Archive for the ‘Safe House Lore’ Category

Cold, aching, my head pounding to a vicious beat, these are not the sensations anyone would want to wake up to. My hand reached about me for a blanket, because surely there must be one, I was after all lying stretched out. No, not stretched but scrunched a bit, curled up in a fetal position. Was this from a bad dream? I couldn’t remember. No blanket could be found and about me not soft sheets upon a mattress but something hard and grooved that my fingers struck causing them to ache. My eyes open to find beneath my cheek a sheet of metal, corrugated. That made little sense to my hazed mind.

I tried to stretch my legs out to ease their ache only to find they hit something boxing me in. I had my shoes on still so it didn’t hurt but the toe of one boot slipped into a hole of some kind and for a moment it was stuck until I struggled to get it released. My eyes open further and as if sight lent it strength the smells of the room washed over me. The smell of blood, metallic and sickening first came to me. The smell of rot – A familiar scent that the zees had given us, which fully woke me to my senses and caused me to struggle to sit up, that invaded my nose and my mind causing panic. I banged my head on something above me and paused to look about at what I was laying upon. A cage – no a kennel like that which a large dog would be enclosed. All about me metal bars. I was trapped, a padlock upon the door to keep me in. The room was large, dark and in the distance I could hear the dead moaning. They sounded close and yet not within the room, a room that appeared to have been sectioned off. The ceiling was high above me and the only light came from skylights that showed me blue skies with no signs of clouds. I was in some kind of abandon warehouse that had been repurposed but for what?

Memories tumbled back, the alleyway, the face with the skull and the robes. I shuddered and bit back a cry before starting to search my arms for signs of a needle mark. I felt sick to my stomach and worry and stress caused me to wonder if it was a sign of the sickness that would turn me into one of the dead. The dead – why was I still alive? Why hadn’t they killed me and left my body in that desolated place? I was fully clothed in the clothes I had been in when they took me. My face ached from where the blow that knocked me unconscious had hit and the dizziness I felt had to have been from drugs. Vague memories of a car and faces, voices talking and arguing surface. Nothing concrete I could grab onto and make sense of my surroundings.

“Here, have some water it will help.” Between the bars in a paper cup a small portion of water was held out to me. Drugged, it must be drugged, or infected or perhaps even poison. Fear caused my reaction and my hand struck out knocking the paper cup from the slim hand of the voice who spoke. A female voice, gentle and kind even. Was it a trick? It must be, everything about me was death and torment.

“Easy now, I’m not going to hurt you. You’re okay. Nobody gets hurt while they are in this room.” Her tone reassured me and at the same time there was a hint of the honest brutal truth. It was safe in this room which means there were other rooms. Rooms where it was not so safe and perhaps people did not return from. I looked towards the voice into the face of a woman in her early fifties. A motherly figure, perhaps like the one who once came to my safe house there to use her reassuring appearance to fool victims of the Cult? “I understand you’re afraid. I am Sirena. Do you remember your name?”

My name – I remember my name. It had not been taken from me. My tone was harsh and cracked from being dehydrated, “Chyram.”

“Alright Chyram, I’m going to give you some more water, please don’t spill it. I only have a little left right now.” She was in a cage as well, though while mine was a dog kennel, hers appeared to be that of a large bird cage like what a parrot would be kept. I watched in silence as she poured out the precious liquid from a flask and passed me the water. This time I took it to my mouth and smelt it a carefully before having a sip. It seemed clean, but I couldn’t be sure. Yet I needed the liquid too badly to deny myself. “So you are Chyram. Somehow I expected you to be more of something. Maybe taller or at least older.”

“You’ve heard of me?”

“Only what Charlie has said in passing. He likes to pace about this room when he’s talking to his goddess. I suppose it’s fitting for him to do so since he claims those in this room were chosen. The last month or so has had him ranting about you.”

I processed that slowly. Charles talks to a deity? Of course he does, he after all seemed to see himself as a prophet. Why not rant out loud. “Chosen? Chosen to do what? To become zees like his other followers?”

“I don’t really understand it. Some have been held here and then turned but he’s kept me in this room for well I’m not really sure how long.” Her tone became philosophical, “seems like months at least. Charlie’s always going on about the grand plan and how I play some critical role. I keep telling him that he’s a fool. Even if he’s hearing someone on the other end of the line they are crazy to think that I’ll either willingly help them, or that I’m likely to last long enough to do any good.”

“So you’re infected then? How long have you been sick?”

She chuckled softly, “oh I’ve been ill since my twenties, least that’s when the doctors told me that I had a few years to live. Irony of it is with this plague I’ve probably out lived most of them, at least those who didn’t escape to the Green Zones. No I have another kind of illness. This crisis has not been kind to those of us needing medicines.” She shrugged her shoulders a bit, “for now I just hold out and wait for a more universal answer to why all this happened. I’m in the right place where I need to be at this time. Maybe I’ll talk some love back into that mad man.”

I frowned at her words. Sick with something else? I could see the pinched look and hints of poor health though nothing showed in her words or attitude. “How can you be so calm about all of this? You’re dying.”

Her expression turned more serious and her eyes settled on me. They were a storm of greyish blue and I could see grief within them held at bay by some means I couldn’t grasp. An inner strength or a practiced skill as she had been sick for a long time, “who is to say I’m calm about this? I’ve had my days when I cried and I’ve had my days when I screamed into the air at how unfair my situation is. Yet others have died in wars and from worse. I have counted each and every extra year I’ve gained as a blessing. A way to see more, do more and to leave a mark on this world so that it’s a better place than where I found it.”

I couldn’t help but snort a bit in distain. “I’m sorry lady, Sirena was it? How is this world any better than the one you were born into? People are dying. People are fighting one another. A mad man seeks to infect those that are just trying to live long enough to see an end to this plague.”

Her lips smiled faintly, “you’re very cynical for your age. I’ll tell you how it’s better. It’s better because of people like you. Those who fight against the bad that has happened and don’t give up. I remember two weeks ago when his face started to appear on the news station,” she chuckled softly. “He was raving so crazy he actually had spittle coming from his mouth. Terrible, I shouldn’t laugh. But he is my purpose I think. I’m here so that I can help him get back his love of humanity. A part of him honestly believes that whoever he thinks he’s hearing, well they are guiding him to help mankind. I don’t know who is deceiving him or why they are keeping me here, but I won’t give up on reminding him the good in people.”

I shook my head and leaned back against the cage, sipping the water before asking, “How do you know he’s actually hearing anyone. It’s probably just voices in his head.”

“You know I thought that at first until I saw the ear piece. He keeps it hidden in his hood most of the time but it’s there. Someone is talking to him. When he receives a message the ear piece gets a little red light that turns on.”

My eyes widen as I breathed out the one word that mattered to me, “who?”

Sirena’s head shook, “I don’t know. As far as I can tell he’s the only one who gets to talk to her. And you could be right. It could be simply a voice in his head. He’ll be here soon. Around noon he comes to check on me and now you as well and to talk to her.”

Steven rubbed at his eyes from the rooftop a block from the target. They hadn’t stopped moving so he was forced to not sleep for nearly four days to keep up. Exhaustion took over by the time they pulled into the compound. He nearly got caught from being so tired. “You know what dead heroes are right? Legends,” Jonathan’s voice grated at the moment with how his head thumped with a dull roar. “You should find a foxhole and sleep. You’re not useful at this point even for recon.”

Hating to admit it, Steven raised his binoculars up to examine the compound again. The vehicle had gone into a large warehouse once it passed guarded gates. There were towers with robed figures patrolling. The whole structure was fenced off with double fences. In the yard were more fenced areas, some holding the living and some the dead. Between the double fences were zees that seemed to act like watch dogs. Any sign of anything living approaching and they would all race to that part of the fence clamouring to get out and tear into the flesh of the object of their affection. It was unlike anything he had seen to date in this crazy world. The dead, nature’s new alarm system.

Steven pulled back from his sniper’s nest into a small lean-to he had crafted on the roof. It was well hidden and would block out the daytime sunlight. A few hours sleep will help set his mind to rights. Maybe at that point some sort of plan could be hatched. At the very least he’ll have his wits about him and he’ll be able to actually do proper recon.

It had been a full week since Chyram had disappeared. He had put out the call to RA and they had scoured the area where she last reported in. It seemed more like luck than anything else when her SUV was located and inside the bodies of the two Sharks shot dead. There was no blood trail and no scent trail to follow. RA reported back to Terry Fox that they had located what appeared to be a survivor’s nest in one of the buildings nearby but that it too appeared to be abandon at least a week. She was gone. First there was denial, then anger and by now Malkoris was in numb disbelief. Rallied around allies searched and KSAT TV even featured a piece on finding the missing woman, one in a billion to have disappeared off the face of the planet. Some were starting to believe that she was dead, and others hoped she had a swift ending rather than what torment she might be facing in the hands of her enemies but Malkoris was not yet ready to give up.

He left behind Searlait and Beebles with Tough Hands, a newer member of Terry Fox. Since the public call for help more hand gathered into the safe house and helped to build it into a Stronghold. Beebles kept saying that it would be a good place for Chyram to come home to as if that was a foregone conclusion. Searlait had stopped talking and retreated more and more into parts of the building that were hard to follow where walls had collapsed or doors were stuck. And as for Malkoris, well Chyram was not home, she was out there somewhere waiting to be found. He packed his gear and followed the route laid out by Alcatraz’s resources to perhaps the one group who could help return their leader to them.

More than a week travel, not being used to going far from his territory Malkoris finally reached Cacapon State Park. There was a relief at leaving the broken cities and dodging the dead to move among the trees again despite his last encounter with those who forsook broken civilization for the wilds of nature. “Anything but a moose,” he muttered under his breath following a narrow hiking trail. This trail was well maintained and clear enough that no zees should be able to grab from the bushes and bite down before he saw them.  The clear and clean cut path was in some ways adding to his anxiousness. This was not a trail that was allowed to go back to nature and if that’s the case then human care takers couldn’t be too far behind.

Up ahead he could see the path was turning from dirt to a wooden walk way. It would lead him over a stream and into what looked like a clearing. The air had been clean not just from the smells missing that used to permeate the cities but also the sickly sweet smells of decay and death that had become so common you never took note of them anymore. Malkoris could hear a heavy thump of his boots on the wooden path, echoing in the forest. The sounds of birds and insects accompanied him until a familiar click caused his footsteps to freeze. Someone had just slipped the safety on a gun and it had come from behind him. Hands up, he slowly turned about, heart thumping in his chest with fear and regret. What a wasteful way to die, alone in the woods to a bandit and so far from the dangers of both zees and the Cult. A young fresh faced man stood there holding a gun trained on him. He was dressed like a park ranger, something rather startling. While Malkoris had been told that the State Lodge had been gathering up civilians to play the role of ranger, the would-be rescuer had not actually thought they’d dress the role in a clean cut uniform complete with tie.

“Good morning sir, pardon the need for caution. You understand these are dangerous times?” The young man had a hint of a twang in his tone and there was stiffness not just to his voice but his stance. He was repeating lines he had been instructed to say like any new recruit. “Might I ask what brings you here to our fair park? Is there some location I can direct you towards?”

Malkoris licked his lips, feeling parched, “I’m looking for whoever is in charge of the rangers here in the park to make an appeal. I need help. I’ve heard you’re the best at what you do.”

“Well now that might be sir, just what is it that we are supposed to be so good at?” Again the tone was polite but now he could see that he had gotten the curiosity of the young man.

“Tracking, I need an expert tracker.”

Another thirty minutes before getting to the ranger’s jeep brought Malkoris up to speed upon much of the operation. It seemed that Haos and his patrol partner Xenix were more than happy to talk of all the things that the park had accomplished under the leadership of a man they called Agent D. Malkoris asked with the “D” stood for but he was told that it was none of his business. The drive did not take long before they pulled up to a lodge which once had well manicured lawns. The cost of those lawns had been gasoline for the lawn motors and now a day’s gasoline was far too precious to use on something like cutting grass so that nonexistent tourists saw perfect fields.

Escorted up to the main building Malkoris was brought in before the office of Agent D who was currently leaning both hands on a table overlooking a map of the park. To one side was a large dark skinned man who gave Malkoris a once over and seemed to dismiss him as a threat. Agent D brought up a hand and gently rubbed at his eyes before looking upwards, “Xenix radioed ahead and said that you are looking for a tracker? We might be able to help you out, depending on what you’re looking for. We don’t have time for treasure hunts or revenge killings at this point.”

“No sir, one of my key members of my safe house,” Malkoris felt it best to play down the role of Terry Fox having become a stronghold, “has been kidnapped by a gang of men. I’m looking for assistance on following their trail. Rumor has it you have the best trackers.”

“Could be so, how old would this trail be, how long has she been missing?”

“Over a week now I’m afraid. We know where she was taken from, but those who searched couldn’t find a trail out.”

The man in the corner spoke at this point, “you want trackers to pick up a trail over a week cold after a bunch of amateurs stomped all over the place around it? It’ll never happen.”

Perhaps it was something in Malkoris expression that caught Agent D’s pity for he responded in a reasonable tone, “look it’s not that we don’t want to help, but you have to think about it. By now the trail is so cold there is little chance of finding it. On top of that, after a week,” his voice died off before continuing, “I’m sorry mister but there is a very good chance your friend is no longer alive. Raiders don’t keep captives very long.”

“She’s alive. They will keep her alive because they will want to make a point of her.” Malkoris tone hardened with a edge of desperation. He had to believe this to be true because if Chyram was gone then all they had struggled and all the isolation had been pointless. “Have you heard the name Chyram?”

The darker man nodded, “yeah her name and picture’s been on the TV station, the free one. People looking for her in connection to someone called Charles Waggie or something.”

“Wagner, Charles Wagner. That’s who took her. I’m sure that’s who took her and he won’t have killed her yet. Or if he killed her it’s to turn her into one of them and I have to find her and put her to rest.”

Agent D’s hand raised, “alright, have a seat, Clapp get the man water, start at the beginning here. What’s this about? We’ve heard some trickled rumors about a Cult?”

“Here’s the brief story. Charles started a Cult. This Cult purposely infects people. Chyram’s been fighting against his efforts for a while and I think he finally decided she was too much trouble. She was taken and I have to get her back.” The water glass was placed before him but Malkoris ignored it.

“Cultists, as if we don’t have enough troubles Agent D? Our east side has fences that came down in the last wind storm. We have to shore that up. Not to mention that if this Cult is using zees then they are more likely to be in the city. We’ve been training the recruits to deal with forest recon and advancement.” Clapp’s expression was cynical and Malkoris could feel himself losing hope. All this time and effort to reach here and for what, nothing?

It was more babbling that logic that caused him to speak, “it’s been nearly a year now. Lot of the city is starting to break down and become wilderness. Just small parts where water mains flooded or things have fallen, but there were fires and other things, lots of ruins. That training that you have gone through will help. It’s just a different kind of wilderness.”

Agent D’s lips pursed a bit, “we are the best trackers this side of the country.”

Clapp’s expression turned to a grimace, “it’s not really our problem Agent D.”

“No, but if this Cult remains unchecked it’ll be everyone’s problem.”  Agent D’s head raised to study the man in front of him looking so pitiful. Only love would cause someone to go to these lengths. Love is a stupid reason to risk his own people. Same time love brought this man all the way from nowhereville to his park and his sanctuary on the slim chance that they can help.

“Clapp arrange for two trackers to leave with the man and see that they have supplies and the radio contacts to stay in touch. I want progress reports on this search.”

  • Safe House: Cacapon State Park Lodge
  • CVC Level: 6
  • Current Recorded Members: 34
  • Overall Opinion:I have good news and I have bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way. This posting is over a week overdue. Cutting through a lot of the reasons, in short I got very ill last week. That I don’t need to apologize for to CSP. What I do need to apologize for is the fact that somewhere in the week I lost my digital copy of all the awesome interviews I did with them two weeks ago. That means I had to wing some things when I wrote tonight and I know you guys fed me a lot of details that simply didn’t make it into the story. I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry there’s no excuse for having lost those. I hope you’ll forgive me for that and for any of your members who I missed that gave me permission. The good news is I remember the spirit of many of those interviews. I would recommend this safe house to everyone interested in treating other people fairly and in having fun. They have members active in Global and in safe house chat. Often members help others outside their own safe house with questions in Global. On top of that was the overwhelming enthusiasm they have for their safe house. Some I have interviewed or attempted to set up interviews in the past and treated the idea of their safe house as something of convenience rather than a gathering of friends. These guys had nothing but great things to say not about themselves but each other. It didn’t matter which one I talked to, they all had to tell me how great their other members were. There’s a true fellowship of warmth found in this house that is something to be envied. I always like seeing them in Global and chatting with them when I get the chance. If you’re looking for that sort of open friendly safe house, this is a great possible fit for you.
  • Communications: 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

A pair of light blue eyes peered from a corner of the window on the apartment of a brick building overlooking an alley. In the past this would have been considered a crappy apartment. Who wants to overlook an alley and the brickwork of the opposite window, a cramped apartment with stained carpet and water damaged ceiling. When the plumbing had run Steven2 was certain that it used to leak, but months of neglect have led the plumbing to seize up and he gathered fresh water from other sources, including the water catcher system he had rigged on the roof. In general the room had a musty smell to it though he had carefully cleaned out anything that could rot or spoil and make him sick. The area had been relatively zee free for over a month and Steven2 had settled into the apartment without too much trouble. All the easy pickings had been combed over so raiders had moved on from the area. What were left were scraps and parts and this Steve2 had reveled in. What others saw as junk or scrap he had seen as possibilities. As the last man standing in the area, Steven had been living as a relative king in comfort, well fed, warm and dry. The only off setting environmental factor in the area had been the absolute silence. Other than the sound of birds there were relatively few animals left in the area, though the last few weeks had seen some start to creep in, from deer to domesticated pets gone feral. The car crash had startled him as it had been more noise than he had heard in weeks.

“Weeks, make that months?” Jonathan’s voice echoed in the room. He had grown accustom to the voice of his friend, a disembodied reminder of past regret. Steven2 ignored Jonathan for the moment and pushed upwards against the wall to peer down again at the alley. The terrified looking woman was hiding behind a dumpster at the dead end. His hand reached up to push the black baseball cap on his head to swivel it around backwards. He only recently found a store that had been pilfered but still contained a few articles of clothing that hadn’t been rain damaged. Forget diamonds, a baseball cap that protects your eyes from the sun when you are lining up a shot is worth far more. Steven2 scowled as masked figures poured into the alleyway. That was unusual. From all the strange things he had witnessed over the last year, rejects from a bad fantasy movie was not among them. Who could these freaks possibly be and what was their connection to the woman? He stayed silent watching as the one approached the dumpster and discovered the woman. A brief exchange followed with the slamming of the butt of his weapon into her face. She sprawled backwards, hit the wall behind her and crumpled to the pavement.

“You just going to sit here watching?” Jonathan’s tone was more urgent this time. Again Steven2 made no response. He had finally set up a shelter that was secure and if he was alone it was by personal choice. The silence had not been all that disquieting. There was something pleasant about waking up to bird song and not traffic every morning. If he really wanted to talk to someone there was Jonathan. There were plenty of gatherings he could have joined but this was safer, for him and for others. “Bullshit! You’re just enjoying the self pity.” Jonathan’s tone was full of accusation tinged with anger.

“Look Steve? What happened with me sucked right? If we could change the past we would, but right now there’s someone out there who needs your help. Stop using me as an excuse to do nothing. There’s no way a dude in black robes means rainbows, puppies and shit. If not for you, do this one for me.”

Steven2 scowled slightly and finally responded in a gravely tone. “Fuck you Jon.” His eyes flickered to the travel pack that was always kept placed by the door. Weapons, ammo, several says supplies and basic tools. His bike is safely stored not far from here. An inner panic had always kept plans for being immediately mobile. Again in the past survival training would have kept him in a relatively small location so that he could be easily located by rescue parties. All training he endured had been modified to deal with a change in goals. Quick, quiet and mobile were the keys to surviving both zees, and raiders. Now he got to add robed freaks to the list. Eyes returned to the alleyway where the biggest figure was picking up the girl to carry her off. She must be still alive? Distracted Steven2 reflected on how the outburst to Jonathan was the first time he had spoken aloud in weeks. His own voice was becoming unfamiliar to him.

“Yeah you’re sort of losing it out here Steve. Too little human contact and all, you know better.” The ghost of Jonathan was being a real know it all prick lately. Steven2 grimaced and rolled away from the window heading for the door. There was too many of them to rescue the civilian in a sudden surprise attack. He was going to have to follow them and hope they stop some place tonight where he could plan a rescue. Perhaps sniper action from the dark will help clear them out. If he didn’t take care though they could kill their hostage and move on. Steven2 scowled and shrugged on his jacket before shouldering his pack and picking up his rifle. He hoped he won’t regret this, his eyes scanning the shelter he had created.

“You’ll regret it more if you stay.” Steven2 fingered the room and his companion ghost, the voice in his head that won’t quite go away. Jonathan tended to be quieter when other people were around. Maybe that was why he had isolated himself. Alone he allowed Jonathan to punish him over and over. “Yeah, self pity later – be the hero now. Move it dumb ass!” Steven2’s lips curled up slightly in a grin. His hand rose as he flipped off the room in general and slipped into the hallway to make for the stairs. It was time once more to hunt.

 

EmBot’s head tilted to the side. Nose flared a bit her hands reached out to play with the dials and switches in front of her. “Repeat, repeat the last message.” Static returned to her ears. EmBot frowned darker and hit the auto record play back, listening to the distress call. Her hands dance on the keyboard in front of her with a soft clatter of keys as she entered voice comparison information. It’d been weeks since she heard this voice on the CVC, could this be a false message meant to draw out Chyram or Malkoris from hiding? The readouts came back confirming the voice as Chyram. Shaking her head she punched the dials to put out a call to Terry Fox Elementary only to find static on the line.

“What the hell?” Em’s voice whispered in a scowl before glancing towards her sisters also struggling to reach the signal. “What’s going on?”

“We’re being jammed?” The response was in a tone of disbelief from BethyBot. Alcatraz was being attacked as the nerve center of CVC free communications.

“Someone doesn’t want that message delivered.”

“If they think that’s enough to stop us, then they don’t know Alcatraz very well. Send out the chopper; get the signal beyond the jammer’s reach. Send out soldiers, find the source and shut it down.” Like a hive struck by a stone, Alcatraz erupted in movement as the call left the voice to the brains of the operation. When found, the encampment on the shoreline lit up with fire and bullets until nothing remained and Alcatraz’s signal rang true again.

Three hours had passed by the time EmBot’s voice spoke to Malkoris. The distress call was played for him without missing a single digital note. Seated on the lounge chair he stared sightless at the wall in front of him so that at first he missed EmBot’s encouragement. It was only the repeating of her message that he found direction, “Malkoris we have the exact location of her broadcast. We know where she was taken. There are rumors of trackers, rangers who can follow any track. It’s just rumors passing on the CVC, a long shot, but I can send you information on their location.”

“Do it.” His expression was stone like, frightening the girls in front of him. Of late Terry Fox had grown and there was a grounds keeper of sorts. A quiet man named Tough Hands who kept the grounds zee free. Beebles and Searlait would be safe while he left to find their missing leader, that damned, stupid, stubborn woman.

Beebles nibbled on the edge of her pencil staring at the paper in front of her. Her dark eyes flicker up for the hundredth time in irritation at Malkoris who paced the room in front of her. “Look, either she’ll call or she won’t, but wearing out the floor in front of me isn’t helping! Go somewhere else, shoo!” He shot her a dirty look and stomped out of the room. Beebles sighed softly and peered down again at her ledger of numbers. Chyram cannot come home too soon the way Malkoris was behaving! Despite his distracting her, Beebles had finished compiling her list. She smiled in satisfaction and stood up to go post the results to the bulletin board.

Dueling for Profit

Tips:

  1. When looking for profit always look for Favorables with max values. This might take a few refreshing of your duel list to come up with your master list.
  2. Write down Favorable’s names so you can search for them faster in the future. Make a master list for your level of Favorables with the max values.
  3. Monitor your own supplies and cash levels. You must match the values of your targets and both must be the maximum value for your level to get the maximum profit. This also means you take equal risk at losing the max values.
  4. Note you can figure out the value you will gain if you do not carry your level’s maximum value by seeking the value lower on the chart. For example a level 10 carrying 1,000 cash/supplies (instead of the recommended 2,000) should gain 50 cash/supplies in a duel instead of 100. However at level 10 holding over 2,000 cash/supplies will not increase your profit in a duel until you level to level 11.

 

Chart Legend:

  • Level: Your current level. This will not necessarily be the level of your target.
  • Max Profit: The maximum amount you can win in cash/supply values off of a target at your level. Values equal (Level X 10)
  • Target Amount: The minimum amount you and your target must carry on their person in order to win maximum value in the duel. Values equal (Level X 200)
  • 10 Win Streak: A quick value of the amount you would gain if you won ten duels in a row with maximum gains. Values equal (Max Profit X 10)

 corrected error in chart

 

 

Credits:

Thank you, Rite Aid for their Dueling Guide that taught me all the basics and a lot of the details about dueling when I first got started. I’m glad your reference is still up for the PSC public!

Thank you, Label of Evil Industries Inc., Itcus of World’s End and Allie Mount of Aspi for patiently helping me figure out the late night math for this chart!

— Excerpt from Malkoris’ Journal

Previous Journal Page

I really don’t know why she keeps doing it.

I used to be an artist. I was nobody noteworthy, nobody you’d ever have heard of, but I made a good enough living at it, and you might’ve seen my name in the credits of a computer game or the occasional TV show. You know what’s not useful in a post-apocalyptic zombie dystopia? Artists. At least, not my type of artist. Sure, musicians might still have some value in raising morale or driving emotions during a fight, or creating synchronicity between riflemen. Compelling artwork might be useful for propaganda, but I can paint the most cruel picture of a zombie out there and it’s not going to suddenly change anyone’s opinion about them, especially not the zombies.

“What the fuck is in this?” she demanded.

I rubbed gently at the bridge of my nose, pinching a little to try to ease the headache she was giving me, “Just drink it. It’s good for you.”

“Then you shouldn’t have any trouble telling me what the fuck it is,” she replied. Funny thing about her: She has the mouth of a mercenary. I swear, she thinks everyone’s as foul-mouthed as she is, too. As if the onset of the end of the world as we know it is rationale for everyone to start acting like barbarians. Then again, in a way she’s right.

I answered her, “Crushed up Tylenol, ice, raspberries, and blueberries. Fresh ones.”

“Doesn’t crushing Tylenol up make them less effective?” she asked.

I replied, “How would I know?” It’s not like I’m a doctor. That’s something we could really use. Beebles and I both know some first aid, but it’s hardly pharmacy or surgeon-grade.

She grunted and started slurping the drink down.

I winced, “You’re going to get—“

With a growl, she smacked her good hand up to her forehead, “Shit! Shit, shit, shit.” Yeah. I didn’t finish the sentence, since the brain freeze had already settled in. Instead, I sighed and started to work at bandaging up her injured hand. Next time, just strangely-flavored fruit juice for her, since she apparently can’t handle a smoothie.

“So where are you headed to, next?” I asked. I wanted to keep her mind off of the fruit. It’s good, local fruit, and I really didn’t want her asking where it came from.

“Back south,” she said, “over the border again.” As if there was still a border in place. Sure, the border crossing markers were there, but any real concept of nationality was only held in the minds of those who wanted it.

“Got a trade in a couple of days ago for a pair of nice shotguns,” I replied, “so make sure you take one.”

I saw her nod before having some more of the smoothie. She paused and looked at it suspiciously. Damnit. I knew those assholes didn’t get the berries legitimately, but I don’t care. I’m interested in keeping the four of us alive, keeping the four of us safe, keeping the four of us fed and clothed and free from raiders and scavengers. We can’t all live in the ivory tower she’s in. Some of us have to do the filth trudging, some of us have to flush the sewers, or the ivory tower gets backed up in shit.

“You don’t always have to go racing off, y’know,” I said, trying to redirect the fight before it arrived. I added, “You’ve put the word out there. Let other people deal with it.”

She glared at me. If you haven’t seen her glare, I suggest that you do. It’s a good way to put the zombies in perspective and realize that they just don’t have the imagination to truly torture a man the way an infuriated woman can.

She said, coldly, “Other people are helping. It’s not just me. And it’s got to be done. You know that.”

“Why?” I asked.

The glare continued. “People are dying,” she replied.

“No,” I said, “people are killing themselves with the deranged delusion that it’s a rational decision.”

I could actually see her nostrils flaring out as she says, “People are being tricked into killing themselves, into giving themselves over to a fate worse—“

I waved my hand, “—than death, yeah. I know. So let them. If they’re so stupid—“

Do you know what’s cold? Crushed Tylenol, raspberries, blueberries, and ice. It’s cold. It’s cold down your shirt, I’m sure, but colder still down your pants. She was storming out and away before I had a chance to get my pants off before my plums turned purple. She was back on a motorcycle and off down the broken road before I had a chance to apologize. “Fuck!” Why does she have to mother the entire fucking world? And then she had me talking like a wastleland barbarian. Great.

 

I can never decide how I feel about silence. As I laid there on my pallet, staring up at the ceiling overhead, there was silence around me… or, at least, as much as there ever is. I could hear the soft hum of the refrigerators running in the cafeteria, and a faint scrabbling of some rodentia somewhere in the walls. I could hear a soft pattering of rain against the ceiling and walls of the building.

Left with my thoughts, I could lay there and reflect on everything that had happened. I could think on the lost, the dead, the damned, the walkers. I could think on those who searched for loved ones, could think on those who searched for nothing. I could wonder about the mercenaries, the raiders, the rapists, and the crusaders, the defenders, the heroes; the filthy and the clean. I could reflect on the irony that those who are filthy often have fewer blemishes on the soul than those who are clean. I could think about her out there, risking her life day after day for people who would never know, who would never care, who may never even realize when she’s killed for her efforts. When no one is yelling, when no one is screaming, when there’s no clear, immediate problem, and when the course of action is ambiguous, the world settles in around you and there’s just nothing but the sounds in one’s own mind.

I can only hope that tomorrow I wake up to screaming.

I felt the sigh leave me more than I heard it. That sensation as a deep breath fills your chest tightening beneath your ribs before releasing with a rush out from your lips. Such sighs take with them not just air but emotions and thoughts. I spent most of the morning fighting with the sharks and even with FEMA agents about my next move. We had the SUV and it had limited protection. This was the closest I had come to being on Charles tracks, the attack to Bluetone having only been a week before our arrival. I wanted to scream in frustration that we were leaving the area without trying to pick up the tracks. This was my crusade not theirs and yet somehow I had been out voted.

Night Angel had pointed out that the three of us, the sharks and I, were not going to have the fire power or the equipment to take on any encampment of cultists. It didn’t matter to me that he was both logical and correct, or even that he was looking out for my benefit, I was angry. Once again there was going to be a delay and Charles was going to slip out of my grasp. I turned my head to scowl seeing my own reflection in the glass in front of passing buildings half ruined from this plague of death. The helpful suggestions of returning home and appealing to the Raiders or ATCO for support just further numbed me. As much as it pained me to admit it, this had become a matter of pride for me. My thirst for vengeance had turned this fight personal between me and Charles with the irony being he likely didn’t even remember me.

My chest ached, a dull pain from the shout trapped in my lungs. It hadn’t mattered how much I argued, or even when I shouted. In fact when I turned around and punched one of the sharks in the nose they just lost patience with me. The two brutes were taking their obligation to protect me very serious. The one cradled his nose between his hands while the other picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I was unceremoniously carried to the SUV and dumped into the back seat. And now we drove in silence, me sulking like a child in the back.

Why was I responding this way? Sure I had known a few who died because of Charles but likely he killed many others I didn’t know. It just bothered me to think that madness was running rampant out there threatening the fragile existence of who was left. On top of that I had spent months just fighting with other survivors to convince them that there even was a threat. Nobody wanted to hear the truth anymore. Life had been so hard of late and there had been so many tears shed for the dead both when they passed and when they were put down, to hear there was another horror was something many could not process. Yet I had known. From the first time that ATCO brought me proof I had believed without question.

So why was I so eager to believe in this threat from the start? Perhaps it was the dead that drove me into this cause. Surrounded by the zees on all sides and protecting such a small group I had felt helpless. Fighting as we did Malkoris, Beebles and I could only make a small dent in the dead and it was a drop in a bucket that never stopped filling. They say every little bit helps but in this case our help in clearing the world of zeedom didn’t seem to make a difference. It was a repeating process each day, worrying about infection, killing what was dead and hoping to have enough to fill our bellies. I needed Charles to be real. I needed a cause I could fight against, and for the first time I realized I had been a fraud all this time.

I lied to people when I told them that there was something more frightening than the zees out there. I lied when I told them how scary the Cult truly was, because somehow I was not afraid of Charles or his minions. I felt very comfortable fighting him because no matter how bat shit insane he was, Charles was a man. And in the end he would have the motives, reactions and needs of a man. That was why I had picked up this mantle and been eager to fight him. On some level I was running away from the zees to fight something familiar, a person. I was tired of being afraid of death and wanted to kill the living because somehow that felt cleaner.

I felt my stomach twist a bit at the sickness there in that thought. How I hated the dead, the zees that had invaded my world. Oh I could mimic the arguments of so many others and tell you how they were not really dead, but just meat puppets for another living organism. I could mouth the sympathy and sounds of pain about the suffering of victims in this plague but it was all faked. I hated them. I hated the clouded eyes, and their gargled sounds. I hated their stiff movements and the gapping motions of their mouths as they reached with twisted limbs for my flesh. My skin crawled to think about them and more than once I woke up screaming into my pillow because even in my sleep I was too afraid to make sounds that might attract them. Each time I killed one I didn’t take satisfaction but just additional horror that they dared to mimic humanity in their gory forms.

Charles was the cleaner kill, insanity on a human level. I wanted to kill him just to feel somehow normal again even though before this plague I had never harmed another living soul. I brought my elbow up to rest on the door and put my hand over my eyes to hide my face from the sharks. I didn’t want them to see tears as I mourned that another piece of me had been truly broken. I’ll never get back the person I was but if I was going to bury who I was I’d be reborn into something stronger. Like tempered steel, I was ready to move from the flames and my tears were like that water cooling my form.

I didn’t register the crack of the shot until after the SUV veered off the road and into the front of a store. A second shot rang out even as the shark on the front passenger side moved to scramble out. I saw his brain matter hit the glass of the window behind him on the door before his form crumpled. Sucking in breath I reached forward for the driver to shake his shoulder. My hand felt the warmth and wetness of his blood and saw then that he had taken the first hit. Confusion froze me for a moment; the SUV was supposed to be bullet proof? This couldn’t be happening!

I twisted in my seat looking out the back window. From across the street I could see figures, two, no three; each dressed in a long draped robe. One of them carried what appeared to be a rifle of some sort with a scope. My hand dropped down to the bag beside me to pull out the gun on hand. Aiming for the bullet hole that had weaken the glass I fired a few quick rounds and then scrambled to the front seats. My foot came up to kick at the glass pushing it out before I crawled out over the hood. My hands and knees were cut up by the broken glass as I rushed off the SUV and into the store, gun in hand, running.

The sound of my gun had bought me a bit of time as the Cultists took cover before rushing into the building. I had made it to the back of the store and out into the alley before they had regrouped. Looking to the left I ran, moving until I ducked behind some dumpsters. I could see I had boxed myself in and there was no where I could run. Why wasn’t I dead? I should be dead! They took out both sharks without being seen but somehow fate or luck still favored me and I was relatively untouched. Only this time perhaps much darker forces were keeping me alive.

Shaking my hand moved to the back pocket of my jeans to bring out the ear piece I had there. It had been a long time since I broadcast on the CVC. Knowing the Cult had been monitoring the CVC I had largely abandon those channels the last few weeks. Pushing the piece into my ear and turning it on and I broke into a speech, “Chyram calling out there. Calling to anyone listening! The fish are down. Repeat the fish are down and I’m trapped. The robes are here and they are coming. Repeat they are coming and I will hold out as long as I can. This is Chyram calling, if anyone is local, contact Alcatraz, pass the word. Make sure that Alcatraz hears, this is Chyram and I’m being taken by the robes. Make sure that Malkoris,” I looked up into the hooded face of a man with a white painted skull across his expression. He grinned at me and briefly my thoughts focused on the fact that he needed to brush his teeth. The rotten appearance of his mouth suited the sour smells from the dumpster I had taken refuge behind. Frozen in place I could only stare as he brought up the rifle butt and smashed it into my face. Everything went black.

— Excerpt from Malkoris’ Journal

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“Trust me, it’s fresh,” he said. Why wouldn’t I trust him? No doubt the scar below his eye was from a zombie attack, not an infuriated trading partner who’d learned that his produce was drek.

I continued to poke around through the various crates and sacks, mostly ignoring his comment. It’s good to know what you’re getting in a trade but, more than that, I wanted a little more time to check out how interested he and his friends seemed to be in me. There were five of them. Five serious-looking, vile guys were sitting on a collection of Mad Max-grade vehicles, staring at me as I looked through the produce. Who the Hell thinks it’s a good idea to ride around on a dumbass, desert hopping dune buggy with corrugated metal welded to the side when you can just grab a proper SUV or a motorcycle or a freaking armored truck, if that’s what spins your prop?

“Brought it straight up from the Colony, it’s good,” he says, “but doesn’t mean your shit is. Come on. Let’s see it.”

It was possible, I guess, but unlikely that this came up direct from the Colony. They’re down in L.A. The produce that these asshats were trying to trade was primarily berries: Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries. There were some vegetables and the like in there, but I know what the Colony produces and I know what you can get near Terry Fox; this stuff was local. It wasn’t surprising that they didn’t want to admit it. These guys weren’t farmers.

I gestured for the guy to follow and said, “Have your guys bring it up to the side of the building. Come on, let me show you the goods.”

“Yeah,” he said, “how about we get your shit first. Then we’ll move this shit in.” Oh, the eloquence. Would you like shit with your shit? I don’t give a shit about this shit. What a shit that shit did shit! Just once, I want one of these Neolithic flatliners to spew out Stevenson or Dickens or someone similarly refined just for the raw surprise of it. At this point, I’d even be thrilled with some Tolkien or Asimov.

I could live a long time without hearing another stupid Martin quote, though. “When you play a game of thrones you win or you die” or “fear cuts deeper than swords.” Ugh. Just because something’s written down, it doesn’t become a masterpiece.

As we walked down the school’s labyrinth of lockers and stucco ceiling tiles, the sound of conversation in the distance echoed around. It’s impressive how the sound of just a few dozen people talking in one room can echo in a place like this. The long hallways, the metal lining the walls, the slightly bouncy, not quite perfectly flat linoleum of the floor, all combine together to create an unexpected acoustic magnificence… and a vaguely nauseating smell, sometimes. I really have no idea what’s in each of those lockers. We’ll get through them all eventually. So far, they’ve mostly been textbooks, backpacks, and marijuana. Anybody can grow weed. Backpacks trade well, but Chy’s got this thing about going through the lockers, says it’s one step removed from graverobbing and that we shouldn’t resort to it until we need to. I think it’s a stupid argument: We kill zombies and take what they have, on occasion, which is the same damn thing as graverobbing. Still. No reason to make waves.

“You got a lot of people holed up in this shithole?” he asked.

I shrugged, “Enough.”

“What,” he said, “like you’re overfull or some shit?”

What do you say to something like that? “Yeah,” I answered, “who isn’t?”

With a snort, he muttered out, “Yeah.” Thankfully, the conversation didn’t get too much further until I got him to the trade pile. I’d already pulled out what I was willing to trade if the food was good. It was good. Chy wasn’t going to like that the raiders had stolen it from a local farmer, but I also wasn’t about to tell her.

“Oh, shit,” he said, unsurprisingly, “yeah, that’s the shit we need. All of it, right?”

Nodding, I confirmed, “All of it.”

“Where’d you get this much of it?” It’s the type of question you don’t answer honestly.

So I didn’t: “Truck one of our scroungers found, just up around Mission. Lucky find.”

“I’ll say,” he said, patting one of the packages. He then gestured. Three of his five goons had followed him in. They moved forward and I tensed, wondering if it was a smart idea to have shown up at the door without my blunderbuss. Beebles should have been hiding up in the ceiling infrastructure with a rifle pointed down, but there was no way she’d be able to take out all four of these guys without them doing something nasty in the meantime.

Instead, they each grabbed up an armful of the packages of toilet paper that I’d brought them to, a tiny fraction of the stuff kept in the various storage and maintenance places in the school. As the first one started to head out, I said to the one speaking for them, “So we’re good, then. We’ll bring your end of it in after you’ve had a chance to clear out. Try not to tarry outside, alright? Some of my guys are a little, you know… off.”

He grunted, grabbed a few rolls himself, and then was off. I waited until they were done, looked up and around until I saw the glint of the barrel that our librarian had trained on all of us, and let out a heavy sigh of relief that she hadn’t had to use it. She’s getting better with a firearm, but she still hesitates, even against the corpses. She says she doesn’t like shooting things with eyes. I’m not sure why you’d need to shoot something without eyes. Die, broccoli! I wonder if she’d shoot a potato.

I gave her a thumbs-up and made my way to follow the last one out. After watching them drive off with whoops and hollers of triumph about their new acquisitions, I set about grabbing one of the bigger boxes of raspberries. Little bastards weigh a freaking ton, you know. Lugging them back into the cafeteria, I put them up into one of the big refrigerator rooms.

By the time that was done, I was pretty sick of the constant nattering in the cafeteria. I went in and flipped the damn switch off on the recorder. The P.A. system no longer worked quite right from the main broadcasting area, but more than well enough to fool a few jackasses into thinking this place had more residents than me, an accountant-turned-librarian who can’t shoot straight, a dirty – literally, most of the time – and foul-mouthed teenage girl, and occasionally a chatty transient crusader chick with a lack of any alcohol tolerance.

At least we now had fresh berries.

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