Characters: C. Snippy/Sniper & C. Hatchenson/Pilot & A. Gromov/Engineer & Captain
Chapter 1: Engie's Masterpiece
It must have been a little over three months ago that Captain gave Engie the order to build a flying machine. Initially the Russian engineer objected to taking on such a seemingly impossible task, but finally agreed to after Pilot incessantly heckled him to the brink of insanity.
Doctor Gromov needed parts before he could begin constructing "the most glorious flying machine," as Captain put it, so all throughout the months that followed he requested the other two minions to fetch him various scraps to aid in the completion of his project. Every part on the list was successfully retrieved sooner or later, depending on how long it took to coerce reluctant Snippy into getting dragged along on a search.
Every time the sniper was told to go scavenge the wasteland with Pilot, he acted stubbornly. He was persistent in his refusal to cooperate, protesting that it would be yet another horrible idea. He even tried to talk Captain into reconsidering his orders, but to no avail. Captain wouldn't hear it. The only answer Snippy received was a stern "No!" and a splash of tea to his face for being a mutinous pest.
But what did the engineer have to say? Quite frankly, he more or less didn't care what the others would do with the machine once it was finished as long as he didn't have to fly it. Captain's threats to restrict his food and take away his magazines and liquors were what kept him going wee hours into the morning every day.
One night, Engie came barging through the door of their base, stumbled over a sleeping Snippy and dropped to the floor. He instantly fell asleep, completely ignoring the complaints of his furious comrade. As Snippy realized his words fell on deaf ears, he shrugged it off and concluded that the copper-eyed man must have been drunk or just so exhausted that he simply didn't give a damn anymore.
The next morning, the engineer awoke with the peculiar sensation of having forgotten about something important. He pondered for a moment and remembered that it was typical for such a feeling to occur when he had just finished a project, or even after packing some suitcases to go away on a trip. So he dismissed it as a result of over thinking and quickly ate his breakfast.
The sun had just dawned and Engie felt ready for the day. With a clear mind he confidently led the Captain to his private maintenance hangar to present his finished creation. An eager Pilot followed and a less enthused sniper trudged alongside him. Nonetheless all of them were equally curious to see Doctor Gromov's flying machine for the first time.
The moment Gromov swiped off the white blanket that was covering it, everyone marveled at the sight. It was a true masterpiece; an impressive work of art made of junk and spare parts. He even bothered to paint it in a deep, sea green color.
"You finished it! This is the best day of my life!" Pilot proclaimed joyfully before inspecting it from every possible angle in amazement.
"So... You say we'll get this thing up in the air? Is it safe?" Sniper asked skeptically.
"Ahm... well," Engie muttered, scratching his neck nervously. "We have fuel and the engines are all set, but the flying machine still needs to be tes-"
Before he could finish, Captain chimed in. "Oh Mr. Snippy, what's with these doubts? Of course it can fly! And you get the special honor of being the first to test it!"
"What?! You want that shoe to fly it?" Pilot bolted out from behind the flying machine and started to make quite a fuss. "He doesn't even know how to fly it!"
Snippy groaned as he was rudely shoved by the disgruntled aviator who rushed up to Captain.
"Why can't I be the one to test-fly Engie's flying cow?" Pilot cried, gesturing with his arms to show them how much he desired it.
"Ugh... I gladly pass my spot to you," the sniper declared disinterestedly as he readjusted his red scarf.
"Really? You would do that?" Pilot gasped, turning to his commander. "Captain, can I?"
Captain stood silently, looking to the sun in deep thought. Both minions waited with bated breath for his response, while Engie lazily leaned against a wall observing the whole fiasco.
"I will let you test-fly it, but only if..." the Captain began, and started to chuckle.
"If what?" Pilot inquired impatiently.
"Only if Snippy will accompany you as co-pilot."
"Never!" the sniper exclaimed.
The seemingly perpetual silence that followed was unbearable for Snippy. He nervously glanced from Captain to Pilot in fear of what might happen next.
"Bwah?" he uttered, and slowly backed away once he realized that Pilot was glaring in his direction.
Within a matter of seconds Pilot lunged at him. Even though Snippy had felt the tension between them, he was still caught off guard by this sudden outburst and could not react fast enough. He slammed to the ground with Pilot on top of him, painfully pressing the air out of his lungs. Snippy tried to gasp for air but the perpetual pressure from Pilot's arm against his throat left him coughing helplessly.
"You will say yes," the crazy, green-eyed man hissed angrily with a stare that would be best described as a stare into one's soul.
Sniper tried to speak but he was unable to even breathe. He then tried to push Pilot off but couldn't do that either as his hands were locked beneath his opponent.
"What are you doing, Pilot?" Captain inquired, sounding a bit confused, but he received no response from his minion.
"Say it, Snipster! Say you will do it!" the aviator yelled at his victim and glared with piercing green eyes, paying no attention to his commander.
From his position on the concrete floor Snippy could see Engie, who was still leaning up against the wall but looking slightly alarmed now.
"Get him off of me, you apathetic prick," Sniper wanted to say. If only he wasn't being choked by a raving madman. His burning lungs protested painfully as colorful swirls started to obscure his vision. He hoped that Pilot would soon remember that humans need air to live.
"Pilot, enough of this boobery now!" Captain finally ordered and stepped closer. "I've educated you to better than this!"
Grudgingly, Pilot finally unpinned the completely limp sniper and got up to face his commander. Snippy slowly came to again, coughing and gasping for air.
"You alright, Charles?" Engie asked from his corner with a slight chuckle.
Sniper gave him the death glare, rasping, "Shut the hell up..."
"So, Snippy..." Captain began, clearing his throat. "What do you say to hopping in that plane for a test-flight with Pilot?"
"Hmm... Being killed by Pilot choking me to death for not consenting, or being killed by Pilot flying our airplane into a building... That's a tough decision," Sniper said sarcastically upon sitting up, underlining his chin with his thumb and index finger.
"...So you're gonna do it?" Engie hesitantly asked, flinching when Snippy sharply turned to him.
A moment later he got up from the ground and felt everyone's eyes on him as he patted the dust off of his clothes.
Even though he appeared composed, Snippy was panic-stricken. He had a severe fear of heights, and he knew there would be no way out once he agreed, but he didn't really have a choice.
He knew that Pilot was much faster than him, and even if he did manage to escape that dangerous lunatic, he would search the whole city just to find him and make him suffer the consequences for not complying, in the worst way possible.
Charles gulped at the thought and tried to look at the bright side of it all to ease his mind.
Pilot had flown a few planes in his life before the apocalypse, right? Maybe he would actually succeed at piloting this flying machine and take him far away and out of Captain's reach, at least for a little while...
As he looked up, he noticed that the others hadn't left their spots and continued to stare at him, still waiting for an answer. Snippy held his breath as if he would drown in an ocean of strain if he were to exhale.
"Okay, fine..." the sniper breathed out, and everyone raised their heads expectantly. "I'll do it. Just let me get a few things from the base and we can get going."
Pilot jumped into the air and cheered aloud, but Sniper could already feel his doom manifesting.
Of course the crazy man watched his co-pilot like a hawk as he prepared for flight, tracing each item he stuffed into his backpack with those big green lenses. Snippy then loaded a full ammo clip into his new handgun and secured it in the holster on his belt.
Just a moment later, Captain burst into the room.
"Mein sexy minions! Your Captain can no longer wait to see it happen! Let's get the flying machine to the runway!" Captain announced loudly, and motioned Snippy and Pilot to follow him back into the maintenance hangar.
With united strength the two of them moved the airplane, slowly taking it outbound while Captain ran to hold the gate open.
"Good luck with the flight, Charles," Engie commented as he walked on by without helping. Snippy didn't even bother to look his way.
It was all his fault. If he hadn't agreed to build the machine, then Snippy wouldn't have to go on this treacherous mission.
As the wheels came to a halt, Pilot jumped right into the front seat of the flying machine.
"What are you waiting for, Mr. Snippy?" Captain questioned. "Hop in, so Pilot can take you to paradise!"
"Paradise, huh..." he snarled in frustration.
He tried to relax his tense shoulders a bit, took a deep breath and checked his gun holster one last time, then he climbed into the back seat.
The motors started, sending low vibrations through the seat backs. Snippy grabbed onto anything he could as the plane started moving towards the runway. Then it stopped and idled before a long empty stretch of asphalt.
Over the rattling sound of the motors Snippy could hear Captain cheering at Pilot. He felt seriously befuddled as he spotted their leader on the sidelines, waving a tissue like a woman who waved her man goodbye as he left for war.
They started to move again and the motors roared as the machine gained speed to go into a run-up.
In blank despair from the thought of crashing into wrecked cars, a wall or getting tangled up in fallen wires, Snippy closed his eyes and ducked. It didn't help that this was the first flight of his life. His heart was beating so fast that he feared it would give out at any minute.
But then the rumbling stopped and in the very moment of takeoff, gravity collapsed around them. A strangely soothing feeling of weightlessness embraced Snippy, erasing all of his fears.
"Mr. Snippy, look! We're in the air!" Pilot yelled from the cockpit.
The sniper dared to open his eyes and cautiously leaned over the edge of the flying machine to have a look. From the first moment on he was stunned by the view of the city from above, in disbelief that this was really happening. After a while he perceived that flying wasn't so bad after all, and Pilot really seemed to be adept in what he was doing.
Much to Snippy's surprise, he actually felt relaxed. Though as they soared higher and higher, doubts started to plague his mind.
"Hey Pilot..." Snippy leaned forth to ask. "Did the Captain mention any place we're supposed to go?"
"Don't you understand? We are going to paradise!" the Pilot yelled back, and the flying machine faltered for a moment.
Snippy felt uneasy about it now and tried to extinguish his anxiety by talking things over with Pilot.
"As far as I know we are only supposed to test-fly it," the sniper said.
Pilot brought the flying machine higher up, leaving the rooftops far below them and steered into a massive gray cloud. Right then Snippy felt especially grateful to have a respirator strapped to his face.
"Test flying means more than just carrying off a good start into the air," Pilot replied calmly.
As they emerged from the suffocating body of the dark cloud, they were greeted with a burst of light. Snippy was temporarily blinded and pressed his sensitive blue eyes shut.
Seconds later he slowly opened them again and gasped. A vibrant blue expanse above and a sea of clouds below; the sky as he had never seen it before and thought he never would in his life. For years such a sight was merely an object of his dreams, but that moment was here now and it was real. Pacified by the majestic atmosphere, Snippy was speechless, and certain that Pilot was having the time of his life.
"Lean back and enjoy the view. We're going to be in the air for a while," was all the aviator had to say, and Snippy didn't ask for a more detailed explanation this time.
Instead he remained silent and watched the clouds pass by below them while listening to the constant buzz of the engines, unaware of the slight difference in their sound pattern that would soon become clearly audible.