The Walking Dead: Online

Season 2

0 INK

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.
442 readers have been here.
3,917 readers have visited The Walking Dead: Online since Captain Calamity created it.

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.
Create a Character Here »

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.

Start Character Here »


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


“Sssht, be quiet.”

The five men went silent. They had finally pierced through the wall, creating a small gap between the two adjacent buildings. George had crouched down next to it, trying to listen for any form of walker activity on the other side. If there were undead in the shop next to the spa, they had better know before they tore down the wall completely.

It had taken the five of them, Rafiq, George, Henry, Wayne and Diego (who had joined a while later), longer then they had hoped. They had been unable to find quite the proper equipment; most tools they had found were used to hang paintings on a wall, not to break things down. The best they had were a couple of claw hammers. Still, they had managed. Thankfully, the wall had been made of drywall, wood and insulation material. Had it been anything sturdier, they might have been in trouble.

“Do you hear anything?” Wayne asked.

George held up his hand, ordering Wayne to stay silent. The pilot closed his eyes, trying to listen more intently.

After thirty more seconds or so, he finally shook his head. “I don’t hear anything outright. You would expect with the noise we’ve been making that all the walkers in that room had made their way over here. But... there is something in there that’s making a noise. It’s distant, but there.”

Diego shrugged, “It’s probably a bird or something. There is pet store next door.”

Glaring at the Brazilian, George picked up the claw hammer again. “You could have told us that earlier.”

“Sorry dude, didn’t cross my mind.”

Now that Diego mentioned it, Rafiq thought he could indeed hear some type of animal sniffing. It wasn’t a bird, but possibly a hamster or guinea pig. Those poor creatures probably hadn’t eaten for days.

Now that they had created a hole to the other side, the rest of the work became easier. Using the gap as leverage, the five men were able to pull down large chunks of wall at the same time. At some point, Tara dropped by and watched for a bit, but she didn’t say much, only that she had checked in on Sam and the others and that the boy was still alive. Then she left again.

At last a large piece of wall gave way and the hole became big enough to fit a person through. Rafiq went through first, as he was smaller and more nimble then the rest of them. The pet shop was dark and it smelt musty. The smell of uncared, dying or possibly rotting animals was far from a pleasant one. Rafiq could feel his stomach reflax, but thankfully he kept it down. Wayne, who had followed him through the hole, wasn’t as lucky and ungraciously puked on the floor.

“Urgh, what a stench...”

“Thanks for adding to it,” said Rafiq more sourly than usual, as he had an intense disgust for any type or form of vomiting. He didn’t really know why, but it always made him freak out. Apparently, the end of the world hadn’t changed that.

When Diego came through, he clapped Wayne on the shoulders. “Maybe you should go back to the others and guard the place or something.” Wayne nodded to the man gratefully and slipped back through the wall.

They had been right about the fact that the place was walker-free, unless, as Diego jokingly said “one is hiding in the closet”. Rafiq took a look in one of the cages and thought for a second it was empty, until he saw a small hamster shivering in the corner under a heap of straw. It was a sad thing to see.

“Guess that answers that question,” Henry said, as he stood next to Rafiq, in front of another cage.

“What question?” Rafiq asked.

“Whether animals get affected by this zombie thing too,” Henry responded, pointing at the dead rabbit inside the cage. The creature had empty eyes and a couple of flies were crawling over it. It was clearly dead for a couple of days, but it showed no sign of any undead activity. Rafiq hadn’t really thought about whether animals could become infected as well, but at least it was a good thing they weren’t. Well, at least rabbits aren’t.

George stood near a couple of other cages and had opened one of them. When Rafiq came closer, he could see that the pilot was gently stroking another hamster.

“It’s unfair,” the pilot said in a tone that Rafiq hadn’t heard from the man before.

“I know.” Rafiq needn’t mention Charlie, but he was sure that was who the Brit was thinking about.

“You guys go on with the next wall. If you don’t mind, I’d like to set these little fella’s free. You know, give them some sort of chance. At the least, their deaths would be less cruel.”

Rafiq nodded as he understood. It wasn’t like they needed four people full-time on the wall anyway.

He told Henry and Diego they needed to move on and so they went to the other side of the shop and checked out the best spot to continue. Unfortunately, the shop had used that wall to place the aquariums and terrariums against. All of them were bolted against it and it would take a lot of time to remove them. The only free area was behind a poster behind the counter, but that was awfully close to the front door.

“What if the walkers hear us?” Rafiq asked.

“Do we have another choice,”
Henry said gloomly.

“Maybe we can go outside now and just run...” as Diego said it, he peeked through the blinds, which made him stop his sentence. He turned around and grinned that usual grin of his, “Never mind. It’s still snowing. Or falling. Fallouting? Whatever. Still, can’t see any walkers nearby”

Rafiq sighed, “I guess we just have to hope for the best. You guys get started, I’ll check around the store. Maybe they have some better equipment lying around.”

He walked to the back, where he guessed the storage room was located. On his way, he could see George opening up the bird cages and some of them had already flown out. It was kind of strange to see the man this... human. Everyone had it soft spots, Rafiq supposed.

The storage room was smaller than Rafiq had suspected, but he looked around it thoroughly anyway. There was a lot of feed, a desk with papers and a table the employees had used for their breaks. Some of the coffee cups were still in the sink, unwashed. In the corner was a broom and a...

“I’ll be damned,” Rafiq muttered. He eagerly picked up the sledgehammer. That would come in handy.

Happy at the prospect of doing the work a lot faster, he nearly walked into George, who was dumping out some of the animal feed on the floor. Or at least, he had been, but something had made him stop.

On the floor were three hamsters, tearing the flesh from a fourth one. Rafiq had heard hamsters sometimes cannibalized each other when under great stress or hunger, but... It was like a gruesome miniature version of what they all had been through.

“It’s ironic isn’t it,” George said, “you try to save them and they get hurt anyway.”

Rafiq didn’t know how to respond to that and decided it was better not to.

He left the older man alone with his thoughts.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

= George Remington =

George sifted through the shelf with both hands, his flashlight gripped in his teeth. Rolling around behind a bag of dry food was a familiar can of dog chow, which he grabbed -- rolling its metal frame around in his fingers to display the logo. A yellow lab grinned toothily on the cover, traces of green fields behind him with his tongue lolling out. A happy dog. A familiar dog. George chewed his lip, blinking vacantly as his mind wandered. That was, until he felt Rafiq's stare from out of the corner of his eye. The young man wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve and leaned his crowbar against the doorframe with a heavy sigh.

"Diego's working on the next wall now. It'll be your go once he needs a break. Henry's on watch out front to make sure we don't draw any walkers." Rafiq rattled all the info off breathlessly, continuing to sop up the beading sweat on his cheeks and forehead. His eyes eventually fell onto George's hands.

George held the can of dog food up. "For when he comes back,'" he said as he reached into his backpack, swinging it around his shoulder and stuffing the can inside. "I sure hope she's been feeding him..."

Rafiq scratched at the stubble forming around his chin. "I'm sure they're both fine, George. Sarah--"

"--is already dead," George finished quite bluntly, cutting him off. The man straightened up, zipping the bag closed and slipping his arms back through. He shook his head, running a hand the length of his face as he looked up at the ceiling, chuckling softly. His sad, hollowed eyes finally fell upon Rafiq. "We all are..."

Rafiq grimaced. "W-Why would you say something like that?" He quipped, bridling with anger. Was it possible the man was still drunk?

"Because it's true," George replied, tiredly -- as if just now admitting it to himself. "Niobe told me everything-- from what she found out from our neighbors... whatever they call themselves. The Capitols?"

Rafiq's eyes narrowed, trying to comprehend what George was saying. It was all too much to take in at once. He inched a few steps closer, aware suddenly that he was being let in on a secret nobody else knew about. George continued, lowering his voice to a hushed tone.

"I've only taken her at her word since then. Never even seen these Capitol people-- but then Henry confirmed it when he told me about his father. About how he passed in the hospital..." George shook his head again, as if he was hearing it all over again. "He came back, Rafiq. No bite. Nothing. And he still came back..."

Rafiq's eyes widened at the thought. "S-So we're all... infected?" He stammered, still searching for the right answer. A different answer. Anything else.

George simply nodded. There wasn't anything left to say. Except one thing. "When we let Henry go... I plan on leaving with him."

Rafiq wasn't sure if someone needed to pinch him or what. It seemed like his whole world was suddenly being turned upside down. He had always shared a certain kinship with the man, ever since he had sort of forced Rafiq into some sort of post-apocalyptic apprenticeship-- but it seemed like he was suddenly confiding alot in him-- despite how much they'd grown apart since George's unravelling. "What are you talking about? You're seriously going to leave right when one of us needs our help?"

George shrugged. "What? You need me to protect you? You think any of those people want me with a gun in my hands after what happened? Nothing I do will help. There's no going back for me. You saw what I did..."

"Actually, I didn't. I have no idea what you did, and I don't care. I know what kind of man you are, George. At your best and at your worst. And we need you."

George sighed. "You're just one man. The others-- they won't be so willing to forgive. The best thing for everyone is if I just go."

Rafiq slammed his fist against the flyer-laden cement column next to him, random pieces of paper falling to the ground. "Damnit! You heard Jessica-- back in the tunnels. We can't keep splitting up like this! We're too few already..."

"I'm sorry, Rafiq... I am. But there still have to be consequences... even in this fucked up world, where nothing seems to be going right-- it leaves alot more room for the wrong."

A stiff silence deafened the room with nothing other than the occasional clinking of Diego's sledgehammer echoing from outside the door. The two of them just stared at each other, leaving the rest unsaid. George slung his backpack off his shoulder again and tossed it near the door, walking past Rafiq and grabbing his crowbar on the way out. "Guess I should help pick up the pace, eh? Life's too short."

"Sam's sure will be," Rafiq jabbed over his shoulder. "Don't do this, George..."

But the man was already gone.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


"This has been the longest day of my life..." Jessica sighed by the candlelight as she gently stroked Sam's hair. His brown locks fell back over the gauzed wound with each pass, a sharp contrast against the dirtied white linen. Annabelle leaned against the metal rack behind her, a blanket pulled across her lap-- her eyes heavy with sleep. "Hard to believe that this morning I was doing laundry and trying to figure out if
I should have beans or canned fruit for lunch. The day escalated quite nicely, if I don't say so myself."


"Today tested us all, my dear--" Annabelle bemoaned. "I'm just not certain if we passed or not..."

It was the first attempt at humor that Annabelle had made since Jessica had known her-- and it made her genuinely laugh out loud, which she promptly stifled with a snort. Something about the dryness and seriousness of the delivery was just too much. The sweet old woman didn't have a drop of darkness within her. Not so much as one bad bone-- not that she had seen yet. It was a quality sorely needed and horribly undervalued these days.

Annabelle smiled sweetly. "It's so heartwarming to see you in good spirits, dear..." she continued. "Nobody could have ever guessed that something awful would happen like this. You can't blame yourself for it."

Jessica adjusted her legs, setting Sam's head gently on the makeshift pillow beneath it. "We've done what we can for him..." She pulled another of the blankets over herself, making sure her son was properly coated as well. Her eyes lingered on his chest, heaving gently with each shallow breath. There was no way to tell his father, her ex-husband, what had happened. If he was even alive to care. She somehow felt guilty about that, like it was some kind of secret she desperately needed to share -- if not to him, then to the others... Harper, Carl... they'd all come to know Sam in their own ways too. His death would go quietly. Unnoticed. Unavoidable. She sighed. "I had to fight his father so much to get Sam for his birthday last week-- that day when everything happened." Annabelle looked up from her spot on the floor, her brow furrowing. "He demanded half of the day with his son. So, I told him that I would get the first half of the day... those were my terms. Jessica ran her hand through Sam's hair again. "He could have been with his father that morning, and I would have no clue if he was alive or dead right now. Annabelle reached over and rubbed Jessica's arm as the two looked at one another, smiling through their tears. "At least this way I'll know..."

Annabelle returned her hand to grasp Sam's, mumbling a prayer under her breath. "At least if he goes he'll have gone peacefully and not to some walker..." Annabelle breathed. "God forbid if it came to that."


* * *


$$$ Lillian Strong $$$


TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Lillian's shoes clattered alongside the store as she full-on sprinted towards the storage room, where Sam's ailing body lied along with some of the others -- her sneakers skidding across the pet store tile as she rounded a corner of shelves. The noise at the other end of the shop of the men tearing down the wall all but masked her frantic footsteps.

But what had she just overheard? She knew George was a drunk. That much was obvious. But why would he make something like that up? And Rafiq sure seemed to believe him... it really was the end of the world.

And if it is true... then--

She reached the first hole in the wall, the one back to the spa, and clamored over the pile of rubble and drywall on the ground as she pulled herself back through -- putting her thoughts on hold as she found herself suddenly face-to-face with Wayne and Bethany. They both jumped to a start -- weapons at the ready as they laid eyes on Lillian. The girl held up her hands, instinctively -- looking both of them over. Their shocked faces were enough to give away the fact that they had no idea how she had snuck past them earlier.

Wayne's lips sputtered as he tried to find the right response. "B-Th-H-How did-- Lillian! What the hell were you doing in there?"

Bethany cocked to one hip, folding her arms. "How'd she get past us?" she asked with a tone.

Wayne threw his hands in the air. "Don't ask me! We haven't left this spot since we got here." He scratched the back of his head, rolling his eyes. "Or at least one of us hasn't... Tinklebell."

Bethany's nostrils flared as she turned to face him, jabbing a finger in his chest. "Hey, it's not my fault that I have a small bladder."

Wayne scoffed. "You're not even drinking anything. Where is all this liquid coming from? Or are you just scurrying off to enjoy some of that recently reclaimed blow? It'd be pretty rude of you not to share..."

Bethany's eyes became to shallow slits. "Are you serious?" Wayne looked at her. Seriously. "Go fuck yourself." Bethany flipped him the bird over her shoulder as she turned to stalk back down the hallway, not towards the bathroom-- but anywhere other than where Wayne was. She only got a few steps before she stopped and realized the same thing that he did in that moment.

"Uhh-- where'd she go?" Wayne asked with a gulp.


* * *



TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

The traction on the spa tile wasn't much better Lillian noticed as she sprinted around yet another corner. The dust caked on the soles of her shoes from the hole in the wall definitely wasn't helping. She slipped slightly, catching onto the wall just barely saving her from a fall and took the brief reprieve to catch her breath. She checked over her shoulder quickly to make sure nobody was too close behind her and set off again, using her arms to help propel her forwards as she tried to slow her fading momentum.

She couldn't be too late. She couldn't be. She was supposed to protect these people.

*WHAM*

Lillian collided face-first into one unlucky person's chest as she blindly rounded the next corner at full speed. She hit the ground hard, finally taking the spill she had so narrowly dodged moments earlier. Althea braced herself on the corner with one hand, rubbing her solar plexus with the other as her face scrunched up in pain.

"Christ, kid--" she managed, her voice hollow from the wind knocked out of her. "Damn near broke my ribs... what are you doing? Get up..." She reached down and pulled Lillian up by the scruff of her jacket, just enough for her concealed pistol to fall to the ground, clattering loudly in the muted silence of the hallway. There was no point hiding it. Althea had already seen it. She knew that. And Lily had already received one blunt lecture too many from the rough-and-tumble broad. If she knew what Lily had just learned-- but there was no time to explain. She would have to understand...

"Please--" Lily pleaded, "I have to--"

She reached down for her gun, but Althea yanked back firmly on the collar of her jacket, pulling both of Lily's arms back at the shoulders. "Again, Lily? What the hell is wrong with you?" the woman scolded. Lily struggled and flailed forwards, trying to free herself from Althea's tight grasp. "You not getting enough attention or something? Cause I think you've caused enough trouble for one day. I thought we took this from you once already?"

"Let me go! Get off me!" Lily protested, irately -- her arms swinging wildly. Althea deftly used her other free hand to avoid the swatting limbs as they washed off of her. The kid was persistent if nothing else. Unfortunately for Althea, she was unpredictable too.

Lillian suddenly dropped to her knees and dove between Althea's legs, pulling her down into herself in a forced somersault as she regrettably held onto the hood of Lillian's coat. She let go in time to save herself from a full face plant as she caught herself on her own two hands -- face down on the floor, but she immediately felt the full weight of Lillian's shoes against her back as the kid scrambled back over the top of her for the gun. Althea grappled for one of Lily's legs, finding a firm grip and pulling back with what strength she could muster -- only until the unwelcomed second leg came around. Althea turned barely in time for the shoe to glance off of her cheek, but her vision had been jarred into a thousand stars as she clutched at her face in pain.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Althea blurted, propping herself up on her knees. She dabbed at her cheek with one hand, checking for blood -- but it had only grazed her slightly, to her own relief. She could hear the scrape of the handgun being picked up off the floor, and suddenly Althea tensed. This kid was cracking and was clearly capable of far more than she had anticipated. And now... she was armed. The woman kept her gaze on the floor.

*CLICK*

"That better not be pointed at me..." Althea mumbled, the tenseness evident in her voice.

She heard Lily sniffle before she spoke. The girl was clearly crying, as evident in her voice. "Don't follow me..."

TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Althea rose to her feet, wiping the dust off her hands-- and followed.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


Lisa pressed two fingers against Sam's neck, holding the pulse in his wrist with her other hand. "His pulse is getting faint..." she warned, setting Sam's arm gently back by his side. Jessica dabbed some of the sweat off of his cheeks with a dry rag, trying to normalize his temperature. Lisa frowned. "If we don't close this wound-- he's just gonna keep bleeding. He can't keep going like this."

Jessica nodded through teary eyes. "They're working as hard they can. They'll be b--"

*SHIK SHIK SHIK*

The metal handle of the door shook violently from the other side -- even more banging accompanying the already abrupt noises. Jessica rose from the floor as Lisa helped Annabelle up -- each of them slowly approaching the front of the storage unit. Annabelle decidedly hung back close to Sam, in case the worst possible scenario lied outside the door on the other side.

"Did we bring any weapons?" Lisa queried, the answer already evident in the tone of her voice. Jessica shook her head, inching closer towards the door -- stepping as lightly as she could.

"Oh, be careful honey--" Annabelle bemoaned, covering her face with her hands. "Don't open the door 'til we know who's out there..."

Jessica turned and put her finger to her lips, quieting them all as she finally reached the doorway. The handle had all but stopped moving -- but then the muffled shouting started. "Those are voices..." she whispered, pressing her ear close to the frame. Neither the voice, nor whomever they were talking to were discernible through the thick metal. There was only one way to find out. Jessica grabbed for the handle and opened it slowly as she took a deep breath. Lillian's frantic shouts poured inside in an instant.

"Get back!" she shouted, with her hand raised in the air. The pistol hung loosely in her grip-- Untrained. Unwavering. Althea, only a mere few steps away, stood silently with her hands raised above her head. Her eyes met Jessica's, who finally laid sight on the girl and the gun. As soon as the door swung wider, the pistol was suddenly pointing at her. Lily's hands shook as her attention was split by the two women suddenly surrounding her. Her eyes began to well with tears as she realized that Jessica was alright.

"J-Jessica..." she stuttered.

"Lillian-- w-what's happened? What's wrong?"

"I thought you guys were--" she wiped at her cheeks with her gun hand, and Althea took a step closer. Lillian's gun was back up in a flash. She struggled to speak through her tears as she stepped countered towards Jessica, trying to get a peak through the doorway. "Sam... is he--"

"He's fine, Honey..." she said, subtly reaching out towards the girl. "Everything is going to be f--."

Annabelle shrieked from behind, causing all of them to jump. Lillian's gun rattled in her grip. "His chest! He's stopped breathing!"

Lisa was over him in a flash, ripping open his shirt and exposing his small chest which had indeed gone silent. She braced her hands together over his ribs, counting and pushing and breathing -- everything synchronized... professional. She pinched his nose and propped open his jaw, blowing air through the passage to bring him back however she could. Again. And again. Jessica, Lillian and reluctantly, Althea-- all stepped closer inside, each as unsure of what to do as the next. Lisa took full advantage of the space, continuing her maneuvers at a rapid pace -- exhausting herself as she tried desperately to save the boy's life.

Althea's booming voice suddenly sounded out from the back of the crowd. "Lily... what the hell are you doing?"

The girl had moved around the circle to face the spectacle, her gun trained on the struggling pair on the ground. Her chest heaved with each heavy breath as Annabelle gasped with shock, backing away. Jessica's eyes narrowed instantly as she keyed in on Lily. "Whatever you're thinking of doing, Lily--"

"This kid has lost her marbles..." Althea said, exhaustedly.

But it was Lily's voice that boomed this time.

"I'M NOT A KID!" she shouted, fiercely. "You all have no clue... no idea...you just think I'm some crazy kid! She sniffed back her tears again and again, keeping her gun trained on the both of them. "H-He's gonna come back, Jessica..."

"Of course he is... that's what Lisa's trying to do. You need to put the gun down..."

"Not like THAT!" she shouted even louder. "If he dies he'll come back-- as one of them..."

Althea had had enough. "What is this girl even talking about? Is somebody gonna do something about this or am I gonna have to?"

Jessica shook her head, trying to comprehend the panicked girl. "What are you--"

Annabelle stepped in from the corner, her face heartbroken at the little girl. "Well you, young girl, can point that thing wherever you like. Someone has to try and save this poor boy..." The old woman struggled to her knees, using the table beside her for support-- positioning herself over Sam. Lillian fought back more tears as she kept the gun firmly in place.

"Annabelle, please--" Jessica began, her voice breaking at the thought of all this. The world had already turned to shit and yet somehow it had managed to get even worse.

"He's just a child!" Annabelle cried from the floor. She picked up where Lisa left off, working his chest and pinching his nose as she leaned down to put some air into his system. And like the miracle they needed, his eyes fluttered open-- his cloudy iris barely visible under the milky ashen orbs where his bright young eyes had once been.

Lily noticed the change almost immediately. "S-Sam...?" she whimpered, her feet inching backwards apprehensively.

*CHOMP*

Sam's teeth suddenly clamped down over Annabelle's lips and chin-- holding on for dear life as she rolled to the side, bringing the boy along with her. Lily fell backwards in shock, skidding to a stop beside the table as the room ignited with panic. Jessica collapsed to her knees with an ear-splitting shriek as Lisa grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back away from the thrashing forms in front of her.

The two bodies struggled with one another on the ground-- Annabelle's muffled screams undercut with the vapid snarling of the newly awakened Sam. Althea motioned towards Lily with her arm. "Give me the gun!" she shouted quickly. But Lily's trembling hands could do nothing but manage to keep her gun poised in front of her.

Jessica saw Lily from her spot on the floor and leapt to her feet, shrugging out of Lisa's grip. "Lily-- don't!" she pleaded, bounding towards her as tears flowed down her cheeks.

"Jessica!" Lisa's voice washed over her ears as Jessica lunged forwards, reaching for the girl's weapon with both arms.

"LILY! Look at me!" But Lily had closed her eyes tight... squeezing the trigger even tighter.


* * *



*BANG!*

Diego's arms halted mid-swing-- sledgehammer poised for another blow at the wall. His neck whipped over his shoulder towards the spa at the sound. Henry stepped back from the front windows, leaning into the aisle the same direction -- a crowbar dangling loosely from his hands. The two looked at each other as George and Rafiq's footsteps came quickly their way. They skidded into the foyer behind Diego, weapons already in hand.

"You guys hear that?" Henry grunted from across the floor.

"The gunshot?" Rafiq asked with wide eyes.

Henry looked back towards the spa, licking his teeth. "The church bells..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

0.00 INK

.: Calvin Hawke :.


Dax rolled the Jeep to a stop alongside a couple of the others, their occupants spilling out of their ashy vehicles simultaneously as various figures unloaded crates and weapons out onto the pavement of the parking garage. The heaviest loads were carried by two men, while others grabbed what they could and rushed towards the stairwell to the adjacent apartment building.

Calvin watched through the dirty tinted windows as bodies blurred past in motion. He gritted his teeth, sinking lower into his seat as Oliver stowed his weapon in his waistband and reached for his bag down between his legs. "This is as far as we go," he mumbled, pulling the bag onto his lap and ripping the zipper open. His hand plunged inside sporadically pulling out a few ammo clips, his knife, and a few other random things before zipping the bag shut and tossing it back to Calvin. "There's enough gas in this thing to get you as far as you need to go... so you wait until the garage is clear -- and you get the hell outta here. You understand?"

Calvin slid the bag off of himself onto the seat next to him and looked up, catching Dax' eyes in the rearview mirror. "You guys are seriously going back in there with that guy?" he asked. "After all that you know he's capable of..."

"That's exactly why we have to go in there," Dax insisted, shakily. "You don't understand this man. You didn't see him when we were all still locked away." His eyes looked towards Oliver's. "He doesn't let things go..."

Calvin's eyes narrowed as he tried to comprehend their sudden irrationalities. When suddenly his mind lingered on something even more complexing. He leaned forwards, grabbing onto the back of the front two seats. "Were either of you with Sarah when she left?"

Dax fidgeted in his seat. "W-Well-- we walked her to the stairs out in the--"

"No," Oliver offered, quite bluntly. The notion had started to dawn on him now to. It was just like Bronson to have kept an ace up his sleeve. Nothing was beneath this man.

Dax turned to stare at him, then craned his neck back at Calvin. "What are you saying?" Calvin leaned back in his seat, rubbing his hands over his face while Dax was still left wondering. Oliver slammed his foot against the dashboard, cursing aloud.

"I have to know," Calvin muttered through strained breaths.

"I know you do," Oliver replied, defeatedly. Of course he understood. "I gotta know too," he admitted.

"I'd fucking love to know what the fuck you're fucking talking about..." Dax blathered, still eagerly wanting to know what was happening.

"If we're gonna do this, we're gonna play it out then--" Oliver ordered, straightening himself in his seat. "Open up the bag and grab those handcuffs and a shirt.

"What are we doing?" Dax asked again, becoming more annoyed by the second.

Oliver grabbed the shirt out of Calvin's hands as soon as he pulled it from the bag and began tearing a thick strip out of it using his knife. He looked up at Dax, knowingly.

"You remember Star Wars?"


* * *


Calvin marched front and center down the aisle, flanked on each shoulder by Dax and Oliver. Or at least that's who he assumed it was beside him. The makeshift blindfold had been fastened around his one good eye before they had left the Jeep, so he hadn't seen much. They had gone up at least 8 flights of stairs -- which had taken forever and was filled with countless stubbed toes, rolled ankles, and missed steps. More recently though, they had arrived on another flat surface. Carpeted. Hallways, based on the narrow lengthy turns.

"I think I hear him up here," Dax whispered over his shoulder. They continued along the corridor as the raucous shouts of the convicts rousting any squatters in the vicinity echoed throughout the halls. Vacant gunshots and loud thuds rattled off from the floors above. Calvin gingerly stepped across the cluttered floor towards where he hoped Bronson would be waiting. "This is it," Oliver said, motioning at the door to their right. "You still sure about this?"

Calvin swallowed. "I gotta see this through. If there's any chance she got out..."

"We'll find her." Oliver said, gripping Calvin's shoulder and nodding to Dax. "See you on the other side."

Dax pat him on the back as he ushered Calvin forward towards the door. Oliver grabbed the handle and the three of them passed through the threshold of the doorway. Calvin could already tell there were others inside, because whatever conversation they were having stopped as soon as he entered the room. Bronson's gravelly voice boomed out from the farthest corner.

"Well, I'll be damned..."

Oliver shoved Calvin to the center of the room, careful not to send him tumbling too hard. "Look what I found," he feigned. "Crawling around in the back of one of the Jeeps."

Bronson couldn't believe it. He walked over to Calvin, holding his hands in the air. "I do have to apologize, dear boy-- for having to leave you behind. I knew you'd be safe locked away in that room though. I wasn't gonna leave ya to no biters."

Calvin bit his tongue. "Gee... thanks."

"And now you're here..." Bronson said, pulling the blindfold up from Calvin's good eye. Light flooded back into his vision, even in the dingy and dimly lit apartment he discovered himself to be standing in. Several of Bronson's henchman, including Freddie-- the coward who had taken his eye, lingered around the edges of the room. They each rose to their feet as soon as the newcomers had crashed their party.

Calvin rubbed at his eye with his bound hands, readjusting his sight. "I am," he replied, maybe a bit too defiantly. "I could've left. I should have...."

"Then why'd you come back, Calvin...?"

His question hung in the air for awhile as the other shifted in the silence.

"Don't I have a debt to settle?" Calvin said, mockingly.

Bronson shrugged, rubbing the scruff of his greyed beard. "I thought an eye for my guy made us square?" He turned and walked towards the edge of the room, tearing down the sheet draped over the window as it fell to the ground to reveal distorted blinds. "Since you're here though, maybe there is something you can do for me..."

"Haven't I given you enough?" Calvin sneered, tapping his hidden eye.

Bronson grinned, looking past him at Dax and Oliver who both struggled to hold his gaze. Even he could sense the odd vibe in the room. Other convicts stood idly by behind him, weapons dangling loosely in their hands. "This is about the girl-- isn't it?" he continued, kicking the sheet aside.

Calvin's eye widened as his breath caught in his throat. How could he have known? Calvin turned quickly to look at Oliver-- immediately realizing the trap he'd fallen into. That was the giveaway Bronson was looking for -- his eyes lingering on their exchange as he motioned to his surrounding men. They sprung into action, grabbing Oliver and Dax and dragging them out into the hallway in a flurry of arms and legs.

"They didn't have anything to do with this!" Calvin pleaded, struggling against the men who had come to restrain him.

"It doesn't matter," Bronson grunted. "They got too close to the girl, and now they're feeling sympathetic. That's when a person starts making the wrong types of decisions." Dax and Oliver's shouts echoed from further down the hall as Bronson's men began working them in.

"What did you do with her!?" Calvin growled. He wished he had dealt with this coward the second he got into the room. It was at the point now where the bastard was preemptively doing horrible things, just as collateral to protect his own ass.

"She's just fine," Bronson replied. "Or at least she was the last time I saw her..."

"If you've done anything to her, I swear to God--"

"Relax, cowboy. She'll be alright, so long as you continue to cooperate for just a little while longer. I'm gonna need one last favor from you, and then we're square." Bronson turned and ripped the last of the mangled plastic blinds off of the window next to him, revealing the distinct form of a charred building through the falling ashy haze -- its burnt facade only a silhouette in the blackening night. "It's amazing what people will do to protect what they love..." he said-- salivating at the thought as he gazed upon the Capitol, salaciously.


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe found herself embedded in a room full of smells and senses she'd long been missing. Accompanied of course with the unfortunate whirring grind of a number of running generators, powering portable electric stovetops, microwaves, lighting, and other such fixtures. Steam coated the ceiling as boiling pots and trays of food were shuffled around the makeshift kitchen in a hurry. All it really was though was a converted back office outside the commons. The tiled floor made it an excellent candidate for the chef and others to setup shop since they wouldn't be dealing with the carpeting.

She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder from behind. "Grab and go. Otherwise you might get trampled," Patrick said, handing her a plate from a shelf nearby as Niobe snapped from her food daze. She hadn't seen this much goodness in over a week. Not knowing where to start, she wandered over to the longer portion of the table where several trays of vegetables and meats were organized waiting to go out to the commons.

"Coming back to the kitchen like this-- isn't that kind've like cutting?" Niobe asked, dryly. She grabbed a large spoon from the table and dug into the buttery mashed potatoes in front of her, dropping a large dollop on her plate.

Eli fell in beside her, heading for the greens first. "We're staff. We were busting our asses gassing up that bus." He said, flashing a toothy grin as he piled a heap of vegetables onto his plate.

"Can you not talk about asses and gas, please. Seems a little pre-mature considering we haven't stuffed our faces full of all this food yet..." Patrick added, childishly.

A large pot of some kind of pasta was suddenly dropped right center on the table by a broad-shouldered man in a fedora. "Oodles of noodles, mates--" he chimed, tossing the lid off to the side and stuffing a pasta ladle in the pot. A half-burnt cigar tumbled around his mouth as he wiped his hands on his apron and held one out to Niobe stiffly. "And what's your name, love?"

Niobe rose one eyebrow, grasping his hand firmly. "Niobe."

The man spoke quickly, as if the greeting was something he had to get out of the way. But he held her gaze as firmly as their grip. "Gorgeous name-- beautiful. I love dark meat. Let me know how the potatoes turn out, eh?" And like that, he was off.

Niobe was slightly stunned. "Uhh-- who was that?"

Eli and Patrick both chuckled to themselves, apparently more used to the stranger's antics than she. "That's Lou," Patrick confessed. "He's the Cook."

"He always that strange?"

"Think of it as eccentric and be thankful he's a good cook," Patrick advised, giving her a hard pat on the back. She shook her head as she followed the two of them towards the back of office. The door swung open to reveal another hallway. Random stragglers filtered into the commons area where boxes and crates had been pushed together to create small clusters of tables around the floor. Others sat in small groups on the floor or ate on their cots. The heavy din of conversation washed over Niobe as she followed Eli and Patrick through the arched doorway. She figured there had to be somewhere upwards of 60 or so people all collected together-- but it seemed like so many more. The space, though convenient, was not necessarily built to accommodate so many people for such a long period of time.

A hand stuck out of the crowd, waving high and wide trying to get Niobe's attention-- which it had. The arm belonged to Carl, who sat in a circle of cots around a table with Harper, James, and Christopher. The two old men were engaged in conversation over some talking point, but Harper sat hunched over her barely-touched plate of food, resting her chin on one hand as she stirred at the food vacantly. Niobe split from Patrick and Eli to join her friends and crossed over towards them.

"There you are," Carl crowed as she neared their table. She leaned over to set her plate down and lunged over the cot to take the open seat. "We were wondering what happened to you."

Niobe brushed her hands off on her pant legs. "I was helping Eli and Patrick work on the bus," she replied, not really feeling like she had to explain.

"Those the two that picked us up?" James cut in, switching conversations.

Niobe nodded, grabbing her fork and digging into her food with one huge bite.

"You sure warmed up to these folks quickly..." he finished, his voice ripe with judgement.

Niobe gulped down her first bite with some water and wiped her mouth. "They saved our lives, James... have some respect."

"This seems like a good place to stay if we have to," Carl reasoned, pushing his already empty plate aside. "They're good people."

"What do you mean stay?" James barked from across the table. "As soon as this dust clears, we gotta get out of here. This city is going to shit, frankly-- and I don't want to be inside it any longer than I have to."

Harper sat up, rubbing her temples. "Don't you think that's a decision we should be making as a group?" she said, voicing her concerns aloud.

James scoffed. "I'd think we would all have the common sense to see that everything bad that has happened to us has happened because we're still in this giant goddamned city. The bombings, the nuke, all these walkers... we need to distance ourselves from this place fast. We'll have a better shot out there."

"Out where exactly?" Niobe asked, challengingly.

James shook his head, slumping back into his chair with his arms folded. "Anywhere but here..."

"We still have friends out there..." Carl said, mindfully. "We can't leave now-- even if we could."

"And why not?" James argued.

Harper turned to look at him incredulously. "Are you seriously this selfish?"

"Now c'mon you two--" Christopher interjected from the sidelines.

"It's a completely legitimate question. We don't owe anybody anything. Not even El Capital and his Capitols, or whatever the hell they wanna call themselves. All we owe is to ourselves-- to get out of this city while we still can. Do we really have time to waste sitting around waiting to find all these missing people when we don't know where they are or whether they're even alive?"

"We have to make the time," Harper said, resolutely. "We're all we have, James. Can't you see that? This is what it takes. This is humanity. What else is worth saving if we can't save our friends?"

Jack's bulky frame suddenly plopped down next to Carl as he vault onto the cot between him and Harper, unaware of the conversation he had just interrupted. He turned to Harper, handing her the coffee mug he had borrowed earlier. "Looked everywhere. Couldn't find any coffee."

Niobe laughed at the thought. "That would be heaven. You should go ask Lou in the kitchen. Nice guy..."

Jack's eyebrows peaked in interest. "Oh yeah?"

"Forget to grab yourself a plate?" James chided from his side of the table.

Jack looked around at the plates in front of everyone else. "Oh, I-- uhhh..." he began to bumble, gesturing over his shoulder.

***TING TING TING TING TING TING TING***

Silas rapped on his glass with the butt of his fork, silencing the grounds effortlessly as everyone settled into their seats and turned their attention towards the staircase where he stood alone. The soft sound of the generators poured out of the kitchen office behind him as he cleared his throat to speak.

"I, uhh-- never know how to start these kinds of speeches," he began, scratching his head. "This time last night there were many more of us... and we were thankful that we had been able to endure a week without a night like tonight." Others around the room nodded in silent agreement, lamenting the nights events together. "I want to welcome our newcomers. Strangers to our home, but brothers and sisters in loss." There was a collective murmur of welcome from scattered individuals. Carl gave a half-wave as the others at the table awkwardly looked around at one another. "For those of you haven't heard, the surviving bus stumbled across these individuals during their escape. Some of which we've met before..." Stevie suddenly came into view through the back hallway with her plate of food. She snuck along the back aisle as Silas continued, scanning the crowd for familiar faces. "We all know somebody who is lost out there... somewhere. And we all want to do something about that. I think we can all agree we feel the same way." Harper glanced over at James, who fiddled with his toothpick between his lips as he listened to Silas drone on about salvation. "But we have to do it in a way where nobody else gets hurt. We have to wait for the streets and skies to clear before we can search for the bus... there's no point making any needless risks."

The crowd broke out into hushed whispers as disagreements bubbled up from various corners of the room. "How do we know they'll last the night?" somebody shouted out from the back.

Silas shook his head. "We don't. But there's nothing we can do about it right now. If they're still alive now, then they will be in a few days when it's safe to go look for them."

"And what are we supposed to go after them with?" another voice cried out. "We fled the Capitol so quickly, most of our stuff was left behind..."

Silas rose his hand in the air trying to settle the crowd so everyone could talk at once. "One at a time, please-- I understand that a lot was left behind. That is what we are going to spend our idle time preparing for. One of our newcomers, Stevie, has been kind enough to offer up a couple vehicles worth of supplies in exchange for our assistance in providing them with their own search party to recover their losses. We welcome them... and their help... in these dire times. We have a lot of ground to cover, and more bodies now to get it all done. Detailed plans will be made in the following days so that we understand what our priorities are going into this, but for now-- rest, recover, and remember: we are survivors. We've made it this far. We'll make it further yet, OK?" Silas rose his plate into the air. "Now let's eat! Thank you for the dinner, Lou." The broad-shouldered man waved from his post near the hallway's arch, his never-ending cigar still cradled in his mouth. The crowd applauded his contribution as everyone returned to their place and dug in.

Stevie had just finally reached Carl and the others at the table as Silas spilled the unsettled news of their private conversation. James glared at her from his seat as she set her plate of food down on the table. "Sneakin' around makin' promises in the dark, are we?" he growled.

"James, cut it out--" Harper wheezed.

Stevie stammered slightly, adjusting her glasses with one hand. "I didn't mean to speak for anyone... I even told Silas th--"

"We just heard all about what you told Silas. What? It doesn't bother any of you that we've been here barely a couple hours and she's already making deals... deals involving us with this so-called leader? We don't know these people..." James balked.

Stevie sighed. "I know him better than I know any of you..." she remarked, scathingly. "And those vehicles? They weren't yours to bargain with anyways. They belonged to my people. The one's your people shot at. I wouldn't forget that..." she scooped her food back off of the table and marched off towards Silas and the others.

Carl tapped his foot nervously. "What the hell man? What's gotten into you?"

"Nobody seems to have their head on straight around here," James fumed, striking out from the table as well. Christopher watched him go as he took a big fat bite of corn, chewing complacently.

Harper buried her head in her hands, trying to rub away the pain mounting in her forehead. Jack pat her on the back and leaned in to her ear. "I managed to swipe a mostly full bottle in that coffee mug for when you need it..." he began. "But you really need to figure out a more long-term solution for this, Harper-- it's getting worse." She nodded quickly, waving him away. That was the last thing on her mind with these new problems at hand.

"I'll be right back," she muttered, forcing herself up out of her seat. She pulled her blanket down over her shoulders as she headed towards where Stevie stormed off to.

Niobe mopped up the last few bites of her food and stood as well, having had enough drama for one day. "Done there, hotshot?" she asked Carl in his haze.

His attention snapped back. "Huh? What? Oh-- yeah..." He got up to join her, grabbing his empty plate and following her back towards the kitchen, leaving Jack alone with Christopher.

"One big happy family..." Jack said, mockingly. Christopher simply smiled and nodded, taking another bite of green beans, genuinely unbothered by the goings on of the group around him. Their problems went far over his head-- too far to care about.

Jack sighed, watching his so-called friends disappear into the crowd in separate directions-- and he wondered for a moment if there was such a thing as true happiness left in this world anymore, or if everyday would be a different version of the same struggle. How could they ever be content again? The rest of the Capitols stuffed their faces and corralled in conversatjon and laughter as they ate -- seemingly oblivious to the nightmarish landscape just on the other side of those walls. Feigned normalcy. A true escape. It didn't seem to be enough anymore, Jack thought to himself.

Not while their friends were still out there.

In the distance, Carl jogged a few strides-- catching up with Niobe. "Things are getting really bad around here--" he said, solemnly-- glancing at some of the Capitols as the two of them weaved between tables towards the kitchen.

Niobe pressed on, not even looking over her shoulder at him. "We're all handling this shit in different ways, Carl. Some of us better than others." That was the truth of it after all.

Carl furrowed his brow. "And how are you handling it?" he asked, sincerely.

That stopped Niobe in his tracks. Nobody had asked her that yet. Hell-- she hadn't even asked it of herself. But she thought about it for only the slightest second, and she didn't like what she found. "We've got to tell them... y'know-- about what Silas told us about the infection," she whispered, drawing breath.

Carl adjusted his glasses, evasively. "I-I know, we just h-have to--"

"They have every right to know. It doesn't feel right keeping that from them. Silas and everyone else in this room knows the truth about infection... they'll find out eventually," Niobe reasoned.

Carl scoffed. "Were you sitting at the same table I was? That could be the end of us. Just one little secret could undo everything. As far as they're concerned-- what is there to know?"

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

.: Epilogue :.

The Second Bus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their destination... and salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*DONG*

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

*DONG*

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

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

*DONG*

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

*DONG*

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

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

*DONG*

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

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


.: END OF SEASON 2 :.