Wow. It's been over a month. Once again I apologize for the wait, but that's exactly how long it takes me to polish and fine-tune these chapters. I want to deliver to you all the best experience possible, so don't lose faith in the story if it takes longer than expected to produce.

Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the next installment!

DEVASTATION

Chapter 3

Foxx shouldered his backpack and was pleasantly surprised at the weight it held. Fitting, he figured, for what they had done to his face. Later Jessie and himself would go over the contents of the pack but right now all he was intent on doing was getting as far away from the parking structure as possible. With a sigh of relief, he took Jessie's hand and stepped out into the sunlight.

"Where are we..." Jessie murmured.

"I don't know," Foxx admitted. "I don't care."

Today was going to be hot. Boiling, in fact. He worried about the bandages around his eye, and realized that they would have be redressed again…and soon. He didn't like it when Jessie fussed over him, seldom that she did, and now more than ever he just wanted to get away. Once again…something ELSE they had to put on their agenda. Hand in hand, the two of them picked their way down a rotting street, filled with abandoned vehicles and military posts. Jessie remained uncharacteristically silent as they trekked on throughout the day, only pausing momentarily for water or to rest. As the afternoon sun rose high into the sky, the two sought shelter under the shade of a bus stop, conveniently growing ripe with moss and decay.

It was about this time that Jessie dug into Foxx's pack and pulled out a can of fruit. She opened it with her knife and picked out a slice of orange, and handed it to Foxx. Together they enjoyed the tangy refreshment in the shade. Foxx leaned back and examined the area around them. What was formerly a shopping district had now become a haven for moss and rubble, with both abandoned vehicles and military outposts adding to the rust and decay. There was also evidence of scavengers having picked through just about every store and shop within reach. Though he had never seen the district as it was originally intended to be, he felt an eerie sensation of displacement; something was wrong. For a moment he contemplated standing up and surveying the area…but around them was a wide open plaza. If they were being followed, it would be more than obvious…wouldn't it?

It wasn't just the mild headache he had from not drinking.

So why did he feel so on edge?

"How's your eye?" Jessie asked absently, sucking the juices out of the last slice of orange.

"It's fine." Foxx muttered.

"I've been thinking," Jessie replied. She swallowed the last chunk of fruit and set the can on the ground. "About you and me…and about what happened earlier."

Foxx remained silent.

"I don't think it's a good idea for the two of us to travel together any more."

"What?"

"You haven't said a word about what those men wanted," Jessie accused. "I was thrown into a room for hours and I didn't know why. They let us go after you have a little talk with their boss, and now we've been walking all day, and you haven't said shit."

"Can this wait?" Foxx pleaded.

"Fuck you." Jessie stood up. She shouldered Foxx's backpack and gave him a hard look. "We'll walk together for the rest of the day, and the better part of tomorrow-however long it'll take us to get as far away from those lunatics," she beckoned in the direction of the parking structure. "As possible. Then, after that….you're on your own."

"Jessie..."

"Let's go."

She began walking and Foxx obediently stood up to follow. As much as he wanted to protest, he couldn't blame her. He felt an aching in the back of his throat that would tighten and twist and pull at his heart, but the time for that was not now. Jessie was right; he had pulled her into the middle of something that she had no business being a part of, and it was not her fault that any of this had happened. He was the one to blame. Besides…when they began traveling together, they knew this would be temporary.

He just didn't think it would end so sourly.

They walked up onto the expressway where the military had set up roadblocks. Rusted shells still littered the ground from anti-aircraft guns. Abandoned military convoys and other vehicles of war had been left unattended, to bake under the hot sun. They had equally grown ripe with decay. They spent the majority of their time walking along the highway and picking through the remains of the military vehicles, coming across no weapons or ammunition.

In all their graciousness, The Rangers had left Foxx and Jessie with their combat knives, but had stripped them of everything else including their dignity. Foxx already felt that in shreds, as he had sobbed like a child when they cut him. Who wouldn't? He grimaced as he ran fingers over his bandaged eye. He stopped at the hood of a Hummer as Jessie dug through the backseat. To his surprise she plucked out a shotgun.

"Does it..?"

Jessie examined it closely, turned it over in her hands, and checked the barrel. She discarded it with a disgusted look on her face.

"It's rusted out, the parts are shit." she sneered. Foxx frowned. He was in no mood to argue. Jessie was not herself…or maybe, she was being "herself" before she met Foxx.

The sun began to dip behind the devastated skyline as they exited off the highway. They found refuge in a boutique off the corner of a forgotten strip mall and made sure the entrance and the exits were secure before hunkering down for the night. Outside the wind began to howl, only to be matched by that of the infected as they scuffled about outside. Foxx rubbed the bridge of his nose and squirmed uncomfortably. He would never in his life get used to the sounds of the night….especially in the city. Part of him waited for Jesse to join him under the blankets but he realized she was across the room, already wrapping herself up in sheets. He gave her a helpless look, but she didn't return the favor.

Foxx couldn't have felt more alone in the world. He sighed as he rolled over, welcoming himself to his usual world of nightmares.

The next morning he awoke to the sound of Jessie packing up.

"Why didn't you wake me?" He murmured. Jessie didn't hear him or didn't care, as she searched the shelves of the room for anything useful.

"Nothing." She spat, kicking an empty can aside. She pivoted on her heel and turned to face him. "We need to get going. We're going to have to find food."

"But the Rangers-"

"only gave us enough until today," Jessie finished. "After that we're on our own."

Foxx sighed and pulled on his pants. Watching Jessie act differently around him only soured his attitude more. She had a right to be angry, then again, it wasn't his fault they were being pursued…if they were at all. Foxx couldn't help but shake the feeling that he was being watched at all times. It set him on edge more so than usual.

But he WASN'T being followed…was he?

FUCK! why was he always second-guessing himself?

He needed a drink badly.

After packing up, Jessie and himself walked further through the city, picking their way over scattered remains of debris and abandoned posts. In the afternoon, when the sun was highest in the sky, the two scavenged a grocery store.

The store smelled of rot and decay, among other things. The shelves that were once packed with goods were now tipped over and empty. Those that still stood only payed an homage to what they once were; shadows of their former selves. Jessie turned on her flashlight and shined it over a barrage of posters promoting sales. Over top of those were Quarantine signs.

"They quarantined people in a grocery store?" she asked.

"What's that mean?" Foxx asked.

"What, Quarantine?" Jessie replied. "It means they put sick people in here."

"Must've been a scramble, probably just trying to secure whatever place they could," Foxx reasoned. "I wonder what it was like…when everything was going to shit."

"I don't." Jessie said sourly. "I was a little girl then…but I still remember all the screaming…" She paused a moment, running the light idlely over the shelves. "The city was burning for days, and my…" she stopped herself. Foxx looked at her but said nothing. He decided to leave her alone with her thoughts for the time being and explore the rest of the building.

Foxx walked along the posters and kicked aside empty cans. There was nothing here. He looked over and Jessie had disappeared behind a stack of shelves, so he walked further along the wall until he came to a utility door. On it there was a sign, with that word again.

"Quarantine." Foxx said to himself as he idly pushed open the door. The bolt lock on it had rusted off years ago.

Inside what used to be a docking bay was now several beds with large plastic sheets hanging over them. The room was only illuminated by the dust from windows near the ceiling so Foxx turned on his flashlight and shined it over the beds. Most of them were covered in moss, others were torn and stained with blood. Quietly Foxx walked further into the room, pushing aside an empty cart. He reached the far end of the room and shifted his weight. Nothing here, either.

"Hey, Jessie-!"

Something tore through the plastic sheets behind him. Foxx sprung forward as it latched onto his back, snarling and screeching. Foxx fell onto his stomach, throwing his back from side to side and the creature fell off, scampering into the darkness on the other side of the room.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" Foxx cried out, pulling himself by his palms against the opposite wall. He stood up and snatched his flashlight from the ground. Whatever it was, it had ripped off his bandages. Consciously Foxx gingerly touched his wounds. They were still tender, and needed be redressed…quickly. Jessie came running in as Foxx shined the light across the room.

"What happened?" she asked shrilly, noticing first his face. There was a growl and a Primeape appeared from the shadows. His body had long since withered away, presenting him as somewhat a pokemon skeleton. A large chunk of his lower jaw was missing. His eyes were red and his furry cheeks were stained, as if he cried blood at one time. He snarled at them and scampered on all fours at Jessie, who cried out as he leaped.

"JESSIE!" Foxx yelled, running over to her, swinging his flashlight wildly. The creature pounced onto Jessie and began clawing at her, spitting blood and mucus. Jessie held her hands over her face, desperately trying to push him away. Somewhere deeper in the store was another howl, equal to that of the pokemon.

Foxx grabbed the Primeape and pulled it off Jessie. The pokemon toppled over and quickly scrambled to its feet, drooling mucus. He snarled at Foxx and his eyes seemed to glow in the darkness. He charged, like a dog, at the boy and Foxx ended it with a swing of the butt of his flashlight. Their backs were facing the doorway, and behind them shopping carts were crashing over each other. Both spun to see several more pokemon howling as they clamored over each other toward Foxx and Jessie.

"CLOSE THE DOOR!" Jessie demanded, running to it. Foxx met up with her and the two slammed the doors shut. On the other side the beasts clamored and pounded against it. Foxx pressed his back against the doorway as Jessie snatched a broom and lodged it between the handles.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" Jessie screeched.

"Is there a way out of here?" Foxx panted, staring at the Primeape on the floor. The pokemon cringed slightly. It was still alive.

"Through here!" Jessie sprinted across the room to the docking bay doors. She squatted down and tried to slip her fingers underneath the metal.

"It's not budging!" she grunted. She glanced over at Foxx, who was frozen in the spot, trying to decide whether or not to reinforce the other door.

"HELP ME GODDAMNIT!" she screeched. Foxx shook out of his daze and assisted Jessie. The door was rusted and had not been moved in several years, it tremored but otherwise did nothing.

"There's gotta be, a, uh,…uh.." Foxx stood up, glancing back at the door supported by the broom handle. It was shaking violently. "A, um.."

"WHAT!" Jessie demanded. She slapped him hard across the face. "FOCUS, GODDAMNIT!"

"There's gotta be a switch..or a lever, or something, right?" Foxx spat out finally. "Start looking for something that will release the door!"

The two of them ran their flashlights along the walls frantically, looking for something to open the door. Behind them the broom was starting to splinter.

"THERE!" Jessie called. She grabbed hold of a lever, covered in cobwebs, and yanked on it. At first it wouldn't budge. Foxx positioned himself in front of the bay doors. After another budge, the lever pulled and the locks on the door released. Together they lifted the bay doors open just as the broom handle was beginning to give.

They scrambled outside and slammed the docking bay doors shut behind them. Inside howls of dismay echoed.

"They'll be coming around soon," Jessie panted. "C'mon, let's go."

Foxx nodded and ran a hand through his sweaty, greasy hair. Without thinking he had touched his wound and yelped.

"C'mon you pussy," Jessie grunted, grabbing his hand. The two of them ran down the street, dodging abandoned traffic. Two blocks away from the store there was a fire escape where they found refuge on top of a building. Down below there were echoing, frantic footsteps and growls along the vacant walls of deserted buildings.

For a moment Jessie and Foxx sat in silence, listening to the infected and their frantic search. The two sat on their haunches, staring out into nothing as the afternoon sun began to give way to evening.

"It's going to be dark soon." Foxx pointed out finally, looking over at Jessie. "Where do you wanna go?"

Jessie frowned, forgetting for a moment that she was supposed to be hating Foxx's guts.

"We passed a couple windows on the way up," Jessie said, beckoning to the fire escape. "Let's try one of those."

An hour later Foxx was standing in a grimy bathroom gingerly touching his wound. Underneath the patches the cuts had become infected, despite The Rangers' efforts. Foxx relished the irony that the ones whom had inflicted this on him could not at least clean his wounds properly…on the other hand, maybe this is what they wanted, for causing so much trouble.

He sighed and tried to wipe the mirror again. It was peppered in dirt and grime that had developed there over decades. His efforts, both to clean himself and the mirror were fruitless and he balanced his palms against the porcelain of the sink in spite of himself. He must have been transmitting a signal, he figured, because Jessie walked in from the next room.

"C'mon, sit." she ordered softly, beckoning to a couch in the next room.

"Why?"

"Because I'm going to take care of that." Jessie replied simply, ripping a bedsheet in half. Foxx sulked over to the couch where Jessie was sitting and sat down.

"What is this, leather?" he asked, running his hands over the texture of the couch. As if the leather didn't add to his sexual tension toward her-she had drawn the shades and lit small candle near the couch, illuminating the room in a dull, flickering light.

"Whoever lived here was a total bachelor." Jessie mused, glancing at the scented candle but focusing most of her attention on the bedsheet as she ripped it into strips. "There's all kinds of single-guy shit around here."

"Like what?"

"Like kinds of gross shit that I don't wanna talk about," Jessie answered. "Look at me."

Foxx turned his head to face her and she began lining up the sheets with his wound. She frowned.

"We're gonna have to disinfect this." she said softly. There was a bottle of vodka on a nightstand next to the couch that she grabbed and dabbed with another sheet.

"Where'd you get that?" Foxx asked, eyeing the bottle.

"Easy, boy." Jessie said carefully. "Single guy apartment, there's a bunch of booze around here. This liquor will help cleanse it…we'll take care of your other craving later."

Foxx could do nothing but stare at the bottle until the sting of the vodka hit his face. He grimaced.

"You're gonna have to take off your shirt if you don't want this all over you. Either that or sit still, damnit."

Foxx sighed and took off his shirt. He continued to flinch as she rubbed the stinging liquor into his cuts.

Jessie cleaned his wounds and redressed them. When she was done, she turned his head in her hands to make sure the bandages were secure enough.

"They really did a number on you." she observed.

"I'm useless." Foxx blurted out. His gaze turned down to the ground in shame.

"What?"

"This should be the other way around," Foxx continued. "Here YOU are, taking care of ME,"

"Foxx, I'm not babying you or anything-"

"You are," Foxx retorted. "And it's not your fault, it's all mine." he replied. "It's my fault you're traveling with me in the first place. Barry was a fucking asshole, but he was right, we were only gonna slow each other down…that is, I was going to slow YOU down."

Jessie watched him solemnly.

"I told The Rangers that if anybody touched you, I'd kill them-and the first thing that fucking happens when we get into danger, I freeze up! You had to fucking SCREAM at me to get my attention-otherwise we'd both be dead right now." He sighed, trying to hold back tears. "I'm nothing, Jessie, I'm really nothing at all. I'm a fucking alcoholic with nightmares and baggage, and.." he choked, running his hands up into his greasy hair. "..and I'm nothing without a girl who already hates me."

Foxx's head hung and he felt the back of his throat tighten. He had never been tough, he was just an act. He was even reluctant to kill mindless zombies because they reflected people. Jessie cupped his chin in her hand.

"Foxx…I don't hate you," Jessie said softly, and pulled him into a deep kiss.

Foxx clung to her, drawing away for a breath, then in again. Jessie's hands gradually snaked down to his pants and the two fell against the couch, kissing passionately amidst the dim light of the candle. They made love that night as if it would be their last, and when their dance was done, both fell into a deep slumber.

As Foxx slept he dreamt more of the red eyed men… 'The Union', as The Rangers called them. He dreamt of trench coats dragging along the floor as the men with red eyes searched endlessly for him. It was no longer a mystery as to what they were searching for…they were looking for clues…an intuition..a feeling….anything that would lead them to Foxx; the prize at the end of the long maze. In the back of his mind there was a tingling sensation that it wouldn't be long until they found him. They would find him, and they would kill him. They would rape Jessie and kill her, too. When their remains were broken and beaten, they would loot the bodies and leave the rest to the infected and dying.

In the abyss of his slumber the man named Boomer was grinning so wide that his lips were splitting. His eyes were large and devilish, they gleamed under the hot lights as they fixated themselves on Foxx.

Boomer drew the knife its holster at his hip and touched the blade, the scraggly metal drawing blood from his own fingers.

"Please!" Foxx choked. No ropes held him down, yet his limbs refused to work. The knife danced along his skin, brushing over his legs to his abdomen, then to his chest. "PLEASE!"

It sunk in deep, Boomer's grin stretching the muscles in his face, a hideous rumbling in his throat evolving to horrific laughter. Blood seeped from Foxx's wound and he howled in pain, feeling every fiber of muscle rip under the blade as it cut his veins; he was going to die…

In his last ounce of consciousness he gazed long and hard at Boomer, and watched his face twist and conform to match that of a man with glowing red eyes. Darkness bled over his face and as such, a long trunk protruded from his mouth. His head rounded out and became a thick shell, and his body was drenched in a thick cloak. Gloved hands cupped Foxx's chin and stared him in the face with those horrible, awful, glowing red eyes.

"TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE!" Boomer demanded, his voice now deep and even more menacing. "YOU KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO!"

Foxx could only gurgle as blood filled his mouth. Boomer's trunk released from his mouth and opened into wide jaws, filled with jagged teeth. Each tooth was a rusty knife, with blood seeping between them.

Oh god,

oh god

OH GOD…

Foxx awoke the same way he always did.

Sweaty, naked and mildly drunk.

Jessie's hand was placed firmly over his mouth and she was watching the ceiling carefully. Or at least, what Foxx assumed was the ceiling. The room was so dark that he could barely make out the outlines of her face. Slowly he brought his hands up to touch her fingers. She pulled her hand away slowly.

"Someone's upstairs." she whispered.

"We checked." Foxx argued.

"Shh!" she whispered again furiously. The two of them sat in the darkness for another moment. Foxx debated whether or not to put on pants, and also to drink more of that vodka. His head was still buzzing hard from pounding it earlier.

"I told you-"

Above them something was dragging across the floor. Foxx felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on-end. Jessie's hands were icy cold, shivering slightly. He wished that he could comfort her, but after The Rangers and his nightmare, Foxx had not a shred of dignity left. With his one unbandaged eye he watched in a silent horror as dust flicked down from the floorboards above them. A dull thud, and then a drag. Something was pulling itself across the floor above them. A few yards away was the cellar door. Whatever it was, all it had to do was drag itself a few more feet to the right and it would reach the cellar door, pry it open, and feast upon the contents below.

"Foxx…"

"Let's go see." Foxx whispered feverously.

The apartment was a duplex; in the back hallway there was a set of steps leading to the apartment above. How this was managed back in the old days, Foxx would never know, but regardless it didn't make their predicament any easier. Through the door and up the stairs they crept until they arrived at the top floor, a room coated with dust and reeking of mold and other unmentionables.

In his head Foxx queried as to whether someone had been living up here in recent times.

Jessie touched his hand and beckoned to the right. They stood in an entryway, several feet ahead was a hallway with a few rooms branching off. The footsteps had ceased, but there was still audible movement in the room at the far end of the hallway. Foxx stepped in first, refusing to allow his spite for Jessie put her in harms' way. The two crept along the empty hallway full of old pictures and long-since withered plants, and came to the room where the noise was birthed. Inside someone was breathing in choked, wheezing gasps.

Foxx's heart was pounding.

In her nervousness Jessie grabbed his hand.

Foxx wished that he could comfort her, but he was just as frightened as she was. Together they turned the corner.

The room was empty.

Empty except for two large oval eyes drawn on the wall.

Something about it crept down Foxx's spine and shook him deeply.

"We need to go." he whispered.

"What is it?" Jessie demanded. She glanced at him then back at the eyes.

"I don't know." Foxx admitted hurriedly. "We just…we just have to go."

Light seeped into the doorway.

"What the hell?"

Foxx spun on his heel and saw the hallway behind them was filling up with light.

"Someone's outside." Jessie breathed. She pulled Foxx back into the room. The steps creaked and there was audible shuffling downstairs.

"We gotta go, we gotta go," Foxx panted quietly, peering out into the hallway.

Behind him the eyes cast a gaze so cold that he could feel its presence…as though the picture were actually conscious…as if it were watching him.

The white light spread further into the room and Foxx and Jessie ran. They darted into the hallway, down the steps, and back to the apartment where a crowd of figures lying in wait.

Their voices making an odd, deep croak that was unintelligible. In their gloved hands were assault rifles, cocked and at the ready.

It was them.

The men with the red eyes, from Foxx's nightmares.

The gas masks, the glowing embers for pupils.

The long, leather cloaks.

They croaked again and the two clamored back up the steps, through the upstairs duplex. Helicopters roared outside. There was a collective of scrambling footsteps behind them. They darted down the hallway and around the corner, into a small kitchen.

"There's a window-fire escape!" Jessie panted. They scrambled through the window and onto the fire escape. A search light was roaming the area and somewhere at the street level there was the loud hum of engines.

"They have fucking cars?" Jessie shrieked. Foxx couldn't hear her, he was too fixated on the thought of red eyes following him wherever he went. They jumped down to the street level and ran down the dark alley. Jessie tripped and Foxx stumbled as he tried to help her up. Behind them flashlight beams illuminated the walkway and they continued to run.

Foxx's head was spinning from his buzz and he was having increased difficulty running. Though his heart was pounding, he felt as though his legs would give out at any minute. Jessie was fit and conditioned to sprinting, she was already several steps ahead of him before a pair of hands snatched Foxx into the darkness.

He wasn't even able to yelp before a thick glove clamped over his mouth and a familiar smell washed his nostrils.

"It's Boomer. You shut the fuck up and follow me."

He released Foxx's mouth briefly, though his other arm still repressed Foxx tightly.

"But Jessie-!"

"..is running into a trap," Boomer replied simply. "It was either you or her, and since they seem to want you so badly, they'll probably let her go."

"You don't know that!" Foxx hissed. Boomer turned him around roughly.

"You see that?" he pointed from the shadows. Overhead two helicopters were soaring toward Jessie's position. "That's a FUCKING ARMY. There's no way-"

"FUCK YOU!" Foxx spat, ripping away. Before Boomer could react, Foxx sprint toward Jessie, out of the alley, and into the street.

Where Jessie was on her knees before a crowd of cloaked men.

One of them stood before all the others, with a revolver pointed at Jessie's forehead.

"WHERE IS HE?" he croaked. "WHERE IS THE ARK?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" Jessie sobbed. "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE FUCKING TALKING ABOUT!"

Foxx, still in the shadows, scrambled to find something; anything he could throw. He needed to save her. He needed to save Jessie. He scooped a rock from the ground and hurled it toward the man. In his dizziness, however, his aim was off and the rock clattered away, having missed his target by several feet. Some of the surrounding men looked in the direction of the rock, but otherwise were undisturbed.

They were looking for him.

He had drank too much, he couldn't fight.

He couldn't even hit a close target with a fucking rock.

"I'M HERE!" Foxx yelled, stepping from the shadows.

His declaration was droned out by the roar of a revolver as it sent a bullet through Jessie's skull. The girl collapsed onto the ground immediately, a chunk of her skull missing and a pool of blood gathering beneath it.

"NOOOO!" Foxx howled, running to her. The men, surprised, readied their rifles.

"LOWER YOUR WEAPONS!" the leader ordered swiftly. "It is The Ark!"

Foxx fell to his knees and scooped Jessie into his arms. Her body was limp and lifeless; her eyes had rolled into the back of her head. There were splits in her skull where the round had created distress. Blood was oozing steadily onto his shirt but Foxx couldn't find himself caring less. He hugged her tightly, sobbing.

"By order of The President, you are hereby under arrest-"

"FUCK YOU!" Foxx spat, scrambling to his feet. He stumbled toward the man and swung his fist. He missed and received a hard blow to the jaw. Surprised and hurt, Foxx tumbled back to his haunches, only to scramble back up again.

The man holstered his revolver and grabbed Foxx's wrist. A pair of handcuffs jingled into view.

"You are hereby under arrest for confiding in The Enemy, as well as evading your civic duty to His Holiness-"

"FUCK YOU!" Foxx howled again, sobbing as he collapsed to the ground next to Jessie. Several of the men came forward to pull him back up.

"Save some dignity," The leader retorted. "You don't want your woman to die in vain."

"I'LL KILL YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!" Foxx screamed. "I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"

"Restrain him!" The leader ordered. The soldiers held Foxx and the leader marched around to face him. Foxx could feel the man's wicked smile creeping behind the gas mask.

"Now son," the man said simply. "We will transport you to back to The Presidential Headquarters, where you will serve His Holiness. Kicking and screaming, You WILL serve your civic duty and to that of the Poke'mon Island Federal Government," he glanced at Jessie's lifeless body on the pavement. Overhead the helicopters were prepping to land. "And through this you will learn a whole new world of pain…far worse than what I've just done to you."

"Then I'll lead by example." a voice erupted from the shadows. A soldier yelped and the men dropped Foxx onto his haunches.

Overhead a helicopter was laying a spotlight on their position. On the edge of it, a soldier yelped as he was pulled into the darkness.

"OPEN FIRE!" The leader commanded. The men fired multiple shots into the darkness. Another soldier yelped and was dragged away. Foxx fidgeted in his handcuffs as he rolled over, desperately trying to see what was going on.

Moments later Boomer seemed to materialize from the shadows, grabbing a third soldier, using his own weight to turn the soldier sideways, and stabbed the man in the back. As remaining soldiers fired, Boomer turned the man against himself as a human shield. He shoved the body at the men and fell back into the shadows.

"SPREAD OUT!" The commander barked. "TURN ON YOUR NIGHTVISION!"

Another helicopter loomed on the horizon. Foxx desperately tried to free himself from the handcuffs, but only succeeded in falling to his side. His face fell right into Jessie's blood. His stomach churned.

Something small clattered to the ground behind him. By the time he looked to see what it was, smoke billowed out of it and the soldiers were firing blinldy. Someone scooped him up and pulled him into the darkness.

"What the fu-?"

"SHUT UP." Boomer said gruffly.

Foxx rubbed his wrists and winced slightly. Boomer had definitely not been gentle when he pulled Foxx away from The Union soldiers. He looked over at his savior who was grunting as he walked, staring forward. He seemed to refuse to look Foxx in the eye as they marched into the parking structure. The sun was just coming over the horizon and Foxx could finally make out the visible damage to Boomer's body.

He was dressed in shards of lean armor that covered his body. Each piece was spray painted black. There were cracks and distresses in it, he had been shot a couple times. Blood was smeared on his suit and though Boomer probably hated him, Foxx couldn't have been more grateful.

"I know what you're thinking," Boomer wheezed as he led Foxx into the parking structure.

"What?"

"You want to thank me for saving your worthless ass," he continued. For a moment Boomer leaned against the wall and stared at Foxx with cold, dead eyes. "Let's get one thing straight…I don't like you, and I never will. The only reason that I saved you is because Surge thinks you're so goddamn important. Are we straight?"

Foxx's gaze turned to the ground.

"Yeah."

They approached a utility door and Boomer knocked three times. A peephole slid open.

"It's me," Boomer said. "I'm hurt, let me in."

They were allowed entry and as they walked inside, Ian Surge was waiting for them.

"How many, Boomer?" he asked.

"Probably 50 or so…really spread out," Boomer replied. "I got 4."

Another man walked up to Ian, about to say something.

"Patch Boomer up." Ian told him. The man nodded and assisted Boomer. When they were alone, Ian rubbed the scruff on his face and simply looked at Foxx, who was too embarrassed to look him in the eye.

"I want in." Foxx said finally.

"What do you mean, 'in'?"

"I want to be like you guys…I want to be a Ranger."

Ian smirked and folded his arms.

"And here I thought you had things handled…why the change of heart?"

Foxx finally mustered the courage to look Ian in the eye.

"I don't want to be scared anymore. I don't want to be a pussy about everything." His mind went back to Jessie, laying there in a pool of blood. For a moment he remembered her warmth, her touch…

"Now I have something worth fighting for."

Loved it, hated it, lemme know!