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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.

687 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: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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Setting

Characters Present

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

“We can’t stay here.” Thomas’s voice seemed so suddenly loud in the silence of the apartment that the civilians actually jumped slightly in surprise. Nathan looked around at the military men guiltily. He had been doing his best to prove he could be as tough and stoic as they were.

“Agreed.” Rumbled the deep baritone of Holloway as he stood and stretched from his place by the window. His back cracked once and he smiled, sighing with evident relief.

“Why not? We have shelter, running water, food.” Steve piped in from the other side of the room where he was lying across four chairs, one arm thrown over his eyes as if to block out the weak morning light that was filtering into the room.

“Food enough for a week maybe and the fallout will only get worse if we wait. Once it’s into the ground water, we’re all fucked.” Thomas said patiently. The news man was starting to piss him off. So far the only thing he had done was complain about their position and demand to know how Thomas was going to return them to the others. “We need to get out of this city ASAP.”

“And leave your girlfriend here?” Steve asked as he sat up at last, not brave enough to meet Thomas’s gaze as he said it. “Leaving her to die doesn’t seem very “protect the weak and innocent” of you.” He had made quotation gestures as he spoke and a slight sneer was on his lip.

Thomas chose to ignore him. The man, like the rest of them was in a high stress environment and things always began to break down when you put someone into that situation, especially those who had never had their lives in any serious danger before. He knew the man had his own family out there somewhere and guessed that this outburst was probably a result of his own fears for them.

“Where would we go?” Nathan finally broke the silence. He could sense the tension between his boss and the military men and after what he heard about the soldiers reactions to the death of their comrade only a week ago he did not doubt for a second that if Steve pushed his luck, Thomas would kill him if aggravated.

“Out of the city but I’m not sure which direction.” Thomas said as he looked out into the street. They were virtually empty of walkers now but blanketed in a white and black layer of ash that showed trails through it where the odd walker still slouched slowly by, drawn by the moans of other further away. It looked like something like the trail snails might leave in the sand at the beach in a grotesque and horrible sort of way.

“South maybe?” Steve finally seemed to snap out of his funk. “Mexico might be populated but at least it doesn’t have nuclear fallout.”

The other nodded at that and Thomas was about to add something more when a startled yelp came from the next room where Clarkson was still lying in bed. His shoulder was still in pain and they had slung it across his chest but it would be several weeks before he was fully recovered.

Thomas at once leapt up and hurried into the next room to find the Britisher sitting bolt upright in bed. He was holding the shortwave radio that he had been carrying at arm’s length and was staring at it like it had bitten him.

“You forget what a radio looks like?” Holloway asked he appeared in the doorway behind Thomas. The SAS man ignored them and he suddenly jerked the radio back to his ear and listened with quiet intensity. They could hear something, it sounded like a voice cutting in and out with static but clear enough to make out segments of it nonetheless.

Thomas took a step closer and knelt by the bed. Clarkson turned to look at him and he could see tears in the corner of the man eyes but the huge smile he wore across his face belayed any bad news.

“Well?” Thomas prompted him.

“You’ll nay believe it lad, it’s me bloody twin sis.” He handed the radio to Thomas who pressed it to his own ear. The signal was faint beneath the static but he heard enough in seconds for his own eyes to grow wide with disbelief as he listened to the broadcast.

“This is Lieutenant Eva Clarkson of ‘er Her Majesties Ship Ambush broadcasting on all circuits. Any military unit that can ‘ear this message please respond, over.”

There was a pause and then the message would repeat louder or quieter, depending on what channel she was using. Thomas handed the radio back to Clarkson and felt a smile crack his features.

“Congratulations Spencer. Where the hell did she come from?”

“She was up’in San Fran. I thought fer sure tha nuke ‘ad wiped ‘er out…”

“So, is anyone going to respond to the girl?” Holloway broke in. “It seems to me she wants to make contact and it’s awfully rude of us to keep her waiting.”

Clarkson nodded as if in a dream and lifted the radio to his lips.

* * * * * *


“HMS AMBUSH, this is Master Corporal Spencer Clarkson o’ ‘er Majesties SAS. We read you, over.”

Lieutenant Eva Clarkson froze, the mic inches from her lips, and she stared blankly at the bulkhead in front of her. Total silence had fallen on the control room as the men around her turned to stare at her in surprise. She was still staring in stunned amazement at nothing when the voice broke into her thoughts again.

“HMS AMBUSH, this is Master Corporal Spencer Clarkson o’ ‘er Majesties SAS. We read you, you still there little sister? Over.”

“Oh my fooking god…” She muttered in continued amazement before snapping her fingers towards another shocked looking crewman. “Isolate channel.” She took a deep breath.

“Reading you loud an’ clear Master Corporal. Woot is yer status, over.”
“Got a busted fin, an’ only two o’ tha lads I started tha week with left, plus a pair o’ civis. We could use a lift if’n yer offering, over.”

“Can ye make tha harbour?” Excitement was rising in her as she glanced at real time down looking map information from a satellite far above them. It showed the chaos of the docks but a section near the ocean was clear of any obvious debris. “Pier 33, over.”

“Aye lass, we’ll see ye there! Will update on this channel. Out.”

She put down the mic, suppressed the urge to dance with glee and then turned back to the bridge team that was still staring at her in amazement. “Green 45 if you please Mister Mowat. We’re making for Los Angeles.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield
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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They went through each room systematically. Looking through drawers, behind cabinets, inside flowerpots. Rafiq knew what they were looking for, but neither Bethany or Diego had deemed it necessary to inform him. Not that he really blamed them. Who would openly admit to be looking for cocaine in front of a complete stranger? Even these days.

He kept following them around, just in case. Rafiq considered just coming clean and giving them the suitcase back, but he ultimately decided not to. He didn’t even know why not. It was not that he was afraid of the couple. He might have been, once, but meeting a potential drugs dealing couple was no longer on his list of things to be afraid of. Besides, as far as he could tell, they had been honestly upset and surprised by the bodies in the conference room. Rafiq suspected these two were a lot of things, but they were no killers.

No, Rafiq didn’t know why he kept the suitcase hidden from them. But he did.

Bethany was contemplating a bottle of hand lotion. She opened it and sniffed it in a way women do in the commercials. Smiling faintly, she applied it on her hands.

“You don’t have to follow us around, you know,” she said.

Rafiq shrugged, “I know.”

“So don’t.” Her eyes peered at him intensely, but Rafiq didn’t look away. Her face betrayed an annoyance as she left the room.

Her husband did not follow her immediately, but lingered instead. He watched his wife leave the room and then turned his attention on Rafiq.

“You look different,” Diego said.

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t look at her as most men do.”

Rafiq blinked in surprise, “I... what... she’s your wife. I...”

Smiling, Diego stepped closer. “And I’m the luckiest man in the world because of her. But that doesn’t mean other men do not want her.”

He was getting even closer, uncomfortably so. Rafiq felt a prickle of sweat forming on his brow. Diego’s smile had turned into a charming grin. Too charming. “And it also doesn’t mean I would only want her.”

Rafiq could feel his heart racing, thumping in his chest. What was happening?

Diego finally moved away and looked out of the window with his back turned. Rafiq just stood there, perplexed. He suddenly felt very exposed. In a way he hadn’t felt for a long time.

---

Position. Dive. Swim.

Get out of the pool.

Position. Dive. Swim.

Get out of the pool.

Position. Dive. Swim.

“Beat you again, Raf!”

“No you didn’t! I was clearly faster.”

“No way!”


Rafiq pointed at the times on the board and raised his eyebrows victoriously at his best friend. Nasir made a face and splashed some water at Rafiq. He was rewarded for this with a punch on the shoulders.

“Like it matters. Terry and Jude are still faster than the both of us.” Nasir said.

This time it was Rafiq who made a face. “At the 100 meter, yes. They’re not beating me on the longer distances though.”

“Didn’t Terry beat you on the 200 last week?”

“Ow, shut up.”

“Get out of the pool, boys! Next lap!”[/b] It was coach Stevenson. Rafiq and Nasir quickly got out of the pool and got back in front of the platforms. They were primarily practicing their diving techniques today, but that didn’t mean the coach didn’t want them to finish their laps as fast as possible.

Rafiq could feel Stevenson standing behind him. The coach was a big and burly man, whose presence was always felt. He was tough, but it was only because he wanted his boys to succeed.

“Rafiq, before I forget, I’d like to see you after practice. Before you take a shower. We need to discuss some of your techniques.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the coach walked away, Nasir looked at his friend. “Your turn for secret training tips from the coach?”

“Apparently. It has been a while.”

“Should I wait for you?”

“No need. Who knows how long it will take. Go home.”


The training lasted fifteen more minutes. As Rafiq stayed behind, most of the other boys left. Only Jude was still there, who was talking with coach Stevenson, who in turn checked his watch. He then looked over at Rafiq and said, “I’ll be there in a second, Rafiq. Need to figure out some administrative stuff with Jude.” Rafiq nodded and the two of them left.

He said down by the pool and submerged his legs into the water, gently moving them back and forth. Rafiq was excited. Private lessons with the coach always improved him as a swimmer. The man had a knack for making you refine your techniques. Rafiq loved swimming, ever since he was a little boy and he was proud that he was one of the best in the city, if not the state.

Footsteps on a wet floor signalled the coming of the coach. Except it wasn’t the coach. It was Jude. “What is it?” Rafiq asked.

“The coach send me. He has some family emergency and has to go. Your lesson is postponed.”

Rafiq looked at Jude with concern. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, I don’t think it is anything too big. Suzy is probably in a panic again.”


Suzy was the coach’s wife and while the coach never spoke about it, all the boys knew that she had psychological problems.

Rafiq followed Jude to the locker room. They talked about the coach and his wife. All the boys respected the coach and none of them blamed him if he had to leave early. He would make up for the lost time at the next training.

The locker room was already empty as they entered. “Guess it’s just us,” Jude said as he took off his swim briefs. Completely naked, the seventeen-year old boy stepped into the shower section. Rafiq stared at Jude’s ass for a second, before catching himself. He always felt disgusted with himself when he looked too long. Most of the time, he managed to not even notice the other boys in that way, but it happened once in a while. The other boys were muscular, well-build and attractive, especially Terry and Jude. Most disturbing were the dreams he sometimes had about his fellow swim mates.

After checking that nothing from his body had involuntarily reacted, he took off his own swim briefs and followed Jude in the showers. The warm water felt good and Rafiq could feel his muscles relax. Jude was two showers over and scrubbing his hair.

“You’re going to try out for the Pacific Swim?”

“I think so. You?”

“Yeah, if I can fit it in.”


As he said it, Jude glanced at Rafiq and smiled in a weird way. There was a sparkle in his eyes and Rafiq could feel his own stomach make a jump. Confused, Rafiq turned his attention to his own feet.

“You know Rafiq, you can look at me.”

His feet were becoming more interesting by the second, lifting one of them to peel away some old skin. From the corner of his eye, he could see Jude change showers, getting closer to him.

“Really, I don’t mind. I look at you too.” A pause. Then, “You’re quite hot, you know that right.”

Rafiq felt himself turning red, desperate and sick. Reluctantly, he had to admit to himself he had fantasized about this, in the deepest corners of his mind, but he had never imagined...

“I... I don’t... I’m not...”

“Look at me, Raf”

Rafiq looked at Jude. The other boy had come even closer now and his body was clearly showing excitement. Rafiq tried covering his own parts, but he knew it was too late. Jude had seen it and smiled mischievously.

“I knew it,” Jude said, “don’t worry Raf, I won’t tell the others. They are all stupidly straight anyway and don’t notice these things.”

Rafiq stammered, “I’m... I’m not gay...” It came out extremely pathetic.

Jude was extremely close now and was stroking Rafiq’s arm.

“Of course not.”

And he kissed him.

For two seconds, Rafiq let him. Only then came the old feelings back. Disgust, guilt, shame. He recoiled from the other boy and jumped out of the shower. Still wet, he put on his clothes as quick as he could. Jude had come after him, still naked, but now looking concerned and slightly ashamed.

“Rafiq! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t... I don’t know what came over me. I just saw you and...” he touched Rafiq’s back, who sprung back.

“Stay away from me,” Rafiq hissed and in tears.

He ran out of the room.

That night, Rafiq did not come home.


---

“I said, it is snowing outside.”


Diego’s words made Rafiq snap back into reality and pushed Jude away from his thoughts.

“Snowing?”

Through the window, Rafiq could indeed see that grey flacks were falling of the sky. But he was sure it wasn’t snow.

“You and Bethany might want to stay a little longer...”

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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) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC) Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones
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"Silas!" Stevie exclaimed as her tired brown eyes lit up with an almost joyous air of surprise. Without hesitation, she wove ahead through the others and half-sprinted to him and threw her arms around him in a tight hug. She looked up at him after letting go and blinked, her mouth creaking into a jubilant, open smile. This was quite possibly the best thing that could have happened. "Silas, it's... it's really good to see you."

# # #

Stevie examined the wood panel on the glass door of the entrance to the restaurant that Dean had raved so much about, insisting that they come out to Venice Beach for this occasion. He opened the door and paused to allow her to enter first, stepping ahead on gray wedge-heeled shoes toward the smiling hostess perched at a podium. Stevie reached a hand up to smooth back her long hair and returned the smile.

"Hi!" the woman greeted cheerfully, sizing the two up as they approached. "We don't have a table free until around 10."

Dean nodded and gestured slightly toward the sleek, wood-dressed dining room crowded with people. "Actually, we're here to join someone who might have showed up already," he warmly answered. He confidently strode ahead after gently tapping Stevie's shoulder to usher her along. "Oh, I just know he's already here," Dean assured her as his eyes scanned about, searching and searching. He brightened just seconds later, offering a hand to the far-shorter woman and leading her ahead. "I see him now."

"Dean!" As if on cue, a tall black man, impeccably dressed in a light gray vest with dark slacks and a scarlet-red tie. He smiled broadly at the blond man and expanded his long arms out to his sides. Stevie paced ahead slowly, allowing Dean to simply strike out ahead to embrace the man in a friendly, brief hug. Dean extended a hand toward the pretty woman—Silas' date, no doubt—seated on one of the benches at the table, and soon all three looked back toward Stevie. Dean patted a hand on her shoulders as she got closer, almost proudly beaming at the other man. "Dean, you didn't tell me she was so pretty!"

The man immediately stepped forward to greet her. Stevie placed a polite peck on his cheek as he bent down, and smiled at him after he drew himself back up to his full height. "Hi, Silas," she greeted sweetly, "I'm so thrilled to meet you. I've heard so many wonderful things."

Silas batted his hand and laughed teasingly. "All lies, I assure you," he answered with a grin, "I guarantee that that Pike's palace you live in is paid for by the money I fork over so that Dean can keep saying those nice things about me."

She laughed and shrugged. "Actually, we rehearsed it on the way over," she joked with a small smile, then turned her attention to Silas' date and greeted her. The very beautiful woman was clearly three drinks deep. At least. "Hi," she tested gingerly, smiling respectfully to gauge her comfort level, "I'm Stephanie."

"Oh, hiiiiiii!" the woman slurred. There was a grating, Kardashian-esque quality to her voice that instantly made Stevie want to burst into peals of laughter. "Oh, what a pretty name!" She craned her neck to look up at Silas from her spot on the bench. "Siiiiiiilas, you should have told me Stevie wasn't going to show up!"

Silas' brow furrowed in confusion. "Pardon?"

The woman took in a high-pitched sigh and gestured her head toward Stevie. "She just said her name's Stephanie!" she insisted. "Where's Stevie? Is she coming, too?"

Stevie didn't know how she managed to keep a straight face. She could feel Dean's amused expression directed at the side of her head, just waiting for her to turn and meet his eyes. She willed herself to just keep looking ahead—otherwise, the evening would have been cut short abruptly by an uncanny inability to control her laughter.

Silas blinked. "Deirdre, 'Stevie' is short for 'Stephanie,'" he gently corrected, managing a battle-tested smile.

The woman wrinkled her nose. "Oh, seriously?" she remarked. "I've never heard that before. Is he for real?" she asked Stevie after turning her eyes back to her.

Stevie managed a kind smile. "It's true," she said simply, shrugging her shoulders mildly, working hard to be as neutral as possible. "My mom's been calling me that since I was a baby. It kind of stuck."

Deirdre took a sip of her glass of wine. "Wow, I can't believe your mom calls you that!" her voice gritted out girlishly. "I would never name a kid 'Stevie.' No offense."

Stevie held her smile in order to mask her surprise. Silas blinked again and signaled toward the table with his hands, desperate to change the subject. "Let's eat!" he interjected cheerfully as he cleared his throat.

Dean stepped aside to allow Stevie to slide onto the bench across from Silas. The two quickly exchanged knowing glances. Stevie looked away and out a nearby window to compose herself after Dean crooked his eyebrow at her, and then back at the two across from her, allowing her laughter to manifest in another large smile. Dean picked up two menus from the table before him and handed one to Stevie. "Pretty much everything here is great," he commented as she read through it. "I'm sure even the tripe is good."

"Tripe?" Deirdre blurted out. "What's tripe?" She glanced down at her wine glass and blinked at the maroon lipstick smudged on the rim, then reached down into her large purse—a Palladino, by Stevie's estimation—and retrieved her lipstick and a compact mirror and proceeded to smear more pigment on her mouth, not without the assistance of her previous drinks.

"Tripe?" Dean parroted back, putting his menu down and glancing across the table at her. He propped his elbow up on the table and rested his chin in the palm of his hand. "Deirdre, you mean to tell me you've never had tripe?"

Deirdre blinked her long, caked eyelashes at the blond man. "Well, no, but what is it?" she asked, holding her lipstick up against her lips in mid-application, visibly intrigued.

Stevie could see Dean's eyes flash wildly. Uh oh. "Deirdre, it's amazing," he assured her. "My mom used to make it all the time growing up. I'm serious. My favorite meal growing up was tripe with a side of macaroni and cheese. I still ask her to make it for me when I visit my parents."

Silas took in a breath. "Dean—"

"But, what's it made of?" Deirdre persisted, putting her lipstick on the table, half-applied. Stevie turned her head to Dean to continue to suppress her laughter.

"It's only the best cut of chicken you could ever ask for," he said, doing well at feigning playful indignance. "Deirdre, you just haven't lived until you've had a plateful of tripe."

"Oh, my God, I had no idea that chicken was so good," Deirdre spoke wonderously, almost as though having some kind of an epiphany. She paused, then looked at Dean suspiciously. "But, you made it sound like you haven't eaten the tripe here before. Why not?"

"Because I just love the way my mom makes it," Dean answered earnestly without skipping a beat. "This traditional Danish recipe has been in my family for generations." Stevie saw Silas' stoic face waver just a little, not daring to look at Deirdre.

"Awwww, that's so sweet!" Deirdre chirped as she plucked her compact up from the table. She clicked it open and took one look at her messy lipstick and immediately snapped it shut. She pursed her lips and picked up her bag. "Excuse me," she offered quickly as she stood from the bench, "I'm headed to the little girls' room. Si, could you order me some tripe, please?" She started to prance away, almost giraffe-like on skyscraper heels, her perfectly-coordinated ensemble suddenly cursed under a cloud of ungainliness.

Stevie watched the woman walk away. As soon as Deirdre disappeared behind the hallway in the far corner of the restaurant leading to the ladies' room, she immediately looked over to Dean and thrust the heel of her hand out to punch him playfully on the shoulder. "Dean, you are such an asshole sometimes!" she offered hushedly but loud enough for Silas to hear, finally allowing herself a long-anticipated laugh. Dean bordered on giggling as he doubled over.

"So, why are you laughing?" he asked

"I'm not laughing!" she insisted, while, in fact, laughing.

"Si, I'm really glad that you brought Deirdre as entertainment to dinner," he managed between breaths. "You... you must have known I was going to completely die over this."

Silas laughed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, Deanie, I see you haven't changed a bit."

"'Deanie'?" Stevie repeated, "did you just call him... 'Deanie'?" Silas nodded with a grin. Stevie laughed through her nose and turned to Dean. "That's funny."

"Your man has always had a flair for the funny," Silas offered, "so he deserved a funny nickname when he came to work for me." He grinned and glanced at Dean. "A nickname perfect for a 22-year old twerp who walked into my office wearing boat shoes. Ten years ago."

Dean pointed to his feet. "And I'm still wearing them," he said smugly. A series of tonal chirps cheerfully extruded from his pocket. He to retrieve his phone, glanced at the screen, then back up at the two. "I better take this. Stevie, could you order me the bigoli with the chestnuts? I hate tripe with a burning passion," he added with a grin. He stood, planted a quick peck on the top of Stevie's head, and headed toward the door to take his call outside in the cool evening air.

Silas glanced across the table at Stevie and laughed. "And then there were two," he said, picking up his glass and taking a long sip. "It's nice to finally meet you."

Stevie nodded and smiled. "You too," she answered sweetly. She reached for her glass and took a sip of water. "Dean talks about you all the time."

His eyes seemed very kind. "Well, he's one of a kind. Good kid." Silas nodded as he glanced back down at his menu. "Should I really order her the tripe?" he asked sing-songedly, "I'm afraid she's going to be mad at me."

The brunette smoothed the skirt of her light blue dress and adjusted her yellow cardigan as she studied the menu again. "Well... there's polenta on the side, so..." she trailed off, wanting to stop in her tracks.

Silas peered across the table at her and laughed. "Go on. Just say it. We're practically old friends and I'm not going to judge."

Stevie pursed her lip, then smiled. "She might not know the difference," she finished. She relished the rare opportunity that she had a chance to be truly irreverent while talking to others. Normally she kept these sorts of observations close to the vest to avoid offending others. But there was something about Silas that told her that she didn't have to worry about what she said.

He let out a ring of laughter and shook his head. "Yeah, I know," he sighed.

"She's going to hurt her throat if she keeps talking like a little girl," Stevie offered with slight apprehension. But she was just dying to talk about it, all the same, now that she knew Silas had a sense of humor about it. "That's some serious vocal fry she's got going on, there."

"Vocal 'what'?"

"Vocal fry. You know when grown women talk like little girls?" She cleared her throat and offered her best imitation. "Like, seriously, listen to how much it must hurt to do this alllllll the tiiiiiime!" she abrasively half-growled, half-whined. Her throat stung like hot water was poured down it. She coughed mercilessly. "See, I can't... ugh, God, I just felt my IQ dip down to extraordinarily low levels."

Silas laughed again. "And you haven't even started drinking yet."

Stevie returned the laugh. "Oh, don't worry. After the week I've had, I'm ready to lose a few brain cells, myself. But the difference is that I have to work at it." She paused. Maybe she'd gone a little overboard. That didn't feel very good to say. "Well, if that's not a good first impression for me to make. I'm ridiculing your date to your face. Please forgive me. It's been a long week..."

Silas shrugged his shoulders. "And I'm not stopping you." He rose his glass to her in a mock toast, downing half the glass with a few deep gulps. Stevie joined him, easing the sudden silence between the two of them as a server placed four drinks on the table. There was an odd feeling of familiarity between the two, though they had heard more about each other than from each other at this point. Silas cleared his throat, resting his arms on the table nonchalantly. "So--how long are you in LA for?" he asked, grasping for a topic.

Stevie set her glass down, dabbing her lips dry with the back of her hand. "Just this week," she replied, "then we're heading for Seattle."

"Ahhh, Seattle!" Silas exclaimed, clasping his hands together. "Great city. I mean, I'm a Bears fan... but--"

"You're really gonna bring football up?" Stevie said with a wry smirk.

Silas raised his hands in the air, guiltily. "Mea culpa, mea culpa..."

She laughed. "No worries. I like football, but I get wrapped up. You don't want to see me go on about my team."

"Mmmm hmmm," he said in a friendly taunting manner, "I heard you're a Dallas fan. You poor thing. How the hell did that happen?" he asked, making it apparent that it was only friendly jabbing.

She shrugged. "That's not the first time I've heard someone say that," she said somewhat resignedly. She paused and sat up a little straighter, and softened her tone. "So... Dean's relieved that you're back. He was really worried about you."

Silas shifted slightly in his seat, adjusting his tie routinely. "I'm just--glad it was taken care of quickly," he began. "I have some court-mandated counseling and therapy for my part in things, but there was enough evidence to clear me from anything bad. I was very, uhh--fortunate, I guess." He scratched at his beard in contemplation. He certainly dodged a bullet, getting cleared of his charges. Every part of him hated the situation that he was put in... especially the fact that it was his own brother that put him in the sights. He took another sip of water. "Time to just bury my head in good music for a while I think," he said with a wide smile.

Stevie grinned at that, looking past his shoulder over at Dean, who had apparently decided to walk back into the restaurant to have his conversation -- leaning against a wall by the bathrooms talking animatedly with his hands. Deirdre came trotting past him, slightly stumbly in her unfortunate heels. Stevie had to quickly look away before she laughed too loudly. Silas noticed the expression on her face and picked up the cue instantly. He gripped the tablecloth playfully. "Doth she approacheth?" he growled frightfully. Stevie covered her mouth, nearly losing it as they both held back laughter. Deirdre wobbled over to them using Silas' shoulder to brace herself as she lowered back into her seat.

She fanned her face with one hand, dramatically. "The lines of women in this place, my God--it's like, like I need to use the restroom!" she complained, rolling her eyes. She reached across the table for a glass of water and took a huge sip. "Did you order yet?"

Silas shook his head. "We were waiting for you guys."

Deirdre set her bag down on the floor next to her adorned feet and lifted her hands up to drum her fingers on the table. "Shots!" she belted out as she leaned forward, "because it's NECESSARY!" Her own bag let out a little series of glittery-sounding noises. She bent over to grab her cell phone from her bag. The device was suddenly obscured by a flurry of fingers and shiny red fingernails, the enthusiasm suddenly transferred as she stared into the screen, her face frozen in concentration as it glowed in the light of the screen. Stevie nodded and shifted her eyes to Silas, who waved his hands.

"She'll be absorbed for a few minutes," he commented.

"What?" she responded distractedly, not lifting her eyes from her phone.

"See what I mean?" He shrugged at Stevie and then sighed deeply. He looked at his watch and scanned his eyes over the heads of other patrons in the restaurant. "Speaking of waiting... I'd better see that someone comes over to help us with that. You know what Dean wants?" Stevie nodded. He smiled and raised a hand, easily and charmingly obtaining the attention of a server who was all too willing to help.


# # #

One of the armed members of Silas' entourage nervously tensed, watching awkwardly while obviously preparing to raise weapons. "It's all right," Silas assured them as he raised a huge hand to calmly demonstrate his comfort level. "She's an old friend." He turned back to Stevie, then flicked his eyes up to quickly scan the small crowd of new faces. The one that would have been the most recognizable obviously wasn't there. He looked again at her, and she shrugged and averted her gaze to the floor. He felt his chest tug, and worked to try to cover his sudden sadness. Instead he patted her shoulder in a somewhat dry, consoling fashion. "We'll talk," he muttered to her under his breath. She nodded wordlessly and stepped back into the new group, not wanting to continue to risk being a distraction. She wondered what was going through his mind as she noticed a very cursory glint of sadness in his eyes.

Harper stepped ahead cautiously and nodded at the two. The armed companions this time raised their weapons at her. She jumped backwards, raising her hands and splaying her fingers. "Easy, easy!" she belted out grouchily. Stevie could see a strain in her expression that she hadn't seen the last time. Then again, maybe everyone's face now had something that was never there before... Harper looked to Carl and Niobe, then back at Silas. "There's no need for you to raise weapons if you're a friend."

"She's right," Silas continued, turning towards her. "Please. Put the guns down..."

Several of the Capitols slowly lowered their weapons, taking in the faces of the newcomers -- as equally worn down and frightened as they were, too. Silas pushed out from the crowd to shake Harper's hand. She reluctantly accepted, unsure of who this man was. His eyes broke off from hers to scan the rest of the group -- mostly unfamiliar, except for a couple more familiar faces.

"You might remember these two as well," Patrick mentioned, shrugging himself out of his vest.

Silas' eyes lit up again as he noticed Niobe and Carl. They stepped forwards from the group to greet him, nodding their thanks. "You made it," he said with relief. "I wondered about you guys after the bombs fell."

Niobe shook his hand. "Your people saved us," she began, "I've never seen so many walkers in one place."

Carl jumped in to shake his hand too. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Eli and Patrick and the others," he admitted.

Silas brow furrowed as he suddenly noticed. "Speaking of the others..." he began, trailing off as he turned to Patrick. The young man's gaze fell to the floor, answering Silas' unmentioned question. "How far back?" he asked, running his hand over his face.

Patrick scratched his head. "They were with us until the last few blocks..."

"So they made it out of the Capitol? You're positive?"

A different girl spoke up from deeper in the crowd. "We have to go back for them. They won't survive the night out there like this..." Others around her nodded in agreement, heavy murmurs rippling amongst the crowd as Silas held up his hands to quiet them.

Harper looked at James and Jack, their eyes all betraying the same thoughts to one another. Their own friends were still trapped underground back in the tunnels, likely starved for food and supplies. Either that or part of the horde of walking dead roaming the nuclear streets of Los Angeles. Neither circumstance held much hope, but they certainly couldn't just leave their friends behind. That's what had happened with Calvin... and each day that passed proved to be one day less likely to find him. They couldn't surrender the rest of their friends so easily -- not when they needed each other the most.

"Some of our people are trapped out there too," Carl offered. "There was a, uhh-- accident."

He exchanged a glance with Niobe as they both thought about George. Wondering if he even made it back to the tunnels in the state he was in. And the rest of them?

"If you're going back for them, we want in--" Jack demanded, straightening his jacket.

Silas shook his head. "Not right now. Not with things the way are out there. With all this fallout, we'd risk a slower and far more painful death than the walkers would have afforded us."

Stevie turned to the rest of her group. "He's right, you guys. We're pretty much stuck here until things clear up outside."

"It'll give us a chance to regroup and patch up," Silas continued. Chatter immediately broke out amongst the group of survivors as Silas rose his booming voice over them to settle them down. "PLEASE! Please, everyone... we'll talk more at tonight's meeting. For now, let's get to our stations. Tend to the wounded. Somebody help Eli gas up the bus. Let's get our newcomers situated in the bunks on the west end by the classical music... and Stevie," he said, turning to the woman in glasses next to him, "maybe we can talk in my office?"

She nodded as Patrick helped the crowd disperse to their different duties. Jack pushed past him with some of the other tunnel survivors towards their bunks as others crossed paths, clearing the room. Harper and Stevie exchanged glances as she passed, following the others. Carl had his satellite phone in his hand, talking to a small group of Capitols over near one of the record towers by the checkout kiosk. Niobe walked with Patrick towards the back of the shop where the bus was parked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn
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♠ ♥ ♣ ♦ Jack Cavanagh ♦ ♣ ♥ ♠


*TRING*

"We're closed," the gruff liquor store clerk barked out from behind the counter. A poorly-lit cigar hung from his lips as he silently counted the stack of bills in his hand. A second clerk swept the corner of one aisle near the beer freezers. Jack strode in second, behind his pal Clint but in front of his friend Harry. He slid his sunglasses down his nose as he strode over to the magazine spread and thumbed through the rack, searching for something good. Clint strolled straight for the counter though, as Harry methodically rounded the aisle to take care of the broompusher.

Clint stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out a polished brass knuckle, twirling it on one finger before slipping it onto his hand, effortlessly. The clerk leaned down to scribble some figures down in his pocketbook when he was interrupted by a metal rapping on the counter next to his head. He held his posture, tensing up.

"Listen, fucker. I said, we're--"

His tongue leapt into his throat as he lifted his eyes and met Clint's across the counter. The knuckled brawler grabbed what hair was left atop the clerk's head and slammed it down into the glass counter, caving it in barely and scattering change all over the floor.

The other clerk's head jerked towards the sound just in time to catch Harry's fist across the face, sending him back into the shelf full of chips and snacks. They too tumbled to the floor along with the dazed clerk. Harry snapped the broom in two with his foot and pulled the frightened man to his feet, holding the jagged piece of wood against his neck as he forcefully led him towards the front. Clint hopped the counter, shoving the clerk back against the rack of cigarettes. He eyed the messy pile of cash in front of the register and sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Twister didn't tell you we were coming to pay you a visit? That's some friend you got there." The clerk mumbled some muffled words, his face pressed squarely into the wall. "You even have a little book with records of all your illicit dealings? How thick are you, ya fat fuck?"

Jack casually glanced over his shoulder at all the commotion, shaking his head as he twiddled a toothpick in his teeth. He flipped to the next page of PC Gamer, peering over the tops of his shades outside at the parking lot. That was his job. Guard the front. No one in. No one out. Short straw stuff. His eyes were drawn back to the magazine just as an all-too-familiar blue light danced across the lenses of his glasses. He tore them off his head as his eyes adjusted to the two police cars tearing across the intersection like bats out of hell.

Jack tucked the magazine back in its proper spot and whistled to his two partners, high-tailing it over to them. "Our boys in blue are here. You get what you needed here?" he asked Clint. Harry held the second clerk's head down on the counter as Clint whispered something into the head clerk's ear. Around the man's neck was a key on a chain -- which was ripped off as his body was thrown to the ground. Clint stepped over him, pulling a pistol out from his waistband and checking the clip.

Clint flashed a toothy grin, tossing the key over to Jack. "I did, indeed."

Jack examined the key in his hands and was about to throw it back when the front door to the store smashed inwards. Three cops rushed the doorway taking cover quickly, weapons drawn. Clint ducked behind the counter as Harry pulled his human shield back into the aisle behind them. Jack dove for cover near the back door, stuffing the key in his pocket. His eyes made eye contact with Clint across a few scattered cardboard boxes on the floor. "Watch the back!" he warned with a quiet hiss. Jack nodded, scrambling on his hands and knees through the storage room to the back door, which was already slightly ajar-- the deadbolt preventing it from closing fully. Jack sidled up next to the door and threaded his fingers through the crack, pulling it slowly open as he reached for his pistol.

One of the police officer's flashlights strobed through the opening from further down the alley, followed by another-- and another. Jack bit his lip, looking at the pistol in his hand -- hearing the first gunshots ring out from the storefront. He shut his eyes, beads of sweat forming on his forehead as his mind raced on how to get out of this shitty situation.

And then he decided. In one last ditch effort, he placed his pistol on the floor and slid it underneath the nearest rack. He took off his jacket and placed it over his head, as if protecting himself from the rain, and took a deep breath, hyping himself up and pulling the door open to run out into the back alley.

He immediately found himself face to face with several police officers, their weapons ready and hungry for action. Jack threw his arms up, his jacket falling to the ground. "P-Please, d-don't shoot! The g-gunman, they just started shooting! I was able to get away, b-but--"

"Get away from the door!" the closer officer ordered, reaching out and pulling Jack away from the building. He was shepherded through the back of the squad like a rugby ball in a scrum. He backed up near a dumpster as the approaching wail of more sirens rang out across the alley, drowning out the cops' voices. He could barely make out, "Jackson, take point. We'll go in two-by-two -- weapons ready..." until more gunshots rang out from inside the store. The officers rushed to the wall to protect themselves from any incoming fire. "Down, down, down..."

The gunfire halted briefly, giving the officers time to square up. "Alright," the taller officer began, "on your lead."

"Sir?" another officer asked.

"What...?"

The officer shifted uncomfortably, gesturing at the dumpster. "That guy's gone..."

They all turned to look behind them at where Jack was standing before.

But he wasn't. Not anymore.



* * *


Jack chewed on his fingernail, watching the random people rush about on their various tasks. Some part of him felt like they may have just walked into a whole different world of shit with Silas and these self-proclaimed "Capitols" -- and he, for one, wanted the scoop. Niobe had rushed off with someone pretty quickly, and even Carl had a crowd forming around him as he showed them that stupid website of his. In fact, even Harper had disappeared somewhere. He never did get a chance to finish his conversation with her, but figured he'd made up his mind already anyways.

He pushed off the column he was leaning on and and headed towards the back of the store where Niobe and some of the others had headed. Hurried Capitols bumped into him as he tried desperately to stay out of the way but just felt horribly so. "Agh-- Siento, Siento..." he muttered as he nearly backed right into a small Mexican woman carrying some huge pieces of fabric. "It's like a sweatshop in here," Jack complained, earning him a cold look from the old Spanish lady. He rolled his eyes, continuing on past more Capitols up the stairs towards the landing in the back. He stopped at the top of the steps, stopping to turn around and scan the sea of cots and survivors, supplies and makeshift appliances -- for any sign of Harper.

Nothing.

Jack cracked his knuckles, turning to head down the hallway behind him to see if he could find a way to help the girl help herself. Though he wasn't sure who he was doing this for anymore.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC)
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Stevie maintained her breath in mid-pigeon prep, folding forward in order to get the benefit of a full stretch. The others hadn't come downstairs for breakfast yet. Her muscles felt fairly stiff, and she thought it might be a good idea to go by the pool to do some light yoga. She could already feel the positive effects of the various bends and stretches that she performed, no sounds except the whispers of trees off in the distance.

"Boo," interjected an enthusiastic, confident voice. Spencer. She bent her spine further ahead, bringing her face closer to the ground in order to avoid making eye contact and risking the possibility of losing focus and concentration. Out of the corner of her vision she could see him take a seat on the tile by the pool, facing toward her. "You're up awful early after so much to drink."

She didn't say anything until she sighed, calmly brought her legs back together beneath her, and nodded. "I recovered fast, I guess," she mused, switching sides and leaning forward again. The truth was that her head was pounding and her stomach felt like it was turned inside out. But why admit it? No one else needed to be bothered by it.

"Do you have to keep quiet, or do you end up losing your focus? Your inner maharishi? What do you call it?" he spoke out.

Stevie wondered how on earth he was so cheerful. Funny he'd mentioned that she'd had a lot to drink—he had had far more. "What?" she asked after a long moment. "No, I just do this by myself."

"How do you know what to do if no one's taught you?"

She crossed her hands up from the ground in a nonchalant manner. "I learned the basics," she assured him flatly, then sat up and held her feet in a forward seated bend. "It's not rocket science."

"It's not!" Lisa's voice broke out from the kitchen door as she cheerfully crossed toward the tile and set down on the ground. "I've been doing this a few years. I love it." She dipped down into a perfect scorpion handstand, grinning from ear to ear with pride.

Stevie laughed. "Show-off," she teased playfully. "I'm still trying to work on a tripod headstand and you can pull this off."

"My girl used to dare me to do the deaf man's pose," Lisa chirped, laughing a little as she held herself up on her palms well enough.

"What's the deaf man's pose?" Spencer asked, his curiosity suddenly piqued.

"Nothing you need to know about," Stevie laughed back.

"And her brother used to laugh and laugh at us," Lisa continued, then slowly settled into a plank with her arms extended. "Then he sprained a tendon playing baseball and he had to do stretches as part of physical therapy. Then he got even better at it than we were." She rolled her eyes as she recollected the memory, then glanced at Spencer. "I have twins, back in college out east," she said, suddenly realizing that she might not have mentioned it to him before.

"You're serious?" he responded, nodding. For a moment, Stevie wondered if that was a different expression on his face than the ones she'd seen on his face these last several days. Almost sad, contemplative. "I'm a twin."

Lisa smiled broadly. "No way. Do you have a brother or a sister for yours?"

"A sister."

She paused, then blinked vacantly, struggling to catch her composure. She barely choked back a few tears, then let out a long sigh. "Like mine." She shook her head and took a deep breath, then seemingly sprang back into a handstand, apparently also determined to maintain a positive exterior. Stevie couldn't help but feel a little stung at seeing that sadness. "Well. What do we make for dinner?"

# # #

Stevie rounded the corner and spied Harper crouched on the ground in the corner of a hallway lined with metal fencing and stacked boxes. She stopped in her tracks and knelt down a cautious distance from the dark-haired woman. "Hey, Harper? Are you all right?"

Harper nodded her head and continued to clutch her stomach. "I'm just fine," she attempted thinly.

Stevie rolled her eyes and offered her arm. "No, you look like you're about to fall over," she insisted quietly. Harper frowned and got up, following Stevie's lead as she headed toward the bunks. "Let's go sit you down."

They followed the path indicated—and came face-to-face with Jack. Stevie nodded a greeting and gestured to the talker woman. "Hey, umm... Jack?"

"That's right. Stephanie?"

"Right. Do you know if they'll let her lay down?"

Jack tilted his head curiously at Harper, then turned back to Stevie and nodded his head. "Look, I'll make sure she gets to a safe spot," he offered.

Stevie turned to Harper, who nodded as she stepped toward him, shoving her hands in her jacket pockets. "I'm good," she said insistently, "I know you've got to talk to Silas... Just... just make sure we can get out as soon as possible." She stopped for a moment, looking over her shoulder as Jack paced back ahead. "I know you're wanting to go back out and look, too." She turned back and followed alongside Jack, leaving Stevie to stand alone for several seconds, looking after the two as she contemplated what Harper said. She was right. They may have been out of danger for the moment, sure, but there was no way they were all right. Everyone had someone out there, on the outside—no one was going to be satisfied until everyone was present and accounted for, dead or alive. To be fair, these so-called "Capitols" also had the same interests. They hadn't gotten through the day without their own problems.

Stevie jolted back to reality as an impatient passerby shoved a shoulder into the middle of her chest. She coughed restrainedly and shot a dirty look to the offender, then turned back in the direction she'd come from. She still needed to talk to Silas.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC)
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"Taralynn Schantz?"

The sudden voice interrupted her focus on the ground. Her hollow eyes looked up at the police officer as she sat on the examination table, dressed in a flimsy white paper gown. She had nothing left in her stomach. The feeling of sitting still was at once relaxing and jarring. The brief periods of isolation weren't bad. The crowding of people had been much worse. She didn't remember much about the exam; she more remembered staring off at the framed picture of a cornfield. "KANSAS PRIDE" was emblazoned in big capital letters across the top of the huge photograph. At the moment, she wasn't sure if it was supposed to even mean anything.

She blinked at the police officer and looked out the window. The blizzard was still swarming outside, painting the street below white. "Miss Schantz, are you able to help answer a few questions?" he drawled warmly as he set a cup of tea on a metal nightstand next to her. She turned her head back to him and nodded, then wrinkled her nose slightly as a sneezing sensation burned into it. Her nose was broken in three places, and hurt worse than anything she'd ever been through before. "Good. We'll need your cooperation to find out who did this to you."

The middle-aged, blue-uniformed man with the puffy face removed his hat and turned a chair backwards, straddling it and facing Tara while sitting. She cleared her throat and stretched her neck. "I already told you who did it," she answered back, her thick, twangy accent syrupy on top of her high-pitched voice. Her brown eyes were wide with sudden frustration. "I must have answered that question about ten times already. When are you letting me go home? I asked to see my parents three hours ago, already."

The policeman waved a hand calmly. "Now, now, Miss Schantz, they are on their way," he said with an almost comfortable sense of confidence and trust. "What happened to you, Miss, well... it's a serious crime. And I'm sorry none of our female officers are on duty to talk to you about this." He broke his gaze with Tara to reach into his pocket and pull out a small notebook. "Now, tell me what happened again?"

Tara sighed and kept staring ahead, not skipping a beat. "I have said it so many times," she started icily, "but earlier tonight I was planning on going to Tish Smith's house. She's my co-captain on the softball team. It was going to be just a small party, but, well, suddenly it wasn't small anymore." She shrugged and fidgeted with her fingernails, then looked back up at the calm officer. "But I had a little to drink and I decided I didn't want to drive home. It was so snowy out. Josh French offered me a ride back, so I took it, but..." she trailed off and pursed her lip shut.

The man furrowed his graying eyebrows and nodded. "Josh French is the person who did this to you?" he asked concernedly.

She nodded, and looked the man in his eyes. Her shock and confusion must have been apparent—she could see his eyes flicker just briefly with what must have been his own shock. She knew her face was a mess; the doctor told her she had not only the broken nose, but also a shattered cheekbone. "Yes, it was him," she emphasized curtly.

The man nodded, and let out a long breath through his nose. He slowly straightened his spine, darting his eyes down to his notepad to jot down a couple of quick scribbles on the paper. He then sighed satisfactorily and placed the pen into his shirt tab and the notepad in his back pocket as he stood. "Miss, I think you may have him confused for someone else," he said matter-of-factly, his warm tone doused in an extra coating of sweetness. "We don't have any evidence that points to him. Plus, his mom and dad say he was home with them. We talked to them, after your first interview."

Tara's jaw popped down just slightly, leaving her mouth just barely agape in surprise. "No, I know it's him," she insisted quietly, picking up her hands shakily and wringing them. "He plays baseball and I play softball. We've known each other for years. I know Josh, it was Josh." Her voice picked up nervously.

He frowned sympathetically. "Oh, you poor thing," he said sorrowfully, reaching forward to gently touch the back of his hand to her forehead, "you seem a little confused right now. I'll have to get the nurse to help you. I'm so sorry to disturb you, but I have all I need. I won't put you through any more trouble, young lady. I'm so sorry."

Tara felt her stomach twist in knots. She clamped her mouth shut and shook her head as he pulled his hand back. "No, no, I'm fine," she corrected, her voice quickening, "but that's--"

The officer opened the door and nodded to the two people who rushed through, crowding her immediately. He nodded as he placed his hat back on his head and made his exit quietly. But Tara couldn't even focus on her parents as she noticed the last name shining off of the chest of his uniform as he departed—"French."

# # #

"So, are you girls local?" Lisa asked, breaking the quiet as Althea watched her dab at Tara's nose with a cotton ball. Tara held still, not wishing to move out of place to risk her sore nose getting bumped. Lisa pursed her lips, continuing to stare straight at Tara's face. "I haven't been here very long."

Althea tilted her head at the two women as she crossed her arms and leaned in the doorway of the small spa room. "I'm from here," she said quietly. Lisa looked over her shoulder at the tall woman and smiled. She looked delighted to see her finally open her mouth to speak. Althea paused, staring back at Lisa, then took a breath and continued. "Just up the road at Compton. I went to Stanford then came home when my mama got sick. I'm supposed to be going back this fall." She turned to look down the hallway and out of the front windows of the building. "Not sure if that's going to happen now."

Lisa smiled weakly at the sound of the grim observation, then turned back to continue to work with Tara's nose. "How about you, sweetheart?" she chirped, "you don't sound like you got much of an accent." Tara shut her eyes and winced as she felt her nose sting. Lisa pulled her hands back and frowned. "Oh, oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that!"

Tara shook her head gently and tented her hands around her nose, her eyes misting up reflexively. "It's fine, it's fine," she said tiredly. She leaned back and stretched her neck briefly, then faced the other two women again. "I've been here, oh... Damn. Sixteen years, I guess. That's weird. I came after I graduated from high school in '98. I had a track scholarship to UCLA. And I just kinda stuck around. It was so different."

"What about before that?" Althea asked quickly. "That's a little bit of an accent you got, there. Almost like Texas."

Tara gritted her teeth and paused for a long second. "Oh, Central Valley, up north," she said casually. "Mom and Dad are teachers. They moved here from further east. Y'know." She nodded and started to fidget with her scarf, playing with the frayed ends absent-mindedly for several seconds, then glanced to Lisa. "You never said where you come from."

Lisa laughed as she took a seat next to Tara on the long vinyl-covered table in the middle of the room. "Brooklyn!" she said cheerfully, raising her hands by her face and grinning from ear to ear. "I have a set of twins. In college."

Tara smiled. "No way, you don't look like you've got kids past five," she blurted out. "You're kidding."

Lisa beamed. "Nope. Their mother went to night school to be a chiropractor and now they're off at Yale. I'm so proud of them." She sighed and slid off of the table and began to check out the drawers, stocked full of towels, waxing pellets, cleansers, and more. "I've always wondered what they keep in these drawers."

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Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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Setting

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Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)
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% Jessica Abbott %


"I'm telling you, it was Oakland..." Rafiq protested, shoving his hand back into a bag of potato chips. Annabelle bundled up some of the woolen bathrobes tighter around her feet, much like the rest of them had -- into various makeshift beds around the cold tile floor of the spa. The Sun had long since set, and the night grew colder with each passing second of the blackening nuclear shroud.

"It doesn't matter," Wayne chirped quietly from his corner. Sam lay asleep next to him buried next to Jessica in his own assortment of robes and towels as he snored softly. "Coulda been Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco... it doesn't make any difference. It'll be Chicago next week. Portland after that. We might be losing cities, but we've already lost-- shit, probably half the world..."

"Language," Jessica chided, softly. Wayne rolled his eyes and dug for another handful of chips as Annabelle wiped her mouth dry after a botched sip of her iced tea, appalled at Wayne's blatant pessimism.

She pat her shirt dry with the towel draped around her shoulders and placed her drink to the side, behind . "They wouldn't bomb Los Angeles again would they? I mean-- with one of the big ones?"

George's halting footsteps interrupted that thought, signaling his return from the rooftop where he had posted up with his fellow drunken compatriot, Henry. That was -- until the hazardous ash started falling from the sky. "You talking about the grand finale," George jabbed, setting his rifle against the wall and rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as he searched for a place to sit. "It's a genius plan, really... use the first bombings to lure all the walkers into the city center-- and then... He mimicked an explosion with his hands quite dramatically as he found an open spot on the floor and settled in. He looked around at the others' tired faces, barely lit by the lantern resting in the center of their circle. "What better way to solve the whole 'end of the world' problem, eh?" He was surprisingly chipper after his brief stint on watch, especially considering the havoc he had that night. But a heavy silence descended on the group as the logic of it all rang true. Any doubt at all the city was safe would be reason enough to get out of Los Angeles, but George's observation wasn't without reason. They may have been sitting in the eye of the storm all along, oblivious to the real disaster that lay ahead of them. Now with the group divided again, any imminent escape seemed fruitless at best -- at least at the moment.

"You're on watch by the way, mate--" George called out to Wayne on the opposite side of the circle. The abrupt breach of silence prompted the man to stir to action immediately. He checked for his pistol beneath his shirt and, once satisfied, stepped through the sea of legs towards the stairs to the second level where more windows lied. Tara was still somewhere up there with the other girls, keeping an eye on the boulevards to the west. Wayne trudged off towards his duties, attempting to pass by Diego -- who had been leaning against the frame of the door to the stairwell, eavesdropping on his guests' conversation. He stroked his chin bemusedly, looking from Rafiq to each of the others in the circle as Bethany stepped in front of Wayne, blocking his way.

"So..." the stubbly man began, strutting towards them. "When's check-out?"

Jessica sensed George's hairs bristling on his skin-- and interjected. "Listen, we didn't mean to break in here or anything... but it's not exactly safe outside. Surely, you understand that-- right?"

"Of course, I do. I absolutely comprende," he said half-mockingly, "it's just that I think some of your friends may have taken something that doesn't belong to them."

Jessica furrowed her brow, looking around at the others. "I'm sorry-- I'm not quite sure what y--" Diego turned around mid-sentence, cutting her off. He walked back to the door frame and reached behind it -- pulling a briefcase out and setting it on the floor. He set his shoe on top and slid it across the tile towards the circle.

"Look what I was able to... sniff out," he quipped as the briefcase slowed to a stop. A playful grin spread across his face as he motioned at the luggage with his finely attended eyebrows. "Why don't you open it, Rafiq?"

Rafiq flinched at the sound of his name, suddenly aware of everyone's eyes on him. His lips twitched as he tried to decide how to respond to Diego's command. "L-Listen," he started with a stammer, "it wasn't my idea-- we just thought t-that--" his neck craned towards the stairwell, hoping Wayne would be there to help him explain. Diego tracked Rafiq's eyes and rounded on Wayne like a dog on a leash. It was his fault after all, and Rafiq was in no mood to take the brunt of the punishment. "Look, it's all here! We didn't do anything with it or nothin'."

Diego hung his head, rubbing his hands over his face in disbelief. He crept forwards, closing in on Rafiq as he crouched down over the briefcase. Rafiq quickly kneeled down, flicking the clasps open and popping the top, revealing its heart-breakingly empty interior. He had been duped. His heart froze in his chest as Diego came to a stop above him. "Why don't we go for a walk," he insisted, adjusting the pistol in his waistband. Jessica watched George's eyes flick towards his rifle -- leaning on one of the columns adjacent to him. She moved closer to Sam, praying that the situation would defuse quickly. Her other hand fumbled for her knife near her bag under the covers. Rafiq swallowed hard, his eyes darting around the floor as he desperately tried to muster up a plan.

"I think this guy should join us," the blonde woman advised, quite matter-of-factly. She sidled up next to Diego, eyeing Wayne up and down.

"Like hell I should," Wayne protested, backing away with his hands in the air. "What are you trying to insinuate, "Sun-Tan Barbie" ...?!"

Diego was in his face in a flash. "What did you just say to her?" Both fists were clenched like two small wrecking balls. Bethany placed a hand on his shoulder from behind. Her cool touch immediately began to simmer him down.

"Easy, honey--" she purred. "These are our guests," She crossed over to the lantern on the floor and crouched down. Whether or not she meant to be seductive didn't matter cause she did and she was. Bethany swept the lantern off of the floor and held it up above her head, illuminating the room with its vibrantly orange glow.

"Let's give 'em the grand tour."

Setting

Characters Present

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


Calvin slipped through the metal door into the underground causeway beside the engine room, the muffled shouts of Bronson and his cronies echoing through the vents and pipes surrounding him. He closed the door behind him as gently as he could -- neatly timed with a passing walker that brushed against the frame as it lumbered down the hall. Calvin wiped his brow with the back of his hand -- the last remaining patch of skin without any walker residue on it. He'd have shrugged out of his blood-ladened coveralls already if he didn't think he'd need them still.

The slitted windows cast lines of light across Calvin's body as he crept along the maze of pipes on the wall. A generator, along with all its fixtures, kept the room filled with dull hums and sharp hisses. Calvin warily eased on, his eyes locked on the beams of light ahead of him -- careful not to wander upon a lingering walker in the darkness.

Figures blurred past the windows on the other side as Bronson and his crew scrambled for their vehicles. The garage floor sloped up towards a wide metal gate that served as an outlet to the city streets above. Some of the vehicles had already begun to pull out into a messy formation, lining up at the door. A man's sharp whistle pierced the air as he whirled his finger in the air, signaling for them to open the door. He then -- along with the other convicts -- began mounting into their vehicles to depart along with a symphony of doors slamming.

Calvin leaned against the grated wall, cupping his hands above his eyes to curb the glare -- when he felt it give just enough to freeze his heart in his chest. The entire wall gave way as the pane of metal burst out of its frame spilling out onto the floor. His hands and knees hit first, crashing against the concrete. There was enough white noise around him to mask his abrupt entrance -- other than the three men standing outside the jeep in front of him. They craned their necks his way, the entire spectrum of emotions playing across their features as they looked down at Calvin in all his gory and blood-soaked glory.

"I got this one," the closest called out, boastfully. He raised his pistol towards Calvin, lining up his sight -- but the man next to him lunged up and pulled his weapon down.

"There's a generator right behind him," he warned, "you'll send this whole place up,"

The man eased up, tucking his pistol away slowly. "Fire in a fire station. That'd be ironic."

The red-haired man's hand hovered just above his tucked-away pistol. "H-Holy shit, Oliver-- is that?" Oliver lowered his weapon too, leaning in to get a closer look at the person in front of them. Calvin stayed miserably still, his eyes following their movements around him,

"Oh my God..." Oliver drawled, looking over at Dax.

Dax scratched at his red beard, realizing the immediate predicament they were in. Their third accomplice's eyes nearly bulged out of his head as he suddenly recognized the smattered figure sprawled out in front of him. His hand flew for his pistol, but Dax's found it first. He ripped it from the man's waistband and clubbed him beside the head with it, dropping him to the floor in an instant. Oliver stuffed his weapon back in his pants and walked over to Calvin. He knelt down next to him and whispered gruffly, "Go limp." Calvin didn't have to think twice about the command. He was already in over his head. He lowered his body to the ground and stayed still, as Oliver crouched above him.

Bronson watched him from afar, squinting his eyes in the dim light as he tried to make out the shifting faces and figures as they loaded the vehicles for departure. He watched closely as Oliver feigned a stabbing motion into Calvin's head, careful to shield a clear line-of-sight by blocking the view with his back. Bronson tapped on the hood of his Jeep, signaling for it to go. The garage door lifted from the ground, sweeping up to reveal the darkened exterior outside. Several convicts moved up first on foot, firing shots into the night to clear the exit. They jumped up onto the frames of passing Jeeps, evacuating along with the rest of their fellow men. Dax rolled his Jeep up further just as Calvin felt Oliver's hands on the back of his jacket pulling him up to his feet.

The two looked each other squarely in the eyes. "Do you know who I am?" Oliver asked, directly. Calvin had already recognized him from that awful night a week prior. The man had stepped in to try to reason with the unreasonable before Bronson knocked him around and had him dragged out of the room -- the evidence of which still lingered in scratches, scrapes and bruises around his face. "Get this off of you--" His hands fumbled with the zipper on the coveralls as the whole sopping thing crumpled around his feet. Streaks of blood that had soaked through to his clothes underneath stained him from head to toe. Calvin just stood there in a daze, letting all this transpire around him.

He nodded, slowly. "I remember..."

"And I'm the hero who sprung you from your cell," the red-haired man added, quite bluntly. "Had to ditch out fast though... somebody snuck up on me."

That solved one small mystery. "S-Sarah...?" Calvin managed to stutter out. He had barely used his voice the last seven days and found it hard to get his throat to work the way he wanted. His mouth was uncomfortably dry too, which didn't help.

Oliver led Calvin towards the Jeep, wiping his hands clean on the spare bits of dry cloth on his bundled coveralls. "She's already gone, man--" Calvin stopped short of the car at that news. Calvin reluctantly, climbed inside the Jeep as Oliver closed the door behind him. "She made it out. I'm sure of it," he promised -- trying to raise his hopes. It was hard being a sibling in the apocalypse. More gunshots rang out near the exit as some of the final vehicles departed.

Dax kicked the Jeep into gear as Oliver climbed inside, buckling himself in. "Now keep your head down," he warned Calvin, "or else we won't..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield
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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


---

This was ridiculous. This whole day was ridiculous. To think that just this morning, he had actually thought that things would get better. Instead, everything had turned into a disaster.

Wayne and the woman, Bethany, were in front of him, while Diego kept close to Rafiq, making sure he wouldn’t run away or something. Every time Rafiq tried to distance himself from the man, Diego would gently tap him on the shoulder.

They entered one of the side rooms, where Diego closed the door behind them. Wayne was still looking at them defiantly. Rafiq just wanted it to get over with. He had never cared about the cocaine in the first place. As far as he was concerned, they should just give it back to Bethany and Diego. Make it their problem. But for some reason, Wayne didn’t seem to agree. Rafiq suspected it was simply a matter of pride, but it could be something else. How well did he know Wayne after all? The man could be a junkie, for all he knew. Maybe that’s why Wayne’s been feeling ill these last few days.

Still, Wayne was a friend.

“Now, about our...” Bethany began.

“Why should I listen to you?” Wayne responded angrily “you are just with the two of you. We have a whole group. Why am I even going along with this?”

Because of their attitude, Rafiq thought to themselves. They might just be with the two of them, but it was clear they weren’t afraid of confrontation, unlike most people. Rafiq suspected they had often got what they wanted that way.

“Because you people are trespassing on my property,” Bethany said calmly, “and you have something that’s mine.”

“Prove it.”

Bethany raised her eyebrows in an obvious feint of surprise, “Really? You want us to go through this again? Your friend here,” she gestured towards Rafiq as she said it, “more or less admitted it.”

Wayne looked at Rafiq, clearly hoping for support. Rafiq shook his head. “Come on Wayne, let’s just give it back to them.” He couldn’t help noticing the disappointment entering Wayne’s eyes. Regardless, Rafiq had to convince him to give it back. It was for the best of the group. “It’s theirs, not ours.”

“At least one of you is sensible,”
Diego said with a grin, “tell me where it is.”

“It’s in the storage room.”

“We already looked in there. Where is it hidden?”


Rafiq glanced at Wayne, hoping for some help, but the man held his stubborn defiance in place. Rafiq sighed, “I don’t know. I was making sure nobody was disturbing us, while Wayne hid it.”

“You greedy bastards,” Diego said, though his tone hinted more at approval than anything else. Still, Rafiq felt hurt.

“It was not like that. We didn’t want anyone else to know, not yet, because we’ve had a long day ad it would only complicate things.”

Bethany laughed at that, “And things got complicated anyway.”

“I’m not trying to excuse ourselves here,” Rafiq said, tired. He could feel his head pounding. The day was getting to him, he knew. “Wayne, just tell them where you hid it.”

“No.”

“Wayne, please. What’s the point?”

“The point is, Ra-fiq,” Wayne put extra emphasis on the name, “that I don’t feel like getting bossed around by Pinky and the Bitch Brain over...”

This time Bethany was not fast enough to stop Diego. He punched Wayne full in the face, who staggered backwards. He blinked in surprise and stood completely still for a full second. Then he blinked again and focused his attention back on Diego.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Wayne hissed.

“Oh, shouldn’t I have,”
even though he said it mockingly, Rafiq didn’t miss the fact that Diego looked at Bethany as if he expected her to stop him. She didn’t though; instead she simply rolled her eyes.

Wayne took this moment to swing back. Diego managed to block it, but he miscalculated the force behind the punch and lost balance. Wayne took the opportunity and pushed the stronger man to the ground, falling on top of him and trying to pin him down.

As they continued their struggle on the ground, Rafiq watched at the scene not sure what to think of it. They were fighting, sure, but neither of them seemed to be intend on seriously injuring the other. Bethany tip-toed around them and walked up to Rafiq.

“Shouldn’t we stop them?”
He asked her.

“Nah,” she said, “let them get it out of their system.”

“Their system? You mean...”

Bethany merely shrugged, “Men.”

Rafiq snorted. Then giggled. Then outright began laughing. This made Wayne and Diego stop their little brawl, who looked at the Arab boy in confusion. Rafiq didn’t even notice. He continued laughing uncontrollably, doubled over.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

They were being chased by the undead, Molly had been killed just a few hours ago and most of his group had gone missing.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”


His parents were dead, so was his best friend and he had no clue what had happened to his sister.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”


And these two grown man were fighting over some cocaine.

This day truly was ridiculous.

As Rafiq kept having the giggles, Wayne and Diego tried to catch their breath. They looked at each other, suddenly gained an understanding and then Wayne slapped Diego on the back as if they had become best friends.

“So, dude, how about we share?”

Diego grinned at that, “How about 70-30.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn
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Stevie Darden

- Silas Quinn -


Stevie hung back in the hallway not far from Silas' office, leaning against the wall and looking down at her legs, examining her torn stockings and battered boots. Her right foot still ached from the bite incised by the walker at the vehicle when she'd swooped in to help Schantz when the horde had initially showed up. She slid down on the wall and sank down to sit, her left knee curling up in front of her chest. She stretched her right leg before her and unzipped the mustard-colored mid-calf boot and slowly lifted it off of her foot. She winced as she suddenly noticed the slight swell near her toes. She frowned and reached for a hole that had been ripped not far from her ankle, and carefully stretched out the tear to encircle off of her foot to check out the damage. She cringed when she noticed the small half-circle of red marks chomped just past her toes. She reached down to touch her foot, relieved to see that she had no broken skin… but, gosh, those teeth had held on fast.

"What's that?"

She snapped her head up to meet Silas' gaze. She blinked, then suddenly understood. "Oh, no, no, I'm fine, it didn't bite in," she hurriedly reported, "one bit my boot, but couldn't go through the leather." She quickly lifted up her boot to demonstrate, featuring the teeth marks.

He took the boot and examined it, then turned down at her foot to study it visually. After a few long seconds he seemed satisfied, and offered his hand to her. She gratefully took it and pulled herself up, then stood on her left foot as she balanced herself against the wall, sliding the torn stocking back over her sore right foot. He returned the boot to her after she looked over at him. "Can't be too careful, you know?" he sighed, his voice almost sounding frayed as he gestured to the door. "Let's not talk there."

Stevie let the corner of her mouth smile upward as she zipped the boot, then followed him toward the stairs. "So, how long have you guys been here?" she asked, hoping to make some kind of conversation that he, or she, might not mind being overheard. Her fingers played nervously with a torn corner of her long orange jacket, which was now spattered with blood from the last nine days. She made a mental note to switch the thing out sometime, even if she did replace the buttons several years prior when she'd bought the coat. None of that seemed to matter anymore. "If you had to pick a place, you couldn't do much better, huh?"

Silas shrugged, rounding the corner toward a glass-walled office overlooking the main floor of the record store. Its shades were lazily drawn half-way across the glass panorama, casting a low light over the carpeted floor. Stevie immediately noticed the shift in the atmosphere--a quiet perch amongst all the chaos outside. She couldn't think as to why he'd ever leave the office unless he absolutely had to.

"Shut the door behind you," he commanded, quite bluntly as he strolled over to his large oak desk. Stevie complied, closing the door gently. She timidly stepped over to his desk, not knowing if she should sit or not. He was already hovering over some stacks of papers, hastily moving them aside to clear a better line of sight. Stevie took that as her cue to sit and so she did. Silas stopped fidgeting with things on his desk, perhaps realizing--as Stevie had already--hat he was just doing things to keep his hands busy. He turned toward the windows, locking his fingers over the top of his head and heaved a well-needed sigh. "I apologize if I seem a bit--" His voice trailed off slightly, as if something had caught his eye--but Stevie could see them from where she was, and they were both closed. "We've just been through a lot lately..."

Stevie settled into her seat, now feeling a little uncomfortable since Silas was still standing. "No worries. I know what you mean," she assured him, softly. "Today was almost too much." For a moment, she couldn't even fathom where the others might have safely holed up. Enough buildings were sabotaged by the bombings to make shelter hard to come by in the dark of the night. And what about food? How were they going to find water? Stevie shook the thoughts from her mind immediately. Dwelling never saved lives. "We've lost a lot..."

Silas turned to her, almost as if seeing her for the first time. "Of course you have," he continued, clearing his throat. "Of course you have. I'm sorry our reunion couldn't be under better circumstances."

Stevie shook her head, defiantly. "No, no, please--you guys saved us today! We are so thankful... the others too--you don't know what that means to us." She paused. "I mean, I haven't known many of these people long, but… but I think I speak for all of us when I… when I say that," she added quickly, as though to clarify something.

Whatever had happened to the man, his spell seemed to be broken for the moment. Silas hung his head with reluctant bashfulness. "It's good to see you again, Stephanie."

She smiled back at him. It was nice to see a friend from before everything had happened. "Likewise... Silas."

There was a beat as a silence hung in the air. Silas stepped over to his desk and eased into his chair as Stevie fiddled with the loose stitching on the arm of her chair. "So--" he began. Stevie looked up at him, causing him to rearrange his arms on his desk awkwardly as he searched for the proper segue. "How many did you lose?"

Stevie's eyes tracked toward the ceiling as various names and faces ran through her memory. How many of these people she could actually claim to have known enough to lose was arguable. But then again, who else did she rely on after everything happened? "Dean..." she began. Silas grimaced, gritting his teeth against the truth he knew was coming. Being right had never hurt so much. "He was the first."

Silas was already up out of his chair, crossing toward her. His giant frame knelt down in front of Stevie's chair as he looked her in the eye. "I'm sorry that had to happen to you." She nodded, trying in earnest to shake off the urge to start crying. She'd kept this specific memory out of her conscious thoughts as often as she'd been able to, had done everything she could to forget--but seeing Silas again was surely beginning to stir up those feelings at long last.

She finally broke her stare with Silas, her eyes glossy. "Say, was that desk here, or is it yours from your office?" she asked somewhat absently, hoping desperately to change the subject. Now was not the time to unload her feelings.

Silas nodded. Stevie could almost hear the gears and the logic working in his head--he patted her on the shoulder as he stood, then circled back around the desk to sink into his chair and lean forward. "Talk about it when you're ready to," he said quietly. She nodded back gratefully, then dabbed the corner of her eye with her sleeve. "How do you feel about these people? We've already met Carl and Niobe." He glanced out the glass wall and down on the bustle of people and activity below, then back at Stevie. "What's your read on them?"

Stevie took a deep breath and blinked, as though trying to connect something in her mind. "Carl and Niobe… could you remind me?"

"They were on the bus with you coming back. Guy with the phone and his friend."

Stevie nodded, her face brightening slightly in recognition. "Right, right, right," she repeated quickly, looking up at the ceiling. "They're fine. She's really tough. Doesn't mind jumping in to help get things moving. He's helpful. Not bad." She sat up straight, and put her hands over her face, rubbing the sides of her cheekbones exhaustedly as she suppressed a yawn. The day had been a doozy. "The old guy with the pot leaf on his belt? Do not be fooled. He snaps. I suggest you feed him three times a day and give him something to do. He's kind of grumpy. The other old guy? I'm not sure. He kind of just showed up. The guy with the jacket… I'm not sure about him. Couldn't get a read. Seems kind of nervous."

"And what about the other woman in the group?" Silas asked, connecting his fingers busily.

"Oh," Stevie said, nodding and laughing just a little, "funny story. That's Harper. She used to work with my best friend from college and my old roommate, Mark. Really small world."

"What do you know about her?"

Stevie thought for a moment, then sighed. This story Mark had told had really surprised her. "She's pretty tough, is what he told me. They went to Iraq together a couple of years ago. Apparently this bomb hit not far from where they were at and she didn't even flinch." Stevie made a quick mental note--she'd forgotten that Mark had told her that story at all. It almost made sense now that she thought about it… "Mark said she's… diligent."

"You mean difficult?"

Stevie shook her head. "No, no, just… serious."

Silas nodded and raised his eyebrows. "Oh, I see. Well, is she trustworthy?"

Stevie pursed her lip, and nodded, looking at Silas in the eye and folding her arms across her chest. "Yeah, I think she is," she said matter-of-factly. She looked down to her chewed boot, then back to Silas. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here." Silas nodded, as though expecting her to go on and elaborate. Stevie gave in to the brief uncomfortable pressure. "She and two people she worked with helped me when I got sick at a FEMA camp. They helped find someone to get me out of there."

"A FEMA camp?" he repeated back, tilting his head with interest. "And who got you out of there? Where are they now?"

Stevie felt her stomach twist guiltily. "Well, I think they're alive," she said, "all of them. I think they are. Eight other people besides me." Liar, she admonished herself internally. She had no idea. And it was killing her. "Harper's friends, and mine. I think you won't get an objection if you tell everyone we're sending out a search party."

Silas blinked, straightening his back and smiling amusedly. "Okay, General," he teased good-naturedly, "and how do you suggest we do that? We've got bad walker traffic in that area and a cover of ash coming down from the north."

"I don't know how you do it, but I've got something else." Stevie reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small notepad, tearing out a couple of leaflets and presenting them to Silas. "Here's what's in it for you guys," she said quickly, leaning forward in her seat and flipping the papers so he could read them. "Supplies. Lots of them. Me and my people were bringing them with us. First aid, some weapons, food… lots of food. Water. Tools. And the best part, ammunition. Lots of it." She pointed excitedly at the scribbled pages as she highlighted each section, grinning wide partially to be friendly, partially to force herself to even just look as though she felt completely confident. She watched his eyes flicker up and down the list enthusiastically. "My group might not be all together but now, but… but I know you'll help us. And we'll share with you. As thanks. For everything."

He looked up and nodded, allowing himself to smile warmly. "It's just the human thing to do, right?" he commented, his deep voice uplifted just a little with a mild air of relief. He rose from his chair and half-circled back around his desk, sitting on the edge and folding his arms, facing the younger woman in the chair. "We've got a crew lost, too. There's already been talk of sending out a search party." He stuck his hands in his pockets and flicked his eyes up to the ceiling in contemplation. "I figure a contribution of supplies with manpower is a fair exchange for a ride back to your side of town to find your pals." He reached out a hand to shake hers. "Hate to wheel and deal like this, but it's not just you I'm dealing with."

Stevie cast her eyes out at his hand, then back up at his face, her expression fraught with concern. "I don't know if I can make that deal for everyone right now," she said carefully. "What if some of them don't agree? I'm not one of them, you know?"

Silas shook his head, not wavering his hand in the slightest. "They'll want to make this deal, because it's the only one they'll be able to make," he responded assuredly. "You made a good deal that'll help everyone."

Stevie stared for a long moment before finally accepting his hand. "All right." She stood, turned, and looked again out the window at all the people below. "I think you'd do well to go get some face time with them at some point." She nodded pointedly at the cluster containing Niobe, Carl, James, and Christopher. Jack and Harper were nowhere within sight. "They're a little antsy right now."

"Oh, I almost forgot, you're all invited as our guests to dinner tonight," Silas said quickly, almost as though he'd remembered very quickly. He clasped his hands and rubbed his palms together. "My apologies."

Stevie nodded as she stood from her chair. This seemed almost as good as any time to wrap up. "Keep offering to help us out, and we may never leave," she cracked.

He laughed quietly and shook his head. "Well, at this rate, you've got nowhere else to go," he observed lightly. "Tell me, though. The names of your people. I'll talk to the others to learn about theirs. But yours. Tell me about yours."

"Well," Stevie started, racking through her brain to think. "There's Althea. She's tall. From here. Then there's Lisa. She's a chiropractor. Not from here. Jordan, this college kid. Maria and Alejandro, this couple… they don't speak much English, but they're really nice and extremely helpful. Then there's Spencer. From Britain. Really funny. Terrence, too. Not British. Those two are in the service."

"That explains how you got out of the FEMA camp," Silas added. "It doesn't hurt to have a couple of people who know what they're doing have your back. But who's the other one?"

"What?"

"You said there were eight people besides you. You only said seven names."

Stevie felt her stomach twist. She didn't know why she left his name out. Probably because she was worried about him the most. "Oh. You're right. Tom. Also in the service. Canadian. Very helpful."

Silas blinked. For a moment, Stevie wondered if he figured It out. "Good, and we'll let everyone else know, too." He also stood, and gestured for the door. "Talk to your people. Let them know about the deal. Their help and your supplies for our help."

Stevie smiled and nodded. "Sure thing," she responded.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Chen Onosaki
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...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Delaney Byron
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...

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: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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- The Spa -

"Somebody needs to do something," Annabelle demanded, her face flushed red with seriousness. She stood adjacent Jessica and George outside the arch to the main hallway, talking in hushed tones. Rafiq and Wayne had just been dragged away to God knows where by the spa's owners. The couple's vague threats and accusations were unsettling to say the least, but it was possible that they weren't entirely without merit. What did they really know about each other, after all?

"You wanna borrow my gun?" George offered, mockingly. "What are we supposed to do? We're their guests. Besides, if Wayne and Rafiq were poking their heads where they shouldn't have-- then that's on them..."

"My, my... aren't you the diplomatic one," Tara muttered under her breath as slipped into the room behind George and the others. Lisa and Althea flanked behind her, likely the ones responsible for the shoddy patch job on Tara's nose and face. They had done the best with what they had, but the poor girl had taken a punch and some pavement during the hasty retreat from the tunnels, and the evidence was still quiet evident. The girl had certainly seen better days, but -- then again -- who hadn't? Just because they were in a spa didn't mean they were on vacation. They widened their circle to allow the others to step into the conversation with the rest of them, though there faces betrayed their obvious eagerness to know what was going on.

Lisa pulled her sleeves down around her arms, rubbing them to warm herself against the creeping cold. "We passed, uhh-- is it Radeef?" she asked them, timidly.

"Rafiq," Jessica corrected, a bit coldly. These newcomers had barely been with them for half a day and they had already made themselves at home. Though that seemed to be the trend these days. Nobody knew a damned thing about each other anymore. Instead, a person was defined by what they could do or what they might do.

Lisa nodded emphatically with a broad smile. "Yeah! Him and that Wayne guy and that odd pair who are claiming to own this place..." she listed them all off on her fingers, as if it were too many people to keep track of.

"They do own it," George said, trying to return them back to their original train of thought. "There's pictures of them all over the back offices." The others looked around at each other, accepting the news whether they wanted to or not. "That's why I'm saying-- unless we want to be back out on the streets, we have to play by their rules. That's the only way. I think we've made enough trouble for one day."

Tara couldn't believe her ears. "We?"

George's gaze bobbled to the floor. "You know what I--"

"What? You... what? What did you do today, George? "

"I-I just meant that--" he stuttered aloud.

"You shot a bunch of innocent people and broke the group up." Everyone's eyes darted to Tara in all her bluntness. But it wasn't an uncontrollable outburst -- it was a statement of fact. At least it was for Tara. The truth therein was arguable, depending on who you asked. Tara jabbed her finger into his chest with each name she rattled off. "Harper... Nathan... Steve... they're gone. Because of you, George."

"James..." Annabelle added quietly.

Tara nodded. "I saw Niobe and Carl too, but I don't think they made it into the tunnel before--" Her voice cut out as she suddenly found herself unable to find a word that could describe what had happened. It was too many things to too many people. The group was in pieces now -- and like a shattered mirror, she wasn't quite sure how to put them back together again.

"I was trying to help you," George reasoned, weakly. "You were all bloodied up, being c-carted through town by these strangers-- the likes of w-which I've never seen. Heavily armed and all..." Everyone's eyes rested on the poor English pilot as he pleaded his case, somberly. None of them wanted to relive those moments. He looked Tara dead in her swollen eye. "You looked like you were in a bad way and I tried to save you. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That's what we're here for, right? To help each other? Strength in numbers and all that..."

"To be honest," Tara began, "I don't know what you're here for." She turned her back to him and stalked off down the hallway, anxious to distance herself from the rest as she went to go cool off. The groups attention wandered back to George, who shifted uncomfortably.

"I'll, uhh--" George cleared his throat, tugging at his collar. "I'll go back out on watch, I guess... since when is preoccupied and all. " He rasped, a bit shakily. He stepped away, taking to the staircase in the other direction. The others watched him go and looked at one another awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

"I wish we could have all seen it through his eyes," Lisa bemoaned. "For clarity's sake, I mean. We've all made mistakes--"

Jessica scoffed, zipping her jacket up as the cold became too much for her as well. "No," she began, "Tara's right. He's got some things to atone for still. But he'll be OK. She sounded pretty convinced, despite the facts.

"I just hate seeing people hurting is all," Lisa said, craning her neck back towards their makeshift circle of beds, scattered across the tile haphazardly. "Hey-- where's your boy?" she chimed suddenly, turning to Jessica. The single mother spun around and spotted her son's empty sleeping bag as panic instantly gripped her heart.

She wished she knew the answer.

* * *


The gallon of orange juice crashed against the ground, splintering open as its liquidy sweet contents seeped all over the grocery store's polished tile. Lillian hopped back, reflexively -- managing to almost save her shoes from the inevitable splatter. Orange splotches stained the once clean fabric-- something to serve as an unfortunate future reminder of her past clumsiness.

"Shit!" her babysitter, Amber, exclaimed from beside her. The fright had nearly caused her to drop the handfuls of different colored lipsticks she had in her hands. "Lillian-- damnit..."

"You're not supposed to say that word," Lillian threatened, digging her foot into the ground around the spill as a store clerk shuffled into sight behind her. Amber caught his eye and gestured down at the mess.

"I'm really sorry, sir--" she shrugged, "kids... y'know?" The scraggly-haired clerk rolled his eyes and pushed past them through the rubber doors into the storage room to grab a mop.

"Must be great to be a kid and have everyone clean up after you," Amber groaned as she retook her cart and continued down the aisle. Lillian jogged up and leapt onto the side of its frame as her babysitter struggled to keep it rolling straight. "Get off you little brat," she snapped at her. Lillian dropped down with a childish scowl, falling in line behind the even brattier girl.

"You're a hot girl. Like you ever have to do anything..." Lily snapped back, sassily.

Amber tossed the lipsticks into the cart, screeching it to a halt. "What did you say to me?" she asked -- lividly.

Lillian started skipping away. "Sorry-- I don't like to repeat myself."

She turned the corner and danced across a row of televisions and plasma in the electronics department, all blaring the same channel at different volumes. She stopped for a second, lured by the digital cacophony washing over her as she stood complacently -- her eyes darting from screen to screen. A man with white hair uttered the same words no matter which television she watched. A few other nearby shoppers noticed the screens as well, reading the subtitles as they appeared on the screen:

'--Detailed reports are varied at best, describing the affliction as some sort of rapid mutation reminiscent of existing familiar viral strains. Police are establishing quarantine zones and escalating activity in some of the greater metropolitan areas as confirmed reports are corroborated across the seaboard.--'

The reporter covered her ears against a background of departing helicopters and masses of people moving quickly in every direction. Lily slowly peeled away from the screen and scanned the checkstands for Amber, unable to see through the maze of legs and bodies beginning to hurriedly move across the floor. The newscaster continued chattering behind her.

'--Meanwhile, similar reports are surfacing out of Beijing, Paris, and London confirming the reports that the virus has in fact spread transcontinentally--'

The televisions soon faded out behind her as well, becoming nothing more than a distant muffle as she wandered towards the store's entrance, the most likely place she thought she might find her missing babysitter. Lily peeked down the aisles as she wandered past them, searching for any sign of her teenage handler. She passed one of the checkout kiosks where an irate black man seemed to be in the middle of chewing out the cashier over some sort of nonsense. The girl over the counter listened to him aptly, her nervous expression nearly comical as she smiled and nodded over and over apologetically.

"I don't care what your store's policy is, it's just 12 items. What difference does it make?" the man protested, irately.

"I'm sorry, sir--" the girl blurted out. "It's just that the store's policy says--"

"Do you know who I am?" the man continued, grabbing a Wired magazine from behind him and slapping it down on a counter. "That is who I am."

The girl barely looked down at the publication in front of her. "I understand that, sir-- I just--"

Lillian's little legs passed the squabbling adults, rounding the corner of the last set of shelves until their voices faded away too. In truth, she didn't actually want to find Amber. The girl smelled like lip gloss all the time and was generally unpleasant to be around -- a typical text-crazy firecracker like most girls her age. She was, however, Lily's ride home. That counted for something at least. Lily ducked under a passing cart with rolled rugs draped across it, its handler oblivious to how close they had come to clocking the small girl in the head.

Lily ran her hands over her head, flattening her hair back down as the cart rolled through the mechanized doors leading out to the parking lot outside. Rows of cars filled the parking lot as raucous car horns squawked back and forth at one another -- dozens of anxious drivers all stuck in an unfortunate gridlock.

The doors slid closed again with a clunk, bringing Lily's attention back to the checkstands behind her. By some miracle, Amber's pitifully cliched Uggs came marching through the end of the hair products aisle. Lily felt the relief wash over her, thankful that she wouldn't be appearing on the side of a milk carton anytime soon. She had apparently doubled back to the hair products and make-up section to grab a few things, and Lily stupidly realized that was the most obvious place to have looked for her.

Girls were so predictable sometimes.

Lily waved her arm at Amber, squeezing past a couple loading their cart with some firewood to try and get her attention-- and the babysitter's eyes flashed her direction. A blinding white light silhouetted Lily against the floor in front of her. She looked up to see Amber shielding her face with one hand-- falling backwards onto the tile. A figure leapt across her peripheral, grabbing Lily by the arm and pulling her into the nearest checkstand. The older man, her savior, hit the ground with barely any grace at all, rolling across the tile long with her-- his cowboy hat toppling off his head onto the floor. Amber reached her arm out towards Lily from across the aisle just as a blinding white light splashed over her shrieking visage -- the sound of a revving engine drowned out by the glass it had shattered... right as it crashed through the storefront.

"LILY-- LOOK OUT!!!"



* * *



"Look-out..." Sam called down to her, perched atop a stack of boxes. He held a hammer in one hand-- the other holding tightly onto the windowsill next to him. The grated screen of an air vent hung slightly above him, it's metal plating winding its course across the ceiling from wall to wall. "Y'know, like-- you keep watch and make sure no adults walk in here..."

Lily scrunched her nose, hopping off the table and wandering towards the door. "Sounds boring," she groaned. She peeked out the door into the hallway, lowering the beam of her flashlight so it wouldn't spill outiside. "What are you even doing?" she asked with a hint of annoyance. She didn't know why she hadn't asked earlier when he was stacking up the cardboard boxes.

Sam began loosening some of the screws on the screen with the corner of the hammer's blade. "There's something going on with those two people from the spa," he began in a hushed tone.

"What'd they do?" Lily asked-- attempting to hide her obviously peaked interest. She closed the door again behind her and walked over towards Sam and his boxes.

"They didn't do anything," he replied, smirkingly. "I think Rafiq and Wayne took something from them..."

A mystery. Just what they needed. "Bullshit," Lily said, mockingly.

"I'm telling you, it's true. This vent runs along this wall into the hallway and through all the rooms here," he explained, excitedly. "They're in the big room with the table-- next door. I wanna hear what they're saying,"

"That's a dumb idea," Lily challenged, "you're gonna get caught..." She realized she was mostly just saying that because she hadn't thought of the idea herself.

Sam turned back to finish prying the screws out. "Only if I don't have a look-out..."

Lily tried to contain a smile as she walked back over to the door to post up outside. She looked back over her shoulder at the young boy, his tongue hanging half-say out of his mouth as he carefully worked a screw out of its place with extreme concentration. She pushed the door open just enough to look through the crack-- when suddenly the whole door was yanked open. Lily lost her grip on the handle and fell forward onto her hands and knees. Henry jumped back-- also not expecting to have run into anyone in the dark. His flashlight clattered against the round, skipping out of reach.

And then it happened.

The sound of tumbling boxes -- bursting from their foundation and spilling across the floor -- followed by a loud crack. Henry hurried over to the flashlight, kicking it as he reached to picked it up. He swung it into focus over Lily as she struggled back to her feet. She held her hand out in front of her, blocking the light from her eyes.

"A-Are you OK?" he stammered. She could smell the liquor on his breath even from where she stood. She didn't answer -- instead whirling around and darting back into the room. Without her flashlight, she realized quickly that she couldn't quite see where she was going. But what she felt was unmistakeable. "Hey-- Where are you going?" Henry stepped into the room, scanning it with the light. It danced across the fallen boxes on the floor, illuminating the red sheen of the pool of blood at Lily's feet. Her hands shook by her side as the beam finally came to rest on Sam's motionless legs, splayed out next to one of the massage tables-- its metal edge still rich with the boy's dripping blood. Lily stared at the spreading pool of liquid as it seeped around the toes of her shoes-- covering up the stains left by the orange juice all those days before.

Henry hiccuped, moving a few steps closer. His eyes too fell upon the horrible scene laid before them. "Mother of God..."

Thunderous footsteps came rumbling down the hallway outside, signaling the approach of the others. It was then that Lily realized that she was still the look-out. She kneeled down beside Sam, the warm blood soaking into the threads of her skirt. She had to warn him.

"They're coming, Sam--" she whimpered. "Just hold on... they're coming."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn
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Stevie looked at Mark with a sidelong glance as she rapped on the door. "Your costume kind of sucks," she offered with a laugh. "I mean... how much effort did you put into this, exactly?"

Mark smirked and ran a hand playfully through his thick black hair, and pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose with a quick swipe. "This is not preparing?" he scoffed playfully, pointing at his black suit and tie. "I had to take this thing to the dry cleaner's. That's prep. That so counts as prep."

"Nu uh!" she fought back. She batted her mascara'd eyelashes and spun around in place, still dizzy from the drinks from their previous Halloween party. "This is prep."

"Whatever. You’re just Snow White in glasses," he syrupped back in a high-pitched voice. "Very creative! Not like you're not Snow White the other 364 days of the year."

Before Stevie could open her mouth to respond to such a thin, an excited shriek greeted them after the door opened. A tall, blue-eyed woman in a banana suit stood with her arms outstretched, diving toward Mark with a happy hug. "Welcome back to Seattle, stranger!" she chippered quickly, looking at his suit and nodding approvedly. "You look great! And is this Stevie?" she asked, turning to the other with a large smile. It sounded like a band was playing somewhere in the house.

"Stevie, this is Heather," Mark introduced as the woman ushered them into the loud entryway of the home, "she and her husband both work at UW."

"We love your blog," Heather started with a smile. "My brother, especially. He's the one who told me about it. He's in here somewhere. Can't miss him." She politely offered Stevie her hand to shake.

"Oh, well, thank you," Stevie responded with a broad smile, taking Heather's hand. "And thanks for having us. Mark was so excited to see you and I've always heard so much about you."

"The pleasure's all mine!" Heather led them down the hallway after the two guests kicked their shoes off of their feet, and before them was a large living room with massive bay windows overlooking Green Lake. Other homes' lights were visible on the other side of the water, doubly illuminated in its reflection. Sure enough, a four-person band raucously played near a flight of stairs to the upper floor. The large space was jam-packed with a variety of people in a variety of costumes. Stevie couldn't help but smile at the sight of a large blue shark wildly waving its stubby fins, telling a story to another banana. Next to them, a sock monkey and a Barack Obama were taking shots next to a table stocked with plenty of beverages. Intense. "What can I get you two to drink? You came all the way from Fremont!"

"Oh, I'll get it," Stevie offered, turning her head to look over at the table. "Want anything?"

Heather shook her head. "No, no, you're my guests, so I'll--hey, there's Dean. Dean!" A man in a tattered suit and moppish wig turned around when he heard his name, then caught Heather waving her hand to get his attention. She flexed three fingers in the air instructively at the bruise-eyed zombie, his face covered in pallid makeup and crude red and purple streaks darting about. "Three rums and Coke!" He nodded casually and headed toward the table.

"So, how long have you been back from Atlanta?" Heather asked Mark as he stood next to Stevie and eyed the zombie from afar.

"Not even forty-eight hours, doll," he answered relievedly. Stevie smiled. She knew Mark loved to chatter. "I loved Atlanta. But I gotta tell you, I'm so happy to be back. All my buddies from there will come visit, anyway. I just missed Seattle too much, you know?"

"I'm happy you're back," Heather cheered. Stevie looked around the room while the two continued their conversation, scanning the room to examine all the amusing combinations of costumes. She quietly stepped away, rounding about a couch and carefully threading through a throng of people to catch a glimpse of the band playing. She finally found herself standing in a decent spot, looking through a few sets of shoulders ahead instead of having to crane her neck or prop up on her toes to even chance seeing anything going on.

After a few minutes, a set of fingers tapped her on the shoulder clumsily. The zombie brother of the banana, Dean, held a plastic cup in his hand and offered it to her. "I only had these left," he shouted apologetically over the band, examining her face intently. His brilliant blue eyes were easier to see up close.

Stevie smiled as she accepted the cup, and took a sip. "No, it's great," she answered. She wrinkled her nose a little. "You didn't skimp out on the rum, that's for sure." She offered a hand quickly. "Stephanie. I'm here with Mark."

Dean peeked over everyone else's heads to spot him, then turned back to Stevie. "Oh, uhh, sorry, I didn't realize," he sputtered, stepping back just slightly.

"What? No, no, not like that!" Stevie cracked up, taking another sip of her drink. Dean had a funny quality about him that she just couldn’t put her finger on. Despite the cheesy zombie get-up. "No, no, Mark is… Mark's…" She stopped herself, then shrugged. "Mark's not into women."

"Oh!" Dean said, a wry grin twisting the corner of his mouth upward. "So, what do you think of the band, Stevie?"

She blinked and suppressed a laugh by sipping at her cup. She hadn't introduced herself that way. Clearly, he knew exactly who she was, even without his sister telling him directly. "I dig them… Dean?" she attempted a little absent-mindedly, thinking back to how Heather had referred to him. "Dean what?"

"Jensen," he volunteered immediately, winking mischievously.

Stevie blinked again as she felt her face draw in from having a broad, approachable smile to her mouth opening slightly, unsure of what to say. "Dean Jensen?" He nodded. "Sub Pop?" He nodded again. She took in a breath and offered an embarrassed laugh. "I'm sorry. I didn't recognize you. That… that wig. I, uh…" she trailed off, lifting her cup to her lips again. She was unsure of what to say to the record producer whose career she'd been following for years, who was clearly taking some degree of interest in her. She'd even ran into him a few times before, just briefly. She chastised herself for not knowing better. "I… I like your work."

"I like your work, too," he answered, grinning as he faced forward to watch the band.

Stevie similarly turned ahead, trying hard to not allow a smile to spread across her face along with the sudden elated feeling pulling on her stomach, like a fast elevator hurling up toward the sky.


# # #

"Are you all right?"

Stevie set the wastebin in her lap and frowned. "I'm so sorry," she said, clearly disapproving of herself as she sheepishly rolled her eyes up to the ceiling.

"Why? Why are you sorry about something you can't control?" he asked, chuckling to himself a little as he pulled a tissue box from inside a drawer in the clunky desk before him. "I mean, I'm sorry you're not feeling well, but you can't exactly turn it off. What's wrong?"

"Oh, I was pretty sick after everything happened," she explained sullenly, shutting her eyes and turning her head to brace against the pit in her stomach. "Pretty sure it was a kidney infection. Happens. Had some antibiotics, and it got knocked out, or so I thought…"

Silas furrowed his eyebrows. "You didn't look sick a few minutes ago."

She shrugged. "Yeah, I was feeling fine until about, oh… three minutes ago." She shut her eyes and breathed, then leaned her head resignedly on the rim of the wastebin. "I am going to throw myself outside of a window if I'm sick again." She then snapped her eyes open jarringly, and proceeded to vomit into the container.

Silas sprang to his feet and whirled around the desk, bending down and patting Stevie on the back empathetically, shaking his head and watching her. "We've got a pharmacy," Silas offered quietly after her brief fit died down. "Well, sort of. But we have antibiotics. I'll need to find someone who can see how you're feeling. Rules are rules. Can't give you anything without checking you out. Don't want to make the problem worse." He paused for a moment, then shrugged. "But in the meantime, you can rest, and eating something won't hurt later." She vomited again. "… unless you're not up for it."

He reached a massive hand toward the desk to fish a tissue from the box he'd retrieved from the drawer. Stevie accepted it gratefully and dotted her mouth, then stuck it in the bin and nodded. "I'll get some rest," she echoed tiredly. "Let me know when you find someone?"

Silas reached out a hand politely to help her up, then gestured toward the door. "I'd help you but I really ought to do a few things before dinner," he said apologetically. "Are you good to find your way back?"

She nodded quickly. "Yeah, no problem!" she managed about as chipperly as she could, then began to heard toward the door. "See you soon?"

"See you soon," he confirmed with a nod.

With that, Stevie nodded and carefully made her way out of the office, peering through the large front window as she opened and shut the door behind her. She didn't even remember slinking down the stairs when she suddenly found herself quietly watching a sleeping Harper in her bunk, then looked over her shoulder to check for any familiar faces. Seeing none, she crawled into the bunk across from Harper's and tucked in, curling her knees into her stomach to anchor herself to the ground again.

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: 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


The sound of the crashing boxes was still ringing in her ears. The unexpected sound put her and the other three – Diego, Rafiq and Wayne – on immediate high alert. Had they missed something? Was there still a walker about? They all ran out of the room and turned a corner. From the sound of it, Bethany figured it came from the storeroom in the back.

She had been the first one out of the room and had thus gained a bit of a head start on the others. She first saw the man (what was his name again?) standing unsteadily on his feet, looking at something on the floor. She then noticed the girl, who was...

“Oh Christ...” Bethany muttered under her breath. There was a lot of blood. Too much blood.

The girl was gently tucking the boy’s hand. “Sam,” she said in a whisper, “be okay. Please, be okay.”

Bethany quickly glanced at the drunk while stepping past him, his face had gone completely pale, and then crouched down beside the girl. It was difficult to see in the shine of the flashlight, but she thought Sam was still breathing. Bethany took hold of his wrist and felt for a pulse. She wasn’t quite sure what a good rhythm was supposed to be in a situation like this, but at least she felt something. He was still alive. She tried to release Lily’s grip on the boy, but the girl was resisting.

“Come sweetie,” Bethany said compassionately. She had not much experience with children, but that didn’t really matter right now. It was basic human decency at work.

“I... I won’t leave him alone,” Lily responded. “I can’t.”

“We need to make room. I’m sure somebody here knows what to do and they will need room.”

“Will he be alright?”


Bethany knew that lying would get them nowhere. “I honestly don’t know.”

At that moment, the lights came on. Diego must have found the light switch, Bethany thought, but she didn’t look up to check. The scene in front of her was now in clear view and it was gruesome. Sam had fallen down from the stack of boxes and first hit one of the massage tables before crash landing on the floor. His left leg was at an unnatural angle, twisted at the knee and already starting to get swollen. Sam had fallen on the back of his head. A large pool of blood was forming at the boy’s head, mixing with another smaller pool coming from either his back or shoulder; it was hard to tell. Bethany wasn’t sure, but she thought she could even make out some bone fragments mixed in with the blood. The boy appeared to be unconscious. Small mercy.

The others from downstairs had heard the commotion as well and had come up to the room. It was like all hell breaking loose.

“What has happened?”
“What was that sound?”
“Is it a walker?”
“SAAAAAAM!!!!”
“OW GOD!”
“FUCK!”
“IS IT A WALKER?!”
“NO, NO WALKER!”
“SAAAAM!!! SAAAAM!!!”
“LET ME THROUGH!”
“PLEASE! HELP HIM!”
“Ow God...”
“WHAT HAPPENED?”
“He.. he fell...”
“HOW?!”


The mother and one of the other woman had knelt down near Sam. Bethany had moved Lily away from the body, but already lost the girl to the clutches of somebody else. The brunette clearly knew what she was doing, first checking the broken boy’s chest, then went on to listen at the mouth and nose for breath and felt the cheeks for respiration. She said something to the mother, but Bethany couldn’t hear what with everybody trying to get into the room. They all wanted see what was going on. To do something. But it was only getting crowded. It was not helping.

“ALRIGHT! EVERYBODY OUT!” Bethany shouted at the top of her lungs. That got everybody’s attention. The situation was so severe that everybody immediately knew what she wanted and they backed away from the room. Before closing it, she locked eyes with Diego.

“Get the first aid kit,” she said, “there should be one in my office.”

He nodded and as he sprinted away, she closed the door and turned her attention on the woman doctor (at least Bethany hoped she was a doctor). The mother was muttering at her son’s side and clearly in a state of shock.

“What can I do?”

The doc looked up and her eyes sent a chill through Bethany’s spine.

It was one that said ‘there is nothing we can do’.

Yet, there was also an understanding between the two women, two complete strangers, that they had to do something. For the mother’s sake, if for nothing else.

“Help me stop the bleeding first.”

---

Rafiq Chedidi


The silence in the hallway was deafening. The blood. The shock. The fact that it concerns a young boy. The strange realization that accidents still happen, even with bloodthirsty zombies creeping around everywhere. Rafiq’s hand was shaking uncontrollably. He clenched his hand in an attempt to control it, but it only seemed to help slightly. He felt so helpless. Once again, he was completely helpless. Molly...

Everyone was standing with their back to the wall, having made room for Diego when he went to look for the first aid kid. Annabelle was standing to Rafiq’s left, holding Lily in her arms and stroking her hair. Although the girl’s cheeks were still wet with tears, she was no longer crying. Her focus had hardened again, just like it had been before the accident. The girl had only allowed herself to act like the child she was for the shortest of times.

It was her that broke the silence.

“What will happen now?”


“I’m sure Lisa will be able to patch him up again, darling,” Annebelle said soothingly.

“Don’t lie to me,” Lily responded with indignation, trying to wrestle free from Annabelle’s embrace, “I know it’s bad. I know he will die.”

“You don’t know that. It’s in God’s hand.”


“Like he cares anymore,”
the girl said, breaking free from the hold.

Rafiq crouched down beside her, looking her straight in the eyes and hoping that his voice was the same way as if he was speaking to an adult. “What happened in there, Lily?”

“Sam fell.”

“Yes, but how?”

“Because...” the girl thought for a moment, as if she had to decide whether a lie would be in her best interest. It took a couple of seconds and everyone in the room was looking at her, but Lily did not seem to notice. Or she didn’t care.

“Him happened. The drunk one.”
She pointed straight at Henry, who for a moment did not seem to realize what was happening, before standing up a little more straight and holding up his hands.

“Now, hold on a minute...” he said. Lily did not seem to care and went on.

“Sam and I were, uhm, playing with the boxes. Building a tower, that sort of thing. Then he came in and scared us. Like... like it was a joke.”

“That’s sick!” Wayne exclaimed.

“Wowowowow! That’s not how it happened!” Henry jumped forward, but was knocked back again, because just at that moment Diego came by with the first aid kit. It made Henry fall back to the wall and falling down.

“Sorry dude,” Diego murmured, before rushing to the storage room, not realizing the situation he just disturbed.

Lily looked at the man on the floor defiantly. “That is how it happened! You scared us and now Sam is dying!”

Henry’s eyes opened wide, confused and angry. “You’re lying! You lying bitch!”

“You say what?!” One of the woman said shocked.

Henry tried to crawl towards Lily, but George and Wayne stopped him in his tracks by holding him down by the shoulders.

“Now, calm down!”

The man was wroth and drunk and did not hear what George was saying. He appeared to become more dangerous by the second. “She’s lying! She’s lying!”

“He’s drunk.”
“He completely lost it.”
“We can’t have him around the kids.”
“SHE’S LYING!”
“We can’t have him around us.”
“What should we do with him?”
“We should lock him up?”
“She’s lying.”
“And then what?”
“We can’t just lock somebody up.”
“Then what would you have us do?”
“Shit, I don’t know.”
“She’s.. lying...”


Rafiq’s head was racing. The instant Henry had lost control, he knew what had to happen. It didn’t even matter much if it happened the way Lily said it happened. Nobody really knew Henry and the man was clearly unstable. Potentially dangerous. Too dangerous to keep around. Rafiq knew it had to be said.

“We kick him out.”

Everyone, including Henry, looked at Rafiq.

“But that’s dangerous. With the nuclear fallout. The walkers.”

Rafiq knew that. It may be a death sentence for the man. But they didn’t know him and he was threatening the group. He was threatening Rafiq’s group. Rafiq was no longer going to put any of his friends in danger. No longer. Not anymore.

The Rafiq of old would not have done this. But the world had changed and so had he.

“We kick him out. I know it’s hard, but it’s our only option. We have to think of ourselves.”

Some people nodded, others stared blankly at the floor. Rafiq locked eyes with George, who nodded in understanding, but appeared to not be fully behind it at the same time. You are our drunk George, Rafiq thought, you are part of the group. It is not the same.

The drunk man saw what was happening, having lost his fight upon realizing that his entire standing with the group had dissipated within mere minutes. Rafiq couldn’t help but feel some pity for the man. But instead of changing his mind, he steeled his heart. It had to happen.

"Anyone objecting?”

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: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt
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- The Spa -


Lily watched as all the adults yelled over one another. Random limbs webbing together in efforts to hold Henry and herself back from one another like some back alley brawl taking place in the hallway.

"You guys! YOU GUYS!" a voice boomed out above the nonsense. The limbs ceased flailing, and the group parted to reveal a bleary-eyed Jessica standing outside the doorway to the storeroom. Everyone traded ashamed looks, straightening their shirts and sleeves and dusting themselves off from the ground. All eyes were on her now. Bethany crept out just behind her, also curious what was happening,

"Do we really need to be doing this? Right this very second?" she asked, tiredly.

Rafiq spoke up first. "We're sorry, Jessica... we were just--"

"I don't care," she said, quite honestly. "Just-- please..." She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, gesturing towards Annabelle. "Annie, I thought he might want to see you. You'd make a happy sight when he wakes up," Jessica said-- her exhaustion evident in her drawling speech.

Annabelle put her hand over her heart. "Oh, bless my heart. Of course, honey. We should say a prayer for him anyways. She steered Lily over towards Althea by her shoulders. "Why don't you stay with Althea here, darlin'-- just while I--"

Lily squirmed out of Annabelle's hands and straightened her shirt, raising her eyebrows at Annabelle in an 'are you serious?' kind of glare. As much of a kid as she still might be, she hating being corralled like an animal. She turned and stalked down the hallway-- away from all the noisy adults. "Don't worry," Althea assured her, "I'll keep an eye on her." She turned and jogged down the hall, catching up with the small girl just as the two of them slipped out of sight around the corner. Annabelle breathed a heavy sigh and turned to join Jessica, watching the others as they all waited patiently to continue their argument. Bethany held the door open for Jessica who took the handle and closed it behind herself and Annabelle, leaving them all with a knowing look as she too disappeared.

Rafiq looked back to the group and more specifically -- at Henry. The drunk leaned carefully against a tall metal rack -- smart enough not to have made any further movements during the distraction. George and Wayne lingered close-by, in case his drunken bender did eventually will him to do something stupid. Tara stood close behind Rafiq -- keeping a safe distance from the man who had already hit her one time too many for one day.

A melodic voice suddenly broke through the tense silence -- an observer, from the outside. "You guys are quite the HBO drama, aren't you?"

Wayne glowered at Bethany -- her lithe frame leaning against a metal sink fixed to the wall. "Hey, Sunshine-- I'd keep quiet about things you know nothing about."

Bethany cocked an eyebrow at his cutting response, before rolling her eyes and looking around at all the strangers surrounding her. They somehow still didn't understand. "I think we already established that since you are guests in my spa... I can do whatever I want. So why don't you back off, Chris Tucker?"

George did his best to stifle a laugh. Wayne ignored him, rapidly changing the subject. "So what are we doing with boozy over here?" he posited, jerking his thumb at Henry.

Tara pushed past Rafiq. "You heard the man. He goes."

"N-Now just you wait a minute--" Henry blubbered, "you're gonna believe a bratty little shit's fairy tale story over my word?"

"Over the slurred word of a drunk? Yes." Tara said, bristling as the man stepped nearer, her fists already clenched. She didn't realize how badly she actually wanted this.

"The truth is, none of us know who you are -- and people are more dangerous than walkers anyways. I think we've all realized that now. It'll be best if you just go." Rafiq tried to make the cruel words sound somewhat polite. But there was no way to send someone to their possible death nicely.

"Someone going somewhere?" a voice asked from behind them. Diego stood in the doorway, shutting it behind him. He rubbed the blood from his hands with a towel before stuffing it into his back pocket.

"Henry's taking a trip," Tara replied, cooly.

Diego nodded, clearing his throat. He stepped over towards them and fished something out of his pocket. "Then you think you can bring back any of the stuff on this list?" He held out the torn piece of paper to Henry, who reached for it -- but Tara snatched it from his hand first.

"What is this?" she demanded, scanning it with her eyes.

"Stuff Lisa says she'll need. Stuff for the kid," Diego answered with a solemn tone.

Tara ended up asking the question on all of their minds. "Where are we supposed to get all of this?" She shook her head as her eyes trailed down the list. The handwriting was hurriedly and messily scrawled, some of the words long and disorienting -- even at first glance.

Bethany crossed her arms. "There's a hospital not too far away from here," she offered, dryly. It seemed the most obvious choice... which was the problem.

Rafiq waved his hands in front of him. "No way they'd still have anything left worth taking. It's been over a week..." Bethany shrugged and looked down at her feet.

"Got a better idea, friend?" Diego asked.

"I do," Henry called out, wiping his hair back from his face.

Tara turned to him, threateningly. "I don't care what you have to say,"

"Then plug your ears." He straightened himself upright, tugging down at his shirt -- looking around at the others in the hallway through his blackened eyes. "My father... died today." The room grew uncomfortable, as one-by-one they exchanged quick glances with each other. "It's not a big deal... I knew it was coming. Kind've softened the blow for all the rest of this actually now that I think about it." A half-hiccup-half-burp barely escaped his mouth -- deftly blocked his balled fist. "But there's a medical clinic in this plaza that we used to take him to -- about three stores that way." Henry raised his arm to point between George and Tara's heads to the wall behind them. They looked at one another first and then behind them, as did everyone else.

"Through there?" Diego asked, walking up to the wall and running his hands across the cool worn drywall. He looked over his shoulder at Henry, who nodded gruffly. "They're all adjacent walls. That's not a problem. I can get through there," he said through a wry smile.

"That way we wouldn't have to go outside..." Rafiq said, thinking aloud.

"Anyone able to confirm this bullshit?" Wayne called out from the sidelines, gesturing at the drunk in the corner.

Henry glanced at him with one raised eyebrow. "Why is everyone so damn hostile? I'm trying to help you here!"

"I think what Wayne's trying to say is: what's in it for you?" Tara explained.

Henry rolled his eyes, rubbing his hand over his face. "Look, you wanna kick me out? Fine. At least give me a chance out there. There'll be gear in the clinic to help me to get far far away from all y'all." Their plain silent expressions looked back at him. "You at least owe me that much..."

Rafiq looked from one face to another, searching for any idea of how the group felt about all this. It was the most humane option on the table, unfortunately. He didn't like the idea of following this stranger on some expedition to retrieve supplies that may not even exist though. But what other option did they have?

"I guess that's the plan then," Rafiq sighed, reluctant to accept it for what it was.

Diego tagged Wayne on the shoulder. "We'll need tools to cut through this drywall. Come with me." The two of them went to the door of the storage room and quietly opened it, stepping inside. Tara pushed past Rafiq with her tongue in her cheek as George watched her stalk off.

"I'll go round up some of our masks we use for the water treatments. Might help keep whatever's in the air out there out of, well-- you." Her bobbed with each step as she headed the other direction, back towards the front offices and steam rooms.

George looked over and met Rafiq's weighted glance. "You made the right call, Rafiq."

He shrugged. "Somebody had to."

Henry leaned back against the wall, slumping down to sit on the ground. "Thanks, kid."

"I didn't do it for you," Rafiq replied, coldly. He rubbed his arm, glancing over his shoulder at the door to the storage room -- knowing full well that every second wasted was a second closer to losing another member of the group.

"Let's go round up the rest of what gear we have," he offered to George. The Englander nodded, and sprung into step beside Rafiq, who had stopped in front of Henry. He looked down at him on the floor. "We're your chaperones. Let's go."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)
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"You're not telling the truth."

Lily spun around to find the source of where the unfamiliar voice spoke up from. Althea had done a fine enough job of staying under the radar during the past several hours. But now she drew her spine up to her full, formidable height, folding her arms across her chest and staring at the young blonde girl with not a single slip of warmth in her dark eyes. She stepped forward and looked down at her.

"Tell me what you were building with those boxes," she interrogated smoothly, her eyes continuing to bore directly into Lily's.

Her eyes blinked wide just for a moment before she opened her mouth. "I dunno, a town or some shit," she blurted out fast, her eyes darting to her left.

"You just said it was a tower," Althea retorted back, tilting her head. "And what are you doing, walking around on a ton of cardboard boxes? You're old enough to know you can't stand on one of those. Don't you know that's dangerous?"

"I-"

"-and that guy? Seriously? He's not in any state of mind to pull himself together, much less jump out and say 'boo.'" She jolted her head in the direction of the room Henry was still in and narrowed her eyes. "What's the matter, girl? Too scared of some slow guy saying 'boo'? Of course not. And that's why I don't believe a word you're saying about why your pal is bleeding all over the floor in that room. What happened, Lily?"

Lily glowered back. The two stared at each other almost fatally. Finally, Althea lifted up a finger, pointing it into the air frustratedly and gritting her teeth intensely. "You might get your way this time, girl, but next time you won't be as lucky." She paused. "Next time, you think of you getting shoved out there, kid. Just unlucky. All the bad things people do? They always come back around."


# # #


Lisa was silent as she internally counted Sam's faint pulse, staring intently at her watch. It was important to keep the atmosphere calm. "He's got pretty low blood pressure," she reported softly as Jessica re-entered the room. The woman pulled off her jacket and tennis shoes, bundling the shoes up inside the garment and handing it to Jessica. "Here, set it under him," Lisa instructed gently as she carefully lifted Sam's shoulders and head upward, "this oughta help get the blood flow to his heart. That's what we need right now."

Diego popped his head back through the door frame with Annabelle not far behind. He looked down at Lisa and nodded triumphantly. "Looks like we're going to get him some help," he reported, eyeing the pool of blood on the floor just briefly. His face flashed an unseemly shade of white before he swallowed and then looked back at Lisa. "Good news, right?"

"Yes, Diego, that's terrific news," Lisa responded calmly as she still watched Sam's shallow breathing, not allowing her voice to raise to its normal relatively high decibel range but instead keeping it at a respectable whisper in order to keep things calm for the boy. She glanced up at Diego with an apologetic expression. "Look, I hate to ask this, I know how bad it is... but I'm wondering if maybe we could get some more towels to soak up his bleeding. And to clean up the floor." She looked over at Jessica. "After we get him in a safe place I'll take care of that and you stay with him."

Diego looked down on the floor, eyes scanning about as though trying to survey the area. "Where do you think we should put him?" he asked. "This is no place for a kid with a busted-" He stopped his sentence as Jessica's eyes flashed. "... who needs help. We've got plenty of beds. You know, for clients when they come in." Annabelle's face peeked from around Diego's arms, which were folded nervously across his chest as he pressed a knuckle against his cheek anxiously.

"Perfect," Lisa answered with restrained enthusiasm, still trying to keep her voice low. She looked down at Sam, then bolted her eyes back at Diego. "Maybe we can carry him to one of those beds. Can you and a few talented gents carry him in a robe if we put him on it?"

Diego blinked vacantly. "I'm not following."

Lisa pursed her lip. She wasn't thinking of the right word. She lifted her arms up as though pinching the corners of a large sheet. "You know, put him on a robe, and get a few people to carry him by holding up the corners?"

"That might be a little dangerous," Annabelle offered, her eyebrows knitting together with concern. "Is there anything else we can use to transport him?"

"Anything with wheels?" Lisa added, "because if not, the robe is our best bet. It may not be ideal but we don't exactly have a gurney here."

"I can grab a few bedsheets," Diego spoke aloud as he set out down the hallway, leaving the three women silently staring down at Sam for several long, uncomfortable seconds.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC)
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"Hey, Glasses!"

Stevie's eyes snapped open and her stomach surged again. She suppressed the urge to contract into a tighter-wound ball of a human being on her makeshift bunk as she looked up and blearily made out the face of the older, cranky man. She blinked and reached over to put said glasses on. She let out a sigh. "Speaking," she countered shortly, her eyes annoyed.

"Rise and shine, it's time to eat!" James chirped with the greatest of feigned enthusiasm, clapping his hands a few times before turning on his heel to scoot off. "If you don't get there now, can't guarantee space. A little crowded!"

She continued to lay on her side as she watched the old man disappear around another section of bunks before pushing herself up on her palms and looking about. It almost looked like they'd taken shelves that had once stored untold numbers of music and books and converted them into somewhat usable bunk space. They were stacked in rows, two to a row, thanks to what must have been the use of power tools judging by the tightness of the screws that clung into the old, splintery wood.

Stevie drew a hand on her cheek and dragged it down her face tiredly. She hadn't even taken her boots off, she noticed, as she scooted toward the outside of the bunk and stuck them over the edge, her legs and hips following as she slid off and dropped to the floor. She hadn't realized how high-up this bunk in particular had been. Stevie rubbed her eyes and looked about. It was quiet. No more sleeping Harper, or any noise at all in the immediate area. They must have all been at dinner.

She glanced back at the bunk as she headed off in the direction that James had seemingly skipped off toward, and tossed her blood-spattered coat onto the flat board she'd just slept on. It was very different from where she'd been about twelve hours previously. The house she and the others had stayed in had been far more comfortable. She wondered if any of these people had had a shower like she'd been able to have earlier that morning. Having choices when it came to meals. Lots of alcohol. Privacy. In fact, she began to wonder if they'd had the relative freedom to relax as she and the others had been able to. Was this almost a karmic answer to what seemed like a completely unfair situation? She continued to walk down a short corridor, with chicken wire lined against the windows, as she began to seriously contemplate that concept. Maybe whatever was up high making decisions for everyone on earth had intended for this to cut back at her and the others for having it so good while all of these people clearly had not.

She felt her face turn red when she began to think about where the others might be. Especially Thomas. She certainly felt guilty about Dean. More than she really wanted to acknowledge to herself. But maybe there wasn't really anything wrong. Maybe the rules changed. Maybe it was more important now that people simply be protected. And had it not been for him... Still.

Stop it, she chided herself. It happened. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Still.

She missed him.

"Stevie! There you are!"

Harper's long hand set itself on Stevie's shoulder. She smiled and started to pull her toward a door on the other side of the room she'd just found herself wandering into, and pointed just ahead. "Ready for dinner? They've got it all set up. Silas is about to talk. People are starting to get hungry."

Stevie nodded and followed. "Crabby Appleton pretty much said the same thing," she laughed as she trotted along with the green-eyed woman, who still wore her boots and a pair of loose, dusty jeans with the same purple top she'd worn last week.

"James found you, huh?"

Stevie nodded as they reached the door. And then she remembered. "Oh, wait, I need to talk to you-"

Too late. Harper had already opened the door.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Thomas Blackthorne Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC)
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Nathan and Steve looked over their shoulders as they quietly slunk through the hallway and down the stairs as the three soldiers crowded around their radio, their attention fixated, completely distracted. They silently grabbed their shotgun and garden tool on the way out, and slunk as quietly as they could. Finally they stepped outside and pulled their shirts up over their noises in an attempt to block out the falling ash from being breathed into their lungs. The two kept running until they ducked into a covered bus stop. The darkness in the sky and the falling ash created a macabre, silent setting. It reminded Nathan of a snowstorm he'd been in once when visiting a college friend in North Dakota--the falling debris seemed to absorb any soundwave that dared course through the air.

The taller man looked over at Steve, shaking the ash from his hair and off of his shirt. "What the hell?" he inquired casually. "I thought you said we were safe in there."

Steve shook his head. "You heard what they said, right?" he zapped stressedly, shaking the ash from his own messy mop of hair. "We wouldn't have had a choice. Would you rather be gone off on some submarine with a bunch of strangers or chance finding the others?"

"Dude, we don't even know if they're out there," Nathan sighed resignedly, casting his eyes down to the ground. "We should have stayed."

"I wouldn't steer you wrong," Steve insisted somewhat disattachedly, purposely trying to not sound as though he was feeling under pressure. "We had to find a way out of that situation in a way that made sure no one got hurt. Remember, Nathan, everyone has-"

"Everyone has to win," Nathan broke in irritably, interrupting the older man with a sing-song tone. "I get it. You've been telling me that for a while, every time you make a decision you know I'm not a fan of."

Steve's mouth turned into a straight line running horizontally across his face. He paused for a few beats, then took a seat on the bench and pulled the shirt off of his face, leaning ahead and holding his head in his hands. "You think I don't know how bullshit I sound right now?" Nathan blinked. Steve shook his head and continued to glare down at the ground. "The only reason I haven't taken someone's gun to my head is because I'm holding out hope for Gale. And I can't do that on a submarine."

Nathan felt his stomach twist in knots. Perhaps he could relate on a far more scaled-back level. He looked down to his feet, shifting them in this ash to study the imprints left behind by the ridges on the bottom of his shoes. The fine ash almost seemed like particulate dust, in a way. He took a breath and looked ahead down the street. "All right, Steve. I understand."

The older man lifted his head from his hands and nodded. "I know you do." He sighed heavily as he got up from the bench. He took another breath to say something, then stopped when he spotted the moving figures around the block. He stood up straighter and pointed ahead. "Come on. Let's go."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC) Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC) Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC)
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.: Calvin Hawke :.

"Mind telling me what the plan is," Dax barked nervously through chattering teeth as he steered the Jeep around strewn street debris and loitering corpses.

Oliver craned his neck over his seat looking back through the cloud of dust kicked up in their wake. The vacant headlights of several other trailing vehicles followed closely, swerving in stride as they too pitched their courses through the wreckage in the streets. He whirled back around in his seat, adjusting the seatbelt back around himself. "We've got eyes behind us," he began, "it's not like he wouldn't notice we're missing."

"So we follow the mad warden after breaking his prized trophy out of its case?" Dax shouted from behind the wheel, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at Calvin -- who glared back at him through the rear-view mirror.

"We have to find Sarah," Calvin chimed in groggily from the backseat.

Oliver scoffed. "Yeah, sure. If you can tell me where that broad is right this very second, and I promise you we'll go and get her..."

Calvin stewed silently in his seat, diverting his scowl towards the back of Oliver's head now. It was his sister they were talking about, after all.

The Irishman rolled his toothpick over to the other side of his mouth with his tongue, victoriously. "That's what I thought. I ain't in the mood for a wild goose chase right now. Not with the sky how it is..."

Calvin's attention drifted out his window at the vacant, ashy buildings lining the boulevard. Many seemed to be crumbling by the second -- others too blackened by fire and ash to assess. Dax looked up in the rearview mirror, catching Calvin's vacant gaze. He chewed his lip, looking over at Oliver. "I forgot-- you've been away for awhile," Dax started, returning his eyes to the road. "It's... pretty bad out here."

"That's an understatement," Oliver chastised, butting in from the passenger's seat. "We're fucked is what we are. But we're making the best of things. That's all we can do."

The words all just washed over Calvin as he morosely watched the buildings march by, one-by-one, hurrah hurrah. Remnants of a civilization lost.

Dax jerked the Jeep to the right abruptly, speeding by an overturned bus as the other convicts followed suit behind them. "Where do you think the Warden's taking us?" he asked -- his eyes darting between ash-crested obstacles on the road ahead.

"Where do you think?" Oliver replied, annoyed with the obviousness of the question.

Dax's eyes widened -- his grip tightening on the wheel as he fidgeted in his seat. He lowered his voice slightly. "What if they're still there though?"

Oliver picked up his pistol from between his feet and began to check the insides of its chambers. "Then the Warden's gonna make 'em wish they weren't." He turned back towards Calvin. "I'd buckle up."


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe stooped over the wheel of the bus, arms draped over the back of the driver's seat as her eyes lazily lingered over the gas meter behind the glass of the dashboard. The ticker rose one last hashmark to the 'F' at the top, and Niobe jogged over to the door of the bus and swung outside.

"Cut it!" she hollered, cupping one hand to her mouth. Eli jumped to a start, breaking off from his conversation with Patrick to run over to the hose and clamp the lever shut. He flashed Niobe a thumbs up and she cut the engine, pulling the keys out and tossing them to Patrick.

He shoved them into his pocket as Eli began coiling up the hose behind them. "Well that's the last of 'em. Gassed and oiled, like the doctor ordered."

Niobe wiped her hands on her jacket. "This warehouse is pretty convenient," she mentioned, craning her neck to look around at the towering rows of shelves and racks lining the walls around them.

Patrick grinned. "Yeah... it's nights like tonight that we're thankful we have this place. I keep forgetting that a lot of other people aren't so fortunate."

Niobe nodded, stuffing her hands into her pockets. "So, what happened to the Capitol? Carl and I tried to make contact with you guys this morning but the whole place looked abandoned..."

Patrick's gaze dropped to the ground as he came to a stop in front of the bumper of the bus. "You saw that, huh?" he began, his voice lowering slightly. "We had been having some-- trouble," he started, looking over his shoulder at Patrick who was still pre-occupied with the hose. "A few days ago, we were attacked..."

Niobe's brow furrowed as she folded her arms. "Attacked? By what?

"By who. I don't know what they call themselves, Patrick muttered aloud, "but they're no good. They've been hassling us from day one. First they wanted supplies, then vehicles-- Silas brokered all these deals just to keep them off our back, but they got more and more hostile..."

"So that wasn't the military who bombed your building?" Niobe asked, unable to believe what she was hearing.

"No-- it wasn't. This was way worse... and I'm scared that--"

He suddenly flinched as Eli clapped him on the shoulder from behind. "You guys ready?" he chirped, enthusiastically. "I can smell the food all the way out here." He took in a deep breath, grinning with hunger.

Patrick looked at Niobe and nodded. "Guess we're all done then. Let's grub." The three of them walked towards the hallway, each falling in step behind the other. Niobe's mind was already racing, wanting to know more about what Patrick was talking about, but it had seemed secretive -- like maybe it was a taboo topic with these people. From what she'd heard, it sounded more like a small war going on. Except the Capitols weren't fighting back.

They turned down the next hallway and found themselves facing a man with long hair walking the other direction with a plate of food. Patrick waved as they neared and slowed to a stop. "Hey, Marshall. Damn, that looks good." His eyes had fallen upon the plate. Macaroni, sausage, broccoli, bread... each more delicious looking then the other. A sin for the senses.

"I thought everyone was eating in the mess hall?" Niobe asked, stepping out from behind Eli.

Marshall's eyes darted over to Patrick. Then Eli. He swallowed. "Y-Yeah-- no, we are. I'm just bringing some food to someone." Niobe watched the man nod nervously as he looked around at the others. "I'll, uh-- let you guys get goin'. Don't want that food to get cold." He began to hurry off, but stopped just a few paces further. "I'm Marshall, by the way." He shuffled the plate into his other hand, licking the food off his finger and wiping it on his pants before holding it out to Niobe.

"Niobe," she offered. She shook his hand firmly and watched as he walked off down the way they came.

"C'mon, we should get going. I bet the sausage is gone already," Patrick bemoaned, dragging his feet towards the converted mess hall. Eli fell in beside him, equally eager for food as did Niobe, glancing over her shoulder as she followed suit.


* * *


Marshall unclasped the metal lock from the door and unlooped the chains from the handles, letting them fall to the floor so he could kick them aside. He pulled them open with a jolt, letting the fresh air and light from the light fixtures above pour into the corridor of stairs leading underground. The yellow bus, fully fueled now, sat quietly behind him in the soft light -- a bright beacon in the darkened warehouse it called its home. He snapped his flashlight to life and picked up the plate of food from the crate beside him, continuing down the stairs quietly. What light still remained from below shone like a pale light on the brick sidings of the narrow staircase, almost like candlelight -- reflected off their ashy exteriors.

The last few steps dropped into a square room, decked out in band posters and memorabilia, vintage records and apparel. Marshall shut the door behind him -- locking it carefully -- and placed the plate of food down on an office chair behind him. He reached up, hooking the flashlight onto a stray cord hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room. He used his other hand to unscrew the flashlight, turning it into a lantern -- its radial light brightening the room in a brilliant orange glow reaching out to its corners. "Feeding time, partner."

A figure's legs stirred to life in one such corner, his dirty feet slipping across the cold stone marble as he righted himself. His shackles shuffled across the ground, adjusting to his change of posture. Marshall placed the plate of food on the ground and pushed it towards the bound man with his foot. It slid to a stop against the man's knees -- some of the vegetables spilling over the floor around him.

He leaned forward, the shackles taught against the floor, and dug his fingers into the mess of food -- shoveling it into his mouth. He gulped it down hard and looked up at Marshall, quizzically. "No fork?" he asked mockingly, his voice ripe with a british accent.

Marshall smirked. "Yeah, I'll grab you a knife while I'm up there." He turned around, moving towards the door -- the keys already back in his hand.

"Who's the new blood?" the prisoner questioned. Marshall knew he was being toyed with, but this game was old. He'd played it enough times already. "The black chick. Early 30's? No-- late 20's. They sure were talking a lot up there..."

Marshall's eyes narrowed a touch, his hand resting on the handle of the door. He opened his mouth to speak. "I--"

"They'll find out about me," the prisoner continued, his voice growing low and gravelly, "and you won't be able to explain yourselves."

"As if your side's any better."

They glared at each other in silence.

"You have no idea who I am," the shackled man hissed.

"I don't," Marshall responded, cracking the door open. "But I'm sure it's a really good story..." The door slammed behind him as he trotted back up the stairs, his steps quickening as the fresh air beckoned to him from above -- the walls closing in around him.