Chapter XXV: EradicationComing out of the sewers, I walked past The Last Round, and onto the main street. Where had I seen that damned symbol before? It eluded me. The whole thing felt like it had been going on too long. I looked up at the sky. Not much past midnight, maybe 2am at the most.
And there it was. Spraypainted meticulously on the side of a wall. I looked up. A large building, directly opposite the Tremere Chantry. I couldn't help but smirk. For all their arcane knowledge, their pomposity and talk of worth, it appeared that the centre of this pestulence was right under their noses. I followed the wall around, looking for an entrance.
The main door was boarded up, but another one of the marks was painted at the far wall near the carpark. A quick look down the alley found a heavily fortified side door. I pulled back, considering my options. And my supplies. I was running low on shells for the shotgun. Unsure of what I'd be facing, I decided to track down someone with some hardware.
Trudging along the streets, unable to find anything that even remotely resembled a gun store, I was beginning to wonder what to do next. Then it came to me as I walked back past LaCroix's building again. Why exactly had a nondescript white van been idling on a sideroad most of the night? I walked around to the trailer end for a better look.
At the most opportune moments, prosperity comes in the form of a fat man.
The man leaned against the door, his considerable bulk hanging over the top of his jeans.
Well, there's no-one else around. Why not see whether he has anything?
'Nice night, dontcha think?'
The man turned, gesturing, a wide smile on his face.
Despite his appearance, Larry was a showman.
'So whatcha got in the back, Fat Larry? Counterfeit basketball jerseys?'
I winked at the man. 'Sorry about that, just checking. Got anything more in my line? I really like fireworks.'
'Business is business Larry, maybe you and me can get a better working relationship sometime. For now, show me what you've got for me.'
Amongst the bits and pieces, I was able to pick up a replacement knife, and some ammo for the shotgun. A nice looking glock caught my eye, as did the fireaxe, but right now I didn't have the green. At the back were some items of clothing. Including a nice purple leather jacket. I picked it up, feeling the quality. Surprisingly thick, with a woolen inner lining, the jacket would help to ward off some of the damage I was taking as well as making a dubious fashion statement.
'Just gotta have it Larry, it goes so well with my eyes.'
'Yo' a beautiful man', Larry replied. 'Now get the fuck outta here until you've got some more cash for me.'
Fully equipped, I headed back to the alley-way with the flaming skull image.
The inside of the building was a waste-site just waiting for the 'CONDEMNED' tape. The walls were peeled, decaying wooden timber exposed. Broken furniture covered the floor, along with used hyperdermic needles and torn porn magazines. The place was a crack-den with a change of direction. I walked up to the 'receptionist'.
'I'm a goddamned flashlight', I muttered, handing over the flyer. The man smiled a dead smile.
'Welcome to the Brotherhood.'
I ignored him, pushing open the door to my right.
The foyer would have been imposing once, maybe beautiful. Now it was a wreck, squalid piles of filth littering the floor, the chandalier stripped of it's decoration, likely pawned off for a meagre fix. At the gloomy end of the corridor, I could see a woman huddled against a wall, looking up the stairs in apprehension and drug-addled confusion.
I looked at her yellow eyes, her slightly sweaty, oily skin. She was infected, but newly so. I felt some small pity, I'd admit, but my patience was wearing thin.
'Bishop?', I asked shortly.
'Yeah, I'm new. So what happens up there?'
So why not leave, you stupid broad?
'What did she see?'
'You sound scared, little girl. Why don't you run away too?'
But you can't go home yet. There's still that little bit inside you, hoping for that fix. Even in the face of death. You're pathetic.
The inner voice was icey. It probably resented the waste of blood. I turned, walking up the stairs, which creaked and groaned under my weight. No chance of being stealthy, even if I had wanted to.
I peered into the darkness, seeing another human figure huddled there. I leaned forward, watching it twitch and shake in indecision. High perhaps, or suffering the final stages of illness? It slowly lifted it's head, looking towards me. Sniffed the air wetly. Yellow eyes flickered, head turning slightly to the side. It gave a mindless moan, somewhere between a roar and a whimper, and shuffled forwards.
'Zombie', I said aloud. Well, we had vampires, ghosts, werewolved. Why not zombies? I walked forwards calmly, unsheathing the new knife and driving it into it's throat as I walked past. The creature collapsed, hitting the floor with the sound of overripe fruit exploding. Which is much what the creature did. Curling my lip in distate, I moved on.
The hall was filled with bodies, groaning, lifting themselves up from the floor to pursue me on foot or on knees. I sighed.
'I wish I could have afforded that fireaxe', I said to no-one in particular, my knife disappearing in one zombie's eye, another one's chest. I slashed at another one, kicking it to the floor, and ran down the corridor, avoiding the grasping arms.
Arms came from the floor, the ceiling, the walls. Voices rose in hymn, crying out in damnation, the mindless choir singing of destruction. I killed where I could, ran where was necessary, searching for a sign of the Bishop. I'd exhausted the search on the upper floor, but a hole in the floorboards in one room provided access to an area of the house that had been cordoned off. I jumped down, landing back on the ground floor, dispatching a creature rising in front of me.
There. In front of me was a set of double-doors, the inline-etched gold still intact. If the Bishop was to be here somewhere, it was in that room. I walked through the hallway, unholstering the shotgun, and kicked the doors open.
The man was a mass of bruises, leaking sores and boils. His voice however was still deep and charismatic, his eyes not carrying the yellow sickness, but burning a bright blue, full of corrupted passion and zeal.
'The only truth here is that you look like you could moisturise better. You're the Bishop?'
That was eerily reminiscient of the words of Skelter, and of Jack. I frowned.
'The end? You mean Gehenna?'
Ah, the fallen priest. The one who lost his faith...
'So, our fate is a cruel one. And you subject others to one worse than ours? Is that somehow just, or fulfilling?' I sneered, looking at the wretched, angst-filled creature before me.
'You're a fool who's walking down a dark path, Vick. Now I'm afraid your path has come to a dead-end.'
'That's the first good idea to come out of that puss-filled mouth of yours all night Vick. I couldn't agree more.'
I felt that rage overcome me again, the feeling of detached contempt, felt the blood surround and shield me. Which was something of a blessing, as Brother Vick pulled a shotgun from behind his back, and fired, the pellets fragmenting against my face.
That could have been fatal. Get on with it!
I raised my own shotgun, firing in return. Futiley. The spray penetrated the wall harmlessly. I lowered the gun, looking for Vick. He possessed that same speed that Jack had showed, the same that Kanker had used against me. Except, if possible, he was faster. Whereas they were a blur when they moved, Vick just disappeared. I felt the spray hit my left shoulder this time, from behind. I jumped behind a wall, hearing Vick taunting me. The shotgun would be useless, if I couldn't get close enough, if he wouldn't stay still. He fired again, hitting the wall, plaster falling over my shoulders.
'Come out brother', he called in his preacher voice, walking towards the wall. Closer...closer...
I span around the wall, catching Vick off guard. He'd been expecting me to stay where I was, bide my time, have him put me out of my misery, quickly, painlessly. Instead, I vaulted around, slashing widely with the knife, deep gashes in his arm and chest. He stepped back, raising the gun, and again I span to the other side of the wall.
'You only delay the inevitable, brother', he intoned. 'Three shots left in the gun, how many more in the room? I cannot say. Best give in now brother, accept the fate this God has chosen for you.'
'If it's all the same', I yelled back. 'I'd rather not.'
Hissing, I felt teeth trying to dig into my arm, breaking off on the shield. The creature got the knife in the mouth, lacerating the hindbrain, and it fell, twitching frantically. I turned back, into Vick's leering face. This shot also hit me in the face. Unfortunately, this one shattered the shield. Fragments of hardened blood flew at all angles, cutting deeply into the creatures rising from the floor, into Vick, one hitting his eye, making him step back.
Your luck is running out, fledgling.
Diving between the man's legs, I stabbed deeply into the back of his knee, pulling the blade down to sever the muscle. Vick roared in pain, his heel kicking back wildly, slamming into the side of my head. I jumped back, reeling, slipping backwards. Again, it saved my life, as the spray went over my head, burning my scalp, taking off skin. I crawled backwards, rolling, jumping to my feet as Vick limped towards me. His abilities curtailed, for now.
Cursing, he aimed from the hip, hoping to wing me. Spinning behind another section of drywall, the spray missing me once again. I counted. That was six. I turned, running for Vick, who had turned to hide behind his own wall, hurriedly reloading his gun. I ripped the shotgun from my shirt, standing in front of him. He looked up, into the barrel of the gun, an odd smile forming on his putrescent lips.
'Be healed, brother', I said calmly, and gave him a baptism of fire. Perhaps, in some way, his final death had brought him at least partway towards the light once again. Around me, the bodies of his zombies began to fall, lifeless. I knew then that the infection was over. L.A.'s epidemic had been contained.
Contained, and eradicated.