※ Edited: 10/30/17 ※
(1x03: Philly Feast)
When in Philly, Feast Like the Phillies Do
The was an odd calmness to the apocalypse. Quiet moments where only the hum of an engine and the whistle of wind could be heard. It was times like these you could get lost in thought. And for a while, that's what happened to come of the occupants of the car.
That quiet was quickly broken when Cassandra could no longer hold her worried tongue.
"Why are we going this way? Philly's a dead zone." She had made her displeasure clear throughout the past two days, mumbling, grumbling, and shifting nervously. It was suspicious and alarming. And earlier that morning she had told Garnett exactly that.
"We're just cutting through the outskirts," Ariel mumbled from between her and Murphy. The map was a mess, the marker in her mouth bouncing as she tried to focus on getting them a quicker or more bountiful route.
"Hopefully we can scavenge something without going too deep into the city," Garnett reassured from the front seat.
"If we find a working radio, we can try to contact that Z guy again."
Warren's hopefulness was shut down by Ariel. "If he's still alive, that is." After the past few hiccups in the plans, Ariel had taken it upon herself to plan two backup routes for every path they chose. The added stress had clearly taken a toll on her mood.
Some people in the group; however, just couldn't be put down today.
Murphy leaned out the window, basking in the sunshine. "Philadelphia." He observed the wasteland they traveled through, eyes halting momentarily on a small group of zombies digging into a human carcass. "Ah, the city of brotherly love..." He sighed.
"Lovely." Ariel's face scrunched up disgust.
"Is that what I think it is?" Warren suddenly spoke up.
The truck rolled to a stop, Garnett quick to jump out to investigate. It gave Cassandra and Ariel the same view of an old rusting bell tied to the flatbed of a truck. It was the age of the bell and the prominent crack that caught their attention. "No fricken way!"
Doc and Warren followed Garnette, stretching their legs and investigating the misplaced wonder.
"Is that really the Liberty Bell?"
"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof." Garnett recited, close enough to inspect it. "Yeah, that's it."
"Damn! Three years of a zombie apocalypse, you think you've seen everything." Doc was in awe.
"Why's it here?" Ariel leaned over Murphy, sticking her head out to see. Funnily enough through all the road trips her family had taken, nearly none involved any patriotic historical stops. Like everyone else, they just kind of assumed it would always be there come the next time around.
Warren could only shrug. "Well when everything went bad, they probably tried to save a little history."
"Especially after the Louvre was burnt to a shell." Ariel scoffed.
Banks locked up their gold, museums vaulted their works, and the rich retreated to fortified skyscrapers with their riches. All the while the world was being bitten off in percentages per day.
Human selfishness knew no end.
"Well, they should've known the only thing you can save is yourself." Murphy finished her thought loudly into her ear.
Still sketchy from his past encounters, he eyed the zombies still feasting down the road. The longer they were stationary the more he became agitated. "Let's gooo!" He hollered. His nanny slapped him upside the head. She made him scoot over so she could get out. With only mild bickering, she jumped from the truck and rubbed her ringing ear.
Warren and Garnett thought aloud about salvaging the truck for themselves while Doc and Ariel looked over the bell. Untreated after the past few years it was beginning to oxidize. Knowing her hand would probably smell like pennies for a while Ariel chose to risk it and gently run her hand over the much-admired piece of American history. Tracing the crack with her fingers she couldn't help but scratch at the fairly new red spray paint on it.
"God bless the human race." Doc shook his head. "99% of 'em dead, but there's still one jackass alive with a spray can."
"One that's not far away." She mumbled, rubbing the still congealing paint off her fingertips. Her green eyes turned up the street, wondering if, by chance, the same tagger of the toy store had beat them there.
10K mercied the growling corpse in the driver's seat. "One thousand seventy-five," he noted. With that taken care of, the rest of the travelers stayed on guard as Doc and Garnett jump started the truck. It took only three tries before the engine sputtered and purred.
"Alright, that's it." Garnett slammed the hood closed. "Let's go! Murphy, AJ, with Warren and me." He beckoned them over. The rest of the team crowded into the pick up behind them.
"You know you could try to miss some of them instead." Garnett gently scolded.
"Why?" Warren nearly smiled. "One less zombie to kill." The truck jerked as it drove down yet another body. Truth be told, they were starting to think she enjoyed it.
Murphy, having no sympathy for the dead, was more inconvenienced by the bumpy ride jarring him around. "Leave some for Psycho-Boy Two Thousand."
"Ten Thousand." The three corrected. The four bodied jumped as a group of three crunched below the wheels. Murphy's open bottle splashing at the impact.
"Ten Thousand?" He feigned awe. "Huh, it's good to know kids today still have some goals." He tilted his head back and greedily gulped down the water to calm his nerves. He tried to turn it to Scotch by sheer will alone.
Garnett tried to keep control of the back since he could do little about Warren. "Hey, take it easy there! That's the last of your water."
"Actually it's the last of her water." Murphy nodded to Warren, looking down at a second full bottle from his side. "Mine's right here."
"Murphy!" Ariel admonished. "Give me that!" She ripped the canteen from his grip. A small shake revealed it had no more than a few drops left in it.
Warren seethed, staring the disheveled convict down. Her teeth bared in warning, she gave him one last warning at how close he was to what he deserved. "Just because we got to get you to California alive doesn't mean I can't kick your ass between here and there."
The guy they had witnessed becoming a midday meal for a few stray Zs clearly hadn't been alone. Having less luck than Murphy had at shaking off the small hoard, the driver of the electric car was more preoccupied with being eaten then following the rules of road safety. Warren swerved, narrowly missing the speeding z-ball. The truck skidded to a near crashing stop. It's weathered straps breaking and compelled by the laws of motion, the bell continued on its path. Clanging and banging, it tore through the street and those in its way. The group watched in amazement as it ripped the legs off one walker in its path, leaving the bones and boots swaying till they knocked themselves over.
Doc pulled himself out of his truck, giving a low whistle as they watched the bell go. "I'd pay money to see that again..."
A broken axle had them abandoning the truck just as quickly as they had found it. As more Zs were drawn in by the sound, the survivors were forced to flee out of the preferred path once more.
"Enjoy." Warren sighed once the grumbling of stomachs could no longer be ignored. "That's the last of the food."
Food? Ha! The single twinkie each member held seemed to mock them. Knowing very well that this might be their last meal for days, some members of the group cherished the stale cake while others, meaning Murphy, stuffed it into their mouth without another thought. With his own food gone, Murphy licked the wrapper desperately for any crumbs he'd missed. He looked around, watching the others still nibbling. He crinkled the plastic and threw it to the ground. What was one wrapper admits a city of corpses?
"God, I'm so hungry my big guts are eating my little guts." He turned to 10K on his other side admiring the twinkie he had just bit into to. "You gonna eat all of that?" He reached for it, causing 10K to stuff it into his mouth the same way Murphy previously had. "Selfish little bastard."
Having always split her own with Carly, AJ was used to minimal food. Knowing he wouldn't shut up, she tried to placate him just a bit more. The Nanny tore her own stale twinkie in half, holding the pastry to the grumbling man-child. "Here you spoiled -"
Murphy snatched the pastry from her hand and was swallowing it before she could even finish. A muffled word that may or may not have been 'thanks', though it probably wasn't, barely escaped the twinkie stuffed hole.
"You're welcome." She grumbled back at him. Leaning back against the grill of the car, she closed her eyes and listened for the plan. Around her Cassandra snuck her own twinkie into her bag, Murphy was being glared at by a disapproving Doc, and 10K glanced down at the blonde beside him. He suddenly wished he hadn't been so brash swallowing all of his own.
Garnette finished checking their supplies and joined them at the front. "We need to split up and look for food and water."
"Oh, if we can find a two-way radio or even like a satellite dish, I can try to contact that Citizen Z guy." Addy seemed eager to volunteer.
"That's good." Garnett approved. "Okay, you and Mack do that. And the rest of us will look for food. Doc, you take 10K. Warren and I will take Murphy."
"And them?" Warren nodded to the two yet to be assigned, her voice low as they watched the two.
Cassandra and Ariel had kept their distance, tension still high between them after the incident on the roof. Ariel had warned them of her suspicions of the cagey girl, the implications of which weighed heavily on his mind. Which should he trust more: the girl they had been traveling with longer who still had yet to answer for her suspicious meeting, or the girl they had just recently entrusted but had people to vouch for her?
He was torn between taking the warning seriously and wanting desperately to just chalk it up to the group finding their footing, a little tension that would ease out in time. He could only pray for the latter. They could have group therapy and a proper meet and greet when they weren't starving and surrounded by hostiles.
He suddenly remembered his own twin daughters. Pushing aside the gut-twisting pain of grief, he focused on how his wife would handle them when they fought. He called out to the unassigned girls.
"Actually..." Garnett paused in thought. "You two go with them." He pointing at Doc and the kid. The two girls glanced at each other before shuffling along, clearly not pleased with the assignment. Having given no objections, he assumed they could behave themselves a bit longer.
"Stay close, everyone. Meet back here in an hour. Let's go." He ordered. As the three groups went their separate ways, Warren quietly stopped her partner.
"Are you sure you wanna do that?" She looked at the two girls keeping their distance. "Seemed like they're at their ends already." The implication was clear. Maybe forcing them together wasn't the wisest idea...
"Yeah? Well, like it or not they need to get over it." He shrugged. He wasn't prepared for in-group fighting, not in one as small as theirs and sure as hell not this soon.
"And Cassandra?" The cage, the refinery… something in her story was ringing warning bells in Warren's head too. "We just gonna 'get over' that too?" She raised a sculpted brow.
"Till we have food?...Yeah."
It was Doc who spotted the hidden treasure. "Hey, kid." He beckoned 10K over. "Give me a hand with this, will ya?" Dingy and worn down, the satellite could have been easily missed amongst the other junk that littered the fire escape. Their height was a great advantage, both men standing atop the rusting dumpster as they tried to detach the dish.
"Just like the apocalypse to make you need a screwdriver right after you leave it in some Z's head." Doc shook his head, trying to wiggle the dish free from its perch, screwed and bolted in. His fingers strained to undo the tight fixtures until finally, they wiggled it a bit free.
Using the butt of 10Ks rifle they whacked the bolted base like a piñata. Slowly but surely, it was being beaten down and towards Docs outstretched hands.
Ariel peered up at them under the shade of her hand. "Anyone else having fifth-grade flashbacks?" She jumped out the way as some of the debris fell. Among the usual litter of soup cans and trash came a few presents from the fire escape. A swiss army knife and baggie of mysterious white pills. "Apocalyptic candy." She picked up the baggie, sliding it into Doc's satchel as she pocketed the blade. "Cool."
"I don't know why we stopped here in Philly." Ariel rolled her eyes hearing Cassandra's whine again. "We should've kept going."
"Going? Going where? We're out of food, we've got a quarter tank of gas, our ammo is a third of what it was when we left the camp, and every time I make a plan someone does something to screw it up!"
"Hey. Hey now!" Doc intervened from atop the dumpster. He held his hand out defensively, trying to calm the practically circling girls as if they were dogs about to fight. "Let's just take a moment to relax, chill, just-" Doc nodded gently, slowly spreading his hands apart to suggest they separate. Taking his advice they kind of wandered away to the two separate sides of the alleyway, each girl looking out for anything coming.
With that crisis averted he turned his attention back to the satellite. "We need to find a way to communicate with that Citizen dude. And I think Addy can do something with this dish. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and pick up porn." He grinned towards 10K.
"Never seen porn." His trivial response caused a bit of a small uproar.
"You've never seen porn?!"
With three sets of wide eyes on him, he could only shake his head. "Before my time."
Ariel's mouth dropped open, her narrowed green eyes regarding him with new suspicion. What teenage boy had never seen porn? A movie, a magazine, something...
Under her gaze, 10K's ears tinted red. He shrugged, looking to Doc for advice. "Is it good?"
The responses were immediate.
"Uh? Yeah!" Doc seemed outraged while Cassandra seemed apathetic with a shrug.
"Depends on the kind." Ariel thought aloud.
He turned towards the blonde confused. "There are different kinds?"
His reaction was priceless and Ariel couldn't help but laugh a deep belly laughter, turning away and trying to calm herself. Her response made the younger man flush red and turn back to holding the dish. The red on his face and ears only furthered a suspicion Doc had.
Doc began shouting directions loudly, the creaking of the metal dish being eased off and Ariel shouting at them to be careful, left little of the chase happening behind them audible.
It wasn't until Ariel glanced behind her to find Cassandra gone that she knew something was up.
With little trust placed in her, AJ had no trouble imagining her up to nefarious deeds. Ariel looked back at the men weighing her options. Rather than draw their attention away from the much needed satellite, she went to check it out herself.
She pulled her gun, keeping it armed and ready, just in case, as she quietly followed the end of a shadow around the corner. Running towards the continuing sound of footsteps just out of sight, she dropped low at the sound of rapid gunshots being fired. Low to the ground and aiming her weapon, she made herself be brave as she peeked 'round the corner. Her eyes brows furrowed, her eyes bulging in surprise.
Two men mowed down Z's left and right. One of the rough looking men looking vaguely familiar.
A crunched can clattered against a shifting foot. Ariel turned her gun towards the sound. This face was much more familiar, and yet, still not quite welcoming.
Cassandra hid behind the dumpster. Fear and heat warmed her already dehydrated body. Overwhelmed by the impossible odds against her, she felt her teeth grit painfully tight as she considered which method she'd prefer to die by. If she stayed, she'd be overtaken by Zs. If she moved, they'd find her and take her back to the compound, back to Tobias and the family.
Either way, she was almost certain by the end of the day she'd be left dead and somethings meal. Her eyes burned with the impossible choice. Still, she wouldn't let herself cry. It seemed her choice was made for her when a hand touched her shoulder. She'd never go down without a fight… Clutching at a rusted piece of rebar, she armed it like a knife and brought it down as she turned.
Ariel ducked from yet another one of Cassandra's swings. Barely managing to grab the girl's wrist, AJ narrowed her eyes in a glare unmatched. "You do that one more time, and I'm kicking your ass." She didn't wait for a response, dragging her by the arm into the smaller hallway alley and circling back to the others.
"What the hell was that?" She let go with a slight push.
"Forget it." The thinner girl tried to march ahead, quite literally trying to put it all behind them.
"Fuck that." She laughed. "What was that? Who were they? Why didn't you yell for help?" She tried giving her the benefit of the doubt, but still, something wasn't adding up.
"I had it covered!"
"You were weaponless and trapped behind a dumpster by two guys with machine guns. If they didn't get you the zombies about to swarm from the sound sure as hell would have. And another thing-!" She stopped to yell at the stomping off Cassandra. "Next time think before you act! They could have come back to kill us or take us or-"
Cass's brown eyes seemed to darken with a bit of bloodshot. Her voice wavered, but she still wouldn't let herself cry. "They didn't want you!"
"You don't know that!" AJ brushed her blonde hair back, gripping at her hair in frustration. She felt like she was at her wit's end dealing with a child once more. It wasn't the fact they were wrong, people were allowed to be wrong. It was the sheer, unwavering arrogance of it that had her wanting to tear her hair out.
"Yes! I do!" Cassandra screamed back hoarsely. Continuing to pick up the pace and separate herself from the other girl, Cassandra's thought ran a thousand miles a minute. She didn't know what to do. Tell them? Run? Tell them to warn them and then run? What if AJ told them?
Said girl was currently jogging to catch up with her, shouting at her to explain herself. But Cassandra continued to ignore her. Rejoining 10K and Doc, she prayed Ariel would just drop it.
"Where'd you two run off to?" Doc questioned. He and 10K had nearly shot them when they came storming out the alley like that, having assumed they'd gone off for "womanly things" as Doc called it.
"I thought I saw something. We went to check it out." Cassandra shut her up, storming passed the men as well.
Ariel's face scrunched up at the audacity to try and make her lie. "What? No!"
"No?" Doc questioned. Both he and 10k raised their brows. They looking between the two out of breath girls. Finally, they turned to AJ, waiting for her explanation.
"No. She…" Her hand raised in the direction of her human foil. "She..." Ariel couldn't bring herself to say it. Stationary at last, there was no way to hide the tears glazing those brown eyes, her pretty face scrunched in a begging look behind their backs. She mouthed a final plea.
AJ bit her lip. Her hand fell to her side, slapping against her leg as she stared off and cursed under her breath. "Fuck it." She didn't know why she did it. It was stupid. And stupid got you killed in this world, but she dropped the subject. At least for now.
She marched past them all in a huff, planning to take it up with Garnett as soon as she saw him.
It wouldn't be long.
"It's about time!" Murphy groaned.
Ariel gave him a dirty look, so focused on the acts of the girl behind her she had missed the absence of the girl before her.
"What's wrong?" Doc could not ignore the harsh vibes coming from his crew. His old blue eyes looked around, not finding his usual buddy of cheer. "Where's Addy?"
This regained the younger members' attentions.
"Missing." Warren looked at them all suspiciously.
"Is she...?" He couldn't bring himself to finish the thought.
"No." Mack's words were dark, threatening. "Taken alive." He advanced towards them.
But the small relief the words brought was fleeting. Instead, it just raised more question.
"By humans." Mack didn't look at Doc or the others. He looked to AJ, then Cassandra. AJ raised a brow back in challenge. Cassandra wouldn't meet his eye.
"Who?!" Doc prompted, twisting with the suspense.
With Cassandra pinned between Mack's unwavering glare and the truck, surrounded by the rest of the shocked group, Mack's accusation was a nail in the shutting coffin. "We thought you might know."
Her heart stopped at the insinuation. "Me? Why would I know?"
Mack revealed the camera still clutched in his hand, rolling it in his hand he displayed the small blurry screen, the kidnapper's faces paused on screen. "You recognize these guys?"
Cassandra only glanced that the proof. "No. Why would I?"
Warren cozied up to her on her other side, further intimidating the girl and reminding her she was outnumbered. "Creep on the left was one of those two bikers back in Jersey. With your friend Travis."
"Scruffy?" Their navigator spoke up. She caught Cassandra's gaze, the pieces coming together in an unflattering picture.
"I told you, I didn't know that guy. And I don't know them either." Cassandra tightened her jaw and tried to avoid eye contact.
Ariel gritted her teeth. Furious, she lurched forward taking the camera and rewinding it. Playing it from the beginning, it only took her a minute for her entire face to transform. Her eyes hardened as her pretty face tensing and sharpening under the strain of self-control. "She's lying! These guys chased her down the alley fifteen minutes ago." She tossed the camera back to Mack, her fury becoming personal.
"You told me they wanted you!" Her own voice broke at the accusation, feeling as though she'd been made a part of the betrayal against the people she had promised to help. "Did you plan this?!" Ariel took a step back, appalled at the idea.
It was the straw that broke the camel's back. With a cold fury, none of them had seen before, Mack pulled his gun and pressed it to Cassandra's temple. "You are gonna start telling me the truth right now or I am going to start blowing holes in you until you do." His hand wrapped around her throat, anchoring her to the car.
"Woah!" AJ looked to Warren to reel him in.
"Mack!" They called for him to relax.
The desperate man tightened his grip on Cassandra's throat. With a thud, her body was pressed harder into the truck, reminding her of her defenseless position. "Do you understand me?!"
Things were spinning out of control. Garnett stepped up between the two, prying Mack's fingers off Cassandra's neck. Ariel had indeed been right about Casandra...but more bloodshed wasn't going to repair their group. "Mack! Put the gun away. Put. The gun. Away." He ordered the younger man as calmly as he could manage. Pushing him off to the others, he waited until he saw Mack hand over the gun to Doc before confronting Cassandra with a less volatile touch. "You're gonna tell us everything you know about these guys. Right now."
"Or I'll shoot you." Warren cocked her own gun. Garnett closed his eyes to repress an eyeroll.
Her chin trembled, once more feeling like she was being faced with the impossible choice of how she wanted to die. "I can't go back!" Cassandra cried in desperation.
"Back where? Where? Where?! Where is she?! Where is she?!" Mack was unhinged, screaming in her face.
Once more, their own voices drowned out the sound of approaching danger.
The dominoes had been knocked over. And like all times before someone would be crushed under the last one falling. Having followed the sound of voices and shouting, a lone Z struck gold when he eyed the inattentive survivors just standing around with their back to him. Taking off at a clumsy sprint, he grabbed the blonde one closest to him.
Ariel screamed as she was grabbed from behind. Startling the others to attention. They watched as it grabbed her shoulder and arm in a vice-like grip, it's rotting mouth growling between frantic chomps at her neck. Her free hand had crossed over her chest and gripped at his jaw with all her might, keeping him away from her neck enough to void a bite but not enough for her to miss the feeling of his snarled lips grazing the raised hairs on her neck. She cried out in desperation as it overpowered her, bending her forward and making her lose her grip.
It was enough for him to get his meal.
And it was enough for 10K to get a shot.
The growling was ended by a bullet to the head. It was over as quickly as it had begun.
The Z fell back while Ariel fell forward. On her knees and shaking, she heard some of the group take off after Cassandra who had used their concern as a distraction to slip past them.
A gentle hand rested on her heaving back and Ariel was quick to push them away. Raising on shaking legs she took the brown scarf 10k had offered her with raised hands. Whipping the blood splatter and brain off the side of her face she turned back around to look at the nearly headless zombie. In rage and frustration, she kicked at its corpse. "You - mother - fucking - fuck face!" She screamed with each kick.
Angry and shaken, she let Doc pull her into a hug.
The gobs and drizzle of saliva still shimmered under the sun on her neck and shoulder. It was the closest they had seen anyone nearly been bitten. AJ slapped angrily at her neck, trying in vain to get the feeling of the zombie off her. And with a final kick and scream at the body, she described what every single one of them was feeling.
The low disbelieving mumbles from Doc was the only real sound in the tense alleyway. Ariel had remained silent since her outburst. Sitting on the hood of the truck's engine, her head hung low as she tried to calm her still racing heart. She rubbed at her neck absentmindedly.
If she focused hard enough she could swear she could feel a light indent from its teeth. The thought made her cringe under her curtain of hair. The sound of chomping teeth right in her ear would never be forgotten and would only add fuel to her ever-growing nightmare fire.
The presence of a now damp scarf in her line of sight had her look up.
"You, uh, missed a spot. A lot of spots." He pulled a face. She glared at him despite her smile. Taking the brown scarf he held out to her for a second time today, she gently rubbed at her face. It was cool and refreshing and helped her feel so much better. Looking up at him for inspection he thin his lips as if thinking before hesitantly raising a finger to point where she had missed. "Ahh..."
She sighed in defeat and hung her head.
She held the rag up to him in question, assuming he had wanted it back. So color her surprised when he gently folded the damp edge and picked a piece of skull from her hair before rubbing at the crusted blood by her ear.
"Thanks." She said quietly. It was gentle, and kind, and made her see the sniper as something other than 'the silent one'. He had done a good job at avoiding eye contact thus far, but as soon as she thanked him he couldn't avoid it any longer. Meeting her blue eyes and seeing them crinkle with a sweet smile, 10k nervously nodded. "Not just for this." She clarified. "But earlier...ya know...when you kept me from turning Z." She tried to make him smile, wondering if his stoic expression could be broken, too. "You'd all be lost without me...literally. Ah! He can smile!" She called out.
Feeling his slip up, 10K flexed his jaw to keep from looking like an idiot. It wasn't that funny, and they both knew it. He sobered himself, trying not to let the heat in his cheeks show as he pulled away from the pretty blonde.
"Well, I think I'm funny," Ariel mumbled to herself.
"Hey, they're back," Doc called from the other end of the truck. All attention was on Cassandra as once more she was placed in the middle of their group.
"So are we leaving yet?" Murphy jumped up onto the hood with Ariel.
"No!" He was silenced.
"So who took her?" Doc asked.
"...Cannibals?" Ariel leaned forward to hear better.
"Yeah." Warren nodded.
"People eating canni-"
"Yeah. Cannibal-cannibals." She snapped.
"Oh. Okay." Ariel nodded. "Yeah..." Her face twisted up in thought before she shrugged. "Just turning out to be that kinda day, I guess" She sighed. She scratched at her neck nervously.
"Reminds me of this joke!" Murphy laughed, drawing their attention. "There was this farmer. Had the smartest pig in the world, Arnold. This pig could read and do math. Arnold was famous." He tried not to laugh through the story, looking at their unamused faced. "And then, one day, the farmer's friend, he comes over and he sees Arnold tripping around on three legs. And he says to the farmer, 'hey, what happened to poor Arnold?' And the farmer says "Smart pig like that...you don't eat him all at once!" Murphy gave a wheezing laugh, tickled pink at his own joke.
Ariel waved a graceful 'presenting' hand in his direction with a tight smile. "The savior of the human race, everybody." She gave three slow claps, her sarcasm dripping with distaste.
"Oh, what? Too soon?" He looked at the rest of them. "Tough crowd." He mumbled. Ariel pushed him off the hood with her foot.
His disgruntled cry went uncared for.
"We didn't start out as cannibals."
Cassandra's words held little value to most member of the group. Still, with Addy on the line, they played along.
"Cannibals? How is that even possible?" Garnett questioned. "Everything's infected with the zombie virus."
"If you kill it and eat it, you get the live virus. But if you eat it alive..." Cassandra didn't have to finish.
"Oh god, if I had anything other than a half a twinkie in my stomach I would hurl." Ariel put her head between her knees trying to block out the images in her head.
That comment, combined with the ludicrous stares they gave, was exactly what Cassandra was afraid of. She tried desperately to make them understand. "We were people just trying to survive! Tobias saved me. First from the Zs. Then from the worst of humanity. He was a good man." The past tense didn't go unnoticed. "Then his wife got sick. She just couldn't take it anymore. And he was never the same after that. When Black Summer came and everyone else in the world was starving he swore he would do whatever it took to keep us alive. And he did."
"I'm going back for Addy!" Mack was tired of listening to her. His path was quickly blocked. "Garnett, do not try to stop me!"
"Nobody's gonna to stop you. We're all going back!" He announced to the rest of them. "We just need a plan."
"You don't understand! These people are worse than Zs! They'll kill all of you!" Cassandra screamed. She had the guilt of one person on her conscious. She couldn't stand the guilt of all of their deaths.
"Yeah, she's right," Murphy spoke up. "We need to look at the big picture."
"Shut up!" The group turned on him once more.
"Do you know where they've taken her?"
Cassandra looked around at their faces, her shoulders dropping with defeat. "Yeah...but it's not gonna be easy."
"How do you think it's going?" Doc looked out in the direction the rest of the group had gone. Out of the way of danger he and Ariel were once more entrusted with the fate of Murphy should they not come back. The clear sky and open field left the bright sun shining down on them without mercy. The truck becoming too hot to just wait in, the three shuffled about on the dirt road, waiting for sight or sound of their friends.
"We're waiting out here in the open while the rest of our group is negotiating a hostage release with cult-y cannibals. Overall I have to say that the day could have gone better." Her stomach twisted in hunger pain. "Oh, and we still have no food." Ariel kicked at a stray can. The old can had tarnished and rusted, collapsing under the strain of her cowboy boot. It was a sad reminder of how rare food had become.
"Well, you know what they say: When in Philly, feast like the Phillies do!"
"I swear I will dry heave on you." She threatened Murphy.
"Oh come on! How can we ever trust Cannibal Cassy?!"
"Because she...because..." Unable to think of anything she could only respond. "Shut up, Murphy!"
"Fine. But don't come whining to me when you find her nibbling on your sweat salted leg one night!"
"Murphy!" Doc and Ariel yelled before they were silenced by gunfire.
The trio looked on, waiting for a sign things had possibly worked out in their favor. "That didn't sound good."
"So you guys just left her there?" She was expecting someone to get shot, or them to encounter some Z's, not trade off Cassandra for Addy. The later of which was in the other alley changing out of her hooker robe and into spare clothes.
"We didn't have a choice," Garnette yelled through gritted teeth in frustration. She was shorter and thinner than him and half his size, but the unnerving glare that she kept aiming at him was starting to burn into his skin.
"Hey, we about given up on you." They stopped arguing to look at the changed Addy, wiping her tears away.
"I actually gave up on you about an hour ago." Murphy showed a rare moment of humanity, trying to make the redhead feel better with his usual poorly timed jokes.
"Never thought I'd be happy to see your sad ass again." She smiled for the first time since they got her back. She had obviously seen something she wasn't yet ready to talk about and they were all trying to get over it and get out as soon as possible.
"Let's get out of here, guys." Mack opened the door for his girlfriend. Yet she, along with Warren and Ariel, froze.
"We're not we're not leaving her there, are we?" Addy looked to the rest of the group.
"Addy. She lied to us." Mack turned to logic to persuade her. At which point Ariel raised a finger, to draw attention.
"Okay I think we all know I wasn't her number one cheerleader, but come on!" Ariel shifted restlessly in her boots. While the cannibal cult had indeed been a curveball no one saw coming, she now felt she had only lit the torches. She couldn't very well let them sharpen the pitchforks in front of her. "She did what she did to survive and she…" Ariel felt her stomach turn. "She fucked up, okay, but she tried to make it right… she DID make it right." She turned to Garnette reminding them they were only here because Cass has sacrificed herself, even knowing her fate.
Mack saw nothing but Addy and the life without her he almost had to endure. Any reasoning was useless to him. "Yeah, but first it almost got us killed!"
"We can't do that. We can't just leave her there."
"Come in the truck with me. We'll talk about this when you're safe." Mack tried to pull Addy into the car. The redhead pulling her hand back.
"I am not going."
Garnett tried to end the discussion. "Look, he's right. We almost all got killed going back for you."
"Yeah, she's a freakin' cannibal, and she got what she deserved." Murphy crudely butted in. Ariel only had to give him a look to make him shut up and back away.
"She did what she had to do to survive. And you of all people would have done the same."
"Maybe you should jump down from your high horse." AJ glowered at Mack and Murphy. "We don't know much more than each others name. Hell, we don't even know your name!" She turned to 10K, the young man going wide-eyed at the anger she directed at him. "We don't know why you were in prison." She pointed another finger at Murphy. "And we don't know what any of each other did or thought of doing to survive."
"Like leaving someone behind's a first for you?" He snorted to himself.
"What did you say?!" AJ nearly charged at Murphy, a look of cold disbelieving fury on her face. 10K grabbed at her belt, holding her as Doc stepped between them to play peacekeeper.
"Come on, they're right! We cannot leave her back there! You men don't know what it's like." Warren shouted, shaming them.
"What is this, a chick thing now?"
"Yes!" The three women yelled at him. AJ wrenched herself from 10Ks loose hold. The girls seemed to converge on one side of their party, the men dumbly standing on the other. Addy stared down Mack, Warren stared down Doc and Garnett, while Ariel had Murphy and 10K trying not to meet her eyes. Their unwavering fury made them all cave.
"Alright, I want to help her, too. But we're not gonna beat a 50caliber machine gun. It's gonna tear us to pieces before we get to the fence."
Warren turned to the kid. "How good a shot are you?"
10k took aimed and shot of a single round, hitting a Z directly in the knee and bring it down. "Pretty good." He shrugged, then continued his ritual. "One thousand eighty-four. Oh yeah, and a half."
"A half?" Doc asked him.
"Okay. Okay...uh...ah!" Ariel perked up as an idea sprung to mind. "I have an idea."
With a sly smile, she turned towards Addy. "Something our little cannibal friend taught us. Think you can work your magic and contact Citizen Z?"
"What are you thinking?"
Ariel gave a clever smile and looked to Doc. "How are good are you at being creepy?"
He shrugged, stroking his beard. "Eh, pretty good." A small moment of reminiscence grossed his relaxed features. He really missed the 70s.
"Then this might just work."
"Are you sure this is gonna work?"
"Nope." Ariel's hands shook, finding the channel Citizen Z would be playing on.
"You know this is gonna get us all killed, right?" Murphy hissed at them from the back seat of the truck.
"At least we're going out with some style." The static finally gave way to a familiar tune. "Crank it up!" Warren ordered Mack. The classical music was near deafening from above them, drawing every Z within a mile towards them.
"Here they come!"
"If you got any prayers, now's the time." Warren floored the gas peddle, leading them towards the camp. Through the air, the Ride Of The Valkyries blared through the alarm speaker at near full volume. The truck charged forward… Victory or Valhalla.
10K and Garnett were already at the CCC (Crazy-Cannibal-Cultists) camp, ready to fire. Inside, Doc was posing as a loner looking for some company. He would get Cassandra, wait for the signal, the music playing, and then ambush the guards they would no doubt have. He and Cassandra would then take cover and wait for those coming in the truck to pick them up, while the Zs they lead to the camp overpowered the cannibals and 10K took out the gunners.
It perhaps wasn't the foolproof plan they needed, but it was all they had at the moment. Breaking through the front gate, they heard the gunfire begin, starting and stopping and starting again as the cult tried to kill both the rescue group and the zombies overrunning them.
"In! In! In!" Ariel motioned yelled for them to run to the truck. Opening the door, Cassandra came crashing into Ariel, the blonde reaching to close the door behind her as Warren floored the gas peddle back out of the camp. Slowing down enough for Garnett and 10K to jump into the flatbed with Doc, they didn't look back in their getaway. They cut the music, leaving the Zs and CCs to their fate as they drove off into the sunset if only for a while.
A few miles later, with no sign of the crazies, Cassandra allowed herself to feel overwhelmingly grateful. Between Ariel and Addy, the girls who had been most affected by her lies who in turn became two of her closest allies, Cassandra nearly cried. Turning to the blonde she had butted head with the past week, Cassandra felt a heavyweight be lifted from her shoulders at her secrets being revealed and accepted. Still, she owed her an apology. "About-"
Ariel stopped her, sensing what she was trying to do. "We're cool. You did what you had to to survive. You're a badass." She put her hand over Cassandra's, hoping to bring her some small comfort in her still important role in their group. "And I'm glad you're with us."
Cassandra took Ariel's hand, clutching it tightly as she allowed herself to rest her head on Addy's shoulder. From the radio, Citizen Z began a much-needed speech directed not only at them but whatever other survivors were still out there.
"Hope my peeps down in the Philly area can hear this. Thought I'd spin some blues to travel by. And to anybody else out there within the sound of my voice. I hope some slide guitar gets you through another messed up day of death and destruction. Everybody out there, whether you're hiding in a cave or running for your life, just keep doing what you got to do to stay alive. Because in the end, that's the only way we're gonna win this Zombie Apocalypse thing. Bash 'em, slash 'em, bust 'em, and burn 'em. Whatever it takes. Just stay alive. No questions asked."
Please Review :) Who else lives for the little Ar-my/10KJ moments?