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Arctic

[IC Thread] The World of Ash

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Faintly recognizing Jasmine as friendly, Alice let the woman guide her. The way her vision was swimming bothered her more than anything, as it rendered her usually considerable archery skill entirely useless. Snow continued to drift down and Alice instinctively shrugged her cloak higher, recognizing but ignoring that this wasn't hers. She was colder than she should be, even in this weather, but at least her legs grew steadier as she continued to walk. She became faintly aware of new scent on the air and half-turned towards Mary-Margaret. "Who -" she managed to gasp at Jasmine before breaking into a coughing fit.

 

((I'm going to assume that they were walking for a while before Alice's mind is clear enough to notice Mary-Margaret. So if there is trouble near our previous location, this could be a good time to introduce it. If no trouble, then they're making fair time.))

Edited by Mistress of Whispers

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Jovah frowned as he watched Alice sway. She was on her feet, but it was hard to tell if that was by dumb luck or sheer effort. He rested the stock of his rifle in the snow and stepped out from within the truck, letting the rusted door croak shut as he shuffled forward, using the back of his hand to clear some frost from around his mouth. He nodded to himself as he saw the Bard tending to the dazed girl, stepping forward to the shoulder of the road and once more continuing on, ducking under the collapsed telephone pole and pushing up against it with his shoulder. It only raised a few inches before it became too heavy, but it was enough to maybe make it just a bit easier for Alice to duck under.

 

He smirked at Levi's name for him. He corrected him a few seconds later as he passed; "Jovah," his voice was rasp at this point, and the word was followed with a small coughing fit, though he remained steadying the fallen pole until everyone had ducked under, then let it sink back into the line of cars, filling out their collapsed roofs nicely.

 

The group got a move on, albeit slowly, having to pause once or twice for Alice as she presumably slowly gained her bearings, and another few times as a particularly volatile windstorm kicked up. For the most part, it was quiet, only broken up by the occasional barking of a dog, or the odd gust of bone-chilling wind. The entire time, the Blood Pack's drums sounded distantly. As the group grew nearer to the sprawl, turning right onto an access road that was only slightly less gummed up with traffic, it became apparent that the drums were likely being sounded off from the old San Francisco International Airport. A nice central location for them to yet again make their dominance of the Bay Area obvious for all of the inhabitants of the countryside.

 

––––

 

The trees didn't give way to sparse buildings, and sparse buildings to suburbs. The State Game Refuge had been a mess of legislation for around fifty years before the bombs hit; almost every year, there was some sort of bill introduced to narrow the borders of the refuge to allow for the expansion of the San Franciscan Sprawl. Most got deadlocked and fell out, but occasionally the urbanites would get a victory and see another mile or so of territory get opened up, then immediately spring upon it with apartment development, strip malls and underground infrastructure. Within two years, they'd need more territory, and the cycle continued. Thus, the pine trees gave way to a few things, each emerging out of the fog to the group in quick succession to one another.

 

The first was the Game Refuge's gate, long since dismantled for metal or fencing, leaving only a half-destroyed booth sticking up in the midst of the still-deadlocked two lane street. There were a few long-abandoned, long-salvaged police vehicles along the side of the road, likely dispatch to try to keep order while people tried to get out of the city. They clearly hadn't done their job well.

 

Around fifty feet past the gate was where the access road met the city itself – a sign announced 'NOW ENTERING SAN BRUNO'. The 'population' bit had been scrawled out and probably written over at some point (it wasn't visible now) by someone who thought they were far more morbidly hilarious than they actually were. The road itself was four lanes, two on each side, and lined with multi-storied buildings that emerged one by one, towering out of the fog, on the far side. Many had collapsed partially, littering the streets and crushing cars with massive blocks of concrete. Much of the debris had been pushed to the sidewalks over the years, forming a sort of scavengers' trail to navigate the crowded street with ease.

 

Jovah stood at where the access road met the thoroughfare, labeled 'Bridgette Ave' by a roadsign, and turned back to look at the group. "We're about six miles south from the wall. Welcome to..." He trailed off, brow furrowing. "Uh, where's the Nun?" He squinted into the foggy air, looking behind the group. There was nobody, just Red, Levi, Alice and Jasmine. He frowned. She had likely fallen behind and gotten lost in the fog; there had been a few rough patches where there wasn't much shelter from the wind. Unfortunately, there wasn't much sense in going back for her. Jovah sighed a bit, mumbling something about hoping she'd catch up, before turning to Alice. "Holding up alright?”

 

(( If you look on Google Maps, you'd see that they'd likely end up on Skyline Boulevard; I'm compensating for urban growth, so let's say they're a few blocks from there at this point. Insaneway, when you return, feel free to hop in at any time! ))

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As they moved on, Jasmine provided guidance for Alice, keeping the woman steady whenever she might have stumbled. At some point, she began to ask about the new member in their group. "Her name's Mary-Martha," the bard supplied, leaving the introduction at that. She figured the nun would much prefer to introduce herself to Alice later once the woman was more in her senses.

 

Time passed by slowly for the bard. A glance towards Levi showed nothing about how the cold was likely affecting him without his outer coat. However, she moved her focus elsewhere. With nothing but white to make up most of the scenery, she looked ahead towards the large city. The sound of the drums had gradually become like white noise in the background, no longer taking much effort to push it away.

 

~~~

 

Ah! So the man did have a name! Laviendor smirked as the response, briefly helping to remove some of the burden of holding up the telephone pole for the others. They continued moving, drawing ever closer to San Francisco. Now and then, Gorf would press his flank against Levi's leg, looking for reassurance or any sort of command in response to the beating drums or occasional distant noise.

 

Silence among the group took up much of the distance they traveled, his attention focused on watching for threats as he grew more tense. Try as he might to deny it, the cold kissed his body sooner than he believed it would, sinking into his flesh without the protection of his coat. However, he didn't shiver; he wouldn't allow himself to shiver.

 

Jasmine still held onto Alice's coat but it was doubtful that it had dried off to any significant amount in this cold weather. At least they were starting to enter the city now as they passed the welcome sign for San Bruno. Jovah stopped shortly after then to address the rest of the group. Six more miles before they reached the wall. Could he go six miles longer without his coat? He'd have to try really.

 

There was a pause in Jovah's words and Levi frowned, glancing back as the other man inquired about Mary-Martha's location. Jasmine looked around as well, her confused and worried gaze meeting the others. Laviendor wished the nun well and shared Jovah's hope of her catching up later.

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The abandoned skeleton of what had once been San Mateo (and soon, San Bruno) laid dormant as the group made their way down Bridgette, eventually taking a right to move deeper into the development, leaving behind the travelers' trail that had been cleared out over the years. The two-laned side street was flanked by the same apartment buildings that had lined the road from before, though this time they were on both sides. A small pedestrian bridge crossed above the group, between the two flanking buildings, windows long since blown out by wind or rattled from their frames from the San Andreas Fault's notorious instability. The sidewalks were narrow, barely offering the space for two people to walk shoulder-to-shoulder, and thus the group walked down the middle of the road. There were no cars clogging it up, as it ran east-west, and had thus been useless as a vein for traffic attempting an escape. Instead, uplifted asphalt showed where water pipes had burst, or depressions showed where sinkholes had formed. Debris could be felt being crushed underfoot, hidden under the snow. Usually, it was long-scattered clothing or shards of glass, though as the group passed a stripped electronic store, the glass gave way to the telltale crunch of broken plastic and sheet-thin metal, giving a good idea as to the fate of the products that had once been inside.

 

A few intersections later, they reached the first major thoroughfare. Six lanes long, separated, and absolutely packed with vehicles. Unlike Bridgette avenue, a path hadn't been cleared here. Traders only utilized the outermost roads for travel when they could, else-wise they risked ambush from more than just one side. Besides, even if it had been cleared, the group wouldn't have been able to enjoy it for long. There was no sense carving a path towards San Francisco except for scavenging, which was best done on foot. The denizens of the area had long learned that if you spent your time ferrying equipment to and from a car, someone would simply wait until you were done, kill you, then take the car. No work to be done, no sweat off their back. Good business sense.

 

The road sign, surprisingly pristine, read 'JUNIPERO SERRA' and was marked with a '280'. Anyone who had ever looked at a map of the area would know that this avenue was supposed to lead straight into the heart of San Francisco. It had been a true highway at one point, serving only for travel, but sometime after the turn of the 22nd century it had been turned into another sub-downtown conduit, lined with mixed-use developments in the European style; thrifty shops and markets on the bottom floor and living area built above. Such structures stood around the group, some of them up to eight stories in height, providing much appreciated shelter from the icy wind and improving visibility greatly. Entrances to underground parking garages and dark staircases leading down to subway platforms were spaced every two blocks like clockwork.

 

Jovah tugged his shirt down beneath his mouth and breathed deeply before exhaling, smiling at the lack of smoke in the air. He turned back to check on the group from time to time, ensuring nobody had strayed far or gotten lost (which, in the comparably clear air, was a near impossibility). Within a half-hour, they passed a roving pack of dogs – six or seven in number – who eyed the group hungrily. In the end, the mongrels gave up and moved on with their life, not prepared to risk attacking such a large group.

 

Eventually, the buildings got taller, and the road got darker. Office buildings started appearing, and the already-wide sidewalks grew even wider. Long-dead trees were planted every so often; the avenue must have been a beautiful sight to behold before the bombs fell. Wide pedestrian bridges arched high above the group, plastic tarps hanging and flapping in the wind from countless windows of the buildings they belonged to. Now and again, some figure could be seen poking their head out of a window, or shutting a door (of the buildings that had them). A group of three unarmed scavengers passed the group, giving them a wide berth and utilizing the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.

 

Eventually, the city grew at a staggering pace. On-ramps led to a raised highway sitting directly above the Junipero Serra, horizontal concrete pillars anchoring the roadway directly into the buildings it was sandwiched between. Subway stops appeared more frequently. Wide, well hidden fluorescent lights sat cradled above, though they had long since been starved of power. Instead, light filtered through metal grates situated beside the raised roadway, providing meager illumination as the group stepped into darkness, Jovah opting to take the low road, as it kept them out of sight. Luckily, it was still light enough to see, and the groups' eyes adjusted quickly.

 

All in all, it had taken a few hours to get within a stone's throw of the Wall. By the time they were fifteen minutes' walk away, the deterioration of this part of the city was showing greatly. Crumbling office buildings, rubble-filled subway entrances, collapsed segments of highway (which often caved in the road below, exposing the dark underground subway tunnels) and old corpses were common. They passed abandoned police checkpoints, a couple military vehicles that had been stripped for everything they owned, and ambulances with the back doors still wide open.

 

By now, Jovah (and likely the others in the group) had his weapon at the ready, gazing around in a practiced, cautious manner, as if prepared to run at any time. The dull thumping of the Blood Pack's drums could be heard more in earnest now, more fevered and excited in nature, though much of the sound was lost in the urban jungle. If they had been a couple miles closer to the old International Airport, they might as well have had a front row seat to a musical exposé.

 

Aside from the beat of the drums, the city was eerily quiet, with only the creaking of tired metal and the occasional gust of wind that came whistling through the subways below, uplifting bits of ash and concrete dust into the air, which settled down neatly into the snow due to the (thankful) lack of wind.

 

As the group passed a small traffic jam, one that had been held up by a police blockade, the dull aching groan of bending metal and crunching of glass could be heard off to their right, somewhere in the sea of cars that had never quite reached their destination.

 

There, perched three lanes away upon the half-flattened roof of a rusted Sedan, was a white-grey lizard nearly as big as the car itself, red eyes reflecting dangerously in the low light filtering in from above. Armored plates lined its limbs, its skull and its back, and a mangle of sharp teeth poked precariously out from between thin, reptilian lips in various places. The Raker's tail swayed from side to side as it eyed the group, and a second tail of a similar nature could be seen slithering behind a nearby van and out of sight.

 

By the time Jovah had noticed, the rest of the party had likely seen it as well. He didn't turn to check, simply letting out a quiet 'tsst' to get their attention before sliding back against the wall and half-raising his rifle. It was a little darker here, with the sparse light from above half-blocked by some towering building they couldn't quite make out between the slits of the grated metal above. Regardless of the cause, the lack of light wasn't a welcome occurrence at that particular time.

Edited by Arctic

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Alice spent most of the journey stumbling along in a fugue, completely missing the pack of dogs and the three scavengers. The fresh air in the Junipero area did wonders for her head though, and she slowly began to feel better.

 

Disentangling herself from Jasmine's arm, whose help had been invaluable getting through the worst of her recovery, she nodded at the other woman.

"Thank you. I feel better." As brusque as the statement was, it was meant sincerely.

 

"Whose coat?" she asked as she noticed the overly large coat she was wearing. She wondered if it was intended as a permanent trade, or if she'd be getting her own wolf furs back. Not that there was much she could do if someone decided to take her coat in her current state.

 

The absence of wind, snow and smoke were certainly welcome and by the time they reached the highway she felt like her old self again - or near enough - when the sound of moving metal drew her attention. Like Jovah, she easily spotted the first raker atop the car, though she completely missed the second tail slithering away. Slowly kneeling down to present a smaller target, she slipped her crossbow off her back and raised it - noting that the tip trembled and dipped more than she liked. Resigning herself to the fact that she wasn't quite up to her old strength yet, she nevertheless took aim at the first predator...

 

((The next poster is free to describe how Alice's shot goes. Given her condition, I'm totally fine with her missing. Or she could get lucky. Either way is fine by me.))

Edited by Mistress of Whispers

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Jasmine almost forgot about the drums in the distance, the rhythmic pounding becoming nothing more than background noise as they entered what remained of San Mateo. The crumbling city around them eventually gave way to slightly populated regions with patched up buildings or little structures fashioned out of debris. People milled about here and there, some wary of their group and others trying to catch their time for a trade or two. Even a pack of dogs eyed the small gang of strangers before choosing to find something else to focus on. And, at some point, Alice disentangled herself from the bard's support with a grateful remark.

 

She watched as Alice questioned about the coat, Levi replying with a cheery expression as he took his coat back and Jasmine passed over Alice's. She hadn't noticed before but, now, she could see Laviendor shivering a bit before it was concealed by his motions as he quickly shrugged on his coat. The short woman frowned in concern but didn't dare to say anything lest she offend him. It was possible that no one else noticed or that he was attempting to appear unaffected.

 

They soon left the populated area after that and reentered uninhabited territory.

 

At least, it looked uninhabited. The destruction was worse, further towards the center, closer to the Wall that split the formerly thriving and massive city. Everyone was on edge, clutching their brandished weapons and examining everything within sight. The german shepherd began to growl, a soft sound that was quickly silenced by a flick of Levi's hand. However, the dog's hackles remained standing on end, body clearly tensed and gaze intently focused ahead.

 

Then, something like crunching metal reached her ears and her breath caught as Jovah made a faint sound. Weapons lifted partially and bodies tucked against the wall of a building, four sets of eyes meeting an opposing gaze. Her blood ran cold, brown eyes wide from fear. She wouldn't deny that she was scared, being this close to a Raker....

 

An arrow shot past her, half a foot away from her shoulder. Jasmine watched anxiously as the bolt raced towards the creature, scraping against its leg before bouncing off and landing in the snow. The beast hissed, opening its maw to reveal the rest of its wicked teeth. Its tail lashed with aggression and the bard immediately took a step back, her hands trembling around her crossbow.

 

From the corner of her eye, she saw Levi move, a knife spinning in his hand as he readjusted his grip. "Guess we won't sneak away now...," he murmured. His head was turned so he could see the Raker fully, appearing to assess the creature.

 

It clambered down from the abandoned vehicle in a rush and Levi threw his knife with practiced aim. The blade hit at the base of the Raker's neck but soon fell free and disappeared into the snow. As he set to throw another, the creature slipped behind another car.

 

[[sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. *bows head in apology* Took much longer than I wanted and I didn't know what freedom I had with the Raker or what it's general decision making was between fight and flight, so there's a crappy end to my post. Let me know if I did anything wrong and I'll fix it.]]

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Red had been immensely relieved to see Alice up and moving, and seemingly little worse for the wear from her... fit, as Red decided to call it for now. She watched as Jasmine stayed near Alice, content as she had been the entire journey to watch in silence, a small smile gracing her lips, to be replaced with slight surprise when Levi took off his coat, putting it on Alice. She fell into place behind the rest of the group, settling in near the rear.

 

As they grew closer to the city, Red was increasingly lost in her thoughts. Her heart pounded in her chest, and though she thought herself outwardly calm, Red's hands were restless, picking absently at stray pieces of her clothes. The thick fog acted like a blanket, allowing her to slip into introspection. She wondered about the stories Levi knew. She wondered where the newspaper Jovah had in the bar had come from. She wondered about myths and eyes in the fog, then giggled quietly and shook her head. She walked in silence for the rest of the trip, trying to keep troublesome thoughts out of her head by looking over the surrounding area. The city loomed ever closer.

 

Red watched, noting all the things they saw, resolving to write it in her journal when next they stopped. She saw the people, the old timey shops and buildings. The police blockade gridlock, the dogs. She kept her staff at the ready, and though she was alert, she also did her best to keep as relaxed as possible - it would do her no good to get tense and then have to fight.

 

The darkness of the overpass unnerved her the most; it was not, despite the reasons for going under it, what one would call comforting. It was the perfect place for all sorts of nasty things to be lurking, and Red tightened her grip on the staff, eyes darting around and watching the shadows for movement.

 

Red noticed the Raker quickly, it's languidly flicking tail catching her notice. She tensed, gripping her staff and looking over the rest of her group before starting, not noticing other tail - which at first her mind had lumped in with the tail attached to the creature on the car - until it was disappearing. She wasn't sure if anyone else had seen, and as Jovah slid back against the wall she scooted back to join him, not quite leaning against the wall but close. She narrowed her eyes as Alice kneeled and pulled her crossbow out, giving a quick shake of her head that went ignored as the girl let her bolt fly. Red watched it, exhaling slowly as it merely bounced off the Raker's leg. She searched for any sign of the other tail she'd seen, eyes scanning between the cars, flicking from the tires to the visible Raker, which was now clambering down from the car. She held her staff across her body, spying the knife on the ground and seeing the second in Laviendor's hand, slowly inhaling as she realized what had happened. At the moment, the beast seemed to be focused on Levi, advancing slowly from it's perch before slipping behind another of the cars in the gridlocked road.

 

Well, she reflected grimly. There'll be no time for writing in my journal now.

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Alice made no sound, showed no sign of frustration, as her first shot missed. She merely drew another arrow and placed it on the bow. The gesture, seemingly practiced and easy, took more effort than usual and at this she *did* frown. Either her fingers were stiff with cold, or her black-outs were starting to carry a toll. No time to question this now though, as she took aim and let the second bolt fly. 

 

 

The lizard-creature whipped up its head and let out an angry hiss as the bolt buried itself in its flank. Swivelling its head sideways, it seemed to briefly focus on Alice. She didn't make anything of it - even the most base creature could identify a source of pain. It was how prey avoided predator, and how predators selected the easy target. 

 

 

Alice still hadn't spotted the second raker, as she slipped on a third bolt and took aim again. Just a year ago she would certainly have seen it, but between the black-outs and the bullet still lodged in her brain, she was beginning to lose her edge.

 

 

 

 

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Jovah cringed as the first bolt was let fly, striking and scraping against the hardened, stone-like bone plates grown into the overlarge lizard's skin. It drew no blood, leaving little more than a white streak as a stone might when dragged along concrete, but it certainly got the beast's attention. It turned and let out a low, guttural hiss, rows of jagged teeth presenting themselves, gore dripping from its maw from whatever its last meal had been. It looked prepared to charge before Levi's knife buried into its thick neck, sinking only a fraction of an inch in before falling out with a shake of the creature's head, the only result being a small drop of dark ichor bubbling to the surface of the beast's skin. Metal bent as the beast closed its maw and slithered back behind a car, hidden in the darkness just as its accomplice was. It reemerged momentarily, a car's length closer, staring with challenge at Laviendor, before ducking back and once more lowering itself behind a car. A light skittering could be heard, movement seeming to come from all sides but from the building against which the group had backed themselves up against.

 

The second of Alice's bolts struck the Raker in the side as it passed between a sedan and a City of San Francisco utility truck, and a satisfying 'thunk' sounded as it buried itself in the creature's side. Given the woman's condition, the shot could be considered miraculous. The creature itself made no sound. More than likely, the bolt has simply gotten caught between the plated armor, or at most sunk an inch beyond the creature's flesh.

 

And suddenly, all was quiet. The lizards had gotten the idea; the humans had range. Given the circumstances, not the most relieving thing, but at the very least it had given them time that they might not otherwise have had. The creatures, the group knew, were out among the sea of cars in front of them, masked by snow, metal and darkness. Occasionally, the distant groaning of tired steel could be heard, perhaps as the lizards unnaturally large bodies passed through a cab or a truck bed as they circled to find the best avenue of attack.

 

"That ain't good," Jovah spoke quietly, his voice containing a tense, warning tone to it. "Alright. Lav, Red, be lookin' at left and left-center. Alice, just look straight ahead. Jasmine, to the right, where we came from. And pay attention to the God d•mn dog. He's gonna know where they're comin' from before us." His voice was soft, barely a whisper over the wind, and it carried a certain shakiness to it that made it seem as though Jovah was trying to keep any panic within him under check. He shouldered the rifle and stepped back into the front alcove of the tenements they'd been passing. "Gonna try to get this door open. I counted two. Big guy and a tail, looked smaller. Anyone seen more?"

 

He knelt, fiddling with the chain and padlock wrapped tightly around two bars that had been welded to the door at some point in the past. Before the Fall, these doors wouldn't have had handles - they would've slid to either side, electronically, and probably only opened for people with the correct identification, usually residents and staff. But when the grids fell, magnetic locks didn't work anymore. People got creative. Tech stepped back two centuries, and people would seal up buildings by literally welding handles back on the door, then looping a lock through there. 'Course, they only did it for buildings they intended to use, or which had supplies they intended to come back for, which means that this building had been of interest to someone at some point between now and two hundred years ago.

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"Alright. Lav, Red, be lookin' at left and left-center. Alice, just look straight ahead. Jasmine, to the right, where we came from. And pay attention to the God d•mn dog. He's gonna know where they're comin' from before us. Gonna try to get this door open. I counted two. Big guy and a tail, looked smaller. Anyone seen more?"

 

Shaking his head, Levi didn't catch sight of any others. Jasmine gave a wavering 'no' in response as she stationed herself, fixing her hold on her crossbow. With Gorf alert and poised a few steps in front of the group, Levi focused his gaze to the left where the Rakers had disappeared behind the vehicles. The thought of retrieving his thrown knife briefly crossed his mind but, it was a concern to deal with later. Preferably when there wasn't a pair of creatures slinking about, hunting them. He listened as Jovah fiddled with the lock on the doors, the frozen metal clinking with each touch. His nerves caused him to mentally will the doors to open faster but, he had to remain patient and steady. The one-eyed man put away the knife he had in hand, replacing it in favor for his pistol. He wanted something that packed more of a punch.

 

Quickly, he glanced at the three women, trying to assess their present states. Alice seemed to still be recovering but, at least, she was regaining her wits by the look of things. The bard was trembling; from the cold or the Rakers, he didn't know. Gorf shifted, ears swiveling as he turned his head. Starting to growl in warning, the canine pointed his nose to the right and then left. Laviendor's hands tightened around the grip of his gun, raising the weapon to take aim where Gorf indicated. The dog began to bark in challenge as one of the Rakers scurried into view from behind a stripped van. The creature hissed and opened its scaly mouth in response, orienting on the canine instead of the humans.

 

The Raker was smaller than the one Levi had seen atop the car. Which meant-

 

"Jovah?"

 

Levi dared to remove his attention from the Raker to glance towards Jasmine at her frightened inquiry. The second, larger Raker popped into view from around the corner of the building. It must have gone around in an attempt to catch them from behind. The bard trembled and shot a bolt at the thing's head, possibly aiming for its eye. The beast turned away, causing the arrow to harmlessly glance off a plate of armor instead. Gorf's barking turned back into growling and Levi shifted his gaze in time to see the dog lunge at the Raker. The creature hissed and rushed forward in response, jaws wide to catch the furred animal. In rapid succession, Levi fired twice, aiming at the inside of its mouth and causing it to balk as a bullet hit its mark. The other grazed its tongue.

 

Gorf went for its neck but, as expected, the dog only clamped on hardened body armor. The giant lizard twisted, shaking the dog off as it lashed its tail through the snow.

 

--

 

Jasmine stepped back, firing another bolt at the Raker coming towards the group from the right. This time, the arrow pierced its flesh, embedding itself into the creature's hip. That seemed to irritate the thing as it flinched and hissed menacingly. The harsh sound of Levi's gun made her flinch but she kept her eyes on the predator before her. Fear made her aim all but steady and she shouted in terror as the Raker hurried towards her, lifting its body slightly as if it might try to bite at her hands. Fumbling, she quickly shot another bolt that pierced its nose, causing the monster to veer away before it turned back towards her. "I don't know where to shoot it!" the short woman panicked, firing again and trying to take out its eye. Once more, the bolt glanced off the creature's scales as it tilted its head to protect its vision.

Edited by Narvix

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Alice spun as she heard Jasmine call out and for a moment, the whole world spun with her.

 

"I don't know where to shoot it!"

 

Seeing the crossbow bolt deflect, Alice realized it might be less a matter of *where* and more a matter of simply shooting it *harder*. Slinging the crossbow in its back holster again, Alice drew her Colt Python instead. Jasmine's attack had caused the creature to veer off for a moment, creating distance between them, and the world had graciously stopped spinning - if Alice was going to get off a shot without endangering her companion, it would be now.

 

She settled in a braced stance, and raised the revolver to sight along it. There *were* still two rakers in her sight and she was pretty sure that should only be one, but at least Jasmine was in the clear. Picking the raker that seemed the most solid, Alice lightly squeezed the trigger. The raker's right side exploded in blood and scaled flesh - armored hide or no, they weren't bulletproof. The creature hissed and pulled back sharply, slithering back behind a half-overturned van. Its hind right leg dragged uselessly on the concrete and the creature left a trail of blood, but its speed revealed that it was far from dead. Alice hoped the pain and injury were enough to make the raker retreat though.

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(( School and work and medical issues and a vacation - but things are calm now, except for work! ))

 

Jovah quickly sunk into a crouch, rifle barrel clattering against the concrete as his hands worked feverishly at the rusted lock. A shuffling of leather and a clatter of metal on metal sounded out as he pulled his tomahawk from his belt, jamming the handle in and prying. The metal groaned tiredly, giving only slightly as the doors pulled outwards, having been shakened from their tracks long ago. He pushed them back in place with his shoulder and pushed down, one hand wrapped tightly around the handle, the other holding the lock steady. He cursed under his breath – there was no way the lock and chain was doing to break without something like bolt cutters. And judging from the dog's growling--

 

A sickening, beastly hiss and snarl.

 

"Jovah?"

 

That was Jasmine.

 

Jovah eased up on his prying, lips parting to response. As his tongue flicked to make a sound, the almost imperceptible 'click' of a crossbow letting fly sounded. His voice came out louder than intended as he realized their situation; "Just a few seconds!”

 

He pulled his tomahawk free, shoving it through one of the makeshift handles instead of the chain. He braced a boot against the door and, with all of his strength and body weight, pulled as hard as he could. The handle groaned, rusty steel aching to part from its unnatural union with the aluminium door.

 

Bang! Bang! Jovah flinched and resolved to pull harder. The shots echoed, though for the life of him, the man in white could barely tell – his ears were ringing.

 

"I don't know where to shoot it!"

 

"Gun!" Jovah shouted immediately, taking a gasping breath and pulling, teeth clenched as one corner of the haphazard handle pulled free with a loud 'pop', metal bending slowly but surely. "Or fire!"

 

Bang!

 

Oh, man, that one was loud. Was that a rifle or just a big gun? From the echoing boom came the pained, decisively angry hissing of a raker than had tried to bite off more than it could chew. And then the decisively angry hissing of another raker that had just seen its mate been injured in battle and forced into retreat. With furious abandon, the smaller raker engaged in combat with Gorf whipped her head around, aiming to butt her bony forehead right into the dog's side and gain some room to maneuver – and thereafter turn and charge at Alice, legs shifting from a scurry into what could almost be considered a gallop, blood dribbling from the bullet wound in her jaw all the while.

 

Not good. Jovah clenched his teeth, kicked the door once, pulled hard one last time, then simply threw caution to the wind and bent his knees, gripped either side of the wedged-in tomahawk with both hands, took a deep breath, and violated the age-old rule of not pulling with your back. He hopped – not spectacularly. It couldn't be considered a jump. It was simply a dropkick from someone who didn't know how to dropkick.

 

But it worked to great effect.

 

As he hopped, both legs kicked up, feet planted flush against the side of the door as every muscle in his legs, arms, and back jerked at the metal handle all at once. Three sounds occurred simultaneously in the span of a second; the buckling of aluminum as his kick left a dent in the weathered door, the snapping of brittle steel as the handle pulled in half, chain and lock coming with it, and the sickening pop of bone leaving socket as his shoulder dislocated. A sharp cry of pain escaped his lips as he toppled to the ground, landing hard against the steps up to the door. He took a sweet half second to compose himself, then yelled; "Open!", slowly rolling and starting to push himself to his feet with his good arm, tomahawk in hand.

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[[Well, I found time to post this afternoon/evening. Let me know if I've done anything wrong. I'm assuming that we're carrying Red along since I haven't seen or heard from Limitless in a long while.]]

 

“Gun!” Metal popped and groaned. “Or fire!”

 

Jasmine glanced back quickly at Jovah for a second before turning her gaze back onto the Raker. Alice fired her gun, causing the bard to jump, startled, and the beast to retreat. Blood remained in its wake and Jasmine hurried backwards, clutching her crossbow tightly. Jovah still worked to get the door open, kicking it and using his axe to try and break through. Using a gun was out of the question; she didn’t have one, let alone know how to shoot one. Fire could work though.

 

Rushing, she dropped her bag on the ground and crouched, shuffling through for the bit of flint she owned. The only thing she had to burn was a bit of bandage cloth and alcohol for fuel. Fumbling, she wrapped some of the cloth around a bolt and nocked it in her crossbow, pouring a portion of the alcohol onto the fabric. Using the head of a second bolt, she furiously struck the flint across the broad side, sparking a flame after a few hurried attempts.

 

As she scrambled to her feet and leveled the crossbow, Jovah busted the door open and shouted in pain. “Open!” The smaller Raker was attacking more recklessly now, butting Gorf with its ridged head. The dog yelped as it was knocked aside, the beast scurrying towards Alice and forgetting the canine. Another shot rang out from Levi’s gun as the man sidestepped to block Alice from the creature’s view. Blood splattered.

 

Aiming, Jasmine fired the ignited crossbow bolt, piercing the Raker in it’s newest injury. The beast gave a furious hiss, balking from the unwelcome barrage of the bullet and arrow.

 

“Get inside! I’ll cover!” Levi ordered, nudging Red towards the doorway. A sharp whistle escaped his lips as Gorf climbed to his paws, calling the dog back. The dog scrambled towards them, running behind the Raker and collecting the almost forgotten knife along the way. At the man’s ushering, Jasmine coaxed Alice to follow Jovah, snatching up her bag as she did so.

 

Gorf rushed past her, disappearing through the doorway. Levi stumbled in after the bard, quickly shutting the door behind all of them and pressing his back firmly against it as a means to barricade the entrance. Hopefully, the Rakers wouldn’t get it in their minds to pursue the prey they just lost.

 

For a while, Jasmine was silent, trembling and sitting on the ground as far away as she could from the door. After what felt like eternity, the bard let out a shaky breath, pinching the bridge of her nose and squeezing her eyes shut. There was no way in hell she was going to let the others see her cry. Composed, she set her bag down and chewed her lower lip. “Anyone hurt?” she started feebly, looking towards Jovah.

 

Rising to her feet, she frowned. Though it was a little difficult to tell with his coat, the bard took note of the useless way Jovah’s arm hung. “Your arm, let me see it please.” It was more of a command rather than a request. “And remove your coat.”

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Knowing that apart from her rifle she could contribute little to a ranged fight, Red kept back, resolving to keep as much of an eye on the critters as possible while she set her staff down and drew the gun from her back, prepping it quickly.

 

However, by the time she looked back up, the rest of the group had made their move and the Rakers had vanished in the sea of cars. She nodded to Jovah's mention of keeping watch left and center with Levi, glancing up at him to see where he looked first then quickly out to the cars, scanning the center for any signs of movement. One, two, inhale; three, four, exhale. She tried not to let the sound of Jovah fussing, unsuccessfully for the time being, with the door, then immediately refocused to the sound of Gorf's growls and barks, sparing a look to Levi to see the general area he was aiming and catching movement to the right out of her peripheral vision. She swore softly, focusing back to the Raker that had appeared in the zone she was assigned, trusting that the other two had it covered.

 

She took aim at the Raker, giving a half grin as Levi's bullets hit home, causing the beastie to flinch back, allowing Gorf to get at it. She simply watched again, not wanting to take a chance that she'd hit the dog, flinching herself as she heard the sound of gunfire from behind her, tracking the Raker with her gun as it traveled across the scene, lowering her gun somewhat and letting loose more oaths as Levi took center stage, covering Alice and popping the Raker a good one again.

 

While she knew Rakers were solitary, Red didn't doubt for a moment that the noise of the scuffle might have drawn other nasties, and she quickly scanned the area again before hearing Jovah's cry of "Open" and being nudged towards the door; she nodded at Levi, giving a quick smile before grabbing up her staff then hurrying in and out of the immediate doorway. She kept her gun and nerves prepared as she scanned the room, watching as the others scrambled in and Levi slammed and braced against the door, letting her weapon drop and taking a deep, steadying breath.

 

A voice cut through the silence - “Anyone hurt?” - and she shook her head before croaking out a "Fine here," in response.

Edited by Limitless

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Alice frowned when Levi stepped between her and the raker. For a moment she kept her gun raised and trailed on the creature behind her companion, before lowering it reluctantly - there was no way she'd make the shot with her head buzzing like that. Instead, she let Jasmine lead her inside easily.

 

"Do not block me" she shot at Levi once they were inside, though she left it at that. She liked this group and didn't want to start a fight. More importantly, she didn't want to interrupt Jasmine's work. She recalled the bard's aid in her own moment in need and felt she owed it to Jasmine to let her tend Jovah in peace. If the male hunter blocked her again - then they could fight.

 

With Levi and Red bracing the door, Alice surveyed the room. Broken pieces of furniture littered the room, mouldy bedding on a cot in a corner and the sooty remains of a fire near the bed. A few empty food cans were strewn around - all of them scraped clean. Clearly someone had been squatting here for a while, though from the looks of it they were long gone.

 

She wasted no time pulling the rusty metal cot out from under the bedding. It was cheaply made - a trail bed no one had bothered to steal - but it should hold the door while they considered their options. Instinct told her to be quiet as she dragged the bed to the door, but her muscles were still too weak to properly lift it. The sound wouldn't carry very far, but it would definitely let the rakers outside know they were in here.

 

 

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The group focused their efforts on the raker barreling towards them with reckless abandon, it seemed. It was well that they had driven the larger one into hiding already, otherwise it could've easily flanked and taken one of them there. The extra few shots, while loud, had stunned the smaller predator into a faltering stumble, and the sudden sensation of the burning arrow (no matter how quickly extinguished by blood and snow) was met with a horrendously enraged hiss, and the raker struggled to reorient and redirect its weight back behind the cars to rejoin her mate and regroup, narrowly missing Gorf in her retreat. They were vengeful creatures, but to take on a fully armed band of two-legs necessitated a certain amount of tact and strategy. It bought enough time for the group to filter in through the wedged-open door, and after a couple unsuccessful attempts, Jovah managed to right himself and stumble through as well, clutching his wounded, limp arm and muttering a string of colorful obscenities under his breath.

 

The door itself, in its prime, had been of the more common variety found in San Francisco, especially in the newer buildings; a sliding set of double aluminum doors on a track, controlled by electronic rails and a magnetic lock that opened on the successful reading of an identification card, finger print (for the building's residents), or the approval of the front desk or a tenant. Two hundred years of wear and tear had seen at least half of the door fall loose from its track, and some distant scavenger (likely the same responsible for the door handles on both the outside and inside) had seen fit to install hinges on that particular side, turning it into a more traditional door. The other side was still on its track, but jostled slightly due to all of the abuse over the years, so a certain amount of barricading was necessary, and the group found it on the other side - an old vending machine that had been pushed up against it, leaving the swinging side as the only viable entrance.

 

Jovah had already begun removing his coat, likely having not heard Jasmine's request in the least - he was most likely working on autopilot, eyes wide and focused. Levi's bracing of the door was soon replaced as Alice pushed an old cot up against it, and by this time Jovah had sat down on an old, ratty chair that had been dragged out into the hallway, heavy winter coat laid over his lap. He was wearing a lightly colored hoodie underneath, covered with many stains - blood, coffee, and a few interesting colors that implied he fell into contact with chemicals or dyes on a not-too-infrequent basis. With a rattling of loose items and equipment, he dropped his duffle bag on the floor beside him, pulling it under his chair protectively, as he unzipped the hoodie and pulled it aside at the collar, showing the cotton shirt underneath and his loose-hanging arm beneath the thin fabric. He let out a few more colorful curses as he reached his good hand up, feeling around the area and wincing, only just beginning to realize that Jasmine was intent on taking a look at the injury herself. He raised his head, furrowed his brow, frowned, and nodded once in response to her, letting his good hand lay in his lap. He said nothing (of substance).

 

---

 

The room that the group found themselves in was a residential apartment lobby. Immediately to their left there was a small waiting area long devoid of furniture that had at one point had glass walls encapsulating it (which were now instead on the floor, in a fine glaze of glass shards). A large flatscreen display hung off the wall, with any useful electronics inside having been stripped years ago. A makeshift fire pit sat in the middle of the tile floor, surrounded by cinder blocks and with a section of ventilation tubing having been pulled down to rest above it with the aim on allowing the smoke to filter up to the higher levels of the building. Markings in the dust on the floor implied Alice had dragged the bed from that area. A few remnants of what had once been potted plants sat here and there, long since devoid of the "plant" part of the equation. Throughout the entire floor, the roof had caved in in places, revealing old water piping, electrical cables, collapsed ventilation, and messes of wires hanging down. Anything copper had been long since stripped. All that was left were fiber optics - ironically useless, considering their high functionality before the bombs fell.

 

The rest of the floor was simple - there was a small, unisex bathroom, an array of mailboxes (all opened) built into a wall, a large front desk with its accompanying office chair having somehow ended up on the other side of the room, a closed sliding door behind the desk sporting a frosted glass window with 'SECURITY' printed on it in peeled lettering, a rotting wooden push-door hanging off its hinges beside it with the words 'Demo Room' on a plaque next to it, a set of three elevators with the doors wrenched open (revealing nothing but an empty shaft behind them), and finally, a metal push-door at the far end of the room (a plaque beside it announcing 'EMERGENCY STAIRWELL') that sat wedged open by what appeared to be a mummified hand, its owner no doubt sitting on the other side of the portal. Interestingly, the dust outside the door was unsettled, implying something had either been pushed out or dragged in fairly recently.

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Red took in the scene, eyes scanning the state of the building as she chewed her lip. When she deemed it safe enough for now, she paused, tending to and putting her gun away in favor of the staff again. She rubbed some of the dust off the sides of it, shaking her head at the state of the place. There was something for everyone, something they just couldn't get used to, she was sure of it. For Red, it was the dust. Shaking the thoughts off, she half-turned to look over the group. Nobody else had yet replied to Jasmine's askance of their status, which seemed for the better, considering that Jovah seemed to need the most of her attention.

 

Turning back, Red took several soft, careful steps towards the middle of the room, inspecting the fire pit before moving towards the security booth. Should nothing there pop out at her, her steps would take a turn towards the Emergency Stairwell, staff held at the ready.

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Once Jovah moved his hand away so she could examine his shoulder, Jasmine gingerly touched the offended area and the surface surrounding it. "This is going to be uncomfortable, if not a bit painful, but I have to figure out how your shoulder is damaged," she murmured. "Fortunately, it's most likely just a dislocation, based on initial appearances." Glancing at his face, the bard waited for the man to indicate he was ready before gradually applying pressure to his shoulder.

 

Beneath his skin, she could feel the bones that made up his shoulder joint and the corner of his collarbone. Jasmine traveled her fingers a little down his arm; a couple inches were enough. Ridges protruded where they shouldn't, indicating where a bone had been shoved or pushed into a new position. From the front to the back, she prodded as gently as she could while still having to apply enough pressure.

 

It didn't take longer than a couple minutes and Jasmine stopped prodding, standing straighter. "It feels like an anterior dislocation," she stated, looking around the room. Spotting the desk chair at the other side, she strode towards it and brought it back, taking a seat directly in front of Jovah. "This should make things easier, though not exactly fast." Pointing at her left shoulder, she held out her arm. "Right hand here, please," she instructed.

 

Once Jovah's hand rested on her shoulder, she gentle held his elbow with her left and began to massage the muscles of his upper arm with her right. "Have you dislocated your shoulder before?" she asked. If he hadn't, he might not know what she was doing. "In a few moments, you'll need to push your shoulders back, bringing the blades together, while straightening your spine. Slowly though," she informed.

 

After rubbing his upper arm for awhile, she nodded, shifting a little closer while Jovah did as instructed. "This will hurt since I don't have anything to numb the pain; you have to remember to breathe." Carefully, Jasmine re-positioned her hands for a better grip on his arm and began to tug. Gradually, she felt the head of the humerus give and shift back into its proper place. Once done, she pulled her scarf off from around her neck and started to fashion a temporary sling for Jovah. "It will be a few days before your shoulder will be okay with using its full range of motion. Until then, try to avoid jostling it," she stated.

 

---

 

Levi couldn't resist grinning at Alice's order to not block her again. As she dragged the aged metal cot towards the door, he helped her to position it before stepping away. Jasmine was helping Jovah and Red began looking around, inspecting the old fire pit then the booth before orienting on the emergency exit. Frowning, he moved to her side, eye catching the trail of unsettled dust and dead hand at the door. Gorf whined from his place near the middle of the room, pacing in a circle before coming to a stop and sitting, nose twitching.

 

Glancing at Red, Levi eased the door open further, allowing a rather decayed and mummified corpse to topple over with a thump. Well, it was either a good sign or a bad one to know that the hand had not been separated from its body. With a knife already in his hand, the man stepped around the lifeless body (if it could even be called such a thing in its current state) and looked up, then down, the stairwell.

 

"It's clear in here. For now. We'll need to make sure nothing can access the building through this exit." He was certain that Red had already been thinking of the same thing but someone needed to state it out loud.

 

[[i couldn't find any indication of which shoulder was dislocated so I assumed his right one.]]

Edited by Narvix

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As Levi stepped around the body, Alice - secure in the knowledge that he and Red had her covered - knelt to search the mummified corpse. Her hands moved methodically, if still not steadily, and without hesitation. Years of being alone had left Alice detached from her kind, and a dead body held no more significance to her than any random object. It has also made self-preservation a first instinct though, and she showed considerably more reluctance as she placed her finds on the large desk - a clear signal that she was willing to share them with the group. A single can of food (long devoid of any labels), a rusty bottle opener, and - the greatest prize - two large calibre bullets. The corpse hadn't carried a gun despite the bullets, so Alice assumed they'd been intended for trade. Or...

 

"Maybe gun," she said to Levi as she gestured towards the stairwell. If Rakers had ambushed the man inside, he might have lost his weapon. To Alice that was an option worth exploring: weapons, food and good clothes were of infinite value in this world.

 

She glanced at Jasmine and Jovah, and considered their options. She herself was still unsteady, Jovah just had his shoulder popped back, and Jasmine wasn't much of a fighter to begin with. That left Levi and Red. Not to mention the disturbed dust she'd seen surrounding the corpse. Best not to tempt the gods right now.

 

"Camp now. Explore later." she decided. She then pointed to the open elevators - even if they managed to secure the emergency door, the elevator exist would still leave them exposed. "Different place for camp?"

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Jovah hesitated, a small scowl on his face. He gave Jasmine a nod, fight-or-flight response still very present on his face. He grit his teeth as she poked around, but remained mostly quiet; it didn't seem he was any stranger to pain, though it clearly still hurt. He placed his hand where Jasmine requested and she asked him if he had dislocated his shoulder before. “Once,” came his reply. “But I was a kid. Don't remember much.” He nodded along at her instructions, licking his cold lips in preparation. As she pulled, Jovah made the first sound of pain – a small, sharp inhale and the beginning of a quickly-silenced groan. His shoulder shifted back into place and he immediately exhaled, breathing heavily and cursing under his breath, arm trembling slightly. He gave a weak smile as his arm was placed into a sling. “Thank you,” he replied after just a moment. He slung his M1A around his shoulder, gently brushing back some medical tape into place, and tugged out his tomahawk, laying it across his lap. After a moment, he mumbled a dismissive expletive and pulled out a small, unmarked, dented plastic bottle, shaking out a half of a pill – from the sound of it, he didn't have many. He popped it into his mouth and took a swig from his thermos, gulping the painkiller down, and settling back in the chair, catching his breath and watching the door.

 

___

 

The security office's frosted glass window was surprisingly sturdy, to say nothing of the door – and that was the first thing Red noticed. Easily mistaken as parts of the design from a distance, there were a variety of dents and microfissures in the glass, likely from repeated attempts to break in previously. The maglock (which seemed oriented towards either keycards or a biometric fingerprint scanner) had been dismantled at some point in the past, but judging from the mess of cut wires and torn out circuitry, whoever had been attempting to break in had failed miserably. When that hadn't worked, there were scuff marks on the aluminum where a crowbar had been poorly attempted, doing little but to cause a few dents. It was a common problem with scavengers – with the prevalence of maglocks, anything sealed up tighter than your average apartment building needed to be powered to be opened. Once upon a time, the locks might have carried capacitors to function in the event of an outage, but they were long since drained now. Either way, even if powered, once you botched shorting a maglock that option was off the table. Brute force and ingenuity became the only real choices.

 

___

 

 

The trio came together as they advanced upon the stairwell, each providing a set of eyes (eye, in Levi's case) and ears. It was clear to all three – Alice, Red, and Levi – that the body had been dragged partway through (recently, judging by the unsettled dust), likely in an attempt to have the stairway seal fully, but the corpse's hand got stuck in the considerably heavy door and whoever had continued on had either not noticed or not cared.

 

The stairwell itself was a tall one – and very dark. There were no exterior windows (or, if there were, they had been well sealed). There was only a single other door on the bottom floor, which had been chained and barred shut and presumably led out into a back alley. Looking up, it was impossible to discern more than a couple feet in the darkness. Even if a flashlight were used, it only shone up a few floors, disappearing into inky blackness somewhere between the fourth and fifth flight. As eyes adjusted and senses became attuned, however, a faint, blue-white glow became apparent from about six floors up, shining through what was presumably a cracked door. It was only barely visible.

 

Looking down was far easier – the stairwell only descended one flight before terminating at basement level. Aside from the faint creaking of concrete shifting under the weight of the ancient building, there came no sounds from below, and even less from above. The sensation was best described as “claustrophobic”.

 

As Alice knelt, she would notice the faint remnants of some fashion of dark clothing on the man – it could have been leather at one point, perhaps a jacket. While it had clearly been mauled to pieces, it hadn't happened in a very long time. The torn shirt and harness underneath the jacket, while largely depleted of their goods, provided a small bounty buried in one of the vest pockets. The food can, while dented, was intact, and the bottle opener seemed to have been fashioned on one end into a shiv. The bullets, however, were interesting – she could almost hear the corpse sigh as she drew the bullets out, its eyes sunken and ever-staring.

 

The rounds were long, brass, and with pointed tips. Certainly military grade. Imprinted on the back, around the firing primer, was '6.5 x 49 MM NATO MK 168' on both of them, and one of the two had a very slightly faded red tip. The round was uncommon, especially in this condition, and sought after for a good reason – it was the standard NATO rifle cartridge before the bombs fell. A great number of weapons used it, it was just a matter of finding one. Unfortunately, such a rifle was nowhere to be found here on this particular mummy.

 

Jovah remained sitting on the chair, keeping an eye on the front door. As of yet, nothing had begun banging on it.

Edited by Arctic

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Examining the stairwell while Alice moved her hands along the dead man, Levi had to convince himself that he did in fact see a glow coming from above, faint as it was. Curiosity wanted him to climb the flights of stairs and find out what the source was, but caution wanted him to remain with the others. "Maybe gun.”

 

Alice’s raspy voice drew his gaze back towards her, catching her gesture as she clutched a pair of bullets. In response, Levi nodded, flicking his single-eyed gaze up and down the stairwell again. ”It could be up or it could be down,” he commented. Guns were great resources to have but, the venture to obtain one wasn’t always worth it. Levi itched to start moving but managed to refrain, thinking further about the situation.

 

Again, Alice spoke up, bringing his attention away from the stairwell. "Camp now. Explore later." A pause and motion towards the elevators. "Different place for camp?”

 

Levi followed her pointed finger, lips pressed into a thin line. ”Perhaps in a different part of the building, sure. I doubt any of us want to make camp outside with the Rakers hovering around. There’s a basement below us but that only has one way in and out. Upstairs would be safer; we could use the elevator shaft if we can access the stairs.” He rubbed the back of his hand against his jaw, clicking his tongue. ”There’s a light source, about six floors up, and I want to check it out before we set camp anywhere.”

 

 

The bard studied Jovah for a few moments more, ensuring that the administered first aid did as it should have. When Jasmine was satisfied that nothing else seemed wrong, she moved the chair back to where she’d gotten it from. Eyeing the three gathered at the stairwell, she listened to their talking and frowned. ”How many should go upstairs and look?” she asked.

 

Levi thought briefly before replying, ”At least two of us. But not all five; people might end up blocking the stairwell.” The man nodded at Red. ”I’ll take Red with me if she wants to come with. Jovah’s the other option but it sounded like he’ll be out of full commission for a little while,” Levi stated, glancing at the red-headed woman and the white-clad man respectively.

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Alice looked up at the suggestion of exploring the stairwell. After passing out earlier, she was eager to assert her value again. Nothing good ever anything happened to the weakest of the pack - at least, not in Alice's world. She wavered though, as Jovah was just recovering from his injury.

 

"I stay here," she finally offered. The group had protected her when she was weakened, so maybe they weren't planning to drop her at the first sign of injury? Either way she hoped to repay the debt by staying at Levi's side now. Plus, while she liked Jovah's upbeat nature when she was feeling well, he was awfully talkative.

 

The winds outside were still howling and Alice almost missed the soft scraping sound against the door. Her head whipped up, and she looked at the rest questioningly as if wondering if she imagined it. Were the rakers trying to get in, or did something else brush up against the door? She rose slowly and moved to one of the windows near the door to peer outside.

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