Out with the Old, in with the New by Weaver
Disclaimer: The Hallow-verse belongs to spaceman, Arrancar belong to whoever owns Bleach.
A/N: I haven't got a clue where this idea came from, the plot bunny pretty much mugged me. Plus there was a certain amount of inherent irony that I found appealing.
2:25 am, November 1st, 1997
Under the Red Sky, a town burns. Monsters are quick to pounce upon those who try to flee the flames, with Hollows devouring the souls that are left over and increasing their numbers in the process. However, a few miles outside of the town, is a spot which, for now at least, the Horrors are doing their best to avoid. The place in question is a service station and the reasons that the Horrors are avoiding it are variously sitting, standing and/or leaning in the shop. There are six of them in total, five males and one female, all looking to be in their late teens to early twenties and clad in white outfits that in years to come will be easily identified as Arrancar uniforms. To anyone with any level of spiritual awareness the six are radiating Reiryoku like a furnace gives off heat, which is why the Hollows and other monsters are currently leaving them alone. After all, why go after something more powerful they you when there’s plenty of easy prey running around?
A few, mostly terrifying, hours ago, Luke, Mark, Richard, Cyrus, Russell, and Dana, had just been six people who happened to go to judo together. The boys were friends, but Dana only knew them as acquaintances and sparing partners. On Halloween, Mark and Cyrus had been fooling around after class with a couple of cheap skeleton masks. When the spell hit, Cyrus had already pushed his mask up off his face so that it rested on top of his head, while Mark had been in the process of taking his off. This, the masks themselves, and the white martial arts uniforms were enough for the chaos energy to transform them into Arrancar, with the others, who were standing close by and wearing the same uniforms getting dragged along with them. None of the six know what happened to the others in their class, but when they recovered from the disorientation of having a second set of memories shoved into their heads, not to mention the shock of realising that they were no longer human, they were quick to band together against the world that had gone mad around them. In a way, the six of them were all very lucky since they’d all retained their original memories, partly because none of them had had anything to link them to a particular character so they’d just become generic unranked Arrancar, and partly because out of the six, five knew of the supernatural (Mark, Richard and Cyrus because they’d had a close call with a pair of vampires a few months ago, Russell because they’d told him all about it and he’d believed them, and Dana because a friend of hers had dabbled in magic briefly only for it to get a bit out of hand), while the sixth, Luke, had a core of pure, unadulterated stubbornness that had allowed him to hang onto his identity.
In the chaos and terror of Halloween night they’d done what they could to survive, find loved ones, and help others, with varying levels of success. A lot of people had run away from them in terror, a few had actually attacked them (which didn’t do them much harm but was annoying none the less), a couple had suddenly keeled over when they’d approached them. Most of the people they knew had been killed, buried under new personalities, or couldn’t be found. Then the fire had started and swiftly turned into a raging inferno that set the whole town aflame, so they’d grabbed everyone they’d managed to round up and, guided by instinct and alien memories, put sonido to good use before they got trapped.
The survivors, pathetically few in number, consisted of Luke’s younger cousin, Dana’s sister and her best friend, Russell’s mother and younger brother, a man in his twenties and his four year old daughter, a handful of apparently orphaned kids aged from five to nine, and a woman in her thirties. They were currently holed up in the back room trying to come to terms with the last few hours and get some rest while they could. The younger kids were either whimpering, asking for their parents, or had been temporarily distracted by the plentiful supply of chocolate. The newborn Arrancar on the other hand were taking advantage of the undoubtedly short lived peace and having an impromptu meeting.
“So, what the hell are we going to do?”
It was Richard who’d spoken but everyone was thinking the same thing. At some point during the night Luke had somehow become the group’s leader by unspoken agreement and now everyone looked at him expectantly. He sighed.
“I don’t know, okay. The situation is just too damn weird. Just give me a minute to think.”
He rubbed at the small mask fragment that covered his left eyebrow. Before Halloween it’d been a set of white butterfly stitches holding together a cut resulting from a mishap with a cupboard.
Mark spoke up. The action drew attention to his mask fragment, which covered everything below his mouth like a second jawbone, specifically one which looked like it belonged on a large dog.
“I want to go find my family.”
Russell grunted. His mask fragment consisted of a thin strip that went across his forehead just under his hairline, curving downwards and widening at the ends to cover his temples. Like all the others, he’d taken care to hide his Hollow hole under his clothes. None of them wanted to look at the voids in their bodies any more then they had to.
“I think we all do.”
There were murmurs of agreement.
“I know,” said Luke. “But the way things are right now it’ll be a goddamn miracle if we manage it. It’s chaos out there and most people are as scared of us as they are of the monsters.”
“That’s because we are monsters,” said Cyrus softly. His mask formed a skull like helmet that covered the front of his head, coming down to just below his hairline.
“No,” said Luke with conviction. “We’re not. Because we’re not going to act like it. We’ve all got those memories and I’m pretty sure that in them we’re the bad guys, but while that might be what we are now, it’s not who we are.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I just do. Look, would the people in the memories risk their asses trying to save people?”
Headshakes all round.
“Anyone got any desire to work for an S.O.B. named Aizen?”
More emphatic headshaking with a couple of ‘hell no’s’ thrown in for good measure.
“Well then, that proves it. We’re not human anymore, but we’re still us, more or less, we’ve still got our humanity and we’re going to hang onto it. As I said, it’d be pointless to go out there now, besides which we can’t leave those guy’s on their own. We’ll rest for a bit and then head out in the morning, things might be a bit better when the sun comes up. Everyone agreed?”
“I suppose so.”
“I’d rather find them now, but I suppose you’re right.”
“I don’t like it but I don’t suppose I have much choice.”
Luke nodded firmly.
“Okay then. Mark, Cy, you’re on first watch; me and Rich will take over in a couple of hours. Dana, can you go and check up on your sister and the others?”
He jerked his head towards the backroom to indicate who he was talking about. Dana got a deer in the headlights look.
“Um, can’t Russ do it? I… er…”
Luke sighed. He could guess what the problem was, Dana’s sister would’ve been one of the ones who’d taken one look at them and run, if she and her friend hadn’t been knocked on their asses by the Arrancar’s spirit pressure, and from what he’d seen it didn’t seem like she’d accepted that the girl with a mask fragment surrounding her left eye and a hole in her chest was her sister. Which was exactly why he was sending Dana to the back room.
“Just do it okay. Your sister needs you; she’ll have to get used to the new you sooner or later.”
It should be noted that Luke had never been very good at sympathy. Dana frowned, but nodded.
“Okay Lugo… er Luke.”
Luke ignored the name slip. They’d agreed to use their ‘old’ names for the time being, but the other ones, the ones that went with the memories, kept trying to slip in.
Dana hopped off the counter and headed to the backroom, Mark and Cyrus went to find the best vantage point in the shop, Richard settled down to try and have a nap before he had to go on watch, and Russell followed Dana. Luke sighed and rubbed his shoulder, grimacing slightly when he felt the small hole just under his collarbone. The new memories in his head said that he’d always had it but it was still disturbing.
The young Arrancar wasn’t sure why he’d ended up as leader, he wasn’t the oldest (that was Richard), or the biggest and/or strongest (that was the 6”4 block of muscle named Russell), but never the less the others had decided that he was in charge and he had no intention of letting them down, even in a situation as FUBAR as this one. He sighed again. Maybe things would be better in the light of day, although he doubted it.
Several hours later, the sun failed to come up and Luke discovered that the memories came with a whole new vocabulary of swearwords, as did everyone else. Said swearword vocabulary was found to be hopelessly inadequate when Richard and Cyrus ran back to town, only to return with the news that there was nothing left. Everyone spent a few minutes staring at the floor after hearing that bit of news.
Eventually, Luke spoke.
“Okay. We can’t go back and we can’t stay here for much longer. It’s only a matter of time before something finds us and while we can take care of ourselves the people in the backroom can’t, so we need to get them somewhere safe. First, we have to tell the others about what’s happened and then we need to get moving.”
Richard gave him a questioning look.
Luke hesitated, then replied honestly.
“I don’t know. None of us know how bad it is out there, or what’s left so we’ll probably just have to keep going until we find something.”
Cyrus flopped back against the wall.
Luke looked at him sharply.
“No, we’re not. The world may have got a lot more dangerous but so have we, and the others have us to protect them.”
There was silence as his words sunk in, then Mark spoke up.
“Who’s going to tell them?”
“I will. Dana, Russ, come with me. You’re families are going to need you after they hear about this.”
Silently and solemnly, the three headed to the back room and braced themselves for what promised to be one of the hardest moments of their lives.