(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
The elevator opens to a hallway with plush carpeting and they can already see that the connected room has sofas. Hearing only three voices, they creep forward and pray that the ding of their arrival has gone unnoticed. Documents from before the collapse are on the walls along with pictures of a few past Presidents, all of them protected by glass frames. Small relics are in long cases, which are triple-locked and sharpened at each corner. Coming to the end of the hallway, the intruders stay out of sight and listen to the argument that is brewing. It takes them a moment to figure out that the three people are debating who should get to use the bathroom first in the morning and why each one has earned a right to the number one spot. With a tired groan, the pair trudge into the open and face what they expect to be another group of idiots that can be talked into self-destructing.
Instead, Cassidy and Lloyd find themselves staring at a small lounge with a small kitchen in the middle. The leather recliners have been maintained to look like new and the only sign of use is a small tear on the arm of the black one. An old man with a long neck and thin lips stares at the intruders from his seat, his empty gaze making them shiver. He tries to swivel his chair around, but all he gets is the whine of an old motor and smoke wafting out of the back. A stubby-nosed man with a smile that seems forced helps with the piece of furniture, but he complains the entire time. Once they feel like they are in position, both of the Lawmakers stare at the intruders and reach under their coats. A sharp whistle stops them from drawing their weapons, the third man stepping out of a connected room. Wearing a nice suit and a woebegone expression, he slicks back his graying hair and takes his seat in another recliner.
It takes the Lawmakers a moment to realize that their unexpected guests have yet to notice any of them. With a chorus of grumbles, they glance at the open vault where rows of frost-covered tubes have been set up. A large tank sits in the corner and hums as it pumps a cooling agent into the containers. The occasional beep comes from a console, which the oldest Lawmaker checks on a display in his chair. He attempts to smile every time he checks the numbers, but it only makes his face look like it is being stretched from behind. A loud thud echoes from inside the vault and a whiff of foul air drifts across the lounge. With a tired sigh, the stubby-nosed man sprays perfume around until the smell goes away and quietly returns to his creaking chair.
“I think I know you three,” Lloyd says when he finally turns to the Lawmakers. He takes out his paintball gun and aims it at each of the men, all of them flinching in turn. “I forget the names because I don’t care, but you guys were politicians before D.C. became a glow-in-the-dark crater. We heard some rumors about a band of congressmen not being in the city when the attack happened. Nice job hiding yourselves all these years. We need to give you names. Let’s see what we can come up with. That guy looks like a turtle, so I’m calling him Terrapin. You want to take the other two, kid?”
“Jellyfish for the sniveling guy over there and I guess the sad-looking one can be called Puffin for irony,” Cassidy half-heartedly answers. Wandering over to the vault, she scratches her head when she gets a better look at the tubes. “Are those old refrigerators with plexiglass domes attached to the front? I can’t see how any of those work correctly. The whole system looks faulty and ridiculous. What in the world is going on here?”
“Doctor Dragovic assures us that our coworkers are alive and can be revived as soon as the time is right,” Puffin calmly answers. Getting to his feet, he is momentarily confused when his friends do the same. “You’re lucky we were waiting for Reuben to arrive with another tank of cooling agent. Otherwise, you’d have never made it down the hallway. Not sure why you two are here anyway. Are you agents of Johnathan Custer? If so then please tell him that we will go along with his plan, but only if he gives in to our demand that we call the shots while he takes all the blame.”
“Or we will shut down the country!” Jellyfish declares with a clap of his hands.
“I vote to silence the woman!” Terrapin shouts, his voice a droning slur. He makes a gulping noise as if he is about to choke, the noise ending with an odd chuckle. “You better not use that tactic against me. That would be unfair and unexpected. My methods can only be used by me and I’ll make you the bad guy if you try them. Now, never talk to me again unless you’re called upon.”
Annoyed by the interruptions, Puffin pulls out an airhorn and blasts it to silence his companions. “Would you two please be quiet. I said I would handle this when we saw them on the elevator camera. If you keep yelling then we won’t get anywhere. This is the voting problem all over again. We’re on the same side here. Our enemies are gone, so now we have full control of the situation. The laws are made by us and Johnathan Custer is the perfect cover for us to rebuild this country. That’s why we agreed to give him all of the Fort Knox gold to take power in Las Vegas. He’s our way to regain the power that we deserve.”
“I refuse to obey such a horrible man,” Jellyfish snaps, his right eye twitching.
“You cave every time Grymer or Elaine come by.”
“They have my respect, so I’m polite.”
“I saw you physically grovel last time.”
“My contact fell out.”
“You don’t wear contacts!”
“Nobody will ever defeat me!” Terrapin screams, his voice ending with an embarrassing burp.
As the Lawmakers squabble amongst themselves, Cassidy wanders around the room in search of tradable items. There is a thick layer of dust on the dressers, but she finds several spaces that are clean. Running a finger along the gaps, the mercenary finds that they are clean and might have been cleared earlier today. Hearing a loud slap, she turns around and watches Jellyfish rub his sore cheek, but nobody is within reach of the man. Terrapin is now standing on his chair, but does nothing more than stare ahead while Puffin tries in vain to get the others to stop arguing with him. Rolling her eyes, Cassidy looks away and continues walking around unobstructed until she comes to a door. Cracking it open, she is hit by a wave of fresh air that travels down the stairs.
“Looks like we have a way out,” she says, turning around to face Lloyd. For the first time, she realizes that the serial killer is nowhere to be seen. “No wonder it’s been so quiet here. Well, compared to what it would be if you were around. Why do I have a bad feeling about you not being within view?”
“Probably because you know I’ve been up to something,” Lloyd replies while leaving the bathroom. He finishes stuffing the last of the towels into his backpack before taking his friend by the hand. “Dipshit, dumbass, and douchebag look a bit busy. Let me show you what I did. May have outdone myself this time, but I can’t take all of the credit. Your assistance and the art of foreshadowing needs some honorable mention.”
“Have you been stealing stuff?” Cassidy asks as she pokes at his backpack. She can tell that it is lumpier than before and he repeatedly adjusts it due to the weight. “Hope you got some good stuff because nothing caught my eye. Strange that we’re allowed to wander around the room while they keep fighting. Did Puffin just insult Jellyfish’s wife? Can’t believe that idiot is taking such abuse as long as the other two claim Custer said it first.”
“Yeah, yeah, he’s a wuss and an idiot,” her partner casually states with a lazy wave of his hand. Coming to the vault door, he bows and gestures for the mercenary to enter first. “I took a look at their politician popsicle system and saw how simple it was. Might not be very good with electronics that don’t involve video games or porn, but I can always figure out how to make a mess of things. What do you think?”
Walking into the vault, Cassidy is unsure what she should be looking at until she gets closer to one of the containers. The man inside is sweating and gasping for air even though he is still unconscious. Others can be heard gagging on the feeding tubes jammed down their throats and one person in the back is banging to get out. Instead of the foul smell from before, the stench in the room pokes at Cassidy’s memory. Taking a few more steps, she spots the clear pipes that carry food to those inside. Whatever is being pumped into the people is thick and a dark red, a few leaking spots showing that the meal is very oily as well. Bending down to sniff at a puddle, she jerks her head back and glares at Lloyd.
“You’re killing them with the dinner I made?” Cassidy growls, unsure if she should be amused or offended. Searching for the person trying to escape, she stops at the sight of a rotting body on the floor. “I think you’ve gone too far this time, Lloyd. These people didn’t do anything wrong. Unless you know something that I don’t, which I hope is true. I mean, this is putting a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Revenge is mine!” Lloyd declares with a mad cackle. Holding up a hand, he opens the nearest chamber and the person inside flops out dead. “I ran in here as soon as those three idiots looked at you. These guys die once you let them out even if you push the button that says safe release. Not to mention they probably had a hand in the nuking. If not that then they obviously had enough of a warning to call in sick. As far as I’m concerned, this is justice for the mess they might have made. That or I’m putting them out of their misery with a last supper. Figured at least one of them would enjoy a spicy meal after years of freezer burn.”
“What are you two doing in here?” Puffin asks, the others only a few steps behind. The three of them have their guns drawn, but are hesitant to raise the weapons. “Our friends and coworkers are dying because of you. Doctor Dragovic told us not to hit the button until a full decade has passed. He was supposed to return at that time. What have you done?”
“I’m not repeating myself,” the serial killer answers, approaching the Lawmakers. He puts his hands on Puffin’s shoulders and looks into the man’s eyes, which are bloodshot and on the verge of tears. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s been more than a decade. Dragovic has gone to greener pastures. By that I mean, he’s probably being used for fertilizer back in Missouri. Not that it matters because that was days ago. He forgot all about you guys, which means he left your friends to die.”
“You mean it wasn’t the poison I added to their food last week?” Terrapin interjects, surprising his friends. The awkward silence continues for a minute until the old man chuckles and flashes a creepy smile. “Don’t give me those looks. I saw both of you do the same thing because you were tired of waiting. The three of us have worked hard all this time, so why let those moochers out to ruin things? We all know they’d fight over everything and prevent us from making any progress. That’s what they did even when we were facing the same enemies and look where it got us.”
“You were the one convincing everyone to fight and make a mess, which we could blame on the other side,” Jellyfish says, an unexpected edge to his voice. Lifting his gun, he tries to shoot Terrapin, but nothing happens. “Why won’t the trigger move? Wait, there’s a safety or something on this. Maybe it’s this thing here. Am I the only one who thinks we should have learned how to use these things after promoting them for so long? You two have fired one of these before, right?”
Puffin sighs and calmly tries to shoot Jellyfish, only to realize that he forgot to load the weapon. “I’ve used a rifle that somebody handed me for a photo op. Figured these were always loaded when we were given them by Grymer. Look, we’ve all made some mistakes this week that we should learn from. Poisoning the people who made us promise to revive them later was not nice. All we have to do is find replacements and get Reuben to locate another doctor that knows about cryogenics. Pretty sure there’s hundreds of those out there. Where are those intruders?”
“Pay no attention to the slamming door!” Lloyd shouts as they close the vault. The entrance locks with an echoing bang that shakes the walls. “That should solve our little Lawmaker problem. In my defense, those people were triple poisoned and dying before I gave them their final meal. In fact, one could say that I gave them a burst of energy before they left this mortal coil. Ready to battle our way out?”
“Still not sure I like what you did,” Cassidy says while walking to the elevator. She waits for the doors to open before tossing her last grenade inside and sprinting back to Lloyd. “That should stop anyone from coming down here. We’ll take the stairs and blow that entrance too. I’ll send a message to the local Library because they should take some of these things. Stop pouting like a naughty puppy because I doubt you know why I’m annoyed.”
“Because I used your cooking for mercy kills and the nearly dead seemed to agree with my statement that the dish was a nightmare come to life,” the serial killer cheerfully replies. The stun gun to his stomach sends him crashing to the floor, but he still has the strength to crawl after his fuming partner. “Would this be a bad time to ask for you to make more? I wanted to make some ammunition with it. Thinking of calling it the Cassidy Culinary Catastrophe attack. Hey, don’t you dare close that door. Uh, I think my hair is stuck in the . . . Yup . . . Wow, this hurts. Give me a little help, kid? Hello?”