Rock of Ages

Pennsylvania, a year before the Green Flu Outbreak

Adrian rolled over in bed and slapped the annoying alarm clock. It gave a feeble ring and then was still. Adrian murmured sleepily and tried to go back to the dream he was having, one where he was frolicking naked in a swimming pool full of Victoria's Secret models.

Unfortunately, Adrian's roommates weren't known for being subtle. Seconds after the alarm went off, they barged in and threw wads of wet tissue at him.

"Fuck you," Adrian growled, burying himself deeper beneath the covers.

"Come on, Adrian! You got to wake up sometime!"

Adrian's response was to turn around and cover his head with the pillow. But even that was yanked away from him, forcing him to sit up and make a vain swipe at it.

"Go to hell, you freaks," Adrian muttered as his roommates grinned impishly at him. He found that once he was awake, it was damned hard to go back to sleep again.

Sullenly leaving behind the dreamland where he was surrounded by lingerie models, Adrian threw on his usual rugged outfit and raked his hand through his hair a few times. He had study group (which he planned to skip) and Literature 106 that morning, but he ended up bringing his notebook for Physics 24.

"Oh fuck," Adrian sighed as he noticed the mix up. The girl sitting beside him heard what he said, and she looked over at him.

"Not one of those days, huh?" she asked with a small smile.

"Maybe not," Adrian replied with a meaningful look. "Maybe I was supposed to leave the notebook behind so that you'd look over and talk to me."

The girl laughed and Adrian managed to read the name on the front of her binder: Hallie Christensen. "Is that a line or something? Because that's the first time I've heard it."

Adrian shrugged and shook his hair away from his face. "I don't do lines. I prefer going all natural. Makes things more interesting, Hallie."

Hallie tilted her head as a confused expression came over her face. "How did you know my name? I don't think I've ever told you that."

"I remembered," Adrian lied, knowing that girls liked it when guys remembered some obscure fact about them. "First day of roll call."

"Oh wow, you actually remembered?" Hallie looked pleased. "Well for formality's sake, it's Hallie Christensen."

Adrian told her his name just before their professor walked in. Throughout the rest of the period, Adrian and Hallie exchanged notes, writing messages on the back pages of their notebooks. Thankfully their professor didn't notice, which was most likely due to the large dude sitting in the row in front of them.

When the bell rang, both Adrian and Hallie hardly knew anything about how Mark Twain showed mood in "Huckleberry Finn," but they knew a lot about each other.

One of Adrian's roommates spotted him walking with Hallie and had demanded to know the details. When Adrian was finished, his roommate moaned longingly.

"Man, how do you get all the hot chicks? It's like you have a talent for it or something!"

"Probably because I look like a young Brad Pitt?" Adrian suggested with a cocky grin. "You just got to know what makes them tick."

"And you'll tell me, right?"

Adrian snorted. "You wish. Do your damn homework, buddy."

Adrian ignored his roommate's string of curse words as he walked down the hallway and outside the main building. He tucked his notebook under his arm and decided to head to the convenience store just off campus.

He remembered he was going low on snacks – some of which fell prey to his roommate's insatiable appetites – and since his mom and dad were still away and wouldn't be able to send him homemade food, he knew he needed to find food that could keep his hunger satiated until they did.

Since most students were still in class, the convenience store was almost empty. Most of the customers were freshmen and seniors, but there were several professors as well.

Adrian headed to the snack aisle and snagged bags of cheese Doritos and three cans of sour cream Pringles. To satisfy his sweet tooth, he dropped in bars of Milky Way, Hersheys dark chocolate, and Three Musketeers.

Adrian didn't know why he liked the sugary stuff so much; he guessed he'd end up becoming a fat old geezer with a shotgun when he grew up. But Adrian didn't think about that often. As long as he had his gym membership, his fast metabolism, and an appetite for sweets, he didn't plan on slowing down.

The line at the cash register was short, and before long Adrian was heading back to his dorm room. He nodded at several people whom he knew and stomped up the stairs to the dormitory. The main lobby was full of chattering students, some of whom had clapped headphones over their ears to drown out the noise of the conversation around them.

Adrian saw that there were some new faces in the crowd and grinned when a girl he had never seen before did a double take when he passed by her on the stairs.

Adrian reached his dorm room without any trouble and kicked it open, only to see one of his roommates making out with his girlfriend.

"Hey, get a room!" Adrian set the bags of snacks he was carrying, taking a few seconds to admire the girl's round ass and plump breasts, which she quickly covered with a blanket. "In case you didn't notice, Tyler, you're not the only guy in this fucking room!"

"Yeah, like you don't bring your dates over," Tyler retorted, standing in front of the girl as she hurriedly pulled her jeans on. "You're such a hypocrite."

"Sticks and stones, man. Sticks and stones."

"Whatever. I don't have time for your Mark Twain shit," Tyler grumbled, grabbing his girlfriend by the wrist and pulling her out the door.

Adrian walked over to the door, which had slammed shut behind Tyler, and locked it. Almost immediately he grabbed a couple of Three Musketeers bars and ate them while taking out a roll of tape and sticking the clear adhesive to the hook switch.

Whenever someone would call, the phone would continue ringing even if the handset was picked up. Adrian chuckled at the thought of what his roommates would look like when this happened, and if they actually had the brains to check if the hook switch had been taped down.

When in doubt, pull a prank, Adrian thought, fishing out another chocolate bar. Let the fun begin.


Infected

The stadium was pooling with Infected. It was as if the Green Flu outbreak had reached Whispering Oaks during the first night of the Midnight Riders concert: Vance, Carter, and Julie saw that the entrance was practically choked with Infected.

The posters that featured the members of the band still hung on the sides of the stadium and rippled whenever a breeze passed through. Vance scouted the way, while Carter and Julie slowly walked forward.

Julie could hear the cries of a Witch and she blinked. Her eyes were teary from the klieg lights, but she was getting used to the feeling. It was only when she was out in sunlight did she find it unbearable.

+ Hey, why do Witches cry, anyway?

# I've never thought about that. But I guess...I guess it's because we get affected really easily.

+ Oh yeah? You didn't seem affected when you killed that Spitter back at the mall.

# That's different. The Spitter wasn't human anymore.

+ Someone's making up excuses.

Julie screeched and Carter backed off, nearly tripping into one of the tents.

* Carter, I really don't think it's a good idea to piss off the Witch.

+ Yeah, I think I understand that part.

* Then why did you ask her?

+ Because I was curious. Geez, can't I be curious once in a while?

# Doesn't really suit you, Cart.

Carter coughed. + Why the hell did you call me 'Cart'?

# Everyone's got to have a nickname.

Carter stared at Julie for a while, until the girl's red-eyed stare (or glare, the Smoker wasn't sure which) unnerved him. He looked away, missing the devilish grin that came over Julie's face as he did so.

Vance was leaping across the tents, his claws tearing the fabric every time he landed on one. Finally he managed to get on the rooftop of the nearby barn, where he landed on a Witch.

The Witch had been rocking back and forth close to one of the aluminium ladders that had been propped up against the roofs, probably to provide cleaners access. As soon as Vance landed within the Witch's peripheral vision, the Special Infected made a blood-curdling screech and leapt to its feet.

* Shit shit shit shit shit!

Vance leaped far away from the Witch, which continued to growl menacingly at him. But for some reason, the Witch didn't attack the Hunter...for a few more seconds.

Just when Vance thought the Witch would ignore him, the pale-haired female Infected rushed straight at him.

# Vance!

Julie was making her way onto the roofs when the Witch attacked; she clambered over several cement blocks that had been stacked on the side of the barn and reached the roof just in time to see Vance topple over the side of the building.

Julie raised her arms and screamed, attracting the attention of the other Witch. The two Witches stared at each other for a split second before Julie, spurred on by the sudden rage that filled her entire being, rushed at the Witch.

The Witch copied her and the two crashed into each other in the middle of the rooftop. Julie's claws sliced through the air and met feverish skin. At the same time, Julie felt a similar sensation on her torso. But the pain was nearly blocked out by the anger that she felt and she continued to slash at the Witch.

One advantage that Julie had over the Witch was that she could think. Before the Witch could deliver a second blow, Julie used her speed to dodge the blow and deliver another, more fatal blow. The Witch fell to the ground with a sharp cry, lank blonde hair covering a pale face.

Julie shook back her hair and moved to the side of the roof. Vance was nowhere to be found; by now Carter had joined her and was staring down at the dead Witch.

+ And that doesn't bother you?

Julie shook her head. # I'm a twisted twelve year old.

+ I'll say. Hey, where's Vance?

* Right here.

Vance leaped into view with a shrill cry, causing Julie and Carter to hiss at him. Vance blinked, although the action went unseen due to the hood that was covering his face. Julie wiped the blood on her torso: the wounds weren't deep, but were deep enough to cause bleeding.

+ Someone needs to use a first aid kit.

# Tell me where to find one and I will.

Vance leaped off over the side of the roof again. He had seen a first aid kit near one of the trailers and brought it back to Julie. She took it from him gratefully and started bandaging herself up. Vance was surprised that she knew how to administer medicine and wrap a bandage that helped her staunch the bleeding, but then again, she did grow up in a violent neighborhood. She surely had some experience taking care of her dad whenever he came home with bruises.

Once Julie was done, she dropped the now empty first aid kit and looked at them expectantly.

+ So where to now?

Vance glanced at the Witch and then at Julie's bloodied claws before replying. He suggested that they get inside the stadium and see what they could find; since there was nothing more to see in the carnival besides several stands and attractions, he thought that Nick and the other Survivors would end up there.

+ Plus of course there's a helicopter approaching.

* Yeah, that too.

The dull hum of helicopter blades thrummed in their ears, and for a moment Julie felt a flush of hope. Maybe she was supposed to meet her daddy here. In a dark carnival.

Julie noticed that Vance and Carter were already on their way off the roof. She followed them at a quicker pace, which caused her to streak past them and end up at the abandoned ticket booths first.

+ Someone's excited.

* She just moves faster than us.

Carter shrugged while Julie turned her head in the direction of the group of Infected that were standing just beyond the entrance gates.

# They're going to give my daddy a problem.

Vance followed Julie's gaze and sighed. * Yeah. Nothing we can do about it, though.

Julie turned away from the horde, frowning, and faced her companions. # How are we getting in?

* I can see some handholds on the concrete. We can just use that to climb up the wall and into the stadium.

As Special Infected, Carter, Vance, Julie, and even Adrian had heightened senses that helped them see things the naked eye couldn't. And since they had claws, the three didn't find it difficult to climb up the wall and clamber over the top.

The stadium, like the fairgrounds, was full of Infected. The Hunter, the Witch, and the Smoker made their way down the bleachers, finally ending up at the stage. The Midnight Riders had already set-up their equipment, but due to the sudden arrival of the Green Flu outbreak in Griffin County, they were forced to leave their instruments behind.

* I love the Midnight Riders.

+ Didn't peg you for a rock n' roll fan, Vance. Oh wait, they're not even considered as musicians.

* Don't start, Carter.

# But he's right. These guys suck. I think they even lip sync.

Vance hissed and leaped away from the two. Carter rolled his eye – the one that wasn't covered by a greasy tumor – and limped over to the guitars that had been propped up on the center stage.

* I'm playing the solo!

Julie whipped her head in the direction of the console. Vance had his finger poised above the panel and Julie shook her head.

# Bad idea.

* Why? If we start the finale we will definitely get the attention of your dad! And the helicopter pilot.

# And all the Infected in the fairgrounds. There's a huge group of them standing outside, and if we start the finale all of the Infected are coming this way. Daddy won't be able to make it through that.

Vance stilled. * You got a point.

+ She's got ten really sharp points. Carter nodded at Julie's claws, which now had dried bloodstains on them.

* So what do we do now?

# Just wait for them. Unless you want to go out there and –

Julie paused, hearing a Jockey's maniacal laugh. She turned and saw a Jockey hopping down the bleachers, followed by a Tank.

- Guys! They're here! And shit, guys, run! I got a Tank on my ass!

+ We can see that! What did you do, fart on its face?!

Julie raised her arms but Vance pulled her away.

* No, no time! Just run!

The four Infected Survivors raced off the stage and up the other side of the stadium. On the other side of the wall was a vast field, and Carter nearly climbed up the wall in his haste. Adrian pulled him back at the last second and Carter stumbled to the side, managing to hold on to one of the metal barriers.

The Tank roared its displeasure and raised its meaty fists at them.

*What the hell is wrong with him? Usually we don't attack our own kind!

- Not exactly. I saw several Infected in full bitch fight mode on my way here.

# That's really helpful, but what are we going to do with the Tank?

Vance stilled, assuming his attack position. Julie turned from him to the Tank, which had its eyes narrowed and its gaze fixed on them.

* Just jump to the side when I say so.

+ Are you crazy?

Vance hissed and a second later yelled at them to jump to the side. He had expected the Tank to come at them at full speed (or as fast a Tank could charge when on 'Infected Hulk' mode) and decided to lead the Tank over the edge of the stadium.

His little plan worked: the Tank was moving too fast for it to stop, and ended up smashing through the concrete wall, leaving a Tank-shaped hole. The Tank landed with a loud thud and growled no more.

* Well, that worked.

+ Great. Now if we could just meet up with Julie's dad, everything is going to be perfect.

- This isn't a movie, Carter. We all know we've got a long trek ahead of us before we even cross the finish line.

+ Speak English, why don't you, kid?

Adrian giggled before replying. - What I mean is I don't think we're going to get to meet them yet.

# What made you say that?

- Because one, life is never easy. And two, they're most likely not going to get past that horde outside.

Julie screeched. # Not if I can help it.


Survivors

Coach grunted as the Jockey rode him off the Screaming Oak. He felt the wind whistle past his ears, which was drowned out by the sudden pain that sliced through his leg as he landed on his ankle, twisting it.

"Help! I'm down!" Coach cried, trying in vain to elude the Infected that were kicking at him with furious abandon. "Somebody get over here and help me!"

Coach fired his pistol at some of the Infected, but for every zombie he downed, three more took its place. He could feel his vision darken and the stabbing pain subside, but he refused to surrender to the darkness.

He didn't come all this way to die in some carnival...

Ellis slid down the access ladder and shot at the Infected that surrounded Coach, sniping the Jockey that had ridden his comrade off the coaster, firing two shots in quick succession. The Jockey dropped to the ground, giving Ellis time to help Coach to his feet.

"Come on Coach, t'ain't nothin'," Ellis said, heaving the much heavier man to his feet. Nick was covering the two from the top of the coaster, while Rochelle had positioned herself on the access ladder, choosing her shots carefully. "Let's get you on your feet."

Ellis wrapped Coach's arm around his shoulders and the two made their way towards Rochelle.

"Here, I picked this up for you," Rochelle said, tossing a bottle of pain pills to Coach.

"Thanks." Coach gulped the pills down. Rochelle then climbed back on the coaster, followed by Coach and Ellis.

"Come on come on come on!" Nick called, slapping a full clip into his assault rifle. "We don't have time for sightseeing!"

The Survivors wound their way down to the starting point of the ride, and Ellis ran to the control booth and shut off the alarm. The Infected still poured towards them, and Nick and Ellis took defensive positions on the bridge that ran across the coaster tracks. It was there where Coach patched himself up, snagging an extra first aid kit that had been lying on the ground.

"Safe room up ahead!" Rochelle led the way down to the safe room, which seemed to be a small queue booth close to the fairgrounds.

Another collective wail rose up, but this time it was due to the sudden arrival of Clown Infected, their squeaking shoes an annoying alarm for their undead bretheren.

"I hate clowns," Ellis muttered, swinging his sniper rifle in the direction of the bridge, where the Infected were climbing over to reach them.

"Just get in the god damn safe room!" Nick grabbed Ellis by the scruff of his shirt collar and nearly pushed the mechanic inside. Coach slammed the safe door closed and Rochelle slid the bar over it. "At least I made it!"

"Ugh." Rochelle rolled her eyes and made her way over to the ammo pile that was near a pile of empty boxes. "Next time let's not take a roller coaster, okay?"

"Hey, the Screaming Oak is the coolest!" Ellis said defensively. "If there weren't any zombies, I'm sure you guys would have wanted another go."

"Yeah well since there are those shitfaces out there, I think I'll pass on the second run." Nick rolled his shoulders and picked up several clips that he slipped in his pants pocket. "So we're going to the stadium, huh? Anyone want to bet that-"

"NO!" the other three Survivors shouted.

"Come on Nick, don't jinx it," Coach chided him. "We just have to get in. I got an idea."

Nick shrugged. He personally didn't think much of Coach's plans; so far they only managed to get into one close scrape after another. Nick was also painfully aware that each minute they spent, the lower the chances that he would see his daughter again were getting.

'If only I had a picture of her', Nick found himself thinking. But he knew why he didn't have one: he wasn't like other dads who kept a complete photo album in their wallets. Hell, he was with her 24/7, so he never saw the need to keep a photo of her with him.

Now however, he was regretting it. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed as Coach opened the safe room door. Gunshots rang through the air as Coach killed several Infected that were standing close by.

Snapping the safety off his assault rifle, Nick followed Rochelle out. The reporter turned her head towards him. "She's fine."

Rochelle walked off before Nick could say anything else; she seemed to understand that Nick wasn't the type who talked about his feelings much.

And he was grateful to her for that.


Author's Note: Apologizing for the delay; I spent the last two weeks at the office and had only time to squeeze in one fanfic plus several Left 4 Dead 2 playing sessions. :)