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Do you wish we had real voiceover for the in-game radio broadcasts? Me too! All the interesting stuff happens in the first week while we're busy fighting for our lives, but who has time to sit down and read it? To help you out, I'm recording one of the most lore-heavy channels for you to listen to while you play. LBMW has 38 broadcasts, and I'm using a voice modulator to record them all for you myself. I've got the first few finished and I'm releasing a new one every week. Here's the first to get you started. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 4 Ross poked his head into the classroom Cornflower mentioned earlier, noticing a single corpse on the ground. He scanned the rest of the room before approaching it, ready to strike. Once he drew near however, he noticed that it had already had its head split open, the hand axe still protruding from the wound. He took it and wiped the blood off of the beard, inspecting it for any damage. The rest of the room was clear, and Ross made his way to the front door. He noticed nothing out of the ordinary and carefully unlocking and opening the door. After heading out, Ross crept along the sidewalk to the edge of the school, poking his head around the corner. "Six, seven, eight..." He counted, his brow furrowed as he began to think. With that many, he was sure to lose if he just went in blind. He turned around and quickly made his way back in to rendezvous with Cornflower. "Eight in the parking lot." He said, "Sixteen total." "S-so what's your plan?" Cornflower stammered, realizing the mess her and her sister was actually in. "You comfortable fighting them?" "I-I mean if I have to, but I'd rather not risk it." Cornflower answered. "Understandable, though I don't think we've got a choice if we wanna have the school as a camp." Ross replied, "They're broken down into three groups. We can take the first one out, little issue. My concern is when we go outside, we start causing a ruckus, the others'll hear and we'll be overrun before we started." He said, racking his brain. "They seem to only give chase if they hear or see something. Maybe we can use that..." He said. Cornflower looked up to Ross with a surprised look. "How do you mean?" She asked. "Well, the idea's gonna be to be seen, not heard. I think if I open the door and wait for one to see me, we can fall back and deal with it from the safety and cover of the school." "I think I can do that." Cornflower said after some consideration. "First, we should hit up the supply closet, see if there's anything we can use to hedge the bets in our favor." Ross said. The two made their way out and Ross opened the door, heading in to search the shelves to his left and a sink cabinet to his right. A few bottles of bleach, a mop, buckets, rope, and a variety of tools. Hammers, a saw, and a set of screwdrivers. They also found a variety of nails and screws. "You good with a hammer?" Ross asked, handing Cornflower one. "Never used one as a weapon, but I think I can figure it out." She replied. "Alright, lets start by clearing the three in the classroom." Ross said, making his way out and down the hall. By this time, whatever the walkers had seen, they had lost interest in. One came back to the door, noticing Ross and Cornflower. It began to shuffle toward the door banging on it and catching the attention of the other two. "Okay, I'm gonna open the door. I want you to book it down the hall and let them come. If any of em are sprinters, I'll take care of em. Try to knock em prone if you can, but go directly for that head if it doesn't look possible. I'll flank em and cover you." Cornflower nodded and began backpedaling down the hall, turning to head into a brisk jog. Ross opened the door and readied himself. Two walkers came out, going down the hall for Cornflower, however the third turned to Ross, reaching out to grab him only to be grabbed by the wrist and thrown into the library window. It snarled, struggling to free itself of the broken window that held its abdomen, and Ross immediately went down to help Cornflower. Ross took the walker in the rear, throwing it aside and tackling the last one who started getting dangerously close to his new friend, finishing it off with a headshot. "You good?" Ross asked. "I-I froze. I'm sorry..." She said. "It happens. But I need you to keep your head in the game. They're not gonna wait for you to come to your senses." Ross explained. "Right, s-sorry." Cornflower replied. Ross went into the library and finished the last walker off before leading Cornflower down the hall to the recess yard. Ross held his hand back toward Cornflower as if to signal her to stop moving. She stopped in her tracks and looked up to Ross as he began counting out the walkers to ensure they didn't move. Two of them tumbled the fence off in the direction of the sitting corpse from earlier. Not like something caught their attention, more like they were trying to wander, leaving three still in the recess yard. One standing over one of the four square games, and two far in the field. Ross slowly opened and propped the door open, scanning the area before creeping out onto the pavement. The walker had its back turned to Ross and Cornflower. However approaching it ran the risk of other walkers seeing them, so Ross had to think of something to catch it's attention. He picked up a stone nearby and threw it at the walker. It hurled through the air and struck the corpse in the shoulder. It turned around and began shuffling to Ross as he and Cornflower fell back into the school, letting the walker advance. As soon as it cleared the shade of the school, Ross stepped forward and struck a blow downward on its head killing it instantly. Cornflower watched as Ross fought the walkers, finding his technique and stark courage rather inspiring. Just as Ross stood back up from the kill, he was tackled by a sprinter that saw him luring the other walker. It pushed itself onto Ross with all of its weight, drooling and biting at him as it ravenously tried to take a bite. Ross let out a loud growl as he pushed back with all his might, trying to overpower the creature before a hammer went into the back of its head. Cornflower dealt the killing blow and saved Ross' life. After Ross pushed the slumped corpse off of him, he looked up to Cornflower who was now extending a hand. Ross took it, letting Cornflower help him to his feet and he nodded, thanking her for the save. He made his way back toward the door, using the shadows for cover as he scanned for the last remaining walker who was out in the field. He crept closer, letting the sunlight warm his skin as he poked his head around the corner to check the parking lot. He didn't see the point in risking them seeing him, so he waited where he was for the time being. "And now we wait..." He said. After a few minutes, the walker turned, finally seeing Ross and Cornflower before slowly shambling its way over. Ross slowly backed up, letting it approach within range before holding it back. It was surprisingly strong, and it took all of Ross's strength to hold it back. "FINISH IT! I CAN'T HOLD!" Ross cried out in a sharp whisper, trying not to alert the group outside. Cornflower grabbed the walker by the collar of the neck and gave a sharp tug, giving Ross some extra leverage to push the walker away and give her a better angle to strike without hurting Ross. One strike, and the corpse fell to the ground. "Holy fuck..." Ross panted, "I'm *DAMN* glad I met you when I did..." He closed the door for more security, taking a quick sip of water while he waited to catch his wind. "The feeling's mutual. Call it even?" Cornflower said as she sat next to Ross. "Sure." Ross said with a nod, reaching a hand out to shake Cornflowers. She reached out and grabbed his hand, not expecting the hearty shake, "Alright, all that's left is the parking lot." "Do you have a plan?" Cornflower asked. "Eight of 'em there. The fences to the recess yard are lower by the school. We could use that to split em into two smaller groups, stagger their advance a bit." Ross said, "We could use the tools in the supply closet to fashion us something to split them apart further. Build 'em in the safety of the school and deploy 'em just as we start. If we find any electronics we can scrap up, we could probably tinker something with the guts and--" he explained before being cut off by Cornflower. "PLEASE don't say guts..." She said, planting her hand to her mouth before gagging. "Sorry..." Ross said, wincing a little. "Anyway... Do you know how to work with electronics?" Cornflower asked. "No..." Ross said after a pause, then he had a moment of realization, "But I know someone who is. Let's fall back and regroup at my brother's house for now. We can go over the plan with everyone there, see if we can get them on board." "Alright, lead the way." Cornflower said. They made their way back to Russel's home, making their way into the front door after a sign countersign knock. Ross knocked three times and waited, listening with his right ear and getting his weapon ready in the left hand before two knocks were heard from the other side. Ross let out a sigh of relief before the lock clicked and the door opened, letting them in, "I met someone in the school. Saved my life twice already. I'm bringing her in." He said, letting his friends and family know that there was another person; and they were no threat. Ross went into the house after the announcement, followed by Cornflower. She smiled at the sight of some faces that weren't trying to eat hers. "H-hi, I'm Cornflower..." She said timidly. "Well hello there, I must say that you are a very beautiful young lady." John said, deciding to attempt to break the ice before introducing himself, "I'm John Benjamin Franklin." He said. "Well, that's ironic since you look so much like him. John let out a laugh as he nodded, "Yeah, I get that a lot." He said before Russel came into the front room from the kitchen. "I just got back from the store not long ago." He said before going over what transpired, "I got in line and was waiting to check out and some guy in the store pulled out a gun and started firing. Everyone panicked and stampeded... I barely got out!" "I'm glad you're okay." Ross said, making his way over to his brother, ready to hug Russel before realizing that he was covered in blood from the walker encounters and backed away, "Sorry..." "It's alright, but what happened at the school?" Russel asked. "Quite a lot, actually..." Ross said, taking his backpack off taking his notepad out, "Make sure John and Link read it. It's got all I learned so far." He added before Russel began reading through. His eyes widened and his lip began to quiver when he read the details cornflower wrote down. "Also, slight hitch in the plan with the school, but we've gotta act fast before more show up." Ross said, "Outnumbered eight to one, four was trouble for me. Haven't gotten to write it down yet, but some of them are *strong*" he added, before announcing his idea. "Link's good with electronics. If we find the right parts in the school, we could make something to throw some of them off our trail." He explained, "Cornflower and I can handle the rest. But I might need to bring you guys along so we can make fortifications as well." "We just finished boarding up the house last night." Russel retorted. "I know, but we need to slow their advance to break em up. We need to clear them out if we're gonna call that school a home, "We'll need some deployable obstacles too, so we can spread them further and make em easier to manage." "How many are there?" Russel asked. "Eight." Ross said, "At least just in the parking lot. I'm not sure how many are outside the AO." "Well, you've got us this far, the least I can do is offer to help with the fight too." Russel said, feeling confident in his and his Brothers abilities. "I wanna fight too." Lincoln said from his bedroom. "Not right now, it's too risky." Ross said as he shook his head, "I need your help in a different way. You still tinker with electronics?" "A bit, yeah. Why?" Lincoln asked, tilting his head. "I'll need something to make some noise. Should be plenty of materials at the school." Ross answered. "I think I can do that." Lincoln said with a nod. "After we get everything set up, I'll need you and Cornflower in the back of the schoolyard. Make a little noise and make em scatter through the obstacles. Fall back into the school if you need. Russ and John, I'll need you waiting in the nurses office while we do this. No windows, so they won't see or get the drop on you." Ross explained, "If any get past us, you're John's last line of defense." He finished, looking back to Lincoln. "Right." Lincoln said with another nod. "What about Franklin?" Russel asked. "That's my next problem..." Ross said, sighing before looking to Franklin, "There's no coming back from a bite. Once you're bitten, you turn in a matter of days." "But Millie wasn't bit and she turned." Russel said. "Didn't seem like the guy that attacked me was either... I don't think it *started* with bites, so much as continues." Ross replied. "Because that's not a terrifying thought." Russel said sarcastically. "In any case, we should pack anything we can use, move in smaller groups to reduce our footprint." Ross said, "Frankie, how well can you move?" "Well enough. Might as well try to help out while I can." Franklin said, standing up with a bit of a stagger as his limbs felt like they had caught fire. "Alright, if it becomes too much, let us know." Ross said, "Doc, you'll be with Frankie to help manage his symptoms. Cornflower and I will take point, I want Russ and Link on rear guard." "Got it." Russel said, getting a bag and getting his things ready. "Alright, I'll pack the bags." John said as he made his way to collect the medicines, bandages and other medical equipment. "Alright, mind if I take Millie's bag?" Lincoln asked. "I got ya a better one in the room. C'mon." Russel said, leading his son off to find a better bag. Once everyone had gotten their bags and some kind of means to protect themselves, Ross opened the door and made his way out first; scanning his eyes along the road for any walkers that may have come in. Chapter 5 "Clear. Move up." He said, seeing no threats in the area. He continued along the road he came earlier, knowing that to be the safest route and the easiest on John's heart. Just as they made their way around the turn to the street adjacent to the school's entrance, the walker Ross saw banging on the door earlier was wandering the street in search of a meal. She locked eyes with the group and began to snarl, slowly making her way over before shifting to a more rapid pace. "OH JESUS!" Russel cried out in surprise, everyone except Ross and Cornflower fell back. Ross stepped out of the way and kicked its shin, causing it to hurdle forward and land face first into the pavement. Cornflower finished it off. "I know you wrote something about those but that's TERRIFYING!" Lincoln said, staring at the corpse and then back to Ross. "Yeah. Which is why you never wanna just be rushing around. We were prepared that time, but don't let your guard down. Those shits could be anywhere." Ross said, "C'mon, we're just about there." They cleared the street and began passing through the schoolyard. The front doors were clear of walkers, and Ross advanced to stack up against the door. "Remember, some have their faculties and can open unlocked doors. I have no idea how common it is, but don't assume it's safe in there just yet." Ross warned, "Link, Russ, you mind getting the door and fall in behind us?" "You got it." Russel said as he and Lincoln went to the door handles, pulling it open once Ross nodded to signal he was ready. He and cornflower moved in and they kept the formation as they passed the offices. "Doc, Frankie, Link. You're up. Nurse's offices are the door to the right. It's clear." Ross said. The three broke off from the formation and went into the room at the end of the hall, shutting and locking the door behind them. Russel, Ross and Cornflower made their way down the hall. Ross and Cornflower checked the rooms on the side, announcing that they were clear after giving a quick pass. After determining the school was safe, they broke formation and locked all the entrances before falling back to the door with their sign countersign. "School's cleared, and the doors are all locked. We're free to start ransacking, but do it *quietly*. We *don't* want a party we aren't prepared for." Ross explained once he got into the room. They left the nurses office except for John and Franklin. John helped Franklin on the nearby bed and started to search around for leftover medical supplies, sorting them and putting his own away. Ross and the others went to the supply closet, arming themselves with the number of hammers, and a crowbar which Ross took for helping him get into potential loot stashes while he was on patrol, and a pair of bolt cutters with a more thorough search. Afterward, they made their way through the lockers in the hallway first. Any that had no locks, they opened to find either empty or scarcely supplied. All the locked ones supplied paper, writing utensils, reading material, and plenty of electronics including a few CD players, some portable videogame consoles, and some lunch bags packed the day prior. Russel and Cornflower took the food and put it away. Snacks and prepared meals went into the Teachers lounge, and ingredients; like meats and vegetables were put in the kitchen. After searching all the lockers, Russel took a look through the classrooms, with Ross joining him after he had finished putting away the food. They put any writing utensils and paper in the offices, any books on the shelves in the library where they could fit, and then they took all the electronics to Lincoln for scrapping. Lincoln got to work breaking down the electronics, taking his soldering equipment to weld the components together. Afterward, he made sure the volume was low and powered on the device. It hummed to life with the sound of static emanating from the speaker. Satisfied with his work, he powered it off, cranked the volume back up and went to work on two more. While Link built the noisemakers, Ross, Cornflower and Russel began carefully stacking desks around the windows to slow and hopefully pin any walkers that may come in, breaking the rest apart to take the wood and metal scraps to build fortifications. They fell back to the nurse's office to do so, making use of the lack of escaping noise. "Alright Link. Come into the intersection of the hallway and wait for all of us to give the signal. Take my watch, once we all have given a thumbs up, wait about five seconds and count to three. That'll give us time to get back into position." Ross instructed before turning to Russel and Cornflower. "As for you guys, set the devices as close to the wall as you can and give a thumbs up. Get back to your spot and wait for the countdown. Afterward, I'll rush the parking lot, I'll need Cornflower in the recess yard, and Russ; You're interference. Any of em manage to break in, you know what to do." They took the noisemakers into three separate rooms. One in the library, one in the offices, and one in the classroom closest to the parking lot. Once they placed their devices and gave the signal, Link began to count. "One... Two... Three." He said, the three then flipped the small switches on their devices and their ears rang from the loud static. They jumped from the sound and made their way to their positions for the impending fight. The walkers outside heard the noise coming from inside and began to close in on the walls. The eight walkers broke off into groups of three, in various sizes, approaching the walls to bang on the windows. By the time Ross and Cornflower made it outside, a walker had tripped over the back fence and was in the recess yard. Cornflower rushed up to dispatch it before it could get back up. She got a few of the barricades set up by the time two more walkers cleared the corner. Ross swung around the front, calling out to some of the walkers he saw approaching the office wall. Two of them started approaching, and Ross readied his hammer. He swung at the closer one, the hammer sinking into its cranium as he raised his leg to kick the other back. By the time it hit the floor, the third walker in the group heard the commotion and came around the corner. Ross backed up a little, letting it advance before taking it out by the time the one he knocked over got back to its feet. He turned to finish it off and moved around the corner. He noticed the walkers in Cornflower's cluster hopping the fence and decided to make a push. He killed one of the two walkers banging on the windows and turned to grab the other just as it tried to pin him against the wall. Ross struggled to keep it back, but managed to get just enough leeway to deal the killing blow and advance to hop the fence to support Cornflower. He landed on top the back most walker, knocking it back down and dealing four strikes which finally killed it. The two remaining walkers split apart. One grabbing Cornflower as the other closed in on Ross. Ross shoved the walker approaching him, knocking it over and rushed over to pull the walker off of Cornflower who had now pinned her to the ground in an attempt to bite her. He killed the walker and turned around quickly to find the last one had gotten back to its feet. Ross and Cornflower then went opposite sides of the advancing walker, who was trying to beeline to Ross only to take a hammer in the back of the head from Cornflower. "Alright, let's go shut em off!" Ross said with a nod to Cornflower. The two made their way in, seeing Russel patrolling the halls. They told him to shut off his noisemaker and regroup at the nurse's office. Once silence returned to the school, everyone went to their rally point to figure out their next move. "WHOOO! We won!" Russel said in celebration, coming in after Ross and Cornflower. "Our next move should be to board everything up. I saw a maintenance shed out back, let's see if there's anything we can use there." Ross said, "Those low points in the fences are gonna be a huge weak point, so we should start there." He elaborated, "Cornflower and Russ, you guys'll be doing that. Link, I'll need you helping them." "Got it." Lincoln said. "I'm gonna patrol around the school, make sure we don't have any unwanted visitors while you're doing that. If I need any help, I'll holler." Ross said before making his way out of the school. Cornflower, Lincoln and Russel all made their way out to the maintenance shed and tried the doorknob to find that it was locked. "Well, shit." Russel said, scratching his chin as he tried to think of how to fix this problem, "The hinges are outside, gimme a sec. I'm gonna see if I can get the pins out." He said, "Someone got a screwdriver?" "I got one, here." Lincoln said, reaching into his bag and handing his father the tool. Russel put the screwdriver at the head of the hinge pin, giving a few taps with his hammer before it slid free. He grabbed the top and pulled it free, setting it aside before working on the upper one. "Mind holding the door for me?" Russel asked. "Sure, here." Cornflower replied as she reached out to support the heavy door. Russel worked on the pin, finding it a little tougher as it was supporting the door's entire weight, but he eventually managed to wriggle it free and the door sank into Cornflowers arms, causing her to strain a little. Russel caught the door and helped her set it aside before walking into the shed. Inside they found a shovel, a couple of rakes, metal sheets, piping and bars, a bag of welding rods, a propane torch, some flashlights, a generator and some empty gas cans, and a pair of propane tanks. "Hell yeah!" Russel said with excitement, reaching for the torch and testing to see if it worked. He turned the nozzle down to a minimum and pointed it in a safe direction, clicking the trigger and the flame caught light with a blue blaze. "We're set now!" Russel laughed, taking some of the sheets, the welding rods and the torch and making his way back to the school. Link and Cornflower helped collect the welding materials and followed Russel in. After putting them in the classroom to the right of them coming in the recess yard entrance. Afterward, Russel made his way out to see his brother coming back up from his first patrol around the block. "Hey, got some welding stuff! I'ma start getting some of these windows barred up. Where you want em?" Russel asked. "Uh, the front of the school's the most vulnerable. I'd start over by the cafeteria. The most windows there, we don't want em breaking through that many." Ross replied, making his way to the door, "if you've got anything after that, try to hit the offices and library up. That should keep our front protected. Gate should keep our rear safe for now, but we'll need to put something up to block those low points." "Got it. I'll put some sheets up on those spots now, then bar up the cafe." Russel said, giving a thumbs up in affirmation. "Alright, I'll come along and stand watch while you're out back." Ross said, making his way in with his brother. They walked out to the recess yard and Ross hopped the fence to watch out for walkers. Once Ross was over, Russel began lining up the metal sheet and began welding it to the fence, using a few bars for added support. The course was uneventful, and Russel gave a couple pats on the sheet to both test its integrity and let his brother know he was done nonverbally. "Alright, watch your head, I can hop this." Ross said, positioning himself next to the chain link fence and leapt up, grabbing the fence near the top and catching his shoes in the holes betwixt the wiring. Before he was able to lose any momentum, he hoisted himself up and hung his leg over, carefully rolling along the top of the fence before letting his feet dangle to catch his drop. The two brothers walked to the next area and Ross hopped the fence once again. This time however, there was a pair of walkers approaching, having heard the noise of the weld from earlier. "Two tangos, twelve o'clock." Ross said, waving his crowbar in a couple of slow practice swings. After the second swing, he looked at the straighter edge then back to the walkers. As his eyes met with the lead, he grinned, waiting for it to get within range and gave a mighty swing on the first walker catching the remaining momentum with his free hand before thrusting the straighter edge into the skull of the follower. With a fine tuned jerk, he pulled the crowbar out and turned over to see his brother got distracted with the spectacle. "Holy shit, I'm glad you're on our side!" Russel said with an applause. "Get back to work on the fence, numbnuts." Ross said after a cheeky grin. "You got it cockwaffle!" Russel replied with a thumbs up in affirmation before promptly working on the barricades. After receiving the signal of his work being completed, Ross made his way back into the front of the school using his sign countersign with Cornflower. "Here's my bag, found out Frankie's wife and daughter made it. Gonna go escort her here and help her pack supplies to help us." Ross said, handing his backpack over to Cornflower, taking the bottle of water from the pouch on the side and taking a sip before going to the stash of backpacks he left in one of the classroom supply cabinets to get an empty one. Once he had his new bag, he slid the water bottle back into the pouch and put his crowbar over a handmade leather loop he made from some pieces of a wallet he found. They were tied together for the time being; and gave him enough support to carry his weapon on his left side. Ross then headed out to Beth's, and Cornflower opened the bag to see what was inside. There were bandage plasters, cotton balls, a few lighters and several boxes of matches, a few packs of chewing gum for a rainy day, several cans of food, plastic bags full of produce and meats, and a few single serving size bags of chips. John helped get everything sorted, even asking Cornflower to leave the canned foods with him so he could put them in the break room pantry after he finished with the small supply of medical supplies. Meanwhile, Ross was sneaking through the neighborhood keeping as much pace as he could, taking a moment to catch his breath by a fence. He heard a walker on the other side that seemed to be walking his way. He let out a deep breath, trying to get as much air as he could as quickly as he can. He looked at the fence, noting it was too high for it to simply stumble over, and waited for it to pass. When suddenly he heard a thump from behind and something grabbed his ankle. Ross snapped, instinctively kicking his heel back onto the face of the assaulter with as much force as he could muster which managed to break his leg free from their grasp and sprang back, turning quickly and trying not to stumble over. He clutched his chest, eyes wide as a result and trembled when he noticed the walker had climbed the fence. He took a few breaths to settle his nerves as he readied a combat stance, grabbing the top of his crowbar and pulling out quickly, minding the angle so it wouldn't catch before readying a stance. The walker got up slowly, and snarled as it realized Ross was just out of lunging range before standing to its feet. Once Ross snapped back to his senses, he gave a mighty lateral swing with both hands, bringing the crowbar down on the walkers head. He looked at his blood-stained, trembling hands and changed hands he used to hold his crowbar and began flexing his left hand a bit, bending to rest his elbows on his knees to breathe and take a moment to process what happened. Once Ross' nerves settled, he snapped off of any distractions of checking houses along the way and went straight to Beth's. He knocked with the sign countersign he explained to her when he first ran into her and made his way in once the door opened. "One just climbed a fence at me." Ross said, taking a drink of his water as he took a moment to catch his breath, winded from the brisk pace he took on the way there. He made sure his tone was hushed so he didn't scare Cindy. "Jesus Christ, what?" Beth asked in disbelief. "Yeah, let my guard down, thought he was gonna come round the gate and he grabbed my ankle." "Were you bit?" Beth asked in worry. "Not that I felt, didn't think to look." Ross said before kneeling down to take a look at his ankle to see that there were no bites, scratches or cuts. He let out a sigh in relief before fixing his sock and leg and standing back up, "I'm good, you got everything packed?" He asked. "What we could carry, yeah." Beth said. "Got any extra bags?" Ross asked. "I have a few suitcases and some duffel bags in the wardrobe." Beth replied, nodding in the direction of her bedroom. "I'll need some help packing my bag, but if you could help me pack some more of your things, I'll help ya move as much as I can." Ross said. "Alright, there's still plenty of food, I think my sewing kit's still in my dresser though, could ya get that for me?" Beth asked. "Yeah, you wanna get started on this for me?" Ross asked as he took his bag off of his shoulder and gave it to Beth. She took it with a nod and set her other bags on the floor before making her way to the kitchen. Ross went into the bedroom, looking around the room and began to make his way to the dresser. He opened the drawer and began fishing through some of the left behind stationary. He found the sewing kit and opened it to look inside, seeing a number of different needles in varied gauges, spools of thread in a number of colors, and a few pieces of denim and cloth tucked away beneath the display. After seeing everything was inside, he closed the top and brought it out to Beth, who tucked them in a pocket separate of the food. Ross helped Beth pack the remainder of the food in his backpack, a pair of duffel bags he would wear on his sides, and the remainder of the clothes and cooking utensils, silverware and cutlery in brief cases he would carry in his hands. Afterward, he took a moment to record the climber encounter in the journal. "Can't let your guard down behind fences, apparently. I got grabbed by a walker that climbed the fence. Not sure if they all can, or if that was just a fluke, but it's not gonna make my day any easier either way." Loaded up like a pack mule, Ross accompanied Beth outside and took point, watching for any threats on their way back to the school.
Somewhere in Westpoint Kentucky, A man roughly in his thirties staggers down a road littered in corpses and trash. He's addled in bites, his face and chest covered in blood and his right arm hung by a thread. His hair was dark brown and short, and clean shaven. He wore a blue sweater over a white dress shirt, black slacks, and dress shoes. He shuffled idly along his way before turning to a man on a nearby roof that caught his eye, holding a camera. The cameraman stared wide-eyed in pure terror as the bloodied man raised his good arm as if to wave and approached. The cameraman tried his best to keep from shaking as he tried to take a picture. The slip ejected from the port on the bottom and he took it out and set it aside, taking the time to snap a few more for good measure. Once the cameraman was sure he had a clear photo in the assortment he took, he quickly headed off before the looming threat drew too close. For Ross Barkley of Osawatomie Kansas, it started before the beginning. A typical Sunday morning on June 20th, 1993, he was startled awake by an alarm he set the day prior for 4AM. He looked around to find himself in his bed by the time he turned it off. Afterward, Ross laid back, staring at the ceiling and taking a moment to breathe before quickly realizing all it was doing was lulling him back to sleep. Ross sat up and wiped the tired feeling from his eyes before making his way to the bathroom. He began brushing his teeth before shaving and trimming his Auburn red beard. After peering at himself in the mirror, he proceeded to shower and get dressed. Once dried off and clothed, he rounded up his luggage and left his house. He began putting everything away in the trunk before climbing into the driver's seat. With the key in the ignition and the truck roaring to a start, he quickly made his way to Chalmer’s for breakfast. "Hi, welcome to Chalmers, what can I get you?" A woman's voice echos through the intercom in a chipper tone. "Yeah, uh... Lemme get one of your breakfast hams, one loaded breakfast burrito and a large coffee." Ross asks after taking a moment to look over the menu. "That you, Ross?" The voice asked after a brief pause, recognising her regular customer. "Yup. Heading outta town, wanted to get breakfast." Ross said with a chuckle and a slight nod. "Alrighty then, that'll be Three seventy-six at the window." The voice replied. Ross pulled up and a plump young woman with dark hair and brown eyes opened the window with a smile. "Hey Donna." He said. "Hey!" The woman replied, taking Ross' cash and handing over his change, “So where ya headed?" "Kentucky,” he starts, “visitin' my brother and his family this year for the Fourth." "Oh yeah?" Donna asked, her grin becoming wider, "Sounds like a lot of fun!" "Want me to bring you something?" Ross asked. "Sure, surprise me!" Donna says, "here's your meal now, you drive safe!" She added before handing Ross a bag containing his meal and waving goodbye to him. "I will, See ya 'round!" Ross said before driving off toward the main road, eventually merging onto it until his next eventual exit. Ross followed along the highway for a few hours, watching the hills and trees roll by, cattle grazing in their fields, along with acres of wheat and corn. As he went between cities, the landscape changed to a more dense woodland. Along the way, he even spotted a doe crossing the street with its fawn. As he drew closer to Kansas City, the scenery changed to a more urban setting. The cars became more frequent, and he began to see more and more houses with smaller plots of land. The towers came into view with the bridge, lit brightly over the dim morning sky. He exited the highway and drove to the airport. After parking, he made his way in to find boarding. The building bustled with people coming in and out of town, their loved ones, and even a few soldiers changing station. Since he had multiple bags, he had to stop to drop his luggage off before going through TSA. The process was swift, all things considered and he went to his terminal where he waited for boarding. As he did so, he walked over to a payphone and put in a quarter before punching in a number. "Yello?" A man's voice chimed on the other side of the line. "Hey Randall, it's Ross." Ross answered as he leaned against a nearby wall. "Hey! Make it to the airport okay?" Randall asked over the phone. "Yeah, waiting for boarding now. Gonna be about an hour." Ross replied, looking at his gate and then to his watch. "What time should I be there to pick you up?" Russel then asked. "About an hour and forty minute flight, and give out take an hour bus ride, so maybe about... One thirty, maybe two your time? give or take." Ross replied, giving his best estimate. "Alright, I'll see ya then!" His brother said finally. Ross and Russel hung up almost simultaneously, and after the call Ross made his way toward his gate, sitting on one of the many chairs in the terminal. Once seated, Ross put his carry-on beneath his chair after pulling out a cassette player, a pair of earbuds, and a GameLad Color. He put in a yellow cartridge flicked the device on. The title card for Pocket Pets: Thundermouse Edition, and Ross pressed start to begin playing his last save. After setting his game up and making sure the volume was down, Ross put his earbuds in and turned his music on and began listening to his rock/metal mix as he began to play his game. He looked up occasionally to look at the time and the other people to make sure he would board on time. The flight began boarding at eight, and was expected to take off at eight-thirty. Being a veteran, Ross was allowed to board before everyone else, along with the disabled and elderly. Once he got on and looked out the window of his seat, he saw the left wing of the aircraft right next to him. Underneath, he saw a man tossing luggage into cargo, making a game out of finding his bags in the mess. Afterward, he put his earbuds back in and began to lay back, waiting for the rest of the passengers to board. Afterwards, they taxied to the runway and Ross was pushed back into his seat slightly by the acceleration as the plane sped down the runway, feeling almost as if in free fall when the landing gear left the ground. And with that, Ross was on his way to Ohio, where he'd take a bus to cross the river over to Rosewood. He sat next to an older man with graying hair who was reading a book. He looked over to Ross and chuckled, "You look pretty excited." He said. Ross looked over to the man, and then down to his hands, only just realizing he was air drumming. He stopped and rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. "Yeah, going to Kentucky to visit some family and friends there for a couple weeks. Figured I'd take time off with the fourth comin'." He said. "Yeah? Where ya work?" The man asked. "Nothing of particular note, just dollar store retail." Ross said. "Nothing of particular note." The man said with a laugh, "Son, you're a working man giving a service to your community. Your store provides a lot that people can't do without." He said, "I take it you get verbally abused by some of the customers?" "It happens from time to time, yeah. But my boss has my back. She's one of a kind." "That's good. It's rare for a man to find a worthwhile employer." The man said, "Doesn't always have to be big work, sometimes the support n' loyalty's what wins the good ones." He added. "I couldn't agree more." Ross chuckled. "So did ya do anything before that?" The man asked. "Been a few jobs here and there, but I was in the army for a few years." Ross answered. "Oh yeah? What was your MOS?" The man asked "11 Bravo, 35th infantry." "That so? Fort Leavenworth?" "Yeah! How'd ya know?" Ross asked, lighting up at the fact someone recognized his station. "I retired there about nine, ten years ago." "No kidding? That's when I was stationed there!" The man laughed again, "That a fact? Colonel Micheal Stratford." "I remember you now!" Ross said with a snap of his fingers as the memory of his old CO came back to him. "I thought I recognized you. What was your name again?" The old man asked. "Ross Barkley, sir." Ross said. "Nah, I don't think you have to call me that anymore son." Micheal chuckled, "How about a drink on me?" He asked. "No thank you, si- Mike... Alcohol doesn't sit well on my palate." Ross said. "I can respect that." Micheal said with a warm hearted nod, "How about a bourbon for me and a can of cola for you?" He said. "Actually, that sounds pretty good. Thank you." Ross said. As the stewardess passed to ask if they wanted drinks, Micheal was on top of it, giving Ross the can that was complementary of the flight and paying for his own drink. The conversation continued throughout the flight, gradually dwindling to small talk, often initiated by Micheal. Landing in Ohio, they said their goodbyes and parted ways. "You seem to be a good man, I trust you'll be writing the next chapter of your life here. You take care now." Micheal said with a shake of Ross' hand before they parted ways. Ross waved goodbye as Micheal went off to his layover before leaving to the bus stop outside and waiting. Once the Bus arrived, Ross stood up and collected his things once more, putting them in the storage compartment of the bus before getting on. Ross handed his ticket to the driver and made his way to his seat. He put his earbuds back in and laid back in his seat, closing his eyes to let them rest as Jet lag began to catch up with him. He snoozed through a majority of the long bus ride, occasionally waking up when he felt it slowing down for the other stops. Once he made it to Rosewood Bus Station, he got off, noticing Russel standing by his car. "Hey man!" The younger brother said as he reached out to shake Ross' hand and pull him in for a brotherly hug, "Lemme help ya with your stuff." He said after, grabbing a couple bags and taking them to the trunk of his Chevalier Primani. "So how've ya been?" Russel asked as he walked. "Doing alright. Looking forward to the fourth." Ross replied, following his brother around the car. "Same here. Got some good ones I wanna try out." Russel said with an eager chuckle. Russel set the bags he was holding down and unlocked the trunk, opening it and then helping is brother put his bags in. After shutting and locking the trunk to get his keys back, Russel made his way toward the driver's side to get in and turn the ignition. His brother going into the front passenger seat. "You can pick whatever CD you want." Russel said, lowering Ross' sun visor to show a disc protector attached with a variety of CDs in the pockets. Ross waved his fingers over the selection as he considered his options, picking an album by a metal band named Day of Reckoning and put it into the tray. He pressed play and turned the volume up to a proper level. After being picked up at the bus stop, Russel and Ross had an easy and short drive ahead of them. As Russel began to roll over to the gas station, Ross looked at a squirrel with a quaint fur pattern that began running up a tree with a walnut in its mouth. "Woah! What kinda squirrel was that???" Ross asked, looking back to see it as long as possible. "You never seen a fox squirrel?" Russel replied. "I..." Russel stopped, realizing how silly he sounded, "I never saw one that looked like that. It was white all over except the head and tail." "Oh, yeah man. They come in all kinds of fur patterns. Grey's just the most common, I think." "We might." Russel said, "Though I gotta stop by Fossoil. Runnin' down to a quarter tank." He added before he turned right into the parking lot and finding a vacant pump. "You wanna get us something to snack on while I gas up?" Russel asked, handing his brother some cash. "Sure thing." Ross said, going inside and looking around before finding where the Hurt Brothers' Pizza was before taking in the savory aroma of the assortment. He picked out a Pepperoni for himself and a supreme for his brother before going to the fountains and getting a drink for him and his brother, a Cracka Cola and Dr. Paprika respectively, then went register. "Hey, find everything alright?" The young lady at the register asked. Her name tag read that her name was Hazel. "Yeah, thank ya." Ross said with a nod, he thought she was rather pretty, but didn't want to be awkward. He took note of her blonde, wavy hair which seemed to go down to her upper back, for work; she kept it in a pony tail. "Alright, two fountain drinks and slices of pizza, that everything?" "Yeah, your hair looks fantastic, by the way." Ross said. Hazel smiled a little bashfully and looked at him, a little surprised, "Well, thank you." She said as she smiled, "That'll be four twenty-six." Ross took the ten his brother gave him and handed it to Hazel, who then asked, "So you from outta town?" she asked. "Yeah, how'd you know?" "You don't look like you're from here. It was just a guess." Hazel replied with a laugh. "Oh? You've got real good Intuition." He replied, taking his change from Hazel. "Alright, you have a good one!" She said. "You too." Ross said before heading out with his and his brothers snacks. He went to the car just as his brother was putting the nozzle on the fuel pump away and gave Russel his pizza slice and soda. "Thanks, you can keep the change." Russel said with a nod, taking it and getting into the car. Ross slipped the change into his pocket and grabbed his food before getting in, taking a bite and buckling in as he began chewing. After the engine turned, the song resumed where it was earlier. People living in a border camp to the north are attempting to migrate across the bridge into Ohio. Many are scared, angry, some are even eager to be so close to safety. The sound of an engine roared overhead, and a B2 ripped through the open skies, dropping something above the bridge. People watched in horror as it fell, and many on the bridge tried to either race back into Kentucky or commit to Ohio. Screams filled the air, growing louder as the object quickly fell to the ground. A loud blast sounded, rattling the earth and sending those within range flying in all directions. None made it across the bridge, and survivors lashed out on military personnel with wrathful outrage. Russel put the car into gear and made his way back onto the road, turning left to go north and continuing home. A few more turns and they arrived to a charming, small house at the end of their street. After pulling into the drive and putting on the parking brake, Russel turned off the car and made his way to the trunk to get Ross' belongings. "We've got a recliner in the living room you can sleep in at night. And we'll be going to Mollie's for a potluck with some friends I'd like ya to meet." Russel said, him and Ross heading to the front door and opening it. "Daddy!" A young lass the youth of five said as she ran up excitedly and hugged her father. "Hey Millie." Russel said with a chuckle as he picked his daughter up and hugged her. "Hey dad." A boy said as the sound of a videogame he was playing stopped. He shortly stepped in and saw Ross enter, "Hey Uncle Ross." "Hi Uncle Ross." Millie said, waving to Ross. "Hey guys." Ross said with a wave. "Hey sport. Russel said as he set Millie back down onto her feet so she could run off and play with her toys. "Want any help with that?" The boy asked, pointing to Ross' luggage. "Actually, yeah, if you wouldn't mind taking this to the bathroom, this is his toiletries." Russel said as he handed a Fanny pack filled with a toothbrush, a travel size tube of toothpaste, mouth rinse, and floss. There were also pens and a small notepad with it. "Got it." The boy said, "I'll hang it on the door hook." "Thanks Lincoln." Russel said before making his way to the room. "We can put your clothes in the wardrobe, we got space. All I ask is ya knock before ya enter." He said. "Understood!" Ross replied with a nod, after putting the fanny pack in the bathroom, Lincoln came out and went back to his game. Ross went into the bedroom with his brother and began putting his things in the vacant drawer. "By the way, got you a late birthday present you can take back to the Airport. I brought the idea up with Kate and she helped chip in for it." Russel said as he helped pack Ross' things. "Really? I'll have to thank her later for that, then. Thanks for thinkin' of me." Ross said, rather touched. Since he left for the Army, he didn't have his birthday celebrated much, to him it was just another day. After finishing, they made their way to the kitchen where Kate was making something of a Sheppard's pie with a recipe that was of her mom's creation. "Hey babe." Russle said with a warm tone, walking behind his wife to give her a kiss and a hug. "Hey angel." She said in reply. "Russel tells me you helped chip in for a gift he wanted to get me for my birthday. Wanted to come and thank you." He said. "Don't mention it. Russel wanted to get you something special, I wanted to help out. Plus I'm total putty for it too." She said. Shortly after there was scratching at the bedroom door followed by Millie giggling. "Go ahead and let her out now, Millie." Her father said. The door opened and out came a tortoise shell calico with a prance, flicking her tail as she scanned the room with her gilded eyes. Upon noticing Kate, Russel and Ross, she let out a trill and made her way over, brushing herself against Kate's leg. "There she is!" Kate said as she picked the cat up and scratched her ear gently, the cat purring an pressing her head against Kate's hand before Kate handed the cat over to her husband, "Your idea, you give her to him." She said. "Happy birthday, Ross." Russel said, rubbing the calico's ears as she began to knead his arm. Ross gasped as his eyes lit up and he took the cat, nuzzling her soft fur and scratching her chin and cheek. "Dude, no way!" He said excitedly as he began to pet the feline. "Shelter calls her Marble." Russle says, "Know how much you like cats and figured you could use someone to keep you company." He added. "I love her!" Ross said happily before setting Marble down and stroked her a few times before standing back up, "Thank you guys." "Don't mention it man. Happy birthday." Russel said. Marble continued to purr as Millie then approached to pick her up. "Come on Marble, let's go play!" She said happily as she scooped the cat up, her hind legs dangling and her forelegs extended, now looking around wide eyed, but still purring. "Wow, she's so great with Millie. I might have to keep her!" Kate teased. Ross looked at her surprisedly before he playfully glared, "I'ma cut you" Kate laughed at the feigned threat, "You think I won't get ya first?" She replied before laughing. Russel laughed and chimed in. "Let's be real here, she'd totally kick your ass." He said. "Oh, no doubt about it!" Ross said. "In any case, food's almost ready. We'll be getting ready to go soon." She said, "Baby, could you help Millie get ready?" She asked. "Absolutely." Russel said before giving Kate a gentle kiss on her temple. "Thanks, I love you." Kate said. "I love you too." Russel replied. The family got ready and began getting everything in the car. Marble was left home to allow her to get used to the home, and the family took off to the potluck. Chapter I A man has fallen deathly ill. His fever and aches being treated by his sister as best as she could. He heaved into a bucket, his condition seeming to rapidly grow worse by the minute. He gets up and begins going to the shower, despite his sister's protests. He steps into the shower, turns on the cold water, and lets out a breath of relief as it trickled down his face. Suddenly, his knees gave out and he fell to the floor, hitting his head quite a few times. His sister tried to catch him, but couldn't react in time. She noticed he wasn't moving and moved in to check on him, noticing he was dead. She began to mourn her brother, and within a few minutes, he begins breathing again. She looks in surprise, turning to check on him again. He turned his head, his eyes glazed over and his sister tried to give him a hug only to be bitten on the jugular. As she fell to the ground writhing, clutching her wound and gurgling, her brother hunched over and began eating her alive. Ross and his family arrived with plenty of time to set up their portions. Russel parked among the other cars in the driveway, and another guest pulled up to parallel park on the road. The Barkleys got out, gathered their things made their way to the door. "Mollie's a sweet lady. You'll like her." Russel said as he helped Kate get the Americanized Sheppard's Pie and the dessert he made; a red velvet cake with buttercream frosting. "God damn that looks good man." Ross said. "Just wait til ya have some." Russel said with a chuckle before nodding to the tailgate, signaling for Ross to close it for him. Ross did so and made his way up to the door with the others. "Hi, ya made it!" An older lady in her seventies said, she opened the door more and allowed her guests to enter, leaving the door open for the others making their way up now. "There's a couple more on the way. Go ahead and put that on the counter in the kitchen, I'll give your brother the tour." She said, leading Ross off, "He's told me quite a lot about you." She said, opening a door to show a pair of bookshelves, "Here's the study. I don't have a computer here, but the boys have their Katari." She said. "36?" Ross asked. "That's the one!" The lady replied, "Oh, where are my manners. I'm Mollie." "Ross, pleasure to meet you." "Bedroom's here." Mollie said, pointing at the door next to the study, here's the bathroom if ya need, and that there's the kitchen." She said, pointing to the door behind her and the doorway on the other side of the wall, respectively. "We keep a garden out back, Harold always loved to talk to his plants." She reminisced. "I'm sorry for the loss." Ross said. "It's quite alright dear, the boys and their dad keep me company." "Mom not in the picture?" Ross asked. Mollie shook her head, checking to see that the boys weren't in the room, "She wanted a career, she said... Not a family, then she left for a doctor." "Good lord, I'm so sorry." Ross said, looking to Mollie with a saddened expression. "It ain't your fault, Hun. She showed who she really was. All that matters now is I make sure the boys get a good childhood, and my son can recover." "I'm not always the best with this kinda thing, but if ya need any help, you or yours, you can reach out to me." Ross said, gently patting Mollie on the shoulder. "Thank you, dear." She said. Just then, an older man came in, bearing a resemblance to Benjamin Franklin. He brought a pot of venison stew. "Hello, Mollie, Russ, Kate. Kids." He said, greeting everyone in the room as he saw them before looking to Ross. "Pleasure to meet you, I'm John Franklin." He introduced, "Most people call me by my middle name 'cause I look like Ben Franklin." He said with a laughter. "Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Doctor Franklin." Ross said as he shook John's hand with a nod. "Well, I hope you like Venison. Brought stew!" John said, raising his pot in presentation. "Oh, I LOVE venison!" Ross said eagerly. "By the by, We've got a new chair and a sofa coming, but I've gotta work when it gets here. You mind signing for it and putting it together?" Russel asked, coming in from the kitchen after helping his wife put the food in order. "Yeah, not a problem!" Ross replied. The Taylors were the last to arrive. The mother Beth, her husband Franklin, and their daughter Cindy. Along with them, they opted to bring a dessert; a shoofly pie. Over dinner, Russel's friends took the time to get to know Ross, and show a little about themselves. John went to Pennsylvania University's Perelman school of medicine and works at the clinic in town. Beth sews in her free time, and her husband works at Spiffo's as a caterer. Russel got a new job in construction and spoke about his best friend Bill, who was unable to attend because his mother in Muldraugh fell ill. The merry band of new friends had their night of debauchery over the selection of fine home-made foods. As well as a few drinks for John, Franklin, and Mollie. Little did they know, this would be the last semblance of normalcy they would have. Only a day after arriving, Ross and the others noticed an acrid, putrescent smell flooded the Knox county area. A week later, the phones were cut. Ross needed to call Kate at work for instructions on how to prepare a meal for Millie. He picked up the phone, putting it to his ear before reaching the pad to dial the number, and nothing. No tone, no message, nothing. He pressed the buttons, hearing the dial presses in the receiver, but no ring. "What the... Hell...?" He pondered, hanging up the phone and giving it another try with the same results. He went to the living room where he found Lincoln playing his video games, "Hey, Link? You mind watching Millie? I'm gonna head next door, phone isn't working." "Yeah, I gotcha." Lincoln said before pausing his game. Ross immediately went next door after heading out the front door, approaching the neighbors house and knocking. John answered the door. "Oh, hello Ross!" He said, "How can I help ya?" "You mind if I use your phone? Russ' isn't working and I gotta ask Kate how to fix Millie's lunch." "Not a trouble, come on in." John said, moving aside to let Ross in, "It's in the kitchen, next to the fridge." Ross approached the phone and picked it up off the wall, it was a cordless, and the numbers were on the receiver, so he punched in the number and held it to his ear. Yet again, nothing. "Uh... John? Are phone outages common here?" Ross asked. "Not normally, why?" "There's nothing here, either." Ross said as he handed the phone to John. The doctor took it and held it to his ear and seemed surprised. "Hm." He pondered, "I'll ask 'round for a phone for ya. You head on back and handle the kiddos." "Alright, thank you." Ross said, turning to head to the door. "And if anything, I'll head up and find her for ya, where she at?" John asked. "She's at the store picking up groceries. She's got her cell." Ross said before making his way back. John searched around and yielded no results, letting Ross know that all the neighbors were experiencing the same thing. This, obviously didn't sit well with Ross, and he had a gut feeling something bad was going down. But had no way of telling what. He went in and winged Millie's lunch as best he could, figuring Kate would understand. After making sure the kids ate, Kate returned home with some bags of groceries in hand. "Ross, you mind helping me unload? I got you some root beers, couldn't call to ask what you wanted." "Yeah, phones are apparently down. All over the neighborhood." "Wait, all over?" Kate asked, "The clerk at the store couldn't get the phones to work either..." She added in realization. "So it's all over town?" Ross asked. "Probably..." Kate said, taking a breath to calm her nerves, realizing that an emergency could have happened at any moment and there would have been no way to let her know, "I-I need to go tell Russel." "Let's get the groceries in first. I'll put 'em away so they don't go bad. You can tell him in the meantime." After getting everything in, Ross began putting the food away with Lincoln and Millie's help, as they knew better where the food went. Kate let Russel know about the phone situation, and under Ross' suggestion, prepared for a coming storm. As time went on, Ross, Russel, Kate and John all asked around if there was any kind of talk. Some coming from Muldraugh, said that helicopters were flying suspiciously low over the city when they were leaving. Bill was one of those people, so Ross went over to question him with Russel coming along for the introduction. "Hey Grunt!" Russel said with a chipper tone. A large, ox of a man turned around to see his friend and Ross approaching, bearing a large grin. "Howdy, fellas." He said. "Bill, want you to meet my brother Ross. Ross, this is Bill." Russel said. The two shook hands, and Ross had to shake the feeling back into his after feeling the hearty grip Bill had. "Yeah, Though people call me Grunt cause I do the heavy liftin'." Bill replied. "Pleasure to meet you, big guy." Ross said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small notebook and pen, "So talk of the town's that choppers went over Muldraugh. You were there, right?" "I was, an' I remember seein' them choppers flyin' over the highway. Was already on my way back." "How many did you see?" "Bout three. Didn't look like they came over from Rosewood." "That explains why we didn't see them..." Ross said before thinking a moment, "Did you notice anything strange while you were there? Or with the choppers?" "Not much other than they were flyin' purty low." Bill said, "Didn't look like no trainin' exercise, they were goin' quick. Like they needed ta be somewhere." "So then they must have been landing in the Knox area..." Ross said, thinking out loud, "Did they have one rotor or two?" "The ones I saw had two." "CH-47s." Ross said. "What?" Bill asked cluelessly. "They're Chinooks, they were flying personnel or cargo." "What the hell would they be staging here? Are we being attacked?" Russel asked. "If that was the case they would have been escorted." Ross pondered, "Plus we'd be seeing a lot more military presence right now, not just a story of three choppers... That and the news isn't saying anything about it. We would have heard something by now." "What do you s'pose I do?" Bill asked. "Keep close contact with us, let us know anything strange you notice. Other than that, supply yourself with plenty of food, medicine and anything you need." Ross said, "I feel like this is just the start of a MAJOR shit storm..." July 6, 1993 It was two days after the fourth, Ross was on the porch drinking some lemonade. He was taking a break constructing the furniture and was listening to HitzFM on the radio, basking in the warmth of the summer sun. He noticed something in the corner of his eye, a pale, sickly looking man who was slowly shuffling, staggering over his steps. Assuming it was drugs or alcohol, he called out. "Hey, buddy! You have a good time?" He asked with a chuckle. The man stopped and turned to him, giving a soft gurgle as he reached his hand out. No verbal response, just advancing. Despite his hairs standing on end by the Gastly appearance, he tried to play the friendly facade. "You good? Bit of a hangover?" He asked, "Got just the thing for that." He said, tipping his lemonade in the direction of the man, "Want some? Got plenty." The man drew closer, and now Ross could hear the snarls the man let off, fight or flight instinct forced him to jump up, dropping his glass which shattered on the deck. "Hey, I'm sorry I offended you man. But please don't come any closer, I'll view it as a threat." Ross warned. But the man ignored his advice, tripping over the curb and standing back up, continuing his approach, "LAST CHANCE ASSHOLE! STEP OFF!" Ross cried out to no avail. The man got within arms reach, and Ross was completely in survival mode. He reared a fist as hard as he could, throwing a hook into the man's jaw, sending him falling back with a spin. When the punch made contract, Ross felt something shift and he heard a noticeable crack. The man however got up and began to advance again. Millie and no idea what was going on in her room, playing with Marble, and Lincoln pauses his game, hearing the warning and coming out to see the man going down. "Ross? W-what's going on?" Lincoln asked timidly. "Go to your room with Millie! It's not safe!" Ross called out. Lincoln stood there for a moment as if to say something or try to do something to help, but he nodded after a moment and rushed to his room. The man stood back up, now rushing at Ross who grabbed the man by the throat, uppercutting the man in the stomach, only to realize he was unresponsive to the pain. Realizing the man was trying to bite him, Ross raised a foot up and push kicked as hard as he could to knock the man back, giving him enough time to rush in and grab the first thing he had available; being a hammer that was laying just next to the toolbox. Ross was grabbed on the back, rearing back to shove the man off as the force of the lunge caused him to tumble over the couch. A lamp was knocked over in the process, crashing on the floor as Ross desperately struggled to overpower his opponent. After managing to roll on top, he pinned the man down by the throat, giving three mighty cleaves to cave in the man's skull. After realizing what he had done, Ross dropped the hammer and jumped back, hyperventilating as the shock of the realization of what he's done coupled with flashbacks of his tour in Cambodia. Lincoln and Millie heard the struggle, and the girl cried out in shock as she heard the sound of glass shattering which caused the cat to jump out of her arms, inadvertently scratching her in the process. "Millie! Shhh! It's okay! It's okay!" Lincoln sharply whispered, desperately trying to calm his sister down as he reached out to hold her, noticing the scratch on her arm and reached to grab a nearby sheet to press onto it. He began singing her favorite lullaby, which soothed her crying in the time it took Ross to deal with the man. Kate came home from visiting a friend and cried out in shock when she saw the scene. "OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED???" She yelled in panic. The kids heard her and came racing out to hug their mother. Ross was still trying to process what just transpired himself. "Th-this guy came up and was scaring Ross, he warned him to back off and he kept coming. He told me to wait in the bedroom with Millie, I-I think he was trying to bite Ross, mom!" Lincoln stuttered, trying to explain the situation to his mom. "Is that true?" Kate asked, looking to Ross who was still trembling on the floor, "Ross?" Ross nodded and looked up to her, "Yeah, And we can't call the cops... Phones are down. I-I need a minute to process this..." He said. "Okay, okay. I'll go to the police station and talk to them. Then I'll go to the construction site and get Russ, we'll come back here and figure out what to do. Are you okay enough to watch over the kids?" Kate asked, kneeling next to Ross and explaining her plan. Ross nodded again and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. In the meantime, his mind began to wander. He was aware of a new flu that was spreading across the state, tears welled in his eyes as his racing thoughts continued to relentlessly attack him. Was this just drugs? Or was there something more to it? The thoughts of the choppers Bill mentioned, coupled with that god awful smell, and the news of said flu all rushed through his mind, as if connecting dots he didn't want to be there. He looked at the blood stained hammer on the floor before looking at the corpse, sitting up and reaching into his pockets to see if there was anything to identify him. After turning the ignition in her car, Kate drove off and began heading to the police station. The dead man's wallet contained an ID, his social security card, and fifteen dollars worth of cash and loose change. His name was Jack Smith. This would come in handy for the police. He set it down and stood up to go to the porch to stand guard. "Kids, go back to your room. Lincoln, take anything you can and block the door." He panted, "I-I need to keep watch. If something happens, run out and come to me immediately." The kids did exactly that, rushing back into their room and closing the door behind them. The sound of furniture scooting across the floor was heard shortly after and Ross went back and forth the house, keeping a watchful eye for anything odd. Minutes later, Russel and Kate returned, and Russel came running in. "Are the kids alright? Are you alright?" Russel asked his brother. "Yeah, kids are safe, I had them barricade the door to their room and wait for you guys to get back." Ross said with a nod, "I'm good now."
I debated on where to put this topic but I remember reading somewhere that the developer's ultimate goal with PZ was to have emergent storytelling be at the game's design core. If so, the purpose of this topic is simply to discuss and possibly (and humbly) suggest what I think this would look like in PZ. If this is no longer a goal, I'd like to see it manifest as a Mod. What is emergent storytelling? This article provides a fantastic overview and argument for what defines emergent storytelling in video games: Popmatters The author argues that emergent storytelling in videogames has one or both of two key components: Characters that change during play in meaningful ways that represent a true character arc, Gameplay forces players to give context and meaning to a scenario that results in a dramatic arc.Without these components, the narrative is not emergent. For example, a pre-defined series of events within a game may include story and character arcs, but they are not emergent. They are narratives designed by the game maker. Emergent storytelling happens through the interaction between the player and the system. I think PZ has the opportunity to push the envelope with emergent storytelling and I suspect that is the intent with NPCs. But I think more can be done with player characters. What would extreme isolation and constant war-like trauma do to a character? For characters that are put together in multiplayer, what would be the effects over time on characters having two conflicting personality types being forced together? I could see a new navigation pane, similar to the one that shows the health of the body, except one for the mind. While moodles might be outward expressions of character behaviors, the character's mind would be internal. Let's say two players are playing survivors, one plays Joe and one Sara. Shortly after meeting for the first time, Joe registers annoyance towards Sara within his mind. Sara may be able to see that Joe is mildly annoyed, but she would not know from what. After a certain threshold, highly annoyed characters might suffer skill penalties. If the two players are both friends in real life and plan to play together, Joe's player might chose to spend points (e.g. resources) on reducing Joe's internal annoyance towards Sara. Joe gets over his issues. Alternatively, Joe's player may need to spend mental points on fighting off his growing addiction to smoking cigarettes. He allows Joe's annoyance towards Sara to grow to the point that he now suffers a skill penalty fighting zombies. What happens next? Perhaps Joe accepts the penalty and risks his life and stays with Sara. Or maybe he finally snaps. During the next harrowing zombie encounter, Joe's player withholds critical assistance from Sara and allows her to be torn apart by a horde. "It was either her or me". To me, this is emergent storytelling. Letting Sara die isn't a meaningless event. Joe had a reason for doing what he did. He needed to rid himself of his concentration breaking annoyance or he risked himself dying to the horde. On the flipside, players could assign mental points to make their characters like each other more. Let's say Amy and Josh receive a skill bonus when they are together. They make a great team. But one day, Josh drops his guard and gets bit. The infection manifests quickly and Josh dies. Amy now suffers a deep depression which tank her skills. Does she persevere and eventually recover? Does her sorrow prevent her from successfully fighting off the next zombie? Does she drink the bleach? These are stories. They are more than just a series of events with importance only to the player. The narrative isn't dictated by the game maker. Instead, the narrative emerges from the interaction between the player and the system. What does it say about the human condition that Joe, when faced with risking his survival, let Sara die? To me, this is why PZ has permadeath and no final winning state. This is how you died. The game is about the journey, not the destination.