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Harold St. James (NPC)

A man with a message to deliver.

0 · 191 views · located in Season 3

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

Description

.: Harold St. James :.

Image


DESCRIPTION:

 Portrayed By Danny Glover
 Mailman
 67
 Male
 6"3” / 175 lbs
 African-American


TRAITS:

 3 Strengths
Peaceful: Harry has a permanent soothing air about him, strengthened by age and experience. Not to mention, his doctor told him he can't afford to get too riled up after his last heart attack so he has to take it easy.
Believer: His middle name is 'Saint'. Harry whole-heartedly believes in the good. He has an empowering optimism about him that often acts as an anchor for others. Always a good ear to lean on and quick to lend a kind word or two, Harry wants the best for people.
Loyal: Harold doesn't have to pick sides. Everybody wants him on there team. He is unwavering in his beliefs and convictions, and very protective of his own. As trustworthy and honest as they come.

 3 Flaws
Naive: His kind of hope and allowance leaves for a wide berth when it comes to being taken advantage of or duped. Harry is susceptible to those kinds of personalities. He likes to try and give people the benefit of the doubt, as unwise as it may be.
Old: He's getting on in his years already and his body is feeling it. He's not as spry as he used to be, though he sure does still have the heart. It's just not a very functional heart. And goddamn his feet are killing him too.
Poor Eyesight: His vision's worse for wear, but he can still read the mail good enough. He's started wearing glasses again since the contacts make his eyes dry out. Besides, contact solution is a rare commodity in the apocalypse.


PERSONALITY:

Fears


Aspirations
Retire and move out to the farm country. Write a book. Travel. Get to know rest of family.

Dominant Emotion
Wisdom

Demeanor


Quirks/Oddities


Skills/Proficiencies



EQUIPMENT:

Carries a pocket knife and a pen with him always.
Handkerchief in his back pocket.
A pair of prescription glasses for when his eyes get tired.
Prefers large melee weapons that require two hands.


HISTORY:




So begins...

Harold St. James (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

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

The Second Bus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their destination... and salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*DONG*

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

*DONG*

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

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

*DONG*

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

*DONG*

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

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

*DONG*

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

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


.: END OF SEASON 2 :.

The setting changes from Season 2 to Season 3

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Gustav Schmidt (NPC) Character Portrait: Ashley Valentino (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Boondock Brannigan (NPC)
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% Jessica Abbott %


Jessica sifted through the ratty backpack, pulling out a different one of Sam's old t-shirts. It was thin enough for her to tear with her hands, which she did-- starting near the neck in thin strips. Seemed like the best way to turn unwanted memories into needed supplies. Makeshift bandages were every bit as valuable as the next thing. She slouched back against the front kiosk arranging the strips of linen in a neat pile beside her as a dull silence hung in the air. Althea paced near the front door, twiddling a crowbar in her hands-- her face still bearing the recovering scrape printed across her cheek from Lillian's shoe. The brooding woman peered anxiously through the front blinds at the street, eagerly awaiting the others.

Lily scraped at something behind the counter, incessantly. The sound only suddenly becoming audible over Jessica's own shuffling. She set down the remainder of the shredded shirt and stood up, dusting off her knees. She sidled up alongside the counter and leaned over, peering at the girl. Wood shavings lined Lily's legs as she carved at the backside of the kiosk with a small knife.

Jessica chewed her lip, unsure of what to say to the kid. There was so much she wanted to say to the girl, but no real place to start. Things had been quiet for the last few days, while they all hunkered down inside-- waiting out the dangers outside... and in their heads and hearts. It was a big loss for the lot of them... a double blow along with the previous losses from that morning. Delivered with those were the betrayals. Amidst all the chaos surrounding Sam and Annabelle's deaths, Henry broke through the last of the wall in the pet shop-- raiding all of its supplies and fleeing the complex before the dust had settled. Fortunately for the rest, neither Sam nor Annabelle ended up needing the medical supplies. But the group still felt burned. The tag-along alcoholic had been nothing but trouble since the moment they met him. Jessica felt bad for even giving the man a second chance. But hindsight was indeed 20/20. The second betrayal fell a bit closer to home when earlier this very morning, George struck out with naught but a word to anyone. Him, his bag, his gun. She knew why he went... but in the back of her mind she pretended he was going after Henry. That version made her feel less sad.

Lillian continued picking away at the wood, either oblivious or uninterested in Jessica's presence. Perhaps a bit of both. Jessica twiddled her thumbs a bit, picking at the counter with her own nails. She looked down at the girl. "Thank you..." Lily stopped carving for a brief moment-- and then resumed at an even quicker pace. Jessica grinned a little. It was a start. She walked around the counter, pulling an office chair underneath herself as she sat down behind the girl. "I never got to say thank you," Jessica continued. She ran her hands across her face-- trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes. "I don't know... if you've been thinking I'm waiting for some kind of apology... or that I'm going to punish you or something. Which couldn't be further from the truth." Lily propped her head on one arm, staring into her growing masterpiece as she casually carved away. "What you tried to do for us-- what you did do... I don't think you know what that meant to everyone." Jessica let her dangling toes touch the ground, and began to spin herself slowly in the desk chair. "The way it came about? Nobody could have wished for that... but-- we handled it. We survived. We're still here..." Lily finally stopped, rubbing away the faint beads of sweat on her forehead. She looked up at Jessica, timidly. She stopped spinning and reached over to the girl, brushing her golden locks out of her tired face. The poor thing had barley been able to sleep since everything happened. And she hadn't had a shred of normalcy or decency over the last week and half-- being passed around from adult to adult as people were killed off and went missing. It was bad enough she was separated from her parents, and now widowed to her best post-apocalyptic friend. "We are all we have..." she said, matter-of-factly. "That's something to hold onto." Lillian just looked at her, blinking her sad eyes. Jessica leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "Y'know... this whole last year, I've just had these... things being stripped away from my life. Like I'm losing these layers... first-- my husband... and my house. My son..." She sighed. "The last thing I have is all of you. This. That's all that's keeping me from losing the most important thing: my mind." She looked back at her carving, sniffling a bit. Jessica rolled the chair back to get a better view and saw two large prints... headstones for the dearly departed. "They would have loved these," Jessica chimed, forcing a smile. She squeezed the girl on the shoulder and leaned in close to her ear. "But don't let Bethany see. She'll kill you..." Lily cracked a smile at that. A small victory, and a needed one.

Jessica stood, arching her back as she stretched out the last of the days aches and pains. Althea jumped to a start across the room, swiping up her crowbar as she rushed towards the windows. "That's movement," she announced, spreading the blinds with her fingers. "It's them."

"Help me with the benches," Jessica ordered, springing towards the front doors.

Althea shrugged out of her jacket and threw it to the side, along with her crowbar. "They're coming in hot!" she called out, grabbing one end of the wooden benches to drag away from the doors. Jessica grabbed the other end and the two of them sloppily tossed it to the ground. Lily was already up and behind them, preparing to unbrace the chair from the door. Jessica wiped her hair from her face and nodded to the girl, drawing her knife from her waistband. Lillian yanked the door out from beneath the handles, and she and Althea pushed the doors open to welcome their incoming friends. Several alerted walkers shambled on in the distance as their comrades rushed towards the spa entrance keeping low. Jessica walked towards the door, slowly-- hoping for good news. They needed it now more than ever.

She couldn't take one more tragic start to the day.


# # #



.: The Lost Church :.


Gustav thrust a finger in Val's chest, narrowing his eyes. "It's been three days, for Christ's sake... let the poor girl go."

Ashley shook her head, standing firmly in front of the door to the side room. "She's a liability, Gus-- you know the protocol."

"Protocol?!" Boone shouted from beside her "You fucking robot. Let the girl go-- she didn't do anything."

"And she hasn't said anything either. Until she does, she stays put." Val folded her arms, unmoved by all this nonsense.

Boone laughed, mockingly. "She's in shock, pig."

"HEY!" Val barked, whipping out her baton. "Why don't you cut the shit-talk, chief?"

Boone threw up his hands, middle fingers and all-- storming off in a huff. Gustav sighed, scratching erratically at his beard. "I understand your concerns, but we can't just keep the girl cuffed to a rail in there... she hasn't done anything to deserve this."

"Did you see the same thing I saw in there?" Val asked, heatedly. "That girl had a bite on her the size of my hand. She's a ticking time bomb."

"It's been nearly three whole days and her condition hasn't even worsened," Gustav reasoned.

"I don't know how much worse you can get then a traumatized mute with a red walker tattoo on your shoulder," Val said, rolling her eyes. "We don't know shit about this infection... we can't afford to start making assumptions now. You wouldn't let me throw her onto the street, so this is the situation we're dealing with now. And you don't have to like it."

"We don't even know if it was the priest that bit her? It could have been the dog!" Gus argued.

Val scoffed. "The same dog that was curled up next to her in a pool of the girl's own blood? Doubtful." She brushed him aside, holstering her baton. "Look-- I get that you have the whole beard going on and you want to do the whole Sherlock thing, but I do this for a living. The girl hasn't been entirely truthful with us, and until she decides to cooperate-- we focus on more pressing matters. Or did you forget that our people are missing?"

"She's right," Harry added, joining the two of them outside Sarah's holding. He placed his hands on his hips, obviously as disapproving of the situation as the others. "We need to earn this girl's trust if we're gonna get anything out of her, but that's gonna take time. Duke and them-- we have to find out what happened. That's what matters right now."

"And until I'm sure she isn't going anywhere," Val shrugged. "the girl stays locked up. I'll deal with her when we get back. Gus you're with me. Find Boone, get him a juice box or whatever he needs to calm down and get him ready. The rest will stay here in case they show. Understood?" The two older men silently nodded. "Good. How's Brooke? She need anything?" Val asked, turning her attention to Harry as Gustav stalked off on his task.

The greyed man stuffed his hand into his coat pocket and retrieved a crumpled piece of paper. "She wrote some stuff down," he replied, handing the ball of paper to Val. She began to unfold it, straightening it out. "I can't make sense of most of it. Girl stuff, I imagine."

Val smirked. "We'll try and make a stop if we find good news, OK? Just stay with her and make sure she has everything she needs." Harry nodded and mumbled and headed back off towards Brooke near the vigil. "Thank you," she added as an after-thought. She was trying to be less hard on these people, but they all depended on her to make decisions and keep them heading in a direction... any direction. They needed something to rally around. But more than that...

They needed good news.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Seth Tanner Character Portrait: Kire Barrow
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#, as written by Skata

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Seth Tanner Character Portrait: Kire Barrow
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.: The Lost Church :.


Harry stopped in his tracks at Seth’s question. The preacher. They had yet to unearth any recollection of the event from Sarah, and in truth, Harry didn’t know quite how to explain the delicate situation. How close were these two newcomers to the freshly deceased priest? The dangers of what the truth could trigger in them far outweighed the risks of any careless divulgence on their part-- especially without knowing the whole truth.

Seth must have noticed the concern in Harry’s eyes, because he too halted his movements-- looking first at Kire and then around at the others. ”What…?” he asked, suspiciously.

Harry grimaced. ”You should probably come with me.” He gestured for the boy to follow, holding a hand up to Ari who had moved to join them and who-- still even after the tension had eased-- was keeping a wary eye on the two young newcomers. The lawyer stiffened at this request, relaxing his grip on the weapon in his hands as it fell to hang loosely at his side.

Kire rushed up quickly beside Seth, her hands rubbing at the cold exposed skin where her sleeves were pushed up. She pulled them down, nervously. ”Is everything OK?”

”I think it’ll be easier if you just… see it for yourself.” Harry turned and continued towards the stairwell, his uneven steps leading the way. Seth reluctantly followed, turning back to Kire slightly and gesturing for her to follow. Neither of them liked the way he had made it sound, but they had a feeling all was about to be explained. Ari watched them parade their way towards the basement, his eyes lingering on them before he too split off back towards the front of the church.

Ezrael hovered nearby Brooke as she sifted through one of the backpacks on the church pew next to her. He took his glasses in his hands and began rubbing the spotty lenses with the hem of his dress shirt. ”We shouldn’t have opened the door,” he began, looking around to make sure the others were well out of earshot. ”You know what Val’s going to do if she sees that we let two total strangers in here… with you... the baby…”

Brooke zipped the bag shut, forcefully-- once she had found the bottle of water she was searching for. She tossed her dangling hair out of her eyes and slowly rose back to her feet. Ezrael moved to help her up, but she waved his hands away with a heavy breath. ”We’re capable of taking care of ourselves. She’ll have to understand that.”

”And if she can’t?” Ezrael asked, returning his spectacles to his eyes.

Brooke tilted her head. ”Then we’ll help her understand.” She spun on her heel, making way back towards Sarah’s holding room with the water in hand-- cradling her stomach with the other. She disappeared behind the wooden door… out of sight but not out of mind. Ezrael chewed on her words, his gaze falling upon the somber fixture of Jesus hung high above the front altar. From up there, something became painfully clear suddenly. It wasn’t sadness on the Lord’s face. It was pity....

He was literally looking down on them.


# # #


Harry hung the lantern high above the covered table, its matted sheet dusty with cobwebs and filth from lying crumpled in a ball on the floor for only God know’s how long. Underneath lied the silent motionless body of what had once been the proprietor of the chapel they now took refuge in. He came to a stop just behind the head of the table and reached over, gently peeling the vale back from the corpse-- starting with his face.

’It’s face...’ Seth reflected quietly to himself, correcting his own thoughts as his eyes narrowed at the scene literally unfolding in front of him. A deep hole rested over one of the preacher’s eyes where the crucifix had done its work. The rest of his face looked yellow and gaunt and sickly, made paler by the makeshift light hung above as it cast shadows and odd shapes around the room. Kire shied away into the corner, bringing her hands to her face-- unable to hold her gaze on the remnants of the man who had taken them into onto the street mere days before. He certainly didn’t deserve this fate. Nobody did.

Harry took a couple steps back and folded his arms across his broad chest as his chin hung low. ”He was like this in one of the confessionals… with this in his eye.” Harry shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and drew the crucifix, holding it out to Seth. The boy took the memento from Harry’s hand and regarded it closely-- bloodstains still clearly visible on traces of the blade and handle. It was odd that out of everyone in the room, it was the crucifix alone that knew the whole tale.

”What happened to him?” Seth asked, rounding the table to examine the corpse closer. He looked under the preacher’s arms and legs, looking for signs of some kind of struggle or claw marks. Traces of scratches and tears etched the man’s face -- or at least the parts not covered in dried blood. Carefully, he rested his middle and index finger on the corpse's lips, drawing his jaw down and stretching his gums around with his other hand as he examined its teeth and gums. Deeper inspection showed bits of flesh stuck between its darkened molars. There was clearly more to this than Harry was letting on. Ones hand had to be played close to the chest these days though… there were just too many wild cards, and so he kept silent.

”Like I said, we found him like this…” Harry admitted, stopping himself short of getting to the part about the girl in captivity upstairs. However long these newcomers intended to stay, that little fact wouldn’t be able to be kept secret for much longer. Harry cleared his throat, gruffly. ”I’ll give you two some time. We’ll be upstairs whenever you’re ready,” he grumbled, before leaving the room back up the stairs. Seth watched him go, gripping the crucifix in his hand.


# # #


.: Calvin Hawke :.


Calvin awoke with a shiver, his arms clutching his sides as he laid curled in a ball on the ratty cot he had called his bed for the last couple hours. His untucked hand searched for the folds of his missing blanket, grasping nothing but empty air-- and it was then that his eyes snapped open to reveal that his covers were nowhere near. Beside him, the shutters of a pried window clattered softly against its framing. A series of tied sheets and apparel netted a long rope which hung loosely out the window-- pinned in place by one of the shutters themselves. Calvin jumped to his feet, rushing the window to look out at the other buildings and courtyard below. The fabricated rope hung from where it was tethered, dropping deep into another window only a few flights below. He tucked his head back through the window, feeling the vertigo begin to rush into him as the reality of the situation kicked into gear. He spun around to survey the room, instantly spotting Oliver’s sleeping figure-- still bound to the rail of the very bed he slept upon now. That made the culprit of the sudden escape quite obvious.

’But why would he just jump ship without us?’ Calvin wondered, looking back at the window. He couldn’t not go after him. If Dax were to get caught, the blowback would be severe… and regrettable. Calvin knew he couldn’t risk that, and soon one of his legs was already through the window as he perched gently on the ledge. He braced both of his feets behind the sill of the window itself and began to push off once he was certain he had a firm grip on the rope. He let each of his feet fall one after the other as he edged his way down the facade of the building-- careful to hug the building as tightly as he could as to avoid being seen. Luckily, a large cropping of tall trees in the courtyard across from him cast a generous enough shadow that it didn’t feel like he had a spotlight on him for his quick outing.

He eventually found the next ledge, and carefully lowered grabbed ahold of the brick siding and pulled himself into the window, toppling onto the next floor of the apartment. The musty carpet coughed a dark cloud of dust up from beneath him as he landed with a plop and rolled into the darkened interior. Dax’s silhouette filled the frame of the doorway several paces ahead-- splintered beams of daylight breaking through the dilapidated blinds hung upon the window in front of him. His moppy head bobbled towards the window, darting up and down the hallway to make sure he was alone as he sidled up the wall beneath it. His fingers fumbled with the folds of the draped plastic as he peered through with one eye, scanning the street out below. Calvin was all too curious what he’d have made such a foolish effort to come see, but he owed the man a chance to explain himself at least. He crept closer, walking softly across the mangy carpet towards the hallway-- stopping a couple of steps before the door.

His dried lips stuck together slightly as he spoke up. ”What are you doing, Dax?”

There was a hint of wariness in his voice that crept in faintly. Dax’s shoulders tensed as he let go of the blinds and spun around to face Calvin. He looked up and down the hallway again-- as if expecting some kind of additional ambush-- and then relaxed slightly. ”C-Calvin, no-- it isn’t anything b-bad…” he assured, waving his hands in the air. He gestured towards the window, beckoning Calvin into the hallway. ”I had to be sure,” he began vaguely, his face becoming as red as his hair. Calvin inched closer, hanging on Dax’s every word. ”An old cellmate of mine tipped me off last night,” he continued, breathlessly. ”I had to be sure. I didn’t want to put all of us in danger by just taking him at his word, but--”

Calvin gritted his teeth. ”You put us all in danger the second you opened that window.”

”Well it was all worth it,” Dax bragged, waving him closer. He lifted up the folds of the blinds and Calvin rose his head slowly to look through the window, wary of what sights awaited him on the other side. ”Do you see her?” he asked, the excitement and relief both equally prevalent in his voice. Sure enough, past the mangled chain-link fences and cluttered parking lot, a group of individuals led a small woman by her arms towards the front entrance of the Capitol building. Even without binoculars, Calvin could see her golden locks bobbing from beneath her bagged head as she stumbled forth against her will. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her, thankful she was alive-- albeit barely. ”I couldn’t believe it ‘til I saw it with my own eyes,” Dax continued to babble, cheerily. ”That means she’s safe. That means we can--”


*%$ BAM $%*


A steel-toed boot burst through the frame of the door just beside them as a heavier man rushed through with his weapon up. Behind the bandana tied around his nose and mouth, he grinned. ”Thought I heard whispering in here… damn near thought I was losing my mind.” Dax’s eyes darted towards Calvins as the two slowly raised their hands into the air. They stood upright, bunching together near the doorway they had snuck in through. The convict edged closer-- his gun still trained, just waiting for someone to do something stupid. ”The Warden’ll give me a nice fat reward for this. I should sneak off to take pisses down here more often.” Even from that distance, Calvin could smell the overwhelming scent of alcohol, cigarettes, and an unfortunate amount of time on the man’s breath. The bandana over his mouth suddenly seemed like less of a fashion choice and more about containment.

”Uhh-- L-Listen… Wallace? Right? That’s your name, right? You remember me, don’t you? From that time in the y-yard, when those guys were playing b-basketball, and--” his voice drifted off anxiously as the man’s weapon suddenly started shifting towards him the longer he talked. ”We weren’t even trying to escape,” he continued, trying to play all his cards. ”We just had to--”

Calvin couldn’t stand watching the man dig himself deeper any longer. Especially not if he was being dragged down with him. ”I wanna see the Warden…” he demanded, speaking loud enough to top Dax’s incessant mumbling. The man shut up once he saw the expression change on the convict’s face.

”What do you want with him?” he inquired, suddenly playing the role of guard as if it mattered anymore.

”That’s between me and the Warden. And nobody else.” Calvin turned around and placed his hands behind his back, trying to queue the convict to come arrest him. The man stupidly inched a few steps forward, lowering his guard just enough to prompt Dax to do the most heroic thing he may ever do. He turned to assume the same position, stopping and spinning on his heel the second the convict was within arm’s reach, and then launched himself forward at the man-- grasping at his gun arm with both hands to shove it towards the ground. The first bullet rang out loudly in the shallow hallway, barraging all three of their ears with a warm metallic symphony-- a burning sensation that simmered long after the actual sound had gone. The burn whitened, as voices and struggles muffled themselves along with the rest of the world-- arms and legs doing battle with one another as they tried to wrestle the convict to the ground. Calvin knelt down, grabbing for the man’s legs. He flailed and kicked-- eventually exposing the small knife tucked in just above his sock. Calvin made for it, gripping the handle just as another gunshot ripped off-- knocking him back on his ass, blade in hand. He turned to see Dax’s limp body crumple into a heap against the wall-- parts of him splattered against the peeling eggshell wallpaper behind him. ”NOOOOO!” Calvin shrieked. The convict shouted out too, scrambling back on his hands and feet right into Calvin’s waiting blade. It filled him silently as Calvin twisted and jerked the knife free of the man’s torso. He tossed the man’s body aside as his lips burbled dark red bubbles and he wreathed softly into stillness. Calvin tossed the blade aside and climbed over to Dax, rolling him onto his side. Through the door down the hallway, more voices and hurried footsteps thundered closer. Dax’s pupils rolled around in his head as he fought to maintain focus, trying to find Calvin’s eyes. Calvin held his bloodied face in his hands. ”I’m gonna save her,” he promised-- knowing that was the only thing that could make Dax at peace. ”But I have to save myself first…” he laid Dax back against the wall, propping him up so he faced the end of the hallway-- grabbing the pistol from near the dead convict’s hand and laying it in Dax’s. ”Thank you for saving me… however many times that was.”

Dax laughed a little, the red now spilling from his lips too. ”Go, man…”

Calvin placed his forehead against Dax’s, giving him a brief farewell before scooping the knife up from the ground and hustling out the door he came in from-- making sure to close it, and Dax... behind him. He rushed to the open window, peeking outside to make sure the coast was still clear as he pulled himself through the open frame and back onto the makeshift rope. His legs fell clear of the window sill and dropped below him, causing his hands to slide a few inches down the rope and his heart to fall a few stories out his ass with fear. He could feel his heartbeat quicken against the empty air as he put one arm over the other, using his shoes to cinch the line and help him climb up. Enough moments went by as his fingers reached out, fumbling against the edge of the next window above. He latched on, forcing one last feat of strength to get him through to the other side.

His body tumbled back onto the rug of his former holding, and he quickly righted himself-- hurrying to the window and untying the knotted sheets from the bedpost. Calvin took the moment to finally look at his hands, glancing down to see the plainly obvious blood-stained palms staring back at him. He used the last of the linen rope to wipe his hands clean before dropping the whole string of them down into the forested abyss below. He watched as they landed in a scattered heap several stories below, descending into the space between the two apartment buildings. Calvin pulled the windows back shut and draped the sheet back over them, the way he remembered. The light was blocked once more from the room as it cascaded back into darkness-- mere slivers of light breaking through the moth-eaten holes and uneven edges. Oliver stirred off to the side, seemingly undisturbed by the frenzy of activity that had transpired around him. Despite being the only one who had been allowed the time to simply stay chained up to a bed and sleep all day, he managed to find himself in another deep slumber. Calvin slightly envied him… but only for a moment.

Almost like a drumroll, more gunfire erupted from beneath the floor. Calvin laid his head back down on his cot, curling up into a ball as he closed his eyes against the darkness. The day could only get so bad, after all-- even after all this...

His sister was alive.

Setting

Characters Present

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


# # #



# Sarah Hawke #



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for appealing to her senses...


# # #



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


# # #



.: Fort Fallback :.

"Amoeba Music & Records"



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

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

And how many they would find…

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

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

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

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

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

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

”What’s in there?”

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

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

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

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

Patrick nodded. ”Seems so…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


# # #



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Calvin...?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

cron