Lurker Wars: The Exiles (STORY ONLY)

Bartnum

Lurker
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
971
0
#1
THIS THREAD IS FOR THE STORY ONLY. COMMENTS GO IN THE COMMENTS THREAD. I'LL SHOOT YOU IF YOU POST HERE.

The story so far:
It began with the building of the city.

The city of Linemarvel, named for the deity worshipped by its people, had once stood proud. When Linemarvel came to the people known as lurkers, he blessed them with a great power – a sacred artifact he called Jungle Girl. Awed by the artifact, the first among them to embrace his gifts was known as Aika. Following Aika’s example, other lurkers accepted the power of Jungle Girl and began to rise above the rest, eventually becoming known as the Regulars. Aika, having been made their king, ordered the construction of the city as a permanent home for his people and a monument to Linemarvel himself. In gratitude, He bestowed upon the city a second great artifact, far superior in power to Jungle Girl – Demon Girl. With the arrival of Demon Girl and the construction of the city, more and more lurkers began to join the regulars. The people of Linemarvel entered an age of peace. Linemarvel himself kept his people in high spirits with the promise of a third artifact known only as Mystic Girl. But the peace was not to last, for Linemarvel disappeared soon after the prophecy of Mystic Girl.

Without Linemarvel and Mystic Girl to sustain them, the powers of Demon Girl and Jungle Girl began to fade. The transformations from lurker to regular began to slow, until eventually they all but ceased. Without the influence of Linemarvel, the lurkers began slowly falling into chaos. Their increasing want for pleasure and lack of moral guidance resulted in a high birth rate, and the lurker population swelled until they outnumbered the regulars in every part of the city. A lurker named Supermeme gained a high standing among them, preaching that Linemarvel had abandoned them and that Mystic Girl would never come. The lurkers defied Aika’s rule and named Supermeme their King. It wasn’t long before the conflicts started. Aika, trying to reason with the lurkers, agreed to meet with Supermeme to discuss the situation. Unfortunately Supermeme was not so easily persuaded, and a lurker ambush slaughtered Aika’s Moderator Guard and struck the down the Regular King. After that, there was no more talk of peace. This was a declaration of war.

Though the regulars were superior in fighting ability, the sheer numbers of the lurkers were overwhelming. Eventually only one squad remained – Squad 13. Using the Chatroom Bar as a base of operations, they waged a guerrilla war on the lurker forces now dominating their ruined city. But Supermeme made plans of his own in the meantime, creating a fearsome supersoldier to wipe out the regulars once and for all. Dubbed Supersonic, the creature was eventually defeated in a combined assault by Squad 13 and the Ex-lurkers – lurkers who had only partially undergone the transformation into regulars. But the battle took its toll, and the regulars realised this was their last stand. In a final effort to end the war, the ex-lurkers and remnants of Squad 13 launched a suicidal raid on the lurker stronghold, eventually confronting Supermeme. The lurker king proved to have grown powerful, and things looked bleak for the regulars.

Then Linemarvel appeared.

The return of their deity threw the lurkers into disarray, and Supermeme soon found himself without an army. The regulars, with renewed zeal, launched a counterattack on the bewildered king and slew him before their god. Linemarvel asked why the lurkers had forsaken all he had given them, and showed them the destruction they had wreaked upon their beloved city. The ex lurkers were awarded full regular status and together with the survivors of Squad 13, they constructed a ship from the wreckage of the city. Led by Linemarvel, they sailed across the sea in search of a new home.

Linemarvel led the regulars to a new continent, where they constructed a temporary village known as Tentacle Haven. Soon enough, they found a suitable location for their new city. Setting off on the last leg of their journey, they set to work on construction. Upon completion of their new city, they christened it ‘ULMF’ at Linemarvel’s suggestion.

Antithetical Inquiry, Aika’s second in command from the first city, turned down the offer of succession, though she would continue to play a large role in the rule of the city. The new leader was eventually decided on by popular vote and Nunu, a well respected regular, was awarded the position. Although the regulars’ new life was marred by Linemarvel disappearing again, they settled into their new city to begin anew.

In spite of the war, lurkers continued to inhabit the city. Many were swayed by Linemarvel during the regulars’ journey and others (along with new regulars from other cities on this new continent) made their way to the city to settle there every day. Demon Girl and Jungle Girl, recovered from the ruins of the first city and carried by the regulars on their journey, had been enhanced by Linemarvel to ensure that such a war would never break out in ULMF.

As time passed, 5 members in particular (all veterans of the war) grew bored with life in the city. Some began to develop feelings of contempt and hatred for many of the new regulars, and lose respect for the older ones. Finding pleasure only in each other’s company, they decided on independence from the city and ventured into the wasteland. The group dubbed themselves the Exiles.

The city was built near a mountain, which the Exiles decided to head towards. It was at the foot of the mountain that they found what they were looking for. A natural cave, at ground level. And so they set about building themselves a new dwelling, built into the mountain in and around the cave. When they were finished, it was as good a building as any to be found inside the city.

They called it the Lair of Titties and Awesomeness.

Obeliskos ‘Obe’ was responsible for much of the Lair’s construction; as such he declared himself the owner and established the ‘house rules’. These rules were subject to change as and when he wished, and may or may not be enforced. Obe was many things, depending on who you asked. The one thing universally agreed upon – he was an asshole. His disruptive activities within ULMF had resulted in him not being very well liked, though if he actually cared he didn’t show it. Most of them had gotten used to his antics by the time he left anyway, and he still managed to get a laugh out of most of them. Contrary to popular belief he was also quite intelligent, even if he did enjoy being a dumbass. Obe used whatever weapons he could loot from his enemies, though constantly carried an HK Mark 23 pistol he’d picked up in the war.

Momiji ‘Mo’ had long been Obe’s partner in crime. They were a force to be reckoned with even when working as a pair – reinforcements just meant they won faster. In spite of their teamwork, they were assigned to different squads during the war, though they found their way back to each other eventually. Like Obe, he enjoyed dicking around rather than being productive, though he was a bit different when serious. Mo was extremely arrogant and selfish, sometimes starting arguments amongst the group. Even when trying to be serious, he sometimes made stupid decisions. His chosen weapon was an M16 assault rifle with an added grenade launcher.

Darkfire ‘Dark’ was one of two in the group who remained active and well liked in ULMF, despite his associations. He was the first to follow Aika in embracing Linemarvel’s gifts, and was Squad 13’s commanding officer in the war until he encountered Supersonic. After being impaled by a halberd thrown by the creature, the rest of the squad believed him dead and sent his body to the Trashcan district, where all the deceased were laid to rest. Miraculously, days later, he came stumbling out of the trashcan severely injured, but alive. No one knows how he survived, much less how he woke up after being pronounced dead, but all were glad to see him alive. Dark went into battle with a heavily customised Steyr AUG assault rifle.

Bartnum ‘Bart’ was one of the more extreme regulars in the first war, where he was known by his callsign ‘Primarch’ and as a fearsome close-quarters combatant. He and Mo were both assigned to Squad 13, and the two had a history of fighting together. He met his end when facing off hundreds of lurkers alone and injured, detonating a bomb that he carried for just such an occasion. The explosion took all of them with him and annihilated an entire district of the city. However, the lurkers were able to recover trace amounts of his genetic material and produce a clone, whom they imprisoned with intent to gain information on the regulars. He was broken out by his fellow regulars during their raid on the stronghold, though some remained distrustful of him due to the circumstances of his apparent resurrection. When not in battle he was a quiet, analytical thinker, often found sitting silent in a corner. Bart’s weapons were a custom SPAS double barrelled assault shotgun and knives of almost every kind.

Onikain ‘Oni’, like Dark, remained active in ULMF and was relatively well liked, though less so than Dark. He was a highly prestigious figure in the first city, having created numerous homages to Linemarvel. Chief among these was the Demon Girl Doujin, which he recovered during the war and brought with him to ULMF. However, Oni was also a slacker, and neglected to repair the doujin after it was damaged in the war. Oni and Bartnum could trace their origins to the same region, so they got on pretty well. He also got on particularly well with Darkfire, who he had been close friends with since long before the war. The two shared a relationship much like that of Mo and Obe. Oni had no preference regarding guns, but was never in battle without his Irish claymore.

The Lair itself consisted of a walled compound surrounding the cave entrance, which had been fortified. Inside the compound were a firing range and a garage built into the rock. Inside the garage sat an armoured jeep with a mounted .50cal Browning machine gun. A larger part of the garage stretched further into the rock and was used as a workshop of sorts. There were also a few small bunkers that jutted outwards from the main building. Above the compound towered the main building, like some great rectangular block had been fit into a perfectly sized hole cut in the mountain. The main building was 3 storys high, with a basement and a balcony on the roof. A watchtower stretched up from the roof balcony, as did a communications antenna. There was a small bunker built into the rock further up the mountain in case they ever had to retreat that far, though to reach it required traversing a hazardous path through the rocks. The first floor of the building sported an armory, kitchen, mess hall and medical room, in addition to the garage/workshop and bunkers. Below it in the basement was the rec room, storeroom and a bathroom. The second floor featured an additional bathroom and sleeping quarters for the 5, while the third floor held a tech room and meeting/briefing room. There was also a gallery with a view of the compound and surrounding area.

The Exiles operated as soldiers of fortune, continuing to work in alliance/employment of ULMF, and occasionally for other settlements. At other times, they did their own thing, often hunting down lurker barbarians and raiders in the wastes. Despite their independence, the group still felt a bond between themselves and the city, and would remain fiercely loyal to her regardless of situation.

Prologue
A lone figure dragged himself out of the water. In one hand he held a large fish by the tail, still wriggling. His clothes were soaked through, weighing him down as he staggered up the beach. Behind him washed up the wreckage of a small craft, crudely built of wood and metal. He collapsed about 10 metres from the waterline, his fish dropping into the sand and flopping about until the last of its life faded. The man blinked at it. He knew he would soon share its fate, left there to dry up on the sand.

No. He had come too far. He still had something he must do.

Pushing himself to his feet despite his heavy clothes, the man retrieved his fish and looked up at the sky. The sun was close to the horizon. He would need to find shelter soon. He returned his gaze to ground level and stared out ahead of him. Nothing. There was nothing here but dust, rocks, and sand. And yet… what was that?

There was something on the other side of a sand dune near the edge of the beach. The man broke into a clumsy jog, dragging his way up the side of the dune to see what he had found. There were buildings, a cluster of them. A village, long since abandoned and left to fall apart, but shelter was shelter. He would stay here tonight.

Exploring the buildings turned up very little. Lurker raiders had been through here since it was abandoned, and everything of value had been taken by either them or the original inhabitants. He managed to find a metal rod to serve as a skewer, and a few raw materials he could use to make a fire. He also found a pot of some kind, and brought up some water from the sea to boil.

That night, as the man sat cooking his fish, he happened to look around and noticed the fire glow reflecting off a half buried metal object in the sand. No doubt buried and missed by the lurkers, then uncovered by some recent winds. Well, it could be useful. Leaving his fish to cook over the fire, the man made his way over to the object and dug out some of the sand around it. Before long, he was able to drag it out of the sand. It was some sort of large metal plate. Well, part of one. About a third had broken off, presumably in the sand, though he couldn’t be bothered to go digging for it. Running his hand along the surface, the man felt something embossed onto the plate. Letters? What did it say? Dragging the plate over to the fire, he held it up so the letters were illuminated by the flame. His face lit up at what he saw.
_______
| Tenta/
| Have/

He grinned. This was unmistakably their work. They had been here. He must be close. Closer than he thought. He would find them soon.

The man’s laughter rang out long into the night.
 
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Bartnum

Lurker
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
971
0
#2
Re: Lurker Wars: The Exiles (STORY ONLY)

Chapter 1 - You Ever Miss It?
The jeep kicked up a cloud of dust as it drove through the wastes. Inside were 3 men. One leaned out of the passenger seat window, one sat in the back, while the third drove their vehicle down the rough track it had worn into the land over the past few months. The man leaning out of the window suddenly flew out of his seat and cracked his head on the window frame as the jeep bumped over a rock.

“Fucking hell Mo, watch where you’re going! Where’d you learn to drive anyway, the back of a cereal box?”
“Hey Obe?” The driver turned to respond to his passenger “You ever wondered what a tire looks like up close?”
“Play nice, kids.” said the third man from the back.
“Whatever. Dark, you can drive on the way back.”


Meanwhile, another two men sat in the basement rec room of the Lair.

“Call. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Straight, nine high.”
“Full House, eights full of threes.”
“Ah, piss up a rope.”

One of the two threw a hand of cards across their table and made a beeline for the bar. The other scraped up a pile of coins from the centre.

“You never were any good at this, Bart.”
“Yeah. Those games with the boys back in ULMF probably cost me more than my bloody house.”
“Well, it was that or counting down from a million.”
Bart grabbed a bottle of whiskey from behind the bar and poured himself a glass.
“You fancy a drink, Oni?”
“Yeah, throw me a cider or something.”
A bottle of absinthe flew over from the bar.
“Fucker. Now I have to get up.”
“You could use the exercise. Your pants are starting to look tighter than Chibi’s.”
“Yeah, like you’re Mr. Slim.”

Oni made his way to the bar and swapped the absinthe for a bottle of Magners. The two grabbed a stool each and sat down to drink.

“You ever miss it, Bart?”
“Miss what?”
“Y’know, ULMF.”
“Kinda. But hey, we knew what we were getting into when we agreed to this. No regrets from me.”
“Yeah, I guess. I miss hanging out with some of the guys, though.”
“Like who? We left because we hated most of them.”
“Well yeah, but some of them were alright.”
“I guess. What about the girls though?” Bart downed what was left of his whiskey. “Wasn’t there a little thing going on between you and Pale?”
“Fuck off.”
“D’aww, is that a hint of embarrassment? Does your heart beat faster at the sound of her name? You long to gaze deep into her eyes while slowly reaching for-“
“MOTHERFUCKER.”

Oni dived off his bar stool and slammed into Bart, sending them both crashing to the floor.

“I’ll give you a ‘little thing going on’, you fat sack of shit!”
“Bring it on, lover boy.”
“Fucking hell guys, get a room.”

The pair stopped fighting and turned to see Mo enter the basement, with several bags slung over his shoulder.

“Welcome back, Mo. Anything new in the city?”
“Not really. There was another lynch mob out waiting for Bart, though. Demanding we ‘hand over that lurker informant’.”
“Bloody hell, are they still on about that? What the fuck have I done?”
“Whatever, just forget about it and help me carry this shit down here.”
“Where’s Dark and Obe?”
“Oh, they grabbed some booze and went off to do... well, whatever the hell it is they do together. Besides, you two’ve had it easy all afternoon. Now get on with it.”

Oni and Bart headed upstairs and grabbed some more bags from the jeep, which they took down to the storeroom and unloaded.

“Hey, where the fuck’s the cider?”
“Fuck cider. Drink beer like real men.”
“We hate the stuff, Mo. You know that.”
“Then you’re not real men. You want cider, you can do the supply run next time.”
“And have to deal with those bloody lynch mobs? Fuck that, I’d prefer beer.”
“Attaboy. We’ll make men out of you yet.”


Later that evening, the 5 were sat in the mess hall having just eaten. Obe turned to Bart and Oni.

“You two get any calls while we were out?”
“Yeah, just the one. Toonpimp wants us to take down some raiders who’ve been harassing him. I told him we’d head out there tomorrow.”
Dark choked on his drink. “Tomorrow? Fuck that, Obe and I were going fishing tomorrow!”
“Since when do you two go fi- Never mind. I don’t want to know.”
“Moving on” Mo interrupted “I got a job offer from a mod while we were in ULMF today. They want us to deal with some kind of lurker crime syndicate that’s sprung up.”
“Why didn’t you mention it before?”
“I just figured they could take care of something like that on their own, so I kinda forgot about it.”
“Well, it’s more money for us.” Oni stood up and headed for the stairs. “I’ll get on the radio and tell them we’ll do it.”


Several hours passed and the Exiles were all doing their own thing. Mo and Obe were down in the rec room, while Oni was in the workshop sharpening his sword. Dark and Bart sat up in the watchtower.

“Hey, Dark?”
“Yeah?”
“You ever miss the old days?”
“What, you mean back in ULMF?”
“Yeah, Oni was talking about it earlier and it’s got me thinking. Not just ULMF though, back in the first city. Before the war. Hell, even the war itself. You ever miss any of it?”
“Yeah, sometimes I guess. Though it’s not like we’re really that far from ULMF, it’s only a 15 minute drive away. The first city was kinda similar, really. And the war… I can’t say it wasn’t kinda fun sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it, if you see what I mean. Why the sudden curiosity?”
“Well like I said, it was Oni who brought it up first. But I dunno… it’s just this feeling’s been hanging over me all day. You know, foreboding. Like some serious shit’s about to happen.”
“Heh, I don’t know if I’m drunk enough to hit the paranoia just yet. It’s all that cider, man. It’s gone to your head. Here, get some beer in you.”
“Yeah. I guess you’re right. Cheers.”
“Cheers.”
 
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Bartnum

Lurker
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
971
0
#3
Re: Lurker Wars: The Exiles (STORY ONLY)

Chapter 2 - Riding Shotgun
The jeep sat immobile in the shadow of the town wall. Inside, the Exiles sat bickering.

“It’s been two sodding hours. Where the fuck are they?”
“I say fatty set us up.”
“Bullshit. He wouldn’t dare try it.”
“Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?”
“’Cause he knows it’s in his best interests to stay on our good side, or it might be us he’s gotta deal with next.”
“Calm the hell down, all of you. They’ll be here.”
“Maybe we should send King Lardass out as a decoy.”
“Yeah, he could threaten to sit on them.”
“Nah, they’d roast him on a spit and shove an apple in his mouth. He’d feed the whole bloody lot of them for a year.”
“Well, at least that’s a year where his raider problems would be solved.”
“Shut up, people. I hear engines.”

The conversation stopped as the Exiles turned to face into the wasteland. Sure enough, the distinct rumble of an engine was coming from somewhere nearby.

“They’re here. Let’s go meet them.”

Obe hopped into the driver’s seat and started up the jeep, before driving it off away from the town. He kept his distance from the road leading to the town, instead heading off on the rough terrain. The raiders soon came into view. About 5 vehicles resembling pickups, with their beds full of lurkers, were speeding down the track towards the town.

“I think we ought to introduce ourselves. Mo, Dark. Do the honours.”

Mo leaned out of the jeep and fired off a grenade into the convoy. Dark however, sat messing with his gun.

“Shit, which one was the grenade launcher? There we go.”

As Dark fired off a grenade of his own, Mo’s hit the road near the lead truck, throwing it onto its side. Dark’s grenade hit the now exposed underside, sending the truck up in flames and throwing its confused passengers in all directions. The remaining trucks slowed as one of the lurkers spotted the jeep, prompting them to pull off the road and head towards it.

“Here they come. Oni, get on the gun. The rest of you fire away.”

The jeep took off as Oni climbed up into the gunner position and let loose on the trucks, while Mo and Dark began firing from the windows. A few lurkers went down as they started to return fire, but most of the shots bounced off the crude armour welded to the trucks. As the chase made its way back onto the road, one of the trucks cut a corner the jeep had taken and pulled alongside it. As Mo and Dark fired on the lurkers in the back, Bart jammed his shotgun into the cockpit and blew the driver’s face in several directions. The truck swerved away and into the path of another, which smashed into the side and sent both trucks skidding to a halt.

“Now THAT’s what I call riding shotgun.”
“Dammit Bart, not now.”

With three of the trucks down, most of the surviving lurkers were now on foot. As Obe led the remaining trucks away from their allies, he suddenly slammed on the brakes and brought the jeep sliding to a stop in the path of the trucks. As they swerved around it, Mo fired off a grenade into the bed of one while everyone else let loose on the unprotected lurkers in the other. They quickly pulled off again as one truck became a fireball, and headed off back towards the survivors from the others.

The surviving lurkers were using the wrecks as cover to fire on the jeep. Oni had to climb back into the jeep to avoid being hit. A well placed grenade shattered what was left of one truck, and the lurkers behind it were mown down as Obe drove through.

“Shit, one of the tires has been shot. I can’t control her, I’m gonna have to stop!”

As Obe pulled the jeep to a stop, the Exiles piled out and took cover behind it. Likewise, the remaining lurkers quickly moved to the other side of their remaining cover.

“Dammit. We can’t get any closer, and we’re too far away for Bart or Oni to be mu- Where the fuck is Oni?”
“He jumped out. Didn’t you see?”
“No you idiot, I was a little too busy driving. What the hell’s he doing?”

As quickly as they had run behind it, the lurkers behind the wreck now broke cover. Seizing the opportunity, the exiles behind the jeep picked them off as they ran, and made a break for the truck. A fleeing lurker was impaled from behind by a long blade as he ran out from the other side. The rest of the blade came after him, followed by Oni. With what remained of the lurkers now injured and/or fleeing, the stragglers were picked off until none were left. The victors met up at the jeep.

“Well, that went well.”
“Yeah, except for the part where you jumped out of the jeep. Are you nuts?”
“Hey, it worked didn’t it?”
“I can’t help feeling like we forgot something, though.”
“Save it, guys. Here comes king piggy himself.”

Toonpimp was notorious as extremely wealthy, as well as morbidly obese. His town ‘Toonpimp’s Palace’ was well known among the cities of the wastes, and was situated conveniently in the middle of several routes between them, making trade and tourism it’s primary sources of income. Most of this income went to Toonpimp, who spent it indulging in his every luxury. Although large, the Palace would probably be larger than ULMF if more money went to the town. Many questioned what its residents saw in their leader. Some of the residents did, too.

A vehicle drove out from the town gates, much like a parade float. However, upon it was fixed a great seat, in which Toonpimp sat like a great blob of flesh dressed in extravagant clothing, surrounded by armed guards. As the float drew to a stop, two of them grabbed him by his shoulders and hoisted him shakily to his feet. He waddled down off his float to meet with the Exiles, his folds wobbling as he walked. Some of them had to resist the urge to cringe.

“Ahh, yes. A job well done my friends. A job well done. We’ve certainly sent those lurkers a message.”
“Happy to help, if the price is right.”
“Ahh, yes. Your payment. Perhaps you’d like to stay awhile and discuss it, perhaps over dinner?”
“Uh… sorry, but we’ve got another job to do in ULMF. We’ll take the usual fee, get this tire sorted and be on our way.”
“Ahh, yes. ULMF. Of course.” Toonpimp paused for a moment before chuckling, sending ripples all over his bloated face. “Indeed, the parents always watch over their child, do they not? Perhaps one day you will do the smart thing, and become my children. I’ll be waiting when you change your minds. Well, you had best be on your way. Your fee, of course.”

Toonpimp clapped his hands, and two guards carried a large metal chest over to the group. They opened it, revealing a large sum of money within.

“Put it in the jeep. We’ll count it later.”
“Well then my friends, until we next meet.”

Toonpimp waddled back to his float and was driven back inside the city, while the Exiles set about changing their wheel.

“I hate that guy. He kinda gives me the creeps.”
“Hey, you and me both.”
“Dammit, I STILL can’t help feeling we forgot something.”
“Well, whatever it was, we’ll work it out later. Let’s get to our next job.”


Meanwhile, some distance away, the 5th lurker truck made its way across the wastes, its bed filled with the corpses of the lurkers who had ridden in it. In the cockpit, an injured lurker stirred, and spoke to the driver.

“What- what happened?”
“We lost is what happened. I don’t think anyone else made it back.”
“We lost? How could we lose? There was only one car and it couldn’t have had more than 4 or 5 of them!”
“You don’t know what you’re saying. I think they were the Exiles. We’re lucky to be alive.”
“Holy shit, seriously? Then what are we gonna do? You know we can’t just let this pass by.”
“I don’t know what we’ll do. But we’ll do something. And whatever it is, they won’t have a chance. They’ve crossed the wrong guys this time.”

The injured lurker slipped back into unconsciousness as the jeep drove on.
 
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Bartnum

Lurker
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
971
0
#4
Re: Lurker Wars: The Exiles (STORY ONLY)

Chapter 3 - Pacified In His Absence
Chibi’s bar had been opened as homage to the Chatroom bar from the first city. Not only did it serve as Squad 13’s headquarters in the war, but before then had been the regulars’ place to go to just relax and have fun. Although Chibi’s establishment didn’t receive nearly as much attention, it was known by most members and had its fair share of patrons. The regular customers were all present when the Exiles walked in.

“Wench, break open the kegs and give us our usual!”

The group made their way to the bar and grabbed a stool each, ignoring the looks attracted by Obe’s announcement while Chibi poured out their regular orders. Chibi was another veteran of the first war, renowned for showing far more compassion than most of her fellow regulars and sometimes acting as a big sister figure to those around her.

“So, what are you boys up to?” She passed Oni a glass of Strawberry and Pear Brothers, and Bart a Jim Beam and Coke.

Bart took a swig. “Some sort of Lurker Syndicate. We’ve been hired to take it down.”

“Ah, that. It’s been the talk of the town.” She passed beers to Obe, Dark and Mo.

“They’re that notorious? Why couldn’t you guys do it yourselves? You’re all more than capable.” Mo gestured to Chibi’s old bow and quiver, which hung on the wall above the bar. “You haven’t gotten out of practice, have you?”

“No, we’re still capable enough. It’s just the lurkers have been getting a bit… restless lately. Adbots have started popping up. The moderators are busier than they’ve been for months. The fact this syndicate even exists is a fine example. None of us wants to start another war.”

Chibi looked down at her metal arm for a moment. The original had been severed during a battle with Supersonic. She’d learned to live with the prosthetic replacement, though it served as a constant reminder of the war.

“Didn’t LM make sure there wouldn’t be another war?” Dark pointed out the window, towards the resting place of Demon Girl and Jungle Girl. “He modified them to keep the lurkers pacified in His absence, right?”

“Oh, it’s nowhere near that bad. There’s no danger of war breaking out, at least not yet. But it’s natural evolution, I suppose. The lurkers have become so accustomed to LM’s influence that it’s like they don’t even feel it any more. That’s why they’re getting rowdier like this. They’re starting to lose faith in the regulars. If we stormed their territory to raid the syndicate’s hideout and arrested or killed every lurker we found inside, the higher ups are worried the problem could get worse. So I guess they’re sending you in to do it instead.”

Oni looked up from his drink. “Why? We’re regulars too.”

“True, but you’re not as heavily associated with us as you once were. Most lurkers don’t even know about you, and those that do will know you’re just collecting paycheque.”

“Right, but it wouldn’t take a genius to work out you guys are the employers.”

“I know, but someone has to take them down at some point. I suppose they just figured you guys were the best choice.”

“Well, fair enough. Alright, let’s finish up and get moving.” Obe gulped down what was left of his drink. The others shortly followed suit, before getting to their feet and heading off out of the bar.
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The man lay on his bed, breathing heavily. He was afraid, and still exhausted.

It had been a long, arduous journey from the ruins of the village by the sea. For the longest time, he thought he wouldn’t make it. The city was too far away, or he’d gotten lost and wasn’t even going the right way. Perhaps he would starve, or be killed by lurker raiders. He wasn’t sure exactly when or how he finally found the city. The memories were blurry, probably due to hunger and heatstroke. He’d been given food and water by a group of lurkers migrating to the city, and slipped in amongst them unnoticed.

Now he had made his way here, to the protection offered by these lurker criminals. He hated them. He hated having to ask for their help. He hated himself for doing so. He didn’t know what plans they had for him and his intentions. But he was alive, and where he needed to be. That was all that mattered. The thought calmed him, and he staggered to his feet and ventured outside of his room. The guards stepped aside to let him out, and he hurried away as he felt their eyes on him. He didn’t trust them. He didn’t trust anyone here. He didn’t think they trusted him, either.

The hideout was an old factory on the edge of the lurker district, and was hardly a comfortable place to be in. Leaving his room on the highest level, he made his way out onto the walkways that crisscrossed above the warehouse area. Armed lurkers were everywhere, watching him and everything else around them. He looked down and saw the bosses walking amongst the crates. One of them looked up at him, and he quickly averted his eyes. He was scared of them, and for good reason. Fear was how they kept their men loyal, after all.

The first explosion tore a huge hole in the outer wall. Several lurkers went down in the blast, caught completely unprepared. In the first few seconds, the man couldn’t breathe. No, no, no. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This COULDN’T happen. They couldn’t find him. Not now, not when he was so close. Gunfire rang out across the warehouse. More lurkers went down. He saw 2 men run in through the opening, firing on the bosses as they sought to find cover. The lurkers returned fire as the invaders dived behind crates. One of the bosses had been hit, he saw. Abandoned by the others and left to bleed to death. Would they have done the same to him? Thrown him out and left him to die when they no longer though him useful? Well, of course they would. He expected as much.

The lurkers around him began firing at the men from above, leaning over the walkways. Oh no. That made them targets, and he was standing in the middle of them. At this range, the invaders wouldn’t be able to differentiate between him and the defending lurkers. In fact, he wasn’t sure if they’d spare him even if they could differentiate. Either way, he had to get out of here. He ran towards the balcony he’d come off, weaving between the shooting lurkers. He had to get off the overhead walkways.

As he had almost reached the balcony, he spared a glance below at the invaders, noticing that a third man had entered. He took a few shots with a pistol, before ducking into cover and hefting something over his shoulder. The man’s eyes widened and he sprinted down the walkway as the new arrival leant out of cover, aimed directly up at him, and launched a rocket at the walkway. The man dived. The walkway buckled and shook beneath him as the rocket struck where he had been only seconds earlier, sending lurkers flying and falling to the floor far below. He scrambled up the collapsing walkway and onto the balcony, peering over the edge. There were only a handful of lurkers left, and it didn’t look like they’d last long as the 3 men fired rockets and grenades into and over cover, flushing out the last of the resistance. He hadn’t seen what had happened to the bosses, but caught sight of another of their corpses. He hoped the rest at least had managed to escape.

Crawling across the balcony into the factory area, he saw that this too had been attacked. Lurker bodies were everywhere. On the floor below, he saw a man extracting a knife from the chest of an injured lurker, before ending his victim’s suffering with a shotgun. There were about as many survivors here as in the warehouse. Crawling back from the edge, he whirled around to the left as he heard a scream, which was cut short as a man with a long sword decapitated a lurker. The attacker turned and looked down at him. There was less than 10 metres between them. The man leapt to his feet, turned, and ran faster than he had ever believed he could.

“Hey, you!”

The sound of footsteps behind him made the man run even faster. His legs were burning, but he tried to ignore it. He couldn’t die here. He had to get away, before this man killed him. He turned onto a staircase and tried to run down to the lower floor, but the man with the sword vaulted over the balcony railing and landed in front of him. The man hurriedly turned and ran back up again. He heard his pursuer’s voice from behind him.

“Bart, we’ve got a runner!”

The man sprinted for a door at the end of the balcony. He didn’t care where it went. He only wanted to get away. Seconds before he reached the door however, it burst open from the other side. He found himself facing the man with the shotgun, and looked around in desperation for another path to take. He heard the man with the sword approach from behind, and knew he was trapped. He dropped to his knees and raised his hands above his head. He was scared and shaking uncontrollably. He knew this was the end, but he had no idea how to face death. The two men closed in on him, and they seemed to sense his terror. The one with the sword pointed it at him.

“Are you armed?”

The man hurriedly shook his head.

“Alright, you’re coming with us. Try any funny business, and you’re dead. Understand?”

Nodding, the man slowly got to his feet.

10 minutes later, he found himself on his knees in the warehouse, with a group of other survivors. He saw that some of the bosses were among them, and guessed the others were dead. He doubted any of them could have escaped. Thankful for his life, he considered the mercy shown to him by these regulars. Perhaps they were not all the same.

His thoughts shattered when the bosses were dragged out and promptly gunned down by the regulars. The man was horrified. So too were the surviving lurkers, it seemed. An explosion nearby caught the regulars off guard and several dozen armed lurkers poured into the room through the hole in the wall. The captive lurkers, taking the initiative, rushed the now distracted regulars from behind. The man took advantage of the confusion to slip away, taking cover behind a pile of crates. One of them he saw had broken open in the fighting, and the contents were just what he needed. Grabbing what he could, he hurriedly pulled the shirt off the corpse of a nearby lurker and wrapped up the crate contents, as well as the lurker’s gun in it. Slinging his package over his shoulder, he broke cover and ran for the hole.

By some miracle, he made it out. He ran for what felt like hours. He knew his time would soon come.
 
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