A Lighthouse In The Storm

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"Think they still have a bellhop here? My gear's getting heavy."

No one dignified Rocco's joke with a response. Instead, they stepped into the dark hotel lobby, glass crunching under their boots. It was eerily silent inside, the wind howling outside the only white noise in the place.

"Charming," Rocco said, looking around. "Paint could use a bit of a touch-up."

"Rock, keep babbling and I'll shove some of these glass shards down your throat," Ghouls warned.

Rocco sniffed. "Touchy. Or kinky. Your opinion on which, Twig?"

Twig gestured at him to shut up. He scrunched up his nose at the awful smell of the place as they moved further in.

He was used to the smell of demons- that burnt sugar odor that stung the nostrils and made you cough when there were enough around. Everyone in Beta Squad had been born after the invasion, so they were well adjusted to the horrors of demons.

But the rest still tended to catch them by surprise every now and then. It was easy to get used to demons when you spent your life fighting against them. The smell of death, blood, and waste was a bit harder to adapt to.

And those smells were strong in this lobby. Twig wouldn't be surprised if they found bodies lying around. Some people tried to turn these places into homes, and sometimes it even worked. For a while, at least.

But the fighting would always start. And the demons would swoop in to claim the winners.

Fido stumbled forward, noise in the air as he sniffed. He recoiled back a little, letting a growl slip past his lips.

"Don't hotels have toilets? Do these people have to piss and shit all over the floors?" he said unhappily.

"Walls, too," Rocco said.

"You're really not helping," Law informed him. "Anything, Fi?"

"Demon, for sure. Weak, though. I'd guess it's been body-hopping to anyone dumb enough to come in here." Fido steeled himself and sniffed the air again, pointing up. "Second floor, most likely."

"Weak usually means desperate. Everyone, on your guards," Law ordered, checking his gun.

Regular bullets were useless against demons, but bullets with the right inscriptions could at least slow them down and hurt them a little. Twig checked his own gun, then ran his fingers over the flasks and lighters secured in his weapon belt.

Law drifted over to him. "You okay? You've hardly said a word."

"Just focused, Sergeant," Twig said, running his fingers over the flasks and lighters again. "It was a close call last time."

"It's always a close call, Twig. We're fighting creatures that can possess us," Law said. He was frowning, and Twig knew why. "You can tell me if something is wrong."

"I'm just setting a good example for Rocco, Law," Twig said, saluting him.

But the truth was, he rarely called Law "Sergeant". Maybe Law led Beta Squad, but he'd been Twig's friend before he'd been a leader.

Twig mentally shook himself, looking around the filthy, bloodstained hotel. This is what people had to live with. Maimed by each other, by demons, by wildlife. These were real problems, real struggles.

His pathetic inner turmoil was nothing but a waste of time. He had to stop letting the other squads get to him with their damn teasing.

But...some of it wasn't teasing. There were always the serious questions. Always the ones who doubted him. Doubted his loyalty.

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