The Fortress/Excalibur Chapter One

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Excalibur Chapter One
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The Awakening.png

The Awakening

Team Excalibur's story.

Written by Silas, Zuton, Avatorous, Remi, Coup and Tristana, January 2008

The sun was coming up over Malton. After a night’s walk, Silas had arrived at Club Chalderwood. The official new home of team Excalibur: a decrepit row house, rather fancy; an old aristocrat’s house. He looked at it, sighed, and went in through the narrow door.

Judging from the vegetation on the wall, this could very well have been the forest where Arthur pulled out his sword. We’ll need a clean-up team, or at least dedicated housewife to fix this. If walls have ears, Silas mused, these wall’s ears would have whole moustaches growing out of them. The door opened into a narrow hallway that ended in a stairway. A red door on the right was the entrance to the club proper. He went in. There was enough fun for a lifetime here: a bar, a dance floor, broken bottles everywhere (one having contained very expensive whisky), even an intact disco ball. Big, smelly, oppressive. He quickly opened a curtain and allowed the early sunlight to flow in.

Silas went upstairs. The stairs were narrow, good for defending. Let’s see. A couple of ugly café-sized rooms and a kind of office. He made his way across chairs randomly lying around and put his backpack on the office desk. He opened the window – the stench of wet wallpaper was everywhere. Why did Ava want this fetid, downtrodden club? A couple of blocks ahead, he could see a tall monolithic building – the Pittman building. Of course. That’s why. The view was perfect – in the morning, like this morning, the sunlight swims through the young trees growing out of the pavement just by the window, reflecting on it and illuminating the street like a mirror. Good lookout for a sniper. First, to get this dump ready, as per the commander’s orders.

There was a balcony hanging out of one of the club’s rooms, a balcony like you could see sometimes in aristocratic suburbs of old English cities. It looked solid enough to stand on. Silas gently opened his backpack –no rush- and rummaged through medikits, clothes, cooking furniture and guns. It was on the bottom: a lightweight professional rope ladder. He secured an end to the balcony’s rusted railings and let the other end fly; the height was just right. He nodded in approval. Once, when a pack of survivors asked him, a man of experience, how to barricade a place efficiently, he’d replied “zombies can’t climb.” That mantra had saved his life more than once and so had his grappling hook.

Back down, he used what remained of the furniture to erect a wall in front of the door. It was solid enough to withstand a solid assault, even more so since the door was deeper than the walls, on top of a small granite stepway. With that kind of construction, no more than two zombies could stand at the threshold simultaneously. He supposed Ava had done some recon and handpicked the place out, showing a man in a blaring purple shirt can show tactical intelligence too. The club practically defended itself. For that reason, he didn’t barricade it fully but just enough so a desperate, strong man could kick it down in an emergency. All like it should.

After careful inspection of his barricades, Silas smiled. Perfect. Next, down in the main room, he kicked all the superfluous chairs and tables away into a corner save two small bar tables in the middle of the room and five stools at the bar. He dusted off the large disco ball and crowned the central table with it. It cheered the place up like a nightingale cheering up a commuter’s morning. No point in trying the lights; there wasn’t any power in the whole block. Note to self: make someone nick a generator. Not much to do otherwise, was there? The home of team Excalibur was ready now. The sword had been pulled. The sun was up. All there was to do was to wait for the others. He went to the office, pulled the cooking set from his backpack, and made coffee.

                                            * * *

Blam Blam Blam Blam Blam. The bullets slammed into Zuton’s body, and she cried in agony. Falling to the floor, the blood bubbling in her lungs, Zuton tried to hold onto consciousness. The pain was unbearable, but she was still alive. She hoped that one of the bootcampers could heal her. Looking up she saw red. Struggling to focus, she looked into the face of a long haired teenager. She couldn’t be sure, but he appeared to be a Manchester United fan. It was funny, the thoughts which went through your head before you die. The teenager was speaking.

“This man was killed for two reasons. One, possession of a LV bag. Two, being part of an organisation which is not democratic.” He levelled his shot-gun at her, intoned “Remember to revolt,” and pulled the trigger.

The shell slammed into her head, Zuton caught a glimpse of playing on a swing when she was three, before a flash of light, and everything went black.

Two days later a corpse opened it’s eyes. It lay there, senseless at first, then a few neurones flashed in the brain. It needed something. More neurones began to fire, making sense of the limited information. No words in it’s mind, the zombie moved, reacting to inner stimuli. It’s pink blouse was ripped and bloodied, something under the blouse sparkled in the weak sunlight. Finally a stray neurone fired in the corpus callosum, connecting the left brain to the right. The sensation was associated with a word. ‘Hunger’. The zombie looked around. A picture of a ‘human’ flashed through it’s brain, with another word, ‘Food’, turning into ‘Brainz’ The zombie lurched forward, it must find brainz, whatever they were.

There were strange white and grey shapes around the zombie, most were half the height of the zombie, there was something comforting about the thin ones with the wide middles. There was a movement amongst the shapes, another shape, taller than the zombie, gliding towards it. The zombie turned, identifying this creature as ‘Food’, a picture of the zombie ripping into it appeared, the zombie lurched, then stopped. Another word flashed into it’s brain. ‘Zuton’. A name. It’s name was ‘Zuton’. The zombie put it’s hands to it’s face and groaned. Only one sound came out of it’s mouth. ‘Mrh’.

The creature moved close to Zuton, it was carrying something, Zuton observed this small object, then the object was behind it. The zombie felt a new sensation. What was this? ‘Pain’ came the brain’s response. Then there was sound. A hiss. The zombie slowly collapsed to the ground.

Zuton opened her eyes. Her head was reeling, and it took her a while to get her bearings. Slowly her memory filtered in, she was Zuton, she was alive, and she was lying in, Zuton had to glance around to confirm this, yes, it was a cemetery. Gravestones, crosses and angelic statues filled her vision.

The dull, metallic taste of death was in her mouth, an overly dry mouth. But she was alive.

Staggering upright, Zuton realised she was still near the school. She couldn’t get in there, but the church next to her was only lightly barricaded. She climbed over these 'cades, up into the bell tower, and crossed over the narrow planks to the school. She needed a drink, some bandages and a new blouse.

Slipping in to the school, Zuton observed Hogan training some boot-campers. This, the fresh blood of the Fortress, was their future, and maybe their salvation. She collapsed into a chair in the corner of the classroom, waiting for help. Luckily some of the bootcampers had been trained in first-aid, and gave her prompt treatment.

The next day Zuton bade farewell to the campers, and headed to Ackland Mall. She was late heading there, and hoped that Ava and the rest of her sword brethren were still there.

Stopping off at Club Cummings, Zuton remembered the last time she had been there, on a mission with fellow bootcampers. With the Malton Mob now dissolved, the dangers associated with the mission had dissipated, still, there was always time for one more toast. Grabbing an almost empty bottle of wine, Zuton poured the dribble into a glass.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for a toast. To the Fortress and Club Cummings, long may both of us be here, long may people come here and raise their glasses.”

Sipping the wine, Zuton carefully put the glass down, before heading out onto the neighbouring wasteland.

Finally arriving at Ackland Mall, Zuton pulled herself in through the narrow ventilation shaft. There were sixty or so people there, but Ava’s purple hat stood out a mile even amongst the black and purple clothed crowd of Goths. She quickly shouted a greeting, before finding a quiet corner of WHSmiths to doze in.

Zuton woke with a start as her phone beeped. It was a text, from Ava, suggesting she head to the club, they had work to do soon. Well, that was important, but first she had to get out of these ripped and bloodied clothes. Glancing in the goth shop, nothing struck her fancy. Well, there was a black leather cap, but what could she wear it with?

Instead she went into John Lewis. Most of the shelves were empty, and the racks ripped, but it was no worse than the January sales. She sifted through the pile of clothes on the floor, and caught a glimpse of a teal dress. Pulling it out, she looked. It was perfect, a size 10, and only a slight rip that she could easily sew. Finding a hidden corner, she stripped off her ruined blouse and jeans, and pulled on the dress. Now she needed something to keep her warm. The brown leather jacket wasn’t her normal cup of tea, but she’d seen Amy Winehouse wearing something similar in a magazine shortly before she’d shipped out to Malton. It went well enough with the dress, and Zuton had some blue stilettos, in her bag, along with a few other pairs of shoes. Some might call it dead-weight, but it was nigh-on impossible to find a matching pair of shoes that fit, so she grabbed them when she had the chance.

She stopped off at Chaffe Cinema. It was a poor 1950s sci-fi horror (Plan 9 from Outerspace), but sometimes watching anything is better than not watching anything. She finished watching the film, and headed out into the cold. She was glad for the jacket, the wind was biting, and there was still a lot of snow on the ground.

Walking south, Zuton easily evaded the small groups of two or three zombies she spotted. She reached The Pittman building, it was too barricaded to enter, exactly as it should be, so she needed to find somewhere else to enter. Swinging west, Zuton spotted the school only had a few cades. Easily scrambling over the desks and chairs, she walked in to the school, her first job was to make it less easy for others to get in, so she grabbed a school bench and a blackboard, sealing the hole to anyone not quite limber enough to get in. There were two others in the school, one of them was bleeding. Zuton introduced herself to him, he turned out to be called Philip Wilson. Giving Philip a first aid kit, she helped him to wrap a bandage around a nasty wound in his arm, before climbing up the climbing wall and out the gymnasium window. From here it was only a quick walk over three roof tops and down into the club.

She found the club to be in darkness, which disappointed her. Clubs needed to be full of lights and music, else it felt like the end of the night, that sad time when you knew you had to head home.

Luckily she still had petrol from the siege of Giddings Mall, so she filled the idle generator. There was still a CD in the CDJ, Bedouin Sound-Clash blasted out of the speakers. She smiled, serendipity could be perfect as the vocalist sang. “When the night feels my song, I'll be home, I'll be home”

She grabbed a beer, raising it and gave a toast. “To Excalibur, King Ava and the Assault Officers of the Round Table.”

                                             * * *

Now that the lights were on, Zuton could appreciate the club The dance-floor was looking pretty good. Pretty damn funky in-fact, with a large mirror ball placed on a table. The DJ booth was on the raised up stage. Zuton walked over to it as the next tune blasted on the CDJ.

“You keep on giving me the hold up,

You know I'd wish you'd make your mind up

'Cos once you're getting on so-so

You used to be my Romeo

'Cos you see my dear I have had enough

Of keeping quiet about all this stuff

You're neurotic like a yo-yo

You used to be my Romeo

Let it all go”

Zuton chuckled to herself. Another favourite of hers, she pirouretted around to the booth. It was in a good location, raised high enough above the booth so the DJ could see the crowd dancing, but not so high that he was removed from them. She could picture the club in full swing, people dancing on the stage, behind the booth, and, later on, on that long bar. Still, there was plenty of time for dancing later, she had things to do. She reluctantly pressed the stop switch.

She saw a door to the side of the stage, there was a toilet sign on it, so she followed it. Inside was another large room, with a small DJ booth to the side. The room was empty of furniture, it had probably been used on the cades, but Zuton imagined it with small tables and chairs on the outside, another dance-floor in the middle.

There were stairs here, they were steep and defendable, but looked sturdy to climb. Pulling out her pistol, she headed up, walking into a large room, with men’s and women’s toilets off it, along with a few other doors. Then she made a discovery. There were bedrooms here, with ensuite bathrooms. And they looked serviceable. This was fantastic. The largest bedroom had three large wardrobes in it, and a luxurious ensuite bathroom, with shower, as well as access to the roof-terrace. She had to have this room. It was perfect, all that wardrobe space. All she had to do was convince the others. Remi would be easy, they’d share the room. Stark was malleable, Silas was a new recruit so would accept her authority, it was just Ava and Coup, and she’d have to use her feminine wiles on them. She wondered when the others would arrive, she had expected them to be at the base already.

Having settled on a room, Zuton marked her territory by placing a spare pair of stilettos on one of the beds, and her trade-mark black dress on a hook on the bathroom door. She then headed next door to go shopping, She might as well grab the opportunity to grab some extra syringes whilst the NT was powered and there were only a couple of zeds around the neighborhood.

                                               * * *

Looking around the nightclub Ava was most pleased. It was still designed in an eighties style. The lighting all seemed in tact and with the generator powering it for now it allowed him to perhaps do something he hadn’t in a long time. Reaching onto the stack of CDs he found one of his liking. It was one of his favorites musicians. Often he would hear a touch of fun made towards him for his varied musical tastes but he would rarely even give it a thought. Softly the music began as words floated to play over the speakers.

“Who can say

where the road goes

where the day flows

- only time

And who can say

if your love grows

as your heart chose

- only time..”

Sitting his bag down he took a deep breath as he began to lip the music. Enya had always been as enchanting to him as any mistress in the night. It was a passionate love affair that swept him often. Never actually with her but rather it was the voice…

“Who can say

why your heart sighs

as your love flies

- only time

And who can say

why your heart cries

when your love lies

- only time”

The timing was right and the melody fell into the same chime. Taking him back so many years ago when he was much younger his mother insisting he took the classes. He thought it silly and foolish. But from it perhaps he had lived another day from the ability to move as such. Moving with the strong yet subtle series of steps they lifted and carried him just a step or two before turning in a gentle fashion and turning him around. Remembering that he was meeting the rest of the team here he smiled and opened his eyes looking across the room.

                                        * * *

Surveying the club, he had to marvel at its architecture - not because it had any aesthetic value, but because it looked incredibly sturdy. In a truly decrepit city, the real estate that could hold its own was a prized patch of dirt. Smiling, Coup shakes his head no doubt because Ava always thinks of everything.

As he swept his binoculars once more across the buildings windows, Coup sees movement. His breathing stopped for a full thirty seconds, examining the source.It was Silas, his teammate. Letting the air out of his lungs, Coup scolds himself for his extreme paranoia.

Now assured that the building was occupied, Coup figures he might as well join the party. "I wonder who else is there...Is Remi there yet? I can't wait to see Remi!" Thinking about nothing but the petite beauty, he hurries himself to the roof in excitement.

Once there, he ran to the other side of the roof to get sprinting room - paused a moment - then galloped across roof of Spurway Hotel, and flinging himself off the edge like a lemming at a frat party.

Hitting the club's roof, Coup follows through a full body roll to soften his landing and stands up. Looking around, he spots the access hatch and sees that it's been left open just a crack.

He lifts it open and sticks his head inside, yelling "Hey guys! Did I miss any thi---"

His voice is cut short by the soothing music that is being played. As Coup lowers himself inside, he doesn't recall ever felling so relaxed. Which was very odd when one took into account the environment around him. It was like the air he was breathing was suddenly cleaner - like when he played his first song, except better.

Ava looked up and chuckled to see the goof coming from the high vaulted spot. "Actually I was going to give out our first order set but I need a few volunteers to get some things done while I continue to brush up on the details. I saw an area on the way over here that looked like it needed a bit of assistance and to be quite honest I was amazed at how it was just on the brink." Pulling out a few old map he had gotten from a ran down store he tossed it down on the counter.

"First of all I need someone to do some scouting. The area around the Hildebrand mall is struggling. They very well may take it back but not with out massive casualties. I want to go there and help recover the suburb." He takes a deep breath as he taps a notebook in his hand. "There is also a group that is almost defunct. I would like someone to contact them and see if we can get them to round their people up and get them to the revive point. If I'm correct the R.R.F. are the driving force behind the destruction. So please take all precautions when we are in the area. There is a long history between them and us. They are not the average ferrals. They are progressing semi sentient thoughts and are led by a group of zombie sympathizers."

Remi's arm almost shot out of the socket once he had paused long enough for him to notice. "Umm.. Sir, I would very much like to do the scouting. Dog and I can be rather quiet and he is excellent at not only finding things but also staying vigilant." She gave him the look that was a tiny cross between confidence in her abilities and a touch of puppy eyes that he was assured to cave to. And as was expected, he did. "Very well just be careful and make sure you pack a lunch before you go. I'm not sure what will be there." Remi smiled brightly as she headed to the kitchen to forage giving coup a hug as he had dropped down to the floor and continuing on.

Coup bit his lip and waited until Remi had left the room. "Ava, I know we need a scout and I know Remi and Dog are able, but well... I would feel better if I went." He looked back to see her looking over a can of rations. Perhaps they were beans he wasn't sure. "I used to do a lot of scouting for you and....." he paused as Ava looked up. "...the aces back in Anaconda." The sound of the back door closing and locking could be heard. Coup looked back to see his argument was too late. "Alright I guess I'll contact the other group." How do you suggest I go about doing it?" Very far from amused he lifted up the tablet of paper.

Ava smiled knowing Coups concern for his lovely lady. "There should be older computer in the back. Malton was starting to do com up links with some of its businesses. The night clubs were popular for it. If you look in there you may be able to log into the Malton BBS site, there are directories from there." Coup nodded taking the notebook and headed into the back.

Looking around Ava decided to sit down and work a bit more on the map. He knew roughly where things would be but he wasn't positive of the exact safe house locations. Remi would need to confirm them.

                                         * * *

Remi had never scouted anything in her life. She had no idea why she let her hand fly up so fast. It was probably the need to get out and do something, to prove to her new team that she could carry her own. She packed light, with the many syringes that Ava told her they'd need. She'd left as soon as her pack was full. Dog had fits when she closed the door, keeping him in her and Coup's room. She wanted to keep to rooftops, and she hated having Dog on street level and not being with him. After promising Coup she would sleep in well barricaded buildings, and make sure that she was safe, she headed to the roof.

The path to Roftwood was a mess. She ended up having to drop to street level almost right away. She was glad she left her new boots back at the Club, she needed the traction that her worn and bloody boots offered. Trying to find a safe place to sleep had left her in a panic, and she took a wrong turn, and ended up face to face with three zeds. Back tracking and scrambling up a fire escape she lost her footing and fell back to the ground. The stupid ice made it impossible to rush, and she knew better. Landing on one leg, she crumpled, her ankle twisting in a way that it really shouldn't have.

"OUCH," she cried, hands flying to her twisted limb. She could hear the shuffle of feet towards her, and forced down the pain from her foot. Getting to her feet she pulled her pistol, then froze. Two men came running out of the building next to her. One scooped her up in his arms, the yelp of surprise she gave not slowing him down. The other began firing into the zed, dropping two before following the man carrying her. Up another fire escape, then down into the building, Remi couldn't even get herself to speak. When she was sat on the floor, and yet a third person came towards her did she find words.

"Who in the frick are you?" she asked, scooting back towards the wall.

"I'm DeathInc," he said, grabbing her hard around the ankle. She screamed out and tried to kick, but as usual, he was stronger. "You going to be still? I need to see if this is broken."

Remi went still, watching as the man wearing a Gore Corps badge on his jacket splinted her ankle, check the bruising on her leg, and patched her up. As he did the man who carried her brought her over a hot mug of tea. He muttered to Death about the mall, and that they should get up there. Completely confused Remi sipped her tea, and did her best to keep quiet. When Death's attention came back to her he gave her a pat on the shoulder. "The cades should hold here. Don't walk on that leg till you absolutely have to."

With that the men were gone Remi tried to decide what to do next. She stood up, trying her leg. It seemed like she could stand on it, just not move to fast. She couldn't stay in the area she was in. Hell, she was pretty sure the bad guys just saved her and knew where she was. It took her much longer to get to the mall then she thought it should. It was only a few blocks, but wrapped ankle slowed her up. Not that she would admit it. Heck no, she had things to get found.

The mall wasn't even worth walking into. Walking past it she could see the zeds inside. Turning right at the next block, she looked for a solid looking place to hide. The dim flicker of lights inside the junkyard. Crawling over the gate, she dropped to the ground, wincing as she landed. Counting steps, she made it into the bank, finally deciding she was safe enough to mend a message then call back to the club.

                                          * * *

Coup returned laying down the tablet on the table. "I contacted the RCC and they are having their members in the area move to the revive points. There are over 35 now and the numbers are growing. We will need to move quickly."

Ava flipped open his cell phone and looked at the message Remi had sent. The data was excellent. Making a few marks on the map he showed it to Coup.


Ava's eyes darted over the picture as he spoke. " Here at the bank is where we will set up our safe house. Now Remi is there as we speak. The entry point is here at the cinema. From theses two locations we will begin reviving the cues at the The park and at Moon Way. The NT here circled in red will have to be retaken if we run low on supplies and if the mall over here collapses again we can use the hospital in the lower right here for more faks." Lifting his phone he takes a snap shot of the diagram and dials a number sending the information. "I'm sending the information to Jensonson in hopes we get the extra person he may be able to spare is sent. Hopefully it's a someone that has some medical knowledge." Coup looks up to him "Oh Ava, Remember to hire a nurse."

Ava's phone rang again, it was Remi. He put it on speaker phone as he started to head for his bag. "Hey, Ava sir?" she said into her phone, trying to sound like it was no big deal. "I twisted my ankle real good. And I had tea with the most interesting people." Coup didn't even take a moment as he snatched up his bag and bolted out the back door.

"We will be right there as soon as we can Remi. Just stay put and we can talk more when I arrive." Ava said in a calm tone. Closing the phone after a cordial good bye he hurried along taking his own stuff and leaving the plans with instructions on the counter for the rest of the team when they came back.

                                             * * *

Having gathered her syringes, Zuton headed to the Mall. She told herself it was to get FAKs, but really she’d fallen in love with a black leather cap. She entered the Goth shop, passing racks of puffy blouses, corsets and purple velvet ballgowns. Reaching the counter she asked the assistant for the price of the cap. She was surprised when the assistant asked for a favour in exchange for the cap. What kind of favour did this goth with the striking eyes want? Surprisingly it was for a fellow member of Excalibur to return to the shop. The goth described him to a tee, including his distinctive hat. "Large purple, bought a pair of my purple lense glasses. Had on a very striking suit."

Zuton replied "That's King Ava. Did he pay you for the glasses? How much does he owe you?" They needed to be making friends in their new neighbourhood, not enemies. The goth laughed, a loud booming sound, and asked for Ava’s phone-number, and why she’d called him King. Zuton explained about their team-name. She didn’t really want to give Ava’s number to a stranger, but if she got the stranger’s number then it was Ava’s choice.

The stranger turned out to be called Monica, and she proceeded to help Zuton choose the rest of her outfit, including a white short sleeved blouse with distinctive antique silver and jade black buttons, which really add a special element to the blouse. The two smaller matching buttons on each sleeve were a good touch. Spotting a slim black tie, she put it on. It was a shame that her diamond necklace was now hidden, but it was still close to her heart. The outfit was completed with black leather trousers, coat and some fabulous high heel boots. Grinning with the giddy delight of a shoppaholic finally able to feed her addiction, Zuton turned to Monica, her hand reaching automatically for her purse and her credit card. Then reality slapped into her face. Zombie Apocalypse. Malton doesn't take plastic, not even platinum American Express. Zuton grimmaced. "These are all lovely, but how am I going to pay?" Monica suggested she trade for it, and Zuton was soon handing over a fully loaded glock 17, a handful of shotgun shells, and a syringe, along with a couple of other items, before thanking her new friend.

Zuton strode off towards home. Stopping off at the Horner Building, she noticed that the cades were low. She spent a little while strengthening the cades, but it was tiring work. More than a little knackered, she headed for home. She reached the entry point, at Tyrell Plaza School, only to find it wasn’t enterable. She swore, and looked around. There were one or two zombies outside quite a few of the buildings, but she might be able to get in one. She couldn’t get into the Longman Building or Gaye Towers. Panicking now, the weight of her LV bag pulling her back, she stumbled on to the Crofts Arms, desperate to enter, but still no joy. She knew now she didn’t have enough energy to get inside, so she’d have to hide. There were zombies to the north and east, so, with the last of her strength she headed south-west, to the autorepair, slumping down behind a petrol pump exhausted.

                                          * * *

It was going to be quite a hike. Almost 5 suburbs away it would take most of the evening to make that kind of a run. And if Remi's information was right then it would be possible to make it inside with out any hassle. But a lot can happen in an evening and it didn't matter that you were or your experience was. Even a new recruit could make it while a veteran could fall prey to either a board breaking while running from building to building or turning down the wrong street. It was something the commander knew all to well.

Leaping from the top of the night club to the fire escape below Ava thought to himself, "Why do they call me commander anyways?" It was something he really couldn't get adjusted to. Granted his position was titled that, but he saw him self as more of a visionary and a catalyst for ideas and common grounds to be found and met on than a job description.

He knew he wasn't any more special than any other member of his team . Stark had been highly decorated for his service and time as commander of Battlehawk. A team acclaimed for its ability to keep it's members minds off of the horrors of the city and their spirits high. Zuton was with out a doubt on of the Fortress divas. While she didn't chat up a storm if she spoke most took notice. Silas was brilliant. His understanding of a person's mind often left Ava keeping him at arms reach. Sometimes being on the inside can be harmful. But in any case he was to be respected. Coup was a loved and trusted member of the organization. And while sometimes his star didn't shine as bright as others, if it wasn't there you noticed the sky was different. Then there was Remi. How in the hell a person could survive in this city with only a dog to keep them company was baffling. Let alone work hard to not let outside influences "ruin her day."

Hearing a low feeding groan he started to take a wider path than expected originally. Running him straight through Stanbury Village. Often mistaken for being a german influenced suburb in matters of architecture, it's actual first inhabitants were dutch. The cultural diversity left for quite a few interesting individuals. Stopping to catch his breath he happened to look down an ally. There is what was probably the results of a pretty decent fight. About twenty bodies scattered the grounds. One of which Ava knew immediately. Walking over to it he looked careful to identify and took note that it was in the necro-regeneration process. It was a matter of time before Goolina would stand up as a survivor and who knows what she would do this time. But if she was here that meant the Gore Corps were in the vicinity.

Taking back to the fire escape above he scampered up the building and continued his flight from building to building until he finally sopped to take a look at the area around the revive points he had circled on the map. Lethargic ... Often survivors who became one of the walking undead would still retain part of those memory that would want them to return from their most interesting state. Their mourning and self loss was so great that often they would head to a preconceived place and stand waiting to return. Pulling out a syringe he nods as he recognizes n dG from the Roftwood Coordination Center's picture. Following standard procedures, Ava presses the syringe into the back of the zombie's neck and begins to pump the glittering serum into its brain and spinal cord.

There was a thin pneumatic hiss, and the zombie staggered forward, limbs shuddering, before slumping to the floor as if dead. n dG shivered for a moment, and the contents of the syringe began their slow, molecular work.

All was ready as far as he was concerned. Running down the block he pulled his firearm and set the safety letting it swing around his neck and arm as he crawled into one of the cinema windows. It was for the most part rather quiet except for a single survivor up in the reel box. By the looks of the shot gun he carried and the look on his face Ava thought better of making a new friend and slipped out the back emergency exit door and into the drive through window of the bank.

It also was quiet except for the small sounds of conversation taking place in the next room over. Emerging from the tellers windows he looked to see Coup napping on the foyer couch as Remi seemed to be chattering with one of the new bootcampers.

                                            * * *

Zuton barely had enough strength to fight off the zombie, slapping ineffectually as it clawed her. She was lucky, this time. The zombie wandered off, its mission unfinished. She stood up, and studied the autorepair, the door wasn’t even barricaded, she could get in. As she entered, her phone beeped. It was Ava. He must have been watching because the message read that she could get into the club, and then move on to the NT. She free-ran to the club, the cades had been reduced, and Silas was lying on the floor, clearly dead. His eyes had been closed. There was a note on the table, from Ava, he was following Coup to rescue Remi. She’d head over in a bit, but now she was going to the NT to rest in safety.

                                            * * *

Coup's trip there had left him tired from trudging through the snow. But, it was either that or jumping from roof top to roof top, often landing on his rear and skidding to a halt, only to repeat the process over and over again. Besides, it was refreshing to just walk around in the crisp air.

Of course, that turned into running when he encountered small pockets of zeds wondering about, bodies littering the streets. Christ, it was like walking to the gates of a frozen hell.

Pity - it had been such a nice day up to that point, but as usual, cadavers made for dreary scenery.

He spotted several zombies walking around in military fatigues, which had R.R.F. emblazoned on them. R.R.F. - The Ridleybank Resistance Front......Those people were just plain sick. They sympathize for zombies, and wanted to be in the undead ranks. They even had a religion of sorts - "Barhah". Coup honestly could not see why anyone would want to be dead, even though in this town the dead still walked around.

The new addition to the team was somewhat of a surprise to CouponBaller. He remembers telling Ava to hire a nurse, but a fresh recruit out of boot camp with no combat experience? Coup didn't want to pass quick judgments, but it was hard not to in this case.

He recognized her, but that was the limit of his memory. Her name was Trisha, no Tracey? No, that wasn't it......well, he was damned certain that her name began with T-R....the rest was pretty fuzzy.

He greeted her with a wave when he entered the bank, and then gave Remi a peck on the cheek. He didn't say anything as he dropped his bag on the floor and plopped down on the couch near the entrance. Laying back he closed his eyes, knowing every wink of rest was valuable, and never something to take for granted.

’Another day another dollar...or in my case another zed...’ the thought ran through Tristanan’s head as she milled about the bank a bit. You'd think there'd be a spare dollar or two laying around, some show of appreciation...but there was none. She had to laugh at the irony of all of it. It looked like everyone was out save the boss man who was still resting sound asleep...she knew her job and so she brushed off her pants grabbed a granola bar out of her back and began her day heading towards the hospital...

“Just my luck...”She said softly to herself as she watched a zombie beating the crap out of some poor girl. The girl looked too tired to even raise her hands in defense... Tristana began to scrape around the rubbish of the hospital and managed to find some supplies...the zombie itself seemed to be losing steam and so of course she pulled the girl away to a room baring them up inside while she bandaged the girls wounds so she wouldn't bleed out and gave her some medicine to prevent any damage...she'd live. Tristana slid out the room after locking it up from the inside and moved back down. The zombie was still standing there and no doubt when it got the energy again it was going to kill her.

She pulled out her knife and crept up on it a few good jabs is all she got in. “I am not a killer, I'm a healer but I still do what I got to do....”the words slipped out as she pulled her gun out and shot it once in the head.... “think I am going to need some help...” She said. She slid back out of the hospital and made her way back to the barracks.

Remi was back and hurt. She frowned a bit at the sight and began to tell Remi about what happened at the hospital...And in return Remi began to tell her about her day.

There were new people! Remi loved new people. New people meant more people to talk to and ask thing and drag around and show stuff too. And the new people was really nice. Tristana had shown up sometime during the night, and right off Remi liked her. She headed out to scout for people that the petite nurse could help without putting herself in to much risk. Then it was time for everyone to bunk down, and watch the cades.

Not one for sleeping long, Remi was up with the sun, and started the rounds she had gotten used to making when she was scouting. Two north, all caded properly, two south, then east, and finally west. Now that the team was there it meant she could start doing what they were there for. Reviving people. It honestly scared her a bit. Coup had taught her to use the extractor, and the needles, but she was sure she was going to mess it up. After seeing what had happened to her boyfriends eyes... well, she just didn't want to do that to someone else.

When she came out of the NT building, and looked down on the park her heart stopped. 35 zed milling around. All of Remi's instincts told her to go back inside. No one wanted to drop down in the middle of something like that. And surely there were rotters down there too. It took every bit of nerve to go to what she had to. The first 'thing' she hit with the extractor read as a rotter, and she yelped, backing away. Second, same as the first. What on earth were they doing at a revive point? It wasn't till she was actually placing the needle at the base of someone in need of helps neck that she realized. They were there to hurt those who were trying to help.

The bite on her arm hurt. The scratch to the back was worse. Cursing and scared, Remi pulled her pistol to get the thing to back off enough so that she could get back inside. Bleeding and completely annoyed, she dragged herself back to the bank. She was a mess, to the point she couldn't do much for herself.

First thing was first as Tristana made her way to the mall and gathered up a few more supplies. Thankfully Ava was up, and could bandage her wounds well enough till Trist was back and able to tend to them. Making her way back to the bank she set to fixing up Remi...not quite brand new but it would do until she could get the supplies she really needed, and it seemed the sleeping giant had finally woken up. Tristana gave her report and went back out to scout out the hospital. It was still there and still not moving. ‘Perfect’ she thought, that was enough for Ava to arrive, he darted out the door spouting something about how he'd take care of it. That's all she needed to do before she was free to flounced back down on her make shift chair in the corner.

When Coup woke up, Remi was not feeling well. She’d gotten bandaged up, but was still in pain. Grabbing a bottle of aspirin from his pack, he places it in Remi’s hand and say,

”Take a couple. They’re old, so if that’s not enough, take a third one. I’m gonna head out right now, and see if I can’t help get some people back on their feet.”

”Please be careful,” Remi asks, holding on to him and looking worried.

”I will, I promise.”

With that, Coup turned to exit - checking his pistols to make sure they had full clips and were cocked and ready to rock.

Stepping out into the afternoon light, he pauses a moment before moving towards the revive point, keeping in mind that some zombies who have the “rot”, may be hidden amongst the group.

There were zombies everywhere. To Coup, it was in ways more unnerving to walk in to the midst of these zeds and their “Mrh”s, rather than hungry ones - at least you knew what the hungry ones wanted to do.

Selecting an area to work within, Coup begins his work. Just another day at the office..., he thinks to himself as he methodically punched the sharp point of the revivification syringe into the first zombie’s neck. It always fascinated him to watch the first steps of the reviving process, the way the patient’s skin shivers and then is still.

He repeated the process another three times, and had to call it a day. He’d left the other needles in his bag, back at the bank. Turning back towards what was for now their base, Coup is stopped in his tracks by a sound that is nothing like the “Mrh”s from the passive zeds - it was a feeding groan.

Looking back, he locates it’s source, and starts to back away from the hungry zombie. But Coup never saw the dead body in the ground behind him, and trips over it, slamming his head into the pavement. The shooting pain makes Coup forget the predicament he’s in, and he lays where he fell - dazed.

As his mind bares through the pain, he makes note that he needs to leave immediately and starts to stand up. But Coup’s escape is too slow in coming, and the zombie is there to slash at his throat, severing an artery with it’s foul smelling teeth.

As the blood gushes from his jugular, Coup collapses to his knees, thinking back to the promise he made to Remi...

'I’m so sorry Remi. I let you down, didn’t I? I didn’t mean for this to end up this way.....'

Coup’s thoughts stop coming, because the brain has no more blood delivering precious oxygen, and his world goes black.

Silas opened his eyes and regretted it instantly. His brain seemed to collapse into a puddle of pain at the mere suggestion of movement. So he decided to lay there for five minutes to recover his senses.

Around the third minute, after thinking long and hard about the present situation, it dawned on him blood was actively coursing through his veins and the cold, hard surface beneath was an open street. Shit. He forced his headache to stop (with some success) and got up. His legs refused to cooperate. Stumbling, he made his was to a young fir sapling that burst out of the tarmac nearby. His hands were covered in blood and left a red print of the trunk. He looked around. The first thing he saw was his grappling hook, still firmly attached to the balcony on the building he now recognized as being the club. It was nightfall – or morning, he couldn’t tell yet.

What happened and why was he here? Let’s see… Coffee. There was definitively coffee. Then, a long period of boredom. People… Coup maybe. Zuton? Well, definitively zombies, anyway. There was large empty gap in his memory from his arrival in the club and drinking coffee to his revival. He sat down against the tree, trying to remember.

Silas grabbed his gun, a handgun with silencer with the identifications hidden by a layer of molten steel, as he heard the ruffling at the door. Shades moved past him – friends – as his brain switched to alert mode. Adrenalin filled his body and his mind became sharper. He brandished the gun and took position near the stairs, ready to fight should they burst through. The bunking started and the cades slowly broke down. He was afraid, of course – afraid of dying, not so much of zombiehood itself but rather of the searing pain that came with having your flesh ripped apart by rotten, grainy teeth. The thing he hated most, however, was the helplessness – once they had grabbed a hold of you, there was nothing you could do. Held back like some kind of mannequin. He didn’t like to think back to those moments. The fight was over quickly. Even a well-designed fortress cannot protect against a numerous and determined horde. The whole thing was like a blur to Silas and he didn’t like that. Normally, the mind remembers these moments of extreme fight-or-flight behaviour well. Seems like revival isn’t so innocent after all. Tough shit, Silas thought, and sprung up. He could hear a shuffling on the verge of hearing coming from the right. Time to move. He felt something under his suit now – like a handkerchief or a piece of paper. The door was still open, and Silas jumped through; upstairs, he moved to his office-room, packed as fast as he could and then relaxed. I have to get out now – there’s no-one here – I’ll die (again) if I stay – where? I just hope those assholes wrote down some directions before they abandoned me. On this paper under my suit, by chance? He reached for it and pulled it out. Hah - who’d want anything more? “East gynn bnk edgc” (written in blood). Wherever that was. Farewell, rotten Chalderwood – for Silas, to go on a road trip.

All night long survivors could see the lit point of a fine cigarillo float above the rooftops. It moved fast, as did its smoker. At morning, Silas caught sight of the Gynn bank and its surroundings. You didn’t need an Byzantine architect to tell you the neighbourhood was sacked like no neighbourhood ever has been. Gynn bank, luckily, was still safe as Silas’ oh-so-considerate colleagues had ensured. At the bank, and thoroughly annoyed at the prospect of ruin running, Silas slept.

Ava looked at the clock that didn't work anymore and then to his phone which had lost signal. "Nope definitely not right" he thought. He should have been back a long time ago. Smiling he looked over to see the two girls talking the small talk that some times 2 girls would, which was not only over his head but not something he really wanted to get mixed up in. He could remember "Do you thing this red dress makes me look fat?" Frankly nothing really did, but it was one of those leading questions. There was no solution it was a matter of attention he had always believed and he was more than generous with it and always glad to give. "I'll be back in a few. Just going to see if I can raise a few 'friends' so to speak." the 2 hardly even noticed as he slipped through the side door.

It should have been a bit crisper out he thought as he made his way along the streets. He wasn't tired and as such a good walk wouldn't hurt him any. Besides Coup was just supposed to be right back so perhaps he would find where he was held up at. But as it would be he wasn't in any of his normal places to duck the 'crowd'.

Approaching the Herbert building he could smell the unmistakable oder of the process it took the make the nanites. It wasn't so much that it was bad as it was just different. The building was wrapped tight which told him perhaps Coup had decided to get more syringes. Leaping over the small fence he landed in the park to come to the realization of why Coup was late. Closing his eyes a moment he continued to set out to do what he had for the day.

The return walk home was a bit less relaxing, more an unsettling feeling. Entering into the building few words were said as he saw they had gone out and well not fared so well. But he continued through the bank and into the hospital. He knew it would be coming soon. Tossing a few chairs around the hospital Ava barricaded it as good as it could be. They would need a place to run to if the hoard that was at the mall began to flow out.

Zuton had spent her first few hours in Pittman NT fretting. The cades were dangerously low, she had used what little strength she had to build them up, before resting for a bit and then dragging more furniture over to them. The other seven survivors just sat there watching her as she struggled. Finally she had to sleep.

The next morning she checked the cades. They were still only quite strongly barricaded, and three new people had arrived during the night. She felt like berating the useless survivors, did they want to be eaten?

She strengthened the cades to almost the most she could put on, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and talking to the survivors. She realized that most of them didn’t know much about constructing barricades, they could throw a few pipes in place in an emergency, but that was the limit of their skills. They would never survive like this, so Zuton started telling them about The Fortress, and how being part of a strong group helped her and many others survive. Passing out the telephone number for The Ears, she left the group, hoping that one of them might join up.

Time to head to Rathbone Cinema. Zuton checked her map, if she went north-east for a bit, then due east she’d get there fairly easily. Passing through Stanbury Village, Zuton could see the place was in poor shape, with several ruined buildings and 29 zeds waiting at the revive point. It was a little better in Roftwood, a few buildings were up and running, including the Herbert NT building, and 25 zeds waiting for a revive. No time to stop now, she made it into the cinema. The three survivors there were huddled in a corner, one of them was clearly hurt. Zuton came over to offer assistance, the poor dear had a couple of nasty cuts, but didn’t appear to have been bitten. She was lucky, Zuton cleaned up the worst of the cuts, stitching one of them, but she didn’t have enough in her first-aid kit to finish the job, and was loath to use her last kit. Still, Angel Eagle would live.

Zuton arrived in the cinema, and could see the glint in Ava’s eye. Here he was with three women under his command, he was loving it. Zuton greeted Remi warmly, she’d missed her friend, then turned to talk to Tristana. She’d met her once before, in the bar. Zuton had sensed that Tristana had wanted a quiet time with Ava when she had come barging in, doing her waitress impression. Hopefully they would get off to a better start this time.

Ava looked up. It was good to see that Zuton had made it. A great woman in all regards, "Zuton would you mind working with Silas when he shows up for the morning watch. I plan on taking the other three out later in the evening when we may be able to slip around as a large group easier," Ava said all this in an authoritative manner, as he settled onto a bank-teller's counter. "For now though I'm going to take a nap."

Everyone looked rough. Remi couldn't believe how beat up her small team was. But they kept it up, getting things done. Waking up bright and early, like always, she checked the barricades in the bank. All looked well, except that Coup's sleeping bag hadn't been used. Her mouth turned down in a worried frown, but she pushed it off, telling herself he was fine.

Climbing next door to the cinema, Remi wasn't pleased with what she found. The building had held since she'd gotten to the suburb, it was disappointing to drop into it having open doors, and a zed inside. Thankfully the thing seemed to be sleeping, but it had done damage. She used her remaining FAKs on the wounded, not able to help them as much as she wanted to. Cading went smoothly, her ankle and bite wound only giving her a little pain. 5 shot gun shells later she was lifting the zeds body and dropping it outside. That was really the grossest part of all of it... having to touch them.

Heading outside she went to Moon Way. Today was much better then yesterday. She walked into the group of zed, trying to not look into their dead faces. First one that she pressed the extractor she was able to revive. Easing him to the ground, she moved on, and again on the first try she was able to bring someone else back to the living. Feeling fatigue start to slow her movements, she headed back to the cinema.

Landing on her feet inside the bank she managed to mutter, "Sil's outside the cinema... and help the guys next door..." before passing cold out from exhaustion. She was really going to have to work at sleeping more at night.

It wasn't long before Remi woke once more. Coup was back, thank God, and looked... rough was the only word she could come up with. She wanted to work on the mission, to get out, to stick more needles in necks, but the team needed help. Climbing onto the roof of the bank, she jumped to the hospital next door. And fell.

"Son of a..." she growled, glad that she wasn't wounded. The last thing she needed to be was more of a burden. Scampering inside she slammed the doors shut, using a broom handle to secure them. The she set about looking for first aid supplies. Finding just enough for everyone else she headed back to the roof, this time with a lot more caution. She wasn't nearly as tired as she'd been the day before. Working slowly she bandaged wounds and sewed up bites. When she was done, she laid down on her sleeping bag, pleased. She might not have revived anyone, but everyone else would have better luck now that they weren't walking wounded.

It seemed to Tristana that she had over slept or they had let her over sleep...who knew now days? It seemed one day rolled into another....everyone else had come and gone and done their thing and truly no one looked too worse for wear....that meant it was a good day or as good a day as you were going to get.

She shook out of her clothes and cleaned up as much as she could for the location and shook out the kinks in her neck before she carefully picked her way through the people and made her way to the upper level...she liked rooftops and it was just close enough to the hospital she could make that leap...a smirk touched her lips as she remember Avatorous commenting on how she needed to keep in shape...what she'd give to say the things that she had thought. She shook her head a bit as the chuckle touched her lips and soon enough she was walking through the corridors, it looked like others had come through and straightened things up a bit...the doors were still wide open - but she gauged most of the zeds were still staking their claim over at the mall....that had been a nasty bout.

She shivered remembering hwo their fingers felt clawing at her...she had stayed sick for blocks out and two attempts to heal herself...nasty things. She believed in saving the living, but a zed was hardly living. She slipped through one of the doors to a room that didn't look too bad off and was able to put together a decent kit....she'd have better luck elsewhere though and so she moved on to another room and as she thought the selections were much better....6 in all, not too bad a day though the mall had done better, this seemed to be safer for the moment.

She was getting a bit tired and decided to do a round to all the neighboring buildings checking out how other survivors were doing....well by the looks of things, not a single person needed help...good she thought and then sardonically...she'd need the FAKS later. Satisfied she returned to the bank going in the way she came and slipping back down to join any general chatter if anyone had decided to wake up.

"Time to wake up....." the voice slipped in to his ear. "You have been napping far too long. Things are changing and you are missing it...." Ava sat straight up from where he rested on the counter in the money bin. Looking both directions he swallowed hard and shook the webs out of his head. It had been some time since he had heard that voice and it was as scary as it was reassuring. But in any case it was never wrong. Throwing his legs around to the side he slid down from the ledge and pulled his gun checking it. Loaded as it should be which was as it was with about half of them. Opening his bag he pulled the bracer of pistols he wore and belted it firmly into place.

Turning his head he caught a smell of it. It was particular, not something that anyone would know unless they had dealt with them in the past. The smell was strong but it wasn't possible to be that strong unless it was right near by. Looking out the drive through window he could see it. A zed in the cinema.... and wow it was bad.

Crawling out a side window he made his way over. They needed this building save to move through. Killing it and dumping was the only real option. But it was different. The look in it's eyes was not as cloudy almost as if it were more aware. Covering his nose he shook his head. God it was bad.

Pulling out the extractor he stuck the zombie with it pulling back material. "Cortex damage." Ava nodded his head he figured. This one was suffering from full brain rot. the best he could do would be to id it for future reference. It registered finally after five tries. Yokoy it wasn't anyone he knew. And certainly not with readings like she had.

Putting the extractor in his pack he pulled out 2 pistols and with out much time dispatched Yokoy throwing it outside and reinforcing the building. looking over the reading he shook his head. The D.N.A. pulled wasn't as deteriorated as he had thought. Not to mention it had very different was evolving. This sample he would need to get to a NT building as soon as he could but he needed a few first aid kits. The reviving would have to wait. They needed to keep alive.

For the rest of the day Ava spent looking in the hospital just south east of them. It wasn't until night fall and the lack of being able to see did he return to the bank to meet their new visitors. Many were asleep except for Doc Runner. Ava already knew her even if she didn't remember him. She knew General Patton and worked with the group "four winds". As like the last time they met she was very pleasant and willing to discuss things. Ava offered to share the bank with them in which she smiled and accepted letting him know more would be coming.

The next morning Zuton was struggling, her head hurt and she felt groggy. She knew she shouldn’t have drunk so much last night, especially when she was in a combat zone. Still she had work to do. She had a slug of cold coffee, reminiscing that it was times like this that she missed her old Commander, Java’s coffee-making skills most. The caffeine helped to clear the sleep out of her eyes, and she headed for the Herbert Building. There were close to 50 people there, and most looked like they had a few cuts and bruises. Bartholomew J looked particularly worse for wear, but she didn’t have a spare FAK, besides she was on a life-giving mission rather than life-saving.

Entering Swanborough Park, the stench of putrifying bodies overwhelmed her, and she gagged. Swallowing hard and trying to breath through her mouth rather than her nose, she looked around the park. The rusting disused swings and roundabout seemed like gravestones of children who would never play again. There were 18 zombies in the park, and a whole pile of dead bodies. She guessed there were around thirty there, some decomposing and others slowly healing.

Taking out her DNA extractor, Zuton stabbed the first zombie with the extractor’s tiny needle. The machine collected a cell sample. It started whirring, the extractor’s mini-centrifuge separating the cells to extract the DNA, before reading the code. Zuton didn’t know how it worked so fast, or how it could tell so much about a corpse, but the extractor soon beeped at her. The results were inconclusive, the zombie had been dead quite a while. Zuton’s intuition told her that this was the kind of zombie who, if brought back from the dead, was likely to be so fixated on the zombie life that they would kill and destroy things until returned to the undead. Part of her wanted to give it a chance, she hated playing God, having to choose who should be reborn and who should remain dead. Her intuition could be wrong, she still hoped that all zombies would be revived and remain un-undead, if such a word could exist.

Still she wasn’t taking the chance on this one.

The next zombie was much more positive, the corpse had barely deteriorated, except for livor mortis, with blood pooling in the arms and legs, giving the typical mottled purple look to these extremeties. She opened her large bag and pulled out a revivification syringe. Manouvering her way to the back of the zombie, she put her left hand on the back of it’s head. She hated the cold feel of the skin, skin which should be warm, but it was far worse trying to revive the long-term dead, the rotting skin and muscles stick to your fingers whilst you locate the correct point.

Locating the finger sized gap between the base of the skull, and the first vertebrae, she raised the needle with her right hand and placed it in position. She then pushed the two inch needle in hard, and pulled back slightly on the syringe, to see if she had drawn some cerebrospinal fluid. There was some clear fluid there, and a red LED lit-up, confirming its presence. She forced the syringe down, hearing the pneumatic hiss, as the nano-bots reached the central canal in the medulla oblongata. Here they would start to work on the autonomous nervous system, re-starting the heart and breathing, before spreading to the rest of the brain, and crossing over to the blood-supply. The heart’s beating pushes the nanobots around the rest of the body, allowing them to do their work, repairing cells and the integral mitochondria.

The body slumped to the floor, and Zuton moved on to the next zombie, DNA testing and then reviving it as before. She was lucky as the third zombie was also worth reviving, although it took her a couple of goes to draw cerebrospinal fluid. Returning to the Herbert Building, she noticed there were 35 zombies hammering on the barricades outside, but they were still looking heavy. She threw a couple of desks onto the cades, said 'Hi' to her old team-mate, JC Crippin, and returned to the bank.

After a morning cigar on the roof of Gynn Bank, Silas took up his duties. He loved mornings like this: people working busily, complaining from lack of sleep under the light of the rising sun, while he sat back and enjoyed the sight of an empty street. After five years of receiving no attention whatsoever, the neighbourhood’s streets bustled with plant life; here, thick moss had crept up the pavement under a cover of light snow. The delicious smell of vegetation held away the putrescent smell of rotting flesh. A few blocks away, in a place called Moon Lane, a pack of zombies stood waiting for his syringes. He counted the needles in his backpack: four left. Let today’s show begin!

There was quite a crowd on Moon Lane. Zombies had gathered in a big pack in an area delimited by iron railings. Silas was on edge now; revivication was a hit-and-run operation since zombies cannot suppress all their instincts. He carefully unhinged one of the railings, grabbed a zombie and pulled it out, throwing it on the ground. After putting the railing back in place, he quickly took out a syringe, had a seat on the quivering zombie’s back, and violently planted the needle in its neck. The zombie moaned and its companions joined in; better not stay for too long. Silas emptied the syringe’s contents and got up. Smiling, he sighed and lit a cigar in celebration of a job well done. Repeat twice.

He felt his muscles ache and returned to the bank in a hurry, not too excited at the prospect of staying outside much longer. Again his grappling hook proved useful. Once up he went directly to the dormitory, took some pills, and slept for exactly two hours. Back in shape, he decided to go searching for more needles. Free running over the rooftops whenever possible (it was easy as in this part of town all buildings were connected) he leisurely walked over to the Herbert building.

The Herbert building was smoking. A thick pillar of smoke erected through the shattered walls. Silas began to run. It was too late, obviously. From the other side of the street, where he was, he could see the countless bodies piled up outside. Rats. He grapple-hooked onto a neighbouring rooftop and entered Herbert through a smashed window. He was on the upper floor. He didn’t go downstairs and had reason not to: he could hear the screams quite easily from where he was. There must be at least 20 zombies there and as many survivors, judging from the moans and gunshots. He closed his eyes and started sweating. Checking the pockets in his suit he came to the realisation that his supply of cigars had run out. With that realisation finally came panic; his whole body screamed “run!”. He refused and did what seemed useful: drag the few corpses on this floor (7, he counted) to an open window, and down they went. Now, run!

The Browne building, the other NT in the neighbourhood, seemed fine; he free-ran to it and smiled happily. This was better… He snuck in the same way he had entered Herbert and headed straight for the office floors. There, Silas knew, the survivors leaders often took their accommodation, and some of those leaders smoked cigars. After this round his pockets bulged with the things. Happy, he began his search for needles and was even more pleased. He managed to get three in what seemed to him like a record time.

The sun was going down. The streets were rather empty, and a satisfied Silas lounged down the lanes of Edgecombe, a cigar between his lips, on his way to the bank. He reported to the boss, as should, and took note of a wounded man in the lounge. Zuton was talking to him. He walked by, ignoring the spectacle, not in the mood for communication. That night, he didn’t take pills and slept like a brick.

Ava had stayed up way too late talking with Doc. But it was of good news. The revive point through joint efforts at swans, was almost completely cleared. He had rested well because of it. The mall was still in enemy hands but the allies were holding up in the NT and would be springing any time to reclaim it. Victory was at hand. Or so he thought.

Taking the D.N.A. sample he headed out for the Necrotech lab for further analysis. It was smooth sailing getting there but upon arrival he could only blink in horror. The hold out had been assaulted and the building in ruins. Moving carefully around the structure he counted thirty two. Peeking his head in a broken window he could see at least another thirty or so.

Turning around he was met with a slash across his cheek. Shaking his head he recognized this one it was "harrrrrvy" from the R.R.F. They and their shambling legions that were part of their war machine were not what he wished to deal with at this time. Making a quick dash into the Swans park back around the NT and free running through the hoard back along the Free running path set up previously until he got back to the bank. Coup and Tristana watched as Remi spoke as he came back in. "You ok? you need a healing?". Reaching down he picked up the stray cat that also visited the bank petting it Ava shook his head, "It's just a scratch. Coup we may need to look at options for a possible tactical withdraw I'm not quite ready to move yet. But if need be we can regroup."

Thump, thump, thump, thump. That’s the way, nails: bore yourself a way into the wood before I hammer you again. The cades still weren’t right. Intel said there were only two zombies outside of the bank, but by god did hey know their job. After an hour of hammering, Silas was still pissed off, his carefully nailed fortifications had given up overnight. A kid was watching his exertions.“They snapped like twigs, man!” Silas thought 'Please shut the fuck up and let me work, you brat'. Thump thump thump. The kid was still talking, “Looks better. More wood, though, man, more chairs!” That does it.

“OK, wonderboy. Here’s a question: who can cade better here, me or you? So it would seem you think you do. In that case, watch out, ‘cause it’s hammertime.”

With that he slung the hammer to the guy, gently, so he could catch it but still get hurt in the process. 'Let him do the rest. It’s nearly up to full strength, anyway. Cigar.'

When he came back two hours later, the guy was gone and the cades broken down again. 'The master barricader hath succumbed to the pleasures of idling?' What a fucking joke. Quickly he finished the cades, to perfection this time.

Silas only had the strength to needle one zombie after this episode. He made sure it was a good one.

Over at the Herbert building, things had worsened. From the other side of the street he could count at least fifteen zombies on top on a kind of pyramid of corpses. The stench was disgusting. Silas simply hightailed back to base. I mean, what can a lone man do? Especially a lone man surrounded by ragheads incapable of holding a hammer with the right end up, he thought, nailing another plank to the door later that day. Thump, thump, thump.

Zuton woke with a start. ‘What time is it?’ she wondered. Inside the bank it was pitch black, the barricades covered up the daylight all too well. Rolling over, she grabbed her watch. It was just before 10am. She groaned, she’d been asleep for 6 hours. Using her torch, she shone it on the cades, they were still looking good.

She had used her last FAK on the Rune Carver last night, the poor girl had been in poor shape. Walking over to check on her, she could see that Rune was now bandaged up and healing nicely. Rune looked up at her and smiled. “Thanks for the heal”

“No worries” Zute replied. “Glad you’re doing alright.”

She didn’t like to be without a single FAK, she could remember the feelings of dread of being infected and having to scrabble for enough first aid, all the time feeling the infection getting stronger. Only one thing for it, to head out. Checking the memo-pad left by the exit, she noticed that Enniskillen had reported killing a zed in the hospital next door, and it was heavily barricaded now. His report was time-stamped just over an hour ago. Looks like the hospital will be a safe bet. Instead, when she swung into the hospital foyer, she saw the front doors were wide open, and a zombie standing there, grinning at her.

She closed the doors, and quickly piled the furniture back into a pile, leaving a tiny gap at the top of the door for people to climb through from the outside. Now she turned her attention to the zombie. She knew she had to prioritise reviving, so best way to get rid of this zed was shotgun. She soon killed and dumped the intruder. Searching through the wards, she soon found enough supplies to make up three kits.

She returned to the bank and made herself a cheese sandwich for breakfast, planning to work the revive queues this evening, maybe with Silas. Zuton was flicking through a copy of the Daily Mail she’d found in the hospital, OK, so it was almost three years old, but it was still interesting reading about Live8. Who’d have thought that two days after a concert promising to make poverty history, a far greater threat would raise it’s ugly head, and in England too.

She wondered if Bob Geldof and Bono were performing concerts to make zombies history? She was humming “I don’t like Mondays” when she realised that the cades in the bank had been under-attack.

“Tell me why, I don’t like Mondays, Tell me why, I don’t like Mondays. Tell me why, I don’t like Mondays, I wanna shoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down” She sang quietly as she moved the furniture around, strengthening the barricades back to very heavily barricaded. She cursed, now she’d barely have enough strength to go and revive one person this evening.

Tristana woke again bleary eyed and still sore. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it seemed everyone was aware of what happened and reports were sliding in that her beloved boot camp was under siege. She took some time tending to the last of her minor wounds and she couldn’t help but smile at Remi as she expressed her concern a wave of a hand dismissed those concerns. The worst was over for the moment.

It was enough to send Remi onto another tangent about how she needed to meet more people. As if the very gods above them agreed, in walked Zuton with the warm greeting. “Hi Tristana, how are you? And Welcome to Excalibur. Glad you’ve bolstered the team. “

It was about all Tristana could do to keep from laughing at the comment that was made. Her cynical nature just wouldn’t let it slide as she quipped back semi playfully. “Don’t know how much help I am, kinda feel like the little kid of the group more often then not. Where everyone kind of treats you like aww look how cute she is. All new and stuff.”

Zuton was easily the caretaker of the crew. The way her features softened just a tinge and she took on that stern motherly look, as though she were about to express something important. “Well, for a little while you will be the little kid, but you'll learn fast. Remi's really the baby of the group, we're all really protective of her, but in a good way. Cute is good, it’s a good look.”

Tristana couldn’t help but laugh at the comment. The truth of it all was that Remi and she had come to be quite the good companions – Remi was the sister she never had. “Well Remi keeps me company and makes me feel at home... speaking of which...” Tristana stood up as if compelled by a need to know she was still in one piece and walked over to Remi taking her in a warm hug.

Of course Zuton couldn’t just let that slide, and chucked in a good natured tone. “Well, it is good to see you two getting warm and cozy.”

Tristana laughed, taking it in every way you shouldn’t take it and remarked with, “Mmm, well the boys seem to like to watch.”

Remi just gave that sort of playful smile, but both the girls could tell something else was on Zuton’s mind. She still had that motherly stretch in her jaw and in the gleam of her eye. It wasn’t too long after that that Zuton pulled Remi to the side for a one on one chat.

Whatever it was, it had Remi blushing like a bride when they came back, but Tristana didn’t push to find out what it was. If they wanted her to know they’d share it. All Tristana knew was that gleam in Zuton’s eye was gone and she was on about hair. They teased Remi a bit, but really Tristana felt Remi looked fine. Make up had its uses and it seemed Zuton was the resident stylist on how to apply it. Naturally though Tristana couldn’t keep her mouth shut and wound up getting several boots thrown at her by a very indignant Remi. The conversation eventually rounded to more personal things as they brooked off to talking about boys.

Zuton commented, “Tongue-tripping, I remember that. The look on Steve, my fiancee's face, when I looked special, I miss that. I miss him, but, sometimes I wonder if we'll ever get out of here, if I can return to London?”

Tristana perked up and tilted her head like a curious cat. “Where’s Steve at now?”

It seemed to strike a chord with Zuton the way her features twisted, but she divulged the information anyhow. ”Steve's still in London, he's a structural engineer there. I mean, what if he's moved on. Part of me hopes he has, I don't want him moping around, but the other part wants things to be just as I left.”

Tristana nodded a bit sadly it was a brief reminder of why she didn't usually let people get close to her. They always seemed to die. She shook her head a bit and smiled. “I hope things work out for you the way they were meant to.”

Remi didn’t like how sad everyone seemed, and tried to change the topic. “Where are you from Trist? Am I the only one in our group from Malton?”

It seemed a harmless enough question. Tristana responded by telling them she was from Malton too, but added little else to the topic. Girls were girls though and they wanted to know all, conversationally speaking more information. Even if only to deflect away from their own pain as noted by Zuton trying to discreetly wipe the tears from her eyes. “Yeah, no point sitting here moping, things will work out, some-how. We're beating them, aren't we? Slowly but surely we're beating the zombies back. It's only a matter of time before it's all over. So Trist, which part of Malton are you from?”

Tristana sighed a bit as she summoned up the memories of once upon a time. It wasn’t anything she liked to dwell on. These were her friends and she had made a promise to herself not to shut people out. “Darvall Heights. I did my internship in St. Matheos's Hospital. It seems like a long time ago. I lived along Cottingham Plaza and used to play chess with Matt. He was a fireman there... He had such a blank stare that day." She shook her head, “Anyhow, it was a long time ago.” Her response of course made them want to know who Matt was “Yeah...Matt....” She smiled for a moment, “He was a good man and I killed him....”

That was enough sharing and she stood up suddenly feeling as though the world had just crushed in on her. “I'm gonna head up to the roof for a few.” She said moving towards the fire escape that would let her go up to the roof. She needed air. That was at the beginning – Matt had been like a dad to her when her own parents passed away. He’d also been the first zed to try to kill her. It was a touchy subject and it seemed to bring an end to the pow wow as the other two girls got ready to head out for their own rounds. Tomorrow was moving day.

Sensing that Tristana needed some space, Zuton suggested to Remi that they head out for a stroll. It would give Zute a chance to revive a zombie. What with having to drop the zed in the hospital, and all that cading, she hadn't had a chance to do one today. She was too tired to go to Swansborough park, so suggested to Remi that they go to Moon Way. Remi giggled at this, and did a quick impression of Michael Jackson moon-walking, causing Zute to laugh out loud. She loved Remi's sense of humour, and hearing the girl giggle.

The first zed was a rotter. His DNA sample screwed with her extractor, and she wouldn’t be able to check any other zombies for a while. She called over to Remi, who checked another zombie for her. This one was okay to revive, so Remi and Zuton swapped zombies. Both injecting their respective zombies, although Remi was injecting with lead. As the reviving zombie laid down, Zuton studied it. It was very handsome, for a corpse. Whilst they were busy another zombie lurched over and ineffectually swiped at them, giving Zuton some bruises. Remi shrieked in concern, causing the zombie to turn and hit her.

Returning to the bank, Zuton jokingly suggested that she should put some lippy on and go back to meet the reviving man. After a little light ribbing from the other two, Zuton finally had the girly heart-to-heart that she had been needing. She opened up for the first time, telling the others how much she liked Stark, her knight in shining armour.

“I don't know, should I do anything? I mean, I do like him, but he's been chasing after that nurse, Suzy," she said, almost spitting the other womans name. "And it's not fair on Steve. What if Steve is waiting for me still? How can I betray him? It's too hard, too confusing.”

Remi was unsure of how to help, but Tristana came straight to the point. “You should do what feels right. Sometimes what's right is hard. Don't play a thousand what if's. You'll never get anywhere doing that. Trust your gut, it may not be pretty but its right.”

Zuton knew she was right, but she didn’t want to risk everything on a gamble. She shyly asked, “Maybe I shouldn't do anything until I know if he has any feelings. Maybe one of you could subtly ask him?”

“Talk to Stark?” Remi blurted, still not sure she liked the subject. The girl was chewing on her hair and pointed at Tristana. “She can do it!”

Tristana clearly had her wise cap on today, she helpfully told Zute, “We'll do what we can. But if I've learned anything in life is that its short. It's too short to second guess and play games. If you really think you love him or have feelings for him you best tell him. Because tomorrow might not give you the opportunity.”

Remi looked desidely uncomfortable, but listened intently as the women talked. Zute cursed under her breath at Tristana's words. She knew Tristana was right, but she was frightened. “Um, but what happens if he doesn't have feelings? If I put my heart on the line and he rejects me it will be hard to continue working along-side him. Argh, why are matters of the heart so hard?”

Another pearl of wisdom came from Tristana's mouth. “Why would it be hard? Just because he doesn't want to be your boyfriend doesn't mean he doesn't care about you. It'll only bother you if you let it. But you'll never know if you don’t play your cards and that’s a tragedy.”

Zuton thought long and hard, before promising to talk to Stark when they were back at the club. “It's so long since I've done anything like this, I'd forgotten how scary it is.”

She was happy she’d had this chat, it had helped her a lot. She brightened up when Remi hugged her. “You're really pretty Zut, and nice, and smart, and really sweet. You'll do fine.”

Smiling contentedly, Zuton settled down to sleep.

Cell phone in hand Remi moved onto the roof. Earlier in the day she had gone with Zut to revive at Moon Way. Remi kept calling the place Moon Walk in her head, and then laughing at the worst times. It had been nice, sitting with her and Trist and just talking. It felt sort of normal, except for that whole dry hair thing, and trying to save it. Who knew hair needed stuff. Well, Zut knew, but other then her.

Keeping watch over her friend as she extracted DNA she Remi popped bullets into the rotters trying to block the line for those really needing help. One woke up and took a swipe at Zut, but they were able to move fast, and got back inside. Still pretty wide awake she set about organizing her things, till her cell went off.

"Yup," she said, listening to the male voice. "No, I'm fine, I can do it. Seriously, I got this."

Clicking the cell shut, she silently made her way back to the roof. Carefully she made her way towards the mall, paying close attention to where cades were down. Feeling like she'd checked the path, she turned back, only to have her cell go off again.

"Um, no, I totally didn't," she sighed, "No, its fine, I'm going back. Really, I said its fine."

Out she went again, a bit faster since she'd just made the trip. Finding the library she stuck her head down the fire escape, and her breath caught. DeathInc was standing at a table, looking over maps with a group of people. A big group. As nice ad he'd been to her before, she knew his group, the Gore Corps meant trouble. Making sure she wasn't seen, she ran back to the bank. Out of breath she dialed the number that had called her.

"Boss, its not good." She explained who she saw, and what others looked like. Telling her to hang tight, Remi rolled up her sleeping bag, and got ready to move out. She was a ball of nerves, trying to make sure that the cades stay up and none of the bad people came in.

When Ava and Coup walked in she shot to her feet. After they looked over maps that didn't make since to her she was back in scout mode. Only this time she got to bring Dog with her. This time it was a lot easier, and a lot less stressful. Woodroffe Mall in Tollyton was a straight shot. Again she had to swear to not get bit, and to be safe. Really, she wondered when everyone would get that when it came to scouting she was good at it.

Ava had woken Trist up after her just finishing her rounds...tired and sore she listened to the orders being issued as though everyone was in a panic...and here she had stayed behind to make sure the lout would be ok....She shook her head and started pulling her boots as she bleary eyed stood at the bathroom door.

“Hey Silas...Silas you in there?”

She'd wait for a reply as she rubbed her eyes trying to wake up.

“Boss says we're out the door and you best hurry your sorry ass up....” She chuckled a bit. “His words...not mine. Hope to see you there...maybe meet you outside a bathroom...” She shook her head a bit again and walked back to meet up with Ava, he was point...damn straight he was point waking her up in middle of the night.

Silas was in the communal bathroom when he heard a unknown voice call his name. Female, young-ish, very very tired, pissed off, at the door. Of course, he shouted back.

“Well sure, as soon as I can. I’ll meet you soon, stranger in the night.”

Whoever it was, it was Excalibur, and by definition OK. Funny how she didn’t even bother to give a name. The moon was high and he was tired like everyone. Duty’s calling, can you hear it? As it never ceased to. He finished and went out to the lobby where he knew the boss was stationed. He didn’t waste breath.

“Silas, welcome. We’re moving out, pal. Woodroffe mall... I understand you were running low on cigars. I'm sending the whole team to give you a hand restocking them." Silas shook his head, "I'm sure..."

The trip wasn't as bad as one might think.. just at that hour and on little rest it made it unpleasant until he stepped into the mall.. Silas’ rucksack was lighter than usual and you couldn’t hear him complain. Now, in the holy grail of provisioning, he went out for a scavenge hunt. The drug store was nearly empty and he gathered five medikits, stuffing them into the pack. Same story with the guns, though he had less luck: the shotgun and two pistols he found were only half loaded (half empty or half full?). Once equipped, he went to sleep.

Looking out over the street below Avatorous had watched as they filed one by one running from building to building and in some cases just right down the street to save time. They had indeed cleared the revive points and even seen the mall retakes and placed in survivor hands but the victory was brief. The MMS, Four Winds, and Malton Forensics had shown up along with other groups to assist in the revival. And though he could say mission accomplished the efforts were over turned.

Just as he was going to call a return due to the victory new reports came in. Some he had seen with his own eyes. The mall fallen again, the NT building in shambles, both revive points refilled, over one hundred RRF led zombies and Extinction now present. The reports were damning and in any event painted the sign on the wall. It was time to go.

Whether anyone liked it or not it was time to move on. Excalibur was a strike team not one designed to take and hold an area. They organized and were the catalysts to facilitate bigger things. And while glory may never be theirs for taking and crushing an area they helped ensure the survivors would continue to live.

He looked to his hands as he held the special sample. Ava knew there were four NT's in Malton that had unique facilities. And if he was going to be successful on properly analyzing this, he needed to hit all four and run it through the analyzers. Just as he couldn't risk his team he couldn't risk his research. If he was ever going to be able to properly perfect the recovery process he would need to keep it preserved and safe.

The RRF would be something he would need to contend with eventually. They were massive in size but if properly coordinated even the giants can be forced to suck their thumb. And the more dominant they were the more he would enjoy the dance. But for now he had other things to take care of.

Dropping to the street he made his way to join the rest. Listening to the moans that echoed through the streets he grit his teeth. He knew he might be ridiculed for pulling back his unit. It had happened before, but he learned something from it. He learned he didn't give a damn what anyone else thought. He walked in no ones footsteps. Their lives were more important than his own pride and reputation... and they always would be.

Excalibur Chapter Two, Pains of Growing

Excalibur Chapter Three, Ramparts

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