Kenny pressed the calloused pads of his fingertips into the back of his neck, the world around him hummed in a constant flat tone as his mind whirled with thoughts but only one continued to surface over and over again … I'm going to die today.
Sure, it wasn't an execution like any others. That wasn't how King operated; it needed to be public, it needed to be seen by all and it needed to entertain. His death, or rather, fight to the death, would set a president within his ranks. For those that might be part of a rebellion: only death awaited, and for those loyal to King: entertainment to satiate their violence.
He frowned as the incessant droning ended and he lifted his head to see Wesley standing in the doorway, waiting on him.
Wesley stopped short at the threshold of the cell, clasping his hands over his waist as he watched the priest exchange a few final, quiet words with the condemned. Wes didn’t care much for religion and he’d been sent to collect the kid for his “appointment” with the crowd and another opponent who had made the mistake of pissing off King… but nonetheless, Emmett had standards – or at least he liked to think so. Giving the kid a few extra moments to make his peace wouldn’t hurt anything.
Finally, the priest stood to make his exit, sliding past Wesley with a small nod. Emmett returned the gesture stiffly before stepping into the entrance of the cell to inadvertently cast a looming shadow over the young man who had never seemed quite as frail as he did now. “It’s time,” he said quietly, a set of cuffs dangling from his hand.
Kenny felt bile rise up in the back of his throat as the steel cuffs glittered in the fluorescent lighting. He wanted to scream, to protest, to fight his way to freedom but he found himself silently standing and shuffling to the doorway, holding his hands out for Wes to cuff.
The weight of the metal around his wrists felt heavy like they could drag him to the ground if only he let them.
Wesley cinched the cuffs, the resounding clackclackclack as he snugged them against the young man's wrists. He knew he could – hell, maybe even should – make the cuffs as tight as he wanted and the boy wouldn't utter a word of protest. It wasn't in his nature.
But he didn't. He left one finger inside the link out of habit, ensuring a "proper" amount of space was left as he finished with the cuffs, double-locking them before marching his charge into the hallway and the darkness beyond… toward the Pit. As they got closer, he could hear distant rumblings of the crowd. Chants for blood. Feet thudding against the concrete like they were watching a high school football game from the bleachers.
Wes glanced down at the prisoner. He had never worked at a prison where the lethal injection was carried out, but he imagined this was what it was like marching a man on Death Row to meet his fate. He felt that familiar pang, deep in his gut. Guilt was not an emotion that Emmett was overly familiar with, but he recognized it all the same.
Kenny had been his apprentice these past few weeks and Wesley had been responsible for showing him the ropes. If he was being honest with himself, he had to admit that he saw a little of himself in him. Were he more inclined to sentimentality he might even say he had a bit of a soft spot for him. Probably why this whole time he couldn't bring himself to think of him as "Kenny" until now – just "the kid" or "the prisoner". It made it all… less complicated.
Wes was no idiot; he had cut off all contact with Kenny the moment he heard the accusations. This was his first time seeing him since then. The last thing he needed was to lose his position because King got some ideas about his mixed loyalties. It was true that he was two-timing the system, but it sure as hell wasn't for Kenny of all people.
He saw the gates of the Pit ahead and slowed their pace, but the guilt only grew stronger. Wes sighed. Fuck it.
"Drop this meek little kid bullshit in there. Act like you're in a fight for your life, because you are. Bring out the part of you that kept you alive long enough for us to find you out there," he gestured in an all-encompassing manner toward the outside of the prison.
"Do whatever it takes. Here and now is all that matters. You're gonna get hurt. Cowboy the fuck up and hurt him back," Emmett said gruffly as they drew to a halt and he loomed over him. "You ready?" he asked, removing the handcuff key from his pocket and nodding toward the gate.
Kenny swallowed hard, eyes focused on the bright lights illuminating the cage in the center of the Ring where the Fights always took place. He gave Wesley a stiff nod, inhaling deeply and doing his damned best to slow his heart rate.
Moments later he staggered into the ring, the cage door slammed closed behind him…
Andrew's eyes widened, allowing the bright light to shoot down his rapidly shrinking pupils. A kid. Wave of nausea flooded his body. Naked chest flushed with heat rising up to his neck, reddening his cheeks. A kid.
The winner will get a second chance to prove his loyalty and worth. Begin.
The crowds roared with excitement around the bullpen, with the more savage ones besieging the bars and the privileged hanging out around the VIP seats or by the bar.
But Andrew didn't see. He didn't shift into a fighting stance. He didn't attempt to circle. He just stared at Kenny in disbelief, paralyzed by the horrible idea that those degenerates conceived in their corrupt minds.
"Monsters." His voice was suppressed by the buzzing noise. Until he repeated. Louder. With passion.
"MONSTERS!" Looking at the guards, at the people in the VIP section. His gaze caught the extravagant woman and the pastor by the bar. Then stopped on the hooker and the man in charge in place of the Leader. Andrew didn't know his name but he knew he was the Second in Command of that pseudo army.
"He's just a kid!" He shouted at him. Then snapped his vision to Kenny and shook his head with conviction. "I'm not doing this. I won't fight this boy." Swinging his nearly frantic gaze back to Weston he emphasized. "I will not fight him."
Noise turned into silence that filled the cavernous space. With all the faces turned and eyes fixed on the man in charge.
The hospital's condition was not remotely acceptable for King. His grand entrance was short lived by his bespattered Hermes' Monterey loafers - thousand dollar shoes laid to waste. Dissatisfied, his feet splashed forward into the muddy waters that covered the once-white floors. With disgust, he gazed upon the unlit hallway, the smell of mold glued to his upper lip like a mustache. He had a wandering eye as Gunderson moved down the pathway in pursuit of an unknown sound - signaling his detail to follow suit to protect their golden goose. Like the children’s story, the greed of men caused conflict.
An undead came out of one of the patient rooms at light speed. Hungry for the kill, it tackled Gunderson like Ray Lewis - King had never seen such speed from monsters like that. The leader’s guts rambled at the sight of it, pushing Lawrence forward to act upon the situation with haste - which he did. The bodyguard’s personality came out at the stupidity of events that unfolded after safekeeping their prized possession. King couldn't help but agree, giving Lawrence a pat on the back for his good save before instructing. ”Get him to the roof, now,” he commanded, not wanting to waste anymore time on the unnecessary.
Yet as Gunderson was forced towards the stairs, another yell came from the entrance. Attacked again, the group found themselves on high alert once more - Toni the Enforcer being the victim in this case. King reached for the silver Eagle in his coat pocket, drawing out the large pistol and pointing it towards the adversary. He had a clear shot before their mechanic intervened with a wrench. King cursed as a drop of sweat flew off his brow - he was not comfortable.
A gunshot then followed unexpectedly, saving Toni from impending doom. Denise, their other scout, took a clear headshot - perfect aim. The shot however echoed through the hospital floor, ringing through every nook and cranny - waking the dormant moans of the dead. The sounds brewed like the start of an orchestra building to its climax.
The noise made King uneasy, forcing his fingers to tighten on the grip of his weapon. It had been months since he last stepped out of Lincoln walls and this was the exact reason - King’s biggest weakness was his lack of exposure to the outside world, he’d been comfortable. Quickly diverting from the initial plan, King instructed everyone to leave - “We need to leave, we will return to clear the hospital in a few days.” No matter how much he wanted the chopper in the air, patience was a virtue he had plenty of - and success was measured by it in his book.
His heed forced everyone back towards the entrance, King himself leading his party. What he ran into however was unexpected. An ensemble of the dead leaped out of nowhere as soon as he stepped out of the entrance doors, blocking the crew's exit back to their vehicles and forcing them back inside the hospital. King lifted his right hand, aimed his gun at the first thing in its path and fired off two bullets - knitting a few of the dead. His arm swung up after each shot, the recoil of his Eagle hurting his shoulder a little but his survival was worth the pain. He grunted as he rushed back inside, trying to close the doors to no avail - the dead started to swarm the hospital.
Looking back for an exit route he spotted more of the dead escaping patient rooms and coming around the hospital corridors, their moans creating a horrible melody and their bodies blocking any hope of leaving through the back. “Upstairs!” King yelled out, looking over his team for Gunderson to be escorted up first. “Hold them back!” He instructed his crew, giving Lawrence a signal to get Gunderson up those stairs immediately. All those days of work could go to waste if that man died and King would not let that happen. His dreams of grandeur were bigger than everyone else’s survival.
As King tried to follow suit and get to the stairs, one of the monsters took hold of his coat sleeve - pulling him back. He swiftly escaped the dressing and fired another shot but missed. Another walker rushed forward out of nowhere and hurled itself at him before he could reach the stairs - pinning him to the wall, gnawing at his neck. King held the thing off with his wits, forearms crossed under the walker’s jaw. The group was being attacked from every direction and the only clear way was up. If there was a day to get the helicopter running, today was that day.
Xander wasn't expecting anyone to follow him down the rope ladder, down into the unknown that awaited them with their new visitors outside the gate. That being said, he wasn't particularly surprised when he glanced up to see Mackenzie's form clambering down far more nimbly than he had descended... though the addition of Dutchess would have made him do a double-take under any other circumstance. The woman had been a fairly solid, reliable worker during her time at the high school -- but she was difficult to get a read on beyond that.
Pushing the thoughts away, Xander centered himself before turning to face the apparent leader of their "neighbors". The man had stated that no one would be opening fire, which was a cold kind of reassurance at best... but he supposed that was all he could count on. Font's eyes narrowed as he saw the head-bagged form of a captive being dragged forward from the rear of the convoy to kneel where all could see. Slowly, hands raised just above waist level with his palms turned outward, Xander advanced. "All right, you want to talk? Let's talk." His eyes flicked toward the captive briefly, mind racing. "Maybe we can help each other."
Cabrera watched the man advance, followed by two people. He blatantly lowered his sunglasses to look straight at the female. "What's up, Hottie." His hazel gaze hinting of crude attraction. Or something else hard to read for someone who didn't know him and his intentions. He winked at her then put them back on, focusing on Xander.
Ignacio waved his hand dismissively to signal them all to stop that show of submission and keep their hands down. Wide smile stretched his lips at the confident comment. "Oh you want to help me, buddy?" Tilting his head like a curious dog he licked his lip. "Maybe I'd like that."
He lingered, gazing at Xander's face almost too long for comfort before snapping his attention to the man on his knees. "I found this rat looting on my new land." He grabbed the cloth and yanked it off the man's face. Showing the Northview folks their Council Member, Alante. On his knees, in the dirt.
Cabrera glanced to his enforcer, Price. "Cut him loose." He ordered and looked back to the Northview leader. "Consider this my little gift to you, Captain. Like neighbor to neighbor."
Xander had stepped pointedly to the side, interposing himself between the leering stare of the man and Dutchess after the former saw fit to greet her with a catcall and a lingering gaze. But the leader of these marauders was nothing if not equal opportunity with his uncomfortable remarks given his response to Xander's offer. Font didn't respond other than to lift one brow, staring back at the man expectantly... until the visitor finally addressed the captive -- removing the head-bag and restraints.
Font's steely, impassive expression he wore as a mask cracked for the briefest of moments as he laid eyes on Alante: his fellow Council Member and coworker from before the outbreak, no less. No mystery as to how this man knew to call him by his former rank. Alante had clearly had a rough go of it, but seemed to be more or less in one piece though they wouldn't know for sure until Mackenzie looked him over. Regaining his composure, Xander pursed his lips before calling out to him. "Alante, you all right?" he kept both eyes leveled carefully on the bandit leader as he waited for the response. Somehow he doubted they had come all this way to hand-deliver a supposed trespasser... or that they'd be leaving without something in return.
It suddenly occurred to him that every muscle in his body was tense, coiled like a spring for a reason he couldn't explain... and it was inexplicably quiet given the situation. Beyond the rumbles of the engines of the cars outside the gate, it was almost as if one could hear a pin drop. He remembered his Platoon Sergeant telling him to trust that feeling in his gut once, back in Helmand.
It's the calm before the shitstorm, LT. It means all Hell is about to break loose, even if it has no reason to. Especially if it has no reason to.
The man's words rang through his mind. It wasn't long after that that a Taliban ambush claimed the lives of two of their own, maiming another. And now, ten years later, here he was again. Same shitty feeling... and every reason to believe it was going to sideways.
Jack did as he was told, stepping forward to cut the man loose with his small, yet sharp, pocket knife before stepping back to where he was previously. He didn't gain much joy from this line of work, but it was what kept him alive. Survival is dirty work, and at the end of the day he knew that being able to feel something at all was better than feeling shitty.
It was tense. The truck rumbled and gave a low growl and slight scent of gasoline to the breeze that carried itself around the group, but Jack was ready. He was ready to defend himself and everyone else if it came down to it. Outgunned, outmanned, no matter. Going down empty on rounds to these guys was better than going down to the undead. At least it would be quicker, less painful.
He eyed the man who came out to talk to Cabrera. Jack could almost smell the military on him. He knew that posture and readiness anywhere, and knew that if it came down to it, if it all went pear-shaped, he would have his work cut out for him.
ㅤㅤㅤIt hadn’t been long since Brielle and what was left of her family arrived at Northview High, and the woman still felt out of place, but she had finally started to lower her guard. It seemed they had lucked out. They somehow found a good community, full of wonderful people who truly cared for each other. Maybe one day they’d feel as strongly about her as well, or at least she hoped. They had been skeptical when Brielle, Richard, and Mrs. Watson arrived a few weeks prior, but they had started to trust them. And maybe Northview didn’t trust them completely yet, but they had all surely made progress. She knew part of the reason was they needed more people for safety, but she also knew it was due to the events of the first supply run she had gone on with Alante. It was eventful but fortunately, it had a happy ending and they returned in one piece. The corner of her mouth curved slightly in a smile thinking about that day; she had really enjoyed his company–it had been refreshing being around someone else for a change, even though they had almost become food for the undead.
ㅤㅤㅤAnd now she accompanied Arthur through the school, carrying her backpack and a tote full of cans and other shelf-stable food items they found. When they walked into the storage room she saw Miyu putting stuff on the shelves. She felt a slight tightness in her chest. Brielle didn’t know sign language, and she often stopped to think about how Miyu must feel about all of that, not being able to talk to most people and living in a world where not being able to hear meant certain death. Brielle never asked for her story, but she was happy the girl had such luck as to find a community like Northview.
ㅤㅤㅤSuddenly she heard someone singing down the hallway, the sound getting louder as the person got closer, and soon Greg entered the room. “Oy,” he said, “Got something good for me, Sexy Pants?" Brielle was shocked for a second, thinking he was talking about her, but only for a couple of seconds as she saw the man was trying to slap Arthur in the buttocks, then winking at her. She pressed her lips, trying to contain a smile but it was clear she was amused by Greg’s antics by the way she turned her face, trying to hide behind a curtain of hair.
ㅤㅤㅤIn all honesty, Brielle had to admit Arthur was still a very handsome man, even with all the grey hair. She kept those thoughts to herself, however, despite the man’s comments about his own looks, seeing as she was still somewhat of an outsider–at least that’s what it felt like when she interacted with the rest of the residents. But she felt a hope unlike anything she had felt since before the fall of civilization.
ㅤㅤㅤFrom the corner of her eyes, she could see Miyu moving some of the supplies Arthur had been organizing, trying to be as discreet as possible so the man wouldn’t notice her. Brielle honestly wouldn’t mind it if the girl organized things the way she wanted. There are so many different ways of creating a system that makes sense that it didn’t really matter that much as long as they could find the food that they had with ease. From her time with Arthur, she doubt the man would mind it if Miyu reorganized his things, so considering all this she, again, just kept to herself. That had been happening a lot since they got to Northview. Perhaps one day she’d be able to chip in on matters, but that was still not that day.
ㅤㅤㅤ“That don’t look good,” she heard Arthur say in a worried voice, walking to the window. “You two seein’ what I’m seein’?” His voice was demanding, which prompted Brielle to lift her head from the items she was separating and walk to the window herself, looking out. She saw the cars and the man in front of the gate, then Arthur’s radio came on.
ㅤㅤㅤSo they were going into lockdown. Her hand instinctively went to the handle of the knife holstered in her belt. Brielle was small and definitely not the strongest, but she was fast and agile and could help in a fight. She saw Miyu signing to Arthur, unable to understand what she was trying to say, then decided he was best equipped to make a decision. She looked at Greg, still standing there with his crutches. He was a strong and able man, that was obvious from the way he was built, but he was not just useless in a fight, he was a liability. “Do you need help getting somewhere safe?” She knew he knew where to go, but it wasn’t like her to just turn her back without knowing if he and Miyu got to safety.
”You don’t have to do this bro. We can help each other, there’s no need for violence,” Alante pleaded with his captor, trying to reason in an unreasonable situation. It had been a while since he’d run into survivors out on a scavenge. The last time, he saved a bleeding man from dying and made connections that may benefit him in the future. This time however there was no one to save but himself - and he failed to do that by getting captured. He’d been jumped, men with weapons came out of the woods like a coordinated swat team, surrounding him and stripping him of his weapons before tying him up and bagging him. He got a glimpse of one of his attackers, but got his head covered before he could make any more of them out.
With his hands tied behind his back he sat on a stern stool, no response to any of his further pleas. He was being driven somewhere, could hear the sound of the diesel machine he was in and the floor under him moving over rough terrain. Playing scenarios in his head he tried to conceptualize how this drive would end, where he was going and what would happen when he got there. He didn’t bother speaking anymore, the person in charge of him was professional enough to keep quiet and not let Alante get in his head.
As the vehicle's journey ended, Alante’s heart rate increased. He started to sweat a little and felt his chest tighten, the unknown and inability to do anything making him quite uneasy. He was usually very composed, but had never been in a situation like this. An electronic command then came through, Alante could hear it from the figure before him. It forced Alante out of the vehicle and to his knees. He scraped them on the way out of the convoy and was dragged forward over yonder. He grunted at the discomfort and argued when they stopped moving him. “Damn man,” he cursed, jerking the hands of his captor off his shoulders.
Voices then came from the people that surrounded him. One he didn’t know, but the other he made out without doubt - Font. His eyes blew wide under the bag that covered them. A what the hell escaping his lips. Confused, he listened, trying to make sense of it all. How did they find Northview? Alante didn’t say a word to these people yet they knew exactly where he came from. Had they been tracking him or his people? Watching them all along? Or was this a random act of faith? It couldn’t be, he’d been careful. He always covered his tracks. It couldn’t be.
The bag that covered his head was suddenly yanked away at the command of their leader. The sun blinded Alante, forcing him to squint and coward away from it. When his eyes adjusted, he looked up to see Font and his comrades at the gate - they seemed to be unharmed. He peeked left and right to get a better look at his situation, a group of marauders surrounding him. “What the hell is going on?” He thought of himself. Looking back at all the vehicles and weapons around.
Unexpectedly he was then cut loose. His arms fell to his sides as if heavier than normal. He regained blood in those limbs and moved to massage his rope-burned wrist before slowly getting to his feet. He shuffled around and faced his captor, Jack. He stared him down, showing he was not intimidated by keeping his chest up. He but the bottom of the inside of his lips with anger, spitting at Jack’s feet before turning towards the leader of their group. He looked him up and down as well, a real jackass he reckoned. He’ll remember their faces.
Alante proceeded to turn and started towards his crew with caution, chin up as to tell the men behind him he was not scared. “I'm good, big dog,” he answered Font proudly, another jab at his captors. “They knew where I was,” he whispered next to Font as he approached him and lined up with the others. He wiped the dry blood from the corner of his lips and stared the marauders down. Alante deduced that someone in Northview fed information to these attackers, telling them where Alante would be during his run and where Northview was. Alante looked around at everyone around him and back towards the school. “Mothaf*cker.”
"You're welcome." Cabrera joked, seeing there was no gratitude for the gift. He glanced to their captive when the man turned and played a tough guy, spitting at his enforcer's feet.
"Do that again and see what happens." Ignacio encouraged Alante with a hint of a warning in his tone. Staring back like to show the other that there was no use to manifest his bravery and pride in the face of the Samaritans' crude, violent nature. Then he refocused on the Northview Leader and his tone evened out.
"Alright, buddy." He glanced over the fence. "Now that I showed you my good intentions you'll let us in. We'll sit down, have a beer and talk about our future." His lips stretched with a fake smile. His casual antics didn't change the fact the man beside him, Price, had a rifle slung to his shoulder, there were a few gunners on the many vehicles that arrived and the drone of the engines suggested they were ready to move. From the looks of it, with force if needs be.
Toni's strangled howl after Rocky accidentally hit him with the wrench was muffled by the crack of a gunshot. Yanked away just a second earlier the enforcer couldn't keep his footing straight. He stumbled, slamming against the wall and his own gun went off. He didn't see where the bullet went, busy trying to stop the tears and reorient himself after ending up with his ass in the cold puddle on the floor.
And just like it always went when shit hit the fan, everything moved like a blast. The undead groans resounding in the whole building, the new orders to retreat. Fuck. Probably not just Toni's, but his worst nightmare these days was getting left behind and mauled by a group of those hungry wackos. So the enforcer scrambled and scurried towards the exit after the others. His shoulder throbbed, making it harder to think.
They spilled from the building and a wave of panic washed over him seeing the horde outside, slowly tightening the circle around the Hospital as they pulled back. Toni's mind was racing, body moving on muscle memory as he shot two biters and got to the relative safety of the hallway, about to hit the stairs.
That was when another monster lunged at them out of nowhere, tackling the King. The Leader. The boss.
Toni faltered. Almost like he had to calculate if it was beneficial for him to help the man. To keep Marcus King alive and on top of their feral army.
But the brief hesitation went unnoticed in the general commotion of enforcers shooting and some trying to close the double wing door where most monsters came through. Toni hooked his arm around undead's neck and jerked it back, off the King. He pressed the barrel to it's temple when swinging away from himself and he fired. Grimacing at the spray of rotten blood.
"Hijueputa." He swore under sped up breaths and dropped it, then snapped his vision to the man in charge. It was clear that they couldn't hold the doors closed for long and the noise was drawing more zombies from inside the large building.
It was time to fly. Literally. So they run up and in that moment Toni revisited his relationship with God, making empty promises just so they would make it up there and off that forsaken city.
More than twenty hours awake and your decision-making goes to shit. He'd been told something like that during basic training somewhere between getting dragged out of bed by his feet and a two-mile run through the rain. And-god, he really didn't want to think about his time during basic at the moment, he had so many better memories than of his instructor ridiculing him for not knowing where Kuwait was as he did pushups because, in his words, 'Even our bombs know that, dumbass!'
Long and short of it, Jamie was not in the right mind to do much of anything besides collapse from exhaustion. He shouldn't have investigated, that was on him, but he wasn't apologizing to Lawrence or anyone else in the group. There was the small issue of them holding him hostage, after all.
He didn't bother thanking Lawrence-He knew the fact it was their job to keep him alive until he fixed the helicopter that drove them to save him instead of any real sort of morality or character. He didn't trust anyone there, and he was convinced they'd sooner let him die than lift a finger to help him if they didn't need him. Since he didn't have anything nice to say, he wisely chose to say nothing at all. He learned quickly enough that none of his wardens had patience for jokes or any form of verbal resistance.
He felt weird about the fact that he almost felt bad for not thanking the man or apologizing for causing him grief, and that thought process almost spiraled before he shook his head and started getting up. Setting aside the initial 'Oh, fuck" that came from getting tackled, Jamie slowly began to subdue his panic. He'd had closer shaves before, he couldn't let himself be too affected now. The blood of the undead creature leaked onto his pant leg as Jamie rolled it off of him, and he couldn't help but let out an involuntary "Eugh". The undead barely scared him anymore-not like having a gun aimed at him did, anyway-but that didn't mean they'd become any less disgusting. The blow flies had already started buzzing around the corpse even before they'd found the creature, but besides that they didn't have any other telltale signs of rot. Their skin was pale, but not sunken, unscarred other than the pocket marks of a bite on their neck. It didn't even look like Livor Mortis had set in yet. The creature had been hours old, at most. That explained why it had been so fast, then. Only the fresh ones were that nimble.
They had to be one of the night guards, it couldn't have been anyone else. No one else stayed overnight in the city and no one came into Lima if they could help it. It must have been a guard he didn't recognize, but why were they infected?
Then Toni was grabbed as well, and things just sort of spiraled from there.
Everything was a rapid series of events then, and all he could do while following the crowd was review what he'd learned today:
The hospital was overrun.
The night guards were probably dead.
He was going to fucking die.
That last one wasn't anything new though, he just told himself that every once in a while in case he ever got too optimistic.
He was all for King's plan, despite his dislike of the man. Getting the fuck out of dodge was just about the best thing he could ask for at the moment. That, like most things today, went to shit the second they got back to the front entrance. Dead swarming from the alleys and streets around the hospital, flooding the parking lot as they surrounded their escape vehicles and marched for the entrance. Some at the front tripped over garbage piles or were shoved to the ground by the mass of bodies behind them, quickly trampled under feet by the unstoppable horde, bone and flesh breaking and squelching under what must have been hundreds of pairs of feet.
Jamie felt like laughing. Half out of panic, half out of the sheer hilarity of how quickly the situation had become FUBAR. To the roof it was. No one had to tell him, he was already away from the doors and signaling everyone to follow him to the stairs before the horde had even made it through the doors.
It was general chaos in the hospital at that point, but even then he could hear a particularly pained and panicked scream. One of Jamie's wardens trying and failing to guard the door had been rammed by a fresh zombie from the side, unable to get a good position to push or hold the creature back before it sunk its teeth into his shoulder. He screamed as the creature began to rip the flesh off with its teeth, equal parts pain and terror as the horde outside passed the front entrance and the ones at the front began to descend on him. His partner, too slow to help, backed away from the door before they too could be caught, moved to run after the group, hesitated, and in the only act of kindness Jamie had ever seen the man perform, raised his handgun and fired one shot into his partner's forehead before the mass of bodies covering him could begin feasting.
That was...vomit-inducing. He couldn't think about it, no matter how much his panic mind wanted to. He needed to focus on the helicopter. Which they'd have to pass the night guard dorms to reach, which were probably crowded with freshly turned, nimble undead. And he didn't have a weapon to defend himself with.
King, just behind him and equally protected by the armed guards, was grabbed by a creature and pinned, unable to get an angle with sidearm-and was that a Desert Eagle? Pretty shitty gun performance wise but there was a certain degree of 'cool as fuck' factor attached to it. Fitting, it felt like most things the man did were just for show, but he was getting sidetracked. No matter how much he hated King-and there was a new experience, he'd never hated anyone before-he needed the man alive because for as long as the man wanted his helicopter, Jamie was useful enough to keep him and his friends alive. There was no guarantee that any leader after King would keep him and the Marines around.
Toni looked to have it covered, but the fact remained that Jamie was practically defenseless.
"I need a weapon!" Jamie yelled just to be heard over the chaos, looking to Lawrence, "knife, handgun, anything! You need me to get to the roof and get you out of here, but I can't do that if I have to rely on all of you to stop me from getting grabbed." Farther up the stairs he could already hear the pounding of feet coming down, then the tumbling of a body down the steps because the undead's grasp of stairs was limited to 'down and occasionally up'.
Lawrence actually seemed to give it some thought, and with a grunt that Jamie assumed was approval, hesitantly handed him a hunting knife from his belt. Jamie had always been better with melee weapons he could swing, like a fire axe or a bat, but a knife would do. He knew how to use one for survival purposes thanks to basic training, but Jax had been the one to teach him how to use one in a fight.
The zombie descending the stairs finally fell down to their level, tumbling over the steps and stopping at the landing only a few feet ahead. Rushing up to the fallen creature before it had a chance to right itself, Jamie placed a foot on its back and plunged the knife into the base of the skull. Its bloody hisses and gnarls quickly fell silent as Jamie pulled the knife out.
He resumed his ascent of the stairs immediately, not looking back at the corpse. There wasn't much effect from killing the things anymore. After all, they weren't human.
Weston took Val’s short and simple response for exactly what it was - agreement to get going and get this over with. That was one of the things he did enjoy about Val - there were no obvious games. He knew some of the other girls tried to play some kind of bratty game to get a rise out of the guys. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it got them threatened with a slap. But Val never did that to him. It was as transactional and straightforward as one could get in a situation like this. He did his best not to think about how that probably meant something, when sleeping with her felt like a business transaction, but it was a whole other world with Tigran. It made him think back to a prior life, to other people, and that was something he tried very strongly not to do.
“You got it, ma’am.” Weston flashed Temma a grin, tipping an invisible hat he didn’t have to the madam as she passed behind him and lightly threatened him about Val’s prompt return. Temma was probably the only person in the whole of Lincoln that could get away with those little threats - and have them listened to. Besides King, of course, but none of King’s threats could be called “little”. Temma was also someone that Weston didn’t really fully understand as a person, but he definitely had respect for her. Anyone who could watch the world fall apart and still decide it was a good day to put on makeup, do the whole drag thing, and continue to do whatever they damn well pleased with themselves well and truly had more spine than anyone else here.
Offering his arm to Val, he turned to escort her from the bar to the pit.
A short time later...
Arriving at the fight pit, Weston climbed up to take his seat in the VIP section, near the bar. He didn’t feel like drinking while watching this - he’ll probably need to get hammered afterwards, though, knowing who was fighting. Kenny, one the sentries, and some older man named Andrew. He knew of Kenny at least, though he’d had very little interaction with the kid. Sentry duty wasn’t his problem so he let others handle the training. In days past he had wracked his brain for any past interactions with Andrew, but was coming up with not much of any importance. He seemed like an alright guy that didn’t stand out. Clearly the guy took advantage of this.
It was odd how this event really reminded him of exactly what his station was at Lincoln. The crowd was working itself up for blood, but when Weston entered the room there were actually cheers. As if he were some kind of celebrity. People called his name and waved, flashed thumbs-up signs at him. A few women winked. He plastered on a smile and waved back. Settling into his seat in the middle of the VIP row, one arm stretched along the back of the seat next to him which was reserved for Val, he felt a little buzzed from the excitement in the room. A little heady, even - things seemed less real here. He did a trick he picked up years back, before shit hit the fan, on how to ground himself if he felt a wave of derealization coming on: focus on your senses.
It smelled like sweat and metal. It sounded like a loud crowd mixed with many voices, words unrecognizable but full of bloodlust. It felt hot and a bit humid. His mouth tasted like his recent cigarette. It was brightly lit, though the room was otherwise drab and dark colored. Better to focus on all this than the bizarre realization he was a man temporarily in charge of a prison full of survivors who were about to watch two men fight to the death because they dared to buck the fucked-up system that barely kept them alive and separated from the walking dead outside. And, several months before that, he was a piece-of-shit thug that beat a man to death at the orders of another man who was in some respects far, far worse than King.
Yes, clearly nothing about this pit fight should be real, but here they were.
Weston settled in, a false smile still on his face as he leaned back in his seat. The pre-fight announcement rattled over the P.A. system, whipping the crowd up even more. He had more of his attention on Kenny, interested in seeing what the kid would do. There was nothing about the young man that made him stand out as any kind of a fighter. It was a wonder he even made it this far. If the kid was smart, he’d stick with the group that kept him alive - but maybe this was proof he was an idiot.
The din of the crowd was so loud it made it impossible to focus on any specific words. Hell, he didn’t even think he could carry on any kind of conversation with Val, even if she was sitting right next to him. Small favors, and so forth.
It wasn’t obvious at first, but eventually one word started to cut through the noise.
Weston leaned forward, clasping his hands together as he watched intently. It was one of the combatants - Andrew, the older one - that was shouting it. And he was shouting it at the crowd - and up at the VIP section. The fake smile fell from his face and he met Andrew’s eyes as the prisoner shouted up at him.
Compared to the noise of the crowd, the silence that quickly settled into the space felt utterly oppressive. Motioning for Val to stay where she was - for her own safety, not that he needed to say that part out loud, Weston rose from his seat and made his way down towards the fighting pit. His heavy boots rattled each step on the metal bleachers, which echoed through the otherwise silent room. He stayed quiet until he was about a foot away from the edge of the cage and out of range in case Andrew tried to reach through and grab him.
“Kenny’s a grown man.” Partially true. Legally, an adult, under a set of laws that didn’t exist anymore and had been supplanted by King’s laws. But he wasn’t here to split hairs with the man. He understood his concern. Judging by the gray in his hair and the crow’s feet at his eyes, the man was old enough he could have been Kenny’s dad. Weston folded his hands in front of himself.
“Why? Do you think it's dishonorable to fight against - to defend yourself against - someone just because of their age? Where was this sense of honor when you sabotaged the armory?” Weston raised his voice, making sure the whole room could hear him. “I don’t believe you actually have any of this so-called honor. You put our entire community at risk with your actions. What if we had been attacked? What if a horde had come? You undermined our ability to respond to emergency situations because you thought you knew better than everyone else here how this place should run - better than every man and woman here who has bled for this group, worked their ass off for this group, and shouldered heavy losses with this group.” Weston raised one arm, emphasizing his words as he motioned to a group of spectators to his right. He knew there were scavengers among them that had recently returned from a run that had ended with a death. There was one empty seat reserved for the deceased man, marked with a dusty blue baseball cap. Multiple people in the crowd turned to glance at the empty seat before returning their gazes to Andrew and Kenny.
“Or maybe you really did think what you did was honorable?” Weston reached into his coat and pulled out his handgun, making a show of checking that it was loaded as he approached closer to the cage. Murmurs from the crowd started to simmer, noises of agreement bubbling throughout the room. They were not yet cheering for blood again, but the atmosphere was turning heavy again. People didn’t want blood, they wanted answers.
“Maybe you should stand among the bodies of everyone who has died to get us here, and ask their ghosts if your honor matters. I think their silence is going to be your answer.” Weston flipped the safety off the gun, reached into the cage, and threw it into the middle of the pit - equal distance between Kenny and Andrew.
“Just fucking deal with it.”
Weston retracted his arm from the cage bars and took a single step backwards, watching and waiting.
Arthur glanced at the young woman who’d gotten close to him, Miyu. Over the past few months he had been with the Northview group, he had grown attached to her, much like he had with Haewon and Minnie. They were still on the verge of acquainted and Arthur would have never dreamed of forming any sort of bond with anyone after so long of being backstabbed and betrayed and tricked, but there he was, turning to her when she signed to him. Fuck, I don’t understand a lot of sign language… He pressed his lips together and breathed through his nose, eyes turning up to the ceiling in thought. With a nod of assurance, he placed his hand on her shoulder gently, yet firmly, and aimed his finger from her to him, looking her in the eye, bushy brows raised. “You stay with me. You follow me no matter what is going on around us,” he spoke slowly, feeling his heart rate pick up pace.
“If you lose me, whistle.” He placed two fingers between his lips as an example, but didn’t whistle. “It’s louder that way. I will find you with that whistle. If I don’t, look for Brielle.” He aimed his finger at the woman close by. The older man looked back outside after giving Miyu another nod of affirmation and heard Brielle speak from behind him, prompting him to look over his shoulder at the cripple. Again, a tight knit frown formed while Arthur thought and his eyes landed on the familiar faces who were currently speaking to the new intruders. They still had a lot more weapons and a lot more fire power and if things really did go bad, then… Arthur let out a heavy sigh. They couldn’t let the children or those who were sick and crippled be put in harm’s way. If this had been months ago- Arthur didn’t want to think about it. He wasn’t about to let either of them be injured or killed. Not while he was still standing and breathing.
“Greg, I haven’t been here too long, so if you know someplace that’s good for you to hold out in, I suggest you start listin’ places because a fight might break loose.” He turned to them again, making sure- and inwardly praying- that Miyu could read lips. “If Xander can’t make a deal with these people or they decide to break in, I don’t want you or the kids getting hurt. I’m willing to be on guard duty with you and Miyu and Brielle, too, if you want to come with us,” he glanced at the older woman with a hand gesture. A sinking feeling rose in his gut when he turned to look back at the men in the trucks. “These people don’t look too friendly, neither, and I have a bad feelin’ about this.” Arthur ram his hand through his hair and looked back to the small group. “They might have the school surrounded… Are there any emergency exits or secret tunnels or something we could use to get out in case things get bloody?”
Xander pursed his lips at the invitation, glancing between Alante and his captor. As much as he would like to have their Councillor back safely within the walls, he knew full well what opening the gates to these armed newcomers would invite… and he doubted any of it involved beers and a civil discussion.
Xander had been forced to come to terms with the brutal calculus of the so-called “greater good” long ago. It didn’t make what he said next any easier. “I don’t think so. I think anything that needs to be said can be said from right here,” Font remarked, holding eye contact with Cabrera.
Nari held Minnie, squeezing her protectively. She hesitated for just a minute before answering quietly. “Some people have shown up, nothing to worry about. It’s happened before.” She did her best to keep her voice steady and calm but inside she was terrified. “I don’t want you two running around alone, let’s go to the office and see what’s happening.”
Thankfully the nurse’s office and their pseudo-medical ward was only a few feet away from the main office. Nari led the way, with Minnie, Haewon, and Pandora behind, their quiet footsteps echoing in the otherwise empty school halls. This had only happened once before, a group of people arriving at the school seeking shelter, and it hadn’t gone well. They’d agreed the let the group join them - they needed to bolster their ranks if they wanted to keep the school safe and be able to scavenge for supplies and food. It has been a mistake, to allow the crude racist bigots among them. How could these people be any worse?
In the office Nari paused, finding North in a relaxed seat, his feet up on the former secretary’s desk. He smiled and winked at her but didn’t seem to care they were there. She didn’t have time to question it, heading for the windows at the front of the office to watch the exchange outside.
To no one’s surprise Font refused to let their new neighbors through the gates. Dutchess had hoped for this moment, a slow smile spread across her lips as she reached behind her back to loosed her pistol from its holster and cocked the hammer back with an audible click. She pressed the cold barrel to the center of his back.
“Sorry, Cap,” Cabrera called from beyond the gate. “That’s my girl.”
“Let’s go ahead and play nice. Tell Alante to open the gate and let our new friends in.” She purred, keeping watch on the other man, though she doubted he would pose much of a threat.
Xander was rigid, every muscle in his body tense as the muzzle of the gun pressed into the back of his head. His right hand clenched into a fist at his side, a few precious inches away from the grip of his holstered pistol… but it might as well have been a mile under the circumstances.
When he spoke, his voice remained steady as his eyes flicked back, though he never turned away from Cabrera. “Forget it. You pull that trigger and you know as well as anyone what happens, Dutchess. That gate getting open is the last of them.”
Dutchess laughed softly and sighed. “I thought as much.” She reached forward and pulled Font’s radio free from his belt, pressing the talk button down. “Hey baby bro, how are the hens doing?”
Nari jumped as the radio squawked, the static echoing in the quiet room. Both her radio and another went off at once making the gravelly voice of the tattooed woman ring out in stereo. She frowned at her own radio, wondering what Dutchess was talking about.
“Got four pretty young things in here lookin’ good. Be a shame if something were to happen to them.”
Xander went still as he heard the voice of North – of all people – on his own radio. He had no doubt as to who the man was referencing. Immediately, his mind’s eye pictured North holding Nari, Haewon, and Minnie – “his girls” he’d sworn to protect – at the end of a gun the way Dutchess was doing to him now.
His resolve crumbled, his throat tightening. He took a deep breath before nodding once, slowly. “Okay,” he murmured in little more than a whisper. “We’ll open it. We have to shut down the generator first,” Font said, an invisible dagger twisting in his gut all the while.
“No need to worry about that - it’s already taken care of. Everyone can play nice, you’ll see.” She promised Font, dropping his radio onto the paving stones that made up the front drive of the school. “Come on in, Daddy Nacho, they’re ready to meet you proper like.”
The world went slow for a little too long. Gunshots going off, brain matter painting people and walls; after months of things going relatively smoothly in getting the helicopter flight worthy, now things had to go sideways? Then it wound up again, the world moving at the speed of a blur but it was him that was going too slow. Pain taking a moment to catch up, blooming and pulsing in an ache that kept time with the pounding in his ears.
It would sink in later. For now his feet followed the others automatically, fear cutting through the fog with a clarion warning. The undead were coming en masse. He finally, finally pulled his gun and found his hand dripping blood. Whose blood was it? …Shit. No time for a personal freak out. Someone bumped his other shoulder; the group pushing back away from the doors in a panicked herd. No time no time no time!
Slipping, scrambling, scraping shins and trying not to get stepped on or accidentally shoot anyone in the mad dash, the stairs were climbed and hallways sprinted through. Terror was making him jump at shadows, but the last thing he wanted to do was shoot someone still living. One of the reasons he preferred his wrench…not that it had helped Toni. Note to self, become better acquainted with his firearm.
Buster shamelessly smacked Arthur's butt and leaned his own to the table with supplies. "You didn't know men are like wine?" He was taking a lot of space with those crutches and kind of standing in their way as he watched the two work. "The older they get the better they taste." He flashed his teeth at the man and then glanced at Brielle. "Am I right, Cutie?" He enjoyed seeing her shy and all.
Greg glanced back at Miyu as Arthur listed the items. He sometimes hung out around her. She was deaf so she didn't mind him running his mouth while others would usually get tired of his bullshit. Greg motioned his head at her, signing hi. "Sup kid." He was bored half of the time on his guard duties so he snatched an ASL dictionary from the library one day and browsed it now and then. He didn't seem the smartest but he was actually a quick learner.
Arthur drew his attention and Greg hobbled over to the window. He gazed in silence. While others talked to him and each other. He just kept staring. So it seemed like he didn't hear them until he finally turned to look at the three. "Somewhere safe?" He chuckled without clear amusement, glancing back to the convoy. "There ain't gonna be no fight, fam." He mused as he zeroed in on the face of the raider leader. Then he looked at the back of Font's head. "We already lost."
But Buster wasn't a quitter. He turned and swiftly moved towards the exit. "We go find Princess and the kids. She knows more about the place than I do." He wasn't here that much longer than Arthur. He was part of the fallen community of Knox that found refuge in Northview.
As they navigated the hallways they heard the exchange between Dutchess and Anthony over the radio. Something about their tones made Buster stop in his tracks. "Something ain't right." He glanced at Arthur, a glint of sick excitement in his eyes. Then he moved again, heading for the office.
"Don't follow me, Grandpa." Not with the girls at least. Because Buster wasn't going to safety. He was looking for trouble.
He arrived where Nari was with the kids. Where North was. Unaware that Font finally gave in and the strangers were about to enter their safe haven. He skimmed the faces of Nari and the girls, imposing his presence on everyone in the room as he got in between North and them. "We having fun yet?" He stared at North with a fake smirk.
Minnie always looked at things in a bright way. There was a group at the gates... but that was how the two of them arrived. They were strangers, all they wanted was help, maybe these people just wanted help, too... but Haewon knew that wasn't true. Needy people didn't rock up armed to the teeth.
"We should shut ourselves in somewhere, right?" Haewon asked, her voice filled with frustration. If it were up to her, she'd lock Minnie in a storage cupboard until everything was over, but she was sure they'd protest. Sure, she could run around on her own all she wanted, she was an adult, after all. She could fend for herself, Minnie couldn't.
She reluctantly followed Nari into the office, alongside Minnie and Pandora. She frowned at North.
"Shouldn't you be helping or something?" She asked, peering out of the window. Everyone was doing something, whether it be perched on the roof guarding the place, sorting food supplies, or making food for the day... but North was just sitting with his feet up... like an ass.
"Stay away from the window," She instructed Minnie. If somebody was getting shot out there, she wasn't letting Minnie watch it. However, Haewon couldn't take her eyes off the scene unfolding on their driveway, watching intensely. She couldn't quite see everyone that was going on, but she had a good view of the convoy.
"Will Xander be okay..?" Minnie asked quietly. She knew he'd gone out to speak to them, if anyone was in danger, it was him... right?
Haewon only looked over her shoulder when Anthony and Nari's radios rang out in unison, creating a strange stereo effect. Her eyes narrowed as Anthony spoke.
"You fucker." She muttered under her breath, staying by the window. She didn't want to find out whether he would act on this thread. She looked to Minnie. She was stood close to Nari, she'd be okay.
She couldn't help but feel a little relief as Buster entered the room. At first, she thought he was just an asshole. A racist, sexist, misogynist asshole... but now she found him kind of endearing. He could be entertaining if she wasn't the one having to deal with him. She certainly appreciated him standing between Anthony and her sister.
Miyu was very appreciative that Greg had learned a little ASL. To her, he hadn't seemed the type, though she shouldn't judge a book by its cover. She signed hello back to him with a small smile.
As panic ensued and she watched the convoy out of the window, she felt Arthur's hand on her shoulder. She tensed for a moment, though she knew this was serious, they didn't have time for her getting upset. Her fists clenched as she nodded in response. She was pretty good at reading lips, but even the best couldn't understand 100% of the time. However, she got the gist of what he was saying. Stay with him, whistle if she gets lost.
She knew she was missing a lot of conversation, though. Greg and Arthur were talking to each other and without a clear view of their mouths, she couldn't really make anything out... Something about a fight? Before she knew it, they were headed for the office. She followed close behind, staying light on her feet to try and make as little sound as possible. She scanned behind them every so often... she couldn't hear if someone was coming from the back, she had to pay attention.
She almost walked into Arthur as they stopped outside the office, watching as Buster left them behind. She frowned. They weren't going in after him? Why? She wanted to speak, but she had little volume control, she didn't want to give them away to anyone nearby... She stayed close beside Arthur, hoping he would be notified of any danger before she would.
Nari remained silent after North set his radio down on the secretaries desk and slid his feet off the edge with a thump. He stood, hooking his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans, and played a casual smirk on his face. She hadn’t had much trust for the duo that had arrived weeks before, though she hadn’t had much trust for anyone that had come to the school, save for the girls. The adult sibling pair had felt too slick, sliding into roles with the community quickly, stepping in to help each and every time something had come up. In fact, Dutchess had come back from a short scavenging run just days after she’d joined them with the motherlode of canned goods. It had made Nari suspicious, but she’d kept her thoughts to herself, at the time she thought she was being paranoid.
Clearly, she had a nose for bad people.
North looked like he was about to say something when Buster meandered through the door and to her great disappointment spoke with North. Had he heard the radio? Was he in on this betrayal?
North eyed Buster briefly, uncertain if the man was rolling over on his team or not but decided to go with it. “Dutch and me decided to invite some friends over, good folk. Boss man’s out there about to have a chat with them; I thought I’d keep an eye on his girls until we’re all nice and settled in.
Buster nodded along as North spoke, then grinned his shit-eating grin and laughed. “Well, then Princess better go greet them!”
North paused for a second before grinning himself. “I’m sure the boss would be happy to make her acquaintance.” He turned to smirk at Nari. “Let’s go then, let’s go meet our new friends.”
Nari felt bile rising in her throat and Buster and North conversed like they were best of friends and when their focus turned back on herself and the girls she knew they were doomed. She bit her lip as North nodded towards the door, doing her best to hide her fear, scrambling to think of how to get Haewon and Minnie out of harm's way, even if only it was temporary.
She slowly made her way to the door, dragging Minnie along side of her to keep herself between the men and the young girl, trusting that Haewon and Pandora would follow. So far neither seemed inclined to follow them out and maybe that would be their luck. To get to the halls and then hide.
Some of them made it to the roof, others still struggled to push through the swarms of undead. Gunderson and Lawrence got outside first and the rough wind splashed against their sweaty clothes after the mad run all the way up. It could have felt like they were at the very top of the dead city. Which glowered through the broken windows of the neighbouring skyscrapers, judging the thieves.
The helicopter sat in its spot, untouched. No sign of danger.
Few others, scout Denise and their mechanic, Rocky, spilled from the roof door seconds after. The rest, along with King and Toni still rushed up, some distance behind the first group.
Rocky panted, coughing, catching his breath. Everything happened so fast back there that he was convinced he got shot when pulling up his shirt sleeve to check the bullet wound. But he froze. Eyes bulging and his lip quivered with mouth dropping ajar. There was a clear mark of human teeth in his forearm. Not deep but bleeding…
"No…" He mumbled and his gaze shot up to Lawrence. Then Denise. Shaking his head abruptly he tried to reject the horrible truth. "No, please!"
Denise couldn’t help but wince when she saw Rocky’s wrench connect with Toni. God, that had to have hurt - she wasn’t surprised when the enforcer ended up on his ass after that. What a clusterfuck. Hopefully there were no broken bones.
Idiots, she thought to herself, watching the boys scramble while the undead were closing in around them. She glanced down the hallway again, watching the driver and King - they were struggling, but it didn’t look like they were losing. Not yet. Would it be a bad thing if King died here? She pushed that question out of her mind. Not the time to be ruminating on that thought.
Seeing as how Rocky was still standing, she followed behind Toni and hustled towards the exit, grabbing him once by the good arm when he started to look like he was going to teeter and trip. When Toni made his panicked move to jump in and help King, she took a step back and took aim at a few undead that were coming up behind them instead. Too many cooks in the kitchen was the last thing they needed.
“I’ve got the rear!” She called out, making sure that as the group moved, she moved with. Every few yards she did a quick headcount, making sure she knew who was still with them, and who wasn’t. If anyone dropped, she wasn’t likely going to go back for them. As someone had told her once: You don’t need to be the fastest, you just need to not be the last.
By the time she made it to the roof, spilling out of the doorway into the harsh wind, she was entirely out of breath, drenched in sweat, and splattered with blood and fleshy gunk. Her stomach flipped for a moment as the wind blew the stench into her face, but she managed to keep breakfast down.
Taking a few staggering steps away from the door, keeping her distance from both the edge of the roof and the all-important helicopter, she leaned forward and put her hands on her knees. She needed a moment to catch her breath.
At first, Rocky’s words didn’t register. No, what? She glanced up, remembering just how close he was when she took a shot. Did she hit him? Narrowing her eyes, she saw it.
Bite marks. Clear, unmistakable, bite marks.
Sighing and running the back of her hand against her sweaty forehead, leaving behind a trail of blood that wasn’t her own, she looked Rocky up and down, and then shook her head. Shame it was the cute one.
“You want us to put you down now, or later?” She asked Rocky, motioning with her gun towards him. No sense in coddling the man.
For Lawrence, the entire scene was like being in the last bit of China as a bull rampaged through the shop. He wished he had taken some fucking coke. He wished his mind were somewhere else. *My kingdom for a fucking hit, a blowjob, and a drink. It is like playing laser tag!* The surrounding chaos made Lawrence feel like he was about to explode from sheer stress, and extraordinarily little had to do with the dead. They were the symptom of the problem, not the cause. For Lawrence, the cause was the stupid fucks around him. *Oh, gee gosh! I have a gun! Let us use it! Oh wow! It is so loud! Gosh, I sure do hope they CAN’T FUCKING HEAR! Oh wow! There are more of them! Oh, let us keep shooting! Good thing I pressed triangle, square, up down left right and got the infinite ammo cheat! Gosh that came in handy! Huh! More! Well, doesn’t that beat all? I am plain old confused! Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!” Lawrence was not sure if it was better to live or die. Perhaps in death, he could join the ranks of the dead and kill these stupid fucks, shut them up, and wander around in the lifeless realm of the dead. At least then, he would be among peers.
But the desire to live was ever present, and Lawrence struggled on. Taking evasive maneuvers, Lawrence dove left and right, dodging the rather slow-moving zombies. *It is a staircase. They cannot fucking balance on even ground. What the fuck is the problem?* If it were not for Lawrence’s ever-loving desire to smoke, he would have been fine. Though, when he got to the roof, he was a bit out of breath. His heart beat fast, and he was focused. Getting to the roof was his mission and getting James there in one piece was his goal. The damn man had a weapon, and Lawrence still wondered if that was wise. James was armed. But what could he do with a knife other than defend? *At least he cannot SHOOT EVERYTHING!* Lawrence kept his eye on James, ever mindful that he was the only important person on the roof. King ordered it as such, and Lawrence obeyed orders. *Hmm… so did some other interesting folk in the 1940s… and look what it got them.*
Lawrence cleared his throat casually. His heart rate slowed, and he took in a breath of fresh air. *This might be it, mate. Breathe the free air one last time. Fuck! What I would not give for a tight piece of ass right now.* Lawrence’s flirtations with death always led his mind to think that his best interest was served in the rawness of carnal desires. But it was always a short-lived feeling, and he immediately returned to business. He gazed at James and said very calmly, “I suggest you get to work. It appears we must secure this position. I do hate to rush you, but I suspect that failing will mean we all die … no pressure.” Lawrence smiled and turned away to see that the fallen man, Rocky, was speaking and apparently in quite a bad shape. *Oh wow. Amazing! However, oh, ever, did that happen? To think that using a megaphone in the lion’s den would wake them up! Jesus fuck!*
As Denise threatened the very end of Rocky’s life, Lawrence felt a little snap inside his head. He saw her gun and felt her desire to use it. *Gosh, I forgot that we are on the infinite ammo run of this game. Dumb me! Ugh, I guess I did not press the cheat codes. Retards. Retards. Retards!* Lawrence walked to Denise, clasped his hand on her shoulder hard, and said softly, “Sister in Christ… If you shoot him, you are down a bullet. A bullet we need! THINK! Maybe a knife would be better? Maybe gravity would be better? We are on a fucking roof! Use what little brains God gave you and think!” And with that, Lawrence stormed off to get something, anything, to secure the roof. James’ safety was all that mattered now. The helicopter was their salvation. And James was, apparently, the only one who knew what he was fucking doing. And that fact was scary.
Cabrera watched the signs of stress on the Northview leader's face when Dutchess pressed the gun to his back. As North spoke over the radio mentioning Font's family, the tension was heavy between them. The question of whether things would go smoothly or wrong lingered in the crisp air.
Ignacio's lips quirked on one side when he heard the decision and his girl's invitation. His leather boots knocked against the dusty asphalt at a leisurely pace. Like he wanted to give Font time to wrap his head around the revelation. That from the start they were nothing but defenceless against the Samaritans.
There was no doubt in Cabrera's face, no pause in his actions as he jerked the chain off the gate and thrust it open. He didn't have to look at Price when speaking.
"Let's get our boys in." Expecting Jack to properly open both wings for the trucks to enter. While he himself strutted at Font with a smile.
"It's Xander, right? Before we get that beer, how about you call all of your people off their posts and hideouts. I want all of them down here on this square." He motioned his head at the front of the school.
"Once that's done my men will go search your compound to make sure nobody got lost. I want to greet all of you." He smirked, eyeing the other man's face. "You with me, Captain?"
Arthur frowned at that reply. As much as he hated to admit it, Greg was right. They were properly sandwiched alright. Like mice pinned in a maze, surrounded by a bunch of hungry cats. All it took was one wrong move and then they’d get eaten up. These situations were ones Arthur had rather avoided, yet it seemed like with that group, it would be damn near impossible to sneak out. Impossible and beyond stupid. He looked down at Miyu, teeth grinding silently. “…There’s still got to be somethin’ we can do.”
The forty-year old wasn’t about to let a bunch of bastards with guns stand in his way to get the girls out. Even if he managed to get just him and Miyu out of the facility and out of the area entirely, that would be good enough for him. As Buster escorted them down the hallway, Arthur was already thinking up ways to get out, glancing out the windows to see any areas the enemy was stationed and fuck, there were a lot. Too damn many. Once they found the lady Greg talked about, then he’d find out more about the school layout. If he could get Miyu out, maybe he could sneak back in and sneak the others out, one by one. Then he could get them someplace relatively safe- at least away from these fuckers. His eyes scanned over the trucks before he looked back to Miyu, seeing that she was still trailing behind him. Good. He didn’t want to lose her.
Arthur paused when his radio cracked to life and he lifted it closer to his chin, eyes narrowing at the messages. Cool, grey-blue hues flicked up to Greg and he shut his mouth with a nod. “Yeah, I don’t like it.” He blinked a little in surprise at the younger man’s sudden change in behavior, knowing that look could only mean trouble for whoever Greg was going after. “Don’t do anything too stupid, Greg,” he warned, watching after him before he turned to Miyu. Now it was just him and the girl and Arthur needed to find her a hiding spot. He looked back towards the office and then to Miyu, aiming a finger at himself. “Stay with me,” he commanded in a hushed tone. He didn’t need anybody hearing him in case things turned out badly for Greg.
Inwardly, Arthur hoped Greg would be alright and as much as he wanted to help him, he wasn’t about to go into a room where it was possible to be ambushed. Then again, it probably wouldn’t matter since the entire fucking highschool was surrounded. He moved past Miyu, giving her a small, gentle tap on her shoulder to indicate she follow him and he headed into a nearby classroom. Once they were inside, he slammed the door shut, ran across the room to cover the windows, and he skimmed his gaze across the room. There was a shitty closet he could hide Miyu in, but he didn’t like the thought of her being holed down in one spot. However, if some of the bastards managed to come into the room, he could at least protect her while she was hiding.
“Okay…” Arthur muttered as he spun around to gently press his hand between her shoulder blades. With his free hand, he pointed a finger at the closet, and made it easier for her to read his lips by looking right at her. “I need you to hide in that closet, alright? I will be out here and I will not leave you. Stay as quiet-“ He lifted his finger to his lips so she understood what that meant. “Quiet. As you can.” With that, he opened one of the doors and waited for her to get in and closed it, making one last nod of affirmation. When he heard footsteps, Arthur ducked behind a wall and stayed as quiet as he could, muscles bunched as he waited for someone to come inside.
Miyu fidgeted with her hands as Buster left them behind, but she knew not to follow. Greg was nice... but boy did he do some stupid things, and she knew it. Walking into a room without listening out or peeking through the keyhole first felt like a death wish... and she couldn't even hear through the door.
She looked up at Arthur as he spoke in a hushed tone, pointing at her to drive the point home. She took a moment to decipher the movements of his lips before nodding in response, remaining silent. She followed obediently as he lead her into a classroom, watching as he frantically tried to conceal their presence. She scanned the room. Maybe they should barricade the door..? She grabbed a desk, making sure to pick it up rather than dragging it along the floor, and carefully positioned it in front of the door, pushing it snugly against it. Would one desk be enough? She turned to grab another as Arthur approached, stopping her with a hand between her shoulder blades.
She hesitated as he told her his plans. She didn't want to hide in a closet, it would be dark in there, how would she know if there was someone coming? She wouldn't be able to see out, she wanted to know what was going on, not sit and wait to be found. As he reassured her, she reluctantly nodded, clambering inside and sitting at the bottom, knees hugged tight to her chest. She watched him close the door on her, covering her mouth with her hand to ensure she was silent.
A sliver of light beamed through the crack between the two closet doors, the only light reaching her hiding spot. She had a limited view of the room from the angle she was at, but she glimpsed Arthur's shadow cross the room, finding a hiding spot of his own. She tried to keep her breathing calm and steady... It felt so much worse now he was so far away.
Xander watched the man -- Daddy Nacho as Dutchess had so eloquently labeled him -- approached their gate. He never broke eye contact with Xander in a move Font knew was entirely intentional, still trying to gauge his reactions. Trying to get his measure, look for weaknesses like a predator. Xander pursed his lips, doing his best to suppress any sign of surprise as the man casually reached for the gate...
...and opened it. No arcing of electricity. No cry of pain. Of course not, why should he be surprised? Dutchess knew their defenses as well as anyone; the generator would have been the first thing she sabotaged prior to the arrival of her friends. He felt a pang in his chest at the realization of just how thoroughly he had failed those under his charge, watching the self-satisfied man as he stepped inside, somehow managing to make the simple motion look like and feel every bit as insulting as a victory lap.
Xander listened to the words that came next, eyes still locked on him and all too aware of the gun pressing into his back... but somehow the pistol wasn't what he feared. It was the radio. Even as he nodded slowly to Cabrera's demands, one part of his attention was devoted entirely to listening to the walkie that had been used to threaten him, desperately wanting to hear some kind of news about the fate of the girls inside. But for now, all he could do was comply, his teeth grinding at the way Cabrera managed to use his rank like a barb.
He took the offered radio into his hand slowly, holding down the button to transmit. "Sentries, lay down your weapons. Everyone, stay calm and report to the front of the building."