Scout's Australian Christmas

The Battle

Scout lay in the snow, the wind wildly whipping his frosted clothes. He remained in the position in which he landed after Crowder had dropped him, finding a tiny fraction of relief in the feeling of drunkenness his body experienced as it shut down. Inwardly laughing, he found that everything that had led up to that exact moment was the result of a chain reaction he had absolutely nothing to do with. Yet, there he was, alive and smiling into the crook of his arms as he heard the hammer of Crowder's gun lock into place.

It was no secret that Scout was arrogant by nature. He loved life and everything it had to offer him. But at the same time, he also felt that there was so much he could offer in return. He was fast, a clever and ambitious problem solver, one hell of a baseball player, and a formidable mercenary. But he was also a son. And a friend. And one of the bravest people his RED team ever knew; young and full of life and energy and taunting grins. It should be in his very nature to lash out at the idea of death. Real death. Maybe he'd respawn back in Teufort. Maybe not. Either way, he was surprised to find himself so numb. Perhaps it was the result of taking so many lives himself.

Or maybe it was the fever.


And then he felt nothing.

Seconds passed and Scout found that he was still very much breathing and still very, very cold. With every ounce of strength left in his body, he peeled open his eyes. Then he saw it. Blood slowly trickled down an unmistakable hole in Nicolas Crowder's chest. The old man stood there, staring down perplexedly at the oozing wound before his face contorted into a wrathful sneer. Slowly, deliberately, he turned his head and peered over his shoulder at the man standing behind him.

Hazed by the blowing snow, a tall figure stood standing with his smoking rifle still aimed at Crowder's chest. The fur lining his red parka bristled in the wind. His aviators reflected the landscape before him.

"Sniper?" Scout croaked but it came out as nothing more than a whisper lost in the blizzard.

And then all hell broke loose. Scout saw Crowder's aurora shield go up around his sinewy body as the air filled with the roar of gunfire. He was suddenly filled with a mixture of excitement, bewilderment, and relief. It all proved too overwhelming and he reluctantly closed his eyes and drifted into oblivion.

The arctic ice shelf had become alive with the explosion of firearms and rocket launchers. Crowder merely held his ground; his shield glowing green and absorbing every bullet that came his way and spitting them back out in all directions. Five more men joined the first, using the blowing snow as cover.

As Crowder relished in the blurry war, he focused forward and did not see the RED Spy materialize behind him; knife raised high in the air. But it hardly mattered. The Spy brought his knife down to strike Crowder in the back but was thrown back several feel through the air, landing hard in the ice and remaining motionless. His steel knife spiraled across the ice and came to a stop next to his head.

"It's the damn shield!" Soldier screamed before a bullet penetrated his bicep.

Sniper was at the Spy's side in an instant. He gave him a few light slaps on the cheek before the mercenary's eyes fluttered open behind his ski mask.

"You alright, mate?"

Spy groaned and sat up, clutching his forehead. "Yes. Metal won't work on him."

"Yeah, we figured that out pretty quickly," Sniper deadpanned, although the gunfire continued to rage on around them."We need to just get the Scout and get the hell outta here."

The blizzard intensified, obscuring their surroundings in a flurry of snow and white haze. Occasionally, Sniper and Spy would catch a glimpse of the red of someone's parka as they ran by in the distance, guns blazing. Sniper stood up and extended his hand down to the Spy, who clasped it in his own and gingerly stood up to wipe the ice from his pants. He bent down to gather his knife and tucked it away deep into his coat.

Demoman appeared out of nowhere, running up to them breathlessly with his grenade launcher almost extinguished. "Where's the lad?"

"Who? Scout?" Sniper shouted back.

"No! Moesby!"

"I haven't a bleedin' clue! Where's Scout?"

"Heavy's got 'im!"

And then, as quickly as he had come, Demoman ran off with his grenade launcher perched on his shoulder and ready to fire; disappearing into the blizzard. A scream was heard in the distance.

Crowder had spun on his feet, his white eyes wide with inhuman wrath. He snarled and wildly looked around for his assailant, his eyes finally landing on the Pyro seconds before he was blasted with another wave of fire. Pyro, who had spent the duration of the battle simply trying to get within range, was finally able to dodge enough bullets and attack his adversary. The fire ripped out of his flamethrower and ignited the grey, cold air with a burst of orange warmth. Crowder put an arm up to shield himself from the blast and growled furiously as his koala cape caught fire. Hurriedly, he slapped the fur to extinguish the flames and turned to return the attack, but Pyro was surprisingly agile and moved behind him. The mercenary muttered something that sounded like a muffled taunt behind his mask before drowning Crowder in an inferno once again. It was in that instant, the Spirit of Australian Christmas sent his force field out like a shockwave that rippled across the ice shelf and knocked Pyro to the ground.

Meanwhile, as the battle carried on, Heavy had found his way over to the Scout just as Demoman had said and fell to his knees next to his fallen comrade.

"Scout!" he barked, giving the young mercenary a gentle shake.

He received no response. Scout's face was pallid, caked in blood, bruised, and lacking his trademark smirk. Heavy frowned and hurriedly shrugged off his parka, gently lifting Scout's torso off the ice so that he could place it around him. Scout's brown baseball cap laid crookedly beneath the young man's head and Heavy did his best to place it back on; anything to retain heat. He gazed off onto the battlefield, hoping to catch a glimpse of any of his teammates. He then saw a blur of mottled, orange light in the distance; Pyro had gotten through to attack Crowder. Heavy knew it was time to regroup and head back to the plane but finding all of his comrades in the blizzard would be next to impossible. With a nod, he simply scooped the Scout effortlessly up into his arms and did what he hoped everyone else was doing and ran towards the fire.

The first person he came across was Soldier, who was kneeling in the snow clutching his bleeding arm with gritted teeth.

"Soldier!" Heavy shouted.

Soldier looked up from beneath his helmet. His face dropped when he saw Scout hanging lifelessly in Heavy's arms.

"Is he alive?"

"Da. For now. We have to get back to airplane!"

Soldier sighed in pain as blood flowed out between his gloved fingers. He saw a burst of orange light and looked at Heavy, knowing exactly what he needed to do.

"Go!" he said. "I'll regroup with you later!"

"We go together! It's too hard to find everyone in blizzard!"

"I'll only slow you down, maggot!"

"Nyet!" Heavy said sharply and kneeled down next to the Soldier, offering his shoulder. "Soldier once said, 'Never leave man behind!'"

Soldier, for once, was caught cleanly off guard. He gaped at the Heavy momentarily before nodding proudly and grabbed onto the proffered appendage, hoisting himself to his feet. He swayed for a second but quickly regained his composure and followed Heavy towards the orange light.

Demoman had somehow made his way back to the Spy and Sniper and crouched low on one knee next to them, his grenade launcher perched against his hip.

"Pyro got through!" he hollered at them.

"Good! Now if he could kindly barbeque the man to death, we can get the hell outta here!" replied Sniper.

Spy got into a walking crouch. "Let's move! We need to regroup and head back to the plane!"

Demoman and Sniper followed suit, staying low to the ground as they ran hunched towards the fiery blast. As they drew closer, they could see two figures standing in the blizzard and a fierce, orange glow coming from one of them. Conveniently, to their left, Spy saw Soldier running in the same direction, followed by Heavy carrying someone in his arms whom Spy could only assume was the Scout. He looked forward just in time to see a wave of green light heading outwards towards them at blinding speeds.

"Get down!" he shouted but it was too late. The wall of electricity hit them like a tsunami.

The blast all but brought the mercenaries to their knees. Pyro's flamethrower was knocked clear of his grasp. As they lay groaning in pain upon the ice, Crowder circled in and out of them; almost stalking them as his frown transformed into a grin. His face was badly burned and his yellow, crooked teeth protruded from his skeletal jaw. His clothes were charred, his koala cape all but incinerated...

"Never have I come across such blatant stupidity," he said. "I suppose I should commend your loyalty to one another. After all, you came all this way just to die together in the middle of Antarctica." He opened the chamber of his pistol and counted the rounds before slamming it back in place. "A pity you couldn't put up a better fight. I'm simply going to put you all down like dogs."

He cocked the hammer of his pistol and took aim at the Pyro right before the roar of the arctic wind was interrupted by a distant 'thunk! thunk!' A blur out of nowhere slammed into Crowder's reindeer skull helmet and sent it cartwheeling through the air. Immediately, Crowder screamed and clasped his spidery fingers over his balding, boney head.

The mercenaries were dumbfounded. They looked about wildly and finally saw a small figure coming into view through the haze of snow. There was Moesby, elf ears and all, standing defiantly with what appeared to be a rocket launcher cradled in his arms. Except it wasn't shooting missiles. He shouldered the weapon and took aim once again, pulling the trigger and showering Crowder in an onslaught of hardened...snowballs.

Spy's eyes widened suddenly. He remembered the conversation he had with the BLU Scout before he embarked on this rescue mission. "Yo! It's his helmet. I...I think it's his helmet. That lame-o reindeer skull one. I caught him off guard when I nailed 'im with an ornament to the head...but wasn't until Soldier knocked his helmet off that he became all talk and no walk."

Spy turned and spotted the reindeer skull helmet laying harmlessly on the ice yards away from Crowder's reach. He scrambled to his feet.

"Now! Attack him now! His defenses are down!"

"What in the bloody hell do yeh mean 'his defenses are down'?" Demoman hollered back.

Quickly, to reiterate his statement, Spy unsheathed his gun from his parka and fired several rounds at Crowder. The bullets penetrated and forcefully sent the old man stumbling backwards; gaping in shock at the three holes littering his torso. An excited realization dawned on the team.

Moesby had ceased fire as well and for what felt like an eternity, he stood by the mercenaries and gaped at Crowder. The Spirit of Australian Christmas stood fuming, shoulders hunched and heaving with every breath, teeth grit and eyes wild with anger.

The mercenaries needed no further provocation. Crowder barely had time to flinch before six weapons of various sizes were aimed at him and fired. The howl of the wind was once more filled with the roar of chaotic arson. Crowder disappeared behind a barrage of bullets, fire, rockets, and ice. His guttural screams were bone chilling and gargled behind a veil of smoke. The onslaught continued for what seemed like forever. Heavy could only stand behind his team gaping in shock; still holding Scout's body in his arms.

And then, as quickly as it had begun, the guns, one by one, tapered off into a symphony of 'clicks' as their chambers emptied and the ammunition was exhausted. The smoke cleared quickly in the whipping blizzard winds and the mercenaries all gazed apprehensively at the spot on the ice where their enemy once stood.

Was still standing.

Nicolas Crowder very slowly pulled himself to his feet. His clothes were all but burnt off, his charred, oozing skin riddled with bullet holes. The flesh of his cheeks had melted off from the blast of Pyro's flamethrower, revealing a skeletal grin and a hollowed nose. Blood and pink tissue dripped off of him like melting wax and littered the snow beneath his feet, mixing with the gunpowder and creating a swirling mosaic of black and red.

It was, quite simply, the most horrifying thing any of them had ever seen.

"Impossible...," Demoman gasped.

Crowder's eyes, reduced to withered beads, fell upon his reindeer skull helmet and pistol laying several yards away and the mercenaries knew they were doomed if he were to reach them. Crowder took one, great, hulking step towards his weapons.

"No!" Moesby cried. And before anyone could react, he sprang into action and leapt towards Crowder, ramming into him with his shoulder.

The two rolled and tumbled violently across the ice, the wind filling with the sounds of their grunts and growls. Spy dove and slid on his hip towards the reindeer skull helmet, snatching it off the ground and holding it to his chest protectively. They could not allow Crowder to get his hands on it, no matter what.

The other mercenaries regained their wits and made to join the fray, until they noticed what Moesby was doing. Not too far from where their battle raged on was a rather deep and lethal crevice; a darkened line of blue along the unforgiving white ice. Moesby wrestled and tumbled with Crowder, effectively leading him towards the drop off.

"Moesby!" Sniper shouted but his voice was lost in the wind.

Moesby finally managed to steer Crowder to the crevice's edge before he found himself pinned to the ground by his neck. The Spirit of Australian Christmas hovered over him; teeth bared as he squeezed his slave's throat with all of his strength. Moesby grappled for any foothold he could get before he planted his feet into Crowder's stomach and catapulted him over the edge. But Crowder's grip did not relent and in a flurry of tangled limbs, they both plummeted over the edge. Moesby managed to hook his fingers into the ice at the very last second; a futile attempt to buy him some time before he fell, but Crowder clung to his legs and weighed him down.

Sniper leapt towards the edge, sliding the rest of the way and extending his hand in the hopes that he could snatch Moesby's fingertips before they disappeared. But it was too late. He caught the last glimpse of Moesby's terrified face before the young slave lost his grip and fell into the black, endless abyss.

The man who had saved their lives was gone. Just like that.

Sniper sat back on his haunches, staring down the crevice in shock. The others inched towards him cautiously, not wanting to risk getting too close to the edge.

"He's gone," he whispered solemnly.

For the next few moments, the mercenaries remained glued to the spot; their bodies not quite in sync with their minds. It was so surreal to them to be fighting for their lives only seconds ago; a battle they were losing. Moesby had saved them again, but at the cost of his own life. It was an outcome none of them anticipated.

"We need to get out of here!" Soldier shouted, breaking the silence. "There's nothing more we can do! Move out!"

The mercenaries didn't need to be told twice. For all intents and purposes, their rescue mission had been fulfilled. Without any further words, they quickly began their perilous journey back to the plane.

"Finished!" Engineer exclaimed, whipping his goggles off. His eyes lit up with excitement.

Miss Pauling spun on her heels, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest as she shivered. She had been staring out the window for what felt like an eternity, despite Medic's teasing. Her face was etched with worry and her glasses fogged with frost.

"But they're not back yet!" she said, her voice strained.

The teleporter hummed to life just then; its massive platform flickering and then bursting forth with red light. Its brightness spilled out of the fuselage windows and illuminated the air outside like a beacon.

"Then they'll hafta hurry," Engineer said heavily. "These things don't exactly have 'on/off' switches. How's the Medic?"

Miss Pauling's frown deepened as her eyes darted to the Medic; back still propped against the wall and his breathing ragged. His eyes were screwed shut in pain, his teeth still coated in a thin film of blood...

"He's dying," she said quietly, inching closer to the Engineer to keep their conversation private. "We can't wait on the others for much longer."

Engineer sighed. "I told ya, though. She's only got enough juice for one trip."

"I know. You can teleport back with the Medic and then send help."

"Send help from who? The Administrator? Those military folks? One of their men is dead because of us. In fact, we're in such deep shit, once we get back home with the Scout, it's not gonna matter what the Administrator said. Our careers are done for, anyway."

"We could pay the military off. More Australium."

Engineer shook his head. "There are only a few caches I know about. None of them will have enough to buy our way outta this. We're just going to have to face the consequences when we get back. Together."

The stress of the rescue mission and the idea of losing her team suddenly took its toll on Miss Pauling. Even if the mercenaries returned to the fuselage with the Scout, they would be in no less trouble than they started off with. In fact, they were sinking deeper into it with every passing moment. Dead pilot, wrecked multibillion dollar aircraft, dwindling Australium supply, missing work, and now the possible death of almost the entire RED team...

Miss Pauling ran her hands through the hair at her temples and took a deep, shaky breath. "We should have thought this through more carefully."

"'s too late for that now. All we can do, for the time bein', is stick to the plan. One problem at a time."

The Medic let out a pained cough, then. Blood splattered his purple lips. He continued to keep his eyes clenched shut in pain, oblivious to the hushed conversation going on just feet away from him. Miss Pauling looked at him and her shoulders slumped hopelessly.

"How much time do we have?" she asked, her voice laced with disappointment and defeat.

"Before the power supply fades? 'Bout an hour."

"One hour?!"

"Are yeh sure this is the way we came?" Demoman shouted over the roaring arctic winds.

The mercenaries had been traveling for just under an hour, silent and sombre; one foot in front of the other out of no cognitive will of their own. They were tired, cold, beaten, and reflecting on the events that had transpired not long ago. None of them had said a single word up until now.

"Yes," Spy answered the Demoman, his brows furrowed as he trudged forward, holding the compass out in front of him. The needle was no longer swaying precariously but was now pointing north; the only direction they could possibly travel. "Keep walking."

Pyro muttered something.

"Yeah, I wish your flamethrower was working, too," Sniper replied and then looked at the Heavy. "How's the kid?"

Heavy gave Scout a gentle shake but noticed no change. "Scout is still Scoutcicle," he answered and shrugged.

Suddenly, a bright red light burst forth in the distance. The mercenaries turned to gape at it; like a lighthouse in the fog. They exchanged knowing glances and their vigor restored, they all but ran towards it. Their feet had difficulty finding purchase upon the ice and Heavy was finally starting to feel the effects of the cold seep through his thick skin, but they pushed forward relentlessly.

"We can't leave them! The whole point of this mission was to rescue one of them, not leave another six missing!" Miss Pauling cried.

"Then we'll come up with another solution!" Engineer snapped, packing up his tools. "But if this teleporter shorts out and none of us are back in Teufort, we're all gonna be stuck here until we die!"

He was right and Miss Pauling knew it. But her angst overpowered her logic as she paced the fuselage, staring longingly out the frosted windows in the hopes she'd see the team return.

"Take Medic back," she finally said. "I'll stay here. Send more help. I don't care who, I don't care how. Tell the Administrator."

Engineer's voice and face softened. "Now, I'm not just leavin' ya here, ma'am..."

"You have to. If I show up without you guys, she'll just consider you good as dead and find replacements. She thinks you're all psychotic morons, anyway." Truth be told, so did Miss Pauling, but she left that part out. "But if I'm here, she'll find a way to get me back. Just so she can fire me."

A particularly strong gust of wind rocked the cabin. Miss Pauling turned her gaze to the Medic, who had been unconscious for a while now; his chest rising and falling with increasing effort.

Engineer finally nodded, feeling pangs of guilt at the idea of leaving his team behind. But if they didn't do something about their situation now, then they'd be stuck there forever. What would be the point in rescuing the Scout if he were only to be brought back to the plane wreckage to die?

"I won't be long," he finally said. "I'll find a way to bring ya'll back. I promise."

Miss Pauling smiled sadly. "I know you will. I wouldn't trust anyone else for the job."

Engineer walked over to the Medic, squatting down next to him and draping one of the doctor's limp arms over his shoulder. Medic woke up groggily.

"Huh?" he rasped. "Vhat's going on?"

"I'm gettin' ya home, buddy," Engineer replied softly.

Medic looked around the plane in puzzlement. "But...vhere is zhe rest of zhe team?"

"They're comin'. C'mon. I'll help ya up."

Medic clung to the Engineer's shoulders for support. On the count of three, they both stood with a groan. Medic's face contorted into pain as his broken leg was jostled and he let out a strangled cough. Even the smallest effort left him wheezing and gasping for air. The journey to the teleporter was slow and agonizing.

"All right. One more step, buddy," Engineer said to his friend, guiding him.

Medic nodded and hopped on his good leg. "Danke."

Miss Pauling watched from the other end of the fuselage; her face etched with concern. She hugged her arms to herself and shivered, wondering just how they were going to get themselves out of this mess. At least the Medic was getting the help he needed. His internal injuries were severe, no doubt. The doctor glanced over his shoulder.

"Miss Pauling, if you vould be so kind as to retrieve my medi gun?"

"Of course," she said, all too happy to provide any assistance. But as she crossed the cabin to gather the weapon, something out the window caught the corner of her eye. She stiffened and let her mouth open slightly, running over to the windows and cupping her eyes against the frosted plexiglass.

"What is it?" asked the Engineer excitedly.

There, amidst the blowing ice and endless white landscape, Miss Pauling caught site of six red figures heading straight towards them.

"It's them!" she all but shrieked.

The mercenaries were practically dragging their feet across the ice by the time the fuselage of the aircraft came into view. Their breaths came out in wheezes and their chests ached, but they made it. Their parkas were almost completely obscured by a thin layer of ice and snow. Heavy, who was once amongst the leaders of the group, was now lagging behind as the arctic cold froze his joints and numbed his skin.

"The plane! It's the bloody plane!" Sniper suddenly shouted over the wind, his eyes wide with excitement behind his aviators.

The mercenaries looked up; their vigor renewed. The red light was no longer a phantom; the outlines of the fuselage finally joining it in the distance. They beamed at one another before breaking into a hobbled run.

It had seemed like no matter how far they had walked, the red light never got any closer. But now the airplane was rushing up to meet them at almost inhuman speeds. Demoman was the first to reach the fuselage door and pried it open with such force that he fell upon entering the cabin, remaining there on the floor and gasping for air as the others stumbled in after him just as chaotically. Sniper was the last to enter, supporting an increasingly drowsy Scout, and slammed the door shut behind him, thus ending the hurricane of wind, snow, and mercenaries.

"Oh my God," Miss Pauling gasped. "You're all alive!"

"Yes, we're surprised too," Spy said flatly.

For the first time, Miss Pauling noticed the state Scout was in. He looked like he gotten into a fist fight with a tank. "Is he...?"

"He's alive but we need to get 'im back to Teufort. Now," said Sniper.

The other mercenaries gently piled onto the platform; their faces full of apprehension. Spy was the last to step on, his focus on the reindeer skull helmet he held cautiously in his hands. He came before Miss Pauling, holding it like a chalice. Something about it made her tremble.

"Don't you guys have enough hats?" she joked, trying to seem unfazed. "Or is it just a spoil of war?"

Spy finally looked up at her and handed her the helmet. "Something like that. Though, it will have to be destroyed once we're back."

Miss Pauling nodded and studied the bizarre crown in her hands. "That can be arranged."

"There's gonna be about a three minute delay once we're all on," Engineer interrupted, scrambling around the edges of the teleporter and tweaking controls. "I hafta make sure the calibration and power levels are sound. Otherwise, we could end up anywhere."

"Sounds reassuring," Spy deadpanned.

The Engineer mumbled to himself, thinking aloud as he finished checking the last of the controls and then smiled. He nodded reassuringly to the others and hopped onto the platform. They all stood there huddled close and silent as the teleporter hummed and powered up. It was quite awkward. So when they snuck a glance at one another, they couldn't help but grin. What an ordeal they had been through: australium powered airplanes, a treacherous trek through Antarctica, electric force fields, and homicidal holiday figures... It had literally been the most adventurous and insane 24 hours of their lives. It was a wonder they were all standing there on the platform alive.

But they'd have plenty of time to reflect later. Seconds had passed and the hum of the teleporter intensified.

And then the main cabin door of the aircraft was abruptly ripped from its hinges. Cold air and blowing snow blasted the fuselage and sent debris whirling around the mercenaries. They ducked and flinched as the cabin rocked; eyes wide with wonderment and fear, for when the snow settled, there stood a mutilated figure.

Nicolas Crowder.

He was more like a hellish beast than a man. His clothes had long since burned off or melted to his flesh and he stood sulking like a skinned monster, leaving a trail of blood wherever he went.

"Impossible," Demoman whispered.

Miss Pauling was the first to respond. She darted forward, unsheathing a small gun from the inside of her boot. She aimed it determinedly and without warning, fired several shots into Crowder's head. But when the chamber emptied with a 'click', Crowder was still standing as furious as ever; his face unrecognizable.

Miss Pauling did not shrink back when the monster approached.

"You have something that belongs to me," he growled; his beady eyes falling on the reindeer crown in Miss Pauling's hand. Before the other mercs could pull her to safety, he descended upon her and lifted her up by her throat, ripping the helmet from her hands. She kicked and struggled, her fingernails ripping at the fingers clenched around her windpipe, but Crowder's grip was relentless.

"Thank you, my dear," he said and placed the helmet atop his head. Miss Pauling felt a cold shock jolt through her body as Crowder's powers returned to him. "And now, I'll kill you first..."

"Scout!" Heavy shouted and Miss Pauling found herself being released, landing awkwardly on the ground and being pulled to safety upon the teleporter. She opened her eyes and gasped.

"Don't you lay a fuckin' hand on her!" Scout bellowed and rammed his shoulder into Crowder's stomach.

He reacted on instinct alone; every fiber of his being telling him to protect his team; to protect Miss Pauling. His team was frozen in astonishment. Seconds ago, he was barely clinging to life and now there he was, single-handedly fighting off the monster which threatened their very existence. Miss Pauling's mouth fell open. It was like watching a wild dog tear a man apart. She had seen many battles in her career, but nothing matched the ferocity in which Scout fought. And in that moment, she no longer saw an arrogant idiot; she saw a killer.

Just then, the teleporter's hum grew deafening and the crimson light that drowned the cabin grew brighter and brighter. The mercenaries tore their horrified eyes from the fight for only a split second to look at each other and realized what was happening. Miss Pauling lunged forward but was held back by Soldier.

"SCOUT!" she cried out. If he didn't somehow get on the platform, their entire mission would have been for naught. She turned, desperately, to the other mercenaries. "Help him!"

Heavy, Pyro, and Demoman lurched forward.

"No!" Engineer cried out, stopping everyone in their tracks. "His force field will short out the teleporter!"

Crowder focused an electric blast on Scout as he held him down by the neck. The merc bucked against the current, unable to inhale enough to scream. Desperately, his hands flung out to his sides and he grappled for anything he could find purchase on. His fingers fell upon another piece of shrapnel and despite the horrid agony he felt as it conducted and intensified the electricity beneath his fingertips, he swung it as hard as he could. It connected with Crowder so hard that the reindeer crown was, once again, blasted from his putrid skull. A chunk of metal spiraled away from Scout's shrapnel, as well, and he now held what looked like a flat baseball bat.

And then it dawned on him. The only way he could kill this son of a bitch once and for all...

Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two outs. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Fenway Park.

Scout grinned impishly. "Batta...swing!"

It was an attack so fast that Crowder could barely raise his hands to block it before the shrapnel had already connected with his neck. There was a sickening 'squelch!'The metal sliced through his putrid flesh and continued through with such force that his spine cracked and sent a spray of blood across the Scout's face.

Crowder stood gaping, his beady eyes wide with astonishment. He gurgled and blood spewed from his mouth like a trickling waterfall. His severed head hit the floor with a loud 'thud!'before his body collapsed on top of Scout's heaving chest.

Nicolas Crowder, the Spirit of Australian Christmas, was finally, irrevocably, dead.

Scout almost blacked out just then, panting under the weight of the headless corpse atop him. Time seemed to stop. That is, until he heard his team. They screamed his name and his eyes shot open.

"Shit! Shit, shit, shit!" he gasped, wriggling out from underneath Crowder's body. But just as the team reached out for him and he stood to jump up on the platform, there was a flash of blinding light and then...silence.

Scout stopped, eyes wide and mouth open in horror. There was no more light. There was no more humming. The teleporter was dead.

His team was gone.

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