well…at least, she assumed they didn’t.

Briefly, she considered shifting in reverse and hauling her ass out of there, to avoid contacting more people to disappoint, but she didn’t. Why she didn’t, she’ll never know. But, the zombie-whisperer managed a hand on the cold metallic knob, turning it gingerly like the cap of a 2 liter ready to pop. No—even more careful than that. She made almost no noise as she forced herself into the building, but it wasn’t really an attempt at stealth. Anyone with god-damn eyes would be able to see her. Sure, she wasn’t a rocket scientist—but she knew that much. It was okay, though, right? She was unarmed—well, besides her pipe—obviously not a threat of any kind, if they don’t find her pipe intimidating, and a naturally sweet-looking girl. If these people were sane, it would all be okay.

Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t worried about her safety. Nope—she was worried about their safety. People do scary, stupid shit when they’re frightened or surprised. Allison didn’t want to be the cause of any stupid moves on their part. Hell, people have accidentally shot themselves and stuff. You never underestimate how pathetically lame humans can be. Never. They’re all idiots, one way or another.

When she did happen to enter n her a-little-too-quiet-manner, it was just in time to catch the end of a sentence.

“—anyone else is coming?”

Deducing the prior part of the inquiry—at least, what she assumed it was—she raised a hand in a motionless wave. There were two younger boys, teenagers…probably underclassmen, and maybe brothers? They looked alike. Then there was an older women sitting on a desk—well, not really older per se, maybe 2 or 3 years older than Allison. Finally, there was a brute looking guy…probably, er…seemingly mimicking Elvis Presley. For not having seen too many individuals this past month, she sure found an interesting lot. Brother Bear, Koda, Glamour, and Elvis; if you want to go by her actual thoughts. Now, the trick was not to call them that to their faces. Good luck with that one, Ally.

Clearing her throat and speaking softly, “Actually, yeah… I didn’t know there were still people alive. It’s been awhile... I guess I’m a little late to the party, then? Sorry,” Offering a sweet smile, but remaining by the door, she watched the cast of this odd reality series with some level of interest and healthy caution. Only a little caution, though—if they didn’t do anything stupid in the first 15 seconds, she could relax. "Uh, did the guy call, or am I in the wrong station again?"

The setting changes from Quarantine Zone - America to Area 2

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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A was starting to worry that the survivors had chosen to go their own way when it had been a few days since the first survivor was contacted and no one had even bothered to go to near the police station.. Sure, it was a lot to swallow and a big request to ask of them, but wasn't living and a rescue enough motivation for some? A guessed not. Nevertheless he resided himself back to scanning the CCTV cameras across area 2 as he looked for any signs of life. It wasn't until a few hours later that he heaved a sigh of relief as the two youngest survivors he'd contacted managed to make it the police station and shortly after the burly looking man known as Briar arrived too.

A flicked from the public cameras to the more intimate station cameras and watched as the survivors interacted. It was frustrating not being able to speak to them easily... He was going to have to get the younger boys sat. phone's number so that would allow easy and constant communication, otherwise they were all screwed. But as A watched the young boys first encounter the man Briar, he soon found himself in a state of fear as a standoff ensued. A frantically began to hack the phone line, all the while watching the CCTV footage live stream a potential murder about to happen at the hands of a scared teenager and his brother.

As A frantically connected in with the system he caught the sight of the teacher entering the building and her presence adding to the entire tension he was able to feel from across the screen. But as A was dialing in to the station suddenly he found his connection lost and the CCTV cameras go blank. A all could see was a static screen of nothing whirring silently back at him. "Fuck!" he cursed as he remembered the power in Area 2 was shoddy at best. The power plant that supplied energy to Area 1 was actually outside the quarantine zone, but because Lassidus was such a technologically dependent city, they had two massive power plants... and the second one was within area 2 and had been compromised fairly badly, hence the power in area 2 intermittently working across different sections.

All A could do was wait and hope that when the power came back on he was going to see all the current survivors alive and well. He glanced over Area 1 and even monitored it's meeting place for it's survivors, three had made it so far, that was good and they seemed civil at least. A took his glasses off, and nervously bit his lip while he stared at the static screen and nearly jumped in triumph as the power suddenly switched back on and he was able to view the entire station again.

He took a deep breath as he watched the silent drama before him had dissipated and the group in Area 2 seemed to be calm for the moment. Nervous and on edge and even perhaps not trusting one another, but at least they were calm. It also made him more at ease when he finally saw that the last of the survivors had made it to the station. With slight hope in his chest, A quickly went about reestablishing his phone line connection and within moments was ringing the station before any more hostility could unfold.

It was a few short rings before anyone picked up. A could see they were still unsure about their choices, but when one of the survivors picked up his call he wasted no time getting down to business. "Thanks for answering." he said abruptly, "I need you to hit the loud speaker button and we can get started.. there isn't a lot of time and night is coming in the next few hours and you need to be out of that part of the suburbs..." A's voice rushed with urgency as he was put on speakerphone.

"As you've all guessed, I've contacted you all separately, but you all know the same amount of information. I can stress enough that you need to work together. I saw the situation earlier between you and the boys Briar. I also understand that this is stressful enough without you doing what I'm about to ask.. But you're all i've got and i'm all you have...." A's connection cut out for a moment, and he panicked for a moment. "Can.. Can you hear me? Good." A felt the phone become wet from the sweat on his palms... He sighed deeply and took a moment.

"Now listed... I know the boys have a satellite phone, I need you to give me the number. I'll use that to contact you further okay?" A quickly wrote down the number and stuffed it into his pants pocket and then continued with his debrief. "As you know from my earlier contact.. Paradome are behind what's happening to you... I was able to find all this out by getting into their systems, but they've wiped all their secret and private data... But they have back ups within the quarantine zone... Why I'm not 100% sure, but you can bet they'll be doing all they can to get that information back.. and that's where you come in..."

A had to take a moment to breath. Honestly, he wasn't sure if he wasn't more scared than the survivors. "You're in the greater suburbs of Lassidus which puts you closer to their forest facility, which is where you're going to need to go in the long run. But first I need you to go to 1223 Elderidge Street over in West Berridale. I know it's about a two walk over to that suburb, but that house belonged to one of the Lonsdale pharmaceutical facility's chief scientist. I can tell you with confidence if you haven't guessed already that that pharma. facility isn't on the straight and narrow. This guy, Adam Westwood, lived in the big white mansion at 1223. At his house he will have the primary access code to get into the facility.. You're going to need to get to his house and find those codes... I'll contact you when you get there... or if I see anything troubling you need to know about on the way there... you got it?"

A stretched for a moment as he received the all clear and understood by the survivors. "You're going to need one another. No more second guessing ok?" A knew his words might fall flat among them. He couldn't truly expect them to trust one another straight of the bat.. But one could hope. "Also, you really nedd to be careful out in these streets, I know for sure that Para-" A cut out for a moment as the connection jolted, "And if you run into one of those.. It's not going to be pretty... you'll be-" A kept talking all the while, assuming the survivors could hear his warnings, "I'm trying to find out what else they're doing in the entire quarantine zone.. but a lot of what I'm finding out is left over info they've forgotten to delete or what I can see on the CCTV cameras around the quarantine... So just remember... If you're travelling at night.. Try and stick to the parts of the suburbs that have the power at the time.. and when they power goes out.. stay out of the open and-"

"FUCK!" A cursed for the umpteenth time as he watched the cameras cut out. He couldn't see whether or not they completely understood him. He just hoped for his and their sake they did. As flicked through the suburban CCTV cameras he got a far off glimpse of the police station and another pang of hope and determination to keep going filled his chest as he watched the survivors leave. "Alrighty then.." he heaved in relief that they'd understood their first orders, he silently made a note to check in with them in two hours, that should be enough grace time to let them get to West Berridale and Adam Westwood's house.

A then turned his attention back to area 1, it was time they were told what they had to do next...

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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Haytham didn't notice their fifth compatriot enter until she spoke. He would have reacted, possibly hostilely, his hand easily finding the rifle in his lap, but Max's voice effectively disarmed him.

"Hi!" He returned her wave and smile with equal intensity. "I'm Max. That's Theo—er, Haytham," he said, tilting his head in Haytham's direction. "And that's..." He pointed toward the woman. "... uh... A asked her to come here."

"And that," Haytham—taking Max's favorable judgement of this latest stranger as his own—continued where Max left off, nodding toward the smoking man, "is Ciggy. He smokes because it's still cool," he said with a sarcastic wink. Nothing like a little good humor to make some friends. "If you too got the signal from the guy—A, you should probably come in and close the door. He hasn't call yet tho—"

Suddenly, a phone rang. Haytham and Max first looked toward the source of the noise—an overturned phone in the middle of the room. After identifying the source of the sound, they then looked at each other, then at the others. The boys were quite comfortable where they were, positioned strategically, with their backs to the now-closed alternative exit, facing the only remaining potential threats. It'd be up to one of the others to answer the phone.

After a few short rings, it was picked up. Who picked up the phone paled in comparison to the voice that came from it. "As you've all guessed..." Haytham squinched his eyes involuntarily. That was definitely A's voice. "I saw the situation earlier between you and the boys Briar." Haytham sighed, trying to keep a look of guilt from his face. Maybe he had been a little too quick to judge the guy, this "Briar". He looked sideways at Max, who was staring intently at the phone as if it were A himself. Max was on the ground. The other guy had a gun in his hand. Right. He did had a gun in his hand. Better safe than sorry.

"... I know the boys have a satellite phone, I need you to give me the number. I'll use that to contact you further okay?" Haytham's ears had perked up at the words "wiped," "data," and "backups," but it was the satphone comment that truly piqued his interests. A had contacted them through the satellite-enabled device earlier. Hmm. Haytham pulled the phone from his pocket, tapping the screen a few times. Ah, so that's what happened. Seems their current service provider had finally dropped them. Probably dropped service to all customers (or what remained of their customers) in the Quarantine Zone.

Haytham pursed his lips. He'd expected something like this to happen eventually. Of course Paradome would attempt to tie up any loose ends when it came to potential communications with the outside world; i.e. what they did to the internet around here. Fortunately, Haytham had a contingency: Paradome's own communications network. He'd actually had the chance to connect to it at any time, but held off. If he hooked up to their satellite network and they noticed, they'd effectively be able to track his movements through his phone... but A required some vector with which to contact them.

The pros would hopefully outweigh the potential cons.

"One sec, A," Haytham said just loud enough for his voice to reach the phone, not looking up from his task. He was busy tapping away at the device's touch screen, enabling roaming on Paradome's own satellite array. It wasn't complicated, since he'd already completed most of the heavy lifting back in the panic room. After a few short moments, he recited his new Paradome-issued number. "That's a Paradome number, so you should definitely be able to work with it... probably."

"No more second guessing ok?" Haytham stole a quick peak at Ciggy. We'll see about that. Haytham didn't have long to ponder intragroup politics though, for the conversation had moved on to more pressing issues. Haytham's hackles raised in response to A's message—or what he could comprehend of it. "And if you run into one of those..." Haytham grimaced, his thoughts immediately going to the thing that had smashed its way into his and Max's panic room. He definitely didn't want to encounter one of those. If I'm understanding this properly, he just confirmed that there are multiple... "types" of these things... Haytham chewed on his bottom lip, mind wandering. Could that be what A was talking about, or had he just misunderstood? What about those screaming things that only came out when it was dark? Were they victims of the outbreak too? "If you're travelling at night..." Haytham flinched as if slapped, biting down on his tongue to prevent an outburst. NO! It'd be a cold day in hell before he took Max out onto these streets at night. Never.

A minute later, when it became evident that they had been disconnected from A, Haytham stood, sighing heavily. Max followed suit. "So, we should probably get going, right?" Haytham looked towards the window, folding his arms. The sun was high in the sky. "If we're going to be a team now," he began, looking back at the others, "I for one would rather we not get caught out in the dark."

"Me too," Max agreed, shifting the sachet's strap slightly across his chest, rolling his shoulders. "1223 Elderidge Street... in West Berridale? Cool. My old Airsoft buddy lives around there."

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#, as written by Deguu
Lauren visibly jumped when the phone rang, just as she was about to answer Haytham's question. The ringing was picked up, and then a voice, a familiar voice issued forth from the speakers that she wasn't even aware worked. She looked around at the others as she listened to the garbled message, attempting to ignore the harsh sounds of static as A delivered his request.

So finally, they had been given their task. Their little 'mission'. Lauren smirked. It was just like the start of every post apocalyptic novel she had ever read. It was a somewhat morbid thought, but she sighed as the message came to a stuttering, painfully abrupt halt.

Lauren had noticed the way that Haytham looked at his brother at the mention of travelling at night, and decided that he was a good lad. Sensible, but perhaps his protectiveness for his brother would put him on edge, and get him in trouble. On the other hand, Max might be the same. And he was the younger brother so he might be more prone to a hasty decision. Their other companions were adults, and she hadn't seen enough to wonder what danger they might put the small group in. With a small sigh, Lauren walked to the siblings as the elder suggested that they leave. She paused, shaking her head.

"Yeah, we should head out soon...But let's see what we can get from here first. Supplies and stuff, for emergencies. Batteries, food, water...I'm not sure how long it'll take to walk to Elderidge Street, especially if we're stopping during the night. Best pack for an emergency..."

She had a voice of forcibly calm reasoning, accepting the situation without question and attempting to make the best out of it. She put her duffle on the table she had just been sat on, and glanced through it at her few belongings. Her picture was still there, and she breathed a sigh of relief as she pushed it inside a spare jacket for safety. Her food and water supplies were running low, but they might be able to replenish their stores before leaving. She glanced back up at the others as she tied her hair back away from her face, a gesture that her 'team' would soon begin to recognize as Lauren's "I mean business" preparation.

She zipped her bag back up. There was plenty of room in it for more supplies. Then, Lauren looked back at those around her, and forced a smile on her lips. "So...quick look around then that walk?" She grinned, trying to lighten the mood...or at least her mood.


OOC: Sorry for the delay, all good now though :)

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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As for what exactly happened or what exactly was said once he'd distanced himself from the two crazy barely-pubescent younglings, Briar did not know, exactly. If he'd cared to, he surely would have paid attention. But as things stood, what they did amongst themselves was not really any of his concern. It interested him what they were speaking of about as much as the five-year-old was interested in CSPAN. Rather than deign to listen to their introductions (or, what he thought were introductions; they could have been discussing the colors of the rainbow, for all he knew), he let his gaze wander about the dilapidated place, trying very hard to keep himself from whistling (he was very self-conscious about his whistling).

After some amount of time (he'd long since lost track- how long had he been in this damn place with these damn people?), a new character entered the scene. He tuned in just a bit to catch a piece of what she was like based on her words. She was a cute little thing, he had to admit, but she seemed pretty awkward. In all honesty, he was surprised she'd managed to make it three months into the end of the world. She looked rather fragile. But, then again, a couple of minors managed to make it. Who was to say some sickeningly-sweet, pretty young lass wasn't able to hold her own? Ah, he didn't believe a word he'd just thought. In any case, as quickly as his interest was piqued, he was once again disinterested with the welcoming and greeting affairs of the other somehow-survivors. He continued to content himself by glancing about at all of the upturned desks and scattered papers and other supplies. It gave Briar a sense of great satisfaction that this place had been wrecked, and wrecked badly. Fucking pigs. Lassidus's fattest. He snickered very quietly to himself in his amusement. Worthless shitheads. There were no words in the English language to describe how much Briar hated cops, and, well, he didn't know any other languages.

And then, a phone rang.

No one really moved when they heard it, although they looked somewhat surprised. Hell, he was too. He didn't know the phone lines would be working in this goddam place. Well. Who would've thought? Anyways, it rang. And rang. And rang. Didn't look like anyone would be making a move anytime soon to pick up the damn thing, so, courteous as you please, he took the liberty of picking up the phone and answering it. He put that shit on speaker and set it down on a nearby table, backing away a few steps after doing so, and taking a drag on his lovely Black Devil as he listened.

He listened to the words of the all-knowing A with rapt attention. If this information could keep him from getting killed, Briar was all fucking ears. The last thing he wanted was to end up dead because he had chosen the wrong moment to pay attention. Even though he was good with coming up with things on the fly, he was also smart enough not to play the same game with his life when he had a chance to be prepared. He'd be damned if he'd let himself end up like Eddie. Fucking Eddie.

He took short mental snippets of information. Work together- Fuck that. 1223 Elderidge Street, facility codes, Adam Westsomething- Roger. Need each other- Fuck that. Stay in zones with power, stay out of the open if there ain't none- Gotcha. Alrighty. Got the gist of things.

A eventually disconnected, something that Briar assumed had to do with this general area's sucky electronic everything. The littlest of the two brothers said something about a friend living around there. Idly, this triggered a thought to flash into his mind and vanish just as quickly: "Lives" or "Lived"? He wanted to assume it had been a slip of the tongue, but one never knew for sure in a hellhole such as Lassidus. But he seriously doubted if there were that many children still alive and kicking. Even if they had had parents, the apocalypse can oftentimes bring out the worst in people. Hell, if he'd had a kid (not that he would be so careless as to knock a broad up or anything; this was completely hypothetically speaking) he'd always just assumed that he'd have used it as zombie bait a long, long time ago. Such was the way of the world. Kids were just liabilities in times of crisis. Liabilities and unlucky sons of bitches.

Jesus Christ, he hated kids.

He tuned in in time to catch Broad Numero Uno suggesting that they search for essentials and such. It was a good idea, but a thought struck Briar once she'd said it: he had no idea what was in his own pack-o-wonders. So, curiously, he shifted the backpack off of his shoulder and unzipped it, still trying not to whistle round his cig. He set it on a desk and opened it. Surprise surprise- whiskey. Two bottles of it. He was appalled at himself. Just two? What the fuck? Grunting softly in disappointment, he shifted the carefully-placed bottles aside a bit and inspected the contents further. A pack of Black Devil. Thank Christ. A couple of sandwiches, wrapped in plastic. A banana. Idly, he wondered where the everloving fuck he got a banana from, but then he quickly moved on. A bandanna was in there, for some reason, near the bottom. Some extra ammunition was in the small pocket, and he was more or less satisfied at his loot.

Still saying nothing, he zipped his bag up once more and took Numero Uno's advice, meandering around a few desks, checking drawers and such. In one, he found a battery-powered flashlight, the long black ones that cops held weirdly. He checked it, and it worked for the most part. Beginning to hum a classic Beatles tune ever, ever-so-quietly, he slipped it into his bag and continued looking. He found a pair of handcuffs and their key, entertained himself by opening them and closing them for a minute or so, before slipping those into the small pocket of his bag as well. He was satisfied, more or less, but he wandered about the many desks and such anyways, continuing his soft tune. He was very bored, he realized. He frowned. Should've brought a deck of cards or something. Who knew it was possible for the end of the world to hit a lull?

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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Haytham looked off to the side, staring at nothing. Three things had occurred to him all at once. One, he hoped Max didn't seriously believe any of his friends had survived out there for this long. They themselves were lucky to have weathered the initial pandemic—their father had been crazy prepared, and they benefited. Not everyone was so fortunate. Two, this woman, she had a really... sweet? voice. Calming yet authoritative, like a teacher's. But she had yet to introduce herself. Neither had their latest stranger. The only other person's name he knew was Ciggy's—Briar, though that was thanks to A. Haytham chalked it up to the phone call interrupting everyone's train of thought. Three, her idea was a good one... he guessed. They could use as many supplies as possible, true, but no amount of random items would save them if they got caught out in the dark. He looked up at the woman, who was busy rummaging through her bag. An emotion he couldn't identify coursed through him like an electric shock, playing across his face. Something was wrong with this... this... everything. This world was going crazy. What was he even doing here, with these strangers?

He hadn't even learned to drive a car, yet he was holding a gun. A weapon of war, meant to take lives. He even threatened to kill a man. Kill! Hytham looked down. "Yeah... ... I guess that's a good idea." His voice sounded addled, even to his own ears. Bleh. He turned quickly, coming face to face with Max. "What?" He challenged, trying to organize his thoughts and settle his stomach. Panic had taken root in his gut, fluttering around like a swarm of gnats. He really really didn't want to get caught out in the dark, and the very possibility of it was freaking him out.

Afraid of the dark? the small logical voice in his head asked sarcastically. Isn't that a bit childish? He inhaled deeply. Trust his logical side to give him the kick in the rear he needed. He narrowed his eyes, standing up straight and taking a few steps past Max, who looked slightly confused.

"Come on, let's make this quick," he said, his confidence restored. He couldn't afford to sound weak in front of these strangers. Couldn't afford to be weak, not if he and Max are to survive. "The sooner we get out of here, the better," he muttered, looking back towards Max. "Don't just stand there, come help me with this."

Max nodded, following his brother as they started rummaging through various overturned desks.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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#, as written by Deguu
Lauren sighed as she ransacked the drawers of an old desk, the wood stinking of rot and decay. She grimaced, opening a drawer to reveal nothing but a pile of moldy papers and the stench of damp. She closed the final drawer, and looked up, looking at her companions. The boys; close, working together. Well, more or less. Lauren could see the elder one frozen, almost in shock, and she was just about to say something when he appeared to recover. Haytham was a brave lad -they both were- and she could only admire their tenacity in this fucked up world they had to cope with. They were just kids. And then there was the man, who reeked of alcohol, sweat, and cigarette smoke. Christ only knew what he thought of the situation. Then there was the girl, around her age - maybe a little younger- who she hadn't taken much notice of, who reminded her just a little of herself. Well, what a motley crew they were.

She straightened up, stowing a few cans in her duffle as she did. They weren't anything particularly impressive or desirable, just various foodstuffs that they could turn to if all else failed, like spaghetti. She hated spaghetti.

The young teacher spoke up as she zipped her bag up again, introducing herself. "Hey...I guess if we're all like together now, we should make introductions, right? You can call me what you like, but my name's Lauren."

She continued speaking as she went about looking around the rest of the room, searching drawers and cupboards with an efficiency that suggested she'd been in this same situation before. "Umm, so I grew up around here. Just around the corner, I guess. I was training to be a teacher before the outbreak and all the crap that's going on now. I was going to teach Drama and English mostly. I suppose they're not really useful skills for this now but...hey, you can always use me as bait or something?" She suggested, simply talking to fill the silence.

By the end of her little speech, she had accumulated a new knife, some matches, a looted first aid kit, and a spare change of men's clothes. It wasn't anything fancy, but she would have to make do. She stashed her new belongings in her bag, filling it up, then decided to look up and grin.

"You can't really use me as bait... I can run fast, but I don't think it's something that I'd personally excel at"

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins
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Max cringed at Lauren's bait joke. Together, he and Theo had managed to come across some interesting items: an electric lock pick, a taser, a little mini-flashlight (the type you'd see on a keychain), some Ramen Noodles, and a few old bags of peanuts.

Her joke really made him think. As Haytham quickly reintroduced himself and Max, the younger brother was stuck pondering the teacher's earlier words. What if the time came where one of them did have to act as bait for the others to survive? Who would it be?

He shuffled some papers around on the floor, hoping against hope to find another handgun... or something. Anything, really.

Who'd be the best bait? Probably him. He was definitely the fastest. Definitely the strongest. Maybe even the smartest. Max nodded to himself, looking sideways over at Haytham, who was tapping furiously on his sat-phone. Okay, maybe not the smartest. Just all around the most able. His mind wondered towards more morbid topics as he sifted through the devastated remains of the dispatch office. Sacrifice. Death. Max... he just couldn't fathom his own demise. It just wasn't possible. He couldn't see it. As long as they stayed in at night, these zombies were nothing. It was almost as easy as Call of Duty's zombie mode! ... well, at the lower levels, at least. He grinned to himself, basking in his own self-confidence and notions of invincibility.

Plus he and Haytham were working together?! These zombies won't stand a chance.

Even with all of that bravado, Max couldn't quite manage to completely dispel a sort of queasy feeling that had taken root in his lower body. The feeling began to spread after hearing A speak through the telephone, and it hadn't yet subsided. In fact, it only grew stronger as the minutes flew by. He recognized the feeling immediately: self-doubt. It was the same pre-game emotion that would assail him before he'd run out onto the field with his team during paintball competitions. The same stymieing force that tried to caution him, to get him to tone down his actions, to wait and think.

But that just wasn't Max's style. Hesitation meant the other guy shoots you before you can shoot him. He thought back to his first encounter with Briar—Ciggy, as Theo called him—not half an hour ago. He hesitated, that's how he got in such a bad spot in the first place.

Shoot first, ask questions later. That sounded a lot better. And easier.

Max gritted his teeth. Yet and still that nagging self-doubt persisted. He had to dispel it, and there was only one way to do that.

Conquer it.

Max, who had been crawling under an overturned desk, stood. He could feel Haytham's eyes on him the moment reached his full height. That didn't matter though. He had to do this.

As he once again waded through the sea of debris back toward the entrance from which he'd initially entered the room, Haytham spoke up. "Max, what are you doing?" He was speaking in his "listen to me I'm the authority figure" voice. Max never liked it when he did that, so he didn't respond. When he unlatched the door, he could hear commotion behind him. Haytham had stood as well, and was probably making his was over towards him. "Max..." he started.

Before Max could open the door, Haytham grabbed at his hand, catching him by the sleeve. "What are you doing, idiot? Are you trying to die?" Haytham scolded, his tone bitter and icy.

Max gritted his teeth again, snatching his hand from Haytham's grip. "No Theo, I'm just taking a look—"
"Latch the door," Haytham ordered.
...
"Fine, I'll do it myself."

As Haytham reached over to latch the door back, Max tried to grab his hand, but Haytham was moving too fast. Max ended up pushing Haytham's arm into the door, causing it to open slightly. It was dark in the hallway, though a light shined from the open door they had used to enter the facility earlier.

They never did close that back door behind them.

"What was that for?" Haytham asked, attempting to speak in a hushed tone so that the others wouldn't overhear them.
"Because you're acting like you're the boss when you're not!"
"Oh my... GOD. In the middle of the end of the world and you still manage to bitch about something!"
"How about you—"

From outside the door, something reached in with lightning speed, snatching Haytham's arm and pulling it towards the small opening. Both boys stopped fighting instantly, eyes on the rotting appendage that clutched Haytham's arm in a death grip. The creature on the other end moaned. Loudly. Very loudly.

That initial period of shock lasted but for a moment.

"Max!" Haytham shouted, but his brother had already brought his pistol to bear, aiming the Glock straight at the thing's face. It was trying to ram its teeth through the crack in the door to gnaw at Haytham's arm. With three quick reports, the creature was dispatched, but not before it had dug its nails into Haytham's forearm. "Fuck!" The zombie was extremely agile, and its loud moans and groans combined with the sound of gunfire seemed to have attracted more of them.

Small fast-moving groups of zombies were pouring in through the door they'd left open. Haytham heard them before he saw them—the light succinct patter of feet running upon concrete floors. They were definitely runners.

Without wasting anymore time, Haytham slammed the door shut, latching it. He could hear the banging of the creatures on the other side. It wouldn't be long until they figured out how to go around to the other entrance, like Haytham did when he got behind Briar. The boy held his arm behind his back, hoping to hide the his wound from his new compatriots. Even though it wasn't deep, it still stung. Haytham winced as he slung one of the satchels over his shoulder.

"Guys, we gotta go." He gave Max a look somewhere between you doofus, this is all your fault and are you okay? Max refused to meet his brother's eyes, instead gawking at the arm Haytham was hiding behind his back, a look of horror upon his face. "Uh. Like, now," Haytham reiterated, panic entering his voice.

Then he ran for the door behind Allison.

The setting changes from Area 2 to Quarantine Zone - America

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins Character Portrait: Kaijin No Soki
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#, as written by Soki
OOC: Sorry for my post being placed in the wrong Area, fixing now.

The setting changes from Quarantine Zone - America to Area 2

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins Character Portrait: Kaijin No Soki
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#, as written by Soki
Well his day had started out odd, usually he enjoyed a coffee and a bagel in the morning. Though his usual mornings didn't involve surviving encounters with zombies. Thus, he would have no coffee nor bagel this morn. He had received a call from A early that morning letting him know that he needed to move towards the police station post haste, or at least as quickly as he could manage. He hadn't been to far from the police station when the call came through in fact; no more then a couple of blocks, which was fortune at the last as he stayed low to the ground a knife held tightly in his right hand as he placed his left on-top of the hood of a car, peaking over it.

His eyes locking onto a small hordes of what appeared to be agile zombies, and one or two small hordes of Shamblers. already making their way into a door left wide open. "Well that was a mistake on their part.." He said keeping low to the ground as he moved off to towards the side of the police building; if anything he needed to get in there, find the survivors help them; if they needed, get out of there and somewhere safe; he just hoped. Then al the sudden his ears were ringing, and he realized his face hurt. "Damn....should have seen that coming." He said rubbing at his nose and forehead that had taken the most of the blow from the door. When his eyes could finally focus he made out a few survivors seemingly scared out of their wits and running. "Easy, where's the fire, can't you at least stop to ask the guy you bashed with the fucking door?" he joked checking ot make sure his nose was still straight, and attacked to his face. That was when he remembered the hordes on the other side of the building. "Oh right, yeah running from the dead...yeah forgot my bad; for a minute there thought the only thing I had to worry about was a nose bleed." Another bad pun from the worlds most efficient assassin. "Look I'm not a zombie, if i was i'd be rather pissed about the door; I saw you alerted quite a good amount of zeds, you've two choices, you can run like idiots and alert them more." He paused for a second to rub at his nose, which was still hurting. "Or you can follow me quietly, and I can lead us towards a safe place without alerting more zombies with heavy footsteps and gunfire." He only paused for a moment and then pointed off over his shoulder in a diagonal way. "It's two and a half blocks that way, and you can hide out there until your friends don't wanna play anymore." His ears began picking up on the groans and grunts from the zombies at the front of the police station, turning to look and making sure none were peeking around the corner. "Look, keep low, and keep up; or have fun being chased and eaten, cause I'm no ones main course" He said that and was already ducking behind cars and making his way quickly and quietly back the way he came.

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Character Portrait: Haytham Collins Character Portrait: Allison Nonelle Character Portrait: Briar Lorris Character Portrait: Maximus Collins Character Portrait: Lauren Collins Character Portrait: Kaijin No Soki
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As Haytham bum-rushed the door, with Max and what he could only hope were the others quick on his tail, there was a barely audible oof, as if someone had been punched in the stomach. Haytham, the first person out of the door, turned to see what looked like a menacingly well-toned yet affably upright zombie standing behind the door. Haytham slowed to a halt, glaring at the figure, his stare quizzical in nature. It took but a moment for his brain to catch up to his eyes.

That's not a zombie!

Max, the second person through the door behind Haytham, lay witness upon the same sight; however, where Haytham met the circumstance with caution and forethought, Max leapt immediately to action. Before Haytham could even begin to shout a warning, Max had brought his pistol to bear, aimed, and fired three shots in quick succession, straight into the man's chest—or at least he would have had Allison, the third person to emerge from the doorway, not tugged on his arm at the last second. The cacophonous reports rang out thrice into the air, safely aimed away at the sky.

Max shook off Allison's grip like the plague. "My ammo... What the hell was that for?!" He demanded, a venom in his voice, briefly taking his eyes off of his target to focus on Allison. It was for this reason that he was startled when his target spoke. "Easy, where's the fire, can't you at least stop to ask the guy you bashed with the fucking door?" Apparently, this brush with a bullet-riddled demise didn't even phase him in the slightest. Everyone just kind of stared awkwardly at everyone else until one of the others bringing up the rear of their group shouted what Haytham interpreted as "why the hell aren't we running?!"

"Oh right, yeah running from the dead...yeah forgot my bad; for a minute there thought the only thing I had to worry about was a nose bleed." Haytham couldn't tell if this guy was joking or serious. Why was he here, behind the door? What did he want? While his mind was spinning questions, he realized that his legs had begun moving again without his permission. He was about to start running, but to where he didn't know. Somewhere. Anywhere to get away from these things. Perhaps into some random yet well-lit building—

"Look, the stranger interrupted his train of thought and impending absconsion, I'm not a zombie, if i was i'd be rather pissed about the door; I saw you alerted quite a good amount of zeds, you've two choices, you can run like idiots and alert them more." Haytham gave him another quizzical look before taking a quick peek back through the door and into the police station. The zombies hadn't made it around the hall yet, but their time was running extremely thin. "Or you can follow me quietly, and I can lead us towards a safe place..."

Both Haytham and Max looked at each other, each youth recognizing the distress in the other's eyes, before glaring back at the stranger, almost as if synchronized. They didn't trust him. Why would they?

But if he was telling the truth, did they really have any better option? With panic setting in and time running out, Haytham looked toward Lauren. She was the "eldest" of the group in his eyes, and he trusted her more than any of the others—especially Briar. He gave her a questioning gaze: should we trust him for now?