This is Issue #60 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Muzak. This is the final issue of Volume 10.
Issue 60 - MuzakEdit
"Rey's Muzak Shop..." Tora mutters as she and Hiro drive down Wilson. She once again sees the blue spray painted message on one of the buildings along the road, the one Billie told them about. The closer they get to the store, the more often the message appears, increasing their intrigue. They've since retrieved the abandoned truck, and Robbie drives it, following them. "STOP!" she shouts suddenly.
Hiro slams on the brakes and they jerk forward roughly. "What?!"
"...It's right there." She points to a faded sign on top of a boarded up building, where a few of the letters have peeled to nonexistence.
"Jesus Christ. You scared the shit out of me. Don't do that. Ever again." He shakes his head and exits the car, making sure to grab his axe from the backseat. Tora and Robbie follow and grimace at the sounds of Hiro smashing his axe blade into the heads of two infected without a moment's hesitation.
"Does he get a kick of that?" Robbie mutters to her.
"Probably..." Tora responds.
The shop looks completely dead. Abandoned. There's no sign anyone's been here since the world ended. "Hm..." Hiro says. He knocks and Tora laughs. "What?"
"Does it really look like someone is gonna answer?" Tora asks.
"It was worth a shot..."
Robbie silently heads around the back where a pile of infected lie. He winces and steps over them to get to the back door. "There's a door back here," he calls to Hiro and Tora. "Ain't boarded up." He pulls on the door handle, but it doesn't budge. Hiro observes this, apparently amused.
"Let me try." He hands his axe to Tora and rubs his hands together. He firmly grasps the door handle, musters all of his strength. The veins in his arms pulse as he pulls; the door flings open. "Easy."
Tora rolls her eyes as he walks into the back of the music shop. She and Robbie go to follow, but then there's a shrill yell followed by a shovel smacking Hiro in the face. He hits the ground hard,the back of his head ricocheting off the tile, and instantly falls unconscious.
"What are you...?!" Tora says to the blonde girl holding the shovel. The girl has bright blue eyes, and bandages wrapped around one of her forearms. She dons a dark navy jacket, and under it a grey dress. Tora goes to pull out her gun, but the mysterious girl raises her shovel in defense. Behind her, an Asian kid emerges wearing a grimy dark-red shirt and black jeans, no more than 16. Robbie notices his missing left hand. He can't help but instantly realize that it's the same one Hannah had amputated.
"Lienne, chill out," he orders the blonde woman. "Who are you?" He puts a hand on Lienne's shoulder and she slowly puts the shovel down, her eyes never leaving Tora.
Robbie steps forward to play peace-maker. "My name's Robbie Rhodes. She's Tora, and dude you just assaulted is Hiro. We saw the messages and decided to come here. We don't mean any harm. Promise."
"Why'd you follow the messages?" the teen asks. "They weren't meant for you." He realizes that last part comes out harshly. He hesitates before adding: "They were for my friends."
"Curiosity. We'll go, if that's what you want. When Hiro wakes up."
"Lienne is very sorry about that, by the way. Right, Lienne?"
"Yeah. I kind of...overreacted. Sorry." She provides a small smile to Robbie and Tora as compensation for her impulsiveness. "He just busted in here like a fucking hoodlum. What was I supposed to do? But, I'll help him. Don't worry."
A little while later, Hiro lies slumped in the corner, still knocked out. But now, he has a bandage around his head that Lienne so generously provided him with. They sit in awkward silence in the middle of the shop, where around them there are shelves filled with CD's and a small, almost antique-looking CD player. "So," Tora says. "What's your name?" She nods her head towards the teen.
"Alec," he responds. He notices her gaze shift to his missing hand. "Amputated it." He shrugs, as if dismissing that grim fact.
"You were bitten?"
"Wait," Robbie says. "That worked? You stopped the infection like that?"
"Mhm. Had to hack that shit off myself."
"Then why didn't it work for Finn?" Robbie looks to Tora for an answer, but she shrugs.
"Oh, you probably didn't get to it fast enough. Or he lost a lot of blood. Either one. He...died?" Alec says.
"Sorry," Lienne says.
"...You two don't look related," Robbie says, changing away from the touchy subject.
"She's actually my mom," Alec says.
"That'd mean I had you at five. Stupid," Lienne says. "That's way too young to get pregnant. 8 years old is reasonable, at least." Robbie and Tora raise their eyebrows at her, and she laughs. "Sorry. Morbid humor is kind of my thing now. Y'know, because dead people are literally everywhere. Am I alone in this?"
"...No," Tora admits. "Why can't orphans play baseball?'"
"Because they don't know where home is!" Lienne finishes, and laughs along with Tora. Lienne's elated that, finally, she and Alec come across a few people who don't seem to be total dickheads, or as soulless as the dead.
After learning about Tora, Robbie, and Hiro, Lienne and Alec collectively go into a story about how they came to be here. They'd actually seen each other before everything collapsed, though they'd never spoken a word to each other. As music lovers and musicians, they were both frequent customers of Rey's shop and occasional saw the other nonchalantly looking through the shelves or chatting with Rey, the owner.
Alec initially survived with his friends, but after being separated from them and being forced to lop off his hand because of a bite, he was on his own. His first instinct was to check out his beloved music shop. Maybe he could find solace there. Along the way, he spray painted messages throughout the city, guiding his friends--Lucky, Brendan, and Rachel--to his whereabouts. Maybe he'll find them. One day.
But what he found was that a peculiar, familiar blond girl had made her way there first after the daycare she was employed at was overrun. She recognized him instantly as "the kid who listens to awesome music." And that's when it started: an odd but unbreakable partnership, with Lienne viewing Alec as the little brother she'd do anything for. And after almost 6 months together, that bond has grown even stronger.
"Oh, you guys are both musicians?" Tora asks, fascinated by their story.
"Mhm. Well, singers. I play guitar, sort of. Stumpy here can’t play," Lienne corrects. "Wanna show 'em one, Alec?"
"Alright, which one?"
"The one?" Lienne suggests, and Alec nods. They both clear their throats and start a beautiful a capella. Lienne starts; her voice is soft and enchanting.
"I am nothing without pretend
"I know my faults, can't live with them.
"I am nothing without a man
'I know my thoughts, but I can't hide them."
Alec joins in, and Robbie and Tora watch in awe at their beautiful melodies. A soft smile finds its way onto Robbie's face.
"I don't need another friend
"When most of them, I can barely keep up with them
"Perfectly able to hold my own hand
"But I still can't kiss my own neck
"I wanted to give you everything
"But I still stand in awe of superficial things
"I wanted to love you like my mother's mother's mothers did
Billie, Cole, Adam, Devon, Chloe, and Wrigley are a block away from the office building. About 20 meters ahead of them there's an infected, and it barrels toward them. Billie has Wrigley on a leash, and he sits impatiently, eager to go after it.
"Okay, watch," Billie says. "Wrig, go!" She lets him loose and he sprints toward the infected. He leaps into the air and onto the limping corpse, pushing it to the ground. His paws press into its shoulders and he clamps his jaws onto its face. When it stops moving, confirming its death, he runs back toward the group, satisfied with his performance. They clap and Billie feeds him a small piece of her granola bar. "Cool, right?"
"Hell yeah," Adam says, then with a grin adds: "Shit, he's more useful than Chloe."
"Fuck off," she says, smirking. Just then, two trucks turn the corner: Hiro and Tora's and the one they abandoned.
Robbie presses on the brakes and rolls down the window. "What the hell are y'all doing out here?" he asks.
"Just showing off Wrigley," Billie says. "Everything went well?"
"I'd say." He rolls down the back windows revealing the unfamiliar faces of Alec and Lienne. They wave. "I'll explain.”
After the group has some warm introductions with Lienne and Alec, and more formal introductions with Hiro and Tora, Lienne and Alec chat on one of the lobby’s couches. Something seems...off about this place to them. Not like it’s bad--everyone does seem nice--well, besides Hiro, who still doesn't seem to forgive her for nearly breaking his nose. But it all seems forced, the welcome, the smiles...But then Lienne remembers the mention of a guy named “Finn” and the failed amputation.
“Hm. Why don’t you go talk to her?” Lienne suggests to Alec, pointing at Devon, who smiles as Adam says something.
“ ‘Why?’ Use your one-handed charm and get a girlfriend.”
“Well, what if I don’t want one?”
“That’s a total lie. There's never a time when a teenage boy doesn't want a girlfriend."
"Not true," he denies.
"Totally true," she counters.
"OKAY. Gosh. I’m gonna go be friendly...and stuff, so you better find something to do.” She affectionately pats Alec on the cheek and walks upstairs, to the second floor. She examines some of the rooms, most of which are empty. But there are some with mattresses and decorations adorning the walls. She passes by the lounge, but stops when she sees Billie lying on the couch, a magazine in her hands. Billie senses her presence and peeks over the magazine.
“Oh. Hi,” Billie says. She sits up and sets the magazine on the brown coffee table in front oof her. “Everything going well?”
“Yeah. Great, thanks. Just...browsing. Nice piece of estate you’ve got here.”
“It’s our little castle...” Lienne takes a seat next to her and grabs the magazine from the table.
“‘All of the details on Kim’s wedding inside!’” Lienne laughs at the headline.
“Quality literature, right?”
“Better than Hemingway.”
There’s a prolonged silence as she sets the magazine back on the coffee table. She thinks of a way to form her next words. “I can sort of tell something’s wrong here,” Lienne continues. “I know you lost someone. That Robbie guy mentioned an amputation not working, so I’m assuming...the worst.”
Billie flinches. “Two. We lost two. On the same day.”
“Well, shit. I’m sorry. And you, I can see it in your face. It’s hit you harder than most here.”
“Pretty much. I’ve seen the infection take over...seen people get bitten, and it’s not pretty. So...I save this stuff for special occasions.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with weed. “I’ve had it for awhile, so it’s kinda dry. But better than nothing right?.”
Billie laughs dryly. It’s been forever since she’s smoked, but it sounds more tempting than ever right now.
In the corner of the lobby, Adam noticed an odd assortment of weapons Alec and Lienne brought along: a riot shield, shovels...broomsticks? He picks up the shield, hits it on the front a few times to test it out. "Wanna see something cool?" Alec says from behind him.
"What? Oh, uh, sure," Adam replies.
Alec takes the shield from him and, to Adam's surprise, attaches it onto his stump. Alec grins. "Might as well make use of this arm, right?'
"Dude, that's awesome."
"Here, hit me."
"I don't know, act like you're gonna attack me."
It's an odd request, but Adam picks up one of the shovels and lifts it. "Ready?" Alec nods. Adam swings the shovel hard, but Alec lifts his stump and the shield deflects it easily.
"Infected got nothing on this shit," Alec replies.
Adam lifts up one of the broomsticks. There's a weird clamp at the end of each one. "Okay, so what's the deal with this?"
"Oh, that." Alec pulls his knife out of its sheath and attaches it to the clamp at the end of the broomstick. Some kind of makeshift weapon. "Get a good three foot distance from any infected with this. Slice 'em from afar." He does a few test swings as Adam backs up warily. Suffice it to say, he's impressed.
- First appearance of Lienne.
- First appearance of Alec.
- Song sung by Alec and Lienne is Civilian by Wye Oak.