Hi guys. Relatively newfag anon here. Here’s the first part of a story I’m in the process of writing. Please tell me what you think, and leave concrit. (No seriously tear this story apart. It would be much appreciated.) If the reception is okay, and it doesn’t turn out to be a steaming pile of shit then I’ll post more of what I’ve got right now. (But if it does I’m sorry to have wasted your time.)
Oh, and I’m not a computer scientist, so I sincerely apologize to anyone that has any experience in the field. (I’m not a writer either what the hell am I doing sorry)
“Get your ass to the damn cart, man!”
“Halts Maul, Ich komme!”
“Ach…Sie sind hilflos!”
They were losing, badly. They lost most days, but today had turned the usual upward push into a curb stomp battle. Either the Builder’s League United had really lost their touch in hiring mercenaries or the Reliable Excavation and Demolition Company had just plain and simply hired better ones. (Or upgraded them. The BLU Spy didn’t travel into the RED base a lot, but he did know enough to hint that some rather…interesting experiments were going on with the other team.)
Thunder Mountain had been chaotic enough without the storm breaking over the mountains and encasing the entire area in the rather vicious elements that seemed to constantly occupy the mountain. With the wind and rain added to the constant backpressure being forced on them by RED, it seemed that God himself had signed a little contract with their rival company. The cart was honestly being pushed back eight feet for every ten that BLU gained. Working as an accountant wasn’t starting to seem so bad after all.
At least, that’s what the Sniper was thinking as he watched his poor teammates struggle with the cart. He winced as the Soldier landed right on a patch of RED sticky bombs and was promptly blown to bits. He shot the Demoman who had placed them there in his good eye, avenging his teammate.
“Bloody rubbish, ‘s what this is.” He growled, reloading his rifle and aiming at a Heavy.
“Mm, ze truth comes out about your skills at last.”
The Sniper didn’t even have time to turn before a knife was embedded in his spine.
Yep. They were losing. Badly. When he came out of respawn, he groaned when he saw three other members of his team picking up new weapons.
“What? You sayin’ somethin’?” The Scout challenged, sending a poisonous glare to the Sniper. The man shrugged and grabbed his rifle (well, not his but an exact duplicate brought on by some kind of crazy magic called computer science).
“Just couldn’t help but notice you’re all havin’ a right hard time out there.”
“Well, at least I’m doin somethin. Not fuckin’ campin like you.” The Scout growled. The Sniper rolled his eyes. Maybe if they worked better as a team they wouldn’t be so terrible. You know, like RED. Those guys talked to each other. The most conversation that the BLU team ever had was during meetings, and those often dissolved into fights. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other, but as soon as anything work-related came up, someone made a snide comment and someone else got his feelings hurt and then decided to punch the person who’d hurt his feelings in the nose, and things just went downhill from there.
“Leave him alone, boy. Maybe we wouldn’t be havin’ such a hard time if I could get mah teleporter up.” The Engineer sighed, loading his shotgun.
“Engineer does not push cart as well.” The Heavy added. The Engineer visibly stiffened.
“I do what I can.” He said. The Scout snorted.
“Yeah, well, yah might as well stay back home, girlie.” He muttered. “Hurry it up, fatty.”
“Leetle man should shut face before I shut it for him.”
“Ooh, yeah, I’m real scared. C’mon!” The Scout took off, not bothering to wait for the Heavy, who sighed and picked up his minigun. He glanced over at the Sniper and the Engineer.
“Ees time to keel tiny baby REDs, yes?” He asked. The Sniper nodded.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s go, mates.” He said, jogging out of the spawn. The Heavy and the Engineer followed behind him, but the three quickly went their separate ways as the Sniper found a new spot to hole up in. Mother Nature seemed to be doing her best to hinder both teams, now sending gales of wind in all directions on the course. The Demoman had just set up a rather clever sticky bomb trap when a bolt of lightning nearly fried him to a crisp. The man was unshaken, though, his scrumpy having long since worked its magic, and simply cursed at the sky for knocking his stickies loose.
Thunder came next. Even the Demo with his alcohol-induced courage couldn’t stand up to the earth-shattering rumble that rocked the air around them. The Engineer glanced up at the sky worriedly. He’d seen many a storm and even a twister or two, but he’d never had the misfortune to be stuck in the middle of a natural fury quite this large. Another gale of wind sent him reeling back a ways, and he had never been more thankful for his goggles than at that moment. He was sure, however, that he would need a crowbar to get himself out of his clothes after the fight was over. They seemed to have melded into his skin, permanently marking him with his employer’s trademark blue.
The man glanced up from the teleporter he had been upgrading—if he left it a level one, well, he might as well have not built a teleporter—to see the Medic stumbling through the mud with the Pyro on his back. The man looked exhausted, and his glasses were long gone. His hair was plastered to his forehead, and water dripped gratuitously down his chin and nose.
“What in the—“ The Engineer splashed over to the Medic and took the little guy, who was shaking like a leaf.
“It seems zhat ze Pyro is—“ The Medic’s words were drowned out by another spectacular crash of thunder.
“I said zhat—“
The Medic swore and pushed the Pyro into the Engineer’s arms.
“He is useless in zhis weather!” He called over his shoulder as he sprinted off. “Watch him!”
The Engineer blinked at the Pyro, who had shamelessly buried his masked head into the Engineer’s shoulder.
“Pyro, what’s th’ matter with ya? It ain’t like you ta be scared a fightin’—“
Another bolt of lightning flashed and was followed almost instantaneously by thunder. The Pyro’s fingers gripped the Engineer’s shoulders so hard that the man was sure that he would soon have bruises.
A strangled whimper escaped the Pyro’s throat, and the Engineer sighed before dragging the man into a barn structure.
“’S alright, pardner. It ain’t nothing but the air bein’ torn apart by a 30,000-degree, 500-megajoule bolta sheer energy. Ya know, Tesla, he liked lightnin’. It ain’t e’en that bad.”
“Yefr mrr irs.” The Pyro whimpered, putting his arms over his head.
“Five Minutes left in the mission! Five minutes left!”
“Ah, hell.” The Engineer set the Pyro down against the shelter’s back wall. “Stay put. I gotta get the exit point operational.” He tucked the Pyro’s flamethrower into the man’s trembling, gloved hands and hurried out into the storm. Thunder crashed directly above him, shaking the soaking wet battleground, and he only got to one-one-thousand before the lightning struck one of the tin roofs of the buildings.
“God damn.” The Engineer muttered, glancing at the sky. He hurried to the bomb, which was sitting at the usual corner. Behind him, he heard the Pyro’s terrified wails and he cringed. He couldn’t leave his friend, but he couldn’t let his team down, either. The Soldier charged past him, and the Engineer called out to stop the Soldier. The man was lost in the height of his berserker state, though, and he charged right into the line of the sentry’s fire. Seconds later, the Soldier’s scream joined the wind and rain and thunder. After that last lightning strike, the Pyro’s wiling had ceased, though the Engineer didn’t notice. He was too busy shaking his head at what was left of the Soldier’s arm.
“Hellfire.” The Engineer said. It was official. Either his teammates were deaf, or they were the worst communicators on the planet. (His bet was actually with the more statistically impossible one.) His rival had set up a sentry on the corner of the RED’s base platform, which made it nigh impossible to push the bomb until the Spy got off his lazy ass and destroyed that building. The Engineer snuck around the corner of the shack that the bomb track skirted and just managed to dodge the spray of bullets and rocket fire before dropping his teleporter exit. The goal, as always, was to get his team as far up as possible without getting his teleporter noticed.
Today just wasn’t the day for that. As the Engineer turned, he heard the whirr of the Heavy’s minigun, and could only cry out as two hundred dollar, custom-tooled cartridges tore through his flesh at an approximate velocity of 1200 meters per second. At ten thousand rounds per minute.
His last thought was that he wished that he hadn’t ever asked the Heavy about his gun.
9002 /A problem has been detected on /pl_ operation_thunder_mountain/.
9003 // find_cause //
9004 Ifcause = bomb_explosion/ false
9004 Ifcause = lap_poolOVERFLOW/ false
9005 Ifcause = 6_BROKEN/ false
9006 Ifcause = 12345789_BROKEN/ false
9007 Ifcause = flood/ false
9008Ifcause = UKNOWN/ true
9009then /run/ check_lifeBLURED.exe
9010Check_lifeBLU = 123456789
90111 = /hb_active/
90122 = /hb_active/
90133 = /hb_active/
90144 = /hb_active/
90155 = /hb_active/
9016 6 = /hb_active/
90177 = /hb_active/
90188 = /hb_active/
90199 = /hb_active/
9020/If All_OP = OK then /run/
//ENTERING EMERGENCY RECOVERY MODE// true
/Recovery = successful/
Interval since last CRASH: 331128000 sec.
Compile date = April 14th 13:02:06 1958
OS command line = "M:\MannCo\TFindustries\D\AITB\Setup.exe" -j
Effective command line = -j
Core Version = CORRUPT/NOTFOUND
System up time = 292 sec
Checking for ADMIN rights
ADMIN rights OK
OS check OK
[File - 4040]
Operation = copy
RS will initiate restart
Exit code = 0x0
ResultCode = 0
<<< 08/03/1968 18:05:05:338
RESTART = OK
DATA DEVISON /READ/
01 USER_SCOUT_BLU VALUE = normal_125
02 USER_SOLDIER_BLU VALUE = normal_200
03 USER_PYRO_BLU VALUE = normal_175
04 USER_DEMOMAN_BLU VALUE = normal_ERROR
05 USER_HEAVY_BLU VALUE = normal_300
06 USER_ENGINEER_BLU VALUE = normal_125
07 USER_MEDIC_BLU VALUE = normal_ERROR
08 USER_SNIPER_BLU VALUE = normal_125
09 USER_SPY_BLU VALUE = normal_125
PERFORM UNTIL hbBLU = 9
ADD = 0 to hbBLU
DISPLAY "Respawn in 5 seconds."
DISPLAY "Respawn in 4 seconds."
DISPLAY "Respawn in 3 seconds."
DISPLAY "Respawn in 2 seconds."
DISPLAY "Respawn in 1 second."
DISPLAY "Prepare to respawn."
ERROR "UserRegeneration not found"
MANUAL OVERRIDE REQUIRED.
DISTRESS SIGNAL SENT.
REVERTING TO EMERGENCY “DELAYED RESPONSE ALPHA MACABRE ACTION” MODE.
DISPLAY "Prepare to respawn."
COPTION LIST=YES ERRLIMIT= ERROR
Air rushed into his lungs, and the Scout sat up, gasping for breath. His head ached, and his mouth felt like cotton. That trip through respawn had been really nasty. The process was never pleasant, but it was usually over within twenty seconds or so—not that he knew that. One usually was unaware of how long he’d been gone from the living world until he was hurled back into it. The only way to tell how long he’d been dead was to listen for the Announcer’s voice, but even that was unreliable.
He picked himself up off the floor, only to see the rest of his team lying around him, groaning and picking themselves up.
“Oh, jeez.” He groaned. “What da hell, guys? Did we all die at once?”
The Spy, who was closest to him, pushed himself up off the floor and staggered to the wall, leaning heavily on it while lighting a cigarette.
“Ze Sniper…’e drowned me.” He growled. The Demoman, who hadn’t even bothered to pick himself up off the floor, sniffled loudly.
“Tha’ ain’t even that bad, lad.” He moaned. “Blew meself up with me own stickies.”
The Medic sighed and pinched the skin between his eyes.
“Demo, for ze last time, if you drink—“
“Ye can’ take me scrumpy! ‘S all I got left!” The Demo said, propping himself up on his elbows. “’Sides, I was tryin’ ta save you!”
“Vell you didn’t, now, did you?” The Medic snapped. “Zat RED Heavy broke my neck.”
“Maybe if ye weren’t built like a wee school girl—“
“What in the hell are you ladies doing? We have a cart to push!” The Soldier had just regained consciousness, and he lept up, grabbed his rocket launcher, and made a heroic dash through the door, only to run right into the entirety of RED team, who had begun to wonder what had happened to their rivals.
The announcer’s voice informed them that they were losers even before the Soldier could come back from the dead. The RED team, it seemed, didn’t have the heart to humiliate them today, so BLU simply waited until the end-of-round light in the respawn room switched on to leave. They tromped down the steel stairs into the locker room, silent. The Sniper sighed and pulled his hat over his eyes.
“Bloody useless.” He muttered. The Spy snorted and rolled his eyes.
“And how did you die, bushman? Drown in your own waste?”
The Sniper flushed and glared at the Spy.
“Nona your business.”
“C’mon, man, it can’t be as bad as blowing yourself up with your own stickies.”
“Or being blown off cliff.” The Heavy said, setting Sasha down by his locker. The Soldier, who had been oddly silent, grunted a little as he joined them in the locker room. The Sniper sighed and shrugged.
“Fine. I lost me glasses, and I couldn’t see. BLU got me.”
The Spy did not hide his snickers well. Neither did the Scout. A slap to the back of the head quieted the Scout, but the Spy, who had wisely stayed out of the Medic’s reach, continued to laugh.
“See? Sure, Demo can blow himself up with his own bombs, but when I loose me glasses, it’s funny!” The Sniper snapped. The Demoman whirled drunkenly and glared at the Sniper.
“’S not me fault. ‘S th’ bloody Pyro!”
“No, he meant th’ RED one.” The Engineer said.
“Of course it’s the Pyro, man. It’s not like you’re drunk or anything.” The Scout said, pulling off his shirt and being careful to keep out of the Medic’s reach this time. The Demoman grabbed at the Scout, but misjudged the distance and tripped over one of the low benches. He fell flat on his face.
“Or maybe it’s the fact that ya’ve only got one eye, huh?” The Scout said, laughing. The Heavy glared at the Scout.
“Leetle man should be quiet. Team is already feeling bad enough.”
The Scout was quieter after that, though, and they showered silently. Dinner was silent. Even the breakroom was quiet after dinner, seeing as how only the Engineer had the energy to play a game of chess with the Heavy. Everyone else dragged themselves off to bed, wondering just how long this losing streak was going to last.
“Heavy?” The Engineer asked after a while. Rain was pattering quietly against the windows, and the base was almost eerily silent.
“Did that last trip through respawn feel…weird today?”
The Heavy frowned at Engineer, then at the board. He was silent for a long time before taking his move and capturing one of the man’s rooks.
“Was long. Felt…bad.”
“Yeah. Had a good five minutes left in battle after I died, and when I got back, time was up.” The Engineer said, taking the Heavy’s bishop. A soft click and hum meant that the radiator was coming on. It was late. They should have been in bed an hour or two ago, but neither man really cared about sleeping.
“Should Engineer be checking respawn?”
“Yeah. I should probably take a look at it. It was probably just a bug, though. Nothing major. Report it to the Administrator, maybe.”
“Yes. Should also be checking punching cards.”
“That’s right. Wanna check the punch cards, too. You know about computers?” The Engineer asked, raising an eyebrow. The Heavy chuckled.
“No. Sometimes I hear Medic talking with Engineer.”
“Ah. Yeah. No offense to the Medic’r nothin’, but he’s a bit of a worrywart when it comes to dying.”
“Doktor has seen too much death in his lifetime.” The Heavy said, moving a pawn up the board. The Engineer nodded in agreement, then laughed softly.
“I think, at this point, we’ve all seen enough death to last a few lifetimes.”
“Is not real death.”
“Yeah, still feels the same, though, watchin’ a man’s life leave his eyes.” The Engineer muttered. His hand hovered over his queen for a moment, then moved a knight up the board to take the pawn that the Heavy had moved forward. The Heavy sighed.
“Tomorrow will be better day.”
“I sure hope so.”
I'm very intrigued where you plan to go with this. I look forward to more.
I noticed one typo: After that last lightning strike, the Pyro’s wiling had ceased
I think you meant "wailing" and not wiling.
Oooh I'm interested. keep going.
Fascinating. Looks like respawn's on the rocks, hmm?
Good attempt with the computer printout. It has a retro feel. Almost seems like a flavor or knockoff of Basic at the beginning, so nice choice. Not sure why health wouldn't be stored in integer values, or why error codes are printed in binary, but good shot all the same. Unless, of course, you're referring to an integer value by its static variable name. Then that might make sense. (Hexadecimal would probably save room. But, kudos on using hexadecimal for an address.)
Think I'll have to look at this binary now, just for the hell of it...
They were losing, badly.
This, in my opinion, would be a better opening line. The dialogue lines are somewhat lacking in context even to someone who's played the game.
Alternately, begin with vivid descriptions with some (or all) of the classes dying in various horrible ways. Then the narrative doesn't even have to tell us that BLU team has shit performance.
Classes insulting each other
I'm feeling kind of lukewarm about the dialogue in the arguments. They sound too "scripted" for people being frustrated.
And if the team "doesn't really dislike each other" as the Sniper seems to think, then their insults shouldn't be that personal (unless you're purposely painting Sniper out to be terrible at understanding his own teammates).
Computer code thing
I have to admit, starting on line 9000 made me chuckle a bit, but otherwise I'm not really sure what this chunk adds to the plot as a whole. Foreshadowing? The next scene does that, with Engie and Heavy discussing respawn feeling weird.
Seeing the code also threw me out of the story a bit, because I asked myself "Would they even be using BASIC? Why not COBOL or FORTRAN?"
Also, I'm getting ahead of the plot, but how do you see the computers being interacted with? I don't think they would have command line even in the world of TF2's technology. It'd all be punch cards and prodigious plugging and unplugging of connections.
Lightning goes zappy
This makes very little sense even if I handwave the whole "I'm not sure lightning can do that" concern.
Yes, the places that the characters fight in are horrendously hazardous even without the other team trying to kill them, but as far as I can tell, Respawn is one of the few things that was not cut corners on. In real life, a place like Thunder Mountain would have things like lightning rods, Faraday cages around sensitive electrical equipment, and multiple redundant systems so that a catastrophic failure would be less likely. Look at 2fort, for example--all of those computers are underground, in the deepest part of the base.
(Now, I am not a fan of the "Respawn going derp" plot in general, so you'd probably have to work extra hard to sell it to me, so you're free to take this chunk of opinion with a grain of salt.)
I really enjoyed this. Your writing style is very fun to read, and everything has a nearly cinematic quality to it. You tell your stories well!
Superpowers, you say? I hope they get the spandex uniforms.
Guys, I can’t believe you are actually interested in this thank you thank you thank you. I decided to go back and edit what I had some more, especially where the techy stuff was concerned. I hope I did a better job this time, and if not I apologize.
Is it in poor taste to reply to each individual post? If it is, someone let me know, because that’s what I did here.
Concrit is still much appreciated from anyone and everyone.
Dang it, you’re right. Thank you for pointing that out.
Oh, thank you. I’m glad I was able to peak your interest.
Thank you! I wondered if Hexadecimal would have been a more fitting choice for the error code, but I really thought binary would look better, since it was more of a visual appeal than anything else. I also thought that binary would be the most easily recognized computer language, so people could be like ‘hey binary can make up words, right?’ (And now I wish I’d put more thought into my binary if you get my drift.)
Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some crit. I haven’t put my stuff in public in years, so I was very nervous about doing it. I have to apologize again, though, because when I said I knew nothing about computers or code or any of that, I really know nothing about computers or code or anything about that. I know that’s no excuse and I’m very sorry if that threw you off, because I did a little research, but in all honesty I was shooting in the dark. (I know no excuse so why am I making excuses) So again, I apologize if that was bad. You were completely right about the Fortran code, and I am an idiot for not realizing that.
To answer your question, I don’t see computers (specifically respawn) playing a main role in the plot. They’ll still play an important role, but this is not a ‘good lord respawn shit itself we’re going to die for reals’ story. I don’t care for those. They’re much too angsty and serious business drama llama for my liking. There will be some more specific tech stuff in the next section, but I went back and did some more research, so I hope this next round’s better.
Also, everything you wrote for me was incredibly useful. The notes on introduction, the notes on characterization, all of it. Thank you again.
Ah, thank you. I’m not sure if cinematic quality is good or bad, to be honest. (No seriously do people want books to be like movies when they read them I don’t know)
I didn’t think about it, haha. Glad to see you decrypted, though. (smiley face that would get me banhammered here)
ALRIGHT ON WITH THE STORY. (In the next post because I'm not gonna put a text wall in front of the actual writing derp)
Tomorrow was not a better day. If possible, the team seemed even more disconnected, and by the end of the daily (futile) attack on the RED base, the BLU team was more likely to turn their guns on their teammates then the men that they were being paid to fight. Even the Medic and the Heavy, who almost always got along, were bickering like children as the team tromped down to the locker room.
“Doktor, Heavy is sorry!”
“Sorry? Heavy, zhat Scout beat me to death with zhat fish of his!”
“Is not my fault!”
“Did you forget zhat when the man healing you is screaming for help zhat you’re actually supposed to turn around and help him?”
“Maybe Doktor should learn to defend himself.”
“What?! Wer ist der Mann mit der riesig Waffe? Wer ist der Mann mit die Arme wie Kanonen? Mein Gott, Sie—Sie—Sie sind ein Idiot! Falls Sie waren jede beliebige dümmer...ich würde…” The Medic slammed the door to his locker and stormed out of locker room, not even bothering to take his coat off.
The Engineer sighed and unbuttoned his overalls, which were plastered to his body. Just before the battle had ended that damned Spy had shoved him off of the balcony he’d built on before sapping his buildings. Respawn was definitely on the fritz, because when he’d come out of it, his clothes had still been wet from falling into the not-quite-deep-enough-to-break-his-fall pool of water beneath the balcony. The Soldier still had a few bullet wounds on his shoulder and back that hadn’t healed (but most likely had no shrapnel in them), and the Scout had a sprained wrist and his muscles seemed to be alarmingly weak. The only one that seemed to be completely unscathed was the Demoman, who was humming what sounded like a hymn under his breath as he pulled a new bottle of scrumpy out of his locker.
“Demo, do you have an unlimited amount of that stuff or what?” The Scout asked, slumping down on the bench and rubbing his trembling legs. The Demoman winked at him (though this wasn’t obvious because of his missing eye) and set the bottle down on the bench next to the Scout.
“Ah, lad, it wouldn’t be a secret if I told ya, now, would it?” He chuckled. The Spy rolled his eyes.
“’E probably has a baignoire of the stuff in ‘is room. Zat is ‘ow ze swill you call alcohol is made here, yes? Zat would also explain ‘is smell.” He growled. The Engineer bit his lip. The Spy had a nasty tendency to spit acid at anyone who was stupid enough to get in his way when he’d had a particularly bad day on the battlefield. Most of the men were able to brush it off, or ignore it completely, but the Demoman was the most sensitive to the Spy’s attacks, since he often went after appearance and bad habits.
“I dannae what ye said, yeh shape-shiftin’ rat, but I’m in too good a humor tae be taken down by the likes of you.” The Demoman said. He shut the door to his locker and made his way to the showers, now whistling. The Spy stared after him, mouth hanging open slightly. The Demoman had not done any better than he today, yet he was acting like he’d won some kind of prize. No drunken tears anywhere. The Spy caught the Scout snickering at him out of the corner of his eye and turned his anger on the Scout.
“And what’s so funny, boy?” He asked. The Scout continued rubbing his legs.
“Man, you’re losin’ your touch.” He said. “Demo didn’t even cry, and he’s been nursin’ that bottle all day.”
“I can assure you I am not ‘losing my touch.’ As if a bone-backed little virgin who cannot grow hair on his face or chest could know such a thing.” The Spy snapped. He’d been bottoming the charts lately for a death-kill ratio. Even the Soldier hadn’t even had the heart to yell at the Spy for his crappy performance. None of them were doing well, but the Spy’s death-kill ratio was reached a particularly embarrassing level. The Scout pushed himself up off of the bench and flipped the Spy off.
“Hey at least I ain’t no back-pokin’ wuss, if you get my drift. Right Engie? Back-pokin’ wuss?”
“Yeah, sure.” The Engineer muttered, not wanting to get dragged into the Spy’s range of fire. He had suffered through enough fighting (and losing) for one day. The Scout, still snickering at the Spy, hobbled off to the showers, leaving the Spy and the Engineer alone. The Spy became quiet after that, though the Engineer was sure he could hear the man’s teeth grinding. He and the Spy had reached an understanding long ago, since their counterparts were equally hated. The RED Engineer had done some very nasty things to the BLU Spy, and the RED Spy was constantly harassing the BLU Engineer. Despite this, the BLU Engineer and Spy got along quite well—so long as the Spy kept his big mouth shut. They glanced at one another, then looked away.
“It…It’ll be better tomorrow.” The Engineer said, more for himself than for the Spy. The Spy snorted, and the Engineer felt a surge of gratitude towards the man, who probably wanted nothing better than to cut his throat. He slipped out of his wet overalls and put them in the laundry hamper with the towels. They’d get washed, but he probably wouldn’t see them for several months. Laundry tended to get lost a lot, since they moved around so much. There was a clean pair neatly folded at the bottom of his locker. As he reached out to grab the new set of overalls, a blinding pain shot through the back of his skull and white spots danced across his vision. When the pain faded, he felt a wet spot on the corner of his temple. He lifted his hand and touched it. When he took his fingers from his temple, he was surprised to see blood. That was strange. He hadn’t felt any kind of impact against his skull.
“…Labourer?” The Spy was peering at him out of the corner of his eye.
“Jus…banged my head. I guess.” The Engineer said quietly, wiping the back of his hand across the small cut. The Spy snorted and removed his watch and set it in his locker before closing the small metal door and striding out of the locker room.
After the Engineer changed his clothes, he headed down to the basement where the respawn machine was kept. The thing was awesome, to say the least. It had its own sub-section of rooms, completely separate from each of the bases. Each location that they fought at had its own machine that the Engineer suspected was hooked up to some kind of mainframe somewhere else that really controlled their existence. As soon as the Engineer opened the door subtly labeled “TOP SECRET MAIN CONTROL ROOM,” he knew something nasty had happened to this particular machine.
The room was much warmer than normal, and the faint smell of smoke tinged his nostrils. He hunted around the front of the room for a card storage, printer, or punch, but found nothing. That was actually a bit disconcerting, considering that he had always assumed that the processes ran locally. It enforced his theory, though, that the respawn machines were decentralized; specifically, they were nothing an extension of an even bigger machine somewhere else. No punch cards meant no program to look at. He’d nosed around in respawn rooms before, but mostly to look at the machine itself. There was no concern with the programming of respawn, considering that the Administrator had made it very clear that if anyone messed with any of these machines, he would be painfully murdered.
Of course, right now the Engineer was doing exactly what she had told them not to ever do, but he had done a bit of nosing before and hadn’t gotten fired, so what was the harm of doing a little more? Besides, he wasn’t going to wait around for some old bag who didn’t know a processor from a cereal box to give orders. It’s not like she was fighting in the war, after all.
The Engineer went to the control console, which, thankfully, was actually there, and glanced down at the switchboard. Several lights were blinking, and even more weren’t operational. It looked like respawn was just running at the bare minimum, and it couldn’t perform its basic operations properly. The Engineer sighed. If he rolled up his sleeves and worked on the machine himself, he could endanger this (very valuable and not completely pointless) operation, and get them all sent to another location completely if he failed to get the machine working properly. On the other hand, being brought back with wounds and missing limbs did not sound very appealing. He supposed that he could wait for some employees of TF Industries to come work on it, but that could take days, and they had another battle tomorrow.
His large fingers absently played across the switchboard, lightly brushing the wires, tracing patterns and moving his lips soundlessly. It wasn’t too bad. Maybe a few fried wires, that was all.
The Engineer removed his hat and pushed his goggles up onto his forehead. It really was hot in here. The lighting wasn’t fully online either, which meant that most of the computer labyrinth was in the dark.
“Aw, heck.” He muttered, rubbing his eyes. Searching around his toolbelt, he pulled out a flashlight and switched it on. The main power supply was near the back of the room, and if he wanted to work on the machine himself without getting completely fried himself, he would have to shut it down. Of course, there was supposed to be an emergency shutoff switch on the main console, but for some reason none of the consoles here had that. The Engineer had inquired about the manufacturing error, but he had never gotten a response from the Administrator. Wandering through a poorly-lit maze of boxes, though, was not always the best idea. There were some rats down here that could probably drag him off, if they so chose. Of course, he had his wrench, which had helped him kill much bigger, smarter rats before. It took him close to twenty minutes to find the main power source, which was a series of rather unimpressive three-pronged electric sockets. It was funny. In all the later he’d spent at Rice, he’d never seen a mainframe without several backup power sources either attached to it or built into the machine.
Even without the backup power, you’d expect the plugs for a machine this massive to be…bigger than normal. Maybe have its own generator or something, but, no. Respawn was an electric vacuum, though, and was probably one of the reasons the Administrator was so uptight about money. Ah, well, accounting wasn’t his problem. His problem was the machine that did unnatural work and brought them back from death day after day. The Engineer pulled the plug from the socket. The room was suddenly filled with the sounds of several hundred motors, tape reels and fans powering down, then abruptly became quiet. A shiver passed through his body. The Engineer shook off the feeling. Pulling the plug on anything was never pleasant. Especially when you were pulling the plug on a machine that kept you alive without your full understanding of exactly how it did its devil work.
He ventured back to the front of the room and looked at the circuit board again. He had made note of the lights that had been flashing on the switchboard when the power had been on and went to the corresponding locations. Thankfully, none of the computers that had been damaged were beyond repair. It was just as he’d suspected—A few wires fried here and there. Even so, wire repair in a mainframe was not easy. Hundreds of wires were crammed into a box and by god, if it was a contact that was damaged, it might take a man an hour to find it, even if he knew which box to look inside of. There had also been two damaged transistors (which had been close to impossible to find, thank you very much). Still, the Engineer was relieved to find that nothing was seriously wrong with the machine. Still, smoke didn’t just hang around like that from the original strike, which had probably occurred on Thursday. That worried him, but, when he had finished his repairs, turned the monster machine back on, and searched the maze one last time for any more fried sections, he was too tired to care. The control console was operational again, and the lights had stopped flashing, so he left the respawn rooms, hoping that someone had been kind enough to leave him some dinner.
As he closed the door behind him, the frosted glass of the door reflected a pretty line of signal lights that ran across the console. After a moment, the line flickered. Several of the lights did not come back on, and several more began to blink, as they had been doing before.
“Dude, give that back! I’m fuckin’ starving ovah here!” The Scout whined. The Medic shot him a glare.
“You’re eating all of our food. Did it ever cross your mind that other people want to eat breakfast too?” The Medic asked. The Scout ignored him and dragged the bowl of military-grade sludge (oatmeal) back towards himself and spooned a third helping into his own chipped bowl. He began wolfing down the oatmeal, staring up at the Medic the entire time. The Medic glared at him and pulled the bowl back towards himself.
“Uh…whot’s gotten into you two?” The Sniper asked, staring over his glasses at the Medic.
“Yeah, I’d expect that kind of jack-assery from Scout, but from you, Doc?” The Engineer shrugged. The Medic snorted as he scooped himself a fourth helping.
“Careful, Doctor. You will end up like ze fat man.” The Spy said. The Medic stopped eating long enough to spit out,
“Und Zigaretten macht ein wunderbar Fruhstuck, herr Spy.”
The Pyro made a loud groaning noise and rubbed his stomach.
“Mmf mrrgry!” He moaned, placing his head on the table. The Sniper held up his hand, hesitated, then awkwardly patted the Pyro’s shoulder. Coming down for breakfast had been a mistake. Honestly, the only reason they ate together was because the Soldier demanded that they did, and even then, they really only got together for non-meeting activities about once a week. The Sniper came and went at his leisure because he was really good at finding spots in the various bases that Soldier either wouldn’t or couldn’t go. The Spy didn’t show up at all, but if the man wasn’t careful, the Soldier would catch him and drag him to eat with the rest of the team. That was rare, though, and the Sniper was grateful for that.
“I’ll just make some more, I guess.” He muttered, once he saw that no one else was going to fight the Scout or the Medic for control of the oatmeal bowl. He wasn’t particularly interested in making food for everyone, but his stomach was quite empty too, considering that he’d been out all night hunting coyotes. It wasn’t really a good idea to lope around the desert all night armed with a knife and a rifle instead of sleeping, but the Sniper thought it improved his reflexes and hopefully his vision. It also helped clear his head. “Demo, get your butt over here and help me.”
“Och, I’d love tae, but—“
The Sniper blinked as the Soldier stood up. The man had been eerily quiet all morning, and he hadn’t even stepped in when the Scout and Medic began fighting. He had simply sat down at the table and stared at his lap, mumbling to himself and occasionally putting his hands over his ears. The Sniper looked around the table for help, hoping that someone would distract the Soldier so that he didn’t have to be alone with the crazy Yankee. No help came, as everyone else was too busy watching the Medic smack the Scout in the head with a spoon. The Sniper sighed.
“Alright, come on.”
They went into the kitchen, and as soon as the Sniper had shut the door behind him, the Soldier went to the beaten cabinets and began tearing through them. The Sniper stared at the Soldier, then ducked as a can of beans came flying past his head.
“What in the bloody hell--Soldier!” The Sniper cried as a bottle of iodine struck the wall behind him. “I asked ya to help me, not destroy the kitchen!”
“Looking for…what are we looking for…damn it, shut up!” The Soldier roared, putting his hands to his ears. The Sniper stared at him. The Soldier gripped at the sides of his head, pulling at his ears and helmet, as if trying to pull the metal cover down further over his head. As the Sniper approached him, the Soldier lunged at him and tackled him to the floor.
“Holy—Soldier, what—“ The Sniper pushed against the Soldier, but the man didn’t move.
“Stop. Talking.” The Soldier growled. “I cannot stand this incessant—chatter—you—you’re all horrible bastards—aagghh—“ The Soldier grabbed the sides of his head again. The Sniper saw his chance and scrambled out from underneath the Soldier.
“The bloody hell are you talking about? I don’t talk hardly at all! Hell, I haven’t been down to eat with you drongos in two weeks, ya crazy—“
“It isn’t just you—it’s—e—everyone! All night, all day, it doesn’t stop!”
“All night?” The Sniper frowned. He stood there for a moment, wondering what he should do. He glanced towards the door, then back to the Soldier, who was on his knees, rocking back and forth and talking to himself. The Sniper sighed, then crossed the kitchen and tentatively put his hand on the Soldier’s shoulder. A shock rolled through the man’s body and he began to writhe on the dirty tile floor. The Sniper lept away from him and decided to cut his losses.
“Uh…bloody hell…Uh…” The Soldier’s convulsions were getting worse. “Damn it, Medic!”
Yeah, he really wished that he hadn’t come down for breakfast.
It's early in the morning, so I didn't notice anything worth criticizing. I'm curious to see what's going on! I always love mysteries.
I am intrigued and eagerly look forward to the next bit. Nicely done!
WELL HOWDY DOO PARDNER
Ah, thank you! I hope I don’t disappoint.
Thank you so much!
(Hey guys so thanks so much for reading this terrible story and everything. Updates will be a lot more sporadic from now on because I just started college and holy crap people weren’t kidding when they said it was hard. Still, that’s no excuse for bad writing! Critique away, please!)
(Also I’m sorry I’m not really happy with this update because I feel like there’s not really a lot going on I’m sorry there’ll be more plot and action-y stuff in the next update promise sorry)
“So...he was talkin’…‘bout us talkin’?” The Engineer took a drag from his cigarette and glanced up at the Sniper. The man sighed.
“Mate, I don’t even know. He started throwin’ things and ranting about how he ‘couldn’t stand it’ and such.”
“Soldier is not crying much. Lots of baby men crying here, but not Soldier.”
“Darn right. I seen him put his insides back in and keep going without so much as whimperin’.” The Engineer muttered. Usually, the team would be off doing things on their own by now, considering that it was Saturday and they were stuck about fifty miles from the nearest gas station. With the Soldier suddenly and violently out of action, though, most of the men had gravitated to the hall outside of the Medic’s office. The Soldier, as everyone knew, was the main binding agent for the team, even if he usually did an absolutely horrible job of getting them to work together. At least he tried, the Scout had muttered after a meeting that had ended in a usual eight-man (the Spy had left after he had instigated the warfare) fistfight. Of course, the Medic refused to let anyone into his office, even the Heavy, whom he was still angry with. The Scout found it hilarious that, when the Medic had slammed the door in their faces, the Heavy did nothing but look dejected and sit down on the bench outside of the room.
“I mean, come on man, if you weren’t his bitch, you could just tear down that door.” The Scout had said. Currently, the Scout was holding three of his teeth and trying to stop a horrid nosebleed.
The Demoman sat next to the Engineer, who was reading an old scientific journal on electrical engineering, and turned his empty scrumpy bottle over and shook it.
“I migh’ need ta make some new scrumpy, lads. This just ain’t doin’ in fer me no more.” He said. The Engineer looked up from his journal.
“Demo, if that stuff was any stronger, it’d be battery acid. The Doc said that if you purify that alcohol any more, it’ll be deadly.”
The Sniper snorted and pulled his hat over his eyes. The Engineer was right. The Demoman had drained half of that bottle of his in under an hour. The Scot must have been feeling especially miserable today, because he usually only needed two or three swallows of scrumpy before he was his usual self. The Engineer poked the Sniper in the side and he took the cigarette that was being offered to him.
The Spy had a monopoly on the cigarettes that came into the base (considering that he probably loved those things more than he’d ever loved his own mother), and the only one that could really get his hands on them was the Engineer. The Sniper had tried working out a deal with the scumbag backstabber, but the Spy would rather see him go through withdrawals and be a cranky bitch than give him a bloody fag. The Sniper took a drag from the cigarette and sighed. He had been feeling a bit on edge lately, not that it had done anything to improve his fighting skills. He figured that the Soldier had finally cracked completely—the man was far out enough to be talking to aliens.
“Eh? ‘Ave I missed some kind of essential team meeting?” The Spy materialized out of thin air, leaning against the wall next to the Sniper, who jumped violently.
“Bloody ‘ell, how many times do you have to do that?” The Sniper growled, taking the cigarette out of his mouth. The Spy chuckled.
“As many times as you still overreact to a colleague simply approaching you.” He said, snatching the cigarette from the Sniper’s hand and putting it to his own lips. The Sniper stared at his hand, then muttered something unintelligible and pulled his hat down over his eyes. His reflexes were not the quickest—that and a lack of that odd sixth sense that some people (the Engineer) seemed to possess had made him a victim of not only the RED Spy’s antics, but his own teammate’s as well. He was quick enough to shoot a striking taipan or cut a crocodile’s throat (okay so he’d only done it once and the croc had been pretty small), but not quick enough to smell that smokestack creeping up behind him. It drove the Sniper mad, and the he could never figure out how the Engineer, who hadn’t taken any notice of the Spy’s appearance, could take getting backstabbed and harassed so lightly.
“What was zat, bushman? I’m afraid you’ll ‘ave to speak English like everyone else ‘ere.”
The Spy’s grin vanished from his lips and he slowly turned around to see the Pyro, who was waving at him. The corner of his mouth twitched, and the Sniper was glad to see the end of the cigarette trembling ever so slightly. He was no fan of the Pyro either, but the little masked entity shook the Spy up like nothing else could.
“Bonjour. You should not sneak up behind people. It could get you stabbed, my fiery friend.” The Spy said.
The Pyro giggled and sat next to the Engineer, who elbowed him slightly and murmured something into the mask where the Sniper supposed ears would be, if the Pyro even had them. The Sniper wasn’t quite sure what the Pyro was. He knew that the Scout was betting on a girl (honest to God no one knew why—the idiot was so terrified of the Pyro that he couldn’t speak to him), but he was pretty certain that if a female was under there, she wouldn’t be human. The Sniper glanced at the Pyro, who had dropped a pile of rusted nuts into the Engineer’s lap.
“What the—Pyro, these…” The Engineer pushed his goggles up onto his forehead, stared hard at the little metal pieces, then laughed.
“Boy, I swear, you’re a walkin’ junkyard, ya know that? AN 350s. Here.”
The Pyro mangled some more words that only the Engineer appeared to understand and the man laughed harder. The Sniper sighed and glanced back at the pale green doors that really didn’t reveal much information about exactly what was occurring on the other side. The Soldier’s behavior had unnerved him, and he was used to a lot from the man.
Behind the steel doors that separated the Medic and the Soldier from the rest of the team, something like a psychological evaluation was going on. The Medic was honestly puzzled—he’d thought that the Soldier had suffered a stroke, or maybe just been out in the sun too long. No one ever listened about the dangers of dehydration or sunburn, but when somebody began seeing gigantic eagles or beautiful women and broke their arms and legs trying to chase after them or ran out of the shower screaming because they had fallen asleep on the roof and soundly burned their entire skin, (and in the Demoman’s case, this meant entire) they came bawling to him, the man who had warned them in the first place.
But the Soldier wasn’t delirious in any way. Well, any more than normal. He wasn’t even dehydrated. A little manual probing of the man’s brain showed no abnormalities, and the Medic was now rifling through his books, all the while asking the Soldier questions.
“Soldier, reiterate your problem for me please?”
The Soldier just glared at him. The Medic, for his own safety, had strapped the man to the operating table. In his defense, the Soldier had tried to smash his head into a wall, screaming “stop talking fritz” over and over again once he had woken up.
“Reitr what? Is that some kind of German talk, doc, ‘cause you know I don’t speak it.”
“I said, tell me your problem again.”
The Medic gave him a flat glare.
“No.” The Solder growled, glaring back at the Medic. The man sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
“Vell, alright. If I can’t get some answers out of you, I guess I vill just have to vhile away the hours reading.” He said, going to his desk and opening a few drawers. The Soldier huffed and stared at the ceiling.
“Fine! But I will have you know that I once sat for seventy-three hours posing as a statue in order to weed out some good-for-nothing Nazis! I am much stronger than you will ever be!”
The Medic stopped shuffling through his drawers and stared at the Soldier.
“It was a foolproof plan until my bladder gave out, the damn coward.”
“Well, Soldier, zhat is a very impressive if not completely harebrained feat.”
“My feet had nothing to do with it!”
The Medic sighed and continued looking through his desk. His face lit up as he found a small book that was no thicker than one of those trashy pulp science-fiction stories that the Pyro loved to read (and then burn).
“Ah, heir sind Sie.” He murmured. The Medic straightened up, wincing as his back cracked a little, then crossed the room, pulled up a chair, and sat down a few feet from the Soldier. The Soldier could not help but laugh at his teammate’s foolishness.
“You cannot beat me with time! I fed time his own insides after he had the nerve to tell me that I was late this morning!”
The Medic nodded and said nothing. He flipped through a few pages of the book, then tsked and put it down.
“Are you sure you do not want to tell me what ze problem is?” He asked. The Soldier snorted.
“The only problem I have is that I am strapped to a butcher’s table! You think you can break me but you cannot! I will win this battle, and I will win this war!”
“Ah.” The Soldier’s impassioned speech seemed to have little effect on the Medic. The Soldier looked a bit put out, then sighed and closed his eyes. Silence, save for the cooing of the Medic’s doves and the hum of several unidentifiable machines descended upon the room. The Medic cleared his throat.
“Soldier. Have you ever heard of a man named Karl Marx?”
“Karl Marx? You mean the son-of-a-bitch who made comedy that was not funny at all? Thank God he and his brother finally killed one another in a steel-cage death match or else I would have strangled him with his own mediocre act!”
“No. You idiot. Anyvay, I have a book to read you.”
“This is not bedtime and I am not a child!”
“You vill not be a man either if you don’t shut your mouth.” The Medic glared at the Soldier, whose mouth snapped shut. He still managed to return the glare, but he was quiet. The Medic smiled and cleared his throat.
“Excellent. Now, listen. A spectre is haunting Europe -- the spectre of communism.”
The Soldier jerked against his restraints.
The Medic ignored him and kept reading.
“All the powers of old Europe—“
“Europe?!” The Soldier looked a little panicked now. Not only did he dislike the thick, philosophical books that the Medic occasionally read, but to have to listen to a book about Communist Europe, his (current) worst enemy? The Medic glanced up at him and smiled.
“Do you feel like talking to me yet, Comrade Soldier?” He asked gently. The Soldier’s eyes bulged in his head.
“What—what did you—“
“—have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies…”
A collective shiver passed through the mercenaries on the other side of the steel doors as howling screams that were unmistakably the Soldier’s echoed through the corridor. The screaming went on for about two minutes until the Engineer couldn’t take it anymore.
“Fellahs, it ain’t right, whatever torture the doc’s applyin’ in there.” He said, standing up and cracking his back. The Heavy raised an eyebrow.
“Engineer should just be minding his own business.” He said. The Engineer snorted.
“Yeah, well, sometimes a man does some things on his own that shouldn’t be done.” He said, attempting to stare the Heavy down. When the larger man did not blink, the Engineer looked away and turned to the doors. He took a shaky breath, then strode through the doors. To his surprise, he saw the Medic sitting a few feet away from the Soldier, who was shaking and clearly in some kind of horrible pain.
“Ah, Engineer! It is good zhat you have come in. Herr Soldier is being quite stubborn.” The Medic said, looking up from a small book. “Soldier, did you know zhat ze Engineer, being ze educated man that he is, is knowledgeable in Marx’s vork as vell?”
The Soldier glared up at the Medic.
“No way.” He growled, voice ragged from screaming. “Engie’d never associate with—with—communists.”
The Engineer nearly slapped himself in the face. Really? That’s what all the screaming had been about? Communists? Really?
“Doc, what in the world are you doin’ to him? He—“
“Oh, so you do not think Communists are a threat? You do not think that they will jump on our beautiful nation at the very first sign of weakness?”
“Soldier, I—“ The Engineer stopped and blinked. How had he known?
“I know because you are talking plain as day, you filthy red traitor!” The Soldier exclaimed. He looked at the Medic, who was staring at him curiously.
“Herr Soldier.” He said.
“Yes I am hearing voices! Your voices, to be precise, and it does not stop! I tried to tell that damn Aussie, but he didn’t understand. Oh, you think I am crazy, do you? Well fine, Doc, but I can assure you I am most certainly at least fifty-four percent certified not-crazy! I am right! You just do not want to hear the truth! You lily-livered maggot scum can’t handle the truth!”
The Medic stared at the Soldier, mouth hanging open slightly, then grabbed the Engineer’s arm.
“Herr Engineer, Darf Ich zu Ihnen sprechen? Im privat, danke.” He sent a poisonous glare at the Soldier, who just glared back.
“You think I like hearing voices, maggot? I can assure you that I do not! No war was ever won by the gathering of other people’s opinions! San Tzu said—“ But they never had the misfortune to hear what San Tzu had said, because the Medic ushered the Engineer out of the lab and past the rest of the team, despite the cloud of questions that arose.
As the Engineer and the Medic turned the corner and disappeared, the remainder of BLU Team looked at one another. The Medic must have been doing something pretty horrible for the Soldier to scream like that.
“Hey, why didn’t ya thop ya girlfriend an’ make him tell uth what’h wrong?” The Scout asked elbowing the Heavy, who frowned.
“Doktor was in mood. Engineer looked out of place too.” He turned to glare at the Scout, who winced. “And he is not girlfriend.”
The Engineer jerked out of the Medic’s hold as they rounded another corner. The Medic paid him no mind, however, and kept going.
“Doc, you mind tellin’ me why we need to go so far away from where you’ve got poor Solly all trussed up like a turkey?” He asked, following the Medic down the hall. They ended up in the kitchen, and the Medic held up his hand before rifling through the cabinets and pulling out a box of dried potatoes and tearing open the top.
“I have reason to believe---ach, es tut mir lied, Ich habe so viel Hunger—“ The Medic grabbed a spoon and began eating the flakes. The Engineer made a face. The Medic did as well, but he kept eating.
“These—are terrible.” He said between bites. “Much too salty. Anyvay. I have reason to believe one of two things. Vould you like to hear the bad one that is probable or the good one that is highly improbable?”
The Engineer couldn’t get over the fact that the usually-uptight German was shoveling down dried potatoes like there was no tomorrow.
“Couldn’t you have put water in ‘em an cooked ‘em first?”
“I am hungry.” The Medic said, as if that explained everything. He stared at the Engineer expectantly, still shoveling potato flakes into his mouth. The Engineer sighed.
“I suppose I’d like the bad news first.”
“Herr Soldat is a schizophrenic.”
The Engineer’s heart sank. It did make sense, if that was true. He sighed.
“Okay, give me the good news.”
The Medic grinned sheepishly and laughed.
“Ah. Vell. See, Engineer, before I explain zhis to you, you vill understand that this is a theory, yes? Just a theory.”
“Get on with it, doc. I been laughed off of my share of committees too.” The Engineer said. Course, those bastards hadn’t been laughing when he had gotten the two million dollar grant that they had been vying for when they’d kicked him out. The Medic looked a bit less nervous.
“Ze Soldier has somehow developed ze ability to read minds.”
The Engineer couldn’t prevent his eyebrows from shooting up. That was a pretty far-fetched idea, even for him. There was no way that a man could read another’s mind, not that he knew of.
He put his hand to his chin, frowning slightly and staring through the Medic, who was still wolfing down the potato flakes like a poor hatless Irishman.
“I suppose…but how in the world would Soldier get these supposed powers? I ain’t never heard of telepathy actually occurring in a human in practice, doc.” The Engineer finally said. The Medic shrugged.
“Neither have I, and I’ve seen some…vell, I had a lot of spare time in 1953.” The Medic said, grinning in a way that made the hairs on the back of the Engineer’s neck stand up. The Engineer looked at the floor and sighed.
Solly was crazy, and he had long expected some kind of mental illness, but he had never been officially diagnosed with a disease, let alone such an ugly one as schizophrenia. He couldn’t even believe that they were considering putting a name to the Soldier’s crazy. It would be like demasking the Pyro, or taking the Sniper’s mason jars away. It just wasn’t done.
“Well, if it is…that disease…then can you do anything for him?”
“I can order some very high-powered medication that vill balance him out some.” The Medic shrugged. “Zough, honestly, I cannot see the harm in letting a schizophrenic fight with us.”
The Engineer gave him a flat glare that was really quite ineffective, considering that his eyes were covered by smoky goggles.
“You see no danger with lettin’ a mental deficient run around with us.” He said. The Medic rolled his eyes.
“Oh please, Engineer. Do not think yourself better zhan any one of us because you are ‘normal.’ Each one of ze nine men on zhis team is a broken, beaten man who has been shunned from society for some reason or another. Including you.” He said. The Engineer snorted, but his gloved hand slipped to the back of his neck.
“And yet zey think ve can fight together.” The Medic shrugged. “Ich Weiss nicht. Vielleicht sie haben einen grosser plan.”
They stood in silence for a moment, and the Engineer was about to open his mouth when the Medic finished the box of potato flakes and began rifling through the cabinets again. He found several cans of beans, two boxes of rice, and one can of condensed milk.
“Here, help me carry these up to ze lab.”
“That’s our emergency food supply yer dippin’ into.” The Engineer muttered, trying to collect the supplies that the Medic had shoved into his arms the best he could.
“If you vere as hungry as I am, you’d be eating everything too.” The Medic said cheerfully, pulling a scalpel out of his coat pocket and stabbing a hole in the top of the condensed milk can.
“Doc, you never eat anything. Why now?”
“There you are, Fritz!”
The Engineer turned and saw the Soldier standing in the doorway, panting like a man who had just run a marathon. The Soldier was gripping the doorway so tightly that his arm was shaking. He had his shovel in the other hand, and he brandished it like he was challenging the Medic to a sandcastle-building contest.
The Medic’s eyes became large, and he grinned at the Soldier.
“Haha, no Herr Soldier, please, zhink rationally—“
“Rational?” The Soldier swung his shovel and smashed a bit of the aged blue tile that lined the walls. “We are long past ‘rational,’ maggot! We crossed rational when you committed a war crime on a brother-in-arms! Rational isn’t even—“ The Soldier stopped mid-rant and twitched. “Rational—“
“Hey, what’re you guys doin’? I let da Soldier outa whatevah kinky sex ding ya had goin’ on there because I wath all like, ‘man I’m fuckin’ boed,’ but da Heavy wath all like ‘no way leetle man’ and I was like ‘well fuck you I do what I want’ so then we had thith totally badath fight and I think foura my ribs ‘r broken but I got ‘hold of a bat an’ now Heavthy’s out anyway long thory short doc I need thome healin’. Altho I’m real fuckin’ hungry.” The Scout had appeared behind the Soldier, usual cocky grin on his beaten face. His forehead was shiny with sweat, though, and his legs were trembling. The Soldier went shock still for a second before letting loose a ragged scream. He turned and swung his shovel at the Scout who still, despite his broken ribs and swollen eye managed to doge the blade.
“Holy crap! Man, Id thougkt you was—“
“Just shut up! For the love of God, shut up!” The Soldier howled, dropping his shovel and clawing at his ears. “Make it stop! Please!”
That shocked even the Scout. Never once had the Soldier said please unless he was lecturing someone on manners (which was really rare because it seemed that the man possessed none). Certainly, he’d never said it in a beseeching manner. The Soldier wasn’t really the asking type.
The Medic saw his chance to escape the bite of the Soldier’s shovel and slipped out past the man.
“Of course, Herr, Scout, I cannot have you hurt, now, can I?” He said, bearing his teeth in an unnecessarily large grin as he got behind the Scout and pushed him towards the hallway. The Scout winced.
“Uh, doc, whad abouth—“ The Scout glanced over his shoulder at the Soldier.
“Engineer vill take care of it, I’m sure!” The Medic said. He glanced over his shoulder at the Soldier and pushed the Scout a little harder. “Now move your skinny behind before I break ze rest of your ribs.”
The Scout was still looking back at the Soldier, who was on his knees.
“Doc, I think dat Soldier needths thome helpf—“
“Don’t ve all, Scout.” The Medic said, shoving the boy down the hall and out of sight. The Engineer glared after the Medic. Of course the man would leave him to clean up the crazy.
“I told you I’m not crazy!” The Soldier howled. The Engineer went to touch the Soldier’s shoulder, but the man shuddered away from him.
“Solly, come on, we have to—“
“Just get out!” The Soldier roared. The Engineer held up his hands and backed away. Fine. The man wanted him gone, he was gone. That was easy. He’d had enough of the nuttiness in this place for one day. As he turned to go, he glanced back at the Soldier.
“You sure you’ll be alright?” A courtesy question. He didn’t really care if the Soldier was alright or not after all the trouble he’d caused.
“Good.” The Soldier panted. “Fine. Go.”
The Engineer shrugged and left the kitchen, glancing at the cracked blue counter tiles and the Soldier’s shovel which had been violently tossed into the hallway.
They didn’t see the Soldier for the rest of the weekend. Even the Medic took to hunting the man, insisting that he needed medication before he became truly dangerous. The Sniper claimed that he would be happy if he never saw the loud-mouthed nut job again, but he quickly shut up when the Spy asked him if he liked lurking around the basements of the base.
No one admitted it, but they missed the presence of their space-case rocket man. The weak shreds of camaraderie that the team possessed didn’t last long without the Soldier around to nurse it (beat it to death) either. The Scout was incredibly snappish because he claimed that he was in terrible pain and that he was starving all the time, and the Demoman was prone to breaking down into tears because he insisted that his scrumpy was having no effect. In fact, the man had become desperate and the Medic nearly had a heart attack when he found the Demoman trying to pour rubbing alcohol into his scrumpy bottle. Needless to say, no one was happy when the Medic insisted that they put the Demoman on drunk watch, especially the Demoman, who kept trying to find stronger and stronger alcohol.
Finally, as Sunday faded into the early hours of Monday and everyone gave up hope of ever seeing the Soldier again, the Pyro sprinted into the Medic’s office, waving his arms and jumping around like he’d won kingship of Australia. The Medic stared at the Pyro for a moment with bloodshot eyes, then nodded.
“Did you find Herr Soldat?” He asked, running a hand through his hair. It was usually combed and managed to perfection, but the stress of the Soldier’s desertion and the Demoman’s sudden and extreme depression and the Scout’s wailing about how much pain he was in had shaken the doctor out of his usual professional appearance.
The Medic sighed and pulled out a capsule of liquid, punctured the top with a syringe, then drew the liquid into the syringe.
“Alright. Show me to him.” He sighed. Sedating the Soldier enough to where he would be manageable would not be an easy task. He hadn’t slept for over forty-eight hours, and, though he was not feeling tired at the moment, he was certain he was only awake because of the strange energy buzzing about his body. He assumed it was from all the food he was eating. It was strange, though. No matter how much he ate, he still felt starved. It was as if the food entering his body had been instantly metabolized and had vanished in an instant. He was dreading the moment he crashed, though, because it would, according to Murphy’s Law, be at the most inopportune time possible.
And wouldn’t it be just his luck if he happened to suddenly become exhausted when going to apprehend the Soldier?
“Mmmfm.” The Pyro waved his hands in front of the Medic’s face, trying to get his attention. The Medic jumped as a spark arced from the Pyro’s glove to his nose.
“Ach! Pyro! Stop zhat!” The Medic growled, rubbing his nose. It would later occur to him that it was strange that the Pyro was suddenly conducting electricity in an asbestos-lined, rubber-coated body suit in a building with little means of generating natural static (believe him, the Scout had tried everything to generate enough static electricity to shock the Heavy on many a slow Sunday afternoon) but at that moment he was more concerned with the fact that he had to sedate a man with twice his muscle mass.
“Mmrm. Mmmr mront mrr mrrrt.” The Pyro said, pointing at the syringe. The Medic raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms.
“Enlighten me, zhen.” He said. “How might ve get a man who vill refuse any kind of medical help unless he is bleeding out of every orifice to take anti-psychotic medication?”
The Pyro put his hand to his chin and cocked his head, apparently deep in thought. After a moment, though, he apparently had an idea, as he sprung up and clapped his hands.
“Mhfr mrn.” He said. With that, he left the Medic standing there and jogged (waddled) out the door. A few moments later, he appeared with a small box under his arm and waved wildly at the Medic, who sighed and made sure that he had the proper amount of tranquilizer in the syringe before following the little mental deficient out the door. (And by ‘proper’ he meant ‘enough to take down a rabid bear.’ What was work without a little fun?)
The Pyro led him down the hallway and out of the base, down the gravel road that led to the supply (and transport) railroad that trains came through every so often and down the ravine that lay to the right of their base. The Medic squinted in the darkness, following the formless shape the best he could, wondering all the while how in the world the Pyro could see where he was going.
“Mmffr? MMFFR?” The Pyro called, muffled voice echoing in the quiet forest. There was no moon tonight, and a set of heavy clouds had rolled in anyway, blocking any potential celestial sources of light.
“…Pyro?” The Soldier’s voice was quiet and close, making the Medic jump about a foot in the air. The Pyro spun around and gripped the Medic’s shoulders, making a soft hissing noise that the German thought meant ‘be quiet.’
“Hrr, Srrr!” The Pyro said. “I brrt mrrph mrhphin.”
“Who’s with you?”
The Pyro stopped and looked at the Medic.
“You’re lying. It’s the Medic.” The Soldier’s voice was moving now, and the Pyro took off towards the voice. There was a strangled yelp and a lot of swearing, the sounds of a scuffle, then some loud crinkling and then silence.
“Pyro?” The Medic called. “Soldier?”
“Hrr! Brrr hrrph?”
“Doc? Where are you?”
“Srjrr! Rrph rr brrr hr?”
“Son, I can’t understand a damn—wait. Wait, I cannot understand a damn word you are saying! By almighty beans and rice I cannot hear a god damn thing but myself!”
Suddenly the Medic could see the Soldier’s form in the darkness. The man had the Pyro in what looked like a choke-hold, but if he squinted it might have been a really terrible attempt at a hug.
“You are getting every last honor and medal they give out here, private! Whatever you did, it was certainly an act of valor, to help a brother in need!” The Soldier exclaimed. The Pyro squirmed and began to make little gasping noises. The Soldier didn’t notice until the man went limp in his arms.
“Soldier, shaking the Pyro is not going to bring him back to consciousness.” The Medic said dryly, preparing the tranquilizer.
“Huh? Doc! There you are, you son-of-a-bitch! I forgot you were here.”
“Mm-hm.” The Medic approached the Soldier slowly, so as not so startle the man. The Soldier grinned at him and lunged forward. The Medic gritted his teeth and prepared to stab the syringe into the man’s neck if he had to, but he was shocked when he was also wrapped up in an extremely tight bear hug.
“Ach—Soldat—“Blood was actually pounding in his ears from the sheer force of the Soldier’s hug. “Lassen—Sie--mir--gehen!” He wheezed. The Soldier seemed to realize that forcing two of his co-workers to pass out in a single night might be bad for morale, so he dropped the Medic and remembered himself.
“Mm. Right. Back to the base, then, men!” He exclaimed, buckling his helmet and marching off. The Medic stared after the man, gasping slightly and checking himself for puncture wounds. When he found none, he went to the Pyro’s side and picked the poor unconscious man up off the ground. The Pyro felt extremely light, and the Medic frowned, wondering if the thing had been getting enough to eat lately. He shrugged and put the Pyro on his back like he usually did when carrying an unconscious teammate. It was a long walk back to the base, and by the time he got back, his strange energy had vanished. Pyro was just as heavy as he’d always been, and the Medic groaned as his back began to ache from the dead weight. He was too old to be carrying around men in flame-retardant suits.
The Soldier was waiting for them, bottle-cap medals in hand and in the cold light of the BLU base, the Medic saw the Pyro’s magic cure for the Soldier’s mental illness: the man’s helmet had been completely wrapped in tin foil.
The Medic couldn’t help himself. He started to laugh.
I hope you'll continue. It's interesting so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing what powers everyone receives.
Alright, an update. Again, not happy with this because I feel like the story’s gone a bit stale, (which is really sad considering that I’m only on the very first part) which bothers me a lot. I tried to put more action into this update, but I dunno. Thanks to anyone who’s bothered to read this far, you are amazing.
D.F., you are especially amazing and a trooper, thank you so much for the encouragement. Also not to be a kiss-ass, but I almost fell out of my chair when I found out that the author of Snake Oil liked my story. So wow thank you so much it means a lot. Their powers’ll start getting more detailed next update, but if you look back you can deduce the Soldier’s, the Pyro’s, maybe the Scout’s after this update, and probably the Engineer’s. Maybe the Demo’s too, if you’re really good.
Also, this might be a really dickish thing to ask you guys, but are there other websites that I can post this story to where there’s more traffic? I’d still like concrit so that my writing will improve. Maybe my work just really, really sucks, but I can’t help but feel the /fanfic/ section of Tf2chan is a bit dead. (but hey /afanfic/ is alive and well because we all love sniper/spy dicks right giaz actually there is a Spy/Demo story that’s really great go check it out it’s wonderful.)
Concrit is the best crit, so please feel free to fire away.
The Soldier spent the rest of the night (early morning) giving the BLU team a “pep talk” which mostly consisted of him explaining his absence as a rigorous forty-eight hour disciplinary exercise. His upgraded helmet shone under the glaring lights of the meeting room as he paced back and forth, lecturing six exhausted men. The Engineer was actually the only man awake, considering that he was trying to figure out why in the world the Soldier was wearing tin foil and was suddenly his…normal self again. The man had come in with the Medic, according to Pyro, so the Engineer guessed that the medication had been properly administered to the man when he’d been found. Why the Soldier was wearing a tin-foil helmet, though, he hadn’t the foggiest. The Soldier was halfway through the talk when he noticed that they were short two men.
“Where is the Scout and that smelly surrender-monkey?” He exclaimed, staring down the table. The Engineer looked around at his co-workers, who were either resting their heads on their hands or simply face down on the table, not even trying to feign consciousness, and shrugged.
“Scout’s in his room and I dunno where Spy is. Haven’t seen him.” He said, rubbing his temples. His head had been aching terribly for the past three hours. “Solly, please. We’re all dog-tired and very glad you’re all better. Now can we please go to bed?”
“The Scout is where? God damn it, that lazy boy does not know a thing about being a good soldier!”
“He hurts so bad he can’t walk.”
“Well why did the Medic not heal him?”
“Doc tried. Man was pumpin’ heal rays inta him fer an hour.”
“Well then shoot him!” The Soldier barked, grabbing a shotgun off the meeting table. The go-to solution for all aches and pains that could not be cured by the Medic’s expertise (medigun) was to simply kill the person experiencing the pain and wait for respawn to put him back together again. It usually worked. Usually.
“We tried that.”
“And he still is crying like a little girl?”
“Well I don’t know about cryin’, but—“
The Soldier was off, still giving his pep talk as he marched down the hall, headed for the Scout’s room. The Engineer glanced around at his unconscious co-workers, sighed, then went after the Soldier.
“There is no excuse for laziness! I would blame the boy’s mother, but she is currently being held hostage by the other team’s Spy so she cannot be blamed!”
The Engineer had seen the pictures, and he really didn’t think that the Scout’s mother was being held hostage at all.
“He really ain’t feelin’ well. I mean, just a few hours ago it was lookin’ like we were gonna have to forfeit tomorrow’s—er, today’s—fight ‘cause you were all off missin’ an’ Scout can’t e’en walk, let alone run, and Demo’s just a mess.”
The Soldier stopped and peered at the Engineer.
“Demo? Our Demoman?” He asked. The Engineer nodded.
“Claims his scrumpy don’t work anymore.”
The Soldier frowned and put his hand to his chin, appearing to be deep in thought. The Engineer knew better.
“He can’t get drunk.” He clarified. The Soldier blinked.
“Oh.” He cleared his throat. “Ah—of course. Well, he should just make more of it.”
“Oh, he’s tried.”
The Soldier’s frown deepened and he lifted the rim of his helmet for a second before wincing and pulling it back down over his eyes. Without another word he began marching off towards the Scout’s room again with the Engineer in tow.
“I will address the Demoman later! Right now, though—“ The Soldier reached the Scout’s door and threw it open. “—we will—“ He stopped. The Engineer peered in behind the Soldier, then made a disgusted noise.
“Einstein’s theoretically impossible ghost, what is that?”
The Scout’s room, contrary to popular belief, was not exactly a paragon of cleanliness, but what was lying in the center of the room, amidst several identical blue t-shirts and fatigues, was just plain vile. It appeared to be an arm—the Scout’s arm, upon closer inspection. The Soldier picked it up and shook it.
“Don’ touch the damned thing. Look, ‘s rottin’.” The Engineer said, taking the slim arm from the Soldier with his gloved hand and shaking it slightly. The arm tore at the elbow and the upper half fell to the floor before dissolving into a pile of what looked like chunky tomato sauce.
“Aw, tha’s…eeuch!” The Engineer dropped the rest of the arm, which had dissolved as well. He made a face and wiped his gloved hand on his leg. The Soldier glanced around the rest of the room.
“Son, it is one thing to leave your room in disarray, but to leave body parts lying about like you are the Medic is unacceptable!” He called. There was no reply.
“Scout?” The Engineer asked, flipping on the lights. The room was devoid of any other parts of the Scout.
“Where could he have got to?”
“Oh hey guys, what da hell’re ya—hughf—”
The Soldier and the Engineer turned around to see the Scout leaning heavily against the wall in the hall and emptying his stomach contents onto the tiled floor. The Soldier didn’t even wait until the Scout had finished throwing up to slam him against the wall.
“What in the hell do you think you are doing, private? Vomit goes either in the toilet or in the garbage or in RED’s mailbox! If we were all lazy and threw up wherever the hell we pleased then we would have upchuck on every single wall, floor, and ceiling! Do you understand me?”
The best reply that the Scout could give was to moan weakly and look like he was going to throw up again.
“You will not lose your lunch here, Sally, do you understand me?” The Soldier barked. The Engineer grabbed the Soldier by the back of his uniform and pulled him away from the Scout as best he could, which actually turned out to be a very intelligent move, considering that the Scout disobeyed the Soldier’s direct order and threw up again after collapsing onto his hands and knees.
“God damn it, Solly, I’m sick and tired of you not listin’ to anyone around here! I told you he was sick! I bet e’en Medic told you he was sick!” The Engineer snapped, shoving the Soldier slightly. The man stiffened, surprised at the Engineer’s sudden vehemence.
“Man…I thought I barfed all I could in the bathroom…” The Scout groaned from behind them.
“I will assume that you were able to aim into the toilet, though judging by your aim on the battlefield that idea might be completely founded in myth!” The Soldier said, recovering at an amazing rate. The Scout flipped him off, which turned out to be a mistake, since the Soldier obviously had no sympathy for the sick and immediately grabbed the Scout and put him in a headlock. The Engineer groaned and gave up. Blood was pounding in his ears, and his head hurt too much to fight with the Soldier anymore or try to figure out why Scout was leaving arms around his room.
“Ah’m goin’ ta bed, fer what little time I’ve got left there.” He muttered. He shook his head and strode down the hall, ignoring the Scout’s cries.
“Engie…” The Scout moaned. “C’mon, man, help.”
“God helps those who help themselves, private!” The Soldier said, driving his knuckles into the Scout’s skull, ensuring a painful noogie.
“God’s a dick!” The Scout wailed, struggling as best he could. The Soldier couldn’t help but snicker at that, though he gave the Scout no room to escape. The Scout slowly stopped moving, since it was actually less painful for him to be in a headlock than to try and get out of it.
“Sally?” The Soldier asked, shaking the Scout slightly. He had been forcing his teammates to pass out a lot lately—he might want to stop that. The Scout wasn’t unconscious, however. Tears had filled his eyes, and he was sniffling. That surprised the Soldier. The Scout might have been a wimpy jackass kid that didn’t know the first thing about military training, but he didn’t cry except when they lost sometimes, and that was more out of anger than anything else.
“C’mon man, stop.” The Scout whimpered, lifting shaking hands to scrub at his eyes. “I fuckin’ hurt. An’ I’m glad you’re all back ta normal an’ shit but Jesus, I sure ain’t.”
The Soldier glowered at him, then shook him once. The Scout screamed. The Soldier dropped him out of surprise and the Scout crumpled on the floor, a string of curses so long and creative spewing from his mouth that even the Soldier hadn’t heard of some of them. He stared down at the Scout for a while, then turned heel and left, but not before effectively threatening him.
“You had better be ready for battle by tomorrow morning, private, or I will teach you what true pain is! Additionally, I demand that if you are going to keep body parts from the enemy team, then you must keep them in the cold storage in the Medic’s office!”
The Scout did not reply.
The Soldier marched down the hall, turned back to look at the Scout, then cautiously lifted his helmet. His face remained still for a moment, then the smallest grin flashed across his face.
“Affirmative.” He said quietly.
The next four hours were spent, for the Soldier at least, drawing up battle plans in his room, and as soon as the cracked wristwatch he’d pinned to his wall read five in the morning he grabbed his helmet (he’d cautiously taken it off during the time he’d spent planning, thinking that he wouldn’t be able to hear anything because most of his men were sleeping in the meeting room) and left his dark room, plans under his arm. The foil-coated helmet gleamed on his head as he strode down the hall, muttering to himself. It was a relief to only hear himself again. He had thought for years that others had been trying to get into his head, but to be forced to hear others thoughts!
That was a punishment that even he did not deserve. Still, a nagging voice (that was his own) in the back of his head murmured, I might just be crazy after all. Maybe I am just a schi—shic—crazy person, like they say.
How do you know for sure?
“Alright, so everyone’s ready for battle this morning, ja?” The Medic asked, walking down the row his teammates had grudgingly made for the required pre-battle checklist. He could have just filled it out and stuck it in the mailbox, like he usually did, but he wanted to make sure that everyone (excluding the Scout) was actually feeling well enough to go out and fight. (And he honestly didn’t want any more work because that entire episode with the Soldier had just been awful and had set his own research back for a good forty-eight hours.) A chorus of dull yes’s echoed through the locker room, though the Demoman honestly looked too sober to be of any use on the battlefield. The Medic sighed and balanced the clipboard on his knee while pushing down the handle of his medigun and pointing it at his teammates. He was trying to build an Ubercharge and do the checklist at the same time, which was proving to be quite difficult.
The Heavy looked around. They were going to attempt to capture the third section of the mountain today, considering that RED had already locked up the other two sections, and there were a lot of blind corners on the cart track, which he and the Scout would end up pushing the cart around.
“Where is leetle man?” He asked. The Medic blinked at him.
The Heavy frowned.
“Leetle man is sick?”
“No, he ain’t fakin’ ta get outta battle.” The Engineer said dully, screwing on his gunslinger. The Medic checked the box next to the Engineer’s name and looked down the list.
“Wo ist Spy?” He muttered. “Spy?”
The BLU team looked around and Heavy, Sniper, and Engineer actually glanced over their shoulders out of reflex. The Soldier, who had been standing at attention while the Medic went over the checklist, dropped his pose.
“Who’s not here?” He barked. The Medic looked around.
“It seems zhat ze Spy is missing.”
The Soldier ground his teeth. Had anyone else been missing, he would have been able to hunt them down and drag them to battle. The Spy, though, did what he pleased and half the time didn’t even show up on time.
“Herr Soldier, clam down. It only goes out of his pay.” The Medic murmured, not looking up from his chart. The Soldier muttered something unintelligible and looked down the line.
“So then we’re out two mates. Fantastic.” The Sniper muttered, putting on his watch. The Engineer shrugged.
“Idn’t like Spy is ever much help anyway.”
“’Sides annoyin’ us, right truckie?” The Sniper snickered. The Engineer smirked at him and tightened the gunslinger’s attachment to his arm.
“Mmfhr!” The Pyro said suddenly, slapping the Sniper in the back of the head. The man winced and bent down to pick up his hat, which had fallen off when the Pyro had hit him.
“Bleedin’ psycho.” He growled.
“Pyro!” The Engineer exclaimed. The Pyro didn’t seem consoled at all.
“Mrn mr mrr!” He snapped, getting in the Engineer’s face and jabbing him in the chest with his gloved finger. He then turned around, mumbled ranting unintelligible even to the Engineer, who touched his chest where the Pyro had poked him. The Heavy watched him and laughed.
“Leetle man is ready for battle. All…hot under collar?” He looked around for confirmation, and found none. Whenever the Heavy used expressions, he was usually enforced (or ridiculed) by the Scout. Without the boy around, though, there was no one to tell him if he had spoken correctly or not.
The pre-battle light came on, and the Administrator’s voice echoed through the locker room.
“I hope you are all ready to make up for your failures of last week. Now get out there and show those RED pigs that you are better than they are.”
Somehow, her encouraging words didn’t really do much for the BLU team’s sprit. They gathered in the spawn room and waited for the countdown.
The Engineer hefted up his toolbox.
The Soldier grinned and cracked his knuckles.
The Medic pushed his glasses up his nose and sniffled slightly, feeling the wonderfully familiar buzz of an unused Ubercharge vibrating through his body.
The silence of beautiful alpine morning was obliterated as both primary-coloured teams opened fire on one another. The BLU Soldier rushed out of spawn screaming a violent battle cry, and the Medic couldn’t help but notice, in the blue-tinged haze of his Ubercharge, that the man seemed to have more energy than he had ever possessed in the past. And that was saying something.
They fought their way out of spawn fairly well, considering that they were short two men, and it seemed that they were going to have a good battle for the first time in thirty-seven (oh yes, the Soldier had been counting.) days.
“Doktor!” The Medic saw the Pyro coming at him and the Heavy from the left a second too late. The Pyro’s airblast was quite possibly the most frustrating thing that existed during an Ubercharge, and the little demon didn’t know enough to stay away from him and his partner when they were invulnerable. The Medic was blasted a good ten feet up in the air. As he fell back to earth, he was blasted a second time, and his Ubercharge died when he was at the zenith of his height. As he fell back into the waiting flamethrower of the RED Pyro, the Medic swore loudly. The pain of fire never ebbed. Bullets he could become used to, but fire always hurt him in a new way each time, finding some collection of tender nerves that hadn’t yet felt a certain degree of burning heat as it ate away at his flesh.
Perhaps he’d been wrong, and the Soldier would have to keep counting.
“Mrrph!” The RED Pyro gave a muffled scream as an axe tore through his suit. The RED Pyro turned on the BLU Pyro, who drew back his bloodied fire and swung it again, effectively taking a massive chunk out of the RED Pyro’s shoulder. That was all the Medic saw of the fight as he scrambled for the water.
“Medic!” The Heavy pulled him up out of the water after he’d thoroughly soaked himself. “I am sorry!” The man was sporting some ugly wounds, and the Medic remembered his job as his medipack began working on the burns that laced his body.
“It’s not your fault! Go!” He growled, picking up his Medigun. “I vill be behind you.” To his relief, he saw the body of the RED Pyro. Or, to be exact, parts of the Pyro. Their Pyro appeared to be on some kind of rampage, and when that happened it was just best to get out the man’s way.
The Soldier was limping towards them, and the Medic was pleased to see that the man, along with the Demoman had managed to push the bomb quite a ways. He turned his medigun on the Soldier.
“Keep it up, comrade!” He said, feeling slightly more cheerful now that his flesh was no longer burning.
“Shut your face, fritz!” The Soldier growled, loud enough for the Heavy to hear. He stood up straight as his wounds healed, though, and flashed a small grin at the Medic. The Medic snorted and rolled his eyes.
“Move out!” The Soldier called to the Engineer, who was upgrading his teleporter entrance.
“I’ll be up in a minute! Git goin’!”
They did not need telling twice. The Soldier headed towards the bomb and the Medic followed him. The Engineer watched them go.
“Hell, we ain’t half bad after all.” He said quietly. A second later a flash of pain and then ice crept up the Engineer’s spine, and a pained gasp escaped him.
“I beg to differ.” The RED Spy murmured, a smirk plastered on his face. The Engineer collapsed on his teleporter, butterfly knife sticking out of his back. The RED Spy rolled the man’s body off the device and attached a sapper to it before disappearing completely.
The Engineer came out of spawn a little humbled, but no less ready to work. Spies, as the Sniper so eloquently, happened. He was also relieved that his trip through respawn had felt normal, and that he’d come at a normal time. It seemed that all the problems that the machine had been having had fixed themselves. He checked his body for knife wounds, found none, then started to leave spawn.
“Holy hell, doc, where were you on that one?”
“Oh novhere, just getting my face stabbed in.”
The Engineer glanced behind him and sighed as he saw the Medic and the Soldier coming out of the spawn room. Things always went this way. At least, the optimist that lived in him said, we managed to get out of spawn this week.
“Watch out, fellahs. That RED Spy’s feelin’ mean today.” He said to the Medic and Soldier. The Medic sighed and turned to send a nasty glare at the Soldier.
“It does not matter, Herr Engineer! Apparently taking care of ze man zhat heals you is too much to ask!”
“Oh, I am so sorry, sister! How about you sit down and pee while I call you a waambulance?”
“How about you don’t rocket jump out of my Uber?”
“How ‘bout you shut up?”
“How ‘bout you two idiots get yer asses to the god damn front lines!” The Engineer snapped, looking up from the teleporter entrance he was setting up. The Medic and the Soldier stopped arguing and stared at the Engineer, mouths hanging open slightly. The Engineer blinked, a little surprised at himself.
“I…I’m sorry, fellahs, I just—“
“Nein, Sie haben recht.” The Medic said. “Ich bin wirklich mude zu verlieren.”
“I hope what you said is ‘yes sir,’ Fritz! Let’s get a move on!” The Soldier said, shaking his head slightly and jogging down the track towards the bomb. The Medic cast a look at the Engineer, then jogged off after the Soldier. The Engineer sighed. His head still hurt, which he attributed to the lack of sleep. He shook off the feeling, though, and continued upgrading the teleporter, this time watching his back for the RED Spy.
The battle went better than their previous ones had for a while. Then they reached the second choke point. It seemed that the RED Spy, Sniper and Demoman had teamed up to make a devastating combination that kept the Engineer’s buildings down. The Medic had lost three Ubers, and the even the poor Heavy was afraid to leave the spawn.
“Ladies, what in the hell are you doing? We have a job to do!” The Soldier snapped when he saw the Engineer, Medic and Heavy lingering in spawn.
“What is point?” The Heavy asked sadly. “Sniper and Spy have killed so many times.”
“God damn—“ The Engineer groaned and nodded, hand over his eyes. The Medic sighed and lifted his medigun.
“Alright, Herr Soldat.” He said, eyes empty. The Soldier observed the three men and slipped his shotgun into his belt.
“God damn it, ladies, this is why we keep losing! Did America quit when the British put taxes on American flags? No, we teabagged them into submission! Did the Allies quit when Hitler held the grandest ball the world has ever seen and did not invite them? Hell no! They put on a fabulous dress and crashed that party so hard that the Germans ran into the bathroom and stayed there crying for the rest of the god damned night! Did the South quit when it was obvious that they were going to lose the Civil War? Yes! But that is not the point. The point is that we are not the South and we look so much better than those goddamned Nazis that we are going to steal each and every one of their boy friends do you understand me?”
The three men stared at the Soldier, open-mouthed.
“Uh…” The Engineer began. The Soldier cut him off.
“Good! Go go go!”
They grudgingly followed him out of spawn, and the Heavy looked down at the Engineer.
“Clearly failed history.”
“Aye, lads, good tae see ya!” The Demoman came running up to them, panting slightly. “’Ve got a weakness in thayr right flank, if yeh’ll follow me.” He said. The Soldier frowned at him for a second, then nodded.
“Which way, private?”
“Take ye right o’er tha’ ridge there, an’—“
“Demo, that’ll lead us right into that RED Sniper’s view.”
“Ach, Spy’ll take carea him.”
The Soldier and Engineer went still.
“You’ve seen Spy?” The Engineer asked. Usually the Spy would stop by his dispenser and complain a little before heading off into the fray, but the Spy hadn’t been to see him all battle, so he had assumed the man simply hadn’t shown up.
The Demoman nodded.
“With me own eye, lad.”
“Where is he, then?” The Soldier asked, looking around. He lifted his helmet for a second, winced, then closed his eyes. After a second he shot the Demoman a vicious glare then dropped his helmet. The Demoman rolled his eye and sighed.
“I dinnae, lads, he’s a bloody Spy. Yeh never know where they are. C’mon!”
They followed the Demoman to the ridge, but before the man could lead them over the top, the Soldier grabbed him by the back of his blast suit and threw him to the ground.
“Soldier—what in the bloody hell—“
The Soldier stomped on the man’s chest, effectively knocking the wind out of him. The Demoman wheezed, tears of pain springing into his eyes.
“You are not our Demoman.” The Soldier said. “You are a Spy.”
“Lad, please. Ya dinnae wanna be shootin’ yer team again!” The Demo pleaded breathlessly, wrapping his hands around the Soldier’s calf and pushing against him. The Engineer stepped over to the Soldier’s side.
“He don’t look like a Spy.” He said. The Soldier reached for his shotgun.
“Of course he does not look like a Spy! He is, though.” The Soldier growled. The Medic glanced at the Heavy and rolled his eyes. The Heavy touched the Soldier’s shoulder.
“How does Soldier know?”
“I—“ The Soldier looked at them and bit his lip.
“I just do. Trust me.” He finally said, stomping on the Demoman’s chest again to keep the man weak.
“Last time we trusted you, we ended up with a headless Spy and seven weeks of paperwork.” The Engineer muttered.
“I did not know that respawn was not on! It is on, yes?”
“Well, yeah, but Soldier, we can’t go around shootin—“
The Soldier didn’t wait for the Engineer to finish his sentence. He pulled his shotgun from his belt and blew the Demoman’s head off. To the team’s amazement, the man’s headless body shimmered, then became that of the RED Spy’s.
“Oh.” The Engineer said. “How in the heck…”
“Lucky guess.” The Medic said quietly, looking at the Soldier, who was chuckling.
“Vasn’t it, Herr Soldat?” The gleam was back in his eyes, though, and the Heavy glanced from the Medic to the Soldier, realizing that the Medic knew something that he wasn’t telling anyone else.
The real Demoman came staggering over to them, covered in blood. He was bruised and bloody, and there were several larges gashes on his body that could only come from the Eyelander that the RED Demoman possessed. The Medic stiffened and immediately directed his medigun to the Demoman.
“Where the hell were ye?” The man moaned, collapsing now that he knew he was safe. “I was pushin’ th’ cart all by me lonesome. An’ I get around th’ corner, an was’ watin fer me? Noothin’ but alla bloody RED! I barely got away with me life an’ I find you ninnies chattin’ away like ‘s some social picnic!”
The Soldier did not appear to hear the Demoman’s complaints. A deep frown appeared on his face, and after a second of deep thought, he snapped his fingers.
“Ladies, I have the solution to all of our problems! Let’s move!” He exclaimed, jogging off. The rest of the men followed him, excluding the Medic, who helped the Demoman up and examined him a little.
“Demo…your wounds…” He murmured. The wounds had healed quickly, thanks to the medigun, but tiny scars could be seen until a man went through respawn. The Demoman only possessed slashes from the Eyelander. No bullet wounds were to be found, not even in places where bullets had clearly pierced the man’s clothing.
“Aye, thanks doc.” The Demoman murmured, not appearing to have heard the Medic. “It don’ matter, though. ‘M too bloody sober to aim.”
“Perhaps your blood is just more alcohol than blood.” The Medic said dryly. The Demoman glared at him, then sighed. He picked up his grenade launcher from where he had dropped it when he had collapsed and reloaded it.
“Well, I ain’t about tae get fired o’er a little soberness.” He said. “Are ye with me, Doc?”
“As much as I can be with a man who claims to see ghosts and zhat a sword can speak.”
“Go ta hell!” The Demo said. With a Medic at his back, however, he felt a bit more cheerful and a little more like his usual self, even if he was stone-cold sober.
The tide turned in their favor after that. Perhaps it was God smiling down upon them, or perhaps it was the fact that RED seemed to have fallen into the role that BLU usually played on the battlefield—the dysfunctional, abusive family. It was strange to see the RED Heavy fail to defend his Medic as he attacked a Soldier, or for the RED Engineer to be so absent-minded as to put his sentry out in the open.
Ultimately, BLU did not win the battle, but something extraordinary happened in the locker room anyway that night. The BLU team spoke to one another. Usually after-battle talk was off-limits, save for insults, but today the Soldier refused to shut up about the RED team’s very poor tactical choices.
“And what kind of Engineer plants his sentry where a Pyro can corner it? Right Engie? Right?”
“Right.” The man growled, putting his toolbox down on the bench. His headache had only gotten worse as the day had gone on, and though the RED Spy had stopped bothering him after the Soldier had mysteriously figured out every RED tactic there was in the book, he still hadn’t had the best battle.
“Herr Soldat, if you vould stop by my office after dinner? Ich mochte mit Ihnen sprechen, bitte.” The Medic asked the Soldier, sending him a smile. The Heavy’s eyebrows shot up, and he glanced at the Soldier, who nodded and strapped his helmet on his head.
“Health inspection, doc?” He asked gruffly, glancing at the Medic. The man shrugged.
“Vhateveh vill get you to my office.” He said. The Soldier stuck out his lower lip in what almost looked like a pout, ran his fingers along the tip of his helmet, then sighed and put his arm down. He shot the Medic a sharp look.
“God help you if I find that you are lying, fritz.”
“I vouldn’t dream of it.” The Medic murmured, stripping of his blue work gloves. He was smiling and humming to himself, and his eyes possessed that glint that made a shiver pass down the Heavy’s spine. The Medic was a good man, in his own strange way, but oftentimes he did not consider the feelings of others and became wrapped up in his own pursuits. The Heavy trusted the Medic to a certain extent, and even thought of him as a good friend, and he was most certainly no coward, but still…
Sometimes his doctor scared him a little.
The Administrator glared down at the screen in front of her and took a drag from her cigarette. BLU team was doing a truly horrible job this month, and she was considering just executing the entire team and putting some of those salvaged robots in their place. She wouldn’t do it, though, because it was plain and simply too expensive. She had already been forced to call in favors from some of her more dangerous connections this month anyway because of a nasty investigation that the justice department had initiated. She needed to replace a few more of the higher-ups there with idiots, which were a dime a dozen. Finding idiotic cowards, though, was another story. Idiots were often too stupid to know when to turn tail and just let a woman and her multi-billion dollar industry lie.
The Administrator pulled her eyes from the screen and turned to look at her assistant, who had just shuffled in the door.
“Yes, Miss Pauling?” She asked. “I thought I sent you out to fetch some more cigarettes.”
The young woman bit her lip and shifted her weight from her left side to her right. The Administrator withheld a groan. That was never good.
“Ah, I think you will find this more important, ma’am.” Miss Pauling said, offering one of the many manila folders from the stack she had pressed against her chest.
“What is this?”
“It’s…It’s an initial distress signal sent out from the BLU team’s respawn machine section at Thunder Mountain.” Miss Pauling said quickly. She quickly busied herself with setting the files down on a small desk at the back of the observation room so that she would be able to avoid the worst of her boss’s wrath.
The Administrator glared at the folder and pursed her lips, willing it to burst into flames. It was insolent enough not to. This was just perfect. All she needed was for a respawn machine to break down. The machines were getting old anyway, and the newest computers moved almost four times as quickly as the old ones did. She was in the process of updating the central unit, but she was having a hard time with an old scientist who still had morals. She couldn’t kill the man because he knew too much information vital to the project that no one else knew, and she couldn’t buy him out. She had tried. He was also all alone in the world, his wife having died ten years ago, and his family long dead before that.
Goddamn upright citizens. The Administrator opened the folder and pulled out a few sheets of printer paper with lines of what looked like absolute gibberish printed on them.
“This is a distress signal?”
“Yes, I believe it is. The engineers down in the lab told me so.”
“And you’re going to believe those eggheads?”
Miss Pauling hesitated. There was no winning when the Administrator was upset, so she simply gave up being diplomatic. She stood up straight, took a breath, then locked her knees to keep them from shaking.
“Well, ma’am, you could simply see for yourself if the BLU team’s respawn has been acting odd.”
The Administrator gave her a scathing look and took a drag from the cigarette that had been smoldering in the overused ashtray she kept on her control console. When she was sure that she had scared the living daylights out of her assistant, she turned back to the console and scrolled through some of the tapes of the last few battles. To her surprise, she could see the men of BLU team running out of their spawn with wounds already on their bodies. She glanced at the date on the tape and scowled.
“Miss Pauling, this tape is from Friday.”
“What day is it?”
Miss Pauling cringed.
The Administrator swiveled around in her chair and glared at Miss Pauling.
“So why wasn’t I informed of this until now?”
“W-Well, we have reason to believe that the BLU Engineer er…tampered with the…ah…with the respawn machine.”
“So he’s behind the problem? Have him killed at once.”
“No, ma’am, what happened was beyond anyone’s control, the engineers say. Some kind of powerful electric surge crashed the BLU mainframe, and he tried to fix it, but that only delayed our reception of the signal.”
“So kill him for being incompetent.”
The Administrator sighed and rolled her eyes. She knew she was being unreasonable, sentencing one of her men to death for something that honestly wasn’t his fault, but for all intents and purposes, the Engineer was a pain. He was intelligent, and though he was happy working for her without any questions about why, he was still much too concerned with the how. Miss Administrator, how can we come back from the dead? Miss Administrator, how can Pyro use a compressed airblast to reflect an arrow? Miss Administrator, how can we not die immediately from a shot to the heart?
How could I not execute you for being a thorn in my side?
Of course, she had not killed the BLU Spy, either, who was the nosiest man she had ever met. Even nosier than RED. BLU was dangerous, because he was charming and good-looking to boot. He lacked empathy and was incredibly selfish, like a good mercenary should be, but he was never happy with just the information he was supposed to have. She had been forced to lay a fake trail of intelligence simply for him, and another (though much less through) trail for the RED Spy so that they would keep their large noses out of her business.
She should have hired another crazy in the Engineer’s place, like the Medic. The man was brilliant, but he didn’t care one way or the other about ‘how.’ He simply accepted and enjoyed the fact that he was able to cut people open and play with their organs.
But, ever since Congress had come down on her and Mann Co. for advertising (successfully) the job of a mercenary in the place of going to fight in the Vietnam War, mercenaries had been harder to come by. All sorts of hoops had to be lept through, and apparently the youth of America were more concerned with soda fountains and sock hops and radio shows than bloody glory.
“Alright, don’t kill him. Transfer the teams somewhere else and fix the machine.” She said. Miss Pauling nodded.
“And Miss Pauling?”
“You are much too easy-going on these men. They are trained murderers. And idiots, at that.”
“Yes ma’am. Sorry ma’am.”
The Administrator tuned back to the screen and began to look over the tapes again. She would figure out what had truly happened—scientists were the most untrustworthy people on the planet. She didn’t even trust them to maintain the gigantic computer in the basement of this building, much less tell the truth about a distress signal sent by some machine that they had claimed had been completely obsolete for over two years.
The Engineer had seen the pictures, and he really didn’t think that the Scout’s mother was being held hostage at all.
I laughed out loud.
You are doing a good job at adding a little bit of pepper to the story. The peculiar discovery in the Scout's room and the battle did add some motion to the story. Of course, I love seeing the Administrator and Miss Pauling keeping tabs on the situation. Keep twisting the knife, and you will hold the audience's attention.
Just keep an eye on your typos and watch out for homophones. Also, it felt like the Sniper dropped out of combat somewhere in that last battle. Or, was that intentional?
If you are looking for sheer traffic, then perhaps it wouldn't hurt for you to cross post on FF.Net or Tumblr. However, I doubt you will get the same level of scrutiny there as you would here.
I just started reading this and I'm enjoying it. Very interested in seeing what happens to the rest of the team.
DF, you're a star. I'm glad someone is laughing at at least one of the terrible jokes that I've loaded this story with. And, yeah, Sniper did drop out of the battle there for a while. This was partially a plot thing, but now that I think about it, I suppose I could have included him a bit without giving too much of anything away, and for that I'm sorry. We won't be seeing too much of him for a little longer (through this update for sure and maybe the first part of the next), but that is definitely intentional and will be explained.
And I tend to see the typos (and homophones) just after I post. Which drives me mad, because I do (believe it or not) proofread this. Hopefully I caught all the typos here (because I read this thing over completely, like, three times), but if not, hell, I'm sorry. Thanks for the notes.
Also, thank you for the site recommendations. I never thought of Tumblr, because I thought it was mostly a political site.
Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying the story. I hope I don't disappoint you/scare you off with these ridiculous rambling author comments and my obnoxious jokes or with the story itself.
Okay, story time. Oh, and please feel welcome to leave criticism. It will be very appreciated.
“You are being transferred. The train will arrive in an hour and depart at precisely half past four. If you are not on it, your contract—and you—will be terminated.”
The Soldier jerked out of sleep, sitting bolt upright at the sound of the Administrator’s voice. He squinted at the watch nailed to his wall for a second before realizing that it was dark and he couldn’t see the time until he turned the lights on. (As he did every morning for his 4 AM wakeup call). When he did so, he tilted his head as he read the time on the watch.
“Huh.” He breathed. Guess it was time to wake everyone up.
“Who in the hell transfers somebody at three in da fuckin’ mornin’?” The Scout moaned from the Heavy’s arms as the rest of the team began loading their supplies and weapons into the train. The Heavy shook him slightly.
“Leetle baby man should shut up and be glad he does not have to crawl to train.” He growled. The Scout actually complied, curling up into a ball. The Sniper glanced at them.
“Heh.” He snickered. The Heavy shot the Sniper a glare.
“What is funny?”
“Nothin’, mate. Just wonderin’ when the weddin’ is.”
The Sniper was lucky that the Heavy would have been required to drop the Scout in order to attack him. The night was cold, and a crescent moon peeked out from behind the clouds, randomly filling the area around the train station with a weak chalky glow. Supply crates and personal baggage (including a birdcage that the Medic had lovingly shoved his doves into) crowded the small concrete platform as the mercenaries who were able-bodied haphazardly tossed everything they could grab into one of the two boxcars they were graced with.
“Alright, men, is everything loaded?” The Soldier barked, looking around at the BLU team. His modified helmet gleamed in the cold floodlights of the station, and the rest of BLU found that they had to squint every time the Soldier moved his head.
“Onetwothreefour…” The Soldier stopped. “Where is Spy?”
The Engineer blinked. Was Spy still not here?
“You guys got my comic books, right?”
“Shut up Scout, yes.” The Medic grumbled, rubbing his eyes. He was starving, but apparently they didn’t have time to load or even grab food. “And now ve are missing Spy.”
“Mrrmr mrt!” The Pyro said. “Mrrs mrn mr trn mlrdy.”
“He is?” The Medic asked. “Vell zen vhy didn’t he help us, zat lazy, no good, French—“
“Alright, doc, I am the only one allowed to make country-related insults around here. It is in my contract!”
The Engineer stopped loading his gear and stared at the Soldier.
The Soldier nodded.
The Medic snorted.
“Zhat explains a lot.”
“Shut your face, Fritz!”
“Is time to load train now? Scout is slippery. And heavy.” The Heavy said, holding the boy as far away from his body as he could.
“Hey, man fuck…fuck you. I’ll show you slippery, you—ugh—ow…”
“How could he be heavy? He don’t weigh more than a sacka rice.” The Sniper asked. The Heavy shrugged.
“Hey, wait, where’s Demo?” The Soldier asked, looking around for the Cyclops. “We didn’t forget him, did we?”
“He vas just here.” The Medic said, stacking up several crates on top of one another and loading them into the train. The Sniper stared at the Medic.
“Uh…doc, what’s in those crates?” He asked. The Medic shrugged.
“Ich Weiss nicht. Vielleicht Hüte? Sie sind nicht schwere.”
“He said hats, you ignorant Australian!” The Soldier barked. The Medic rolled his eyes. The Soldier hardly knew more German than the Sniper, but any opportunity that the Soldier had to show the man up and call him ignorant, he would.
“Gosh dangit Demo, help us out!” The Engineer’s voice came from a dark area about forty feet down the train.
“I dun’ want tae! They might ’s well just kill me. Wha’ good ‘sa Black Scottish Cyclops who cannae e’en aim a grenade, huh?”
The team groaned collectively. On top of them having to load up all their stuff at three in the morning, Demo was having a breakdown. For the second time in that 24-hour period.
“Demo, come on. Yer lotsa good. Ya…well, ya helped us today.” The Engineer tried.
“Nae I didn’.” The Demoman wailed. “I was bleedin’ useless like the Scout.”
The Scout was not in too much pain to ignore this.
“Hey, did he say my name? Fuck you Demo.”
“Scout, ya ain’t helpin’!” The Engineer called over his shoulder. The Demoman sniffled and put his head between his legs.
“Jus’ leave me here ta die.” He moaned. The Engineer’s patience ran out.
“Alright. Fine.” He said. “Solly, do me a favor?”
“Help me drag Demo’s sober ass into the train and tie him down.”
“Because he says he wants ta stay here and die.”
“…Huh. Why not let him?”
“What? Why?” The Soldier didn’t wait for an answer, though, and he dropped the crates he’d been loading and jogged over the Engineer and Demoman. He tilted his helmet up, then cringed.
“Jesus Christ, Demo!” He swore. “How do you get out of bed in the morning?”
The Demoman’s reply was to break his empty scrumpy bottle (he’d been carrying it around despite its ineffectiveness, hoping that holding it would have the same effect as drinking out of it) against the side of the train and threaten the Engineer and Soldier with it.
“If ye try an’ take me, I’ll slash the eyes outta yer heads!” He growled. The Soldier and Engineer exchanged a look, then the Soldier barked,
“God damn you Solly!” The Engineer groaned. He took the electrical cord from his belt and looked at the Soldier.
“You got his feet?”
The Medic wished he could have seen the struggle. The Demoman was quite strong, considering that he ran around with more armor (about fifty pounds, if he wasn’t mistaken) than anyone else, except for maybe the Pyro. Still, he didn’t stand much of a chance against both the Engineer and Soldier. There was a lot of swearing and a lot of sobbing, but finally the Soldier and Engineer emerged from the darkness carrying Demo between them.
“I fookin’ hate ye all.” The man moaned, struggling weakly.
“We hate you too, Demo.” The Soldier said cheerfully, spitting out some blood and grinning. The Engineer said nothing, though his forehead had a nasty gash that was bleeding profusely. They loaded the man into one of the passenger cars, and the Heavy took that as his cue to put the Scout in the train as well.
“Heavy. Man…’m hungry.” The Scout groaned. The Heavy sighed.
“Heavy is not leetle man’s babysitter.”
“Worst babysitter evah.”
“When leetle man is better, I am going to crush skull.”
“Bring it, man.”
The Heavy put the Scout in the compartment the Soldier and the Engineer had unceremoniously shoved the Demoman into.
“Aw, man, don’t leave me in here with him! He smells like booze an’ death.” The Scout whined. The Heavy shrugged.
“I am bad babysitter.” He said before exiting the compartment.
“Aw, man, I didn’t mean it! Come on, you big girl!” The Scout called after him. He tried to sit up and cried out in pain.
“I dinnae smell like booze. Haven’t had a drink in o’er…an hour.” The Demo mumbled from the floor. “Still not drunk, though.”
He said it like his best friend had just died.
“Man…” The Scout moaned, staring at the compartment’s ceiling.
The Heavy rejoined the other men and helped them finish loading the train. The Pyro, who was notorious for hoarding useless junk that he always fought tooth-and-nail to keep with him, was fighting with the Soldier over a box of what looked like pantyhose.
“I do not even know where you got these, private, but you would do well to remove them from our vicinity!”
“Frrk rrf! Mrr Mrrn!” The Pyro growled, tugging on the box. The Soldier pulled the box out of the Pyro’s arms and kicked the little firebug into one of the lamp poles. In the same second, a shock rocked through the Soldier’s body, and he tumbled backwards. The Pyro hit the light pole and the floodlight’s bulbs did not so much go out as explode. Glass and sparks rained down around the Pyro’s hunched form, and the Soldier quickly picked himself up, shaken. That was unusual. Floodlights didn’t usually explode when you kicked people into them.
“Soldat, just let him take it.” The Medic growled, snatching the box out of the Soldier’s hands.
“I do not think so, sister—“
The Medic turned and gave the Soldier a glare that could melt lead.
“It’s three in ze morning, Herr Soldat. I zhink I can do vhatever ze hell I please.” He said. The Soldier stared at him for a second, then decided that decking the Medic as well probably wasn’t worth it.
“Alright, fine.” He muttered. “But do not think that I will go so easy on you next time!”
“Pff yeah, you let doc get away with anythin’ and you know it.” The Sniper chuckled. This turned out to be a mistake, as the Soldier was not carrying a sick teammate.
“Holy chroist!” The Sniper barely managed to dodge the all-too-familiar blade of the Soldier’s shovel. The Medic groaned and put the box of pantyhose in the boxcar. He then bent down to pick up another crate, but the Heavy stopped him.
“Doktor, box has spare parts for Sasha. Is too heavy.”
The Medic gave him a look.
“I am strong, Heavy. Do not treat me like a delicate little lady.”
“Last time you said, you threw out back.”
The Medic glared at him.
“Et tu, mein freund?” He muttered, picking up the crate with little effort and putting it in the boxcar. The Heavy blinked, then scratched his head. He could have sworn that the parts for Sasha were in there.
The Sniper gave a sharp yelp as the Soldier finally hit home with his shovel. Blood blossomed forth from a deep gash on his left arm. The Soldier took the Sniper’s moment of weakness to hit him across the face with the broad side of the blade and knock him to the ground.
“Yeah, that’s right, sissy, keep crying!” The Soldier growled, grabbing the man by his collar and jerking him up.
“Soldier!” The Engineer, who had gone to help the Pyro up, saw what was happening on the other side of the platform.
“What?” The Soldier replied, glancing over his shoulder. This was all the Sniper needed. He shoved the Soldier off of him and stumbled over to the Engineer, whom he figured would protect him until he was steady enough to beat the hell out of the Soldier. (Which he would do. For sure. Even though the Soldier weighed around two hundred pounds.)
“Don’t beat up yer own team!” The Engineer snapped. “Kickin’ Pyro, beatin’ up Sniper. What’s wrong with you?”
The Soldier stuck his lower lip out in what was most certainly not a pout.
“He questioned my authority!” He grumbled, crossing his arms.
The Sniper balked.
“Woah, wait, you’re just gonna let that go? He gashed me arm and my face!”
The Engineer elbowed him.
“Tryin’ ta negotiate here, boy, and if you keep diggin’ yerself a deeper hole, then I ain’t gonna fight fer an idiot.” He raised his voice. “Solly, lookat Pyro. He’s all shook up. And you know he didn’t do nothin’.”
The Soldier’s scowl cracked.
“Heh. All shook up.” He chuckled to himself. He looked at the trio for a second, then turned away, going to help the Medic and the Heavy load the last of the supplies. The Engineer blinked.
“That worked.” He said. “But I’m not sure why.”
The Sniper tore the remainder of his sleeve off and wrapped it around his bleeding arm, muttering obscenities and about how he hoped that Soldier would disappear again and not come back, because he certainly wouldn’t waste any time looking for the bastard.
“Come on, slim, shoulda known better.” The Engineer said. “He don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
The Sniper shrugged
“Goin’ ta get me van. Anya you wanna ride with me?” He called, glancing around. “I mean, ‘sides the Soldier, ‘course.”
“Just what I would expect from an Australian!” The Soldier’s voice was a bit muffled from inside the boxcar.
“You slashed me arm open!” The Sniper snapped back. The Soldier stuck his head out of the boxcar and opened his mouth.
“Solder, shut up.” The Medic groaned, shoving another crate into the boxcar and hitting the Soldier in the shin from the sound of the man’s muffled curses. “Ich kann nicht Sie glauben…”
“Mrrf?” The Pyro poked the Sniper in his side. The man turned and looked at the Pyro, eyes wide.
“You…you wanna ride? With me, mate?” He asked, trying to keep his voice steady and failing. The Engineer tried his best to hold back a snort.
“Heh. Sure Pyro, Sniper’d love ta ride with you. I mean, we’re only a good two hundred an’ fifty miles from Hoodoo.” He said. The Sniper glared at the Engineer.
“Bloody yank.” He growled. The Engineer shrugged and put his gloved hand on the Pyro’s shoulder.
“I mean, what’s he gonna do, set yer van on fire?”
“He might, actually. Don’t let him get too bored.”
“Rr crrn hrr ur, urro.” The Pyro said, glancing back and forth between the Engineer and Sniper. “Rrm nrrt rr chldf—rrr!” And then he was gone, having spotted a colourful piece of fabric sticking out of one of the crates. The Sniper sighed.
“If me van burns, truckie, you’re gonna pay.”
“Fine. You have my word that it won’t go up in flames.”
The train whistle shattered the relatively peaceful night air, and the Pyro took that as his cue to head back over to the Sniper.
“Lrs gr.” He said. The Sniper stared at the flower-patterned cloth that the Pyro had promptly made into an ascot and sighed again.
“Alright.” He muttered, glancing at the Engineer, who promptly busied himself with something in his toolbelt. The Sniper and Pyro headed off towards the BLU base, leaving the other members of their team behind to scramble onto the train before it left the station. The Sniper tried to keep at least an arm’s length from the Pyro, but failed miserably as the little freak attacked him with a hug.
The Engineer watched them go and chuckled slightly before climbing onto the train. He found a compartment with the Medic and Heavy.
“Doc, have you ever done some kind of test ‘r somethin’ ta explain why there’s such a discrepancy between Pyro’s behavior on and off the battlefield?” He asked the man, sitting down next to the Heavy, who was leafing through a ragged book. The Engineer squinted at what he thought was the title.
“Radishchev?” He asked. The Heavy stopped rifling through the book and looked at the Engineer.
“You know Russian?” He asked.
“Not really. Can read cryllic, though. Don’t understand a word, and it’s proally all mispronounced, but I can still read it off into its phonetics.” The Engineer said mildly. The Heavy relaxed, then went back to rifling through the book. The Medic, who had been murmuring to his doves in German, shrugged and looked at the Engineer.
“About ze Pyro, Engineer, not really. Zhough…I do know somezhing about him zat would shock and amaze you all.”
“Cute.” The Engineer said, rolling his eyes. The Medic grinned at the Engineer and Heavy. The man was a bit happier now that he had gotten his hands on a supply crate and had a small pile of rations next to him that he was currently tearing through.
“Vhat, so you’re telling me zat you’ve never vondered vhat’s under ze suit?”
The Engineer snorted.
“Like you would know. Boy don’t e’en take his suit off fer sleepin’, an’ I don’ think I e’er seen him shower.”
“Oh, I know vhat’s zhere. I am just not telling.” The Medic said, mouth turned up in a smug grin. The Engineer shook his head, disbelieving him.
“Does not matter.” The Heavy rumbled. The Engineer and Medic turned to look at him.
“Pyro is still…Pyro. No matter what it is under suit. Now shut up so Heavy can read.”
The Engineer nodded, knowing full well who feared and disliked the Pyro on their team.
Their arrival at Hoodoo was uneventful, and the BLU team was surprised to find that RED hadn’t even gotten a transfer notice yet. At least, this is what the men suspected, because the RED building across the course was void of any activity. The Sniper arrived with the Pyro a day later, and he refused to speak to the Engineer, who supposed that something awful must have happened if the Sniper was so upset that he was acting like a woman. He asked the Pyro about it, but the little firebug was unwilling to talk as well, simply taking his weapons and boxes of odds and ends and claiming an empty room as his own. The rest of the team was unsettled by their sudden and unexplained move as well. RED didn’t show up for a good day after they did, and they arrived in the late afternoon, meaning that they hadn’t had a three AM wakeup call.
The Scout, who was still in excruciating pain, no matter how much the Medic poked and prodded him and sent him through respawn, cried foul. Everyone who heard him silently agreed. It was probably some sort of punishment for losing so much, they thought. If sailors thought that the sea was a harsh mistress, well, they’d never worked for the Administrator. The Spy was still nowhere to be found, and the Sniper was disappearing for hours on end, too, which wouldn’t be unusual except for the fact that the man wasn’t escaping to his usual hiding places, only showing up for battle in the early hours of the blistering day.
Hoodoo was dry. Not dry like 2fort dry, or dry like Gravel Pit (which could leave a man coated in white dust). Hoodoo’s lack of moisture was distinctly different from the other parched wastelands they fought in. Here, when one kicked the ground, not even dust had the spirit to spring up. The earth was hard, either red clay or red rock, and as comforting as cement when you fell. The wind blew nonstop among the cliffs and pyres that coated the area. Though this gave a newcomer the illusion of relief, there was no cool air for miles around, so even the wind was hot, blasting a man and cooking him in his own skin. During the noon hour, if you were too stupid or drunk to keep in the shade, it would be like standing in a furnace.
So, yes. Hoodoo was different. When a man spent a lot of time out in the desert, he began to identify just how many awful different degrees of hellish dryness there were. The Demoman knew this, having come from a land where some sort of moisture was always present despite the weather. It had probably been the hardest part of the job for him, coming from Scotland to this hellhole part of America. He had brought his best friend along, though, and it had made the transition easier. Sometimes the heat didn’t even affect him because he was so drunk, leaving him able to work all hours of the day. (Admittedly, this had gotten him locked up in the Medic’s office once or twice because he’d been using Scrumpy as his only water source, but the Demoman was prone to ignoring those incidents.) Now, though, his only and most faithful friend had abandoned him, and the Demoman was left to deal with not only the harsh world of reality, but the reality that most of the harsh world wasn’t like Scotland, and that this part of that same nasty world was probably as far away from the misty highlands as you could get.
“Bleedin’ sun.” He mumbled to himself, rubbing his eyes. It turned out that the world was a lot darker, too, when not seen through the hazed vision of his scrumpy. In this new light his aim was awful. It turned out that, along with a lot of his courage and self-confidence, Scrumpy had taken his accuracy and steady hands as well when it left him.
“Oop. Watch it, buddy, Sniper’s aimin’ fer ya.” The Engineer rushed past him and the Demoman blinked.
That’s right. They were fighting. He ducked into the building and leaned against the wall as his head spun. It wasn’t fair. The world was too stable, too solid, too real without the comfort of alcohol. The worst part of this whole dry spell was his team’s reaction to his depression. The Demoman had always known that he wasn’t the most popular fellow on the team, but to have his sheer misery brushed off as if it were nothing by the others hurt. Even the Soldier was too distracted with his own business to comfort him with a game of cards.
What did it matter? No one cared about him anyway. No one had even listened to him when he’d told them that he couldn’t get drunk. “It’s all in your head, Demo” “stop bugging me, Demo” “If you’re not drunk then why the hell are you throwing up on my shoes, Demo.”
“Demo, bitte, Ich brauche Sie jeszt! Laufen Sie!” The Medic shouted at him, having abandoned his usual position of healing in a last-ditch effort to move the cart. The Demoman pushed himself up off the wall and shook his head at the Medic.
“Why should I do anythin’ fer ye? Nonaya e’er…” But he trailed off. Again, there was no point. He could probably go missing and no one would even notice. Maybe he’d hang himself. That thought made him feel a bit better. The idea of suicide was still a comfort. Of course, he’d have to figure out how to pull himself out of respawn, but, as his mum said, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way to die in a fiery explosion.’ He jogged over to the cart and pushed it with the Medic, not hearing the “danke” through his misery. The battle that day had been terrible, to say the least. Even Soldier’s magic knowledge of RED team tactics hadn’t gotten them far.
“Engineer!” The Medic exclaimed. “Engie! Kommen Sie heir!”
“Dang it boy, I’m comin—“ The trademark crack of a sniper rifle pierced the parched air and the Engineer collapsed, a neat little hole in the center of his helmet.
“Agh, Scheisse.” The Medic growled. He was badly beaten up, and, to his misfortune, his medipack had been broken by the RED Pyro’s axe, meaning that the thing wasn’t healing him. He had a large wound in his side, and his left leg was no longer working properly. The Soldier came sprinting up to the cart before collapsing on it, depending on the healing rays that emitted from the bomb to fix his broken body for a moment before sliding off and pushing it along with the Demoman and the Medic.
“Demo, we need to get up front and take down that sentry.” He growled. The Demoman blinked.
“I jus’ took one down a bit ago. He ain’t already got a’noter one up, ha’ he?” He asked. The Soldier nodded.
“He has one, maggot! And it is your job to take it down. I would assist you, but someone needs to stand back and protect our doctor.”
The Medic was too badly injured to take offense to the remark.
“Oi, fellahs, you need some help?” The Sniper had come out of whatever spot he’d holed up in most of the battle and had his arms full of medical supplies. The Medic looked like he was about to cry.
“Oh. Sniper, danke.” He said.
“Demo, mate, you need any?” The Sniper asked, looking the Demoman up and down.
“Yeh don’ got any alcohol, do ya?” The Demoman asked bleakly. The Sniper shook his head and the Demoman sighed.
“Alrigh’, lads, Imma do me best.” He said. The Soldier, who had refused medical treatment and continued pushing the cart, sent him a salute.
“Destroy every one of those communist bastards!” He exclaimed. The Demoman took off down the hallway that was in the first building, only to come face-to-face with the RED Heavy. Perhaps his aim had improved, because the monster man went down without inflicting a scratch on him. As the Demoman rounded a corner, he felt a smile curl onto his face. Even if he was feeling terrible, he really did love to blow things up.
His smile faded as he came upon the entirety of RED team.
“Well, howdy, pardner.” The RED Engineer chuckled. The Demoman did nothing but stare at the eight men standing before him. He didn’t stand a chance, even if the Engineer’s sentry gun had been wrangled. Old Scottish highlander instinct boiled up inside of him, though, and he moved to dodge and fired his grenade launcher even as the RED team opened fire. Time seemed to slow down for a second, and the Demoman blinked. He couldn’t even feel the bullets piercing his flesh. That was new. No amount of scrumpy could stop the pain of being shot. It could dull it, sure, but having your flesh torn apart by tiny metal teeth hurt no matter how much alcohol you had in your system.
Four grenades were fired. He had to reload. He still wasn’t dead. The Demoman dove behind a rock and checked himself for wounds. He had none.
The RED Scout had come around the side of the rock pillar and was grinning at him, scattergun pointed right at the Demoman’s chest.
“Dunno how ya survived alla us, but ya ain’t gonna survive this, not aftah the damage you took.”
He pulled the trigger. The gun fired.
And the Demoman felt a slight impact in his chest. He expected to feel the sudden cold, the weakness that came with heart failure, the inability to breathe, but he did not.
The RED Scout stared at him.
“Uh…what…” The boy shook his head and emptied his clip into the Demoman.
Still nothing happened.
“What da hell?” The Scout snapped, pulling his bat out of his belt. The Demoman looked at himself, then up at the Scout, only to have a bat hit him in the face with a much force as a slim 23-year-old could manage. He stumbled back, reeling from the sheer force of the hit, but he was not damaged in any other way.
The RED Scout was officially peeved.
“Okay, you think ya funny, tough guy? Come on!” He snapped, swinging his bat at the Demoman again, The Demoman was prepared for the hit this time, and he barely dodged the bat. He slammed the Scout upside the head with his grenade launcher and knocked the boy to the ground. He pulled his sticky launcher off his belt and fired several sticky bombs around the boy.
“Smile, laddie.” He said, grinning at the dazed Scout and holding up the detonator.
“What da…hell’s wrong wit you?” The Scout asked weakly. “It’ll kill you too, dumbass.”
“Not if me hunch is right, lad.” The Demoman said before detonating the bombs. Instead of exploding as he usually would, the Demoman was thrown back a good fifty feet into the beaten wooden building that the rest of his team was pushing the bomb through. At the moment, though, they had stopped.
The Demoman picked himself up and wiped some remainders of the Scout off of his blast jacket as if becoming invulnerable to any sort of damage happened to him every day. He wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, and not all of the buzz in his chest was from excitement, but he knew that this was an advantage, whatever it was, and what kind of mercenary would he be if he wasn’t going to exploit it for all it was worth?
“Well lads?” He asked, glancing at his team, who had been able to see the entire exchange between him and the Scout.
“How in the hell—” The Engineer, who had joined the push shortly after he’d respawned, started. The Soldier, however, was beaming.
“Attaboy, Demo! Let’s show those RED girl scouts who the men here are!” He exclaimed, hoisting his rocket launcher and rounding the corner, firing at the Engineer and his sentry. The Demoman shrugged and joined the Soldier, effectively destroying the RED Engineer and his sentry before taking on the remainder of the RED team. It was only a matter of time before this new ability wore off, he was sure.
“Okay, so are we just gonna act like that didn’t happen?” The Engineer finally asked after they had finished massacring the RED team.
“Like what did not happen, private?”
“Like Demo didn’t suddenly just become the bleedin’ man o’steel.” The Sniper added, rubbing his eyes. The Medic hadn’t taken his eyes off of the Demoman since he’d gotten into the fight with the RED Scout, and the Heavy had actually picked the Demoman up and shook him, trying to figure out of he was a Spy.
“Och, tis nothin’ lads.” The Demoman said grinning and blushing a little. He knew full well that it was something, and that he was the reason they’d won for the first time in weeks. He and the Soldier had cleaned out every last member of the RED team and effectively kept them at bay while the rest of BLU pushed the bomb to the final point.
“So Demo finally grew balls so big that he became impervious to bullets! I say that you should stop criticizing him and learn from his example! I know I plan to.” The Soldier said, wrapping his arm around the Demoman’s shoulders and shaking him.
“Herr Demo?” The Medic asked.
“My office. As soon as possible. Bitte.” The added please wasn’t really necessary, considering that the Demoman felt that he didn’t have a choice. However, as they filed into the cool locker room, the team’s attention was forcibly shifted to the showers. Water was running, though the hiss was barely audible over screams that unmistakably belonged to the Scout.
“What in God’s name—“ The Soldier was the first into the showers. He stopped, and the Heavy, who had been right behind him, bumped into him.
“Scout? Shut ya bleedin’ yap, you—oh lord.”
The Scout was butt-naked, curled up against the wall, and clearly having some sort of breakdown.
He was half-screaming and half-chattering, rocking back and forth slightly. His eyes were locked on the bloody, curled up copy of himself on the floor.
“Vell. Zhat’s new.” The Medic said. “Did you kill ze enemy Scout? Is it ze RED Spy?”
“Uh…” The Sniper looked at the Scouts, then shut his mouth. The Heavy looked from the shaking Scout to the unresponsive one.
“Yessir.” The Soldier said. “Is the other one dead? Sally?” He went over to the shaking Scout, evidently not caring about getting his clothes wet and shook him a little before hauling off and slapping him across the face. That seemed to knock some reason back into the Scout. He stopped screaming, but refused to take his eyes off of the Scout that lay on the floor.
“Scout. Where did zat ozzah Scout come from?” The Medic asked. The Heavy, getting tired of standing in the showers and watching two naked Scouts do nothing, stepped into the room and poked the bloody Scout in his side. To everyone’s horror, the thing started moving.
“What da hell, man? Can’t a guy take a nap on da shower…floor…” The bloody Scout looked around and then locked his eyes on the Scout.
“Uh…guys, I think we gotta Spy’r somethin.” The bloody Scout said. “And why am I covered in blood? And naked?” He looked up at the Heavy.
“Man, you had bettah not done nothing ta me, or—“
“Wait, this Scout’s a Spy?” The Soldier barked, shaking the Scout that was balled up against the shower wall. The Scout balked, then shook his head, still refusing to look anywhere but at the other Scout.
“No, man, I ain’t a Spy. I ain’t.” He said. The other Scout glared at him.
“So you sayin’ I’m a Spy, buddy? ‘Cause that’s fuckin’ stupid.”
“Man, fuck you! Neithera us ‘r Spies!”
“I am confused.” The Heavy muttered, stepping back as the bloody Scout pushed himself up off the floor.
“You callin’ me a fuckin’ liar?” He asked. The Scout’s lip curled.
“I ain’t callin’ you a truth-tellah. If anyone’s the impostah, it’s you, man.”
“Impostah! I ain’t wearin a mask, you stupid French fairy!”
“I ain’t French! Or a fairy!” The Scout snapped. The two began to circle one another, and the Heavy lost his patience with this whole ridiculous situation. He grabbed the Scouts with surprising speed, one head in each hand, and snapped their necks. Both boys collapsed.
“Jesus, Heavy, that’s—“
“Oi! If you reprimand ‘im ‘bout being violent, Soldier, you can go sod off.” The Sniper said. The Soldier flipped the Sniper the bird and looked at the Scouts.
“Well, I for one do not want to step over dead little girls while I shower. Come on, let’s get them out of here.” He said, grabbing a Scout by the arm and pulling him towards the entrance. The Heavy nodded in agreement, picking up the bloody Scout by his arm as well. As he pulled on the arm, there was a disgusting squelch and the appendage separated from the main body. The Heavy looked at the arm, then down at the Scout.
“Hey, what—“ The Engineer was next to him. “Heavy, drop the arm.”
“Why—“ The Heavy’s eyes widened as the arm and the Scout simultaneously dissolved into a pile of pureed flesh. “Oh!”
From the grin on the Medic’s face, you would have thought that Christmas had come early. As soon as the Scout returned from the spawn room, looking pissed off and much paler than usual, the Medic grabbed the boy.
“Where’s dat son-of-a-bitch!?” The Scout exclaimed. “I’m feelin’ better for da first time in weeks and dat fucker kills me!” He shook the Medic off and stormed up to the Heavy, trying his best to get into the man’s face.
“What da hell, man?”
“Too many Scouts.” The Heavy said simply, pushing the Scout away from him and taking off his body armor. The Demoman, who was trying to sneak out of the locker room, yelped as the Medic grabbed him by the ear. The Scout attempted to shove the Heavy, though the effect was less than impressive.
“I’ll show you too many fuckin’ Scouts! You’ll be seein’ twentya me before I’m through with ya!” He said, thumping his chest with a fist.
“Is right.” The Heavy said after a second. “We promised to fight, da?”
The Scout barely dodged the Heavy’s fist.
“After leetle man is better!” The Heavy laughed. The Scout flushed angrily, colour returning to his face.
“Fuck you! Ya ain’t even takin’ me seriously!”
“Why would he?” The Engineer asked, adjusting his goggles. “Now, Scout, if you don’t mind explainin’ why we found you ass-naked in the shower with a bloody double who just dissolved into pizza sauce?”
“That was not pizza sauce.” The Soldier said. “Least, it didn’t taste like it.”
Even the Medic couldn’t help but make a face at that. The Scout looked around at his team, then sighed.
“Alright. Fine. You guys are freakin’ dicks, ya know dat?”
“Just tell us already.”
“Fine.” The Scout cracked his knuckles and puffed out his chest.
“Well, you all know dat I been experincin’ some…uh…pain. Recently. I know it was probably hard ta tell, but—“
“Yeah, hard to tell if we were blind deaf and dumb!”
“Soldier, shut up!” The Medic hissed. The Scout held up his hands, quickly falling back into the untouchable (self-appointed) Adonis of BLU team.
“But! It turns out dat I remembered somethin’ dis mornin’. I know you guys probably couldn’t tell’r nothin’, sayin’ ‘boy Scout’s so strong and manly and if I was a gal I’d definitely date him’ but I kinda hurt like a bitch. So I crawled down heah to da showahs, ta put some hot water on my legs and back and shit, ‘cause it always helps when I get sore from runnin’ and saving everyone’s asses all day.”
“More like us saving your ass, maggot—“
“Soldier, I swear to god—“
“He is spouting lies!”
“Soldier, shut yer god damn mouth or so help me I will wire it shut!”
If looks could kill, the Engineer would have been the next man to go through the BLU team’s respawn. Still, the Soldier shut his mouth and let the Scout continue.
“Thank you, hardhat. Anyway, I came down heah an’ kinda maybe collapsed on da tile because maybe I couldn’t stand up or move. I think I blacked out a little, too, ‘cause when I woke up, dat otha Scout was layin’ next ta me, all bloody and covered snot an’ shit like some really fuckin’ huge—and very handsome—baby.”
The Engineer pinched the skin between his eyes.
“Alright, so you’re tellin’ me you don’t know how that—that—thing got next to you.”
“Uh…” The Sniper sniffed a bit, then frowned.
“You guys smell that?” He asked suddenly, looking around. The Engineer blinked, then looked at the Sniper.
“Smells like…” The Sniper shook his head. “Smells like fish’r somethin’.”
The Scout waved his hands over his head, attracting the team’s attention yet again.
“Uh, hey, Sniper, no one cares about ya hallucinations. Anyway, yeah, I feel betteh now. And no, I don’t know how dat Scout got in dere. It was probably a respawn fuck-up ‘r sometin’, I dunno.” He said. The Engineer winced at ‘respawn fuck-up,’ though no one took notice. The Medic, who still had the Demoman by his ear, beckoned to the Scout.
“Scout, to my office. Jetzt.” He said. The Scout frowned at the Medic.
“Why?” He asked.
“I must…uhm…examine you. For…uhm…pain. You vere in pain for so long zat it is not normal for you to recover so quickly.” The Medic said. The Scout frowned, trying to think of a way to get out of visiting the doctor, but failed.
“Alright. Fine.” He said. “Just lemmie take dese wraps off first.”
The respawn machine was programmed to send them back as if they were going right into battle, making after-hour deaths especially inconvenient for armored classes. The Medic sighed and turned away, his hand slipping off of the Demoman’s ear and onto his shoulder.
“Let us go, Demo.” He said, pushing the man towards the stairs. The Demoman’s shoulders sagged as they sped up into the main hall of the base.
“Doc, kin I—“
“No. Demo, you know zhat you took enough damage to kill ze Heavy when he is under the influence of the quick-fix, ja? Und now Scout…” The Medic was not looking at him, his icy gaze a thousand miles away.
“Well, I thin’ I twas jus’ a bug—“
“Nein, Demo! Es war nicht ein Fehler! Wissen Sie nichts?” The Medic’s eyes suddenly focused, and his grip on the Demoman’s shoulder tightened as they entered his office. A dove fluttered down from one of the many machines to greet them, landing on the Demoman’s unoccupied shoulder and nipping his ear gently. Stumbling as he was unceremoniously pushed to the observation table, the Demoman turned around and glared at the Medic before sighing and sitting on the steel table.
“I…” The Medic looked him up and down, and the Demoman shivered. He didn’t like that look. That look meant that the Medic was going to do something to him, something that most likely involved sharp metal and extended organ juggling.
“Doc, I’m gonna—“
“Demo, I don’t zhink you know how important zhis is.” The Medic said, putting his hand to his chin. “Here, roll up your shirt.”
The Demoman did not move, staring at the Medic with a strange intensity. The man had gone to one of the lab benches and was preparing a syringe.
“Ya know I don’ like ‘em.” He said, nodding at the needle.
“Ja, ich weiss. Aber…” The Medic muttered. “It is necessary. I cannot keep you here all hours of ze night and day to observe you, and I do not zhink you vould be happy about me following you about. So blood is vhat ve must vork vith.” He said, crossing the room to stand next to the Demoman.
“Sleeve up.” He said, “Or I’ll cut it off.”
The Demoman grudgingly obliged, moving his jumpsuit sleeve up his arm until his elbow joint was exposed.
“Doc, I dinnae really—“ The Demoman swallowed as the needle that the Medic had prepared caught the light from one of the lamps around the operating table. “Doc—“
“Just close your eyes. Zhink about how silly it is to be scared of ein klein Spritze. You go…ah…was ist es…toe-to-toe with ze supernatural where ozzahs vould not dare to go.”
“Aye, but tha’s me job, lad. Onea ‘em, anyway.” The Demoman said weakly, trying not to think about how that vicious little barb would puncture his skin. In fact, if the Medic so chose, he could puncture any part of the Demoman’s body. Even his hand, or his neck, or his eye—
“Agh!” The Medic lept back as the Demoman jerked violently. “Demo.” There was a warning in his voice, and the Demoman sighed and screwed his eye shut.
“Jus’ hurry it up.” He growled, trying to think about explosives. The Medic took his arm.
“Now, zhis might sting a bit.”
The Demoman waited a moment, then opened his eye as he heard a soft snap and the Medic cursing slightly. The needle had broken.
“Ach, es ist nichts. Moment, bitte.” The man growled. He went back to the lab bench and returned with another needle. A thought occurred to the Demoman, and he forced himself to keep his eye open as the Medic again attempted to put the needle in his arm. After a second of pressure, the needle snapped. The Demoman’s face lit up, and he laughed.
“Hah! Take that, ye prick!” He chuckled, amused at his own pun. The Medic, however, chewed his lip.
“Somezhing must vork.” He finally said. He went back to the lab bench and rustled around for a moment. He shooed a few of his doves away from the work area, murmuring unintelligible German to them. After a moment, he returned with a box of increasingly horrifying objects and started with the largest of the group—his bone saw. The Demoman’s eye widened and he slipped off the bench.
“I think I gotta go. That ain’t—“
“You are not going anyvhere.” The Medic said sharply, grabbing him by the back of his blast gear and shoving him against the table. The Demoman’s instinctual reaction to being shoved was to shove the Medic back. The man stumbled and regained his balance, sending a vicious glare at the Demoman.
“Sorry, but I ain’t gonna let ye cut me open fer nae reason.”
“I am not going to cut you open! I just…please…” The Medic chewed his lip again, and the Demoman sighed.
“I swear, if I’m missin’ anythin’ by the end of this, I’ll blow ye and yer stupid birds tae hell.” He growled, getting back up on the examination table. The Medic smiled.
“Zhank you.” He said. He took the Demoman’s dark forearm in his hand and gently dragged the saw across the man’s arm. It was as if the jagged saw had been nothing more than a feather. No evidence was left behind, no laceration or blood or marks of any type. The Medic huffed in frustration and pressed the saw into the Demoman’s skin. The saw itself sank into the Demoman’s arm slightly, but the saw’s teeth again failed to tear the man’s skin, catching on nothing. Sawing the icy steel operating table that the Demoman sat on would have had more of an effect.
“Scheisse.” The Medic growled, rifling through the box. “Das ist nicht gut.”
He tried his vita-saw. His Uber saw. Several other saws that were questionable in their legality. Finally, the man sat down behind his desk and stared at the Demoman from across the room, a dark look etched across his features.
“No! Zhis doesn’t make any sense. Vhy can’t I…” The Medic stared at the Demoman for a second, then blinked.
“Demo, bite yourself.”
“Bite yourself. Open your own skin.”
The Demoman blinked at the Medic.
The Medic groaned.
“Vhen an immovable object meets and unstoppable force, Herr Demoman—“
“They fall in love, aye, I know.” The Demo said, waving his hand at the Medic. The Medic slapped his hand to his forehead.
“No. You idiot.”
“Yeh don’ have tae insult me.”
The Demoman sighed, then put his left wrist to his mouth, taking a piece of the thin skin on the side of his wrist in his teeth and biting down on it. The skin broke with surprising ease, and the Medic rushed to his side, collecting the blood that dripped down the Demoman’s wrist in a small glass vial.
“Ausgezeichnet.” He murmured, screwing a lid onto the vial when he’d filled it about halfway. The Demoman looked as his wrist tilting his head.
“So I cannae be touched by bullets, but I can bite meself?”
“It seems so.”
“That don’t make sense.”
“Vhy do you zhink I am taking zhis blood sample?”
“I dunno!” The Demoman exclaimed, patience with the German wearing thin. He slid off the operating table and shooed one of the Medic’s doves off of his shoulder. The little dove fluttered off, only to land back on the Demoman’s head a moment later. The man shook his head vigorously, only succeeding in dizzying himself.
“Wollen Sie ein Bandagen? Ich habe Haftbombe.” The Medic said, holding up a box of Mann Co. band-aids. The Demoman glowered at him, then wiped his bleeding wrist on his dirty blast gear and staggered out of the lab. He ran into the Scout in the hall, who looked the Demoman up and down.
“Danke, Demo!” The Medic’s voice drifted out of the lab like some sort of morbid echo.
“Did he cut ya open’r anythin?” The Scout asked. The Demoman shook his head and gave the Scout a pained look for show.
“Nah, lad, but I don’ think ‘ll be walkin’ straight fer a week, laddie. Good luck.” He sighed, trying not to grin as he saw the Scout’s eyes grow large.
“Uh…okay. Uh…cool. ‘N stuff.” The Scout said.
“Scout? Is zhat you? Komm hier!”
“Uh…” The Scout sighed, then gritted his teeth and walked through the door. The Demoman couldn’t help but chuckle a little as he walked down the hall. Maybe he would try designing some new explosives tonight.
The winning dialogue this time was:
>“Vhen an immovable object meets and unstoppable force, Herr Demoman—“
>“They fall in love, aye, I know.” The Demo said, waving his hand at the Medic.
The first part of this update felt very dry, but that may be because I am reading this at night and am tired myself. The rest had better pacing.
Always look forward to an update.
Pretty good, but one thing that keeps bothering me is Medic's German. It's not too much trouble to go to Google Translate but it still seems to break the flow and is a little annoying. Other than that, good work!
...I thought Medic speaking in entire German phrases was a sign that he's getting sick, too.
Am I the only one who thinks snipes is acting like a troll? >.> Well, maybe that's just how you write sniper :) Awesome work! This is one story I'll definetly follow!
Medic randomly spitting out German sentences reminds me of the mum of a friend of mine who is Danish. When she's not concentrating she switches to Danish without realizing what she's doing, and you have to tell her she's speaking the wrong language!
Thank you! I’m glad you thought that was funny—in fact, I just recently learned that this phrase is supposed to be a paradox. My dad always said that they would fall in love, and I thought that’s what the phrase genuinely was. (I still like my da’s rendition of it better, in case you haven’t noticed.)
(Also thanks so much for sticking with this story. And laughing at the bad jokes.)
Thank you, and I’m sorry about the German. I forget that, when writing, not everyone took German in high school, so they can’t just translate the short phrases I throw out. (My German’s pretty bad, actually) I tried to lighten up on the Medic’s German this update, so that’ll be less annoying, I hope.
Ah…no. It’s my headcanon and my crap German, unfortunately. I’m very sorry about that.
Thank you very much! I do picture the Sniper to be a bit of a troll, if not a rather lovable one. (come on you guys all know that good snipers are the worst) (and wow he’s gotten almost no screentime so far, but he will next update I think I said that last time I’m very sorry to all the Sniper fans out there.)
Oh, and a word of advice, emoticons are frowned upon here on the chan, because they make you look underage. (But really you probably don’t have to worry about it much because this place is pretty dead anyhoo.)
Exactly. I imagine the Medic as someone who is perfectly capable with English, but when he gets excited or upset he switches back into German because it’s just easier to scream at someone in your home language than in theirs.
(Actual story in next post hurrdurr)
And after three and a half months, the long awaited return of—oh, who am I kidding let’s just get on with the story. Critiques, again, are always welcome.
The Scout turned over on his back and huffed at his ceiling. He was bored. His arm hurt from where the Medic had brutally attacked him with a needle that was a good four inches longer than necessary, and now the Soldier had called for lights out on the grounds that, in order to win the battle tomorrow, every man needed to have a good eight hours of sleep. Everyone else had protested, especially the Scout, who was determined to get out and run around a little since he’d been out of action for so long. He had so much energy locked up in his slim body that he was shaking. Of course, the Soldier had denied him of any extra time outside of his room, so the Scout had no other option but to get into a fistfight with the man. Which, of course, was always a bad idea. After a quick trip through respawn, the Scout fought some more with the Soldier before finally being dragged down the halls and thrown into his room kicking and screaming.
The Scout touched his cheek, which was swelling, and blew a raspberry before wincing in pain. Being mature was for jerk-offs anyway. He glanced over at the stack of crates that were piled in the corner of his room. He’d been too sick to unpack at all, and, honestly, they mostly kept their stuff in the crates anyway, since moving notices came suddenly and without warning. If a man wanted to see any personal item of his within a minimum of seven months, it had to go with him when they moved. The Sniper was a lucky bastard—he had a van. The Medic had possessed an ambulance for a while, too, but the vehicle had exploded after the man had taken the rest of his colleagues out for drinks a while back. That had been a fun night, from what the Scout had remembered (which honestly wasn’t much because the Soldier had challenged him to a drinking contest and insinuated that if he didn’t partake he was a sissy fairy princess). Of course, they’d been banned from the town, as usual, and sentenced to community service.
How come the RED team never got community service? Those bastards did as much or more damage than they did, but no one ever complained about RED. The Scout heard that the RED Scout even had a girlfriend, though he thought that was a bunch of bullshit that the Spy had made up. Finally, after several more minutes of tossing and turning, the Scout gave up on sleeping and pushed himself out of bed. He went to one of the crates and opened it, rifling around for something. Bats, balls, clothes—
The Scout’s beaten face lit up as he found what he was looking for.
“Hey, they did get ‘em!” He exclaimed. He pulled the carefully-wrapped parcel out of the bottom of the crate and went back to his bed. The Scout opened the parcel, which contained a stack of well-loved comic books. He honestly didn’t understand why all those sweaty nerds kept these things locked up in paper and never read them. He fucking loved comic books, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it because he could always beat the crap out of anyone that made fun of him for it. Rifling through the pile until he found something he wanted to read, the Scout slid the stack of books underneath his bed and lay on his stomach, resting the comic book against his tiny, military-grade pillow. The thing was beginning to yellow with age, and a few of the pages had corners missing, but America’s Best Comics #21 was one of his favorites—one of his brothers had given it to him when he was eight, and it was pretty much the only reason he could read. Sure, it wasn’t Superman or Batman or The X-Men, but he had plenty of those at home. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d actually bought out a few of the comic book stores closest to his apartment just because he’d gone a little insane when he got his first real paycheck from Builder’s League United.
The Scout flipped through the book, unconsciously biting down on the edge of his thumb as he lost himself to the story. Doc Strange, bullet-proof king of badassary, was fighting with two of his buddies, and—
The Scout blinked, then frowned. With all the strange things that had been going on around here lately, and with Demo suddenly becoming indestructible (from what he had heard. He was incredibly disappointed that he hadn’t been there to kick RED’s collective ass), a guy couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, maybe that these things were happening for a reason. The Scout sat up and held nine fingers up in front of his face. Okay, who had been acting weird? Well, weirder than usual.
Demo was not dying like a regular person. He put his left ring finger down.
Soldier was hearing voices, except for when he put on that ‘I’m batshit insane’ helmet. Middle left.
He himself had been in horrible agony, and it had suddenly disappeared when that other Scout had shown up. Left index finger.
The Scout looked at his hands and frowned. Only him and Demo and Soldier? No. There had to be more. What else had everyone else been doing? Heavy, what had that fat bastard been up to? And Sniper. Sniper’d been acting really freaky, right?
The Scout glanced at the comic book on his bed, then retrieved the parcel from where he’d put it. He shuffled through the stack until he landed on a newer book. Superboy #147. Origins of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
“Supah powers.” The Scout mumbled absently, flipping through the comic, thumb in his mouth again. “Fuckin’ supah powers.”
No…that was crazy. These were comic books, fiction. Guys were always getting chicks in these things, and they were only half as awesome as he was, so of course comic books weren’t reality.
But here…they came back from the dead multiple times in one day. Why couldn’t they suddenly and inexplicably develop supernatural powers?
“Scout, go to sleep or I will sit on your back and make you do push-ups until you lose consciousness!”
The Scout jumped violently.
“Hey, fuck off, Soldier! ’M in my room!” He shouted at the door. “That’s all ya gonna get, man!”
“Turn off your light, private! This is not a power plant!”
“Actually? I think it is! An’ since when do you care about conservin’ energy, huh? That sounds ‘n awful lot like what onea dem hippies would say!”
The Scout barely had time to toss his comic books under his bed before his door was kicked open and he was grabbed by his shirt collar.
“Do not ever call me a ‘hippie,’ twinkletoes, do you understand me?” The Soldier growled, shaking the Scout. The Scout grinned at him.
“Sure. Whatever, Yoko.” He said.
The Soldier twitched.
“Yanno, Yoko Ono? ‘Cause you’re an ugly skank who killed some good rock ‘n roll—gack—“
“Shut your mouth and go to sleep!”
“I—would—but—ya—chokin’—me—“ The Scout managed, struggling to get the Soldier’s large hands off of his neck. The Soldier flinched suddenly, as if he’d been burned, and dropped the Scout, who stumbled back onto his bed, coughing and gasping for air. The Soldier looked at his hands, then at Scout.
“…I could hear you.” He finally mumbled. The Scout flipped him off, not really able to make out what the man had said over the blood pounding in his ears. The Soldier touched his helmet, then looked at the Scout again.
“Can’t hear you now.” He said. He lifted the brim of the helmet, then winced before dropping it back over his eyes.
“Jesus, son, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” He asked. The Scout coughed, then sat up.
“I dunno. Do ya kiss ya boyfriend with yours?”
“Mind your words, private! You know I will not hesitate to kick your ass!”
“Oh, I know, man.” The Scout said. “Hey, did ya evah read da comics when you were little?”
“No. We did not have comics! It was the Great Depression, and laughter was rationed to one chuckle per family member per week. For entertainment we had rocks! Rocks that we had to lug uphill both ways during the great hill rebellion of 1936. Let me tell you, son, those were some—”
The Scout rolled his eyes and groaned. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.
“Look, Soldier, that’s awesome, man, really, but ‘m suddenly feelin’ supa tired, ya know? Need sleep and stuff.”
“Address me as sir and I will allow you to do so!”
The Scout sighed.
“Sir get-the-hell-outta-my-frickin’-room!” The Scout snapped. The Soldier pursed his lips, then grudgingly nodded and marched out of the Scout’s room, slamming the now-dented door behind him. The Scout groaned and threw himself on his bed, staring at the ceiling yet again. Ugly choke bruises were forming on his neck, but he really didn’t care. You could probably walk around with a cleaver through your skull here and no one would say a word. Stupid Soldier.
The Scout tried desperately to remember what he’d been doing before the Soldier had burst into his room, but his memory wasn’t telling him any secrets. He sighed, blew another raspberry, then shut off his bedroom light.
Things would be normal eventually. They had to be.
The Scout woke to fighting.
“Ye’ve poked an’ prodded me enough, doc! I won’t have any more!”
“Zhis is imperative to your health, you sober fool! To all of our health!”
The Demoman was shouting at the top of his lungs, and the Medic, to the Scout’s surprise, was screaming right back. The Medic’s voice only reached that pitch when he was on fire. The Scout stumbled out of bed grabbed his bat, ready to smash some skulls in. His head hurt like nobody’s business, and he really couldn’t remember what had happened to him last night. He swung his door open and walked right into the Engineer, who was rubbing his eyes.
“Howdy, pardner.” The Engineer said. “Ya look like ya got run over by a bus’r somethin’.”
The Scout mumbled something, then shook his head. Why was everything so fuzzy?
“Ich muss, fur unsere! Bitte, Demoman—“
“Bloody hell, Shut up! How would ye like it if I only talked in some strange Celtic, eh? Nona us can understand ye—“
“Oh, es tut mir leid, wirklich! Soll ich spreche im Dummkopf fur Sie? Oder Kuh?“
“If you jackasses don’t shut your god damned mouths and crawl back into your frickin‘ rooms, then I’m gonna crack some fuckin‘ skulls and it ain’t gonna be pretty!” The Scout snapped. The Medic and the Demoman finally took notice of the Scout and the Engineer and stopped fighting.
“Now do you boys mind tellin’ us why ya were fightin’ like hens while we were still sleepin’?” The Engineer asked.
“Oh, Scout! You are avake! Good!” The Medic started towards the Scout, but stopped when the boy held up his bat and bore his teeth.
“Back off, man.” He growled.
“But—I—“ The Medic glanced back and forth between the Demoman and the Scout, then sighed.
“Fine! All I vanted vas some more tests, but apparently zhat is too much to ask!” He snapped. He looked close to tears suddenly, and the other men looked away. The Medic was a fairly reasonable man until any kind of opportunity for biological experimentation occurred.
“Scout, I thought I told you to make sure your Johnson was in your pants before zipping up!” The Soldier exclaimed, stumbling out of his room, which was down the hall a little ways from where the Medic and Demo had been arguing. “And stop screaming like a girl!”
“That wasn’t me!” The Scout said, focusing on the Soldier. For some reason, seeing the man caused a surge of rage so strong that he could hear blood pounding in his ears. The Soldier took no notice.
“Then who was it? I—oh.” He saw the Medic, who was rubbing his eyes and chewing on his lip. “What’s the matter, sister? Did your date dump you for someone prettier?”
“Go to hell.” The Medic mumbled.
“Scout, son, are you alright?” The Engineer asked quietly. The Scout couldn’t take his eyes off of the Soldier. The man had done something. He was the reason he was so goddamned fuzzy, the reason he couldn’t remember, the reason—
And then it hit him.
“Supapowers!” He exclaimed. The previous night came rushing back to him in a wave. Soldier, the comic books, all of it. The other men blinked at him.
“Did ye say ‘superpowers,’ lad?” The Demoman finally asked.
“What nonsense are you going on about?” The Soldier barked. The Engineer chuckled.
“I think Scout’s just a little tired. A bit cranky from bein’ woken up, ‘s all—“
“No!” The Scout exclaimed. “I just remembuhed! He—“ He jabbed his thumb at the Soldier “—fucked me up last night, an’ I couldn’—hey, what’s so funny!”
The Demoman and the Engineer had glanced at each other and started to laugh.
“’S that all he did to ya?” The Engineer asked. The Soldier looked as confused as the Scout.
“What are they laughing about?” He asked the Medic, who was obviously sulking.
“I don’t know. Do not bother me, Herr Soldat. I am thinking.” He mumbled, a thick line between his eyebrows. The Scout, however, with his lifetime of experience of being the runt of an eight-man dog pack, had caught on.
“Hey, fuck you! I’m bein’ serious!” He snapped. “Don’t be fuckin’—god damn it!”
The Engineer and the Demoman slowly stopped laughing. The Scout took a breath and tried to calm himself down enough so that he would stop shaking.
“Okay. So last night, I was readin’ my comic books, right?” He said, looking around at the group. “An’ so ‘s ‘m readin’, I—hey! Are anyaya even payin’ attention ta me?”
The Engineer shrugged.
“Well, you do tend ta have an overactive imagination.”
That was the last straw for the Scout.
“Ya know what? Fine. You all get the team tagether for a little meetin’r whatever, an’ I’ll fuckin’ show ya. There’s somethin’ happenin’ here, an’ it ain’t just gonna go away.” He said. “You watch, man.”
“Ah, I think ya may be reactin’ a wee bit much, don’ ya—“ The Demoman winced as the Scout hauled off and swung his bat as hard as he could into the Demoman’s side. The bat reacted as if it had been swung into a metal pole.
“Ya feel that?”
The Demoman rubbed his side where the bat had hit him.
“Well, no, nae really, but—“
The Scout was already gone, jogging down the hall. The Soldier watched him go, then scratched his chin.
“So he didn’t zip his co—“
“No, Soldier!” The Engineer exclaimed, pinching the skin between his eyes.
The rest of the pre-dawn hours passed without any issue. It was relatively quiet, and the Medic was much happier once he had gotten the Soldier to agree to more tests. The Demoman and the Engineer decided that it had been too long since the BLU team had actually had a real breakfast, and decided to entertain themselves by cooking whatever they found in the refrigerator that wasn’t half-dissolved or furry. The large metal compound that was usually filled with stony silence or arguing was peaceful and strangely domestic for a few hours for the first time in…ever.
Then the Heavy woke up.
“Doktor! Engineer! Scout!” His panicked shouts echoed through the base, and the Engineer and the Demoman dropped what they were doing. The Heavy only called out for help like that when something was seriously wrong. What they saw when they opened the door was nothing short of shocking. The Heavy was on the ceiling.
“What in the hell?” The Engineer asked, looking up at the Heavy, who was struggling to right himself. He was pressed against the cement ceiling, bobbing about like some kind of man-sized parade float. The scene was rather comical, actually, had the Russian not looked so absolutely terrified.
“Engineer. Demoman. Help.” The Heavy said, eyes wide. The Engineer glanced at the Demoman, who shrugged.
“Come on.” He said. “Les’ get ‘im down befare—“
“What in the name of the Holy Lord Jesus Christ and the Pussycats is going on here?”
“Ah, Soldier! Help us out here, lad!” The Demoman dug his heels into the floor and pulled on the Heavy’s outstretched hand. The Engineer was still staring up at the Heavy, mouth hanging open slightly.
“Heavy? Is everyzhing—“ The Medic had arrived. He stared at the Heavy, then at the other three men before bursting into laughter.
“Doktor.” The Heavy sounded hurt.
“Oh God! Heavy! I—es tut mir leid—I—Es ist zu gut! Es ist wunderbar, unglaublich! Sie schweben! Oh, Gott in Himmel!” The Medic dropped to his knees, holding his sides. His sallow cheeks were flushed, and a few tears lurked around the corners of his eyes. “Ich kann nicht—oh, Gott—“
“Well, he’s useless.” The Soldier said. “As usual. Here, Demo, grab his other arm. Engie! Get over here!”
But the Engineer did not move, simply shaking his head a little. The Soldier sighed and took the Heavy’s other hand. With a surprising amount of effort, he and the Demoman managed to pull the man down from the ceiling. The Medic slowly regained his composure and was able to stand by the time they got the Heavy on the ground.
“Doktor, you are—you—“ The Heavy crossed his arms and bit his lip, taking a large breath and holding it in. The Medic noticed that the Demoman and the Soldier were looking at him as well, and he smiled and held up his hands.
“I’m sorry, Heavy, it’s just—“
“No. You are not sorry. You would not even help me.”
The Medic sighed and wiped his eyes, bumping his glasses slightly. “Vell, it seems zhat ve owe ze Scout an apology.” He said. “And all of you, it’s now out of ze question. Blood tests. Examinations. Demo, Soldier, Heavy.”
“But we’ve got a battle—“ The Soldier began.
“An’ I already gave ye yer blood.” The Demoman grumbled.
The Medic held up his hand and looked around at them.
“Somezhing is definitely happening. I do not know if it is a punishment or a reward. I do not know if it is an intention of our employers, or if it is somezhing else entirely. All I know is zhat you three—“ He gestured at the Soldier, the Demoman, and the Heavy. “Have power zhat is nowhere near human.”
“I would not consider floating on the ceiling like some fairy princess—agk—“ The Soldier was unable to continue, as his windpipe was suddenly constricted by one of the Heavy’s massive hands.
“At least I am not talking to nothing!” The man growled. The Soldier struggled as best he could, but he quickly grew weak without any oxygen.
“Heavy, let ‘im go. Yeh know he don’ know any better.” The Demoman said gently, looking at the Heavy as if he were an angry bull rhinoceros. The Heavy remembered himself, then dropped the Soldier, who collapsed on the floor, gasping. His helmet rolled off of his head and he cringed, clawing for the aluminum-cased head protector. The Heavy stepped over him and went to the Medic.
“Doktor. What is going on.” He said flatly, glancing at his feet to make sure that he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
“I told you, I don’t know. Zhat is vhy I vant to experiment, but no, no one here trusts me enough to not slice you open like zhat RED Maniac.”
The Heavy’s eyes narrowed for a second, and the Medic flinched, expecting to have his neck broken. The Heavy instead turned to the Engineer. He was still staring at the ceiling, though his thoughts had long since left the scene.
The Engineer started violently.
“What is going on?”
The Engineer’s expressionless goggles shifted from the ceiling to the Heavy, and the man’s face gave nothing away except for pure, unadulterated confusion.
“I…I…” He shook his head and looked at the ceiling again.
“It’s…there’s gotta be a logical explanation. There’s gotta be.” He mumbled. Rubbing the back of his neck, the Engineer stepped absently over the Soldier and walked past the Medic and out of the room. The Heavy groaned.
“Vell…” The Medic clapped his hands together and smiled. “Let’s all take a trip to see ze doctor, hm? Demo, pick up Soldier.”
“I am fine!” The Soldier exclaimed from the floor. The Demoman sighed and helped the Soldier up when the man tried to pick himself up and failed.
“Mission begins in one hour.”
The Administrator’s voice echoed through the base, and the Medic sighed as he saw the Soldier jerk slightly in response. Indeed, the woman was their true employer, and the one who supplied their paycheck, but still, she was about as warm as liquid oxygen. The Medic suspected (though he never told this to anyone except for his doves when he’d had a bit too much to drink) she didn’t care if they lived or died—it was all a game to her. So he really didn’t pay attention to her voice and concentrated on his job, which was the only reason he stayed here in the first place. He got to have fun. The Soldier, on the other hand, treated her disembodied voice with a sort of reverence as if she were a god, and not just the woman who directed battle times and screeched at them if (when) they lost.
“One hour, doc. That’s all you get.” The Soldier growled, trying to push himself off of the Demoman only to have to be caught when he half-collapsed. The Heavy nodded gravely. He was not one to miss work, especially if that work involved the use of his gun. Of course, he was terrified that he would suddenly float off, and he still didn’t feel right, but he wasn’t willing to look any weaker than he already had in front of his co-workers. The Medic glanced at his teammates and rolled his eyes. These barbarians had no mind for the scientific process.
Several hours later, the BLU team rolled in from the battlefield, coated in sweat and dust and blood. For once, the blood was not their own.
“Haha, I bet those freaks won’t be comin’ outa their spawn fa ever, now.” The Scout laughed, stretching his arms above his head and then wincing. His body was beginning to hurt again, and a part of him cringed away from the idea of ever being in that much pain again. It… was probably just muscle soreness. He’d been out of action for so long that running, while feeling amazing, was enough to throw his body off balance.
Of course, it had just started as muscle soreness before.
The Engineer wandered in, looking around at the locker room as if he’d never seen it before. He’d done an awful job today, even with the Soldier and the Demoman mercilessly camping the RED team’s spawn. The faster (and sneakier) classes had managed to make it outside a few times, and every time the RED Spy had shown up to attempt to sap the Engineer’s buildings and stab him, the Engineer had failed to even give the Frenchman a scratch. Every now and then he’d rub his temples and shake his head, muttering something to himself, but otherwise he was silent.
“Doktor, I want you to cure me. Now.” The Heavy said, setting his gun down on one of the steel benches.
“Cure you of vhat?” The Medic asked.
The Medic raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, ze flying zhing. No.”
The Heavy frowned.
“I said ‘no.’ Do you know how stupid it vould be if I just tried to eliminate ze symptoms instead of trying to study the root cause? Obviously vhatever…powers…” He glanced over at the Scout to make sure that the boy wasn’t listening, “you have are amazing. A gift, if you vill.”
“Gift.” The Heavy glared at the Medic. “You are thinking that it is gift to be afraid that you are going to fly away and never come back.”
The Medic shrugged.
“So you can fly. Is zhat really so bad?”
“If I cannot land again, yes.”
“But…you can fly.” The Medic said. “Besides, you could still be normal.” His face darkened for a moment, and he pulled his glasses off and began to clean them. The Heavy shrugged.
“I am still normal. Was...just fluke. Most likely.” He said. As he spoke, though, he began to float upwards. A panicked gasp escaped him, and he grabbed at Sasha’s handle, which kept him from floating up to the ceiling. The Medic cocked his head.
“Hopefully your blood tests vill allow me to figure out vhy you are most certainly not normal.”
“And me, right doc?” The Demoman had been watching them quietly, taking off his blast gear. The Medic glanced at the Demoman.
“I suppose, Demo. But, again, vhy do you vant to be normal? Zese…abilities—“ The Medic sighed and shook his head. “Never mind. I need to study you more. But you are strong. You are all strong, stronger zhan ze average man. Und vhat do I have?” He took off his glasses again and grinned.
“A slightly clear perception of ze vorld und myopia. So do not complain.”
“At least ye can get drunk.” The Demoman sighed.
“And do not have to worry about ground falling away.”
“Hey, are we complaining over heah? Cause I just tried ta talk to da Engie, and he’s outta here, man. Dude’s somewhere else. I think you broke him dis mornin’, big guy.” The Scout had popped his head over a row of lockers to grin at them.
“Anyway, you all gotta be in the breakroom by seven, okay? Cause I gotta story dat’ll knock ya socks off. Allaya.”
The men raised their eyebrows, and the Demoman, who had gotten bored with trying to pull the Heavy down so that his feet were touching the ground, asked,
“This ain’t onea yer grand plans to get us all laid again, is it, lad?”
The Scout flushed.
“No, shut up! Dat was one time.”
“Before we have our girly sleepover feelings talk, we need to find that worthless Australian and that smelly Frenchie!” The Soldier exclaimed, popping his head over the lockers. The team fell silent. No one had seen the Spy in days, and the Sniper had been unusually scarce, even by his reclusive standards. The Spy disappeared from time to time, but no one really took notice so long as the man appeared in the breakroom or annoyed one of the BLU team members every few days. No one had seen a breath of him in a while, though. This was too long for the Spy to be slumming.
“Sprr?” The Pyro, who had also been scarce lately (though he had still had the courtesy to show up to battle), asked, popping up next to the Soldier. The Soldier glanced at the Pyro and nodded.
“That’s right, private! The Spy and the Sniper have not been seen for too long!”
“Er knrr whrr Sprr irs.” The Pyro said. “Hrrs hr.”
“Then why has he not shown up for battle?”
“Err…” The Pyro cocked his head and then pointed over to the large door that led out onto the battlefield. The Soldier, along with the present members of BLU team, glanced over in that direction. They saw nothing, and, when they looked back to the Pyro, they found that the little creature had vanished.
The Pyro waddled down the hall, past the Engineer, who had left the locker room quickly, not bothering to stop and speak with his teammates. The Engineer was moving in an odd way, and he seemed to be tracking phantom objects with his fingers, mouthing nonsense words.
“Pyro?” The Engineer started. “Pyro, where’re ya goin’?”
“Grrnr grrt Sprr.” The Pyro said. A frown crossed the Engineer’s face and he reached out to touch the Pyro’s shoulder. The creature shuddered away from him, holding his hands up and shaking his head so vigorously that he stumbled.
“Drrnt trrch.” He said firmly.
The Engineer stepped back and held up his hands.
“How…How do you know where he is?” He asked, tilting his head.
The Pyro shrugged.
The Engineer nodded and they started down the hall. They soon reached a door labeled ‘stair access’ and headed through it and into the stairwell. Eventually, the Engineer asked,
“Why’s he been hidin’ from us?”
“I mean, not that I’ve minded, but it really ain’t his style to miss so much battle. He does like to fight, you know. Even if he pretends like ’s some big waste of time.”
“Rrr, Irrr knrr.” The Pyro let loose a soft giggle. They headed down the seemingly endless flights of stairs and into the basement level of the compound. The Engineer stopped.
“Pyro, he ain’t gonna be down here. There’s nothin’ but old tunnels and sewer.”
“What? Boy, you need to start explainin’ yourself or—“ The Engineer cried out as he grabbed the Pyro’s shoulder and a huge shock shot through his body. His body jerked violently, and, try as he might, he couldn’t remove himself from the Pyro, who seemed to be experiencing even greater pain than he. The next thing he knew, he was lying on his back, with the Pyro a few feet away. The Engineer tried to force himself up, but his body refused to respond, still twitching slightly.
“Christ in heaven.” He moaned, tilting his head back. His entire body hurt, pins and needles flashing across his skin. He hadn’t been shocked that badly since his three-year-old self had decided to stick a fork in an electrical socket to try and set some electrons free.
“Pryo? You okay?”
The Pyro was unresponsive. The Engineer forced himself up and promptly collapsed back onto the stairwell.
“I tlrrd yrr…nrrt trr trch.” The Pyro moaned, rolling out of the Engineer’s reach. “Rr turrld yrr…”
“Weird stuff, huh buddy? Maybe there’s a loose wire round here or somethin’.” The Engineer said weakly. The Pyro groaned and shook his head, but said nothing.
“Pyro?” The Engineer was asking for confirmation, a simple ‘yeah, sure, it was a freak accident with some kind of reasonable explanation.’
He received nothing.
After a moment, the Pyro got up and patiently waited for the Engineer to pick himself up off the ground.
“Crrmn. Frrh hr’ll lrv.” The Pyro said, waving his hand.
“Is he, now?” The Engineer asked. “Why has he been hidin’..?”
They ventured down several more flights of stairs, and the temperature began to drop.
“Pyro, are you sure—“
“Shhhh!” The Pyro turned on his heel and held a finger up to his mask. “Brr qurit.”
Finally, they reached the basement level of the compound. Here, after all those flights of stairs, lay a rather unimpressive flat strip of concrete and a door labeled “Ground Utility Access (PIPES).” The Pyro opened the small beige door slowly.
“Sprr?” He called, his muffled voice echoing into darkness. The Engineer had never been down here, not at Hoodoo, at least. He did know that these pipes went on for miles, and probably spilled anything that needed to be purged from any certain base into the nearest large river.
“Pyro, why would Spy—“
“Shh.” The Pyro shushed him again. “hr’s…shrr.”
“Shy?” The Engineer frowned deeply. The Spy was a lot of things, but shy was not a word he would ever use to describe his colleague.
“Sprr? I brrrt frrd!” The Pyro called. A soft splash echoed through a pipe on the left of the small platform, and the Pyro’s head snapped towards the source of the sound.
“Sprr?” He was immediately jogging down the walkway that led down the pipe, leaving the Engineer standing alone in the small circle of light cast by the lone lamp that had been installed over the door.
“Pyro, wait—“ But the entity had already vanished into the darkness, and the sounds of his shuffled footsteps and muffled calls faded as well. The Engineer sighed and pushed up his goggles, hoping that the removal of the smokey lenses would allow him a better view of the tunnel. It didn’t.
“Gad dang it.” The Engineer muttered, pushing his goggles back down over his eyes. He placed his hand against the damp cement wall of the pipes and headed after the Pyro. Things were going well until he misstepped around a corner and tripped, falling head-first into the waist-deep water that sat in the bottom of the pipes. The Engineer came up spluttering, hoping to God that he was covered in grey-water and not ancient sewage. His heart sank as a foul stench wafted up from the disturbed water.
“God damn the Pyro, and God damn the Spah and—arrgh—“ He winced and clutched at his head. He stumbled over to the edge of the walkway after recovering from the sudden shooting pain and hauled himself out of the water, coughing and shaking himself off like a wet dog. After a moment, he glanced back at the white lamp over the access door, then groaned and called out for the Pyro. The only response he got was his own voice calling the Pyro’s name over and over again, bouncing about the tunnels as if fifty Engineers had holed up in the groundwater access. Then, out of the darkness, came a pained yelp, and a strong zap. A blue flash lit up a tunnel about fifty feet away from where the Engineer was standing. There was a large splash, and the Pyro’s pained scream echoed through the tunnels. The Engineer, acting on instinct, took off towards the noise, only to run right into something solid.
“Labourer? No, no, no—il a promis—No!” The tunnel was suddenly filled with the agonized howls of not only the Pyro, but the Spy. The Engineer reached out blindly and grabbed at the thing he’d run into. He found nothing to grip, and his had came back slimy.
“Spy? What in the hell—“
The thing slid away from him, heading for the water. There was a muffled growl, and the Pyro came around the corner, goggles reflecting the dim light that beamed from the lamp that hung over the access door. It grabbed at nothing and was thrown back by some invisible force.
“You promised! You little disgusting freak! You promised, and you brought ‘im ‘ere!”
The Engineer had never heard the Spy’s voice so high. Strangely enough, though, he couldn’t see the man at all. If only he had some more god damned light—
The Engineer blinked as he remembered that he’d packed a tiny maintenance light in his toolbelt that morning for the exact reason of going down into the basement to look at the respawn machine here. The struggle next to him continued as he dug into his toolbelt, searching for the tiny flashlight.
“Woulda saved myself a trip inta the water if I’d just remembered…” He grumbled. In a few seconds he found it and switched it on, shining it onto the Pyro, who appeared to be fighting with a floating, tattered suit. As the light hit the suit, though, a cry tore the damp air and the suit began to spasm. The Pyro took this opportunity to grab at something above the collar of the beaten suit jacket and slam it into the pipe wall. The suit collapsed, and, to the Engineer’s horror, began to change. The Spy—or, something that had once been the Spy—lay on the floor, completely unconscious. The Pyro groaned and slid down the side of the wall. He was sporting a large gash on his shoulder.
“Pryo—what—who—is that the Spy?”
“Mrrmhrmf.” The Pyro mumbled. “Grrt hrmm ‘fr hr wrks rp.”
“Hellfire. What happened to you?” The Engineer asked the unconscious Spy as he hoisted his fallen comrade up. He glanced at the Pyro, who was still resting against the wall. “You need me to carry you out too?”
The Pyro waved him off, and the Engineer sighed again.
“I’ll come back.” He said, hoisting the Spy over his shoulder. This turned out to be a complicated task, since the man was about two heads taller than him and he was…slimy. The Engineer shuddered and wondered just what had happened to drive, of all people, the Spy down into the grounded maintenance sections of the base.
When he climbed a few flights of stairs and reached a well-lit area, he understood. They Spy…was hardly a person, anymore. His skin was a deep blue, thin and blotchy across the parts of his face that the Engineer could see. The man’s eyebrows were completely gone, replaced by what looked like ridged scales. His hands had grown wide, and a thick webbing had grown in between his fingers, making the man’s usual habit of wearing gloves an impossible dream. His fingernails had fallen out, too. The Spy’s shoes were gone, his toes having elongated into something monstrous, the bones of his feet almost completely visible beneath the watery skin.
“Lord have mercy.” The Engineer breathed. “Doc’s gonna have a field day with this.”
This is great. I love how you keep everyone in character and how they interact with one-another. Poor Spy, he always gets the aquatic mutations. And where the hell has Sniper gone? And what's happening to everyone else? I can't wait for the next update.
Well, that was definitely worth the read!
So sorry for the delayed crit on this one, Anon. The story was so good that I was on the edge of my seat every time I had to pause reading to deal with life. But now I'm fully caught-up, the anticipation is even worse!
A lot of my critique has already been addressed by others, but I'll add my opinion to the mix anyway...
Firstly, the good bits. Your team dynamics are interesting and well written. Loved the arguments at the start of the story, and the progression to camaraderie as the plot unfurled. I'm really happy you kept the humorous bickering going throughout - there were quite a lot of moments where I audibly laughed out loud, and I don't often do that. I kept giggling about the dehydrated potato thing with Medic for a long while after the scene was over... it still makes me crack up now.
Your Engineer and Pyro are adorable (but I might be biased saying that, hah!), and the other characters feel solid and canonically correct, which makes this a joy to read.
Earlier on, you had a lot of little snippets of random trivia from Engie, which were fantastic (lightning bolts, Heavy's minigun, for example). I'd love to see more of these kinds of quips from him, though I can understand there isn't really time for them what with the recent turn of events in the story. They did make him feel very... well, Engie-like. Intelligent and brimming with facts about everything.
And, of course, I am always finding myself wanting to know what happens next... so please keep going!
Now, for the constructive criticism:
(I've pulled examples from throughout the story, mostly the early chapters, as I compiled my critique while reading through)
...hired better ones. (Or upgraded them. The BLU Spy didn’t travel into the RED base a lot, but he did know enough to hint that some rather…interesting experiments were going on with the other team.)
The man shrugged and grabbed his rifle (well, not his but an exact duplicate brought on by some kind of crazy magic called computer science)
(His bet was actually with the more statistically impossible one.)
The Demoman winked at him (though this wasn’t obvious because of his missing eye) and set the bottle down...
Personally, I don't like the look of parentheses within narration. I find them a bit jarring, and more often than not, the information contained within is not really necessary (see second and third examples). If you do feel the content is important, you can write in a way that doesn't require parentheses to get your point across. For example:
... hired better ones. Or upgraded them - the BLU Spy didn’t travel into the RED base a lot, but he did know enough to hint that some rather…interesting experiments were going on with the other team.
The Demoman winked at him - as best as he could, given his missing eye - and set the bottle down...
...teleporter he had been upgrading—if he left it a level one, well, he might as well have not built a teleporter—to see...
Again, jarring. Interjections of thought are fine, but in the middle of an action scene they detract from the tempo. It's an interesting thought process of Engie's, but if you can't find somewhere more fitting to place it, I would suggest you drop it.
A little further on, you handled his thoughts in a more fluid way, which is what I like to see:
... dropping his teleporter exit. The goal, as always, was to get his team as far up as possible without getting his teleporter noticed.
... and they showered silently. Dinner was silent. Even the breakroom was quiet after dinner...
“Demo, if that stuff was any stronger, it’d be battery acid. The Doc said that if you purify that alcohol any more, it’ll be deadly.”
Try not to repeat adjectives, verbs, or phrases in consecutive sentences. Find another word/phrase to get the point across without repetition:
... and they showered silently. Dinner was eaten without a word. Even the breakroom was quiet after dinner...
“Demo, if that stuff was any stronger, it’d be battery acid. As the Doc said - you keep purifyin' alcohol like that, it’ll be deadly.”
Generally, there were grammatical issues and sentences that run too long - which can be fixed with a beta.
You also have a loooot of German pouring out of Medic's mouth. I can understand when he's too caught up in the heat of the moment to bother talking in his non-native tongue, but a lot of your characters carry on as if they understood what he said. I certainly didn't, and found it perplexing and wish you toned it down for his pivotal lines.
And last, but not least - my biggest gripe:
You constantly putting yourself and your work down. If you keep saying it's terrible, then why would people bother reading it? Let alone take the time to give you critique to help you grow and improve? Your writing is good, you're improving as you go on, but sweet cosmos - be proud of what you've done!
Will there be more? Please let there be more!
So let's recap:
Spy: Aquatic adaptation?
Please, do continue. I'm eager to see more.
I'm a bit disappointed in Spy. He so often gets an aquatic mutation in stories it's not that interesting anymore. Unless I'm speaking too soon, in which case I apologise. I enjoy the unexpected. The men getting weird powers, not just figuring out what they are but how to cope and adapt and possibly cure themselves is very exciting to read about. Spy turning into some water thing strikes me as stereotypical, and the suspense of learning about how he'll deal with his situation is dulled a bit because this has happened so often in other stories.
I hope I'm not sounding too complaining, but I wanted to give honest feedback. The rest of the newest chapter is great, I can't wait to read more from you.