The two in the doorway were apparently caught off-guard by their recklessness. As the five black knights lit up the building’s front, burning ammo with abandon, they all howled and jeered.

Skrimp could feel the adrenaline setting in.

Once they’d reached the door, they each took turns reloading. In the ear-ringing absence of gunfire, Skrimp could hear his own laughter.

Just then, a voice could be heard from inside. “So much for warning them!” The pink robot said.

A trap? Skrimp wondered.

Liddy punched his arm. “Worry not! I’ll breach.”

All of them filed in behind the gaunt and strange man as he led the way into the dark. There was a brief moment before their night vision activated. A green landscape appeared to Skrimp out of that black, and he took in the sight of a dozen pillars. They stood in rows, wide apart, each as thick as a red oak. They supported the vaulting ceiling of what they had assumed before to be a multistoried building.

A couple of gunshots popped off, coming from nowhere. They scrambled for cover.

Skrimp found himself behind the leftward pillar with Liddy, frantically confirming he hadn’t been hit.

“Nothing critical,” he heard Liddy say. When he looked, Liddy was inspecting the hole that had been blown out of his upper arm.

“Jesus, man!”

“Shhh,” Liddy, warned. “Watch this.” He stuck out his hand, only for another gunshot to crack off, obliterating two of his fingers.

Skrimp cursed, reflexively covering his head. “Stop that!”

“He’s a Nephilim,” Liddy whispered. “Half demon.

Fuckers using an aimbot, Skrimp realized. “Well, what the h-hell are you, huh?”

“Beyond pain, back from the grave.” As soon as he said it, Liddy leaped from cover again.

He could hear the bullets crashing into them, and the low thwump of Liddy’s grenade launcher trigger. In a rush of faith, knowing the shooter would be distracted, he moved out of cover the opposite direction.

Sprinting, Skrimp’s eyes locked on the next pillar’s shelter. Almost falling as the impact of the grenade shook the room, he came sliding in behind the concrete. Silence again reigned, but only for a moment.

He was by himself now and, with more fighting ongoing, he thought that he would be safe moving up.

I can get the jump.

Going again out of cover down the row of pillar further from conflict, Skrimp neglected cover entirely to run until he was horizontal with the threat.

Another explosion went off, only a few rows down.

No radio, he realized. No way to warn them I’m up here.

Skrimp raised up his gun and turned the corner. Heart pounding, his gaze searched rapidly for any sign of life. Finding nothing, he started running again.

Colliding full-force with them, Skrimp managed to find someone.

His grip was lost and, as he hit the floor, Skrimp realized it wasn’t one of his team-mates. The strange, shimmering silhouette rolled over and up. The Japanese man tossed off his cloak, its shattered panels glitching out. He was placid as he looked down at Skrimp, who, in the time he had done so, had hardly hit the ground.

He could only call for help. “HEY GUYS!”

Ryou was on him just as fast, dagger appearing.

Skrimp managed to stand and fling himself backward, scrambling out of a jab only by mad frenzy. Barely making it up, he decided running was his only option. He knew though, in his gut, that they were faster.

He waited for the blade.

Suddenly, a black-clad figure appeared from around the next pillar, shouting, “DUCK!”

Skrimp hit the deck.

As he did, Charlie raised her gun to fire.

A massive knife tore into her chest, dropping her to her knees before she could blink. She fell into a bloody heap, halfway crashing onto Skrimp where he’d gone prone.

Not even thinking, he took her gun and pulled the trigger. Without aiming, Full-auto burn crackled out over the entire length of pillars. Blinded by the muzzle flash, Skrimp could only pray.

The thud of flesh on concrete came, and attacker hit the ground, momentum bringing them sliding up against his leg.

Two bodies on him, Skrimp tried to wriggle his way out. He had sworn twice there that he was dead but, with the blood coating him and the sheer terror in his veins, he knew that wasn’t so.

“Now,” Skrimp murmured, getting to his feet, “where are-”

“Fuck!” He turned to see Dag, airborne, appearing and disappearing from out of a perpendicular row of pillars. Following shortly after was the girly android.

Fanta came running past, yelling at Skrimp. “Get yer’ ass over here, boy!”

The four of them gathered around where Dag was pulling himself achingly back up. They encircled the robot there, who was simply standing still. She was waiting.

“Guns don’t work,” Dag said, dusting himself off.

“I’m three times as strong as any of you, and bulletproof, darlings. You may have killed Ryou, but that’s simply logistically impossible with me.” Her sing-song voice echoed off over the pillars as the wheels turned in Skrimp’s head.

“Well,” Liddy said, “There are four of us…”

Each of them exchanged a look.

The robot spread her arms, her expressionless face turning to all of them in turn. “If you think you’re man enough… Then have at me, boys.”

“Fuck it.” Skrimp was first to charge. They dashed for a dogpile.

He could feel her hook land in his chest, and the crackle his ribs gave was audible. But altogether, their impact was enough to bring the bitch down.

Once on the ground, they struggled to keep her there. Each took hold of a single arm and braced. They were a tangled mess of limbs as Liddy and Fanta got into a hold that would let them leverage their entire strength. Even then, moments passed, and Skrimp realized they wouldn’t be able to hold her.

He had one of the legs, and it kept lifting and falling, smashing him into the ground. The pain in his chest almost caused him to blackout. His fingers searched for any exposed wires. Right before his strength ran out, he heard it. Dag yelling.

“It’s in!”

Fanta bellowed. “SCRAMBLE!”

“No!” The robot shrieked.

Skrimp was on his feet and running before he even understood what had happened. It only took six seconds.

Shrapnel blasted out in the fiery wave of the grenade’s explosion. Skrimp got behind cover just fast enough to dodge the molten metal.

When the dust had settled, he came limping out.

Dag was already standing in the crater. He had recovered his gun. As they regrouped, he looked over their remaining members. “Charlie?” he asked.

Skrimp shook his head.

Dag breathed deeply. “We won’t stop now. Those were just the guard dogs. With them dead… we can finally put an end to this.”

There was no sense in mourning now.

“I saw a stairway down,” Liddy said.

“Then that’s our way.” This was their moment.

Already sore and bloodied, the four of them went on.

Down, below the waves and into the abyss.


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