The Walking Dead: Online

Season 1

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a part of The Walking Dead: Online, by Captain Calamity.

"The End Begins"

Captain Calamity holds sovereignty over Season 1, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

walking dead (tv show): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/the_walking_dead_(tv_series) walking dead (comics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/the_walking_dead_(comic_book)

Setting

Season One of the Walking Dead: Online.
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Season 1

"The End Begins"

Minimap

Season 1 is a part of The Walking Dead: Online.

2 Characters Here

Lucas Wright (NPC) [0] A man on his last gamble.
Eva Clarkson [0] A junior Naval Officer thrust into command of the worlds's most advanced submarine.

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Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafiq plunged the knife downwards.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden

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Image

Thomas Blackthorne


“What do we do now?’

Those words hung in the air and Blackthorne found that he had no answer to give the woman. He suspected that he and his team would soon be reassigned or split up, depending on how the situation looked to command. She would probably be kept on the ship or relocated.

He was saved from vocalizing his thoughts aloud by the arrival of two men, one of them a heavily armed Marine, the other wearing the red cross of a medic on his shoulder.

“Need to do a full visual inspection Sergeant, sorry. No one stays on the ship without one. CO's (Commanding Officers) orders.”

Blackthorne didn’t bother arguing. He gave the woman another shoulder squeeze and then stood with, offering her a short smile. “I’ll be right back.”

He followed the two men to a temporary screen that had been rigged to hide the view. As he stepped behind it he saw a burly female soldier and a female medic approaching the woman for what he assumed would be the same conversation.

Behind the screen he was asked to strip naked. The medic quickly and expertly checked him over for signs of injury. All the while the Marine who had come with them stood with his firearm leveled at Blackthorne. He offered the Canadian a slight shoulder shrug.

“Sorry Sarge, had a couple turn on the boat while we were preparing to get clear, can’t be to careful.”

Blackthorne nodded. He was tall enough to see over the screen and he managed to catch the eye of the woman he had brought aboard as she head behind her own screen and offered her a wink.

The inspection finished quickly and the Marine lowered his weapon as Blackthorne began to redress. The Medic stepped out and returned a moment later with a set of Marine fatigues.

“Probably a bit more comfortable than your dive suit Sergeant.” He passed the uniform over to Blackthorne who nodded his thanks and stepped thankfully into the warm dry clothes. His legs were raw between the thighs from running in his dive suit and he winced slightly as the cloth rubbed over the sore patches.

“Thank you Sergeant. I’ll check the rest of your team and we can move you guys onward.” Said the Medic as he gestured that Blackthorne was free to go.

Holloway was next. The remainder of the team sat quietly under guard at the rear of the flight deck. Whoever was in charge of this operation wasn’t taking any chances. All of the new arrivals were spaced out, at least four feet between them, if someone turned they would be shot before they could infect someone else, hopefully.

Blackthorne, for the moment alone, took a moment to sit on the edge of the flight deck and look out into the harbor. The Bunker Hill was swiftly approaching the breakwater and the open sea. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a helicopter and he glanced up to see a small helicopter labouring across the sky. It was clearly overloaded and losing its battle with the strain on the engine. For one horrifying moment Blackthorne thought that the pilot was going to try and land on the Cruisers flight deck but then the helicopter gave a last despairing chop at the air and its engine died. He had an impression of scared faces staring at him from the window as the chopper fell and then it slammed into the water no more than twenty feet off the port side and in an instant sailors rushed to the side, harness and ropes in hand. Blackthorne, already seated on the port side could see four heads appear around the quickly sinking aircraft.

One of them vanished almost immediately with a scream as something grabbed him from beneath and Blackthorne shuddered at his own memory of the grasping hands below him in the inky water. He was about to offer to assist the sailors at their task but more rushed from the hanger and quickly had the three new arrivals dragged onto the flight deck.

The helicopter had sank from sight and Blackthorne was turning to study the new arrivals who were quickly being hustled into the medical inspection stations when he found himself face to face with a strange officer he did not know. The man looked exhausted and strained but he offered a genuine smile and shook Blackthornes hand.

“Welcome to the USS Bunker Hill Sergeant. I am Lieutenant Jack Georges, Deck O (Officer). I am sorry to tell you this but we have to put your team back in. Sergeant Holloway tells me he can pilot a chopper and I have two SeaHawks, orders to airlift out as many survivors as I can and no pilots. Holloway said he wouldn’t fly without his team so I have to put you guys back in.”

Blackthorne nodded. His side was still on fire from his clash with the steel hull but it was minor compared to the fate that awaited those still out there. “Yes sir. Permission to re-arm my lads from the ships armoury?”

“Granted. I need you lifting out of here in no more than 30 minutes. My boys are wheeling the chopper out now.”

Even as he spoke the huge hanger door began to grind open and the tail rotor of a SeaHawk helicopter appeared in the flood lights as sailors rolled it onto the flight pad. It was a long lean grey aircraft, identical to the Blackhawk helicopter made so famous by Hollywood, only a fe minor modifications made for firing torpedoes.

The survivors still seated around the flight deck were moved into the now empty hanger as the flight crews began to prep the helicopter. Blackthorne waved his team over and gave them the news. None of them complained and he thanked the gods for their stoic calm in the face of what was the greatest disaster he had ever heard of. It probably helped that none of them had close family or friends, the military was their family.

Georges led them down to the armoury where each of them was outfitted with their choice of weapons and the far more comfortable Marine battle dress, their dive suits tossed over the side to prevent any of the matter on them from contaminating the ship.

They were back, fully kitted out, in the hanger within 15 minutes. They gathered around Georges who had a simple roadmap of LA covered in all sorts of markings. It was clear that the ship had not been ready for any domestic operations. The few other maps that had been posted on the bulkheads (Walls) all showed various maps of the Gulf of Aden.

“For the moment we need you guys to start taking people off rooftops. It’ll be your discretion on ROEs (Rules of Engagement) as well as who you will and will not attempt to recover. If the situation looks like total shit, don’t risk it. We can’t afford to lose you or that chopper. Command has issued strict orders that we are not to get into any pissing matches with the Walkers, nor are you to attempt to enter structures. Understand?”

The soldiers gathered around him nodded and he gave them a tired smile. “I know it’s been a long day gents but we don’t have anyone else we can rely on. God speed.”

He offered them a salute and they turned and jogged towards the helicopter. It’s blades were already slowly rotating as Holloway, the only one not in the briefing, engaged the engine. The cabin light, a low vis red light, glowed eerily on him as they ran and he gave Blackthorne a thumbs up through the windshield.

Blackthorne was halfway across the hanger floor when he caught sight of the woman from the beach sitting amongst the refugees, staring at him. He turned towards her and jogged over, kneeling down in front of her.

“We’re going back in to look for survivors.” He wasn’t entirely sure why he was telling her, maybe it was because he had no one else who might care and suddenly, in the midst of all the chaos, he needed someone to come back to. “We’ll be back.” He took her hand in his and smiled. “Keep a light on for us okay?”

She managed to smile back and then he was gone, hurrying to the helicopter that was now throttling up to a heavy roar. Lieutenant Georges stood at the hanger door and Blackthorne could see a number of the refugees and ships crew join him.

The helicopter began to lift off even as the Bunker Hill cleared the breakwater. On the flight deck Lieutenant Georges waved his hand in farewell and spoke almost under his breath. “You brave bastards. Go with God.”

Blackthorne, one leg thrown over the side of the chopper so that it hung into space, waved back as the helicopter circled the ship once and then dipped its nose and roared back towards the city in the ever increasing darkness. For a moment it was silhouetted against the flames that seemed to be growing everywhere and then it passed into the smoke and was gone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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Stevie watched Thomas head off after saying goodbye to her, her exhausted eyes still doubting what she'd seen that day. She noticed that he'd changed clothes, then reflected on the fact that he, along with some of the others, was wearing a diving suit during the day while all hell was breaking loose around them.

It was almost absurd.

She smiled a little to herself, finally finding something to laugh a little about. It certainly wasn't in the spirit of making fun of him or the others; after all, she was wearing an orange coat and yellow boots. They did exactly what they set out to do, which was get to safety. Had it not been for them, she wouldn't be there.

She heard a voice call out from just off to the left. A tall, tan blond man was sitting with two women, one stoic-faced and one with a bruised cheekbone who looked on the verge of shock. "That your husband?" he asked. "Do you know what's going on?"

Stevie shook her head. "Nope, just met him today," she said simply. "He doesn't even know my name."

The man paused. "So, what just happened?" he asked, now obviously intrigued.

she shrugged and opened up her bag, pulling out strips of fruit leather, then offered them to him. "He shot my boyfriend," she said simply.

The man paused again. "Would you mind re-stating that so that that doesn't sound crazy?" he said slowly as he accepted the gift. The stoic woman immediately reached for one, pulling the wrapper off and chewing restrainedly on it.

Stevie paused. "Well, maybe it wasn't him," she mused out loud, then settled back against the metal wall, her feet stretched out before her. "This morning my boyfriend and I were getting ready to drive back to Seattle. We went to Santa Monica to go have breakfast before we were supposed to go visit friends in Venice Beach. While we were waiting for a place to free up a table, we went wandering out on the beach. Some of those things walked up behind him and snatched him up."

The stoic woman continued to chew on her fruit strip. "You mean you didn't help him?" she asked bluntly.

Stevie's stomach twisted. "I didn't know what they were," she said glumly. "I thought they were just a couple of assholes joking around. You know how people can be."

The woman nodded. "Sorry," she said stiffly. "Well... what happened next?"

Stevie opened a piece of fruit leather for herself. "After that, I hid up in one of those lifeguard shacks," she continued. "Then a group of them found the shack. He actually found me." She nodded her head in the direction Thomas had gone off in. "They said they'd take me with them. Right after we started to take off, I saw him." She paused as she felt her chest start to tighten. It was the first time she'd put any thought into walking herself through the day. She stopped and looked down at her hands. "It wasn't him. He was gone. He was one of those things."

The woman with the bruised face blinked as she heard the story. "That's awful," she said sympathetically, moving a hand up to her face quickly, briefly wincing in pain. "So they brought you here." Stevie nodded. "Well, we're all lucky. I'm really glad that these people were here. And back there with you."

Stevie looked at her for a moment. The pretty, slight, dark-haired woman looked very familiar. "Hey, I know you," Stevie said briefly, reaching into her bag and pulling out a pack of Kleenex and a small bottle of witch hazel, something she used every day in applying makeup. She soaked a few of the tissues and handed it to the woman, gesturing for her to put the makeshift compress on her face to bring the swelling down. "You're not friends with Mark Sanchez in Seattle, are you?"

The woman half-smiled under the compress. "Yeah, he was my photog in Atlanta," she said kindly. "You know him?"

Stevie nodded. "Yeah, he and I went to college together, then we were roommates in Seattle with a few other people," she said. "You're Harper. You've done a lot of cool stuff. I'm Stevie."

The woman smiled. "Oh, yes! He's talked about you!" she responded. "They were all so bummed when you left. I came up to visit a weekend that you were gone. I was sad that I missed you. You're the one who did the radio shows and had all that stuff in Rolling Stone?"

Stevie nodded, and the woman introduced her two co-workers, Tara Schantz and Nathan McDonald. Schantz seemed a little removed at first, but was starting to slowly stop pretending that she wasn't interested in the conversation taking place. Nathan seemed a bit obnoxious, but not particularly harmful. Harper was gracious and doing her best to be polite, even if she was a little on-edge. What were the chances of meeting someone she knew through an old roommate?

# # #

Hours later, Stevie lay on the floor, reflecting once again on her day. She had a habit of playing everything a million times over and over in her brain, wondering about potential outcomes and what may have led up to certain things happening. It was a bit of an annoying habit to have on most days.

She had been subjected to a quick check from one of the medics on board, and was pleased to get a clean bill of health and sent back out on her way. It was fast, too fast for her to possibly feel any sense of embarrassment. She was even more pleased that the group next to her that had flopped their way on the boat after the helicopter crash had reached out to her. It didn't hurt that Thomas had come to see her, either. He'd given her the most information that anyone had given her the entire day.

Harper, Nathan, and Schantz had related the story of their day, which seemed almost more incredulous than hers, going from interviewing the actor, Calvin Hawke, to hopping into a traffic chopper and crashing into the water.

After sharing fruit leather in her bag and enjoying more bottled water handed out by some of the sailors on board, the four lined up against the hangar wall to try to catch some sleep. Nathan slept like a rock just a few feet away from the women. Schantz had finally fallen asleep. Harper lay awake, staring at the ceiling.

Stevie looked at her from her spot and waved her hand just slightly. "You all right?" she whispered, picking up fast on the woman's anxiety that was becoming harder and harder to contain as the hours waned on.

Harper turned over and looked at Stevie. "I'm fine," she insisted politely. "Just hard to sleep."

"No, you're not fine," Stevie responded. Harper didn't say anything. "Do you need something?"

Harper propped herself up on her elbows and turned the little compress over. She'd been re-soaking the patch of tissue with water every now and again. It felt good on her face. "I, uh... I'm just missing my medication."

Stevie nodded. "How can I help?"

Harper looked at her bag. "Is it too much to ask if you've got a Valium, or some Xanax?"

Stevie paused, and then started to dig through her bag. Dean had asked her to carry his medication for him during the trip, as he suffered the occasional panic attack and didn't exactly carry a bag with him. Stevie had panic attacks, as well, but far more infrequently than what she'd had when she was younger. She fished out the orange prescription bottle and feathered her fingertips through the fifteen or so small tablets, finally getting a hold of one. She offered it to Harper. "I'm happy to help," she said quietly.

Harper smiled and accepted it, swallowing it down with a sip of water. "Thank you," she responded graciously. "I-"

"It looks like you've had a rough day," Stevie said, re-capping the bottle and putting it back into the bag. "I guess it might not be long before I'll want one of those, too," she added dryly.

"Please don't tell anyone," Harper said quietly. "I work with these two... I work with Nathan almost every day. They don't know."

Stevie nodded in understanding. "Don't worry, I won't say anything," she said.

Harper nodded back. "Let's not let the four of us get separated," she suggested, lowering herself down from her elbows to lay back down on the cold metal floor. "Come with us. We lost our group, but let's look for them. Join us."

"That sounds great," Stevie said, partially enthusiastic and partially wondering when Thomas was going to come back. She looked at Harper, and noticed that she was missing a shoe and that her clothes, like Nathan's and Schantz', smelled like the salty ocean. She looked into her bag again and pulled out a couple of hotel samples she'd tossed in without thinking before she and Dean had checked out. "Here, have these."

Harper accepted them. "Thank you," she said gratefully. "Maybe we can laugh about this someday, right?"

Stevie smiled. "See you in a few hours." She settled back and closed her eyes.

# # #

Harper drifted awake a few hours later, still feeling the quiet and still haze of the medication. Stevie was still fast asleep, curled up on the ground covered in her coat, hugging her bag against her stomach. Her folded glasses were parked not far from her head. Nathan was sitting up, drinking a bottle of water, and Schantz was holding a sleeping baby.

Harper sat up and ran a hand through her ocean-stiff hair and took a look at Schantz staring down at the calm child, then look up to meet her stare. "Her mom asked me if I could hang onto her," she whispered over. "She's just over in the bathroom, I guess."

Nathan nodded. "Lady was tired," he added. "She's been gone maybe 10 minutes. Schantz has the magic touch."

Schantz rolled her eyes. "I hate babies," she managed half-heartedly, lying poorly.

Nathan shrugged his shoulders. "This baby doesn't hate you, that's for sure," he said. "You got your technique down and everything." Harper rolled his eyes at him. "What? My brother's wife had a baby and there's a whole way of doing this stuff. It's complicated, man."

Harper laughed slightly and tried not to think of her own family, her own nieces and nephews, one of which must have been the baby's age. She took a deep breath and re-centered herself. "You guys sleep okay?"

Schantz nodded, continuing to rock the baby, who snoozed away happily. "I don't know about you guys, but I was pretty tired," Nathan chirped with a grin, scooting closer to Harper. "It's about 6. Someone said they're opening the doors soon. Don't know much more than that."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


"Drive right up onto the trail here..." Calvin chimed through the radio in his hand. James and the others followed closely behind in the truck, kicking up dust as the front wheels jumped the curb onto the dirt path. The idea to head behind the Hollywood Sign came as Calvin watched Harper and the others take off in the helicopter. The bright white letters served as the best beacon while it was lit. Surely others would have the same thought and approach.

They had to.

As Calvin slowed the van to a stop, he was finally able to look over his shoulder at the beautiful vista of Los Angeles. It was usually a jaw-dropping view, but the night's events had cast a gloomy look over it now. Fires burnt brightly in the corners of the city while smoke billowed out into the blackness. Lights of stalled cars shone from the freeways, unmoving and lifeless like the dead that walked amongst them. Calvin stepped out of the car and pocketed the keys, walking back to receive the rest of the group.

James pulled up beside the news van and pulled his parking brake. For the first moment since this had all started, they were finally feeling like they may have found some refuge. Doors opened on both sides of the vehicle as people poured out of the insides and bed of the truck.

"You sure we're safe up here, man?" Wayne asked without delay. The others gathered around Calvin, awaiting an answer.

He nodded, gesturing around him. "I was just up here the other day filming a scene for something, and I remembered them having trouble getting the equipment in because the trail is only accessible from two sides." The others looked around, taking notice. "If we can get a couple of more cars to block the ends, we'll have steep hills and fences at our front and back, plus a view of the city. It's our best bet of getting seen."

"It sounds perfect," Steve declared from the back.

Calvin grinned. "That's because I think it is."

Chuck pushed his way towards the front of the group. "So what now? We have no food, no weapons... nowhere to sleep, other than that filthy truck and the house of wires," he said, jerking his thumb at the news van. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I still feel exposed.

"You're right, Chuck. That's the next plan..." Calvin said, moving over to the van. From inside the glove box, he pulled out a map of the city. "I saw this in there back at the station." The group huddled around him as he laid the map flat across the hood of the truck. Wayne unpocketed his iPhone and used it to flash some light. Calvin laid his finger on the map just south of where they were. "There's a small strip mall that we passed on the way here that should have food and gear we could use. I'll take a small group of us there to see what we can find, and also see if we can't grab another car or two. In the meantime... James, Steve, Wayne, Chuck and Lily will stay behind to setup camp, start a fire, and settle in."

"I brought all my camping gear in the truck. Not enough for everyone, mind you," James called out from near the driver's side.

"Then we make do with what we have," Calvin replied.

Wayne pulled a knife out from a bag in the passenger's seat. "I'll check out our perimeter and see how far down we should put these cars."

Calvin nodded. "Good. We can rotate one guard at each end throughout the night so we can all get a little shuteye. Or try, at least..."

Jack leaned over the top of the cab from the bed of the truck. "And that leaves you and I to go on the suicide mission then, yeah?

"I can't split us up too much. Some of you have to stay here," Calvin reasoned. James and Wayne were hardly enough to defend against any number of scenarios that could happen while they were gone. They'd also be able to move quicker and quieter with fewer people. "We'll head out in 15 minutes. Make a list of anything specific you want us to look for and we'll try our best to bring it back. Let's line these vehicles up in their positions, pointing the way we came in case we need to make a quick exit."

Everyone looked around in the dead silence once Calvin finally stopped talking. He had been mulling all these ideas in his head ever since they fled the station. Steve had said that these people needed somebody to call the shots. Calvin knew he was no more qualified than any of the rest to be making any decisions -- but they seemed to trust him... or at least agree with his ideas. He'd see how they warmed up to him after a bad call.

"Ready, break?" Wayne asked. Calvin nodded and begun folding up the map as the group divided up. James reached into the cabin and grabbed his rifle off the dash. He checked it for ammo and shoved the butt of it into Calvin's hands, forcefully.

"If you're going on foot, you'll need this..." he said. "There's more shells in the glovebox." The old man started walking away, but stopped and turned back. He took off his leather cowboy hat and ran his hand through his hair. "You know, there was a time when I'd have told someone to go fuck themselves if they asked me to move my truck..."

James removed his pendant from the hat and pocketed it. Then tossed the hat to Calvin who caught it, smiling.
"But I guess you're the sheriff around here now, Hollywood."

Calvin set the hat on his head, evening it out. Even with less hair than James had it seemed to fit pretty well. The old man stalked to his truck and turned it around, following Wayne up the path a short ways. Jack lingered nearby, waiting for to be told what to do. "We're going in on foot, so why don't you grab a backpack and something to defend yourself with."

Jack smacked his forehead, dramatically. "That's what I was forgetting," he said sarcastically. He shook his head laughing at Calvin as he stalked away. Chuck, who had watched the whole exchange, approached. He stood in front of Calvin for a beat, unsure of how to say what he wanted to say.

"I want come with you," he finally blurted out.

"Uhhh, I dunno--"

"I don't trust you going out there with Jack alone," Chuck continued, cutting him off. He glanced in Jack's direction nervously, to make sure he wasn't being overheard. "Having me there might force him to cooperate, ya know?"

Calvin shrugged. It wasn't like Chuck would be more useful if he stayed behind. "Fine," he began, "Grab your bat and a bag. We'll head out soon."

Chuck excitedly scurried back to the van to collect his things. Calvin scanned the road, watching as everyone busied themselves with their tasks. At least they were able to follow instructions, he thought happily. He hoped he was making the right decision by having them stay here -- but how could be any worse than the rest of Los Angeles? At least here they had a view.

Calvin turned to look out at it once again and saw Lily, sitting on a large rock. She looked out upon the city with childlike wonder, both seeing something for the first time and seeing something for the last time. He sauntered over to her and sat next to her. She had sort of kept out of sight since the other survivors arrived at the station. Calvin figured she was likely in shock. He still hadn't been told the whole story about how this crew got together. That was something he would have to remember to do at some point.

He looked over at the little girl. "Crazy day, huh?" he asked, softly.

Lily shrugged, wiping at her eyes. She wasn't crying anymore, but it was evident that she had been. Her nose sounded slightly stuffy as she spoke. "Are you a cowboy now too?" she asked him.

Calvin remembered he was wearing the hat now. "Oh, uh-- I guess I am. James made me sherrif."

She turned her gaze back to the view. "Like Woody from Toy Story?"

He couldn't help but smile at that. "Yeah. Just like that."

"That's pretty cool..."
Calvin looked back at the city too. This poor girl was traumatized. It was slowly catching up to her, and he couldn't help but wonder how she'd be a week from now. A month? A year? Would this even last this long?

"Hey, you know what?" he asked. The girl raised an eyebrow in anticipation. "While I'm gone, I'm gonna need someone to look after the camp. Someone with good instincts."

Her eyes lit up a bit. He had her attention, finally. "I have those!" she said in a hushed whisper.

Calvin leaned in, talking quieter. "That's why I came over here to talk to you. I need you to be my eyes and ears while I'm gone. Can I count on you?"

She held out her pinky. Calvin embraced it with his and the pact was made. He clapped her on the back as he got up. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Calvin..."

She nodded, looking back out through the "O" in Hollywood towards the city. "Come back quick, OK?" He nodded back, and traipsed over towards Chuck and Jack who waited near the news van. James and Wayne were just now returning from the other end of the path with some gear -- a tent, firewood, axe, canopy...

They had enough to stay occupied for awhile. Calvin met eyes with James from across the way and waved goodbye. The three men gathered their belongings and started the walk back down the hill into the city. Sadly, the night was just beginning.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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# Sarah Hawke #


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

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

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

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

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

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


~ + ~


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

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

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

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

The woman furrowed her brow. "Doing what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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Nathan reached over and tapped the ground near Stevie's face. She opened her eyes and looked up at the brightening lights and blinked slowly, shutting her eyes again in protest. "Hey, glasses," he called out, tapping the ground again. She opened her eyes and turned toward the three, looking annoyedly at Nathan. "They're opening the doors soon. You better wake up. I don't think anyone plans on carrying you out."

"Not unless you're her," Harper quipped, pointing with her thumb over to the olive-skinned baby Schantz was holding.

Stevie's face brightened up when she saw the baby, and put her glasses on and smoothed her hair down. "Who's that?" she asked quietly.

Schantz shrugged. "Her mom went to the bathroom. I kind of have to do the same thing."

Stevie sat up and opened her bag, pulling out a few granola bars and setting them in front of the others. "Want me to take her?"

Nathan looked at her bag and laughed. "Who are you, Mary Poppins?" he asked as he took two bars and handed one to Harper. "You've got all kinds of stuff in there."

Stevie leaned over to Schantz to scoop the baby into her arms smoothly, and started bobbing the child gently, the area beneath her eyes dark with fatigue. Schantz stood up, took a bar, and opened it as she headed off toward where a few others were gathered. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Stevie rolled back, "my parents and my boyfriend used to make fun of me for this. I love bags. And I love being prepared."

Nathan took a bite of his bar and looked down at the cognac-leather bag, worn but sturdy, with a brass lock and a buckle on the thick shoulder strap. A crochet lace detail was strung across the front of it, a small part of it covered in dried blood. "What do you mean by that? Are you like, paranoid?"

Stevie rolled her eyes and laughed, obviously picking up on the fact that he was needling her. "I hope not. No, I tend to put things in there that I think I might need later, and they just kind of... stay in there."

Nathan remained intrigued. "Like what?"

"Go ahead and see," Stevie said, tilting her head toward her bag.

Harper watched the exchange. She liked Stevie. She could tell she was sweet. She obviously trusted Harper pretty quickly if she was willing to give her a Xanax upon request. And her enthusiasm toward the baby she was showing currently was very endearing, as was the fact that she was willing to share with the others so readily. She knew Nathan must have smelled blood in the water for some reason. He loved testing people's boundaries after meeting them, especially people he considered to be "goody-two-shoe"'ish.

Nathan took the bag with a grin, undid the latch, and opened it up. He pulled out two swaths of folded fabric, both black. "Spare changes of clothes," Stevie pointed out. Next came a pack of gum and a tin of mints. Then came more fruit strips, more granola bars, and a bottle of Vitamin water. A small bag filled with makeup and face cleanser, six different tubes of nail polish, a compact mirror, a hairbrush, the small bottle of witch hazel, and three packs of Kleenex, amongst a few other small things. A small travel-sized bottle of sunscreen. A map of the United States. A few prescription bottles. Small first aid kit, small sewing kit. Two sets of knitting needles, a few crochet hooks, a few balls of yarn. Receipts. Earbuds with a multi-plugin splitter. A phone charger. Mace. 9mm shells. Nathan looked at her squarely. "I don't have my gun on me right now."

"Where is it now?" he asked curiously.

"One of the guys who got me here must have it," she answered.

He continued to dig through her bag. He laughed out loud when he saw a small plastic bag filled with marijuana. "Oh, you just got so much more interesting!" he said, lowering the back on the floor and covering it up with her folded shirt. She smiled. He then got toward the bottom of the bag and pulled out a small bag, unzipped it, and dropped it on the ground like it was a snake as his face turned red. "Okay, okay, now I know why I'm never allowed to go through anyone's purse!"

Of course. Harper and Stevie burst out laughing. The baby startled and let out a few surprised cries. Stevie's face fell and she wobbled herself up on her feet, swaying side to side and cooing at the baby, who promptly fell back into her nap.

Nathan boggled at her as he started to re-pack her bag after emptying it of most of its contents. "Shit, dude, you are like the tiniest person on this boat next to that baby," he teased, bugging his eyes out and pointing a finger at her.

Stevie rolled her eyes. Short jokes were so creative. Not. "Be nice or I'm not sharing my weed with you," she threatened jokingly, keeping her voice low but audible so that the baby wouldn't wake up.

Nathan laughed. "Where did you get all that from, anyway, Miss Second Amendment Bohemian?" he asked as Schantz came back and let out a whistle upon seeing the bag.

"My boyfriend has a medical marijuana card," Stevie said, "and he wanted to bring a pretty good supply back up to Seattle with us."

Schantz let out a small laugh. "Looks like he was stocking up for the end of the world, huh?"

Silence.

Stevie bit her lip and nodded. "Yeah, I guess you could say that." The baby sighed contentedly. Stevie continued to bob the baby, stepping a few paces away.

Harper looked up at Schantz. "Bad timing," she said calmly, "I think you upset her."

Schantz watched Stevie as she worked with the sleeping baby. "Ahh, I didn't mean to do that," she said. The expression on her face showed that she was well aware that she'd put her foot in her mouth.

Nathan leaned in to talk to just the other two. "Dude. I wouldn't worry about it."

Harper looked at him and furrowed her eyebrows. "Nathan. Everyone needs time. She's upset."

Nathan smirked. "Like I said, I wouldn't worry about it," he repeated. "She's got a gun, and enough weed and birth control in there to completely forget about anything that happened yesterday. This chick is insane."

Schantz shook her head. "Dude, not cool," she said sharply.

Nathan used his foot to push the bag back to the spot Stevie had slept in. "Right, because she's going to have such a hard time fin-"

Schantz glowered at him. "What the fuck, dude? Knock it off."

Nathan rolled his eyes and stood up. He watched another petite, very tired-looking woman approach Stevie and began to chatter kindly in Spanish. Stevie looked back at Schantz. Schantz nodded at Stevie. "That's her mom," Schantz called out. Stevie smiled a thank-you and continued to talk to the woman, handing the sleepy baby back over while doing so. Harper and Schantz stared darkly at Nathan, who frowned as he looked down at his shoes. He knew he'd screwed up.

Stevie walked over, smiled at the three, and quietly grabbed her bag to make off toward the small group gathered near the facilities. Schantz rose and started to follow her, looking directly at Nathan. "Well, I'm going to go apologize. Because I'm not an asshole."

Nathan watched her walk off, feeling just a little bit worse. He looked over at Harper, who shrugged at him. "It wasn't very nice," she said simply. "It doesn't seem like you at all." He stayed quiet. "She's coming with us. Who knows if the group she came with can even take her." He sighed. "We've only got each other. And maybe we'll meet up with the others."

Nathan frowned and rubbed his face stressedly. "You're right, I was an ass," he said quickly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."

Harper half-smiled and stood also, feeling just a little woozy. Nathan offered her a hand to help stand her up. "It's okay," she said, "just apologize to Schantz. She didn't like that very much, either."

Nathan nodded and held her hand in his for a moment, then let it go reluctantly. Schantz jogged back and he offered a sheepish apology, which she gingerly accepted.

Within a few minutes, Stevie came back, and the three thanked her for the granola bars. She smiled at them. Clearly, she wasn't about to hold a mistaken statement against anyone. The four sat together quietly, awaiting any instructions.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC)

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Natasha Dean & Phillip Wilson


Natasha nodded as Dyomie suggested they kept moving, if anything it was a far better plan than just locking up for the night, they’d be sitting ducks if any of the things outside knew where they were. She wanted to argue with the plan, yet she couldn’t find any flaw and so she nodded before starting the engine and driving out the garage door.

Natasha had seen somethings during her time as a cop, but this was surely something no one would ever expect or get used too. The streets were empty, bare for a few of the things slowly wandering around, aimlessly until there attention was caught by the car and then they attempted to follow, but failed miserably.

Natasha kept her eyes on the road and how she was going to navigate around the city to the police station, but she knew the others were staring at the crumbling world around them. Natasha let out a breath and wondered if this was just happening in America, she was scared incase this was happening to her family back home, she quickly shook her head of the thought as the station came into view.

"What now?" Natasha heard Marie ask, it made her jump as she had forgotten about everyone else in the car.
We'll have to clear it out so we can give ourselves more time to gather whatever weapons are left," Natasha turned in her seat to face, Dyomie, she was calling all the shots at this point, after all this was just like a normal job for her. "Alright, blondie you're with me. We'll have to take these things out one at a time and as quickly and quietly as possible. We'll clear a path out here so when the inside is safe you," Dyomie pointed at Phillip, who politely nodded, "and Tidbit can run in quickly if needed, but don't come in until I tell you Marie. Still have your walkie?"

Natasha looked to Phillip, she was going to be leaving him outside with all these things, if he got hurt or worse, Natasha didn’t know what she would do. Chances are she’d take it out on Dyomie, blame her. If he gets hurt… No he won’t, Natasha, Phillip’s more capable than most. Natasha thought to herself. Her attention brought back to the conversation at hand.

"Good. Now blondie, since this is your station you're the best one to help me figure out where these weapons are, so you'll need to stay behind me every step of the way and take out any of these Cretans that come too close. I'll head out in front and take out as many as I can. We'll move step by step in this, the trick is to keep going only stopping for a few seconds and don't make any noise; breathe through the nose and walk on the balls of your feet; always stay in a position that you'll be ready to fight in, elbows in, a good balanced position; and most importantly no guns," Natasha sighed, it wasn’t like Dyomie was teaching her anything new, she learned all this in the Academy, it was the technique used for a shootout or when sneaking around for someone who doesn’t need to know you’re there. Natasha looked down at the metal club, Dyomie was handing her and shook her head, rejecting the metal piece and took out her baton. “Ready blondie? Though honestly it doesn't matter if you are or not," Dyomie said before silently darted towards the station, her movements were lithe and quick. Natasha followed, her style was more run and duck, run and duck, hiding behind any form of cover she could. Darting into an alleyway, she hugged the wall, making sure to keep quiet, she took out her key for the side door and tried the lock, she heard the click and lightly pushed the door, making sure not to make any noise as she did. She looked back to Dyomie and nodded, signalling to move in.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne

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Thomas Blackthorne

Dawn. It came creeping over the horizon, the sun spreading its rays across a landscape that had descended into hell. Fires raged everywhere you looked and the roads were choked with those trying to escape the undead onslaught. You could see the Walkers eating their way up the lines of stalled cars, dragging people screaming from their vehicles and though daylight made it slightly less hellish it also made you very aware of how widespread the destruction was.

On the USS Bunker Hill the sunlight was dazzling as it danced across the water, blinding the flight deck crew as they searched the sky for signs of the SeaHawk returning to station. Orders had come down from Command that no more rescue flights were to enter the city until after Airforce units had bombed the heaviest concentrations of Walkers. Once that was completed, there would be time to go in and mop up. So simple and so naive.

The thud of rotor blades came over the water at last and the sailors took up their positions as the grey helicopter swept into view. It was laboring slightly, the blades clawing at the air as it came in low with barely enough altitude to reach the flight deck that rose and fell with the sea.

It hung for a moment above the deck and then as a wave crested it dropped neatly onto the pad with barely a thump. Sailors hurried forward to help offload the civilians, nine in all, who had been plucked from the roof of an apartment building. They were inspected at once, the Marines lurking close by, as the rotors spun down.

Holloway sat slumped in the cockpit, exhaustion written across his face. Bishop was next to him in the co-pilots seat and all he could do was stare vacantly at the hanger door in front of them that was, even now, beginning to grind open to allow a flood of light in, and a flood of refugees out. Only two other men were in the helicopter. Clarkson was seated in the gunners’ seat for the M60 machine gun but he was oblivious to the landing or even to the thanks of the refugees.

Blackthorne sat alone on the port side of the helicopter, his head in his hands. His fatigues were torn, blood was running down his face. He moved long enough wave away the medic who hurried towards him. He felt empty, exhausted beyond all reason and, for the first time in a long time, he felt like crying.

He was no stranger to death, he had killed his fair share of men during his combat tours but nothing could have ever prepared him for the emotions that threatened to rip him apart at that moment. He could still see the Walkers dropping in droves and see the look in Butskiys eyes seconds before he shot himself.

The helicopter swooped in like a giant bird, the heavy down draft of the rotors battering at the crowd of huddled refugees flat against the open space of roof they had been frantically waving from. There were six of them, all young women from a modeling agency in the building below. They estimated the oldest to be no more than seventeen or eighteen.

There was no clear space near to the refugees and so Holloway brought them in for a winch pickup, hovering no more than fifty feet off the ground as Blackthorne and Butskiy repelled swiftly to the rooftop. The first two girls, their voices almost drowned out, were gesturing to a nearby rooftop penthouse. Walkers, possibly dozens of them, could be seen banging on the glass, trying to reach the refugees. Most of them, like the girls, were clad in little skimpy outfits, it looked almost hilarious at first glance.

It was no trouble to winch the first four girls into the helicopter but fate is a cruel mistress and as a gust of wind hammered into the helicopter, forcing it closer to the glass, the down draft picked up some loose debris and hurled it at the glass. Spider webs appeared across the surface of the glass and in seconds it collapsed under the weight of the walkers who poured onto the roof.

A collection of cell towers prevented Holloway from rotating the chopper so that the machine gun could bear on the Walkers and Blackthorne and Butskiy suddenly found themselves faced with a small swarm, and the need to still winch two refugees into the helicopter.

The harnesses came down and the girls were quickly hooked up but it took precious seconds and lack of gunfire allowed the Walkers to close within a few yards. The two soldiers began firing again, dropping those closest to them but there was going to be too many.

Blackthorne quickly signaled to Holloway to pull back towards the edge of the roof and he and Butskiy began to fall back, firing as they went. It looked for a moment like they might be able to pull out without any issue, and then Butskiy went down.

He had been stepping back, coolly picking off the Walkers as he did so. With the helicopter maneuvering and the moans of the walkers he couldn’t hear Blackthornes shout of warning as an arm shot out from beneath an air conditioning unit and tripped him. Before he could do anything teeth had sunk into his leg and he found himself face to face with a naked Walker. The man must have once been a well-built fellow, possibly a model himself, but now he was a ravenous monster that clawed towards Butskiys face. How it had come to be there they couldn’t guess, maybe someone who had fled to the roof to take cover and then reanimated. It didn’t matter. The damage was done.

Blackthorne shot the creature and knelt next to Butskiy. There were tears in the smaller man’s eyes as he clutched at the Sergeants shoulder. He had to shout to be heard but there was no mistaking his words.

“Been an honour Tom! See you in hell!” He gave the Sergeant a heavy shove and, his leg dragging uselessly behind him, he began to limp towards the Walkers, firing as he went. He was screaming something in Russian that Blackthorne couldn’t make out and he felt hot tears stinging the corners of his eyes as he turned and ran towards the helicopter.

He was hauled in by willing hands and looked back down to the rooftop. Butskiy had fired his last rounds from his submachine gun and dropped it, drawing out his pistol and continuing the massacre. He killed them all, every single damn one of them, shooting the last one as it tried to lunge for him, waiting until his pistol almost touched its forehead before blowing its grey matter all over the broken windows.

The helicopter has remained on station and Blackthorne felt a knot in his gut as a man he known less than a week yet had shared more horrors with than most others in his life, turned to face them. Even at this distance Blackthorne could see tears running down his friends face as he threw them a jaunty salute and then put a bullet in his brain.


“Sergeant. Sergeant Blackthorne.” The gently spoken words brought him back to reality and he found himself face to face with a pretty female medic who was crouching at his feet, hands on his knees. “We need you Sergeant, your boys need you.”
He nodded numbly and allowed her to take his arm for a moment as he pushed himself away from the body of the helicopter. His fingers seemed unusually heavy as he pulled open the cockpit door and shook Holloway gently.
“Come on Hollowayt, let’s get some grub in us, grab a shower.”

The black man nodded and unbuckled his harness. Next to him Bishop did the same and Blackthorne could hear Clarkson swearing quietly as he fought to get himself out of the gunners seat. The three men joined him on the flight deck and they began the slow walk towards the ship. Curious civilians, at last released from their night in the hanger, were kept back by a cordon of Marines.

Once into the ship they were relieved of their weapons by the Marine security detail and checked over once again by the medics before being shown to a cabin that had been set aside for them. Their uniforms were taken to be washed and each of them was given a clean set.

Blackthorne lay down on one of the bunks and stared at the ceiling. The hum of the ships machinery was soothing and the whir of the air-conditioning unit a welcome change from the thump of the helicopter rotor blades. Beneath him he could heavy breathing as Holloway passed out within seconds of his head hitting the pillow. It was not so easy for Blackthorne but when sleep finally came it was the complete and absolute sleep of a man pushed beyond his limits.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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It was a nice welcome party on the part of WEND-TV's staff. Harper had been off the plane for just two days from Atlanta when two other reporters, Erica Thompson and Kyle Reeves, called her as she was moving into her apartment, informing her that they'd like to welcome her to the station, that they had both not been there very long and they were excited to have another newcomer enter the newsroom.

Harper graciously accepted their offer and showed up to the newsroom on a Saturday night, freed-up while the broadcast was pre-empted by a late college football game. Erica was a bubbly blonde pipsqueak from an old Irish neighborhood in Boston who had worked hard to change her accent to something a little more diluted, and Kyle was a friendly, dark-haired fellow from Utah. They'd gone to a lot of trouble to strew a banner that read "Welcome, Harper!" from one end of the newsroom to the other. They even brought in a marbled cake, which featured a design of a map of the U.S., the states of Georgia and California both highlighted in yellow, and small white paper airplane with a drawn trail heading in loop-de-loops from the east coast to the west coast. Harper thought it was cute. They'd even thought to provide cups of lemonade and sweet tea. She loved sweet tea.

It was a nice, informal bash. A lot of folks, about 25, had shown up, even if they weren't scheduled to be on shift. Harper smiled as she worked to keep up with the names and new faces. Obviously, it was going to take some time. She noticed that a lot of the older reporters had limp handshakes and mostly kept to themselves, as did the sports department. Chuck Cherry smelled like whiskey and held her hand a little too long. George Geranos and Maxine Millner were off that night. Steve Hilpin, who she had met when she flew out for an interview the month prior, apparently was taking his kids to go to a concert. Finally, the game ended around 9 p.m. and it was time to pack up.

A group of about ten lingered around while others who'd had plans said friendly goodbyes and took off. Kyle and Erica, once satisfied with the state of the newsroom after they'd cleared the decorations, suggested to the group that they go out for beers. At first Harper resisted, saying that she had to finish moving in to her new place, but Erica grabbed Harper by the wrist and giddily insisted that they head out to the Blue Palms Brewhouse on Hollywood Boulevard.

About thirty minutes later, eleven of the WEND staff, including Harper, walked into the busy establishment and took up a large table. About two hours' worth of carousing and general merrymaking yielded eleven tipsy-to-drunk adults between the ages of 25 and 35. Harper had especially hit it off with the tall blond photographer, Nathan, who had a loud, contagious laugh, a big personality, and an obscenely wide-ranging knowledge of sports and movie trivia. Definitely the life of the party. And he was the one who suggested that they move on just a block or two away to The Frolic Room.

The night became far more frenzied at the new location. The legendary old bar was packed wall-to-wall with partygoers and music blasted. Harper finally stopped worrying about unpacking her apartment long enough to hit the dance floor and freely chat with the group at their table, occasionally breaking off to dance with either a friendly-looking stranger or a member of the group.

Finally, Nathan made his way over to her and took her wrists and started to goofily twirl and spin her around, her long, dark hair fanning out behind her. Her drinks over the course of the evening hit harder as the minutes went by. For the next hour, Nathan was reluctant to relinquish her company.

Finally, the lights flickered on and off just before 2 a.m. It was time for the bar to collect tabs and kick everyone out. Harper shuffled out to the front of the building to meet the group, having already paid for her drinks. Nathan followed just a few feet behind, and met her outside the door and on the street. The warm night air was clearer and cooler than the air inside the bar.

"Looks like we're the only ones who paid up so far," she said with a dull slur, grinning wildly and leaning against the building's exterior as she searched for cab fare in her pocketbook.

Nathan stood beside her and nodded, grinning back. A group of people started to laugh not far away. Nathan cast a suspicious glance at a group of smokers nearby. His friendly face drew down into a dark frown. "God, I hate that shit," he muttered, partly to himself and partly to Harper. "People who smoke cigarettes blow."

"Wanna say that louder?" shot back one of the smokers who had just happened to catch what he said.

The corners of Nathan's mouth tricked up ever-so-slightly. "Yeah, I hate that shit," he shot back at a louder volume. "You're poisoning the air, you're poisoning yourselves, and you just look really fucking lame." The other man took two steps toward Nathan. Both had definitely had too much to drink. Nathan stepped forward and raised his arms intimidatingly. "Really, dude? Really?"

"I can do whatever I want," the other guy said, deliberately puffing on his cigarette and blowing a large cloud of smoke out in Nathan's direction.

Harper instinctively hurled herself forward at Nathan, just as two others were doing to the other man, as the two started to quickly move toward each other. The commotion was over as quickly as it started when other bar patrons started to filter out the door. This was embarrassing.

Nathan glared at the group, who decided to migrate further down the sidewalk. "Jerks," he muttered quietly.

Harper stared at him, puzzled. "What was that?" she asked, still a little stunned that such a nice guy would do something weird like that.

"People can be such dicks," he answered moodily.

It seemed to make perfect sense to him, but made none to Harper. "But you don't have to do that," she said exasperatedly. "They weren't doing anything."

He paused. "They're smoking ciagrettes," he said flatly, "really close to us. I didn't want them to bother you."

Harper blinked. "Well, thank you," she said, "but you don't have to do that. It's all right. I can take care of myself."

Nathan shrugged. "Well, I like to take care of my friends," he said, once again sounding so self-assured, and cracking a half-grin at her.

Harper half-smiled as the rest of the group exited, each person slowly going their own way in different cabs home.


# # #

Harper watched Nathan as he excused himself to get up and go stretch his legs. The first time she'd met a lot of her co-workers was a good time. She suddenly felt a pang of guilt for being so tough on the newsroom; she felt homesick for North Carolina in the worst way, but maybe the group of people she'd spent the last several months of her life with really weren't as bad as she thought they were.

Except Chuck. Chuck sucked.

And despite Nathan's occasional obnoxious setbacks, she still had a soft spot for him. She had probably spent more time with Nathan than any other person after she arrived in Los Angeles due to the fact that they worked together most days, and she kept a low-profile social life outside of work.

She looked over her shoulder at Schantz and Stevie; the small girl with the glasses had offered the very serious Schantz a hairbrush and a small rubber band, which, surprisingly, Schantz took and offered a smile as a thank-you. As she quickly brushed her hair, Stevie looked to be very satisfied, even if she also looked dog-tired. If she was worried about anything, then she wasn't doing a very good job of showing it.

A trio of sailors approached assertively. One held a clipboard, another was a medic, and the third held a rifle, safely pointed up toward the ceiling. Harper smiled and nodded to them. "Hi," she greeted them. "How's it going?"

The one holding the clipboard nodded distantly at her. "Hello, ma'am," he said in a somewhat robotic fashion, "we're currently conducting checks throughout the area to account for the number of refugees aboard. We'd like to ask you ladies a couple of questions."

Harper nodded and lifted a finger up quickly. "Could you give us two seconds?" she asked, "we actually have another person traveling with us." Schantz handed the hairbrush backed to Stevie and wordlessly jogged off to go find Nathan. "But we're happy to answer questions while we wait."

The medic looked at the two women and spread his palms outward, offering a friendly gesture. "Ladies, I know that you've already been checked to determine that you're in good health, but can you verbally confirm that you're okay? No bites or injuries sustained directly from an infected individual?" Both of them nodded. "Are either of you pregnant or suffering from a chronic condition?" Both of them shook their heads. "Head injuries?" Both of them shook their heads. "Between the ages of 18 and 45?" Both nodded.

"Great," said the sailor with the clipboard, "then you both are in good condition and will be the fifth group lifted out of here. First we're taking out the people in poor health to get them to the infirmary at the refugee center FEMA has set up north of here. Then we're following with the elderly, young children and their parents. Then we'll get the healthy people out. At this point we're still determining how long travel time will be. As long as your friends are also in good shape, we'll make a note to keep the four of you together. Just keep an ear out, we'll call out your last names on the P.A. system. Do you understand?" The two women nodded. "Right. Then stick around. Pay attention."

Schantz returned with Nathan, and the two were subjected to the same round of questioning. The three men left, leaving the four to stare at each other once more. "Well, we're not being separated," Harper said definitively. "Darden, you should stay with us."

Stevie smiled a little. She didn't mind at all when people referred to her by her last name. Besides, the very tomboyish nickname her mother had given her as a child didn't always stick well with people. "Thanks," she responded.

Nathan stuck his thumb toward the main door of the hangar. "While I was gone I noticed Captain America came back," he said pointedly at Stevie. Harper watched as she glanced toward the direction Nathan was pointed in. "You sure you'll be able to leave him behind?"

Stevie bristled a little. "I don't think any of us really have a choice in what happens next," she said darkly. Harper made a mental note to talk to Nathan again; this girl obviously picked up quickly on when people weren't teasing her in a necessarily friendly manner. "And he's not American." Apparently she loved scrapping back, too.

Nathan started to say something, but Schantz stopped him. "She said she's coming with us," she said quickly to Nathan, then turned to Stevie. "You all right? You don't look so good."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


James grabbed one of the unlit logs and used it to fiddle with the fire a bit, opening it up so the fire could breathe. He tossed the piece of wood into the center once he was done with it and leaned back into his folding chair. A half-empty beer rested loosely in the built-in cup-holder-- he grabbed it, taking a sip, and looked across the fire at Wayne. The ex-DJ sat on top of the trucker cab with his feet on the hood, clutching a metal pole in his hands. He spun it lazily in his fingers as he gazed out towards the vista of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Lily and Steve sat with their backs against a fallen tree trunk they had managed to drag over for seating. They huddled under a blanket, warming against the flames.

None of them had been able to sleep all night, what with the constant helicopters, explosions, and gunfire. The scariest part of the whole night happened to be the sudden lack of sirens. It was as if all emergency personnel suddenly went silent-- and there were too many ways that could have become a possibility. As per Calvin's prediction not a single walker ended up stumbling upon their camp... nor any survivors. They had lucked out with their location-- a small sanctuary amidst the chaos.

Suddenly they heard footsteps from down the path...

The first rays of sun were just beginning to break over the hills, silhouetting whoever was approaching in darkness. The figure scrambled up the dirt road, tripping over himself in his haste. Wayne and James had already jumped to their feet and taken their positions behind the truck, shielding themselves from whatever was coming-- James with his knife, Wayne with his metal pipe. But as the figure drew near enough they recognized it as Chuck. Although it looked more like a walker than the Chuck who had left the camp the previous night. The right half of his torso and legs were covered in blood and residue, smeared to bloody perfection all over his body-- the fabric of his clothing torn and shredded as if by some animal. His bat dragged on the ground, as he slowed to a stop and collapsed in front of the truck.

Wayne hurried over to him and cautiously helped him up. "Chuck?! Holy shit, bro! What happened to you guys?"

Steve tossed Wayne a water bottle from over the truck and he handed it to Chuck, who uncapped it-- splashing half of it on his face before drinking the rest. He threw it to the ground and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand-- staring at the questioning eyes of the men standing around him. Tears ran down his already wet cheeks as he struggled to find the right words to begin...

"Chuck? Buddy?"


< + >


...Two Hours Earlier...

Calvin held his flashlight close to the back of the food label, carefully inspecting its date of expiration. The cleared ones went into his backpack, like the can of fruit cocktail he had just cleared. He put the flashlight in his teeth as he knelt down to unzip his bag and stuffed the can inside-- zipping it up.

In other rows of the store, Jack and Chuck perused other stocked merchandise. It had seemed that during their rush out of the city, not everybody had thought to hit the local stores. At least not the obvious ones. They were presently inside a Save-For-Less discount store. It didn't have the quality food or diverse selection of the more name brand grocery stores, but the food was in bulk-- and it was still food. The men had entered quietly from the back after crossing from rooftop to rooftop to get down the street. The van had been parked just at the bottom of the hill behind a construction site, so as not to draw to much attention to their entrance into the city-- and then they walked the rest of the way. It didn't feel like a typical LA late night, with the roads still full of moving cars and people walking the streets. Since the night was almost over, the city had quieted down as the living hunted for some place to hide and the dead hunted for the living. They still had to get while the getting was good-- and this was the third store they had hit that night. If all went off without a hitch, they'd be returning with a van full of awesome stuff.

Calvin had just begun browsing a new aisle when he saw a few signal flashes from Chuck's flashlight on the other end of the store. He shouldered his bag and walked over to him, where he also met Jack. He hadn't been over to this side of the store yet and quickly understood Chuck's urgent signals when he saw the massive find... the three of them stood in front of what looked like several rows of camping equipment, outdoor furniture, hiking gear, etc.

"Jackpot," Jack growled, clapping his hands together. He was nursing a cigar in his mouth, worrying Calvin as to how hard he was actually scavenging for useful supplies.

"Good find," Calvin said, clapping Chuck on the back. "Let's find a couple duffle bags and see what we can get back to the van." The other two nodded and split off to different aisles. Calvin swung his flashlight to face the aisle he was in and saw various gardening tools and equipment. He squinted his eyes, and tipped his hat back with the flick of a finger. He was already liking his options...


< + >


Chuck was the last of the three to drop his duffel bag in a pile by the back door. They had gathered some prime equipment for the campsite-- almost to the point where they were sad at how much they'd have to leave behind... surely they weren't the only ones who realized the opportunity in looting what they could now and not waiting til the sun came up. By the end of the week the city would be stripped of supplies and goods.

"Why don't you guys bring these first three bags out to the van while I load the last couple. I want to do one more sweep of that other corner of the store before we take off. Now that I've seen this, I bet they have pharmaceuticals and meds here..." Calvin said, craning his neck towards that part of the store. Chuck picked up one of the bags, and opened the door for Jack. Jack grabbed the other two overly-stuffed duffel bags and started to walk outside.

"You're covering me then," Jack argued on his way out. "I ain't carrying two bags by myself." Chuck laughed as the two disappeared into the night. Calvin let the door swing shut as he grabbed an empty bag and headed towards the opposite corner of the store. He passed a group of weirdly placed mannequins, some of which had fallen to the floor during the night's events. Calvin rounded the corner and found himself facing rows of medicine, kits, creams, ointments, and the like. Apart from the specific ones they would need, Calvin tried to grab anything that looked like it could be useful. The door to the back office had been left open in their abrupt exit, and Calvin helped himself to the few brands of sleeping aids he was familiar with. There was no knowing when a normal night of sleep would come again. As an afterthought, he grabbed some nicotine gum and patches too-- for the inevitable raging withdrawals someone was bound to have.

He was half-way through the label on the back of a box called Niconol, when the front door burst open-- nearly flying from its hinges. A man in a sweatshirt and beanie came barreling inside, slamming the door behind him. He reached up and shut the blinds covering the window, moving across the storefront in a low crouch as he peered outside at whatever he was running from. Calvin had already ducked down in the aisle and drawn his revolver-- all two bullets of it. He crept back down the aisle, taking refuge amongst the cluster of mannequins he had passed earlier. He watched through the legs of one of the porcelain statues as the intruder nervously wiped the sweat from his brow.

Headlights danced across the shuttered windows, playing shadows across the whole of the store. The vehicle creaked as it swung to a stop in front of the store. Calvin could hear feet hit the ground as several individuals exited from inside. Whoever this man was... he was outnumbered-- and in a horrible hiding spot. For a brief moment, Calvin considered calling out to the panicked man and offering him solace amongst the mannequins-- but he knew how likely it was that the man was just as dangerous as the ones hunting him. That wasn't worth risking his own life for, unfortunately.

He could hear someone outside rustle with some chains as the sound of metal on metal echoed from the front door. The intruder had barred it shut with something he found, so that they couldn't get inside, but by the sound of it-- they had conceived a backup plan. An engine revved itself into high gear, tires burning rubber against the concrete as it peeled out. They finally caught tread and the truck ripped the front doors out of their hinges-- the glass partitions shattering as they were dragged down the road. Whatever these guys intent, subtlety was not part of it. It was likely they'd alerted every walker within a mile radius with that display.

"Woo, doggie!" one of the men yelled from just outside the door. "What say we tie those there chains to this fuckers teeth when we find him, Reggie?"

His chubby friend stepped through the door first, his rifle at the ready. "That's a dumb fucking idea... teeth is too small for chains. Besides, Bronson wants him alive."

Wherever their prey had gone, he was no longer anywhere near the windows. He had probably sunken deeper into the aisles once he realized what they were doing. Calvin looked at the back door, wondering how long he had until Jack and Chuck walked carelessly back inside. That could blow this whole thing up all too quick.

"Come out, come out, wherever you arrrre..." the bigger of the two sang out. Whoever these guys were, they wore identical coveralls-- though it was too dark to make out the logo or insignia on them. Could be a rogue biker gang for all he knew...

Calvin shuddered. Nothing sounded more dangerous right now.

*CLANG CLANG CLANG*

Several metal objects rang loudly on the linoleum floor from another corner of the store. The intruder had just given away his position, and the two men went into hot pursuit-- splitting up to approach the corner from both sides. Calvin held his breath as he heard the men struggle with their prize, forcing him to the ground. His shoes squeaked against the tile as he fought to gain traction. Shortly enough, he heard the bone-crunching blows of gun against bone as they subdued the poor man and dragged him towards the front of the store. The captured man screamed and begged for his life as they dropped him near the front door.

Their driver wasn't as stupid as he had looked-- having driven around the block to distract the horde of walkers from the grocery story to open up an exit route. The roar of the truck rumbled back into range as it approached from down the street. One of the two men stuck his head out the window to see how far out it was-- and then said the last words Calvin needed to hear...

"Shit, man..." one of the thugs whispered.

"What?"

"There's two fools bee-linin' towards the back of the store... you see 'em?" he said, pointing at the hill.

The man cocked his rifle. "Oh, I see 'em alright."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper poked her head outside of the door and looked both ways, spotting Stevie sitting up against the wall of the edge of the huge craft. She stepped up to Stevie and studied her; she looked awful.

Her face was pale and there was a dazed look in her eyes when she looked back up at Harper.

"Hey," Harper said softly, kneeling down to sit down in front of her, "you all right?"

Stevie looked around, and nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine," she said, "don't worry about me. Just let me know when they call us to go."

Harper shook her head. "They did call us. There's been an abrupt change of plans. Something weird happened. We're all being loaded onto the same helicopter out." She eyed Stevie again. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Stevie sprang to her feet almost involuntarily and vomited over the ledge. Harper followed her up and looked around, then patted Stevie's back in an attempt to help in some way.

"Now it's my turn to tell you you don't look fine at all."

Stevie spat over the edge and turned back to Harper, standing up straight. Her back slumped just a little in obvious exhaustion. "Look," she said, "if we're going off somewhere, the last place I want to get stuck is one of those little mobile units that they throw sick people into."

Harper shook her head. "I know, so what do we do? What's wrong, exactly?"

Stevie sighed and smoothed her dress downward in an attempt to look like she wasn't panicked to random passerby. "Ever since I was little, I get sick if I overwork myself," she said, leaning in toward Harper's ear and speaking quietly. "It's a kidney condition. It took me out of school a few times when I was little. I had surgery to fix the worst of it, but it can come back if I'm not taking care of myself." She took a breath. "I haven't slept more than maybe ten hours in the past five days. It's more than just yesterday that's catching up to me."

Harper's eyes went big. "You'll need antibiotics or this is going to get a whole lot worse," she said.

Stevie nodded. "If it's really bad, yes, I will," she said, "but sometimes I can sleep it off."

"When are you going to be able to do that?" Harper asked. "I mean, I don't doubt you, but-"

"Ladies," a voice called out sharply. They both turned to see a pair of Marines motioning to them. "We've got to get going. Hustle along."

Harper nodded, understanding the urgency. "Thank you," she said calmly with a half-smile, and patted Stevie's arm and gently pulled her along. "We'll go right now."

They wordlessly made their way back into the hangar, where Schantz and Nathan beckoned them to follow them through the door to the other side. There was a line forming behind a massive CH-53, a ramp set down to collect passengers. The four were quickly and efficiently ushered aboard, and before they knew it, the six rotor blades whooshed heavily to life and they lifted off of the frigate.

# # #

There weren't any windows substantial enough to feature the cityscape unfolding ahead of the massive aircraft as it pushed ahead, mile by mile, toward Pomona.

The sun overhead sizzled the air to over 90 degrees, even though it was barely mid-morning, far higher than normal for the time of year. The city's sky was eerily silent except for the occasional military aircraft lifting through the air.

The typical hum of commercial airliners was far quieter than usual.

Patches of black smoke billowed above parts of the city, adding to the cloudy smog hanging like a curtain draping up toward the atmosphere.

Finally, the huge craft began to descend on the FEMA camp's helibase, touching down very carefully in the clearing amongst the trees. The ramp was set down and passengers were called out, sent to line up divided amongst a few stations. They must have been getting checked in.

Stevie worked to appear like she wasn't feeling as listless as she was as she provided her Washington driver's license and passport to identify herself. Her bag was searched, but not well enough; Nathan had tucked her contraband into her spare clothes, which they didn't bother checking out. She reflected on the fact that maybe he'd done something nice for her. She found the question asking about a good contact phone number, and phone number for a person to contact in case any harm befell her to fall a little on the darker side of humorous.

Harper, devoid of anything but the clothes on her back and one white leather flat shoe, let out a sigh of relief when Nathan happened to have her press credentials from a recent secured shoot. Sometimes Nathan would carry her credentials and ID when they were on a shoot that occupied her time; he found it a lot easier to just dig into his wallet to pull out two ID's and get it over with. This wasn't an official ID of any kind, but the overly-detailed laminated card had a headshot of Harper, her full name, her affiliation, and, oddly but conveniently, her birthday.

The four followed instructions to head to a large, white softcover tent along with about ten other people. The inside featured about one hundred people gathered, low cots rowed along the walls of the tent, and forming aisle ways in the interior. It was hot, and smelled like there were too many people. Their guide informed them that a diesel generator was giving power to the tent, and that there were outlets stationed frequently throughout. He said that the HVAC system was working, but that the different tents around the encampment took turns with it so that way fuel could be conserved. The food service station was supposed to resume service in about two hours, and the water purification system was still being worked on--meaning, no laundry, showers, or water until then.

The four split from the main group and set themselves on a cluster of cots along the tent wall, feeling somewhat better about their chance for cooler air.

Nathan flopped down on his cot face-first and let out a long, loud sigh. "Just like home!"

Schantz stretched out on her stomach on hers. "I asked if there's anything I can do to help, and they said they'd let me know," she reported. "I think that's government-talk for, 'No, you can't.'"

Harper laughed. "I feel like the weirdo here without an ID," she said, looking down at her feet and pulling off her single shoe. "This is pathetic," she said, holding it up near her face and pointing to it. "One shoe. And we're in the woods."

"The shoe's not the one that's pathetic," Nathan piped up from his spot on his cot. Harper glared at him playfully and smacked him with the shoe. He jumped up and tackled her. Schantz rolled her eyes and pulled a FEMA emergency manual from under the cot and started to read.

Stevie set her bag down underneath her cot and sat on its edge after instinctively pulling out her cell phone and charger. She plugged it into the nearby provided outlet and her phone began to slowly power itself up. Hoping that maybe something had changed, she checked the phone and wireless once again. Nothing for now. She shoved her coat on the surface of the cot and laid down, flipping mindlessly through her phone as though trying to find something to occupy her mind with.

She opened up her photos and came upon recent photos of herself, Dean, and life back in Seattle. It seemed so far removed from sitting in a crowded tent with a bunch of strangers in California after what was decidedly the weirdest day of her life. Even though it hadn't been 24 hours, she felt like she was taking a look at someone else's life, someone else who wasn't there anymore. The voyeuristic quality of it made her stomach twist even more. It certainly did feel creepy to see someone else's moments from another life. Even Dean, who certainly meant so much to her, didn't even look familiar... not at all like the last time she saw him.

She switched her phone off and stared up at the white ceiling, willing herself to not vomit again.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

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Just a few hours later, Stevie was sleeping soundly on her cot, curled up, sweating profusely but shivering slightly. Harper had set her coat on top of her in order to avoid the occasional wandering FEMA staffer from spotting her face. Chatter in the tent pointed to the fact that the medical unit was not a good place to be--they were getting crowded and someone was keeping a tally of bodybags seen getting dragged from the area.

Nathan looked at Harper, who still kept a very calm and cool demeanor despite her deep concern. He had borrowed Stevie's phone and was playing a game. Schantz was also resting. "Why's she shivering?" he asked, keeping his voice down.

Harper shrugged. "I didn't notice," she said quickly.

Nathan looked at her for a long moment, then set the phone down. "I know when you're lying," he said, "we've been working together for months and you can't get it past me. You know what's up. I saw you guys talking on the boat."

Harper shook her head. "Girl stuff," she said simply.

Nathan took a sip of bottled water and laughed. "I've got sisters and I've never seen anything like this," he said, "and I've seen everything."

Harper pursed her lip, looking down at the ground. She brought her eyes back up to Nathan, and sighed. "She's feeling sick," she said.

Nathan held his hands out and smiled. "Now how hard was that?"

"We can't let them find out," Harper said hushedly, "she doesn't want to end up in one of these hospitals here."

Nathan jutted his chin up and looked over the room. "Smart." He nodded.

Stevie stirred just slightly. Harper looked over at her with a smile, and then noticed two responders walking close to their cots. They eyed Stevie suspiciously as she pulled herself up, resting on her elbows, her face unnaturally pale, and then quickly shoved her head on the other side of the cot, vomiting for what must have been the sixth time that day. Harper's eyes widened as they approached. Unbelievably bad timing.

# # #

"Ma'am, you're going to have to come with us."

That was the last thing that Stevie heard before she passed out, revived slightly when two pairs of arms picked her up and pulled her away. A flashlight shone brightly into her eye and drilled a terrible sensation behind her eyebrows. Spots dazed across her vision.

"But she's fine," she heard a familiar voice volunteer for her from far away.

"Well, then why's she fainting?" came the frustrated retort. "People get sick after they get bit."

Dark again.

# # #

Harper stared blankly at the two camp workers outside of the tent Stevie had been pulled into. "They what?" She panted heavily after having torn after them, pursuing them as they took the tiny girl with glasses away as fast as they could.

One rolled his eyes. "Look, there's a lot of stuff that you guys just don't know. We hear that if people survive coming into contact with a walker that they get sick."

Nathan stepped forward and narrowed his eyes. "We never saw that. And we ran into plenty of walkers yesterday."

The worker shrugged. "I just know what I'm told. If someone is bitten and they don't immediately die, they get sick. And die within a day."

"But she didn't get bit," Nathan fired back, "she's just tired."

"I'm going to have to ask you to calm down," the man responded, holding his hands up.

Nathan's face turned red. "Calm down? That WAS calm," he fumed. "You want to see me not-calm? I'll show you not-calm!"

Harper threw a hand out in front of his chest to silence him. She turned to the worker and sighed. "Look, I don't want us to have to split up," she said smoothly, locking her eyes with the other person intensely. "Please."

The other worker nodded nonchalantly. "We'll keep you up with what happens to her. Wait here."

# # #

Blinding white flash.

"Miss... Darden? Can you tell me what's going on?"

Stevie gratefully took the bottle of water being offered to her and poured it down her throat, parched. "I... I've got a history of kidney infections," she said quietly, her energy drained.

Her vision came back in focus, revealing a pair of mascara'd eyes with a white breath mask below, a cap covering above. "Well," came the female voice behind the fabric, pulling herself back and straightening the stethoscope from around her neck, clipboard in her other hand. Several minutes had passed from the time that Stevie had fainted. "You're showing all the signs of that. I couldn't find any bites on you and your eyes don't look inflamed or irritated. And you're not showing most of the symptoms that other people are if they've come into contact with the walkers. In fact, how are you feeling?"

Stevie looked through the opening of the tent and spotted Harper, talking to a few other people about ten feet away from the entrance. She looked back at the doctor and opened her mouth slowly. "Well, I'm very tired," she managed groggily, her eyelids desperately wanting to close shut again. "My lower back hurts pretty badly. And I kind of just feel... awful."

"Feel hot?" the doctor asked.

"Yes," Stevie answered. "But I just need to rest. I'll be fine when I leave."

"Leave?" the doctor remarked incredulously, "with a fever? You're not going anywhere except in quarantine with an IV drip."

Stevie's face fell. "No, no, I can't do that," she fretted quietly. The mere thought of it made her feel even worse.

"You stay out there, you'll catch something else and then you'll just end up back in here," the doctor said authoratatively, gesturing toward the opening in the back of the tent. "We're taking you to the medical unit."

Stevie held her panic back, and cooperated with the two masked workers who approached her. "Can you at least let my friend out there know?" she asked, pointing quickly to Harper outside of the tent. She spotted Nathan out there, too.

The doctor nodded and handed her a mask. "Yes. We'll make sure she knows."

Stevie nodded and left with the two out of the other side of the tent, stringing her mask about her ears and adjusting it to a relatively comfortable spot. She stepped slowly, working to not fall down again. She was dazed during the walk. Her stomach felt like it would never sit still, like she was in an elevator that kept changing floors. It wasn't a long jaunt to a series of small mobile units, and entered one that contained a series of six raised mobile beds separated by bleach-white cotton curtains. It smelled sterilized, further irritating her stomach. Small metal cabinets topped with miniature versions of hospital monitors sat to one side of each bed, none of which were actually switched on. Four of the beds were covered from the front by part of their curtains, with slight sounds of people breathing in their sleep or sniffing.

Another female doctor with a mask accompanied by a nurse escorted her to a bed, checking the clipboard that was handed off to them by the departing two. They stuck her by a bed and gestured to a folded-up green gown on the edge. "Go ahead and change out of everything you're wearing and put that on, please. You can put whatever you have on you in the bag provided. We'll be right back."

They jerked the curtain shut and left Stevie by herself. She felt weighted down by gravity and fatigue as she pulled off her jumper and red shirt, kicked off her boots and ripped stockings, and stripped down and tied the absolutely hideous green-and-purple patterned gown around her neck and back. It was hot inside the mobile. She stuck the plastic bag beneath the head of the bed and perched on the end, her legs dangling far above the ground. She shut her eyes and fought back another headache, shivering with internal chills despite the suffocating heat.

The two returned and pulled her back to lay down and covered her with a thin white cotton blanket. One hooked two bags to a tall metal bar and attached a tube to each, while the other pulled a needle out of a plastic bag. Stevie hated needles. She looked away as a cold cotton swab rubbed the top of her left hand, and a stinging jab pierced through the spot. A quick tape-down and a plug of a tube sent a brief chill into her hand and forearm.

"Here's an antibiotic and some fluids," one person said behind a mask. "Just get some rest." A second jab, this time in her right arm. "A very mild sedative. To help you relax."

"I didn't say you could do that!" Stevie called out, pulling her arm away. Too late.

"To help you sleep."

"But that's illegal!" It was starting to take hold; anything in her stomach had long been emptied and didn't cushion well against the effects. She laid back and listened to the labored breathing of the unknown person next to her. She raised a hand weakly and gestured it toward the curtain. "What's wrong with him?" she posited curiously.

"Some folks get sick when they get bit," one responded, "and they pass away. We watch pretty closely." Behind them, Stevie saw one of the other aides open the curtain directly opposite from hers, a bodybag laying on its bed.

She felt herself panic again. "Why am I in here with people who have been bit? That's not what I'm sick with!"

"Because we don't have much room." They slid the fabric through the runners curtly, obstructing her view as the sedative kicked in deeper.

And then it clicked. She was being prevented from asking any more questions.

The fluorescent light overhead flickered slightly as she looked around. She laid back and rested her left hand on her stomach, and drifted off to sleep.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Sarah Hawke :.



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

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

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

"Honestly?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



< + >



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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


"Go around the side and flank 'em," the shorter of the two men ordered. Reggie, the fat one, nodded and braced his rifle as he ran towards the corner. Calvin inched through the maze of mannequins, quietly stepping over one that had fallen against a shelf. The man reached down and held his knife to their captive's throat as he pulled him up from the floor. "C'mon you piece of shit!" He barked, dragging him towards the back door. The poor man scrambled on all fours trying to keep up -- but he was pretty badly busted up from what they did to him earlier. When the two of them finally reached the door, the man pulled his pistol out with his other hand and pointed it at the door.

Calvin could hear muffled yelling from the side of the door. "Open it!" Somebody shouted angrily.

The door opened to reveal Jack. He had the fat man's barrel to the back of his head and was shoved through the doorway. As he stumbled to a stop between the two bandits, he placed his hands on his head and casually looked around for Calvin. "Where's the other one?"

The fat man grinned. " Knocked his ass out in the alley here..." Reggie replied proudly.

The other bandit shook his head-- still holding the knife to the man's throat. He used his pistol hand to gesture behind him and Calvin took his opportunity-- lunging out and slamming the but of his gun down on the man's hand. His pistol clattered to the ground at his feet and Calvin slid up behind him placing his pistol against his head. The man with the knife to his throat started crying, nervously.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." Reggie said from behind Jack. He leveled his shotgun against the back of his head. "Don't do anything dumb."

Calvin squinted his eyes at the man. "You mean dumber than what you've already done?" Calvin replied. The man in his sights laughed uproariously.

"This one's got cajones, Reggie! I like him. See, me and Reggie here come from a much bigger group of guys. Whichever way you wanna look at it, if we go missing-- they's gonna come looking for us."

Calvin looked the man fat man dead in the eyes. "In a matter of minutes, my friend out there is gonna wake up-- and then you're gonna be outnumbered. I can wait here all day... you better hope your friends come fast."

Reggie adjusted his grip on the shotgun, licking his lips nervously. He looked to his friend for some sign of what to do but got nothing. For sake of better mind, Reggie leaned back through the doorway to look for Chuck.

"Uhhh... Francis," Reggie began, "he ain't out here no more."

"Seriously?"

"Oh no--I see him. He's running up that hill towards the Hollywood Sign..."

'Chuck you son of a bitch,' Calvin thought to himself. The man was a proven coward now -- and might have gotten the both of them killed if not for Jack's quick thinking. Knowing it was his only chance he reached down with one of his hands and blindly grabbed the shotgun barrel, yanking it clear of his head. Reggie instinctively pulled the trigger-- unloading a full round of buckshot into the chest of Francis' captor. Calvin attempted to duck behind the two of them for cover but was winged in his right shoulder, sending him and the others to the ground. The blast had all but ruptured Jack's eardrum, and a steady stream of blood poured out-- he gripped his injured hand, burnt raw from the piping hot shotgun barrel. All he could manage to do was fall forward as he lost his equilibrium. It cleared Calvin's line of shot, and he took the chance to fire one of his rounds into Reggie's chest. The thug reeled backwards into the wall beside the door, his shotgun slipping from his hand onto the floor. Jack reached out with his leg and kicked the weapon far from reach.

Calvin tugged Francis away from the shredded body of his former human shield and threw him into the middle of the floor. His fat friend coughed up blood from his position by the wall as he watched him with terror. "Please," he begged, "we'll split this place with ya!" Jack laughed a bit, spitting some blood onto the floor. "You don't gotta kill me!" The blood-curtling din of moans and growls began to rise from the vacant front doors of the building. No doubt some mixture between the shouting and the gunshots had attracted them in thick herd as they crawled over shattered glass to get inside. Jack picked up the dying Reggie's shotgun and pumped the empty shell into the air.

"I ain't got time to do math..."

BOOM!

Calvin looked away as Jack ended the man's life. In a way, it felt like killing him twice-- knowing full-well that he'd never come back to fuck with them again. Jack pressed the barrel of the gun into the ground, trying to support himself as he struggled to stay standing. His ear was bleeding even more now, and his vision had begun to go spotty. Calvin got under his arm to support him as he dragged him towards one of the side doors. The walkers had begun to close in-- many becoming distracted by the fresh corpses on the floor nearby. The two men used the opportunity to slip into the stairwell and get as far away from there as they could. They scrambled up the dark flights of stairs-- ever-aware of the raucous sounds of their pursuers echoing from below. Calvin through his shoulder into the doorway at the top and the two of them spilled out onto the rooftop. The bright sun was blinding, and Calvin had to shield his eyes down from its beams. At his feet was a metal pipe, which had clearly been used for something similar before. Calvin grabbed it once Jack was clear and slammed the door shut-- jamming the pipe into place. He slumped to the ground with his back against the door, breathing in the fresh outside air. Across the rooftop, a man's dead body sat folded into itself, a bullet hole barely visible on the side of his head. A pistol rested loosely in his grip beside him near some binoculars. Unlike him, they weren't dead.

In fact-- Calvin wasn't so sure he had ever felt so alive...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne

0.00 INK

Thomas Blackthorne

Blackthorne was shaken gently from the deepest sleep he had ever experienced by the young medic who had talked to him on the helicopter. She smiled at him the red glow of the cabins light and jerked her thumb quietly towards the doorway.

"Sorry to wake you Sergeant," She whispered. " But you've been requested on the bridge asap."

He nodded and swung his feet over the edge of the bunk. To his surprise she knelt quickly and slipped on his boots before handing him the new fatigue jacket he had been given. He pushed his arms through the sleeves, aware of the snores of the men who were still passed out around him. He looked from them to the medic and raised an eyebrow, she shook her head. They stepped quietly out into the passage way and she closed the door behind them, speaking in a low voice as they made their way down the passage.

"You've been out for the last six hours. I refused to let them wake you until you'd had at least a couple hours to yourselves. You guys have been through hell." She turned to smile at him as she said it. "I thought you could use it before your next tasking."

"Which is?" He asked but she shook her head and he sighed to himself, he was sure he didn't want any part of whatever it was they had in mind for him and his team.

Several ladders and they climbed into the operations room of the Cruiser. There was a small collection of officers present, certainly not the full compliment but enough to run the ship, for the time being at least. They all nodded towards him as he appeared and none objected when he didn't bother saluting.

"Welcome back to the land of the living Sergeant." Said Lieutenant Georges. "How're you feeling?'

"Like shit." Blackthorne said simply.

"I suppose I deserved that." A smile twitched at the corners of Georges mouth. "Let's get right into it then. It has been made clear to us that your team is the only combat effective unit not already actively involved in trying to contain this thing. Even as we speak, National Guard units are closing in on Los Angeles and the Airforce and Marines are going to begin bombing runs within the next two minutes. Hopefully we can take out the largest concentrations, mostly around hospitals and..."

"What?" The officer was cut off by Blackthornes question. "You told us we wouldn't be rescuing those people until more resources were into place."

Georges looked at his feet for a moment and then back up at Blackthorne. "Command decided that those people would remain in place as bait to keep the undead concentrated for aerial strikes."

"Of course they fucking did..." Blackthorne said, wishing at that moment that he could lie back down and die. The faces of those people on the roofs as the helicopter roared by were bad enough but the knowledge that they had been deliberately left there to die made him sick.

"It's a slim chance." Said another officer. "You may have been asleep for this Sergeant, but things have gotten a whole lot worse."

He gestured to footage of New York taken from a drone circling above. It showed a street level battle between the Walkers and a motley collection of soldier, police and civilians. The Walkers took the day swiftly enough, slouching and surging their way through the streets and out into the suburbs.

"So far it is confirmed that over half the eastern seaboard is lost." He tapped a keypad and, just like in every Hollywood movie ever, a screen zoomed out to show the bulk of the United States showing in light grey. "In fact much of the country is being over run. The world isn't much better off."

Another click and it zoomed out further, the world slowly spinning to reveal just what was going on. Everywhere it panned there was grey, or in some cases black and he didn't need those zones explained to him.

"The government is doing its best to save what it can and we've been tasked with providing security to the FEMA camp just outside LA. I've already dispatched half my Marines. You and yours are being sent in to retrieve the medical team. I'm sorry Sergeant, but you're back into it."

Blackthorne nodded and stretched his back, towering over the assembled officers by a good six inches. He gave a humourless laugh and then glanced at the map that was still showing a slowly revolving world.

"Guess you'd better put us back into the game coach."

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


An hour later the SeaHawk helicopter was back in the air again and roaring towards the mainland, now roughly 25 kilometres away. Holloway was back at the controls and Blackthorne was in the co-pilots seat next to him. Bishop and Clarkson were seated on either side, the doors had been removed so they could quickly get in and out of the helicopter.

"Heads up." Clarksons voice seemed loud in the headphones. "Fighters bombers at 2 o'clock."

Blackthorne peered up through the windscreen to see a dozen aircraft racing towards Los Angeles. He knew that they had come from an aircraft carrier somewhere off the coast but wasn't sure exactly where. The sleek grey aircraft shot passed them in seconds and towards the downtown core of the city.

It was more than five kilometres to the city but Blackthorne didn't need binoculars to tell him the bombs had hit as fresh flashes lit the sky and more smoke was pumped into the already hazy blue sky. There was something else, beyond the city to the north, a massive wall of flame and smoke was advancing slowly south and he pointed it out to Holloway.

"Forest fires."

"We're lucky there aren't more of them." Holloway responded as he gazed towards the fire. "The camp is a ways from the city and might be okay yet but I imagine they will have to do something about fighting that blaze or it will become a real problem."

Nothing else was said as the aircraft passed from the ocean and over solid ground. They were more than a few hundred feet high and Blackthorne could see Walkers staggering amongst the trees, along roadways, and much more. As they roared over the Highway 57 he was shocked to see thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Walkers shuffling slowly along the roadway, drawn onwards by the gunfire of a National Guard unit that had blocked a narrow choke point. They had blown up the buildings around them to force the Walkers towards them.

"Brave, brave bastards." Holloway muttered. "They must have no idea what they're up against."

Not that it mattered, half a kilometre later a second swarm was eating it's way up the stalled rows of cars. There wasn't even a smartass saying to be heard amongst the entire team as they stared down at the chaos. Each of them knew that it could easily be them down there and none of them wanted to tempt fate by voicing the thoughts aloud.

"There is it." Holloway said at last and they all craned their necks as the FEMA camp sprang into view. It was poorly placed, that was evident at once, and straddling the main highway so it was only a matter of time before the swarms reached it. The mass of humanity below was packed into numerous tents and temporary shelters. One series of buildings, more organized than the rest and protected by fence, was painted with large red crosses on the roof. Blackthorne pointed towards it.

"Set us down there Holloway, on the pad by the largest shack. We want to be ready to pull out at a moments notice."

No one spoke as they set down on the ground. Curious faces pressed against the fence, staring at them, a few of the children even waved. Blackthorne couldn't bring himself to respond. In a matter of days, perhaps hours, most of these people would be dead. He looked around at the rest of his team and saw his own feelings mirrored in their expressions. It took a certain type of man to do the job they did but none of them had to like it.

"Holloway, Bishop, stay put. Clarkson on me."

The two men took off at a quick jog towards the nearest building. The gate into the small compound was visible nearby and the two Marines who stood guard over it offered them tired salutes. Blackthorne returned the gesture as he took the steps in a single bound, pushing open the door to find himself confronted by a cheerless and poorly lit pre-fab hospital.

"What the fuck, looks like something out of Afghanistan." Clarkson said as he joined the Sergeant inside the doorway. They only had time for a brief first impression before a doctor hurried towards them, his hands and coat covered in blood.

"What can I do fer you boys?" He asked in a typically midwestern drawl.

"Sergeant Blackthorne, we're here to evacuate you and your people, now if you please."

"Evacuate? Why?" The Doctor asked, surprise plastered across his face. "I thought more troops were on the way!'

"Yea, we're them, now let's go." Blackthorne interrupted. "I was told it was you and six others. Round them up and lets go."

The words were no sooner out of this mouth than the sound of screams began outside. In an instant he and Clarkson had knelt next to the doorframe. Gunfire sounded nearby and then suddenly died away again. The doctor behind them hadn't even moved.

"Small outbreaks have been happening all around. They get put down quickly enough."

Blackthorne was going to repeat his insistence that the doctor join him when Holloway came jogging up, Bishop close behind, both men looked grim. Blackthornes heart sank as he looked at their faces and then towards the helicopter. There was no mistaking the pool of liquid that was spreading down the side of the chopper and dripping onto the concrete below.

"Hydraulic lines been hit, start bullet from the shooting." Said Holloway.

"Well fuck."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins



Harper sat down on her cot and stared ahead at the white wall, her mind racing.

She didn't trust the volunteer who had told her that they'd keep them in the loop about Stevie. It was something they probably told everybody just to keep calm in the area. They were probably tired, overworked, and constantly being screamed at by anyone who could get near them. She recalled a colleague in Atlanta who had covered the events that unfolded after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast, how disorganized everything had been, how angry the people were... It had been years since it happened, but it still stood to say that even the best-laid plans didn't always work out.

Nathan sat down next to her and glanced at Schantz, who looked at them curiously from her cot. She'd stowed Stevie's bag near her feet in order to prevent any curious eyes and prying hands from spotting easy property to take. "Let me guess," Schantz said calmly.

Nathan nodded. "Yeah, you figured right," he responded. He looked over at Harper, who was obviously concerned about losing a member of their group. They hadn't been together long, but as they all had agreed upon earlier, sticking together was the very best course of action that anyone could choose to take.

"Well, there's good news." Schantz handed Stevie's cell phone to the two. "Looks like a cell tower is working."

The two peered into the screen. Schantz had directed a web browser to IAmStillAlive.com, and had happily discovered that her family in rural Kansas had thought to list their names. Schantz had done the same for herself. "My family's got an arsenal in their farmhouse. I knew how to shoot pretty good by the time I was 9," she said proudly.

Harper was thrilled to find her family's names under the "North Carolina" tab, centered around her hometown of Cary. Nathan was also very fortunate; his family just north in the Central Valley had also listed their names. It must have helped that none of their families lived in areas that were very heavily populated. Harper took a moment to check out "Darden"; she remembered Mark once mentioning that Stevie visited her family in Washington, D.C. pretty frequently. No indication one way or the other.

Chatter in the tent about the water purification system having failed... how New York was bombed, how Los Angeles was crawling with the dead... jittery people, anxious children.

The air thumped heavily with the sound of aircraft above... both planes and helicopters. The intermittent gunshots riveting outside a short distance away, further scaring the growing number of people in the tent.

Harper was angry. Why weren't they being told anything?

The three stuck in the same place, too scared to stay but even more scared to leave.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden

0.00 INK

Stevie Darden


Stevie parked her car in the garage and looked at the clock. 2 a.m. It had been a long day, but it was worth spending her evening with Dean's sister and the baby. Her recovery was hard and her husband had to be out of town for work. Stevie didn't mind at all when Heather called her at 5, asking through frustrated tears if she could come over and spend time with the baby while she took a much-needed nap. Heather was sweet, and Stevie knew that if she was making the call that it must have been a very long day alone with a four-week old. Dean was the closest family she had nearby, and this particular January happened to be fairly cold. Besides, Stevie liked Heather.

The elevator stopped her off on the eleventh floor. Right before Christmas she'd moved out of the Fremont apartment she had shared with three other roommates to move in with Dean. She unlocked the door, stuck her keys and coat on a peg, and glanced out the window past the kitchen, overlooking Pike's Market and the waterfront. Bainbridge Island glittered faintly in the distance, and the rest of the city reflected sparkily on the calm water. She pulled off her yellow boots and placed them by the door.

She bent down to greet Dean's very old dog, a slow, graying Cocker Spaniel named Jeremy. She'd always thought it was a funny name to give a dog--but that's what made it so amusing. She scratched behind his ears and talked to him quietly and gave him a little peck on the top of his old skull. He let out a small "oof" noise and contentedly trailed his way back to his pillow near a heating vent. Stevie smiled at the dog and said good night, hoping that he still had many good nights left in his old bones.

She opened the door to the bedroom. Dean was stretched out on their bed, reading the latest issue of Spin. A lamp lit the room in a soft yellow glow. He looked up and smiled. "Hey," he said, "how's it going? You didn't text."

She walked over and gave him a kiss. "I didn't want to wake you up," she said, "and I was listening to Spiritualized in the car. Kind of wanted a few minutes."

Dean laughed quietly and put the magazine down on his nightstand. "I wanted to wait up for you. Thanks for going over there," he said. "That was nice of you to do on a Tuesday night."

She smiled and unbuttoned her shirt, tossing it into the laundry bin. "It was fun. Your nephew is a sweet little guy. I think Heather's having a tough time, though. Hopefully Jeff gets back soon."

Dean pulled the blanket aside. "Yeah," he said, trailing off, unsure of what to add. "Heather says you've got a knack for it."

Stevie kicked off her leggings and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling her hair out of its rubber band and smiling. "Babies are pretty cool," she said, nodding and grinning enthusiastically. "They're just these tiny little creatures that are completely helpless. It's a little hilarious. But they just need a good cuddle and life is good, you know, Uncle Dean?"

Dean laughed again. "No, I don't know, I can't even figure out how to handle the little guy," he said. "I can't say I like anything about them," he added jokingly.

Stevie unclipped her bra and flung it like a slingshot at Dean. "The only thing you like about babies is making them," she said mockingly, grinning. "You're terrified of babies. You even sound like a baby."

He let out a louder laugh and threw the bra back. "You read my mind," he declared back, "secret's out. You got me." He looked at her for a moment and smiled. "Well, I'm sure I can get over that someday."

Stevie smiled back and tried to hold back the butterflies in her stomach. "If you want me to keep sticking around, you're going to have to," she said, leaning forward and pulling off her glasses. "I'm a bad Catholic, but I'm not that bad."

There was a long pause as the two stared at each other intently. But before they knew it, the fire alarm started to trill screamingly through the apartment and the halls. Jeremy let out a long howl from the living room. They laughed; someone must have been cooking, and doing a poor job of it, at a really bad hour. Stevie pulled on a sweater and a pair of Carhartts and Dean got up, already dressed. She pulled out a pair of slippers while Dean situated Jeremy on a leash, and made their way down to the street level with the old canine in tow.


# # #

Stevie jolted awake suddenly from her dream, hours after she fell asleep. In her head that fire alarm was blaring, screaming, so loud until she'd managed to wake herself up. IV drips could mess with your mind sometimes. As could sedatives.

But she couldn't hear the labored breathing off to her side anymore at all. Instead, all she could hear was the ticking clock, every stroke echoing loudly within the temporary metal walls, punctuated irregularly by a couple of clumsy footsteps. She wondered if the sedative had worn off or if it was still working.

Then a noise. A faint sputter from beneath the curtain in front of her. Stevie darted her eyes diagonally. Down below was another woman, the nurse who had helped with her IV, crawling on her elbows. She looked up at Stevie, half of her face red and sliced and her forehead turned to ribboned flesh. She opened her mouth to say something, but suddenly disappeared, yanked away by some unknown force.

A scream emerged from the other side of the curtain, a lot like the noise that had echoed in Stevie's head moments ago. A wet chewing noise silenced the outburst, continuing past it. A few more footsteps. A few more slow-gnashing sounds joining in.

Stevie tilted her head to peer through the slit in the curtain. Her eyes snapped wide open once she recognized the gray-skinned, dead-eyed appearance of the infected. She leaned back slowly. Two of them, gnawing on the body of the nurse. Two more dead bodies laid still near the entrance: the doctor who had greeted her coldly upon her arrival and had given her the sedative, and a man in a blue shirt.

The silence was louder than the sounds of the feeding.

She sat very still, hoping that maybe she could stay like that for a long time before maybe someone opened the door and distracted them. She kept every muscle in her body tense and still. She breathed low and quiet, fighting the urge to suck in oxygen. The smell in the mobile was horrible.

A thump on the door. A muffled voice called out. The walkers stopped chewing and focused toward the noise, and started to make their way over.

Stevie huddled herself backwards, trying hard to remain quiet as she did so. Unfortunately, she didn't consider her weak, IV'ed left hand, losing her grip and falling loudly onto the floor, first falling back-first on the metal drawer posted next to her, the contents spilling out on the floor. The needle ripped out of her skin and she let out a scream as the metal bar with the two half-filled IV bags and the raised cot came crashing down over her.

The curtains were torn asunder as the two walkers sought the source of the scream. It didn't take long for them to look down and see the frightened, half-naked young woman in glasses scooting her legs fast to get away from them.

She managed to pull the lightweight bed frame over her head, preventing one walker from getting a hold of her long hair and pulling her upwards. It bellowed low as it flopped its arms around, trying to remove the object and get to its food. The other walker crowded directly behind.

Her heart pounded and her throat felt tight as her white-knuckled hands hung on to the frame and shoved it hard against the undead assailant. She felt hot tears coming to her eyes, suddenly feeling extraordinarily angry about everything that had happened. Her adrenaline surged, spurred on by both survival instincts and overdue distraught rage. None of this was fair, for anyone. She briefly imagined Dean on the beach, and how similar his eyes were to this poor soul's. How Dean might have done this very same thing had he been here in the mobile with that injury. How maybe she should have just shot him, since she couldn't help him in the first place. How angry she felt that she'd had a dream about something that happened four months ago after seeing that awful, dead face on the beach.

The walkers' hands and teeth were starting to hack apart the thin foam padding and the metal frame.

It was then that she remembered what had killed Dean. Thomas had shot him in the head.

She reached out a hand to grab a hold of the base of the IV stand, and wrested her arm to knock it forward, ambitiously hoping to skewer at least one walker's head. It didn't work out as she'd planned; it slipped from her grip and swatted forward. It forced the second walker back a few feet, but the first one stayed and lowered its face toward hers. Panicked, she threw her right hand to the floor and snatched up a pair of plastic-sealed first aid scissors that had fallen from the drawer, and shoved them between its eyes. As she quickly pulled the scissors out, a spout of thick red blood splattered down over her medical gown. She watched in horror as the figure collapsed on her stomach, grateful to have subdued it but still shocked, all the same.

The other slowly started back toward her. She pushed the heavy body off of her and stood up, continuing to grip the scissors, aiming them toward the head as it lurched forward robotically. Another one down. She stepped over the toppled bedframe.

The lights flickered heavily as more shouts were heard at the door and the handle jiggled uselessly, a few pounds intermittently whomping through, shaking the light metal walls. The door was locked, probably with the intent of keeping the dangers of outside away from the patients inside. How wrong they were in this case.

The walker sprawled out near the door sat up as though jolted by electricity, locking eyes with Stevie. The lights continued to flicker, then dimmed significantly. Before her eyes could adjust, the walker was on its feet. Stevie instinctively stepped backwards and slipped on the pool of blood that had trickled toward her feet, landing on her back in the red puddle. The air whooshed out of her lungs, causing her to cough and gasp. The walker was on top of her in seconds, face roaring near hers, hands trying to get a hold of her struggling head for long enough to bite into it.

Several seconds' worth of struggle. The light flickering threateningly. Stevie had been weak a few hours before but now fought for her life, managing to overpower the larger walker. She straddled its chest and dug her knees against its shoulders in an attempt to immobilize its arms.

She looked down at its face as it struggled beneath her: it looked a lot like how Dean had on the beach, with shaggy hair and a missing eye. The resemblance was almost uncanny—same gray complexion, same milky hollowed dark eyes. Same shoulder bite, plastering all over the inside of her left leg. Most of his left arm was even missing, and he wore a blue shirt.

The sedatives. The fever. The heat. Whatever it was, it clicked in Stevie's brain.

The single second of hard-hitting clarity. Life was different now. Everything had changed. And it was as simple as that.

She drove the scissors from one side into the walker's temple, sending a spray of blood upwards. She flung out an elbow to shield her eyes and mouth.

She rested for several seconds, then climbed off of the walker and sat up on the floor. She rested herself up by her palms, knees halfway up in front of her, staring toward the quiet door. No thoughts moved across her mind. Just silence. She blinked her eyes slowly, barely moving. Her shallow breathing was quieter than the sound of the slowly-ticking clock.

The door then burst open with a forceful booted kick, and a familiar figure stood in the doorway and shot the dead doctor at the door square in the head without hesitation. The echoing bang didn't even bother Stevie as she connected her knees quickly, her big brown eyes on the verge of tears. Her glasses were smudged with blood, arms wobbling behind her, her right hand still clutching the bloody scissors. She looked ahead and struggled to see the person around the flashlight shining directly in her face.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

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

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

“You knew her?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He sighed and started to look for some canned beans.

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

Tunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An elderly man came through the door.

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

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

He was sitting in a wheel chair.

The man would never be able to survive.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Chuck Cherry (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


"And so you just left them there!?" James shouted furiously. Chuck had finally finished his rambling tirade as he regaled the group with the night's events and his friends' demise. Finally having a moment to gain his bearings, Chuck realized that there were more people in the camp now. A Volkswagen bus and Toyota Corolla parked on the other side of the path, making a large wall against any roamers. A few unfamiliar faces looked on from the distance as all eyes were on him.

His hands shook a bit as he tried to twist the cap back on the water bottle. "It was the only chance I had! I-I swear!" James slammed his fist down on the hood of his truck and walked away.

Wayne crossed his arms. "And that's the last thing you heard -- gunshots?" He asked anxiously.

Chuck nodded, lowering his gaze to the ground. Whichever way he put it, he looked like a coward. But he was alive -- and that was all he cared about. Steve rubbed Lily's shoulders, trying to comfort the young girl who had already seen her fair share of loss and death for the day. James suddenly came marching back to the small huddle with a canvas bag. He pulled down the hatch of his truck and threw the bag down, spreading a small array of weapons across the bed of the truck.

"Some of the others pitched in..." James said gruffly, he pulled a handgun from the pile and offered it to Wayne, who took it and began inspecting the weapon.

Chuck looked around, enamored. "N-No! No fucking way are we going back out there!"

"You aren't," James replied, handing a small rifle to Steve, "we are." The man had to let go of the little girl's hand to grab the rifle. He looked at the girl as he accepted it reluctantly. Chuck threw his hands up in the air, laughing obnoxiously. James marched straight over to him and grabbed the collar of shirt-- throwing him against the side of the truck. "You left our friends down there... not to mention the van. I don't know what those men intend to do to them, but I'm not gonna sit around and find out." He lifted his elbow from Chuck's throat and the man fell to the ground gasping. James walked back towards the driver's side.

"Let's go."



* * *



All he could hear was the metal clanging of the chains struggling to hold the door shut as a group of walkers banged against it from the other side. Calvin had tossed their previous tenant over the edge of the building as fodder for the walkers -- possible bait to lure them away from the stairwell. They had searched his body beforehand finding a half-empty pack of American Spirits, a lighter, a map of Los Angeles, and a pair of binoculars -- along with his pistol and a spare clip. Further exploration of the roof had shown no alternative ways down, save for an unpowered window-washer's lift and a locked fire escape, unfortunately -- and so they waited.

Jack laid in the nook of the wall's corner where the most shade rested. He closed his blistered eyes -- trying to catch whatever sleep he could while they waited. Calvin had torn off part of his pant leg to wrap Jack's burnt hand until they could go back and get the bag of medical supplies.

Calvin sat with his legs dangling over the storefront, almost far enough to touch the huge unlit "S" of "Save For Less". The red truck had come and gone twice in the last couple of hours, but the density of walkers in the area made it nearly impassable. He had surely returned to find his two lost comrades -- or what was left of them. Calvin felt a nasty taste in his mouth and spit over the edge, landing on one of the walkers' heads below.

In the distance, a tight cluster of planes had circled back around for another pass. They had been roaming the skies as far back as he could remember since the Sun had come back up... but he had never seen them land for anything. Small helicopters would occasionally break out of formation and hover closer to the city to get a better look at things, but they seemed to be searching for something... or someone. The biggest plane in the lead veered its nose turning them north as they soared up the coastline -- far far away.

It had been the most momentous 24 hours of Calvin's life -- not that he felt like reflecting on the particular events that had to do with those 24 hours... Calvin looked over at Jack, realizing that he knew nothing about the man. He had no idea what his last name was, what he did for a living, where he grew up... yet somehow their paths had become intertwined indefinitely. He doubted either of them would ever forget what went down between them. At least Jack was somehow managing to sleep a little bit of it off.

His train of thought was brought to a halt as the distant whine of a blaring siren overcame the maw of walkers. A low rumble of roaring engines accompanied the assembly of vehicles as the truck from earlier led the motorcade into the shopping mall parking lot. At the center of the pack, riding proudly, rode a fire truck -- an American flag flying like a banner from its back. Men hung off of its top and sides as if it were some kind of amusement park ride. The vehicles rammed through the mob of walkers in the lot as the beasts clawed at its sides to no avail.

Calvin hopped back over the ledge and ran over to Jack. "Hey, man! Wake up!" He said, shaking him by the shoulders. Jack's eyes rolled open -- coming into focus.

"What? What the fuck is it?" He moaned, ribbing his eyes as he sat up. Calvin was already scrambling around him gathering their stuff. "What's that noise?" He asked -- the sirens even louder now as the vehicles had plowed their way into the parking lot.

Calvin grabbed the full pistol and loaded a fresh clip, then handed Jack his shotgun. He grabbed it, letting out a huge yawn. "They're back," Calvin said, running over towards the front of the building. Jack finally began to get the picture and followed with his weapon. They crouched against the short wall above the store's sign and peeked over into the lot below. The other vehicles had abandoned the fire truck now and it stood alone -- a bright red mass in a sea of walkers, their hands groping and pawing from all sides. The truck was just tall enough that its inhabitants were safe inside and above. One such inhabitant crawled through the porthole onto the ladder and stood up. Like the others, he wore a grey jumpsuit -- on top of which he wore a sleeveless black leather vest. He stroked his beard as he raised a megaphone to his mouth and waved his hand.

"Hello up there!" The man shouted through the megaphone. "It's OK, you don't need to stand up or anything. Chances are if one of my men has a shot, he's gonna take it -- so I'd advise keeping your head down." Calvin looked at Jack, unsure of what to do. "Fact of the matter is, I've got reason to believe you killed some of my men. Now, I don't know how many of you there are up there... I don't imagine it would take more than one of you two kill those two idiots, but one of those idiots happened to be my younger brother."

Jack rubbed his face with his hand. "Shit..."

"So I hope you don't mind if me and my boys come up there, and we can figure out what we're gonna do about that..."

The whinnying of the motorized ladder rang out as the front began to extend out and raise toward the roof. Other men began climbing out onto the top of the fire truck to start their ascent, assessing their weapons and gearing up. Calvin thought back to his earlier assumption of some biker gang affiliation and realized how way off he must have been. These men were armed, dangerous, and prepared. Calvin hoped he was at least one of those things as he peeked over the edge of the wall to get a view.

"What the hell do we do, man?" Jack asked, his voice shaking a little bit. Calvin shook his head and looked backed up at the sky. The cluster of aircraft from earlier had doubled back already but were even further away now.

"We have to get off this roof," Calvin said -- searching around for options.

Jack stood up and followed him. "How? We already looked for a way off..."

Calvin suddenly got an idea -- but it was going to take both of them. "I think I have something... follow me," he ordered, running back to the front of the wall. The white tip of the ladder was just coming into sight over the ledge. They hugged the side of the wall right beneath it, with their weapons. Calvin turned to Jack. "We're gonna take their ladder to get to the next roof. Hold off whoever tries to come up and I'll, uh--"

Jack pumped his shotgun. "Do the rest?"

Calvin grinned and braced himself against the wall. "On three..." Jack nodded, readying himself for the count. They bobbed the three count and Jack sprung up from the wall firing off two blasts towards the men on the ladder. Bullets rang out on the metal and stone around the two of them as the thugs returned fire. Calvin grabbed the center rung of the end ladder piece and pulled down on it, using the wall as leverage. He used all of his weight to pry it out of its bracket but it wouldn't budge.

"Jack!" He shouted, "Give me a hand here!" Jack fired off one more round at the attackers and then dropped his shotgun, grabbing hold of one of the rungs and joining Calvin in his attempt to snap off a piece of ladder. Scattered bullets rang out around them as the men began filing up the ladder. Losing one's balance meant plunging into the mob of walkers below. Whoever these men were, they wanted revenge badly enough to risk their lives doing it. There would be no time to explain that what was done was done in self-defense -- Calvin was sure they didn't care. This was personal to them... and it was about to get very public.

"Cover me, for a sec..." Jack requested as he let go of the ladder and scooted down its length a bit. He took out his pocket knife and began unscrewing the bolts to release it from its track. Calvin hung from the edge, looking over and meeting eyes with whatever brave thug had volunteered to come up first. The man saw him and raised his gun for a shot, firing one off wildly. Calvin ducked quickly, and jumped up -- firing off a couple of his own. His target ducked, catching one of the bullets in the neck. He fell sideways off the ladder, trying to grab hold he was lost to the walkers like a bottle at sea. "Two more bolts on this side," Jack continued, biting his lip.

"The harder you make this, the worse off it's gonna be for you..." the bearded man hollered out from below. He laughed into the megaphone, hoarsely -- a voice addled by too much tobacco.

"I got it," Jack called out, happily tucking the knife in his pocket. The end section of the ladder unhinged and fell to the rooftop, clattering loudly. Calvin gestured to the east side of the building where the gap was smallest.

"Set us up," he ordered, "we're getting out of here." Jack nodded and scurried away, holding the ladder piece with his good hand. Calvin peaked over the ledge again, checking the thugs progress, and saw that they were already half-way up. A streak of red light sped into sight as a flaming bottle came soaring by Calvin's head and splashed against the roof in a fiery pool.

"Not so close to the ladder!" The bearded man scolded.

Calvin looked to Jack for his signal. Across the way, he deftly slid the ladder into place -- spanning the gap between the neighboring building. He wiped his brow and looked back at Calvin, preparing for what was next. "GO!" Calvin shouted out. He knew it would take Jack longer to get across with his injuries, and he had to buy him more time. Before he even had a chance to make a plan, the first raider reached the wall -- lunging over with one arm and grabbing Calvin by the neck. Having heard Calvin's shouts, he knew exactly where he was and took full advantage. The two struggled in an awkward position as the thug tried desperately to hold on. His grip was the only thing keeping him from falling.

Calvin reached above him and grabbed his attacker by the hair, pulling him over his shoulder with a fistful. He used the butt of his pistol to smash the man's hand -- his knuckles audibly crunching against the metal of the gun. The thug yelped, retreating his hand away -- just in time for Calvin to kick away with his foot. As his assailant reeled in pain on the ground, Calvin struggled to his feet and walked a few steps towards the stairwell.

BANG! BANG!

The second shot broke the chain, freeing the dozens of trapped walkers behind the door. They spilled out onto the rooftop ambling in all directions as Calvin tore off towards the side of the roof to join Jack. His injured friend had just made it to the other side and offered his hand to Calvin -- who carefully crawled across the ladder, trying not to look down. Bullet fire sang out behind him as the invading thugs were intercepted by the horde of biters. Calvin gripped Jack's hand as he was pulled over to safety on the preceding ledge. He looked back at the swarm of bodied mauling, flailing, and fighting and felt happy for one second that he was on a different roof.

"Let's keep going," Calvin suggested as he pulled in the ladder. So far, it had done a better job of saving their asses than Chuck ever did...

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

# Sarah Hawke #


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes

0.00 INK

Dyomie Thornes
and
Natasha Dean


After signalling to Dyomie, Natasha stepped into the hallway, there was a strong smell of blood, vomit and sweat. Natasha clung as tightly to the walls as possible, she looked back to make sure Dyomie had followed before signalling her to follow her into the first door on their right, the Investigation Division, the room was empty and once Dyomie had followed, she quickly closed the door. "Okay, the Armoury is the next door down on the right and across from that there's the evidence storage, we'll get all the weapons we need in those two rooms. I'm also gonna have to look for survivors and other supplies, like medicine and stuff like that. So what do you wanna do first?"

"Let's start with the closest room and make our way out," Dyomie said. She was breathing a bit more heavily than if it were a normal job, having to take out a few of the creatures already. There was a moment back there that she couldn't figure out. She had stabbed one in the chest, close to the hear, but that didn't do anything to slow it down. After stabbing it several more times it fell after she stab its head. Dyomie was confused to say the least, how could these things still come after her even after she had stabbed it that many times in chest, but goes down after one blow to the head. She shook her head, now wasn't the time to analyze these things, they had a mission.

"I'll go out first and see if I can clear a path, if I can't I'll come back to you through the vents," Dyomie said her eyes looking at the ceiling for the ventilation entrance, there wasn't any that she could see right now, so she just left the room.

Out in the hallway, lights were slightly flickering, revealing dead bodies on the ground. Dyomie made her way slowly, stepping over limbs without making hardly any noise, her "weapon" ready to strike. She had made it quite a ways down before anything happened, the flickering light behind her now making her path completely dark in front of her. She let out a sigh and took a step. It was the wrong step. Instead of walking over someone she had actually stepped on them, effectively waking them up. The walker lunged forward, sending Dyomie into a wall and on the ground, she could feel more bodies beside her. The thing came at her flashing in and out of existence with the light. Its face was half ripped off revealing dangling skin and scraped bone. Its teeth snapped in front of her face and Dyomie struggled to get it off. She held it with one arm as her weapon reached back and drove the metal pole into its head with such force that she rolled over on top of it.

Though she hadn't made a sound, the creature made enough raucous to waken up the rest of the walkers in the hall. They began to stand up and stumble their way towards her. She looked behind her, a few stood up there as well, but she still backed up. It would be useless to fight these things without any light. Their stumbling became more anxious and it wasn't too long before they were in front of her. Dyomie let out a long breath. She wasn't entirely certain how to kill these things, but hitting the head seemed to work well enough and it was the only way she knew how at this point. She crouched down, spinning the broken pole in her hand and a small sadistic smile on her face. The first one lunged at her, she jumped out of the way and drove the poll into its head as it came in front of her. Another one swiped its hand at her causing her to duck and then pushing the pole up underneath its jaw. This continued for a little bit longer as the animated corpses had been staggered out, luckily enough, so they didn't all come at her at once. She had taken out one corpse after another until there was a pile of five or so at her feet, but then she stopped her and chuckles, which she didn't realize she was laughing, had stopped. A small horde was coming towards her, all together instead of one at a time.

"Shit," she muttered, knowing full well that it wouldn't be as easy or fun when there were that many that would be piling on her. They were still a little ways down so she had time to locate a vent. It wasn't too high off the ground, a small jump and she would be in. Without looking back Dyomie ran to the vent, smashed it open with the pole and jumped in. Though she could hear the walkers almost right next to her and a few finger brushing her pants. This made her scramble a bit and quickly draw her legs in so that she was curled up in the vent. It was completely dark in there and she had no idea of which way to turn to get back to the cop or if there was a walker inside here as well. She really hoped there wasn't because there would be no way for her to fight it off. With that, she began to make her way forward taking turns that she figured would get her back into the Investigative Division room.

Natasha nodded, agreeing with them not splitting up and sticking together. But then Dyomie ran off on her own, Natasha went to go after her but Dyomie was already away down the corridor, stepping over the ‘sleepers’.

Natasha sighed before closing the door as gently as possible and then walking over to one of the chairs and took a seat, waiting for Dyomie to come back. She could hear the fighting outside, “Why did she go out on her own?” Natasha sighed, but she realized she should have just went with her, instead of leaving her to it. Looking over at the door, she started to tap her finger impatiently. Natasha then got up and wandered into the video observation room and looked into the adjoining room, certain no one was in there she flicked the light on. Sitting in a corner of the locked room was the receptionist, her hand clutching the left of her abdomen, blood seeping through her fingers and her face drained of colour.

Natasha quickly ran to the door, entering the code to open the electronic lock and walked into the room. The receptionist looked up at her, her eyes and cheeks soaked with tears and her skin pale from blood loss.
“Natasha…” She managed to whisper.
“Ssh, it’s okay.” She said looking at the wound, lightly gripping her free hand. “What happened?”
“A riot… psychos… random attacks… everything.” She managed through tired gasps for air. “There was an announcement on… on the tv... everyone retreated back here… they all went feral… attack everyone… Barry… Barry bit me… on my side…” Natasha flinched in shock, the receptionist didn’t notice but Natasha remained calm and got up.
“I’m going to try and find you some help, we’ll clean up the wound and get it covered. Just stay awake, okay.” Natasha then ran out of the room, closing the door behind her.

In the main room, Natasha could hear shuffling in the vents above her. She quickly ran to the wall and pulled open the vent shaft. “Dyomie!" Natasha whispered into the vents, hoping she would follow her voice, but expecting her to have stolen the weapons and tried to find her own way out. “Dyomie!” she called again.

With a sharp pain in her leg, Dyomie crept on, her hands dragging along the sides of the vents to alert her of when there was a turn, and her breath coming out loudly. The inside of the vent was very hot and small, nothing she hadn't experienced before, but this time there were loud growling noises coming from where she left. Thankfully the walkers were too stupid to climb in after her. She took a deep breath and started whistling a tune, it started off as a random diddy, but eventually became "It's a Small World". Dyomie was trying not to laugh thinking of how the walkers all around the building would be gathering at the vents because of her little song.

Then she heard Natasha's voice whispering through the vents. She had to stop whistling to even hear it above the growling. It bounced all around her, confusing her of which way it was coming from. Her hand slipped as it found another turn. She took it and saw a small box of light a little ways up ahead. She crawled, ignoring the pain in her right leg. Briefly taking a break at the entrance, she looked out to make sure there weren't any walkers waiting for her in the room. When there wasn't any evidence that suggested so, she jumped down, cringing slighting.

She heard a moan and saw a woman on the ground holding her side and blood dripped from it, she also heard Natasha's voice, but it was coming through an open door. Dyomie made her way to the door to find Natasha whispering into the vent.

Dyomie leaned against the door frame, "You just going to waste time there while there's a woman dying over here blondie?" Dyomie asked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins


"It's working!" Schantz' idea to hotwire the damn thing actually worked.

Harper and Nathan hopped into the older-model SUV and slammed the doors behind them. Schantz slammed her foot on the gas pedal and they motored ahead, leaving the three walkers in their rearview mirror as they took off along the grass beside the highway.

Smoke from nearby car fires plumed up into the air like black clouds, hanging over the sky like a low ceiling against the nearly-set sun. Some people still occupied their cars, huddled inside like scared rabbits. It wouldn't be long before the sun would set and cast cool darkness over southern California, plunging the camp and others into a new category of danger.

Harper looked out of the backseat window while Nathan and Schantz discussed whether they ought to head east toward the Ontatio airport or south toward Hollywood. Schantz reasoned that the airport would be farther out from the city and possibly feature some kind of safe haven behind a fence; Nathan reasoned that if bombs would drop that a dent must have been put into the walker population in the metro area, and they'd have to find Calvin.

# # #

"Did you hear that?!" Schantz suddenly exclaimed, jumping up from her place and staring at the wall of the tent.

"Hear what?" Nathan asked.

"That rumble!"

"No. Someone just dropped something huge. Hopefully it's a big box of food. They still haven't opened food service and we've been here for how many hours, now?"

Harper ignored him as she looked in the direction that Schantz had, and immediately dashed for the entrance. A large group gathered, staring westward at the sky; a few heavy jets slowly inched along the sky. "They're flying over the city!" someone cried out.

"Are they planning on bombing it?!"

A hush broke out over the group gathered before dispersing minutes later. It wouldn't be long before an all-out panic would break out and cause complete pandemonium. Harper looked at the other two; it was clear that they were thinking the same thing.

It wouldn't be long before the sun would begin to set. They had to get out, bombs or not.

"We have to go get Stevie," Schantz said, tearing into the bag and pulling out a small red wallet. She opened it and pulled out her driver's license. "Here, this is how we find her. Where'd they take her?"

Nathan gestured off in one direction. "They've fenced off the hospital area, whatever it is," he said, "someone said there've been walkers coming through there. Saying people die after the fever."

"We've got to get there right now!" Harper said steadily, trying to hide the frustration in her voice.

The three took off, running a ways to the fence surrounding the large medical unit, surrounded by several smaller units. A helicopter similar to the one that brought them to the camp was grounded beyond the fence. Maybe it was the same one. No idea.

Nathan pointed. "Hey, what do you know," he commented, nodding toward the tall stranger who had come to say goodbye to Stevie the night before. "The Canadian." He stood in the vicinity of the huge craft with a few other uniformed men.

"Hey!" Schantz called out to the man promptly. Nothing. "Hey! Canada!" He turned his head slightly, then turned back. Schantz called out again, gripping her fingers through the chain links and shaking furiously. He fully turned toward them this time, staring stoic-faced. "Are you going to come over here or what?!"

Harper balked a little at Schantz, then looked forward. "Do you know where Stephanie is?!" she called out loudly.

The man stood still, then looked around him and cautiously walked up to the fence after saying something to the others near him. "Pardon?" he asked in a dry but polite fashion after leaning toward the three.

Harper nodded. "We're looking for our friend Stevie," she said, "her real name is Stephanie. Darden."

"Ma'am, I honestly don't know," he responded, eyeing the three coolly. "The only names I know here are mine and my team's."

"You know her," Harper said. He stared back. "Short. Glasses. Blue dress!" she rattled off, trying to think of what Stevie had looked like when she was on the frigate. "You said goodbye to her!" Schantz held up her driver's license.

His expression remained calm while he paused and studied the card. But it was clear that he understood now. "Start over again," he instructed carefully. "Tell me what's going on."

"She's sick," Harper said hurriedly, "not with the flu, she just gets sick sometimes, and it happened to hit. They stuck her in quarantine. We don't know anything else. But we've got to get her out of here."

He shook his head. "I've got no idea where she is," he said.

"She's in quarantine!" Schantz insisted.

"She just said that," he answered, gesturing slightly toward Harper.

"Well, can we look for her?" Schantz fired back.

"I'm sorry, but I can't let you in here."

There was a long, tense pause as the three looked at him, anxious and frustrated. His face hadn't changed a single bit since he approached the fence.

"I'll keep an eye out for her," he finally said, breaking the silence. He looked over his shoulder and then turned back to the trio, looking directly at Harper and hushing his voice. "But I'm going to tell you something. Things aren't looking good. Get a vehicle and get out."

Harper shook her head. "We can't leave her," she said emphatically. "I know you're in a tough position, but-"

"Ma'am, just head to a safe place."

The three looked back over their shoulders. The tension in the air was palatable.

Nathan nodded. "Okay, we'll do that." Harper darted her head over sharply, surprised that he acquiesced to anything at all.

Schantz held up Stevie's phone and wallet, and tried to angle them through the fence. "At least give her these," she said, far calmer than before. The man took the items and pocketed them.

"Thank you," Harper said quietly, unsure if it really had been any help at all at this point. "Maybe we'll run into you somewhere."

He nodded a good-bye and they scurried toward the edge of the camp.


# # #

"There's an airport not far from here," Harper said calmly. "I think that's where we should go. If it's a place we can get to by tonight."