Chapter 4 - A walk around the block


A note from rykov00

Think I have this release schedule thing figured out. Hopefully this was automagially release on Friday morning! We'll also be doing a double release today so check back in a few hours and we should have another chapter up.

Lastly, we know the cover is a bit dark, but figured it was better than a 200x300 grey image, and maybe we'll do a cleanup pass on it later.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Liz stepped into the family armory and grabbed her compound bow, a tactical machete, and her favorite foot long back serrated bowie knife she had affectionately named Mr. Fluffers. Looking around, she also decided that some of the sparring armor might not be a bad idea. It probably wouldn’t stop teeth much, but it never hurt to protect joints and other squishy bits from something that could disable her. As she moved to exit the armory, she ran her hands along the racks of shotguns. It was really too bad that they didn’t work, she trusted her ability to hit a target with a 12 gauge much more than her ability to hit something with a bow, even if she preferred the aesthetic of archery more. Before she left the room, she took a moment to look the the wall mirror and make sure her gear was secured.


Looking back at her in the mirror was a person she had been trying to avoid become the past few years: a warrior. Her hair was long and dyed blue at the tips, but the tight pony tail spoke to utility rather than fashion. Her angular face showed some of her asian heritage, but just barely, enough to make it hard to say where she was from. The freckles across her nose confused her origins more, but a Scottish Dad and Korean Mom does that. She stood up tall. She was enjoying the time she was taller than her brother, but her brother was already close to her five foot three inches and she knew it was probably just a matter of time before he sprouted up past her. The armor also did nothing for her, and she frowned at the image. She had fought against the self defense lessons and random training for years, yet here she was. She sighed, no point in wishing for something different at this point, and anyways, it could be worse. She allowed herself a quick flex showing off well defined arm muscles when she was sure no one was looking. Dammit if she wasn’t in good shape because of all of it.


She composed herself and stepped out of the armory, shutting the door behind her. Her next step almost caused her to trip over Barry. Barry looked at her with worry in his puppy dog eyes.


“It’s okay boy, you stay here, and keep Mommy and Mark safe, ok?”


Barry barked affirmatively and proceeded to wander over to where Mary was setting up loaded crossbows. Barry’s immediate and detailed response was atypical and caused Liz to cock her head to the side in confusion. She quickly pushed her concerns aside. Too much other stuff to worry about for now.


Her dad had finished a quick check up on his own gear and was already standing at the front door. “We ready to roll?” he called up from the bottom of the stairs.


Liz looked down at him and nodded. They then headed out for a jaunt around the block. Her dad was in the lead with his long sword drawn while Liz checked their rear for threats. The plan this time around was to try and check for survivors in all the houses and see who they could rally to their house. They knew most of the families around the bend well enough, and they were hoping that some folks were still around.


Their house was practically a fortress. Reinforced concrete walls, security doors, ballistic glass, and other artifacts of a paranoid millionaire insured they would have the most secure location in Lakewood, heck probably all of Denver. Her house was probably better suited for something like this than the local police or fire stations. It was a wonder that they even were able to get the permits to build half the stuff they did in a residential neighborhood, but she wasn’t going to knock her family’s luck now.


As they arrived at the first house Liz’s mind was quickly drawn back to the present. Her house was safe, but for now, she had to be aware of her surroundings and make sure nothing snuck up on them. She was always good at noticing things and she would make sure they made it back to the safety of her home. Her dad went to knock on the first door, and Liz gripped her machete with renewed force, preparing for the worst. With no response from the house, they backed away and moved on to the next house.


This pattern repeated a few times until the fourth house, where the door was slightly ajar. Her dad signaled for her to get ready, lifting his longsword. Liz crouched into a defensive position with her machete. As her dad pushed the door open they both were surprised when a giant tribble like creature crashed into him. Momentarily stunned, Jason struggled to keep the thing’s horns from impaling him, when Liz made a quick attack to its side. A squealing noise seemed to emanate all around fuzzball as it fell to the floor, and was quickly dispatched with another thrust from her dad’s sword.


“Carla, are you still okay in there?” her Dad shouting into the eerily quiet house. Liz knew the family in passing but her dad was better acquainted with the occupants. She thought she recalled him waving to an older couple on their runs around the neighborhood that matched her memory of the name. “Liz, get your bow out and cover me, I’m going in.”


Pushing the door fully open and creeping towards the kitchen, he stopped as a hissing sound started from the top of the stairwell of the house. Another fuzzball was crouching at the top of the stairs, angling its two horns towards them. They could just make out a pair of prone human legs jutting out behind it as well, which didn’t bode well for Carla and her husband. Without warning, the oversized tribble launched itself at her Dad, horns first, and in her haste Liz fired her arrow without thinking. A thunk and her dad swearing a fraction of a second later told her that she not only missed, but hit her dad! Without skipping a beat, Jason plunged his sword into the creature and then slumped against a wall.


“Oh my god Daddy! I’m so sorry!”


“Okay, it’s okay, just need to help me get this out of my shoulder. My armor took most of it, but I can’t reach it.”


“Of course. I’m on it. I’m sorry!” Liz was almost in tears. She was kicking herself and knew that no matter how pissed her dad might be it was nothing compared to how annoyed at herself she was right now. That was a gimmie shot, and she blew it because she was scared. Objectively, she knew that it wasn’t unreasonable to be freaked out by monsters leaping at her, but the stakes of screwing up were very real to her at the moment.


A quick application of first aid later let them resume their house to house search. On the way to George’s house they didn’t find any survivors, but on the plus side they also didn’t find any more bodies. They finally reached their target, and tentatively knocked on the door hoping that Haley would be ok. Liz had helped out Haley frequently over the years with everything from babysitting to house chores. Being a single mom who worked evenings had made her incredibly grateful to Liz, and helped develop their relationship into something more than just a babysitter and employer. While certainly not as close as Mark, Liz had known Haley and George most of her life. The thought of someone that close possibly being dead tied knots in her stomach and she made a silent prayer that Haley was all right.


The sounds of locks being turned caused Jason to jump back. He was done being ambushed by Nerflings, another Liz naming special. Liz both and her dad exhaled the breath they were holding as Haley pulled the door open.


“Thank god! I was going to try to make it over to your place but the streets are crazy!” Haley said, barely containing her hysteria. “Would it be ok if I came over? I know it’s asking a lot but...”


“Haley, of course” Jason quickly cut her off “Don’t even worry about it. You and George are practically family. Grab anything you can and let’s go, I don’t like being out in the open here. We’re checking houses but so far most people seemed to have been out and about when things shut down.”


Haley had a bag ready and wasted no time pulled a few more things together. It seemed aside from clothing and other essentials, she had filled a small cooler with food. Without further ado, she stepped out of her house, locked it behind her, and stood behind Liz. “I’m ready” she declared, tightly gripping her luggage.


The remaining circuit of the block passed quickly. Her dad no longer bothered to knock on every door, instead looking at driveways for cars or other signs of survivors. Their main priority had shifted and they were now focused on getting Haley to safety. Also, in an unspoken acknowledgement, Liz knew the arrow wound in her dad’s shoulder would slow him down, and a fight was not something they were looking for when he was in that condition. Other than seeing a strange plant growing around a house, chucking a few stones at it, and discovering it was a toothly, agile, killer plant creature, they completed their circuit and made it back without much incident.


Opening the door he found Mary and Mark leaning against each other for support, crossbows in hand. “Everything OK?” he asked.


“Well, we haven’t been eaten by a giant Giraffe hippo monster if that’s what you're asking” Mary replied with a barking laugh. “Haley, so glad you are ok too.” she quickly shifted gears and walked over to hug her friend.


“I wasn’t specifically asking about that, but, uh, good to know? I’m guessing there’s a story around this, so why don’t you go first.” Jason suggested as he sat down and started to pull off his armor. Liz ran to his side to help remove it, feeling guilty again about the shoulder. “And while you’re doing it, you can help sticht up this arrow wound.”


Mary nodded and went to get some supplies. “This is a hell of a day...” she said to the exhausted people in the room. The unsaid second half of that statement gave them all pause, after all, it wasn’t even noon yet, and none of them thought things would be getting better anytime soon.

“You guys have to hear about this” Mark said excitedly and began his story on what happened while the others were out picking up Haley.


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