(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
A similar scene on the side of the road causes Cassidy and Lloyd to stop and clamber out of the jeep. Through a thin line of trees, the pair get closer to where a group of people wearing blue and black uniforms are surrounding a tied up Half-Dead. Exactly as before, the monster looks unnaturally defenseless and docile. It is only when it is struck by a cattle prod that the zombie-like creature struggles against the lead-lined chains. All of the grass around the post is blackened by the toxic blood that has seeped from the Half-Dead’s minor wounds. Its milky eyes constantly shift toward a bundle of rags and a sad moan slips from its charred lips. When one of its captors steps on the package, the creature erupts in rage and nearly frees itself. A precise strike to its head with a bullwhip takes the fight out of it, the unending pain in its body becoming stronger than its fury.
Only two people are within reach of the prisoner, the pair repeatedly popping white pills that make them shudder in disgust. The woman is dressed like the others, but with a cape that repeatedly snags on one of two briar bushes. Her hair is styled with enough gel and spray that the products can be smelled from far away. She has a single medal on her uniform, but it is made out of a bottlecap and colorful gum wrappers. The familiar man is still wearing a leather bodysuit with enough buckles and straps to make one wonder how he goes to the bathroom or if he ever showers. Focused on the Half-Dead, the narrow-faced figure routinely walks to a nearby table and grabs another torture instrument to use on the creature. A pile of discarded tools is a few feet away, all of them having become too radioactive to touch.
“You copy and pasting bastard!” Lloyd shouts, raising his fist to the sky. His outburst startles the soldiers, who point their weapons at him and Cassidy. “At least that went differently than before. Seriously, what the fuck is going on here? We went through this ten miles that way and I know we didn’t take any turns. Not to mention Bullshit over there seems to be deep into his work even though we saw him running away less than an hour ago. Your work ethic is simply superhuman, buddy.”
“You must have run into Bullwhip’s twin brother,” the torturer states, causing the soldiers to turn their weapons towards him. Annoyed by the delay, the man looks at his employer and gestures for her to get them to stand down. “Bullwhip was hired by Major Janet Jones while the other Bullwhip was hired by Captain William Boyle. The Bullwhips are neutral parties and each of you went to one of us specifically. This is just business and it sounds like the other Bullwhip failed. That means Bullwhip can-”
Lloyd’s machete slams into the man’s chest and he topples over, which scares the soldiers into retreating. Only their leader remains, the woman’s face a vivid portrait of anger and frustration. She pulls a large box out from under her cape and hits a series of buttons, which causes all of her cowardly men to explode. A mild curse slips from her lips when she hits the wrong one, the unsuspecting victim too far away for anyone to hear their demise. Placing the box on the table, the woman picks up one of the remaining tools and approaches the Half-Dead in order to continue the torture. All she can manage is one poke that does not break the skin before she becomes disgusted with the creature and walks away.
“I hope you have a good reason for killing my expert,” Major Jones states, her voice gravelly and strained. She pops another pill and washes it down with a chug of gin, which causes her eyes to water. “This creature might have information that our cause needs in order to claim victory over Johnathan Custer. Everyone in this country hates the man, which is why we have returned to claim victory. All we are missing is our great leader, who is rumored to be hiding around here. No matter how many times we have lost in the past, I’m sure we can win this round because it’s our time. People are going to learn that our way is the right way and come flocking to our side once the Noble Messiah is found. Now, why did you stop us? Not to mention getting me to kill my entire squad and the army’s cook.”
“Wow, there must be something in the water to create this much stupid in such a small area,” Lloyd says, his head hurting from trying to follow the woman’s logic. He whistles for Cassidy to step away from Major Jones, the mercenary already preparing to deliver a pointblank shot to the head. “It’s so wrong that I’m the one stopping the murders, but let’s show a bit of restraint here. At least for a minute or five. To answer your questions, you’re the one who went button happy on your own people and I killed that man because I was sick and tired of hearing people say Bullwhip. These two barely use the damn thing, so why are they named after it? Not to mention they could have done some variation on the spelling. Don’t ask me how I know they were the same. Just a hunch since we’re having a little déjà vu here.”
“So, you aren’t agents of Johnathan Custer?” the woman asks, trying to step away from Cassidy. Her brow furrows when the mercenary moves with her, the gun never being more than an inch from her face. “The threat of violence is unnecessary, little girl. I have no weapons other than my boom box, which only works on my own men. Not to mention the buttons are keyed to my fingerprints, so only I can set them off. As far as you two are concerned, I’m completely harmless.”
Cassidy draws her other handgun and fires an entire clip into the control box, which is reduced to a sparking chunk of garbage. “Not a fan of people who see their own as expendable and turn on them with such ease. I’d ask if you forced them to wear the bombs or they did it willing, but I don’t care. Either way makes you just as bad as Custer. Possibly even worse since I’ve yet to see him personally turn on an ally. Then again, I only met him once and it ended with him wanting me dead.”
“Then, we’re allies!”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“But the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
“Technically, an enemy of your enemy can also be your enemy if you piss them off as well.”
“It’s what I call a murder threesome. More than three makes it a psycho orgy,” Lloyd interjects while he tugs on his machete. Putting his foot on Bullwhip’s chest, he yanks the weapon free and nearly falls on his back. “So, one army wants this Messiah dead and another wants her as a leader. Stranger still is that Ben was called a Messiah too. It’s like various factions are rising from the shadows to start a big war where only one will survive. Yet, it looks like all of them are using goblins, which is boring.”
“That is exactly right . . . except for the goblin part,” Major Jones excitedly says, her eyes twinkling with a wild fervor. The spark disappears when she fumbles with her hidden knife, the weapon bouncing to the feet of the Half-Dead. “That’s a nail clipper. Why would I try to attack you? She would shoot me before I got very far. You know, I don’t even remember taking that with me, so it’s entirely possible that somebody planted it on me. So, how about we unite to find the Messiah and defeat our enemies?”
“I think you should start running,” the serial killer casually replies.
Major Jones scratches her head in confusion until she sees Lloyd walk behind the Half-Dead. He drops the creature’s bundle of medicine on the ground before swiftly picking the lock and removing the chains. Drool dripping from its mouth, the radioactive assassin hisses its thanks before walking after Major Jones. Popping a handful of pills, the Half-Dead gradually builds up speed until it is sprinting across the muddy ground. It pounces on the woman who screams and rolls over with a gun in her hand, the weapon firing through her attacker. None of the injuries are fatal to the creature, the only effect a momentary pause before it goes back to tearing her to pieces.
Lloyd is surprised when Cassidy tosses a new toothbrush to him, the unexpected reward stemming from a bet that she did not have time to make. He follows her to the jeep, neither of them wanting to talk about what they have seen. Both of them head for the passenger side door, so a quick flip of a plastic coin is required before they get inside. Losing the toss, Lloyd gets behind the wheel while Cassidy settles in for a nap. The serial killer is tempted to blast the CD player through their megaphone, but the scowl on his partner’s face makes him resist his more mischievous urges.