The Sickness

By Starzki

-z-

9. But It's Too Late to Say You're Sorry

-z-

"Mrs. Watanabe, Ms. Tokiwa, get your things and come to the front gate," said Gauron with his arms crossed.

"Our things?" asked Kyouko.

"All of them," answered Gauron with a growl. His supporters gathered around behind him, glaring at Kaname and Kyouko.

"It's Chidori now," challenged Kaname before turning her back on the gathering crowd. She sounded confident, but her eyes were panicked when they found Sousuke's.

His mind was racing. It was all happening. Now that Gauron was making his play, Sousuke almost felt a strange sensation of a weight being lifted from his shoulders. Unfortunately, it was immediately replaced with a new one. Kaname would have to be out there, pregnant and among the infected when he wanted her behind high fences and safe. Inside or outside, both options were the things of nightmares. And it seemed one of them was no longer an option.

"We have to do what he says," said Sousuke loud enough for the crowd to hear. You could see a definite sigh of relief from all of Gauron's supporters. They had been afraid that one of their best fighters would challenge Gauron and them. It could have gotten ugly. They all began to move away. Gauron led the way to the front gates.

Sousuke began packing his and Kaname's things. Under his breath, he talked to Shinji. "I think we're about to be kicked out. I don't know how safe it's going to be here in the future for you, especially since you're friends with us. I think you have two options: join with Gauron or come with us. It'll be dangerous, but I think you should come with us."

Poor Shinji looked lost and on the verge of tears. Sousuke knew that it would be hard to leave everything that he'd built since he'd arrived at Jindai. He wouldn't blame him if he turned on them and tried to stay.

Suddenly, a look of determination crossed Shinji's face. Without words, he spun on his heels and began running across the compound.

"Sousuke?" asked Kaname. Her voice was small and frightened. He dropped everything and just embraced her as tightly as he could.

"We'll figure this out, I promise," he whispered.

"But the baby…"

"She'll be fine, too. At least now we won't be caged with him. Between Gauron and the infected, I think Gauron is far more dangerous to us. We'll make it. We'll find another settlement, or make one of our own if we have to."

Sousuke pulled away and saw something hard replace the vulnerability in her eyes. Her frown morphed from tremulous to determined. She nodded and began packing her things.

-z-

Ten minutes later, Sousuke, Kaname, and Kyouko met Gauron at the front gates.

Gauron puffed out his chest and began pacing regally, performing for his audience of supporters.

"Kyouko Tokiwa, you broke protocol when you brought a child into Jindai two weeks ago without properly checking if he was infected. You could have spread the infection to everyone in Jindai!" The crowd all gave eager nods in agreement.

"That five-year-old that you and your friends completely ignored, you mean?" challenged Kyouko. "Little Ren? He didn't have a bite on him and I brought him directly to Dr. Yoshi." There were some surprised looks from the crowd. Apparently Gauron hadn't shared the full story with them.

"Well… Dr. Yoshi isn't exactly here to back that story up, is she? Right, Mrs. Watanabe—I mean Ms. Chidori? Most of the compound is sick with food poisoning on your watch, isn't that right?"

Kaname straightened her back in indignation. "You and I both know that I had nothing to do with anyone getting sick."

"Do I know that? I don't think I do." Akane sidled up to Gauron and smirked at Kaname. Realizing that his audience was starting to exchange whispers, Gauron got to his point. "For putting this settlement in danger, Kyouko Tokiwa and Kaname Chidori are hereby banished. And I expect Sousuke will be going with them, yes?"

Half the crowd was nodding, but the other half was suddenly uncomfortable. There were some protests.

"But she's pregnant…"

"Little Ren was fine…"

"…infected horde is on its way…"

"…one of our best runners. We need him…"

"We can't let anyone endanger the people of Jindai!" bellowed Gauron over the murmurs. "Anyone who does cannot remain here! And anyone who allies with these people will be labeled as traitors and be asked to join them!"

The crowd was shocked into silence.

With the quiet came the sound of running footsteps. Shinji, out of breath and carrying his pack joined Sousuke and Kaname and Kyouko. "I guess I'm with them, then," he wheezed.

Sousuke spoke up. "We want our weapons. The next wave of infected is due here within the hour and you can't send us out with less than we came with."

Gauron grinned. "Of course. We can't spare any guns, but you can take two weapons. Two," he moved to the weapons shed and opened it. Sousuke grabbed Kaname's softball bat and gave it to Kyouko and took his baton for himself.

"We should get weapons, too," said Shinji.

"I don't have to give you shit. Two of you have betrayed Jindai, so you only get two. And since I'm so nice, I'll tell you that our surveillance says that the road to the north is completely clear. I suggest you head that way." With that, he made his way to the button that controlled the gate.

The crowd moved away, some of them seemingly beginning to question their faith in their new leader but realizing there was nothing they could do about it then.

-z-

The gate rattled to a close behind them and Sousuke and Kyouko both surveyed the street outside, looking for infected. One was roughly fifty meters away to the north, but it hadn't noticed them yet. The road to the south seemed clear, but Sousuke could definitely hear the distinctive moans of undead coming from that direction. It was the calm before the storm, Sousuke thought. Soon, as predicted, the streets would be swarming shoulder to shoulder with wandering infected bumping into one another and eating any living thing they could find.

"What's the plan?" asked Kyouko in a whisper so that the infected to the north would continue to ignore them. "Gauron said that the north is clear and I think he might be right, but I don't trust him."

"We go south. For now at least," Sousuke said. "Shinji, Kaname, are you going to be okay?"

"I have asthma, so I'm not the best runner. But I did swipe an inhaler from the medical tent on my way here." Shinji patted his pocket.

"I'm used to being on my feet all day, but I don't think I'll be much of a runner, either," added Kaname.

"That's fine. Kyouko and I will take point. We're used to it. Follow our instructions and we should do okay. Be on the lookout for infected and any safe houses. We may need to find a place to hole up for a couple of days if this swarm catches up with us.

The four began their journey south. Sousuke looked up to see Gauron frowning at them from the top of the fence scaffolding. He then pulled out a walkie talkie, spoke into it, and disappeared from sight.

Sousuke led the way to the storage shed. They only encountered one infected on the way and Kyouko dispatched with her usual ease. The three gathered around Sousuke as he emptied the shed. Since Gauron had come to the settlement, Sousuke had redoubled his efforts to build up his cache. He'd found an extra gun that he didn't bring back to the settlement, a .38 Special and extra ammo for that and his Glock. Additionally, he had found a second bicycle and replaced its chain to make it functional.

They divided up the weapons and supplies. Kaname was given her bat and Kyouko took the revolver and its ammo as well as a machete. Shinji grabbed a crowbar and Sousuke gave him one of the bikes while he tucked his Glock into his waistband. He gave out a few flashlights and the food rations he had collected. He was just reaching for the walkie talkie when it squawked to life.

"Sagara, come in… Come in Sagara."

Sousuke pressed the button, surprised that Kurz was dropping the code-talking pretense. "Sagara here. What's the matter?"

"Oh, thank God," Kurz answered. "We need you and your Angel to come meet up with us. This is not negotiable."

"Why?" asked Sousuke, not liking the urgency in Kurz's voice.

"She's very special, more special than you can know. We need to protect her. They're coming for her."

"What?" asked Sousuke, uncomprehending.

"No time to explain now. Get here and we'll tell you everything."

"Gauron kicked us out of Jindai. We have two friends with us who need help, too. How do we get to you?"

"Kicked you out? Those fuckers are probably trying to herd you to Amalgam."

"Amalgam?"

"Never mind that for now. We'll send out a chopper for you and your Angel."

"And our friends?"

"This isn't charity, we can't take in strays…"

Kaname grabbed the device from Sousuke's grip. "They come or I'm not going with you. Got it, Kurz?"

There was a pause before sound began issuing from the walkie talkie again. "Fine. You drive a hard bargain, Angel. Do you know where the Metropolitan Hospital is?"

Sousuke took the walkie talkie back. "It's about four kilometers away to the south of us. But there's a swarm of infected between here and there. North might be better…"

"Fuck north," Kurz said. "We'd get you any direction but there and Met Hospital is the closest place with a helipad to your location. We'll be there in an hour. If you're not there, I'll come looking for you. I'll keep this walkie on me and talk you through any situations we can help you with. Get to the Met ASAP. Over and out."

"We'll see you there. Over and out," said Sousuke.

"Do you trust him?" Shinji asked. "What does he mean that people are after Kaname?"

"I'm not sure," said Sousuke. "But I trust him."

"I do, too. I just wish he could explain more," said Kaname. "What's Amalgam? I've never heard of it."

The foursome took a moment to shake their heads at the new information. Their reverie was interrupted by the moans of infected that sounded startlingly close. "We should make our way to the hospital, then," said Kyouko. "I don't think that this will be much fun."

-z-

Kaname and Shinji biked as well as they could following Sousuke and Kyouko as they ran a little ahead to check for infected. Kaname struggled with balance and wobbling, unused to riding a bike while that pregnant. Shinji's bike made weird clicking and creaking sounds. Sousuke had fixed it as well as he could, but the months without maintenance had definitely taken its toll on the ten speed.

As it was, they didn't get more than four hundred meters, taking mainly side streets that held less infected that the wider avenues, before they had to abandon their plan of taking surface streets to the hospital.

Sousuke found a fence that he could climb up to an apartment's outside balcony. He pulled himself up and surveyed the streets and felt his stomach drop to his feet. A swarm of infected was an understatement. The streets ahead were clogged with abandoned cars, and with slithering, decaying flesh working its way toward them.

"It's no good!" Sousuke shouted as he turned to make his way back down from his vantage point. "They're coming from the south and the east. There's not getting through that safely. Our only choice is west, though the alleys."

"But the hospital is southeast," said Shinji.

Sousuke nodded. "We'll have to find a detour. All I can see this infected. They're getting closer."

"I know a way," said Kyouko. "If we ditch the bikes and make our way west, then south, there's a subway Red Line stop. Red Line goes to the Met. It might work?"

Sousuke nodded along with the others about this plan. He hadn't been on the subway since well before the world had ended. He didn't know how congested the underground train's tunnels were, but anything had to be better than the streets. Infected also tended to horde together, so if most were aboveground, others would follow them there, right?

"Let's do it," said Sousuke.

Shinji and Kaname ditched their bikes and the four made their way to the alley. There were five infected, but none had noticed their group. Using hand signals to communicate, Kyouko and Sousuke took out three of them before the other two noticed. Kaname rushed, one hand under her belly, the other raising her bat, and nearly took the head off of the fourth with one strong swing.

Shinji didn't rush the fifth, but avoided it and stayed out of Sousuke's way when he rushed to help, crushing the thing's skull with a wet crack.

"Sorry," whispered Shinji. "I'm not really a fighter."

"It's fine," said Sousuke softly. "Just stay alive. That's all you need to do."

Sousuke again joined Kyouko toward the front of the group, some space between them. He was looking ahead and to the right, Kyouko was scanning the left, while Kaname and Shinji watched the road behind them. It was quickly filling with infected who had heard the scuffle. A dozen of them easily, but their lurching shuffle wasn't quite fast enough to catch the slow-moving group of survivors.

Every block felt like it took an eternity and the infected became ever more numerous. Even though they all tread as quietly and as quickly as possible, the infected became aware of their presence. Sousuke switched the baton to his left hand and pulled out his Glock. No need to make a lot of noise, but he wanted to be ready if needed.

Sousuke was glad that Kyouko was an experienced runner and that they'd worked so often together in the past few months. She knew what he wanted her to do, what she needed to do, before he even asked.

"Two on the left," whispered Shinji. Kyouko sped up and buried her machete in the skull of the first one while kicking at the second one who made a grab at her before she could pull her weapon free. As that one stumbled backward, she twirled around, weapon extended, and sliced through its neck. With a final spin, Kyouko brought the back of the machete down onto the severed head with a dull, cracking thud.

"Whoa," breathed Kaname.

Kyouko only grinned. "I may be showing off a bit," she said.

"How close are we to the subway stop?" asked Shinji.

"About a block and a half," Kyouko answered. "I used to live in this neighborhood and I can get us there through these alleys, but they're getting even thicker with these things."

"Well, we're not sneaking up on anything any more," said Sousuke. "Whenever we make a turn, fire your gun and thin them out in front of us. Kaname take out any that come at you. Shinji, call out anything we don't see."

At the next corner, they put their plan into action. The gunfire alerted the infected to the bend of the alley, but not the place where the group was going. Sousuke took out the infected closest to the center of the road any those who might make it to that area there by the time they made their way through. Kyouko focused more laterally to any infected hiding in between the buildings they didn't see until they came up close to them.

Kaname grunted, pushing away any infected that looked off balance, then breaking skulls and spilling brains whenever she could manage a full swing.

"Guys, they're gathered on that balcony up ahead. I think they're going to fall. Some may survive the fall, so watch our one-o'clock," said Shinji.

They moved, stepping over bodies, and giving as much berth as they could to open courtyards and ungated areas between buildings. Sousuke felt the sweat running down his spine and missed the cool spring days that started this apocalypse. The heat made the smell worse, too. Minutes that felt like hours later, they closed in on the entry to the street.

Kyouko got there a split second before Sousuke did and just gasped. He caught up and saw what she saw and despaired. The street was teeming with infected shamblers.

"Shit."

"We'll have to run," said Kaname. "Sousuke and Kyouko, shoot the ones between us and the subway entrance." She gestured to the sign marking the stairway going into Western City's underground. It was only thirty meters away, but there must have been over a dozen infected in the way.

Sousuke reloaded his gun. "Can you run, Kaname?"

"I'll do what I have to. You going to be okay, Shinji?"

"Yeah. Hold on, though. I have an idea."

"We don't really have time to hold on," said Sousuke.

"Then just cover me and run down those stairs." Sousuke and Kyouko exchanged confused looks and trained their weapons on the infected and began shooting. Shinji edged behind them and began running down the street off to the right swinging his crowbar wildly at an infected grabbing at him from behind a mail box. He only made connection to its shoulder, but it was enough to knock it back.

"What is he doing?" gasped Kaname.

"Just cover him," hissed Kyouko to Sousuke. I have these. Reloading."

They were running toward the subway entrance, Sousuke lagging to make sure that Kaname was keeping up and remained unhurt. She wasn't as fast as she was just a few months before. In fact, her face was an alarming shade of red, but she was keeping up.

Sousuke checked the stairs, saw they were clear and ushered her to go down them, then looked around for Shinji. He saw the smaller man dodge one infected while Kyouko shot down another right behind him. He then came up to one of the cars in the street and checked the handle. It was open. After a brief look in the front and back seats, Shinji climbed inside and got incredibly lucky.

Sousuke heard the engine roar to life and began to understand what Shinji was doing. "Come on," he told Kyouko. "Down the stairs!"

The three went half way down and listened to Shinji working the car free from the jam. There was the sound of crunching metal and suddenly the tires were squealing. The unmistakable sound of a car jumping a curb and then rushing down a sidewalk (and encountering at least two infected from the sound of the thumping against a car hood) had them all ducking. At the last minute, the tires squealed again and all of them could see the side of the car swiping hard and crashing into the entrance of the stairway. Shinji had crashed the car so that it blocked the stairs, but allowed him to climb over the seat and out of the side door.

"Holy shit!" exclaimed Kyouko.

Shinji caught up to them on the stairs holding a bottle with a rag stuffed in the neck that reeked of gasoline. "It's a Molotov cocktail. I found it in the car."

"What did you do?" asked Sousuke.

"We made so much noise up there that the infected would have followed us down here. They're not great climbers, so not many will come after us now. And if they get over that car, they'll probably take a bad tumble down these stairs and hopefully crack their heads open on the way down. At least now I'm pulling my weight."

"You got so lucky, Shinji. Maybe don't go off on your own without telling us like that again," said Kyouko. "We like you and want you to stick with us and you don't have anything to prove to us."

Shinji colored. "What time is it?" he finally asked. "And how far are we away from the hospital?"

Sousuke checked his watch and blanched. It had only been ten minutes. "We have 50 minutes until we meet and we're even further from the Met with the backtracking we've had to do. Maybe five kilometers?"

"It'll be shorter going through these tunnels," said Kyouko. "These will take us directly there."

The four looked into the dark gloom of the subway tunnels and wondered what they held in store.

-z-

Things went well at first. It seemed that Sousuke was right and that the horde stuck together on the surface of the city. It also seemed that not many commuters had been caught by the apocalypse until after they had exited the subway.

Sousuke and the rest shined their flashlights, sweeping light over the walls and tracks of the underground. They made it two stops where they didn't see anything but surprisingly large rats. This was a good sign, they told one another, because the infected would have cleared anything alive out of this area if they had been there.

Sousuke felt himself breathing easy since they'd left the relative safety of Jindai. However, he kept his face serious and encouraged everyone to stay on their toes. He didn't like the dark and everything already smelled bad in the subway, so it would be hard to tell if infected were around them.

After another subway stop, they ran into a problem.

"Next stop is the hospital!" said Kyouko. "And we're ahead of time!" Shinji groaned next to her, not liking how vocally she was tempting fate. And at the next bend, there was indeed a problem.

The subway train was stopped on the tracks. There was not enough room for them to comfortably walk around it, the tunnel was too narrow. Worse than that, though, was that there were infected on the train.

The bit of luck that they did have was that the train was locked up tight.

"So what should we do?" asked Kaname. "We can go back to the last stop and take the surface streets?"

"They'll be packed…" warned Shinji.

Sousuke studied the train and noticed a ladder on the back of the last car. "Or we can go over."

"Is that a good idea? The infected? They'll hear us."

Shinji shined his flashlight on the Molotov cocktail that he was still holding. "Maybe this will come in handy? I have a lighter."

"This might work. Kaname? How are you doing? Do you think you can do that?"

Kaname was considering the ladder, then the track back to the last stop. She frowned and bit her lip. "I won't lie. I'm really tired. But I can survive being tired. Me and the nugget can do this. I think that going over the top will work best for me. But I'm looking forward to this helicopter coming so that I can just sit back and relax for a while."

"It's decided," said Sousuke.

They climbed up the ladder. Kyouko led, followed by Shinji, then Kaname, then Sousuke in the rear. The infected on the train definitely noticed the noise. They slapped and hit at the rear window whenever they heard noise on the ladder. Sousuke could also see them tracking movement from Kyouko and Shinji on the roof of the car.

On top of the car, Sousuke was glad that there was plenty of room to crawl, but was discouraged that there wasn't enough room to stand or walk. The dark of the tunnel and the knowledge that the walls and ceiling were so close made Sousuke feel a touch of claustrophobia. His breathing came slightly shorter and he hoped that the tunnel would open up to a platform soon.

The cars weren't very long, but the gap between them was substantial. This space consisted of bendable metal that allowed passengers to move between cars safe from the elements, but also allowed the train to bend around curves. They had to balance on the unstable structure briefly until they half jumped, half shimmied to the next car.

The train was six cars long and the last car had just been pulling into the platform when the power died in the subway. Kyouko and Shinji slid on their bellies, hanging off the side of the car before gravity took over and pulled them onto the platform.

"You two need to hurry up," Kyouko informed Sousuke. "They're mad and they're working at the doors."

Sousuke could already hear them. They were mindless, but their attack on the doors was measured, rhythmic, and he could hear the gears that opened and shut the doors squeaking under their onslaught.

"Help her down." Kaname held onto Sousuke as she lowered down her legs. Kyouko and Shinji stood underneath her, guiding her and ready to catch her.

"Careful…"

"We got her…"

Sousuke wanted to go slower, but the doors were giving way. His biceps protested at the strain, but he lowered the only person in the world he loved as carefully and smoothly as he could. The load lightened when her weight shifted from him to her friends below. Then she was out of his grasp and had her feet firmly and gently placed on the platform.

Sousuke breathed a small breath of thankfulness that it had gone well, then slid of the car, himself.

He joined the others inching away from the infected on the cars as the doors flapped open and closed with longer and longer spaces between opened and closed. Finally, the door opened and least fifty infected passengers tried to get out and at the foursome.

Shinji was ready. The Molotov was lit and he handed it to Sousuke. "Do it," he said.

Sousuke threw the bottle not at the infected, but at the floor of the open subway car. It shattered, spread flaming gasoline, and lit all of the nearby infected on fire immediately.

"Let's go!"

The four turned to go up the stairs back into the sunlight. While no infected were on the stairs, they could see four waiting for them at the top.

Sousuke used his Glock on all of them and they ran up the stairs to be met with easily one hundred infected milling around the entrance to the hospital.

-z-

It was an impossible situation. Flaming infected were coming at the group from behind them (albeit slowly) on the stairs and over a hundred infected were just beginning to notice the commotion coming from the subway.

They didn't have enough bullets, Sousuke thought. They didn't have enough time to spend on each one. They were going to be overrun. They were going to die. Soon.

The subway opened up to the front entrance of the hospital entrance. They were about thirty meters from the doors with a small amount of parking lot as well as a circle drive for people to drop off patients near the doorway.

Sousuke heard Kaname growl next to him. Similarly, Kyouko and Shinji were readying themselves. If nothing else, he decided they were going to go down fighting. And they were going to take as many infected as they could with them.

Sousuke shouted at Kyouko. "Aim for the closest!"

She had her gun ready and began shooting. Sousuke emptied his clip into the closest ten infected toward the right while Kyouko felled the four closest to the left using all of her gun's six bullets. If only there was enough time.

Sousuke reloaded while Shinji bravely attempted to take down another lurching forward, but only managed to knock it down. Sousuke blocked Kaname from going forward into the fray with his body. He wasn't about to risk her safety here, so close to a rescue for her.

Sousuke reloaded first and inched the group forward. He killed seven of the nearest infected with his whole clip. Kyouko started shooting once again, killing five more. More and more kept coming, crowding closer.

"I'm out of ammo!" yelled Kyouko. She readied her machete.

Sousuke was getting light on ammunition himself.

"Keep pressing forward," urged Sousuke. Salvation probably didn't exist behind those doors, Sousuke wasn't stupid, but at least they could put wall at their back and stand a little more of a chance.

Sousuke brought down almost two dozen more infected before his gun's clicking noise announced the end of his ammo. He took a deep breath and readied his baton. Even if he was going to get bitten, die, and turn, Kaname and her little one were going to make it. They were his and he would do anything to protect them. He was ready.

From his right, Sousuke heard the squealing of tires. The foursome froze; the infected turned their attentions to the new noise. Everything stilled for a moment.

Then, that stillness crashed around them. Literally.

A white van came careening down the hospital drive and toward the drop-off circle. The driver swerved right and left, running down as many infected as possible. He expertly made his way up and over curbs and medians to get close to the survivor group and strike down the infected who were most threatening.

The driver made several passes before the path for the group to the hospital was relatively clear. The ground around them was littered with bloody body parts and red tire tracks. The van stopped and parked in front of the hospital doors.

The driver hopped out and flashed the incoming group a white smile. "Thought you guys could use some help!"

"Thanks so much," said Kyouko. "I thought we were dead, for sure."

The driver was a slight man with a lot of swagger. He was dressed in black jeans and a black jacket with a large black hooded sweatshirt drawn up over a baseball cap on his head. "I couldn't let that happen. But we don't have much time. You need in?"

Sousuke, though grateful for the rescue, had a hard time trusting the man. It was too hot out for a sweatshirt and jacket. It wasn't even September. "Yes, we're meeting friends on the roof. What are you doing here?"

The man worked on getting the automatic doors to start sliding open. Shinji and Kyouko went to help them. Kaname hung out behind Sousuke, similarly distrustful.

"Settlement needs meds. I'm scavenging."

"This place is probably overrun…" said Kyouko. "Most people first started coming to the hospital when this all started."

"We're pretty desperate. I guess you all are, too." The stranger motioned at Kaname.

They worked the doors open. Quiet moaning could be heard within. There were definitely infected inside.

"I'll help you up. We need to stick together for a little while. I'll get to the upper levels to get at the meds, you get to the staircase that will take you to the roof."

"Fine," Sousuke said.

The stranger had a twinkle of charm in his gray eyes as he moved inside of the hospital and flourished a wheelchair. "For the lady…"

It was a good idea, Sousuke thought. Kaname had been on her feet enough. And they needed to get going.

"How are we going to get up to the roof?" asked Shinji. "This hospital is at least 15 floors and the power's out."

At that moment, the lights came on.

The stranger flashed another smile. "I'm not here alone. Friends of mine were working on the generator."

Sousuke couldn't help his skeptical look. The man regarded him and held up his hands. "Hey. Like I said, the meds are on the top floors. If I had to climb all these floors myself, I'd be in too long and dead before I know it. I know some guys who are good with electronics." With that, the stranger glanced at Shinji.

The moment was broken by an unearthly moan a little further into the hospital's entrance.

"We've got the auxiliary power on, which includes the elevators at the back." The man produced an axe and advanced into the hospital. Kyouko, Shinji, and Sousuke, pushing Kaname, followed.

The downstairs of the hospital had maybe twenty infected, but the stranger was good with his axe. Its shape helped. It didn't get stuck in skulls and the blunt edge was just as deadly as the sharp. Old blood and brains spattered the floor wherever he went.

Kyouko did well, herself. Between them (plus the one Shinji took out), they cleared the way to the elevators.

The man punched the up arrow at the elevator bank on the back wall. "It won't be long, I'm sure."

"What's your name?" asked Shinji.

The man flashed another wide, white smile. "Leonard. I'm very pleased to meet all of you."

The elevator still had enough juice to ding. Sousuke noticed that the displays for the other elevators were still dark. "Is only this elevator working?" he asked.

Leonard put on a confused face. "Not sure."

The five moved into the elevator.

Leonard punched the top floor. "This floor will get you to the roof."

"You're pretty sure about that," said Shinji.

"Maybe I've been here before. Anyway, it makes sense. Go as high as you can, then the staircase will take you the rest of the way."

The floors dinged by. Sousuke felt more and more uncomfortable. Just then, Sousuke's walkie talkie buzzed to life.

"Sagara! Come in!"

Sousuke looked around, wondering if he should answer in front of the stranger. He answered anyway. "Go ahead."

"ETA in five. Hostiles in the area. Trust no one!" Kaname gasped.

Sousuke didn't answer, but looked at the stranger who had saved them. Leonard was still grinning then he looked down to his left hand. In it, he held a syringe poised at Kaname's neck. Sousuke's back teeth ground together.

They arrived at the top floor. Oblivious, Kyouko and Shinji got off the elevator. Sousuke and Leonard stood at a stalemate.

"Don't do it…" warned Leonard. He then pulled a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at Kaname's head. She gripped the arms of the wheelchair so tightly Sousuke could see her fingers turning white.

Sousuke was torn. He knew, he knew, Leonard was bluffing. But he still couldn't take the chance. Sousuke slowly backed off of the elevator. "Kaname…" Sousuke started.

"Don't worry, we'll take good care of her," Leonard smirked, then plunged the needle into Kaname's neck.

"Sou—" was all she managed before falling unconscious.

"Kaname!" yelled Kyouko, raising her machete and running at Leonard.

"No!" Sousuke yelled, afraid Leonard would hurt Kaname.

Instead, Leonard turned the gun on Kyouko and pulled the trigger.

Kyouko crumpled to the floor as the door to the elevator doors slid shut.

TO BE CONTINUED…


Author's Note: *wince* Sorry about the heinous cliffhanger, y'all, but it's a necessary evil. I'll be writing the next chapter as soon as possible. I'd love to hear what you think!