It started so suddenly, no one really knew why. Just that it had come in an unending wave and that it was the new normal. Millions died in the first wave.
By month six, cities are dead zones. They're overrun with the dead and the safest areas are the outskirts. It was Hell on Earth, and if the dead didn't get you, the living would.
Then, something encroached upon the horizon amongst thick shrubbery. A heavily gated place, a dusty sign which is all but faded reading a school name. BookEnd Private School. Its full to the brim with dormitories, beds, generators, food. The people that founded this farm it, they make it safe and it is a Haven, heaven on Earth. But of course, there's a catch.
No children. No sickness. No elderly. No pregnant. No disabled. We only thrive as much as our weakest member.
It's simple, this place is for those strong and fit enough to work. There is no charity. There are no handouts and every single person has a job. But a terrible secret soon rears its ugly head and threatens to dismantle all everyone ever assumed about BookEnd.
And as time goes on, the ticking of the clock carries on, each knock a death toll. No one leaves BookEnd and the outside is full of walking corpses, but which is safer, the Lions Den or the Hunting Grounds?
Name : Cassandra 'Cassie' Volé Age : 23 Skillset : Nurse, works on limited supplies. Identifying Features :Long black hair commonly held up in a bun. Quite thin. Weapon :Crossbow, a damn good shot. Role in BookEnd (Optional) : Infirmary/Hospital worker, Head of Care.
Name: Nero Black Age: 24 Skillset: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Technician Identifying Features: Red hair, Heterochromia and always seen carrying a screwdriver. Weapon: Traps made from the various materials he finds around. Poor with firearms. Carrys a pocket ballisong but he just uses it to keep his hands busy. Role in BookEnd: Mechanical repairman/Amateur Aviation Maintenance Technician
Name:Atticus Gilmore Age: 26 Identifying Features: Unbrushed black hair, pale skin, and a jaw line for days. Weapon: Sledgehammer. Role in BookEnd (Optional): Guard of the ‘North Gate Division.’
Name: Samuel French Age: 28 Skillset: Botany, biology, tracking, dog handling. Weapons: Axe, derringer pistol Identifying features: Long, black hair with colored streaks. (Usually tied into a bun) Very tall. Role in BookEnd (Optional): Head of agricultural research. Foraging, scouting.
Name: Nero Black Age: 24 Skillset: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Technician Identifying Features: Red hair, Heterochromia and always seen carrying a screwdriver. Weapon: Traps made from the various materials he finds around. Poor with firearms. Carrys a pocket ballisong but he just uses it to keep his hands busy. Role in BookEnd: Mechanical repairman/Ameture Aviation Maintenance Technician.
Name: Samuel French Age: 28 Skillset: Botany, biology, tracking, dog handling. Weapons: Axe, derringer pistol Identifying features: Long, black hair with colored streaks. (Usually tied into a bun) Very tall. Role in BookEnd (Optional): Head of agricultural research. Foraging, scouting.
Everything had come so suddenly, so without warning. It didn't match the Hollywood films or the television pictures and how they had depicted it. It had been so much worse, so without hope. Mankind pushed to the limit and to a place of no hope for a new dawn. Death has become normality and the choices made in these times had become awful, wading through blood and corpses and understanding that every single action had a very heavy consequence. One small donation of food could leave you starving for a week, an act of kindness could be returned with a bullet to the brain and being ruthless was the new way of living.
It was a dog eat dog world, except the dogs were the least of anyone's concerns.
Cassandra eyed the meek coffee, thankfully it was a non-perishable and so there was plenty of that laying around. She took it black, there was no way there was milk anywhere and frankly, she liked the pep it gave her for the day ahead. There was always something to be done, injured and stock take, that was in between the usual surveillance of the makeshift gymnasium that had been crafted into an Infirmary. They were lucky here.
This once proud private school had everything they needed. Their were rooms with beds, a cafeteria area, a gymnasium that made a great hospital ward and offices and rooms. And the grounds were even somewhat secure. When this place first started, it had been ideal but over time it had grown. The walls around the school had been reinforced, like a heavily structured barricade and no one came in or out without the Guards say so. Raiding parties and scouts went to collect things things the nearby city. Anything and everything and there were no exceptions, every single person needed to pull their weight and earn their keep to make sure this place remained livable and viable.
Cassandra's duty was simple, look after the sick and keep track of the medications and those being looked after. In her previous life she had been a nurse, newly graduated and ready to go. Then the virus hit, the dead became cannibals and she had stumbled upon this place. She didn't talk about what was before, she preferred others knowing as little about her as possible.
Raven back hair was pulled back from her face as she set food into the Infirmary. Thankfully, not many sick or injured. The big bosses didn't like it when people couldn't provide anymore, people were keen to get back to being useful. Cassandra eyed over some supplies that were locked away and only she had the keys for. She jotted down things they would need, some more antibiotics and painkillers would be nice, but they were growing short on supplies for that sort of thing.
[center[patrick+hand[+red "Jones, take this for the next scavenger hunt, will ya?"]]] Her voice had a twinge of French to it, almost completely extinct but still there. A blond man shrugged and took the paper before heading out to find whoever was leading.
[center[patrick+hand[+red "Good for nothing lazy ass. Alright."]]] She muttered to herself before eyeing over what records she had of those she had treated. It wasn't professional but it was the best she could do in the situation. It was impossible to keep track of of person and Cassie's nook in the corner of the huge open space had a shoddy filing cabinet, it had the deaths and the injuries of the place, names and what information they knew. It was a terrible system frankly, but she knew her way around it well enough.
The bitten were put down immediately, the terminally ill or maimed were thrown out, it was harsh but it was the only way this place had survived for too long and Cassie qasnt rhe one doing it personally, she was simply there to relay information and treat those she could. It was the big bosses, the trio of them that ran this place that made it work and no one questioned it, no one ever questioned paradise and these walls were better than the decaying rot crawling and growling and chewing their way through the living outside.
It was madness to her that some chose to wander out there and live like savages, and risk their life every day. Being eaten alive or infected was not the way she ever wanted to go. Her pale blue eyes scanned the room, she only had one patient in, someone suffering dehydration, easily managed and she expected them to be out if here by today. They had some very dear supplies from the hospital in the city, every so often the parties would go and do runs there and she had even attended them because she knew what she was looking for, IV bags, injections, syringes, bandages, stitching equipment. Even the pills were absolutely essential.
Some people lived without that, they said BookEnd was a terrible place of nightmares and nothing was worth staying here.
Cassie would take safe and alive any day of the week.
A sour expression crossed Sam’s face as he watched yet another family being turned away- a couple, walking together with a child that couldn’t be any older than eight. It seemed that BookEnd’s policy of turning away those who weren’t the fittest and most able to take care of themselves had struck again- leaving many who could easily have been saved to the harsh rigors of the world around them.
It wasn’t like he didn’t understand the reasoning behind it. The world had ended, so all morality had lost meaning. One couldn’t debate the virtue of saving as many lives as possible with the walking dead, after all. Besides, as a former professor of agriculture and biology, Sam had a secure spot in this place. People always needed to eat- and making that happen in a collapsed society was difficult enough. Looting and foraging was always a risky endeavour- and being able to create a sustainable food source was critical in any enclave like this one.
Still, that didn’t mean he had to like it. Ignoring how unjust this was would mean losing the last of his humanity in this crisis.
Thankfully, Sam found himself torn away from those thoughts as a cold, wet nose pressed into him from behind with a soft whine. Orion, his canine friend, seemed ever-insistent on keeping his inspection of soil in the agricultural level moving along so that they could finish up sooner and move on to fun together. The act of pure innocence was enough to earn a warm laugh from the professor. [#eb34e8 “Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll finish up with these samples, then we can go and play awhile.”] he reassured the shaggy beast, confirming his promise with an affectionate pat on the head.
[#eb34e8 “Soil Ph is ideal. Local earthworms have provided sufficient nutrients to the soil too, making it ideal for agricultural activities…”] he mused, writing his notes onto a clipboard as he darted around the area confirmed that the rest of the plot was equally rich. [#eb34e8 “Growing area is minimal, but necessary due to current circumstances. Note to self- request another expansion of BookEnd walls for further agricultural space.]
Another sign escaped Sam’s lips at the last note. He wished that he could roam around a little more, but as it stood, it simply wasn’t safe enough yet. For the moment, he would have to stay here to be safe. Then again, it could also be that they were trying to keep him- and by extension, his expertise- right where they could monitor it, lest it be lost to an unfortunate bite… Or perhaps they just wanted to keep him in, lest he decided that he wanted to leave. It was an uncomfortable thought, but with how militaristic the place could be at times, he couldn’t help but wonder about it.
Orion’s wet nose broke Sam out of his uncomfortable thoughts once again, drawing him back into the real world. It appeared that the mutt of indescribable background had no patience for Sam’s morose thoughts or paranoid fears. Amidst everything that was going on, he just wanted to play and be good to his master.
[#eb34e8 “Special note- Orion is a very good boy, who will get many pets.”] Sam concluded, ruffling the beast’s dark coat as he straightened up and put his clipboard away for the moment. Before him, he could see a perfectly sized stick for a game of fetch, and he dared not leave his shadowy companion waiting any longer.
[#9900ff “No Children.”] “[b I won’t leave my babies! I won’t!”] [#9900ff “Ma’am, I don’t make the rules. I enforce them.”] “[b They’ll die out here!”] [#9900ff “If you don’t want to come inside, then please leave the line.”]
Atticus felt no remorse as he watched the woman with her children from his stand. This was a daily routine in the life of a guard. It was an endless cycle of keeping the strong in and the weak out. The task was nothing personal; it was the only thing that could be done for humanity to have a chance at survival. Inside, he knew that every single person he turned down would die but the empathy had long been sucked dry.
“[b HEARTLESS! WE WILL DIE OUT THERE! DIE!”] Her screaming meant nothing to him. [#9900ff “We have other guests in line ma’am. I will not ask you again.”] Atticus watched as the tears began streaming down her face and motioned her to step aside. This was nothing personal, only business. She wasn’t the first woman who tried to guilt him with children and she surely wouldn’t be the last. “[b You’re no better than those monsters!”]
Atticus raised his hand slowly giving the command to have the lady escorted away. It wasn’t fair to hold up the line when other abled bodies wanted to contribute. Within a couple of seconds two large men hoisted up the woman and children and began escorting them back over the border. He let out a sigh of relief and turned on his heel, deciding it was a good time to take a break. Ignoring the angry people behind him, he closed the metal opening.
If they wanted access, they had three more gates to choose from. The North gate was the safest because it had a large body of water surrounding most of it. The West gate was the worst, and few dared to guard or cross through. Though as far as he was concerned any gate was safe compared to the outside. He had seen too many of the bitten and promised he would never be stupid or curious enough to venture out. Life was good on the inside for the most part. They were fed, given resources, and given a place to rest. The only thing that was asked in return was to contribute.
He made his way through the town, waving to a few of the people he passed by. They changed so much that it was hard getting used to most of them. He only had three friends that he really cared about, and luckily for him one was right in his view. Atticus felt a sense of warmth wash over his face as he approached Sam. He was a strange fellow, always digging in the dirt. [#9900ff “Just another fun day in the dirt with your companion, eh?” ]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher [center [+grey “Nero! I swear I looked away just for a second and they-!”]]
A pop boomed out leaving the grinding of mechanical whirring ringing in the air. He reached his hand out to pull the man away from the clawing hands of one of the [i ”Zeds”]as he called them.The generator pumped and sputtered as they repositioned themselves away from the fence that had just barely held back their impending doom. The sound of his heart pounding contributed to the noise that kept his mind from thinking properly. A white noise of the moaning undead, the shouting of his partner and generator threatening to sputter out and die, killing power for the entire western wall of Book End. He shut up and focused. If he didn't get this generator fixed, the electric fence would be toppled over by the masses of undead that now corralled at the other end. Hands spilling through threatening to grab, scratch, bite and infect anyone who got too close. And with every passing moment more of them were attracted to the scene.
[center [+red “Nero! Benji! Get that damned thing running, any more and we’ll have to use firearms!”]]
One of the security members shouted, lopping off the arms of a reaching undead trying to climb it’s way above the double barbed fence that was once electrified. The glare of broken glass and slick blood littered the concrete section of the floor shining in just the right angle to hit his eyes as he worked left a trail of lightburn in his vision. They were both working on it. Him and benji despite their lack of firearms or defense mechanisms on hand. His eyes shot over to his left to see a pile of writhing, moaning limbs and mass of hands and hungry mouths that were attracted to all the noise they were making.
[center [+grey “I got it I just need to reach this piece….! Almost…!”]]
There was a sound, though it wasn’t the sound of the generator calibrating and turning on properly enough to send energy through the wires, no, It was the sound of a shout. A sherik, a scream, a howl. It was the sound of Benji having his leg clawed into as he was dragged closer to the fence. Their hands pulled his fellow engineer toward the gate. It had been pushed forward too close due to all the weight of them. Causing it to all but collapse on top of the generator. The undead too busy ripping Benji apart to try climb over the fence, although it would have been easy to do as much. Just barely ducking down onto his back as the fence fell he was now entrapped in a small narrow tunnel created by the fence, the generator and the building the fence collided with that the generator sat against. The hands of the undead just missed him by mere inches as Benji howled. He began to crawl prone below all the reaching swiping hands just barely not snagging onto his clothes as he inched his way over to Benji’s side of the generator. Slickened with blood he reached in and manually connected the last bit of Benji’s handiwork. And with it the sound of the entire fence lighting up rang out.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/0qkInXr.png]]
They dropped benji… Who by then, despite the entire ordeal lasting only about a minute, had died. Bleeding from everywhere it seemed like his chest had been dug into by them, his entrails sitting neatly outside of his body only feet away from Nero as he panted heavily. Making himself small as the undead were fried, brain and all. Their arms hung helplessly as they experienced final death. Then a voice… A hand reaching in to pull him out he took it to be yanked away from his tight spot and out into the open courtyard.
[center [+mediumseagreen “They… They only had him for a few seconds...”]]
He laid on his back, exhausted and tired from the entire ordeal. His hands bleeding from the clamping parts of the generator snapping on them multiple times. Above him the blackened silhouette of a familiar visage cleared as he got a good look at who had pulled him out…
[center [+mediumseagreen “Cassie… Benji didn’t make it… His body’s in there too..”]]
His voice unbecoming of just how thankful he was to see her. Monotone and rasped by lack of water and stress as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Those that were not fried were quickly dispatched by security. Reaching into his pocket he pulled a cigarette from a crushed and bent carton. Tapping it slightly against his goggles to get one out. Reaching into his left pocket he retrieved his metal lighter and used the small sharp end of one of his repair tools to scratch another notch into it. There were 59 notches in total, this marked the 60th. Every scratch representing another time he dodged the grim reaper.
[center[b "Cassie! We got some trouble on the outskirts, might need some help."]]
A dishevelled man Cassie had never really caught the name of burst in and Cassie qas used to it. Usually some poor bastard had broke a leg or suffered a bite, those situations she couldn't do much with. She wasn't a surgeon, she couldn't magic up remedies but she was a damn good stitch when she needed to be. Cassie grabbed a bag that was tucked under her desk and got to her feet, following the man out. He qas weighted with firearms and such, typical guard type and she glanced over to see Sam and Atticus in conversation but she didn't exactly have time to stop and talk, she rarely did in this place. She had to jog to keep up and the one good thing about the apocalypse was that she had the fitness of a stallion.
[center[+red[Patrick+Hand "Jesus Christ what the fuck happened?!"]]]
Cassie couldn't quite believe it. The damned fence had came down but thankfully it looked like the electricity had zapped the most prominent of the undead and Cassie glanced to see Benji, christ they had done a number on him. She couldn't cure death and she eyed him over. She looked to the man, Hank, who had brought her here, Benji would need put down before he could come back. She reached forwards and yanked Nero back, hauling him out of harms way as Hank and a few others started to pick off the remaining few. Her eyes looked him over quickly, he'd need those hands seen to promptly to stave off infection and she raised an eyebrow as he brought a cigarette to his lips.
[center[+red[Patrick+Hand "Alright, Nero. It's alright, you get bit? Scratched?"]]]
Cassie asked him, he would need back to the Infirmary. He needed to move his ass and she needed to take a proper look at him and those hands. She leaned in, stealing a drag from his cigarette. Benji had been a good guy too, a real sweetheart and she sighed out, death was something everyone was used to, especially in the last few months. It didn't matter what came before this unyielding plague, all that mattered was staying alive.
Cassie exhaled a cloud of smoke and figured it was better to let him calm down and gather himself. He was safe here and frankly the close proximity to him made sure she could see his injuries. He'd need fluids, some bandages and a hearty meal. Probably rustle up a beer or something to keep his nerve and she figured Sam and Atticus would be better outlets for him. Men and their strange dialects.
[center[+red[Patrick+Hand "Finish your smoke, then we'll get you back inside and you can tell Atticus and Sam all your problems."]]]
She said with a laugh before taking another drag of his cigarette and straightening up, holding the smoke in her lungs for a while before letting it go. The boundaries needed fixing and the hoardes of dead were bound to start putting pressure on this place. There had to be a way to mass clear them out that wasn't wasting ammunition. A couple grenades but that would only draw more in. Atticus would probably know and Cassie figured they could grab dinner later on, talk it out. The Infirmary wasn't going to handle the amount of injuries if more accidents kept having.
Even though the guard’s question had been friendly and innocent, Samuel reacted violently in the moment- almost as if his fight or flight instincts had been activated in the moment. His jaw dropped, his pupils dilated, and he found himself ungracefully stumbling back as the unseen visitor approached him- only to calm down after seeing Atticus’ familiar face.
There was something about the man’s presence that was rather calming, all things considered. Despite the fact that Atticus took on the unpleasant jobs of pushing away countless unsuitable families, he still did ensure that everyone here was kept safe. That aside, Samuel had a hunch that the man looked to him for a glimpse of something a little brighter in these dark times. After all, crops represented the creation of new life- and no one could ever feel too dour when the wagging of Orion’s tail put some propellers to shame.
[#eb34e8 “Gah- How long have you been there?”] He’d never admit it, but he had no idea that Atticus was even there until the moment he decided to speak up. There was something about the unique joy of Orion’s fluffy coat that dragged the professor into another world, where the undead didn’t exist and everything was still normal.
Regaining his composure, the lanky man brushed himself off and regained his footing once more- only to extend a handful of soil. [#eb34e8 “Actually, never mind that. I’ve explained this already, it’s not [I dirt.] Dirt’s dead- like sand, silt, and clay. There’re no nutrients or living organisms, and you certainly can’t grow anything. This is beautiful [I soil,] full of the organisms that’ll grow us plenty of-”]
The man’s scholarly speech was cut short as he was nudged from behind by the cold tip of Orion’s nose, reminding him that most people didn’t exactly care about these things. [#eb34e8 “But I forget myself here. All things considered; it isn’t a bad day at all. The soil’s looking healthy enough for a new round of crops, and things could absolutely be worse.”] The last comment was accompanied with a short gaze to the outside- where that family was almost certainly fighting for survival.
Still, negativity simply wasn’t in the man’s blood, and his surprisingly bright smile returned soon enough. [#eb34e8 “Ah, and Orion continues to simply be excellent too. Give the pup a little love. It’s good for the soul.”] he concluded, motioning towards the dog as it sat obediently next to him. He figured that Atticus could use a little warmth, especially after that unpleasant exchange.
Atticus bent down and gave Orion an excited look, not giving Sam another thought. He was too on edge, always getting caught in the jump scare brigade. He should know by now that sneaking up on him wasn’t the greatest idea. He gave a whistle to the dog before picking himself back up. He was waiting for the okay to approach. Not many pets were allowed, and only under special circumstances, making Orion a real treat to have around. If they suddenly let everyone have a pet the resources would deplete at a higher rate. [#9900ff “Oh boy, please not another lesson.” ] He let out a sigh as Sam carried on about the differences between dirt and soil. As far as he was concerned, they were the same thing. He never bothered to grasp onto any knowledge of Earth Science and couldn’t imagine the joy one would find. How someone could get so excited about the ground was fascinating to him beyond belief. Though he was thankful that he did have interest, or their resources would be even more dire. His profession was vital for everyone’s survival, boring or not.
As Orion finally came over to him, he bent back down so he could give the animal a proper pet. [#9900ff “Are you a good boy?” ] Atticus wrapped his arm around the dog’s neck giving him a little friendly squeeze. [#9900ff “Yes…you…are”] It was as if the hound had taken away all his anxiety and stress in an instant. He suddenly felt good, relieved to feel warmth on his fingers. Sometimes the contents of his day would weigh on him, though he tried to not take anything personal. If he was being denied access to life, he would make a ruckus as well. It was only human nature to fight for the things they wanted most. He was simply doing his job and that is all he or anyone could do.
[#9900ff “Ah anyway, besides your adventures, how is it going for you? I haven’t seen anyone in a week with the recent work loads. The lines to get in seem to get longer with every day that passes. I hear the pandemic is growing worse…which means longer shifts…”] His voice muffled out not wanting to dig into the politics of the outside just yet. He quickly changed the subject, knowing he had to get back to his post fairly soon. [#9900ff “Though I am excited for the weekly dinner, hopefully Cassie cooks something up.”] He cleared his throat slightly and brought himself back up to his feet, stomach already rumbling from the mere thought. [#9900ff “Remember when she made lorne sausage?”]
He licked his lips and smiled brightly at Sam as Orion’s tail flapped eagerly between them. It was the simple things he learned to hold on to and cherish. Life and everything it consisted of was nothing short of [i precious.]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher A deep inhale came with his panting breaths. And with it the refreshing feeling of a smooth and long drag put his mind at ease. Arguably Man's greatest creation filled his lungs and for a brief moment he removed himself of the horrible stress he'd went through moments prior. He took cassie's hand and took one more brief glance at the scene behind before getting into his feet and into the compound. The wails and moans of the undead were left hanging in the air as the heavily fortified steel door shut behind them.
[center [+mediumseagreen "My problems Cass? Ever notice things keep breaking around here…? Before I could barely keep up and now with benji… I'm going to end up having to teach someone just to get by… and I'm a horrible teacher at that. It's all up here, not here.”]]
He pointed to his head, then to his mouth. His tired words melded with the echoing steps that rang throughout the hall. The two of them walking a good distance from the eastern fence now. Only stoping slightly to put the cigarette out as they came up on a storage room. The engineer tossing his wrench onto a nearby table and pulling his hood up once again. Something about his Red lochs being covered and hidden in the dark black of his hood comforted him. The fear of sticking out against the night by the sheen of his hair had been heavily Instilled in him since the day he came here.
[center [+purple [i “Your hair, its so bright… how could I not have caught you?”]]]
The voice of the man who almost took his head off with a hunting rifle stuck in his head, as did the bullet hole in the wall beside him signifying the warning shot that almost took his life. The raven with a gun smirked at him. As he sat fearing for his life at gunpoint. The image of the man in his memories soon blended with the sight of the very same man who peered at them as they entered the room. Atticus, ah… and that damned wolf
[center [+mediumseagreen “Christ… did he get bigger?"]]
Nero's voice rang out unsteady. His phobia of the wolf just as sure now as it always was. Cassie entering behind him nudging him to stop standing in the doorway like a deer in headlights. He sheepishly entered and crashed on a broken office chair that no longer rolled due to the gunk stuck in its worn hard-plastic wheels. His head dove into his fingerless gloves before taking a deep breath trying to nor make eye contact with the wolf.
[center [+mediumseagreen “The eastern fence just caved… We lost Benji.”]]
He spoke somberly giving some silence in the man’s name. He was a good guy. Didn’t talk much, but also didn't start shit with anyone. Just fixed stuff to the best of his ability… That, and he was one of the only people that knew the intricacies of fixing the inner chassis of the of a generator. Normally the engineer would be reeling in his seat, staying as far away from the wolf as he could. But with frustration in his voice he was granted a brief reprieve from his own personal phobias. The Frustration of what happened at the eastern fence sitting in now as he itched for another cigarette.
She would need to keep an eye on him, he was a risk for shock or PTSD and those things could be just as harmful as a bullet wound. Cassie listened to him as he spoke about everything falling apart and she didn't disagree, things were getting a little too risky now. Death was part of this new found survival game but now they were at serious risk of losing friends that had become as family and she knew that stung worse than anything. There was already so much loss in the world and Cassie just followed Nero, coming upon the scientist and gunner. Familiar faces that restored some faith in the world around her and she fell quiet as Nero delivered the news. She glanced around and gestured to them.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Come on, I best get you lost fed."]]]
It was a normal routine for them, to eat together as often as possible and Cassie enjoyed honing her cooking skills. She was in a place of favour with the bosses as well, a nurse or doctor was not expendable, none of them were. She shed her dirty jacket and hung it up, the table in the infirmary back room set up with chairs and Cassie was also very thrifty with everything she cooked with. Every little thing helped and Cassie had a small surprise for them. She had been scrimping and begging and doing endless favours around the compound, all for numerous ingredients. It had taken days and she looked to the others.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "It's soup, vegetables and some cut chicken stock, had to beg old Stephen to let me have some stuff to throw in here. And also."]]]
Cassie set the pot of soup in the center of the table before dipping back and bringing out something under a towel before setting it down on the table and whipping the cloth off. It was bread, it certainly wasn't the best bread in the world but she had done everything she could. She had ran errands, sucked up to the right people and she took a seat, there wasn't any butter or spread or anything to go with but she had pulled off a feat and she eyed the others. It didn't make up for all of the death and suffering but in these small means she felt normal, she felt like there was some sort of future ahead of them. After a week of being buried up to her arms in gore and watching people die or be put down, something as small as a simple as a meal with friends was enough.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Oh! And I didn't forget you."]]]
She remarked towards the massive furball before delving around and tossing what was left of the chicken carcass she had managed to snatch from Stephen, the man in charge of the farm animals. There had been next to no meat on it to begin with but Cassie figured he would enjoy the bone marrow and the bones. She grinned a little and sat with them, pouring some water into a scratched up glass. It wasn't anything fancy and she sighed out softly. She looked to Nero and raised her glass, a gentle and oh so comforting smile on her lips, laced in a sadness that was ever present.
Even if he knew it was childish, Sam couldn’t help but stare at the soup for a good while, quietly lamenting the current state of affairs. He knew that the days of takeout restaurant food were over- yet there was still a part of him that could absolutely destroy some yellow curry or pad thai. Hell, even basic Chinese food would be incredible about now. Still, he knew he couldn’t be picky. Better to take everything in stride, like Orion, who was happily chewing away at the bone Cassie had offered him with a touch too much gusto. Small shards of bone tumbled across the floor as the wolfhound’s powerful jaw made short work of the carcass - with a few landing right before Nero’s feet in the process.
Which, of course, brought the mighty hound even closer to the mechanic- accompanied by a soft brush of his coat against the man’s leg. Despite everything, Orion simply saw Nero’s fearful actions as a challenge, and considered the man as a friend hadn’t made yet. Besides, his animal instincts told him that the man’s emotions were catching up to him- and he wasn’t about to let any human go by feeling like that.
Not that his master was aware of the interactions between the two. His attention was fixated on the discussion before him [#eb34e8 “To Benji- and to making sure that this place thrives in his honour.”] Sam solemnly agreed. Given how different their fields of work were in this haven, the professor hadn’t had much of an opportunity to talk to the man. Still, losing good people made this place seem just a little bit darker in the process.
It also made things feel just a little less safe. The scientist had planned to take some time to explore around the next day and see if he could bring anything back that would help with some of his work. In most cases, it was routine- but things like this acted as grim reminders that it only took one misstep for things to tumble down to hell.
[#eb34e8 “I know it goes without saying, but you’d best all keep safe too, you know. I’d like to keep anyone around this place who can handle me to stick around, after all.”] he added, with uncommon self-awareness. He knew that some around here didn’t exactly understand how someone like him could be useful, and only cared about things like how well someone shot a gun or kept the power going.
A single hand slipped into his coat as he spoke, grasping a small bottle containing a sprig of pennyroyal- a toxic flower that farmers usually used as a pest repellant. While testing was in its initial phases, the scientist had observed that the undead had avoided it in his garden, raising hopes that the same effect might be possible around their little safe haven. Still, without easy access to seeds, he wouldn’t be able to get much farther into that.
Atticus raised his glass in honor of their fallen friend, before downing it in one single go. He didn’t feel anything for the man yet he wanted to participate in the cheer. It was just another body, sacrificed for the [i greater good.] Sure, he was a nice guy, full of laughter and loyalty but he was no good to anyone [i dead.] The banter they had once exchanged would be nothing more than a silly memory. The guard position had hardened him to the very core. It stripped away the innocence he once knew and replaced it with an empty center.
Without wanting to waste any more time, he licked his lips and began to devour the food in front of him. It was simple, nothing special by any means, yet it was delicious. Food wasn’t always promised and when it was, nothing could top the feeling. He ate with his hands, unbothered by the messy appearance he was giving off. These people knew him better than most, even if they had several differences among them. He grabbed a piece of bread and snapped it in half, eyeing everyone over.
It would be a short and sweet reunion, being that the gate had fallen. They had safety measures put in place to keep the undead out temporarily in sight of a disaster. Although, it was a temporary fix and this only meant they would have to close off access to the other gates and devote all their time and energy into fixing the East. He hadn’t a clue about the extent of the damage but he knew they could recover with minimal lives lost if they were efficient. They had done it two years before when the South gate was compromised. Fortunately, they only lost one hundred and thirty-six people out of thousands.
[#a64dff “Everything is delicious as usual, Cass.”]
He stuffed one of the pieces of bread in his mouth and leaned back in his seat, content with his full belly. He would need it if he was to be up all night patrolling the grounds. From experience, he knew it was harder to keep focus when his stomach was growling. It only took a second of losing focus to be bitten. Once glance away from the target and everything was over.
[#a64dff “I’m sure the hospitals will be filling up again soon now that we have a mess to deal with.”]
It was a rather bold statement, but the silence in the air was making him uneasy. They were supposed to be enjoying a dinner together yet the atmosphere was dreary. They all needed to harden up, accept the fate and move on. They had more pressing matters at hand and it was futile to waste energy on the fallen unless they wanted to become one. Then, they too would be nothing to him.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher He held his face in his hands. Eyes covered as the scenes of gore and viscera were played over in his mind. It wasn't new to him and it didn't shock him, he wasn't a stranger to death. The dozens of marks on the rims of his goggles stood a testament to that. He let the face of the dying man become a memory, he thought that perhaps benji would be bothered if he wasted time grieving instead of fixing things. So, he didn't. As Cass left he pulled his hood down and rubbed his eyes. Trying to recollect himself as he waited for her to return with whatever delicious concoction she'd made for them. As he waited he noticed two things…
Firstly, that the wolf was taking his avoidance as invitation. Causing him to pull his legs up onto the chair to avoid its horrible beady eyed glare. It's rapid panting wasn't cute, nor was its blankly happy stare. He avoided touching it pressing back into the chair only for it to shove its snout in his face Causing him to all but jump out of his skin.
[center [+mediumseagreen "There were a lot of the security guys in action out there. Likelihood is that we're some of the last able bodied people actually willing to deal with the wretched undead face to face...”]]
Atticus was right, there was a mess to clean up, one that was a lot more pressing than the one at the eastern fence. He tried to avoid the thought but he couldn't shake it as his mind put peices together. Horribly, their only other engineer had been caught. The already dwindling security force would have to increase bodies on the wall to stop the wretched from trickling in.
[center [+mediumseagreen "there's no one to do the rounds patrolling. We're going to have to pull doubles for a while…"]]
He spoke quietly to himself in a bitter murmur. Patrolling the area just outside of bookend was a job that usually fell onto the guys that worked with Atticus. But with heavy losses lately. And now the fence… his thought was cut off my the angelic scent of food put before him. Then like a rabid animal starved he didn’t miss a beat before he started eating. Then just like clockwork. The door beside all of them opened. A rough looking worn face bore a red irritated nose and eyes… he'd been crying.. either that or the stress was getting to him. An older guy, wrinkles etched into his face. But the redheaded boy knew this man well. Barnie, the once librarian of bookend now, one of the few people that ran this place stepped in on them. Taking off his hat he spoke in a raspy southern drawl.
[center [+grey "sorry to interrupt the meal, but I have good news and bad news. Which first…?"]]
He watched the tender caretaker, Cassie sit down and cross her legs on the couch beside him glancing over at her momentarily to catch a similar look of concern on her face as well.
[center [+grey "I'll take your silence as a want for the good news first, you all look rather rough. Well, good news is that the eastern wall is secure thanks to Benji and Nero here. No need to worry about being gnawed on in yer sleep…
Bad news is that we need volunteers to do the rounds atleast until we get the wall fixed. And I've asked around. Ellis and Sam are still out from that collapse a few days ago. And you know how Jess and the girls are. That leaves you guys up to bat."]]
His tone almost took to pleading as if to day that if it wasn't them, it'd have to be him. This old, thin man in worn clothes that was better off if he'd had retired 10 years ago. Nero knew his conscious wouldn't let him live it down if the guy got hurt, or worse when going out. Peering back at Atticus, then to Cassie and the Botanist. He let out a sigh before pulling his hood up.
[center [+mediumseagreen "lay it on thicker, least then I'd feel like I wasn't forced.. heh…"]]
A small mumble to ease the tension, his rebellious spirit unfaultering even now. He stood up and stretched.
[center [+mediumseagreen "I'll assume you mean today huh. Alright, I'll get my stuff… Hell, who knows. I might even find some new tools while scavenging…"]]
At Least, that's what he'd told himself to convince his fear to quell. Lately things had been more dangerous out there. More wretched, more things falling apart. Only 5 months ago, they had over 20 scavengers… Now, the only two left were injured… Staring down into his empty bowl... It was good soup he thought. If he died out there, least he had good soup.
Cassie eyed the others, she was unsure on where she fell amongst this mess. She knew fine well death was now a very real daily thing but that didn't mean they needed to be unfeeling. She thought for a while as she ate the soup in silence and listened to the men around her talk. Perhaps that was why she had found such a comfort in this particular group. Each of them had such different perspectives and it gave her a variety, there was no need to have her own ideal or opinion on the subject because she had them all right here in this room.
Cassie glanced up and eyed the group for their reactions to the man entering. A mission was it? Cassie was not exactly equipped to deal with those sort of things but she finished her soup and stood. She needed to join them, if she stopped then she knew what happened and she glanced to Atticus. As much as he was a friend of hers, they were run by Bookend. She looked to the dog and gave him a rub on the head and eyed the others. With any luck they would come across first aid kits or something useful, she could use the supplies. Cassie much preferred a gentler world, this was horrific. It was a horror show, a freak show they were pulled out to perform in and it was harder than she let on. She was a nurse, she was supposed to be strong and she was also surrounded by survivors.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Gimme a second, let me layer up a bit, it's getting colder."]]]
She offered no complaint, no objection and certainly no begrudging remarks. She picked up the bowls in a careful and deliberate manner, setting them away to be washed when she returned, this small nook she made for their meals and their meetings and their evenings of pretending everything was normal was the small thing she had to keep her own. It kept some semblance of normality. She rummaged around and found a jacket, throwing it on, a tattered scarf to match and some old, past use bandages were wrapped around her forearm, to keep bites at bay and add an extra layer. Guns were loud but she wouldn't go unprotected, a sharp knife strapped to her thigh on a thin belt and then a pistol at her hip.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Alright. I figure we're walking."]]]
They had horses and limited vehicles that were rarely used unless they came across a spot with a lot of loot. Fuel was difficult to get unless they headed up to the highway which was a car graveyard but teeming with undead. She moved her hair back and tied the armada black hair up and out of her face with a flimsy piece of stained ribbon. High cheekbones were brushed with colour in the cold air and she eyed the group.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Try not to die out there."]]]
She offered up a lopsided grin but there was a tinge of seriousness to it. Things were getting worse and Cassie made her way to the gate and eyed it. It had been a while since she had been out and it wasn't her strength but what Bookend asked for, Bookend got.
The words came as no surprise from the visitor. It was predictable yet unnerving. He had significant experience being on the front lines however his comrades weren’t as fortunate. It was the duty of every citizen to protect their home but the thought that he would lose one of the only people he had left, hit a nerve.
Guarding wasn’t as simple as producing a weapon or brute strength. It was about turning your back on your own humanity and annihilating anything that tried to interfere.
Atticus stood up from his seat and pushed his bowl towards the middle of the table. Usually, he would take it to the sink but their situation didn’t call for cleaning dishes. He brushed his pants off and stretched out. The meal was more than he could ask for and it would surely get him through the night. To his surprise Cassie picked up his dishes and the others, perhaps trying to sustain a tinge of normalcy. [#cc0000 “It’s alright Barnie, I’m going to lead the lot out. Since we have the numbers, we can take the outer border of the gate.”] The false confidence spewed out of him as panic began to swirl. Scavenging was dangerous, almost too dangerous. Due to the damage to the wall, the mission seemed suicidal. Though, every move he could potentially make would be suicidal. [#cc0000 “I know the paths well, all too well perhaps. So, go rest and take care of yourself.”]
His gaze shifted between the three and then back to Barnie as he nodded and left clearly pleased with the outcome. Atticus rolled his sleeves down and zipped up his jacket tightly following the others and made his way to the door. [#cc0000 “I’d say our chances of dying are 70/30. Don’t fool yourself too much, Cass.”] He would do whatever he could to prevent an attack but if one happened, he would act accordingly.
[i First Law of BookEnd; Eradicate the bitten.]
It was part of the oath you recited in order to become a citizen. It didn’t matter if it was your mother, boyfriend, or long-time pal, it was law.
As they arrived at the outer border of the gate he stopped abruptly and pulled his arms close to his chest for warmth. [#cc0000 “The good news is we have the dog. The bad news is, this one doesn’t seem that threatening.”] He felt the pups fur brush against his leg and take a seat in front of Sam as he finally caught up. In all reality the dog didn’t look like it would hurt a fly, yet Nero was still trembling in fear. Hopefully a zombie wouldn’t give him the same reaction.
He stared out of a murky window to the outer wall of bookend, beyond it the miles of dead city, and shambling corpses. The day barely gave way to any light, dark stormy clouds cut out what should have been daylight, and rain threatened to obscure the slight shuffling of the undead. Though… For him rain seemed to mark a bad sign for the rounds. Shaking the thought off he trailed down the halls to the armory. Leaning into the counter where a young woman sat behind a barred cage.
[center [+teal “One sec! I just need to tie off these-... Hey… Carrot top. I heard about benji…”]]
A young woman with brown hair and blue eyes sat down in front of the somber looking mechanic.
[center [+mediumseagreen "It’s alright… I’ve already done the whole… laying him to rest thing... Drink in his honor like the others this week."]]
[center [+teal “We’re losing too many. But… If not for you and him we’d have lost a lot more. And… I suppose that means your here for the rounds huh… Rough day…”]]
He shifted in place using his body language to confirm here suspicions.
[center [+teal “Well… Here… This was Benji’s… I think he’d want you to have it. Take care of her.”]]
He raised a brow looking through to the other side of the quartermaster’s den wondering just what she’d vanished behind the counter to get. Then, moments later she came back out with the clicks and metal shifting sounds of a gun before setting it in front of him.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/NqecEQE.png]]
His eyes lit up. With everything he’d almost forgotten about Benji’s Kalashnikov. A gun more well taken care of and tuned than most. The engineer took it, and peered down to see the two spare magazines she placed beside it.
[center [+teal “Sorry, only one box of ammo for it, so two’s all you get. Not like finding 7.62 is easy these days. But, if you happen to come across some-][+mediumseagreen " Then you’re the first person I’ll stop by Marry… Thanks… I’ll put it to good use.”]]
[center [+teal “You better, with this and your usual metal bat, thats all i can give you out there. So stay safe, and come back to us.”]]
Her face filled with concern and worry, he imagine the others would come see her soon enough, and so he returned to the stables. A short conversation with some of the people manning the gate and before he knew it he was sitting beside Auburn. His hand reached up to pet the horse's mane before taking another drag of his cigarette. And before he knew it he was following atticus out the northern gate on horseback. Looking out to the endless grey sky and the ruin that once upon a time he called a glowing metropolis they headed out into the city. Rifle strapped to his back he handed Auburn gently. These horses were worth more than their lives. And seeing how the undead saw them as food too, they had to be sharp.
[center [+mediumseagreen “So, Its been a while since most of us have done rounds… We could split into two groups, get this done with quicker so we can be back inside but… With how many have been roaming around lately im not sure thats a good idea… We need to check the Mall, the park, and the theater… Your call Atticus, where do we head first…?”]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/7g2pIUQ.png]
What happened at the gate only happened because a few too many got close to bookend at the same time… Potentially there were many more wandering hordes like that in this ruin of a city...
Cassie trusted Atticus' sense of direction, he was the one who knew the paths and which route to go to avoid the dead hoardes. It didn't make her feel any easier about all of this, these sorts of missions were risks. Everything was a risk nowadays. She bundled towards the gate and eyed Atticus, waiting for the others and she eyed Nero with the horse. Where Nero was worried about the harmless pup they travelled with, she had never learned to ride a horse and she drew in a breath. Splitting up wasn't a good idea and she nodded in agreement.
Seventy thirty Atticus said and she figured it was better than eighty thirty. She hadn't been out of the walls in a long time now and she hated going out. It was always a risk and before she had always managed to wrangle out of it. She thought about the choices. The Mall, the Theatre and the Cinema. They all had good options, now that she was sat and actually thinking. She wouldn't be riding no damn horse either, falling off a horse was almost always a nasty bump or a broken bone and she was rather good at hiding from the dead. She chewed her lip and eyed Atticus as the gates opened up. The immediate area seemed cleared out of walkers at least.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "My vote is the Mall. It'll have a bit of everything, we could swing by the theatre or cinema after those things have provisions too."]]]
Of course she would go for the place most likely to have a pharmacy or first aid boxes everywhere. They needed the medicines and she would need as much as possible. With any luck the pharmacy would have a decent amount, she was desperate for antiseptic and if she could, anything that would fight infection. Bandages and stitching equipment would be good too but the Mall might be a suicide mission. She kept her distance from the horse, wary of it and she would rather take one of the vehicles but she figured that was a waste of precious fuel. The others probably needed their own things, car batteries, food stuffs and such and she knew those mattered but for her personally, she wanted the things that could help her and her patients. She knew that if they became invalid or a drain or resources, they'd be kicked out and Cassie still had her conscience.
The horse snorted and she almost jumped out of her skin, she didn't trust them. They were large and clumsy and she had seen enough people trampled during the outbreak to know that much. She shuddered slightly, there was a chill in the air and she found that she missed hot chocolate the most out of a lot of things when the weather was like this. Winter was always a tough time, the vegetables would stop growing and they would be forced to live more strictly.
Samuel couldn’t help but frown at the odds being laid before him. Until recently, the young professor managed to prove his worth on the inside- keeping everyone fed was generally considered a valuable asset that couldn’t be risked in a world of scarcity like this one, after all. The fact that things were dire enough for them to ask both him and Cassie to head out spoke volumes about how bad things were.
While he could hold his own, he was hardly an effective fighter like Atticus, after all. As for Orion- the dog was large enough, but he hardly had the same killer instincts his wolf ancestors once enjoyed.
[#eb34e8 “Not a bad idea. Besides, my clothes are starting to look rather ragged- schools like these aren’t exactly famous for having good wardrobe options.”]
Back when things were good, he would have brought his students to the mall for a quick coffee, and chatted about the newest developments in the field. Seeing everything reduced to its current state. In a way, it represented better times that would almost certainly never return- so the thought of seeing whatever state of ruin it had degraded to wasn’t exactly appealing. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
Besides, it wasn’t like he was without any resources. On one hand, he had Orion, and his trustworthy Pulaski remained strapped onto his back. Whether it was making firebreaks, digging up soil, or simply chopping wood, the reliable axe seemed to always have a use. Still, he never would have figured that decapitating the undead would have found its way to the list. Just another quirk of these awful days.
And, of course, he had the derringer that he’d saved for himself, in the event that he ever got bitten.
[#eb34e8 If possible, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to head by my place either. It’s nearby, and I have some agricultural supplies that could make things a little more sustainable around here too.”]
Even as he tried his best to keep neutral, Samuel’s body language betrayed his true intentions, however. The BookEnd’s leadership believed that his pennyroyal research was a waste of time, even after he had pointed out that it might give them a workable barrier against the walkers. Much like his previous bosses, it seemed like they weren’t entirely interested in anything that didn’t lead to immediate gain.
Atticus stood with his feet firmly planted on the ground, pondering the direction to take. He wanted to go to the theatre but Cass made a good point and they could hit Sam’s old house along the way. The only issue with the mall was the sheer size of the building. It would take a month to fully search and the danger was evident. Though they had to search all three places regardless so really it didn’t matter where they began.
[#cc0000 “Alright, the mall. We can hit Sam’s place and do a few runs through the building. I advise we stick together too because as you all know, there is strength in numbers.”] His words came out confident, yet he was lacking it immensely. Too many people had died doing the mission they were on and it was hard to remain positive about a suicidal mission regardless of his personal expertise on the field.
Atticus took in a deep breath and tucked his hands into his front pockets, feeling a chill. He had never been a fan of the cold and unfortunately for him, the night would prove to be rather cruel. Hopefully he could snag some thicker garments at the mall in-between bashing skulls in and being respectful of the deceased.
His brow furrowed at the sight of the horse, not noticing the large animal before. It wasn’t the worst idea, yet it wasn’t the best one either. The lads who took the horses out in the past usually didn’t make it home. Though the same could be said for those who did. Atticus took his warmed left hand out of pocket and stuck it out in front of the horse’s muzzle. Carefully he rubbed along its nostrils before pulling away.
[#cc0000 “We should be heading out now, eh? The mall is just a couple kilometers west.”] He paused momentarily trying to think of anything that the others should know. [#cc0000 “Watch where you’re stepping and keep your guard up at all times. The weather isn’t exactly on our side so visibility will be low. I suggest we keep in a line, with Nero taking the rear.” ] It was a solid plan, one that gave them an adequate wall of defense.
He took a step out and slowly started developing a steady pace. He blew upwards trying to scatter the hairs away so they didn’t hinder his vision as he moved on. As they made their way closer to the city, the dead started to appear. They were scattered about, all in different conditions of decomposition. Atticus quickly pulled the collar of his shirt over his nose, having forgotten how putrid the smell was and carefully stepped over an elderly woman with her entrails dangling about.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher He wasn’t too good at riding, yet the parts he was looking for were heavy and the horse gave him the room to bring back bits he needed, receivers, tools, electronic parts. The works. The others might have been on the look out for food, medicine, ammo and the like. All good things in their own right. But not as good as a box of resisters. Or even a new soldering iron. What about batteries? God damn was it hard to come across some standard C-batteries. And he was determined to deconstruct the entire mall bit by bit, piece by piece if it meant getting the chopper at bookend up and running. As they progressed quietly and thankfully uneventfully to likely one of the few entrances unblocked or unbarred that led into the dingy interior of the mall.
[center [+mediumseagreen "I dont think anyones been in this side yet… I’ll teather her up here."]]
He tied off the horse quickly grabbing his canvas bag along with his mask and gun from it’s pack. Peering over at Atticus as he stood staring into the darkened void that was the mall’s entrance. Once upon a time the place was bustling with people. The eerie silence that hung in the air spelled tension as he tapped Atticus on the shoulder. Handing him a flashlight to look into the abyss with.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Don’t stare too long. It’ll stare back… 20 minutes tops, then we meet back here. No exceptions. That was the rule right?”]]
He recited what he was taught during his first scavenging run. Given that they’d be more or less separated by a few rooms, should something happen it was always good to check in after 20 minutes. Any missing heads by that time would at the very least be close enough to have their equipment recovered. Assuming they didn’t make it back due to being bitten. Death wasn’t a looming threat for Nero… It was expected at this point. Though, the boy’s voice didn’t give off his hopeless thoughts. Maybe it was just what happened to Benji earlier in the day that was still getting to him. Taking a flashlight into his hands he followed cassie down. Making sure to keep a constant 10 foot gap between him and the wolf.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Any down here would have been down here for a while. Shamblers… Slow, but quiet. Don’t let the old wretched get you Nero.”]]
He mumbled to himself trying to keep his head on straight. For atticus this sort of work might have been usual, but for him? He was a mechanic. Clearing out an area wasn’t his profession. He fixed things. Ask him 100 questions about aviation and he’d rattle off the intermechanics of a gyroscope or the importance of flaps on a plane for hours. But this…? Even now after all this time, these darkened corridors felt as if he were walking into limbo itself. A land where one is neither dead or alive, yet the dead find home. Waiting for the remaining living to put them out of their wretched misery. He kept calling them that. Wretched. Nomatter how he thought about it. The name worked best due to a lot of reasons. But mostly because of the texture of their skin. Decomposition and whatever it was keeping their bodies warm enough to keep shambling around even now left their skin gooey. So much so that their skin easily slid off if you grabbed one. That and the smell. That horrible smell of death that he couldn’t shake. Even now down here he was forced to dawn his breathing mask to avoid the scent that was only slightly masked and made better by the gasmask. How the others stomached it he had no idea. But… What he did have an idea about what that hydraulic arm holding one of the shop doors open.
[center [+mediumseagreen “That… I could use that… Yeah... I could do something useful with that...”]]
His mind worked like that now. What was once a brain filled with nothing but mathematics and information on how one would fix a vehicle now explored the idea that almost everything was useful in the fight hands. A door piston, a spring just the right size and a locking mechanism could become a gruesome weapon for defending ones self. Or perhaps it could be dismantled and used in defense of bookend. But things like this kept his mind running as he approached it. Unlike the others, he’d spend the most time scavenging this place of parts. Going at everything he could with a screwdriver.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/3FgW8v5.jpg]]
Everything was going well so far. Just a few more tweaks and he’d have collected something he’d been asking someone to obtain in the field for months. Then something stopped him, something fell on the other side of the room… Maybe it was the wind….?
Cassie moved silently behind the lot, keeping close to whoever had a torch as they entered the mall. Something felt off, she couldn't shake it. The mall was quiet, there was dead littered around but this was a hot spot, there ought to be more. She narrowed her eyes and stepped down with Nero. She could hear the dogs breathing and she split from him to investigate the room, finding a first aid kit taped to the wall, health and safety would have been all over that once upon a time. She tore it off and inspected the contents before emptying them into her bag and hearing a thud in front of her. She moved her small flashlight to her lips, unsheathing a hunting knife and moving quietly to the outline of the walker that dared to stalk up on Nero. The decomposition made their bones and flesh squishy and she jabbed the knife through the side of its head. Unlike the others, the smell didn't seem to phase her so much.
She let it flop to the floor, dead properly and eyed Nero but didn't say a word as she closed her bag and slung it over her shoulder before heading up to the main part of the mall and looking around the see the pharmacy in tatters. It looked remarkably untouched for the most part and she slipped into the white floored section. She gazed around, steps quiet and her torch in one hand and the knife in the other. She had survived by herself before BookEnd but she was rusty. She didn't hear any movement and she managed to slide between the rusted shutters, that kept the back completely enclosed. A skeletal form caught her eyes and amongst rags of closing that hung on it, the glint of a key and she snatched it up starting to unlock the cabinets. She started to go through everything, labels and such. Most of it had expired but there were injections, pills and bottles that would help. She didn't really read what was in everything as she started stuffing her bag full to the brim.
She kept a close ear out for everything, her torch set on a countertop and then she realised what was bothering her.
This place was too empty. It ought to be crawling with the dead and she got to her feet, snatching what she could and the most important things first before slinging her bag over her shoulder and eyeing the remainder of things. She stuffed her pockets and moved back towards the main lobby area. She looked around, there was the odd corpse walking around but they seemed slow, aged by decomposition.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "Guys, there should be more than this. I gotta check something out."]]]
She gestured up and moved towards the fire exit that lead up, taking the stairs. She moved up the way and out onto the roof of the building and stepped out. It was colder up here and she moved to the edge, looking out and seeing in the distance a moving herd.
She mumbled to herself, there were hundreds. They moved like one living organism and she narrowed her eyes.
Cassie took a step back from the edge and stared in disbelief, she had never seen anything like that before, it was like on entity, breathing and moving together. Cassie swallowed her nerves and soon found herself sitting, they were slow, she noted, very slow and they were heading in the direction of BookEnd. They needed to pull them off course, it would give them a few days at least to warn everyone and get the Hell out of there.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "We need to get them off course, there has to be power in this place, alarms or something. A speaker system, music... Anything."]]]
What a picture she looked in her dark clothing, pale skin with a smash of dark, old blood painted across it from her kill earlier with her dark hair falling around. It made her look young, stained by the world.
Unlike the others, Samuel wasn’t exactly skilled at the subtle approach to searching through these places. While circumstances had occasionally forced the others outside of BookEnd over the past months, the young professor’s status as the golden goose that could reliably grow sustainable food and medicinal herbs afforded him a certain amount of safety within the building’s walls.
Thanks to this inexperience, the man had managed to rouse something of a clamour as he darted through the place for anything that looked vaguely edible. Every now and again, the metal shopping cart that Sam had commandeered would clang about as it tipped around and crashed into nearly empty shelves. [#eb34e8 “Ah. Nonono. Damnit.”] Frequent interjections interrupted Samuel’s exploration as he cursed the amount of noise he was making, knowing that it would bring him face to face with the walkers.
Thankfully, the walkers’ desiccated state made it possible for the slender man to dispatch them with a few swings of his Pulaski. Skin and sinew both gave way, allowing the axe’s blade to pass through their bodies until it finally struck the hard bone waiting beneath. It wasn’t exactly [I easy,] since swinging the tool about required a fair amount of strength- but it was simple enough, and it made a life-threatening situation only cost some muscular pain by the end of it all.
Even more thankfully still, Cassie’s alarming announcement allowed Samuel to pull himself away from the embarrassing display of fumbling around through the mall’s shelves. There would be time for him to prove that he had little place in a physically demanding world like this later. For now, they needed solutions
Images of the places that he’d searched flickered through Samuel’s mind as he closed his eyes and tried to think of [I something] that could catch the attention of a roaming horde. While various chemical reactions flittered through his minds, malls were hardly the supplier warehouses that his university had called upon before everything went to hell.
[#eb34e8 “C’mon Sam, you’re supposed to be the brainy one…”] he muttered to himself, pacing for a short while, before stopping in place and delivering an overly dramatic snap. He was going about this the wrong way. When the complex solutions weren’t possible, sometimes the simplest answers could provide a suitable substitute.
[#eb34e8 “Hold on, wasn’t it just Independence Day a short while before things went to hell? I’ll bet nobody’s been stupid enough to steal fireworks during an apocalypse like this- and I’ll also bet that those will grab their attention long enough for something bigger to kick in.”] Before giving anyone a chance to answer, the young professor was already recklessly sliding down an escalator rail leading to the department store in the building’s basement.
He knew that this was a stupid idea- especially since the basement had not been searched yet and could contain any number of the living dead. Still, there were lives at stake here, and any amount of delay could cost the folks back at BookEnd their lives.
Atticus gave a nod to Nero and took off in the opposite direction of the group. The 20-minute rule was standard among these types of quests though he didn’t think he would need twenty. It was something he had done countless times and although the fear was always present, he was comfortable enough with his surroundings. If he was quick and efficient in checking his barring’s-everything would be okay. Right?
[i Positivity was foolish.]
The only other thing on his mind was scoring food. Even a little of something would help other’s fill their bellies for the coming winter. Hopefully it would be a packaged lot without a pesky expiration date. He made his way up the deactivated escalator on the east side and stopped on the second floor. He scanned the area for the undead before proceeding and began to make his way down the long-darkened hallway. The first two stores he passed were completely looted, even down to the metal racks that held the overly priced clothing.
Once upon a time he was walking this mall with thousands of others, being as mundane as possible. It was hard not to miss the simpler times. Though they seemed too distant to be anything other than a burning memory of what life once was, it was still a pleasant thought, nonetheless. Stopping for a moment, Atticus turned on his heel, suddenly aware he was being watched. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two of [i them] slowly creeping up. Luckily it wasn’t a hoard of them.
Quickly, he pulled out the Ruger LC9 stashed away in his pocket and aimed it at the one farthest away. He took one shot, nailing him in the head and proceeded to repeat the process with the other. They fell like plague victims, dead as doornails. Satisfied, he kept the loaded gun out and proceeded into a holiday store. Broken ornaments littered the floors and Christmas trees were scattered about, giving off a ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ feeling. He carefully stepped over the glass and made his way to the back of the store seeing a prize. Bags and bags of mixed nuts lined the walls and he almost jumped for joy.
He gathered as many as he could fit into his bag and proceeded to stuff more in the pockets of his trousers. It was quite possibly one of the luckiest finds he had ever had and he couldn’t wait to tell the group and see what they could get. Without wasting any time, he made his way back down the hallway and escalator, gleefully. The 20-minute mark was probably expiring soon and he didn’t want to give off the impression that he had become one of them.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher He almost jumped when Cassie appeared at the other end of the ruined shop and stuck up, dispatching his potential death. If he’d not been listening, who knew how close it would have gotten before he realized. Though, luckily he had others nearby. Screws, Bulbs, hinges and a whole array of scrap metal the likes of which he hadn’t had the privilege of seeing for a while got stuffed into his pack. The things he could do with all of these materials raced through his head. Junk they called it. His room was full of boxes and an assortment of shop tools along the walls. But what they saw as junk he saw differently. Items to disassemble and create useful things. Pipe bombs, Weapon modifications. Plating for doors and leathered clothing. He created from this junk things that could save lives, help keep people breathing and save whoever was left these days. His room looked more like a garage workshop than a room, well, mainly that might have been because he slept in Bookend’s old Garage. Turning back to his business with his junk before unpropping himself from his perched position atop one of the store isles where he sat. Slipping down to eye level with Cassie he saw a strange glow to her face. She was happy about something… Though with the bloodied knife still clutched in her hand and a bright smile on her face she seemed more intimidating than the undead itself before slinking off into the darkness.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZcgiqwN.png?1]]He quickly finished up his work dismantling some of the pieces of the shops piping and spare parts. Thinking the supplies good enough to make at least a few pipebombs or otherwise. His bag was now heavy and as he exited the shop he reached into his bag grabbing his can of safety yellow spray paint from the side of his leg satchel and shaking it slightly as he adjusted his bag to his back, spraying the floor in front of the shop floor with a bright X signifying that the place has been looted for further excursions. The time had almost come up and he headed back only to find cassie jingling around like a Christmas ornament. Her bag was full of pills so with every shift and step it sounded like someone was playing a maraca. He stopped her and questioned the medicine. Her face was even brighter than before like a child with a massive bag of goodies on her back.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Woah, where’d you find all this… Rubbing alcohol, antiseptic, Bandages… Hell… Tylenol!?”]]
He almost cried when he flipped up the back of her back and started going through the meds. With an unbelievable look on his face beneath his mask he held up a bottle of penicillin with the same look as a child at christmas. He’d never dreamed that these sorts of things even still existed in their area, to think that such a stash was beneath their noses in a bombed out shop all this time. Then, as she went to return snatching the bottle from his hand he followed her back, still having room in his own pack and plenty more on the horse. Gesturing towards sam to come with. If they brought all this back then maybe they’d be able to get through the season without so many going out to minor things. The girls helping in the clinic would probably buckle if they had any idea. Running into atticus along the way he signaled for him to come along soon stumbling across the very same shop Cassie did. Though, she didn’t stop. It was as if she saw something worth being on edge for. She always did this the creep, if there was something off she snuck off to get a better look rather than warning the rest of them. He supposed her want to know for sure outweighed the idea of keeping the rest of her party awares. He looked back at Atticus and Sam as they stood all but jaw dropped at the pharmacy before them. Then glancing back at Cassie as she headed up to the roof via the stairwell. Tossing his bag to Atticus he went off to follow her on the chance that she was running into danger. Then stopping just behind her as he laid eyes on the horde in front of them.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Hundreds… No.. Look north, the horde is there too…”]]
There were thousands of them piled in the streets packed like a shambling mass of sardines. The ones closer by were shamblers but with the rest of the buildings blocking the front of the horde there was no telling how close they actually spanned out towards bookend. Looking up he spotted a crane beside the building and signalled for her to give him a boost. Climbing up using the orange metal bards that made up the crane he precariously stepped higher and higher until his viewpoint revealed the streets beyond the buildings in front of them… His heart sank… When did they get so close…?
The excitement of finding medication and supplies was dulled down in the face of impending doom. They were looking at death, a massacre that had claimed so many and Cassie knew that each of those lumbering dead were once someone's friend, someone's relative and someone's lover. They had once had lives just like the survivors had. She dragged a hand down her face and sat down on a protruding element of the roof, staring in disbelief. She looked to Sam when he mentioned independence day and snorted, well, that was a joke right? Sweet irony. He had a point though.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "Fair point. If we can sent some rockets off it might at least distract them."]]]
They would barely have enough time to warn Bookend and she didn't want to die out here playing a hero. She looked to Nero, hours?
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "We need to raise the alarm at Bookend, get them to evacuate. We can't take on a herd like that."]]]
Cassie wasn't much of a thinker, she wasn't a problem solver, she was an academic with little experience out in the wilderness like this. She was a nurse, a doctor at best and she had rarely left the sanctuary and safety of Bookend. Evacuating a bunch of survivors with an entire herd weighing down on them would be no small thing and she supposed she was grateful Bookend only took in the strong and able right then. There wouldn't be any kids to worry about, no elderly shuffling along and no sick to protect. It went against every fibre of her being given that she had always wanted to take care of those groups but this wasn't some nifty little care home or hospital. This was life and death and she clenched her jaw before looking away from the mass of decaying bodies.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "We need to get Atticus, head back together."]]]
Cassie was on her feet, staying still made her impatient and on edge, anxious to a point and she needed to get moving. They were no good stuck sitting around like this. She moved down towards the lobby of the mall and spotted Atticus, he seemed giddy over something and she raised an eyebrow.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "We gotta go. Mark this on the maps, there's a whole pharmacy basically untouched, I got as much as I could carry but there's a herd, Atticus and it's headed straight for Bookend. We need to warn them before-"]]]
She didn't want to say what everyone was thinking.
Bookend would be torn apart by a hoard like that, for every ten they managed to put down, twenty more would take their place and it was a devastating feeling. It seemed like a while since there had been any real sense of danger like that. There were accidents and deaths every other day but not an impending threat like that. They would need to take what they could carry and haul ass back towards the haven if they were to have any real shot of getting out alive.
The living were no the minority and the earth belonged to the dead.
For all that the situation was a dire one, Samuel couldn’t help but feel exhilarated in the face of the imminent disaster the zombies represented. All this time that he had spent locked up had left the young professor a little more stir crazy with each passing day. Despite how dire things were, anything was better than the forced confinement that BookEnd had represented.
In a way, it was almost ironic that he was committing this energy to the same people who had practically made him into their prisoner. Still, Sam was no monster, and he knew that thousands of lives were at stake with this, so he had best do it well. Frenzied swings of the Pulaski quickly dispatched the few walkers that managed to find their way into the botanist’s path, yet many more were also the source of close calls. Amidst the scholar’s rush, there was no time to be especially careful, after all.
Endless ridiculous brand names flashed past Samuel’s eyes as he tossed each of the biggest fireworks that he could find into the shopping basket that he had picked up at the entrance. Pyrocumulous’ cloud buster, fight fire with fire, waking up the gators, or a massive tube that simply read ‘size matters’- all of them were quickly grabbed to make a collection of Americana that would set the night sky ablaze.
Back before the world had gone to hell, he had hated these things. The hicks that called themselves his neighbours would set things just like these off at unholy hours of the night, disturbing his work- or worse yet, his sleep. There was a certain poetry in the fact that they would go from a nuisance to a life-saving resource in this instance.
With the explosives in hand, Samuel’s mad dash resumed once more- this time towards the rooftop, where he deployed each of the oversized fireworks in several batches. Within minutes, the setup was ready,
The resulting show could only be described as dazzling. Vivid red, white and blue colours painted the sky. They each came in bursts, spaced apart strategically to draw out the show for as long as possible, and provide fewer opportunities for the horde to miss the vibrant display. And yet, as with all things, it had to come to an end- heralded by the detonation of a payload simply labeled as “the overcompensator.”
The impressive display was almost enough to make Samuel’s jaw drop, as the sky burned with countless colours and lights. True to its name, the final batch had certainly managed to make something of a display, with the shockwaves from their detonation being strong enough to echo through the professor’s whole body.
[#eb34e8 “God bless the United States of America!”] he whooped, working himself up into a frenzy of faux-patriotism as adrenaline brought him far past the point of making intelligent decisions.
However the adrenaline wore off quickly enough as an unsettling thought occurred to him. The pyrotechnics would likely attract some of the horde’s attention, and by extension, likely saved many lives- but by that same token, that horde was likely heading in this direction as they spoke.
[#eb34e8 “Well damn. Where does that leave us?”] In truth, he had no answer for that question.
He felt like a child, knowing he had done better than the others in his findings. The sound of the nuts rattling around in his many pockets only added to the growing excitement as he was approached by Nero and Sam. His perception of being the winner didn’t last long when he finally noticed the pharmacy in front of them. The hoard of nuts could never compare to the medical supplies that somehow still existed. How had they never realized that this was here? Surely someone would have known that such a mass of life saving materials existed this close to BookEnd.
He was startled as Nero’s bag came at him and he caught it awkwardly. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Cass running towards the stairwell at full force and before he could question Nero, he was gone too. Sighing lightly, he hoisted the bag over his shoulder and began to look around the pharmacy, finding himself alone once more. Sam must have followed the two of them out of curiosity. Though it was hard to imagine that they found something more important than the pharmacy he was standing in.
As the minutes passed, he tried to stuff some medicine in Nero’s bag but it was already bulging out the sides with trash. He wanted to dump it out but as they say, ‘[i One man’s trash Is another man’s treasure’.] They needed to come back and completely loot the place when they had more people to carry things. That and they could grab more food for the upcoming winter months and ensure they don’t lose any of the strong to starvation.
Realizing that he couldn’t get anything else, he swiftly turned on his heel and exited out towards the lobby. As he took a left, he could see Cassie running towards him with a look of utter fear on her face. [#003366 “He—”] Before he could even get a single word in, the news hit him like a brick. It sent a wave of fear over him as he thought about all the people they would lose. Depending on the size of the herd…the outcome could be absolutely dire. [#003366 “How many did you see? Show me! How long do we have?”] The questions came out like vomit, unable to form anything else. The all too good to be true sunshine was finally being beaten out by the storm.
Hastily he followed Cass back into the store and up the steps that led to the roof with the others. The light was almost blinding as the firework exploded in the night sky. He could feel his body ring from the sheer force of impact. Then after the dramatics, he saw the hoard. The number was too high to count and his worst fear was confirmed. [i Death was imminent.]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher His black boots hit the tarmac just as atticus spoke. No words came from the boy as he cleared his mind. He focused on what he saw, then, on what was next. Through the door and down the stairs as the gigantic booms beat through his chest as they came out. No doubt the pyrotechnics could be seen from bookend. But with the Botanist’s actions, they were more in danger now than they had been the entire time. Echoes of the wretched came up the stairs as they flooded into the store trying to be closer to the sound of ringing explosion than they’d ever been. He could hear the steps of Atticus and the others behind him as he came to the balcony that overlooked the ground floor.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/KFmw40S.jpg?1]]
[center [+mediumseagreen “Well… Your diversion plan worked… Should divert enough of them that evacuating will be a lot less hectic… Only problem now is that we have to get through this...”]]
They were packed into the mall floor like sardines. A mass of limbs grabbing, ripping and tearing anything that moved. Reaching over he shouldered his bag. The look in his eyes affirmed that they’d have to fight their way out of the mall if they even wanted a chance to warn bookend. His day just kept getting better and better. Just then something off to his left crashed to the floor. An aisle or some metal scrap that buckled under the weight of the undead. They came pouring out of the clothing shop just 15 feet away. Immediately He was forced to run as the undead came rushing at them full sprint. The more agile ones must’ve been agitated by the fireworks and now no less than a dozen sprinters had made their way up to the second floor.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Christ they’re fast!”]]
Even more made their way up the escalators as he slipped his mask on and started firing. He aimed for the legs just barely clearing a path for him to get through as the others were cut off from his sides. There were so many, diving through windows and crawling through the gaps in the walls to try to get to the source of the noise. He pushed through one foot after the other as more silenced rounds cut down the wretched in front of him. By the time he got to the other side of the mall the stairs were completely covered with the undead. Looking around for some answer to their immediate problem of not being able to even get to the first floor he used his eyes. There in the center of the plaza was a broken wire that hung down from a hole in the roof. They could use it to swing to the other side where the stairs were free. Shooting at a couple trying to make their way to cassie he pointed out the wire and climbed onto the bannister that overlooked the lower floor. Grabbing it and holding on for dear life as he swung to the other side. Rejoicing in the idea that the thing held and didn’t plunge him into a sea of the undead below.
Quickly he tossed it back to the other side before bolting over to the free staircase and batting away any shamblers that came their way. The door wasn’t too far now. And due to their own commotion it was relatively clear… Relatively...
Cassie obliged Atticus and wondered why he sounded like a rattling ball of pills until she saw some of the nut packets peeking out of his pocket. He had really found a grail worth of food and nuts were high energy so everyone would love that. They wouldn't get a chance to celebrate though as she gazed at the swarm which were now alerted by the fireworks show Samuel had put on. It was still the best simply she had seen to this day and she eyed the swarm.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Let's go."]]]
She said as she bolted down and almost ran into Nero who was clearing a path. She drew her hunting knife, her pistol didn't have a silncer and she didn't want to rile up this crowd more. She was almost knocked off guard by a gruesome undead, ducking and sidestepping just in time, clasping the hunting knife to ram into its knee and she avoided the teeth as it fell. She grabbed the rope Nero had offered, quick thinking on his behalf and she cast him a wink. She figured if they died at least they would go out in style as she hauled herself with the rope.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Fucking A, we need to get outta here."]]]
The oath out was somewhat clear barely clear but enough she was sure their group could move through with some effort. It was better than trying to escape using any of the shop exits. It was like a tidal wave of gore and festering flesh, it seemed endless and Cassie knew they needed to haul ass to get out of here. They had supplies that were needed and they had to warn BookEnd about it all, they were running on borrowed time and if they didn't get a move on then more people would die.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "Hope you boys brought your running shoes."]]]
Cassie called over the sounds of silenced shots, groaning dead and tearing flesh. They had to stick together and make a break for it. Samuel had done a great job with the fireworks and Cassie skidded to a halt outside. Nero's trusty steed was being eaten alive, whinnying pathetically for help and Cassie narrowed her eyes and looked away. The poor beast hadn't even been granted a merciful death. She looked to Nero, hopefully he wasn't bonded with the creature and they couldn't help it, it was a waste of ammunition to even out the poor thing out of its misery.
Cassie was forced out of her thoughts as the dead streaked after them, most were still infatuated with the explosions and bright rockets. Cassie lunged and jutted a knife into the temple of one of the dead. Black, sludge like blood trickled out and she pulled the blade out with a sickening sound. She grimaced some and qiped her hand on her torn up jeans. They didn't have long but hopefully the Mall would keep them busy, four people did not an army make. Cassie was out of breath, she really did need to get out a lot more. She fixed her shirt and looked over to the others, making sure none of them had been bitten.
Sure, she could help with injuries but not out in the field like this and not if they had been bitten. A bullet would be kinder and Cassie cared about these people, she didn't want to have to explore that option. Cassie wiped off the sticky blade on the damp grass. She stood and looked at the Mall which was now underneath a gyrating mass of animated dead. The diversion wouldn't hold them for long and they would start their march back towards BookEnd soon enough and Cassie wanted to be back before the hoard started moving again. The more time they had to warn and evacuate, the more lives they saved.
He thought he was looking at an army, [i an army of the undead.] He had seen crowds of the damned before, but not like this. This was an astronomical amount that came with an intended purpose, [i to infect.] Atticus pulled out the second Ruger LC9 from the strap on his waist and began to walk into the shit show. As the first wave came at them it seemed tolerable, but as he looked up at the escalators, that thought was presumptuous at best. He shot his way through the crowd, keeping an eye out for an exit. He also needed to make sure he kept a keen eye on Nero, Cass, and Sam. If one of them were to get lost in the crowd, that would be it.
With the stairs being the only exit readily available to them, he waited for Samuel to cross before grabbing onto the wire himself. As he flew over the crowds of zombie’s, the soles of his shoes hit several, decapitating a few. With a hard land, he hurried down the staircase in search of the first floor. They had to get to BookEnd as soon as possible. The entire village’s lives were at stake. Even if everyone was able-bodied, the surprise attack and the sheer volume of numbers would work against them and the outcome would be futile.
As he ran, he could hear them groan as they followed. They weren’t the brightest creatures though they seemed to be determined at their mission. He fired a few shots behind him, trying to keep the numbers down as they approached the outside, but it was no use. Hordes of them surrounded the outside, noses pressed to the sky in search of the [i pretty light show.] Their mouths were gaped open in awe, barely attached to the face. He would defiantly have to thank Sam later for keeping the distractions high.
He fired quick at anything in his path, littering the browning grass with flesh and sludge. Just as fast as he fired, he reloaded, thriving in the glory. As the minutes passed, he started stepping over the dead, staying on the path they cleared. Luckily, they could outrun the undead, and soon they put a little distance in between. BookEnd was a couple hours walk, less if they hustled.
Finally with a chance to catch his breath, he checked behind them once more to make sure they had an applicable mount of space in-between and strapped one of the Ruger’s back to his waist, breathing heavily. [#006600 “Everyone still human, right?”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher Crashing and clanging of metal scrap hitting the floor pulled his attention as they were forced out to the streets. Staggering out himself he looked back out into the mall entrance as sam came bolting out his wolf proceeding him. Nero spotted the metal gate that would lock off the entrence and jumped to grab it slamming it down as the wretched he'd just reached him. Their grabbing hands pushing through the gate made him all but fall backwards onto his ass. He looked up to see the others dispatching the wretched that shambled ever closer to the magnificent light show that had just ended. Turning the redheaded engineer spotted the stable horse he took out with intent to keep the thing alive. He crouched pressing his knees to his chest as he watched it writhe on the floor, its entrails gored onto the street side. A tinge of guilt riding through his head before he gathered his wits and euthinized the horse using a tool given to him. It was quick, clean and terrifying enough as he retracted the spike that pierced it’s skull. He wondered what it’d do to a person.
[Center [+purple “keep it together.”]]
Atticus shot him a look as his words cut through nero’s unstable mind. He was right, again. Looking out to the rest of the parking lot that was littered with debris and shambling wretched he spotted a path of collapsed highway that fell into an apartment building and pointed it out. Getting cassie’s attention to it as they kept their distance from the shamblers heading towards the mall.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Street’s too littered to go back the way we came to bookend. But that building there… The fourth floor should give us a path up to the highway above… Im sure there’s still some hanging about in their cars up there but...”]] He looked below the highway to the mass of undead that were littering the alleys, streets and side paths entirely. [+mediumseagreen “ ...But even if we got lucky below, there’s too many, we’d run out of energy and ammo trying to clear them all just to get back to south street. Assuming none of us get bit in the process…”]
There was frustration in his voice as he pulled his goggles down and hid his face behind his mask. This situation was so fucked. He kept running numbers, getting to bookend and warning them, even with their little distraction still wouldn’t do very much. That horde was massive. Bigger than he’d ever seen. And they didn’t have what they needed to stop it at bookend. By all accounts the place should be overrun by the horde… Which meant even if they evacuated everyone out, the place was gone… It spiked his mind to no end with anxiety… But he wouldn’t show that to the others.. Not if he could help it. Those sorts of things got people killed when they were unsure of those around them. And right now as atticus and cassie peered back at him he could see it in their eyes. They needed to be able to count on him to get through this alive. With a long sigh beneath his mask he closed his eyes and focused. Then he began to walk. One boot after another. No time to worry about much else.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Lets break into that place, take it slow and get up to the third floor. Then the overpass should get us over that horde…”]]
Once there had been an opportunity to grieve for the state of the world, but it had long since past since the march of survival had taken over. Cassie looked to the others and made sure they were alright. No one was bleeding, that was a good sign and none of them were acting cagey either. She eyed their sleeves, usually it was the arms or shoulders the undead managed to chomp down on. She followed the directions to the fourth floor and eyed it over. She was a medic, not an athlete but it was that or stay on the streets and perish in the worst way possible. She drew in a breath and looked to Sam and Atticus, she would go last, at least that way no one slowing down to match her pace. The slow were dead meat.
[+blue[Patrick+Hand[center "Alright, let's get going."]]]
Yes, everyone was still human but she did wonder sometimes what they were becoming. They turned away the sick, the feeble and the too young at their gates. They were no better than executioners at that point. Cassie brought up the rear, thankfully not feeling the ache of clambering up too much and she latched onto Atticus to pull herself up the rest of the way. Her eyes turned downward towards the street to see it gyrating with the dead below. There was no way through the street, that was for sure. Cassie fixed her hair back from her face and set her ghosted gaze over the scene. Nothing would survive down there and she cringed, if there had been huddled families or survivors, they were dead right then.
As if to punctuate her thought, there was an unholy screaming heard from the destroyed bistro over the road, a pocket of survivors discovered and no doubt in a panic. Cassie paused where she was, they were safe, the hoard had its attention elsewhere as she watched a young man, no doubt good looking in his prime staggered out. He was trying to shove the undead away from him but he was already bitten, chewed on by decaying teeth. Cassie paused, watching from the crumbling window as he fought valiantly until his screams were no more. A bullet to the brain would have been kinder, but it would have alerted the crowd below to them and the mans body vanished under the gnashing teeth that tore his flesh apart.
He would reanimate in eighteen seconds, she had counted it in those she had seen die before. It didn't matter whether they were bitten or not, every single one of them was infected with this pathogen and when they finally died, they would have eighteen seconds before they became one of those things.
Cassie knew that fate would befall them all, those back at BookEnd, those here in this crumbling building. Even if they did some how make it to a ripe old age, it wouldn't go away. Cassie snapped out of it as the man reanimated, crawling to become one with the new army and she looked to the others before clearing her throat and pressing on. This was a warzone and those who were left behind, stayed behind. There was no honourable code to go back and have each others back, it was a dog eat dog world.
Samuel’s breath burned in his lungs as he continued on, finding himself quite unprepared for something like this. Supply runs were supposed to be tame, with a risk of slight walker activity. This, on the other hand, was something else entirely. Even so, he forced strength into his limbs to keep up the pace- pushing on despite the burn he had no doubt that he would be feeling tomorrow.
Besides, the poor lot down the road spelled out what his fate would be all too well. Better aching than a torn up mass of shambling flesh. With a grim nod, Samuel darted up to the building Nero had pointed to, testing the door before letting out a sigh of disappointment. Of course it was locked. This was downtown, after all, and not even the apocalypse would be able to disable the myriad systems created by the wealthy to keep out society’s undesirables.
[#eb34e8 “Well, when in doubt, knock to see if anyone’s home.”] Samuel joked, a grim smile passing over his expression as he hefted his trusty axe in his hand. With a grunt of exertion, the Pulaski was sent through the door’s fake glass, sending errant shards flying from the impact. For a brief moment, the professor offered the others a proud smile, glad that he could offer some sort of aid to this seemingly doomed escape effort.
However, his joy was short lived. Moments later, a security alarm started to fill the streets with blaring sound, announcing the presence of a delectable banquet for any nearby undead. It seemed that this building’s security system was tied to a backup power source of some kind, and had managed to survive for this long- even if the rest of the building had not.
[#eb34e8 “In truth, I wish I had thought that one through a little further. Time to run?”] he volunteered, reaching through the broken glass to pull the door open from the inside- all before scrambling forward to find a way up. Since there didn’t seem to be any power in here, elevator service was out of the question. They’d have to find a staircase, somewhere among these winding halls.
Frustration started to build as the hopelessness of the situation started to truly dawn upon him. However, a pair of dark eyes bore into him, admonishing the botanist for even daring to take a moment to feel sorry for himself. As ever, it seemed that Orion had just as much human sense as his owner- though the professor would never admit to as much.
[#eb34e8 “Yeah, yeah, I know. This one's my fault, so it's time to get working, right boy?”]
It seemed like an impossible task as he followed the line to the door. Any sort of plan would be surely destroyed due to the lack of planning. Everything they did from this point out, needed to be based on instinct alone. He peered ahead at the others, feeling the presence of Cass behind him, and kept on noticing a slight distraction among the undead. They weren’t coming for them momentarily; their focus on something easier.
[i Better him than us…]
The thought seemed heartless yet it was anything but. The small gathering of the living had no chance in the face of the army that was approaching, and neither did BookEnd. He swallowed hard trying to shove the lingering fact that they would never reach their home in time. The mission they were embarking on for supplies should have been suicidal not the other way around. The corner of his eye caught Cass, counting down. He wasn’t sure the exact number of seconds that it took to change but he knew it was instantaneous. Which was why there was no point in trying to save anyone who got bitten. It was better to blow off their brains so they wouldn’t suffer an afterlife of cannibalism.
As the world began to spin, Atticus didn’t stop until they reached the back of the door, they needed for the fourth floor. Before he could brainstorm a way in, the pleasant surprise of the professor with an axe filed his vision. He followed quickly, feeling his way through the pitch-black darkness. Why didn’t he pack a flashlight? Surely the engineer could create light. He let his fingers find a wall, making sure he could still hear the rapid breathing of the other’s. [#ff0000 “Nero? Do you have a light?”]
Even if he didn’t, he would keep looking for the staircase. Perhaps it was behind a door and he needed to look for a knob instead of an opening? He pondered momentarily before a metal cool substance touched him. It was the elevator and it was indeed not able to function without the electricity. He pressed the buttons anyway in the hopes that they would light up and kept on when they remained dim.
Atticus turned his body towards the wall and began to feel all around for knobs. If they didn’t move quickly the undead would follow them through the open door. He figured they had about three minutes to locate the staircase or they would be trapped in a war zone.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher And they started up, Nero following behind them keeping tabs on any stragglers that wandered too close behind them. Well, that was until the shrieking crash of glass shattered his attention and made him jump. That botanist… Jolly as a nutcracker with that axe in his hand. Thankfully it hadn’t caught any errant attention from the undead. Well… That was until they’d gotten up the stairs and the alarms started blaring. His eyes shot down the staircase to where the noise was coming from… The alarm system…?! His eyes shot back over to see Sam standing there talking to the wolf lamenting his choices. The alarms blaring as Nero approached him aggressively. Shunting him into a nearby wall using his forearm to the botanist’s chest, holding him pinned against the wall. Anger in his eyes he uttered a stern and fed-up tone.
[center [+mediumseagreen “You…! With the noise! Your going to get us killed! We wont even make it back like this!”]
He rarely spoke out against others actions, but this wasn’t the sort of thing that could be taken lightly, the fireworks had called a horde in the hundreds to break off. And now those very same were being led like moths to flame over the alarm now blaring from the apartments. The sound of growling beside him pulled his aggression away from the botanist and to the black dog that threatened to bite him if he continued his tirade. He stared at the wolf as it stared at him, gun hanging losely from his hand. He shot one more sideways glance at Sam before storming over to the wrecked staircase that led back down. Hitting a knee and quickly digging out a pack of glowsticks that once snapped glowed in vibrant blues and greens, tossing them to the others to clip onto their gear, and his own flashlight to Atticus. The place was dark and in a minute or less that alarm meant it would be swarming. Meaning he didn’t have much time to act.
Snagging his bag up and bolting down the stairs to the first floor where he spotted the alarm system before they’d ascended and used the butt of his AK to break its front panel open. Pulling a knife he held his blue glowstick up to the panel and grumbled under his breath.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Damn thing must’ve been delayed from the shot power…”]]
Cutting the wires feeding it. With one swift snip the alarms cut as if they'd not been triggered in the first place, quickly replaced with groans and shuffling from wretched disturbed from their long unrestful haze. Before he could even put the knife away his eyes widened to the sound of crashing at the front entrance. Wretched undead, fast ones came slamming at the door full speed nearly breaking it the rest of the way as they clambered through the broken glass and into the room with him. He opted for the smarter option and bolted back up the steps, no time to observe the broken elevator that had now started up due to the backup generators in the place somehow coming to life, or what Cassie was watching with a horrible look from the fourth story hallway windows. Out of breath he barely pulled himself up the fourth flight before his attention was drawn blow him. Sprinters… Barely kicking himself up to turn and gun them down, splattering decayed graymatter against the stairwell walls his eyes opened as at first there were two, then in almost the blink of an eye, there were Ten. And they were close, way too close standing only several feet away he was barely given time to react. In this cramped apartment building where corners were unchecked, the place wasn’t cleared and they didn’t know the way out… This was bad… Really, really bad…
Cassie was shunted from he thoughts by the sound of a blaring alarm. She looked wildly around for the source of the God forsaken racket. Before she could speak, hands over her ears because that thing was loud and if she felt the need to shy away from it then that meant that the dead below wanted to move right towards it. She looked to Atticus, right as Nero pinned Sam. She didn't stop him, she had learned very quickly not to get involved with men when their tempers were flared like that.
She offered up a sort of half smile that spelled out 'We are going to die horribly in about twenty minutes'. Part of her wanted to follow Nero down, maybe cover him in someway but it would only be another body down if it went awfully. She waited, foot tapping and unable to rest properly. She could hear her heart pulsing blood around as the snarls of the dead below seemed to grow louder. Then the alarm switched off and her ears stopped ringing as she watched Nero pile upstairs. Nero looked like a wild bird and she eyed him over, then realised what had him in such a state.
[+blue[Patrick+Hand[center "Fuck, time to go. Keep moving, you hear me? Do not stop moving for anything or anyone."]]]
She looked upwards towards the roof system and knew this was a terrible idea. One slip, one small fumble and you'd be sure to find yourself on the streets, being chewed up. Cass fixed her bag in place and made sure it was secure because what was inside it, was worth more than her life. They needed to book it and Cassie hauled herself up, turning briefly to see the sprinters, the fastest of the undead masses and she knew their only option was to run and hope the lumbering, brain dead things wouldn't have capacity to weave and bob like they did. Wishful thinking.
Cass hauled herself onto the roof and eyed the first gap, heart hammering in her chest. She backed up a little and ran at full pelt, barely making it as she landed hard on her knees which were skinned almost completely. She turned to look at the others, if she could make it then they could as well, she had the shortest legs amongst them so they had no excuse. Cass didn't bring to attention the sprinters moving behind them, panic would only cause mistakes and everyone was likely freaked out enough already.
[+blue[Patrick+Hand[center "Come on boys, don't let the girl show you up, let's move, I've got your back."]]]
Frankly, she could do with a better shot up here with her as she levelled the pistol she had. She wasn't great, not in the slightest, a couple shots went wide and she figured the head was a hard bargain to drive. She instead went for the knees, if she could incapacitate them then maybe it would buy some time. Two were downed, crawling instead, gnashing their teeth and grinding them in frustration as they carried on their task to try and devour the rest of her party. Cass found herself quiet as she focused on her breathing, numerous people had taught her to shoot and fight, they had all said the same thing.
In truth, Samuel had no idea how to handle Nero’s aggression. He knew the man was right, but the man also couldn’t help but resent him a little, nonetheless. He wasn’t a talented soldier or stealth expert. He was a cultivator, a scientist- and one that had been forced into this situation by unfortunate circumstance. For a short moment, anger welled up as a hot mist within him, making him tense up his form and tighten his grip on his axe.
Even for an innocent scholar, the door to becoming akin to an animal was so close. He was cornered, threatened, and holding the means to give life to his fight or flight reflexes. Hell, if the light growl from Orion’s growl was any indication, his canine companion was almost ready to welcome that change in. However, all that passed away as a deep breath escaped his lips, and his shoulders sank- only to be replaced with the usual smile he presented to the world.
[#eb34e8 “You’re right, of course. To business, then.”]
Afraid to say anything else, lest he put his foot in his mouth once more, the scientist made his way upstairs with the rest of the group, only to feel his heart sink as he saw the approaching mass. This was death in its purest form, uncaring and unrelenting- ready to tear the whole group of them limb from limb. It was almost breathtaking- if not for the fact that the horde’s main goal was to make them into breakfast.
Taking a moment, the scientist let out a deep breath. If he was to truly contribute, he had to do something that made use of his own talents. He wasn’t like the rest of them, nor did he have any desire to be like them. So, with that in mind, he had to get creative. With the fireworks gone, his arsenal of pyrotechnics was gone. What remained, then?
The botanist practically beamed as he reached into his oversized pack, withdrawing a large bottle that he had looted during their foray into the mall.
Sprytus Vodka- with an ABV of 95%, it was the strongest commercially-available spirit in the world. Perfect for lab settings- and given the circumstances in front of them, equally suitable for the situation before them. After pouring half the lovely brew onto the ground in front of the roof’s entrance, the botanist used his axe to tear a significant rag from his lab coat and hurriedly shove it into the bottle.
[#eb34e8 “It’s a shame I didn’t find any gas cans in the store to mix with the alcohol- but would anyone happen to have a light?”] he asked, placing the bottle on the ground before hefting his trusty Pulaski and turning to face the crowd before them. Even if he couldn’t finish the improvised weapon, he would do his part to buy enough time for someone who did.
Besides, Cassie’s work was making his own job easier. With their legs disabled, the wicked axe was easily able to find its way into the heads of those who fell. All the while, Orion’s massive form slammed into those that ran his master’s way- sending even more of them teetering onto the ground.
In a way, the hound had unintentionally found a countermeasure for the Sprinters. While they were fast- it came at the cost of a lightweight frame and a lack of control. For a creature as low to the ground as Orion, this made them into the ideal target. He would always be perfectly positioned to intercept their charges, all while remaining outside the range of their bite.
Still, it seemed that the flow of the undead wasn’t about to stop anytime soon. They’d have to do something soon if they wanted to live.
Atticus caught the flashlight, thankful that they could now see. It would have been a death sentence for all of them if they didn’t. He knew how grave their situation was but couldn’t help but fall short of lending a hand. Taking a deep breath, he looked around the apartment while Nero headed down the stairs. He figured they had about two minutes before the hoard came. Unless of course the crowd contained some [i special] ones. (The unusual jock-esque type that seemed more viscous because of the rarity. ) Then, they needed to book it to the roof and run.
The two minutes he had predicted was cut short by one minute and fifty-five seconds. All he could see was Nero flying up the staircase with at least a dozen or more following and all he could hear was the intense noise blaring from the newly powered generator. Trying to get a good count was pointless as they doubled nearly every time he blinked. Panicked he followed Cass up to the roof, hoisting himself up. Luckily, he hadn’t a fear of heights, just being [i eaten.] Anything was better than becoming one of them.
As his feet flew, they took him over the gap, barely paying attention to the size of it. The adrenaline was feasting on his bones making the run effortless. With a turn, he stopped next to Sam and Orion, facing the oncoming hoard as they climbed through the entrance. He fired six rounds, knowing his ammunition was no match for the advancing traffic. Five fell back through the hole, and one landing over the edge of the roof. Fortunately, Orion was doing his part in taking out the speed racers. Unfortunately, the numbers had multiplied so much that their only option was, running.
[#800000 “Nero might kill us both if this doesn’t work, but I’m feeling your insanity right now, Sam.”] He had known the Botanist quite some time, and never had a lot of respect for his knowledge and skills. They seemed almost pointless to have in the world they were living. Though, on top of the roof, surrounded by the undead, his brain was more than valuable. He reached into his inner coat pocket and took out a book of matches, tossing them over to his friend.
With wide eyes he focused back on the mission, firing on at the approaching crowd, not even sure what body part he was aiming for. He just wanted them down, as Cass was trying to achieve. There had to be a reason for the onset, he knew it wasn’t normal. Even with the invasions, the numbers were never this sizable. Was the apocalypse really nearing an end?
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher Close quarters spelled death for even those who were wholefully prepared for it, let alone Nero’s risky move of hustling backwards on the ground trying to kick himself up to his feet again as the others covered him. He used his time to shoot back on full auto emptying the last of his magazine before following everyone else out. He was cut off from the path out onto the overpass. Before they knew it they’d been routed towards the roof barely climbing onto it as the undead lashed and got Nero’s leg leaving it bleeding as he pulled himself up and onto the roof where he could see another path onto the overpass not far off. All at once as the wretched clawed their ways out only to tumble below he hastily ripped off the straps that held his leg pouch on to check his wound.
[center [+mediumseagreen “A scratch… It’s just a scratch…”]]
He called out ripping his gasmask off to catch some panicked breath letting it hang beside his face as his heartrate calmed itself down. The scratch he was referring to was infact one hell of a gash in his leg that despite the pressure he held to it bled profusely. [center [pic https://i.imgur.com/vhaInZe.jpg]]
Looking over to the mall he raised a brow as he noticed the fire that raged on from the insides of the place. Smoke rising from it as well as it took to a flame. Cassie eyed him down with disbelief as she immediately and silently came to tend to his wounds. For a moment he hesitated to let go of the wound when she asked. What if he was just wearing rose colored goggles? What if she saw a bite where he saw a scratch and immediately put a bullet in him… With a deep breath he let go to let her take a look at him. Putting his back to the roof floor and looking up to the blue skies that now began to dim as the sun descended from it’s perch in the sky. For a moment he was brought back to his childhood, laying in the grass and looking up at the very same sky, watching the glouds as the sun descended. It all seemed imaginary now. A world like that couldn’t ever exist… No, It never did he thought. The hell he was in now was the only real thing that influenced his life. Not the sunny green grass on the days off of school. Not the look on his mothers face when she came to get him from his friends house or the smell of her cooking. Those things were nothing but sweet dreams that only came to him ont he luckiest of nights.
Cassie scoffed at him, her hands covered in blood as she pulled out her medical equipment. He didn’t feel it at first then as the adrenaline began to wear off it began to dawn on him… He should find something to bite on… Her bedside manner was terrible. That determined look on her face. They way her eyes looked so intensely at wounds as a million and one procedures ran through her mind. He’d seen it before from her as she looked over the dead and the dying.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Well… I’m not hearing any barrels being pulled so… I’m okay… Right…?”]]
[+blue[Patrick+hand[center "God damn it, get over here."]]]
Cassie's call amongst the chaos was likely lost to the void of gnashing teeth and lashing limbs. It was difficult to focus on each individual, more determined to keep a sharp eye for any injuries from her vantage point. She eyed Sam and Atticus, they seemed to be alright besides exhausted and she glanced to see Nero on the floor, gazing at the sky like he was in some sort of holiday resort. Silently, she approached and spotted the blood from his leg seeping out over his pants. She eyed the site and ignored him for a few moments, homing in on the injury.
It wasn't a bite, she had seen enough bites and put enough people out of their misery to know that much. Still, it wasn't a guarantee he wouldn't die, infection was rife in these times and he could very well pass out if she didn't fix that injury. They had been out too long and they needed to move. Nero would slow them no doubt but such was the way, she wasn't about to leave a friend behind. [center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Nero, hey! Listen to me. You're not bitten, but you're going to wish you were in a second."]]]
Cassie rummaged and found a makeshift splint, holding it to his lips. He was experienced to know he had to bite down on it. She rummaged in the makeshift first-aid kit she had brought with her from Bookend. She found some tattered bandages but they would have to do for now. [centre[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Think happy thoughts, okay? I can stitch this when we're back but right now we need you on your feet. On three, alright?"]][
Cassie was nothing but a liar in these situations as she readied a small bottle of disinfectant, something she had made herself but was perfectly safe, a touch of bleach with alcohol was enough to stave off infections. She looked to Nero, pitying him for just a moment but her actions were a needed evil.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "One... Two-"]]]
She never got the three, spilling the liquid onto the gash, it was a few inches long and she placed a hand on Nero's shoulder to keep him in place, pinned as best she could. She didn't waste any time, using the bandages she had to wrap his thigh tightly, stemming the blood and the bandages would soak up any leftover disinfectant to keep the infection at bay. She waited for him to stop struggling and watched him for a few moments.
She offered up innocently with a small smile. She looked to Atticus and Sam, gesturing for them to help get Nero up. They needed to move, and move quickly. Cassie got up from her knees, re-strapping her first-aid kit to her hip and picking up his pouch that lay abandoned, strapping it to her own thigh quickly. The less he carried the better and she looked to Sam and Atticus.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "Right, we move now. Towards the overpass and straight on until Bookend."]]]
The dead were distracted enough below and she started to move, her arms and hands slick with blood doing a great job of making her look like a woman not to be fucked with. One of these men were now a patient and she excelled in all things regarding that aspect. She swept her loose strands of hair out of her face and smeared a little bit of blood over her face as she carried on walking, the hoard was busy still fumbling over themselves and she took no prisoners as she finally lead the way to the overpass and the deserted road. From here, BookEnd wasn't that far away.
[+blue[center[Patrick+Hand "Keep him walking, once we're back I'll stitch that up. Atticus and Sam, you two need to tell the bigwigs what's coming."]]]
She remarked. Atticus' and Sam's words would hold more weight than hers ever would and it would give her a chance to get Nero sorted out properly. The half-ass bandage wouldn't do much and she pressed onwards until the gates of BookEnd were finally visible and she breathed a sigh of relief.
Atticus may have been onto something when he called the botanist’s rush of inspiration insanity. Even as the guardsman had passed him his matchbook, small bursts of laughter could be heard- only to intensify as the flame sprang to life and found its purchase on the small bit of cloth hanging out of the bottle that he had readied. By the time that the Molotov had found its way into the air, the laughter had reached the peak of its desperate crescendo, empowered by the knowledge that failure here meant becoming the walkers’ next meal.
[I Fwoosh.] Time seemed to stand still as the bomb exploded into a bright cloud, enveloping the area around them in flames and lighting the fuel that he had spread all around the roof’s entrances. It was beautiful, a sea of bright colour in a world that had become so bleak over the past months. Not even the sight of walkers pushing through the flames gave him pause, since they only served to add to the beautiful pyroclasm that he had created.
Instead, it was thee smell of burning flesh. It was a charcoal-like smell, combined with a slight sulfurous touch that left Samuel’s lungs burning. However, even beyond that, another clear stench mixed into the blend- a foul, noxious smell of burning rot that quickly spread into the area around them. Perhaps that was why the undead burned so well, he thought to himself as he gazed at the mayhem with rapt fascination. Bacteria in the body released methane and other gasses as they decomposed, making them into ideal bases for agriculture. However, in this case, it also made them into the perfect fuel for their own funeral pyres.
Once again, it was Orion’s helpful nudging that brought the reverie-prone professor back to the reality of the situation. As beautiful as the situation was, the dead were still closing on them. While the flames made for a decent barrier for the moment, there was no telling how long it would last, even with the walkers adding to the fuel. The others had the right idea. They had to get moving, lest they find themselves adding to the horde.
Still, there was something about Cassie’s request that bothered the botanist. Even as they busied themselves with their escape, the scope of her request hit home.
[#eb34e8 “I’ll admit that I’m at a bit of a loss about what I should even be telling them at this point. Should we be telling them to pack their bags and let go of everything that they’d been building up for the past months? To get ready to fight and probably die defending it? I’m not going to lie Cassie, even if they do respect me, I don’t exactly know what to say to them.”] He wasn’t a leader, nor did he want anything resembling that kind of role. He made solutions when others asked for them, that was just the kind of person that he was.
[#eb34e8 “That’s a genuine question, by the way. I’m open to just about anything right now.”]
It was there, a place he never thought he would see again, his home. As they approached the gate’s his mind was somewhere else. The gravity of the situation was weighing on him and he couldn’t keep pretending like he wasn’t bothered. They had barely escaped the oncoming hoard and they didn’t have much time to get a lead.
[i Where would we even go? Should we really run?]
Atticus stopped with the other’s eyeing Nero over with cautious eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was put a bullet through his friend’s head, but he would. If he saw any sign of change, no hesitation would be made. Swallowing hard he dropped his gaze, hearing Cass and Sam over. Immediately he knew it had to be him. He was a guard, holding one of the highest responsibilities to have. The people would listen and react to the severity approaching if it was coming from someone who interacted with the monsters every day.
[#ff0000 “We are not going to run. This is our home, and we will defend it. The reality of what we will all lose didn’t hit me until I saw the beautiful gate we created before us. We all built this with the intent of being free and it is our god damn right to preserve that.”] Atticus took a deep breath before turning toward the entrance before him. [#ff0000 “If we run-we die. If we stay-at least we have honor, right?”]
Atticus moved forward, a guard waving him through with bright eyes. He felt nothing but fear raging though his body as he forced his mind to sift through ideas for a plan. He had to inform an entire village and have everyone prepare in hours. It seemed impossible, yet there was a way. He headed towards the underground bunker containing the alarm systems. Connected to them was a microphone attached to a box with wires. He wasn’t exactly sure how the magic worked but somehow the microphone was able to broadcast to every single residency and business in the entire community.
Hastily he sped through the streets, not looking at anyone. Wasting time was not an option as he rounded a corner. In front of him, laid a wooden door in the browning grass. He bent down and tugged on the handle, delightful to see that it was open. Atticus took the five jump down-ignoring the ladder. He landed on his heels hard and scrambled to the table with the microphone. His fingers found the on switch, and it was time.
[#ff0000 “Attention citizens of BookEnd.”] He paused a moment, taking a deep breath. [#ff0000 “Stop what you are doing immediately and listen.”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Philosopher] [Philosopher He tried to pull himself away from the pain by looking into the skies of the destroyed town he once called home. They seemed so dark now as the searing pain caused him to tense up. A painful grunt left his mouth muffled by the leather strap in his mouth as cassie quickly wrapped him up. No bite for sure… But that situation in the apartments… It could have been much, much worse. Not before long they helped him up to his feet. The pain of his leg setting in as he tried to walk on it. Not terrible to the point of aching but just enough that walking on it was something he had to keep himself from doing lest the sore and persistent pain of his gash get any worse. He looked at cassie for a moment with a thankful glance, sparing himself the trouble of walking by taking up atticus’s shoulder. And as they carried him back home he etched another mark into his goggles signifying another brush with death. The skies were darkened and now reaching the city limits he turned back for just a moment, long enough to see the destroyed skyline.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YP7fXTo.jpg]]
Bookend was up ahead and just as quickly as they passed the gates the horsemaster gave him a side glare. He didn’t quite want to admit what happened but they had more pressing issues. Before the man could approach him about his lack of a horse and his wounded leg Cassie dragged him back to her clinic room. Somehow he manages to have atticus give up the bag of scavenged medicine and brought the handful of it to the clinic along with him. Before Sarah and juniper could rejoice about their miracle of a discovery. Nero simply raised a hand to them pulling off his gasmask.
[center [+mediumseagreen “Start gathering everyone who isn’t fit to fight and get them in the bunker… There’s a horde coming. Biggest I’ve ever seen…”]]
Sarah looked at him overwhelmed. Her blue eyes spelling confusion at first, then worry. Then, as Atticus’s voice was heard over the loudspeaker. Nero’s words began to take effect. The entirety of bookend was buzzing now. People gathering in the courtyard trying to make sense of what Atticus was telling them. Only, something was off as Cassie laid him on the clinic bed unwrapping his leg and washing the blood from her hands and face. Atticus wasn’t urging an evacuation… He was trying to rally a defense? Nero stared at the speaker that blared into the room with a squinted look. Was he insane? He saw the numbers just as well. He knew the defences bookend could put up better than anyone. Was he serious?
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/gdXEA5u.jpg]
The wall at bookend was makeshift at best at the moment even with added fences, guns and entrenched emplacements the numbers were just too many. He leaned up looking at cassie with a concerned look before she pushed him back down onto his back telling him to stay still as she sutrad his wound. A continuous stinking pain made him suck his lips as he laid back listening to the higher ups coming into the fray over the loudspeakers. Seems like Atticus got their attention. Now a mild panic ran through the entirety of bookend no doubt. And throughout it all. The engineer remained calm.
[center [+mediumseagreen “We need to go support Atticus… Cassie… Come with me to my workshop… If he’s serious about holding out… I have to support him.”]]
Forcing himself through the pain he pulled himself up from the bed as soon as Cassie let him. Slinging his now empty bag over his shoulders he made way towards his workshop. Shouting and commotion came from the courtyard as he stepped out. Atticus really riled the hive. Looking back at cassie he motioned for her to follow and some 5 minutes later. He was piling strange objects onto a table with her standing on the other side.
Cassie was stumped, she didn't know what the right course of action was right then. She watched Atticus and Sam go off and looked to Nero, he needed to be seen to and she couldn't waste anymore time. Besides, she figured she needed to start gathering resources to stash away so they could travel but Atticus was like a man possessed. He wanted to stay, to defend his home and she couldn't blame him. They had all helped build this place and make it safe. She looked at Atticus and hoped he didn't do anything stupid.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Don't let him do anything foolish."]]]
She moved with Nero to the clinic space and eyed over his leg. She didn't intervene when he spoke to the other two and found a stitching needle. She eyed him over, changing the bandages would need to happen and making sure it was properly disinfected. She soaked some dressings in iodine, it would stain his flesh but it would keep infection at bay and she changed her mind on the stitching, opting instead for butterfly stitches. She was as gentle as she could be, nudging him now and then.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Keep still, Nero."]]]
She heard the speaker and remained focused on her work as she listened, a sense of dread filling her. Atticus was a moving speaker, in another life he might have been a damn good politician and it looked like everyone was going to try to stay and fight. Cassie finished his leg, wrapping it with some bandages and eyeing him over. Evidently, telling Nero to rest wasn't going to work and they didn't have that luxury right then. Cassie gestured for Nero to wait just one moment as she filled her bag with essentials. A fight wouldn't win against these walkers but Atticus wanted to try.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Stupidly brave son of a bitch."]]]
She grumbled before following Nero to his workshop. It was new to her, she didn't usually mingle in different workplaces. She was always needed in the clinic and any free time she had, she was sleeping or desperately trying to find medicine and get all her patients back up and running. She looked around the workshop, in all of its disorganised glory.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "I don't know what you think you can do to help, you saw that hoard. We would be better loading a damn car up and high tailing it outta here. Even if we do win, if we somehow keep a thousand dead from this place, it would be compromised. People hide bites, people will die and I can't help that many. Juniper has potential, sure but she's a long ways off."]]]
Cassie was pacing without realising, being a medic in this time was exhausting and she could never truly just think of herself, there was always others to consider. Cassie dragged a hand through her hair and eyed Nero over, speaking of patients it wasn't like he should go around fighting anything but she knew it was fruitless to tell him otherwise.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "Let me load up a car, if this goes wrong at least there's an escape plan. We drag Sam and Atticus with us."]]]
She murmured to him, they could load it with supplies like food, some ammunition, water and medical supplies. They would need to find a new home too, if it really did go badly and she didn't even know of any other communities and Cassie drew in a deep breath. It was times like these that panic really set in.
When Atticus spoke up, Samuel couldn’t help but stare at the man- though the look was one of begrudging admiration, rather than any negative sentiment. For all that the professor thought that a fight against the incoming horde was a practice in futility, he was starting to appreciate the guard’s brand of madness. While he’d been mostly focused on finding ways to scrounge together something to eat, others had been thinking bigger- trying to create something akin to home, and even perhaps implement the start of a new society that could form in this destroyed world.
It was a noble thought, at the very least. Besides, the people here needed some semblance of hope amidst this madness. Would it get people killed? Almost certainly. Still, some people considered these things worth dying for, and he wasn’t about to judge them for it. On the contrary- as part of BookEnd, he might even indulge himself in their shared insanity for a bit.
However, it did not seem that everyone shared his friend’s opinions. Even as Atticus’ speech went on, Samuel could tell [I something] was going on outside. Muffled yelling and the sounds of a struggle could be heard from behind the bunker’s door, quickly approaching and becoming more intense with every moment. The voice was a familiar one too- it had to be Kenneth, one of BookEnd’s higher ups, and one of those who had proposed keeping the weak out of the compound in the first place. The man was on a personal crusade, doubtlessly trying to assert his dominance over the guard within who was acting without his permission.
Letting out a soft sigh, the botanist climbed up, trying his hardest to not disturb Atticus as he continued to broadcast his message. He had a feeling that was a pointless act, given the mayhem outside, but every little bit counted, right?
When Samuel poked his head out of the hatch door, everything that he had feared played itself out before him. Kenneth did indeed stand there, looking just about as intimidating as ever. It was no surprise too; the man had been a biker before things had gone to hell and he looked the part to boot. Massive muscular frame, leather jacket, sunglasses and all- he was practically a poster child for the Hell’s Angels.
Oh, and there was the small matter of the revolver in his hand- which was currently cocked and pointed at the man standing watching over the bunker. It seemed that Atticus had some sway around here after all, given that his fellow guard was willing to stand up to the higher ups on his behalf. Still, it was rather difficult to say no when faced with the threat of a 9 millimeter bullet to the skull, and the botanist took that as his cue to step in.
[#eb34e8 “Ah, Kenny, just the man we needed!”] he started, speaking softly to avoid triggering any kind of reflexive shots from the biker. [#eb34e8 “You see, we just returned from our mission to the outside, and we have some rather dire news, I fear. There’s a rather massive horde that’s about-]
Samuel’s attempt at diplomacy was quickly cut off as he felt the sharp impact of Kenneth’s fist meeting his solar plexus. Immediately, his lower ribs started to cramp up, cutting off his airway and leaving him gasping for any bit of breath that he could manage. Nausea and pain then kicked in, leaving him retching as he felt all the air being forced out of his throat. Finally, consciousness started to flicker- with his vision starting to blur as he struggled to recover from the brutal impact.
[+green “I’m not stupid Sam, I’ve got ears and I can hear the intercom. What I’m hearing is some goddamn upstart trying to take charge of MY BookEnd by trying to play the hero. We don’t need heroes here Sam, we need some goddamn control to keep people here from dying to his boneheaded ideas. So here’s the deal- you’re going to step out of the way, or the next hit comes from the Colt, got it?”]
Even as the botanist wheezed, trying to regain his breath, his glare at the biker provided the only answer needed. Throughout his life, he had run into men like these, who felt that they were owed authority. In almost every case, letting them go unopposed inevitably led to disaster. Besides, Atticus was counting on him in there, right? He’d just have to find a way to keep the man busy until then.
Thankfully, the answer presented itself quickly enough. With surprising stealth for a creature of its size, Orion slowly approached Kenneth from behind, his teeth bared in a silent snarl and ready to defend his master. For all that Samuel himself was weak, he was never alone thanks to his faithful companion.
By the end of the announcement, he felt sick. He knew they had to stay and fight. If they didn’t, then where would they go? Aimlessly walk in circles until they find a community of able-bodied people that haven’t been bitten? It seemed like a better idea to protect what they had, instead of losing everything. Right? He hoped he was right.
Atticus clicked off the box and laid back in his seat for a few minutes. This was now on his shoulders. The survival of everyone was weighing on a single announcement. Even better, an announcement without a plan to follow.
Feeling like he had done what he could do, he stood up and began the climb from the bunker. Due to the grave situation approaching he didn’t even notice Samuel when he reached the open air. His mind was completely elsewhere-only burdened with what was to come.
It was to be expected that he had overstepped his boundaries on some of the higher ups or founders. Though the people of BookEnd needed to know what was coming and that needed to be prepared for it. With his experience he barely made it out alive so the odds weren’t exactly in anyone’s favor.
"I’m taking you don’t agree with my announcement?”
A few meters ahead he could make out bodies frantically running in the distance. He needed to get out there, think of a plan with Samuel, and find the others as quickly as possible. If panic continued then they would be doomed. They would all have zero chance against a hoard without preparation.
He watched as Kenneth straightened the collar of his pressed shirt, sneering. The pistol was comical at best for someone who strived to create a community of peace. His hand slid down to the right pocket of his trousers and he traced the outline of his own weapon. They were in a crisis, if he needed to shoot one of the higher heads down-he would.
“As I was telling your rash friend Samuel here”
Atticus shot a glance towards Samuel, and then to Orion. Something had happened while he was in the bunker. His comrade wouldn’t have his teeth barred for nothing.
“The last thing we need is a makeshift hero. I will be giving orders from here on out unless you want to join the rotten on the other side?”
He wanted to pull out his Ruger and shoot him on the spot. He was being selfish, power hungry, and outright injudicious.
“It’s too late. The people know what is coming.”
“The people can be replaced if necessary. The hoard will come and get what they want, then they will move on to the next flesh bodied village. Inducing panic in people will only make it worse. We should be hiding and waiting. Now out of my sight, the both of you, before I execute my threat.”
[Philosopher He frantically gathered parts of all shapes and obtuse sizes barely keeping a grip on them as he hauled them to the front of the room. Capacitors, chain link lines, electrified barb wires, giant blades and pistons. All these things he’d been toiling around with. All these things he’d been waiting to put to use. Of course there was a part of him horrified of what was to come. But as Cassie attempted to talk sense into him his mind was drawn only to what sort of deadly contraptions he could make with what little time he had. The Northern wall, they were going to his the heavy walls there first. With luck it’d take them some time to break through so that was where the bulk of the defenses needed to be placed.
As she asked him about his plans, what he could do. The options ran through his mind like bullet trains. Chainsaws from the eastern wing. Gasoline and the northern generators that could be hooked up to electric fences and He knew Benji was working on an Auto turret before he was taken at the eastern gate. Piling things into a shopping cart he stole from outside he spoke through weighted breath.
[center [+mediumseagreen “I am the only engineer in bookend. Atticus saved my life and im not going to let him fight alone. Not when i can do something, anything to give him more time… The higher ups are no doubt scrambling right now to keep panic at a minimum. While he’s dealing with that it’s best we get to work…”]]
He induced panic no doubt with his announcement, at least that much could be taken from all the shouting commotion outside. The higher ups hated anyone rocking the boat. Atticus knew this best and it was also why he did what he did, thought the worn Engineer. Panic was good, panic got people moving, those so comfortable in their invincible walls needed to get moving if they wanted to live through what was to come.
[center [+mediumseagreen “A truck… Yeah.. That- Thats a fantastic Idea Cassie!”]]
Nero gripped her shoulders, black grease stains on his hands leaving an imprint on her as he quickly hobbled to the other side of the shop as if his brain were moving too fast for his body. He muttered under his breath about capacitors and charge. About turning mechanisms and logistics as he grabbed more things from his tool boxes and used Cassie's help to load the entire thing up with bungee chords. He thought about how much time they had till the horde arrived, how much time it would take to move all the able bodies in Bookend and it just didn’t add up. Even if everyone evacuated now… There’d need to be a defensive force to give time for most to get out. Bookend was a big place… But the horde was bigger.
[center [+mediumseagreen “We need guns… We need to get to the armory and head to the front gate… And the car… We need to split up… You’ve always taken care of us. I trust you’ll know what to load up. I’m going to the gate to set up what I can… Then… We hold out while everyone evacuates… I don't know how Atticus and Sam are going to do it but I trust they’ll figure out a way to make everyone listen… There’s no hiding from that horde, no getting past it. And not enough ammo nor gunmen to clear the entire thing… Not like we’d have enough time to evacuate before they show anyway. So… We hold the line…”]]
He pushed with no small effort to get the cart out the door and out into the open Cassie’s worried face struck a chord in his heart as he looked back at her strapping his mask back into place. He knew she wanted anything but to see them die defending bookend… But he had no such intention. Peering back at the cart to his contraptions he spoke silently.
[center [+mediumseagreen “I’ve been waiting to use these… Dont think i’m going to just up and die without gloating over my contraptions Cass.”]]
He smiled under his mask before pushing forward towards the northern gate.
Cassie watched Nero skitter around and for a second she thought she was the only sane person in Bookend. Atticus may have saved Nero's life but that was not a debt worth being repaid with his life. She sighed out when he told her she had a good idea and took her by the shoulders. There was no changing his mind and she clenched her jaw, looking him over. She couldn't stop him, these were grown men and she was only one voice.
[center[+blue[Patrick+hand "Fine, but when it gets too close, you look for the red van, got it? I'll be ready."]]]
She called after him and ran a hand through her hair, left alone in the quiet. She could hear the raising voices and knew she had to move, rifling around and finding the old set of keys, no one really hid them well in this place as she threw pen the back doors, thankfully the van was parked near the makeshift surgery and she started to load up supplies, most of what she had, the important things and then she started to move around.
Canned food, not a lot and certainly not enough to feed all of them but it would tide them over for a short amount of time. Some clean, bottled water and a gas can, half full. She made sure the tank of the van was full and closed up the van, locking it so nothing would be lost. There was enough space for the four of them to sit and she figured two could take turns sleeping in the back. She wasn't sure if she would even get a chance to escape but at least she would have tried everything.
Panic was setting in, she could see people hurriedly getting weapons ready and she knew this was a losing battle. God damn Atticus and his nature, god damn the other two for not just dragging the man into the van. She couldn't save them if something terrible happened.
Her eyes travelled over the swarms of people readying themselves for a battle that couldn't be won and she grimaced as she pocketed the keys, moving into the crowds and up to the wall to try and get a good view of what they were going to be up against and it was terrifying.
Lumbering dead in their hundreds and Cassie looked around the crowds. She managed to spot Atticus, Sam and Nero in the same general area.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "We need to go!"]]]
She would've begged them as she approached but these were good men who wanted to help as many as possible and she didn't want to watch them die, being chewed and gnawed on like rats. She also couldn't leave them, she couldn't get in that van and just leave them to suffer like that. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath, they were fools, suicidal fools the lot of them but she would be damned if she was going to leave them here alone.
[center[+blue[Patrick+Hand "There's a red van outside the surgery, it's loaded with everything except weapons and anything you lo need to keep your professions up. If it gets too sticky, I have the keys. I will meet you there or you take them off my body, got it?"]]]
If she did die, they ought to know the keys were on her person and she offered up a wan smile before looking to the gates. This was it.
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