(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
“Please put all guns and large knives in the cart,” Rosemary orders, her voice coming from two pillar-mounted machineguns. The weapons follow Cassidy and Lloyd, who are forced to obey the command. “Thank you. Now, when the barriers rise, you will be introduced to all of the other hopefuls. Kill or knock them all out in order to get an audience with the boss. Wait, I’ve been told that you’re not here for a job. That means you must simply get through to the elevator that is three floors up. Your weapons will be waiting for you. Never say we don’t play fair or make promises.”
The machineguns go limp as the glass walls around the pair rise in jerky lurches, the track coming close to falling off. Refusing to remain unarmed, Cassidy grabs the cart and pushes it into the office area. The powerful weapons go off behind them, but their positions on the pillars make it impossible for them to swivel toward their targets. None of the people inside notice the new arrivals as they continue their wild battle. Wheelie chairs are being used as vehicles, the riders swinging various electronics by their cords. One man is decked out in staplers, which he hits people with before retreating to another open space. For the most part, the people grab whatever is nearby or stick to their fists, which has resulted in a sea of black eyes and broken noses. There is no ceiling for three floors, the open area a patchwork of walkways and beams that the dedicated workers continue to fight on. Bodies are in every direction, many of them crumpled from falling off one of the upper levels. Others have been strangled by a cord or stabbed with a pen, the makeshift weapons still in place.
“I was hoping for something more . . . orderly,” Lloyd admits as he watches an old man duke it out with a teenage boy. He winces when the younger fighter grabs a ruler off a desk and slams it into his enemy’s throat. “This reminds me of prison riots, but with less of a reason behind them. Is that guy battling a fax machine? Worse part is that I think he’s losing. You get the feeling we stepped into a commercial for an office supply store?”
“It is rather surreal,” Cassidy replies, her attention on a charging naked man. The slender woman he is aiming for steps to the side, causing him to crash into an office. “Conserve your ammunition. None of these people have range weapons, so we can take them out with knives if they get in our way. Be nice if we can sneak up to that elevator without being noticed. That means don’t talk. No matter how funny something is, I want you to keep your mouth shut, Lloyd.”
The serial killer pouts and subtly points toward one of the doorways. “But that naked guy just fell on a paper shredder. It isn’t plugged in, but his yodeling scream was so funny. Can I whisper the jokes? It’ll just be between us. Come on, kid, there’s a guy screaming about not getting a slice of cake and threatening to burn the place down. He’s waving candles in the air too.”
Cassidy is about to argue with Lloyd when she hears a loud snap and sparks coming from the entrance. She turns in time to see a slender girl with blonde hair and a tan face dropping from the pillar. Holding one of the heavy machineguns, the barefoot combatant struggles with the weapon until she puts it on a cart. She takes a moment to wipe her greasy hands on her tattered, white dress, which is dotted with blood. The pause is long enough for Cassidy and Lloyd to run into a storage closet that is missing its door. Keeping their heads down, they listen to a melody of screams and gunfire. Using the cart to help move the machinegun, the girl comes into view as she wipes out everyone on the first floor. Those on the upper levels throw whatever they can find, some slipping and falling off the walkways during their frantic search for a weapon. None of the projectiles find their target, who is trying to find a way to aim her gun up without it falling on her. She tips the cart over and uses it to angle the machinegun, which she braces against her knee and stomach. With sloppy aim, she picks off those above her until the vibrations are too much for her to handle.
“Nice try, Selene!” a gray-haired man yells from the third floor. Two loud pops from the machinegun are heard before he is shot in the chest and tumbles over the railing.
“I don’t care if this hurts because I’m going to win,” the young woman growls, her hands aching from the jolting weapon. She patiently waits for people to reveal their location and fires even if there is a wall in the way. “I’m going to be the new reporter and I’m going to kill whoever gets in my way. Tired of being a victim in this world, so it’s time I showed how vicious I can be. Come on out and fight me!”
“Please tell me she isn’t talking to us,” Lloyd whispers from their hiding place. Grabbing Cassidy, he jumps back when he thinks Selene is turning toward them, but he hears a clang instead of gunfire. “Is everything alright out there? My friend and I aren’t interested in being reporters. We only want to reach the top of this tower and . . . strike superhero poses. So much better on something tall than on the ground. I mean, flexing just looks silly when you’re standing in a cornfield. Think we can be on our way? Promise to kill whoever we run into and make your life easier.”
“Rather quiet out there,” Cassidy mentions as she crawls to the doorway. She peeks around the corner to see that Selene is struggling to get the machinegun off her. “Kind of feel sorry for her. I mean, she took advantage of what we did and wiped out most of her enemies. Have to respect that. Might as well give her a hand and see if we can get an ally in here. No telling what’s after this.”
“She reminds me a little of you,” the serial killer says with a smirk. Ignoring the crackle of his friend’s stun gun, he pushes by her to step out of the closet. “Must be the hair and attraction to heavy artillery. Maybe you can train her and find others to be your doppelgangers. Imagine an army of Cassidys running around the Shattered States doing jobs, but nobody knows who the real one is. Only problem is that doppelgangers are like clones. The others will turn on you, a fight will break out, and only one will be left, but we’ll never know if it’s the real you or one of the copies. Are you willing to take that risk?”
Cassidy smacks her partner upside the head before walking over to Selene and bending down to lift the machinegun. She is forced to let go with the five remaining combatants come charging out of a nearby stairwell. Lloyd charges into the fray, but only tackles one that he repeatedly stabs with a nearby letter opener. Cassidy shoots another in the head before the others are close enough to grab her arms. Tackled to the floor, she is soon left with only two enemies thanks to Lloyd grabbing a woman using a staple remover. He snaps her neck and tosses the body aside as his friend puts two bullets through a man’s head. The last survivor scrambles away, but stops to shriek in pain. He looks down to see Selene finish biting through his Achilles tendon, the defiant girl immediately gagging from the taste. Falling to the floor, the man tries to crawl into the closet only for Cassidy and Lloyd to drop the heavy machinegun on his lower back. A loud snap causes the man to jerk and spasm before going limp, his arms stretching for safety.
“Hope you don’t mind us helping,” Cassidy says, turning around to Selene. She is caught off-guard when the girl pounces and clings to her jacket. “Get her off! Get her off! Stop punching me, you ungrateful brat. Don’t you dare try to bite me in the neck. What are you waiting for, Lloyd?”
“I was looking for mud, oil, or canned vegetables,” the serial killer replies through his laughter. Seeing that Cassidy is starting to have trouble with the aggressive girl, he walks over and is immediately kicked in the stomach. “That was with the heel! The hell is this kid’s problem? We saved you and have no interest in being reporters. Stand down and leave us alone or you’re going to be hurt.”
“Like I’m going to fall for that, pal,” Selene replies, digging her nails into Cassidy’s cheek. She grunts when she is pushed off and bangs into the overturned cart. “Fine, I’ll thank the two of you. Not that I didn’t have things under control. Those idiots would have had to take the machinegun away after I got myself into that cart and then I’d have fought my way through without much trouble. Now, I’ll definitely get a promotion if I kill the two of you. Maybe even a position in Vegas.”
Fed up with the mouthy girl, Cassidy lands a solid punch to her face and watches her crash to the floor. “Sprawled on your back is a position that suits you. Yes, I know that was a terrible insult, Lloyd. Mentioning other ones didn’t make any sense considering how she landed. Let’s just get to the stairs and- Fucking fuck of a fucker!”
Unable to get to her weapons, Cassidy can only throw punches over her shoulder in the hopes of hitting Selene. The nimble girl wraps her legs around her victim’s waist, the slender limbs incredibly strong. Using her nails and teeth, the ambitious reporter attacks every piece of exposed flesh that she can find. Whenever Lloyd tries to step in with a punch or kick, Selene twists her body to move the cursing mercenary in the way. With a yell, Cassidy loosens the girl’s legs enough that she can turn around and face her. It is difficult to land decent blows to her side, so the experienced fighter begins headbutting her enemy. Gaining more control of the fight, she runs at the wall to slam Selene with enough force to leave a dent. It takes three more blows to make the girl let go, but she remains standing and immediately tries to pounce again. Cassidy pulls out her shotgun and uses it as a club since her enemy is already too close. She delivers two more blows and is surprised that Selene is still breathing and trying to stand up. A solid kick to the jaw finally knocks the girl out, but the pair cautiously back away instead of letting her out of their sight.
“Tougher than she looks,” Lloyd mentions as they reach the stairs. Seeing Selene move, he snaps his fingers and pulls a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket. “Thought we could take someone prisoner and get some answers. Head for the elevator and I’ll catch up in a bit. I’m going to stash her in one of these offices and leave her with some soothing entertainment. That way she’ll be nice and mellow when we can pick her up on the way out.”
“You’re not going to kill her?” Cassidy asks with a wry smile.
“Nah. I mean, she won whatever this is, so I’ll give her the prize of life.”
“Such a benevolent murderer.”
“That’s what it says on my underwear, kid.”