Garrett - but also not Garrett - strode through the claustrophobic metal corridors, looking utterly at ease wearing nothing but the countless fresh cuts lacing his powerful frame. His debilitating wounds appeared not to slow him down in the least, and his piercing eyes, burning with some nameless fire spawned of pain and rage, flicked back and forth, scanning for doorways.
He found one, and poked his head in. It appeared to be a storage room, full of shelves upon shelves piled high with boxes and crates. But no sign of his clothes, so he kept moving. While he - the not-Garrett, that is - was fine with striding about naked, he knew that when the Garrett that Luna had come to know and love resurfaced, he would like to have his clothes back, if for no other reason than that the sentimental rock star had grown attached to the leather duster and would be sad to see it gone.
Two security guards turned the corner ahead of him, and both stopped, staring with incredulity. They appeared to be human, and unarmed except for a police baton each, and Garrett's lips drew back in a feral expression that had nothing to do with a smile. The two guards stepped forward, and one of them took a swing at Garrett's head with his baton.
Catching the weapon in his hand, Garrett twisted like a striking snake, driving his other hand into the guard's neck in a knife-hand strike that nearly crushed the poor bastard's windpipe. While the first guard was collapsing, coughing and struggling to get air through his ruined throat, Garrett grabbed the second one by the wrist, breaking the man's elbow with a quick twist and jerk. The baton dropped from the guard's spasming fingers, and Garrett caught it, smashing it into the back of the guard's knee. The unfortunate man hit the ground hard, and Garrett gave them both a kick in the face to make sure they stayed down before moving on.
The next room he came to looked almost like the waiting rooms in doctor's offices, except done all in plain, whitewashed metal. There were two tables in the middle of the room, and on one of them were his clothes, all neatly folded. His Desert Eagle and car keys lay next to them, and Garrett grinned, snatching and stepping into first his boxers, then his jeans. His tank-top was so frayed and stained that he just left it on the table, shrugging on the heavy leather duster before strapping on his hip-holster and sliding his Desert Eagle into it. Grabbing up his car keys, he stuffed them into his pocket, before closing his eyes and relinquishing control of his body to it's original owner.
Garrett collapsed to the floor, his breath leaving him in a strangled gasp as the pain hit him like a runaway train. Every single part of his body burned, stinging with a fire that nearly blinded him. Most of the cuts had stopped bleeding, thankfully, but one particularly deep gash on his chest was dripping blood onto the floor. He tried to push himself to his hands and knees, but his tormented limbs would not support him, and he crashed to the ground with a yelp, rolling over onto his back and wondering whether Luna and Kain would find him before any more crazy goons did.
"Abraham...what happened to you? You look...I mean, you're..." Luna's soft, motherly voice was resurfacing at the sight of her kid brother.
"Artemis...you're a Witch."
She cringed at the title; her time around Sydney made the name more of a shotgun blast. The pads of her fingers ran over the young boy's face. His skin was so cold compared to when they were younger, spending weekends playing in the sun for hours until burns forced them to retreat to an oatmeal bath.
"Don't say it like that, Abe. I'm still your big sister. The Infection hasn't changed that."
"But your skin...it's gray. It's covered in scars and burns. And your hair. You have claws now. Artemis...you've changed."
Her heart caught in her throat. His eyes looked into hers with a foreign expression. She reached to touch his face again and he shrugged away from her, as if she were poisonous.
"Artemis...I'm not your kid brother anymore. I'm a killer. A fighter. I wanted to join the Army, and now I lead my own pack. You...you're a traitor. The traitorous cousin. That's what they all call you. Luna, the weakling Witch. That's not my big sister."
Her heart caught in her throat. Was it true? Had she altered that much since the Pre-Infection? Or was Abraham just cold towards her? She was talking to a stranger. She felt the tears come into her eyes, but forced them away as she stood. Now was not the time to show weakness. She had to find Garret, and then get the hell out of here.
She rose from her seat and turned to the door. Her lover's scent trail, thought skewed with another, stronger smell, was fading fast. She could feel Abraham's gaze on her skin, but ignored it.
Luna took off to find Garret, hoping she wouldn't run into anything that would delay her advances. A few doors opened, but she skirted around them with a vicious speed that not even her Father knew she possessed.
She stopped at the scene of a brutal fight, two guards lying on the ground with broken facial bones and other variously vicious injuries. Her mind wanted her to believe that Garret did this, and that he was fine, but her heart wouldn't believe that her gentle giant would cause this much damage. Then again...Raven...
She walked down the halls, looking for open doors, not breathing or thinking, just following her instincts. She found a door left ajar and opened it cautiously, her blood turning to ice at the scene.
Garret was lying face down, unconscious in a pool of his own blood. She knelt beside him and rolled him face up, internally bawling at the sight. She placed her hands down heavily along the wound, forcing tears away as she whispered song lyrics to her downed rocker.
She could feel his heart beating viciously in his chest, silently pleading to whatever God had caused this hellish mess known as the apocalypse that some of her strength would feed over to him. She bent low and kissed his forehead, muttering "Please...wake up..." over and over.
Kain stood in the main parking lot of the facility, arms akimbo, fists on hips. His glittering blue eyes were fixed in an annoyed glare, and his thin, fair lips were set in a frown of irritation. He had checked - twice - in the nearby guard shack, and found not one set of keys. Sure, his big brother might have hotwired a car of two, but Kain was always the angel. He'd never even jaywalked, let alone stole a car. So, he needed keys.
Glancing around, he mentally grumbled about what had happened to his Jeep. That baby had been with him for ten years, and now he goes off on one hair-brained rescue mission and the poor girl gets hit by a rocket. There was little left of her but scrap metal.
His eyes finally settled on a pair of booted feet sticking out from behind one of the humvees, and he tilted his head inquisitively. Jogging over, his heavy boots thudding across the asphalt, he came to a halt next to the prone form of a guard. He reeked of alcohol, and an empty whisky bottle lay next to his open hand. Kain smirked, kneeling down to rifle through the unconscious man's pockets.
The guard grumbled and twitched a few times, but Kain managed to retrieve his handgun, a couple of magazines for it, and - huzzah - a key on a glittery fob. Now he just had to find out which vehicle it went to.
Gunshots startled him from his scavenging, and he sprang up, handgun up and tracking. Nothing moved, and he narrowed his eyes suspriciously. Was there fighting going on elsewhere in the compound? Perhaps a rebellious infected being put down?
Giving up on his idle speculations, Kain pulled out the key and looked it over. After a few moments of inspection, he noticed an engraving on it; 'A3'. Looking up, he scanned the nearby humvees for any such numbers, but found none. Then his eye traveled down the row of parked vehicles, finally coming to rest on a metal sign that bore, in large, block text, 'A1'. The space in front of it was empty, but Kain grinned nevertheless. He was on the right track.
Walking over, his breath caught in his throat as he passed a truck that had been blocking the way and his prize came into view. A wolf smile started spreading across his momentarily-stunned features, and he punched the air in exultation. He would have cheered, but feared it would attract unwanted attention. Running over, he ran his hands over his new toy's metal hide, feeling the rivets hard and cool beneath his fingers. An APC. They had an APC.
Abraham slunk after the scent of the traitor, determined to find his big sister. She was only trying to bond again. To recreate what the Infection had taken from them. What the world had wretched from him. She wasn't the same super-smart, ultra brave girl that he had grown up with, but he wasn't the same happy-go-lucky kid either. His days were spent hunting down anything that moved, anything that breathed, anything that existed. And his nights were spent loathing the world and what he had become.
He could hear her rapid heartbeat from down the hall and stopped, resting on his haunches. What was he to say? Sorry? That wouldn't stitch back the hole he had torn between them. He wasn't one used to going back to someone for help or guidance. He also didn't like the idea of apologizing or admitting defeat. It left a bad taste in his mouth.
"Oh Garret," he heard Artemis moan through her tears. His entire body tightened. Who was Garret? Was he important to her? More important than he? His heart was beating fiercely as he slunk closer, remaining in the downwind and shadows to avoid immediate detection. "You're awake," she whispered hoarsely.
"Luna," came a familiar tone, grinding out the syllables like two stones rubbing against one another. "God, I hurt."
"Don't move, Garret. You have a bad injury. I need to patch you up before-"
"We don't have time. That Hunter...he's probably right behind you."
"The one who came at me. With a shit ton of tattoos. Big guy."
Abraham's voice left him. They were talking about him. It must be that asshole rocker. But, his sister spoke to him fondly. He crept closer until he could see inside the dimly lit room.
His sister was kneeling beside the bleeding man, kissing his forehead softly. Her claws avoided his skin as she caressed him tenderly. One of his hands was on her cheek. They looked at each other with...with...
"You must mean my kid brother," Artemis whispered. "He is a bit of a hothead. I'm sorry he did all of this to you. If I had been here sooner-"
"Don't even say that. That jackass would have laid a claw on you, and his head would be on a spike. I'd never forgive myself..."
"Oh Garret," she swooned, kissing him softly. "I love you..."
Abraham froze. With love...love... His brain and heart were feeling the same empty chasm, and they wanted to blame some creature. Why not the man? He had his sister's love, after all. It should be all his...
"And don't think ill of your brother... he didn't do this," Garrett managed, although each word was an effort. "It was Raven. She... she wanted to know where you were."
Luna's breathed hissed in, and her eyes widened. "She... tortured you?" the beautiful Witch breathed, her voice very small. Garrett grimaced. "Yeah. Bitch enjoyed every minute of it, too. But I killed her. You probably noticed. Slammed her into a console and fried her." He coughed a few times, and Luna gently hefted him onto her lap, which he figured was about the closest place to heaven right now. He blinked with surprise as he noticed she was crying, and he reached up a feeble hand, brushing his weak fingers across her cheek. She clutched at his hand, squeezing it as if to reassure herself that he wasn't going anywhere.
Suddenly, Garrett's attention was drawn by something outside. A dark shape, crouched in the shadows. He wouldn't have seen it at all, if not for the fire blazing in the hunched figure's eyes. "Luna-..." he started, but before he could finish, the figure pounced. It was aiming for him, but Luna noticed just in time to get in the way. Moving faster than Garrett thought possible, she interposed herself between the Hunter and Garrett, and the two infected rolled over on the ground. The Hunter screeched "HOW COULD YOU!?" at the top of its lungs, and Garrett tried to push himself to his feet to help, but collapsed again. Too weak. Too goddamn weak.
Suddenly, he became aware of that familiar presence in the back of his mind again. 'Need more help, Garrett?' it whispered in his mind, and for once, he welcomed it. "Yes," he snarled, rolling over onto his stomach and getting his arms beneath him. He slipped in his own blood, but caught himself, looking up through the mat of sweaty hair falling into his face. He couldn't tell who was winning, as right now the fight was just a roiling mass of teeth and claws. "Yes," he repeated, exerting every ounce of power his body possessed and forcing himself to his hands and knees.
'Allow me,' the other him said, and suddenly Garrett found himself in the backseat. He sprang upright, suddenly unhindered by his terrible injuries, and darted forward, grabbing the Hunter around the neck in a headlock, the enormous muscles in his arms bunching as he hauled the scrabbling infected off his foe. Both Luna and the hunter were scratched and bloody, although the Hunter seemed to have gotten the worse end of the deal.
"Remember me?" Garrett hissed in the Hunter's ear, and the infected froze. Garrett chuckled, and was about to snap the fool creature's neck when Luna cried "Garrett! How are you... what's going on!?"
Garrett blinked. "Ah, Luna," he said, his lips twisting in the closest thing to a kind smile this side of him had ever evidenced. "Garrett's told me so much about you." Luna tilted her head to the side, confusion written on every feature. "Then again," Garrett mused idly, ignoring the Hunter who had started struggling again in his grip, "I am Garrett. But also not. I suppose I'm going to need a different name, aren't I?" He thought for a moment, gave the wriggling Hunter a quick jab with his knee to calm him down, and finally said "Call me Jaxon."
Luna stared at...Jaxon with a look of utter confusion. What was Garret talking about? He wasn't someone else. He was still him. Wasn't he? He looked the same...for the most part. He moved fluidly, and the gash as his stomach was no longer leaking some of his vital fluids. His grip on her kid brother was tight from the very look. Her heart separated from this creature, which tore her in two. What was happening?
"Oh, come now, darling," Jaxon purred at her like a lion after a meal. "Don't be so cold towards me. Your lover is still very much here. Maybe even closer than you'd like to believe."
Abraham snarled and tried to twist in the rocker's grip, but this secondary controller of her lover's body held fast. She lurched forward and came in contact with Jaxon's skin, which scalded hers in its cold. Her first instinct was the pull away, but she dislodged his fingers from her brother's throat and moved the Hunter back.
"Abe, are you alright?"
The Hunter stared at the rocker from across the room with a growl. "I'll murder him..."
"Come at me, you 95-pound weakling. I could always use a toothpick."
The Hunter crouched low, ready to pounce once again, but Luna flashed her claws before him. Her golden eyes bade for him to stop, but his crouch was locked, and growing more powerful by the second.
"Abe, stand up. I don't want to have to hurt you," she whispered. Jaxon snickered in the background, which caused a territorial sound to come from the Witch's throat. "Don't do this."
"Now I see why Garret is so infatuated with you. Such a calm child, you are."
"Shut up, Garret!" she shouted, brandishing her talons. Her heart nearly stopped at the thought of harming her lover. "Just...shut up, Jaxon. Can we just go? Please..."
Jaxon smiled to himself, moving closer to the increasingly agitated Witch. "You are feisty...if Garret isn't man enough for you, I could always-"
"Leave Artemis alone, before I gut you like a pig!"
Garret's body turned to the Hunter. The look on his face was intrigued. God, but did he love a good fight. He lurched at the beast, who snaked his claws around his sister's slim form in an attempt to slice skin. But instead, the older and taller man backed away, heading for the door.
"I'll stay until you reach safety. Then you can have your dying hero back."
Luna sighed, lowering her personal weapons at her side to follow. Abe tried to move in front of her, but she kept him at bay with a silent, pleading look. The Hunter snarled to himself.
"He calls me a weakling again, he won't have a tongue," her kid brother warned, crawling on all fours beside her. "And that's a promise," he cried out loud enough for Jaxon to hear down the walkway.
The Witch's head was spinning. Hopefully Kain could explain to her this conundrum.
Abraham crawled next to his sister, eyes watchful of the glory-hound wannabe Rambo. His ears were also trained on the sound of silence. Father hadn't sent another team. Maybe he knew something that wasn't meant to be understood. Or found out.
The Hunter almost didn't notice that the Immune was wrapping his arm around the waist of his sister. He drew out a vicious growl, but the grip only seemed to tighten.
"Jaxon," his sister protested. "Let me go. You're slowing me down."
"Oh, am I? Allow me to remedy that, my dear." With a swoop, the Immune scooped the young Witch into a bridal carry and took off down the hall in a sprint.
Abraham's muscles locked in shock for a few seconds. He scurried after them, rebounding off of the walls still too slow to keep a good distance. The smell of the pair was fading. His heart began to race. He wouldn't lose his sister again. Not again. His vision began to blur with tears. Why the hell was he crying? He didn't cry. He wasn't supposed to have feelings.
He dropped to the floor and punched something that crumbled underneath his fist. "Dammit!" he screeched.
A door opened, one of the doors to an old hangar bay. Jaxon was standing in wait, pleased with himself.
"Stop being a little bitch and get in here."
The Hunter slunk into the bay without a sound and could see his sister talking with another, shorter Immune. He tried not listen in on their conversation, but it was hard to turn off his training. The Immune snickered at him as he went to join the others.
Jaxon sauntered up to stand next to Luna and Kain, the latter giving him a highly confused look. With a sigh, he realized he was going to have to relinquish control of his body to Garrett again. Until the next time he was needed, at least. Closing his eyes, he let himself recede into the passenger seat once more.
Garrett let out a startled cry as the pain hit him again, slumping forward into Luna's arms, who yelped in surprise as the rock star's 300-pound frame was unexpectedly dropped onto her chest.
"Garrett?" she ventured, and he groaned in protest as all his wounds made themselves known once more. "Fuck me, this hurts..." he muttered, then made an effort to stand. He wobbled for a couple moments, then collapsed again with a virulent curse.
Luna caught him, and he was once again surprised at the strength in her slender arms. Kain took a couple steps closer, folded his arms over his chest, and said "Garrett, if what Luna says is true, you have some explaining to do."
"It's all true," Garrett said weakly, getting his feet under him and making another abortive attempt to stand. "Back when the infection started, I took a good look at what I'd been doing with my life. I resolved to change. To make myself a better man. But the stress of running and fighting every day, not getting half as much sleep as I needed... the pain, the hunger, the exhaustion, and the emotional trauma of beating undead monsters to death with everyday objects... they complicated things."
He wobbled a little, draping an arm over Luna's shoulders for support, and continued "I'm no psychologist, but my best guess is that all that stress turned the shit I was trying to bury into another personality. Another side of me, if you will. A side that represented all the things I used to be, but wanted to forget. The lying, cheating son of a bitch who started bar fights for fun and had a different woman in his bed every night. All that stuff turned into the thing who now calls himself Jaxon. He's been with me for a long time now... at first he just haunted my dreams, but now it seems he's decided to show his face in the real world."
An extended, awkward silence hung over the group for several seconds that each seemed to last an eternity, then Garrett cleared his throat and said "Well, let's get out of here. I've seen enough of this shithole to last two lifetimes. And I ain't a doctor, either, but even I know that I could sure as hell use some medical attention."
The APC rolled to a stop outside of Kain's house, and Garrett was helped down the back ramp by Luna. She'd done what she could to patch up his countless wounds on the ride back from the base, but the real medical supplies were in the house. Kain hopped out of the driver's seat, twirling the keys around his finger, and Abe stalked out last, looking sulky.
"Hopefully Sydney hasn't gotten into too much trouble without us, eh?" Garrett joked, although his weak, pained voice killed the humor he was trying to project. Luna shushed him, giving him a quick peck on the cheek as she helped him up the front steps.
Kain slipped in front of them, twisting the key in the front door and pushing the door open. "Sydney, baby, we're ba-..."
The words died on his lips, and he stopped dead a couple steps into the room. "What?" Garrett asked, staggering through the door. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, his jaw went slack. He gazed wide-eyed around the room, and murmured "Holy shit..."
The place was ransacked. Drawers had been pulled out of shelves, cupboards had been opened, trash, clothes and other odds and ends were lying scattered on the floor. Kain pounded up the stairs, yelling "Sydney!?" Luna helped Garrett down onto one of the couches, and sat next to him, taking one of his hands in hers.
Garrett didn't move a muscle until Kain came, slowly, back down the stairs. "She's not here," he said quietly, then walked to the kitchen window and glanced out into the backyard. "Neither is her car." Turning back around to face the rest of the group, his face a mask of neutrality but rage and pain burning in his eyes, he finished "Sydney's gone, and she's taken half the house with her."