It was a long time before she had willingly walked among people, even before the world fell apart. Lana Cutler was a former Army Ranger and Delta Force operator, and the word 'former' came some years before the dead took over. But her specialized training gave her an advantage in the new ways of the world, and her already brutal and jaded demeanour endeavoured her not to lose her mind like so many others. The world she lived in was already a battlefield, this was just a new enemy.
However, despite Lana's dark beliefs and usual attitude to go at it alone, things have changed along with the world. Like it was mentioned before, it has been a long time since Lana willingly walked among people; she was a loner—usually believing that the only person she could rely on to survive was herself—but since the dead were now shambling around, she's found herself being able to rely on people. Relying on a group. They weren't much to look at, most of them being civilians, and only three of them having actual military experience , but despite being mostly civilians, they all had varying degrees of skills. Perhaps not particularly geared towards combat, but skills that became a very important commodity, ones that took a lifetime to acquire and became the backbone of their way of life.
And they all looked up to Lana. Strong in her silence, fierce in her words, and brutal in her actions. They needed her as much as she needed them, and not just for protection. They needed her for guidance, for someone who wasn't afraid of having authority, someone who could help them start over. They needed a leader and they had one.
Being the leader of a large survivor encampment meant she had more responsibilities than she used to when she walked the streets alone. Since it was cold, food was harder to come by, making it more of a necessity and increased their regular amount of scavenging missions, which Lana often opted to go on. It made survival a little harder but it also had the subsequent effect of slowing down the dead... But the dead were more of an environmental problem once you got used to it; the real problem was the living. [i Scoundrels, liars, and killers.] Even though Lana found herself depending on people more, her trust was hard to gain and came with strings attached. It also seemed to have a limit, and just like their encampment, it was nearly at capacity.
She only felt the cold on her face, the rest of her body being covered by weather proofed clothing. A jacket, a vest, gloves. The works. And slung over her shoulder was a scoped rifle, a machete and combat knife on her hip. She was also accompanied by a younger boy, a few inches taller than her, also dressed for the weather. He had a pistol and a machete, handling them both with a familiar grace. He was one of the civilians they had trained for these occasions. However, this man, Ben, had a problem.
[+blue “Its always good to get out of the encampment, you know?”] He asks rhetorically. They were walking in the middle of the streets, away from entrances and spaces where the dead might be lying in wait, their eyes peeled for movement... Well, at least Lana's eyes were peeled. Ben seemed to be engrossed with the conversation he was having with himself. [+blue “Everyone is so grumbley these days. I don't know about you, but I always enjoyed the cold. I actually used to be a professional-”]
Lana's hand comes up and covers his mouth. [b “Shut. [i Up].”] She enunciated with quiet fury, looking down the street purposefully. Surrounding them on both sides were old shops and stores, most of their windows bashed in and a few lucky ones having been boarded up. Only a few cars littered the streets, but they were mostly parked or crashed and out of their way. But what Lana wanted Ben to see was one of the undead shambling out of an alleyway just a few meters away. It as mostly concealed by a crashed car, but Lana saw the movement through one of the smashed windows. It didn't notice them yet, and seemed to be moving on from the area. Ben begins to reach for his machete and Lana shakes her head. [b “Wait.”] She whispers, the hot breath clouding with steam. There was more to see.
The monster shambles a few more paces forward, and then four more follow suit and drag themselves from the alley. Pleased with the demonstration, Lana removes her hand from her companions face and brings it to hers, placing a finger over her lips. She then points to a department store to her left, its windows smashed in, but it appeared to be empty. They quickly made their way inside to keep out of sight and to also take a look at what they could find.
They begin looking through the aisles, pillaging what they could from the store that was left behind. Batteries, snacks if they could find any, a map, some magazines. She was quite concentrated on the task at hand. [+blue “How did you know that Scab wasn't alone?”] But Ben seemed to like breaking that concentration. She turns and gives him a hard look and scowl. At least he was speaking quieter now. [+blue “Right, right. Your famous 'never be alone; never assume they're alone' rule.”] She turns back to the mostly empty shelves expecting Ben to do the same, but he was lingering. [+blue “You know, that's the most you've ever spoken to me before; those three words. Sorry if I keep talking, I'm just surprised.”] Lana was a woman of few words and liked to keep it that way. She's been used to the silence for a while now, and being with chatty comrades grated on her nerves. She preferred the quiet and reserved ones, like John, Samantha, or Henry. Efficient people.
It seemed that Ben took her silence as his queue to get back to work and scavenge. It didn't last very long since this place had already been nearly picked clean, but they found a few odds and ends. A few moments later they were looking at the map, Ben motioning to a residential area. [+blue “We need more blankets and jackets.”] He said, Lana pleased he was on topic. [+blue “Most people don't grab them or they take few. Linen closets are always still stacked whenever we look, so we probably can get some towels too, and if we're lucky; dryer sheets and detergent.”]
[b “I like this version of you better.”] Lana says, packing up the map and placing it in to one of the pouches that hung from her belt. She took his questioning look as the question itself. [b “Efficient.”] She comments and then motions for them to leave the store. It appeared that Scabs weren't particularly concentrated in this area, so they moved quickly through the streets, killing very few with their machetes, and to the suburbs.
Once they closed in, Lana held up her hand and the two of them stopped, the woman taking the rifle from her back and looking through its scope at one of the houses. Out front was a woman, she banged on the door and took a moment before going inside the house. [i Smart.] She thought to herself, and kept watch of the windows through the scope for a seconds. She was alone, and judging by her appearance, she was surviving by the strictest dictionary definition.
[+blue “What are we going to do?”] Ben asked, and Lana handed him the rifle and unclipped his pistol holster and put it on her belt. She was going to go say 'hello'. Usually coming in to contact with other survivors was a nightmare waiting to happen, but when they were lone survivors they tended to be a lot less dangerous. They weren't bandits or people hunters, just fellow human-beings trying to survive. [+blue “I guess I'm keeping look out..”]
And Lana quickly came out from cover, moving between cars silently, her centre of mass lower to the ground, dampening her steps as she came upon the house. She presses her back against the outside of the door, her hand on the pistol in the holster. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement on the street, but quickly moved inside. The floors were sturdy, but she kept close to the walls to avoid making any sounds, following the slight ruffling noises of drawers and material. Lana kept on the outside of the room the woman was in. [b “Psst!”] She was loud enough and close enough to get her attention. And quickly moved in to the doorway to reveal herself. Her pistol was up, but she wasn't aiming it directly at the woman, had it there mostly as a formality and to make it clear she [i would] shoot if she had to. [b “Are you bitten?”] Not that she would tell her if she was, because Lana would just shoot her. But it was a good way to establish a rapport. She tried to seem non-threatening, but also just threatening [i enough]. [b “Where did you come from?”]
Ben sat back on a car that sandwiched itself between two alleyways, and he watched the house from several metres away. He didn't need the scope to do it, and he didn't want to, and it wasn't because he was a shit shot with a rifle. A scope cut ff his peripheral vision and a Scab could sneak up on him and rip his face off. So instead, he just eye-balled the house as Lana went in.
Although it would seem that the two women weren't alone for very much longer. Coming up the same street, Ben saw another figure and quickly put the scope to his eye to see if it was one of the Scabs. He was pleasantly surprised to see that it was another survivor, another girl. Apparently today was their lucky day with survivors. Usually they would avoid other survivors if they were in a group of three or more, because that usually meant they were a part of a larger group, which tended to be more dangerous. But these two seemed to be going at it solo.
She was eyeing the house Lana and the other woman went to, and Ben knew she had to stop her. If she went in and surprised Lana, she would definitely be killed. He's heard some stories of people who have partnered up with Lana, and then came up behind her after she told them to stay put. Those combat reflexes, man. He was pretty sure John came back with a broken nose once.
Either way, it was probably a good idea to introduce himself, so they didn't unnecessarily kill another person surviving, and so they could perhaps gain another ally. The more people they knew, the more they themselves would know. Maybe they would be lucky enough and these people would be locals! He makes his way up the street cautiously, still aware that there could be danger lurking about, but he still made sure he was a little bit noticeable so he didn't surprise the girl and end up getting shot anyways.
[+blue “Hey, you!”] Ben whisper-yells when he gets close enough. He held the rifle to the side to symbolize he was meant no harm. [+blue “Are you a good guy? Are you hurt?”] He asks her, now taking very cautious and slow steps towards her.
However, things take a turn when a low grumble is heard down the street. He knew the noise, and it didn't come from just a few Scabs, but a whole lot of them. [+blue “Shit!”] He curses, and then looks around them at the area, suddenly flustered and overwhelmed. [+blue “What the fuck do we do?”]
Rachel pulled her coat tight around her, the wind chill cutting through and making her skin prickle with goosebumps. The streets were quiet and empty, and she felt strangely calm as she crouched in the shadow of a side alley ,rummaging as quietly as she could through her tattered backpack for the scraps of food she had squirrelled away.
The dead seemed sparse in this area and she was going to make the most of it. She'd considered going into one of the houses for more cover, and she'd certainly be hunting for anything useful in them later, but often the dead lurked in old homes, people turned and trapped in, rotting and waiting. It was harder to fight one in a tight space.
She still sat on high alert though, earlier she thought she'd caught a glimpse of someone on the horizon, another human looking to survive, and in Rachel's experience the humans were often worse then the undead when they were desperate.
She pulled a chocolate bar from her bag, stomach twisting from hunger, and nibbled a few chunks, before carefully wrapping the end and putting it away. It wasn't much, and it wasn't great nutrition either, but it was quick energy, and that was something.
Zipping the bag with nimble fingers - she'd long cut off the ends of her gloves to keep her hands more agile - she poked her head out of her half hiding space, dark hair framing her pale face as she looked out into the street, seemingly, still alone. Time to look for supplies.
Although as she scanned the houses, moving along looking for something interesting an open door caught her eye. She wondered if it was recent, or if it'd been opened weeks ago, or had been since the house had been abandoned.