"Jimi blew another amp today in rehearsal…He's got more power than I figured in that little body. It's crazy…we're playing, everything's good, then there's a flash and boom, buh-bye speaker. Don't think he meant to do it…I figure he got excited during the solo. I need to get him to tone it down a notch or find stronger amplifiers, or our free power's going to be more trouble than it's worth when we hit the big time."
Casey had forgotten how much of a rush this was.
Lurking through the darkened corridors of the salesman's house with her pet, she mused over what fun this actually was. The feeling of actual danger, the promise of rewards, and the simple adrenaline rush. This was the most fun she had had in a long time.
The concerts were great, they were what she lived for, but…they had gotten monotonous now. Same old songs over and over again. What more, she was dead for inspiration for new music. Nothing new at all. And the band…they were getting annoying now, with royalties and fame and shares and all that pesky nonsense.
Casey needed excitement again. She needed…more, simply. Something new, something different. Years now of the same concerts, the same songs, the same creep Eric Sparrow. She needed actual, real fun, maybe somewhere other than Las Venturas. Maybe something like this…
No. Casey thought as she checked to see if a door was locked or not. It wasn't. Nothing could convince her to become a full-time crook…a bit too risky, and besides...
"Well," she muttered under her breath. "Finish up here at least. One night."
But if not this…what next?
"My collection…it's ancient. They all ask why I keep it. It's of no use to one such as me. The one who was last able to use them properly is long dead. But I know…someone has come who can use these masks. He does not need them yet, but he will soon. I was waiting for this a long time. This is why I kept them safe…why I made a new one. This one he will need first. Now…all that's left is to wait for her…"
-The Happy Mask Salesman
Casey opened the door and found thousands of eyes staring back at her.
She gasped before she managed to check herself and get a good look at the room she had entered. There was no-one inside…no flesh-and-blood person, anyway. And yet the lights were still on…they illuminated row upon row of strange and stranger masks, hung on the walls like an eerie mosaic.
There were a few masks Casey recognized from professional wrestling and hockey. But most of them were bizarre…there was a wooden one that looked like an undead face, one that was a literal gaping mouth, an oblong one with a crooked expression and mismatched eyes, and a face mask in the shape of an eagle. A hood with two lights for eyes, a wolf with white markings, a skull mask with bones making a bizarre crown… And a pair of ridiculous bunny ears on a nearby mannequin head.
Each and every one of them was preserved well and totally free of dust. "Well," Casey whispered to Jimi, "This narrows down what he values, eh?"Jimi nodded. Both of them did there best to avert their eyes from the unblinking gazes on the walls. The masks unnerved them in a way they couldn't describe. Almost as if some of them were alive…
"Let's not stick around long, Jimi. Which one do you figure he likes the most?" Casey whispered frantically.
Jimi looked around the room, and then pointed. Casey followed his finger. On a pedestal in the centre of the room, with a light shining on it specially, was a mask that looked the most human of the ones Casey had seen there. It was a man, with pale skin and white hair. Empty eyes stared at the musician. Tribal red and blue tattoos on his face made him look like a ferocious ancient god…
With the pedestal and light, Casey figured this mask was special. Perfect. This would get at the salesman good. Not wanting to stay in the room longer than she needed, Casey lifted it off the pedestal swiftly and carefully…
Apparently not carefully enough. "SHIT!" She cursed as she and Jimi bolted towards the exit, the alarm bells blaring.
"James, listen. A guy named Shepherd told me he had run into, uh, PH as well, so I think I got a theory. The…executioner of the old days of Silent Hill? He wore a…hood like PH, and carried the same kinda weapon. So that would've been the inspiration for…anyway. Now, this guy was created to punish you for…what happened with your wife, right? So I figure…He's based on an executioner (or maybe the executioner's based on him) and stopped bothering you when you had been punished enough. And Alex saw him kill his father, but left HIM alone even though… Maybe PH isn't just YOUR personal tormenter. Maybe he's something like the…epitome of 'justice' of Silent Hill, the one who makes the…wrongdoers suffer for their crimes. Or even…the spirit of Silent Hill retribution itself. You might not have created him…you might have just summoned him. Anyway, that's my theory."
No-one moved. Understandably, not one of the soldiers wanted to get near the creature with the colossal blade. Even Arbiter, Lara and Snake were a bit hesitant to act. They just watched the huge man to see if he would move towards them. Pyramid Head didn't seem to notice them, or if he did, didn't think that going towards them would be worth the trouble of dragging his heavy knife. He just stood there, over the body of the slain soldier. The army stared at him. No-one moved for a few moments.
Arbiter broke the silence. "Set your weapons on stun. We need him alive. Lara and Snake, get the darts ready. Gordon, try to disarm him."
Everyone did as they were told. Gordon turned on his bulky gun, pointing it at Pyramid Head's huge blade. It rushed out of a surprised man's hand towards Gordon…but it stopped far short of Gordon.
The reason was very clear. The handle of the knife was chained to the creature's hand…not in the style of handcuffs, but like the chain was welded onto the back of Pyramid Head's bare hand. He clearly did not want to lose it.
Snake fired one of the darts at the monster's chest. It connected…and nothing noticeable happened. Except that Pyramid Head got much more agitated than before, letting out a muffled scream from under his helmet.
"Tranquilizer?" Lara asked.
"I think we'll need more."
Pyramid Head grabbed the hovering chain with his other hand and pulled the floating blade towards him, fighting against Gordon's gravity gun with eerie ease. Once he reached the handle, he adjusted a rusty gear-like mechanism on the blade…
And suddenly the blade was shooting back towards Gordon faster than before. It stopped just short of him, hovering in front of his bulky machine just like the metal pole before. It happened so fast the man stammered back with the recoil.
Pyramid Head was holding a long, thin, sharp spear in his hand now. The handle of the knife was a concealed weapon unto itself…The heavy blade hovering in front of Gordon was a metal sleeve with a razor blade, which Pyramid Head had now shed.
Without the heavy blade to slow him down, Pyramid Head charged at the man who had shot him like an enraged rhino. Everyone instinctively fell back fast. Snake was moments away from impalement when he leapt out of the way. He didn't have time to fire another dart before he had to dodge an immediate counterattack from the creature. The spear whirled above his head…this guy was faster than he looked. A lot faster.
Snake managed to fire another tranquilizer dart before Pyramid Head grabbed him around the throat with his free hand. Snake kicked at the unflinching helmet without any effect. The monster raised his spear for a kill when he suddenly reared back in pain, releasing Snake onto the ground.
The helmet whirled around to see Lara holding an electrically-charged pistol. Another shot and Pyramid Head let out a muted scream as electricity charged through his veins. The enraged creature drew his spear back to throw. The chain was long and the creature's aim was dead-on…Lara would've been dead had she not ducked at the right time.
"Don't just stand there! Fire!" Rtas ordered his soldiers.
Immediately the creature was peppered with tranquilizer darts, plasma bursts and electric charges. He howled in anger but didn't go down, moving doggedly towards Lara and his spear.
Gordon had been waiting for a while now. The metal sleeve hovering in front of his gravity gun had taken a long time to rotate. Now, with the large blunt end facing Pyramid Head, he released the trigger on his bulky machine. The huge iron thing shot out right towards its bearer.
The heavy metal sleeve slammed into Pyramid Head at top speed. Even the implacable creature toppled at the force of the hit. That blow, combined with the shocks, tranquilizer and bolts, caused the colossal creature to fall flat on the ground.
Everyone approached the creature carefully, wondering if he was only playing dead or unconscious to lure them close. Gordon touched the creature's wrist, then turned to Arbiter and nodded.
Arbiter looked at the soldiers. "Get the restraints on this Pyramid Head and ready the capsule. Do not take any chances. Bring both parts of the blade as well."
No-one disagreed, but McCloud couldn't hide his question. "Um…we're taking this thing WITH us?"
"Yes." Arbiter answered. "Do not ask me why, McCloud. Our benefactors insisted we take him alive. They believe that he will be of use to us.
Now, let's return to our base."
"Gordon Freeman has significant…field experience in this line of work. Do not let his silence and degree in theoretical physics fool you. He may be a…scientist, but he is just as capable of holding his own in a battle as you are, Thel Vadum. As your… sponsor, I can vouch for Mr. Freeman's usefulness. He will serve our interests…well."
A small carrier craft hovered towards a green mansion under cover of darkness. Two soldiers, a human and a falcon therianth, were in the cockpit, looking out at the large place. The therianth looked disdainfully at the picture of the target.
"What's so special 'bout this mask thing?"
"I dunno, Lombardi. But I'm not one to disobey orders."
"Course not." Lombardi muttered. "How did I get roped into this 'league'? Not even the actual league, just a bunch of errand boys…"
"Lombardi, be quiet. We need to think about how to get this target without raising a fuss. The boss was very clear we weren't supposed to cause a scene…"
A loud alarm from the mansion cut him off.
"Oh great. We caused a scene."
"No…I don't think that was us…"
The pilot saw two creatures bolt out of the door like scared rabbits. "Burglars. Figures. Now wha-"
A thought had struck Lombardi. He grabbed the camera near him and zoomed in on the fleeing miscreants. A human woman and what appeared to be a Pikachu, both in a black disguise. And the woman was carrying what they were after!
"Hey, lookit this. Looks like we can save ourselves some time."
"Let me do this. Shouldn't take a minute…"
Casey and Jimi ran through the gate and towards the car, the mask they stole in Casey's hands. The two burglars tore through the mansion's lawn until they reached their getaway car. Made it! Casey thought as she fumbled for the keys…
Then she heard a bizarre hum high above her. The police, having arrived fast, was her first thought, and she tried to open the car doors faster…
But then she realized that hum was not a helicopter. At all. She had never heard anything like it before. Curiosity getting the better of her, she turned to look…
It was definitely not the police. That was all she could register before a metal arm shot out from whatever it was and grabbed her.
"HEY!" She screamed as the tentacle pulled her up. Ever devoted to his mistress, Jimi grabbed onto her with his claws, and they were both dragged into the mysterious carrier…
Lombardi returned to the cockpit with a smirk of triumph. "Had to use the sedatives on 'em, real tenacious two, but we got the mask!" He presented the tattooed face to his copilot.
The communications display in the cockpit flickered on, as if it had heard them. They were both a little spooked by the oddly precise timing of the communication. But the man who appeared on the screen was someone who spooked people quite a bit. He had a drawn, pale face, with aqua eyes that seemed to hide a multitude of secrets and plans. His hair was impeccably trimmed and his suit and tie neat as possible.
"Lombardi. Diemen. Have you been successful?" Both Lombardi and Diemen felt the G-man didn't need to ask that question. Nevertheless, they answered. "Yes, sir. We have your mask."
"That is good. Now return to base immediately."
"Immediately, sir? We got two…"
"IMMEDIATELY. Why haven't you moved yet?" The man was getting impatient.
"Yes sir." Diemen interrupted Lombardi and began to move the carrier. The transmission was cut before Lombardi could explain about the two creatures in the carrier.
"Uh…What about those burglars in the back? What do we do with them?"
"I don't know, but if he wants us back at the base now, we get back to the base now. We'll tell him as soon as we can."
The carrier zoomed off into the night with two pilots, a mask, and Casey and Jimi, both unaware of where they were going.
"This is gonna be interesting..." Lombardi mused.
Two squinted eyes watched the carrier leave. The alarm had been shut off, and the salesman smiled. Walking though his mask collection, he brought out a cell phone and began talking to someone on the other side of the line.
"It's the salesman. All is going as planned…"