Downfall

May 29, 2016 | Author: TheHawk962011 | Category: Topics, Books - Fiction
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Downfall By SnappleT...

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Downfall By SnappleT

Prologue “The rules have changed!” Mickey’s voice rang out of the televisions of combat fans everywhere. Their eyes were wide awake with surprise and excitement as said announcer revealed the reason for Monday Night Combat’s long hiatus. “There won’t be any games tonight but instead I’ll show you how the game will be played for years to come! There’ll be new strategies, new players, and new ways for the audience to die! But first things first, let me give you our new arenas!” Everyone’s collective screens displayed giant, stone ruins. It was a ancient, rundown bead embedded in a tapestry of jungle and ocean. “The ruins you see here are actually the Loco Moco arena, where the action’s hotter than the weather.” The fascinating image was replaced by one with a wooden, hollow campus surrounded by desert and a bizarre looking city. “Courtesy of Australia, our athletes will be roughing it up in the wild wests of Bullet Gorg- what’s this?” Three tiny, orange specks softly moved from the Hotshots’ spawn. The camera swiftly closed up on them, revealing their identities. The speck on the left was a somewhat nerdy looking woman who looked very much like Pit Girl. To her far right was a black woman with a cowboy hat and a focused look on her face. Between the two women lumbered a massive, greasy man adorned with wrestling gear. These mysterious people appeared out of nowhere, but with what purpose? “Looks like our newest Pros just came out, raring to go! Let’s see what they can do!” The squad moved out into the open until they saw a hovering, compact robot that has never been seen before. It launched a blue orb at the three, but they let it glance aside as they nonchalantly held up their weapons and fired. That was the moment when one television in particular went black.

“Turn that-a on, Sniper! It was getting to the good part, now!” A Hotshot viewer piped. “THERE IS NO GOOD PART!” Sniper screeched. “WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT THIS!?” He pantomimed to the many posters covering the walls of the Monday Night Combat headquarters. “THOSE ASSHOLES RUINED MONDAY NIGHT COMBAT! THEY CHANGED EVERYTHING FOR NO GOOD REASON AND MADE US OBSOLETE!” “The heads wanted things to change for a long time.” Assault coolly answered. “As hard as we tried to make it interesting, the rules needed changing, Sniper. They had to do something or everything will become obsolete. Besides that chick with the glasses could make a nice-” “THEY DIDN’T NEED TO CHANGE! EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT AS IT WAS! MY FLAWLESS PLANS, THE ACTION, THE KILLS, ALL THOSE FANS! IT WAS PERFECT!” The furious sharpshooter stomped for even more emphasis. “Except there aren’t so many fans anymore.” Assault explained. The room sat still for a few minutes except Sniper, who was fuming and fizzling in frustration until he headed for the door, slamming it on the way out. Assassin simply sighed and slapped her face. “He could be right.” Tank growled. “The lemons have been squeezed. Knowing those executives they could have our heads on the wall.” “But although things aren’t looking so hot now, there’s always tomorrow.” Gunner purred. “You all know life. Sometimes sun, sometimes rain.” The remaining gladiators just nodded in agreement and left, knowing that there was, indeed, tomorrow. A few tomorrows after the team left their “parents’” headquarters, they arrived at the same ruins they saw before. Just below the desolate surface, there was much commotion. Machines were humming and people were hustling as a certain clone prepared her own way. Assassin meditated in a quiet spot outside of the locker room, as still as a statue, until someone decided to break the silence. “Hey!” A shrill voice snapped. “Get up and at least look at these plans before we play the first game of the season.” Assassin’s shielded eyes popped open to reveal Sniper, who stood just a few feet in front of her, with several papers in his arms. She gracefully stood up as her teammate gave (well, forced,) a sheet to her. As she accepted, she noticed a certain, unfamiliar look on his face. It wasn’t one of psychotic glee, somewhat warranted smugness or even unwarranted anger. It was more like.. depression.

“I gathered as much information as I could before making these so you better look at it.” Underneath the mask, her eyes were doing cartwheels. “Because.. this could be our team’s last chance.” The enigmatic woman’s eyes stopped as he simply turned around and slowly walked away, his head completely down. Assassin shook her head not in disbelief, but in anxiety and worry. She laid the sheet down and got back to meditating. However, it was somewhat hard for her to get back to it. It was apparent that she was but an “old Pro;” a rusty gear in the consumerist machine that wasn’t fulfilling her purpose. Should she fail her mission, her “true” purpose will never be fulfilled. Thoughts of society decaying further in her absence grew louder and louder. Her composure broke down as those thoughts made her tremble. Eventually she looked less like she was meditating and more like she was desperately praying. Only Gunner’s voice stopped everything. “Chill out, brah.” He cooed. “It’s time.” Assassin snapped out of her trance and started walking along side the gentle giant. She didn’t snap out of it completely, however, has her walk had an uneasy gait. Fortunately the stroll didn’t take too long at all. They actually arrived pretty early to the “storage banks,” which sat underneath the spawn. They’re best described as chambers or “memory banks” that Pros were “installed” into before games. This way, they can simply return to spawn once they “die.” In front of those chambers stood three shady characters in a row, one of which looked very familiar to Assassin. “Three? Shouldn’t there be five?” Gunner asked. “We only need three of you today.” The familiar man replied in a smooth voice. “You, Assassin, and Sniper.” “Ehee.. where is Sniper, bruddah? He’s usually here first..” Gunner’s question was answered as Sniper barged into the room, rifle and SMG handy.

“Alright, let’s go!” Sniper urged impatiently. Assassin calmly shook her head. Not only were these abrupt mood swings normal for Sniper, he probably was arrogant enough to believe that he can handle the “rule changes” with no problem. “Don’t jump the gun. The game will start in about 5 minutes.” Another man stated as he pointed to his watch. Sniper simply grumbled in disappointment and pulled out a sheet as he attached his weapons to his back. He focused on it closely, trying to review every detail. In fact, he was so focused that Gunner had to tap his shoulder to get his attention. “What do you want? Can’t you see I-” “Just wanna say ‘good luck.’” “....” “You too.” “Hold up!” The third man said with a phone by head. “The new Pros are ready!” The trio lined up, weapons ready, and got themselves together. They stood in attention until the familiar man said “Go in” and “registered” them into the system. They were stored in no time at all, but couldn’t be released until Mickey made the introduction. “THE RULES HAVE CHANGED! Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! To get this brand new season going we’ll start off with a three versus three. Watch our newest Pros tangle with some of your favorites well, two of them anyway, as they demonstrate the new and improved gladiator-style combat the game. Will. Bring! Let’s get started!” The two teams were teleported simultaneously as Mickey ran off about MNC’s newest sponsor. When Assassin flew off, Gunner was about to head further as he was met with “Deploy! We have to build armor!” He deployed for a few moments and got back up, much to Sniper’s chargin. Sniper simply followed as the two met their three opponents sitting together on the left lane. It was hate on first sight. Bullets, plasma and various projectiles flew across the air chaotically. The cowgirl felt the flak’s burn while Assassin got smacked by the hog that thought he was an

eagle. Pit Girl’s twin sniped Sniper and Gunner peppered the old pig. Only when Gunner and Sniper cleaned up the sweet Southerner did the atmosphere settle. Her comrades retreated to handle the other lane, but not without leaving behind presents. Dingdingdingdingding.. Sniper could only retort with DING.. DING... DING... “WHY! CAN’T! YOU! DIE!?” Sniper shrieked. The problem was that the both of them could, as they blew each other’s heads off at the same time. “Won’t you look at that!? DOUBLE HEADSHOT BY SNIPER AND GUNSLINGER HIYOOO You don’t see that everyday!” The two sharpshooters spawned simultaneously again, but headed off in different directions. Sniper went up and Gunslinger stayed down to go help her team. The two’s fiasco encouraged the opposing teams to stay away from each other. What was supposed to be a firefight turned into a potshot contest to see which team can push better. Bolts and scraps were shed, make no mistake, but there was no blood. Time dragged on until.. “If anyone has a thousand bucks, the Annihilator will be ready very soon!” The feud restarted, this time on the death pad. The storm of pain fell on both sides, leaving Gunner and Gunslinger dead. Neither side refused to let that stop them. “Jus’ leave it to us an’ there won’t be any trouble, ya hear?” The cat cuddler lectured as she threw another kitten. “If not,” the fat man added breathily, “I’ll reach deep into your asses..” He paused to breathe. “And TEAR OUT YOUR SOULS!” When Assassin was about to say “No.” as she normally would, her ears got blasted with a “HECK NO!” from her teammate. He promptly blew the buxom woman’s head in, sending her off. Assassin quickly took care of the kittens she left behind, allowing the men to have an all-out fistfight. Except the fight went just as expected.

The brute overpowered Sniper by simply grabbing and slamming him. It clearly took him little effort to knock the scrawny man on his face. What took more effort, however, was touching his faster partner. *Swipe* Miss. “YOU CAN’T DEFEAT THE VETERAN!” *Swipe* “HE IS.. THE PLAGUE OF YOUR MOTHER’S DREAMS!” Miss. “He is..” *Swipe* “THE MAN FROM HELL!” Miss. “HE IS.. THE NIGHTMARE OF TH- GOUH!” A swift kick to the groin made the Veteran look like a novice. “ANNIHILATOR BY SNIPER!” Zeus sent the demon hog back to hell. The dark angel turned to her assistant, who was giving her a thumbs-up with a happy, not smug, look on his face. He motioned her to follow him back into the abyss and leaped off. Assassin stood in shock only for a few seconds, but regained her focus and went straight to the enemy base. She began hacking at robots, leaving a trail of scrap as she went. Her team decided to make its own trail by ruthlessly picking on its enemies. DING.. DING.. DING..

RRRRRRRRRRRRRR.. The nuke made the pair impossible to fight. DING.. DING.. DING.. RRRRRRRRRRRRR.. All three of the enemy Pros were wiped out. “VETERAN, GUNSLINGER AND COMBAT GIRL ARE DOWN THANKS TO GUNNER AND SNIPER’S AWESOME TEAMWORK! Goes to show you that teamwork’s overpowered, folks!” “There’s always tomorrow..” Gunner repeated to himself thoughtfully. And to think the higher ups would make us obsolete... “Hehehehe.” We’ll never be obsolete! We’re the best at what we do! At our purpose! “Ghahahahaha!” I’m the best at what I do! MY purpose! “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I was made for this. And I will do this FOREVER! Or so this particular Sniper thought...

Chapter 1 I've always loved what I do. The rush, the kills, the fans. It was perfect. And it still is. So why doesn't anyone care anymore? A Hotshot Sniper eyed Pineapple Pi's audience seats as he flew down to the broken annihilator. The seats looked filled, but if he squinted he could see through most of them. The few members that weren't holograms were scattered as if the higher-ups wanted to hide them. But you can't hide much from a Sniper. Not even other Snipers. His opponent headed straight for him, sniper rifle raised as if it was a hockey stick. A swift bullet to the head didn't stop the aggressor. Instead, it made the upcoming whack hurt more than usual. The two just kept whacking and whacking at each other until a “friend” of Sniper's finished the job. “Hotshots Assassin with the annihirador!” Chip piped. “Chip, for one last time it's 'annihilat-' screw it nobody cares anyway.” Assassin cared so little that she strolled to the decaying right lane, knowing the pair had only one, if a very irritated, enemy. Even if her teammate despised such nonchalant behavior, she knew there's little, if any, point in trying. Even the bots gave up.. Wait, the bots!? GG and Chip descended seemingly out of nowhere on a podium with a monstrous megaphone.

“It looks like the power went out. Again. You're all dismissed. Goodbye, good night, yadayadayada.” GG's indifferent voice was made louder by the instrument. “Let's get outta

here, Chip. Gotta get Spünky before it runs out...” The podium, as well as the Pros, vanished. Sniper and Assassin emerged from the “storage banks,” the former instantly complaining. “YOU'RE KIDDING ME! 'The power's out.' And JUST when we were about to win! Not before! Or after! But righ-” Assassin shot a look at him. Her arms were folded in impatience as her body leaned on her left leg. “Then.” Sniper strenuously sighed. “But still. We almost had him! We were so close. I could feel it...” His raspy voice rattled on even when the two reached the locker room. Being separated by lockers didn't stop him from talking. “I know people don't care anymore, but why!? Isn't SMNC very important!?” Assassin ignored her partner's rambling as well as this weird smell of mustard and garlic.. Mustard!? “What IS that smell!? Don't tell me Gunner decided to have a luau here again..” Assassin sprinted to the doors and tried to pry them open. “GUNNER! ARE YOU REALLY HAVING A FREAKING LUAU!?” No use. “GUNNER!!” She pounded at them.

“Wait a minute. Gunner isn't here..” No use. “Oh my god it's mustard gas!” Then Sniper rushed forth and kicked the doors. “A little help!? We're only getting gassed!” The duo smashed the doors in at the same time, the barricade falling straight down in their wake. But that didn't mean they were safe. A posse of shady, identical men stood in a row facing them. They raised very advanced-looking pistols simultaneously and pointed them at the anxious pair. “What the hell!?” Sniper exclaimed. A man from the group's center casually put his gun away and brisked a few steps towards Sniper. “Basically,” The man coolly stated. “We're here to 'clean you two up.'” “CLEAN US UP!?” “Society's crumbling around you, dipshit. SMNC is dead. You should know that.” Sniper automatically froze. Assassin could tell that the words “SMNC is dead” snapped something in him. He started shaking more and more as his uttering of “no no no no no..” grew louder and louder. The posse's unity broke apart as some rolled their eyes, others held their laughter and one laid his head in his hands. The ringleader finally said “So just the words 'SMNC is dead' was enough to tear this guy up, huh?” He paused to laugh. “Just your typical Sniper, boys. A completely obsessive whackjob that can't deal with reality. And you, missy..” He eyed Assassin “seductively.” “Are coming with me.~” Assassin raised her dagger disgust when Sniper furiously cried out “GO.

TO.

HELL!!! SMNC IS NOT DEAAAAD!!” He impulsively raised his

SMG and fired. A man fell in the gunfire but most were fast enough to either run away or dodge and counter. Assassin lunged at a man, calmly moving him as she would any Pro or bot. Just as he readied his pistol, she was already on top of him, stabbing his face. She quickly hopped off and went for the ringleader, shooting shurikens at each guard as she ran. One by one, they fell. Sniper, however, abandoned all of his plans. Every word of his tactics was gone. Instead, his work was replaced by a rage that faultily hid, and even came from, his refusal to accept that SMNC, and his “life,” was over. He blazed past the remaining crew, avoiding and giving bullets as he went. The “veteran” Pro took out his rifle, aimed at his real target, and fired. Boom. Headshot. As Assassin smoothly handled the last man, Sniper roughly mangled the “boss's” body. He kicked and smacked and even gnawed at him, all the while screaming out..

“IT ISN'T DEAD! IT ISN'T! MY LIFE ISN'T OVER! I'M NOT WORTHLESS!!” Gradually, the screams died down to a whimper. “I'm not worthless...”

He sniffled. “I'm not..”

Assassin was torn. A part of her knew this was her queue to bail and start her voyage to the Outlands. Another, however, knew that Sniper rarely, if ever, acts like that. Then again, unlike him, she knew that the world isn't black and white. Besides, while she was not too fond of her teammates, they were the few friends she had in that consumerist hellhole. He could keep her company, help her eliminate the oppressors, and maybe, just maybe, he could see the light. But that's easier said than done.. Assassin mildly walked to the broken man, reached in one of her pockets, and handed him her golden ticket out. She looked more and more tense as she anticipated it's rejection.

“What's this?” He sullenly said. He opened up the newspaper and started reading. “Due to ever increasing riots and wars over territory, many have been escaping to the Outlands.” He glanced up curiously to his messenger. “More and more escape routes have opened, and even more are still being discovered. Take them, seriously. All the cannibals are in. The. Cities. It's either out there or getting burned alive by rioters.” Sniper stopped and quietly gave the sheet back to her. He didn't tear it up, start yelling at her, or anything. This encouraged Assassin to reluctantly gesture to Sniper, as if saying “Come with me if you want.” He simply stood up and flatly stated “'It's either out there or getting shot by rioters..' Alright. Let's go.” Assassin couldn't believe her ears. He could be starting to accept that the old world is gone. That or he's out to bring it back. In that case, she'll definitely kill him. But for now, she was glad to at least have someone travel with her to freedom. The duo hid their weapons away and started their quest.

Chapter 2 The journey started gloomily. The dim hallways were barely lit by the sunshine and fires. Besides the gang that attacked them earlier, there wasn't a soul around. The pair's silence enabled them to hear cries and gunfire in the distance. For this reason, they went to a window to examine the conditions outside. At first glance, the warm beach and glistening ocean was a stark contrast. Assassin could barely see the crumbling Pineapple Pi in the horizon. She could smell the brine and taste the salt. The sky was crystal clear. It was almost perfect. But upon closer look, fires had popped up left and right. Her companion spotted several tiny people running around, both attacking and being attacked. He also saw others heading towards the massive building where he and his partner were. That was his queue to pick up the pace and start running, dragging Assassin behind him. They rushed to the spiral staircase and quickly marched down them. And marched. And marched. Fortunately, the end was just another step for the athletes. As they reached it, they heard shouting both in rage and in pain. Weapons were manned, and with them Sniper and Assassin silently inched to the looming door. Sniper went up and knocked on it, then the two backed into an acceptable position. Nothing but shouting. He creeped up and knocked again, backing away as before. Still nothing but shouting. They then decided to cautiously open it together. “Alright, I know you noobs are out there. Either say why you're here or I'l-” He was interrupted by one of ten men, all of very various appearances, and all were fighting in the parking lot over a single can of Spünky. “I'm here for the Spünky. Now... BACK OFF, JACKASSES!”

A younger man shot back “NO! IT'S MINE! I NEED IT!” As they bit and scratched like the wild animals they were, Sniper simply looked at Assassin with an exasperated expression. “Good thing I'm smart enough to not touch that crap.” Sniper remarked. Assassin just looked at the “battle” and shook her head. RRRRRRRRRRRRRR.. Three of the men went down like flies. The rest just stood still and turned only to see a face that the voyagers instantly knew. “Gunner?” Sniper asked. “Came here to help.” Gunner replied. “Now..” He turned to the remaining men. “You mess with my team.” He reloaded his minigun. “You're gonna be crabfaThat Spünky?” “Wait, what?” Gunner walked past the men and picked up the can. “So. This what you want, bruddahs?” The druggies all got up and pleaded for it. “Here you go.” The giant said as he tossed it lightly. The crowd scrambled for it, and the fight returned to how it was. Gunner then looked at both Assassin and Sniper, noticing how they didn't join in. “Why aren't you rushing in?” “We have more important things to do than touch that crap. W-” Assassin mildly tapped Sniper on his shoulder, newspaper in the other hand. She handed it to Gunner, who read it for a short while. “The Outlands?” “Either there or having druggy idiots mob us all day.” “That's not what I meant. You're going with Assassin? Thought you'd be mobbing the Headquarters, you know, with the other Snipers.” “...” “SMNC is dead.” “What?” Gunner leaned in a bit closer. “SMNC is dead.” “I really can't hea-” He put his hand up to his ear in confusion.

“SMNC IS DEAD! ALRIGHT!? DEADDEADDEAD!

NADA! ZIP! NO MORE! WE'RE GETTING OUT OF HERE BECAUSE IT. IS. DONE! GOT IT!?” Sniper pantomimed as he had that little meltdown with a psychotically furious look on his face. He was twitching wildly and foaming a tiny bit at the mouth after he stopped. Even the “fighters” stopped to stare at him as if saying “Dude, what the fuck?” “Oh-kayyy..” Gunner backed away little by little until he stopped a few feet from the pair. Assassin followed him and, upon stopping, motioned to him as if saying “Do you want to come with us?” “No.” The Hawaiian replied peacefully. “I'm going home. Actually, I... want you to come with me.” Assassin paused to consider the thought, then calmly shook her head. “Guess it's settled..” Gunner declared in slight disappointment. “If this eases up I'll send the both of you postcards.” “But wait!” Sniper snapped. “The both of us?” “I dunno where everyone else is.” He answered sadly. “Oh yea, and before I go..” He paused in hesitation. “Assassin..” Assassin payed close attention. “I love you. I always had.” The both of them jumped in shock. There wasn't much indication that the addicts were listening, but the shouting was louder than before and the fight got rougher. The can emerged from the chaos and rolled to Gunner's foot. None of the athletes noticed. Gunner's chosen love was particularly distracted, as she just stood in surprise. “How could you love the Assassin?” Sniper disgustedly asked. A man that looked to be in his thirties flew in from a window that hung a few stories above Sniper. The trio moved fast, dodging the rain of broken glass. The man landed and pulled out two SMGs. The druggies, however, realized their mistake and headed for the can, but stopped. “GET AWAY FROM MY SPÜNKY!!” The voice gave his identity away. “Just take it, GG.” Gunner ordered. “None of us want it.” “Yea, maybe you can stop being such a jerk with it!” Sniper commented. Mr. Stack was too focused on the drug to listen. “Ohho yesssssssss. My precious.~” He excitedly rubbed the can, opened it, and

took a drink. Then he drank more and more until the can was completely empty. All the addicts could do was watch in shock and disappointment. “Screw this.” A teenager said. “I know of a warehouse full of them things anyway.” He turned around to leave in a huff.. And was shot. “BWAAAAHAHAHAHAGG THANKS FOR TELLING ME!! WOOOOOO!” GG had become nastily euphoric. “I'M GONNA GO I'M GONNA GO! BUT FIRST THINGS FIRST!” He pulled his guns on the remaining losers. “TIME TO CRUSH SOME ANTS!” Mr. Stack fired and fired until the bodies looked like Swiss cheese. Then the giddy “gladiator” prepared to shoot the Pros. “Leave, bruddahs! I'll handle him!” Gunner told his friends as they all dodged bullets. “Are you sure?” Sniper asked. “We could help!” “GO! NOW!” Gunner's teammates fled in a heartbeat, but not without looking back. As they sped to a small alley, they saw the men prepare themselves. They vanished so fast that they only saw the start. “YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME, 'BRAH!?' I'M GG STACK AND I'M FUCKING BULLETPROOF! I DO WHAT EVER I WANT THIS IS MY FIGHT, 'BRUDDAH!'” “Or so you think..” Gunner growled. Gunner revved up his minigun and started firing away. Spünky gave GG Stack the ability to run past the bullets and let him return the favor. Stack came hurdling to the knight, but Gunner stubbornly stood still and deployed. GG wildly kept going until he was right up at Gunner's face and was promptly grabbed by the latter. The much stronger man choked him harder and harder. “You.. can't kill meeeee.” The dying announcer croaked. “I'm two stories hiiiggghhh. I'm bull-let prooooff.. I'm invincible..” He raised a SMG to Gunner's face. “I can do.. anything..”

“A cocky opihi man just gets swept away.” The knight crushed the beast's neck as hard as he could. The beast, who kept his gun at the hero's forehead, pulled the trigger. The hero's allies heard the bang even through the sounds of the troubled paradise. They went back to the arena as quick as they left and found both men dead. Mr. Stack's neck was burned a polite scarlet and his collarbone made it clear that all the bones in his neck shattered like glass. Gunner didn't fare any better. GG's bullets and the glass of his shield tore through his face, leaving it almost unrecognizable. For now, all Assassin and Sniper could do was grieve. Assassin fell on her knees, hugged her fallen hero, and softly cried. Even the insensitive Sniper started sobbing. “I didn't even know he could do that.. But of course you wanted to fight him alone, right? Because nothing I say matters, right? And now you're dead, too. Idiot!” He kicked the corpse, and the weeping Assassin responded with a glare. Sniper glared right back, but softened as he figured out a plan. “Gunner doesn't have to be left here like these neanderthals. Come on, let's get a car.”

Chapter 3 Getting a decent car was actually easier said than done. The rioting and looting and fighting broke most of the cars. Some cars had slashed tires, others had broken windows. One had its bodywork ripped off. A few were stripped completely bare, leaving behind only their skeletons. One had slumbered the day away, perfectly fine. The tank-like gas guzzler was quietly tucked away behind the massive fortress that shielded it from the sight of Gunner's death. Its license plate gave away who its owner was (hint: it said “GG STAK”). While Assassin tried to daintily pick the lock, Sniper was content with kicking the driver's window in and unlocking it from the inside. Luckily, a key was already in the ignition, so starting the car was no problem for him. Getting Gunner in the battleship wasn't a problem either due to its size. The problem started when Sniper got on the road. The first thing he and his partner watched was a young woman being chased by two knife-wielding men. Then they observed another bunch of drug addicts fighting tooth and nail over a needle, including another Sniper. The grisly sideshow phased to a shootout; a pudgy, sickly looking man raping another right on the sidewalk; an entire gang converging on a woman and her two dying children, circling them like vultures... Sniper turned to his fellow viewer and asked “Why do we have to leave again? Everything looks perfectly normal.” Assassin shot up and pointed at some teenagers with Molotovs. The boys glared at them, arms held back in preparation. One very pretty boy with deep blue eyes jumped up and hollered “THIS IS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE TO SOCIETY, YOU GLORIFIED FRANKENBABIES!” After he was finished, he hopped back, aimed his cocktail... And threw it straight over the truck.

“Haw! You're gonna have to do better than that, punks!” Sniper gloated as he brought out his SMG. “Oh, we will!” The same boy cried. “We're not gonna have more of you freaks in that crappy tent-village!” His neck caught a shuriken and he fell backwards, grabbing at it. Oddly enough, the gang stood their ground and launched their Molotovs all at the same time. Focusing on the wave of fire, Sniper slowed down. Assassin knew that he put the truck directly in range. She reached for her driver's leg when she saw that the gang just stood there, snikering. It was clear that the crew knew it will catch the explosives. That is, if they hit. But the madman had only 5 seconds to put his teammate and himself out of harm's way. 5... 4... 3... 2... With a gleam in his eye, Sniper hit the gas. 1. The explosives fell just behind “his” truck. The oil that leaked out of it caught fire, forcing Sniper to accelerate. The teenagers actually knocked themselves down trying to get out of the way. It flew into the distance, leaving a trail of fire behind. It flew and flew until Sniper realized the tank was half empty and that the flames stopped some feet ago. “Alright. So that's why we have to leave. Everybody's literally out to get everybody. So..” Sniper searched around for a map.

While driving really, really fast. Assassin wondered why a man who was so obsessed with planning and tactics would be so reckless. While doing so, she took note of an orange light in the distance. And smoke. Alarmed, she yanked on Sniper's arm, trying to get his eyes on the road. “Not now! I'm trying to find a map so we can get to that tent place!” She shook her head in annoyance and took his ski cap off his shaved head. He hastily grabbed at it and yelped “What the? Give that back!” He got it back, but not without seeing Assassin's body tighten. “AWWWAHAWWW!” A ravenous blaze consumed both sides of the street, turning it into a hallway of death. The duo couldn't believe their eyes when they actually saw rioters fighting rioters in the literal heat of war. Bullets melted in midair, scolding whoever got hit. One man brought in a flamethrower, even though there was obviously no need. Some burned alive as they threw gasoline on their enemies. Sniper's jaw dropped. “Let's get out of here!” He piped as he shot left. The tank barreled into an alley until a wave of tents slowed them down to a crawl. It dove deeper and deeper until it was completely engulfed by the silken sea. It was a wonder why whoever lived here even managed to not get attacked. That is, until the pilgrims realized its inhabitants were Pros like themselves. There was a pirate here, a young magician there. A bear comically but gracefully rode along on a unicycle while a penguin in a ushanka chomped on a cigar. One woman with violet hair cried out “Over here, Sniper!~” in a chirpy voice. There weren't any “normal” people; nor were there Snipers, Leos, or any Pros that are still “on the market.” There wasn't even an Assassin. It was like the old world already fell, leaving its “children” behind. This illusion was broken by the familiar sight of Tank and Assault, who instantly recognized the passengers.

“Hey, Sniper! Over here!” Tank called out. The warship stopped easily as Sniper looked out of the broken window and snapped “What do you want?” “We thought you two were dead.” Assault sighed in relief. “You know how Gunner and Support are feelin'?” The four could feel more and more Pros gather around them in curiosity (partially in hope that it's a food truck). Assassin's head fell into her hands as Sniper curtly answered “We don't know how Support's feeling. But Gunner tried to fight GG Stack like the idiot he was AND HE-” The grieving woman forced Sniper to look at her, dagger in hand, signaling him to shut up or else. The two men outside stared at each other, then at Sniper, in shock. Some of the men roared in laughter. “Gunner? Losing to a guy like Stack? Guy fights like a girl!” pointed out Tank. “Not when he's on his precious Spunky.” Sniper snorted. “And not when the prick died with him.” Assassin quietly turned away from her teammates. The men stopped laughing. Other Pros maintained their shock as Assault steadily recovered. “If a guy like Gunner can die to a guy like GG, anything can happen. Delilah can die, too. I'm comin' with you.” The all star enforced. “Yea!” Tank concurred. “I gotta see Pit Girl! For one last time!” The crowd gradually dwindled in disappointment. The lovers, however, tried to get in when Sniper stopped them. “We have other plans. I'm going back to my dome to pack up and leave with Assassin here.” Both men raised an eyebrow. “That is, unless you want to ride with us and Gunner's. Dead. Body.” “Yup. Something's gonna happen. I'm coming.” Tank announced in disbelief as he climbed into the ship. Assault, however, looked skeptical. “So you're really gonna go with her? That's not like you, Sniper.” “...” “Yea.” “I'm just surprised. Most Snipers are either going crazy, swarming the headquarters, or just overdosing.” Sniper's calmer comrade was ignored but got in anyway.

Chapter 4 The sharpshooter got the truck moving when everyone heard a loud THUD! Speaking of crazy... Sniper thought. Unlike the despondent Assassin, Sniper felt like looking up at who he knew plopped on “his” truck. The sight of red, hot bugs trickling in let him know he didn't have to.

“GET OFF, GENERAL DOUCHEBAG!” Sniper roared as he swerved left and right.

“NOT UNTIL I HAVE YOUR HEAD, SNIPER!” A gruff, vengeful voice boomed. Sniper unconsciously pounded the gas, sending the tank flying. “I

COULD'VE BEEN BETTER OFF HADN'T YOU PUT ME INTO THAT TRAP!” A fist broke through the roof, just between Tank and Assault, like it was tin foil. The passengers grasped and held on to it to assist Sniper. Surprisingly, they met a lot of resistance.

“I GAVE YOU YOUR JUST DESSERTS, IDIOT! BLAME THE EXECUTIVES FOR MAKING YOU ONE OF US!”

“I AM NOT. ONE. OF YOU!” Not even Tank could stop the roof from being torn clean off, releasing the hand. Its owner then ripped the roof in half and tossed the halves aside like they were tissues. A muscular, older looking man, at least in his fifties, glared down at the team. The calm, sky-blue color of his eyes only emphasized the sheer hunger for revenge. His short, graying hair looked stiff even in the winds of a gas-guzzler blazing at 50 miles per hour. He manned a small gun and rapidly prepared to spray bugs all over the driver. Fortunately, his “friends” were just as fast. Even Assassin, who was still upset over Gunner, poised herself to rid Sniper of the threat. The hunger for revenge died down in the enemy's eyes. Instead, frustration took its place. He bore down at his

target, whose face had its typical smug smirk. The older assassin eased up slightly and leaped off at a calm part of the sidewalk, but not without leaving reminders.

“GOOD THING YOU'RE DRIVING THAT BLOATED JUNKPILE, YOU DIME-A-DOZEN COWARD! I'M NOT GIVING UP,

JUST

YOU WAIT!”

The man's image grew smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. Once he disappeared Sniper took one last look and smirked. “He yeh heh, what a jerk.” He flatly commented. Everyone else in the car faced him with very snarky looks. “Hey! I'm not talking about me, I'm talking abou-” “Him. We know.” Assault calmly interrupted. “Who was that guy?” “General Error. Nerd hacked into SMNC's former site, causing it to display the same thing over and over.” Sniper's voice picked up a mocking tone as he continued to ramble. “'General Error: SLQ Error.' 'General Error: SLQ Error.' I couldn't get the info I needed to make new plans and lost game after game after game! Headquarters found him and I 'took care of him.' Heh heh...” The team lost him after the words “General Error” and were too busy picking firebugs off of themselves. Their resident rattler didn't notice and kept on talking. “... and the higher-ups really thought he'd be a good Pro! So they just put him in there and that jerk's been after me ever since!” The sight of a massive, white dome stopped his rant and slowed down the truck. It loomed higher and higher until it stood twice as high as the nearby buildings. Half of it was bathing peacefully in the ocean while the other baked on the beach. All of it gleamed like a pearl in the luminous sun. Sniper wildly pulled over, knocking the two (well, three) back seat riders on top of each other. “Woahhhh!” “Get off of me.” The larger man, with a bit of effort, forced him and his dead counterpart off and gazed at the sight in awe. “Getta load of this...”

“Just shine it off... Why are we at your combat dome, Sniper? I thought you were going to the Outlands!” Assault's scrawny teammate got out of the battered truck, slammed the door and answered “I am! But first I need to pack, figure out a plan.. Plus, I need to say 'see ya' to my fans!” The former gaped at him in exasperation as the latter opened one of the back doors. The three of them (Assault excluded) walked Gunner over to a small entrance as if he was a wounded soldier (while shaking some firebugs off along the way). Tank took the left, the duo took the right. After the short march, Sniper leaned in and tapped a few buttons on the keypad right next to the door. His door opened in a blink, revealing several unwanted guests.

“HEY!” Sniper shrieked. By simply being there the squad scared off the intruders, who left through the hole from which they entered. It looked like they weren't there for too long, as most of the place was pretty clean, but very bright. In fact, it looked more like a training ground, (empty) audience seats included. Much like the normal training grounds it had bot spawners, but that was about it. Large, glaring lights lit everything up well. A concrete track wrapped around the short turf on which some dummies laid. Opposite of where they were was a normal door which led to a back room. A small window gave away that it was pitch black. Assassin dragged Gunner over to the large bleachers, which sat in front of the seats. “I thought you wanted to say 'see ya' to your fans!” Tank teased as he mildly punched Sniper in the arm. “Those weren't my fans. Anyway, you guys can crash here until I get my act together. After that, we're leaving.” “There's some problems, though.” Assault commented. “Gunner's dead and needs to be buried. Tank and I want to see our girlfriends. We'll make it, but not to where you want to be.” “I'll work it out, just scram for a bit.” Sniper replied. He turned away and headed to the back room. As their masked companion sat by her killed comrade, Tank eased over to the exhausted Assault.

“That guy... I wonder what kinda crazy doodle he's cooking up.” “Beats me. Knowing him it'll probably take a while, too.” “And before he finishes, I'm getting some shut-eye.” Tank collapsed in one of the audience seats. This gave the star athlete a chance to look at Gunner and what GG did to him. Gingerly, he came over to him and his “girlfriend,” who regained most of her composure. Expecting a lunge, he eyed the calming woman. Instead, she simply looked at him for a second, tilted her head slightly, and returned to... whatever she was thinking about. The stunned star instantly saw that Gunner's face was torn apart. Glass was still in it to boot, abet not as much as before. The more he looked at it, the better he imagined Mr. Stack frenziedly attack him, and the more he realized that even Sniper can't plan for a situation like this. And even if they could plan, the best plan is to leave as soon as they can. As he darted to the back room (which was still dark for whatever reason), Assassin followed, leaving the larger men behind. He forced the door open, exposing him to the sight of what was really Sniper's room. The normally neurotic man sat on his bed, patiently drawing a plan. The walls were coated by all sorts of plans while the small bed was completely messy. A single, unlit light bulb hung over the image. Assault flipped a nearby switch, and it became as bright as the ones outside. In just more than a few seconds, he spoke. “Sniper... Whatever you're planning won't cut it.” Sniper kept drawing. Assassin took a few steps inside, as if she was at a museum's exhibit. “Like I said before, if Gunner can die to GG, who knows what can happen!?” Sniper paused and contemplated for a bit, then began drawing again. Assassin drew closer and examined the sheer quantity of the papers. “Look, I saw his face.” He pointed to his face for emphasis. “This is no ordinary apocalypse. We have to leave. Now.”

Sniper just kept drawing, still seemingly unaware of what he said. His two guests faced each other as Assault's cool exterior crumbed. “Okay, stop being crazy for just one second an-” Assassin motioned him to stop and then to the wallpaper Sniper made for himself. She delicately took a sheet and handed it to him. When Assault read its title, any trace of aggravation melted away. Reading it even gave him his trademark smile back. “It's the one he'd always want us to do.” He reminisced. “'Blue 33 Southwest Crazy Leg Sweep on the Weak Side Curl.'” He playfully did each gesture, even the one his girlfriend would definitely slap him for. The amused enigma held up three fingers. Warm, fresh nostalgia gave way to a rare uncertainty as Assault asked “You think he can really come up with something, huh?” She nodded and mimicked the action of sleeping. If only she can break her vow of silence and talk... “I'll leave him be but I'm not gonna sleep just yet. A little training won't hurt.” With his faith and confidence restored, Assault backed out of the bright room and marched onto the brighter field. However, Assassin shortly lingered before leaving as she gently closed the door. Her constant thinking continued even after easing herself into one of the audience seats. Gradually, exhaustion let the nerve-racking thoughts fade away. She fell asleep.

Chapter 5 “EVERYBODY UP, LET'S GO!” Sniper's raspy voice shook Assassin awake. He stood impatiently in front of his sleepy guests, wearing a comically oversized camping bag. Assault unceremoniously rose up and whispered “It's time?” Tank sunk into his seat. “Right now?” He added. “YES, it's time! The faster we leave, the better!” Sniper snapped as he roughly tried to yank Tank up. Assassin gently picked herself up and started dragging Gunner. Assault swooped in under the dead man's shoulder and held it up, her doing the same with the other. Sniper picked up the pace and walked alongside them as the remaining man lumbered behind. When they reached the exit, Sniper stepped in front of everyone and explained his plan. “First thing's first, we'll find a place to bury Gunner. The local cemetery's probably crawling with gangs and lugging Gunner around will slow us down. After that, we'll get out of the city and split so you two can go see your girlfriends. Then Assassin and I will drive our way into the Outlands, find the nearest village, and set up there. Got it!?” “That was it!?” Tank quizzed. “You stayed up all night to come up with... just that?” “There's too many variables to come up with something too complicated. Besides, I know that life isn't like SMNC.” As Assault snorted, remembering the night before, Tank simply grumbled “Sure you do...” One at a time, the team left the dome. Just when the door shut behind Tank, a wrecking ball came hurdling out of the city skyline... straight towards them. “Oh man...” Assault interjected. “Move!” “What the..!?” Sniper piped. The undertakers scurried out of the way.

The real problem was was that they weren't the targets. With a thundering CRUNCH, the wrecking ball smashed the truck. Pieces of it tore off and flew everywhere, peppering, but not injuring, the car's former owners. After the flurry stopped, Tank gave out an irritated growl. “Well that's just great! Now we're gonna have to find another car!” “We don't.” Sniper calmly stated. His tone sharply became proud when he announced “When we have THIS!” He rose both of his arms and gestured to his dome, as if he was displaying a prize. “Right? Huh!?” “I don't geddit.” Tank murmured. Both of Gunner's chauffeurs gawked at the larger man. “Awgh! Let me start it!” Sniper snipped. The new “leader” tapped at the keypad once more. He stormed inside, and just after a few minutes, the whole beach started vibrating and pulsing. Sand and shore rippled in sync, as if giant water droplets were hitting the shore where the fortress was. The team shielded their eyes from the bits of sand that escaped.

RRRRRROOOOOOOHHHHHMM... Everyone could feel wind that came seemingly out of nowhere. The pulse of the ripples became faster and faster while the ripples themselves grew to waves. The group inched back and forth to avoid being pummeled until, gradually, the waves shriveled and all was still. Well, all except for the fortress itself. Sniper's fort revealed two gargantuan fans, both working together to lift up what has essentially became a ship. The relatively small door spat out a long, metallic ramp, which unfolded rapidly. Sniper himself appeared in the opening and called to his already weary crew.

“COME ON IN!” Sniper's passengers slowly treaded up the ramp and into the ship. They settled down easily, but slowly. Assassin and Assault mildly laid Gunner down on the same bench the former had set him on earlier. As Sniper clumsily shook his bag

off, Tank nestled into his seat and tried to go back to sleep. However, the grumpy bear stayed awake for just long enough to hear Sniper disclose something crucial about his plan. “Alright, this baby won't last long. Those noobs will see us and know I'm in here. That and the tank's half empty. Still, it'll get us out of the city.” “Fair enough.” Assault hummed as he kicked back and closed his eyes. Assassin watched her “captain” hurry over to a quiet part of his dome and activate a rather intricate control center with just a few swipes. He irritably jabbed at one of its uniform buttons, which caused the two of them to hear a monotone, yet chipper and feminine voice. “Autopilot activated. Please enter a destination.” “Just take us out of the city!” Sniper demanded. “Location unidentified. Please enter a destination.” “Hmm... Saint Helena?” “Town destroyed due to internal complications. Please enter a destination.” “Bombay Beach.” “Town destroyed due to invasion. Please enter a destination.” “Red Mountain!” “Town destroy-” “Big Bear Lake!” “Town destr-” “Happy Camp!!” “Town d-” “San Diego!?” “Town destroyed due to nuclear weapon employment. Please enter a destination.” “...” “Bel Air?” “Town conquered by mashed-potatoes obsessed warlord. Please enter a destination.” “GRRRRR..” “Village location of 'Grrrrr, California' accepted. Initiating flight.”

Sniper tucked away the control center with a swipe and stormed back to his room in a huff. All the remaining team member can do was sit in shock. The fact that this is only the start didn't discourage her one bit. There's chaos for now, sure, but in the end, it'll all be worth it. There will be no more being forced to keep quiet, no more of that processed nonsense they call a culture, no more slavery to the Overclass. No more Monday Night Combat. It was finally happening. She was free. Everyone was. And without that much effort at all. The one problem was that Gunner had to pay the ultimate price. He was spared the agony that was sure to come saving her and blind, obsessive, crazy Sniper. But he won't be around to enjoy the new, unshackled society. The koa (oh god she's starting to sound like him) won't be around to enjoy anything. Assassin was not a religious or even a slightly spiritual woman, but if there was a heaven, she hoped her hero would be there. Their hero. The grateful warrior softly gazed at said hero from under her mask, wondering when she can break free from her last prison and thank him herself. Time wore on as the blimp floated through the air, acting as a tranquil and almost whimsical contrast to the turbulence on the ground. It was a contrast that was apparent to everyone. Including whoever sent the wrecking ball.

Thinking about those past, hectic days forced Assassin to absentmindedly hum to herself. Remembering the violence she participated in, she hummed an energetic tune. As memories of seeing the always cocksure Sniper break down in front of her and Gunner's partially-shredded corpse entered her mind, she hummed a pained but thoughtful melody. When she thought about their new-found freedom, she picked up the pace and hummed a triumphant, joyous song. The sheer ecstasy of it, combined with the inevitability of no longer needing the mask, almost encouraged her to sing. The silent soldier was about to sing for the first time when the sound of alarms interrupted her. The voice blared “Alert! Alert! Engine malfunction!” The sleeping men jumped up immediately as horns and bells screamed for attention to the engine. Sniper dashed out of his room and hysterically swabbed the control center, which popped open to display a monitor saying “ENGINE DAMAGED” in red, glaring letters. “Initiate landing!” He ordered furiously. “Emergency landing engaged.” The wrathful sharpshooter turned to his startled teammates and shrieked “We're

going down!” “We know that!” They shouted in unison. As the crew picked themselves (and their weapons) up, they felt the dome tilt sideways and a weightlessness lift them up into the air. Fortunately, Assassin was close enough to attach herself to Gunner as Sniper was to his bag. They dragged themselves down to the door and Sniper opened it. Assault noticed how close they were to the barren, dusty ground and ordered “On the count of three, we jump! One!” The passengers got ready. “Two!” Their eyed narrowed, focusing on the dry soil.

“Three!” Assault leaped out of the door and landed on his feet. Sniper landed on his less gracefully, but was alright. Tank soon followed with a tiny boom. Finally, Assassin nearly crashed due to Gunner's weight. However, Assault caught her, leaving the rest of Gunner's body to shatter as he forcefully smacked the ground. Tank shook his head. “How the hell did the engine fail?” “Lemme look.” Sniper practically growled. He marched to the engine (wherever that was) and screeched “A WRECKING BALL!?” “What!?” The other men asked in shock. “Something or somebody threw a fucking wrecking ball and broke my engine!” The violently twitching twig frustratedly stomped on the ground and inhaled the dust that was created by it. He snapped out of his anger and looked around at the ship's port. Miles of arid grassland surrounded the pilgrims, with the city looming about half a mile behind them. The closest thing to them besides the deflated dome and the tall, dry grass was a strong but dead tree. Its branches curled downward as if inviting someone to sit under it. The lone woman went up to it and placed a hand on its trunk. Although she was looking at the decaying bark, her ears picked up the sound of exasperation... and the sound of a smaller, louder engine. “At least we're out of there.” Assault commented as he pointed his thumb at the city. “Wait..” Sniper's voice trailed off. “Someone's coming... I think.” “He is!” Tank exclaimed as he pointed in the sound's direction. A white van that pedophiles would steer clear from appeared from the city's direction. It rushed towards them, as if its driver wanted their heads. The squad readied their weapons, took off anything unnecessary, and otherwise prepared themselves for a fight. The van charged at them until it was about ten or fifteen feet away. Then, with a screech, it sharply turned halfway, nearly tipping over, and stopped. All of its doors open, and familiar, shady faces poured out of it. They systematically formed a line and aimed their pistols at the squad.

“Not you bastards again!” Sniper hissed. “Wait a second...” Tank interrupted. “Who are you guys!?” “Let's just say we're your 'collectors.'” “Listen.” Assault calmly objected. “SMNC is gone. We don't belong to anyone. So if you guys just let us go-” “Who says we're picking you mutants up for the SMNC Corp?” Another man sneered. “With your guys' freaky DNA, you can do anything!” “Including mercenary work.” A third seriously added. “You belonged to the Overclass before. Now, you belong to us.” “WE BELONG TO NOONE!” Sniper roared, shooting the second man in the chest. And so the fight began. Sniper and, bizarrely enough, Assassin stayed away and had a shootout with the gang. Both were smart enough to dance like wild jackrabbits whereas their pursuers stood still. This enabled them not only to kill some off, but remain untouched. The other two, on the other hand, charged at them, expecting their pistols to be ineffective. “Stay away from them, you idiots!” Sniper warned. “They're not here to give us hugs!” And they were. But the lunges caused them to break formation, pull out two of what looked like a combination between handcuffs and a stun gun, and attach them to the cocky men. The free duo stopped firing, knowing about the chance they'd kill either of them. And how the new prisoners wished for that. Electricity tore its way through their bodies, paralyzing them with agonizing pain. And all everyone else could do was watch.

“AHHHHHHHHAHGAHHHHAHHHHHHH-” Together, the normally calm men released an animal-like cry from their torturestricken bodies and fainted as the electricity faded away. Sniper and Assassin ran

towards the gang, guns ablaze, as the predators snatched their catch and started the van. A window was broken and one of the thugs probably died, but they were too late. Its driver somehow activated metallic shields and drove off quicker than he came. Long after the van fled, Sniper was still firing his SMG, abet at the air and the lone tree. He then bashed and stuck the tree frenziedly, shrieking throughout the attack.

“WHY. DO YOU IDIOTS. INSIST. ON. CHARGING!? WE. WERE. ALMOST. THERE! WHY. CAN'T YOU JUST. LISTEN TO ME!?“ With a wild kick, Sniper heavily dented the poor tree. Still twitching, he turned to his remaining teammates and eyed Gunner, who was being held. The furious marksman's glare alternated between his destroyed home and his destroyed friend. He then strode to his dome, twisted a blade off of one of the propellers, and dragged it to Assassin. When Assassin got a close look at his expression, her upper body recoiled. His wide, savage eyes and twisted snarl screamed that he was going insane (well, even more insane than she thought he'd ever be.) The sight slightly terrified her. Slightly. “Help me get Gunner over there.” The man snarled, pointing to the battered tree. She withdrew even further, clinging to the wrecked Gunner like he was a teddy bear. “We're burying him. Now.” His head cocked for emphasis when he spat out the last word. “We're not going on dragging him around.” After a few seconds of expressionless hesitation, she obliged by lifting the crooked carcass over her left shoulder. Sniper did the same with his right, blade in his left hand, and they steadily lugged him over to his grave. The blade was a better substitute for a shovel than Assassin thought, as it peeled the parched earth easily. Sniper's sheer energy and anger helped. Once the hole he made was big enough, he leaped in, dragging Gunner's corpse with him. As Sniper saw Gunner's for the last time, all the rage and mania had drained from his face. The sharpshooter just stood in the tomb and hazily gazed the literally broken man.

The glass was gone, given that Assassin plucked them out, but the gashes remained. Tenderly, he lifted his hands and laid one over the other. His partner jumped in and joined him. Together, they soberly gazed at their friend for what seemed like forever. Unfortunately, there were bigger tasks at hand. The friends that were still alive can't wait forever. Assassin buried their fallen comrade as Sniper recovered his bag. When she finished, she plucked off one of the tree's scraggly branches and laid it on the dirt pile that covered Gunner. Seeing Sniper already up, she contemplated leaving. But she stayed. Sniper called for her. The solemn woman sat down, too involved in her thoughts to really hear what he was saying. She wondered if things really had to be this way, what could have been with Gunner. What could have been with her team. Monday Night Combat is over. She isn't, and shouldn't be, the lone wolf anymore. Her team, for now, is her only family. And her current job is to help them get out safely, or else she'd lose them, too. She felt a light tap on her shoulder. “Come on.” Sniper patiently prodded. Patiently? He started following the van's tracks, and thus his long mission, but Assassin took a bit longer. She waited until he was out of earshot to lean closer to the grave. In a sweet, but creaky voice, she whispered “T-th-ank y-you. V-ve-ry m-m-uch.”

Chapter 6 The first part of the mission was silent. Normally, Assassin's “silent pledge” wouldn't stop Sniper from shoving a new plan in her face or boasting about how great he was. Now, almost all of his plans are irrelevant and those that are have been discussed. What happened by the locker rooms didn't help his ego much, either. With those subjects gone, there was simply nothing the extrovert wanted to talk about. The plain grasslands went on in a seemingly infinite loop, just like the backgrounds of ancient (for their time) cartoons. Clear, blue sky created an illusion of peace, but also served as a foil to the rugged land. Whatever kind of doomsday that consumed the city would seem nonexistent had the flames not spew a thick, dark cloud of smoke into the air. Both tracks that the duo followed were going not directly to the hell, but southwest. Steadily, the falling city grew taller and taller. And the noise from its turmoil grew louder and louder. Halfway through the hike, a slender line of something bled out on one of the metropolis's major roads. Assassin knew that it was an exodus, considering what she and her partner went through. She decided to pull slightly on Sniper's shoulder. He stood still, but didn't turn around. His speechless counterpart pointed at the caravan ahead and faced him. “We're going there anyway.” He wearily droned. “The faster we catch up to those criminals the better.” Sniper resumed his trek as Assassin temporarily paused, shocked at the unusually emotionless yet exhausted tone in his voice. She nervously shook her head and kept going. Once they were close enough to the dystopia, the noise that resonated from it had evolved into a symphony of screams, gunfire, cackling fires, crying, roars, car crashes, maniacal laughter, explosions, nervous breakdowns, buildings collapsing and...

the filthy, shell-shocked faces of the refugees. In order to wait for an opening (neither of them want any more trouble,) the journeyers halted. This let them watch droves and droves of people pass them by in a line, stretched out as far as either of them could see. Parts of the dispersal included battered gangs, frightened families, all kinds of people trying to escape, just like Assassin was. Such variety couldn't hide how dirty and desperate they were already... Much like the noise couldn't drown out the purr of an ATV. The patient sightseers turned to the sound and detected General Error, who was riding said ATV while swinging the same wrecking ball around like it was a lasso. Its blood red color did not distract Sniper from the ecstatic grin on the old man's face.

“Remember when I said 'just you wait?'” The pursuer challenged. “Because the WAIT. IS. OVER!” General abandoned his vehicle (which landed by the tracks on the other side of the caravan) and swung the wrecking ball at Sniper, who barely escaped its massive reach. The attack made the caravan disperse, creating space for one of the many things they wanted to leave behind. General's prey spawned his rifle and fired without scoping, which got denied with an anticlimactic ping. The denial gave the hunter enough confidence to whip the destructive tool overhead... Shink! A shuriken pierced his side, but he still brought his weapon down like a hammer. Boom. The impact dented the ground and sent out a shockwave, stunning the allies slightly. Sniper took another chance and fired while scoped. It was slightly too late, as the general already ducked. Ping.

General Error sluggishly pulled his wrecking ball out of the crater, which let Sniper get a hit just below his chest. The wound, or specifically, its location, caused the hacker to stare off like a deer in headlights. Both fighters opportunistically aimed for his head. “Not. Again.” He growled in a intense but panicked tone. He snapped out of his trance and savagely swung the mace. The bullet and the shuriken bounced off the raging hunk of metal, nearly hitting their sources. Then, he used the mace's weight to pivot himself, much like a shot-putter would. Assassin and Sniper kept their distance as always, waiting for an opening, but he persistently kept spinning... And spinning... And spinning... General Error just wouldn't stop. Assassin knew that it was time to go, that they couldn't win, so she directed Sniper towards the discarded ATV. Apparently Sniper understood, as he walked backwards to it, never looking away from the forceful cyclone. His partner dashed to the vehicle and found no key. She shook her head and Sniper grumbled. As if either of them could get the key off of Sargent Scumbag... Except, they didn't have to. Both of them searched themselves for the keys to the truck, as they didn't have too much time. It took Sniper a short glance to notice that Error was slowing down. Either they hit whatever the steel ball couldn't cover and put him down, or he'll crush them. The marksman knelled down, aimed at his feet, and fired. “Gahhahh!” Immediately General dropped the wrecking ball and hid behind it to check his wound. In a panic, his closest enemy felt his way around his bag, and felt the keys a right side pocket. He dug it out and hurriedly backed away. Just when he tossed

the keys to his friend, General Error whipped the mace around again, this time on just his left foot. Assassin plugged in the first key, and luckily started the ATV. She and her ally got on and tried to ride off. Then General Error let go of the steel ball. Sniper turned back for one last time and shot him in the lower chest. He kept his eye on him and watched as the great general fell on his knees, and then flat on his face. Assassin ignored this and sharply turned towards the Outlands. She stomped on the gas, forcing the dirt bike to move as fast as it could. It was just fast enough. General's “goodbye present” landed a few feet behind them, the sheer force of the impact launching the bike into the air. While dirt and dust settled back to the ground, the riders soared like eagles, if only for a few seconds. Sniper couldn't help but to raise his fist up. “Whooo hoot!” After a not-as-heavy-as-a-wrecking-ball-landing-but-still-hard thump, the ATV remained intact and sped off. It followed the van's tracks, blazing across the grasslands for what felt like a while. The sky was still clear, and there wasn't a soul around besides the riders. When the two ignored the screams, the ride became rather pleasant. The surprisingly therapeutic ride seemingly made Sniper bored enough to ask her if he could drive. Upon taking the handles, he turned towards the Outlands and drove away from the city. Assassin nudged him, partially in confusion and partially in surprise and suspicion. Something was wrong. After some hesitation, Sniper lashed out. “Screw this. I'm not dying for those retards.” The weight of those words crushed Assassin, although not as much as she thought they would. Her suspicions were confirmed, anyway.

Sniper was abandoning his team. Outraged, she grabbed the traitor's arms, jumped off the ATV, and yanked Sniper off with her. Both of them rolled violently on the dry soil, collecting dirt as they went. The ditched bike took off without them and lost momentum before sputtering and finally sitting half of a mile from them, humming disinterestedly. As soon as her little trip ended, she took out her dagger and held it up to Sniper's neck. Her “hostage” growled. “Why do you still want us to get them!?” He fumed as shoved her off. “They ran at people who wanted their heads, got caught, the END!” Assassin sternly jabbed at the direction where they came from, at their friend's distant grave. Sniper advanced, clearly not having it. “Of course Gunner's dead! He charged, too. And look where that got him! I flatout told him that we could help! That with teamwork we all would've gotten outta that dump alive!” His tone was enraged, but it was also hurt and... grieving? “Whether it be a playoff or practice or... this, none of them listened to me! No matter how flawless I made those plans, no matter how hard I trained, no matter how many idiots I killed, whatever I said meant nothing to them! Well now, they're going to learn the hard way that they should listen to the best, or die like the rest!” He practically spat those last two words in her face. She trembled somewhat and crossed her arms. Somehow getting what she was saying, he answered with a sneer “They only followed me back at the dome because they probably thought I had food on me.” He dusted himself off and started dragging his bag to the ATV, but Assassin slapped him in the face. He struck back after a brief moment of shock. “You wanna save them? Go ahead.” He resentfully permitted. “But this 'apocalypse' crap's gonna get worse and worse. We just fought a guy who can throw a god damn wrecking ball god-knows-how-many feet into the air!” He finished his speech by pointing at the sky. The “mute” made a gentle fist, held it up to her “mouth,” and paced. Then, she

halted and gestured back and forth at him and herself. “Christ, not a game of charades... We're still alive, yes but without that bike we would be dead!” She merely slapped her face and roughly tugged on Sniper's arm. He wouldn't budge. “You need my help that much, huh?” Assassin nodded. “Well I'm NOT gonna do it! I've risked my ass enough as it is!” The equally stubborn arguer merely pointed at Gunner's grave again. Sniper, upon remembering not how he died, but why he died, thought for a minute or two, then grumbled. “Fine!” He barked. “But for this one! Time!” Instead of jumping for joy or flinching out of shock, she tensely walked with Sniper, watching for any sign of attack. He didn't seem to be planning anything, as he was just strolling along with a reluctant, annoyed scowl on his face. The two gradually calmed down as they dragged themselves to the ATV. But once Sniper “asked” (meaning demanded) Assassin to drive, her suspicion returned. Facing Sniper, she started the ATV and eased herself on. She leered at her passenger with obvious paranoia. An indeterminate amount of intense staring and nervousness passed, and she started driving.

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