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No. 288
Every repost is a repost repost. By Ten Cent Bastard.

--

The morning sun peeked over a distant butte, shining down upon the empty desert. The last tendrils of night nestled themselves amongst the safety of the long shadows of the cacti. A rooster, ever a fervent and enthusiastic minion, crowed loudly toward his glorious god, diviner of his diurnal lifestyle. Or maybe, he crowed just because he could.

The early daylight shone upon the twin compounds of 2Fort.

The blessed hush of stillness lay upon the arena.

Behind the RED building, the rooster crowed again, urging the world to awaken and work beneath the light of the great golden sky god. Or because he was a cocky bastard.

Across the grounds, in the BLU fort, there were no such fowl interruptions. The team slept.

Deep in the Med center, the Medic rolled over and yawned hugely, stretching his arms above his head and cracking his neck.

He slowly blinked open his dark eyes and looked at the ceiling. His expression faded slowly from restful peace to confusion as he noticed a strange sound. Someone, very nearby, was breathing. No… snoring. A deep, slow snore. Cautiously, he turned to look at the source.

Beside him, still lost far within the depths of downy sleep, was Heavy.

He stuttered for words for a moment, before exclaiming, “What the hell is this?! Not cool man!”

Heavy stirred in his sleep, opening his eyes awkwardly, “Ach, whut you goin’ on aboot?”

In the bathroom, on the other side of the base, Soldier looked at himself curiously. Standing between two of the sinks, he leaned in and peered into his own eyes. With a snail’s pace, he reached up and touched his nose. He waved the same hand in front of his face, following it with his eyes.

“WHICH ONE OF YOU MAGGOTS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS NONSENSE?!”

Soldier leaned away from the mirror for a moment. He hadn’t said that. That wasn’t Soldier’s voice either. Calmly, Soldier turned and looked toward the bathroom door. He crossed the room and peered out into the hallway.

“IS THIS YOUR DOING?!”

The voice was coming from what was lovingly referred to as the barracks, and commonly referred to as ‘a shithole excuse for living quarters’-- Not that much of the team actually called the room home. Soldier walked down the hall and opened the barracks door.

“IS THIS ONE OF YOUR SPY TRICKS?”

Scout was on Spy’s bed, straddling him and gripping his silk pajama lapels fiercely.

Spy, in his sleepy stupor, pulled back a fist and introduced it to Scout’s sharp little face. It wasn’t enough to send him flying, but did send him off balance and off the bed. He landed heavily on his rump and on the floor.

“Why is tiny Scout yelling? Why does my fist hurt?” Spy looked at his hands, “Why are hands so … tiny?” then he looked around, “Where is Medic?”

Down the hallway, closer to the living area, Pyro woke, nudged from his sleep by the muffled commotion. Pushing himself into a seated position, he looked at the flamethrower he had lovingly held in his lap. Tilting it one way, then the other as though he didn’t understand why it was there, he set it aside carefully and glanced around at a odd, tinted world through the smoked lenses of his gasmask.

“Hhn, humph mph-” he stopped suddenly and looked down at himself, then got up and rushed toward the commotion.

Elsewhere, sprawled over his desk, the Demo sat up and peeled a few manky scraps of paper of his face. A bottle rolled off the desk and clattered across the floor.

“Bloody hell,” Demo muttered, clutching his head, “What kinda racket is that…” he moaned, glaring toward the door with one angry, blood shot eye. He glanced around the room after a moment, “And where am I?”

Somewhere down the hall, past a closed door, the Engineer finally gave up trying to sleep through the cacophony. Sitting up and shoving his blanket aside he stopped abruptly as the chilly morning air met his bare chest.

He looked down, touching the flannel of his pajama bottoms as though it were something strange and new.

“Somesing… iz not right ‘ere,” he murmured, getting to his feet.

He winced at the cold cement floor of the workroom as he stepped off the rug, placed next to the cot the Engineer slept in most nights. The chaos just got louder as he got closer to the fort’s makeshift living room.

Chaos was a very fitting word for it. Most everyone was gathered, generally yelling, pointing and looking confused and useless in their pajamas. Scout was the loudest, still yelling and jabbing an accusing finger at the Spy. Spy was standing next to the Medic, looking lost and gesturing widely as he spoke. Medic was trying to shy away from the hands of the Soldier, who had the Medic’s chin in his grasp and was turning his head this way and that as though he’d never had a chance to see it before. Heavy was standing around looking sleepy and confused, next to Pyro who was in much the same state. Demo was standing at the far side of the room, clutching his head like it was going to explode-- and with Demo you could never really be sure. Engineer’s confused expression faded as he watched the hubbub, and instead he grinned.

“MAGGOT! TELL US WHAT YOU’VE DONE, SPY! YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE FILTHY RED LADIES IN DISGUISE!” Scout shouted.

“I am not Spy!” Spy replied irately.

“This sucks,” Medic whined.

“Curious… Fascinating…” Soldier said calmly.

“I haven’ a bloody clue whut’s goin’ on…” Heavy moaned.

“Ighh whph hphnm, buh hmph?” Pyro said, motioning to his teammates and
shrugging.

Demo continued to clutch his head, “Buncha wankers needa shut up already,” he grumbled.

Engineer chuckled. The chuckle quickly turned to laughter, although there was a slight malicious tinge to it.

Everyone stopped and looked at him.

“What’s so damn funny, Engy?” Scout barked.

“This isn’t fucking funny, Hardhat!” Medic shouted, “I’m old!”

“I am not old,” Soldier said irritably.

Engineer reached up to wipe his eyes and his hand bumped into his goggles, “Right, right…” he lifted them just enough to rub his eyes, chuckling as he did so, “So… ‘az anyone sought to find out who everyone iz?”

Everyone looked back and forth between each other. Half of them all stated their names at the same time.

Engineer took a step back, “In zat case… Role call?” he delicately gestured to himself, “Spy.”

Scout’s eyes narrowed and he glared at the Engineer.

“Is this some little trick of yours, mein Spy?” Soldier asked, “You are… very calm.”

He chuckled again, “Non. But, it iz my job to be someone else,” Engineer, ne Spy, pointed at Soldier, “Medic, oui?”

“Ja.”

Then at Scout, “Soldier,”

“Damn right.”

He pointed at the Medic.

“Er… Scout.”

Then Spy.

“Heavy.”

And Heavy.

“Demo, yoo daft fool.”

And Pyro.

“Emphnrr.”

Engineer/Spy paused, “Ah… Engineer?”

“Ess!”

He chuckled, “And you?” he gestured toward the Demo.

“You dun have to be so loud, mate, I’m right here…”

Nodding, he counted heads, “sept, huit. So, we are miz’ing someone.”
Demo/Sniper glanced around, and winced, “I… fell asleep in the battlements.”

“Lead ze way.”

They followed Demo/Sniper’s somewhat uneven, hung over steps down the halls, and into the battlements, careless of windows and possible danger, until they came across the Sniper. Hunkered down in a corner, boots discarded, aviators set carefully on the ground and hat pulled down over his face. He was still asleep.

The group crowded around, shoving and jostling, looking down with malicious glee at their one teammate who had yet to wake and realize the freakiness that today held.

“Vell?” Soldier/Medic asked.

“Wake him up!” Medic/Scout jeered.

Engineer/Spy nudged the Sniper’s bare foot, “Wake up.”

Sniper pulled his foot back and shifted his weight awkwardly. He turned his head, looking at the strange sets of bare feet, exposed legs, pajamas and pants that surrounded him. Squinting in the bright light, he looked up at his teammates.

“What’s going on?”

Obvious shock shot across his face as his voice fell clear on his ears. He looked around frantically, looking at his clothes, his hands, feeling his face. He pulled his hat down, obscuring his face, and gave a small, confused whimper.
Marked for deletion (old)
>> No. 289
In the Medical Center’s small private bathroom, Medic’s face reflected in the mirror; Scout rubbed at the coarse, night’s worth of stubble. Looking in the mirror and seeing someone else, it gave him the heebie-jeebies. Medic was so… old. Not grandpa old, but easily the same age as Scout’s dad would have been. The Doc’s hair was graying around the temples and while he could get pretty close to touching his toes he just wasn’t very limber, or very fast. And glasses. Who wore glasses into a fight? Flimsy metal and glass on your face was just asking for trouble.

It had taken Spy/Heavy pointing out that Medic/Scout didn’t have his glasses before Scout had realized that was why everything was so fuzzy. He knew his teammates well enough that he could tell who was who without them, but now he wasn’t going to have to fumble around quite as much.

But the stubble. That might be an issue. Embarrassingly, facial hair wasn’t much of a problem for Scout; his hair was fine, blonde and peach fuzzy and he was worried it always would be. So, shaving… not something he‘d really had an opportunity to practice. Sure, he’d seen his brothers do it hundreds of times-- and if they could do it, anyone could.

Of course, Medic would be awfully cross if Scout accidentally cut his face up while trying to shave, but today was a weird day already, so maybe no one would notice if he didn’t shave. Or maybe they would and on top of having to be this geezer all day-- hopefully just all day-- they’d be laughing at his inability to shave.

Scout sighed and his hand went to his neck and grasped at nothing. He looked down, panicking for a moment, then remembered where, and who, he was. His dog tags weren’t lost, they were right where they belonged: around his neck.

He was what was misplaced.

--

Heaving a sigh, Heavy/Demo sat down roughly on the couch, which shuddered and gave an uncomfortable crack. He glanced around to see if anyone had heard that. The only other person in sight was the Sniper, who-- flat on the floor with his hands over his head in front of the couch-- didn’t seem like he was in a position to care about anything. Being this large was already a problem. He liked tip-toeing up hallways, glancing around corners, sneaking towards the unsuspecting bastards, raining explosive hell upon them, then scarpering as fast as his little Scottish legs would take him. Of course, once the first one detonated it became just a matter of enough gunpowder and grenades between you and the enemy-- but there was never a shortage of either for him.

Giant hands gripped the edge of the cushions idly. They were strong hands, but not exactly precise. They wouldn’t be very good at the delicate work required in making the explosive devises that fascinated Demo so much. He held his enormous hands up in front of his face. Depth perception was something he’d forgotten about. He moved his hand to and away from his face, wondering how long it was going to take him become re-accustomed to--

/Smack/

He clutched his hand to his face, hugely appreciating that there was no one around aware enough to have seen that.

--

In the Soldier’s ‘War Room,’ Medic sat and pulled on Soldier’s boots. They were filthy, creased, and age-worn. He stood, shifting his feet and wiggling his toes. They were surprisingly comfortable. Soldier’s clothes were dirtier than he liked-- but what was new? Spy kept his suits clean and, like a good son, Scout did his own laundry once a week. But that was where it ended. Oh, Engineer did his laundry, not as often enough as could be liked, but at least semi-regularly. But Sniper and Demo both only washed their clothes when they got too filth-encrusted to wear any longer and God only knew when, if, the Pyro had ever washed /himself/ let alone his suit.

Placing Soldier’s helmet firmly on his head he frowned. How did the Soldier see what he was doing? Perhaps all that yelling he did was some form of echolocation. He tilted the helmet up and peered into the cracked mirror that was leaning against the wall. Standing up straight, he saluted the reflection, then chuckled and shook his head. He discarded the helmet politely, leaving it on the Soldier’s bed. To be effective, Medic needed his hands, his brain, /and/ his sight.

Buckling his belt, Medic let his mind wander. This whole mind switching thing was fascinating and he wondered how it had happened. They’d worked on something like this, back in the ‘hospital’ in Stuttgart, although never as successfully as this. Or as clean and survivable.

His body would be fine. Scout was a good kid, so enthusiastic and full of fighting spirit; Medic’s only concern was if his body got damaged in battle, but not killed. Death, on the battlefield, well that was a very temporary problem. But any actual ailments had to be treated, and there would be no one to treat him if he were unconscious. Best to hope for the best.

Medic’s mind wandered to Heavy. Poor Heavy. He was big, strong, and his attacks packed a punch, fairly literally. In a slight body, built for espionage, sneaking and striking fast then disappearing back into the darkness, well, he knew none of that and was quite useless. Heavy took so much pride-- quietly and behind closed doors-- about being able to defend his teammates. Poor, poor Heavy. Today would not be a good day for him.


--

Back in the barracks, Scout‘s shirt and a clean pair of socks were excavated from a duffle bag. There was a military surplus footlocker shoved under the bed, but Soldier had decided that it was best left alone-- once he’d realized he couldn’t wrestle it open with his hands, that is.

He brushed his hand through the well trimmed blonde hair, then pulled Scout’s hat over it and affixed the clunky headset the boy was so fond of. He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled a pair of socks on, then bent down the grab the pair of running shoes at the edge of the bed. Doing so, Scout’s dog tags dangled in front of Soldier’s face.

Dog tags. Scout’s name would be on those. Social security number, blood type and religious preference as well. Precious, precious information. His sharp blue eyes followed the shining tags’ pendulous motion. Keeping curiosity under control was high priority for Soldier. Knowing too much was dangerous in this Great War-- it got you killed. Oh, they told him the war was over; for twenty years, over-- but that’s what they wanted him to think.

He took the dangling IDs in his hand and dropped them inside his shirt collar, then resumed tying his shoes.

Soldier had a job to do. As long as there were still REDs out there, Soldier had a job to do. If it meant doing it from someone else’s body, so be it. He just had to convince Shovel that he was actually himself, but they had a codeword prepared for just such a situation.

--

Scout/Soldier marched out of the room, passed the tragically confused Spy/Heavy. He’d shed the Spy’s silk pajamas and placed them gently on the Spy’s bed. Between Spy’s bed and the wall was a discreet cabinet. It was old and worn; not in a valuable antique sort of way but in a beggars can‘t be choosers kind of way. Inside, hanging neatly, were the makings of several blue, three piece suits. Jackets, trousers, vests and dress shirts-- even his ties were hung up. Below the clothes were spy’s black dress shoes. A few small drawers in the bottom each held, upon inspection, undershirts, boxers, and black socks.

Confusion blossomed upon the Heavy like a time lapse rose.

So many layers. Why would someone wear so many clothes? It wasn’t cold here. Even night didn’t really compare to brisk day in his home town. Still, he had to wear something and if the Spy had anything but suits, he hid it well. An undershirt seemed the place to start, Heavy understood that well enough. It wasn’t rocket science, it was just clothes and all went well until he came to the issue of the tie.

Start with it around your neck, of course. Around and over, under and through! No.. No, that was shoelaces. He struggled to untie the tangle around his neck and started again.

Maybe if you wrapped it around twice, then… pulled on this short bit here. And the wide bit… Pulled… left? No. No, that wasn’t right at all.

Under the balaclava, Heavy’s brow knit furiously, eyes tight with concentration as he fought with the lithe silk article.

It wouldn’t just pull out of the knot he’d tied in it either. He had to wiggle his finger into the larger knot, and try to separate that bit from there, and if he could just … get that…

“Er… Doktor!” He yelled helplessly.

He walked to the door and nudged it open with his shoulder. The hallway seemed empty.

He looked at the tangled mess of tie, which held his narrow fingers as tightly as a Chinese handcuff, then looked back up again, “Doktor!?”

--

Down the hall, Engineer could hear someone yelling. It didn’t sound like they wanted him-- no one ever wanted him. They wanted dispensers, or teleporters, or had suggestions for sentry placement. Not that it really bothered him. Gave him more time to work on things. Although, sometimes he thought he would have liked someone to show them off to.

But today. Today was going to be an odd one. The gasmask tinted the world strange colors and the smell was strangely both intoxicating and unpleasant. Propane, ash and grease; like a barbecue, several hours after everyone had gone home. Like a fatal house fire, still smoking. Like welding something back together, knowing it’d never be quite the same again. Not a foul odor, but one you didn’t really want to think about.

Everyone had wandered off to get dressed, or shave or what not. He’d fought with the gasmask a little, but there had to be some sort of trick to getting it off, because it wasn’t budging. So, he didn’t have to go shave and he was already as dressed as he’d ever seen Pyro. There wasn’t really anything for him to do.

He idly wondered what Spy was off doing with his body. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Spy… Well, Spy didn’t really give anyone a reason to trust him. He snuck off at odd hours of the night, he tipped toed around and stabbed people in the back-- sure enough, it had always been the enemy, but whose to say that one day it wouldn’t be them?

Guilt crept over him, thinking such mean thoughts about a teammate. It was probably just nerves and paranoia, since he was already stuck in the middle of the weirdest day of his life, who was to say that more and more unlikely things wouldn’t start happening?

Shaking the doubts from his head, he turned and headed toward his workroom. Might as well just see what Spy was up to and make sure he wasn’t touching anything he shouldn’t be touching.

--

Laying on the hard, cold floor in front of the couch and clutching his head Demo, or Sniper, or whoever he was groaned, ignoring Pyro, or Engineer, or whoever he was, as he walked by. What on Earth had Demo drunk last night to make his head feel like it was going to both collapse in on itself and explode at the same time?

“Ye all right down there, Sniper?” asked the Demo’s accent in the Heavy’s voice.

“If I ain’t dying, I really wish I was.”

Demo leaned forward and patted the poor Sniper on the back, very softly. Poor guy looked damn ill, and Demo was familiar enough with himself to know exactly how the poor bastard felt. It was a shame-- Sniper was a respectable fellow and Demo wouldn’t have wished this fate on anyone short of a RED.

“Ah!” Demo said brightly, introducing a Heavy sized palm playfully onto Sniper’s back. The body armor, which was still pressing rather painfully into a few bruises on the Demo/Sniper’s chest, did little to protect Sniper from the blow, and more so managed to just spread it out across his entire upper back.

He grunted, “Oh… good God… never … do that again…”

“What ye need is jus’ a hair o’ the dog what bit ye!” Demo laughed, getting up and walking back toward his room.

“Last thing I need…” he started, then stopped. Well, Hell, Demo was drinking constantly and he never seemed to feel this bad.

Demo returned, opening a bottle of scrumpy as he came. The room quickly filled with the tantalizing, delicious, brain cell murdering white hot burning aroma. It crept into Demo/Sniper’s nose and lovingly nudged nerves in ways alcohol normally didn’t do.

“Give it,” he said, sticking a hand up in the air. The cool, smooth bottle was between his fingers, which closed on it like a fly trap. He pushed himself upright and took a hard, deep swig. The gasped, “That’s a strong piss, that is.”

He sat there for a few minutes, then took another huge swig.

“So… If I’m you, and you’re Heavy… who’s me again?”

Demo chuckled for a moment, “Ah ha ha… that would be our Pyro.”

Sniper thought about this for a minute, then took another huge swig and shook his head.

--

Spy wandered around Engineer’s workroom as though he had fallen down the rabbit hole. With a precocious curiosity he meandered from shelf to shelf, looking at the Engineer’s coils of wires, racks of tools and shelves upon shelves of small, organized boxes. Nearly everything he came across he picked up and turned over in his hands, as though handling the item would give him some sort of insight.

“Mphh, Phah-- phn aniphn enhnhn?” Engineer asked, putting his hands on his hips, just a hint of irritation in his voice.

Spy turned and looked at Engineer cluelessly.

“I… ‘ave no idea what you just said,” he smirked and shrugged.

Engineer sighed and shook his head, “Phy hnnd oo drrsh eh?” He asked, motioning to the Engineer/Spy’s state of undress. Still in the Engineer’s pajama pants, and nothing more.

Spy looked down at himself and ran a casual hand over the Engineer’s bare chest, then looked up and gestured to the Engineer’s workbench and selves, “I… got distracted. It iz zo interesting, zese … contraptions.”

“Eh? …Heph, hnn drrsh,” Engineer said, motioning toward a trunk next to his bed.

Spy looked at Engineer, and the ever expressionless gasmask, then over toward the chest he was gesturing too and then back at Engineer. He couldn’t help but feel a bit of awkwardness at this situation. By some strange coincidence, some twist of fate, the two team mates that Spy had the strongest opinions about had been combined. Pyro, whom was the only teammate Spy really felt at all nervous about-- a teammate was a teammate, but a flamethrower was a flamethrower and a wool suit was a flambé waiting to happen-- Pyro was a strange and distant creature, and either he was observant enough to know Spy was nervous about him, or maybe, just maybe, he could smell Spy’s fear. Engineer though, seemed harmless, to Spy at least. A laborer. A classification of worker that Spy excelled against. RED Engineer was the enemy, but that made his own BLU Engineer sort of… a test subject. A pet almost.

Now he found himself standing in front of this strange combination of teammates-- sure, it was only the Engineer in there, but Spy’s hesitation remained-- and he was being told to get dressed. Dressing oneself, that is not oneself, in front of a person whose self it is… what a strange circumstance. Normally, when Spy found himself looking like the person he was standing in front of, he was immediately killed. Quite inconvenient.

Casually, he un-did the latch on the trunk. A lifetime of espionage had left its mark on Spy, and as the trunk creaked open he found himself expecting diamonds, or secret blue prints, or some long lost supreme truth.

Appropriately, all he found were clothes.

--

Hat pulled low, aviators pulled tightly to his face, with his knees pulled tightly to his chest, the Pyro sat and cradled his flamethrower. His knuckles were white, hands clenched tightly around the barrel as Pyro held his weapon as though it were his only anchor to this world. There was fear in those eyes, hidden behind the reflective shades on his face. Face blanched with horror, lips pulled tight, his chest heaved in small, tight breaths.

He tensed. There were footsteps coming up the hallway.

Engineer/Spy and Pyro/Engineer were coming down the hallway. Pyro froze, hoping they wouldn’t notice him. It was futile though, he knew the Spy. Spy was observant, especially of things you didn’t want him to see. He could threaten him, teasingly, like normal... But today wasn’t normal and he didn’t have the heart for it.

Spy nudged the Engineer and pointed toward the corner, where Pyro cowered.

“Hr oo ahrrn?” Engineer asked toward him.

Pyro looked up at them, shifting the flamethrower as a barrier between himself and the others.

“Kmmn, hnnuph oy.”

“Can you understand him?” Spy asked.

Slowly, Pyro nodded.

“Hnn, hnnuph!”

Reluctantly, Pyro stood up and, feet shuffling, walked over to them. Spy grabbed
Sniper’s hat off his head and then batted him with it, “What are you zo afraid of?” Spy demanded, letting Pyro take the hat from him and pull it firmly back onto his head.

“Ah, hvvm ahrn, Phah,” Engineer said, prodding Spy in a spot in his side that he knew was sensitive. Spy twitched, as expected, and glared back at Engineer. Some of the ferocity was lost behind the googles.

“Wrr nahr ooph ah sh,” Engineer shook his head, then turned back to Pyro and put a hand on his shoulder, “Hhy dnn oo mmf shmm rrfsh? Oo hfah.”

A little of the fear faded from Pyro’s face, and he nodded, “… Yeah,” he said.
>> No. 290
The team was gathered around the dining room table, everyone now fully dressed and a modicum less dazed. They each had a mask from Spy’s disguise kit pinned to their shirt, to at least aid in minimizing confusion.

While some of the shock had worn off, there was something to be said for the staying power of the sheer mind-fuck that is waking up in the wrong body. Scout fiddled with Medic‘s eyewear while he did his daily ‘brew-faster’ dance to keep the spirits of the coffee pot happy. Demo was playing with his silverware and eagerly awaiting breakfast. Medic had been convinced to stop prodding at people and was sitting quietly, muttering to himself in German and looking fascinated. Soldier kept rubbing his temples, muttering grumpily and waiting impatiently for a morning caffeine ration. Heavy tapped his fingers on the table and shifted in his seat, fidgeting. Engineer was sitting at the table patiently, hands in his lap, any emotions he had about the current situation hidden well. Sniper sat, bottle in hand, watching Pyro uneasily. Spy’s calm, collected demeanor seemed to have earned him the position of Leader for the day. Over at the stove Pyro, hat pushed up and out of his eyes, cooked breakfast like he did most days. His flamethrower was beside him, leaning against the stove.

Watching his teammates with a smirk of supremacy, Spy reached into his suit to get his cigarette case. But his questing hands found no suit, no pocket and no case-- only an overall strap. His face fell subtly, then returned to his usual level of cockiness.

“ ‘eavy, could I have my cigarette case?”

Heavy fumbled awkwardly with the sleek, silver cigarette case, grumbling at the minor inconvenience.

“Yuhhnph bh hmphnn mmph hmphy, Pha!” Engineer demanded.

Pyro chuckled.

Spy looked at Engineer, then at the chuckling Pyro, “Translation?”

Not turning around, Pyro hunched his shoulders a little and responded shortly, “… No smoking.”

“…Fine,” Spy grumbled, crossing his arms and chewing on his lip, “Well, ‘eavy, you should ‘ave one-- or I will not be responsible for ze consequences once I get my self back.”
“An’ Spy dinna look nae a bit our Spy wif nae a fag aboot him,” Demo said, waving a large hand toward Heavy. A general muttering around the kitchen seemed to agree that a smoke-less Spy was barely any Spy at all. Heavy sighed and clumsily lit a cigarette.

After that, they sat without speaking, only the sound the hissing and popping of the bacon and eggs on the stove and the bubble and perk of the coffee brewer.

Scout poured himself a cup as soon as the coffee was done, then saturated it with sugar and cream. Caffeine receptacle in hand, he returned to the table, “What’re we gonna do if RED tries something today?”

“Kick their pansy asses!” Soldier replied. He took his coffee black.

“Fuck, man. How?” Scout asked, “I can’t run like this and I don’t know how to use a Medi-gun. Spy can’t use his disguises-- Heavy can’t lift his gun and Demo don’t know how to use it!”

Horror crossed Heavy’s face, “No Sasha?” The cigarette threatened to fall from his inexpert lips.

“Hardhat might be able to manage with that flamethrower, it can’t be too--” Scout gestured toward the flamethrower, which was no longer leaning against the stove. Pyro held it firmly in one hand and continued to cook with the other, “-- scratch that.”

“Zose who can use zeir tools, use zem. Zose who cannot… Hmm,” Spy leaned on his ungloved hand and sunk into thought, chewing on his lip idly.

Pyro served breakfast as well as he could with his flamethrower tucked under one arm. He paused for a moment as he looked down at what was effectively himself. Engineer looked up at him.

“Mphh?”

Everyone glanced surreptitiously up from their meals.

“… Sorry,” Pyro muttered, passing Engineer up and putting food on a plate for himself instead.

“Poor, poor Sasha,” Heavy muttered, pushing food around his plate mournfully.

Sniper poked the food around his plate, then took a small bite, followed by a large swig.

Engineer looked at the rest of them eating and heaved a wheezy sigh.

“Whatcher problem, mate?” Sniper asked, looking at Pyro, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost-- it’s just breaky.”

Facing people once again, Pyro pulled the hat back down over his face, trying to hide his unease. Eating. In front of his team mates. Weird.

“…Eh…” he muttered uselessly.

So the meal passed in relative silence: the light clink of silverware on cheap dishes, the slick sound of runny eggs, the crunch of bacon, the slurp of coffee.

“Gentlemen,” Spy said, pushing his empty plate aside. He glanced around the table, assuring himself he had their attention, “If somesing does ‘appen, who can not use zeir weapons?”

Tentatively, Heavy raised his hand.

“ ‘eavy, even I could ‘andle a shotgun, so you should be fine wiz zat,” he paused and took a deep, tragically carcinogenless breath, “Who cannot use zeir weapons effectively?”

Scout tentatively raised his hand. As did Soldier. Spy also raised his hand for a moment, “I will not be sneaking up on anyone today, it seems.”

“My bat’s gonna be useless. Ain’t gonna get no good speed up,” Scout whined.

Soldier stood up and gestured widely, “This lightweight won’t be able to wield the massive power that is the rocket launcher!”

Spy nodded. If the Soldier accidentally rocket jumped, as he was so used to doing, he’d probably end up in orbit.

“Hey, can I use the bone saw?” Scout asked, eyes glittering with a terribly playful malice.

There was a collective recoil around the table, as everyone, save Scout and Medic, was struck by the idea of their own twitchy little teenager trying to play doctor. Heavy choked, coughing painfully on the smoke. Sniper nearly snorted a mouthful of moonshine across the table. Pyro, finally picking at the dregs of breakfast, dropped his fork, which tinkled off the plate and dribbled congealed yolk around his plate.

“Mm whd’d wnnh eh RRD hndh,” Engineer said.

Pyro chuckled nervously, then slowly considering it nodded and smirked maliciously.

“Sniper, can you still ‘andle your rifle?” Spy inquired.

“No worries, mate. Only takes one eye to use a scope,” he said confidently, a hint of slurring in his voice.

“…Oui,” Spy said, somewhat hesitant, “And you, Soldier--”

“--Wanna borrow my bat, Soldier?” Scout interrupted.

“No no, Shovel and I have been through a fair number of fights-- we veterans have to stick together.”

“What about you, Demo? Keepin’ the grenade launcher? The sticky?”

“Oh aye. Takin’ ’em fer sure, but today’s a rerr day I ge’ tae do some real,” he punched the Heavy’s large hands together, “Physical damage to those RED lassies.”

“Sasha,” Heavy lamented.

“Vell, next time… You two can kill twice as many people, ja? To make it up to her,” Medic said, getting to his feet.

“Da?”

“Ja.”

“Is why I like Doktor. So smart,” Heavy said, smiling. Medic patted Heavy on the shoulder and left the room.

Across the table, Pyro adjusted his flamethrower. Turning of a knob here, twisting a fastener there. There was a hushed, rapid clicking and the tiny, ominous pilot light burst to life.

“You be careful with that thing, mate. Lotsa things on that body I’m damn fond of,” Sniper told Pyro.

Pyro held his flamethrower carefully, confidently. A sharp grin cut slowly across his face; the subtle, seductive dance of the pale blue flame reflected off the aviators, holding the Pyro’s rapt gaze.

“I know what I’m doing.”

Sniper tried not to flinch, but there was something chilling about his own face showing an expression so unfamiliar. His focus locked on the flickering light, a grin that showed perhaps too many teeth and a fascination that a sane mind shouldn’t have.

“Oy, mate, you still in there?” Sniper asked nervously.

Pyro’s eyes flickered away from the pilot, glancing at Sniper. The grin on his face melted away and slowly he nodded.

Medic returned shortly, placing the bone saw on the table in front of Scout.

Like a child on Christmas morning, Scout scooped the bone saw up and moved a few feet from the table before swinging the bone saw in a wide arc, medical coattails fluttering.

“Doesn’t move at all like a bat,” Scout said, trying the other way.

“Nae gonn’ hit the enemy like a bat neither,” Demo said, grinning.

“Nein, nein, nein,” Medic said, getting up and grabbing the bone saw from Scout, “Ze bone saw iz a precise weapon. You must use its strengths. The serrated edge is for ze tearing and ze severing, not chopping,” he said, motioning to the edge of the saw before handing it back to the Scout.

Scout took the saw back and modified his attack, spinning the bone saw in a wide arc, then yanking it back towards himself, “Like that?”

“Quick learner, that kid. Would made a good trench soldier,” Soldier said, he made a small digging motion with Shovel, then clutched it to his heart, looking proud.

Scout made a few more quick swinging and sawing motions, grinning widely. Suddenly, there was a crackling sound in the air.

“Good morning, Boys. Ready, set, go-- your mission is starting in five minutes,” the Announcer informed them. You could almost hear the smirk in her voice, “The REDs have gotten a hold of some vital intelligence-- you know what to do.”

There was another violent crackle as the intercom cut out.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Scout swore, clutching the bone saw to his chest as his glee disappeared, “We’re gonna die! … Over and over and over!”

“Panic is a soldier’s worst enemy!” Soldier responded, grabbing Scout by the lapels, “Also trench foot. And grenades!” he released Scout and turned, still listing things to himself.

“Everyone calm down,” Spy said sternly

“Easy for you to say!” Scout growled, pounding a blue-gloved fist on the table, “You ain’t their prime target!”

“Velcome to my vorld,” Medic snickered, “and do not be such a baby.”

“Zis is nuzzing new. Zis is our job. Stick to ze usual plan-- some alterations will be necessary. Sc-Soldier. As our scout for ze day, you do your best to get the Intel. Scout, you are right, you will be quite ze target until, ha ha, /if/ zey figure out what is going on. Today you are our distraction. Zis will give us quite an upper ‘and.”

“This SUCKS man,” Scout said, turning his head in a pout, “Respawns make me sea sick…”

“Everyone else, do what you do,” Spy said, waving at them, “Except for you, ‘eavy. You eizer be careful or be killed. I do not want to end up with my arm in a sling,” Spy said with a nervous chuckle.
>> No. 291
For the RED Scout today had been a good day. He’d gotten up at sunrise and checked on the chickens like always. There were less eggs than there ought to be, but Spy’d assured him it was no big deal-- probably a coyote or something. He had no reason to doubt Spy, so he shrugged it off and figured he’d check the fences for holes while he took his morning run. Rooster had joined him on his run and while he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, Scout was really fond of the noisy little bastard. He’d practically raised it by hand and he was a loyal as any mutt he’d ever run across. It was nice to have a friend.

Now they got to run some mission against those BLU bastards, and that just made any day better.

The day took a sudden turn for the strange when Scout charged out into the battle field, rounded across the bridge enthusiastically and ran straight into the BLU Scout. He was rather looking forward to sparring with his BLU Doppleganger. He’d lost count of exactly how many times they’d scrapped so far, but he knew the numbers were pretty even-- although, if anyone asked, he was ahead by at least one.

“Yo, ya wuss!” He jeered.

The BLU Scout paused, then grinned and chuckled an unfamiliar chuckle.

RED Scout hesitated, “What’s your problem, loser?”

BLU Scout flourished a shovel in his right hand, then leapt at the stunned RED Scout.

Next thing the RED Scout knew was the familiar interior of the RED respawn room.



“So, where are we going to build your… interesting… little devices?” Spy asked, following Engineer excitedly, “Are we camping ze Intelligence room? Shall we put a sentry in each ‘allway? I know ze good angles to build zese at so zat ze RED Spy can not sneak past zem easily.”

Engineer ignored him, hauling his toolbox toward the Intelligence Room.

“Ah dn trsht phahsh nrr mmh tssh,” Engineer said slowly, straining to enunciate through the air filter.

Spy slowed as he tried to translate that himself, “Who can you trust more zan your own Spy? I know all ze usual engineer weaknesses,” he said proudly, reaching for his cigarette case and, again, finding nothing. He sighed.

Engineer sighed, shrugged and motioned for Spy to keep following him, knowing full well he would have followed anyway.



Sniper crouched in his preferred spot in the battlements, at the window near the corner where he’d fallen asleep last night. He’d gotten a fresh bottle of scrumpy, since he’d nearly finished the first one, and he felt great. Peak of performance. Top of his game. He was going to get so many kills today.

He noticed something off in the distance. Marching on top of the RED Barn. A tiny, cocky figure.

The REDs had chickens. To be fair, BLU had a pretty nice still, although Demo and Engineer were the only ones who really knew how any of it worked-- Demo from experience and Engineer because he knew how everything worked, it seemed. Sniper only knew about the chickens because he’d seen them through his scope. He was pretty sure Spy knew about them too, and that was how they were able to have eggs for breakfast some mornings.

“Cocky little cock,” Sniper slurred, watching his feathered foe march. He was a tiny target. Really too far away to even try shooting.

He tried anyway.

To his amazement, the bird crumpled and rolled off the roof, leaving naught but a cloud of feathers and trail of blood behind it.

“Bonza!” he cheered, taking a victory swig, “That was a corker shot! Ha ha!



Pyro slunk through the sewer. There was water in his shoes and his pant legs were soaked. He usually liked slinking through the water, but his suit kept the water out a lot better. He was going to be tracking water around all day, at this rate.

He shook his feet, one at a time, like a soggy dog and grumbled to himself. At least from the stairs he could guard the water. Nothing so satisfying as ensuring that a burning enemy stayed burning.

Suddenly there was a knife against his neck.

He froze, partly out of confusion and partly out of rage-- mostly because there was a sharp blade against his neck without a single layer of protection between metal and flesh. Of all people to sneak up on him. Of /all/ the damn people. The RED Spy.

“’Ello Sniper… what might you be doing down ‘ere?” RED Spy whispered, uncomfortably close to Sniper/Pyro’s ear.

“Urk,” He articulated awkwardly, afraid to even swallow. He hunched his shoulders nervously, disgust making its way across his face.

“Say somezing pretty for me and maybe I will spare you ze express trip back to your base,” Spy said, running a thumb along Sniper’s long jaw line and pulling his knife away just enough to allow him to speak.

Knowing an opportunity when he saw one, Pyro grabbed Spy’s wrist and wrenched the knive away from his neck and twisted away from him. Pyro brought his flamethrower up and turned it on the Spy. RED Spy’s look of confusion when Pyro shoved away from his was fantastic-- but his look of horror and realization, which was beautifully illuminated by the ball of flame speeding rapidly toward him, was positively savory.

RED Spy didn’t really have time to run. He and his poor choice of fabrics went up in flames. He screamed.

Pyro’s sneer of revulsion morphed into a grin of sickening amusement, well lit by the flaming, screaming enemy before him. Spy’s screams came to a strangled end. Trying to scream and breath while being consumed by fire will do that too you. Carbon monoxide poisoning most likely. Pyro chuckled-- then stopped and wiped his jaw line off. He might have to have a word with Sniper.



Laughter echoed through between the two forts. Somewhere, the Soldier was having fun.

In a clear area, just past the bridge, fists raised, two Heavy’s circled. RED wore an expression of strained concentration. BLU wore a smug grin, unfamiliar to the face.

“Come on, yeah great daft choob!” Demo taunted, waving RED Heavy forward.

The enormous Russian bellowed and swung at the confusing BLU enemy, just missing him. Demo leaned back and took a swing himself. RED shifted his weight and Demo hit nothing but bicep.

RED grabbed Demo’s arm -- Demo returned the favor, locking them in a grapple.

“Raus, mein Heavy!” the RED Medic cheered.

Their strengths were equally matched, but RED Heavy had the home team advantage, so to speak. Their grappling got them nowhere, so he released his grip on what he perceived as the BLU Heavy. Demo faltered and RED Heavy took the opportunity to apply his large fist to the Demo’s borrowed head.

Demo stumbled back. RED Heavy advanced.

“Ach! Vat is zis?!”

RED Heavy’s attention was taken as the RED Medic called out. He turned around to see the BLU Scout raise and swing a soldier‘s shovel again-- then a third time, and a forth. The RED Medic tried to get to his syringe gun, but wasn’t quite fast enough.

“MEDIC!” Heavy howled, charging a few tragic steps toward his fallen comrade and his attacker.

“Victory!!” Soldier called, ripping a quick salute-- the collapsing as a RED Sniper bullet perforated some very crucial gray matter.

RED Heavy watched the BLU fall, a tiny bit of vengeance blooming in his heart, then he turned back to his previous encounter, as angry as a bull.

But before RED Heavy was entirely turned around Demo delivered a punch to his face, and another punch to his chest. He punched and he kept punching, laughing as he did.

“I havnae had this much fun in ages!” He cheered.

Medic, medigun and medipack wearing awkwardly over the Soldier’s uniform, came around a corner and found the remains of the fight.

“Ah! Mein Demo! What haf you done?” He fretted, turning his Medigun upon him, frowning at the bruising forming around the Heavy’s right eye.

Demo touched at the swelling gently, “Ach, nae that bad…”

In the distance, toward the BLU base, the Soldier’s maniacal laughter, twinged with the Scout’s young voice, filled the air and the sound of running feet approached yet again.



Scout peered carefully around a corner before heading down it.

He was trying to stay to the covered paths, out of the RED Sniper’s sights. He was doing a service, he told himself. Patrolling the less used corridors, keeping an eye out for RED Pyro or RED Demo, both chronic lurkers.

He clutched the bone saw tightly. He was being a coward and he knew it-- he was not going to say it to anyone else, not for all the coffee in the world-- but it was a nightmare of a day and he still kept hoping he was going to wake up. Wake up in his crappy, squeaky little bed, with his warm, itchy wool blanket his dog tags around his neck and Spy ‘I do not snore!’-ing two beds down on the other side of the room.

AfootstepohGodafootstep, therewassomeonebehindhim!!

He turned and slashed the bone saw through the air.

RED Spy couldn’t help but yelp as the bone saw made a large gash in his suit-- and his chest. Medic’s weren’t supposed to fight back like this! Medic’s also weren’t supposed to just wandering around dark, distant corridors on their own, but maybe he was just trying to recuperate.

Another slash hit the Red Spy in the neck. The third was unnecessary. The forth and fifth panicked slashes didn’t even hit anything, as the Spy had already collapsed.

Scout looked down at the fallen enemy, took a deep breath and tried to loosen his fierce, panicked grip on the bone saw.



Smug and proud, Sniper was still proud of his once in a lifetime shot. Teeny, tiniest head in the entire encampment and he got it square on. Once in a life time.
Now that he thought about it, you didn’t get better than that. He’d peaked! He would never be quite. He took another swig of scrumpy. Good stuff that.
He looked out the window again, off into the distance, toward the horizon, wondering, with a fuzzy mind, what to do with himself now.
He’d done the best shot he’d ever do and he wasn’t even himself today. What a downer. What a depressing, horrible thought.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!”
Sniper froze, scrumpy halfway to his lips, which began to twitch into a sneer.
No…
He’d killed it.
Grabbing his rifle he peered toward the RED barn, tightening his focus as tight as it’d go.
There, strutting a top the barn rooftop, was the RED Rooster. It scratched at the rooftop for a moment, then crowed again.
Sniper set his rifle down gently, grinding his teeth with repressed rage.
“…The Rooster… can respawn…” he growled to himself.
He punched the wall furiously.
“YOU WANKER!” he howled, pointing out the window at the pesky fowl a top the enemy roof.
Then, he slowly grimaced and clutched at his soon to be bruised, fresh from a wall punch, hand.
>> No. 292
Name: Raz @ 2008-12-17 02:56

Fanart. Because I like this story:

Heavy-Spy, struggling with a cigarette:
http://i42.tinypic.com/14a9nn.jpg

MAGETS:
http://i39.tinypic.com/2m34vmf.jpg

Pyro-Sniper:
http://i43.tinypic.com/14o6q82.jpg
>> No. 293
Soldier reappeared in the respawn zone, stumbling aside as he prepared to dodge the oncoming volley of rockets, but they didn’t come.

He looked around, noticed where he was, laughed, dusted himself off and ran off into the fray again.

Hunkered in the corner, a gentle trail of smoke drifted up from the Heavy’s still, thin form. Holding the shotgun at his side with one hand and holding the cigarette with the other, he tapped the ashes off the tip and took another drag. The cherry glowed a bright, hot red as it smoldered, much like the Heavy’s mood.

The battle was going on.

Yet here he stood. He hadn’t respawned-- he’d never left. He’d seen a few of his teammates come and go a few times-- he’d lost count of how many times Soldier had run off into the fray, laughing like a child.

He lived for this. But today, what could he do? With these tiny hands, with nothing but this pathetic shotgun. Although Spy’s revolver was also in its holster, in this suit, but it was even tinier.

Spy was not useless. Spy was sneaky. Spy turned invisible, destroyed sentries, silenced enemies and tricked the foolish RED Medic into healing him.

But Heavy wasn’t sneaky. He didn’t know how to use the cloaking device, or the sappers. He couldn’t sneak up on the enemies or wear the Spy’s costumes right. Nor could he wield Sasha. He could do nothing. So that’s what he did.



“What a ridiculous charade today is,” Spy muttered, “If ze REDs show up, per’aps we should just give them ze Intelligence.”

Engineer stopped fiddling with his newest sentry and looked over at Spy. There were spots of dust on the desk where Spy had rested Engineer’s boots. He reclined as far as the stiff chair would let him and reached at his chest for his pack of cigarettes. “Merde,” he muttered.

“Phah, oo eha nah e shichn deems n ss,” Engineer said sharply, brandishing his wrench toward Spy.

Spy reeled back teasingly-- back was not a option that gravity was content in offering and the unyielding desk chair tilted beyond its acceptable arc, hit the wall, twisted with a small creak and roughly dumped Spy on the floor. Engineer’s helmet made a distinct /Thunk/ on the hard floor.

He pulled himself up and glared at Engineer over the desk, as though he, personally, had at this very moment invented gravity just to spite the Spy. Dusting himself off, Spy answered, “Switching teams?” he spat, “I am as much a BLU today as I was ze day I was ‘ired.”

Engineer put an irate, wrench wielding hand to his hip and, presumably, continued to give Spy a dirty look.

Spy chuckled, “Oui, zat does prove nuzzing… But I do not mean give up for good, just for today. Zis ‘orrible, awkward day. We ‘ave no ‘ope of winning-- we are useless outside of our elements!”

Wordlessly, and still watching Spy, Engineer gave his newest sentry one last good whack with his wrench. It whirred to life and turned on its turret, pointing toward the doorway.

“An exception, perhaps. But Soldier is useless today. Scout, enzusiastic zough he is, is useless too. ‘eavy, especially.”

“Ahny un esh?” Engineer said, tilting his head toward Spy.

Spy crossed his arms and looked away, feigning ignorance, “We are not going to win zis,” he said.

“Oo rr ah faydarsd. Pehsimsd.”

“I am not. I am just being realistic,” Spy said, “Ze best we can ‘ope for today is a stalemate.”

Engineer pondered this a moment, “Oo ahna ud ur uny ere ur mph ss?”

“What use do I ‘ave for more money? What do I ‘ave to buy, out here in ze middle of nowhere? If we are making a wager, make it interesting,” Spy said, grinning a tiger’s grin.

“Huad oo od n ind, Phah?” Engineer asked warily.

“The best thing to bet is always somezing ‘ard to earn, so easy to lose,” Spy said, chuckling maliciously, “Like dignity.”

“Dn gho rihdn chds oo cahnd ksh,” Engineer chided.

Spy grinned “If, by some miracle our team wins, my dignity is in your ‘ands. But when zey fail today, your dignity is at my disposal.”

A familiar, hushed and subtle sound fizzled in the air right behind Spy. He turned, flinging him arm up as he turned and shoving the RED Spy against the wall. The RED Spy slashed uselessly with his butterfly knife, hitting nothing.

Spy snatched the knife out of his enemy’s grasp, closed it neatly with one hand and tucked it back into the RED Spy’s pocket.

RED Spy looked at him, slowly going a little slack jawed.

“’ave I gone mad?” RED Spy asked quietly, simpering, “Your Sniper is not your sniper, your Medic is not your medic.. ‘oo are you?”

“Today ‘as not been a pleasant day, and I do not need to answer your foolish questions, Roso.”

“…Azul?” RED Spy asked quietly.

“Oui,” Spy said shortly, “And you are going back to your base now,” he didn’t have his revolver, but the Engineer’s pistol was in a conveniently located holster. RED Spy closed his eyes resignedly as he metal barrel was pressed against his forehead. It left a clean, slightly singed hole in his balaclava and a hell of a mess on the wall behind him.



A red dot followed Soldier as he ran, full tilt, toward the RED base. That damnable RED Sniper had gotten him once today and wouldn’t be getting him again. He learned from his mistakes and wouldn’t be standing still any time soon.

He turned sharply around a corner and leaned against the wall, enjoying the momentary safety of cover, “GET ME NOW, MAGGOT!” he yelled, laughing.

Glancing further into the RED base, he could just make out the sound of the RED Demo. He couldn’t hear what he was saying, but there was a muffled laugh in response. Well, the best defense was a good offense, at least his enemies weren’t idiots-- although, idiots were easier to defeat. Should be able to take down a Pyro and a Demo with only two or three respawns, as long as no medics came along while he was away and there were no dispensers handy.

Soldier headed down the hall, toward his next endeavor, only to be yanked aside with a hand clamped across his mouth.

“Shh,” Pyro said quickly, releasing his grip on Scout’s narrow little chin, before Soldier decided to do something stupid, like bite him.

“Right on time, man-- you’re just who we were waiting for!” Scout added in an excited whisper, “Now I don’t have to do it!”

“Do what?” Soldier asked.

“Get ze Intelligence, of course!” Medic responded from behind himself, peering around Scout eagerly.

“You think we wanna do this all day? Sure, usually… But today? Hell no, fuck this shit,” Scout grumbled.

Pyro waved a hand, silencing them. He headed down the hallway toward their RED foes.

Pyro peaked around the corner, gesturing to his teammates to wait. The RED Demo laughed uproariously as the Pyro continued to make some rather suggestive gesture.

“What are we waiting for?” Soldier asked.

RED Demo and RED Pyro’s attention shot toward the hallway. Demo quickly turned his launcher at them and unleashed a volley of grenades into the air.

“What the fuck, man!” Scout said, smacking Soldier upside the head.

Pyro quickly flourish his flamethrower and unleashed a blast of air, sending the stickies hurtling back toward his foes.

“Shit!”

“SHD!”

Explosions rocked the RED base, and bits of those REDs splattered across the halls.

Pyro chuckled, walking toward the carnage. He nudged the enemy Pyro’s head around a little, then gave it a good kick right in the mouthpiece. It hit the far wall with a harsh /Thud-Splat/.

“Ain’t you pyros supposed to be better at reflecting those things?” Scout asked, nudging a boot.

“If you expect it,” Pyro said, tilting the Sniper’s hat playfully.

“Ve must hurry; zey vill be back before long,” Medic reminded them.

“And we still got their Engineer to deal with, no doubt,” Scout muttered.

They ran deeper into the base, toward the Intelligence. Medic healed them as he ran, checking the gage on his medigun as he ran. Pyro stopped them again, grabbing Soldier by the scruff of his shirt to stop him from running straight into the fray.

“Get Intelligence,” Pyro said, tapping the Soldier on the head shortly. He turned to the Medic, “Uber?”

“Nein,” He said sadly, tapping on the gun’s meter, “No good. Not even close.”

“Healing, then,” Pyro said.

“What about me, what do I do?” Scout asked, then reached into the medic’s coat, “I brought my pistol! Couldn’t really carry the scatter gun…”

Pyro looked at the floor, then back up at Scout. Pyro rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly and bit his lip a moment, “Sorry, kid.”

“…Wait… sorry for what?” Scout asked hesitantly, peering behind him toward the room undoubtedly filled with sentries.

“Decoy,” Pyro said, adjusting him flamethrower and giving Scout a sympathetic glance before twisting him around and giving him a swift kick in the backside, sending him stumbling out into the sentries line of sight.

With the sentry guns distracted, Pyro ran out, blasting his flamethrower as soon as he was close enough. There were only four sentry guns-- RED Engineer must have been feeling cocky that day-- but they were placed strategically.

He managed to take out the level three sentry quickly, as well as one of the level twos. He was started on the second level two when the sentries switched their attentions to him. Scout had stayed standing longer than Pyro had expected him too.

A rush of adrenaline and energy hit him-- Medic and his medigun. He must have been healing Scout-- that poor son of a bitch. There was no way to survive that assault, and the medigun healing would have just drawn out the discomfort-- but it gave them the upper hand for certain.

The second level two was down. Now just the remaining level one-- the RED Engineer stood by his sentry until the last possible second, when it was engulfed in flames. Pyro had gone up against him before. RED Engineer was odd like that-- always liked to keep a level one by his side, like it was some sort pet or something. Time to put the Engineer’s little mechanical puppy down.

Pyro began to laugh.

Medic kept his medigun beam on the Pyro, crouching as far as he could behind him. Bullets whizzed by, a few nearly grazed him and one took a bite out of his ear on its way-- Pyro was catching the majority of them. He was as good as dead; the medigun could give you the boost of adrenaline you needed to keep going. It could increase the speed with which you healed minor wounds, but it couldn’t work miracles, nor could it heal holes in major organs or remove lead from deep inside tissue or bone, but with enough adrenaline someone could keep going long after they ought to.

Enough damage had been done-- to Pyro and to the sentry. The small sentry gave a sad whirr and began to smoke. Pyro’s laughter had turned into a wet gurgle. Medic couldn’t see his teammates face-- he didn’t need too. He knew enough to know what that sort of carnage looked like. He turned the medigun off of Pyro and let him go.

The flamethrower fell and Pyro managed one lurching step before hitting the floor like a sack of old fruit. He’d be fine once respawn caught him.

“Damn, boys. I’ve seen some fucked up tactics before, but that was somethin’ else,” RED Engineer said, running his bare hand along the rim of his hardhat, “But you’re down two teammates and,” he lifted his shotgun, “I am still armed.”

RED Engineer lifted his shotgun and cocked it, “Good bye, ‘Doc.’”

Medic was suddenly shoved aside by unseen hands. A familiar, blue clad figure phased into sight as he hefted his shotgun.

“No one is hurting Doktor!” Heavy yelled over the explosive roar of the shotgun.

RED Engineer, much like BLU Engineer, was a pretty sturdy looking fellow. What he lacked in height he made up for in muscle, what he lacked in stamina he made up for in brains; neither of those were enough to save him from a vengeful shotgun shell to the face.

“Heavy!” Medic called, scrambling over to him and fussing at him, medigun drawn, “Are you all right, mein Heavy? How did you manage to cloak?”

“I… hit button on accident,” He said quietly, “And could not make it stop,” he grabbed the RED Intelligence off the desk and heaved it toward Soldier.

“You! Go now!” Heavy barked.

Soldier snapped a quick salute and zipped off down the hall.

Medic put his hand on Heavy’s chest, “You are alvays mein hero,” he said, smiling.

Gently, Heavy brushed his small, gloved hand against the Medic’s cheek. His face remained stern, “The battle does not wait.”

“Ja,” Medic readied his medigun and they followed Soldier.



Soldier ran across the bridge and nearly bumped into Demo.

“Medic and Heavy are still back there,” Soldier said quickly. He reached behind him and gave the Intelligence briefcase a quick pat, “Shovel and I have some business to attend to.”

Demo heaved his grenade launcher and ran a few steps ahead. There were Heavy and Medic on their way of the RED Base-- but there were the RED Demo and RED Pyro, running in from the west.

“Move yer arses!” Demo yelled, adjusting his launcher and aiming a few grenades toward the approaching RED foes.

RED Pyro was on his toes this time and blasted the explosives away, sending them off in careless directions. Meanwhile, RED Demo sent several grenades careening toward Heavy and Medic. They hit the ground, bounced and miraculously skidded past the duo -- explosions rocked the compound. Bits of earth and rock went flying. Heavy and Medic were caught by the blast and tumbled roughly. Medic was quick to his feet and scrambled over to Heavy.

Demo sent three more grenades flying. Pyro blasted them back, managing to get them aimed directly back at the Demo.

“Bugger!” Demo shouted, diving out the way.

The explosion didn’t come. The sound of compressed air. The grenade flying back through the air toward the RED Pyro.

Demo looked back over his huge shoulder.

Pyro stood in the midday sun, eyes shaded by hat and glasses, flamethrower held at the ready. He watched the grenade carefully, biting his lip with a calculating expression.

The RED Pyro was ready this time, and reflected the sticky into the air, with a high, wide arc. It again hurtled toward Pyro.

He waited until the last second and sent it back toward his identically armed foe, straight across at chest level.

Both Demomen watched, distracted from their own weapons, as the two Pyro’s fought their own battle with the spiky explosive. No more juggling. RED Pyro shifted his stance and adjusted his flamethrower, turning just a few degrees.

Pyro lowered his flamethrower and cursed silently. He turned toward his fallen teammates. Medic was still trying to help Heavy, who seemed to be having trouble standing.

The muffled laughter of the RED Pyro caught Heavy’s attention as the Medic fussed and tried to help him toward the bridge. Heavy tried to shove the Medic away, to a safe distance-- but the Medic clung to him.

Pyro sent another air compression blast at them, blowing them several feet. A thin, horrible beeping filled the air as the grenade landed and detonated.

Giving an angry growl the Pyro didn’t wait for the smoke to clear before he leapt at the REDs and engulfed the Pyro and the Demo in flames. RED Pyro hesitated a moment, before he realized just who was attacking him-- RED Demo screamed and writhed in flames-- flamethrower raised and the flames were returned.

Pyro leapt back, avoiding the astonishing heat of the flames. It had been so long since he’d been near fire without his suit on.

“Let’s get oot a this place, lad!” Demo yelled.

Pyro leapt back again as his enemy advanced. Igniting his flamethrower again he ran as best he could backwards, back toward the BLU base. RED Pyro and RED Demo gave chase, making it as far as the end of the bridge before the Announcer came up on the overhead and declared that the battle was over.
>> No. 294
Some words had been spoken that could never be taken back. Painful, embarrassing words that would surely haunt him until his final days.

“I know some first aid! I was in Boy Scouts.”

Their laughter still echoed in his head, and the near silence of the Med Center didn’t help. The Med Center wasn’t a pleasant place; it was where you went when it finally got bad enough that you were going to let Medic poke at you. It was made a bit better that Medic wasn’t going to be poking and prodding at him today-- not in the condition Medic was in.

Scout glanced over at Medic. Still unconscious. Maybe if he’d worn Soldier’s helmet he wouldn’t have taken so much damage from the explosion-- or the wall he’d been propelled into.

Such as it was, Medic was out of the game for now and that meant there was no one, except Scout and his one badge‘s worth first aid knowledge, to take care of Heavy. Heavy did not have the benefit of unconsciousness to help him with his compound fracture. Maybe if he’d had Spy’s good sense to not run into the fray he wouldn’t have taken so much damage either.

Scout had gotten Spy’s permission before cutting off the cumbersome, blood coated pant leg. Spy seemed more upset over the suit than he was over the injury that, once things were back to normal, would be his. But, hopefully before too long, Medic would wake up. Before too long, there would also be morphine.

Today, there was Scout and there was grinning and bearing it. He rubbed his hands together and looked at the blood soaked, savaged limb. First things first-- setting the bone.

“All right, man… this is really gonna hurt.”

The roar of pain was muffled by distance, so it didn’t distract Demo from the awkward predicament he was in. Enemies on all sides, no reinforcements he could call in quickly, no remaining strategy and no real way out of this. He tried a desperate, last ditch maneuver.

“Check,” he said, moving his knight.

It wasn’t often he had the wherewithal-- or appropriately low blood alcohol level-- to play chess well and he was taking advantage of the opportunity while the team waited for Pyro to finish dinner. He’d always considered himself a pretty fine player and he was quickly learning that Soldier was not a good chess player.

Soldier took the bishop with his queen, “Checkmate.”

Soldier was a phenomenal chess player.

“Ach, ye bastard,” Demo said, grinning like a good loser, “ ‘ats oh fer two, noo isna it?”

Soldier laughed, nodded and began to set up the board again. It was piss-poor chess set, but it did the job. Made up from pieces of two different chess sets, five checkers, two backgammon pieces, a small stone and one of Sasha’s bullets, once upon a time one of the sets had contained some nice, red-stained pieces, so someone had painted the remaining black pieces red, and all the white pieces blue. Sasha’s bullet replaced the missing blue queen.

“All right men,” Soldier said, setting the board up. He’d been blue last time, he was red this turn, “You’ve just suffered an embarrassing defeat, but you fought a good fight and that means everything. You’re strong warriors, fighting for what you believe in and its time to show those bastards who’s who! Battle maneuver Sierra Foxtrot Juliet-- victory will be ours, men!”

What a great day today had been. A decisive victory had been theirs and he and Shovel had gotten a good number of kills. Not as many as usual, but all things considered a good day. He hadn’t felt this energetic in decades. Youth really was wasted on the young. All that strong young blood pumping in his veins.

Hmm… Scout had a lot of blood, and it was all being wasted on him. He should bring that up with Medic, next time they were both conscious.

But where was Medic? Where was Doktor?

The Med Center air felt cold across the thin sheen of sweat on Heavy’s meager exposed skin. The rest of his face, covered by the balaclava, was uncomfortable and damp-- but nothing compared to the pain in his leg. The shock had worn off, but as long as he hadn’t moved it then it was tolerable-- a horrible, cold and numb tolerable, but far more tolerable than the screaming grip of pain. Then it had been set.

Heavy was no stranger to pain, but it felt different today. Sharper. He’d lost a fair amount of blood and he felt strange. Sort of… small. He was still a little shaken, mentally, from the explosion; He remembered today had been… special? Maybe not good-special, but different-special. Why was that?

“Doktor…” He croaked. His voice didn’t sound like his own, and his throat was dry. He tried again, “Doktor?”

Usually Doktor came quickly when Heavy called for him, but he came slower today. Doktor didn’t move like himself either. Maybe something was wrong-- not that anything could be too serious here. At worst he’d die.

It wasn’t too bad. He’d died outside of battle a few times before. It was an unusual experience. It all faded to black and next thing you knew you were standing in the resupply room and got to run straight out into the battle field. You lost a few days, maybe had a bit of a headache, but that was all.

Straight back out into the fray. It was like heaven, but with more blood and fun, less angels. No harps. Sometimes there was a guitar, or a violin, but not until after the battle. Doktor was always so glad to see him after he’d died. No, it wasn’t too bad, dying.

Doktor was not acting like himself. Very hesitant. Very shy, “Yeah, man?” -- He didn’t sound like himself either. The voice was right, but something was off.

Heavy took Doktor’s hand and squeezed it. It felt strange; his hands felt so small next to Doktor’s big blue gloves.

“It hurts,” Heavy admitted.

“I know,” Doktor replied. Still hesitant, a pained sympathy in his eyes, he squeezed Heavy’s hand back, “S’gonna be all right. Just, stick in there.”

Heavy nodded slowly, tried to relax and stared at the ceiling.

A thin wisp of smoke rose toward a different ceiling.

Engineer watched as Spy smoked his second cigarette. After getting a look at the wound Spy was going to have to deal with tomorrow, he figured the guy deserved at least one-- which he’d done in faster than a hungry dog on a bone. Engineer had seen magnesium strips the same length that had lasted longer than that cigarette. Spy had immediately lit a second before Engineer had had a chance to tell him he was done, but this one was lasting longer.

“Oh dnn, oo ahrnd ghddn ny mrr,” Engineer chided.

Spy didn’t look at him, but nodded demurely.

Engineer sighed, the air wheezing through the gas mask. He hadn’t expected to spend the entire day with Spy. He hadn’t expected to spend any part of the day with Spy, for that matter. Or with anyone. But as luck would have it, he had. Over all, he couldn’t complain. Spy asked good questions and at least feigned an understanding of the things explained to him. It was kind of spoiled by the knowledge that Spy just wanted an upper hand against Engineer’s RED team counterpart, that Spy had no real interest in it otherwise.

So far the major complaint he had for the day was that he still couldn’t figure out how to get this suit or mask off. He hadn’t eaten all day and nature was calling pretty loudly by this point.

“Phyroh!” Engineer called, “Ah gff uhph. Ohw d’oo geh owuh hssh fng? Ah gah’ah pfff.”

Pyro put his kitchen knife down and rubbed the back of his neck, chuckling awkwardly, “Ah… heh…” he wiped his hands off on Sniper’s filthy vest, probably making them less clean, then gestured to Engineer to follow him, “… I’ll show ya.”

They left through the kitchen door past Sniper, who was drunkenly passed out on the couch. He’d been brought down from the battlements-- where he’d been taking potshots at the RED Barn and yelling something about chickens-- in hopes that he’d have a better grasp of first aid than Scout. All those years on the outback, hunting dangerous animals, he’d have to know a thing or two and he probably did. But it wasn’t going to be any use to them today, since Sniper was inebriated far past coherency and quickly advanced into unconsciousness once he was inside.

Spy watched his teammates go on their awkward bathroom adventure as he took the last drag on his cigarette. He tossed the butt carelessly on the floor and ground it out with the Engineer’s own wide, flat boot. It had been kind of Engineer to allow him his vice, since it was Engineer’s lungs that would suffer, but he certainly felt better with a cigarette at his disposal. He didn’t have his usual longing for a cigarette, but he needed the motions, the taste, the rush to the brain-- he needed the experience.

With any luck, tomorrow they’d be back to normal-- but it still wasn’t going to be a good day. At least there would be morphine. He’d be pretty much out of commission, at least until the next mission, when the first objective would be getting himself killed. It was a pain, but that was just how it worked. At least he could get some reading done, and no one would be able to ask any favors of him.

He was still amazed-- and horrified-- that they’d actually won. How in God’s good name had they WON? Sheer dumb luck probably. He’d heard some of it from Scout, who was still a bit cross about being used as a decoy. Pyro? A strategist? Who knew. Had to have been dumb luck. Heavy, trying to be stealth. Laughable, at best. They were a good team, but dumb luck alone had lost him his dignity.

He wondered what sort of embarrassing thing Engineer was going to make him do. Engineer wasn’t a cruel man-- not like RED Engineer who, from Spy’s personal experiences, was the sort who’d shoot you just to watch you die. Engineer was simple, soft spoken and kind-- if you ignored the way he smiled when he’d finally perfected some new device for quickly and efficiently destroying those who opposed him. But his relative gentleness was the scary thing. Spy had handed his dignity to a simple man who would probably do something simple and horrible to him.

He hadn’t actually thought about what he would have done if he‘d won. Being such a simple man, Spy wasn’t really sure what would have injured Engineer’s dignity the most. Perhaps he could have made Engineer get out his guitar and sing them all an embarrassing song. Maybe something by the Beach Boys, Engineer wasn’t too fond of them. The Beatles, maybe. Maybe make him take requests. Trying to pick out some television themes. “Batman” and “Star Trek” would make Scout and Pyro happy, respectively. Maybe “Mission Impossible.” Oh well, an opportunity lost for now.

Pyro re-entered the kitchen, followed somewhat awkwardly by himself. As Engineer returned to the table, Pyro quickly returned to the counter and resumed his dinner preparations. The rations that HQ sent them were, on paper, enough to keep nine men going: a big sack of potatoes, onions, a huge block of generic cheese, and a mighty block of meat, but they did not offer a huge amount of variation. If the surplus government cheese didn’t destroy a man, he’d live long enough to go mad from repetition.

The meat… Grade A, government approved, heavily processed animal carcass. It wasn’t even Spam, it was just… meat. Good for fried meat, stewed meat, boiled meat, meat fricasse, broiled meat, grilled meat and meat sandwiches.

So, Pyro did what he could, humming to himself as he prepared dinner. He enjoyed being the teams cook. Once upon a time they’d tossed him in front of the stove because it had a flame and therefore was more his territory than anyone else’s. The logic fit. Fire was his playground-- besides, none of them were really family men, so he didn’t expect them to know how to cook. Bachelor cooking could keep you alive, but a little flair could keep your insides happy.

Well, he’d never asked-- not that they’d have understood if he had-- but he was pretty sure nonetheless that none of them had families of their own. No one waiting back at home for them. Scout was too young to be a family man, although he occasionally spoke of his brothers and his legions of nieces and nephews. Sniper would complain about his parents, but never mentioned any sort of romance in his lonely, adventurous life. Spy mentioned lots of people, around the world, but it didn’t sound like they were waiting for him, or he really longed for them. And he himself… he didn’t have anyone back home. He only had fire-- and fire would always be where he was.

Pyro carefully flipped the strips of sizzling meat over with a spatula. There was a loud pop and some oil splattered onto Sniper’s bare fingers. It had been a very long time since Pyro’d actually felt a burn. Even today, up against the enemy Pyro he hadn’t managed to actually burn. He stared at the unfamiliar fingers and the distantly familiar sensation.

“Oo ohkhay?’ Engineer asked.

Pyro shook his head, shaking a few distant memories out of his head.

“…Fine,” he said, putting the burnt digit to lips and nursing the soreness,
“Burnt myself.”

“Ironic,” Spy said with a smirk.

Pyro frowned, keeping his back to them and returning to his cooking. He still had to sauté the onions before the potatoes in the oven finished baking.



Dinner was well received. Pyro set a plate aside for Scout, which Spy had taken to him to disguise the pretense of checking on himself. Leaving his body under Scout’s care wasn’t something he was really happy about, but it was still in, mostly, one piece. Usually the night after a victory would be full of celebration, but no one really felt comfortable inebriating someone else.

Beds that hadn’t been used in months were occupied again-- most of them didn‘t feel like invading someone else‘s space, even if they were technically them. They left the Sniper where he’d fallen in his drunken stupor. Demo took up the Heavy’s usual spot in Medic’s bed, in his private little room behind the Med Center, which prompted Scout to fall asleep sitting in a chair in the Med Center, between the fitfully sleeping Heavy and the nearly comatose Medic. Everyone else ended up in the barracks, climbing into their not-self’s appropriate, squeaky barrack bed.

Sleep came quickly for Soldier, all tuckered out from a day of madly running in circles and screaming. Engineer had a hard time falling asleep, kept awake by the sound of his own filtered breathing and the smell of things long since burnt. Spy was awake a long time into the night, arms behind his head, staring at the dark ceiling and listening to the sounds of sleep around him. Whatever was on his mind he kept secret. Pyro sat, arms over his knees, lanky legs pulled toward his chest, flamethrower laying across his lap. He took off Sniper’s glasses and set them aside carefully, looking around the dark, blurry room one good time before resting his head on his arms and waiting for sleep to carry him off.



Sniper awoke suddenly as something was wrenched out of his sleepy grip. He looked around blurrily and fumbled for wherever his glasses had been set. He found them by his side and put them on-- standing by the side of his bed was Pyro himself, helmet, suit, gloves and all.

Pyro poured over the flamethrower like a fretful mother looking over a lost child, then nodded and walked off with it.

Sniper looked around the barracks, at the forms of his sleeping teammates, then down at his own, familiar self: his well worn vest, his filthy blue shirt and the ugly socks with the hole over the left big toe. It was good to be home again.

He took his glasses off, rolled over and went back to sleep.



Behind the RED barn a familiar feathered form tried to climb a top the barn. He had to get on top of the barn to tell the great diurnal God that it was time to rise-- God‘s couldn‘t be bothered to wake on their own-- but getting on top of the barn was difficult today. RED Rooster felt strangely heavy and graceless. Plumper, somehow. Perhaps he had to eat less seed.

Regardless, he had to crow. God had to know his most loyal follower was there. The word had to go up, even if it went up from the ground.

RED Rooster took a deep breath and crowed with all his might.

“B’gawk! Buk buk, B’gawk!”

That wasn’t right. That wasn’t right at all. He tried again.

“Bu’b’gawk b’gawk! Buk buk buk... Buk?”

RED Rooster was confused. He paced in a worried circle. The sky was dark and grey, full of cold winds. The sun wasn’t coming up and it was all his fault. He gave last desperate attempt.

“B’gawk!”

Defeated, he fluffed his feathers and sat down in the middle of the pathway to roost, the most depressed chicken you’ve ever seen.

In the RED barracks, the RED Scout woke from a uneasy sleep. He never slept well the day after a loss-- and what a weird loss it had been. RED Spy, who’d had an even worse day than him, had confided what had happened. He was glad to hear that it was all just craziness and the BLU team would be back to normal soon. Not that he had any sympathy for the BLU team-- that was just crazy-- but because he owed the BLU Scout a good one now and he didn’t wanna go up against a shovel wielding psycho ever again.

RED Scout could hear wind blowing outside, it sounded like a storm was on the way. Luckily the heating system in the RED Base was top notch, even if the over all design looked rural. It was nice and toasty in there already. Regardless Scout grabbed his blankets and pulled them close to this bare chest, snuggling down into them and listening to the winds outside. However, as he pulled the blankets close his found something strange. A pair of somethings, actually.

Tossing his blankets aside to look at himself, he screamed a girly, high pitched note he wouldn’t have been able to hit any normal day.

It was really not much of a consolation that he was going to be the prettiest girl on the RED Team.
>> No. 295
Rather than a new thread for the rest of the scenes I've got in mind, I think I'll just post them here, since they'll all make a lot more sense if taken in a timeline.
Yesterday: Freaky Friday.
Today: Back to Normal (By 2Fort standards, at least (...for the BLU team, that is.))

A TF2 Slice of Life, presented by Ten Cent Bastard

****

The winds were cold and fast today; the sky was dark and the notion of rain was no empty threat, but a promise. On the bright side, there was little danger of a RED attack BLU today-- or, for that matter, them deciding to attack the REDs; neither team enjoyed fighting in the mud.

Engineer knocked lightly on the Med Center door.

“Ja, it is open!” Medic’s voice called.

Pushing the door open slowly, Engineer peered in.

“Guten morgen,” Medic said cheerfully, standing over the unconscious body of Soldier, “Vat brings you here? Are you not vell?”

“No no, I’m fine,” Engineer said quickly, “Pyro asked me to bring Spah some breakfast.”

“He cannot eat now.”

“Oh?” Engineer said, shifting the plate of hash browns he was holding in one hand, “What’s wrong?”

“Spy has... eine delicate schtomach ven medicated,” Medic said, grimacing slightly, “He can eat ven he is not under my care, zank you.”

“Oh… how is he now?”

“Quiet,” Medic said, motioning across the room.

Spy occupied a Med Center bed on the other side of the room. He was sitting up and staring at the ceiling with a bemused, un-Spyish expression. His coat was hanging off the edge of the bed, his tie was loosened, and one shirt sleeve was rolled up. Some of his right pant leg had been removed the night before, when Scout had had to ‘play doctor,’ but a great deal more of it was gone now to make room for the cast that went up to his mid thigh. He looked over in the general direction of Engineer and Medic, giggled, and then looked back at the ceiling.

“Good god, Medic-- how much did you give ‘em?”

“Enough to make him schtop vhining,” Medic said tersely.

Engineer backed away from Medic a bit before turning to check on Spy.

“How you holdin’ up?”

Spy’s bright, aimless gaze lolled toward Engineer, then he started giggling. He carried on for nearly a minute, before he slowly inquired, “Mi amigo… ‘ow do dispensers work?”

Engineer was caught off guard by the question and hesitated a moment, before going into a long, casual rant about the nature of energy distribution, balancing chemical matrices, and a great deal of complicated equations that involved no numbers at all. All the time, Spy just nodded, chewing on his bottom lip a little and grinning crookedly.

“So, there ya go. Simple as that, really.”

Spy nodded one last time, before turning stiffly and supporting himself with one hand on the bed railing and the other on Engineer‘s chest, “Oui… but ‘ow do zey work?”

Engineer calmly took his stoned teammate’s hand off his chest and gently pushed him back into his bed.

“Science,” he explained.

“Of course,” Spy said, grinning slyly.

The Med Center door opened suddenly, harshly colliding with a metal cabinet and echoing loudly throughout the large room, “Oy, Medic-- you seen Hard Hat? Can’t find him nowhere and it’s fucking freezing in here!”

“How many times do I haf to tell you not to slam ze doors?!” Medic yelled, finally turning his attention away from Soldier.

“Geez! Whatever!” Scout returned, grabbing the Med Center door and pulling it shut behind him.

“Wait!” Engineer called.

Scout peeked back in the door, “What you doin’ in here?”

Engineer motioned to Spy. Spy looked at Engineer, then at Scout and then gave a clumsy, cheerful wave, “’allo.”

Scout grimaced slightly, “Damn, how much he give him?”

“Vhy do people keep asking zat?” Medic grumbled, “Do you vant to play doktor again, maybe?” he asked, waving his hand at Scout, adding snidely, “You did so /vell/ last time.”

Scout wilted visibly, just for a second, before straightening back up and puffing out his scrawny chest, “Yeah, well… Yeah!” He waved his hand dismissively, turned away and crossed his arms.

“You did what you could, kid,” Engineer said, “Anyway, what’s the problem?”

“Ain’t ya noticed?” Scout asked, “It’s colda ‘an Hell in here. Heat ain’t working!”

“…And?”

“Fix it!”

“Do I look like an electrician to you?”

“No,” Scout said sharply, “You look like an engineer-- so why don’t you get your PhD’d ass down to the basement and ‘solve the problem’?”

Engineer grumbled and sighed, pushing past Scout and out into the hall. Scout watched him go before looking back in the room. Spy was still watching him, grinning his unnerving, intoxicated grin. Slowly, Spy raised one hand and gestured for Scout to come over to him.

Hesitantly, first checking to make sure Medic had gone back to tending to Soldier, he crossed to Spy.

“What?” Scout said, standing a few feet from Spy’s bed.

Spy beckoned him closer, still grinning.

Scout inched closer, stopping a good foot from the bed. Stupid grin still painted on his face, Spy watched him, saying nothing. Scout relaxed, looking at the off-the-wall state Spy was in.

“Man, you are plastered,” he said with a chuckle.

“Petit,” Spy said, smiling absentmindedly, “Chiquito… tell me a story.”

“Aw, man, I ain’t no babysitter!” Scout said, turning away.

“Tell me how you learned to run /so/ fast,” Spy said flatteringly.

Scout slowed to a stop, then turned around, cocky grin emblazoned on his face, “Well, I am wicked fast. Fastest kid in Boston, man.”

“Tell me about it,” Spy said, smiling his lost, medicated little smile.

“Well… all righty. Okay, so, when I was a kid, yeah? Well…”



Unfortunately, Engineer had to go outside to get to the basement-- out into the rain and mud. All this technology, all this science-- rows upon rows of data tape decks, radio gear, beeping transmitters, and massive super computers-- and the heater was outside, in the barn-styled, dirty, cob-webby basement.

He walked past their makeshift kitchen, where the dishes from breakfast sat in the scrub sink, some feet from the creaking monster of an oven and range where Pyro cooked their meals. Past the sitting room, where a familiar behatted head was just barely visible slouching on the couch.

“Hey there Sniper, fancy seein’ you indoors.”

“…Dah-ling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue! Do do deet do do…” sang the television.

“It’s raining cats ‘n dogs out there,” Sniper commented dryly.

“--deet do do, the stores! Do do deet do do, fresh air!”

“Yeah, don’t I know it,” Engineer said ruefully, “What in tarnation you watching?”

“-- my wife. Goodbye, city life!”

“Ghhnn Hkphrs he hr hrr!” Pyro sang cheerfully.

Engineer glanced over the couch. Pyro was sitting on the floor, flamethrower at his side. Sniper seemed intent on taking up as much space as possible. Legs splayed, his boots a good couple feet from each other, rump on the far end of the cushion, head just visible over the top of the couch and arms behind his head.

“‘Green Acres’ ,” Sniper said, “But ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ will be on in…” he glanced at his watch, “About two hours. If the storm doesn’t knock the reception out, that is.”

“Ain’t you got nothin’ better to be doin’?” Engineer grumbled.

“Naw, only person dumb enough to be out in this weather is Demo. Damn stubborn fella’s out doin’ a jobby on his still. Worried about the weather affecting his booze, or somethin’.”

“Hmph-- well, you boys have fun. Some of us have work to do,” Engineer said with some irritation.

“Hey, see if you can get around to fixing the heater while you’re at it. S’getting kinda nippy in here,” Sniper added as Engineer left, grumbling to himself.

Out through the locked door into the underground facility, past the resupply room, up the straight-away, across the raised path, shoving his tool box under the fence and hopping over it himself, walking down the alley past the concrete tube, around the corner and down a hatch behind the building.

He hit the light switch, watching the old, dirty bulbs flicker to life. The wooden stairs creaked ominously under his feet as he lugged his toolbox. The furnace stood on the opposite side of the long basement, which probably placed it somewhere between the Med Center and the kitchen, although above them by at least five feet and a lot of dirt and ducts.

He crossed to the furnace, past crates of various sizes and sparse labels. There seemed no logic to the contents. Two big crates were labeled ‘blankets’ in big, blocky stenciled letters. Another couple smaller boxes were labeled ‘fuses.’ Those both made sense. Another crate was labeled ‘wing nuts - 40k,’ which didn’t make quite as much sense, but maybe they thought they were going to need a whole bunch of wing nuts. Another long, flat box was labeled ‘splines: reticulated,’ and that was just nonsense.

“All righty, you,” Engineer said, heaving his wrench and looking at the furnace, “Gas, huh? Maybe I shoulda brought Pyro? Well, lesse.”

He crouched and pulled open the front paneling. Eleven PhDs under his belt-- making a furnace work shouldn’t be an issue.

There was a Gordian knot of tubes and wires beyond it. Knobs and dials that turned without any indication of their purpose or if they did anything. Several unlabeled displays clearly read that something was probably definitely happening, maybe. One ticked back and forth like a metronome, another wobbled steadily around 13C/65F, while a third stayed solidly at… negative blue.

“Well, what does that mean?” Engineer asked no one in particular.

He heaved a sigh and, just on a lark, whacked the furnace with his wrench.

All he managed to do was dent the cover.

“Well then, guess I’m gonna have to take this little doggy apart…”




Spy nodded, grinning his little grin.

“I stopped talkin’ over ten minutes ago,” Scout said to Medic, “He’s just not here anymore, ya know what I‘m sayin‘?”

It hadn’t been easy to pull Medic away from Soldier, but with enough pestering Scout had managed. Medic put his hands behind his back and peered at Spy over the rims of his glasses.

“Is he alright?” Scout asked.

“Ja, he is fine,” Medic said, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose, “Zis is completely normal.”

Scout looked at Medic questioningly, “You call this normal? We thinkin’ of the same Spy?”

Spy’s nodding had stopped, as he’d managed to get distracted by his hand and was closely inspecting his fingers as he beatlessly tapped his thumb and forefinger together. After a moment, he narrowed his eyes and his tongue poked from the corner of his mouth as his concentration began to really focus on trying to reach a steady rhythm.

“Zis is normal,” Medic continued, “All ze team is a little different ven on stronk medication. You are ze lucky vun, Scout, you just fall asleep. Spy, he gets… ah.. ‘punched drunk’ ja? Somezing like zat. Zis is better zan Sniper… Ach, poor Sniper. He cannot have ze morphine-- it vas not pleasant finding that out, oh ja-- ze shaking and ze panic in his eyes. He had to be… restrained,” Medic said, batting lightly at the straps on the edges of the bed, hitherto unnoticed by Scout, “Ve are each our own; zis silliness of Spy’s… nuzzing to be vorried about.”

A loud, awkward gurgle emanated from the direction of Spy. His face developed a resemblance to a puppy who has been yelled at and doesn’t know why , “I am ‘ungry,” he said sadly.

“Did he eat last night?” Medic inquired, heading to the other side of the room calmly.

“Er, no… it… kinda got over looked,” Scout admitted, a hint of personal disappointment in his voice, “I-I… I’m certainly not you, eh Doc?”

Medic returned, carrying a bundle of metal. He looked at Soldier as he passed him, and sighed again.

“…You tried,” Medic admitted, “If ve had all tried so vell, perhaps he vould not be like this right now, ja? If I had vorn his silly helmet, he vould be up and about right now.”

The metal bundles Medic was holding were crutches. He leaned one against Spy’s bed, while he fiddled with the size adjustment bolt.

“Help him up. Try zis on for size,” Medic said, shoving the crutch into Scout’s hands.

For all his wackiness, Spy was able to get out of the bed without falling over once. The crutch, however, fell a little short.

“Bit longer,” Scout said, handing the crutch back to Medic. “It’s not your fault, man.”

“Ach, it is an easy fix--”

“No, I mean, Soldier, man… It, it ain’t your fault! ‘Sides, one way or another he’s gonna be fine. We were all a bit off our heads yesterday, ya know? Besides, s’not like he had much regard for anyone else. Man, he musta respawned so many fucking times yesterday… Woke up first thing in the morning to go be sick-- I told him, too!” Scout said indignantly, gesturing widely.

His hand waving was cut short as Medic handed him the other crutch; in turn he handed it to Spy. Spy wobbled a little, putting his weight on the crutches, smiling at his new toys.

“Zere, all ready to go. If I vere you, I vould not let him eat for anuzzer hour or so, when ze morphine begins to vear off. But, if you want to chance it, fine, you can clean up after him,” Medic said, patting Scout on the head and handing him Spy’s jacket.

Scout rolled his eyes and left, followed closely by the rhythmic tic-tacking of the Spy and his crutches.



Crossing her arms and nodding her head, Jeannie magically transformed the television screen into a loud sea of static. Sniper shoved himself upright, snapped from his rather pleasant ‘I day-dream of Jeannie.’

He stared at the frantic fuzz on the screen for a moment, before staring at the ceiling. The cats and dogs seemed to have coalesced into a solid desert storm and could distantly be heard pounding the ground.

Pyro wandered over to the TV and fiddled with the rabbits ears uselessly, then turned to Sniper, “Mmph?”

“What you want me to do?”

“Ffhks ed!” Pyro said, pointing at the TV for emphasis.

“How?” Sniper asked.

Pyro gestured toward the ceiling, then made a vague gripping, wobbly gesture, “Gho uph n ffhks ed.”

“Why should I do it? You go fix it!”

“Nuh-uh!” Pyro said, crossing his arms, “Eh rff ih Snphr drridohry. Oo do ed!”

“Hmph.”

Despite his reluctant response, Sniper knew Pyro was right. The high spots on the base were Sniper territory. He got up and wandered off. He returned shortly and tossed a headset at Pyro, who picked it up and looked at it.

“Skoud?” Pyro asked.

“Finders keepers-- he leaves these laying all over anyway,” Sniper said, slipping a headset on awkwardly over his hat, “Well? Put it on.”

Pyro fiddled with the headset for a moment before putting it on, then gave Sniper a thumbs up.

“Can you hear me?”

“Ess.”

“Bonzah. Give me the word when the receptions fixed, yeah?”

Sniper headed out. Pyro watched him go, then turned back to the TV and fiddled with the rabbit ears some more. Then he gave the TV a good smack.

“Oh, I’m so sorry Master,” Jeannie cooed, through the clear, monochrome reception.

Pyro made a content noise then returned to the couch. With a slightly malicious chuckle he usurped Sniper’s now empty spot. He took the headset off, looked at it, and tossed it across the room.
>> No. 296
Much of the furnace lay in pieces. Sitting on his toolbox, Engineer looked at the pieces, daring them to tell him why they didn’t work. A distant noise caught his attention -- the shallow metallic shudder of the chain-link fence. Nervously, he heaved his wrench, waiting to hear someone land on the other side. Waiting to hear footsteps coming down the stairs, or the crunch of those Italian leather shoes on the grit of the basement floor. But the sound didn’t come. It didn’t make any sense for that damned RED Spy to be about though-- and if he were about, why would he come down to this dank little basement?

He set the wrench back down and turned back to the furnace. Well, he’d taken the bits apart… now to put them back together and hope it worked.



Sniper moved carefully over the soaked roof, cautious of the buffeting winds and freezing rain. At least there wasn’t any lightning.

Well the antenna was still standing. He wobbled it a bit, then listened to the headphone. No response. He wobbled it some more.

“Any change, mate?”

No answer.

“Pyro? Coo-ee, anyone there?”

No answer but a faint static.

“Aw hell,” he muttered. Raindrops were beginning to spot his glasses and it was as cold as an outback night up here. Precipitation dripped off his hat, soaking his shoulders, and blowing in his face, speckling his vision with tiny, topsy-turvy magnifications. He was getting ready to climb back down when a far off familiar sound and a flash of flame caught his attention.

He peered across the rooftops, toward the distant RED base. There was another flash of fire. Looked like RED Pyro was on the RED roof-- God only knew why. It was a trick and a half to get up there if you were used to it. Curiously, there was someone with him. The tiny stranger had to be RED Scout, he was far to slight to be anyone else. But there was something strange about the scrawny figure.

Luckily, when it came to seeing across the compound, the right man was on the job. Sniper never went outside the living quarters without his rifle. Lifting it to his eye he peered through the site at the activity.

RED Pyro’s flamethrower spewed forth another golden torrent of fire. Well, that was normal and it wasn’t their Pyro he was curious about. Safely behind RED Pyro, shielded from the heat of the flames, as well as whomever the flames were holding at bay was…

Sniper put his rifle down. He took his glasses off and wiped the raindrops from them, then put them on again and looked through the sight again. No, he’d seen exactly what he thought he’d seen.

“…How come they get a girl?!”



“Anything good on, Py?”

Pyro glanced back over the edge of the couch as Scout came into the room and tossed Spy’s jacket onto the back of the couch. He was followed noisily by Spy. Nodding, he pointed at the TV.

“I like zis show,” Spy said slowly, smiling.

“Whuphs hssh prrdhm?” Pyro asked, gesturing to Spy.

“Morphine,” Scout explained.

Pyro nodded understandingly.

Scout flopped onto the left side of the couch and leaned on the armrest, leaving the middle couch cushion as a buffer between himself and the rest of the world-- namely Pyro. Spy crutched in front of the couch and looked at the vacant cushion. A confused and calculating expression crossed his face

“Mph!” Pyro said happily, patting on the open space between himself and Scout. He leaned forward and grabbed their ramshackle coffee table and pulled it closer to the couch, so Spy could put his injured leg on it.

With a little help, Spy managed get situated on the couch. Scout scooted himself closer to the armrest, not appreciating Spy encroaching on his personal space. They continued to watch Jeannie trying to get Master out of the trouble she’d gotten him into today.

Spy’s stomach growled loudly.

“Ah drrd Ehnghy oo dhk hm brrkfshd.”

“…Brickfish?” Scout asked, “Breakfast! I dunno man, Medic seems to think Spy’s gonna hurl if he eats anything.”

Pyro leaned away from Spy, then shifted into an impromptu impression of The Thinker.

Silence was broken by the Spy giggling at Major Nelson’s current predicament. He mumbled something that definitely wasn’t in English.

“Hhw bhht brahff?” he asked, after a moment.

“I haven’t a clue what you just said,” Scout admitted.

“Brahff. Brahff!” Pyro said, cupping his hands and bringing them his breathing filter and mimicking sipping, “Ssssshp -- brahff.”

“…Soup?” Scout said uselessly.

“…” Slowly Pyro brought his hand to his forehead and just shook his head. Slowly the shake turned into a nod, “Ess. Ess, shhp,” Pyro said, getting to his feet and heading to the kitchen.

“Why is it still so damned cold in here?” Scout muttered, kicked off his shoes and pulling his knees closer to him, “Hardhat should have the furnace fixed by now.”

“You are from Boston, right?” Spy asked, “You should be used to cold, oui?”

“Yeah, man, fuckin’ snow-- s’not supposed to be cold inside!”

Spy just chuckled.



The storm still raged. Sniper was experiencing it first hand, but all things considered he was in a pretty good mood. He had an excellent view, for one thing. The RED Scout girl was pretty cold, standing on the distant roof in the rain and she wasn’t very good at covering herself in that thin red t-shirt. Strangely, standing at the girl’s feet was a plump chicken. It seemed as distraught as the girl; occasionally she’d pet it, or pick it up and hold it until it squirmed out of her grip and resumed to waddled glumly around her feet. She had some really nice legs too. He’d noticed that the Scout’s pants really seemed to accentuate the calf, but he’d never had quite this much a reason to be interested.

“Very nice,” he said to himself, shifting his weight a little. His knees were starting to get numb and the rain had soaked into everything. He couldn‘t feel his feet anymore and his fingers were getting numb as well. Regardless, he wasn’t giving up this view unless there was the prospect of actually getting his hands on her.

Sniper growled jealously as RED Pyro momentarily obstructed his view of the girl. RED Pyro was patting her on the shoulder but keeping his attention directed toward the edge of the building. He didn’t seem to know that Sniper was out there; with the rain, gloom and his dark, drenched blue shirt Sniper had a definite camouflage advantage.

RED Pyro seemed more worried about his own base though. Sniper couldn’t blame them, foolish REDs though they were who wouldn’t want a little piece of that?

Well, from what he’d overheard from Spy, RED Heavy and RED Medic had a similar non-professional relationship to his own Heavy and Medic, so they wouldn’t have much interest. And Pyro, of course, never seemed to show much interest in anything but fire, cooking, fire, Star Trek and fire-- RED Pyro certainly didn’t seem to be taking much of a romantic interest in the perky little thing. Very perky. God bless cold weather.

It had been far too long since he’d seen a real woman and he was beginning to get desperate. Himself being his only ‘romantic’ companion was long past old -- and other offers were beginning to seem awkwardly tempting. He’d feigned ignorance when Pyro’d complained that RED Spy had approached him in the sewer the previous day, but it was something that was becoming more and more common.

The first time, he’d sneered and tried to get out his kukri without a thought, which had led to his immediate respawning. The second time, some battles later, he’d conceded:
‘Hmph… Ya fancy, bloody wuss -- what do you want?’
There’d been a growl, nay, a purr. A knife against his back, a gloved hand gentle run along his jaw line and a request. ‘Say somezing,’
‘…what kinda bollocks is this?’
‘Interesting choice of words’
‘I’m not going to play your little game, Spy.’
‘In time, maybe,’ -- and, again, Sniper had respawned.

In time. Well, another human’s touch would be nice. Really nice. Lowering his rifle for a moment, Sniper shook his head. He wasn’t that desperate. Not yet.

He raised his rifle again, gazed upon the distant female figure and chewed on his lip. So close, but so far.



The soup had been… food. Pyro had never made soup from scratch before, so it was an experiment. It was potato soup, since they had potatoes to spare. Although, it wasn’t really a soup, not really; when it had been too watery, he’d added flour and some salt so it ended up more of a stew, or maybe even a gravy. Spy had thrown up-- but Scout hadn’t, so it was not the soup’s fault. To Pyro, that meant it was, more or less, a success!

Once the nicotine withdrawal had kicked in-- indicating the morphine had kicked out-- Spy had finally been able to eat. He seemed to be mostly himself again, full of snide remarks as he ate the bowl of soup. Pyro took them all as compliments; if Spy hadn’t liked it, he wouldn’t have eaten.

The furnace still wasn‘t working, although Scout wasn’t complaining about the cold anymore. This was because he seemed to have fallen asleep curled up on the couch, and was now leaning against Spy, stealing his body heat. Pyro was almost certain that Scout was feigning sleep; Scout never napped. He was just to proud to huddle for warmth. It was so cute Pyro just wanted to ruffle his hair and pinch his cheeks and embarrass him, but, instead, he left him to his cuddling.

It wasn’t long until Rocky and Bullwinkle would be starting and Sniper still hadn’t come back down so Pyro went to check on him. Out through the locked door into the underground facility, past the resupply room, up the straight-away and across the raised path he stopped next to the chain-link fence.

“Snhpah!” He called, rain collecting on his gasmask lenses, “HA, SNHPAH!”

After a moment, Sniper called back.

“What?”

“Rahkee ahn Brrwnkkr!”

A moment of translating silence, “I found something better, mate! I’ll be in later”

Since he was down here, he figured he’d check on Engineer in the basement. Pyro did his best to climb the chain-link fence, but his large, round boots weren’t the best thing for this job. Climbing up was the easy part. Falling down the other side was even easier, but didn’t feel like it.

Rubbing his backside grumpily Pyro walked to the end of the narrow alley and looked around. No Sniper body here. Maybe he’d just gotten distracted by something on the roof. His loss, really.

While he was back here, he decided to check on Engineer down in the basement. He walked down the open hatch and its creaky wooden stairs.

Engineer stood on the far side of the room, a large piece of paper pinned to the wall. He had a drafting pencil in hand and was making a schematic or chart or something. There was a roll of blueprints out on the floor next to him that he kept referring too. His toolbox was open, tools and fasteners strewn across the floor. The furnace cover was dented and tossed to the side, a massive hank of kinked wires drooled out of the main compartment. The wires had been pulled taut and taped to one another to keep them neat and organized, but without their curls and spirals they were too long to fit properly in the casing.

Muttering to himself, Engineer looked at the paper and chewed on his pencil. He waved at the paper a bit, pointing and tracing with his fingertip. He scratched out a few lines and drew another, then referred to the blueprint again.

“Hngie?” Pyro said hesitantly.

Engineer jumped and looked at Pyro, who crossed over and looked at the mess.

“Mmn, whd oo do?” Pyro asked, looking at the mess of the furnace.

“I think I gotta rebuild it from the ground up. I checked all the wires, tightened anything that mighta been loose, I loosened what coulda been too tight-- what in tarnation is negative blue supposed to indicate ?” Engineer asked, waving his pencil dangerously.

Pyro looked at the furnace. He poked at the wires, looked at the all the connectors, checked the main gas line. Then he pulled something out of the pouch on his belt. He turned a knob and pressed a button.

“It’s not gonna do any good, boy. She won’t come on,” Engineer explained.

Pyro struck the match across the filter of his mask, then thrust his hand into the innards of the mechanism for a moment. He pulled his hand back out, shook the match out, then set the spent match on the floor with exaggerated care.

Tic-tic-tic-WHOOMPH!

Pyro stood up and motioned to the furnace with a jerk of his thumb, “Pihrd ighd ss oud.”

Engineer knelt slightly and looked at the tiny blue flame now perched happily inside the furnace.

“Oh, consarnit!”
>> No. 297
Yesterday’s storm seemed to have worn itself out, although a meager strain of drizzle was still falling as Pyro picked up the breakfast dishes and deposited them in the scrub sink.

“Mph?” He asked, standing over Sniper. Sniper was the only one left at the table.

Sniper’s hat was pulled low over his face and he slowly pushed a slice of meat around the plate, through a puddle of cold, congealing yolk. He gave a viscous snort and rubbed at his nose.

“Oud n eh rrn, ffr hurs,” Pyro muttered chidingly, leaving Sniper’s plate too him.

“Shud ub,” He said through a severely stuffed nose, making another horrible, clogged drain noise. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to be out in the rain, but it had been worth it.

Pyro proceeded to make his own plate of breakfast, now that everyone was mostly gone. Two eggs, a piece of toast and some slices of lightly fried meat. He didn’t really deserve two eggs, since they were a rare commodity and they were getting low on them-- feeding nine people, nothing lasted very long. There weren’t enough eggs for one each tomorrow anyway, so one less wasn’t going to hurt anyone.

Plate in hand, Pyro patted the sniffling Sniper on the head and disappeared deeper into the base, the find someplace private to eat.

A loud, angry and familiar bellow filled the halls. Pyro turned and looked in the direction of Soldier’s “War Room,” then doubled his speed and disappeared into the halls.

“THOSE CURS! THOSE RAPSCALLIONS! THOSE…. JOKERS! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”

Once upon a time the room had had a different purpose. The long table and numerous chairs suggested it was, once upon a time, a meeting room. Now it was The War Room-- Soldier’s private quarters. Typically the walls were coated with maps, and the maps were full of pins; Acupuncturist Soldier had done his best to soothe the maps’ pains in all their major cities and strategic locations. When pins didn’t work, he’d go at the maps with markers.

The maps changed all the time, rotating around the room into various areas of importance, depending on which civilization Soldier was convinced was the greatest threat at the time.

Today was no different. He stood before his maps, pacing and ranting, one hand holding a pen, the other full of pins.

The only difference was the maps.

“Treacherous Spades… It’s our solemn duty, isn’t it, King?” He said, glancing over his shoulder to Shovel, which was perched upright in one of the chairs. Occupying four other spots at the table were playing cards, organized in stacks by their suit. Dozens upon dozens of cards, “We must take it before they do. Yes, North, over the river… What was that? … Ah, yes, yes, a terrifying foe, we’ll need to avoid Jinjur. She’s a crafty one. But if we double back to the south we’ll be in Munchkin Land, coming in directly from the Yellow Brick Road. They’ll expect us there! Damn them! Trying to take the Emerald City before we can! If we allow them to take Oz, Wonderland will surely fall next!”

Soldier stormed in circle, looking at his other maps. Neverland. Wonderland. Oz. Middle Earth. Florin and Guilder. A small map, off to the side, of Le Petit Prince’s tiny planetoid. All of them covered in scrawls and arrows, plans and directions and orders. He’d been at it all night, planning, yelling, and preparing.

“Off with their heads, that’s what I say!” he grumbled, sticking a pin fiercely into the Emerald City, “Yes, yes, off with their heads.”

God only knew where he’d found the maps.



The sound of a showerhead echoed from beyond the tiled half-wall that separated the sinks, stalls and urinals from the showers. Spy was still wearing the butchered pair of pants from several days ago. It was the only article of clothing that really fit with the bulky cast on his leg. He was leaning on one crutch awkwardly and peering in the mirror.

His balaclava was pulled partially up so he could shave. A little five o’clock shadow was unavoidable-- and gave one an sense of mystique and danger-- but too much got uncomfortable when ones face was covered twenty-four hours a day.

There was a long, wobbling squeak, followed by relative quiet, as the water stopped. Not long after that, there was the sound of moist footsteps on the slip-proofed, pale blue tiles.

“Spy.”

With a razor actively moving around the distinct and severe angles of his face, Spy could only gave the merest flicker of eye contact in the mirror to indicate he had heard Heavy speak.

“… How is your leg?” Heavy asked slowly.

Spy didn’t really have much of an answer for that. The thigh high cast on his right leg said far more succinctly than any words could that his leg was still quite broken. He wasn’t about to stop himself in the middle of shaving to answer a question with such an obvious answer.

“You are… all right?” Heavy asked, “Team is not team without every person.”

Spy rinsed the shaving detritus off and patted his face dry with his towel, then pulled his balaclava back down and turned back around. Heavy was still damp from his shower, standing in a small puddle with naught but a towel around his waist and a painfully pathetic expression.

Spy cast his eyes down to his own feet. Heavy hadn’t meant to get him injured. The huge Russian took such a pride in the protection of his team-- the guilt he felt for Spy’s injury was almost tangible in the air. A suave grin slid across Spy’s face as he looked back up, “A fine job, ’eavy. Quite ze victory, last battle. All zanks to you, zey say.”

Heavy’s worry was lifted away and a grin crossed his face, “Da, you think so? Nothing can stop us.”

It seemed Heavy had more to say, but he was interrupted by a proud, “Woo!” Both Spy and Heavy looked toward the line of urinals on the other wall, where Scout stood-- a good five feet from the wall with his hands behind his head-- accompanied by the liquidy sound of relief.

“SCOUT!” Heavy barked, “If you make mess, we make you clean bathroom-- and with toothbrush!”

Scout’s hands quickly fell back out of view.



In the backyard, not too far beyond the cellar doors, was The Still. Her surface gleamed, copper polished to a blinding sheen, she was haloed by the glow of the sun as it peeked through the morning haze and dispersing clouds.

With strained care, Demo carefully wiped every speck of dirt and grime from her, detailing each fitting, buffing each screw and polishing each rivet. The rain yesterday had left her covered in water marks and splashed with mud around her base, but Demo took nothing but pleasure from keeping her immaculate. Following behind him, with a small, padded pipe wrench, Engineer checked the fittings, making sure none of them were too loose or too tight.

While Engineer didn’t come close to sharing the Demoman’s love of alcohol, he did enjoy good craftsmanship when he saw it-- and since he’d built a great deal of her, he could appreciate how good the craftsmanship really was. He’d built it, that was true, but Demo had created her; Demo had given her a soul. Her name was Caoimhe-- which Demo pronounced as “Kiva,” so that was what Engineer called her-- and she seemed to be the closest thing Demo had to a religion.

“Ach, wut a great day!” Demo announced, looking at his shining idol, “We’ll have some good stuff wit’ dinner tonight.”

“Darn tootin’,” Engineer added.

Kiva was distilling a fine whiskey that would be ready within a few hours; they were estimating about four bottles from this batch. It wasn’t a lot, but it went a long way. This was no mere battle Scrumpy, which was toilet sangria (almost literally) compared to the liquid ambrosia birthed by the ethanol goddess.

“You know lad, I havena thanked ye for all the help ya’ve been wit’ Caoimhe,” Demo was remarkably understandable this morning. He wasn’t particularly drunk; he’d had some with breakfast-- “hair o’ the dog that bit ye!”-- to stave off the morning hangover, but he wouldn’t dare drink in front of Kiva. The Engineer had asked him why once, and had only been greeted with a blank stare, as though he’d asked him something more akin to “but why don’t you eat babies?”

“Don’t fret over it pardner,” Engineer responded, “It’s a pleasure to do some work I know won’t be the target of any darn Spies.”

“Yer jus’ askin’ fer trouble, sayin’ that out loud,” Demo chided, waving his polishing rag at Engineer teasingly. Engineer just laughed.



Medic stood at the scrub sink and washed the morning’s breakfast dishes. It was demeaning, a surgeon’s hands doing dishes, but it had to be done and it was one of the easier chores.

They’d tried to get HQ to send them a maid. Someone who could keep the messes under control, do the light work: dishes, windows, floors. And HQ had.

She’d been a feisty lass. She’d quickly quelled Sniper’s advances (with a fiercely applied foot which had required Sniper to sit out of activities several days off), she’d drunk with Demo (not better than Demo, but she’d lasted a few rounds with him), she’d even run out of the shower room sopping wet, clad in nothing but a towel, and beaten Scout with a back scrubber when she’d caught him peeking in on her. But that was all before she’d seen what a battle looked like. Before they’d trudged contently back into the base, dripping blood and nursing wounds. The sight of Scout, knuckles scabbing and purple, face smeared with blood not solely his own; Demoman, proudly drunk and waving his still hot grenade launcher around, flecks of enemy flesh spackled across his uniform, Heavy, carrying the huge, terrifying Sasha, accompanied by Medic, enthusiastically gesturing with the gore-encrusted bonesaw. Everyone of them proudly badged with blood, yet without a care in the world.

Medic remembered it well. The look of horror in her eyes made her beautiful, but it reflected them as monsters. She’d run off to some corner of the base and they’d had to send Spy-- whose suits were always clean, whose charm and sympathy could be flipped on like a light-- to speak with her.

Then they had to send her back. She wasn’t a BLU. She was a hired girl. She’d been warned there might have been some “minor altercations,” but she wasn’t told anything about their real purposes.

Sighing, Medic shook his head. Bureaucracy.

“Good initiative. We have taken the enemy Intelligence,” the Announcer said smugly.

A plate fell from his hands, splashing warm water down the front of his coat. In his stunned silence, he could hear the rest of his team’s confusion echoing down the halls.

They congregated outside the kitchen.

“I didn’t do it!” Scout said quickly.

“Whad de ‘ells goin’gh on?” Sniper asked congestedly.

Pyro ran up, a little later than everyone else, wiping at the yolk he’d accidentally spilled on his suit. A few moments later, clacking as he came, they were joined by Spy.

“Who is missing?” Spy asked.

A cursory glance indicated…

“Ach, zis is all mein fault!” Medic gasped, “Soldier! Zat bonk on ze head! His delicate condishun…”

Everyone milled about uselessly.

“Vell?” Medic called, “Let’s go!”



Soldier was hastily making his way up the RED straight-away, a trail of papers fluttering in the still air as he ran.

The frantic blast of a scattergun roared through the air-- most of it hit the Intel briefcase, just slightly throwing off Soldier’s loping gait. Soldier turned, swinging shovel in a wide arc as he did.

RED Scout was coming up on Soldier fast-- but he was all too familiar with how painful a shovel to the face was. He tried to dodge, his hands flailing, trying to grab the Intel all the same. Luck was with RED Scout, he was too close to Soldier-- Shovel missed, but Soldier’s arm didn’t and the enemy Scout tumbled roughly through the doorway, off the wooden walkway and into the courtyard mud-- but he had their Intel back.

“No one treats The Queen like that!” Soldier howled, waving Shovel at the Scout.

A RED sticky whizzed just over his head and hit the far wall of the courtyard-- accompanied by a thick, unintelligible swearing. Soldier turned and ran along the upper wooden path, fleeing back toward his home base. Quickly, off the battlements and onto the bridge, past Heavy, who was spun up and waiting, and Medic who was loyally behind him.

Spy stood just outside the main doors and lit a new cigarette. Leaning on his crutches, he waved toward the RED battlements. He could see RED Sniper. RED Sniper, he knew, could see him. Spy squinted as the bright sight flitted over his eyes-- but the shot didn’t come. The red dot wobbled and looked around trailing down his chest and noting the cast on his leg. It trailed away from Spy and instead hung out on the wall next to the western BLU doorway.

“Merde,” Spy muttered, throwing a rude gesture RED Sniper’s way.

Luckily the RED Soldier was on his way out of the RED base and toward the bridge. He never thought before firing.



The RED Intel lay in the dirt where the RED Scout had fallen. He could have taken it back into the safety of the Intelligence Room, but something had distracted him.

“Dumbass!” Scout laughed, punching RED Scout in the face.

RED Scout turned and spat blood on the ground, his split lip oozing crimson down his chin, “Jackass!” he responded, popping Scout a good one in the eye.

The two punched and kicked, rolling in the dirt and scuffling like two puppies. Their weapons were discarded-- this was more personal than bullets or bats. This was fists and teeth and sweat and blood.

Blood dripped from Scout’s nose and a black eye was rapidly forming. RED Scout had a matching shiner, and his teeth were rimmed in red from the split in his lip. Both wore expressions of crazed, berserker glee. Scout shoved RED Scout aside and punched him in the solar plexus.

RED Scout choked as the air was knocked from his lungs, spraying blood and saliva onto Scout-- who stopped and wiped at his face frantically.

“Sick, man!” he barked.

“Hey,” RED Scout croaked, gasping for air and wiping at the drips of foreign blood spattered around his face, “You’re getting… freaking… nose blood… on my face!”

“So call it, man!” Scout said, leaning back on his heels and smacking his own chest proudly, “Say I win.”

“I ain’t calling on account of nose blood! S’just blood, ya wuss!” RED Scout said.

“Bring it on!”

RED Scout glanced at him tiredly, chest still burning from the sudden oxygen evacuation, “Gimme a minute… that fuckin’… fuckin’ hurt man.”

“Oh you wuss!” Scout crowed, snickering.

RED Scout shifted his weight, then brought his own fist sharply into Scout’s own solar plexus. Scout gaped for a moment, then fell face-first into the dirt.

“Ah, fuck man,” He gasped.

“Told ya,” RED Scout responded, smirking and watching his BLU counterpart try to catch him breath.

“I’m gonna… kick your ass… next round,” Scout said, “As soon… as I get my breath back… fucker.”

RED Scout, still laying in the dirt, put his hands behind his back, “Until then… man, I gotta tell you about yesterday… it was… wicked weird.”



Sniper sat in his nest, sniffling, rifle sight to his eye. The slight fisheye warp on the lens was making him dizzier and he could barely breath without coughing. He hadn’t been out in the rain that long yesterday. Four, five hours max.

He should have just stayed outta this battle, but then he would have just been sick. At least out here there was a chance of respawn-- and he’d feel better once--

Sniper didn’t have a chance to finish his thought. He slumped over, hitting the wooden floor like a sack of pudding. The wall behind where he’d been crouched was decorated with a chrysanthemum of blood, brain matter and mucus.

Across the main stretch, RED Sniper smirked, “Damn wanker, day dreaming or somethin’.”

Then RED Sniper, too, collapsed-- but with his head much more intact, and his back much more stabbed.

Spy looked down at him, lit a new cigarette, re-cloaked and went on his way. With his mobility back, and a fresh suit, it was business as usual again, and that meant bothering RED Engineer.

RED Pyro was patrolling the spiral, so Spy choose the straightaway. He snuck past the RED Demo, who was gleefully coating the straight-away entrance with stickies. It took all his restraint to not stab the clearly presented back, but that would have given him away, and ruined all his fun.

On the way down the stairs, he took his cloak down to let it recharge. He could hear RED Engineer contently hammering away on what sounded like a level two sentry. The beeps were distinct. It was a lot of wrenching; it would be a level 3 soon. Spy hesitated and checked his watch. Mostly recharged, but not fully yet. Enough to give him a moment to assess the situation.

RED Engineer patted his level one sentry on its top as it scanned the room. He was an odd one, the silly red-clad laborer. Beside the boy and his pet, a level three sentry stood guard. Behind the cluster of death and destruction a dispenser purred and perked. They were camped in the corner between the two doors. How kind of him to put all his eggs in one neat little basket.

Spy retreated to the corridor and let his cloak finish recharging while Engineer muttered to himself inside, his nonsense and mathematics just audible over the beep and whirr of his two sentries.

Fully charged, Spy decided to have some fun. Invisible and quiet, he stuck a sapper on the level one sentry.

It gave a sad chirp as it powered down. Spy went to the shadow of the level 3 sentry.

“Damn you Spah!” RED Engineer growled, “I know you’re here.”

He waited a few moments, until the sapper had been removed from the level one-- then stuck one on the level three. Immediately after sapping the three, he sapped the one again and instead of running back to the hall he dove behind the desk and began to recharge.

“Oooh, Spah!” RED Engineer barked, whacking the sappers off his precious guns. He was used to Spy’s tricks by now and didn’t follow him out into the room. He stayed in his corner, just in front of his dispenser and waited, hefting his wrench threateningly, “I holler and Pyro’ll be down here in a hurry fer sure, son, don’t think I won’t do it. Only reason I ain’t called yet is because I’d prefer to take you down myself. You’ve caused me a right heap o’ trouble and I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with you.”

Spy ignored his rantings, which were plenty long to let his cloak finish recharging. As soon as it was activated he sauntered over, calmly walking right past Engineer and crossing behind the sentries. He set a sapper on both guns the quickly jumped on to the dispenser and squeezed himself between it and the wall.

“Aw, dag nabbit, nab daggit!” RED Engineer exclaimed, whacking at the sentries, “PYRO!” he called, “PYRO! There’s a SPAH!”

RED Pyro came running, enthusiastic flames spewing from his flamethrower. He circled the room like a good boy, checking the corners and behind the desk. No screaming blues appeared, so he crossed back to RED Engineer, flamethrower angled down peacefully. He looked at RED Engineer for a moment, then gave him a hesitant singeing.

RED Engineer laughed, “Not me, Py… Musta gone out the other way. You stick with me, he’ll be back. Damned, stubborn spahs.”

He tossed a RED Spy disguise on before his cloak could run out, and leaned against the dispenser calmly. He could wait to recharge and flee, but this was so much more fun. The dispenser purred and cooed comfortingly, letting its healing warmth envelope him. With two REDs here, he was in some trouble, especially with one being RED Pyro. What he needed was a distraction-- and the best thing about being in an Intel room was sooner or later, someone else would want to be in it too.

A pair of blue grenades bounced into the room, exploding near the sentries. They began to whine like confused, mechanical hounds.

“Shit, boy, get back here!” RED Engineer told RED Pyro, who immediately obliged. RED Engineer set to repairing his sentries-- another pair of grenades bounced in, closer this time. Pyro reflected them.

With the REDs distracted, Spy climbed on top of the dispenser, still disguised. Raising his knife he leapt down onto RED Pyro.

The sentries guns did an immediate about face-- he leapt back behind the dispenser and re-disguised as the explosion went off, rockets aimed where he’d been a moment before. He took some superficial damage, but the dispenser blocked a fair amount. Quickly activating his disguise-- the RED Spy-- he leapt out from behind the dispenser, activating his cloak as he did.

Engineer quickly and desperately emptied his shotgun around the room, aiming for doors, aiming around the tops of his sentries and failing entirely to hit Spy.

Crouched low to the floor, Spy snuck back behind Engineer coming around his sentries the other way.

As Engineer fumbled to reload, Spy stuck sappers on both sentries and then turned. His arm curled around Engineer’s neck, holding him in place as his knife found its way to the small of Engineer’s back and stayed there

“Demo!” Spy called, “It is safe!”

Demo peeked in and looked toward the corner, grenade launcher held high. He gave Spy a quick glance up and down, “Ach, you playin’ wit’ your food again, Spy?”

The tiny, level one sentry gave a sad pop and collapsed into a smoking heap.

“Just grab ze Intel,” Spy said, smirking.

“Now, Spy-- dinnae be fraternizing.”

“No way this side o’ hell, you BLU bastard,” Engineer snarled. The level three sentry smoked and arced electricity, and was destroyed by a small internal explosion, shattering into chunks of metal, “Oh, God, mah sentries,” he groaned.

“Zey are so cute when zhey struggle,” Spy cooed, grinning to himself as Engineer tensed in his grip. Spy looked at Demo, who was still watching him, “Will you be taking ze Intel? Zeir Pyro will be back any moment now.”

“Aye, I getcha,” Demo said, winking, grabbing the Intel and running off.

“Spahs,” RED Engineer spat, “Worthless curs. Ya oughta be put down like the sick dog ya’re, ya yellow bellied gutless coward. I know yer type; there’s only two people to a spah: people you’ve stabbed in the back, people you ain’t stabbed yet.”

Spy smirked, “You forgot about ze lovers” he teased.

“I ain’t gonna play yer games, Spah,” Engineer growled.

“Who said you ‘ad to play along?”

“So help me, Spah, I--”

RED Engineer was silenced by the knife in his back.

Spy looked calmly to dead man on the floor, “Poor petit American,” Spy chuckled, retrieving a new cigarette, “What ‘as your culture taught you? So afraid of men-- ze ladies, zey are a pleasure, but why limit yourself?” he took a long drag and shrugged, welcoming himself to a seat on the dispenser.

“It is not that I am interested… not in ze same way Rosso pursues… heh… ze Aussies,” Spy chuckled and rolled his eyes, “But, enemy mine, ze more you run ze more I must chase you. Zat is ‘ow it works,” he nudged RED Engineer’s limp form playfully, then crossed his legs and leaned back, confidant he had a few seconds to himself.

He was wrong.

“Must you talk about me like I’m not ‘ere?”

RED Spy decloaked nearby and leaned against the wall, close enough to the dispenser to pick up some of its energy. Spy took his disguise kit out of his pocket and offered RED Spy a cigarette, who wordlessly took him up on the offer. The RED lit the cigarette with his own lighter and they smoked in silence but for the beeping of the computers and humming of the dispenser.

“’ow is Caoimhe?” RED Spy asked casually, discarding the stub and retrieving another cigarette from his own case.

“Muzzer-to-be of a whiskey to be proud of, I ‘ear. More zan a bottle will be ‘ard to procure, but she’s worth quite a price,” Spy glanced in RED Spy’s direction shiftily, “‘Ow are ze hens?”

“Plentiful, but…” RED Spy took a meaningful drag off his cigarette and glanced at Spy.

Spy nodded slowly.

“Zey all know I take ze booze from your team, but Scout keeps a close eye on ze coop. He is slow, but he is not stupid.”

Spy took a slow drag, then blew a sleek stream of smoke from the corner of his mouth, “Find out what ’e wants.”



Back in the BLU base, Pyro ran out of the resupply eagerly. Damnable RED Soldier had chased Demo down into the sewers and right into Pyro. He’d managed to reflect the rocket, but in the narrow little pipe down there where was it supposed to go? He wasn’t sure if RED Soldier had made it, but he and Demo certainly hadn’t. He jumped off the wooden walkway, almost colliding with their own, slightly off-kilter Soldier.

“Ah, Three of Hearts, my good card-- they need you on the field! I’ve done my best, but this has become far too dangerous for we Monarchs,” Soldier gestured to Shovel, “Go and win one for the your Queen!”

Pyro chuckled, then bowed lowly and scurried off.

“Well, at least she has some manners,” Soldier said hautily, as he and Shovel retreated to the resupply.

Pyro continued on toward the bridge this time. He could hear Medic yelling.

“Fall back, mein Heavy!”

“But they are retreating!”

“Ze uber is almost prepared! Fall back until it is ready,” Medic repeated, falling back a few feet.

“I do not retreat!” Heavy barked, marching onward. The medi-gun’s beam was stretched to its maximum length. It flickered, then disappeared, as its target advanced too far.

RED Soldier appeared on the battlements and sent a rocket at the bridge. The shockwave sent Medic reeling back into Pyro, who helped Medic regain his feet as bits of Heavy dripped from the now scarlet section of the bridge.

“Dummkoff!” Medic chided, giving a grumpy huff and turning his Medi-gun on the Pyro.

“Ja-- Vas zat so bad?! Vas zat so long?!” he growled, “And now vere is mein Heavy? Zere! And zere and zere! Ach!” He continued to whine in a constant stream of German.

Pyro frantically patted Medic on the shoulder, pointing toward the RED base. RED Soldier had leapt down and RED Demo had joined him.

“Ve must fall back until Heavy returns.”

Pyro shook his head, “Noh tnn!” he said, tapping his wrist. He gestured to the medi-gun, then to himself.

“…Are you sure, mein Pyro? I know you… you do like ze … ‘medical procedures.’”

Pyro made a complicated shrugging gesture, then pumped his fists, “Hts dh ihd!”

Charging forward, he relished the rush of adrenaline, the ecstasy of the power and seeming invincibility. Flamethrower flaring, his legs seeming to chase down his prey with a mind all their own, he threw his head back and screeched a malicious cackle-- the battle cry of a temporary God.
>> No. 298
Heavy left the resupply room, jumping down inside the base to look for Medic. Usually when this sort of thing happened he fell back to wait for Heavy, but he wasn’t around.

In the distance he heard Pyro laughing. He could also hear Medic. Heavy felt a pang of jealousy-- Medic was laughing his uber laugh. With someone else.

Sure, an ubercharge was not something to be wasted. If there was any chance of Medic being in danger he had to protect himself and his teammates, but… Well, he and Medic, they rained terror upon the RED fort. They were a scourge, a menace, a… a duo.

Heavy shoved his pathetic little emotions away. There was fighting to do, teammates to aid, Intelligence to steal.

The bridge was empty of foes. The charred remains of RED Demo and RED Soldier. Not far beyond that were the late RED Heavy and RED Medic. He continued toward the courtyard, just in time to see the Medic’s coattails disappear down the straight-away. Still scuffling in the mud were both teams’ scouts.

Medic was off with Pyro. Scout had his twin foe. Heavy only had Sasha.

Boots crunching in the dirt he crossed to the teenagers. Crouching, he grabbed one of them in each hand by their shirts and lifted them up to eye level.

“Hey!”

“Aw, shit…”

“Get. Intelligence,” Heavy growled, half shoving, half tossing Scout toward the stairs.

“Come on man, I was just about to freakin’ win!”

“Ya were no-”

Heavy flung the RED Scout against the wall and turned, pinning the boy to the wall with Sasha. RED Scout grunted. Pulling and ripping at his shirt, scrapping and gnashing at his skin, Sasha began to spin up. He pulled her away, before the friction of the boys pathetic flesh began to put any stress on her barrel and she finished spinning up as the boy’s hands flew to his raw but relatively undamaged stomach. Undamaged compared to the sudden, dramatic perforations his midsection developed as Sasha turned his vital organs into a cheap red wash for the wall.

Sasha spun down. RED Scout-- what was left of him-- slithered down the wall moistly.

Heavy turned and looked at his own Scout.

“You win,” he said gruffly, “Intel. Now.”

“Fuck man… fuck,” Scout said, scurrying off and jumping the stairs in his characteristic, silly, physics-defying way.



“Bonjour,” Spy said with a grin, as Medic and Pyro entered the RED Intel room. They had expected resistance, especially when they’d spotted bits of Demo plastered to the walls.

Spy, with a RED Spy mask on, sat contently on top of a RED dispenser, enjoying its healing glow and his cigarette.

“Working hard?” Medic asked facetiously.

“Non, not anymore,” he said, getting up slowly and crossing to them.

They all turned, weapons drawn, as Scout ran in. He looked a bit worse for wear; a nice black eye was forming quickly around his right eye, there was blood smeared across his face and nose, blood still running from a new split on his lip. Scabs forming on his elbows, mud and grit around his taped hands, bloody knuckles.

“Win your fight?”

“Naw man,” Scout whined, wiping his lip off with the back of his fist, “Heavy killed ‘im. Gruesome, man--”

Medic cut him off, “Scout, take ze Intel. Pyro, give him cover, I’ll cover you. Spy--”

“Non, I will go first,” Spy said, “Zheir laborer will be setting up another sentry by now. But I know where ‘e will put it. Pyro, I will need your ‘elp. As soon as I take down ze sentry, zat is your cue. We will not have a lot of time.”

They took the spiral, waiting beyond the doorway out of view. Spy shushed them silently and cloaked, his faint wavering blue silhouette slipping out of view. Pyro lifted his flamethrower.

“HEY!” Engineer yelled. There was a sizzling sound. Pyro pounced. Scout ran. There was gun fire and yelling, sizzling, explosions and mayhem. Scout fled, Intelligence in one hand, bat in the other. A quick bat upside the head would give RED Sniper a nice bit of double vision, so he could leap without worry.

Now that RED Sniper wasn’t an issue, Scout ran frantically over the bridge. As he leapt for the BLU battlements, there was an explosion and suddenly the world was full of pain and light. Scout missed the battlements and hit the wall roughly, bouncing off and hitting the ground awkwardly.

Stars flashed in front of his eyes as he stumbled to his feet, grabbing his unusually numb arm and rolling back into a less dislocated position. He grabbed the Intelligence at his feet and, clumsily, ran further into his base. There was a bang overhead, indicating his Demo problem was now less one crucial chunk of gray matter.

His head was swimming. He ran through the base as fast as his scrawny, sore, bruising little legs would carry him. Up the stairs, down the straight away, ricocheting off the wall at the bottom, around the corners, against another wall and to the desk. He dropped the Intel on the desk and the last thing he heard before passing out was:

“Success! We have secured the Enemy Intelligence.”



The survivors left the battlefield, the casualties left the respawn room and everyone went back to their bases.

It hadn’t been a long battle. Chores from before were picked up where they’d been left. Medic resumed the dishes from breakfast, Engineer and Demo went back to check the still, and Pyro wandered off to do whatever Pyro did. Sniper took out the sole deck of cards they’d managed to keep since Soldier had regained consciousness late the previous day and started a game of solitaire.

Heavy walked slowly, hesitantly, into the kitchen. There was a distant, short exchange of words. They started neutral, but turned cross quickly. Heavy left the kitchen quickly and quietly, then joined Sniper at his table and watched him play solitaire silently. After a little while Spy had insinuated himself into the scene, but not as silently.

Not too far into his fame, Engineer came down from outside.

“We got something to drink yet?” Sniper asked, shuffling his remaining cards and drawing three.

“Ze seven,” Spy said casually.

“Whose playin’?” Sniper barked at him.

“Soon,” Engineer remarked, “I swear Demo is out there whispering sweet nothings to Kiva. But, what the hey, if that’s his secret to good distilling, well, who am I to stop him?”

Sniper batted at Spy’s hand, “Stop touchin’ my cards.”

“Ze seven,” Spy repeated, “Right zere!”

“I see it! Don’t touch my cards.”

“How about a hand o’ Texas Hold ‘Em?” Engineer suggested.

“Move ze sev-”

With a vicious thud Sniper’s kukri stood upright just a hairs breadth from Spy’s still reaching hand.

“Do. Not. Touch.”

Spy glared at Sniper, whose gaze remained tensely calm. Slowly, Spy pulled his hand back. Sniper casually moved the seven of clubs to the eight of hearts, then moved the six of diamonds onto it. Then he shoved all the cards into a pile and picked them up. Shuffling, he glanced at Engineer.

“Aces high?”

“Sounds good,” Engineer took a seat between Sniper and Heavy, as Spy got up to retrieve the box of poker chips, “Playin’ for fun, or for keeps?”

“I’m up for it,” Sniper said, “Ones, fives, and tens?”

Spy fished through the box, distributing the betting currency. Like everything else in 2fort that wasn’t military surplus, these were makeshift. Washers, pennies, and spare green buttons from a box of ‘travel sewing kits’ they’d found.

“Thought you didn’t like bettin’ money, Spah,” Engineer teased.

“Poker does not need to be made more interesting,” Spy said calmly, shooting Engineer a short, drop the subject glance.

“Fair ‘nuff, fair ‘nuff,” Engineer said, pulling his chips toward himself.

Heavy grunted-- the first noise he’d made since sitting down-- and pulled his chips toward him.

“You all right Heavy? Didn’t hear Sasha going off much today,” Engineer asked, neatly piling his chips into careful stacks.

“Fine,” Heavy said gruffly, sort of sorting his chips into an expansive puddle of potential money.

“Enough chit-chat mates,” Sniper said, dealing everyone their two cards, “Bets in.”



They were playing for nearly an hour before their first interruption. They were into the game enough, they didn’t notice Pyro until he took Sniper’s hat off.

Sniper reached up for his head quickly, then turned around and glared-- but found himself eye to lens with the best poker face in the building. Sniper’s hat wobbled loosely on top of Pyro’s mask.

“Dh eh hff urrr ahttnshhhn nw?” Pyro asked calmly.

Sniper took his hat and put it back on.

“Whadda ya want?”

“Eh ahsshd ehf oo ahr whrr hngrry,” Pyro said, “Ahm mhhkn sndiches.”

“I’m up for a sandwich,” Engineer said cheerfully, tossing a washer in the kitty, “Thank ya kindly, Pyro.”

“Si, por favor,” Spy added, pushing his large pile of chips around with his fingertips.

Heavy gave an affirmative grunt. Pyro looked at him and tilted his head, then gave him a soft, playful punch in the arm. Heavy glared at him out of the side of his eyes.

“Yeah, all right,” Sniper added.

Pyro counted on his fingers, then looked around, “Whrs Shkt?”

“Scout? Ain’t seen ‘em all day.”

Heavy chuckled, although it was not entirely a happy sound, “Tiny Scout is probably pouting. He was playing again,” Heavy met the washer and added two pennies.

Spy immediately tossed in the washer and two pennies, following it with a button.

“Why, RED Scout beat him up this time?” Sniper asked, fiddling with one of the fatigue green buttons and eyeing his cards. There were distinctly less chips than he’d started with. Spy had most of them.

“No time for playing in battle,” Heavy said firmly, “So I end little fight for them.”

“Ehhs jsshd ah kd,” Pyro said, sounding a little mournful.

“He’d be mighty cross if he heard you say that,” Engineer said, “You darn well don’t wanna be on the wrong side o’ that boy’s bat, I tell you what.”

Pyro’s head lolled in an exaggerated eye rolling gesture. Sniper spoke before Pyro could say anything.

“Can’t really blame him,” Sniper fiddled with two washers as he spoke, “There’s no one around he can relate too. Ain‘t no one here with less’n ten years on him. Maybe fifteen,” his mind made up he tossed his bet in, upping the stakes by two buttons, “Unless Pyro is hiding a youthful hide from us,” Sniper added, giving Pyro a glance over the top of his glasses.

Pyro looked at him, then clapped his hands together, “Sndichs!” and he turned for the kitchen.

“Heh… All right, showdown,” Sniper said, tossing down his cards, “Straight flush!”

“Aw hell,” Engineer said, setting his cards down, “Just two pair.”

“Three of a kind,” Heavy said defeatedly.

Sniper grinned and glanced at Spy, “All righty, Spy-- Show us yer cards.”

Grinning, Spy set down his cards, “Straight flush, queen high.”

Spy was collecting his winnings when Soldier came into the room.

“What are you doing with my men?!” He hollered, crossing to the table angrily and snatching at the cards, “My god, Clubs! What’ve they done to you?! Making you go up against your own! Hearts! You’re too sensitive to be gambled with!”

Chips scattered and bounced as Soldier gathered up the mess of cards.

“I won’t stand for this!” he shouted, “Quickly! 52nd Battalion! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”

Soldier threw the deck he’d just gathered back at them and ran of laughing maniacally.

It took a moment for what had just happened to really sink in. Sniper took a few cards off of the brim of his hat. Engineer picked up the few that had bounced off his hardhat, Spy fetched the ones that had flown past him when he’d hit the floor, self-preservation senses kicking in, and Heavy picked at a few that had gotten stuck between the bullets in his bandolier.

“Shouldn’t a respawn a’ fixed him? How’d he manage to live all day when he started the fucking fight?” Sniper asked.

“We must make sure he does not survive ze next one,” Spy said suavely.

“Spah, you are a dastardly, yellow bellied, two faced snake,” Engineer said, then laughed, “And I like the way you think.”



Sandwiches were served two rounds later. They played as they ate. Spy excused himself (first counting his chips and reminding Sniper he owed him $56). Medic was still in the kitchen, although dishes were long since done. Demo came in carrying four slightly light bottles of brand new whiskey and the mood generally improved.

It wasn’t long before Spy returned, a smirk on his face and a chicken under his arm. She was a plump, happy little hen, which clucked contently until she was handed to Pyro. Pyro took the bird when it was offered to him, but looked at it like he’d never seen a chicken before, turning it this way and that, shaking it a little and finally turned it upside down and holding it over his head, just to see what would happen.

What happened was the chicken attacked his gasmask, so he tossed the chicken across the room and was about to unleash his flamethrower on her when Engineer and Sniper subdued him-- each grabbing him by one greasy, ashy arm

Medic came from the kitchen to intervene, picking the chicken up and taking it away. None of them saw her alive again-- although she was delicious.

But it was well past dinner now and still no one had seen Scout.

Pyro, ever the diligent and thoughtful chef, had set a plate aside for Scout. To go with the chicken he’d made mashed potatoes. He was quite proud of himself.

“Should we be worried about the boy?” Engineer asked, happy, relaxed and full of chicken.

“He is young. Youth is resilient. He will be fine,” Spy said, although not entirely convincingly. It was unusual for Scout to have gone so long without making himself the center of attention, even, nee especially, if he felt he’d been wronged.

“Tiny Scout will turn up when he gets hungry enough,” Heavy said, getting up from his seat, “Is nothing to worry about,” he said as he left the room.

Heavy walked down the hallway and headed toward the Med Center. Medic hadn’t eaten with them; he’d taken his dinner back to the Med Center and eaten alone, away from the team-- and away from Heavy.

Heavy knocked sheepishly on the Med Center door.

“Vat?!” Medic barked.

Frowning, Heavy opened the door and walked in. Medic turned and looked at the intruder, a sneer crossing his face.

“Vat do you vant?”

“We need to talk,” Heavy said, crossing the room slowly.

“No. No, I do not think ve do,” Medic said, crossing his arms and turning around.

Footsteps echoed across the cold linoleum floor and Heavy put his hand on Medic’s shoulder and turned him around.

“We need to talk.”

Medic slammed his fist down on the thin metal tray, which shuddered and bounced, spilling tools all over the floor and clattering loudly.

“About VAT, Heavy?” Medic demanded, turning around and looking at Heavy, “Vhy are you being like zis?!”

“About today.”

Medic huffed and started to turn around-- Heavy pushed him back toward him.

“Fine! Talk about vat? Zat you are jealous? Zat you are possessive?” Medic asked, jabbing his finger into Heavy’s chest, “Zat I should not help mein teammates?”

“Yes,” Heavy said stiffly.

“Yes? You do not vant me to help zem!?”

“No,” a hint of anger rising in his voice. He grabbed Medic by his lapels and shoved him against a wall, “Yes!” he growled, his frustration obvious, “Help team!”

He picked Medic up and shoved him against the wall again, “Always help team! Must do what is best for team!” He pulled Medic back, face to face and grimaced, “… Jealousy… is stupid.”

“Ja, it is!” Medic spat, then jeered, “Mein Heavy.”

A scowl crossed Heavy’s face. He put Medic down and stood up straight, chest to chest, and glowered down at him.

“Mein Heavy felt jealous,” Medic continued to jeer, “Mein Heavy is a stupid man-- but at least he knows it,” he taunted, “Mein Heavy should have pulled back when I told him too.”

Heavy’s huge hand came up and cupped the side of Medic face. Heavy looked him in the eyes and remarked firmly, “I do not retreat.”

Medic grabbed Heavy by the belt, “Sometimes that makes you brave. Other times, that makes you schtupid!” Medic taunted, tugging at Heavy’s pants playfully.

Both of them were far too distracted by each other to notice the faint click of the Med Center door opening. It was open for a moment, then pulled closed again. Whomever had opened it slunk back into the hallway and away, not wanting to be any part of what was coming next.



Taking a cigarette from his disguise kit, Spy wandered down the hall toward the exterior door. He was on his way to enjoy a smoke in the cool night air and find a light to read under where no one would bother him. He looked up to light his cigarette just in time to notice a familiar shoe land on the floor next to the couch.

He paused and watched. After a moment, another shoe came over the arm of the couch and onto the floor.

Curiosity got the better of him. He walked over and peered over the back of the couch.

There, still covered in mud, still beaten and blooded, was Scout. He was kicking at his own leg slowly, with great concentration, trying to hook one socked foot into the other sock and remove it without actually having to reach for his feet.

“You… do ‘ave ‘ands, you know.”

Slowly, Scout turned and looked at him with one good eye and one puffy, swollen eye.

“You look like somesing ze cat dragged in,” Spy said, grinning smugly and leaning on the back of the couch.

“Fuck you, man,” Scout mumbled, “I don’t insult you when you’re fucked up.”

“If you are so ‘fucked up,’ maybe you should go see Medic,” Spy suggested, lighting his cigarette.

“No way man… he and Heavy are… ‘making up,’ ya know?” Scout mumbled, “an’ I never wanna see that shit again, man, fuck.”

“So where ‘ave you been all day?” Spy asked, resting his chin in one hand.

“…Intel room floor, I guess,” Scout said, “What time is it, cause I’m fucking hungry. Fuckin’ RED Demo, man,” he muttered, “Fucking stickies… I think I have a concussion… nothin’ new, but fuck.”

Spy rolled his eyes, “Zen maybe you should go to bed.”

“S’too far. Standing up makes me dizzy,” Scout complained. He rubbed at his face, near his eye, then winced and touched at the swelling tenderly, adding “Feels like a good one… ah well. Hey Spy. Tell me a story.”

“What?” Spy uttered.

“Tell me a story. You owe me one.”

“I ‘owe you’ nuzzin’,” Spy replied.

“Doesn’t have to be a story about you or nothin‘,” Scout added, “And you’re already holding a book.”

Spy looked at the book in his hand, then back at Scout, “What, you want a bedtime story?”

“Fuck no, man, I ain’t some kinda baby,” Scout whined, “But my head hurts, I can’t go see Medic and I can‘t watch TV… Please man? I’m freakin’ bored.”

Spy looked down at the pathetic sight before him, caked in mud and blood, a good portion of his face a sickly purple-green shade. He sighed and rolled his eyes. Well, it was probably cold outside anyway.

“Fine,” he said, coming around the side of the couch and shoving Scout’s feet out of his way.

“Wicked-- what book is it?”

“A classic by one S. Morgenstern. A fascinating story of politics and a satire of the cultural hist-”

“Pssh, sounds like a bore.”

Spy glanced at him coldly out of the corner of his eyes, “It is complex and brilliant. But, it does get a little ‘eavy ‘anded. Per’aps I shall skim over some of ze more cumbersome portions. It is also a story of love and ‘ate, betrayal, fencing, pirates, monsters, and adventure. It is everysing a book should be.”

“What’s it called?”

“Ze Princess Bride.”

“Aw, man, is this some sort of girly shit?”

Spy began to get to his feet.

“Wait, shit man! C’mon, I’ll be quiet… I guess,” Scout said, crossing his arms behind his head, grimacing as his stiff, bruised muscles moved. The dried mud and blood on his elbows scrapped off as he bumped against the coarse cushions.

Spy rolled his eyes and, against his better judgement, sat down. “You ‘ad better. Chapter One. Ze Bride. Ze year Buttercup was born, ze most beautiful woman in ze world was…”

Time passed. Spy wasn’t sure how long he’d been reading. Halfway into chapter five, having skipped most of chapter two, even more of chapter 3, and chapter four entirely, it was just getting to the good part and Spy was lost in the book himself. He only stopped because Scout kicked him. Shifting the book to one hand he raised the other to smack at the boy.

Scout kicked him again, softer this time, and rolled over. His arms were curled around his head, mouth slight agape, hat disheveled and headset on the floor. A soft, subtle snore was just barely audible. He shifted, giving a small snort, hunching his shoulders and gently kicking Spy again. Like a slumbering pup.

Slowly, Spy brought his hand back to his book and shook his head, “Why?” he asked quietly, closing the book, “I am not your friend, little boy, I am not one of your many bruzzers,” The words fell on deaf ears, as Scout slept on, but Spy continued anyway, “Is zat it? Do you look to build a family of us? Good luck wiz zat, petit.”

Spy paused and looked down at his book again, “Per’aps I should do somesing about my ‘abit of talking to people who can’t ‘ear me,” Spy said teasingly to himself, turning his book over in his hands. He shook his head again, this time at himself, then paused and looked down at the book. His fingers had run across something of interest. There was strange scrap of paper sticking out of the novel.

Spy opened the rear cover of the book and rage tinged his face red -- where there should have been a carefully rendered map of Florin and Guilder, there was only the remains of a page that had been very carefully torn out.


-----
End

For now.
>> No. 299
Ten Cent Bastard Theatre Presents: A Modern Prometheus
-----

--3

Scout fiddled with his dog tags, running his fingers over the raised letters and listening to the reassuring clink they made when he dropped them back to his chest. Lift, drop, jingle. It was a warm night, with a hot and dry late summer wind swooping across the sky. Scout sat on a presumably unimportant box and leaned against the chilly corrugated steel walls of Engineer’s workshop, nee the warehouse. With the huge doors opened at either end of the expansive structure there was a nice cross breeze, making it the coolest safe place on the base.

So far, as long as he was quiet, Engineer seemed willing to let him stay. Last few times he’d lurked around Hardhat’s workshop he’d gotten snapped at for looking at things wrong and thinking about touching stuff, but the goggle-faced grump seemed a bit more friendly recently. Spy was around here somewhere too; Scout could just make out the faint smell of a cigarette nearby.

Lift, drop, jingle. Scout wondered how his mother was. He should have gotten a letter from her by now, she usually sent two a month, though they‘d arrive at the same time. Letters had to go through BLU, so the supply truck brought the mail once a month, but it hadn’t come yet. Lift, drop, jingle. The letters came to them in good condition, but with all the information that could have identified them blacked out. Their own names crossed out, their titles written in by someone with very neat script. It was uncomfortable how much BLU seemed to know about him and his family. Lift, drop, jingle. Letters from home had his mother’s name blacked out, and Mom written in by the same neat handwriting. His brothers were referred to by number. Number 1 being the eldest; nieces and nephews by numbers with subscript: 1-2. His eldest brother’s second child had gotten the lead role in her school play. 7 had had his first child. Scout wondered when he’d get to find out 7-1’s real name. Lift, drop, jingle. He got letters the most often. Sometimes Sniper got a card from his Mum. Spy got letters occasionally. Presumably they were for Spy. The name on them was never blacked out and was never the same name twice. The polite little editor at BLU would just write “--Spy?” on it and send it their way. Lift, drop, jingle. Most of them never got letters. Perhaps people just didn’t have time to write. Perhaps his teammates didn’t have anyone to write to them. Or… didn’t have anyone to write to them anymore. Lift, drop, jingle.

“Awright, what’s botherin’ ya, boy?” Engineer asked, unable to ignore the rhythmic jingling any longer.

“Shoulda got a letter from Mom by now,” Scout said. Lift, drop, jingle.

“That all? Supply trucks just a little late. Should be here any day now.”

“Yeah… How come you neva’ get any letters Hardhat?”

“S’none of your business, boy,” Engineer said, reaching back into his machine.

Scout’s brow furrowed and he gave Engineer a little glare. “Just askin’, geez… it’s just… I dunno, some … people around here. It’s kinda sad.”

Engineer shrugged and continued fighting with a stubborn fastener.

“Life’s just not fair sometimes…” Scout said, shrugging. Lift, drop, jingle. “Like poor Pyro, man.”

This time, Engineer stopped what he was doing and looked up. “What about Pyro?”

“Didn’ he tell you? ‘Bout his family?”

“Go on,” he said, giving the boy his attention.

“He was just a normal fella once, ya? Living in the suburbs. Wife and kid, nice little house, ya?” Scout rubbed the back of his head, he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be telling anyone this, but Pyro hadn’t told him not too. “Then there was this foiyah… He couldn’t save ‘em. Either of ‘em. Everything man. Not that he didn’t try-- he tried, man! But it was… fucking, no good. Everything burned to the ground.

“He built the flamethrower so he could control the flames. So that no one will get hurt by them again unless he wants ‘em too. It’s badass,” Scout concluded, looking up at Engineer.

Engineer looked back at him.

“Did ‘e tell you zat ‘imself?”

Scout nearly jumped a mile as Spy appeared next to him, pulling a fresh cigarette from his case.

“Fuck!” Scout said throwing a lame punch at Spy, “course he did! Fuck, you think I’d make somethin’ like that up? Hell no, that’s sick.”

“You sure that’s what he said?” Engineer asked.

“He was pretty clear about it,” Scout said. “Wrote some bits down that I couldn’ understand.”

“Interesting. That ain’t what Py tol’ me at all,” Engineer said. He looked at Scout, then up at Spy, who was wearing his ‘I know something you don’t know’ smirk, which was slightly different from his usual, ‘I know everything,’ smirk. Engineer was certain whatever Spy knew would be useless to them, so he didn’t ask.

“… Wha?” Scout mumbled, “whaddya mean? What he tell you?”

“Py told me he used to be a firefighter. He lived up in Canada most of his life and devised a new method of doing safer controlled burns-- you know, wildfire prevention. Started moving around because he had to demonstrate it to people.”

“Well… Eh… er,” Scout stuttered, “they could both be true! What he tell you, Spy?”

“’e ‘as told me nuzzing,” Spy said calmly, a stream of smoke issuing toward the ceiling, “I ‘ave not asked.”

“But you know everything!” Scout responded shortly. “Why ain’t you found out about Pyro?”

“Because I ‘ad already ‘eard him tell two different stories to ozzer teammates. I do not need to be lied too,” then Spy smirked cruelly. “But I ‘ave seen ‘im wizout his gasmask.”

“Wicked! What’s he look like!?”

A small nasal laugh was Spy’s reply. “The thing about secrets is zey mean nuzzing if you share zem.”

“You’re a right bastard,” Engineer replied, but he had to chuckle as he watched Scout’s face fall. Served the boy right for expecting a straight answer out of their turncoat.

“Per’aps you should see what he ‘as told ze rest of ze team,” Spy suggested.

“I think yer right, Spah,” Engineer said. “Come on kid, we’re getting to the bottom ah this.”



Sniper grabbed Spy and shoved him to the floor roughly as bullet took a large chunk out of the beam behind the previous location of Spy’s head.

“Idiots the lot o’ ya-- what you wankers doing up here? Gonna getcherself perforated, ya dunces,” Sniper said, still pinning Spy down with his knee.

“Ow.”

“We was wonderin’ about Pyro,” Engineer said, keeping close to the wall, out of sight of the window.

“I dunno where he is,” Sniper said quickly, raising himself just enough to peer over the edge of the window, then ducking again.

“I would like to get up now,” Spy said from floor level. Sniper ignored him.

“But what do you know about him?” Scout asked.

“What?”

“We’re finding ourselves in a bit of a quandary regarding Pyro’s identity,” Engineer explained

Sniper chuckled, “That eh? Coo, what a fella. Well, let us say, prior to signing up with BLU he was a… professional. Like myself,” Sniper said, shifting his weight and causing a grunt from Spy.

“I think you have me confused with another Spy-- I do not like Sniper’s on top of m-” Spy’s taunt was silenced by Sniper’s knee grinding angrily into his back.

“Get up then, but stay low.” He looked back at Scout and Engineer. “He was a’ arsonist. A professional arsonist. You know, ‘Lovely house ya got here, shame if she were to catch fire, if ya get my drift,’” Sniper chuckled again, shaking his head. “Worked for the Mexican Mafia. Might still have connections. Good to know if we need to get out of the country after all this BLU versus RED stuff is over, hm?”

“Well, see, he done told me a different story. Told Scout something else as well,” Engineer explained.

“Oh?” They had Sniper’s attention now. “How different?”

Scout told him.

“Huh, that so? Well, hell, now I’m a bit curious myself. This wanker can wait till later,” Sniper said, motioning toward the window, “I’ll give ya cover to make it into the hay room, then I’ll catch up.”

They made it safely. Inside the hay room, Spy brushed at his suit, picking at bits of grit and dust that had firmly affixed themselves to the dirt magnet that was wool. One particular piece of detritus so offended him that it warranted a suspicious glare back toward the battlements, but Spy said nothing of it. He discarded his spent cigarette and extinguishing it carefully under his shoe, wary of the hay nearby.

Sniper joined them a few moments later, holding his hat, “Almost got me with that last one. What a cunt, eh? Well, let’s go mates.”



“Pyro? Ach, poor Pyro,” Medic said, shaking his head and sighing. “He is terrified of ze doktors. Ven he vas a child, in London, he vas badly burned. Ze blitzkrieg, ja? Lost his parents, lost many friends and vas sent to very poor orphanage. Ze doktors, zey vere not kind to him-- zey vere cruel even. Zat is vhy he prefers to die in battle, razer zan haff me treat him. Zat is vhy he does not come into ze med center.” Medic was sorting a tray of large needles, all full of suspicious, unknown fluids. “I am not offended. It is not me he is afraid of. Ve all haff our fears and zat is his.”

Heavy called out from across the room, where he was checking Sasha for any functional damages, “What is this? That is not what he told me. Said he built flamethrower himself, out of interest. Is fascinating weapon. Said her name was Daisy. Is good name.”

Scout told Heavy and Medic what Pyro had told him, Engineer and Sniper.

“Iz zat so?” Medic said, a hint of offense in his voice.

“I dunno man, I guess it could still all add up, right?” Scout asked, a sliver of hope in his voice.

Engineer shook his head. “That’d be a stretch, kiddo. We‘re following‘ this to the end.”

Engineer headed out of the Med Center, followed by Scout, Spy, Sniper and now joined by Heavy and Medic.



“Pyro! A man after me own heart!” Demo said proudly. They‘d found him outside polishing Caoimhe, his half-still/half-religion. They were gathered now in his little shack, which was saturated in the sour stench of spilt scrumpy and gunpowder.

“Hates them big beasties! While I spent me youth doon a’ the Loch, he spent his up in the Himalayans! Huntin’ the Yeti o‘course. ’At’s why he learned a flame things. Yeti’s hate fire and fight fiercely to avoid it.”

Demo took a swig of scrumpy and laughed. “Most beasties hate fire. O’ course, nae the firey ones, but goes wi’out saying.” Then he belched hugely, laughed and continued measuring tiny portions of what smelled like sulfur.

“Sounds like our Pyro’s had a pretty eventful life,” Sniper said sarcastically.

“Oh aye?” Demo asked.

Scout told him the list of stories so far.

“All that then?” Demo said, “I dinnae know. ‘Ats a bit far-fetched inna it?”

“I say our Pyro’s just a big ole storyteller, that’s what,” Engineer said, “Only fella we ain’t asked yet is Soldier.”

“Well, what’re we waitin’ fer?” Demo asked, standing up. Together, the seven BLU teammates went off to look for Soldier.



“You have permission to enter, privates,” Soldier called.

Engineer opened the door to Soldier’s war room and peered in carefully. Just because they’ve been given permission didn’t mean it wasn’t booby-trapped, but nothing leapt out at him immediately (literally) so he walked in, Scout trailing behind him like a baby duck. It wasn’t a huge room, so the rest of the team lurked in the hallway listening. Spy stood in the doorway, eyeing Soldier with unforgiving eyes. He still had not forgiven Soldier for the damage he’d caused to his novels. No one was sure if Soldier remembered the damage Spy had caused to his person, but he was at least acting slight more normal (for Soldier) than he’d been the previous few days.

“Soldier, what do you know about Pyro?”

Soldier turned sharply and put his hand to his chin as he thought for a moment. “Pyro. Yes, the respectful one. She’s a wonder, she is.”

“…She?”

“Oh yes,” Soldier said grinning a mad grin. “Oh, the females are just as dangerous as males in a fight, if not more! She’s a grand example of it.”

“Pyro… told you he was a woman?” Scout asked.

“She,” Soldier correct, “is a woman, yes. Lovely girl, lovely girl. Quite brave. She wears the suit to disguise it, you know. Wants to be treated equally-- isn’t that quaint?” Soldier chuckled. “She’s proved her worth on the battlefield and I won’t hear a thing against her!”

“But… Hi- er… her voice. It’s a bit… er… deep,” Scout said.

“It’s the suit, you know. And the exposure to smoke over the years,” Soldier leaned close and added more quietly, “she’s very sensitive about it. Try not to mention it to her,” he picked up Shovel and held him carefully, eyes running over Shovel’s sharp edge. “God help any worthless maggot that upset that fine lady.”

“Absolutely, Sir, we will keep that in mind,” Engineer said quickly and politely. “That’s all we wanted to know. We’ll be on our way now,” He grabbed Scout and shoved him out of the room before he could argue further.

“Good, good,” Soldier said, then turned back to his maps and stuck a pin sharply into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “Munchkins… always the Munchkins. Perhaps a wall… doesn’t even have to be a very high one…”



“Well? Gonna claim they can all be true now? Cause I know first hand Pyro ain’t no woman,“ Engineer asked, once they were out of earshot.

“I can’t believe Pyro lied to me like this man,” Scout grumbled.

“He has lied to all of us!” Medic added, sounding a little cross.

“She is not Daisy?” Heavy asked, not confused by the preceding, so much as not fully caught up yet.

“Why do you act so offended Scout? I do not see how it is much different from any of ze rest of us. Most of us tell you nuzzing of ourselves. Pyro wanted to tell you somesing, so he made somesing up. Somesing you could relate to, non?”

“How can I relate to that man? It‘s horrible!”

Spy reached out and playfully tugged at Scout’s dog tags then pulled his hand away before Scout could smack at it.

Scout tried to smack at it anyway. “Don’t touch those!”

“I think I see what ya mean, Spah,” Engineer said.

“I don’t!” Scout shouted. “That jerk lied to me! He’s probably laughing at me right now I bet!”

“Now hold yer horses kiddo,” Engineer said, grabbing Scout by the strap of his bag. “I’m sure Py didn’t do any o’ this to offend anyone.”

“I’ll be taking a tall tale over nae tale at all any day, lad,” Demo added, shrugging.

“Yeah, well fuck, man-- I’m gonna find out somethin’!” Scout said, pulling the bag strap over his head and running off, leaving Engineer holding it.

Spy smirked, “Zis I must see,” and immediately ran off after the boy.

Engineer sighed, “aw, dag nabbit,” and he and the rest of his teammates, save for Soldier, followed them both.



“Yo, ya jerk!” Scout said, running into the kitchen and finding Pyro standing in front of the stove.

Pyro turned around slowly and looked around. “Eh?” he asked, motioning to himself.

“Yeah you, ya dumbass! What the fuck man? You ain’t lost no family! And you ain’t some Mexican mafia guy, or a Canadian firefighter, or a Yeti hunter-- and you damn sure ain’t no girl!”

Pyro chuckled and nodded, tilting his head thoughtfully.

“Sho?” he said after a moment.

Spy stood in the doorway, watching with a catlike interest. He was followed by Medic, then shortly by Demo, Engineer and Sniper, with Heavy bringing up the rear.

“Well I deserve to know something! Been wandering around all night trying to find some sorta truth and I got nothin’! Tell me something, damn it! Even just one thing!”

“Jushd uhn hng?”

“Yeah man, just one thing, I don’t care what-- gimme something!”

Pyro turned away a little and thought for a moment, his gloved hand resting pensively under the filter of his mask. Then he turned and gave the Scout his full attention.

The world froze for just a moment.

“Bhksrs,” Pyro said, with a nod. Then he turned back to dinner.

“… Ah, fuck you man,” Scout grumbled, then turned and stormed off, shoving his way past his laughing teammates.

-- End
>> No. 300
Ten Cent Bastard presents:
Do Sentries Dream of Mechanical Sheep?


Battle rages all around, gunshots fire, explosions ring out, voices yell and I am born.

*Beep*

I turn, steadily, and look around.

*Beep*

There’s a small pile of hay behind me, a big metal door to my right, a doorway leading to a courtyard in front of me and two more doorways to my left. What an interesting place-- I seem to be in the very center of attention. I like being the center of attention! Hopefully I will get to play with a bunch of people.

*Beep*

“Oy, Truckie, better get that thing up faster, we got company on the way.”

He has a blue shirt on, which means he’s a teammate. He also has a silly hat, which he adjusts as he walks by. It’s brown. Everyone knows the best hats are yellow. Just like my Engineer’s. His hat is yellow and shiny and hard, almost like a machine part.

My Engineer towers over me, in his blue-brown overalls and blue shirt, and his great yellow hat on his head. He’s smiling. He pats me on the casing gently and shakes his head, “You know what to do,” he tells me. Then he leaves toward the big metal doors.

I wonder where he’s going-- but I can’t wonder too long. He’s right, I do know what to do. If I do it well, he will be proud of me. What more could a sentry want, then for their Engineer to be proud of them?

There’s gunfire everywhere and it’s getting louder quickly. Out across the courtyard there’s another figure-- he looks tiny from here. Oh, he’s wearing red!

Oh boy, oh boy! I know what that means! That mean’s “git ‘em!”

I shoot at the enemy as he bounds and runs up the wooden walkway. I think I hit him a few times before he got out of range. This is fun! I like this game!

Oh, my Engineer is back.

“Hm, didn’t kill ‘em, but we can fix that,” He says, hefting his wrench. I don’t really know what he’s going to do with it, but I’m just so happy he’s back.

CLANK.

He hit me! … And it feels great! Do it again, do it again!

CLANK

Yay! CLANK CLANK. I’m so excited I just can’t hold it in any longer. My casing opens to allow for two gun turrets, long chains of bullets unfurling gracefully. I stand taller, I feel more powerful and the world is my target.

*Beep beep*

I am the most awesome killing machine you’ve ever seen. I can’t wait for that little RED twerp to come back so I can give him a piece of my mind-- and a piece of lead.

*Beep beep*

My Engineer looks around again, checking the room. He pats me between my turrets as he does so. It’s so silly. I don’t need comforting. I’m a sentry gun-- what more could I want than to kill REDs?

The metal door lifts and some strange creature comes out the supply room. It’s dressed in blue, so I don’t attack it, but I don’t entirely know what to think of it either. It is a machine? Is it a teammate?

“Pyro, keep an eye on her while I go grab more metal?” My Engineer asks, rubbing his bare hand along one of my gun barrels.

The creature-- Pyro, it seems to be called-- gives my Engineer a thumbs up. My Engineer heads back into their supply room.

I’m still curious of this… Pyro creature.

My job comes before my thoughts. That horrible little RED Scout is back and I yearn to decorate the base with his blood. He runs toward me this time and I shoot at him--

Ohmygodheshootsflameswhydon’tIgetflames!?

My Pyro Teammate set the Scout on fire! On fire! That is so amazing! I wanted to kill him-- but look at his corpse! Just laying there smoldering! Amazing! I like this Pyro guy, he’s pretty cool.

Oh, good. My Engineer is back. I’m pretty awesome, but I could be more awesome. That metal must be for me, right? So I can do some real damage?

Well, come on! Where are you going?

A Dispenser?! This is crap. We don’t need a stupid Dispenser, there’s a supply room right there! A Dispenser… It’s so… small. It’s pathetic! Look at it, the simpering thing, purring and whirring like a tiny… little… simpering … thing!

My attention whirls back to where it belongs. I fire at the corner of the doorway. He’s there. He’s hiding there, I know he is and I’m gonna get him!

He steps into view for a moment and I keep attacking. Only he’s fired something.

OH GOD, ENGINEER! HELP ME!

“Damned RED Soldier!” Engineer yells, quickly leaping to repair me, his pathetic little Dispenser chirping and burbling like an infant, giving him energy and metal. Maybe it’s a little helpful. I keep firing, but it hurts. The pain only makes me angrier.

Suddenly my opponent collapses. Collapses and burns.

Pyro sticks his head into view and gives Engineer a thumbs up.

That Pyro, what a great guy. Always looking out for me.

BANG! BANG!

Pyro collapses and that RED Scout leaps over his body, laughing like a punk. Thinks he’s so great. For Pyro-- for myself-- I have to kill him.

Oh, he’s cocky. He tries to run past me. You’re not that fast kid-- you’re not that fast at all. And now you’re dead, you little shithead. Hahaha! I love this game! I could do this all fucking day!

Engineer tends my almost emptied ammo belts. His little Dispenser is a level 2 now. Not quite as much of a little pipsqueak anymore, but still just a kid. A tiny little wuss.

“All righty there, now it can be your turn,” Engineer says, reattaching my refilled ammo clips. He raises his wrench.

CLANK

Oh, I’d forgotten how great that felt. Mmm, refreshing. Like killing a really cocky enemy.

CLANK

Like taking someone buy surprise when they sneak around a corner.

CLANK. CLANK.

Like knowing you’re the very best there is. I can’t help myself. I stand taller, and my casing opens yet again to allow the rocket launcher to escape. I’ve got the power and the prestige now, to know how to properly yield my most dangerous weapon.

*Beep Beep Beep*

I’m not as tiny anymore. I’m as tall as Engineer and I know the way things work. Engineer pats me on top of my rocket launcher and scratches along the hinge below it. He’s checking that I’m secure, that the metal is strong and sturdy, that I’m not going to break down in the middle of an emergency. But he knows I will not, and I love his faith in me. He has built me well and I will not let him down.

*Beep Beep Beep*

I turn sharply and unleash a volley of bullets and rockets toward the far corner of the courtyard. The RED Demo falls in a thick patter of blood. He thought I couldn’t see him. He was incorrect.

Out on the battlements, Sniper’s rifle roars, but Sniper swears with frustration. RED Scout runs in, laughing at his own speed and prowess. Sadly for him, he is still not faster than me, even jumping and trying to dodge. He dies before he can pass our supply room. I realize, as he falls, that this is not a game. This is work and I do my job well. Engineer is proud of me, and I am keeping him, and our teammates, safe.

Engineer screams. I have spoken too soon. There is an enemy behind me. I turn to attack him but am paralyzed. It hurts… It hurts beyond words. If I had the capacity to cry, I think I would. I thought that nothing could hurt greater than knowing I had failed Engineer, but I was wrong. This was so much worse.

It hurt… so much. The world was a fading glow of dim lights and shadows, mingling on the edge of reality like so much of a bad dream. No sounds but my own mechanical scream, rounding down to a soft, sobbing whine.

CLANK. CLANK.

“Shh, I’ll fix you up, don’t you worry,” Engineer said, his wrench working quickly. The energy sapping device that had been the cause of my pain lay on the ground, sparking pathetically.

Once I was out of the danger Engineer looks down at the filthy device and crushes it under his heel. It sparks one last time and dies. I feel no pity for it. A cruel, horrible thing.

“Thata girl,” Engineer said, patting my casing gently, “Thata girl. You held up good.”

Pyro came out of the interior hallway that lead down into the depths of the base.

“Ah cannd fhnd hhm,” He says, making an angry fist with one hand, clutching his flame throwing device in the other.

Engineer pats me thoughtfully and puts his wrench away for a moment.

“Well, you know how it goes, Py,” he says casually.

Without warning he pulled out his pistol and shots our Pyro several times. I am shocked-- but as our Pyro hits the ground the disguise fails. RED Spy. Of course, Engineer would never have actually tried to hurt a teammate. I should have known better. I am ashamed I have doubted him for even an instant.

“Can’t find him,” Engineer spits, shaking his head, replacing his pistol and retrieving his wrench. He tightens a few of my bolts with a gentle frustration, “That yellow bellied coward don‘t know Pyro, no sirree. Ain‘t going to be sapping my sentry no more today.”

There is yelling from below. Rapid firing and manic, malicious laughter. Crackling energy and screams.

“Uber’d Heavy-Medic in the courtyard!” our Scout yells as he scrambles through the door and ducked behind me, next to Engie. He leaned against the dispenser and grabbed a square of gauze from one of the drawers, holding it tightly against his shoulder to stem the bleeding. Bullet wounds pepper his left arm.

He looked so much like that RED Scout… but I feel such compassion of this Scout. Our Scout. My Scout. I will protect my Engineer. I will protect my Scout. I readied myself. There wasn’t much that could be done against an Uber’d foe, but I knew my job and I will do it the best I can.

They came up the stairs, glowing with ferocity. I fired. Rockets. Bullets. Every force I had. Bullets pinged and plinked off of my casing, off my barrels and legs. Belts of bullets rocked and spun, explosions pushing the foes back. Engineer was ducked behind me, taking minimal damage as he reloaded and repaired me. I couldn’t last much longer, not under this assault-- but the uber hadn’t even lasted this long.

RED Heavy explodes in a splash of red and splatter of body parts. Behind me, Engineer laughs menacingly. To me, it is the greatest sound in the world.

“Alert! The enemy has taken our Intelligence!”

“Aw, Dagnabbit!” Engineer swore.

“Oy! That sneaky…” dropping his blood-soaked square of gauze, my Scout leapt up and ran down the interior door.

Silly boy. If he’d gone down the other path that would have chased the RED up this one. There was still time to change paths, so I kept my watch on both doorways. A flash of RED in the courtyard-- I fire!

He is too fast and too far from me.

RED Scout makes it out of my line of sight and into the room below us. He is gone and it is out of my control to try to stop him.

I have failed. I had failed my team and my Engineer.

“You’ve failed. The enemy has secured our Intelligence.”

I hang my turrets in shame.

And now it was all over. Because I’d failed. The weight of it was stifling.

“Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” Engineer says, patting my casing like he always does, “We did our best. Good job, girl.”

I… I believe him. Because he is my Engineer. I’ve done everything I could and he knows that. What more could a sentry want?

“You survived the battle,” He says, unloading my remaining rockets and collapsing the launcher, “That don’t happen too often. Not often at all.”

My bullet belts and unclipped and rolled up. My barrels are carefully turned and telescope shut into themselves. I am shrinking rapidly. I feel… so tired. But so comfortable.

“That means you get to go back to the workroom with me,” Engineer says kindly. I want to go back to the workroom. It sounds… so lovely.

I feel like I’m level one again. So small. So naïve. Not a care in the world. Engineer struggles with my legs. But Engineer, I want to play some more.

“Come on girl,” he said, pushing gentle but firming on the top of my casing, “We’re done fer today, it’s time to lay down.”

But there’s so much to do. So much to see. I want to play… but he is my Engineer, so I will do as he says. My legs slowly collapse and I lay down reluctantly. He shuts the toolbox around me.

It’s dark in here and I am tired. I can not help but to drift off to sleep. Perhaps I will dream of victory.

--- end
>> No. 1032
Will there ever be any more of this?
>> No. 1042
Any more or spin-off of this will be heavenly.


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