*fanfare and cheering as the Emcee enters into the ring* WE HAVE A CHANGE IN THE LINEUP! *crowd murmurs* PRESENTING INKI VEINS AND JALOS! *crowd goes wild*
n_n happy face. Hello, all you happy people! Guess who! So, I know, I've been MIA for months now and I know a lot of you have been waiting for updates to Prey Ploy (And I'm Working On It!), but this is something new (and good, I hope *fingers crossed*): a co-op work with my new partner-in-crime, Jalos! Take it away!
Greetings and salutations, everyone! If you read my stories, you may notice that there has been something of a lack of updates recently. The reason is due to my brain being overtaxed by college, being trod upon by writer's block, and using all of its energy to write this story. So, I'm really sorry, but it doesn't look very good for my other stories, at least for the time being.
Aaanyway. My 'partner-in-crime' as she so eloquently put it has been a big help, and by that I mean she's gotten me off my sorry ass and gotten me writing. I'm very happy with this story and excited with where it's going, and I hope you all had as much fun reading it as we did writing it!
Hope you all enjoy. n_n Now, don't forget to visit both of our pages after you read!
Now for the boring stuff. *crowd disperses to concession stands* HEY! TAKE YOUR SEATS! *crowd unwillingly returns to their seats*
DISCLAIMER: Neither Jalos nor I own any single part of the L4D series. We own any cities that were not mentioned in game play, our Immunes and Infected (not in concept), and the actions of said characters. I myself claim the Huntress concept to be mentioned later and any factoids that do not necessarily pertain to game play. You'll understand my gibberish later, pinki Inki promise.
WARNING: This is rated M for Mature content, to include violence, language, and sexually explicit content. Those of you under the age of 18 who chose to read this should note that we did warn you. If any of you believe you may become offended by the content, please leave now via one of two buttons near the top of your screen. Have a nice day. Those of you willing to stay, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
The crowd murmured with awe at the indescribably volatile vixens before them. Three toned, smart, and killer beauties that no one would ever have believed could have been successfully trained to serve the military. The Master General of the base in Tartown, Pennsylvania rose from his seat at the front of the room and cleared his throat. Silence filled the air.
"Ladies," he stated in a demanding voice, "recite your current statistics."
The first Witch, who had blue hair that fell around her face like a veil, stepped forward. Her skirt swayed slightly with the movement, but fell back at attention. "Number 1649-5. Alias: Jenevive. Combat training: 98. Stealth: 95. Strike force: 98. Hunting: 97. Total Training Average: 97." With those words, she stepped back into line with her comrades.
The second, whose hair was a fiery red in a ponytail, stepped to the front to follow suit. "Number 1653-5. Alias: Stephany. Combat training: 96. Stealth: 99. Strike force: 98. Hunting: 99. Total Training Average: 98." Back into line she went, her skirt barely stirring.
Finally, the last Witch stepped forward. Her plaid skirt caught the voyeuristic eyes of the males in the audience, but almost everyone became captivated by her sharp emerald eyes. Her black hair made her orbs stand out even more. She spoke in a voice that demanded attention and order from her listeners. "Number 1641-5. Alias: Raven. Combat training: 100. Stealth: 100. Strike force: 100. Hunting: 100. Total Training Average: 100."
An uproar began as the visiting military personnel laid their eyes on this absolutely perfect specimen. She scanned the faces discretely, taking note of how many of the people had chosen to keep their weapons handy. She inwardly scoffed at the insolence; if she wanted to kill them, she could very well do so, without much more than a paper cut on her person.
"Good fucking call, Garrett." The short sentence was spat as if it tasted foul, and the utterer chased it down with a swig from the whiskey bottle dangling from his thick fingers. Sitting on the hood of a military Humvee, one booted foot pulled up onto the vehicle and the other dangling off the side, he leaned back against the Humvee's windshield with a sigh, making sure to keep one hand loose around the grip of the shotgun resting in his lap.
The man was huge, standing an inch shy of six and a half feet and weighing what must of been more than two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, all of it muscle and most of it in his upper half. The wan moonlight played across his hard, chiseled features, his thick lips set into a disgruntled frown, his dark, angular eyebrows drawn down over his flinty eyes. Tipping the whiskey back and draining it, he tossed the bottle halfheartedly over his shoulder, listening to it shatter when it hit the pavement.
"Fucked up again, haven't you, big boy?" Garrett Everett muttered to himself, staring up at the star-threaded heavens. At least there was one good thing about the infection - ever since the power had gone out, you could always see the stars a lot more clearly.
Suddenly, the big man was broken from his reverie by a snarl from the alleyway to his left. The sound bounced and echoed off the brick walls of the confined space, and Garrett rolled off the vehicle on instinct, landing heavily on the opposite side of the Humvee from the alley, shotgun up and at the ready. Fighting for his life for the past couple of weeks had honed him to a razor's edge, and he already had one hand on the slide and a finger on the trigger before his conscious mind had processed what was going on.
The growl sounded again, closer this time, and Garrett took a risk. He stood up from behind his cover, gun up and tracking, as the Hunter leapt. The bestial Infected sailed through the air like some sort of demented circus performer launching from his trapeze, and Garrett squeezed the trigger.
There was an explosion of sound and fire, the night torn apart by a strident flash of a thunderous roar as the shotgun discharged. The Hunter flew face-first into the spray of buckshot, and Garrett sidestepped as the limp, mangled form hit the pavement with a wet smack that made the big man's gut turn. "Yeah," he sighed, racking the slide on his shotgun and watching pensively as the spent shell popped out. "Come on home. Yeah, it's the epicenter of the infection, but so what?" He barked a short, humorless laugh, and added "Good fucking call indeed. Just like all your other ones."
The Master General raised his hand, ceasing the uproar. He cleared his throat once again. "These three fine ladies are the result of a few months' worth of perseverance and dedication. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Team Whiskey, a product of the CARVS."
A short and thin man rose from his seat. STALLORI was etched on his name tag that was pinned to his chest. "What exactly is the CARVS?"
The Master General turned to Raven, who nodded in compliance. She stared Stallori right in the eyes and he tried not to slink back at the power behind her harmless, though attentive, gaze.
"CARVS is a mutated version of the Altered Rabies Virus Strand, or ARVS. There are two versions, one of which produces the Simple ARVS, or SARVS. Team Whiskey and the other teams on this base have CARVS, or Complex ARVS."
Stallori spoke again, "But what does that-"
The air in the room shifted as Jenevive appeared at the Navy man's throat. The room fell silent with awe and fear. No one had seen the blue-haired beauty move from her position. Everyone was paralyzed.
"Do not interrupt our commander, Immune," the Infected soldier hissed in a clear voice.
"Stand down, Jenevive," Raven commanded, hiding the pride she felt for her comrade behind a stoic gaze.
Just as quickly as she was at the man's throat, she was back in line, her face void of facial expressions. Raven waited for the Navy man to regain his composure, even as he sat down, face red.
"There are five sections of CARVS studied at this facility, and another four in another base in Georgia. The ranks increase from one to five based on an overall species-based performance. Team Whiskey, which houses what you Immunes label as Witches, is composed of five members."
An Air Force commander, a Ms. Retha, rose from her seat. "Where are these other two member of your team?"
"One member, Caroline, was KIA."
"Yet, you still claim her as a member."
"She will remain mentioned in our team until deemed otherwise by the Master General."
"And this other girl? Is she dead as well?" another, seated, voice called.
"No. She was not proper to present to you all today."
Raven dismissed the question with a wave of her hand. "No more questions will be asked of our team. Girls, move out."
The three Witches saluted the Immunes before descending the four metal steps and marching out of the door, leaving their Master General faced with a barrage of questions.
Call it vanity, call it narcissism but Garrett loved listening to his own music. His band, Storm of Lead, had made some of the most heart-pumping, head-banging power metal around, and listening to it now that the world had gone to hell inspired him, and helped calm his rapidly-fraying nerves.
So it was that the heavy, rhythmic guitar riffs of Our Final Hour were blasting from the speakers of the Humvee as it bounced and rolled along an old, overgrown forest trail.
Glancing out the window, Garrett grimaced as he saw a few dim shapes flitting between the trees. Wildlife or zombies? No way to tell from this distance. Turning his attention back to the road, he drove in relative peace for a few minutes before the growl of the engine died away. The roar of Garrett's music continued thanks to the car's battery, but the car ground to a halt, silent and lifeless.
Looking down at the dashboard, Garrett almost screamed in frustrated rage when he took in the fuel gauge sitting comfortably on 'Empty'.
Killing the music pounding out of the speakers, Garrett popped the door open and slid out, his heavy, ironshod boots throwing up clouds of dust from the old trail when he landed. Moving to the backseat he withdrew his shotgun and slung it over one shoulder, then grabbed his satchel of food and spare ammo and slung it over the other. Adjusting them in an attempt to get a bit more comfortable, Garrett started down the trail on foot, occasionally glancing side-to-side, into the dark, foggy woods.
"Oh, this has to be your best one yet," he muttered sourly as he walked. "Drive into the middle of the zombie-infested woods, at night, with a low tank of gas. Fucking A, Garrett. How the hell are you even still alive?"
Suddenly, he stopped dead as he heard a sound, coming from the woods somewhere to his... right? Left? Hell, he couldn't even tell where it was coming from. He didn't know if he'd even heard it, or if he'd finally snapped from all the stress and was starting to hallucinate.
Wait! There it was again. Faint, just on the edge of his hearing, but... it sounded like a voice. Not the growls and screams of an enraged Infected, but an actual human voice. It was hard to tell from this distance, but it sounded like a woman.
Luna kicked her feet off the edge of her bunk bed, book resting in her lap. She drew a curious finger over the words and the story continued to unfold before her, a fantastic movie in her mind's eyes. She could almost hear the voices, feel the pain of the heart-wrenching moment as Martha Williams began to tell her fiancé that his love would never suffice her addiction. Luna almost didn't hear the knocking on her door. She quickly shut the book and jammed it beneath her pillow.
The door creaked opened and a member of Team Hulu stood, his hood pulled from over his head but his light-sensitive eyes still covered with a pair of sunglasses. She recalled his name to be Scott.
"Luna, the Master General wants a word with you."
Luna's heart sank for a second. What did he want to see her for? The conference had to be over by now...She jumped from her bunk and straightened her purple skirt of a crease. Slowly, she followed her fellow Infected soldier down the housing corridor towards the more official section of the base. The eyes that watched didn't answer her question, and their murmurs simply elicited more worry. Why was she being called down to his office? No other soldier in the history of the base, especially not a Witch, had been called to his office.
She had memorized the path in her sleep for a good leg of the journey, but soon she ran into twists and turns that were so very new to her. The Hunter muttered what sounded like, "First right, then the third left" to himself as they walked.
Luna's throat felt dry. What could he possibly want? What had she done? Was she being scolded for something? The Hunter before her stopped in front of a pair of large, wooden doors. She took in a deep breath and fine wine assaulted her nose.
"Luna, you may enter," resonated from inside.
The young Witch wrapped one set of fingers around the brass knob and turned, a gust of cold wind greeting her. The room was dimly lit, leaving her to rely on her night-vision. Three figures were present. The Master General, an astonishingly handsome older gentleman who reminded her fondly of Kyle Craig from the Alex Cross series, sat behind the large mahogany desk.
The personal fitness trainer of the CARVS soldiers stood to the left of the desk, and her superior, Raven, was to the right.
The Master General had a glass in his hand, swirling the liquid with some thought.
"Luna, come in. We need to discuss an issue that has been brought to my attention," he said.
He cleared his throat. "Your statistics have been declining steadily, and the overall performance of this base is suffering because of these statistics."
Luna took in a shaky breath, her heart already aching.
"We can't have unfavorable members in our rankings. Especially since you are a member of the most revered section. So, this saddens me, but I must say that you will be terminated duly and all records of your existence expunged on the records.
A tear threatened to run down Luna's pale cheek at the news, but she forced it away. Declining statistics? Unfavorable member? Termination? Any other day and she would've broken down. But not today. Not now. She took in a deep breath to steady her nerves. "Permission to speak, sir?"
"If I may make a request, sir, I would like a second chance."
The Master General raised an eye to this. "A second chance?"
"Yes, sir. If I may, I'd like to be given a week to improve before you may terminate me."
Raven didn't flinch, but the personal fitness trainer shifted. She whispered something to the Master General, who nodded before whispering something back. The woman's frown drew even tighter, but she straightened up, facing forward.
"After a quick deliberation, I've decided to give you ten days. At the end, you will be subjected to a type of final exam to measure your progress. If you succeed, you can remain. However, if you fail, we will terminate you first thing the following morning."
"Understood, sir," Luna said in a surprisingly steady voice, even as tears threatened to pour down her cheeks. She saluted the three individuals and turned on her heel, exiting the room as the first droplet of water cascaded down her face.
She held her breath as the tears started to rush, running back out of the unfamiliar building to the outside. She found the metal doors and burst through them, the warm air allowing her the comfort she needed. Still, she held in her cries as she ran for a corner of the gated facility, hidden behind the rarely patrolled Aircraft carriers. Quickly, she scaled the chain link fence, landing uneasily on the other side.
Finally, when she was sure no one could hear her, she let loose a wail and fell to her knees like a stereotypical Witch.
"Why, Luna? Why can't you be like Jen and Steph and Raven? Why do you have to be such a disgrace to your team?" she wept to the moon above.
Garrett still hadn't found the source of the mysterious cries, and it was starting to get on his nerves. It sounded a little like a Witch, but... different. More human. Was it possible that someone else had survived this whole mess, or was he about to walk straight into a blender of fangs and claws?
Sighing, he adjusted the heavy pack a little on his shoulder - he could lift the whole rack on the shoulder-press machine, but after two weeks of this mess, even his muscles were starting to wear out - and looked around for the twentieth time since abandoning the Humvee.
He could see... something... through the trees, although he couldn't make out what he was looking at with the fog. It was large, blocky and angular, almost like... buildings? Was there some sort of outpost all the way out here in the ass end of nowhere?
Starting forward again, he turned sharply as something blundered through the trees toward him. His eyes locked on the lurching figure stumbling over roots, and he half-smiled. Just a Common. Raising his shotgun, he braced it against his hip and fired, the booming report echoing eerily through the trees as the unfortunate zombie was blasted backwards, its head and shoulders reduced to scraps of meat.
Racking the slide one-handed, Garrett turned back in the direction he'd been going but noticed that the voice had stopped. Startled by his gunshot, maybe? Creeping forward, trying to be as quiet as he could while wearing steel-toed boots, Garrett peered through the trees, trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything, that might have been making that noise before.
Then his foot caught in a root, and he pitched forward with a startled half-yell. The shotgun and ammo bag tumbled to the ground, and Garrett landed painfully, sliding a few inches in the carpet of dirt and dead leaves. Rolling over onto his back, he looked up straight into the eyes of the most beautiful - and most terrifying - woman he'd ever seen. "Um... hi?"
Luna's golden eyes, which were rimmed with red from her tears and rubbing, stared down at this face. This strangely...interesting face. She had jumped up at the gunshot and now was trying to put on her best killer face that she could through her distress.
"W-who are y-y-you?" she asked, trying to put an edge in her cracked voice.
The Immune on the ground before her was staring not at her, but under her...She scowled and jumped back, face flushed in anger. Some pervert! A hiss creeped up her throat. Her despair dissipated as she glared at her target, nails clicking together menacingly.
"Son of a bitch!" she screamed, throwing up a hand to lash at him. Her claws seemed to cut the light shining on his face. She threw her hand down to stab him in the face, but he rolled out of the way with seconds to spare, her fingers piercing the soft soil.
"Whoa! Hey! What the fuck?" he spoke, scrambling to his feet.
She withdrew her hand from the ground and charged again, aiming for his heart. Why the hell were these Immunes so perverse? Another swipe missed its mark and the barrel of a gun jabbed at her chest, just barely keeping her out of range. She stopped for a millisecond to gauge his intent.
This Immune, with his chiseled face and unruly hair, didn't have his finger on the trigger. He didn't want to kill her...so why was he here?
"State your name," she half-barked, eyes quivering at the strangeness of being irate
The Immune glared. "Witch or not, I don't take orders from no one."
She lunged and he poked her hard in her ribs. She hid her pain behind a stone face.
"You're a fool if you shoot me. You won't make it three steps before you're sliced and diced. Now, what's you name?"
The intruder froze, slowly lowering his weapon. "Garrett."
"Luna." She studied her visitor and something about him caught her interest. Could it be his stone-cold attitude, which reminded her of Ricky James the boxer, or his stunningly out-of-place charm, like Percy Jackson? "How did you find this place?"
"Uh, well, I was riding along and my fucking ride died on me."
She nodded, still trying to place him. Silence surrounded them and she watched as he nudged a rock with the toe of one boot. This Immune was so different, so strange, and yet...so familiar.
"So...what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" he tried with a corny one-liner.
She couldn't stop the giggle at the failed attempt at humor and a smile graced her features. Finally, someone new to talk to. That line did mean he wanted to talk to her...didn't it? She crossed her legs at her ankles and dropped to the ground, rearranging herself from Indian-style sitting to a more appropriate kneel.
"I've never talked to a common Immune before," she admitted.
Garrett scoffed at the term. "I ain't common worth shit. I used to be a big shot."
Luna giggled again. "Used to?"
Garrett's eyes hardened at her mockery. He turned on his heels, "I don't need your shit. I'm out of here."
Luna's ears perked up at the sound of the barrack doors opening. She rushed to her feet and at Garrett, practically throwing the man over her shoulder. Even with more than four times her weight on her back, she moved light on her feet and vanished into the cover of the trees, out of sight. Once she was sure he would be safe, she stopped and set him down.
"Holy shit! I thought I was hot shit with my strength."
Luna blushed. Goodness, she never realized that she had that kind of strength and speed before.
"Uh...I...sorry," she muttered. "I should go..."
Garrett's heart froze. He didn't know why, but something in him was screaming at him to not let this woman leave. One of his hands snapped out almost without him telling it to, grasping her shoulder in a hold that was at once gentle and firm. "Wait!" he said, although it came out sounding a little more forceful than he had intended.
Luna turned her head back over her shoulder, looking at him with a slightly startled expression. "Yes?"
"Uh..." Garrett fumbled for words. Honestly, he was unsure why he'd stopped her, but something about her... that glimmer in her eyes, the opalescent sheen of her fair skin, the beautiful hair tumbling in liquid tresses about her shoulders... he couldn't bear to see her leave. Not yet.
"Do you... live here?" he asked, but didn't remove his hand from Luna's shoulder. Glancing down at the appendage that had seemingly become attached to her body, the Witch replied simply "Yes."
Garrett swallowed. His throat was suddenly very dry. "Are you going to come back out?"
Luna looked indecisive, a range of emotions dancing in her eyes. "Maybe," she said. "I don't know. If the Master General finds out-..."
"Wait, wait," Garrett stopped her, removing his hand from her shoulder and stepping in front of her, slightly confused. "Who the hell is the Master General?"
Luna froze, and Garrett could see the pain behind her beautiful eyes, even though it was clear she was trying to hide it. Silence hung over the gloomy forest for several long moments, and then Garrett found himself reaching a hand up towards the Witch's face. His fingers touched her cheek and trailed down it, feeling the cold flesh, smooth as ice beneath his calloused fingertips.
Then a gunshot shattered the silence, and Garrett flinched backwards, his hand retreating. Luna whirled, but nobody was there, and she turned slowly back around. "They'll get suspicious after a while..." she said, and Garrett managed a slight smile. "How long is a while?" he asked, and was rewarded with a small smile in return.
"So, what did you mean earlier, when you said you 'used to be a big shot'?" Luna asked, and Garrett sighed. That old, familiar cocktail of emotions boiled up within him again, and he said "I used to be a rock star. Well, not 'rock' specifically. Power metal. I was the lead singer, and let me tell you we were big. Number eight on the iTunes 'most popular' list, sold-out concerts everywhere we went!" He had started pacing back and forth, his voice rising as he talked. "We were the goddamn shit! And then... my buddies got involved with some bad people, and got caught by the cops. The band broke up."
Garrett glanced over at Luna, and saw her looking up at him with her head tilted to one side, some unreadable emotion flickering in her eyes. "What was the band's name?" she asked, and Garrett shrugged off his leather jacket. By way of answer, he flexed a bicep for her, the words 'Storm of Lead' inked atop the massive, rippling muscle. Luna's eyes widened, her mouth forming a startled 'oh', and he raised an eyebrow. "What, heard of us?"
Luna nodded, thinking back to her hidden stash of music. The CD in her music player, it was by a band that she couldn't get enough of, but the name of the artists escaped her. The song title Our Final Hour seemed familiar. "I think so. Did you guys do Our Final Hour?"
Garrett nodded, a smug grin on his face. "One of our best hi-"
The wind was knocked out of him as a pair of thin arms wrapped around his chest in a hug. The pair dropped to the ground. "Oh my gawd, I love that song! I sing it every day! You're Garrett Everett. THE GARRETT EVERETT!" She squeezed even tighter. How could she not have recognized his voice? It was the man of her dreams, sitting before her.
Garrett squirmed in her grasp and she quickly let go. He sucked in a sharp breath. "Damn, calm down. God, that would've been worse than being stabbed to death."
Luna blushed in embarrassment, forgetting her brute strength. She wanted to ramble off lyrics to every single one of the band's songs. It took all of her will power not to kiss him fully, her dreams of doing so flashing in her mind. Garrett Everett of Storm of Lead, talking to her. She felt as if in a dream.
And then, reality hit her.
She was Infected. A monster. A killing machine with the most unstable emotions of everyone she knew. What if he didn't like her like that? What if he was just sweeping the area and she happened to have caught him? What if, the second she turned to leave, he shot her in the skull? It wouldn't surprise her in the least. Any other sane-minded creature would kill the one thing that knew of their existence. What made this rock-star any different?
Garrett reached forward to touch her again and she swatted at him blindly, her talons slicing through the edge of a tree. Tears were starting to pour again, and she didn't want him to see her cry. Her feet felt like lead as she rose from the forest ground.
"I'm sorry, Garrett. I...I have to go," she huffed softly, hoping he couldn't hear the break in her voice. Still, her feet wouldn't move. Just one kiss. Just one before she fell to pieces. She had to kiss him...had to. Had to. HAD TO!
With that, she turned around and crashed her lips to his, the three brief seconds of contact lighting her heart on fire. She ripped herself away and took off for the gate, tears of joy and pain mixing on her face as she scaled the chain-link fence and landed on the inside. One last time, she looked back, and she could feel his eyes on hers. A worried smile graced her features and she took off for her bed. Even through the taboo, she willed for him to stay nearby, just for tonight. Just one more night...
Garrett slumped back against the tree, sliding down the trunk until he came to a stop sitting amidst the roots. Reaching up, he idly touched his lips where Luna's own had graced him, then looked up at the fence over which the Witch had disappeared. Had... had that just really happened?
His heart was pounding, his head was swimming, and his jeans suddenly felt about two sizes smaller. Reaching up, Garrett ran a hand through his short-cropped mess of auburn hair, trying to get his thoughts into some semblance of order. She was going to come back tomorrow... right?
With a sigh, he made a lunge for his dropped satchel, grabbing it and dragging it over to him. Unzipping it, he rummaged around inside, withdrawing a couple of MREs - Meals Ready to Eat, a type of prepackaged military food that was barely fit for human consumption - and tearing open the first one. Devouring the contents, he reached for another, then paused at a rustling in the undergrowth.
The sound stopped, and for a moment Garrett thought he'd imagined it, but then a pair of bestial yellow eyes flashed in the darkness, and Garrett lunged for his gun.
The Infected was faster. Diving out of the brush, the zombie managed to accidentally kick Garrett's shotgun out of the big singer's reach as it charged forward. Snarling curses, Garrett leapt to his feet as the zombie approached, pulling back a fist and giving the mindless creature his best right hook.
Back when there were still gyms to go to, Garrett could bench-press three-hundred-and-eighty pounds, and in fits of drunken rage he had been known to punch holes in walls. The zombie's head whipped backwards, its teeth coming together with an audible 'snap', and landed flat on its back in the dirt. Snatching up his shotgun, Garrett put a booted foot on the zombie's chest and ended its struggles with one pull of the trigger.
Returning to his spot by the tree, Garrett slumped down against it once more and suddenly realized how tired he was. Come to think of it, he hadn't slept since... hell, he couldn't remember. That was probably a bad sign. Sleeping in Infected territory was never a good idea, but it couldn't be too dangerous with whatever that base was right next to it. And besides, he was just... so...
His head fell backwards against the trunk of the tree, and Garrett slipped into unconsciousness.