(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
Originally a bazaar surrounding a central trading post, the small town of Angel Fire has been transformed into a military outpost. Soldiers and mercenaries drive along the dirt roads, which wind through the stalls that sell food and weapons. Many of the shacks and kiosks have been abandoned, their owners having fled or been jailed weeks ago. Prisoners are kept in cages that become hot in the sun and have no protection against the cold nights. Men, women, and children stare through the bars, their eyes showing despair and only a faint spark of hope. Some of the more devoted fighters take every opportunity to throw garbage and rocks at the prisoners, but a few people try in vain to stop the abuse. Those that are openly sympathetic quickly find themselves on the receiving end of a savage beating. Most keep their heads down and avoid their aggressive companions, a look of shame plastered on their faces when they think nobody is looking at them. A handful of cooks move among the cages to give fresh food and water, their acts of humanity earning them jeers and insults.
Forced to leave the jeep in the parking lot, Cassidy and Lloyd walk with Zahra trudging between them. They mutter curses and flex their hands, both of them fighting the urge to draw their weapons. Knowing that they would die within seconds keeps their bloodlust in check, but every sight makes it more difficult to maintain their disguises. When a muscular man tries to throw a brick at Zahra, Cassidy pretends to trip and takes the girl down with her. The rough-edged projectile skims Lloyd’s arm and the serial killer glares at the soldier. He rapidly licks his lips like a starving animal and takes a step toward the man, but pulls back when Doberman turns to see what is happening. The two men stare at each other while the nervous soldier disappears into the crowd. Deciding not to fight, Lloyd puts out his hand for a shake, which is accepted and turned into an awkward, back-patting hug. Doberman watches Cassidy yank Zahra to her feet before returning to his squad, who are busy taking whatever they want from one of the nearby food carts.
The pair continue trailing behind the soldiers and try to keep their heads down to avoid seeing the misery around them. Spotting a stage where prisoners are being auctioned off, Lloyd growls and begins breathing heavy. Cassidy is about to calm him down when she spots a familiar figure walking in their direction. Nodding her head at Grymer, she signals for her friend to disappear into the crowd of slavers. She puts her jacket’s hood up to hide her hair and face from the approaching advisor. Wiping his greasy hands on his shirt, the man pauses for a second to stare at the mercenary, but moves on when he cannot get a clear look at her. Cassidy breathes a sigh of relief and is about to whistle for Lloyd when the serial killer reappears on the other side of Zahra. A few spots of blood are on his pants and she is about to ask what happened when a womanly scream erupts from the crowd. The pair practically drag the young girl between them as they hurry to reach the white-walled trading post. They skid to a stop at the bottom of the stairs to look at a large angel on the roof, the statue stretching out its arms and bathed in carefully maintained flames.
Following Doberman through the door, they find themselves in a courtroom that is nothing more than a juror’s box, two tables, and a bench emblazoned with a fiery bald eagle for the judge. A picture of Lady Justice has been drawn on the ceiling, the distorted drawing made to cover whatever landscape was originally there. With four prisoners and their assigned guard lined up in front of him, Judge Theo takes a moment to look up at the new arrivals. Wearing a nicely pressed tuxedo and wielding a gavel, the old man slowly develops a toothy grin at the sight of Doberman. His beady eyes dart toward Zahra, who instinctively steps behind Lloyd for protection. Combing his thinning hair, Theo stands to greet his favorite agent, which makes him practically disappear behind the large bench. Hopping back into his chair, he adjusts his crimson bowtie and pushes his thick classes back up his hooked nose.
“Well, this is something that certainly requires an immediate response,” Judge Theo coos while leaning forward. Steepling his fingers around his gavel, he examines the papers in front of him to make quick decisions on the four prisoners. “This girl killed over twenty people in the name of her religion, so I need to pass judgement before she has a chance to murder the rest of us. The drug dealer who calls himself a doctor will be put in a cage for three months. Your medicines cure nothing and erode society, which is why the country is in such a mess. Those two that are high on the evil plants will get holes until they understand the errors of their beliefs. I want that woman with the head thing to be gifted to a family that will teach her how to be a proper member of society. Is there a reason your man is shaking and muttering obscenities under his breath, Doberman?”
“What?” the wild-haired soldier says before looking at Lloyd. He is about to smack the serial killer when he remembers his supposed condition. “This man is new and apparently has stress-induced Tourette’s, which I don’t know enough about to understand. Still, him and his girlfriend caught the murderer. Will the original charges of following the wrong path be maintained or are you only working off the killings? I ask because I need to file paperwork and send it to King Custer.”
“He has requested that we call him Mr. Custer because he never asked to be a king,” the old man politely answers with a smile. He waves for Cassidy to bring Zahra closer, the mercenary keeping a hand on her pistol. “Smart of you to remain cautious. Never know what an animal like this will do. There really isn’t much to talk about here. If she stayed with her family then she’d have been sent to a home for reeducation. Instead, we have to execute her in the morning and make an example. I suggest fire because that goes so well with barbeques and we were recently sent some meat for the troops.”
“Racist fuck on a splintery dildo!” Lloyd screams while the guards take the previous prisoners out of the building. Distant shouts and crashes make him smirk, but the doors slam shut before he can thoroughly enjoy the noise. “I’m really sorry about that. Not to mention the newest revelation that I have to drop on you. My companion and I weren’t sent to capture dangerous people like this girl. There have been reports of someone within your part of the organization being a secret Muslim. He is helping people hide and sneaking them weapons to start a revolution. Grymer wanted us to investigate and then report to you. Again, I’m sorry for the trick. By the way, do you have any free park tickets or do I have to do that dance you’re famous for first? Now I’ve got that catchy song stuck in my head.”
Judge Theo strokes his chin while absent-mindedly banging his gavel on his desk. “Not sure what that question is about, but I do know that Grymer was here. He came looking for Reuben who was supposed to be my bailiff for the next month. Nobody knows where that man has wandered off to, so maybe he’s the revolution leader. It would make sense since he’s always disappearing.”
“Actually, I’m afraid the mastermind is closer than you realize.”
“Well, it isn’t me.”
“That’s a little too close, cookie maker.”
“Was that your condition?”
“It is if that’ll get me out of trouble.”
“Very well. Tell me who it is.”
“Doberman. I mean, why else would he have a Koran in his pocket?”
Lloyd lunges at the other man, who is too confused to raise his assault rifle in time. The serial killer grabs the weapon by the barrel and aims it at the ceiling while he wrestles with the taller soldier. Waiting for Cassidy to flip a table and drag Zahra behind it, he lets go of the gun and gets around Doberman. A playful pinch to the butt causes the man to spin and open fire, the bullets hitting his own men instead of the chuckling killer. With a crack of his knuckles, Lloyd dives at the enraged soldier and flips open his jacket. He holds it open to make sure that Judge Theo sees the tiny book in the pocket. When Doberman looks down and sees the unfamiliar object, he stops fighting and pulls it out. Lloyd snatches the Koran from the man and proudly carries it to the bench, his clumsy bobbling of the book helping to explain why his fingerprints are all over it.
“Grymer wanted us to investigate your top agent specifically,” Cassidy announces as she comes out of hiding. Keeping her pistols aimed at Doberman, she waves for Lloyd to come closer. “In fact, this girl is the one who told us about him. He wanted to recruit her and even killed his own men to do so. I mean, does she look like somebody who could beat over twenty armed soldiers? She led them into a trap and Doberman finished them off. He would have faked her escape if it wasn’t for us getting to her first. She thought we were on his side, which we went along with to get closer to him.”
“Now, I’m confused,” Lloyd whispers in his partner’s ear. He is unsure if Judge Theo is falling for their lies, the old man scratching his head in thought. “You had to have heard about a resistance being built up. If you were planning a rebellion, wouldn’t you try to get an agent or yourself into as high a position as you can? This man knows every tactic, unit, and password of your operation. He looks like every other rabid, hateful fucker around here too, which is the perfect cover. The guy can’t even defend himself. Just stands there sputtering and growling like an angry sprinkler. Say it, don’t spray it, naughty puppy.”
“We have executed possible traitors for less,” Judge Theo says, his voice a little higher than before. He casually fixes the papers on his desk and takes a sip of water, the tension in the room having no effect on him. “I’ll contact Grymer about this first. Don’t want to make any rash decisions. The man was only holding a book. It could have been contraband that he planned on burning later. Please don’t speak, Doberman, until we get Grymer back to settle things. After all, it isn’t like you did something truly horrible like touch drugs or murder a child.”
Keeping a pistol trained on Doberman, Cassidy politely raises her hand and does her best to appear awkward. “I do want to report him doing something odd. He kept offering us these sweet-smelling brownies. We had already eaten and said no, but the rest of his men took some. Made them very giggly and didn’t seem to satisfy their hunger at all. Not sure if that’s something to worry about.”
“Oh, I know exactly what that means,” the old man declares, his wrinkled face turning red with anger. He bangs his gavel on the bench with enough force to make his joints ache. “The punishment for that is death. Yet, you’ve helped us out a lot, so I’m willing to drop the punishment to a fine and demotion. Nothing too severe because you do good work. Do you have anything to say for yourself, Doberman?”
“Fuck you!” the man shouts, turning his weapon on Judge Theo. The assault rifle’s bullets flatten against the armored bench, which the old man easily ducks behind. “You’re going to have to come out in the open at some point, dumbass. Never had anyone challenge you in your own courtroom, huh? Can’t believe you’d be so stupid as to believe these strangers over me. I gave you enough defendants to make you invaluable to Mr. Custer. You repay me by believing I’d be one of those-”
A series of clicks and whirs come out of the bench before the bald eagle emblem slides open. Having emptied his click, Doberman hurries to reload while a smoking nozzle comes out of the hole. He is about to fire again when a roaring plume of flame explodes across the room and engulfs him. The man screams and waves his arms while the others try to stay away, his surviving men rushing out the door. Doberman falls into the jury box, which ignites and quickly becomes an inferno that he cannot get out of. With a carefree whistle, Judge Theo emerges from behind the bench and puts the flames out with a fire extinguisher. Peeking over the side, he sees that his former ally is still alive, so he pulls out a small gun and casually puts a bullet in the groaning man’s head.
“Stop, drop, and roll might have been a better strategy,” Lloyd says as the old man returns to his chair. He listens to the sound of fuel pouring through pipes, an occasional creak coming from behind the wall. “Well, you did say something about a barbeque. Please tell me you’re not going to eat that guy. He may have been named Doberman, but that doesn’t mean you can pass him off as cheap chicken. Then again, humans do get compared to pork and I’m disgusted with the fact that I said it.”
“Excuse us for a minute,” Cassidy whispers as she pulls her friend into a corner. She waves for Zahra to stay put, the girl poised to dive behind the table at a moment’s notice. “One problem down and two to go. Think I could simply shoot him in the head? I mean, we’ve wasted enough time playing with these fuckers. Honestly, I need to find a bathroom, so I’d like to finish this up quickly.”
“That’s a nice drawing you have there,” Judge Theo calls from across the room. His eyes go wide when he recognizes Cassidy’s unique tattoo and he drops beneath his bench. “I should have known you two were trouble. The scarred forehead, the orange pants, and now that ugly tattoo on such a pretty girl. Didn’t think you two would fall into my lap like this, so I let my guard down. I was told to judge and kill you, so that’s what I’ll do.”
“Lumberjack Special!” the mercenary shouts while pointing for Zahra to take cover.
Lloyd and Cassidy run in opposite directions, which forces Judge Theo to move his flamethrower from one side to the other. He finally tries to fry Lloyd, but the serial killer dives under the other table and flips it over. Seeing an opening, Cassidy sprints toward the bench and gets behind it only to find that the back is defended by a metal door. With a muttered curse, the mercenary presses against the side and peeks out to watch the fiery plumes pummel her friends’ barriers. She feels a small panel slide against her back and moves onto the corner to avoid two high-pitched shots from a pistol. The flamethrower comes towards her, but the hole is not big enough to let the nozzle move all the way to the right. Sweating from the intense heat, Cassidy waits for the weapon to go silent before firing multiple shots into the opening. She can hear Judge Theo moving inside the sealed bench, but a sudden curse drives her to run away from the area. A mild explosion and screams of agony erupt from Judge Theo’s hiding place, tendrils of smoke coming out of the seams. Within seconds, the bench bursts into flames and collapses on top of the old man, which causes his fire extinguishers to go off and cover his charred remains in a rain of hissing foam.
“No marshmallow joke?” Cassidy asks as she hurries to check on her friends. She smiles when Zahra gives her a tight hug, but it gets awkward when Lloyd runs over and nearly tackles them. “Down, boy! You smell like you got a little singed. So, any ideas on how we get through all of those soldiers out there, retrieve the jeep, and escape without getting shot?”
“Oh, that’s already been taken care of,” Lloyd declares while bounding to the doors. He throws them open to reveal a riot going on, the prisoners and slaves overrunning the unprepared soldiers. “Remember when I disappeared to avoid Grymer? I may have killed the slaver and given his keys to some people who were dying to get some revenge. Let’s just sit back and watch the mayhem commence. I’d make popcorn, but I don’t feel like having anything that involves cooking with fire. Oh, I see ice cream! Dibs on the rocky road!”