It was a little creepy when their necks snapped. Stealth said they don't feel any pain, that it was like breaking a toy more than killing something. Gorgon agreed with her. Hell, Rav--Mystique agreed with her. But it was still such a creepy noise.
Kick. Back flip. Crouch. Sweep. Lunge. Springboard. Snap.
For the most part, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Banzai was three times faster than a normal person. Considering these things moved at maybe quarter-speed, it was almost impossible for them to touch her. There had been a scary minute a few days ago when she'd gotten surrounded by them, but once she calmed down she'd gotten out of it. Eliot was right--he was always right. You can get out of anything with your brain first, your fists second.
Vault. Flip. Split kick. Bounce. Snap. Bounce. Snap. Bounce. Snap.
God, it was sick, she knew, but she was still loving this. After a lifetime of being the quiet girl who sat off to the side, becoming the fastest, wildest, most colorful hero in the city was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Even now, with people dying in droves, she was out doing what she loved; rescuing people and taking down bad guys. She had a hot guy on her left, and one of her best friends on the right--it was good. Sure, if she'd had her way, it wouldn't be Gorgon with her, it would be Anders or Dante or better yet, both, but for a night fighting zombies--that is, ex-humans--during a national emergency, Banzai was doing all right.
Half a dozen exes down and she swung up the fire escape to the roof. She needed to find the rest of the team.
Stealth had Banzai, Gorgon, and Mystique covering Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, while she was downtown with Midknight and Blockbuster. 'Genny was backing up cops in Hollywood proper. The Mighty Dragon and Cairax, were over in Venice. Zzzap had shot back to the east coast to help the Awesome Ape.
It had really gone crazy this past week. No way to hide it or deny it. Ex-humans started showing up all over Los Angeles, doing all the things zombies do. By Sunday, there were hearing reports about them in New Mexico and Las Vegas. On Wednesday, the president declared martial law, but they were already in New York, Boston, and Washington. And he'd thought all he was going to have to deal with for the rest of the year was election bullshit. This morning there were zombie outbreaks in Europe.
Mystique was waiting for her on the roof, wearing nothing but blue scales and a utility belt. While she could armor up, thicken her scales into bone-like plates to keep the exes from infecting her, it slowed her down; no way could she keep up with Banzai in battle. She tended to hold back, dropping in like a stone when it looked like the odds were too overwhelming for Banzai to take on alone.
Mystique smirked. “Gorgon's a few streets away, up on Santa Monica, acting as field coordinator. Says we should head north, clean up anything we find, and meet up with him.”
Banzai took a running jump and cleared the alley with a double flip. “Waiting on you, slowpoke,” she shouted.
Mystique laughed, shifting into a large rabbit to follow. They headed north at a jog, watching the streets and alleys for movement. People thought alleys and streets would be the big worry running across rooftops, but honestly? It was shoddy maintenance. Loose bricks. Weak beams. Banzai'd slipped on a sheet of tar paper once that wasn't even fastened down. Leaping from building to building was the easy part.
They'd gone a few blocks, almost to the boulevard, when Mystique stopped. Her hearing was better than Banzai's, especially in rabbit form, and she indicated the cross-alley to the east. Banzai bounced to the edge of the roof and peered down. There were some homeless people cornered against a sagging chain link fence. One ex-human on the far side was trying to bite them through the links, two were staggering down the alley toward them.
“Should just take a minute,” she said.
“I'll take the one." Mystique grinned, an odd expression on a rabbit face. "I haven't gotten to take one out for a little while. You get those people out of here.”
“I can handle them--”
Mystique was already sliding down an old metal drainpipe, growing and armoring up as she went. Banzai launched herself across the alley, did a Jackie Chan bounce from the brick wall to the fire escape, back, and into a zombie's head. The ex tumbled and she rode him to the pavement, letting her weight and momentum crush his skull. The force rolled her into a crouch that put her in a perfect place to sweep the other one. He hit the ground with a nice crack.
“Get out of here!” She waved the people away. “You're supposed to be in a shelter, so get going!”
They moved, slowly, one of them hugging his hand to his chest.
Banzai grabbed his arm. “Let me see.” He shook his head, but held it out anyway. Her heart sank as she examined it. She could see the teeth-marks, dark around flesh that was already turning pale. He was crying into his thick whiskers. “Tie your arm off tight,” she instructed, hands on her own rainbow sash in case it was needed. “Use your belt, a scarf, something. Make it hurt. Do you have something?" He shook his head. Off came the sash and she was tying it tightly around his arm, not stopping until he winced. "Tell them you've been bitten as soon as you get to the shelter.” She turned to his friends. “He's infected. Make sure the medics know.”
“Banzai!” shouted Mystique. “A little help!” On the other side of the fence, Mystique had dealt with her one zombie. The problem was, they hadn't seen all the others in the shadows. Almost a dozen. And more flowing in from the far end of the alley.
"Go!" Banzai said to the group of homeless people before taking off. A running start sent her over the fence. She hammer-kicked the closest one, dragged him to the ground, and felt his neck break under her heel. “Over the fence or up the pipe,” she announced. “Your choice.”
“You can't fight this many alone.”
“Not going to. I'm covering you. Move that cute blue ass!” No time to think, just to move. Leap. Flip. Bounce. Snap. Back flip. Roll. Sweep. Spin kick.
A scream made Banzai turn. She hadn't killed the last ex on the other side of the fence. It had grabbed the last of the homeless, a black woman, and sunk its teeth into her leg. She was shrieking and trying to kick it off.
Mystique had just made it up the pipe and out of reach. She was moving so slow. She could either be fast or bite-proof, not both at once. Damn it. Seeing the woman, she pulled herself over the fence. Banzai knew her friend could deal with that one.
Something brushed her shoulder.
Vault. Back thrust kick. Roll. Too many of them to get distracted. A few steps gave her the momentum to bounce off the alley wall, up to head height. Kick. Flip. Split kick. Snap-snap. Crouch. Sweep. Leap. Spin kick. Snap.
Mystique was safe with her ex. Time for Banzai to get away from all of hers--she just needed an opening. The fire escape was in front of her. Launch. Bounce. Flip kick. Snap. Bounce. Snap. Bottom rung of the ladder. Swing.
The rung was coated with years of grime and oil and rust mixed into something that felt like slimy mud. It slipped right out of her hand. She fell.
It wasn't the first time Banzai had fallen. Not even the first time with enemies around. Heck, she even managed to scissor her legs as she dropped, knocking two of them down and getting her feet under her. But they were too close. She needed room to move.
She panicked. Just two seconds of panic. Three tops.
Arms wrapped around her from behind and grabbed her. Her gi, no longer held closed by her sash, gaped open, showing vulnerable skin. The curve of her neck. The slope of her shoulders. The curve of her breast, covered by a graying, mottled hand. The ex held onto her and wouldn't move.
And then it bit her shoulder. The teeth ground down, breaking the skin, tearing at the muscle. Blood gushed down her arm. Weird, she thought in a daze. My blood is very hot. I didn't expect it to be so hot. For a moment, it didn't hurt--felt more like Dante, when he got a little rough. More surprise than pain.
Banzai twisted free--and then the pain hit. Ignoring it, she did what Eliot and Gorgon and the Dragon all said: she spun and used her momentum to drive the heel of her hand at the ex. It was an Indian woman. She was beautiful. Banzai shattered her nose and drove the bone into her brain. She staggered back and dropped.
Her balance was shot. Too much pain to bounce. Sweeping the three nearest exes and using their bodies for extra height, she threw myself at the fire escape ladder again. She swung her legs up, wrapped her knees over the rungs, and pulled herself away from their clawing hands. Every movement was agony, but she didn't let herself stop, didn't let herself falter.
Mystique met her halfway down the fire escape, helped her to the roof. Then she shoved away the top of her costume. Banzai didn't want to look, but Mystique swore and she couldn't help it.
It was as bad as she'd thought. The ex had bitten through the skin of her shoulder.. A chunk of flesh—-a chunk of her —-the size of a half-dollar hung loose, floating on a river of blood that just kept flowing. Her fingertips were sticky. She was babbling. Terrified. She knew what the bite meant. She didn't want to be dead at eighteen. She didn't want to be one of them.
She didn't know what she was saying, but Mystique kept shouting “You are not going to die!” until she stopped. Mystique poured something clear on the bite that sizzled, then some powder that burned. The bleeding stopped. She poured the last of the clear liquid and wiped away a lot of the blood. Already, Banzai could see the skin getting pale on the edges. “We need to get in touch with Regenerator,” Mystique said. She pulled Banzai's hand up and had her press down on the wound. “He can fix this. He can heal you.”
“Do we have enough time?”
“We've got plenty. Plenty of time. A couple hours, at least. And he's just over in Hollywood. Not even two miles from here.” She pulled her phone from her belt.
“I am so sure.” Then, to the phone, “It's Mystique. Where are you? Banzai's been bitten.”
She was listening when Banzai heard the screams. Two voices. Man and a woman. West of them. It took her mind off her shoulder. Put it back where it belonged: on the mission. Mystique was right. They still had hours. She wasn't going to die.
And nobody else had to, either.
“No, it was just a minute ago. I cleaned it out.”
“Mystique,” Banzai said. “Did you hear that?” The male voice was shouting orders. A warning? She couldn't make out the words, but she could tell he was slipping into fear. She'd heard that edge on a lot of voices lately.
Mystique nodded at the phone. “Hollywood and Cahuenga? We can meet you there in twenty minutes.”
Banzai swung her arm a few times. Not too stiff, not too weak. The shoulder was already getting numb. She knew that was a bad sign, but it also meant she could start using it again. She pulled her top shut and improvised a new sash from her mask. There was no real reason to keep hiding her identity anyway.
The cell vanished back into Mystique's belt. “He's waiting for us there. The National Guard has an emergency medical center set up. You're getting top priority.”
Banzai finished the knot and shook her head. “The people first.” The bloody shoulder ruined the colors of her outfit, but she doubted anyone they met was going to complain. She started heading west. “You coming?”
“Kathy, no!” Mystique hurried after her.
“We can't leave them. Plenty of time, remember?”
"Gorgon can handle it!"
"Can't," Banzai called back. "He can't get power off of exes, remember?"
Down on Fairfax there were nine exes. Three people. Two girls and a guy. One of the women was already down. The exes were closing in, but still wide.
Plenty of room. Just the way she liked it.
Mystique caught up with her. “We help them,” Banzai said, “and then we go meet up with Genny.”
Mystique looked like she wanted to protest, but Banzai didn't give her the chance, hurling herself off the rooftop. Spun on a lamp post. Double flip. Split kick. Snap. Crouch. Sweep. Hammer kick. Snap.
God, she loved this.
[Heavily adapted from Chapter Thirteen "Luckiest Girl in the World" from Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. Written with the amazing tigerundercover. NFI, NFB, OOC is lovely.]
- The Streets of Los Angeles, Laaaaaaaate Thursday Night