With a swift blow, Moore kicked open the door and released a spray of buckshots. Regardless of who stood behind the door, he wanted to be sure his entrance into the devil's den was powerful. As it so happened, he nicked a Marine in the shoulder, sending him to the ground. The waiting room to Venko's office was filled with over a dozen heavily armored Marines. These ones had thick, beefy armor covering every vital region on their bodies, and faceless helmets to match them. Aveer took a firm stance in the doorway and began to mow down all those present, as Moore and Sanchez watched from the sides.
Aveer's bullets made quick mincing of the Marines' armor plating, but nonetheless, there were a few who fired back unhindered, using their comrades as human shields. Aveer took several armor-piercing rounds to the shoulder, which somehow penetrated his armor. He growled in pain, stumbling back. Moore seamlessly took his place and sent one of the already damaged Marines flying back. Traw, with deadly precision, shot down three other Marines from a crevice in the doorway. Sanchez ducked and rolled, springing his guns into action and mowing down the last Marine. “I ain't never seen shit like this,” he muttered, kicking over one of the armored corpses. “King got his own guards.”
“One of many secrets,” Clayton added.
The broad doors to Venko's office stood untainted by the firefight, like golems protecting a sacred idol. Traw stepped up to the doors, the other four men behind him. With a magnificent creaking, the doors opened wide and revealed the short hallway that led to Venko's office. Standing on the other side of the round table was Venko himself, watching the city burn.
“Welcome, gentlemen,” he greeted, not bothering to turn about. “Please enter.”
An intense scowl across his face, Traw fired his pistol at Venko, hitting him directly in the back. Venko stumbled over a bit, but recovered yet a moment afterward. Then he turned around to face his adversaries, the advanced armor plating beneath his suit now dented. The city burning behind him, he stood there calmly without a word of further mockery. Traw led the Death Squad to their last target, one fist clenched, the other gripping the pistol.
Sanchez shot the windows behind Venko, shattering the panes of glass and allowing a strong wind to rush into the office. The windows were meant to take several shots, but the amount of firepower Sanchez wielded overpowered them.
With a furious roar, Traw flipped over the round table onto Venko, crushing him at the window ledge and pinning him to the floor. The remaining shards of glass dug deep into the skin of his back, but he refused to show the pain. “Here we are, at long last,” Traw growled, punching Venko in the jaw. Venko spat out three teeth, with a spray of thick blood. Traw ripped off his helmet and tossed it to the ground beside him, letting his hair ruffle in the breeze. Despite the overwhelming pain he was experiencing, Venko looked Traw in the eye without a word. Traw saw only malice in Venko's eyes. Yet, Venko bade him a daunting stare that told him they had become the same.
“Where are the prisoners,” Aveer inquired, grabbing Venko's throbbing jaw and forcing him to look Aveer in the eye.
“We are one and the same now,” Venko smirked poetically, apparently not threatened by the Death Squad's furious display of power.
“Where are they, you motherfucker?” Traw roared, taking a forceful grip on Venko's throat and bashing his head against the edge of the window. “Tell me! Tell me now!” Moore merely watched the city burn; he had no prisoners to recapture and no stock in the situation. Sanchez took off his helmet and was about to pull out his knife. He knew knives could extract secrets better than brute violence.
Then suddenly, Traw rose. Venko was limp, his bitter eyes staring vacantly into the air. “Check his pulse,” Traw ordered, snapping his finger to Clayton. Setting his rifle down, Clayton stooped low beside Venko and grabbed his wrist. He waited there for a fateful thirty seconds, then rose. Clayton removed his helmet. “Gentlemen, you have just committed regicide. The great Commander General Venko is dead. The last blow you dealt snapped his cervical vertebrae,” Clayton reported.
Traw had no idea what to think. He was torn in a space between regret and satisfaction. Venko suddenly seemed so helpless and pititful. He was once a god, and now he was but another corpse: one of many that could be accredited to the Death Squad. “Detonation in T minus ninety seconds,” an electronic voice reported. Traw turned about, panic stricken across his expression.
Venko's face appeared on the one screen still intact in the office, though there were a few minor cracks and chips in it. It was evidently the beginning of a pre-recorded message. “Greetings, gentlemen. You are now speaking with a figment of the past. Since I am now deceased and have no doubt withheld the location of the prisoners, I gave myself the liberty of telling you through this medium. You likely were about to search the prison block of the GAM tower. In all honesty, they are not to be found there. I've anticipated your every move since your act of defiance aboard the Indefatigable. Hence, the prisoners are now in a secure location at an outpost two thousand miles away from the capitol. I have also given you the small token of mercy by loading microphones onto every prisoner and adding a communication link directly to each of your respective helmets. You can bid them each your farewells with the sixty seconds you have left. And remember...I won.”
The message cut out, and Traw heard a faint noise coming from his helmet, which lay on the ground. He scrambled to pick it up, fitting it back onto his head. “Louise?” he called.
“Oh thank god you're alive, Sebastian,” she replied half through tears. “I'm scared. I'm...I'm pretty sure these are gonna blow soon.”
Traw hesitated. “No...no they're not, sweetheart. It's gonna be alright,” Traw lied, trying to maintain his composure.
“Pa,” he heard Luella whimper.
“Darling, darling...it's gonna be alright. It's gonna be alright. I'm coming right now, don't worry. Everything's gonna be okay.”
He heard the electronic voice say the words 'thirty seconds' in a pleasant yet eerie tone.
“Darling, everything these bastards were sayin' on the news, about me havin' that affair and all that...it's not true. None of it is. Please, I just wanted to make that straight, and I didn't want you to..”
“I know, dear,” Louise assured, nodding calmly. “I know my husband too well, even when he's away.”
“Alright, so we're just gonna go home after this, and never come back here. Gonna spend the rest of our lives at the homestead, with the sun on us, and the cattle, and all that. It's gonna be okay,” Traw reassured them. He glanced over briefly at Moore, who shook his head with a fateful smirk across his darkened face. “Girls, I promise. It's all gonna be okay. I promi--”
The transmission cut out.
With a vacant stare, Traw removed his helmet, dropping it to the ground apathetically. He unholstered his pistol, and staring out at the burning city backdrop, put the loaded barrel to his temple. “That was all I had,” he uttered, the sound of morbid static still ringing in his ears.
As his finger pressed against the trigger, he was tackled against the wall. The bullet made a mark in the wall, never hitting his flesh. Dazed, Traw looked up. Clayton was on top of him, tearing the gun from his hand. Traw and Clayton's eyes met for what seemed like an eon. Once he got a hold of the gun, Clayton tossed it aside and gripped Traw's hand as a brother in combat. “Not like this,” Clayton scolded compassionately, taking deep breaths. “Not like this.”
Hands trembling, Traw covered his face and wept.
Sebastian Traw wept.