This is Issue #61 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Regency. This is the first issue in Volume 11.
Issue 61 - RegencyEdit
"Come, on bro. You're like a wilting flower over here or something," Hiro says to Cole, giving him a well-intentioned clap on the shoulder. They're sitting next to each other on the couch, waters in hand, two weeks after Lienne and Alec's arrival. One of Lienne's CDs plays in the background from her old CD player. Only Cole, Hiro, Devon, Robbie, Tora, Alec, and Lienne are in the building, while the rest are out on a weekly run.
Cole just glances distastefully at Hiro and takes a sip of water. It's been two weeks, but he still hasn't gained a liking to him. He seems too pompous. Intrusive, full of himself. Not to mention a loudmouth. He seems to have good intentions, but the way he presents himself rubs Cole the wrong way. He's barely spoken a word to the guy.
"What?" Cole responds after a few seconds.
"I dunno, you're just so...down in the dumps. It's depressing."
"Is there something you want?"
"Is there something you want?" Cole repeats.
"I...no. I'm just trying to get your spirits up is all."
"You're doing a shitty job."
Hiro raises his arms in defense. "Okay. I'll leave you to your moping then." He stands and leaves Cole to his own. It's not hard to take a hint.
It's mostly silent as Billie, Chloe, Adam, and Wrigley walk down the road. There's a few infected here and there that they let Wrigley take care of; otherwise, all is good.
Today is the day. September 29. Chloe has felt an ache in her chest the entire week before this day. She doesn't know how she's kept it a secret this long; people have asked her about her past, but she's skirted around the biggest part of her life before the apocalypse.
"Uh, Chloe?" Adam says for the first time, and she finally comes back to reality.
"Hm?" she responds.
"Do you know where the Target is that Billie's talking about?"
Adam raises his eyebrows. He and Billie just had a two minute conversation about the Target. Right next to her. "You okay?"
"She says it's next to JoAnn's?"
"Oh. That one. Yeah, a few blocks. Not that far." Her words come out quickly, making Billie and Adam even more suspicious of her behavior.
The walk to Target is peaceful, with only a few infected every couple of minutes breaking the serenity. The parking lot has more infected than they expected, but they're able to take them out after about fifteen minutes. The front window to the store is busted, and they step through, careful to walk over the many shards of glass.
Side by side, they walk through the mostly empty store, their footsteps pattering and echoing throughout. They turn into a ransacked makeup aisle, and Billie stabs a wandering infected in the face before it even knows they're there. "Split up," she orders. "Anything we can take, take it."
Billie heads further down the aisle with Wrigley by her side, while Chloe heads the opposite way. Adam initially intends to head a different direction, but instead follows Chloe. "She said split up," Chloe reminds him.
"I know," he says. "Just wanted to see what's up. Make sure everything's all right."
She's silent. "Eveything's not all right, is it?" he continues. She shakes her head. It really isn't. "Then what's the problem?"
"He died today."
"That's all I want to say about it Adam. So please, if we could split up..."
"Of course." He goes his separate way, respectfully giving her her space.
After thirty minutes of finding nothing of interest, Adam comes across a battery powered radio in surprisingly good condition knocked over onto the floor near one of the registers. He picks it up, and after a bit of confusion messing with the buttons, it turns on. He’s greeted with the faint whispers of static.
“Let’s see...” he mutters to himself. He presses something--he doesn’t know what--and the static shuts off instantly, replaced by a woman's melodic voice. He’s so caught off guard by this, hearing music on the radio instead of just white noise, that he stares at the device for the entire duration of the song. It finally fades after a minute and is replaced by the soothing voice of a...radio DJ?
“Alright everyone, that was Regency Radio giving you 'Happy Days are Here Again...' One of my favorites. Maybe some happy days will be with us soon, eh? Coming up, we’ve got Mr. Duke Curry taking over. Don't want to miss it, folks." The DJs angelic voice shifts to a familiar song by Frank Sinatra.
Adam scoffs. “No fucking way.” He jogs around the store, intrigued and excited by this new revelation, searching all around for Billie or Chloe. He finds Billie placing a plaid shirt into her bag, and grabs her by the arm. “You’ve got to listen to this.”
Billie follows, slightly confused, as they weave in and out of shelves and back to Adam’s previous location. As they get closer, the wondrous “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, one of her father’s favorites, comes into earshot. They stop at the radio, and Adam waves his hand over it, like a magician revealing a trick. “It’s a Goddamned radio station!”
“Are you serious?” Billie asks.
“They’ve got a DJ and everything. Listen.” They listen, the song fades out, and Chloe watches them inquisitively as she walks toward them.
The silky voice of the DJ returns. “‘New York, New York.’ Classic, classic. Cash Benton here from Regency Radio. Alright, now, next to me we've got the burdening, irritating, full of himself...oh, who am I kidding, this man is amazing: we've got Duke here, ready to take over for me in about an hour. How's it going, Duke?"
Duke gives an exaggerated yawn. "Pretty good. About ready to kick it up a notch in this Goddamn snooze-fest. I mean, c'mon, Sinatra? It's 2012, old man. We need some modernity up in here, bro!”
“Well...bro...I’m inclined to agree with you. But first...It’s the top of the hour, so that means we’ve got to take a quick break folks. Don’t worry, Duke and I’ll be back shortly to entertain you with our oh so witty banter.”
“Is this...is this serious?” Chloe says, but Adam shushes her as Cash Benton starts to speak once again:
“This is a pre-recorded message. Cash Benton here from the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Wacker Drive, a beautiful street directly adjacent to the beautiful Chicago River, in the beautiful city of Chi-ca-go! This message must mean it’s the top of the hour, and Cash from the future has taken a break to play his beautiful voice to all of those out there in the ruins of our city. Don’t worry future Cash, you can talk again soon. He’s kind of a loudmouth, that guy.
“Anywho, everyone, we here at the wonderful Hyatt Regency want you! Are you hungry? Thirsty? Scared for your life at every. Waking. Moment? Then listen close.
“Led by the ab-so-lute-ly wonderful Alexander, the citizens at Hyatt want you to join us, and make our beautiful community even better. Too good to be true? Oh, you just listen. Our two towers hold upwards of 2,000 luxury rooms, all with gorgeous views of the city, meaning our over 350 survivors have more than enough space. Various kitchens, a ballroom, a hospital with a trained staff, a pool! A pool! All are welcome, from the young to the old to the disabled to the abled, we have a spot for you. 151 Wacker Drive, everyone. We’ve got guards on our roofs, gazing miles in any direction, making your journey here as pleasant as can be. Can’t wait to see you here.”
The message cuts off, and Mr. Benton returns once again. “Thank you for that wonderful message like always Cash from the past. We really cannot wait to see any of you out there join us at the Hyatt. Now, back to the music...”
“It has to be a joke, right?” Billie says as she drives back to the office building. Her mind is racing at this promise of a community, an actual community. With people and guarantees of food...a place that doesn’t remind her every day that the world’s ended.
“I hope not. They have a pool!” Adam says.
“Is it just me,” Chloe starts, “or does that place seem kind of odd? I mean, the guy was cheery to the point of creepiness.”
“But...it was Cash Benton!”
“Not to mention that name is hilariously cartoonish.”
“It was...weird,” Billie agrees. “But you have to admit, it sounds pretty great.” She pulls up to the building; they retrieve their meager findings from the Target, including the radio, and head inside.
Alec hops from the couch eagerly. “What’ve ya got? Anything good?”
“Got some jerky for you,” Adam says, and tosses a bag of beef jerky to Alec. “Hey, Chloe. Could you get everyone down here?”
“Sure thing.” She heads upstairs and retrieves everyone. After a few minutes, several groggy, nap-ridden faces head into the lobby.
Billie plays the radio station to everyone, and after a few songs, Cash Benton’s chipper voice fills the room, and he and Duke continue with their banter. Their cheerful demeanor seems to have shifted to those in the lobby; a few smirks find a way across most of their faces at the hopes of a new, seemingly secure community.
“How’s that sound?” Billie asks.
“Sounds like I wanna go swimming,” Alec remarks.
“Sounds like a fucking pipe dream,” Hiro says, dampening the mood in an instant. “It’s a ploy. We go there, and it’s bandit cannibals or something.”
“Okay, how did you come to the conclusion of bandit cannibals from that?” Tora asks.
“Look, I just...I don’t have a good feeling about it. I’d rather take my chances here, where I know I’m safe.”
“I’m with Alec,” Lienne says. “I want to go swimming. And food. Food’s good. Wait...but maybe they use the elderly as food! Oh no!” She nudges Hiro with her elbow, letting him know it’s all just good-natured teasing, but he doesn’t look amused.
“If you really believe this crap, you guys are idiots.” He shakes his head and walks back upstairs.
Tora apologizes on his behalf: “He hasn’t been in the best of spirits lately. Sorry.” She gives an embarrassed smile and follows Hiro back up the steps.
"Ugh. Hiro," she says as he stomps up the steps. "You are a forty year old man. Not a toddler. I'm tired of having to put you in your place and apologize for you."
"Then don't," he answers back. He stops in the middle of the hallway and turns toward her. "You're not mom, or dad, I don't need you to babysit me and make sure I'm okay."
"Yes, I do, if you're going to act like a child."
"Holy. Shit. Do you realize how Goddamn condescending you sound? Like...just get off of your high horse for a minute and stop pretending you're better than me. Because you're not, Tora."
Besides a still-sulking Hiro, there’s a debate downstairs, discussing the pros and cons of visiting the Hyatt. They actually take Hiro’s point into consideration. “Okay, how about this,” Devon says, clapping her hands together. “A few tremendously brave souls head out there and see what’s up. Best case scenario: this is actually legit. Worst case scenario: rabid, shit eating cannibals. It’s worth it, I think it. I mean, I’ll go.”
There’s a quick conversation about who should go, and there’s a few volunteers: Cole, Alec, Devon, and Lienne. Afterwards, Billie notices Cole outside smoking a cigarette, to her surprise. She walks outside and stands next to him, crossing her arms. “Didn’t know you smoked,” she says.
“I didn’t. Things change, I guess.”
“Haven’t really talked in awhile. How’re you feeling?”
“I dunno. The place sounds cool. Cash sounds like my kind of guy.”
“Not what I meant.”
He takes a short glance at her. “Then what do you mean, Billie? Spit it out. Please.”
“I’m not trying to pick a fight with you. And I’m not going to fight with you. I just want to know if you’re okay.”
“Well, I’m not. I feel like a sack of shit. Good enough answer for you to leave me alone?”
She turns to him, a look of disgust on her face. “You wanna fucking know something, Cole? You’re being an asshole.”
He makes a pained effort not look at her, instead taking another drag of his cigarette. She notices this and keeps at her rant. “You lost Hannah. Okay. It was terrible. And I know you blame me for letting her turn. And I’ll admit what I did wasn’t right. But you need to realize that you’re not the only person who’s lost something. Ask anyone here: they’ve lost something.
"And you think you’ve got it bad?" she continues. "Devon saw her family get massacred, and she’s not out here smoking a damn cigarette and telling people off. She never did that. She didn’t let that turn her into a...a rude, inconsiderate asshole that ignores his friends and tells them off at every opportunity. No one here did that.
“And I don’t need this shit from you. I fucking loved Finn so much and I had to see him get bit like that. I watched him die, Cole. I saw it. He was the only person that’s been there for me, always. And now he’s dead, and I watched him die. But do you see me being a total dick to every single person I come across? No. So fuck you.”