Series: Naruto AU
Pairing: Main pairing: Naruto & Kiba.
Warnings/Notes: VIOLENCE, DISTURBING IMAGERY, horror, language, mutilation, guns, fires, other things having to do with zombies
Spoilers: None whatsoever.
Summary: Kiba and Naruto meet some interesting people.
Notes: This a five-part story for Skully, who won the D/s Naruto contest over on Y!Gallery. She wanted horror, and I was entirely delighted to try to give her what she wanted. Song lyrics are from Rob Zombie's, "Demonoid Phenomenon."
Do note: I do not own the Naruto characters, but the world, original characters, zombie lore, etc. are all me. :)
The conquering worm
The slithering germ
Lost in black sleep
I see how the gods weep
The horror of Madness
The Terminal Sadness
The cool air of mourning
Gave me the warning
When he was running from shit that was riding bitch, Kiba's only solace was watching Betty's heavy tires eat the miles like a zombie kid with brain candy. Kiba's nerves jangled with every pebble they hit on the road, and next to him, Naruto folded the map and stabbed the page to the seat with an index finger. Kiba nodded. They stopped to piss, they siphoned diesel, and Naruto was quiet. Unnervingly, unendingly, quiet.
Kiba never thought he'd long for the days of I Spy, but he was learning the hard way to mind his "nevers."
"You wanna drive?" Kiba asked while they raided what they could from the QuikMart. Most of the food was rotting, destroyed, or expired, but the deodorant came in handy. As did the aspirin.
"Nah. Unless you're tired?"
Back to the truck, back to watching the odometer tick. They were south of Interstate Forty somewhere in New Mexico, and they were aimless. Driving because staying still made them itch like morphine addicts. It was cold outside, it got dark early, and last night it had happened again.
Kiba had agreed to first watch, knowing Naruto was exhausted despite the man's forced pleasantries. The blond lay down in the back of the truck, which was both the safest and the warmest place to sleep these days. Kiba amused himself with a pack of cards and solitaire next to a solar powered camping light until he heard the sound that drove him crazier than a horde of slobbering Phase Twoers.
Naruto. Dreaming again. Whimpering.
It killed Kiba because the guy was tougher than Naruto's marine father could ever have dreamed. Naruto could outshoot Kiba on most days. He was faster, too, and quick on his damned feet. They sparred and trained together to stay fresh and practice what they could only learn from books, and Kiba kept up but often only barely.
And thank God. Because if they didn't push each other, then they probably wouldn't still be alive.
At night, though, Naruto didn't do so well. And ever since that incident months ago with the near miss at the camp site, Kiba discovered he lacked the willpower and better sense to leave Naruto alone.
Kiba put down the king of hearts on a blank spot, sighed, and silently crawled to Naruto's pallet. The blond was on his side, sweating despite the chilly interior, and one hand was formed into a fist near his face.
Bracing, Kiba lightly touched Naruto's shoulder. Immediately, Naruto whipped onto his back, machete nearly slicing open the sleeping bag, and Kiba tensed to dodge an incoming blow that didn't happen. Naruto panted for a moment, swallowed, and stared at Kiba with big blue eyes that made Kiba mourn for innocence lost.
Without a word, Kiba stretched out beside Naruto. He did it slowly, he didn't touch the man other than the hand on a bunched bicep, and eventually Naruto relaxed, eyes closing. The blond rolled back onto one side, and Kiba got brave enough to rub Naruto's arm, inch closer, let Naruto feel his presence. Sometimes Naruto said a polite, "Thanks," at that phase, and Kiba backed down. Sometimes Naruto shoved Kiba away, and Kiba took that, too.
But last night, Naruto hadn't said a thing as Kiba put a cautious arm over the blond's waist. He didn't complain when Kiba stayed, just holding and nothing else, and Kiba's elation was just fucking ridiculous when Naruto fell back asleep and didn't make another noise for the rest of Kiba's watch.
Only problem was that the day after such events, Naruto clammed up. Kiba had no idea if that was because of the straight guy thing or if it was just the needing something thing, and like hell if Kiba was going to fucking ask. Going up against an army of Phase Three beasts seemed like a smarter choice.
"Did you see that that?" Naruto questioned.
Kiba jumped, stopped himself from saying that they could have passed Ryan Reynolds naked on the side of the road and he would have missed it, and checked the side mirror. "See what?"
"Another one of those pile things."
"The fuck?" Kiba asked, trying to muster enough outrage and confusion into such a secondary matter when all he could think about was how amazing it would be to reach over and touch--
"I dunno," Naruto said. "Stop the truck."
Kiba stepped on the brakes, passive as Naruto strapped a freakin' katana across his back. He picked it up in a Louisiana museum of all places and actually learned how to use the thing with reasonable proficiency. Naruto was no Jet Li, but it didn't take tons of finesse to slice a zombie.
"Come with you?" Kiba asked.
"Nah. Just want to check it out."
"Don't get dead."
"Roger that." Naruto keyed in the code to unlock Betty and hopped out, slamming the door behind him. Kiba scooted across the bench to the passenger side, Ruger at the ready, and watched Naruto in the mirror. Naruto walked over to a pile of what looked like rock, debris, and maybe concrete. He bent, jerked away, and turned to run the ten steps back to the truck.
"What is it?" Kiba asked, moving to the driver's side when Naruto climbed in.
"Body parts," Naruto said, more confused than disgusted. "Bones, little bit of rot, and a whole lot of slime."
"No. The slime we had for dinner last night Yes. Zombie slime."
Kiba snorted. "So that makes three of these things."
"Yeah," Naruto agreed.
Kiba squinted into the distance, the sun above bright and cold. "Each at about this same longitude on side roads and state highways." He paused. "Slime look fresh?"
"No. It was hard."
"Something still had to make the things."
"No shit. But it could have happened months ago."
Naruto got the look that meant his brain was working overtime. Or the one that meant he needed more vegetables in his diet. "What do you think?"
"I think I've never seen an arts-and-crafts zombie project. And it makes me nervous."
"Yeah?" Naruto asked, all naïve and sort of cute when sorting something out.
"Yeah. Because if I wanted to warn people off my territory -- warn zombies off my land -- that'd be how I'd do it. We've backtracked each time we've run into one of the piles, and there's no sign of them east of here."
"So it's like a perimeter," Naruto murmured. "A line, north to south."
"You think a person did that?"
"Maybe, but if so, they're most likely dead by now."
Naruto blew hair out of his eyes, shoved it back with impatience. "Should we keep going?"
"Not a whole lot of options," Kiba said, grabbing the map. "We just came up from the south. If we go back to Clovis, we could take roads north, try to navigate around forty."
Naruto wiped his palms on his pants, new lines forming between his eyes. "Stupid."
"Maybe. But avoiding things that make us nervous has kept us alive this long."
Naruto nodded. "All right. Let's do that."
Kiba's answer was to throw Betty into reverse and turn around. Neither man spoke, tense and focused while balancing paranoia and good instincts. Double lines vanished beneath Betty, they passed the tiny sign that said, "Welcome to Clovis!" and Naruto violently bent to press his nose to his window.
"Oh… my God…"
"What?" Kiba asked, shoving panic into a cage as he checked his mirror, and saw the Cadillac Escalade bearing down on their tail. Kiba blinked hard, looked again, and the thing was still there. Solid and real and like it wasn't the first manned and moving truck Kiba had seen since the night he met Naruto.
"You seein' that?" Kiba asked, a hushed whisper.
"Maybe. Kiba? There's more than one."
Three more black SUVs appeared to flank the Escalade, kicking up dust and debris in their wake. "Did somebody change the script and land us in a mobster flick?" Kiba asked.
Naruto shook his head, mute for a moment. "Should we… you… should you floor it?"
"No way Betty could outrun 'em," Kiba answered. "But… Zombies don’t drive." Kiba tried to make the statement sound like a fact without exception, and he didn't know what was worse, the faintest glimmer of hope or the shards of utter terror.
"Well, something's making those things move."
"I know," Kiba agreed.
The three vehicles caught up, one staying behind Betty, one zipping around the driver side to move in front, and the other two flanking the truck. The windows of the SUVs were tinted so dark that Kiba couldn't see inside, and he slowed down. Ramming plate and armor or not, Kiba really didn't want to risk blowing a tire, wrecking the truck that served them so well, or pissing off whatever the hell was driving the other cars.
"All right, boys, all right," Kiba muttered, slowing further. "We'll play nice."
An arm that appeared attached to a living body thrust out of the passenger side window of the car in front of them. It was big, gloved, and made a twirling motion. A signal came on with brake lights, and Kiba went along with the others as all five vehicles turned around.
"What's out this way?" Naruto asked.
"Other than bone piles? Fort Sumner. Vaughn. A whole lot of nothin'."
"What are the chances they'll let us get into the back with the weapons?"
"Zero to fucking minus one hundred," Kiba replied, mouth dry. "Even if they're somehow the good guys, nobody likes an armed civilian." Kiba didn't add that he thought that the odds of the individuals in the other vehicles being in their right minds were even slimmer. Rotting slime markers weren't exactly a beacon of sanity in this dim night.
Naruto started gathering weaponry and took stock. "Ruger, P-90, Glock, Sig, katana, machete, Bowie, one flare, full ammo loads on all of them, but the rest is in the back."
"You forgot the throwing knives."
Naruto gave Kiba a look.
"Took one out with 'em."
"First sign of organized life we've seen in God knows when, and this is when you wanna critique the skills?"
"Look, man, we may die in the next hour or so. I need to get some stuff off my chest."
Kiba knew Naruto was kidding. Or, well, knew that Naruto meant get all the gripe he had about Kiba off said chest before whatever the hell was in the cars questioned them… or strung them up and systematically removed their skin for shits and giggles.
Which meant that Kiba's thudding heart as he hoped Naruto would say something about the night before made Kiba want to open the truck's door and ask somebody to please go ahead and blow his head off.
They traveled at precisely forty miles an hour, and Kiba crazily thought he was happy for their nearly full tanks of fuel. It would be embarrassing to ask the most-likely-zombie mobsters for a pit stop on their way to certain death.
"People…" Naruto whispered.
"Don't do that," Kiba answered at the same volume.
"You know what."
"Sorry. Can't help it."
Naruto shut his mouth and kept any musings of hope to himself. Kiba started breathing deep and even, sort of liking that there was time to prepare for the impending battle for once.
Kiba squinted and followed the direction of Naruto's finger. At first, he thought it was a line of shrub grass, but then he caught flashes of metal, moving figures, defined shapes. "It's a wall."
"Wire, metal, and more of those bone piles," Naruto confirmed.
Beyond the wall was a cluster of buildings that reminded Kiba of a Ghost Town attraction. Low roofs, rough lumber, and sun baked. The illusion got destroyed by the line of cars and trucks parked off to the left side in a neat row and further shattered by the small army of massive people in military fatigues. Kiba tapped the brakes when the entourage slowed to twenty, and Kiba got a good look at one of the patrolling guards off to their left.
The man's chest was too big, like he packed more muscle than The World's Strongest Man ever had. He wore a ball cap with a Yankees logo, and Kiba didn't see any hair on the guy's face or under the lip of the hat. Sunglasses covered the man's eyes, and his skin was a weird color: sort of faint sky blue sickly with pasty white patches of clouds. He approached the incoming convoy with speed, but he moved slightly hunched over, almost like he hurt.
Kiba's asshole clenched, and he felt dizzy with the fight or flight reflex telling him to find a jet pack and get the hell away. "Phase Three. They're… Phase Three."
"You've faced one before?" Naruto asked, all business now that the targets were in sight.
Kiba knew that drinking whiskey in the dim light and trying to sew up the gash on his arm were counter productive tasks, but he didn't know what shit in the clinic would numb him and what would kill him. He just knew the curved needle was his newest addition to personal hell.
A noise made him jerk thirty minutes later when he cut the thread, and he managed to get gauze and tape to cover the wound. The rustling sounds turned to metal scraping and banging, and Kiba slid off the stool and slithered toward the door, Ruger ready to fire.
The thing might have once been a woman, but now it looked more like a freak of body building nature. She was only half dressed, her upper half bare and covered in a sheen of slick stuff that Kiba didn’t quite think was sweat. It dribbled in thick, creamy, lines down her sides and back like some dude just shot his load all over her. She didn't have any hair, the ends of her fingers looked funny, like she wore thimbles, and while Kiba watched, she picked up an examination table and tossed it through a reinforced observation window with a war cry of rage.
"I ran," Kiba said.
Naruto sighed and handed Kiba the two hand guns and flare. "Awesome."
Kiba pocketed the weaponry, coming to a full stop when the GMC in front of him did the same. Two Phase Three goons came over to have a chat with the driver, nodded, and waved the vehicles in through the makeshift gate. They turned left into the parking area, which made Kiba want to laugh. It was like they were coming to the latest zombieville attraction theme park or something, but he dutifully stayed in the formation and stopped when he didn't have anywhere else to go.
"It's been real," Kiba said.
"We'll be all right," Naruto replied.
Kiba didn't have anything productive to say, so he kept his trap shut. More Phase Three men and one woman climbed out of all four SUVs, and all of them had guns. Big ones.
"Show offs," Kiba muttered, waiting until a man wearing overalls and a trench coat reached his side of the truck and banged on the door. Faintly, Kiba heard the crackle-hiss of a walkie-talkie.
"You can huff and puff--" Naruto started.
Kiba made no move to get out of the truck, and the windows weren't made to roll down. A speaker crackled, and the goon called in something on the communication device. He kept waiting, the polarized sunglasses giving Kiba the creeps, and a static message that Kiba couldn't quite make out relayed. The guy barked something into the walkie-talkie and then to the woman standing near the hood of the truck. She cocked her head in a too-fast-to-be-normal gesture, and in unison the things surrounding the truck took a collective step backward. They held up their weapons, bent low to the ground, and put them down.
And that would have made Kiba feel all warm and cozy inside if they didn't do it all in a blur of motion that would make a vampire proud.
"Maybe they'll get bored?" Naruto said.
Kiba snorted, said a silent fuck you to the universe, and keyed in the code to unlock his door. He opened it slowly, thinking it'd be a bad idea to startle these fuckers, and it did make him feel slightly better when he wasn't dead two seconds later. He aimed his shotgun at the head of the nearest goon, who apparently didn't take offense at being a target.
"The doctor wants you." The goon sounded like a long term smoker with a respiratory infection.
"For what, dinner?" Kiba asked.
"Get out of the truck."
"And if we don't?"
The goon sighed, and the woman who had been in front of the truck last Kiba checked was suddenly next to Smoky. "Then we take you to the doctor in pieces."
"Claire." The goon sounded damned near affectionate.
Kiba laughed. "God, you two are precious."
"Kiba," Naruto warned.
"I don't guess we get to know who the doc is or what he wants before we get there?"
"He's our savior, and he wants to study you."
"Oh, well. There's nothing like Christ's anal probe to make me want to seize the fuckin' day," Kiba said, but he climbed out of the truck. The goons didn't make any moves, and Naruto stepped down a second later.
"This way," Smoky said, and the other drivers walked around to encourage Naruto and Kiba to follow by gathering Smoky and Claire's discarded weapons and politely pointing machine guns at Kiba and Narutos' heads.
"Awesome," Naruto muttered.
The Phase Three zombies flanked Kiba and Naruto like the cars had pinned in Betty, and they headed for the town. It felt like some sick dream, and Kiba had to focus on the crunch of dry earth under his boots, the chilly breeze whipping around his body, the weight of his trusty Ruger in his hands. The fact that they still had weapons either meant these freaks intended no harm at the moment or that they didn't view the guns as a threat. Either way, not terribly comforting.
They turned down a street in the center of town, and Naruto nudged Kiba's elbow and jerked his chin to the right. Kiba saw a group of the big and bald adding fresh bones to a pile like the ones they'd seen on the road. While Kiba watched, one man unzipped, whipped out a floppy dick, and started pissing while the other goon added a femur to the mix. The urine came out in a white, viscous stream, and it landed in gooey slicks instead of puddles.
Naruto looked at Kiba, blue eyes wide, and Kiba could only shrug. Kiba'd long learned that just when he thought he'd seen the weirdest crap imaginable, something like zombies using inhuman piss as glue came along to up the ante.
The town appeared to be comprised of two sections: the new part, which looked like the ghost town, and the old world part that was trailers, one-level homes, and the husks of dead businesses. The street was deserted except for the worker guys, who rushed by carrying everything from pallets of two-by-fours to linen sacks full of things Kiba didn't want to contemplate because most of them dripped blood and slime. One of the bag carriers veered off to the left, and Kiba jumped when he heard inhuman wails erupt from nearby.
"The dogs," Smoky said. "It's feeding time."
Kiba got a glimpse of the bag carrier setting down his load next to a razor wire pen behind a concrete building with a faded sign in a barred window proclaiming, "Larry's Laundromat." The Phase Three guy pulled out a human hand with dangly bits of moist flesh that he shook off before lobbing it over the fence. A woman so far gone in Phase Two that she looked more animal than human grabbed the wire, screamed when it shocked her, and the goon with the bag of body parts laughed.
"Dear God," Naruto whispered, and Kiba silently agreed with the sentiment.
After another block, the group turned to the right and briskly walked down New Earth Lane toward what Kiba thought might have once been a municipal building. Goons with firearms and soured expressions stood guard next to the entrance and two more Phase Three guys patrolled, watching the group with what Kiba only assumed was interest. Everybody wore the damned Secret Service sunglasses, so it was hard to tell.
Smoky and the Bitch led Kiba and Naruto into the squat building, the guards opening the doors. It was warm inside, and Kiba spotted kerosene heaters on the chipped tan tile next to what used to be the front office.
"This way," Smoky said, and they trudged down a hallway, shoes squeaking and thumping in unison. Most of the doors they passed were boarded over, but the one at the end wasn't, and it had a sign that read, "The Doctor Is In."
"Inside," said Claire, gesturing in a blur.
Kiba thought about shooting her to see what would happen and to end the suspense, but Naruto nudged his lower back with one hand, and Kiba cursed under his breath. He reached for the door handle and on autopilot stepped to the right to get out of the line of fire from whatever was on the other side. Naruto did the same, the goons chuckled, and when aliens covered in pig shit or something equally shocking didn't fly into the hallway, Kiba stepped into the room.
It was dim inside, and shelves stacked two deep with paperbacks, journals, and three-ring binders ran along the left wall. Two very nice chairs sat in front of a utilitarian metal desk covered in paperwork, pens, mechanical parts, and a jar full of deformed bullets. The window behind the desk was bricked over, a heater burned orange in one corner, and a rubber plant sat behind the creature perched in a chair with its hands clasped on a blotter.
Kiba had thought the zombie piss glue strange. The thing behind the desk, however, made his blood turn to ice and his bowels feel ready to evacuate. The creature was impossibly large. Maybe the thing started out as a defensive back for the fucking Colts or maybe used to be Shaquille O'Neal, but sitting down, it was eye-to-eye with Kiba standing. It wore a loose, tan shirt that had obviously been tailor made to fit. The shirt buttoned down the front, and for some reason that touch made the thing creepier. The creature's hands were bare, and the ends of the fingers were stumpy -- calloused over and without fingernails. No hair, weird skin tone just like the others, but this particular thing had made some modifications to the base model Phase Three goon.
Bolted into the zombie's head were steel plates formed to cover its scalp, bridge of its nose, and to provide protection to the neck. One plate had the dual snake medical symbol painted on it. The helmet didn't cover the thing's eyes, though, which was a damned shame. They were clear with black streaks marking cornea from the whites. A whimper broke the silence, and for a second Kiba thought he might have made the noise, but then he noticed the goon in the corner to the desk creature's left.
Chains bound the naked Phase Three man, he was blindfolded, sat with his legs splayed in front of him, and a metal plate had been screwed over his mouth. Something about the way the guy moved, or, maybe, didn't move made Kiba feel like throwing up lunch, breakfast, and possibly dinner last night, too.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," said the thing behind the desk in a bass rumble. "Please. Have a seat. Claire? Be a dear and wait with your brethren outside the door for my orders."
"Sure, doc," said Claire before she shut the door with a laugh that made Kiba really, really want to cut off her head. Instead, he and Naruto moved in sync and sat in the chairs across from the doctor.
"So," Kiba began, thinking that a quick death was probably the better option. "Fan of X-Men, are we?"
The doctor blinked, looked sincerely lost, and finally thin lips pulled back into what Kiba assumed was the doc's version of a smile. "Humor," Doc said. "I vaguely remember it."
"The goons don't get the giggles, huh?" Kiba asked, and he saw Naruto's head fall forward. Trying to fight laughter or the urge to gag Kiba, he wasn't sure.
"No," Doc said. The man in the corner made a pitiful sound that was definitely not related to mirth.
"What do you want?" Naruto asked.
Doc's head moved inhumanly fast, and he fixed Naruto with an inquisitive stare. "Interesting. No, 'What is this place?', 'Who are you?', 'Please don't hurt me," or anything of that nature?"
Naruto shook his head, and Kiba recognized the Determined Against All Odds expression. "I don't care about this place, I get that you run it, and all I want to know is what you think we have to do with your plans."
"We're bottom line kind of guys," Kiba said, and he caught Naruto's approving glance.
"Oh that is most excellent. Most excellent." Doc sighed, rubbed his paws together, and straightened in the chair. It protested with a metallic crunch.
"I want your blood," Doc said.
"That would sound so much better with a Dracula accent," Kiba said to distract himself from the urge to see if he could dent that metal headgear at close range.
"Our blood?" Naruto asked.
"How much and why?" Kiba added.
Doc looked back and forth between Kiba and Naruto and the eerie smile returned. "I see why you two work. Fascinating. And to answer your questions, I'll need to expound. I do hope you'll have patience with me? It's so rare to find good conversationalists." Doc threw a distasteful glance at the prisoner.
"Do the monologuing bit, then," Kiba said.
"Monologue…" Doc shook his head. "An explanation, then. A bit of history on my… tale of woe?" He chuckled and the hair on the back of Kiba's neck stood on end.
"I was infected with what I assumed was nearly the rest of humanity back when H6N6 first broke. Being a doctor of some skill, I thought the virus would burn out long before it could do as much damage as it did. The fact that it was carried by some species of animals -- dogs, cats, you remember -- made it mutate. Become more virulent. And, I must assume, spread to other countries and wipe out millions as it did in this one."
"Final reports said it was airborne and in most metropolitan areas," Naruto said.
"Ah. I'm so glad to know that. I was slightly too occupied after a while to pay attention to updates. You see, I chose the hard path of study. I vowed to survive, and after watching my wife and three daughters consume their own flesh and then the flesh of their little friends who lived next door…" Doc paused, and Kiba saw Naruto clutch the chair arm for dear life.
Doc sighed, and it almost sounded genuine. "I had to restrain them for study. The girls died first. My sweet wife, Miranda, she was always so strong." Doc smiled. "Lasted long enough for me to understand that the pica was due to a craving for the protein found in the musculature of humans."
"Get to the point," Naruto said, and Kiba heard the strain.
Doc slammed a palm onto the desk, and it dented the metal. His eyes grew pink at the edges. "Impatience. Irritates. The rage in me. Dear boy."
"He's sorry," Kiba said and kicked Naruto when he knew the blond wanted to argue.
"I'm sure." Doc breathed, wiped the back of his neck with one hand and slung slime into a bin apparently there for that purpose. "As I know you would not enjoy doing my penance. Now. Where was I?"
"Studying," Kiba supplied.
"Yes. Good. I survived Phase Two. Transformed into Phase Three. And I've made a study of said transformation. I developed a cocktail of drugs that allowed me to manage the transition period in many others." Doc waved a hand. "Hence my brethren."
"How nice for you," Kiba said.
The Doc ignored Kiba. "Phase Three still requires meat, but it can be raw and animal in nature. Though, oddly, we do seem to do better with periodic tastes of the lean muscle of humanity." Doc leaned forward, and his breath stank like rotten eggs and week-old garbage left out in the sun. "And you two are the freshest bags of meat I've seen since the initial outbreak. And what's more, you are the only beings I've encountered who are apparently immune."
"So you want our blood to work on a cure?" Naruto asked, and Kiba was forcibly reminded of his love and hate relationship with Naruto's lightning strikes of brilliance.
"After a fashion," Doc said, sighing. "Ideally, I'd love to return my kin to a semblance of normalcy but with all the advantages this form allows. Barring that, I'd like to ease the suffering of my lesser evolved brethren."
"So you wanna stop eatin' people and make Phase Two freaks into Phase Three goons?" Kiba summarized.
"Oh, you would make a stunning addition to our family," Doc said, savagery barely contained beneath the false civility.
"So we give you blood and then what?" Naruto asked quietly.
"Then you go free."
"Oh, sure big guy," Kiba said, laughing. "We totally believe you, too."
Doc sort of vibrated in the chair and turned an odd shade of purple, and Naruto covered Kiba's wrist with a vise grip. "Forget him. Do you mean it? Do you intend to try to find a cure?"
Again Doc breathed and slung more slime sweat. "I do, dear boy, I do. And don't misunderstand me. I would also love to know the affects of repeatable intravenous exposure to the H6N6 on the immune," Doc said. "Perhaps see if there is a way to inspire the good effects and avoid the negative ones. But that would take time away from my primary focus, and should you willingly give me the samples I need…"
Kiba and Naruto's eyes locked. In a flash, Kiba knew that Naruto was horrified, saw no way out of the situation other than the blood, didn't know if the freedom that followed was real, but Naruto wanted Kiba to cooperate on the hope that maybe they wouldn’t die here today.
"Not here. Not like this," Kiba whispered.
"We'll do it," Naruto said.
"Yeah," Kiba agreed.
"I thought you'd see it that way. And that's most excellent! Claire, my darling, bring the supplies!"
The bitch goon came back in with a tray of syringes and vials, and Kiba felt honest relief that the tray didn't hold rusty knives.
"Roll up your sleeves gentlemen," Doc said, standing, and the metal plates touched the eight-foot ceiling. "Just set those there, Claire. Thank you. And if you'd be so kind as to remove Zachary? I believe he has learned his lesson."
"Sure, doc," Claire said, and Kiba got his shirt cuff over his elbow while Claire walked over to Zachary, grabbed the huge man by the chains, and yanked him straight up like he weighed nothing. A slick, wet, slurping noise made Kiba gag, and he stared at the foot-long metal spike jutting up from the floor that had just fucked Zachary's internal organs with thorough ferocity.
"I got the idea from your Vlad the Impaler," Doc said, coming closer and picking up a needle with shocking nimbleness considering the size of his hands and the nubs of fingers. "Quite the inspiration when it comes to controlling the masses, don't you agree?"
Naruto jerked in the chair, head bent forward and breathing hard. Kiba wanted to say something comforting, but he'd be damned if there was anything in the world that would do the trick.
"Sir?" Claire asked, putting Zachary over her shoulder. Kiba had to look away from the ruined mess of the man's asshole and the outpouring of zombie sludge that ran down the man's legs. Faintly, he heard Zachary weeping.
"Yes, Claire?" Doc tied off Kiba's upper arm with efficiency, and Naruto grabbed the other rubber tie and did his own. Naruto's hands shook, and Kiba longed to blow the heads off of anything he could manage. But he knew they'd be dead before Kiba got the first draw. Dead… or far worse.
"About Zachary's woman?"
"Oh yes. Is she prepared?" The Doc slipped the needle into Kiba's vein with a practiced motion. Kiba barely felt a thing.
"Strung up on the far end of town."
"Excellent. Make the announcement that we'll have a public flaying tomorrow. It's always a crowd favorite, and good for morale. I know scouting and hunting's been difficult lately."
"And remember to save the scraps for the dogs."
"Excellent, Claire. You never fail to please me. Do remove your disobedient brethren from my sight, now. I've had quite enough of his self-pity." Doc filled three vials, removed the needle, and grabbed a fresh one for Naruto.
"No problem. John's outside if you need anything."
Claire left, Doc drew Naruto's blood in silence, and sighed when it was done.
"I do miss the old world," Doc said, standing and returning behind his desk to sit. "Television, computers, fine wine…" He lovingly pet the vials and waved his hands expansively, smiling the not-smile. "But one must adapt. And this, my friends, is New Earth. It is my… lingering desire to preserve the best of what used to be and my gratitude for your willing participation in my empire that allow you to leave my sight until such a time when you could stay in my city without my constant vigilance. I fear my brethren would not be as forgiving or patient as I, you are entirely fragile in your current un-evolved state, and a resource I mean to exploit. No offense meant, of course."
"Of course," Naruto said flatly.
"Good we have an understanding. Though, I admit, it is entirely tempting to entice you to stay. For the conversation." The smile spread to a leer. "And the humor."
It was clear the Doc's ego and portion of the Crazy were as large as his tricked-out body. Clear that the asshole thought they'd be easy to find again if he needed them. Use the dogs. Just smell them out. Whatever it took. Maybe he could do it, maybe he couldn't, but Kiba began mentally planning what it would take to bring the bastard down, and knew there was no chance of doing it here and now. In a way, if they did get out of here alive, it would was the first real kindness of the Universe since it hooked Kiba up with Naruto: time.
"Thanks, but we really gotta go," Kiba said. "Want to see Lake Tahoe now that the hotels are so cheap."
Doc got the muddled look again and then tried a laugh. It came out a corpse's rasp. "Oh, go. Quickly before I change my mind. But if I ever see either of you again, you will not be so fortunate as to escape my interest in science."
"Find a cure," Naruto said, and Kiba grabbed the guy's elbow, yanking him toward the door.
"At any cost, dear boy," Doc said in a reassuring voice that made Kiba think of dying patients and more bad news. "At any cost."