(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
As soon as the elevator dings, the howitzers pepper the car with gunfire that eventually sends the entire thing crashing to the first floor. Elaine and Johnathan remain near the spotless fireplace, both of them sitting nervously on one of the curved couches. Using remote controls for the guns, they open fire on the stairwell door when it opens a crack. The metal chunks fall to the floor and tumble down the steps, which are well-lit enough to show that nobody is standing there. A surprising thud against the windows behind them causes Johnathan to turn his gun completely around. Elaine tackles him off the couch as he pushes the button and nearly gets them killed. Taking the remote away from her father, she stares at the tattered remains of a fire hose that is dangling from the roof. Waving for her father to hide behind a metal cabinet, the cautious brunette starts to walk toward the howitzers. She hears a metal clink from the stairwell and turns the guns at the same time a grenade rolls into the office. Dropping the remotes, Elaine sprints for her father’s desk and leaps behind it before the explosive goes off. She peeks around the corner to see that Johnathan is safe and unharmed, but their weapons are destroyed and the sprinkler system has gone off. Before she can get out of her hiding place, she feels a gun press against the back of her head.
“I dare you to twitch and give me a reason to make this quick,” Cassidy whispers while hoisting Elaine up to her feet. Walking her to the center of the room, the mercenary nods to where Lloyd is doing the same to Johnathan. “So, how’s everything been? Conquest going well or did you run into a few obstacles? You know, I really want to just kill you and be on our way, but somebody wants to play with his food. If I had to guess, the psycho cheerleader you had waiting for us got his blood boiling.”
“No, I just want them to suffer like all of their victims,” Lloyd blurts out as he gets a firm grasp of Johnathan’s flaxen hair. He gives a solid yank only to find that the tresses are real, so he settles for a casual knee to the stomach. “You guys ruined so many lives. Not only the people you killed and the families you destroyed. Everyone who joined your side has to start from scratch in a very unforgiving world. Who knows what they’ll do now that your pet brainwasher belly-flopped into the pavement. By the way, I checked and she did leave an imprint. I made sure to outline it for fun.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” Johnathan declares, putting up his hands. Looking his daughter in the eye, he takes a calming breath and sprouts his most charming smile. “You see, I was sent back here for petitioning for the naval blockade and walls to stop. The rest of the world hated the idea, so they sent me back. My hope was to make this country whole again and my daughter was going to help me. We hired Grymer and Josephina because they claimed to know . . . what to do and how to do it. I only helped them get the money and my daughter had nothing to do with any of this. It was all Grymer and everybody else you killed. Selene was even sent by that Ben guy to kill me because he’s bad too. You have to understand that I only wanted to help people. All I did was make the wrong decision in friends, but they’re all gone. My daughter and I can really do some good for this country if you let us live.”
Feeling Cassidy’s grip loosen, Elaine gets free and takes her father by the hand to give his fingers a gentle kiss. “He’s telling the truth. My brothers and husband were more interested in such a conquest, but we preferred to stay here to work on unity. Neither of us have gone very far from Las Vegas, so how would we know what people are doing in our name? All we did was give orders to unite the nation. You can’t hold us accountable for others going behind our backs and doing horrible things. If my father and I knew then we would have put a stop to it immediately.”
“How could you not know?” Lloyd asks, looking from Johnathan to Elaine. He spots a flicker of anger on the daughter’s face, but nothing more than fear in her father’s eyes. “I mean, Grymer was physically here a lot. He had to be talking to at least one of you. Be ready for an odd compliment, but I don’t think you’re stupid enough to let him make a report without proof that it’s the truth. Not to mention you had that bear snack running a reeducation center in this very building. Uniting through peace doesn’t involve that type of craziness. So, why don’t you try again?”
“I was promised power and my old life back,” Johnathan says in a voice that struggles to be softer than his normal tone. His baggy suit makes it look like he is shrinking as he leans against the back of a couch. “Maybe I knew about what was going on, but the end seemed to justify the means. I don’t know. This whole thing turned out to be more difficult than I expected and I trusted the wrong people. My daughter and I were used by them just like you were used by that old desert man. Guess you could say we have more in common than you want to admit.”
With matching groans, Cassidy and Lloyd turn away from their enemies and go to the desk for a private conversation. They talk low enough to avoid being heard, which causes Johnathan to take a few steps closer. He is stopped by Elaine, who quickly draws her pistol and tries to fire it at the pair. The banana squishes in her hand and she starts at the mushed fruit before looking at her empty holster. Determined to take advantage of being ignored, she pulls Johnathan’s pistol out from under his jacket. She yelps at the sight of a green sex toy and whirls around to wave it in her father’s face. The laughter from the desk stops her from voicing the accusation that is on the tip of her tongue. Turning back to her enemies, Elaine throws the dildo and watches it shatter the window.
“I’m sure you can afford a new one,” Cassidy states with a grin. Pulling out another handgun, she tosses the first one onto the floor between her enemies. “We’re calling bullshit on your excuses. All of the stories we heard put at least one of you in control. Grymer might have had his own agenda, but he wasn’t the only one. Now, we do know of a group of people who want to get their own revenge. They might even give us a reward for handing you over. It won’t be a pretty end in that case. Still, we’re willing to make a forgiveness deal so to speak. There’s one bullet in that gun. Whoever picks it up and shoots the other will get to walk out of Vegas. Take your time and think hard about this.”
“Such a sad and pathetic attempt to-” Johnathan starts to say. His heart leaps into his throat when Elaine grabs the gun and tries to shoot him, the empty weapon’s click echoing in his fear-addled mind. “Did you just try to kill your father? I can’t believe this. After all I’ve done for you over the years. There wasn’t even any hesitation. You just picked it up and aimed for me head. I don’t know what the point of this was, but I’m angry. How dare you betray your own father so easily?”
“Because you’re the idiot who got us sent back here!” Elaine screams as she continues to fire the weapon. Giving in to her frustration, she hurls the gun at Johnathan’s head and misses when he awkwardly ducks. “We had a good life outside of this hellhole. All we had to do was stay out of trouble, but you couldn’t do that. The scams and public embarrassments and feuds and the rest of your nonsense got us kicked out of civilization. I’m sick of it. We stuck together because you kept going along with whatever I said, but now you’re trying to think for yourself and I’m not dealing with it. This isn’t really your home, Johnathan, so get the fuck out of my skyscraper and city.”
“Wow, that was a lot more vicious than I expected,” Lloyd whispers, handing a package of dental floss to his partner. His words are loud enough for Elaine to glare at him, her hand going for her missing gun again. “Kind of scary how that’s a reflex. You don’t even have to think about killing someone. All you do is get angry, want to commit murder, and your body goes through the motions. That’s fucking cold even by my standards. At least take some joy from the killing to remind yourself that it could have been you at the other end of the bullet. That’s pretty good for on the spot wisdom.”
“This one is loaded,” Cassidy states, throwing Elaine her gun.
“And what am I supposed to do with it?”
“Try to kill me if you can.”
“Your friend will simply gut me once I’m done with you.”
“Nope, I already made him promise not to.”
Elaine stares from the handgun to the mercenary, who is calmly toward the center of the room. She considers shooting her father, but the shocked look on Johnathan’s face and the way he walks to his desk make her feel a pang of pity. It is a brief sensation when she remembers not only the life she lost outside of the Shattered States, but the one that has just fallen apart because he insisted on trying to recruit Cassidy and Lloyd. With a steady hand, she puts her gun into the holster and makes sure her fingers are no longer covered by any of the slippery banana. Elaine smirks slightly when she imagines that this is how duels used to be in the Old West, the idea making her believe that she is the sheriff and destined to win. As an afterthought, she decides that she can simply shoot Lloyd and Jonathan right after killing the mercenary. With nobody else in the office, she can make up any story and turn herself into the new symbol of the Custer organization. Confident that she is faster than Cassidy, Elaine starts to draw her weapon and immediately takes a bullet between the eyes from the faster woman.
“How did you do that?” Lloyd asks as their enemy’s body flops onto the floor. Hearing a scream start to come out of Johnathan’s mouth, he whirls round to slam the hilt of his machete into the man’s gut. “Guess he didn’t like that. Seriously though, you kept saying she was faster than you. When did you have any time to practice?”
“I’ve been a little busy, so I improvised,” Cassidy replies as she retrieves Elaine’s gun. She takes the weapon apart in a few seconds and takes out some identical pieces from her back pocket. “I had a few custom pistols that looked the same, but were heavier than what Elaine was used to. I swapped the parts before giving it back. She was already angry, which slowed her down, so I might have been able to beat her fairly. Figured it was smarter to do this and give myself even more of an advantage. I also removed the firing pin. Elaine might have been a faster shot, but I’m a lot more cunning. What do we do about him?”
“I will kill all of you!” Johnathan shouts in anger. He stands up and throws his chair back to break another window. “All of my children are gone because of you. Shot and murdered before my eyes or in the middle of the wilderness. If it takes the rest of my life, I’ll get my revenge on both of you.”
“Actually, at least one of your sons was eaten alive by cannibals,” Lloyd mentions before pressing his machete against the other man’s throat. He eases Johnathan against the railing and playfully takes his chin with the blade. “It is a good question, kid. He does have every right to seek revenge, which is one reason to kill him. Yet, there’s another risk that comes from letting your head stay on your neck. Seems you’re easily duped into being a scapegoat. Sure, we didn’t fall for it and we saw many who didn’t care, but that cult in New York was at least superficially in love with you. Imagine if you ever honed that charisma and developed some sense of cunning or even a modicum of wisdom. You’d be a lot more dangerous than you are now. Probably still the tool of someone smarter, but it is a good reason not to let you walk away. Only reason I haven’t yet is because you’re fairly pathetic and I keep hoping something more exciting than a beheading will pop into my head.”
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Cassidy blurts out, her attention on something else.
“Hey, I need big kills to be memorable and . . . You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me too.”
Everyone stares at the stairwell where Selene is walking into the room, her right leg and arm mangled. The psychopath is muttering to herself while her head moves from side to side, each pass flicking fresh blood out of her hair. She stops to gnaw on her thumb, which is nothing more than exposed bone. With a terrifying shriek and no sign that the broken leg is a problem, Selene charges across the room. She leaps at Cassidy and Lloyd, who duck out of the way and leave Johnathan to take the impact. Both of their enemies go over the railing, the startled man’s legs kicking in a desperate attempt to catch onto something. A wild cackle erupts from the girl’s throat, the sound finally ending when they hit the pavement.
“Seems anticlimactic since we already killed someone this way,” Lloyd mentions as they look out the window. Soldiers are gathering on the street, the sight of their dead leader causing them to drop their weapons. “Amazing how he wasn’t calling many of the shots, but they still act like he was the heart of the organization. Wonder if Grymer and Elaine had this much loyalty from these people or if they even cared. Hey, where are you going?”
“Keep your eyes on that body!” Cassidy shouts while she heads for the stairs. Hearing Lloyd follow her, she hurries to drag him back to the window. “That crazy bitch has gotten up far too many times. Make sure she doesn’t go anywhere. I’m going to the jeep and running her over until I’m satisfied.”
“She licked and bit me!”
“In that case, roadkill your little heart out.”
Cassidy rushes for the stairs while Lloyd takes a look outside, his mouth going dry at the disappearance of Selene’s body. “Oh, that’s just fucked up. I mean, it’s more than likely that somebody dragged her away, but that’s equally fucked up. Geez, the messed up adventures we get into here. Somebody should write a book or two about them. Maybe even a blog if those still existed. Eh, that’s just ridiculous. Who would buy or even read such an over-the-top story? Why do I feel like I’m missing something? Crap, she left before she could say it. She might still be able to hear me. Hey, kid, did I tell you my idea to sell our story to some halfwit author and get him to share?”
A few seconds pass before Cassidy comes back up far enough to say, “Get back to that window and shut the fuck up, Lloyd.”
“Thanks. Now, all is right with the world.”