Chapter 3:



Kage dropped off all the supplies and met back up with the group. They were currently getting chased by a wave of Corpses as their duel minivans swerved down the street. He appeared in the back seat of the first one, Asad laying down cover fire as they retreated.

“Of course, it has to rain now of all times!” the driver screamed as Asad culled multiple Corpses with a single bullet from the passenger seat. It was a saving grace that it didn’t matter how much ammunition he extended from the weapon.

They didn’t know why the undead became more aggressive and quick when it rained, but they became an even stronger force to be reckoned with. Sometimes one bullet to the head wouldn’t be enough.

“Chubby and his crew ahead,” the driver called out. A beyond obese Corpse sprinted at the minivan and preposterous speed for his side.

“On it,” Asad replied as he dropped three bullets into its skull in rapid succession. Kage dropped the other four with his sword while extending his body from the left window. 

"Just ignore them. We got it," he said. "Though, I feel like I should be checking on the Refuge right about now."

"If my little baby could slaughter enough of them, I would agree. Unfortunately, we may not get home without your help. This horde is..."

"Yeah, yeah—I know. I still wish I could contact Cyph, though. We did prepare for this. It won't be like last time."

"Maybe we will only lose a few this time," Duncan, the short-haired driver, added. "How long has it been since we lost the tentacle chick? 8 months?"

"11 months, 4 days, and six hours," Kage affirmed. "I'll never get that sight out of my head. And all her Cultist. Why are you bringing her up anyway?" he asked as he pulled his sword out of a ravaged teen with a gaping hole in his chest.

Duncan turned to him before keeping his eyes back on the road. "'Cuz, she could be out there, coming back to our base. Could we even stop her? Those tentacles already had a mind of their own. It gives me shivers just thinking about it."

Kage had thought about that multiple times since that fateful day. Luckily, they only had to deal with one Corpse that was a former hero, though they weren't successful in killing it. It was hard enough to even fight someone you worked with, even more so when they saved your hide in the past.

Kage let his body go on autopilot as his mind wandered towards one of his closest allies. Aaliyah or Cultist was someone very precious to him. She was there for him in his darkest time after losing his brother. She gave him the confidence he needed to break away from his family and lead his own life. He wanted to do the same for her. He wanted to free her from her terrible curse.

If only this stupid Necrovirus didn't appear. We could have... Well, I'm not really sure what we were. He bisected a middle-aged woman with no eyes as he pondered the unknown. I wonder if she's watching? He gazed upwards towards the ashy sky, clouds delivering divine judgment in the form of thick drops of liquid. Nah, she's probably stuck with that ancient thing that could destroy the world on a dime—if she wasn't joking, that is. But, yeah, maybe I could reach there someday. Maybe we could...

"You going to get your head out of your ass, James? Or would you like me to help? Asad asked. 

"Right. My bad." Kage tossed one of his rocks ahead of the van and blinked above two sets of Corpses. Kage cleanly sliced horizontally through the quartet, which must have been a family in the past, with his trusty blade. The sight made him slightly gag, but that was all. He reappeared in the backseat not long after collecting his rock. Asad assisted in clearing the path, while the other minivan didn't miss a beat, following closely. 

"Base is coming up," Duncan said. "It's...not looking too bad, actually. Wiz really is something else."

Kage gazed up at the dazzling middle-aged woman as she rained down fire bolts from the tallest building near District Three. She truly was impressive once she absorbed some energy. If it wasn't raining, her attack would have been a lot more effective, even against their water-strengthened skin. For now, it would slow them down while extending the range of the pungent rot odor. 

"That's my question. I'm linking up with Cyph to check on the other three walls."

"I'll meet you at Two if you need it, James."

"I'll let you know once I grab a new responder. I already know what the answer is, but do you—"

"I don't like the interference on the brain. It buzzes too much."

"Nah, you just think she's gonna probe your mind or something. But whatever. See ya."

He blinked into a storage room from the former community college in District Two. After wiping off the blood from his clothes and helmet, he made a dash for one of the two weaker sides of the Refuge.

Cypher watched from inside her helmet as IXILON, her one, and only sentry, released a medium-length beam from its circular head. It stood small but sturdy upon the scaffolding above District Two's gate. More than 200 Corpses waited on the other side, trying their best to break through. 

In the dark room, Cypher quickly checked through her ten monitors to ascertain the status of the other locations under siege. She relayed instructions to the Enforcers, the Refuge's defense system of volunteers.

"E2 and E3, move towards the end of sector five, the mesh of the barrier is being overwhelmed. E8, make sure that Miss Magic has enough energy to keep her side well-defended. Ninja boy should be back any... And, he's here. E6, take point, but don't waste too much ammo and—Shit, how did they...? Someone, get Kage a responder, stat!"

How could this have happened? The barriers were stronger than this, she wondered as she sent a group of ten to check on the exposed hole. She needed Kage to get over there with something to seal it. Somehow, a six-foot-tall circle had been carved out of the wall, causing speedy Corpses to rush in. Nearly anyone was in that area since it was supposed to be "well-defended, but one unlucky individual was easily run down by a pack of Corpses. The best-armed Enforced was moving over there as she frantically swapped her gaze from monster to monster.

"What in the world?" She looked back at monitor six. She caught a flash of long blond hair in ringlets, with the shadow that pointed towards the individual being a woman. Cypher mentally forced the screen to freeze and zoom in on the image. "Who is this?"

Cypher knew the name and face of every single resident in the Refuge. Even if she had forgotten, her database didn't. She willed monitor four to pull up the database. She was about to rewind to get a look at the individual's face when her head started to ache, causing her to lose focus.

"Ahhhh...." She clutched her concealed face. "One mystery after another today, huh?"

"Yo, Cyph, it's me."

"About time. You're not going to believe what the problem is this time," she said, gazing at one monitor in particular as she sat up in her chair. She scrapped digging for the girl for the time being. She couldn't afford to lose focus at a time like this. "You remember High Wire?" Well, he's back and about to eat Billy Jenkins. Think you can get over there? I'm sending you the coordinates now."


She heard him sigh from the other side of the call. It caused his chapped lips to smile under her helmet slightly.

"I'll... I'll be right over."

"Godspeed, Ninja boy."

"Don't call me that or I really will slap a mark in your room."

"Do that and I'll have IXILON take what remains of your average looks."

"So mean. You're lucky he's waterproof or you wouldn't be able to hold him over my head."


How the hell did they break through? Kage thought after finishing his warp. High Wire shouldn't be able to do much, even with the rain. So it had to be someone else. But who? And why?

He dashed past one of the gardens that existed as their main food source and leaped over the toolshed behind it. "Take this, uglies!" He tossed two shurikens towards a bloated Corpse with one eye and another who was feasting on what certainly used to be Billy Jenkins. They sliced through their mangled visages before taking out a few more behind the pair. 

"Glad you're here, boss. Electroboy veered off towards the residential area. You should follow him," one of the defenders said to them from behind their makeshift barricade. Gunshots blanketed Kage's ears, providing him cover to retrieve his weapons. The four guards behind him did their best to stop those coming for the garden, but they couldn't stop the one that was attracted to a more juicy prize.

He's heading for the generator, isn't he? Shit! Kage relayed the information to Cypher before running off after his old friend.

He ran into the wreckage of an old school entrance, the lights flickering on and off like a scene straight out of a horror movie. The area was only used to store one of their two generators that Artoria kept alive. If High Wire was anything like he was when he was human, then he would always be at the object that provided him the most energy. He was a guy that got off on the power surge, which made him unfavored by many, especially the grand S-Rank hero, G2.

Kage internally groaned as he ran down the hall towards the stairwell. Books and lockers filled the ground from when the Collapse first started, but the feeling in his head made it all the harder to circumvent them. Electricity was messing with his brain, causing him to see things that were not there. 

His brother faded in and out of view, as well did his stern father and loving mother. It nearly rooted him in place, but the cries of pain from the generator caused his feet to move on their own. The lights flickered fast and faster, while the wail got bigger and bigger. A wave of vertigo washed over him as he attempted to ascend the stairwell, tripping over himself. 

"Fuck! Why didn't I mark up there? If he dries it up then—shit!" He crawled up, despite his urge to hurl and pass out from the visions that continued to assault his brain. The hairs on his neck and chest, as well as many other places, began to stand up as he finally reached the top of the stairwell. Almost there. Almost...there. Almost...huh?

The light had returned to normal. The power had been...saved? 

Kage pulled himself up and slowly stabled towards the largest room on the second floor that wasn't sealed off—The Workshop. Cables snaked by him on his way, leading to everywhere they were supposed to lead. Nothing had been severed. When he stumbled into the room, he couldn't believe his eyes.

The hulking tesla of a man was nowhere to be seen. There was a medium-sized dent in the generator from where High Wire had made contact, but he wasn't anywhere to be found. Instead, a child was slumped against it, drooling while she slept. She had long brown hair and a one-piece red dress with frills at the end. She seemed no older than ten or eleven, but what was she doing here? And what in the world happened to High Wire?

Kage slapped his head to make sure he wasn't in some sort of illusion. He had fallen for a trap like this in the past by The Angler and nearly got himself crunched into two. He touched the sleeping girl. She felt organic and real...but something clicked him the wrong way...

"What's your status? The electric field was blocking my camera and receiver from reaching you. Deal with him?"


"Ninjaboy...? James...? Some...wrong?"

"No... I'm fine. Just a bit disturbed."

"Was killing him that rough on you? I know you two weren't on the best of terms, and really most people hated him, but that doesn't—

"It ain't that, Cyph..."

"Then what is it? Did you get bit?"

"No, but I had a crazy question for you. Do we have any 11-year-old girls in the Refuge?"

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