Ah and so ends this story. Its been one hell of a trip, almost a year worth of work, thirty-three chapters and tons of amazing reviews. And I never woulda thought that a story would make me the amazing friends that I have to this day. Its blown my mind how much of a response this story's gotten and I can only hope that the character histories I'm gonna release and the sequel can match it. So I hope y'all have enjoyed 'Separated' and that this chapter is up to your standards.
Chapter 33- War; Sick Puppies
'Faking falls, stop and stall, take it back 'cause I'm taking mine, I'm taking mine. Time is up, out of luck, should have stood up when you had the time but you're out of time.'
"Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind."- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
It took the two humans and two Infected about four hours from dawn to make it to the cabin. All the while, it had been snowing lightly, leaving a fresh powdering on all surfaces and making the going tough. The air was quiet when they entered the yard, but an out of place scent made Alec stop short, causing Wolfen to run into him, Spirit into Wolfen and Philo almost into Spirit. "What's wrong?" Wolfen asked, taking a step back quickly and sending Spirit back into Philo and almost into the snow if the Smoker hadn't caught her arm.
"There's some strange smell..." the Hunter muttered, scanning the area. He noticed fresh prints in the snow near one of the windows which made his stomach do a flip. "Someone's been here." he growled, his body curling into a slight crouch as he moved forward, testing the air every few steps. The humans clicked the safety off their weapons and Philo kept all his senses on high alert for anything coming from behind. Alec turned the corner to the front door and came to a short stop. "Gregory? What are you doing here?" he asked, his mind traveling back to his disturbing dream.
The Smoker turned slowly toward him like he had all the time in the world, looking the Hunter up and down, taking in his defensive position. "Oh just popping in to say hello while we move north." he replied simply waving his hand absently and smirking. "I was just about to knock." he motioned at the door, his smirk deepening. "And I sort of have a proposition for you." his smirk faded and his expression turned serious and tired. Alec nodded, prompting him to continue. "This revolution... is no longer just that. It's a war. And its no long just between Infected and the military. I have a plan, a much more grand plan than I did before." his eyes shone with a scary light as he focused his full attention on Alec. "And I want you to join my army. You are much stronger than any Hunter, much more intelligent as well. You would be a valuable asset to our cause."
"Cause? And what cause would that be?" Alec growled suspiciously. He didn't like the look on Gregory's face, nor did he trust the scary gleam in his milky eyes.
"Why to exterminate the human race of course." the Smoker said it gleefully, like he was talking about picking out a puppy or picking flowers. Not wiping out all humans, the very things that all Infected had been at one time. "Oh I know what you're thinking." he clapped his hands together, rubbing them slightly and moving toward Alec slowly. "I'm crazy. Its impossible to take out all humans. But that's the very thing Alec. With how many Infected there are versus the meager number of humans left it will be easy. It will be like a game."
"You're out of your mind." the Hunter snarled, crouching even more. "And I'd much rather stay out of this disaster in the making."
Gregory frowned, his entire expression darkening and his shook his head in a semblance of dismay. "Oh Alec, you don't know what you're saying."
"I know exactly what I'm saying. Gregory, we were humans too at one point! You can't take out the very thing we were."
The Smoker's frown turned into almost a snarl and he clenched his hands a this side. "I can't? Let me tell you something. I was a scientist at that lab your friends found me in. And one of the first test subjects besides your own family of course." Alec's heart clenched at that, his mind flashing back to the night he had been Infected. "You see, you were born for one purpose and one purpose only. To be a test subject in your father's experiments. I was one of his most trusted scientists and consultants and he told me everything he planned to do. When he had completed his research, he was going to take you to the lab in Colorado, he was going to test on you, see the effects of the 'green flu' on the human body. But something went wrong at the lab he had in Florida. I was there visiting to get some updates on the research." he was circling Alec now and the Hunter was breathing hard as all the information he was being told hit him hard. "There was an accident and some of the samples, incomplete samples, were released into the water and air vents. All the scientists there were shipped to Colorado where it was more secure. We were locked in cells and were slowly weeded through as other researchers tried to come up with a way to reverse the incomplete virus. But it got out into the public and spread." he chuckled darkly, his expression gleeful and furious at the same time. "Then your father came up with the brilliant plan to mutate the virus further, turn it into a weapon. I know the Infection inside and out Alec. I know how every Infected ticks. Don't think you can fool me with your passiveness and reluctance to fight. I know the mind of the Hunter well."
"You know nothing about me." Alec rasped back, his breath still coming in short gasps. Gregory made a motion with one hand. Alec heard startled yelps behind him and watched, horrified as an unfamiliar Smoker and Caden dragged Wolfen and Spirit before them. "Let them go." Where's Philo?
"I don't think so. I'm going to make an example of them, then move on to your brother and lover." Gregory cackles and moved toward Wolfen first, examining him closely. Alec watched their faces, staring briefly into Caden's eyes, his own accusing and betrayed. He locked his red gaze into Spirit's own icy gray-blue one and his heart skipped when she smirked at him. She opened her mouth wide and clamped her jaws down on one of Caden's arms, making him howl and jerk back, releasing her. She threw herself at the Smoker holding Wolfen, allowing him to grab his pistol and drive a bullet through its skull. Caden was pinning Spirit to the ground the next instant, Gregory holding Wolfen firmly with a tongue coming out the back of his neck, scowling darkly at them. "A lot of fight in you two isn't there. No matter, you'll still be taken care of one way or another."
Alec trembled slightly as he watched Gregory slowly tighten his hold around Wolfen's middle. There was nothing he could do. If he leaped at Gregory, Caden would tear Spirit apart. If he leaped at Caden, Gregory would crush Wolfen's body in his grip. Gritting his teeth, he sucked in a deep breath, about to say something that may have very well been the end of him and what humanity he clung to when a sharp gunshot pierced the air and Gregory's tongue was severed. The Smoker yelled with pain as yellow-green blood dripped down his back. He glared up at the second story window of the cabin where Joshua was holding a hunting rifle to his eye, his finger still rested on the trigger. Alec took the opportunity of the Smoker being distracted to leap on Caden. The other Hunter snarled as he was flung off of Spirit's back and into the snow, rolling with Alec in a flurry of flashing claws and fangs. He knew he was outmatched by the stronger and faster Hunter and tried to run off into the forest but Alec didn't let him. He pinned Caden down into the snow, driving his face into a root of a tree near by, tearing open his cheek and drawing blood.
When Alec looked up, he saw that Gregory had run off, a trail of dripped Smoker blood leading for several yards into the snowy forest before disappearing. "Coward." he spat, digging his claws into the back of Caden's neck as he tried to squirm free. The front door of the cabin opened as Alec jerked Caden to his feet, keeping a firm grip on his neck and wrists as he shoved him over to where Wolfen was pulling Spirit to her feet. The female human immediately stalked over to Caden and slugged him in the face, one hand resting on a pistol between her back and jeans as she scowled at him. No one said anything until Ellis, Joshua and Philo had come out of the cabin and come to a stop before them. "So what are we gonna do about this?" he dug his claws further into Caden's wrists, making him whimper some.
"Its not like we can let him go back to Gregory." Ellis mused, his voice still raspy from his cold. His blue eyes locked onto Alecs, shining with unsure and scared sparks of emotion.
"But what information can he give us?" Joshua inquired, moving closer to Caden and narrowing his eyes. The Hunter's nose was bleeding now from where Spirit had hit him and he was looking down at the ground. His hood was pulled off his head now, revealing light chestnut colored hair that shadowed his eyes. A long scar ran from his ear to his chin and his face was narrow, young. "Hey." Joshua snapped firmly, getting Caden to glance up at him. "Can you speak the human tongue again or not?" the Hunter remained quiet, clenching his jaw shut and glancing off to the side. A low growl pulled from deep in Alec's chest at his defiance and he moved one of his hands from the back of his neck to gripping his jugular, ready to rip it out.
"C'mon kid. Don't make this hard on yourself. You're obviously out numbered, out gunned, and out matched." Philo hissed, looking like he wanted to cross his arms if he had both of his arms. He settled for pulling on his jacket some. "Why not tell us what you know?"
"Because I know who I'm loyal to. You two are betraying your kind by siding with these... humans." Caden spat, glaring up at the Smoker.
"You're demented." Alec growled. He looked from face to face, looking for any protest to tearing out Caden's throat and nodded sharply. He tightened his claws into the young Hunter's neck and pulled, blood spraying onto the snow as Alec ripped out his wind pipe. Caden's body spazmed for a second before going limp and Alec let the body fall into the snow.
"Where do we go now? We can't stay here." Ellis asked, moving to stand beside Alec and placing a hand on the Hunter's shoulder as he sunk into his own thoughts. "Gregory will be back soon with more Infected and they won't let us get out unscathed." no one answered for a long time before Spirit let out a thoughtful noise and spoke up, her voice quiet and thoughtful.
"You guys have a map in there by any chance? I have an idea." she inquired, rubbing her chin lightly and brushing some snow off of her leather jacket. Joshua nodded, motioning for her to follow him and lead her inside. Wolfen narrowed his eyes, keeping close to his companion, still not sure whether or not he should trust such a large group of unfamiliar people.
Alec sighed as the door closed behind them and reached up, folding his hand over Ellis's, feeling the slight fever that he still had. "Seems like peace is unattainable for us doesn't it?" he laughed bitterly and shook his head. He wiped his bloody claws off on his jacket and sighed. Ellis tugged lightly on his sleeve, nodding toward the cabin silently as Philo turned toward it as well. They said nothing as they moved into the slightly heated cabin where Spirit, Wolfen, and Joshua were bent over a large map of the country. Spirit was bent the closest, her eyes squinted so she could read it better, her finger tracing a highway heading west.
"I know where we can go." she murmered, not looking up as the other three stopped around the table. "Problem is, we gotta cross a desert to get there."
"And where is this place?" Ellis asked, looking where her fingers were sliding. "California?"
"Yeah. My grandmother's sister had a house in L. A. I haven't been there since I was four but I spent two months there. I think I could find it again once we find the Manhattan Beach area." she looked up, locking her foggy gray-blue eyes on each person around her. "I think its our only chance. Unless you boys have a better idea, that's our best bet." she tapped the city marker for Los Angelas lightly.
"That's all fine'n dandy, but what about crossing over the mountains then getting through Nevada. As much as I'd love to get out of the frozen hell we've fallen into, I'd also much rather not die of thirst." Philo snorted, tilting his head at the state between Colorado and California.
"Hey, we've been through worse. Think of this as another challenge." Ellis countered with a slight grin.
"Yeah right, but its obvious that you're still sick," Wolfen cut in, pointing at Ellis, "And she has a broken leg and cracked ribs." he motioned at Spirit who tried to look insulted but couldn't manage it. "While we may not be better off staying here or trying to move north, I don't think either of you could make a trek through the frozen mountains and the desert."
"Oh and what about you Mr. I just got the crap squeezed outta me by a Smoker?" Spirit snorted, crossing her arms and wincing some as her shoulder ached. "And what about that gash on your shoulder? It hasn't been treated yet and I can smell the infection from here." she waved a hand in front of her nose for emphasis and forcing a smirk. "You do have a point though. I don't think I would be able to make the trip."
"Oh please. That's the talk of a coward." Joshua jumped in suddenly, earning a nasty glare from Spirit at the accusation. "You've made it this far haven't you? How long has your leg been broken?"
"About a week or two."
"So it should be mostly healed by now huh? Or at least down to a fracture. I think you'd be able to make it." he blinked at the looks he was getting and scowled. "What? I may normally hang in the background but I have opinions of my own thanks." he grumbled, kicking the floor absently. He turned his blue eyes to his brother, frowning slightly. "Speaking of, you're being awful quiet."
Alec blinked, pulling himself out of his thoughts and shifted his weight some. "Ellis is right. We've been through worse." he growled, his voice hard. "I think we should make the trip." he locked eyes with his brother, then with Ellis who smiled softly. Alec's heart clenched some as he thought of what he had almost lost not ten minutes ago. If Philo hadn't slipped away and gotten Joshua's and Ellis's attention then Alec would have agreed to join Gregory if only to let Spirit and Wolfen as well as Joshua and Ellis live another day. Mentally slapping himself, he shifted closer to Ellis and looked from face to face. "We should leave as soon as possible."
Holy crap this is a short chapter and holy crap that's a horrible place to leave off, especially for the end of a story. But I'm going to start work on the sequel as well as Alec's, Philo's, and Joshua's histories and get them posted as soon as I can. Thank you to every one who's ever even glanced at this story from the deepest depths of my heart. You have no idea how appreciated it is and I hope to continue work like this in the future.