(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
“So you made it-” Rosemary begins to say as the elevator opens. A bullet hits her in the head, knocking the chestnut-haired woman out from behind her desk.
Cassidy and Lloyd cautiously enter the top floor, the sight of mounted heads near the ceiling giving them pause. It takes the pair a moment to realize that the trophies are all comedians and their faces have been made to look like they are crying. The rest of the walls are covered in computers and televisions, each one showing images from all over the Shattered States. The scenes are of extreme violence or debauchery, but there are weird jumps that happen every minute. Men and women wearing bronze stars on their backs are in every shot, but the screens turn off due to a brief power outage. When the lights turn back on, the machines only show static and release an irritating hiss until they are turned off. The only working system is the circular console in the middle of the room. Lights flicker on the dashboard that continues to beep as the operator accesses all of the information from his agents. Wearing a black suit with no tie, the man finally falls back into a leather recliner once a buzzer goes off. Putting his feet on an empty spot on the console reveals that he is wearing bear paw slippers. With a smile, he throws a coin that bounces off the bulletproof shielding that encircles his work area. Hitting a large button with his heel causes a display to light up over his head, the name Nigel Rogerson illuminated with arrows pointing at the silver-haired man.
“Too bad you didn’t bring anything stronger,” the media boss says in a melodic voice. He pulls out a grenade, which he playfully juggles from hand to hand. “People are always angry at reporters for telling the truth. We used to be protected by the law, but that won’t return for at least a few months. I’m merely defending myself here. As far as what you saw below, only the strong and ruthless can be the first wave of media. The weak will get eaten alive or run away at the slightest sign of trouble.”
“Or hide behind a bulletproof shield,” Cassidy points out before putting two rounds into the barrier. She watches her bullets bounce off and break two of the monitors, which causes their enemy to jump to his feet. “Seems you were right and I owe you an apology. Now, how exactly are you getting all of those feeds? The Internet only works in Wi-Fi Dens and the long-distance connections aren’t very dependable. Honestly, this setup is amazing.”
“Don’t think I will fall for flattery,” Nigel claims while he goes to the far side of the console. Hitting a series of buttons, he activates the machineguns that are mounted among the monitors. “The maniacs who took over this once great country didn’t think about reviving the Internet. Why would they? Give everyone access to information and you run the risk of them becoming smarter than you. There’s no way for the warlords and gangs to rule with fear if they can see the truth. All we had to do was create Wi-Fi generators that only our people could take advantage over. Not the most dependable system, but it’s a start.”
Lloyd yawns and walks over to the nearest computer, which he casually knocks onto the floor. “Getting bored here! Bring the Internet back if you want, but we all know it’s going to filled with porn and pictures of people’s meals by the end of the day. The more important problem for you is that you’re trapped. I don’t see a kitchen or bathroom in there, which means you have to come out at some point. Especially if you have to pee like a gurgling, bubbling waterfall cascading into a warm lake that swirls and laps at the wet coast. Feel any urges after that?”
Cassidy whistles an instant before the machineguns start to fire, the mercenary rolling behind Rosemary’s desk. Lloyd scrambles under a table and keeps crawling as the furniture is destroyed by the powerful weapons. He continues moving and using whatever cover he can find, until he covers himself with a metal basin. The bullets bounce of the shield, which smells of sweat and soap. Seeing her partner pinned, Cassidy leans out and fires at one of the machineguns until it stops. Moving further into the open, she is forced back when the deactivated weapon suddenly turns toward her and goes back on the attack. The mercenary barely makes it back to her hiding space, which is moved a few inches by the barrage. Their impending defeat is made worse by Nigel cackling like a maniac and singing off-key country songs.
“Armor on the guns, right?” Cassidy asks, her voice nearly drowned out by the constant gunfire. She notices that the desk is being pushed into path of another bullet stream, so she sprints away and dives behind a mini-fridge. “They don’t have the best coverage since you put them in among the monitors. We’re fine as long as we get to a safe zone. Might want to change your tactics before you run out of ammo. Unless you’re too stupid to-”
“I am the smartest man in this room!” Nigel shrieks, his temper flaring at the mild insult. He hits another button that causes a high-powered taser to rise from the floor. “The machineguns have feeds going down the entire length of the building. Even if you avoid those, this baby has three-hundred sixty degree coverage. All I have to do is hit you once and you’re out long enough for me to finish you off. Who’s the idiot now?”
“The person who hired you,” Lloyd answers from beneath the dented basin. Grunting at the impacts, he crawls with his cover on his back to get a better look at the taser. “I will admit that I’m having a decent adrenaline rush with this one, but you’re another rancid booger that hides behind something. It’s like most cowardly bastard gets put in charge and the real challenges are wasted as fodder. At least that Selene was entertaining and the BBQed brothers made me work for my win.”
With a primal scream, Nigel hits more buttons that cause buzzsaws to emerge from the walls. The whirring blades move up and down, but they do not reach far enough to be a danger unless Cassidy or Lloyd get too close. Flames erupt from the ceiling above the elevator entrance, the jets merging into a wall that disappears after a minute. The sound of twelve sharp gunshots causes Nigel to stop pressing buttons and look around for whatever Cassidy has been firing at. It is a few seconds later that the machineguns click empty, so he checks cameras that show the bullet feeds have been severed. Before he can call down to the basement and order the maintenance crew to repair the damage, Lloyd jumps out from under the basin. Nigel rushes to use the taser, but the machine is pummeled by a spray of paintballs that splatter over the electrodes. The machine hums and erratically rotates as its frantic owner pounds on the console until the controls break.
“I’m surprised you have actual paintballs for that thing,” Cassidy says as she comes out of hiding. Pulling out her shotgun, she unloads on the taser and sends it crashing to the floor. “I wonder how we can get to him. Not a fan of waiting him out since he could have snacks hidden in there. I have some smoke bombs in the jeep, which we can try out. There has to be some kind of ventilation for that cage.”
“You haven’t seen me at my worst!” Nigel shouts, confused by his enemies’ laughter. He pulls a lever that opens several holes in the ceiling, the edges covered in flint. “I hit this button and dynamite falls into the room. They’ll light as they pass through, but I’ll be safe when metal shielding comes up around me. All of my equipment can be rebuilt and I need a new assistant anyway. What do you think of that?”
With his partner busy groaning, Lloyd raises his hand and waits to be pointed at. “Sounds ridiculous and ineffective. Honestly, the machineguns were dangerous, but everything else failed miserably. I doubt you even know how that grenade you keep juggling works. If you did then you’d realize you have the safety on. That model needs the pin pulled-”
“Do you really think I’m that stupid?”
“Yes. That thing is probably a dud anyway.”
“You’re far too cowardly to play with a real explosive.”
“The hell I am!”
Nigel pulls the pin of the grenade and holds the weapon up, his intention to put the piece back in like he has seen in a few movies. He is about to return the pin when Cassidy shoots the bulletproof glass, the unexpected noise making the man jump. He drops the piece and scrambles to find it while his enemies run for the elevator. When nothing happens, Nigel looks at the grenade and curses about it being a dud. Having no use for the device, he casually tosses it over his shoulder and moves for a button that will drop the elevator. The explosive goes off as soon as it hits the ground and he is killed as the bulletproof glass shatters, the shards flying in every direction. The floor beneath the circular console groans and collapses into itself, the electronics tumbling through the hole.
“I can’t believe he did that. Also, I don’t think grenades are supposed to do that,” Lloyd says while they pry the door open. Confirming that Nigel looks more like paint than a man, they hit the button for the bottom floor. “Honestly, I thought it really was a dud considering he kept tossing it around. Who would be crazy enough to play with a live grenade? The correct answer is one who pulls the pin to prove his manliness. I get the sense that a lot of these guys don’t believe they can die.”
“I came to that conclusion too,” Cassidy agrees with a yawn. She takes a seat in the corner and stretches her legs until her knees pop. “Can’t believe I’m already tired. We spent three days at that lodge and all of the tension is back. I know I want to get this adventure over with, but let’s stay in town for a night. There’s plenty in here to claim and trade for a great room. We could pay for the food and drink of a bunch of people too. Make some friends, get some information, and enjoy a bed that’s softer than a marble slab.”
“I get the feeling that we’re missing something,” the serial killer claims, his eyes starting to close from fatigue. The door opens to the lobby and he stops, his eyes falling on the panel. “Like I had something to do here before we left. Eh, I can come back later since we’re staying for a night. These things also pop up when you let your guard down. Couldn’t have been that important anyway.”