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(Disclaimer: The PPC was originally created by Jay and Acacia. “Left 4 Dead: Crimson Tide” (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5602505/1/Left_4_Dead_Crimson_Tide) belongs to Bladex1200. Left 4 Dead and its associated characters, both living and undead, belong to Valve Corporation. Thanks to Candescence for beta reading. Danny Richardson, Laura Dukes, and Rachel Calendar belong to me. The following story contains violence and bad language.)

”Get over here!”

“Why would I want to do that? So you can pummel me some more?”

“That’s the general idea. Ooh! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Oh, nasty! Pop, pop, pop! Three quick jabs to the chin and it’s all over! The crowd goes wild!”

As Scorpion whipped off his mask to set Captain Marvel ablaze, Laura leapt from her beanbag chair and began doing a victory dance in front of the TV. Behind her, Rachel the intern cheered and whooped.

Danny set his controller aside and groaned. “Aren’t you over-reacting a little bit?” he said as he rubbed his eyes. “I mean, I’ve never played this game before today. Shouldn’t you save the dancing for when you beat an expert?”

Laura finished off her strutting with a quick spin and one last hip thrust. “Danny, Danny, Danny,” she said. “Every victory, whether in gaming or in life, should be savored regardless of opponent’s skill level. Besides, gloating’s fun.”

“You’re like a fortune cookie made by a Internet troll.”

BEEEEEEP

Rachel hopped over to the console and began perusing it as the two agents shut down their game. “Ooh, it’s in the Left 4 Dead continuum!” she chirped. “An OC Gary Stu Survivor!”

“Will the filter allow us to speak while disguised as Infected?” Danny asked. “I hate to get there and find out we can only communicate through grunts. Though I guess you’d be fluent in that.” He shot a glance at Laura.

“Ah hah hah, you’re funny,” the assassin said flatly as she opened up the weapon’s closet.

“It shouldn’t be a problem!” the intern said. “This equipment is the best in the world, after all!” Both agents looked at Rachel and saw nothing but the well-intentioned truth on her face.

“I guess so,” Laura said as she returned her attention back to the closet. “Here.” She handed Danny a pistol. “The Special Infected abilities should be enough, but it never hurts to be prepared.” She emerged from the closet with a pistol of her own, which she tucked into her belt between her twin dagger sheaths.

“And now you’re a psychotic Girl Scout.”

Laura loaded a clip into the pistol and checked the slide. “I was never a Girl Scout,” she said. “I do like Thin Mints, though.”



“Huh. Looks like Rachel was right. We can talk while disguised as Special Infected.” Laura swept a strand of grey hair out of her face with one claw-like finger.

“In a matter of shortsh,” Danny mumbled. He coughed, throwing off a cloud of smoke. “I shoulda been a Hunter.”

“And I should’ve gotten a partner who can give me a decent match in Mortal Kombat. Quit whining and get out your notepad!”

One is the loneliest number... Such a true statement. Even more true in a zombie apocalypse. In what song had he first heard that phrase? He didn't remember and, frankly, it didn't matter.

Danny rolled his eyes. “Three Dog Night hash no plashe being mentioned in a shtory about zhombiesh.”

The two agents took cover behind some debris as the scenery finally stabilized around them. It was a safe-room similar to the type seen in the game, but a lot dirtier. Laura looked up from her staring match with a rat when the Stu entered the room. He sat down and lit up a cigarette.

Near the corner where he had seen the rats he saw an old, rusty stove that probably didn't work anymore. Near it was a preparation table stained crimson with human blood, as well as a wood table filled with guns and ammunition.

Laura shook her head as the guns and ammo suddenly appeared sticking out from the surface of the table at random angles instead of being placed on top like normal. “Note it,” she whispered to Danny.

The entrance door was opposite of him, and to the left of it was a shelf with four health kits. The door on the other side had a table with K- and D-rations next to it, as well as several water bottles.

“K rationsh?” Danny furrowed his brow in thought. “I’m pretty shure thoshe were phashed out after World War II. The Army only ushesh MREsh now.”

“How’d you know that?”

“My undergrad roommate wash in ROTC. You pick up a few thingsh jusht lishtening.”

Leaning against the old stove, he reminisced about his past life. Sergeant Marcus Voyavich of Fire Team Zulu in the U.S. Army. A man who led one of the finest fire teams in the western sector of the U.S.

Laura scanned the upcoming Words. “Aw crap. Hang out, we’re about to hit a—”

The agents staggered as time rippled around them. “Flashback,” Laura finished once the world had stopped spinning.

“Is making agentsh nausheoush a charge?” Danny asked as he picked himself back up.

“Hey, if it’s one more reason to toss this guy to the horde, I’m all for it,” Laura said. They were outside now, and not too far from Sergeant Stu as he tried to keep a violent mob from storming the last evacuation bus.

Marcus nodded to his lieutenant, who was manning an M60, to open fire. The mob began to fall in a rain of crimson.

“Now, I’m not an expert in the military like you are,” Laura half-shouted over the noise of the machine gun, “but I’m pretty sure sergeants can’t give orders to lieutenants. Not to mention how clumsy that simile is—” She stopped as she noticed the peculiar expression on Danny’s face. “What’s eating you?”

“Did the Shtu just order hish troops to open fire on an unarmed crowd?” Danny’s voice was low and restrained. It had the same type of tone one would normally find in an action movie just before the peace-loving hero snapped and killed twenty-seven henchmen with dual-wielded shotguns.

Laura shook her head. “Nah, the crowd’s not very well described. They’re all probably just generic Infected.”

"Pull back, pull back!" Marcus' lieutenant yelled as the unruly mob slowly transformed into a horde of infected.

“They hadn’t changed yet? They were shtill human?!” A snarl escaped from Danny’s throat, but it was quickly subsumed by a fit of coughing.

“Well, far be it from me to agree with the Stu—” Laura paused to peek over the piece of concrete debris that was serving as their cover. It looked like the Smoker’s telltale coughing had been drowned out by the noise of the machine gun. “But they were Infected. They just hadn’t changed yet.”

“THAT’SH NO GODDAMN EXCUSHE!” he shouted. Blood dribbled down from his mouth. Laura realized in shock that he had bitten into his tongue trying to grind his teeth. He turned and pounded his fists against the debris, hissing and cursing under his breath.

The assassin knelt there for a moment, panting as the declining rage continued to wrack his system. He flinched when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “You okay?” he heard Laura say.

“Fine,” he growled. “Let’s just get thish over with. Where’d the Shtu go?”

Laura pointed towards a desiccated apartment block. “Let’s hurry.”

They ran over to the building and looked in through one of the windows. The Stu was shouting his men into defensive positions.

Two of the three privates took positions by the single door leading to the room. His lieutenant took a position by him, each of them covering the two windows, and the final private took a position by the bookcase, facing the door.

“Erg,” Danny murmured. “That’sh wrong. US army fireteams typically only have four sholdiersh, none of whom are officersh. And why would a shergeant have hish own lieutenant, I ashk you?”

Laura raised a eyebrow in surprise. “That’s an awful lot of facts taken from just listening,” she said.

“We went to a few partiesh together. You need shomething to talk about and the shubject jusht comesh up shometimesh.”

“Ah. Gotcha.” She was silent for a moment. “You sure you’re okay, Danny?”

“It’sh nothing.”

“But—”

Danny sighed. “Look, it’s jusht…” he said. “If civiliansh musht be killed within fiction, I’d prefer it if their deathsh meant shomething more than just a tool to bolshter the hero’sh image. It should be shomething to shignify how dangeroush a villain ish, or how far a once honorable man hash fallen due to the presshuresh of war.”
He waved his hand at the Stu and his men, who were now cutting down any Infected that came up the stairs. “For thish guy, it meant nothing. He didn’t even care! It wash jusht an excushe to drop part of the title and to throw some gore around.”

Laura looked down at her feet. The two agents lapsed into an uncomfortable silence as the horde finally burst through the wall and pulled down the three privates accompanying Sergeant Stu.

They screamed in agony - in pain and horror - as their living flesh was torn. Their brains, their hearts, their arteries: all torn from them and thrown to the side.

Danny’s scowl finally broke as the agent began to laugh uproariously. “What wash that?” he said. “The infected pulled the sholdiers apart and just shet them ashide in neat little piles!”

“I’m amazed that they were able to pull their arteries out of their bodies so accurately,” Laura chuckled. She watched as the lieutenant grabbed the stunned Stu by the collar and dragged him through a nearby window. They fell onto a parked car, where the lieutenant began to show signs of changing—

And then the flashback ended.

“Abrupt, much?” the male agent said as he picked himself up. It’s hard to maintain one’s posture when one is being flung about through time.

Looking to the table, he saw that an assault rifle, a SCAR Close-Combat, was laying. His own weapon - an AK-47 that he had scavenged off of his late lieutenant, was out of ammunition.

“AK-47sh are not ishshued to any American military unit,” Danny muttered as he jotted down another note. “Washn’t there any reshearch done before writing thish shtory?”

After watching the sun's few rays peaking over the buildings for a few moments, he grabbed a K-ration and cut it open with his Swiss-Army knife. It was standard stuff: crackers, cheese, a small can of tea to mix with water, and instructions.

Danny growled again. “I’ll take that as a no,” Laura said as she watched her partner jab his pencil into the notepad. She stretched her claws in anticipation as Sergeant Stu continued to get ready to head out.

The air was suddenly rent by a distant weeping. Laura flinched before cursing her muscle memory.

“I don’t shupposhe it’d be too much to hope the Witch tearsh the Stu apart?” Danny asked hopefully.

“You keep hoping.”

The Stu emerged from the saferoom, assault rifle at the ready. He approached the townhouse from which the crying was coming from.

There was an SUV there. He couldn't tell what make or what brand - he wasn't into cars - but it seemed like it was fit to drive. It only had a couple of dents, and there were even gas cans nearby. The prospect of escape seemed like a wild fantasy now, but there it was!

“I’d like to eshcape, all right,” Danny muttered.

“Not before we bury that Stu,” his counterpart said, her voice tinged with glee.

The Witch was sitting in front of the car, sobbing in that unsettling way witches do. “Chalk up another charge,” Laura went on. “Ordinary witches shun daylight. Those outside during the day are known as Wandering Witches, due to their moving from place to place to try and avoid the light.”

The Stu raised his rifle, the laser sight of which accidentally flashed into the eye of the witch. She shrieked and leapt to her feet in pursuit.

He ran into the open SUV door and slammed it shut. Just in time, too. The witch's arm dangled out in front of him, broken away from the rest of her body. He shot the quivering arm with his magnum and sighed uneasily.

“That’s it, waste your ammunition,” Laura said. “Empty a few more rounds into that harmless severed arm, you know you want to. You’re just making it easier for us.”

“You would be the worst conshcience ever,” her partner interjected. “Shoot that guy! Shteal that car! Shtay up until four AM chugging energy drinksh and playing Red Dead Redemption.”

“Pinocchio would have been so much more awesome with Red Dead Redemption in it.”

he looked to his chest and saw the witch had left a sizable slash on it. Reaching for his medkit, he pulled out bandages and some alcohol to clean his wound.

“BULLSHIT. Witches don’t graze you, they frigging eviscerate you! These claws ain’t just for show, you know!” Laura scrapes her previously mentioned claws across a brick wall, carving out deep grooves.

A burst of automatic weapon fire through the door of the SUV killed off the Wimp!Witch. The Stu then crawled out of the car and started filling it up from the gas cans. Danny nudged his partner, who was scrawling a dirty word into the wall. “We’ve got another flashback coming up, but I think we can shkip it,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. It jusht explains how the SUV and the witch came to be here.” He grimaced as he skimmed through the words. “It’s a meaningless little side story that doesn’t sherve to advance the plot or the Shtu’sh characterization.”

Laura scratched a little embellished underline under the dirty word. “So what have we got left?”

“Actually, I think we’ve got enough.”

“You mean—”

“Yesh.” Danny smiled nastily, which on the Smoker’s face was an expression that could cause acute nausea at fifty yards. “It’sh time for the Shtu’sh trial.”



Closing the passenger door with a satisfied smirk, he jumped in the SUV, laid down his weapons in the passenger's seat, and drove off. As mile after mile of road passed him, and the sun began rising higher in the sky, he wondered where he was going to go. Slowing to a stop near a highway on-ramp, he opened the glove compartment and looked inside.

As he scrabbled through the detritus in the glove compartment, something hit the back of the SUV with a thud. The Stu snapped to attention, one hand already on the SCAR’s handle.

There was a brief moment of silence before a shrill metallic scraping filled the compartment of the car. He slowly and deliberately drew the assault rifle up to his shoulder and took aim at the rear door. The hint of a smile crept into his face.

Suddenly, the windshield exploded, spraying the back of the Stu’s head with safety glass. Before he could react, a thick tentacle-like tongue wrapped itself around tightly around his neck. He was yanked out of the car, the rifle falling from his hands as he desperately tried to pull himself loose.

The Stu vainly gasped for air as the Smoker continued to throttle him. His vision was fading. His fingers scraped weakly at the paved road in an effort to stop being dragged. There was a strange buzzing noise and a crackle of static over his body.

“That’s enough, Danny,” he heard someone say over the desperate pounding of his heart. “We can’t kill him yet.” He gasped as the pressure on his neck was relieved. He felt something tugging at his belt, but was too busy panting to see what happened.

He looked up to see the outline of a decaying lighthouse against the horizon. There was an infected woman standing in front of him. She looked just like the one he’d shot before. Unlike the previous infected, however, she was standing up straight and there was an unpleasant smirk on her face. There was a notepad in her hand.

“Sergeant Marcus Voyavich, aka Sergeant Stu,” she said. Laura’s smirk widened a bit as she noticed the Stu’s jaw drop. “You are charged with the following crimes against canon: being a Marty Stu, breaking the laws of physics regarding the placement of objects on other objects, multiple counts of not doing any research regarding the equipment and organization of the modern United States armed forces, giving orders to a lieutenant when you’re only a sergeant, having pointless flashbacks, making the Witch a weakling, and—” she poorly suppressed a laugh, causing it to become a snort “—violating the Geneva Convention in regards to the treatment of civilians by military personnel. Do you have anything to say before your sentence is carried out?”

“Go to hell,” the Stu said. He reached down to his belt for his magnum to teach this, this… whatever the hell this was some manners courtesy of the US Army.

BLAM

The Stu screamed as a large caliber bullet blew his left kneecap apart. Danny walked out from behind the Stu, a revolver in one hand. “Loshe shomething?” he asked the crumpled figure on the group. “Shorry. Couldn’t have you doing shomething heroic to ush.” He tossed the revolver into a ditch a few yards away.

Laura walked into a nearby shed. After a few seconds, there was the sound of a generator powering up. A foghorn split the night and the lighthouse itself flickered on.

“Enjoy Shurvival Mode,” Danny said to the bleeding Stu, who was now desperately trying to crawl towards the revolver. The howling of the Horde could be heard in the distance. “Don’t worry. Laura tellsh me it’sh very entertaining.”



“So how was the Left 4 Dead continuum?” Rachel asked the two agents as they portaled back in. She was slouching in Laura’s beanbag chair while watching TV. “Are you both zombies now? Should I call Medical? Should I shoot you both in the head?”

“It was fine, we’re fine, and stay away from the weapon closet,” Laura said. She looked over at Danny. “You want to talk about it?”

“About what?”

“The thing with the civilians.”

“I already explained that to you.”

“Well, I thought that maybe there was something personal to this thing.” Laura’s eyes shifted uncomfortably. “Like, maybe you lost someone you cared about to violence or something.”

Rachel sat up. “You mean like Batman?! That would be so cool! I mean, the being like Batman part, not the dead loved ones part.”

Danny laughed. “Nothing so melodramatic,” he said. “It’s just a little hang-up I have. Thanks for the offer to talk about it, though.” He stretched and began to walk towards the door. “I’m getting a quick snack. You two want anything?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Laura said. Rachel shook her head. They both watched him leave.

A smile crept over Rachel’s face. “You like him, don’t you?” she asked.

“Shut up and get out of my beanbag.”

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October 2016

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