This is Issue #71 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Two Evils. This is the fifth issue in Volume 12.
Issue 71 - Two EvilsEdit
A woman screams. It's piercing and bone chilling. All chatter in the lobby comes to a halt, and every head turns to face her. There's a brief moment of confusion, until her scream brings along many more, and there's running and shouting as people make for the doors and stairs, the infected from the basement pouring out at an uneasy pace. Marsh manages to run to the opposite end of the basement after he releases the dead, the infected ignoring him now that he is out of reach.
At his end of the lobby, Cole can't see what's going on, but the panic of the people in front of him makes his skin crawl. Suddenly, the crowd of people turns and barrels toward his direction as they try to get away from the approaching infected.
A large man holding onto a little girl's hand bumps into Cole, knocking Cole to the ground. He hits his head on the floor and his vision goes blurry for a few seconds. But in his daze, he sees the girl ripped from the large man's grasp by an infected. In the blink of an eye, she's bitten, and the man is gone.
Cole manages to stand and steadies himself before giving the infected gnawing on the little girl a kick to the side of the head. Its neck snaps backwards, and he finishes it off with a few hard stomps to the face, blood and bits of skull flying in every direction.
He glances at the girl and wants to stop and gag, but there's no time; all around him, people are caught and bitten by the staggering amount of infected. People are clogged at the escalators and the exit as they all frantically try to escape. No way out.
Billie and Hector follow the sounds of shrieks near the lobby's escalators. The sight they're greeted to stops them in their tracks. "Oh my God..." Billie mutters. "Take this." She shoves the sniper rifle into Hector's hands, and he stares at it in his baffled and disturbed state. "Pick them off from here."
"But...but you! Where--" Hector begins, but Billie rushes to the top of the escalator where people are practically trampling each other to get to the top.
Billie grabs the hand of a young woman and pulls her from the frenzy of people. She continues this process for everyone else, while the rifle's gunshots ring throughout the building. "Calm down! One by one!" she orders.
Down near the base of the escalator, Cole finds Duke smashing infected over their heads with an orange plant pot. Duke hits one, and the pot shatters; he quickly grabs another on his left, and Cole follows his lead. Cole kicks an infected away with his foot and crushes the pot on top of the head of an infected chewing on a bald man.
Out of his peripherals, Cole notices someone, oddly, standing completely still amidst the chaos. Cole manages a glance and sees that it's Joe, who mutters to himself as an infected homes in on him.
"Joe!" Cole shouts out, but the old man is unfazed. "Joe!" Cole smashes an infected in the face with his elbow and grabs Joe by the arm. He flings Joe to the ground, putting the man out of harm's way.
He grabs a nearby circular table and flings it toward the infected; the corpses tumble to the ground. "Find a way upstairs!" Cole orders as he offers Joe his hand and lifts him up. A look of confusion and shock overtakes Joe's expression, and he follows Cole's advice.
As Cole continues to use his surroundings to take down the dead, something grabs his shoulder roughly and he feels fingers dig into his flesh. He turns, and before he can kill the infected attacking him, someone does it for him.
Adam appears out of nowhere and rams the wooden leg of a chair into the infected's head. Blood splatters the side of Cole's face, and he nods a quick thanks to Adam.
A scream suddenly permeates the area to his right; he snaps his head around to look, and sees Tora has fallen onto her back and two infected speed toward her. She manages to kick one away, but the second tumbles on top of her, reaching for her neck with its jaws.
Instinctively, Cole grabs for the nearest object that can work as a weapon: a large closed umbrella. He rams the spike of the umbrella through the infected’s head before it can deal the lethal bite to Tora and offers her his hand. She stands quickly and returns to the slaughter without missing a beat.
Near the exit, Robbie and Lienne are trying to assist people out the doors, but the chaos around them makes it too difficult. In the opposite corner of the lobby, Robbie eyes Marsh killing infected and realizes that this was his doing.
"Get them outta here!" Robbie says to Lienne. He uses a butter knife as defense as he pushes through the people. He stabs one infected in the eye, and kills the infected cornering Marsh. Robbie closes in on Marsh and grabs him by the shirt collar. "This was you!" Robbie shouts. "All these damn people!"
He knows, Marsh thinks. He knows he harbored infected in the hotel. How many others know, too? The less that know, the better it is for him.
So he gives Robbie a firm headbutt, and Robbie goes stumbling backwards. Quickly, Marsh clutches the hilt of his dagger and digs it into Robbie's heart. He pulls out the blade, and just as fast as the first time, stabs Robbie in the chest again. Robbie falls to the ground, clutching at his bleeding chest. His eyes are misty as he coughs up bits of blood. Marsh bounds over him and uses that same dagger to aid in the killing of the infected.
As the human to infected ratio in the lobby starts to tip in favor of the living, Cole's aching body practically screams at him to take a break from the assault, so he does. Instead, he tries to figure out the status of anyone he knows: Alive? Bitten? On the brink of death?
He spots Alec and Jake working together to take out a few infected. Duke and Devon double team a trio of corpses. Chloe and Griffin he can't spot; maybe off already to help the injured?
Then there's Marsh, stabbing a half-devoured man in the head. Several realizations hit Cole in an instant, and knows that Marsh caused this. But he can't confront him now and rushes up the blood-covered escalator. He spots Adam, too, finishing up slaughtering an infected. He sees Cole as well and follows him up the escalator.
On the second level of the lobby, a large amount of surviving residents are stationed, many of them panicking as they search for bites or scratches.
The shouts and cries are so loud, Cole can barely hear when someone calls his name. “Adam!” the voice calls as well. Cole recognizes it as Billie's voice and she emerges from a crowd of survivors. She pulls Adam into a hug, then Cole. "You guys okay?" she asks.
“I’m okay,” Adam says.
"I--I think. You?" Cole responds.
"Y-yeah. I was--I was up here the whole time."
She pulls away, and her eyes fix upon Cole's bloody shoulder, where the fabric of his shirt was ripped. "What happened?" she demands.
"What--" he begins, but then notices his shoulder and remembers the infected that grabbed him harshly, and he's sure he's been scratched. "I didn't feel anything--I didn't..." He feels dizzy all of a sudden, but shakes the thought of his death out of his mind, worrying more about everyone else.
“Holy shit,” Adam mutters, backing away.
"You got scratched?" Billie says quietly.
"One of th-them grabbed me. It--it probably got me on the shoulder.” He glances between Adam and Billie’s grief-stricken faces, and gets slightly frustrated. It’s not that he doesn’t care about his own life; there are just people with more serious injuries to attend to.
There’ll be time for goodbyes later.
“T--That's not important right now!” Cole says. “We need--"
"What do you mean it's not important?! Of course it's important!" Billie shouts, cutting him off.
"No, it isn't; we need to see who's okay and who's hurt, then we can deal with me. I-I can’t find Robbie and Lienne, or Hiro. I think Wrigley’s upstairs, b-but I don’t know. Start looking.”
He goes to turn towards the escalator, and almost collides with Tora. “Jesus Christ, Cole,” she says. “Your shoulder. Come with me, we’ll get it checked out.” Her voice is level and calm, but her eyes give away her anxiety. She doesn’t give Cole a choice and grabs his arm, tugging him towards the stairs.
“Is it a scratch?” Tora asks.
“I don’t know,” he replies as they hurry up the steps, pushing past other frantic passers-by.
They reach the fifth floor and enter Tora’s room. “Shirt off,” she orders and he complies. She scours through the cabinet under her kitchen sink and grabs a rag, which she quickly douses under the faucet. She wipes down Cole’s bloody shoulder. “Does it hurt?” she asks.
As the blood starts to disappear, she searches for any sign of injury, but finds none. “I...I think you’re fine.”
Cole breathes a sigh of relief and shakily collapses into the nearest chair. “Must’ve been someone else’s blood,” Tora decides. She quickly searches through a closet and finds one of Hiro’s dirty shirts and hands it to Cole; he pulls it over his head.
“Thank you for saving me, by the way,” Tora says. Cole waves his hand through the air.
“Forget about it.” He forces a smile that quickly fades. “Do you know how anyone else is doing? Is your brother okay?”
“There was too much going on--I didn’t see him.” Her eyes quickly avert towards the ground.
“We can go look for him,” he says, standing up.
“No,” she shoots back. “You’re still all bruised up from Hiro. Just relax and wait until everything calms down. Once I find out how everyone else is, I’ll be back, and I'll let you know."
An hour passes before the infected are completely cleared out and any who fled congregate back inside the hotel. On the lobby's second level, Alexander stands among the survivors, apparently ready to speak. Next to him, Lucy sobs silently, but she's unscathed. As Alexander opens his mouth the talk, he's cut off by a yell from the back:
"You fucking asshole!" a deep voice booms, and Marsh pushes himself through the crowd. "This is your Goddamned fault! You all agree, right?" There's a few murmurs, and Alexander is at a loss for words.
"Alexander is the one that prevents our 24/7 possession of guns, isn't that right? Alexander is the one against mandatory training sessions. Alexander is the one that doesn't want to teach you how to properly defend yourselves. Alexander is the problem!"
"Do you think," Marsh continues, "if you had guns, you'd be able to take down these infected more easily? Probably, right? Right?! But Alexander forbids anyone from having guns at all times!”
There’s an angry roar from the crowd as they begin to spew profanities at Alexander, who’s left standing with his mouth agape.
“Yeah!” Marsh shouts, egging the crowd on. He points a firm finger at Alexander. “This man is the cause of all of those dead bodies down there!”
Alexander comes out of his confused stupor and storms toward Marsh. He grabs Marsh by the shirt. “What the hell are you doing?” Alexander demands to know.
Marsh pushes him away without an answer, and this riles up the crowd even more. A man, the one holding the hand of the little girl that ended up being devoured, pushes through the crowd, leading a small mob of people. They rush for Alexander, who’s first to scurry away before they can reach him. Lucy follows after him, leading him to safety.
Marsh stands in his spot. “You all aren’t worthy of his leadership,” Marsh declares to the crowd. “I’m here now! Under me, we will come back from this.” He spots Lienne in the crowd, and the corner of his mouth turns up in a smirk.
The uninjured and healthy are charged with disposing of the bodies in the lobby. Billie and Adam proceed toward one corner of the lobby, where a pile of infected lie. Adam bends to lift one up, when something catches his eye. He feared the worst when they couldn’t find Robbie, but his suspicions are confirmed when he spots the familiar blue hue of his jacket sticking out from under the corpses.
“Billie,” he says.
She coughs at the stench and turns. “What?” she responds.
“I th-think...Robbie was wearing his blue jacket today, right?”
“Oh, God. Adam, he’s not...?”
They work together to move away the dead bodies, the bits of blue fabric becoming more prominent until Robbie's body is in view. Blood stains his torso, and chunks of meat are missing from parts of his body.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck...” Adam mutters as Robbie’s body begins to stir. He has no choice but to look away and firmly stomp Robbie's head, ending it all before he can reanimate.
The area outside of Griffin's office is packed, and Lienne helps in ordering people around and calming them down. Behind her, Alec bounds up the stairs and shouts her name. She turns, a huge smile on her face, and she's engulfed in a hug.
"Thank God you're okay," he says.
"I didn't have time to look for you. It--it was all so crazy and everyone needed help, I couldn't--"
"Forget it, I don't care. No scratches, no bites?"
"No and no," she assures. "You?" He shakes his head. "Do we know...do we know didn't make it?"
"They're still clearing out the bodies so we don't know. Yet. But Adam and Billie found Robbie."
"'Found him?' He's dead?"
"They found him under a pile of infected."
Lienne sighs and orders Alec to help her organize all of the injured.
Once Billie hears from Tora that Cole is fine, and everything has calmed down somewhat, she hurries to find him. Without knocking, she bursts into Tora's room where she sees Cole downing a glass of water over the kitchen sink. He wipes his mouth and sets the glass down on the counter.
Before he can even say anything, she envelops him in a hug. "I thought you were gonna fucking die," she mutters.
"I'm okay. I'm good," he assures. "I'm not dying."
"I was--I thought I was gonna have to start thinking up my goodbyes," she says, pulling away.
"Me too. But it only tore through my shirt. Luckily." He sits at the kitchen table, and she does the same. "Is it still bad down there?"
"We're almost done clearing out the bodies. Separating which ones we're gonna burn and which ones we want to bury." She swallows hard: "And..."
"What is it?"
"Me and Adam, we found Robbie's body. It looked like he got overwhelmed or something."
Cole stares at her for a few seconds before responding with a simple, "What?" Billie just nods. "Of all people..?" He reaches into his pockets and scours for his small carton of cigarettes. In the hour or so he's been upstairs, he went through many of them, leaving one left. He pulls out the last cigarette, lights it quickly, and throws the empty carton somewhere towards the living room.
"He's such a good guy, y'know?" Cole says. "A saint. A fucking saint during the apocalypse." He blinks a few times, fighting against the stinging feeling in his eyes.
“This was Marsh, you know,” Billie says, and she can’t help the hatred and distaste from crawling into her voice.
“You think he did it on purpose?”
“Of course. He was pretty fucking quick to jump against Alexander and start a Goddamned riot. He wanted the power, and this is what he did. It’s sick. Now we have to bury Robbie and all those little kids and their families because...” She takes a deep breath and attempts to calm herself. “I want to kill him.”
Cole tries to decide if he’s serious, or just saying things out of anger. He can’t tell. “You can’t do that,” he says.
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because you’re not a murderer,” he counters.
“By all accounts, I am. And so are you. So are a lot of people here.”
“We can’t even be sure if this wasn’t just an accident. It could--”
“Why are you making excuses for him?”
“I’m not,” he denies. “I’m just trying to make sure you don’t something really fucking stupid! Do you realize he’ll either kill you, his crazy angry mob will come after you, or you’ll feel like shit afterwards?” He softens his tone before speaking again. “Please, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”