(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
“Wait up, kid!” Lloyd shouts as he jogs after Cassidy. He catches up at the stairs and leans on his new weapon, a hockey stick with a sharpened ice skate over the head. “Took a lot of duct tape to keep this thing in place. Not the easiest or smoothest thing to wield, but I’m always up for a challenge. By the way, I overheard the prisoners and rebels saying that they’re going to spas after the battle. I’m as surprised as you are, but I’m guessing we’re invited too. Where we going?”
“Tanner went this way and I’m going to kill him,” Cassidy coldly replies. She feels a tremor through her body and notices that the hair on her arm is standing up. “That’s odd. Wonder what he’s up to. Stay behind me and only step in if it looks like I need help. Don’t want you getting in the way of my vengeance.”
Having nothing else to say, the friends make their way up the wide stairs, which are littered with old price tags. Cassidy holds up her hand and bends down to check a few spots of red, which she hopes are fresh blood. Touching the dots, she finds that they are dry and bends down to take a sniff. The mercenary scratches at the paint drops and looks around for a source in case it is part of a trap. It is not until she turns around that Cassidy sees a crudely made sign about enlightenment. The words are in bright yellow and are fringed with a dark red, which is starting to flake. A white arrow points up, so the pair continue up the stairs with more caution and a touch of anxiety in their steps.
The lights flicker as they reach the second floor and stop at the bizarre sight that greets them. A chair sits in the middle of the cleared area with wires from multiple batteries connecting to the metal clamps bolted to the arms and legs. Rows of colorful lights from various holiday displays run among the support columns, which creates an unnerving rainbow pattern on the walls. Kneeling in front of the seat, Chris Tanner adjusts the power coursing through the device. He wipes his brow as he hurries to put as much electricity into the chair as possible, but it is clear he does not know what he is doing. With a loud hiss, one of the batteries starts to smoke, which forces the man to grab a replacement. He curses at a dull pain in his fingers as he does the switch and walks away shaking his hands, the warlord nearly colliding with Cassidy.
“What are you two doing here?” Chris asks as he backs away. His eyes fall on the rocket launcher, which is next to the stairs and too far out of reach. “I knew you two were going to be so much trouble, but I didn’t expect your attack to happen so soon. No wonder Elaine and Grymer want you dead. Well, this is where it ends. The only thing you have to look forward to is enlightenment.”
“You can’t be serious,” Lloyd replies while grabbing the rocket launcher. He throws it over the railing and is about to speak when they hear the weapon go off and the outer wall of the first floor is destroyed. “Open air shopping is all the rage anyway. Also, I didn’t think that could happen and I still think it shouldn’t have. As for this grandiose torture device, I don’t see how it’s a point in your favor. You’re outnumbered, which means there’s no way to get one of us on there without leaving yourself open. This is a terrible plan without your soldiers. Just avenge your mom and let’s get going, kid.”
“So, this abomination came from another abomination,” the warlord says, stroking his broad chin. He almost falls to his knees when Cassidy aims her rifle at his throat, the weapon held rigidly and an inch from his body. “No need to be hasty. If I killed your mother then I understand that you’re angry. Yet, it isn’t my fault. She was given every opportunity to find enlightenment and chose to remain inhuman. I was merely putting her out of her misery. Learn from her mistakes and get on the chair. I promise it will hurt for only a moment and then you will be human again.”
“Stop talking, bastard,” Cassidy growls before she pulls the trigger. The weapon clicks and she realizes that it is empty, so she draws her pistol. “Don’t go thinking that was an act of salvation or whatever you call it. I simply grabbed the wrong gun, but that’s why I always carry a back-up. Now, we’re going to-”
“But he didn’t kill your mom,” Lloyd interrupts as he gets closer. With the blunt end of his weapon, the serial killer delivers a quick blow to Chris’s groin. “That should keep him busy for a while. Where was I? Yeah, I’m a little confused here, kid. You’ve never mentioned this guy before, which is strange considering how angry you are. Earlier, you claimed vengeance, but your mom wasn’t killed by this rancid meatball. She ruined his operation and came back different, which I still don’t understand.”
Grunting and holding his aching groin, Chris stands and limps away until he has to lean against a support column. “What are you talking about? I was an onion farmer in Indiana until two years ago. Grymer recruited me for this since I was good at rallying people behind me. It’s how I always had enough people to help me with the crops. The plan was to make Johnathan Custer believe I was amassing an army for him, but we’re really causing disturbances among various communities. When the time comes, I will lead another force to destroy the Bronze Stars and-”
“Fine, my mom never ran into this fucker,” Cassidy says, approaching Chris. She puts the pistol to his head and is about to pull the trigger when Lloyd grabs the barrel. “Get the fuck out of my way! This is exactly why I lied. Once I saw he was going after people like me, I wanted to be the one to kill him. It was personal, but not in a way that I thought you would definitely give me the kill.”
“But how did you know who this guy was?” Lloyd asks, letting go of the gun.
“He had ‘Property of Chris Tanner’ on the side of his rocket launcher.”
“This was very immature and mean, kid.”
“I know. Sorry that I let my temper get the best of me.”
“You should be because that’s one of my quirks.”
“Like I said, I only wanted to make sure I’d get the kill.”
“Well, all you had to do was ask.”
“Yeah and now I owe you for causing trouble.”
“Pizza, frozen yogurt, and those Easter treats I like so much.”
Chris punches Lloyd in the face and sprints for the stairs, but Cassidy easily puts a bullet in his shoulder. He tries to stumble away, but a shot to the floor drives him toward the chair. The mercenary advances and aims for the man’s head, her lower lip bleeding from being anxiously bitten. The weapon jams, which causes Cassidy to hurl the useless gun at Chris’s face and knock him into the chair. She is about to rush forward when she pauses and looks at a small console connected to one of the car batteries. Grinning at the way her enemy tenses, she casually walks over and flips a red switch that has ‘enlightenment’ written on it. With a deafening crackle, the chair explodes with electricity that drives Cassidy and Lloyd back to the stairs. Averting their eyes, the pair can only listen to Chris scream while he is cooked within minutes. Hearing the lights start to pop, they rush to the lower level before the entire area catches fire and the support columns crumble. They continue running for the exit as the top floor collapses behind them, the rush of air helping to eject them from the building.
“Okay, I don’t think I can do anything about those Easter treats,” Cassidy says while brushing the dust off her clothes. Remembering their missing gear, she kicks at a stone and starts walking around the building. “At least until we get back to La Salle. If you want me to apologize now then you’ll have to pick something else. What about four graphic t-shirts and I’ll ask at the spa for one of those boxsets you wanted?”
“Try for the other version of the one with the little dude and the metal dude,” Lloyd replies, tossing his makeshift weapon into the rubble. He considers going back to make sure Chris is dead, but the distant hiss of electricity puts his mind at ease. “Really hope they let us into those spas. Don’t care if I have to hang around a bunch of naked guys. You get numb to that after being in prison for so long. Might be worth it if I get a few compliments on my butt. Poor thing hasn’t gotten much attention the last few weeks.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Lloyd,” the mercenary states with a smirk. The sounds of battle echo from inside the mall, so they stop and wait for the fighting to finish. “I call you an ass all the time.”