Characters: C. Snippy/Sniper & A. Gromov/Engineer & C. Hatchenson/Pilot
"It's time for pay back, bastards."
Chapter 2: Take Back
Stan strode around the room, checking the magazine of the rifle that he had stolen from Snippy earlier.
"Hehe... it's still full," he mentioned and deftly spun it around in his hand as if weighed only half of what it actually did. "Which means there's plenty of bullets for all of you. Isn't that great?"
With agile hands he shoved the magazine back in and readied the gun to shoot.
"The boss told me to kill your captain last. So... which of you two morons wants to die first?"
Engie shifted around nervously while Pilot kept throwing quick glances over to the chair.
"You look pretty scared, fatty," Stan chuckled and stared down at the engineer. "But don't worry, I'll make it quick for you."
As the rifle was pointed at him, Alexander yelped and huddled up against the wall in fright.
"Don't do this!" Snippy exclaimed, trying to make the executioner see reason. "You took everything you wanted. Just settle for that and call it a day! You can keep the rifle... I don't care. But leave us alive!"
"Why should I?" the man laughed. "I gain no benefit from that. You're most likely going to try and get revenge on us as soon as you can. That makes you a thorn in my eye as long as you're alive."
"But..." Snippy started, searching for better reasons. "Don't you feel bad when you point a gun at a helpless victim? They don't even have a chance to fight back."
Feeling quite satisfied with this last argument, Charles hoped it would change the man's mind and prayed for a positive reaction.
"Guess what..." Stan said slowly and jabbed a finger at them. "You all had your chance, each one of you. And you blew it! I don't feel remorse when killing off idiots like you; I've done it plenty of times before. Because this is my freaking job!"
Realizing that the other was completely right strangled Snippy from the inside and he gasped. It had always been three against three, with the only kink being that his crew came in one by one and not all at once and working as a team, like the others did.
Lesson learned, Snippy realized he should have done the same to begin with and now there was a price to pay for his failure.
Pilot gave him a nudge and as the sniper looked up their eyes met and he saw the aviator nod. Snippy abruptly remembered something.
"There is nothing you can do now to save your Russian friend, so say goodbye!" Stan declared and pointed the gun back at the engineer.
"Go Pilot!!" Snippy shouted, hoping that he would see the gravity of the situation and obey.
It happened within a second that the pilot jumped forward and tackled the surprised executioner down. The impact made him pull the trigger and a bullet shot a hole into the wall next to Gromov's head. The engineer fell over and huddled up on the ground in terror.
Pilot stepped on Stan's right arm, restricting him from using his rifle, and punched him everywhere he could reach, but his efforts had little effect on the steel-like body. A strong hand suddenly grabbed him by the neck and he flailed around as he was lifted up, gasping for air. Green-tinted goggles looked at the executioner pleadingly as his feet left the ground.
"I don't know how you got free, but you'll regret this!" Stan snorted and threw him across the room where he collided with the wall.
He slid to the floor and lay unmoving.
Finding it hard to believe that the man he had set everything on had just lost the fight, Snippy stared blankly at the prone form.
"No, Pilot!! Wake up!" he yelled, a deep feeling of guilt welling inside him before turning into a spark of vengeance.
"Your ridiculous efforts were in vain, retard!" the tall man said with a laugh, slowly walking closer to give the green-eyed pilot the rest.
The sniper got hold of the knife behind him and started cutting the bonds around his feet while his foe was busy. He wouldn't just sit here doing nothing and watch his mate get killed because of him.
Stan readied the stolen rifle for his next shot but was interrupted the very next second as someone rammed into him from behind. The dull pain in Snippy's bruised ribcage returned full force as he tackled Stan but the attack was a success as they crashed to the ground together.
His original plan to get his gun back didn't quite turn out the way he had expected, as Stan was back on his feet before Snippy could even get up on his knees. Snippy didn't see the blow coming before his feet were kicked away in a single swipe, forcing him back down. Without a chance to catch himself, he viciously hit the floor and let out a pained groan as the pain in his ribs intensified, paralyzing him for a moment.
"Is that all you've got? Come on, get up!" Stan taunted, and pushed him over with his foot.
As Snippy opened his eyes again, he caught sight of the glint of a blade behind the strong legs, bringing back a surge of hope.
I guess all this effort hasn't been in vain after all, he thought with a smile.
"Take this, you ugly shoe!!"
"What-" Stan gasped and took a step aside. A vicious stab left him with a gaping wound on his right arm and the man yelped. In sudden shock and pain he accidentally dropped the rifle and ran for the door as he realized that the situation had escalated.
"Wait, I'm not done with you!" the aviator yelled with an angry glare in his green eyes, and swiftly took pursuit.
"No Pilot, stop!" Snippy groaned, but his colleague was already too far away to notice the call.
Soon the sound of their footsteps had faded into the distance and the only sound that remained was Gromov's nervous panting.
Seeing him huddled on the floor like this gave Snippy the assumption that he must be in a state of shock.
Cloth rustled as he shifted to pick up the knife that he had left there on the floor, pinching it between his boots and cutting through the rope around his wrists. Once free again, he crawled over to his colleague.
Carefully Snippy put his hand on his shoulder and felt him wince at the touch, still trembling with every breath.
Poor guy... he thought and started removing his bonds. That didn't seem to ameliorate his condition and he remained in his huddled position, not looking like he'd get up any time soon.
"Come on Alex... we need to get going," Snippy urged him and gently shook the engineer, who finally pulled himself together and sat up slowly, hugging himself.
"He almost killed me... it was only a matter of a few centimeters... I could be dead now..." he muttered shakily, not yet fully recovered from the shock of recent happenings.
Snippy was forced to make a decision. If he didn't hurry and go after Pilot now, the aviator would try to fight alone and would most likely get caught by the hostiles. There was a good chance they would do even more horrible things to him.
By no means could he let that happen, but he also couldn't leave Alexander here.
The engineer was an important part of the team now and he had to somehow convince the man to come with him and help him retrieve Pilot, as well as the possessions that had been stolen from them.
"Come on, Gromov, pull yourself together... everything is alright! The bad guy is gone now!" Snippy told him. "But if you don't get up right now and come with me, Pilot will be in big trouble! It's up to us now to-"
"But I don't want to go after them... Pilot is strong, I'm sure he can handle them alone," Engie interrupted, and resumed staring blankly into space.
"Yes, he may be good with his sword, but we don't know what will be waiting for him. If he is heading to the enemy base, there could be traps or an ambush waiting for him. I'm actually quite worried right now," the sniper spoke, concern in his tone.
Slowly the engineer stood up and brushed the dust off his pants.
"I'm more worried that we're all gonna get caught again and wind up dead. Just think about it! We shouldn't throw away the chance we have to live on. I don't know about you, but I prefer to stay alive!" he admonished the blue-eyed man.
At that, something inside Charles snapped and he couldn't hold back anymore. Viciously he pushed his palms against Engie's chest, shoving him against the wall.
"Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you!?" the sniper yelled at him. "How can you be so selfish in a situation like this? Do you know why we're still alive? I'll tell you: because Pilot saved our backsides! And now his life depends on us and all you do is sit here and sulk in a corner worrying about dying. Man the fuck up, you wimp!"
"What? Now it's suddenly all my fault? Who started using Pilot as their pawn in the first place, blackmailing him with dirty lies?" Gromov shot back, jabbing a finger at him. "You were the one who did it! You brought us into this situation! It's your fault, so it's your job to solve this problem too, you failure of a wannabe-captain!"
At this point the sniper was fair boiling with rage and wanted to say something in return, but as he realized that fighting wouldn't get them anywhere, he drowned his anger and held back, calming himself down by banishing his hateful thoughts. Suppressing them was the only thing he could do right now to calm the situation down.
With a sigh Charles picked up the rifle from the floor and walked through the arch.
"Wait, what are you doing?" the engineer asked and automatically followed him out of the room, until a hand was pushed against his chest and he looked up.
"I'm gonna go do my job," Snippy said coldly and gave him a stern gaze before he left through the door.
With a mix of frustration and despair, Gromov stood in the room all alone since Snippy had left the house, staring through the open door, lost in thought.
It was snowing outside and by now the blizzard had created a pile of soft white powder on the old, faded welcome mat in the entry area.
As he ran through their heated conversation again in his head, Snippy's words suddenly started to make much more sense to him.
Of course... there was no way on earth that Charles and Pilot could carry two huge backpacks out of there alone and fight back at the same time. After all there were four against two.
He realized now why Charles wanted him to come along. Teamwork was required for this task and he should have learned his lesson from recent events, but he'd been so blinded by fear and frustration that it was lost on him. As a part of the team, he was also part of a chain and every link had their own purpose and function to keep everything running smoothly.
But even if he decided otherwise and stayed here... would he be safe? There was no guarantee that the hostiles wouldn't come back to finish where Stan screwed up.
No matter where the sniper went, Engie knew he was the only person around who was capable of using a gun and protect him, and he would probably be safer around that guy than anywhere else in the city.
“Looks like you won this round, Charles...” he muttered quietly, and left the house.
Noticing plenty of fresh foot prints and a trail of blood drops which probably came from the man who had originally been responsible for their execution, Engie picked up the pace before the traces could be covered by the swiftly falling snow.
Wrought with frustration over his cowardly crew mate, the sniper trudged through the snow, following the traces that Stan and Pilot had left. They seem to have fought on the way before they carried on further, he thought.
“Charles, wait!” somebody called. He instantly recognized the voice and was quite surprised to hear it.
“Chaaaarleeees!” Engie yelled and the sniper heard a thud.
Finally he stopped to turn around, only to see the engineer lying face down in the snow.
Should have watched out for icy spots, he thought with a grin, and let out a sigh before walking over to him. Grasping his hand, he pulled him up and helped him into a vertically upright position.
As their eyes met, Snippy just gave him a cold stare, waiting for an explanation.
“Look Charles...” the engineer started, busying himself with brushing snow from his clothes. “I take everything back. I admit I was a little selfish when I said I didn't wanna help, but I made up my mind. You're going to need me there, aren't you? I'll come with you. But... should something happen to me, I'll blame it on you. Got that?”
“Bwah. That's so typical of you,” the sniper returned, giving him a friendly punch to the shoulder. “I promise I'll do my best to protect you with my gun and try to be a good leader for this uhm... mission.”
“You as a surrogate leader, huh... what else can go wrong? All we can do now is hope that nobody falls down a hole or breaks an arm,” Alexander said cynically.
"Don't worry... as long as I have a rifle in my hands, you should be safe around me," the marksman reassured Gromov and glanced down at the weapon in his hand. "Let's get going, shall we? Maybe we can still catch up to those thieves."
"Yeah! I want my damn stuff back," the engineer said enthusiastically.
After following the tracks for a while the two arrived at the entrance of a massive building towering in front of them.
"So this is their base? It's not small, eh," Engie noticed. "Hey look, there's a sign at the side of the road!"
"New Electronics Store bigger assortment, smaller prices!" Snippy read.
"... Sounds really cozy for a home. Who wouldn't want to live in a house filled with junk and steel? I mean, seriously, who would?"
"They gotta have their reasons. Maybe there's more to it than that," Snippy mused, pacing towards the entrance. "Alright, let's cut the chatter while we're in there. The longer we stay unseen, the better our chances will be to get back out with our stuff," the sniper advised.
Stopping right in front of the gates, the two stared into the gloomy entrance of the building for a while before Gromov spoke up.
"You go in first," he suggested, pushing the sniper forward.
"Why me?" Snippy protested, flailing indignantly.
"You're the one with the gun, and you promised something. Remember?"
A moment of awkward silence followed.
"I guess I did..." he admitted with a sigh.
Finally he took the first step inside.
With wary eyes and Engie at his back, the marksman made his way through the entrance hallway that led into a wide, open room, the sides of it lined with huge shelves.
As they reached the center of the main floor, they noticed fragments of broken glass scattered on the floor. Apart from that and some random piles of snow, the room looked quite tidy.
"I guess these pieces fell down from above. Standing here for too long might be risky. More could come down any moment," the engineer whispered, pointing up at the ceiling.
Out of curiosity, Snippy looked up.
High above lay a great structure of a gritted, metal framework. Some of the windows still sat in their respective sockets, but the rest of the glass was down at their feet.
Snippy counted a grand total of five storeys above them and hoped for a clue on how to find the stolen goods in this massive place. As he peered along the sides of the storeys, he caught sight of a man leaning over the railing, watching them. But as soon as he was spotted, he stepped back and disappeared from sight.
Quickly the sniper pulled Engie back into the shadows and the engineer unwillingly stumbled along. After receiving an irritated look, Snippy let go of his arm and motioned Gromov to follow.
They took the stairs and ran across the first storey to the other side where the next stairs led up. Picking up the pace, the two of them finally reached the second, then third storey and suddenly made out two other people running in front of them. In an instant Snippy recognized Pilot and the muscular guy he'd been chasing. Just before Stan could reach the stairs, Pilot grabbed hold of his arm and yanked him back. The man yelped up in pain, giving Charles the assumption that his crew mate must have grabbed the man in a sore spot.
"Hold him, Pilot!" the sniper encouraged him, removing the safety catch from his rifle as he came running.
Reunited once again, the group closed in around the hostile man and Snippy pointed the gun at the man's back. He couldn't help but feel the irony in this whole situation. The tables had turned and now he was the one in power.
"Okay, listen up you two. I really hate to do this, but... we'll have to hold him hostage and see if we can achieve something by blackmailing the other thieves with threats. That could help us get our stuff back," he explained to the other two.
"Gromov, hold him by the other arm please," Snippy ordered. "We can't allow him to escape."
"And you..." he snarled at the strong, taller man, making his voice sound as malevolent as he could. "You're going to lead us to your boss. We want our stuff back."
With that he poked the man in the side with the tip of his rifle to get him moving and luckily for them, he didn't show the slightest sign of defiance.
"Yeah, give the mug back, you smelly shoe!" Pilot scolded, keeping his katana ready in the other hand in case he still dared to fight back.
Don't mess up now.., Snippy thought to himself.
All was going well so far, but while walking up the stairs to the fifth storey, he swore he could hear footsteps all across the building. At the moment the group came to halt at the top, the continuous noises assured him that they weren't just an echo.
Tired of these games the sniper finally wanted to know what's going on and leaned over the railing to see. Down in the first storey he made out a man who yet again disappeared behind a pillar right after he was spotted, just like the last one.
Slightly disappointed and confused, Charles pushed himself away from the railing and heard Stan chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Snippy inquired glumly.
"Nothing. Just the irony that you actually thought you had won when you caught me. But since the moment you set foot into this building, your miserable fate was already sealed," Stan chortled.
"What are you talking about?" Engie asked cautiously.
"The people you saw... they are part of the rest of our crew. They've been positioning themselves all over the building since you two came here. They are now waiting for a signal to take the offensive. No matter what you try, in the end you'll be dead anyway."
So his intuition was right, but Charles couldn't let the others down now. Not after he had gotten them both into this.
"Stop talking and lead me to your boss," he grumbled, trying to not blow his cover as captain.
Without further ado they moved on and were soon brought to the door of what looked like a rather big office.
Eager to retrieve the mug, Pilot pushed the door knob down and opened the door.
There they were the crouched guy, the short one and their chubby boss gathered around the two huge backpacks like rats above a rotten apple, sorting out the stolen belongings. Amongst the items that were scattered on the floor lay the mug with the painted red heart that was worth so much to Captain.
After noticing their unwelcome guests, the thieves rose from their fiendish position and stood in a line.
"Hand over our stuff, or your comrade will die," Snippy threatened, making a demanding gesture with his left hand while he held the gun to Stan's back.
Probably nobody but him knew that this was pure play-acting. Even in this situation, Charles' conscience couldn't reconcile killing a helpless man just like that, but he hoped that the bluff would work.
"Cosa? How are you still alive?" the boss grunted indignantly.
"Sorry boss, one of them managed to free himself before I could notice and caught me off guard," Stan explained with slight fear in his voice.
"Ma che cazzo fai? You call yourself an elite member of my army and lose a fight against three thoroughly tied up morons?!" the boss raged. "You're a disgrace to our people! I should kill you right on the spot for this..."
And with that he pulled a small pistol from his belt and pointed it at Stan. Snippy felt his heart jump and lowered his rifle slowly, backing away from the hostage. He felt confused, and what just happened disturbed him deeply. His plan was blown that easily, leaving him empty handed.
“What do we do, Charles? Your plan failed! We're totally screwed!” Engie whispered to him behind Stan's back.
Sniper remained silent and tried to get a clear head, he had to rethink things. His hostage had just been made useless and the boss threatened the man to kill him; but what would the hostage do if he could get out of this alive? Which side would he choose?
"No Boss, please, I can make up for it! Don't shoot me!" the subordinate whimpered and dropped to his knees. "I'm your best man! Remember how long I served you as a loyal minion. I always stood by your side and followed your orders!"
After a short pause, the Italian man suddenly lowered his weapon and spoke up.
"Actually... you're right. Shooting you now is completely pointless. But don't think that I changed my mind. You're no better than the scum here."
Upon that he aimed the pistol at Snippy.
"First I shall kill that annoying moron with the black and white jacket. He's been going on my nerves for far too long now."
In an instant the marksman had his rifle pointed at the chubby man and he was sure that neither one of them would hesitate to shoot this time.
"Don't even think about it," he said sternly, masterfully hiding his apprehension. It was hard to keep his composure in a moment like this.
"Give up. You're outnumbered by far," the boss advised him.
Snippy noticed the man's other two minions getting ready to attack and didn't dare be the first one to look away. One second of distraction could mean death. With gritted teeth he tried to come up with a way to get Pilot to assist him without the foe noticing.
Come on, think! What would most likely trigger Pilot? he thought frantically and discreetly glanced around the room for clues.
"The mug is in danger and HE has it!" Snippy suddenly exclaimed, pointing at the boss and everyone fixed their gaze on him in confusion.
"What?" Ratty asked, puzzled.
Pilot, however, dashed towards them and the short man backed away in fear at the charging figure, with his fierce green eyes and katana swinging wildly.
"It's a distraction! They had planned this all along!" the boss shouted to his men and moved his gun away from his target as he saw the fighter-pilot approaching. "Hey, you! Don't get any closer or I'll-"
"Thanks Pilot," the marksman whispered at the same moment as he carefully took aim and pulled the trigger with precision.
The pistol fell to the floor with a clatter and the pudgy man screamed in pain, cursing in his mother language as he clutched his bleeding hand. The bullet had ripped an ugly hole into it.
"Gromov, get the gun," Snippy said with sudden composure and caught hold of Stan's sleeve.
The man didn't move to get up and fight, which confused him. Why didn't he fight by the other men's side? The sniper started thinking out theories. Was the man that exhausted? Was he numb from pain? Or did he really feel betrayed by his boss? There wasn't much time left for him to think as someone tackled him to the ground.
"Stan, what the heck are you doing? Get up and fight!" the man with the rough voice screeched as he pinned the sniper down, but no response was given.
"G-g-get off him!" Engie warned, shakily clasping the pistol with both hands and pointing it at the crouched man.
"Don't make demands when you don't even know how to hold a gun properly," he rasped and leaped towards the surprised engineer.
Once free again, Snippy instantly used the opportunity to get Alexander out of trouble. The pistol was ripped from Alexander's hands by his attacker. Aware of that, he handled the situation as quickly as possible with a good smack to the back of Tom's head. The man collapsed on top of Gromov, who furiously shoved him away and got up.
"Hey, where did our hostage go?" the engineer noticed all of a sudden and Snippy was just as surprised to see him gone.
He'd been there just a second ago.
On the other side of the room Pilot stood over a defeated Ratty and the once so proud boss was crouched on the floor, still clasping his arm.
But Stan's absence made Charles nervous. He was painfully aware that he could jump out of the shadows for an attack at any moment, and it was quite unsettling.
"Grab everything that's ours and put it back into the backpacks while I stand guard. We're leaving," the marksman finally ordered, holding his rifle at the ready and keeping a wary eye on the door, in case Stan should return.
Within a minute, Pilot and Gromov had stuffed the gigantic backpacks with all their stolen belongings. Pilot put high priority into the safety of the mug and therefore put it on top of all the other things to make sure it wouldn't break.
With that done, they swung the heavy packs onto their backs and Snippy motioned them towards the door. Before he could follow them, a voice had him freezing in place.
"Don't think you've won already. I still have an ace up my sleeve..." the boss said, picking up a small, golden reception bell that had been hidden under a piece of cloth until that moment. "I have a little surprise for you."
Snippy had seen bells like this one at receptions in libraries before and wondered what the man was planning to do with it.
As he patted the top of it with his hand, the bell rang loudly, more than just once. The loud clang turned into what sounded like an even signal, echoing through the whole building.
"Your surprise is waiting outside. Ecco c'é un consiglio: If I was you, I'd run like hell now," the Italian added and cackled with a rough voice.
Without further ado, Snippy turned away, leaving the madman alone and hastily searched for the others outside of the office.
As he looked about he finally spotted them, heading down the stairs. The last toll of the bell slowly faded into echoes as he ran to the stairs to reach the others, but a sudden outburst of gunfire instantly made him stop and take cover.
Down in the fourth storey, Engie and Pilot sat hiding behind a flat, arched pillar that ran vertically through all floors. On the other side Charles made out a soldier aiming his rifle at the pillar, waiting for them to come out.
Just as Pilot dared a wary look out from his cover, more bullets flew his way and hit the solid edges of the pillar. Charles watched the hostile gunner on the other side start moving into their direction and felt a pang of alarm.
Snippy decided to take advantage in being as yet unseen and focused on the man with his rifle. With a well aimed shot he took him out and watched the soldier drop down dead.
After the low thud, silence filled the air and the marksman checked his surroundings one more time for danger before he made his way down to the others.
Before he even arrived at them he saw Pilot getting up, trying to pull Engie along without success.
"Come on, chubby slug! We haven't got all day!" he pushed the engineer, yanking at his arm, but the man remained crouching on the tile floor.
"Is everything alright, Gromov?" Snippy asked in concern. "Are you hurt?"
"No..." he answered and got up, still huddling into himself. "It's just..." he started. "They have guns and they shoot at us and they are waiting and will surround us and kill us and we will all die and-" Engie stopped as his voice gave out.
He was so churned up inside that it wasn't hard to tell for Charles that he must be scared to death right now and he felt awful for making Alex go through this.
Tactics had to be changed if he wanted to escort his crew to safety without anyone getting hurt or losing their temper and messing it up for the others. They had to stay strong as a team, or things wouldn't work out.
"Everything will be fine... I'll go first and make sure the way is safe, okay?" Snippy offered. "You and Pilot just follow at my signal."
"That's a stupid plan!" Pilot shouted. "How am I supposed to kill them when I go last?"
The sniper sighed. He had expected some protest from the aviator sooner or later and this was the worst possible moment to deal with it.
"Listen, Pilot. Our enemies have got rifles. You've got a katana. It would be less wise for you to run in first, since you won't be able to take them out when they're thirty meters away from you, right?"
For that moment, Pilot just stared at him and looked down at the sword in his hand, then over at Snippy's rifle.
"You can't use a gun, Pilot, if that's what you're thinking. Remember what happened last time you stole mine? You almost ended up shooting me in the leg," Snippy reminded him, and let out a sigh.
"What about you, Gromov? Can you use a gun? That would be really helpful."
"Sorry, never got the chance to use one before. Besides, I know nothing about guns," Engie told him quickly.
"It's easy. I could teach you a few things. Basically, all you have to do is-"
"Forget it! I'm not gonna participate in a gunfight!" Engie interrupted him and turned away.
"Gee, I guess it's all up to me then," the marksman declared, not quite happy about the outcome. But he couldn't blame him. Gromov was just not the man for guns.
A few moments later, two foreign voices sounded up from below.
"You two, position yourselves here and wait for them. We'll head farther down and catch them should you not succeed. In that case, just take cover and follow when it's safe."
"Alright. See you later," the other voice said, and the sound of swift footsteps told Snippy that the group had parted.
To get a brief overview on the position of the soldiers, Charles took a look over the railing but sooner than he had expected he was spotted. The last thing he saw was a rifle being pointing into his direction from a soldier in the storey below them.
Just in time he crouched down and a second later the sound of gunfire filled the air. Bullets shattered the glass of the railing into a thousand pieces, leaving him without protection until he slid over to the others, escaping the shots by an inch.
"They're up there!" a voice from below exclaimed.
Heart racing, Snippy caught himself quickly and slowed down his breathing.
"Okay guys, keep your heads down and stay right here! Do you understand me? Don't leave. I'll handle this..." he told the others, and dashed off.
He heard the bullets crush the glass behind him as he raced across the storey, keeping his head down while heading to the next pillar.
In that moment he earnestly hoped that Pilot wouldn't do anything stupid. Though as he reached it, it was Gromov who suddenly started shouting.
"Watch out Charles, there's one coming from the stairs!"
Staying behind the pillar, Snippy glanced over at Engie who leaned forth to see him.
"Keep quiet and get back down! You're revealing your position!" he yelled back, suddenly noticing that Pilot wasn't at the pillar with the engineer anymore.
As he heard a footstep behind him he cursed himself for allowing Gromov to distract him. He hadn't gotten a chance to ready his weapon as it was kicked out of his hands. The soldier stood right above him and as Charles looked up, he stared right into the barrel of his rifle.
"Any last wishes?!" the man sneered.
A sudden movement behind the man caught Snippy's attention.
"In the name of the mug!" Pilot shouted as he leapt out of the shadows with his sword raised above his head.
The soldier turned around in surprise and failed to raise his weapon before Pilot struck him down with the katana. With a painful cry, the man dropped to the floor, a puddle of blood slowly forming below him.
Snippy wasn't sure whether to be grateful or mad at the disobedient swordsman.
"Pilot! Are you insane?!" he scolded. "I told you to stay behind!"
"What?" Pilot shot back and went to pick up his backpack again. "Be grateful, for the mighty sword just saved your organs from the hostile shoe!"
Before Snippy could argue further, Engie came running but seemed to have miscalculated the weight on his back. Failing to stop beside Snippy, he stumbled right into Pilot, accidentally knocking him over.
"Get off me, you heavy shoe!" Pilot ranted and flailed at the helpless engineer who falteringly got up to his feet to back away from the crazy man.
"It wasn't on purpose, so stop hitting me, you dangerous lunatic!" he scolded back.
"Oh dear..." the marksman said and caught himself face-palming. "We may as well expect the worst."
Until the others calmed down, Snippy decided to inspect the fallen soldier on the ground and couldn't help but notice the neat semi-automatic rifle he had dropped.
In a matter of seconds he had fixed his old sniper rifle to his back and picked up the new gun, briefly inspecting it. It seemed like a handy weapon, just right for this kind of battle.
Rummaging through the man's pockets, he also found a few full magazines.
Perfect. One can never have enough ammo, he thought and stored them all in the empty pockets of his jacket and pants.
Contentedly he reloaded his new gun and was now more than ready to go. Not nearly as ready were the other two, who were still throwing insults at each other.
"Guys!" the sniper interrupted them and they looked over to him. "Pull yourselves together! We're in big trouble already and arguing won't get us-"
A bang made him stop and the three clustered behind the flat pillar.
"The intruders are still up there in the fourth storey! One of you go get them while we guard your back," a voice said.
Snippy took a quick look from behind the pillar and spotted a soldier coming up the stairs. In a matter of seconds he ended the man's life with a few bullets to the head and the body went rolling down the stairs. After that, he pulled himself back behind the pillar again as bullets came flying his way.
"Take out their damn sniper!" an angry voice yelled. "Once he's out of the way, the rest will be cake."
Knowing that they were mainly after him now, Snippy knew he had to be extra careful. But he still had to make sure his crew mates would remain unharmed. He had to lead the group away from here somehow.
This time, he came forth and blindly peppered a row of bullets down into the third storey.
"Fire in the hole! Take cover and get down!" one of the men warned, and Snippy felt satisfied. His plan had worked well so far and this should have gotten them out of the way.
"Okay you two, stay here and don't do anything unplanned this time. Follow at my signal," Snippy whispered while he reloaded the gun.
He checked if it was safe before he took the stairs down, heading to the third storey alone.
Once there, he waved for the others to follow and they came down slowly but steadily, panting under the heavy load.
As they arrived next to him, Engie and Pilot squatted down behind the pillar in relief.
For quite a while Charles looked out for soldiers but assumed that they moved to the storeys below, so he slowly got going, staying away from the edge.
Nevertheless, the marksman kept a wary eye on the other side and his gun ready to shoot while he carefully moved towards the next pillar. Halfway there, he suddenly heard a voice and looked over the railing, checking if it came from below, but he saw nobody there.
All of a sudden, two soldiers burst from behind the two pillars on the other side and aimed their guns at him. Rows of bullets shot through the air and one of them just flew past his head, another one grazing his jacket. Facing the fact that there was no way for him to take cover now, Snippy instantly started running and fired back, hearing the glass shatter behind him. It became a reciprocal shootout.
All in all there was just one way to escape this hell and he made a conclusion: these riflemen had to die, now. No matter what it would take. Adrenaline shot through his blood and gave him new strength to run.
Another row of shots was fired at him. As he was about to shoot back, a searing pain manifested itself in his right side and his body tensed up.
Gritting his teeth, he fought through it and rose his gun to return the fire once more.
A feeling of triumph covered everything else in the moment the first hostile gunner went down. Soon after, the other one had his gun shot out of his hands and it dropping down into the depths. One last successful shot hit the soldier right in the middle of the chest and rendered him useless.
Snippy found it hard to believe he had actually made it through this still standing.
Heart still rushing, the sniper gave his fellows a sign to follow. Exhausted from the last few minutes, he sat down behind the flat pillar to catch his breath.
As the pain in his side awoke anew, he looked down at himself and pushed his jacket aside. Anxious about the extend of the damage the shot had done to him, he yanked his gloves off and slowly pulled up his shirt to take a look. The cloth was torn and stuck to the skin, so he carefully peeled it off.
There was no hole, but a horrible gash wound and lot of blood all around it. Staring at it for too long made his mind sway. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, firmly pressing his bare hand on the spot in order to stop the bleeding.
Resting his head against the wall he waited for the others to come and looked in their direction as he heard heavy footsteps approach.
"There you are, Charles!" he heard the Engineer say as he came with Pilot following. "I heard lots of gunfire and got down to take cover. But it's good you actually made it through and didn't-"
For a moment he startled and sucked in a breath as he saw the blood on the sniper's hand.
"Oh shit... did you get shot?" Gromov exclaimed, and started to panic. "This is bad... It all can't be happening! Don't die now, understood? Come on, think, Alex, think! There is a way to fix everything, and humans aren't much different to machines. You can fix this, right? Wait, I know what to do. I'll get the first aid kid from my backpack. Or was it in Pilot's? Pilot, give me your backpack for a sec-"
"Calm down Gromov, it's just a graze!" he scolded. He picked up his weapon and got up from the floor to demonstrate he was alright. "See? Everything is fine. No need to worry. Soon we'll get out of here, I promise."
After that, the engineer just stared at him silently and put his backpack back on. Even though Snippy stood slightly hunched over, he did his best to hide his pain and was glad that Gromov couldn't see through his mask at the moment. Even though it wasn't such a serious injury as a bullet impact, it still hurt like hell, but for now it was better that the others didn't know. They had other things to worry about right now.
There was no time for first aid now, so all that was left for him was to press his free hand on the wound and hope it would stop bleeding soon. Maybe he would survive a little bit longer that way.
"Come on, let's move farther down while they're still planning their next step," the sniper directed Engie and Pilot. "From now on, every second counts."