Thomas and Kirkman manage to get the door to the Security Suite closed, locking the horde inside. Alison notices that, although the door may be metal, the mass of bodies pressing against it, hungry for flesh, is already putting strain on the hinges. The group continues with their plan to split up into groups and attempt to gather as many survivors as possible and send them to the main theater.
The groups are:
Group 1 – This group goes straight from the bridge area to the theater, to secure and prepare it for the survivors:
Dr. Fabiana Winters
Group 2 – Starts from the bottom of the passenger decks and works their way up:
Group 3 – Starts at the top of the ship and works their way down until they meet Group 2:
Group 4 – Goes to the Crew Deck to gather surviving crew and the families of the PC’s, then (secretly) to Forthington’s suite to pick him up:
Group 2 goes up the aft staircase and finds a man standing with his gun against the head of another man, who is on his knees begging for his life. The man on his knees is bleeding from a badly cut hand. After a tense stand-off, Thomas gets the guy with the gun to stand down and he checks the man on his knees while the gun guy wanders away, not trusting these people with his life. Finding the cut on the man’s hand to be more a regular, thin slice that the man says was caused by wielding a piece of broken mirror as a makeshift weapon, Thomas bandages the hand using strips of clothing and keeps him with the group until they can send him to the theater with a larger group of survivors. They’re handing out fire axes to at least one capable person in each group they send down.
Group 3 is clearing a hall when they see at least a half-dozen of the creatures moving into an open cabin door and hear a baby crying from that open door. Alison begins to move forward, readying her fire axe, when Sean puts his hand on her shoulder and tells her that they can’t save anyone else if they all die trying to save one baby. He also notes that they won’t be able to defend themselves while carrying a baby, and its crying will attract more of the things to them all the time. Alison is frozen with indecision, agonizing over the choice they must make. Sean tells her that its her call, he will follow either way, but he thinks going in there is a bad decision that will cost more lives than the one they may or may not be able to save.
Group 1 finds the theater clear and begins securing it and setting up the backstage areas as triage. One side is for the severely wounded and obviously bitten. The other side is for the people who have minor wounds that don’t look to be obvious bites.
Group 4 gathers the families and crew and takes them to the theater before heading out again.
Group 2 is clearing an open door on another deck and find a father sitting on the sofa in the room with his young daughter of about 7 years old, who is obviously bitten and feverish. He is holding her hand and trying to comfort her. This is a heart-wrenching decision they must make. Even tougher than Sean and Alison’s decision about the baby. Thomas asks Breckenridge’s man to stand guard out in the hall. They talk with the father, who is beyond distraught and doesn’t want to leave his little girl. Thomas tells him that there is not hope for her. Brooke moves to console him and gently persuade him to step out into the hallway. While she is talking to the father, the girl looks at Thomas and says, “Does this mean I’m gonna die?” Thomas walks to the bathroom and steadies himself against the counter. No training or time in the shitholes of the middle east could have ever prepared him for this. After a moment, he signals for Brooke to take the father out into the hall and close the door. They hear a single, muffled gunshot from inside the cabin. It takes Thomas a long time to come out into the hall and close the door behind him. He is white as a sheet and unsteady on his feet. He signals them to follow him down the hall.
Group 3 is clearing a hall when they find an old lady fending off three of the things with her walker. They have her backed into a corner and she can’t escape, but they can’t reach her yet because of the walker. Alison and Sean move up with their fire axes while Breckenridge and his man stand by, guns at the ready. They hack at the things, not going for the head, just trying to get them off the old lady. Sean is deadly with a fire axe. Unfortunately, since he’s not aiming for the head, he first lops off one leg, then the other. His next shot takes off the right arm. Then he hacks at its chest, not doing much. Finally he hacks off the left arm and they decide to leave the armless legless thing there in the hallway. He cleaves the other one’s head almost in half. The final one has to be taken out by Breckenridge and his mercenary with guns.
Group 1 is receiving survivors in the theater, checking them with the help of the two nurses that were hiding on the Crew Deck with the families, classifying them, and performing what first aid they could. The obvious bite victims are closed in dressing rooms, guarded by the mercenary they brought with them. Finally, all the groups, except group 4 arrive at the theater and begin the process of organizing an evacuation to the lifeboats. This is not helped by the Bible-thumping Ms. Hartman, who is working her growing congregation into a fever pitch. Jonathan Treymore introduces himself to the group and offers his help. David Norris, Trip’s friend (it was their bet on a card game, and Norris’ inability to pay that caused Trip to be onboard in the first place), offers to watch the children and entertain them. Among the various survivors, the group identifies four pregnant women and makes them a comfortable pre-natal area. They also identify a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet who proudly wheels himself forward when the group asks if anyone has military experience.. Their passenger rep, Erica Davis, is extremely worried about Mr. Forthington’s safety.
Her fears are allayed when Group 4 enters the theater with a handcuffed Edward Forthington. They take him to the balcony, check him for bites, and allow the “lovers” to be together while Mike guards them.
While they are discussing evacuation plans, a man in the theater goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Trip and Kirkman take him to a backstage room and Kirkman delivers an axe blow to the head. Sometime during all this, with Ms. Hartman’s preaching gaining steam, the horde reaches the theater doors and the moaning echoes through the dark room. With the tension in the cavernous place raised, the most pregnant of the women goes into premature labor. Dr. Winters and the nurses successfully deliver a healthy (for the circumstances) baby girl.
Soon after the birth, Ms. Hartman begins preaching of the need for a sacrifice. Brooke overhears this and asks her to pray for something constructive, like a prayer for the dead. Ms. Hartman complies, but works things back into her standard rhetoric. Stephen McDermott confronts Breckenridge about his identity and reason for being aboard the ship. Nobody buys Kirkman’s or Trip’s stories. Things are looking bleak. Brooke breaks down emotionally and starts confessing that she knows they’re all going to die. Thomas has an outburst towards the congregation and a brief confrontation with McDermott. Finally, not able to stand the guilt any longer, Forthington asks Ms. Hartman to pray for his soul and his forgiveness for what he has done and admits to everything. This causes the congregation to move to seize him. Bryce and Kirkman stand in the way. Kirkman draws his weapon and threatens to shoot anyone who makes a move towards Forthington. Mike also readies his weapon.
Thomas, guarding the main doors with Breckenridge, comes up with a plan (with the mercenary captain’s assistance). He tells Ms. Hartman that if God doesn’t show them a way out of this in 1 hour, they can have Forthington to do with as they please. He gets everyone to agree to this truce and they all stand down. McDermott is appointed as the congregation’s representative to guard Forthington, with Mike as the group’s representative. The two sides retreat to their corners of the theater, with the walking dead at the doors and Forthington on the balcony under guard.
Breckenridge, Trip, and Bryce sneak out of an emergency exit and scout one side of the ship to create a diversion. While searching some lifeboats on that side, they notice a ship approaching in the distance. Trip begins launching flares, and using the emergency mechanisms, they launch 3 lifeboats to gauge the time and difficulty and create a noisy diversion to attract the zombies to this side of the ship. They also set off some molotov cocktails on that side at some approaching zombies. While they are doing this, it becomes clear that the approaching ship is a large Coast Guard vessel. The three of them then re-enter the auditorium through the emergency exit and tell the congregation joyously that God has shown them a way off the ship! The Coast Guard is here! Ms. Hartman loses many followers and much of her steam at this point, as people abandon her to prepare for rescue.
The group then leads anyone who wishes to board a lifeboat out the opposite emergency exit, with Trip tossing molotovs at any zombies that approach, with Kirkman, Thomas, and Breckenridge shooting at any that get through. They get three lifeboats loaded with more than 270 survivors. As the loading is finishing up, there is a standoff between Kirkman and Breckenridge, as the mercenary leader readies to escape with his men on their own boat. at that moment, the Coast Guard ship rams the cruise liner, sending people sprawling and rocking the lifeboats on their davits. One of the mercenaries inadvertently squeezes his trigger and riddles Kirkman with bullets. His dying reflex shoots Breckenridge in the shoulder. At this point, the mercenary captain pushes the button on the remote detonator in his hand and explosions rock the ship. Trip and Mike load Kirkman on to a lifeboat as his remaining men make good their escape, running to the bow and taking zip-lines down to their waiting craft, which quickly speeds away, off into the distance. The boats launch, with the pilots of each craft successfully get their lifeboats away from the sinking ships.
They tie the lifeboats into a flotilla and begin tending to the injured on the tightly packed boats. They are lost and alone on the vast ocean.
To be continued…