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No. 3679
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in the present tense, so this may be a tad lumpy. Apologies in advance.
Any and all crits/comments requested.

~

Scout is running.

Running is what he always does; what he was born to do. Running to places, running from them, running for the sheer feel of the wind in his hair. Running on the vast, flat expanses of the desert, running and climbing and jumping the crowded streets and lawless alleyways of his native Boston.

The air is wet here, however, full of fog and mist, and the ground is slick beneath his feet – muddy, mostly, with the occasional patch of grass, and where rock and sand and concrete would have made a firm, comforting pat every time his feet hit the ground here it only splashes and slips and threatens to disappear from beneath him the moment he missteps.

Scout runs, tonight, with a purpose.

RED had taken them by surprise; the rival corporation wasn’t even supposed to be here, and so the BLU presence was minimal, but the bastards had shown up anyway and driven BLU out of their base, their home, and they’d just fled – piling onto the back of the old pickup truck and firing back as they retreated, leaving their base and everything in it behind.

Scout always felt out of place, here. With no rival Company to fight off – no Intel to steal, no territory to capture, no cocky RED Scout to be taken down a peg or ten – his role had always felt minimal, and his presence all but unwanted. When the order had been made to fall back – well, Scout had not been expecting them to fall back as far as they did. Gathering their strength and striking back at the enemy, like they had so often back in the Twin Fortresses, that was what he’d expected – but no, they’d just run, outnumbered and outgunned, and had only stopped running when they were sure RED had stopped chasing them, eventually holing up in a run-down, abandoned farmstead that they’d come across almost by chance. The farmhouse itself was unsafe, looking like it had been in a major fire some years ago and never been repaired; there were outbuildings nearby, however, which despite their age seemed in at least good enough shape to provide shelter for the night (Scout did not much like this turn of events. They were living – albeit temporarily – in a barn. RED live in a god damned barn. Not BLU. Not ever).

The rest of the team had seemed on edge. Hell, Scout had been on edge. Still was on edge. None of them would talk to him about it, though, and after they’d discovered they couldn’t even find food enough for a measly evening meal and instead had only Soldier telling misremembered adventures that never happened to him during a war he never fought in, Scout – and Pyro, and Heavy (all of whom, apparently, were thought of as being able to make very little useful contribution to the situation) – had been shooed away, respectively told to patrol and lookout and sleep.

Heavy had not objected to this, much; Pyro’s moods were inscrutable, as always, and Scout, after protesting, had relented, slinking outside with no intention of cooperating. Instead, he’d found a dark, quiet spot, settled down – and listened.

Once they’d thought he’d left, the others – some of the others – had begun discussing the situation, going over their options and deciding amongst themselves what to do.

The Administration had given them explicit orders. Hold the base. Protect the Intelligence. And this they had done well, for a time, though with nobody here to attack them it wasn’t like that had been a difficult task. Failing at one of them would land them in trouble – it was the reason they’d been transferred away from their last post in the first place. Failing at both of them... Scout didn’t like to think what would be waiting for them when the Administration found out. None of them did.

Hiding from the League was not an option; they were too well-connected, and their wrath would have only multiplied tenfold. Defecting was also out of the question; not only was it unlikely that RED would accept them, but BLU did not treat traitors kindly. There was no way, his teammates had concluded, that they were in any shape to retake the base; their best and only option was to throw themselves on the infinite mercies of the Builder’s League, and hope they got reassigned somewhere that wasn’t an immediate suicide mission.

Scout, however, did not share this opinion.

It was for this reason that he had formulated his own plan; for this reason he was running, for this reason he had slipped away from his teammates and into the cold, wet night.

He didn’t bring any weapons with him.

He won’t need them; they will only slow him down.

Scout is approaching edge of the base, now, looking in. It’s an old sawmill, in the middle of what remains of a pine forest; the saws even still work, huge metal blades with wicked edges. There’s a huge sign over the buildings where the base is located, proudly displaying the BLU logo; the RED invaders have apparently not yet seen fit to deface it, though Scout knows that come the morning that will all have changed.

The buildings which comprise the former BLU outpost are right at the edge of the facility; the barbed wire fence which surrounds its edges does not extend over or around the buildings which straddle them, and there are wooden pylons holding up the power lines leading into them. It’s one of these he scrambles up now, jumping from it onto the roof of the BLU buildings and lands with an audible thump. He scrambles across the roof, and hurls himself over the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the complex and onto the wooden walkways that connect the buildings – which he hits running and immediately heads for the Intel building, quickly making his way inside, moving down the winding, narrow staircase as fast as he dares.

The Intel room itself fared badly in the attack. It’s underground; Engineer, when prodded, once informed Scout this was probably to make it easier to defend. A hole was been blown in one of the walls of a basement adjacent to it during the battle, however, and water has poured in – there’s a good inch already, and it’s still rising. Scout realises that he stands no chance of being stealthy here – he has to get in and out as quickly as he can. Not that this is an unusual approach; usually, however, he is just the forward point of an attack, with others to back him up once he’s taken RED by surprise.

But not tonight.

The electrics seem to be out down here, and Scout regrets for a moment not bringing a torch; RED have put oil lamps around, but they are difficult to see by. He can make out enough to manage, however, and sees the silent, defeated BLU sentry still standing in the entrance to the Intel room. Scout is surprised, momentarily, that the thing is still intact – Engineer’s creations usually only ever ended up in pieces when RED attacked them back in the desert – but the thought disappears as quickly as it forms, and Scout slips past it, into the Intel room itself.

There is nothing here, bar the rising water; no RED sentry, no enemy Engineer or Heavy, not even so much as a Dispenser or Teleport exit. The safe is even hanging open – Scout is sure that it was closed when they left – and the briefcase is still sitting there, otherwise untouched.

Scout can barely believe his luck and dashes across the room, water splashing everywhere as he does so, soaking his feet and legs, and grabs the BLU briefcase, setting off every alarm in the base.

Alert, the automated announcement comes, the enemy has taken our Intelligence.

Scout ignores it, however, and is already halfway up the stairs, bounding up them two at a time, out into the air again in no time and immediately spots his first opposition – the RED Soldier, his rocket launcher already primed, screaming obscenities at him. Scout ignores him, deftly leaping from the ground to a low roof the Soldier has already aimed at to the walkway between the buildings, hurling a taunt towards the occupying RED forces (“Say goodbye to our secret crap, dumbasses!”), taking a well aimed jump onto the walkway’s railings and launching himself onto the roof of the nearest building and over the barbed-wire fence, landing on the ground with a grace and practice that comes with a lifetime fleeing armed pursuers. He doesn’t miss a single beat, just keeps running – one foot constantly in front of the other, splashing down the path into the forest that surrounds the mill.

Behind him, he hears the gates creaking open; RED screaming at each other and at him, a car engine starting up, rockets being fired and exploding as they miss him, and they all fade as he dashes into the forest, avoiding the track he followed to get here, heading into the trees to try and lose his RED pursuers.

His footsteps, as frequent as they are, splash less here; the trees provided cover from the earlier rain, and the drier ground helps him grip better and move faster. Despite this, however, and even though it’s not raining any more, there is still water in the ground and on the leaves and it drips and rolls and falls and gathers in puddles which Scout splashes through, throwing up mud and water and muddy water. He can feel himself beginning to ache and tire, and he can feel his feet slipping inside his sodden shoes, but presses on – BLU don’t even know he’s gone, and RED aren’t far behind – and soon enough leaves the forest behind for the open ground surrounding the abandoned farm BLU had taken refuge in.

He knows, somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s leading RED right to the BLU hideout, but the sounds of gunfire and shouting from behind him have faded and, he hopes, RED have given up the pursuit. He doesn’t slow, though, pushing himself just as hard as he crosses the open ground, his feet slipping more in the muddy ground, his legs throbbing, his heart pounding.

Not much farther, he tells himself, Just a little more, and you’ll be a big fucking hero, useful for fucking once, and they’ll all see how fucking awesome I really am-

A sudden crack which Scout doesn’t even have to think about to recognise as from a Sniper’s rifle spurs him on to even greater speed, adrenaline pushing him through the pain that is starting to burn in his legs; yes, he always runs, but he runs for speed, not endurance, and this was not-

A second crack almost makes Scout cry – so close, and yet so far! – before he realises that the second had been louder and closer than the first, and they had both come from the direction he was running to rather than from, and BLU must have seen him and are covering his retreat and he is going to be okay and-

-the third rifle shot, from further away – from behind him – Scout doesn’t even think of as important until the pain begins to register in his gut and even though his momentum propels him forward his legs fail him and he stumbles, then trips, then falls, landing face down on the muddy ground.

He struggles, briefly, to move, but the pain is too great and all he can do as the darkness claims him is cling to his briefcase, and try to tell himself it wasn’t all in vain.

~

He comes to, slowly, wondering why he isn’t dead. Wondering if he is dead. His head aches, his muscles burn, his gut screams every time he tries to breathe. Almost everything is drowned out by pain.

He’s laying on his back, on a hard surface, his head on a hard pillow; the only sounds those of rain on canvas and the soft click-hum of a Dispenser. He tries to move; to open his eyes, to sit, to think, but even thinking hurts and the pain is almost unbearable.

Faintly, he can hear a rumbling engine. He starts to wonder what this means, but the sound fades before he can process it further – and his thoughts soon follow.

~

He wakes again, much later, in a much different place.

He’s in a bunk; he knows that much. A hard mattress under him, scratchy blankets over his unifor-

The thought stops there, as Scout realises something is... not so much wrong as simply different. He doesn’t wear his uniform to bed, and his base isn’t this noisy (he can hear air conditioning they don’t have in pipes that aren’t there, and, faintly, voices he doesn’t recognise behind walls that shouldn’t exist saying things he doesn’t understand), and then he remembers, even if only vaguely.

Remembers running. Remembers... pain.

The pain, mercifully, is gone. His muscles ache, certainly, but the only protests from his stomach are those demanding sustenance (he thinks, involuntarily, of fried eggs and bacon and sausages and pancakes and waffles, and wishes that the League would send them these instead of their measly rations) and he forces his eyes open to the sight of another bunk above his and wonders where he is and why and what happened.

He glances around, slowly, trying to take things in. He seems to be in a dormitory, of some sort; there are five bunk beds – ten sleeping spaces in all – one of which he is currently occupying. All save his are empty, as far as he can tell, though naturally he cannot see into the bed above his.

There is a chair in the room, next to his bed, and on its seat is a clean Scout’s uniform and, perched on top of it, his bag and hat and headset, all splattered with dried mud. Scout realises, with a flash of irritation, that his bat is nowhere to be seen – the guns he uses are League property, but he doesn’t care about those – the bat is his, the one thing he’s still got that came with him from Boston, and the thought of having lost it to RED makes him sick.

Wincing a little, but without groaning, Scout pulls himself slowly out of the bed, standing unsteadily and gripping the chair for support until he’s found his footing. He’s dressed, for the most part; wearing an undershirt that’s not his and pants that are too short and, bar his dog tags, nothing else, and Scout wonders who dressed him this way, and why, and what happened to his own clothing.

He walks over to the window, slowly, looking out through it to try and identify the place he’s in. The view is familiar, though he can’t place it immediately; the dormitory he’s in looks out over an empty parade ground surrounded by tall, high buildings, and flagpoles which draw his gaze upwards until he sees the blue flags flying from them, each proudly bearing the logo of the Builder’s League.

Scout realises, suddenly, why he knows this place.

It’s the League’s regional Headquarters; the only one of their facilities he’s visited that RED would never be stupid enough to directly attack. He came here once, briefly, after they’d been transferred from the Twin Fortresses, and remembers the way the Administration had berated them – picking over every perceived hole in their defence and flaw in their offence, lecturing them on the desirability of RED’s Intelligence and the irreplaceability of their own-

Scout inhales sharply as another memory surfaces, suddenly – an intelligence briefcase, and his hands wrapped tightly around its handle, and inexplicably warm mud, and wet socks, and what caused them.

Gingerly, he runs one hand across his stomach, before lifting up the undershirt and inspecting his torso. There is no wound here, no bandages, no stitches; only faint pink scarring remains, new and faintly sore but fully healed. His body twinges with remembered pain, and he can almost hear the gunshot, almost feel the wind as it rushed around his head while he fell, almost smell the cold, wet ground.

These memories only spawn further questions of their own, though. Where are his teammates? What happened to the Intelligence? How did they get here? Did he...? Were they...?

He stretches, feeling his tired, aching muscles complain every time he moves, and reasons that what he needs is a shower and food and a run. Standing in an empty room staring out a window will achieve nothing, Scout decides, and in that moment his mind is made up.

He wanders back across the room to his bunk, scooping up his possessions and the clothing under them – but dumps them on the bed a moment later, something about his bag striking him as a little odd. Opening it, he discovers his bat and, after a moment, laughs, twirling it like a baton, passing it from hand to hand, smiling broadly. His guns... to hell with his guns. He’s got his God-damned bat. His bat, and...

The bag is still hanging a little oddly, and Scout digs around in it to find his baseball is still in the bottom, as ratty and worn as they day he’d joined the League. It’s not seen much use, not since they left the Fortress – hell, not since he left Boston – but that, to Scout, is not the point.

Still grinning, Scout stuffs his bat back into the bag and swings it onto his shoulder. Somewhere, he knows, are showers and kitchens and answers, and he heads out to find them.

~

The showers, Scout is relieved to find, are close by and the water is hot and even after only a few moments under it he begins to feel infinitely better. There’s a plentiful supply of soap, as well; cheap soap, certainly, but even just having a full bar of cheap soap is a luxury compared to scrabbling with the last slivers of the rations sent out to them at the mill.

While in the shower, Scout takes time to examine his wound again, running his fingers over the new skin covering his stomach and trying to make himself remember what happened. His mind is fuzzy on the details, though; it provides him with the run through the forest, with the sound of gunshots and the searing pain in his gut, but after that it gives him nothing.

There are also plenty of fresh, clean towels, for which Scout is grateful. They’re old, and worn, and cold, but Scout is past caring, at this point. He pulls on the clean uniform that had been left for him – it smells not just clean, Scout realises, but new. The shirt is soft, the black pants completely unfaded (Scout is no expert in matters of clothing, but even he has noticed the tendency of cheaply dyed fabric to fade over time), the running shoes entirely unbroken. Scout is suddenly reminded of the first time he wore a League uniform, and the proud, heartbroken look on his Ma’s face.

He finds his way to the mess hall, eventually, a huge place not even a quarter full but all its occupants in League uniforms. A pair of Medics are sitting at the table nearest the doors when he walks in, both giving him identical, contemptuous glances before resuming their impenetrable conversation; further in, there’s a table occupied entirely by Soldiers swapping equally ridiculous war stories; in the queue for food, there is a Heavy in front of Scout who insists on berating the serving woman for not giving him a larger-than-average portion.

There is little choice in the food being served – a strange and almost formless stew – but Scout is too hungry to care and takes it gladly, about to sit on his own when he spots his team’s Engineer, alone at a table, studying documents and idly picking at his food. Smiling, Scout saunters over, happy to see a familiar, friendly face.

“Hey, Hardhat!”

Engineer looks up, startled out of his thoughts, and smiles when he sees Scout. This is unusual – as a rule, the Texan man wants as little to do with the Boston boy as possible – but these are unusual circumstances.

“Scout,” he says, “Good t’ see ya. Y’allright?”

“Never been better,” Scout replies, thumping his chest as he slides into a chair next to Engineer. “You, uh,” he says, prodding his food with a fork and wondering, perhaps belatedly, if it’s safe to eat, “You mind tellin’ me what’s goin’ on?”

Engineer does not reply immediately; he’s just taken a mouthful of his food, and is taking his time to savour it, though it’s likely he’s also using the pause to consider his words. He swallows, eventually, before speaking.

“How much d’you remember?”

Scout shrugs. “I remember gettin’ shot, if that’s what you’re askin’.”

Engineer holds the boy’s gaze for a moment, his expression stern. Scout wonders briefly what’s so wrong, and is about to ask him when Engineer speaks.

“We lost the whole area t’ the REDs. The Administration ain’t pleased at all. We’re the only team who made it here intact.”

Engineer leans in a little. “In fact,” he says, smiling in a conspiratorial manner, “We were also the only team who managed to stop RED from capturin’ our Intel.”

He pats Scout on the head, and the boy takes a moment to process this before he catches on and begins smiling, broadly.

“So we’re in the clear?”

Engineer chuckles. “Hardly. They’re still mad as hell that we’ve lost all that ground. But compared to the other teams... we done good.”

Scout continues smiling to himself, shovelling mouthfuls of the stew into his mouth and going over his victory in his head. It tastes good – both the victory, and the meal – and Scout wolfs it down with gusto.

“Where’re the others?” he manages, fitting the words around his food in a way that would make his mother despair.

Engineer ponders this for a moment. “Around,” he says, eventually. “Minglin’ with other people from their classes, I expect. Ain’t often we get to see others from our own professions. Outside of those RED bastards, of course.”

Scout nods and mumbles, but doesn’t make any intelligible reply.

“Spah’s off... doin’ whatever Spah does,” Engineer says, half to himself. “Solly was tryin’ t’ get Heavy ‘n Demo runnin’ circuits on the trainin’ field. Pyro... I ain’t seen Pyro since breakfast. Or Sniper, fer that matter.”

He pauses, frowning a little. “Pretty sure the Doc went out front t’ get some air. Said ‘e ‘ad a lot on ‘is mind.”

The Texan man turns his gaze to Scout, suddenly. “You ain’t gunna be causin’ trouble, I hope? There’s a lot of important people ‘round here.”

Scout pastes an offended look on his face, but is too busy shovelling food into his mouth to give a verbal reply. Engineer looks at Scout sternly, but says nothing; when he believes the boy’s gaze is focused on his food, however, he smiles.

~

Medic is outside, Scout discovers, because he is smoking. He doesn’t often do this, though Scout has caught him several times in the past, sharing Spy’s cigarettes and talking quietly with the Frenchman. Each time, both parties had been displeased; after the most recent occasion, the German doctor took Scout quietly to one side and explained that all men need their privacy, and some need it more than others, and if Scout didn’t learn to respect the privacy of his teammates then he might very well end up with no privacy of his own.

Spy is absent this time, however, and Medic is on his own, which Scout takes as meaning it is safe to approach.

He’s standing near a side entrance to the League’s main buildings; out of the way enough to be private, but public enough to keep an eye on the comings and goings. He’s near the door, though not next to it, leaning up against the wall with a hard, sour expression on his face and several cigarette butts on the floor at his feet.

“Uh, hey, Doc?”

Medic glares down at him, angrily gripping the filter of his lit cigarette with tight, pursed lips, wordlessly telling the boy his interruption is not appreciated; Scout continues, regardless.

“I, uh”, he pauses, smiling nervously, glancing around to make sure there was nobody else in earshot. “Thanks, Doc,” he manages, eventually. “For, uh. Y’know.”

Medic continues glaring at the Scout before breaking eye contact, instead fixing his gaze on the horizon. He looks exhausted, Scout realises; there are dark circles under his eyes, and his face seems more drawn than usual.

“You did vell to retrieve zhe Intelligence, Herr Scout.” the German man says, after a moment, before removing his cigarette with one hand and returning his attention to the Bostonian. “Never do anyzhing like zhat again. Understand?”

Scout grins, but says nothing.
Marked for deletion (old)
>> No. 3680
I like were you're going with this. I'd very much like to see more.
>> No. 3682
i love it
please continue soon!
>> No. 3683
Ok.
This is very, very interesting.

I want to know what happens later.
>> No. 3686
I liked this. Especially this:

| Scout is suddenly reminded of the first time he wore a League uniform, and the proud, heartbroken look on his Ma’s face.

A look at HQ like this is neat, too.
>> No. 3696
Heh. Thanks, all.

Moar...? Well, I guess I did leave a lot of dangling threads.

I make no promises as to the timeframe, however.

>>5

Going off to fight for RED/BLU is as much a death sentence as a regular war. Possibly more so.
Poor Scootmama :(
>> No. 3698
Go Scout!
Crazy mofo saved the freaking day!
I AM A FAGGOT HUMP MY RUMP


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