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Disclaimer: You all know this song and dance. I’m not gonna re-hash it again.

/begin Part the Third

Mark sat in his hotel room on the exclusive resort island off the coast of the Indigo League, hallway to the Crimson League, and drank his beer. He’d been sitting pretty after that whole fiasco on Cinnabuns Island. He’d not even been a suspect given that his house was glassed along with a majority of the island! The ONLY downside is that he couldn’t claim the reward for the whole ‘wiped out a horde’ thing. Instead that’d been pinned on Team Rocket. Go friggin’ figure.

Mark was fairly certain they were using the promised reward for wiping out the infestation as a means to prune the idiots from that criminal organization.

Still. It had been nearly 4 years since then. Mark was already starting to get tired of his wandering lifestyle once again. He’d done this ‘wandering Tamer’ thing for 6 years before settling down in Viridick, damn it! Then Cinnabuns Island came up, and now? He was back to work. For the last few years he’d been once again a wandering Tamer. The old man of the crowd of young punks and idiots who had just gotten their starters. They always thought they were hot shit because they suddenly had a girl who’d do anything for a bit of pipe-inspection. Mark had to restrain himself on multiple occasions from shooting them.

He still had his apartment in Pewtit, thank the gods, but he was here on this god-forsaken island for a job. Some idiot had gotten the bright idea to start a special resort on an island infested with Zombabes. Seriously. It was an island where they deliberately let Zombabes roam about for humans to shoot at with pre-approved guns and such. They had sunk nearly a billion SLC into the security of this place, and Mark had gotten an invite for a stay here. Something about an ‘esteemed guest’ which, to Mark, read as ‘you’re the dude who got rid of the fucked-up shit in Viridick, so if you say you had fun here, we’ll get more business.’

He’d wanted to return the letter with a nasty curse, courtesy of Marie and Jinxy’s hard work. But Samantha had stopped him, and Jessica had said she wanted to go. And if there’s one thing Mark could never bring himself to deny? It was Jessica making a request that wouldn’t cost him a dime to indulge. After a bit of negotiation, and under-the-table dealing, it actually earned him quite a pretty penny, so long as he agreed to write a shining review of the place afterwards. It was kind of adorable, really.

The hotel was nice. He was situated in one of the luxury suites with a good view of the large island, a fully stocked minibar, and a big-screen TV. Not to mention a patio deck overlooking the pool/grotto thing they’d had set up for the regular parties. Seriously. If it weren’t for the window, he’d never get any sleep. They had a party down there practically every night. The tiki bar was good, though. The bartender knew how to make a good cocktail, and the DJ didn’t suck, so it was… alright?

He could have gone his entire life without being exposed to the fucking idiots who regularly attended those parties, though. Not to mention the ones who’d gone out with him on the gallery-shooting ‘expeditions’ he’d been scheduled to attend. Business types who never went on their own journeys, just got into some family-run business and never looked back but wanted to feel some visceral thrill of hunting and killing Zombabes. Some of the people were Tamers, though. They could usually be counted on for a laugh.

Still, the rules and systems in place made the whole thing basically a shooting gallery. He’d taken one ‘hunting tour’ that lasted a few days wherein he and a bunch of others were given shitty little 9-milimeter handguns, or worse one of those ‘automatic’ guns they had lying about. Mark could have shat out a better gun than what they allowed him to use. Still, Jessica seemed to enjoy it. She’d taken the 9-milimeter handguns and gone through the ruins of what looked like it used to be a quaint town. The company putting this whole thing together had tied up and restrained various Zombabes on bits of wood which swung out at automated intervals. Jessica had to go last, since the dick-swinging macho types decided they paid more, and thusly deserved to go first.

Fuckers couldn’t get a goddamned headshot if their lives depended on it! They wasted so much goddamned ammo on body shots and just random spray and pray… It was disappointing to say the least to the professional gun-lover in both mark and Jessica. When it was their turn? Bullets flew. Heads exploded, or poison gas escaped through a smoking hole as functions ceased. And they were methodical, too. First went the closest, then they systematically made ground beef of a widening circle of the bound Zombabes.

Part of Mark wanted to know where in the HELL they’d gotten all of these things. He knew there’d been a few outbreaks since his little escapade in Cinnabuns, but god damn. He’d asked Jinxy to scry for the information after that tour, but left it open on time since his stay here was for about 2 months. Most people stayed for a week or so. His stay was to get the ‘full resort experience.’ And to bilk out some public appearances and such. While most people just didn’t care about the Viridick Incident, he had at least written the Zombabe Survival Guide, and that was rather pertinent to the interests of the parent company who owned the resort.

Jinxy had evolved into an Archmage nearly 2 years ago, now. She sat in the hotel room while Mark and Jessica indulged their gun-fetishes… She loved her Master and her Harem-Sister, but she’d never understand their fascination with flinging bits of metal at screaming sacks of meat. Not when Magic could give them so much more in terms of versatility and utility. She and Marie had joined the Harem around the same time, so they often shared their magical discoveries with each other. When Marie developed a Card to summon the spirit of Fire? She’d shown Jinxy and taught her how to manipulate flames in their raw form. When Jinxy had developed her scrying spells? She’d taught Marie how to use her wind-based Cards to cast her senses far and wide. Different methods, same results. Even if Marie, for the majority of her time with the Harem, looked like she was MUCH too young to be Tamed…

Evolution into a Starmystic had resolved that issue, though. Marie sat next to her with three cards hanging in the air as opposed to Jinxy’s glass orbs. The star-pattern on her forehead denoted her evolution, and the main point of magic-absorption for the girl. And luckily? She now looked at least like she’d past puberty and gone into her 20’s. It was pleasant, at long last, not to have to deal with goddamned lolicons and creepers who looked like they drove a windowless beige van in their off-time…

The two Magic types sat in the hotel, enjoying the Air-conditioning and casting a wide net for information.

“You getting anything?” Jinxy asked, opening her left eye a sliver to look at Marie’s sitting form.

“Nope.” Marie responded, opening her right to give Jinxy a look of her own. “Something’s blocking me. You?”

“Same.” Jinxy sighed. “Someone’s either learned from team Rocket’s mistake, or they’re using Dark types to avoid detection. Or magic-dampeners. Or…” she trailed off, listing possibilities until Marie spoke.

“I get it, Jinxy. We’re getting nowhere fast, aside from being labeled as voyeurs if anyone catches us. Wanna order room service?” Marie sighed. “I’m hungry, and I wanna watch a movie. NOT a Horror movie!”

Jinxy nodded and stood, letting the glass orbs that had been floating around her fly into a pouch on her belt. She went over to the phone and began ordering. Mark had told them that ‘money is not an obstacle, since everything’s comp’d’ and as such she ordered one of everything on the left-hand side of the menu, and a salad.

Marie stood and put the three cards she’d been using; The Eye, The Prince Upon the Tower, and The Sun; away in her collection before turning on the T.V. and selecting some sappy RomCom to watch as she and Jinxy cuddled on the bed. It was silly, stupid, and overly complicated, but it did have some touching moments. Still, it was mindless and by the time it was finished both Magic Types were more interested in drooling over the shirtless male lead than the plotline.

Jinxy had demolished the massive cart of Room service in short order while Marie ate her salad and a shrimp cocktail… All the while Marie seethed at Jinxy’s ability to put away food. For years they’d been Harem Sisters, since Marie was a Tarot and Jinxy a Witch… But Jinxy never seemed to need to diet, while Marie had to watch her figure even when she looked like a child. SO not fair.

With the fourth piece of a third pizza in her mouth, Jinxy put on another movie, this time one of the old Star Trek movies. Insurrection. Marie groaned.

“Really?” she groused. “This crap?”

Jinxy raised her hands defensively as she swallowed the bite of pizza. “Hey! I like Geordi. He’s got a REALLY good line in this one!”

It wasn’t until the bald captain had begun leading the ‘indigenous’ people of the planet to safety that Mark and Jessica returned from their most recent ‘tour.’

“I enjoyed that.” Jessica said, her usual monotone only slightly affected with a single note of joy.

“I know.” Mark said, nodding. “You still got a higher kill-count that the rest of the shmucks. I think they’re planning on banning me from taking you with me on those tours. I can’t imagine they have a few hundred spare Zombabes laying about to replace the ones we keep killing.” He turned to look at his Magic specialists. “Any word on that, by the way?” he asked.

Both of them slumped. “No, Master. Sorry. We tried, but something is blocking our attempts at scrying.” Jinxy explained.

“Uh-huh… Well. You both know the price of failure.” He sighed and looked to Jessica. “Go ahead, Miss Alpha.” He said, giving her a deck of playing cards. At the combined sighs of his Magic-Types, Mark shrugged and ordered some room service.

The night passed in relative peace, even as Jinxy and Marie both gained Jessica’s chores for a month each, and forfeited their desserts for a similar length of time. Mark ate his food and watched a little T.V. before going down to the party by the pool for a VERY brief appearance as a new group of people arrived from the mainland. He signed a couple of books, and even a couple of guns and even a game box from a pair of younger teens who’d apparently won a contest. The game box was one of the instances wherein Mark was glad he’d survived the incident in Viridick. It supposedly ‘chronicled’ his extermination of the city’s Zombabe Outbreak, though Mark sure as shit couldn’t remember being able to put a chainsaw on a weedwhacker. The thing with the bus was accurate, though. Objectives were different… And it had a Co-op between his own ‘storyline’ and Samuel’s. It was actually kind of fun when he got into the mood for it. He and Samuel had sat down one night for a Co-op session playing through each other’s roles. That had ended poorly.

James and Alfred were from the Blue League, and they had enjoyed ‘Viridick Zompocalypse’ well enough. They just seemed excited to BE there after winning the contest. Bit excitable, but all ‘round good kids as far as Mark could tell. They damn-near fell down in worship when Jessica showed up to show off her guns as per the contract. When the owner of the resort showed up for her usual speech, Mark was seated by the Tiki bar with James and Alfred.

“We know why you’re all here.” She began. “Outbreaks happening with unprecedented frequency, the loss of thousands at a time. All thanks to Team Rocket meddling in affairs they never should have.” She said. Her aristocratic features and blond hair were a paragon of a pure-line human. “And here at the resort? We believe everyone deserves a chance to get a little payback!”

Cheers rose up from the crowd, especially those who had absolutely NO reason to desire ‘payback.’ Seriously. It was ridiculous. At least to Mark. Fortunately, the Tiki bar had a good Tequila Sunrise for him, and he was more than happy to ignore the world aside from his excitable companions and the conversation between them.

“So, man.” James started again, “Like, what’d you think of this place, yeah?” he asked, his accent taking a bit of getting used to.

Mark Shrugged. “Been here a couple of weeks, now. So far, it’s been pretty good. Jessica enjoys it more than me. Living targets that move and react appropriately to being shot? She’s happy. Marie and Jinxy get to relax in an air-conditioned room with all the room-service an Archmage could want and all the silly stupid movies a StarMystic could desire. Samantha’s been in her ball for the last few days, but I think she hates it here. Then again? She hates it when I do anything ‘needlessly violent’ though.”

Alfred laughed and high-fived James, “Can we meet ‘em, yeah?” he asked. “Jinxy and Marie, I mean? We saw their characters in Viridick Zompocalype, man, and they were such badasses, yeah?”

Jessica, with her visor off, raised an eyebrow at the two from the other side of her Tamer.

James grinned wide, “Jessica was always my favorite, yeah? All them guns and shit? So badass. And you still got Nancy, eh?”

Mark chuckled. “Don’t worry about Jessica. She’s just enjoying the attentions she’s getting, here. I’ve met more people interested in guns here than in the last few years combined. And yes, Nancy’s still one of my Harem members. She’s gotten a LOT better. Finally got Hyper Beam down, at long fucking last.”

“Oh shit, man! Is that why you like, don’t have her out here?” James asked.

“Yeah.” Mark nodded. “She was disallowed from partaking. I don’t think she cared overmuch really. She’s of the mind that this was a complete waste of time. If she had her way? She’d glass the island and have done.”

Alfred deflated a bit. “Aw man! I was REALLY hoping, when we saw you, yeah, that we’d get to meet her! Seen some posters of her, yeah? I’d tap that ‘till it fell off!” James smacked his friend upside the head, but he continued. “I mean my dick, bruv, not her ass.”

Mark chuckled. “Well, if you guys aren’t busy tonight? You can hang out with me. Got all my ‘Girls in the room. Don’t ask about Erica, though.” His tone hardened slightly as he said the last. The last thing he wanted to do was dredge up memories of the crazy as fuck former member of his Harem.

“Oh, HELL yeah!” James said happily and slapped Alfred on his back. “You comin’ with us, right? On the shooting tour, yeah?”

Mark smiled, as kindly as he could. “Yeah. I’ll be there. Just let me know when and I’ll ask about getting included on the tour.”

Jessica actually smiled. “Good.” She said. “I look forward to seeing what you can do.”

As James and Alfred walked away, congratulating themselves on a conversation gone well, Mark looked out at the rest of the crowd. A couple of Pokegirls were being used to serve drinks or bring food from the kitchens, a single Zombabe was being held by chains for the display the owner put on of looking her square in the eyes… Machismo in a world of machismo. Mark had to hold in a sigh while Jessica’s hands went to the small guns strapped under her favorite jacket.

Mark watched as people mingled. James and Alfred tried talking to a woman who had talked to the bartender about tickets here being a wedding gift, but her fiancé never showed up, and failed as she seemed utterly uninterested in them. A couple sitting at one of the glass-topped tables by the pool were talking as quietly as possible…

“Holy shit.” He said, tapping Jessica’s shoulder. “Look, Jess. It’s those two from the mall. Remember them? What in the fling shit are THEY doing here, of all places? What the fuck were their names again? Gary and… something?”

“Jenny, Master.” Jessica supplied. “The ‘Pokegirl Rights Nitwits’ you ranted about.”

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Gary and Jenny. The fuck-a-doodle-doo are they doing here?”

“No clue, Master. But psychological profiles suggest they are here trying to get over what happened in Viridick.”

“The fuck?” Mark asked, confused. “They did next to goddamned nothing. And it looks like Gary got himself a License…” he looked at his ‘Dex to make sure it wasn’t glitching on him… Again. He’d been meaning to get one of the new models, but this one had sentimental value. “Looks like he’s got at… Oh for fuck’s sake. The ONLY girl he’s got is a Shieldmaiden.”

“Judge not lest ye be judged, Master.” Jessica admonished him. “You keep a Chibi Shrine Priestess who worships the concept of Nihilism.”

Mark had no response to that, so he simply nodded. No sense arguing when he knew a losing battle was behind the argument.

One guy Mark recognized from a convention was cleaning a high-powered rifle… The rest were man-children or women fishing for a little excitement. From the records he’d looked up in his ‘Dex on the people, only three of them actually had a License. Gary, the guy with the rifle… And James. But he only had a Pet Owner’s License. Turns out he owned a Synthan. Good pet choice, he supposed. The guy with the rifle was named Benedict.

Mark remembered meeting one of Benedict’s Harem. Nice girl, a Battle Angel. One of the poison ones. They’d met at a political convention for the more conservative people on the continent. Not like the goddamned Sunshine League or whatever it’s called. Or the god forsaken Silver Islands League. Seriously, why the HELL…

Mark shook his head to get rid of the thoughts as he stood, steadied himself and straightened out his kilt. He walked over to one of the event planners and waved to get his attention.

“Hey, Danvers.” He said. He’d grown accustomed to the event-planners enough to remember their names. “You see those two?” he pointed to Alfred and James.

“Yeah? Looking at joining a group?” Danvers asked. Getting this guest to willingly join a group was a crapshoot over the past few weeks, but optimism was a good thing, right?

“Yep. They’re good kids, and they’re fans of Jessica’s, so I was hoping to show off a bit.”

Danvers laughed, “Just so long as you and she remember to leave some for the rest of the guests!”

Mark grinned. “Yeah, yeah. I know. If I bring Nancy, she won’t be allowed to just Hyper Beam the lot of ‘em.”

“Please don’t bring Nancy?” the man asked. “We had an agreement in the contract…”

“Yeah.” Mark interrupted the event-planner. “I know, I know. Nancy, as a Demon-Goddess, is disallowed from taking part in expeditions. But I gotta keep the poor girl Tame, ya know? Leaving her in her ball all day is bad for her.”

“I somehow doubt that, Mark.” Danvers deadpanned.

“Eh.” Mark Shrugged. “I just think she could do with some fresh air.”

After a little more small talk between himself and Danvers, Mark made his exit from the party with a couple more cocktails and a note left for Alfred and James. Back in his room, he settled in for a night of movies and card games.

James and Alfred did show up, and the meeting between them and the girls in Mark’s Harem went as expected. The girls, for the most part, enjoyed the attention. Marie was a bit of a shock for them, since she looked older than she did during the Viridick incident. Ume was kept securely in her ball, and Mark had NO intentions of letting her out for that meet & greet.

Nancy even got into it when Alfred told her he’d ‘tap that ‘till it fell off.’ She showed him her Keystaff, and even did a few of the smaller tricks she’d picked up over the years. She also told him that unless he managed to get her away from Mark via trade or a Salvage match? There was no way he’d be ‘tapping’ anything on her.

Alfred just shrugged and took it all in good nature, and just said then he’d have to get a License and get good enough!

Mark laughed at that. Not in a mocking way, even. He actually genuinely liked the younger men. Hard to find such upbeat personalities in the circles he worked in. Mostly newbie Tamers too stupid to listen to good advice.

After a few hours, the two left for their own rooms, leaving Mark and his harem to their own devices. Nancy, rather plainly, refused to go on the ‘expedition.’ Samantha just huffed and sat on the bed. Marie and Jinxy wanted to get out and about, for a change, but ultimately they agreed to go along in their ‘balls.

“It’ll be just like old times, Master. Back when we camped out in tents and had all kinds of adventures!” Marie said in a tone that said she was quite plainly longing for ‘the old days.’ Mark had to agree. He almost missed camping out on the side of a road. Almost.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next day came as the sun rose above the horizon and Mark and Jessica were waiting at the ‘orientation’ room. Gun booths were set up for people to get a feel for real firearms, at least those who’d never used them before. Mark and Jessica took two of the furthest booths before the group fully filtered in, and awaited permission to open fire. Mark picked up his usual Steyr Aug. Hey, so he had a favorite model of gun. Sue him. Jessica just picked up some of the semi-auto guns and the handguns. The ‘targets’ were set up and had depictions of zombie-like faces.

He heard the gunshots of the others in the ‘group’ through the ear-protectors while Jessica had her helmet on and thusly didn’t care.

“Spray and Pray’d like a total NEWB!” he heard from down the range and saw James and Alfred. Having fun and completely missing any fatal shots on their targets.

Jessica fired off six shots before putting her weapon down. Three holes were in her target. One in the forehead, and one in each ‘shoulder.’ The first three were ‘calibration shots’ for her internal systems to adjust to the gun in her hand.

Mark fired his own shots, enjoying once again the feeling of firing a goddamned gun. Firing Ranges were some of his favorite places in the entire friggin’ world.

The others in their ‘group,’ a bunch of the business-types on vacation and looking for the next thrill to try and cash in on themselves, fired whole clips at their targets and still managed to miss the ‘head’ areas. Complete wastes.

When the call came to put weapons down, safety goggles off, ear protectors off, Mark and Jessica followed instructions and walked out. Jessica’s armored form was bulkier than her normal form, but apparently even with that it drew attention from the rest of the group. If he didn’t know any better? He might think the others were planning some kind of ‘accident’ for him so they could claim her for themselves.

Bad choice. Even if Mark died he was fairly certain Jessica would kill these idiots. So, he paid it absolutely no mind. Even his habitual paranoia dismissing them as threats. The next step was to wait for the next group to get done before the trucks would be loaded and off they’d go. Mark spent that time in the break room chatting with Alfred and James about video games and telling them what it was actually like in Viridick during the Zombabe Outbreak.

Finally, groups were designated and trucks were ready. Mark walked to the jeep he and his ‘group’ was supposed to take, followed shortly by Alfred and James. Jessica floated up to the top in back of the jeep while Mark got in. As much as he didn’t enjoy the prospect of spending time with the dick-swinging macho-men, at least this meant he’d get to see a tour he’d not yet been on, right?

And then he heard the conversation on the other side of the car. James was led to the jeep by their guide for the trip, but the balding one of the group, one of the business-types, leaned over and said, “Uh, no. This jeep’s reserved for adults.”

He heard James’s retort of “Reserved for Fucktards, more like!” before seeing the duo being escorted to the other jeep.

Mark and Jessica abandoned ship, at that point, giving the guide a sympathetic look. “Sorry, Mike. I’ve had enough testosterone-fueled idiocy for one lifetime.” He said.

Mike, the guide, nodded. “No worries. Just wish I could go with you.” The latter part was muttered just loud enough that Mark could hear it.

Mark nodded and headed over to the other Jeep and was stopped dead when he saw, in order, the girl with the no-show fiancé, Gary, Jenny, Benedict in the front seat, and then James and Alfred. “Oh, fuck me.” He said.

“Mark? You!” Gary shouted when Mark climbed into the Jeep. “You bastard! Do you have any idea what kind of hell we went through?”

Mark shrugged. “Did it involve killing thousands of Zombabes in a closed off city with little to no hope of rescue for almost a year? ‘Cause that’s what I went through. You?”

Gary sighed. “Yeah. Not thousands, but our fair share. Why didn’t you stick around? We could have helped.”

Jenny just sat back. Apparently, her demeanor had withdrawn and she was little more than a wallflower, now? Or something of the like. Mark *really* didn’t care.

“Because you two were about as useful as fake tits on one of the Zombabes.” He said, bluntly. “Good to see that’s changed.” He gave both of them a look over. “Looks like you two…” he pondered. How would Samantha say it? “Like you two got better real quick-like, right?”

“Yeah.” Gary said. “No thanks to you.”

Mark shrugged. “Hey, we all learn in our own ways.”

Danvers climbed into the driver’s seat and smiled back at the group. “Okay, folks. I think it’s time for us to go over a few safety rules. First off? It’s saliva, not blood…”

James and Alfred laughed before James spoke up. “Hey mate, you think we’re in elementary school, or what?” then both of them spoke in unison.

“The virus is carried in saliva, not blood, so if you get bit? You’re in shit. If you don’t shoot ‘em in the head? You’re pretty much dead. And watch for poison explosions, so do it from a distance.”

Danvers nodded. The rules of zombabe-killing had gotten wide-spread coverage after Viridick was infected. “And be careful, we’ve noticed that the fresher they are, the faster they are.” He says. “One of the main reasons we’re allowed to operate is because the Indigo league wants to know as much as possible about them. But since all of our Zombabes are either donated from the mishaps or from Vale, and collected from the outbreaks after they’re contained? They’re all basically shufflers.”

Mark nodded. He’d heard of the other outbreaks, usually no larger than 20-30 at a time. Usually he was called in for an interview with one of the news agencies afterwards. It was annoying, but hey. Kept his name out there. The benefits of being among the (slowly growing) community of people who’d survived an outbreak. Last he’d heard, the League had outright outlawed spells that would induce the ‘zombie’ status just to avoid the frequency with which it was sticking around longer than it should.

Mark listened to Danvers as he gave the usual spiel of safety tips, and looked out at one of the other groups at their ‘shooting spot.’ He had to scoff at the insipid nature of the whole resort. There’s no way anyone with half a brain would fight a horde like what was lingering about from a rock like that. There was no escape route without the systems in place to keep the Zombabes from following.

“There are invisible fences all over the island to keep the shufflers from herding up too much.” Danvers explained. The half-Asian guy was cool, even if he was basically a glorified safari guide while on an ‘expedition.’

Gary was, apparently, trying to comfort Jenny in the back seat. From what Mark could guess? She was suffering Post Traumatic Stress from the Viridick incident. She was, as Mark had stated, fake-tits-on-a-Zombabe useless at the time.

Mark pushed his radio to transmit static up to Jessica, who was riding on the back of the jeep and not inside. This was the signal for a status update when Mark didn’t want to actually ask for one aloud.

“Master. No threats.” Jessica’s voice came in through the earpiece. “I’m enjoying the ride, though. Can we get a car? It would make travel much easier.”

Fat chance of that happening. Mark hated these things. Driving was hell, and the roads were shite unless you’re just walking. And even then? Still shite, just more manageable. Maybe he’d get a Hoverbike with the proceeds of this trip. He’d been eyeing them, lately.

It didn’t take long before Danvers pulled over to a shooting spot. With Jessica’s help, he pulled the various guns off the roof of the jeep and handed them out, though benedict seemed more than happy to use his own rifle, and Mark had his Steyr Aug. the only real thing he requested from the resort was ammunition, most of which he squirreled away ‘for later.’

Jessica, however, took as many guns as they would allow her. She had her own collection, but no one ever said she couldn’t keep collecting them. The guns provided by the resort had been modified slightly to be less than ideal in accuracy… Which Jessica took as a challenge. She spent the first part of any trip they took fixing them, cleaning them, and only occasionally nibbling on a bullet or two.

Mark set himself up to watch James and Alfred. Alfred looked like he was more used to holding a game controller than a gun. Maybe one of those arcade-style rifles, but the minimal experience at the firing range had gotten him, at least, able to hold the thing in the right direction. James was only a little better off and with the small herd of Zombabes spread out before them they both barely managed to hit anything. The distance was much greater than in the firing range.

Mark sighed and walked over to them. “Okay guys. Here. You’re both using a semi-automatic. SO! Here’s what you do with those. DO NOT just hold the trigger down and hope. You’ll go through more ammo than you ever thought you would that way. Burst shots, 3 bullets at a time. Use the time between bursts to re-adjust for the recoil and change your aim…”

The lecture was interrupted by the rapport of single shots from the customized rifle Benedict was using. With each shot a zombabe fell.

“Whoa.” James and Alfred watched as Benedict continued.

The woman with the flake fiancé seemed more than a little taken aback by the display, as did Jenny. Mark just nodded. “Good shooting, Tex.”

Seeing that no one else was going to be stepping up, Mark and Jessica took position and began firing. Bullets rained down upon the scattered herd of Zombabes. James and Alfred seemed to mimic their positioning and began firing. Less accurately, but still much better now than before with a solid position rather than standing around like gangsters in a firing squad.

When the small herd, less than 40 of the bitches, was down on the ground and the poison mist had dispersed, the group packed up their stuff onto the Jeep and headed off. Mark fist-bumped Danvers. “Good spot, dude.” He said, more for appearances than anything else.

“I know, right? I get all the good spots. Could have done without Jessica outshooting everyone.” He joked.

“Hey, we left plenty for the others.” Mark joked back. “At least we didn’t just let loose and rain steel on ‘em. I’m fairly certain by the end James and Alfred were getting their fair share of shots. And Benedict, man… You told me you hunted, not that you were a goddamned sniper!” he laughed. “That was all kinds of good shit. We should go hunting some time. I know this one field in Indigo where there’s REAL Deer. Not KATTLE or any stupid shit like that. Rabbits, deer… Actual fucking animals. We’re limited to one kill a year, though. So the enjoyments in the hunt, more than the kill.”

Blondie McFlakeFiance (Connie, apparently) looked at Mark like he was the antichrist, but hid her disgust well. Jenny and Gary had been exposed to him before, and he supposed given the looks on their faces he was living up to their expectations of him. Alfred and James? Were still high on getting to fire real guns at ‘live’ targets.

Benedict just nodded. “I’ll look into it.” He smirked, “But it’ll have to wait ‘till next year, I think.”

“Oh, you sly devil you!” Mark laughed. “You magnificent bearded bastard!”

The rest of the ride was spent with mark actually engaging in conversation with James and Alfred. It felt… Good? Yes. Good. To talk to young guys who were actually willing to listen to an older Tamer’s experience.

“Yeah, mate. That was fuckin’ awesome. Never felt so good!” Alfred said, leaning back in his seat. “I am SO glad we won that contest.”

Mark grinned. “I know what you’re talking about. Liberating, ain’t it? The idea that there’s at least ONE species out there that it’s perfectly alright to kill to extinction, and that we humans can get on our own, right?”

“Yeah, with guns though, right?” James added.

“Yes, with guns. But guns, you see, are human inventions. Not Sukebe, not some extra-dimensional traveler. Human.” Human Pride. Gotta love that shit.

“Nothin’ wrong with having Pokegirls to help, though.” Alfred joked, jerking a thumb to the back window, where Jessica’s lower torso could be seen as she rode on back.

“Nothing wrong AT ALL. Especially not when Jessica’s involved. Just don’t try and tame a GunValkyrie in the winter. I’ll just say? Heating supplies are a must. Or a Jacuzzi.”

“Aw, mate? She frigid or what?” James asked.

“Not quite ‘frigid’ but more ‘room temperature.’” He shrugged. “Love the girl dearly, but without a little warming up it’s not fun.”

And so, the ride passed until they reached a camp site with tents set up around a fire pit. Mark called out Jinxy and Marie to let them set up wards while Jessica chose to remain on top of the Jeep after all the bags and stuff were brought down. She brought out her own modified Sniper Rifle and settled down in her armored form.

“I dislike being so close to ground level, Master.” She said. “I wish there were a sniper’s nest nearby, but I count no fewer than 50 Zombies within a mile.” She turned her head slowly, scanning the area with her helmet’s visor. “Make that 53.”

“Keep an eye on them. There’s an invisible fence around the area, but don’t be afraid to take shots if it looks like they’re getting too close for comfort.” Mark told her as Marie laid a card, The Wall, at the center of the camp and Jinxy walked a circle around the grounds while chanting.

Jenny was talking to Connie, something about how when tragedy strikes, people forget who they are, or lose part of themselves… ‘We win, but we forget why.’ Or some nonsense as they both glared at Mark. Not that he gave two shits as he walked into the tent he’d staked out for himself and lay down. Jenny looked at Marie with a little shock, but got over it quickly. Either that or she remembered what happened last time when, after examination of her memories, Marie seemed near to choking her. At least now she *looked* over the legal age.

Jinxy and Marie joined Mark in his tent while James and Alfred tried, once again unsuccessfully, to impress Connie. Apparently, she wasn’t into online co-op first person shooters. Or their team name ‘Jacked Up.’ They still seemed to think the conversation went well enough.

After some food, the rest of the group went to bed as well.

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

“What the hell do you mean, ‘the system’s going down?’” The owner of The Resort asked her lead techie, a dark-skinned man with a bit of a ‘creeper’ aura.

“I mean that someone put something in the system. We’ll do a full sweep of the computers tonight, and it’ll be fixed by morning.” He explained.

“And HOW did someone get something in our systems?” she asked.

Another of the techies spoke up, “There was an unauthorized access earlier today. Whoever it was swiped in through the employee entrance, but left no traces of an ID. Not sure how they did that, to be clear. They downloaded a massive number of files from all departments, and uploaded something while they were doing so. Annie is having a hard time containing it.”

Annie, the VideoGirl they had as the network Administrator, appeared on the screen with her pixilated image flickering. “Yep!” she cried. “Working on it-ACK!” and then she tumbled off-screen.

“Get it fixed before…” The woman was cut off as alarms started blaring and the computer screens flickered spastically. Error signals started appearing and then ‘System Not Responding’ flashed and the whole outline of the island turned red and the whole screen red-shifted.

“Fuck… Annie?” the head techie typed a few commands, trying to get control of the system again. When no response came he began typing frantically. After a few minutes of this, the alarms stopped and the screen returned to normal. The techie held his hands up. “It’s done.” He said, sounding relieved.

“It’s done? What’s done?” the owner asked.

“…” The man was about to speak when the alarms went off again and the computers went haywire. Annie’s Lifedisk was ejected from the mainframe at the center of the room and shot across the room.

Another few seconds of frantic typing went by before the owner asked, ‘What in the hell is going on!?”

“Well,” The head techie said as security moved around to try and secure the building, “If it’s a virus trying to skullfuck the system? It’s trying to shut down, but the system’s not responding so…” And then the screaming started outside. “It’s fucked.” He said. “I’m out.” And with that he stood and began running toward the door.

Only to be met at the door by a wall of rotting flesh and teeth. He didn’t make it two steps back the way he came before he was being eaten. The owner, on the other hand, saw the screen flash to ‘All Call Activated’ before running to her nice, closed off office and slamming the door shut while her employees were torn to shreds under the teeth, rotting talons, and various festering appendages of the Zombabes.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

Outside the Control Room, the party that had been well under way was filled with screams instead of the usual cheers and laughter. The pool was stained red with the blood of a floating corpse and pieces of the guests littered the entire hotel.

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Mark, Benedict, Gary and Danvers all got the notice on their Pokedexes. ‘Tamer All-Call. Island (Latitude: 26.222476 | Longitude: -88.48938) Zombabe Outbreak. Quarantine protocols in effect. Location name: Resort.’

Mark looked at the screen before shouting, startling his Pokegirls awake. “MOTHER FUCKERS!”

It didn’t take long for Danvers to check the radio to hear the garbled signal, letting all guides know what was happening before the signal died. The group sat together around the fire as Jessica’s gunshots could be heard as she took shots at the now rapidly approaching Zombabes.

“Master. Numbers have grown to one-hundred-twenty-seven Zombies approaching. Invisible Fences no long registering on power distribution sensors.” Jessica reported from atop the jeep. A couple of Zombabes got close enough that the firelight touched them. The second they set foot in front of Marie’s barrier, right behind Jinxy’s ward, they were disintegrated in a burst of flames.

“Well. I knew it was too good to last.” Mark sighed.

“You DO seem to be the bad luck charm.” Jenny supplied ever-so-helpfully.

“Don’t make me shoot you.” He retorted.

“Oh, yeah. Resort to violence like always.” She sniped back. She was about to continue before noticing a red dot on her hand which travelled up to her chest.

“Keep talking. Go ahead.” Jessica’s monotone voice came from atop the jeep. A small group of zombies took the lack of fire as an invite, apparently, and got a fiery death for their trouble. Marie and Jinxy were internally cheering at their defenses. SO Much better, now, than in Viridick.

“ANYWAY.” Danvers tried to get people’s attentions, hopefully off of violence. “We need to evacuate the island. The island is isolated, so we could glass the whole thing and nothing important would be lost to any League. Just the investments of the company who owned the place.”

Benedict nodded. “But how? Last I checked? We got here by boat. I doubt it stuck around.”

Danvers shrugged. “Employee boat. We have 6-week shifts, but there’s always a boat at the docks.”

Mark nodded. “I’ve seen it. Don’t know how to get to it, but I took a flight around the island about three days into my stay here.”

“Okay. So…” Gary began, waiting for Mark or Danvers to interrupt him… Fuckin’ pussy. It was like he was expecting it? When no interruption came, just expectant looks from the whole group. “We get to the boat?” he offered. “Danvers? You know the island. Can you take us there?”

Danvers nodded. “But the League will be quarantining the island. We’ll have to check in with them once we get out to the Quarantine line.”

“If they don’t shoot us out of the water.” Connie added.

Mark nodded and took out his cell phone and dialing the response number for the All-Call.

“Hello?” he said into the phone. “Yes. This is Tamer Mark Williams…. ID# 9126921.” He waited a few minutes before speaking again. “Yeah. I’m responding to the All-Call on the resort island. I’m already here. I’ve got… one, two, three… six survivors with me, and my Harem. Tamer ‘Gary,’ Danvers and Benedict are here with me, but I won’t speak for them… Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll handle it.”

He seemed to slump slightly and sighed as he heard whoever was on the other end of the line speak. “Yeah. I get it. No repeat performance.” And with that he turned off the call.

“There. Now they know we’re here, so we’ll be able to get off if need be. That was Admiral Jones, by the way. League Aquatic Authority.” He said, looking to the group.

“Good to know.” Danvers said. “I’ve met Jones before. He’s a good guy.”

Benedict grinned. “Good. I won’t lie, I just want off the island. But the more of these things we kill? The more reward money we get.”

Mark fist-bumped Alfred, who was sitting on the other side of Marie from him. “Don’t worry, guys. Whatever I’d gotten so far, since the bounty’s only good after the all-call’s been transmitted? I’ll split with you. 6-way split. What’s the count at, Jessica?” he asked, looking to the Jeep.

“45 so far.” Another burst of gunfire, and a flash of magical flames at the edge of the wards. “60. And I fixed the Jeep, Master. Corrosion of the battery terminals would have left us with no battery and thusly no transport.”

Danvers nodded appreciatively. “I thought that thing was being a bit moody. It was due an overhaul next week.”

The night passed with little more fanfare as the group could hardly get back to sleep with the undead marching and Jessica shooting every few seconds. Her sniper rifle was put aside for her own internal weaponry in her armored form after just a few minutes. When the sun rose, a mass of zombies lay scattered about the field their camp was set up within, and the wards were lined with mounds of ashes.

As they all got ready to go, Mark counted his ammunition and tried to recall the last time he fought an outbreak with a group… the first time? He’d just been cool with Samuel. The second time he sacrificed the ‘group’ of people who’d come to him for aid to Zalera for help glassing the whole of Cinnabuns Island. How the Admiral knew he was responsible was beyond him, but stranger things have happened. Good thing magic is inadmissible in court.

Still, Mark had his eyes on the people around him. He was actually willing to work with them. On a list of priorities, though, it was James and Alfred, Benedict (he could take care of himself), Danvers, Gary, Jenny and finally Connie. He thought the last two could die in a fire, but he wouldn’t be the one to do it unless they dragged him down.

It was when they saw another jeep crashed into a steel fence, the metal bent around it and blood dripping from the doors, that Mark knew things were well and truly fucked up. For all he knew? It could have just been a major glitch in the system or something that cause the All-Call… but now? Not so much. Jinxy flew overhead on her broom while Jessica rode on the back of the jeep. But they had to stop the car due to the disabled fence. It was barely wide enough, at the point easiest to get through, to squeeze through one at a time. Mark simply flew over with Jinxy while Jessica used her Anti-Grav modules to float over before shooting the lone remaining zombie active in the car. It was one of the business guys.

“Huh. Male zombies. Again.” He looks to Gary, “This seems familiar, doesn’t it?”

Gary didn’t dignify the question with a response, instead he simply moved through the fence after Jenny, then Danvers came through and finally Benedict. Jessica was floating above and took a shot at the reanimated guide who had been rushing the group before firing off another shot at the zombie that had been about to pounce on an unaware Danvers. A small group had formed at the gate, too stupid to try and squeeze through the gap as they had… Jinxy took the opportunity to rack up her own personal kill-count and blasted them all with a controlled wave of fire.

Mark looked at Danvers curiously. “You know? We’re in an emergency state. I know your company policy is ‘no Pokegirls while on shift’ or some such, but why don’t you call out your own harem?” he asked. “It’s been bothering me for a bit now, is all.”

“I only have two ‘Girls.” He sighed. “My Alpha’s an Ar-tits, and my other’s a Damsel.”

Mark nodded. “Neither of which is particularly good in a fight. I get ya.”

And so, they walked towards the emergency tunnel back to the resort. But not before the obligatory big reveal people always seem to think are important to keep the tension going… Mark could almost count down on his fingers until it happened.

He was only 3 minutes off.

“So.” Benedict spoke up. “You gonna tell us why you’re here?” he looked at Connie.

“Oi. Back off, mate!” James spoke up in defense of the woman.

Benedict scoffed, his bearded face contorting a little bit. “You don’t even know her, kid.”

“I don’t have to, yeah? Apologize!” James retorted.

“James, just leave it alone…” Connie said. Yep. Connie was, indeed, hiding something. Mark resisted the urge to sigh.

“Yeah. I saw you the night we arrived. Sneaking around? Avoiding security?” Benedict pushed.

“yeah? Last I checked it was still a free world!” James countered.

“So.” Benedict continued, ignoring James, now. “You gonna tell us? Or should I start guessing? What’re you after?”

Connie seemed to finally break down as she spoke, “Just… Information.”

“What KIND of information?” Mark asked.

“Anything we could use… To get this place shut down.” She said after a moment of deliberation.

“Who’s ‘we?’” Gary chipped in. Looked like he grew a sensible dose of paranoia!

“Just… Us. I don’t know the name of the group.” She sighed.

James, looking more than a little crushed, asked, “How’d you do it, then? Get the information, yeah?”

“They just had me download a bunch of files.” She reached into her bra and withdrew a USB drive. “They had me use this.” She looked more than a bit hysterical, now. Mark was fairly certain she thought they’d leave her behind… not that the thought hadn’t crossed his mind wearing nothing but a smile. “I don’t even know what’s on it, it’s encrypted.”

James took it and looked at it closely before glaring at Connie. “Are you fucking kidding me!? You’ve been played! While you was downloading shit they went and UPLOADED something!”

Benedict sighed. “So, all of these people’s deaths are on you.” He didn’t seem overly bothered by it, to be honest. Mark didn’t blame him. People were people, after all. And if there was a cause, which he was beginning to dread he knew of, then people did incredibly stupid things.

“So. Did they tell you to leave as soon as possible after you got the information?” he asked. “or did they just tell you to go through the whole charade?”

Connie looked broken, “They told me to go through with it, that all I was doing was gathering information for them!”

“Then they never wanted the information. They wanted an outbreak, so an All-Call would be sent out and the Tamers would do their dirty work for them. And the only person to know otherwise would be dead.” He shrugged. “Good to know.”

The rest of the group moved on, though Jenny stayed behind to tell Connie they wouldn’t leave her behind. Mark walked next to the blonde.

“So.” He began as they walked behind the group, just out of earshot while jenny and Gary apparently had a falling out over this debacle. “You wanna know who *I* think you’re working for?” he asked. “And why I don’t think you were completely honest?”

Connie just sniffled. She’d been sent, basically, to die here.

“You-know-where. By You-Know-Who.” He said. He’d had a grand total of two run-ins with that shit, and it was two-too-many for his tastes.

Connie’s head snapped to look at him so fast he was sure she’d have whiplash. “You know?” she whispered harshly.

“I’ve heard rumors. I’ve met one of yours before. Not bad in the sack, but the pillow-talk could have done without the murder attempts. Kinda laid there like a dead fish for the main act. I’m almost insulted that she only got active when trying to kill me.” He shrugged.

“Brutish bastard.” She snarled.

“Ah-ah-ah.” He admonished her, waving a finger. “Don’t wanna let everyone know you’re really a Pokegirl, do you?” he asked sarcastically. “That’d be all kinds of bad for you and your ‘sisters’ back home. Let me guess. Newbie?” he asked. “The one I spoke to was FAR more convincing. I actually believed she was human ‘till she mentioned You-Know-Where when she thought I was asleep.”

Mark felt something press upon his mind when she spoke next. “You won’t tell *anyone. *”

“I won’t…” he almost repeated before the pain set in. “Ah. That hurt.” He thanked every God he could name that he’d gotten that defense token from Jinxy. “Try that again and I put a bullet between your eyes.”

‘Connie’ looked more than a little off-put that someone resisted when she used her Aura of Command. “How’d you…” he cut her off.

“Magic. No, you can’t see it, but it protects my mind from control. Had enough of Psychic Types trying to make me dance like a puppet, thanks.” He said.

“So, what now? Are you going to rape me until I comply? Or maybe turn me over to your league officials so they can pry anything they can out of me? I’ve heard what you people do to us if you know about us.” She asked.

“Nope. None of the above.” He shrugged. The forest they were walking through was actually quite nice. If he weren’t planning to glass this place? It’d be a nice private island to see if he couldn’t buy the damned thing with the money from stopping the infection here… “I’ve got opposing viewpoints to your group. But call me crazy? I like having opposition around. Keeps me from going soft and comfortable in my opinions. Free marketplace of ideas, that way the good ones rise and the bad ones die.”

Mark pondered for a few moments. “My big question is this… Why don’t you just teleport away?” he asked. “The bitch who tried to kill my happy ass did so when it looked like I was winning… Okay, it was when I had her at gunpoint.” He shrugged.

She held up her ‘engagement’ ring. “It hides that I’m a Pokegirl, but also stops me from doing anything to give myself away. It also hides my tattoos.” She sighs. “They told me it was necessary. I can’t take it off ‘till I set foot back…. You-Know-Where.”

“Sacrificial lamb, much?” he asked.

“Apparently.” She slumped as they walked.

“Well, can’t say you don’t deserve it. At least 200 people, all dead. And their Pokegirls.” He nodded. “Just do me a favor, eh?” he gave her a devil’s grin. The self-satisfaction was almost palpable. “Say ‘Tamer.’”

Connie gawped at him as he sped up to catch up to the main group before glaring at his back. Just imagining where she’d put the knife.

James and Alfred had gone ahead to scout, looking for the location they’d been heading towards, and to get a check on just how many zombies were between themselves and salvation in the form of a boat. Turns out? An unknown number. The abandoned town, which used to be one of the shooting galleries, stood between the group and the emergency tunnel. Which meant that at the very least there were however many zombies used to be chained up running around down there, along with potentially five to ten fresh runners.

Mark looked to Danvers after James and Alfred shared that news. “So, let me get this straight… You guys didn’t have a single padlock on those things? It was all electronic locks controlled by the computer system?” he asked.

“Yeah. It was supposed to be foolproof.” Danvers sighed.

“Never underestimate a determined fool.” Mark countered. “Would it have KILLED you guys to have a padlock or something? A chain, hell, a couple of BIKE locks on them. And lord only knows how many of the wandering ones have come along… Okay, ya know what?” Mark dug on his belt for the specially marked Pokeball and tossed it into the air.

Nancy, the Demon-Goddess, appeared in the air with her Keystaff in hand and her dress fluttering in the breeze of displaced air from her materialization. She looked down to the group in confusion.

“Master? I thought I said I was not interested in this frivolity.” She said, tilting her head slightly in curiosity. “Why am I out of my ‘ball?”

Mark smiled up at her. “Because someone done fucked up.” He said. “We’re caught in the… Usual hopeless hellscape. Zombabes and Zombies stand between us and getting the hell off this island, as a whole because while I KNOW you can just teleport along with myself to safety, I’ve actually kind of gotten attached to some of these people.”

Nancy gave him a deadpan look. The kind of look that said, ‘I don’t believe a word you just said.’

“Hey!” Mark defended, “It’s truth! Alfred and James are good people. Benedict is a badass… hell, even Gary’s let his left nut drop since the last time we saw him. Jenny’s still useless.” He ignored the defensive statements from Gary and the indignant sound from Jenny, herself. “And… Connie is…. Interesting. She got the short stick right up the ass. Call it compassion coming back from the dead to bite me in the dick.”

Nancy sighed and looked around. “Scorched Earth?” she asked.

“No. Targeted destruction is preferable.” Mark supplied.

“Looking for a new vacation home, Master?” she asked.

“…” Mark paused and looked at the rest of his group. “Maybe?”

Nancy just shrugged. Her tamer was, at times, a genius. A mad genius, but a genius. And at others, like now, he was just insane. Though he would call himself ‘eccentric’ since ‘you’re only insane if you’re poor. If you’re rich, you’re just eccentric.’

“Anyhow, we need that abandoned town over yonder to not be there anymore.” He said.

Nancy nodded and flew off overhead. She moved through the air like it was her home turf, and flew straight over the abandoned town. Positioning herself above the town, she saw the zombies gathered below in a herd. More than a few of them were apparently fresh enough that running was still possible for them. And they saw her. Good.

As they gathered close together, trying to reach up as though they could claw their way through a couple hundred yards of distance. She took aim with her Key Staff and let her power gather at the tip. The end normally touching the ground, as the top end was a widened headpiece that looked much like the ‘bottom’ of a key. The teeth were near the bottom of the staff, which was glowing with gathered golden power.

Finally, when it felt like the golden orb before her was about to burst, she released the energy downward. Vapor condensed in circles around the beam as it burned its way through everything in front of it. It seared its way to the ground, and exploded outward, washing the ‘town’ in raw kinetic force and light, ripping buildings from their foundations and the undead to vapor.

Mark and the rest of the small group of survivors listened as the massive boom was repeated several times, and even watched as debris was thrown into the air. The first attack was a Hyper Beam, Nancy’s strongest attack, and it drew out the zombies hiding nearby, which just made it easier for her to fire down Power Bolts, Bomb Blasts and Flamethrower attacks. By the time she was done not three minutes later, the whole town was a smoking ruin with a huge 20-yard-deep, 40 yards wide crater in the middle. It was, to say the least, a thing of beauty for Mark as he walked into the husk of a town.

He took a deep breath in with his nose and released it. “Haaaaaah.” He sighed loud and with no small amount of self-satisfaction. “I love the smell of gratuitous property damage in the morning.” He said.

Benedict nodded and immediately Danvers led the group to the small, barley standing building which took them down a set of stairs to the emergency tunnel. Only to be stopped down a short tunnel by a locked door. A keypad rested to the left of the door, but no power seemed to be flowing to it. Nancy, Jinxy and Jessica all looked ready to fire on the door to get it to open, but Danvers tried putting in his code anyway. Benedict banged on the door a little bit, and Alfred looked back up the stairs to keep an eye out for trouble.

Then they heard responding bangs on the door.

“Next?” benedict looked to Danvers. The guide looked around. “This way.” He said, leading them back the way they came, but turning down a different hall. At the end, they came to a room with a sliding door. It was heavy and made of metal, but Benedict was able to open it on his own. Inside was dark, only illuminated by the little natural light that filtered down from the still-open door they’d come through. When Gary and Benedict began moving into the darkness, James spoke up.

“Wait… We’re *willingly* going into the dark place?” he asked.

Alfred nodded, “I don’t know as anyone’s noticed yet, yeah? But we can’t see in there, and *they* don’t need to see to get us.”

And then the thumping from the other side of the first door grew louder, and they heard shrieking. And all opposition evaporated.

“Fuck” James said in unison with Alfred as they double-timed it to catch up with the group.

Mark moved along but looked at Jinxy. “Jinxy, babe? A little light, please.” He said.

Jinxy nodded and held a hand up. A ball of light formed in her hands before ephemeral flames split off and began forming a line in front and behind them. “Good enough, Master?” she asked, a bit of cheek in her tone as the light spread.

Mark gave her a pat on the ass for that comment, and a grope while his hand was there. “You just earned yourself an all-you-can-eat curry night.” He said as they walked. Jessica had her guns out and ready while Nancy floated along above. Gary had called out his own Pokegirl, the Shieldmaiden he had registered on his license, who thankfully could at least put a shield between herself and the zombies, not to mention a decent barrier between the group and aforementioned zombies.

As they walked, Jenny bent down when she noticed something. A pool of blood on the ground.

“What the hell, mate?” Alfred asked. “What the hell is that?” he was looking at Danvers.

The guide held his hands up, defensively. “I don’t know? I’ve never been in this tunnel before. They told us to use it ONLY in the case of an emergency.”

They continued walking, but Mark was starting to get an idea of what this particular tunnel was. It didn’t let out anywhere he could see, but he was fairly certain that was the point at the moment. If he was right, and he sincerely hoped he wasn’t, this was an incredibly bad situation. Connie stood *right fucking next to him* as he walked along with the group until they came to a fenced area. Behind them, the lights Jinxy had been trailing were going out, only to reappear in front of them about 20 feet away.

The fences stood in a formation eerily reminiscent of a movie ticket line, forcing those trying to get through to walk a zig-zag patter, to maximize line-standing space in a limited area. When the others saw this too, Connie looked at Danvers.

“What the fuck were they doing here?” she asked.

Danvers was about to speak when the chain-link fences began rattling. Not just them, but the floor as well. Jessica floated down to Mark’s side, opposite Connie. “Master.” She began. “Motion sensors indicate a herd of zombies and Zombabes moving rapidly toward us from the other way. Recommending retreat further inside. The fences and confined space should slow them.”

“Fuck it, let’s move!” Alfred said, rushing through the fence, followed by the rest of the group.

On the other side of the fence was an opening into a very narrow room. Rectangular in shape, as it wasn’t very wide, but it was relatively long. As they walked into it, Jessica had to change to visible light, as her infrared sensors went haywire. The walls of the room were lit red.

James reached out to touch the grating on the wall, but received an electrical shock for his trouble. “Fucker!” he shouted.

Benedict and mark both placed their hands over the slightly widened area around their hip-level and felt the heat radiating from the walls.

“It’s a fucking oven.” Mark said. “Just why in the hell would the resort need an oven practically tailor-made for human-sized objects, followed by a fence meant to restrain movement?”

The group seemed more interested in escaping the oncoming horde, as they moved forward. After another wire grate, which Jessica floated above to get to and open since the humans couldn’t as it had already been heated to an uncomfortable degree, they went through another section of oven-rooms, and then to a sliding metal door. Blessedly solid, thankfully.

Gary, once the group was fully inside the, door slid shut behind them, had apparently had enough. “Whoa, whoa!” he shouted. “What is happening here? KATTLE runs? Ovens?”

The group was silent for a moment before Jessica shot upwards with a handgun. A zombie, male obviously, dropped bonelessly to the floor. It had been right above James at the time.

“Seriously!?” James spat, “Fuck this island!”

Alfred nodded. “I know I said I wanted to marry this place and have its beautiful babies, but yeah, mate. Fuck this place.”

Benedict put another round in the zombie’s torso, just for good measure. Its head had exploded overhead, and Jinxy was busy blowing the cloud of poisonous gas away. With little more trepidation, Mark moved forward to the front and opened the door on the other side of the room from where they’d come in.

Guns out and ready to fire, the group moved into what looked like… the waiting room of a doctor’s office? Medical supplies sat on a table by to rows of 5 uncomfortable-looking chairs, and on shelves across from them. Plastic curtains shielded the rest of the much larger room from view, but couldn’t hide the sign reading ‘Refugee Hall X.’

Mark almost scoffed. Then Jenny, the one apparently going through most of the trauma and self-discovery on this trip, pulled the final curtain away to see a hall filled with refugee tents.

The Dark Continent had recently undergone a mass exodus of the humans living there, along with most of the domestic Pokegirls. They’d gone to several different Leagues after attacks on human settlements a Widow that had gotten loose long enough to breed a small group of other Widows. A cavalcade of fuck-ups later, and a majority of the northern part of the continent had to be evacuated. Several thousand came to the Indigo League and were being housed, for the most part by a charity group funded a certain high-ranking League official who still, somehow, ran a gym in a city that rhymed with ‘very thick.’

Mark couldn’t help himself, now. “God damn it, Gendo…” he muttered. Fucking politics.

Jenny was still looking around. “Poke-saviors. From the docks… We saw a bunch of the refugees at the VerMuffEatin’ docks when we came here…”

“It’s a hell of a way to solve a refugee crisis.” Benedict commented in a deadpan.

Danvers shuddered at the scene. “I didn’t know, guys. I… I didn’t know.”

Mark sighed. “I had a guess. But this confirms it.”

“They’re making more so they can keep the island running.” Jenny said, apparently for the slow people in the group.

James and Alfred were in shock, and Connie looked like she was about to throw up right alongside Danvers.

“But they’d all be fresh.” Gary said. “The ones I’ve seen? They ALL look old.”

Benedict looked at Mark and both nodded before Benedict spoke. “The Heaters. They’re for ‘aging’ them.”

“They could never get away with it, yeah?” James said, trying to convince himself of it, more than anything else.

Jenny shook her head. “They did. Because Nobody cares.”

When Gary tried to move forward, benedict stopped him. Why became apparent as a child-like zombie appeared walking out of the hidden portion of the nearest tent. It was rather obviously a zombie, given its greyed flesh and blood-stained lower jaw, not to mention the tearing of the flesh around its lips.

When it growled, it was like a signal. An abhorrent signal to the others in the room, and there were many others as they came rushing out of the tents. Pokegirl Zombabes, mostly catgirls and Bunnygirls and a few rarer-species, along with human zombies all rushing to get a taste of living flesh, and Mark was already moving back into the room.

“Come on, COME ON!”

Benedict held off the faster with a handgun before making his own exit, letting the others retreat to the dark room where James almost got bit.

It was literally a last-second escape for benedict as he closed the door only to have a bunch of the undead fuckers put their arms through the rapidly closing gap. Jenny and Gary tried the other door, only to find the oven-room filled to the brim with zombies too. It was ONLY through a matter of leverage that they were able to get that door shut, and then Nancy slammed the door Benedict was blocking with his body shut, cutting off 5 whole arms and 3 hands in the process. Gary’s Shieldmaiden set up two psychic barriers on either door to keep them closed and smiled at her owner. “We’re safe for now, Master!” she said, as chirpy as can be given the situation.

Danvers looked to the chain hanging from the ceiling, the one that had almost dropped a Zombie on James, and began climbing. “Up we go, folks.” He said. “once we reach the tunnels I know about? I can get us to the docks.”

The last one up was the Gary’s Shieldmaiden, as she said she’d need to be in proximity to maintain the barriers as long as possible, but she managed to get out before they sputtered out and died. The doors held, or at least the oven-side door held. The other door lasted a few seconds after the shield fell and a small horde of zombies came rushing in to find an empty room.

Up top, things weren’t so rosy either. Looking around, even without Jinxy’s lights, they could see dozens of these rooms and more of the oven rooms. Danvers led them along the catwalks, over the truly massive room full of refugee tents… Mark was fairly certain the only reason these people couldn’t hear the screams of the people in the ‘infection room’ as he was calling it was because of really good soundproofing inside, and the fact that the doors slid shut.

Walking over the tent room, they saw the massive numbers of the infected, which Jinxy took the opportunity to torch with extreme prejudice while maintaining control over the inferno to keep it from melting the catwalk they were on. The Archmage rode along on her broom, laughing at the easy kills while Jessica took potshots at them, trying to keep up with the numbers.

“Damn it!” Jessica shouted. “No fair!”

Jinxy smiled at her Alpha, “All’s fair in love and war, Jess!” she shouted happily.

Jenny groused as they ran, “Could you at least *pretend* not to enjoy this?” she asked.

Mark sighed. “Not in them. Sorry. I’ve spent a long time training my ‘Girls to like violence. They like other things, too. But violence is a universal joy. A Catharsis.”

Nancy, who was running alongside them, nodded.

Connie fell behind a bit, but Mark picked her up, physically, and carried the otherwise adversarial being along with him… Hey, he’s a dick, but the situation didn’t call for her death just yet. Danvers lead them to a door, which he opened and almost immediately stopped when he saw the bloody corpse of another staff member. Different shirt, same shorts. He worked down here…

“God. Tim? You asshole. I can’t believe I thought you were a decent guy…” he sighed before picking up the handgun ‘Tim’ still had clenched in rigor-mortis stiffened hands.

James and Alfred followed and may or may not have kicked the corpse on their way to the stairs that Danvers was leading them to. Through the door, they found themselves in one of the many, MANY lounge rooms of the 1st floor of the hotel. On a couch not three feet away, lay the body of a woman who had clearly taken her own life, if the gun in her hand and the bullet hole in her head were any indication. And the bite-mark on her arm. James took the handgun as the group filed into the room. Then the growling started, and the hallway was practically filled with more Zombabes and zombies. Jessica strode to the front and began unloading with her internal weaponry before Jinxy came flying through and blasted the area with flames to keep the zombie poison away. A veritable wall of flames separated the room from the hall, and ashes fell through in large amounts as zombies pushed themselves into the fire to get at the tasty-tasty flesh.

“Not THAT way, apparently.” Mark said as Danvers nodded.

“Come on, I’ve got another way we can use… I hope. This WAS the fastest, but… Shit.”

And so back down the stairs they went.

Danvers led them through a merry maze of tunnels before finally they emerged into a blood-stained hall with only three entrances. From one, they saw the shadows of the undead coming. Form another, they saw blood trails leading INTO it, and the glow of computer screens. The control room. And from behind, they heard the rumblings of zombies approaching.

Instead of standing still, they moved into the control room, Gary’s Shieldmaiden setting up a barrier to the room they came from, stopping any ‘reinforcements’ before the group opened fire upon the small herd of Zombabes and zombies waiting around in the computer-filled room. The ‘All-Call Initiated’ symbol flashed on the big screen as they rained bullets and spells upon the formerly unsuspecting and unthinking Undead in the room. When all was said and done, Jinxy sent a burst of fire down the hall they’d come from, through the Shieldmaiden’s barrier, incinerating the gathered and quite angry zombies.

It was only AFTER the shooting and fires had stopped that the owner of the hotel, Melissa Smith, came out of her office. “Oh, thank god.” She said. “They’ve been practically holding a sermon by the door since this whole thing started.” She seemed relatively calm, cool under pressure at least. “I was trying to think of a distraction to get to the emergency tunnel but on my own I couldn’t think of a damned thing that wouldn’t get me killed for the attempt.”

The group gave a collective glare at the woman. Silence met her little speech, though the anger was palpable.

“What in the HELL do you think we’re here for?” Mark asked. “Danvers was leading us out of this shit hole.”

Jenny looked like she was about to launch into a rant… What a time to grow a backbone… And Gary looked like he was going to let her.

“Okay, folks.” Mark said, “We’ve got an All-Call in place. So as far as I’m concerned? All Pet-Owners and civilians need to evacuate. Anyone who doesn’t think they’re up for this? Needs to go. As a famous actor before the Revenge War said in a movie? ‘If you can’t keep up, don’t step up.’”

He looked to Danvers. “You? Take us to the docks. I’ll escort you guys there, and then continue with the destruction of the hordes.” At Danvers’ nod, he looked to Melissa, “How many zombies were there before this, and how many guests and staff were here?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” The self-absorbed woman admitted. “A thousand Zombabes, and maybe two-hundred-eighty guests and staff?”

Jenny couldn’t hold back anymore. “How could you not know!?” she demanded. “How many refugees, then!?”

Melissa shrugged. “Maybe five hundred? We had to keep up with people like them,” she jabbed a thumb at where Mark and benedict were standing, “Killing off our supplies.”

“SUPPLIES!?” Gary shouted. “Those are PEOPLE!”

“They’re product. Just like everything else. And you paid for it.” She countered.

Mark was on the fence, honestly. Yeah, he could understand the moral quandary, but at the same time? It was Gendo this whole thing was going through. Of course there’s going to be something unspeakably evil about it. And even then? ‘Evil’ was a point of view… Ume would urge him to let this shit go on. Hell, Ume’d probably applauding this whole thing. It was certainly a good scheme until Connie had gotten involved and her superiors left her to die.

Seriously, they WANTED her to die. There was no alternative explanation. They could very well have given her a magic fucking ring that hid her Pokegirl nature, but not allowing her to teleport? That was just stupid. Or deliberate. Then again? ‘Never ascribe to malice that which is suitably explained by idiocy.’

He listened to the people argue for a few moments before he looked to Danvers. “They can argue and run, right?” he asks. “or better yet? Save it ‘till they’re safely on a boat?”

Danvers nodded. “Yes. Yes, they can.”

That got people’s attentions as Danvers began heading to the emergency tunnel with Mark and his trio of high-powered Pokegirls. As the majority of the firepower left, the group finally cottoned on and followed. Outside, a swarm of the undead bitches was shuffling about. At the sight of a walking buffet, they immediately began shuffling towards them.

James and Alfie couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a joke, if only to lighten the mood a bit… “Every day I’m Shufflin’.” James sang and Alfie, while running, managed to do a small ‘shuffle’ motion before they both continued running.

Mark found it fucking hilarious. Even if the joke was followed by a hailstorm of bullets and flames from Jessica and Jinxy. Nancy got into the action as well, firing off powerful beams and blasts of flame.

Getting the group to the docks was easy like that… Though he DID force/ask Connie to stay with him ‘or else.’ Now that a majority of the fresher, and thusly faster, Zombabes were dealt with? Only the shufflers were left. And those were a cakewalk on an island like this. Isolated, closed system… it was damned-near perfect. Even with all of the tunnels.

He just had Marie send the spirit Cards she had of fire and Ice to scour the island while he stayed at the Hotel. When the power was cut off, the system actually managed to shut down, and so he wanted to get that shit back up and running, if only for the invisible fences. So, he and Nancy went down to the basement where the Generators were kept and refilled their tanks with pure, undiluted current, courtesy of a copied Thunder attack, and a few magical glyphs from Jinxy kept would keep them running for a few years, at least.

When they got back upstairs to the control room, the computers were booting up and he found a very *interesting* disk on the ground. Popping it into one of the computer towers, he was unsurprised to find it connected to a very pretty-looking sprite of a Videogirl. On the screen, she peeked over the edge of the start menu with bright green eyes, fair skin, and blond hair. When she saw Mark sitting at the computer, she pulled herself up, holding a few of the wounds she’d gotten in the fight against the virus. She designed herself wearing a skin-tight blue outfit, articulated and padded like a Golden Age Superhero. She even had clip-art for a cape!

“Hi there.” She said. “I’m Annie. You?”

“Mark Williams. Former guest, I guess.” He said.

“Oh! I know you! I saw your files! Well, anyways, I’m Annie, the Sysadmin of this hotel and resort.” She said with a smile. “Are you here because of the virus?” she asked.

“You COULD say that, yeah. I’m clearing the Zombabes and zombies from the island because they got loose, killed nearly everyone, and an All-Call was sent out.”

The girl sighed in relief. “Oh good. I was worried there. I’d hoped the All-Call protocol would work, but that virus was NASTY. Do you have ANY idea what it did to my server!? It was horrible. I’d JUST gotten it the way I like it, too! And now I have to start all over!” she looked like she was nearly in tears.

“Well.” He shrugs. “Not anymore. And no more Zombabe business, I think. I don’t suppose you’ve got the files on how this business was run, do you?” he asked. “I’d like to turn them over to the League.”

Annie’s eyes went wide and she smiled gleefully. “You will!? Oh, Thank you! I’ve been trying to for months, now, but we’re a closed-circuit system! The moment I found out what they were doing I tried, but the system doesn’t reach anyone outside of this island! Even the All-Call is on a different network and can ONLY send an All-Call…. If I did that for anything but a Menace? I’d be deleted for sure!”

Annie, being a VideoGirl, jumped out of the screen and into Mark’s lap. “Thank you.” She said, hugging him. “I feel so... Used. But they threatened to turn ME viral if I didn’t cooperate… And I had a sister who had that happen. Poor Ascii.”

Mark hugged the girl. He wasn’t comfortable with a nearly-crying girl being on his lap, but… Fuck it. Just call him Yolo Swaggins. “Don’t worry, Annie. Now that I have you? I’m not letting those morons turn you viral. I’ll have you connected to a real network as soon as I can, but right now? I need intel. I just got the system up and running, and I need security feeds to know where the hell all the Zombabes and Zombies are.”

“Oh! Absolutely! Please put those poor people out of their misery?” she said as the security feeds from around the island came up on the screens that weren’t damaged by the previous gunfire.

Connie apparently chose that moment to walk in. “Hey, Mark? I know I’ve asked this before, but why, exactly, am I still here?” she asked.

Annie, however, nearly leapt at her with hands held like claws as she seemingly wanted to claw at the woman. “You! I know you! I saw you on the camera feeds before they got erased! YOU’RE the cause of that ass-nasty Virus that nearly killed me!”

Connie took a step back at that, holding a hand up to try and defend herself. But it wasn’t needed. Mark had a good grip on the VidGirl.

“Oi!” he lightly smacked the digital blond on the back of her head. “Bad. No attacking. She got played, just like you.”

Annie did NOT look convinced, but she settled down at least.

“Now, Connie?” Mark turned the chair fully to face the second blond in the room. “You’re here because I’m giving you a choice. I can kill you, right here and now, as an enemy of everything I believe in and the one responsible for the massive disaster here even if you really aren’t. it’d send a message to your superiors at least. OR you can stay with me. Your superiors sent you here to die. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care. Ask Jinxy. She could make you a better ring than yours with minimal effort. One that would hide you from ‘Dex scans and hide your tattoos but not take away your ability to Teleport. I don’t know who you pissed off, or why and again, I don’t care. But they sent you here to die. Either that or it was an elaborate test with your life on the line.” He took a deep breath.

He almost felt bad for the girl. She had gotten the raw end of an ass-pounding without lube in this ‘assignment’ and while he didn’t know MUCH about Sanctuary? He knew enough. They didn’t sacrifice their ‘daughters’ lightly and they were insanely liberal. Like, hyper liberal. Radical, even, would be a good descriptor. Far and away, NOT his cup of tea. But he had to admit Connie had some charm to her.

“Constance.” She said. “My name is Constance. ‘Connie’ is just the name I used for this assignment. Shortened, but it fit.”

Mark nodded. “Credit for your thoughts?” he offered.

“I’d take more. But… At the moment I have very few options, don’t I? I can’t take this thing off until I touch the Dark Continent again…” she held up a hand with her ‘engagement ring’ on it. “And if I don’t accept? You kill me as a message.” She sighed. “You’re everything my sisters told me to hate about the outside world, you know that?” she asked.

Mark just shrugged, petting Annie on the head. “Yeah, I know. I’m not a nice man. I don’t believe in Parity. I sure as shit don’t believe in whatever your people do You-Know-Where. I’m an example of Indigo League propaganda save the ‘servile’ part they like in most citizens.”

It took a while, but finally, Connie… Constance. Got on her knees. She couldn’t escape, and he had his own defenses against her mental dominion. She didn’t doubt his Harem had the same, if not alpha or even delta bonds to the Tamer. And the VideoGirl on his lap was too weak still to do anything useful against the others, like Jessica who was sitting up near the ceiling with a rifle trained on her forehead if the red dot was any indication. “Well… M-Ma-…” she had trouble even saying the word. It was abhorrent, a pillar of the regime that put her and all like her down!

“Master.” Mark provided. “Say it.”

“Mmmma-Mas…” she shook her head. The word was like poison on her tongue. “Master.” She nearly spat it out, like she was vomiting it up.

“Good girl.” He nodded. “First order of the day?” he beaned her in the forehead with a pokeball. The loud ‘bonk’ sound was heard throughout the room. “Get in the ball.”

With the sudden concussion-inducing force from the pokeball, Constance was an easy capture and the light on the release mechanism slowly dimmed.

“Second order of business…” he leaned back to look at the cuddly VideoGirl on his lap. “How about you, eh? Wanna come with me? I’m not an active Tamer anymore, so my adventures are, for the most part, done. Might go to the Crimson League and retire, though.”

Annie just nodded. “I’d like to leave this island, please. The network here sucks.”

“Alright. Grab all of the data from all departments, load it up onto a jump drive or something, and we’ll get it to the media of multiple Leagues. That way Indigo can’t get fucked over by Gendo. Again.”

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

And that’s what led to Mark Fuckin’ Williams going to other Leagues, looking for a nice spot to friggin retire in peace. Away from Zombabes, and away from Gendo. Sure, he had to deal with Constance and her liberal bullshit, but hey. Two opposites CAN meet and discuss things, right? So long as a Pokegirl knows her place, it’s cool. And Ume constantly trying to convert people to active Nihilism and evil for the sake of evil.

Every family has their idiosyncrasies, though. Right?

/end Part the Third.

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