The Walking Dead: Online

Season 3

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

"The Fall"

Captain Calamity holds sovereignty over Season 3, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

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

Setting

Season 3 of the Walking Dead: Online.

Season 3

"The Fall"

Minimap

Season 3 is a part of The Walking Dead: Online.

33 Characters Here

Brooke Callaway (NPC) [5] Trying to paint the big picture.
Bethany Whitfield [4] A spa owner with no shame.
Diego Azevedo (NPC) [4] A passionate man who always keeps it up.
Silas Quinn [4] Ruler of Records. But don't wreck his rules...
Jessica Abbott (NPC) [4] A childless mother near the edge.
Harold St. James (NPC) [4] A man with a message to deliver.
Althea Brown [4] A tough-as-nails survivor with no time for pity. (NPC)
Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) [4] A little lost girl in a lonely world.
Wayne Williams (NPC) [3] A disc jockey at the end of his rope.
Lisa Pazzino (NPC) [3] A smart-mouthed chiropractor from the East Coast.

Start Character Here »


Setting

Characters Present

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

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Previously on TWD:O

Season 1
Season 2

… 3 Days Later …



Harper Hopkins


The occasional din and clatter down the stairs sounded far away in the apparently reshuffled interior of what used to be Amoeba Records. Nearby, Stevie and Harper sat next to each other on the bench outside of Silas' office, staring straight ahead out over the railing looking down into the larger room below. Stevie's hands gripped the edge of the seat as she leaned forward, her legs crossed before her on the surface. Her eyes focused distantly off and away on some unknown point, clearly lost in her own thoughts.

Harper's posture was far more relaxed by comparison, her ankles pressed together, back leaning up against the wall. On her lap rested a yellow legal pad with a series of scribbles neatly columned and labeled—judging from the condition of the pad, it must have been pages' worth of recorded information. The morning after the group of six arrived at Amoeba, Silas had requested her help in assessing the status and the needs of the group--who was missing? What did everyone need? Shoe sizes, medications needed, blood types, allergies, birthdates?... all to be noted, categorized, and wrapped up before the group ventured out into the unknown to search for those they'd endured those first crucial days with. Hours were spent interviewing each person under Amoeba's roof… and while she'd managed to hit all of Silas' checkmarks, there was a problem. Something she didn’t know how to explain to Silas quite yet.

The door creaked open to Stevie's left. Silas poked his head out, smiling warmly as he stepped back to make room for the two to pass through to head into his office. "Harper," he greeted as he extended his hand ahead to the woman with the fatigued violet rings beneath her green eyes, "good morning."

Harper stopped just briefly, then nodded drowsily and accepted his much larger hand, squeezing it politely. "Good morning, Silas," she offered coolly, walking past him to promptly take her place in one of the chairs in front of the large desk toward the wall. She knew her mannerism was on the cold side… but there really wasn’t any time for much in the way of pleasantries. Not when there was so much work to do, and so much uncertainty to prepare for. She'd not only compiled a list of supplies needed to keep the group running along for at least another week, but she'd also drawn up a suggested plan and timeline for the rescue, as well… written for Silas' review, then set to be up for discussion with the group preparing to head out, hopefully standing up to questions they anticipated that the group might have. Harper had to admit that not only did Silas' methods resemble some variation of task-driven, structured hierarchy, but also that Silas' methods at least showed a measurable rate of progress toward a goal of some kind. Harper liked that. She had to admit.

Silas watched Harper carefully for a long moment, then turned to look at Stevie, her head still apparently stuck up high in the clouds. "Morning, Sunshine. Feeling better?" he asked cheerfully.

No answer. He reached forward and tapped her on the shoulder. She startled briefly, then turned her head up to acknowledge him. "It was good to rest for a few days," she replied softly as she stood up, raising a hand and patting him on the arm in a friendly greeting. She shuffled in casually to take the seat next to Harper's. The other woman gave her a quick glance; Stevie adjusted her glasses and nodded as she affixed herself in the same position she'd been in on the bench outside, setting her elbows on her knees. "Silas helped me get some antibiotics. Everything I had last week was in the car," she reminded Harper as she rested her face in her palms, filling her in on what the conversation the two had been having had focused on. Harper nodded, controlling the expression on her face. Someone else might think that Stevie was nervously over-explaining herself. It even annoyed her sometimes. But if there was something she'd learned about the jittery girl in the glasses, it was that she was committed to honesty and transparency, even when it didn't suit her own interests. Harper knew that Stevie would work with the group to find a way to make things work.

Her head felt cloudy and closed-in all of a sudden. It was still early, and the unsettling fuzz that still stuck to her brain from the three tablets she'd taken the previous night to settle down hung hazily into all five of her senses. The metallic taste in her mouth intermittently triggered what she was sure looked like a souring of her face, as though a lemon hit her square on the nose. Breakfast that morning had been extremely unpleasant, despite the heaps of praise sent toward the kitchen for a job well done. Her sense of smell felt a little duller than it had three days previously--not by much, but she knew the difference. The buzz in her ear thrummed constantly, causing her hands to reverberate just slightly… or to at least have a sensation like that. Maybe she'd gone more than a little overboard when she'd settled on three…

She refocused on Stevie's face, and nodded curtly. Silas had asked her a question—a question that had disappeared into the background noise in her head. "Right." She sat up straighter as though to take control of her end of the situation as Silas wound around the desk, examining Harper somewhat distantly as he carried two bottles of water with him. He set them before the two women as he settled down into his chair. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Harper set her legal pad on the table between the plastic containers, pinned one corner with one hand and turned the pad upside-down from her view, and pushed it toward the man opposite of her. "Here's everything, chopped up and organized." Also as though adding a punctuation mark to the end of her action, she meticulously set a Sharpie, cap faced toward herself, next to Silas' right hand.

Silas eyed the precise offer, then stretched out a hand slowly to accept the yellow paper, pulling it along the surface of the desk toward him and thumbed through the wavy pages that had obviously been turned several times. He then took a second turn, this time examining more intently. He put the pad down and glanced up purposefully to Harper, folding his hands in front of him and tilting his head. "This… isn't everything." He blinked. "Where are your notes?" he asked coolly. "I thought you mentioned you might include them."

Harper looked up diagonally and to her right. She had promised him the notes. She really had. No doubt about it. She'd hoped he might have forgotten about that part of their conversation. But it was no use. Silas was as stubborn as they came—just like her. And her need to protect her own was just as strong as his need to protect his own, so she could justify no need to deliver those notes immediately. There was no way he was ready to know about this yet.

It might buy a little more time, at the very least, before she could make sense of what it was that she'd stumbled upon.

She blinked vacantly at Silas. "Oh. Right. My bad." She shrugged. "I just didn't have time."

"I really want to review your notes before we go, actually," he said calmly, his voice not betraying any degree of exasperation, but still just a little frustrating to Harper, all the same.

"Look. We've only got so much time today," she dismissed airily as she shook her head. She reached out a hand to pinch the end of the first page to start in on her pitch—only to lose her grasp as Silas' hand gently touched down on the yellow lined paper and firmly pinned it in place. Harper visibly flexed her jaw and fixated her eyes on the desk instead of Silas' face, willing herself to keep her mouth shut.

Stevie straightened up calmly, glancing at the two and scooting forward into the edge of her seat. Her eyes darted across the table quickly. "Can we just photocopy the notes in the office when we get back?" she volunteered carefully, as though tiptoeing around the sort of confrontation potentially brewing between the two headstrong personalities. Harper and Silas turned their heads almost in unison in the direction of the voice, both pairs of eyes staring at Stevie expectantly. She let out a brief sigh. "It's not going to make a difference right now, at this moment, if you have them or not, Silas," she continued, moving her eyes to his and nodding. Harper had to admire Stevie sticking up for her… despite having not been told what had triggered Harper's apprehension to fully comply with Silas.

He held her gaze for a few long moments, then nodded as he turned back to Harper. "I've been outnumbered by two extraordinary women," he peppered briskly, drawing in a deep breath and allowing a broad smile to cross his face.

Stevie let out a stream of air through the corner of her mouth, rolling her eyes playfully. "You are so full of shit," she tossed at him jokingly as she re-crossed her legs beneath her.

Harper let a smile cross her face mildly as she watched the interaction. It was corny, and tedious to sit through at times, but Stevie made it work. Their friendship from before the event that had occurred 12 days prior had served to the small group's advantage. Anything the group wanted or needed was something that Stevie could talk Silas and his people into providing. So far it had benefitted all members of the group well—with the exception of James, who had elected to speak as little as possible over the course of the last three days to anyone, not even to their small group. For some it had provided a brief reprieve from his hard-charging ways and loud voice, while others saw it as a glaringly obvious fissure in the group's morale. Harper held a mixture of both views—while she could hardly tolerate much noise at all these days, she did rather like James, and wished that the confrontation at dinner the night they had arrived had not occurred.

Still, all the same, things had gone well.

Mostly.

Harper nodded after the two returned their attention to the yellow pad of paper and stretched out a long, thin arm to peel back the first page. She cleared her throat and took in a sigh. "We're going to send five people on each bus. It'll mean that there's enough weight to carry people and supplies back." She paused, flicking her eyes over the black and blue writing by her hand. "Or whatever else we need to bring back with us," she added somewhat grimly, then felt her dry throat scratch against itself. She sputtered into a series of coughs, prompting Silas to reach his own long arms forward to grasp the water bottle he'd offered to her, effortlessly unscrewing the cap and presenting the plastic container to her.

"Might want to go get some vitamins, too," he suggested lightly. Must have been his own way of suggesting she get checked out for a cold… some of the others were self-admitted germaphobes who had expressed fear of becoming sick. It wasn't long before Silas had begun to take them seriously. People getting sick without enough antibiotics to go around would be a challenge, and one they certainly weren't ready to handle.

Harper shook her head and waved her left hand as she sipped from the bottle ravenously. The water was on the cooler side of room temperature, and felt satisfying as it seemed to heal the dry, scratchy sensation that had sent her into a fit of coughs. "No, just went down the wrong pipe," she tossed out nonchalantly. She'd drank no less than four cups of water just fifteen minutes earlier at breakfast, even…

After a beat, Silas' eyes quirked down to read over the page before him. "Eli and Patrick are leading up the team looking for our people," he noted aloud. Harper felt the corner of her mouth tug down in disapproval. Still this whole business of 'ours' and 'yours.' It was irritating. "Niobe leading yours to go to the tunnels and grab your cargo." He swiveled his head toward Stevie. "Your name is here. I thought you weren't going."

She blinked suddenly, as though surprised he had even pointed it out. She reached a hand reactively up to rub the back of her head idly. "I changed my mind," she said quietly, then after a quick pause, continued. "I have the keys to the cars. I know where they're parked. I know exactly what's in them. And I know where the truck is."

Silas moved on, satisfied with the explanation. "So you've got Niobe, Stevie, Jack. Harper, I see you're on the list, too." Harper responded with a wordless nod. "From your group I notice that Carl, James, and Christopher are staying… James seems to know how to handle himself. Why are you keeping him back?"

"We need someone back here to help," Harper answered, closing her eyes to brace against an upcoming pang of a headrush. She quickly composed herself and moved on as though nothing had happened. "I still have to tell him. Last night we thought he was going to go. But…"—she glanced over to her right to the brunette sitting quietly—"… Stevie really wanted to… make sure the supplies made it back."

Silas nodded and offered a slight laugh under his breath. "Good luck," he offered somewhat puffily, then moved on. He eyed the pad again, then stood. "I like your recommendations. Good work, Harper." He picked up the pad and tucked it under an arm as he drew himself to his feet, then gestured his hand forward, his fingers filed together, indicating toward the wispy, tired woman still seated. "And please remember those notes this evening," he reminded, raising his eyebrows and lowering his chin. Harper nodded somewhat distantly. Maybe he'd forget about it later… "Stevie, what's up?"

The shorter woman had locked her gaze with the window, her eyes boring outside and actively scanning the view for something. Harper couldn't exactly tell… but she knew what might be on her mind, perhaps. "I'm just eager to get out there," she answered, glimpsing to Silas and rustling to her feet.

Harper watched as Silas turned his attention to her. It didn't take long at all for her to realize that the tension was as thick as a curtain between them… but it didn't seem like it was anything personal. Silas was this way with most everyone who wasn't obvious a member of his circle. Guarded. Maybe even a little clannish. For now, having Stevie on "the inside," so to speak, worked. In reality, though, Harper knew that whatever was bothering Silas clearly had nothing to do with her. It wasn't personal. There was something else… something else was bothering him. Something important.

Harper knew that she'd find out what it was, no matter what it took.

Stevie nodded to the two. "Ready to go have a chat with everyone?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


The door to the converted apartment rustled opened, and Calvin was tossed inside-- tumbling across the floor with his hands bound by rope. Oliver struggled to his feet in the corner of the room, shackled to a metal bunk bed with metal handcuffs. Calvin pushed himself up off the ground and spat at the feet of his handlers.

"Is it really necessary to throw me inside every time you bring me back?" he asked, dryly.

The burly man winked at him and slammed the door shut, clicking the lock from outside. Calvin rubbed his aching knees with his hands and righted himself, glancing over at Oliver. The irishman plopped down on the bed, the chains of his cuffs rattling against the bed's supports as he watched Calvin walk across the room and sit down himself.

"Where's Dax?" he asked, rubbing the soreness out of his wrists.

Oliver nodded towards the door with his head. "Took him out about an hour after you."

"And he hasn't come back yet?"

The irishmen shook his head, stifling a yawn with his unshackled hand. "Been here all night... what time is it?"

Calvin shook his head. Time didn't mean much anymore. Not when you were spending every living second trying not to die. "Sun came up a few hours ago. It's still morning."

"What about you?" Oliver asked, looking at Calvin through bloodshot eyes. "Sure have been spending a lot of time with Bronson..."

Calvin ran his hands over his face, shaking his head. "He wants something from me... that's all," he replied, wearily. Oliver had done little more but grill Calvin over his repeated meetings with the Warden over the last couple days. Clearly it was bothering him that he had fallen so far out of Bronson's favor. Not a man you wanted to be on the wrong side of, either way.

"Has he told you what yet?" Oliver queried, perking up.

"No. He hasn't shown his hand yet..."

Oliver sat up straight. "You do not want to get into bed with this guy, Calvin. He will not let you out." He laid his head against the post, every bit as exhausted by the grueling week. That and the lack of food and water were getting to him. He gritted his teeth. "He's going to use Sarah as collateral to get you to do everything he wants-- all of his dirty work."

Calvin shot up from the bed, beginning to pace the room. "I don't see what other options we have," he half-shouted, careful not to let his voice rise too far. "If I don't cooperate there's no telling what he'll do to Sarah. I'm not gonna take that chance."

"And I'm not asking you to," Oliver interjected. "I'm just telling you to be very careful where you step here. You forget that I've been playing this game with Bronson for far longer than you have. I've watched how he plays people-- finds leverage on them... blackmail. He doesn't have any boundaries, Calvin. The man's his own God."

Calvin opened his mouth to speak as the hinges of the door creaked open and some of the morning light poured into the room from the hallway outside. Dax's silhouette was thrown through the door much like Calvin had been, the door slamming shut behind him. Calvin rushed over to him, grabbing him from under the arms to help him up off the ground-- and finally saw his face: bloodied and beaten and bruised and broken-- redder than his hair, and dashed with cuts and scrapes.

"Jesus Christ, Dax... w-what'd they do to you?" Oliver trembled from across the room. Dax waved them both off and stumbled over to a ratty sofa chair. Dust exploded into the air catching little splinters of light from between the blinds by the window as Dax collapsed into the chair, cradling his ribs with his bound hands.

"What happened?" Calvin asked, eagerly. Bronson had been cold over the last few days, but he hadn't resorted to torture or violence. Until now...

Dax wiped the blood from his mouth, looking up at the two of them through his orange locks. "He k-kept asking questions. Obscure things. About the n-nuke-- radiation... I couldn't make sense of any of it. B-But whatever it is... he's up to something..." He flew into a fit of coughs trying to regain his breath, his eyes watering as he recovered. "I think he's planning s-some sort of attack..."

"Fuckin' hell--" Oliver moaned, running his hand through his hair. "It's the Capitols..."

Calvin turned to the Irishman. "The who...?"

"They call themselves the Capitols--" Dax cut in, standing to spit a fat wad of blood and saliva onto the ground. He wiped his lip again with the back of his hand. "Bronson's been feuding with them over stupid shit this whole past week..."

"I thought they had come to terms after their last run-in," Oliver continued, shaking his head. "Guess not."

Dax paced the room, locking his fingers above his head as he wandered in thought. A defeated silence hung over the room as they all settled into the fact that there may not be a way out of this. Not where they win. Not against a man like the Warden. They were just pawns in a much larger game.

"You see what I'm talking about now-- right Calvin?" Oliver demanded. "Whatever Bronson wants with you... it's gonna make you an accessory to all this. You don't want to get involved. Too many people have already died over this bullshit..."

Calvin looked at the two of them, feeling as if he was being talked in circles. "What exactly is going on between you and them? I've seen enough to know that Bronson doesn't necessarily play nice with others-- so what does he want from them?"

"To go away," Dax replied, quite somberly. "One way or another..."

Oliver nodded his head, begrudgingly-- and suddenly a realization grabbed hold of him. "That son of a bitch!" he cursed, pulling his cuffs taut against the bed frame. "He knows they're gonna come back for the Capitol... once all this nuclear dust clears. He's gonna be waiting for them..."

"Aw, hell--" Dax uttered, wrenching his hands together. "We've got to warn those poor bastards. Somehow..."

Oliver scoffed, leaning back in his seat. "After you," he offered, sarcastically gesturing at the locked door. There was simply nothing they could do.

"If Bronson notices any of us are gone, who knows what he'll do to Sarah..." Calvin said, reminding them of the fact. She was the reason they were where they were. She was also they reason they couldn't do anything drastic-- for fear of it blowing back in her face.

"We don't even know if she's here..." Oliver argued. None of them had seen any sign of her upon arriving at the hideout or even during the following few days. But the possibility still existed.

Calvin pointed his finger at Oliver's chest. "And we agreed that wasn't a risk we wanted to take. There's nothing we can do until we know she's safe. " He walked back to his bed and plopped down, rolling over as he drew the blanket over him. The past night spent with the Warden weighed on him heavily as his heavy eyelids blinked closed. Sleep would come quickly.

Oliver leaned back in his bed, staring up at the bunk above him as he shook his head. His arm dangled next to him, fixed to one of the metal supports. He sighed, reaching into his jacket with his free hand and pulling out a limp cigarette as he rolled over onto one side, freeing his pocket and stuffing his hand inside to retrieve his lighter so he could light up. Dax groaned with pain as he rolled over onto his, and the room grew silent and still.

"We'll think of something," Calvin promised with a whisper.

Oliver stirred from afar as he rolled onto his side, blowing out a plume of smoke. "Yeah..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield


*step step step*

“Hurry, honey! Up here!” Diego’s voice rang out to her through the alleyway. Bethany, heart racing, looked up and saw here sweetheart hanging out from a window, shirt half-torn and desperately trying to reach down. She ran as fast as she could, knowing the walkers were closing in behind her. The entire alley was pitch dark, even the moon was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. Only Diego and the room behind him was lit up in the sea of darkness, almost literally a beacon of hope.

Sprinting, the only thing Bethany could think about how cold she was. So cold.

“Faster! They are… No!” Just as he said it, Bethany felt a cold hand grasping her shoulder. As a jolt and on impulse, she spun around and hit the thing square on the head with the baseball bat. It moaned a low sort of sigh as it fell on the ground. For just an instance, Bethany thought she recognized it. He had looked like Billy the Cameraman. There was no time to think about that though. She quickly made sure the bat was still firmly in her hand and continued running.

“You’re nearly there! Please, hurry!”

*step step step*

It felt like she was slowing down, time coming to a halt. Every step was a lifetime, every breath she took possibly the last. Every grunt and every growl behind her was pure terror. Just as she thought she could no longer handle it, she came upon the building, Diego above her, just out of reach.

“Use the garbage cans,”
he urged on. She did as she was told, narrowly avoiding an outstretched hand and jumping on the bins. She reached up and grasped for her love. A swirl of relief came over her as they connected and he pulled her up. When finally through the window, they hugged and then kissed. Bethany took in all of him as much as he could, smelling his familiar hint of spice, touching his smooth shoulder.

Reluctantly, she pushed away. “We can’t stay here long,” she said, “they will surround the building within minutes.”

Diego grinned in his usual charming manner, “I’ve already taken care of that, babe. Look.” He turned around and gestured at something in the other side of the room. She didn’t see it, as something else caught her attention. Something truly horrific. Her stomach dropped, she had never felt such a shock in her life.

There was a large bite mark on Diego’s lower back.

“Die…Diego…” she stammered, “Honey… You’re bit!”

He turned back towards her and shrugged, as if it was nothing. “I know. Slight accident. Had to capture it, didn’t I?”

What was he talking about? Bethany’s head swirled. Why was he so nonchalant about it? He knew how the infection spread, didn’t he? Only then she truly noticed what was grouched down in the corner. A walker, chained to the wall.

And it wasn’t just any walker. It was that old woman they had met at the spa. Annabelle. Her eyes were bulging, angry but at the same time un-seeing. A trickle of blood had dried up against her scalp, rot had started to set in.

“But… she was dead. The… the girl shot her…”


“Not well enough, apparently,” Diego said conversationally, “she surprised me too. Bit me. But at least she is are way out.”

“Way out?” Bethany’s confusion continued to grow and with it, a suspicion began to dawn on her. “Diego? What are you talking about?”

“Well, she bit me. So, I was thinking, the only way for us to stay together is for her to bite you too.”

Bethany stared at him. He must be kidding. But the look in his face told her he wasn’t. “Honey, are you insane!”

“Just think about it,” he said soothingly, “we know I’m going to turn. And I can’t stand to stay away from you. You know that. I love you.” He gently held Bethany by the arm, bringing her to the dead old woman chained to the wall.

“Diego, no… please…” she whimpered. She wanted to get away. Get out of the room. But it was Diego. She…

“It will be over soon, honey. Come.”


Annabelle looked up at her, hungrily. She snarled and snapped. As if in a trance, Bethany walked towards her. Diego helped her reach out with her hand.

Annabelle bit.

Bethany screamed.

Bethany woke.

--

Gasping for air, Bethany bolted up from their make-shift bed. Diego was standing at the door, and turned to her in surprise.

“Ah, you’re awake,” he said pleasantly.

A dream. It was just a dream. Bethany tried to compose herself, but that was more difficult than usual. It had felt so real.

Diego, knowing her so well, instantly noticed something was wrong. “What is it, Beth? Didn’t sleep well?”

“Bad dream,” she admitted. "Remember Billy the Cameraman?"

"Join-In Billy? That would be a bad dream indeed. Little pervert. Wonder what became of him?"

She tried to straighten her hair with her hands. Where was her comb?

As the true gentleman he could be, he sat down next to her and held her in his arms. Then, as if he knew what she had been thinking, he was combing her hair. Others, she would never let them see this side of her. But with him, just him, she allowed herself to relax.

Not for too long though.

“It’s late,” she said. She had noticed that the sun had already risen quite high.

“I let you sleep in.”

“Why? We had decided to leave today! I need to…”


“Shhh, the others agreed with me. You’ve been awake non-stop the last three days, caring for all of us. You must have been exhausted.”

That was true. She had tried to be there for all the others, even though they were complete strangers to her. Especially Jessica had relied so much on her. Bethany didn’t really know why, but the grieving mother had decided it was only Bethany she would speak to that first day. Even in amazement to herself, Bethany hadn’t minded helping the poor woman out.

“You know,” Diego joked, “I quite like seeing this nurturing side of you.”

“Yeah, well, don’t get used to it. Where are the others?”


Diego looked out of the window. “George has already left.”

Of course he has, Bethany thought to herself.

“Rafiq, Wayne, Tara and Lisa went to check on the metro entrance to see if it was even doable. They will be back soon.”

“All four of them? Then who is guarding the place?”


“Althea. The girl. And… Jess…”


That surprised her. Jessica hadn’t done or said much in the last few days. Not that anybody had really blamed her. On that first day, Bethany had feared the woman might not even recover, having apparently lost all will to live. Thankfully, that had not been the case. Jessica was stronger than she looked. During the meeting last evening, she had only spoken once, but from what she had said, it was clear she had not given up yet. In a short and clear manner, she had expressed her wishes to find the others of their group.

That had brokered no argument from anyone else. Not even Bethany and Diego, who didn’t know these others. Bethany had found it very strange that it took the end of the world for her to start caring about other people again, but there it was. For such a long time, it had only been her and Diego. In a weird way, it was nice to be part of something larger. Bethany felt as if she had found something again that she had lost so long ago.

It was a fragile feeling though. One comment, one act, one betrayal, and it could be lost again. Forever.

The two small backpacks were standing in the corner of the room. They had all agreed that they needed to move quickly and thus pack light. It had taken them the better part of the evening the select and distribute the bare essentials, but the exercise had lifted everyone’s spirit somewhat. It felt good to have something to look forward to.

“You packed… everything?” Bethany asked her lover. She could see him tense just slightly, others would probably not even have noticed. He knew what she was referring to. The cocaine they had taken back from Wayne and Rafiq.

“ Beth… Yes, you know I…”

“It’s alright. You just need to tell me these things.”

“ I know. I’m sorry.” He kissed her on the forehead. Bethany knew he had used some of it over the last few days and had tried to hide it from her. That fact had bothered her more than the use of the stuff itself, but she also knew that it could help relief his own grief and pain.

Better that then sleeping with the cute Arab boy, she thought. The friendship between Diego and Rafiq had developed quickly and Bethany knew that Diego found him attractive. He had told her so.

You’re just being paranoid, Beth. Rafiq is not even interested.

Diego stood up and picked up the backpacks, ready to leave the room. “You’re coming?”

“In a sec,” she said. Bethany waited until he had left, then left the room as well. She walked through the hallway that was so familiar to her, but not feeling even a hint of sadness that she would have to leave her spa behind for good. Her heart was never really into the place after all.

She opened the door of the room she had purposefully walked to. She had half expected to find Jessica inside, lovingly caressing the face of her son through the linen cloth, but the room was empty save for the two bodies. Bethany knew that the dream had made her come here and that she was being ridiculous.

Annabelle had been laid to rest on one of the massage tables, covered with a cloth, just like Sam was. Annabelle’s Bible had been placed at where the woman’s hands were. It was laid open for a specific passage. One of the women had chosen and marked it, though Bethany did not know who.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Bethany walked over to where Annabelle’s head was and uncovered it. The dead woman’s face different from how it had been in her dream. The gunshot wound was larger and messier, exposing a large part of her head. The lower part of the face had been torn apart by the boy, who had continued chomping on the poor woman’s face even after Lily had shot her. Annabelle was truly dead. There was no way she was coming back.

It didn’t make Bethany feel much better.

She put the cloth back in its place, trying to make it as presentable as possible. Her thoughts lingered on Lily, wondering what they were supposed to do with her. In retrospect, the girl had been right, though the execution of it had still been… poorly. Everyone felt uncomfortable around her, not sure how to deal with her. The girl wanted to be treated like an adult, that much was apparent.

As far as Bethany was concerned, Lily could get what she wanted. In terms of survival, it was better if the girl grew up anyway and became responsible for her own actions. The others clearly weren’t ready to embrace that idea yet though and Bethany had decided to leave the matter in their hands.

“There you are,” Diego’s head popped in from the hallway. “What are you doing in here?”

Bethany blinked and looked up at him. She cursed inwardly, as it was so unlike her to get lost in thought like that. She gave Diego a wry smile.

“Just saying goodbye, I suppose. What is it?”

“The others have come back,” he said and made a face. “And it doesn’t seem like good news.”

Of course it wasn’t.

She followed Diego out of the room, ready to leave this place for good.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Ashley Valentino (NPC) Character Portrait: Gustav Schmidt (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Boondock Brannigan (NPC)

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


Jessica sifted through the ratty backpack, pulling out a different one of Sam's old t-shirts. It was thin enough for her to tear with her hands, which she did-- starting near the neck in thin strips. Seemed like the best way to turn unwanted memories into needed supplies. Makeshift bandages were every bit as valuable as the next thing. She slouched back against the front kiosk arranging the strips of linen in a neat pile beside her as a dull silence hung in the air. Althea paced near the front door, twiddling a crowbar in her hands-- her face still bearing the recovering scrape printed across her cheek from Lillian's shoe. The brooding woman peered anxiously through the front blinds at the street, eagerly awaiting the others.

Lily scraped at something behind the counter, incessantly. The sound only suddenly becoming audible over Jessica's own shuffling. She set down the remainder of the shredded shirt and stood up, dusting off her knees. She sidled up alongside the counter and leaned over, peering at the girl. Wood shavings lined Lily's legs as she carved at the backside of the kiosk with a small knife.

Jessica chewed her lip, unsure of what to say to the kid. There was so much she wanted to say to the girl, but no real place to start. Things had been quiet for the last few days, while they all hunkered down inside-- waiting out the dangers outside... and in their heads and hearts. It was a big loss for the lot of them... a double blow along with the previous losses from that morning. Delivered with those were the betrayals. Amidst all the chaos surrounding Sam and Annabelle's deaths, Henry broke through the last of the wall in the pet shop-- raiding all of its supplies and fleeing the complex before the dust had settled. Fortunately for the rest, neither Sam nor Annabelle ended up needing the medical supplies. But the group still felt burned. The tag-along alcoholic had been nothing but trouble since the moment they met him. Jessica felt bad for even giving the man a second chance. But hindsight was indeed 20/20. The second betrayal fell a bit closer to home when earlier this very morning, George struck out with naught but a word to anyone. Him, his bag, his gun. She knew why he went... but in the back of her mind she pretended he was going after Henry. That version made her feel less sad.

Lillian continued picking away at the wood, either oblivious or uninterested in Jessica's presence. Perhaps a bit of both. Jessica twiddled her thumbs a bit, picking at the counter with her own nails. She looked down at the girl. "Thank you..." Lily stopped carving for a brief moment-- and then resumed at an even quicker pace. Jessica grinned a little. It was a start. She walked around the counter, pulling an office chair underneath herself as she sat down behind the girl. "I never got to say thank you," Jessica continued. She ran her hands across her face-- trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes. "I don't know... if you've been thinking I'm waiting for some kind of apology... or that I'm going to punish you or something. Which couldn't be further from the truth." Lily propped her head on one arm, staring into her growing masterpiece as she casually carved away. "What you tried to do for us-- what you did do... I don't think you know what that meant to everyone." Jessica let her dangling toes touch the ground, and began to spin herself slowly in the desk chair. "The way it came about? Nobody could have wished for that... but-- we handled it. We survived. We're still here..." Lily finally stopped, rubbing away the faint beads of sweat on her forehead. She looked up at Jessica, timidly. She stopped spinning and reached over to the girl, brushing her golden locks out of her tired face. The poor thing had barley been able to sleep since everything happened. And she hadn't had a shred of normalcy or decency over the last week and half-- being passed around from adult to adult as people were killed off and went missing. It was bad enough she was separated from her parents, and now widowed to her best post-apocalyptic friend. "We are all we have..." she said, matter-of-factly. "That's something to hold onto." Lillian just looked at her, blinking her sad eyes. Jessica leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "Y'know... this whole last year, I've just had these... things being stripped away from my life. Like I'm losing these layers... first-- my husband... and my house. My son..." She sighed. "The last thing I have is all of you. This. That's all that's keeping me from losing the most important thing: my mind." She looked back at her carving, sniffling a bit. Jessica rolled the chair back to get a better view and saw two large prints... headstones for the dearly departed. "They would have loved these," Jessica chimed, forcing a smile. She squeezed the girl on the shoulder and leaned in close to her ear. "But don't let Bethany see. She'll kill you..." Lily cracked a smile at that. A small victory, and a needed one.

Jessica stood, arching her back as she stretched out the last of the days aches and pains. Althea jumped to a start across the room, swiping up her crowbar as she rushed towards the windows. "That's movement," she announced, spreading the blinds with her fingers. "It's them."

"Help me with the benches," Jessica ordered, springing towards the front doors.

Althea shrugged out of her jacket and threw it to the side, along with her crowbar. "They're coming in hot!" she called out, grabbing one end of the wooden benches to drag away from the doors. Jessica grabbed the other end and the two of them sloppily tossed it to the ground. Lily was already up and behind them, preparing to unbrace the chair from the door. Jessica wiped her hair from her face and nodded to the girl, drawing her knife from her waistband. Lillian yanked the door out from beneath the handles, and she and Althea pushed the doors open to welcome their incoming friends. Several alerted walkers shambled on in the distance as their comrades rushed towards the spa entrance keeping low. Jessica walked towards the door, slowly-- hoping for good news. They needed it now more than ever.

She couldn't take one more tragic start to the day.


# # #



.: The Lost Church :.


Gustav thrust a finger in Val's chest, narrowing his eyes. "It's been three days, for Christ's sake... let the poor girl go."

Ashley shook her head, standing firmly in front of the door to the side room. "She's a liability, Gus-- you know the protocol."

"Protocol?!" Boone shouted from beside her "You fucking robot. Let the girl go-- she didn't do anything."

"And she hasn't said anything either. Until she does, she stays put." Val folded her arms, unmoved by all this nonsense.

Boone laughed, mockingly. "She's in shock, pig."

"HEY!" Val barked, whipping out her baton. "Why don't you cut the shit-talk, chief?"

Boone threw up his hands, middle fingers and all-- storming off in a huff. Gustav sighed, scratching erratically at his beard. "I understand your concerns, but we can't just keep the girl cuffed to a rail in there... she hasn't done anything to deserve this."

"Did you see the same thing I saw in there?" Val asked, heatedly. "That girl had a bite on her the size of my hand. She's a ticking time bomb."

"It's been nearly three whole days and her condition hasn't even worsened," Gustav reasoned.

"I don't know how much worse you can get then a traumatized mute with a red walker tattoo on your shoulder," Val said, rolling her eyes. "We don't know shit about this infection... we can't afford to start making assumptions now. You wouldn't let me throw her onto the street, so this is the situation we're dealing with now. And you don't have to like it."

"We don't even know if it was the priest that bit her? It could have been the dog!" Gus argued.

Val scoffed. "The same dog that was curled up next to her in a pool of the girl's own blood? Doubtful." She brushed him aside, holstering her baton. "Look-- I get that you have the whole beard going on and you want to do the whole Sherlock thing, but I do this for a living. The girl hasn't been entirely truthful with us, and until she decides to cooperate-- we focus on more pressing matters. Or did you forget that our people are missing?"

"She's right," Harry added, joining the two of them outside Sarah's holding. He placed his hands on his hips, obviously as disapproving of the situation as the others. "We need to earn this girl's trust if we're gonna get anything out of her, but that's gonna take time. Duke and them-- we have to find out what happened. That's what matters right now."

"And until I'm sure she isn't going anywhere," Val shrugged. "the girl stays locked up. I'll deal with her when we get back. Gus you're with me. Find Boone, get him a juice box or whatever he needs to calm down and get him ready. The rest will stay here in case they show. Understood?" The two older men silently nodded. "Good. How's Brooke? She need anything?" Val asked, turning her attention to Harry as Gustav stalked off on his task.

The greyed man stuffed his hand into his coat pocket and retrieved a crumpled piece of paper. "She wrote some stuff down," he replied, handing the ball of paper to Val. She began to unfold it, straightening it out. "I can't make sense of most of it. Girl stuff, I imagine."

Val smirked. "We'll try and make a stop if we find good news, OK? Just stay with her and make sure she has everything she needs." Harry nodded and mumbled and headed back off towards Brooke near the vigil. "Thank you," she added as an after-thought. She was trying to be less hard on these people, but they all depended on her to make decisions and keep them heading in a direction... any direction. They needed something to rally around. But more than that...

They needed good news.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


Wayne and Lisa sat down on the sofa in the room, while Tara paced up and down the room. Rafiq hopped on the reception desk, accidently knocking down a lamp. He put it back in its place again, barely registering that he was doing so. His head was racing by trying to form a plan quickly. With his legs dangling over the edge, he cleaned his hunting knife with the hem of his shirt.

Lily looked at what he was doing. He returned the gaze and shrugged. “Straggler.”

She nodded at that, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. And maybe it was.

The four of them were reluctant to speak, but it was only postponing the inevitable. Althea clearly got annoyed at their silence.

“Well?” She asked with no small amount of irritation.

Rafiq sighed and cocked his head slightly backwards. “The tunnels are a dead end. They’re filled with walkers.”

“And by filled, he means stuffed like tuna in a can,” Wayne added, “I think I counted at least a hundred.”

“Two-hundred,” Tara said.

“That many?” Jessica said in surprise. It was a strange notion that just a few days ago, they had walked through those tunnels themselves. Had they been trapped down there, they would surely all be dead.

Althea looked out of the window, as if to check whether the horde hadn’t followed them. “Did they notice you?”

“Some did,” Lisa said, “but they aren’t very good at climbing over the turnstiles. Only one managed and Rafiq took him out easily enough. Besides, they seemed to be pre-occupied by something deeper down into the tunnels.”

“How so?” That was Bethany, who had appeared with Diego.

“We could hear some sort of noise. Shrill, metallic.” Lisa closed her eyes as she said it, trying to recall what she had heard. “I’m not sure what it was.”

“Maybe it was some poor soul trapped in the tunnels,” Diego suggested.

“Could it have been Dyomie and the others?” Jessica asked.

Rafiq had thought of that as well, but even if it had been Dyomie, Marie, Natasha or Philip, there was no way to reach them. That way was cut off. Besides, the sound had been too machine-like. “I don’t think so,” he said, “it’s most likely something is in the process of breaking down.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Tara said, “that way is no longer an option. It means we have to go above ground.”

“Tara is right,” Rafiq said, “we have spoken about this possibility.” Most of them had preferred the tunnel route. It wouldn’t have been without risk, but the chances were better of finding a trace of the others and there would have been less variables to worry about. Still, they had discussed how to go about the streets as well. Bethany and Diego knew the area very well and quickly realized where Tara, Lisa and Althea had seen the others last.

“Okay, then we take the streets,” Bethany said. She picked up her stuff as if she was ready to leave right then and there.

“You want to leave right now? We just got back!” Wayne said slightly shocked. He had taken off his shoes again and was resting his feet on the coffee table. It was apparent he had hoped for at least a little rest before setting out again.

Bethany turned to him and took on an authoritative composure. “Why not? We have discussed everything already. Everyone knows what to do. The longer we stay here, the smaller the chance we will find your friend. What do you want to do?” She scoffed, “Take a bath?”

“That would be nice,” Wayne joked, but put his shoes back on all the same.

“Bethany is right,” Jessica said, “we have spent enough time here already. This place is… I’m ready to leave.”

Lily had already opened the door and scouted out the near vicinity. “No Crawlies nearby. Now would be a good time.”

Everyone turned their attention towards Rafiq, as if it was his call. Those looks still unnerved him. He jumped down from desk and gestured towards the door in a purposefully dramatic fashion. “That’s decided then. The Fellowship will go to Mordor and destroy the ring.”

He went slightly red as the others just looked at him, either not getting or appreciating the joke. But when Diego walked past him, he gave him a friendly bump on the shoulder.

“Lead on, Frodo.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC)

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# Sarah Hawke #


...Three Days Earlier...


"In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...?" Sarah said shifting uncomfortably on the wooden seat inside the confessional booth, trying to remember what came after. All she could muster was a heavy sigh as she dug her fingers into the fur behind Charlie's ears, nervously. "Uhh-- sorry, I forget the next part. Either way though-- forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

She could hear the fabrics of the Priest's robe shuffling as he to situated himself on the other side of the partition. His blurry visage passed between its interwoven frame, barely visible. "Speak your mind, my child..." his grizzled voice breathed out softly.

"I-I did things today... things I'm not proud of. And at a certain point, I realized-- I was going to get away with it all. There's no one to arrest me... no repercussions... no more society. These... things that we're being forced to do to survive... they're horrible." Her voice faltered, skipping a beat as she tried to find her breath. "How are we supposed to come back from this? After everything we've done..."

"It's a blessing that you've come this far on your own," the priest replied gruffly as he rubbed his metal crucifix between his forefingers. "To have survived this long takes true courage. That will never leave you."

Sarah buried her face in her hands, wiping away some of the dirt beneath her eyes. She sat back up, resting the heels of her hands on her knees as she breathed in through her nose, clearing her thoughts. "Listen-- everything leaves you. Everything dies. And all we have... is what hasn't been lost already-- our friends.. our families... our world? Our future?" She shook her head, reaching out blindly with her hand as it found the top of Charlie's head again-- a comforting gesture born out of habit. The dog, after all, had been her only anchor through her whole ordeal. He tilted his nose up at her, nuzzling into the nook of her knee-- happy to have a roof over his head. "I've had enough opportunities to learn that first hand..." Sarah finished, running through the events of the past week in her mind.

The priest exhaled all his breath in one deep sigh. "That's an exceptionally bleak view of things, my child. Hope is all we have left…"

Sarah's eyes began to well up as her hands clenched the fabric leggings of her pants. The truth of his words stung in a special way knowing what she now knew. She didn't have much of that anymore. Hope. Hope was what got you killed these days. It was unfortunate that it was also the only thing keeping some people going. Certainly enough-- irony was alive and well in the apocalypse. The tears, much to her dislike, kept flowing regardless.

"I killed a man today..." she allowed herself to say, her voice strained from exhaustion and regret. She could hear the priest shuffle uncomfortably in his seat on the other side of the partition. "A-And I don't even care so much about that, cause the worst part is... it doesn't matter. We're all already dead. You know that, right? It doesn't matter if we die from a bite or a bullet... we come back. As one of them.”

”S-Surely that can’t be true…” he replied, thinly -- his voice faltering slightly. ”I’ve seen it with my own eyes… we're fucked, Preacher. I took a crowbar and I hit a man in the face with it and left him for those things out there... and I can only feel like I did him a favor. Like I saved him from a worse fate. I don't even feel bad about it. I'm supposed to feel something about it though, right? Then why don't I feel guilty?" A thousand thoughts swirled around her head as the tears continued to flow down her cheeks. She wiped at them with her sleeves as she tried to continue, not allowing the deadening silence to overwhelm her thinking. "Am I a bad person because of that?" She sat up, trying to calm herself down with gentle controlled breaths. "I can't imagine Hell is any worse than this place..." she blubbered, trying to bring some humor into her continuously darkening world. She sniffed back her tears and continued dabbing at her eyes. "I don't want it to get easier. Surviving like this. Killing. But I know it's going to-- and then we're going to be changed... forever. We'll become who we have to just to survive and we won't be able to turn that off. My b-brother--" she stopped as his name got caught in her throat. She squinted her eyes to stem off the tide of tears coming on again and shook her head, solemnly. "You talk about hope... well I promised I'd save him. Somehow. He's counting on me. And he's all I have..."

Charlie suddenly rose from next to her feet, a deep growl bubbling up in his throat as his fur bristled. Sarah laid her hand firmly on the back of his head, trying to steer his attention to her. "And you, of course--" she muttered, looking down at her canine companion. "I'd never forget you, Charlie... never." But the dog struggled from her grip and leapt up towards the latticed partition separating the booths, clawing at the wood. "Charlie! Calm down... what are you doing?"

She tried to pull the dog back from the window so she could get a better look, but he struggle against her grip-- frantically pawing at the window, alternating between it and the door. "Father? Is something out there? What's going on?" But there was only the silence beneath Charlie's intensifying growls and whimpers.


### BARK BARK BARK CRASH!!! ###


The preacher's bloodied hand burst through the wooden panelling followed immediately by his hulking frame, falling onto her and the dog. The milky whites of his eyes bore down on her as she wrestled with his arms and he gradually pinned her into the corner. Charlie went apeshit beside the man, pulling on a huge chunk of cloth and flesh as he attempted to free Sarah from the creature... but the truth of the matter was: the space was just too small. The preacher's pale face gnashed away at her with his teeth, various chunks of wood acting as a small buffer between her and the hideous thing as they got caught up between the two. The weight of his body bore down on her, trapping her further.

Sarah grappled with his arms, fighting to keep him at bay as her hands grew slick with the warm blood coating his freshly cut wrists. It complicated the grip she had fought so hard to maintain as she screamed and struggled to no avail. Apparently that hope he had spoken of had run out. It hadn’t taken him long to give up what little he had left. Sarah wondered how long she’d be able to hold onto her own… if she survived long enough for it to matter at all. She tussled with the flaps of his robes, trying to gain some kind of advantage-- losing sight for a moment of the creature’s face and mouth. The sheer cacophony of the enclosed space mixed with that of Charlie’s frantic barking and the vicious snarls of her assailant raided her senses as she felt her muscles weakening quickly. It was then that the distinct gleam of the dead preacher’s dangling crucifix came into sight between a few folds of his black robe. It was just low enough for her to be able to grab, she thought-- and instantly maneuvered to do so as she countered the weight of the preacher’s body-- rolling to one side with him as he fell into her. To her dismay, however-- the metal she grabbed onto happened to be the sheathe part of an overtly-religious letter opener. It slid off effortlessly, sending Sarah falling back into the corner. Before she could react, the preacher lunged into her shoulder-- digging in with his sharp teeth. A scream erupted from Sarah’s lips as her hands found the blade and ripped it from the chain surrounding the walker’s neck. Without even thinking, she jammed it through the preacher’s pale eye, using it as leverage to propel the beast back into its side of the booth with one large shove. As soon as the blade met its target, she could almost felt the weight dissipate in an instant as the creature fell limp and she threw the creature off of herself.

She collapsed in a blood-soaked heap back on her side of the confessional, grasping at the raw bite on her shoulder-- the tattered remnants of her shirt hanging limply around the fresh wound. Charlie cowered into the corner, still keeping a wary eye on the suddenly motionless corpse mere feet from them. He looked back and forth between the walker and Sarah, his tail retreating between his legs as he licked at her hand.

”Oh my God…” Sarah stammered, the reality of the situation dawning on her instantly. ”No, no, no, n-no, no….”




# # #



”No…. no… no…..”

”Hey-- Hey! It’s all right, it’s all right… you’re safe,” Brooke assured her, placing a hand on her shoulder to quiet her. Sarah’s eyes snapped open as she flailed out-- knocking the tray full of food and water out of Brooke’s hands as it all splattered across the ground. She scurried back on her hands and feet, suddenly aware that one of her arms had been handcuffed to a metal handrail that ran the length of the wall. She tugged at it uselessly as Brooke began to scoop up what she could back onto the tray.

”Everything’s fine,” she sighed, ”I didn’t mean to frighten you or anything…” Her eyes lingered on the shoddy patch job over the girl’s wound; a half-assed job done in the heat of the moment after they had discovered her. As if they didn’t want her infection to get… infected. Sarah looked at it too, making note that she’d need to change that later if she happened to survive another night.

Sarah turned to lay eyes on the stranger in front of he and saw the curve of the woman’s stomach beneath the fabric of her shirt. Sarah’s eyes bulged, and she spoke her first words in several day of silence. ”Y-You’re--”

Brooke nodded, sheepishly-- rubbing her belly softly. ”Yeah…”

”I-I’m so…”

”It’s fine,” Brooke replied, calmly. ”You didn’t know.” She had managed to get most of the spilled food back onto the tray-- at least the salvageable parts. She crossed back over to Sarah and laid the tray on the ground, sliding it over to her. ”I’ll have to go get you something else to drink,” she offered, despondently.

Sarah just looked at her, unsure of who this woman was-- or why she was being kept locked up. Brooke must have sensed the same questions in Sarah’s eyes, because she answered as if she knew what was on the poor girl’s mind.

”It’s only a precaution,” she began, nodding at the cuffs on her wrist. ”You’re free to leave if you want to. Val just didn’t want to risk having you free to roam if--” Brooke stopped, unsure of how to finish that thought. None of them were sure what Sarah’s fate would be after being bitten. But even if she survived by some miracle, surely there was more in store for her down the road. ”Y’know, a lot of us out there have been pulling for you. We weren’t sure if you were gonna make it for awhile there… I really don’t know how you’ve survived this long, to be honest-- but it’s a good thing you did. These are good people. We aren’t your enemies. We just wanna see you get better.”

Sarah believed the words she was saying. She seemed like the honest type. And besides, she had enough problems of her own without needing to lie. The thought of bringing a new life into this world was terrifying, even with an outside perspective. What that would mean in the greater scheme of things was confounding. But to rebuild humanity, they would have to start somewhere.

Why not here?

”My name is Sarah… Hawke,” she managed weakly as a sign of peace.

”It’s nice to meet you, Sarah. I’m Brooke.” She stood up, brushing off her legs. ”I should get you some more water… we have lots to catch up on.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Seth Tanner Character Portrait: Kire Barrow Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Skata

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


They walked through the streets. Rafiq was leading the pack with Diego. Wayne, Tara and Lily were behind them, followed by Althea and Lisa. Jessica and Bethany brought up the rear. None of them spoke much, as they didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention from the walkers. There were small pockets of undead on the streets here and there, but it appeared that most of them had gone somewhere else. Presumably down into the tunnels. Occasionally one of the walkers would get too close, but they were taken out without too much trouble. As long as you were aware of them and they were on their own, the undead were not that difficult to deal with.

The city was covered in a thin layer of a gray ash-like substance. It made everything look surreal, the abandoned buildings and cars only enhancing the effect. The thought was cliché, but it felt to Rafiq like they were on a movie set. Only know did he understand what those people on the television meant when they said something like that. He said so to Diego, who, quite predictably, grinned at that.

“Not any movie set I’ve ever been to,” he said in a low tone, barely audible.

“Really? You’ve been on a set?”
It occurred to Rafiq that he didn’t really know what Diego did before all of this happened. Bethany was the owner of the spa, but somehow Rafiq couldn’t imagine Diego being much involved.

“You can say that again.”


“So you’re an actor?”

“Yeah, though trust me, I’m not that well known. Not like Beth.”


Surprised, Rafiq quickly behind him at the women in the back. He didn’t recognize Bethany from anything, though he had seen quite a few movies in his lifetime.

“Theatre?” Rafiq inquired.

The comment made Diego laugh out loud, too loud, then abruptly stopped upon realizing where they were. Tara let out a short “sssssst”, while the others looked at the two of them either surprised or annoyed. Everyone became on high alert, scanning the area for any activity. Rafiq could feel himself glowing red while checking the buildings on the opposite street. One heartbeat, two heartbeat. There were a few walkers towards the intersection, but they appeared not to have noticed them.

Then Althea let out a small sound of surprise and they all turned towards her, then at the window she was looking at. Two small heads were peering through the window, looking just as surprised as they were. A girl about seven or eight with a large bow in her hair and a slightly younger boy holding an action figure. A woman appeared behind them, ushering the two away from the window. A door opened and a heavily muscled Latino man came through, thunderous and suspicious. He had a gun in his hand, pointing it directly at them.

“Go away,” he said, “there is no place for you here. Go away.”

Instinctively, Rafiq raised his hands in the air. Some did as he did, while others raised their own weapons instead. It was Lisa who responded first, who just as Rafiq had not taken up her weapon, but was showing him her empty hands. “We’re just passing through,” she said, “we mean no harm.”

The man focused his attention on Lisa, pointing his gun at her. Another man appeared behind him, taller and thinner, but otherwise a spitting image of the first man. Brothers. He carried just as big a gun as the first one and gestured it threateningly at the group.

“Go away then. This place is not for you. Only my family.”

“You have that big of a family?” Lily asked incredulous. Tara placed a hand on Lily’s shoulder and pulled her backwards. “Not helping, kid,” she murmured.

The man eyed the gun Lily was holding suspiciously. “You gave your child a gun?” He directed the question to Tara, probably assuming she was the mother.

“Mind your own fucking business,” Bethany said. Both guns immediately turned towards her. She took a step backwards, but otherwise showed no visible signs of fear.

Rafiq, now having lowered his hands, but still with his open palms towards the two men to not appear threatening, walked in front of Lily and Tara.

“Look, like she said, we mean no harm. We have no intention of bothering you or your family.”

“Right,” Lisa said, relieved that at least somebody else was not trying to escalate the situation, “we’ll be just on our way now.”

The muscled guy studied the both of them, then lowered his gun. His brother didn’t. “Alright then. Move it. And don’t come back or else.”

“Right,” Rafiq said and gestured the others to continue walking. They all did, though some couldn’t help but give the two men an angry look. Rafiq and Lisa waited until everyone had passed them and then closed the ranks. Rafiq turned to give one polite nod, but the men no longer deemed it worthy to notice him. They quickly checked the streets and then slammed the door shut.

“I forgot how paranoid people have become,” Lisa whispered to Rafiq.

“Can’t necessarily blame them.”


They took a turn on the intersection and followed along the blind wall of the building. The people inside had no way to see them. Trying to push what had just transpired from his mind, Rafiq kicked an empty soda can to the side of the street. This made him notice that one of his shoe laces had become undone. He stood still, made sure no walker was nearby and then lowered himself. Upon seeing what he was doing, Lisa politely waited on him.

When he was done, he stood back up again and smiled at her. “Thank you for waiting.”

“No problem,” she said. “Always need someone to have your back, right?”

“Right.”

They continued walking, thinking they had to catch up to the others, but the rest of the group had stood still as well a little further on.

“Ow look, they waited for us as well,” Lisa said with a hint of surprise in her voice.

Rafiq was not so sure about that though, as the others seem to have their attention focussed on something else. They were all staring at the set of apartments behind the building with the gun-happy Latino men and their families. Looking up, Rafiq saw what was going on.“Ow fuck.”

A large column of smoke was coming from the building, darkening the sky right above it. Large flames could be seen through the windows of the upper floor. From this angle it was impossible to tell whether the ground floor was already on fire as well, but everyone could see it was bad.

“That does not look good,”
Wayne mused.

“A fire like that unchecked could affect an entire block of buildings,” Tara said worryingly.

“Do you want to call the fire department then?” Bethany sniped, “we better keep moving.”

“Wait!” Lisa exclaimed, “we have to go back.”

The others turned to her. “Why?” Bethany asked, “if we just take a left here, we’ll be fine.”

Lisa pointed at the building next to the apartments. “Those people. We have to warn them. That fire could creep up on them.”

“So? They’ll figure it out soon enough.”

“Do you want to take that risk?”
Lisa asked.

“But they pointed a gun at us,” Althea said begrudged, “I’m with Bethany on this one.”

“Seriously? But they have children with them!” Lisa was pleading now, looking at the others for support.

“She does have a point,” Wayne said, “we can’t just abandon a couple of kids like that.”

“Can’t we?” Althea responded. “You heard what he said. Those people made it perfectly clear they want nothing to do with us, which is fine with me.”

“You have those children die?” Lisa asked her, shocked.

“Of course not,” Althea said, “but I doubt that will happen. They will realize what is going on soon enough. In the meantime, I’d like us not to have our heads blown off by a couple of trigger-happy men who misunderstand our intentions.”

“Agreed,” Lily chimed in.

“They won’t just shoot us,” Lisa said, “Jess?”

Jessica looked torn and was about to say something when a loud sound came from the burning building. It was as if an entire floor had collapsed, and judging by the increased intensity of the flames on the upper floors, that was completely possible.

“Right, that’s it. I’m going back, alone if I have to.” Lisa said with fierce determination.

She was just about to storm off, but Rafiq placed a hand on her shoulder and stopped her. “Wait, you can’t go back alone.”

“You’re coming with me?” Lisa asked, hope shimmering in her eyes.

Rafiq blinked in surprise. That had not entirely been what he had meant. He had wanted to stop her from running off alone, as that typically did not end well. Though he agreed with Lisa that those people deserved a warning, he also had to think about the safety of the group. If someone got shot…

“You’re kidding. Rafiq, we don’t have time for this.” Bethany said.

“Ow come on darling. Let them go. It will only take two minutes.” Diego said to her as he wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck.

Bethany rolled her eyes. “Not you too.”

Althea bristled. “It is not even a matter of time, it is a matter of safety. We have to think about ourselves.”

Lisa pulled away from Rafiq, taking another step back into the street. “Well, are you coming or not?”

Rafiq was unsure on what to do. It was clear that neither Lisa or Althea and Bethany could be persuaded otherwise. He really wanted to help Lisa, but not with the rest of the group just out on the streets like that. They would have to have a safe place first, but that might take too much time, as the fire was quickly spreading. “I…”

“Ow God!” Jessica suddenly exclaimed. They all turned around and saw a group of walkers turning the corner. Burning walkers. The shambling corpses were on fire, presumably coming from inside the building. The bodies had started to blacken, but the flames had not affected them enough to impede their mobility. Whether they had died before or after the fire was unclear.

Though the flames licked their hands, arms and faces, the walkers were oblivious to it.

“We have to move now!” Bethany shouted at them, “there won’t be an opening much longer!”

“No,” Lisa responded, “we have to go back! We can flee that way just as well!”

“Don’t be an idiot!”

“Don’t be so selfish!”

“Rafiq!” “Rafiq”

As the burning bodies stumbled closer towards them, a thousand thoughts went through Rafiq’s mind.

He had only one more second to make a decision.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC) Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Seth Tanner Character Portrait: Kire Barrow Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC)

0.00 INK

.: The Lost Church :.


Harry stopped in his tracks at Seth’s question. The preacher. They had yet to unearth any recollection of the event from Sarah, and in truth, Harry didn’t know quite how to explain the delicate situation. How close were these two newcomers to the freshly deceased priest? The dangers of what the truth could trigger in them far outweighed the risks of any careless divulgence on their part-- especially without knowing the whole truth.

Seth must have noticed the concern in Harry’s eyes, because he too halted his movements-- looking first at Kire and then around at the others. ”What…?” he asked, suspiciously.

Harry grimaced. ”You should probably come with me.” He gestured for the boy to follow, holding a hand up to Ari who had moved to join them and who-- still even after the tension had eased-- was keeping a wary eye on the two young newcomers. The lawyer stiffened at this request, relaxing his grip on the weapon in his hands as it fell to hang loosely at his side.

Kire rushed up quickly beside Seth, her hands rubbing at the cold exposed skin where her sleeves were pushed up. She pulled them down, nervously. ”Is everything OK?”

”I think it’ll be easier if you just… see it for yourself.” Harry turned and continued towards the stairwell, his uneven steps leading the way. Seth reluctantly followed, turning back to Kire slightly and gesturing for her to follow. Neither of them liked the way he had made it sound, but they had a feeling all was about to be explained. Ari watched them parade their way towards the basement, his eyes lingering on them before he too split off back towards the front of the church.

Ezrael hovered nearby Brooke as she sifted through one of the backpacks on the church pew next to her. He took his glasses in his hands and began rubbing the spotty lenses with the hem of his dress shirt. ”We shouldn’t have opened the door,” he began, looking around to make sure the others were well out of earshot. ”You know what Val’s going to do if she sees that we let two total strangers in here… with you... the baby…”

Brooke zipped the bag shut, forcefully-- once she had found the bottle of water she was searching for. She tossed her dangling hair out of her eyes and slowly rose back to her feet. Ezrael moved to help her up, but she waved his hands away with a heavy breath. ”We’re capable of taking care of ourselves. She’ll have to understand that.”

”And if she can’t?” Ezrael asked, returning his spectacles to his eyes.

Brooke tilted her head. ”Then we’ll help her understand.” She spun on her heel, making way back towards Sarah’s holding room with the water in hand-- cradling her stomach with the other. She disappeared behind the wooden door… out of sight but not out of mind. Ezrael chewed on her words, his gaze falling upon the somber fixture of Jesus hung high above the front altar. From up there, something became painfully clear suddenly. It wasn’t sadness on the Lord’s face. It was pity....

He was literally looking down on them.


# # #


Harry hung the lantern high above the covered table, its matted sheet dusty with cobwebs and filth from lying crumpled in a ball on the floor for only God know’s how long. Underneath lied the silent motionless body of what had once been the proprietor of the chapel they now took refuge in. He came to a stop just behind the head of the table and reached over, gently peeling the vale back from the corpse-- starting with his face.

’It’s face...’ Seth reflected quietly to himself, correcting his own thoughts as his eyes narrowed at the scene literally unfolding in front of him. A deep hole rested over one of the preacher’s eyes where the crucifix had done its work. The rest of his face looked yellow and gaunt and sickly, made paler by the makeshift light hung above as it cast shadows and odd shapes around the room. Kire shied away into the corner, bringing her hands to her face-- unable to hold her gaze on the remnants of the man who had taken them into onto the street mere days before. He certainly didn’t deserve this fate. Nobody did.

Harry took a couple steps back and folded his arms across his broad chest as his chin hung low. ”He was like this in one of the confessionals… with this in his eye.” Harry shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and drew the crucifix, holding it out to Seth. The boy took the memento from Harry’s hand and regarded it closely-- bloodstains still clearly visible on traces of the blade and handle. It was odd that out of everyone in the room, it was the crucifix alone that knew the whole tale.

”What happened to him?” Seth asked, rounding the table to examine the corpse closer. He looked under the preacher’s arms and legs, looking for signs of some kind of struggle or claw marks. Traces of scratches and tears etched the man’s face -- or at least the parts not covered in dried blood. Carefully, he rested his middle and index finger on the corpse's lips, drawing his jaw down and stretching his gums around with his other hand as he examined its teeth and gums. Deeper inspection showed bits of flesh stuck between its darkened molars. There was clearly more to this than Harry was letting on. Ones hand had to be played close to the chest these days though… there were just too many wild cards, and so he kept silent.

”Like I said, we found him like this…” Harry admitted, stopping himself short of getting to the part about the girl in captivity upstairs. However long these newcomers intended to stay, that little fact wouldn’t be able to be kept secret for much longer. Harry cleared his throat, gruffly. ”I’ll give you two some time. We’ll be upstairs whenever you’re ready,” he grumbled, before leaving the room back up the stairs. Seth watched him go, gripping the crucifix in his hand.


# # #


.: Calvin Hawke :.


Calvin awoke with a shiver, his arms clutching his sides as he laid curled in a ball on the ratty cot he had called his bed for the last couple hours. His untucked hand searched for the folds of his missing blanket, grasping nothing but empty air-- and it was then that his eyes snapped open to reveal that his covers were nowhere near. Beside him, the shutters of a pried window clattered softly against its framing. A series of tied sheets and apparel netted a long rope which hung loosely out the window-- pinned in place by one of the shutters themselves. Calvin jumped to his feet, rushing the window to look out at the other buildings and courtyard below. The fabricated rope hung from where it was tethered, dropping deep into another window only a few flights below. He tucked his head back through the window, feeling the vertigo begin to rush into him as the reality of the situation kicked into gear. He spun around to survey the room, instantly spotting Oliver’s sleeping figure-- still bound to the rail of the very bed he slept upon now. That made the culprit of the sudden escape quite obvious.

’But why would he just jump ship without us?’ Calvin wondered, looking back at the window. He couldn’t not go after him. If Dax were to get caught, the blowback would be severe… and regrettable. Calvin knew he couldn’t risk that, and soon one of his legs was already through the window as he perched gently on the ledge. He braced both of his feets behind the sill of the window itself and began to push off once he was certain he had a firm grip on the rope. He let each of his feet fall one after the other as he edged his way down the facade of the building-- careful to hug the building as tightly as he could as to avoid being seen. Luckily, a large cropping of tall trees in the courtyard across from him cast a generous enough shadow that it didn’t feel like he had a spotlight on him for his quick outing.

He eventually found the next ledge, and carefully lowered grabbed ahold of the brick siding and pulled himself into the window, toppling onto the next floor of the apartment. The musty carpet coughed a dark cloud of dust up from beneath him as he landed with a plop and rolled into the darkened interior. Dax’s silhouette filled the frame of the doorway several paces ahead-- splintered beams of daylight breaking through the dilapidated blinds hung upon the window in front of him. His moppy head bobbled towards the window, darting up and down the hallway to make sure he was alone as he sidled up the wall beneath it. His fingers fumbled with the folds of the draped plastic as he peered through with one eye, scanning the street out below. Calvin was all too curious what he’d have made such a foolish effort to come see, but he owed the man a chance to explain himself at least. He crept closer, walking softly across the mangy carpet towards the hallway-- stopping a couple of steps before the door.

His dried lips stuck together slightly as he spoke up. ”What are you doing, Dax?”

There was a hint of wariness in his voice that crept in faintly. Dax’s shoulders tensed as he let go of the blinds and spun around to face Calvin. He looked up and down the hallway again-- as if expecting some kind of additional ambush-- and then relaxed slightly. ”C-Calvin, no-- it isn’t anything b-bad…” he assured, waving his hands in the air. He gestured towards the window, beckoning Calvin into the hallway. ”I had to be sure,” he began vaguely, his face becoming as red as his hair. Calvin inched closer, hanging on Dax’s every word. ”An old cellmate of mine tipped me off last night,” he continued, breathlessly. ”I had to be sure. I didn’t want to put all of us in danger by just taking him at his word, but--”

Calvin gritted his teeth. ”You put us all in danger the second you opened that window.”

”Well it was all worth it,” Dax bragged, waving him closer. He lifted up the folds of the blinds and Calvin rose his head slowly to look through the window, wary of what sights awaited him on the other side. ”Do you see her?” he asked, the excitement and relief both equally prevalent in his voice. Sure enough, past the mangled chain-link fences and cluttered parking lot, a group of individuals led a small woman by her arms towards the front entrance of the Capitol building. Even without binoculars, Calvin could see her golden locks bobbing from beneath her bagged head as she stumbled forth against her will. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her, thankful she was alive-- albeit barely. ”I couldn’t believe it ‘til I saw it with my own eyes,” Dax continued to babble, cheerily. ”That means she’s safe. That means we can--”


*%$ BAM $%*


A steel-toed boot burst through the frame of the door just beside them as a heavier man rushed through with his weapon up. Behind the bandana tied around his nose and mouth, he grinned. ”Thought I heard whispering in here… damn near thought I was losing my mind.” Dax’s eyes darted towards Calvins as the two slowly raised their hands into the air. They stood upright, bunching together near the doorway they had snuck in through. The convict edged closer-- his gun still trained, just waiting for someone to do something stupid. ”The Warden’ll give me a nice fat reward for this. I should sneak off to take pisses down here more often.” Even from that distance, Calvin could smell the overwhelming scent of alcohol, cigarettes, and an unfortunate amount of time on the man’s breath. The bandana over his mouth suddenly seemed like less of a fashion choice and more about containment.

”Uhh-- L-Listen… Wallace? Right? That’s your name, right? You remember me, don’t you? From that time in the y-yard, when those guys were playing b-basketball, and--” his voice drifted off anxiously as the man’s weapon suddenly started shifting towards him the longer he talked. ”We weren’t even trying to escape,” he continued, trying to play all his cards. ”We just had to--”

Calvin couldn’t stand watching the man dig himself deeper any longer. Especially not if he was being dragged down with him. ”I wanna see the Warden…” he demanded, speaking loud enough to top Dax’s incessant mumbling. The man shut up once he saw the expression change on the convict’s face.

”What do you want with him?” he inquired, suddenly playing the role of guard as if it mattered anymore.

”That’s between me and the Warden. And nobody else.” Calvin turned around and placed his hands behind his back, trying to queue the convict to come arrest him. The man stupidly inched a few steps forward, lowering his guard just enough to prompt Dax to do the most heroic thing he may ever do. He turned to assume the same position, stopping and spinning on his heel the second the convict was within arm’s reach, and then launched himself forward at the man-- grasping at his gun arm with both hands to shove it towards the ground. The first bullet rang out loudly in the shallow hallway, barraging all three of their ears with a warm metallic symphony-- a burning sensation that simmered long after the actual sound had gone. The burn whitened, as voices and struggles muffled themselves along with the rest of the world-- arms and legs doing battle with one another as they tried to wrestle the convict to the ground. Calvin knelt down, grabbing for the man’s legs. He flailed and kicked-- eventually exposing the small knife tucked in just above his sock. Calvin made for it, gripping the handle just as another gunshot ripped off-- knocking him back on his ass, blade in hand. He turned to see Dax’s limp body crumple into a heap against the wall-- parts of him splattered against the peeling eggshell wallpaper behind him. ”NOOOOO!” Calvin shrieked. The convict shouted out too, scrambling back on his hands and feet right into Calvin’s waiting blade. It filled him silently as Calvin twisted and jerked the knife free of the man’s torso. He tossed the man’s body aside as his lips burbled dark red bubbles and he wreathed softly into stillness. Calvin tossed the blade aside and climbed over to Dax, rolling him onto his side. Through the door down the hallway, more voices and hurried footsteps thundered closer. Dax’s pupils rolled around in his head as he fought to maintain focus, trying to find Calvin’s eyes. Calvin held his bloodied face in his hands. ”I’m gonna save her,” he promised-- knowing that was the only thing that could make Dax at peace. ”But I have to save myself first…” he laid Dax back against the wall, propping him up so he faced the end of the hallway-- grabbing the pistol from near the dead convict’s hand and laying it in Dax’s. ”Thank you for saving me… however many times that was.”

Dax laughed a little, the red now spilling from his lips too. ”Go, man…”

Calvin placed his forehead against Dax’s, giving him a brief farewell before scooping the knife up from the ground and hustling out the door he came in from-- making sure to close it, and Dax... behind him. He rushed to the open window, peeking outside to make sure the coast was still clear as he pulled himself through the open frame and back onto the makeshift rope. His legs fell clear of the window sill and dropped below him, causing his hands to slide a few inches down the rope and his heart to fall a few stories out his ass with fear. He could feel his heartbeat quicken against the empty air as he put one arm over the other, using his shoes to cinch the line and help him climb up. Enough moments went by as his fingers reached out, fumbling against the edge of the next window above. He latched on, forcing one last feat of strength to get him through to the other side.

His body tumbled back onto the rug of his former holding, and he quickly righted himself-- hurrying to the window and untying the knotted sheets from the bedpost. Calvin took the moment to finally look at his hands, glancing down to see the plainly obvious blood-stained palms staring back at him. He used the last of the linen rope to wipe his hands clean before dropping the whole string of them down into the forested abyss below. He watched as they landed in a scattered heap several stories below, descending into the space between the two apartment buildings. Calvin pulled the windows back shut and draped the sheet back over them, the way he remembered. The light was blocked once more from the room as it cascaded back into darkness-- mere slivers of light breaking through the moth-eaten holes and uneven edges. Oliver stirred off to the side, seemingly undisturbed by the frenzy of activity that had transpired around him. Despite being the only one who had been allowed the time to simply stay chained up to a bed and sleep all day, he managed to find himself in another deep slumber. Calvin slightly envied him… but only for a moment.

Almost like a drumroll, more gunfire erupted from beneath the floor. Calvin laid his head back down on his cot, curling up into a ball as he closed his eyes against the darkness. The day could only get so bad, after all-- even after all this...

His sister was alive.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins

# # #




"Everyone understand?"

The question soared through the room slowly, almost as though it dripped slurredly from Silas' mouth. The lights were bright, too bright, almost like having a preposterously painful hangover. A series of nods almost made it look to Harper like the room was waving, like a jumpy earthquake. Silas smiled, and returned the nod with a confident grin. "All right. Good."

Harper's wrist felt creaky as she reached up to adjust her sunglasses. She watched Stevie tap Silas on the shoulder from behind, and lean to the right to murmur quietly into his left ear as he ducked down relaxedly, as though he were all too willing to listen. His eyes drifted to the floor momentarily while she spoke, then squared his vision with the others after she finished and backed away. "Harper And Stevie want to remind everyone to get their list of emergency needs from the others who aren’t going before we go, and turn it in to them before we zip out. Stuff like shoes, if you've lost or ruined the ones you had on before. Medicine for debilitating conditions, allergies. Things like that. Nothing too crazy, though, keep it practical, and remember to turn in excess items to the storage room. Including meds of all kinds, as a reminder! We've all got to keep each other safe."

Harper gave a silent nod of thanks. She knew Silas kept a pleasant look on his face for a reason--he was the kind of person who wanted to get along with everyone else, who wanted to feel like he was being useful, who wanted to find a way out of this mess… not just for him, but for everyone else, too. Part of accomplishing any of these tasks involved getting along with everyone else, and putting his best face forward. If he was annoyed with her, he was doing his best to not show it. She was perfectly aware of her tendency to quietly push, even "nag," as Nathan used to call it, to get something done. Some parts of the three days spent at Amoeba had been challenging.

"Twenty minutes, everyone," Silas spoke up, his deep voice ringing out over the room at an authoritative but calm volume. The group began to stand up, stretch, and otherwise disperse.

Harper opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the large metal doors of the small room bursting with a grand slamming twist of the door handles. The scene felt like it was unfolding in slow motion, the effects of her morning tablets unable to keep up with the pace of what was taking place. James' loud voice barked over the heads of those who were still sitting upon benches fashioned crudely from deconstructed media racks. He looked grizzled and haggard compared to when he'd first arrived with the others—at least, he looked far worse for wear than them.

"Son of a bitch, you left me out of this on purpose!" he bellowed as he rushed up to Silas. Off in the corner of the room, Stevie perked her head up from behind a shelf to study what was going on, then urgently ducked back down to remain unnoticed by the angry man.

Silas raised his hands calmly, but didn't move. "James-"

"-don't you 'James' me, you asshole. You left me out of this on purpose, and I know why!" James stood less than four feet away from Silas, firmly planting his worn hands on his hips, his plaid sleeves rolled up messily to his elbow. The group gathered inside quietly shuffled out in the background through the double doors to cut back out into the main back hall of the record store, leaving Silas and James standing across from each other in the center of the room. Harper watched as a tense-looking Stevie shiftily ducked out with the group, the two nodding to one another as she left.

"James," Silas started calmly, tilting his head and gesturing toward the front of the building, "you've been spending an awful lot of time on watch."

"So? What's that got to do with this?" the older man growled back defensively. "It doesn't mean anything."

"It means we haven't had a chance to talk. I had no idea you were interested in coming along."

"Now, why the hell wouldn't you think I'm interested?"

Silas shrugged. "I wasn't going to force you to do anything against your will, or suggest you do something you might not wish to do."

"Of course I want to go help them," James insisted flatly.

"And you still can. Right now," Silas responded somewhat brightly. He nodded, and gestured toward the door. "Go get Carl, and find me again. You're going with him."

"… why?"

"Find me again, because we need to talk," Silas repeated patiently, then twisted his shoulders back toward the doors. "Harper? You got this?"

"… Hey, Hops?"

Harper blinked suddenly, realizing a little too late that they'd been speaking to her. "What?" she crabbed fatiguedly.

"… you all right? You don't look so good," Silas spoke up. His eyes blinked at her, as though running her face through a series of checks to match her pallid complexion and blank expression to some kind of familiar set of symptoms. "If you're sick, you need to take something and go lie down."

"I'm fine," she answered, her words echoing hollowly in her own head as they rattled back through her own ears. "I better get out there and help find Nathan."

Silas held a hand up, and slowly placed it on the end of her shoulder. "You look exhausted," he observed aloud in a calm, genuine tone.

"Silas, I-"

"I'll take her place," James volunteered, his scratchy voice softening just enough after he relaxed his posture to hold a hand up toward her with a finger pointing in the air knowingly. "You rest, Hops."

"James, I still need you to do something… important," Silas answered steadily. "Your best bet is to find Carl."

"Yeah… well…" James shoved his hands in his pockets as he took another look at Harper, peering at her and blinking his eyes a few times over the course of several seconds before turning around. "… all right." He exited through the double-doors, in a far calmer condition than when he'd originally entered.

"I'm going to ask Jack if he can go in your place," Silas finally said after several seconds.

"No. He's been on watch all night," Harper protested as she stifled a yawn.

Silas shook his head. "He specifically asked to go so he can help stock up the pharmacy."

She felt her face redden. "H-h-he did?"

"Yeah. He knows a lot about this stuff. Man with a mind, I tell you. Overlooked talents in the real world, if I ever saw any." Harper felt her jaw tighten with a tinge of guilt. "Look, I've been demanding a lot of you these past few days. How about you stay back. Keep things calm, or rest, whatever you want to do. No one's going to bother you if you sleep, and no one's going to get in your way if you're awake. You've got my word. All right?"

The sweet smile that made its way across Silas' face was almost too much to bear. She really did have to wonder at times if he was being truly authentic in his words and deeds, or if his intentions were far more nefarious in nature. However, it was just so… difficult… to dispute him. "All right. I'll stay."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


”RAFIQ!” Jessica shouted through the shuffling group of survivors. Burning walkers licked in flames shambling across the blacktop towards them, black smoke trailing their charred figures as they closed in. Rafiq glanced over his shoulder towards where she was pointing and saw Lisa sprinting towards the apartments alone. She had waited long enough with their indecisions.

He spun on his heel to chase after her, almost losing his balance on the pavement in his haste. ”Lisa, WAIT-- c’mon!”

Althea gripped her weapon, taking off after the both of them down the sidewalk as she sighed to herself. ”Keep the street clear!” she shouted back over her shoulder between breaths. ”We might be comin’ back fast...”

Diego gripped his sledgehammer in his hands, angling back into the middle of the street as the walkers closed in around them on both sides. Wayne and Bethany brandished their weapons too as Lily stood back behind the two of them. ”We can’t use our guns… it might spook those people in the apartments. Last thing they need to see is a bunch of people running towards their door with gunfire ringing out,” Bethany advised, dejectedly. She lowered her weapon along with the others, who started swapping them out for whatever knives or melee weapons they had handy. Lily hadn’t brought anything else with her and quickly found herself defenseless.

Tara stowed her pistol and looked around on the ground around her for something to keep the walkers back. She turned and spotted a fallen street sign a few feet back between her and Jessica. ”Just keep them at range. They get a hand on you-- you’ll feel it...” Jessica nodded in agreement. She watched as Tara hoisted the metal pole up into her hands and readied it, facing the creatures.

’HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPPP!!!!’

The voice rang out from the original burning building-- a hollow shout somewhere deep within. The girls’ heads whipped in its direction. ”Was that--?” Jessica stumbled towards the sound. It had been someone’s voice. Crying out in a panic.

’PLEEEEAAAASE!! DON’T-- NOOOOOO!!!!’

”Jessica!?!” Tara bellowed, prodding one of the zombies in the stomach with the sign and doubling it over as she strained to look over at her. She barely caught sight of Jessica barrelling through the wave of walkers, darting between curtains of black smoke towards the flames. ”JESSICA!!”


# # #


Lily turned back towards the adjacent sidewalk as Diego and Bethany took up positions opposite one another to receive the incoming walkers. Bethany clutched her crowbar between whitened knuckles, bracing herself-- clearly unsure of how to proceed. The first of the clawing creatures groped at her, mindlessly, and she rose the crowbar above her head, waiting for the thing to lunge before crashing it down on its skull and using the heel of her boot to peel it off of her weapon. It splattered onto the pavement-- pieces of its still flaming flesh stuck to her shoe. She quickly stamped out the flames and wiped her foot clean of whatever was still clinging to it. More stragglers hurried past her towards Lily, who was already backed up against a parked car close behind Diego. She pulled down her sleeves and wiped the ash and dirt off the car window with the butt of her hand, revealing its interior. Much to her fortune, a ratty backpack and small machete were visibly stuffed between the seat and center dash console. She cradled her fingers under the handle and pulled up-- to no avail. It was locked. Behind her, the deafening roar of the encroaching walkers grew louder. They were even closer than she realized-- now coming between her and the others. Lily took the first course of action that crossed her mind and dropped to her hands and knees, sliding herself under the bottom of the car towards the other side. The closest walkers tumbled to the ground behind her, grasping and pawing at her untied shoelaces as they traipsed along behind her. She rolled onto her back-- using her hands to pull her along by grabbing onto various dangling engine parts above her while the thick grime caked her blackened fingers and palms. Everything was sticky enough to the point that she regretted the maneuver the instant she had thought of it.

Her face cleared the other side as she struggled out from underneath the car’s frame between the metal and the curb. Several walkers continued reaching blindly towards where Lily had been crawling moments before, hell-bent on getting hold of her. Lily found herself on her hands and knees, facing the passenger door of the vehicle-- hopelessly lunging out for its handle like before. The satisfying click of the door’s mechanism unlocking and propping open was like a godsend. She pulled back with all her might, scuffling forwards into the car and grabbing the bag and blade in one swoop -- carefully checking the back in case any other supplies lied out in the open.

Another low gurgle emanated from the opening to the car behind her. Lily swung around in her seat to see more walkers creeping across the sidewalk towards all the commotion-- drawing dangerously near to the car. She reached over, slamming the door shut with a thud and quickly realized she had trapped herself. Diego, Bethany, and Wayne stood back-to-back in the middle of the intersection with various weapons and tools, herding the growing mob of incendiary walkers. Their hands were full enough with their own situations that there would be know way they’d even notice the catastrophe happening right behind them. The walker’s clawing hands and limbs drew semi-clean streak across the ashen and muddied windows on both sides, deafening her ears with their incessant snarling and thrashing as they threw themselves again and again into the car’s facade. In turn, Lily threw herself into the backseat. It was only then that she noticed what would soon end up being “Plan B”. An equally dirtied sunroof visor hung above her head, casting very little light through it.

She leapt up towards the ceiling, picking at the seam of the window with her small fingers-- but the edge was flush with its plastic lodging.

’The machete…’ she thought, silently.

It was in her hands in an instant and in the sunroof one instant after that. It’s piercing tip slipped finely between the plate of glass and its exterior as Lily delicately inserted it as far as it was willing to go. She pushed firmly against the handle of the blade, wedging the glass open in small movements-- successfully, much to her relief. Patches of ash sifted down from above, clouding her eyes and dusting her hair as she shimmied away at the cover. It loosened enough in its frame to slight another third of the way, enough for her to at least start pushing the supplies out the top-- which she did. More walkers collected behind the others, already pressed against the sides of the car as their arms stretched out towards Lily-- her head and upper body forcing their way up through the opening… but it was too tight of a fit. She curled her fingers between her chest and the glass and pressed her back into the frame of the sunroof, trying to slide it back further-- but their was too much dust blocking the tracking. Her feet fumbled beneath her inside the car, trying to find something with better leverage so she could try and force herself through the rest of the way.

And then it happened.

Her heel fumbled against the emergency brake, disengaging it and causing her foot to slip. She felt it too-- slowly… as the walkers surged against the automobile. The wheels slowly began to roll, crushing the unlucky ones who were still underneath it-- as more and more of the creatures mounted to the rear and grasped at the air around Lily. She suddenly realized the dire nature of the situation as she continued struggling against the glass, a sloping boulevard littered with vacant cars and debris looming into view ahead of her. She thrashed her feet around inside the car trying to find a better foothold and wedged her shoe into the nook of the center dash, pushing up with all her might and slowly freeing her elbow… and then whole right arm. Her palm pressed down into the top of the car as the rest of her squeezed out slowly, but her escape was cut short as she craned her body to stop the bag and blade from sliding off the top of the rapidly accelerating car.

Her eyes caught Wayne’s as she rolled further away down the slanted road, his arm raising to point at her as he mouthed something she couldn’t comprehend. The shock was evident enough in his expression though, and soon he had turned Diego and Bethany’s attention to the spectacle as well. All in one movement, they maneuvered their ways after her-- separately, but together. Their presence was drawing too much attention from surrounding walkers, and they knew it. Too much longer and they wouldn’t be able to traverse the rest of the boulevard towards the other entrance to the metro tunnels. Going by the main streets almost wasn’t an option anymore, what with the volume of walkers being as large as it was. Back alleys and rooftops would always be the safest bet, but not the fastest. And they didn’t have time to waste.

Lily clutched her newly inherited belongings to her chest as the quickening momentum of the car caused her to tumble backwards as well. She slid effortlessly down the filthy windows and over the trunk, colliding with the rough pavement on her backside as she rolled to a stop feet later. She shook her head, trying to unblur her vision as she scrambled around her for her things. Somehow her pistol was still tucked into the back of her pants, but she knew that wasn’t an option. Her whole body stung from the landing-- the familiar burn of road rash pulsing up and down her hands and legs. She used one of them to push her back to her feet as she took a moment to gather her bearings and look for the others.

Wherever they had gone.


# # #


”Jessica! STOP!”

Tara’s voice was faint now-- a bare whisper compared to the roaring of the flames and crackling hiss of the peeling wallpaper and crumbling wood supports. The charred black smoke enveloped the ceiling like thick storm clouds, licking at the corners and edges as the torrential current continued to build. Jessica held the neck of her shirt over her mouth and nose as she barrelled into the open doors of the apartment building and down the hallway. The voice from before was nowhere to be heard. She swung her head to the left and right-- frantically searching the doorways for signs of activity as she plunged ahead into the growing darkness.

’Please! Somebody!’ the voice shrieked out once more. It sounded like it was coming from straight ahead. Jessica waved the smoke out of her face as she passed down the seared facade of the hallway, mindless to the impending dangers all around her. Another door passed by. And another. Her vision was beginning to blur so much already that she thought she saw a white light emanating from the end of the corridor-- but it was no hallucination. The last of the doorframes flashed past her eyes as she swung into view of its inside quarters, seething in flame-- collapsing before her very eyes. Across the way, two blackened bodies laid hand-in-hand in front of a blaring television, its vibrant colors mixing with the reds of the surrounding fire in a randomly pulsating series of flashes. The motionless corpses sprawled idly on the ground in a clear patch past the dining room area of the apartment as a woman on the TV monitor struggled against her assailant screaming out in terror. ’Somebody! PLEASE!!!’ Jessica’s brow furrowed as she closed her eyes against the images of the voices blending with what laid before her eyes-- two souls, burned to death. They survived the end of the world, but they couldn’t survive this.

Her right foot took a step forward without thinking, as if there was anything she could do to save them. Perhaps she was just a bit stunned. Just not as stunned as she became a moment later as Tara hurled her entire frame into Jessica, dropping her to the ground. The two landed with a hollow thud, skidding across the dilapidated carpet that like everything else felt warm to the touch. They tumbled to a stop a few paces past the door and separated, scrambling to their feet breathlessly.

Jessica waved her hair out her face. ”What the hell are you doing?!” she shouted over the roar of the flames. Even opening her mouth to talk was unbearable. The ash in the air stung at the insides of her throat and lungs with each passing breath, no matter what she did.

Tara squared up, as if preparing to charge again. ”No-- what the hell are you doing?” she challenged back, looking her deep in the eyes.

Jessica shrugged her arms, looking around hopelessly. ”I thought I heard s-someone c--”

”You can’t just run off like that,” Tara continued, bellowing out her lungs. ”You keep talking about us all sticking together but then you go off and do something stupid like this? I know you might not feel like you have anything left to live for, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop trying.”

Jessica held her steely gaze from across the doorway, shielding herself from the embers of a cluster of falling beams in an adjacent room as they dusted up in a cloud of ash around them. They both collapsed in a fit of coughs as they fought to cover their mouths with whatever they could. The current of winds already building in the corridor made quick work of the pollutant whisping it s way into the torrent of fanning flames coating the walls and sidings. Jessica took it all in as they struggled back towards the doorway, hand-in-hand. She didn’t even know how they managed to find each other while they were blinded.

”We only get this through this together-- c’mon!!” she shouted out behind her with Jessica in tow.

She hoped they wouldn’t soon join the others as a couple of blackened corpses on the floor. One foot after another, the two of them charged forward-- heads down as they barrelled through the billowing smoke. The winds picked up as they neared the precipice out onto the street, the vacuous black cloud around them funneling out the front entrance an up into the sky. A series of loud crashes sounded behind them as other rooms and supports collapsed into oblivion-- but all that mattered was what was ahead of them.

That was everything.


# # #


”Wayne, can you get to her?” Diego rasped, spinning the sledgehammer around in his hands to deliver a blow to another walker. Its body crumpled into a heap on the ground beside him as the weight of the tool through him off balance and he used its metal head to prop himself up off the ground.

Behind him, Wayne dodged and darted between straggling walkers-- ducking and weaving through their reaching arms as he raced towards where the car had been. He stopped, hitting a thickening wall of the creatures and backpedaled to counter around towards a different root. ”Lily, can you hear me??”

Her voice was faint, but he could hear it-- somewhere amongst the mob. He had to find her before they attracted too much more attention...


#%! CRASH !%#


The deafening crunch of metal on metal made his neck twinge as he flinched. Several of the walkers stumbled to a stop, turning in unison toward the sound of wailing sirens as both of the collided car’s alarms began to blare down the hill aways. The ones further back turned and began to migrate that way, seemingly more interested in the commotion then with Wayne and the others. It was his opportunity to make his move.

Either now or never....

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

0.00 INK

Fort Fallback


”Why can’t you play with it?” Carl asked in a huff as if it was the thousandth time he’d answered the question. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, punctuated by his red cheeks. ”Because you are a child and children should play with toys. This is not a toy,” he finished, holding his satellite phone in front of the kid’s face. The boy rolled his eyes and wandered off, uninterested in Carl’s game anymore. ”Get lost, kid.” He didn’t realize how much he missed scolding stupid kids in his comic store back before everything happened. That used to be his life. And now all he had was this. Whatever this was. James rushed up from beside him just as he turned his attention back to his phone, fiddling with a few of the loose wires attached to the back of them. He walked straight up to Carl.

”Hey.”

”WHAT?” Carl barked back at yet another interruption. His eyes widened as he looked up and saw who he was talking to-- and James didn’t look in the mood for anything.

”Oh-- uhhh… s-sorry, James. Hey,” he said, recovering.

”Silas wants us in his office. He’s got something for us.” He adjusted his pants, looking around as he spoke without every really looking at Carl. Technology didn’t interest him the same way it did others. He’d survived without becoming part of that whole movement just fine on his own, living off of the land away from the city and the changes and the innovation. ”C’mon-- put that thing away,” he berated, throwing his hand out at Carl. He jumped to his feet, stuffing the contraption into his bag and slinging it over his shoulder, bumbling behind James as he turned and led him back down the aisle towards the back.

”Did he say anything about what he wanted?” Carl chimed from behind him. James marched on, not breaking pace for even a second. And sometimes when there were more pressing matters at hand, silence was the best answer. Both men trailed up the stairs towards the upper landing and passed by several other Capitols-- each hustling about towards their own tasks in preparation for the group’s departures. They reached the top landing and found Silas’ office door ajar, inviting them inside. He stood across from his desk squarely, looking out the window at the bustling activity below-- his notepad in hand.

”Gentleman,” he spoke, without looking up. ”Don’t bother sitting, we won’t be long.” He stashed his pencil in the crease of his notepad and closed it, tossing it onto the desk behind him.

”What’ve you got for us?” James asked, anxious to move things along. Every precious second wasted was another second everyone was out there-- and in what condition?

Silas finally turned his full attention on them, folding his arms as he cleared his throat to speak. ”It concerns you, Carl-- and your phone.”

Carl sighed, rolling his eyes. ”Look, I’ve already told everyone else… I’ve been on it every day since. Already drained two batteries. The airwaves are empty-- and most of the sites I was frequenting a week ago haven’t updated since.”

Silas bit at his lip. ”I know-- I know… this is something more-- specific.” His gaze fell to the ground a second as he fidgeted inside his jacket pocket, fishing around for something. He drew out a slightly crumpled piece of paper and crossed around the desk, handing it directly to Carl. He opened it, reading the scrawled penmanship through his spotty lenses.

A frequency.

”What is this?”

”They’re calling it Operation High Noon-- because that doesn’t sound ominous.” It was the first true attempt at humor they had heard from Silas since they had arrived, despite the rest of his dry deliveries in the past. ”It’s as bad as it sounds. We caught this signal in fragments and have been piecing things together. Unfortunately, this valley affords us unfortunate circumstances in terms of which signals we can receive. We need elevation.”

The three stood in silence for a beat as the information processed. James took a couple steps forward, mulling it over himself. ”And what happens at noon?”

Silas looked up at him. ”That’s… the more unfortunate part. For the past few days, they’ve been broadcasting this same signal right at noon. We have to know what the rest of it says. It keeps cutting out at the same parts...”

He was stalling. That much was obvious. ”What do you know so far?” Carl asked him, his curiousity peaking.

”I fear they might be planning another bombing-- on Los Angeles.”

It was far more shocking than it should have been, Carl thought instantly. It was almost too logical, the only surprising part about it being that San Fransisco was bombed first and not after. It was a brilliant tactic to be honest. Use a pre-emptive light bombing run to draw the walkers inland to a central location-- and then drop the big one, obliterating them to all hell-- as well as anyone who unwisely stuck around.

”Jesus Christ,” James lamented, shaking his head in disgust.

Carl looked at his watch. 10:00 AM. Cutting it close already. ”We should get going then. That’s important news to know.” Silas nodded, and the three of them gathered their things as they shuffled towards the front of the room. ”Have you guys given any thought to what you’ll do if… y’know-- if there really is going to be another bomb?” Obviously the possibility had to have been weighed heavily on by not just Silas but a number of the Capitols all in conjunction with one another.

”We’ve made contingency plans. There will obviously have to be another discussion if that is the case though. This city never was safe to start with, but it’s home-- we have a duty to maintain what we can.”

James didn’t altogether agree with that philosophy. He understood wanting to protect your land. He’d do anything to save his farm, after all. But at a certain point the risk becomes too high. You had to know when to quit and when to fight.

Silas stopped just short of the doorway, shaking each of their hands in his typical genuine fashion. ”I’ll be sending a couple of my own with you in case you come upon any of our missing. We’ll want to be able to identify them and vice versa. They’ve mapped out--”

”I was thinking about the church,” James blurted out, interrupting Silas’ train of thought.

”The church?” Silas repeated, stoicly.

James nodded. ”The cathedral on Sunset has a much easier roof to access than any of the other surrounding buildings.”

Carl looked at him. ”There’s no power in that part of town anyways… the elevators would be out.”

Silas scratched at the stubble on his chin. ”The church…” He shook his head, carelessly. ”If that’s what you both think’s best, I trust your judgement. I’ll have my boys start mapping a route. Consider it the first priority point for your team. You guys can ride with us and take off from the same point… so I’d start getting ready. We take off in fifteen.” They started out the doorway, but Silas reached out and stopped both of them with a firm grip. "Keep this between us for now. We don't know what to make of the message yet. We only know what we know. So go out there and prove us wrong..."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

Harper Hopkins



Harper gritted her teeth reflexively as she stepped out of the double-doors and out into the slew of bunks in the designated living area that had been all but rearranged for the sake of practicality over the last few days spent planning and preparing.

She finally stopped after arriving at the cubbied flat slat of repurposed shelf she'd claimed for her own, beneath Stevie's. She stood in place silently, somewhat ignoring the low hum of activity around her and amongst the stacks of wood and metal racks meant to section off various spaces. Most of the group must have still been at breakfast, judging from the quiet. She looked down to her boots and gave an exasperated sigh. Her headache was setting back in, and the overhead lights felt as though they were becoming brighter and brighter… and thanks to the group opting to meet early, before most of the residents of Amoeba had a chance to wake up, it was only 9 a.m. She reached her fingers up to slowly pull at the toggle buttons of the coat that Silas had tossed to her from the Lost & Found box ("Well, if they care, they'll come back and ask you for it, right?" was his defense when she'd protested) when he'd spotted her shivering two days prior. She'd said that the air conditioning was cranked up too high; Silas had rebutted and said he kept it on a low setting as to not allow for too much disappointment if the power grid decided to go down. And by now, it was indeed a miraculous wonder that it hadn't.

As she pulled a sleeve from her right arm, she spotted Jack as he peeked around the corner of the bunk, balancing a plate of food over a cupped palm that apparently held something in it. In his other hand, he clutched a small bottle of apple juice. A couple of pancakes balanced on top of each other, with a small half-piece of a tab of butter tracked down from the stash at a nearby restaurant's kitchen, rounded out with a small pool of applesauce and a sausage patty. While the arrangement might have looked somewhat impressive to a person seeking out breakfast off of the street, it was a far cry from the portions and variety available a few days prior. It was high time for a more substantial food run to sustain the group--even Lou had said as much when Harper and Silas had sat down with him for an extended conversation.

Harper hadn't expected to see Jack so soon. Caught just a little off guard, she pursed her lips irritably and folded her arms across her chest. "I need to talk to you."

Without bringing his eyes to hers, Jack continued walking past her, setting the plate and the bottle of juice down on the flat section of Harper's bunk before gently clamming one palm above the other, then covertly dropped three small tablets next to the butter. It almost seemed like he was ignoring her. "Volunteering to stock the pharmacy? Are you nuts?" she hissed underneath her breath.

He exhaustedly lifted his eyes to finally meet hers. "Look. I've got a handle on this. I know what I'm doing." His voice was tired but still held an assured air. "You're just going to have to trust me. I'm doing this to help you."

Harper frowned deeply, then squeezed her eyes shut as another headache swelled up behind them. She shook her head quickly before snapping them back open. "But… but do you want to get caught or something?" she asked steadily, her voice considerably weaker than the insistent whisper from just moments prior.

"No, I don't want to get caught." He tilted his head and didn't blink as he stared back at her, his expression neutral. Harper still found it infuriating.

"So why-" she stopped herself after she felt her voice rise a little in volume, inviting a couple of heads turning from over the other bunks toward them. Jack lifted a hand in acknowledgment and nodded to them, and Harper followed suit. No need to attract more attention than necessary…

"… so why are you taking this risk?" she demanded strainedly under her breath, her tired eyes set ahead as though boring a hole into his as she took a step toward him. She stared expectantly at him, waiting rather impatiently for an answer.

It felt like it was a long, long moment that he stared back almost glassily before finally answering as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, then turned around to depart back out the way he in which he came. "See you later."

Harper stood alone for several seconds, her mouth half-open as she watched his leather jacket bob away, then glanced down to her breakfast and gave a sigh. She wasn't hungry at all. The white tablets stared back up at her from next to the cooling pancakes, looking comfortable beside the bottle of juice set next to the plate. She breathed in a long, slow sigh as she took a seat on the bunk and used her plastic fork to section off a fluffy piece of a pancake, then pressed the three pills to stick along its underside before opening the tab of syrup and dipping it in. Taking the damn things outright would look too suspicious; it was easier to mix it in with a little bit of food, to avoid that detection. She shoved the forkful into her mouth and pretended to chew, hoping to not suck down the acrid taste of ground-up Xanax before untwisting the cap off of the bottle and taking a sip to chase the mixture down.

She grimaced as she felt some of the white residue of the pill touch her tongue, anyway. She took another drink as she tried to stilt her expression of disgust, then attempted to shove a few more forkfuls of plain food into her mouth to cover the taste. In seconds she set the plate above on Stevie's bunk--she knew she'd be able to dispense of it properly before she returned--and tucked back into her bunk and pulled the Lost & Found coat over her shoulders and curled up to fall asleep. Maybe staying behind would have its benefits… after a nap.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Freddy Kaufmann (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Ezrael de Lorian Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Ari Dinkowitz (NPC) Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC)

0.00 INK

The Warden



A pair of brown snakeskin boots rested lazily propped up atop a pile of old books-- thrown to the floor days prior no doubt to free the bookcase up to use as a barricade elsewhere. A thick wisp of smoke curled above Bronson’s head towards the ceiling-- his eyes fixated on a dormant ceiling fan. The room might has well have been spinning though. Nothing ever seemed to go as planned these days. A plan set in motion would derail, deroute, or detour. But that was his job. To keep things on track. In motion.

The door was thrown open shortly after as Kaufman barged in, slamming the door shut behind him. Bronson closed his eyes, averted to the sudden but inevitable disturbance. The gunshots had fired minutes ago, and then ceased as quickly as they began. He knew the situation had been handled, one way or another. Things like that didn’t become important until they became important. This was why he kept people like Freddy around.

The shifty man stopped a few steps short of Bronson and folded his arms, bowing his head in thought. ”It’s nothing we weren’t expecting,” he prefaced, rubbing at the stubble on his face.

Bronson grinned. He was expecting some kind of attempt like this. Not nearly so soon though. ”Which one was it?” he asked, mumbling out of the corner of his mouth as he held the cigar tightly with the other half. Bits of ashed dusted down across his jacket as it rolled around his lips.

”It was Dax. Took Wallace down with him too-- poor bastard,” Freddy began. ”Idiot went down to take a piss alone and caught the bastard sneaking a peek at the transfer. He was, uhh-- shot… so he came back after awhile-- before our guys got there. Santos.... Chance… they went down too.”

Bronson sighed, brushing his long grayed hair back with a stroke of his hand. More men lost. Between accidental deaths and turncoats, his numbers were dwindling-- and fast. He straightened himself in his chair as more books toppled onto the floor beneath his shifting feet. ”And we’re certain he saw the girl?” he asked, warily. The question itself was rhetorical. He knew there was no way to prove it, and besides-- what Dax saw didn’t matter. Parading the girl across the blacktop so blatantly like that wasn’t for him.

”It’s too much of a coincidence. He had to have seen her…” Freddy replied, assuredly. His fingers twitched at his sides, erratically. Bronson always sensed a controlled nervousness coursing through the man whenever they were in situations alone like this. He always found it funny. Another reason he kept him as close as he did.

”And you idiots killed him before he could report what he saw back to Mr. Hawke.” It wasn’t a question. It was the situation as it stood now. A wasted effort. And soon… a forgotten memory. ”There’s no time to fix this, we need to get him ready… now. Find out what he saw, and get him prepped.”

Freddy nodded and shuffled away towards the door without another word. Bronson stood and turned to face the window, stretching the morning aches and pains out of his joints as he reached towards the ceiling-- the trail of smoke following close behind him. ”And have someone clean Wally up for Christ’s sake…” he added as an afterthought.


# # #



# Sarah Hawke #



Sarah twiddled the fingers on her left hand idly, noticing a lack of sensation in them after having her limp wrist dangling above her at the angle it had for so long. She grabbed the railing with her other hand, pulling herself up to her feet to invert her circulation and get some blood flowing. The dizzyness set upon her almost immediately, causing her to waver a bit and clutch the railing even tighter. She felt her heartbeat in her white knuckles, one after the other-- somehow still stable… constant. That was all considering that she felt like the rest of her was falling apart.

The door swung open across the room, silhouetting Brooke’s frame as light poured in from outside and she entered. A bundle of drinks and snacks lined the nook of her arm as she closed the door behind her and crossed over to Sarah, setting the food before her. She stooped slowly, placing the items down gently. Sarah reacted, reaching out with both hands to help Brooke back up-- but her wrist was snapped back violently as the cuffs reached their limit and grew taut. Sarah rubbed at it sorely, wishing this part of the day could be over with already. She and Calvin were more alike than she had previously thought… both marred by their mutual incarcerations.

”I’m sorry I took so long…” Brooke began, brushing her fallen locks back behind her face. Her rosy cheeks heaved in and out with each calculated breath as Brooke kept everything calm and controlled. How she managed to keep it all together, considering, was a real mystery. But she was much more prone to exhaustion these days with her extra passenger. She stood back up, rubbing her stomach gently with her palm. ”We’ve had some… arrivals-- from outside,” she confessed with a bit of hesitation. There was the possibility that maybe Sarah knew these two kids… they were all about the same age, after all. Maybe they were the missing links as to what happened. But why come back if they had anything to do with what happened to the girl? Or the preacher, for that matter…

Brooke thought better than to ask any of these questions aloud while the poor girl was still recovering from her shock. She unscrewed the cap to one of the bottles of water and offered it to her. Sarah took it from her, thanking her with her eyes before guzzling down the first few sips, thirstily. She stooped her head as she gasped heavily, wiping the spare drips from her mouth with the back of her hand. Brooke stood a few paces back from her, playing with her hands-- unsure of how to proceed.

Sarah looked up with her baggy, bloodshot eyes and blinked at her-- aimlessly. ”Do you wanna talk…?” she asked, dryily.

Brooke’s gaze dropped to the ground, uncomfortably. ”Uhh, no-- I mean. Not unless-- do you?

Sarah brought the bottle back to her lips. ”I’m just fucking with you.”

Brooke stood, dumbfounded. This girl was hard to place. Without having known her before her accident, there was no way of telling whether her behavior was a result of the injury or if she was typically this odd. Whatever the case, she didn’t deserve to be held against her will any longer. How long could they possibly keep this up for?

”When’s your boss coming back?” Sarah posited, taking another swig from the bottle. She tipped her head back, gulping it down as she closed her eyes. It was the closest thing to bliss she was able to get, considering her circumstances. Every drop mattered.

”Val isn’t anyone’s boss,” Brooke shot back with perhaps a bit too much edge. Sarah rose her eyebrows. There seemed to be a story there somewhere. The dynamic was unfolding. Whoever this shotcaller was, she’d apparently lost a litte love amongst the others somehow. She then realized that the truth in that didn’t bode well for her situation. It was possible that Brooke could be the only hope in helping champion her escape. Maybe instead of antagonizing her, she should appeal to her senses instead.

Sarah set the bottle down beside her and licked at her lips. ”Sorry,” she began, ”I didn’t mean anything--”

”Right,” Brooke replied, brushing her hands off on her pants. She adjusted her ponytail, cinching her red locks back from her face into a tighter bunch. ”Look, I’m sorry we did this to you. A few of us-- out there-- we tried to stop it… but considering your situation--” she continued, gesturing at Sarah’s bite, ”we didn’t want to take any chances.”

Sarah nodded. ”I don’t hold it against you…” she admitted, settling back into herself.

Brooke regarded the girl with quiet pity. There was only one way she could help her, but not without knowing something first. She braced her hands on her hips, looking at her feet as she cleared her throat-- then she looked Sarah straight in the eyes, a bit disconcertingly. ”What’s happening to you?”

”I wish I knew…” Sarah droned, sourly. ”I haven’t had a chance to really look at it. I have medical training, you know? I’m a nurse… and if I had my stuff--” she emphasized, raising her voice. Brooke glanced back in the corner of the room at Sarah’s duffle bag, draped half-way in a colorful palette made by the light beaming through the stained glass window high above.

”We already took the weapons out, just in case…” Brooke admitted, walking towards it slowly. ”I suppose there isn’t anything in there you shouldn’t have. I can’t uncuff you though,” she finished, her voice remaining firm. ”The key isn’t here...” She must have felt Sarah’s eyes rolling in the dark. ”Not my choice,” she added. Brooke crouched down, carefully grabbing the straps of the bag and beginning to drag it over to where Sarah was shackled. Her movements were graceful, even in her current state. There was some kind of unexplainable easiness to her movements, almost like she knew what she was going to do before she did it. A very calculated grace. It was the first thing Sarah had noticed about her.

”All I need’s my supplies and I can do it myself. I can do it properly… please--” Sarah peeled her tattered shirt away from her clavicle-- still sticky with bloody residue. It was looking worse every hour now. She grimaced as she leaned back, shaking her head. ”Who can I thank for the hackjob on my shoulder?”

”That was me,” Brooke replied, firmly-- her voice lilting just barely. She let the bag slump to the ground and blew her red locks away from her eyes, wondering if there was any use in saying anything else. Decided, she turned to leave. ”And you’re welcome… I guess.”

Sarah slouched deeper against the brick wall, heaving a deep sigh.

So much for appealing to her senses...


# # #



Brooke closed the door from the other side and leaned her arm and forehead against the wood. Her energy was fading by the second. It didn’t help that she was one of the very few competent ones left behind with the balls to do something about their situation. Somehow it always ended up falling on her to square things up. The pregnancy sure did come with some perks… certainly greater leverage, if anything. She looked over her shoulder at the sound of overlapping hushed whispers and saw Ari and Ezrael engaged in a very intense conversation over by the stairs to the cellar. Charlie licked at his chops on one of the benches near Sarah’s door, his ears perked up from the moment Brooke set foot outside the door. They thought it best to keep the two separated until they knew what Sarah’s true condition was.

Brooke used the backsides of the pews to steady herself as she walked towards the lot of them. Harry had joined the group from the other side of the door, closing it behind him as he rose his hands in front of him trying to settle the two neurotic bickering men.

”Gentleman, please--” he begged, trying to quiet them.

”What the hell are you two on about now?” Brooke bellowed, exasperated by just about…. well, everything.

Ari ruffled his jacket, trying to straighten it out-- his chest puffed out like some aggro’d rooster. ”This Saint over here thought it wise to let in a couple of strays.” he spat out, verbally accosting Harry.

”They’re just kids…” Harry reasoned, looking to Brooke. Surely she could understand that. ”And besides, they were here before us… with the Preacher. Before us. Before the girl…” He gestured behind all of them at the door, and Sarah.

Ezrael ran his hands through his hair. ”When they find out it was her that did it--” He shook his head at the possibility. ”How are we going to explain this?”

”Easy,” Brooke replied. ”We don’t. We don’t know what happened. We weren’t there. She’s the only one left who knows the whole story. Her and the dog…”


# # #



.: Fort Fallback :.

"Amoeba Music & Records"



’Mobile in ten minutes, everyone. Ten minutes. Scout teams meet in the garage in five to be delegated into your teams and briefed on your tasks. Everybody else… you know what your jobs are. Quinn out.’

His booming voice squawked out of all of the surrounding intercoms simultaneously, resounding throughout the massive floor of the record store.. Various Capitols bustled about on their tasks, many of them hauling crates of equipment towards the garage to help setup the vehicles. Others simply loitered around, but the tension in the air was palpable. They had all spent so much time trying to push the outside world away and keep things as normal as possible… but that was surely a lie. The truth was-- everyone and everything was in danger. No matter where you were. The ones lost out in the city had it worse, but they all had it bad. Niobe rubbed at her temples as she leaned against the hood of the bus-- it had been a long three days, considering everything they had been through. There had been countless hours of planning and coordination-- spearheaded by various camps in conjunction with Silas, Harper, Stevie, and others who had stepped up to help. She was beginning to get a sense of who really had a voice in a place like this. There were way more Capitols than she had originally alotted upon her first visit to the tower. For a moment, she wondered how many they had lost.

And how many they would find…

Niobe had managed to go wherever she was needed. Most of it involved working with Patrick and Eli and some of the others to rig up the buses and retrofit them to suit the purposes of their trip. The main bus had basically been converted into a mobile command center-- someplace Silas could direct the rescue from as well as a mutual fallback point for all parties. They reinforced the metal siding with aluminum plates, barred the windows-- setup with escape hatches on the top and floor of the bus. Built a table centerpiece with a map of the surrounding areas for his team to coordinate from. It actually felt nice to hold some familiar tools in her hands, she had thought. She couldn’t even remember the last time she got to use a welder. A second bus had also been procured in the days prior, to accomodate the amount of people should the best case scenario play out and everyone be rescued. At least then they’d be able to shuttle people back as needed. It was a pretty airtight plan-- the best they could hope for given the circumstances. Who knew what they'd find out there?

She suddenly realized then and there that she hadn't spent much time thinking about the departed-- aside from George on occasion. Sure, it was possible they managed to escape the walker herd-- perhaps back in the tunnels somewhere? Jessica knew the layout pretty well, and she had Rafiq with her to help look after the others. There were just so many of those things... it was a miracle anyone got out alive at all. Everything had just escalated so quickly.

Niobe noticed a black scuff mark on the hood of the bus and rubbed at it with the butt of her hand in a wide circular motion. The smear dissipated after a few passes and she quick wiped the residue off on her pant leg.

”I wouldn’t bother,” a strained voice called out from around the side of the bus. Patrick came struggling into view, lugging a large plastic crate towards the back. ”It’s just going to get dirty again…”

Niobe blinked slowly. ”Need a hand with that?” she offered, dryly. She had more muscle on the kid by a mile. He did look surprisingly spry though, considering.

Patrick scoffed. ”I can carry a crate,” he chided, using his knee to help prop the box up as he adjusted his grip on it.

”What’s in there?”

”Uhh--” his eyes shot down to the crate, nervously. ”It’s-- it’s just gear. Equipment and stuff for the lead bus. We’re trying to prepare for every situation, you know?”

Niobe shrugged. ”Whatever you say…” A pair of Capitols wandered between them with a larger crate of their own towards the rear of the bus, nodding as they passed. Niobe saw them heave it into the a pair of waiting hands inside the back of the spare bus. Niobe turned back to Patrick, drumming her fingers on the yellow exterior of the vehicle. ”What’s this I hear about you not coming with us?”

Patrick’s eyes bulged a bit. Clearly that news wasn’t supposed to be in the public domain yet, but Niobe was persistent and Carl had a very, very weak constitution. He set the crate down at his feet, carefully-- and stood straight, shoving his hands into his pockets as he wandered closer. ”Yeah, about that--” he swallowed, looking over his shoulder to make sure they were alone. ”Silas asked me and a few others to look into something for him. We’re going to uhh-- go with you guys and take off from the same point.”

Niobe furrowed her brow. What was with the sudden audible? The plan had changed enough over the last few days. What they needed was a firm plan. Unwavering. ”So there’s three teams now?”

Patrick nodded. ”Seems so…”

”Is it really smart for us to all split up again? That’s what started this in the first place...”

”Believe me, if you knew what I knew--”

She crossed her arms suddenly. ”And when will I know what you know?”

Patrick looked around, hurriedly moving in closer in an effort to try to keep her from talking any louder. ”Look-- things are tense around here, OK. I wish I could tell you everything, but there’s a lot at stake. That’s as much as I can tell you… I’m sorry…”

Niobe squared up, pointing a finger in his chest. ”Whatever it was you were trying to tell me earlier, it sounds like you guys are gearing up to go to war. And I’m not convinced that’s something we want to throw ourselves in front of.”

”We just want to go home…” Patrick sighed, wearily. ”None of this has anything to do with us… it’s all bigger than that. We’re just the pawns. All we can do is just keep moving forward until we can’t anymore.”

Niobe toyed with one of her molars with the tip of her tongue. ”Or until you get your ass captured.”

Patrick hung his head, scratching it lackadaisically. He turned back around, crouching to hoist the crate back up and moving to pass around Niobe. Maybe she had been a bit too hard on him. She already had a difficult enough time warming up to any of the other Capitols without purposefully alienating anyone. Patrick and Eli had been two of the only ones who had made an effort to reach out and include her in things. Maybe she owed them more than that.

”So in this analogy,” she called out over her shoulder, turning to face him. ”Shouldn’t we be going for the King?”

Patrick halted in his tracks and knowingly met her gaze. She understood more than he believed.


# # #



"What the hell are you doing?" James coughed out, a half-spent cigar dangling out of the corner of his mouth.

Carl looked up from his seat on the bus, his hands clasped around his satellite phone. Other Capitols hustled about around the bus, loading the side holds with cargo, weapons and gear. A handful of people worked under the hood in the front while the driver responded to commands, testing the shift stick and other components of the vehicle. These people were covering their bases, checking everything, taking all of the precautionary measures they could...

So why did he feel like he was going to throw up?

"I'm, uhh--" he swallowed a heavy gulp-- to maybe help the room stop spinning. Nope. Next idea?

"What's wrong with you? Why are ya just sittin' on yer ass in here?"

Carl closed his eyes, rubbing at his temples. "Can you just please? Can you not... He sighed, burying his face in his palms. "I just-- we were out there... we saw what it was like. How could any of them have survived that...?"

"We did," James grumbled. He dabbed the cigar on the leather of one of the seats, ashing onto the floor. "We've all survived worse things. What else is there to be scared of?"

"That's just who I am!" Carl rasped, throwing his hands up in the air. "I'm that guy! The fucking guy in all those platoon war movies who's hiding behind all the real soldier son his radio while they're actually putting their lives in danger and fighting on the front! I'm not a rescue guy... I don't go do rescues. I mean look at what we're up against!"

James grimaced. "We've got buses. They don't. You wanna be on the side with the buses... trust me." He clapped Carl a little too hard on the shoulder, spilling a little bit of ash from his cigar onto his sweatshirt. He walked past him, climbing out the back door of the bus. Carl brushed his shirt clean and turned towards the old man. "Hey, man-- why the church?"

"Cause I heard bells a ringin'..." James crooned.

"Are you fucking stoned?" Carl berated. "Why are you so calm about all of this?"

James flashed a smile of pearly whites. "Cause this is the world now, kid. Buck up." He took one long soothing drag of his cigar and gritted his teeth as he exhaled a thick curling cloud of white smoke. "Now get out here and make yourself useful." He turned, wandering off in a wispy hazy trail.

Carl could only shake his head, exhausted by it all. He scooped up his phone as he stood up from his seat and shuffled out the front down the few steps towards the pavement. He plopped down hard onto his feet causing his glasses to slide down his nose which he quickly remedied with his index finger.

"Easy there, Cowboy..." Jack's catty voice drawled from next to the folded door. Carl felt his heavy hand pat him hard against the back. What was with all the hitting anyways? "You alright?"

Carl shrugged, rolling his eyes. "I'm great..." he droned, sourly.

Jack squinted his eyes. "Well, listen-- I just wanted to say, before we left-- I know you and James are going on your little secret mission thing or whatever, but I wanted to ask if you'd keep an eye out for our friend, Calvin. He's out there too... we don't really know where..."

"Calvin...?"

"Yeah, that movie star guy... Calvin Hawke. We were with him before all this and... well, things got dicey. But he took a bullet for me... and I owe it to him to find him."

Carl's eyes nearly burst out his head as he suddenly had an epiphany. C-Calvin! Hawke?! You mean Sarah's brother?"

Jack scrunched his forehead. "How do you know his sister?" Then his tone changed as his brow furrowed even further. "How do you know his sister...?"

Carl waved his hands in front of him. "No, no-- it's nothing like that. I mean, I suppose I would... she's pretty hot-- but, ew! No, I'd never-- Jeez... oh man, when she finds out he's alive, she's gonna freak!"

"We have to find them. Both of them. Pass it on to James when you see him," Jack insisted, clasping his hand on Carl's shoulder. He looked him straight in the eyes. "We're gonna find them..."

"FIVE MINUTES!! OUT IN FIVE!! Grab the last of your things, say your goodbyes-- this is it, ladies and gentleman! Meet on the floor in FIVE!!!" Silas' bombastic voice echoed out across the garage-- no longer with the same gravelly tin as from the loudspeakers, but rather in person-- as his large frame came bumbling past in haste. The last flurry of activity commenced as everyone made their last rites and prepared for sendoff. Carl, in all the chaos of the moment looked across the sea of faces for anyone he knew and saw no one-- suddenly feeling very alone...

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