A/N: I'll try to keep this short, because I'm just really eager to post this. It's been far too long. Okay, first of all: Thank you all so much for reviewing, I'll post my responses later at my author forum at Stealthy Stories. If you can't find your way there, just ask. Second of all? This is the final chapter of this story, and there may or may not be a sequel. Heh. I couldn't decide so I just decided not to decide. Anyway, this particular genre has been new territory for me, and I've just really enjoyed writing it (how sadistic is that?) Plus, even though Donnie's my favorite, I've always had trouble writing his character. This is the first multi chaptered fic about him that I've actually finished, so I'm just really, really glad you've had fun reading it. I hope you'll be satisfied with the ending. Thank you.
I felt nauseous. I really wanted to bend over and throw up over my own two feet. It seemed like the better option, where I was forced to walk with my intestines entangled up in one another. The blackened sewer tunnels seemed to breathe with a stench of excrement, moist and... entrapment. I could not imagine living down here would ever numb you to the stench, because it hit you like a ton of bricks in the face – over and over again, each hit no less powerful than the previous. But it wasn't the smell that wrenched my gut like a washcloth.
It was the fear.
The darkness allowed me to see nothing but the torturous nightmares my mind played out in front of me. No matter what, I couldn't seem to shake the image of that... that creature attacking Joey, stabbing madly at his groin and legs as if he'd been possessed by the Devil himself. Joey's screams sounded like something that would come from inside a torture chamber; I could almost pin point his pain like a doctor would on an x-ray photo, just by listening to his screams.
We hadn't really been that close, him and I. To be honest, I barely even knew him. It had only been my second time working with him, and even though we'd talked quite often online, I wouldn't miss him. Certainly, it was a horrible way for anyone to die, but what truly haunted me about it was the thought that it could have been me. A quiet, persistent voice in the back of my mind kept bothering me about it, whispering,
'You could be next, you know.'
I had seen death in its cruelest, most agonizing form – and while beautiful as nothing else could be - I was absolutely terrified of it. Never before had there been such risks with our projects. I'd been scared before, yeah; scared of messing up, scared of getting caught... scared of the consequences. However this time I was scared of the project itself. These things... they new how to defend themselves, they knew how to fight back and they knew how skewer a body. Hell, they had pretty much mastered the art.
I didn't want to be that body. I didn't want to die down here – in the forgotten undergrounds of the city where no one would ever come looking for me, and I could tell neither did Bob. He'd been nagging about us going back from the very moment we went after them, and – unlike me – he had no trouble in showing his fear. He insisted we could make due with what we had, and just leave the last two while we still had the option to turn back.
But even though I could relate to his fear, it definitely wasn't an option.
What we had... Bob was right; it wasn't as if we didn't already have good material. The blood and action was extremely impressive, certainly beyond anything we'd ever done before, but never had we been able to catch so much angst on tape. No one would question the authenticity of this movie, because raw emotions like that simply couldn't be faked. I could already imagine the others' reaction. They'd be fondling their balls in awe. This would be the movie everyone would talk about; future generations referring to it like an undead legend for them to idolize and strive to outdo.
We just had to finish it. What was the point of coming down here, losing half the crew in the battle, and then turn back with "what we've got"? No. Hell no. It wasn't an option. We would find these things, and we would finish them off, documenting even the briefest utter of pain, videotape the faintest trace of tear and make our trouble worth the while.
At first, it hadn't been personal, merely something we had decided to do, but with the way things had turned out I really wanted to see those last two freaks dead. If it was the last thing I did, I was going to hunt down those fuckers and put so many bullet holes through their alien looking bodies it would be impossible for them to contain a single drop of blood.
I just couldn't understand why we hadn't found them already. They couldn't have gotten that far, not in their state. We had found blood back in the subway tunnels – lots of it, the crimson trace leading us into the sewer system where pitch-black darkness took over and cold water numbed our legs. We could only assume Jared had done some good in that crazy outburst of his and at least wounded them with his bullets.
He'd been so stupid in going after them like he had, knowing for a fact that they were armed, knowing from experience that they were dangerous. But that was Jared in a nutshell. Shoot first and think later. He'd been the bravest of the four of us, and the biggest fool I had ever come across; he'd been the one pushing this entire mess forward. Ever since he had heard that rumor of the green monsters living under the city, he'd been obsessed with going after them.
'They are the perfect kill,' he'd told us.
It had taken us a while to find them, almost a year to the date, and even though he'd truly been the biggest fool to walk this earth, he'd been damned right. After all, humanoid reptiles weren't killed on tape everyday.
It was so perfect, almost to the point where it seemed too good to be true. They were truly like something straight out of a science fiction movie, and the government would shit their pants at the discovery of them. The knowledge hidden in their bodies would be priceless to any scientist in his right mind, yet no one would even miss them when we were done with them.
So valuable and yet so easily disposable, we could calmly erase their entire existence without a single person in the city so much as flinching.
It was the perfect kill.
Unexpectedly, a white light shone up our way down the tunnel, reflecting off the murky, black surface of the underground stream, and turning to Bobby next to me I quickly discovered where it came from. He had turned on the camera, using the built-in flashlight to better help guide our way.
"The hell's wrong with you?" I instantly hissed at him, causing him to look at me in brief fright. "You can't fucking waste the battery on light!"
"It's cool, Luke," he said nonchalantly. "Don't lose it. We've got plenty of battery to use. There's more than half of it left."
"So?" I angrily insisted. "You know how much energy that flashlight needs, now turn it off before I punch your face in. We're not risking this."
I caught him sighing in frustration before he finally did what I had told him and we were once again enclosed in grim, threatening darkness; feeding my fear to the point where walking straight became a struggle.
I grabbed a firmer hold of the heavy machine gun in my hands, the cold metal filling me with comfort and hope, knowing that if these bullets had killed the likes of them before, they could do it again – would do it again. Even if they came jumping at me from out of nowhere, all I had to do was press the trigger and aim.
The task was far too simple to mess up. How on earth Joey had managed to fail was a mystery to me. If a giant, furious and not to mention buff turtle comes running at you with weapons clutched in both hands, you shoot it. It's a matter of instinct.
Point and shoot.
"You know," Bob's hesitant voice cut through the silence like a jagged knife. "Maybe they ain't here. We've been walking for hours, Luke, and still no sign of them."
I only locked my jaw, figuring my silence would let him know just how I felt about his reasoning.
"Maybe they've gone topside," he offered. "Maybe they've... I dunno. Maybe they're already lyin' dead someplace."
"If they are," I calmly said, staring straight ahead of me as I walked, heavy feet trying to force their way forward through the cold water, "we'll find them."
"Maybe we can't find them," Bobby countered. "Ma... maybe we've already passed them."
"Hey," I finally blew up, turning to look at him in the darkness, trying to make out the holes in his mask, knowing his eyes were to be found there. "If you're scared, then just leave. Because I'm fucking tired of listening to you complain."
"No, I'm just saying..."
"I'm not going back, Bobby. I don't care what you say, I'm not going back till I've got them both dead on tape, okay?"
He stared at me in silence, and as the seconds passed, one by one, I realized he wasn't about to give me an answer.
"Just leave," I repeated. "I'm not stopping you, but I'm not coming with you."
"Yeah, sure. And just how are you supposed to manage the camera while having to carry around that thing?" he said, grabbing at my weapon as if to get his point across.
"Look," I said, pulling the weapon out of his grasp in irritation and backing a firm step away from him. "Either you're with me one hundred percent – no more fucking talk about going back – or you leave right now. It's up to you."
I was as good as dead going at this alone, and we both knew that.
There was no way I could shoot and hold the camera all by myself, and, to be honest, I wanted someone to cover me. Were they anything like bears when they'd been injured, I wouldn't want to face them by myself.
I really wanted him to come with me – I was banking on it. But... even if he wouldn't, I wasn't about to turn back.
Staring at each other in silence, the many pipes rustling eerily around us, it was all decided when Bob finally turned to face straight ahead and continued down the tunnel. Quietly, I let out a nervous, shaky breath I'd been holding.
Bob had seen enough; he wanted out of here. He wanted this movie to look as perfect as I did, but he wouldn't willingly risk his life to get there. Nevertheless he chose to stay by my side, camera still clutched in his hand.
Unlike the others, I knew I could trust him. He went beyond the average online relationship I had with everyone else. We'd gone to high school together, I'd practically lived at his place back when his mom was hospitalized for that tumor in her breast, and he'd been the one to videotape my first kill, unprofessional as it had been.
Yeah, I trusted Bobby. He was the closest thing I'd ever had to a best friend, and I knew he wouldn't leave me to suffer the same fate the others had. I quickly hurried after him, taking only mere seconds for me to catch up with him and once again walk alongside of him in the darkness.
The humidity down here uncomfortably stuck the knitted fabric of my ski mask to my face. I briefly considered taking it off; the camera wasn't even on at the moment, but I didn't want to risk not remembering to put it back on when we started shooting again. I had way too much to protect behind this mask, so I was just going to have to deal with bathing in my sweat.
Cautiously eyeing the walls around me, almost expecting one of those things to materialize in the darkness, I instinctively held the gun closer to my chest. I hated not knowing what to expect; unlike Jared it didn't thrill me in the least. I wanted to know what we were up against - down to the very last detail – so I could eliminate it as fast as possible.
Coming down that ladder had been completely different.
We'd already looked up the location, and even though we weren't particularly clear on just what those green monsters were, there were four of us taking them on, armed and protected behind bulletproof vests. The odds were on our side, while now I felt like an unprepared diver swimming in the great blue, armed with nothing but a single harpoon. I knew perfectly well there were two hungry sharks swimming nearby, yet I had no idea from which direction they would attack, or even when.
As I studied my surroundings in fright, I noticed how the brickwork seemed to cease further up ahead, the soft gleaming of water on the walls suddenly gone. I fastened my hold on the gun and picked up my pace.
"I think the tunnel's dividing," I casually told Bob, not even bothering to look at him as I spoke. "There could be one just like it on our right."
"What?" he asked, his voice filled with confusion. "You mean they could have gone down that one instead?"
"No, I mean..." I sighed in frustration, lowering my voice to a mere whisper as I spoke. "I dunno, maybe. Just keep your eyes open. I don't like surprises."
"That makes two of us," he whispered briefly, mimicking the careful volume of my voice, before the two of us were once again walking in silence.
I tried not to splash as much in the stream, not wanting to attract any attention, but it seemed some things just weren't mine to control. Were they waiting for us by the other side of that wall, they certainly knew we were coming.
Nearing the corner of the wall, my heartbeat quickened, while my breathing just stopped altogether. The sound of my own pulse was drumming like a chant in my head, and I couldn't seem to focus on anything but constantly making sure the weapon was still there in my sweaty hands.
When we finally reached the end of the wall, I instinctively held out my left arm to stop Bobby from walking any further. I caught him looking at me in the darkness, but I didn't pay him any attention. Gripping the gun tighter in my hands, I tried to relax by letting out a slow breath, until I finally stepped around the wall, weapon raised and ready to fire.
But I couldn't see a thing. It was so dark, and there were no sounds rising above the constant humming coming from the many pipes around us.
"I know you're there."
My racing heart suddenly stopped, and, adjusting the gun in my hands, I pointed it in every direction I could think of. Shit, I couldn't see anything! I would have followed the sound of his voice, but even at the low volume, it bounced off the concave surface off the walls, making it sound like it was coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I might have even considered the possibility that it came from my head, hadn't he spoken a second time.
"You can't have him."
"Show yourself!" I yelled, hoping my fear would come across as aggression instead.
"...You can't see me," he quietly stated, sounding surprised and pleased at the same time.
"The hell I can," I grumbled in annoyance, turning around to Bobby behind me, slapping at his arm. "Turn on the camera, will ya!"
He nervously fumbled with the object in his arms, before the red button finally shone bright, and the built-in flashlight lit up a faint path down the tunnel.
There, about twenty feet away from us, I finally caught the sight of him – of them. One of them sat with his shell against the wall, protected by the cold water on some sort of sidewalk that didn't exist in the tunnel we'd traveled through. He was squinting his eyes at the flashlight, yet I could tell he still held his stare locked at me, almost obsessively. In his arms, motionless, was the other one, collapsed against his chest with his limp head resting on one of his shoulders.
He was dead; he had to be, either that or unconscious. It made sense. Running through these tunnels with the kind of wounds we'd assumed they had, it was the only realistic outcome.
Raising my gun, making sure I was pointing it at him the whole time, I started walking up to him, cautiously. I heard Bob's splashing footsteps following behind me, the light coming from the camera keeping my path visible. As I walked, the thing kept his gaze locked at me, yet he didn't say a word, causing this eerie feeling to blossom in my gut.
Why didn't he run? Wouldn't he attempt to defend himself? Because that was not defeat I saw in his eyes. Sorrow, yes. Exhaustion? Most definitely. But not defeat.
Stopping when I was standing five feet away from them, a distance I felt was necessary to keep, considering the characteristics the other two had shown, I stared down at the scene in amazement.
This was too fucking good. I couldn't believe we were actually getting the whole thing on tape.
The freak in his arms indeed proved to be dead, almost as pale as mine, except his skin had a sickly green tone, and his black, dry blood covered the booth of them. He'd fucking died in his arms, and, looking at the face of the remaining freak, he sure seemed to have cried an awful lot about it.
His cheeks practically glistened in the light.
"I expected to find the both of you, but I guess we came too late, huh?" I said with a knowing grin, meeting his silent stare, trying to read his emotions. But his gaze remained the same, and he never spoke a word.
"Aren'tcha gonna say anything?" I finally asked, relaxing my stance a bit, waiting for an answer that didn't seem to come. "We're only just meeting for the first time, you know, you and I. Don't you have anything you wanna say?"
"What possibly could there be left to say?" he finally replied, his voice low and dull... hoarse.
Must have been because of the crying.
"I dunno... Your last words?" I couldn't help but laugh, and glancing at Bobby to my left I caught him smiling. Looking back at the subject, I couldn't help but notice he didn't seem to share in out little joke. "What's the matter? Didn't think it was funny?"
His expression remained the same, but this time he actually parted his lips to speak. "What did you do to my brother?"
"You brother?" I repeated. The thought of them being related hadn't occur to me, even though they looked so much alike. For all I cared, they could have been clones... but brothers? The again, it did make sense, how they seemed to care about one another so much. But who would have thought? A family of what appeared to be four giant turtles, plus that hairy thing we first saw when entering. Now that one we hadn't been prepared for. Four green monsters? Yes, that proved to be very true, but there had been nothing about a rodent in a robe, which was why I shot him the second I saw him. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't like surprises.
Jared scolded me for killing it on the spot, but it wasn't anything I couldn't take.
"You were... I know you had him in there with you," he then spoke again, interrupting my thoughts, his breathing getting dragged behind. "What did you do to him?" His entire speech was slurred, almost sounding as if he had trouble staying awake.
I couldn't help but smile at the way he desperately seemed to cling to the thought that he was still alive. "Well, he's not here with us, is he?"
He blinked once, slowly, but quickly returned to stare at me with those abnormally huge eyes of his. "What did you do to him?"
I adjusted the gun in my hands, feeling much more comfortable now that I knew that the odds were back on our side. "There's no need to feel left out. You're not dead yet, there's still plenty of stuff we can do to ya."
I caught Bob chuckling beside me, and I couldn't help but feel proud, because I knew that if he'd appreciated my comment, the audience sure as hell would.
"Why are you doing this?" he then asked, lazily, surprising me yet again with the calm in his voice. "Who are you?"
I preferred panic and anger; any kind of extreme emotion looked better on camera. But I supposed there was always time for that later.
"I don't see how that's any of your business," I answered him nonchalantly. "All you need to know is that you'll be starring in the final scene."
"It's some kind of a snuff movie, isn't it?" he stated, his calm once again pissing me off.
I didn't bother to answer, but just smiled at him, wanting to get on with things while we still had battery left. I would hate for the flashlight to suck that thing dry and leave us with nothing to record the big finish. Wouldn't that be irony at its cruelest, most sadistic behavior?
Noticing his tight hold of the corpse in his arms, I turned to face Bob, motioning with my head at the body. He instantly understood my silent order and stepped forward to push the corpse aside, only for the turtle to kick him the second he put his hand on the sapless creature.
"Don't touch him!"
Bobby staggered backwards at the surprisingly powerful impact, and landed on his ass in the cold water, thankfully managing to keep the camera above the surface.
I stared at the scene in shock until I finally regained my ability to act. Pointing the weapon at his face, my index finger curled around the trigger, I stared threateningly into his eyes. "Just what the hell do ya think you're doing?" I swiftly glanced at Bob as he struggled to get out of the water, finally rising to his feet.
"Don't. Touch him," he repeated with a menacing voice, and as the light from the camera returned to his face, I noticed his gaze seemed to completely lack the fear I was hoping to bring out.
"In case you haven't noticed, we're the ones setting the rules around here, and I say you shut the fuck up and do as we tell ya!"
"I don't care what you do to me," he said, struggling to sit up straight from having slid down when kicking Bob, wincing in pain when pushing himself up with his arms. I noticed then for the first time that the blood covering the front of his shell didn't all belong to the dead guy.
There was a large bullet wound right beneath his left shoulder blade, and, unlike the bandages that were tied around the other one's arm and leg, it was left to bleed freely. To say the least, it wasn't looking so good.
Smiling, I let go of my weapon with my right hand and stepped forward, pressing my finger into the juicy hole of his shoulder, his screams of agony ringing in my ears.
"You don't care?" I repeated, twisting my finger in the wound, only increasing his screaming and causing his entire body to cramp at the immense pain. "Is this the sound of someone who doesn't care!"
Finally pulling out my finger, I grabbed a firm hold of the gun with both hands and slammed the solid back of it into his chin, causing the right side of his face to smash into the brick wall with a bone-crushing thud.
"Stupid fuck," I muttered to myself, having to restrain myself from shooting him on the spot. Attitude was the worst thing I knew; crying and begging was my forte.
Slowly turning back to face me, I saw blood on his bottom lip, most likely coming from inside his mouth. I figured either he'd bit his tongue or some of his teeth had taken the worst hit. And still he had that nonchalant look in his eyes!
"What the hell is your problem!" I furiously yelled at him. "Don't you get it? We've killed your entire family, tortured them. And you are no fucking exception!"
"I know," he only said, leaning the back of his head against the wall, keeping his eyes locked with mine.
"Then why the hell are ya looking so damned pleased with yourself! You're going to die, and it'll be real slow so you don't miss any of it."
Still holding eye contact, he started fumbling with his left hand behind his brother's body, causing the dead creature's head to fall back over the arm that still held him.
"What now?" I hissed impatiently. "You've got an itch?"
Still looking at me with a insouciant gaze, he didn't say anything, but just kept on jerking with his arm, his other arm beginning to shake at the weight of having to hold the dead body.
Finally, he gently lay down his brother's sapless form, the turtle lying on his back across his outstretched legs, and then he added his left arm to whatever it was he was doing in the darkness. If he had a knife or something there, it wasn't exactly a big deal where he barely seemed capable of keeping his eyes open, but I would sure like to know it, if that was the case.
I nudged Bobby with my left elbow, causing him to turn to me in surprise.
"Get that, will ya?" I told him.
The light was instantly focused on his now still hands, both of them lying on top of the corpse's torso, one of them facing down, clutching something.
Before I even had the chance to tell him to show us what it was, he turned his palm upwards, holding something dark and bulging, the size of a fist. I couldn't quite see what it was, but by the time my eyes had registered the object it was already too late, and I froze up in fear - utterly paralyzed.
How the fuck did he get his hands on another one of our hand grenades?