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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.

715 readers have been here.

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: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)
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Stevie continued to work in tandem with the other two strangers in heading off the oncoming slew of walkers. When the four went down in a rapid succession of gunfire, she was thrilled to see more people jump into the fray: a younger brown-haired woman with a bat, an agile poker-wielding man in a white t-shirt, and an older man with a machete.

"We've got to help everyone back there!" Stevie insisted to the newcomers, pointing back toward Thomas and the rest of the crew as they frantically worked their way into the overturned truck.

"Not so fast, Glasses!" the old man barked as he whirled his arm and wrist to expertly topple a walker with a clean swipe of his weapon. "Thanks to your mess, our location's blown! We've got to get out of here!"

Stevie looked down the short road and felt her heart jump into her throat. There was no telling what had happened to anybody riding in the truck. Nathan and the older man belonged to this group of people, as far as she could tell. And Thomas, Holloway, and Clarkson had been there with her longer than anyone else had on this strange journey... Especially Thomas. The thought of leaving without him and the others made her chest tighten with anxiety.

"We didn't shoot!" she countered back defensively, ramming her knife through an undead nasal cavity.

A few more shots rang out from the direction of the tunnel. Stevie clicked her eyes over briefly, instantly recognizing the slim, dark-haired woman pulling the trigger of a scoped hunting rifle, catching walkers' heads with precision. The old man immediately picked up on the expression on her face after a brief glance. "You know her?" he prodded aggressively.

Stevie nodded and then inserted herself back into the fighting fray. "As a matter of fact, I do," she said. "I met her before with Tara and Nathan!" She swiped the blade behind a walker's ear as it made a lunge at the other woman carrying the bat.

"Come on!" the man in the white t-shirt urged, interrupting Stevie and James' discussion. "Walkers are thinning out. We need to get going, right now!" he insisted to the small group.

"I can't leave them behind!" Stevie said exasperatedly, pointing back to the small group at the truck. She realized that she now couldn't see what it was that they were doing due to the flux of walkers crowding around them, obscuring her view.

"You've got no choice!" the black woman said, starting on a mad dash toward a nearby alley. "This way, you guys!"

Stevie shook her head. "No, no, I really can't--" She was interrupted by the old man rushing ahead and grabbing her by the arm as though completely unafraid of anything she might say or do in reaction. "Hey, no, I can't leave him behind!" she repeated, her voice rising in volume and laced heavily with frustration.

James didn't let go. He continued to pull her along.

# # #

Harper watched from her perch on the back of the truck as James struggled to pull a frantic Stephanie in the direction they needed to go in. She took a quick glance through her scope at the direction the smaller woman was looking in; she was surprised to recognize the man from the FEMA camp, easy to pick out in a crowd due to his height. He and another uniformed man plus Nathan and Steve were dragging someone... or were they hiding? It was hard to tell, but with the traffic of walkers flooding the expanse between the two different groups, leaving was the best option.

She hopped down and made a beeline for Niobe and Carl as they ducked between two buildings. Jack followed suit and soon James was able to convince Stephanie to come along, with Laura in tow clutching the bloody baseball bat.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sean Donague
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Sean Donague


Day 3:
“Mr Donague, your secretary is on line one”
Sean awoke quickly, as he always did, and leaned over to pick up the phone.
“Donague” he rasped. He received no answer. “He-“
He dropped the phone, reality crashing back to him along with the consequences of his actions the night before. Of course there would be no answer, the phones were not working and he was clearly dreaming. Even if that were not the case, he shouldn’t have answered. Not in his state. He groaned and fell back onto the bed, head throbbing. His vision was blurred, his eyes were dry and his throat was parched. And his head…

“Jesus…” he whispered, rubbing his face with open palms.
The receiver bounced gently at the end of its cord, sending out soft thumps and chimes as it collided with the bedside table and the empty bottles stacked against it. Each sound could have been a gunshot as it echoed around Sean’s pounding skull.

He lay there a few moments, trying to stabilize the room with willpower, before rolling over and crawling to the end of the bed. Every movement was agony as he furtively righted himself and proceeded to stumble to the doorway. Here he rested, regained his balance and took a few deep breaths to still his churning stomach. Then the journey continued. On into the lounge, where he sat on an aged but well maintained leather sofa. It was only then that the stark realisation that he was stark naked hit him. Last he remembered he had been fully clothed. He glanced back into the bedroom and saw that he had drank far more than he had planned.
He coughed, and continued coughing for some time. He had also, it seemed, smoked far more than he had planned. From the corner of his eye he saw that his cigar box was now empty.

“Damn… I need a drink.”

The kitchen seemed a long walk from where he currently was and the trip from the bedroom had been difficult enough. Perhaps, if he looked around here…

“There you are” he said to a half empty bottle of scotch, his voice beginning to return. The lid was off and a great deal of the amber fluid had been spilled and stained his carpet. This would have bothered him a few days ago, he thought to himself. But now, such things were trivial. He drank.

---

An hour later, and in considerably less pain, Sean was dressed in loose boxer shorts and a luxurious bath robe with the bottle hanging precariously out of the pocket, dregs sloshing with every step. He crossed to the window and stood there a while. He wasn’t gazing out at the city, despite the smoke rising from numerous locations. He was instead staring at a dried red smear that stretched from the carpet at his feet up to the open glass at head height. He looked down but was too high up to make out the shape of the corpse he had thrown out the night before. He could remember her face. He could remember what she had been wearing. He could remember her name.

“Miss Waites,” he mumbled. “… Rebecca… It was you or me babe.”

He thought for a moment then took out the bottle and poured a measure of fine whiskey to the street below.
“And one for me.”
He took another long drink and almost emptied the bottle.
“Here, you finish it.”
He dropped the bottle out the window and turned away without watching it fall, walking with a slight sway back to the sofa where he sat again and stared up at the ceiling.


Day 4:
It was dark outside when Sean awoke next and his hangover was back, though it was not quite so debilitating as before. He checked his watch and it showed that it was almost two in the morning.

“Damn…”
He pushed himself to his feet, trying to ignore the ache in his head, and dragged his feet towards the kitchen where he opened the fridge. There was a sandwich, made for lunch days ago, and half a bottle of milk to satiate his hunger and make a minor dent in his thirst. He also finished the pomegranate juice and the remains of the water cooler, making himself feel bloated and ill. He closed the fridge and stared at the stainless steel that covered it, and his reflection within the metallic realm beyond the surface. He stared, and he knew. He could not stay here.

---

A thin, faint, purple line on the horizon marked the approach of the dawning of a new day and the dawning of a new chapter in Sean’s life. He stood in the living room in his running gear: Clean shaven, washed, ready. He took a deep breath and looked around his apartment, at the poker table still assembled and the smashed remains of an antique chair in the corner. He looked through the doorway to the bedroom where he had slept, often alone, for almost a year. He looked to the kitchen, which had been recently refurbished, and he felt nothing. He had never been able to settle in any one place for too long and as a result he felt no sorrow at leaving this apartment. But he was afraid of what might come next. He knew he may not spend more than a night in the same place for the foreseeable future and he was anxious, despite the small Glock concealed in his pocket. He was a child of the city and had no survival equipment or skills. He did not even own a backpack. But this building housed all sorts of folk, who had all sorts of hobbies; maybe he’d get lucky before he even made it to the front door…


Present:
Sean’s lungs burned within his chest and his breath came out in short, ragged bursts that seared his throat as he ran through the street. Every slapping step drew the attention of the wandering corpses around him and the chasing crowd continued to grow. He knew he was running out of time; he could not run forever, but at least for now he had the advantage of speed. The straps on his shoulders had grown heavier over the days and the skin beneath was rubbed raw. He wanted nothing more than to ditch the bag and take cover but he wouldn’t last a day without it so he continued to run with his windpipe burning and his legs aching, searching constantly for a place to hide.

He turned a corner and his eyes landed on a cable between two buildings. It was risky but would have to do. He pushed himself even harder despite the agony of simply breathing and crashed into the front door, silently hoping that it wasn’t locked. Luck, for once this week, was on his side and he fell through, landing in a heap on the carpet beyond. With breath still catching in his throat he kicked the door closed and pulled himself back to it, where he braced himself back first. Before he had even drawn in three breaths there was a shudder as something collided with the other side of the solid wood, shortly followed by another which led to a constant, rhythmless beating. He could feel the pressure mounting and knew he had less than ten seconds to make a move. One slow, deep breath. Seven seconds. Another deep breath. The pressure mounted. One final breath. The top hinge gave way.

“O.K.”

Sean pushed himself up and ran for the stairs, the door bursting open behind him.

“Give me… a fucking break!” he yelled between breaths, seeing the deceased occupant of the house round the corner at the top of the stairs. He swung his backpack round off his shoulders and hurled it up the last few steps, not hesitating as it continued travelling and took the dead man’s legs down with it. The corpse hit the floor with a groan and reached out but Sean jumped over the outstretched arms with a wince at his burning thighs and collected up his gear, leaving the moaning husk of a man where he lay. He turned left and crashed through another door into what was once a study, slamming the door behind him again. With the stairs between him and the horde he had more time on his side and so he dragged the desk in front of the entrance and let himself recover until the homeowner started thudding against the flimsy panels.

“Who is it?” he called, knowing that there was no one around to amuse but himself. Of the many lessons he had learned in life there were a few that stuck in his mind even now. One of those was that the best way to endure a hostile or uncomfortable situation was with humour. He’d never been a particularly funny man, nor had he much time for comedy, but he laughed from time to time and often had entertained himself with jokes in his head during particularly stressful meetings. Usually these jokes were at the expense of others in the room. This time, he didn’t know who the joke was about exactly but it had helped to keep him calm, which helped control his breathing, which helped him recover faster.

When the knocking at the door was joined by another eager participant it was time to leave. Sean strode over to the other side of the room and opened the window. Somebody had obviously set this cable up for just the purpose he required it for. Whether they had succeeded in using it was another matter altogether, as proven by the fellow demanding entry to what was most likely his study once upon time, but there wasn’t time to think about that now. He slipped the bag high up on his back and tightened the straps, twisted his neck, windmilled his arms to loosen up and leaned out into the alleyway between the two houses. The cable was attached to a hook that looked like it once anchored nothing more substantial than a satellite dish on his end and it slipped a little when he tugged at it.

“Not good…” he muttered, trying to keep quiet now. There was a screech of wood on wood as the desk slid across the floor behind him and all doubts were pushed away as he reached up and grabbed the cable. One last deep breath and he let his legs slip out into the open air, already moving hand over hand along the length of thick, synthetic rope towards the other side. His arms were fresh and relatively unworked but he still struggled to keep his breathing rate controlled and his heart was hammering in his ribcage. Halfway across there was a shake as the flimsily held attachment behind him started to give way.

“Not good” he muttered again, slightly louder this time.

Barely six feet from the adjoining house the cable freed itself from the wall behind him and he fell. But as ever he had planned ahead and braced himself, legs outstretched. He hit the wall feet first and bent at the knees but, unprepared for the true force of the impact, he buckled and crashed shoulder first against the brickwork. His grip loosened and he fell another foot before catching his grip again.

Climb he thought, unable to speak through teeth gritted against the pain in his shoulder.

He spied the dead shambling in the street but they hadn’t yet noticed him as he slowly, painfully, dragged himself up a few inches at a time. It seemed to take forever to reach the top but he made it, red-faced, sweating and panting once more, and he fell through the thankfully open window into a barricaded bedroom with no occupants. It seemed that whoever had last made that trip had been going the other way.

“Oh, thank Christ” he breathed, remaining on his side on the floor. The moans of the passed on occupying the last house drifted across the gap but he took no notice. For now he was safe, though it was incredible how his definition of safe had changed so dramatically over the course of 48 hours.

So he stayed where he was, heart beating with such force that the gash on his forehead, which had been so close to healing, began to let a trickle of blood slip down the side of his face, collecting days worth of dirt and grime as it went. It oozed its way between the coarse hairs that had sprung up along his cheeks and began to dry there with the matted reminder of the original injury.

---

Worn out, aching all over and thoroughly angered, Sean kicked aside the boards he had pried off and opened the door to the new house, crowbar in hand. He heard no groans, and no shuffling feet, not inside the house anyway, though he did not stop to check each room. Over the past quarter hour the horde had not even begun to disperse next door and he was far from home clear and needed to move fast. He took the stairs two at a time after checking the landing, determined not to let his body adjust to rest, and made for the back door. It was locked but the crowbar made short work of it and he set off without a look back. He headed out and sprinted across the street, ducked down an alleyway, hopped a fence, jogged across a garden and ducked into the next open building he saw.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Natasha Dean
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= George Remington =
% Jessica Abbott %


There had been hazy nights before. Mornings where he still woke up in a drunken stupor. But whatever this was transcended all past transgressions. George rolled to one side, clutching his swollen face in agony. He gazed at his bloodied palms through watery and swollen eyes, the rest of his surroundings catching up to him in a blur. The sting of the cold stone subway platform still clung to his skin, even as he righted himself -- dust falling off of him like somebody shaking out and old rug.

His vision focused more and more with each slow blink of the eyes. But nothing around him made any more sense still. Two blurry figures stood atop an overturned Metro train, firing careful shots into undead stragglers running rampant across the platform -- pouring into the tunnel from the streets above. Dead bodies fell limply to the ground as bullets found their targets time and time again.

George struggled to his feet, wobbling a bit as he regained his balance. He felt around his body with his hands, trying to assess what kind of bodily harm he had succumbed to -- but honestly, his entire body ached.

A stranger's face ran past in a blur, offering him nothing but a passing glance as the woman hopped the tracks, disappearing behind the train. George rubbed his eyes, trying to get his mind back into focus, but everything was just a daze.

"That's him right there!" a familiar voice called out from behind him. He spun around, nearly losing his step -- but Jessica caught him by the arm before he had a chance to fall. "Help me get him out of here," she shouted to the blonde haired woman next to her. The wide-eyed woman grabbed George's other arm and started ushering him across the tracks as Natasha and Dyomie emptied their clips into the wave of walkers rushing into the tunnel.

Schantz limped close behind the rest as they retreated toward the commons. "C'mon, you two!" she shouted to the girls on the train as she hobbled across the tracks. "This place is done for!"

Natasha cast a sideways glance at Dyomie who just kept firing away. She shrugged back at Schantz. "Go on! We'll hold the fort!" she called back with a wave. Schantz knew it was bullshit, but she wasn't in a position to argue. They might be suicidal, but at least they had guns.


* * *


"Over this way," Althea shouted -- waving the beam of her flashlight back and forth at them. The hail of gunfire drummed in the background, further down the halls behind them. Jessica and Lisa pulled George's limp frame through the doorway and rolled him onto the ground -- unconscious once more. Schantz followed last, closing the door behind her as she braced herself against the frame weakly.

Rafiq came rushing up from the small crowd. "What-- is that all of you?" he asked, worriedly. "Who are these people?" Lisa and Althea looked at the group of strangers surrounding them, not a familiar face in sight -- save for Tara's.

"Oh, Rafiq!" Jessica cried out, pulling him in tightly for a hug. "We were so worried about you and Molly... we thought--" She looked around the crowd, her spirits fading fast as she realized whose face was missing. She looked back at him, crushed. "Oh, Rafiq..." she said, sadly.

"What happened to George?" Lillian asked, kneeling down to inspect him.

Tara looked at Jessica and the others. "It's a, uh-- long story, kid."

"What about the rest? Marie just left to go find her sister and Natasha! They're still out there!" Phillip protested.

Tara cut him off, sharply. "All our friends are out there. If they aren't here now, they ain't comin'. You didn't see what we saw." She wiped some of the blood from her nose with the back of her sleeve with a sniffle and went to sit down.

"We're not just leaving them out there," Phillip demanded, moving for the door. Jessica reached for him as he forced his way out the door, but it was too late.

"We can't keep spitting up like this!" Wayne shouted. "We have to stay together. We're stronger that way."

Rafiq nodded, shutting the door behind Phillip. "He's right. We can't keep running off like this. If this is who we have, then we have to leave before more of those walkers get down here."

Jessica chimed in, rolling up her sleeves. "Where did you pack my blueprints?" she asked, walking over to a nearby table. Rafiq ran over to a roughly organized pile of bags and backpacks and fished one out of the back. He unzipped it, puling out several blue sheets and laying them out flat. Jessica squinted her eyes, tracing her finger across familiar angles and notations. "This room here... that's us," she began. "Since the main entrance is full of walkers, that means Platforms A and B are completely compromised. But-- the service tunnels should lead us back to the street." She bit her lip as she roamed further down the blueprint. "It would let us out right on Santa Monica boulevard."

"You think that's far enough away from all this?" Wayne asked, unsuredly.

"We have to hope so," Jessica replied, brushing her hair out of her face. "We can leave out the back as soon as we're ready."

"And the others?" Annabelle asked, somberly. "Phillip is right. They might need our help."

"We're no good to them here," Tara mumbled. "We've got the kids... injured... sick..." she gestured at Annabelle, "old."

"And not enough weapons either," Rafiq admitted, trying to help reason. He reached into his pocket and fished out the note he had been working on. "Look, I started writing a note... for whoever comes in here after us. We'll write down directions and leave it here on the table under the lamp for them to find."

Tara shrugged. "It's the least we can do, I guess."

"Let's get to it then, folks. Grab what you can," Rafiq said, rubbing his hands together. "And somebody wake George up..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC)
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"Come on, up! Up! Now!" James shouted upwards at Stephanie as she climbed up to the roof via a utility ladder following behind the others. The old man sure had a way of motivating others to do exactly what needed to be done when push came to shove. Harper watched from above as the petite woman cycled her boots upward rung by rung, climbing closer to the top with every motion. James kept pace behind her, then slowed down after he realized that he was out of reach of the walkers' graspy hands, more resembling hooks than anything human at all. "Hurry up, Glasses! We're not going to pull you up ourselves!"

Harper watched as the girl obligingly scrambled up the ladder at exactly the pace James had wanted her to go, and then decided to just extend her hand downward to assist her ascent onto the roof. That was easily about eight stories' worth of height that everyone had bounded up rapidly.

"Thanks," Stephanie panted after she knelt on the ground to catch her breath. She, like the others, was covered in dust, from the top of her head down to her ripped stockings.

Harper nodded and extended a hand to help her up. "I'm really happy to see you," she said in an attempt at an appropriate but warm greeting.

Stephanie offered a short smile before looking in the direction of the overturned truck. She rushed to the ledge of the roof in the spot where the view of the scene would be most optimal, and looked down over the edge only to gasp loudly. One of the largest swarms of walkers she'd ever seen rushed the intersection that the truck lay overturned in. Scores upon scores of undead teemed about the silver vehicle. She could have sworn that she'd spotted dismembered body parts, and, sure enough, the remnants of Maria's blood-stained shirt started to circulate through walkers that tossed the useless thing off and away to another walker who in turn shoved it away, and so on, until it spiraled out on the outer valence of the gathered horde.

Harper sauntered over to her side and watched as she swallowed the lump forming in her throat. She even had to wonder what became of Nathan or Steve... but for now she couldn't worry about that. She watched Stephanie wring her hands nervously and ball her hands up into fists, holding them against her stomach anxiously. "Do you see them?!" she blurted out nervously, her voice straining with worry. "I... I can't see any of them!"

Niobe and Carl watched as James cleared his throat and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Now, can you tell me what the fuck transpired down there and caused all this?" he demanded impatiently, tossing the massive knife he'd been wielding down at his feet. "In fact, I'm not asking, I'm not requesting--I'm telling you. Spill it. Now."

Stephanie kept her arms in front of her, freezing them in place as she gritted her teeth. "You made me leave them," she said stiffly, continuing to stare down below, looking for any sign whatsoever of Nathan, his friend, Terrence, Spencer... and Thomas. The more her eyes darted about, the more nauseous she became.

"Goddammit, you're not listening to me!" James fumed, his voice a special kind of gravelly angry.

Harper jumped back as Stephanie whirled around and clenched her fists down by her sides, narrowing her eyes angrily. On a certain level it almost looked as though she were pleading him to stop antagonizing her. "No, I'm not listening to you!" she yelled back with equal vigor. "Now back the fuck off!"

James glared at her. "Look, Glasses, I didn't see a wedding ring on your finger, which means you better snap out of it and fly right this instant!" he snapped rapidly. "If that wasn't family, you've got no room to be like this."

Harper stepped between the two and held her hands up. "Hey, hey, let's take a minute," she ordered dryly. "She'll tell you what happened. Give her a few minutes. Waiting isn't going to get us killed, is it?" She turned her face to the older man and tilted her head inquisitively. He let out an exasperated sigh from his nose and begrudgingly nodded. He spat on the ground as he turned on the heel of his boot to put some distance between himself and the feisty girl who apparently wasn't afraid to yell back at him. Harper turned back to Stephanie, who had already been returned to the ledge to continue watching the scene. Her face was fallen and ashy as she watched the horde hack at the truck filled with fresh death. One thing the walkers couldn't do was unlatch the cover of the truck bed, thankfully, but that wasn't what Stephanie was focused on.

"Is she going to be all right?"

Harper turned suddenly to meet Jack's concerned expression. Laura, Niobe, and Carl stood in a small cluster, watching with great interest. She nodded to them and looked back to Jack. "I think so," she said matter-of-factly, almost absent as she said it as she continued to focus on Stephanie. "I've never seen her like this before."

Jack blinked. "Wait, is this the girl you met on that boat?" he asked, drawing conclusions based on what information Harper and Tara had earlier shared with him as the group swapped stories throughout the week that had gone by since they went underground. Harper nodded slowly. He furrowed his eyebrows and briefly studied Stephanie's body language. "Who's down there?"

Stephanie turned around, looking as though she was struggling to hold back tears. "Tom's down there," she said, dread filling each syllable she spoke. "And so is Terrence. And Spencer. Jordan. Maria. Alejandro." She turned her eyes to Harper and sighed. "You guys told Tom to come look for me last week. And he found me." Stephanie turned to stare again at the scene below, searching for any details that perhaps they were okay.

It suddenly clicked in Harper's mind. She frowned deeply. The tall soldier that had come to say goodbye to Stephanie when they were all lined up against the cold metal wall on the frigate--the same soldier that she, Schantz, and Nathan had flagged down through the fence at the FEMA camp when things were starting to go very poorly. He'd recommended that they make a run for it after they told him that Stephanie was under quarantine in a medical unit. They'd helped Stephanie, and he helped them.

What a horrible way for their paths to cross again.

# # #

It had been twenty minutes since they'd come onto the roof. James' temper had quelled considerably and so had Stephanie's. The girl explained that their group had loaded up three vehicles full of supplies the previous night, and happened to run across a fairly skittish George after encountering Nathan, Steve, and Schantz.

After Stephanie finished explaining what had happened, there was a thick haze of silence that hung over the roof. The afternoon sun still bore overhead and the sounds of the roaring, starving walkers below was thankfully faint due to their height above the concrete below.

James dragged a hand down his jowls, blinking his eyes in near disbelief. "Well, ain't that a son of a bitch," he grumbled, looking down at his boots.

"George did seem a little bothered today," Harper observed aloud. "He was pretty tense when I'd talked to him this morning." Niobe nodded her agreement.

"We'll need to verify this," James said, putting a hand up. "I don't know if we can trust you," he said pointedly to the girl in the glasses.

Stephanie rolled her eyes and sighed. "No, it's not that you don't trust me, it's that you don't believe me," she corrected emphatically, a lilt of frustration laced into her tone. "And it doesn't matter to me if you believe me or not. I know what I saw."

"Actually, it's pretty important that we believe you," Niobe spelled out. "Who else can corroborate your story?"

"Tom," Stephanie answered simply. She then looked over at her shoulder toward the ledge and then turned her attention back to the others. "Well. Maybe Tara. Maybe she saw some of it."

"So it's George's word versus yours," Niobe countered.

Stephanie shrugged. "We never shot," she said plainly.

"But you said your guy, there, drew a weapon on him," Jack said thoughtfully. "Man's got a right to defend himself."

"Well, 'your guy, there,' drew a weapon on me, first," Stephanie corrected, her brown eyes boring intensely into his. "Tom was trying to help me."

Harper shook her head. "Well, we aren't going to solve the world's problems right now," she offered calmly. "For now, we just need to-"

And suddenly, a bright flash shone from the north. "Cover your eyes!" James shouted instinctively, years' worth of bomb drill training in childhood and tours in Vietnam taking a hold of his reflexes as he reached forward to push those closest to him, Carl and Laura, down on the ground. The others followed suit. A loud BANG! thundered out across the city and the roof refuge began to sway as the road shook. After several seconds, everyone slowly opened their eyes and stood, wandering to look north at the massive ball of fire showing up over the horizon.

"What the hell was that?" Carl asked peculiarly.

"I think that was San Francisco," James glumly answered.

A hush fell over the group.

Until, the sound of several scraping feet all heading in one direction began to heap itself toward the direction of the sound. The small group rushed to the ledge on the north end of the building and peered downward--walkers were starting to amble curiously and purposefully toward the sound of the bomb, or whatever it was, that had lit the sky.

Harper looked curiously at Jack, then back down below. Weird.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)
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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They took another corner.

The group walked through the corridors in near grim silence. Only Jessica would occasionally order them to stop so she could look at the blueprints. She and Rafiq were leading them, both holding a flashlight to light the way. The bombing had disrupted the power in this area of the tunnel system. The lights were not completely gone, but flashed faintly in and out of existence. It made the entire atmosphere eerie.

Rafiq tried to walk at a brisk pace, so they could reach Santa Monica Boulevard before the horde of walkers potentially could. Still, he couldn’t walk too fast. This wasn’t a group of athletes he was with. Wayne was still feeling ill, Schantz and George were injured. Sam and Lily were children and Annabelle a grandmother. Apart from Jessica, the only ones who still seemed capable were the two new woman, Lisa and Althea, but Rafiq didn’t know them or what they were made off. On top of that, most of them had a backpack with them, burdening them even further. It was a necessary evil though. They needed the backpacks, for there might not be time in the near future to scavenge for food.

They took another corner.

His own back was sore and he felt emotionally drained, but Rafiq tried not to show it to the rest. Without ever meaning too, he had become the leader of this band of misfits. Niobe, Harper, Jack, Dyomie and James, people who would all be a better fit them him, were not here. Part of him wanted George to take over, but the man was not thinking clearly at the moment and besides, he seemed to be distracted more and more of late anyway. At least there was Jessica, who shared the responsibility with him.

“Is everything alright, dear?” Annabelle’s voice suddenly came from behind.

Rafiq and Jessica turned around to see what was going on. Wayne had sat down on the floor, his backpack clutched in his right hand. The children took the opportunity to sit down as well.

“Just dizzy,” Wayne said, “need to stop walking for a sec.”

“What’s wrong with him?”
Asked the dark-coloured woman, Althea. Her question seemed genuine.

“The flu,” Wayne responded, “or something. Nothing to worry about, I can assure you.” He flashed his white pearly smile at the woman, clearly in an attempt to charm her. Althea looked away uncomfortably. The warning look Lisa gave him made him shrunk back.

“We can’t stay here for long Wayne,” Rafiq said, knowing that another walk was the last thing Wayne’s body needed, but also knowing that they had no choice.

“It’s not far, anyway,” Jessica said, pointing at something on her map, not entirely realizing that Wayne couldn’t see it. “Me and Rafiq can scout ahead and see if Santa Monica is clear.”

“Can I come with you?” Sam looked at his mother, the fear in his eyes betraying his calm demeanor.

“Honey, I -“

“I can go,” Lisa dropped her bag on the ground and stepped forward, “you stay here with you son.”

Jessica mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ to Lisa and showed her and Rafiq how to get to the Metro Station. Suddenly George was standing next to them as well. “I’m coming too.”

Lisa looked him over and said, “No, you’re not.”

“Excuse me? Who made you boss!”

“Nobody did. In the state you’re in, you’ll just be a liability. “ She exchanged a knowing glance with Althea, “Among reasons.”

“Like I care what you think. Come on, Rafiq, let’s go.”

Rafiq turned and looked at his old partner. “No George. Lisa is right, we’ll be faster with just the two of us.”

He braced himself for George’s reaction, expecting it not to be pleasant, but instead the old man just stared at him, flabbergasted. Jessica laid a hand on his shoulders and pulled him back. He followed her and took a sip from his water bottle. Rafiq had the feeling it did not contain water.

He and Lisa found the door towards the subway station easily enough. Rafiq opened it carefully while holding the hunting knife in his other hand. Lisa had raised her gun.

The station was empty, save for one walker who for some unknown reason was cuffed to a railing. The creature wore a police uniform and his gun was still in its holster. Rafiq walked up to it, stabbed it through the earlobe and took out the gun. He gave it to Lisa, who checked it.

“Still fully loaded. Did not fire a bullet once.”

“You would expect a gun to see more use these days.”

“Who knows. A free gun is a free gun.”


They went over to the escalator, which surprisingly was still working. Red spots of blood were coming and going as the steps went up and down. Rafiq stepped on one of the clean ones and rode upwards. For one moment, he allowed himself to feel the rush he always had when he got on an escalator. The things had always fascinated him. He remembered days as a child where he would ride them a couple of times in a row while his mother did some shopping. For that one moment, he could almost feel normal again.

As he and Lisa got to the surface, they stepped off the escalator and into the afternoon sunlight. The immediate vicinity was clear of walkers, though there were some in the distance they had to be careful of. It was not entirely clear whether they had been spotted or not. To their left was a row of food shops, a gas station the their right.

“If some of these cars work, maybe we can fill them up here,” Lisa suggested. The streets were filled with cars, apparently abandoned in a hurry.

“Maybe. But I do not wish to leave. The other group could be coming right after us.”


He pointed towards a building opposite the street. It was a bit taller than the surrounding buildings and the roof would give a good vantage point. It turned out to be a spa centre, specializing in skin care. Yet, as they walked up to it, they saw something else.

A large message was painted on one of the windows, reading ‘Carry, I took Stella to my parents. Please come!’ Underneath the message were the bodies of a man and a young girl, both shot in the head and chewed on by walkers. “Ow God,” Lisa stammered.

Rafiq passed the scene and peered through the windows of the spa. The place was dark, but as far as he could tell, there was no walker activity inside. Still, the place looked large. He rather had a bunch of other people with him to clear it out.

“The area is safe enough. Let’s go back,”
he said. Lisa agreed.

As they made their way back, something Lisa had said bugged him.

“What did you mean about George, when you said: among reasons?”


Lisa looked at him, as if she was trying to assess his character. George had looked at him the same way a week before, but something told him Lisa would not appreciate the comparison.

“I don’t find this George very trustworthy,”
she said.

“That’s not all though.”

“No, it’s not.”


They were silent for a while and Rafiq began to think she no longer wanted to talk about it. Then she said: “He shot at us. Or at least, I think he did.”

Rafiq felt like he should feel shocked. The fact that he wasn’t was even worse.

“Shot at you?”


“Yeah, but like I said, I’m not sure. I was in another car, some distance away and everything was very chaotic. But before all hell broke loose, I thought I heard a shot. Look, he may have aimed at a walker, I don’t know. But something seems off about him.”

Rafiq knew better then to defend George. He hoped it wasn’t true, but he hadn’t been there.

They turned the last corner of where they had left the group.

What they found was downright bizarre. Two people were holding down another person on the floor, who was resisting heavily. A fourth person was slumped against the wall.

The scene was dark and it was hard to tell who was who.

It was Lily who spotted them first.

“Something happened,” she said matter-of-factually.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC)
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# Sarah Hawke #

It was like rush hour, but with walkers.

That was the only way Sarah could rationalize the volume of stumbling undead creatures filling the streets and sidewalks around her. She crouched low, holding Charlie by his collar as he eyed the walkers with interest, his tail wagging only the tiniest bit. Her shoulder continued to throb where the strap of the duffle bag had been rubbing her skin raw. The bag rest on the ground now as she and the dog took shelter behind an overturned dumpster. Sarah sized up the flow of walkers, weighing whether or not she'd be able to sneak through without having to divert several blocks out of her way to loop around to the tunnels -- but there seemed to be few options left. The longer she stayed outside, the more likely she was going to be spotted... and she wasn't exactly mobile, considering her baggage -- canine and otherwise.

Sarah wiped the dirt and grime from her forehead with the back of her hand with one quick motion. She wished she could say for certain that a hot shower laid somewhere in her near future... but near futures didn't really exist anymore. One would count themselves lucky to have survived long enough to see the next sunrise in this new and uncertain world. Sarah felt lucky to have made it as far as she had... considering.

Charlie looked up at her, eager to keep moving. He nuzzled his nose in the nook of her arm as she pat his head, giving the street one last scan. If they moved quick, she was certain they'd be able to make it to the courtyard across the street unnoticed. Sarah adjusted the pistol tucked into her waistband and hoisted the large duffle bag back onto her shoulder, switching to the less sore one this time.

"Alright, pooch..." she said, quietly. "Let's go."

Charlie clipped along at her heels, careful to stay close as they maneuvered behind a gaggle of walkers -- near enough to smell the dead on them. The dog's tail slinked back between its legs as they moved along the street, stealthily. The low din of the walkers' groans was just barely enough to cover the pitter-patter of their feet on the hard pavement. Wherever these things were headed, they were all going the same direction.

Good news for her and Charlie. Bad news for whoever lied in the walkers' path.

The two of them had made a successful run towards the courtyard, until the inevitable happened... the strap of Sarah's bag caught on the corner of a downed street sign, severing the fabric in two. The bulk of the bag slammed into the ground, its rapidly adjusting weight bringing her down to her hands and knees with it. She caught herself on the edge of the curb, rolling to a stop in the center of the sidewalk. By the time she looked up, several nearby walkers had turned their attention towards her, swinging their lumbering bodies around to come after her. Charlie bore his teeth at them, the hair raising on his back as a low growl formed deep in his throat.

"Charlie, NO!" Sarah ordered, scrambling to pick up the duffle bag. But the dog was too nervous. A number of walkers split off from the moving pack to pursue their new targets, and Charlie couldn't help but try to get them to back off. He mustered up the loudest bark he could, trying to stave off the incoming horde. "Charlie, stop! she pleaded, reaching out for him with her other hand.

WOOF! WOOF!

More walkers turned towards the sudden commotion, the whole street transforming into a death trap. The nearest walkers reached their arms out towards the dog, who planted himself in front of Sarah, barking and snapping at the beasts. Sarah tried one last time to hoist the heavy bag into her arms before being forced with the difficult decision of leaving it behind. Assuming there was an opportunity, she'd have to come back for it. The first walker was already nearly within an arm's reach, and Sarah quickly dropped the bag and drew her pistol. Oliver had worked with her over the past week on her shooting form and technique -- enough that she could fire fairly confidently and surprisingly accurately. She still had to hold the gun with two hands because of the harsh blowback, but she was at least glad to have made some improvements.

Her thumb slid the hammer back, priming the first shot as she leveled it towards the incoming walker's head. Unlike the targets she had been practicing on, this one was swaying back and forth. She lined up her shot, waiting until it was uncomfortably close before firing. She steadied her arms, careful not to lock her elbows... and let it rip. The shot rang out loudly, exploding the side of the walker's head off into a red mist as it crumpled onto the street. She reset the hammer, aware now that she had the whole horde's attention.

Sarah barely even noticed Charlie's loud barks in the distance. Part of the mob had come between the two of them, and the dog was even more frenzied and worried now as he darted between their legs, dodging their grasping claws. She only afforded one quick glance, knowing that more walkers were just barely out of reach. In anticipation, she took a wide step backwards -- clipping the edge of the curb and falling backwards, barely holding onto her gun. She hit the ground hard, rolling over to right herself just as the next walker loomed into view over her. Sarah whipped the pistol straight into the air and fired up into the walker, catching it right near the collarbone. The bullet tore straight through it, but it kept moving. It keeled over, losing its balance and toppling right on top of Sarah -- pinning her to the ground. It's foully-odored breath washed over her as it snapped its decaying teeth at her face, ferociously. The walker knocked the pistol from her grip, skidding far out of reach to her dismay. Their arms swatted and wrestled with one another as Sarah fought to overpower the larger man to no avail.

And then she saw the blur of a shadow dart into view as Charlie launched himself into the walker from out of sight. The dog clamped tightly down on his upper arm with its teeth. The momentum of the dog's charge was enough to give Sarah some leverage to slide out from under the walker's body as Charlie pulled on the creature and she pushed. The dog shook the walker in its teeth, trying to protect his interim owner. A healthy chunk of cloth, skin, and muscle was torn from the walker's arm as Charlie twisted and pulled.

Sarah, gasping for breath, crawled towards her weapon -- oblivious to the dozens of walkers still lurching towards her and the dog. Once she felt the cool metal of the Coly Python back in her hand, she turned back around to help her canine companion. The walker flailed around, trying to get ahold of the animal, but it was too quick. Sarah struggled to her feet and planted the heel of her boot on the walker's chest, pinning it to the pavement. She clicked the hammer back one more time and unloaded one round into the creature's growling face. Charlie shied back from the loudness of the blast, his ears drooping low as he sulked to Sarah's side. She hugged her little furry savior, quickly checking his fur to make sure he was OK -- and turned back for her bag. She grabbed the end of the strap with her free hand and started dragging it towards the courtyard between the two adjacent buildings with all the strength she had left.

All she hoped was that it was enough to get out of this alive.


* * *


!#% CRASH %#!


The duffle bag landed with a thud as it skidded across the tile floor with the rest of the shattered glass from the storefront window. Sarah slid out of her jacket and laid it over the sharp frame, climbing carefully through. Charlie stood on his hind legs as Sarah bent over to pick him up and bring him inside too.

She turned around to face a darkened bookstore, a spiraling staircase set dead center amongst the many shelves and bookcases. The nearest one looked the lightest, and she quickly knocked the books to the ground so she could drag it over to cover the giant hole she'd made in the front. The giant wooden shelves slid inch-by-inch across the floor as Sarah put her whole back into it, pushing as hard as she could manage. She eventually got the thing situated against the window -- and turned around, slumping to the floor in a moment of deserved rest. Charlie padded over, sitting down next to her -- tongue waggling outside of his bloodied teeth and matted fur. He made a move to lick her face and she quickly dodged Charlie's disgusting lapping tongue. She scratched the soft spot underneath his chin as he rolled over next to her, just as happy as she was to finally be indoors again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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Christopher Jones

Christopher had found the building he was staying in 5 days ago, and so far, it was shaping up to be a decent shelter. The building had plenty of food and was adequately defended from the walkers. However, the mechanic wasn’t sure it could hold off against a horde of them, obviously attracted by the recent explosion, so he prepared to escape. As he gathered up his supplies he pondered his current situation.

While he had gathered enough food for several months, Christopher was somewhat worried. Not of any physical condition, but of loneliness. It seemed like a somewhat silly concern, but he’d seen what happened to people who were deprived of human interaction. He had seen and talked to so many of them that he could spot the signs. Basically they had behaved much as a young child would, with limited social and mental capabilities. They could also hallucinate.

Christopher knew that he would not survive if he lived without any human contact for a long time, nor would he want to. So he resolved to set out and find people he could interact with. Of course, there were a large number of walkers outside, and even if he could somehow manage to find humans without getting bit, there was no guarantee they’d be friendly.

Christopher’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard a loud crashing noise downstairs. The walkers. The former gang member stuffed whatever he could into his satchel and walked at a fast pace to the ladder to the roof. Walking at a normal speed wasted precious time, but running quickly would make him vulnerable to ambushes. There were many different routes through the building, and it was very likely that the walkers could wander up the ramp used for disabled employees at the former workplace. Christopher’s wise decision prevented him from dying in the building, as there was indeed a walker in the next corner. Christopher thought for a moment as to the method he should dispatch the walker. His shotgun, while most certainly effective, would alert even more walkers. His pocket knife? He didn’t think it had enough of a reach to take out the walker without getting too close. His fists? No. No way. Christopher bit his lip and narrowed his eyes. He was in trouble.

Just as the walker was about to close in there was a thump on the roof. This was all the chance Christopher needed. Quick as lighting, Christopher slammed the butt of his rifle into the walker’s face. The force of the impact shattered the walkers’ nose and flung him to the ground. Quick as a wink, Christopher maneuvered to the side of the walker, raised his foot, and brought it down on the walker’s head. CRUNCH! The walker’s face was now a mess of blood, rotted teeth, and skin, but Christopher wasn’t done yet. He continued to stomp on the walker and finally jump on him with all of his might.

Not wanting to look at the surely disgusting area where the walker’s head used to be, Christopher was about to continue onward when moans very close behind him prompted the man to literally leap out of harm’s way. Christopher turned around to see 2 walkers facing towards him. Christopher didn’t think that his previous strategy would work against more than one walker, and even if it did, he wouldn’t have enough time before more walkers showed up. Now would be a good time to run. Christopher bolted for the door leading to the ladder at a speed even a professional track runner would be impressed by. Once inside he slammed the door shut and was pleased to discover it had a lock. Right before the walkers busted through, he locked the door.

After that little encounter Christopher took a moment to catch his breath. He didn’t expect that little adventure to tire him out so quickly. I’m getting old, He thought to himself. The statement was not thought with bitterness or anger; merely a statement of fact. He wondered about the walker he had so brutally eliminated and pondered for a moment whether walkers feel pain. Despite everything, he didn’t hate the walkers. They were just animals following their instinct. Which was not to say he would complain if they were completely eliminated from the earth, nor would he forget the suffering they had caused. But he didn’t want them to suffer. What was the point? It wasn’t as if they would regret at the last moment their deeds, and it wasn’t as if killing them in a certain manner would help anyone. The best thing to do would be to survive.

He had rested long enough. The walkers moans’ were starting to gain in number, and if they broke through before Christopher escaped, he was dead. Christopher climbed up the ladder with haste, unlocked the ceiling door, (he had found the key and kept it in his pocket at all times) and opened it. It took his eyes a while to adjust to the sudden bright light of the sun, during which he finished climbing up. When his eyes successfully readjusted, he found himself looking at a surprised group of people. Hoping to break the ice, Christopher said, “Just so you know, there's a bunch of walkers downstairs. Say, are you looking for a group member? I may be old, but I can fix up cars, and the like, and I have experience shooting. Also, do you know what caused that huge explosion?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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"You always were such a useless boy," James Ahlstedt grumbles out. Fumbling with the tubes that feed him oxygen. His arms are covered in an array of wires and tubes that hook him into a machine that monitors various things about his health. Henry keeps a neutral face as he stares at his father; and wonders how he was so afraid of this frail man for so long.

"Never listened, always talked back, ended up marrying some whore," His father spits out.

Henry lets out a long, drawn out sigh and scratches his beard wearily. He knew this would happen, yet he agreed to sit at his fathers bedside for these final days anyways. He had no obligation to the man - really, but he knew that down the line there would be guilt over not seeing his father at least once before he passed away. As it is Henry couldn't believe the man still had the energy to speak at all.

"Where is that useless girl anyways, did she finally run off with all your things? Or perhaps pregnant again," His father pauses to let out a cough, "I wouldn't be surprised."

"Its such a shame we never had any other children, its a waste leaving my money to you. If only your mother were still here..." Henry stops listening to the words spewing forth from his fathers lips, instead standing abruptly and heading for the only window in the room. He peers out across the expanse of suburban housing and notes that there seems to be quite a bit of activity today. Several cop cars roll by with their lights blaring. Henry shakes his head and closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He hopes his headache will disappear on its own, but with how chatty his father seems to be he doubts it.

"I'm going to go get Elissa. Henry says to interrupt the maddening ramblings.

He quickly leaves the room to search for said woman. He finds her in the laundry room, folding bed sheets and humming loudly to herself. Henry wonders how the young woman can put up with taking care of dying people - Henry could sure never do it himself - but Elissa doesn't seem to be too affected by his father; which leads Henry to wonder if she's actually a saint in disguise.

"He's off on another rant, I'm going to step out and clear my head for a while. In other words Henry is going to find the nearest liquor store. However Elissa doesn't really need to know that. "Okay," she says simply, never once stopping her folding.

Henry nods to himself and leaves, hoping that by the time he returns his father has stopped acting the way he has been.



Its nearing noon by the time Henry returns with a bottle of cheap vodka. He first notes how quiet the house is when he enters and secondly realizes that the usual beeping of his fathers heart monitor has stopped. His hands clench around the bottle tightly as he feels anxiety well up inside of him. A light sheen of sweat has broken over his forehead as he marches up stairs. A feeling of grim despair floods him and he doesn't exactly understand why he's feeling these things. He focuses on the fact that the beeping is gone and has been replaced by a stranger kind of noise - a sort of grumbling groan, followed by the sick sound of crunching.

"What the hell?" .........






Present Day


For a moment Henry flounders, his body having been brought to ground level quite suddenly. His knee throbs, but he continues to thrash around against the hands that restrain him. He doesn't remember how he got here and it makes him all the more angry. Blood rushes to his head and he lets out a guttural noise.

"Get the hell off of me!" He shouts.

He feels a fist connect with his face, knocking his head back to the ground and causing a wave of dizzying nausea to stir up his stomach. He curses wildly and gets an arm free, reaching out to one of the people restraining him and striking out with a closed fist. He doesn't know if it connects because all he can feel is a distinct pain in his knuckles and another strike hit him.
He remembers with sudden clarity how he got here. Henry had been in the tunnels for only a little while, maybe a day but with his watch having broken a few days before he doesn't quite know how to tell the time down here. He could have been down there for a week for all he knows - though he hopes it hasn't been that long. Since things went to hell top ground he figured it would be safer down in a place like this, with less people there are less problems. He remembers stumbling upon these people; he had been angry that they were compromising his safety and had attacked one of them - a woman he thinks, but he isn't quite sure now.

Henry looks up at the two that are trying to restrain him, spitting out curse after curse before finally falling limp in exhaustion. His body aches and his legs are throbbing wildly. there's a distinct pain radiating from his head and black dots swim in and out of his vision. When they knocked him down he had hit his head pretty hard. Hard enough he probably has a concussion; he fights to stay conscious because of it.

"God."



Setting

Characters Present

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

"STOP IT! You're killing him!" Annabelle shouted from behind the pile of tussling bodies. Wayne laid another one into Henry as him and George struggled to hold him down. Tara sat back, slumped against the stone wall -- trying to catch his breath. Her right cheek sported a brand new shiner, courtesy of the enraged stranger. Althea and Lisa knelt at her side, making sure she was alright.

"Get off me! the man spat, kicking his feet out wildly. George rolled off of him, too exhausted to continue wrestling with the man. Wayne stood up, begrudingly. Taking a few steps back with his fists still balled up.

The man wiped the blood from his lip and spit on the ground, sitting up just barely. He rose to his feet and made like he was going to charge Wayne again.

"Don't do anything stupid, man..." Wayne pleaded. Henry looked around the room at the others, panting heavily in his drunken stupor. The world had fallen to shit outside and here they were, a bunch of people fighting each other. He took a step towards Wayne.

*CLICK*

"Lillian!" Jessica shouted out. The girl was pointing a pistol right at the man's head. Jessica quickly snatched it from the girl's grip, shooing her away from the men. "Where did you get this?" she demanded, holding the girl by the arm.

Lillian shook her hand off. "Seriously? There are guns lying around literally everywhere..." she said sarcastically.

Jessica couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked at Rafiq who shook his head in dismay, shrugging his shoulders.

"Enough of this!" Jessica shouted. "Rafiq tell me you found something?"

He nodded his head, happy to be able to deliver good news for a change. "We found a spa... it looks sturdy enough to be able to house the lot of us. And it's close. Only a few blocks south of here."

Jessica nodded. "Good... take everyone up there," she requested, grabbing him by the shoulder. She turned to the others. "George, Tara... stay behind with me. I'm gonna need help with our new friend."

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

"Rafiq's gonna need your help getting everyone up there safely," Jessica replied.

Everyone began to disperse slowly as Rafiq took Wayne, Lisa, Althea, Annabelle, Samuel, and Lillian to the surface. The girls helped Tara up before heading after the rest of the group. They slowly made their way down the dark corridor towards the service exit Rafiq had found. Once they were gone, George took the gun from Jessica's hands and turned to the menace who had shown up on their doorstep, looking at him one drunkard to another through blurried eyes.

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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Seven pairs of eyes set themselves upon the man who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, standing in a doorway that must have led down below into the building.

Niobe held up a hand and gestured to the others in the group. "You do not want to cross us right now," she insisted darkly, signaling for him to move away from the door and toward nearest outermost section of the roof. "Are you alone? We're searching you." She glanced back briefly at Carl and Jack, who immediately stepped forward to carry out her quick orders. She jogged ahead to the door from where the man had come in from and slammed it shut, in case there were indeed walkers that may have been making their way up to the roof, as he'd said.

"Ten bucks says that was a nuke," James drawled grittily, looking at his watch and staring northward.

Harper folded her arms across her chest, casting him a sidelong glance while facing the newcomer. "I'm not asking because I don't believe you," she started, "but I do want to know why you think it was a nuke. It could have been anything."

"That's right," he sighed resignedly. "What are you, maybe 30? You're too young to have seen old film reels about nuclear annihilation or sat under your desk in a bomb drill." He laughed out loud, mostly to himself. "You don't even know what the Cold War was. Well, maybe this old cat here could relate," he gestured toward the stranger, who cooperated with Carl and Jack in allowing them to search anything he had on him, "but anyway, that blast matched what they said would happen. A big, bright flash. A delayed blast. I learned how to count the distance between me and bombs while I was in Vietnam. Younger than you are, I might add." He turned his head back toward the north. "Don't forget the mushroom cloud. Which, you might recall, we saw. You can still see it, in fact." He gesticulated his hands anxiously toward the aforementioned cloud. "Gets worse and worse..." he muttered, trailing off.

There was a short silence that hung over the group as everyone exchanged glances. Harper pursed her lips and looked around. "Well, if that's the case, then what do we do?" she spelled out, as though detachedly and coldly reviewing their options. "The walkers are heading that way. If what this guy says is true, then this building is saturated with them and we can't go in through the door, there." Harper nodded toward the entrance the stranger had appeared at. Sure enough, the curious warbling of a couple of walkers echoed muffledly from the metal door.

Stevie peered down in the direction that two of the vehicles holding supplies had gone, spying them amidst the throng of undead piling northward, wandering in and around the entrance of the metro tunnel clearly labeled by the crooked signs close by. "There's enough room for almost all of us in those, just down there," she offered, waving and pointing down to the site. "I've got spare keys in my pocket." She shook her jacket by her side, keys jingling to confirm. "It'd be a tight squeeze, but we could do it."

"So, we'd have to go back down the steps," Harper said, turning from Stevie to the iron curling over the ledge connecting to the utility ladder they'd ascended to reach the roof, "back around the building, and get through the street, then pile into the vehicles?"

James shook his head. "I think it's better if we just go back through the building," he disagreed gruffly. "We don't know how much fuel is in those things, and we need to be under a roof, not on top of one." He looked toward the new man, who'd received a relieved nod of approval from both Jack and Carl after an extensive search. "What do you think? And what's your name, anyway?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke
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.: Calvin Hawke :.

Calvin stared at the blank white ceiling, running through lines from past movies in his head -- a past-time that had helped burn some of the hours cooped up in his cell. His empty meal tray lay next to him with its plastic silverware. The only remnants of what would have barely passed as a meal anywhere else: a luke-warm handful of beans, stale bread, and frozen carrots. He wondered how long he was going to be forced into this incarceration. All this had to certainly be enough punishment for a murder in self-defense, no matter who it was. Calvin rubbed at the gauze around his eye, still swollen despite all the days since. The ridges of his eye socket were still tender and bruised, but mostly he felt nothing anymore. It even kind've felt like the eye was still there. The rest of it was kind of a haze.

#!% BANG %!#

A loud sound from outside. Like something hitting metal, and then -- the door... swinging slowly open to a stop. Calvin sat up from the bed, craning his neck to look out into the hallway.

"Hello...?" he called out, timidly. No answer. The hallway... empty. Calvin swung his legs to the floor, straightening his shirt as the chains of his handcuffs rattled. His bare feet touched the cold tile, and he slowly walked towards the door -- uncertain of what was going on. As he neared the doorframe, sounds of shouts could be heard from the hallway to the left. Gunshots rang out intermittently. Calvin leaned against the doorway, checking both directions for any people -- but nobody was in sight.

He stepped into the hallway, breathing the cool new air in the first time in over a week. At his feet lay his guard, face down in his own unconsciousness. Deciding against heading towards the commotion, Calvin turned the other direction and walked as cautiously as he could -- stepping over the guard's body. As he approached the corner at the junction of the hallway we stopped, eyeing the tile for any movements of shadows. Thankfully there were none. The doorway across from him spilled out into the commons area, where a flickering light tried to illuminate the abandoned tables and tossed chairs scattered around the room. Calvin jogged across the hallway and stepped into the room, staying low in case there were others about. He crawled between a bookshelf and couch, his mind racing with what to do. He had been blindfolded on the way down and had no idea how to get back to the surface. More importantly, he wondered where all the convicts were. Was this Sarah's doing? Had someone on the inside helped spring him from his room? If so, where were they now...?

*TIP TAP TIP TAP*

Footsteps. Racing down one of the hallways outside. A dark blur darted past the doorframe followed by two others as Calvin ducked lower behind the couch. Walkers. Their trademarked snarls echoing through the corridors after their assailant. Calvin ran his hand over his face.

'The station's compromised?' he mused, confirming his fears to be true. Something bad must've happened. He hoped Sarah got out alright.

He waited til the screams faded away down the hallway and began scouring the room for something he could use as a weapon. His hands were still cuffed together, so his mobility was slightly limited. After weighing his options, he ended up deciding on a screwdriver he found tucked in one of the sofa cushions. Calvin tucked the tool into his waistband and turned to go, but something caught his eye suddenly -- a soda machine, pried wide open. Calvin had spent over a week dreaming of such things. He crept over to it, reaching deep into the back for one of the last Dr. Peppers. The luke-warm soda still felt cool to the touch as he grabbed one and popped it open, closing his eye as he guzzled it down. Calvin wiped his mouth clean and tossed the can on the ground next to him.

Before the taste had even left his mouth, more shouts sounded out from the hallways. Calvin vaulted back over the couch, fumbling for his screwdriver. A young man in patched coveralls dove through the doors with a man in his arms. The two crashed into the tile floor, painfully sliding to a stop. The panicked inmate rushed back and slammed the doors shut, pinning them shut by jamming his crowbar into the handles. He turned back around, running to his partner -- who lay on the ground, suffering from serious wounds of his own.

"Hey, man-- hey! It's gonna be alright, OK? W-We just gotta stay in here until, uh--" The guy's voice broke off as he started to freeze up. Something bashed against the barred doors -- the first of many undead pursuers. Calvin gripped his screwdriver tightly, peeking between the couch and adjacent loveseat. The kid's friend began convulsing even heavier now, as he strained to hold him down, eventually fading into a quiet stillness as his eyes glazed into a yellowy darkness. The kid fell back onto his knees, speechless. Outside, more walkers clamored against the door.

Calvin rose from behind the couch to face the young man. "You need to kill him," he said firmly. The kid jumped to his feet, quickly realizing he was unarmed.

"Y-You're the-- how did you get out?" the inmate stammered, eyes widened with panic.

Calvin held up his hand. "That doesn't matter right now. You need to kill this man before he--"

"S-Shutup. He's already dead! Can't you see that?"

"You know what I mean," Calvin growled back, taking a step forward.

The young man clenched his fists. "Go fuck yourself."

With that, he launched himself at Calvin swinging high at his head. Calvin threw his arms up, catching the man's wrist in the chain of his handcuffs. He pulled down with all his might, yanking the kid in and shouldering him in the jaw. They both fell to the floor in a tangled mess, kicking at one another as they tried to detach.

"You idiot!" Calvin barked between blows. The kid threw his knee up int Calvin's gut, knocking most -- if not all -- of the air out of it. He rolled over to his side as the kid ran towards the door for his weapon. Calvin hadn't realized that somewhere during the struggle he had lost his screwdriver too -- and he scanned the floor, spotting it not too far away. Calvin scrambled for it on his hands and knees, breathing heavily. As soon as he grabbed it, he whirled around -- driving it straight into the skull of the dead inmate -- just as its jaw began snapping and its reanimation was beginning. Calvin twisted the tool deep into its head with a grunt, sweat pouring down his head.

"You son of a bitch! What did you do?! the other prisoner's voice roared from the front of the room. Calvin looked over to see the kid standing at the front door, pulling the crowbar out from between the handles. The kid reared around, turning to charge at him -- but the doors burst open behind him as several walkers came crashing through. They washed over him instantly, continuing into the larger part of the room as if swallowing him up like a wave.

The mob of creatures bumped into tables and chairs as they clumsily filed in, devouring the idiot kid's corpse. Calvin grabbed hold of the screwdriver and used it to flip the dead body of the inmate he was sitting upon on top of himself to hide his scent -- his heart pounded against his chest to the sound of the young inmate being torn apart a few feet away.

'From one Hell straight into another...' he thought to himself, gritting his teeth against the weight of the inmate's body.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC)
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Blackthorne & Co.

The flash that could be seen from the rooftops was nothing but a heavy “boom” sound to the small group that had taken cover in an alleyway near to the destroyed truck. They had looked up at once and then Clarkson and Blackthorne had both glanced at Holloway. The former Airforce pilot nodded in confirmation of their answered.

“Nuclear.” Was all he said. The soldiers swore, the civilians looked scared.

“We need to get undercover.” Blackthorne said. For the moment the blast seemed to have distracted the Walkers and he gazed upwards into the black smoke that was still pouring into the city from the surrounding countryside. “Soon that’s going to be radioactive ash if that southern wind keeps up.”

“Son. Of. a’fooking. Bitch.” Clarkson spat each word out as he grimaced against the pain that was tearing through him. He was upright, and that was an improvement from where he’d been five minutes ago with Maria trying to claw his face off. Holloway had offered him a small vial of morphine but he had shook his head. He needed his actions to be clear and precise no matter what for the foreseeable future.

“Agreed.” Replied Nathan, the TV cameraman, from where he stood a few paces away, his face grey with fatigue and fear.

“Where to?” Clarkson growled, his accent noticeably thicker with the pain. He was almost as white as a sheet and had begun to tremble slightly. They would need to find somewhere safe and take a look at his shoulder, fast.

“I would say up but if what remains of San Francisco starts raining down on us we certainly don’t want to be on a rooftop. I would suggest an upper floor with a clear method of escape should we need it.” Blackthorne was scanning the surrounding buildings as he spoke, darting occasional glances down the street towards where the walkers had become temporarily distracted by the explosion.

The others looked up and gauged the nearby buildings. Most of them were newer, their facades solid glass and steel with no hope of outside escape route except for shattering a window and repelling down into the street below. Not a happy option. Further down the street, away from the main road where their truck had been hit, there were several older buildings of brick with the ancient metal fire escapes running down the sides.

“Artist studios on the top two floors.” It was the older of the two civilians who spoke. “I shot a couple stories up there a few years back. Nothing fancy but they have running water and small gas kitchens. As far as I know, no one actually lives in there so the odds are good it’s empty. Lower levels are private residences, mostly Yuppies from out of town.”

Blackthorne nodded his understanding and thanked the man quickly before motioning Nathan towards Clarkson where the soldier sat slumped slightly on an overturned garbage can, his eyes glazed over with pain.

“Bring him along big fella, keep him as close as you can. Holloway, lets clear a path. Steve, right?” He asked the older man who nodded. “Keep close, shout out if anything starts coming up on us from behind.”

Nathan took Clarkson under his good arm and lifted him. The men were of similar size which was a blessing in disguise. Blackthorne had slung his rifle and drawn his sidearm with silencer. The less noise they made at the moment the better. Holloway did the same.

They moved off quickly down the alley. There were no walkers in the alley itself but beyond the far end, where it opened into the street, they could see a flow of Walkers moving northwards. They paused roughly a dozen feet from the mouth of the alley, partially concealed by a large dumpster bin that had been pushed part of the way into the alley entrance.

Blackthorne glanced up at the buildings on either side of them and it was an easy choice to make on which one they would access. One of them was untouched while the other had several bodies collapsed on the fire escape. One of them was still moving but it was trapped on its back and couldn’t see them, preventing it from alerting the rest to their presence.

“We are going to go hard and fast around the corner and into the front of the right hand building.” Blackthorne whispered to the group. “I will breach the door, Holloway you provide covering fire. You two,” He gestured to the civilians. “Keep Clarkson moving with us.”

Once he had nods from all of them he stepped quickly into the alley and with a few quick strides was around the corner. Two walkers were with their backs to him and he dropped them both within seconds. There was nothing to be done about the hundreds who were behind them, their moans increasing the second they laid eyes on him. He heard Holloways pistol fire as he made his way to where the front door of the old building gaped invitingly.

He stepped into the darkness, snapping on the flashlight at the base of his pistol and quickly scanning the atrium. It was empty. An elevator faced him, an old metal style cage rose into the darkness above, a staircase winding its way around the cage climbed upwards as well. He headed for the stairs.

Each floor had a small landing with four doors that opened onto it. Some were open and their interiors showed signs of a struggle but nothing lurched towards them from within. One particular room was packed with furniture near the entrance, clearly someone had just been moving in when the plague broke.

“We could use it to block the stairs?’ Holloway said as the rest of the party joined him. Below, through the metal cage of the elevator shaft, they could the walkers flooding into the atrium and slowly beginning to climb the stairs.

“Solid plan.” Blackthorne said. “Steve, keep an eye up the stairs. Nathan, set Clarkson down on the steps and then give us a hand.”

The three men hurried into the studio, a quick sweep proving it to be empty. First they grabbed a large couch and hurled it down the stairs so that it lodged on the landing below. It made a terrific crash as it landed and the entire elevator cage rattled loudly. They all glanced at Blackthorne.

“Nothing for it lads, they already know we’re here. Move it!”

Piece by piece they tossed the entire mass down the stairs until the landing below was a jumble of chairs, couches, tables, TV’s and everything else they could find. It wasn’t a very sophisticated barrier but it proved impassable for the walkers for the moment. One or two tried to worm their way through gaps but bullets to the head halted that, and plugged the gaps rather well.

“It ain’t pretty, but it’ll do.” Muttered Blackthorne as he gestured upwards. “Up we go. Upper floor if we can, We need fully intact windows and some furniture for barring the door.”

The top floor, the seventh in total, had four doors like those below but all were closed and locked. Blackthorne pressed his ear to them but could heard nothing over the moans below as they echoed up the stairs and drowned out all but shouted conversation. He glanced at Steve who pointed to the one on the left.

“That’s the one I spoke to the guys in, it has access to the fire escape on the far side of the building!”

Blackthorne nodded and then and he Holloway threw their body weight into the door and it exploded inwards. Blackthorne hit the ground, rolled, and came up weapon drawn. The space was empty save for all the materials for an artist studio. But what a studio… There were four rooms, the two with windows were white with large beds, nice sheets and look like luxury penthouse rooms. The other two were painted black with several wooden apparatus that had shackles bolted to them. Each room had comfortable looking chairs located on two sides of the room. They all looked at Steve with raised eyebrows.

“It’s art.” He said with a sheepish grin. “Porn’s a big industry.”

“I think I’ve seen this room before.” Said Holloway, gesturing to one of the white rooms and they couldn’t help but chuckle.

A continued search turned up numerous sex toys, whips, chains, latex suits, and all sorts of other strange items that none of them would admit to having tried themselves. Thankfully the space did not also come with an undead dominatrix to spice things up.

They used one of the beds and the heavy wooden BDSM frames to shore up the door. The heavy wood used in the sex props turned out to be surprisingly robust and would withstand anything but a heavy battering ram.

When they had closed the door and used one of the mattresses to back stop it, pinning it in place with the heavy timbers, they had lain Clarkson down in the other bed. He was lucid still and eyed them all as they gathered around him, strangely out of place in a room that had never seen such heavily armed visitors.

“I ain’t this easy boys.” He said with a pained grin. “Yer gunna have ta buy me dinner afore I let you take advantage of me.”

Holloway had sat next to him and carefully pulled his battledress aside to look at the joint. He gently prodded the injury, each prod bringing forth a stream of abuse in Celtic, a language only Clarkson spoke.

“It’s out of place. I can put it back in but it’s going to fucking hurt.” Holloway said at last, sitting back on the mattress with a grunt. “But it’s that or be a wounded gimp for the rest of your natural life.”

Clarkson glowered at him. “Well git on wit it then ya big ape!” He said with a snarl.

Holloway smiled faintly and then gestured for Blackthorne to hold the other shoulder. He did a few cautious movements and then suddenly gave the shoulder a solid yank. There was a moan from Clarkson and a pop as the shoulder snapped back into place.

“Fook me…” Clarkson muttered as he took an offered morphine capsule and stabbed it into his leg.

“Better be careful what you say in this place, that might happen.” Blackthorne said but his words fell on deaf ears, Clarkson had passed out.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong
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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Their small group made it back to the surface without any incident. As expected, none of the walkers had come any closer. The children had a bit of fun with the escalators, before they all stepped into the sunlight.

Wayne stood there, grinning like a child. “God, I forgot how good the sun felt . This is exactly what the doctor ordered.” It was true. He already seemed much better than before. Rafiq couldn’t help noticing how handsome Wayne could be and smiled despite himself.

“What is that?” Althea pointed at something in the far distance. Some sort of weird cloud had formed in the distance, just visible above some of the lower rooftops.

Rafiq dismissed it, “Just some strange weather.”

“That’s not caused by weather,” Annabelle said barely audible. She looked nervously at the children, then back at Rafiq. “That’s caused by something nuclear.”

“Nuclear?” Asked Lisa, “Did they bomb another city?”

Annabelle sighed, in a way that indicated she did not want it to be true, but knowing it was so. “Yes. And they must have used something more heavy this time.”

“Is it safe? With the whole radiation thing I mean.”

“Mostly, I think. The wind could be problematic. I think it’s better we stay someplace inside, for the time being.” Annabelle looked at the children again, but they were hardly bothered by the news. With all the stuff that has been happening lately, this did not seem to matter much to them anymore.

Rafiq gestured towards the spa he and Lisa had scouted out earlier. “Right, then I suggest we go in there. It has not been cleared yet, so be careful.”

As they went over to their new safe house, they all saw the scene of the man and the child with the message for Carry. None of them said anything, but it felt to Rafiq that all of them became somewhat quieter than before.

He stopped by the door and everyone took out a weapon, even the children, who both had a knife of their own. “I’m not going to ask where you got those,” Rafiq said to them and then opened the door. The lobby was empty. Posters and signs with all sort of health and beauty tips were everywhere, promising the woman (for some reason, all of them were directed towards woman) a clean and clear skin, a youthful look or the perfect getaway from the husband and children.

“Alright, we better clean this place up.”

They split up in groups. Rafiq and Althea went one way, Wayne and Lisa the other. Annabelle, Sam and Lily stayed behind to watch the entrance.

Most of the rooms were sparsely filled, mostly containing one or two beds or lounging chairs with a cabinet that contained all sorts of skin products. Althea got particular excited over finding a special crème for her skin, stating that it was developed for black woman only. There were also locker rooms, a small swimming pool, a sauna and a ‘meditation room’, which was decorated with rocks and plants. The place was nice, if not a bit clinical, assuming all the facilities were still working. Good news was that there were no walkers, or even dead bodies, to be found.

They got back to the entrance, but Wayne and Lisa had not gotten back yet. Annabelle had sat behind the reception desk, but Lily and Sam were both still guarding the door, holding up their weapons in all seriousness.

“They won’t give the knives back to me,” Annabelle said with a disapproving tone, “and honestly, I don’t know anymore if that is a good or a bad thing.”

“They’re not yours, right?” Althea asked.

Annabelle laughed at that, “You’re sweet, but we both know I’m way too old to be their mother. And no, I’m not their grandmother either.”

At that moment, Lisa and Wayne got back from upstairs. Wayne was covered in blood and guts, but where Lisa looked annoyed, he for some reason appeared quite happy.

“You had an encounter?” Rafiq asked as he went up to them.

“Yes,” Lisa said, “two of them. There were some other bodies as well, but they were already truly dead.”

“One of them came really close to me,” Wayne said conversationally, as if he just not had a brush with death, “but wonderful Lisa here took them out.” He winked at her. She rolled her eyes and walked away.

Wayne turned his attention back on Rafiq. “You want to see?”

“No, I believe you.”

“No, I think you really want to SEE.” Wayne put emphasis on his last word, which made Rafiq curious. What could be so important about a couple of dead walkers? He followed Wayne back up the stairs. There were more rooms here, some reserved for spa treatments, but towards the back there were rooms strictly meant for personnel. Wayne opened a door that had a sign on it: ‘Meeting room’.

There were five bodies in the room. Two were still seated, heads resting on the table. Both of them were woman and it appeared they had been shot. A third one was over by the window, slumped down and his leg in a strange angle. The last two were closer towards the door and it was clear these were the two walkers Lisa and Wayne had taken down. Not only did they have fresh wounds, if you could call them such, but they both had that weird sickly greyish look all walkers had. None of the other bodies had the same colouring. Apparently they had never turned.

On the table were a couple of suitcases. One of them was open, stuffed with a large amount of cash.

Rafiq whistled. “That’s a lot of money. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much in one place.”

Wayne laughed at that. “I know, right. There is easily a couple of grand in there.” He took out a couple of stacks and threw them in the air. “Of course, not worth jack shit anymore.”

“Indeed. So, is that what you wanted to show me? Suitcases filled with useless cash?”


Wayne checked the door, but none of the others had followed them. “Not exactly,” he replied mysteriously, “Lisa thinks there is only money here, but I peeked inside one of the other suitcases.”

As he said that, he unclasped another one. It did not contain any money, but small bags. Filled with white powder.

Rafiq swallowed. “Cocaine.”

Wayne’s eyes sparkled. “Isn’t it great.” He opened another suitcase, which to Wayne’s delight was filled with cocaine as well.

“I wouldn’t call it great,” Rafiq said, “I don’t use that stuff.”

“Neither do I, man,” Wayne responded defensively. He opened the fourth and last suitcase. That one contained more money. “But think about it. Money isn’t worth anything anymore, but this,” he held up one of the bags, “this could be pure gold.”

“You want us to start a drugs operation?”


“Not especially, but there will be people out there who would want this stuff. Desperate people. And desperate people are willing to trade a lot for this.”

“Desperate people might do more than just trade,” Rafiq said uncertainly. He had always tried to stay away from drugs. Being near this large an amount made him uncomfortable.

Wayne unconsciously scratched the back of his neck and had an expression that said 'I don't get why you're not on board'. “Come on buddy, don’t be like that. I’m not saying we should advertise ourselves to every crack head and crook out there, but there will come a time when we need to make a trade. I’m sure of that. Don’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“Then this could be our perfect bargaining chip.”


Rafiq looked on as Wayne closed the suitcases. Part of him knew that they should use every resource they could find. But another part of him wanted to throw all the stuff away. It felt all wrong.

“And what if I were to give you a kiss?”

“Excuse me?”
Rafiq felt himself turning red. Did Wayne notice him looking?

Wayne laughed with that bright smile of his. “Come on, I’m just joking. Didn’t know you were such a homophobe.”

“I’m... I’m not.”

“Alright then. Just help me hide these, would you.”

Rafiq grunted something in agreement. Maybe be he was just being too cautious. It was not like there was still police around to arrest him again.

Shortly after, he helped Wayne to hide the two suitcases in one of the other rooms.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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Henry stares at the form of his father hunched over, dead from the looks of it. A large wound smack dab in the center of his forehead. Still dripping blood and showing fragments of bone. Henry doubles over, retching at the sight. He's got a strong stomach but the sight of his own fathers head split open just doesn't sit well in any situation. It takes him a moment to notice the blood covering his mouth, still dripping in globs down the front of his shirt. Then he hears the sound of crying and peers around the door to the other side of the room where he see's Elissa. She's cowering in one of the corners, cradling her arm left arm with her right and holding in her left hand what looks to be a chairs leg - where she got it he isn't sure as there's n broken chairs in the room with them.

"What the hell did you do!" Henry screams suddenly, eyes wild and brimming with emotion. He stalks over to her in three quick strides, glowering down at her . "What did you do!"

Elissa startles and looks up at that moment. She's still sobbing, fat tears rolling down her chubby cheeks and leaving streaks of makeup behind. She shakes visibly, and Henry can see that she's holding some sort of bite wound on her arm. Probably from his father in self defense. "H-Henry it isn't what you think!" She sobs loudly, drawing her knee's up to her chest. "His heart monitor stopped, there was something wrong with him, he....he was different." she rubs her arms, chills running through her body. "He attacked me...He wouldn't stop! I didn't mean to hit him so hard!" Henry runs a hand through his hair, listening to her blubbering.

"He just kept coming at me, for gods sake he bit me! And I only....wanted to knock him out." She finally finishes her explanation.

Even if he's angry, he can't deny that he feels a certain sort of relief that the man is finally dead. He would have been content of course to wait for him to pass - after all he wanted to say a proper goodbye, wish his father a good afterlife in hell and shove all the horrible nonsense he grew up with back into the mans face.

He slides down to sit beside her, facing his fathers body still. In his hand he still holds the bottle of Vodka, which he now pops open and brings to his lips. He lets the slow burn engulf him for a moment before offering it over to Elissa...She declines instantly, she stifles another sob. "What are we going to do?" she questions wearily.

Henry knocks his head back against the wall. Lets out a sigh he's been keeping in, and turns to look at her.


"I suggest we find a shovel."




Henry see's red.

These people come down here, beat him up, and then think that hes the one who has stuff to explain. Like hell.

"I have nothing to talk about with you, Mate" Henry mocks and stumbles a step away from the man. His head pounds, an angry tempo mimicking the rapid pace of his heart. Fresh sweat breaks out over his forehead. He winces as a sharp pain rockets up his spine. "Christ, couldn't just have been some of those things, had to be real people." Henry glares at the three strangers, mouth turning down into an ever deepening frown.

"You expect me to be all dandy with a bunch o' you coming down here, probably bringing all those things with you. Beating me up and acting like I'm the one at fault!" his voice rises steadily, to match the anger still coursing through him. He glances at the two of them individually, noticing at last the shiner on the woman's face. 'Oh yeah, I did that.' he barely remembers hitting her though and is slightly mortified that he hit a woman in a first place. Even if he's know for being tough he never really saw himself as being intentionally cruel - she hadn't done a thing to him, didn't even have a chance to defend herself. These facts sat wrong with Henry, in a way that few things managed to do. He isn't known for being kind or courteous but that didn't mean he felt nothing at all.

Knowing full well they probably have trouble following right on their heels he just barely calms down. Still, the lasting effects of alcohol coursing through his veins linger and keep a bit of that anger in place. He looks the woman right in the eyes and sighs, pointing to his own cheek where the mark on hers is. "I don't pride myself on hitting ladies." He's already in pain, and he figures it doesn't much matter what happens now. "Go ahead. He motions to himself, allowing her to get a good hit in if she wants to. Its something he see's as letting her take revenge for herself if she wants to. Whats more pain added on after all?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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% Jessica Abbott %


Tara's hand balled up into a tight fist as she narrowed her eyes.

@#! SMACK !#@

But it was George that threw the punch. His already swollen hand collided with Henry's stomach with a sickening thud, doubling the man over onto his hands and knees. He wretched onto the ground in his drunkenness as the girls jumped back in surprise.

"Listen here, you fool..." George snapped at the man, "We've been in these tunnels for over a week, and the last thing we need is some drooling drunkard telling us our affairs."

The man struggled to his feet, pointlessly pulling at his already wrinkled and dirtied shirt in an attempt to straighten it. He glared at George. "And yet you still let a drooling drunkard lead your people?" he said with a laugh.

Jessica stepped forward. "He is not our leader," she muttered, jabbing a finger at George.

"But you're right... this is all his fault." Tara added.

George spun around to face the accusatory women. "Whose side are you on?" he barked at them, waving the gun around non-threateningly as he gestured.

"The side that lives, George." Tara replied, crossing over to Jessica. She turned back to the two men behind her. "I get that you were trying to protect us George, I do. But this is a result of your actions. Our friends are scattered outside... who knows where? You saw what happened the last time we encountered strangers. Do we really have to attack every person we come across now? Is that who we are? Are we that scared?"

Tara's words rang out inside the cold stone foundation of the tunnel corridor. They weren't rhetorical questions by any means, but the weight of them silenced the four of them while they attended to their own thoughts. Who knew who anybody was these days. You slept and fought next to strangers, people with no names, no histories.

George shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Tara..."

"Save it," she said, sullenly. "I just want to go and find my friends. Can we do that?"

Jessica nodded, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Of course we can."

"What about him?" George queried, looking at the new stranger. The man leaned back against the wall with his hands on his knees, spitting the remnants of the foul taste in his mouth onto the ground.

Jessica cinched her backpack tighter around her shoulders. "He already heard where we're going. There's nothing we can do stop him from following us..."

"Yes, there is." George answered, firmly.

"Nothing we will do," Jessica replied, correcting herself. She looked at Henry, looking him up and down. "Don't go that way," she advised to him, gesturing towards the way they. came from. With that, her and Tara set off quickly up the stairwell towards the street exit to the spa.

George watched them begin to go, and started to follow -- turning back to take one last look at what could possibly be the only man who truly understood George amongst all these other people... the group whose trust he had deservedly lost. Henry held George's stare as he cleared his throat, spitting another glob of red phlegm onto the ground -- and then disappeared from sight as George slipped past the corner.


* * *


Lillian kicked at a crushed soda can on the ground, ricocheting it against the receptionist's desk next to her. It skittered across the floor to a stop near a bunch of other littered trash and rubbish. She wished she were back in the tunnels. It smelled weird in the spa -- some amalgamation of lotions, oils, and incense. Lily scrunched her nose as she pushed through a door into one of the next rooms. Lisa popped out from behind the open doors of a wooden cabinet and beamed uncertainly at the girl.

"Oh... hi, sweetie. What are you up to?" she said, taking towels and stacking them in her arms.

Lillian kicked at the floor, sighing. "Nothing. It's boring in here," she complained. She jumped up on the counter next to her and started to re-tie a shoelace that had come undone.

Lisa managed to smile at the girl's childlike angst. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a kid at a time like this. Not quite old or strong enough to contribute, but smart enough to not be left completely in the dark. She didn't know which was better -- protecting them from the truth or protecting them from this world. Perhaps one would lead to the other. "I'm sorry, honey." Lisa said, placing the towels on the table behind her. "At least we're safe here though, right? That's a good thing."

"We're not safe here..." Lily replied, blunty. "There's no food, there's walkers everywhere outside, weird people attacking us... and we don't have any weapons! Stupid Jessica took my gun!"

Lisa furrowed her brow, closing the cabinet and crossing over to the girl. "That wasn't your gun," Lisa said softly.

"It wasn't hers either," Lillian replied, snarkily.

Lisa crossed her arms. "Lily, it's dangerous to be around weapons you don't know how to use. You could have hurt that man back there. You don't ever point a gun at a person unless you intend to kill them..."

"That is what I intended to do."

"I'm serious," Lisa said, her tone changing.

Lillian tied the knot on her shoe tight and hopped off the counter to face the woman. "So am I. That man hit Tara. And he was about to hit somebody else too until I stopped him." Lisa frowned at the truth behind Lily's tirade, not knowing what to say to the girl. "Calvin told me to look after everyone, so that's what I'm doing. Nobody else is..."

"Who's Calvin? Lisa asked.

"My friend..."

Lisa raised an eyebrow. "And where is he now?"

Lily looked away -- a clearly sensitive subject. "The bad guys took him away and we couldn't stop them -- cause they had guns..." She brushed past Lisa, childishly pushing over her neat stack of towels on the table as she walked by. The woman watched the girl disappear through the door into the back of the spa. Althea walked in behind Lisa looking refreshed.

"Found some tubs with water still in them. I think it's safe enough to use to clean up a bit. Wouldn't drink it though..." she said, rubbing her hair dry. She looked at Lisa who had tears in her eyes. "What's wrong? I thought I heard loud voices in here..."

Lisa rubbed her eyes. "Oh, nothing. It was just Lillian." She sniffled lightly "Said she pulled the gun on that guy cause her imaginary friend Calvin told her to..." she continued, laughing slightly.


* * *


Jessica pushed the door open slightly, peeking out onto Santa Monica boulevard to see if it was still as clear as Rafiq had promised. Several walkers straggled about, heading north to join the dense group already collecting around the main metro entrance. She looked past a few abandoned cars at what looked like their destination, nestled between two taller buildings on the far side of the street. She shut the door, turning back to George and Tara.

"I think if we go quick and stay low, we can make it across."

George scoffed. "You think?"

Jessica shot a look at him. "Is anything certain anymore?" It was enough to shut him up. Tara pulled her hunting knife from out of her bag and slung it back over her shoulder. Jessica looked at George who was checking the clip in his pistol. "No guns," she warned. George rolled his eyes and stuffed it back into his waistband, standing to turn and kick a piece loose from a network of pipes against the wall next to them. The metal bar clattered against the ground loudly as George bent down to pick it up. The three of them looked at one another, silently psyching themselves up for what lay ahead.

"On three?" Tara said, quietly.

Jessica looked past her shoulder. "How about four?" she asked, gesturing behind them. George and Tara turned around to see the last person they expected to find...

Henry. In all his drunken glory.

He nodded to them, saying nothing. And they nodded back.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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Christopher Jones

Christopher followed all of the young black women’s requests. They were all reasonable, and the fact that the group hadn’t shot him on sight implied that they were the people he was looking for: The ones that still understood the importance of civility. While he was being searched by the two men, he took the time to observe some of the members of the group.

The first one he noticed was the black women, for obvious reasons. She acted tough, and he admired that in a person whether they were being true to themselves or not. It might’ve been because he was raised in a tough environment, but he felt that in difficult situations, one needed to show the toughest face they could. It could literally mean the difference between life and death.

The second person he noticed was one of the men searching him, the one without the glasses. For a reason he couldn't quite understand just yet, he got a bad vibe from him. He ignored it though, as it was crucial for survival that everyone was to get along. Christopher would keep an eye on him, just in case.

Christopher then noticed the man speaking up, the old one. Instantly, Christopher could feel a kinship with this man. Although he looked quite a bit older than Christopher, the ex-gang member was probably the closest to the man in age. Christopher sensed that he’d been looking for someone he could relate to, and even though Christopher and the old man came from very different worlds, the mechanic had a feeling they shared at least one thing in common: The desire to impart wisdom to the younger generation.

Christopher stopped his analyzing of the new group and listened to the old man’s words. At the mention of, “this old cat here could relate”, Christopher’s mind skipped back to his childhood.

By the time Christopher was born, the red scare of the 50’s was long since over, but the cold war’s last gasps were felt greatly during the 80’s, when Christopher was a teenager. The schools no longer taught the ineffectual “duck and cover” methods of the 50’s, but the threat of Communism was still very real. Maybe China…

No. There was no time for guessing what caused it and what it was. With his voice quieted, so as not to attract the walkers, Christopher said, “If it was a nuclear bomb, then we need to get out of here, and fast. Even if it wasn’t, there will be less walkers in a less populated area.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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"Everything is just fine."

"Excuse me?"

Stevie continued to look toward the cloud climbing further into the sky, and then back at the intersection below. The horde almost looked like it was thinning and dissipating, at least to a point. The truck looked as though it was almost completely unsalvageable. At minimum, it wasn't meant to be driven. The metal frame of windshield and doors were twisted into a nearly unrecognizable state. Bloody handprints were splashed about messily on the scratched paint. No sign of anyone... no boots, no clothing, no recognizable trace of Thomas or the others. She turned her head to look at the two other cars down by the metro entrance. Just a few blocks away. This was totally doable.

"Everything is just fine," she repeated to the group, looking over her shoulder back at them as she rested her hands on the ledge. Maybe she said it more to convince herself of that. "We can make it. They're starting to slow down. This can totally work, if we hit it right." She turned around fully. "I've got the keys and it's my crazy idea. I'll go, myself."

"You're not going down there alone, Glasses," James barked. "We don't even know if it's a good idea or not."

"We just need to drive the cars over here, have everyone get in, and we're all right," she reassured him. "And, look, the first 24 hours after a bomb are the most dangerous." She pointed up at the heavy plume of debris surging up into the atmosphere, higher as higher as the minutes went by. "We need a roof over our heads. Even if it's a car roof."

"But you're still breathing outside air," he argued back.

Niobe released an exasperated, heaving sigh as she suddenly set off toward the ladder. "I'm not going through the building just to create more work," she grumbled loudly.

Carl clamored after her. "Hey, hey!" he called quickly, visibly panicking as she made her descent. "I really don't think you should-"

"Excuse me!" Stevie rang out in rushed politeness, working her way around him and grasping the handles of the ladder to make her way down. She looked at Carl, focusing on his face rather than becoming preoccupied with the long climb downward. Her fear of heights was paralyzing, but this was no time to allow the phobia to take over. She worked her feet down one rung at a time. "Can you guys maybe... find a way to distract them?" She kept going.

# # #

Niobe motioned for Stevie to stay still. Their steady meander toward the cars had been surprisingly easy, weaving between other dead vehicles and stepping about as quietly as possible. Carl's creative approach to distracting walkers must have been manifested into the shrieks of car alarms pealing out not far away; the few walkers who had indeed been in the street had begun to stumble toward the high-pitched din and allowed them a decent way to make a break for it.

She looked over her shoulder and studied the small woman. She wasn't sure about her yet... She certainly wasn't afraid of James, as she'd demonstrated. Considering the circumstances, a little bit of emotional distress was to be expected, of course, but she seemed to be all over the map. She and Carl had watched most of the dialogue unfold and had, for the most part, remained quiet, except for a few brief interludes. Yet, here she was, the only other person down on the ground, pistol in hand and keys to two vehicles in her pocket. Crazy or just headstrong, it didn't matter, as long as she was dedicated to reaching their destination.

Niobe turned her attention back to the street before her, and slowly slunk ahead. She waved her hand, beckoning Stevie to follow. At the end of their quiet dash, success--they'd reached the cars.

Stevie smiled as she brandished one set of keys and handed it to Niobe. She nodded as she unlocked the Mazda's driver door. The evidence of Schantz' severe nosebleed was indicated by the rusty pools on the upholstery and the iron'ish smell wafting about inside the confined space. Niobe nodded at her as she climbed into Nissan. The two quickly placed their keys in the ignition and thrummed the engines to life, preparing to pilot closer to the six left behind.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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James shook his head as he peered over the edge of the roof while Harper stood next to him, staring intently through the rifle's scope as she followed the two women below as they snuck their way to the cars near the metro entrance. If any walkers were to pose a direct threat that Stevie or Niobe couldn't handle, she was ready to eliminate it herself from above.

"Shoulda gone through the building," he grumbled as he, too, watched them. "Woulda had a roof over our head and everything. This is ludicrous."

*CLUNK*

The top of the roof offered possibilities in terms of distracting walkers on the street. A few lawn chairs were scattered about, and a large cellophane-wrapped package of bricks sat near the door from where Christopher had come. Carl, Laura, and Jack gleefully lobbed bricks from the roof onto cars below, testing to see if they'd been outfitted with sensitive car alarms. Sure enough, a black Corvette began to shriek in protest at having been rattled by the unanticipated brick.

Carl pumped his fist and high-fived Laura enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah!" he cheered, a big grin instantly appearing on his face. "We shoot, we scoooore! Let's do it again!"

The three laughed as though Carl's joke was the funniest they'd heard in a long time. It probably was.

James rolled his eyes and turned back to Harper, who was still focused on the scene below. "Acting like a bunch of children," he gruffed bitterly. "Waste of time."

"Well, we are where we are," Harper sighed back, blinking and pulling her eye away from the scope momentarily to look at the older man directly. "You might be singing a different tune if this works."

"We could have just gone through the building like I'd said in the first place," he stubbornly ruffed, flexing his fingers and gripping the ledge distractedly. "Woulda been a lot simpler."

"Niobe said she didn't feel like creating more work for us by going through the building," Harper recounted, "and I'm pretty sure she meant she didn't feel like running into more walkers than necessary." She turned her focus back onto the street, then picked the rifle back up to her eye level. "Look. They made it."

The two watched as the silver and red vehicles slowly made their way toward their building, keeping quiet and inching along in order to avoid detection. A few walkers in the distance appeared to notice them and slowly bobbled and ambled toward them, but not quickly enough to put them in immediate danger.

"Hey! They did it!" Carl's voice boomed from behind. James and Harper jumped, startled by the sudden sound unexpectedly coming up so close behind them.

"Dammit, Carl!" James exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.

Harper continued to look downward. "They sure did," she said flatly in an effort to hold back any premature excitement.

# # #

Both cars parked in front of the building, and both drivers peeked around in order to make sure it was safe to open their doors quietly.

Niobe paced toward Stevie. "Any reason why we didn't go into the alley, where the ladder is?" she asked quietly when she came within a few feet.

Stevie gestured to the entrance of the alley and shrugged. "It looks too narrow," she pointed out. "Let's just wave them down. And it'll be easier to get out of here this way."

Niobe stared at her for a brief moment, then walked past her toward the mouth of the alley. "Fine," she uttered as Stevie skittered after her. They jogged to the metal railing of the ladder, where Niobe turned toward her again. "After you," she permitted, waving a hand at the bottom rung.

Stevie gritted her teeth and looked up. "I'll slow you down," she said quickly. "I'll just wait here for you guys and show them the way. Mind asking your friend if he can bring my gun down with him?"

Niobe blinked, unsure of what to think. She sighed and began to palm her way up to the top. Stevie hung back on the ground, relieved that she didn't have to once again channel all her strength into not imagining herself falling and slipping. She stretched her arms above her head and glanced about. The silence was eerie... no cars, no passerby conversation, no airplaines, not even the sound of air conditioning churning from within a building. But silence also meant that nothing was coming her way.

And then it hit her. Niobe was well on her way back up to the roof and within sight, sure, but for the first time in a while, she was alone. Normally she relished the feeling of finally having a moment to herself. But not this time.

# # #

"So, where's your buddy?" James growled as Niobe took a moment to catch her breath after reaching the group's level.

"Down below," Niobe panted slightly, then took a deep breath and stood up straight. "She's down there. She said she'd help." She looked around at everyone and beckoned them toward the ladder. "I've got keys to one, she's got keys to the other. There's only enough room for maybe three in hers, five in mine."

"Shotgun!" Carl rang out cheerfully.

Niobe smirked and pitched her set of keys toward him. "After you, my friend."

His grin collapsed into a straight line. He and sheepishly looked at the ladder, then back to Niobe, then sighed as he slung a leg over the edge of the roof and began to slowly make his way down. "Y'know, I could just go last and still have shotgun," he commented as he disappeared over the other side.

Harper hid a laugh behind her hand as she stepped forward and followed suit. James, Christopher, then Jack came after, one by one, waiting until the previous person was at least safely halfway down the building before making their own climbs down, leaving Laura and Niobe up top by themselves. "Ready to roll?" Niobe asked.

Laura nodded. "I got it, you go ahead and I'll bring up the rear," she offered.

*THUD*

They darted their eyes at the door. Two snarling walkers burst from the metal barrier, taking less than a second to examine their possible prey before burling toward the two women. "Go!" Laura barked at Niobe, who vaulted over smoothly and began to make her way down. Laura pressed the backs of her legs against the inner wall of the rooftop and watched them come closer, peering back over her shoulder to ensure that Niobe was a safe distance down before she herself would descend. She then looked back at the walkers and felt her heart begin to pound.

# # #

"All ready?" Stevie asked Carl, James, and Christopher as they settled into the Nissan. She leaned through the open driver's side window and smiled at James and winked. He rolled his eyes and looked out his window on the right side of the vehicle. Stevie inwardly laughed. She loved it when she could just smile at anyone who had given her any ounce of a difficult time if it would cause them a moment of angst. A silly source of amusement at a time like this, but the plan had worked.

"Yep, just going to wait for our esteemed driver, then we ought to be hunky dory," Carl said as he buckled his seatbelt. He reached over to stick the keys in the ignition and switched the radio on, cruising through the channels. Static. Static. Static. And more static. He could have sworn he'd heard muffled voices on at least one setting--but the frequency sounded weak. Distant, maybe? "So, who wants to argue with me over what station we listen to?"

Stevie smiled and stood up straight and looked back toward Jack and Harper, who leaned against the Mazda, chatting quietly. She tilted her head in curiosity--Harper's face was tightly drawn, and even though she couldn't hear their conversation, she wondered what exactly it was that they were discussing.

Niobe dropped down, within view of the two vehicles, and motioned to the others frantically, trying not to shout and possibly draw in attention. She then pointed up at the ladder. Laura was about halfway down the side of the building and there were a couple of walkers clawing pointlessly up top. Suddenly, one of them heaved itself over the side and tumbled toward the ground. It all happened so fast--the walker fell directly onto Laura, sending her tumbling down with it. The two bodies hit the ground with a sick crunch. Stevie gasped and covered her hands with her mouth. James immediately opened his door and grasped the handle of his long knife purposefully as he sprinted toward the scene, pushing his physical limits considering his age. Jack and Niobe rushed after him instinctively. The others' faces went white as they witnessed the two bash in the skull of the offending walker before stooping down to take Laura's pulse. It didn't take long to figure out from their body language that Laura was gone.

A couple of distant guttural shouts curdled out from behind the vehicles. Harper and Stevie whirled their heads around just in time to see a sizable swarm heading toward them, and then another from the opposite side. They scrambled into the Mazda as Christopher shut the passenger door to his right, and Carl frantically pressed on the buttons on his own door to roll the driver's window up.

Harper looked at Stevie from her spot in the passenger seat, and watched her wince as the walkers began to swarm the cars. Soon they couldn't even see the Nissan through the thrashing mess of faces, hands, and teeth bashing onto the windows. The car rocked with the force the walkers pushed onto it from all sides. "Are you fucking kidding me?" Stevie breathed, hitting the locks on all the doors and gripping the steering wheel tightly, despite still being in "Park." She knew perfectly well that they were safe, but the sight was still incredibly disconcerting. No way to back up, no way to move forward.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield

---

His lips were on hers. His mouth was as passionate as ever, just as intense as their first kiss. Romance novels often described how a man’s tongue would explore a woman, but Diego was far beyond that point. He was on familiar ground and loved every second of it. She could tell.

Bethany let it go on for a while, feeling the same intense longing to touch him. It had been three days now since the last time they had sex, and even that one had been quick and inside some dirty room. Diego grabbed her behind more firmly and pressed her closer against his body. She could feel his heat. She could feel him. All of him.

Yet, she had to break it off for now. It would have to wait. She turned her head away from him and checked the alley again.

“I think it’s gone,” she said to her husband, “we can go on.”

Diego was slightly out of breath, which she knew was just an act, and leaned with one hand against the wall. “A pity,” he said, “I could have used a couple more minutes.”

“I know you do, dear.” She responded with a last kiss on his mouth and moved into the alley. Diego picked up his metal baseball bat and followed her.

They moved through the streets like cats, staying to one side and always keep an eye on their back. It had been just the two of them since it all happened and so far it was working. Both still alive, reasonably well fed and without any injuries. The only real problem had been the fire, destroying everything they had, including the suitcases. Bethany felt like cursing again. They had enough cocaine to last Diego a long time, he didn’t use that much after all, but then some idiot had decided to burn a pack of walkers by setting their building on fire. It had destroyed everything, including their apartment. She had a suspicion that the arsonist had died in his own fire, but didn’t really care either way.

Part of her wanted to leave all this drugs business behind, but she knew that Diego would sooner or later need some of it. Without it, he could go into withdrawal and they could not use that right now. Rehab would have to wait until they found a place that was safe and secure.

So now they were on their way back to the spa, retrieving the final two suitcases they had been unable to carry a few days back. If they were still there. Gonzales could have picked them up by now, but it was more likely he was dead. So many people were these days.

“Watch out,” Diego hissed and she was pulled backwards. In front of her eyes, she could see a rotten hand clawing out, just where her head had been a second ago. It had come from her right side, so she hadn't heard it coming. Bethany felt a mixture of shock and excitement well up in her. Adrenaline pumping, she watched on as Diego took his bat and bashed the walker’s head in. The first swing made it stagger, the second made its eye and nose explode, the third got through the skull and into the brain. Another walker appeared and without thinking, she took the bat from Diego’s hand. Swinging with all her might, she bashed its head against the wall, crushing it between bat and stone. It completely tore open, blood, flesh and brain spattering everywhere.

“One swing,” said Diego, impressed.

Bethany wiped the bat clean on the clothes of the walker the best she could before handing it back to her husband. She gave him a playful peck on the cheek.

“You know me. Always going full throttle.”


---

They didn’t move fast nor with any apparent purpose, so the effect was not immediately apparent, but it appeared to Rafiq that the number of walkers in the street was slowly increasing. It made him feel uncomfortable. He hoped the others would show up soon. If they had to move again, he wasn’t sure they would ever be able to find each other. He particularly missed Carl, Niobe and Marie and hoped they would come back soon.

George was looking through the binoculars, not saying a word the whole time. That suited Rafiq just fine. Jessica and Tara had vouched for the new guy from the tunnels, Henry, but George was still angry about it. That was probably the main reason why he had been volunteered to take the first watch on the roof. Rafiq had felt it was best to join him up there.

Although he knew it probably wasn’t the best timing, Rafiq had then told him what had happened to Molly. He had expect some loud angry cursing, or even a slap in the face, but instead George had just stared at him. For a while it looked like the message didn’t even come through, but then tears filled in the eyes of the older men.

“I miss Charlie,” was the only thing he had said.

Rafiq hadn’t known how to respond to that.

So they had just sat there, on the rooftop, looking at the walkers on the street and the entrance to the metro station. Hoping that some familiar faces would show soon.

“Someone is coming,” George suddenly said.

Rafiq perked up and looked the metro station. There was nobody there.

“Where?” He asked, “I can’t see anybody.”

George pointed a way to the left. Near the gas station were two figures, a man and a woman. Rafiq didn’t recognize them, but they were clearly still human. Probably stragglers looking for a safe place.

“They are heading straight for this place,” George said. He took out his gun. Alarmed, Rafiq stepped in front of George. “There is no need for that,” he said, “there are just two of them. I’ll see what they want. You,” he gently lowered the gun in George’s hand, “you stay here and watch for the others.”

Rafiq quickly got off the roof and rushed down the stairs. Thankfully, the building was not too large and he got to the main lobby before the couple did. Jessica, Sam, Annabelle, Althea and the new guy Henry were still there. They all tensed as Rafiq rushed into the room.

“Someone is coming,” as he said it he could see some of them reach for a weapon. “Just two,” he added quickly, “they are probably just looking for a place to hide.”

Just a few seconds later, the couple stepped in. The man was fit, handsome and looked to be from somewhere in South America. The woman was older, but still exceptionally beautiful. Even Rafiq could tell. She was the kind of person that would attract all the attention the moment she stepped into a room.

The woman looked at them with some confusion, then composed herself. The man raised his baseball bat, which was red with blood.

“What are you doing in my spa?” She asked without any apparent concern that she was outnumbered.

---

When the people did not respond, Bethany bopped her head sideways.

“Well? Are you going to answer me?”

A young man stepped forward, deliberately standing in front of the child in the room, blocking the boy from her view. Clever, she thought to herself. Protecting the weakest member of your group from the unknown.

“We’re sorry,” the Arabic man said, “I didn’t know this was your spa. We were just looking for a place to wait for our friends.”

“And you thought the best way to do that was to break into my business.”

The man, who was about the same age as Diego, turned slightly red. “Yes, no, well...”

“She’s just messing with you,” Diego laughed. Bethany couldn’t help but smile.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “you’re welcome to the place. I doubt we’ll ever open it again. I’m just here to pick up some stuff.”

“What stuff?” Another man asked, much older than the other one. He was also a bit ruffed up for some reason.

“None of your business stuff,” Diego said to him, raising his tone with a hint of threat. Bethany briefly touched his hand as a warning.

“You’re Bethany Whitfield?” an elderly and somewhat overweight lady asked. Bethany nodded, asking with her eyes how she knew that. The woman picked up on it. “I saw your name on one of the rooms. I thought it was a beautiful name. My name is Annabelle.”

Bethany didn’t really know if the compliment was sincere or not, but she took it all the same. “How nice of you to say, Annabelle. This is my husband, Diego.” Diego nodded in response. Out of politeness, the others introduced themselves as well. It was funny to Bethany how civility hadn’t completely died out yet. The only one who didn't introduce herself was a dark-skinned woman, who was sitting in the waiting area and seemed to be observing the situation.

She turned her attention back on the younger man, Rafiq, who looked like the one in charge, although Bethany didn’t really know why.

“Look, we won’t bother you long. Just need some of my personal belongings. Hope that isn’t a problem?”

Rafiq shook his head. “Can’t see why not.”

With that, she and Diego made their way up the stairs. To her annoyance, Rafiq followed them.

“We know the way, thank you,”
she said with all the authority she had.

“There are other people in the building,” Rafiq answered, with more backbone in his tone then Bethany had expected out of him, “No need to alarm them with your presence.”

Bethany looked at Diego, who shrugged in a ‘what-are-you-going-to-do’ way.

They got to the meeting room where they had left the suitcases and stopped. Rafiq’s eyes got larger and said, “You want to go in there?”

“Yes,” Diego said, “what we want is in here.”

“But... uh... there are dead bodies in there.”

“Dead bodies?” Bethany exchanged looks with Diego, who looked just as confused as her. What was this Rafiq talking about? There hadn’t been anyone here when they left. Bethany opened the door and looked inside. There were indeed five bodies in the room.

“Wait,” Bethany said to Diego, “is that Gonzales? And that Kimberly and Thea? What were they...” She didn’t understand what had happened. Gonzales, maybe, but why were Kimberly and Thea back here? Although it probably didn’t really matter anymore why, it made her feel uneasy all the same.

Then she looked at the table properly. Diego noticed at the same time. They walked towards it and both opened a suitcase. It were the ones filled with money. Useless.

“Where are the other two?” Diego asked.

Bethany looked at the door where Rafiq was standing. He looked back.

“What two?” He asked, “this was how we found it.”

Liar, Bethany thought to herself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Sean Donague
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# Sarah Hawke & Sean Donague #


Sarah peeked through the crack between the bookcase and broken window out at the brick pavilion outside. Several walkers traipsed along, probably pursuing all the noise she had made earlier. There were no lights inside the bookstore, and the few beams that got through cast a shadowy pall across the desolate insides of the store. Though it turned out the store wasn't quite as empty as Sarah had thought.

Charlie's furry frame lowered to the ground as a low growl amped up in his throat. Sarah turned from the storefront, reaching for her pistol -- which lay on top of her bag. The dog crept forward, peering down the aisle deeper into the store.

"I know you're over there," Sarah said, forcefully. She slowly raised her pistol up in front of her, aiming towards Charlie's point of focus. But just silence. "Just come out, dipshit."

Very slowly, two hands appeared from the far end of the second bookcase down the aisle. Two arms, a head, a body and legs unveiled themselves right afterwards. A man who looked like he had seen better days, limped into plain sight -- blood caked against his sweaty, stubbled face. A crowbar hung loosely in his right hand as he held his other out towards Sarah.

"Put down the gun babe, I'm not gonna bite you," he said, tiredly.

Sarah examined the man. He clearly wasn't there to put up a fight -- unless it was just some kind of ruse to make her drop her guard. Either way, she thought it best to keep her distance. He was the first person she'd encountered outside of Oliver or her old group. Her experiences with strangers in the past had been mixed -- the worst of them being the man who killed Molly's brother to steal their car. It was a blunt reminder of the things people were capable of in desperate times.

"Drop your weapon," she ordered, leveling her own at him. She was not about to take any more chances.

Donague scowled. "You first, kid. This bar here is the only thing keeping me alive," he claimed, gently waving the crowbar between loose fingers. He neglected to mention the small Glock hidden in his pocket, though he wasn't exactly lying. The gun had been empty for two days. "And is pretty much the only thing of value I have.". That much at least was almost true.

"I don't want anything you have," she replied, coldly. "What are you doing in here?"

"Oh, just browsing," Donague replied without humour. "I'm resting, and I'm not pointing a gun at someone while I'm doing it," he added, raising his voice slightly.

She eyed him carefully, not sure what to do with him. She couldn't feel safe with her back turned to someone she didn't know. People were unpredictable. Enough to do some truly horrible things to get what they want. Donague reluctantly dropped his crowbar to the ground with a loud clang and raised his hands into the air. The two eyed each other, waiting for the next move. Sarah lowered her weapon slightly. "Now, go over--"

#%! CRASH !%#

Something loud sounded out from upstairs on the landing above them. Sarah jerked her gun upwards towards the banister up above -- and when she looked back down, Donague was gone.

Shit... Sarah silently cursed to herself as she backed around the bookcase out-of-sight. She turned to move further back and found herself facing a man with a bandana wrapped around his nose and mouth. He lunged at Sarah, getting his arm around her neck and knocking her pistol to the floor. Charlie began barking at the intruder, taking a mouthful of the man's leg as he tried to pull him off of her. The man kicked blindly at the dog, trying to shake it off of him -- eventually delivering a swift kick to Charlie's side and sending the dog tumbling back. Sarah threw her full weight against the bookcase beside them, slamming the assailant against it as books clattered to the floor. She had felt some give on the first push and launched herself backwards a second time, sending her, the man, and the bookcase toppling over. The man lost his grip on her neck enough for her to pull herself free, and she scampered across the scattered books on the ground towards her weapon.

As she crawled nearer, another loud noise filled the air.

#!% BANG #%!

The gunshot rang out loud and clear, echoing throughout the room. Sarah covered her ears and looked towards the stairs where the shot had come from -- there stood a man in a duster with his gun aimed towards the ceiling. A wisp of smoke trailed out from its tip as he trotted down the rest of the steps to the main floor. Sarah continued for her gun, but the bandana man kicked it away. It slid down the aisle towards where she had spotted the first man... wherever he had gone. Two other men from their crew of looters came running down the stairs, having heard the commotion from elsewhere in the bookstore.

"Holy hell," one of the taller men said with a whistle, noticing Sarah on the ground on her hands and knees. "Jackpot."

The man in the duster held up his hand. "Easy, Jeremy. Don't be an asshole in front of the lady," he urged, crossing over to her and offering his hand. She ignored it and rose to her feet -- launching a wad of spit straight into his face as the man jerked his head away. He wiped it clean with the collar of his shirt and wound his arm back, smacking Sarah across the face and sending her back to the floor. "Spoke to soon," he said, driving his foot into her ribs. "This bitch has no manners." Sarah rolled over, clutching her stomach. Charlie launched into a fury of barks, hopping around on all fours. "Somebody shut that dog up, before I tear it's fucking head off..." he ordered, calmly. Jeremy crossed over to it and kicked at it, sending it fleeing back into the aisles with a snarl. He stayed standing there to make sure it didn't come back to bother them.


* * *


Meanwhile, Donague had taken off around a corner. The girl hadn't seemed insane or unreasonable but she had a gun. There was always the chance it wasn't loaded, like his, but he wasn't in the habit of taking stupid risks. Risks, yes. Smart, calculated risks. And there was always the risk of taking a bullet if he went back for the crowbar straight away but he wasn't leaving without it; he'd be defenceless. Even a hardback copy of War and Peace was no match for a tapered rod of cast iron. So he'd give her the runaround, or hope she left soon, and then slip out and grab it. Maybe he could even get the jump on her? There had to be something good in those bags she had. No one carried around that kind of bulk without having something worthwhile. It was during these thoughts that the commotion began.

Donague heard the clatter of a fallen gun, very shortly followed by the barking and snarling of a dog. He crept forward and ducked down, trying to get a view on the situation while keeping out of sight. It was no good being hidden if he didn't know what he was hiding from. He silently cursed the day. It hadn't been a good one. And it was about to take another turn as the bookcase beside him shuddered and swayed, scattering books down on to him. "Son of a-" he started quietly as several volumes tumbled down and bounced off his head and back. Turning his gaze towards the ground to protect his face yielded perhaps the first positive moment of the day. There, just beyond the fallen books, lay the handgun that had been aimed at him not moments ago.

Before he had enough time to form a plan there was another crash and something started to give way. The bookcase came hurtling down towards him, leaving Donague with no choice but to dive back the way he had come and take cover in an alcove. Maybe he could just make a run for it he thought. Then he heard the gunshot.

The man with the duster was not in Donague's line of sight but peering just around the corner of his hiding place he could make out the girl who had jumped him scrambling along on all fours and another man with a bandana standing over her. He saw neither of them holding a gun so knew that this particular bookstore was quite busy today. And apparently filled with guns he realized, as a clattering slide heralded the movement of Sarah's handgun to just a few feet away from him. It was too far to reach out and he couldn't risk being seen so he stayed where he was, shifting from a crouch to sitting on the backs of his heels. He had been sitting for barely five minutes before the girl with the gun had arrived and his legs were filled with a deep, pulsing ache from the hours of running earlier in the day. And from the day before. And the day before that. All he had come in here for was rest. A little respite from the hellish marathon. A bookstore, of all places, should not be the centre of a confrontation. And nobody should be firing a gun and hanging around. His plan had been to just rest a while and move on without incident. But these days nothing went according to plan. He hated that.


* * *


"Now, let's see what we have here," said the man in the duster, attention and gun both focused more on Sarah herself than on her luggage. He looked her over, very unflatteringly, as the other looters watched and jeered. "Jeremy, check her bags" he ordered, not taking his eyes off Sarah even as he tilted his head to the side and bit his bottom lip. "Shouldn't have spat at me," he almost whispered; a crooked, snarling smile appearing on his face. He looked like he had seen something he simultaneously liked and was disgusted by and he took half a step forward, opening his mouth to say something else but being cut off before he had a chance.

"Hey boss, we got another one!"

Duster spun around and saw Donague frozen in a crouch, gun in hand. "Am I interrupting?" he asked casually, straightening up. "I'll just be going then," he added quickly.

"The hell you will," replied Duster calmly. "You with her?" he asked, indicating Sarah on the ground to his side. The tall man, Jeremy, had stopped rooting through the bags and was now standing guard over her.

"No." There was a few moments of silence as though he was expected to say more.

"Why is it that I don't believe you?"

"Because we're in the same place at the same time and it's highly unlikely that she was in fact holding me up when you arrived. That's why. So if that isn't the case then why aren't I trying to stop you mugging her?" High pressure, high stakes negotiation. Donague was in his element. And Duster didn't seem to have an answer for him.

"I just want my crowbar," Donague finished. Duster thought for a moment then nodded. He kept the gun aimed at Donague but turned to talk to Sarah.

"Lose the pants."

Donague's gun was up in an instant. He had been trained to prey on the vulnerable and to exploit weakness but this was something else entirely and it was not something he was comfortable with. Besides, he had a feeling that Duster here wasn't going to let him walk out without a few holes in him no matter how he reacted.

"Go fuck yourself." Sarah had no weapon and was in a compromising position but she was still ready to fight her corner. Donague could relate, but she wasn't the one with a gun pointed at her at that exact moment and she was the reason he was in this position in the first place. He shot her a cold look.

"Everybody just calm down a little," he said, trying to gain some control of the situation. "It doesn't have to go down like this. We could all walk out of here alive and go our seperate ways." He spoke easily and professionally, as though he were back in the boardroom. "I don't want to get shot and I'm sure none of you do either. So let's talk options." He didn't lower his weapon and had no intention of walking away from this without somebody getting hurt, that was inevitable now. But with the current odds it was likely going to be him on the losing side of the equation. Fortunately, as ever, he had a plan. These looters clearly hadn't anticipated the arrival of walkers. Probably hadn't had guns for very long, didn't know the routine. Donague had seen a few times now that firing a gun doubtlessly led to a swarm of them. If he needed a distraction all he had to do was buy some time. That was the plan. But these days nothing went according to plan. He hated that.

Sarah looked up at the guardian angel who had only moments ago been a stranger in her sights. She didn't know what drove him to intervene when he could have just as easily stayed hidden or slipped out unnoticed. Either the man had a death wish or he wanted to keep her alive so they could finish their conversation -- or he could just be plain crazy. None of the immediate possibilities for his behavior rubbed her the right way, but she was thankful nonetheless. The taller thug, Jeremy, leered over her like a lion guarding its wounded prey. Her bag lay just out of reach behind him, still unzipped. She could see some of the other weapons lingering about inside... if only she could reach them.

Duster licked his lips, grinning a toothy grin at Donague. "I thought you didn't want to get involved, Cowboy?" he teased. Bandana had begun circling around to Donague's side. He had unleashed a length of chain from around his waist and twirled it around slowly, anticipating the inevitable showdown. Duster turned towards Sarah again. "Did I stutter? Pants. Off. Or does Jeremy need to assist you?" he threatened.

Sarah glared at the both of them. "I respectfully decline," she replied.

"Is that so? And what makes you think we'd allow you to do that?"

"Because you assholes already fucked up... moreso than coming to loot a bookstore in the first place. Like you all actually know how to read... c'mon. You're too damn stupid." She wiped some of the blood from her lip with her hand as she sat on the dirty floor surrounded by books.

Jeremy looked up at Duster, speechlessly. Neither had expected the girl to have such gall considering her unfortunate position.

"Girl's got a point," Donague replied. "You don't seem like the smartest guy I've ever met but you're not stupid." He was trying to buy some time now, however he could. "So you can do the maths here. I have a gun pointed at you, so if this all goes South I can guarantee a bullethole in that fine coat of yours. But if we take a look through that bag together then maybe we can come to some kind of mutual gain." He'd already caught a glimpse of the contents of the bag and his plan was re-formulating. One way or another he was getting out of here with something to show for it, although he had no way of knowing what else it might hold. He couldn't carry both, not at the pace needed to outrun the walkers, which left him with two options. Either he negotiated with a bunch of sleazy, impulsive, opportunistic sadists, or he helped this girl get out alive and hope she didn't just turn around and shoot him. Gratitude wasn't something he expected to be found in abundance in this new nightmare that was once his home but this bordered on a clever gamble.

Duster chuckled softly, hanging his head. "Who do you two think you are? My therapists? You so much as speak again and my friend over here will smash your princess' teeth into the back of your head." Jeremy smiled at the thought, giving Sarah a foul wink from above. Donague followed the Bandana man as he slowly crossed around to go behind the bookshelf to his right, and he side-stepped to counter and keep his back so he could still see all three men. What he didn't realize was that they were circling him so that his back was to the staircase -- where their fourth man laid waiting.

This took Donague by surprise. He had read the man wrong and his plan was falling apart. So he had no choice but to keep his mouth shut and try to keep everybody in his line of sight while he figured out another way of buying time. There was only one thing he could think of as he slowly stepped to the side. Keeping his gun aimed at Duster and his eyes flickering between the looters who were gradually backing him up Donague did the only thing he had left. He slowly slid one arm of his backpack off and dropped the kit to the floor. Fixing Duster with a stare he pushed the bag with his foot towards the man, far enough to be out of reach. Aside from some tinned food and a collection of gear he had found to be useful there was nothing of particular value inside. But at the moment only he knew that and there couldn't be much time left to kill.

Duster appeared intrigued by the offering but his gun remained aimed squarely at Sarah's head. His gaze was diverted though, and Donague hoped that might be enough when the time came. Since the outbreak he had not once hoped for the arrival of a horde of those sickening, shambling corpses but now he was on the verge of prayer. He just hoped that the girl would be ready too...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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The car jerked from left to right, fists pounding on the exterior and groans waning muffledly through the glass and creaking metal. Harper clutched the shoulder strap of her seatbelt while Stevie continued to grip the steering wheel with tensed white knuckles.

"I can't see the other car," Harper muttered loudly, peering intently through the shifting series of faces outside. Suddenly the hard heel of a hand bunted like a rock against the glass, inches away from Harper's face. She let out a loud scream and leaned away from the window, backing into Stevie. She pulled Harper in and reached back for the handle of one of the fencing weapons. She yanked one forward and quickly bent the blade to point safely toward the cracking glass. Harper gripped the handle and pointed the weapon purposefully toward her feet.

"Just hang in there," Stevie said steadily, "we'll be okay, we just need to stay calm..." She trailed off, glancing around at the gray and green faces cramming noisily around them. She took a deep breath and kept her face still, trying hard to hide her panic.

Harper eased back into her seat and reached for the rifle, set on top of the boxes of ammo stacked in the back. She handed the epée to Stevie and pointed the gun ahead, preparing to shoot if necessary.

A loud horn sounded a short distance away, drawing the swarm away toward the origin of the sound. The two women held very still and sank down into their chairs. They watched as a yellow school bus pulled up in the middle of the street nearby, each window filling up with a face, arms, and firearm of some kind, targeting walkers and taking them down easily.

Harper turned to look back at the Nissan--still intact. She caught Carl's eye as he stared beyond the Mazda toward the bus, then followed the trail of a couple more straggling walkers as they went on. Niobe jogged by, accompanied by James with his machete. The old man enthusiastically chopped ahead, connecting with walkers' heads and sending them toppling down. He almost made it look easy.

Harper turned her head again and watched as Carl signaled something; Niobe beckoned widely with her arms. A small group of people with pistols raced out to the Nissan and pulled Carl and Christopher out, then ran them onto the bus. Harper let out a brief yelp when she felt the door behind her open--Jack stood there with the fire poker he'd been carrying around for days. "We're heading to the bus," he informed them, "Ni and Carl are saying they've met them, so we better go, now!"

"What about the ammo and everything in here?" Stevie asked, looking around. Would all that work have been for nothing, after all?

Jack shook his head. "Maybe we can come back," he offered carefully, "but for now, let's go!" As he offered Harper a hand to pull her from her seat, Stevie pulled a Sharpie from her coat pocket immediately after springing from her own side and began to scribble something on the driver's side window. She tossed the key under a floor mat, slammed the door shut, and darted toward the bus with the others. After everyone jumped inside and ducked into the faux-leather seats, the diesel engine roared to life as it propelled the group forward toward their next destination. Harper could have sworn that she saw Lauren struggling slowly after them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC)
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.: Calvin Hawke :.


The dead body pinning Calvin down had seemed to grow heavier since the rest of the walkers had flooded the room. Blood continued to seep out of the hole where his knife rested, planted firmly in the side of the inmate's head. He felt the warm blood soak into his shirt near his shoulder, adding further to the weight he was already enduring.

He gritted his teeth as one stray walker from the group devouring the more recently deceased inmate stumbled over to him, falling to its knees as it began to tear at the abdomen of the lifeless body with its dirty fingers. Fleshy pieces of its previous meal hung loosely from its mouth as it tore through the fabric into the insides of Calvin's cadaver camoflauge. He held in a groan as the added weight pushed him further into the tile floor -- each of his aching bones and muscles screaming silently.

*!BANG BANG BANG!*

Gunshots popped off from deeper into the station. The feasting walkers all turned towards the sounds in unison, abandoning what was left of the ravaged corpse and shambling out the door into the hallway. More gunshots rang out chaotically, demanding their full attention. Calvin couldn't remember being so happy to hear gunfire in his entire life -- though they were likely signs of someone else's life ending, they had saved at least one today -- and for that, Calvin was thankful.

The walker propped on top of him had craned its neck towards the sounds and was just about to join the herd, when Calvin shimmied his knife loose from the skull of the dead inmate and reached up, pulling the live walker down by the collar of its ratty shirt. He thrust the blade as deep as he could into its eye socket -- ironic, given his own injury... but there was no time to be amused. A gurgle fizzled out in the creature's throat as he -- or it, rather -- collapsed on top of Calvin and his growing body blanket. He pushed up with all the might he could muster, rolling the stack of bodies over as they spilled onto the floor beside them. All of the fresh air came rushing back into his lungs as he laid sprawled out on the ground, catching his breath. He raised his head to scan the room and was happy to see that he was finally alone. It had been a long time since he had come into contact with a walker... and perhaps it was the horrific injury he sustained, but he never really relished the fact that for a solid seven days he was perfectly safe in his makeshift jail cell. He went to sleep every night certain that at least he was safe from the walkers. The guards even fed him on a decent schedule. Calvin hung his head low, realizing that the friends he had left behind had doubtfully had as easy of a week. He hadn't realized how much he missed them all until now. If he was able to get out of the station in one piece, maybe there'd be a way.

'They survived... they have to have survived,' he told himself, half-convincingly.

He rose from the ground and brushed himself off, scanning the room to confirm that he was indeed alone. That would have been enough of a victory, if only he knew what to do next. There were undoubtedly dozens of walkers within the walls of the station by now, complicating any plans of escape he may have had earlier. Not to mention the countless panicking inmates who, in the absence of their leader, seemed to have adopted the "shoot first, ask questions later" strategy. Calvin secretly wished he didn't have his face... a simple request the walkers would have been happy to have obliged. But the fact was -- he was too recognizable. Sneaking through the station unnoticed was out of the question...

And then a thought crossed his mind. He looked down blankly at the bloody corpses at his feet, their tattered clothes and shredded visages staring back up at him. He couldn't change his face -- but he could certainly change his scent...


* * *


Calvin sized himself up in the dusty mirror leaning against the back wall of the rec room. He had taken the blood-stained, foul prison jumpsuit from the more decrepit dead walker and zipped it up over his own clothing. The rank smell was enough to overpower his own senses -- and he only hoped it would be enough to get him out of here. If his previous attempt at masking himself was any consolation, this was his ticket out of his own week-long involuntary confinement. He cringed, rubbing more of the filth on his head and hands -- smearing it out evenly across himself. He crouched down, spitting the overwhelming taste and stench from his nose and eyes and mouth. His eye swelled with stinging tears as he struggled back to his feet and trudged towards the entrance. Distant cries and shouts filled the dimly lit corridors with only a few sparse flaming metal drum barrels casting any light at all. So on he walked into the darkness...


* * *


"CUT!" the irritated director shouted from his chair. The sandy-haired man slipped out from behind the video monitors and slid the headphones down around his neck, scratching anxiously at his head. "It's still too much, Calvin..." he admitted, pulling the actor aside as the crew around them jumped to action, setting and resetting all of the key elements on the soundstage.

Calvin sighed, running his hands over his face. They'd been stuck on this scene for the better part of the afternoon, and he just couldn't deliver what the director wanted. At this point, he didn't even know who was more to blame. "How many takes is that?" Calvin asked, dejectedly.

"Don't worry about the takes," the director replied, "worry about you. Remember... less is--"

"Are you fucking kidding me," Calvin snapped at him, cutting him short. "Don't start quoting generic crap from books on acting. Tell me what you want."

The director held up his hand in apology. "I'm sorry, you're right. I'm just saying... it can be smaller. Like, uh-- how do you say? When a butterfly with the wings comes out of his little, y'know? If he comes out too early, then-- you see? You don't have to force it. Let it happen organically." His German accent crept in and out as he spoke, waving his hands in vague gestures.

Calvin's eyes narrowed as he nodded, both understanding and not understanding simultaneously. This particular director wasn't one of his favorites and had been attached to the project well after Calvin had. The two didn't see eye to eye on most things, but it was both of their jobs to make it work. "Alright, alright..." Calvin said, shaking it off.

The director clapped him on the back. "Okay, let's do this! We've only got one shot at this." Words that nobody loved to hear. He walked back to his tape mark on the set and closed his eyes, trying to get rid of all the tension and anxiety built up from the hectic day of work with a few cracks of the knuckles. His director had returned to his seat in video village and flashed a thumbs up to his star actor. "Ready when you are, Calvin! Big energy, but think small -- and remember... act natural!"


Calvin gave a half-hearted thumbs up and took his place back on his mark, rolling his neck and shaking the energy out. They only had one take to capture it -- so there was no room for error.

All or nothing. Great. Seemed to be a recurring theme lately.

The direction raised his hand in the air in anticipation. "Aaaaaaand--"


* * *


ACTION!

Calvin stumbled down the hall amongst a pack of roaming walkers, their filth and stench oozing from him. There wasn't enough light in the world to have made him feel comfortable in his current situation, but a little more certainly wouldn't have hurt. All he could hear at the moment was the cacophonous echoes of dozens of hungry walkers hunting for unlucky survivors. The sound was unsettling enough without the accompanying smells and constant threat of death. They passed a partition into one of the larger junctions between corridors and began to split in different directions as scattered gunshots, screams and sounds filled the air. Calvin felt as if he was walking through a hurricane as convicts and walkers ran past him hurriedly and maniacally. Through the thickness of the madness, he laid his eye on the last man he expected to see so close to the madness...

The Warden -- in all his infamy.

He chopped viciously with his machete at the walkers dumb enough to run at him as several of the other convicts around him frantically fought off their attackers too. They backed towards a set of double doors leading towards what looked like a stairwell. As soon as Bronson was clear, the last man through cleaved into one of the approaching walkers and kicked its body clear of the doors as two other convicts pulled them shut.

Calvin moved forward in the surging crowd of walkers, like a piece of driftwood, trying to keep his head down as the walkers went marching on and on...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC)
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Holloway and Co.


Holloway sat by the window and watched the streams of walkers surge slowly through the streets below him. They filled every nook and cranny it seemed, an endless river of millions of living dead that had no purpose other than to destroy life.

He found himself wondering how it had even happened. The plague anyway. They had had plenty of warning, it’s not like no one had known about it. Reports had been surfacing for months all over the world and he wasn’t sure if governments had just chosen to ignore them, or if no one took them seriously. They sure as hell would be now.

The sound of Clarkson shifting on the bed behind him drew his attention away for a moment and he glanced back towards the Brit. The man was pale but breathing well, the morphine had done the trick and he had slept through them rearranging the apartment as they saw best. It would take some time but he would be back to normal soon enough, or at least Holloway hoped as much.

The two civilians were curled up on the floor, their own snores mingling with those of Clarksons and he envied their ability to sleep. There was no way he was going to be able to even though his body was dearly in need of it.

What little sunlight that had remained following the events of the day was beginning to fade quickly now, but not quickly enough to cloak the black ash that was beginning to fall from the sky.

Holloway felt a slight shudder go through him as he realized that it wasn’t ash so much as it was everyone and everything that had once been the city of San Francisco. He only hoped that they weren’t marked for a similar strike. He wondered if it had even worked.

He touched the dog tags about his neck and hoped that his folks back home were okay, though he would never know. He hadn’t seen them since he had run away from home almost 16 years ago. It was funny how, as the world collapsed around you, that you suddenly cared about people you had wished death on only a few years before.

Tilting his chair back slightly he was able to see across the hall and spot Blackthorne who was curled up on a window ledge like a cat, his gaze fixed on the street outside. Only the slow rise and fall of his shoulders betrayed that he was still alive. Holloway had to give the man credit; he had held it together well. He well knew that Blackthorne and Bishop had been close friends before they met up in the teams and though he hid it, Holloway knew that Blackthorne blamed himself for the mans death.

Then there was the girl. Stevie. Small, cute, undeniably a good time and if the sounds coming from the room were to be believed, dynamite in the sack. Holloway would have though she was a cat with the number of times that they had managed to pull her from the fire and now she was out there again and that would be eating Blackthorne something fierce.

Blackthorne had rarely spoken of anyone back home during their short time together but Holloway did know that he had three brothers and parents back in Canada. He had not once asked about them, never wasted even a moment of someone else’s time to try and find out if they were okay. It was not because he didn’t care, Holloway knew that, he just knew that there was nothing be could do from where he was but hope for the best.

He returned his gaze to the street and found he had to squint slightly as the sun continued to sink, the ash got thicker and the black smoke of the forest fires began to penetrate the streets. It was looking even more nightmarish than usual.

“Glad I’m not out there.”

Holloway almost fell over backwards in his chair as he started in shock, Blackthorne grinned at him over his shoulder.

“Gotcha.”

“Man, what the fuck. I’ve told you not to do that. You’re to fucking sneaky for your own good.” Holloway swore again and put a hand on his chest, his heart was pounding.

“Sorry buddy, trying to keep the noise down. Why don’t you knock off and grab some bed, Clarkson looks like he could use a cuddle. I’ll wake you in two hours.” Blackthrone jerked his head towards the bed and Holloway nodded thankfully.

“Wake me for anything at all, don’t be shy.” He said as he stood, stretched and then lay down on the bed next to the snoring Brit.

“Yes dad.” Blackthorne replied with a wink before turning to look out the window.

The last image Holloway had was of the Sergeant cradling his rifle as he stared into the street, the very last rays of the evening sun splitting the clouds just long enough for Holloway to realize that Blackthorne was staring down the street they had run down. He was waiting for someone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Sean Donague
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# Sarah Hawke & Sean Donague #


Sarah watched the bag slide to a stop and gritted her teeth. The man who had seemed like her best chance of getting out of here suddenly appeared to be trying to orchestrate his own escape instead. She watched the man in the duster saunter a few steps forward towards the bag and look at it incredulously. Donague's eyes darted over to meet Sarah's and the two held each other's stare long enough to communicate the situation to one another. It was only then that she heard the scrapes on the pavement outside -- like someone slowly turning up the volume. She hunkered lower to the ground, anticipating the shitstorm that was coming and caught the edge of the crowbar sticking out from behind the bookcase nearby.

The man in the duster looked back up at Donague. "Tryin' to sweeten the pot, eh?" Donague shrugged, vaguely. "Well," he continued, "Let's see what you think this bitch is worth..." He bent down to open the bag and started to unzip it, grinning greedily as he did. Donague watched him closely and saw his eyes flicker up towards the staircase behind him. Donague's eyes narrowed as he looked slightly to his left, unable to make out any movement in his peripherals.

*BAM BAM*

Two loud bangs against the wooden front door. Jeremy craned his neck that direction, and Sarah knew it was her only chance. She flailed back with her elbow, catching the man square in his genitals as she dove forwards out of his reach. He crumpled to the ground in a fat heap -- screaming bloody murder as he grabbed hold of himself to try and quell the pain. She saw Duster shout out and raise his pistol towards her right as she dove behind the nearest bookcase, followed by two more loud bangs -- gunshots. One ripped through the back of the shelf near her head, spraying wooden splinters and shredded pages of books across the aisle around her. She dove forwards, landing on her stomach a little too hard and slightly knocking the wind out of herself. She felt her fingertips brush the tip of the cold metal crowbar, and grabbed it quickly -- spinning around as she heard footsteps approaching fast from behind.

With his nuts shoved up into himself, Jeremy looked a bit funny as he ran towards her. He fought to control his footing as he stumbled across the scattered books all over the ground in the dark -- and Sarah used the distraction as the perfect opportunity to slip around the edge of the bookcase and prime her crowbar. Jeremy's footsteps grew louder and louder as she counted quietly to herself.

One... Two... SMACK!!!

It was too dark to really see which end of the bar hit him, but the man wailed out again, falling backwards into the shelves Sarah had pushed against the broken window -- the crowbar lodged in his face. She ran over to him before he could recover and pulled the bookcase down on top of him, exposing a wall of walkers pressed against the broken window, clamoring to get inside. Sarah hadn't even heard them with all the commotion going on. The walkers began climbing through the breach, spilling out on top of the overturned bookcase as Sarah backed up, tripping over her own duffle bag. She sprawled out onto the floor as the sound of dozens of creatures groaning and clawing behind her grew louder. But the bag was her priority. Her entire last week, the convicts... finding her brother... Bronson... she wouldn't let it all be for nothing. Her breath caught up with her as she snapped to -- lunging for the strap of her bag. She pulled it towards herself, digging her heels against the floor as the heavy bag came scooting towards her. It was enough of a victory that she didn't even notice what was going on behind her...


* * *


Dongue had heard the knocks but when he turned his head it was to watch Sarah deliver an elbow to her guard's groin and dive out of sight. Before Duster could bring his gun up to trail her and stop her escaping, Donague pulled the trigger of his borrowed pistol. The shot mixed with the rapidly growing sounds of chaos in the store, and he saw Duster stagger back. It occured to him that he should fire another shot to be sure, but before he had a chance he was knocked to the ground by a body colliding with him from behind. As he fell, he heard Duster's gun go off and he hoped it was a reflex instead of an aimed shot. It was difficult to tell because he had not seen where his own bullet had landed.

The impact jarred his elbow and knocked his jaw but he had kept himself from being winded and had retained his grip on the gun, though the unseen assailant was now attempting to wrestle it from his grasp. Face down and with a mouth full of dust, there was little that Donague could do to win this fight, so he repeated his previous strategy and dropped the weapon, flicking his wrist to send it to the side. As anticipated the looter struggled to reach it and gave Donague just enough room to twist his leg out from under his attacker. He forced his knee into the ground and managed to wriggle loose with the looter sprawling across the floor to retrieve the dropped pistol. He caught sight of movement and rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding a chain to the back of the head, only to receive the butt of a pistol to his already aching jaw. The shallow angle of the hit from the floor was enough to prevent any breaking of bone but it still split the inside of his cheek and hurt like hell. He flung an arm up and the pair began to grapple again,but Donague took a cue from Sarah and delivered a swift knee between the other man's legs, only to have that knee, and the looter's thigh, whipped with a chain. He shouted in pain, gritted his teeth, then spat blood into the bandit's face. It was just enough to gain full control of the pistol and he rolled onto his back, ready to fire, but saw that the chain-wielding burglar was already heading for the stairs. Instead of tagging him on the run Donague swung himself to standing, but buckled under the pain and landed on one knee to be greeted by disaster.

"Don't you move a fucking muscle!" screamed Duster, gun now leveled at Donague's aching face.

"Fuck." There really wasn't much more he could say about the situation. There would be no talking his way out of this one, not when the round he had fired had passed clean through Duster's bicep. His right arm hung uselessly at his side with blood dripping slowly out of the sleeve, the gun now held in his left. If the man had looked unbalanced before he looked positively manic at this point.

"Fucking right, fuck! Drop the gun!" he replied, still screaming his words. "Now get up!" Donague obliged with a sigh and a wince, pushing himself up with his hands on his own thigh.

"Now what?" Donague asked with apparent resignation.

"Now?" Duster looked wired. "Now you walk, smartass. You walk right out that front door!" The door in question was still under the assault of the horde and sounded ready to give at any moment. He was being made to walk to his own death. He looked over at the door, heard it creaking and heard the moans. The walkers at the other end of the store were past the fallen case and on solid ground and did not look inviting.

"No, not a chance, I'd rather be shot."

"I know you would, but what about your little friend?" Duster grinned a savage smile full of rage and pain and turned to try to place Sarah in his sights. His gun arm turned, scanning the gloom as it went, but the first lifeform it focused on was that of the leaping Charlie, teeth bared beneath snarling lips. The shuffle of the walkers had masked his footsteps and the dog threw himself into the air, jaws clamping down to break skin and tendons in Duster's wrist. The man screamed and fell backwards. It was Donague's turn to smile.

"Things never go according to plan these days" he said, loud enough to be heard over the screams as he bent down and picked up the pistol, knee shaking under the effort. Duster was in the midst of having his good arm torn to pieces as Donague walked over and took aim. "Don't you just hate that?"

He fired one round into Duster's chest and one into his head. The gun clicked to signal it was out of bullets.

Charlie had cowered back upon hearing the gunshots but was now fixing Donague in his sights once again. With nothing but an empty gun, the hound lowered his growling head to the ground, and he felt he had come full circle since stepping inside the store. The dog's hairs bristled along its back as it crept towards Donague, menacingly. Its lips curled back over its teeth signaling its intentions as the dog warily countered the man's movements in the room. The two held each others' gaze as the chaos of the bookstore unfolded around them -- until a hand reached out of the darkness, grabbing Charlie by the collar.

"It's alright," Sarah said quietly to her furry sidekick. "He's with us..."

Donague raised an eyebrow at her. "Is that right?" She reached out her hand, motioning for her gun back. Donague reached over and dropped it into her palm as she tucked it into her waistband.

"Who else is gonna carry the bag?" She said, brushing past him towards the stairs. Sarah turned and whistled back at Charlie, but he was already hot on her heels -- anxious to get away from the party crashing horde of walkers pouring over the corpses of the dead looters behind them. With any luck, the dead looters' bodies would slow them down.

Sarah instincts were telling her to head to the staircase towards the upper landing, hoping to find a different way out -- maybe along the roof. The streets were obviously fucked. "The others ran that way," Donague warned, seeing her eyes linger on the stairs. "I'd be careful." He reached down to loop his arm through the straps and hoist the bag off the ground -- grunting as his muscles screamed. The bag was much heavier than it looked. He hoped this was all going to be worth it, he'd nearly died enough times that day. Donague began to hustle after her, the sound of mawing biters growing behind them, kicking his own rucksack as he went.

They reached the bottom of the steps and Sarah turned to him. "Hold still," she ordered, digging into the bag hanging on his shoulder. She took out her revolver and fished out some rounds for it, reloading all the chambers in case they ran into any other tourists on their way out.

Donague watched her out of the corner of his eye, keeping a careful watch to make sure they weren't snuck up on. "Got one of those for me?" he asked, bruskly.

Sarah looked at him. "I might later. I don't even know your name..."

"You know I could just reach in and grab one? I'm carrying the bag..." He had a point. Sarah sighed and plunged back into the bag, fishing out one of the glocks and an extra clip.

"Take one of these too," Sarah advised, offering him the hilt of one of the hunting knives. He took both weapons, situating them on his person before zipping the bag back up. He looked back at the room and saw that some of the walkers had found the dead man in the duster's corpse and were already well on their way to devouring it. It occured to Donague that it was now too late to retrieve Duster's gun. He swiftly decided the bag was already heavy enough.

"We should go," he said, adjusting the strap on his shoulder. "Keep your eye out for those other two pricks." Sarah nodded, turning to go up the stairwell. "And carry this". She turned to him again and took a step back as the full weight of the satchel was thrust into her chest. It was nowhere near as heavy as the bag Donague was carrying but the combined weight would have him worn out far too quickly. Besides, that bag had been his whole life since he ventured out on to the streets. Charlie padded by both of them, rushing up to the top of the steps to see if the coast was clear. The dog had saved Sarah's life more than enough times now. Who'd have thought an untrained domestic pet would have ended up being the most suited for the end of the world?

"Alright," Sarah said with a deep breath. She crept up the creaky staircase, her gun leveled in front of her as she prepared for the worst. It was fairly lighter on the upper level as they approached -- but the Sun was setting faster each second. Scattered and tossed bookshelves and tables pouring with novels and literature lined the walkways of this particular part of the store. The last remnants of the day's light poured through sequenced skylights across the ornate bow of the ceiling leading across the floor to a door. Their destination. Charlie came bustling out from underneath a leaning bookshelf, his tail wagging in his relentless pursuit of weird smells and sounds. Sarah set foot on the upper floor and cautiously walked down the aisle towards the end. They passed a series of toppled bookshelves and found a dead walker -- the knife freshly hanging from where its ear used to be. A pool of blood had formed a ring around it on the floor, as if circling it to get their attention. Donague lingered at the railing behind her, crouched low out of sight. He gazed down at the floor below, tracking the walker's movements as Sarah continued forwards. She cautiously checked each of the rows to her left and right for their attackers, fearing that they'd be lying in wait.

She had no idea how right she was.

The soft jingling of metal rang out from her left -- starting and than abruptly stopping. Sarah spun to face the sound, leveling her revolver that direction, but it was too dark to make out anything. The sound started again, this time even quieter. Against her better judgement, Sarah stepped into the aisle between the bookcases as lightly as her toes would let her.

And then the walls began to close in on her... literally, not figuratively. The entire bookcase next to her tumbled over, smashing on top of her as the books and shelves tumbled all over the floor. Luckily, the bookcase it had fallen against had held its place and absorbed the brunt of the weight, but the corner of one thick hardback had done a number on her cheek. She rubbed it sorely, feeling the familiar sensation of sticky wet blood on her fingertips as she army crawled towards the opening at the end -- stepping back out into the aisle. Her assailants footsteps had sounded like they had bolted deeper down the aisle towards the door if her hearing hadn't deceived her. Charlie's barks echoed out from somewhere further away. He was clearly in pursuit as well. Sarah stumbled back into the center walkway and turned to see Donague hustling towards her, his weapon drawn. Sarah held up a hand to him to signal that she was alright.

"You just managed to get the attention of every walker in here. They're coming up the stairs," he said, his eyes scanning the adjacent aisles. "What the hell was that noise?"

Sarah finished brushing herself off. "One of 'em jumped me and ran for the back," she explained, sourly. Donague's eyes darted to the door across the way. Charlie was already at it, his paws padding against the wood. The first of the walkers had made it to the top of the steps, the pitch of its growling intensifying as it spotted the two of them standing in the center of the floor. They turned and sprinted full force towards Charlie and the door, holding tightly to the straps of their bags as they jostled around on their shoulders. Sarah reached the door first and grabbed for the handle, but sure enough it was locked. "You've got to be kidding me..." she sighed, running a hand down her face. More walkers had joined the stampede heading their way -- grasping and clawing. Donague pushed her back with one hand and braced himself, kicking the door as hard as he could. It didn't budge an inch. He tried again. And a third time, before doubling over. "Stop," she commanded, "you're gonna hurt yourself." She pushed him out of the way and took a few steps back before launching herself at the door -- to her surprise, it opened right as her shoulder would have connected with it, and she instead found herself travelling through the empty air onto the hard ground.

She skidded to a stop a few feet away and felt the weight of someone's body leap on top of her followed by the cold sensation of metal as a length of chain was wrapped around her neck. Donague leapt into the room, grabbing the man with the bandana by the back of his jacket. The two fell to the ground off to her side and she gasped for breath, grabbing at her throat as she freed herself from his grip. The bastard still had the chain in his hands too, somehow. She rolled onto her side to push herself back to her feet when she suddenly saw their imminent hell. The horde of walkers was right there, mere feet from the doorway. Sarah's heart stopped, and she jumped up -- diving for the handle and slamming the door shut.

A few walkers had already managed to get their hands through the door though, and there was no way for her to close it -- much less lock it. Donague and Bandana tussled on the floor as Charlie circled and barked, adding to the commotion. Sarah dug her heels into the ground, pushing all her weight back against the door as more and more walkers began pushing from the other side. She couldn't help Donague without allowing all of the walkers to get inside -- and then nothing would matter anymore.

They'd all be dead...

"This isn't gonna hold much longer!" she shouted at the two strangers fighting on the floor.

Donague had the other man locked in place from behind but he was strong and had managed to wrap his chain around the media mogul's arm while trying to knock the wind from him with an elbow. Donague meanwhile was trying to to pin him with his knee but neither man was having much luck.

"Give it up!" Donague shouted between blows, "Or none of us are getting out of here!"

Another elbow to the ribs in response. It shifted the smaller man a little and was swiftly followed by a jerk of the banadana-adorned head which caught him above the eye. Donague held on, breathing heavily through gritted teeth stained with blood. But holding on wasn't enough and the man threw himself backwards, gaining ground and twisting to bring himself face-to-face. Donague's newly acquired bag slipped off his shoulder and joined the chain that was now binding the men together. The weight was enough that the chain-wielding rogue could struggle to his knees and force his weight down to gain the advantage. A hand slipped and grappled for purchase around Donague's stubbled, sweat-soaked neck while he tried desperately to shuffle backwards. All the while he could hear the gutteral, primal growls of the walkers trying to force their way in. He flailed his feet and bent his knees but could not shake his attacker off.

"Open the d-" he started to yell, but powerful fingers finally found their mark and gripped his throat like a vice. He clawed at the wrist, nails gouging skin away in strips.

Sarah didn't know what to do. The stranger she had found herself suddenly allied with had told her to open the door and she knew that she could not hold it much longer but she couldn't bring herself to unleash a horde of cannibalistic corpses into the room. The door shuddered again and jolted her forwards and she made her decision to dart away. The door burst open behind her, and at the same moment Donague pulled his knee up to the side and slipped it through the bag's strap before pushing it back down with all his might and a grunt of pain. The chain snapped taught and tugged the aggressor to the side. His grip faultered and Donague clamped his hand around the man's forearm, shoved him to the side, planted his foot against his hip and pushed. The realization was in his eyes before the scream was on his lips. The first two walkers through the door fell upon him as Donague pulled himself backwards along the wooden boards of the floor, foot hooked in the strap to drag the bag with him. Something grabbed him from behind and for a second he thought more walkers had found their way in, but as the hands started to yank him backwards he remembered Sarah and knew it was her.

As he struggled to his feet he drew the glock he had been handed and tried to take aim at the head of the man now beginning to be devoured before him but there were too many bodies crowding over him.

"Let's go!" Sarah insisted. He didn't need telling twice. With the bag quickly in hand Donague limped along as quickly as he could behind his new accomplice and her dog, the agonized wailing piercing his ears long after it had been reduced to a throaty gargle.

Whatever awaited them next didn't matter. They were alive.

For now...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC) Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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+ Niobe Kajja +


The nearest Capitol pulled the folding door shut as the bus rumbled to life, tearing forward across the littered street ahead. Harper, James, Stevie, Jack, and Christopher were all ushered towards the back of the bus by a few others as various weapons were thrust into their hands. They stepped into the open spots near the makeshift shuttered windows to help clear the sides of clinging walkers. A heavier-set woman rose from her seat near the back upon seeing the sudden strangers around her.

"Uhh-- excuse me?" she said loudly, waving at the driver through the front mirror.

Eli jerked the wheel to the left, his teeth clamped down on his lip as he fought with every muscle to not flip the bus. "They're friends," he shot back without taking his eyes off the road. Patrick held on tightly to the back of the driver's seat as he exchanged quick handshakes with Niobe and Carl. They held onto whatever they could to keep from falling over as the bus violently swerved through the streets. A small gaggle of walkers splattered across the front of the bus as Eli braced the wheel for impact.

"Wish we were meeting again under better conditions," Patrick said, disparagingly.

Niobe squeezed his shoulder, her face damp with sweat as she breathed quick and shallow breaths. "We're very-- thankful," she managed.

"Yeah, man--" Carl butted in, "We were in a pretty shitty spot back there."

Niobe turned to look towards the back of the bus where her friends were -- each of them involved in some activity amongst all the moving bodies. "Where's Silas?" she asked, noticing his absence.

"He's back at HQ," Patrick replied.

Eli shook his head, somehow having managed to listened to their little conversation despite the clusterfuck of a road he was navigating through. "Alright, Cobra Commander--" he teased. He glanced at Niobe in the large rearview mirror. "He means Amoeba. Y'know, the record store? We relocated there after the Capitol was hit."

Carl frowned. "We wondered what happened to you guys."

Patrick shrugged, glancing between the two of them -- until something took his focus past their shoulders. He shoved past them, walking towards the back of the bus. His gaze shot out the back window into the growing darkness of the night. "Eli!" he shouted back, pushing past some of the other passengers as he fought towards the front. "Eli-- the b-bus... it's gone." Everyone onboard lurched forward as Eli applied the brakes slowly, turning onto a side street.

"What the fuck, Speed Racer?" Jack shouted out from his spot near the window, drawing his head back in. Others around him did the same, wondering what was happening as well.

Eli stood from his seat to face the hushed crowd. "Where's the other bus?"

Muted voices and whispers bubbled up from the group as they pressed their faces against the windows, anxiously searching outside for any sign of their tandem vehicle.

"Oh, God..." somebody cried from deeper back in the bus. "C-Claire... Boone... Gus? They all made it right?"

"We can't stay sitting here!" another voice shouted out. Several others seemed to agree as the hype built inside the bus. Eli looked pleadingly at Patrick, but they both knew it before they said a word. There was no going back. Black ash had caked against the edges of the buses windows, a reminder of the ticking clock to get indoors -- lest they risk further... biological problems. Eli slid back into the driver seat and flipped the bus back into gear, lurching it forward. His white knuckles gripped the wheel as they dipped around the next corner, gunning for home.


* * *


"Once the gate's shut, you high-tail it indoors," Eli warned Patrick. "I'll back it up against the rear exit and come in that way, but you'll have to unlock the door for me from the inside." Patrick nodded his understanding and clasped the man's hand tightly as the last few passengers exited the bus and filed into Amoeba through the side exit as one of the Capitols held the door open. A makeshift, wire gate had been erected over one side of the alley -- wide enough for vehicles to move through, and fully retractable. A clever feat of engineering given the circumstances. Several of the Capitols helped the more injured members of their party inside as Harper, Jack and the others followed.

But it was Stevie who ended up coming in near to last. Her eyes adjusted to the light and met his, and their breath caught for just a moment. It wasn't love at first sight or anything like that -- but rather like the remembrance of a distant memory... as recent as it may have actually been. He walked towards the door with several other armed Capitols in tow to receive their injured allies, rolling up his sleeves as they approached and slowing to a stop and he recognized who he was was looking at.

"Stevie...?" the man's coarse voice asked -- disbelief in his eyes.

Silas knew this woman. And she knew him.