Banzai (Eyes)
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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Los Angeles, Sunday Afternoon
SWAT Sergeant Hall considered telling her to leave, or perhaps something more emphatic. Stealth could see it in his eyes. Even though she had saved his life on two separate occasions, he was still dismissing her knowledge on this subject. "You cannot reason with them," she told Hall again. "They cannot be intimidated by displays of force or numbers. Your men must begin aggressive measures if you hope to hold them back."


SWAT Officer Hall
"And by aggressive you mean killing them?" He glanced back at the wall of riot vehicles waiting to move out. In the distance we could hear the loudspeaker warnings and faint cries. "I can't order my men to fire on sick civilians."

Stealth
"If it helps you and your men, by any possible definition the infected are already dead. As the mayor said in his address, they are ex-humans, no longer alive." Stealth was tired of this argument; she'd had it multiple times already. First, in the early days with Banzai and now with every police and soldier unit she came across, or so it seemed. "Do not attempt shots to cripple or immobilize. They will have no effect. Only decapitation or destruction of the brain."

Hall
He shook his head. "I don't need to hear more of this zombie movie bullshit."

Stealth
"It is the most effective method."

Hall
"Great. Maybe next we can try fighting them with magic."

Stealth
"The hero Cairax Murrain is already doing so. Guns remain more useful."

Hall
Hall didn't look like he appreciated the joke. Of course, it was possible he simply didn't recognize it for what it was. He opened his mouth to comment, but one of the other SWAT officers shouted above the din. "Snipers have movement three blocks south. A group of infected coming this way." They looked to Hall for a decision.

Stealth
Stealth's eyes met his again through the holes of her mask. "I understand your frustration, Sergeant Hall, but we are running out of time. The chances of containing this outbreak are already low."

Hall
"Do you know what'll happen if we start shooting at civilians?"

Stealth
"I have an excellent idea of what will happen if you do not."

Hall
He shook his head. "The CDC will be here in—"

Stealth
"They will not come," Stealth interrupted. "There have been major outbreaks on the east coast around Washington. All resources are being focused there. It is up to you and your men to contain this here. I will give you all the help I can."

Hall
Hall's eyes widened. That the zombies--rather, ex-humans--had spread beyond the borders of LA was not yet commonly known. Even most of the heroes had not yet heard. But the infection had spread throughout the country and now it was every populated area for itself. He gave real thought to giving the order to shoot to kill, but in the end he shook his head. "We don't kill civilians."

Stealth
"Very well," Stealth said, mentally consigning him and his team to the dead. It was time to leave; she would not be able to do any further good here. This block would be lost as well. While Hall was distracted by his force, Stealth silently swung up to the roof. She moved to the southeast corner and dropped to a lower building. Two more rooftops led her to the alley where her motorcycle waited. She landed on the seat, cut down Cahuenga, and headed across town on Sunset.

She passed eleven infected in three blocks and shot each of them in the forehead. At Sunset and Las Palmas she stopped to put another round in the ear of a gray-skinned boy with a bloody mouth.

The entire trek, she revised her estimates. Things had spread too far too quickly. After Wednesday's attack, most civilians were following instructions and staying indoors, although most were still clinging to the stories of terrorism and biological warfare. Stories were already circulating of the unlucky people who locked themselves in with infected family members who turned hours later. There was also a bothersome number who insisted on going out to fight the infected on their own. The majority of them were being killed, and a fair number became carriers themselves. If it spread any further, a safe zone would need to be established. Instead of fighting off the restless dead, much of the superheroes' energy was now being diverted to shepherding the living.

Regenerator, Banzai, Gorgon, and this new Mystique were trying to keep order at the emergency shelters and field hospitals that had sprung up as the National Guard marched in. Blockbuster, Midknight, and Cairax were holding the west side. Zzzap was attempting to fight on both coasts, but the constant travel was taxing him. The armed forces had deployed a prototype exoskeleton, heavily armed and armored, in Washington, D.C., to help with containment, although Stealth believed it was a publicity stunt to boost morale rather than a serious stratagem.

A quartet of exes stumbled into view on Las Palmas drawn out by the noise of gunfire. Three women and a man. They had fresh blood on their mouths. Stealth gunned the bike's engine, spun the rear around, and headed toward them. A fifth and sixth wandered out of the narrow space between buildings.

Stealth
With both weapons firing, it took three seconds to eliminate all of them.

While she listened for signs of trouble, she reloaded. Both her Glocks were the 18C military variant with the extended magazine, but it was not an evening to be caught low on ammunition. She carried four spare clips in her harness, plus the two in the pistols. There were an additional two hundred rounds in the cycle's saddlebag. She had used a quarter of her ammunition in ninety minutes of patrolling.

Another ten minutes and twenty-three more kills brought her to La Cienega. A major intersection. A police car sat near the sidewalk, three of its four doors hanging open, the front crumpled against a Ford truck. Skid marks indicated the driver had hit the brakes, tried to swerve, and crashed.

There were fourteen bodies surrounding the vehicle. She could see one dead officer on the pavement by the driver's side door. A Mossberg police shotgun lay a few feet from his left hand. The others had been exes. Besides the fatal head shots, they each had a collection of bullet wounds in their arms and chests. One had the curling wires of a Taser trailing from his stomach.

She heard a moan from the far side of the car. Contrary to their popular media depictions, exes did not moan. They clacked their teeth at their victims, jaws preparing to bite and rend as soon as they spotted a potential meal. Whatever was moaning was still human. At least for now.

Police Officer
It was the other officer, a woman, and she was bleeding. She had dark hair, the bulk of a bulletproof vest under her shirt, and a set of pins and tags identifying her as ten-year veteran Officer Altman. Her left arm had been bitten several times. Two fingers were missing from that hand, along with part of a third, and she had made a rough bandage from a bandanna. Her right ankle was soaked with blood. Her left cheek hung open. She was crying.

Stealth
"How long since you were bitten?"

Officer Altman
She jumped and tried to raise her gun before she saw the hero. "Oh, thank God," she said.

Stealth
"How long? If it has been less than two hours there is a slim chance you can be saved." Even as Stealth said this, she took note of the paleness of Altman's skin by the wounds. She was sweating and her eyes were having trouble focusing.

Too long. However long it had been was too long.

Officer Altman
Altman shook her head. "They overwhelmed us. We tried the Taser, warning shots. They just kept coming."

Stealth
Every time. Every single time.

"You have been told not to waste time with such measures," Stealth said. "The only way to stop them is to kill them."

Officer Altman
Her eyes hardened for a moment and she glared. "They're still people."

Stealth
"They are not. That is why your partner is dead and you have a day at best. Have you radioed for assistance?"

Officer Altman
She shook her head. "One of them bit through my microphone cord. I can't reach the car radio."

Stealth
Stealth walked around the car and closed doors until she reached Altman's partner. He twitched twice and she put a round through the base of his neck. Altman cried out at the sound. At this range, the vertebrae exploded. The twitches stopped. "The car is still secure. I can leave you here until help arrives, or you can attempt to drive."

Officer Altman
"You're not staying?"

Stealth
"No." Stealth lifted the other woman to her feet.

Officer Altman
"Fuck you."

Stealth
"There are too many exes at large. The next twenty-four hours will decide if Los Angeles can be contained or if it will be lost. That outweighs the needs of one police officer who ignored the order to make kill shots."

Altman settled into the driver's seat and dragged her legs into the car. Stealth pulled her partner's sidearm, his spare ammunition, and retrieved the Mossberg. "It may be several hours before help can reach you," she told the officer. "You will need to defend yourself until then. Do you have food and water?"

Officer Altman
She snorted back a laugh. "What, like a box of donuts?"

Stealth
"A first aid kit?" Altman nodded. "Use whatever antibiotic agents you have in it. It may give you extra time."

Officer Altman
"You really think I've got a chance?"

Stealth
"It is difficult to say. There have been some cases of recovery, if the victim receives immediate medical care."

Officer Altman
"How soon is immediate?"

Stealth
Stealth's pause was answer enough. "The attacks happened in a hospital."

Officer Altman
"Yeah, that's what I thought."

Stealth ordered Altman to lock the doors and left her. When the officer died, she would be trapped in the vehicle and thus no longer a concern. As she walked back to the motorcycle she shot two women, each wearing a House of Blues staff shirt. The bike roared back to life and she resumed her path across Sunset.

She still had half her ammunition left, after all.


In one of the earlier Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Arthur Conan Doyle (not yet a Sir) had made an observation on logical deduction: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

There was, however, a specific flaw in that maxim. It assumed people could recognize the difference between what was impossible and what they believed was impossible.

The ex-humans had been appearing for weeks now; almost a month since the first known sighting. They had been captured, studied, and killed. Since the attack on the Chinese Theater, there had been warning posters, public service announcements, and news reports. Yet people still clung to the impossibility of the living dead even as it loomed over them, attacked their homes, and devoured their neighbors. Soldiers, police, and private citizens forced themselves to believe the exes were just infected with some curable disease, despite all the evidence, and would not take the necessary steps. They would not accept the truth. They would not act on it.

The outbreak would not be contained. It was too late. The world as they'd known it was over.

[Taken and adapted from Chapter Ten "Subtle Beauty" from Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. NFB, though OOC is love]