Zombie 02 (Forlorn)
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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Roddenberry Building, The Mount, Ex-LA, Saturday Afternoon
Josh Garcetti checked on his latest patient, an appendicitis case. She'd come in on her own, he'd pulled out the offending organ, and now she was asleep. Her stitches were clean and tight, no seepage at all. He tried not to dwell on the fact that at one time, he could have repaired her without a single incision. Of course, lots of things had been different back then. The world had been alive, for one. So had Midknight and Cairax and Blockbuster and Banzai.

So had Meredith.

He made a few quick marks on her chart, then stepped out into the nurses' station and made another set of notes on the night log. Then he turned to the cabinets and found himself inches from Stealth. He stumbled back and the move yanked his withered hand out of its pocket. "Jesus," he snapped. "Do you have to pop out of nowhere like that?"

The cloaked woman said nothing.

Footsteps made him turn and St. George stepped in from the hallway. He was bare-chested and covered in bruises. "George," Josh said with a nod. "What happened to you? What the hell's going on?"

But George wasn't alone. Zzzap was with him, and Cerberus, and Gorgon, too, which was weird because Gorgon never came to see him. He suffered Josh's company only on Stealth's most stringent orders. And there were others as well, strangers. Or so he thought at first glance. But the two younger guys seemed familiar in a way that nagged at his memory and in the center of the group-- "Mystique?" he asked. "I thought you'd left to go find help after Banzai died."

"After you let her die," Gorgon spat. "While you were napping because you put her at the end of the fucking line and made her wait for hours."

Now he recognized the young men. They'd come to fetch Banzai home, back in the early days. She had refused and they'd fought and he'd left early, unable to take Nick's blatant jealousy and Max's smug amusement and his own guilt. "What are you all--" but Stealth interrupted him.

"When we were discussing the progression of the disease," she said, "you said you have had the virus hanging over you for almost a year. You were bitten eight months and six days ago."

He blinked twice, then a third time. "That all? Feels a hell of a lot longer. Sorry I don't have a computer-like mind like you." He shrugged and re-pocketed his dead hand. "Is that everything? Mr. Willis would love to get a few Vicodin so he can sleep."

Her feet shifted and she was between Josh and the cabinet. He sighed and pointed at a row of bottles. "Do you mind?"

"The first definite sighting of an ex-human," she continued, "was ten months ago. On March 9th, an unidentified woman assaulted a group of Seventeens in a parking lot. The attack which infected Rodney Cesares."

Josh shrugged again, but his eyes flitted between the two heroes and then back towards the tiny group of strangers. St. George realized his hands rolled themselves into fists.

Stealth still hadn't moved. She was tense but fluid. She was confident. "Your wife died almost a year ago, didn't she, Regenerator? Eleven months ago yesterday."

The doctor's glare shot past her, past Gorgon's stricken face and Zzzap's staticky buzz of shock. It landed on the three familiar faces in the crowd and he whispered. "I'm so sorry."

"You fucking asshole."

Dante didn't need to linger on the information for very long. Dante was extricating himself from the crowd already, pacing forward. "What the fuck did you do?"

"I did find help," Raven muttered. What, did he think he just hadn't noticed her for nine months?

She stared at Regenerator hard, her anger heaving and expanding outwards as she put together the pieces Stealth had lain out for them. She'd seen his powers in action. And she'd seen far more of the result than anyone else here.

"So many people are dead." She was shaking, her body growing as she stepped forward. "I shot a baby in the face! Because of you?!"

"You have to understand!" Josh said, shoulders slumping. "I wasn't...I just wasn't thinking right. Meredith was the love of my life. Haven't you ever lost anyone you loved?"

Oh fucking wow, Josh.

On the bright side, Dante wasn't using the full extent of his strength when he swung his fist at the asshole's face.

On the other hand, he was definitely using enough to crack bone.

"Dante!" Eliot yelled, but didn't bother to try to physically reign the kid in. "Don't waste your energy on that piece of shit. You might still need it to get to Kathy."


"I've got plenty of energy to spare," Gorgon snarled, drawing a fist back. Cerberus placed a giant hand on his shoulder (and most of the rest of his arm) and he shrugged it off, but didn't follow through on the punch.

"I fucking knew you were a scumbag piece of shit."

Josh coughed, blood gushing out of his nose and spattering against the bright white of his jacket.

"And what would you do, Nick?" he asked. "If you could bring Kathy back right now, if you had that power, wouldn't you use it? Wouldn't you try to do it?" He waved at the small group with his good arm, wiping away the blood on his face with his sleeve at the same time.

"I did what any of you would have done. What you're all here to do. I tried to save the woman I loved and I...I made a mistake. That's all. Just a mistake."

"You killed the world," said Stealth. "Billions of people are dead because of what you did."

"I didn't do anything wrong!"

Dante punched him again.

It felt appropriate.

Raven would have loved to follow suit, but she wasn't 100% sure she'd keep it to a fist and not a spike through the skull.

Actually, she was pretty sure she wouldn't.

"You didn't tell anybody. What if this could have been fixed, if we'd gotten it handled early enough? You did everything wrong." She leaned in close, giving Josh a look that would have given every mutant back in Fandom who'd met her alternate, assassin self the shivers. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't take you out the same as every idiot and ex I ran into in the last nine months."

Okay, this one Eliot did physically rein in. Mostly because he wasn't interested in having to tell Hardison he'd watched his beloved TA execute a guy without trial. "Save it, kid," he said again, pulling back on Raven's shoulder, then lowering his voice. "Let the folks who'll actually have to live in this shit hole decide how to handle him, yeah?"

St. George
Most of the other heroes looked to St. George at that, who was standing off to the side, kneading his scalp with both hands. Gorgon and Stealth continued to stare at Josh; Gorgon practically radiating antipathy, Stealth far more contained, though her hands remained on her guns.

"I don't have any better idea of what to do with him than you guys do," St. George muttered, unable to even look at his friend. His former friend. Whatever. "This is war crimes huge."

"He makes Hitler look like a fucking saint," Gorgon muttered.

"Do we tell everyone? Do we lock him up forever? Do we..." St. George's voice trailed off.

"I think we're all missing the big picture here," Cerberus said, turning the implications over in her mind. "You started this. Can you stop it?"

Heads turned in her direction; even Josh raised his head to look at the mecha suit in confusion. "This all stems from your powers. Can you undo what you did?"

"No." Josh shook his head. "No, of course not. I can't un-heal someone. Don't you think I would've done that months ago if I could."

This isn't healing, though, said Zzzap. This is...this is just unnatural.

"Unnatural," smirked the doctor. "You're a walking fusion reactor. George is bulletproof. Nick's a fucking vampire, for Christ's sake. And you're saying I did something unnatural?"

"You did," Anders said flatly, healer-to-healer. "Dead is dead, Josh. Any healer knows that. There's no magic way around it that doesn't just make things worse."

(Which was why he still didn't entirely trust the plan to use Nanika to heal Kathy wouldn't backfire horribly, but that hadn't been up to him.)


Gorgon was staring at the floor. "Is it tied to you?"


"You created all these with your power. Even if can't stop them, are they still linked to you somehow?"

Josh shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe?"

"There is a simple way to find out," said Stealth.

It was like a western. She pulled the Glock so fast, like a quick draw artist, there was no time to stop her. Josh's forehead burst before most of them even realized she even had the pistol out. St. George was just staring to lift his arm when the doctor's eyes rolled back in his skull. Josh tipped over backwards, hitting the wall just under the spatter. Blood poured out of his mouth and the ruined mass of his nose.

"Holy shit," Dante said, blinking rapidly.

That went fast. And...

Fuck it, he should've thought of that.

Parker flinched, even though her expression didn't change.

"If that doesn't work, you just lost a doctor for nothing," she said almost conversationally. The whole concept that the mess outside the gates was tied to this one guy was too big to get her head around.

That he'd blown off healing Kathy, that wasn't too big. She was watching his corpse now with unnerving attention.

Eliot gave Stealth a sidelong glance and a raised eyebrow. The last person he'd seen execute someone that coldly had been -- well, other than himself, it'd been Moreau.

If this were his world, he'd have some serious concerns about the leadership in this little fortress. But it wasn't. And they had other things to worry about.

"Get that outta your system?"

Stealth looked at him as she holstered the pistol and her voice sounded almost confused. "It seemed like the simplest solution to our problems."

Ringo was intimately familiar with sudden violence. Even sudden lethal violence, or attempts at it, anyway. The fight back home had gotten pretty bad in spots.

But sudden, successful lethal violence? From someone who was ostensibly on her side of the fight? That was new, and it caught her flat-footed.

And then her brain caught up and the color drained out of her face. She didn't have any words, and she wasn't entirely sure she fully understood all that was going on, but she did know she'd just witnessed a far-too-casual murder, and most of the people around didn't even seem fazed.

St. George
St. George seemed less inclined to remain calm about the fact that Stealth had just shot a fellow hero in the face.

"What the HELL?!" he shouted, glaring at her. "You know, every time I start to think there's something really human under that mask, you go off and--"

Josh lunged up and took in a deep, rattling breath.

Oh, Jesus, said Zzzap. Stealth had her pistols back out and trained on him before he finished his inhale.

"Well, I guess that didn't prove anything," Parker said, studying Josh and trying not to shudder. She stepped closer to Eliot, not quite touching him, hugging herself. "Since the cockroach is still moving. Even with his head shot off." Her tone of voice turned contemplative. "I wonder what would happen if we set him on fire?"

"I'm willing to find out," Anders said conversationally, which might have sounded like an idle thread if a lick of flame hadn't been forming in one palm.

He held off when Josh started to move. Much as he wanted to burn Josh off the earth, it wasn't his fight to end. Not yet.

Eliot had one hand wrapped around the hilt of his sword the moment Josh moved, and only just barely kept himself from drawing it.

"Easy, darlin'," he murmured to Parker, his free hand slipping to her lower back. Not quite a hug, just a warm hand letting her know he was right there. He shot Stealth another look. "Seems to me all you managed to do was waste a bullet."

Seriously, he knew that a situation like this didn't come with a lot of options, but this was looking more and more to him like just a really fucked up turf war.

Josh's eyes rolled back down so they faced the crowd again, the irises trembling and shrank, focusing on Stealth. The bloody hole in his forehead swelled, filled in, and sealed itself shut. His nose wove itself whole again, still hanging awkwardly in front of his face. He staggered back to his feet, his good hand shaking as he felt the back of his head.

The mess on the wall behind him suggested what he'd find, poking around back there.

A coarse, scraping sound heralding the back of his skull knitting together and his nose pulled itself tight. He spat out a mouthful of blood and a tooth he'd already regrown. "Oh, come on," he wheezed. "All I've been through and you think a few bullets are gonna put me down? Don't you think I tried that?" His head lolled to the side and he looked up at Parker. "Haven't tried fire yet, though."

That Anders kid had the right idea.

"I'll go fetch the gasolene." Gorgon glared at Josh in disgust. "You said your powers were gone, you fucking liar."

"I can't heal anyone else," Josh said. "Can barely even heal me. But it keeps me alive. Trust me, I've been trying for almost a year." He waved at Stealth. "However long she said it was. The first time was the night Meredith got out. Doesn't stick." He leered at them with mad eyes. "I'm here whether I like it or not."

"A pity about the bullet, then," Stealth said flatly. "We'll decide what to do with him later, then. Gorgon."

"With pleasure."

The goggles whisked open and his gaze pinned the doctor. Josh didn't try to look away. He sank to the floor as Gorgon dragged out his life. After a few moments, he began to twitch on the carpet.

"That's enough," said St. George.

Josh spasmed a few more moments before the lenses snapped shut. Gorgon drove his boot into the fallen man's head. "Just to be sure," he told them, before picking up Josh's comatose body and swinging it over his shoulder. The other man was tall and broad, but Gorgon had power to spare. "I'll put him in one of the cells," he said to the others. "He can be tomorrow's problem."

"Can't you just cut off his head now, and save us the trouble tomorrow?" Anders wondered grimly. "Maybe burn both pieces to be sure?"

Eliot shook his head. "He's an idiot and an asshole, but his medical expertise might still be useful around here. This thing is way too big to get turned around by killing one man." Another look at Stealth on that one. "Especially not if it'll take that much effort. They're better off lockin' him up and focusing on other problems right now."

"He's a waste of space," Raven grumbled, then turned to leave. She was still reeling, going over in her head everything that had happened that was directly Regenerator's fault, but she was determined not to show it. "They should leave him to rot."

"For all we know, killing him for good might bring down the rest of the zombies," Anders said, but it was more of a grumble. He'd obviously lost this battle.

He was left to wonder whether his world was the only one sane enough to kill dangerous people without too much hand-wringing over it.

"We'll decide what to do with him later, once the current crisis is past," Stealth said. "We've got much more important work to do now, like ensuring the survival of as many people are left after what Josh Garcetti did."

[Content warning for mentions of previous, off-camera suicide attempts and attempted execution of an NPC. NFI, NFB, OOC welcome. Preplayed by the masterful crew represented here, whoisalicewhite, tigerundercover/vdistinctive, rebelseekspizza, not_every_mage, and soniaroadsqueen. Bits of text adapted from Chapter Twenty-Four of Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines]