January 2nd, 2009
Title: Suburban Decay
Rating: well, I gave it PG, on the grounds it had no smut in it. But there's a lot of swearing and icky bits in it.
Fandom: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Beta: thanks to seanlily and sarren from livejournal
Notes: Written for quenne, as part of Yuletide 2008.
Everyone thinks that Harry has the whole narrative thing sorted out, that's he is the voice to listen to. I can tell you that he's as an unreliable narrator as he is car thief, and he's a pretty fucking unreliable car thief.
Harry wriggled my nail file in the lock of the Toyota that was supposed to stand between us and certain death. "We should broaden our range of services," Harry quoted. "Look into offering a wider spectrum of security and investigative services, for corporate clients."
He'd got the tone just right. "Shut the fuck up, unless you're saying something useful, like you've got that fucking car door open."
Harry pulled a face at me, and went back to twisting the nail file in the lock of the Toyota we were trying to break into. "Can't I smash the window?" Harry asked. "It's quicker, and it's not like I care about the upholstery."
"Do you want to set off the alarm? Do you want to find out that the smell of blood attracts them like it does sharks?"
Harry sighed and jabbed the end of the nail file into the lock harder. "I've got a better idea. Rather than trying to lift this Toyota, how about we go for that Suburban over there?"
"It's across the parking garage," I pointed out. "You'd have to be able to see the keys dangling in the door for it to be worth it."
Harry patted my shoulder. "You just lay down the suppressing fire, and leave the car theft to the expert."
"On the count of--" I said, but Harry took off, crouched down low, between the Toyota and the next car and out into the open, across the lanes of the parking garage.
I swore loud enough for Harry to hear, then shot a couple of rounds off, above Harry's head, far too fucking close for any kind of comfort, and Harry was going to have some very blunt words with me about that later, if both of us lived.
"Aim higher, you fucker," Harry shouted, coming out of his crouch and running directly at the Suburban, building momentum. I could hear other noises, apart from the gun shots, shuffling noises and moans that meant that we were running out of time and luck, and Harry better have fucking remembered how to jack Suburbans better than Toyotas.
Harry was not the most athletic of people, and he claimed he liked to reserve what athleticism he did have for the bedroom, so running at the front bumper of the Suburban and jumping on it was probably never going to end well, but I was impressed that he managed to get both of his feet onto the bumper before he crashed across the hood.
The Suburban rocked on its suspension, the airbags went 'pop,' and even across the garage I could hear the internal door locks clunk open.
Ouch. That hood had to have hurt, even with the extra twenty pounds Harry was carrying since he'd started freeloading and pretending he worked for me.
I dashed across the parking garage, real fast, gun in my hand, counting how much ammunition I had left. Magazine in my pocket, with fifteen shots in it. Four shots gone from the gun, from the sixteen I'd started with. I had twenty-seven bullets, to keep Harry and myself alive, and the forces of darkness were between us and, well, everywhere else.
I yanked the driver's door of the Suburban open, threw myself in and slammed the door shut again, just as Harry scrambled into the passenger side, and we both hit the locks at the same time, sealing ourselves in.
"What are the odds that zombies will know that running-into-the-car-to-open-the-locks trick?" I asked, leaning forward across the steering wheel to peer through the windscreen at the shapes shuffling out of the darkness.
"Dunno," Harry said. "Guess it depends on whether they used to lift Suburbans before the virus-bacteria-evil-biotechnology-corporation thingy got them."
I checked the magazine of the gun in my hand, and shrugged. "We're not equipped for this. Do you want to hotwire the ignition while I search the back?"
"Um, I just used to rip off the stereos," Harry said. "I can't make this fucker go."
I looked at him with what I hoped was a pained expression. "Come on, the manufacturer made it this easy to break into the car? And then put decent security on the ignition?"
"We're not equipped for this," Harry muttered, sliding into the driver's seat, while I clambered between the seats and into the back of the car. "No one is ever equipped for the fucking zombie apocalypse."
Now, if Harry was in charge, this is where he'd be jumping around the place in the narrative, getting all mixed up, telling you about how we wound up in a parking garage, with a bunch of zombies after us, instead of concentrating on whatever larcenous activity he was supposed to be undertaking. I'm more disciplined than Harry, which is not difficult. Your average toddler is more disciplined than Harry. Not that I'm implying that I'm a toddler, or anything, though Harry recently accused me of being as emotionally sophisticated as a seven-year old girl, but that was after we'd watched a Hannah Montana marathon, which I'm claiming as a cultural right. You might all like to start asking why Harry was watching as well, since it's a question that Harry dodged with a hostility that forced me to load his iPod with my favorite porn...
I rummaged through the back of the Suburban, praying that Harry had broken into the car of a gun-toting, deer-hunting, armor-wearing survivalist, not some peace-loving gardener or parent, or some other freak.
Harry, meanwhile, was breaking plastic and talking to himself. "We could make more money doing risk assessments for corporations. Insurance assessments. Less messy personal involvement. No one trying to shoot us—"
"If you don't shut up, I'll shoot you myself," I growled from the back of the car. "It was a good fucking plan, and it would have worked."
"Good plan?" Harry said, with a particularly loud cracking of plastic, then he tossed a chunk of car at me. "If it was so fucking good, then why do the fucking undead want to eat my brains?"
"You don't have any fucking brains! Thank God, this car owner carries supplies." I dragged the sports bag onto the backseat and unzipped it, crowing as I pulled out fucking baseball bats.
"Yes! We broke into the fucking Bad News Bears' car!"
"Ow! Fuck!" Harry swore, and the smell of electrical insulation burning filled the car, along with the sound of the stereo, the car horn, the emergency lights clicking, and me throwing someone else's sports shoes at Harry.
The stereo and horn stopped, and Harry lifted his head over the front seat. "So, the Bad News Bears? I'm Jackie Earle Haley, and you get to be Tatum O'Neal."
"You're going to be a big girl's blouse if you don't make this car start right fucking now," I said. "Because Walter-fucking-Matthau is climbing across the hood of the car."
"Fucking hell," Harry shouted, ducking back under the steering column, and a moment later, all the electrics in the car blared, flashed, whirred, squirted or popped.
"Drive, loser," I shouted, locking the fucking doors yet again and throwing myself into the front passenger seat. It's possible I hit Harry with one or more of the baseball bats during the process, because, as spacious as a Suburban is, it's still not built for two men and two baseball bats in combat mode. I really think that Chevy should look into the demand for an urban warfare release of the Suburban. The Suburban Combat, the 4x4 with firmpoint mounting for flamethrowers, space to swing a baseball bat, mountings for child seats, and room for a week's shopping...
"Perry!" Harry shouted, and the car smashed forward, across the parking garage, and into the pillar opposite.
"I fucking hate you!" I shouted at Harry, after I'd bounced off the windshield in a synchronized slam with the undead Walter-fucking-Matthau on the hood. "You're so fucking fired."
The car slammed into reverse, which at least put me back into a seat. Harry heaved on the steering wheel until something smashed inside the column, and Harry shouted, "Fucking steering locks, bastard security devices, fucking undead, and fuck you too, Perry van Shrike. Let's fuck this town."
"Got some aggression issues there?" I asked, as Harry jammed his foot on the accelerator of the Suburban and Walter Matthau rolled off the hood, making a squelchy noise on the concrete, and Harry aimed the car at Walter's best friend, who lurched out of the shadows.
"Sure," Harry said. "And they're all because of you. Everything's your fault."
Smack, and little bits of dead person sprayed across the windshield. Harry turned on the windshield wipers, which smeared the dead person in a paste across the glass.
"Do you suppose this virus is droplet borne?" I asked, turning off the air intake for the cabin, because really, the smell of dead person was as bad as the smell of Harry's socks, and that's saying something.
"That's something that might be in a risk assessment, don't you think?" Harry said, bashing the Suburban into second gear and throwing the car around the first corner and straight into a cluster of white-coat-wearing dead people.
I flinched, ducking involuntarily, and Harry swerved from side to side, banging into parked cars and pillars, trying to dislodge the stubborn ones.
"They might have known," I said. "But let's not hang around to ask." I took out my cell phone, and hit the last-number-redial button. I'd been chatting with one of the senior executives at the corporation, finalizing the deal, while Harry ran a professional thief's eye over the parking garage entrances, when it had all gone horribly wrong.
Of course, if the exec answered her phone by saying, "Brains, brains..." then I'd know we'd wasted too much time trying to stay alive.
The phone rang and rang, then someone answered, saying, "Who is it? Please send help!"
A male voice.
I covered the mouth piece. "Ms. Johnson is history." Then, hand off the phone, "Perry van Shrike here. I'm guessing Ms. Johnson is too undead to answer her phone."
"Can you help us? Can you tell the army we're here, on the fifth floor? There're some of us still here."
Army? Oh, shit.
"Army? Oh, shit."
I closed the phone.
"Army!" Harry shouted, jerking the steering wheel to slam the bumper of the Suburban into another dead person, and this one exploded messily over the hood, showering body parts everywhere. "Army! The fucking army!"
I wound down the passenger window of the car cautiously, and sure enough, I could hear the choppers circling overhead and someone shouting through a bullhorn.
The hand through the open window was unexpected, and I might have screamed, but I'll challenge anyone to have their face grabbed by a dead person and not lose their cool.
The Suburban plowed into more parked cars as I scrambled across to Harry's side of the car, trying to get away from the dead hand.
Harry hit me--possibly accidentally--with his elbow as he grabbed the baseball bat propped between the front seats. The bat smashed into the zombie's hand, detaching it from the wrist bones, spraying icky bits around the car.
Yeah, we both screamed like girls then, and I'm not too proud to admit it. We might have started out as Perry and Harry, hard-boiled and soft-boiled detectives, but we'd progressed right through Hannah Montana and the Bad News Bears, to the Baby-sitters Club. Next stop: Tellytubbies, and I was planning on being the gay one.
"Drive!" I shouted, sliding through the muck on the seat to wind the window back up again and relock the doors, because Harry's emergency parking had unlocked the doors, and fuck, did Chevy need to do something about the security flaws in the Suburban, or what?
"What level are we on?" Harry shouted, rummaging under the dash, trying to hotwire the stalled car.
I craned my head around, looking out the back of the car, trying to read the signs on the exit, and that was a huge fucking mistake.
"Fuck! Hundreds of them!" I shouted.
"Bullshit!" Harry shouted, as the car ignition roared, and we took off again. "We were only four or five levels up!"
"No! Hundreds of them, chasing us!"
Behind the car, the parking garage lanes were packed solid with shuffling zombies, wearing office clothes, white lab coats, or janitor coveralls. Chasing us.
Wanting to eat us.
And floored the accelerator, sending the car squealing around the next corner, bowling over another couple of dead folk.
Then he just kept accelerating, aiming directly at the concrete half-wall at the end of the parking garage, over-looking the ornamental gardens at the front of the biochemical company's offices.
"Aaaaahhhh!" I shouted.
"Fuuuuuck!" Harry shouted.
Craaaaasshhh, the Suburban smashed through the concrete wall, and the concrete wall smashed through the Suburban. What in the movies would have been a slow motion sail by the car through the air in a graceful arc actually was a messy slide and roll, involving three and a half tons of car, two living men, quite a few dead ones who decided to catch a ride with us, and a shitload of concrete and steel parking garage wall.
I've seen a movie, where a character gets a black screen and a block of text saying 'this is me, unconscious.' I didn't get that because I wasn't so fucking lucky. I got to land, a second after we went through the wall, and stay conscious, with bits of my anatomy screaming at me, and me screaming at any fucker who would listen, upside down in someone else's Suburban, smeared with bits of virused dead person, some of which were still twitching.
The army was there; I could tell by all the shooting going on outside the car. Once I got my brain back in control of my mouth, I switched the screaming to, "Not a zombie! Not a dead person! Don't shoot me! Help!"
What did the fucking army do? Send in some nice soldier, in a uniform and carrying a shiny gun, to rescue me? (And Harry, who I could see was blissfully unconscious, but breathing safely beside me in the wreck.) Oh, no.
People in space suits. With vacuum cleaners. Sucking up the dead ones. Ignoring us.
I've had some experience with getting the attention of a barman in a gay bar, for more than one reason. I can make a fair bit of noise when I need to. I can get people to look at me, in the exact opposite of being discreet.
The spaceman pointed at me and Harry and talked into a microphone for a bit, then wagged a space-suited hand at us. I screamed back at him for morphine, because I knew what my priorities were, and I wasn't planning on dying in excruciating pain. My endgame plan had always included soft clouds, floating away and a gentle fade to black, with or without a little bit of text saying 'this is me, unconscious.'
What I got was more spacepeople and a high pressure hose to the face.
"Fucking bastard assholes," I shouted. "Where's my fucking morphine! I want Percocet at least! I'm fucking injured!"
Whoops, that was a mistake.
I'll never shout at someone holding a high pressure hose again. I must try that on Harry sometime--an experience like that should be shared between friends.
The hose stopped, and a visor peered at me through the shattered windshield. "Why aren't you dead?" a voice asked through the speaker in the spacesuit.
"I don't know!" I spluttered, trying to clear what tasted like disinfectant from my sinuses. "Maybe the hose pressure wasn't set high enough?"
"No," the spacesuit said. "Why aren't you deaddead?"
"We weren't inside the building, just in the parking garage. Do you think you could help us? My partner seems to be unconscious, and bits of me hurt. You also might want to help the people in the building who are still alive, on the fifth floor. They would appreciate it."
"There are no other survivors," the spacesuit said. "And you're contaminated."
"That would be the zombies," I pointed out. "They get everywhere when you hit them with baseball bats."
The visor stared at me but didn't say anything, just waved a glove, and another spacesuit waddled up, bearing another fucking high pressure hose.
I held my breath that time.
They gave me happy drugs, possibly just to keep the noise down, and put blowup things around my ankle and arm. Harry, being blissfully unconscious, missed out on the fun bit where they dragged us out of the wrecked car, stripped us off inside some kind of plastic bubble and scrubbed us down with detergent and little wire brushes. I remember Harry waking up and throwing up all over someone in a spacesuit, which seemed terribly funny to me at the time.
The happy drugs wore off, and reality smacked me in the face, sometime later that evening.
Harry was awake, sitting on a bunk, when I opened my eyes. I hurt like fuck, like I had the time I'd wrapped my bike around a tree when I was a teenager, learning bitter lessons about acceleration, traction, rapid deceleration, bones and pain.
"Owowowow," I moaned, and Harry threw something at me, hitting me in the face.
"Shut the fuck up," he said. "Like you're the only one with problems."
Okay, one of my arms was in a sling, but that didn't mean I couldn't toss the thing--plastic cup--back at Harry with my other hand.
"Where are we?" I asked. "Hospital?"
"Listen?" Harry said. "And guess."
Harry had that serious edge of panic he usually only gets when he shoots people accidentally--you know the one I mean?--so I didn't argue with him, just sat up slowly on my bunk and listened.
I could hear the whirr of industrial air-conditioning.
And that was it.
No voices. No telephones. No cars. No sirens. No planes.
We're supposed to be in LA, and there's nowhere silent like that except, theoretically, fallout shelters, but I'd never been in any of the deep shelters rumored to exist under the city, so that was just me guessing.
"Don't bother saying one of those top secret fallout shelters," Harry said. "Because you'd be wrong. You don't know, do you?"
I glowered at him.
Harry managed to look smug, despite a black eye and an entire caterpillar's worth of sutures crawling across his forehead.
"I know something you don't," Harry gloated.
"I could fucking kill you," I said, hefting the plaster on my wrist. "This feels dry enough to do some serious damage to you with."
Something whirred in the room, and I spun around, as well as I could with an ankle in a cast as well.
Security cameras. Little red lights flashing. Real surveillance.
"Prison?!" I shouted. "We're in a fucking prison hospital? What did you do to get us arrested? Who did you assault?"
"We're not in prison," Harry said. "We're in hell. This is a Biosafety Level Four Containment Suite, in an unknown and top secret location. They could tell us where, but then they'd have to kill us."
"But--" I said, and Harry held up his hand.
"We're going to die anyway, or at least that's the plan. They're going to keep us sealed up in here, like two sardines in a can, along with our shit and rubbish, until we die of whatever got loose at that facility. The other scenario which has occurred to me," Harry said, his voice rising, "and I hope the person behind the little red flashing light on the security camera pays attention, is that the virus or bacteria or fungus, or whatever it was, gets loose, and every other person on the planet dies. And we're safe in our little bubble."
The camera swiveled, backward and forward, and Harry threw the cup at it.
"We're stuck in here?" I asked. "Indefinitely?"
"Yep," Harry said, lying back on his bunk and pulling a remote control out from under his pillow. "But we've got cable, and I'll let you watch all your favorite programs."
I looked at the tiny room, barely big enough to hold the two fold down bunks and the tray table between them, and then at the stainless steel toilet and washbasin. No privacy? No showers? No escape?
"I want more happy drugs!" I called out. "Now!"
We did get out, obviously. The army presumably mopped up all the zombie virus thing, since civilisation continues, though I always look around carefully when I'm in malls and wonder. And I can't talk about what we went through in that Containment Suite, not without a large G & T in my hand, and at least three more in my bloodstream.
Harry has a charmingly rakish scar over his forehead, and a less charming collection of new phobias--sorry, personality quirks. Suburbans, zombie movies, baseball games, confined spaces, stainless steel toilets... It's a long list, and he's an anxious man.
Me? Yeah, my wrist and ankle hurt, when the weather is changing. I can't watch Walter Matthau movies anymore. And I'm not doing corporate work, no fucking way. Personal investigative work is so much safer, at least then people are only trying to shoot at me.