Dead Reign

Day Z(ero)
Prologue and Prelude

The outbreak began a little more than three weeks ago.

At first it looked like an early and virulent strain of the flu. By the time anyone realized how much of a pandemic it was, something like 40% of the country was laid up with fever, sniffles, and aching muscles. It came on hard and fast—and then people started dying in droves. By the end of the first week, the hospitals were full of the dead and dying. When the dead started getting back up and attacking the living, the hospitals turned into charnel houses.

By the end of week two, millions of people had been killed or died from the plague. Even the recently dead from other causes started rising up and feasting on human flesh. The government collapsed, the army was in pieces, and pretty soon we stopped getting news from other countries too. We don’t know if it’s just as bad overseas, but it’s probably not any better.

A week ago, a few survivors who had been too late escaping New York City when everything went to hell holed up in an office building in Lower Manhattan. The Pine Building had an on-site cafeteria for employees and a nurse’s office, so there was a little food and medicine at first. Now, after a week holed up together, supplies are running low and morale is even lower.

Someone has to step up and find food, or the survivors will just be more zombies before too long. Can you do it?

Day 1
Life (and death) in the Pine Building

The survivors realized that their food was running low, so five of them got together to make plans. Governor Byrne took the lead on suggestions, while Doris, Rasheed, Brad and Rosalie were pleased to offer their own takes on matters. In the end, the crew decided to go down to the first floor to retrieve a copy of the building directory so they could figure out if there was anything on the higher floors worth looting. A couple of zombies remained in the lobby, but they were easily dispatched by Governor Byrne’s wrestling skills, and Rosalie wound up with a taser of her very own.

The survivor crew took the stairs up to the higher floors and methodically picked through anything of value. They found some medicine in a dentist’s office, but no food. The twelfth floor was barricaded, so they went to the roof to look for another access. Rosalie’s silent scouting proved invaluable, revealing almost a dozen zombies—and a man in a conference room with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

The crew opened up the elevator shaft, hoping to use the zombies’ natural stupidity to lure them all to their doom. It was working well enough until one of them showed aberrant behavior: it was able to think well enough to not jump to its doom, but instead to jump across the shaft to try and kill the governor. A well-thrown pipe from Brad and some help from Rosalie saved Byrne’s life and sent the “smart” zombie tumbling to its doom with its kin.

They managed to find enough food in the office’s private catering kitchen to keep the enclave going for a few days, as well as a private elevator that still had power. Taking it to the basement revealed a working generator and some gas, as well as an underground parking garage empty of cars. The crew started making plans to get Doris’ truck and Brad’s humvee inside to repair them and gas them up. In the meantime, they started discussing plans for what to do in the long term, and where to go once the cars were ready.

Survivor Society: Judge Bell made something of a nuisance of himself, and Brad earned the enmity of several survivors with his rude commentary. Governor Byrne is earning the trust of the people, and Rosalie is trying to learn some basic chemistry from the Chadwick brothers. Doris hasn’t made much of an impression on anyone. Everyone is starting to like Rasheed, viewing him as Governor Byrne’s right-hand man.

Day 2
Plans for the future

The survivors begin laying plans to raid a nearby convenience store for food. Governor Byrne volunteers to draw off the zombies while the others make their way to the store and bring back as much food as they can carry. Rasheed is nearly eaten by a zombie in a roadblock traffic jam, but they manage to make it to the store, where they find a working truck crashed into the front of the store. They load the truck as full as they can manage and drive it back to the Pine Building, sending up a flare to let Governor Byrne know they succeeded.

When they get back, they find the front of the building far more swarmed than when they left it. A harrowing fight ensues, at the end of which the food truck and Doris’ semi are safely in the building’s basement-level garage. Judge Bell makes his move, pushing Brad to convince the others to stay in the Pine Building through the winter and let the government sort it all out. Brad is unconvinced and reports the judge’s offer to his companions.

Rasheed starts investigating the sewers as a possible escape route, only to find that they’re completely flooded. Rosalie tells him that Manhattan has a series of pumps to keep the sewers and subways from flooding—but they’ve all been off for over a week now. By the spring, most of Manhattan will be flooded, which is just one more reason to get out while they still can.

Doris manages to get her CB radio working and picks up a signal from other survivors only a dozen blocks away. They make arrangements to pick up the other survivors and bring them back to the Pine Building, and along the way pick up a trailer for Doris’ truck so that they can make good their escape from New York in the near future. Everything is looking up until it goes dramatically wrong.

The next morning, a panicked call comes over the radio: someone in the other survivors’ enclave turned in the night, and now most of them are dead. The survivor with the radio has locked himself in a closet, but he doesn’t know how long he can last. Doris and Governor Byrne immediately jump into action to go rescue the remaining survivors, but Judge Bell tries to stop them. When Doris ignores him, he tries to restrain her, only for Rosalie to hit him with her taser. It doesn’t put him down, and after he calls her a bad name and balls up his fist, Governor Byrne clocks him cold. He and Rasheed announce that everyone needs to get ready to leave—because when they get back, they’re abandoning the Pine Building. Courtney, a survivor with military experience, volunteers to come with them.

The heroes burn rubber through Manhattan in Doris’ semi, coming to the rec center where the other survivors have holed up. Zombies are crowded around the doors, so Doris decides to ram them and through the front of the building. While most of the heroes are recovering from the impact, Governor Byrne and Rasheed jump out to start getting zombies away from the room where the lone survivor is hiding. Rosalie climbs to the top of the semi and taunts zombies into ignoring her friends, while Doris starts picking off zombies with her pistol and machete. Brad tries to lure zombies away, but winds up mobbed by a swarm of zombie children.

The heroes manage to clear enough zombies away from the door to get the lone survivor to come out, and two others emerge from their hiding places as well. With the few survivors rescued, they all pile into Doris’ semi and get the hell out of Dodge.

Day 3
Run like hell

The survivors make their way to the docks to grab a trailer for Doris’ semi. While the others get the trailer hitched up and scavenge for useful goods, Doris gets shot at by a maniac hiding in a warehouse. Rosalie and Rasheed find a smuggler’s stash of explosives and take a few bricks of C4 with them—just in case.

They rush back to the Pine Building, where evacuation procedures are well underway. The elderly Chadwick brothers mention their intentions to stay behind to Rosalie. Patrick is too sick to travel without significant attention, and Aaron won’t leave his little brother behind. Governor Byrne convinces them to come along, against the advice of Judge Bell and Dr. Hart, both of whom argue that the Chadwicks would be a major drain on the enclave’s resources.

The survivors load up into the vehicles and bid the Pine Building goodbye, making their way toward the ferry docks. The ferry itself has a few walkers on it, but quick work is made of them. The vehicles make their way carefully onto the ferry, and Brad is able to safely pilot it out of the dock. Once they are away from shore, they see that the zombies don’t seem to care for water, refusing to go into it unless knocked in by accident.

After some discussion, the group decides to make for as far south as the ferry’s fuel will take them, all the way past Staten Island to New Jersey. Coming ashore, they find the road out of the ferry station blocked by security bars, as well as a crowd of “sleeping” zombies littering the area. Rosalie sneaks to the guard shack to disable the bars—only to find something horrific waiting for her.

The guard shack explodes as an enormous mutated zombie bursts its way free. The creature is easily eight feet tall and half a ton, bulging with grotesquely expanded and ruptured muscles. The other zombies pick themselves up and lunge to the attack. The others distract the heavy zombie while Rosalie struggles to find and use the gate controls. In the midst of the battle, Governor Byrne suffers a cracked rib—and Doris is bitten!

Though the zombies are finally defeated and Rosalie opens the gates, the others fear it might be too late for Doris. An hour or so down the road, Doris finally calls for a stop to explain her situation to the others. She offers to let them keep the truck and leave her behind, but they won’t hear of it. After all, they’ve all heard the rumors of people being immune, and Dr. Hart can’t even confirm that the zombie broke through the skin when it bit Doris. They agree that Doris is to stay with the group—no matter what.

Chilled and weary, the survivors are nonetheless free. The only question now is where to go next.

Doris Journal #1

Got bit a while ago. Right on the damn arm. My own foolish fault for jumping into a pile of zombie and not backing away. But how could I? Gov’ Brynes was out there all on his own and you don’t turn your back on your convoy.

Ah course I told them right away. At least my immediate crew. Suggested they should just leave me somewhere alone and let me see how it turns out, but they’re a good bunch and didn’t set me out like roadside litter. We let a few other folks in on what happened, mostly the medical crew. They checked me over and they don’t think any saliva got into the wound. It didn’t look like the skin tore, but there were some mighty nasty blood blisters.

Arm still don’t work right. It’s all purple and yellow from the bruising. And sometimes, it throbs. I feel feverish at times, but no like nothing I heard about those who turned. If I think I’m going, I’ll eat a bullet first before I hurt any of my friends. Or even Brad.

Day 4
Sweet sanctuary

The survivors realize that food and water will soon be an issue, but the most pressing one is shelter. Out on the road, they’re sitting ducks for a horde to catch up to them, even past the worst parts of New York. They decide to head up the road a ways to an old rest stop, hoping to temporarily fortify it against danger. The few zombies they find there are easily dispatched, and the survivors spend a cold, fearful night there.

The next day, the group starts trying to decide their route to safety. When Rosalie mentions that her sister is in Pennsylvania, Doris insists that the group travel that way to at least confirm whether she’s alive or dead. Some of the other grumble, and Brad quips that Rosalie should just let it go—her sister is definitely dead.

While on the road, the survivors notice a sign that says “Survivors welcome!” pasted up on a freeway exit. Despite some misgivings, they decide to check it out. On the outskirts of a town called Bethlehem, they run into a young man and his sister, Elijah and Mary Mathis, who are dressed almost like Mormon missionaries. The two young people explain that their father, a Baptist preacher, has built a sanctuary for people on the run from the zombie hordes, a place where all are welcome. Though the survivors look forward to the chance at a warm bed and real food, everyone is suspicious about having to leave their weapons behind.

Once at the compound, a walled area that used to be a tourist-oriented historical Quakertown, Courtney and the Chadwick brothers choose to stay with the vehicles while everyone else disarms and makes their way inside. One of the guards is rude to Rasheed for “looking like a Muslim,” but Elijah insists that “Father” wouldn’t want anyone excluded. Inside, the group meets the friendly, bearded Father Zachariah Mathis and his wife Ruth. They also get to see the community they’re building, a place protected by walls and populated by easily as many people as the ragtag band of New York survivors.

Everyone is given a chance to clean up and get ready for dinner, and Father Zachariah offers to let them stay a few days to catch their bearings—or longer, if they want to join the community. Dinner is pleasant, but everyone finds themselves becoming sleepy afterwards, and Doris and Rosalie go back out to the trucks to take food to those who stayed outside. Doris can’t keep her eyes open any longer and just goes to sleep in the truck, with Rosalie refusing to walk back alone. Governor Byrne, Rasheed, and Brad are given rooms in a bunkhouse with some of the other survivors.

In the middle of the night, Brad is accosted by men with guns who seem intent on doing something with him, but he makes a run for it. Rasheed, not asleep at all, sees this and makes his way out into the night as well. When people try to get Doris to open up the truck—which is unsuccessful, since Doris is passed right out—Rosalie is suspicious and sneaks back to the compound. The three of them meet and witness Elijah leading a hunting party looking for Brad and Rasheed. Most disturbing is that they seem to be leading a pair of zombies on chains, using them like hunting dogs.

Fearing for their lives—and those of their friends—the three survivors run and hide.

Day 5
Down in the river to pray

Rosalie, Brad, and Rasheed dodge their pursuers for the better part of an hour before they realize they’re no closer to getting off the grounds. Even if they were, they can’t just abandon the people who are still asleep in their beds. (Well, Brad could.) Finally, they decide to double back and get Governor Byrne, who might have a better idea of what to do.

Governor Byrne is waking up just as people are being carried out of their beds and put on a flatbed cart outside. Taking issue with this, he beats up the two men doing to kidnapping and ties them up before starting to wake up the other survivors. The escaping trio catch up to him and explain what’s been going on. The quickly confer on a plan; Rasheed will escape to start up the vehicles and get them ready for escape, while the others try to get to the main house and alert Father Zachariah that his son has started attacking guests.

Before they can implement the plan, Brad is spotted by the trackers and takes off alone into the night. Rasheed uses the distraction to escape and Rosalie hides in the rafters, but Governor Byrne is captured by Elijah and his followers. Hoping to get some idea of what this is all about, the governor agrees to go with them peacefully, and Rosalie follows behind to keep an eye on them.

Brad makes his way to a barn, where a bunch of zombies have been penned up—and where a bunch of kids are sleeping on cots, not twenty feet away, with an armed guard watching them. Brad decides to play the hero for once and jumps from the barn’s second story onto the guard, breaking his collarbone and taking his shotgun. While he’s distracted, one of the children gets out of bed and charges him with a pitchfork, stabbing him in the ass. Brad hauls off and slugs the kid in the face, finally crossing the moral event horizon, before fleeing the barn.

Elijah takes the governor to a small creek that runs through the property past an old Quaker cemetery, and explains that it was his intention to baptize all of the “decent folk” and quietly “disappear” the “unbelievers.” Governor Byrne feigns acceptance, then accuses Elijah of being insane and body slams him under the water.

Rosalie jumps out of hiding and tasers one of the armed thugs. Three more try to swarm her, but they can’t get their hands on her. The others don’t dare to shoot at Governor Byrne for fear of hitting Elijah, but the teenager seems to be able to hold his own. Though he can’t escape the governor’s steely grip, the strain of fighting a young, spry opponent seems to take its toll on the older man; several times, Elijah’s beating fists make the governor’s heart skip a beat, almost dropping him from sheer shock. One of the thugs gets fed up with Rosalie’s dodging and clubs her in the stomach with the butt of his rifle, drawing the disapproval of his fellows.

Outside, Rasheed has woken up Doris and Courtney and is preparing to ride to the rescue. He uses a small chunk of their C4 to blow the gates, then Doris drives the semi through to the bunkhouse, where people are rapidly ushered outside to safety. Doris and Rasheed rush to join the brawl near the creek, arriving just in time to see Brad blow a farmhand’s head off with a stolen shotgun.

In desperation, Elijah calls out to god for help—and something responds. A hideously deformed zombie comes tearing out of the darkness, ripping into Governor Byrne with a fury none of them have before witnessed. Rosalie zaps the fleeing Elijah with her taser and drops him like a poleaxed cow. The battle against the “angel of the lord” rages powerfully, until Doris manages to cleave its skull in half with her machete. All of them are injured and weak when Father Zachariah shows up, demanding to know what’s happening.

Though Elijah pleads his case, Zachariah orders his son locked up until morning so that they can figure everything out. The survivors explain their side of it to him, and the preacher begins rousing his people to rebuild the gate and defend the walls. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he fears it could be the end of their peaceful sanctuary. While the survivors are busy getting their wounds patched up by the local healer, Doc Gillis, Elijah somehow escapes, possibly with the aid of his sister Mary.

When the heroes approach Zachariah’s wife, Ruth, they find her on the verge of a suicide attempt. The woman collapses onto Rasheed’s shoulder, weeping that it’s all her fault…

Day 6

After finishing her tears, Ruth explains to the group that she had told her children about the strange marks they saw on Elijah’s followers. They were “hex signs,” a kind of country backwoods magic that Ruth’s grandmother had told her about when she was little. It was just a superstition to her, like throwing salt over your shoulder after spilling it, but Elijah had apparently found something deeper in it.

Rasheed promised that they wouldn’t kill Elijah, and Ruth told them that there was only one place her children would go to hide: an abandoned library building in town. The survivors snuck out of the compound without telling Father Zachariah where they were going and made their way into town in Brad’s humvee. On the way, they found a dog with a wounded leg, and Doris couldn’t bear to leave it be; Rosalie freaked out when Doris dragged it into the car, and the subsequent scuffle drew zombies. The group barely managed to escape, and Rosalie was quite unhappy about sharing the car with a big dog.

The group stopped the car a few blocks from the library and went in on foot. Rasheed noticed that the clock face on top of the library had sprouted a rifle barrel. Elijah’s group had a sniper watching the approach. Checking the back, they found two farmhands with rifles standing watch, and a gaggle of zombies wandering around the loading dock. Governor Byrne decided to scale the building to get to the sniper, but his stealth abilities left something to the imagination.

Rosalie rushed across the street to a toy store, looking for something to use as a distraction to keep the governor’s head from getting blown off, but Doris couldn’t wait any longer and broke cover as a decoy. The sniper took a couple of shots at her and missed, and she got up to the enemy group’s pickup truck and started hotwiring it. Rosalie finally settled on throwing a bouncy ball across the parking lot, which got the sniper’s attention for just a moment. Brad and Rasheed rushed for the front doors while the sniper was distracted, and Governor Byrne scaled the wall just in time to avoid the two farmhands who came rushing around to see what was going on.

Brad chopped a hole in the door to let himself and Rasheed in, then took cover inside the library. Outside, the farmhands started shooting at Doris, who took a bullet in the shoulder for her troubles. Rosalie started sneaking around back, avoiding the agitated zombies and scaling up to the second story. Governor Byrne finished off the sniper by throwing him off the roof, breaking his neck. Inside, another farmhand took a shot at Rasheed, who rushed the man and cold-cocked him with the flat of his axe.

Doris was getting mighty tired of being shot at, so she turned the truck around and drove straight at the shooters, less to hit them and more to scare them. Unfortunately, her usually amazing driving failed at the worst possible time, and she rolled the truck into the back—with a group of zombies waiting right there. Doris scrambled out of the truck and made a run for it, but one of the farmhands recovered enough to take a shot at her. Governor Byrne couldn’t get to Doris in time to help, and for his efforts wound up getting severely shot in the gut.

No longer able to worry about the consequences, Doris pulled her gun and shot the gas tank of the flipped truck before diving out of the way. To her horror, the exploding truck killed both of the farmhands and set the zombies on fire—flaming zombies! Rosalie dashed inside ahead of the explosion and found herself looking at Elijah’s back—as Brad was sneaking up on him.

Rasheed had gone deeper into the library and confronted Elijah, who stood above a crucifix with a zombie tied to it and dressed as Jesus. Brad was sneaking up on the would-be prophet while Elijah began chanting in the strange glossolalia he had been using at the riverside. Rasheed ducked back into the stacks to hide, but Mary Mathis was waiting for him with a farming sickle. The two of them dueled for long moments before Rasheed realized that the girl was gaining the upper hand and fell back to the main room to join his allies.

Governor Byrne had finally managed to get inside the library, though he was still bleeding profusely. Brad failed to sneak up on Elijah and almost had his windpipe crushed by a strangely powerful grip from the boy, but their struggles luckily knocked Elijah back and off the second story balcony to the ground below. Rosalie snuck down and tasered the boy, which only made him angrier. Doris finally caught up to the others too, a herd of burning zombies chasing her down.

A hideous zombie Jesus appeared from the dark, tackling Brad—who threw himself off the balcony rather than stay face-to-face with such a monster. Down below, Rasheed and Mary continued to duke it out while Rosalie, Doris, and Governor Byrne pounded on the indefatigable Elijah. Zombie Jesus pursued Brad to the first floor, and Doris gutted him with her machete. Governor Byrne knocked down the fleeing Elijah and started stomping him brutally, all of the older man’s patience spent.

Within moments, the tide turned. Elijah was unconscious, Zombie Jesus was beheaded, and Mary was surrendering rather than see her brother hurt anymore. With the psychotic Mathis siblings defeated, it was time to go back to Quakertown.

Doris Journal #2

Goddammit! We found a little town with survivors. Thought we could stay a night or two, rest up, sleep in a real bed, make some friends, and even drop a few people off in a safe place. Unfortunately, the town’s leader’s son is a fanatic with some wicked magic that’s brought what they called the “Raptured” under his control and he thinks Jesus wants him to use them to baptize folk in a more permanent sense than usual.

He took off and of course we went right after him. Just wouldn’t be right to abandon some folk because a few bad eggs. But during the fight, I got overzealous and shot their truck’s gas tank. I thought it’d knock the men folk back and maybe blow up some zombies coming my way.

Instead one man got decapitated and the other set on fire. Holy Jesus shit balls. What the fuck have I done?

Day 7
Aftermath and consequences

After the battle in the library, the survivors escaped with Elijah and Mary in tow, only to discover that their humvee was surrounded by zombies. A quick fight with them revealed how badly hurt Governor Byrne was, as he nearly collapsed in the middle of the fight, and a hurried drive back to the compound only left them more concerned that he could die of his gaping gut wound at any minute.

Back at Quakertown, the gate guards insisted that the survivors come through the gate one at a time and be inspected by Doc Gillis for zombie bites. Governor Byrne got sent through first and the others had to wait while his grievous injuries were treated. Doris went through last, concerned that the revelation she had been bitten nearly a week before would keep the others from being allowed in. When she explained the situation to Doc Gillis, he concurred that the wound didn’t look like it had broken the skin, and he let her in anyway.

Elijah and Mary were taken into custody, and the survivors were given a few days to rest and recover while the fate of the Mathis siblings was decided. Finally, Father Zachariah approached them to let them know that his children would be exiled—given food and weapons, but banished from the community. Once again, Governor Byrne and Doris tried to convince him to evacuate the compound. Without Elijah present, the zombies were starting to trickle in, and it was only a matter of time before they would be overwhelmed.

This time, the argument seemed to get through to the old preacher, and he agreed to evacuate with the New York survivors—on the condition that enough vehicles could be found to take everyone safely. He wasn’t about to risk his people’s lives on foot in the middle of nowhere. The survivors agreed that this was reasonable and decided to set out to find cars in nearby Allentown.

Meanwhile, Rasheed and Rosalie were talking to Ruth about the “hoodoo” her grandmother had told her about as a child. Ruth grudgingly revealed that she had an old notebook filled with her grandmother’s “signs,” and gave it to Rasheed, despite her fears that the hexes might well be evil. Rasheed recognized some of the characters as cuneiform, others as Enochian, some as nothing he had ever seen before. He began translating it, using his grasp of languages to good effect.

The survivors kitted up and made for Allentown, only to find all the bridges across the river had been destroyed—not by accident, but intentionally. Doris got on the CB and searched for signals, finding that the survivor enclave in the river valley across the bridges had had the bright idea to use the rivers to seal themselves off from the outside world, but that had the side effect of making the area impassable. A negotiation with Governor Byrne convinced the river valley survivors to open their borders to the Quakertown group, provided that they brought along enough food to care for themselves over the winter.

With a peaceful negotiation ended, the river valley survivors also directed the group north to the local airport, which happened to have a state trooper office across the street from it. The trooper barracks proved to be a veritable treasure trove; the survivors found tons of useful components in the lockup, a couple of working cars in the impound lot, food in the vending machines, and a small cache of ammo in the weapons locker.

From there, they headed to the airport, hoping to find some passenger shuttles to provide transport for the Quakertown survivors. The shuttles were easy to find—but the runway itself was a mess, filled with debris from a crashed passenger plane, and they were surrounded by a small horde of zombies. The survivors decided to lead the zombies on a merry chase, using a luggage buggy to lure them off while Rasheed and Colin put new batteries in the shuttles and got them started.

The plan was a rousing success! With a small caravan of vehicles at their disposal, the heroes proceeded away from the airport and back toward Bethlehem. Perhaps things were starting to look up in the zombie apocalypse!


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