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By Cat Bountry
“Mission begins in 30 seconds.”
“ALL RIGHT, LADIES. We’ve been training for this all week. Those BLU bastards don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell. If we all stick to the plan, their intel will be ours before the sons of bitches will even know what hit ‘em!” Soldier puffed out his chest and beat it with his fist. “LET’S BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF ‘EM!”
Much hooting and crowing filled the resupply room as the RED team psyched themselves up for the week’s round. There had not been much activity coming from BLU base over the past week, and during Spy’s last visit to the base, he had gotten wind that BLU was working on something big. Whatever intel they had, it was assumed to be vital; something that could turn this war around for RED. The RED team had always been the underdog in this war, being inched out by the BLUs in most of their clashes. But this time would be different. This could be the victory that would put RED on top.
The resupply room’s gate opened, and the mercenaries of RED charged out, bellowing battle cries and heading for their planned positions; Sniper headed for his roost, Engineer rushed towards the intel room to build his first set of sentries, Spy cloaked and headed for the sewers followed by Pyro, and the others rushing out of the barn to confront the hoard of BLUs that would, no doubt, be roaring to meet them.
It was Scout who stopped first, before he even reached the bridge, skidding to a halt. Heavy ended up colliding into him from behind, sending Scout forward, his arms pinwheeling to find his balance. Medic, Soldier, Demoman and Soldier all slowed down and stared.
No one was there. Not a soul.
Scout looked around nervously. “‘The hell’s goin’ on?” He asked. “Where the hell are the BLUs?”
Sniper peered through the scope of his rifle, using it like a pair of binoculars to scan the windows of the opposing fort. Normally he would have at least caught sight of the BLU Sniper or Engineer or Demoman by now, but he saw nothing. “I can’t see a bloody soul!” He shouted to his teammates below.
“Is zis a trap?” Medic wondered out loud, taking a few cautious steps back behind Heavy.
“Obviously,” Soldier huffed. “They’re trying to lull us into a false sense of security. Make us think that they’ve given up! Well, I, for one, am not falling for it!” He strode forward and held an open palm to his mouth, shouting. “GIVE IT UP, YOU SCUM-SUCKING LOWLIVES! WE’RE NOT FALLING FOR IT!”
Soldier’s voice echoed and faded, only increasing the feeling of awkwardness that had settled over the battlefield. Pyro waded out from the RED side’s sewer, poking his head out. Spy, too, decloaked and peered out, curious. For a while, nobody moved, unsure what to make of the situation. They hadn’t trained for this particular scenario.
“Has BLU team surrendered?” Heavy asked Medic. The doctor merely shrugged.
“Well, men,” Soldier snorted, “we still have a mission to complete, whether or not those maggots over at BLU team want to participate or not!”
“I dunnoe, lad,” Demoman said darkly, “I got a bad feelin’ aboot this.”
Engineer made his way through the barn door, toolbox under his arm, looking confused. “Hey now, what’s goin’ on up here? Why aren’t we fightin’?”
“BLU team’s gone AWOL,” Sniper shouted dryly.
“No, wait, look at that!” Scout shouted, pointing forward.
The entire RED teams attention was now focused on a single, BLU Scout, who was bolting from the entrance of his base, wild-eyed, ragged and bloodied, screaming inarticulate syllables and waving his arms at the opposing team frantically. Soldier wasted no time rushing forward and knocking the RED Scout aside, hoisting up his rocket launcher, aiming, and firing all before the panicked BLU could even manage to turn around. The rocket collided, spraying tiny bits of meat, bone and gristle in every direction, and leaving a smoldering crater where the BLU once stood.
“Vhy did you do zat?” Medic crowed angrily, throwing his hands in the air in frustration.
“Because he’s a BLU, numbnuts,” Soldier scoffed. “Not like the little bastard won’t respawn.”
“He looked like he vas trying to tell us somezing!”
“Well, he certainly wasn’t doing a very good job of it. All I heard was him screaming his goddamned head off,” Soldier chuckled. “But if you want, you can talk to the little meaty bits of what’s left of him.”
Medic puffed up his own chest and stared down at Soldier, glaring daggers through his glasses. “Dummkopf! Doesn’t any of zis strike you as schtrange? Only vone BLU in sight, und looking as if he has been zhrough hell, und you are not ze least bit suspicious? Is your skull as zick as your helmet?” Medic emphasized this point by jabbing a finger repeatedly into Soldier’s helmet in the area of his forehead.
Soldier’s hand shot up and caught Medic by the wrist. He threw the doctor’s hand down and snarled. “The thickness of my skull is classified information, private. You’re not suggesting that we just abandon the mission because you got a bad feeling about it, are you?”
“Of course not,” Medic scoffed, offended at Soldier’s accusation. “Ve should proceed viz caution. If zis is a trap, zen we do not vant to be rushing into it vizout some forezhought.”
“But what if they’re trying to just psyche us out?” Scout quipped. “Then they’ll be expecting us to expect them, and they might, I don’t know, try to ambush us or something while our nerves are wracked.”
“Scout, you are ovahzinking zis,” Medic said.
“YOU overtink zis,” Heavy responded. “Doktor is smart, but too smart for own good. Ve go in, get intel, go out. Keep tings simple.”
“Heavy, mein liebe, zat is vhy you do not make zese sort of decisions.” Medic replied, gently rubbing Heavy on the shoulder, only to have Heavy grunt angrily, retreating his shoulder and crossing his arms indignantly.
“I am not stupid, Doktor,” Heavy said, pouting.
“I did not say zat!”
“You vere tinking it!”
“I zhought no such zing!”
“Ach. Not this shite again,” Demo sighed, leaning against the wall of the RED base and taking a long swig of his scrumpy.
“You alvays boss me!” Heavy bellowed over Medic, looking down at him. “Alvays! Boss, boss, boss! You never let me come up vit plan!”
“Heavy, please stop. Zis is embarrassing,” Medic said, massaging the top of the bridge of his nose. “And you didn’t even have a plan to begin viz.”
“I hate to interrupt you two lovebirds,” Sniper shouted, “but our Scout appears to be makin’ a run for the BLU base.”
By the time the rest of the Team had taken note of this, the Scout has already disappeared inside; slipping past as a red and black blur behind the BLU forts walls.
“‘Atta boy, Scout!” Soldier shouted. “Show some goddamned initiative!”
The inside of BLU base was eerily quiet, and a sickening, rancid smell lingered in the air. Scout audibly choked in disgust, trying to hold in his breath and keep his lunch down. He moved in, light on his feet, turning a corner and finding himself lose his footing after stepping in something wet and slippery. He looked down.
It was blood.
Looking up into the room, he noticed that the floor and walls seemed to be covered in a generous layer of crimson, with smears and handprints all over. Scout was quite used to the sight of blood by now, but seeing it in the BLUs base, with no one else around, knowing that there hadn’t been a battle there for a week, was unnerving, to say the least, especially since it was still wet.
Scout cocked his scattergun, trying not to let his knees knock. He wanted to turn around and run, but he couldn’t allow himself to. His need to maintain his reputation for being a hardass overrode his instinct for self-preservation, and he cautiously made his way forward, trying to get closer to the intel room and stepping around the bloody mess all over the floor. He had almost made it to the wooden stairs that would lead back outside before he found himself face-to-face with the BLU Pyro.
The young RED jumped back, shrieking in surprise and firing straight into the Pyro’s gut. The BLU fell back down the stairs, reeling, and letting out an odd gurgle. It was only after shooting the BLU Pyro that Scout noticed that his enemy was without his favorite flamethrower; completely unarmed, in fact. He laughed nervously. “How’d ya like a belly fulla buckshot, chucklenuts?” He shouted, not sounding as confident as he wanted to. The place was giving him the creeps, and he jumped over the body, determined to speed things along.
Scout’s vision streaked into a dizzying whirl of colors as a rigid grip on his ankle sent him face-first into the wooden stairs, busting his nose and lip open on the splintered wood. He turned back, blood streaming from his nostrils and his mouth, to see the BLU Pyro holding onto his ankle, reeling him in like a freshly caught bass. Scout used his free leg to kick the fire starter in the head, but to no avail. Scattergun at point-blank range should have killed him, Scout thought uselessly. How the hell was he still alive?
The BLU Pyro then did something that Scout had never seen a Pyro do, ever. With one hand still firmly around Scout’s ankle, the Pyro reached his other gloved hand to remove his gasmask. Scout stopped his frantic pawing for his scattergun for just a second to look at what was underneath there.
Oh Jesus, that face.
Most of the skin appeared to be ripped off, somehow, and freshly so, with ribbons of sinew hanging off, still wet and gleaming and moist, the nose and lips completely missing. The eyes were glazed over and glassy, like some dead thing, not really focusing on Scout as all. Gnashing, red-stained teeth were bared and glistening, and were zeroing in on the captive limb in its grip. Scout snapped out of his paralysis and lunged backwards, grabbing the scattergun and whipping forward, firing the weapon straight into the face (or lack of a face) or the monstrosity before him.
The things head exploded, bits of brain and skull splattering like a scarlet firework, spraying Scout in its vital fluids. It was just then that Heavy, Medic, and Soldier came into view.
“SCOUT!” Medic shouted. “Ah you hurt at all? Ach! You ah bleeding!”
“‘m fine,” Scout said shakily, wiping the blood from his face. “I’m okay, nothin’ broken.” He tried to stand up, quaking visibly, and unsuccessfully attempting to shake off the hand of the now quite-dead Pyro.
“Saw you take that crazy bastards head right off!” Soldier said, sounding far too enthused for Scout’s comfort. “Excellent work, private! Remind me to give you a medal.”
“Yeah, yeah, thanks…” Scout mumbled, now trying to pry the dead Pyros fingers from off of his ankle.
Heavy set down giant minigun, Sasha, against the frame of the door and made his way over to Scout, picking him up from under his armpits like some overgrown puppy. The Pyro’s hand still held tight onto Scout’s leg. Heavy grunted, kicking the corpse aside before setting the smaller man back onto his feet. “Tiny man should be more careful. Ve are team. Ve stay together.”
“Heavy, you vanted to rush in as vell,” Medic said, looking rather cross and fussing over Scout and his injuries. “Really, Scout, you should zink more carefully before you decide to go und get yourself killed.”
“Yes, but ve rush in together! As team!”
“Und get ambushed by BLUs togezzah? Vhat use vould zat be?” He turned to Heavy, his attention totally turned away from Scout by now, since the boy’s injuries were minor.
Soldier snorted, looking around the open area, although how he could see with that helmet covering his eyes was anyone’s guess. Scout approached him, not sure whether or not he could talk to Heavy or Medic, since they were bickering again.
“That BLU Pyro, man. He… it wasn’t human.”
“None of those BLU bastards are, Private. Heartless sons a’ bitches.”
“No, I mean, that Pyro was… something else. Like, a monster,” Scout clarified. “I think he might have wanted to eat me, man.”
Soldier whirled around, his helmet seeming to hover in the air for a moment, and falling back down on his skull. Scout could see Soldier’s bugged-out eyes for a split second, and it really didn’t help his already shattered nerves. “Don’t be ridiculous. You wouldn’t make for a good meal at all. Now, if you were going to eat somebody, you’d eat somebody with more meat on their bones. Like Heavy.”
Heavy and Medic stopped arguing for a moment to stare at Soldier uncomfortably.
“Well, it’s true,” Soldier huffed. “If I was going to cannibalize anybody on this team, Heavy would be my first choice.”
“Vhy vould you even talk about zat?” Medic gasped, looking horrified and disgusted.
“Scout brought it up, telling me some stupid story about how that Pyro tried to eat him. I think the boy might’ve hit his face too hard against the stairs. It builds character, all right, but it kills the brain cells.”
“I do not vant to be eaten by tiny man,” Heavy mumbled.
“Eat you?” Medic looked at Scout. “Ah you sure about zis, Scout?”
“Swear on a stack of fuckin’ Bibles,” Scout assured him. “Fucker was gonna take a bite out of my leg like Heavy takes a bite out of a ham sandwich. And he looked like his face got shoved into a lawnmower.”
Medic suddenly looked worried, glancing back to the spot where the BLU Pyro’s body was. It was gone now, meaning that the enemy Pyro would respawn soon. “I do not zink sticking around here vould be prudent…”
“Vhy is Medic being baby?” Heavy huffed.
“Your girlfriend is right.” Soldier added. “What are you so afraid of? A bitey Pyro? HA! I dealt with far worse than that when I fought in Poland!”
Heavy laughed heartily, and then stopped, an expression of confusion on his face. “Vait, when did you get girlfriend, Doktor?”
“He means you, Heavy.” Medic answered. “Und I am being serious. Ve do not know vhat has happened here, but I zink zhere might have been some sort of disease outbreak. Ve should probably MEIN GOTT VHAT IS-!” He pointed up to the stairs leading to the BLU intelligence room, causing his teammates to turn around.
Standing in the doorway was the BLU Soldier. The BLU was covered in dark red blood and missing his left arm. He held onto a leg with most of the flesh on it stripped off, and judging from the shoe and the ribbons of white sock, it had been the BLU Scout. The enemy Soldier stared at them blankly for a moment, then looked at the leg in his grasp, then back at the REDs that were all staring at him. He dropped the leg and shambled forward, groaning and snarling.
RED Soldier decided that the best course of action would be to greet their new visitor with the broad side of his trusty shovel. The blow to the BLU Soldier’s head was enough to knock him onto the ground, and Soldier took the opportunity to drive the shovel blade straight into the BLUs stomach. The BLUs angry snarls and gurgling only increased, however, even as Soldier hacked away and was starting to sever his spine.
“Just shoot him in the head, man!” Scout shouted.
“And let him have a quick, painless death? I don’t think so, maggot!” Soldier continued to dig the blade into the BLUs stomach, splashing blood and bits of intestine everywhere. The BLU Soldier, however, only seemed to be getting livelier and angrier, pawing the air trying to grab a hold of his tormentor.
“No, I mean, that Pyro, man. I shot him in the guts and he was still alive. You’re not gonna kill him unless you shoot him in the head.” Scout lifted his scattergun and aimed it at the BLU Soldiers head, only to have Medics hand bat it away. Heavy stood by, cautiously, now holding Sasha. Medic turned back to look at Heavy for a moment, and Heavy nodded, spurring the doctor to move forward.
The German doctor leaned over the flailing, squirming BLU, forgetting his own earlier apprehension and now overcome with fascination, not even paying attention to Soldier’s continuing assault. And as Soldier managed to crack through the spine of the BLU on the ground and split his torso in half, the BLU still tried to claw at both Medic and Soldier. “Zat should have killed him,” Medic said. “Und yet, he is alive still. Vhat is going on here?”
“He’s one resilient son of a bitch, I’ll give him that,” Soldier huffed. He looked up. “More of ‘em, Doc.”
From the same doorway emerged the BLU Heavy, Medic, and Demoman, making their way quickly to the REDs. They, too, looked very much like the BLU Soldier had; blood stained uniforms and red smeared over their mouths, teeth gnashing and eyes glassy and clouded over, moving with haste, but their movements being erratic and jerky. Soldier lifted his shovel to take on the lot of them, only to have Medic pull him back by his collar towards the way they had came, causing the Heavy and Scout to follow. Soldier was yelling vehemently, ordering Medic to release his grip, while Heavy and Scout fired upon the BLUs, trying to drive them back.
Back at the RED base, Sniper saw his teammates, and noticed right away that something had gone terribly wrong, especially after looking at Medic’s horrified expression through the scope. By now, the others that had gathered around the front of RED base looked up, seeing the frantic doctor dragging Soldier back, followed by an equally panicked Heavy and Scout. What they were running from had not yet emerged, but the team were instinctively at full attention, assuming the worst.
“RETREAT!” Medic shouted. “PUT ZE WHOLE BASE ON LOCKDOWN! GET INSIDE! MACH SCHNELL! RAUS, RAUS!”
Instantly, there was a scramble to get inside, everyone moving about frantically before Engineer made his way to a hidden panel on one of the walls, activating the rarely-used emergency lockdown system by pressing a series of buttons. Metal doors came quickly crashing down on all possible entrances, including the sewer tunnel and windows, with an ominous metal CLUNK. The entire team was now all in the same area, just inside the barn.
“Doc, what happened out there?” Engineer asked.
Medic finally let go of Soldier and slumped over, trying to catch his breath, having lost his usual composure. “I believe zere has been some sort of disease outbreak in BLU base,” he said breathlessly. “Somezing like rabies, almost. Only… only vorse.”
“I could have taken them out,” Soldier said indignantly.
“Nein,” Medic said, straightening up. “You chopped zeir Soldier up with your shovel, ja? Und you noticed how he vas still schtruggling? Does zat not raise any alarm bells for you at all? Zey ate zeir own Scout, even!”
“Ate them?” Sniper asked. “So, what, you’re saying that this disease makes them want to eat people? What the bloody hell went on over there? I couldn’t even see them before Truckie locked us down.”
“I think…” Scout started, rubbing his arm uncomfortably, “I think they were zombies.”
There was a long, awkward pause as the rest of the team exchanged uneasy glances.
Demoman took a swig from his bottle of scrumpy and broke the silence. “Aye, that soun’s like the livin’ dead, all righ’.”
“Zombies,” said Spy. “Zat is ze most ridiculous thing I ‘ave ever heard. I zink, per’aps, Scout should not be reading zose childish little comic books zat I know ‘e is so fond of.”
“Well, what else would you call them? They tried to eat us and wouldn’t die unless you shot them in the head! That sounds like a zombie to me!” Scout said.
“Let us not be so hasty, Scout,” Medic said. “Zere must be a logical explanation for zis behavior.”
Heavy opened a small slot on the main door, which provided a thin little window to the outside. He peered out, and saw that most of the BLU team members were now outside their base, groaning and making their way to the door. “Doktor, the zombies are comink thees vay!”
“Heavy, do not encourage Scout! Und close zat right away!” Medic smacked the back of Heavy’s head and pulled him away.
Just then, Sniper had maneuvered his way to the door and was peering out of the peephole. “Bloody hell! They do look like zombies. Look, they’re walking around all gimpy an’ moanin’ an’ whatnot.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Like Doc said, there’s no such thing as zombies.” Engineer scooted up next to Sniper. “Let me see,” Sniper moved aside, letting Engineer peer out. “Well, I’ll be darned.”
“Told ya,” Scout said, arms crossed, as now Pyro, Spy and Demoman were making their way to the door to catch a glimpse of what used to be the BLU team.
“Aye, those’re zombies, all righ’,” Demo said, now sharing the peep slot with Engineer. “I would guess they’re proll’y not the voodoo type a’ zombies, though. Chemically induced ones, the kine’ that spread by bitin’ ye an’ try to eat ye alive.”
Pyro tugged at Engineer’s sleeve, signaling he wanted to get a look. He peered out, looking at the BLUs from the smoked glass lenses of his mask, before the BLU Medic sprung into his vision and tried to pry his gloved, bloodied fingers inside. Pyro jumped back, startled, and struggled to close the peep hole while mashing the BLUs fingers with the tiny door before finally latching it closed.
Soldier, who had been visibly sulking at his lost opportunity to bash in some zombie skulls, spoke up. “So, what now, Doc? We just sit in here, holing ourselves up like a bunch of cowards and wait until HQ comes to our rescue?”
“Ve should know exactly vhat ve ah dealing viz before ve go in,” Medic answered slowly, choosing his words carefully. “Zey still have ze ability to respawn. In ordah to eliminate zem completely, ve need to make sure zey cannot respawn.”
“Fine, then. I’ll be in the War Room. I expect the rest of you maggots to meet me down there. No way in hell I’m going to allow myself to be cooped up in here while a bunch of BLUs are running around free.” And with that, Soldier turned and marched off, headed downstairs.
Slowly, the other members of the RED team filtered after Soldier. Scout ran down after him, having rediscovered his nerve. Heavy wrapped his large, bear-like arm around the waist of the visibly distraught Medic as they followed the Scout. Pyro was still shuddering as Demoman tried to give him a reassuring pat on the back and guide him after the others, and Spy, having lost interest, slinked off. Only Engineer and Sniper were left standing up there.
“You think wot Demo and Scout said was right? That they’re zombies?” Sniper asked, looking at Engineer, who was deep in thought.
“I don’t think they’re zombies. Zombies don’t exist.” Engineer removed his helmet for a second, wiping the sweat from his brow before placing it back on his head. “It’s probably some kind of disease, like Doc said. Corpses don’t just reanimate like that, outside a’ respawnin’.”
There was a sudden pounding at the steel door, and muffled groaning and screeching could be heard from the other side, causing the two men to jump.
“If you say so, mate,” Sniper said, turning to go follow the others. “But personally, I don’t think it matters what they are. They’re still bloody creepy.” And he walked off.
Engineer slumped against the wall. “Zombies,” he murmured. There were still noises coming from the other side of the steel door, and while he knew he would be safe, Engineer still found it very unsettling. He then jogged after Sniper, asking him to wait up. Sniper obliged, and they made their way down to the War Room.
“THAT WAS JUST ABOUT THE SORRIEST DISPLAY OF DEFENSE I HAVE SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.”
Soldier paced back and forth, glaring at each of his teammates from underneath his helmet. They were all seated around a long, worn table in Soldier’s room, and the room was barely big enough to accommodate all of them. There was just enough room for Soldier to pace back and forth a few feet, while most of the other members of his team were seated at the table. Pyro was sitting, fingers laced and hands in his lap, on Soldier’s bed, and Scout leaned against one of the map-covered walls. This was the War Room, and they were at war with a threat none of them had ever dreamt of facing.
“Retreating! We retreated, with our tails between our legs! Why not just raise the white flag right then, huh? Surrender, like the goddamned French or something!”
“Oh, just shut your mouth, you pompous windbag,” Spy hissed, clenching his cigarette between his teeth.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Spy. What’s the matter? Did I strike a nerve?” Soldier leaned over the table between Demoman and Sniper to grin wickedly at the Frenchman. “Don’t pretend it’s not true, sneaking around in the shadows with your cloaking and your disguises. You’re a goddamned pussy willow.”
“I ‘ave no need to justify myself to a madman.” Spy took a long drag on his cigarette and blew smoke in Soldier’s face. “So fuck off.”
“Soldier, zis bickering is useless,” Medic interjected. He was sitting next to Heavy, who seemed to be deep in thought. “If you cannot offer any solutions to our current crisis, zen you ah better off not speaking at all. You ah not ze one in charge here.”
Soldier was taken aback at Medic’s last statement, but tried not to show it. “Solutions? Oh, I got a solution for you, Medic. Blow the bastards to kingdom come!”
“Only to have zem respawn und come back for more! Vhat good vould zat do?” Soldier was silent for a moment, taking this into consideration. Medic was satisfied by this, leaning forward in his seat and scanning the faces of his teammates. “Fortunately for you, I have ze beginnings of a plan.”
“Spill it then,” Soldier sneered, “I don’t recall anybody put /you/ in charge, either, Mother.”
“You watch what you say about Doktor,” Heavy rumbled, glowering at Soldier.
“Danke, Heavy.” Medic scooted his chair back until it hit the wall, then stood up, leaning over the table. “Ve must drive ze BLU team back into zeir resupply room und trap zem zere. Engineer, ve vill need you to build your sentries right outside of it. Many sentries. Ve cannot allow any of zem to escape.”
“Sure thing, Doc,” Engineer said with a nod.
“Spy, you vill need to recover ze intel. Zhough, I zink visiting ze BLU Medic’s infirmary vill be more important. Any information you can find on ze infection, notes, papervork, anyzing. Make sure to get in und out quickly.”
“But of course,” Spy smirked.
“Pyro, Demoman, ze both of you vill have ze most important task of all. Once ze BLUs are all trapped in ze resupply room, und ve have ransacked anyzing we can use from zeir quarters, ze two of you vill be in charge of completely destroying ze BLU base.”
A mischievous glimmer flashed in Demomans remaining eye, and Pyro clasped his hands together and made a gleeful, muffled noise, bouncing up and down excitedly.
“Medic, boyo,” Demoman said, a large, white grin plastered on his face, “ye’ve made me th’ happiest man in th’ world. Ah won’t let ye down.”
“Thrrsshh sshh thrrr bssshh drrr evvrrr,” Pyro mumbled.
“Heavy, Soldier, you two make sure ze BLUs ah all killed vonce Engineer has finished setting up his sentries. I vill be following Heavy, but I vill be keeping an eye out if I am needed. Und before zat, guard ze Engineer. Be prepared to fire into ze resupply room if any of zem get killed before Engineer is set up.” Medic looked at Soldier smugly. “Does zis satisfy you, Herr Soldier?”
“As long as I get to kill as many of those BLU bastards as possible, I’ll be just fine,” Soldier replied, arms crossed over his broad chest.
“Sniper, you vill be on ze roof. You must make sure none of ze infected BLUs make it out of ze area. Ze disease must be contained; ve cannot allow any of zem to escape.”
“You got nothin’ to worry about, mate,” Sniper leaned back in his chair, rocking it backwards a bit and tipping the brim of his hat up. “Ought to be a piece a’ cake.”
Scout straightened up against the wall, looking around the room. “Hey, uh, what about me? What am I doin’?”
“Ah, Scout, you have ze most important job of all.”
“Yeah? Well, c’mon Doc, what is it?” Scout was visibly getting excited by the thought of playing such a crucial role in this mission.
A sadistic grin crept across Medic’s face slowly, and Scout could feel his stomach plummet. “You, Scout, vill be ze bait.”
“…Bait?” Scout’s voice cracked.
“Ja. You ah ze distraction. You vill be ze first to go in, and you vill be ze one to make sure zat ze BLUs do not go munching on Spy or Engineer while zey ah vorking. Since you can run fastah und jump highah zen ze rest of ze team, I zink you should have little trouble keeping ahead of ze BLUs. Just try not to get bitten.”
The young man’s face was visibly drained of color, but he tried desperately not to let this show. “Uh, yeah, I think… I think I can handle that. No sweat.”
“Vhat is matter, Scout?” Heavy asked with a chuckle. “You don’t look so good. You are not scared, are you?”
“Hell, no!” Scout puffed out his chest. “You think I’m scared? Fuck that. I got it covered. No sweat.”
“I should hope so, Scout.” Medic said ominously. “Ze safety of ze entire team depends on you. So, try not to… vhat is zat phrase you like so much? Ah, yes. Try not to fuck up.” At this, Scout squirmed a bit, and leaned back against the wall. Medic sat back down in his chair and pulled it back in again. “Does anyvone have any objections?”
“No objections, Medic,” Demoman said. “But it’s gonnae take me a wee bit ta build that bomb for ye. There’s a lot a’ calculatin’ tae go intae this, th’ size o’ it, th’ detonation… an’ Ah’m gonnae hafta work with Pyro a bit on this, I think, if ye’re wantin’ a big, firey explosion.”
“How much time you you zink you vill need?”
“‘Dunnae, lad. Could be a while. There’s an art tae this. Ye cannae rush it.”
“If yer lucky.”
“So, what’ll we do until then?” Scout piped up.
“Start ze preparations. Vhen Demoman und Pyro ah fully prepared, ve strike. Sound good?” The rest of the team murmured in agreement.
“Meeting adjourned. Dismissed!” Soldier barked, trying to maintain some kind of authority over the RED team. As his teammates tried to squirm out of the over-crowded room, Soldier shot a warning glare at Medic. Medic merely responded with a smirk, and wrapped his arm around the large back of Heavy. Scout was the last to actually make it out, being furthest from the door, and Soldier could hear Medic calling the young man to go to the Infirmary; his injuries from earlier would have to be looked over. Soldier closed the door after them and sat down at the head of the table, hanging his head and sighing. “Goddamned Nazi fairy son of a bitch,” He mumbled to himself. “I’m still in charge, dammit.”
He let his head hit the surface of the table, his helmet making an audible “clunk.” “When the hell did that bastard get to be in charge?”
“Ow, ow, ow! Son of a bitch, that hurts!”
“If you vould stay still, it vouldn’t hurt as much!”
“Yeah, like I’m supposed to stay still while you’re waving all that shit around in my face. Ouch!” Scout flinched as a splinter was removed his upper lip. Medic examined the splinter held between his tweezers, sighed, and placed it in a metal tray being held by Heavy.
“Stop being baby, Scout,” Heavy said. “Is not even that painful.”
“Yeah, I’m sure Medic is a lot gentler with you. Yeowch!” Another splinter was removed from the rim of his nostril, causing a trickle of blood to come out. Medic placed the splinter in the tray with the others, and dabbed at Scouts nose with a cotton ball moist with rubbing alcohol.
Heavy chuckled, “You vould tink that, but Doktor prefers to be rougher vit me. I can take it.”
Scout visibly grimaced, “Ugh, TMI, big guy. Didn’t need to know that.”
“You bring it up.”
“I didn’t mean that, geez. Fuckin’ queer-ass homo gays. OUCH!” This time, Medic was pinching the end of Scout’s nose in his tweezers and twisting him around so the two could be face-to-face.
“Perhaps, Herr Scout, you should be more polite to ze man who is currently doing ze zankless job of making sure your face does not become an infected puddle of pus. Hm?” He let go of Scout’s nose and looked over his busted lip. “I zink you may require some stitches if your lip is to be healing properly.”
“Would it kill ya to use some anesthetic this time, Doc?”
“Maybe. I do not know. Perhaps you would rather swell up zen be treated by a ‘queer-ass homo gay.'” Medic got up and turned his back to Scout, headed for the cabinet.
“Vhat vas zat, Scout?” Medic turned around, opening one of the cabinet doors while doing so.
“I’m sorry, Medic,” Scout apologized, making no effort to cover up his reluctance to do so. “You’re cool and all, y’know, despite being kind of creepy and all gay with Heavy and stuff.”
“Oh?” Medic was removing an armful of supplies from the cabinet when he turned around, looking touched.
“Yeah… and, you came up with a good plan there.” Scout smiled nervously as Medic lined up his instruments on a small, metallic push-cart. “You, uh, come up with that on the fly, or what?”
“Vell, I had some idea of vhat I vanted to do vhile ve vere on our vay down to ze… eh, ‘Var Room.'” Medic was holding a hypodermic needle, which he inserted into a bottle and pulled out the plunger slowly. “But ja, zere vere some zings zat just popped into mein head.”
“That… that’s pretty impressive, man. I didn’t think you were the strategic type and shit. Y’know, bein’ a man of science an-OW!” Medic had quickly grabbed a hold of Scout’s face and jabbed the needle into his lower lip.
“Zere. Zat should start vorking in a few minutes.” Medic removed the tip of the needle placed it in the tray held by Heavy. He then picked up an empty syringe, tapped the needle, and took Scout’s arm in his free hand.
“Hey, what’s this for, you doping me up again, Doc?” Scout was flinching from Medic’s grasp.
“Nein,” the doctor said, inserting the needle into Scout’s arm. “Blood sample. Ve need to make sure you have not been contaminated.” He pulled the plunger out slowly, drawing a generous amount of blood.
“Why would I be infected, though? I didn’t get bitten, you know zombies only spread through-“
“Zere ah no such zing as zombies!” Medic chided, squeezing Scout’s arm until Scout started to whine. “I vill not hear you talk of such silliness any more.” He loosened his grip on Scouts arm, laying the syringe down on his cart, separate from his other tools. “Anyvay, you did blow up zat Pyro’s head at a close range, ja?”
“Well, yeah, but-“
“Und ze blood, did any of it get in your big, fat mouth? Or in your vounds?”
“Well, maybe, I don’t know, man, I wasn’t really payin’ attention…”
“Of course you vouldn’t.” Medic picked up a suture needle and shot Scout a glare. “Ze blood of zat Pyro vould be contaminated. Ze infection could very vell spread by ingesting any bodily fluids of an infected person… like ze blood.”
Scout’s face paled. “Oh, shit. You think I’m gonna turn into a zomb-uh, I mean, one of those things?”
“Hopefully not. Ve shall zee vhat ze test results say. But, perhaps, you are right, und ze infection only does shpread zhrough ze biting.” He leaned in closer to Scout. “For your sake, I should hope so.” He then put his thumb on Scout’s lip, and squeezed. “Can you feel zat?”
“A few more minutes, zen,” Medic said, leaning back again and turning to fuss over his tools. “Alzhough, I zink zat you vill know when it kicks in. You vill probably start drooling un vill have trouble shpeaking.”
Heavy, who had been sitting in a chair patiently by the operation table Scout was seated on, let out a low chuckle. “Medicine cannot start vorking soon enough for me.”
Sniper had climbed on the roof many times before, though most of the previous times had been during many a sleepless night, under a thousand glittering stars spilled across a velvety blue canvas of a sky. Being on the roof was something he preferred to avoid during the daytime, when the sun would be high in the sky and beat down mercilessly on the black tiled roof. But he felt a sort of obligation to Medic. He had to admit, he had absolutely no idea what the hell to do when he got a glimpse of the BLU team as zombies, or whatever the hell they were, aside from just shooting at them. But Medic? Blimey, the German bastard managed to come up with a plan right on the spot. Crazy poof or not, the man was a bloody genius.
He climbed up a ladder up inside the barn, up to a panel on the ceiling that was held closed with a rusty, metal hook and hoop. He pressed his thumb against the hook and nudged it aside, then pressed the panel up, causing the even more rusted hinged on the panel to creak in protest, and climbed into the attic of the barn.
The attic was dark, save for some sunlight spilling through a few scattered cracks, and smelled like wet hay and bat shit. The bats were light sleepers, and upon Sniper’s arrival they scattered and flew out the hole in the wood paneling on the side of the barn, squeaking in panic the entire way. Sniper knew, however, that they’d be back. Little buggers always managed to come back here.
There was just enough light in the attic for Sniper to find the panel that led to the roof, and the rickety, creaky wooden ladder that led up to it. Normally, he’d have to have a flashlight when he made his way up here, but then again, he rarely came up here when the sun was up. The rungs on the ladder were rough and splintered in places, and Sniper felt like they would snap if he put too much of his weight on any one rung. He felt around the side of the roof’s hatch for a long, metal rod before pushing the hatch open, letting the harsh sunlight flood the normally dark and dank attic. Sniper used the metal rod to prop the hatch open, wedging it firmly in place. It was much harder to get the hatch open from the outside; Sniper had figured this out the hard way after one night where he had one too many beers. Pyro had found him there the next morning, passed out and sprawling in the rising sunlight. Christ, that was embarrassing.
He peered out and looked over to BLUs base, squinting in the harsh light. Normally, he would have expected to see the BLU Sniper from his roost, maybe aiming his rifle at some lizard in the desert to pass away the tedium. Sniper wondered if his BLU counterpart was one of those… things. He probably was, the poor bastard. He didn’t particularly like the BLU Sniper, but becoming a shambling, reanimated corpse was a bad thing to happen to anybody, really.
With the sun beating down on the roof as it was, his camping was pretty much restricted to only being halfway outside and standing on one of the ladder rungs. He was still able to get a good view of BLU base, though. It would probably be a while before Demo would be finished working on that bomb, and Sniper figured he might as well be trying to do something useful while they waited. So, he would be here, watching the BLU base for… something. Escaping BLUs, maybe? Although, all the BLUs he had seen today seemed far more concerned about trying to find a way into RED base than making a run for it. He could still here some of them shuffling around on the ground, letting out the occasional moan.
He propped up his rifle and scanned BLU base, looking for any kind of movement. Nothing. The only movement seemed to be happening out of his sight, in front of the front steel panel protecting the RED base. Which was fine, really. Sniper preferred to be alone, and being up here, looking for any BLUs to shoot was as good enough of an excuse as any for some isolation. He looked through the scope and slowly moved his sights over the building. It appeared to be totally abandoned. He frowned. If only he could be in his usual roost, but no, the windows were blocked with steel. Would it have killed Engineer to leave them open? Not like the BLU Soldier or Demoman was going to rocketjump their way in, being as they didn’t seem very interested in using their weapons anymore. And from what Medic said, the BLU Scout was out of commission; apparently the BLUs ate him.
They had eaten their Scout. Sniper’s mind lingered on that thought longer than was comfortable. He tried to suppress a shudder, but couldn’t. Scout was probably right, despite what Medic or Engineer said. They weren’t human anymore, and whatever anybody else wanted to call them wouldn’t matter, because they were still pretty much zombies.
Out of the corner of his scope, Sniper thought for a moment that he had seen a wisp of blue smoke. Sniper whipped his scope back over the spot he had just passed over. Had it been a trick of his mind? The heat had a way of making you see things that weren’t actually there. Or…
Sniper found himself firing blindly, hoping to God he would hit the cloaked BLU Spy. Medic had mentioned the threat of the infection spreading. Nightmarish visions of a zombie apocalypse started to dart through his mind, armies of the living dead devouring entire cities and laying waste to all of civilization, all because Sniper fucked up and missed that fucking BLU Spy. He tore his eye away from the scope and searched frantically for any sign of movement, but there was none.
Maybe it had been a mirage. Maybe he was panicking over nothing. And even if he wasn’t, the BLU Spy was cloaked. He was pretty sure that zombies weren’t smart enough to use cloaking devices, which meant that the BLU Spy was still human.
“You’d better not have been bitten, you stupid wanker,” Sniper muttered under his breath. He stared at BLU base a bit longer, waiting for some acknowledgment that Spy somehow heard him. Of course, there was none. He put his eye back to the scope, hoping for the best; or at least, that Medic wouldn’t find out.
Engineer sat at his desk in his workshop, going over the schematic for the sentry gun for what was probably the third time. Odds were, he could very well be safe just using one sentry in front of BLUs resupply room, but dang it, he was feeling paranoid. Maybe two, just to be safe. Three might be pushing it.
“GAH!” Engineer jumped in his chair and whirled around to see Spy leaning over him with a satisfied smirk on his face. “Dang it, Spy, don’t do that!”
Spy grinned. “Did I frighten you, laborer? Désolé.” He leaned over Engineer and grabbed his blueprints. “What is zis you are working on, hmm?”
“Give those back, Spah!” Engineer stood up and tried to reach for his blueprints, but Spy, being taller, merely held them up high above his head and examined them, while holding the short Texan down with a firm hand pressed down on his hardhat.
After a brief examination, Spy decided that the blueprints weren’t of any real interest to him, and tossed them back onto Engineer’s desk. “How boring,” he sighed. “Why do you concern yourself wiz such boring zings?”
“Sentries aren’t ‘boring’,” Engineer huffed, arms akimbo. “They’re going to play a very important part in this mission, and keep you from getting bitten by those BLUs.”
Spy laughed. “Oh, I do not zink I would get bitten, even if I went in alone. Zey are slow and stupid, I’m sure I could avoid zem easily.”
“Yeah, you keep on thinkin’ that.” Engineer sat back down on his desk and went back to concentrating on his blueprints. Spy leaned over his shoulder again, getting uncomfortably close and puffing smoke in his face. “Boy, don’t you have anything better to do?”
“I’m bored,” Spy said with an overly dramatic sigh. “And I needed someone to bozzer.”
“Go bug Sniper, then.”
“‘E iz on ze roof, frying ‘is brains in ze sun. I zink ‘e would throw me to ze BLUs if I went up zere.”
“I’m plenty tempted to do that myself,” Engineer mumbled to himself.
“What was zat, Engie?” Spy propped his elbow onto Engineer’s hardhat.
Engineer knew Spy was trying purposely to get on his nerves. He hated Spy. Well, maybe not hate; “hate” was an awfully strong word, after all, but he not particularly fond of him. The Frenchman would almost always come down to his workshop when Engineer was working on something important, always to just touch things that shouldn’t be touched or break something or just generally make a nuisance of himself. He had to admit he didn’t know why Spy felt the need to do this, but he just assumed that all Spies loved to torture Engineers and generally make asses of themselves. Occasionally Spy would bother Sniper as well, but Sniper was far less patient with Spy than Engineer, and that was saying something. It took all of Engineer’s willpower just to keep himself from strangling Spy, and Spy knew this.
“Nothin’, forget it,” Engineer responded, shaking off Spy’s elbow from his head. “Just go find something else to do. I’m in no mood for yer tomfoolery.”
“You are never in ze mood for any ‘tomfoolery,'” Spy shot back. “You’re no fun.” He crossed his arms and pouted.
“Never claimed to be,” Engineer rolled his eyes.
There was a sudden, urgent rapping at the door of the workshop. Before Engineer could even lift himself from his seat, Spy answered the door, letting in a very excited Pyro.
“HSSSHH DRRRN! HSSH FNNSSSHHDD! CRRM KWWKRRRUH!” Pyro was almost dancing with sheer giddiness as he rushed over to Engineer and started to shake him by the shoulders.
“Pyro, I cannot understand a single word you say,” Spy said, looking at Pyro as if he were some sort of very large and very hairy insect.
“Dang it, Spah, he means he an’ Demo are finished that bomb. Why else would he be here and actin’ happier than a kitten in a catnip patch? Whoa!” Engineer allowed himself to be dragged away by the over-eager fire starter, heading out the door and past the bemused Frenchman.
Spy turned and watched Pyro and Engineer rush down the halls of the base, Pyro shouting unintelligibly for the rest of the team as Engineer struggled to keep his hardhat firmly on top of his head. Spy strolled behind them casually, taking a drag on his cigarette, and watching the base spring to life. Spy had been on many missions with this team, but this one was unique. Special. Exciting. This one was one that their very lives depended on, and the very thought of it thrilled Spy. Of course, he couldn’t let this show. He was, after all, a Spy. But oh, this would be fun.
So very, very fun.
The BLUs that had gathered in front of RED base were no longer pawing uselessly at the steel door. They had given this up in favor of shuffling aimlessly around the front of their enemy base, letting out agonized groans. There were four of them out there: Heavy, Medic, Demoman, and Pyro. They didn’t really pay much attention to each other, just moving as if they had no idea what to do with themselves until some sort of living creature crossed their path. They had paid some small notice to the cloud of bats that had rushed out of RED base’s attic, but none of them flew low enough to be caught. And even if they had, none of the BLUs would have been fast enough to catch one.
When the steel doors started to grind open, the BLUs responded by turning their heads and staring in a stupid, brainless sort of awe. No one was visible to them by the time the main steel door was all the way open. All four of them, however, could smell their prey. They lurched forward, only to hear a loud “THUMP!” from behind them.
“‘EY, WORM-FOOD! UP HERE!”
Again, the BLUs turned around to see RED Scout, standing on top of the bridge between the two bases, waving his bat around and jumping from side to side. “Lookit dis right here, fast food! Yours if you can catch me, ya bunch a’ Frankensteins!” Flecks of blood and spittle flew out of his mouth as he spoke, and there was a dull throb of pain on the inside of his lower lip. Stupid Medic should’ve at least given him something for the pain, but no, Medic said it would slow him down. He had also said the adrenaline rush would probably make him forget about the pain, anyway.
Well, his adrenaline was already pumping by the time the BLUs started to crowd underneath Scout, trying to reach him with outstretched, bloodstained arms, grunting in frustration. Scout laughed at them, dancing around in his usual cocksure manner. “Aw, c’mon, is that the best you can do? Honestly? C’mon, you decomposing dickweeds! I ain’t got all day!”
The BLU Heavy, looking as though he had some sort of dull epiphany, grabbed a hold of one of the support beams for the bridge’s roof, and started to yank on it viciously, shaking the bridge enough for Scout to momentarily lose his balance. Scout caught himself, and decided that now would be a good time to lure them further away from the base. He ran over the roof of the bridge, towards BLU base, and jumped down with an odd, catlike grace. The BLUs looked over at him, faces painted over with vapid shock. “C’mon and get it, nice and juicy Scout here! You know you wanna piece a’ dis!” Scout shouted mockingly, shaking his ass at them.
The BLUs gave chase, moving much faster now after the loud, annoying meaty thing that was tormenting them so. Scout lead them back through their own base, spewing insults and rooster crows at them. Soon enough, they had disappeared from view.
“NOW!” Medic shouted.
Out of the front of the RED base rushed Heavy, followed by Medic, Engineer, Soldier, Demoman and Pyro. They barreled across the bridge and straight into the BLU base; Heavy, Medic, Soldier and Engineer stopping in front of the first resupply room, and Demoman and Pyro zipping ahead. Engineer dropped his toolbox and quickly started assembling the first sentry.
“SENTRY GOIN’ UP!” Engineer announced.
“DEMO, PYRO, KEEP AVAY FROM ZE SCOUT! UND GOOD LUCK!” Medic shouted after Pyro and Demoman. Demoman turned and gave a mock salute in response, not even breaking his pace, as they headed down the same wooden stairs Scout had mashed his face against earlier, and made their way deeper into the BLU base.
Meanwhile, Spy had swum across the moat between the two bases, getting another perfectly good suit soaking wet. He resented the fact that in a lot of their plans, Spy would wind up in the sewers. By this point, the BLUs had come to expect it, although now having their intel stolen was the least of their concerns. He slunk forward, trying to make as little noise as possible, but being knee deep in water made this difficult.
He made his way around the corner of the sewer tunnel, peering to see if there were any BLUs. The tunnel looked clear enough, although there were some ominous-looking blood stains smeared across the wall. Spy pulled out his pistol and continued to gingerly step forward.
Engineer had finished his first sentry, set up square in front of the first resupply room when Scout’s cries of panic began to edge closer and closer. When Scout made himself visible, he was running back towards the bridge again, with the four BLUs on his tail from earlier. Heavy turned Sasha onto the bloodthirsty BLUs and let forth a barrage of rapid gun fire, laughing manically. Soldier launched a rocket at the group of them for good measure, and they were all reduced to bloody mounds of flying flesh and bone.
At this point, Engineer realized that the small Level One sentry simply would not be enough to hold back the BLUs, and decided to search for more metal. He looked around, trying to keep his wits about him, and peered around a corner. There were some ammo pickups nearby he could use; he motioned for Heavy to stick by him as he went to fetch them. Engineer rushed back, ammo box under his arm, going back to the tiny, Level One sentry only to see the Resupply room door open again as the respawned BLUs tried to escape. Soldier fired another rocket into the cluster of them, and Heavy once again turned his minigun onto the BLUs. The ones that weren’t blown up were ripped to shreds by Sasha. Engineer hit the Sentry with his wrench as it upgraded to a Level Two. All of this was happening so fast he barely had time to process Medic shouting at him.
“Herr Engineer! Move! Los Weiter!” Medic waved at Engineer urgently, motioning him to follow.
“But the Sentries-“
“No time! Mach schnell!”
Engineer quickly picked up his tool kit and headed downstairs, towards the inner resupply room.
Downstairs, Spy had made his way into the Intel room, only to find Demoman and Pyro in there, fiddling with a large but crude-looking bomb.
“What are you doing ‘ere?” Spy asked breathlessly.
“Settin’ up th’ bomb, lad, wot d’yae think we were doan’?” Demoman answered, looking at Spy as if he were some sort of gibbering lunatic. “Why, wot’re you doan’ here?”
“Ze intelligence. Remember?”
“Oh, aye! I nearly f’rgot,” Demoman nodded to the desk where the briefcase sat, undisturbed. “S’all yours, mate.”
“Merci.” Spy sprinted over towards the desk, casting a casual glance over at Demoman and Pyro, who were both sitting on the floor over the device. Demoman muttered something to Pyro, who then got up off the floor and rushed off somewhere. Spy strapped the briefcase to his back, not even bothering to acknowledge the explosives expert further, and headed back into the base, towards the infirmary.
Spy found himself running past Engineer and his entourage, as they were no doubt headed for the second resupply room. Heavy nearly knocked the Frenchman over, swinging around that enormous gun of his around like some sort of giant metal phallus while Medic was shouting commands and generally being loud, so loud. Soldier was hunched over, trailing behind, grunting and mumbling to himself. Spy straightened up and headed to the Infirmary.
The door was slightly ajar, and the infirmary was dark. Spy slipped his hand in and found the light switch, flipping it and watching the florescent lights flicker to life. He poked his head inside. The cabinets were emptied, their contents strewn across the floors and many of their doors hanging off of their hinges. The Medic’s desk was placed close by the door at an angle, suggesting that it had been blocking the door at one point, but was pushed back violently. Paperwork littered the ground, some of it had landed in congealing blood puddles, and the examination table was flipped over on its side, its sheets more red than white. The infirmary smelled like rotting meat and death, and Spy found himself holding his breath as he stooped down and sorted through the papers on the floor.
There wasn’t really anything of interest among the papers, mostly papers detailing routine check-ups or minor surgeries on various members of the BLU team. Spy decided to rummage through the actual desk, flipping through files, not sure exactly what he was looking for, but he figured he would know when he saw it. He stopped at a file labeled “LAZARUS.”
He held up the file, examining it for a moment before placing it on the desk. He removed the briefcase off of his back, snapped it open and placed the file inside. He was about to close it when he looked up and noticed a home movie camera on the ground. Not far from it was a slightly cracked tape recorder. Spy rounded the desk and looked over the equipment. He bent down, carefully removing the film reel from the camera. He reached over for the tape recorder when he heard a clatter coming from the sick bay.
He wasn’t alone.
Spy grasped the tape recorder, staring straight at the sick bay door. He backed up slowly, and stood behind the desk, shoving in his finds. He looked down to shut the case, and looked back up to see BLU Engineer standing in the doorway staring at him. His overalls were covered in dark blots of blood that were almost black, dried blood stained his face, and he had a rather large, festering wound on his neck.
“Merde,” Spy hissed.
The Engineer shambled forward, tongue flexing and dribbling with pink saliva, reaching for Spy. Spy clutched the briefcase in his arm and whipped around to run only to see the BLU Sniper standing in front of the tiny medical refrigerator, chewing on a blood transfusion bag. The Sniper, just now noticing the flailing, noisy meat thing in front of him, dropped the bag on the ground with a wet slap, and lurched forward, snarling and clawing at the air like a starving beast. Spy, caught between the two of them, fumbled for his wristwatch and cloaked.
The two BLUs stared at the spot where Spy had just been a few seconds earlier, grunting in confusion. They shuffled around, heads swaying around, searching for the Spy as he tried to leave as quietly as possible, gently pushing the infirmary door open just wide enough for him to slide through before breaking into a run. The sound of footsteps caught the attention of his pursuers, who were now on his trail.
“Aidez-moi! Help! Someone shoot zese blasted zings!” Spy shouted, headed for the BLU resupply room. Surely, Medic and the others were still there. He rounded the corner, overjoyed to see Medic there, although he was disappointed to see that Medic was alone, and dragging what appeared to be a wriggling body bag.
Medic looked up and turned his head towards the source of the noise. “Herr Spy? Is zat you? Show yourself! I could use a hand here.”
Spy had completely forgotten to decloak. He switched it off and ran to hide behind Medic. “Spy, vhat ah you doing?” Medic asked, his tone tinged with annoyance. Spy merely pointed in front of them, to the BLU Sniper and Engineer. “Ah. So, zat is vhat you vere schreaming about.”
The Sentry in front of the resupply room beeped and whirred, twirling around to open fire on the BLUs. The bullets ripped through their guts, shredding their torsos open and sending them both staggering back, blood belching out in half-hearted spurts and dribbles. BLU Snipers intestines spilled out and unraveled and Engineer started to spew blood out of his mouth. The doubled over from a loss of balance and each received a volley of bullets in their brains, which soon decorated the nearby walls.
“Wundervoll!” Medic exclaimed victoriously, pumping his fist in the air. He turned to Spy, twisting the bag around so that the opposite end was in front of the Frenchman. “Now zat zey ah out of ze vay, vill you please help me viz zis specimen here?”
“Specimen?” Spy asked, his voice betraying his dread.
“Ja,” Medic replied. “If ve ah to bettah understand ze nature of zis outbreak, it makes sense to have a specimen to shtudy, does it not?”
“Do ze ozzers know?”
“Vell…” Medic shrugged and tried to avert his eyes from those of the Spy, rotating his wrist and trying to think of way to put this gently. “Zey, ah, zey don’t know quite /yet/.”
There was more moaning and thrashing from the body bag, causing Spy to jump back and emit a girlish shriek. Medic burst out into a loud, mirthful laugh.
“Zat is not funny!” Spy shouted. “I do not zink ze ozzers will appreciate you bringing back one of zose… zose zings.”
Medic stopped laughing and cleared his throat, straightening his posture. “Spy, please. I am a man of science. Zis is purely for research. I know vhat I am doing.” The thing in the bag let out a furious growl and writhed with more intensity, and Medic kicked it several times before it stopped moving again. “Now, vould you please grab an end of zis und help me get zis zhrough ze sewers?”
Spy rolled his eyes and sighed. “Very well zen.” He picked up his end only to find the bag was much lighter than he had expected; Medic probably could have carried it by himself, lazy bastard. “Which one of zem is zis?”
“But didn’t you say zat ze BLUs ate ze Scout?”
“Vell, zey didn’t eat him all ze vay. He only has vone arm left, but his torso is mostly intact. As long as you do not get close enough for him to bite you, you vill have nozzing to vorry about!”
“Zanks,” Spy said flatly, “zat certainly makes me feel better.”
“Yes, vell, ve have chatted enough. To ze sewers!” Medic said with a triumphant flair, and the two of them side-stepped in the direction of the sewer tunnel.
With the Sentries hammering away at the BLUs in their resupply rooms, the RED team was free to roam the BLU base as they pleased. Engineer made sure to go back and forth between his Sentries, while Soldier, Heavy and Scout were pretty much carrying out anything that wasn’t nailed to the floor. Pyro emerged from RED base, carrying two tanks of kerosene and waited patiently outside of the BLU base.
Pyro sat down on the ground and twiddled his thumbs. Heavy and Soldier ran out, carrying armfuls of food and ammo, and Scout followed behind, slowed down trying to carry a television set. “Yrrr nuuhh hrrrpp wrrff daahh?” Pyro asked.
“What?” Scout asked, stopping to turn to Pyro.
Pyro gestured to the television set that Scout was holding. “Durr hee vee. Yrr nuuhh hrrrp?”
“Oh. The TV. Nah, man, I got it,” Scout grunted as he shifted the weight of the television and scuttled off.
The fire starter looked up to the roof at Sniper. Sniper didn’t seem to be moving much, still leaning out of the hatch on the roof and staring through his scope. Pyro knew that being up on the roof in the sun like that could do things to a man’s brain, and tried to get Snipers attention by jumping up and waving his arms. No response. Pyro padded the ground for a pebble, and upon finding one, stood up and chucked it at the roof. The pebble bounced off, startling the assassin, who tore himself away from his scope and looked down. Pyro waved his hand up at Sniper, motioning him to come down from there. Sniper stared at Pyro for a moment, then simply shook his head and turned back to his scope.
Something was wrong with Sniper. Pyro knew his teammates fairly well, and while Sniper was fond of staring at his scope for hours from his roost, he wouldn’t want to be out in the sun up on the roof longer than he needed to be. That, and there was something subtle in Snipers movements that suggested that something was bothering him. Pyro didn’t have much time to think about it, as he noticed Medic and Spy coming out from RED base, Spy looking very pissed off and Medic looking quite chipper. Pyro cocked his head curiously, not unlike a dog, as he wondered why they had come out from the RED base, and what had upset Spy.
“Ah, Herr Pyro! How ah zings moving along?” Medic greeted Pyro with a very wide grin that usually meant Medic was up to something.
“Drrmrrmmnn usshh shttuuhh wttnnggh frrr yrrr gsshh trrr fnnssshh nngh thurrr bssh.” Pyro murmured.
“Vell, I cannot understand vhat you just said, but from your tone, I take it zings ah going shmoothly!” Medic said, patting Pyro affectionately on the head. Pyro merely sighed.
Demoman emerged from the BLU base, ushering out a flustered Engineer. As the Texan skittered out, clutching his toolbox, Demoman took an overly dramatic swig from his scrumpy bottle and let out a satisfied sigh. “A’right, Pyro, s’all yers. Git tae work.”
Pyro jumped up excitedly, grabbing the two kerosene tanks and galloping inside BLU base. He hastily unscrewed the cap off of the first tank, and splashed it on the floor generously, making his way backwards towards the heart of the base while still clutching the second tank. Demoman had explained that the bomb alone might not be enough to destroy the building completely, since it was too dangerous to build a bomb big enough to take out all of the BLU base without damaging RED’s. The explosion, starting from the intel room, would help take out enough of the foundation, and destroy a good chunk of the building, but in order to destroy it completely, fire would be needed. Pyro was a bit disappointed he couldn’t drop the match to start it; Demo would be the one triggering the explosion via remote, when the time was right.
As far as the fire spreading out of control, Pyro had set enough fires here to know how the wind behaved in this area. Usually at night this time of the year, there would be a cooler, gentle breeze coming up from the north, which was the direction RED base was facing. With luck, the wind would blow the fire back away from REDs side, maybe even sparing the rickety wooden bridge.
Pyro had made his way just in front of the BLU intel room when his first tank ran out. He tossed it aside, squatting down to unscrew the second tanks cap. He could hear Engineers second sentry still firing at the other resupply room, and frustrated groans of the enemy BLUs. Pyro wasn’t entirely sure what to make of what happened to the BLUs. Medic was convinced it was some kind of disease, Scout and Demoman seemed convinced that they were zombies (Demoman referred to them as such during their initial planning on the bomb, and Pyro didn’t bother to correct him), and Soldier, well, Soldier didn’t really seem to care /what/ they were, only that they were BLUs and needed to be defeated. As he started to splash more kerosene around the intel room, Pyro mused on the matter further. They were being paid to defeat the BLUs, not completely destroy them. What would happen to them after this? Would they get to go home? Would they be penalized for their actions? Would BLU simply rebuild and send in more recruits and just go about business as usual? Surely, RED would understand that this was a matter of life and death, that taking out the BLUs was necessary to their survival. Right?
Pyro stopped for a moment, looking out of the intel room window and at the BLU map in the communications room. It looked just like theirs in RED base, only with a different hue. Funny, really. Actually, a lot of things about BLU and RED were pretty much identical, aside from the obvious difference in color.
No, wait. No time to start letting his thoughts wander. He had a job to do, and this place needed to go up in flames fast. They couldn’t afford to let any of these diseased cannibal lepers or zombies or whatever they were escape. More kerosene was splashed around, and he made his way back up, now just leaving a trail of it until the tank ran dry. Hopefully, it would be enough, although Pyro wished he had more tanks to use. But time was of the essence, and those sentries were going to run out of ammo eventually.
Pyro jogged outside, running across the bridge and joining the others just inside of the RED base. Medic was doing a head count to make sure that everyone was present.
“Let’s see,” Medic said, pointing at each member of the team as he called them off. “Heavy, Soldier, Scout, Engineer, Pyro, Demoman, Spy… vhere is Sniper?”
“Still on the roof,” Scout said. “Should I go get ‘im?”
“Ach, I should have known. Alvays ze lone volf, zat vone,” Medic sighed. “Nein, Scout, if he vishes to shtay up zere, zen leave him. Demo?”
Medic didn’t need to say anything further. Demoman strode out, standing in the open air, savoring the moment. He sucked on the end of his index finger for a moment, then held it up in the air. The wind was already starting to pick up slightly, headed south. The explosions expert grinned, and opened up on of his side pouches just above his hip, removing the detonator for what would no doubt be one of his finest works. Not his magnum opus, sadly; it was simply too much of a rush job. But, considering the circumstances, it would still be one of his crowning achievements. Demoman held out the detonator, and pressed the button with a clean, swift motion of his thumb.
The blast ripped through the intel room, igniting the kerosene and taking out the ceiling above it, causing the above rooms to collapse and crumble inwards into the spreading flames. The kerosene trails ignited instantly, roaring to life and engulfing the interior of the BLU base. The upper resupply room had already been destroyed, the trapped BLUs falling down into the hungry blaze as they screeched in agony and confusion and their rotting flesh sizzled and melted. The second resupply room was still guarded by a faithful sentry, which exploded when shortly after the fire surged towards it. The bits of hot shrapnel flew into the respawn room and into the bodies of the BLU Sniper and Engineer. Moments later, more walls crumbled inwards, crushing the second resupply room under tons of flaming debris.
The RED team was cheering and whooping victoriously. Demoman laughed maniacally, throwing his head back and doing an impromptu jig. Soldier waved his shovel around over his head, screeching and hollering incoherently. Scout started sounding off with a rooster crow, and smacked Engineer on the back, who was laughing heartily. Heavy picked Medic up off the ground and swung him around before planting a kiss on his cheek and letting out a hearty bellow, and Medic just sighed and hugged the bear of a man back. Pyro was pumping his fist in the air as he ran out, dropping to his knees and laughing as he basked in the glory of the yellow and orange tongues of flame licking at the BLU base. Sniper, who was still on the roof, started cheering and yelling insults at the BLUs, feeling a wave of relief wash over him. Only Spy seemed to look over all of this with a sense of cool detachment, merely looking on as took a drag from his cigarette and blew out little smoke rings.
The BLU base would continue to burn on as the sun started to set, and the members of the RED team treated it as though it were a giant bonfire. Bottles of Blue Streak were cracked open, Engineer brought out his guitar, and everyone got properly drunk and danced into the night. Sniper came down from the roof shortly after the he heard his teammates talking about getting drunk and was spending most of the night knocking back beers and trading stories with Soldier and Demoman. Scout was bugging Engineer to play some Bob Dylan on his guitar, despite Engineers repeated refusals, and Spy was simply watching the two of them with passing interest. Medic was snuggling up against Heavy and the two of them seemed to talk less and fawn over each other more with each swig of beer. The only one not getting drunk was Pyro, who after a while simply sat on the ground and watched the BLU base burn, as a child might watch a television set.
No other victory against the BLUs could ever beat the high that RED got from this. Today, they had done something that none of them would have even considered doing; at least, not seriously. They had killed the BLUs for good. Tomorrow, they would deal with their hangovers and the consequences of such drastic measures. But that was tomorrow. Tonight was theirs. They were the victors, the champions, the kings of their domain. They were invincible, and no one could tear them down.
BLU Spy was dying. He didn’t want to admit it, though. In his mind, there was still a glimmer of hope; if he could reach civilization, he could be saved. He wanted nothing more than to be in a nice, warm bed, in between clean sheets and with his head on a nice, firm pillow. Not out here, in the desert, clutching an infected wound on his arm and dying of thirst. God, he was thirsty.
It had been the Engineer that had bit him, and it figured. Everyone else had turned into a monster after they were bitten, and Spy knew that he, too, would turn, but he would never admit it. His mind was deluded from fever. He wouldn’t turn. He was better than the others. He could fight it. He fought it this long, hadn’t he?
He and Scout were the only ones to survive, until that idiot RED Soldier had blown up Scout with that blasted rocket launcher. Scout would respawn, and no doubt find himself among those /things/, and they would tear the poor boy apart. Better him than I, Spy had thought darkly. The REDs had foolishly tried to come into the base, only to come face to face with the monsters. Fortunately, this provided an opportunity for Spy to escape. There were periods of time, though, where he would black out, finding himself somewhere he didn’t remember being a minute ago. When he snuck out to escape, he knew the RED Sniper had seen him. He heard the missed shots. And yet, he still made it out, cutting out a hole in the chain-link fence with the barbed wire weaved through at the bottom. The fence was supposed to keep civilians out, despite there not being any of them for about six miles, but it seemed to function more like a cage. Spy didn’t even remember how he cut a hole in the fence; he didn’t think he had the tools necessary. He had blacked out again, and when he came to, there was a hole, and he crawled through. Now, he was free.
But this freedom did him no good. He was delirious, feverish and parched. He mumbled incoherently and hugged himself, not even sure what he was saying. He wanted to go home, speak his native tongue, maybe see the family he had abandoned so long ago in favor of a life of espionage. But home and his family were a million miles away. He wanted to cry. So hot, so thirsty, so tired, and in so much pain… Spy wanted his mother.
Eventually, it all became too much. He fell to his knees, shivering and crying, tears and snot running down his face, and he flopped onto the ground. He curled into a fetal position, murmuring in French before his body started to jerk and seize and the pain burned white hot throughout his entire body. His eyes shot open wide, and suddenly he could see his home, in a small village, his mother calling his name with open arms, and the sun was so bright and everything was yellow and green and warm…
And then he was home.
When Sniper woke up, he was on his bed in the roost, fully clothed and lying on top of his sheets. The sun was up, and it probably had been up for several hours. The rays were harsh on Snipers eyes, and he pawed for his aviators. They had been folded neatly on nightstand, and Sniper almost knocked over a jar of piss trying to retrieve them. Medic once told the assassin that his habit of collecting his own urine and keeping it lying around was probably a sign of obsessive compulsion. Maybe it was. The doctor had tried to dispose of his jars once, and Sniper found himself going into a fit of rage over it; when he was challenged as to why he could ever possibly want to keep a bunch of mason jars filled with piss around in his room, the only response he could think of was, “Ya never know when ya might need it.” Sniper realized that, in retrospect, that it was a pretty stupid answer.
He put his aviators on, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and grabbed his rarely used alarm clock. It was half-past ten, which wasn’t really bad, considering the amount of alcohol that was poured down his throat last night, but most everybody would be up by now and there’d probably be nothing left as far as breakfast was concerned. He set the alarm clock down, stretched out his back with a satisfying crack, and got up to look out the window.
The charred remains of BLU base jutted out of the ground, black against the sky like thick inky brush strokes against a canvas of yellow-brown and blue. Sniper didn’t remember witnessing when the flames died out, but there still seemed to be smoke hovering over the rubble. He could see Pyro looking around the wreckage, strolling casually like a normal person would stroll through a park on a nice spring day. Sniper smirked at the thought. Pyro was a weird little bugger, all right, but he was nice enough, and he usually looked out for everybody more than anybody else really noticed.
But even with his sunglasses, being out in the sun too long was hurting his head. At least it was relatively quiet. Sniper turned on his heel and walked downstairs, headed for the kitchen. He needed coffee. He could deal without food for now. The wooden stairs creaked underneath his boots with each step as he walked down. Goddamned rickety steps, he thought. Just about everything wooden in RED base seemed to be splintery or old or creaky or on the verge of snapping. Shame they had to burn down BLU base to the ground. Their base had a nice set up.
After a brief trek, Sniper finally made his way to the kitchen, and opened the door to see Scout, sitting on one of the counters with a sandwich in one hand and an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in the other. Scout looked up at Sniper upon his arrival, jumped and tried to hide the comic book. “Jesus, man, don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“S’not my fault yer a jumpy little bastard,” Sniper grumbled. “Wotcha readin’?”
“Nothin’,” Scout said, holding the book behind his back.
“S’a funny book, innit it? With superheroes?” Sniper walked past Scout to the coffee brewer, reaching for a can of grounds and a filter. “We all know ya read ‘em, s’not even worth th’ effort t’ hide it.”
Scout cringed a bit, and bashfully produced the comic book from behind his back. “It’s Spider-Man. Promise you’re not gonna tell Spy? He’s always raggin’ on me about readin’ this stuff.”
Sniper smiled. “Naw, mate, I won’t tell ‘im.” He scooped several spoonfuls of ground decaf into the filter, then placed it in the brewer and switched it on. “Not familiar with Spider-Man. Had an uncle in th’ States that used t’ send me issues of Batman ‘n Superman when I was younger. He anythin’ like them?”
“Nah, man, Spider-Man’s different,” Scout said, becoming excited at the chance to actually talk comic books with someone who actually wanted to listen. “Spider-Man was this nerdy kid named Peter Parker, an’ when he was in high school, he got bit by a radioactive spider and got spider powers. He can climb up walls an’ he’s got this spider sense that lets him know when he’s in danger an’ he’s also super-strong an’ stuff. An’ he made these web-shooters, so’s he can swing around New York City like Tarzan in the friggin’ jungle. But when he first got his powers, he used ‘em to try an’ make money as a TV star, an’ then his Uncle Ben got killed. Spider-Man was an orphan, see, an’ he was raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. An’ when his Uncle Ben got killed by this burglar that Spider-Man could a’ stopped, but he didn’t, he learns that with great power comes great responsibility, so he goes and fights crime an’ stuff.”
“Fascinatin’.” Sniper couldn’t help but admire Scout’s enthusiasm about the subject. “He sounds a little bit like Batman.”
“Yeah, but Batman’s a billionaire, and he don’t have any powers. Spider-Man’s just a kid tryin’ ta get through college now, and he doesn’t have a Spider-Mobile or shit like that. It’s like, he’s tryin’ ta fight bad guys like the Green Goblin or Dr. Octopus or the Sandman, but he’s also tryin’ ta get good grades an’ deal with datin’ an’ havin’ a job.” Scout caught himself, and looked embarrassed. “Uh, am I talkin’ ya ear off too much?”
“Well, I’m a little hungover, but yer not screamin’ in me ear, an’ all things considered, I’m in a pretty good mood.” Sniper leaned back on the counter and gave Scout a reassuring look. “So, go ahead.”
Scout let out a nervous laugh. “Heh, thanks, man.” He swung his legs a bit and looked down. “You think that’s the last we’ll see of those zom-uh, things?”
“They’re pretty much zombies. ‘A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet,’ an’ all that.” Sniper noticed Scout was giving him a quizzical look. “It’s Shakespeare, mate. I’m tryin’ t’ say that no matter what ya call ‘em, they’re still pretty much zombies, regardless a’ what Medic or anybody else says.”
“Oh,” Scout chuckled. “‘Cause I was gonna say, the last thing I’d compare a zombie to would be a rose, man.”
Sniper laughed. The coffee was slowly percolating, and already the smell was permeating through the small kitchen. He took a deep whiff. “So,” Sniper turned back to Scout, “where’s ev’rybody else?”
“Pyro’s outside, lookin’ around what’s left a’ the BLU base. Not sure what he’s lookin’ for. I think Demoman is still out there, too, he said he wanted ta make sure that the zombies were gonna stay dead.” Scout took a bite out of the sandwich he had almost completely forgotten he was holding, and chewed it a bit before speaking again. “Soldier’s holed up in the War Room, don’t know what he’s up to. Engineer is tryin’ ta get in touch with HQ and figure out what we’re gonna do from here. Heavy an’ Medic, well, they’re in the Infirmary, not sure I wanna know what they’re doin’. An’ Spy, I don’t even know where he is most a’ the time. Maybe buggin’ Engineer.” He took another bite of his sandwich, this time not even bothering to chew all the way before speaking again. “Tha’sh it, I fink.”
“ACHTUNG! RED TEAM!” Medic’s voice rang out in the hallway before the German doctor suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway, with a very large, unsettling smile spread across his face. “Ah! Scout! Sniper! Come quickly, I have somezing to show everyvone in ze infirmary! Mach schnell!” The good doctor jogged off, continuing to yell for the rest of the RED team.
“Ho man,” Scout hopped off the counter. “I gotta see this.”
“Anythin’ that gets Medic looking that cheery is nothing I want to be a part of,” Sniper groaned. “I don’t think we’re gonna have much of a choice, though.” Scout didn’t seem to hear him, as he was already running downstairs. Sniper noticed the coffee had stopped brewing, and poured a cup in his “#1 SNIPER” mug before resigning himself to whatever horrors Medic no doubt had in store.
“You’d better have a damn good reason for pulling me down here, you crazy Kraut bastard,” Soldier was standing at attention, although his arms were crossed and he was giving Medic a Look. “Shovel and I were discussing something some very urgent, very classified information.”
“Yeah, Doc, what’s goin’ on?” Scout asked, restlessly shifting his weight from one foot to the other. All the members of RED team were gathered in the main room of the infirmary, with the exception of Heavy. The absence of the Russian did not go unnoticed, though no one in the room felt the need to say anything. No doubt Heavy would be playing some part in this presentation.
Medic cleared his throat and puffed out his chest. “First, I vould like to zank you all for coming, Danke schön, everyvone.”
“Well, bein’ as it was you callin’ us down, I dinnit’ think we’d have much of a choice anyway,” Sniper interjected, before taking a sip of his coffee. There was some muted laughter before Medic spoke up again.
“As I vas saying before I vas so rudely interrupted by Sniper,” Medic glared at the assassin over his glasses, “Ze outbreak zat occurred at ze BLU base recently seems to be some new disease zat has not previously been recorded. As a man of science, I felt zat ze opportunity to better shtudy ze nature of zis disease should not be allowed to slip by.” Medic started to pace as he walked, his gait turning into a rooster-like strut. “So, I zink to myself, ‘Medic, how vill you go about shtudying such a disease?’ And zen I answer, ‘Vhy, you must go und get a specimen suffering from it!’ Of course! But a subject is needed zat vill be easy to vork viz.” The dawning look of horror on the faces of his teammates made the doctor chuckle.
“Oh, ye dinnit’ go an…” Demoman’s voice trailed off when Medic held up his hand to cut the explosions expert off.
The doctor continued, “Obviously, ze more intact victims vould be out of ze question. Somevone more immobile is needed. Somevone who it vill be easy to make sure you do not get bitten by zem. Fortunately, zere vas vone such victim. Heavy?”
“Da, Doktor?” Heavy said, from behind the doors of the sickbay.
“Please bring out ze specimen!”
The door opened and Heavy backed out, and groaning and rasping could be heard as he pulled out a stretcher with a writhing, pallid figure strapped to it. Medic beamed with joy as Heavy wheeled out the BLU Scout, restrained with taut leather straps and thrashing wildly. Even if the BLU Scout hadn’t been strapped down, he wouldn’t have gotten very far; his legs were ripped from their sockets like a man would rip out a drumstick from a turkey, leaving bloody stumps that were already starting to rot. His right arm, too, had been torn off, and his intestines were shredded and flopping about outside of his stomach wall. His eyes were cloudy and glazed over, and there was dried blood around his mouth and on his shirt. Medic leaned over this hideous, monstrous reanimated corpse and looked down upon him with an almost affectionate look in his eyes, much to the unease of his fellow REDs.
“Holy mother of God,” Engineer’s voice trembled as he looked down at what used to be the BLU Scout. “Doc, why would you even…?”
“For science, of course!” Medic cut the Texan off. “My zheory is zat zis is a virus, gentlemen, und is contagious. It is spread from person to person from ze biting. So far, ze tests on vhezzah or not it can be spread by say, ingesting blood of ze infected have been inconclusive. Our own Scout tested negative for ze virus, despite ze fact zat he may have had contact viz ze infected blood orally or zhrough his own vounds.”
“Well, ah… thanks, Doc. That’s… reassuring.” Scout was too busy feeling a cold knot twisting in his stomach from the malaise caused by his BLU counterpart, who now seemed to be looking at him with those dead, glassy eyes. “I think I’m gonna blow chunks.”
Medic chuckled, “Ah, it is a shame that you cannot share ze same enzusiam for zis venture as I do, Scout. But zat has come to be expected, I zink.”
“Yer bloody daft bringin’ one a’ those zombies in ‘ere, Medic,” Demoman said ominously.
“ZIS IS NOT A ZOMBIE!” Medic slammed his fist down in anger, only to have it land in the guts of the BLU Scout. This caused the monster to hiss in what might have been pain, and Medic coolly removed his gloved hand from the mess of organs, and wiped it on the gurney’s sheet. He cleared his throat, “Resurrection after brain ze brain dies is impossible. Ze brain is severely damaged in ze subject, but it is not dead. Interestingly, ze virus seems to function in a vay zat is unprecedented in any disease I know of, since ze subject can shtill be alive even if ze internal organs are severely damaged. Blood loss, hemorrhaging, even decay of ze flesh seem to be irrelevant. If ze brain is alive, zen ze subject lives on. My alternate zheory is zat it may be ze work of a parasite-“
“Ach, cut th’ crap, ye bastard. I know a zombie when I see one, an’ ah’m lookin’ at one strapped tae a gurney flailin’ aboot like a fish outta water,” Demoman sneered at the BLU Scout. “S’bad trouble, bringin’ in one a’ th’ livin’ dead intae here like that.”
“As long as no vone tries to do anything shtupid like releasing him or letting him get close enough to bite you, zere vill be no trouble,” Medic was speaking deliberately, trying to sound calm and composed, but the fact that so many of his teammates insisted on calling his specimen a “zombie” was grating on him. “Besides, zis is coming from a man who claims zat ze Loch Ness Monstah is responsible for his parents death und zat he vas abducted by aliens…how many times vas it again, Demoman?”
“Three times!” Demoman shouted angrily. “An’ that slimy reptilian beastie’ll pay fer what he put me through! I donnae care if ye b’lieve me or noe, that’s go’ nothin’ tae do wi’ this righ’ ‘ere!” He pointed at the BLU Scout for emphasis.
“Demo’s right, mate,” Sniper piped up. “I mean, ya dinnit’ even bother tellin’ any a’ us this before. An’ I can’t say I feel terribly comfortable livin’ in th’ same space as a zombie.”
“Please, shtop using zat vord.” There was the faintest hint of pleading in Medic’s voice. Heavy gave Sniper a threatening glance and growled a bit.
“Well, that’s pretty much what it is, innit?” The Australian lowered his aviators and peered at Medic over them, ignoring Heavy. “It’s a bloody walkin’ corpse that tries to eat yer flesh off an’ ya turn inta one when ya get bit by it. Yer pretty much just arguin’ over semantics at this point.”
“Hey now,” Engineer interrupted, “fightin’ like this ain’t gonna do anything. I can see why he did it, even if I can’t imagine anybody bein’ too keen on takin’ in a… thing like that.”
“A zombie,” said Demoman.
“Let’s… let’s just not call it that,” Engineer said, sounding as if he were about to walk barefoot on a floor covered in eggshells. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Medic’s gonna study it. Heck, maybe we could even get some kinda vaccine for it, or find a way t’ reverse it. We don’t know where this came from or how it got started or anything. We got a responsibility t’ find out as much about this as we can, and, gosh darn it, th’ Doc here is probably th’ right man for th’ job.” Engineer turned towards Medic and tried to give him a reassuring smile. “Right, Doc?”
“Danke, Herr Engineer,” Medic sighed. “So glad zat anuzzah scientist can appreciate vhat I am trying to do here.”
“Can I say somethin’ here?” Scout piped up.
“Vhat is it, Scout?” Medic was becoming a little annoyed at this point.
“I think Demoman an’ Sniper are right about this zombie. Like, in every monster movie I saw as a kid, the scientist tries ta capture the monster an’ study it, y’know, for science or somethin’, and then the monster gets loose and kills a whole bunch of people and then the scientists are all like ‘Why did we tamper in God’s domain?’ or somethin’ like that. And it’s up to the hero ta blow it up or shoot it or something.”
Medic just stared at Scout with a raised eyebrow. “You ah serious.” This was less a question than it was an accurate statement.
Spy had been standing against the wall the entire meeting, and he suddenly went into a fit of barely stifled laughter. He was doubling over, wiping tears from his eyes before he caught his breath again. “And what do you zink ‘e is going to do, Scout? Drag ‘imself across ze floor and gnaw on your feet? Look out for ze stumpy little monster, Scout! ‘E is coming for your feet! Not like you can outrun him or anyzing!” And he started to laugh again.
Heavy started to chuckle as well. “Heh heh, ‘stumpy.’ Is funny word.” He looked down at the BLU Scout and met his blank, almost soulless eyes. “You hear, Stumpy? Don’t go eating Scout.” The BLU Scout merely gnashed his teeth and rasped at Heavy.
At this point, Medic had given up, covering his face with the palm of his hand and sighing. His intellect was wasted on this team. Well, Engineer was probably on his level, but their two disciplines were very different, and Engineer didn’t really seem to understand Medic’s methods very well. And Heavy… ah, his Heavy did not have much patience for scientific study, although he would help with the doctor’s experiments and listen patiently as the doctor talked enthusiastically about medical procedures, the Russian would eventually change the subject to weaponry or Communism, or just bypass that completely and start kissing Medic on the neck and undoing his tie. The rest of them? Demoman didn’t seem to care much for science beyond basic chemistry and the pseudo-science of cryptozoology, Sniper could barely even grasp the concept of basic hygiene, Scout seemed to have learned everything he knew about science from movies and comic books, Spy simply didn’t care, Soldier had no patience for anything not directly related to the immediate destruction of his perceived enemies, and Pyro… well, he seemed to care about setting things on fire and watching Star Trek and not much else. “I do not even know vhy I bozzer viz you dummkopfs. Almost none of you can appreciate vhat I am doing. Any of it. Just leave.”
The other members of RED team exchanged confused glances before heading out of the infirmary, while Heavy wheeled the BLU Scout back into the sickbay without even being told. Medic could swear he heard Soldier grumble something about the BLUs and the doctor being a maggot. Sniper was one of the last to leave, prompting the doctor to remember something. “Ah! Sniper! Don’t leave just yet. Zere vas somezing I vanted to talk to you about.”
The assassin jolted in his step at first, then slowly turned around to face Medic. “Make it quick, mate, I, ah, got business t’ attend to.”
“You didn’t happen to see anyzing odd vhen you were up on ze roof yesterday, did you, Herr Sniper?” Medic’s tone was parental, almost sweet in a very disturbing sort of way.
Sniper shook his head and went to take a sip of coffee. “Not particularly. Why d’you ask?”
“Ze BLU Spy vas missing.”
Sniper almost choked on his coffee. Medic’s expression didn’t change, his eyes half-lidded and his expression otherwise somber. Again, Sniper was shaking his head, this time more to be able to breathe comfortably. “How d’ya even know that?” He sputtered.
“I vent zhrough ze entire base killing ze BLUs, und made sure zat zay vere all disposed of. Und I saw every single vone of zem except ze Spy.” Medic’s eyes narrowed. “You didn’t happen to see him, did you, Herr Sniper?”
“Naw, mate. Dinnit’ see ‘im. Must’a been cloaked.” Sniper looked down at his feet and scratched the back of his head with his free hand, “‘M’sorry.”
“Zat’s all I vanted to know.” Medic nodded towards the door, “You may leave.”
Again, Sniper cautiously turned to leave the infirmary, casting the occasional wary glance back at the German doctor before closing the door. The doctor listened as the sound of footsteps in the hall began to fade away. Heavy, who had been listening in from just inside the sickbay, reemerged and gently closed the door behind him.
“He vas lying to you, Doktor,” the Russian stated flatly.
“Ja, I know, mein Liebling. Sniper is not very good at deception. Only hiding.” Medic walked to his desk, not feeling nearly as energetic as he had at the start of the meeting. “I zink he is trying to shield his pride. He knows I saw zhrough him. I could see it all ovah his face.” He flopped down in his chair, folded his arms on the desktop and rested his head with a sigh.
Heavy stroked the doctor’s hair with his giant hand, trying to soothe him. “BLU Spy could not last out in desert. Doktor vorries over nothing. Relax.”
“I hope you ah right, Heavy,” Medic breathed, purring a bit as Heavy started to scratch the back of his neck, along his hairline. “Mmmm. Sometimes I feel like I have ze most zankless job on zis team.”
“Don’t say that.” Heavy pulled up the chair that sat beside the desk, and sat down. The chair gave a little creak under his weight. “Team is nothing vithout Doktor. You came up vit plan to kill BLUs. You heal us. Team needs you.”
“Und yet, I shtill feel like I am just playing nursemaid to a bunch of shcreaming, fighting Problemkinder.” He turned his head as Heavy continued to scratch his neck. “If it vere not for you, Heavy, I vould have smozzahed all of zese idiots in zeir sleep already.”
“Doktor does not mean that. You’re just grumpy.” Heavy planted a quick peck onto Medic’s forehead. “You care about team. All of team. And team cares about you. They just do not show it. Trust me.”
Medic hummed pleasantly under Heavy’s hand. Such big, strong hands he had, and yet they were capable of being so gentle. “Mmmm, mein Kuschelbär… you ah so good to me.”
“I try, Doktor. You deserve best.”
A long, agonized groan erupted from the sick bay. Medic jumped a little bit at this, having almost completely forgotten about the BLU Scout. Heavy smirked, “Do not vorry, Doktor. I vill protect you from Stumpy. Am strong enough to beat Stumpy to death vit last arm.”
The doctor smiled. “Mein hero.” He kissed Heavy on the cheek, then adjusted himself in his chair to sit up straighter, and opened one of the drawers in the desk to take out a blue briefcase and lay it on the desktop. He popped the locks open and the briefcase sprang open, revealing a slightly cracked tape recorder and a film reel, as well as several papers and a manilla folder.
“BLU intelligence?” asked Heavy.
“Ja, as vell as some zings Spy recovered from ze BLU infirmary. I have not had ze time to look ovah zem yet.” Medic removed the tape recorder and film from the briefcase, and picked up the folder labeled “LAZARUS.” “I zink zey vill yield some vital information as to vhat exactly ve ah dealing viz. Especially zis.” He handed Heavy the folder. “Do you recognize ze title at all?”
Heavy held the folder in his hands and his brow furrowed. “Lazarus. Is Bible story? Dead man coming back to life?” He shrugged. “Heard… vhat is vord? Missionary? Heard missionary vonce. He mentioned zat man. Silly story. He got sent to gulag. Never thought about it since.”
“Vell… basically, yes. Ze reference is to ze miracle Jesus performed on a man named Lazarus, bringing a dead man back from his grave.” Medic rubbed his chin. “Seems like ze BLU Medic vas very ambitious to be vorking on playing God.”
“Vhy bother? Ve can respawn. Is vaste of time,” Heavy snorted. “Besides, do not know much about Bible anyvay. Church is drug of people.”
“Ze quote is ‘Religion is ze opiate of ze masses,'” Medic gently corrected the Russian. “Und I suppose ve vill not find out until ve go zhrough all of zis. Ve ah going to have a very busy afternoon, I should zink.”
“Vas hoping ve could spend afternoon doing other things, Doktor.” Heavy stroked Medics thigh, leering at him.
“Ach! It’s alvays about sex viz you, isn’t it? Zis is important! Zat can vait!” Medic handed Heavy the film reel. “Ze film projector. It’s somevhere around ze base. Go find it.” Heavy sulked at this, accepting the reel half-heartedly, and Medic rolled his eyes. “Vhen ve ah done going ovah all of zis, maybe zen ve have fun. Sound good?”
Heavy beamed. “Doktor alvays knows best medicine.”
The vultures swooped in lazy circles over their find in the noontime sun, making sure that there were no others trying to stake a claim on the carrion baking on the dusty ground. There were two of the birds, and despite the fact that there was enough meat to feed them both, they squawked at each other, trying to drive the other off. The first finally flapped down onto the ground, ripping through blue, pinstriped cloth with its powerful beak to get to the meat beneath it. The other vulture swooped down and screeched at the first, spreading its shimmering black wings in order to make itself appear larger. The first retaliated with the same tactic, and they started to lash at each other with open beaks.
They were too distracted by this battle to react to their meal suddenly lunging at the first bird and grabbing the raptor by the throat in its teeth. The other bird shrieked and flew off, leaving the first to have its neck quickly snapped and the bare flesh devoured hastily.
BLU Spy ripped through the bird with his bare hands and his teeth alone, getting mouthfuls of black feathers soaked in blood as he crunched through hollow bone and chewy gristle. He needed meat; fresh, raw, squirming meat with thick hot blood and squishy organs. He did not remember who he was, where he was from, or even what he was. The only thoughts he had were to eat meat, and how good the meat he was eating tasted. It was like heaven, or at least the closest thing the BLU Spy could imagine. As he ate, he grunted and smacked his lips, and yet he was still so starving, still needing more. In what felt like mere minutes, Spy had torn the bird to shreds, trying to lick any scraps of tissue off of the bones. There was nothing left besides feathers and bones. Spy felt empty still. There was nothing, now, he wasn’t eating, and it felt so good to eat meat.
He needed more.
He slowly tried to get up, feeling wobbly and off balance. His bones ached so much, they were so stiff and uncooperative, and his body didn’t move the way he wanted it to. He staggered forward in the direction he was facing when he collapsed. A thought flickered in his head, briefly, of something yellow and green and warm; something good. And it had to be in the direction he was facing when he woke up. Maybe that meant there would be more meat that way. His legs jerked and quaked as he got used to the sensation of walking, and he started to realize that not eating hurt him. Finding food became more and more important, and he slowly gained more control over his motor skills with each step forward. A guttural noise came out of his throat, as if to call out to the meat to come to him.
The surviving vulture happened to soar over the blue dead thing that wasn’t really dead, and noticed the remains of his rival. There wasn’t even anything left to eat, that greedy blue dead thing. It smelled like it was dead, looked like it was dead, and it was dead until it got up and started to move. Although the vulture was still hungry, and though the dead thing smelled so ripe and ready to eat, it knew it couldn’t get any closer. The raptor rode a breeze and ascended into the sky, heading in the opposite direction of the blue dead thing, towards the north.
Anywhere that blue dead thing was headed was a place to be avoided.
“This is RED Engineer, Announcer, do you read me?”
There was nothing but silence from the other end of the radio. Engineer had been trying to contact the Announcer on and off for the past few hours. She was their go-between to the RED HQ, and was largely in charge of scheduling the missions and the arrival of the supply trains. And yet, nobody had ever seen her face; only heard her voice booming over the loud speakers, and she had been strangely silent since the beginning of the mission yesterday.
“Dang it, woman, would it kill ya t’ answer?” Engineer grumbled to himself. He set down the transceiver and sighed.
“‘Aving some trouble zhere, laborer?”
“GAH!” Engineer jolted and whirled around to see Spy behind him. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you startled me. Why can’t you stop sneaking up on me like that an’ knock like a civilized human being?”
“Because zat wouldn’t be any fun.” Spy leaned on his helmet and picked up the transceiver. “You are going about zis ze wrong way. Allow me.”
“Good luck.” Engineer scoffed. “She hasn’t answered me once. I’m startin’ t’ get a mite worried.”
Spy ignored the Texans warning, and pressed the call button. “‘Allo, Madame Announcer? Zis is ze Spy. ‘Ow are you today, my good lady?”
For a few moments, there was only silence. “I told you she hasn’t been answerin’,” said Engineer.
“Well, good afternoon, Spy,” The Announcers voice purred from the radio. “How have you been?”
“I cannot complain too much. I’m sure you already know ze situation wiz ze BLU team.” Spy cast a smarmy glance at Engineer.
“How did you even…?” Engineer was cut off by the Announcer before he could even finish.
“Yes, I am well aware. I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm. Unfortunately, this throws a bit of a wrench into our gears, if you’ll pardon the expression.”
The Frenchman laughed. “I understand, Madame. Engineer and I, we were simply curious as to ‘ow we are to proceed from ‘ere. What are your orders?”
“RED team is to hold their position at the base until ordered otherwise,” the Announcer said curtly. “That is all. Announcer, out.”
“Zank you, Madame. RED Spy, out.” Spy placed the transceiver back into its cradle and shrugged at Engineer. “You ‘eard ze lady. We are to stay put. Zat is all.”
“Why’d she only respond when you called her?” Engineer asked, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve been trying on an’ off since I got up this mornin’.”
“Per’aps, Laborer, it is because she simply does not like ze uncouth, uncultured working man.” Spy snickered. “Eleven PhDs and no charisma. Such a pity.”
Engineer stood up from his chair and glared at Spy. “Hey now, that’s just uncalled for. Why can’t you just-” Spy cloaked before Engineer could finish, leaving the Texan standing there with his jaw hanging open. He shook his head and sat back down at his desk. “Goddamn good-fer-nothin’ Spah,” he muttered, before turning to his blueprints.
Soldier was pacing around the War Room again. He had more room to roam, since he had stuffed the table and chairs in the closet; the chairs were stacked on top of each other, and the table was too long to fit, so it jutted outward, making it hard for anyone to open the door to come in since they would inevitably bump into the table. This suited Soldier just fine, since he didn’t want to be disturbed.
“Nobody left to fight, Shovel,” he grunted. “We blew them all up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it! It was glorious, Shovel, glorious! Goddamn, we’re never going to have another victory like that again!” He stopped pacing for a second. “We’re never going to have another victory like that again. And that’s exactly the problem.”
He turned to his Shovel, which was leaning against the metal railing that made up his bedpost. Shovel said nothing to this, but listened patiently. It always did. If only Soldier could expect his teammates to be as loyal and as obedient as Shovel.
“I mean, what do we do now? With no one left to fight, we’re going get soft. We get soft, we get fat and content and complacent and we’ve failed. Failed, Shovel! Failure is not an option in this war. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from fighting in wars, it’s that there’s always somebody to fight. There are enemies all around us! Everywhere!”
You’re right, Soldier. They are, said Shovel.
Soldier did a double-take. Shovel had spoken to him before, but it had been a long time. Medic said something about possible schizophrenia, and tried to make him take pills for it. Soldier didn’t trust the doctor, especially with any sort of drug that was supposed to alter his mind. He was pretty sure, however, that these pills were being ground up into his meals for a while. Only recently did he start switching his plates slyly with the other members of his team, making sure to never do it twice in a row to the same person. He regretted having to do it, but it was a necessary precaution. Having his mind controlled was something Soldier preferred to avoid. Besides, hippies took mind-altering drugs all the time, and he sure as hell didn’t want to end up running around naked in a field with a crown of daisies in long, unwashed hair, tripping on acid and listening to Jimi Hendrix. Soldier shuddered at the thought.
Something wrong, Soldier? Shovel asked innocently.
“No, I just… I just haven’t heard you talk in so long.” Soldier’s tone was uncharacteristically subdued. “I was starting to think that Medic was right about that whole ‘mental illness’ thing.”
You shouldn’t listen to Medic, you know. He’s not trustworthy. He’s trying to wrest your power from you.
“You think I don’t know that?” Soldier grunted. He sat down on the bed next to Shovel, and grabbed him by the handle in a firm, but not harsh, manner. “Dammit, Shovel, it’s like nobody listens to me anymore. They all think I’m some kind of gibbering lunatic. You know the other day I heard Scout making jokes about me to Engineer? And Engineer, the bastard who wants us to get along with everybody like he’s the goddamned U.N., was laughing!” He shook his head. “Nearly pissed their pants when they saw me. But I didn’t even feel up to pummeling the two bastards into hamburger meat.” He hung his head. “God, Shovel, I’m losing it.”
He’s probably counting on that. Why do you think he keeps slipping you those drugs? Shovel chuckled. He wants to take over the team, Soldier. Take away the American values that this team is built upon and start a Fourth Reich.
“You’re just paranoid,” Soldier said. “The Team knows better than to let a goddamned fascist take over. A queer fascist, at that. A queer fascist sleeping with a communist. Good God, how much more un-American can you get, Shovel? You see, this is why we need Nixon in the White House. He wouldn’t put up with this crap.”
I’m not paranoid. I’m merely being cautious. Shovel’s voice was oddly soothing. Yesterday. You saw it. He laid out that plan and everybody did as he told them without question, even you.
“It was a good plan, though,” Soldier admitted sheepishly. Only Shovel ever heard him like this, sounding vulnerable and uncertain. “And it certainly worked, that’s for damn sure.”
That’s not the point. This isn’t about whether or not his plan worked. It’s about him being in charge. He’s not in charge, yet, though. Is he?
“No,” Soldier puffed out his chest a bit. “The Team wasn’t too keen on him bringing a BLU in here as a prisoner. They talked back to him, made fun of him. They’re not gonna bend over backwards for him, yet, but nobody put their foot down and told him to kill the BLU. Hell, Engineer even stood up for the guy.”
A fellow American standing up for a queer fascist, Shovel remarked dryly. Then again, Engineer just wants everybody to get along, doesn’t he?
“Yeah… just like a goddamned hippie,” Soldier sighed. “Jesus, there’s no hope for any of them, is there?”
There’s hope for them, yet. Shovel’s voice went back to that soothing, honey-coated tone that was so effective on Soldier. You just need to turn everybody else away from Medic.
“And how exactly am I supposed to do that? They think I’m crazy. For Christ’s sake, they listen to Medic more than they’d ever listen to me.”
Psychological warfare, Soldier. Just plant some seeds of doubt into their heads. Good God, Shovel’s voice was so hypnotic. They need to be reminded of what he is. But you’d have to do it subtly. I know you’re not very good at that sort of thing, but I can help. You just do as I tell you, and that bastard and his communist toadie will be begging you for mercy and licking at your feet.
Soldier considered this for a moment. No, subtle was something that he couldn’t really do. That was a Spy thing, and Soldier was not really fond of Spy or his methods. But Hell, this was war. And in war, sometimes you had to do sneaky, underhanded things in order to win. The prospect of trying a new kind of warfare was also kind of exciting, and Soldier relished a challenge. A very large, toothy grin spread across his face, “All right, Shovel. You got my attention. Tell me what to do.”
Excellent. I know I can count on you.
Soldier held Shovel close, and chuckled as Shovel whispered words into his ear, words that no one else would even be able to hear.
There was a rather sizable hole in the barbed wire fence, and dark crimson splotches stained the dusty soil around it. A pair of wire cutters lay nearby, and the missing chunk of the fence had been tossed aside. Even an idiot could have figured out that one of the BLUs had escaped, and apparently Medic had figured it out without even coming out here. Demoman knew this, because he eavesdropped on the conversation Medic had with Sniper. When the assassin was released, Demoman quickly staggered out of sight, so as not to arouse his suspicion, and from there decided to see if he could find any clues.
The hole in the fence was facing south, behind the remains of the BLU base, and Sniper would not have been able to see the BLU Spy’s actual escape. And yet, the nervous tone in Sniper’s voice suggested that he had seen something.
Demoman stooped down and peered through the hole. The wind had long blown over any tracks that the BLU Spy left, and aside from a tiny shred of blue, pinstriped cloth caught on one of the barbs, there were no further signs of the enemy Spy. Judging from the bloodstains, the BLU had obviously been wounded, probably bitten, which meant that there was a zombie out in the desert somewhere, and that it would be seeking out any food that it could find, possibly even biting any wild animals that came across its path. It would be a while before the zombie would reach any people, assuming that it would be heading in the same direction, but it would be hard to tell.
Demoman’s head jerked up when he heard the sound of boots scuffing across the ground. He quickly turned to see a rather sheepish looking Sniper. Though their eyes met and they both instantly knew what was going through the other’s mind, Sniper still felt the need to say something.
“So…ya found out, huh?” Sniper croaked meekly.
“I heard ye talkin’ tae Medic,” Demoman replied. “Ye did see th’ BLU Spy, dinnit’ ye?”
“Only fer a split second, mate,” Sniper looked down at his boots. “Jes’ saw that blue smoke. Couldn’t find ‘im. It all happened too fast…”
The explosions expert jerked his head to the side, “C’mere. ‘Ave a lookit this.”
Sniper nodded, walked up next to Demoman and squatting down, resting his forearms on his thighs. Right away he noticed the bloodstains. “Oh, fuck no…”
“Unless yer sure ye dinnit’ hit ‘im, I’d say we have a zombie on th’ loose out inna desert.” Demoman looked up, his eye meeting both of Snipers. “Which means tha’ there’s a good chance it’ll start tae spread.”
“Shit,” Sniper’s face was visibly paling. “Fuck. Fuckin’ shit. Bloody fuckin’ hell…”
“Donnae be so ‘ard on yerself, lad,” Demoman said, putting his hand on Sniper’s shoulder. “S’not yer fault.”
“The bloody fuck it’s not my fault! I fucking missed ‘im! Shit.” Sniper hung his head in shame. “I’m a bloody professional. The one time I’m needed the most, and I screwed th’ bloody pooch.”
“Well, it’s noe like ye can do anythin’ abou’ tha’ now,” Demoman said. “We’re jus’ gonnae hafta prepare fer th’ worst.”
The assassin sighed, “What d’you suggest we do then?”
“Warn th’ others. We cannae be keepin’ this a secret. Also, this fence is gonnae need to be repaired, an’ we’ll be needin’ tae keep watch fer any more a’ them.” Demoman stood up and stared out over the horizon, almost as if he were looking for the BLU Spy. “I forgot tae thank ye.”
“Eh?” Sniper looked up at Demoman before pushing himself up.
“Medic’s meetin’. Ye backed me up there. Th’ other’s think I’m a bit daft. Donnae believe me aboot th’ alien abductions ‘r Nessie. Donnae always take me seriously, ’cause o’ that.”
“Quite frankly, I still don’t believe ya either, mate,” Sniper said with a shrug. “Don’t mean that ya dinnit’ have a point in there. Unfortunately, with Truckie on ‘is side, I don’t think either of us are gonna be listened to.”
“Aye, Engie… th’ sole voice a’ reason,” Demoman sighed. “I’d feel a lot better if it weren’t Medic doin’ th’ experiments on ole’ Stumpy.”
“Oh, fer Christ’s sake, yer not callin’ that thing ‘Stumpy’ too, are ya?”
“Fits though, donnit?” Demoman said, smiling a little in spite of himself. “I jes’ hope Medic don’ feck up an’ get us all eaten. I’d ne’er f’rgive ‘im.”
The corner of Sniper’s mouth started to twitch into a nervous little smile, but stopped. “You… y’don’t think that this is gonna turn into some sort of zombie apocalypse, do ya?”
“Wi’ luck, no. But it ne’ar ‘hurts tae be prepared. Now, c’mon. We got work t’ do.” The black Scotsman gestured for his companion to join him, as they headed back towards the RED base.
The film reel whirred and the picture started to flicker to life upon the white projection screen. The BLU Medic appeared, close-up and in grainy black-and-white, adjusting the camera before stepping back to clear his throat, “Zis is a personal record of ze experiments I have been conducting ovah ze past few months.” He explained, the sound crackling and popping in and out. “For a long time, viz the technology of ze respawn available to us, I have pondered ze true nature of death. If ze respawn can allow for a person to not only be brought back from ze dead, but also completely recover from zeir injuries, zen vhy is zis technology kept secret from ze rest of ze vorld? Vhy does BLU keep ze vorkings of such technology a secret? Und can zis effect be replicated?”
“BLU Medic looks a lot like you, Doktor,” Heavy observed. “Never noticed that before.”
“Shhh, quiet.” Medic was leaning forward in his chair, his elbows resting on in his thighs and his index fingers steepled in front of his lips. The images on the screen were reflected in his glasses in the dark little room, and what little light there was highlighted the doctor’s features. Heavy decided to stop ogling his Medic and turn his attention to the one on the screen in front of him.
“Learning ze secret of ze respawn proved to be a fruitless endeavor. BLU und RED both keep zis information closely guarded. I decided to set forth, using mein own training, to essentially do somezing zat mankind has longed to do since its birth… to cure death.”
The BLU Medic walked up to the camera again, shifting its view to the left. When he stepped out of the way, a small cage was visible, resting on a desk and holding a very twitchy jackrabbit. The BLU Medic reappeared onscreen, holding a medical tray with two syringes and two small bottles on it.
“Cute bunny,” Heavy chuckled, only to be shushed again by Medic.
“As you can see, ze subject is a wild rabbit I trapped earlier zis morning. He is in good physical condition, and unharmed, zhough a bit spooked.” The BLU Medic snickered as the rabbit paced around his cage, its tiny chest heaving in and out rapidly while it desperately tried to find a way out. The BLU Medic picked up a syringe and one of the bottles, and held the bottle up to the camera. “Zis is a bottle of pentobarbital, commonly used in veterinary euzanasia. Ze subject vill die a quick, painless death within about 30 seconds of administering it to ze subject.” He then plunged the needle through the top of the bottle, and pulled the plunger out as the syringe filled with liquid.
“Poor bunny rabbit,” Heavy sighed. Medic didn’t even bother to silence him this time, as he leaned further forward with keen interest.
The rabbit backed itself into a corner as the BLU Medic leaned over his cage and opened the top hatch. The doctor reached his gloved hand inside, grabbing the animal by the scruff of its neck lifting it out. The rabbit ceased all movement aside from its twitching nose and heaving chest. The BLU smirked as he pressed the rabbit down against the table, slowly and methodically sticking the needle in the animal as it thrashed uselessly against his gloved hand. The plunger on the syringe was pushed down, releasing the barbiturate into the rabbits system, as its struggles gradually slowed. The BLU pulled his needle away, and the rabbit lay on the table, breathing becoming more labored, twitches stopping all together, before it closed its eyes and let out an odd squeak. Satisfied, BLU Medic lifted the animal up again by the scruff of its neck, and shook its body about in the air. The rabbit was dead, its body limp and lifeless. BLU Medic nodded, and set the animals body back on the table.
“And now, ze subject is quite dead. Zis is vhere we administer ze second injection.” The BLU picked up the second syringe off the tray, and held up the second, unmarked bottle. “Zis is a sample of ze viral culture I have been vorking on. So far, I have had quite a bit of success viz restoring dead animal cells viz it, as vell as a few various invertebrates. Zis vill be my first try viz a vertebrate.” He then inserted the needle into the second bottle, pulling the plunger with a subtle smile on his lips. After the syringe was filled to his liking, he pulled out the needle from the bottle and stuck it into the corpse of the rabbit, just under the base of its skull. He pushed the plunger down, now outright grinning in a very disconcerting manner.
“Ze virus should start vorking shortly,” BLU Medic said, not even bothering to mask his excitement. For a few seconds, the rabbit laid perfectly still, limp and dead as before. Then, a few small twitches in its ears, a jerk in its hind leg, violent spasms all over, as the BLU Medic started to giggle maniacally. The rabbit, still shaking, tried to lift itself up, slipping as its limbs snapped and flailed, looking more like the Medic had injected him with cocaine than some sort of life-giving elixir.
Heavy felt queasy watching the little rabbit jerk around like that. There was something sickening and unnatural about it, and even though he didn’t want to say anything to Medic about this, the doctor seemed to pick up on it, giving Heavy’s knee a reassuring squeeze.
“SUCCESS!” The BLU Medic cried out joyously. “I have done it! I have defeated death! Ha!” He picked up the rabbit, which by now was looking a bit more balanced and less like it was having an epileptic seizure, and held it in front of his face. “You, mein little Kaninchen, have done a great service to ze scientific community.” The rabbit responded with an odd, threatening gurgle, a sound that normally would not be expected to come out of a rabbit, before lunging at the BLU and sinking its teeth into the tip of his nose.
The BLU Medic let out a panicked shriek, before yanking the animal off of his face and shoving it back into the cage while cursing in German. He brought his glove up to his face and noticed the blood streaming down, and tried to calmly address the camera again, “It seems zat ze virus has some… unexpected side effects; namely, increased aggression in ze subject und seizure-like convulsions. I shall investigate ze mattah furzer…” He reached a shaky hand up to his temple before walking up to the camera and switching it off.
“I have seen enough, Doktor,” Heavy said flatly before standing up. “This film… is making me feel sick.”
“Very vell zen, Heavy,” Medic said, switching off the camera in consideration for his companion. “Zere is more film on ze reel, if you vant to watch more latah…”
“Nyet, Doktor,” Heavy replied, switching on the lights. “You can vatch alone. Get bad feeling watching this…”
Medic got up from his chair, walked over to his friend and rested his hand on Heavy’s shoulder. “Vhat is wrong, mein Liebe? Zis is unlike you. I have seen you blow men to tiny bits viz Sasha und you start feeling queasy ovah a shaky rabbit?”
The larger man suddenly wrapped his arms around the doctor, hugging closely and tightly, shuddering while he let out a sigh. “Promise me you vill not get bitten, Doktor.”
“Heavy,” Medic seemed to be surprised by this sudden display of affection. “Ah you sure you’re feeling all right?”
“Promise,” Heavy repeated, firmer this time.
“I promise, mein Liebling,” Medic replied, resting his head on Heavy’s broad shoulder, surrendering to the sensation of being surrounded by his lover’s strength and warmth. “I have you to protect me, aftah all.”
“Da,” Heavy said, feeling a little better. Medic was a smart man, and not anywhere near as foolhardy as the BLU Medic was, and although Heavy was not entirely comfortable with keeping Stumpy around, he trusted his Medic. “Just be careful. More careful vhen I am not here.”
“Of course.” Medic kissed Heavy quickly on his lips. “Now, I’m afraid I’m going to be busy going ovah zat folder BLU Medic had left behind. I’m afraid I vill need to be left alone.”
“Anyting I can do to help, Doktor?” Heavy asked.
“Not now. You just make sure none of ze other dummkopfs have gotten zemselves killed or anyzing,” Medic patted the Russian affectionately on his broad chest.
“Okay. See you then,” Heavy scratched the back of Medic’s neck before leaving the doctor to his work. He knew better than to interfere with something this important. He stepped out of the Infirmary and saw Pyro making his way down the hall towards him. “Oh. Hello, Pyro. What is the matter?”
“Huuhh wrrnnuuhh tuurr suuhh Sturrrmmphuur.” Pyro mumbled.
“Doktor is busy right now, little Pyro,” Heavy said, trying to sound like he had actually understood what Pyro had told him. “Vhy, are you hurt?”
Pyro shook his head, “Nurrrhurrmuun. Hurrll crrmm buuhh lurrhurr.” And Pyro turned to leave.
“Hey! Vait!” Heavy grasped Pyro’s shoulder, stopping the much smaller man. “You, ah, are you doing anyting, right now?”
The fire starter cocked his head to the side quizzically, “Whuuhh yuurr murrnn?”
“I am bored,” Heavy said. “Need someting to take mind off of some tings. You play chess?”
“Hurr lurrhurr,” Pyro responded with a nod.
Heavy laughed and patted Pyro on the back hard enough to send the masked man pinwheeling forward. “Good! I need practice. Am not as good as Medic. Come on. Is better than sitting around doing nothing.”
“Furrnn buhh murrr,” Pyro said with a shrug, as the two of them walked together to the rec room.
Stumpy stared up at the ceiling of the sickbay, his milky blue eyes unblinking as he moaned quietly to himself. He was starving, and there were noisy, meaty things all around him, taunting him cruelly by just being out of his reach. He could hear one of them, flipping thought papers, humming to itself and singing softly in words that Stumpy could not understand. That one had been the one that found him, that stuffed him in that bag and dragged him here, only to have him strapped down and stared at by other noisy, meaty things. He could smell the blood coursing through their veins, hear their hearts beating and lungs rising and collapsing and their stomachs churning. Oh, how Stumpy wished he could be feasting on those taut, stringy muscles and squishy organs. But no, here he was, strapped down and unable to move, listening to the noisy, meaty thing in the white coat singing to itself in German. Stumpy let out an agonized, raspy moan.
“Ruhe!” The meaty thing in the white coat shouted at him from the other room. Stumpy had no idea what this meant, but the way it was said made him stop his moaning. The meaty things could be scary, sometimes, and Stumpy had seen what they had done to the others.
The zombified Scout stayed quiet for a few more minutes, but the sounds coming from the meaty thing in the other room drove him mad, and he started to groan again. He could hear something slamming down against a table, and then swift footsteps, boots clicking across the floor louder and louder as the meaty thing got closer. Stumpy started to drool like Pavlov’s dog, squirming under his restraints with excitement as Medic opened the door.
“Vhat do you vant, hmmm?” The doctor leaned over the BLU Scout, arms behind his back. “You vant to bite me, ja? Eat me und spread zat horrible little virus zat BLU Medic concocted? Is zat it?” Stumpy gnashed his teeth and tried to pull his head up high enough to bite Medic, though his efforts were fruitless. The doctor merely continued to observe his subject, as Stumpy eventually figured out that he simply could not reach his tormentor, and stopped, but not without making more guttural grunts and snarls.
Medic laughed. “Fascinating. So single-minded, you ah, little Scout. Hold on just a moment, I shall be right back. Do not go anyvhere, now!” He turned and left, chuckling to himself over his own joke, as Stumpy struggled weakly against his bonds.
Stumpy didn’t remember much of what it was like not being like this. Staring at the ceiling, with an empty stomach that was already poking out of the huge gash on his abdomen, he could see images flash briefly in his rotting, decaying mind. Running, double-jumping, carrying things from one place to another, hitting things with a…what was that word? Bonk? Hitting things with a bonk and making throat noises like meaty things made. But these memories were fading, like old black and white photographs left in the rain, muddied and splotchy and hard to make out, and all he wanted now was meat.
He wasn’t sure how long it had been when the sound of footsteps and humming could be heard again, but it had felt like hours. Stumpy again started to thrash excitedly against the straps again, and Medic came through the door holding something wet and red and delicious.
It was meat!
The doctor looked down upon Stumpy with a smirk as the Scout salivated and panted hungrily, snapping his jaws. “Vell, vell, vell, somevone has an appetite, don’t zey?” Medic cooed, dangling a strip of raw bacon above his subjects head before dropping it down his gullet. Stumpy chomped down eagerly, making wet smacking noises as he chewed with all the table manners of a ravenous wolf. “Interesting zat ze virus vould make its victims have an insatiable hunger for ze flesh, isn’t it? Certainly a very effective mezhod of shpreading ze disease.” He dropped another strip of bacon into Stumpy’s mouth, careful not to get his fingers close enough for the Scout to bite. “I may have to request for ze supply train to bring more food for you, ja?”
If Stumpy could talk, he probably would have agreed with this. Although this meat wasn’t as good as the living, breathing meaty things he wanted to sink his teeth into, it was still better than the horrible ache of starvation. As long as Medic was feeding him, he felt no inclination to bite the doctor’s fingers, as delicious as they looked. The last of the strips of bacon was dropped into his maw, and the doctor straightened up to observe his subject for a moment. Stumpy swallowed the last of his meal, and licked his sticky, blood-stained lips. For a few brief, fleeting moments, he seemed to be content, almost docile. He looked up at Medic and groaned pathetically, opening his mouth wide like a baby bird expecting a worm.
“Ach! You greedy little monstah! Zat is all you get for now. Ze ozzahs vill not be pleased to know zat zeir breakfast vent to feeding you.” Medic shook his head. “Perhaps, if you ah quiet, I may get somezing else for you latah zis evening. Sound good?” The subject merely made a sound that suggested confusion and disappointment. “So glad you undahstand,” the doctor said, and then left the sickbay to return to his work.
Stumpy felt like he was starving all over again. The fact that there were bits of partially-digested meat seeping out of his stomach wall may have had something to do with this. Oh, curse that white-coated meaty thing that sang in German and didn’t feed him meat all the time! How could he leave him like this, staring up at the ceiling, starving, and being forced to listen to him singing to himself yet again?
He wondered what Medic tasted like before starting to groan again softly.
Scout was hooking up the brand new television he had jacked from the BLU base, and he made no effort to mask his excitement, though Pyro and Heavy seemed largely indifferent to this as they played chess in the corner.
“I can’t believe it. BLU team had a color TV all this time, and we didn’t even know!” Scout was saying this more to himself than his teammates, although he was hoping that talking loud enough would at least get their attention. “Hey Pyro, I bet you’ll like watchin’ that Star Trek show in color, right?”
Pyro looked up from the chess board. “Hrrss prrhhurr currr, hiir grrsshh.” Pyro said with a shrug.
“Check,” Heavy said quietly.
“Aw, c’mon, Mumbles, this is a big deal!” Scout switched on the set’s dial and was greeted with a commercial for laundry detergent, garbled with static. “Jesus, fuckin’ reception out here is terrible.”
“Doktor says too much television rots brain,” Heavy warned Scout, as Pyro contemplated his next move. “Ve only really vatch news.”
“Yeah, real surprise coming from Medic over there,” Scout said, rolling his eyes as he fiddled with the rabbit ears. “Man, do you really do everything that guy says, or what?”
“Not everyting,” Heavy said, feeling a little defensive about what Scout was implying.
“Yeah, right,” Scout managed to put the antennae on the television in just the right position to get eliminate the snow on screen. “Everybody knows you’re Medic’s bitch, it’s not even worth the effort to hide it.”
Heavy turned around, “I am Medic’s vhat?”
“His bitch, dude,” Scout flipped to the second channel, only to see another commercial for cigarettes. “You’ll pretty much do anything he says no matter what it is, an’ he can order you around ta do whatever an’ you won’t care because you’re…y’know, queer for him.”
“Is not true,” Heavy huffed. “I think tiny man should keep his mouth closed before he says anything stupid.”
“Fine, dude, just makin’ an observation, Jesus,” Scout shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Fuck, nothin’s on, just a bunch ‘a commercials.”
“Yrrr mrrff,” Pyro mumbled.
“Vhat? Oh,” Heavy turned back to the board, only to find Pyro had captured one of his pawns. The Russian stared at the board, brow furrowed in deep thought, as his eyes scanned the board for his next move.
Scout managed to finally land on an episode of Hogan’s Heroes. For a brief few minutes, there was quiet in the room, with only the sound of chess pieces scuffing and clacking on a board, the drone of the television, and the occasional chuckle from Scout. It was a rare moment in RED base, for this sort of peace to take hold for any period of time. So when Demoman and Sniper came in the rec room together in the middle of a heated debate, it almost seemed like they were late for their cue.
“I mean, fer Christ’s sake, it’s my bloody profession. I can tell you fer sure that th’ shot that killed JFK certainly didn’t come from no bloody ‘grassy knoll’.”
“Oh, aye? So sure abou’ that, are ye? Ye ever been t’ Houston, then?”
“Dallas, Demo. He was assassinated in Dallas. Honestly, how the hell are you supposed to have any sort of integrity in this argument if ya can’t even get th’ name a’ th’ bloody city right?”
“Same difference. I’m drunk. Wot’s yer excuse?”
“Well, ya’d hafta be pissed out a’ yer mind in order t’ believe that bollocks.”
“Ye know wot I think? It was prolly Nixon who had th’ whole thing set up.”
“Oh, fer fuck’s sake-“
“Man’s like a slimy, belly-crawlin’ bilge rat. Can’t trust ‘im as far as ye can throw ‘im. Had t’ git ole’ Jack ou’ of th’ way t’ prove a point ‘fore he could run fer President.”
“‘Ey, d’ya mind? I’m watchin’ TV, here!” Scout barked, sprawled out on the couch like a doll that had been tossed there haphazardly.
“Never thought I vould be glad to hear Scout talking,” Heavy grumbled.
Sniper merely grunted in response, before rounding the sofa and flopping down on the end. Demoman peered over, noting that with Sniper taking up only the very end, Scout pretty much occupied the rest of the couch, leaving no room for him to sit.
“Oi, Scoot,” Demoman prodded the younger man in the head. “When’s Batman come on again?”
“They canceled it a couple a’ months ago, dude,” Scout said flatly. “I thought I already told you.”
“Wot? Ach, th’ nerve a’ ‘em! Why’d they go an’ do that?”
“They got rid a’ Robin, dude, show was going downhill anyway. Never understood why you liked it so much. The comics’re better.”
“Th’ comics donnae have Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.”
“Psssh, whatever,” Scout said, rolling his eyes.
“Doan’ ‘wha’ever’ that lassie, Scoot. Any woman with a voice like that an’ had th’ nerve tae tell Lady Bird Johnson tae ‘er face wot she thought o’ th’ war in Vietnam s’a right goddess.”
“She does have a sexy voice,” Sniper chimed in, only really half paying attention to the conversation.
“Exactly! Thank ye, Sniper,” Demoman seemed to gloat in this tiny victory over Scout.
“Nowhere near as hot as Jeannie,” Scout said.
“Pheh! That genie? Like I need a’ woman wi’ no spine who’ll jest do wha’ever ye say. S’a fun in that? S’borin’!”
“Dude, I’m just talking about, hot to look at, not like her fuckin’ personality or shit like that.” Scout turned to Sniper, “What about you, man?”
“Wot about wot?” Sniper had tuned out.
“I don’t know, who d’you think is really hot? You got the hots for anybody in particular, or what?”
“What, y’mean someone famous?”
“Yeah, man. C’mon, Demo an’ I already told.”
Sniper cleared his throat, looking a little embarrassed, “Well, I, uh…ya promise not to laugh at me or anythin’?”
“Jes’ spit it out, ye bastard,” Demoman said impatiently.
“Fine.” Sniper looked down at his boot and mumbled, “Grace Slick. From Jefferson Airplane.”
“That hippie chick?” Scout looked at Sniper incredulously.
“You said you wouldn’t laugh or anything!” said Sniper defensively.
“I’m not laughin’, I’m just…that’s kinda weird, man,” Scout said.
“Ach! Leave th’ man be. Personally, I fin’ yer taste in women t’ be borin’,” Demoman huffed.
“Screw you, man,” Scout shifted on the couch, peering over at Pyro and Heavy. “‘ey, Pyro! What about you, man? You got the hots for anybody?”
Pyro looked up from the chess board a moment, then rested his chin in his palm and looked up at the ceiling in thought, humming. “Nusshhlll Nurrkkhrrlls.” He finally answered.
“Who?” Scout raised an eyebrow.
“Urrhhrruuuhh frrmm Sturrr Trrkk.”
“I think he said somethin’ about Star Trek, mate,” Sniper said with a shrug.
“Clrrsshh nnuuff,” Pyro said with a shrug.
“Vas so nice and quiet earlier,” Heavy sighed, watching as Pyro captured another pawn of his helplessly.
“Yeah, you’re not really interested in girls, are ya?” Scout said snarkily.
“Ah, lay off o’ him, lad,” Demoman turned to Heavy. “Pay no mind t’ th’ wee brat. Yer prolly blessed bein’ able t’ have Medic aroun’, really.”
Heavy smiled a little, “Is okay. Tank you, Demoman.” He picked up his rook cautiously, before placing it down at Pyro’s mercy. “I used to be married, long time ago.”
“Whoa, seriously?” Scout was now sitting up straight, peering back towards the Russian with piqued interest. “Like, to a girl?”
“Of course, to a girl!” Heavy snapped. “Do not be stupid.”
Scout recoiled a bit. He bit his lip nervously. “So, what happened?”
“She left,” Heavy grunted. “Do not really feel like talking about it. Long time ago. But I have Doktor now. Is all that matters.”
“Oh,” Scout slumped back down in his seat, more than a little disappointed.
“Chrrrkmrrrt,” Pyro announced happily.
“Bah! I tought you say you vere not good at this game,” Heavy threw up his arms in frustration.
“Hrrmm burrturr thurrrn yrrr, apprrnnttrruuh,” Pyro said with a devious tone.
“You vant to play again, maybe?” asked Heavy.
“Nurrhh ffnnks. Hrr guuhhuhh grr sturr drrnnrrr.” Pyro scooted his chair back and waddled off to the door. He turned back to Heavy and waved, “Srrr yuuhh.”
“See you,” Heavy said, waving back dejectedly. He turned back to the board, arranging the pieces back in their starting positions. Heavy had only picked up chess within the past year, mostly because it was Medic that taught him how to play. Medic was seemingly unbeatable at the game, with only Spy coming close to winning over him. Medic had once challenged Engineer, but the Texan bashfully admitted that he had never played before, and that he was much more of a checkers man. Heavy remembered how the doctor seemed to take offense to this. “A man of such great intellect und he spends his time playing checkers!” Medic had said with disgust. A smile tugged at Heavy’s lips as he remembered this.
“‘Allo, Monsieur Meat-Shield.”
The Russian didn’t even flinch. It was obvious that Spy was trying to startle him by sneaking up on him, but Heavy was not as skittish as his other teammates. “Vhat do you vant, Spy?”
“Oh, nozzing much,” Spy leaned over the larger man’s shoulder. “Fancy a game of chess, comrade?”
“Vas just leaving,” Heavy replied, not even bothering to mask his dislike of the Frenchman as he sat up from his chair. “Going to check in on Doktor.”
“Just as well, I suppose,” Spy smirked. “Never much of a challenge, really, playing against you.”
Heavy merely snorted in contempt, shuffling out of the room as Spy watched him with a smug expression on his face.
“Hey, Spy,” Scout chirped. “We were talkin’ about girls earlier. You got the hots for anybody famous or anything?”
Spy laughed, “Oh, little man, how childish of you to ask such a zing. I do not ‘ave any crushes on any ladies. Ze ladies, zey all have crushes on me.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Scout rolled his eyes. “Gimme a break, already.”
Dinner that evening was quieter than most in RED Base. Pyro, as usual, took his plate back to his room, since eating with the others would mean exposing his face. Everyone else dug into their meal of steak and mashed potatoes with gravy, a meal that would not have been possible for them to have were it not for the last-minute raiding of BLU’s pantry and freezer the previous day; otherwise, they’d probably be stuck with another stew of whatever Pyro could find.
Medic could feel the occasional sideways glance cast in his direction. His teammates still seemed wary about his latest specimen. He noticed how most of them ate with all the grace and poise of a pack of hyenas tearing into a gazelle carcass, and couldn’t help but think of the parallel between them and the BLU Scout strapped to a gurney down in the sick bay. Quite frankly, it was making him lose his appetite.
Demoman had thoroughly cleaned his plate, before standing up to clear his throat. His teammates stopped what they were doing and looked up at him. Sniper was the only one who didn’t seem to pay the Scotsman any mind.
“Lads, ‘m sorry tae bring this up now, while we’re eatin’, but pretty much all o’ us are in th’ same place, an’ it seems tae me tae be as good a time as any tae come ou’ an’ say this.” He paused dramatically while the others exchanged quizzical glances. “One o’ th’ BLUs escaped ou’ innea desert yesterday.”
“WHAT?” Scout screeched. “Are you shittin’ me, man? When were you plannin’ on tellin’ us?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure iff’n Medic was goin’ tae tell ye right away.”
“I vas going to vait for a more convenient time,” Medic said, poking at his meal and not even bothering to look up. “I did not vant to cause any unnecessary panic.”
“Wait, whoa, how do you guys even know about this?” It was obvious from Scout’s tone that any attempts not to spread panic had failed miserably.
“There was a hole cut innea fence near th’ BLU base. T’was a bit o’ blue cloth caught on there. Th’ BLU Spy was th’ one who got away.”
The silence that fell over the table was thick and tense. RED Team was all too familiar with just how devious the BLU Spy was. The enemy Spy must have backstabbed everyone on RED team at least a dozen times, even their own Spy. And while the BLUs in general had been difficult for RED to deal with, their Spy was easily the most frustrating and unpredictable of all of them. He was the BLUs’ wildcard, and to hear that out of all the BLU team members, he was the one to get away, well…it figured.
“So, what’re we supposed t’ do, Demo?” Engineer asked sheepishly.
“Fence is gonnae hafta be fixed. I’m sure you could take care o’ that, Engie. But besides that, we’ll hafta prepare for th’ worst. Sniper ‘n’ I are holdin’ a meetin’ on ‘ow tae best deal wi’ th’ zombies back in me quarters-“
Demoman was cut off by Medic’s balled-up fist slamming down viciously onto the table, visibly jarring everyone else in the room. Medic slowly retracted his hand back to feebly picking at his dinner, the rest of the meal was eaten in silence. The only interruption seemed to be from Engineer, who complained about feeling woozy after he had finished, which elicited a snicker from Soldier and a narrow-eyed glance from Medic. One by one the members of RED got up and left the table, some of them remembering to at least put their dishes in the sink inside the kitchen, until only Heavy and Medic were left sitting at the table. Heavy had long finished his meal, but he sat patiently beside the doctor.
“Are you feeling vell, Doktor?” Heavy asked.
“I’ll be fine, Heavy. I just have many zings on my mind,” Medic sighed. “You go.”
Heavy stood up and collected the dishes that had been left behind, the clinking of silverware being the only sound in the room. He cast a glance back to Medic. “Doktor?”
“Ja, mein Liebe?”
“I’ll be vaiting for you in Infirmary.”
Medic smiled in spite of himself, “Danke, Heavy.”
The Russian smiled at Medic reassuringly, and retreated into the kitchen to start on the dishes. The Doctor merely stared at his plate, the thought of feeding his leftovers to his test subject flickering into his mind. He forced himself, however, to choke down a few more mouthfuls. Not that the food tasted bad; it was palatable, though it had gotten a bit cold. He simply felt as if his stomach wouldn’t be able to keep it down. After a few more unsatisfying bites, Medic got up and snuck off back to the infirmary, plate in hand, hoping that Stumpy would be grateful for another meal.
The BLU Spy had eaten about a half a dozen lizards, two jackrabbits, another vulture and had bitten one particularly unlucky coyote, but he was still starving, despite his stomach being nearly full to bursting. The hunger he felt was one less driven by his stomach than by his brain. The sun had set and the desert was alive with more potential meals, though most of them seemed to wise up to the shambling dead thing that would lunge at anything that got too close. BLU Spy had been headed in the same direction, having walked since early that morning.
Eventually, he came across a lonely highway, devoid of any cars or lights to illuminate it. In the back of his mind, Spy vaguely made the connection that following this road would take him to more meat. He shuffled forward, his stomach bulging through his jacket uncomfortably and his eyes glittering with bloodlust. By the time he was actually standing on the asphalt, he noticed a pair of shining twin lights, and the hum of a running engine. He tilted his head in curiosity, standing and staring blankly as they grew bigger and brighter, and the sound of a blaring truck horn rang in his ears. Spy grunted angrily, moving closer and snarling at the thing challenging him. The truck screeched to a halt a few feet shy of the Spy, the headlights by now so bright and close they were blinding. The driver leaned out the driver’s seat window. “THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, BOY? ARE YOU ON DRUGS?” The man shouted angrily.
It was just then that Spy realized that this loud, bright thing was being controlled by meat. He followed the sound of the screaming, already starting to drool and lick his sticky, bloodstained lips.
“Oh, what, you want a ride? Look, you crazy junkie son of a bitch, I don’t give rides to people like you. You can wait for some other unlucky bastard to give you a lift.” The man scoffed, his plump, fleshy arm dangling from the open window. And that was all Spy needed.
The driver certainly didn’t expect this man in a blue ski mask and three-piece suit to leap up and sink his teeth deep into his arm and start climbing up it like a rope. Whatever drugs this whacko was on made him alarmingly strong. The driver tried to beat away at his assailant with his fists while screaming in sheer panic. He tried to roll up the window in vain, only to have his attacker shove himself into the cab and sink his teeth into the driver’s jugular.
The truck started to roll forward as the driver released his foot from the brake. Spy was dully aware of this, pulling the gurgling, meaty thing out through the window while taking more bites out of his neck. He pulled his prize out before dropping it unceremoniously onto the sidewalk, listening to bone crunch as it met the asphalt. Spy then hopped down and tore back into his meal, as the truck slowly started to lurch forward, its engine still humming and its lights still piercing through the darkness. BLU Spy didn’t pay it much mind, though. He got all that he wanted from the truck. And as his stomach ruptured internally from being so full of meat that his body was physically unable to digest anymore, all Spy could think of was how much better human meat tasted than lizards or rabbits or vultures, and how he was going to go about getting even more.
Sniper had never really been in Demoman’s room, or any of his other teammates’ rooms, for that matter. He was standing just outside the door, his knuckles hovering over it before rapping quietly.
“S’open, mate, let yerself in,” Demoman answered.
As he opened the door the first thing he noticed was the large Scottish flag draped on the wall, curving downwards under its own weight and spilling its bottom edge over stacks of magazines and paperbacks on Demoman’s desk. Tabloid clippings about UFOs, ghost-sightings, and monsters were tacked up all over the wall, broken up by the occasional pin-up. Empty bottles had accumulated in one corner of the room, and were guarding an overflowing trashcan filled to the brim with balled-up sheets of paper. Demoman himself had somehow gotten a hold of the chalkboard Soldier was fond of using during planning sessions, and was setting up a small number of wooden crates on the floor. “Good t’ see ya, laddie! Hopefully some o’ th’ others’ll be on their way inna moment.”
“I hope so,” Sniper closed the door behind him with a muted click. “I’d feel right bloody stupid if I was the only one t’ show up fer this.”
“Aye. But I got a good feelin’ about this,” Demoman seemed to be almost…chipper, like the prospect of holding any sort of meeting where he could make plans excited him. At least he was in a good mood, Sniper thought. If he had managed to shoot the BLU Spy, they wouldn’t be in this mess. “Ye feelin’ all righ’ there, Sniper?”
“‘M fine, mate, don’t worry about it.” Sniper sat down on one of the boxes on the floor, visibly slumping as he rested his elbows right above his knees.
Demoman walked over to the Sniper and patted him on the back, though to Sniper is felt more like a swat, and he nearly fell off his crate. “Lissen, mate. Ye did th’ best ye could. Donnae beat yerself up o’er it, t’won’t do ye any good.”
“Thanks, Demo,” Sniper straightened himself up a bit, trying to recover from the friendly blow dealt by the Scotsman in a manner as graceful as possible. He tried to crack a smile, but it faltered on his lips. His pride as a professional would never fully recover from this. Maybe getting completely shitfaced like Demo was at any given time would not be such a terrible idea.
There was another knock at the door, this one to the tune of “Shave and a Haircut.” Demoman whirled around eagerly, practically galloping to the door, gripping the knob and pulling it back, to see Scout and Spy standing in the frame.
“Hey, man. You still holdin’ your meeting?” Scout asked, standing on one foot as the other was rubbed against his calf.
“O’ course! C’mon in, ‘ave a seat,” Demoman ushered the two of them in. Spy was making sure to keep a healthy distance between him and the Scotsman. Scout eagerly plopped himself down on one of the wooden crates, and Spy just slunk off into a corner and propped himself against the wall, taking out a fresh cigarette and lighting it nonchalantly.
“Well,” Demoman started, “We should prolly wait fer anyone else tae show up before-“
“Zey are not coming,” Spy said flatly, cigarette dangling from his lip as he slipped his lighter back into his pocket. “Engineer ‘as passed out in ‘is room, Soldier is off somewhere talking to ‘imself, Heavy and Medic are in ze infirmary, and Star Trek is on tonight, so Pyro obviously will not be making an appearance. Zis is everyone.”
“What’re you doin’ ‘ere anyway?” Sniper asked Spy incredulously. “I thought you dinnit’ care about this sort of thing.”
Spy took a long drag on his cigarette before blowing smoke through his nostrils. “I was bored, and I needed some entertainment.”
“Ah,” Demoman’s vigor was already starting to drain from him. “An’ wot abou’ you, Scoot?”
“I wanna bash some fuckin’ zombie heads in, man!” Scout puffed out his chest. “You just tell me what I gotta do, I’ll fuckin’ do it.”
As quickly as it had faded, Demoman’s excitement returned back to him, as he laughed heartily. “Tha’s th’ spirit, laddie! Glad tae have ye here wi’ us!”
“So, if you do not mind me asking, what exactly is your plan for ze inevitable zombie uprising?” Spy asked in a sardonic tone, blowing smoke rings into the air. “Ze orders from ze Announcer were not to leave RED Base.”
“Then we’re jes’ gonnae hafta make sure tha’ if there is a zombie uprisin’, we survive.” Demoman definitely knew that Spy was making fun of him, but he chose to ignore it, turning to the chalk board and scrawling quickly jotting bullet points on its surface. “We’re gonnae need tae be able to survive, fortified, wi’ th’ possibility o’ no trains comin’ in. Convince HQ tae send us a surplus o’ supplies. We’ll need tae increase defenses, make sure they cannae find a way in, kill ‘em off while conserving as much ammo as possible.”
“You are serious about all of zis, aren’t you?” Spy observed.
“Are ye bloody daft? O’ course I’m bloody serious!” Demoman stared at Spy as if he had just grown a second pair of arms. “Why, ye think this is all a big joke?”
“If I recall correctly, only one of ze BLUs escaped,” Spy said coolly. “One. In a desert. Not in a populated area or anyzing. If ze heat doesn’t get ‘im, ze starvation will.”
“Th’ only way ye can kill a zombie is removin’ th’ head or destroyin’ th’ brain,” Demoman said firmly, shaking a stick of chalk at his teammate. “Unless somebody out innae desert is gonnae lop th’ bastards ‘ead off, he’ll be out there indefinitely, bitin’ anythin’ he can come across.”
“Zat would be assuming that BLU Spy is a zombie. I do not know about you, my inebriated friend, but I do not believe in such foolishness. Zey are like bloodthirsty lepers, nozzing more.”
“Oh, fer Christ’s sake, I know a bloody zombie when I see one! Hell, ye got closer tae ‘em than I did, yer in feckin’ denial.”
Spy had only just noticed Scout’s head whipping back and forth between Demoman and himself, making the young man look like a dog watching a tennis match. The Frenchman couldn’t help but smirk. “I am merely being rational here, unlike you. Given zat you ‘ave a track record for being prone to believing in…shall we say, sensational zheories about ze world around you.” Spy yanked a tabloid clipping off the wall, scanning it with a smarmy expression, “Proof zat Marilyn Monroe was killed by ze CIA? Oh, my…”
“Oi!” Sniper finally interjected. “Look, like I said before, regardless of whatever other crazy conspiracy theories that Demo takes stock in, it don’t mean he doesn’t have a point about this.”
“Sniper, as always, you wear your intentions on your sleeve,” Spy gritted his cigarette between his teeth and grinned a toothy, Cheshire Cat grin.
“Wot’s that supposed t’ mean?” Sniper asked, his confidence visibly slipping.
“You missed ze BLU Spy, didn’t you?” Spy took some mild pleasure in the assassin wincing at this statement. “You saw ‘im, and you shot at ‘im, but you missed. Because of zis, you overcompensate by joining forces against an invasion that will not ‘appen wiz a delusional, drunken Cyclops and a young man wiz ze mental capacity of a boy ten years his junior.” Now Scout’s face was turning bright scarlet, Demoman was glowering, and Spy could not have been more pleased. “You man-children ‘ave fun playing cowboys and zombies out in ze desert, waiting for ze invasion zat will never come.”
Nobody said anything for a while. Sniper merely slumped in his seat, removing his hat and running his hand through his hair, trying to look as nonchalant as possible and failing miserably. Demoman merely stood, arms crossed, letting out a low growl as he gave Spy the Evil Eye. Scout, however, couldn’t take much more of this verbal abuse, “Ya know what, Spy? Fuck you. Is that seriously the only reason you came here? Ta make fun of us?”
“Mostly,” Spy confessed with a snicker. “But someone has to warn you idiots zat you are just wasting your time fretting over one sickly Spy.”
“One’s all it takes,” Demoman said ominously. “An’ when th’ hoardes o’ th’ livin’ dead are gnawin’ at yer bones and rippin’ through yer flesh, jes’ don’ say I dinnit’ warn ye.”
Scout gulped in a loud, cartoonish manner. Sniper, too, had to suppress a shudder; he hated it when Demoman would get all creepy like that, the way his voice would get all deep and husky and that accent only made it worse. Even Spy seemed to be a little uncomfortable now.
Down the hall, strains of Beethoven started to filter through the walls. The record player in Medic’s infirmary had been started up, and Spy took this as his cue to leave. “Good luck wiz your endeavors, Gentlemen, as fruitless as zey may prove to be. I bid you farewell.” To avoid having to deal with any further backtalk, Spy cloaked slipped out of the room, disappearing in a red fog.
“Whatta fuckin’ asshole,” Scout sneered. “Fuckin’ frog son of a bitch. We’ll show him!”
“Donnae worry yerself abou’ it, Scoot,” Demoman sighed. “Tha’s jes’ how Spy is.”
“An’ yer just gonna take that shit from him?” Scout stood up from his crate. “You could deck that French fry easy! C’mon, the guy’s a fuckin’ pansy!”
“An’ wot would tha’ prove, exactly?” Demoman asked. “Wouldn’t prove anythin’. Let ‘im laugh at us. He’ll stop laughin’ when he’s proved wrong, tha’s fer bloody sure.”
“Wot if he’s right, mate?” Sniper asked, staring at the floor between his boots. “Wot if we are just worryin’ about nothin’?”
“Well, then, that’s jes’ it. We’ll ‘ave nothin’ tae worry aboot. Ne’er ‘urts tae be prepared, lad. Fer now, we’ll jes’ try an’ fix th’ fence an’ keep an eye out fer anythin’ weird.”
“Right,” Scout looked pensive for once, before scuffing his feet on the floor and kicking aside one of the crates on the floor. “Uh, hey, look, I’m gonna split. I don’t wanna stick around much longer after Medic puts a record on…”
“S’alright, Scoot, ye go on. Sniper, ye should prolly get goin’ too,” Demoman turned back to the chalkboard, picked up an eraser and rubbed it over the board with a fluid sweep of his arm. “Pickin’ the room closest tae th’ infirmary seemed like a good idea at the time…” he grumbled, mostly to himself.
“Well, see ya around, Demo,” Scout waved before walking out the room, starting to whistle “Get Off My Cloud” as he went.
Sniper grunted, pushing himself up off his crate. “Ya gonna be okay, Demo?” he asked.
“I’ll live,” Demoman said. “I’ve had tae try an’ sleep through Medic screamin’ like a goddamn banshee before, I can do it again.”
“Not…that’s not wot I meant, mate,” Sniper cleared his throat.
“Ach, Spy’s fulla it. Like I’m gonnae take any stock in what ‘e says,” Demoman already seemed to be bouncing back to the more buoyant mood he was in earlier. “‘Least you an’ Scoot lissen tae me, right?”
“We do when ya make sense.” Sniper started to head towards the door, then stopped and pivoted around, “Oi, Demo. Ya ever been up on the roof?”
“No’ really,” Demoman answered with a shrug. “Why?”
“I figured maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea just t’ sit on th’ roof, knock back a few beers, get outta earshot a’ those two. I got a portable radio, too. Ya up for it?”
Demoman beamed. “Be glad to. As long as ye got booze aroun’, ye donnae hafta ask twice.”
It was dark in the sick bay now. Stumpy could not see very well in the dark. Actually, he had the feeling that his vision had deteriorated somehow, but he was too hungry to ponder why that was. The Meaty Thing in the White Coat had given him had given him some meat, but it wasn’t as good as the raw bacon he had earlier. This meat was cooked, and while it was certainly edible, it was not very satisfying. The doctor had turned off the light, perhaps in an effort to see if his patient would go to sleep. But Stumpy didn’t sleep. He just listened to the noises that the meat made.
The Meaty Thing in the White Coat and the Big Scary Meaty Thing were talking to each other. Stumpy couldn’t hear what they were talking about, nor would he be able to understand most of it anyway. They started to talk less and less and the noises they made sounded more understandable. Guttural grunts and moans, wet smacking noises, unfortunately broken up by the occasional words or soft laughter. Stumpy wondered if they were eating each other. It certainly sounded like they were. He couldn’t help but feel jealous, since they didn’t seem to be saving anything for him.
There was a record crackle, and music started playing. The BLU Scout wasn’t sure why, but he felt soothed by it, his hunger subsiding a bit. He actually managed to close his eyes for the first time in almost two days. And then the noises started again.
The sounds the meaty things were making were louder, as the Meaty Thing in the White Coat was groaning and grunting in a way that sounded like he was one of them. But then he would start gasping out words again, and the illusion was shattered. A smarter creature might have caught onto this, but every time the doctor started to moan, Stumpy thought that he had turned. And after a few minutes of listening, the BLU Scout decided to answer him by grunting back at him.
The Doctor’s voice, however, got higher and louder, surprising Stumpy. Now he was making ragged panting and gasping noises, and occasionally letting out a high-pitched whines. Stumpy wasn’t sure how to respond to these noises, they were entirely new. He decided to let out another rattling cry from his throat, louder this time, so that he could be heard. The doctor let out a string of foreign words that were loud and breathy, and now the Big Scary Meaty Thing was making the familiar-sounding grunting noises. The BLU Scout kept calling out back to him.
As the chorus swelled on the record player and the doctor grew louder and more delirious, screaming now. Stumpy couldn’t stand much more of this, letting out a throaty, angry bellow.
The sounds subsided for a bit, the creaking of bedsprings halting. The Meaty Thing in the White Coat’s breathing started to calm a bit, “Ach, ze subject…Heavy…”
“SHUT UP, LITTLE SCOUT, OR I BREAK YOUR SPINE!” Heavy roared.
Stumpy recoiled a bit. He couldn’t understand the threat, but he still had some very basic instinct of self-preservation, and remained silent. He was still so hungry, so very hungry, but the meaty things were ignoring him, making strange noises and getting mad at him for answering them back. Meaty Thing in the White Coat and Big Scary Meaty Thing went back to making those noises again once they seemed satisfied with Stumpy’s silence. If he remembered how, the BLU Scout might have cried. He didn’t want to be in the dark, hungry and ignored. He felt something strange inside him, something that wasn’t hunger, some feeling he used to feel long ago but he couldn’t remember the word for it. What was that word, the word that meant that he wanted somebody in that room with him? Even if it was just Medic looking over him coolly with a clipboard in hand, taking notes, not letting Stumpy bite him or anything; that would be better than this. Then he remembered the word he was looking for with a dull epiphany.
He was lonely.
The stars were spilled across the inky blue canvas of the night sky like a jar of glitter, with the moon fully pregnant and threatening to outshine them. The sound of Sniper’s radio playing tinny strains of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” intermingled with the occasional howl of a lonely coyote or a hoot of an owl. Soldier didn’t really soak up the atmosphere of the desert at night. He and Shovel were on a mission. One of the BLUs escaped, and nobody seemed to care much beyond the fact that he might spread that disease. Their misplaced priorities were no doubt caused by their scheming Medic. He had told this to Shovel, who listened patiently to him, although oddly indifferent to his theory.
Going to investigate the fence, are we? asked Shovel.
“If I could, Shovel, I would hunt down that BLU sonuvabitch and utterly destroy him. Make his corpse so unrecognizable they’d have to identify him by his dental records.” He snorted, “Unfortunately, I doubt I’d be able to catch up with him at this point. That, and if I left, the others might suspect something. Or they might say I was trying to make a run for it. I got a reputation to maintain, Shovel, I can’t let any of them think that for a second.”
So, what’s your plan?
Soldier wrung Shovel’s handle uncomfortably, “I, uh…I don’t actually have one yet. I’m working on it.”
Shovel laughed. You really think the BLU Spy is your main concern right now?
“Look, Shovel, I know you want me to stay focused on Medic, but goddammit, I was sent out here and paid to fight BLUs. And I’ll feel a hell of a lot better if I can do something, anything, about this BLU Spy.” He continued walking along the fence that separated 2fort from the rest of the desert, his eyes scanning the naked train tracks. He tilted his helmet up to get a better view. “Nearest outpost is about six miles. Doubt BLU Spy made it that far, but there’s also a highway that’s a bit closer. He might’ve been able to have hitchhiked father away, and that’s assuming he’s not dead or he’s wound up like that BLU Scout.”
If that’s the case, then he’d either be officially dead or AWOL, making him no longer our concern anyway. Pursuing this is useless.
“I don’t want to be inside the base anyway. I can hear Medic and Heavy from my room.” His grip on Shovel’s handle tightened, “It’s disgusting.”
You’re preaching to the choir here, Soldier, Shovel said with a chuckle. Although, your teammates don’t seem to care about that much, do they?
“They just gave up. People can get used to anything, Shovel, and that’s a terrible way to live. Spy might be queer, too. Maybe just half-queer. Hell, I think that bastard would stick his dick into anything on two legs.”
Well, he is French.
Soldier snorted, trying to suppress his laughter. He was within earshot of Sniper and Demoman, who were on the roof, talking and listening to that goddamned hippie music Sniper was so fond of. He didn’t want them eavesdropping on his conversation with Shovel. Soldier didn’t completely trust them. He wanted to, since they were a team and all, but quite frankly, neither Sniper nor Demo would be fully deserving of Soldier’s respect, and it all really boiled down to the fact that neither of them were American, and because of that, they’d never be able to fully understand him. Maybe if they became citizens, became assimilated, then they’d understand.
What’s on your mind, Soldier?
“Quiet, Shovel, they’ll hear you,” Soldier hissed, trying to skulk past their view.
He winced as Sniper called down to him, turning his head up to the Australian waved down to him. He hated that nickname. Sniper probably knew that, but called him by it anyway.
“What’re ye up to, lad?” Demo shouted down, pointing at him with the rim of his bottle.
“That’s classified information, Private!” Soldier barked back. “Mind your own business.”
“Ah, c’mon, Solly, don’t be such a square,” Sniper put a lot of emphasis on this last word, knowing full well that Soldier could be set off by anything he perceived as “hippie-beatnik talk.” “C’mon up an’ have a beer. Y’could always stand t’ unwind a bit.”
Sniper’s offer was…tempting. Most of the other team members didn’t really choose to socialize with Soldier, with the sole exception being Scout, who liked to chat up everyone. Really, Sniper and Demo weren’t bad people, just…misguided. Going up for a few beers couldn’t hurt.
You don’t have time to waste, Soldier, Shovel reminded him gravely. We’ve got work to do.
“Sorry, men, but I’ve got other obligations.” Soldier straightened up and puffed his chest out, giving a sharp salute, “I’ll see you maggots later.” And he marched away, leaning Shovel against his shoulder like a rifle as he moved like wind-up tin soldier.
We can’t afford to get distracted, Shovel said. Let’s go check out the damage done to our defenses.
“Right,” Solider said with a nod. His knees were locked as he swung one foot in front of the other, eyes focused straight ahead from underneath his helmet as he made his way across the bridge and towards the BLU base. This morning they had still been smoldering. Now they were thoroughly burnt out, the occasional beam collapsing under the weight of some bird or from a gust of wind. A scorpion skittered across Soldier’s path from one of the gaps in the fence, moving at a brisk pace. Almost instinctively, Soldier swung Shovel downward and used the spade to split the creature in half. He watched as each of its halves wriggled around uselessly for a few seconds before curling up and dying.
That was nice…Shovel’s voice adopted a purring, sultry tone.
“Heh, yeah,” Soldier lifted up his weapon, putting Shovel back so that he was leaning against his shoulder and cradling the butt of Shovel’s handle in his palm, now walking along the fence on the BLU side. Soon he arrived at his destination, noting the large hole clipped out of the fence, the piece of it that had been cut out, the wire cutters that were still lying out, and the bloodstains that had been baked into the soil. Soldier bent down over the wire cutters, picking them up and studying them before slipping them into one of the pouches dangling from his belt. He then made his way to the chunk of fence lying in the dirt, and stood over it while tapping Shovel against his shoulder.
Well, what’re you waiting for? Shovel asked impatiently. Take it.
“Why?” Soldier looked at Shovel quizzical look. “What in the great blue hell a I gonna use a chunk of fence for?”
Just do it. I have an idea, Shovel said mischievously.
Soldier looked over the chunk of tangled barbed wire and chain-link, trying to figure out a way to grip it without cutting his hands open. Eventually, he saw a way he could hook his fingers into the gaps in the metal wires, and picked it up gingerly. It dangled from his hand, as he held Shovel with the other.
Now, run back to base. Make sure nobody sees you.
“This a part of your plan, Shovel?” Soldier asked.
But of course. Now, let’s go.
His gait was now up to a jog, as Soldier carried off his cargo. Without even thinking, he jumped off the ledge of the moat and into the water, treading back into RED base via the sewer. He was dimly aware of Sniper and Demoman’s conversation stopping for a moment, before it started back up again. Soldier crawled into the sewer tunnel, not even noticing that the jagged metal had cut into his hands and blood spots started to mushroom out into the water. He rounded the tunnel’s corner, and made his way upstairs, making a beeline for the War Room.
Very good. The others all seem to be preoccupied, Shovel noted.
“Seems like it.” Soldier noted. He had already made his way past The Infirmary, and was almost all the way past the rec room when he heard a familiar, muffled voice.
Soldier froze, and slowly turned his head to see that Pyro was watching television, not even fully paying attention to him. He decided to respond, so as not to arouse any unnecessary suspicion. “Pyro,” Soldier blurted, “I see you’re, ah, busy.”
“Nuhh rrlllrrly,” Pyro said with a shrug. Still hasn’t turned around, Soldier thought. Good. “Strr Trrk sss rrvver. Prrlly grrnng trr buuurrd srrnn.”
“Excellent! Yes, you get some rest. Too many of these maggots seem to be fond of sleeping in. Not productive at all.” Good Christ, he was not sounding like himself at all. Shovel could tell, and Pyro could probably tell, even if he made no indication of it. Goddamn, what was Pyro, anyway? How could you possibly trust someone who always wore a mask all the goddamned time? Was he an American? Or was he something else…another communist in disguise, maybe? Chinese? Cuban? Or maybe he was something else entirely, some sort of inhuman thing. Possibly several midgets in a suit? A robot being controlled by a dog? This warranted further investigation. “Well, good night, Pyro,” he said, trying to regain the usual authority in his voice before bolting off before Pyro could even turn around.
Pyro had noticed the tone of Soldier’s voice. Something seemed to be wrong. He sounded uncharacteristically nervous, like he was hiding something. Pyro, however, assumed it was something mundane or silly. He had, after all, caught Solder talking to his Shovel again. Hadn’t Medic given him pills for that? Or had Soldier stopped taking them? He resolved to let Medic know about this, if he didn’t know already.
Pyro got up from off of the couch and switched the new color TV off. Scout was right. Being able to watch color TV again was pretty cool. When he poked his head out into the hallway, Pyro was surprised to notice the red droplets that had spattered on the floor. Small as they were, Pyro could tell that it was blood. The fire starter hummed to himself curiously. Yes, this definitely warranted a meeting with Medic. Soldier acting odder than usual could not possibly mean anything good.
When Engineer woke up, the first thing he heard was the clatter of metal falling and bumping against other metal. He jerked upwards out of his bed, glancing around quickly to see Medic rummaging through a crate of spare parts, humming to himself softly. Engineer reached for his goggles before he realized that he had fallen asleep with them on his face. He was, in fact, fully dressed, aside from his helmet, which had rolled onto the floor.
“Doc, what’re you doin’ in my room?” Engineer asked sleepily.
“Ah, good morning, Herr Engineer!” Medic answered cheerily. “About time you voke up. It seems Soldier has taken to avoiding his medications by switching his meals viz his teammates. I apologize for zat. I’m going to have to find a new vay to make sure he doesn’t start listening to inanimate objects again.”
“Ya didn’t answer mah question, Doc,” Engineer checked the clock he had built that rested beside his bed. Good Lord, it was almost eleven o’clock.
“I’m sorry, Herr Engineer, I did not vant to disturb you,” Medic said apologetically. “I vas actually hoping you could spare some chains.”
“Chain, huh?” Engineer stretched his arms over his head and yawned, still feeling groggy. He slid off of his bed, scratching his back as he made his way over to the doctor. “I’m pretty sure I have some lyin’ around.” He pulled out a smaller wooden box from off of a steel shelf, sorting through it with his gloved hand before pulling out a length of chain, “This good?”
Medic took the chain into his hands, examining it and tightening the slack with a satisfying jangle. As he craned his neck, Engineer noticed a dark, purple bruise that had blossomed on the base of Medic’s neck. The doctor looked up to meet Engineer’s gaze, and covered up the spot with a gloved hand and a nervous laugh, “Zis, ah, vill suffice. Danke, Engineer.”
“What exactly are ya needin’ the chain for, anyway, if ya don’t mind me askin’?”
“Ze specimen I have acquired. I’m going to try keeping him on a leash,” Medic twisted some of the chain around his fingers. “I zink zat domestication of ze subject is entirely plausible.”
“Domestication?” Engineer blinked and adjusted his goggles. “Doc, he’s…well, was…a person. Yer talkin’ about ‘im like he’s a dog.”
“Even dogs seem to have a higher mental capacity zen ze victims of zis disease. Zeir only desire is to eat, so as to shpread ze disase in ozzers. It’s fascinating, really. If you ah interested, I have been going zhrough BLU Medic’s files and film reels on his development of ze disease, und I have been eager to show zem to somevone viz an appreciation for science…”
“No thanks, Doc,” Engineer shook his head. “I, uh, never really got into the whole ‘mad science’ thing…no offense,” Medic’s features sagged with disappointment, and the Texan tried to think of a way to save the conversation. “You tried asking Heavy? Heck, I’m sure he’d be glad to help ya out.”
The doctor sighed, pacing over towards Engineer’s desk, before sitting down in his chair. “He does not seem to be comfortable vatching zem viz me. Yesterday he got all…ach, emotional on me. It is unlike him, Engineer. Somezing about ze footage seemed to genuinely disturb him.”
Engineer felt a little awkward. Talking to Medic about his…relationship with Heavy always felt odd. He didn’t want to judge the poor man. God only knew that being out here cut off from civilization with only a few other men for company could do things to you. He was raised to believe that romantic relationships were always between a man and a woman, and anything else was just unnatural and perverted. But Heavy and Medic were genuinely, truly in love with each other, and it certainly didn’t seem to hurt anybody, so Engineer simply shrugged it off. He just wished that Medic wouldn’t come to him any time the two of them hit a rough patch. Maybe it was because Engineer was seemingly the only married man among them, and therefore would have some kind of qualification on how to deal with those types of troubles. Or maybe it was because Medic felt like Engineer was the only person he could relate to on an intellectual level. Whatever the reason, Engineer simply dreaded these talks, but never had the heart to turn Medic away. Jesus, what did he know about homosexual relationships anyway? He had enough trouble with his own heterosexual marriage.
“Did you ask him why?” Engineer asked with a shrug.
“Nein, he just kept making me promise not to get bitten. Und last night, he vas very…vhat is ze vord? ‘Clingy?'” Medic nodded, assuring himself that his word choice was correct. “Ja, ‘clingy.’ I vanted to check on ze specimen at vone point during ze night, und he kept pulling me back.”
The Texan rested his chin on the heel of his palm in thought, “Y’know, he’s probably just worried about th’ risk yer taking, bringin’ that thing in. Doesn’t want you to end up like BLU Medic. He just cares about ya, Doc.”
“He does not have to be so irrational about it,” Medic huffed. “I am a full grown man. I can take care of myself. I do not need him treating me like I am some precious little porcelain doll or somezing. Am I not ze vone who covahs for him in battle? Really.”
Engineer chuckled, “At least ya got somebody lookin’ out for ya. Better’n nobody at all, I guess.”
“True…” Medic sighed. “I only vish he vere not so rash.”
The conversation had reached a stalemate. Engineer stretched out a crick in his neck, “You need help with that, uh, specimen, Doc? I could probably fashion a leash outta that chain, if ya want.”
Medic’s eyes lit up, “Vould you? Zat vould be most helpful! Danke, Herr Engineer!” He eagerly handed Engineer the length of chain, his mood having done a complete 180. “I shall be vaiting for you in ze infirmary.” Medic got up from the creaky wooden chair and strutted triumphantly towards the door. “You ah a credit to ze team!”
As the door to Engineer’s workshop clicked behind the doctor, Engineer immediately set to work finding the tools needed for this project. It was almost insultingly simple, really, but somehow he doubted that anybody else in the RED base could be trusted with a soldering iron. Soon after this was finished, he thought to himself, he’d probably drop by the kitchen for whatever scraps would be left over from breakfast, then go to see Medic. Without any BLUs to fight, hopefully things could become a bit more relaxed at the base. Engineer would be able to work on his never-ending quest to perfect his sentry guns, perhaps even create the very first level four sentry. The future was looking pretty good, all things considering, and new opportunities abounded.
It was time to get to work.
The door to the infirmary creaked open, and Pyro peeked his head in, looking from side to side. He was not sure how much longer it would be unoccupied, but his curiosity was overwhelming him. He waddled first over to Medic’s desk, removing a folded piece of paper from underneath his arm and placing it delicately on top of a stack of papers. He clung to the paper bag and his fire axe he had brought, and made his way to the sickbay, cautiously pushing the door open and peering inside.
There it was, the zombie that Medic had dragged in, restrained on a gurney with almost half the straps being unused due to the fact that it simply did not have enough limbs to accommodate them. It jerked up its head, and started to grunt and pant and drool excitedly, causing Pyro to jerk backwards a bit in alarm. After regaining his composure a bit, Pyro crept over towards the gurney, and leaned over the specimen before him.
The phrase “uncanny valley” certainly sprung to mind, as Pyro couldn’t help but think of Frankenstein’s monster, and how the doctor in the book looked down upon his creation, some horrible imitation of a human being, in abject horror. Its eyes were clouded over with milky white cataracts, its tongue lolled out of its mouth like some sort of bloated red worm, its skin was white and papery from lost blood and was already turning grey from decay, and the smell…it assaulted Pyro’s nostrils even through his mask. God only knew how Medic could stand it; but then again, this thing had the face that only a Medic could love.
The monster on the gurney looked up at Pyro with its dead, bleached eyes, snapping its jaws and moaning. Pyro shoved his axe into the crook of his armpit and pulled out the paper bag he had under his arm, opening it and rustling through loudly before pulling out a lump of ground-up beef.
By now, the horror was bucking and writhing against its restraints, eyes widened as it moaned in anticipation. Pyro hesitated, at first, not sure if this experiment of his was a good idea. It probably wasn’t, but that was why he had brought the axe. He then took several steps back, making sure that the things eyes were locked on him, before setting down the meat on the floor. He then crept back over the gurney, leaning over the specimen before him. It didn’t seem to have much interest in the fire starter, however, as it was still straining against the straps and staring intently at the lump of meat on the floor. Pyro tightened his grip around his axe, taking a few deep breaths before his hands whipped out over the belt buckles on the gurney, undoing all of them before he leapt backwards and crouched, his axe in both hands ready to swing.
The zombie seemed surprised by his sudden freedom, wriggling off of the gurney and falling onto the floor, his guts spilling out with a wet slap. This hardly deterred it however, as it dragged itself across the floor, smacking its palm on the cool, smooth linoleum and pulling its body forward as its ropey intestines spewed outward, vomiting blood and bile and God knew what else. Eventually, it found its prize, grabbing the meat with its only hand and greedily shoving it into its mouth.
Pyro watched this with his head tilted, slowly advancing upon the thing with his axe still firmly in his grip, careful not to step on any of its organs. The monstrosity before him didn’t even seem to notice his presence, still happily wolfing down the meal before him. Pyro cautiously reached out his hand towards it, his gloved fingers slowly unfurling as he got closer to the living corpse. There was an electric tension in the inch between Pyro’s index finger and the back of the monsters shoulder, but it was cut off completely when the door to the infirmary creaked open, and Medic could be heard humming an upbeat tune to himself. Pyro panicked, looking around frantically for a place to hide, before finally deciding on underneath one of the beds in the room. In retrospect, it was probably not the best hiding spot, but with his limited options, it had to do.
He curled up underneath the bed, watching as the zombie picked up his head and started to cry out excitedly as Medic’s footsteps came closer. “Ja, ja, I’m right here, you horrible little monstah, just vait a mome-MEIN GOTT!” Pyro winced; he could see Medic jump as he had opened the sickbay door.
Medic, however, was quick to react to the advancing zombie, stomping down on the creature between his shoulder blades and holding it down firmly against the floor. The monster just wriggled around uselessly before Medic pressed its head down, keeping it from moving. “Zis is not funny! Who did zis? Soldier? Show yourself!”
Pyro scooted further back under the bed, but he had made enough noise that Medic’s head swiveled around in his direction, his look of righteous indignation quickly replaced by one of puzzlement. “Pyro? Vhat ah you doing here? Is zis your doing?” Pyro nodded meekly, crawling out from his hiding spot with metaphorical tail between his legs.
“I am surprised at you, Pyro,” Medic said. “Vhat is ze meaning of zis? You could have gotten us killed, you know.”
Knowing that words would not suffice for an answer, Pyro again reached for the paper bag still tucked under his arm, rustling through it and grabbing out another chunk of beef. He stood over the zombie and kneeled down, holding out the meat like a child would hold out bread crumbs to a duck. Medic’s specimen eagerly took a bite out of it, missing Pyro’s fingers, and Pyro nervously patted it on the head as if it were a dog.
The doctor found himself chuckling over this absurd and yet almost touching display, “Vhat, ah you trying to trying to tame him, Pyro? Is zat it?”
“Mrrr lrrkk trryuurrnngg trr crrnncuuurr mrrr urrnn fuurrr,” Pyro muttered, trying to suppress a shudder.
“Vell, next time, do not be so shtupid as to try und let him loose all by yourself,” Medic grunted as he tried to keep a hold of his subject. “He cannot move very fast, but I prefer to have him restrained in some vay. Vould you mind helping me get him back on ze table?”
“Hrrrkurrr,” Pyro nodded as Medic stood up, removing his foot from the zombies back, while at the same time yanking it back and hooking his arm around its neck, while Pyro grabbed it by the hips. Together they lifted it back onto the gurney, while Medic held its head down and quickly fastened the straps over it. Its intestines were hanging out, strewn on the floor like stray sausage links. Medic simply bent down to pick them up, gathering the ropes in his arms as Pyro tried to keep his breakfast down.
“I really should have zese removed,” Medic said, more to himself than to Pyro. “Perhaps it could curb his hunger a bit. Ze subject does not seem to be affected by any physical damage outside of trauma to ze brain, anyvay.”
Taking this as his cue to leave, Pyro already started back up to the infirmary door. He was not keen on the prospect of seeing Medic rip out that thing’s organs. “Surr yrr luuhurr, Mrrdrrk,” he mumbled, before turning to leave and scuttling out of the door.
He wasn’t sure what to think. He went in, terrified of the thing on the table, intent on trying to see if it was possible to tame it. Now that he came out, there was a nauseating feeling of disgust and pity in the pit of his stomach. It was a monster; that much was obvious. It was a horrible, hideous abomination of God and Science, not even fully aware of what it was or who it used to be. But the worst part, the absolute worst part of it all was the empathy that Pyro felt for it.
After all, how could a monster pass judgment on another monster?
Scout was bored. Nothing was on TV, he had read his comic books several times over, and nobody seemed interested in just hanging out. He had been up in Sniper’s roost for a while, but the Aussie wasn’t feeling talkative; he simply stared out beyond BLU base through his binoculars, listening to the radio and constantly shushing Scout when a good song came on, which seemed to be pretty much every other song. Scout had suggested perhaps trying to tune into a ball game, but this was met by a venomous glare. There were times when Scout could successfully initiate a lively conversation with Sniper, or at least get him to listen to a story about one of his many brothers growing up in Boston or something along those lines, but this was not one of those times, so he left to find some other company.
He ran into Medic at least once in the hallway, but Medic said he was busy, and Scout was never completely comfortable around the good doctor to just hang out with him. Pyro, too, had been seen in the halls, but Pyro seemed to acting skittish and weird. Engineer was in his workshop, and merely shouted through the door that he was working on something for Medic. Demoman was in his room, nursing his usual morning hangover, and simply told Scout to keep an eye out for anything weird, and report back to him if, and only if, there was anything odd going on. Heavy was in the rec room, playing chess against himself in some odd attempt at practice, and Spy was nowhere to be seen. This left Soldier as his last option for any company.
To be honest, Scout was never really sure what to think of Soldier. He didn’t get along with most of the others on RED team, whose attitudes ranged from Engineer and Pyro’s quiet tolerance of him, to Sniper and Demoman’s good-natured (albeit constant) ribbing, to Spy’s belittling, snide remarks, to Medic’s absolute exasperation with him and finally to Heavy’s barely concealed contempt for the man. But nobody really seemed to be friends with him. Scout was probably the closest, really, since he was the only one who bothered to talk to him and listen to his stories. He kind of reminded Scout of one of his uncles, all loud and boasting and maybe a little crazy but fun to hang out with on occasion. Scout thought this as he walked briskly to the War Room, whistling “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” with his hands shoved in his pockets. He stopped, however, when he could hear Soldier’s voice from inside the War Room.
“What? No, he’d notice if his tools went missing. Trust me on that, he’s not the type to just ignore that sort of thing.” There was a pause. “Ask him? Are you out of your goddamned mind? He’d know something was up. No, we’re going to just have to make do with our current resources. Besides, it’s hard to tell where he’s standing in all of this anyway. Best to wait until we can be sure.”
Scout’s first thought was wondering who the hell Soldier was talking to, but it didn’t take him long to figure it out. It was Shovel. Soldier was talking to Shovel again. Well, he had always been talking to Shovel, really, but now Shovel seemed to be “talking back” again. Medic was not going to be happy about this.
Soldier was not a very social person. When he first started talking to Shovel, Scout assumed that he had pretty much just made himself an imaginary friend, like a few kids he used to know growing up. With hardly anybody to talk to, Soldier seemed to just make up somebody to keep him company. At first, it didn’t seem too strange: Heavy had actually named his minigun and was known to talk to it on occasion and Engineer would sometimes coo affectionately over the sentries that made it out of battle when he thought no one could hear him. But over time, it became glaringly obvious that Soldier’s relationship with Shovel was different, in that Soldier started talking to Shovel pretty much exclusively, and would hold long conversations with it in his room. Medic had his suspicions about Soldier suffering from some form of schizophrenia, but it was hard to prove, since it was entirely possible it was some sort of convoluted scheme to get everyone off his back. That was, until Soldier actually attacked the BLU base in the middle of the night, stark naked, armed only with Shovel and Sniper’s stolen kukri between his teeth. He had managed to take out about three or four of the BLUs before getting killed and respawning, screaming primal war cries and waking up everyone in RED base, and when confronted, he explained that this master plan was all Shovel’s idea. Medic confined him in the sickbay for a week, keeping him heavily sedated until he could manage to get HQ to spring for some meds that would hopefully stabilize him. Soldier never forgave Medic for it, and took every opportunity possible to harass him for any reason he could think of. He did seem to get better for a while, though, actually making conversation with the rest of his team, but lately he seemed to be regressing. And there was no surer sign of this than to hear him talking with Shovel again.
There was a weird flutter in Scout’s chest as he leaned in to better hear. He felt like this was a private conversation, like he shouldn’t be listening, but he reminded himself that Soldier was talking to an inanimate object, not a person. He lifted up his hand to knock on the door, rapping with an unusual amount of restraint for a Scout.
“Who’s there? State your name and rank, Private!” Soldier barked, causing Scout to jump back.
“Chill, man, it’s me, Scout.”
There was a long pause. Scout wasn’t sure if he was listening to Shovel or not. “Are you alone?”
“Yeah, it’s just me.”
Another pause followed. “Right. Enter!”
Scout cautiously reached down for the knob and turned it, opening it to find Soldier standing and facing the back wall, Shovel at his side, looking up at the various maps he had pinned up there. He turned around, giving Scout a wide, yet unsettling, smile. “Good to see you, Private! Come on in, have a seat!” he motioned towards one of the chairs up against the wall.
Seeing Soldier look that cheery was…weird, to say the least. Scout decided just doing as he said and trying not to cause any mood swings would be the wisest course of action, sitting down in one of the chairs. “So, uh,” good God, what was he going to talk to him about? “What’s goin’ on, man?”
“Something big, Private. Something /very/ big. The enemy is all around us, and we cannot let our guard down. I feel like you’re the only one who could possibly understand this. Besides Shovel, of course.”
“Of course…” Scout said. “Is this about the zombies? Because Demoman had that meetin’ in his room last night, an’ he an’ Sniper an’ me are all gonna try and prepare for the worst…”
“You honestly think that they’re the big problem here?” Soldier threw back his head and laughed. “I like ya, Scout, you’re a good kid, but you’re naïve as hell.”
“Huh?” Scout’s confusion was painted all over his face.
“They’re the least of our problems,” Soldier put a hand on Scout’s shoulder. “I’m more worried about what’s going on inside the team, Scout. I feel like we’re losing sight of our values. Haven’t you noticed it at all?”
“Whaddya mean?” Scout was wary. Soldier never talked like this, implying things or dancing around the point of what he was trying to say. Quite frankly, it was freaking him out.
“Take Sniper, for example,” Soldier said with a shrug. “He’s a loner. Not much of a team player, that one. How are we supposed to function as a unit when he’s up in his roost by himself, listening to that goddamned hippie music? Something’s not right with that man. I mean, hell, he keeps his piss in a bunch of goddamned jars. What’s he saving it for, anyway?”
“I dunno, he’s not that bad a guy, once you get to know him.” Scout shrugged. “Medic says he might have some sort of obsessive…thing. I don’t remember the term. Somethin’ medical.”
Soldier tensed visibly, “Oooh, don’t get me started on Medic.”
“You’re still mad at him about those meds he gave ya, huh?” Scout asked, trying to sound sympathetic.
The fingers around Shovel’s handle tightened. Soldier looked down at the floor, breathing in deeply. “Scout, do you know who Wernher Von Braun is?”
Scout’s eyes lit up, “Aw, man! ‘That Was The Week That Was’! I know that song! He’s like… in NASA?”
“Close enough. He’s trying to get us to beat the Ruskies to the moon. You know, he used to be a Nazi, right?”
“Well, yeah, that was in the song, right? ‘Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown/ ‘Ha! Nazi Schmazi!’ says Wernher Von Braun’,” Scout sang.
“You got a good memory, Private,” Solider grinned. “Singing voice could use work, though. But I’m trying to make a point. I don’t trust that Von Braun fella one bit. Anybody who’s aligned themselves with Hitler is somebody who’s aligned themselves against me.”
Realization slowly dawned on Scout’s face, “Well, I mean… Medic’s never, y’know, come out an’ said he’s a Nazi.”
“Of course he wouldn’t. Safer to remain… apolitical, as it were,” Soldier tapped the butt of Shovel against the ground. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that he was a Nazi mad scientist. I mean, Jesus, he just oozes it out of his goddamned pores. But nobody says anything. Not a goddamned thing. We all just turn our heads away because he’s on our side, right?”
“Well, he is,” Scout said. “I mean, we’re all mostly in this for the money.”
“Maybe you are. I’ve got my own reasons,” Soldier snorted. “Point is, how much trust can you put in a guy who used to do experiments on human beings? Who knows what kind of twisted, inhuman things he used to do to people? Probably innocent people, too. Civilians. Maybe captured soldiers. Captured American soldiers, Scout. Hell, without any BLUs to fight, how long’s it gonna be before he gets bored and tries experimenting on people again?”
“You really think he would?” Scout’s stomach sank. Medic never really liked talking about The War, but the way he always seemed to get so giddy stitching up the members of RED team, causing them pain. Stumpy wasn’t helping much either, since Medic seemed to be way too excited to capture that zombified bastard and show him off to everyone else like some kind of fucked-up science fair project. Would Medic go so far as to try and turn one of the REDs into a zombie? He could barely suppress a shudder.
“I would not doubt it for a second. You said it yourself. Most of us are in this for the money. You think Medic really has that much loyalty to honest, patriotic Americans like us? I don’t even want to think about how he really feels about Demoman, the poor negro bastard.”
“Holy shit,” Scout hugged his own stomach, horrifying mental images of Medic leaning over a strapped-down Demoman, grinning maniacally as he carved away at the explosive experts’ flesh with a scalpel. “Should I tell Demo, or-“
“You are not going to tell a goddamned soul,” Soldier snapped. “This is top secret. We don’t know where everyone’s loyalties lie. Hell, I would’ve told Engineer about this, but I don’t think he’d understand. But you do, Scout. You’re the only other ally I got in this war.”
Scout nodded sheepishly, “Yes, sir.”
Soldier laughed, and patted Scout on the back heartily, “I like you, Scout. You’re a good kid. We’ll just keep this between us, and you keep an eye on Medic for me, make sure he doesn’t do anything…suspicious. Got it?”
“Got it,” Scout said, trying to sound more assertive. “You can count on me, Soldier.”
“Good. Best to get a head start on that. You’re dismissed,” Soldier did an about-face and looked back up at the wall covered in maps, focusing his attention on a very large, detailed map of Germany.
For a while, Scout felt too stunned to move. Eventually, he lifted himself up from the chair, and crept out of Soldier’s room, throwing back an occasional glance at the older man. Soldier didn’t even seem to notice. Scout opened the door to the hallway, and softly closed it behind him, trying to gather himself before he walked away, whistling to himself again. He could hear Soldier laughing to himself, and quickly picked up his pace, jogging down the hallway until he was out of earshot of that creepy, ominous laughter.
“I fear zis may be my last entry. Ze bite from ze rabbit, it has become infected. Ze pain, ze delusions, ah becoming vorse. I have become feverish und have been experiencing bursts of terrible, terrible pain in my every nerve… I can feel myself dying.”
The BLU Medic on the projection screen was sitting at his desk, cradling his own head in his arms and his face contorting in a pained grimace. “I had done it. I had brought ze dead back to life. But I ended up turning it into somezing… somezing entirely different. I have created an abomination.”
He winced, gritting his teeth and screwing his eyes shut as his let out an anguished hiss, “God help me… ze viral culture has spread to me und is killing me. I had no vay of knowing how ze brain vould be affected. I have only really succeeded in creating a terrible, painful disease.” The beads of sweat on his brow were visible even on film. “Und I have become ze first victim.”
RED Medic watched with intense interest, sitting on a metal folding chair alone in a separate room in the infirmary as the projector purred next to him quietly.
“I destroyed ze specimen… ze disease must not shpread… my last vish, is to have my body destroyed, completely und utterly…contamination cannot be risked. I… I am so sorry.” The BLU Medic started to weep into his arm, “Mein gott… I nevah vanted zis… not like zis… not like…” He suddenly screamed in pain, starting to shake and flail about as his eyes became wide and his pupils the size of pinpricks, foaming at the mouth and reaching towards the camera desperately before his body seized. He collapsed on the table, fingers shaking a little while longer before his eyes glazed over and the life visibly drained out of him.
There was a knock at the main door to the infirmary, and Medic found himself nearly jumping out of his seat. “Who is zere?” he asked, whipping his head around.
“‘S me, Doc. I got that leash ya wanted.” It was Engineer.
Medic switched the projector off and got up, leaving the dark little room and walking briskly into the infirmary, opening the door to let Engineer inside. Engineer stood in the doorway, holding up the chain with a thick, leather collar attached, smiling a bit as he handed it over. “If ya want, I could try an’ make some sorta muzzle for ‘im, so’s he doesn’t bite anybody…”
The good doctor smiled. “Zat is an excellent idea, Herr Engineer. Come in, come in…” he ushered the Texan inside, leading him to the sickbay. “You vill not believe vhat Pyro tried to do earlier. He tried to set ze specimen loose und see if he could make friends viz him by feeding him.”
“Oh, sweet mother a’ mercy. Is he okay?”
“Ja, not bitten or anyzing. Ze specimen crawled to ze meat Pyro gave him, und not to Pyro. It’s funny, Pyro even managed to get him to eat out of his hand. I nearly had a heart attack vhen I saw it. Neverzahless, it does support my zheory about taming zem, perhaps even getting zem to recall zeir lives before infection…”
He opened the sickbay door, revealing a still-squirming Stumpy, now with his torso wrapped with layers of gauze. He started to groan again excitedly as Medic leaned over him. The doctor patted him on the head affectionately, and motioned Engineer to come closer, who did so hesitantly. “I removed his intestines und shtomach, because zey vere hanging outside of his body. He isn’t even slightly deterred by zis. In fact, he still seems to be hungry, despite having so many of his innards taken out. It is incredible, really.”
“Yeah…incredible,” Engineer didn’t mask his lack of enthusiasm very well. “Ya sure ya don’t wanna wait for me t’ try makin’ that muzzle for ya before you go an’ start, uh, draggin’ that thing around th’ base? I’d say ‘walkin’ but seein’ as he doesn’t have any legs or anythin’…”
Medic laughed, “Vell, he has figured out how to drag himself around across ze floor. Perhaps if he had some sort of little cart or a vagon or somezing…hmm…” He held down Stumpy’s head and wrapped the leather collar around his neck. “I am zinking zat ve could try hooking ze chain up somevhere in ze room. Allowing him to move about a bit more freely could help viz mein research…” His eyes wandered around until they landed on a corner in the ceiling.
“Personally, Doc, I’m fine with him bein’ strapped down like that. I don’t really need that thing wanderin’ around th’ base.” Engineer’s eyes locked with those of Stumpy. The BLU Scout tilted his head and grunted. “Really, he’s a livin’ biohazard.”
“True, but if he can be tamed, zis could open up a lot of possibilities for ze practical usage of ze victims. Cheap, menial labor comes to mind.” He walked towards a corner of the sickbay, lifting a leg to stand up on one of the beds so as to hook up the other end of the leash, which also had a leather strap, to an odd pipe sticking out of the ceiling. He looped the straps and chain around, yanked on it a few times to make sure it was secure, and then stepped off the bed. “Zhough, I hope it does not come to zat. I only hope zat ze BLU Spy has not claimed any victims.”
“Figures it would hafta be th’ BLU Spah t’ escape,” Engineer sighed and shook his head. “Hated that BLU Spah. I can’t even count how many sentries a’ mine he destroyed. Sneaky little…” his voice trailed off as Medic made his way back to the gurney, motioning for Engineer to back away. Medic took a deep, sharp breath before quickly undoing the straps and jumping back.
Stumpy once again flopped off of the gurney, sending it rolling backwards as he hit the floor stomach-first. He tried to pull himself forward with his only arm towards Medic and Engineer, only to choke himself on the end of the leash at the chain pulled taut. He fell to his stomach again, and still tried to reach his arm for the two men before him, grunting and straining uselessly as his fingers unfurled, hoping he could get close enough to grab either of them.
“I don’t think I’m every really gonna get used to ‘em, Doc,” Engineer said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Personally, if it were up t’ me, I’d just put ‘im out of his misery. Seems to me t’ be far more humane then lettin’ ‘im live like /that/.”
“Humane?” Medic looked at Engineer with a raised eyebrow. “Ve are essentially hired killers, Herr Engineer. Our very profession is inhumane. Besides, killing him vould be counterproductive to mein research. And zere is much to learn about ze exact nature of zis disease.” Engineer looked at him uneasily, and the doctor sighed. “I vas afraid you might not see eye-to-eye viz me on zis, Engineer. No vone does, I do not even zink Heavy is entirely comfortable viz zis, zhough he has been trying to hide it…”
Engineer’s sudden guilt was written all over his face, “Lissen, Doc, don’t be like that, I can see what yer tryin’ t’ do, I just…I’m just tryin’ to be cautious, I guess. I don’t wanna come off soundin’ /paranoid/ or nothin’…”
“I vould not blame you for being paranoid,” Medic said darkly. “Especially given zat it vas BLU Medic’s lack of discretion zat led to ze outbreak in ze BLU base to begin viz.” He looked over to Stumpy, who had stopped moving and was simply staring up at the two of them from his position on the floor. “Zis vas an experiment of his. He vanted to replicate ze effects of ze respawn outside of battle.”
“Y’know…come to think of it, I’m not even entirely sure how th’ respawn system works,” Engineer stroked his chin. “HQ ain’t very eager t’ hand over any info on it, and I’ve got so little t’ work with as far as tryin’ to go about lookin’ into it mahself. Shame, really, since I’m intensely curious.”
“As am I,” Medic said, not taking his eyes off of the BLU Scout on the floor.
“Doktor? You here, Doktor?” Heavy’s voice could be heard from the main room of the infirmary, as the door creaked open.
“Ja, I am here. Come on in, Heavy,” Medic called.
Heavy opened to door to the infirmary, looking surprised to see Engineer in the room, and doubly so to see Stumpy on a leash trying to wriggle towards him, “Doktor, vhy is Stumpy on leash like dog?”
“For research purposes, mein Liebe. I vas discussing zis viz Engineer, who vas kind enough to construct a leash for him.” Engineer gave Heavy a bashful little wave at Medics mention of him. “Just don’t get close enough for him to reach you, und you vill be fine.”
The Russian let out a hearty laugh. “I am not scared of being bitten by leetle Scout. I vill protect Doktor from Stumpy! You see!” Stumpy snarled at him, to which Heavy responded my imitating the noises the BLU Scout made. This caused Stumpy to become louder and angrier in his cries, and Heavy retaliated in turn, bellowing like a moose.
“Heavy, stop teasing ze subject!” Medic chided.
“Vhat, I am just talking to him. Make sure he leaves Doktor alone,” Heavy jabbed a finger at the BLU Scout. “He knows. I make sure he knows, or I crush him.”
“Mein hero,” Medic rolled his eyes.
“Oh!” Heavy lifted his hand, holding a folded piece of paper. “This vas on desk. Is for you.” He handed it to Medic.
Sure enough, the sheet of paper had “MEDIC” written on the outside of it in a child-like scrawl. Medic opened it up and scanned over the note, then decided to read it aloud, “Dear Medic, Soldier is acting veird. He sneaks around base und it is creepy. I zink he is planning somezing. Keep vatch on him. Love, Pyro.”
“Wait, ‘love, Pyro’?” Engineer gave Medic an odd look. Heavy, too, gave Medic a confused glance.
“I assure you, Herr Engineer, zat zere is nozzing between Pyro und I. Eizzah he has a strange sense of humor or he is not familiar with how to properly write a letter.” He folded the note back up and tucked it inside of his coat. “It seems zat Soldier may be…up to some zing, apparently.”
“Like what? He’s always actin’ strange, really. I always figured it had somethin’ to do with th’ constant head trauma he gives himself, whackin’ himself in the head with that shovel…”
“Zat is only ze tiniest tip of ze iceberg zat is ze problems viz Soldier’s mental state,” Medic said with a sigh. “Danke, Heavy.”
“You’re velcome, Doktor,” the Russian beamed a little at the acknowledgment.
“‘Ey, lissen, Doc,” Engineer piped up, “I’m gonna go start on that muzzle for ya’, leave you two, y’know, alone.”
Medic shot Engineer a confused look, while Heavy merely let a rumbling, low laugh rise up from his chest, “Vhat is zat supposed to mean? Please, Engineer, I am not some sort of sex-crazed maniac. I have vork to do. Give me a bit more credit here.” Medic crossed his arms over his chest in mock indignation, before a sly smile betrayed him.
“Sorry, Doc, y’know I don’t mean nothin’ by it.” Engineer made his way over towards the sickbay door, opening it. “C’mon, let’s get outta this room, that thing stinks t’ high heaven an’ it’s givin’ me th’ willies.”
“Zat is undahstandable. Come, Heavy.” Medic followed the Texan out while Heavy followed. As they filtered into the main room of the infirmary, Scout’s warbling voice floated into earshot from the hall.
“‘Ze rockets go up, who cares vhere zey come down/ zat’s not my department,’ says Wehrner Von Braun…” Scout sang to himself.
“Hello, Scout,” Medic said flatly, glaring at the young man with arms akimbo.
Scout yelped in surprise and whirled around to see Medic, Heavy and Engineer all staring at him. “Uh…hi, Engie, Heavy…. Medic. Uh…how’s it goin’?”
“Fine, zank you. How is your lip healing?” The doctor’s expression didn’t change.
“S’doin’ okay. Y’know…no problems.” Scout shifted his weight from foot to foot uneasily.
“Good, good,” Medic nodded. “Vhat vas zat you vere singing?”
“Nothin’,” Scout answered hastily. “Listen, uh, I got, uh, stuff to do, I think Demoman wanted me to report back to him, y’know, about zom-…I mean, about those things…”
“I see,” the German’s eyes narrowed as Scout continued to flounder in front of him.
“Yeah, so, I better go. Yeah. See ya!” Scout didn’t even wait for anyone to say anything before he bolted.
“Was that Tom Lehrer he was singin’?” Engineer asked this more to himself than to Heavy or Medic.
“Ach, I do not know. Ze ozzah day, he vas reluctantly flattering me und telling me how vonderful mein plan vas, now he avoids me like I’m some sort of leper.” Medic shook his head, “Such a shtrange boy.”
“If he picks on you again, Doktor, I vill beat him into pulp,” Heavy said, rubbing Medic’s shoulder.
“How about instead a’ havin’ Heavy beat th’ tar outta him, Doc, I could try talkin’ to th’ boy,” Engineer suggested with a shrug and a smile.
“You alvays seem to be solving problems, don’t you, Engineer?” Medic chuckled. “Do not vorry about it. I have much more important mattahs to attend to. You can go about your business, Herr Engineer.”
“Sure thing, Doc,” Engineer said, walking out the door. He stopped for a moment, hovering in the doorframe before turning around. “Just, ah…Doc?”
“You’re…ah…” Engineer found himself almost blushing. “You’re an alright feller, Doc. A mite strange, but you look out fer us. Don’t let Scout get t’ ya, okay?”
“Zank you, Engineer,” Medic smiled at him; not the usual creepy, sadistic smile that was seen more often on his face, but an actual warm, touching smile. “I appreciate zat. I only vish ze ozzahs could say ze same.”
Engineer looked as though he were about to say something else, but didn’t, instead just shuffling awkwardly before giving Medic a soft “See ya, Doc” and slipping out. Medic stood still, save his head turning slowly to follow the sound of Engineers boots pad down the hallway.
“Doktor,” Heavy finally spoke up after a brief silence.
“Ja, mein Liebling?”
“Who is Wehrner Von Braun, anyvay?”
“He is ein rocket scientist, Heavy,” Medic said, patting Heavy on the chest and leaning into him. “Do not vorry about it. Now, come help me. Ve have vork to do.” He straightened up, snapping out of his affectionate mood, and picked up the tape recorder that had been lying on his desk.
Engineer whistled to himself going down the hall with a spring in his step. He moseyed up to the door to his workshop, grabbing the handle, but stopped, becoming visibly jarred.
There was someone in there. He could hear them talking.
He tilted his hardhat to the side and pressed his ear against the door. Soft laughter bubbled from the intruder’s throat, and then some muted conversation. Engineer couldn’t catch what they were saying, but that soft, suave voice and that European accent gave the intruder away.
“Spah,” Engineer hissed. He could feel his good mood melting away like ice cream in the hot Texan sun. Spy went silent, before mumbling and clicking something into place. Engineer huffed and opened the door, standing in the doorway and crouching a bit, arms spread out at his sides and legs forming an arch, making him look like a cowboy in a Western film. “Come out, Spah, I know yer in here.”
A red plume of smoke appeared in front of Engineer, and Spy materialized, cigarette held in his cocky grin as he adjusted his tie, “Ah, you have found me. I must admit, I did not expect you back so soon. Per’aps, wiz ze BLUs gone, I have let my guard down quite a bit.”
“Cut th’ crap, Spah. What in the Sam Hill do you think yer doin’ here?” Engineer asked, hands on his hips.
“Official business,” Spy answered curtly. “I’m afraid zis on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, and you, Laborer, do not need to know. Désolé.”
“You were talkin’ to somebody,” Engineer said flatly. “An’ I’m gonna venture a guess an’ say that you were usin’ the radio, since I’m pretty sure that y’ don’t talk to yerself, unlike some other folks ’round here.”
“Such deductive reasoning skills, Monsieur Engineer!” Spy gasped mockingly. “I’m sure Sherlock Holmes would be envious.” He took a drag from his cigarette, and blew a few smoke rings into Engineer’s face. “Yes, I was. But, as I said, it is official business, and you don’t need to know about it.”
Engineer coughed as he waved the smoke from his face and his eyes started to water, “Next time ya wanna use th’ radio, y’ could ask like a-“
“…Like a civilized human being,” Spy finished for him. “Ah, Laborer, you are so predictable. No wonder BLU Spy was able to have his way wiz you so easily.”
“I am /not/ that predictable.”
“I knew you would say zat.”
“That’s not funny, Spah,” Engineer was now red in the face and almost entirely out of patience. “Now, why don’t you just git? I got work t’ do.” He jerked his head towards the door, motioning to it without his hands.
“Very well. I shall take my leave,” Spy bowed dramatically, with a sly smile on his face. “Per’aps I should follow your advice and go bozzer Sniper for a change. ‘E seems to have gotten it into ‘is ‘ead zat he and Demoman are our only hope in ze face of ze inevitable zombie uprising.” He laughed, and patted Engineer on his helmet. “Au revoir, my hard-hatted compatriot!” And with that, Spy vanished in another puff of red smoke.
“Goddamned, good-fer-nothin’ sneaky sonuva…” Engineer grumbled as he made his way to his desk and sat down, the wooden chair giving a faint little groan. He reached for a drawer on the side, opening up his own private stash of Blue Streak. The drawer itself had been rigged to serve the purpose of a refrigerator, and had been constructed by Engineer on a particularly slow day in RED Base a few months ago. He pulled out a bottle and placed it on his desk, before reaching for a Swiss army knife he had lying around. He folded out the bottle opener and popped off the cap of his beer with a satisfying hiss, before taking a swig that would probably put Demoman to shame.
Engineer leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling, nursing his beer and letting his mind go blank for a few fleeting seconds. He leaned forward again and looked to the radio before picking up the transceiver and pressing the call button, “This is RED Engineer, Announcer, do you read me?”
He waited. There was nothing but silence from the other end. Engineer snorted and leaned back in his chair again before taking another gulp of beer.
An armadillo skittered across the cooling desert ground as the sun started to set. It wandered along the chain-link fence, its snout hovering just above the ground. Eventually, it came across a hole, and waddled forward, nose twitching as it noticed an odd little red circle moving in towards it on the ground. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, and the dirt exploded upwards, causing the creature to panic and curl itself into a ball.
Sniper viewed the animal through his scope as it eventually unfurled and scuttled off. It was probably a bad idea to be wasting ammo just scaring the native fauna, but he had been bored all day, and yet he felt compelled to stay up in his roost, keeping a close eye on the desert. Scout had come up that morning, but he hadn’t stuck around very long. Spy, too, had tried his luck with bothering him, but backed down when Sniper threatened to throw one of his piss jars at him. Other than that, he had been up there all day since breakfast, alone, with only the drone of the radio to keep him company.
There was a tentative knock at the door.
“Door’s open,” Sniper shouted, not even turning his head. “Though, if that’s you, Spy, you can piss right off.”
The door opened and heavy bootsteps could be head coming up the stairs, “‘Lo, Sniper. ‘Ow ye fairin’ lad?”
The assassin turned around and smiled at Demoman, “Could be better, mate. Thank Christ it’s you an’ not Spy or Scout.”
“Ach, donnae be so ‘ard on Scoot. ‘E’s a good lad, jes’ loud an’ mouthy. Spy, though…” He set down a plate of mashed potatoes, gravy and chicken beside Sniper. “Brought ye dinner. Hadn’t seen ye ’round all day, figgered ye must be starvin’.”
“Thanks, mate.” Sniper accepted the plate and eagerly dug in. “Ya know,” he said, mouth half full, “I coulnn’t ‘elp bu’ notish th’ fensh s’ shtill go’ a ‘ole innit.”
“There’s a reason fer that.” Demoman said grimly, “The fence piece tha’ got cut out s’missin’.”
Sniper stopped eating for a second, then chewed what was in his mouth slowly before swallowing. “Missing?”
“Aye. Gone. Noe there. I checked this mornin’. I think Soldier made off wi’ it.”
“Wot th’ bloody hell would Soldier want with a chunk a’ fence?” Sniper asked.
“Dunnae. But ye remember last night, when we were on th’ roof, an’ he was sneakin’ aroun’ like some kind a’ fox innae hen house? I think ‘e took it.”
The Australian hesitated before shoving another forkful of chicken in his mouth, barely chewing it and swallowing. “Are ya sure?”
“It fits, donnit?” Demoman asked with more than a hint of vexation. “I dunnae why ‘e even does ‘alf th’ things ‘e does, but tha’ doan’ stop ‘im from doin’ ‘em. All those John Wayne movies ‘ave done rotted ‘is mind.”
“So, how do we proceed from here, then? Board th’ hole up with a bit of wood?” Sniper asked before shoveling some mashed potatoes into his mouth.
“We may ‘ave t’ ‘ave an intervention, ‘a sorts. ‘Course, Medic tried tha’ before, an’ a fat lot a’ good tha’ did ‘im.”
“Oh, trust me, mate, I remember quite well,” Sniper rolled his eyes. “Piker bit down on my kukri so hard it still has little scratches from his teeth.”
Demoman burst into laughter. “Oh, aye, tha’ was a sight to behold, wa’innit?” he shook his head and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. “Good times, mate. Good times.”
Sniper snickered, “Yeah, I guess in retrospect, it is kinda funny.” He looked up at Demoman. “Ya brought anythin’ t’ drink at all, mate?”
“Only scrumpy. Ye wan’ some?” Demoman offered the bottle to his teammate, swishing it around a little bit while Sniper eyed it cautiously. “Oh, c’mon, t’won’t bite ye.”
“Eh, what the hell,” Sniper conceded, grabbing the bottle by the neck and pressing it to his lips, before throwing his head back and pouring it down his throat. It burned on its way down, causing the assassin to nearly choke. His eyes watered as he gasped for breath, “Jesus, mate, why not go an’ pour kerosene down yer gullet?”
“Doan’ think I ‘aven’t considered it, boyo,” Demoman said with a chuckle. “Ye’ll get used t’ it, soon enough.”
Sniper sniffed deeply, and tried to regain his composure. “So, about that intervention…what’re ya thinkin’ we do? Askin’ Medic t’ talk t’ Solly’s not gonna do us a lick a’ good.”
“Wha’ aboot Scoot?” Demoman suggested.
“Yer not seriously suggestin’ that,” Sniper raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Scout? I’d sooner send a used car salesman in t’ make negotiations with th’ Soviets.”
“Solly lissens to ‘im, a lil’ bit,” Demoman said. “Le’s face it, Scoot’s th’ only one I ever seen really talkin‘ wi’ Soldier. I mean, I tried talkin’ to ‘im, but there’s only so much a’ Soldier ye can take before yer head starts spinnin’. We’ll talk wi’ Scoot, make sure ‘e knows what we wanna say, then send ‘im on his way. In th’ meantime, we keep watch on th’ roof again.”
“More like get shitfaced and listen to th’ radio on th’ roof again,” Sniper said with a smirk. “But yeah. Sounds good, mate. Where is th’ little runt, anyway?”
“Aroun’. Prolly in ‘is room, maybe runnin’ aroun’ base. We’ll catch up wi’ him later,” Demoman took a swig from his bottle. “We go’ all night, really.”
The two men conversed more, their voices and occasional laughter floating out over the scorched desert earth. The armadillo that had run away before pressed his luck going into the hole in the fence again. He kept a watchful eye out for that ominous red dot. Seeing none, he scuttled forward, odd armored body propelled forward on stubby little legs, waddling in the direction of the RED base as the moon rose higher in the sky and stars started to peek out from the atmosphere.
“Door’s open, Maggot.”
Soldier could hear Scout cautiously opening the War Room door, and closing it behind him with the weight of his slender frame. Soldier turned from his position standing on top of a chair and writing something on the maps that covered his wall, and grinned. “Oh, it’s you! Good to see you again, Private. What’s the good word?”
“Actually, Sniper an’ Demo sent me here,” Scout admitted sheepishly, rubbing his arm. “They said you took part of the fence an’ now it can’t be repaired. They wanted me to try an’ get it back from you.”
Soldier snorted. He glanced at Shovel, awaiting instructions.
He can’t have it, Shovel said. We can’t tell him our plans, yet. Stall.
“I need it,” Soldier said curtly.
“Why?” Scout put his hands on his hips and started to tap his foot. “I mean, c’mon, man, we need it so’s there aren’t any zombies comin’ in through that hole. We just had a coyote goin’ though the trash earlier tonight. Fence is there for a reason.”
Soldier hopped down from his chair, gripped Shovel by the handle, and confronted Scout, getting dangerously close to overstepping his personal boundaries. “Listen, Private. I need you to trust me. Can you do that?”
“I’d trust you a lot more if ya told me what you’re gonna do, man.” Scout backed away from the older man a bit, nearly tripping over his own feet as he did so.
“Can’t. Not yet. Classified. When the time’s right, I will, but I need clearance for that.”
“Clearance from who?” Scout asked, brow furrowed.
Soldier cleared his throat and wrung his hand around Shovel’s shaft. “That’s also classified,” he said. If Shovel had eyes, Soldier thought, they’d be boring right into him now. “This is a delicate mission here, Scout. I can’t go around blabbing away about any unnecessary details.”
“Oh, so that’s it,” Scout crossed his arms over his chest. “You don’t trust me. That’s it, ain’t it?”
“I never said that,” Solider’s grip on Shovel tightened and he gritted his teeth.
“You were thinkin’ it,” Scout spat. “Think I’m just a big blabbermouth, huh? Can’t keep anything a secret, is that it?”
Well, he can’t, Shovel grumbled. But we can’t let him think that, now can we?
“Scout…” Soldier put a firm hand on Scout’s shoulder, and tilted his helmet up just enough so that he could look the young man in the eye. “Of course I don’t think that. Why the hell would I have you keeping an eye on Medic for me if I thought you were just gonna squeal to him?”
Scout’s gaze turned to the floor as he started to paw the floor with his foot. “Well, yeah, I mean…I guess…but why can’t I at least know what you’re doin’ with the fence, man? Sniper and Demo are gonna want some kinda answer…”
“Sniper and Demo are too concerned with problems in the short run,” Soldier asserted. “Neither of ‘em can possibly grasp the scope of what I’m working on. Besides,” he wrapped his arm around Scout’s shoulder, bringing the boy in close, “I’m not sure if they’re entirely trustworthy.”
“Whaddya mean?” Scout shifted uncomfortably under Soldier’s unyielding embrace.
“Quite frankly, they don’t have any motivation to act with America’s best interests in mind,” he nudged Scout’s chest with Shovel’s blade. “They’re foreigners, Scout. They simply don’t have the same values as you and I. I suppose it’s not their fault, but it’s true and we have to recognize that.”
“So…should I stop hanging out with ‘em, or what?” Scout had given up trying to squirm out from under Soldier’s arm. He was either more comfortable with this or more afraid, and either way, this suited Soldier just fine.
“No…no need to shun them. In fact, I’m going to need you to keep a close eye on them for me. Report anything you learn. As for the fence, well…” Soldier chuckled. “You’re going to have to lie to them.”
“Aw shit, man, you know I’m a lousy liar,” Scout bit his lip for a moment, then stopped, remembering the stitches still on the inside of his mouth. “Do I really gotta do this?”
“Oh, don’t worry. You won’t be telling them anything too unbelievable.” He finally let go of Scout, turning his gaze back to the wall. “Just tell them that Soldier did something like, say, tear the fence up to little bits and was screaming about communists or something,” Soldier was parroting the words Shovel was whispering to him. Shovel’s voice was so soothing, so smooth and rich like warm butter. “I’m sure they’ll buy that, don’t you think?”
“Yeah…I guess.” Scout straightened his posture a bit now that he was free of Soldier. “You’re the boss.”
The grin that spread across Soldier’s face at the sound of those last three words was wide and toothy. “Good to hear, Private. Good to hear. By the way…” Soldier tilted his helmet up again, showing his cool blue eyes. “Any updates on Medic?”
“Not much, man. Engie was in the infirmary earlier today. He made a leash for that zombie Medic’s been keepin’ in there. I think he went back to his workshop and made a muzzle for it too.” Scout shuddered, “Fuckin’ thing creeps me out, man. I used to go head to head with BLU Scout all the time, and seein’ him like that…gives me goosebumps, man.”
“Engineer…” Soldier rubbed his chin while he pondered this. “Poor, misguided Engineer. Can’t say I’m terribly surprised. That sorry bastard. If we can put Medic in his place quickly, maybe we can save him…” He tapped his lip with his index finger while absentmindedly fondling Shovel’s shaft.
“How d’you plan on doing that?” Scout asked, now intensely curious.
“Simple enough, really. Just gotta emasculate the kraut bastard. Well, moreso than he already has been, that is. I know for a fact that the Nazi sonuvabitch plays catcher more than pitcher,” Soldier snickered at Scout’s obvious look of disgust. “You’ll find out what I have in mind, soon enough.”
“What, you still don’t trust me?” Scout crossed his arms over his chest.
“Actually,” Soldier flashed the younger man a crocodile smile, “it’s a surprise.” Shovel gave out a wicked little giggle.
“Whatever, man,” Scout turned to leave. “Just take care a’ yourself.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me.” Soldier pulled his helmet back over his eyes. “I’ve got everything perfectly under control.”
Scout merely nodded, turning back to the door and slipping out like a little snake sliding through blades of grass. The door clicked shut and Soldier turned back to the wall, rubbing his thumb against Shovel’s handle.
You handled that fairly well, Soldier, Shovel purred.
“Heh, thank you,” Soldier found himself blushing despite himself. Getting that kind of approval from Shovel made him…happy, almost. It felt good to please Shovel, and hear that gentle, androgynous voice grant Soldier his approval. He ran a finger down Shovel’s shaft without even thinking about it. “You’re the only one that understands me, Shovel. You…you know that, right?”
I know, Soldier, I know, Shovel’s voice was barely above a whisper. You’ve told me this many times, and I never get tired of hearing it.
Soldier held Shovel in front of him and started to caress the blade, rubbing the edge with his thumb. Shovel offered little resistance to this, sighing as Soldier grazed the back of his blade with his fingertips, until he fingered a dent in the back that caused Shovel to gasp, jolting Soldier out of his hypnosis and making him drop Shovel. He caught his companion quickly before it could touch the ground, and he found himself sweating and his hands shaking.
“I…I’m sorry, Shovel, I don’t know what came over me.” He avoided looking directly into Shovel’s blade and tugged at his collar. “That…that’s never happened before.”
It’s all right, Soldier, Shovel cooed. You don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.
Good God, Shovel knew exactly what he was doing, didn’t he? Soldier thought. What a terrifying and yet oddly exciting thought. Soldier cleared his throat. “You know how I feel about fraternization, Shovel. Let’s just say that didn’t happen.”
Whatever you say, Soldier. Shovel didn’t sound aggressive or bitter, simply…disappointed.
Soldier found himself panicking a little. “No, no, Shovel, I didn’t mean it like that…it’s just…this is kind of awkward for me. That’s all.”
How so? Shovel asked, voice rising with a sort of child-like curiosity.
“Well…aren’t you a…a man, Shovel?” Jesus, why would he say something so stupid? Soldier silently cursed himself for asking.
Don’t be silly, Soldier. I’m a shovel. You are the man.
“I mean, you’re…it’s not like you’re a girl shovel.” Soldier’s palms were slick with sweat and he caught himself stroking Shovel’s shaft again.
I’m not a girl shovel, but I’m not a boy shovel, either. I’m just a shovel. Shovel hummed a little bit as Soldier twisted his handle. Whether I’m a male or female, it all depends on what you want.
“How about we just drop the subject, okay?” Soldier blurted out.
There was a long, stony silence from Shovel. Soldier sighed, flopping down onto his bed, Shovel still in his grasp. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. He held Shovel close, cradling him like a doll. “This is all just…very overwhelming.”
I understand, Shovel said, in a doting, motherly voice. Let’s just go to bed. We have to get up early tomorrow.
“Right.” Soldier got up from his bed, leaving Shovel lying on top of the sheets, and stripped down to his undershirt and boxers, keeping his helmet on. He felt naked without it, like his head simply didn’t feel right without it resting on top of his skull. The over-head light and the desk lamp were both switched off, and he crawled on top of the starchy, itchy sheets and lay down next to Shovel, tilting his helmet so it was resting on top of his face as he lay on his back. He lightly clutched Shovel in his hand, one of his legs sliding off the edge of the bed, and slowly found himself drifting asleep.
There was a sudden, heavy pounding on the War Room door, causing Soldier to bolt upright from his bed and send his helmet flying forward. He gripped Shovel defensively before groping around for his helmet. “Who’s there? State your name and rank, Private!”
“Doktor vants to see you. Now.” There was no mistaking that rumbling voice and that Russian accent. It was Heavy.
“Go to Hell, you communist thug,” Soldier slapped his helmet on top of his head. “You won’t take me alive.”
“You do not have choice,” Heavy growled. “I vill drag you to Doktor if I must, Tiny Man.”
“You try it, you bastard! C’mon!” He banged Shovel against his helmet to better get his blood pumping. “You couldn’t capture me if you had a list of step-by-step instructions, maggot!”
The door exploded open with the sheer force of Heavy’s shoulder, and Soldier hopped to his feet, Shovel in hand, to intercept him. The Russian lunged forward, grabbing the hand Soldier was wielding Shovel with and nearly crushing the bones in the process, then using his other arm to wrap around Soldier and hoist the pugnacious American over his shoulder. Heavy yanked Shovel from Soldier’s grip, and carried the kicking, screaming man out of the door and down the hallway.
“PUT ME DOWN, YOU COCK-SUCKING, MISERABLE SONUVABITCH! THAT IS AN ORDER!” Soldier roared, pounding his fists uselessly against Heavy’s broad back. “I’LL BITE YOU IF I HAVE TO, YOU FAIRY BASTARD! I’LL BET YOU BLEED PIXIE DUST!”
“You bite me, and I crush your skull,” Heavy snorted.
“HA! You wouldn’t dare! You don’t have the guts!” Soldier snarled, trying to turn around enough to see Heavy’s face, but it was impossible at his current angle.
“Trust me,” Heavy grunted, rolling his eyes, “Medic is only one stopping me.”
“ACH, WOULD YE SHUT YER PIEHOLES, AH’M TRYIN’ T’ SLEEP!” shouted Demoman from his room as Heavy lumbered past. They were up to Demo’s room now, and the infirmary was only feet away. Soldier braced himself as Heavy opened the door and sauntered inside, lifting Soldier from his shoulder and plopping the smaller man down in the chair in front of Medic’s desk.
Medic was sitting at his desk, wearing a bathrobe and sipping a cup of coffee coolly. It had to be very early, considering Medic wasn’t even dressed yet. The German tapped a pen against a notepad on his desk with his right hand, holding the coffee cup with his left and shot Soldier a smirk. “Ah, good morning, Herr Soldier,” he said. “Sleep vell?”
“What do you want, you sauerkraut-munching sonuvabitch?” Soldier was in no mood for small talk.
“Ah, alvays cutting to ze chase. Zat is ze Soldier ve all know.” Medic took another sip from his mug. “Soldier, I have called you here because you have been causing some concern among ze members of ze team. Zey tell me you have been behaving strangely. Naturally, zeir concern is my concern. So I called you in here.”
“‘Called me’? You had your butt-buddy here burst into my room and carry me out!” Soldier motioned towards Heavy with his thumb. The Russian was currently looming over him, still gripping Shovel in his large, meaty hand.
“Vell, I did not zink you vould come villingly, so certain measures had to be taken,” Medic replied with a shrug. “Especially since ze reason I called you in here vas for a psychiatric evaluation.”
“And since when are you a licensed psychiatrist?” Soldier crossed his arms over his chest. “Hell, I’m pretty sure you’re not even a real medical doctor.”
Medic leaned forward over his desk and scribbled down a few notes on his notepad, “Patient is belligerent and overly defensive. Often lashes out at ozzahs. Had to be forcibly brought in for examination…”
“To Hell with you!” Soldier snapped. “I don’t have to put up with this bullshit! I’m leaving!” He suddenly felt a large, firm hand on his shoulder, forcing him back down in his seat.
“Little man should stay vhere he is,” Heavy said threateningly, squeezing Soldier’s shoulder hard enough to grind the bones together.
“Do not make zis difficult, Soldier. I only vish to talk viz you.” Medic pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Quite frankly, ve ah all very concerned about your mental health. You have been sneaking around ze base, generally acting shifty, and you have also been switching meals viz ze ozzers to avoid taking your medication.”
“I don’t trust your ‘medication.’ It’s a mind altering drug you’re trying to shove down my gullet, and only crazies and hippies take ‘em!” Soldier harrumphed.
“Soldier,” Medic put down his pen, propped his elbows on top of his desk and laced his fingers together. “You’ve been talking to Shovel again, haven’t you?”
Soldier did his best to keep a straight face. He felt antsy, especially with Heavy holding Shovel like that. He turned to Shovel, expecting some sort of answer. But Shovel only let out a soft little chuckle. God damn it, what was Shovel up to?
“Of course not,” Soldier finally answered. “Normal people don’t talk to shovels. Or sentries. Or guns.”
“Vhat are you saying?” Heavy once again tightened his grip on Soldier.
“Heavy’s anthropomorphization of Sasha or Engineer doting on his sentries is hardly as vorrying as you taking advice from a gardening tool,” Medic replied flatly.
“DON’T YOU DARE INSULT SHOVEL LIKE THAT! HE’S AN ENTRENCHING TOOL, COCK-HUNGRY BUTT BURGALAR!” Soldier jumped out of his chair, only to be pulled back down onto it by Heavy.
Medic merely looked over Soldier with half-lidded eyes and jotted down more notes on his pad in front of him. “Mmm-hmmmm…” he hummed, before lifting up his mug and taking another sip.
“What’re you writing now?” Soldier tried to lean forward and peer over Medic’s desk, but Heavy stopped him again.
“Zis is going into your file, Soldier. Zat is all.” Medic jabbed a period onto the notepad before reaching for a manila folder sitting off to the side. He flipped through and pulled out a pile of cardstock sheets. “Ah you familiar viz ze Rorschach ink blot tests?”
“Raw shark what?”
“I zhought not. It’s a very simple test, really. I show you an abstract image, und you look at it und tell me ze first zing zat you see in it.” Medic flipped the cards over so they were facing Soldier. “Now, tell me, vhat does zis look like to you?”
Soldier leaned forward and squinted, “A dog with its head split in half.”
The doctor raised an eyebrow.
“Vait, I see it too,” Heavy said, tilting his head.
“Let’s try ze next card,” Medic sighed, flipping to a different ink blot.
“JFK’s exploded head,” Soldier snorted.
“Und zis vone?” The doctor flipped to another card.
“Jap soldier that stepped on a land mine.”
“I am noticing a trend here,” Medic said, peering over his glasses as Soldier. “Alzhough, given your profession, I should not be too surprised. Perhaps we should move onto vord association…”
“Or maybe we should just move right to the diagnosis.” Soldier tensed under Heavy’s grip. “I know already you’re gonna say I’m crazy, that I’m not fit to be fighting! You want me out of the way because I’m the only one who seems to care that you’re a goddamned Nazi!” Medic flinched the tiniest bit, but it didn’t escape Soldier’s notice. “What’s the matter? I strike a nerve there, /Doc/?”
“My previous political associations are not vhat is undah scrutiny here,” Medic said in a very slow, deliberate manner. He was angry, Soldier thought, he always talked like that when he was about to go off. All he needed was just a little more pushing. “A lot of us in Germany vere pressured into joining the party during ze Var…”
“‘Pressured,’ you say?” Soldier laughed. “Oh, I highly doubt that you were pressured at all, you goddamned fascist faggot. I bet you got off on those sleek uniforms, didn’t you? Bet you got off even more on carving up a bunch of Jews for your little science projects, you sick sonuvabitch…”
“YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” Medic slammed his fist on the table, spilling a small amount of coffee on his papers. “Vhat vould you even know about ze Var? You didn’t even fight in it, you Dummkopf!”
“You vant me to pummel leetle man, Doktor?” Heavy now was gripping both of Soldier’s shoulders, gradually increasing the pressure he put on them.
Soldier laughed. “You know, I still can’t get over the fact that you’d go queer for a communist, Doc. Or do you like to be completely and totally dominated by the same guys who handed your own ass to you in the War?” He was wearing an unsettling, Cheshire grin as Medic was red in the face and shaking with rage. “Oooh, I think I definitely struck a nerve.”
“I’LL KILL HIM, DOKTOR!” Heavy roared as he lifted Soldier off of his seat, and flipped the smaller man around so they were face-to-face. “YOU SAY THE VORD, I KILL HIM UNTIL HE IS DEAD.”
“Nein, Heavy, zat vill not be necessary…” Medic was still shaking, but sounding the slightest bit calmer. “He vas provoking me to fight him, not you. Unfortunately, fighting is ze only vay to get zhrough to him. I have been issued a challenge, und mein honor is at stake.” Medic took off his glasses with a shaky hand, and sighed. “I accept your challenge, Soldier. Name your time und place.”
“Hot damn, Doc, maybe you’re not so bad at this psychiatry thing after all,” Soldier said with a smirk. “Outside. In front of the bridge. High noon. I want everyone to see this go down. We use our fists only, like real men…that is, if you are a real man.” He flashed Medic another grin.
“Doktor is more of man than you vill ever be,” Heavy growled, still holding Soldier up well off the ground.
“And I’m sure you of all people would know,” Soldier jeered.
“Put him down, Heavy. Let him go on his vay. I must prepare.” Medic got up from his desk, picking up his coffee mug. “Und don’t you even zink about ambushing him beforehand. Zis is between Soldier und I.”
Heavy grunted, roughly dropping Soldier back onto the ground. Soldier landed deftly on his feet, and reached for his precious, discarded Shovel before making a hasty exit, laughing all the way.
News of the fight between Soldier and Medic spread quickly, since Soldier wisely (or perhaps, unwisely) decided that the first person he should inform of this challenge was Scout. The young man had taken it upon himself to wake up everyone that was still asleep to inform them of this, and had several objects thrown at him in the process. Of course, no one was able to get back to sleep. Scout was too excited to care, acting as giddy as a child on Christmas morning, bouncing around the base excitedly, “SOLDIER AN’ MEDIC ARE GETTIN’ IN A FIGHT!”
“Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” Spy had snapped at him. “We already know, now go boil your fat, stupid head!”
Medic and Soldier avoided each other completely before their fight. Soldier holed himself up in the War Room, doing push-ups and jumping jacks obsessively, and barked at anyone who dared disturb him. Medic, on the other hand, was being coached by Heavy, who repeatedly tried to talk him out of it; Medic repeatedly refused. Sniper, Demoman, Scout and Spy all seemed busy discussing the outcome, placing bets and trying to work out the odds; Soldier was favored 3:1. Engineer refused to take part in any of it, distancing himself from the entire affair, and Pyro seemed content to be a silent spectator.
When noon finally rolled around, the sun was being blotted out by dark, rolling clouds. The sky was a dull grey and the desert yearned for its thirst to be quenched. The sky rumbled and growled like an unruly beast as Soldier waited in front of the bridge. Sniper, Demoman, Spy, Scout and Pyro were already there, waiting just inside the front entrance of RED base.
“Where’s Medic?” Scout asked. “It’s noon already, don’t tell me he’s backin’ down.”
“He won’t. He’s too proud for that,” Sniper said, leaning against the door frame. “He’s prolly gonna show up late to increase th’ dramatic tension or somethin’ along those lines, th’ bloody poofter.”
Soldier stood at full attention, arms crossed, with Shovel propped up against one of the support beams of the covered bridge. He was completely and totally focused on the entrance of RED base, looking past the peanut gallery and waiting for that flash of Medic’s white coat to flutter into his vision.
Sure enough, Medic appeared with Heavy in tow, his expression grim and his gait methodical. He strode past his teammates without so much as a cursory glance, staring straight ahead at Soldier. He stopped abruptly a few yards short of Soldier, and stared him down a moment. Soldier snickered a bit, almost expecting a tumbleweed to roll by.
“Are you sure you vant to do this, Doktor?” Heavy asked, resting his hand on Medic’s shoulder.
“Ja, mein Kuschelbär. I have to do zis.” He rested his hand over Heavy’s before brushing it off, and took a few steps closer to Soldier before stopping. “You brought your shovel.”
“Shovel’s just watching,” Soldier said. “He didn’t want to miss this.” He cracked his knuckles, then pounded his fist into his palm. “Let’s dance, Princess Petticoat.”
“Viz pleasure.” Medic stretched his arms out in front of him and cracked his own knuckle bones, then stretched his neck from side to side.
The rest of RED Team leaned forward in anticipation and Medic and Soldier started to circle each other, sizing each other up. It was Soldier that made the first move, letting out a primal scream as he lunged forward, swinging his fist at Medic. The doctor swiftly sidestepped away from the attack, and managed to land a punch to Soldiers jaw. Soldier reeled backwards, stumbling to a stop and wiping his lip, only to see a streak of red on his fingertips.
“FIRST BLOOD!” Scout screeched. “Doc got first blood!”
“Ha!” Sniper laughed, and turned to Demoman, “That’s five bucks up front ya owe me, mate.”
“Fight’s not o’er yet, laddie,” Demoman grumbled.
Medic stood over Soldier for a moment, looking rather pleased with himself, before he swung another fist aiming for just underneath Soldier’s ribs. Soldier, however, blocked the blow with his palm, then grabbed Medic by the arm and twisted it behind his back. Medic let out a pained gasp, as Soldier chortled and twisted it further. The doctor used his free arm to reach behind Soldier’s head and pulled his helmet over his eyes, before twirling back around again to land another blow to the American’s face. Soldier recovered much more quickly this time around, and managed to land a fist straight into Medic’s gut. The doctor was doubled over when Soldier kneed him in the face, busting his lip open and sending Medic tottering backwards.
At this point, the spectators were now cheering and hollering and yelling commands to the combatants before them. The sky illuminated for a moment in a brilliant flash of lightening far off over the horizon, and then growled, as though asserting its dominion over every living thing beneath it. As Medic and Soldier continued to exchange blows the heavens opened their floodgates and the rain started to come down a few meager drops at a time. Soldier screamed as he swung his fist into Medic’s face, coming up straight between his eyes and smashing his glasses against his nose, cracking the lenses and twisting the frames. Medic found himself clutching his bleeding face as Soldier threw himself against the doctor, tackling him to the ground and pinning him as he battered his opponent’s face. The rain came down harder, causing the seeping blood to run and mingle with the soil that was quickly turning to mud. Heavy bellowed something out to the doctor, but Medic couldn’t hear him over the clapping thunder, as he tried to claw back at Soldier’s face desperately in an attempt to get the man off of his chest.
Soldier however, never felt better. He was punching Medic’s face over and over, shattering his glasses and making his face look like hamburger meat. This was for America, this was for the Team, this was for the values that Medic was trying to strangle. But most importantly, it was for Shovel, and Shovel was watching with approval.
Suddenly, he felt someone yanking him off of the doctor. He whirled around, expecting it to be Heavy, raising his fist to meet the Russian, only to have it collide into a familiar yellow glove.
“That’s more than enough, Soldier,” Engineer drawled, not bothering to mask his exasperation. “Stop this nonsense right now.”
“But…” Soldier couldn’t finish. Engineer just gave him a very paternal, disappointed look, and bent over to help Medic to his feet. Solder just stood there, panting as blood dribbled down his face, and watched as Engineer draped Medic’s arm around his shoulder.
“I can’t believe you two. We’re supposed t’ be a team an’ here you are havin’ a stupid fist fight for no goddamn reason. ‘Specially you, Doc. This ain’t like you at all.
“It vas…a matter of pride…” Medic sputtered, blood and mud and rainwater streaking down his bruised and battered face.
The Texan frowned as he turned to the others, “An’ th’ rest a’ you, none a’ you bothered to stop this. Hell, th’ only reason I didn’t stop this sooner was so’s you knuckleheads could get your kicks. I hope you’re all happy.” And with that, he walked Medic back inside the base, handing him off to Heavy. The Russian lifted Medic into his arms like a doll and carried him down, and the others, crestfallen as they were, followed them. Engineer watched them go before casting a final glance back to Soldier, who simply stood there, looking dazed.
The rain came down harder. The shower probably wouldn’t last much longer; desert rains never did. Soldier looked up at the sky, letting the droplets splash onto his face.
Well, that didn’t go as planned, Shovel huffed.
Soldier didn’t respond, at first. He simply stood there, letting himself be drenched. After a few moments, he finally turned to Shovel, “You wanna know the worst part, Shovel?”
What’s that, Soldier?
“Beating that maggot’s face in…” Soldier shook his head, spraying a few odd drops of rain, “gave me a goddamned erection.”
Proceed to Part Two.