What Remains? [IC]
The ground had just gotten dry from the most recent rain and it was one of the rare moments when it was peaceful in most places after almost days of storms. But not everywhere. Cities on the east coast ruined, the fires of the past long since doused and the ash settled into the ground with a mixture of blood. A lot of blood had been spilled everywhere, before and after The Reaping, a lot of pain and anguish too. Although it was more peaceful than it had been for days, it was nowhere near safe. Lumbering, muscle bound mutants prowled the country and unfortunately some found a prey. If they were lucky they would either escape them, have them cave their head in at first or have a spare bullet in their guns for them to eat or they'd face hours if not days of agony before being eventually devoured. The world was a nightmare and there seemed to be no end to it except for a few brief moments of respite.
What's left now? Ruins. Ruins and corpses. What's there to do other than to survive and rebuild? How can we rebuild after what happened? How can we survive with everything stacked against us? Well, all I know that we got to or there is no point, is there?
Within the small town of Rosen, Lucas looked up at the sky and smiled. It was the first time in days since the sky wasn't murky gray, utterly black or any other dark color. This day it was just gray with patches of blue. It usually never rained like that and there was no need for gasmask or the such. He ran his fingers through his black hair and once over his cheek. He hadn't had a shave in a while and it was rough and very itchy. A bitch when wearing the stuffy gasmask. In his other hand he held his primary weapon, a double barreled shotgun, sawed off and loaded with 12 gauge slugs. On an ax was strapped, bloodied from previous use. At his hip was his favorite weapon, his pistol and near that was another one of his favorite, a karambit knife. A small thing but he liked it.
He was a part of a small group that had just managed to take shelter in a warehouse in Rosen. There was little to scavenge in it but it was a defend-able position and great cover against the rain. The doors were sturdy except for one that couldn't be closed properly so someone always had to guard it and be ready to make some noise if everyone was awake or sneak to them if a mutant would wander inside. The group still had food but restocking would be most welcomed by now.
The warehouse was well inside the town and looking back and forth the streets seemed to be clear. Lucas walked back inside and confronted the group. "Morning, lazybums. I hope you all had a nice sleep" He said to the group, smiling his never faltering smile. He felt oddly optimistic, seeing the psudo-clear sky as a sign of good things to come. "Hope ya'll are ready for some scavenging cuz we will need all the supplies we can get" He added as he grabbed one of his own water bottles and took a sip. "So get yer asses off the floor and give the merciless the middle finger as we survived this mad storm"
In her mind, Lulu was waking up to sound of birds chirping, the soft whistle of a breeze, and the smell of morning bacon sizzling across her home but drifting to her bedroom. The picturesque memory of her preteen years with her single father were crashed in on by Luke yelling at everyone to get off their lazy asses, however, leaving her waking in a less than joyous disposition. She was much more of a night owl than a morning person, and the fact that she had issues sleeping near any of the others some evenings just left her shivering most of the night. Too many run ins with rather ruthless scavengers can take a mental toll no matter what sense it would make to huddle up.
She sat up, frowning and rapidly blinking her hazel eyes, pushing the mass of blonde hair she held away from her face. “Wait, what is this… nice sleep?” she asked, just being a smart ass since Lucas had annoyed her, and yawning. She sighed and began pulling off her heavy night clothes, getting down to a navy cami and black tight shorts before pulling on her daywear. It was so hot during the days she simply pulled on some light linen pants, and a green button up shirt, long sleeve and thin as well. She wanted to cover up to avoid sunburns but the light material helped with the sweat at least. Finished with putting on her boots, she stood with her pack of things and stretched a little more. “A scavenging we go,” she mumbled, pulling it on and moving in with the group.
Connor looked up from his seat next to the window, he had been awake for three hours, barely sleeping at all. Around people he rarely slept, it was protection he kept telling himself. They would turn, or shoot him otherwise. He growled at Lucas about being too loud and looked back out the window, his jet black eyes scanning the streets from the only peephole in the boarded up window. He moved his gloved hand over his hair, moving his bangs back out of his face and tied them, and the rest of his hair into a small ponytail. He stood up and also took his night clothes off, grabbing his heavy jacket as well as his normal attire. He pulled up the tight black jeans, fastened his steel toed boots, and threw on his gray t-shirt, spattered with blood, obviously not his and then put his coat on, holstering his two pistols, his 9mm phantom and his 45. He then fastened the throwing knives and sheathed his machete onto the scabbard/holder on his lower back. He got up and looked at Lulu and Lucas.
"Ready." Was all he said and walked outside their safehouse, he quickly got into cover and scanned around them. The heat didn't seem to bother him, truthfully it fucking sucked, he couldn't just go around in a t-shirt and the like though, his coat had more pockets, and more pockets meant more loot. He looked to the other two and shrugged, the closest thing people got to a smile from him and he gave the all clear. He knew Lucas already did it, but he wasn't comfortable relying on others like this.
Drake lay completely still, in the broken freezer of a gas station. It was on the ground, knocked over by raiders probably. A mutant was hunting him, almost right above him. He held his revolver in one hand, hatchet in the other. The creature hopped on top of the freezer and smelled the air and stopped. It knew Drake was there. Swearing, Drake fired into the chest and stomach of the creature, knokcing it off the freezer. Hopping up, Drake drove the hatchet deep into the chest of the injured mutant. Drake tore the hatchet from the dead mutant's chest, and hit again the in head. Cleaning it off, he attached it back to his belt, next to his rope and grappling hook. Saying to himself "I miss the days were I could walk down the road in peace.....when was that again?" Heading down away from the ruined gas station, he saw a sign ahead. Trotting to it, it read Rosen . About time Drake thought to himself. Taking out one of his canteens, he drank from it, put his gas mask back on and rolled up his sleeves some, heading towards Rosen.
25 Minutes Later
Drake took around the street. Rubble was in front of a building, high enough to reach the second floor window. Climbing it, he sat down and panted. He took his gas mask off and looked around the room. It was furnished well, a coach, table, book case, and broken TV. The door was bolted and nailed shut, though there was a hole on the far wall behind the TV. Sitting on the coach, he kicked his feet onto the table and grabbed his bottle of whiskey. Taking to big of a drink, he coughed and spit it up. There was a grunt from the other room, and he looked up in time to see a mutant charging at Drake. Kicking the table at the creature, it took its legs out from under it. Drake rolled over the coach and grabbed his revolver and fired two shots, one in the throat, the second where the glazed over eye was. Panting he said "Alright, no whiskey for me yet." Reloading his pistol, he looked around the next room. It was the same design of the other room, though this one was flipped, had windows, and the door was just locked. Going back to grab his pack, he sighed and thought I fucking hate this apocalypse .
Shinobu peered apprehensively through the filthy windows of the convenience store. After a moment's hesitation he thrust a foot through the dusty glass, scattering shards across the floor into the darkness. Drawing his katana, Shinobu clambered into the shop, hoping there were no unwelcoming residents lurking in the gloom. As his eyes adjusted, Shinobu discovered a counter and several rows of shelves seemingly untouched. He grinned. It was difficult to find non-raided homes let alone shops in post-apocalypse Rosen. There was a peculiar smell in the place, but Shinobu supposed it was just the rotting food.
"Right, what do I need?" Shinobu asked himself, rubbing his hands. Back in the normal days, Shinobu had never talked to himself, but after several months of solitude, he felt it necessary to talk out of loneliness and fear of forgetting the art of speech. Striding amongst the shelves, Shinobu grabbed several bottles of distilled alcohol and coke cans (the other drinks were spoiled). Foodwise, he collected a few cans of baked beans, sardines and spam. He stuffed his loot into his huge, filthy rucksack and proceeded to the storage room behind the counter. He found two lighters and snatched both, just to be safe.
Shinobu had to stop himself from getting more booty. Alone, his survival strategy was first and foremost to be constantly on the move. A one-man fortress home would easily be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of mutants once they had found your location. However, living a nomadic lifestyle meant that provisions had to be limited because too many would impede your mobility. As such, Shinobu surveyed the shop one last time and made for the exit. He poked his head through the window and assessed the street for any dangers.
His heart skipped a beat.
A pack of five mutants were lumbering slowly across the street, their milky eyes glancing around the abandoned buildings. They were bigger and more muscled than any other mutants Shinobu had ever seen. Their hair were long, greasy and thick, hanging down all the way to their waists. Shinobu pulled his head back into the shop and cowered behind the window sill. He swore silently. They had probably heard his rude entrance into the shop and had come to investigate. Hopefully they were too stupid to figure out the connection between the sound of shattering glass and the broken shop window.
Veronica lay drifting along the edge of the veil between dreams and wakefullness. She never slept deep and heavy anymore. Always tired, always ready to act, defend herself within a split second... never resting, never safe. At night she always seemed to burn almost fever-hot, radiating heat. Anybody that spent time close to her in the group would wind up scooting away unless they were freezing. She had no "night" clothes, but she had a spare change that she kept rotated out. These days sleep came in snippets, and the young woman would toss and turn fitfully now and again, one hand subconsciously seeking her weapons, a subtle reassurance that they were there. At least there weren't any nightmares today, with the rains gone she had settled into something a little deeper.
And that's when the shouting voice went off in her ears, ringing through the warehouse with a clarion call. She snapped awake sitting bolt upright as her right hand jerked a .45 caliber semi-auto pistol from its storage on her body. Almost immediately she recognized the voice as Lucas and there wasn't distress, but an almost happy note to his voice. With a groan she fell back to the warehouse flooring on the second level. "Jesus Christ," she said loudly, "I could have shot you, Lucas!" There was no small amount of annoyance, perhaps a little bit of anger, in her voice.
A moment later she tossed off the improvised cover she had, a poncho that could double as a tarp, with papers from the warehouse office shredded and crumpled so that it formed a conduction and convection barrier. It wasn't as good as a sleeping bag, but it worked. It probably looked trashy, but she didn't care. You could learn a thing or two from the hobo's that used to roam the streets begging for change. It was actually more comfortable than it looked... or perhaps she had gotten more comfortable with things. Sitting up once more, she tucked the angular, hard edged gun away into it's holster. The holster itself was on a carry rig, which she stood up and began strapping on. With it on, she leaned forward until her palms thudded into the floor and she began doing pushups. A thought struck her as she pushed, up, down, up, down while watching Lucas. "Come on, Wover. Wet's go hunting. Huhuhuhuhuh," she said in an Elmer Fudd imitation.
After about twenty, she stopped and flipped over, onto her back and began doing bicycle crunches, touching elbow to opposite knee. It was an abbreviated workout routine, but anything was better than nothing. Best to do something to keep in shape. The muties might be fast, and certainly stronger, but the stronger and faster she could personally be, the better the chances of her survival, the better job she could do as a scrounger, and so on. A workout routine helped keep her mind sharper, push back the boredom, keep warmer. But it also burned calories too, and a large part of survival was... well a game of calories. Still, she was so far in much better shape than she had been before the apocalypse. But at the same time that was dangerous too, as it could attract a different kind of predator.
Even as she worked out she could feel her stomach gnawing at her insides. It made squishy noises as it rumbled demands for food that probably wasn't coming. She could get some water, that would be the best she could do for now, especially since Lucas was on his warhorse again. Sometimes she swore he thought he was some cheerful drill sergeant from some movie somewhere, talkin' about the glory of the Corps first thing off the bat. "I got a question; How do I get out of this chicken-shit outfit," she muttered under her breath as she finished up another ten push-ups. It was then that she went into a brief stretching routine. While the others were slowly getting changed or starting to shuffle around, she was getting herself ready for the rigors of the day.
Twenty minutes later, they had formed up, and she felt springy and stretchy, limber. Warmed up, she was ready to go as she chugged a bottle of water. She had a couple left, but those would be gone by day's end. As they stood ready to head out, she checked her pistol, chambered, clean, and quite operational, free of rust. A pair of wooden rods about an inch thick and almost two feet long rested along the sides of her thighs in holsters she had improvised, cutting slits into the materials and then sewing in a long narrow pocket on each side, so only short nubs showed up. Most wouldn't even notice, or think they were something else. While she didn't consider it primarily a weapon, she checked the six inch fixed blade knife, the one with the carbon steel blade. She had a smaller pocket knife as well, nestled along with a bic lighter that had seen better days. It was almost out. A couple extra pistol mags were on her belt rig, but she'd loaded up the last loose rounds she'd had last week.
Like some of the others she wore a long coat, an oil skin one that had large pockets, a charcoal grey color. At night it was the right tone to blend in rather than being darker than the night. Along with that she wore an unusual pack that was designed more like a vest, but it meant she had instant access to almost all of its stores without getting in the way. She also had a simple nylon day pack. There was a heavier pack-frame set up at the warehouse, concealed. Only time she used that was when they would move camp. No, this was about going out, moving quiet, light, and fast, and gathering up what they could and making it back in. In addition to the coat, the frontpack, she wore a pair of khaki cargos that had turned a faded, sun-bleached color somewhere between gray and white. Her feet were covered in a pair of steel toed tan goretex boots. Under the coat she wore a halter top and a cotton t-shirt that said "Property of the Coalition States" It had a death's head motif with crossed lightning bolts under it.
With the weapons check over, she moved to the next thing she needed. Her entry tools. She had a short hooligan tool, maybe a foot to two feet long. It was useful for prying open things, especially locked doors. She also had a set of lockpicks. There was also a set of takedown, collapsible bolt cutters she had with her. They were heavy, but they were worth their weight in gold. Many buildings were locked, shut up tight, but one still had to get into them to look around.
Idly she slipped on her shades as they stepped out of the warehouse and moved into cover. She put on a baseball cap that had been scrounged from the office of the warehouse, after putting her ponytail up and pulling it through. Veronica looked over at Lucas. "So you got a plan, an idea of what you want to get, or are you just going cowboy and hoping to fish something out of the lake," she murmured. A murmur didn't carry as far or as sharp as a whisper. Less chance of something hearing. "Food, water, weapons, ammo, guns, materials?"
I am on the floor. I think I might be screaming.
To my right lie my torn clothes, ripped so clumsily from my body. Above me is a monster, more terrifying and grotesque than I remember now that I see it up-close, now that it's hurting me.
No one is coming for me. All of my friends are gone. Most of them are dead, and the one who's alive is the most worthless one.
As I lie there, I keep seeing him sprinting down the hall, away from fear, away from me. I hate him. I hate him for running, for letting me die like this, for letting me die alone....
I wake with a start, and I have to take a minute before coming to myself. I am not in Darrell's kitchen. I am not Karen. I am Matt, and I'm lying on the floor of an abandoned department store, wrapped in all of the clothes I have on me, drenched in cold sweat.
I keep telling myself that there was nothing I could've done, that the mutant would've killed me, but I keep replaying it in my head. The mutant was on the far side of the kitchen from the knife drawer, all of its attention diverted to Karen. No matter how dangerous it would've been for me, I should've jumped out of the pantry, taken a knife, and stabbed it in the back of its head. Instead, I'm here, and the woman I loved is gone.
I get up and rub my eyes when I remember that my food and water situation is desperate. I've scoured almost every store, and everything is gone, taken by people more prepared than me. I pack my clothes, shoulder my belongings, and head out into the streets.
I decide to try the mini mart I used to go to before civilization collapsed. I haven't been there yet, so there may or may not be something left. If there are any signs of life, I'm out of there. Whether it's a mutant or a scavenger, it's better to stay away completely.
Lucas watched over the group as they woke up. He was surprised by how people reacted to his friendly wake up call as he had used casual tone of voice and hadn't exactly shouted but they were up and about. He had been the earliest to rise up and already done his own routine stretching and weapon check. His guns were fully loaded and worked just as well as the first time he got it from that dead swat guy. He watched as Veronica began to work out, Connor not trusting Lucas's judgement and looking outside for himself and Lulu ready to scavenge.
He personally enjoyed being in the group as it was much safer and social interaction usually was an ingredient to survivial or atleast living. He took a sip of his water before placing it back into his backpack and he was then approached by Veronica and she murmured to him about what they would do. "As appealing being a cowboy is, I lack the hat and the revolver so I shall ditch that plan" he murmured back to her and gave her a smirk. "Food, water and medicine are priority as I have noticed that you burn up occasionally but keep an eye out or just about anything useful" He said to her but he knew he really didn't really need to add the last part. Anyone with half a brain cell would do as such anyways. He grabbed his last bit of equipment and left the warehouse, opening up that last bit of gear which was a hot pink umbrella. He wondered why more people didn't carry such around.
"So, we are heading west" Lucas said to the group though was pointing more south west-ish. "There is a university and from what pamphlet I've read after coming to this town the school also taught medicine so it's a likely place to find such. We'll check on houses and what stores we find along the way but we shouldn't daddle. Although it doesn't seem that it's gonna rain soon, we all know that it can change faster than we can say 'Mutant Lunch'. No one goes in alone, always have a partner with you. Especially keep an eye out for food, water, medicine and water filters. We don't want to run low. If you come across anything else that might be useful. Weapons, ammo or things like duct tape, clean towels or the such are secondary. First Aid kits are worth more than gold, that hasn't changed" He said to the entire group in a casual tone, loud enough so they could hear him. He knew that they probably already knew what he was saying but getting told once in a while often gave people more incentive.
He then turned and started to head down the street of the town of Rosen, Lucas's hot pink umbrella also giving him some shade from the sun that peaked out from large patches in the sky. He was definitely in a cheerful mood. "oh, and sssssh when going in a house, just to remind you" He added, placing his finger to his lip when he hushed them.
Lulu looked over to Connor as he got up and joined them, nodding to him. He seemed very to himself and she wasn’t the type to pry into people. Besides she’d learned getting attached to people in such times was usually a useless thing to do. Then again, that thought alone was hypocritical of her. She raised an eyebrow at Veronica, their very own drill sergeant, or at least that’s how Lulu saw her not because of her yelling or leadership but because of her general militaristic demeanor. She thought it was rather silly to work out when they were just about starving and running for their lives almost every day. She certainly wasn’t burning any extra calories if she could help it. Others got up and mobilized as well, getting their things together, even the injured. Anyone who didn’t carry their weight knew they didn’t get the spoils of anything they found.
Lulu basically yawned and ignored most of Luke’s long winded speech. “You remind me of a professor in college who never shut up sometimes, Lucas. You know that?” she whispered, a little smirk on her lips as she walked next to him but slightly behind him. “By the way, you’re a pretty little girl,” she grinned, nodding up to his umbrella before winking and crossing her arms across herself. She kept quiet, but patrolling was always boring. She gave a soft sigh and just looked around the pitted, uncared for streets and homes as they walked, hoping Lucas was right about there being medicine part to the university possibly not yet raided. It seemed unlikely but possible. Most people had probably raided the hospitals and clinics first, forgetting student programs.
As they continued, Lulu paused, seeing a side street to their left. Far down it, there appeared to be a pack of about 5 mutants, headed away from them but passing a store. Lulu stopped and stared, hesitating with whether or not to wait until the mutants passed to go into said store, or keep moving and avoid getting seen completely by the dreaded things.
Veronica nodded. "The college campus sounds good. There will be first aid kits in every major building. Science wing will have bases to neutralize acids, along with washes. They may have also had a botanical lab, which could include vegetables, or herbs we can use. Books will make good tinder and insolation, oh and you guys might find it useful to learn something," she said. "There may be a seperate medical station besides their medical education wing. From there, they may have had EMT classes, pharmacy technician, pre-med, nursing, and M.D. programs. Means aintibiotics and painkillers. If they taught EMT's they may have a fully functioning and stocked ambulance, and enough supplies to reload it a few times."
Most of them would have a good idea what to look for, of course, but a reminder never hurt. "Cafeteria will have food. Bottled water. Coffee. First aid, knives, heavy dish gloves, mops, brooms. We want to stay away from the walkins and freezers, unless the place somehow still has power. One more thing, if you need to procure water, this is a good place. The bathrooms will have water. Not in the pipes. They might, but you couldn't be sure. There will be water in the toilet reservoir tanks. It hasn't been used, and its clean, relatively. Might still want to boil before consumption if you're worried about it. Be a lot better than some puddle off of a roof somewhere. And it won't melt your insides."
She paused for a moment. "There may be water in the field house, or in the ice machines too. The dorms may be a good place to look for supplies too. Science department will have some things but unless you know what you're messing with, don't touch. If they have any fabrication shops, like welding or machine shops... well there's all sorts of useful things." After a few moments, she paused, getting an idea. This was all of course before they were to head down the street.
As they walked down the street, she considered the options. At the same time she hated being out in the open. Hated it with a flying purple passion! They were too exposed, and muties could come from any direction at any time, while completely cutting them off. Where would they go and what would they do then?