The Walking Dead: Online

Season 2

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

"One Day"

Captain Calamity holds sovereignty over Season 2, 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 Two of the Walking Dead: Online.
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Season 2

"One Day"

Minimap

Season 2 is a part of The Walking Dead: Online.

6 Characters Here

George Remington (NPC) [18] An airline pilot flying by the seat of his pants.
Thomas Blackthorne [13] A Canadian soldier far from home.
Steve Hilpin (NPC) [8] A News Director separated from his family.
Nathan McDonald (NPC) [8] A news cameraman who loves L.A., and loves to argue.
Eli Sharp (NPC) [3] Ending the world in style.
Evan Valencourt [0] A self-help motivational guru, trying to stay positive in the wake of the dead.

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Previously on TWD:O




... 1 Week Later ...


+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe stooped over a wooden table down in one of the metro offices, barely lit by the makeshift hanging chandelier -- a clever device comprised of a flashlight and a paper plate with a hole in the center. Lillian had doodled all over the plate, covering it in little atomic bombs and explosions. It might have been too soon -- but cute nonetheless. On the table in front of them lied a series of pistols, a shotgun, and a scoped hunting rifle

"38, 39. 40... 40 bullets," she muttered, finishing her count. She looked up from the table at George who had been silently counting himself. He met her gaze across the table and sighed, running his hand over his face.

George began to pace the room, adjusting the waist of his pants as he stood up to walk. "Even with five bullets in eight guns, we wouldn't have enough to arm half the group."

Niobe chewed her lip in thought. "A few people have their own personal guns," she reasoned, trying to better the situation.

"Only a couple," George replied with a scoff.

Niobe narrowed her eyes. "Do you mind telling me what the fuck your problem is?" she asked, coldly. George turned around with a puzzled look on his face.

"Whatever are you talking about?" he asked, rhetorically.

"Cut the shit," she snapped back at him. "Ever since the other survivors got here, you've turned into a sarcastic, degrading narcissist." George shifted on his feet uncomfortably speechless. "All you ever do these days is mope around... What -- is this about your stupid dog? Get over yourself, George! You think the others don't notice that you go on runs exclusively with Rafiq. What the hell do you guys even do out there? You never seem to come back with anything..."

Niobe's heart was racing -- her cheeks flushed. There were a million other things she wanted to yell at him about. How she has no idea where her parents are... how she had to evacuate her home without grabbing any of her most sentimental items... how her parents and everyone she ever knew was either dead or near enough to it... George stared at her with disappointment and pity... seeing nothing before him but a woman coming unhinged. Who was she to judge him? What better time than now to give into your vices and let yourself go. What else was there to do but enjoy what time he had left?

He looked at her, incredulously. "Where's all this coming from?"

"Probably from the reeking stench of alcohol all over you," Niobe suggested, grabbing her pistol from the table and tucking it into her waistband as she started to walk out of the room.

"This is about what happened at the Capitol isn't it?" George asked, accusingly. "We're all going to be dead eventually anyways, so why does it even matter? What's the point?"

"The rest of them-- the group... they can't know," Niobe insisted. "It'll crush any hope they have left.

"Like it did to us?" Niobe continued to the door and reached for the doorknob as George rolled his eyes. "What does it even matter?!" he called out over her shoulder.

Niobe bit her tongue, leaving the room as she seethed in anger.


* * *


Desperate to distance herself from George, Niobe stormed through the hallway, brushing past Jessica in a huff. Jessica turned to her, her arms full of laundry -- and took the poor girl in. She'd been pulling the night owl shifts ever since Wayne got sick and took over his share of the daily supply runs with whoever was available. The stressful week showed in her face, her eyes, her voice...

Niobe slowly turned to her, and upon seeing Jessica's face - softened her demeanor. All this pent up frustration and energy was locking her up and killing her muscles. "I-I'm sorry, Jessica... it's, uhh-- it's been a day, Niobe admitted, rubbing the bags under her eyes. She hadn't looked in a mirror for over 24 hours and could only imagine what kind of hell she looked like.

Jessica nodded, smiling faintly. "We're all right there with you, hon'," she assured her.

Niobe sighed. "It's just hard to tell what really matters anymore..."

A brief silence hung in the air as they considered those words. Maybe George was right after all. Life was indescribably different now. One's role in the group wasn't decided by status or age... but by skill and aptitude. It was amazing the ways people decided to apply themselves when faced with finding things to fill their time. At the moment, Jessica had laundry on the agenda. A significant contribution, nonetheless.

"Where is everyone today? It's like a ghost town around here," Niobe asked.

The two started walking down the hallway together as they talked. "I haven't seen anyone around the rec room other than the kids and the old folks... Wayne and Molly are still on the mend in there too. I think Jack's on watch with Carl. Some of the others might be out on runs."

"Guess it's my day off then," Niobe joked, trying to force a smile. Jessica watched her carefully, sensing something was wrong but not knowing how to broach topic.

They came to a junction in the corridor and slowed to a stop. Niobe turned to Jessica and gave her a tight hug. It was kind of her not to make a big deal out of how Niobe acted earlier. There weren't many other women around her age, so it was nice to have someone she could call a friend.

"Thanks-- for this," she whispered.

"Anytime you need to talk," Jessica offered breaking their embrace. She waved over her shoulder as she lugged the laundry down the hallway towards the bunks and rec room. Niobe watched her go until she disappeared around the corner and immediately fell back against the wall, sliding to the ground as she burst into tears.

Luckily no one would be around to see it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Harper flickered her eyes open quickly, hearing footsteps pattering not far from her head as she rested on the cold cement floor. She tilted her head and looked up; Nathan was crouching down low, resting his hand on her arm. "Hey," he said softly, "I saved you breakfast. I think it's time to wake up now."

She blinked and stared ahead vacantly for a moment, and then leaned up on an elbow and rubbed her wrist across her eyes. "Yep. Sorry. Just got tired... really tired."

Actually, she wasn't telling him that the only way she could get to sleep at night was by taking a tablet of Xanax, making getting up in the morning far more difficult. She was well over halfway through the bottle that Stephanie had been carrying in her leather satchel, still being kept safe by Harper herself.

And the only person who knew Harper even needed any Xanax was Stephanie herself, wherever she might be, and she hadn't mustered up the desire to tell anyone else about it at that point.

Nathan put an arm out and took a seat next to her as she sat up. "I've never seen you this tired. It's been like this for a few days, hasn't it?"

Harper nodded and smiled only the very slightest bit. "Yeah, I guess... maybe I'm just having a hard time, you know, adjusting."

The corners of Nathan's mouth curled up as he offered her a Snickers bar and a small bottle of apple juice. "Looks to me that you're doing just fine. At least you can sleep."

Harper took a bite of the candy bar, chewing politely but just slightly ravenously when as she studied the purple lines beginning to show under Nathan's blue eyes. She wasn't sure that she looked or even felt better than he did. "Maybe a little too much." There was an awkward pause. "What are you up to today?"

"Steve and Schantz need someone to go on a run. Turns out that that's me, so I'll be out with them. Need anything while I'm out, dear?" he teased.

She smiled and unscrewed the cap to the juice. "Oh, you know." She took a sip. "Face wash. Lipstick in this one shade called 'Purple Plasm.' Lots and lots of feminine products." She laughed.

Nathan rolled his eyes and put his hands up. "You could just say, 'No thanks, Nathan, I'm totally good, thanks for asking!'"

"I'm totally good, thanks for asking," she parroted with a silly wink, and continued to drink. "Actually. What I would do for a cup of coffee," she said speculatively.

Nathan snapped his fingers. "Done. You will have a cup of coffee."

"Thanks, Nathan," she laughed after she finished the juice. "I really appreciate you helping me out."

# # #

Nearly everyone at the station was headed to the Society of Professional Journalists L.A. Chapter's Distinguished Journalist Awards Dinner. After the event, the WEND-TV crew decided it was best to leave the venue and hit the town on a busy Saturday night.

Harper didn't have much of a social life; she went to work, came home, slept, got up, read newspapers and websites, and went in to work. Occasionally she went to go have a drink with co-workers, but maybe twice a month. By far, her closest friend at work was Nathan On her days off she'd go running at Venice Beach or go for a drive up and down the coast, all on her own. Despite her outward friendliness, she still felt painfully shy and didn't much feel like exposing her flaws to others at work. That's how drama and rumors get started.

But tonight, she was happy to go out with the group. It was a good night to get dolled-up, pull out pairs of high heels that ordinarily would never fly in most situations, and have fun.

The night flew by, eventually finding the group dwindled to about seven people gathered in a small hotel bar at 1:30 a.m. Nobody had designated themselves as a designated driver, and by this time most of the group had sought cabs home.

Nathan turned to Harper and glared at her challengingly. "Are you going to wimp out and go home?" he asked teasingly.

Harper giggled profusely. She'd had way too much to drink. "I'm no wimp!" she declared, slapping her palm on the table before her. She took another swig of the beer in front of her and shook her head. "You're the wimp."

"That makes no sense!" he retorted, shaking his head and raising his hands inquisitively in front of himself.

Kyle waved his hand as he picked his wallet up from the table. "I'm out!" he announced. "You guys gotta get going. Things are closing down soon and all the cabs are going to get taken."

"Ehhhh, go home, smartypants," Nathan drawled back mockingly.

Kyle rolled his eyes and left the two alone.

Harper laughed and stared up at the ceiling as she leaned back into her side of the booth. She wore a short emerald-green cocktail dress, her dark hair pinned back. A pair of sparkly earrings dangled from her ears. Nathan only owned one suit, not because of being particularly disadvantaged, but because he hated wearing them. "Harp!" he said to her nonsensically.

"Nathan!" she bellowed back, propping herself up on her arms to sit up properly and look ahead at him. "I'm drunk!"

"So am I!" he blasted in return. The two laughed. "I've never seen you this drunk!"

Harper cracked up again and grabbed her purse and put it on the table. "Really. I better get a cab like Kyle said. So I can go home."

Nathan sat up quickly. "So soon?" he asked, a lilt of disappointment in his voice. She nodded wobbily. "But Haaaaarperrrr..."

"You are SUCH a whiner!" she said through a crinkly laugh. "You are always griping about something! Or at someone!" She hiccuped quickly. "It's like you never shut up!"

Nathan balked and laughed. "Oh, now you're going to share what you think!" he returned. "I see. I see. You have to be drunk to do that."

She finished off her beer. "You just happened to get me at a great time," she slurred.

Nathan rolled his eyes. "But we always work together."

She laughed. "You see me every day and NOW you want to complain to me?"

He chewed the inside of his lip. He felt nervous. "No, I'm just stating the obvious!" he zapped out.

"Nice comeback, but I've got to go home," she said quickly, pretending to be annoyed.

"Hey, I'll walk you," he offered rushedly, whipping out his wallet and tossing a few dollar bills onto the table. He scurried after her as she made her way to the door. "You can't go out there by yourself!"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes I can. Watch me."

Nathan kept pace with her as she waltzed playfully ahead on matte satin black high heels, humming some silly tune. He stuck his jacket across her shoulders, the arms flying below the hem of her dress. She stopped briefly and cast a squint-eyed glance at him. "Fine, walk with me until I find a cab." She hiccuped again and resumed her silly trot down the sidewalk. She always came out of her shell once she'd had a few drinks.

Nathan was thrilled. He had waited how many months to talk to her outside of work, one-on-one. At work they had a job to do, and he couldn't waste time on socializing. She was always kind to him, very bright, and flat-out gorgeous.

Of course, he had no idea what to do or say.

Just as he worked up the courage to put his arm around her narrow shoulders, a cab rolled up. She whisked into the backseat and waved Nathan in. "Let's split the fare!" she offered brightly.

He climbed in next to her and watched her as she sank into her seat after giving directions to her apartment. His ears pricked up. "That's where you live??" he remarked. "I'm just a few blocks away!"

She laughed. "Then the fare won't cost much at all!" She sat up and stared up through the sunroof at the tall buildings towering above. Nathan stared, watching her eyes sparkle and her lips curl into a smile. "I love tall buildings!" she sighed contentedly. He watched her knees shift into a comfortable position. She looked unbelievably happy, being drunk and staring up at the sky.

There weren't many times where Nathan was tongue-tied, but this was one of them. No music blared in the cab. Just the sounds of the air rushing past the windows. He watched her soak in the sights, not even looking back at him. Clearly, she was very comfortable in his presence.

Just as he summoned the nerve to move his hand over hers, the cab stopped. He recovered by grabbing his wallet and forking over enough money to cover the fare. Harper blinked, not even done rustling through her small purse. Nathan waved her off nervously. "I got it." She smiled and exited the cab.

Harper stood on the sidewalk and waited for him. It was a serene ride back, the two utterly exhausted after a long night out. She suddenly remembered that she had Nathan's jacket around her shoulders and pawed at the sleeves. "I'm swimming in this," she declared through her hazy state. Nathan slowly ascended onto the sidewalk from the street. His face was drained of color, and he'd shoved his hands in his pockets. She frowned. "Are you all right?"

Nathan withdrew his hands and held her shoulders carefully, staring her right in the face. Clumsy drunk move. "... Harper, I..."

Harper's face froze in the expression she'd been wearing. Suddenly, it registered. Oh. No.

"Harper, I've really liked working these last few months with you," he started, "and I really think..." He trailed off. Harper stared back, trying very hard to hide her surprise. Her arresting bright eyes were very exciting, but also very intimidating. "I really like you, and I really think that..." He trailed off again. He blinked and sighed. "Ahhh, I don't know what I'm doing here... Help me out..."

She chewed the inside of her lip, her intoxicated state lifting greatly with the fast twist her stomach took when he'd started talking. She smiled meekly and took a breath. "Nathan, that's very nice of you," she offered calmly.

There was a long pause. Nathan's heart sunk. He'd finally met someone who piqued his interest for more than two days, and finally decided to say something after months of cautioning himself to slow down, and... this.

His caution didn't extend beyond that moment. "That's it?" he asked, taken aback. "I... I tell you that I think you're incredible, and that was very nice of me?"

Harper shook her head and brought her wrists up to pull Nathan's hands from her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Nathan," she said confidently. It didn't sound unsympathetic, but she was clear.

"Harper," he said, "I work with you almost every day and I really feel like... like, I like you. A lot. We get along really well."

Without skipping a beat, she answered, "But you had no idea I lived so close by. Obviously we aren't that close." Nathan swallowed and looked down at his feet. That hurt. "Nathan, we spend a lot of time together. I see you more than I see anyone else." He blinked, while still looking downward. "You're my best friend in Los Angeles. If I don't want to date *you*, then how can I want to date *anyone*?"

The argument appealed to him in a way, but it still didn't settle well. "I think... I'm not just anyone. I really think that we would make a great match," he said quietly, still running a few syllables drunkenly, wanting badly to lean his head in and just kiss her, like he should have already been doing.

Harper stepped backwards just slightly, and bore a restrained but friendly smile on her face. "I love seeing you every day. The way things are now are... nice. Maybe it'll work someday. But today it won't." She held her purse in front of her and nodded. "I'll see you on Monday morning?" she asked quietly.

He nodded wordlessly as he tried to casually mosey off as though nothing had happened. It was a failure. A dismal failure. It had gone so poorly that she hasn't even gotten mad at him. He played the exchange again and again in his head, angry at himself and wondering if she seemed to play it off like he had said something insignificant and meaningless.

He dropped his keys on the kitchen counter as he walked into his apartment. He didn't even bother to remove his shoes as he walked into his bedroom and collapsed onto his mattress. He rolled over on his back, incredulous that she lived so close by without him knowing. That, and he completely forgot to get his jacket back from her. He picked up his phone and sent a quick text. His wristwatch bleeped to tell him it was 4 a.m. He looked up at his headboard and shut his eyes.

# # #

Harper popped the pill in her mouth and took quick sips of water to help it coast easily down her throat.

She couldn't believe Nathan had done that. Of course she liked Nathan—he was funny, he was handsome, he was talented, and he was just the kind of guy any girl would love to meet. But not only did she just not want to be tied to anyone at the moment, but she just didn't think that dating a co-worker was a great idea.

At least that's what she was telling herself, she wisely reflected. Things hadn't been easy for her since moving out west. Los Angeles was completely different than what she was used to. The weather was nice, of course. She really enjoyed her job, especially spending days laughing and working smoothly with Nathan. By far, he was the best videographer she'd ever worked with in her seven years as a reporter, even easier to work with than the cool-headed videographer, Mark, who'd accompanied her during her embed assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what could she do in a place where she didn't feel quite so comfortable yet? As much as dating Nathan sounded like it could be fun, she just didn't see it working out long-term, either. Staying in Los Angeles did not seem like a goal worth planning for. And what was the point in getting physical if it was just going to be messy in the end?

She settled onto the floor pillows by the loft's window, wearing an oversized gray t-shirt and a pair of short red gym shorts. The view outside was terrific, looking over West Hollywood toward the shoreline, at least on a smog-free day. The palm trees were a novel addition along the streets and the beach, glowing green thanks to streetlights.

She took a deep breath and felt her brain become slow. She bit her thumbnail and continued to stare outside. She wondered how Nathan would be Monday—angry? Sad? Calm? Would he pretend that it never happened?

Harper's body started to feel warm. She curled up under her blanket and sighed heavily. Maybe she could date him. Maybe. Wouldn't he be a fun person to be with? Maybe. But tonight, she just didn't have those answers.

Her phone chirped low. A text from Nathan read, "Whatever you say, boss."

She smiled slightly and stretched out, a little relieved as she drifted off to sleep.

# # #


Nathan blinked and smiled back. "You're welcome... well, I guess I better go find you some coffee. See you later," he said as he straightened his legs and stood to quickly walk away, trying hard to avoid the urge to reach out and touch Harper on the arm. It was getting worse. For about a month he hadn't forgotten about being turned down and had tried his hardest to forget the attachment, but had been unsuccessful, even before the disaster struck. Add several days' worth of surviving together and that made it all so much worse. And it was especially getting bad now that people in the group were starting to talk more amongst one another.

"Nathan," a low, calm voice spoke, interrupting his concentration. The shorter man nodded to him from his spot keeping watch with Carl, the guy with the comic shop. "Ready when you are."

Jack. Nathan especially despised Jack. He hadn't liked the remarks he'd made about Harper at the station, and didn't like the way he looked at Harper back at the sign several days ago, or the way he'd stuck by her at the metro station. He didn't know anything about the guy but just knew he couldn't stomach being around him. Harper was kind to him, which made things worse. She'd smile and ask him a lot of questions about his background, where he came from... and he'd answer them. That sure got under Nathan's skin.

"Yep, just letting Harper know it's time to get up."

Jack looked at him directly in the eye. Nathan was a lot bigger than he was physically, but not mentally stronger. "Oh, she all right?" he asked, making sure to let as much concern creep into his voice at possible.

Nathan inwardly seethed. "Just having a tough time getting up," he said simply.

Schantz stepped through the two men and started off toward the exit. "Hurry up, it's already 9!" she said quickly. "If we don't get a move on someone's going to find that stash we came upon."

"Yeah, yeah, Miss Manners, real intimidated," Nathan volleyed back airily. "We're all getting out pretty quick, here. Don't worry."

Steve caught up, holding a found shotgun. He tossed a golf club to Nathan and a long-handled garden cultivator to Schantz. "Any minute now," he said as he looked over to Jack and Carl. "Anything we should know before we duck out, gentlemen?"

# # #

Harper checked over her list before popping her head into the office. George looked up from his spot, staring down at the surface of the table staring at the assembled ammunition. "Hey," she greeted, holding up a small box. "Brought something for you guys."

She set the cardboard box down on the table. George eyed Harper suspiciously, then the box. "What is it?"

Harper gestured her palm at the table. "I've thought a lot about it, and I think you guys should have this."

George picked up the box carefully and thumbed the flimsy cardboard lid open. An assortment of 9mm shells, about two dozen. He looked back to Harper. "Where did you get these?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "We met a girl last week and she ended up getting sick at the camp we were at," she recounted. "We have her stuff."

"Where's the gun?" George inquired, picking up a few shells and inspecting them under the hanging flashlight's beam.

"She didn't have it when she was with us," Harper volunteered. "If she's still around, she still might not have it. These should help. I think she'd want these to go to good use."

George smiled and placed the box alongside the shells already on the table. "Well, thank you, that'll go a long way," he remarked. "But I have to ask why you took this long to share the wealth."

Harper nodded, her face bearing a slightly annoyed expression. "Well, I didn't know if I should be giving someone else's possessions away, so it kind of took me a while to justify." She then pulled her notepad out of her back pocket. "And I want to help. I have a lot of ideas on how we can make things work."

George raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? In what way could you help?" he laid out heavily. "I think that we've got things under control."

Harper nodded. "No, you're doing a great job," she assured him, "I just have some ideas about what we should do about how we organize our time and manage our resources. Such as, we should be recording everyone's clothing and shoe sizes so that way when someone goes to-"

George held up a hand. "All willing to hear your ideas," he said slightly irritably, "but I'd like to have everyone all sit together and talk about it."

Harper nodded. "Sure," she said as she tucked the notepad back into her pocket. Seemed like George didn't want to discuss it at the moment. "Thank you," she nodded at him, turning on her heel calmly to head over to the de facto rec room.

Jack and Annabelle sat at the table over a deck of cards, talking quietly. Harper pulled up a chair to sit at the end of the table, and laid her notepad down in front of herself. "I'm sorry to interrupt you," she said plainly, and slightly airily thanks to the medication. "James. Annabelle. I want badly to help, but I don't know if I can get them to listen. I'd like to ask your advice."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“Ow come on Rafiq, I’ve been stuck here forever.” Molly looked at him with her best Puppydog-eyes impression.

“I know, but it’s not safe out there,” Rafiq responded weakly. He knew the argument didn’t hold much water.

She jumped on that fact immediately. “You and the others have been outside multiple times now. I can handle myself. I’m a big girl you know.”

“But you’re ankle...”

“Is fine!” She made a twirl, showing how the sprained ankle no longer affected her. Nevertheless, she winced a little. The injury clearly wasn’t healed yet. She knew that he knew. “We don’t have to go far. I only want to step outside and see the sun.”


She turned around and looked at Wayne, who was laying in his bed and had been observing the situation with a bemused expression. Spending his days in the makeshift ‘sickbay’ corner must have made him very bored. “Come on Wayne,” Molly pleaded, “help me out here. Fellow patients should stick together.”

Wayne laughed at that. “Not so sure what your problem is Rafiq. If it were me, I’d take this beautiful lady outside in a heartbeat.” He gently placed a hand on his stomach and added dramatically, “Alas, I’m in no shape to do so.”

All of sudden, Wayne retched and spit some of the content of his stomach in the bucket next to his bed. Both Rafiq and Molly turned away from the sight. This was Rafiq’s cue to leave. He hated vomiting.

“Alright, alright. I’ll take you outside for a second,” he said. Molly hugged him gratefully and winked at Wayne. “See you later Wayne. Do get better.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said with a face distorted between a grin and a grimace.

Molly took Rafiq’s arm into hers as they left the room. It was a thing she did to show affection, Rafiq had noticed. So had Carl, apparently, as he had often tried to help her escort through the rooms. The three of them had gotten along quite well, all things considering. Marie often hang out with them as well. That was, when her sister was not around. Rafiq was not sure what her problem was, but he felt like Dyomie had a huge chip on her shoulder. Especially when it concerned Marie.

Just as he was thinking about her, they ran into Marie.

“Where are you going?” She asked.

“Outside,” Molly beamed, “Rafiq is going to show me the sun.” She pulled him closer, but Rafiq instinctively took a step backwards. Marie seemed to notice, but instead smiled faintly at Molly. “Sounds nice,” she said.

“You want to come?” Rafiq asked. He suddenly realized how it might look if he took Molly outside alone.

Marie shook her head, “No, I’m sorry. I promised to help Jessica out with the laundry.”

“Alright,” he said, “maybe another time.”

“Maybe.”

---

They walked pleasantly towards one of the entrances of the metro tunnels. Despite Molly’s injury, it didn’t take them long. At least she was able to walk at a more or less normal pace.

Rafiq pushed open one of the doors and peered through. The area was free of walkers. Of course, despite the hell it had put them through, the bombing had at least been somewhat effective. There were still some stragglers here and there, but the number of walkers in the immediate vicinity of their hideout had decreased drastically.

“Oh my god,” Molly said slowly as she stepped outside. Looking at her expression, he realized she had not yet seen the aftermath of the bombing. The city was not completely destroyed, as he had feared a while back, but some of the buildings were severely damaged. Add that with the eerie emptiness of the streets and it must be a difficult sight to take in.

“Yeah, they hit the city pretty hard,” he said.

“It’s a ghost town.”

“Zombie town.”

She did not laugh at the joke.

“You think he’s still out there?”


“Who?”

“My brother.”


That had been one of the things that had made him and Molly bond so quickly. Both of them had lost family in the early hours of the outbreak, something the others hadn’t experienced for themselves. Everyone feared and wondered about their family, but the two of them were the only ones who knew for sure that the people they loved were gone.

“I don’t know.”

Molly had told him what had happened to her brother, Daniel. He had been killed by a car thief, but she couldn’t remember if he had been shot in the head or not.

They both stood there for a minute in silence, enjoying the sunlight while remembering the people they had lost.

All of a sudden, she grabbed him by the hand and pulled him towards the nearest building.

“Let’s get a better view,” she said.

“I thought we weren’t going far.”

“As if the building across the street is far.”

He had to admit she had a point and so he followed her.

The door of the building was locked, but someone, maybe from their own group, had smashed one of the windows in. Rafiq helped Molly through and then stepped into the room himself.

“Be careful,” he whispered, “there can always be some hidden.” He shuddered, remembering that one time in the supermarket. He often wondered what had happened to the old man in the wheelchair.

They quietly made their way to the roof, which was easily accessible through a number of stairs. Outside, two directions were obscured by the other buildings, but the south and east were clearly visible. Rafiq had not have time yet to view the city like this. He gasped, just like Molly.

The city seemed wrong. Off. Lifeless. The bombing had changed the city in something that was still recognizable, but different. A knot tightened in Rafiq’s stomach. With everything that had happened, this was somehow the most depressing view so far. It told him their truly was no way back. The world had changed and they had to live by its new rules.

“What’s that sound?” Molly asked.

“What sound?”He answered. Defensively, he took a hold of his knife. He hadn’t let go of the thing ever since it all started.

Then he could hear it too. A mumbling of growls and grunts was coming from the street below. They looked over the edge of the roof. A small number of walkers had grouped together and were scuffling about aimlessly. They had not noticed there were two humans up on the roof, but had somehow decided to stop in front of the building they were in.

“Dang it,” he whispered in an annoyed tone.

“What do we do now?”

“We wait.”

But that proved futile. As he said it, Rafiq could see movement from the corner of his eye.

He turned around and saw that something had made it to the top of the roof.

They were trapped.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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On the morning of Day 7, Stevie slowly opened her heavy eyes to find that Thomas had already awakened and gotten out of bed. Immediately, the hangover painfully hazing her brain took priority. She stumbled blindly upward and rummaged through a dresser drawer, pulling out a black t-shirt that fit long, just above her knees. She shuffled clumsily to the bathroom and washed her face, almost feeling sick at the mere smell of soap. She quickly brushed her hair, put on her glasses, and took one rueful look in the mirror before walking out the bedroom door.

She staggered through the hall and down the stairs, and wandered down into the kitchen. Thomas was already there, staring out of one of the large bay windows, looking like he may have been in similar shape. His rifle stood balanced up against the door not far away. "Good morning," he managed politely, pulling a stool out from beside the island table in the center of the kitchen and offering it to her.

She opened the refrigerator door and unenthusiastically pulled out a container of orange juice and a package of sliced bread. "I'll get back to you on that," she said, shocked to hear her voice still slurring a little. Woops.

He laughed a little and pointed to the toaster. "You might want that, right?"

Stevie climbed upon the stool Thomas had offered, folded her arms on the cold marble surface of the table, and put her face down. "Suddenly toast and anything toast-related or food-related sounds... just horrible," her voice muffled out.

"Seriously? I was counting on you making breakfast," he said sternly. Stevie glanced up and stared at him until he finally smiled. "Joke. It was a joke."

She laughed and held her head in her hands to brace against the pressure it pushed on her skull. "Did I get that right? You told a joke!" she exclaimed, smiling appreciatively. "For a while there I was wondering if you even had a sense of humor."

Thomas shook his head. "Nope, nothing is funny to me," he went on, still joking. "Not a single thing. I was born without a personality."

"But your personality is your best quality!" she snickered comfortably, circling the cap off of the container of juice.

He crossed to the refrigerator and retrieved a bottle of cranberry juice, poured some of it into a glass, and offered it to her in place of the orange juice. "I'd drink this instead."

She took the glass and wordlessly drank it down quickly. "Well, so today I learned you're funny," she said after a moment, a lilt of flirtatious teasing in her voice. "Two days ago I learned that you're a terrible piano player. And yesterday I learned all kinds of other things."

He pulled up a stool close to her and sipped a tall glass of water, rubbing his face tiredly. "Yesterday I learned that you and tequila are not a good match," he teased back with a straight face. "And I heard you like to sing. And that it sounds horrible."

Stevie laughed good-naturedly and grabbed a banana from the bowl in the middle of the table, peeled it, and offered half to him. "I just learned that you're a jerk," she said with a wry smile, leaning over to bump his arm with her shoulder. She really did like him. She didn't even mind that he called her "Stephanie" instead of her nickname. She had briefly wondered if his actions on Day 3 were far too extreme, but after all was said and done, she had to admit that he might have been right after all. He had been such a tremendous help to her this whole time, even going with her into an abandoned pharmacy in the city to successfully find any bottles of Ciprofloxacin and Levofloxacin to help knock out the last of the kidney infection that had crept up so quickly at the start of Day 2. The alcohol intake of the last few days wasn't the most constructive thing to do while taking antibiotics, but at this point it didn't really matter. Especially not when they were on watch together the previous night.

He shrugged and gestured outside. "You up for a walk? I need to go see how it's going out there. I could use some company," he added with a smile.

Stevie looked down at her long black shirt and pointed to her knees. "I look like shit," she blurted out.

"Well, no one out there is going to care," he stated matter-of-factly, "and I don't think you do. Let's go."

# # #

Considering how the first four of these nine days had gone, most of the remaining were actually pretty great.

The end of Day 2 surreally bled into Day 3. Stevie followed close behind the four, traipsing quietly through the night. They all took cover from the bombing by hiding in a ditch off of the highway. She was so deliriously tired that it almost felt like she lost any sensation in her feet and legs as she bounded ahead, through trees and on streets alike. No one stopped for a single moment, or said a single word. They just kept pressing onward.

Day 3 was a mess. One awful firefight caused them to lose Bishop but they then brought another young woman into the group. Unfortunately, those who caused Bishop's death also caused her a great deal of humiliation in all kinds of degrading fashions. She was reluctantly relieved when Stevie convinced her to come travel with them, even if she didn't say much at all, not even her name, for days.

By midday on Day 4, they'd picked up more people: one couple, Alejandro and Maria, who only spoke Spanish, one middle-aged chiropractor, Lisa, and a college student, Jordan. By the end of Day 4, their reasoning to head up into the hills for higher ground stood for a far better outcome than they'd anticipated when they'd happened upon the open iron gate of a massive, ostentatious estate. A few walkers wandered around the grounds, and were easily dispatched once the nine rushed in and locked the gate behind them. The door to the home was shut but unlocked; the owners must have hastily departed in vain effort to seek safer shelter.

It was likely that no person in the group had ever been in a place like this. The mansion looked like something out of a movie set--large enough to have actual wings to retreat to, a stainless modern kitchen, a tennis court, spellbinding windows overlooking the canyon, an obscene number of vehicles parked in an echoey garage, and solar panels to keep the electricity on--even the pool filter.

The situation was more than just comical--it was terrific.

Everyone was too tired to explore the home further as they all simply took their own respective rooms and crashed for hours and hours. Walkers crowded at the iron fence, trailing the group's scent but thankfully unable to work their way through.

By the middle of Day 5, most people were up and about, and treated the house very carefully, as though they were guests visiting the home just temporarily. They determined that it would be beneficial to keep watch from the flat roof above. It wasn't until Clarkson found the extensive collection of wine and just about any spirit anyone could dare to name--just in time for the evening--that they finally relaxed.

Carpe diem. The party was killer.

On Day 6, after post-celebration hangovers had subsided, the group decided to divvy up assignments to keep watch. Thomas and Stevie were tasked with the first night shift.

The next few days were fairly relaxed as everyone began to explore the sprawling house. The food pantry was well-stocked and put to good use. Golf balls were smacked off of the rooftop while daytime watch was going on, but only if there was a cigar cindering nearby. Stevie took it upon herself during moments alone to go through the record collection. Of course. While she still had her phone loaded with plenty of music she so dearly loved, it nearly grieved her to switch it on out of habit and be reminded of a previous life that was now required to seem distant, or even non-existent. Clunky records were a lot of fun to work with. She ended up dragging the record player and a stack of albums with her to the bedroom she'd picked to sleep in. It was a nice indulgence.

Stevie was also delighted in her exploration of the home to discover a closet with fencing equipment--a foil, an épée, and even a saber were lined upward with a few mesh masks. Between socializing with the others, spending a considerable amount of time with Thomas, and checking on the still-nameless young woman they had liberated from that awful encounter a few days prior, there wasn't much time to goof off with practicing. She loved fencing, but loved music even more. She still brought the three weapons into her room and hid them under the bed, just in case there was any kind of problem in the house.

# # #

The congestion of walkers clawing at the iron-wrought fence was ominous as they screeched and roared, forcing their hands through the bars but pitifully not making any headway on crossing through onto the massive lawn. Luckily, the horrid smell hadn't permeated much farther so that the house would be disturbed by it.

Thomas and Stevie wandered a few yards away from the gate and stared ahead, standing side by side. He carried his rifle warily while she folded one arm across her chest and chewed the knuckle of her other hand, tilting her head as she examined the poor souls on the other side. "Have you ever been to the zoo," she started thoughtfully, still gazing ahead, "and wanted to see the lions do something really, really interesting, but were disappointed when you figured out that all they do is sleep, sleep, and sleep just a little more?"

Thomas blinked. "I'm sure that everyone in the entire world has been in that tragic position at some point in their life," he answered. "Why?"

She gestured ahead with both arms and grinned a little. "Behold. Our lions."

His expression didn't change. "Those are the ugliest lions I have ever seen." He continued onward.

Stevie laughed through her nose as they proceeded, walking twice as fast to keep up with the far-taller Thomas. "Terrence is on watch tonight, right?" she asked, looking up at the roof.

"I think that's what everyone decided," he answered as he noticed a particularly small child walker working its way through a set of bars, its head, shoulders, and arms beginning to slip through. He waved for Stevie to stay put and sauntered off in its direction and stood in place for a few moments to size up the situation before effortlessly bashing the butt of his rifle against the front of its skull, caving it in gorily. The walker went limp, stuck in the bars.

Stevie winced while watching. She knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn't make it any less difficult to watch. Not to mention that that creature had once been a child.

Thomas must have seen the look on her face. "Better him than us," he said somewhat tersely as he continued on.

"No, no, I know," she said as she caught up with him, worried that she might have accidentally put him on the defensive. "It's just still weird that anyone has to do that."

"It's not, though," he responded, still a little sharp, stepping ahead. "You know what they can do."

She pursed her lip for just a moment and hung back, collecting her composure. He likely hadn't at all intended on reminding her of what had happened on the beach, but it still came to mind after he'd said that. "You're right," she said quickly, not wanting to say anything else for a few moments as they kept treading to survey the fence. She'd wanted very badly to conceal the fact that she was far more sensitive than she really wanted to be, but knew that she had just failed in that. She trailed behind him just slightly, studying the plush green grass under her bare feet in an attempt to distract herself.

The remark made her think of Dean, one of the last things she'd wanted to think about, particularly after spending a lot more time getting better acquainted with Thomas. She didn't feel like outwardly sharing her darker and sadder thoughts on the entire situation, not even with him, not wishing to burden others. It felt much better to make light of it all and share good moments with others. She already did plenty of dwelling on more somber subjects inside of her own mind just fine on her own. In fact, even before the whole ordeal she tended to not share many of her inward thoughts with very many people at all, preferring to instead discuss far more pleasant subjects to cover up any potential perception of her even having any difficulties whatsoever.

Thomas must have seen the next expression on her face before he looked over his shoulder at her, and stopped walking. "I'm sorry," he stated simply after the long pause.

Stevie shook her head. "No, please don't be," she replied. "You're doing the right thing." She glanced along the fence, eyeing the determined walkers reaching out and snapping their jaws from the other side. Truth be told, the only thing that had ever stood between her and them was, in fact, Thomas. She then turned her attention back to him, looking directly into his eyes. She managed a genuine smile. "You've always done the right thing." It was easy to forgive him for the accidental offense.

She watched his expression soften just slightly as he reached out a long arm and draped it around her shoulder. She wasn't much for public displays of affection, but it didn't seem that he necessarily was, either. That was all right. Especially right now.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



* * *



Image


.: 7 Days Later :.


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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja

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Natasha Dean
Phillip Wilson


Natasha sat at a table, her muscles were still sore from the push to make it to the metro tunnels without getting incinerated, the build up of lactic acid certainly made most of her muscles sore, especially in her legs for a while after the run, but it was still sore to move them too much. She looked at the bag before her, she got enough guns and ammo from the weapon store to arm the group, but Natasha didn't know whether or not to trust the people down here, she had very little reason to trust any of them. Natasha would have to talk about it with Dyomie but she'd have to look for her first.

Natasha pushed herself up from where she and Phillip had made their bed, as she managed to limp away Phillip noticed her from the fire barrel and ran over. "Hey, hey! Take it easy." He warned her, his voice laced with worry and sincerity, but Natasha shook her head at him.
"I'm fine, Phillip, it's not like I broke a bone, it's just tired muscles." Natasha told him, before pushing away from him. "You don't have to worry." Natasha placed a kiss on his lips before heading off to look for Dyomie. The bag was hidden where no one would even think to look for a bag full of weapons and she was sure no one had saw her place it there, so Natasha went to the place where she had hidden it.

On her way there, she noticed Niobe storming out of one of the offices, Natasha gave her a weak smile, but she was unsure whether or not Niobe even noticed or not, she just looked so angry. Natasha thought nothing of it and continued on her way, passing by Lillian she gave the young girl a smile. "Hey there, how you holding up?" She asked the young girl, no doubt this entire event will have caused a lot of emotions to flow through the girls mind, Natasha wondered where her parents must have been during the outbreak but didn't think it polite to mention it to anyone. She stayed for a few minutes to talk to the youngest of the group before excusing herself and making her way to the weapons.

It took her awhile to get there, it was right where they had met the other survivors, the over turned station car and she smiled to the person on watch, "Hey, I'll take over, you go get some rest." Once sure they had left, Natasha used her flashlight to locate the vent shaft she had stashed the guns in, having found it she pulled them out and checked everything was there, once sure everything was there, she took out her walkie talkie, she and Dyomie had decided to have a private wavelength, both Phillip and Marie were on the wavelength but they rarely had their radios on now that the group was relatively safe down here. "Hey, Dyomie, I need you to come back to the over turned car, help me keep watch." Aware that Dyomie might be around someone that would wonder, she added the last part just to be sure.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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"Are you all right??"

Stevie blinked and nodded fervently, taking Clarkson's hand and pulling herself up on her feet. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," she uttered quickly, nodding to him, her nerves on fire. She cast a diagonal glance in horror at Bishop, splayed out fatally on the ground. She fought back an expression of shock but still balked in his direction. He'd been alive moments before.

"I need your help!" Holloway called to Stevie. She looked up and snapped back into the moment, watching the scene as both he and Thomas, and now Clarkson joining them, had rifles trained on the group gathered, ignoring their shouts as they sat up on their knees, corralled together. He tilted his head in the direction of the RV.

Stevie nodded, unsure of what to expect as she quickly skittered around the large vehicle and stopped in her tracks when she came upon a young black woman, half-naked and crumpled into a shivering mess. Her heart sunk. She instantly knew what had transpired by the look of the torn clothing. She carefully knelt down on the ground about three feet away, not wanting to scare her by coming too close.

"Hey," Stevie said gently. "I'm..." She forced her eyes to not well up with tears. "I'm... I'm here to help you. Let's get you to a safe place."

The girl edged up on her elbows just slightly, uncovering her face and looking at Stevie with blank eyes. Stevie's stomach twisted at the sight of her right eye, almost swollen shut, and a split lip. Her throat had dark marks circled around it, and her bare arms were burned with what must have been rope marks, along with her ankles.

Stevie blinked just momentarily. Clearly, the woman wasn't going to talk; if she was, she would have said something by now. She noticed a white shirt nearby and handed it to her, hoping to help her restore a little bit of lost dignity.

The woman took it carefully, eyeing Stevie with a degree of suspicion before adjusting her pants and rising to her knees. Stevie stood and offered a hand wordlessly. The woman took it, and then cringed with pain as she attempted to stand up. Stevie quickly rushed to steady herself beneath one shoulder. The woman was very tall, almost a foot taller than Stevie herself.

Holloway turned around the corner and nodded to Stevie. "You good?" he asked the two.

"Yeah, we're all right," Stevie answered carefully. "We've got to get her to—"

"We'll deal with that," he politely broke in. "For now, I want you both to go sit in that car," he instructed, gesturing behind them. "Just in case walkers come around."

Stevie nodded and ushered the zoned-out woman toward the Subaru wagon, opened the back gate, and popped down the backseat to give more than enough room for the two to sit. The noise that had been made would surely attract some of the wandering undead in the area. Sure enough, as she shut the gate behind them, she spotted a few in the distance lurching in their general direction.

"Duck down," Stevie whispered to the young woman. They flattened themselves on the floor and kept very Stevie glanced over at the woman, who stared up at the ceiling, focusing on the dark overhead lamp. Her breathing was shallow and shocked and beads of sweat formed around her temples. Clearly, she was not planning on talking anytime soon.

A series of blasts pealed out harshly through the air, just slightly muffled through the metal and glass walls of the vehicle, coming from the direction of the RV. Stevie stopped counting after hearing six, instead joining the poor girl in staring straight upwards.

She quickly recounted in her head what the girl would need. Under normal circumstances, she'd have to be rushed to a hospital and given the option to speak with authorities as she obtained medical treatment. But as both any kind of authorities or hospitals were not at all likely to be in any shape to perform as necessary in these kinds of situations, a shower and a visit to a pharmacy would have to make do instead. Despite her own religious beliefs and standard she'd set for herself, Stevie knew that it was up to her to ensure that the poor girl would have every option available to her to fix any undesirable situation that may have come as a result of those last terrible days.

A couple of gunshots rang out not far from the wagon. The gate opened at their feet, and there stood Holloway, holding the door up, standing aside to give the two women enough room to get out. "We gotta hurry," he asserted carefully, looking over his shoulder to make sure nothing was coming toward them. "Those biters are going to come along pretty soon. Can you two move?"

The girl nodded to Holloway and slowly pulled herself out of the vehicle, Stevie following behind her to give her a bit of space. The girl started out ahead, moving as quickly as she could, which was still far faster than Stevie had expected.

Holloway looked over at Stevie. "She all right?"

Stevie shrugged her shoulders quickly. "Not saying a word," she responded, looking ahead at the girl to make sure that nothing was sneaking up on her. "We need to get to a pharmacy and she needs to clean up."

He nodded. "Yeah, I'll talk to Tom about that."

Stevie shook her head. "Oh, don't worry, I can do that if you need me to."

He shook his head back at her and looked back toward the RV. "I know you're trying to help, but you don't want to talk to him right now." Another gunshot was fired. He looked back toward Stevie. "Trust me. Let me do it."

# # #


The antibiotics were helping. Stevie didn't feel quite so horrible as she woke up, still clad in her red t-shirt, on Day 5. She sat up and looked around the room, wondering for just a moment if it had all been a nightmare.

The clock next to her blinked the time. 7:13. 7:13. 7:13. 7:13. 7:13. 7:14. When she'd drifted off it had read 12:58. She hadn't slept for too long at all. She reflected on the last few days as she got up and headed into the bathroom attached to the bedroom and tested the water. Perfect. She found a towel, undressed, and stood for a very long time under the water. She was a mess. The quick cold shower she'd had after the incident in the medical unit, when Thomas had looked her over for bites, was the last time she'd had any real opportunity to clean up.

After exiting, she brushed and dried her hair, pulled her clothes back on, and quietly made her way down the stairs. The house was beautiful. She hadn't taken a great look around the previous night when Thomas, Clarkson, and Holloway checked the house before allowing everyone else to follow inside.

Stevie heard a noise, and froze in place instinctively. She tiptoed quietly toward the direction it came from, and discovered that the chiropractor was in the kitchen. The oven light was on and she stood over the sink with the water running, slicing fruit and placing it in a bowl, obviously feeling more at home than she did.

"Good morning!" the lady chirped, her thick accent adding a funny nasal quality to her voice. "Guess I'm not the only early bird here! Want a worm?" She offered Stevie an orange.

Stevie smiled and slowly walked in. "Thanks!" She started to peel the fruit after she accepted it. "What's in the oven?"

"There was all this flour and so I decided to make muffins," the woman responded. She placed the small paring knife beside the sink, quickly ran her hands under the faucet, patted them dry on a towel, and offered her hand to Stevie. "I'm Lisa. So nice to meet you, doll. Grab a knife and help me out."

Stevie nodded and grabbed another knife from a nearby drawer. Lisa reminded her a high school friend's mom, instantly making her feel at home. "I'm Stephanie, but you can call me Stevie."

Lisa placed a small bowl of uncut fruit in front of Stevie. "Nice to meet you, Stef," she responded. "And now we're strangers making a fruit salad. How do you like that?"

Stevie smiled and munched on an orange wedge. "This is the best orange I've ever tasted," she remarked as she started on cutting up a grapefruit.

"Well, the fruit's going to go bad, so we might as well do something with it, right?"

The two exchanged stories about their first few days after the infection. Lisa, Jordan, and Alejandro and Maria had been stuck in the chiropractic clinic for a few days; Jordan was a patient of Lisa's, and Alejandro and Maria had come into the clinic absolutely terrified just before Lisa and Jordan had decided to lock the place up. Lisa talked about how her two children, 20-year old twins, were in college in Connecticut and how she was worried for their safety, but knew that she would be able to figure out their fate "after all this shit blows over." Stevie just listened quietly, not having the heart to share her thoughts on that as she hulled strawberries.

The oven alarm bleeped repeatedly. "Ahh, there they are!" Lisa announced, pulling a pair of mitts on her hands and extracting a pan with a dozen heat-bronzed muffins. "Now no one has any excuse to not eat anything. My boy would wander around the kitchen constantly complaining there wasn't anything to eat!" she added bittersweetly. "So, hopefully everyone gets a chance to enjoy something, here."

Stevie smiled. "Thanks, Lisa, that was awesome of you!" she cheerfully remarked.

Lisa nodded. "Yeah, yeah... You're welcome," she accepted with a half-smile and an eyeroll. "You might want to take one to your friend. You know, the tall girl. What's her name?"

Stevie shook her head as she took a knife to scrape around a muffin to place onto a small plate, onto which she added a few spoonfuls of fruit. "I have no idea."

"What? Really?" Lisa inquired.

"She's been pretty quiet," Stevie said, finding a small fork and holding it under the plate. "I'll go take it to her."

Lisa smiled. "Come back soon, I'm about to get some coffee made, too."

Stevie offered a happy grin in return and stepped back up the stairs, heading to the bedroom door that she saw the tall girl head into. She gently rapped on the door. No answer. She waited several moments after a sense of potential dread filled her mind, then took it upon herself to quietly twist the doorknob open. The girl was out cold, breathing heavily, sleeping curled up on her side. Stevie tiptoed in and rested the plate on the bedside table not far from her face and silently shuffled back out.

Stevie made her way back down the stairs and reunited with Lisa. "Hey!" the older woman exclaimed loudly, pointing outside of the large bay window. "See that pool?!"

Sure enough, there was a large pool not far at all from the door, situated on a patio made from red and white textured tiles. A cabinet full of towels, a barbecue grill, and a canopy over a table and chairs made the scene look inviting so early in the morning.

Stevie laughed. "Too bad we don't have swimsuits, huh?" she said as she plucked a muffin from the pan and cut it in half, offering Lisa a piece.

"Who said you needed one!" Lisa half-joked before taking a bite. Stevie laughed out loud, nearly choking on her breakfast. "Just kidding. Let's not offend the neighbors, huh?"

Stevie smiled and shook her head. "Yeah, let's not," she said. "I wonder who this house belongs to."

"Well, whoever they are, I'm feeling pretty grateful," Lisa added, packing items into the dishwasher. "I'm thinking sandwiches for lunch. There's a big chest freezer in that walk-in pantry. If everyone likes barbecue, then there's more than enough to keep everyone fed. What do you think?"

Stevie instantly admired the fast-talking lady who seemed to love being busy. "I think that's great." She looked down at her torn dress. "I'm thinking about doing some laundry."

"Already on it!" Lisa chirped. "Just grab a towel and go hang out in your room and I'll bring your clothes to you."

"But I can help you—"

"Nah, I need something to do," Lisa interrupted. "Besides, you still look a little sick, like you were when you showed up. Get that immune system back up. Go rest a few more hours, then you can help if you're feeling up to it. Stick your clothes outside the door and I'll grab it."

Stevie never allowed anyone to do her laundry for her, but Lisa sure sounded like she could have used a distraction. She nodded and stood up. "Thank you," she said as she went back up the steps to her bedroom, feeling relieved at the prospect of resting to feel better.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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Thomas Blackthorne
Day 3 Flashback


Bishop was dead. He lay flat on his back, a look of surprise stamped on his face, the majority of his chest blown away by two close range shotgun blasts. His eyes were staring upwards, into the smoke blackened sky and Blackthorne looked back down into them, hating the situation he was in. He had lost another man, and for what? So a bunch of wanna-be LA gang bangers and their bitches could try abduct Stephanie.

He felt an enormous rage building inside his chest, a feeling he had not had since his best friend was killed by a drunk driver six years before. Blackthorne was not a man given to strong emotion, and when it did happen he rarely showed it but on that third day, staring down at Bishops surprised features, something inside of him snapped.

He stood, drawing the pistol from his holster and turned towards the dozen captives that were kneeling in the dirt. Nine of them were men, the other three were their "hoes", or "bitches" as one of the gangers kept calling them. Clarkson and Holloway stood over them and the chief amongst them was trying to stem the flow of blood from his mouth by rubbing his face on his shoulder. Holloway had broken all of his teeth with a savage blow from the butt of his rifle.

Blackthorne made eye contact with the other two soldiers and he saw himself mirrored in their faces. Something had changed for all of them in the ambush that left Bishop and four gangers dead. They had joined the military to protect those weaker than themselves and now that seemed irrelevant.

As if reading his mind, Clarkson also drew his sidearm and offered him a toothy grin. Somehow the two of them, without saying a word, had decided to commit cold blooded murder.

Blackthorne took two steps, stopping in front of a gang banger who couldn't have been more than sixteen. He had been on top of the woman Stephanie was consoling when they found him. He looked up into Blackthornes eyes, his every expression and posture told Blackthorne that the kid was terrified. He didn't care.

He shot the boy between the eyes, the silenced shot sounding like a shark whip crack as it sent the body backwards into the dirt.

A second shot from the end of the line told him that Clarkson had killed his own captive. Blackthorne stepped to the right, placed the pistol to the eye socket of another ganger. The man opened his mouth to plead but Blackthorne shook his head and then pulled the trigger. The mans head snapped backwards and blood spattered the side of the RV they had been using as a hideout.

A horrible scream cut through the air and then turned into a moaning gurgle as Holloway drove his bayonet into the gang leaders open mouth, twisting the steel with brutal force that finally succeeded in tearing the mans jaw off. He kicked the still living thug backwards and then shot him in the head.

Four down.

The next in line was a woman and she stared up at Blackthorne in abject horror as he stopped in front of her. She had big pouty lips and at least ten grand worth of fake tits but he saw none of that, he just saw a piece of trash that had taken a loyal friend and soldier from him. She tried to break his focus, begging for her life.

"Please." She whispered, her big brown eyes welling up with tears. "Oh my god, please..."

She would never finish the sentence as the bullet threw her backwards so that she bounced off the RV and fell face first to the ground. Clarkson shot another of the men at the other end of the line even as the ganger broke down sobbing like a child.

It didn't matter anymore.

In slow methodical fashion the three soldiers killed every single one of their captives. They displayed no emotion throughout and Blackthorne found himself watching the scene as if from someone else’s point of view as he shot the last ganger, the man slumping down so that his blood spattered the soldiers boot. Blackthorne wiped the toe of the boot distastefully on the mans shirt.

“Check on the women Holloway.” He said quietly and the black man nodded, walking towards the nearby Subaru.

Blackthorne looked down at the bodies before him. He didn’t feel any better but at least Bishop had been avenged. He reloaded his pistol and set his mind to the problems at hand.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Dyomie Thornes



Dyomie along an empty road by herself, she had gotten up early that morning wanting to do some scavenging of her own, without the vulture eyes of the group. She had wandered decently far from the entrance to the metro, but the group had almost exhausted their resources that were found around where they were 'holed up', in the most literal sense of the phrase. A week had gone past and since then the cut on Dyomie's leg had almost all but healed. Not that it was ever serious, but Marie was insistent that she not walk on it and kept it clean while it healed up, which was probably for the best.

As of right now Dyomie hadn't found that much, a few road trip snacks and some water bottles, along with some soap. She wasn't that interested in grabbing the soap, but Jessica had started cleaning clothes for them and said that if anybody found soap to bring it back. She was honestly just glad somebody else took up that job. Over the last week or so Dyomie, though not really starting to trust others, had started to make some connections with others in the group; Jack and she had formed an unusual friendship, one that held quite a bit of flirting and her calling him 'Superman'. She found out, by ease dropping and the like, that he was a bit of a criminal himself, though nothing as major as herself. She had been hesitant at letting him in on her secret, but if he told someone she could always return the favor or injure him and run. There was also Schantz, or as Dyomie called her 'Ren girl', they weren't too close, but held a mutual respect for one another. Finally there was Natasha, the cop a.k.a 'Blondie', she still held no trust in this woman because after all they met when she was going to arrest her, but over the week she had proven herself a bit. She had kept the secret of them hiding their guns well and so far she had done nothing to prove that she was going to hurt Marie. In other words, Natasha held the the highest status in Dyomie's books compared to the other strangers.

As they walked, Dyomie slipped on a loose piece of rubble, slamming into a car. The engine flap was open. Though Dyomie herself was nothing like Ren girl she still knew enough to know when a car would be easy to fix, by someone else. This car wasn't one of those cars. The engine was far beyond repair, but it did give her an idea. She looked down the street, there were plenty of abandoned cars among here and there must be some that Ren girl could fix up for everyone. You could say that Dyomie was getting a bit cabin-feverish with staying in the metro, it wasn't safe to stay in the city anymore and now everyone who was hurt were starting to heal up. They could get out of here.

She pulled herself up when her walkie-talkie started making noises. It hadn't been her idea to share the wave-length with Natasha and her lover boy, that wavelength had just been for her and Marie alone, but Natasha was so insistent that Marie crumbled under.

"Hey, Dyomie, I need you to come back to the over turned car, help me keep watch," it was Blondie.

"Yeah, I'm comin', it'll just take a little while. I'm in the city right now scrounging up supplies. I'll be back in a few," Dyomie said into the walkie. She began her trek back to the metro, her leg still slightly hurting but nothing unbearable. As she walked she passed a couple pockets with a few straggling walkers. With her skill of sneaking around and with her being by herself at the moment, it wasn't hard to get past these pockets without being noticed. Even the few times she had been noticed by the walkers she was close enough to a fence, or something of the like, that she could just climb over easily. The trek back was pretty uneventful and fairly routine.
__________________________________________

Dyomie came back, her bag pretty empty, but with some extra supplies. Dyomie saw Jack up ahead with a small group, they must be going on a supplies run themselves. Dyomie waved to them in order to signal that she wasn't a walker.

"Where are you guys off to, Superman?" Dyomie asked Jack. His nickname came by when she first saw his tattoos and his ability to ignore pain. Honestly she knew it wasn't that creative, but her nicknames weren't supposed to be creative, it was just something that she did on the fly so she called people whatever first came to her mind.

"Just to get some supplies sweetheart," Jack answered back, sending a wink her way.

Dyomie's hand flew to her heart dramatically, "Sweetheart? Why I do believe that the budding roses of romance are startin' to bloom," She said in a stereotypical Southern bell accent.

"Well I'm certain we can start something," Jack said. She could feel Nathan's steady gaze on them, he was one in the group that Dyomie could live without. He didn't do a whole lot except bitch about Jack and judge her, as far as she could tell anway.

Dyomie just smiled and flipped Jack off at his comment, "Ren girl, when you get back I want to talk to you, I'll be on watch," she said to Schantz as she passed by. When Dyomie got inside she started to walk towards her and Marie's make-shift 'room', if you could even call it that. A quick drop off for her bag, before heading back towards the flipped over train car. On the way there she ran into a George, a bit of a smaller man, but anyone who could help would be great.

"Hey Watson, I'm going to need your help later today moving some cars to the entrance. I was thinking we could fix them up and get out of here if you want to help, what do you say?" Dyomie asked, crossing her arms and slumping to one hip. His nickname was more because he looked like the character Watson from the BBC show Sherlock, a show that Marie forced her to watch many times.

"Is that a command?" George asked incredulously, "Besides my name is George not Watson."

"You tell me if that was a command or not," Dyomie said, at this point she knew that George was an irritable drunk, but cars weren't going to move themselves and she knew she wouldn't be able to do it by herself.

"Bring it up with the group later, I'm too tired of this shit," he said walking away. Dyomie clicked her tongue a little before turning and heading to the watch point.

She saw Natasha before the cop saw her, as was her way with cops in the past, "Hey Blondie!" Dyomie called to her, climbing up onto the the overturned train, "Any fun news while I was out? What do you want to talk about?" Dyomie sat on the edge of the train, her scoped rifle that she had brought with her from her apartment laying across her lap.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC)

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Harper walked along the inside rail tunnel, hoping to get a look at the sun. Being underground was hard; it felt very strange to not be able to instantly tell time by looking at a couple of details around oneself, and there also must have been truth to sunlight being a key component of good health and good moods. Being underground was a little depressing. She felt her mood sink over the course of the morning. James and Annabelle were a help, but Nathan was crowding her, despite his good intentions, and she felt a little put off by George's attitude. She was feeling extremely discouraged.

She climbed up on the walkway to get around the single massive train blocking the pathway, only to see Jack winding his way down from the entrance. Maybe his watch shift ended. She studied the yellow rays filtering down from the ceiling, feeling a simple rush of joy at seeing something bright, finally. But at the moment, she didn't want to talk to Jack.

"Hey," his voice broke out echoey through the tunnel. "Heard you had a tough time waking up."

Harper smiled and looked past him at the light. "Just needed to see the sun, I guess," she offered, casting him a sidelong glance as she walked past him.

He blinked and turned around, following her a short distance. "What, no 'good morning'?" he asked, a little surprised. Normally she was very cordial with him, but not at this moment.

She stopped in her tracks and turned around, shoving her hands in the pockets of her jacket. "Good morning," she said, after taking a deep breath. "How are you?"

Jack smiled. "See, now that wasn't so bad," he said. "Is something wrong?"

Harper looked down to the ground and took another breath. "Well," she said, "I guess I better just say it." She looked up to him, square in the eyes. "You don't get to ask me questions like that if you're trying to get laid by everyone in this camp."

Jack blinked. "Pardon me?"

Harper stared ahead for a moment. She barely recognized herself in the last sentence she uttered. "Okay, that was a little harsh," she admitted, shutting her eyes and shaking her head quickly. She needed another tablet. Badly. So much for the sunshine. "But... I'm not that kind of person, Jack. Nathan told me. I just want you to be honest with me."

Jack let out a long sigh. "Nathan said that, huh?"

Harper nodded her head. "Yes, he did. But I'm going to have to set some rules about how we're going to interact with each other, if we're going to be friends." He didn't know what to say.
"I'm a little sad, because I was actually kind of enjoying being around you."

She scooted around him and walked off toward the offices, leaving him standing alone. She knew she'd come on very strong, and that this wasn't the most pressing matter at hand, but Nathan seemed happy to report hearing an exchange of words between Dyomie and Jack that made her feel a little upset. It felt a little undignified, considering that she'd spoken a lot to Jack, who'd not mentioned a word about it at all. Jealousy? Frustration? Harper wasn't sure what motivated her to feel that way, but there it was.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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Steve kicked aside the destroyed lampshade next to the small red Honda. "Think there's some fuel in here?" he called out to Nathan and Schantz.

Schantz popped over with the red gas can she'd found a little earlier, and connected the garden hose and with a quick breath started to siphon some of the fuel from the tank. "This'll be good to take back," she said quietly, shielding her eyes and nose from the quick burst of gas vapors in the air.

Nathan kept an eye on the road before them, looking for a few of the landmarks around to identify the way to the ammunition shop. "We'll have enough to be on the road to a better place soon," he observed out loud.

"If we can only agree on where to go," Schantz cracked as she continued to work on getting fuel into the can. "No one can agree on anything, though, so... yeah."

"Harper's trying to talk to people," Steve pointed out, also keeping watch on the street. "She's trying to get people to come to a consensus."

"Well, some of us know what the right answer is," Nathan quipped sullenly. He tossed his golf club back and forth from one hand to the other. "Some of us actually know where the safe places in the city are."

"Everyone's got a lot of considerations to make," Steve countered mildly. "And everyone has to compromise and agree. Everyone has to win somehow. You know how that works."

Nathan laughed and rolled his eyes slightly. "Much progress it's made for us, that approach," he whistled, grinning at Steve. "I know you know how bullshit that really sounds."

Steve laughed back. "Yeah, it's not easy, is it?" he said. "Still gotta try."

Nathan peered ahead. "We're not far, you guys," he called out to the others, pointing ahead. "Let's get going. We'll find it in there."

Schantz capped the red can and gripped its handle as she walked ahead, slinging the spiky garden tool over her shoulder. Steve offered to take the can but she politely refused, simply shaking her head and continuing forward. Nathan led them to the storefront of an ammo shop with opaque black windows. Just the day before he'd come into the building and found that the place was mostly cleaned out, except for a stash under the floorboards by the cash register. He was too rushed to count, but he did estimate that there was over 500 rounds of ammunition that could be dug out from that hiding spot. Of what calibers and sizes they were, he had no idea... he just knew that those things would be useful.

Not that he wanted to be the one holding a gun. He detested guns. The mere thought of them reminded him of a story he was told as a kid about someone's son who accidentally shot himself in his home. It always depressed him a little. In the present, though, Nathan knew that having firearms really wasn't a bad thing considering the situation... but he still preferred to not have to handle such a thing if he didn't absolutely have to.

The three were stopped dead in their tracks when they heard a voice ring out. "Hold up, don't move!"

Steve instinctively focused the shotgun on a uniformed man kneeling behind a sportscar.

"Put down your weapons!" called out another voice.

The three stopped in their tracks. Schantz' face went white as she set the gas can and the garden tool down at her feet and her hands behind her head. Steve placed the shotgun in front of him on the ground and stood back up, raising his hands at elbow-level. Nathan stubbornly held onto the golf club, until he saw two more heads pop up from around the store with accompanying rifles. He gulped back his panic and obligingly set the club down on the ground.

"Into the building!" a third voice called, this one in a British accent, markedly different from the other two. "Hands up!"

The three gunmen approached the three scavengers and scooted them toward the door to the store. Schantz studied their faces, and then finally let out a relieved sigh. "Hey! I know you!" she said to the tallest one, the surprise in her voice evident. "I gave you Stephanie's wallet and phone!"

Nathan stared ahead, and his eyes widened. Schantz was right. "Holy shit, it IS you!" he confirmed.

"Shh, shh, voices down, you'll draw the walkers in," the black soldier broke in quickly. "We'll get your weapons in a few. Sergeant, do you know these people?"

They were ushered into the door, where five non-uniformed people were huddled behind a glass counter, digging the ammo stash from the floor near the cash register. A familiar-looking figure popped up--the girl with the glasses and the brown hair from the frigate.

Schantz let out another surprised gasp. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed. "It's you!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Three walkers stumbled through the door. One had a hole in its chest, the other had a missing arm. The third walker seemed to be in perfect condition, or as much as a walker could be.

Rafiq gulped. He could feel sweat trickling down his back. Molly had now seem them to and let out a small gasp. Then she looked at Rafiq in horror. She didn’t say anything, but she clearly was hoping he knew what to do.

Thankfully, walkers were slow and stupid. It was probably the biggest advantage the living had over them. They had to take advantage of that now, or he and Molly would be done for.

“Move away from me. Keep moving around,” he said to her, “don’t let them corner you.” He pulled out his knife. He was tempted to get his gun, but the noise could alarm the other walkers on the street. He would only use that as a last resort.

Molly did as she was told and this clearly distracted the walkers. Two went in her direction, while the other one went straight for Rafiq. He hoped that Molly’s injury wouldn’t slow her down too much. If she could give him enough time, he could take care of the first one and then help her out.

It was the one with the chest hole that came for him. Rafiq quickly sprinted towards the creature. The walker clawed at him, but he had anticipated that. At the last second, he jumped aside, missing the outstretched arms. The dead thing tried to turn towards him, but it was too late. Rafiq quickly stabbed it through the right ear, plunging the knife straight into the brain.

As the walker fell to the ground, dead for good, Rafiq could feel his blood pumping in his throat. He was operating on pure adrenaline.

He was relieved to see that his sudden movement had distracted the second walker, focusing its attentions on him. From a quick glance, he could see that Molly had been able to avoid the third one, but it was edging closer towards her. He had to act fast.

This time it was the walker without an arm. It had been a woman once, though her features were already too deformed to make out anything else. It was already close to him, so he had to change tactics. Rafiq took a defensive stance and held his knife up high. George had told him how this pose would probably not work against a human opponent, as someone could easily knock the knife out of your hand. However, a walker would not be focused on the knife and did not protect its face. An easy target.

The creature was near enough now that he could smell it. Predictably, it raised up its arms as it tried to grab his hand. Rafiq easily avoided them and jabbed the knife forward.

He heard a muffled scream. Distracted, he quickly looked aside.

His heart sank.

Somehow, Molly had fallen down. The walker was on top of her.

Cold fingers touched his own arm. The distraction had made him lose focus. The knife had only pierced the eye of the walker and was now stuck in the socket. The creature had a tight grip on him, bringing his arm to its mouth. Rafiq tried to pull away, mustering all his strength. The creature would not let go, so instead, he made himself fall down.

The sudden change of weight made the walker lose its balance. It fell on top of him. Rafiq took a hold of the knife with his other arm and trusted upwards. He heard a sickening sound and then the creature moved no more.

He got up as fast as he could. Molly was still pinned beneath the walker.

Its teeth were on her neck.

He half ran, half stumbled towards her, fear grabbing a hold of him.

Then he noticed something strange.

The walker was not moving. Only Molly was.

“Molly?”

“Yes?”


Relief swept over him. She was still alive.

He pushed the walker off her. She was trembling and covered in guts and blood.

“Are you alright?” He asked her, “were you bitten?”

She slowly got up. “No,” she said, “I don’t think so. I... I did it Rafiq. I killed it.”

She held up a kitchen knife. Where she got it from, he had no idea, but it did not matter. She was safe.

“Congratulations,” he replied sheepishly.

She started laughing and he laughed with her. Exhausted, they fell to the floor. But they couldn’t stop laughing. Everything about the whole situation was so ridiculous.

After a good three minutes, he finally made himself stand up again. He slowly walked towards the edge of the roof and looked down. The group of walkers had moved on towards the next group of buildings.

“We should get back,” he said.

“Yes, I think I’ve had enough for one day.”

He opened the roof door and walked down the staircase. She followed him.

“Thank you,” said Molly from behind him. Her voice had gotten its strength back again.

“What for?”

“For saving me.”


He shook his head and chuckled. “Saving you? You saved yourself.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the other two. You’re much better at this surviving thing then me.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. Once your ankle is healed, you’ll be able to do just as much as me.”

“You really think so?

“Of course I do. We’re all the same. Nobody know what he or she is doing. We’re just doing the best we can.”


No reply.

He looked back.

A walker was sinking its teeth into the back of Molly’s neck. Her expression was that of complete confusion, but she didn’t utter a sound.

“NO!”

Shock, anger and desperation all welled up in him at the same time. He rushed back up the stairs, not even realizing he had pulled out his hunting knife. The walker was gorging on Molly’s neck, blood gushing everywhere. It did not notice Rafiq and a quick stab through the ear took it out.

It fell and slid two steps down the stairs. Molly fell as well, but Rafiq caught her. One look at her face and he knew he was too late. Dead eyes were staring up at him, frozen in the same look of confusion as before.

Hot tears filled his eyes. His heart was racing. It had happened so quickly, he could not even process it. Where had that thing even come from?

He looked up and noticed that one of the doors leading towards a corridor was open. They had failed to check it and Molly paid the price.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered, still holding the dead girl in his arms. Some people, colder or more rational people then him, would now check the rest of the building for it to be safe. But to him, it that moment, it did not seem to matter.

Angrily, he kicked the dead walker in the head. It rolled down the stairs even further.

What was he going to do now?

He sat down on the stairs, gently moving Molly’s body into his lap. Her neck was nearly bitten in half, so he had to support her head with care.

After one long look, he closed her eyes. He knew what had to be done next.

“You were wrong,” he said, “I couldn’t save you.”

She looked almost peaceful now.

“And my best is clearly not enough.”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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# Sarah Hawke #


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

A lot had changed in the last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


...7 Days Prior...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bronson cocked his head slightly. "Who?"

"Oliver..."

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

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

BOOM!

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

She was looking at her brother--

Or at least what was left of him...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

0.00 INK

The array of shelves containing a variety of medications was daunting as Thomas and Stevie stood at the entrance to examine the scene. Boxes were scattered here and there about their feet, possibly the sign of a rush after staff members may have hastily departed for safer locations.

The others were next door in the clinic, talking to the chiropractor they'd spotted through the window, who'd turned out to be relieved to see others and welcomed everyone inside. When Stevie had asked about the possibility of finding a pharmacy, she pointed her in the right direction. Thomas had offered to come with her; those were the first words that he'd had spoken to her since Bishop was killed.

Stevie nervously turned and looked up at Thomas, unsure of exactly how to talk to him after what had transpired. "So... we're looking for a few things," she spelled out politely, "a few things for her, definitely. And I need antibiotics."

"Still not feeling too good?" he asked, walking through the door and scanning the shelves from where he stood, obviously looking for any movement.

Stevie shook her head as she pulled the door shut behind her. "Yeah, still feeling a little green," she said, not wanting to make communication complicated.

He nodded and beckoned for her to follow him, training his pistol at an angle toward the ground. "Yeah, you're actually looking a little white," he observed. "You need something to eat and then some sleep. We'll make sure you get that. We don't need you getting slowed down or lost. I don't think we'd be able to live with that."

Stevie was pleasantly surprised as she grabbed a small plastic basket normally reserved for the pharmacists to use in collecting orders, and trailed him quietly, eyeing the shelves as she went.

"What are you looking for?" he asked as he continued forward, along reading the names on the various boxes and containers. "Maybe I can help you."

Stevie declined to mention that she was going to need Plan B for the girl traveling with them, next door in the clinic. There were some things that still ought to be kept private. "Well, I'm going to need Levofloxacin, or Ciprofloxacin," she opted to rattle off instead.

"Lev-what?" he said back, stopping in his tracks. "You're going to have to write those down for me."

Stevie looked down and noticed a pen in the basket, but no paper. She gestured for Thomas to hold out his left arm, pulled his sleeve back, and quickly scrawled the names out on him. "Sorry," she said as she spelled the letters out, "but this way you won't drop your list, right?" She smiled before she blinked and took the pen back.

He looked just slightly amused as he nodded and continued onward, leaving Stevie just around the section containing emergency contraception. It didn't take her long to collect a few packs of Plan B, and decided to add a few extra packs of regular birth control, not far off at all. Antibiotics probably killed off what was already in her system, but as her bag that contained her medication was not in her possession, now seemed like the best time to grab something that seemed normal to do, if merely out of habit for the sake of assurance. Couldn't hurt, she reflected even as she looked down the aisleway at Thomas. Couldn't hurt at all.

"Think we should take anything extra?" she called out. "I mean, this place has got bandages, medicine, anything we need, just in case."

"Whatever you think we should have, go ahead and grab it," he responded. "As long as you can carry it." He stepped ahead a few paces and started to grab assorted boxes. "Found them. How many do you want?"

Pick up what you can, in case it happens again, please?" Stevie answered, setting about obtaining first aid supplies as she'd mentioned. "If I get sick I'd rather be miserable and taking something and moving than miserable and not taking something and not moving."

"We'll stop somewhere," Thomas said solidly. "We were talking earlier and we think that's the right thing to do. Especially now that we've found all these other people, we should take a rest."

Stevie hid her relief. "I think that's a good idea," she uttered brightly, piling what she'd gathered into a canvas bag she'd found on the floor. "We could use some time to get our feet back underneath us."

Thomas nodded, then turned back toward her. "We'll be somewhere by the time the night's over," he assured dryly, carrying the two medications he'd hunted down for her and placing them in her hands.

Stevie smiled as she accepted the boxes, and extracted a tablet out from one of them to take a few moments from then, then slid them into the bag. "Everyone can get a chance to come back to Earth, maybe?" she stated rhetorically.

He looked at her for a moment, then nodded. "That's one way to say it." He started toward the door. "Ready to go?"

# # #


"Seriously?" Holloway said as he stood beside Lisa, Stevie, and Alejandro. All four gaped down into the freezer's contents, which had begun to brown foully, compounded by the insulated heat.

"Oh, Jesus, the freezer isn't on," Lisa gasped, clasping one side of the white box to look over and check on the cord. Curiously, it was still plugged in. "Oh, shit."

Alejandro flickered the light switch. Nothing. "Plomos?" he asked, indicating the possibility of there being a fusebox outage.

Stevie nodded. "This place is solar-powered," she noted out loud, "and if we can't fix the power, life will get pretty rough around here." The large house enjoyed the added bonuses of air conditioning, food storage, a security system, and more via electricity. But, as the group had discussed before, those niceties weren't nearly as important as having a safe location close to food and water... neither of which were within an easy vicinity of the house.

"It was fine when we got here," Lisa insisted. "How could this have happened so fast?"

Stevie shook her head. "No idea, but we've got to make a decision," she quietly mused as she folded one arm across her chest and covered her mouth with her other hand. "We might have to go."

Several minutes later, Clarkson happened upon the four in the pantry. "So this is where all you—" He stopped himself at the smell of the rotten meat. "Oh, now that's foul, just foul. What happened here?"

"Freezer's out, might be this part of the electrical wiring in the house," Holloway summarized quickly. "There was about a month's supply in there, easily."

"Oh, cripes," Clarkson uttered with deliberately withheld expression. He scratched the back of his head and looked toward Stevie and Lisa. "You got any ideas?"

"Stef thinks we might have to leave," Lisa recounted. "I kind of agree. It's not going to be easy for us to replace the food here. And we've only got enough canned food for another two weeks, if that. Something tells me it wasn't nine people who lived here before we came along."

Clarkson nodded. "I'll go find Tom," he said resignedly as he stepped out of the pantry.

Immediately, Lisa set about gathering flour and other dried ingredients. "We're going to have to get these things ready to go," she said quickly. "Can we get things like this hauled out to the counter to pack? No milk products; those'll spoil fast." She looked to Alejandro, trying to muster up her Spanish. "Towels? Blankets? Blancos?" she tried quickly. He nodded and went to find Maria to start retrieving what they could find around the house.

Jordan popped his head through the door after Alejandro left. "Is something wrong?" he inquired.

"The freezer's dead," Holloway said, "I better go let them know what happened." He shuffled past Jordan and went to find Thomas and Clarkson.

"Jordan, be a pal and run to the garage and round up every toolkit you can find," Lisa zapped quickly. "Leave them on the floor in the same spot and we'll load everything up. After that, go get soap from the bathrooms and whatever band-aids or first aid you can find. Stef? We're going to get kitchen knives, gardening tools, and whatever other sharp things we can find."

"I'll help you with that, but real quick," Stevie answered as she walked hastily toward the kitchen, "I'll go check with them to see what they think."

# # #

“49… 50… 51… 52…” Blackthorne was counting under his breath as he hammered out push-ups on the edge of the pool deck. His body was rigidly straight and he was naked from the waist up, the morning air cool on his skin.

He heard feet approaching and he could tell from their regular and evenly paced strides that they were the steps of another soldier, probably Clarkson since he could hear the man chewing on something. He had an annoying habit of chewing with his mouth open.

“You eat… like a… cow…” Said Blackthorne between push-ups, nose almost touching the tiled pool deck with each movement.

“And ye luck very sexy with nay shirt on laddie buck.” Came the accented drawl as the other soldier sat next to him on a lawn chair, putting his feet up on Blackthorne's back. “Come on boy, keep that back straight.”

Blackthorne continued, a slight smile on his face as he did so. He could feel the other man's boots on his spine and determined that, despite the extra weight, he was going to finish off one hundred push-ups for the morning.

“So, freezer's out, foods gone bad an’ yer bird is tryin ta figure out woot ta do.” The Brit said calmly as he cracked a soft drink he had brought from the house. “If you d’nay have a soft spot fer the lass ah’d say we ought ta bug out.”

Blackthorne halted his next push-up and finally looked at the Britisher who offered him a toothy grin, toasted him with the Pepsi he had before taking a swing.

“My bird?” Blackthorne said with a raised eye brow.

“Aye, bird. Y’know, missus, toppa, chicky, fuck buddy, broad, piece o’ass, senorita…”

“I get it.” Blackthorne interrupted the flow of slang terms. He shook his head and then returned to the push-ups with a grunt.

“My my, would you look at this.” Holloway's voice broke over them as the big man strode up, sitting himself in another lawn chair that groaned under his bulk. “Imperalist Brit with his boots on the back of a poor colonial labourer.”

Blackthorne didn’t bother responding, finishing off the last dozen push-ups and then elbowing Clarkson’s boots off of him and sitting up. He picked up one of the fluffy pool towels that he had brought out and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“I assume you are also here because of the freezer?” He said with a glance at Holloway. The big man nodded.

“Out, spoilt and smells like British cooking.” Clarkson sniffed indignantly but didn’t bother responding.

“Fuck.” It was wall Blackthorne could think to say as he thought over the implications. There was a long silence as he shifted to another lawn chair, turning it so that the three of them could still see each other. “We seem to have a situation.”

They nodded and Clarkson spoke first as Blackthorne knew he would. The Britisher was quick on his feet whereas Holloway rarely spoke unless he felt he had something worthwhile to add.

“I suppose we’re stuck with 'em?” He glanced meaningfully towards the house.

Blackthorne nodded and Holloway offered him a big grin.

“Tom ain’t 'stuck' with anyone. Stevie seems to be rather sweet on him. No sense leaving a woman when you might be some of the last people on earth.”

“Course ‘e gets all the bleedin women…” Clarkson muttered dramatically. “Tell me Tom, ‘ow is it we can be in tha middle o’tha worst disaster in ‘uman ‘istory an you find a pretty bird in a beach shack?”

“Some guys have all the luck,” Blackthorne replied with a grin, then, raising his voice. “Speak of the devil!”

Stevie had been walking toward them from the house and now she stopped short a dozen paces away at the words and gave the three of them a hard look.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothin lass, woot's on yer mind?” Clarkson said as he tipped her a wink and was rewarded with a red flush on her cheeks.

“I, um, came to talk to you guys about the food situation," she said, walking slowly over to them and standing awkwardly next to Blackthorne as she spoke. He seemed to sense her emotions and sat up, swinging his long legs to the ground, making space for her on the end of his lawn chair so she could sit.

“It seems we have none.” Blackthorne said bluntly and she nodded. “I suspect that would mean you think we should move elsewhere?”

She nodded again but didn’t speak though it was plain she wanted to. He reached out and gave her knee a squeeze. “What’s on your mind? Got a plan?”

“I do, actually,” she said with a small smile and the soldiers leaned in as she began to outline it.

# # #

Several minutes later, all nine stood in the kitchen, deliberating over the fate of the group. It didn't take long for them to acknowledge the house's unfortunate position high up in the canyon, away from any supply base. Those iron bars weren't going to stay up forever, either. It would only be with an ample supply of fuel that they would be able to stay there... a supply that wasn't all that great in the house itself.

Everyone agreed to spend the evening packing up a few vehicles. In the morning, they'd set off to move along to a safer location outside of the city. Thomas, Stevie, and the quiet girl would lead the group; Holloway, Alejandro, and Maria would be in the second vehicle; Clarkson, Lisa, and Jordan would bring up the rear. Whatever anyone could find of use that would be light and easy to pack in a vehicle, they'd find; tools, blankets and linens, first aid, knives, hygiene items, and canned goods were placed into boxes. By 11, everything was packed up, mostly in leftover banker boxes from an office inside the house. Even the alcohol.

No one slept well that night.

On Day 9, no later than 7, Thomas, Holloway, and Clarkson cleared walkers from the gate to make a quick escape. At no later than 8, the nine were heading back on the road once again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC)

0.00 INK

Harper hurried back to the cluster of living spaces, nodding a brief acknowledgment as she walked past a few people, and quickly ducked into her sleeping space. She pulled out the brown leather bag and began to rifle through it, searching urgently for the orange pill case containing the only thing she thought could really help her at the moment.

She sat on the floor and retrieved the bottle of water that she took to sleep with her the previous night, still half-full. She fished a small tablet from the cylinder and happily stuck it on her tongue and washed it down. She sat back against the wall and shut her eyes for a moment, feeling a flood of calm wave over her body. Much better.

"Harper, I-"

She startled suddenly, her ankle knocking over the orange case, which she hadn't yet screwed the lid back onto. The white tablets flew in multiple directions.

She brought her eyes up. It was Jack, looking down, staring inquisitively at the white pills all over the ground. He looked at Harper's panicked face, then bent down to pick up the cylinder before she could. He stood back up and eyed the text printed on the white prescription label. "'Jensen, Dean'?" he read aloud. "'Seattle, Washington'? 'Xanax'?" He looked back at Harper's wide eyes. "Are you taking these for... 'panic attacks as needed'?"

Harper started to pluck the remaining tablets from the scratchy cement surface. "My problem, not yours," she said smoothly, completely embarrassed by being found out in such a way.

Jack shook his head and looked in the space nearby, then knelt down to speak quietly to her. "I've got no issue with it, you don't have to be defensive," he said hushedly. "You're looking a little low, actually. Not like yourself." He smiled just a little. "I know where there's more."

She couldn't believe her ears. "What?" she asked, trying hard to pretend that she was shocked at such a prospect. It alarmed her internally that part of her was excited to hear those words.

"I can help you out," he said, tilting his head slightly, holding the pill case out to her. She shook her head as she accepted it. He sighed. "Look, I know you're mad at me. Let me make it up to you."

She looked up at him as she twisted the cap back on. "How do you know how to get more?" she asked suspiciously, suddenly wondering what else Jack was hiding about himself. "Please don't be dishonest with me."

Jack looked out into the common area again, and sat down on the ground in front of her. "Okay, okay," he said. "You want me to be honest? I'll be honest with you." He looked at his hands and back at her. "My name's Jack Cavanagh. I'm 37. I was born in Chicago. And last week I got home after spending a while in Colombia. A really, really long while in Colombia." Harper blinked and stared at him. He wondered if he'd screwed up. Long pause. "I'll answer any question you ask me. Now you know more about me than anyone else in this group. All right?"

Harper stared at him for a long time, narrowing her eyes as she studied his face for any hint of dishonesty. "My name is Harper Hopkins," she said quietly, "I turn 30 this year. I grew up in North Carolina and I can't tell you how much I absolutely hate being in California." She paused, then broke out into a smile. "Especially right now."

He smiled back. "Oh, it can't be all that bad right now," he cracked.

Harper smirked and looked down at her hands. "You better get going before someone decides to start a rumor and rattle Nathan," she said quietly.

He looked at her for another long moment before he rose to his feet. "You have my word," he said as he nodded, then turned to walk away. Harper remained seated in place, wrapping her jacket around herself and shuffling her boots off of her feet. Time to get back to brainstorming...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

0.00 INK

Stevie shut the back gate of the Mazda, thankful that the keys to a couple of fuel-efficient SUVs stored in the massive garage had been easy to find. Easily the largest vehicle was the not-so-efficient pickup truck that would come second in the three-vehicle file.

She criss-crossed Thomas as she walked from the garage into the house and through the kitchen. "Hi," she chirped quickly, looking up at him as she stopped in the middle of the tiled floor. "I'm on my way to go get her." She stood a little bit closer to him, but not too close.

He nodded and pointed back to the garage. "Make sure she hurries," he insisted. "I'll need you to drive through when we get that gate open."

She smiled and nodded back. "Don't worry, I already woke her up this morning. I don't think she'll take too long." She looked both ways, and reached out and lightly touched his hand as she started to walk off. "See you soon," she spoke somewhat shyly before continuing her trip up the steps.

As she jogged past the doors and navigated through the couple of hallways leading to the room purposely chosen by its occupant to be as far away from anybody else in the house as possible, Stevie reflected on the past several days and tried to imagine where the quiet girl might come from when being told to leave. She mostly interacted with her by either dropping meals outside her door and picking up empty plates, or on the rare occasion that she saw her in the kitchen when nobody else was in there. No one had said anything about having any conversation with the young woman at all.

Stevie rapped on the door. It opened immediately. The tall woman's face peered down at her from behind the crack in the door. The facial swelling had gone down considerably, and only traces of her bruises were left. She kept changing the bandages that Stevie left at the door, as well. At least she was taking care of herself.

"Hey," Stevie spoke quietly, keeping her hands down by her sides, "we're all packed up. Are you ready to go?" The woman nodded. "Do you need a few minutes?" She fervently shook her head, slinging a backpack along the inside of her elbow. Along the way to the house she had grabbed different clothes from a store with a broken window, picking up a pair of flared workout pants, a light running t-shirt, and a jacket.

She strode out ahead of Stevie, leaving her behind in a matter of seconds. Stevie spun around quickly to catch up. Before descending the stairs down to the ground level, Stevie stopped and darted toward the room that she, and occasionally Thomas, had occupied for the last few days. "I almost forgot!" she remarked as she twisted the doorknob and dove under the bed to retrieve the three fencing weapons. She pulled them out and held them at her side, receiving a slightly confused glance from the quiet girl as they both trekked down toward the garage.

Lisa smiled at the two as they walked in. "Hey, sweetheart!" she said kindly, trying her best to be encouraging. The girl faintly smiled back. The others greeted her similarly as she wound her way through the cars, following Stevie. She climbed into the back seat, shutting the door behind her.

"Is she all right?"

Stevie turned her head and met Thomas' eyes. He stopped on his way out to the fence to clear more walkers in preparation for the departure. "Yeah, she came right with me," she reported.

He looked at the three blades in her hand and tilted his head perplexedly. "What are you doing with those?" he asked.

Stevie smiled and held all three up by their handles. "Because they're kind of sharp," she answered simply. "This boring one is the foil. This one with the pistol grip is an epée, and this one is a saber." He blinked. "I used to fence competitively. I love this stuff."

Someone called out Thomas' name, causing him to look over. He glanced back at Stevie and handed her the car's keys. "Okay, just get behind the wheel and follow our lead," he instructed. "When we're ready I'll get in and we'll be on the way out."

She smiled and nodded. "You got it," she responded quickly. He took off outside, and she looked back at the others. Alejandro and Maria stood next to the pickup, checking the windows and the stability of its truckbed cover. Lisa and Jordan leaned against their Toyota, both waving ahead at Stevie and giving a thumbs-up. She smiled back at them and signaled, then turned to open the driver's door, got inside, and buckled herself in.

She watched as the three expertly took on the gate walkers. They'd spent much of the morning clearing them out from a distance, guiding them away from the section containing the vehicles' entrance in order to prevent having to pile up too many bodies from the pathway.

She looked over her shoulder at the girl sitting in the backseat, who stared ahead at her soundlessly, making very direct eye contact. Stevie smiled and looked back to the front. At least she was with them.

The three waved at Stevie as they pulled open the gate. She accelerated cautiously and slowly drove ahead, allowing the other two to follow close behind. Quickly and efficiently, they dragged the iron bars back across the open space, then hustled into their vehicles and rode down the hill, away from the massive house and the safe haven it had provided for all of them.

# # #

Stevie held onto the steering wheel as they proceeded ahead out of the hills, swerving around the occasional breezing trash heap and ambling walker. Thomas held the map in front of his face and tracked street names to signs outside the window, and calmly pointed her in the right direction to head westbound, intending to decide shortly if they'd travel along the coastline or through the Central Valley.

The three remained silent for about five minutes, keeping their eyes peeled along the roadway for potential problems.

An unfamiliar voice spoke quietly above the hum of the engine. "Head into Hollywood."

Stevie nearly jumped. "Oh!" she exclaimed. The young woman finally talked. But what was she saying? "What do you mean?"

"The smoke in the sky?" She pointed outside the window, off to the north and the west. "That's a forest fire. No doubt about it. You'll have to go east."

"Are you sure?" Thomas asked, not skipping a beat. "Not buildings on fire after the bombing?"

"Sorry, but our view back at the house didn't face northwest, it faced southwest," she countered a little brusquely, "and I remember what the sky looked like from fires before."

The vehicle wound around the hill and, sure enough, the sight of black smoke was enough to demonstrate the danger of heading either north or west.

"Hollywood, it is," Thomas sighed. He looked to his left at Stevie. "Mind putting your signal on so we can talk to the others?"

Stevie nodded and flipped on the turn signal, summoning the other two vehicles to pull over on the inclined road downward.

"See that fire?" Clarkson said quietly after the group huddled together, everyone keeping their eyes peeled for any threats.

"Yep," Thomas answered. "We're heading down into Hollywood. Probably be able to go east."

Alejandro nodded and spoke up, relating to Thomas that his cousin worked at an ammunition shop not far from the metro station off of Hollywood and Vine. He'd often bragged about there being a massive ammo stash stored beneath the floorboards near the cash register. Maybe this was a good time to find out if he'd been bluffing or not.

Thomas shared the story with the group, who decided that it might be worth a look on the way out of town. They were extremely low on ammo as it was.

Alejandro's vehicle moved to the front to guide the way. The pickup stayed in the middle and the Mazda trailed last.

"You trusted me," the young woman observed aloud to Thomas and Stevie after a few moments on the road again.

"You're the local," Thomas quipped as he studied the map again. "And you even ended up being right."

She nodded and stared ahead through the windshield. "Thanks," she said, almost as though the word wasn't one she used often. "I'm Althea. You're Stevie. And you're the sergeant. At least, that's what everyone called you when I heard people talk."

Stevie smiled and wished that she could better see the girl's face than from just the occasional glance at the rearview mirror. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

Althea scoffed a little. "I dunno," she said, a little creak in her voice. "I'm still working on that. Let's talk about something else."

"All right. Well, what do you do?" Stevie asked. She was desperate to learn something about this person and find some way to connect with her. Althea had been such a subject of intrigue for several days due to her unwavering silence.

"I'm a legal courier," Althea answered. "At least, I was. Am I still one? I don't know. But I used to take court documents from law firms downtown to the courthouse. Rode my bike and everything." She blinked ahead at Thomas. "I can tell what he does. What about you?"

Stevie shrugged. "I guess I used to be a writer," she said. "But I was working on a political campaign last week."

Althea perked her ears up inquisitively. "Oh, what race?"

"Oh, Washington State," Stevie specified. "Nothing in California."

Althea nodded. "Well, I guess it doesn't matter now," she said coolly, gesturing out the window. "Not like any of those people have any control over what's going on."

Stevie was somewhat struck by the observation. She'd pondered that very concept but hadn't thought of it that way. Nothing was really out there to assure order of any kind. "You're right," she said. She exchanged a quick glance with Thomas and then turned to keep her eyes on the road.

Alejandro's truck slowly wove through the streets toward their destination. Finally, the brake lights came on and the three vehicles parked on an empty street. Thomas, Clarkson, and Holloway filed out, ensured that the interior of the store was free of walkers, and posted themselves outside to keep an eye out for any trouble.

Alejandro beelined for the cash register and successfully located the loose floorboard beneath. Before anyone could ask what he was doing, he asked for the others to come help pull the contents of the secret compartment up out of the ground.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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The atmosphere was way more relaxed in the ammo store. Nathan, Holloway, and Clarkson hauled heavy cases filled with the found ammunition out the door and into the backseat of the Mazda, parked not far from the entrance.

Steve stood with Lisa, Stevie, and Thomas, tracing along a roadway on their map of the city. "We're less than twelve blocks away from the entrance to the station," he commented, tapping his finger a few times trailing from the store to their destination.

"There's no more room in the Mazda except for the front two seats," Lisa remarked.

"Althea can ride with you and Tara," Stevie said. "Let Jordan, Alejandro, and Maria stick around in the truck. I'll drive the Mazda."

"Your guys can come walk with us," Thomas said to the calm gray-haired man. "But you'll have to switch your shotgun out. We put bayonets on to make things quieter."

"Yep, I'll take Tara's tool," Steve agreed. "Smart."

"We'll walk along with the vehicles to provide cover in case something goes wrong," Thomas continued. "I'll walk ahead with Stephanie. Who's coming with us?"

Steve gestured toward Schantz. "Actually, I'll send her up with you," he suggested. "She'll be able to talk to whoever's on watch to get you guys inside. And showing them all that ammo will be your golden ticket to joining us. If you guys want to."

"We'll see," Thomas asserted. "Half yours, half ours. We don't know if we're going to stay."

Steve shrugged. "Well, the invitation still stands," he said politely. "Seems like you guys have had a good handle on taking care of yourselves."

Stevie decided to herself that it might not be a great idea to tell them how they'd all spent the last couple of days, in light of how exhausted and tired that Schantz and Nathan had looked as opposed to when she'd seen them a week prior. Maybe they'd have to explain where they'd gotten the supplies... if the discussion came up at all.

"So, we've got Terrence, Steve, Nathan walking with the other two vehicles," Stevie pointed out. "Spencer's driving, right?"

"Yeah, gotta keep the weight balanced in that truck," Thomas answered. "It's kind of hazardous as it is right now. We'll figure it out."

"Okay," Lisa said, gesturing toward the others gathering around. They'd finished loading the ammunition and were ready to depart once again. The first vehicle would ride about a mile ahead, and the others would follow at a moderate pace.

# # #

As though on cue, Schantz caught a loose rock toward the end of the short trip over. She toppled down and smashed face-first on the ground, trying not to let out a loud yelp as she went. She gritted her teeth and pushed herself back up on her feet, limping ahead, her nose gushing with blood.

Thomas heard her hit the ground. He shot her an inquisitive look. She just glanced back and shrugged, pointing ahead with her finger repeatedly instead of shouting out loud. Her nose was gushing awfully fast. The car's engine and the sound of tires peeling forward on the road were enough to possibly attract walkers. Anything else could draw in a swarm quickly... and considering the fresh bleeding new on the ground, their chances of being targeted went up sharply.

Schantz hobbled onward, leading them through the quiet streets that were getting warmer and warmer under the late morning sun. Finally, she pointed ahead. "See that outcropping?" she called restrainedly across the car's hood to Thomas, leaning forward and allowing her nose to drain out onto the ground, "that's where our lookout spot is."

She started to wave her arms to signal the watch, thinking they were home free. Unfortunately, she suddenly felt very dizzy and passed out, heading back toward the ground yet again.

Stevie stopped the car, and watched Thomas grit his teeth then wind behind the moving vehicle to help Schantz up off of the ground. She spotted a figure making a run for them, right from the landmark that Schantz had pointed to just seconds before. Thomas held up a hand to Stevie from the rear-facing mirror by her window. She parked the vehicle as he went to go help Schantz up on her feet.

Suddenly, a stranger turned the corner from the entryway to a building off to Stevie's left, immediately pointing his gun at her. She held her hands up and carefully exited.

"Whoa!" Stevie belted out. "I'm not armed!"

"I don't believe that," he whisked out sharply, walking her along to stand in the front of the vehicle. "What did you do to our people?! I just saw one of ours go down."

Stevie shook her head while she stood in place. "No, we're not—"

"Don't say a word!" the man sparked back, continuing to maintain his aim on her.

Stevie's face drained of color as she stared ahead at what looked like a half-crazed man holding his gun a little too tightly. The pupils of his eyes were constricted dangerously. She wondered if he really had it in him, in that half-second where she absorbed his expression. Better to not test it.

"What are you doing?" Thomas asked, his rifle up high and aiming at the man's head as he circled from behind the SUV. Schantz propped herself weakly against the side of car, wobbling on shaky legs. "Drop your weapon."

He opened his mouth to say something, but instead caught sight of the pickup truck moving along as it turned the corner of the block less than a mile away, cruising along at a moderate pace. He stood there, his eyes doing a study of the moving vehicle. Thomas lunged forward quickly in an attempt to subdue the distracted gunman.

The man's hands clicked back to life, his fingers closing around the trigger. The barrel of the gun corresponded with his vision and took aim at the truck, letting loose a barrage of fire, emptying his supply of rounds before he was tackled.

The sound of metal piercing through metal and glass broke through the air, followed by the high-pitched shriek of rubber tires sliding on the hot road. The heavy bed of the truck whirled to direct itself into the side of another truck, then rolled over onto the passenger side.

Stevie panicked and ran to try to push Thomas off of the smaller man. "We have to help them!" she exclaimed nervously. Thomas ignored her. She jumped backwards as she watched him knock the man's face for the next ten or fifteen seconds, almost three or four times, before he blacked out. And he kept going. Stevie let out a frustrated yelp and once again grabbed at him, hanging on even when he tried to shoo her away. She pulled him in the direction of the truck. "Tom, Spencer is in the truck. Jordan, and Alejandro and Maria, all four of them are in there. They can die, Tom, we need to go now!"

Her voice picked up in pace and volume. She was, for the first time in over four days, afraid. It bled into her voice, despite trying so hard for so long to pretend to others that she wasn't at all afraid. She'd been lucky for those days, and knew that at some point that luck would have to run out. But the possibility of things going terribly wrong was very real. One snag could lead to another problem, and create another, like a snowball rolling down a mountain. Stevie wondered if she'd barely begun to scratch the surface of imagining how life was going to turn out.

In Stevie's mind, it was an eternity before Thomas finally stopped and turned to look back at her for just a moment, and then the overturned truck. He looked back at the Mazda and pointed to Schantz. "Get inside and lock the doors!" he barked at her. She nodded and made her way inside. He grabbed his rifle. "I need you to stay calm for them, come on," he said to Stevie, looking her directly in the eyes as he pointed ahead and made a beeline for the truck.

Stevie started to dart after him. It wasn't easy to leave a man lying in the street like that, but there were four people in that overturned truck. The Toyota was within view, as were Holloway and Nathan running alongside it. Seeing those two made it easier to stay behind to keep watch on Schantz and the unknown unconscious man. She ran back to the front of the vehicle to rummage for her Ruger. Thomas would have help in getting the others out of the vehicle; he'd end up understanding why she stayed back.

A voice from behind stopped her in her tracks. "Don't move."

# # #

Dizzy. That awful taste of iron. Headache.

Clarkson's vision finally focused. He noticed the ground above his head and the sky in the lower portion of the window. Was he on his side? From that dull weight he felt on the right corner of his temple, that had to have been it...

He brushed the glass off of his uniform and looked around dazedly. The truck's hood smoked ominously. It seemed like the flatbed cover stayed put, but there was no telling what condition the supplies were in.

He looked over his shoulder and to his right. The Mexican guy sitting next to him was motionless, as was his wife, and the college kid, who also had a bullet in his head. Clarkson blinked and tried to maintain control over his breathing. His ribs stung.

He wondered what had happened. Suddenly a tire blew and sent the truck zooming off with its heavy weighted back-end taking control. The next thing he knew, here he was... maybe the bullet explained it? But who would have shot at them?

He let out a slight gasp as Maria's eyes flickered open and stared at him. "Hola," he said quietly. "Como—" He stopped himself. Those weren't her eyes. Those weren't her eyes at all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes

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Natasha Dean
Natasha stood with her back to the train car and watched the entrance vigilantly, her gun ready in her hand and her mind trained as a shot to kill. When she heard Dyomie call, she spun around with her gun aimed at the train, not expecting Dyomie to be on top of the car. "Fuck you! She let out a light laugh at her skittishness. "You scared me there, no wonder you were never caught." She gave her a smile, hoping the joke wouldn't insult Dyomie. "Joking aside, I wanted to talk to you about this group... and the guns." Natasha leant on the wall of the tunnel and looked up to Dyomie.

"You've lived your entire life without needing help from anyone, trusting very few and that's what I need you for. You've lived this long on your own because the few you've trusted have been the right few, or so I'm assuming. You know how to deduce people and who to trust and who not to trust, I know you mightn't trust me ass much, but I trust you." Natasha admitted, her speech a difficult one for her to muster. "And I don't trust easy, just ask Phillip. But I need you to tell me who you trust and who you don't, whether or not I should share the guns or even lead the group to the station, if it's still standing, and provide the group with enough munitions."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes

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Dyomie Thornes


"I got to be as good as I am by not trusting anyone," Dyomie said, "All my partners I would never let them be in charge of the money, probably as much as they trusted me, I was smarter than they were." She kicked the bag of guns, "Let's keep this to ourselves still. Besides they have enough guns. As for taking them to the station, that's your call because you'll be the one leading them there."

Dyomie leaned her gun against her shoulder and watched the entrance. The part she hated about doing the watching was that it was very boring. There weren't typically walkers who came around and if there were they were easy enough to take out. No hostile people either. Most of the time Dyomie just kind of felt like she could not watch at all and it wouldn't make any difference. Really the only reason she did take the watch every now and then was because scouting out further and gathering got kind of old after a while and their honestly wasn't anything to do. It was hard for her to just sit still like this, watch other's backs and be in a community. She was used to planning almost constantly, a new heist she was preparing for, planning every single detail with back up plans, contacting the right people, pulling off the heist, and then starting over. She actually rarely ever sat still and if she did it was with Marie and they would typically go do something fun like amusement parks or clubbing since Dyomie wasn't around very often, when she was it became a party. Then after hanging out with her sister she would look at banks, museums, etc. and see if there was anything new and fun to steal. She had the entire country as a possibility of where and what to steal; it seemed pretty endless. That is until everything could be stolen by anyone with absolutely no chase or having to worry about security. Someone could literally just walk into a store and take everything. Plus everything that was worth stealing before; gold, diamonds, and ancient artifacts were completely useless now, actually to rephrase, completely worthless.

In short, this made Dyomie rather depressed, but mostly bored.

"Hey question," Dyomie said, not looking towards Natasha, "How was it that you guys did end up finding me? After all this time, what was my slip-up?" This question had been playing heavily on Dyomie's mind since that first day the cops showed up at their door and the world literally ended. What had she missed? What did she forget to do? What did she forget to plan on? Slip up weren't something that Dyomie knew had to deal with because she hadn't slipped up since she was a teenager, so she hadn't really had practice on how to deal with a mistake being her fault. If it was someone else it was simple, you let them take the downfall whether that be going to jail or get killed, but she never knew what to do if it was her that made the mistake.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Annabelle Mae McCallister

---

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Come, my people, enter you chambers,
And shut your doors behind you;
Hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.

Isaiah 26, 19-20




“What are you reading?” The little girl’s high voice rang through the room.

Annabelle closed her Bible and looked up. Lily was standing a small distance away, holding one of Sam’s comic books.

“The Bible, sweetie.” She beckoned the girl to come closer. “You do know the Bible right? God’s word?”

The girl nodded solemnly. “Yes. Mom reads from it sometimes. Not to us though. She has this children’s Bible for me and my brother. She says that is easier.”

“I’m sure she is right.” Annabelle looked at the girl with all the warmth she could muster. Lily had not mentioned a brother before, as far as she was aware. In fact, Lily had not talked much of her family at all. Considering the situation, this was not entirely strange, but it made feel Annabelle uneasy all the same. Instead of a family member, the girl had clung onto James. The man was nice enough, but not really a good influence on a kid. In that regard, Annabelle was happy that Jessica tried to take care of the girl on top of her own son.

“Your brother? What’s his name?”

“Harry. He and I were...” the girl suddenly stopped talking and looked away in pain. A terrible memory was plaguing her, Annabelle had no doubt. She quickly changed the subject.

“Well, if you want, I can read the Bible to you.”

The girl nodded in the way children when they did not really want something, but were too polite to say so. Annabelle laughed. “Alright, maybe not.” The girl turned red. “You know what, we could ask Jack to look for a children’s Bible on one of his runs. Would you like that?” The girl nodded again, this time more sincere.

Annebelle knew that Jack would be able to find such a thing. A couple of days ago, he had asked everyone if they wanted to have something other than food or basic survival gear. Initially, Annabelle had objected of course, but the man had insisted. So, she had told him about how she loved to knit. The sweetheart had brought her all the stuff she needed the next day. The first sweater was nearly finished and it would be his. Jack was a good man. Troubled, but a good man at heart.

“Why is God doing this to us?”


The sudden blatancy of the question startled Annabelle. Lily was looking at her most sincerely though.

“I... I don’t know, sweetie.” And that was the truth. Ever since this all startled, Annabelle had wondered the same thing. She knew God had a reason for everything, but what it was, she had no idea. Annabelle did not, could not, believe that this was God’s wrath or punishment. God was good. God was love. He would not do this to harm his children. Would he?

“But know that God is looking out for you. For me. For all of us here.” She rubbed the girl on the cheek. “Go on Lily, go read your comic.”

“Okay.” The girl walked away.

Annabelle looked down at her Bible. She had read certain passages over and over by now. Somehow, she kept coming back to Isaiah, and the verse troubled her. The text spoke about singing of joy while the dead return to life. But Annabelle had not much to sing of joy about. While unconsciously touching her wedding ring, she thought about her husband and children. Her sisters. She prayed they were alive and well.

Suddenly someone dropped in the chair next to her, returning Annabelle’s thoughts to the present. It was Jessica.

“Pfft, I think I’ve seen enough laundry to last me a month,” the single mother said exhausted.

“I should have helped you.”

“Ow come on Annabelle, I already told you, you do enough for us as it is.”
Jessica took a small sip of her water. The woman never ate or drank more then she had to, preferring to give most of her rations to her son.

“I suppose you’re right,” Annabelle said, although she did not agree with that. She felt responsible for all these people. She knew it no longer mattered much, but up until two weeks ago, she was a congresswoman, elected by the people of California to represent them. These were the people she was supposed to represent. The least she could do was try to help them out. Speaking of helping out...

“Has Harper spoken to you?” She asked Jessica.

“Harper? Not about anything in particular. Or wait, she did mention this Calvin Hawke again yesterday”

Annabelle sighed. “Yes, well, she does that every day.” Truth was, Annabelle wished they could help that man out. What happened to him sounded horrible. But at the same time, it also sounded dangerous and ill-advised. A lot of people could get hurt. And she did not want that.

“No, she wants to organize our group better. I think she wants to be our leader.”

Jessica laughed. “She’s welcome to it. Who else is there? George? He’s spending most of his time drunk, angry or both.”

That was true. George had the qualities to be a good leader, but he seemed to get more paranoid with every passing day. Annabelle was not sure what to do about that though. He had saved her on that first day, when that first walker had come towards her. She still owed him for that. At least the benefit of the doubt if nothing else.

"Maybe I should have her and George sit down together..." A plan began to form in her mind. She trailed her finger over the cross on the front cover of her Bible. God surely would not want her to just sit around and do nothing.

"Wait, maybe we should all sit down together. It is time we finally came together as a group and form a long-term plan."

Jessica nodded in agreement and was just about to say something, when a head appeared around the corner.

“MOM!” It was Sam. “Lily has the comic I want to read!”

Jessica rolled her eyes at Annabelle. “I better deal with this.”

Annabelle chuckled. It was good to know that even through all this, children would still be children.

She returned to her Bible, her head filling with ideas of forming a council.




For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

Isaiah 26, 21

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe hung upside down by her legs, squeezing out vertical crunches on the walkway above Carl. She breathed out a growing sequence of numbers, never once faltering in her execution. The past week had been many things for many people, but for her -- it had just been frustrating. Before any of this had happened she had no one but herself to look after, and suddenly she found herself becoming more integrated and more indebted to a group of people who had been complete strangers a mere week ago. As she grunted her 99th crunch, she stopped for a brief moment... letting her arms dangle towards the landing below. Her stomach growled as she took in the inverted vista of the city, admiring it for what it was now: a half-broken wasteland full of the hungry living and the hungry dead. She clasped her hands behind her head for one final crunch, hitting a 90 degree angle with total precision.

Niobe reached up and unhooked her legs, freeing them from the metal beam that had supported her for so long. She gently lowered herself to the platform below and dropped to her feet. Using the hem of her shirt, she wiped her face clear of sweat, taking extra time to clean out her eyes and ears. Carl sat with his legs crossed on top of a wooden crate nearby, his satellite phone held close to his ear as he manipulated the controls with his other hand.

"I think this thing is running out of batteries," he said, shaking the phone. He adjusted the glasses on his nose and looked over at Niobe. She was damp with sweat from head to toe and probably looked like she had just sprinted 5 miles. "Hey," Carl called out excitedly, "you did it!" He put the phone in his lap so he could clap his hands together, half-ironically.

Niobe offered an elaborate bow in return, smiling as she walked over to him. "No luck?" She asked, jumping up onto the crate beside him. Carl scooted over to make room and handed her the phone.

"Nothing," he said somberly. He grabbed the pair of binoculars from next to him and gazed out West towards the Capitol Records building, or at least what was left of it. The last time they were there, the leader of their group had told them to contact them around noon in one week. There had happened to be too much wreckage to between them to make any physical contact in the last week, not to mention things their own group were dealing with. It wasn't until they had scaled the building they were on now, that they discovered the true extent of the damage. Half of the circular white Capitol Records tower had caved into itself, exposing the interior floors level-by-level as if someone had cut a slice out of a multi-layered cake. They hadn't heard a single peep on the frequency they had agreed to meet on over the last hour either.

Niobe sighed, setting the phone back down on the crate. She hopped down, rubbing the crooks of her knees where the soreness from her impromptu workout session was beginning to set in. "So what do we do? Go back?"

Carl shook his head, draping the binoculars around his neck. "I'm gonna stay up here 'til tonight I think, he replied. "I'm the only one who knows how to use the phone, and I'm not of much use on runs or back at camp. Might as well see if I can pick up anyone else on a different frequency, and who knows... maybe one of the Capitols will call?"

Niobe admired his unabashed optimism, something she wished she could at least fake. "I'll run back to camp and get you some food then," she offered, grabbing her bag off the ground and slinging it around her shoulder.

Carl smiled at her. "Oh, sweet! I'm freakin' starving. Luckily I've got games programmed into the phone to pass the time," he said with a chuckle.

Niobe patted him on the shoulder as she passed, shaking her head. "I'll be back soon." She climbed down the ladder onto the outside patio of the apartment complex they were on top of and carefully crawled through the broken window of a bachelor suite's living room. She brushed the loose glass off of her and headed for the stairwell.


* * *


Carl's thumbs danced across the screen of the phone in a flurry as he bit his lip in absolute concentration amidst his pursuit of crushing candies. He finished the level, doing a little dance in celebration of his new high score. He took another bite of the candy bar he had been smuggling in his pocket the entire way, half-melted, but better than anything he'd tasted in the past few days. He had snagged it when him and Niobe first entered the suite and were checking it for walkers or people. It felt wrong not to share, but in his mind he justified it with the fact that Niobe wanted to stay in shape and didn't need to be eating candy bars.

He wiped the remnants of chocolatey fingers on his pants and grabbed the binoculars to do some more sight-seeing. The Capitol building was still lifeless, its ravaged interior dark and empty. He wondered what must have happened to the Silas Quinn and the other people living there. They may have had time to escape having discovered early on the intentions of the military's bombings.

His gaze fell a few boulevards across city streets and parking structures and suddenly a few moving blurs flashed across his lens. He swung the binoculars after them, compensating for their movement and quickly made out the three separate vehicles driving in a distanced line through Hollywood boulevard. They maneuvered around the wreckage and debris-filled streets, dodging stray walkers as they cruised eastbound. The thought never even crossed his mind that they were heading towards the metro tunnel.

"And where do you think you guys are going?" he said out loud to himself. He reached down and took another quick bite of his candy bar struggling to keep the binoculars focused on his targets, but his eyes fell upon something else. Something worse.

"What... the... fuck...?"


* * *


Niobe shadowed a small gaggle of walkers, hugging the outsides of parked cars as she attempted to to stealthily move down the sidewalk. They gurgled and dragged their feet clumsily as they traipsed down the middle of the street. There seemed to be a larger amount of them out this afternoon... moreso than usual. She ducked behind a bus stop partition and readied her gun just in case things decided to sour along the way. As if someone had read the thoughts in her mind, a string of automatic fire sounded off in the distance, its shots echoing all across the tall buildings surrounding her. The surrounding walkers turned towards the sound, beginning to shamble that direction as if of one mind. Niobe watched until she had an opening and stayed as low as she could as she ran towards the disturbance... and towards her people.


* * *


Minutes later, Niobe found herself showing up fashionably late to a total clusterfuck. Her eyes followed the rifle-bearing muscle man as he sprinted towards the catastrophe down the street -- an overturned car. Others ran towards it from even further away. Small blurs in the distance. Smoke from the car wreckage rose in a steady cloud above as a small fire undoubtedly burned from within. She crept around to the other corner of the brick wall she was using as cover to get a better look at the woman closest to her. The brunette with glasses quickly trotted over to one of their vehicles and opened its door, rummaging through its insides.

Niobe knew it was her best chance at making a run for the metro tunnel while no eyes were on her and their group was distracted. There was no way she was going to intervene and make all of their problems her problems. That was the last thing the group needed. They had vehicles. They'd be fine. They'd survive.

She told herself all of this in her own head. Justifying her intentions to leave them alone.

And then she saw him.

Sprawled across the street, face down in his own blood. Her heart was gripped with sudden panic and fear, as she stopped dead in her tracks, gazing down at George's body. Had the man with the rifle shot him? Was he dead? He wasn't moving... She changed course for the woman and the car, denying all her previous instincts as her defensive nature kicked into gear. She raised her pistol at the woman's exposed back and gritted her teeth. "Don't move," she growled, readily intending to plant a bullet in the girl if she made a sudden move. The woman was smart enough to stay still until told. "Now get out... slowly."

Carl suddenly called out to Niobe as he rushed up from behind, "Don't! Niobe, NO!" She swung her gun around on Carl, stopping him dead in his tracks. He threw his arms up as he recoiled. Sweat had drenched his shirt, and he panted loudly as he tried to regain his breath. His eyes flashed towards George's motionless body on the ground. G-George...? What happened to h--"

"Carl?" Niobe asked, interrupting him.

He turned back to her, shaken up... rattled. "W-We have to go," he ordered, pulling her by the arm. "They're coming!"

Niobe yanked her arm free of his grasp. "What are you talking about, Carl? Who's coming?"

Carl stared her straight in the eyes. "The walkers... all of the walkers."

Behind them, Stevie slowly drew her ruger out from the waistband beneath her shirt. Schantz's face was pressed against the window of her vehicle nearby as she watched the spectacle play out before her eyes. She banged on the glass, fumbling weakly for the handle of the door to get out and intervene -- knowing she was the only one who could see what was about happen. As she opened to the door to get out, the full weight of a walker's body slammed against the door, pinning her leg in it sharply. She let out a short scream as she struggled to try and get back inside the car, but a second walker's hand was already blocking the frame. They clawed and thrashed at the car door trying desperately to get to her as she fought them back.

They weren't coming. They were already here.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Stevie wheeled around once she heard Schantz' uncharacteristic scream of panic, and lunged into the car through the driver's seat. She shelved her handgun near the pedals and shoved her arms underneath Schantz' armpits in an attempt to drag her across the console and remove her from the reach of the walkers.

"Quick, help us!" Stevie called back to the two who showed up. "Take the gun!"

The pretty black woman and the curly-headed man with the glasses sprang into action; she rotated about the car to distract a few of the walkers from the window, while he snagged the Ruger and followed suit. Stevie pulled Schantz into the driver's seat, Schantz kicking her legs frenziedly, narrowly escaping a series of bites and scratches. Schantz yanked a utility knife from her jacket and held it up tepidly, still weak. Stevie grabbed the knife from her hands from behind and then pulled the driver door shut, cramming a protesting Schantz uncomfortably into the seat as she scrambled feet-first over the console. As she slid into the passenger's side, she slammed her feet against the door, knocking the three gathered walkers back a few feet.

Stevie noticed that the other two had easily taken care of the walkers they'd drawn away, and had looped around to the back of the vehicle to grab the unconscious sandy-haired man off of the ground. She let one of the walkers that had reeled back come closer to the open passenger door as she flicked open a blade on the knife, and sank it into its forehead with a fast jab to stab through its skull.

One of the other walkers had resorted to crawling on its hands and knees back toward the door, and raised one hand to grip the door itself, and before Stevie knew it, had taken a hold of her right foot with its other hand. She let out a desperate shout, cuing herself to stab the knife ahead, but as she let the blade run downward, it sank its teeth into the yellow leather. She let out a loud scream as she drove the knife into the biter's skull. "Help!" she shouted as she kicked her foot. The walker's teeth stubbornly held fast onto the boot.

The black woman whirled around within view of the door and drove the Mazda's antenna, which she'd wrenched off of the hood just moments before, into the eye of the other walker hovering nearby and pulled Stevie from the seat. The other stranger set the unconscious man into the spot Stevie had just occupied and slammed the door behind them. Schantz cast a concerned glance out the window, but knew better than to try to get out again after getting her leg battered by the door.

The pressure that the walker's teeth had dispersed onto the boot was miserably painful. Stevie held back a scream and dug the knife into the walker's skull again in an attempt to loosen its trapping jaw. No luck.

The other woman pointed to the sidewalk and began to drag the deadweighted walker toward it. "This way, now!" she cracked sharply. Stevie hobbled her good foot over and obeyed the woman's command to stretch her leg out. "You've been bit?!" she asked hastily.

Stevie set her foot with the attached walker down on the sidewalk's edge as the man in the glasses directed Schantz to try to drive the remaining blocks to the metro station for help. "Hey, hey, you can't take that!" Stevie shouted.

"It's not far, and we'll get together from there!" he responded.

The woman smashed her foot down on the walker's jaw, just so that it would loosen Stevie's foot, but not without excising another pinch. It almost felt like her foot was very quickly run over by a large truck. Stevie shut her eyes and fought back another shout of pain.

She kicked off the walker as the woman looked down at the boot to inspect the bite. Curiously, there was no blood; just a set of incisor indentations and two embedded teeth. But no blood. The leather boots had been the right choice, after all, when she'd picked them out to wear nine mornings ago. The woman looked up briefly at Stevie and nodded. "Can you walk?"

Stevie nodded as she only slightly winced in pain. "Yep," she said, then saw the Nissan cruising up out of the corner of her eye. Lisa was plastered against a window with a white face, looking back at the wrecked truck, while Althea very calmly drove ahead. "Hey!" she called to the man, "wave them in, they're with us!" He nodded and pointed ahead for them to follow the Mazda, then looked to the couple of walkers that came upon them after the several they'd just dispatched.

Just then, several gunshots rang out, mowing down four of the dozen or so walkers who'd just come into view.

# # #

Harper followed Laura, one of the women from the Hollywood sign who'd opted to accompany them a week earlier, to the largest common area of the station, carrying her vest and helmet with her. "What's going on?" she asked as she walked in.

James gestured toward the wall, where the few guns that the group possessed were propped up along with items such as a few golf clubs, Nathan's metal bat, and a few garden tools. "Take your pick, kid, I know you can shoot," he scratchily instructed. "Jack says he's heard gunshots and our three ain't back yet. Got a hunch that this has got something to do with it."

Harper knew she wasn't strong enough at the moment to handle a bat, choosing instead to grab the scoped hunting rifle. "You sure about that?" she asked somewhat skeptically.

Jessica popped her head in, panting heavily. "There's a car coming," she managed between breaths, "Tara. George. Not going good. People out there. Better go!" she insisted.

Harper followed James and Laura down the long tunnelway to the exit of the station according to Jessica's instructions. They met Jack at the top of the stairs, who motioned for them to follow closely behind.

"The hell's going on out here?" James growled raspily.

"A crashed truck down the way there," Jack responded as the Mazda drove up, "and we've got two coming in."

The Mazda slowly wheeled its way closer, followed by the Nissan. Not far behind was Jessica, who stepped out to assist Schantz in getting out of the car. The Nissan also parked; a tall black woman exited and immediately ran to the Mazda to help extract George from the seat and drag him to safety. A smaller woman with shorter blonde-brown hair exited to help, both following Jessica's lead.

"They're fine," James barked sharply as the group ogled the scene, then turned their attention the other scene in the street. "Carl and Niobe, see 'em? Let's go!"

They made a run for it down the street. At one point Harper climbed into the bed of an abandoned truck and decided to peel off the walkers closing in on what turned out to be a small trio.

"Just like shooting deer," she murmured, hoping to assure herself as she concentrated on landing shots with the assistance of the scope. She let off about four shots before climbing down from the truck bed to join them.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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.: Sarah Hawke :.


"Your... brother?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I thought you trusted us," Dax protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

After one last look at Molly’s body, he closed and locked the door behind him. She would be safe in there, he hoped. At least for the time being. Maybe the others would want to go back for her body. He did not know. As far as Rafiq was concerned, he had said his farewell.

He didn’t know how long he had been sitting on that staircase, holding her. It felt like a lifetime. But at some point he had gotten up and looked around the building. He had quickly found a small room with a bed in it, empty. He figured it would be as good a final resting place as any. At least it was better than the sewers, where he had left Nasir behind.

He had placed her on the bed and said a small prayer. Rafiq didn’t really knew her beliefs, but he was quite sure Molly wasn’t Muslim. So his prayer had been short and neutral, without any mention of Allah or the Prophet. He was not the type of person to force a religion on anyone. Especially not on a dead girl.

As a final act, he had taken the silver necklace from around her neck. He knew it was a gift from her ex-fiance. She had not told him why she kept such a thing from a relationship that ended badly, but it had been special to her. And now it would be special to him, just like Nasir’s bracelet. After he stuffed the necklace in his pocket, he touched the leather bracelet, feeling the words. Only iron strikes iron.

He got back down the stairs to the ground floor and listened carefully. There did not seem to be any walkers around. He peered through the broken window where he and Molly had gotten through just a while back. At least there was nothing in front of him.

Rafiq stepped through the window and looked around. As he turned towards the right, his heart stopped in his throat. A large mass of people was visible some distance away. No, not people. Walkers.

They had not noticed him, either too occupied or simply too far away. He reached for his gun and knife all the same and dashed across the street. Keeping one eye on the walkers, he ran towards the entrance of the metro station. Just as he was nearing it, someone was opening the door. Instinctively, he raised the gun.

“Wow, Rafiq, watch out!”

It was Marie. Thankful, he lowered the gun. “Sorry,” he said, “can’t be too careful.”

“I understand. I came looking for you guys.” She looked behind him. “Where is Molly?”

He averted her gaze. He did not want to talk about it. Not yet. But he knew he had no choice.

“She’s dead.”

Marie’s eyes grew wide with horror. “Dead? What do you mean? How...”

He held up his hand to silence her. “Not right now. Please. There is a large group of walkers up ahead.” He pointed down the street. Marie got out of the doorway and looked around the corner. She went as pale as snow. “Ow my God,” she mumbled, “that’s why... There were shots from the other entrance. That’s why I came looking for you guys. Did Molly... Did Molly get caught by them?”

Rafiq pulled her back into the entrance way. “Another walker,” he admitted, “dead now.” He could feel his head spinning from all the new information. If the others were caught up with that bunch of walkers... He did not have a good feeling about this.

He looked Marie straight in the eyes, trying to get her attention. “Marie, listen! We don’t have time for this right now. We need to get down to the others, figure out what is going on!”

With that, he sprinted away, back to their improvised underground shelter. Marie followed close behind, until he heard her gasp.

“Wait!” She shouted loudly. Too loudly. He turned around, fearing another walker attack, just as it had happened with Molly.

He was relieved to see that this was not the case, but Marie had turned towards a sideways corridor. “My sister. Dyomie. She needs to know about this!”

“Wait, what? She is not with the others?”

Marie’s eyes bulged with panic. “I don’t think so. She went to Natasha. I have to find them.”

“Then I come with you.”
He did not want to leave another person alone.

“No, you can’t. I know the way by now. She won’t be far. Rafiq, you need to get down towards the others. There are children down there! They need you more than I do.”

He hesitated. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I think nearly everyone else had gotten towards the other entrance. Where the shooting came from. The kids need you more then I do.”

He nodded. Marie would be fine, he told himself, the walkers were on the other side. She would get back in time. With her sister and the cop. She’d be fine. And she was right, the children might need help.

So they parted ways, Marie going through one of the maintenance tunnels as a shortcut to get to the area with the train car, and Rafiq towards the hideout.

After a quick sprint, he reached the door towards the main room. He noticed there was nobody on guard duty. He swung open the door and nearly ran into Wayne. “Wow!” The black man shouted in surprise, “there you are!”

Rafiq shook Wayne’s outstretched hand while catching his breath. He looked around the room. Besides Wayne, there was Philip, watching the other door while holding a gun, and Annabelle was trying to calm down the kids.

“Where is Marie?” Philip asked, “she went looking for you guys.”

“And Molly, where is she?” Annabelle inquired, while stroking Lily’s hair.

“Marie is fine,” Rafiq assured Philip, “she went to look for her sister. Molly...” he looked away, not knowing whether he should tell them in front of the children.

Wayne caught his look though, and knew what it meant. “Oh shit,” he muttered.

“Marie told me what happened,” Rafiq went on, trying to avoid the matter of Molly’s death. “You heard shooting?”

“Jack did, a while ago now,” Philip responded, gesturing his gun in the direction of the door he was guarding. “We’re not sure what is going on, but it does not sound good. And nearly everyone is out or went out to check. Wayne and I stayed behind, to protect the place.”

Rafiq chewed on his lip, knowing that he had to take action. “That’s not all of it,” he said, “I saw a large horde of walkers outside. From what I can tell, they could be near that entrance.”

Annabelle’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “Dear Lord in heaven...”

“What do we do?” It was Sam, frightened, but trying to be brave and helpful at the same time.

Wayne began to cough, his illness clearly not over. Philip simply stared at Rafiq, not making any indication of wanting to take the lead.

Rafiq nervously scratched the stubble on his chin. “We can’t leave. Not yet. The others will probably make their way back here. But when they do...”

“The walkers will follow them,” Wayne said, groaning.

“Yes, so we need to gather everything of importance and be ready to leave when they arrive.”

“And if they don’t come back?” Philip asked in a tone that did not please Rafiq.

“They'll come back.” Rafiq said. He looked at the children. "They'll have to."

They all went to work, finding the backpacks and stuffing them with food, weapons and ammunition. Over the last couple of days, they had gathered enough backpacks for each individual. They were filling all of them, hoping that its owner would come back to pick it up in time.

Rafiq found a piece of pen and paper and wrote down a message to the others. Just in case.