It's a Thursday in 2050, three figures are seen tramping through tall grass, headed towards a forest. Behind them lies the only refuge in a hundred miles, a village surrounded by a high wall with guards constantly patrolling. Each of the three figures are men, wearing black clothing and with tanks on their back. Each of them are carrying a handgun and a spare magazine on their belt, with a baton on the other side. They're breathing heavily, but used to this kind of exertion, pressing steadily onward. If they stay out past night, they will all die.

"Stay close, keep your head on a swivel. If you see any, yell it out, " I said.

"We get it, Owen. We've been doing this for years, get a move on, we aren't paid to talk about it, " Hugo said. Spencer stayed silent, scanning the trees for activity.

Ever since the plagues in the 20's, the human population had never really recovered. Without 7 billion people living on the earth, nature had crept back, and this time it brought some big bugs with it. We were extermenaries, paid to find bug nests and exterminate them to protect the nearby village, the only one around for a hundred miles. If the village fell, we'd be dead or stranded in the wilderness with no rescue coming. The village was big enough that a recovery crew would probably be sent over if it fell, but not for a few days when any survivors would be dead.

We set off through the woods, each of us on high alert. Every week we patrolled the area closest to the village, then if we had extra time we went even deeper, where we were more likely to find more hives. We'd already patrolled the first areas, and now we're going deeper into the forest. I stopped when I heard something, the others following suit. I turned left and raised my hands quickly, a burst of flame shooting out and setting a large beetle on fire. We were wearing pyro suits, a standard piece of equipment necessary for extermination. We had upgraded from the Basic Pyro Suit to our own custom system, with more fuel storage and fire points, as well as a water cooled and kevlar layer. Apart from the pyro suit, we each had a .45 pistol and what we called a snappy stick, which was basically a taser on the end of a baton.

The beetle tumbled to the ground and went still. It was a tank beetle, thick shells that were almost bulletproof, and the size of a small dog. They didn't have a lot in the way of weaponry, but six inch pincers were plenty painful, not to mention they could knock you off your feet if you weren't careful. I turned back to the trail and we crept on, keeping quiet. Thirty minutes later, I stopped when I heard a buzzing sound. Buzzing was bad out here, and I especially didn't like this particular buzzing sound. I motioned for the others to stop, then went ahead to check it out. I looked past a tree, then ducked back. It was a big group of hornets, obviously mad. If they saw us, they might attack. I turned to leave quietly, thankfully without being spotted.

"What is it, Owen?" Hugo called out. I froze, then turned. The hornets were slowly coming this way.

"Run, " I said. They didn't need to be told twice, and bolted through the trees, all stealth set aside. I set off as well, but I knew the hornets would catch up to us soon. I needed to find a place where I could hold them off, minimize the overall losses. A few minutes after running, I stumbled into a clearing. I pivoted quickly and sent a last of fire at the insects. They split around the fire and circled around me, obviously intent on taking out their anger on me. I spat bursts of flame whenever they tried to close in, holding them off. I would run out of fuel if they kept this up, and I didn't see a way out. Suddenly, they all moved in at once. I knew what was coming and crouched down with my arms in front of my face and closed my eyes. The entire suit shot flames all around me, burning tons of hornets, but I was still trapped. I stopped the burn when I couldn't take it anymore, and ran off again. I jumped on top of a fallen log to cross a ravine, Hugo and Spencer just rounding a bend in front of me. I glanced back to look at the pursuers, and my foot slipped.

I began to fall, but managed to hook my right arm over the tree. I would've been able to get back up, but my chin hit a branch and my head snapped back into the top of the fuel tank. My vision blurred for a moment, and I fell down. I was able to turn my body, taking the impact on my right arm rather than my back, where the fuel tank could've severely injured me. I got up quickly, but the hornets had stopped the pursuit and left. With them gone, I had to get back to the village before nightfall. I couldn't climb up the ravine here, so I began to trek farther down to find somewhere to climb up.

When it began to get darker, I knew I wasn't going to make it. I was too far from the village, even if I could get out of the ravine, I'd never make it in time. I decided to try anyway, and began trying to climb out where I was. It was a steep cliff, a little bit better than most places I'd seen. I managed to get about ten feet up, but then the rock turned to dirt, and it gave way whenever I tried to put my weight on it. Some tree roots got me farther up, but when I tried to jump and grab another root, I missed and fell down, landing heavily on my shoulder again. I rolled over and got up, knowing I couldn't make it. I sat down with my back against the wall, holding my shoulder.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax while I could, but I just couldn't get the thought of my impending doom out of my head. I heard leaves crunching in the ravine as something approached, and I opened my eyes. It was too dark to see down here, so I made a small flame in my left hand, holding it up to look around. On the edge of the light there was someone, but I couldn't see who it was. "Spencer?" I asked weakly. The figure didn't respond or move. I increased the flames and saw a girl, dirty and a little thin, but she looked healthy. "Who are you?" I said a bit louder as I stood up to confront her. She motioned for me to follow, then ran off down the ravine. I hesitated a moment, then followed. I had to douse the flame so I wouldn't burn myself, and nearly lost her a few times.

She rounded a bend, and I sped up trying not to fall behind. I rounded the bend and nearly ran right into her. She was moving a flat rock on the ground, trying to uncover something. I got down and helped, exposing a dark hole. The girl dropped down, disappearing from view. I looked around, then decided to follow before a four-foot long centipede could get too close. It was a short drop, and as soon as I was in the girl began to move the rock back. Once the rock was covered, it was completely dark inside. I sat down under the rock, leaning against the wall. I made a small flame in my palm, the light flickering off the wall. It was a small room, with almost nothing in it. There was a small cot in one corner, and the rest of the wall space had small trinkets scattered around.

"Stop it. Not here, " the girl said. I doused the flame quickly, not wanting to anger her and get thrown out. I couldn't see anything down here, so I just sat and waited. After a while I fell asleep against the wall, resting but alert. I woke up the next morning, my right shoulder throbbing with pain. I felt around, and it was definitely bruised, but nowhere near as bad as it could get. Some light was trickling through small holes in the ceiling, and I could see better now. The fuel tank for my pyro suit had been taken away, and was lying in a corner against the wall with my pistol and snappy stick. I knew the lines always held a few seconds of fuel, but I didn't want to waste them.

The girl was facing away from me, tending to a very small fire. I started to stand up, but hit my head on the low ceiling. I sat back down and started to make my way over. "You should not have been out here yesterday, " she said.

"There's a lot of places I shouldn't have been. "

She turned to face me. "Why are you here? In the forest?"

"I'm an Extermenary, company 3A. It's what I'm paid to do. "

"Extermenary?"

"I find and kill bugs. Why are you out here?"

She was silent and went back to the fire.

"Sorry if I... said something, " I said. I backed off a bit, but stayed close. A few minutes later, she brought over a small bowl of broth.

"Here. It will help with your shoulder. " I took it and drank it. It tasted pretty good, but could use a little bit of onions. The pain faded to a much more manageable level, and I handed back the bowl.

"Why are you helping me?" The question had been on my mind for quite some time.

"I try to help all the people I can, but most of the time I find them too late. " I knew what she was talking about. Occasionally, a kid would go into the woods on a dare and get lost. Sometimes we could save them, but most of the time we found their dead bodies. "When I found you still alive, I knew I had to act fast if I was going to help, so I took you here. If I'd had more time, I would've taken you back to the village. If you stay out past night, you might as well be dead. "

"How long have you been out here?"

She thought for a moment. "I don't know. " I looked through one of the small holes in the ceiling. It was getting close to noon.

"I have to go. If I stay much longer they'll assume I'm dead, " and then I have to deal with all the paperwork, I thought.

The girl nodded. "Okay. I wish you luck. " I grabbed my fuel tank, snappy stick, and gun, and went to the exit.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Sarah. "

"Owen, " I replied. I pushed the rock out of the way and left, replacing it before leaving.

I made it to the village just before nightfall, arriving fifteen minutes before Hugo and Spencer. When I got back, the first thing I did was switch out my fuel tank and send the other one in for inspection and refueling, put on some clean clothes, and then I sat down at an empty computer in the library. I started searching through records. First I tried Sarah, which brought up tons of results, so I added in a location parameter and it helped a lot. After that, I started looking through pictures, until I finally found the one who had saved me. She had gone missing into the woods four years ago, right when this village had fallen the first time. Apparently she used to be a software engineer, making security systems and User Interfaces for several large companies, including the Extermenaries.

Bugs hadn't been kept in check then, and one day they decided the village looked tasty. Extermenary company 2A was sent to clear them out, and they succeeded, but with heavy losses. Only two lived through that night, with one dieing of his wounds the following day. The last one was now some high ranking Extermenary official living in the capital. We had been brought in the week after the reclamation, and been put right to work. The other twenty-seven Extermenaries of 3A were dead now, killed in the woods on patrols or during a small crime spree that struck a year ago. We should've had reinforcements months ago, but the village was considered low priority and we had little communication up the chain of command.

Once my research was done, I logged off the computer and headed to our house. Hugo and Spencer were glad to see me, and began asking lots of questions. I answered them all, telling them about Sarah and how I'd gotten away from the hornets, and then how I got back to the village. They hadn't yet sent in my death report, which was good and I was able to sleep well that night.

In the morning, we suited up for our last sweep of the week, and headed out. We went straight out, headed into the heart of the woods. We were having fun, joking, and just walking along until Spencer stopped dead in his tracks. I glanced around him, and saw a huge clearing with bug nests.

"We're gonna need a Spiral Pyro, " Spencer said. Bugs were everywhere, of all types, wasps, centipedes, ants, beetles, and all other kinds. We decided to cut short our patrol, and headed back.

We sent the village into high alert, and then started to fill out a request form for a Spiral Pyro. A Spiral Pyro was an unmanned Pyro product, a one use object that would completely obliterate the nests we had just found. The main use of a Spiral Pyro was taking out large groups of bugs, like the one we had just found. The only flaw was that we had to place it, and get out before the whole place blew up. The Spiral Pyro was a tripod with a telescoping pole, which was powered by a small yet very powerful fuel cylinder that would burn everything in a twenty foot radius. On the top of the pole were two jets, which were placed at a slight angle. These turned the top portion of the pole and sprayed flames while slowly lowering, which gave the Spiral Pyro it's name. We sent in the form, and then got ready for our upcoming burn.

Next week, the Spiral Pyro arrived and we set out to activate it. We went early, travelling silently to avoid any fights. When we were right outside the clearing, we readied the Spiral Pyro. It had a two minute delay that would start when we set it up, and then another four minutes before the flames lowered and would burn us. Hugo would place the device and activate it, and then we would run as fast as we could.

We entered the clearing and started blasting away bugs, which fled as we began burning them. Hugo ran to the center of the clearing and placed the Spiral Pyro, then hit the activation button. The telescoping pole from the top popped up, but stopped at five feet, obviously jammed. Hugo had turned to run, but then the flames started. Spiral Pyros used a sort of Napalm, which stuck to things and then burned. Hugo took the full force of one of the jets, which was quickly followed by another. Even our Extermenary suits weren't meant for that kind of fire, and he went down immediately, rolling trying to put out the flames. I hit the dirt immediately, the wave flying over me and scoring a glancing blow on Spencer, who managed to hit it off and extinguish his flames. Fire began to crackle around the clearing, and smoke began to rise. I knew Spiral Pyros were able to stop the flames somehow, but would only do so after the flames were allowed to burn an hour.

I crawled over to Hugo and rolled him over. He had extinguished the flames, but his Extermenary suit was burned away, and his skin had burns all over his back. I felt for a pulse, and found none. "He's dead! We gotta get out of here!" I yelled to Spencer. We started crawling to the edge of the clearing.

"You go first, I'll follow on the next rotation, " Spencer said. I nodded and got ready, running out when the flame had just passed. I ran through the fire and emerged on the other side on top of a small hill, overlooking the clearing. Movement caught my eye, and I turned to see Sarah on the edge of the clearing, watching the fire. I turned my attention back to Spencer, who was running through the fire. Suddenly he tripped and fell into the flames. I knew his suit would protect him for a few seconds, but if the Spiral Pyro came around, he was dead. I drew my pistol and fired five shots wildly, hoping for something to hit. The first three missed completely, the fourth glanced off a tripod leg, causing the Spiral Pyro to wobble slightly, but the fifth hit the Spiral Pyro dead on, knocking it over and stopping the flames. Spencer got up and ran to the other side of the hill, rolling down to put out the flames.

I looked over at Sarah and saw her on the edge of the fire. I heard a whistling sound, and looked back to the Spiral Pyro. It was heating up, and fast. I ran over and tackled Sarah to the ground as the Spiral Pyro exploded, spraying liquid flames into the air. I rolled over on top of Sarah, shielding her with my body and blocking most of the flames. Once it stopped, I rolled on the dirt to extinguish the flames, leaving a few burned patches on my Extermenary suit. I got up and looked around, the flames spreading around the clearing. I had no idea if the Spiral Pyro would be able to stop the flames after the damage it had sustained, and I didn't want to bet on it. I ran over to where Spencer had been and dragged him out of the fire.

He was burned badly, but still breathing. "Sarah, help me, we have to get Spencer to the village. We can get help there. " I grabbed two thick branches and began to make a stretcher, while Sarah found a small first aid kit we had brought along. We put him on the stretcher, and carried him towards the village. Sarah had given him a small oxygen tank we had brought, and put burn salve and antiseptic on the wounds. Hopefully, it would be enough until we got to the village.

We arrived around four, and the village had seen us coming and gathered around the entrance. They let us pass and we traveled to the small hospital. They began working on Spencer right away, treating the burns and keeping him stable. I sat in the waiting room. Thinking. Hoping. Waiting. Sarah stayed with me the whole time, and we both sat in silence. Finally, a doctor came out.

"Owen?" He asked.

I stood up. "That's me. Is Spencer okay?"

The doctor nodded. "He's likely to make it, but he's severely burned. There is a slight possibility he won't live. It'll be awhile before he can get back to your patrols. At least six weeks until he's healed if the physical therapy goes well. "

I nodded. "Thank you, doctor. "

"Anything to help an Extermenary. " He left the room, back into the area where Spencer was. It got late, so I headed back to the house. It was too dark for Sarah to get back to her place in the woods, so I offered to let her stay at my place. She agreed, and we left together. At home, I set her up in Hugo's old bunk, lingering on his shelf of personal items. I passed them by, and started to get cleaned up. I hung up my Extermenary suit, the burns scarring the fabric and putting holes in it. I detached the fuel tank and emptied the lines, then set the tank by the door. Someone would come by in the morning and refill it. I reloaded my pistol, took a quick shower, put on a clean set of clothes, and started making some food.

Sarah was sitting on the bunk when I brought her a plate of fried rice. She took it and started eating. "I'm sorry about your friends, " she said when she had finished. "Hugo looks like a nice guy. " She was looking at the shelf by the bunk with his graduation picture.

I nodded. "He was. Always there to help. " I grabbed the plates and took them to the sink.

"Can I use your computer?" Sarah asked.

"Sure, it's in the living room. No password. " She jumped off the bunk and went over. I was tired, so I went to bed and slept. My dreams weren't pleasant, filled with fire, death, and destruction. I saw Hugo die over and over again, the Spiral Pyro exploding, and fire flying everywhere. It was the worst nightmare I'd had in years.

I woke up the next morning at a knock at the door. It was 8:36. Sarah was still sleeping, so I left the room quietly and went to the door. I opened it and was greeted by two men in suits. "Owen here, is something wrong?" I asked

One of them held up a badge. "We're here about the death of Hugo and Spencer, " one of them said. The badge was from Extermenary headquarters, and these two were pretty high up the totem pole.

"Wait Spencer's dead?" I asked. "I thought the doctor was gonna patch him up and he'd be fine in a few weeks. "

"He didn't die from the burns. There was a machine malfunction at the hospital last night. The computer overdosed him with the sedatives. "

I ran my hands through my hair. "Oh no, I'm the last one. "

"We need all the data on your post here so we can bring in another company. You really should've contacted us sooner for reinforcements. "

I looked at him. "We did! At least ten times, we filled out the forms and sent them in to headquarters!"

"Well, we never got them. You're reassigned to logistics in company 1C. "

I hated logistics. Too much paperwork and not enough fire. I'd been kicked out of that class at school because I kept burning the forms. "How long until I leave?" I asked.

"Tomorrow night at eight, a transport truck comes through and you need to be on it when it leaves. It'll be bringing in company 2C, pretty hard to miss. " I nodded, and the two men left. I closed the door and sighed, leaning my head against the door. I liked it here. It was small enough you knew everyone, but not so small that everyone was always poking in each other's business. I turned around, and saw Sarah watching me.

"I got reassigned, I leave tomorrow. This house will be filled up with other Extermenaries when I leave. "

"You're not reassigned, you're on a hit list. They want you dead, " She said.

"What?"

"Come here. "I followed her to the computer, where she logged into the Extermenary site. "I got into the Extermenary servers last night, and found your file, but it was locked. Normally, anyone could get into it, but I only could when I made a superuser account, and it says you were scheduled for elimination tomorrow at eight. " I looked, and she was right. "I did some more digging, and this whole town is supposed to be burned down the night you leave. "

"Why? Extermenaries are supposed to protect people. "

"They want me dead. They know I'm here. I made their site, security system, everything, and I always build a backdoor into anything I build. With my access to anything on the servers, I know all about them. All the stuff they've done, people they've hurt, and incidents they've smoothed over. The Extermenaries are just their foot soldiers, and only the top few know what is actually happening. If what they did ever got out, they'd be finished. Closed down by the public. "

"I can see why they'd want to stop that from happening, but how do we stop it? The nearest town is a hundred miles away, we'll never make it and I can't take a whole company. "

"I can stop the company from getting here, but we do need a transport to get to the town. I'll see what I can do. "

"Alright, you work on that. I'll work on getting my suit fixed. "

I took the fire resistant and kevlar layer off my suit, both of which were damaged. The water cooling layer was good enough to be used again, so I just patched it and we were good to go. I took the other layers to a shop to have them repaired, and paid double to have it done in a few hours. I also went to a gun shop and purchased another magazine and extra ammunition for my gun, then headed back. Once I had the layers finished, I put the suit back together, and we were good to go.

"How's it going, Sarah?" I asked after I had finished everything.

"Pretty good. Nobody noticed what happened. Now we only have to deal with half an unarmed company. "

I smiled. "How'd you manage that?"

"I found the transport form, removed half the names from the list, and then added a no weapon clause to the bottom. Then I made a bogus form about a second transport to take the rest of the Exterminaries that would arrive a few minutes later, but it will delete itself after the first transport leaves, and then the first form will revert to the original one. The truck driver will be found at fault and possibly fired. "

I winced. "We don't really say fired. More like, abruptly ended employment. "

"Oh, sorry. "

"It's okay. You did a good job. Keep it up. "

"Thanks Owen. It's been a while since I've had to do something like this. "

I left her at the computer and started packing all the dried foods into a pack, as well as some hygiene items. I decided to leave all the camping stuff since we'd be dead if we stayed out past dark. Once everything was done, we just waited. When I was scheduled to leave, I was wearing my Extermenary suit and had a few bags with me. Sarah was sitting on a bench a little ways away. I stood up when the truck approached, and it slowed down as it approached. The driver rolled down the window and yelled over the engine, "You're Owen, right?"

"Yeah, " I yelled back. He reached into the cab, and I shot him. The gunshot was muffled by the engine, but I knew the Extermenaries in the back would have heard it. I tossed in a homemade gas bomb in the back of the truck, and the Extermenaries jumped out, coughing. "Come on, " I shouted to Sarah. We tossed the bags in the back, then drove off, leaving the Extermenaries in the middle of the road. They wouldn't be able to do much for a few minutes, and by then we'd be long gone. The truck was a big military vehicle, with a canvas top over the back. We drove for the other town, the next step in our journey.

"Hey, wake up, we're here, "I said, shaking Sarah awake. We'd made it to the town just after dawn, and we had to ditch the vehicle or we'd be found and probably killed. We left, grabbing our packs and I torched the inside of the vehicle, removing any DNA or fingerprints we may have left. Sarah said she knew a place where we could stay here, and I trusted her. After a few hours of wandering around town, she stopped in front of a tall building. When no one was looking, she put in a combination on the keypad and entered. Inside was a large open space, with boxes all around waiting to be shipped. She led me to a back corner, where a small clearing was. She felt around on the wall, and pushed on a loose brick. She reached inside, then quickly replaced the brick.

"Stand against the wall, hands behind your head. Let them search you, and they'll probably take your fuel tank, " Sarah said. I did what she said, and when I finished, a door opened on the other side of the warehouse. I saw a pair of armed men coming towards us, rifles ready but not pointed at us. I was nervous and wanted to run or do something, but I stayed still. Another two came from the other direction, but stopped twenty feet away, too far for my suit to reach. The first two searched us, took my snappy stick and pistol, and disconnected the fuel tank.

"Empty the fuel lines, " one of them said. I took one of my hands and held it out to the side facing up and burned out the last little bit of fuel. "Why are you here?" he asked.

"We need to see Carlos, " Sarah said.

He turned to her. "What makes you think he wants to see you?"

"Because I want something from him he can give, and Carlos is always looking to make money however he can. "

Something wasn't adding up. I took a step forward, and all four guns swiveled towards me. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down guys, can we see this Carlos guy or what?" I held out my hands to show I was unarmed. In a flash, I yanked the gun away from one guard, and as he stumbled forward I pivoted to use him as a shield as the other three fired at me. I dropped the guy and fired on the three others, raking fire across them. "I tried out for the Elite Forces before they closed down. It was good training, " I explained to Sarah. She looked at the four guards in disbelief while I grabbed my snappy stick and pistol, and reloaded the rifle I'd taken. "Your Carlos guy is dead, these are cops. They just took down Carlos and you called them down here. Probably interrogated some of his guys to learn the protocols, and then that leads you to right now. " I reached behind my back and reconnected the fuel tank. "Where to now?" I asked

She hesitated. "I've got one more idea, but you can't take that rifle, it's too noticeable. "

"Fair enough. " I dropped the rifle and we left as another group of cops entered the warehouse.

Sarah led me to an old building that used to be a bank, but was now empty and boarded up. We went around back, where we broke through the back door. Nobody was inside, which was good. With the place to ourselves, we could finally let our guard down. I was able to get some food for lunch, and after that we left the town on a train. "We have to get to the capital. There, I can get to the news channels and get the Extermenary shut down. Hopefully, we can make it without getting killed. "

"Sounds good. " I handed her my pistol. "Keep a lookout. I need some rest. " I went to sleep for the train ride, waking up when we arrived. Sarah gave me back my pistol, and we left. From here, We'd have to go on foot to get to the capital, any transportation was monitored and we'd be stopped quickly if we used any. Before night fell, we stopped by a library and used a computer. Sarah went through the servers, and found something new.

"Owen, they're planning to destroy everything. Look at this, " She whispered. I leaned down to look at the screen. It was a map of the continent, with boundaries drawn that replicated where the bugs had taken over the wild. An animation began, and the boundaries began to creep forward, until the only place left was a small dot that quickly vanished. The animation forze, then began to loop itself.

"We have to stop it. When is this supposed to happen?"

"Two weeks from now. "

"How can we stop it? Do you know?"

"I'll need to look into it more, but the first place the boundaries move in is here, just west of where we are, " she said. "I think we should set up a base somewhere around here where we can rest without worrying about people looking for us. "

I nodded. "I've got an idea. " I led Sarah to an old building that was closed off. We snuck in, and I led her down into the basement. I opened the front of the crate, exposing a door inside. "I was here a few years ago when I was on transport after finishing my Extermenary training. The ones posted here knew all about places like this. "

"Won't they stop by to check it out?"

"Maybe, but I know another place inside, come on. " She went through the door first, and I closed the crate after making sure no one saw us. We were in an old underground basement, still part of the building we had first entered. I went over to a portion that had wood on the floor, and pulled away two of the boards, revealing steps down farther. We went through, and I replaced the boards behind us.

It was dark down here, so I lit a small flame on my hand to light the way. Down a small flight of stairs, and we emerged into an underground bunker, used by the military many years ago but now forgotten. I flicked a switch on the wall, and lights flickered on. "Old bunker. Still in great shape. Power, fuel, wifi, even AC. Anything we can get in is in an area undetectable by any means. "

"How did you find this place?" Sarah asked as she viewed the bunker.

"Well, while with the Extermenaries stationed here, I was always a curious type, so I peeked through the boards. I couldn't go right then, but I came back later alone and found this just like it is now. "

"Amazing. "

"Yeah, I always wondered if it would be here when I came back from my post. " I checked the rooms. "Still how I left it. Enough food to feed an army, and living space for it too. Uniforms, showers, everything to live and enough room for anything we need to bring in. " I looked at an insignia on a shirt. "Still no idea what this United States Army is, though. Can't find any references to them online. "

"Alright, I guess we can start setting up. "

"Yep. Is there anything else you need? Computer, mouse, other stuff?"

"That would be helpful, just a sec. " She began writing a list on a piece of paper. "If you could pick up these things, that would be great. " I grabbed the list, glancing over it.

"Sure thing. Back in a bit. " I left the bunker, covering my tracks as I left and headed for a nearby electronics store. Once there, I bought a powerful laptop, mouse, thumb drive, and other miscellaneous objects I didn't know existed. Once I paid for it all, I was starting to run low on money. I took it all back to the bunker, where Sarah was still waiting. "Got it all, " I said. We set up her desk, bringing over a power cord and a chair. The laptop needed some time to boot up, so we talked for a few minutes.

"So how'd you end up here? I mean, as an Extermenary who found me, " Sarah asked.

"I was born in 2028, both of my parents died of the plagues after I was born, so I was tossed in an orphanage. During that time, I was never the most popular kid there. When I was fourteen, I got fed up with how I was treated and made myself a small pyro blaster. They kicked me out after I almost burned the place down, and I spent two years on the streets. After that, I signed up for the Elite Forces and got training there. They got closed down, and I was recommended for the Extermenaries. I got in, passed all the tests, and ended up in Company 3A. I was assigned to the village four years ago, and then I fell off a log and found you. "

"I think I found you, " she said smiling.

"Yeah, I guess that's right. Well, how about you? How'd you end up surviving the woods for four years?"

"I was hiding from a large corporation that was trying to kill me once they realized I had the means of ending them. " I guessed this was all she was willing to give right now.

The laptop finished, and Sarah began setting up her account. I got up and started going through the armory. I was still wearing my Extermenary suit, which was too noticeable. I put on a pair of normal clothes from a backpack we'd brought and started looking through the guns. They were a bit old, but in perfect working order. I was surprised that all these guns had been left, anything ranging from grenade launchers to assault rifles to hand grenades to handguns. Plenty of ammunition had been left as well, which was unnerving. Whoever had been here before had left in a hurry.

We had supplies for a small army, but no one to use them. Even with Elite Forces training, there were only so many guns I could use at once. I walked to the back of the armory and opened a locker, exposing something I'd made a long time ago. It was another pyro object, one I called a firewall. It attached to the inside of a door, and whenever someone came through without first disarming the system, they got blasted with flames. I set it up on the entrance to the bunker, and then told Sarah how to use it. "If you're coming in, don't forget to push the button or you'll be burned real quick. Hopefully it will keep our bunker safe while we're out. "

The next day, Sarah found an important document. "Owen, look here. This is a list of names of people in that city where the bugs are supposed to take over. All of these people are part of local law enforcement or own guns, but there are no Extermenaries posted in the city. They were all pulled out two days ago, leaving the place undefended. "

"What's the list for?"

"It's another elimination list, the name at the bottom is the assassin they're hiring. Someone called Trey… I don't know how to pronounce that. "

"Me neither, Trey's enough to go on. Let's find him and stop him from killing these people. Any idea where he is?"

"The transport forms say he's right here until tomorrow, when he leaves for his final destination. "

"You mean here, like in this city?"

"Yeah, but only for another eighteen hours. I'll start scanning trains, buses, anything and try and put a face to the name. Once I have that, I can track him from cameras. "

"Check the Extermenary external contractors log. They keep files on anyone they hire that's not an Extermenary. " I grabbed an earpiece off the table. "I'll head out to try and find him, if you see him before I do, let me know and I'll head right over. "

"Sounds like a plan. " I grabbed my pistol and headed out, hunting an assassin. I wasn't able to find him, but Sarah did. "Owen, he's at the mall, ground floor in the food court. "

"On my way. " I turned and walked over. When I arrived, I went up to the second floor.

"Owen, he's still on the ground floor, what are you doing?"

"I don't want to get into a firefight with this guy, he's almost definitely got a gun, and assassins don't get paid to miss. If I'm up here, that gives me an option to run away without being under fire. "

"Oh. That makes sense now. "

I walked up to a glass rail that kept people from falling into the food court. "I see him. He's got a bag with him, he could be packing quite the gun in there. "

"Be careful Owen. "

"Sarah, can you get me into his phone? I want to talk to him, see if we can avoid murder right now. "

"Sure, just a second. I've got his number, dialing now. You can talk to him through the earpiece, and I've added in a voice modifier so he won't recognize you. "

"Nice. " I heard a click.

"Trey here, who is this. "

"Someone who knows what you're going to do. "

"I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number. " I saw him go to press the hang up button.

"You hang up and I'll kill you like you're going to try and kill all those innocent people. " he forze, and put the phone back to his ear.

"How much do you know?"

"Enough. "

"About what?"

"Tomorrow you leave for a little town west of here, where you are going to kill over a dozen law enforcement officers and gun owners. Except you aren't. You can turn around and leave right now, or I can have someone over in ten minutes to put a bullet in you. Your choice. "

"I don't have to listen to you. You're bluffing. "

"I've just sent someone over, but you've still got ten minutes to change your mind. "

I could see him pull his bag closer. "Fine! You win, just leave me alone. "

"If you cancel your trip, I'll leave you alone until our paths cross again. "

"Okay, I'll do it, just give me a minute. " He hung up, and started texting.

"Sarah, keep an eye on him, I'm going down to the ground level. "

"Okay, I'll- uh oh. " I heard gunfire, ran over to the balcony. The assassin was fighting with a squad of SWAT officers, riot shield in hand. He had a large rifle, but wasn't doing all that good. I looked down, decided this was stupid, and jumped over, landing behind the SWAT team.

I landed on a flower bed, and two officers turned to me. "There's another one up there! Hurry before he gets too far!" I said. They left to find a stairway, and I drew my gun, firing from behind. I aimed for their feet and legs, which easily took them down without killing them. Once they were all down, it was just me and Trey, staring at each other. "Come on, " I said. "I know somewhere you'll be safe. " I could tell he didn't trust me, but he didn't have much choice. He followed me, and we left the mall.

"Sarah, find out how these SWAT guys knew about this and why they were here. "

"On it. I'll have it ready when you get back with our guy. "

"Good. " I ducked into a store as a police cruiser passed, then we were back on the streets. "Almost here, " I said to Trey. We went into the old building and into the basement, through the crate and under the boards. I disarmed the firewall as he went through, then reloaded my gin and holstered it. "It's safe here. I'm not gonna shoot you. " he looked warily at Sarah.

"What about her? How many guns are in that desk?" he asked.

"None. " I turned to Sarah. "Did you find out why the SWAT team was there?"

"Yeah, they received an anonymous type about a bombing at the mall with your description, Trey. They thought you had a bomb, so they went in to stop you from blowing everything up. Luckily, Owen got you out of there. After a little bit of digging, I found out the tip came from the Extermenaries, but that was odd. You were never linked to them in anything I could find. " She did great, making him trust us and without revealing I had been the one on the phone earlier.

"Oh shoot. They must've tapped my phone and found out I was gonna bail. " He looked at us. "I was supposed to kill some people for them, and I guess they didn't accept my resignation. "

I acted surprised. "You're an assassin for hire?"

"Yeah, until earlier. " He started pacing the room. "Oh man, how am I gonna get out of this one, " he muttered.

I walked over to Sarah and took a look at the computer, pretending to be interested in the lines of code scrolling across the screen. "Can we help him? Maybe a new ID?"

"Yeah, I can get IDs sent over for him. I'll just borrow the picture from his driver's license and put it on a new one. They'll be here in a few days, if you want them. "

"Good, I'll get back to you on that. " I walked over to Trey. "Hey, we can get you a new ID and everything, but you'll have to help us. "

"Right now I'll go for anything, what do you need?"

"Your skills. You're a good shot, and with our resources you could be a great addition to the team. "

"Your resources? You don't have much. " I walked to the armory door and opened it. "I stand corrected, " he said. "Sure, I can help you. Whatever you need. "

"Glad to hear it. Let's get you up to speed. " Sarah and I talked to Trey for almost an hour, telling him how we ended up where we were and the impending bug invasion.

"So if I had gone to my destination, I would've been dooming the world?" he asked.

"As far as we can tell, yes. But there's definitely a backup plan in place, so we need to stop it. "

"Alright, lets go. These guys tried to get me killed, I could go for some revenge. "

"I like the initiative, but we gotta figure out what it is first, or at least get transportation over, which will be hard. I'm actually not supposed to be alive. "

He nodded. "Yeah, all the transportation is monitored. "

"We could walk it, but we'd be too late. I've got an idea for transportation, Sarah, maybe grab some new IDs for both of us, and Trey, check out those guns. Find one you like and get used to it. " They nodded and got to work, and Trey looked like he was a little kid who'd just been given the candy store. I left and went out into the street, looking around. I still had my pistol, but didn't think I'd need it. I walked to the Extermenary office for the area, and was stopped at the security checkpoint.

"Extermenaries only, sir, " the guard said.

I held up my badge. "I am an Extermenary. My uniform was sent to the wrong company, I was told I could pick it up here, " I lied.

"Which company are you assigned to?"

"1C. Logistics. " That part was true. Sarah hadn't deleted the files yet, and the Extermenary command couldn't remove my files until I was dead, which they hadn't heard back about.

"Everything checks out, go ahead sir. "

"Thank you. " I got in easily, and headed for the back of the building. The only unmonitored transports were government vehicles, which was exactly what the Extermenary had. Nobody was in the garage, so I checked the log book and then grabbed a key ring. Before I could hop in, someone came in.

"You've got to check out the vehicles, sir, " It was the garage manager, he was in charge of keeping the vehicles together.

"It's already been reserved, Company 2B until tomorrow morning. "

He picked up the log book. "Sorry sir, go right ahead. "

I got in the truck, and drove away. I had until company 2B went to grab their vehicle, which happened a week ago. I'd ripped the date off the top of the form and put it on top of the log book, which wasn't all that questionable when you saw all the singed edges, grease stains, and other markings on the book. Hopefully, no one would notice I'd stolen the vehicle until tomorrow morning, and by then I'd have it changed. I drove to a gas station with a car wash that read out of order on an old sign. I walked in and bought a bag of chips and beef jerky.

"Man, stuff is always expensive here, " I said.

"It's just business, " the cashier replied.

"Don't know why it has to be at my expense. "

The cashier looked at me, and I nodded. "Greg! Someone needs the car wash fixed again!" he called out. I finished paying for the food, and turned to face Greg.

"I need the decals removed, license plate changed, the works. You know how to do it, and hurry up. I'm short on time, " I whispered.

"Pull right into the car wash, I'll have it running in a moment, " he replied.

I brought the car in and Greg followed. When I stopped the car, he got right to work. He tore off the Extermenary logo from the sides, replacing them with a construction company. The license plate he touched up with paint, changing it from 3EG4B9 to 8FG4P9 with some washable paint. After that, he sprayed the whole car a different color. "Don't get it wet, or it'll come right off. Good luck on whatever you're doing. "

"Nice seeing you again, Greg. " I paid him, then left. I knew Greg worked in a camera blind spot, which would give me another day before the Extermenaries realized what had happened while they searched the area for the vehicle. I drove back and parked near the bunker, and then went down to check on Sarah and Trey.

"Good timing, I just got the IDs finished, " Sarah said.

"Good job. Where's Trey?"

"In the large mess hall, using it as a shooting range. "

I heard glass breaking. "What's he shooting at?"

"I think the plates. "

"Okay, I guess that's fine, as long as he cleans up afterwards. " Another plate broke, and I heard Trey yell in delight, this time using a sort of machine gun. "Alright, I got an unmonitored transport, but I need you to remove it from camera feeds, and maybe grab us some money, I spent most of mine getting the car. "

"I can do the cameras, and the money should be easy. I'll just skim some from the Extermenary budgets. What's the car look like?"

"It's parked behind the building, the red van. "

"Found it, I'll backtrack it and remove the footage. "

"Thanks. And maybe make sure the license plate and everything checks out after removing it from the Extermenary's inventory. "

"I'll take care of it. "

"You're a lifesaver, Sarah. Thanks. " I walked over to the mess hall and opened the door as Trey blasted a pile of plates with a shotgun. "Hey Trey. Having fun?"

"Yeah! These guns are great, where'd you get them?"

"They were here when we arrived. None of them are registered, either. "

"A huge cache of untraceable weaponry and a secret fortress? Man, you got really lucky. I've never seen anything like this before in my life. "

"Me neither, I can't find anything close to this anywhere, and there are no online references to this place. "

"Wow. A complete dead zone. No information on it at all. "

"Yep. Well, I grabbed a transport, Sarah's working on the credentials for it, and we can leave tomorrow. " I glanced at the shattered glass. "Maybe after we clean up a bit. " We spent an hour cleaning up the broken plates, and then dragged it to a nearby dumpster.

The next morning, we loaded up the truck and left. I wore my Extermenary uniform and the standard equipment, but also had a submachine gun tucked out of sight between the fuel tank and my back. We arrived at the town around 10 AM, and got to work. We checked into a hotel as soon as we got there, Sarah getting onto the wifi quickly and researching the local area.

"Trey, I'm gonna leave you here while I do scout out the locals. See if any of them know anything about this bug invasion they're sitting on, " I said as I switched out my pyro suit for more casual clothing, hiding the submachine gun in a backpack.

"Sure thing. " I put in an earpiece, and walked out. I returned at night with no new information. The people seemed to be clueless about the bug invasion, although I didn't mention it outright. They did notice that the Extermenaries hadn't been seen in a few days, but didn't think it was any cause for concern.

"Hey Owen, find anything?" Trey asked when I returned.

"No, sorry. The locals aren't very helpful. Did Sarah pick up anything?"

"Actually, yes, I did, " she said.

I dropped the backpack by the door. "What is it?"

"A few months ago, a bill was paid for an internet service. The address given is an abandoned building, registered to a local resident. After some digging, I found messages between said resident and an anonymous account, which I traced back to the Extermenaries. I hacked into the internet company, and viewed the histories from the service they set up. Lots of connections have been made, but rather few internet searches. I checked the ID numbers for the devices, and they were registered for Extermenaries. They include surveillance cameras, and then some custom devices I wasn't able to track down. "

"I'll take a look. Anybody else want to come?"

"Sure, " Sarah said.

"Yeah, I guess I've got nothing else to do, " Trey said.

We piled into the car and headed to the address. It was on the edge of town, and dark all around. I readied the machine gun and took the lead. We broke in the back, away from the street, and cleared the building. There was no wifi router anywhere, not even a security camera. We were about to leave when Sarah found something.

"Hey guys, I found a lead, " she said. We hurried over, and saw here holding a wire. It was covered with dust, but left the building, headed out a crack in the wall and out of sight.

"Let's go. I'll grab some flashlights, " I volunteered. We followed the wire, which led into the woods. It was dangerous to be out at night, but we had to follow the cord, it might not be here tomorrow if they rolled it up. It was surprisingly uneventful, until the cord vanished into the ground. We opened a trapdoor into the ground, and went down the steps. Underground, there was a large open space, dominated by a large machine. There was a terminal on the side, and Sarah stepped up to it.

The machine seemed to be a mixture of cooling pipes, electrical wires, and huge speakers, all arranged in a very peculiar format. I left Trey to guard the door, then went off to clear the bunker. Only one other door led off of the main room, which contained a small office, which was empty. I was coming back when I heard gunshots. I ran over and saw Trey firing on a large tank beetle, nearly the size of a horse. I kneeled down and took aim, firing a short burst down its throat when it tried to snap at Trey. The beetle spasmed, then fell down dead.

"Thanks Owen. I could've gotten it eventually, " he said.

"Doubt it. Tank beetles are hard to kill with firearms, and this one is probably rather resistant to mounted guns as well. It's huge. "

"Well, I don't know much about bugs, so I guess you're right. " Sarah stood up from the corner, still shaking with fright.

"We have to get out of here, " she said.

Back at the hotel, we discussed the discovery. "What was the machine there?" Trey asked.

"It was a large vibrational speaker. It's got enough power to send frequencies, miles away. It's what they're using in the bug invasion. "

"How?" I asked.

"If they get the right frequency, they can make the bugs really aggressive, and they'll attack everything they see, including humans and all the Extermenaries won't be able to stop them. The beetle you killed was a result of some other lab. The scientists that worked there are dead, they staged an accident. Using the speaker, which isn't the only one, and the large beetles all across the borders, they will take over the world. Even if we stop this one, the rest will be able to pick up the slack and it won't even make a difference. "

"So we start taking out the speakers, did you find any more?" I said.

"I was able to get three more locations before the tank beetle showed up, but only one is close enough for us to reach in time. There, I think I can get the location of the big red button that will stop the whole thing, and then that needs to be our primary target. "

"Good. We're running short on time, so we need to move fast. Owen, here's my credit chip. You're probably running low, so I figured you could use a boost, " Trey said.

I glanced at Sarah, who nodded. I guess she wasn't able to steal any money from the Extermenaries. "Thanks, " I said as I took the chip. "We'll leave in the morning, then strike hard and fast at this other location, so get some sleep. " They nodded, and we slept or waited until morning. We left around six thirty, arriving at the next location at two in the afternoon.

We parked in front of a grocery store, then got ready. I put on my Pyro suit and slung a machine gun over my shoulder. Trey grabbed an assault rifle, and Sarah stuck with a small handgun. "Planning on letting us do the hard stuff?" I joked.

"Until I have to step in and save you both, " she replied.

We left the grocer and walked to the location of the next machine, an office building across the street. When we walked in, the metal detectors around the door started screeching.

"Stop it right there!" A security guard yelled. I leveled my gun at him, and he left the building in a hurry, leaving his pistol behind. The receptionist was standing in an elevator, hurriedly pushing the door close button. I let her go, instead watching the stairs while Sarah tried to locate the machine from the computer at the front desk.

"Got it, and I delayed the response team two minutes. Lets go, " She said. We took the stairs, going down to sub level three. We emerged into a surprisingly open office area, with the machine in the middle. The workers didn't even look up, as if it was normal that three armed people broke in everyday. We headed toward the machine, and when we got there we saw a sign labelling it. It said:

'The Core Remnant'

By Paul Richardson

Apparently it was some sort of abstract art piece. "Sarah, find a computer and locate the big red button. "

"Already on it, " she said. I heard a ding from an elevator on the left, and four guards ran out.

"I thought you delayed the response team!" I yelled over the gunfire. The workers were still in their cubicles, but crouched over to avoid the gunfire.

"I did! These guys are just a security team! You should be able to take them, almost no firearm training!" she yelled. She was right, almost every shot the fired went wide and missed entirely. I reached into the backpack Sarah had brought and grabbed a flash-bang. I pulled the pin and lobbed it towards the security team, a wave of gas coming around the corner.

"Oops, wrong grenade, " I said. The gas bomb worked well, and the four guards passed out.

"This is taking a bit longer than I thought it would. Hang in there guys, the response team should be here soon, " Sarah said from the computer.

A few seconds later, the elevator opened again. This time, it was a squad of police officers with riot shields. I knew the shields were bullet proof, so I ducked down under the gunfire and began to crawl to the side. Trey stayed by the machine, popping up occasionally to fire off a few shots before ducking down again. Finally, I made it to the side. I traveled up some, then went between two rows of cubicles. At the end, I waited in an empty space for the police to pass. When they did, I rolled a grenade behind them. The grenade exploded and took out most of them, and I was able to shoot the rest. I stood up and whirled around, finding no more police.

"Got it Sarah?"

"Almost...Yeah, let's get out of here. " we ran for the stairs, heading to the ground floor. We left the building and passed a few police cars, jumping into our truck and speeding away.

"Here, Trey, put this in the back, " I said, handing him the machine gun.

"Sure. Hey Sarah, where to next?" he asked.

"Extermenary headquarters, top floor, office 714. The big red button is actually a big red button that sits on his desk. We need to push it, " she said.

"Extermenary headquarters, that'll take a few days to get there, we'll be cutting it close. "

"Yeah, so we're gonna fly in. I hacked into a charter site and we have a plane tomorrow that's gonna take us over Extermenary headquarters and then circle back, except we won't be on the return trip. "

I smiled. "I've always wanted to skydive. " The next day we were in a plane taking off from a runway, leaving the van behind. I couldn't wear my pyro suit because of the parachute, but I had a machine gun and sniper rifle with me. We spent a few hours in the cargo hold looking out the window until we were above the headquarters.

"We've reached the turnaround point, hope you had fun, " the plot said. I yanked the override lever, opening the door to the plane. I was out first, followed by Sarah and then Trey. we pulled the chute quickly, and drifted slowly on top of the building. We landed successfully and detached the chutes easily.

"We've triggered the alarms, let's hurry, " I said. I located the roof access door and fired a few shots into the doorknob. I ran over and the door flew open, four Extermenaries coming out, pistols ready. Trey opened fire with his gun, and they fell easily. Extermenaries weren't trained for combat against targets that fought back. We ran down the stairwell and into the office block, searching for office 714. We found it on the other side of the hall, and ducked in. I looked around, and figured we had better get started. The entire room was covered in red buttons, every wall and spare space was covered with one. "You guys push buttons, I'll stall the Extermenaries. " I went back into the hall with the machine gun at my side. A door slammed open on the other side, and a company of Extermenaries entered, company 1C, the one I was supposed to be assigned to. I knew they had kevlar in their pyro suits, so I would have to aim for the head. I crouched down and opened fire, trying to shove myself into the small space behind the door frame. The first four went down easily, but after that they got harder.

After two minutes of shooting and almost getting shot, I had to retreat into the room. "Any luck?"

"No, this doesn't make any sense, " Sarah said, "Trey, I think you'd better help Owen. "

"Gladly, let's blow someone up, " he said. I leaned out the door and fired a few rounds, making the company dive for cover. Trey took a very different approach, firing through the wall and spraying bullets all over the hall. I leaned out to fire another volley when one of trey's shots went wild and punctured a fuel tank. Extermenary fuel tanks were kept at 4000 psi when full, making them extremely dangerous. Most of the time, the thick metal protected them, but Trey's bullet had punctured one and provided a spark for a very large fuel source.

The resulting explosion in the confined space acted like a bullet, sending the explosion down both ways in the hall and into the stairwell after blowing out all the windows on the level. I was lucky and managed to avoid the worst of the attack, but was blinded and minorly burned. The 1C company, however, was not so fortunate. The water cooling system was advanced, but not so advanced as to protect from an explosion such as this. They were cooked inside their suits, dieing in an instant. I heard a buzz from behind me, and turned to see Sarah, her hand still on a button.

"I got it, let's get out of here!" she said. Trey was still getting over the effects of the explosion, but unharmed. I ran over to the window and looked out. Too many cops were coming in for us to get out from the ground floor, and we didn't have a helicopter on the roof. I ran out into the hall and forced open the elevator doors, and then shot through some of the cables, causing it to crash to the bottom. I then took some of the now free cables and dragged it to the room. I tied a leg of the desk to it and threw it up to the roof, where it stuck between some antenna. I dropped the rest of the cable below, but it didn't reach the ground. "What are we gonna do there?" Sarah asked.

"You got any better ideas?" I countered.

"Good point, you first. " I went ahead and slid down the cable, grease coating my hands black. Towards the end of the cable, I slowed down and broke the glass on the level I was at and managed to climb in, helping Sarah and Trey in safely. This level was also a meeting room, which was thankfully empty. We ran into the hall and over to the stairwell, where we ran down after a squad of cops past our floor. On the ground floor, it was easy for us to put the guns in a backpack and pretend to be some office workers from upstairs. After the cops got us away from the building for our safety, we ran away. I still had a pistol and a snappy stick with me, but didn't want any fights right now. We ran to a parking garage and caught our breath.

"Next time the world needs saving, I'm gonna have to take a day off, " I joked. "I definitely do not get paid enough for this. " The others laughed, and we spent a few minutes resting. "Okay, what now?"

"We saved the world and lived, I think we can take a few days off, " Trey said.

"Yeah, and I can get some money transferred over before we go bankrupt, " Sarah offered.

I stood up and looked across the street at a fancy hotel. "How about there?"

They followed my gaze. "Yeah, why not? I could do with a good nap, " Trey said.

"Room 344, two nights, let's go, " Sarah said, holding a cell phone.

"Did you just hack into the hotel from your phone in seconds?" I asked.

"It's actually not my phone, but yes. "

"Wow, she's good, " Trey said.

"Well, let's go then. " We headed across the street into the hotel and managed to get into the room, despite being dirty and burned. The first thing we did was shower, removing the dirt and grime from the recent fights, then put on a new pair of clothes. After that, we just relaxed around the hotel. Trey left after a while to find a new pair of shoes since his had been badly burned, and I was left alone with Sarah on the couch.

"I know I've said this before, but thanks for saving me. In the beginning, in the woods, " I said, breaking the silence.

"I've always tried to help anyone I could. I should be thanking you, though. You helped me and ran away from the Extermenaries to help me. "

"Well, they were planning to kill me. "

"Still, you could've just disappeared and left me behind. " She thought for a moment. "Yeah, why didn't you leave me behind?"

This was something I hadn't really planned on sharing. After a moment of thinking I said, "When I went through the Elite Forces training, there was no individuality. You thought in terms of 'the team' and 'the mission'. There was no me, myself, or I, just we. If you could save two members by sacrificing yourself, you were trained to do so. That's actually part of the reason you found me, I was trying to save Spencer and Hugo from the hornets. When you found me, at first you were just another variable, another number in the equation. After Hugo and Spencer died, you became the most important number in that equation and the only one, to.

After a few days, I started to notice the equation was falling apart, becoming less and less prevalent in my mind until the only thing left was your number. You became everything to me. But in combat, like today, the old equation comes back, takes over, and then everything becomes about the mission. It's hard for me to balance the equation when your variable means so much. But I'm afraid that if I get too far in, too focused on the equation and my training, I might lose you for the mission or another member of the team. I couldn't let that happen, so I kept you safe as much as I could, always leaving something to protect you, like the firewall or Trey. " I looked down and went quiet.

"Owen, you should've told me. " She moved over and gave me a hug.

My old training almost kicked in, but I managed to keep it suppressed. "I know I should've, but I thought it was better left alone until after the mission, " I whispered, returning the gesture.

"If you love me, you can't keep anything from me anymore, " she said.

"Okay. No more secrets, " I agreed.

"Good. "

We fell asleep like that, together, holding each other and protected from the world. Trey probably came back a bit later, but I never saw what shoes he bought.

SIMULATION COMPLETE

What? I thought. I was still asleep, I could tell that much, but what were these words doing?

ASSESSING ASSET VIABILITY…

Asset? Simulation?

PHYSICAL STRENGTH…

ASSESSMENT COMPLETE

MENTAL HEALTH…

ASSESSMENT COMPLETE

OVERALL INTELLIGENCE…

ASSESSMENT COMPLETE

ANALYZING…

Why can I see these words?

FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED

ADVANCED ANALYZATION IN PROGRESS...

What is going on? Can anyone hear me?

ASSESSMENT COMPLETE

RESULTS UNACCEPTABLE

That doesn't sound good.

ANALYZING AS TEAM...

What just happened?

RESULTS UNDER EVALUATION…

Who is this? Hello? Why am I here? Can anybody hear me!

RESULTS ACCEPTABLE

ENLISTING ASSETS 423, 424, AND 425…

Somebody help!

ASSETS ENLISTED

ENDING RECRUITMENT PROCESS

WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON!

We all woke up at the same time, sitting straight up and gasping for breath. We weren't in the hotel anymore, and we were all wearing the same clothes, a black T-shirt and jeans. We were each on a separate bed, next to which was a nightstand. On the nightstand was a small holopad, but nothing else. The room was small, and the walls were white. A door on one end led out, and there were no windows. I realised the burns on my head had healed, and I had no injuries or scars, not a single scratch.

"Did you guys see the..." I started.

"Yeah, " Sarah said.

"And we were just..."

"Not there, " said Trey.

"And you guys are..."

"Yup, " Sarah replied.

"What just happened?"

"No idea, " they both said.

***End of first upload***

After a few minutes, I picked up the holopad. It was off, and I left it that way while I put on a pair of socks and shoes that had been by the bed. Once I had looked around one last time, I turned it on. The screen displayed a login page, and since I didn't have a password, I decided to turn it into a weapon. I smashed the pad against the night stand and picked up a sharp piece of glass, and I tore a piece of the sheets off to use as a handle. Trey followed my example, and we crept towards the door. The door was, thankfully, unlocked. I eased it open and peeked through. The way I was currently looking was a dead end, so I stuck my head out to look the other way. It was a long hallway with doors on either side, and I saw an elevator on the end of the hall.

"There's no guards, just a long hallway. Let's go. " We slowly walked down the hallway, keeping quiet and alert. It was the strangest thing, there was no one else in the hallway. Nothing moved, and the only thing we could hear was the hum of the AC. At the elevator, I pushed the up button since there was no down button. When the elevator arrived, two people stepped out. They weren't armed and took no notice of us, so me and Trey quickly hid our knives while they passed. We stepped into the elevator, and I pushed the button for the ground floor. The doors closed and we began to slowly rise. We kept our knives hidden, and made it up without incident. The ground floor was an open space with stairways dotting the area. We walked out of the elevator in front of a service desk. I walked up to it and one of the workers came over.

"Can I help you, sir?" She said.

I looked around warily. "Where am I?"

"Excuse me?"

"Where am I. My location. What is this place?"

"This is the Elite Forces headquarters. "

"Not possible, they closed down years ago. "

"Do you mind if I get your names, please?" She picked up a pad of paper.

"Owen. This is Trey and Sarah, " I said motioning to the others.

"Oh yes, I remember now. Please come with me. " she stood up and began walking to the elevators. I looked around again and decided to follow. She took us up to the fifteenth floor, then led us to an empty office. "Please wait here. " she left and closed the door, and I heard the lock click.

I stood up quickly and immediately checked the room. A desk, chair ,some pictures, not much. I looked through the drawers, revealing office supplies. I grabbed a pair of paper clips and bent them into a pick and lever. I picked the lock quickly and we were free. Out in the hall I realized this was the exact same layout as where we had fought Extermenary company 1C. I checked the door number, and it was labeled as 714. "We're getting out of here, " I said.

Trey didn't question it, and we all left quickly. Since we hadn't assaulted the building yet, we were able to take the stairs as opposed to dangling out the window on elevator cables. Back on the ground floor, I almost flung the door open, but stopped when I heard the radio from a security guard.

"They've gone! Find them, we can't let them leave the building! Initiate lockdown!" the voice said.

"Of course ma'am, " the security guard said, and clicked something on his radio. Then the alarms went off, and everything locked. I managed to get the stairway door open, else we would've been stuck inside. I slammed it into the security guard, who stumbled forward. Before he could recover, I knocked him out with a quick jab to the neck. I grabbed his keycard and gun, handing the taser to Trey. I heard someone shout, and saw another pair of security guards running towards us, drawing their guns. I caught the door with my foot and opened it and we retreated back inside. I leaned out and fired, scoring hits on them both. With the immediate threat neutralized, we left the stairwell and ran across the lobby. The doors were locked, but the walls were mostly glass, although I suspected it was bullet proof.

I picked up both the pistols from the security guards and fired one shot at the glass, confirming that it was indeed bullet proof. Given that this was Elite Forces headquarters, any weapons inside the building shouldn't be able to break that glass, unless they'd changed the manuals since I'd left. I tried the keycard on the door to see if that helped any, but it just beeped and turned red. "We've got to find another way out. Anyone got a bright idea?" I asked.

"If I can get to a computer, I should be able to override the lockdown and then we can just walk out of here, " Sarah said.

"Will the reception desk work?" I asked.

"It should. " I looked around and realized that although it had a few people earlier, it was empty now, like everyone had just run away or disappeared.

We walked over, keeping an eye out. Trey had a pistol now, but we didn't see anyone coming down the stairs and the elevators were silent. Sarah logged onto the computer quickly, tapping away. The elevator dinged and I whirled around to face it as someone stepped out. I easily recognized the bullet proof armour covering his entire body, but I fired the whole clip anyways. The bullets pinged off the armour and the man kept coming forward, barely fazed. He was tall, and the armour made it hard to see anything besides that. "Sarah, move!" I yelled as he pointed towards the desk. She jumped over as something was launched and blew up the desk. I charged, now holding a taser from a dead guard. I doubted it would do much, but I tried it anyway.

I jabbed the taser into his side, and he barely even noticed. I ducked under his arm as he swung at me, but when I came up his other fist hit me in the face, sending me flying into the glass. I was dazed, but was spared any broken bones. Trey was finishing up with the last pistol, trying to score a lucky shot in the armour. I got up as he fired the last shot, then ran across the room with Sarah. He pointed his arm at them to fire again, but I kicked him in the back of the knee and the shot went wide. The missile flew upwards, blowing a hole into the ceiling. He whirled around, now armed with a weird looking stick. He twirled it around, and I could hear the snap of electricity flowing around it. It was actually a series of several tasers aligned around the stick, so there was no way I could grab it without getting shocked. I noticed it was rather small for his size, but didn't have much time to worry about it.

He swung down at me, and I jumped to the side as the oversized taser crashed into the ground. While he was recovering, I ran behind and lept on his back, then pushed off with everything I had and jumped away from him. He fell forward, stumbling into the glass. I saw a few cracks appear, but the glass still held. He turned to face me, still holding the sword. I wasn't really expecting it, but he charged right at me. I thought he would've used another missile, but maybe he was out. I jumped to the side, but he lashed out with the taser and I was electrocuted. Thankfully, I wasn't on the ground, else I suspect the effects would've been very different. As it was, I was dazed and a little unsteady, but I got up quickly. The suit man turned around again to face me. He brought the sword back for a wide strike, but Trey landed a well placed kick and broke his arm.

The armoured man cried out in pain, but when he tried to hold his arm he accidentally touched the electrical sword and shocked himself. After a few seconds, he went quiet and the sword shut off. "Thanks Trey, " I said tiredly. I walked over and took off the taser sword, noting it was surprisingly light. It had a few buttons, but I left them alone. It was meant to be worn kind of like a gauntlet, and the sword was anchored to the outside of your arm when not in use. "Think this might help with the glass, " I said. We headed over to the glass, and I put on the taser sword. I pushed what looked like a power button, and the sword began to crackle. I tried a few more buttons, until I found one that attached the sword to the gauntlet. Once it was attached, I tried more buttons. Finally, I found one that spat it out quickly. I used this button a few times on the window where the guy had fallen on it, and after a dozen hits the glass cracked, then shattered.

"Let's go, " Trey said. Outside the building was a city, and the people on the sidewalk stared at us as we left, running down the road. We heard shouting behind us, but we ignored it. Sirens began to wail, and we ducked into alley ways when they got too close for comfort. After thirty minutes, we stopped to rest behind a restaurant.

"I think this place has the same layout as the city where we blew up Extermenary headquarters, except that Extermanaries have been replaced by Elite Forces, " Sarah said after she had caught her breath.

"Yeah, I think so too. But I still have no idea how we got into that building. And did you notice the office we were in was 714? The layout of the floor was the same, too. Too many coincidences for me, " I said.

"I grabbed this from a civilian while we were running. Think they're talking about us, " Trey said, holding up a newspaper. He handed it over, and the front page read 'Elite Forces Mind Training to be evaluated tomorrow' later on it went into how they had experimented with brain signals, making the people see what they wanted them to see, and everything felt like it was real. The three test subjects that they referred to as 423, 424, and 425 were supposed to appear tomorrow and demonstrate the effects of their training.

"Before you guys woke up, you saw the text, right? About assessments and evaluation?" I asked after skimming the page.

"Yeah, real creepy, " Trey said. Sarah just nodded.

"Well, at the end it said assets 423, 424, and 425. I think that either we're those test subjects or we saw something we weren't supposed to. "

"Well that's creepy. So our whole lives were fake?" Sarah said.

"Probably, " Trey said.

"So, since everything is like it was before in the...whatever...do you think the bunker is still there?"

They thought for a moment. "I think so. So far, everything has lined up, except for the headquarters, but I'll bet the physical aspects are all the same, " Sarah said.

"Yeah, let's head over and grab some guns. I hate walking around without some decent firepower, " Trey said. I smiled at this.

"Alright, let's grab a car. " We were able to hijack a car rather easily, and drove for the bunker a few hours away. We arrived and left the car a few blocks away, and then went into the basement of the building. The crate was still there, and inside the crate was the door to the rest of the basement. Finally, I pulled a board up and walked down some steps to where the bunker should be. I felt around on the wall for a moment, then realized that the firewall wasn't here. I reached inside the door and found the light switch and flipped it on. The bunker was still here, and looked just like it had been when I'd been here as an Extermenary.

"All clear!" I yelled up. After a quick look around, all the food, guns, and everything else was there. Trey checked the guns, and we started settling in. A few hours after we arrived, I heard shouting. "Guys, quiet, " I said. I listened and heard someone coming through the crate, followed by more. I took off my shoe and removed the sole, revealing a tracking device. "Lose your shoes and grab all the guns you can, we're getting out of here. " Trey got to work, filling two duffel bags with all sorts of weaponry and then tossing me a handgun and a pair of submachine guns.

"They're not here!" I heard from upstairs. I crept up the stairs until I was right under the boards where someone was standing.

"Keep looking! The tracker says they're here!" I whispered to Trey and he passed it along to Sarah, who picked up the trackers and dumped them into the garbage disposal, pulverising them to bits. "We lost the tracking, they're close!" I reached my hand back and Trey handed me a grenade. I pulled the pin and slowly edged it through a knot hole. "Wait, did you hear that? Sounded like a motor or something. "

"Probably a car, now hurry up!" I pushed the grenade the rest of the way through, then ducked. The explosion caused the boards to bounce out of the way, and I ran up through the dust and began firing. Taken by surprise, the soldiers stumbled back and fell quickly. A glance at their uniforms showed that they were Elite Forces, but a lower ranking company. Before we left, I hurried back and grabbed some shoes for us from the locker areas and reloaded the submachine guns. We left quickly and barely avoided the second company coming in as reinforcements.

"What now?" Sarah asked when we stopped by a dumpster. I'd been thinking about that for a while as well.

"Well, we need to know why they're chasing us and what they want us for. Sarah, you need to get into their servers and find that out. Since we're kinda short on money, let's stop by a library. " They nodded in agreement. We found a library no to far from here, but I had to stay outside since the weapons would trigger the metal detector. I still had the taser sword, and I took the time to get familiar with its functions.

The sword was surprisingly versatile, with several main functions. One was a quick jab, which was very powerful. Another stuck the point out a few inches for precision shocking. The coolest one stuck the sword out the entire way, and allowed it to to be used as a sword while still keeping your hand clear. If you had your hand open, through, you could remove the sword from the gauntlet and use it normally. If you dropped the sword, it returned to the gauntlet. The thing also had a built in flashlight, which I guessed was for dark places rather than stunning people during combat.

Sarah and Trey returned thirty minutes later and we were off. "I got into the servers, but they've got a team en route to the library, so we'd better go, " Sarah said. We wandered around the city for a bit, until we stopped in the lobby of a hotel. "Alright, here's what I figured out, " Sarah began, "The newspaper was accurate, we were tests for a new training method, and we'd been in testing for six months. Some sort of brain device thing made us see what we saw. I was able to look into it more, but I don't understand how it works, it's outside my field of expertise. So the Elite Forces were supposed to show us to the world tonight, but since we're out, they're trying to postpone the demonstration and keep the public from finding out we're loose. I was also able to find files on the suit guy you fought, and he was the best Elite Forces guard, the best gear and everything. Nobody has ever been able to take him down. If you guys were able to do that, then their new training method definitely worked. "

"So, we're super humans?" Trey asked.

"Again, this is outside my area of expertise, but yes, it would seem so. "

"Cooool, " he said.

I noticed that some of the hotel staff was shooting us dirty looks. "Come on guys, let's get out of here before someone calls the police or something, " I said. We left hurriedly, still with two duffels of weaponry. We didn't really have a destination in mind, so we just wandered around a little bit. Fifteen minutes later, I noticed we had a tail. It was a black van with tinted windows that kept showing up wherever we went. "Don't look, but we have a tail, " I whispered.

"I know, he's not very good, " Trey said. Sarah didn't respond.

"Trey, you got a gun, right?"

"Just a pistol on me, but I've got some rifles in the bag. "

"Okay, just checking. "

We rounded a corner, and wound up facing a police barricade. I heard a pair of cars stop behind us and knew we were in a tight spot. In an instant, I felt the equation come to the surface and take over, assessing everything and finding the best course of action. As soon as I knew what to do, I did it. I threw the duffel into the window of a nearby shop, and used the same momentum to grab a grenade from an outside pocket and lob it towards the police blockade. The duffel loaded with guns crashed through the window and we all jumped inside, thankfully avoiding any bullets or shrapnel. I unzipped the duffel and grabbed the pair of submachine guns from the bunker and got ready to return fire. Trey grabbed a large machine gun and I nodded to him.

We rose at the same time, firing on the barricade and the cars. The police dove for cover, but the soldiers at the cars put up a bit more fight. One of the bullets hit the taser sword, and the cover popped off to reveal the inner circuitry. Thankfully, the gauntlet was bulletproof, but the force of the impact still stung and threw off my aim for a few seconds. I quickly recovered and kept firing. The car barricade was definitely Elite Forces, since they were bolder and barely flinched. I knew our easiest way out would be either a back door in the shop or through the police barricade, and a quick look around showed we were stuck with the latter. I ducked under a sweep of bullets and grabbed another grenade. I lobbed it out to the police barricade, and jumped out. I ran like crazy to the barricade, and jumped over seconds after the grenade exploded. I fired a quick burst around, and the fortification was mine. I grabbed a large grenade launcher from a fallen police officer, and pointed it over the wall. I emptied the six barrels, obscuring the Elite Forces in tear gas and smoke.

Trey and Sarah ran over when they realized the Elite Forces were incapacitated, and we ran away from the scene. We ran through the city, avoiding as many cameras as we could, finally stopping at a cafe a few miles away. There I assessed the damage on the taser sword. It was mostly cosmetic damage, the casing only hid the inner circuitry, but some of the circuitry had been unaligned. I looked closely, and saw that a resistor leading to a tracking beacon had been knocked out of place. I realized that they had known where we were the entire time, and took off the sword. While Sarah and Trey ordered some food, I dropped the gauntlet under a tarp in the back of a truck. When I came back, they were drinking some water and had some for me as well. A few minutes later, some sandwiches arrived and we ate them quickly, leaving what I figured was money on the table before we left. Trey had found it in a pocket on the duffel bag, so we left a few of the bills.

On our way out of the cafe, we had our second encounter with the Elite Forces. There was a short hiss of air and a dart hit my neck. I pulled it out, but I knew it was too late as my vision began to darken. Trey and Sarah were both darted as well, falling down quickly. I lunged behind some newspaper stands as another dart went right where I'd been standing. I tried to grab my rifle, but whatever had been in that dart was already slowing me down a ton. After I realized my hand wasn't listening to my brain, I fell asleep from the sedatives.

I managed to wake up eventually, but I had no idea what time it was, or where I was. I was on the floor of a concrete room, about 10 feet by 10 feet. There was a metal grate in the middle that the whole floor sloped towards, and a hefty metal door on one side that was locked. No windows anywhere, and the only light came from a small light bulb in the ceiling.

Not a whole lot of options. The door lock was hydraulic and there were no controls on the inside. The drain was set into the concrete rather firmly. The light bulb was on a circle mount which was stuck to the ceiling with some kind of caulk. I scanned the room one more time, a plan forming in my head, this time noticing a small white circle on the wall with a small blinking light. A smoke detector. I reached up and pulled on the light bulb mount, ignoring the heat. The caulk was melty and came away easily, exposing the ceiling space. I pulled out some fiberglass insulation, which I padded around the light bulb and set under the smoke detector. The heat from the light bulb caused the insulation to start smoking and melting, which triggered the smoke detector. The smoke detector was tied into the fire alarm system, which also had an override to the security systems. The door in the room was opened, as well as every other door in the complex. I didn't waste any time, and charged out of the cell.

Outside blinding lights began flashing all around, but these weren't any fire alarms or security measures. I raised my hand to block them, but more flashes kept coming from the places I wasn't covering. When my eyes adjusted, I saw I was in an arena. The cell I had been in was where they probably used to keep contestants before they entered. Contestants for what, I didn't know. Trey burst out of a room next to mine, shortly followed by Sarah from her own room. They were as confused as I was, and had no idea what was going on. A few minutes after we had all gotten out of the cells, the flashes stopped. I could tell now that they had been cameras from spectators, located in the stands around the arena. A speaker system all around the arena blared to life, playing a song I didn't recognize. Based on how everyone was saluting a flag waving on the jumbotrons above us, I guessed it was the national anthem. While the audience was occupied with their act of patriotism, I took the opportunity to examine the arena more closely. The ground was sand, soft enough not to hurt if you fell in it but hard enough where you could get traction while running. Scattered around were miscellaneous obstacles, ranging from ramps to walls to bridges that went over nothing, Whoever had placed them knew exactly how I thought, as the distance between two objects was too long to know that I would get across unscathed, but short enough that I would risk it. The stands were about twenty feet off the ground, packed full of spectators. Hovering above the arena were drones, most of which had cameras but a few had some sort of weapon attached. The song came to an end, and the audience sat down.

"Welcome everyone!" Boomed a voice from the speakers. I had never heard it before, but something about it sparked a brief bit of anger in me. "Today we have Owen, Trey, and Sarah in the pit, the first Elite Force troopers to come out of the new training method. They tried to get away a few days ago, so we've decided to take our entire planned week and roll it into one day in case they pull another stunt like that. " The audience cheered loudly at this, and I was concerned about how much time had passed. "First up we have a few easy trials, some of the criminals given the death sentence that the government was kind enough to let us use in our little game. Let's see how this plays out, bring up the first wave!"

Several holes opened in the ground, the sand falling into the darkness. One opened just behind me, and I whirled around to take a closer look. Inside was a man, holding a rifle but clearly not thinking straight. He began to rise on top of a platform, and as soon as it was level with the rest of the arena, he snapped into action. I was faster. A quick jab to his side, yanking the gun away and then hitting him with the butt of the gun.

"And Owen gets right to it! You'd think he's been doing this his entire life, but their training only took three days. " Three days? They simulated my life in three days and wiped my memories of whatever I had before?

I whirled around, seeing another dozen people rise from the ground. Trey and Sarah were crouched behind a wall, and I ran over as they opened fire. Their aim was terrible, but the sheer volume of bullets had some close shots. I leaned out and pulled the trigger, but the gun wouldn't fire.

"Of course we couldn't let the Elite Forces have weapons, that wouldn't make things fair, would it?" The audience cheered their agreement.

"Sarah, I think this has some kind of fingerprint sensor or something on it, see what you can do. " I handed it over, and she immediately began probing the gun. The other fourteen people were coming towards us. They weren't coordinated, which was good. I could use that. "Trey, you go left and I'll draw their fire to the right. Get behind them and wreak havoc. " he nodded grimly and got ready to run. The rifle Sarah was holding sparked and coughed up a bit of smoke.

"Sorry, I couldn't get it. I need tools if I'm gonna get this to work for us. "

"Trey, you take it. It's still a useful club if it comes down to it, " I suggested.

"Thanks, " he said as he accepted the rifle.

"Ready? "

"Ready. "

"Go. " I bolted around the stadium, Trey began running a few seconds after I did. Bullets whizzed by, but few came close. I ran up a ramp and jumped a gap to another wall, then hid behind that. Trey was making his way behind them, but still needed time. I made a mad dash for a divot in the arena and slid in.

"Decent attack strategy, trying to flank them. Maybe next time you'll check where everyone is when you start. " What? I glanced to my left, and rolled quickly as bullets hit the ground. I vaulted a wall, quickly realizing that I may have escaped one gun, but another fifteen were on the other side. Thankfully they weren't ready to shoot and I was able to get out of the way as they opened fire, hitting the other person who had shot at me. Just fifteen left. "I guess we'll give that kill to Owen, although he didn't really kill them. "

Trey began his attack, knocking out the criminals with his rifle when they wandered too close. I made my way over, and the last man I easily pinned to the ground. "What's going on?"

He coughed sand out of his mouth. "Nothing personal Owen, I was given the death sentence and was told that if I could kill you three I could live! It was my only choice!" I slammed the rifle butt into his forehead. The arena was empty now with just us three, the bodies being taken away by larger drones with a crane attachment. I tossed the gun to the side and met up with the others back by where we started.

"Decent start, the judges are allowing four minutes reprieve until the next round. Until then, why not try..." The voice went on to talk about some cars and other advertisements.

"Trey, how much more of this do you think we can do?"

"Without guns, not a whole lot. As soon as they get smart we're dead. "

I nodded grimly. "Sarah, do you think you could get us out of here somehow?"

She looked around for a few moments. "I can get us out with one of those crane drones. They have an RFID tag on them that allows them to enter and exit the arena. If I can get that and use the battery in the drone, I can trick the door into staying open. At least until somebody uses an override. "

"We'll take what we can get, let's move over to the door. Speed will be key. " We made our way over to the door and stayed near a few of the smaller terrain pieces. Once the four minutes up, an alarm bell rang through the speaker system.

"And breaks over! On to round two! This event is One in the Chamber, twelve on three. " A drone buzzed by us, dropping a pistol and knife at our feet. A small brick on the pistol housed what I guess would keep the gun from firing unless we were allowed another bullet. "If you get a kill, one more bullet will be added to your gun so try not to miss. Good luck Sarah!" Her face went white, and I knew that she didn't like weapons. A gate across the arena opened and a dozen people ran out. They were armed with the same guns and knives as us, and untrained as well. Trey got the hang of it real quick, taking down three right away. I opened fire as well, aiming carefully as they tried to get closer. Sarah was fiddling with the pistol, probably trying to override the computer.

This round went quickly now that we had weapons, the last person nearly shooting Trey but still losing. As soon as the last person died, there was a click from the gun as the small box placed a stopper of some sorts in the chamber, preventing any new bullets from being loaded. I dropped it to the side and waited for a crane drone to come pick it up. When one got near, Sarah stood up with her pistol and fired twice on the drone, missing the first but scoring a hit on a motor the second time. I grabbed the claw part and swung the drone over my head and into the wall, aided by the propellers which had not yet compensated for the sudden damage. "Work quickly, the attack drones are coming over. "

"Well that's not allowed, good thing we have special measures in place for something like this happening. " I grabbed Sarah's pistol, which she had ripped the box off of, and began shooting the drones closing in. I didn't see Trey, but trusted that he knew what he was doing. One of the drones flew over a large hill, and Trey ran up behind it and grabbed the feet that hung below it. It spiraled out of control, firing wildly as the small gun on it tried to shoot him. Trey angled it towards the other drones, spraying bullets through the air. When the drone was out of ammunition, he threw it like a frisbee towards another one, knocking it out of the air.

"Got it, let's go!"

I waved Trey over and fired one last shot at a drone, then dropped the gun and ran through the doorway. Trey just barely managed to jump through as somebody hit an override and locked the door. Our victory didn't last long, as a half dozen guards came running into the room. We didn't wait around and ran down a conveyor belt that was currently off. Some stains were on it, probably from the dead bodies. The guards ran after us, but didn't fire. After a little bit of running, we burst into a parking lot with a semi waiting at the end of the conveyor belt, the earlier casualties already loaded inside. Based on the size of the truck, they were expecting more. The driver was scrolling on his phone, probably surfing the internet. I yanked him out of the car and knocked him out, taking his phone for now. We loaded into the cab, which hadn't yet been attached to the rear, and took off.

"Sarah, figure out what the heck is going on. " I handed her the phone. "And if you can some money would be helpful. " I turned the truck onto the street and drove as fast as the truck would allow. "Trey, see if there's anything useful in here, maybe a gun. " He began rifling through the truck. A few moments of silence passed before Sarah spoke up.

"So from what I gather, we were supposedly agreed to the Elite Forces three day training experiment, they just put us into shape before wiping our memories and simulating our life. Although, I think the memory wipe was accidental. " I looked over Sarah, and noticed she was fit, which she hadn't been in the simulated life. Living in the woods for a few years didn't require a ton of strength after you dug your hole. "Already most of the world is looking for us and we've got a huge bounty on our heads. Not a whole lot of places we can go with that. " She scrolled a bit. "But there does seem to be a rebel group that we might be able to join for protection, something about how they destroyed the old government and stole the citizens' lives. They seem to be in the southwest, around Arizona. "

"Where are we?"

"Uh, Utah I think. Yeah, near the Nevada border. A few days drive south and we can make it there. "

"Okay, what about our pasts?"

"I'll look into it. "

"I found nothing, no guns or knives or weapons we can use. Just these knives they gave us, " said Trey.

"Toss them, they probably have trackers in them. " He understood, and soon three knives were lying alongside the road. I turned onto a freeway headed south, and looked around at the city we were in. It was big, a few trains weaved through the streets and skyscrapers rose high above the ground. I didn't see many people as it was dark, but plenty of cars were on the streets. We passed the city after a few minutes, and Sarah spoke up again.

"Uh, we might have some trouble with the rebels. Turns out we were instrumental to several major victories against them, and even before that we killed plenty of them ourselves. To them we are a huge enemy. Good news though, the troops on the front line only think we've been called back for an extensive meeting about the war progress, probably so that any captured troops don't leak the truth. We can probably bluff past them most of the way, but we'll still have to be careful. About our pasts, not much I could find beyond the Elite Forces records. Joined, rocketed through training, climbed the ladder up through the ranks, and ended up in charge of the war front. A lot of it is redacted, and I can't get through that without risking getting caught. " There were a few taps, and Sarah gasped. "The world got a lot bigger from the last time we checked. " She passed the phone to Trey, and then wordlessly to me.

Instead of the single landmass I was used to seeing, California on the west border with Florida and that bunch of little states as the east boundaries, the north and south boundaries that I had always thought looked a little too perfect, were in fact borders to other countries. One called 'Canada' was in the north, and south was 'Mexico'. Across an ocean, and you came to another giant landmass, labeled with a bunch of other countries. I picked out 'Europe', 'Australia', 'Asia', 'India', 'Germany', and a few more before Sarah pulled the phone back.

"Weird, we'll worry about that later, " I said. I spotted a truck stop ahead. "Let's switch vehicles, then continue. " I pulled off the freeway and parked in the back of the truck stop. I found a truck that hadn't been used in a while and hot wired it. I filled it with gas, used a bit of cash from the glove compartment to buy some food, and then we continued south.

Two trucks and three days later, we arrived at the war front. Sarah had tossed the phone a long time ago to avoid tracking, and we were completely unarmed. At the security checkpoint a few miles from the base, the soldiers recognized us and waved us through. I managed to get a pair of pistols from them without fighting them, I just asked for them and they gave them to us rather easily. Once past the first guards, things got interesting. We parked by a large mess hall, then got out of the vehicle.

"Commanders, I was not aware you would be returning so quickly, " said a soldier. His insignia marked him as a Captain, probably the one who had been left in charge while we were getting the training done.

"Plans changed, " I bluffed, "We've learned of an instrumental base of operations the rebels have. Get me a squad of Infils. " Infils, short for infiltrators, were troops who specialized in small specific missions. Get in, kill the target, and get out was their main use.

"Right away sir. " He hurried off to rally the troops. I headed into a smaller command building with the other two and waited. He returned quickly with a half dozen Infil troops, already in full gear.

"We've learned of a rebel hideout where we can strike an enormous blow. You will accompany us to the location and assist in taking it down. "

"Sir, normally the Infil team does this type of mission alone. Accompanying them would place you in a lot of danger, " said the Captain.

"Not my choice, " I lied, "Command wants us out there, something for the papers to talk about when we take out the base. "

He nodded. "And the other commanders?"

"They'll come with as well. "

"Seems extremely risky, but carry on. "

"I can't divulge the location, but it is well fortified. Air cover will be seen, so we'll have to go in without it. No heavy weaponry as well, we'll take a truck out most of the way then go on foot. Radio silence until we engage, and there's nobody to get us out for another hour if we get trapped. We don't know what the defenses look like, but if we can't get in we'll call for more troops. " The soldiers all nodded their understanding. "Good, get ready to go, We leave in five minutes. " The Infils and the captain left, leaving us three alone.

"You're really good at improv, Owen. I would've been dead at the gate, " said Trey.

"So what after we get into the war zone? We still have a half dozen elite troops with us and no idea if the rebels will find us. Even if they do, they might kill us. "

"We'll just have to wing it. " I put on a bullet proof vest and grabbed a rifle, a few grenades, and a combat knife. Trey did the same, as well as Sarah, although I could tell she was just doing it so that the Infils didn't get suspicious. We left the tent and boarded a Humvee, two of which we would be driving in. We were put into the first Humvee to lead the way, most of the Infils in the second vehicle. I directed the driver a few miles past the safe zone, and then told him to stop. As soon as he put it in park, I shot him with my pistol. Trey got out of the vehicle and waited as the rest of the Infils left their vehicles, then opened fire on them. I rolled a grenade under the car and fired with him, taking cover behind the doors. The grenade under the Humvee exploded, spraying shrapnel into the Infils legs and making them fall down. Once on the ground, they were easy to kill. I reloaded my guns from their ammo belts and replaced the grenade, then we began walking out farther from the safe zone. The surroundings were pretty much desert, but some old towns could be seen in the distance. We had walked about fifteen minutes when we encountered the rebels.

They were wearing a tan camo uniform and were well armed. On their shoulder could be seen the United States insignia like those from the bunker I had found a while ago. Each had a bandanna wrapped over their faces and a hat to keep the sun out of their eyes. "Drop your weapons!" The lead soldier barked. I glanced around, noting the snipers nearby. I tossed my rifle to the side, as well as the pistol, knife, and grenades. Trey and Sarah followed suit. "The vests too, take them off. " We complied, taking off our armor and being left extremely unprotected. He waved four soldiers forward, who cuffed and blindfolded us and took us into a vehicle. After what felt like hours of driving in the quiet, we were led from the car again.

A door was opened and we were pushed through. Based on the air temperature and the general feel of the air, I guessed we were underground, probably in a bunker. Through a maze of corridors and more doors, I was forced into a chair. The blindfold came off, and I was indeed underground. Trey and Sarah were nowhere to be found, probably in other rooms. I looked around the small room, not much to notice other than the chair I was in, the table, one way mirror on a wall, and the man across from me pretending not to be interested in me.

I sighed. "Yeah, I get that you're probably gonna kill me for whatever it was I did to you guys, just give me an hour to explain everything from my point of view and then take that into account. " The man looked up. I took that as my cue to begin, so I did. "First off, I have no memory of this world, if it is a world, it might be another simulation or something. Anyway, everything I can remember I'm 90% sure was a simulation that the Elite Forces were trying out as a new training technique. As far as I can tell, it took three days to complete. The first thing I can remember was..." I went on to recount everything I knew, from my brief childhood, Elite Forces training, Extermenary missions, Hugo and Spencer's death, recruiting Trey, 'saving' the world, waking up in Elite Forces headquarters, running away, ending up in the arena, running away again, and how I ended up here. When I finished, the man was just writing in a manila folder. After a few minutes he closed it and looked at me.

"I have good news and bad news. Bad news is, your story, even if it is the same as the other two, will probably not save you on its own. Good news is, " he turned to the one way mirror, "Send in Hugo and Spencer. " I perked up at this. Hugo and Spencer? If they were here and had been in the simulation as well, they might be able to help us.

A few moments passed, and the door opened. Two people walked in, and they looked just like Hugo and Spencer. "Hugo? Spencer?"

"Hey Owen, " said Hugo. He had never one to talk a lot, mainly listening more than he talked.

"You look like you got yourself in a tight spot, " joked Spencer.

I was happy to see them, but it didn't seem right. "Wait, how were you in the simulation? Did you go through that new Elite Forces training as well?"

Hugo nodded. "We went through the training with you, " Spencer said, "The Elite Forces decided to pull us out early for whatever reason, so they had us die so that you wouldn't be suspicious that we suddenly disappeared. Our minds were also wiped, and before they did any tests on us we got sent to the war front. We stayed quiet, and by the time they realized we didn't have our memories we were in a firefight with these guys and got captured. They took us here, and for the most part have been pretty nice. "

"Most part?"

"Well, after they didn't believe our stories, they waterboarded us for about a few hours before a doctor was able to scan our brains and see that we had been mind wiped and were telling the truth. "

I shuddered. "Are they gonna waterboard us?" I had been trained to resist most types of torture, but Sarah and Trey probably hadn't.

"Probably not, " said the man sitting across the table, "We'll scan your brain first, and if those results don't show you were mind wiped, then we'll probably waterboard you. " I hoped the results showed we had been mind wiped. "Until we can scan you, you need to be kept away from the important stuff. Hugo, Spencer, please take Owen to the east detention wing. Put him with Trey. "

"Sure thing. Come on Owen. "

I followed them to the east detention block, and they put me in a larger cell than the other ones I had seen. Trey was already here, and Sarah arrived shortly after. There was a room with a toilet, as well a pair of bunk beds on either side. A set of extra clothes were on three of them, probably for us to change into in the morning.

"How did it go with you guys?" Trey asked.

"I just told them everything, Hugo and Spencer showed up, then they brought me in here. You?"

"Pretty much the same, I just told them everything I remembered. "

"Same here. Do you think they'll kill us?"

I thought for a moment. "I hope not, if they did that would be pretty stupid of them. Three highly trained enemy officers just hand themselves over? Even if they don't put us in commanding positions or out in the field, we're pretty big hostages and your technical expertise would be extremely helpful to them. "

"Good point, although I don't know if their reasoning is the same as yours. "

"True. We'll just have to hope for the best. " The next day, we were led from the cell and into different rooms again. I had to wait an hour with the same quiet man before I was led to another room, where the doctor was waiting.

"Good morning Owen, please sit down, " he said. I complied, settling in. "Just gonna do a quick scan, shouldn't take too long. You might feel disoriented, but it will end quickly. " He began fiddling with a control panel off to the side. "And, here we go. " He hit a button, and the machine powered on. My mind felt like it was exploding, being pulled in every direction at once. After barely a second of this, it was if the separate places that had been held apart were let go and snapped back into place. I rubbed my forehead and groaned. "You'll probably have a migraine for the rest of the day, but you'll be fine tomorrow. " I leaned back to try and catch my breath. "The results will be in by tomorrow. "

"Phoenix. "

"What?"

"Phoenix. I remember something about Phoenix. Something big is supposed to happen in two days with Phoenix. "

"Can you remember anything else?"

"No, just something about Phoenix. " I looked up at him. "What is Phoenix?"

"Well there's the mythical bird that gets reincarnated from it's ashes every time it dies, the Elite Forces company that goes by Phoenix but we wiped them out months ago, and the city in Arizona where our... " I could tell he had just realized something, and he bolted out of the room. I just sat for a few moments, wondering what to do. After a bit of thinking, I got up and went back to the cell I had been in last night. Trey and Sarah were already there, and I let myself in, tossing the key ring onto the guard's desk once inside.

"Did they pull apart your brain too?" Trey asked.

"Yeah, and then I remembered something about Phoenix, the doctor seemed pretty interested in that. "

"Odd. I didn't remember anything about any phoenix. "

"Me neither. "

"Well, we'll see where that goes. Hopefully it keeps them from killing us. "

"Yeah, hopefully. "

We spent a few hours in the cell, until I was taken to another room. The quiet man was there again, sitting in his chair.

"What do you know about Phoenix?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Not much, just that something big will happen involving some kind of Phoenix in two days. " He just looked at me. "Why are there so many Phoenixes? Falcon sounds just as cool if you're naming something, " I suggested.

"I don't know how you knew this, but Phoenix is a city in Arizona where we keep a lot of our researchers who work on our weapons. We did a quick look over the reports and did some scans, and what do you know, the Elite Forces have a spy in there, and an underground tunnel two days away from launching a surprise attack in the center of the city. Lucky for us the spy hadn't sent anything too important back so we just killed him, but the tunnel is another mater. We can't just cave it in, they circled the city once and if we collapse it we brings down half the city as well. We can't go through it, they've had years to fortify it all along the way, and we can't really set up a barricade at the exit because they'll just pop out some other place. "

"Sounds like they got it all covered. "

"And then I looked at the records on the spies phone. You know who first suggested this tunnel?"

"Uh, the Underminer?"

"Nope, it was you. You suggested it, ordered it, managed it, and were even supposed to lead the attack. "

"And this is going where now?" I asked, although I was pretty sure I already knew.

"You are going to stop it. " Not what I thought he was gonna say. Maybe 'you're going to be executed for trying to kill us' or 'just telling you this so you know that your gonna fail thanks to our secret weapon', or even 'if we tell him about this maybe he'll slip up and tell us the one weakness the tunnel has'.

"How? I ran away from them already. "

"No, we captured you. We already set up a few pieces of fake evidence at the sight where you killed the Infils, as far as the Elite Forces know, we killed them and took you hostage. You will 'escape' us and run through the Phoenix tunnel, yelling about a heavier than air gas compound that will kill them on skin contact. "

"Do you have one of those?"

"Maybe. You will get as many troops as you can into the outer circle. They have the outer circle higher than the center, so the gas, if we had it and used it, won't be able to get them there. Once there, you push a button we will give you, and then we do our part. "

"What part is that?"

"You'll see, just worry about your job. "

"Okay. Should we get going then?"

"Yes. We'll be bringing the other two along as well for motivation. "

"What kind of motivation?"

"If you decide to jump ship to the other side we'll kill them. "

"Ah. That's...very persuasive. "

"Come on, let's head to the garage and get going. "

Trey and Sarah were already in a truck, and we headed for Phoenix. "So what did they talk to you about?" Trey asked.

"Just wanted me to do some double-agent spying and sabotage a secret underground tunnel for them. Oh, and if something goes wrong they might try to kill you. "

"Oh. "

"That's...gonna be interesting. "

"Yeah. I'll try not to get you guys killed though. "

We drove for thirty minutes in silence, then were transferred to a small plane landed in a field. The plane took off and an hour later landed in what I guessed was Phoenix. The next day and a half were filled with briefings, training, and threats. I didn't learn much, just brushed up on my fighting skills and memorizing a few low level code phrases. Many of the troops didn't like me, and considering I'd probably killed, or at least helped with the death of their friends, I understood. When everything was done, I was led to the center of the city.

"We have the charges set, once we give the signal we start. You know what to do?" an officer asked.

I nodded. "Some blanks will fire, the charges blow a hole, I jump in and start clearing everyone to the outer ring. Once there I push the button and you guys take care of the rest. "

"You got it, get ready. " He gave the signal, and when everyone knew it was ready we started. soldiers with blanks began firing, making noise in case the soldiers below us could hear. The charges blew, and I jumped in the hole.

"Don't shoot!" I yelled. A dozen guards were surrounding me with large mounted machine guns. "They've got a nerve gas, we have to get to the outer ring!"

"Commander Owen?" a trooper asked. When he realized it was me he stood at attention. "Orders, sir?"

"Evacuate everyone to the outer ring, the rebels have a new heavier than air nerve gas that will kill us on contact. We have to move, now!"

"Yes sir, we'll begin the evacuation. " A small group of guards lobbed some grenades through the opening to keep the rebels from coming in, while everyone ran towards the end of the tunnel. The tunnels were large, and passing vehicles would pick up soldiers and take them to the outer ring. I jumped aboard one and made it rather quickly.

"Sir, we've retrieved Commander Sarah, she is safe now. Commander Trey seems to be at a separate location, " a soldier said. Sarah here? That wasn't supposed to happen.

"Get her to the outer ring and find me communications to her. "

"She's coming towards us sir, she'll be here in a few minutes. "

"Good. " Sarah arrived quickly as the soldier had promised. "What are you doing here, you're supposed to be at the breach point, " I whispered.

"Some soldiers came through and dragged me in, the rebels didn't want to blow the cover so they sent me with them. Trey wasn't seen, but he's still up there. "

I noted that most of the soldiers were on the outer ring, waiting. The spokes were straight, and you could see right to the circle of light in the center of the tunnels. I figured now was a good time to push the button, so I did. There was a small click, and the world exploded.

It started with a dull roar, and then I saw light approaching quickly from one of the spokes. The explosion raced around the corners, filling the entire tunnel system. The explosion was short and actually didn't do much. I rolled on the ground quickly to extinguish the flames on my clothes and tried to catch my breath. "No, they used propane, " I wheezed, "Burned up all the oxygen, too far from a vent. " I took a deep breath but I still was suffocating. "Nooo, they said I would be fine. " My vision clouded and I felt my consciousness fading. "I'm starting to see why I fought against them, " I said as I fell to the ground. I saw a light coming towards me, growing larger as it approached. I accepted my fate, and closed my eyes.

Annoyingly Unfulfilling Epilogue

***Six hours later, somewhere in Utah***

"Commander Owen and Sarah were killed earlier today in the secret project known as Underfoot Uprising, a tunnel system underneath Phoenix, the rebel's capitol, in a gas explosion. It turns out the rebels had found the tunnel and flooded it with propane. When Commanders Sarah and Owen escaped into the tunnel, the rebels ignited the gas and killed all the troops inside. Commander Trey is still considered MIA and has not been seen in several days. The rebel forces have been pushing through the tunnel and are headed for a secure facility where the tunnel ends. As the tunnel is still mostly classified, we don't know where the rebels will surface. Military authorities claim that the rebels will be stopped before they can resurface from the tunnel, but civilians have been reporting loud noises coming from underground. So far, local authorities have passed them off as sewer or plumbing, although the reports are in a distinctly northward pattern. A veteran who had-"

The TV switched off, and a figure in the nearby chair sighed. "How long until the resurface?" The man asked.

"A week at most, " replied another voice.

Another heavy sigh. "Recall as many troops as you can from the tunnel, then blow the whole thing. "

"But sir, the troops still inside, and the civilians above ground!"

"I don't care, if the rebels get through the tunnel we lose the war altogether. "

A pause. "Yes sir, I will begin the recall. "

***Same time, Phoenix, Arizona***

"Trey, I'm sorry about Owen and Sarah, I truly am, but if you keep doing this you'll kill yourself!" Spencer said.

"I don't care, " I said, "I'm getting them back, even if I break reality in the process. "

"Reality is remarkably resilient, it's withstood nukes, " Hugo muttered.

"That's physical physics, theoretical physics is another thing. " I slammed a panel back in place and screwed it on. "With this, you have no idea what will happen. "

"This is a stupid idea, you've barely even thought it through! You've only worked on this for two hours!" Spencer was getting more and more agitated, clearly thinking this was a stupid idea.

"The scientist I stole this from had done plenty of research, and left blueprints for me as well. I just have to finish up his prototype and it'll be good to go!"

"You're crazy. "

"That's what they told Edison. "

"Really?"

"Eh, I'm not sure, but I'm sure that's what they told some person who made a life-changing invention. "

"This is a life-ending invention! What you are doing could literally rip apart space and time!"

"True, although I'll probably break time before space. "

He sat down, exhausted from arguing. "Well, when you get it finished, we'll come with you. "

I slid out from the device. "You're coming with?"

"Owen was my friend too, I'll do what I can to save him as well. "

I smiled. "Hand me that 3/16ths socket head, I need to check the wiring on this panel. " He complied, and I continued working on the device.

I'm coming, Owen, I thought, I'm gonna travel back and grab you before you die.

DUN DUN DUN!

Author's Note;

When I started writing The Extermenary, I intended it to be a one-shot ending when they pushed the big red button and saving the world as they all died as unsung heroes. Once I got to that point, I decided to go a bit further with the characters and try a few other things out. It was pretty bad, but overall I'm rather happy with the story, except for the arena scene... and the fact that I had to make the first half a virtual world...and a bunch of other things I had to gloss over. The plot isn't all that good, but I think it might have potential if I were to spend a few months(minimum) working on it, but I don't really have the time for that at the moment. For now, The Extermenary is finished. I left the ending a bit open in case I wanted to come back to it and use time travel to regain Owen and Sarah, but it will be a while before I revisit this story. Until then, I will probably be working on The Second Worlds War and WASP-World Abnormal Specialist Program, so keep an eye out for those.

Thanks for reading, see you around!