That was Kathy.
Gorgon hunched a little further in his duster, adjusting the collar once more so that it covered his ears from the wind. December in Los Angeles had nothing on December in Baltimore for miserable weather, but this morning had dawned cold and drizzly and the tall, empty buildings were acting like the world's most ex-infested wind tunnels. He paused for a second and then revised that thought. Undoubtedly, there were actual wind tunnels filled with exes at this point. Unless the wind knocked 'em all down and out of the tunnel entirely? He imagined the exes getting scattered like bowling pins and nearly smiled--
I wonder if she's cold. Because that was Kathy.
That thought wiped even the small hint of amusement that he'd managed to summon. The thin figure in white--Kathy, his mind supplied, unbidden--had been way up on Western, past the freeway. Standing in the middle of the road about a mile and a half away. It could've been a zombie alter boy, he told himself. Anybody in a white outfit. There were probably a few hundred people in white staggering around Los Angeles right now. He'd seen a few zombie chefs, had heard some folks on the walls talking about a zombie bride. He couldn't even be sure the figure was in white; might have been a light gray that looked white because of the distance. Life-draining eyes aside, he wasn't much better off than anyone else when it came to seeing things at a distance. The odds of it being his dead...friend...were pretty slim.
He was pretty sure it was her, though, nonetheless.
He'd wanted to go investigate, to see for himself who the ex in white was. If it were some random ex, he would have put it down. If it had been her...fuck, he had no idea. He knew what he was supposed to do. Mystique was long gone and after eight months, the idea that she would be saving anyone was ludicrous. She was likely dead in a ditch somewhere, or up and shambling with everyone else. At this point, the good thing to do, the smart and humane thing to do, would be to put Kathy down gently, maybe bury her somewhere, make sure she wasn't a threat to any other survivor. It's what she would have wanted.
He'd wanted to quit being Gorgon after she'd died. He'd wanted to just curl up in his apartment for a month. He'd wanted to punch something until his hands hurt and whatever he'd been punching had become unrecognizable. Punching won out. First his walls--like he had to worry about a security deposit during the end of the world?--and then outside. The one good thing about the zombie apocalypse? There was always something to punch. Idiot gangbangers. Looters. Hysterical people. And zombies.
Lots and lots of zombies.
He wasn't allowed to punch the two people he'd really wanted to, though. The first was whatever chucklefuck had started all this. Some asshole in a suit working on the government's dime, probably. Or some schmuck in a lab coat who hadn't followed containment protocols. Some group of activist idiots who thought they were ~*helping society*~ by releasing some cure for cancer in the air that wasn't fully tested. The possibilities were endless, limited only by how creative you were and how many zombie flicks you'd watched before the world had died. Gorgon knew that there was a game going around for people to pitch their most entertaining but still likely theories about what had caused the apocalypse. Zzzap was winning, last time he'd heard. Gorgon didn't play. Gorgon didn't care. Unless the fuckup who'd done this was somewhere he could get to them and make them pay, how it started was immaterial.
The other person he wanted to deck was Regenerator. Josh, now. He wasn't regenerating anything anymore. He'd woken up from his coma a month ago, powerless. His right arm was a horrorshow: withered pale fleshed splotched with gray, with bulging dark veins that met up with yellow and ragged fingernails. Visible teethmarks made a ring on his forearm, just an inch or so below the wrist. It was the arm of a dead man, a zombie. When Josh had been a hero, Regenerator had been able to heal anything and anyone, making himself and people nearby immortal. Nowadays, all that power was busy containing the ex-virus, keeping everything from his elbow up healthy and declaring everything below a loss. Now Josh was a regular doctor, he and Doc Connolly, a medical researcher they'd found holed up in Hollywood Presbytarian. They headed up a small hospital staff that centered in the Adolph Zukor Building, a team that consisted of two nurse practitioners, a veterinarian, a doula, an orthodontist, and three medical students. Kathy should have been part of that team, too. Gorgon had no trouble imagining her darting around, neatly stitching up injuries and cheerfully chatting with patients as they recovered. He'd seen her doing it enough during the last days of LA, helping out Josh by day and patrolling by night. Hell, he'd seen in years before that as she'd stitched him up in a seedy motel room after he'd caught a bullet in his shoulder.
It was Josh's fault that she wasn't here now, doing just that. It was his fault she was out wandering Western, a splotch of white in the morning cold. Gorgon felt his fingers clench into fists in his pocket and had to force his hands to relax.
He really, really wanted to punch Josh.
Instead, he headed for the front gate. Time for an impromptu round of escort duty. Stealth would pitch a fit if he left the Mount to investigate the identity of a single ex, but the Mighty Dragon--err, that was, Saint George would have his back if he said he was going out to look for a few survivors. With winter settling in, people beyond the Mount could add 'freezing' to their list of possible ways to die and that list was already long enough.
There was a good chance that one day he'd head out and not come back. He didn't know where he'd go. Maybe he'd try to find Kathy. Maybe he'd go back to his apartment and curl up. Maybe he'd do what Mystique had done and find death out on the road back to the island. It wasn't like he had any reason to stay here. Dragon and Stealth and that robot-lady, Cerberus, could handle all this without him. He wasn't needed here. He just wanted to--
"Stop pushing me, asshole!" someone shouted.
A new group of survivors was heading down the cobblestone street towards him. Maybe a dozen people. Speak of the devil, they were being escorted by Cerberus, the huge robotic armor suit. A mecha, Zzzap called it, in tones of reverence, piloted by Dr. Danielle Morris. She'd probably just met them at the gate; either escorted by St. George before he'd flown off again to save the day for someone else or one of the rare few who'd managed to navigate the distance to the Mount together. It was a long journey, no matter what the distance in miles said, and more people died than made it, but every so often people tried.
Spotting him, Cerberus raised a large hand and began to lumber over to talk to him. She tried to talk to him a lot, though Gorgon didn't know why. If he had to bet, his money would be on Stealth using her to break through his isolation, using the one hero who hadn't known him as Nick, hadn't known Kathy at all. He'd tried explaining that to Cerberus once, but she'd just looked confused. Said she just liked talking to him, and had kept chattering on about things like gates, walls, defenses, and numbers. Like any of that mattered to him these days.
Now he was still ignoring her, but only to focus on the yelling guy. He was big, in a gym-gray sweatshirt and jeans, with a shaved head and a face full of stubbly whiskers. His body was thick. Not muscular or anything, but that solid midpoint. He held himself like the kind of guy who was used to being heard, to getting his own way. The way some of the others in the group flinched away when he raised his voice, Gorgon got the feeling this was the guy in charge of their little enclave and enjoyed that position just a little too much. One of the guards was talking to them, pointing them towards the quarantine, but guy shook his head. "No way! I'm not going to no death panels! Let me out of here!"
The guard tried to calm him, but out of nowhere, the guy threw a wild punch. The guard stumbled back. People screamed. The guy ran and the few exes wandering around outside turned towards the gates, teeth chattering.
After being on edge and uncertain for a few months, some people couldn't deal with the idea of being safe or being told what to do. Sometimes they freaked out. A few of the freakouts were small, but most were like this guy--loud and convinced they could do something about it. What they often forgot was that the Mount had superheroes. And even if Gorgon didn't have the build of, say, George or Josh, he didn't need to rely on fists to take someone down. With a few leaping strides, he got ahead of the guy. Immediately, the guy raised his fists, ready to swing--and then Gorgon opened his goggles wide. The guy stood there a moment. Then his legs wobbled and he sagged. He dropped to his knees in front of Gorgon, still trapped by the hero's gaze. Strength poured out of the guy and into Gorgon, buoying him up tier after tier. His eyes watered and he started to shake and it wasn't until Cerberus said, "I think you got him," that Gorgon let the goggles snap shut. The gy toppled over. He'd be waking up with a miserable headache, if the energy thrumming through Gorgon's body was any indication.
The guards rushed over, dragging the guy towards the quarantine tent. Being unconscious didn't get you out of an exam, it just made the exam a lot more thorough. And this guy had just gotten bumped to the head of the line. "Stupid," Gorgon said, more to himself than Cerberus. "They should have been expecting something like that."
She answered anyway. "Probably. But what do you want? Most of these guys aren't military or police." The big helmet head moved side to side. "Hell, we're lucky when we can find a mall security guard."
"Well, they better find someone to put in charge," Gorgon said, shifting into his gunslinger pose while the rest of the group followed meekly after the unconscious guy. "Things are going to get ugly in here fast if it keeps going like this." They were almost at four thousand people inside the Mount now. It was impossible to have that many people living together in peace. "Stealth had better assign someone to keep the peace if she doesn't want this place descending into anarchy."
"Maybe you should mention that to her," Cerberus said.
"Maybe I will," Gorgon replied. "Do me a favor and keep an eye on Sleeping Beauty there, will you? After waking up in his underwear sitting funny, he'll probably keep his head down, but just in case..."
"Where are you going?"
Gorgon jerked his thumb towards the main gate. "Out," he said, loosening his shoulders. "I'm at Tier Four right now. No sense wasting it when I can sweep for more survivors."
And maybe investigate an ex in white while he was at it.
[Much of the text taken (and folded and spindled) from "Point of View", Chapter Twelve of Peter Clines' Ex-Isle. No warnings except for length and navel-gazing. Have some day-to-day on the Mount. NFB, NFI, OOC is love]
- Ex-Los Angeles, Sunday