[Contains no spoilers, takes place in Season 1! Feat. Jody being a cutie, kids, plastic spoons and Simon being an ass, as he is :'D Enjoy!
Dedicated to my darling friend Trine, who as one of the few of my buds actually play the game with me and listens to my relentless talks about it <3]
Janine managed to keep her kitchen well-stocked with saucepans, but this will definitely come in handy as a pretend astronauts helmet for the kids of Abel. With the world in ruins, they dream of escaping into space. Not a bad idea, actually. Shame there are no rocket scientists in the Township.
“That should do, Five, just stuff whatever you can take into your backpack. Oh man, we’ll be having a feast tonight!”
Well, a feast was so much said, but given the circumstances, spam, canned beans and pasta packets could offer quite the meal. Jody even managed to find some, albeit very dry, bread that miraculously had not grown mold and you really weren’t interested in what chemicals had been added for that to be avoided.
You push another can of old meat into your backpack and it’s near cracking, so you decide to zip it up. These stocks of food has been hidden from you until now and even if it hadn’t, it would have been impossible to get to – But some of the other runners discovered it by chance and after a larger operations of distractions and interference, you and Runner 4 managed to get inside to hurriedly take everything you can.
Sam is on the other end of the comms and is chattering like the chatterbox he is, which is reassuring, because as long as he does that, there’s no immediate danger.
“I dunno ‘bout you, Five, but I barely have any space left.” Jody looks at you and holds up her own battered backpack, which is just as stuffed as yours. You’ve raided most of the place, but there are still some useful things left, or at least things that might be useful. It’s not certain when you’ll get in here again, if ever, so you have to take everything. Janine’s orders. And you don’t go up against Janine willingly.
“Well, maybe that’s just a sign from above, then – The guys running interference are starting to turn back. There’s a group of zoms to the north, not too close, but heading towards you. If you have all you can get, might as well get out before it becomes a close call.” He instructs you. Janine is talking in the background, probably instructing the other runners on which directions to go to keep then away from you.
“Got it, Sam. Five and I will just have a last look around to make sure we’re not missing anything good.” Jody answers and you nod in agreement with her and starts looking through the ironically cramped storage building.
“Oh, look! There’s a wok here!” Jody suddenly beams at you and heaves it up with a groan – it causes you to raise a brow because she’s struggling to keep it in the air to show it to you and mind you, that’s going to have to be carried back to Abel by hand. She seems to get the hint and rolls her eyes. “I know, I know. I just miss Chinese food. I bet Sam does too.”
“You can make Chinese food in an ordinary pan.” You retort with a shrug, “Rather than the pans, I think we’re missing the fresh veggies.”
The other runner agrees with a hum and continues digging among the utensils. “Are we stocked up on pans and pots?” She asks, maybe you, maybe Sam, but neither respond. You shrug, and Sam must be talking to Janine or just not paying attention.
“No clue. But we can carry that – it’s not too heavy.” You walk to her and take the saucepan, feeling the weight and determining that sure you can. Jody meanwhile lifts up a small box filled with plastic spoons. “I mean not the best for the environment, but it’s the apocalypse. We can use these—“
“Runner 4, Runner 5, why have you not left the building yet!?” A shrill voice in your ear startles both of you and you jump a little.
“Mr. Yao, Runners 3, 6 and 7 have almost doubled back entirely! I thought I told you to get them out!”
Sam probably looks incredibly startled, you can almost hear the tension in the comms room through the headsets, but he doesn’t have time to respond before Janine proceeds to order you out.
So if you and Jody had been in doubt on whether to be bringing that saucepan and the plastic spoons, you don’t have a choice now, because you are already out of the building before you ask if you should, or just drop them.
Turned out that Janine was just being a bit dramatic. Not the other runners, nor the zombies, were that close and it wasn’t really a hassle to get out.
“So, what did you get?” Janine asks and you grit your teeth at that one can which stabs you in the back at every step. “Lots and lots of canned food.” You answer her and Jody gives her input, “Spam, spaghetti and plastic spoons!”
“Sounds like an awful board game from the 60ies. Or a really weird nursery rhyme.” Sam points out and you snicker, exchanging a look with Four as you round a set of trees and catch sight of the gates ahead of you.
“Raise the gates!”
You (almost literally) run into Simon and Evan as you draw up. Maggie is a little further behind you, but on her way, you are told.
“You better have some good stuff with you! That was quite the run for the rest of us!” Simon winks at you and Evan smiles vaguely, to which both you and Jody smiles back. “From the looks of your backpacks, you did. Good job.”
As Head of Runners, Evan’s compliments on a job well done is aligned with Janine’s, because those two are pretty important around and have experience. Of course Sam and Maxine’s are valued but they give them out a little more liberally.
Evan gives a small wave as he heads off to do a report or whatever he does when not running, while Simon hangs around, waiting for Janine to come and indulge you on what to do with the supplies next – They’re stocked differently, depending on what it is. And it’s getting late, so some of it might be used for dinner immediately.
She comes down a few minutes later while Sam is guiding Maggie back. “Good.” Is all she comments when she comes down and sees that a) your backpacks are stuffed to the brim and b) none of you have turned grey. “Come along, Four, Five. Simon, you can head off to rest break.”
“Alrighty – See you guys for a good dinner later!” He grins, his signature grin that would probably make girls swoon if this was a high-school movie scene, and saunters off to stretch out.
You, Janine and Jody head towards the kitchens to stock your gatherings appropriately. Janine handles the food for the night while you and Jody store the rest.
“Oh, Janine,” You remember that you are holding the saucepan and walk over to her, “where should I hang this?”
“A saucepan?” Janine frowns at you before pointedly gesturing to the very many pans and pots hanging to the right of you. “If there is one thing we actually have enough of in this township, it’s saucepans! I thought you knew that!”
“Jody found it!”
“Oi! It was you who said we should bring it, Five!”
Janine shakes her head and you grin crookedly while Jody sheepishly returns to stock the canned food. “We don’t have space for it in here and we don’t need it. Maybe they can use it in the Tequila Shack.” She says indifferently and dismisses you with a handwave.
The Tequila Shack? You doubt it. But you might as well go ask them later.
You help Jody with the last stacking of the food, although the saucepan keeps getting in your way – you hit it against either things or step on it, making you cuss quietly under your breath. Jody laughs at you, making your mouth draw downwards. “Alright then.” You ‘bitterly’ hum to yourself as you remove the cap of the saucepan and flip it upside down, smacking it onto the top of Jody’s head.
Now it’s your turn to laugh as the saucepan hangs crookedly on the runners head like a hat.
A silver, shiny, awful hat.
“Five!” Jody whiles, glaring at you – But she isn’t the angry type and that look doesn’t last for very long before it dissolves into a smile at your laughter. “Does it suit me?” She asks you instead and you nod seriously.
“It’s a strong look. I think you should keep it.”
“Might protect me from zoms.” She leans in and whispers to you, “or Janine.”
“Yes, Miss Marsh?” You both immediately tighten you lips to not laugh and continue your very serious stacking job.
You get through it without getting killed, thankfully. By the time you are dismissed, Jody is still wearing the saucepan on her head. “Janine told me to take it to the Tequila Shack.” Jody looks confused and you respond with an exaggerated shrug because you honestly have no idea either, you just went with it.
You decide to head off to the Shack together, quietly talking about this and that and eventually ignoring the pan-hat, more or less forgetting about its presence.
“Are you from space?”
You look down at a sudden small voice right by your feet and draw a grimace, taking a stuttering step backwards to avoid knocking the figure down.
“Are you from space?” The child, a young boy, repeats the question as if there is nothing weird about it whatsoever. It makes Jody look at him, puzzled. “No, I’m a runner. Runner 4.” She smiles kindly and crouches down to be eye-level with him. You watch in silence meanwhile.
The penny suddenly drops for why he thinks she’s from space as the small hand reaches up to poke the saucepan. “But it looks like a space-man helmet!” You feel a grin spread across your face unwillingly.
“Yes, she is!” You interrupt quickly before Jody can and she looks up at you in confusion. “How impressive that you can tell. She calls herself Runner 4, but that’s only here on Earth. Our space names are, uh.. Apollo 4 and Apollo 5!” You assume that the kid hasn’t heard about the Apollo flights from before day 0 yet, so you roll with your own creative suggestion.
It wasn’t that children had necessarily always been your thing, you weren’t really that entertainer type. But whether you liked children or not, whether anyone did, it was impossible to ignore how bleak the world was for children these days. Everything was so dangerous and different now, every game came with precautions of a kind that hadn’t been necessary before the apocalypse. They didn’t learn about Africa and the tectonic plates, not about literature or art as much as they learnt about zombie survival from a young age.
So any bit of fun that could be had, would be had. And as runners, you often brought back the best stories and the children admired you. So no matter your attitude towards children, whether that had changed or not or was good or bad, you always played along with their games to at least attempt giving them some good childhood memories.
Speaking of which, the boy is looking between you and Jody now with wide, curious eyes. “Really?”
Jody seem to recover from the element of surprise in her new ‘identity’ and nod vigorously. “Uh, yes! Me and… Apollo 5 just came back from another secret mission!” She wiggles her fingers as to give a mysterious effect and by now, some of the other children from the playground has gotten curious and start to watch and move closer.
So you and Jody proceeded to come up with some far-out, ridiculous tale about your travel from the planet ‘Newi Cantoni’ (which, arguably, sounded a bit like some sort of Italian cuisine but no one noticed the odd in that name) and how you had ended up here to save the planet. You had brought your space gear with you, but lost most of it in ‘the crash’ and now, the helmet was all that remained from space.
The children of Abel had gathered and you overheard some of the adults snickering to themselves at your creativity but it came along well so long as the small ones didn’t ask you to prove any magic stuff.
You were just telling them about how your commander, DeLucali, (once again, all that came to mind was Janine in some Italian Mafia getup) had asked you hide among the humans to see how their life was like, when the dinnerbell rang. You feel a rumble in your stomach and realize that you haven’t actually eaten for quite the while.
“Oh… Well, even us space-people have to eat.” Jody interrupts the story with a smile and lifts the saucepan off her head. “And so should you, humans!” At the dramatic addition, the children giggle.
She looks over them all suddenly with a serious expression. “I will give you our last space helmet so that you can one day flyyyy to space and visit our planet! But you just have to promise us…” She leans in close and lowers her voice, while the kids look incredibly intrigued. “..You must never tell anyone what we’ve told you, okay? Here on Earth, we are just Runner 4 and Runner 5. Got it?” Several heads bob up and down eagerly and one does the ‘cross my heart’ motion over her little chest.
“Good!” Jody beams again and puts the saucepan on the boy who addressed you first. He smiles so widely that you think his face might just split. “Now, goodbye, humans!”
At dinner, you hear several of the runners giggling and it’s not until Simon casually asks ‘is it rude to ask to pass the salt on Newi Cantoni, Apollo 5?’ that you realize that most of them probably saw or overheard the little show – and if not, rumors have spread. Laughter burst out at the table and you would throw the salt at him if it wasn’t so valuable.
The next runs are interesting. Sam continuingly refers to you as ‘Apollo 5’ and it seems to be catching on. Although he does mention that, out of his window, he can see the children still playing astronauts with the saucepan and adds that Janine hasn’t even noticed that it didn’t get to the Tequila Shack.
He thinks it’s funny until you begin referring to him as Houston whenever there is a problem.