If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

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coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Mon Jun 20, 2016 12:39 am

*old deleted Bert part*
Last edited by coinsruledude on Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:55 am

*old deleted Bert part*
Last edited by coinsruledude on Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Sun Sep 11, 2016 3:03 am

Bert: 1
(Starting new numbers for the revised short)

[Monday, April 20th, 2029 – 1:09 PM]


Judging from the number of bullet casings they were stepping on, it was obvious to Bert that the firefight had occurred right where they were standing. The bodies of two allies were also present, bloodied and already partially decayed after just a week from the warm Georgian weather and the bugs that accompanied it. They were able to take three of their dead with them the night of the fight, but the two others – and Wade, who they assumed was dead too – had to be left behind in their haste to retreat.

Bert helped his son load both bodies into the back of an armored SUV while another two men from the compound began searching the surrounding area for Wade. The bodies needed to be buried in order to give some of the survivors some closure, especially after an additional four people fled in disgust after the ordeal and two more committed suicide, both of which were by gun. Wade was the only one unaccounted for, and though some of the survivors blamed him for the deaths, they still wanted to find him. Eventually they did. It was relatively simple once they caught sight of a small pack of beagles, likely the litter of some former pets, tearing into something in a backyard bordering the road. His corpse was badly disfigured from the elements and the dogs, but regardless they dragged him back to the SUV so they could take him home and bury him.

“Why did we listen to you?” Bert asked himself while Wade’s body was being loaded. “Why did I listen to you? We could’ve killed them instead of torturin’ them and they wouldn’t have been able to escape.” Once the bodies were loaded and some useful items, mainly the deceased’s firearms, were salvaged from the fight scene, the two SUVs they brought in the search departed for the warehouse. Bradley and his father drove the SUV that wasn’t carrying bodies.
“This won’t solve anything.” Bradley said. He had been angrily defending Cora’s actions ever since she admitted to letting the people go. He went along with it during the ordeal, but after it was over he seemed to recognize what they had done.
“Maybe it will. We all want them buried where they belong.”
“We have Emory on guard duty now, for ****’s sake. Are a dozen people just going to show up and join up without any trouble?”
“No, but there’s nothin’ else we can do!” Bert yelled, getting aggravated. “We have to deal with what we’ve got now and just let what’s done be done! I know things are bad, and we lost a lot of people, but we need to stop and collect ourselves before we go leavin’.”
“You do want to leave, though, right?”
“Yeah, I do. We need to help everyone else get over the troubles first though.”

When the vehicles returned to the warehouse, there was nobody waiting outside to greet them. The SUV carrying the bodies pulled to the back of the warehouse where a small makeshift graveyard had been created. There were no tombstones or coffins, just holes in the ground and the back of an old stone bench with names chiseled into it. Cora and Kaylee were talking by the graves when the bodies arrived, and they quieted while they were unloaded and carefully lowered into waiting holes. Bert and Bradley joined them and eventually helped start cover the bodies with dirt using shovels.
“What a waste this all was.” Cora stated quietly, referring to sending men out to get the bodies.
“Don’t start again.” Bradley warned.
“I’m not.”
“It sure sounds like you are,” Bert commented. Cora gave him a dirty look; the relationship between her and Bert, her father-in-law, had become strained ever since they brought the strangers back to the warehouse and held them prisoner. Part of Bert blamed the resulting firefight and the imminent collapse of the compound on her for freeing the other survivors, which she admitted to doing without regret. Emotions were running high for everyone. The deaths, the suicides, and the people who left were tragic enough and hit very hard, but it was worse to interact with the remaining members of the compound. Fracturing their group and costing it half of their manpower was never something Bert intended to do by bringing the people back, but suddenly all the blame was being pointed his way and he found himself with no excuse. He regretted nothing except not killing the strangers sooner, a sentiment held by his son and a few other people. “How about you get a shovel and help?”

Cora didn’t say anything else, likely because anything else would have been too inflammatory to not end in another huge fight, of which there had been several over the past several days. She also didn’t help shovel dirt. Cyril eventually came out to help, but he didn’t say anything, nor did anyone say anything to him. Once the graves were filled in, everyone went back inside to avoid the cloudy sky and apparent incoming rainfall.

[10:09 PM]

There was no point in doing anything but staying in the warehouse, so nobody went out looting or scouting. It rained a little, but it cleared up by nightfall. Bert slept for most of the day, as did several other survivors. When he woke up, he found Bradley lying in his cot on the other side of their shared room, which used to be one of the offices.
“What time is it?”
“Ten.”
“I guess I’ll go on guard duty then.”
“Emory’s out there now.”
“What? How long as he been out?”
“Two or three hours.”
“Son of a ****,” Bert said angrily, throwing on his boots and grabbing his shotgun. “Next time wake me up and don’t let him stay on guard duty for more than a few minutes.”
“I tried talking to him and taking his shift. Cora tried. Cyril tried. He doesn’t listen to anyone but you.” Bradley said defensively. Bert immediately walked to the front of the warehouse and confronted Emory, who was sitting in his wheelchair with a pistol in hand.

“Emory, you aren’t the one who needs to do this.” Bert stated, approaching his friend.
“I need to do something useful, right? I can still shoot a gun.” Emory replied.
“Honestly I doubt that. You need to go back inside and rest, alright?”
“I’m not just going to sit and be a drain! I’ve done that long enough, and now this group needs me more than ever and I’m not going to go nothing!” Emory said angrily.
“I’m tellin’ you, you aren’t any help out here!” Bert replied loudly. “No one’s blamin’ you for bein’ sick, but you aren’t the one who needs to be on guard duty, or any duty. Your only job should be staying rested so you don’t drop dead tomorrow! Things here are bad enough, so we don’t need you dyin’ too or workin’ yourself harder than necessary. Emory, as a friend, as a father, I’m askin’ you to not bother. Bradley will cover your shift, right?”
“Yeah, I will.”
“See? Can you please go back inside and go to sleep?” Bert asked. Emory tried to protest further, but once he saw the looks he was getting in response, he abandoned his position to Bradley and wheeled himself back inside the warehouse, clearly not happy. Bert sighed and thanked his son before going back into the building. He dug around in his personal belongings for a while, which were haphazardly scattered all over the area designated to be his bedroom, for a pack of cigarettes. He found one loose in the bottom of his backpack, so he exited the side door of the warehouse to smoke it. He turned around and checked to make sure Emory was actually going to sleep before shutting the door, turning around, and noticing the three SUVs and an APC parked ten feet from him, just far enough away to be hidden for a split second while his eyes adjusted to the complete darkness outside. A dozen men heavily armored from head to toe were standing in formation in front of him, weapons ready. He could see big flags fluttering from the back of the SUVs, and although the night was obscuring their patterns, he dropped the cigarette and slowly raised his hands in surrender to whoever they were.
Last edited by coinsruledude on Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:39 pm

Bert: 2

“We’re going to have a chat with your people inside,” one of the men said. In the darkness, Bert could make out the man’s garb, which included a simple tactical vest and padded gray armor emblazoned with red stripes to signify rank, along with several other emblems and silver buttons. He had a polished chrome revolver in his hand and a long curved sword on his hip. “You’re going to go inside and gather everyone in your group into the center of the building, okay? There won’t be weapons in your hands, and then you’ll come get us once everyone’s together. Every entrance is being watched, so you’d best listen or everyone will die.”
“Alright, okay,” Bert said, slowly backpedaling to the side entrance with his hands raised. “I’m goin’. I’ll come back when I have everyone.” He entered the warehouse and immediately ordered everybody to go to the center of the building near their storage space, giving them a short warning not to panic. As he did so, he tried to think of a way out of the situation, but he knew there was nothing they could do. Large military vehicles could only be maintained by the Eastern Republic so far into the apocalypse, so he simply accepted it and ordered everyone to gather up. Emory was unaware of any trouble at the front entrance, but Bert assumed the Easterners had people stationed just out of sight in the darkness, ready to pounce if they ran. Emory complied with Bert’s orders and wheeled himself back inside and joined the others, at which point Bert went to the side entrance and grudgingly let the Easterners inside.

The people of the warehouse didn’t know what to expect when Bert talked to them, so seeing the strangers march in and spread out in a perimeter around them was shocking and terrifying. Bert tried his best to keep them from freaking out, but he could tell from the looks in their eyes that it wasn’t working. Everybody at the warehouse remembered the ASF and the atrocities they engaged in, and they also knew about their transition into the Eastern Republic through killing several convoys that passed through the area over the past several years, which Bert silently suspected was the cause of the visit. As the dozen or so Easterners spread throughout the warehouse to search it and stand guard over their new captives, the survivors got a better look at them. Most were clad in head-to-toe gray and black armor; their limbs were protected by thick metal plates that were shaped to each body part and covered with thick fabric. Their torsos had vests for magazines and grenades, along with much bulkier armor plates in place underneath. Their headgear varied between gas masks with connected tanks on their backs, generic helmets of Kevlar and steel, and nothing at all. Despite the armor scheme shared between the men and women, Bert noticed that each person had a little of their own personality embedded in their armor. Similar to how the soldiers in Vietnam expressed themselves by writing slogans and doodles on their helmets, the Easterners did the same thing with their own slogans and doodles.

In terms of weaponry, they carried a mixture of heavy and light machine guns, the shapes of which Bert barely recognized. The blonde man clad in light armor began speaking once all of his people were inside.

“Ladies, gentlemen, you can call me Ruben. We’ve been aware of your presence for quite a while, but it wasn’t until recently that we managed to pinpoint where it was. ‘Northern Georgia’ is a big place. I’m not going to waste time: you probably know why we’re here. Two of our convoys have gone missing in this region over the course of three years, and we just so happened to find the remains of all their vehicles and bodies a few miles north of this settlement of yours. I’m only going to ask you once. Does that ring a bell, or are we in the wrong place?”
“If they were wearin’ armor like yours, then yeah, maybe,” Bert admitted, getting a dirty look from Cyril, Bradley, and several others from the warehouse. “But they fired on us first.”
“Lucky for you, we really don’t care who engaged who,” Ruben said. “I’ve killed my fair share of ASF, and so has everyone else in the region. We were everywhere, and the only way to expand was to shake hands with people we’ve fought with. The old ASF might not have acted like that, but we’re not the ASF anymore.”
“We don’t care who you say you are now,” Emory said defiantly. “You’ll kill us all the same. It doesn’t matter. Just do it already if you’re going to do it.”

“This has happened a lot as we’ve consolidated the East Coast – outsiders come kill us, we kill them, everyone’s happy,” Ruben said, slowly pacing in front of the warehouse group. “Unbeknownst to you, we’ve had people watching for a few days now, scoping you out, and we’re confident none of you like it here. We can hear the yelling, the arguments. You have an option besides die, and that’s replacing the men you’ve killed.”
“You mean join you?” Bert asked.
“Yes. Hundreds, if not thousands, of loose survivors like you are admitted into our country every year. It might not look like it, but there are a lot of people left in this hemisphere. Like I said, you won’t have a stigma of being murderers because you’ve just done what everyone has done. You did what you needed to survive out here. It’s different once you’re in society again, once you’re in a county again, but out here, living like this? Hell, I don’t blame you for killing for a few bullets or a can of beans.”
“Will you kill us if we say no?” Cyril asked.
“Maybe. It depends on what the group consensus is.”
“Where will we go if we say yes? Will we just be let loose in your borders as new citizens or something?” Bert asked curiously.
“All men and women who we deem physically fit are required to serve four to six years of mandatory military service, depending on how long your training is. Once your service is completed, you’re free to do whatever you want, live wherever you want, work whatever job you want, or stay in the military, but you might be drafted in times of crisis. I can tell by looking that almost none of you will avoid service so expect that.”
“Alright, I’m in. Where do I sign up?” Bert said quickly, clasping his hands together. His response garnered several insults and shocked statements from the warehouse survivors. “At least with these people we won’t be livin’ out of a box anymore! We’ve been out here for so long on our own that four years in the military will be over easily.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about ‘easy’.” one of Ruben’s soldiers warned.
“Bullshit. I can handle it. My son can handle it. We’ve gotten through worse. We’ve taken out hordes, apparently killed your brethren, all sorts of things. If it’s a chance to live a normal life again, goddamnit, sign me up, I say! I might be fifty-one, but I can feel twenty more fightin’ years in me.”
“Then you can handle it without going with them.” Cyril told Bert.
“If we don’t, they’ll kill us, so either die now or die later. I pick later.” Bert replied.
“You’ll have to pass a mental evaluation before you’re allowed in as well, just to make sure you won’t become a mass shooter.”
“We’re the ones who need to pass mental exams?” Emory shouted indignantly. “Your people have slaughtered and raped across the whole continent for years! You can’t polish a turd and tell me it won’t smell like ****! Shame on you.”

Ruben just shrugged his shoulders and turned to one of his comrades to talk in private, leaving the warehouse survivors to make their decision. They were still being watched by other Easterners, so there was no element of privacy, making the conversation somewhat difficult since they had to mention the strangers while being stared at by the strangers.
“Emory, we’re all going with these people.” Bert began.
“Speak for yourself,” Cyril said. “I’m not spending a night with anyone like them. I’d rather risk getting shot.”
“It’s not a risk, it’s pretty much a guarantee,” Bradley said to Cyril. “This is our chance to leave this place for good for greener pastures, so I’m with you, Dad.”
“Brad, no!” Cora began. “I don’t…I don’t know!”
“Die now or die later.” Bert said.
“I guess they can’t be all bad,” Andy said. “They must have something going for them if they’re still around, right? They haven’t killed each other off, so they must have laws and rules.”
“Absolutely correct.” one of the nearby soldiers confirmed.
“I would take the deal if I were you,” one of the other soldiers added. “We’re all **** people too, you know.”
“Animals is what you are.” Emory said venomously.
“At least with us you’d wither away in a hospital high on painkillers, old man. Maybe get you a new wheelchair.” the soldier said coarsely.
“He’d be taken care of if you join. Our health care’s pretty good.” Ruben said, returning to the conversation.

~

Within fifteen minutes the last few holdouts, Emory and Cyril, were convinced to accept the offer of recruitment by the Easterners. The following hour was spent stripping the warehouse of everything and packing it into the remaining armored SUVs that the warehouse survivors had left. They spent a few minutes saying goodbye at the graves out back under the supervision of a pair of the heavily armored soldiers, one of whom surprised Bert by asking a few questions about the deceased and giving his condolences.

Bert remained on edge the entire time, expecting a bullet to enter his skull at any moment to end the cruel joke being played on them by the Easterners. The bullet never came, and eventually they were driving away in their SUVs, slowly following the armored vehicles away from the dark and abandoned warehouse where so many years had been spent waiting for the next zombie or bandit to wander into the fence, which was partially knocked over seconds later because no one had opened the front gate for the tanks. He didn’t know what was going to happen next, but Bert knew two things: he was with his family and they were going east.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:52 am

Bert: 3

[Monday, April 20th, 2029 – 5:09 AM]

Bert stayed up all night as the Easterner convoy drove them to their homeland. He wasn’t in the frame of mind to sleep with soldiers sitting beside him – others from the Georgian encampment were, but he wasn’t. The ASF and their atrocities were too engrained for him to simply let it go, and he was second-guessing their decision from the moment the warehouse disappeared from view. There was nothing to go back to since they helped the Easterners strip it of supplies, so he knew they had no choice but to sit and wait.

He, Emory, and their kids rode in one of the infantry transport vehicles with several of the armored soldiers. Their weapons had been confiscated before being allowed inside, so some of the soldiers felt safe enough to take a few pieces of armor off and sleep while their companions stayed wide awake and vigilant. There was no way to tell where they were going or even the terrain they were passing through since the only views outside were the firing ports, which were closed, and the windshield, which was segregated into the driver’s section of the vehicle. Bert could feel the bumps in the road, some bigger than others, but after some time, possibly hours, he felt one specific speed bump and all of a sudden the road smoothed out. It was smooth all the way to the end of the ride. When the vehicles stopped, they started up again soon after, and Bert assumed it was a checkpoint of some kind. After another stop, they were finally unloaded from the vehicles into some kind of warehouse. A handful of Easterner jeeps were waiting for the arrival of the convoy outside the old petroleum storage facility they stopped at. Ruben gathered Bert’s people and spoke to them for a short time.

“Starting now, you’re all subordinates of the Eastern Republic Army. You’ll speak when spoken to and you’ll address every single person you interact with as Sir or Ma’am, since you’re literally lower on the food chain than civilians. Welcome to Charleston, the political, economic, and military capital of the Eastern Republic. For now, you should just enjoy the ride.”

The new Easterners were loaded into the jeeps. Two soldiers were present in every vehicle to ensure nobody started trouble. Bert and the others finally got a chance to look out the windows, and although it was still dark outside, they could see enough to paint a picture of the city. As far as Bert could tell, there was no visible downtown area with skyscrapers stretching into the sky, which made sense to him, since Charleston never had such tall buildings before anyway. A suburban area was the first place they passed through, and it looked like a fantastic place to live. There were no zombies, no burnt-out buildings, and no trash piled up in the streets, which was the sight they had become so accustomed to around Fairmount. As the vehicles moved south, they passed through more suburbs and a small commercial district that stretched for a few blocks. It was full of shops and stores that were similar to those from before the outbreak, except most of them were shrouded in darkness from a distinct lack of streetlamps. Bert even saw a sign for a bar, and suddenly he remembered all those years of nothing but rainwater. A large building situated on the coast was their destination, and the vehicles unloaded the new recruits in a dark parking lot.

“If you’re wondering where exactly you are, this is an old F.L E.T.C. center. It’s adequate for what you’ll be used for. We don’t get many new recruits from the Charleston area, so you’ll be here training alongside your friends and family, which is usually the case for groups like yours anyway,” Ruben commented, his tone of voice becoming even more leveled and authoritative than before. “Your schedule for the day is the following: in half an hour you’ll be tested for several critical diseases and basic health to ensure your physical and mental competency. You’ll also be subject to a background check. Assuming you pass all of that with flying colors, a preliminary physical examination this afternoon will determine if you’re useful to us. If you have questions, ask them now.”
“Will we get food between now and the afternoon test, sir?” Bradley asked.
“No. I hope you had a big dinner last night.”
“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think my father-in-law will be able to skip so many meals.” Bradley continued, gesturing to Emory, whose wheelchair had been left behind before they left their encampment in Georgia. He looked like he was struggling just from standing and walking the short distance from the jeeps.

“Well, he’s obviously going to fail the physical in a half-hour, so his regime will be different than yours. He’ll be fine.” Ruben replied.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:49 am

Bert 4

[Thursday, September 17th, 2030 – 8:09 AM]

Bert looked at himself in the mirror one more time to make sure he looked presentable. His gray hair was cut short, he was clean-shaven for the first time since basic training, and he had gained a bit of weight as well after being dangerously underweight for so many years. He and Bradley had finally been called on to join the war against Oregon and Eureka, but the Flannigan-Gibson family had been expecting the recruitment letters for months, so it didn’t come as a shock to anyone. They were just finishing a temporary leave granted to them by the Eastern Defense Front, the land-based arm of the ER’s military. The father and son were ready and willing to fight, having been groomed for battle from the first day they set foot within Charleston. Rigorous physical activity and desensitization training became the norm for them during training, and they both kept up the habit of exercising regularly to stay in shape; Bert felt better at fifty-four than he did at forty.

“Are you ready to go?” Bert asked, once he exited his bedroom and entered the kitch. Bradley, Cora, and Emory were all waiting there.
“Are you?” Bradley asked.
“I’m not gettin’ any more ready than right this second. I’m nervous, I’ll be honest.”
“Yeah, me too. We’ve never been the group that’s out fighting everyone.”
“We’ve had our share.”
“Not on this scale. Not organized in an army. At least we’ll have everyone else on our side, right?”
“Exactly. The war’s going to turn in our favor as soon as there’s more of us on the front lines.” Bert said confidently. He and Bradley didn’t have to pack anything since they were heading off to the front lines, so they just had to wait until their recruitment ceremony started at noon. It was an event specific to Charleston and surrounding villages, since whenever the military recruited, a healthy chunk came from the area since it was by far the largest population center, holding almost a third of the country’s total population. It became tradition to wave the men goodbye.

They were dressed for the event, wearing tight-fitting long-sleeved shirts, rugged pants, and heavy-duty boots. Their uniform was jet black with the telltale red stripes crisscrossing the fabric. Bert knew from training that the skimpy ceremonial garb was simply considered their undergarments; the actual armor they would be wearing was much bulkier and gave much more protection. What really made Bert happy and relieved was that he and Bradley were to be placed in the same fighting bloc, 67th Company 5th Brigade. Although brigades were routinely split and rejoined since they contained upwards of five thousand menatarms, companies were much more cohesive as a smaller unit, meaning the father and son were likely to fight in the same battles repeatedly and therefore not face aggravation and stress about the unknown fate of the other.

“I’m going to be a nervous wreck for the next month, I can already tell.” Cora commented. She was clearly tired since he had barely slept since the recruitment letters arrived.
“The same story’s being told all over the city, so you won’t be alone in it.” Bradley said, pulling her into a quick hug.
“The war will stop as soon as Oregon stops sending bodies at Texas,” Emory reassured. He was no longer confined to a wheelchair; he had been diagnosed with stage 1B stomach cancer upon his entry to the ER, but after a surgery and some limited chemotherapy, he had bounced back from what seemed to be a downward spiral. “You’ve seen the news, heard the numbers. We might lose Houston, but every step Oregon takes from there on out will get progressively harder.”
“We’ll take out as many as we can, I can assure you that.” Bert laughed.
“I heard Pope is going to be here for the ceremony.” Cora mentioned.
“I heard that too. I kinda want to see him speak in person, see if he’s all he’s cracked up to be.” Emory replied, sipping a mouthful of freshly-brewed coffee.

[12:00 PM]

The family left the house a few minutes before noon, giving themselves plenty of time to walk to the Government Center in the downtown area. Bert and Bradley were the only ones who had been there before, and it was just once when they finished training. They were living on the outer edge of Park Circle, the most desirable neighborhoods in Charleston. It was in close proximity to the Government Center, which meant little crime and decent access to commercial and health needs. The Flannigan-Gibson family managed to acquire a small house near the old elementary school, which had been turned into a secondary staging ground for locally garrisoned Reavers – the most highly trained and feared special forces unit in the Eastern Republic. Park Circle itself was well-maintained as well; the landscaping was taken care of and even unoccupied houses, of which there were few, were cleaned up and presentable. Trash pickup was a problem for some inexplicable reason, and it often ended up not being picked up for weeks at a time.

After a short jaunt under the Clyde Pope Expressway, which used to be the Mark Clark Expressway, they joined the crowds that were attending the ceremony.

The Government Center was located in what used to be a pair of single-story, U-shaped buildings; one used to be a scientific research center and the other had been home to an engineering firm. In the parking lots surrounding the buildings, there were often tents and temporary shelters erected for events occurring in the city, but for the recruitment ceremony, there was just a few ropes indicating where civilians should stand. With over three hundred people being taken from Charleston at once to go fight, there was a substantial number of people waiting for the event to begin. Bert and Bradley made their way to where the rest of the soldiers-to-be were congregating while Cora and Emory joined the fray of civilians; President Pope was supposed to speak at a podium positioned in front of the main entrance of the northern building, which happened to be at the bottom of the structure’s U-bend. Civilians stretched from the parking lot across Remount Road and into the field on the opposite side. There were a few televisions set up in a few locations so people in the back could see the full event. All in all it was a huge gathering.

The recruits were eventually ordered to line up in rows from north to south, creating a pathway for the president to approach the podium. A stressed-looking brigadier with metals and ranks adorning his uniform was ordering them around loudly.
“We need this perfect, so get your **** asses in line,” he swore. “You, go two more rows back. You’re too tall to be in the front…”

Eventually the intercom system set up outside the buildings issued three loud beeps and everybody was immediately silenced.

“Ladies and gentlemen, President and Commander-in-Chief Clyde Sanford Pope.”

The televisions switched from black screens to a camera feed of President Clyde Pope and his entourage approaching the ceremony from the north. At the front of the pack was Pope himself. He was garbed in a full set of Easterner armor rather than the armorless uniforms Bert, Bradley, and the other recruits were wearing. He had shaped pieces of armor adorning his limbs, and he had on heavy-duty black gloves, boots, and pants as well, but his head was left unobscured. His gray hair was styled in a crew cut and you could tell he hadn’t shaved in a while due to thick stubble on his neck and jaw. In addition to being armored, he was riding his horse, Hermes. The stallion was uninteresting in most ways. He was brown with a brown leather saddle to hold Pope in place, along with a pair of blinkers to keep his attention to the front during the ceremony. However, even just the occasional flashy appearance with Pope was enough for the name Hermes to become popular among the dogs and cats owned by Easterners; they respected their leader and they glorified his pet. Hermes didn’t wear any armor because he never went onto the battlefield, but he bore a nasty scar on his flank from an unknown injury that occurred before he became Pope’s.

A dozen armored soldiers flanked Hermes, but their armor was distinctively different from other Easterner armor in that the colors were inverted; instead of black fabric with occasional red stripes, it was red fabric with black stripes, signaling them to be members of the Red Cosh, an extremely secretive organization tasked with protecting the president from harm. There was no concrete evidence about them or how they operated. No one knew anyone who was a member, and the members had their own secured wing in the Government Center where they went about their duties behind closed doors. Some people theorized they were directly tied to the highest-ranking ASF, which was likely but not proven. Wherever Clyde Pope went, the Red Cosh followed, both in plain sight and hidden amongst crowds in plain clothes, or at least people assumed they were hidden.

It took a few minutes for Hermes to meander all the way to the front of the Government Center. Pope dismounted at the front of the column of soldiers and began walking to the podium amid the loud cheers of the civilians. The soldiers stood upright and rigid, staying quiet and looking forward. Pope was armed with a standard-issue E9 Scorcher hung on his back by a strap and a harvester blade on his waist, but his weapons were understandably beaten and worn, which he wore like one of the dozens of war metals pinned on his vest. He glanced around at the soldiers on either side of him as he made his way to the podium, pausing to let the cheers peter out.

“Charleston, it’s my privilege and my pleasure to speak at your nineteenth recruitment ceremony,” he began, pausing again for some cheers before continuing. “Today we honor the men we will be saying goodbye to tomorrow. War rages in Texas, and as is their duty, these men will join their countrymen in defending our land, our people, and our resources from Oregonian invasion. I have no a doubt they’ll serve well. This won’t be a permanent goodbye for most of them…but, unfortunately, for some, it will be. We must remember the sacrifices these men are making now and the sacrifices they will make down the road, as so many of our brothers and our sisters, our fathers and our sons, already have. I would stop to read off their names one by one, but unfortunately I don’t have the time since I’m busy getting ready to leave for the battlefield myself.” Pope said, letting out a small but noticeable smirk as he finished his sentence and the crowd erupted into cheers for a solid five minutes without wavering; even the lined-up recruits, Bert and Bradley included, broke their stoic positions to let out whoops and cheers. The president himself regularly engaged in skirmishes and fighting during the days of the ASF, so much so that it became a staple for him to be involved in the military directly, not just as an administrative role. Going to join the fighting in Texas would be the first time he fought in the war against Oregon, and the people were understandably excited to have their warlord-esque president on the battlefield again. After the cheers died down, Pope continued speaking.

“I wanted to keep my speech brief, and so I’m going to leave you all now. Charleston, pray for your son and daughters, and work hard to make sure their sacrifices aren’t in vain.”
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Sat Jan 21, 2017 12:26 am

Omar: 4

[Tuesday, September 16th, 2025 – 8:29 AM]

I was sitting at my desk for barely an hour before I was forced me to put my hat back on and leave the police department. As I went through Carl Cole’s file, I immediately realized that very little legwork had been done. Since the case had been handed off to me soon after the murder, the victim’s spouse Anne and his son George hadn’t even been properly interviewed, let alone neighbors or friends. My first stepping stone, I decided, would be the wife, but unfortunately for me, Anne refused to stay in the house where her husband had been murdered just days before, so I had to call the detective who handled the crime scene to obtain her current whereabouts. Before leaving to meet her, I spent some time reviewing Corey Hale’s case.

Mr. Hale was just another killing until Mr. Cole’s case popped up. There were a few murders every month in Sacramento, a city of a hundred thousand or so, meaning the police department was always busy trying to solve them, and if they couldn’t, they were busy trying to make it look like they were. In reality there were so many cold cases that we couldn’t keep up with them all. In the early days of Eureka – when the local governments and trade states were still establishing themselves – things were in a perpetual state of the Wild West. Some trade states like Junction and Death Valley never evolved past that unrest and anarchy. Sacramento did, but not without first racking up dozens and dozens of unsolved murders. It pissed me off, but even with the city fully functioning, a huge chunk of our tools had been removed. Working security cameras were scarce, DNA testing was a fantasy unless the crime involved a politician, the loss of pre-zombie files and records made many guns and cars untraceable, and so on. Above all else, some people just flat-out refused to be cooperative witnesses. I don’t know if it was the apocalypse hardening people and making them cold or if there was some unspoken rule about it in the constitution, but urban Eurekans were rude to each other.

There was nothing new from Mr. Hale’s case in over a month. His friends and coworkers weren’t suspected of any wrongdoings and none of them had anything to mention about the incident besides its tragic nature, and he also had no real family to speak of, or at least none that I was aware existed. The bloody footprints tracked all over the floor in Mr. Hale’s apartment were the biggest clues we had, but even those weren’t particularly useful. We had determined them to be made by a heavily-worn pair of size 7 male shoes; after checking and discovering that Mr. Hale wore a size 11 and the coworker who discovered the body was a size 12, we assumed the prints couldn’t be related to anybody but the killer. Going through Sacramento looking for worn-out size 7 shoes wasn’t exactly efficient, especially with so many old shoes flowing through the untraceable flea markets and trading posts. Rather than go searching for the shoes, we had to find some other way to find the killer. Unfortunately there wasn’t one. There were no out-of-place fingerprints, the blood found on the scene was entirely Mr. Hale’s, and the nature of the injury wasn’t even clear. A large blade had been used for certain, but what kind? The width of the wound indicated something much wider than a katana or rapier, but once again, with all the unregulated weapons being moved around Eureka, it was impossible to pin down a source. It was an inevitable part of the deregulated nature of the country and the apocalypse in general. Nobody could possibly make the case to restrict blades or guns with the threat of an outbreak right around the corner. I valued having unfettered access to weapons, but it made my job a hell of a lot harder. Mr. Hale was a dead end, a cul-de-sac of the same evidence being reviewed a dozen times. In contrast, Anne Cole was a potential well of fresh information for me and the department.

Anne retreated to Sutter’s Landing after the death of her husband. The former city park was one of the numerous shantytowns surrounding downtown Sacramento. Nestled in the meanders of the American River, tents and small shacks made of plywood and tarps covered the landscape, crushing down the foliage and grass. Sewage flowed into the river from small makeshift port-a-potties that had been erected directly on the bank. They were usually dismantled by force every few weeks, but there was no other option for the people who lived there. Despite the harsh nature of the place, I found it welcoming. Many of the people who lived there, like Mrs. Cole, had jobs or other properties within the city. One of the more popular real estate strategies in Sacramento was to rent out your only properties to others and live in the shanties yourself, at least until you built up enough capital for an extended life in the city. Upscale landlords like mine wouldn’t allow that, but the suburbs and refurbished motels did.

I assumed Anne would be living inside the old skate park building for the time being, since it was one of the few permanent structures on the property. Because of that, though, it was completely flooded with people who didn’t want to live on the muddy, stomped-flat hill outside. It was difficult to even enter the fire hazard of a building because of the number of tents and sleeping bags splayed out in the halls, but after apologizing to several limbs I stepped over, I made it to the main skating area, whose ramps no longer served as entertainment but chairs and lounging places for the residents who lived there rent-free. The inside was just as packed, but people had courteously left pathways among their living spaces. It smelled like death and garbage inside. Plumbing inside the building clearly hadn’t been maintained like it should’ve been by the city, although I could’ve deduced that before I even entered from the people shitting in the river.

I found Anne living in a tent within the central skate bowl of the park; I carefully jumped down into the depression, being careful not to snap my ankles like an idiot, and proceeded to her tent. I had a picture to identify her and I found her quite easily. She was a frail woman of fifty, a couple years older than her husband. She had long brown hair and a lot of loose skin, indicating unhealthily quick weight loss of an even unhealthier amount of extra body fat. When I approached her, she was busy pouring a can of fruit into a plastic bowl for breakfast. She seemed to be surprised when someone addressed her by name.

“Excuse me, are you Mrs. Anne Cole?” I inquired.
“Y-Yes? Who are you?”
“I’m Detective Omar Sweeny from the Sacramento Police Department. I wanted to talk to you about your husband for a while.” I explained. Anne wasn’t immediately a suspect in her husband’s murder, but I did find it strange that she fled to a shanty.
“Oh. Okay then. Do you want to go somewhere else, somewhere quiet? It’s crowded here.” Anne stood from her cross-legged position and set her food down on the ground.
“We can if you want. The walls might have ears, but I doubt anyone here cares about what we have to say.” Anne and I climbed out of the skate bowl and made our way to the old bathrooms, which were indeed unmaintained. It stunk horribly in there, but at least we were alone. No one had much of a reason to hang around bowls of rotting human waste.

“I’d like to give my condolences before we go any farther. Yours is a terrible situation, and we’re working to help bring the killer to justice.”
“Thank you. Thank you, really. I’ve had better days.”
“Luckily we can look to the future for better ones,” I replied, pulling out a small notepad I had been carrying in my suit coat. Anne sounded sincere and she didn’t start to cry or weasel out of talking to me, which I was grateful for. “Down to business…as far as I’m aware, nobody from the police department has interviewed you, correct?”
“No. The police talked to me the day they found Carl, but nothing since then.”
“Your statement from that night says you stumbled upon your husband when you came home from work. You work as a secretary for the Mayoral Offices?”
“Yes – I used to. I did before Carl was killed. I quit a few days ago.”
“Why quit?”
“You’re not my therapist, Mr. Sweeny. I can tell you as much of everything about me and my husband as you want, but I don’t need to confide in you or justify my choice to come here to you.” Anne replied flatly.
“Fair enough, I’m sorry if I came off like that. Is there anyone you can think of who might’ve had a motive? Anybody you owed money, anyone Carl owed money or work? And, for the record, I’m not here to arrest you. I’m here to get information and clues and leads. Anything illegal is probably relevant.”
“There’s nothing I can think of. We took a loan to buy our house from our landlord but we paid it back without any trouble and no ill will. I didn’t have any enemies at work.”
“What about your husband? He was a self-defense instructor, correct?”
“Yes. He didn’t have any issues.”
“I don’t mean offense by this, but do you have any idea how your husband could have been attacked in such a fashion? He was a trained man knowledgeable in close-combat fighting, but he was struck down by a blade-wielding man without getting even a nick on his opponent?”
“I assumed he was drunk when it happened.”
“Blood tests showed that he wasn’t intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs–”
“Then I don’t know. He just couldn’t get to his gun, I guess…” Anne said. I could tell she started to drift away into her own thoughts once I started asking about the murder, so I proceeded quickly so she didn’t break down and cut me off when I was just getting to information.
“So no enemies, no debts?”
“Nothing.”
“Any escort services?”
“N-No. Why?”
“Sometimes prostitutes will case out a place by getting a client, getting inside, and then feeding pertinent information to burglars later, or maybe just do it themselves. This could’ve been a robbery gone bad.”
“No. Nothing like that. We aren’t like that.”
“Okay, good to know. Let’s see…neighbors? Any disputes, or same old story?”
“Same old.”
“I haven’t got an idea in my head why you were targeted to be quite honest,” I commented, scribbling what she said down on my notepad for later. “You have no idea how many people we talk to do nothing but be upstanding citizens minding their own business, and they’re still targeted.”
“We didn’t deserve any of this.”
“Not at all. One more thing. It might be a little stupid, but can I get your husband’s shoe size, and your own as well? We have footprints we could possibly connect to the killer.”
“Hm...okay. I’m a women’s 5.5 and my husband was size 9, I think. You have the shoes he was wearing when he was killed if I’m wrong on that.”
“Thank you. I’d also like to ask about your son.”
“I don’t know his shoe size.”
“That’s fine. Were you on good terms with him?”
“Not really. He moved his family to San Francisco about a year ago and we never heard back. The reason was he didn’t like raising his kids in a cramped two-bedroom home, but we didn’t want him to leave. He didn’t kill Carl, though. I know that for a fact. He wasn’t like that.”
“Why San Francisco? Did he think he could get anything bigger than a cardboard box there?” I joked.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have any contact information or his new housing location? Phone numbers or anything at all?”
“I have his old cell phone number, but he left that with us when he moved, so no. He said he wanted to take them to Alameda, but that was just where he said he was going to try making it.”
“Okay. That’s about all I wanted to ask you, Mrs. Cole. If you think of anything else, anything, call me at this number,” I said, putting my notepad away and sliding out a business card for her to take, which he reluctantly did. “You can also contact any of the police stations in the city. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“You too, Detective. Thank you.”

I walked out of the bathroom not knowing much more about Mr. Cole’s death than I did going in. I knew that Mrs. Hale was battling depression and needed help, but I simply couldn’t provide it to her, and it hurt to know that, but there wasn’t much I could do so the thought left my mind. I wanted to talk to the son, George, but for all I knew, he didn’t even know his father had been killed. Alameda was far away and very populated, so I couldn’t just ask around like I did to find Anne. It was another dead end, leaving Mr. Cole’s case in a position similar to Mr. Hale’s. There was nothing to do but review the evidence more, check every possible angle, and wait for a third slashed thigh.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
Posts: 14906
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:13 am

Oliver: 12

[Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 – 4:20 PM]

Without transportation, I knew we were going to be in a lot of **** eventually, one way or the other. Without food or water, though, we were already in a lot of ****. Since it was the afternoon and we didn’t have many options, we stopped at the first structure we could find so we didn’t get caught with our pants down at night. A few minutes north of Oxford, Alan and I stumbled upon a large nursing facility that used to be run by New York’s Department of Health. The property was nestled on the western edge of a large expanse of forest, and aside from the single road leading to and from the facility, it was unintentionally well-hidden. We almost missed it ourselves, but we just so happened to go down the road looking for an abandoned car.

As we approached the facility from the south, we passed a small graveyard situated in the shadows of the tree line. More than a dozen small American flags were flying over the graves and on small wooden stakes nearby, and after we stopped to investigate the site, it was clear that the facility was a veteran’s home. The headstones were marked as such, extending well back into the 1800s. We stopped for a minute just to walk around and pay our respects to the dead. It was more peaceful than one would expect. After experiencing so much death and un-death in prior weeks, seeing the tiny plot of land with rows of graves and headstones neatly lined up was peaceful. Ankle-high grass covered the intact burial sites, so at least we knew the dead were staying dead. Our zombies didn’t come from graveyards.

We bypassed an outlying square building and continued into the main parking lot, which was mostly devoid of cars. A few were still sitting in place just waiting to be driven again, so if we figured out how to hotwire a car, then we would be good to go. I let AJ bound around the flat expanse of concrete as Alan and I approached the main building via the entrance loop. The sliding glass doors of the facility were shut and refused to open, even after repeated attempts to pry them open.
“Let’s go find a side door, then.” Alan said, defeated.
“No, we can just smash them with something. If these are locked, then everything else will be too.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Alright. You try to find another door, and I’ll find a rock or something.” I replied. After Alan left to walk around the outside of the facility, searching for a door he wouldn’t find, I tried getting into the cars to find a crowbar or a tire iron to smash the front doors. All of the vehicles were locked, and I couldn’t break the glass with my fist, so I gave up and tipped over a metal trash can that was sitting outside. I repeatedly rolled it into the door, cracking the glass but not putting a hole in it until I lifted the can and started swinging it, trying not to lose my balance or blow out a hernia in the process.

The hole I created was riddled with shards of glass, but I maneuvered my way through them without cutting myself and called out to Alan for him to come back. There was a layer of interior glass doors in my way, but there was also a flat pane of glass right next to them, which was a lot easier to smash open than the doors, so I took that path of least resistance. After Alan returned, I told him not to cut himself.
“There’s a lot of ground floor windows, but I couldn’t get one open.” he said.
“Like I said, we can just smash them at this point. No one’s going to argue.”
“I’d still rather not.”
“I know, but we don’t have much of a choice anymore. We’re just guys smashing windows, not guys stealing everyone’s **** at gunpoint, so it’s not like we’re bad people, Alan. It’s just glass.”
“Just remember that there’s no one to replace the glass once we break it.”

Several empty wheelchairs greeted us as we walked through a reception area littered with papers and into a hallway with multiple doors on either side. The building smelled like rotting garbage and dead bodies, so we were on high alert for zombies. Having only one pistol and about as many bullets, we tried to be quiet. AJ followed us inside, but I had made a temporary leash for him using some twine we found tied around some saplings during our walk, so I had him mostly under control. He was whining a lot, though, which made me nervous since he would smell zombies before we saw them. As we passed through the first residential hallway, we found most of the doors to be shut tight and a few that were open. Moving further into the interior of the building meant we left the sunlight behind, and our only source of light from then on was reduced to pitiful beams cascading under doors or from windows near the exterior walls, which was barely enough to keep us going. After getting robbed on the road, I didn’t even have a **** penlight with me.
One of the first rooms we came across had its door securely shut but unlocked, so we entered it simply to familiarize ourselves with what the building would have in store for us in the rooms. The door itself had a ton of dents and scratches on its exterior, and the lock area was damaged and flaking apart. Much stronger waves of death permeated the air as we swung open the door, and we immediately encountered an elderly man, well into his 80s, lying on the hospital bed inside the room. At first it looked like he was staring at us, but he had been dead for weeks judging from the number of flies in the room and the stains of decomposition on the bedsheets. There were several medical machines inside, still hooked up to his long-dead body with adhesive tape. In stark contrast to the graveyard outside, the body was similar to those that we knew all too well from Philadelphia – the preventable ones that shouldn’t have been there. Most of my encounters with dead bodies came in the form of zombies, which were a whole different ballgame. I couldn’t have given less of **** about them since they posed a threat. Other survivors, or rather the failed survivors, were much harder to stomach, especially one like an old frail man who clearly had nothing to defend himself.
“Let’s not stay in here.” I said, turning around and ushering Alan’s agape form out of the doorway. I didn’t want to interact with any dead vets if I could help it.

The next room we peeked in had its door hanging open, and it contained another corpse, except he – or she or it or them – was ripped limb from limb down to bone rather than peacefully lying in bed. We couldn’t even tell whether it was one person or multiple people, or even if it was a person or a zombie. All we could tell for sure was that blood had quickly coated the floor, dried up, and began to crack and erode away over time. Insects and maggots were freely moving all around the room, so I quickly slammed the door shut so we didn’t get overwhelmed by another cloud of meat flies.
“Let’s get to the cafeteria or kitchen or whatever and just get the **** out of here.” I decided. “There’s not going to be much here for us, judging from this…but we have to try.”

“Okay, let’s be quick though.” Alan agreed, his face much paler than when we entered. We continued through the halls, having been thoroughly convinced to ignore all the residential rooms and medical areas in an attempt to avoid the gore and viscera. Nothing had been alive in the facility for a long time. Thankfully we didn’t need anything from those spaces we chose to avoid, so we set our brained to focus on food to get out minds off the death we were seeing all around us. More bodies, ripped apart weeks before we arrived, were casually strewn around the facility, in chairs and on beds and behind desks. Even more disturbing than the bodies were the cascading paths of footprints. When Alan and I first entered and did an initial once-over of the rooms and halls, we didn’t even notice them, but hundreds upon hundreds of shoes had, at one point in time, kicked both mud and blood around and stamped it throughout the open halls of the facility, coalescing into solidified puddles near chokepoints like doorways, hallway intersections, and final resting places of bodies. As we turned out of the first hallway and followed small signs posted on the walls towards the cafeteria, we found ourselves following the eerie footprints as well. We started to hear noises all around us, from people walking in adjacent halls to the distant banging of what sounded like metal on metal. It was as if entering the facility was causing it to wake up from a state of sleep.
“We should leave.” Alan whispered.
“We need to find food.” I said, just as quietly. “Cafeteria, and then leave right after.”

We found ourselves outside the cafeteria eventually, but the doors were shut and locked tight. Similar to what we did on the sliding glass doors, we tried banging and prying them for about twenty seconds before we started getting something banging back at us on the other side. Then another set of banging started, and another, until the doors started bucking and shaking in their frames and the walls were echoing with a symphony of fists and moaning from a dozen different zombies. The noises rattled the entire facility to its core as more zombies, obviously trapped in rooms like the ones we avoided, heard the racket caused by their undead counterparts. It would’ve taken much less to get Alan and I sprinting back down the hallway by that point, having been shaken into Shaggy and Scooby by the hellish interior, so were gone before we knew if the cafeteria doors held or not. My heart burned in my chest as I started running, knowing that our path back outside could’ve been cut off my shambling corpses. The last thing I wanted was to run around a dark, maze-like nursing home with zombies tailing us like a horror movie. When we turned a corner during our hasty, mutually agreed-upon flight, my prosthetic caught a loose scrap of paper and a slick spot of dried mud on a corner, and my leg flew out from under me before I could even catch myself. I smashed my head on the ground so hard that I didn’t fully regain my eyesight and hearing until I was back in the graveyard with Alan helping me walk with one hand and holding AJ’s twine leash in the other. We could hear the trapped horde moaning and groaning from the graveyard, albeit barely audible.

“Oliver, are you okay?” Alan asked.
“Yeah, I hit my head.”
“I can see that. You’re bleeding.”
“Well, I hope I didn’t land in zombie blood or something.” I said, checking how bad I was bleeding. My hand came away with a spot of blood, but it looked like it was just from a small cut on top of what would become a huge bump on the side of my head just above my right ear. As I collected myself, I noticed Alan was actually crying. He wasn’t sobbing, but tears were definitely coming down his face.

“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m just a little overwhelmed is all. With that group of zombies in there, and the bodies…” Alan spent a moment taking deep breaths and wiping his face, and I was left to think about how he wasn’t nearly as used to the gore as I was. He could deal with zombies, sure, but not corpses that still looked like people or corpses so destroyed they looked like bones in puddles. I wasn’t sure I was used to it either, but at least I could ignore it enough to run away, at least until I fall and almost knock myself out.

Eventually Alan sat down and, after a few seconds, started ripping at weeds and tall grass that surrounded one of the tombstones. For the next fifteen minutes or so, he and I simply pulled the vegetation from around the graves to clear them a bit. I don’t remember why I started doing it too, but I didn’t actually want to do it. Having time to reflect on things at that moment while pulling weeds and piling them up near one corner of the surrounding stone wall made me realize that I wouldn’t have cared about the graves if we had gotten food from the cafeteria or guns from a security room or something. We were doing something just to do something because we didn’t have anything else important to do, and it made me feel more depressed than relaxed since there were definitely more important things to do.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
Posts: 14906
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:20 pm

Omar: 5

[Wednesday, October 29th, 2025 – 8:29 AM]

Time moved quickly in Sacramento. As time passed, the names of Corey Hale and Carl Cole became little more than a thought experiment that popped into my head right before falling asleep. There were other matters to attend to; criminals didn’t stop committing crimes just because I had some murder cases – growing colder by the day – to worry about. I was involved in arresting several car thieves and burglars in the month following my meeting with Anne Cole. Eventually I saw her name at the station after she was busted for stealing from a man who had hired her as a prostitute. It was a shame what happened to her.

Just over five weeks after meeting with Anne, the third murder was committed. Once some specific details of the murder case were revealed by the responding beat cops to the chief, he immediately ordered the crime scene to be closed – put on hold, so to speak – and contacted me so he could order me to visit the scene in person before anything else was done. I had been waiting for the opportunity, so I set out as soon as I put down my phone.

It was a short drive to the Sacramento Marina. Like many, many areas of Sacramento, the old marina was home to a sizable shantytown. It was one of the cleaner parts of the city’s underbelly, but it was still little more than a glorified refugee camp. Inhabitants sustained themselves through handouts and a little fishing in the Sacramento River, which begged the question in my mind as to how long they would get away with eating out of the water they also used as a toilet. It was actually an interesting area to visit, though, because of the unique living conditions the people had created. The marina’s docks were built in a tiny bay, but the wooden structures were little more than footpaths and therefore provided little living space, so the slummers had commandeered old boats – sailboats, small yachts, dinghies, rowboats, anything that floated – and lived in and on them. Large metal overhangs that covered the docks, once meant to protect boats from the elements, had transformed into roofs for the communal space. There was only one proper building on the property, and as expected, it was grossly overused. My objective was a nearby defunct water storage reservoir. The body had been found on top of the massive tank by a few kids who played in the old industrial areas just north of the marina.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a few crowds. Despite the fact that the police had been on-site for long enough to put up crime scene tape and create a perimeter around relevant pieces of evidence, the area was still understandably full of people who lived nearby. Some were trying to figure out what happened and others were trying to tell us how to do our jobs, as if we weren’t doing them already. What really caught my attention was the scattering of journalists holding microphones, pads of paper, and cameras. Under normal circumstances, the media shouldn’t have been involved. They would write an obituary and then move on, not huddle around the outskirts of an active crime scene. It worried me a bit; I wasn’t used to dealing with the media.

“Detective Omar Sweeney, SPD.” I said, flashing my badge at a cop who was manning the checkpoint. He let me through and pointed me in the direction of where I would find a pair of beat cops, the first responders to the scene. I took a moment to survey the area and take in some information, noting what time I arrived and what the weather was like – it was sunny and warm. The pair of police officers I met up with were typical members of the force. One was a pudgy black man named Elbert Clark, and the other was a butch white woman named Shiela Rawls. They were partners who patrolled the area nearby, and as such they were directly involved in the situation I needed to unravel. As we made our way through the filtering of first responders and members of the community, I started asking questions.

“I assume there weren’t any suspects in the area when you arrived, correct?”
“We checked out the kids who found the body, found their parents, and got them set up,” Elbert replied. “Nobody in the area, just a body. Been there for days, it looks like…smells like, too.”
“Cooking in the direct sun on a big metal plate. Not going to smell good, that’s for sure,” I said. We approached the big white tank and started climbing the spiral staircase to its top.

“Has anything been found in the area? I see they’re already searching.” I commented, looking down at a number of officers walking in formation around the coastline. They were performing the sweeps for evidence so I wouldn’t need to do so.
“Knives, shell casings, cans. Nothing useful.” Shiela answered.
“Could the knives or bullets be involved?” I asked.
“I doubt it. You’ll see in a sec why.” she replied, her face wrinkling up as we got to the top and the white sheet draped over the body came into view. A little yellow card had been placed next to it, as if it needed labeling as evidence.

“I know what you mean now by the smell.” I said. Shiela handed me a pair of rubber gloves so I could approach the body. Under the sheet, I found the decapitated body of a man clothed in dirty brown pants and a blue T-shirt. The man’s neck clearly had been severed with many blows from a bladed weapon, meaning it was by no means a clean cut; although the man likely died quickly, it was a brutal way to go regardless of how much pain he felt before he succumbed. Another few stab wounds cut into his shirt, the blade having penetrated his chest in several spots. His hands had been mutilated as well, which I assumed was in self-defense, and of course, on the man’s left thigh, in the familiar location, was the slash. A dried pool of blood was caked around the body, and it was clear to me that bugs and birds had been screwing around with the body.

I procured a digital camera from my pocket and began snapping some pictures, making sure to get all the injures and the positioning of the corpse.
“Do we have any indication of who this man could be? He isn’t dressed in a uniform or anything.”
“The kids who found him brought their daddy up here before we arrived. He recognized him.” Elbert said.
“Great. That makes things easier. Did you ask who it was?”

“Richard Jonger – went by ‘Dickie’ for his illegal friends and those in the slum community. He lived in the marina a few months out of the year. He was a junkie who survived on handouts, basically. He was also a petty thief who worked in exchange for food a lot of the time. That’s literally all we know about him.” Shiela explained.
“I trust you have the names and contact info for the people who told you this stuff?”
“As much as we could get, yes, but good luck finding them again…they’re likely to be hiding under the radar having cops poking around in a crime-ridden area like this. Their neighbors might think they’re moles now. Even when you do find them, they weren’t keen on sharing much with us. They should still be nearby if you want a go.”
“I’ll take your word for it, but I’d still like to talk to those people myself.” I insisted. I silently stewed and cursed our luck. The third victim finally confirmed the presence of the serial killer, but Dickie signaled a dead end straight away – a slummer? He was one of the thousands upon thousands of nameless people without a job, identification, or traceable lineage in Eureka, a complete no-name. If we managed to find out anything about the victim himself, let alone anything about the killer, it would be a miracle.

After finishing my survey of the body, I took a moment to survey the aerial view of the site below. Police tape sectioned off a good chunk of land directly below the tank, along with a neighboring property and the roadway running to the marina. I saw very few yellow placards on the ground, meaning the search teams weren’t finding much of note. I knew that the city’s only forensic team was being shipped in to help, but I didn’t know where they were yet, so I would have to wait for their input on fingerprints and the like. Above all else, though, I wanted a chat with the man whose kids found the body, and possibly the kids too. All of a sudden, I had a man screaming at me.

“Sir, excuse me. Sir! Gerald Cruz with STRN. What exactly is on top of the water tank?” he asked me.”Do the police have the situation under control?” Hearing one of their own harass a new face was like blood in the water for the gaggle of reporters, and all of a sudden I had a handful of people calling my name and tracing my steps on the other side of the police line as we made our way around the water tank. I just ignored them, but the dirty looks I gave seemed to get them more hyped up.
“Everybody back up!” Elbert ordered authoritatively, approaching the police tape that the reporters were trying to cross. “This is an active scene. Get out!”
“We don’t know why or how any of them are here. They just showed up.” Shiela told me as we retreated back towards the marina.
“Somebody told them there was a murder. If they know anything past that, I’ll need to wring someone’s neck.” I replied. None of my work had gotten anywhere near the public eye, aside from the obituaries in the paper, so if word of a serial killer was leaking, heads would roll – somewhere, but hopefully not starting with me.

The main living quarters of the marina had simmered down after the revelation that one of their own had been killed. Shiela led me through the litter and mud to one of the docks. The planks had been replaced over the years to create a patchwork of color underfoot, more evidence of work done by the residents to keep their ramshackle homes livable. We stopped in the middle of one particular arm of the dock, where a green pontoon boat was lazily floating amongst other little vessels. It had a combination of leather and tarp-like material covering a metal frame that had been constructed for privacy reasons. Shiela called out and ordered somebody outside. A balding man poked his head out, giving me and Shiela dirty looks.
“This is your guy,” Shiela told me. “I need to go meet the forensic team. They’re going to show up soon.”
“Okay, thanks.” I said, turning my attention to the man who was now exiting his boat. His face was covered in wrinkles and sun damage, and his dirty white shirt and white cargo shorts made him look like a bum.
“Who are you?”
“Detective Omar Sweeney with the SPD. Are you the man who found the body today?”
“Yeah. My kids did. We already talked to you people. There’s nothing else I have to say.”
“I just wanted to talk to you myself. Just a few minutes, that’s all.”
“Alright, what is it then?”
“First of all, what’s your name?”
“Matt Cooper.”
“When did this all happen?”
“Kids from the marina go play in the fenced-off areas a block from here all the time. This morning my kids were screwing around on that tower and found a man lying up there. They ran back crying their eyes out, so I went and checked it out myself to make sure it wasn’t just a drunk up there. Sure enough, it was Dickie Jonger lying up there with his **** head cut off.”
“What time was this?”
“I don’t know. Before noon but after I woke up.”
“Was there anything suspicious about anybody in the area? People who might’ve been involved?”
“I didn’t see anyone. The kids had scattered well before I got there, what with them finding a body and all. They thought they’d get in trouble.”
“No adults though?”
“Nobody hangs around there obviously. It’s all abandoned. I didn’t find any bloody machetes either.”Matt replied. He seemed to get more jittery the longer we talked, so I kept pushing for him to answer questions.
“Did you know the victim personally?”
“No.”
“You recognized him, though.”
“Of course I did, he lives here after all. We all know each other.”
“What did Mr. Jonger do here? Was he employed? Did he live with anyone?”
“He lived alone in the brick building. He worked, but not here. I already answered all of this **** to your other people, so I’d appreciate it if you’d leave me alone.”
“I’m here to do my job, sir, so I can’t just leave you alone,” I stressed, getting a little annoyed. I made sure to keep my voice level, though, since I could see Mr. Cooper’s kids poking around in the boat behind him. They looked to be pre-teens or maybe even younger, and I didn’t want them to hear more than they had to about everything. “A man is dead, brutally killed by an evil, evil person, and we just want to know what the hell happened here – implicate whoever is responsible. If you don’t want to cooperate, that’s fine, but we’ll just show up here later with warrants and all kinds of hassle later on if you look a bit suspicious, okay?” Mr. Cooper’s face betrayed his appearance and showed that I was upsetting him.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me before I leave? Anything is important. Any details, any little thing. Are you one hundred percent sure there’s nothing else you want me to know about right now?” I asked. My attitude was mostly just because he was being lippy with me. It wasn’t very professional, but sometimes you need to deal with people exactly the way they deal with you. I didn’t expect him to give me anything else, but I wanted him to know who was in charge. When he retreated into the boat without a word, I turned to leave, but I was surprised when he came back out a moment later and dumped a handful of items into my hands.

“So I turned out his pockets before I climbed down from the tower. **** sue me,” he said, clearly defeated but still upset. “We don’t have much to live on here. I figured Dickie wouldn’t need any of that anymore.” Taken aback, I looked at what he gave me, before quickly putting the objects into an evidence bag I had on hand for safekeeping. I could tell just by looking at them that they were going to be the critical detail I needed to kick-start the unraveling of the murder.
“Honesty is the best policy. In the future, don’t touch anything at the crime scenes. It makes our lives harder and can get you in trouble.”
“Okay.”
“Thank you. Have a good day.”
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy

coinsruledude
Posts: 14906
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Re: If I Stand, We Fall (IC)

Postby coinsruledude » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:31 am

Harmony Redux: 1

[Sunday, September 16th, 2012 – 3:24 AM]

For the fourth time in a row, Quentin Streets dialed his brother’s phone number and waited to see if his call got through. He had been trying periodically for hours but with no results thanks to the clogged phone lines across the country. There had been warnings about outages and dead zones, but it was still frustrating to have communication cut off so suddenly.

Boise and the surrounding suburbs were experiencing riots large enough for the governor to declare a state of emergency and request the National Guard to move in. Maybe, under normal circumstances, the situation would’ve been taken care of quickly. Unfortunately, similar events were playing out countrywide, so it was unclear how fast help was rushing to help Idaho when places like New York and Washington D.C. were also facing civil unrest and chaos. The infuriating thing was that it wasn’t even clear who was doing the rioting; the news had been reporting on the unrest and how they had been driven from parts of Boise by the violent people, but that was basically everything they had to offer. To Quentin, there was clearly some kind of suppression of information occurring at the highest levels of government and the media. They had been playing it down for over a week, barely mentioning it in passing. Then, the conditions got so bad that people – including Quentin’s wife Janet – couldn’t even get into the city for work due to traffic jams caused by the rioters. Then, trickles of information came in from major cities all over the country. Then, phone service became spotty at best and brownouts started to occur in the city. Then, the TV went, along with the rest of the phone lines. The news only started to cover it religiously when things got so bad they couldn’t be ignored.

“****. There’s still nothing.” Quentin swore, swiping the end-call button on his smartphone to sever the endless ringing on the other line. He started pacing from kitchen wall to kitchen wall.
“Calm down, already. The phone lines in Twin Falls are going to be down too. Everyone in the country is trying to call each other.” Janet said from the living room couch. She was a thinly-built woman in her late twenties with an angled face and shoulder-length brown hair. Dressed in comfortable pajama bottoms and a loose-fitting blue T-shirt, she was reading by lamplight on the couch. The TV was on, but there wasn’t really a reason for it to be. It had been emitting the same emergency broadcast loop for over a day, but it was left on, muted as it may have been to avoid the annoying static and beeps, just in case the message changed.
“I think I’m about at my limit,” Quentin said heatedly. “Last we heard, they looked like they were mobilizing in the city to strike out at us.”
“I said to wait over the weekend to see if things got better.” Janet replied.
“It’s Sunday morning. The weekend is over and things got worse,” Quentin said, joining Janet on the couch. She begrudgingly put down her book and looked at him, her head cocked. She knew what he was going to say next.
“We. Need. To. Leave. Not three days from now, not next weekend. Now.”
“What about school?”
“I was already giving her way more leniency than I wanted by letting her go on Friday. We can be at the campground by the time the sun rises if we hurry.” Quentin stressed. Janet pulled her feet under her and stared at the emergency broadcast on the TV screen. It looked like she was hypnotized by it as she talked and kept staring.

“There’s no reason to leave right this second,” she said, rolling her eyes as she heard Quentin huff and roll his. “I don’t want to freak Harmony out and make her leave home in the middle of the night for nothing! We’ll wait until morning, tell her she’s not going to school, and then go. Early afternoon sound good?”
“Yes.” Quentin said, elated that his persistence was finally paying off. He had been asking to leave for days and days, never being one to trust in the efficiency of the government or the kindness of his neighbors. He had to work on Janet constantly to get her to see the gravity of the situation.
“You’re lucky I don’t need to go to work.”
“You nearly got caught up in this **** downtown,” Quentin snapped. “It’s not a game. It’s not a good situation to be in. Soon the power will go out for good, and then what? People are going to break in looking for our food, our water, our gas. It’s going to be anarchy here immediately. Taking Harmony to school has been the most stressful thing I’ve done in my life, because I know I have a car and I can get out, but I couldn’t just leave! I had to leave her there–”
“Okay, okay, I know–“
“I had to leave her there all day and not know what was going on. There wasn’t a way they could contact me if something happened.”

The patter of little feet on the wood floor made Quentin quiet down. He and Janet turned just in time to see their five-year-old daughter Harmony bolt into the room. She took after her father more than her mother in her looks, with a boxier jaw and larger forehead than most little girls, but she was still cute nonetheless. Her birthday had been just five days before, and she was dragging a large stuffed rabbit with her as she ran into the room crying silent tears.

“Harmony, hey, what’s wrong?” Quentin asked, opening his arms as his daughter fell into his lap.
“I-I had a scary dream a-and I went to your room a-and you weren’t there!” she cried.
“I’m right here. We’re both right here, okay? Everything’s fine.”
“Honey, your dream was just a dream…you’ll be okay.” Janet soothed.
“Can I sleep with you?” Harmony asked, wiping her nose.

“Sure, let’s go back to bed. It’s way past your bedtime, so I don’t want you staying awake.” Janet said, grabbing Harmony and carrying her to the bedroom, giving Quentin a sideways look as they left. He sighed, turned off the TV, and headed into the garage. Inside was the family’s black 2009 Chevy Tahoe, along with a small white trailer. It was about the size of the SUV and served as Quentin’s bug-out plan. He didn’t consider himself a prepper, nor did he follow most of the tenants of the lifestyle, but he was the right combination of forward-thinking and paranoid enough to have a trailer in his garage full of nonperishable food, palatable water, camping supplies, a gasoline generator, and a host of other amenities. It masqueraded as the family’s camping gear, and since the Streets went camping multiple times a year, Janet had nothing to complain about when it came to the big ugly trailer in the garage. Over the past week of unsettling news and occurrences, Quentin took the liberty of going to the store to supplement his bug-out supplies, and he spent a few minutes packing what he could into it and the SUV. He was planned on packing his guns and the family’s personal items in the morning. As he was looking through a box, the garage light audibly clicked off, leaving him in darkness, and he heard Harmony’s shrill scream come from inside the house.

“**** power.” he muttered.
"You can only talk rubbish if you're aware of knowledge." ~Karl Pilkington
"**** it, it's late. Change it later." ~Me and Teddy


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