Part 12: Making Friends And Influencing People...Part Un

Sara Collins liked to believe she was a bright enough woman. She got fairly good grades all through out high school, and was doing pretty good in college. So with that in mind, she attributed the anger about Morgan's earlier phone call and adrenaline flowing through her veins to her slowness to grasp the wrongness of the situation before her. It was an honest mistake, really; things looked so obvious at first when she burst through the door with gun in hand and ready to shoot. However, there was something nagging her mind, something screaming at her to pay attention before it was too late.

As expected, she saw the undead thing in the storage room. It was a pale skinned yet fairly good looking woman with long black and purple hair done into dreads that were adorned with shiny silver-like charms and trinkets. She even saw the tale-tell black tears that the ghouls all had in common, streaming down her face in a slow but steady flow. Everything registered and her trigger finger had already tensed up, ready to squeeze the fatal shot off to the zombie girl's forehead.

Then her analytical mind, something her police officer father constantly tested and tried to hone, kicked in. Things were off about the scene in front of her, and they broke through the fog of rage, fear and excitement in her head. The little clues came in a rather strange order, like the fact she first noticed that the zombie girl had no wounds or blood on her. Then how her clothes, a jacket with the logos of bands she had never heard of, a very tight black leather corset and short black and purple tartan skirt over a purple fishnet body stocking, had no tears or rends in them like she had seen on other undead. Also, there was the fact that while she had her arms around a well dressed guy, who was still living, she wasn't attacking him or trying to eat him. She was just clutching him, as he was her, the both of them seated on the floor and leaning against a set of large storage shelves.

As unusual as those points were, they paled in comparison to the big one, something that should have registered first but for some reason came last. The big tip off that something was wrong and made her take her finger off the trigger was when she realized that the living dead girl wasn't moaning or giving out the usual terrifying screeches. No, this one instead was crying and screaming...and not just screaming, but speaking.

"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, please don't shoot, please don't kill us!" the young woman was saying rapidly, almost too fast for Sara to follow.

"Christ on the pitch! When the hell did they start bloody talking?" Morgan shouted, apparently equally taken off guard by the situation.

Sara glanced over at him, seeing the confusion on his face as he held his shotgun still pointed at the dead looking female. "I don't think they have...and I don't think she's dead. Take a good look at her face." She then lowered her gun as she pointed out the near hysterical woman's eyes, frightened eyes that were a pale violet and not the uniform solid onyx of the undead.

The pale girl with dark purple lipstick nodded enthusiastically. "That's right, that's right! I'm not dead, I swear! I'm not one of those things!"

Morgan's death grip on his shotgun loosened and his posture relaxed a little, but he still kept the weapon trained on his target. "I don't know, sure about her? She sure as hell looks like one." He adjusted his glasses and took a closer look. "Well, minus the eyes. But what about the black tears?"

"Regular tears mixed with way too much mascara." Sara explained, thinking more clearly as she calmed down further. "Besides, notice how she's talking to us and not attacking?"

He took a moment to mull her point over, and Sara could almost see his brain reach the same conclusion she had just mere moments earlier. "Bugger me...she's a sodding Goth girl?"

"Are you serious? You're just now figuring that out?" the young looking man in the costly coal black designer suit spoke up. Everything about him said he was high maintenance to Sara, from the expensive looking cut of his dark brown hair to his well manicured nails. His brown eyes looked more surprised then frightened at what was happening around him. "You seriously thought she was one of those...things instead of just Goth?"

The young girl began to cry a little more. "Oh God, like, I'm not even a real Goth!" she explained, sniffling. "I only dress like this to work at Hot Topics, you know? Like, the little perv that's the manager there likes girls dressed like this and I needed money for school and..."

"Look, sister," Morgan interrupted, obviously a little upset at the comment made by the suit wearing young man and taking it out on the very vocal woman. "I'm really trying to not want to shoot you, but the fact that you won't stop wailing is making it very hard."

That set the girl off again. " wouldn't shoot me...would you?" She paused to look him in the eyes, and then gasped. "Oh my God, you would! You, like, totally would! Please...don't kill me!"

"Well, shut the hell up and stop making the concept so damn appealing!"

"British!" Sara put her hand on the shotgun he held and gently but firmly pushed it towards the floor. She was amazed by the metamorphosis in Morgan that she had witnessed so far that evening, a change so diametrically opposed to his normal self, it was jarring to say the least. "Knock it off, you're scaring her even more." She then turned to face the Goth girl. "Look, he won't shoot you, I promise."

She seemed to relax a little bit at that. "God, thank you, thank you! I can't help it, I tend to talk a lot when I'm nervous or scared and I'm like totally freaking with all those monsters out there killing everybody and...wait." She paused to breathe and leaned forward to look closely at Sara, wiping her eyes to get a better view at her. "I can't believe it...Sara? Sara Collins?"

Taken off guard by the Goth girl apparently knowing her, she also took a closer inspection. She was surprised when recognition kicked in after looking at the Hot Topics employee name tag on her jacket. "Zoey Burke? Is that you?"

"Zoey Burke? The former head cheerleader Zoey Burke?" Morgan asked incredulously. "I thought she was blond?"

"Well, I dyed my hair after graduation, duh." Zoey said, holding up a handful of dreads. "I miss my blond look, but this makes me look more, like, Gothy, you know? Like I said, I needed that Hot Topics job." She stood up and after being sure Morgan wasn't going to shoot her, she ran over to Sara and hugged her. "Oh my God, girl...I haven't seen you in, like, years!"

Sara relaxed as she returned the embrace to the girl. "I know. If I had known you worked at the mall too, I would've stopped in to visit." After a few moments, she stepped back to look at the former cheerleader. "Of course, I wouldn't have recognized you. Wow, that's some severe make over, Zo."

"Not to mention dangerous, apparently." the male in the dark suit spoke up, also standing up and walking over to join the Goth girl and the newcomers. "Well, as long as we're making introductions, I'm Cody...Cody Stevens."

He held out his hand, and she shook it. "Sara. And that's Morgan." she said, nodding over to her companion. "Sorry about the guns, but we thought one of them was in here."

"Well, at least you figured out she wasn't one before something tragic happened," he said, smiling. "That and stopped your partner from shooting her, since he was obviously a little slower to figure it out."

Sara was about to say something in defense of her friend, but never got the chance. Morgan, quicker then she knew he could move, had reached out with his free hand, grabbed Cody by the collar and tie, then pushed him into a set of shelves containing various pieces of high fashion clothing. As Cody's back and head hit the shelf hard, it threatened to tip over backwards for a moment, but somehow didn't. Morgan, looking angrier then she could ever remember seeing him, put his forearm hard against the surprised young man's chest and leaned in close, looking him square in the eyes.

"Answer me this, brother," he said in a low, tense tone that was laced with the not so subtle threat of violence. "Have you seen one of those dead bastards? Face to face?"

Cody, who was apparently too stunned by the sudden aggressiveness of the Morgan, didn't try to struggle. " When I heard what was going on, I closed the gates, locked the doors and hid in here."

"Right, I thought so." He smirked. "Well, listen; while you were hiding here like a bleeding bunny? I've faced and put down several of the buggers, real up close and personal. So when I see someone that looks like they might be one of them?" He nodded over to Zoey, not taking his eyes off the other man. "I treat them like a threat till I'm satisfied they aren't. Got it?"

"Hey, man, I..." Cody began.

"Shut up." Morgan cut in, the coldness of his voice taking Sara aback. "That doesn't make me slow, or bloody stupid, like you seem to want to imply. It makes me a survivor, something I plan on continuing. So watch your fucking mouth, mate, or I'll knock those pearly white capped teeth of yours down your fucking throat. We understand each other?"


He pressed his forearm harder on Cody. "Do. We. Understand. Each. Other?"

The well dressed young man stared at his assailant for a few moments longer, and then obviously saw the storm that Sara observed in her friend's eyes, cluing him in that Morgan meant business. "Yeah. We understand each other perfectly."

"Brilliant." He released Cody and stepped back, the two still looking at each other. Morgan's tension was a near tangible thing, and Sara could swear she felt it roll off him in waves.

The other participant in the short little drama, however, didn't seem phased at all as he straightened out his suit and tie. "So," he began, flashing a surprisingly genuine smile. "Should I take this to mean that if I say anything about you that you don't like, you'll kick my ass? Because if that's the case, I'd much rather apologize for offending you, play nice and be friends." He then held out his hand in a gesture of peace.

Morgan took the hand, shaking it firmly and gave a smile also, but his wasn't warm and friendly like Cody's. His was full of malice and dark intent. "Kick your arse? Nah, forget that, brother. I changed my mind. I gave you your warning," he explained in a casual tone. "Next time I'll just shoot you, yeah?"

Sara watched as Cody's smile slowly faded into a disbelieving look, and then one that held a touch of fear in it, and she didn't blame him. She had thought Morgan was just trying to put a scare in the other young man in retaliation for a perceived insult, but after the look in his eyes, the chill in his voice and that smile? She wasn't quite as sure as she had been. Earlier that evening when she first found him, she had thought his changes were merely a matter of wardrobe choice, opting for his father's military garb rather then his usual punk rock dress code. That was until she heard his extremely violent reasons for coming to the mall in the first pace, and witnessed him in action against the undead. After that, she knew the transformation in the person she had known for over four years went far deeper then she first imagined. Gone was the quiet boy that in school she on occasion had to step in to stop other upper-classmen from picking on, and in his place was...well, she wasn't sure exactly what.

'Jesus, British,' she thought as she watched him intently, her normal feelings about him now mixed with a little awe and worry. 'What did breaking up with that snobby little princess do to you?'

A/N: So on my other story, Heaven's Requiem: The Forsaken, I gave shout outs and thanks to the people that were not only kind enough to read my crazy little tale, but went above and beyond the call of duty by not just commenting, but commenting for every chapter. That kind of dedication just makes a man want to write, you know? Luckily, I got a few of those kind of brave souls reading this one, as well.

Anyway, this story's gratitude goes out to Amethyst Asheryn, NathanDavis and S.M. Saves. Thanks for making me feel like I'm actually entertaining someone other than myself when I do this serial, guys...I really appreciate it. -)

To everyone else reading, when you're not reading my stuff? Go scope theirs out...some good stuff there. And Nate? Where the hell is your update, man? Heh. Cheers, all!