The gun wielding Agent and his buddies had been bait. As soon as they'd passed three rows of apartments, they opened and a half dozen armed Grey Agents spilled out to attack the charging Users from the sides.
“Fuck,” swore Blake loudly as he found himself fighting three Agents by himself. Derrick only had a second to watch him fight, but he seemed to hold his own.
Fuck was pretty much what Derrick was thinking as well. At least some part of his brain was thinking tactics because he immediately let one of his axes fly. He was honestly shit at fighting with two axes at once anyway. Better he try to do some some damage with it before the fight started.
He caught a surprised middle aged female Agent in the shoulder and stunned her, then he brought her down permanently with a swing to the neck. His axe tore through her flesh like it was butter but she didn't even flinch as she died.She just dropped with the same smile all Grey Legion had stil on her face.
Kate had fallen back and was trying to prevent them from being overwhelmed while making sure the enemies gun stayed out of play. That pistol could take them all down in seconds if it was allowed to. Derrick quickly grabbed his axe from the fallen Agent and strode towards the rest of the group.Time was not on their side. With both his axes back, Derrick immediately launched an axe into the back of an Agent fighting one of his more forgettable allies.
He didn't have time to see how that went, as he found himself under attack right away. This time a grey skinned old man smiled at him and tried to murder him with wild swings of a butcher’s knife. Derrick dodged and blocked as best as he could while keeping an eye out for other enemies. This lasted for a minute before he tripped on a body and fell backwards.
The old Agent smiled down at him and held its knife in both grey wrinkly hands. Derrick knew it was going to fall on him and fuck him up bad.
Or, it was until a bullet entered the old man's head. That caused him to just collapse and slowly enough that Derrick could roll out of the way of the falling Agent. He immediately climbed up on one knee and did his best to decapitate the fallen agent. Grey and red fluids stained the cheap carpet of the apartment hallway as he rose to his feet again.
All around him, the fight was still going on full force. He wasn't being targeted though, the fighting was up by the barricade. He saw his second axe sticking out of a corpse nearby and moved to get it. He winced from the noise of Kate firing another bullet from behind him, her shot ending another duel in their favour. She was doign a lot more to win this fight than him, he noted. He wondered how she had gotten this good at killing.
Well, thaks to that they were winning now, he noted, as he took in the chaos around him. Half of the dozen attacking Grey Agents were already laying still on the floor. A weird tableu of butchered men and women of all ages.
Derrick tore his axe out of a corpse and sent it into the thigh of a nearby male Agent. He then moved to finish it off but it refused to die, keeping him away with fast swipes of its kitchen knife. It tried to pull the axe out of itself but failed. Which struck Derrick as a little odd, as they always came out easily for him. Maybe it was some special property of the axe? A weird ability but not a useless one.
The distraction and weight of the axe let him get a light blow on the thing, leaving a gash on its forearm. It still defended itself from him and managed to leave a shallow cut along his hand when he pulled back. He was unwilling, or if he was being honest, unable to risk stepping into its reach and ending the conflict.
A few minutes passed without either amateur duelist dealing any serious blows. It seemed becoming a User or a grey alien zombie thing didn't grant skills at weapon fighting. After a gew minutes, he was embarrassingly the last User still fighting. Blake soon arrived and flanking it, ended it with quick strikes to the spine and neck. He made it seem easy.
“Fuck,” shouted Blake when it was all over, he was checking himself for wounds and finding them. Derrick could see at least three patches of blood on his clothes. He was a wicked fighter but had spent the fight surrounded and outnumbered. How did someone even become that good at knife fighting?
“I liked this gear and I hate getting played,” Blake continued as he picked up the revolver and pocketed it.
Light footsteps behind him caused a still jumpy Derrick to turn. He calmed when he saw short blonde hair atttached to wiry frame.
“You’re a terrible fucking fighter,” Kate said clinically to Derrick as the rest of the group dismembered grey bodies. “But those axes are nice.”
"Any advice?" he asked seriously. He was very aware of his poor showing, having a tiny blonde woman comment on it hurt his pride a bit though. He tried not to lett hat show on his face.
"Practice makes perfect," she said with a shrug. "You should improve, if you survive."
Was that a threat or a compliment? He was about to answer her but stopped when he saw what she was doing. She had moved to the body of their comrade, who had died without Derrick even knowing, and after stabbing him in the throat, was looting his corpse.
Probably a threat then, he realized and the blonde women smiled at his obvious discomfort.
“Just met him an hour ago,” she said and took a large knife from his belt. “I think the Pandora Boxes like to give us simple and tough weapons because when we die the next wave can just pick them and continue the fight. They expect us to die no matter what weapons they give us, so why not just arm us with sharp objects?”
He couldn't think of anything to say to that but she didn't seem to mind. She looked at the knife she had pilfered with open admiration.
“They are bastards for sure, but they make wonderful weapons.”
There was something about the look in her eyes right then, the way it made her seem younger and more alive. It was fascinating. She seemed sincerely happy. Not blustering or faking, not gallows humour either. She just seemed happy.
It was strange to imagine someone who could be happy her situation, but then again, he was no expert on happiness. Perhaps she was just enthusiastic about doing somethig she was good at.
Suddenly, she threw the knife she'd been holding at him and even though he flinched, he caught it without losing any fingers. All that practice with his axes was apparently paying off in hand eye coordination.
“You're cute,” she said as she left him behind to join the others. “Try not to disappoint.”
By living or by dying? The way she eyed weapons and enjoyed looting made it unclear.
He watched her leave for a minute before grabbing the knife's sheathe from the corpse and attaching it his waist. The sheathe had no belt but attached itself to his pants instantly.
What was with the women in his life lately? Why couldn't he meet anyone normal during the apocalypse.
His musings were cut short as the group got back to work. Blake continued to lead from the front. He, Derrick and the other surviving man quickly moved through the rooms on this floor, starting with the ones the already broken into by the Grey Agents. Kate stayed in the Hallway in case of more unpleasant surprises. From other rooms, errick heard the sounds of flesh being cut a few times but no screams or arguments, he assumed the other men found only bodies being turned or regular corpses. Thankfully, he found nothing but abandoned and eerily normal looking rooms.
After those rooms had been cleared, they moved on to breaking down locked doors. They offered only one shout of warning before smashing or cutting their way inside. They quickly found an older couple they convinced to move down the stairwell, Kate and Blake expertly corralling them before breaking down more doors. For all their talent at violence and attitude, they were surprisingly gentle about it. Firm but gentle.
The real surprise came when the group of Users broke into the second to last door and found themselves faced with two police officers; one male and unconscious, the other female, armed and angry.
“Put down your weapons,” the brunette and dark skinned woman said while shielding her partner behind her. She managed to sound authoritative and even a little confident, Derrick didn't think she was fooling anyone though.
Blake the group's leader, seemed to consider her order. His face seemed calm but Derrick saw something ugly in his eyes.
“No,” was his reply. “I don't think we will.”
Derrick was in fact in the process of lowering his weapon when the other man spoke, so he reversed and raised it back up while trying to look tough. Blake meanwhile, looked back out at the hallway where the rest of the group was watching. Deliberately turning his back to the woman.
“Bill. Kate. Stay out there and watch our backs, me and Derrick got this.”
Did they? Derrick didn't feel like he had this. Mostly he just felt awkward and mildly ashamed to be holding an axe in front of a police officer. He half expected to get a ticket or something. Also, what was with using all their names? Up till this point Blake had been keeping his emotional distance. He hadn't even known the other man's name was Bill. Was he trying to put the cop at ease?
“I'm serious,” the police woman said sternly.
Blake just smiled.
“But not a serious threat,” he replied. “What’s your plan? You going to shoot us all and then drag your friend out of this building all by yourself? Wave your gun around at any Agents you see and scare them off? Planning like that is probably why you're cowering helplessly in a corner as people are being killed all around you. ”
“Is trusting you supposed to be the smart option,” the women replied with equal venom. “I know what you work for, USER.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” Said Blake with a bitter smile. “Did they give you a little briefing before they sent you out to keep 'the peace'? I hate to break it to you, but 'the peace' is as dead and gone as the people you tried to save in this building. There are far worse thign running loose in the city than the Grey Legion.”
Was there? That was alarming. As alarming as Blake being so antagonsistic to an armed police officer. Now seemed like a bad time for drama.
“What I know for sure, is that us Users exist because you're so out of your league it's hilarious,” the blond man continued. “The fact you haven't picked up on that yet is sad. If we hadn't shown up, what was your next plan? Hide under the bed?”
Derrick didn't like how this was going and decided to step in before someone got shot or knifed.
“Can we not waste time?” he asked. “The USS says to evacuate the civilians. Let’s do that and move on please.”
The woman didn't seem to appreciate his input. The fit brunette scowled at him and her gun twitched in his direction before settling back at Blake. Blake on the other hand seemed amused by what he'd said.
He laughed and slid his knife into a sheathe.
“Yes, let's not waste time with this,” he said.
The police woman didn't seem to trust them however. She stayed where she was with her weapon drawn. It was almost like she trying to block... ah of course. She was worried that they were going to kill her partner.
“What happened to him?” Asked Derrick, trying to put as much compassion in his voice as possible. Ironically, his was the role of good cop to Blake's bad cop it seemed.
The women eyed him warily but answered after a few seconds.
“He was bitten and has lost a lot of blood,” she replied warily.
“Ha. Relax. This isn't a tv zombie apocalypse,” Blake said with contempt. “Were not going to kill him because he was bitten.”
Bitten? The Grey Agents didn't bite people that he'd seen. Why bother when you had real weapons? That just left...
“Was he bitten by a giant spider?” He asked, thinking of the drone Bruce had crushed at the gym. That could actually be a problem.
His question got him funny looks from everyone, police and Users. I seemed he was the only one who knew what Grey Legion Drones looked like. Huh, he was actually the most experienced person in this room. Should he be proud of that considering how he was likely the least useful?
“What? No,” The women replied, “By dogs when we tried to got to the nineteenth floor where the emergency call came from. He collapsed on the stairwell and I dragged him in here for first aid. ”
Blake went still.
“Dogs?” He said. “Fuck. Fuuuck. We haven't seen a single dog yet. Has to be at least two dozen of the mangy bastards in a building this size.”
Apparently, the Grey Legion could turn dogs, which for some reason offended him more than them turning people. People were assholes to each other all the time but turning man's best friend against man just seemed like a dick move.
But why would they keep them back? The Grey Agents were kind of like zombies, but that was a trap. They were intelligent, arguably the Grey Legion must be more intelligent than humans, as they were capable of FTL travel and zombie plagues. A plague that could infected and control alien races wa snot an easy thing to create. He was no pathologist but that sort of thing took real intelligence to design.
This was a strategy. But what good were dogs? Good senses, fur and four legs. Ahhh, that was it. Sprinting power.
“They know they're losing,” said Derrick. “They're going to rush the perimeter with the dogs and escape.”
“We are done here,” said Blake with a sharp gesture toward the door. “Floor twelve is clear anyway. Mission complete. Moving on.”
The blond man turned away and took a single step before they were interrupted.
“Someone needs to help me carry my partner,” the female cop said with clear panic in her voice. She was apparently as upset with the idea of them leaving as she was them staying. Derrick eyed the man in question. He was big. Derrick would place him around two hundred pounds with about one pound of blood missing from him. Thick bandages were tightly wrapped around his forearm and thigh.
“We don't need to do any such thing. We're on the twelfth floor of an apartment building and the elevators stuck on the top floor.” Blake returned with a nasty smile. “If you want our help you're going to need offer something in trade. For the right price I am sure one of us can help you out.”
The police woman narrowed her eyes at him, clearly suspicious.
“What do you want,” she asked, unblinking.
“The only thing you have of any value. Your pride,” the Blonde User said and leered at her. “Hand over your gun.”
Blake held out his hand with the palm face up. Clearly wanting her to place the weapon there.
It seemed like Blake was kind of an asshole. Problems with authority figures or something. Derrick felt bad, but not enough to get involved in this little showdown. Blake was competent enough that he wanted to stay on his good side.
The police officer stiffened and shot him a glance full of hatred.
“You know I can't do that.”
“Twelve flights of stairs,” repeated Blake. “Maybe you could roll him down? Tie him to a mattress and ride it down like a toboggan?”
“Possession of a police firearm is a felony.”
Snorts of laughter from Blake and the other man in the hall.
“When you report back to your HQ, how many of the other cops do you think will still be alive?” Questioned Kate in a calm tone. She had entered the room silently while they were talking. “Quite a few are still alive right now, I'd guess, but less than an hour ago and more than an hour from now. Tomorrow will be worse, the next day worse still. How long do you think, the Law is going matter?”
Brutal, but probably true. The lack of backup spoke volumes about how things were going for law enforcement. The army would be different but the police seemed to be trained to do everything wrong. Shooting to wound, non lethal take downs and a badge weren't going to do them any good. Pistols were the wrong kind of weapon anyway.
Derrick considered his options. Having a gun would be nice and he would rather Blake kept his hands free in case they were attacked. He decided to make an offer.
“I'll carry him and trade you this knife for your gun.” he offered with a forced smile. Once more, playing 'good cop' to Blake's 'bad cop'.
“Why should I trust any of you,” asked the dark skinned woman. She gave Derrick a look full of contempt. “What did you sell out humanity for? How are you different from those grey bastards that attacked us,” she asked.
Sell out humanity? What was she even talking about? All he'd done is fight the Grey Legion and saved lives. Did she really consider the USS to be the same as the Grey Legion?
He wasn't the USS's biggest fan but that was stupid. He'd seen what the Grey Legion could accomplish in a couple hours. Humanity needed all the help they could get.
“A can of soda,” he replied. “I was thirsty, so I got a can of soda from the wrong vending machine and here I am.”
There was a pause as everyone digested his epic origin story. Kate just smiled while Blake and the officer seemed taken aback. No doubt most Users had spent the last twenty-four hours spending wads of cash they'd pulled from the Pandora Machines.
“It was very good soda,” he admited. “I should ask the Pandora Machine what it's called, maybe buy you guys some.”
“Even if you didn't know what the consequences were. You arecstill a User.” The female officer said. “Still a threat to human civilization.”
“All I've done is protect people from space zombies at great personal risk,” he returned, growing annoyed. “I've done nothing to hurt 'human civilization', but you know what? Everything human civilization ever offered is a joke compared to what you can get from an alien vending machine anyway. Do even realize how outclassed we are by any one of these nightmares? If civilization is so fragile that me trying to survive is a threat to it, honestly? It can burn for all I care.”
It was at the exact moment he finished talking that the large window of the apartment exploded inwards and sent shards of glass flying everywhere.