Archive for April, 2012

The week had stretched out since the funeral. By this point I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere unescorted and it was starting to drive me crazy. When Rite Aid didn’t have a member watching me they would assign a Shark from Shark City to do so. It was the Sharks who were on duty when Terry Fox received visitors from The Colony. Alex Asgard rode up on the same bike that I had seen her earlier this week only this time she had a side car and riding within was a woman I had only seen from a distance, SamCopperpot, first lady of The Colony. She had a tightly pressed expression on her face as if the ride had not been to her comfort level, but her reasons for such were made clear when she exited the side car. Alex escorted her into our building and explained, “We took some fire a few miles back. She was shot in the shoulder, you do have a clinic?”

I nodded my head and assisted, informing the Sharks, “stay outside, and watch the perimeter.” They weren’t pleased with my instructions, but if it was because I would be out of their sight, or if it was because of the smell of blood from the wound I couldn’t be certain. I started to prepare the bandages within the clinic when SamCopperpot spoke, her tone genteel reflecting her position, “I regret the subterfuge we needed to use to get past your guardians, but this information can only be heard by your ears.” Startled I looked up to see Alex Asgard looking less than comfortable. “When I realized you were being guarded so closely it seemed best that I have Alex wound me in order that we can have a private conversation.”

The idea was so crazy that – well that it worked. I had ordered the Sharks out rather than have them circling in the clinic. SamCopperpot nodded her head towards Alex Asgard who left the room in a solemn state. I started to work on digging out the bullet, silently noting the woman’s ability to refrain from tears or crying out. She may appear weaker, as if being Mattyyy’s lady had given her benefits, but beneath that soft appearance was a steel core. I made a mental note to watch my tone around her and to not under estimate her in the future. “That is lot of effort to speak with me. I hope it was worth it.” I was nervous, my gun out of reach. If she was a cult agent, I had likely opened myself up for an attack.

“Recently we uncovered criminal activity within The Colony.”

“I know, madam. I was there when it happened.” I was referring to the cult attack on the food supply lines.

“No not cult activity, criminal activity, which is a group of thieves who have infiltrated our Colony and set up a home for themselves with ties to the outside world. At first Mattyyy was going to expel them however it turns out that they have information that is vital to your search for this cult. He’s allowing them asylum in exchange for their cooperation. Of course they are supposed to give up their thieving ways.” SamCopperpot’s tone suggested that she had doubts that this would occur.

The bullet made a soft clink into the pan as I removed it from her arm. I had grown accustom to the copper scent of blood and my familiarity didn’t strike me as odd anymore. I started to bandage the wound, “so where do I need to go in order to get in touch with them?”

“They have a safe house, currently located in a place called Den of Thieves. If you go there tell them that The Colony sends its regards. You’ll be allowed inside to make an offer on the information.”

“An offer, I thought that they were exchanging information for asylum?”

“Well yes, but it’s more of the chance of information. Their safe house has been compromised and it seems that relocation costs are dragging out their operation and they will attempt to extort supplies from you. I recommend you take care with these folks. These are after all,” her eyes flickered down to the bandage critically examining my work, “desperate times.” Desperate indeed, at least desperate enough to get oneself shot on purpose!

When my visitors left I had a map, and sharks circling my building. Sharks I needed to somehow escape to make this trip on my own. I looked over at the pan with the bullet still red from the fresh blood of SamCopperpot. The Sharks senses were so hyper sensitive at this point in their genetic manipulation it was my best wild card. Carrying the pan to a window at the far side of the building, I dropped it outside. At that point I was in a race for time. I ran for my bike, Malkoris meeting me at the door. I knew he would have monitored the conversation in the clinic from a secret camera but The Colony didn’t need to know that part. He already had a day pack for me to hand as I passed him. The man knew me well enough to know I’d make a break for it and likely observed what I did with the bullet. As expected when I exited the Sharks had converged upon the trace smell of blood outside the building. By the time they realized they had been duped by the last person they expected to try fooling them I was on the road and heading off.

The day pack wasn’t going to give me a lot of supplies, but it would be enough if I rationed myself to reach the Den of Thieves. I dodged around Rite Aid’s territory on my way out so as not to run into more escorts. SamCopperpot’s words had been clear enough that I would need to arrive alone if I wanted information. Yet when I arrived outside the building I felt I must have been too late and that I missed all the thieves in their rush to move. From the creak of the door when I entered the building I expected to see cobwebs. Instead there was a tidy and clean room with a counter and behind the counter sat an old man smoking. He looked up at me with a tired expression, “miss, we don’t have much left to sell, what can I getcha?”

“I ahh,” I paused feeling foolish even saying the pass phrase, “the Colony sends its regards.”

The man’s head turned and he spit into a pot near his feet. It was unreal watching him, like observing a bad actor in a second rate western. From the back a little girl came forward with ruffled hair and a pouty expression. “So you’re the one who wants to know about those killers hey?” The man’s hand comes down on the shoulder of the little girl. “Well you get something for me, and I’ll give you the information on where to go to get your information.”

So it wasn’t direct information I was getting from these people but I was grasping at straws. “What do you need?”

The old man leaned back a touch, “green card. The fancy ID badges that the rich folk use to get passed the border and cross into the Green Zone.”

My eyes widen, “you honestly think I’d even be here if I could get my hands on one of those?”

He smirked and nodded his head, “yeah you would. You’re all hot on saving the world, and nobody behind that wall gives a fuck about us. You aren’t going anywhere. Neither am I, cancer is going to get me, but my granddaughter; she’s getting behind that wall where she can grow up safe.” My eyes flickered to the little girl. “So you get me the card and I’ll give you more than enough about your cult to pay for it.”

“And just where am I suppose to go to get one of these?” I was bewildered and frustrated. If the little girl wasn’t there I’d be ready to strangle him for the information.

“ATCO’s markets, that much I can tell you. I don’t know the specific source but I do know that ATCO’s got an inside man who has been faking IDs and smuggling people across the border. That’s where you’ll get the card. I only need one. No picture ID assigned. Make sure it has the hologram though.” His smile displayed the missing teeth in his mouth and I found myself a bit too close as the scent of his breath mixed with the smells of his clove cigarette. Turning my face away I caught a glimpse of someone slipping up the stairs. Their pants were styled in a fashion I would have called Steampunk but I couldn’t be certain, as I did not get a good look.

“Alright fine, I’ll get this card, but just what do you think your granddaughter is going to do on the other side with nobody to look out for her?” She looked no more than twelve years old.

“She’ll be fine. She’s a survivor, just like her grandpa, just like all of us.” The old man leaned back a bit, “You better get moving then, longer it takes the staler my information gets.” I sneered a little, disliking the rush. Something here was off. Something big, but I couldn’t put my finger on what!

I was off for ATCO to find a mystery vender in the market. If anyone knew what was going on within ATCO’s it was going to be wiredl0ve, or maybe k1. I was going to have to see advice when I got there. Leaving I glanced up at the second floor. There were eyes on me, I couldn’t see them but I could feel them. The feeling that this whole thing had been staged wouldn’t leave me, but the Den of Thieves had made their demand. One access card for information, and that was what I would get for them. It better be worth the cost!

  • Safe House: Den of Thieves
  • CVC Level: 6
  • Current Recorded Members: 22
  • Overall Opinion:Den of Thieves is a house divided. A good number of their membership have moved to The Colony, while others yet remain within Den of Thieves. They remain united still within their specific PAL room, and I’ve been delighted to interact with them there. This is a fun bunch of people, a group that will bring benefit to any other safe house they join. Ultimately the fate of Den of Thieves is still a bit up in the air. I believe the majority will continue to make the move, an open secret I’m told as it’s been discussed in Global Chat. Therefore I cannot recommend this as a house to move towards. However to my delight (as I have a weakness for thieves within stories) this group is seeking to join The Colony but remain connected through their Safe House symbol. They want to hold onto their past and their game heritage if you will. One of their members has created a few icons to attempt this. As a moving gift and encouragement I’m including two versions I created that they can use if they desire to. If you join The Colony I would recommend getting to know this group of people as they are both helpful, cheerful and friendly.
  • Communication: Palringo Room (Contact within CVC or Forums for exact locations), Safe House Chat, CVC Global Chat for Safe House invites (1/2 fees when invited), Please Stay Calm Forums

Please Stay Calm's Wall of Weapons

While I had hoped to graph from levels 1 to 25 this week there has been a delay due to the “Heavy Metal” quest. This chart took me far longer than I had hoped to complete, and as it only has levels 1 to 24 filled out I will continue to add to the chart when additional information is available. When that update occurs this will be moved from a posting to a page format which will be accessible in the menu above.

Currently there is no inclusion on holiday weapons (see posting regarding promotional weapons) as I have not collected any and I am uncertain how I would want to present them given that different classes based upon level of receiving the weapons will affect numbers. All numbers gathered have been verified by me, but I want to thank those who contributed to this list and who have fed me information for future inclusions.

Values in upgrade supply costs have been rounded to the nearest fifth. Modified values due to my safe house benefits have been recalculated so that all values represented in the chart should be the value if you were not in a safe house and had no bonus safe house values to your costs. Therefore you can expect the upgrade values to be cheaper than represented provided you’re in a safe house that has said benefits.

Damage costs represent the lowest cost to repair a weapon, or how much one percent damage on a weapon costs. This value has a hidden decimal point which is not reflected visually. To use an example, the Safety Goggles at 99% fixed can cost 1 or 2 dollars to fix. The lowest value is 1 dollar. However if the damage on the Safety Goggles is actually 98.6% visually the game shows your goggles at 99% but the cost to repair them can become 2 dollars instead of 1.

Special weapons (marked in blue) have an S in their level and appear on the list as they appear in my weapon’s list. These weapons start off as Class 0 and therefore require an additional cost to upgrade to the first class. Their cost values in the column marked for Level 2 is the addition of both Class 1 and Class 2 costs. Currently only one Special Weapon is being displayed the Executioner which you receive if you purchase any of the credit packages.

Credit Only weapons are marked in green. It is notable that in the Level 1 to 24 ranges, the addition of cost from Cash to Credit nearly balances out in value thanks to the Credit Only Weapons. (This to further my discussion with Drachen and puggamoo found in my posting on buying weapons with credits.) To reflect further upon the difference previously before Credit Only Weapons I have added the total of credits spent not including Credit Only Weapons below the first totals. Not including these Credit Only Weapons the cost value of cash in credits or plain cash for the purchase of weapons is nearly half the value when using credits alone.

Despite this savings I am starting to see further value in saving credits for credit only costs going forward. Money in the post twenty ranges is easier to come by either by hunting or outposts. Money is more difficult to come by without quickly leveling yourself in the pre twenty ranges and I still recommend using the free daily credits to purchase weapons during that period of time.

All values are subject to change upon Massive Damage’s decisions. If I receive notice of the changes I will upgrade the chart but it is unlikely that I will be informed.

Please feel free to share these charts with your safe houses and on your private forums. I would request that you give me credit for the creation of them when you do so.

CLICK IMAGES: For closer look

When you’re surrounded by so much death the mind becomes numb with shock. We have been so desensitized to violence that after awhile some deaths turns out to be pretty funny in retrospect. Or at least for those who see the incident from the outside. I wish this one was funny, even in retrospect it’s simply tragic as so many paid to be prepared for disaster only to bring themselves and their families into danger.

When the Mayan Calendar prophecies became big news and people started to panic there were those who looked for ways to profit off the fears of others. From this came “The Vivos Group”. Their vision was not unlike that of the bunkers within the video game “Fallout 3” where select and paying customers could take shelter within fortified and secret bunkers underground. Much like in the video game these shelters promised comfort beyond survival. There were even affordable economy versions for those who could not afford the luxury suite bunkers. Much like in the video game disasters can strike even within what is thought to be a safe environment.

That is not to say that those who made these bunkers had less than good intentions. It is very possible they felt their solution would save mankind as there are studies that suggest thirty two people, or sixteen couples would be enough genetic material to repopulate the world. These shelters could take in two hundred and fifty in the luxury bunkers and a thousand in the economy. With six months supplies in the economy and a year within the luxury we should have seen the economy shelters opened and resurfaced while soon we will see the luxury ones emerge.

What we are hearing though was not the nirvana which people thought they paid for. Families that had paid for shelter brought their loved ones regardless of their condition as they had paid for shelter. There was panic and rushing and security was not prepared to deal with the possibilities of those hiding infections. Among the many predictions a biological threat of hidden infections in victims was not something prepared for, though the shelters did seal in to recycle their air and prevent outside infections from entering. Many brought those they loved despite the risk knowing there was a clinic within the shelter and hoping for a cure. Once sealed in those who succumb to the virus and rose back up found ways of infecting others. There have been reports of gun fights within shelters where outbreaks occurred but not video feed has been leaked. Some survivors sealed their woken dead in sections of the shelter and exited early. Most are a mystery as there has been no word from them.

It is unknown how many shelters there were hidden. It is also unknown how many of them shelter the living still or seal in the dead.

I give you the ninth episode of Zombie Survival Bloopers. Two Videos of what the Shelters should have been:

It should have been raining. That thought kept repeating in my mind over and over. It should have been raining on the day of her funeral. The sky was clear and it was starting to grow hot, spring breaking towards summer. A lifetime ago we would have been heading to the beach for bonfires and roasting hotdogs, or maybe gathering for a movie or heading down to the pub for a cold one. A life time ago none of us would have been dead, and those who had died would be no threat to the living. A near lifetime ago I woke up in Terry Fox, my hangover gone to see a solemn looking Malkoris with a handwritten message. Hand-written when we have the CVC and many methods to contact me likely meant one thing: It was a message meant to be kept private.

I opened the envelope gently, afraid of what I would find. At first there was a wild thrill that leapt into my throat, a thrill that perhaps someone had found a clue towards the Cult’s leader. I had been home less than a day and already I was itching to leave again to track down this killer, despite having agreed to remain at my home base until someone contacted me with information. Inside was a single white piece of paper with the date, time, and place for where to meet. Rite Aid was calling me out to represent my house for a funeral being held that eve. Those invited were to meet in the central plaza of their territory to be taken to the funeral’s secret location. I read the words over repeatedly, my mind seeking information that was not contained on paper. Who had died and how had they released this mortal coil? The black writing on white paper frustrated me as there was not enough written to really read between the lines.  No grey to toy with in my mind, or was there?

The message was simple but the meeting place suggested that Rite Aid expected to have to smuggle us out of view. This shouldn’t be necessary with the zees. Sure there may be many about, but it was unbelievable to my eyes that so many undead hordes would be about that the Raiders couldn’t clear them out and away from a gathering. So if the threat was not zee oriented, who would they be taking precautions against? It could only be the living. But which among the living was the threat, and who were they threatening, Rite Aid or their invited guests? Were there even any guests beyond me? I sat cross-legged on the bed with my rumpled blanket about me staring at the card, puzzling this out in my mind. My stomach lurched at the idea that some safe house had gone to war against Rite Aid. I had heard the rumors of wars being threaten, and campaigns actively held, against Rite Aid in the past. With how fragile the world was and how delicate our lives balanced now, could we afford such a conflict now?

Malkoris sat down beside me and brought his hands out to gingerly take the card from my hands. My green eyes blinked and I raised my chin to look up to his face. His hands enveloped mine and gently he asked me, “Don’t you think you’re making more out of this than you should? We live in a violent world, fighting monsters every day. Maybe it’s just as simple as a fighter lost in a battle with the zees.”

I shook my head, “Rite Aid doesn’t lose to the dead. They walk among them and don’t cause a stir. It’s their strength and part of what makes them unique among us. Besides, even if it was such a death they wouldn’t be calling for a funeral like this unless-” My hands jerked from his and came to my mouth to cover it; unless it was one of my personal friends that had fallen? While I was not a Rite Aid raider the fondness I had for them was well-known among their members. I could see their faces, twisted and demented in their slowly decaying state. I could see the grins and the bright shining eyes. Who among them had been lost and the question still echoed, how?

It should have been raining. So often we had buried the dead, ensuring a final rest for our loved ones so that they wouldn’t rise back up to threaten the living. This one had been different, a death far more brutal than the torn-apart attacks of the dead. The zees approach the living like beasts, tearing into flesh and chewing on the remains; beasts limited to an appetite and a desire for simple needs. Only a man can kill as this death showed with its cruelty and its advanced planning.

I reached the arranged meeting place and stood there awkwardly, my eyes flickering to the others in attendance. None of Rite Aid had yet to make an appearance and briefly I felt a panic of worry. Had we been lured out here for an ambush? I could see Tenda Foot had similar concerns, having taken partial cover beneath a ruined wall, leaning against it in a casual manner as if seeking merely to escape the sun and rest in the shade. My own eyes weren’t fooled by his act as I could see in the battered armor of the mercenary that his hand never went far from the pistol at his hip. His eyes flickered a greeting to mine but didn’t stay long, scanning the roof tops and broken windows about us in the plaza, looking for snipers.

Drachen was also there, likely to represent ATCO. A constant diplomat, it didn’t surprise me to see him on the list. While few have questioned his loyalties to ATCO (and none should have to begin with), Drachen’s often appeared in other safe houses to lend support and encouragement. Single-handedly, he had worked to build the ties between ATCO and other safe house alliances, strengthening ATCO’s walls. He approached me and asked in a soft tone, as if the ground was as sacred as a church and he felt wrong to speak above reverent tones, “Do you know who was lost?” I silently shook my head and he crinkled his nose in response, going back to silence.

When the white-robed figure of Algiers Point arrived, none of us relaxed until he pushed back his hood and revealed his face. Shado Rei’s sad smile greeted all of us with obvious questions of his own. The intellect, the monk, could see that we held no answers for him. He pursed his lips and remained silent, standing among us waiting. In the bright sunlight, his white robe gleamed. I felt this need to push him towards Tenda Foot, as if Shado Rei was making himself a bigger target than any of us. Perhaps he was, as I reflect back on my words, as the man always stood out the most from us, keeping himself between me and the open windows about us. It’s as if he expected to take the first shot in his “open target” approach. The self-sacrifice would have angered me at the time, had I realized it, but mentally and emotionally, I was too shaken to really pay attention to his actions. Perhaps all three men sensed that I was more vulnerable than normal, as among us I was closest to Rite Aid.

The last of the outsiders approached from the south, a direction I had not expected to see. Alexis Asgard came in on a bike, the sound breaking the silence of the plaza with a rumble that echoed and bounced off the walls of the buildings. It magnified the sound and made it appear at first as if not one bike but a hundred barreled down upon us. Visibly, we all tensed up until we saw Alexis arrive alone. Alexis and I did share a few coffees in my time with The Colony, and when I packed up to leave she assisted. Her dark hair spider-webbed out behind her as she rode up, the helmet on her head coming off the moment she pulled to a stop. With her soft accent, I had grown used to her humor and her laughter in the short time I had come to know her. To see that the laughter had died in her eyes made me look away and stare at my feet. She was the story teller of The Colony, their record keeper of their history. While Pinkersnitch took the present, Alexis weaved a story of the past so that they would never forget their origins. Right now she was a dark reminder that something, someone, had passed from present to history and she was here to immortalize them within the pages of her records.

The sun fell behind the buildings and the gathering gloom made it harder to see possible threats. All about in the buildings, shadows grew and took on the form of faces and bodies. Tenda Foot was becoming increasingly jumpy, his eyes tracking shadow to shadow. I overheard Shado Rei giving soft reassurances to him that Rite Aid’s intentions were honorable, and was comforted to hear that Algiers Point had verified that the message had been sent by Rite Aid before allowing him to attend. It seemed that Algiers Point was taking extra care since the incident involving me. Drachen and I were quietly speaking when Alexis gave a low whistle to warn us all of the approaching people. They shuffled from the doorways and looked upon us with grim expressions. A gathering of friends, faces I knew from Rite Aid and knew well. The girls I went shopping with, the men who often came with supplies or advice for Terry Fox. All were dressed in what looked to be formal garb from another day and age. Much like Algiers Point they too wore robes, only theirs appeared to have been dipped in red dye – or perhaps blood – which streaked and stained the cloth. It lent to their hostile expressions, each face holding a grieving anger upon it. It was the women who approached from the crowd and gestured us forward. Upon their faces was a special sort of anger that, rather than threatening us, embraced us. This hate in their eyes was not for those they welcomed, but rather they invited us to join in their thirst for vengeance.

I came forward to see them, the women who had come to be sisters to me in many ways. I knew their names, so many among them and I looked at each, silently counting them off as I did so. Among Rite Aid were many rituals kept private to them. Once I had overheard a discussion I was not meant to be privileged to, a hint of a phrase “Book of the Dead”. On seeing the robes, there was a sense of outer-worldly, ethereal appearance, that reminder that Rite Aid had transferred over to be alien within our world. Yet for all their breaking from humankind, their humanity remained in their eyes, as did their all-too real human emotions. My time among them had given me intimate knowledge of many things, including the fact that different members belonged to specific factions. They were ranked and favored as such, broken apart into various tasks and warrior groups. The women who had adopted me within their ranks were referred to as the Banshees and they numbered an even twenty. Quickly, my eyes did a head count and stopped at nineteen.

We were led off among the fighters of Rite Aid. I took my place with the women while the others were placed in groupings that represented their status within the general community. All of us walked single file, a long trail that led through buildings, giving us secret knowledge of Rite Aid’s ways. They had dug tunnels and broken down walls between buildings, creating a network of passages that took cover from place to place. It explained their rumored ability to appear like ghosts, from an empty courtyard one moment to surrounding foes that invaded their territory. When we broke cover, it was to a field on which sat a high school at the far end. There was no speaking as we walked.

The grass trampled beneath our feet as we approached a half-collapsed gym for the school. One wall was missing, as was half the roof, and it formed a crescent shaped ruin of a room in which were gathered the rest of Rite Aid’s membership. Some sat on bleachers while others lined the walls or stood in small groups about. In the center, there was a table with stone for its surface and dark wood leggings. It looked expensive to my eyes, the sort of table I would covet in the past while looking in furniture stores before moving on to something cheaper and affordable. Upon its surface she laid, her long blonde hair having been washed and brushed to stretch out above her and spill over its side. As my eyes filled with unshed tears, looking upon the face of one I once knew, I saw past the ruins of her face to the youth that had been there. Briefly, it was if I gazed upon Ophelia, her eyes not clouded with her new state, but dark with inquiry, asking why this fate had fallen upon her, that she drowned in the tide of war and madness engulfing us. Then I blinked and was looking again at the young woman who became a warrior for Rite Aid, her flesh marked with the signs of her transition.

About us, the younger members of Rite Aid, those new to the fold, brought forward bundles of wood. I saw Trainwreck among them, leading the way as they stacked the wood, first beneath the table and then around it, building her funeral pyre higher and higher until the wood surrounded all but her body. Others started to move and take up a formation around the body. I was brought to stand between Tenda Foot and Drachen, all of the guests placed to one side. It was a reminder – perhaps harsh but direct – that while we were allowed to attend and even allowed to grieve with Rite Aid, we were not Rite Aid and this was very much a private affair among them.

The sound of the hurdy gurdy startled me from my own thoughts. An instrument, with sounds not unlike the bag pipe, was not common in North America. In other funerals, traditional North American rock might be played to note the passing of a member, but here the sound took us away from what was traditional to what we knew. It started with a low moan and picked up pitch. The Banshees stood together and from a single torch lit their own. As they approached, the sun set over the horizon and the air took on a spring chill, cooling my heated skin. Each of the Banshees lowered their torches to the wood and stood still while a voice broke out in song. The song turned mournful taking on a life of its own. It was a dirge, a passing tribute to the fallen, and specifically for a woman. How I knew this was written for this woman I could not say, only that I had a sense of such in listening.

stutesy’s voice broke the silence, a harsh guttural tone that etched in angst and hurt. The words spoken were extinct to the living, a dead language and a language of warriors from a time when the world clashed with sword and axe. I knew not then what was being spoken, only to learn at a later time that Rite Aid sang and spoke in rituals in Gaulish. How the near dead knew this language is a mystery to me, though Shado Rei once voiced the possibility of ancestral memory being unlocked in the changed states of their minds. I’m not sure I can believe it, but the wild wisdom of the words moved me when I heard stutesy sing. Though the language was a mystery the emotions were familiar.

It only took a few verses before a second voice joined, mixing in harmony with the first. heinrich stepped from the crowd and brought his strength to the song. I saw anger on his face, which seemed foreign to me as I was used to an easy-going smirk upon his torn face. Where stutesy’s tone was dark and deep, heinrich is more jagged and lay just beneath stutesy in a near-perfect blend. Just as the mind settled into the pattern the two men weaved, a third voice joined in as hoju’s broke to the surface and shattered the harmony with its harshness. As the third singer, hoju’s voice slowly bled into the tone until the first two fell silent and gave him a verse. When hoju stopped to take in a breath, heinrich moved forward another step and took over the song. He led all the men into song as they followed through in the dirge. Soon the voices came from all directions along with the song. The sound bounced off the walls of the gym and seemed to be amplified sending them out into the city. It was no longer just a dirge but a warning, an answer to the message they had received. And only the men among them sang for the passing of this woman.

Three days ago it rained, on the day they found her body placed for display to warn Rite Aid of what would occur if they defied the invitation. Approached by the Cult, they were given the choice to join and become disciples or suffer the consequences of their heresy. Rite Aid drove off the ambassadors to the death god, allowing them to keep their lives but very little else. The next day she went missing while on patrol, only to be found later. Her body was held tied at the feet, upside down from a lamp post, her head removed and left on the ground. The body showed signs of a beating, likely in the struggle for her life, but the image of having removed her head to let her bleed out like an animal was a very vivid message to Rite Aid. Join us, or be treated like the beasts you are.

And now she lay upon a slab of stone, fire engulfing her. Her head placed upon her body with a red silk scarf that hid the disconnect between the two. Her eyes were not closed as the living give habit to our dead. Instead, they stared open and at the sky, defying her state. As the men sang, the Banshees lay the wooden stakes of their torches into the funeral pyre. They stood back as a group and made not a sound among them. To the music, there was a hint of swaying, but not a single weeping note.

I struggled with my own sounds to keep them silent and felt Drachen’s hand squeeze my shoulder. While I knew that this death was not my fault directly, I had played a role in it by stirring up trouble. How long would it have taken before the cult approached Rite Aid, I could not say, but surely my actions had pushed their Prophet into stepping up his schedule? Would they have responded differently had I not been feeding Rite Aid the information about this threat as I had? The thought of having to face these men and women on top of the cult was distressing to me.

The song became filled with hate and with a threat of vengeance, grief melting from the expressions of those we looked at. Briefly, I saw the warriors of Rite Aid change to be truly inhuman, more than who we were and whom they had been to start. Avenging angels, they stared out into the night looking past the group of us as ambassadors, and in their dead language promises of death were given. Something had stirred up within them, and for the first time since I had come to know them, I was truly afraid of my friends. I felt Drachen’s hand be joined by Tenda Foot’s on the other shoulder. Flanking me on either side, they kept me steady when everything in my mind warned me to go running into the night to hide. Dread shook me, and I understood why Rite Aid kept their rituals private. This was not meant for minds untouched by death as intimately as theirs were. Their only redeeming feature was that they kept the angel of death within their hearts, locked by their human memories. I felt tears in my eyes, but again did not let them fall. These were my friends, inhuman or not, and they hurt so I hurt for them.

The song ended, and we all stood in silence watching the fire take her body from us. The sounds were limited to the hints of insects outside and the cracking of the wood about her body. When dawn broke, they approached one at a time, each Raider stopping before me. Their dead eyes looked into mine and they nodded their heads a single time. It was a contract, a pledge to give their arms to my cause and my war against a threat which had strictly been for the living before this night.

Rite Aid’s Dirge:

I’d lost track of the hours I had been driving. Mattyyy from The Colony arranged for a truck for me with supplies. While The Colony had no current leads on the cult we both agreed that it was highly likely that they were being watched and it was in the best interest of all involved if I could slip out of the safe house fortress without being noticed. The best manner to do that was to put me on one of the delivery trucks and send me off to make a delivery. Nobody would question one of the many trucks leaving the compound every day and in turn I could appear at another safe house to trade in the truck for a new method to get back home. But my skin itched as I left The Colony feeling eyes on me that were likely only in my own head. I was nervous enough that I made no stops for the next eight hours driving like a mad woman chased by hounds of hell. Finally when I did take a stop to eat a meal that was packed for me exhaustion took over. I sealed myself into the truck and slept for another eight.

When I woke I barely felt human. The need to shower was only outweighed by the need to pee. I broke into a local home and used what I needed there as well as recovered a few more supplies. After, I was back on the road heading to where the truck’s delivery had been promised. I didn’t even know what was in the back. As I traveled down the road the silence felt unnatural despite the months of getting used to seeing fewer and fewer living. The radio’s static became preferable to the random and occasional sounds outside. A horn blaring, an alarm or some random explosion in the distance could be dampened by the sound of static turned up loud enough. Yet the sharper sounds of gun fire still broke through. Those disturbed me less as they were more signs of life, of people fighting to live and while I was not joining them or helping them, silently as I slipped through their territory I cheered them on. For a brief moment the static broke and I heard a voice. I pulled over the truck and turned the dials listening. I heard the word “Blue” and then static. The signal was lost in this territory, either from distance or something actively blocking it. I was now in The Hungry Tiger’s territory; I just had to find them.

By night fall I was getting desperate. I knew I was in the right area but streets were blocked off with cars and the truck was not going to fit through any of the narrow passages left. I pulled into a mall’s parking lot and drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. Walking at night in unknown territory, territory owned by the living, did not seem wise. As I contemplated my options a small band of bikers roared into the parking lot and I found the truck surrounded. A man with wild eyes leveled a gun in my direction while a woman beside him on her own bike with hair tossed by the ride and the wind gestured for me to exit. As I climbed out of the cab I kept my hands up in the air. “You’re not our regular driver. Mattyyy knows I don’t like things switching up on us.” I could hear the mistrust, a sign that this man whose gaze bespoke that he might be on the edge of sanity had trust issues.

“I realize, janimaltheanimal, that is the case, but Mattyyy felt that you might be able to help me. He said he doubled the shipment in payment for this unfortunate situation.” I kept my voice steady.

Looks were exchanged and janimaltheanimal gestured for one of his riders to check the truck. I heard the rear doors of the truck roll open and there was a pause before someone let out a whoop of excitement. Broad grins broke out all around and janimaltheanimal lifted his sawed off shotgun to rest it on his shoulder pointing upwards, “well now looks like we gotta guest for the night, Belle. How about you take her back with you?”

The woman on the bike beside him smirked at me and patted the seat behind her on her bike. I took in her biker appearance and her tattoos wondering again if perhaps being on my own tonight would be all that bad. But if there’s one thing worse than accepting a biker clan’s invitation while smiling, it would be refusing without a reasonable explanation. I grabbed my bag out of the cab, shouldered it and came over to climb onto the back of her bike.

The ride back wasn’t just exciting, it was terrifying. I felt myself squeezing a bit tighter than I was comfortable as BikerBelle weaved in and out of the broken cars on the road. It became apparent to me that these cars were not just scattered but arranged in a pattern. The patterns allowed the bikes in and out while keeping larger vehicles out of their territory. It also funneled any zee activity so that large numbers were forced to squeeze in a trickle for easier killing. A smart move if your safe house lacked the numbers of others such as ATCO.

When I saw the safe house itself, I felt shocked at the appearance. Of all the buildings in the area it would have been the last on my list to pick. There were glass windows all about the front proudly displaying the lights shining inside. Inside, colored lights made the bar seem festive and I could see a lit up stage with instruments.  A small barricade was set up in front of the building and behind it a row of bikes.  I could see other people dressed in leathers and sporting tattoos wandering both inside and outside of the building. It was a surreal end of the world version of a biker club in the middle of the ruins of a city. When we pulled in, BikerBelle shouted out some orders sending more men on bikes to head for the parking lot. I climbed off the bike and stood stiffly, uncertain of what I was doing here.

It was Wego who came to my rescue, stepping out of the bar and approaching. “BikerBelle, you arrive and you brought with you another lovely lady. Only one who is not marked up to look like a painted lady from the circus.” His hand extended beyond the white robes I’ve come to know as Algiers Point members and handed me a bandana.

“Wego, one of these days that smart mouth of yours is going to get you punched.” BikerBelle’s threatening tone hid behind a hint of a smile. I could understand why, as one could see in the gentle expression in Wego’s face and his friendly demeanor that it would be difficult to hold a grudge against him.

Wego linked his arm with mine after I took the colorful home-made bandana and started to lead me off, “one of these days yes, but not until you’re all good and drunk and I suspect you’ll all be far too busy unloading that supply of beer from The Colony, won’t you?”

I heard the laugh of Belle as Wego brought me into The Hungry Tiger and towards a table in the back. This was becoming a familiar scene. I enter a new safe house and immediately Algiers Point members seclude me to debrief me on matters. At a small round table at the back I sat across from Wego while he brought out a brush pen and dipped it into black ink. He carefully started to draw characters from kanji, an art of Japanese lettering. “I find this relaxing to do, I hope you don’t mind.”

Smiling faintly I shook my head, “not at all Wego. Is there something about The Hungry Tiger I should know?”

“Yes. First off they are all a little crazy. Not terribly so, but just a little. Some of the members have lost people very close to them in manners that are more personal than others. Tread lightly and watch your speech.” His eyes sharpened as he met mine, “and don’t go drinking with them. Even if you think you can drink, just don’t.”

Before I could respond a gloved hand came down upon my shoulder, “well now, who is this here?” The voice had a slight accent to it that I could place. Glancing up I saw a man dressed not just in leathers but leathers for show.

Wego’s response hinted at his disapproval at being interrupted, “KingKonge, this is Chyram of Terry Fox.”

“Chyram of Terry Fox, what are you doing sitting around with the most boring of men in all of Hungry Tiger? Come along; let’s get you a drink, love.” I saw Wego’s slight head shake warning me, but, irritated at being told I couldn’t handle a few drinks, I stood up nodding in agreement.

At the bar, I was handed a beer. We got to talking until the rest of the truck’s food and booze arrived. Soon everyone was busy storing what was there and I chipped in to help. The dusk turned to night and the night turned to pitch black. I found myself looking more and more at the glass windows in worry. All the lights were on. We were a firefly of activity in the night drawing every zee to us and I did not want to die that night.

Belle noticed my concern and moved to sit on a stool beside me, “there’s not many of them left out there.”

“Many of the zees?”

“Yup, not many. Oh there’s some, and we know it, but now there’s only a few. We have to go to efforts to drag in more. When the outbreak wave hit this city most of us were having an End of the World party right here. Only somewhere along the lines of getting drunk or high janimaltheanimal sort of broke. He freaked out and grabbed a gun. He said that he wasn’t going out like those mother fuckers out there all moaning and drooling on himself. Man has to have pride in his appearance. He went up on the roof and just started shooting. Rest of us followed. When morning came, we were all still here, and anything left out there was dead or moved on. We all just stayed.” I could hear the glow in BikeBelle’s tone. The two of them were close, though how close I couldn’t be certain.

“So what do you guys do here now?”

“We’re a way station with The Colony and we take in stragglers. Sometimes people stay and sometimes they move on. We’re family. We look out for each other. What else would we do in this world?” I thought about her words and then the cult before nodding my head.

“There’s more out there than zees you know, even more than government agents.”

BikerBelle nodded her head slightly, “we’ve heard of your cult but haven’t seen any yet. I figure it takes someone with charisma to come in and sway a safe house to follow them right? Well nobody is going to come in and take us from janimaltheanimal. This is his club, we’re his bikers. The man might be insane, but we’ll all die to defend him.” She gave me a toothy smile that might have been a warning.

“I’m not here to cause problems Belle.”

Her laughter chimed out, “you cause problems? No offense but what exactly could you do?” My teeth grit just a little but I forced a smile. “You know what? I think it’s time we had ourselves a good old fashion roof party.” Belle stood up and called out, “KingKonge, time for you to make some noise, rest of you, we’re heading to the roof!” Shouts of encouragement rang out and I found myself trapped in a crowd that pushed its way up a narrow staircase and onto the roof of the building. Lining the edge was rifles and ammunition. Several men brought boxes of beer up and placed them in the center.

BikerBelle brought up her hands, “Rules, ladies, gents, and janimaltheanimal: You miss a head shot you drink a beer. For janimaltheanimal, he makes a head shot, he drinks a beer.” That brought out a roar of laughter and a group of half drunken people started to load rifles. I grew nervous even as one was thrust into my hands. Below me, to my horror, I heard music. I looked down and through the curved glass I could see KingKonge on the stage starting to play. Some were still on the main floor dancing or cheering him on. The song was good, the beat was great and the words were hard to ignore, but the sound was drawing in more than the joy of the crowd.

From the rim of light, we started to see them. Zees filtering in from the pathways of cars, pressing in near the barricade. janimaltheanimal brought up his rifle and fired off a quick shot. A half rotten zee’s head exploded like an over ripe melon and a cheer went up. A beer was passed to him and he chugged it quickly. More and more zees appeared and we ended up all taking shots. I soon found I was not among the best, and as I drank more, my shooting got worse. At one point, quite drunk, I looked at BikerBelle with a half closed eye and slurred, “You know, you keep handing them out but you’re not drinking. You’re a cheat!” Her eyes narrowed and she punched me in response. I fell back, hit the gravel of the roof and saw the world spin. Then it went black.

I don’t remember much for the next few days other than that they passed. I woke up sick with Wego holding back my hair while I “prayed” to the porcelain gods. I remember being chastised by him and hearing him lecture Belle. Then I remember I drank more but I forget who handed me the drink. There was pain, nothing extreme, but I remember the discomfort on my back, and while I vaguely remember agreeing to it, I certainly wasn’t conscious enough for details. Then I was hung-over, half wishing I was dead, while clinging like a sick monkey to BikerBelle, her bike thundering beneath us both. It was only a week ago that I had lamented the stupidity of being on a bike in a zombie infested world. Here I was not able to keep my balance on a bike driven by a road demoness heading home.

We pulled up to Terry Fox and I was helped off the bike and into the arms of Beebles and Malkoris. They helped me inside and I heard laughter as the bikes rode off. Distinctly I heard Belle’s voice say, “Make sure to tell her I said ‘you’re welcome’.”

“What happened to your back?” Malkoris’ tone was concerned.

“I don’t know, it hurts and it itches.”

“Hold still, let’s get this bandage off,” Beebles carefully peeled back the tape before gasping, “oh! I didn’t know you were into this sort of thing. It’s incredible Chyram!”

My heart thumped in my chest, “into what sort of thing?” Malkoris’ eyes met mine and he went to find a mirror. Standing with my back to the larger mirror I used the smaller one to look back behind me. With a snarl I growled out, “That bitch!” The anger faded to laughter as I stared at it. Alright, it was not something I would have done had I not been totally blind drunk, but if I had to pick a tattoo that embraced who I was becoming, a Kitsune was pretty damn accurate. I felt the grin I was trying to hold back appear on my face.

“Yeah I can tell you’re all broke up about it.” Malkoris rolled his eyes and turned to leave the room. “I’ll go make your bed. You’re still drunk and need to sleep this,” I felt his hand lightly smack the still-sensitive skin of my back, “off.”

The Song Sung by KingKonge:

  • Safe House: The Hungry Tiger
  • CVC Level: 6
  • Current Recorded Members: 28
  • Overall Opinion:When I was a kid I didn’t smoke or really do anything that the “bad kids” did. You always knew who the “bad kids” were because they all hung out at the smoke pit at the far end of the field. And when I was in the eighth grade they were intimidating until one day I got beat up. (Surprised that I was in a fight? Don’t be I was a mouthy little kid who survived by wit not strength.) It was the same “bad kids” that came to help me out. They put word out in the school that if I got touched again, they would come and deal with my attacker. Shocked the heck out of me to tell you the truth, I didn’t know I had left a good impression. The Hungry Tiger reminds me of those kids. In the forums and in Global Chat they have rough edges. They are quick to use sexual innuendo in Global Chat to the point that originally I wanted to write them up as a brothel to start. They are fierce to protect one another, especially the vocal members, and follow all the trademarks of online social behavior I expect from those who have companions that know each other in the real world outside of online activities. (Which some do.) When they think they are being wronged they don’t just respond, but they repeatedly attack until they get satisfaction, emotionally or in compensation. This is the sort of tight knit community needed to sustain a smaller safe house. While their numbers are small compared to other houses, The Hungry Tiger leaves a big impression on the community. Few would not know their name. More over having been welcome in their PAL room I know that they are inviting of people, both guests and members. I can’t get a good feel for the rating of the chat in their safe house but I would not recommend them to a younger than sixteen year old age group. However for the young adults who want to have fun, or anyone interested in bikes or tattooing I would recommend these people. If I get beat up in PSC (assuming it’s not my sometimes questionable wit that causes THT to do the beating) they would be on the list of people I would appeal to for help.
  • Communication: Palringo Room (Contact within CVC or Forums for exact locations), Safe House Chat, CVC Global Chat for Safe House invites (1/2 fees when invited), Please Stay Calm Forums

In a previous posting I outlined the benefits of having a unique avatar image, either one to yourself or one that links you with your safe house. If you have not seen that posting or would like to review it you can find the posting HERE I have seen people in Global Chat request help on how to show their own unique avatar images. I’m going to provide a tutorial on how to use Foursquare to do just that. There is also the option of using Facebook, however I have heard this possibility comes with more bugs than the Foursquare option and personally I do not have a Facebook account I can use the demonstrate the full steps involved. I will in the tutorial point out the option for Facebook but not provide the full steps involved in using Facebook.

Phase One – Choosing Your Avatar Image

To get your unique avatar image will take a few steps. You’ll first need to find the picture you would like to use. There are many avatar friendly sites, or you can create your own through cropping a part of an image. I recommend getting an idea of how it will appear by observing the image when it is 150 x 150 pixels in size. That will give you a rough idea as to how clear it would appear on an iPad. It will be even smaller on an iPod or iPhone which you can get a better idea at if you reduce to 50 X 50 pixels. (The size on the iPad will be smaller than 150 x 150 pixels but I feel that I can still manipulate and changes at that size while having a reasonable expectation as to the end result.)

Ultimately if that seems complicated to you I recommend either appealing to a safe house friend for help in finding or creating an image, or going to one of the many avatar sites and picking one of the many options located there.

If you want more of a challenge I would recommend Photoshop for manipulating your image, or if you wish for the free alternative Paint.Net. (See link for free download)

Phase Two – Making Your Foursquare Account (It’s Free!)

Step One:

Go to Foursquare located at: https://foursquare.com/

Step Two:

Click on the Login Button located at the top. See the example for the grey button in the red square.

Step Three:

If you already have a Foursquare account login here. If you don’t have an account, select the hyperlink shown in the example in the red box with the label “Sign up for foursquare”. (Again, this is free!)

If you believe you have an account and attempt to login but get the following error message:

You can try again, or you can use the “Forgot your password?” hyperlink in grey. That will send you to a page where you can have Foursquare email you with recovery information to reset your password.

Step Four:

If you have signed into your Foursquare account please skip down to Step Five.

Now that you are signing up for Foursquare you have two options. You can pick to sign up with Facebook (see green arrow) or with Email (see orange arrow). Again I will not be presenting the Facebook option. If you wish to follow this tutorial select “Sign up with Email” located where the orange arrow in the example is displayed.

You’re now at the Sign up page (which also has a Login option in case you suddenly remember you do have an account.) Fill in the fields noting that your phone number is optional. Selecting the Browse button allows you to find the picture you wish to use for your avatar image. (See red arrow in example) Once all fields have been filled out click the big green button that says “Join”. (See red box in example)

Step Five:

The next steps let you tailor your Foursquare account. If you’re only interested in using this for the game, use the handy “Skip This Step” button located at the bottom followed by the “OK! I’m Done!” button on the next page. Feel free to browse your options here if you wish to use the Foursquare account for other activities.

You’ll know find yourself on the final page before your Foursquare homepage. Here you can find a number of options to download apps for your phone. Again this is not necessary for Please Stay Calm but feel free to play with these as you wish. I have not used any and cannot speak to their benefits. If you wish to stay focused on the original purpose click on the hyperlink “Continue to the homepage”. (See red box in example)

Phase Optional – Editing Your Foursquare Avatar

If you don’t like the avatar image or wish to change it later on all you have to do is login and come to your homepage in Foursquare. From here click on your name for the drop down menu and select “My profile” located at the top.

Looking at your profile you will see a larger version of the current image along with your account name and the location of where you are. (This is blocked in my example by the image of a key to preserve my privacy.) Place your mouse over the image and it will change. A black box with the word “Change?” will appear over top the left top corner. Click on the image at this time.

You will again be looking at your settings for your profile. Here you can change various set options, including the image using the Browse button. When you are finished find the big green button at the bottom that is called “SAVE CHANGES” and select it.

Phase Three – Connecting Please Stay Calm Account to Foursquare Account

This is the easy part but comes with a few possible glitches that I will try to outline.

Step One:

Go to your Profile. You can do this from the main page by clicking on the Profile button located here in the example beneath your character’s larger image. (See the HERE! Text bubble)

Step Two:

Go into your PSC Settings option. This is located between the Setup Email Security button and the CVC Survival Guidebook above your skills experience bars. (See Yellow Arrow)

Step Three:

In your settings there is a section called “Social”. Here you can login directly to your Facebook account. I do not recommend this option as I have heard from others that it is more likely to case glitches in showing your avatar image. However that option is there should you choose to use it.

You will notice there is also a Foursquare option. Click on the Login button. If this is your first time logging in you will be given a screen to enter your username (the email address you used) and your password. This will link your Foursquare account with this instance of Please Stay Calm. It is very important to understand what this means. You cannot logout of Foursquare and log back in with a different Foursquare account unless you delete the app, reinstall it and then connect using the same character name. Otherwise anytime you attempt to login you will be auto logged with the previous settings noted. This could have to do with a connection to having Game Center linked to Please Stay Calm, however this was my own personal experience this week while making changes to my accounts. I do not recommend deleting the app if you can avoid it.

When logged in you will see a green checkmark beside the setting and the login button will become a logout button.

Step Four:

This is your final step. (As long as there’s no glitches!) Click on your Avatar image at the bottom of your PSC Settings. You will see three options (more if you’re logged into more than Foursquare). The Current option is the avatar you are displaying. Please Stay Calm is the avatar you default to or your character in the game. If you’ve logged into Foursquare it appears on this list. Select Foursquare and the avatar image above will change. Click on Done and it will be saved.

Known Glitches:

  1. After changing your avatar image it may take up to twenty four hours for some people to see the change.  Workaround: Be patient and wait for the twenty four hour mark.
  2. After changing your avatar image it is possible that the program gets confused and loses the connection with Foursquare. Workaround: If this occurs you will notice that your image is static when you check your PSC settings where you would select your avatar image. Confirm you are logged into Foursquare and reselect Foursquare as your avatar image choice.
  3. Foursquare is not controlled by the developers of PSC and can have its own issues. I had one previous situation where Foursquare forgot one of my three accounts. Workaround: create a new account. I had to delete the app and reinstall to connect my one character account to the new Foursquare account due to the auto login that PSC performs.
  4. Please Stay Calm saves your Foursquare (and likely other such as Facebook) settings. You can login and logout but you cannot point to a new account. If the password changes I do not know if you are prompted to enter a new password. Workaround: Uninstall and reinstall app is the only way I know to cleanly break the connection and log back in.

The world was divided into fewer sounds than it used to be: The sounds of gunfire, the sounds of the moaning dead and the screams of triumph and panic from the living. These were the sounds we had come to know that kept us company in the night and that we contributed to. Gone were the hum of constant traffic and often the buzz from a million electric devices that used to surround us, alive feeding on energy. Now in most communities their carcasses were harvested for parts to build weapons and shelters and they were skeletons of what they once used to represent, wealth, progress and prosperity. Coming to The Colony broke my heart anew. Briefly within the shelter of the fenced walls I was able to forget what the world had become. Death was far away, another world and instead it was a friendly town with laughter and children playing. People greeted one another and the grass was green not scorched from fire or soaked with blood. It was a perversion of all that was wholesome within The Colony that day I stood beside Pinkersnitch and heard the gunfire erupt within the Brewery.

About us others stood in horror and I saw the hope and happiness dim within the eyes of others about me. Faces paled and people wept. It was therefore frozen we all stood when mwpeterson broke out the front doors half dragging a woman bloodied at his side. He looked at the crowd and yelled, “What the hell is wrong with you, can’t you see I got an injured person?” None of us moved at first I am ashamed to admit. Our eyes were on the woman’s crumpled form, the thought shared by all: injury or infected? Even here compassion was tempered with fear. mwpeterson shook his head and snarled, “Pinker get the fuck over here, she had a beam land on her, she’s not one of the infected.” His words had an opposing force in some. The confirmation that there was an infection outbreak sent people scurrying, gathering up the children to head indoors. Pinkersnitch and I rushed forward to help mwpeterson with the injured woman, carrying her towards the clinic.

“mwpeterson, what the hell happened in there?” I could see the gleam in Pinkersnitch’s eyes, fear and anger balanced with the reporter’s need to know. I never completely understood the thirst for knowledge that drove some people but if that was the focus that was keeping her moving I couldn’t criticize it.

“Everything went to shit,” mwpeterson answered. “Someone fucked with my brew, that’s all I can guess at.” Pinkersnitch sucked in a breath and I exchanged glances with her.

We brought the woman in to the clinic and waited outside while mwpeterson was checked over to confirm he had no bites or cuts that could be infected. Mattyyy soon made an appearance and I was startled to realize that he had been one of the armored individuals who went into the brewery; the helmet that had covered his face was now under his arm. “Ms. Chyram, I believe we should revisit that earlier conversation.” His mannerism was stiff but I suspected that had more to do with the grim task of having to put down some of his own people than any negative emotion towards me.

“We should wait for mwpeterson. He’s being checked over and will be out shortly.” Pinkersnitch’s comment was directed to us but her eyes were looking towards the brewery. I felt my own gaze drawn to the front doors where body bags were being brought out and loaded onto a wooden cart. None of them were moving, at least not yet.

It was not long after that I was back seated in a room with the previous members of The Colony but without the Algiers Point representative. mwpeterson also had joined us and he was the first to speak, telling the tale of the taste test that had gone horribly wrong. It was suppose to be the start of a new tradition, the tasting of the previous year’s yield which had been fermented. mwpeterson had reserved that honor for those who had toiled in the fields and spent their waking hours harvesting the grapes. The barrel was opened and mwpeterson had begun pouring into glasses the golden liquid inside. The first person to receive a glass swirled the liquid and taken a whiff before halting mwpeterson. It was likely this unfortunate soul’s actions that had saved The Colony as a whole. He complained that the wine’s smell was off and took a small sip. A few others had now received glasses and they too took drinks. The transformation had taken less than two minutes, those that drank screamed in pain and panic before falling to the floor convulsing. Others rushed to help them and often were the first that were bitten in arms or legs. Panic ensured and mwpeterson had the presence of mind to hit the alarm to warn The Colony’s arm forces about the disaster. All told by the time the report came in ten people had been infected and had to be eliminated. Their bodies were being taken to a pit to be burned. There would be mourning within The Colony that night.

“But I don’t understand how this could have happen!” The harsh emotional pain in mwpeterson’s voice was obvious to those in the room. He was taking personal responsibility for the tainting as the brewery was both his idea and his project. It was meant to be something to bring joy to The Colony.

“Have you,” I hesitated, an outsider who spoke up in what felt very much like an intimate moment among comrades. “Have you brought any new people into the brewery who previously had worked the fields? Say the northern fields that had blight last fall?” It was a delicate topic to bring up as I was admitting to knowing events within The Colony that I had no right to be privilege to. I could see the suspicion on mwpeterson’s eyes and I didn’t fault him for it.

Mattyyy’s hand moved to mwpeteron’s shoulder to temper his response. “We have had a few, why do you ask?” I was relieved that Mattyyy was so on top of the movement of his people that I didn’t need to wait for the response from others.

“Is it possible that someone might be responsible for both the blight and the tainting of the brew?” My tone was hesitant again. I inwardly cursed at myself for not speaking with strong conviction rather than tempered meekness.

Mattyyy’s expression harden a bit again resisting the idea of what I was suggesting, that there was both a cult and they had a presence within his people. At first I was frustrated with his stubborn pride before a voice in my mind reminded me, these are his people who he cares for and takes pride in. The thought that one was betraying them, betraying him, would cut very deeply. frizzlefried spoke breaking the silence, “Shannon. Present both at the blight and transferred into the brewery less than a week ago. Around the same time you choose the cask that would be tested as I recall mwpeterson.” His youthful tones spoke with an innocence that his eyes did not share. I was seeing the lawyer carefully speaking to a jury and he was speaking in defense of me.

“Well why don’t we get this,” my words were interrupted by Mattyyy using some harshness for the first time.

“Ms. Chyram, remember you are a guest here with no authority.” I settled down on the most part, my eyes narrowing as I glared at Mattyyy in frustration. There was no way in which I could have prevented what occurred today. Not if I had arrived a day earlier and not if he had listen to me when I first arrived. We both knew that but our tempers and our nerves were frayed. Mattyyy stood up and left the room briefly. We could hear him speaking in the hallway with someone before returning. The room was quiet for several minutes, none certain they wished to break the tension until a woman was brought into the room flanked on either side by armed guards. “Shannon, we are beginning to interview the survivors of the incident earlier at the brewery.” Mattyyy’s voice had returned to the smooth tone of a diplomat, his expression gentle with the woman. I turned to look at this woman and felt some of my possible compassion for a tragic survivor melt away. It was in her eyes that you could see the crazy, this burning fury and hate. She was looking at me, straight at me. Was I the only one who could see it? How could I get them to know the truth about this woman?

“I’m sorry Mister Mattyyy but I can’t tell you very much. I was working sweeping out the back for mister mwpeterson.” Her smile was gentle a mockery of what I saw in her eyes. I looked back at The Colony and saw that none could see the unspeakable evil that stood before them. No not none; Pinkersnitch saw it. Our eyes met and she nodded her head very slightly at me.

Pinkersnitch gently spoke next, “Shannon, how are you managing? This has to have been very difficult so soon after what happened to your last safe house.”

Shannon’s eyes flickered from Mattyyy to Pinkersnitch and then back, “oh no madam, this is a safe place. Must have just been an accident. Maybe mister mwpeterson wasn’t as careful as he needed to be.” I saw mwpeterson visibly bristle at that and gently kicked him beneath the table. He scowled at me but didn’t speak.

Pinkersnitch nodded her head and thoughtfully answered, “was an accident at your last safe house too if I recall what I wrote when I was introducing you to the community, a poisoning?” Mattyyy’s eyes sharpen at that comment. Silently I cheered Pinkersnitch for her encyclopedia of information.

“Yes madam was dreadful.” It struck me then that Shannon was refusing to call Pinkersnitch by her name, as if somehow detaching her value by only using a title.

“Mattyyy you know you’re going to have to destroy all the food processed and scrub down the brewery. Nothing can be let out. In fact you’re probably going to have to shut down food distribution until you get to the bottom of this.” I kept my tone reasonable and watched as Mattyyy responded with a thoughtful nod.

“Oh no, mister Mattyyy that won’t be needed, I’m sure of it. In fact it was probably the work of some stranger.” Her eyes turned a poisonous glare towards me. Gotcha! I thought to myself. You want that food going out, don’t you witch? What have you done?

Mattyyy shook his head, “thank you Shannon but we can’t take any risks on the matter, and there are lives at stake.”

Shannon scowled at me before pointing her finger, “it was you, and I know it was you. I was there sweeping up and I saw you sneaking about. And you used this!” She slipped her hand into her pocket before bringing out a small glass vial. “You used this and a needle on the barrel. And I thought to myself that was a strange thing so when you threw them away I kept them. So the rest is safe. This is all her fault!”

Pinkersnitch gently spoke at that point, “Shannon, Chyram has been in my constant supervision since she stepped into The Colony only a few hours ago.” All eyes were on Shannon now, including the guard’s. Realizing she had been caught in her own lie by being so eager to place the blame on an outsider Shannon changed.

She sneered and stood up straighter, the old woman with the bad back faded away.  The guards on either side of her took hold of her arms at that point. “You all have no idea what is coming next. Death is coming; a new god and we will all be his servants or his sacrifice. His prophet speaks and those who are wise listen!”

Mattyyy’s expression turned to disgust, “take her to the cells. We’ll discuss what to do about her next.”

mwpeterson stood up, his eyes blazing with fury, “I’ll see to it she’s under full guard.” The four left the room and I turned again to face frizzlefried, Mattyyy and Pinkersnitch.

“Will you be executing her?” I was more curious at this point than vindictive, feeling emotionally drained.

“We will have to consider that as a possibility,” Mattyyy responded.

Pinkersnitch further explained, “The Colony has not faced such a threat from the inside before. This is unprecedented and unpleasant.” I nodded my head falling silent.

Once again it was the young among us that spoke with wisdom, “as I understand it you have been running from place to place looking for the source of this cult?” frizzlefried’s eyes hone on me. I nodded my head with hesitation knowing there was more. “That seems like a good strategy if you were rooting out a blemish, something limited. But this was not a chaotic attack. It took planning and organization to enter The Colony and attempt not just one but two attacks upon the food chain. We provide half of the safe houses in circulation with fresh food. We were targeted by an organized enemy. Perhaps what you should be trying to do rather than find the source’s location is ask yourself who would benefit if the living were gone?”

Pinkersnitch murmurs, “I’ve been hearing stories about talking zees, Rite Aid is their flag I believe.”

“No.” My tone was firm. “The Raiders are in the clear on this; I can speak on their behalf.”

“How can you be so sure?” Mattyyy’s tone was respectful but still authoritative.

I drew in a slow breath, “I’ve lived among them, travelled with them and they have treated me like family. Its true there is an infection among them but it is not this. None of them are following a cult. They are more like a band of gypsies and on the most part they just want to be left alone. They could have infected me or killed my safe house multiple times but instead they have helped us on a number of occasions. More than they let me know I’m sure. In fact none of the safe houses I’m aware of can be behind this attack.”

“Then who?” frizzlefried’s eyes turn to Mattyyy.

“If we can believe Ms. Chyram we don’t know.” Mattyyy’s hand came up to gently rub at his eyes. “The only advantage is now at least The Colony believes in the threat. They won’t catch us unaware again Chyram. And I will put word out among all my contacts and those we hold contracts with. As soon as we get information it will be sent to you.”

Pinkersnitch murmurs, “In person. Let’s keep this limited on the CVC.” The reporter could see the same concerns as I with the open communication on the CVC.

Mattyyy’s hand reached out towards me to shake, “let’s get your contract written up. It seems like we’re going into a rather morbid business together Ms. Chyram.”

I grasped his hand back to shake, “you slipped back there and dropped the Ms. I rather liked it, how about we stick with that.”