Banzai had patrolled for two days without seeing a single zombie. By day, she hung out on rooftops, peering down into dim alleys in the worst sections of town, looking for any of the signs that Stealth and Barry--Zzzap--had mentioned: pale skin, a lack of coordination and language skills, high resistance to damage, a degree of aggression, the scent smell of rotted meat. By night, she patrolled Koreatown, where, again, she spotted no zombies, but there were plenty of douchebag Seventeens to make up for it. Banzai was sporting a few new scraped, cuts, and bruises, and there were a handful of gang members now cooling their heels in prison, but as satisfying as that was (and even the flare of pain every time she smiled from her cut lip was satisfying), whaling on Sevens wasn't why she'd agreed to stay out here.
She didn't want to be out here. She wanted to be back on the island with her friends, going to classes, gossiping about prom, writing her essay for valedictorian, keeping an eye on Jewels while patrolling Baltimore...Her life was on the other side of the country and she'd only get to live it for a few more months. Every day out there was precious--and every day here felt wasted, discouraging. If she hadn't had vague memories of that weird weekend where she and Gorgon had been survivors, she might have already booked a portal home, leaving instructions to contact her when the zombies started showing themselves.
But she did have those vague memories, though most of them were unhelpful. They were mostly of the weekend itself, rather than the head full of information and memories her older self had had. There had been a long talk in the diner, with a lot of alcohol and crying, there had been a patrol in Baltimore with Gorgon that had ended with--ahem, they'd been married, enough said there. The Monday after, Banzai remembered better, but it was mostly a fight with Nick about whether they should tell Dragon (apparently a moot point now) and returning a truly ridiculous amount of meat to Eliot's freezer...for some reason. In her downtime here, she'd written down as much as she could remember saying about the zombies, but it was a truly pathetic amount. Which didn't stop everyone from harassing her for more. Stealth, Dragon, and Gorgon all wanted to know more, with Gorgon curious about everything since it seemed he didn't remember the weekend at all. Genny was also weirdly interested, though she was chalking that up to medical curiosity and a kind of big brother concern. Max Hale also wanted to know everything, supposedly because magic was involved, but she was betting that he just liked nosing into her personal life. His attempts to find out more usually centered around the relationship she and Gorgon had shared.
Creeper. She was really starting to regret giving him her number at the end of the meeting, even though she'd specified it was purely for hero business. Turns out he had a looser definition of 'hero business' than she did.
Sighing, Banzai peered down into the alley again, perched gargoyle-like on the edge of a rooftop. She'd heard some kids excitedly talking about the remains of rats in there and daring one another to go in and poke at them. She'd scared them off by threatening to tell their parents they were playing hooky (or by being a weirdo in rainbows and a mask, but she was ignoring that possibility for now) and searched the alley for any signs of life. Or unlife, as it were. The alley had been empty of anything moving, but the dead rats were real and so was the spray of blood on the wall at about shoulder-height to her. There was a small hole at the back that was big enough for someone to crawl through. Not being stupid enough to do that, Banzai had retreated to keep watch instead. That had been a few hours ago and if anything had crawled in, it hadn't crawled back out again. She was debating moving on to search somewhere else, or just call it quits for a little while and go get a burger at The Pickle Hut when she heard a scream. This alley remained clear, but the screams were coming from nearby--most likely from the alley on the other side of building with the hole in it.
Banzai hurtled herself across the rooftops and over the side of the building, building up speed with every bounce on her way down. There were three people in the alley, a couple who'd likely snuck into the alley for a bit of heavy petting, judging by the state of their clothing, and a guy who had the kind of painful skinniness that suggested a long association with drugs, a debilitating disease, or both. Ordinarily, Banzai might have chalked the scream up to two kids startled by a homeless junkie, but the girl was clutching a bleeding arm to her chest--and the junkie's whole front was smeared with blood. Fuck.
"Stay right there!" she ordered, not thinking he'd listen but hoping. The junkie ignored her, still stalking the two kids--'kids' possibly older than she was, now that she looked at them--his teeth clacking loud enough to be heard over the harsh breathing and breathy sobbing of his intended victims. Darting forward, Banzai rammed into him at an angle so he'd go flying away from the victims. Between his overall thinness and her speed, he went sailing, slamming into the wall of the alley and sliding down in a broken heap. It was barely a fight worth the name. "Hey," she said, turning to kids--yeah, definitely closer to the drinking age than she was, though they looked a lot younger as afraid as they were. "It's gonna be okay." She did her best to look non-threatening, holding up empty hands (as if that made up for the arsenal on her person) and gave them a helpful smile. She also spoke slowly, letting them focus on her words. "We need to get that--bite? Is it a bite?--we need to get that looked at, it's probably infected. I have a friend, he can heal anything, his name is Regenerator. Maybe you've heard of him? I'm just going to call him and--"
The guy snapped to attention, looking over her shoulder. Banzai didn't even pause, just reacted, sweeping her leg out behind her at the same time she ducked to avoid whatever blow was coming. It was the junkie again, his left arm jutting out in angles that suggested at least three breaks and an odd cant to his left hip. Those injuries might have slowed him down, but they hadn't taken him out. "Stay here!" she shouted to the kids. "I'll handle this and then we'll get you--"
Too late. They'd made a break for it, running for the street. Banzai could chase after them, or she could deal with the immediate problem in front of her. And the second one that was pushing its way out of a door with a broken padlock on it, probably attracted by all the noise. Well, that answered that question. She couldn't go chase down two scared kids with two probable-zombies chattering their teeth at her.
The fight was quick. Banzai was easily three times as fast as a regular human and these things moved at maybe a fraction. In just a few minutes, she had both probable-zombies down and was zip-tying them the same way she would any human perp she'd taken down. Look, she wasn't one hundred percent certain they were zombies yet and even so, she wasn't one hundred percent certain that something couldn't be done for them. Her personal code forbade killing of thinking creatures and though these two were making a spirited argument for being mindless undead, she wasn't doing anything permanent until she knew for sure. Pulling out her phone, she called the number Stealth had given to everyone before they left. Stealth would know where to stash two probable-zombies until Genny had a chance to look at them and see if his powers could reverse whatever was wrong with them.
That was the ace in the hole that zombie flicks were always missing: a guy with the literal ability to heal anything.
Except death, but Banzai was ignoring that little detail as she left a message for Stealth. "Hey, it's Banzai, I have some presents for you..."
An hour later, Kathy was tucking into a burger the size of her head at The Pickle Hut. Stealth had shown up about fifteen minutes after the call, carrying two bodybags. She'd said she could handle things from there and that she appreciated Banzai's forethought in leaving them intact for study. Not 'alive', intact. Kathy was sure that her terminology was correct and that she'd be making the same distinction soon, but until then, she preferred to cling to hope. Hope that they could be healed. Hope that this could be stopped. Hope she could go home soon.
But with two probable-zombies currently en route to Genny's location, it was looking less and less likely that 'soon' was going to be on the agenda. Out came her phone again and she scrolled to find Raven's number. Her roomie needed to know that she was going to be gone longer than she'd assumed. So did Anders. And Dante. And maybe Eliot would have a few ideas for fighting the likely-undead. Two weeks. That would be enough time to stop this thing in its tracks, right? Two weeks, with her coming home for prom? That sounded good.
Then Kathy thought of the bitten girl and shivered, despite the heat of the day. The girl and her boyfriend had been gone by the time she'd had a chance to look for them, either via taxi or hunkered down in a building somewhere. Fervently, Kathy hoped that the next time she saw that girl, she wouldn't be looking back at Kathy with empty eyes and chattering teeth.
[For those named, please! NFB for off-island shenanigans]
- Los Angeles, Tuesday