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Mariam Qoreshi

A little dinitrophenol if you're feeling a little too cold; but a little too much and you'll wind up eternally cold.

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a character in “Blindsight”, as played by gafebear

Description

Mariam Qoreshi

Image


Name: Mariam Qoreshi; Mim, for some.
Gender: Female
Age: 31
Archetype: The Biologist

Personality:
If there's something to be said for Mariam, it's that she's a determined scholar. Studying was her way of life for, at least, 25 years. After that, she came to a point where she stopped learning the answers and started asking the questions. Her assistant research position is one of the things she's most grateful for in life. She has a passion for her career, for delving deeper into the inner workings of life at the most fundamental level. In that regard, she could be tagged as something of a workaholic. Surprisingly enough, her IQ is in the average number. She is no genius. Her academic achievements come from a lifetime of hard work, her grasp of concepts is all-too human and she is no decipherer of intricate puzzles, try as she might. She limits her solo work to observation, data recording, and comparison with previous studies and background information. Result analysis is best attempted in groups... except she seems to be alone in the quarantine zone.
Her absorption in matters of the workplace takes from the focus she puts into day to day life. Mim can be a ditz most of the time. You know the kind, someone who needs a friend to call her name twice before she snaps out of a train of thought, someone who was too busy remembering the steps of glycolysis and accidentally added to much sugar to her coffee, the kind of someone who needs to reread lines of a novel several times because her head wasn't completely focused on the plot. It's not like her life is drastically affected by this, she just does these kinds of things more frequently than other people. And mind you, past boyfriends have thought it cute.
Lastly, one might call her gentle. She's quite the cook and enjoys feeding other people her recipes. Mariam will lend you her ear and counsel if you're outside her workplace and if you're patient enough to forgive her losing track of the conversation at times. This gentle nature makes her an apt team member who is comfortable around new acquaintances and an absolute devout for the sharing of anecdotes (so long as her mind steers clear of the pathogenicity of picornaviruses).

Three Skill Sets:

MS in Cellular Biology: Mariam is armed with a handy BSc in Biochemistry under her sleeve, a minor in Microbiology in her backpocket and a MS in Cellular Biology as a helmet, but please, she's an expert in mitochondria and hemoglobin, don't expect her to know the first thing about astrophysics or ecology.
An ever-perseverant, studious woman, she retains these accomplishments proudly close to her heart. As one is wont to do, she's gathered a good deal of information from her years as a student and as a researcher. For example, she knows her fair share of drugs and toxins, not from ever having studied them directly, but from studying their effects on organisms. She is far from being a doctor or nurse, but she has an edge that comes from understanding biological processes and being able to come up with viable hypotheses. Problem is, she does not fundamentally understand the zombies.

Nutrition specialist: Physiology was too intertwined with diet for her not to delve into the nutrition of organisms. Plus, being knowledgeable as to what and how much to eat let her tap into her motherly side, somewhat (and she does have a soft spot in her heart for food). While not quite her zone of specialty, she knows a greater deal than most as to the nutritional requirements of mammals as well as common sources of them. It just won't do to snack on baked goods everyday if the effects are detrimental to the well-being of her body and her thought process. She hates the way donuts can make her mind more sluggish, every neuron is required in her line of work.

Drive: If Mim craves something, she will move her every resource until she finds it. This usually means the support or rejection of a given hypothesis, such as the difference in target epitopes between mouse antibodies and cow antibodies (pictured). It goes further than just pure curiosity. Her ambition for understanding fueled her whole career and has given her welcome success in most of what she's chosen to do. Ambition for nutritional perfection in her own dishes prompted her to spend an entire holiday break trying out healthier ingredients that would enhance (or at least, not affect) the flavors of her cuisine once. And let's just say she's more than a bit curious about the whole zombie scenario.

History Since December 21st 2012:

Well, see... ah, I don't really see why you need to know this.

Okay. So, I imagine you could say it was a very quiet, very serene week for me. For me and Dr. Perrin. The week of December 21st, I mean. With Christmas approaching, most of our coworkers were home for the holidays, which I was grateful for, as it'd been a particularly loud month as my lab scrambled to find grants to support our research. You can imagine why the week was of no major relevance for myself, whereas Dr. Perrin had stayed behind because he had to keep close tabs on some modified Bordetella pertussis strains. You know the kind, the bacteria that cause that horrid cough in children. They pack a punch with all those toxins, let me tell yo-

What's that?

Oh. Hah, don't be silly. Paradome may have eradicated the common cold, but I daresay that even with their success rate back then diseases were far from eradicated. I don't know the details, but I suppose Dr. Perrin was one step ahead in understanding B. pertussis' toxins but it's not like we were competing. We, our laboratory, had no affiliation to Paradome. The way I see it, they were always in the process of inventing, whereas we were in the process of demystifying the natural world. Sure, Paradome might've had their research division, but even a corporation that big cannot cover every enigma in the planet, cut one enigma in half and you get two more staring at you in the eyes. That's where small research facilities like mine came in. I, unlike Dr. Perrin, was looking into reports that claimed a species of bird presented extracellular movement of dyneins and kinesines, which, if true, could launch a whol-

Oh, quite. Sorry.

As I was saying, the week was pretty much silent for us. We spent it all in our lab's subterranean levels - it wouldn't do to have B. pertussis strains escaping our lab. They'd installed beds some years ago in the facility in case any employee had a late night of work. We were both enthralled by our respective tasks, I don't think we held a conversation longer than thirty minutes during the week. It was nice to have a quiet workspace after the previous month.

Dr. Perrin finished his data collection ahead of time and left a couple of days before me. I had a good music player to cover his absence. Now, I was to fly home to Albany for New Year's, the brother-in-law's family has this thing for getting together and watching old reruns of The Nanny in the last hours of the year. It's not my favorite show, but it's good times all around. I was ready to leave the lab, to take an undoubtedly crammed bus to my apartment, pick up my suitcase, to jump into a cab and fly home but... well... this whole mess happened.

As the elevator's doors opened on the ground floor, I was surprised by the silence. And if that's what struck me before the absolute entropy of the place, you can assume how noisy it was all the time. Carefully, I made my way to the glass doors, only to find one of those things almost waiting for me outside. It was stepping on something shiny that I recognized as Dr. Perrin's keycard. I eventually realized that's why he never warned me after he left. He lost his keycard. The initial shock of the creature's face wore off after a few seconds and it was then that I noticed two other things standing close by the first.

I was just about to retreat back into my safe, subterranean lab, when I heard the gun shots. The things went down before they managed to turn their heads, and a group of people appeared from the left, from Quadra Street. One of them locked their gaze at me first, then a gun. But it turns out that was just a precaution (a bit insulting mind you, as I looked nothing like those creatures). They heralded me out of the building and into... here. The Quarantine Zone, as people seem to call it.

It's been pretty nonchalant since then. You know, whole zombie thing aside. I lost my flight to Albany and I remained here in the hopes that they'd let me reaccess my lab as soon as it was all over.

Except, you know, it's been three months and it's still not over.

I really need to study those bird dyneins.

So begins...

Mariam Qoreshi's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi Character Portrait: Fitch Aber Character Portrait: Thomas Walton
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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. He contacted those stranded in the city of Lassidus, briefly telling them of the evil Paradome was committing and somehow convinced each individual there to make their way to the police station in downtown Lassidus. Unfortunately for them getting there was going to be a little dicey... From his surveillance camera's A could see the streets littered with the wandering, mindless bodies of infected. Once alive, they now teetered between rotting and starvation.

A instructed the city survivors to move during the day, as the infected seemed to be put off by direct sunlight. He watched apprehensively as the survivors in the city made it to the police station... Once they made it to their destination he let them meet briefly before he piggybacked the phone line to the foyer in the police station and made the call that would pit these survivors against the horrors of Paradome's power, but hopefully start them on their journey to salvation.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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"This is as far as I'll go. The police station should be three blocks straight ahead."

"This is more than enough, sweetie, thank you."

A pause. "Take care of yourself."

Hiding behind a dumpster, Mariam's brown eyes took in the pursed lips and hard look on the younger woman's face before her. She couldn't help feeling a certain tenderness in her heart. It was plain that Alyssa didn't trust Mariam to survive the journey to the police station but she had still respected her decision to go, though she did not hide her disapproval. Proud as she was, the younger woman said her final farewell with a slight nod and ran back the way they'd come, bat at the ready.

Mariam let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, and looked up for a second. The sun shone bright above her, starting its descent to the west. It'd been a day and a half since she had received an email from a suspiciously-named "A" character. Since the world had been consumed by the plague of the living dead, Mariam had been taken in by a group of three people: Alyssa, her cousin and a musician of the spiky hair and ragged clothes variety. All of them her junior, they had provided protection in exchange for her cooking ability and access to a limited source of drugs. Plus, they had found her lab to be a good hiding place, though they weren't excited about the lack of windows.

For three months they had all stuck together and gotten through many a night filled with moans and the occasional scream. Alyssa and her comrades wouldn't have been Mariam's first choice for companions during such hard times but over time she had developed a fondness for all of them, for every evening full of conversation where, slowly but surely, they learned more about each other. It had been a nice arrangement.

Had Mariam received A's email a month ago - or even a week ago - she would've ignored it. The accusations against Paradome stirred her curious spirit but had to take a backseat to her survival. Except a mere three days ago, Alyssa's cousin had been bit during a food raid. Mariam took no part in those, as she'd be more of a distraction than an asset, but she saw it as soon as they had come back. Dante's eyes were bloodshot and he was slightly pale but he retained full use of his senses. The zombie had only bitten off the distal phalanges of his ring finger before being shot in the head by the musician.

That had been enough to break them. They all knew what happened when somebody was bit. A day later, Dante's condition had worsened, despite Mariam's best attempts to clean and disinfect the wound. That was all the motivation the musician required. He bid them good luck as he packed his belongings and left. Mariam had received the email a day later while trying to get her thoughts off Dante's severely weakened vital signs. She'd showed Alyssa. Through the initial skepticism, Alyssa had decided it would be best for Mariam to go. Her knowledge was needed elsewhere and, if true, bringing down Paradome should be the top priority in anyone's list. Yet Alyssa would not accompany her. She wanted to be beside her cousin in his last moments.

-----

The woman looked down at the street before her, in anticipation she strengthened the grip on her handheld mirror. Lucky for Mim, it was downhill all the way to the police station. Then she heard it. The sound of a shopping cart being pushed down a steep slope not four streets away. In the middle of the abandoned metropolis, the sound was audible at such a distance. It had been Alyssa's own idea to distract some undead.

It was also Mim's cue to start off at a brisk walk down. Because the shopping cart had been toppled some blocks left, she kept to the right side of the street, the zombies more interested in the previous, audible metallic noise than in her quiet footsteps. She got two blocks done before the memory of the shopping cart seemingly dissipated from the zombies' memory. Little by little, heads started tilting as she slid by, their nostrils taking in the scent of a living human.

Nervous, she began to recite the enzymes of the Krebs cycle to try to calm down, an old trick of hers. Citrate synthase. She broke into a brisker walk. Aconitase. The few zombies that stood between her and the station shifted towards her, the ones she'd left behind crept closer. Isocitrate dehydrogenase. Grimy hands reached out, offering her cruel death. Alpha ketoglutarate dehydrogenase. She looked up at the sun, fervently hoping that her observations were correct, her life had never depended on it as much. Succinyl CoA synthetase. The zombie before her locked a milky eye on her as she raised her hand. Succinate dehydrogenase. The sunlight reflected off her handheld mirror. Fumarase. The zombie jerked away with an unsatisfied groan. Malate dehydrogenase. Mariam released another withheld breath and broke into a full run, taking advantage of the opening.

A had mentioned in his email that they were to meet in the police station in the middle of the day, as zombies did not seem to like direct sunlight. Mariam's observations agreed with the statement. At first, she'd been confused because she'd also noticed that the unded mainly relied on the senses of hearing and smell. A night of deep thought and strong hopefulness had helped her construct a hypothesis of sorts. Humans did not use their sense of smell as their primary way to understand the world around them, but a strong, fetid odor would be enough to offput anyone. Maybe, she'd decided, zombies barely used their eyes to hunt but direct sunlight would too strong of a stimulus. It was small, but it was a weakness. She wondered how she would protect herself when their eyes rotted away completely.

In the mean time, the mirror was as good a weapon as she could get. It helped her get to the station, at least. Tentatively, she opened the door, hoping to find the rest of the people this A character had contacted. She stood in the doorway, alone. Nervous, she began fiddling with the lock on the knob. There was no sound coming from the inside. Had it all been a joke? She began once again, Citrate syntha- a groan behind her. In her excitement to reach the station, Mariam had forgotten about the undead that were shambling her way. She shut the door before they first zombie reached her.

And she stood there. Alone. Mariam was frozen by the silence. She stood by the entrance, looking at the desks around her. There were no human voices. Nor were there any groans of death soldiers (except for the insistent one outside the door). Barely any light came in from the scarce windows, if there were any zombies inside she would be powerless so she did not go investigate the station. She set down her mirror. Mim hadn't expected to be alone.

"H-Hello?" She called out. The only response came from a more insistent, undead, knocking at the door.

Maybe she was the first one to arrive, after all. The email had been too informed, known too much to be a farce that had gotten through her junk mail. Mariam climbed onto a desk and rested her head on the wall. She would wait. Well, she had to. With the sun setting, there'd be even less of a chance for her to return to Alyssa. Citrate synthase...

An hour passed. The insistent zombie had left about forty minutes ago.

And Mariam got the fright of her life as the entrance knob began twisting crazily without opening. The fright paralyzed her again. She'd never seen a zombie try to twist open a doorknob.

"Open, you little fucker! Open!"

...Or speak, for that matter. Mim hopped off the desk and examined the entrance door. She could see a lot of movement outside, more than she'd attribute a zombie. Why weren't they coming in?

It dawned on her.

Oh.

When fiddling with the knob, she'd left it locked. Terrified by her cluelessness, a wide-eyed Mariam hurried to open. Before her stood a younger girl with a bike who seemed ready to ram through the door. And an angry mob of zombies right behind her. What a popular girl.
"Come in, come in, hurry!" Mariam told her, ready to shut the entrance as soon as the cyclist got through.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Derek heaved and put his entire body weight behind himself and barraged into the door that led into the back of the police station, falling into the door and onto his side. Derek breathed, cursing under his breath, but stood up and shook off the slight pain, quickly turning and propping the door back up so it looked as though there wasn't a hole at least. Derek readjusted his jacket and checked his kevlar vest and his knee pads - all good.

Derek looked around the dark room he was in, it was hard to tell where he was exactly, but it occurred to him just then that a rancid stench wafted about the air. Derek scrunched his nose up, but it was hardly stopping the foul odor offending him. He rummaged around in his jacket and pulled out a small flashlight, flicking it on and recoiling at the massive blood splattering across the floor and walls and the small pile of what could only be assumed were dismembered humans. "Oh fuck.." Derek cursed with disdain.

As his flashlight perused the room around him, it was obvious Derek was standing in some sort of alternate foyer, a back entrance to the police headquarters. Derek shuddered though as he stepped over a pile of human meat, hoping the station was vacated of any infected now, perhaps they'd moved on once they'd made this mess. He looked back behind him, the door he'd knocked down was leaning slightly, but the moonlight was letting a dull light glow just slightly throughout the room, the splattered blood about the walls glowed faintly causing Derek to shudder. He turned back around, and clasped the handle of the door into the next part of the building but found himself faced with another locked door.

"C'mon!" he sighed as he rattled the door hoping to loosen something within the mechanism - no luck. Derek sighed and rolled his head like a five year old as he realised he'd have to knock this one down too. He prepared himself for another fight with another door but he froze suddenly when he heard a rasping gurgle come from the darkest corner of the entrance. Turning quietly, Derek brought his flashlight up to the source of the sound and wished he didn't immediately.

In the corner stood the shredded corpse of a police officer, and the torch when it hit the zombie's eyes caused it to jerk in reaction to the glare and run across the gap tackling Derek and biting him on the left hand. "Argh! Jesus!" Derek shouted as he pulled his knees up and kicked his attacker off. The zombie landed a few feet away on the ground but was up and running back to Derek before he could stand. Another bite to his hand, and another loud curse from Derek followed by another kick left Derek heaving heavily and worried now the commotion had alerted more infected outside to the commotion going on in here.

Derek stumbled to his feet, the wound on his hand stinging, but he didn't have time to worry about another bite on his body when the actual terrifying reality was the zombie wanted to actually eat him, and on top of that, this fucker was a runner. "Since when can you asshats run?" Derek asked rhetorically. The zombie gurgled violently and ran back towards him, but this time Derek was prepared and a clenched fist stretched outwards and smacked the zombie square in the head, toppling it on it's back. Derek followed it's collapse by pulling his foot up and slamming it down on it's skull, ending the runner's life.

Derek stepped back and leaned against the wall heaving and examining his bitten hand by tucking his flash light in his mouth. "Gob damf" he hissed to himself, nearly dropping the torch from his mouth. His hand wasn't torn, but the flesh was broken enough to have a little trickled of blood from the two bite marks. Runners it seemed bit faster, were more agile, but had weaker bites than the shamblers. But they also were louder too... That's when Derek heard the moans of outside shamblers. "Damf" he hissed again. Derek pulled the torch from his mouth and prepared himself to knock down the door into the next part of the police station, but just as he was turning the torchlight reflected something from the dead police officer's body, keys! Derek pumped his fist in silent triumph as he grabbed the ring of keys from the dead runner and began to swiftly try them all in the lock.

As the shamblers stumbled in, knocking over the door Derek had previously knocked in, Derek found the right key, and burst through and locked the door behind him as the shamblers began to violently bang against it. "Piss off" Derek cursed at them as he proceeded to move cupboards across the entrance and stood vigilant as the banging and moaning eventually subsided and the shamblers lost interest.

With imminent danger out of the way, Derek cautiously staked out the police station. It was huge and surprisingly vast. Apparently an old bank, it was given to the police station when it moved to another more modern building. Derek didn't explore too much, just found his way to the main entrance foyer and then found an office to sleep in for the night until day break. Where had been, he'd seen no zombies or infected of any kind, but wasn't entirely convinced the police station was infected free...But the area he was in, was at least. As the night passed, Derek pondered the mysterious message he'd received, and mulled over who A must have been but didn't dwell too long as he pretty much passed out as the exhaustion set in.

In the morning, Derek awoke and explored the station a little more, but was met with a lot of locked doors and not a lot of courage to knock them down. So he ignored them, found a snack machine, smashed it open and resumed his exploration. Derek had sussed out the upper level of the police station, and it wasn't until he was close to the main staircase of the foyer that he realised he wasn't the only one in here anymore. He pondered how he hadn't heard anyone come in earlier but made it to the foyer just in time to see one woman opening the door to the main reception area and another woman bursting in with a bike.

The middle-eastern looking woman spoke hurriedly, "come in, com in, hurry" as the the other woman, athletic in appearance, fumbled in through the door. Derek hurried down to aid them and made it to their position in time as he flung himself against the door and barred the small horde from entering. "Jeeze! C'mon, you gotta be more careful!" he scolded. As the infected loosely banged on the door, Derek stepped back and sighed in relief. The large heavy wooden doors of the station would hold up against normal infected. He turned to see the two flustered woman, "The name's Derek... Nice to meet ya. Guess "A" sent you here too?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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The dash that Claire had made to get into the door would have made her old dry-land coach proud. Both she and the bike made it inside unscathed, thanks to the older middle-eastern lady’s opening of the door.

A tall, unshaven man quickly barred the door to the police station as Claire flew in with her bicycle. "Jeez! C’mon, you gotta be more careful!” he scolded, stepping away from the large wooden doors of the station. They seemed to be holding up well, for now.

Claire let out a sigh she hadn’t known she’d been holding in as she leaned her bike against the wall near the door. As she wiped the sweat off of her forehead, the man introduced himself.

“The name’s Derek... Nice to meet ya. Guess “A” sent you here too?”

"Yeah, and it was hell getting here." Claire blew her bangs out of her face, partially due to the length of them. (The other reason was because her stupid southern accent popped up again, and it pissed her off.) She really needed to bust out a pair of scissors or something and cut her hair. "I thought that zombies wouldn't follow during daytime, but that's clearly not the case, huh? Inconsiderate assholes, all of them." She considered taking off her swim bag and setting it down, but that would have been extremely stupid. What if she needed to make a quick getaway (again)? What if some crazy super zombie broke through the doors and started trying to maul her? All she had was a tomah- wait a minute.

Claire attempted to discreetly check her beltloops. The tomahawk she'd snagged from one of the displays was gone. Well, shit. Now all she had was an old pistol, and god knows how crappy she was with pistols. Claire was pretty sure that the gun would go off in her parka and she'd shoot through her pocket. That would really suck.

"Crap. Probably should have secured that better," Claire muttered under her breath. She then proceeded to address the other two survivors. "Anywho, I'm Claire. Nice to meet you guys. S' good to run into actual people for once. Haven't seen any since the quarantine started." Ah, yes, the start of the quarantine. Good times, that. Gotta love deserting your teammates and letting the poor guys and girls get devoured by zombies, hm?

No. Claire couldn't afford to think of that. (There was a reason she'd made for the hotel and not the woods, when she really thought about it.) Had to keep positive. Had to stay alive. Maybe redemption was the reason she'd came to the station? She bit down on the inside of her cheek, just hard enough to feel it. Frickin' conscience, making her feel like shit in front of people. Figures.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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A cursed loudly to himself, then had to take a moment to check to see if anyone had heard the commotion coming from his office. He forgot he couldn't just yell profanities at every whim when what he was doing could potentially have him killed; especially when he was doing it all at his office at the Paradome headquarters in New York. A took another deep breath, residing himself that the survivors in area 2 would be alright, even if he couldn't watch them constantly like he'd hoped; why did the god damned power have to be intermittent. He shook off some more silent cussing and went back to his other mission at hand - area 1 survivors. Luckily for A the power to area 1 in Lassidus was constant and unwavering.

A stretched and pressed a few keys and soon the internal police station cameras were allowing him to see three of the five survivors he'd contacted had made it safely inside. A flicked through the city's street cameras in the station's vicinity to see if anyone else was nearby and his heart dropped when he saw the lucky student he'd contacted Fitch was struggling hard to get to the police station. The kid was practically panicking as he ran hard through the streets as a small horde of five or so zombies ran after him. A was silently egging him on to get just a little closer, but as he saw Fitch run from one camera view to the other A saw just how feeble it was going to be for Fitch to actually make it to the police station...

The horde of zombies beating against the station's doors was sending Derek mental. He'd introduced himself, and the two women had introduced themselves back, and he was making a mental note to not forget their names. "So Claire, what do you-?" Derek was cut off as the sound of a screaming man drowned the monotone moans of the undead. "Did you hear that?" he asked in quiet poise, trying to discern if he actually heard screaming. A few minutes passed then another cry for help. "Yep, that's someone outside!" Derek exclaimed as he ran up the stairs to the upper floor and peered out the window down into the street.

A was typing furiously as he tried to intercept the phone line to the police station, but it seemed that Paradome had gone to even greater measures in the last ten or so minutes to bar incoming calls to Lassidus, A could only guess they'd figured out someone had contacted survivors in the quarantine zone... he panicked for a moment but then found the resolution to worry about whether or not he and the survivors had been found out, or if Paradome was just upping the ante for the sake of ensuring no leaks to the outside world were happening. A kept typing furiously, he was getting there, almost able to cut into Paradome's phone block and use his company cell to get a phone call into the station, he'd have to think of an excuse as to why his phone called the quarantine zone later.

Derek watched as Fitch scrambled in and out of blockades, the runners were gaining ground as Fitch began to tire. "C'mon buddy!" he nervously muttered to himself. But even from where the survivors in the station were, they could Tell Fitch wouldn't make it to them, especially with the small horde at the station doors. Derek made the decision to push open the window on the first floor and yell commands to the kid. "Hey, kid!" he yelled across the way, "There's a bus a few cars down, get in that and close the doors!" he commanded.

Derek watched as Fitch weaved in and out of cars and through some luck he managed to make it onto that bus and pull the doors closed with enough time to spare that the runners made it just a little too late and were left to aggressively attack the sides of the vehicle. Derek fist pumped in victory, but it would only be short lived. Suddenly a phone downstairs began to ring. Derek ran back down to the main foyer and found the phone that was ringing, he looked back to the girls as they accompanied him and watched as one of them picked it up...

A cleared his throat as he spoke to the woman on the other line, "I really don't have much time.. and I can see you've all seen one of the other survivors I contacted is trapped in a bus near the station..." A paused a moment as he though about his words, "I've got two things I need you all to do. The commotion the kid has caused is attracting a huge horde your way.. I can see it on the CCTV cameras around the city. I know it sounds harsh and it'll be a hard thing to do.. But you're going to have to leave him behind... There's another survivor I need to contact who you will be rendezvousing with at the Paradome Headquarters up on 72nd Street." A listened as the the man objected to leaving the kid to his fate, but cut in abruptly with an almost panicked tone, "I know it's not fair!" he snapped, "But if you don't survive the next few minutes, you're all fucked."

Derek grunted in disapproval at what he and the girls were being asked to do, then snapped back, "Well what the hell are we doing when we get to Paradome's headquarters on 72nd?" A replied fast, "There is more to that skyscraper than meets the eye... You're going to go in there and get the system hard drive in the CEO's office... that hard drive contains incriminating evidence, i'm sure of it..." Derek was about to rebut A again on leaving the kid behind when suddenly the phone conversation was cut short as a bus plowed through the station wall and forced the girls and Derek to fall to the ground.

A watched in horror from the silent footage as his phone call was cut off and the bus plowed the side of the police station. Fitch had panicked it seemed. The keys in the bus were still there, and he'd formulated his own plan of escape and put it to motion when one of the runners broke the glass doors onto the bus. Slamming his foot down he roared down the hill the bus was on with enough momentum and speed to completely break through the station's thick walls, but ultimately that move was Fitch's downfall. As the bus breached the station's wall, it crumpled and his leg's were caught between the hood and his seat. The doors to the bus were jarred open and the shamblers had no trouble accessing the poor boy.

Derek was quick to his feet and able to watch in pained horror as Fitch was set upon by shamblers as the dust began to clear. But what was more urgent was the fact not all of them were distracted by Fitch's body and screams and were able to fumble into the foyer and began to make their way towards the three survivors in the group. Without a moment of hesitation Derek helped the girls from the floor and looked at them sternly followed with a grim "we've gotta go!".

He led them through the station quickly and to the back door he'd locked earlier and cursed himself silently as he saw the cupboards he'd used to bar it were still upright. He moved quickly to move them, asking Mariam and Claire for help to make the job easier. They'd just gotten the cupboards removed when the first zombie reared its head around the corner. "Shit." Derek cursed silently. He fumbled for the lock on the door and pushed it open and let the girls run through before slamming it shut and quickly moving a nearby visitors bench in front of it to bar it again. "This won't hold em!" Derek shouted as he motioned towards the smashed exit he'd used to get in last night. Luckily the infected that had been chasing him had gone.

As the three exited the police station and left it behind, only pausing a few blocks later when they were sure they were safe, did Derek speak again. He didn't want to focus on the poor kid they had to leave behind... "What do we do now? Go to Paradome's headquarters?"

A's heart raced as he flicked here and there through area 1 cameras and almost cried with relief when he saw the three survivors a god ways from the police station. It was unfortunate the poor boy Fitch lost his life.. But reality was, there was going to be more heartache before anything was to get better.

A stood up for a moment and cleared his head, and a sudden scary realization set in. He'd used his company cell to contact the area 1 survivors... and Paradome had set up phone blocks almost immediately after he'd contacted the area 2 survivors... It wouldn't take more than a few minutes for them to realize it was him who was making calls into the quarantine zone, and if they found out why, he was in big trouble..

The setting changes from Area 1 to Quarantine Zone - America

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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OOC: Oh, shoot, my turn to forget to select "Area 1." Sorry!


Mariam Qoreshi had never been one for extreme sports but the way her heart had dropped in the last fifteen minutes had made her feel as if she'd gone bungee jumping.

The adrenaline had come first with a hint of bright undertones. The woman she'd opened the door for, Claire, had made it into the station safely and a man, Derek, had come from the shadows within and had all but eased Mim's worried heart. The A person had not been lying. She wasn't alone, and, compared to her, these people looked ready to take on the world. Claire even owned a pistol. Mariam's face had imperceptibly blushed. All she had were those vials in her pouch, her mirrors and a small kitchen knife, yet all would be well because they were to be joined by more people and they would get to the root of the shamblers' existence.

Then came the uncertainty. The screams for help. Their peeping out the window to see a young man, a boy by her standards, making his way to the station... he was so close yet so far. The walking corpses were after him. Then she'd seen a couple of those corpses running. Running after the boy. Granted, at this stage there was still some excitement in her but it was exponentially being replaced by dread. Dread and worry. Then a shaky feeling of calm, Derek had thought fast and directed the boy to a bus. It was awful, but it was safe for the moment.

Alarm came after. The phone had scared the wits out of her soul. But maybe it was another of the survivors. Mariam wanted the brief feeling of safety from before to settle within her again so she'd picked up the phone. It had been A. That had been a lot better; she already trusted their invisible friend. But he did not bring happy tidings. Paradome headquarters, 72nd street, skyscraper, CEO office, hard drive... she made mental notes of everything being said into her ear. She wanted to argue against leaving the boy behind. She couldn't find her voice. Her hands were shaking. It was all she could do to not drop the phone.

Except she did when the bus had rammed into the station. The scared-out-of-her-wits phase began then. Zombies coming after them, no more survivors coming their way, being pushed to the floor, running from room to room and leaving the police station. The police station. A building that stood for justice and security, where incidents such as cannibalism and a young man's death were persecuted. How had the world turned around so utterly? The boy had lost his life. They'd been close to losing theirs. Still were.

Tears welled in Mim's eyes but she could still make out the sun's position in the sky and the length of their shadows. "It should be approaching one PM now," she managed to prevent her voice form wavering, "We have enough sunlight to get to 72nd." She spoke as quietly as she thought prudent. There were no zombies in the immediate vicinity, they had all probably drifted to the other side of the building following the bus commotion. The bus... that poor boy. That gave them a running start, but who was to say how may zombies would stand between them and Paradome's HQ? How many runners?

The thought of the runners brought back her feeling of dread. Shamblers she did not understand. Runners she found exceedingly difficult to accept. Where did they get the energy for all that running? Sure, they ate flesh, but zombies she had observed didn't have fresh blood pumping through their system; how did runners get oxygen to their cells without hemoglobin? Without oxygen, their electron transport chain would lack a final electron acceptor and it would get stuck, unable to release H+ protons out of the mitochondiral matrix which would render their ATP synthase completely useless! No oxygen, no adenosine triphosphate, no energy for speeds ten times that of the run-of-the-mill zombie. The forsaken things didn't even seem to breathe!

Mim had never been one for swearing but then again she had never felt that frustrated. She wiped the tears that had built up and surprised even herself when she was the one to take the first step towards 72nd street, mirror at the ready.

After she made sure any trace of her tears was merely molecular in size, she turned to Derek and Claire. Mariam offered them a smile despite the whirlwind in her head. They might've lost the boy before even meeting him, but in the end she still was with survivors as promised.

"I, uh, some people used to call me Mim before the mess. I'm a scientist, a cellular biologist; specifically, I mean. My absolute guiltiest pleasure used to be 90s boybands and home used to be in Albany, New York." She spoke quietly, but made sure they listened to her. "How about you two?"

A glimmer of light hit her eye. For a second she thought someone was using a mirror against her, not so. When her eyes adjusted to the sudden light, it dawned on her. Crud. The group found themselves staring at the river Styx some blocks away, smack in the middle of their way. With the bridges clogged with car collisions and shamblers, she hadn't the slightest idea of how they were going to cross. She realized, there was still way to go before the bungee rope stretched all the way.

Except at the end of a bungee jump you're supposed to be safe. Suspended and upside down but safe. Mariam looked onwards, the back of her mind assuring her that she'd chosen the bungee jump. Reassuring her that she had not just plunged headfirst into a dark chasm without a security rope.

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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OOC: Oops. Blonde moment! My turn to not put in the right place.

When life gives you lemons, you're not supposed to cry about it. When life gives you zombies, though, you can't exactly make zombie-aid out of them. So by this point, Claire was sick and tired of sucking it up and being a big girl. She was practically on the brink of either tears or maniacal laughter.

Neither were good options.

Everything had been fine until that boy showed up. The other two survivors seemed in fine enough condition, and she herself wasn't doing terrible. Claire had watched out the bottom window with the older woman as Derek directed the poor kid to a bus. (It wasn't the fact that they couldn't get to him that bothered her the most: the running zombies were. That was just frickin' insane.) Claire had been hopeful for him. The bus had been a safe enough place at the moment, and he seemed like the kind of kid who could wriggle out of anything, really.

The telephone had startled Claire, and the other lady had picked it up instead. A's message this time sounded hasty and a little scared. What did he have to be scared about? He wasn't the one surrounded by flesh-eating zombies, with two other people with you, now was he? He was the one with all the info. Claire had made some protestations, too, along with Derek when A had told them to leave the kid behind. (And look where that had gotten them, hmmmm? One down already and all on her watch.)

The bus. The bus that crashed into the building. Zombies, zombies everywhere. Derek, telling them to get out of there. Actually clamoring out of the building, throwing all manner of things out of the way. Running away from the building, stopping after what felt like forever. (Poor bike.)

God, but she felt like hell, death, etc.

"It should be approaching one P.M. now," the older lady said, keeping the jitters out of her voice. "We have enough sunlight to get to 72nd."

72nd. The building where they were supposed to pick up the other survivor, in theory. Paradome's HQ on this side of the river. Okay. That was doable. That was concrete. They had plenty of time, unless Paradome had control over the weather here too. (Hell, that was less likely than zombies at this point.)

Claire shook her head. Too much. Waaay too much. No more. She didn't want to start screaming. Deep breaths. Remain calm. Remember what the shrink told you. Don't let the others see that you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown. (She was certainly due for one, that's for sure.) It took a minute, but Claire calmed herself down enough to talk.

"I, uh, some people used to call me Mim before the mess. I'm a scientist, a cellular biologist; specifically, I mean. My absolute guiltiest pleasure used to be 90s boybands and home used to be in Albany, New York."   The older lady's eyes were still slightly red from old tears, but there was a smile on her face. A hopeful smile, perhaps. "How about you two?"

Mim, huh. Like the ancient queen of the dragons from that graphic novel series Abigail loved.
Oops. She'd said that out loud. Oh well. Damn bad habits.

"Anyhow... I swim. Or, used to swim, really. Competitively. Last meet was right over the river. Good complex. Cold water, clean locker rooms, sturdy blocks. That kinda stuff." Claire pointed in the direction of the clogged bridge. "I lived outside of OKC on about one hundred acres. Nice place. Lots of deer and animals. Even had our own little shooting range." She bit her lip. Her family... were they okay? Claire took another deep breath. They were fine. Keep a brave face and a stiff upper lip. Gotta stay calm for Mim and Derek. Right. Okay.

"So, yeah. We should prolly head towards 72nd. I'm not very familiar with this part of the country, so I don't know when the sun sets this time of year. I've basically holed up in the museum this entire time, so I hope you two know where we're going!"

She really should have kept that map.

The setting changes from Quarantine Zone - America to Area 1

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Derek smiled weakly at Mariam as she introduced herself and told he and the other woman about her background. He wondered how a woman who seemed so likable and soft had made it this far so long. Derek silently shrugged as he internally thought about his new comrades and nodded and smiled again when Claire introduced herself too. "Like I said before" he said breaking the brief silence after Claire finished talking, "Names Derek... And I actually lived just across the river.." He said pointing across the Styx. "But I came over here by chance and got stuck when one of the three bridges that goes back over, the one that happened to be closest to my apartment actually, collapsed..."

Derek stretched his arms and felt the autumn sun warm his face. "I'm glad we survived.." he said honestly, "But we can't really afford to stand around can we?" He looked to Mariam, "I hope you're right about the daylight we have left... I don't know how much you guys have seen, but those runners and shamblers aren't the only things kicking around this part of town in particular..." Derek's face went gaunt... "They only come out at night... but still... I think dark buildings are good enough for them during the day... have you seen any?" Derek shuddered, "count yourself lucky if you haven't... they're bloody off-putting and scary".

Derek turned on his heel and began to walk away from the river as the two followed. "I think we need to take a right next, that should be the quickest way.." As the group turned right and began to walk down another street, Derek heaved in relief as the street was empty too. "Anyway.. I was talking about these... these.. uh, screamers.." Derek put his hands up as if to show he didn't know what to call them. "They're really tall zombies... Like... unnaturally tall" he said putting his hands outstretched above his head, "And they're pretty much...well, they scream... constantly if they see you. It's like whatever is turning people into zombies, went a step further and forced their body to grow more... They looked all stretched out, really gaunt and they just.. scream." Derek shook himself off.

The group turned another corner, this time faced with a collapsed building marring their passage. "Damn it" Derek hissed, his trail of thought being cut off. "We need to go this way..." He looked to Claire, "I'm guessing you won't know much about the city since you're not from here would you?" He then looked to Mariam, "What about you Mim? Do you mind if I call you Mim?" Derek smiled, "Do you know another way into the city center?" Derek looked back behind them, then his heart sank as he saw a small horde shuffling into the street behind them. "Shit!" Derek hissed for a second time, "Quick into the building then we can talk!"

Derek and the girls shuffled into a nearby building, some sort of office tower of some description that sat close to the Styx, it can't have been particularly big, but it was a couple of stories at least. "I.. Uh.. we.." Derek couldn't think, he suddenly felt his stomach lurch and realised he hadn't eaten in a long time. "We need to uh.. get out of here, any ideas?" Derek peeked out the window of the building at the bottom floor and saw more zombies shambling into the blocked off street, luckily it seemed they hadn't seen them, but there was no way to get out onto the street.

Derek looked around them, this building was dark... "I can only think of going up and over the roof tops.. but I'm open to anything? Let's just do it fast!"

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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God, Claire hated the feeling of being trapped. The situation they were in wasn't much different from Claire's a few months back. December came washing over her, a tidal wave of emotions, mostly guilt.

She wasn't the same as back then, dammit! They were going to get out of there, and alive. They had to. They would....

"If we go up on the rooftops and something follows us up there we're basically fucked," Claire found herself saying in response to Derek. Her voice was wavering, trying to keep in control. Talking fast, she tried to make sense of the situation. "The only way from there is down, so if we get trapped it's either broken necks or the Alamo. We can't exactly go through the street, tho', 'cause that's instant suicide. So the roof's the best idea...."

It was waaaaay too cliche to work. The daring heroes somehow find their way out of a sticky situation by thinking on their feet. Totally shitty zombie movie material. Next, all the people who had sex with other people present would die a horrible, drawn out, agonizing death. Or the zombies would actually start saying 'braaaaaaaains'. Complete and utter bullshit.

See? This is what happens when you spend too much time on your own. The lightbulb in the attic goes poof! Breaststroking zombies! Everywhere you lo-

wait.

Lightbulb. Bingo.

"Everybody up! Let's go, people, I have an idea!" Claire looked around frantically for a stairwell of sorts, but everything was shrouded in a cloud of black. Strange, for being midafternoon. Oh well. She whipped her backpack around to her front, feeling around in the front zipper pocket. "C'mon, where are you... Got it!"

Of all the things Claire had with her at the swim meet, one of the only things she had left was her backlit GBA SP (adapted to take triple-a's, thank you!) Fixing her bag, she pointed the device towards the darkness and turned on tentatively.

In an extremely anticlimactic moment, the stairwell was revealed, and no zombies. Go figure.

"Okay. I have a plan. We're gonna go up to the roof, and I'm gonna shoot out a far away streetlight. Then we're gonna run like hell across the rooftops in the direction of the city center while the zombies are stupified by sparks and broken glass. Sound good? Great. I'll go first up the stairs. I've got the light. Mim, you go second. Don't want you to have to duke it out with a stray zombie. Derek, can you bring up the rear? You fend off any of the little bastards that get any ideas."

With that battle plan said, the trio moved cautiously towards and up the stairwell. The first flight was fine, but the second flight of stairs had scattered office equipment all over it. "Watch your step, guys-!"

Claire was never good with watching her step. About halfway up the second flight, she tripped violently up the stairs, a red stapler being the culprit. "Shit!" she hissed. Her fall had caused a lot of noise. They needed to be more careful. They could attract all sorts of baddies this way.

SCREEEEEEEEEEEECH! Something below them was pissed.

Well, shit. "RUN!"

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mykeisha Persaud-Hearns Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Derek followed in a stern silence as he mulled over what Claire had said. They really didn't have any options and unfortunately their best option wasn't even ok by anyone's standards. Derek took the rear as they ascended and his nerves grew increasingly frail as he realised the extent of the darkness surrounding the them in this building. Derek watched as the women climbed higher and had to make an effort to open his eyes more so what little light was trickling through this boarded up building was useful. Derek stumbled for a moment and regain himself in time to prevent any loud noises; but he stopped for a moment and let the silence fill the air as he swore he could hear a car pulling up from down the street. It was faint, that was for sure. But Derek could have sworn he heard a car. They were only on the second flight of the stairwell in here any way.. And these stairs were open planned it seemed, always opening up onto a sort of landing before circling to go back up.

Derek's intense listening exercise was cut short when Claire seemed to trip up the stairs, a little punching sound and a click gave away the culprit as a stapler. A short whispered "shit!" hissed downwards as Claire regained composure and Derek froze solid as he prepared himself for something bad to happen. But as a few moments passed her took a deep breath in and almost screamed when a high pitched screech echoed from the floor. It sounded as though it was coming from the bottom floor, perhaps in one of the office rooms that had a door closed?

Derek's breath was released as Claire yelled a definitive "RUN!" and Derek wasted no time in following orders. Looking behind him he made sure to keep the rear clear as the girl run upwards, something was bound to be hard for all of them after they'd just escaped the police station not long ago by running.

A loud bang clattered throughout the building as it became apparent it wasn't as empty as it first seemed. The darkness had been hiding shamblers in the offices about the floors. The loud screaming that echoed again, almost piercing Derek's ears was just a single flight of stairs down. As Derek turned onto the third flight landing he was tackled by an incredibly tall zombie and found himself and the attacker being plunged over the side of the landing and falling through the third story glass and out onto the street.

The screamer hit the ground first and Derek landed -somewhat safely- on it's body. His muscular frame was enough to crush the creature and cause it pain, but not enough to actually stop it. It flung itself out from under Derek and began to writhe in agony as the sunlight seemed to be causing it pain. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Derek yelled as the Screamer writhed and roared about the ground. It's gangly deformed body was a hideous sight in daylight.

The screamer was beginning to attract the shamblers. Derek looked around the street, his hands clasping his ears tight. The scream was incapacitating and Claire and Mariam were, as far as he knew, inside the building too climbing to the top hopefully. The stupid thing wasn't making any attempts to move to cover, it seemed it would rather writhe in pain from the sun's blinding effect and alert everything in existence to it's pain.

As Derek knelt to his knees, he saw a woman approaching with a wrench, making her way past the small horde that was coming closer. "HIT THE THING OVER THE HEAD!" Derek yelled as he the screamer deafened him. As the monster was put to rest Derek, still deafened by the screamer yelled to his saviour, "Thank you! Come this way!" as he yanked on her hand and made a mad dash back into the building, pulling the girl behind him, "Our only way out is up!" he yelled. Derek supposed subtlety now was gone, so yelling wasn't going to give away what already was.

Derek dragged the woman up the stairs, all the while growing nervous as they never saw Mariam or Claire... Had they made it to the roof without hassle or had they been dragged to the depths of the building while he and this stranger had been in the street? Derek let go of her hand and hoped she would follow him in his crazed state and began to hit and kick the shamblers that attempted to block their passage up out of the way.

As Derek and the stranger reached the last flight of stairs he felt his hearing sort of come back and his spine shivered with a chill as a shrieking echoed upwards from below. Another screamer was in the building; he probably hadn't heard it from the deafening he'd received from the first one. He reached the door and was met with nothing but panic when he went to push it open and found it barred from the other side. "HEY! It'S DEREK! MARIAM? CLAIRE? ARE YOU OUT THERE? LET US OUT!" Derek could only hope the girls had made it to the top before he and this stranger had and barred the door, otherwise he'd doomed them all.

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mykeisha Persaud-Hearns Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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The screams, even three floors away, were thunders of anguish in her ears. Mim buried her eyes in her hijab, the darkness of the closet granting the emptiest hug she had ever felt. First the young man in the station and now Derek. Her previous group had torn apart too suddenly, a mere couple of days ago. Two deaths in one day were painful enough as it was, but with the scar of the people she'd left behind so recent, these came as salt to the wound. Claire's presence beside her was comforting, at least, a warm beacon in a cold storm.

When the screamer had pushed itself, along with Derek, out the window, it had attracted the attention of most shamblers on the floor. Claire and Mariam barely had enough time to make themselves scarce as the zombies staggered towards them. And making themselves scarce had meant hiding in the nearest door they could find. A janitorial closet. Some zombies had seen them hide and had pounded on the door for a few seconds yet the sound of the thing shrieking outside the building had proven a greater distraction. They were left alone after a few terrifying seconds. Mariam's breath was still accelerated.

Silence. Mim looked up. Warm eyes met Claire's own. Her head felt as if she had met peace for the first time. Like the rush of cold water on her skin after burning herself with a Bunsen burner. With what little newfound piece of mind they had, the women looked around the closet. Sunlight streamed in from a dirty windowpane lighting up the utter featurelessness of their tiny safe haven. A bucket and a mop on the corner, a dangling keychain, cleaning supplies with faded labels, new lightbulbs, a firevextinguisher and an unshakeable feeling that they hadn't been the first people to hide in that very room.

"What should we do?" Mim asked in a careful whisper. She liked certainty and there was none to speak of at the moment. Her left hand brushed against her pouch.

That's when they heard them. Foot steps. Heavy ones. Going-up-stairs ones. The women shared another stare. "Derek?" She heard herself whisper. It sounded like he wasn't alone either. Could it really be him? At the very least, the people were going up the stairs. There was that.

Her uncertainty dissipated but not the way she would've liked it to. More screams. Except this time her ears didn't just about bleed; it was definitely Derek. Not to mention a couple of flights of stairs above them.

"HEY! It'S DEREK! MARIAM? CLAIRE? ARE YOU OUT THERE? LET US OUT!"

"Let him out from where?" (Us?) As she asked the question, her eyes fell on the keys hanging on the wall. The answer flowed into her head like a needle through soft fabric. "Aren't roof doors usually locked?" Miriam grabbed for the keys, over them the words "Service doors" were sloppily written over old masking tape. She threw the keychain to Claire as she lurched for another item. It wasn't light of weight.

She shot a last look at Claire, and it seemed to Mim that she understood what she planned on doing. They shared a nod and Mariam burst out the janitorial closet, extinguisher in hand. Good grief it was heavy. She locked on her first shambler, a grown man, and pulled the trigger. It stumbled back and fell.

The good news was that the extinguisher was potent and still functional and brought her memories of lighting stuff on fire during her undergrad. The terrible news was that, as she triggered the extinguisher, another dreadful shriek rang out. On the floor right below them.

"Claire, hurry on up with the keys, I'll cover the rear." Pause, "Go!"

Truthfully, she would've liked it better to have Claire by her side but the extinguisher was just so heavy. Derek might need the help right away and, though it embarrassed her a little in front of a competitive athlete, she was slowed down by the big red can normally used to treat fires.

Alone, with the screams coming ever closer, Mariam felt the release of epinephrine in her body, the release of glucose from her liver, the fermentation of pyruvate in her muscle cells... she sped up considerably, taking in mind she wasn't a young woman anymore, that she was climbing flights of stairs backwards while carrying a heavy container. Some shamblers came after her but she had the upper hand - literally. Even a single shambler stumbling back took down others as it fell down the stairs.

The upper floors didn't seem to be populated by zombies. If Mariam had to guess, she'd say it'd be because some had found their way out windows whereas those on bottom floors weren't keen on going up stairs without bait. Now she was the bait.

Minutes later, she backed up into a person. Mim's irises flashed with alarm as she failed to recognize the person until she saw Derek through her peripheral vision. A sense of relief threatened her. Except the door behind them was still locked. Likely because there had been way too many keys in the keychain. Shamblers gathered before them. Mariam set the fire extinguisher's contents loose on them. They had to get out. More were coming their way.

The shriek came again. It was so close. Mariam covered her ears.

Several clangs rang out as the extinguisher fell down the stairs.

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mykeisha Persaud-Hearns Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Running up multiple flights of stairs would be really good exercise, if Claire wasn’t trying to escape from a couple of screamers and the horde of ‘normal’ zombies. (It really wasn’t good that she was beginning to think of the shamblers as normal.)

She’d yelled when Derek had been tackled out the window by the screamer. Two down, two to go, right? It was going to be her or Mariam next, and that couldn’t happen. She had to protect the older woman. Her screams and that of the screamer’s had caused the shamblers to, well, shamble up the stairs. The two women had had to scramble into a temporary safe haven: a cramped janitor’s closet. Blergh.

Claire’s fraying nerves weren’t helped by the pounding on the doors or the cramped space of the closet. She was biting down on her lip almost to the point of blood. Claire looked over at Mariam.

For some reason, that short look reassured her. Hell, if this lady wasn't flipping her lid, she could keep it under control til they got to a safer point. Claire half-smiled at Mariam and nodded, eyes scanning the room. There wasn't much, aside from a fire extinguisher and a keychain with a gazillion keys.

"What should we do?" Mariam whispered to her.

"I..." Eloquent to the last. That's Claire for you.

The sound of heavy footsteps (male's, by the sound of it) and a pair of lighter ones (a female's, of course) going up the stairs startled Claire. She jolted. They weren't an animal's and were too even to be a zombie's. "Derek?" Mariam whispered again.

God, she hoped so.

"HEY! IT'S DEREK! MARIAM? CLAIRE? ARE YOU THERE? LET US OUT!"

"The hell?" They must've thought that Claire and Mim were already out.

"Aren't roof doors usually locked?" Mim asked, then tossed the set of keys to Claire as she picked up the fire extinguisher. They shared another look, and Claire understood what she had to do. She didn't like it, but whatever. It's not like she had any plans anyways.

The fire extinguisher still worked, though. Mim took out a grown zombie with the spray, but it managed to alert a screamer on the floor below them. Not good at all. Claire'd lost her only melee weapon, and she was shit with a pistol. If it came down to it, hand-to-hand combat was her best option- and she didn't like those odds.

"Claire, hurry on up with the keys, I'll cover the rear." Mariam had a look in her eyes that said 'I'll be fine, don't worry." Claire rarely liked that look. "But-"

"Go!"

Claire bit her lip again and sprinted as fast as she could with the keys upstairs. She hated splitting up, but there were people upstairs that needed her help, and she'd be damned if they wouldn't get it.

"Note to self- do not suggest to the trainer about running up and down stairs," Claire panted as she finally hit the last flight. Derek and another woman with a wrench were pounding on the door in an attempt to get out. "Outta my way, guys, I've got keys!"

Fat lot of good those did her, though. There had to be at least fifty keys on that damn keyring, and they kept slipping out of her hands! Claire was about to go ballistic, she was so pissed. She'd only gotten through about half the keys when Mim backed into Derek with a slight squeak of alarm.

"Doin' the best I can, guys!" Claire said, putting in another key. The shamblers kept coming, and the others were doing their level best to keep the bastards away from the door.

And then the screamer sounded again.

A few things happened in quick succession. Mariam dropped the fire extinguisher and it rolled down the stairs with a clanging noise. Claire proceded to accidentally break a key in the keyhole.

...

Oh, this was going to get ugly quick.

"GRAAAAAAAH!" The keys fell to the ground as Claire angrily slammed her left shoulder into the door. The poor door was no match for Claire's brutal beating, and with a final smack the lock broke and the door flew open.

Claire fell to the ground, her shoulder in flaring pain. Gritting her teeth, she managed to get out a few words. "Everybody out! Hurry up!" She struggled to get up, the others pouring out of the building. Anytine her arm touched something, it burst into a blossom of pain. She managed to get out of the way in time for the door to be pushed closed somehow. She'd hit it hard, so it was barely standing anymore. Fuck.

"Well, we're in a pickle, huh?" Claire tried to laugh, but it ended up in a gasp of pain. She'd dislocated her shoulder again. Dammit! Things just kept getting worse. There was no way she could get across the rooftops like this, without causing further injury to herself. Not to mention her aim would be even worse in this condition. "Anybody know how to relocate a shoulder?"

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mykeisha Persaud-Hearns Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Derek was beating profusely against the locked door. "Jesus girls, come one! We're gonna-" His pleas for help were cut short and left Derek stunned as Claire pushed past and puffed "Outta my way, guys, I've got keys!" Derek backed to the wall and let Claire do her thing while it suddenly occurred to him that Mariam wasn't nearby. Over the blood curdling sounds suddenly Derek heard the schffff of something being sprayed and looked down the stair well to see Mariam methodically spraying the zombies and causing them confusion as she slowly made her way up stairs.

Derek trusted for the moment Mariam knew what she was doing and turned his focus back onto Claire, she wasn't having much luck and the situation was more than life or death as he heard Claire mumble "I'm doing my best". "Do better!" Derek yelled in earnest as suddenly Claire abandoned all hope of unlocking the door and started throwing herself against the door violently. "I coulda done that!" Derek shouted as he pulled his leg up and kicked once, helping Claire's weight shift the door and break the lock, swinging it open and sending Claire out and on to the ground.

Derek acted quickly, grabbing Mykeisha and pushing her out, turning around and grabbing Mariam second, shoving her onto the roof top and quickly turning around when a shambler bit down on his hand to kick it in the face and topple some of them coming up. Derek burst out into the sunlight and turned around slamming the door on a shambler's face. He held his weight against the door as the horde began to push against his weight. "Damn it, I just want a break." he hissed as he scanned around him quickly to find some way to bar the door.

As the adrenaline took hold, Derek suddenly moved in to action all in a few seconds. There was some sort of steel piping running up the side of the door and Derek worked a plan out within seconds. Shoving his weight back against the door suddenly he managed to create a few seconds where the zombies were pushed back long enough for Derek to use his strength to actually bend the steel on angle enough that it jarred the door and gave them a few seconds respite as they searched for a way down.

As Derek backed away and turned around he came upon Claire on the ground and her shoulder nicely jarred out of it's socket. "Anybody know how to relocate a shoulder?" She said jokingly. Derek hesitated for a moment, in actual fact, he knew very well how to pop a dislocation back in for shoulders, knees and wrists. But it could bring up questions with the others that he didn't want to have to answer. It was only a few seconds while Derek contemplated his move and decided these people knew nothing about him but his name.

Acting fast Derek grunted, "Get out of the way, we don't have time to mess around." Derek approached Claire and pushed her good shoulder down to the ground so she was laying flat. He put his knee over her chest, it wasn't orthodox, but he didn't have time to muck around with her possibly fighting with him when he touched her and she wasn't going anywhere until her shoulder was back in check. "On 3, i'm going to-" Without giving Claire any opportunity to hesitate Derek surprised her by rotating her shoulder and with a quick CLICK! Claire had her should back in place. "Alrighty!" Derek said with a an almost yee-haw guffaw in his voice. "We need to stint her arm and get the hell out of her!"

Derek took a loose bit of material from one of the other girls; they'd managed to tear off a bit of their clothing for him and tied Claire's arm up, "Don't knock it anymore." He said sternly as he stood up, extending a hand out, getting her to her feet. "The fire escape!" Derek yelled as he turned around to see the stairs almost waiting enticingly for them. "Those go back onto the street we came in on, but I think the zombies are too busy coming up here... we should have a clear route to the street and then we can get out of here!!"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Derek Mansfield Character Portrait: Claire Fuller Character Portrait: Mykeisha Persaud-Hearns Character Portrait: Mariam Qoreshi
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Mariam scrunched her face in a gesture of shared pain when Derek relocated Claire's shoulder. She had no time to reflect on what had just happened. As had become usual over the course of the last few hours, they were being pursued by the living dead. Inside the building, one of the things shrieked again. She scrunched up her face again. Hands weren't enough protection against that blood-curling sound.

They had to get down, right.

The fire escape, right.

With one last glance at the door they'd just come out from, Mariam followed the others as they made their way to the steel stairs. They were about four stories high. The scientist swallowed with apprehension, hoping that the door would hold the undead inside long enough for the group to get down. She flew down the first set of stairs. All of a sudden, the cyclic nature of the fire escape seemed too long, somehow undoable. Despite the adrenaline pumping through her system, Mim was tired, there was no denying it. She ran down the second set of stairs. She wasn't as young as she used to be. Derek seemed the only one close to her age yet he was clearly in shape, what with bending steel up there in the roof. She pulled through the last set of stairs. It was like she'd forgotten what the ground was up close.

At least Derek was right. The noise within the building had apparently prompted the shamblers in the street to go into their building. The street looked deserted yet even three floors down Mariam could still hear the sound of the zombies banging on the roof's door. A few were banging on the windows directly next to the fire escape, through which their group had passed on their way down but without too much force. Perhaps, Mim hypothesized, the lack of resolve of those shamblers was due to the lack of olfactory stimuli the group had provided. They'd seen them pass alright, but they hadn't caught their scent, which would've been a major stimulus. Still, glass was definitely more fragile than a steel door.

"I think the street is clear. As clear as it'll get, anyway," she panted. The group took the sliding ladder down to the ground level, an accomplishment Mariam had found a lot harder than she'd care to admit. The ladder slid back up to the first floor with a resounding creaaakk. Of course. It hadn't been oiled in at least three months, perhaps more if the appearance of the building was any indication.

Mim's head felt hot, she could feel heat radiating from her exposed face. Okay. They were bound for 72nd street. What way was that again? "Wait. Uhm." She paused to regain her breath, "That car wasn't there before we went into the building, was it?" Hopefully the strenous amount of exercise she'd done in the last couple of hours wasn't playing tricks with her mind.