Alive inside. Running out of food. Please help!
Gorgon shrugged, keeping an eye out on the street for any wandering exes. Most of the scavenging crew was emptying out the little bodega about a mile or so back, under St. George's watchful eye, but Gorgon had grabbed a handful of others to continue to check out this section of De Longpre. "Hard to say," he said, arms crossed over his chest and shoulders squared. Gunslinger's pose. "Windows are small, hard to see any activity. Could be people still there. Or they might have bailed already. Didn't we get a group from some kind of temple right before the New Year?"
"That was from Angelus over on Glendale," Lady Bee said, sauntering up towards them with an M-16 slung over one shoulder and a tattered backpack over the other. "I found this about a hundred or so feet away from a body down the road a bit. If he was bringing them food, he never made it."
"Dead-dead?" Gorgon checked.
"That's why I said 'body' not 'ex,'" she snarked. "No worry about him getting up. Not much left but his clothes; exes ate him up to the point where there wasn't enough to turn. Looked old, too."
"Checking out the elderly, I see," Ty said, ducking out from a laundry mat. His arms were full of boxes of powdered detergent; not edible, but keeping things clean and hygienic was a high priority. The last thing the Mount needed was an outbreak of dysentery or something.
"Still a better lay than you'd be," Lady Bee said, giving Ty a smile that said You're funny, but you're still not getting a piece of this. "And I mean the body was old. At least a couple of months. Mostly bones and dried leather at this point. Pretty sure it used to be a kid, though. Teen. High school aged, going by the clothes."
High school aged. Heart giving a sudden sharp pang, Gorgon drew in a ragged breath and turned towards the synagogue. "I'll go check it out," he growled. "See if we can add a few survivors to this trip."
"Hey there," Luke said, looking at Gorgon uneasily. "St. George is still at the bodega. He said--"
"Don't really care what George said," Gorgon snapped. "I said I'm going to check it out. If there are starving people in there, maybe someone should do something about it."
"And if they're not?" Lady Bee asked, stepping directly in his path. "If they're all dead?"
"Then they starved to death and I find some bodies." Gorgon neatly side-stepped her, duster billowing out behind him.
Lady Bee didn't care about his theatrics and hopped in front of him again. "And if exes got in there first?"
She was lucky they were outside; within the walls of the Mount, he would have flashed his goggles at her and then continued walking while she toppled over. Out here, though, everyone needed to be at their best and even a little weakness could spell disaster. Instead, Gorgon just swept her out of his way with an arm, letting her feel the strength there. "Tier two," he told her. "Topped off before we left the Mount and haven't had to do much yet. I'll be fine."
"But--" This protest came from Ty. Gorgon's head swiveled around and the glare, invisible as it was behind the goggles, still had the other man taking a step back.
"I don't need a damn baby-sitter and even if I did, it wouldn't be any of you." He'd had a team. For a very short period of time, but he'd had one. Now one was dead and the other was probably also dead, somewhere in the hinterlands of America and no one else needed to apply for the openings. "Luke, keep watch. Bee, Ty, keep searching the buildings George said were fine to clear. I'll be right back."
"Well, now you're fucked," Bee mumbled and didn't sound particularly sorry about it.
The synagogue was deserted. The upper floors showed no signs of life, other than having been quickly stripped of anything useful. From the looks of things, it hadn't been looters that had gotten to this place, though. Odds were whomever had holed up here had taken whatever they could before finding refuge in another, more defensible part of the building. There were pews (were they pews in a synagogue? He'd been raised Greek Orthodox, he didn't know) blocking a staircase that went down to a basement; neatly arranged in a barricade that wouldn't hold back exes or Seventeens. But either group would have knocked them over getting down those stairs, so Gorgon was taking it as a good sign. No signs of a fight and presumably they'd been holed up here long enough to get hungry and paint that message. Anyone bitten on the way in would have turned long before they had to worry about hunger.
Still, he wasn't an idiot, and he knocked sharply on the door, making as much noise as possible. Standard trick; noise attracted exes. SOP for any run involved making noise before opening anywhere an ex could be hiding. If there were any on the other side, they'd try to walk through the door to get to the loud meat behind it. Silence. After another thirty seconds, he knocked again and added a loud, "This is Gorgon of the Heroes of LA! I'm here to offer to escort you to safety! Our base has food, electricity, and heat!"
Between the noise and the promise of food, that should bring anyone running, living or dead.
After another few moments of nothing, Gorgon kicked open the door, the latch tearing away from the wall in a shower of plaster, and realized that he had seriously underestimated several things. Like, say, the thickness of the door and how good it was at blocking the sound chattering teeth made. Or how long the basement was and the length of time it would take emaciated exes to traverse the distance.
There were six exes that he could make out, the small windows set high up on the wall letting in just enough light to see by. The click-click-click pf their teeth was a Geiger counter telling him he was close to something dangerous. The first ex had been a young black woman, early twenties at the most, dark hair in long braids past her shoulders. She was egregiously skinny, the skin stretched tightly over her bones and her walk was a kind of stumbling shamble. The others that Gorgon could see shared the same traits, with one older man having heavy folds of skin hanging off of him from where he'd lost too much weight too quickly. Smart money said they'd starved to death, but if that were true, how did they become exes? He couldn't see any injuries or bites on the ex closest to him.
The ex who was now much too close to him. She--it--started to raise its arms, but he smacked them back down and grabbed its head in both hands. One sharp twist up and back snapped its neck. It went limp and dropped. The jaw kept snapping open and closed. Over the last few months, they'd discovered that even taking the head off won't stop an ex from biting until the brain was destroyed. He tossed it deeper into the room, which looked to be some kind of furnished rec room once upon a time, and then turned to some twenty-something ex still wearing its glasses and looking to break its fast with Gorgon's face.
His arm came down and broke the ex's wrist before it could grab at him. A solid backhand spun its head to the side as its teeth scraped against the outside of his gloves. He put one hand on its jaw, one on its shoulder, and twisted it around even farther until he felt cartilage tear and heard bones snap. It fell and he kicked it in the head as he walked past.
Two down and he'd already bled off some strength. Not much, but he could feel it. He'd have to put the rest down before he ran out of power. He hated fighting like this. He'd gotten spoiled, being able to drain strength from people. Even now, months later, he was still adjusting to the lack. It was like trying to fight a punching bag, and he hadn't adapted fast enough. That was why Kathy'd had to fight them alone so many times, or just partnered with Mystique.
That was why she'd died.
Guilt was a great motivator. Who would've suspected?
Another dead woman reached for him; a Japanese woman wearing the first visible wound he'd seen; her throat had been torn out, the wound ragged. But that kind of injury would have been immediately noticeable and quickly fatal. She would have bled out upstairs if she'd come in like this and he hadn't seen any blood on the ground. No time to play detective, though; he was kicking the ex's legs out from under it and stomping on its head. The skull cracked on the second stomp and its teeth stopped moving. He grabbed the next one by the arm, spun it around, and slammed it headfirst into the side of the heavy wooded door he'd come in. Its face caved with a crunch and he let it drop.
Four exes in a minute and he was pretty much out of gas. And there were still two more to go.
Summoning the last vestiges of tier two, he drove his fist into a dead woman's face, aiming low and shattering the jaw. The ex staggered back and gave him time to move in and twist its head around. Neck broken, body withered and dead, mouth flapping back and forth on broken bones. And that was the last of his strength. Back to normal human levels, no better than any of the civilians still outside, scavenging through the remains of the neighborhood. And he didn't even have a gun. Or a fucking baseball bat! Nothing!
And there was still an ex to tangle with. Scratch that, he realized, as his eyes caught movement behind a couch, there were two exes left to tangle with. This ex was tiny, a small girl barely past toddlerhood, her mouth dark with dried blood that had dripped down her shirt. This, then, was the ex that had bitten through the woman's throat, but where had she come from? That question would have to wait as the flabby guy in the yarmulke lumbered at him. He kicked it hard in the gut. Sure, lots of soft tissue to absorb a blow, but it was a hinge point. Bodies folded there.
The ex staggered back, but didn't fall. Dammit.
Gorgon kept fighting, punching and kicking at the ex, but it was getting harder. He was tiring and the fallen bodies were an obstacle he constantly had to watch out for. The head of the first ex nearly got him once, clacking its teeth closer to his foot than he was comfortable with. Anklebiters, they called them, and they were just as deadly as their whole counterparts. On top of all that, the little ex was trying to get him, too, darting in below his guard because she was just so damn tiny. He had just managed to shove the bigger ex ass over teakettle when the little girl bit his arm.
It wasn't a big deal. He'd been bitten two or three times by now. He was wearing his duster and their teeth couldn't make it through the leather. In a way, it was a good thing. Once an ex had a mouthful of people, it stopped fighting. It still hurt like all hell, though. Especially when it started gnawing. For such a little thing, it still had some impressive jaw muscles. He was going to have some serious bruises on his arm when this was done.
And the big guy was back up and stumbling over to dance. Gorgon was weary now, and sore, and there was now about thirty pounds of juvenile ex hanging from his arm. Again, he tried to push the big guy away, but this time it barely shifted, coming back a second later to wrap its arms around him in a bear hug. A bear hug with teeth making their way towards his face. His goggles protected his eyes, but there was a lot of mouth, nose, and throat exposed and no handy leather there to keep it safe. His eyes locked with the cloudy gray ones in front of him and for a few seconds, he had the weirdest feeling it was looking back. Its eyes kind of flickered, like it knew who he was and what he was doing. It was just a second, but man...he could feel the hate in that look. Like it knew him.
The the moment passed and Gorgon's left arm came up to brace against the ex's neck, trying to keep it away from him, aware that if he brought his other arm into play, he'd pull it out of Little Zombie Annie's jaws and leave her to go searching for another bit to bite on. He was going to die. And he was...surprisingly okay with it. Just like she died, his mind helpfully supplied. He didn't want to die, exactly, but he wasn't doing so shit-hot a job of staying alive, either.
It was more instinct than thought that had Gorgon dropping down to the ground, eeling out of his duster. The fabric of his shirt tore as he wrenched himself out of the big ex's grasp, right before a gout of flame sped through the spot he'd just been occupying. That flame was immediately followed by a fist and the ex went flying backwards like it had been hit by a freight train.
"Hey, St. George," Gorgon said, for a minute gaining some of the cockiness that had been his trademark once upon a time. "So nice of you to join the party."
"Not now, Gorgon," George said, mouth turned down as he looked at the small dead girl. With a sigh, he grasped its face and squeezed until the skull shattered, neither the ex's gnawing teeth nor fragments of bone breaking the hero's impenetrable skin. He gently lowered the child to the floor, and then turned to face the big guy.
"When we're out of here, it's time for a talk," St. George warned Gorgon, advancing on the final ex.
"A heart to heart?" Gorgon said. "I'm flattered."
"Not with me," George said, ending the fight with a punch to the ex's temple. "With Stealth."
[NFB, NFI, OOC is always appreciated. Canon-typical violence against the undead, including a zombie kid. Once again, I've written too much, but the fight scene mostly adapted from Peter Clines' Ex-Isle, Chapter Twelve, "Point of View"]