The Last of Us: Last Hope

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Rainjay, Dec 1, 2015.

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  1. Corpus Christi - Texas
    Naval Air Station Corpus Christi - Firefly Quarantine Zone

    Caitlyn was making her way through the halls, shoes squeaking on tile as she ran. She was late. Rather, she was going to be. The meeting was going to be in approximately five minutes, if her watch was correct--it often wasn't. Telling time was a bit hard. Everyone's clock read something different. Regardless, most of the rooms she passed were empty, and the dusty roads outside were abandoned except for the guard. Everyone had already gone and gathered in the Hole a long time before. They hadn't slept in like Cait.

    In her defense, she'd been out the entire night before on patrol. They'd seen military vehicles passing through the area last week, and everyone was feeling tense--more than usual. Not a single moment went by that their little quarantine zone wasn't heavily guarded and patrolled.

    A small sign that read "EXIT" was sitting crooked on the wall above the heavy metal doors that lead out of the housing block. In the dim light, Cait could see a small spider building it's web in one of it's corners, among the torn wires and dust. She skidded to a stop and slammed her shoulder against the doors, which made shrill cries as she pushed them open. She squinted in the dying day light, placing a hand over her eyes so she could see across the clearing without burning her eyes. She raced across the makeshift streets to the next block, and slipped past the next door, cracked open for ventilation, into the room inside.

    This was the largest of the buildings in the Station, and right in the heart of it was a utility room. It lead down to a basement, large enough to fit a hundred once it was cleared of shelves and crates. It was all cement and broken light fixtures, with candles and gas lamps lining the walls for light. Some of the pipes still leaked into the massive room, leaving puddles in the worn floor and a constant smell of musk and mildew. Of all places to pick for a meeting spot, they picked the Hole not because it was pretty or convenient, but because of what lay in the very back of the basement.

    There was a smaller room, filled with perfectly preserved pre-outbreak tech. Whatever the people who built this place did to the actual basement, this room was well constructed, and was without leaks or damage whatsoever. The door had been locked, and had to be broken down for the Fireflies to gain access. Most of the tech on the ground level and above of the base had been damaged in some way or another. But this was a priceless gem. Computers, monitors, databases, and the like, all in perfect condition.

    Most importantly was the Radio.

    They'd started to fiddle with it years prior when a man named Jorge Klein showed up with a crazy idea and a whole lot of charisma. He convinced Marlene not only that it was a good idea to experiment with their tech, see what they could do, but to make contact. He gathered a team of engineers and survivors who had been technicians in their former lives, and got to work. Over time, the Radio had become a source of entertainment and gossip among the Fireflies. People would talk about how the technicians had managed to get something resembling words out of the noisy static, or had improved the radio's range. Not many believed it would get anywhere.

    But Jorge had made his breakthrough.

    Cait made her way to the center of the building, barely out of breath. Already she could hear the noise of a hundred or so people talking and moving about. The door to the stairwell was still open to let the smoke out--she let herself in, jumping down the steps two or three at a time. Even by the stairs the crowd was thick. She pushed through, cursing at people and jabbing at people's sides until she made her way to the front where Zoë Summers was making her speech.

    Zoë had proudly taken the late Marlene's place, calling the Fireflies back to Corpus Christi and quickly taking hold of the reigns. Marlene had barely released her final breath before Zoë took over, but nobody particularly seemed to mind. The woman was diligent, bold, and strong, a fit leader for the group. She had a way of commanding attention while also generating energy and faith. Erik said she'd have been good as a cultist.

    Cait settled herself a foot or two away from Zoë, who flashed her a sideways glare--you're late!--before returning to her speech. "...and having made contact with the other side, we believe that not only can we get help with the current situation in the States, but we also may have a chance for collaboration on a vaccine or cure. All of our previous records are still intact, although some are still in transportation from Salt Lake. We can compare notes and resources and maybe work together with whoever is communicating with us. This is a breakthrough people. We've found the light!"

    The group applauded, some cheered. "The only problem is; we have no way to physically contact these people. Our communications are still rocky at best, but we do believe they have confirmed that they do not have access to any sort of flight. No planes. While they're looking for a way to reach us, we better get to looking for a way to reach them. This could take months--" A collective groan, "--but we will get there. We're planning on sending out several search teams to try and locate parts."

    "Parts?" Cait asked, her brow furrowed into a frown. This was all new to her. Zoë shared most things with her, but not this. "What do you mean?"

    "I mean," Zoë said, "for a ship. Or aircraft, but most of what we have here is damaged beyond our ability to repair, and finding parts might be next to impossible. We do however have a military ship not far from our Zone. It's pretty much ours for the taking. A group has already dispatched to check it out and get us a part list. The search teams would travel and explore the coast for more such parts. The groups will be sizable enough to travel for some time and handle their own."

    "Who's going to go?" Someone called out.

    Zoë shrugged. "Whoever wants to go."​

    #1 Rainjay, Dec 1, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015
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  2. Standstill


    Jane's eyes shot open at the sudden cascade of droplets of water falling from above her 'tent' - her jacket propped up by a branch she had found before they had set down for the night. She jerked suddenly and forced herself from out of her sleeping bag, eyes frantically glancing left then right. Nothing, just rain. Her father already stood packing his bedroll, hood pulled over his head to fight off the slight drizzle that had begun. She stumbled to her feet, attempted to pat down her grease-slick hair, and took her jacket from its perch. Shaking it off in a vain attempt to rid the garment of water, Jane looked to her father again: his attention was on the roll.

    "Where we headed today?" the girl croaked, voice quavering from lack of use.

    The man jolted and wheeled to face her, face suspended in a moment of terror before relaxing into a fragile smile. Jane noted his hand had firmly rooted itself on the butt of his revolver, knuckles white with strain for a brief instant.

    "Mornin'," he offered. "I think we'll be heading down I-37 for a little while today. That'll get us close to the coast - maybe once we're there we can make for some water-side house, rest up a bit. We're not too far from a pretty big city and-"

    "Big like Atlanta?" Jane interjected, halfway through rolling up her bag. The rain was starting to dissipate now, lucky her, just a cloudburst, but still the sky overhead was overcast and grey.

    "Not quite so big, but it's something. Bound to have some leftovers to pick," he replied.

    Without too much more to add, the pair gathered their belongings and set back to the road. The exit ramp they had taken had landed them by the remnants of what had once been a gas station, but something had made it burn to the ground. The convenience store had been robbed, looted, and torn up as well, hardly more than a bottle of water hidden behind the counter. There had also been something her father hadn't let her see, something in the 'beer cave' in the back of the store. Jane hadn't asked, and really, she didn't want to know. It hadn't been one of the monsters, she knew that - there would have been a shot if it was, or he would not have come out alive.

    Their march continued until midday, after another two spouts of rain and a detour around a blockade of ruined vehicles. They stood now at the exit ramp for another turnoff into a town, the sign long corroded into rusted brown-green metal with hardly a recognizable letter. Grass sprouted through cracks in the road up, rustling gently in a breeze Jane could not feel.

    "Is this it?" She asked, doubtful.

    "No," her father began. "I can't tell how far away we are - but we should be there by tonight."

    He stood staring up the ramp for a good moment before Jane spoke up again.

    "What are we doing here, then?"

    "We'll see if we can't nab some food here, then we'll head back on the road quick as we came. Shouldn't be more 'n half an hour and we'll be moving again."

    She nodded and the two hiked up the crumbling road to the town beyond it. There had not been much of worth, just more empty gas stations and boarded-up businesses beyond their access. Even if they had the time, the tools, and the motivation, the noise would attract unwanted visitors of all sorts. They had been just about to leave when her father had stopped and looked down into a parking lot that more resembled an open field. Beyond the waist-high grass stood a building lined with posters on either side of its doors, a large circle with rectangles jutting out from a tall central tower. Without a word, he began to drift towards the building, almost mesmerized.

    "Dad?" Jane called, immediately reprimanding herself for shouting.

    "Just follow me," he muttered.

    A single door to the building, luckily, had remained cracked open. Jane had been ready to enter the room, but had stopped when she saw her father perusing the posters plastered across the walls.

    "It's like I never left," he laughed, a hysteric laugh. "Same crap...All these years..."


    "Jane, come here," he said, pointing to the poster he stood across from. "Your grandfather and I saw this one right before..."

    A pause.

    "Well, right before this happened."

    "Well, there's a door open and I didn't look inside, but nothing leapt out at me," Jane remarked, not paying the poster any heed.

    Inside, a massive lobby awaited her. Above, a chandelier of plastic linings and cheap lights made to look like candles hung from a thread and chairs, tables, and various scraps had been cobbled together into a loose barricade around a central room with plastic panes. Overhead, a message board read "TURN BACK" over and over again. No one came out from hiding, though, and from the looks of the barricades - torn, rotted, and snapped - it appeared no one had been here in a long while. Her father crawled behind a counter right of the 'fortress' and began to quietly rummage around. Jane sauntered to the barricades and peered inside the central room, curiosity piqued. Nothing.

    "Jane," the voice sent her jolting upward and wheeling about. "Jane, come here."

    She crept to where her father sat hunched over something he'd found. When she approached, he turned and held up a small can, red and white with a tab protruding half-bent from the top. He offered the can to her with a nod of approval.

    "Here, heirloom from home - that museum we had with the giant red bottle, this came from that place," he chuckled. "Been one giant trip in the past, this place has. Go ahead, open it up and give it a sip. We'll get back on the road soon enough, be there by nightfall. Sound good?"

    Jane nodded and clicked open the can with a hiss.

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  3. Group meetings always brought about mixed feelings for Jon. On the one hand he didn't much appreciate the deviation from his previously established routines; normally by this time he'd just be finishing up the morning run and grabbing a snack before moving on to some form of strength training. Today was 'pull' day: biceps, upper back, traps. Not his favorite day but still a good one- even at 33 he was still improving and his current goal was getting in more one-armed pullups.

    But before that, he had to come to this meeting Zoë had called. It wasn't the worst thing he figured, as he shuffled in with everyone else, choosing to stand off to the right side, against the wall where he'd be able to watch both the entrance and their new 'leader's' speech. Not that Jon had any problem with Zoë taking the lead since she'd wanted it. He certainly had not, not after having experienced the 'joys' of leading a squad of his own up in Oklahoma. Sure it was nice having people follow his orders, but ultimately being responsible for their actions, for their shortcomings and failures, their mistakes and missteps...? No thanks.

    Jon far preferred a group of equals working together for a common goal, and that's why he appreciated the Fireflies so much. Sure Zoë was their leader, but each member was a leader in his or her own way, taking initiative and helping the group as a community, not as servants or inferiors. That's how the military had always treated them and he swore to never let himself fall into that kind of subservience again. But the Fireflies were different and it was demonstrated through Zoë's outlining of their new mission: independent groups forming voluntarily, managing their own affairs and methods to work toward the common good. It earned a small, lopsided smile from beneath a thick brown mustache and his head bobbed in an approving nod for Zoë's hands-off approach.

    What's more, he felt that this was long overdue; the group had been in standby mode for too long, and though Jon didn't mind the simple pleasures of securing their continued survival, having an overarching goal brought a sense of purpose that he'd been lacking as of late. The matter of whether this was a worthy cause would have to wait to be figured out later, as already groups seemed to be forming as people began speaking in a quiet background buzz. Leaving the city of his birth... this small island of safety in a very dangerous world where so many of them had struggled and sacrificed to make a home, even if temporary- it did make his heart ache to consider, but there was no room for such sentimentality, and he pushed those emotions aside while looking around for a group that seemed competent.

    Beyond just a simple search for skilled individuals, it was also a hunt for those who would prove more compatible, and complementary to his own combat style and skill sets. Some might rely solely on stealth, sneaking around in the shadows, squeezing into tight tunnels, and generally avoiding confrontation. Other groups were of the more macho assortment, generally the younger guys who preferred to go in guns blazing when a silent jab of a blade would be more prudent. Jon knew one person he felt would be a valuable asset but a quick glance around didn't reveal the man he was looking for. Perhaps he was on guard duty. He did, however, spot said man's brash younger sister- when she'd barged in and shoved her way to the front after arriving late.

    "Hey, is yer brother here?" His tone was even and could possibly be taken as polite as he stepped up next to Caitlyn Wright, giving Zoë a cordial nod when he noticed her glancing his way. "I 'magine he'll wanna get out there, join in on this li'l scavenger hunt." Unspoken was the obvious implication that Jon was actually describing his own feelings on the matter- that and the silent indifference of Cait's own intentions regarding their new goal. But at least it was couched in an attempt at cordial small talk and said with a hint of a polite smile.
    #3 Insomnant, Dec 7, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2015
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  4. This radio room was impressive, every time Enrique walked in the room he was always mesmerized by the pre-outbreak tech that was in here. People could talk across the world if they wanted, or even send out videos. It was crazy to him. Being born after the infection started made it so that he knew little of the old world. It never bothered him that he knew so little though, he was good at this world. Zoë was talking about something and Enrique forced a yawn to go away.

    Enrique had been out the night before, fooling around with a younger Fire Fly. It was fun but it certainly wasnt helping him stay awake during this meeting, he knew Zoë would probably beat his ass if she caught him sleeping so he made sure to keep himself entertained. He kept his knife in hand and was constantly picking at his nails with it. After some time doing this he started to think back to last night. Stolen hooch, sneaking off to the roofs, a blanket and one pillow. For the life of him Enrique couldnt remember her name, at all. Zoë was talking about fixing things, working for a cure at this point. He almost scoffed aloud at the idea of a cure, the people who were immune didnt wanna be operated on. Last time that happened that crazy fucking smuggler killed a bunch of their boys and one of the best damn surgeons left in the world. No one was gonna let that happen to their kid, even their cargo.

    Then someone just had to be late. He saw Caitlyn enter and was curious as to where Erik was. Erik and he were decent friends, the pair had similar talents and interests. Tempted to ask but Jon appeared to have gotten to the question first. Enrique listened carefully for an answer. Enrique hoped he'd get a team of like minded individuals, people who enjoyed taking it to the infected and keeping them from biting.
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  5. Crouching low, Alysson moved from behind a pillar to a crate. Peeking over it with narrowed eyes, she watched and waited, mentally counting the time to ensure the coast was clear. After having a run-in with an infected moments earlier, she wasn't going to be taking any chances. She had been told the subway system would be a safe way to Corpus Christi, and she couldn't deny that the information had been solid. She figured that if she had traveled above ground her trek would have been fraught with a significant amount of peril.

    Luckily for her, one of her father's friends, who acted as a smuggler, had given her tips on reaching her destination. She couldn't deny it was scary being on her own, but this was a world she was born into and she knew she could handle whatever was thrown her way.

    Stepping out from behind the crate, she slowly made her way to the steps that led to the surface, the daylight almost blinding her eyes after having been in the dark, dank subway for what felt like days. Slowly, with careful and precise steps she ascended to the surface, holding a hand in front of her face as she stepped onto the sidewalk and looked around, an incredulous look on her face.

    She made it!

    Her excitement was cut when she heard the sound of a gun cocking and she instinctively raised her hands, slowly turning to the source.

    "Who are you and what are you doing here? You infected?" The Firefly asked, gun trained on the girl as his patrol partner reached into his satchel, furiously searching for something.

    "M-My name is Alysson. Alysson Zaynesworth. I was told I could find the Fireflies here, and no, I'm not infected. Do I look infected to you?" She said, her nervous totally steadily becoming more aggressive.

    "You look like shit, girl." The man said as his partner retrieved a scanner from his sack and approached her carefully. "If you're not lying about not being infected, you won't mind if my partner here gave you a quick scan, right?" He spoke and the girl sighed, slowly getting on one knee as the man neared her. After what felt like a hundred years, the sound of a beep filled her ear and the man stepped back while Alysson eyed the device.

    "She's clean."

    "Alright." The Firefly said, lowering his weapon. "You say you wanna join the Fireflies, girl? Just make sure you can keep up." He said, walking off with his partner and the girl blinked, her jaw going slack as realization hit her like a freight train. She found them! Letting a grin spread over her face, she jogged to catch up to the men who were leading her back to the base.
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  6. “This is a breakthrough, people. We’ve found the light!”

    Cheers erupted in the thick crowd below with that simple statement as if they were the answer to all their problems.

    “Christ, this kid is one gullible little shit. He believed everything we told him about the fireflies. That they’re some terrorist group that preys on settlements. What an idiot. I guess people who’ve had every shred of hope ripped away from them will do just about anything to get their revenge, won’t they, Avery? Ah, but hell, you have as good an excuse as any. So close to a cure, and the fireflies let one single fuckwad screw it all up. If I never hear the name Joel again it’ll be too goddamned soon.”

    Colton stared at the dog tags in his hand, his brow furrowed in thought. He’d heard everything from his secluded place up in the rafters, and Zoë’s line of talk had brought back some unpleasant memories for him. The teenager refused to dwell on them though. Everyone had some kind of tragic past, not just him, so boo-hoo, right?

    “Get over yourself,” he murmured, his gray eyes narrowing beneath a semi-spiky length of brown hair as a chorus of exasperated moans filled the air. Of course. Every time there was good news, something not so good inevitably followed immediately after. Months! Colton had begun to expect things like this, even if he’d only been a firefly for a few months. This crazy world pretty much demanded you to temper your eagerness with a healthy dose of cynicism.

    From his ‘observation post’ he could see Cait bringing up the question of participation. Always straight to the point with that one. It was a quality Colton admired. He hated it when people beat around the bush. “Whoever wants to go,” came Zoë’s response. Well, that settled that. It was a volunteer job, which meant that people would probably be teaming up and looking for capable fighters with cooperative personalities. Colton considered himself the latter, but when it came to the former there were far more experienced individuals about.

    “Speak of the devil,” he said as Crawford came into view asking about Erik’s whereabouts. Colton took a bite of an apple he had saved from breakfast rations that morning and smirked, not surprised that Crawford and Erik were the first likely volunteers. Cait would probably go to, knowing her ‘take charge’ attitude. Who else did that leave? That semi-creepy Puerto Rican guy, Enrique, would be another potential teammate. Colton didn’t single the man out because he was racist. No. It was because the last time he’d tagged along on a scavenging mission that Enrique was a part of, the man seemed just a wee bit too giddy about the prospect of killing more of the poor, infected sons-of-bitches. Weird as it might be though, Colton had to admit it was a useful trait. Enrique was damn good at taking down spores-for-brains in all their shapes and sizes.

    The teenager took another chomp of his fruit, absently wiping the juice that trailed down his chin with the sleeve of his shirt. If it were any other mission, he’d consider hanging back until someone approached him, but this sounded way too important to just sit on the fence. An all hands on deck sort of thing. With an uncertain sigh, Colton held the apple with his teeth and slowly maneuvered along the steel beam toward the crude rope ladder waiting for him at the far end.
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  7. [​IMG]

    Corpus Christi - Texas
    Naval Air Station Corpus Christi - Firefly Quarantine Zone

    Cait stared at Zoë for a moment, unsure of what to say. Her idea seemed like the worst planned, craziest, wildest idea in the history of ideas--and as angry as she was that the woman didn't clue her in beforehand... she had to admit that it was worthwhile. Even if it really was poorly planned and absolutely crazy. They were going to build a ship? They being who? They had some damn bright people in the Fireflies, but that didn't mean that they had enough people, or the equipment, or the tools or means ... Zoë was crazier than Marlene.

    "So, you're letting people go randomly out into the country to go looking for parts? The country filled with Infected and FEDRA and hunters and crazy cannibals and God knows what else? What do you plan on sending with them? We don't have the resources for that. We're scrounging up food as it is. Don't you think it'd be better to wait until we're more stable? I know we were working on the fields but they're not near ready yet--"

    Zoë laughed. She had that way of laughing that made you want to join in, and was a tad condescending even though you knew she was right. It always unnerved Cait a little bit, but she cracked a small smile despite the twist in her gut."Darling, I think you're overthinking things. This is likely the most important advancement we've made in twenty years. When will another immune man or woman appear in this country, and what are the odds we will be able to reach them before FEDRA does and blows their brains out? They scan as Infected, not immune. It's not a worthwhile venture anymore.

    "But, we do know there are survivors in other countries. Plenty of them. And they could help us. They might have civilization! Life! Maybe a vaccine! They may have succeeded where we have yet to. That is a worthwhile venture. We have the remnants of a ship. It floats and just needs parts--we've made lists, and we have people who can put it together. We just need to find those parts first."

    "But..." Cait started. Zoë could be convincing. It was just how she acted and spoke. But this still seemed like a really, really bad idea. "Fine. But I do hope you have some sort of control over who goes where. I can't imagine everyone here is quite so capable of... what you want them to be."

    "Don't worry. I'll have things under control," Zoë said, offering a quick wink before stepping away to speak with other Fireflies. Cait watched her before shaking her head and turning away. Things would be fine. In the meanwhile... she needed a team.

    Of course, Jon wasn't the first person she'd have thought of, but he was right here. Even though he was looking for her brother, not for her.

    "Erik? Uhm... I think he's out on a watch? Patrol? Something like that. You know him. He's not really a fan of these meetings and gatherings. I think he swapped his schedule with some other guy." she answered, eyeing Jon carefully. "But yes, I bet he will be keen on going. I mean, I'll be going I think. You were... going to ask him to join you, I reckon?"
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  8. Nightfall

    Night did not come quickly. After having cleared the cinema, finding no traces of life - human or not - of any kind, Scott had grabbed Jane from her hiding place behind the counter and ushered them both quickly back into the parking lot. One of the theaters had been chained and barricaded off, and he hadn't the courage to check the interior. He told himself it was their store room, that he hadn't inhaled anything that might have lingered out of the crack between the double doors, but the crushing weight of the possibility ate at him as they continued down I-37. As had been the case since departing Atlanta, sneaking through miles of government-patrolled territory, he and Jane did not share so much as a brief smattering of conversation. She never spoke unless spoken too, and, well, they did not have much to talk about. Whatever common ground the two shared had vanished with their departure from Atlanta, and Scott felt that she was equally aware of the matter.

    He had tried talking to her about life before the infection came, and she seemed as disinterested in that as she did everything else. Even the soda can had not done anything - when asked about it, she had offered a sympathetic, if a tad fragile, smile and an automatic response. Now, nearly five hours later, with both Scott and Jane's feet aching from constant travel, they had come within sight of Corpus Christi. Overhead, the light of the sun barely shone through on the horizon, a hazy yellow-orange glaze tinged with streaks of purple in the distance. For a while now, the days had been longer, the days and nights colder. When it snowed, Scott did know if this was still true nearly a decade after the first grey winter, but he knew that a portion of the snow was clouded in the ashes of filth and cremated human remains.

    "You're right," Jane suddenly blurted.

    Scott wheeled around to see the girl behind him gazing at the city ahead with a critical eye. "Not as big as Atlanta."

    "Oh, no, not by a lot," Scott agreed, smiling in spite of himself.

    Even from where they stood, the city was cast in the dying light of the sun, barely more than a black mass of buildings, frames of buildings, and rubble outlined in orange.

    "But, it's where we need to be. If we take the edge of the coast and keep going south, we'll hit South America eventually and maybe the winters won't be so bad there," he went on. "But first, we need to get here, get some supplies, yeah?"

    Jane only nodded.

    It took the pair another hour to finally be within what Scott would consider the 'bounds' of the Corpus Christi. Their pace was cautious, taking every block with the utmost care, ensuring to avoid every barricaded building, every alleyway, and every burned out car. Grass had taken root here, too, growing in and around nearly every inch of concrete and steel, running up to Scott's waste. Another unwelcome delay. Their every movement sent a rustle through the dry blades, and if an infected had been crippled or if a human hunched in ambush they would be powerless to do anything about it until it was too late.

    Scott eased forward hunched to the ground ahead of Jane, weapon at the ready: his revolver, the nail board hung at his backpack across a strap of leather that had once belonged to a purse. So far, the only creature they had encountered had been a small mouse perched atop a ruined car. Still, that hadn't stopped the instinctive flinch that came with every falling brick, gust of the wind, or flap of an overhead curtain. For a while longer Scott and Jane advanced until they came upon an intersection that looked relatively well-kept about an hour into their crawl. Cars had been placed into a loose ring, blocking off three out of the four paths into the center.

    "Stay here," Scott muttered, handing Jane the revolver. The girl took the weapon hesitantly, giving her father a look.

    "Just in case," he muttered, hating that he had to say it at all. "You know how to use it, just like I told you."

    "Point and shoot until something stops," Jane repeated the words now.

    Scott unhinged the nail board and drew his dagger, holding it beneath the board. Slowly, he made for the ring of cars and clambered over the first layer of cars and into the intersection's center. His eyes darted left then right, noticing nothing of note. Just someone's attempt at a last stand, or perhaps a quarantine. He took another step forward and felt his foot press against something uncharacteristically hard; curiously, he knelt and picked the object up. Shell casing.

    So it is a barricade...

    But then where were the people?

    "Stop right there!" A voice called out, muffled.

    Scott wheeled around, searching for the source of the noise. None. He stopped.

    From the unbarred section of the intersection came a pair of armed individuals, one armed with a rifle that had seen better the days, the other brandishing a large machete. They approached Scott quickly and quietly, the one with the machete moving to pat Scott down after instructing him to drop the weapons. He noted both of them wore some variation of mask, the one aiming the rifle at him a simple medical mask, the other a painter's mask painted to look like a sneering skull.

    "What are you doing here?" the one with the rifle demanded, not lowering his weapon once Scott had been patted down and scanned for infection. Caught in the revelation that he had not inhaled his death sentence, Scott had not heard the man's question.

    "He asked you a question," the man with the machete grunted, shaking Scott vigorously.

    "I-I came here to find supplies and..I brought my daughter here, too, we've been on the road for a long time and-"

    "You FEDRA?"

    "What? No. No. Do I look like FEDRA to you?"

    "Where's the girl?" The one with the rifle asked, adjusting his aim.

    "She's back there, by the first car away from the barricade..." Scott stuttered out. "I can-"

    "No, we've got her."

    "She's got a pistol - just, be careful...." he replied. "I don't want her to be hurt..."
    Their preliminary inspection had gone without much trouble. Jane, who had crept up to the barricade to see what was going on, had surrendered immediately. Once they were deemed safe, their weapons taken away with the loose promise they would be returned upon 'final investigation', the pair of men had led the two on into the city, which had been converted with similar car barricades as the one at the intersection. In any case, the survivors felt confident enough about the safety of their 'speedyway' that they moved quickly. What would have taken Scott and Jane hours took them only thirty minutes. Before them stood a wall three meters tall, made of various scrap metal, tires, and whatever loose, durable, scraps could be found.

    "We got two here bound for the Zone," one man bellowed up. "Open up!"

    Scott looked to Jane, and she looked back.

    "Will we be alright?" she whispered.

    "I don't know."

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  9. There were two competing lines of thought in Jon's mind when it came to forming a group for the upcoming task. On the one hand he was tempted to just head out alone- move during the day and find an inaccessible spot to hole up during the night. But in the long run it was too easy to get injured or wind up on the wrong side of a two-man obstacle blocking the way. And then all that machismo and independence was for naught.

    But still, a small group would be idea. Three, maybe four people tops- any more than that and it grew exponentially harder to keep the noise down in delicate situations, not to mention differences of opinions made it hard to come to a consensus on much of anything. And then there's the hassle of logistics, gathering food for more people- the more Jon thought of it, the more appealing the notion of tracking down Erik and heading out just the two of them became.

    He shook his head slightly and afforded a lopsided grin of amusement. He knew Erik didn't like large gatherings but to volunteer for watch to get out of one? The curiosity would be killing Jon if he were in that position. "Yeah... You reckon correctly," he confirmed with a nod of his head to Cait, noting her observant glance but saying nothing. "I've at least rebuilt an old car b'fore, so I figger I might be some use findin' parts t' salvage fer a boat." When he'd finished speaking he realized belatedly that he wasn't sure why he had just attempted to justify to Cait his own validity on a scavenging mission. The confusion made him offer up a minute shrug before turning to leave.

    "Guess I'll go see if I can't find 'im. D'ya wanna come or were ya gonna find yer own group?" he asked, fairly sure of the answer. The only thing that might keep one of them from heading out was staying back to take care of their younger sister (at least he prayed that would be the case over the alternative of bringing Lauren along) but he'd let them work out which one would remain if both weren't going.
    #9 Insomnant, Dec 13, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2015
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  10. Colton gripped the steel beam and gradually lowered himself down, taking hold of the rope with first one hand and then the other before sliding down the tattered length of slightly frayed fibers until his feet hit the ground with a muted thump. He took the apple in hand, chewing thoughtfully as he listened to Cait’s and Zoë’s discussion. Okay, eavesdropped. But it was interesting information, not to mention damn important, and he couldn’t un-hear them.

    Cait immediately began pointing out all the flaws in Zoë’s plan. The lack of resources and traveling rations, the vast list of things out there wanting to kill them . . . . The teenager could understand her concerns. They were valid. Waiting until things were more stable though? That could take years, if it was even possible at all, and by then this contact on the other side could be gone. Or dead. They could end up fixing the boat only to get to their destination and find it overrun with infected, or hunters. It was a crappy situation all the way around.

    He quirked an eyebrow when Zoë began to laugh. It was sort of an ‘aren’t you adorable?’ kind of chuckle, which caused Colton to cast his gaze to the ground and snicker under his breath. He ate the rest of his apple as the firefly leader spoke. The most important advancement in twenty years? Christ! Talk about persistence. His thoughts drifted to Patrick, and what the man had told him about Salt Lake. All that work. All the loss. It still amazed him that the fireflies continued moving forward in spite of everything, and he admired their dedication more and more.

    Zoë finished stating her case. Colton was convinced. Of course, he’d help out with anything they asked, danger or no danger. He owed them that much, didn’t he? The teenager chucked the core of his apple into a metal trash bin nearby and started toward the two women (and Crawford). But then Cait spoke up again and he paused. I can’t imagine everyone here is quite so capable of . . . what you want them to be. Colton couldn’t help but think of himself in reference to that statement. A little over two months in, he was a larva as opposed to a full-fledged firefly. He’d only been on one outing, and though that had gone fairly well, he doubted people were lining up to ask him to join their group. Not for something of this magnitude.

    The teenager frowned, running a hand self-consciously through his hair. I’ll need to talk to Zoë, he thought. The idea made him a little uneasy. That wasn’t because he didn’t like her or anything. He was just reminded of how he’d arrived here, and he always sensed (or maybe hallucinated) that Zoë didn’t much care for him, as he was the resident Bearer of Horrifically Bad News at the moment. Telling the woman that four of her people had died hadn’t exactly been the most joyous first meeting.

    “Well, here goes everything,” he muttered to himself. Colton blew out a gust of air and tucked Patrick’s dog tags out of sight underneath his shirt, hardly aware he was even doing it. As if subconsciously, he thought that hiding the reminder would make Zoë less inclined to hold it against him. He waited calmly for Zoë to finish speaking with a few others, managing to remain composed despite his misgivings. When the small group around her dissipated, Colton silently thanked whatever small modicum of luck he possessed. Those few minutes had felt like an eternity of Chinese water-drop torture.

    “Zoë, umm, hey,” he managed, inwardly cursing himself. His voice had sounded nervous and unsure. Not exactly the qualities he wanted to project when asking if he would be allowed to volunteer. That sounded weird in his head. Didn’t the term ‘volunteer’ mean you didn’t need permission? She said she’d be controlling who did what, though, so making his case couldn’t hurt. He didn’t want to be stuck here doing fieldwork. Literally. Preparing ground for planting wasn’t high on his personal list of goals, though he admired those that were doing it. Food was vital for their survival after all. “I know I’m still technically the newbie around here, and I’ve only been out with a team once since I got here. Well, twice, if you count the one that ended early because Terry accidentally fell and sliced his arm open on a barbwire barricade . . . . Anyway, I’d really like to go. I think I could do more good out there helping the search then in here doing guard duty or working the fields. I’m good at following direction. I won’t screw anything up, and I won’t let anybody down. You have my word on that.”

    Colton resisted the urge to look away. He didn’t want to appear insincere or scared, especially after that mini-speech. I wonder if I came off too strong. Or worse, too desperate. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Doubtful that he had convinced her, the teenager spoke up again before she had a chance to respond.

    “I need to do this, Zoë,” he said quietly. “Please.”
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  11. "Did'ja hear? Apparently that crackpot Zoë is planning on goin' to another country."

    "Fuck outta here. That bitch is crazier than Marlene."

    Listening to the Fireflies speak among themselves, Alysson kept quiet. She wanted to comment. but after asking her questions about where she came from and how she got their, the men seemingly forgot she existed. Which was both good and bad, in her perspective. On one hand, she got to hear gossip. On the other, it was a struggle to actually keep up with them. She had asked them when she'd be taken back to their encampment only to be told 'as soon as we finish our route'. According to her mental clock, they'd been walking for roughly thirty minutes.

    "Um... Hello?" She said, getting their attention and the men blinked, looking back and forth between her and each other.

    "Oh. You. We've almost made it back. Don't worry." Mr. Talks-Too-Much said and Alysson nodded, glaring daggers into the back of the man's head. After what felt like ages of walking, they made it back to the Firefly encampment and the girl could feel her jaw go slack. 'Encampment' her ass; it was practically a military base. Hell, it was a military base. With bright eyes, she soaked in the sight.

    She had seen quite a few during her journey with her family, but most were run down, ransacked and quite... Small in comparison. Feeling a strange thump in her stomach as she approached the gates, trailing close behind the two Fireflies, she paid no attention to anything they said to their comrades as she focused on looking around. She was... Examining every little detail. Taking it all in.

    She would finally become a Firefly.

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  12. [​IMG]

    Corpus Christi - Texas
    Naval Air Station Corpus Christi - Firefly Quarantine Zone

    The longer she listened to Jon talk, the more skeptical Cait felt about joining his potential team. Of course, he was a reliable, strong person. He'd be an asset--although maybe collecting assets of different strengths would be ideal. If she teamed up with him, of course Erik would go, too... Three survivalists without any particularly unique skills whatsoever. They were good with guns. They were good at surviving. She couldn't think of much else they'd stick on their post-apocalypse resume. Who else, then? Lauren was a handy kid, and good with first aid... No. She couldn't bring Lauren. Not only would Erik not allow it, but Caitlyn wasn't so sure she'd want to go anyway. Lauren loved to travel and sight see, but she didn't like killing, or guns, or fighting every day for her life. At least the Firefly zone offered her some sense of safety. On the other hand, though, she's be left in the zone alone, without any family. What if she and Jon died on the trip, and never came back?

    With a start she realized Jon was still talking, and refocused her attention on him. "I, ah, I think I need to go find Lauren, actually. But go find Erik and uhm, let me know what he says? Or just tell him to go find me or something. I think this'll work, I really do, but you understand--I need to figure out what'll happen to Lauren if we both go. Erik will want to go if I do, and he's stubborn as a mule sometimes," she sighed, "and if I don't at least tell Lauren what's up she'll get pissed."

    "I'm not totally sure, but I think Erik mentioned the Rock? He'd be patrolling near the North-East entrance, I'd say. Don't hold me to that. But it's as good a place as any to start looking, no?" she offered, fidgeting with the zipper on her jacket, She still had no idea what she was going to do about Lauren. "I should be in the residences--good luck finding Erik."

    She turned away, making her way back to the Hole's entrance and climbing out. A small stream of people were already making their way through--farmers and scientists, people who didn't have an inclination to go out and fight zombies and had no need to. The sunlight streaming through the windows of the building was brilliant compared to the dim lighting of the Hole, and she covered her eyes with her hand as she jogged across the roads towards the residence buildings. The buildings themselves were just renovated bunks, furnished with things the group had acquired from the surrounding cities over time. Just about everyone in this zone lived there, with the exception of some of the researchers.

    The road she took brought her along the North-East entrance. It was essentially a huge gate attached to the barricades and fencing around the military base, topped with barbed wire and the like. The city proper was visible in the distance from the gate, as well as the coastline. A group of men and women stood watch by the entrance at all times, some inside and some outside of the gate itself. As she passed, she saw a patrol outside, standing with an unfamiliar girl--the sun was so bright out it made her blonde hair look white. Or maybe it was white. The guards talked for a moment before they began to unlock the gate.

    Who the hell is that?

    She paused in her tracks and turned around, watching as they brought the woman in, two men standing close by her side. The guard was pointing towards the Hole, saying something she couldn't hear from the distance.

    "Hey," she called out as she approached, her hand still over her eyes to block the sunlight. "Who's this?" she asked, tilting her head a bit as she looked the newcomer up and down. Not only was her hair white, but her eyes were a startling red. Had she managed to find contacts or something? Was it a genetic defect? She looked well equipped, and had been traveling for awhile, no doubt.

    "She says she wants to join the Fireflies," one of the men--Jeffrey, if she was remembering right--snickered. "We found her coming out of the subway."

    "... She looks filthy," Caitlyn said. She couldn't smell if the woman stank or not, but the last time she'd been in the subway, it was covered in grime and mold and fungus. She didn't want to think about how many spores this woman might have walked through. "You test her?"

    "Uninfected, she's clean. Where's Zoë?" the second man, Jeffrey's partner, asked.

    "The Hole. Meeting was called. She's sending volunteers out to look for boat parts. We're going to try and cross the Atlantic." she summarized, ignoring the perplexed looks on the men's faces. "She's probably still busy--leave her alone unless you want to get an earful. Last I saw, she was dealing with Colton. Give her," she gestured towards the newcomer, "a bath and some clean clothes. Zoë'll be making the rounds in a half hour. You can pester her then. What's your name?"

    "Yes, yes, maybe twenty or thirty copies will do? It's hard to tell how many groups will volunteer. We'll have to pick from them if we get too many," Zoë said, her hand on her chin, brow furrowed. "That will be a bit of a pain. But no matter. We'll figure it out. Thanks, Barry."

    "No problem," the male in front of her replied. He was older, with graying hair and a dark complexion. He was one of their top engineers, a man who worked diligently towards every goal despite his age. The poor guy worked through arthritis and scoliosis and never missed a beat. Some of the younger Fireflies, many of them orphans, looked up to him like a father, and he loved to look after them. Barry was one of those gears that would make the entire machine fall apart if you were to lose it. "I'll get the team right on it. And we need more glue, Zoë. I know we ask so much, but we always seem to run out!"

    She smiled warmly. "Of course."

    "Zoë, umm, hey," She turned around to see Colton standing there, practically radiating anxiety. Every time he came up to talk to her he seemed to bleed nervousness. It probably didn't help that she couldn't stop herself from scowling every time she saw his face. She always corrected herself shortly after, but looking at him reminded her of bad memories. It wasn't his fault those four had died, but she couldn't help but blame him to an extent. Or maybe it was just something about him and his character that she just didn't like. Patrick's journal had been horribly cryptic. If only she'd had a chance to talk to him...

    "Colton, we've talked about this. I think its best if you stick around the camp for now. You're more needed here," her persuasive demeanor lapsed, a look of obvious doubt written across her face. It wasn't that she doubted his ability--she didn't trust him. She didn't know how to feel about this kid who'd come across the states to give show her four dog tags and a journal. "Most of us don't head out on long term trips for awhile. I know it sounds cheesy as hell, but you need to prove yourself. You need to show us you can follow direction, and that you're as strong as you say you are. And no offense, kid, you're kind of heading in the wrong direction already."

    "We'll keep you busy enough here," she said, offering a tight smile. "We'll need somebody to pick up the slack on patrols, right?"


    Corpus Christi - Texas
    Outside of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi

    For the second time today, newcomers had been brought to the Zone. Of course, Erik and his partner, Matthew, hadn't known that. They were just following protocol, rules that had been set long before Zoë, in Marlene's time. Disarm, if necessary. Scan for infection. Kill, if Infected. Bring back to the Zone, or base, if uninfected. Make sure they weren't FEDRA, or Hunters, or anything else. Decide whether to kill them, or initiate them. Civilians didn't just stumble onto Firefly bases and leave unscathed. Especially since St. Mary's. One man could be the difference between the group existing and dissolving; they'd learned that the hard way.

    Erik walked with his rifle in hand, Matthew carrying the pistol the girl had had with her and his machete. Matthew, being the elder, walked in the back, while Erik took the lead. Neither said a word to the man and girl--presumably father and daughter, a fact that unnerved Erik greatly--and the man and girl didn't say much, either. When they did, it was apparently how little they did speak. Their voices wore the effects of disuse. It reminded Erik of when he and his siblings traveled across the country, looking for the Fireflies and fighting for their lives. Lauren spoke so little that when they finally arrived and she spoke her first word in months, it came out hoarse and gruff, not the voice of a ten year old but of a lifelong smoker. He had never been more grateful to see humans than he had been in that moment. Living with other people was a blessing that nobody should ever have to wish for.

    They'd approached a different entrance than the one Alysson had been brought to--this one was towards the west, just slightly less fortified. There was one less guard on duty, and the surrounding buildings were deserted. The living quarters were further east, as were the training grounds and farms. Over here they only kept storage and handled fresh game; it stank to no end of blood and uncovered remains. A few flies buzzed around the gate itself, waiting for the next haul to come in. Usually whoever stood watch over this section of the fence wore a mask and kept their face well covered. Cait usually stuffed hers with scented flowers. "I just can't stand the stench of iron and innards," she'd said to him once.

    Erik rapped on a wooden beam by the gate, alerting the guards inside, who peered through a gap in the gate proper. "Erik? You're not due back for another hour or two. What is it?" One woman said, only her eyes visible through the space she peered through.

    "We have two civvies. We found them creeping through the city blocks. They've clearly never been here before; looked like they were expecting Infected around every corner. They're unarmed, clean." he replied, casting a glance back towards the father-daughter pair. "It's a family unit," he added in a lower voice.

    The woman nodded and Erik stepped back as they opened the gate. It squealed on its hinges, opening outward just far enough for the group to slip in, single file. Erik motioned for the daughter to enter first, then the father, Matthew following close behind. Inside, one guard had his weapon at the ready, while the woman pulled a scanner from her satchel and checked the pair again for Infection. "Clean!" she called before turning to close the doors behind them.

    She looked pensively at the duo before nodding to Erik. "Bring 'em to Zoë. I hear she's already got an audience."

    "What?" Matthew asked, sliding his machete into his makeshift sheath. "Who? Yer sister, Erik?"

    Probably... he mused.

    "Another civ," the woman responded. "Young girl, weird eyes. Arrived an hour or so before this lot did,"

    Erik and Matthew exchanged glances. Were they connected? Would FEDRA try a ploy like this? The kid and her father looked unassuming enough, but looks could be deceiving in this world. "C'mon," he said tersely, nudging the younger girl forward with his rifle. "Along that path there." He pointed with his free hand along a dirt path running to the south east. "Hurry up."​
    #12 Rainjay, Dec 19, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2015
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  13. Alysson's first instinct was to sneer and curse the woman out, but she remembered what she promised her father. She'd be rational and think about the consequences of her actions. The woman clearly held some weight among the Fireflies considering the fact neither men were hesitant to answer her questions. Okay, food chain established. Still though, did she really look that bad?

    Looking down in an attempt to inspect herself, she couldn't deny she looked pretty damn bad. Her boots were covered in dirt and muck - her pants were torn and had streaks of God knows what on them. Her shirt, that was previously white, was a mixture of brown and green. Her coat was fine, at least, so she was pretty happy about that.

    But Okay, she had to admit - she looked like shit.

    "Least I don't smell like shit..." She muttered under her breath before directing her gaze back to the woman that was asking all the questions. "Alysson. Alysson Zaynesworth." She introduced herself, shifting her weight ever so slightly. She had a lot of questions, but she figured said questions could wait until after she got cleaned up. She certainly needed it.
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  14. As soon as Zoë looked at him, a scowl appeared on her face. It didn’t last long. He could’ve blinked and missed it, but it had been there, and he couldn’t stop the wince that seized his face in response. Every time he saw that look, it was like a dagger to his heart. Because it just proved his own suspicions that Zoë blamed him for what had happened to Patrick and his team. He hadn’t hallucinated anything. That had just been wishful thinking. And really, could he blame the woman? Colton hadn’t read Patrick’s journal, except for the first few entries that detailed part of the Corpus Christi to Aransas Pass area in order to increase his chances of survival, so he had no idea what the dead firefly had told Zoë. Couldn’t have been anything good, though.

    Just seeing that scowl of disappointment and mistrust made him want to turn and flee. Find some secluded spot around the base and sit there by himself. The teenager couldn’t stand the mixture of guilt and self-loathing that were churning inside him like a small storm. Somehow, though, he resisted that urge and remained rooted to the spot, his eyes just a little shinier than usual.

    “Colton, we’ve talked about this. I think it’s best if you stick around the camp for now. You’re more needed here.”

    Another emotion flashed across the leader’s face then. Colton couldn’t quite make out what it was. She looked . . . doubtful? Does she doubt her own words? Or does she doubt me? Like she doesn’t think I belong anywhere, and she’s just trying to be nice. The teenager nodded. It took all the strength he had to make that simple gesture it seemed.

    “Most of us don’t head out on long-term trips for awhile. I know it sounds cheesy as hell, but you need to prove yourself. You need to show us you can follow direction, and that you’re as strong as you say you are. And no offense, kid, you’re kind of heading in the wrong direction already.”

    Colton’s eyes widened momentarily. It was hard to tell why, but his hand briefly touched the hidden dog tags under his shirt before rubbing the back of his neck, his gaze shifting to the floor. “You’re going about this all wrong, kid. They’re pulling you in the wrong direction. Don’t you see that?” The teenager closed his eyes, trying to force the ghostly voice out of his head.

    “ . . . need somebody to pick up the slack on patrols, right?”

    Colton blinked, taking a deep breath. “Huh? . . . Oh, patrols. Of course.” He cleared his throat, seeing Zoë’s forced smile and willing himself to return the gesture. His grin was more a show of defeat than anything though.

    “You’re right. Somebody’s going to need to hold down the fort with all these people leaving. We should . . . leave this particular mission to the more experienced members.”

    The teenager took another steadying breath and let it out slowly before zipping up his jacket and pulling the hood over his head.

    “I guess I’ll ummm . . . see if Erik or any of the others on guard duty are going to head out. They’ll need replacements.”

    He started to head off without saying another word. Then he paused, turning his head slightly.

    “Thanks for your time,” he said. It came off sounding stilted and formal, but it was the best he could manage. Colton could barely bring himself to say that. The teenager shoved his hands in his pockets and started off, walking faster than usual to get out of the Hole and away from Zoë double time. He scaled the ladder and emerged into the bright sunlight above, almost shocked by the vast difference from the Hole below. It gave him a slight twinge of pain behind his eyes, but no matter. That kind of pain he could deal with.


    “Damnit,” he murmured as he straightened up and looked around. I forgot to say hi to Barry while I was down there. Colton mentally slapped himself. He loved that old guy. He was always kind and hard at work on one project or another, and Colton looked up to him for that. I’ll look for him later, he thought. After Zoë leaves. Maybe he’ll have work for me.

    As he strode across the road toward the northern section of the base, he began to wonder if he’d ever fit in with the fireflies, or if the stigma of having been the messenger for the dead patrol would continue to follow him as long as he was around. If you think you weren’t more than just the messenger, you’re delusional. Colton veered off toward the east, making for the side of the residence building and the makeshift stairway that had been built there. It was made of a metal frame, with scrap metal and wood for the walkways. Somebody had etched the words ‘look for the light’ into the railing at the bottom.

    When he arrived, he made his way up to the roof and sat on the edge, dangling his legs over the side as he pulled a small pack out of his jacket pocket. It held a few hand-rolled cigarettes he’d found in a beat-up locker during his travels. Someone (or something) had pummeled that locker to hell and back. Lucky for him, they hadn’t been a smoker. Colton stuck one of them in his mouth and lit it with one of the matches in his dwindling supply. He wasn’t sure why he still smoked these things. They tasted like ass. Perhaps it was habit by now, and it gave him an excuse to be by himself. There weren’t a whole lot of tobacco nuts in the camp.

    I guess they’re smart enough to realize that there are already plenty of things trying to kill them without adding lung cancer to the list.

    He sighed and looked up at the sky before blowing a column of yellow-white smoke into the air. It drifted lazily, then got caught in a gust of wind and disappeared. Colton looked out across the zone. He should be on his way making rounds. Seeing if anyone needed help at the wall, or if the farmer-flies needed help out in the fields. Anything besides sitting here and polluting his lungs. Hadn’t Zoë said he needed to prove himself capable of following directions? To show his strength? Strength wasn’t playing lone wolf and wallowing in self-pity. Strength was Barry dealing with all kinds of medical problems in his old age and still plowing forward to get things done. Strength was the fireflies in general, never giving up hope when they had every right to abandon it. Strength had been Patrick, who saved the teenager’s dumb ass and did everything in his power to get Colton and the rest of his own team back home, even if he had ultimately failed. Sometimes Colton didn’t think he’d ever live up to their example. But he had promised to try. To do more than try. And right now, he wasn’t trying very hard at all.

    Right now, he was losing it.
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  15. Arrangements like that were one of the very few advantages of having no living attachments anymore. Nothing to worry about- no one to lose. And yet Jon couldn't help but feel envious of Cait's plight. Having someone to worry about meant having a reason to keep going, to be careful and come back alive at the end of the day. It had been a long time since he'd felt anything remotely like that. So he just gave an understanding nod when Caitlyn explained her worries about Lauren. "Sure, right, you do whatchya gotta do. And 'sides, ain't a soul here gonna blame you or Eric if one'a ya'll decides to stay to take care'a Lauren." He gave her a nod as she departed, maintaining a neutral expression despite the urge to say more to encourage her to stay behind with her younger sibling.

    Once she'd gone, he turned to face Zoë, considering speaking with her about setting up zones for their search parties. Looks like several others had beat him to the punch to demand the woman's attention though, and with nothing else to do he couldn't help but overhear some of their conversation. Including the very awkward back and forth between Zoë and... some kid. A younger man who Jon knew he should recognize but couldn't for the life of him. Not that that was unusual and he shrugged the nagging feeling of loss when his mind searched for an identity to place with the kid. It wasn't until she heard Zoë say 'Colton, we've talked about this' that it snapped in his mind just who he was looking at and he nodded almost imperceptibly to himself at the realization.

    What came next was as surprising as it was disconcerting, and his brows furrowed in a brief expression of disapproval leveled toward their 'leader' before he turned as well, to head out without speaking with Zoë as he'd planned. A new course of action had formed in his mind and even though his right knee made a discomforting click with every step as he climbed back out of the Hole, his resolve had not been this strong for quite a while.

    "Haven't you ever heard?" A voice called out from behind Colton. The origin of the voice was a man who right now looked particularly weathered; his shirt- and pants and boots too- all in need of some serious patch jobs, and it had been too long since his last shave or haircut for that matter. But there was a glint of determination in his eyes, along with the measuring look he gave the teenager trapped wallowing in his own thoughts, while puffing on his homemade cigarette. Rather than give some lecture about the dangers of smoking, Jon cracked a little smirk. "Much easier'a ask forgiveness, than permission."

    He stepped forward lazily as he explained himself, gesturing first toward the world beyond their compound's walls, and then down toward the street level where most of the Fireflies attended to their business. "You wanna go out there? Wanna help? Wanna prove yourself t' everyone? Then do it! Ya don't need Zoë's go ahead fer that, ya just go do it, an' if it goes right you come back a hero an' everybody loves ya." Jon didn't detail what would happen if it went wrong, of course, but it hung in the air unspoken, and he seemed to know that as he gave Colton a meaningful glance. One that could be interpreted as 'so if you're going to go, do your best to ensure everything does go right.'

    "I'm headin' out there, gonna see if I can't help with this 'ere crazy scheme of Zoë's. And y'know what? I didn' ask no one. I'm just doin' it, 'cause I know it's th' right thing t' do. You feel the same? You're welcome'a come with me. Or find yer own group if ya want. But don't let th' word of no woman stop ya from findin' yer own way t' rise up, an' become a man." By now he was up to the edge of the residential building where he could begin to shift his gaze to the North and along to the East, searching those directions as Cait had suggested with the hopes of spotting one ant-sized Firefly in particular. "Least..." He added after a moment and shrugged casually. "'At's th' way I see it..."
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  16. Colton tensed slightly when he heard footsteps coming up the jury-rigged staircase. He wasn’t used to anyone following him when he went off by himself. Most people either didn’t care, were too busy, or had previously been run off by one of the teenager’s rare, miniature blow-ups when they tried prying into his business. He never meant to do it. It just happened, like an involuntary muscle spasm. One of those awesome character defects he’d been trying to work on since he arrived. The last thing the other fireflies needed was some relative stranger snapping at them for simply asking him questions about who he was and where he came from.

    He waited, assuming whoever was coming up would notice him and then go back down like his or her ass was on fire. Instead, a voice broke the silence, and the heavy southern accent made it impossible to mistake the man for anyone else. Crawford? He’s one of the last people I ever thought would track me down. Colton was dumbfounded. The teenager blew out another cloud of smoke and then snuffed the butt out on the concrete lip of the roof, his mind churning at what the older man had said. Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. It was a common saying, and one he’d heard before, but now he wasn’t so sure it was all that accurate. If it were, he’d have asked for forgiveness a long time ago for what he’d done. Even if he didn’t necessarily deserve it.

    The teenager cast a glance up at Jon as he made his way toward the edge of the building. He did want to help. More than anything. And he wanted to prove to the fireflies (and to Zoë) that he wasn’t some gullible screw-up anymore. He’d learned his lesson. It was a lesson he relearned every day he survived. Colton wasn’t so sure about being a hero though. How could he ever be that? The most he could do was atone for past mistakes. But having people care about him again . . . . The thought was both comforting and terrifying. What if he went out and things did go wrong? What if he was the only one left? Again? He’d never be able to show his face here. Returning with a handful of dog tags once was enough. Colton couldn’t do it twice.

    “Least . . . at’s th’ way I see it.”

    The teenager looked back out at the zone, mulling over Jon’s words. This was the most important advancement in twenty years. At least that’s what Zoë had said. The stakes had never been higher (unless you counted the Salt Lake incident), and he still felt like he needed to be a part of it. Patrick would have wanted him to. He looked down at his hands, running his right thumb over a dried patch of blood that stained the palm of the glove on his left hand . . . .

    Patrick groaned, crimson staining the bandages around his midsection once again.

    “Shit,” Colton whispered. “You tore your stitches out.” The teenager fumbled for his pack, digging around for his sewing kit when Patrick reached out a shaking hand and grabbed his arm.

    “Look,” he said. “Let’s be realistic for a minute. I’m done.”

    “What are you talking about?” Colton replied. “All I have to do is clean the wound and sew it back up! When we get to the zone, one of your doctor friends can fix you. You’ll be fine.”

    Patrick chuckled morosely. “Sorry, kid, but I’m not going to make it that far. I can barely walk. It feels like it’s a thousand degrees and yet I can’t stop shaking. Can’t catch my breath.” He went into a coughing fit and made a feeble attempt to wrangle it in, managing it after a bit. “Christ, I think I’m going to puke. This is as far as I go.”

    Colton’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “I’m not leaving you here.”

    “Yes you are,” Patrick said quietly. “Because I need you to do something for me.” The man grimaced as he reached up and took off his dog tags, forcing them into Colton’s hand. “Tell Zoë what happened to me. And the others. Make sure she knows it wasn’t a total loss.” Patrick paused, giving Colton’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “You couldn’t have known, Colt. It’s not your fault.”

    “How can you say that?” Colton nearly hissed through gritted teeth. “They’re all dead. You’re dying. God, I’m so fucking stupid.”

    Gunshots popped in the distance like firecrackers, and Patrick reached into his bag, pulling out a tattered journal.

    “Give that to Zoë. It’s everything we documented during the mission. Locations and inventories, friendly settlements, potential safe houses, emergency caches, enemies we encountered. Everything. I’ll stay here and try to hold them off. I still have a couple grenades left in my pack if all else fails . . . ”

    Colton wiped his face with his sleeve and shook his head, clicking the safety off his gun. “I’m not leaving you here,” he repeated.

    “Goddamnit,” Patrick snapped. He flinched and held his side, breathing hard. “If you really want to make amends for the part you played in this, then do what I’m asking. Don’t take the coward’s way out and die here for nothing just to spare yourself future grief.” He sighed as fresh tears rolled down the teenager’s face. “You don’t owe me a death, kid. You owe me a life.”

    Colton exhaled, choking back a sob that threatened to escape and getting his emotions back in control. He didn’t say anything as he put Patrick’s journal into his rucksack and zipped it closed. Gunshots fired again, closer this time, followed by the familiar shriek of infected. The teenager’s head snapped around. His pulse pounded in his ears.

    “Go,” Patrick said. He had his extra grenades beside him and his pistol in his hand. Beads of sweat were trickling down the sides of his face. “Remember what I said. Find Zoë, and don’t you dare think about dying. You’re a good person. You’ll survive this. And I’d die happier knowing you were helping others do the same.”

    Colton threw his pack over his shoulders and stood up, taking a reluctant step back. “All right. I’ll try.”

    “You better do more than try, or I swear I’m going to haunt your ass.” He laughed quietly, which was probably a bad idea as it sent him into another coughing fit. Colton went to him and put a hand on his shoulder. Patrick grabbed the back of his neck with surprising strength. “Don’t you dare use me as an excuse to give up. Go. Live.” With that said, he shoved Colton away. “Looks like we’ll both be following the light. Just to different places.”

    The teenager stood there for a moment. Then he moved towards the door, peering out to make sure it was clear. “I’ll make it to the fireflies. I promise. . . . Thanks, Patrick. And I’m sorry for everything.”

    “All’s forgiven, kid. Now get your ass moving.”


    Colton narrowed his eyes, staring down at the people moving around below. From up here, they looked about the size of actual fireflies, which was somewhat unsettling. He couldn’t stay cooped in here forever, could he? Freaking out about everything, worrying about what people thought of him, or wondering if Zoë would ever look at him with some degree of genuine friendliness instead of the obvious contempt. Heading out after she’d specifically told him ‘no’ seemed like a sure-fire way to earn another disappointed scowl, and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to that. Christ! Who knew volunteering was such a painstaking decision?

    The teenager shoved his cigarette pack and matches back in his jacket pocket and sighed. Speaking to someone other than Zoë wasn’t quite as awkward, but it was still uncomfortable. He never knew if whom he was speaking to had been friends with Patrick or the other three dead fireflies: Marcel, Linda, and Addison. Those names were ingrained in his memory.

    “I hear you,” he said, still looking at the zone instead of Jon. “And . . . I appreciate the pep talk. I have a habit of getting lost in my head a bit, especially after talking to Zoë. It’s not her fault though. She cared a lot for the fireflies lost coming back from Red Rock. I think every time she sees me she just sees a walking reminder of the dead.”

    Colton’s brow furrowed as he looked down at his hands before shoving them in his pockets. “Sometimes I think there must be a fucking funeral dirge that follows me around.”

    As a short silence followed his statement, the teenager realized he was starting to go off the rails again, so he cleared his throat and refocused.

    “Anyway, enough of the ‘poor-me syndrome.’ I don’t want to step on Zoë’s toes . . . . I do really want to get out there and help though. I’m not as experienced as you or Erik by a long shot, but I’ll follow your lead and watch your back.” Colton brushed the hood back from his head and looked up at Jon, still somewhat baffled that the man had even approached him in the first place. “Are you sure you don’t want someone else tagging along?”
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  17. Jon had seen that look before. He wasn't the best at recognizing faces but when he looked at Colton's, he recognized the expression. Or rather, the emotion behind the expression. That haunted look as his mind went to darker places, as the memory was wont to do. But Jon knew that wasn't a bad thing. Getting through life carefree without an impactful event to mar a pleasant existence only served to make people soft, vulnerable, like they'd been before the outbreak. He'd rather someone who'd already hit rock bottom- that was where the strongest of foundations could be laid.

    And so he let Colton's mind wander uninterrupted, and thought about his own course of actions. His past, and the lessons to learn from it, and his potential future, and the steps to take to move toward a better one. And when Colton was ready to talk, he stopped thinking, and listened. He had several things he wanted to say but he held off interrupting until the very end, when the teen's lack of confidence caused him to ask a predictable, yet unnecessary question.

    "Someone else?" Jon echoed back while doing little to keep the mischievous smirk off his face. "I'm sure I do! Two ain't really 'nough ta keep watch twenty-four hours a day!" He sobered up though and gave Colton a single, certain nod. "But whatchyer really askin' is: Do I trust ya 'nough ta ask ya t' have my back in th' first place. An' th' answer'a that is- wouldn't be here if I didn't." With that he made a casual sweeping gesture to indicate their current meeting spot, nonchalant enough to match the slight lopsided grin. "Everyone deserves a chance t' b'come their own person. S'like with plants..." he paused for a brief moment, wondering if he should really be getting into parables. "Ev'ry seed- ev'ry healthy seed- s'got th' potential to grow up big, but sometimes weeds come along early and wrap 'round it, choke it out. Clearin' the vines out? Well that can take a good long minute... But if ya can? Plant'll grow up nice 'n' big, stronger even 'an if it hadn't dealt with 'em weeds- 'cause now its got good, sturdy roots."

    He turned and made his way back towards the stairs, having spotted the person he was looking for a while ago, which meant he now knew his immediate next step at least. "Clearin' out th' vines ain't easy, though," he called out, speaking loud enough for Colton to hear and as with the rest of his metaphor, he spoke with a tone that implied he could actually have been talking about gardening. "An' the plant'll have scars fer th' rest'a its time showin' where it was choked. But that don't mean it can't be a good plant. Or that it ain't worth savin'." That last sentence he said a little quieter, as if to himself, though it was still at a volume where Colton could hear. His mind was wandering a bit, to another story he'd read several times, about seeds and plants and vines. He could only hope the 'ground' he was dealing with wasn't a 'rocky place'.
    #17 Insomnant, Dec 24, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2015
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  18. Colton quirked an eyebrow. The teenager hadn’t expected a joke, but it did wonders to ease the tension, and he cracked a small smile in response even as Jon became serious once again. ‘Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.’ It was a simple answer. The impact it made however was far more complex then Jon might have imagined. It set Colton’s mind in motion, the gears turning even as his attention was one hundred percent focused on the older man’s parable. Weeds. That was as good a fucking metaphor as any. Sometimes he felt like he was yanking them out, getting over those memories, only to find his mind was overgrown again. Maybe because he wasn’t getting at the roots. That was a tricky task too, and one that might not be possible. Making a conscious effort to manage those ‘weeds’ so they didn’t get out of hand again might be the best he could do. He’d never get rid of them entirely.

    He slowly got to his feet and dusted some stray ashes from his clothes, casting a long thoughtful glance out at the zone before taking a few steps toward the stairs. Jon’s matter-of-fact tone was actually kind of comforting in a weird way. It was more tolerable than a sad one, where it was obvious the person speaking felt sorry for you, or the ones where the person talking was barely containing some unspoken rage. Colton couldn’t really stomach those conversations. They always seemed to touch on his fight or flight response. The teenager would much rather have a levelheaded, calm discussion that made sense. Anything else and he just sort of lost it. And that was not a good place to be.

    “An’ the plant’ll have scars fer th’ rest’a its time showin’ where it was choked. But that don’t mean it can’t be a good plant.”

    Or that it ain’t worth savin.’"

    Colton froze mid-step, his right hand gripping the stair rail. He wasn’t sure why Jon’s last words hit him like that. The teenager blinked rapidly, trying to keep his eyes from stinging as he cleared his throat and started down again, following quietly. Scars. You never got rid of those. They’d always serve as a reminder. Maybe Jon was right though. That didn’t have to mean you were damned for eternity. He could still be a good person if he just kept trying. Right? Colton didn’t reply for a long time. The teenager’s mind was preoccupied, but in a good way this time. He found himself regretting that he hadn’t made more of an effort to get to know anyone very well. He’d distanced himself right off the bat, assuming the majority of the fireflies either didn’t trust him or didn’t like him, and he hadn’t been prepared to deal with that. Yet when he’d wandered off to be alone, someone had made the effort to chase him down and talk him away from the ledge. Figuratively speaking. It made him wonder if there were others who’d treat him the same way. Who’d give him a chance. Hell, some had already taken a chance and gotten their asses chewed. He’d have to track them down and apologize one of these days. That had been way out of line. Speaking of, his conversation with Jon was probably the longest and most congenial he’d ever had since his arrival. It was definitely weird. He wasn’t sure why he’d reacted to Jon so differently. Maybe because he was older, or maybe it was that calm, sincere attitude that made it less of a chore to socialize with him. Colton wondered if he’d have had the same reaction if it had been anyone else that came up to the roof at that moment . . . .

    The teenager wasn’t sure where they were headed. His best guess was that they were chasing down Erik, who Jon might have seen when they were up on the roof. He wasn’t entirely sure what to say, or even if he should say anything. There was a distinct possibility that Erik wouldn’t want to join their group. But that was the pessimism talking and he snapped out of it quickly. Conscious effort, remember? Colton had been given a rare opportunity to prove his loyalty and start repairing the damage he had done, and it was something he wouldn’t soon forget. Even if nobody else gave him the same courtesy.

    “ . . . Crawford?” he said. Colton cleared his throat and tried again, using the man’s first name. That informal use of surnames was another way of distancing himself and not getting too close to people, but he’d come a long way since then. Still, he was bound to slip up now and again. “Jon, I mean . . . . Thanks.” He fell silent for a moment, reminded of his conversation with Zoë. This time, though, it might fall not fall on deaf ears. “I won’t let you down. I swear.”

    Thinking back to the man’s story, Colton picked up his walking speed so that he was only a step or two behind Jon. “That parable you were talking about earlier. Sort of sounded biblical. Where’d you hear it? . . . If you don’t mind me asking.”
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  19. They were in fact headed toward Erik, who Jon had spotted not to the North-East as his sister had predicted, but instead by the Western entrance- and it looked like they'd found some newcomers. What an... interesting time, to join the Fireflies, Jon mused with a hint of an amused smile. Nothing like a little trial by fire, he figured. And besides, if someone's done well enough to survive up to this point they should be at least remotely useful. Trustworthy on the other hand, that took longer to determine- but what better way to start than by working toward a common goal?

    That line of thinking brought Jon back to the teenager following him past the residential building toward the new arrivals. He didn't push for conversation, in fact he welcomed the pause: productive silence was much preferred to mindless chatter. He thought back to the way he'd felt when he was younger when wondering if words would even make it through the brooding cloud that hovered over Colton. Especially when he thought back to how his dad, and brother...

    Colton's voice drew him out of his reverie and he glanced over- then behind him. He smiled gratefully at the switch away from his last name. He didn't even tell people it anymore unless asked, so he wasn't really sure where the teen had heard it. "Yer quite welcome." He stated simply. He wanted to reassure Colton that it wasn't a matter of letting him down or not, to point out that people failed and that it was a part of life, but he wasn't quite sure how to work that in yet.

    When Colton asked about his little story though he managed a small, wry grin and nodded his head slowly. "Hmm. S'pose it kinda did." He shook his head slightly before glancing back to Colton, making a conscious effort not to outpace the teen in his purposeful stride. "But here's th' thing: I didn't hear it anywhere, I've lived it." After a moment to let that sink in he continued. "You ain't the only one with a trail o' bodies behind ya, kid. Fer ev'ry one'a us here, there's a hunnerd people- neighbors, friends, fam'ly- they din't make it to this point. An if you think that don't eat at me, that I don't find myself thinkin' what I coulda done to keep 'em alive...? It's only cuz ya can't see my thoughts, my regrets..."

    "But listen, gettin' over th' stuff that's happened, it ain't a matter'a facin' those memories down, dwellin' on 'em, tryn'a overpower 'em. What happened...?" he shrugged. "Happened. Ain't nothin' gonna change that. Those memories'll always be there..." He trailed off briefly and shook his head a couple times, allowing his thoughts to return back to that day when he'd lost everything. And then he took a breath, and let it go in a conscious act of mental release. "But that don't mean you hafta stay there too. Ya deal with th' past, by learnin' from it... and movin' on. Plants grow up... and people move forward. S'why I figgered a change'a scenery might d'ya some good."

    Jon knew he was being awfully preachy, and with someone he'd really just spoken to for the first time, as well. And yet something about the teen told him that his efforts might not be entirely wasteful. Growing up in the chaotic carcass of a dead society might not have been the most nurturing of childhood's, but Colton hadn't snapped at him, hadn't closed him out. That implied a willingness to change, to improve, and in Jon's mind that was the single most important thing. Figuring oneself out was a hell of a lot harder when one refused to try.
    #19 Insomnant, Dec 30, 2015
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  20. [​IMG]

    Corpus Christi - Texas
    Naval Air Station Corpus Christi - Firefly Quarantine Zone

    "Alysson," Cait echoed. A weird name for a weird person. "Alright, Alysson. You two," she looked pointedly at the two guards standing at Alysson's left and right side, "Get her cleaned up. She looks about Maria's size, just grab something of hers that's clean. Make sure she hasn't got any hidden arms or anything, and get some food in her before she meets with Zoë. I'll stop by if I can, no promises." She didn't wait for a response from the two guards or the girl before she backed up and ran off. Finding Lauren was the first thing on her mind.

    After getting the newcomer a bath--which in Corpus Christi consisted of little more than lukewarm water, soap, and a towel--new, clean clothes and a quick meal, the two guards herded Alysson deeper into the Firefly camp, towards the same large building that housed the Hole. Zoë set up shop in one of larger rooms, which doubled as her own personal bedroom and office. She was a woman of extravagance, clear only by how cluttered her room was compared to the bareness of the others. She had nick knacks on wall shelves and stitched together curtains over the windows, with potted plants lining the edge of her desk. It was there she was sitting, her hands folded together, her eyes instantly focusing on the newcomer when she walked in. She smiled.

    "You must be Alysson," she said, laying the sugar on just a little too thick. Zoë stood, offering a hand in a strangely cordial greeting before gesturing for the woman to sit. Her gaze looked the stranger up and down, taking in her hair and eyes and posture, analyzing her without bothering to hide her scrutinizing eyes. After a few moments of silence, she leaned back in her seat, arms crossed. "What brings you across us, Alysson? How did you stumble across the Fireflies?"​
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