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This is #29 of Endangered and is titled Lost Souls. It is part 5 of Volume 3 and was released on November 30, 2015.

SynopsisEdit

Following the tragic events of the cafe massacre, a ripple effect is sent throughout Franklin Mills. Whilst some are now willing to surrender to Ryker, some feel that giving up will disgrace the memory of the fallen. James, struggling with the guilt of the massacre, debates his next course of action as Ethan searches for more of Ryker's spies. Vicky strives for vengeance, while Michael is forced to make a choice.

Lost SoulsEdit

4 YEARS AGO, 2009

College. In all honesty it is hard to believe that she is here. She should feel radically different, right? She’s out of the confines of high school, out of her parents’ rules and into the world on her own, with college being her starting point. Sure, she feels terrified at this new found responsibility, but she still feels like the same ol’ Victoria Cummings. A bit underwhelming as she imagined being an adult felt cool -- instead it is boring as hell. Still, the feeling of being in college is a feeling that is a powerful one. She is no longer a child and stepping is stepping into the shoes adulthood; it would be exciting if one ignored the fact that the last time Vicky went off on her own she managed to become a grade A fuck up. Luckily, Vicky managed to rebuild the scraps of her life.

Which, of course, leads her to this very moment. As it stands Vicky makes her way down the crowded halls of the University of Pennsylvania, otherwise known as UPENN. How Vicky got into an ivy school like UPENN she knows not (she only had a 4.5 GPA), but here she is, taking her first steps to becoming….well, whatever she wants to be. She hasn’t exactly planned out the major yet, but she is eyeing English. Maybe she can be a teacher? Ms. Cummings, teacher of English. It is a thought that entertains her.

It has been a long day for the barely adult woman. She shared her emotional goodbye with her mother, her not so emotional goodbye with Ethan, unpacked her bags, took a tour of the campus and ate a good ol’ lunch. Feeling a sense of tiredness Vicky makes her way back to her dorm, pushing through the crowds of emotional people with her hooded face trying to keep her concealed. Lucky for her, no one paid attention to anyone in college unless it’s drawn towards one self, so Vicky got her wish and avoided interaction.

Of course, that is going to change when she meets her roommate, a person Vicky has the unfortunate luck of being stuck with. Vicky applied for a single dorm, to an uneasiness when interaction came with others, but as she found out today she has a roommate. The thought of sharing a room with a stranger terrifies her, but she powers through it. She can only pray that her roommate respects her privacy and doesn’t try to force her to talk. Friends aren’t something Vicky wants at this point of her life, not after what happened with Neal.

Arriving at her door Vicky is surprised to find it open, confirming that her roommate has already arrived. Shit, what does she say? What does she do? Does she look okay? What if they don’t like each other? Shit, shit--fuck. Ugh, why did she have to get a roommate? Did she piss off the dean or something?

Her attempts at thinking are in ruins when the door is flung open. Vicky faces down her in roommate, quickly picking up how much of a frantic mess she is in. “Are you--”

“Do you have a bowl?” Her roommate is quick to ask a strange question.

“A bowl? Like--a bowl you eat with?”

“There is only one kind of bowl!

“Well, no.”

“Shit! Do you have any water?”

“I mean I got this bottle-”

“Swimmy needs it!”

“Who?”

“Swimmy fucking needs it!” Honestly a little bit scared of this woman, Vicky hands over her bottle, watching as the frantic roommate slips a tiny goldfish through the tiny open. No words are spoken as the mysterious roommate cheers in joy whilst watching the little goldfish adjust to the liquid. “Ah, thank you! I sort of dropped the fish bowl, and you know, shit happens when glass hits the floor. So that led to one thing, another led to this, and that led me to you! So...thanks!”

“Sure thing.”

“Wait a damn minute. Are you my roommate?”

“It appears so.” Vicky’s answer is cut short once the women wraps her arms around Vicky, giving her a warm, big bear hug that Vicky uncommonly gets. “What’s up, roomster?!” The roommate asks as pulling away with a smile, eyeing Vicky as she does. “Thank God they gave me someone cool. You are--cool, right?”

“I guess.”

“Works for me!” Vicky fully enters the room, taking a look at the dorm she will be stuck in for the year. Averaged size room with two separate beds, desks, closets and still leaving room for more accessories to be set up, such as the mini fridge her roommate appears to have set up. “I’m sorry, proper introductions are in order. Firstly, this is swimmy! He’s a fish.”

“I can see that.”

“He gets the name from that one Icarly episode with Spencer's cute littly fishy. Oh, and I’m Lara Drake.” Lara puts the bottle on the table for temporary use until a bowl comes into her possession. “I’m Victoria Cummings.” Vicky introduces herself. “People call me Vicky.”

“That is an unfortunate last name.”

“As I learned in high school.” Vicky awkwardly sits on her bed, feeling mildly uncomfortable around this girl. She wasn’t ugly or anything, in fact she was very pretty. Dark hair and eyes are fit with a beautiful body that is elegantly shown with her dark jeans and loose sweatshirt. Problem lies in that this girl was very, very talkative. Wasn’t exactly a bad trait, but compared to Vicky it just doesn’t mix well. She can’t see anything working between them.

Lara notes the awkward silence, and she too awkwardly chuckles for no reason other than to hear some noise. Sheesh, hopefully this roommate of her can lighten up and talk a little. “Wanna play a game?”

-----

“Uno.”

“Goddamnit.” Lara throws her colored cards onto the floor whilst her opponent chuckles at her frustration. “Seriously, you won like three times in a row. What the hell is this game?”

“You suggested it.”

“But it is clear you’re cheating.”

“You can’t cheat in uno.”

“Damn hell you can’t.”

“How did I cheat?”

“Because you did.”

“How?”

“By cheating.”

“How did I cheat?”

“You know…” Lara struggles to come up with a response, and as such, simply sighs and falls back against the floor, admitting defeat. “Fuck uno.”

“Oh.”

“Fuck spanish too, while we’re at it.”

“You took spanish?”

“Tornillo este idioma.”

“I got zero clue what you said.”

“Usted es blanco como el infierno.”

“I know blanco means white….and I think infierno means hell.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Lara gives off a devilish smirk of a child whilst laying on the floor, taking a sip of some nice soda as she does. Her eyes wander onto the enigma of Cummings (still a hilarious last name), who continues to sit on the carpeted floor, her eyes away from that of Lara and her leg in a constant loop of shaking. Was she afraid of Lara? Shit, did Lara do something? The last thing she wants to do is be seen as an annoyance by this girl she is supposed to share a dorm with.

Lara sits up, leaning her back against the bed whilst watching Vicky, thinking of what to say to this isolated stranger. “So,” Lara stutters, “where are you from?”

“I...was born in California. Simi Valley.” Vicky notes the confusion in Lara’s eyes from the unknown name. “It is in Los Angeles.”

“Yo, that is what up. Meet any celebrities?”

Vicky shrugs. “I don’t know. We hear when I was young.”

“Dang. Would have been cool to meet like Matt Damon or George Clooney.”

“Or Christian Bale.” Vicky adds with a small, but visible smirk. “What about you? What’s your story?”

“Born and raised in Brooklyn. Just arrived in Philadelphia about,” Lara checks her watch, “ten hours ago.”

“Thoughts?”

“I like the cheesesteaks.”

“Cool. Same.” Vicky taps her foot, visibly nervous when it comes to talking with this stranger. “Why not go to college in New York?”

“Shit happened. Why leave California?”

“Shit happens.”

“Oh.”

“...Yeah.” The two girls sit there in silence, allowing the awkwardness of their clashing personality types take over. Both were out of their element here, and oh, this could only get more awkward as time went on.

“Well, hey, I’m glad I got you as my roomie.” Lara attempts to break the silence. “From what I can see you’re not a freak.” Vicky chuckles lightly at the comment. “I hear the girl next door is, so luckily she ain’t my ‘mate.”

“How so?”

“She is into a lot of guns and bombs and shit. Weird girl.”

“Let’s just hope she don’t shoot up the school.”

“If she does you’re on your own.” Lara smiles whilst taking a drink. “Every girl for themselves.”

“Wow.”

“Yep. I ain’t getting shot, sorry.”

“Well--same.”

“Ice cold.” Vicky glances at her phone to check at the time, finding it still to be reasonably early. Plenty of time left in the day, for better or worse. “So...you wanna do anything or..?”

“I don’t know. What do you like?”

“I don’t know. What do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know--any Philly places you wanted to see?”

“I wanted to see that Dave and Busters place, but I’m broke.”

“I got a gift card and shit for there.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Lara watches as Vicky yanks out her wallet, showcasing the cards stuffed inside. Oh, such a beautiful sight. “You wanna go?”

“Do I wanna go? Hell yeah.” Lara immediately hops onto her feet with passion. “You got a license?”

“No. You?”

“Nope. Bus it is.” Lara throws on her boots and jacket whilst Vicky does the same. As the two girls get ready for their little trip of fun, and hopefully bonding, Lara looks at her new roommate, continuing to note how scared and awkward she is of her dear friend. If they were gonna be roommates they needed to be friends at some point, so in a friendly exchange, Lara holds out her hand for Vicky to high five. Vicky pauses but she soon smacks the hand, much to Lara’s joy. “There we go, Vics. Can I call you that?”

“Sure.”

“Great! You know, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship. A little girl road trip.” The optimistic, extrovert Lara says cheerfully to her more depressed, introverted friend. “Who knows, maybe you’ll be worth a bullet afterall.”


Denial. That had to be the feeling that made its way through her veins. Was she really dead? Last Vicky heard Sam was working on Lara, hoping that she could fix her friend. Vicky didn’t have the courage to stick around and wait for the dreaded answer. So, lost in her own thoughts, Vicky roams the streets of the small town of homes across from Franklin Mills. A nice neighborhood, one that they hoped to clear out one day to expand Franklin Mills; however, such a time never came.

Why did Lara do it? Why would Lara give such a sacrifice for her? It should have been her, and she herself knows this. Lara was the one who deserved a future more than her. Who was Vicky, afterall? She has no future, no goals other than to survive and protect, yet she failed at protecting her greatest friend. So what does that make her? Weak. Useless. Pathetic. She is nothing but a lost soul drifting in the wind.

“Why did you do it?” Vicky thinks aloud. Wandering the streets of ruin, Vicky takes note of the world around her. A once beautiful neighborhood resorted a graveyard of the world she once knew. Abandoned cars, blood dried onto the streets, the rotting bodies and homes of the past fill the streets, reminding her just how the world fell. Everyone thought they were untouchable and civilization would always rule, but funny what a few months can do. Two months. Two months since the world fell, and since then no word has been given on any news outside of Philadelphia.

A lone grunt shivers through her mind, reminding Vicky of how she isn’t alone. She turns to her backside, taking quick note of the approaching infected. Looked like a former housewife. Maybe she had a family before the infection got to her? These were type of questions Vicky would have used to ask herself before the kill, distracting her from the task and hesitant to get the job done. Funny how things change.

Once in close range Vicky swung her metal baseball bat with all the strength she could muster. The contact forced the infected onto the floor below, the dark blood oozing from the fresh gash on its head. Vicky was quick to stomp on the weakened head, followed by another three stomps. Stomps so hard that she could feel the brain matter steep onto her shoes.

“Disgusting.” Vicky kicks her foot onto the curb in an effort to rid herself of the brain matter. As she kicks away the last of the shattered brain, Vicky glances once more back to the infected and the ruined town. It was them. They did this. Those damn monsters. It was them who ruined their city, it was them who forced people into caged animals, it was them who bought out the worst in people. Their attempts at ruining the world is what shoved the government away, allowing Ryker to be their “savior”, and thus, leading him to Franklin Mills. It is because of their efforts, for their mindless, worthless existence that Lara became a casualty in a war much beyond them. It was all them.

She could have saved Lara! Her mindless stupidity caused her to step on that glass, which forced Lara to save her. She shouldn’t have hid as a coward. If she fought Drake earlier, if she was brave and strong enough, then Lara could be here! Instead she was afraid. She was worthless.

Vicky kicks the infected’s body once more, and in a mere moment, Vicky kicks the body repeatedly, unleashing her frustration of the world around her. “You.” Vicky kicks the body. “You killed her!” The sadness, the frustration, the anger and even confusion all swell inside of her, warping her from the inside

Her beating of the infected is cut short by screams. Not humane, no. Screams of the beasts. Grasping her weapon of death, Vicky waits for her enemies to approach, itching to get the adrenaline from her darkened veins; itching to get redemption. Maybe if she kills enough she can redeem herself for her mistakes. How many can wipe away the debt, however? She knows not, but she intends to find out.

With a scream Vicky swings her bat into the first infected’s head, knocking the beast down as she swings to the next one. Once her bat connects with the head Vicky was quick to swing back towards the skull, giving her the satisfying cracking sound she so craved. Quickly, Vicky swung her weapon to the grounded infected, before turning her eyes onto the few more.

The infected was quick to grasp her wrist, nearly getting a bite of the flesh it so craved. Vicky was able to kick the knee, freeing herself of the icy grasp and preparing herself for the infected rushing behind her. Vicky sidestepped the beast, briefly losing her footing but regaining it just in time to swing her strength at the face. Another down, but the infected kept coming. Without much strategy Vicky swung her bat at all who approached. Some hits were enough to damage the skull, while others simply knocked the infected down briefly; for the latter ones, Vicky used extra measure by giving a hard kick.

Taking one final swing at the last infected in her sight, the mere amount of strength used in her swing has Vicky stumble. The stench of death, the pit in her stomach and the mixing of sweat and blood were not enough to put Vicky down. She still needed to prove her worth.

Hearing the screams, Vicky tiredly stands to her feet, gripping her bloodied weapon once more, ready for what the world has to throw at her. Seeing two infected in the distance, one closer than the other, Vicky prepared her swing. Once in arms length Vicky swung just an inch to far, missing her target and leaving her blindspot open for the take. It’s ram sent a shot of pain through her hip that sends the women to the rocky ground below head first. The soaring aching in her head makes any vision unbearable, resorting the world around to colorless blobs. Nothing is visible. A blind warrior.

With a cry of utter pain Vicky rolls to the nearest infected, slamming her body weight into the meek knees. Using her hearing to her advantage, Vicky listens for the thump onto the ground, giving away the dreaded position. Rolling onto the infected’s back Vicky runs her hand through the cracked skin, finding her way to the back of the bald, scaly head. With all her might she lifts and slams repeatedly until all sense of breathing is gone.

Feeling her vision return, Vicky rolls onto her knees, noticing the last infected rushing at her. Through her bleeding, but now visible vision, Vicky leaps at the beast, tackling the former human. Both screamed as they slammed onto the concrete below. The trauma of her head leave her vulnerable to the infected, whom quickly attempts to bite her precious flesh. In reaction Vicky threw her hands up, pressing her strength against his face to keep away. In their close proximity she nearly lost her strength due to it’s horrific, warm breath running down her face, along with the dripping meat oozing from his teeth; and it is the same meat that falls onto Vicky’s body during their struggle. Pressing her sharp thumbs against the infected’s eyes, Vicky uses her strength to push. Her sharp nails dig into the white gush, effectively popping them into oblivion. She continues to push through the substance as the blood shoots from the infected’s face, all over Vicky’s once innocent face.

With the help of her deeply implanted thumbs, Vicky throws the infected to the side. Hopping onto her two feet Vicky is given the opportunity to grip her trusty weapon and slam down one final time, mushing the head into a cracked pieces of skull.

Any energy left within her has evaporated into nothingness. Feeble attempts at standing force Vicky onto the ground, desperately attempting to catch the air her lungs so need. She breathed heavily whilst the blood and sweat mixed on her skin, but she cared not for appearances. Not in such a time of desperation.

She stood to her feet once composed. Looking around the neighborhood she felt satisfaction, but the failure of losing Lara still stung in her heart. She could still feel the pain of losing her, the pain of having failed her closest friend. Spotting no infected to take this frustration on, Vicky is left with only the final move of sitting on the pavement to rethink her thoughts. She could go track down more to avenge her beloved, but at what cost? It could kill her….but if that sacrifice is worthy for redemption of the broken soul then so be it.

Looking to her right, Vicky catches her stray reflection in the shattered window. There was once a time where Vicky was of good hearted, beauty. Hard to believe now as she looks within herself. Her hair runs wild like an animal, her crazed eyes are on the move, her skin covered in the mixture of the dirt, sweat and blood, as well as her forehead wound. She was barely recognizable as Victoria Cummings. This is what the world has reduced her too. Look at what she is becoming, it is vulgar. But is there any other way to live? Vicky embraces her own death with open arms, but her friends? She can’t leave them. No. To protect them she must destroy herself. Look at what happened with Lara when Vicky acted human.

It is here that her mind drifts back to the fallen soul. Ever since the incident Vicky has been so caught up in the frustration and anger that she hasn’t had a quiet moment to ask herself one question. What now? How is she supposed to go on without Lara? She doesn’t know if she can wake up everything morning and not find her best friend by her side. Lara wasn’t a friend to her, she was family.

A tear. The lone tear waters through Vicky’s eyes as she comes to think about how Lara is truly gone. No more of Lara’s humor, no more of the fun she bought into Vicky’s life, no more Lara trying to help Vicky with a normal life, and no more having that loyal side by her side. God knows Lara wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect enough for Vicky. Yet Vicky abused that poor soul. Lara was a loyal dog to Vicky, but what was Vicky in return? Accepting the failures she gave Lara, Vicky lets it out. No anger, just the bottled up tears of yesterday. Initially slow they begin to pour from her eyes as Vicky allows herself to become vulnerable for this moment. She cries for Lara, she cries for the fallen world, her friends, and she cries for what she is becoming.

“I’m sorry.” Vicky cries out. She isn’t too sure who but she cries. “I’m sorry!” Vicky cries to the heavens for forgiveness. “Forgive me!” Vicky continues to sob for the fallen, not even noticing how much time has passed until she glances at the watch on her wrist. Standing to her feet, Vicky wipes away the remnants of tears, reminding herself that she needs to be strong. “I can do it. I can do this.”

Once again gripping her baseball bat, Vicky turns. Surprisingly she finds she is not alone, for standing a good half a block away is McCoy, who casually watches her whilst leaning leaning on a pole. He stands silently, eyeing away from her once she noticed him. “What?” Vicky asks with frustration.

“We noticed you were missing. I wanted to make sure you didn’t…..you know. Suicide watch.”

“For fuck’s sake, man. I wasn’t--I’m not suicidal.” McCoy eyes the dead infected around the neighborhood and feels like he should differ with her. “So that isn’t a death wish?” McCoy asks about the bodies, much to her dismay.

“They needed to die. They all need to die. You should be thanking me.”

“For almost killing yourself?”

“For doing what needs to be done!” Vicky, annoyed with his behavior, sighs. Turning from him she wipes the bat’s blood on her shirt, much to his dismay. “How long have you been here?”

“Not long.” McCoy admits. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Good.” She scoffs. “Look, I’m fine, aight? All I wanted was some time alone.”

“Why?”

“Why? What do you mean why?!” Vicky’s stare was enough to scare her friend. “Lara is dead, McCoy. She’s dead! Do you know what this means? What it means to me?” McCoy knew what Lara meant to Vicky; she was what Dre meant to him, hell even more probably. It is a pain that McCoy knows must be unbearable. “She was my family. My family! Not yours and not theirs! So, if I decide I want to grieve myself, then I should have the damn right!”

“We’re not against you, Vics! Calm down.” McCoy attempt to touch her shoulder but she smacks his hand away. “We’re just worried.”

“Why are you worried? Because I don’t sit around and cry all day? I’m sorry if we have different ways of grieving!”

“We’re worried because you’re…” McCoy pauses, trying to find the right words to speak to her, “because you been acting weird. For a while now.”

“Weird?”

“Do you wanna tell me you’re the same girl you were a few months ago?”

“I’m stronger.”

“At what cost! You’ve been more isolated and dedicated to getting stronger. I don’t know, it’s weird.” McCoy scratches his head, feeling immensely uncomfortable with where this conservation is going. “I get it. You want to be strong, but you don’t need to do this.”

“I took my eye off the ball and she is dead because of it.” How is McCoy not processing this? It’s strange to Vicky, as typically McCoy was more short spoken. Who was he too call her out? “I don’t need this, alright? Lecture someone else.”

“I just want to help you, Vicky.”

“I don’t need it.” McCoy knew that wasn’t true. Not only could she barely stand but her emotional state was a rollercoaster. McCoy knows that he may come off as foolish to her, but he isn’t gonna let her be like this. If she wants to harass him for caring then so be it.

“If you wanna talk about Lara,” McCoy notices Vicky tense at her name, “I’m here for you, okay? And I know that this may sound useless, but look at all the great times you two had. Be happy that you got to know her. The times you two spent together, the memories you made--no one can take that from you. Everyone dies, you know? Best we can do is--”

“Who have you lost?” Vicky cuts McCoy in a huff. It’s a question that has McCoy pause, much to Vicky’s dismay, giving a slight sigh at his response. “Who have you lost, McCoy? Don’t play silent with me, tell me.”

“No one.”

“No one, huh? So do you don’t know what I feel like right now?”

“No, I don’t. I’m just trying to help you. It is all I want to do.” McCoy never lost anyone he cared for. Growing up in his family he was never close to much people. Any close relationship he did make was with neighbors who moved away, as his parents were isolated from the rest of their own families due to their ignorance. His parents….they were never the type of people McCoy looked up to. In a strange way he did love them; without them he would have never become the man he is today, but he can’t forgive them.

He often wonders what happened to them. It is a tough feeling, not knowing what happened. Maybe even harder than losing someone as McCoy had no closure, only assumptions. He likes to imagine that they are somewhere safe, maybe even finding their own form of redemption.

“I appreciate you trying to help, McCoy. Honestly. But you don’t know what this feels like. I have lost...too many people. My parents, my friend, Lara…..I’ve tried to look at this stuff other ways, but I can’t. I’m not as emotionally healthy as you are.” Vicky gives a dry smirk to her comment, albeit a smirk of a women trying to hide full her suffering. “The world isn’t fair. Just how it is, right?”

McCoy wants to disagree, but seeing her now, he holds his tongue. She doesn’t need arguments, she needs a shoulder and ears. Two things he can more than happily provide. “Right.” He nods his head. “Will you let me help with that head wound at least, damn.”

Vicky flashes a brief smile, nodding her head whilst doing so.


“So, quite the turn of events, huh?” Haley asks Michael whilst taking a sip of her creamed, steaming hot coffee. She looks at him to give a reassuring smile, seeing the panic he tries to hide behind his crystal blue eyes. “You okay?”

Michael and Haley sit in one of the public benches along the mall, each drinking a batch of coffee from a run down Dunkin Donuts. They are among the few people in the halls today as most are still too scared to exit their tents. They can’t blame them. The fear of armed men attacking is no longer a distant thought. The reason they are out is for they have nothing to lose, so why hide in fear? Man, what has this city been resorted to? “I don’t know.” Michael admits with a shrug. “I never thought I’d be in a situation like this. It’s like one of those comic books or shit.”

“Hey now, don’t you dare bash comic books. They are my life.”

“Your life is people in spandex stopping mustache twirling bastards?”

“Better than drinking soda twenty four hours a day.” Her comment brings a laugh from Michael, who too finds amusement in his strange addiction. “How are you not fat, though. Like what the hell. I eat an extra slice of pizza and I become Melissa McCarthy.”

“I jog.”

“Sure you do.” Haley takes another sip of coffee as a silence fills the air. Not of awkwardness, but instead of a burning fear of what comes next. After all, chances are Ryker has men looking for her. The stunt she pulled probably doesn’t go over kindly with an egotistical dictator. Nowhere in this city is safe for her, nor the ones she cares about. “So what do you think about all of this? With this Ryker shit.”

“I don’t know. I was hoping there could be something peaceful, you know? I never expected that he would attack us under our noses like that. Jesus Christ, man. What the hell, you know?” The Cafe Massacre struck too close to home, especially since Michael was there with Sarah not long before. What if they were there? Michael didn’t know much of the victims, only knowing them from the hallways. However, he did know one. The poor Lara girl, who from what he heard is on her deathbed. “I don’t know what we can do. Can we even stand up to him? It’s like he has been preparing some sort of city takeover for years. You?”

“He isn’t untouchable. He’s just a man.” Haley knows him better than most due to the relationship of her father and him. Powerful he is, but he has his weaknesses. He likes to deny these flaws, but Haley saw them. Surprisingly emotional with a lack of control over them, Ryker lets his heart dictate more than his head sometimes. A clear exploit and potential downfall. “All men can die. Even Caesar took a knife to the heart. Ryker can too.”

“Sound as if you know him.” Michael’s light comment was unfortunately truth to Haley, who only throws on a pretend smirk for her friend. Looking at Michael now, Haley can see the loyal heart underneath. He is an old friend, a good friend, and one she doesn’t want to lie too. Lying was something that was apart of her, as she was always been open about her past and mistakes. This one was different, however, as who knows what could happen. How would he react? Scared her, but it was bound to come out at some point.

“Can I tell you something?” Haley asks, to which Michael nods his head. “Of course.” Michael says, all ears for his friend.

“Promise not to react too strongly?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Michael watches as Haley pauses, almost afraid to say what she needs to say.

“I used to--I don’t know how to put this. I know Ryker.”

“What do you mean know him?”

“I used to be apart of his group.” Well, it was news Michael certainly didn’t expect. Haley as a member of this organization? Haley LaFontaine? That was certainly a surprise for him. “I don’t come from a good family. They were friends with him and so when this shit went down he offered his protection. I didn’t think anything of it but--I saw the things he has done, what his twisted goals are. It was terrible. So I ran, ya know? Been hiding ever since.”

Haley looks at Michael, watching as the man takes it all in. He is silent, a silence that is horrifying to Haley, almost as if he was judging her. “I know you, Haley. You’re not a bad person. You made a mistake, but we all do, right?”

“You don’t know the things I’ve done.”

“And I don’t care. I know you now. You’re not them.” Michael offers her a supporting smile, hoping he can show her that he is there for her. Haley looks at him, pleasantly surprised by the answer. She knows for a fact that most people wouldn’t take such news so kindly. “You really don’t care?” She asks, to which her friend nods.

“Maybe I’m naive, but I trust you, alright?” Michael pats her on the shoulder, offering his support for the woman, something she very much appreciates. “Granted it has been years since we’ve been close, so I’m probably just an idiot.”

“Well, you aren’t the smartest of the bunch. Mixing up a triangle and a circle….” Haley comments about an incident from their childhood, where the slacker Michael gave up in Geometry and ended up forgetting what a triangle was. So what did he do? He drew a circle. A fucking circle. “It was one time!” Michael defends himself from her.

“If I can, though, I suggest you tell James. Maybe you can give him the info you know?” Michael suggests to Haley, who has thought about that particular idea. She was prepared to offer her hand, but the cafe massacre has worsened that confidence. What if they accuse her of being sent here by Ryker?

“What if they don’t trust me?”

“He will. Probably don’t mean much, but I can vouch for you.” Michael’s relationship with James was mixed at best, as was his relationship with other “leaders” such as Ethan. Maybe a vouching could help support her? He knows not, but he feels the need to help her given all she did for Zoey.

Michael still can’t believe he happened to run into such an old friend. Catching up with her during the past day has been a joy as they relished in the stories from their childhood. Of course, both went down different paths, but funny how paths can cross again. Sitting here now, Michael admits that he never died really appreciate her all those years ago, so seeing her now does help. It also helps that Haley is a beautiful woman, whose beauty is unmatched, as if she was angel from above. It is no shocker that Michael has felt his urge arouse itself when around her; despite those wishes, Michael holds back, remembering the promise he made to himself. If he wants to be a better man, than facing his demons is a priority, including the womanizing.

So, instead of love, Michael settles for a smile between the two, hoping to show both Haley and himself that he can be there for her without his own selfishness.


A lovely day. Very lovely, actually. The sky is as blue as the ocean with very scarce clouds in sight, allowing the yellow sun to beat down in a typically cold winter. Of course, the cold breeze still finds its way around, but the sun is enough to lightly calm it today.

Standing from his office, Ryker watches over his empire with a smile. With every day he happily finds that his equipment grows stronger. More guns are seized, more vehicles are prepped, and crates of food are brought before him. His colonies never fail to present him with good supplies. Colonies. A funny word to use, but one that is no less true. Ryker admits he sometimes had his doubts, but their plan worked. Now, Ryker has the privilege to protect his city and raise it from the ashes. In due time the next stage of the plan can begin.

Today was important because it marked process. A dear friend from their party is coming down to see Ryker’s process with Philadelphia. A process that is going very well for Ryker controls this city. Every safe zone within the boundaries has been colonized by him. Frankford Station, Citizens Bank Park, the Casino, Franklin Mills and more….all under his control. A beautiful sight to behold. A sign for a better tomorrow. A tomorrow where the youth don’t need to disillusioned by false prophets, need not worry about the evil that creeps around the corner, and be safe under the rule of their king. It is a world where Ryker knows his beautiful baby boy will be safe, and to him, that is all that matters to this elder man. It is the love for his family that drove him here, not the power that many people assume.

Pacing back to his desk, Ryker uses his walkie talkie to summon Gabriel to his office. An order that was responded to quickly with the speedy arrival of Gabriel. That’s Gabriel, always proficient and ready to roll when needed. He was a perfect soldier; a right hand man, and most of all friend, that Ryker was happy to receive. “How are you, Gabriel?” Ryker asks as he takes a seat, a gesture he offers to his friend, who kindly refuses.

“I’m well. Thank you, sir.” Gabriel stands like an obedient slave waiting for his order. Oh, how he hopes it is something adventurous. His trigger finger is itching to pull. “What can I do for you?”

“I need you to organize a team and pick up our supplies from the colonies.” Ryker slides the information of each zone to his friend. “I am preoccupied today, so I’m leaving this to you.”

“What’s on your book, sir?” Ryker smiles at the question. Hard to tell if it is one of warmth or his sly nature, but oh, such a smile it is. “I am meeting a friend.” It is all Ryker spills to Gabriel, who simply nods his head and gets ready to depart. “Remember, Gabriel, I got my trust in you.”

“Relax, boss. When have I ever let you down?” Gabriel’s charismatic smile inspires loyalty and trust into Ryker. After all, when has this man ever let him down? So, Ryker watches as Gabriel departs before turning to his desk, anxious to the notes for his friend. Oh, how he only hopes that his superior is pleased.


Do you remember the day you chipped your soul?

Oh, hush now. Don’t complain, don’t lie. We all have had those days. The days in which we are forced to make a decision that compromises us, demolishes our honor and dignity. Sometimes it is something minor such as lying to a friend, stealing money from a parent, or cheating on a simple test. Othes? Oh, other times it is far worse.

Ethan remembers the day his soul was cracked. It was a day of many years ago back in his youth. Back in the early days of his military career, before the lad was even a good twenty two, he was deployed out of the country for a mission. He still remembers the fear in his heart as they stormed the suspected terrorist village, where a man they were looking for was apparently planning a terror attack back in the states. Bullets flew through the air around them as his unit scrambled for cover. The squad commander, ordered they stand their ground but the power of fear was rampant in the squad. Ethan felt the urge to run for safety, damning his brothers to death.

His soul was chipped when his eyes took note of a civilian approaching them. He wasn’t fearful like the rest of the civilians. No, this man was calm. Within a few moments Ethan noticed the glimmer of homemade item strapped to his chest. The rest of his brothers were too distracted to notice, leaving the task alone down to Ethan. A hard choice to make, as it always is when someone’s life is put in your hands. Ethan made his choice that day, and it is due to that choice that he made it out of that hellhole alive, along with the rest of his brothers.

The day he pulled that trigger there was no going back. His life was changed for good, and no matter what his protests may be, there was no erasing what had happened. There was only going forward with the knowledge of what happened. Knowledge that he carried with him to every battle. For if he doesn’t act than the innocents die.

Which brings him to today. A day of defeat as many would call it, but to Ethan, it’s only the beginning of retribution. Does Ryker have the audacity to believe that they wouldn’t strike back? Ryker can’t scare everyone, Ethan will make sure of that.

Pacing around the security room, Ethan’s intensified glare strikes the same fear into his current prisoner. A scrawny, meek bastard that we can recognize as Damon, the bitch who has been starting trouble. Damon continues to act tough as he sits handcuffed in his chair, but his constant jumping and darting eyes show no such strength. He sits in his own shell of fear as the big bad wolf paces around him, the devil emitting from his eyes.

“I--I didn’t do it.” Damon stutters from his mouth. “I’m not one of them!”

“Is that so?” Ethan sits across from Damon, holding the deadly police baton in his hands. “You happen to arrive not long before Ryker, you have done nothing but cause trouble to our innocents and just recently I hear you laughing about the victims? I’m not a fool.” Ethan continues to watch Damon, sending fear down his little spine. “All you have to do is admit the truth and we can end this.”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“You didn’t do anything? You? You killed them!” Ethan slams his hand down onto the metal table, a slam that causes that frightened man to jump. “Admit your guilt.”

“Fuck you, man.”

“What was that?”

“Fuck you!” Damon’s arrogance earns him a whack across the face, courtesy of the baton. “You don’t scare me!” Damon flinches at the sight of the baton, even letting out a yelp as Ethan whacks him once more upside the head. “You’re supposed to be a cop, man!”

“What is that supposed to mean? That I’m supposed to be some uptight person? Be a good man?” Ethan scoffs his efforts at pleading him to stop. “I’m not a good man, Damon, and the thing is, I don’t need to be. My job is to enforce justice and protect the innocence. It never said that I needed to be a saint. So, you see, I don’t care if I am a good or bad man. The thing I care about is if I’m doing my job, and since I got scum like you here, I believe I am.”

Grabbing Damon by the face, Ethan lifts him from his chair to where their eyes can meet. “I don’t want to hurt you, Damon. All I want is the truth.”

“Fuck you.” Ethan slams Damon on the table below, nearly breaking the wooden table as Ethan’s hand hovers down to Damon’s throat. A throat that he very easily manages to wrap his hand around and slowly presses onto it. “This can end, Damon. Just tell me what I want to know.”

“You’re not gonna…..kill me.” Damon suffers to get his words out, even more so when Ethan punches him in the face with his mighty strength. “You can’t!” Damon is punched once more by the volatile Ethan, whose restraints have been broken long ago.

“You’re right. I can’t.” Ethan slams Damon’s face into the table twice, hoping to send as much pain as he can until the meek boy. Ethan gives a few more punches to the bruising Damon, no empathy in his eyes as he does. Justice had to be served, vengeance was to be given to those who wronged them.

Ethan knew this couldn’t be right. He remembers the morals he was placed with growing up, but is he supposed to let those chain him to the floor? The ends justify the means, and in doing so, this means that he should be able to break morality if it means saving the innocent. To Ethan, justice can be one of two things: a sharp line and the blur. Today it was the blur. “Tell me the truth.”

Damon spits a slob of blood from his lips, all while trying not to cry at the hands of Ethan, who is clearly holding back. If Damon wants to see real torture, then oh boy, can Ethan show it to him. “Tell me!”

“Ethan!” The voice of the familiar Reyes pulls Ethan back to reality, where he finds Reyes approaching him, clearly in disapproval of Ethan’s actions. “Let him go.”

“Reyes--I almost have him.”

“For what?”

“He’s one of Ryker’s men.”

“Did he admit to it? Do we have any proof?” Reyes’s question leave Ethan at a blank, as indeed he had nothing against Damon than his gut feeling. It’s a look Reyes recognizes, prompting him to sigh. “Let him go, Ethan.”

Ethan is hesitant to release the man he believes is guilty, but seeing as how Reyes is correct, Ethan drops Damon upon uncuffing him. Damon wastes little time in sprinting from the room, not even allowing Reyes to check him over. “He was guilty, Reyes. I know it.”

“No. You don’t know that.” Reyes glances over to the corner room, seeing the pathetic sight of the bruised, bloody Mick sitting in his corner. It make Reyes’s heart turn, for he knows Mick is just a misguided person. Does he really deserve this? He has made mistakes, but the beauty of life is that we get to go back. “Did he say anything?” Reyes doesn’t bother to bother Ethan about the beating of Mick, as he knows it was justified, but still not an act Reyes is proud of.

“The kid? No, he’s been silent. He’s more afraid of Ryker than me. Not the best judgement.” Ethan uses a rag to wipe the blood of Damon from his table. “He passed out a little while back and I couldn’t do nothing. So I tried digging into these ‘spy’ candidates. Damon was my top option.”

“Anyone other big options?”

“Ramsay, kid named Duncan, you--”

“Me?”

“Yeah, kid. You.” Reyes looks dumbfounded at the saying, although Ethan remains perfectly fine. “What? I know what you were, and if that tattoo you got gives any indication, then I have every right to be suspicious. Nothing against you personally. Just being thorough.” Reyes nods with disappointment, but nothing he couldn’t really blame Ethan for. In his shoes Reyes would be suspicious too.

“What are you gonna do to them?” Reyes acknowledges the people Ethan accuses. “You gonna beat them?”

“Kid, don’t give me this shit. Are you, of all people, upset that I was a little rough?”

“When there is no reason to be, yeah.” Reyes’s new found way of life was bound to put him at odds with someone, although he didn’t expect it to be so soon. “The way I see it, we’re all human. All life is precious, right?”

“All life is precious? You take monk 101?”

“I’m just saying. We don’t gotta be so aggressive.” Ethan turns towards Reyes, seeing the disapproving nature in his eyes. The judgement. The damn judgement. “Are you judging me? You? You, you of all people, don’t get to come in here and pass judgement on me!”

“You always held yourself out as better than me. You were always more ‘righteous’. Look at yourself, Ethan. Are you really? Now?”

“Be quiet.” Ethan shuts him down with a growl as powerful as a mighty lion. “You? We’re not the same. You don’t know what this is like.”

“I don’t?” Reyes questions. “Ethan, you saw the tattoo! You know what I was apart of. Do you know what we did down there? I’ve crossed that line before. But I came back. I’m here now. We don’t gotta do those things.”

“It’s not the same.”

“It isn’t?”

“It isn’t! You had a choice, kid! No one forced you to do anything! You realized you made bad choices? Good for you! That doesn’t give you the right to come in here and act like you know me!”

“And you don’t have a choice?”

“No! No, kid, I don’t!” Ethan approaches Reyes closer, the anger in his veins rushing through to give him all the adrenaline he needs. “You know what it is like to cross that line, right? The way it breaks your soul. The way your victims never die. How all the blood, all the death, all your mistakes live on in here!” Ethan points points at his heart with fury. “It’s not easy to make those calls. When a man’s destiny is in your hands you don’t just do it without a conscious. It makes you freeze, it makes you doubt. The fate of this person? It is in your hands. You choose how they die or you alone can give them a future. But you know what? Sometimes you don’t get to freeze and debate. No, you got to make them in an instance because it is life or death! Me? In pure instances I had to make those choices and they don’t go away!”

“You see the people out there?” Ethan points out the door. “They’re innocent. They’re not like us. They live in their own little bubble of protection. So when a moral dilemma comes they’re stumped! They don’t know what to do. So what do they do? They come to the cops, they come to me! Me! They say ‘Ethan, save us!’. ‘Ethan, kill him!’. ‘Ethan, make this choice!’. Me!! They come to me! Everyday! Everyday it is on me to make the choices that no one else will! It is my actions that determine life or death. Do I kill this man? Do I spare him? I spare a man and he comes back to massacre this group. Whose shoulders is that on, huh? James? Yours? No. It’s on mine. You wanna accuse me of what exactly? Being rough? Guess what, kid, I’m not being rough for my sake! My choices determine their future! So, yeah, boo hoo. I’m rough. It’s not as if the safety of the mall is on my shoulders. It’s not as if I was the one chosen to protect them!”

For the past multitude of years Ethan’s life has revolved around life and death. In the army, in the police force, in the outbreak. These choices glue themself to Ethan, constantly reminding him of what could have been if he choose the other. What if he let that bomber live? He could have just informed his friends, after all. But no, Ethan had to make the difficult choice. Because that is who Ethan is. He isn’t allowed to wonder about the wrong and the rights, for simply put, Ethan is the jury, he is the judge and he is the goddamn executioner.

“So no, kid. You don’t know! You don’t have the right to judge me.” Ethan points to the door behind Reyes, the now silent man from Ethan’s testimony. “Leave.” Reyes looks at him with speechlessness. He doesn’t know what to say to Ethan, and oh Ethan is not the type for moral talks, so Reyes respects his wishes, departing Ethan to be alone in his room.


Life.

A strange thing. For some it can mean multiple things. Happiness, love, family, hope and adventure can fill the life of one. They could think life is beautiful and a thing to love, as you know what they say, you only live once! They don’t know what their destiny is, but they don’t care because they have one thing that matters: they’re happy. Happiness. Honestly, what the hell even was happiness?

How could you be happy when life is so meaningless? You lived a happy life? Great for you! Now you’re dead and years from now nobody will remember you. Your love, your passions, your struggle, desires, final words and thoughts….no one will fucking care. The world lies to you, trying to raise the youth on the false message that they’re special and “everyone has a purpose”. Never has more bullshit been said than right there. No one is special and we are all meaningless little ants who will be forgotten by the world. Do you remember the people who lived hundreds of years ago? Do you even care? Did you ever think about who lived in your house before you? What struggles did they go through in this house you’re in right now? You don’t care because deep down you know the truth but continue to trick yourself into the sad lie of the world. Truth is you’re pathetic, you mean nothing, you’re no different to the person besides you and you will die.

And purpose? Pathetic lie. No one has any purpose on this forsaken planet. What purpose did Rawl Mitchell have? What purpose did Kelly Nelson have?Jerome James? Tiffany Adams? You don’t even know who they are, do you? Exactly. All these poor people died not even five years ago and you don’t know who they are. Because they served no purpose. They met their ends from meaningless events.

What purpose did Lara Drake serve? Huh? She was trying to live a life and she got slaughtered like a dog! His parents? They died during the outbreak and the world went on. What purpose does he serve? McCoy? Vicky? None. Because he, along with everyone he cares about, is going to die because the world doesn’t care. No one cares about them, their future, their desires….nothing. They’re all going to die a meaningless death and the world will go on like it never happened! They are, and always will be, a grand of sand on the shore. When the ocean devours them or they’re dragged away from the beach upon getting stuck on someone, the other grands won’t care, and the beach certainly won’t close down.

Dre didn’t know what he wanted to do. One minute he wanted to cry for the fallen, another he wanted to weep at the realization of life, another he wanted to try convince himself that it will be okay, and another he wanted go grab a gun and…..end it. End what? He doesn’t know. He feels an anger towards himself, yet that anger is equally directed at those responsible for the death of Lara.

“Dre.” Dre is drawn into reality by Vicky, who takes a seat next to him one one of the malls’ benches. Dre looked at her with pity, quickly noting how she too was going through grieving. Lucky for him, Vicky showered away the blood and changed her clothing to something not covered in guts. Still, Dre knew her grief, and Vicky knew his. “How you holding up?”

“Fine.” Dre’s lie doesn’t go unnoticed by Vicky. Granted, the two never talked much, and never boned as much as Dre did with Lara, or Vicky with McCoy. With that said, it wasn’t difficult to see between the fake smile and the pink eyes. “What?”

“You’re just like her.” Vicky’s observation hits Dre in the stomach as it was another thought of her. “You don’t have to be okay.”

“Neither do you.” Dre sees through her. Both had shields for their grief, even if they didn’t want to admit it. Vicky’s was the isolation, Dre’s was the smile.

The two sit in silence, each acknowledging the grief of them and their respective friend, yet to scared to allow their grief out. Strange, considering they are the only ones who know this pain. Ethan knew only Lara’s name, and McCoy never connected to Lara. But Vicky and Dre? She was apart of them. “Think we will ever see her again?” Dre’s question was him mostly trying to find any sense of hope in their situation.

“No.” Of course, Vicky destroyed any hope he was struggling to find. “All we have is the past.”

“Is that supposed to be reassuring?”

“No.” The past, the memories…..a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing to remember the times she had with Lara, her parents and Neal….but then she remembers they aren’t here. They died to the world, yet because of these memories, the dead are alive. They plague the living with the reminders of their good times that can no longer happen, they remind the living of their mistakes, and how they failed to save them. It is overbearing to Vicky, who is plagued by the ghosts. Her mother reminds Vicky of how she left her. Vicky how Lara of how Vicky failed to save her due to weakness. Neal reminds Vicky of the day she took him from this earth. “It’s a curse.”

“Do you ever--nevermind.”

“Say it.”

“Do you ever wish you could forget.”

“Forget about the dead?” Dre nods to her question. “Yes. Sometimes I wish we never met.” She tries to imagine her life without them. What if she had different parents? A father who didn’t leave her at a young age and another who Vicky hurt constantly? What if she never had Lara as her dormmate? Neal? How is it they could inspire so much love in her life, yet also cause her the most suffering. “How do you feel about Ryker?”

Dre pauses at his name. A name that now holds the significance of the devil. “I never really wanted to hurt anyone.” Dre admits to her. “I’ve always been….I don’t know, sort of pacifistic?” Dre looks at her, his eyes of despair turning into anger. “I never wanted to hurt a man more than I do now. Him, his men, all of them….they all need to die. I don’t even know if it’s anger, honestly. I just….they need to die. You feel it too, don’t you?”

Vicky’s mind drifted to where her heart was, allowing herself to imagine her darkest desires. “No.” Vicky admits. “Death would be a release from this life,” Vicky continues to imagine punishment, a small smile on her face, “and their punishment has yet to be carried out.”


7 YEARS AGO, 2006

New York. New York City, baby! The Big Apple, The Capital of the World, Gotham (off topic, damn that show with a passion), the City that Never Sleeps! This is the city that everyone wanted to go to, the one where girls dreamed about going to star in the broadway shows! The lights, the style, the audience! Damn, damn oh damn, what a dream it was. New York City was the city that America held up high as their most high home with the shows, the beautiful architect, the business and the oh so shady behind the scenes actions. Everyone wanted to live in New York….until they actually lived there.

New York, in all honesty, wasn’t the greatest place to settle down. Sure, it looked nice when you’re a tourist, or if you’re browsing the pictures of its skyline, but a different story existed for those who lived in the depths of those beautiful skyscrapers. The girl knew that well, as she was raised here all her life. She saw the crime that sat in front of her eyes. The muggers, the rapists, the murderers, the politicians, the outsiders.

The outsiders. Oh, the outsiders. Some considered them the worst criminal of all. For, as the suits behind the curtains said, different is dangerous. Different is dangerous. A queer held danger to the straights, a man of mystic held danger to the men of science, the meek to the strong and the female to the male. She knew this well. She knew the feeling of being looked at as a freak of nature, something that people brush off to the curb like their trash.

Welcome to the life of Lara Drake. Such a sad life it was. Lara ‘twas a mere sixteen year old girl, living in a Brooklyn run down home with a well...pretty dysfunctional family. Then again that was her life. Dysfunctional. Might as well be her middle name.

Two parents she was given, but no parents were there to raise her. Her father was always the busy man, trying to support the family no matter the means. His means of producing money were not always known, and in all honesty, it is better off that way. She remembers the days where her father would come home in the darkest times of the night without the honor or dignity he claimed to hold dear. The thick, lump bruises ran down his face while his knuckles were reduced to nothing more than clots of dried blood. Collapsing onto the kitchen floor, he would hold the frozen bag of peas onto his wounds; as if he didn’t need any medicine to help him. His attempts at telling the family he was fine were always cut short by the cough of broken lungs. “Now you listen to me,” he would always say to his fearing children, “I want you to do better. Don’t--don’t be me.” For all his faults and deeds, Billy Drake did care for the family.

Lara did never understand why he cared for her mother, however. For she--oh she was a story, all right. Like her children, Maura Martin wasn’t raised in the greatest of homes. Two parents who didn’t pay much attention to their daughter led her down a wrong path, one of selfish desires. Running from responsibility and the dull ‘maturity’, Maura retreated into the shell of a never aging teen, albeit more immature. Waking up in someone's bed with a breath of fresh alcohol and unlawful substances in the blood was always the beginning of a good day to her. Pathetic, really. Especially considering that Lara was bred only from the misdeeds of the two lonely strangers Maura and Billy one night. Everything has a consequence, and as it so happens, Lara was that consequence to the out of college, unemployed young people. An accident, all she is. Still, Billy stayed to raise his daughter, pledging his allegiance to Maura. A damn shame Maura never did the same for him. ‘Tis a pity she a whore.

Yes, Maura had another child with this man, but she was never loyal to him. That was a responsibility that she could not bear, so she ran into the arms of other things. Injecting the substances, drinking the liquid her body could not handle, and exchanging body heat in a stranger’s passenger seat seemed to escape her from this responsibility. Out of this came other offsprings, whose fathers left at first sight of that baby bump. Still, Billy remained loyal to the lying whore of a girlfriend he had, even doing his best to provide for the children of another man’s blood. Lara could never put her finger on it, but whenever such a subject came up, Billy always had the same response. “Your mother is a good woman--she just doesn’t know it.” He must have saw something in her that Lara didn’t.

Oh, if only parents were the only bad string on Lara’s web. Of course, the rest of her life wasn’t so bright. To put it simply, Lara wasn’t a very popular kid amidst peers. In the battlefield that is a high school, Lara is the one left aside that no one really notices, despite her best efforts to be. In her high school, Lara was the educated, almost goody too shoes. Education was her priority, being among the top in her grade, and rules were meant to be followed. She wasn’t exactly the most prettiest of students to go along. Fizzy hair, run down glasses and shaggy clothing didn’t exactly make her a princess. Lara tried to get out more, but no one was willing to accept her, so too the books she went.

If there was one thing about this situation that bothered her the most was the treatment of one man. A man who Lara can’t help but gush over when his name is brought up. Alejandra Valdez. A well built, handsome latino man he was, whose comedic and outgoing personality has led him to hold the title of most popular kid in her grade. Back in their youths Lara and Valdez were close friends, always playing with each other during recess and after school. However, life came and as they grew older they drifted into their separate crowds, with Valdez being swept away by the popular douchebags of the grade. He wasn’t a bad kid, and even with his popularity and the well known fact that every girl wants that, he still holds that heart of good. It is, however, his naivety and immaturity that has drifted him away from Lara.

Overall, this was just the life of Lara Drake. Left in the dust for others more important than her. An accident, is what she is. Something she can deny but it is a truth that hangs over her head. Her life, for a better term, is shit.

Which of course is why her current situation is not so shocking. After yet another unsubstantial day of school, and yet another boring walk back to her home, Lara finds herself frozen at her stares; her eyes wandering onto the the young boy who sits on her front steps. He usually doesn’t get home this early. Damnit. Isn’t he supposed to have band practice after school?

Her younger brother of 13 years of age, Noah, sits on her front steps. His trembling hands are barely enough to hold the drumsticks he so desperately tries to play on the steps with. Noah’s dampening eyes are quick to notice the sight of the bright star that is his sister. “You’re home early.” Lara approaches with a smile. “Band realize you suck?” She quips with a smile, hoping to improve his mood.

To an extent it works, but it is clear no quip can fix this. “Practice was cancelled today. Johnny had to go see his sister. She’s giving birth I think. That or an accident.”

“How do you get those mixed up?” Noah shrugs to his sister, who takes a seat next to him. “What’s wrong, little man?”

She knew what was wrong; she could hear their yelling from outside. “Their fighting. Again.” The arguments between the two parents were a recurrence in their lives. Weekly, if not daily, the two had their petty arguments. Most started out as minor problems that grew into something bigger once they called each other out on their mistakes. Maura would say Billy is a criminal, Billy would say she is a whore. They always got a loud, sometimes physical, but they always ended in a similar fashion. Maura would leave, do what she does and then come back the next day. It was a cycle.

Usually Noah is absent for the arguments due to band practice, so it was disappointing to see Noah having to witness such an event. It is not one for kids his age to deal with. Lara was used to such arguments, so they didn’t bother her as much. Fighting was a routine for her, so whenever such arguments, she would simply go to her room, plug in some earphones and get started on homework. “I know.” Is the best Lara can reply to her brother. “It will be okay, though. No need to worry.”

“Will mom leave again?”

“Not for long. She never does.” Lara pauses. “You okay?”

“Why do they fight?”

“Parents just do.”

“Not as much as them.”

“I know.”

“So why do they fight so much?”

“They--got their problems. They’re not perfect is all. Mom makes mistakes, and dad makes his. This is their version of making up.” Lara’s attempt at throwing her arm around her brother is trashed when he shrugs her off. “Everything will be okay, alright?” Lara can see the emotion sweeping behind his eyes. Sadness, anger, confusion. Emotions she too felt at that age during these situations. “You can talk to me, bro. I’m here for you. I’m your big, responsible sister.” Lara teases with a smirk as she tickles his arm, getting a good laugh from her brother. “There’s the laugh I know and love.”

“You’re weird.”

“You’re weirder.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Uh-huh. What kind of weirdo likes Nickelback?”

“A lot of people!”

“Name five.”

“Me--uh, Chad Kroeger, Ryan Peake…”

“Members of the band don’t count. They have to like it.”

“That’s not fair.”

“How is not fair?”

“Because….because!”

“Life ain’t fair, kiddo.”

“Bi--biscuits.”

“Biscuits? What does biscuits--you were not about to call me that word!”

“It was just a joke.”

“Where did you even learn that word. You’re like ten.”

“Thirteen.”

“Close enough.”

“You were three years off.”

“Better than four years, chipmunk.”

“I’m not a chipmunk!”

“C’mon, you’re like Alvin. Maybe a tiny bit taller, though.” Lara rubs her soft, warm hand through his hair, ruffling up the already wild hair. As their giggles drift away into nothingness, Lara can’t help but notice the sadness still in her brother’s life. It doesn’t help that the yelling from inside only gets louder. “You alright, kid?”

“It's just,” Noah pauses for a brief moment, “what if mom leaves. Like, what if she leaves and doesn’t come back this time.”

“Noah--”

“I’m serious! It’s bound to happen. She will leave and Dad will get himself killed.”

“Stop thinking like that!”

“Why? You act like this isn’t a possibility.” Lara sighs at the cynicalism at her brother. A trait she can’t blame him for having considering the childhood he was given. Shocking that Lara hasn’t turned out that way. Pausing, Lara thinks of a response to her brother. She knows full heartedly that these are possible but she cannot say this to him. He needs the hope.

“You don’t need to ever worry about this, Noah. If something happens then I’m here, alright? I’ll take care of you.” Lara successfully puts her arm around his shoulder, allowing him to rest his weary head on her shoulder. “I always will be.”

“Always?”

“Always. We’re a team, man. You and me, brother and sister, against the world. We’re a damn good team.”

“I thought you said no cursing!”

“You’re allowed to if you’re sixteen or older. Sorry, Alvin.”

“Since when is this a thing?”

“About now. I got the news alert on my phone. O'Reilly did a whole thing on it.” Lara and Noah laugh at the last comment in particular. Both share a deep hatred for the program known as FOX news, and so naturally when the chances arise they joke about the program. “‘Kids can curse now--I blame Bush’ was the title.”

“Why Bush?”

“A bomb could go off in freaking Chile and they would blame Bush. Everything is on Bush.” Lara turns her eyes back to her door, knowing full well that this heated argument could go on for the next hour or so. Once they get started they don’t end instantly. “Any movies out?”

“Why?”

“Why? Because I’d rather be watching a movie than sitting on some cold step.” Lara checks her wallet for some cash, which she has due to her payday last week, “That 300 movie still out?”

“You’ll watch 300?”

“There are worse things than watching a bunch of shirtless men fight.” Lara admits whilst standing to her feet, Noah following in pursuit. Keeping her arm around him Lara guides him off, away from their home of ruins. “C’mon, we’ll check the theater around the corner.”

As Lara looks down into his troubled eyes, she can’t help but feel hurt herself. It is a shame what these parents but their children through, and Noah deserves much better than this. Feeling sympathy for her loving brother, Lara plants a surprise kiss on his forehead. “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll always be here.”

Walking down with the street with her brother, Lara is quick to notice Valdez across the street. Luscious dark hair, big doughy eyes….he was so handsome. If only Lara wasn’t so shy around guys maybe she’d ask him on a date, but confidence isn’t her thing. She envies the other girls walking with him, the ones who think they’re all that. Why can’t she be like them? It’s all she wants to be. Accepted by the people who turn away, and honestly, Lara would do anything for that. Acceptance. How much could she sacrifice, right?


She was always sheltered from stuff like this. She remembers as a child that James would never let her watch the news. Whenever something horrendous happened that required 24/7 coverage on multiple channels, James would say “no tv today” and do something else with Sarah. Sometimes the movies, games or just a drive, James did his best to shelter his daughter from the horrors of the world. It was noble of James to do so, but as she sits here now, she only hopes he loosened his grip on her.

Sitting in her tent, Sarah can’t help but think about the world around her. A world she has never really been exposed to. There were kids in her school who have done things such as drugs and sex, things Sarah herself was tempted by, but she hasn’t been in violent situations a lot. Of course, this is a zombie outbreak and all, so she might as well get used to it, but still. She remembers that man who attacked their house during the beginning. A memory she has tried to put behind her, but a memory still horrifying to her. She shot him, she remembers that too. That incident is what brought her into the real world.

A world she is now more aware of due to the attack. Honestly, it horrifies her. The constant fear of death and pain hangs over her like a rainy cloud, yet she can’t seem to find her umbrella. She used to believe that his outbreak would be over soon, but now she doesn’t know. There has to be something bigger going on than zombies, right? The government should be able to handle them.

Sarah lets loose a sigh, her confused emotions running around. Confused? Yes, confused. Because Sarah doesn’t know how to feel. Do they surrender? Do they strike back? Sarah can’t form her own opinion so she listens to the chatter around the mall. Some speak that they should surrender. Let Ryker rule them over. As long as they’re fed and protected, who cares? Others say they need to fight back from the iron fist that is Ryker. The mall is divided, and that of course means Sarah is. Vicky wants to fight back, so she supposes she wants to too.

She just wants to go along with what everyone else says. Be accepted. So, if they wanna attack, then she’ll agree. Sure, she may not like violence but….ugh, she doesn’t know. It’s not easy trying to fit in during the apocalypse.


Running.

She runs. Oh, how she runs. She loves it. She ran, oh ran so far away. All night, all day, she ran. Ran from what? Oh, from many things. Herself, mostly. Her past, her demons, her life….Lisette always tried to run from them. It is how she survived, how she lived.

She didn’t have the best upbringing. Her parents were...well, they weren’t exactly the parents she strived to be with. She learned the art of using people from them as they forced her out into the depths of the cold Spain night for money. Oh, she was not a child to them but a toy in their wicked game. Damn them. Once she was old enough to care for herself she ran from them. Of course, that got caught up in events that she too ran from. All the way to the Philadelphia she ran that time.

Whenever shit hits the fan Lisette has a tendency to escape while she still can. It’s just who she is. So, naturally, she debates about the prospect of running now. She could easily make an escape. Grab a bag of supplies she needs, run out at night and escape on the bridge. There must be some other safe cities out there, right? DC has to be fine.

She’s not trying to be selfish here, but the facts are clear as day. This situation won’t end well. Even if, somehow, Ryker falls, there is the question of ‘what now?’. The people in the mall are nice, and even if Lisette doesn’t give much trust, she doesn’t see anything outwardly wrong with them. But, hey survival of the fittest, right? She has played the game her whole life so she can see where the wind is blowing. It’s just going in the wrong direction for her.

You promised yourself you’d do better. The promise has Lisette halt at the thought of escaping. When she came to Philadelphia she was hoping for redemption, a redemption she at first failed to find. She faltered, but as the outbreak began, maybe it was a sign of a new life for her. Her old ways accomplished nothing in her lifetime and the pain of those she has hurt still hurts her. She hasn’t done anything that most would consider evil, but the dissatisfaction of her own soul is an experience she enjoys not. She wants better for herself.

Something that once again running will not accomplish. Besides, where she would go? She barely has any direction with her life right now, so in a new city with new faces wouldn’t help. Besides, maybe she can at least try to make a difference here and make that aching heart of hers feel semi-accomplished.

Making her way down the halls, Lisette notices Walsh alone at one of the tables. He tried to be anonymous, but Lisette saw through the cheap disguise of a hat, glasses and hood. Walsh was as if a saddened child, like a boy who is searching for love when there is none for him. He’s aging. he is alone, he is obviously depressed and Lisette feels bad as she looks at this man. He looked like a man ready to burst into tears, honestly.

As her parents used her, Lisette used this man. Damnit. Damn her soul, for she always finds a reason to manipulate people into doing her bidding. It is something that comes as so easy for her and when the chips are down she just does what she needs to do. The power to twists one will is a very special trait to have, especially in times like these. Of course, her intentions were noble and she did save a girl’s life….so maybe that makes up for it. If the outcome is good, who cares about the process, right? After all, Walsh was a piece of shit, so Lisette isn’t going to beat herself over the head.

Arriving at her tent, Lisette finds Anahi sitting on her mattress. In her bottle sits the ever so tasteful alcohol, and while she isn’t drunk, Lisette believes Anahi to be off. “You okay?” Lisette collapses onto her bed while her friend continues to drink.

“Hey, Anahi.” Lisette calls out upon receiving zero response. “You alright?”

“Yeah.” Anahi takes herself another sip of the alcohol she craved. “Just tired.” Oh, much more than mere tired she was, and Lisette isn’t stupid enough to buy such a lie. The attack wasn’t just an attack for her but a demonic reminder of the incident.

She doesn’t know how to feel, and honestly, she doesn’t know if she has control of such feelings. Anahi managed to keep herself in check for years, but that sharp reminder of what the world is has stuck in this position. A river of guilt, anger and depression are like an internal whirlpool, with a current so strong that Anahi can’t find any sense of peace. She has lost the ability to calm and feels consistently tense. Weirdest of all, despite this whirpool, she feels sort of...numb?

Anahi sighs as she takes another drink, the trauma never leaving her mind. “You sure?” Lisette asks. “You still on edge about the attack?” Lisette notices how unnaturally tense she. “They’re not here now.”

“They’re always here.” Anahi stands to her feet, dropping the finished bottle on her bed. She’s not drunk yet, which is ashame due to her craving of hoping to get rid of her current emotions. “I’m gonna go for a walk.”

“Want me to come with?”

“I wanna be alone.” Anahi leaves with not even a goodbye, departing into the world all on her lonesome. Lisette watches her depart, any sense of wanting to run sinking for now. She can’t leave a friend behind, right? Besides, Anahi needs her, whether she knows it or not.


“Oh, the weather outside is frightful But the fire is so delightful And since we've no place to go Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”

His voice was soothing, something she didn’t expect from him. Sure, he had his fun moments, but he was a gruff man no doubt. So, this rare moment of happiness from him was something she took with enjoyment, trying not to conceal her laughter from him.

Gabriel notices her laugh. “What?”

“I never knew you liked to sing.” Alexandra smirks as she lays in her passenger seat, twirling her knife around her fingers. “You’re not that bad.”

“My mom forced me to do choir as a kid.” Gabriel admits. “Hated it.”

“Why?”

“Teacher was a bitch. Sullivan, I think her name was. Got mad at everything I did.” Gabriel pauses for a moment, wondering what happened to her. “I hope the infected killed her.”

“Probably did if she lived in this city.”

“Hopefully.” Gabriel focuses back onto his driving. Gabriel was never the best driver in the first place, and while there is no traffic, he does his best not to hit any of the abandoned cars or bodies that fill the streets.

Currently, Gabriel was leading a small caravan of vehicles for their supplies. Gabriel was making the trips to Frankford Station and Citizens Bank Park, while he dispatched Isaiah to lead the trip to Franklin Mills and SugerHouse and another man to deal with the remaining colonies.

In his own vehicle was Alexandra, himself and Nyssa, who sat by her silent lonesome. Nyssa was never one to socialize, and he didn’t expect her too. Nyssa was the silent, brute, terrifying figures in life, who only spoke when needed. In all honesty, even he had a fear of the woman. One does not just get the name “The Scorpion” without reason. The stories about them were as whispers in the wind.

Gabriel glanced at her, taking note of how the woman stares out the window. In her eyes was a dying fire compared to those of Gabriel and Alex’s. “How you doing, Nyssa?” Gabriel smirks at her. “You’ve been silent.”

“Tired.” She speaks in her soft tone. Funny how despite her soft tone it sent enough power to have Gabriel pause in concern of she’s made.

“Ain’t we all?” Gabriel notes her body language, like she doesn’t want to be here. “So the rumors true?”

“About what?”

“You wanting out.” Her glance is enough to make Gabriel explain. “I just heard someone talking about it. You know how rumors spread.”

Nyssa is dissatisfied about rumors spreading about her, especially about subjects she tries to keep close to chest. The rumor? Yes, it’s true. Nyssa wants out of this game, for it is a game she has played her whole life. Ever since her childhood her life has revolved around the dough, death, life and doing what is necessary. As a rash youth she did without questioning, and in doing so sent herself down the path of darkness. Blood, oh blood has been spilt. Nyssa has done the types of deeds many would shiver at to get where she is at now…..and it all feels useless. After all she has done she should feel pride and honor, right? So why does she feel so empty?

Nyssa is an aging woman, leaving behind the prime of her life. She never thought she would have made it this far, yet she still breathes among us, which of course has left her time to reflect. She wants more to her life than this, because in all honesty, her life is empty. Maybe it is time for her to leave this behind and finally settle down, a thought she once assumed to be useless. Never did she think that she wanted to be a mother, yet those thoughts are all she holds now.

“No.” Nyssa confirms to Gabriel, her signature glare included, something Gabriel can only smile nervously at.

“Good, good.” Gabriel scratches his beard.

“I can’t even imagining leaving.” Alex admits from her seat, having began to use her knife in order to carve into the roof. “This is apart of me.” Alex didn’t have the best childhood, primarily due to her father. Oh, quite the story he was. He wasn’t the perfect candidate of fatherhood, but stuck with him they were. Her sister, Haley, had it easier compared to Alex. While he trained both of them extensively in the art of combat, it was his first born who he pushed to the limits. He expected her to provide for her sister and be ready for the world they’re stuck in. Once out of high school, he too her as his protege in the mercenary business, and that has been her life since. All Alex knows in life is combat, and to ever leave that behind….she has no idea who she would be without it.


How did he not see this coming? He should have known how Ryker played. This all comes down to his own stupidity. He stepped up for these people and gave them promises. Freedom and safety. If only he didn’t build these promises on the castle for glass, for you know how glass works. One crack and it all comes crumbling down.

James failed both these promises, as within only one move Ryker took both without breaking a sweat. James Benjamin failed these people. He felt weak, like he could barely move, as the realization of his own powerlessness hit like a truck. There was no one else to blame for this situation and the guilt presses down on James’s shoulders. He has tried to convince himself this wouldn’t on him, but any argument he had was bullshit.

What was he to do now? Ryker’s spies were hidden in the shadows, watching their every move. He cuts down one spy and Ryker sends another in its place. He could quarantine the mall and search everyone for weapons and communications? It is only a thought, but one that could not only go wrong, but take away the freedom he promised people.

James sighs as the ridiculous thoughts flow in. Any move against Ryker is dangerous that will surely end with death. A suicide mission is the proper term for it. It was them alone against Ryker. They have a few hundred people, but those with proper experience to fight? The numbers significantly go down. Maybe fifteen, and that is only maybe. The best option, and clearly most ridiculous, is a surprise attack on his base. Clearly idiotic, as it is heavily fortified and they lack any manpower. The other, the smartest yet morally objectifying, is giving in to Ryker and becoming his slaves.

Walking down the halls, James looks up from his despair, only for his eyes to see a familiar face. “Ms. Dufraine?” James notices the delightful Sandra walking down the hallways. She looked at him, still as shy as ever. “It has been awhile.” James hasn’t seen Sandra or her friend upon their arrival at Franklin Mills. Unfortunate, as they were very nice people.

“Yeah.” Sandra remains quiet, one of the very things that intrigued James.

“I’m glad to see you’re alright. How have you been doing?”

Sandra was a bit rosey due to the sudden spotlight interaction. She isn’t one who likes to socialize much, especially with those she isn’t very close with. She doesn’t like being rude, either. “Fine.”

“And Ms. Saito?”

“Good.” Okay, Sandra admits that is a lie. Haruka is far from doing okay, with her obsession taking numerous tolls on her.

“What have you two been up to, if you don’t mind me asking? I don’t even see you guys in the halls.”

“Nothing. Just--stuff.” James finds her ticks amusing, in a cute way, as she tries to distance herself from him. James understood what it was like to not enjoy socializing, so he isn’t going to hold her up against her will. “How is your daughter?” Sandra asks, much to James’s surprise.

“Good, thank you. Just trying to deal with, well, all of this.” Sandra nods to his question, still very much rosey. James, in particular, seemed to make her more shy. Something about his perceptive, leader like self made her nervous around him. “I gotta get going, but it was very good seeing you again. Tell Ms. Saito I said hello.”

Sandra nods and says goodbye to James, watching from the corner of her eye as he walks off. She could almost feel the guilt emiting from him, something that she doesn’t believe James deserves to hold. She wanted to tell him that it wasn’t his fault and that no one blames him..but in that last second she couldn’t bring the words out, instead finding them glued to her tongue. It’s not that she doesn’t like James, in fact she sort of liked talking to him despite being scared, she just….ugh, she doesn’t know.

So, instead of stopping James and talking to him, she departs, her mind once again drifting back to Haruka. Oh, how her friend has fallen. This obsession has turned her from the cheerful, caring woman into the cold, distant woman. A slow decline, sure, but Sandra can see how it is getting worse. This infection is taking over her. Sandra sees how insane both this case and she is becoming, yet what is she supposed to do? She can’t just try to convince Haruka otherwise--she’s her only friend and too stubborn to listen to listen to Sandra.

Making her way to the basement, Sandra finds Haruka in her usual position. She sits at her desk, observing the notebooks in hands. She wears the same unchanged clothes, still has the sleepy bags under her eyes and still growing more frail due to her lack of eating. Haruka doesn’t even seem to notice Sandra’s return until the former takes a seat on the chair next to her. “Look at this.” Haruka hands Sandra her notebook without even a greeting.

The notebook wasn’t much. It consisted of a stapled on note, followed by strange pictures of white roses. The note, itself, wasn’t anything in particular. “The white roses will lead to the great doctor. Follow them. His work needs all the help he can get.” Sandra reads the note out loud to the anxious Haruka. “What am I reading?”

“When I was in the city today--”

“You went out there alone?” Haruka nods to the question, unaware as to why Sandra seems worried. “Haruka--there’s zombies and Ryker’s men and--”

“I’m fine, relax.” Haruka shuts down her concerns. “So, anyways, I found a few bodies. A few had these kinds of notes. One had a diary about her journey and she mentioned,” Haruka goes through the diary, “that she heard about a man working on a cure to the infection. A cure, Sandra! There’s someone out there like us, who also happens to be way more qualified than us.”

“How do you know it is legit?”

“I saw the signs.” She points to the white rose drawings. “Someone graffitied white roses onto the side of buildings, like a breadcrumb trail for people to follow. I went a few blocks before coming back. They’re legit.”

Sandra remains silent, definitely curious about this. A doctor who is searching for a cure is very good news. In fact, it leaves two outcomes. They could search for this man and try to help….or let him do it alone. He is a doctor so he should be able to handle it, right? Besides, he probably has a whole team. What good would they do? “We can follow the roses and help find a cure to this.” Haruka explains to the doubting Sandra.

“What good would we do?” Sandra asks, much to Haruka’s dismay. “What exactly have we gathered here? This dude is a doctor--we’re not.” Sandra only says an idea but Haruka doesn’t seem to care.

“No. We need to be there.”

“Why?” It is a simple question but one Haruka can’t seem to answer. Instead, she chooses to bite her tongue for this one, knowing whatever answer she tries to defend herself won’t sound good. So, instead, she simply takes the notebook back from Sandra to look over, while Sandra just sits there. Being who she is, Sandra doesn’t bother to reask the question and instead sits back with a sigh.

If only she was the right person to help Haruka, which sadly, she isn’t.


Headline from this day on Why you keep pretending that you wanna let go? Do, do you wanna let go?

She lets her mind drift off into the music that plays through her headphones, allowing her some relaxation before forced up for the morning. Such a lovely song it is by Phoenix. “Entertainment” is the title, probably her favorite song from the wonderful band, whose lyrics hit her heart. That, and it had one hell of a catchy beat.

Daniela Bermudez smiled lightly as she continued to scroll through her Ipod, still finding joy that she still has the ability to charge her precious device. Alongside her trusty DS, of course. Video Games were truly a beautiful thing; she still regrets that she left behind her other consoles back at home. Still one of the worst mistakes of her life. It doesn’t help that her home is about….2,274 miles away? Damnit Mexico, why the hell are you so far away?

The thought of home does bring a smile to her face, but it is quick to go away once she remembers the chances of ever making it back there. Anna…she once again plagues Daniel’s thoughts. She has to be safe--she’s a fucking Chet. At least that is what Daniela continues to tell herself. Makes her feel slightly better.

Throwing the blankets from her exposed body, Daniela stands to her feet, still weak from the previous night. Hangovers are a bitch; amongst other things. Once getting herself dressed in her usual Daniela style, which today included a sleek blue midriff and black jeans, and fixing herself up, Daniela was ready to face another day in hell. What is a better way to do so then by looking stylish, of course? Oh, and lovely she was. Put lovely chocolate hair with a stunning pair of green eyes, completed with flawless skin and great body, and you have Daniela.

Making her way out from the room, Daniela walks head first into her lovely zone of the Frankford Terminal. Yes, let us get the obvious out of the way: this isn’t a very good place. It wasn’t before the outbreak and it sure isn’t now. It’s dirty, smelly, not in a very good neighborhood, very open and full of douchebags. But it’s the best she has as it stands. Not all the people are bad, either. There are at least three sane people.

The station was, luckily, holding up okay. Buses covered any exposed areas, guards were posed with rifles and there wasn’t much infected around. So, yeah, could be worse. Still, Daniela didn’t enjoy the place but she’s done complaining--for now.

Making her way to the upper floors of the terminal, Daniela luckily finds one of her sane friends sitting by the window, his eyes drifting off into the the city’s skyline. A tall, unhealthily lanky kid he is with darkened long hair and an ever growing beard. Ivan Mercer. Yes, he is as white as hell as the name sounds. Maybe that is why Daniela liked him. “What’s up, dude.” Daniela sits next to him, stretching her feet out across the spare seats against the wall.

“Good afternoon.”

“I would say the afternoon is my morning.”

“So is your night your afternoon?”

“I don’t think I really have an afternoon. Just morning and night.”

“That’s….not how it works.”

“What do you know, youngblood?” Youngblood is a name given to him as a way for Daniela to jokingly brag how she is older than Ivan, who is surprisingly not even eighteen. Mercer chuckles at her comment, but is mostly the same shy self he always is. “What you looking at?”

“The skyline. Nice, ain’t it?” Daniela joins Mercer in looking at the skyline. Nice indeed, especially to Daniela. She always wanted to go to the United States, so imagine her reaction when she was offered about the foreign exchange program. Gladly she went to the United States, and it has been breathtaking so far. A few days before the semester started Daniela traveled around the nearby area to see all she could, such as New York City, which is breathtaking like Philadelphia. “I wish my camera didn’t break.” Photography was his thing, something Daniela picked up on when she saw him taking random pictures one day. She thought he was just a stalker, but hey, luckily the reason wasn’t as drastic. Unfortunately for Mercer, his clumsy ass dropped and broke his beautiful piece of equipment.

“It’s what you get for holding your camera over a ledge. Like, a big ledge.” Daniela lightly uses her elbow to tap Mercer on the side. “You’ll get a new one, dude.”

“Thanks.”

“No need to thank me. Not like I’ll be the one getting it. Nuh uh, no way. Not going outside those walls.” Daniela always likes to try to cheer up Mercer with wisecracks. She didn’t like him seeing so depressed as he is now. “How you holding up?”

“About?”

“You know what.” During Ryker’s reign, it was Mercer’s sister who tried to stand up to the mad man. A noble effort, but it didn’t do much. They came for Jess Mercer one day, guns raised and all, threatening to shoot if anyone denied her to them. She turned herself over willingly, albeit with some vulgar words. “I’m sure she’s fine.”

“How do you know?”

“Have you seen your sister? She’s tough, dude.” Daniela doesn’t like being depressed, so seeing him that way makes her feel depressed. Unfortunately, her attempts at counseling Mercer mean nothing, for out of her eyes she sees the dust in the road fly into the air. That can only mean one thing. “Damnit.”

“What?”

“The caravan.” Daniela points to the incoming vehicles from down the road. Ryker’s men, no doubt. “I’m gonna go get Allen.” Daniela hops onto her two lazy feet, nearly losing her footing in the process.

-----

Striding to the front gate, rifle in hand and a glare in the eyes, the man wasn’t even going to try and hide his disdain for them. Why should he? They know everyone hates them, but unless he gives them a serious reason, it’s not like they’re going to kill him. He is, after all, the leader of this establishment. The only man keeping this shithole from falling to pieces.

Standing at 5’8” with a muscular build, and not even counting the army uniform he wears, this is a fighter. A leader. A man you would sure want to follow. His dark brown hair whistles in the wind as his hazel eyes stare at the opening gates, awaiting the arrival of his ‘superiors’. This, ladies and gentleman, is Sergeant Allen Price. A former hero of the army now disgraced from failure.

“Lower the weapon, sergeant.” Gabriel steps out from the driver seat, arms out like he’s expecting a hug. His douchey smile only makes it worse. “What? You didn’t miss me? I think I’m hurt.”

“The dick belongs in your pants, not your personality.”

“Damn. Stone cold there.” Gabriel approaches Price with a smile, never losing his smile as they meet each other’s eyes. Oh, Gabriel has too much fun when it comes to being in charge of Price. “Maybe if you focused less on the insults and on the city you were supposed to protect….” Gabriel snickers as he leaves the sentence open for Price to remember the rest. These two have a history. Some good, mostly bad.

“Why are you here? You weren’t supposed to come until tomorrow.”

“Boss sent us out early. That won’t be a problem, right? I hope not, for your sake.”

“Like you care.”

“I’m a caring guy.” Price would love nothing more than to put an end to the cocky shit that stands in front of him, but he knows better. For now. “Follow me.” Price brings Gabriel along, who in turn orders his men to stay behind at the vehicles.

The two make their way through the halls, with Price feeling the cocky bastard’s eyes on him the whole way. “It doesn’t gotta be this way, you know.” Price speaks back to Gabriel. “Not too late.”

“Still trying to save me?” Gabriel and Price’s complicated relationship predates many years, and for many of the years, Price did his best for Gabriel; but Gabriel was never one to listen. “No need to beat the dead horse. We both know it’s too late.”

“What exactly is the point of this? You steal, you kill and who knows what else. Why?”

“Survival of the fittest, mate.”

“If you wanted to survive you would be helping rebuild, not destroy.”

“But the boss man is rebuilding. Granted, not in the way you would have preferred, but nethertheless.”

“And you agree with his views? He’s a damn nazi, Gabriel.”

Gabriel pauses. “No. Not really. But he’s the boss, and as it stands, the most powerful man in the city.”

“Trade your dignity for survival?”

“That’s the idea.” The pair arrive at the supply room, where Gabriel is delighted at their amount. Watching as Price packs the bags, Gabriel leans against the wall behind him to take a smoke. “What do you believe in, Price?”

“What do I believe in? Loyalty. Trust. Family. Humanity.”

Gabriel can’t help but laugh at Price. “That’s all bullshit, man. You know it.” Gabriel releases a puff of smoke into the air, watching as it soon evaporates, all while Price continues to glare at him.

“What do you believe in, Gabriel?” The question is one that Gabriel has no intention to reveal.

“Nothing in particular.” Gabriel smashes his cigarette against the wall as Price finishes packing the bags. “That it?”

“That’s half. That is our deal.”

“Fair enough.” Price prepares to bring the bags to their vehicles, but to his surprise, he finds Gabriel blocking his path. Even more to his disdain, Gabriel lowers his hand onto Price’s shoulder to keep him from going anywhere. “I believe in defeating the enemy, no matter what the cost. Remember that.” Price took this as a threat, ever so glaring as Gabriel turned to leave, expecting Price to carry the supplies to the car for him.

It was as Gabriel turned, that Price noticed a sheet of paper at his feet. Price picked it up on his way out, finding much surprise in what it contains. Addresses, but not just any addresses. On this list is the listing of Ryker’s colonies, something that surprises Price as he assumed most fell. Franklin Mills Mall, Citizens Bank Park, SugarHouse Casino and the sewers beneath stand out as the major zones. Price has little doubt that these people are suffering like him.

Gabriel is a great soldier so Price has no idea how this slipped from his pockets, especially near someone such as Price. Unless--did he want Price to find it? His mighty poker face made it hard Price to read him, but why would Gabriel not stay loyal to the most powerful man in this city?

Any further thought is thrown away as Price tucks the paper away, before Gabriel can catch him reading it.


The memory replayed in her head. Over and over Vicky allowed the painful memory to sing in her head. The pain it brings to her is clearly visible, but Vicky allows such memory to loop. What was the memory. Well, what else would it be? None other than the tragedy.

She replays it like a video. From the moment Lara jumped to her feet to the second where Vicky embraced her dying soul. Each time the memory finishes she powers through the urge to breakdown, even though stray tears manage to escape her eyes each time. This is something Vicky needs, though. She needs to remember how she was a coward, how she failed her friend. So, she punishes herself with the tragedy, hoping that in doing so she can be stronger next time. She won’t fail the others like she did the most important person in her life. She won’t let herself.

You’re a failure. Is the message Vicky repeats to herself. You are nothing.

Nothing. She is worthless, a pathetic creature who has been left on this world as a reminder for that. She serves no purpose, she can’t be loved, she can’t love, and it is all pointless. Dark thoughts they are, but maybe if she sees the reality then she can become better.

“Vicky.” McCoy calls her. Vicky appreciates her friend but she isn’t hoping for another ‘don’t lose hope’ pep talk right now. Still, she humors him and asks what he wants. “I got a surprise for you.”

“A surprise?”

“A surprise.” McCoy takes her hand. “Only fitting. Right?” She doesn’t realize until now that today is News Years Eve. Must of slipped her mind due to recent events. She remembers the days where her mother would throw a big ‘New Years’ party when she was younger, and she remembers the recent ones where Lara took her out on a night of the town. Lara always wanted Vicky to get that midnight kiss.

“No offense, McCoy, but I’m not in the mood for surprises.”

“I think you’ll enjoy this one. Trust me.” McCoy helps Vicky to her feet before leading her through the mall. What is this surprise gift? McCoy is a kind soul so the possibilities are endless. A car? They’re pretty easy to find nowadays. Maybe a laptop. Maybe even a nuclear weapon so she could blasts Ryker’s base to pieces. Okay, probably not the last one, but a girl could dream.

Her disbelief turns into weariness as he brings her to the medic wing, a place Vicky had no desire to step into. “What are we doing here?”

“Just c’mon.”

“I--I don’t wanna go in there.”

“Oh, come in!” A voice calls out to Vicky, one she writes off as McCoy’s until a further listen. A feminine voice, one that Vicky could never forget. Soft, weak, yet still oddly holding humor. There was only one voice who Vicky could match that person too but--no. That’s impossible, right? Vicky’s frozen state at the entrance prompts the voice to call out to her again, all while McCoy doesn’t even try to conceal his smile.

Vicky rushes into the room with a hidden speed and within mere moments finds the impossible in front of her eyes. Oh, what a sight. Vicky finds that the world stops around her, as if nothing else matters right now. The overwhelming emotion is enough to buckle her knees. A threesome of disbelief, joy and love all come together like soulmates to give Vicky one thing: harmony. She falls against the wall, not even realizing how teary eyed she’s getting.

“Kept you waiting, huh?” Lara Drake says from her bed. Not even a fucking gun can keep Lara from coming back to mess with Vicky. “You’re acting like you’re seeing a ghost, damn girl.” Lara smiled at her greatest friend, trying not to laugh as Vicky nearly falls over.

“I am.” Vicky’s mouth was covered with her hands, trying not to gasp. She makes her way over to Lara, still visibly weak from the attack. Paler, tired, bloodshot eyes and brand new stitches for her wounds. How is it she still manages to look infinitely hotter than Vicky?

Her arms wrap around Lara, giving her friend a hug in a way she never thought she could. She holds Lara close to her, refusing to even lighten her grasp on her friend. Vicky doubts if she’ll ever let go as she rests her teary eyes on Lara’s shoulder. It is a feeling Lara recorportes as she too grasps her dear friend as if her life depended on it.

“Easy, girl.” Lara can’t help but sniffle as she speaks. “Try to remember I just woke up.”

Vicky is reluctant to leave her embrace, yet she pulls away from Lara. She needs breathing room, after all, so Vicky settles with hand holding. “I thought--how?”

“Sammy girl. She’s been working day and night to save me here. I would say it’s a mission accomplished. You?” The smile on each other’s respective faces is enough to remind them that everything will be okay. “So I survived a gun wound, how cool is that? Think they sell shirts?”

“You’re taking this well.”

“What? It’s sort of cool. You know, besides the whole dying thing. I mean, I got my own scar!” Lara’s light chuckle is enough to have her hunched over coughing. much to Vicky’s dismay. “Damnit.” Lara mutters as she looks back up at Vicky, seeing the annoyance in her eyes. “Uh oh, you don’t look happy.”

“You--do you remember what you did?” Of course Lara doesn’t but she still feels the urge to ask. “You nearly killed yourself, Lara! And you’re sitting here joking about it!” Vicky knows Lara copes by humor, but is she not the slightest bit concerned about this? I mean--fuck, Lara! I thought you left me!”

“I’m fine, Vics. See? I’m here now.” Lara squeezes Vicky’s hand, hoping her friend can see it too. She is alive! “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“You were going to get yourself killed. For me, of all people! Do--do you not know what you mean to me? You’re not just my friend, Lara. You’re….so much more than that.”

“And I appreciate that. But...it’s my life, Vics. It’s not yours to control. I make my own choices.”

“And your choice was to die for me? That’s not the fate you deserve.”

“But it’s the choice I deserve to make.” Living a life full of emptiness, worsened by her own life choices, Lara deserved the choice to die for something worthwhile. The life of Vicky? She’d do it a thousand times over and not think twice. “Was it stupid to confront that dude? Probably. But to help you? Vics, I’d face the devil himself if it meant you would be okay.”

“I don’t need you too, Lara. I can’t have you getting hurt for me.”

“Then you clearly don’t know what you mean to me.” Lara uses her strength to pull Vicky closer, wanting her to hear this with full attention. “You, Victoria Cummings, are not just my roommate, nor my friend. You’re not even just my sister. You--you are the greatest person I’d ever known. You are smart, beautiful, funny, loving and a fighter. You’re everything I wanted to be and more. You are someone I don’t deserve. You….I would go to the depths of hell just to be with you, Vicky. You wanna know? Because...as corny as this may sound, you’re not just a person. You’re apart of me. It is your soul--your beautiful soul--that I feel connected to every time I get up. It is you that has helped me keep going even in the darkest of times. It is you--you who completes me, Vicky.”

Vicky, the girl so obsessed with trying to be the strongest she can be, is trying not to ball out into tears as she locks eyes with the greatest person she’s ever known. Her soulmate, Lara Drake. She’s such a beautiful person, and Vicky admits to having taken that for granted. Now? Now all Vicky wants to do is remind Lara how much she means to her. She’s everything to Vicky, more than life itself. She’d do anything for her, and Lara for her. How could this happen? How could two girls, coming from immensely different backgrounds, become like this? They have become apart of each other just as the sun and the earth; without each other they’d be almost useless, for one needs the other. But, here they are. Two lost souls, damaged on this earth, helping each other find their paths as they form into one.

“I…” Vicky doesn’t know how to explain what Lara means to her, so instead she sticks with three, simple words. So simple, yet at the same time, some of the most effective words Lara has heard in her lifetime. “I love you, Lara.”

Their teary eyes lock as they hold their hands, giggling like little school children who act like they have met their soulmate; except here, they have. They wouldn’t get anywhere without each other. “I love you.” Lara, the usual comedic person, breaks down into tears as Vicky lays in the bed next to her, wrapping her arms around Lara, as she does the same. There they lay, cuddling with each other, as Lara rests her weary head on Vicky’s chest. “You mean the world to me.” Lara cries to her. “I love you so much.”

They both have their ways of dealing with emotion. Lara uses humor to run, while Vicky tries to pretend she’s stronger. They try not to let their emotions show a lot and it is for those reasons that this is such a beautiful scene. Two girls, whose souls have been formed into one, crying in each other’s arms. Not for sorrow and not for pain. They cry because they love, they love each other more than they do themselves; they cry because they have found a person they can love for the rest of time. Many like to write love off as strictly romantic, but this...this is just something else. Love is so much more, and if you need convincing, look no further.

“Promise not to leave me.” Vicky chokes out to her, too afraid of ever losing such a bright star again. “Please don’t leave me, Lara.”

“I’ll always be here.” Lara rests her hand on top of Vicky’s heart. “No matter what happens, you’ll never need to look far to find me.”

“I need to look at my flat little boob?” The two laugh as they hold each other, needing a little humor to make this less corny than it already is. “You know where.” Lara seriously says upon finishing her laughter, wanting the message across.

“I know.” Vicky answers, her tears beginning to die down.

Lara grabs her hand to hold again for her next speech. “The always say that in the moment, death is easy. ‘When your time comes,nothing you can do’. I felt myself dying yesterday and I saw all these flashes. They were so meaningless. Nothing of value…..until I saw you. I saw you, I saw Dre, I saw so many people, and it was then I knew that my time wasn’t done. I fought like hell for my life, and now here we are.” Lara playfully strokes Vicky’s hair. “It’s not over. There are people I’ve failed, people who need me.”

“I ran from my family, Vicky. The childhood I had is one no one deserved, and when times got rough, I ran away to college. I have a brother who needed me when I wasn’t there. Half siblings who looked up to me...and I just ran.” Lara’s eyes are that of shame, yet Vicky can see the glimmer of hope growing. “When I’m better, I need to go find them, and I want to know if you will come with me.”

“I’m with you until the end of the line.” She knows she has been this whole time, but she just can’t help but smile at this beautiful creation. How did she get so lucky? She isn’t a religious person, but if there was one thing she could thank God for, it was finding her. She’s just so perfect for her. Love and understand is what Vicky gives, two things Lara never experienced growing up. So, laying here now, she wishes she could just fly away with Vicky. Laying here with her is just...one of the happiest moments of their lives.

And that’s when it happened.

It happened so sudden that she didn’t even realized what she was doing. She put her hands on Vicky’s warm cheeks, and without a single hesitation, leaned in to meet her lips. Both of them were surprised at this sudden act, yet neither broke the kiss at first. It doesn’t feel romantic, and they definitely have no romantic interest. It’s just….a kiss, one of the purest of love. A love they both feel as their hearts warm to their locking lips.

Lara breaks it after a few seconds, pulling away to meet Vicky’s eyes. Oh, their damn loving eyes. “I’m sorry.” Lara apologizes to her, not wishing to violate her friend. “I just--I had to do that.”

“It’s all good.” Truly it was. For once in this damned outbreak, it was all alright. “I can cross kissing a girl off my bucket list now.” The two soulmates laugh at this random, pleasant, and one time action. “No homo.”

“Of course. No homo.” Lara pulls her hands from her face as they continue to chuckle. “I mean...maybe a little homo.”

“Then this is super awkward.”

“One of my specialties is making things awkward.”

“Bitch.”

“You’re a bitch.”

“Well you’re the biggest bitch.”

“Damn. I’m gonna call you mother fucker for now on, mother fucker.”

“You’re weak as hell right now, so watch your tongue.”

“Fight me.” Smiling at each other, both sit up from their emotional positions, rubbing their red eyes. “Can you do me a favor and find Dre? I should probably tell him the surprise.”

“Of course.” Vicky hops onto her feet, looking at Lara one last time before heading out. “Don’t you get shot on me again.”

Within another five minutes it was Dre who rushed into the room, breaking down in front of her. Vicky watches as he collapses next to the bed, giving Lara a passionate kiss of romantic love, a kind of passionate they have never shown before. Watching Lara try to make more meaning relationships, it was a defining moment for Lara, and in turn, for Vicky.

Exiting into the halls, Vicky has a rosy smile on her face, feeling at peace. Of course, the peace won’t last. It never does, but this is a moment she is willing to cherish for as long as she breathes. Lara Drake is truly one of a kind.

She spots Sam and McCoy outside, and much to Sam’s surprise, Vicky wraps her in for a hug. “Thank you.” Vicky can’t thank her enough, but luckily Sam is satisfied with just one thank you.

“You don’t need to thank me.”

“Yes I do.”

“No, you don’t.” Vicky separates from Sam, who like always, shows why she is one of the nicest people around.

“And I’m sorry.” Lara speaks to McCoy now, who requires no apology but she feels the need to give him one anyway. “You were trying to help me and I just pushed you away.”

“No apology necessary. Just know we’re all here for you, alright?” McCoy looks at her, smiling as Vicky nods. Stubborn girl she is, but it looks like she got the message, hopefully.


It was only a matter of time before they made their way to Franklin Mills. The caravan never misses a stop. Of course, to the disappointment of many, they weren’t greeted by the leader. Hell, the doors weren’t even opening. Common courtesy, anyone? He’s a criminal, not an animal.

Isaiah stands at the doors of Franklin Mills, hands stuffed into his jacket’s pockets, foot tapping against the lightly snowed ground. The engines of his cars have died behind him, leaving only their headlights on for the people inside to see. Of course, this isn’t a sight that many would have hoped to see. A hooded man, an army at his back, watching them from their door? He scoffs as people look frightened by him, like he was the big bad wolf to their little pigs.

In a few moments James arrives at the glass door. For a second they just stare each each other down, James wondering if they have any last minute moves against these men. Sadly, though, nothing. So the door is opened to them, allowing the destroyers to enter his domain. “You let us wait out there in the snow?” Isaiah’s voice isn’t threatening. In fact, by the way he moves, he doesn’t seem like a person to fear. Still, Isaiah thought he was. “You knew we were coming.”

“I didn’t know what time. First time doing this.” James is not happy with this arrangement, but what choice do they have at the moment? Isaiah notes the anger in his voice, something James notices that makes Isaiah smirk. “I have the supplies for your boss.”

As a man wheels forward the supplies, Isaiah takes the time to eye the crowd around to see what kind of people work for them now? His eyes lock with the glare of death that comes from Ethan. A man who visibly wants to kill them. Huh. What should he do other than wave to Ethan, the smirk still on his face for how powerless these men are to him. A beautiful feeling. Years of being looked down on as a runt, and now here he is, at least sort of looked up to. Not with respect, of course, but still looked up too.

Tate wheels the cart of supplies up to Isaiah, who per orders, does a check. To his liking, Franklin Mills didn’t attempt to rip them off and included everything. “I hope everyone here has learned there lesson.” Isaiah speaks to the crowd, but more importantly he speaks to the leader that is James. “It was foolish to consider messing with us.”

Isaiah sees the fear in the crowd, and oh, how is it good. “I’m sure there was a good thing here before, but now it’s time to update the program. Jacob Ryker is your leader, and I expect you all to serve him well.” Isaiah orders a handful of men to get the supplies. “We’ll be back in two weeks, and I expect to have our demands met.”

Tate, who stands by the cart, watches as men seize their hardwork away. A terrible sight to behold indeed. Yet, as it so seemed for Tate, that was only the beginning. For as he lifted his eyes to the last man of Ryker he is met with a ghost from the past.

Fitzpatrick too was stunned, staring in disbelief at the man in front of him. Each were fearful of the other, with Tate going as far to back away from his friend. No words are spoken, not yet. Just the meeting of their eyes, which could never be more different. One of the risen man, one of the fallen man. As Fitzpatrick’s eyes turned to hatred, he didn’t follow Tate’s expectations and lunge. No, instead he offered the crooked smile of men and winked, backing away towards his men while doing so. His eyes, oh his eyes, never leave that of Tate’s. He only prays that the burning image of his eyes is enough to hurt him until the time comes.

“Happy New Year, everybody!” Isaiah backs away to the doors. “To the year of Ryker!” Once the disgusting sentence was spoken, Isaiah and his men vanishing into world outside; yet they could still feel their presence, as if they were hiding in the shadows, watching their every move.


“So what do we do?” The question was a sharp one, enough to divide this small group apart. Nothing and give in? Fight back? Desperate times called for desperate measures, but how desperate are they?

The four men sit in the security room, each into their own thoughts. After all, each were vastly different men. A dove, a snake, a hyena and the lion. Four different animals with four different views on the world. The dove is a peaceful creature, soothing through the skies in search for peace and a home. The snake, oh the snake is a treacherous bastard, slithering through the grasses of deceit as everyone’s blind eye is turned. The hyena is an animal of high danger, being able to kill in seconds, yet it is also very foolish in this. Then of course, the lion. Brave and mighty he is, with no one able to take it down without a fight.

Reyes, Joel, Ethan and James each look at each other, debating on what their next plan should be. “We need to strike back.” Ethan speaks of attack with no plan. “Get them when they least expect it.”

“How?”

“We can work on that.” Ethan doesn’t understand why no one agrees with this? Those bastards killed their men, so they do the same. No one asks for war, but when attacked first the only clear option is such a thing. Do they have the manpower? No, but it is not the manpower that is important. The strategy is what was important, and with the right layout, they could overpower Ryker.

“We need to do what’s necessary, I get it. But we can’t be rash.” Reyes points out to the stubbornness that was Ethan. “We need to do this in a way where the least casualties are given. Smart, and more importantly, not be like them.”

Ethan rolls his eyes at the response, but bites his tongue when James switches gears. “Do we know if these spies are real?”

“I say it’s a bluff.” Joel gives his opinion on the manner, complete with usual snarky attitude and all. “Look around, this is a small place. He wouldn’t waste too many watching us. What does he have to fear from us?”

“Everything.” Is the typical Ethan responds, much to the chagrin of Reyes. He respects Ethan, but he has no doubt that he is going to get them all killed somehow. They look back at James, who honestly, had no idea what to think. Some leader, huh?

His anguish is halted by the arrival of two uninvited guests. The four watch as two people walk in, the first of them really confusing James. Michael? Since when did he care about leading? Of course, what confused him more was the women at his side, whom almost looked scared to be here. “What are you doing here?” James is straight to the point with Michael, per usual.

“I would like to introduce you guys to Haley.” A beautiful woman, who James assumed Michael already had his night of love with. Still, why bring her to them? “She...has something to say.”

Haley looks at him, the two debating with their eyes. Not that Haley doesn’t want to speak to them, but what is she to say? How would she say it? Most importantly, what would they do? She didn’t want to get hurt.

She was reluctant to face him, but with Michael’s encouragement, she faces the four, finding the courage to face whatever punishment may face her. Plus, she has Michael, right? He won’t leave her side. “Well...hi guys, I’m Haley.” She briefly delays with a wave to spare her some more time. “So...I have something important to share with you.”


The skyline of Philadelphia has been the same for the past few months. What was there to change? The dying city rose high into the clouds, with the occasional birds zooming through for safety. Still, something was off about the skies today. Yes, there was. In the skies was a flying object, one that could be mistaken for a bird from a distance. After all, this object was dark and silent as it pierced the clouds.

It was on further inspection that this was no bird. No, this was a helicopter. A helicopter? Yes, it was weird to consider a helicopter in the age today, but here one is. An advanced one at that, for it makes the slightest of noise as it zooms through the skies. Silent, it was. The dark, horrifying silence.

The darkly shaded helicopter only has one destination and one alone. This couldn’t be a quick visit, unfortunately, so he had no chance to explore their testing grounds. Touching down at the city’s airport, the doors slide open for the darkly suited man inside, who is happy to finally touch on the ground again.

The man steps out from the helicopter adjusting the tie to his grey suit. Who doesn’t want to look sharp? Sharp he looked indeed. A square jawed man with snow blonde hair and blue eyes fit well for a man in a suit, and he always liked to keep appearances.

Once his damn tie was straightened, the man looks up to see his old, dear friend. He smiles, and oh quite the smile it is. “I see you’ve gotten older.” He greets Ryker, who like him has dressed up in his best red suit to match his ever so sharp friend.

“And I see age still hasn’t touched you yet.” Ryker holds a filled cup of the delicious, blood red wine to his flattered friend. “Welcome to Philadelphia, old friend.”

“A pleasure to be hear. You tell quite the story about this place.”

“Well of course. This is my home. Home is where the heart is, no?”

“Indeed. I assume the plan is going along smoothly?”

“Without a hitch.”

“Excellent. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get down to business.” Ryker follows suit as the man of mystery raises his authentic glass of wine high. “To the will of Abd Al-Qadir.”

“To the will of Abd Al-Qadir.” The two friends cheer before taking a sip of the authentic red wine. With such aging wine comes divine flavor, and oh, how the man loves his wine. With a satisfied taste, he lowers his glass, eyes now focused on Ryker, ready to continue their meeting inside. “Shall we?”

Issues of Endangered
Arc 1
Volume 1

1 - Ruined 2 - Father of the Year 3 - Party Girl 4 - It's Been Over 5 - One Wrong Move 6 - Lost 7 - Reporter 8 - Lost and Found 9 - Talk 10 - Brown 11 - Confront 12 - Calm Before the Storm

Arc 2
Volume 2

13 - Chaos 14 - Old Friends, New Enemies 15 - State of Emergency 16 - Just Watch the Sunset 17 - Trust is Weakness 18 - The Riots are the Worst 19 - The Riots are the Worst, Part 2 20 - Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us from Shopping 21 - The Sixth Sense 22 - A Game of What If? 23 - Pain is the Alpha and Omega for Addiction 24 - You Can Never Change

Volume 3

25 - It Not a Small World After-All 26 - Ghosts From the Past and the Demons That Follow 27 - The Coward, The Opportunist, and the New World 28 - Surrounded by the Unseen Foe 29 - Lost Souls 30 - City of Brotherly Love 31 - The Truth Will Set You Free 32 - A Sacrifice of Blood 33 - This Isn't a Video Game 34 - P.T.S.D 35 - A Helping Hand 36 - No Mercy