Contortionist: Spangles 02
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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The Melrose Gate and Beyond, The Mount, Ex-Los Angeles, Saturday Night (Part 2)
The drumbeat of the dead echoed across the lot like a relentless overseer on an ancient slave ship. Gorgon's confident smirk faded and even Stealth seemed shaken.

Below them, the exes parted to let the trucks drive up. Over a dozen of them, all spray-painted with different shades of green. Seventeens rode on the roof and hung out the windows. At the head of the parade, Rodney Cesares rode in the back of a National Guard truck decorated with skulls and a large neon-green 17 on the hood. They whooped and hollered and fired their guns into the sky.

"Thank God," muttered Gorgon. "Something I can deal with."

The gigantic ex waded through the dead, his eyes locked on Gorgon the whole time. They shifted and stumbled to clear a path for him. The drumming stopped. The chattering of teeth slowed.

"Just the man I was looking for," bellowed the Seventeen's leader. He stood in the intersection before the gates and flashed his tombstone grin.

"Rodney," called Gorgon. He crossed his arms across his chest and squared off his shoulders. Gunslinger pose. "Long time no see. Still as ugly as shit."

"And bigger than life," he cackled. "Fucking awesome, isn't it? Life and death throw down in my body and I just keep getting bigger and meaner." He flexed a swollen arm the size of a beer keg.

Dozens and dozens of Seventeens trained their weapons on the Melrose gate.

"Tell you what," shouted the huge ex. He slapped his hands together and the exes shifted as one. A space opened around him, ten, twenty, thirty feet across when the dead stopped shambling out of the way. "Last chance. You come down, give yourself up, and I send everyone else away. You got my word."


"Yeah, you've been known for your word for years," called Gorgon. "Save the cheap effects, dipshit. You're still nothing special and you don't scare anyone."

"Oh yeah?" Rodney spat out a mouthful of dark slime. "Want to see if your people scream when my army tears down these walls? Want to see who's scared then?"

The exes lumbered forward like a wave. Weathered hands closed on the bars. They all pulled. They all pushed. The hinges squealed.

Stealth shouted and the gate guards leveled their shotguns a mere yard from the barrier. Their first volley went off at eye level and a score of exes packed against the gate dropped. Fourteen slides racked and the second volley dropped another dozen as the exes surged forward. Rifles went off along the top of the walls and another score of exes vanished beneath the mob.

"We can keep this up all week!" Gorgon shouted over the gunfire.

Rodney waved his arm and the Seventeens shot back. A few people fell from the wall. Most of the dropped low and hugged the concrete.

"All week? This place will be rubble by sunrise," yelled the dead giant. "We got the manpower, the firepower, the willpower! What you got? A couple of freaks in costumes? You got nothing!"

The Seventeens hollared and roared and punched the sky. The dead threw their arms up as well.

Gorgon stood up on top of the arch and looked down at them. Hundreds of Seventeens. Thousands of zombies. "We've got brains, Rodney," he shouted with a grin. "And superpowers or not, you're still the same idiot you've always been. If you weren't, you wouldn't've brought an army of people who've never met me before."

"I'm going to chop your fucking head off and shove it so far up your ass it's gonna come back out of your neck!" bellowed the giant. He pointed a finger thick as a baseball bat and a dozen Seventeens trained their weapons of the hero. "You got anything else smart to say?!"

Gorgon laughed and clapped his hands over his head. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Seventeens," he shouted, "if you could give me your attention, please."

A good third of the gang members were already looking at him. Half of the rest glanced up as Rodney yelled, "DON'T!!"

The goggles opened and Gorgon cast his vampiric gaze out at the frozen crowd.

They shuddered and twitched as he tore their strength out. His body shook with the raw power of it. Tier ten or eleven. Maybe higher. Weapons lowered and then clattered to the pavement.

Almost three hundred Seventeens collapsed in the street among the exes as the irises snapped shut.

Gorgon rolled his shoulders once and tried to settle the strength buzzing in his muscles. "Told you he was an idiot."

Shots echoed in the air as Gorgon leaped off the arch, dropped twenty feet, and drove a kick into Rodney's head. He rode the malformed skull to the ground and it made a satisfying crack as it hit the pavement. The hero slammed his fist into the giant's throat and followed it up with a strike to the solar plexus. He drove two-three-four more punches home, flashing the goggles on each one, before Rodney's arm swept him away.

It was like getting hit by a speeding car. Gorgon flew across the street, knocking down a dozen exes as he went.

"Your eye-magic doesn't work on me," said the giant as he stood up. "Not so tough when you can't make the other guy weak, are you?"

A handful of exes grabbed at Gorgon's arms and shoulders and he felt a tiny bit of strength simmer away as he shrugged them off. "Man enough to test that?"

Rodney roared and charged and more exes flung themselves into the fight.

Anders had been standing behind Gorgon for most of the exchange, but he stepped back rapidly as Rodney and the exes began to charge. It was like something out of the stories of Blights; a mass of corpses all but boiling in eagerness to take the humans down.

And, like the mage heroes in those stories, Anders did his best to quell the attack. He found some cover and focused lines of electricity at the exes, trying to take them down before they reached anyone else.

One arc of electricity took out an ex just before it leaped for Gorgon's back. Another left one shuddering and twitching in the street, smoke billowing from the remnants of its clothes. A particularly good hit caught a whole line of them, the lightning passing from ex to ex as they stood packed in a tight line at the gate. The guards at the gate let up a small cheer at that, calling up, "Good shot!" and "Get 'em!" before laying back in with their pikes.

With Anders keeping the exes off his back and the Seventeens sensibly keeping clear of his field of vision, Gorgon could feel his strength dwindling. He'd spent the first few minutes of the fight trading blows with Rodney, ducking out of the way of his colossal fists and then bouncing back up to deliver a punch that would have knocked the teeth out of any normal-sized person, but he couldn't keep it up forever. It had been a rush, but he was at Tier Three now, tops.

Rodney swung and missed by inches. "Slowing down," he laughed. "Batteries are running out, huh?"

The hero ducked another punch, drove a kick into the giant's thigh, and followed it with a trio of punches to the solar plexus. Rodney caught him in the shoulder and he spun into the air. Dozens of dead fingers grabbed and held him as the huge ex lined up another punch.

"Yo, a little help here, kid!" he called up to the top of the gate.

"I'm on it," Anders called back, features pinched in concentration. "Get ready to dodge."

Blue energy flared around him as he raised his hands, then lowered them to channel a steady stream of fireballs directly at Rodney.

Rodney howled and most of the exes that had been clinging to Gorgon let go to fling themselves in between him and the fireballs.

"Kinda slow yourself there, fugly," Gorgon shouted, dragging the few exes that remained clinging to him to the ground as he flung himself out of the way of Anders' flames. Whatever else he thought of the kid, he was damn useful in a fight. "Your mind somewhere else, maybe?"

Controlling all the other exes in the crowd couldn't have been easy for a genius and no one had been planning to accuse Rodney of that even before he'd died the first time.

"Think you're clever, don't you?" Rodney rumbled, trying to stomp on Gorgon while he was on the ground. "Cheating with another one of your hero pals. Well, I'll fuck him up, too, once we get in there! See how many fireballs he wants to throw when he's being eaten alive by the rest of my army!"

"You're using fucking exes to do half your fighting for you!" Gorgon sputtered, rolling out from under Rodney's bulk. A foot the size of a tire came down and smashed the head of the ex clutching his duster instead. "That's not cheating!"

Probably a stupid thing to get pissed over, but Rodney had always been a hypocritical asshole, blaming Gorgon for kicking his ass when he'd had every intention of doing the same.

He jumped back up to his feet, and then aimed a kick at the back of Rodney's knee. Tier Three without a doubt--it pushed him back more than Rodney. Reaching into his duster pocket, he snagged his walkie-talkie and keyed the send button four or five times in rapid succession.

Huge fingers grabbed the tails of his duster and whipped Gorgon up into the air. He flew, whirled, crashed into the mob of exes, the dead bodies cushioning his landing. Teeth were in his sleeves and Rodney laughed to see him throw his arms up and protect his face.

"Okay," he bellowed. "Fun's over."

The exes shoved Gorgon away, back onto the street, laughing at him as he rolled like a ragdoll, a thousand iterations of Rodney's sneering chuckle.

Gorgon stood up and heard the crack at the same time his side burned. For a moment, he thought he'd cracked a rib on the pavement. Then he looked down, saw the hole in the side of his duster, and felt the blood spreading. There was another gunshot and his shoulder exploded with pain--the one that had caught a bullet years ago, when he and Banzai had been out patrolling in LA. His knees shook, from the pain and the memory both, and he heard the Seventeens laughing. He keyed the walkie again, the only thing that arm was really good for right then.

The giant ex loomed over him, lips pulled away from his teeth in a ghoulish grin. "Still feeling tough? Still think you're better than me?"

"Fuck, who's the cheater now?" he asked, as another bullet tore through his thigh. His knees hit the ground. "Gotta bring guns to a fistfight? It's not about what I think anymore. Everybody here knows I'm better than you."

Rodney, the crowd of exes, and the sky spun around him as he felt his ribs collapse. Belatedly, he realized that Rodney had kicked him hard enough to send him spinning. He hit the pavement and heard something snap inside the goggles. One of the lens sections tumbled in against his eye.

Rodney sneered. "This your big last stand, esse? This what you'd call being heroic?"

Gorgon spat out a blob of blood and laughed, a thin, wheezing chuckle that was agony but still entirely worth it.

"Nope," he said, enjoying Rodney's sudden look of confusion. "I'd call this round three."

The last of the night fled and the sun raced around the corner. It darted over to incinerate the crowd of exes near the gate, then shot back to hover over them.

Lay off the mic, for Christ's sake, snarked Zzzap. I didn't need six calls to get my hot ass over here. You sure you're ready for this?

"Guess we'll find out."

Rodney scowled. "What the fu--"

Gorgon pulled off his goggles.

For a moment, the barest on instants, the man-shaped silhouette in the air dimmed. The false daylight flickered to gray and Zzzap sagged. Then his outline flared back up and he vanished up and across the Mount.

Eliot had been playing nice with the gate guards during Rodney and Gorgon's pissing contest, getting an idea of the Seventeens' tactics and keeping an eye out for any particularly familiar exes. All he'd really managed to conclude, though, was that they weren't going to get Kathy home safe while fighting from inside the Mount. He'd meant what he'd said to Stealth earlier: he wasn't here to fight her war. The kids had decided to pitch in where they could, but he was staying focused on the primary goal.

And here was the perfect chance.

"Open it up," he ordered the guards. The one closest to him gave him a sharp look, but he glared them down. A moment later, and the gates were open just wide enough for him to slip through. A handful of the guards followed close on his heels, but he paid them no mind.

They'd win this war, or they'd lose it. Either way, he and his weren't going to be around to see it happen. He'd always done his best work with a small, surgical strike rather than an army, anyway.

Parker had been trailing Eliot, of course. Because she'd had a feeling he was going to do something, and she'd wanted to be there to see what it was-- and then he was out the gate before she could talk to him or stop him or anything.

"I can't believe he did that again. No, wait, of course I can." which didn't do anything for how annoyed she was about it. "ELIOT!" She sped up and got to the gate just as the guards were about to close it. "Coming through!"

Gorgon was oblivious to the crowd dashing through the ashes of incinerated zombie outside of Melrose Gate. Gorgon was on fire, every nerve alight, every muscle taut. Pain? What pain? His body was knitting itself together in seconds, making him stronger, denser, tougher.

"OH YEAH!" he roared. He couldn't even guess what tier this was. Fifty? One hundred? He could feel strength burning out of his eyes, his mouth, every pore of his skin. "YOU STILL WANNA THROW DOWN, YOU FUCKING FRANKENSTEIN WANNABE?!"

With a single swing, Gorgon sent Rodney sailing through the air, striking him with the force of a train engine. The enormous ex hurtled back, shredding the roof of a dusty sports car and slammed into the mini-van parked beyond it.

A quartet of exes seized the hero's arms and neck. He crushed their skulls like paper cutouts and whipped the bodies away, sending everything behind him sprawling for a half-dozen yards.

Gorgon bounded after Rodney, covering twenty feet with each leap. "Come on!" he shouted, gleefully. "You and me, big guy. It's what you always wanted!" He grabbed the shredded sports car and hurled it into the air, laughing as Rodney scrambled to dodge.

The car landed and Rodney tore off its axle, swinging it like a bat. He brought it whipping and around, but Gorgon simply caught the end. A quick shove and the steel bar cracked back into the giant's face. The hero hammered down again and sent Rodney sprawling.

With a mental scream, he summoned his last weapon to his side, while Gorgon stood above him, axle raised to come slamming down on him once again.

Banzai broke off from her fight with Eliot, her spin kick aimed at his head turning into an abrupt about face. She melted through the crowds of exes, a path opening in front of her with every step and just as quickly closing again. It wasn't that Rodney had overwritten her will, he was her will, controlling her like a marionette to fight or flee or anything else he wished.

And right now he wanted her at his side. His mind commanded her feet to run and she moved into position with all the awareness of a pawn being shifted from one square to another on the board.

"Doesn't have to be like this, Rodney!" Gorgon shouted, hitting the monstrous ex with enough force that the axle bent sideways. He tossed it aside, grabbed Rodney by his oversized skull, and slammed it against the pavement. "You can still quit! Run away! Take your people and get out of here!"

Rodney snarled as yet another one of his matchbook-sized teeth dropped out. "Like that, pinche, wouldn't you? Making me lose face again." He rolled away, grabbed a faded Boxster, and flung it at the hero.

Gorgon leaped over the car and hammered his fists down on Rodney's shoulders, driving him to the ground. Even hunkered over on the ground, Rodney's head was even with Gorgon's own.

"Keep fighting and you'll lose it all, big guy," he said, driving his hand into Rodney's face to claw at one of his eyes.

"Fuck you," Rodney spat, barely getting his hand up in time to prevent being blinded. He lashed out with enough force to crush a man. "You're dead, you just don't fucking know it yet!"

Gorgon leaped up, flipped around in mid-air, and found himself face to face with Banzai.

Her face was clean and white. A few loose hairs wafted from her ebony braid. The dead hero looked at him with cloudy eyes and blinked twice. Her lips turned down ever-so-slightly as she glanced from his face to the ragged hole in her shoulder.

He stumbled. Just for a moment. "Oh baby," he whispered, stomach a mishmash of guilt and sorrow and grief.

And then she vanished in a gray haze. Enormous fingers wrapped around Gorgon's head and squeezed. Rodney lifted the thrashing hero into the air and his other massive hand pinned the flailing legs together.

"Sucker!" he howled with glee. "I got every one of your fuckin' dead heroes out here with me! I fed 'em people that pissed me off an' watched as they fought over the scraps! Some big fuckin' heroes, eh?"

And then Rodney twisted, wrenching the hips around with a bubble-wrap sound and flung Gorgon back over the gate to land inside the Mount, still screaming in agony.

Let it be known that Anders did not like Gorgon. He especially didn't like that he called the husk of Kathy baby.

But sometimes, healing was about doing what you could, whether you wanted to or not. So he clambered back down into the mount and crouched by Gorgon.

He looked awful at first, crumpled and bloody on the ground. But as Anders got closer, he noticed a few signs of hope. Gorgon's head had missed anything hard, and his chest still rose and fell with ragged breaths. Everything below the waist, though, was a wreck.

Anders stole one last anxious glance at the mob of zombies and raised his hands over Gorgon's thighs, channelling spirit energy as he did. "Can you hear me?" he asked.

Gorgon's head had the virtue of being the hardest thing out here, at least if you asked the other heroes. And the vast majority of survivors.

"'s it...look, doc?" he mumbled, not really cognizant of much. He was still on some insane tier and he could feel his organs shifting about as his body tried to mitigate some of the damage.

Or maybe his organs were just shifting because of the damage. He wasn't planning on looking to be sure anytime soon.

"Will I ev' the piano 'gain?"

"If you can find a piano in this mess," Anders said, still concentrating on assessing Gorgon's injuries.

It was bad. Very bad. But not fatal, not if it was treated.

"I'm going to heal you just enough to get you back on your feet," he said, as the spirit magic began to do its work of knitting bone and tissue back together. "I'd fix you all the way, but I need to get back out to Kathy."

"K'thy..." He tried to grab for Anders' hand, missed, and tried again, leaving trails of blood behind. "D'n let 'er stay with him. Ev'n if you c'nt fix her, d'n let 'er stay."

You were picking up what he was putting down, weren't you Anders? Because talking was pretty goddamn hard work and he didn't think he had the energy for much more of it.

"Oh, no, she's coming back with us," Anders said, matter-of-fact. "I'm not leaving her here. Not after what we went through to get here."

He gave Nick's hand a squeeze and went back to the healing. He'd got the pelvis knit, but the spleen was another matter.

Pfft, who even needed spleens?

"Gud," Gorgon said, nodding once before the agony of his brain bouncing around in his skull or whatever had him groaning and wincing. That was when he realized that he'd had his eyes closed this entire time on reflex, since his goggles had been lost somewhere during his battle with Rodney.

Score one for him for remembering! Or, really, going by instinct here.

"Fuck J'sh, tho." If he had to have parting words, he was okay with those being them.

As touching as the moment was, there was always someone who had to go and ruin things. This time it was Rodney, at the Melrose Gate, slowly pulling them out of place by brute strength alone.

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" he said and laughed. "I see you playin' nursemaid with him, esse. Might as well quit now. Won't be nothin' left of him when I get in there. Not much left of you, either!"

"Oh, go fuck yourself," Anders said, almost sounding bored by it. "I have more power in one finger than you do in all ... however many thousands of pounds you are."

He squeezed one of Nick's fingers -- the healing would have to be enough for now -- and rose to his feet, staff at the ready.

"You're gonna regret those words, pinche," Rodney told him, not at all concerned by a slight young man with a big stick. His head and shoulders were through the gate now, casually batting away the spear the Mount residents were thrusting at him. "I'm the King of LA!"

King of rubble and dead people?" Anders asked. "That sounds about right."

He spun away from the gate, putting more distance between himself and Rodney, and threw a fireball as soon as he could. If his aim was right, it should hit Rodney right in the eye.

Rodney saw the fireball coming, but he'd wedged himself into the gate good and tight and now could not move. He howled as the fireball engulfed him, melting dead flesh and boiling his eyes. "Kill you!" he roared. "I'll kill you! I'll kill every single one of you fucking heroes!"

"You couldn't come close!" Anders taunted, and threw out another fireball with the same aim.

The sickening smell of burning dead flesh surrounded him.


Another howl, this one turning into a scream. Dead things normally didn't fear fire, but Rodney but both dead and alive and even the most sluggish of nerve endings eventually flickered on with enough sensation. The sensation of being broiled alive was more than enough to do so.

Rodney was still struggling against the gate, this time trying to get away. He still blistered the air with curses, with insults to Anders' mother, with threats colorful enough to turn the air blue, but this time they all held the ring of fear.

Anders' stomach twisted with a mix of repulsion and what he hated to admit was excitement.

He was close to the kill. He knew it. (He hadn't done this before, killed a specific person who was talking to him.)

To end his indecision, he muttered a quick grease spell, threw the oil at Rodney, and followed with a final burst of flame. The giant lit up as though his flesh was paper.

Anders retched.

And Rodney burned. And screamed while he burned until Cerberus lumbered over to the enormous ex and slammed her fist through his skull. His whole body spasmed once and then collapsed, limp, on the pavement.

Cerberus shoved him back through the hole in the gate. "Is it over?" she asked, speakers broadcasting loud enough to be heard across the Mount.

And almost like an answer to her question, things went mad. Screams echoed across the broad intersection as the dead turned on their former allies. Exes swarmed over the Seventeens and the gang members vanished under scores of teeth and grasping hands. Some were caught off guard. Others went down fighting.

Then entrance to the Mount had shifted from assault to feeding frenzy. The exes weren't focused or guided. They were just killing. Their teeth chattered like a tap school for the insane.

"It's over," said Stealth, staring down at the carnage below. "At least for them."

"Thank the Maker," Anders muttered. "I wouldn't have wanted to do that twice."

He granted himself a moment to slump against a wall, eyes closed, and try to get Rodney's screams out of his head.



The battle raged, with exes in a frenzy of rending and tearing, lunging forward to rip or bite or pull whatever was closest. In their midst was a spot of calm, of grace, bright white amid the mottled grays of rotting flesh and brownish-reds of old blood. Here and there, a splash of color could be seen; rainbow trim.

The ex moved through the throng, all single-minded purpose and a loose grace that almost made it look like she was dancing.


Eliot was extremely glad that he'd in fact gotten a wakizashi for Christmas. Fighting with two swords wasn't something he'd trained really heavily on, but being able to stab two exes through the head at once was proving very helpful.

He was just yanking the shorter blade out of the skull of a middle aged executive looking dead guy when he spotted the flashes of white out of the corner of his eye. He decapitated another ex almost absently and kicked the still chomping head aside as he zeroed in on that very distinctive fighting style.

"Kathy." He took a second to make sure his pack was properly settled, then made his way towards her as fast as he could.

It wasn't very fast. This crowd was thick.

He hated zombies.


Hands kept clawing at him, trying to drag him back and bring him down, though they were slow, which was a saving grace. Rodney's attention was split between his battle with Gorgon, Cairax's battle with St. George and Dante, and keeping his undead army from eating his living one while they attempted to take the Mount apart brick by brick.

Still, even if they were slower than usual, he was outnumbered by hundreds to one and they impeded his progress even as they opened up to let Banzai pass. She had a mission, after all, and they were not to hinder her.

He had to fight for every step towards her and even when he made it to the edge of the crowd closest to her, she gave him no mind as she continued to move past.


Eliot's swords both flashed continuously as he made his way through, less concerned with precision or lethality than clearing just enough space to move forward and not get killed. At least Kathy was easy to spot, even as she got farther ahead. Now that he had eyes on her, he wasn't going to lose her again.

He really hoped someone took this Rodney asshole down soon, preferably slow and painful. Seeing Kathy as dead as the zombies around him was bad enough. Seeing her working against the people she'd come back to this hell hole to help, a mindless puppet to a gang member's control? If he wasn't careful, that fact might just be enough to make him lose it. And then they'd both be fucked.

He let his frustration rise with a growl in the back of his throat and stopped forcing himself forward long enough to think, slashing at the crowd on autopilot while he took stock. Kathy was moving deliberately; he needed to work out what goal the Seventeens had in mind for her. Gang tactics didn't tend to be super subtle, so it shouldn't be too hard to --

Ah. Yeah. Of course. Nick. He was just stupid enough to fall for it, too.

Eliot changed direction, moving to cut Kathy off at the pass instead of run her down. If he got there in time to keep her from interfering with Gorgon's face-off, that'd be great, but the only really important thing was for Eliot to catch up with her at all.


Spin kick. Hammer fist. Knee strike. Spin kick.

Banzai was a whirling dervish of violence. There was enough unsullied material in her gi to give the illusion that it was once again a pure, spotless white when she was spinning through the air, hands and feet striking out anyone living in her path. She didn't stop to finish off any of the people she struck; the important thing was that they were no longer obstacles in her path.

Vault kick. Somersault. Split kick. Heel strike.

That was the look she gave to Eliot as he caught up to her: he was an obstacle in her path that needed to be removed. No warmth. No concern. No recognition. Her face was blank and her eyes were empty.


Anders had been a blaze of energy, batting exes away with his staff in between flashes of electricity as he tried to make Eliot's path slightly clearer.

But when he saw that figure in white, he froze. (An ex that had once been a little girl, still clad in footie pajamas, almost got close enough to bite his kneecap before he managed to zap her away.) He hadn't really believed they'd find Kathy amid so much ruin.


"That's Kathy," he shouted at Eliot, even though he was almost certain the man already knew.


"Kinda noticed," Eliot ground out. "I'm almost to her. Try to keep the rest of 'em off me, yeah?" He closed the last of the distance and found himself face to face with his protege at last.

And it was fucking empty.

Right. He couldn't think about that now. He'd known they'd have to fight her down. He hadn't been expecting her to be quite this coordinated when they did it, but he'd been mentally steeling himself for this since before they stepped through the portal.

He sheathed his long sword and aimed a kick at Kathy's knee.


The one good thing about fighting this Banzai was that the ex who puppeted her body around didn't know the first thing about Krav Maga, or gymnastics, or any of the other little things Kathy had incorporated into her fighting style over the years. Unlike Midknight, who he could just send where he wanted and let his innate powers do the rest, the only innate powers Kathy had were speed, agility, and bounciness.

Which, for people expected a slow, plodding ex, was usually enough to get them killed and eaten.

For Eliot, though, he'd immediately be able to see the difference between this Banzai and the one he'd trained. She dodged the kick, but didn't follow it up with an attack of her own. Instead of using that momentum, she paused to reposition and only then went in for a flurry of punches.

They were still blindingly fast however. Rodney got that part right.


The lack of skill hurt almost more than the few punches she managed to land did. It was good -- it meant it'd be that much easier for him to take her down. That speed was daunting, but not insurmountable.

But if there wasn't any of Kathy left here, how much could Nanika even do?

It wasn't so much a matter of looking for openings as choosing which of the several of them he wanted to use. Eliot took another blow to the shoulder, then stepped into her range, sweeping his leg behind hers and aiming the butt end of his sword hilt at her mid-section, right above her center of balance. She'd rebound from the resulting fall in less than a moment, but a perverse side of Eliot wanted the guy controlling her to know just how poor his fighting skills really were.


She didn't even fall over; instead her tumble backwards turned into a handspring as her preternatural reflexes took over. This time, however, she charged him, rather than trying to punch or kick, she lunged forward, teeth bared. This close, he could see how much of that clean white was a lie. Her hands and gi were streaked with grime and gore, traces of dried blood under her nails and over her clothes and between her clacking teeth. Her face was clean, but there were streaks of black down her throat, the remains of old blood that had poured over her her chin while she ate.

And when she was almost within reach of him, she jumped into the air, somersaulting over his head to land behind him.


Son of a --

Eliot spun, his weight firmly grounded in sharp contrast to her total disregard for gravity. He brought his sword up again, still leading with the hilt instead of the blade, this time aimed for her jaw. If he could break that, those teeth would be less of a threat. Nanika would be healing Kathy from the dead, so a few broken bones couldn't matter too much, right?

He'd never been so glad to be wearing body armor.


Banzai ducked her head and his hilt slammed into her cheek rather than her jaw. With an ugly snap, her cheekbone shattered, caving in the right side of her face. She didn't react at all, except to try a hammer kick to his knee, trying to knock him down.

Clack clack clack


Eliot winced for her, and had to swallow down bile. Knowing this was what he had to do -- what Kathy'd want him to do, even without the part where they were going to get her back at the end of it -- wasn't making this any easier to take. Not such a short time after watching the empty shells of Hardison and Parker back in Fandom. He took the hit to the knee and fell back a step, but didn't drop, instead taking the moment to sheath his sword.

If he had to do this, he was going to do it with his bare hands. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to be able to handle it if he ended up having to cut her.


Eliot took a second to step back and regroup. Banzai took that time to move forward and press her attack, striking out with blow after blow after blow. She lashed out for his knee again, aiming for the same place she'd struck before, following it up with a spin kick towards his abdomen. Her punches fell like rain, targeting his face and throat.


That was alright. Punches were better than teeth. He blocked as easy as breathing, with about as much thought, jumping back from the second knee strike and catching her leg on the spin kick into a throw. He anticipated her rebound, this time, and readied a palm strike to the base of her jaw the moment she straightened back up.


The strike knocked her head back, actually arching her back a bit. When she recovered, her jaw was gaping slightly on the side; not broken but dislocated. She took a step forward--then paused. Her eyes grew wide and, for a moment, Eliot could see fear in them.

And then she spun on her heel and ran as fast as she could towards the knot of exes by the gate, where Rodney and Gorgon were fighting.


Eliot was all set to strike again, but that fear made him hesitate.

And then she was gone. And he was still surrounded by exes.

"Aw c'mon!"

He had his wakizashi out again a second later and started carving his way through the crowd after her.

He hated this world.


Banzai arrived at Rodney's side, distracting Gorgon long enough to let him be grabbed and gravely injured. Rodney, no longer needing her assistance, let her trail after him as he assaulted the Melrose Gate. There, it was only sheer luck (and that most of the survivors were aiming at Rodney), that kept her from getting a bullet or pike in the brain as she fought and bounced at his side.

And then Anders finished what Gorgon had started and Rodney fell to the ground with a great thump. Dead.

And everything went mad as the dead turned on their former allies, just as Eliot arrived at the Melrose Gate.


"Seriously?" Eliot said to a panicking Seventeen. "You're surprised?"

He rolled his eyes then continued scanning the crowd. It was utter chaos; if he didn't find Kathy and get the hell out of here quick, he was screwed. And Parker and Hardison had enough to yell at him for already.

There. A flash of white by the dead gang leader's side. Not bouncing anymore, moving just like all the other exes, but Eliot would still recognize that form anywhere. He cleared out the exes in his way, inadvertently saving a Seventeen or two from getting eaten, and finally made it close enough to reengage. The short sword disappeared back into its sheath and he grabbed for Kathy's shoulder to spin her around, another palm strike aimed at her dislocated jaw.


This time there was no pretense at fighting or skill. Now there was only the ex-hero and she was hungry. The second strike slammed into her jaw, leaving it distended and hanging. The blow knocked her back some, but still Banzai came, spinning and twisting in mid-air, arms outstretched to rend and grab. Pulling off fistfuls of meat and shoving it into her mouth had worked before, even if she'd noticed that her jaw wasn't working correctly anymore.

She was still fast. Too fast; she no longer moved like a person but a horror movie thing that moved skittered and leapt.


If fighting Kathy like this was any easier than fighting her when she was being controlled by Rodney, it was entirely due to the fact that the speed of her feral fury didn't leave Eliot any time to think about who he was fighting. He couldn't match her for speed, of course, he'd never been able to get close, despite being one of the fastest hitters in his own world (Quinn was faster, which they both knew, but Eliot would never ever tell him). He didn't try to keep up with the blocking, moving just enough to try to keep her strikes to his armored body and away from his face.

She still managed to catch him across the cheek, opening a row of bloody, dirty furrows like he'd been slapped by a bear. He nearly went down on that one, and it all would have been over, but he managed to catch his balance at the last moment, turning the fall into a spin of his own and sending his foot up at her midsection.


She was relentless, not needing to stop for worry or pain or fear. He kicked her in her abdomen, she folded over for a moment and used that time to try to bite his leg. Only the fact that her jaw no longer closed properly kept her from taking a chunk out of his shin. And even then, she didn't let that stop her, just straightened back up and came flying at him at a speed that she might not have been able to match in life, since she did not have to hold back out of fear of tearing a muscle or tendon.


Eliot managed to catch one of her wrists on sheer luck or instinct, and wasted no time using it to swing her out and around using her own speed and momentum against her to get behind her and into an arm lock. He wasn't going to be able to hold her for long -- she could bend her body around in ways that even Parker would have trouble with -- so he was quick to wrap both arms around her upper body, lifting her completely off the ground. He grabbed for her chin to keep her from trying to crane her neck down and bite his arms. She was just mindless enough she might actually manage to gnaw her way through his body armor if given half the chance.


She struggled and thrashed about like a wild thing, trying to find any unprotected flesh to bite on and through. Fingers curved into wicked claws flailed backwards, scratching at his armor and clothes. It was like trying to hug a bucking horse--except horses weren't usually trying to eat you at the same time.

Banzai arched as far as she could, trying to spin in Eliot's arms, straining against his grip on her face. And then, with a sudden loud crack like a branch splitting, her whole body went limp.


"Is it over?" Anders asked softly, sounding very distant.

The fight had played out before him like some deadly ballet, his brain screaming at him with his disbelief that this was what was left of Kathy.


Thank god he did; Anders' voice helped keep Eliot's mind from going into shutdown mode after Kathy's neck broke. He allowed himself one slightly unsteady exhale before forcing himself back into action. He pulled her down into the lee of Rodney's smoking corpse. The exes were giving it a decent berth, and he wasn't sure how long Kathy would stay down before the fucked up virus or whatever started trying to feed itself again.

"Yeah," he said, after a bit too long. "I'm securin' her now." He dug the roll of duct tape out of his pack and with a staunch refusal to think too hard about what it was he was actually doing, proceeded to bind and gag his protege's corpse.

"You're a healer, right, kid?" he asked while he worked. If Nanika couldn't get Kathy back to 100% with all the damage he'd dealt her, maybe Anders could. Maybe he won't have totally just fucked her over while trying to save her. "She managed to take a decent chunk out of my cheek. If Parker sees it, I'm gonna catch hell."


Banzai's head lolled awkwardly on her shoulder, flopping around in a way that screamed unnatural. What was more unnatural, however, was the way her cloudy gray eyes were open and fixed on Eliot, and the steady motion of her broken jaw as she still tried to bite.

She couldn't move. Couldn't do anything but gnaw on air and watch with unnerving intensity as her head hung at a sharp and ugly angle.


"I can fix your cheek," Anders said, and tried very hard not to look at Kathy as he stepped closer to Eliot so he could heal him. (It was hard; those cloudy eyes were like magnets.) "I expect you won't be the only one who'll need some fixing up."


Yeah, Eliot was steadfastly not making eye contact with her, either. Not when he wasn't entirely certain this whole thing wouldn't end up sending him into another fugue state.

He really had to find someone to talk about about that, didn't he.

He jumped a little when Anders approached. He hadn't actually realized the kid was that close, which -- well, he should have. He could berate himself for that on top of everything else later. He finished up with the duct tape, adding a few extra layers of Kathy's still moving mouth just to be sure, then sat back. "Thanks." He looked around, taking in the chaos that the battle had devolved to. "You got the status on anyone else?"

Had any of them gotten their asses killed while he was busy elsewhere?


"No," Anders said, grim. "I'll have to check everyone over when we get home."

Maker, he wanted to just be home.


"Yeah." Eliot was right there with him. He scooped Kathy up and slung her carefully over his shoulder -- just because he'd managed to break her cheekbone, dislocate her jaw, and snap her neck didn't mean he was looking to keep damaging her -- then reached up to tap his earbud and make sure it was still in place.

"We've got Kathy," he announced over the earbuds, hoping everyone was paying attention. "Regroup by portal. Let's get the fuck outta here."

[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 Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. Last of the posts for the day, though check out the comments for the last bit. Warning for NPC death]


2017-01-28 11:50 pm (UTC) (Link)


Parker lost Eliot in the crowd almost immediately. Either he was being selectively deaf, or was too focused to hear her yelling his name right in his ear. When they got back, they were so gonna talk about this.

"Hardison and I are going to gang up on you, and--"

Okay, never mind. She had more immediate problems, in the form of about fifteen shambling ex-living-people, coming toward her. "You guys really smell," she told them, snapping out the batons she'd appropriated earlier that day. Then did a cartwheel in between them, snapping the batons out to break legs as she passed, clearing a path to leap through before they even managed to turn their heads.


But even as those she hit fell, more staggered over to take her place, drawn by the fast movements that screamed 'Living flesh!' to whatever instincts they had left. One of the exes she'd kneecapped tried to grab at her legs as she passed. Another leaned over two bodies to snag at her hair. The sound of clacking teeth was relentless as they tried to drag her to the ground and tear her apart.


"Seriously, you people. You ex-people." Parker slammed two exes into each other, and buried a knife in the brain-stem of one as she went by. "Thinking with your stomachs."

Time to get to higher ground. Somehow.

Another cartwheel, faster than most humans could manage, past a scrum of three or four who were converging on her place, and then she was up on a barrier.

Another leap, and up onto a mailbox.

And another, and her grappling line was pulling her up up up above the crowd, dangling from a streetlight.


That scrum of four became five became twelve became thirty as Parker dangled there, their hands raised to try to catch her and yank her back towards them. None of them were smart enough to jump or climb, so they just stood there, yearning for her.

Still with that endless clack clack clack and staring at her with cloudy gray eyes.


Yeah, good luck on that, deadites. Parker had now shimmied upward to the very top of the pole, and none of them had the dexterity to reach her.

Which meant that throwing stars could reach them, and their putrefying brains, just fine.


2017-01-28 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)


The stars hit with deadly accuracy and ex after ex after ex fell to the ground with a metal projectile standing from their skull. The small group clustered around her pole fell, but more were already shambling their way towards her.

That was the problem with exes. Only so much ammunition and so many, many, many more of the dead waiting to take their fallen comrades' places.


From up where she was, though, Parker could see how the rest of the fights were going.

Bloody, horrible, but maybe, maybe, triumphant? Hmmm.

She threw another star downward, and considered re-locating. Flipped upside-down to consider her options.


Unfortunately, the dead weren't the only enemies out on the streets tonight.

"Yo, bitch!" one called, before a bullet sparked off the pole not far from where she was hanging. "Shouldn't have fucked with the Seventeens!"


"Seriously?" Parker called down. She flipped down onto a nearby building ledge, and yelled, "You think you're winning? Winning what?!"


"We got Peasy, King of LA on our side!" the girl yelled, taking another potshot. "He controls all the exes! He controls everything! And soon your bitch-ass is gonna be--!"

Which was when every ex in the street went mad. They swarmed like angry wasps boiling out of a disturbed hive, turning to eat whatever was nearest, whether it wore a green bandanna or not. "The fuck?" the Seventeen yelled, when the first one lunged for her. "You're not supposed to--hey! Hey!"

Anger turned to panic as several exes all turned and fell on her as one.


No no no no no no no-- Parker had thought the girl was stupid and young but nobody deserved that, nobody.

She threw out a handful of throwing stars, hoping they'd drive back a few exes so the girl could get free, looking around frantically. The exes were going nuts. Instead of leaving the gang members alone and heading toward the movie lot gates, they were attacking anything that moved now.

She pulled herself even higher, and took a breath.


She threw out a grappling line, trying to snag the girl with the gun, like fishing from a pier.


She took several shots all in a row, emptying her clip into the five closest exes and taking down three of them. She was a decent shot, but she was terrified now and some of her shots went wild.

"I'm ditching it!" she screamed, yanking the bandanna off and trying to snag the line. "I only joined 'cause they had food and Peasy promised to protect us! I--" Her explanation turned into a wail when rotting hands grabbed her clothing and pulled her back down.

The wail didn't last long.


2017-01-28 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


"Oh." Parker felt like she'd been gut-punched; out of breath and nauseous. She closed her eyes, and shut the memory away for later. Much, much later.

Opened them, and began to make her way higher. "GET TO THE GATES!" She yelled again. God, she needed a bullhorn or-- right.

Time to get to the gates herself. They probably had something she could use there.

A hop, a skip, a leap, a cartwheel: back up onto a street sign. Hop, and hop, and flip: over the exes' heads, off the exes' heads, faster than they could figure out what was happening.


Melrose Gate was still closed, though there was a giant hole about five feet up and Rodney's smoldering corpse still lay in front of it. Cerberus was stand atop the gate and waved her in.

"Open a hole!" the titan bellowed and the survivors cleared a path through the exes long enough for Parker to make her way through.


Parker shot through the gap, and stopped to catch her breath. "Those Seventeens need to come in," she said, looking around at the people at the gate, once she was on the other side. "I told them to ditch the gang wear and come in. Do you guys have a megaphone?"


"I can do you one better," said Cerberus. "I've got speakers. Let me crank them up."

With a minute shift inside the battlesuit, Danielle had her speakers set to max volume. "Okay, so what do you want me to say?"


"The King is dead?" Parker offered. That had to be why all the zombies were going crazy now. "Food and shelter, that's all they want." That's all that girl wanted. "Ditch the gang-wear green. Come in from the cold."

And the weapons and hostility they'd bring with them, well. That could be Stealthy's problem. She'd probably appreciate the challenge of dealing with it.

(Or not. Parker knew enough masterminds to know how annoyed Stealth might get at this new development without warning. But those people still had to live, if they could.)

Just then, she heard Eliot's voice on the comms, saying he had Kathy, and to head back to the portal. Felt herself sag in relief. She turned to Cerberus, and asked, "You got this?"


Cerberus relayed the information, her speakers booming into the night. "Anyone not wearing a green bandanna or scarf is welcome to take shelter inside the Mount. I wish the rest of you the best of luck making it back to your compound!"

Outside the gate, the horde of undead continued to rip and tear and claw at the Seventeens. The clacking of teeth drowned out most of their screams. SOme of them fought their way into the remaining trucks, often leaving others behind in their need to get away. Many others were dragged out and torn to shreds.

Green cloth fluttered in the air like snow as those who had a decent chance of making it to the Mount forewent gang loyalty for survival and fled for the gate, stumbling over the corpse of the ex-King of LA.