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Old Wounds

Adventure, hope, victory, misery, loss, amazement. I had experienced them all and more. It had been well over two years since my fateful battle with Darkness and Tim's mighty return, and a lot had changed. George had become an excellent master to Tye, even Samantha learned some things from him and eventually ended up becoming the first girl to join the S.S.C in quite some time. The S.S.C needed such changes. After Tim had left, the S.S.C had slowly run itself into the ground thanks to a leader whom I will leave unnamed so as not to squander such a pleasant beginning. After I had recovered from my wounds and drawn attention to the old organization, I found it in utter shambles. However, thanks to our combined forces, Tim, George, Tye, and myself had resuscitated the S.S.C to it's former glory. Tim and I became the leaders of the S.S.C and shared our power equally over our troops. We established an elite unit of S.S.C fighters, created a new weapons system, and added meetings in which all or most S.S.C members were required to attend. I dare say that the S.S.C was in better shape than it ever had been before. Bullies would come and go, but The S.S.C would always come out as victor. Since the death of Darkness; everything, everyone, everywhere, was at peace... or so I thought.

Strange Behavior:

"Settle down everyone," I announced while coming to the front of the room to speak." All the S.S.C members around me straightened up and listened intently. It made me proud to be in charge of an organization that could change the lives of students and people everywhere. I briefly waited for Tim to join me in for my little speech, but he was once again a no-show. Tim hadn't been feeling well lately and would often miss these meetings. I finally spoke up. "We have been doing an excellent job," I began with a smile. "Records show that our actions have already saved over fifty kids this week! And we all know that records are often lower than the actual amount." All the members cheered and began to brag amongst themselves about the good deeds they had done. Once they settled down, I spoke again. "I would like to congratulate all of you for another successful week. Before we meet up next time, I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd meet up with Tye over by the bulletin board and sign up for the file watching patrol," I said. Everyone in the room began to groan. File patrol was just about the most boring job you could get. Basically, all the old files accumulated by those who came before us were still sitting around in old shacks or houses. We still documented new events as well, meaning that these places were stacked to the brim with content and considered heavily classified. All one had to do was sit inside the building for a certain amount of hours until a replacement came by. Some of our best bases were occupied 24/7 as surprising as that may seem. I had gotten stuck with the job on multiple occasions. If no one signed up for a shift, I'd have to be the one to take it. After speaking of a few more formalities, I concluded the talk. "I hope to see you all again soon," I stated cheerfully. Kids began piling out of the room as only two members met Tye for the file watch shift. These meetings were always quite short. Now that the S.S.C was flourishing, there was never much to talk about. THEM was utterly destroyed and it's members had long since quite messing with the innocent or just vanished entirely into the crowds of kids at the school. The S.S.C hardly needed me anymore, I mean that in the most positive way I can. I stayed behind as the last of the members left. It seemed like a ritual between George and I to meet each other after speeches were over. When most everyone was gone, George stood and walked up to me."Is Tim feeling any better?" He asked in his usual worried voice. "No," I replied honestly. "I just don't understand him. He doesn't appear to be sick, he just seems so upset here lately. He didn't even want to see a movie last Friday." "Are we still having the secret meeting on Sunday?" George whispered; changing the subject. "Yes," I replied. "But I will have to ask Tim if he will come along." "Good luck with that," George said mockingly. "I have to go see Samantha. We are having a date tonight." "Sounds like you're gonna need more luck than me," I replied; acknowledging the fact that George was not very romantic. George gave a nervous laugh, he knew I was right. With that, we departed.

Visiting Tim:

As I walked outside, I decided now would be a better time to visit Tim and ask him if he would show up to the meeting. If I was correct, Tim would be sitting at his house feeling sorry for himself for some reason. The fact remained that if we were to have a secret meeting, Tim should be there. To elaborate, every month, Tim, Tye, George, Samantha, and I would meet up at an abandoned warehouse in the city. We'd talk over some overall plans for the future of the S.S.C and other boring stuff like that. I use the word "secret" sparingly due to the fact that I'm pretty sure everybody knows about it. When I reached Tim's house, his mother let me inside. By the sound of her voice, I could tell nothing had changed with Tim. "Hey Tim how are ya do'in?" I asked cheerfully as I entered his practically barren room. "You already know how I feel," Tim replied; laying down on his bed. I started to get annoyed. "It would help if you actually told me why you were upset," I said. Walking closer, I got a better look at his face and noticed that he had a bruise on his cheek. "How did you get that?" I asked; pointing to the mark. Tim didn't answer. I decided it was no use trying to get him to talk, so I got straight to the point. "I came here to see if you would come to our special meeting on Sunday," I asked. Tim didn't answer. I looked at his face and he was definitely thinking hard about something else, or he was just half asleep. "Just show up," I said as I left the room. I knew I would find out what was wrong with him and I wouldn't give up until I did.

The Meeting:

I came into the meeting place with zero expectations of Tim being there. I was right. Tim was no-where in sight. George, Samantha, and Tye had already beat me there. "Hey guys," I said; trying to hide my frustration at Tim. "It's about time you showed up," Tye stated with his usual loud voice that all apprentices seemed to have. No luck talking with Tim?" Samantha asked as she held George's hand. "No luck," I replied sadly. "I just don't know what to do about him." "Some of the younger guys were theorizing that he's gonna quit," Tye admitted. I thought on the matter but ultimately disagreed. "He'd never do that," I said carefully. "Tim has been in the S.S.C for years. He cares about it more than anyone will ever know... it's like his baby." Tye was about to speak again, but all of a sudden the door flung open and light filled the dreary room. Surprisingly, Tim walked into the warehouse, still seeming upset. "Tim!" George exclaimed. "We were wondering if you would show up." Tim looked at us through is saggy, depressed eyes. It looked as if he'd topple over at any moment. "Well I am here now," he murmured. "So what do we have to talk about?" I got the point of the simple meeting. "We were just talking about what new troopers we should put into our elite squadron with Commander Delta," I said. Commander Delta was the leader of our elite troopers and was famed by our fellow troops for never losing a battle. Along with him were some of our most trusted and well-trained additions to the S.S.C. It's people like that who really set their lives aside to protect others. I guess that's one point I always try to drive home, the fact that the S.S.C was filled with people who were more than ready to write a safe and secure future for others. When Tim and I eventually would retire, we had no doubt that one of these soldiers would take over as leader. As we spoke some more, I began to hear something outside. The more I heard it, the more it made me feel uneasy. George heard it too and motioned for everyone to be silent as we listened closer. A quick look at Tim yielded no response. He acted as if the noise was just a minor nuscance. His head clearly wasn't in the right place. All of a sudden, someone kicked down the door and yelled, "There you are!" I got into battle position and so did everyone else. The "visitor" stepped out of the illumination of the sun and revealed himself to be very tough looking and very upset. This boy was incredibly fit and bared a multitude of scars on his forehead and chin, some appearing old and dry while others bore a more recent appearance. "You thought you could hide from me forever?" he yelled again. I had never seen the kid before, but he seemed to be talking to Tim. "This time I will beat you to a pulp!" he yelled one last time. And then he charged.

The Battle:

I stepped up first and pushed the boy back. I had not gotten into an unexpected battle in quite some time. Nevertheless, I thought the guy had to have been insane to have tried to fight us all. Our visitor attacked me with a fist to my stomach and then another to my shoulder. George and Tye stepped up next and hit him in the chest. The visitor seemed even more upset. He kicked Tye in the face before swinging him against the wall. He tried to hit George, but missed due to the fact that George ducked just in time. George was able to trip him and attack again by kicking him in the side. George tried again but the visitor rolled out of the way before rising and jabbing him in the face. Only then did Tim spring to life as they battled one on one. Even through the heat of battle, it made me smile to see Tim active again. Tim's arm got caught briefly by our attacker but he hit the kid in the face with his other one. The hit was hard and had to of caused Tim a fair amount of pain as well. The two started to back up, but the visitor made sure to step on Tye while doing so; keeping him from standing. I checked on Samantha, she was hiding behind a pallet near-by. George trusted her with fighting, but we knew nothing about this guest. George and I jumped in to help Tim and we easily started to win the fight. We pushed our guest into the wall as I got in Tim's way to kick the intruder. Tim suddenly exploded in a fit of rage and yelled out, "Get out of the way! I will handle this on my own!" It was the loudest I had ever heard Tim yell. Not wishing to anger him further, I listened to him and pulled George with me. I watched the fight continue, there was something different about this bullie. The struggle between the two went outside, but not before Tim could signal to me not to follow. Finally George noticed what I was missing. "Did you notice how good of a fighter that kid was?" It was true, I had not seen a fighter that good for a pretty long time. "Trained..." Samantha muttered as she reemerged. "What was that?" asked George. "The guy was obviously trained," she said. "He reminds me of George and how he used to fight." George nodded in silent agreement. "Something definitely isn't right", I thought to myself. After a while, Tim stumbled back inside with his half-dead face. "Is he gone?" Tye asked. "Yes, but he will be back," Tim replied. Any further questioning yielded no response from Tim, leaving the whole conflict as an unmentioned taboo of sorts. Though I kept a calm demeanor, I couldn't take it anymore, I had to figure out what was going on.

The True Story:

"Why don't you go guys," I said to the others as the meeting drew to a close. Tim hadn't spoken once and I had to crack him now. "I will stay here with Tim for a moment." "But what about the meeting?" Tye asked. George cut him off, "This is between Brett and Tim, lets go." As they left, I noticed George looking at me. I could tell that he was wishing me luck. We both knew that this wouldn't be easy. I finally got to the point. "Tim," I asked. "What's been bothering you? And don't say "nothing", I know better." Tim didn't answer again. "I am not leaving until you tell me what is happening!" I yelled. "Who was that guy and how did he know you?" Tim finally spoke up, "He doesn't know me." I could tell he was lying, and I knew he realized it. "I'm not taking "no" for an answer Tim, tell me!" I was raising my voice, but I didn't care. It was time he started talking. I paused for a moment and let him think. It seemed like he was in another universe, as if everything I said had been sucked into a black hole and lost in an irretrievable place. However, he spoke. "Alright Brett," he said. "It is time you knew the truth." Confused; I leaned against the wall and motioned for him to continue. "It all started a little bit before your big battle with Machine," Tim started. "I thought Machine was the only threat at that time, and that all the suffering would soon be over." I struggled to remember the fight, after all, it had taken place four years ago back in 2007. Tim continued, "But then I learned of something far worse. An old friend of mine... James, had quite THEM and was forming his own organization called "The Brotherhood of Death". Tim's voice trailed off as if hearing James's name out of his own mouth resulted in a punch in the face. Finally he hopped back into our reality and continued. "He was going to overthrow the S.S.C and THEM so he would have all the power. He lost faith in everything and everyone... he had to be stopped." Tim paused for a moment and collected himself. "I had to stop him," Tim continued. "So after the battle with Machine was over, I left to stop James from continuing his plans. I told you we would never see each other again out of fear that you'd try to follow me or that he would..." Tim paused once again. "And I left," he continued simply. "James and I met near a pond, lined with rocks. He would not listen to my pleads of stopping his plan... he was too far gone. And so we fought. As the battle neared it's end, I accidentally pushed James into the pond. The right side of his face slid down the jagged rocks surrounding us, causing horrible scarring. He vowed revenge on me, but I didn't believe him. I left my former best friend to suffer with his injuries, just as he had made me suffer some time ago. I just... left him. I had scheduled the fight perfectly and soon moved away to another township. I was dead to the world. I had thought that my returning would only interfere with your own work as a master, so instead I became an eye in the sky, watching you grow stronger. It was only when I began seeing the things you had done, that I teamed up with George to stop you." I was shocked by such an explanation, I had never thought to ask Tim where he had gone off to. I had always assumed he wouldn't tell me. But there was more. "When Darkness was defeated and everything seemed alright, I began to get ambushed by two guys claiming to be apprentices of James. The one that attacked us today is called Blade. The other one is that popular kid in your classes; Rick. They have ambushed me on multiple occasions. I always fight them off but... I'm tired Brett... so tired. The Brotherhood of Death is reforming and because of my actions, it's returning with a vengeance. Brett," Tim said. "If we don't do something soon, we will wish we would've."

A Strange Note:

I couldn't believe what Tim had said. All this time, he had been keeping that huge secret from everyone. I started to get angry, but I realized he was only trying to protect us. "How far along is their enrollment?" I asked uneasily. "I'm not sure," Tim replied. "To be honest, I know practically nothing about the current status of James or the Brotherhood of Death. He is like a silent puppeteer now. You see what he causes... but not him... he hides from the truth now. But there are plenty of bullies out there who would love to get some revenge on us. If the Brotherhood of Death is anything like how THEM was... then we are all in trouble." I thought for a moment. "Don't worry Tim," I said at last. "We will stop this madness before it spreads. I promise that." Then, for time in months... Tim smiled. It seemed as if the chains holding him down had been broken and he was back to his old self. But then, there was a knock on the door to the warehouse. "That is strange," I admitted. "Who could that be?" Hesitantly, I opened the door and found a black envelope on the ground. Carefully I picked it up, looking wildly around me. but there was no-one in sight. As Tim approached, I opened it up and reached inside the envelope. I grabbed for the first thing by fingers felt and took out a crumpled piece of paper while still looking around for more unexpected guests. Although it was difficult, I could read what it said. "If you want to find out The Brotherhood of Death's plans. Go to the school basement at 11:00. Signed, Night Riser". "Well that is weird," Tim remarked; reading the message for himself. "Just when I thought mystery could be put behind me, this comes around." "So you've never gotten one of these before?" I asked; wondering if he was still hiding things from me. "Should we go?" Tim asked as my fingers fumbled for another object within the envelope. "Maybe it's a trick." "Whoever this Night Riser is," I began; pulling out an object. "I don't think he is messing around." I replied. Because there was one more thing in the envelope... Machine's knife.

Clues:

Tim and I hadn't gone to the school basement in a while, and we certainly had never been inside of it. It used to be an S.S.C hideout until they were caught and forced out. It had been locked ever since.; remaining in a constant state of decay. "How are we even going to get in?" I asked. "It shouldn't be hard," replied Tim as we got to the door. "The lock is gone." I examined the place and found Tim was correct. The usual rusted lock was nowhere to be seen, leaving the door to swing open freely in the breeze. Things were starting to go from being creepy to even creepier when we got inside. Spider webs blanketed the room from top to bottom. Nobody ever came in here, it was just a useless storage room. As I gazed around, I saw ruminants of old S.S.C activity. Some dusty photographs laid scattered about the floor and an ancient S.S.C flag featuring the blue diamond sat in an untouched corner. We could have sworn we heard whispers and echoes around the room sometimes, but nothing seemed out of place otherwise and Tim dismissed the sounds as wind coming from the radiator in the corner. We looked around for a bit with some flashlights but nothing more met our attention except for occasional spiders and centipedes. Just as we were about to leave, I got to a desk sitting in the far back of the room. This desk was completely wiped clean and unlike surrounding desks, there was only one paper sitting on it. Tim carefully picked it up and examined it as if the thing were a bomb. After a minute or two, he lit up with joy. "These are the plans for the Brotherhood of Death's big attack!" He exclaimed. "Members, attack strategies, outposts, statistics... they're all here! This thing should be incredibly top secret!" "Why is it here though?" I asked. "Lets not worry about it for now," Tim replied as we made our way to the exit. "I will send this to Commander Delta and he will figure out a plan of retaliation. This could be our way out of this conflict without us even having to throw a single punch." "Tim," I said with a laugh. "You know it's never that easy." As we left the room, I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. But when I turned around, everything seemed fine. Except for one thing. I saw a large piece of black cloth suspended from a chair. A further inspection revealed that it had been torn from something, but it offered no further evidence. Something about it seemed familiar, but I didn't know what. I took the cloth with me and we left. This may have seemed to be the end of our problems... but I knew they were only beginning.

A Different Level

It felt strange to be standing with all the lower-class S.S.C members. It was not as if I felt like I was above them, but I was just so used to being the speaker for all of the meetings. I've sparred you the grueling segment of time it took for me to explain to the rest of the S.S.C that we had now engaged with a practically unknown enemy. Reactions were mixed, but the overall response was positive. Everyone truly believed that the Brotherhood of Death stood no chance against our ranks. I on the other hand, was unsure. THEM had put up a fight for years, and I was well aware that the Brotherhood would not submit so easily either. Today's meeting was not in my department of attack though. I was good at leading small teams on small missions, but when it came to the big picture of things, there was only one guy who we trusted to do the job. Tim had contacted Commander Delta and sent him the information we had found a couple days ago. As I've mentioned before, Commander Delta was the leader of our elite squadrons. He would lead all major attacks and would often take charge of the missions as well. I had read the information that we obtained, and I had no clue how we could overcome the problems that came with the mission. This was no-longer just about myself and a handful of friends, everyone's well-being was at steak. When Delta reached the front of the room, he looked around and waited for silence. Delta was a tall figure with dark-spiky hair. He often painted his cheeks with some blue paint to symbolize his authority and stood among the others as an imposing force to be reckoned with. When everyone got completely quiet, he finally spoke. "A different level," he began. "Today we will engage in a mission that we are not familiar with. From the information Tim has given me, there are a few threats that must be neutralized before we make a big attack. One of James's apprentices; Rick, is our first big target." Delta paused briefly for some muttering to stop and continued. "In most circumstances, we would simply locate him, rough him up a bit, and put him in the S.S.C detention center. But Rick has something that is not common among previous enemies we have faced. Rick has a lot of popularity on his side. He is surrounded 24/7 by friends of all ages, possibly spreading the word of the Brotherhood of Death with more ease than ever before. If we attacked him now, then all of the kids around him would completely blow our cover. This is why I need two of some of our best members to figure out a way to stop him. I suggest that it involves blowing his cover to the whole school. But however you choose to carry out this plan is up to whoever takes up the mission." All eyes shifted to Tim and I, with good reason. These kids had never fought a real threat before. They had not been present when THEM still existed. I felt a little embarrassed though, neither Tim or I could do it. We had other things to worry about. George seemed to realize the situation and hesitantly stood up; dragging Tye with him. "Tye and I will take the mission." Everyone seemed surprised. They could trust George, but Tye was still an apprentice, as well as a freshman. Taking him on an important mission like this, was not a smart thing to do, but George held his ground. Delta finally spoke up again. "Good," he exclaimed. "In order for our plans to take effect, you'll need to carry this mission out as soon as possible. This is a one-shot deal. The Brotherhood of Death does not know we have rallied against them, attacking Rick now will throw him off-guard and give us an easy and early victory. I'd recommend catching the target and bringing him here, but if not, just make sure that he gets the memo; the S.S.C is coming. Be careful out there, the safety and security of the S.S.C is in your hands."

My Own Mission:

After Delta concluded with a few more words of thanks and formalities, I began leaving the room. It didn't take long for George to catch up with me though. George presently stopped me. "Why didn't you take the mission?" he asked; shaking his head. "Tye and I are going to have a hard time doing this. I wanna get his training in, but this may push us a bit to hard." I felt sorry for George, but he had already taken the mission. No backing out. I spoke up, "Tim and I will be investigating the person who sent us the letter a couple days ago." "You mean Night Riser?" George corrected. "Yes," I replied simply. George seemed skeptic. "Don't you think you are getting too far into that," he asked. "What if it's a trick?" I just laughed. "There is a lot more to it," I replied. "This guy got Machine's knife and gave us vital Brotherhood of Death plans. I need to figure this out," I said. "Alright then," said George. "Try not to turn into some sort of conspiracy theorist or anything." I laughed and we departed. I knew I was doing the right thing. So far, all I knew was that this person somehow got Machine's knife, but that was enough for me. Anyone who'd be able to get their hands on something like that, had to have been special. I also had the large piece of black cloth, that seemed to become even more familiar to me the longer I looked at it. I sat back and sighed, this was going to be harder than I thought.

Plan A:

George and Tye had no idea where to begin. Rick was a much different target than they were used to. The two spent a fair amount of time tracking his movements and working out plans of attack. It was finally George who came up with the idea to lure Rick into S.S.C territory. And split him up from his friends. George and Tye discussed the plan thoroughly and went on their way. At last, they were able to find Rick, walking with three friends of his. "He's a bit more muscular than I thought he'd be," Tye said; trying not to draw too much attention to himself. "That doesn't matter right now," George replied. "Our biggest challenge is getting those three friends away from him." Tye listened in for a little bit. "He talks pretty casually with them. It's possible that they don't know what organization he is a part of." George listened as well, it was true. "This means we still have time," George replied. "We can expose his true self to the whole school before he finds a way to recruit anyone else." "Do you think this will really slow down their activity?" Tye asked; pulling away for a second. "We can only hope," George replied honestly. "For now, just stick with the plan we came up with earlier." With that, Tye approached the laughing group. and began playing his part. "Hey guys," Tye spoke easily. "Can we talk to Rick, alone for a bit?" At first, the group merely muttered to itself about how a freshman would dare approach them. Finally though, Rick himself turned towards Tye, blanketing the apprentice with his shadow. After staring for a while, Rick just laughed. "Anything you have to say to me, you can say to my friends," he scoffed. George realized that there was more going on here than what they had assumed. Rick shouldn't have been reacting this way for what seemed to be no reason. Did Rick know what they were planning? Without even acknowledging George, Rick and his pals pushed past Tye and went back to listening to one of their friends talk about a party at his place. George was about to take leave with Tye, when he noticed something in Rick's pocket. A black envelope remained stuffed inside and poked out unsteadily from the pocket. I had shown George the envelope that appeared at the warehouse door, and this one looked just like it. "Something isn't right," said George to himself. "What's wrong?" asked Tye. George paused for a moment. "It's not important right now," he said. "It's time for plan B."

Suspect?:

As expected, I was given the task of guarding the S.S.C files and records, noone else had offered to take up the role as of the moment. On most occasions, I'd be pretty upset, but at least this gave me some time to think to myself. I continued to examine my two clues as I leaned against one of the cabinets containing recent plans. My mind started to wander off. I just didn't have enough clues. Night Riser would need to have a lot of power over Machine to take his knife away and the cloth seemed ultimately meaningless, but why had it just appeared out of nowhere? I looked out the window and thought about going outside, but I noticed dark clouds starting to come in. Before I knew it, rain started to pelt the grass below in a constant spray. I saw the old playground in the distance. Lighting danced all around it; illuminating the rooftops as wind began blowing mulch into the air. Just for a second, I thought I saw someone standing there. I quickly rubbed my eyes to wake myself up; believing I was just seeing things. As expected, there was no-one to be seen, though I still felt unsettled by the whole thing. I stared at the park some more, just waiting for someone to appear again. No-one did. Now looking to the platforms of the playground; a memory came flowing back to me. There was only one person who had enough power over Machine to be able to take his knife. It was also the same person that wore this kind of dark fabric... on his jacket! And the last thing, It was the same person that I fought with back in 2008 at that same old park... Corruption! It was all clear to me now. Wasting no time, I called up Tim who answered in a flash. "Tim!" I shouted in excitement. "It is Corruption! Corruption is the one sending me these clues!" Tim sounded astonished. "Why would he be helping us? He'd be the last guy to try and save our skins." "I'm not sure," I replied honestly. "But that piece of cloth I found is definitely his, and he'd have the power to take Machine's knife. Maybe he's trying to pay us back for saving his life." "Someone like Corruption could care less about that," Tim presumed. "But you're right, perhaps he wants to meet face-to-face in order to tell us more." I thought for a moment. "Well first we need to know where to find him," I stated. "I have no clue what happened to him after George and I dropped him off at the hospital." Tim finally gasped. "I got it!" he shouted. "There's a kid named Francis! He used to work as an S.S.C scribe. I met him shortly after my encounter with James. He's actually the one who told me who your new apprentice was. Aside from that, he also knows tons about S.S.C and THEM history." "Good," I replied. "Where do I find him?" "He lives in Blue Point... not to far from here." Tim answered. "I'll go find him." I shouted. Tim stopped me before I could hang up. "No," he said. "You need to finish guarding those documents until we can get somebody to take your shift." "Don't worry," I replied as I put on my jacket. "I will be back here in no time at all. Just text me the address." Tim attempted to speak again, but I hung up to avoid the ensuing conversation. And with that, I left for Blue Point.

Plan B:

George and Tye sat hopelessly at the sidewalk. None of their ideas would play out correctly in their heads. Tye started to notice some dark clouds heading in and turned to George. "Looks like its about to rain," Tye said. "We can't give up yet!" George yelled. "We have to do this fast or we will be in big trouble with the S.S.C." Tye was silent for a while, before suddenly leaping up as if he had just seen a ghost. "I got it!" he yelled, and plan B was initiated. It was starting to pour down rain outside. Rick and his friends were starting to head over to his house to play some video games. With no time to lose, George stepped in front of the group and started laughing. "Wow Rick," he scoffed. "I can't believe so many kids hang out with you. I mean... c'mon, you're just such a loser." Rick pretended like he didn't hear George and continued walking and talking. George wouldn't stop though and he proceeded to draw closer to Rick and get into his face. "Not to mention that smell," George snickered. "I think anything within 50 miles of here could still catch that scent! Maybe after you finish lifting weights you should try a little something called deodorant!" Rick's friends grew silent and began looking to Rick for a collective response. Rick was growing angry; but remained speechless as his face grew red. George was running out of material, he had only one thing left to say. "O'well," said George with a shrug as he turned away. "I should have known you wouldn't stand up for yourself... coward." Rick eyes lit up with sheer anger as he violently turned to his friends. "You guys should go," he stated. "I have something to do!" With that, Rick's friends reluctantly left the premises. As soon as the group had left his area of vision, Rick spun around and took George by the throat in a swift motion. "What do you think you're trying to pull?" Rick exclaimed. "I am going to beat you down so hard that you'll have to crawl home!" Rick continued to choke George and punched him briefly in the face as George dangled helplessly. Rick quicly threw George to the ground and stepped on his chest before hissing, "At this rate, the Brotherhood will not hesitate to wipe you out. These meaningless kids and your worthless partners will be crushed by our might." Rick gave a short laugh. "You call this a plan?" he stated. "How could you expect to beat me up?" George finally had enough breath to speak. "No..." he gasped. "I thought it was a very good idea." With that, George started to laugh in pain and Rick looked over to his right. Standing there, videotaping the whole thing, was Tye! Rick quickly stepped off George and gasped that he had been tricked. Tye started to run. He would only have one shot at this.

Meeting Francis:

By the time I made it to Blue Point and read Tim's address instructions, I was soaked. This rain was not warm in any way. I knocked at the door and hoped that Francis would answer instead of his parents. Lighting flashed around me before a short boy with glasses and a big eyes answered the door at last. "Is your name Francis?!" I yelled over the thunder. The boy seemed confused at first, but then he looked at my face and lit up with joy. "You are Brett Blakley!" he yelled. "Come on in!" Francis snuck me upstairs to his room. From inside, the storm was completely muffled and all was silent. "I wasn't expecting a legend to stop by today," Francis said; handing me a sheet to dry off. "I wouldn't call myself a legend," I responded. "I take it you're not here to try and get me to become a scribe again. Don't get me wrong, making the documents is actually pretty fun, but it's much too time consuming." "No," I replied simply. With that, Francis asked, "What do you need?" "I need you to tell me where I could find Corruption," I said; getting straight to the point. "My friend tells me you are the guy to talk to." Francis seemed confused. "Why?" he asked. I was starting to get annoyed. "I just... need to know," I replied; not wanting to spill the beans. To my surprise, Francis suddenly started to laugh. "What," he giggled. "You don't know?" I didn't say anything and proceeded to stare Francis down until he could calm himself. After that, Francis finally stopped laughing. "Sorry about that," he said. "I would just think that YOU of all people would keep an eye on someone like him." "I try not to obsess over enemies," I said. "Get to the point." Francis calmed down again and finally spoke seriously. "Corruption moved away like two years ago," he muttered. "To an entirely different state down south." I was shocked, even a little scared. Something was definitely out of place, but what?

The Take Down:

Tye kept running as fast as he could. The cold rain hit his face like bullets, but he wasn't stopping. Rick followed close behind, with George not to far back. George tackled Rick, but was thrown off by the sheer speed the apprentice possessed. Rick stopped quickly and slugged George in the face. Without falling back, George kicked Rick in the stomach and elbowed him in the face with all his might; slowing him down significantly. The rain began to let up as Rick caught George's fist and refused to let go of it. With that, Rick kicked George in the side and continuously punched him in the face. Noticing the fray, Tye slowed down and ran over to assist George. Tye kicked the unsuspecting Rick in the back, which caused the foe to lose hold of George's fist. Rick wasn't giving up yet. He missed a few punches before hitting Tye square in the face. The hard punch caused Tye to lose hold of the camera immediately. With amazing speed, Rick got a hold of it. Acting quickly, George jumped at Rick and was able to get the camera out of his hands and pass it to Tye. Tye caught it in midair and continued to run towards his destination. Rick jumped at his feet and Tye went face first into the ground. Now pinned down, Tye looked to George for help. "Throw it to me!" George yelled from a distance. Thankfully, Tye did so just in time and George successfully caught the incoming camera with a sudden dive. As Rick gazed back in frustration, Tye used the free time to roll over and pin an unsuspecting Rick to the ground. With this extra time, George was able to get to the computer lab entrance of the school, which was kept unlocked for public use. He opened up the door and immediately plugged in the camera to the already waiting computer. Tye; unable to retrain Rick any longer, was forced to let go and was quickly thrown to the ground as Rick sprinted into the lab before freezing in his tracks. Though the video had not yet uploaded, Rick assumed that George could upload the video with the click of a button. George played upon this fear and silently motioned his finger towards the keyboard. Rick realized that his entire reputation was at stake, but an attack now would be to risky and there were people not to far away. Rick silently attempted to lunge forward, but George pushed him back. "How do you think your master would react if he heard that the entire school corporation became aware of the Brotherhood of Death?" asked George. "I think he'd be most upset." Rick could only look down at his feet as he replied, "You're gonna pay for this one. Our forces will break you're friends. And me? I'll break you." With that, Rick backed up and left. "Are you going to upload it master?" Tye asked; arriving inside and wiping mud from his face. "Not all of it," George replied. "I'll edit out the Brotherhood part, we can't have teachers on our backs. As for everything else, you can bet that it will damage Rick's popularity without a doubt." "Lets hope we don't see him again for a while," said Tye with a laugh. "We can only hope," said George. "But did you notice how he seemed to know we were after him? He openly mentioned the S.S.C and the Brotherhood. He knew more than he should have." The two could only sit and ponder. The world was at work around them, and mysteries were only spreading.

A New Message:

I was able to get off the phone with George shortly before the rain completely stopped. He reported that the mission was a success and that Delta was already well in the process of continuing his master plans. In addition to providing with details to the fight, George made it clear that more was going on than met the eye. I briefly told George about the entire Corruption phenomenon, but he was just as stumped as I was. Furthermore, George had told me about the black envelope seen in Rick's pocket. After hanging up, I lied down in my bed and thought about it for a while. It made no sense. Why did Rick have the black envelope? Could he be Night Riser? Why would he help us? As I flooded my head with these questions, my doorbell rang. Arising immediately and answering the door, I was once again greeted by no-one in sight. However, a black envelope on my front doorstep caught my attention immediately. I got a chill up my spine as I picked it up; feeling it's tattered edges and wondering if yet another relic of the past rested inside. There was no object within this envelope, but once again another crumpled piece of paper sat at the bottom. It read as follows. "To he that waits for answers - shall soon receive them. Attack the Death Pit for your next mission... do not fuel the fire. Signed, Night Riser".

The Death Pit

I stood once more with the other S.S.C members. I knew what was coming. Something seemed to tell me that this was not going to be easy. Tim stood beside me. He too understood that we would be breaking some pretty serious rules today. Commander Delta was scheduled to give an important announcement today. Even though it was supposed to be a secret, Tim and I were pretty sure that it would be a mission to go after Blade. As soon as Commander Delta got to the front of the room, there was complete silence. "We have been doing excellent work guys," Delta said as he silently ordered a few elites to move a crate. "With the help of George and his apprentice Tye, Rick has went into hiding and his popularity has diminished greatly thanks to the school-wide video. We will use this moment of weakness to our advantage. Our next attack is on Blade; James's second apprentice." Delta paused for a moment to let it sink in. I sighed, I would have to break the news to everyone right now. As Commander Delta was about to speak, I cut him off. "If I may interrupt," I said lightly. "We will have to reschedule the attack on Blade for another mission." Everyone seemed confused. Who had more power here, the leaders of the S.S.C or the leader of the mission at hand? Commander Delta replied in an annoyed voice, "What could possibly be more important than attacking a dangerous apprentice of James? The Brotherhood of Death knows that we are after them now. We need to use this time to attack Blade before they become too organized." I cleared my throat and spoke, "We need to attack the Death Pit." Now everyone in the room had gone completely silent as tension blossomed among us. Even Delta held an uncharacteristic surprised look on his face. "The Death Pit is extremely dangerous!" He yelled, "Every S.S.C trooper would have to join in the attack." I was starting to shake. I would look like a fool in front of everyone if I lost this argument. Tim kept quiet, he knew that this was my task. I got enough courage to speak again, "We need to do this," I said simply. Commander Delta paused as if he were waiting for me to say more, or maybe he was just as nervous as me. I spoke up again to explain. "I got another message from Night Riser yesterday," I said. "He told me to lead an attack on the Death Pit." Delta seemed to chuckle. "So the S.S.C takes orders from mysterious messengers now huh? Did this "friend" of yours tell us what to do once we got there? Did he tell us what to expect? Did he give any actual reason to show up at all? It sounds to me like the Night Riser is a one trick pony. He may have gotten us those plans, but there is absolutely no reason for us to go to the Death Pit." Now I was getting upset. I knew from the beginning that this would be hard, but I hadn't expected to be made fun of in front of the very organization I helped bring back from the dead. I spoke once more. "Listen," I said plainly. "Tim and I are the leaders here. We are the ones that make the rules, and we BOTH agree that this is important." I kept talking. "We are attacking the Death Pit tomorrow, and like it or not, this is mandatory." Thick silence filled the room, It was like someone had hit the mute button and not a sound could be made. Tim finally broke the silence. "This meeting is over," he stated. "We shall meet for the attack tomorrow, behind the old warehouse downtown." People left the room promptly, still shocked at what we were going to do. I looked at Commander Delta, he seemed worried and upset... that made two of us.

Information:

"What were you thinking?" yelled George over the phone. "You are getting WAY too wrapped up in this Night Riser thing!" He continued. "Do you have any idea how many kids could get hurt? I may have stuck with you when you allowed Tye and I to go on that mission, but this is a whole new level of... crazy!" I cut in. "We will try our best," I said. "If we do this right, it will give the S.S.C a huge advantage over the Brotherhood of Death." George sighed, "If you say so... I still think there isn't something right about this." "You and me both," I replied. We hung up and I sat down for a moment to collect my thoughts. If this attack didn't go well, I could lose my title as leader and James would have no trouble kicking us while we were down. The Death Pit was no laughing matter. It was a very old THEM hideout from years ago. I had only learned of the premises after some rumors were spread, saying that Eliminator used to go there often. Some stories stated that he was the one to turn it into a makeshift home after he ran from his foster parents. When THEM was destroyed, it was left abandoned and allowed to rot away. However, if Night Riser was correct, then it should be a Brotherhood of Death hideout now. It isn't actually a pit though, it is actually an old barn used to house cows and chickens back when the farm around here was still in it's hay day. The barn was situated in the center of acres upon acres of broken corn stalks. Once Eliminator had left, it had been briefly modified by THEM before they were destroyed. There were undoubtedly secret passages, rooms, makeshift walls, and other strange relics there. Commander Delta and George were right, this was going to be difficult, but that didn't mean we couldn't try.

Attack:

Most of our members met together behind the old warehouse as instructed. As expected, a few were found to be no-shows, but they would have to be dealt with on a later date. Tye was working with George to get everyone organized. They had all brought their weapons of choice as defense; things like rocks and small sticks. Though we didn't support weapons like this, they at least allowed for the soldiers to feel safer. The elite S.S.C members had been given special equipment that was part of our new weapons program. Things like binoculars, walky talkies, night vision goggles, poison ivy packets, and E-swords. These "swords" were actually only long, smoothed out sticks. Most troops took to calling them E-sticks and kept them in a special holster built into the back of their vest. Though these sticks were thinned down to some degree, they would still damage the enemy if they were used in combat. Commander Delta had the honor of carrying two E-sticks into battle and was capable of using them quite effectively at the same time. Perhaps that was how he never lost a fight. A brief look at his E-swords revealed notches taken out of them; likely symbolizing every take-down he had made with the tools. This made me feel slightly more at ease as we neared our destination. I was given the elite gear as well. So was Tim. With some final hesitation, Commander Delta finally yelled out, "Keep walking, the attack begins soons!" Every member marched faster forward, looking back occasionally to see if anyone was behind us. No-one was. They were all worried. We made it to the top of a hill and saw the Death Pit in the distance. The entire building seemed out of place. There was really nothing around it but long fields of forgotten corn. I looked closer at the Death Pit, there was no-one in sight. The entire place seemed sound despite an eerie creaking heard for a few brief seconds. I saw Commander Delta give me an angry look. He also noticed that the place seemed to be empty. With no obstacles getting in our way, all the members made it to the front of the huge barn. Commander Delta separated us into two groups; Team Alpha and Team Gold-Point. I was on team Gold-Point with Tim and Delta. George and Tye were on Team Alpha which was significantly smaller as Delta had noted that our team would be investigating a larger potion of the barn and therefore needed more people. We silently wished each other good luck and entered the building from different entrances. I looked around. The walls were decayed and torn apart. It seemed like it was in pretty bad shape. The wooden walls around us were riddled with THEM symbols and names carved in. I briefly spotted Eliminator's name scrawled into a decayed panel which had long-since been forgotten. Commander Delta and Tim remained at the front of the pack, while I stuck in the middle with some elite troops. Nothing in particular caught my eye until Tim pointed something out. "Did you see how some of these pieces of hay seem to be pushed out of the way?" he asked; reaching down to grab some. It was true, straws of hay seemed to have been moved to the sides of the walls, forming a distinct path. To me, it was a sign that people had walked down these halls recently. I briefly looked up at the ceiling and soon wished I hadn't. The second floor wasn't well supported whatsoever. Flimsy beams and thin wooden pillars held it awkwardly in place. Tim briefly stated that it could still hold a lot of weight, but the way I saw it, if anyone made a wrong move, the entire place could come down on us. We all moved quietly; keeping our feet striding lightly over creaky floorboards. I felt like we were being watched. Commander Delta got on his walky talkie and spoke in a whisper. "This is Team Gold-Point. Come in Alpha, over." At first we only heard Static, then a faint voice could be heard on the other end. It had to have been George. "We read you loud and clear," said George. "Over." "Keep us updated if you find anything," Delta said. "It's all empty on this side so far." With that, he hung up and looked over to me just to see if I had noted this statement. We continued to walk down the dark hallway as I noted hay bales were set up all around us, cutting us off from different sections and rooms in the building. We came across a small room and slowly opened the door. It was pitch black inside. Delta turned on a flashlight and beamed it across the area. We couldn't tell what it was used for, but there was no-one inside. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. As we left the room though, there was a loud thump from above us and what sounded to me to be a collective gasp before absolute silence. Tiny pieces of wood and dust were thrown from the ceiling and sprinkled themselves into our hair; causing some members to gag and rub their eyes fiercely."That sounded way too loud to be an animal," Tim said. Delta silently shook his head and motioned for everyone to be quiet. He took out his walky talkie again and repeated the same thing as last time. "This is team Gold-Point. Come in Alpha, over." Static once again came on the other end, but this time... it didn't stop. "Hello?" Delta reiterated in a worried tone. "Can you hear me... hello?" The static continued. Everyone was getting uneasy now and began to whisper among themselves. "Team Alpha, respond now!" Delta yelled. But there was no change. "This isn't good," Delta said; putting the walky talkie back. Now people on our team began to freak out and back up against the wall. "We need to stay focused," Tim said. We all put on our bravest face possible as we slowly kept on moving. Even though no-one was talking, I could tell what they were all thinking; "This was all Brett's fault." As we started to get closer to a turn, we heard a small noise from around the corner and stopped. "Racoon?" I recall one soldier whispering. Though I could certainly tell this wasn't the case. Taking the lead; an elite trooper bravely walked over to see what caused the noise, but just as he did, a sudden fist emerged from around the corner, striking him in the nose as our shaky flashlights attempted to illuminate the scene. Before we could react, the hay bales around us were pushed inwards, forming an arena of sorts. Brotherhood of Death members leaped over the bales and ambushed us from all directions. We were trapped!

Secret Escape:

I was hit in my side and pushed against a hay bale; causing me to immediately drop my flashlight. Now relying on the light provided by other soldiers, I could tell that nearly all of our normal troopers were immediately taken down. Only elite S.S.C members remained in numbers. Two elite members helped me fight off a few incoming enemies. I kicked one in the side and simultaneously punched another in the face. One of my elite guards was knocked out and I was hit hard in the chin, sending me to the floor for a great period of time. My other elite guard seemed to vanish before three enemies surrounded me simultaneously. One harshly raised me up before another twisted my arm and threw me back. Thankfully Tim caught me and kicked the attacker in the gut. We were running out of men and time. Tim fought off to more enemies while I threw one soldier into four more that were heading down as back-up. Things only got worse as I was choked and knocked to the floor. Now defenseless, I was kicked hard from all directions and was forced to take out my E-stick. I hit some of the attackers in the face before it was yanked out of my hands. I now began to crawl to retrieve it, but was quickly kicked again. I nearly blacked out for a moment. All I could hear was evil laughter and the sound of my remaining team as they tried to fight back against a force that couldn't be stopped. As I was about to be taken out by another Brotherhood of Death member, Tim grabbed hold of his forearm. "Brett," Tim yelled as our surrounding troops were taken down. "Get out'a here!" I stood up as quickly as possible and nearly fell. My stomach badly hurt and there was no place to run. I began to black out again. I stumbled and fell into the hay surrounding the walls. Just as I did, the hay fell down, revealing a hidden room! With no one noticing my escape, due to Tim's distraction, I stacked the hay up again and closed the door just in time. Sounds became muffled now as I sat against my lucky door, breathing heavily. At that moment, the noise settled down and the voices of my teammates could no-longer be heard. I tried to calm myself, but I couldn't. My mind was bursting with questions that needed to be answered. "Alright," said a deep voiced member of the Brotherhood. "I think that's all of them... let's get moving." As the footsteps subsided, I attempted to open the door back up, but then I noticed something that I completely missed before.

A New Clue?:

I had been in such shock, I hadn't bothered to look around at the room. A lopsided window hung in the corner of the small area and bathed in the sunlight was a big table situated in the center of the room. Filing cabinets leaned awkwardly against the walls and documents seemed to be everywhere. I looked in one of the filing cabinets and curiously took out a file. It read; "Talon, There was a disruption the other day at Fort Hazel. Our night troops reported strange noises and soon found spies surrounding the area. These spies bared the S.S.C insignia and ere able to evade capture after a long struggle through the woods. My team is meeting with our troops tomorrow to discuss further details of the situation. I realize that under most circumstances, you would be uninterested in S.S.C behaviorisms, but my troops insist that the identities of these spies will interest you. Please attend our meeting at Pearl Tree at 7:00 tomorrow. Signed, Cody". Now shutting the folder; I realized that this filing cabinet and the documents inside of it, used to be owned by THEM! It made no sense to me. Why would the Brotherhood of Death have left this room unchanged? Then it hit me. The Brotherhood had never found it at all! I was in a room that had remained untouched for years! I looked in the cabinet some more and found a file labeled "S.S.C". Being careful not to make any creaking noise; I took the file out of the rusted cabinet and opened it, but to my surprise, there was nothing inside! I checked the other cabinet but all the papers about the S.S.C were once again gone! "This is strange," I thought to myself. As I walked away, my foot hit something which quickly flew to the other end of the room. Walking towards the rusted metallic object, I began to recognize it as a lock. After inspecting it closely, I realized that it was the same lock that used to sit on the school basement's door... until it vanished. "What is this doing here?" I wondered. After waiting a while, I thought it was safe enough to leave the room. When I got out, there was no-one in sight. Downed soldiers had clearly been dragged to another area. I kept walking slowly until I saw a movement around the corner. As quick as a flash, three figures came rushing out! I braced myself for impact, but instead of getting pummeled, I heard someone whisper, "Stop!" I opened my eyes and to my relief, Tim, Commander Delta, and another elite S.S.C member were in front of me. "Brett you're okay!" Tim said; sounding relieved. "What happened?" I asked. Before Tim could speak, Commander Delta cut in and said, "What happened, was that because of YOU, almost all of our team has been captured!" Even though it was an insult, I knew he was right. This was all my fault. "We can't be pointing fingers yet," Tim said. "When we hid behind some hay, we saw the Brotherhood of Death drag our members upstairs." "Then we need to rescue them soon!" I said with determination. "Lets hurry," Tim said. "Or our teammates will be in big trouble."

Missing Friends:

It was hard for me to believe that George could be gone. Maybe even dead. None of us had any idea what the Brotherhood was capable of, but I tried not to think negative. I had to have some hope. We made it to the small staircase leading upstairs. It seemed older than the entire place, and very unstable. "Why does a barn even need a staircase?" I asked Tim as we gently ascended. "This entire place is a mystery to me Brett," Tim replied. "I can only assume there were building errors or that this was added by THEM during it's early years." We walked up one by one in hopes that it wouldn't collapse. Things seemed even more unstable upstairs. The walls had big holes in them, even the floor had a few chunks taken out of it, revealing multiple peep-holes to the first floor. The Brotherhood could have easily watched us from above without us ever knowing. As we kept navigating through the hay, more and more signs that the Brotherhood of Death was staying here began to appear. Things like candy wrappers and shoes were scattered around, but there was no sign of our team. "You think James is here?" I asked Tim hesitantly. "I can only hope not," Tim replied. He sounded like he was going to say more, but stopped himself. We were about to go around another corner when Commander Delta held us back. Now peering around, we noted a Brotherhood of Death member standing in the middle on the room; illuminated by the sun peering in through some of the missing wall chunks. He stood tall and carried with him a version of our E-sticks, this one barring a skull and crossbones. Without hesitating, Tim jumped out and tackled him. Delta covered up his mouth so he couldn't yell as I was just standing alone; feeling unimportant. Tim and Delta now dragged him against the wall as quietly as possible. "Where is our team?" Tim demanded. "Like I'd ever tell you," the guard snorted as the elite soldier stood at the ready to cover his mouth should the enemy attempt to call out to others. Commander Delta whipped out one of his E-sticks and threatened to hit him with it. The kid finally spoke up; trying not to sound nervous. "Fine, fine. They have been taken to the chicken loft nearby." Tim's face lit up with worry. "What is the chicken loft?" I asked." Tim spoke up, "It is the area of the barn that has an open wall that chickens would used to go into." Commander Delta seemed to understand the situation and said, "They might push them off the edge if we don't hurry!" Our elite trooper stayed behind to watch the guard as we began running towards the chicken loft, thankfully receiving no further disruptions. When we reached our destination, the three of us peeked around the corner and saw all of our members being guarded closely by the Brotherhood of Death as their arms and legs were bound. I looked closely. Tye was there, but George was missing! I was now glad that George had told Samantha to stay behind. As I looked over, I saw in horror that George was tied up and now at the feet of Rick! Rick began to speak with another member. "What should we to do them?" the trooper asked. Rick seemed confused as of what would be a good idea. "I don't know," Rick stated; looking briefly at his prisoners. "But we need to figure out something soon, or we will be in big trouble." I started to get angry at Rick. He had to be stopped. But what he did next was the last straw. Rick turned to George and kicked him hard in the gut. "I guess we will have to put them in imprisonment. James will then decide their fate. Except for this one... I'd like a moment with this one." I couldn't take it anymore, I busted the door open before any of my companions could stop me. I ran straight for Rick. Tim was yelling something now, but I couldn't hear him. I was to angry to listen. Acting quickly, I kicked Rick in the side and then in the stomach. Some of the Brotherhood of Death troopers ran at me, while the other ones continued to guard our awakening team. Before long, Tim and Delta ran in to help me. The battle had begun.

The Battle:

Before I even knew what was happening, Tim and Delta got the enemies off of me and it was just Rick and I. Rick seemed surprised to see me, but that didn't slow him down. With lightning fast speed, my foe punched me in my face and began to choke me. Pain surged through my body. "You are strong," Rick said. "But you need to know how to use your strength in order to master it." Rick then kicked me against some hay and started walking towards George. Before I could stand, he picked George up and dangled him over the side of the barn. "If you want your friend to make it out of this, then you'd better give up and call off those friends of yours!" he yelled. I stopped immediately, there was no way I would put my own apprentice in jeopardy. Just when I thought all was lost, Commander Delta jumped at Rick! Our enemy immediately dropped George off the edge but Delta dove back and caught him just in time before hulling him back up with some great effort. When George was safe again, Rick leaped at Delta and kicked him in the chin. Delta tried to react, but he was tripped and fell on the floor. Now being cornered, Delta twisted Rick's leg and hit him twice with an E-stick. Rick was getting angrier and angrier by the second. With one punch, he knocked Delta out cold. I jumped at Rick one last time and got him in a headlock. As I was doing so, I punched him in the stomach multiple times. Rick began to struggle to be freed from my grasp, but it was of no use. I swung Rick over the edge of the barn and he began to fall. Before the plummet could continue, he grabbed onto the edge and yelled for help. I looked down at him. I could let him fall, I could let him suffer for nearly killing my best friend, I could end Rick's terror right there and then and send a message to the Brotherhood that they wouldn't soon forget... but that wasn't my style. I hesitantly helped him up and wrapped him up in some hay ropes. Rick was speechless. Thankfully, by the time this battle had come to a close, Tim and the leftover elite S.S.C member were able to free the hostages and run the Brotherhood of Death out of the place. Commander Delta soon awoke with a start and approached the restrained Rick in a daze. "How many of you are there?" Delta asked. Rick stared at the floor without a response. "What are you planning?" Delta inquired. Rick said nothing. "You think you're gonna get out'a this without talking? Delta said as Tim approached. There was a silence. Finally, Rick spoke up. "I KNOW I'll get out of this without talking. Punish me however you like. Nothing will come close to the pain that James has in store for any traitor. You will all know that pain soon. It will break you." I looked at Tim for a moment, he stood in a worried silence. "Take him away," Delta stated to his troops. With that, Rick was gone.

The Last Message:

"I would like to thank every single S.S.C member we have for doing your very best to take over the Death Pit," Commander Delta said as today's meeting came to a close. "I would especially like to thank Brett Blakley for taking down Rick; a dangerous member that could have threatened our existence." I gave him a slight nod of respect. Delta knew when to admit he was wrong, and that's why he'd make an excellent leader one day. He continued, "But most of all. I would like to apologize for being so stubborn." Delta now looked up at me with some gratitude and I knew that he meant it. Everyone clapped and cheered. I had made the right decision after all... but then again, it wasn't my idea to begin with. With my thought now returning to Night Riser, I didn't hear much of the remaining speech as I soon found myself heading back home. When I got to my doorstep, I saw a new black envelope sitting promptly in my path. This one seemed different though, as if it were the strangest of all. An odd aura of foreboding shrouded the letter, leaving my shaking hand to reach for it gradually. It read; "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be forgotten? It's painful. But it will all be over soon. Signed, Night Riser". And for some some odd reason that I will never understand... I believed him.

The Truth

Things had been dreary since Night Riser's last note. The blue skies that were once hovering over all of the town were now replaced with gray skies and multiple rain showers. It seemed like everyone had been affected by the dreariness of the outside world. But no-one else was as bothered as me. Night Riser's last letter was very strange and cryptic. After my narrow escape in attacking the Death Pit, I was too worried about talking to the others about this. It could scare them pretty bad, especially if the information was leaked. I tried to trick myself into thinking it never happened, but it kept flowing through my head, day after day. "It will all be over soon"... what did he mean by that? Nothing seemed to make sense anymore; Machine's knife, part of Corruption's hood, missing S.S.C documents, it just didn't add up. I looked out the window in hopes that if I blinked a few times, the sky would brighten up and all of this mystery wouldn't be a problem anymore. But as I opened my eyes, the same colorless sky was still hovering above everything around me. I sat down and sighed, nothing was going to change. Perhaps this is how Tim had felt when he was to afraid to come clean about James. As I began to fade away into my own little dream-land where everything made sense, a loud ring of the phone seemed to destroy all of the tranquility I had left. I answered and found that it was Tim. Before I could speak, Tim began speaking loudly. "Did you hear what's been happening?" he asked. I answered quickly, "What? Is it about Blade?" Tim paused for a moment and said, "Maybe, but it seems unlikely." Tim continued, "Three S.S.C members have went into the small forested area to get a look at Specter's Tree and decide whether or not to make it a base of operations again." "And?" I asked; starting to get interested. Tim sighed and spoke up. "They have all went missing," he said. "Every last one of them." I was pretty shocked. Specter's Tree was a pretty safe place. Tim started talking again, "I need you to meet up with me, George, Tye, and Samantha. We will figure out what's going on in there before it becomes even more of a problem. If we're lucky, it'll just turn out that they all got lost somehow. I know the path better than anyone, so I'll lead it." Tim then proceeded to give me the time and the coordinates in a calm and collected manner, but by the tone of his voice, I knew that we were both worried about what lied ahead.

Specter's Tree:

I had never been to Specter's Tree before, but many S.S.C member's had heard of it. It was an old tree that many S.S.C members used to go to for meetings. The area was originally owned by THEM forces before it was abandoned and taken over by the S.S.C for a short period of time; where it earned it's name. One thing I knew even more about Specter's Tree and it's surrounding forest was the stories that revolved around it. Tales of S.S.C squads which journeyed inside and never returned and other tales of ghostly figures standing vigil in thorn bushes were among the popular old tales. Perhaps it is for these reasons that the S.S.C eventually abandoned it as well, leaving it empty to this day. Specter's Tree was located at the center of a small forested area that was pretty close to the school. Long networks of fake paths kept unwanted visitors at bay. I kept looking up in the sky, I thought that it was going to pour down rain any second. I saw George and Tye in the distance, they seemed relieved that I had stopped by. "Am I the last one here?" I asked as I approached them. "Tim still hasn't shown up yet," Samantha said quickly. I had learned to get used to Tim's lateness. It was his own way of making a grand entrance. The clouds above us continued to grow bigger and more at the ready to pour down rain as they swelled. Tim finally showed up and started to lead the way; all without saying a word. It was almost as if he felt we were being watched. The trees seemed to block all outside noises. If it was raining, there was no way for us to tell. Things got dark and eerie as we got farther into the trail. At times, I thought I could hear whispers and footsteps behind us, but there was never anything there. "For an old S.S.C meeting place, this is kind- of creepy," Tye remarked hesitantly. Hearing the word creepy made Samantha huddle up next to George for protection. I just rolled my eyes along with Tim and kept going. Strange shadows started to cover the ground until the path seemed like nothing but a shadow itself. Even though I would never admit it to the others, this place did give me the creeps sometimes. "Maybe the S.S.C members just got lost?" George said, breaking the tension. "That's unlikely," Tim replied. "This area isn't as big as it looks, and the paths that lead to the center are relatively easy to follow as long as you know what you are doing." I had to disagree. We seemed to be walking forever. Eventually, we made it to a fork in the path. Both paths seemed to end in infinite darkness, except one of them bared a professional-looking sign stating; Do Not Enter, Path Incomplete. Tye already started heading for the clear path, but Tim stopped him. "This is where enemies would make their mistake," Tim said. He led us past the warning sign and instructed us to go around a huge fallen tree in the way. "Specter's Tree is not to far from here," Tim whispered as if he didn't want to startle anything. As we got to a corner, a chill went up my spine. Tim seemed to feel it too, but George seemed to preoccupied with protecting Samantha to feel anything. We came around the corner slowly and saw a large tree in the center of the lost path. I stared at it in amazement. The tree seemed so old and wonderful compared to all the other dark and rotting shrubs. Sun gleamed down through the leaves, and wind whipped around us. I was so caught up in looking at the amazing relic, that I didn't notice what everyone else had their eyes on. Because standing in front of the tree, gazing up at it's splendor, was a figure dressed in black. No-one moved or said a word, but without looking back, the figure spoke up in a voice that sent an even larger chill up my spine. "It's about time you got here," the figure said softly. "I was getting worried you might miss the ending."

Night Riser's True identity:

Everyone seemed to shocked to move. I looked over at George and Samantha, they didn't move a muscle. Tye seemed to be partially hiding behind a shrub. I then looked over at Tim. His face was different from the others. Tim seemed confused and surprised instead of scared. I tried to speak up, but found myself without words. Tim broke the silence at last. "Who are you?" Tim asked hesitantly. The figure straightened up, but continued his gaze at the tree. The dark figure spoke again. "You've forgotten a lot of things Tim," he said. "Your old friends, your old missions, your old enemies. But did you really forget... about your own apprentice?" The figure finally turned around, revealing a tanned face speckled with scars of varying ages and verities, which circled around his darkened eyes which, in turn, sat just below his coal-black hair. I had never seen him before, but as I looked at Tim, all I saw was a look as if he'd been stabbed in the heart. Tim summoned up his strength and said in a shaky voice, "N-Nick?"

The Truth Behind It All:

"Who is Nick?" I asked frantically. "What is going on?" The figure now spoke up again. "Oh, you mean he never told you?" the figure named Nick seemed amused. "It is hardly a surprise. Tim cannot trust anyone now can he? You see, I... was Tim's apprentice." I now froze up like everyone else. I looked at Tim again. "That is impossible," I stated; trying to reassure myself. "I am Tim's apprentice. I always have been. Isn't that right Tim?" Tim didn't speak, he didn't even look at me. Anger flowed through me. I started to yell, "Is it true or not, Tim?" Tim cleared his throat. "Nick... was my apprentice," he said, practically gasping to even finish the sentence. I couldn't believe what I had just heard. I had thought that Tim had finally come clean about his past life, but I was dead wrong. "But... this makes no sense," I stated at last. Nick talked again. "And that is why I am here," he said with a bow. "To tell you the whole story. You deserve that much," he said. "It all goes back to the beginning. I was Tim's apprentice." Nick looked to Tim now and spoke. "You trained me and became my good friend," he said. "Everything was fine then. There were no hard feelings, no major problems, no worries in the world. I woke up every morning, feeling the pains and aches of spars and rigorous training. I could hardly walk, the training and the manual labor was next to impossible. But I still came to train, I still came to fight. I believed that Tim held the key to my future. I fought through that pain because I believed in Tim and he made me believe in myself." Nick paused for a moment before saying, "After all of that training and hard work I was put through, after all I had done... you let me down Tim. You refused to let me fight Machine... the mission I was most anxious to do. I wanted to become a hero... I wanted to save others, not cower in front of them... but you just left me there; wanting to help, but knowing that you didn't trust me to. So I came up with a plan. If you weren't with me Tim, then you were against me. I was able to find Machine and convince him into making me his apprentice. I already had the strength and hatred he saw fit. Machine agreed to tell you that he had killed me... and that I was never coming back. Over the years, Machine trained me and I rose in rank by the day. Soon, I became more powerful than Machine could have ever thought. I ordered him to give me his precious knife. It instilled the fear that I wished to spread. I became so powerful, that I was permitted to consult with Corruption himself. It is there that my plans truly took off. I convinced Corruption that he was so strong, that he could take on Brett without any guards. Corruption went off to defeat you with Machine, but he eventually told Machine to leave after he remembered my words. Once you defeated Corruption; as was my plan, I took immediate control of THEM and brought the entire organization into hiding until we could strike again." Tim clenched his fists and George puffed out his chest. We could tell where this was going. "I then started to go by the name of Night Riser," Nick stated. "I sent Brett messages about how to find the Brotherhood of Death's plans and when to attack their hideouts. But at the same time, I sent the Brotherhood of Death messages instructing them to be prepared for George's plan against Rick as well as how to take out an entire S.S.C unit without making a sound. The documents I found in the Death Pit and the unguarded documents Brett was supposed to be watching helped these methods along perfectly. To keep you from finding out the truth, I left clues that would distract you long enough for me to get a hold of your secret information, thus I planted Corruption's hood in the school basement. I figured that the S.S.C and the Brotherhood of Death would fight each other so fiercely and so equally, that when everyone was weakened and standing on their last leg,THEM could rise once again and chop down whatever was left. Only then would I finally get my revenge and take over the school... and soon... beyond the school! Just imagine. Once THEM rules without questions, our methodology and practices will spread like a virus. Soon other schools will pick up from where we began. The entire country will be littered with THEM. Our silent hand will guide the students as we see fit!" Tim had his mouth hanging open. I could tell that the truth had hurt him badly. Hurt him more than any punch in his history as a fighter. There was only one thing to do, and that was stop Nick. "In the time it has taken me to explain all this, the Brotherhood of Death has already followed my anonymous orders and are waiting outside of your headquarters right now, waiting for my message to come through. I have provided the perfect distraction, and the ultimate plan at revenge.Don't you see Tim? You, Brett, the S.S.C, The Brotherhood of Death, James; you're all just puppets in my master plan. And oh how simple it was to surround you with my spies and false clues. You ate it up." "Nick," pleaded Tim. "Don't do this." I had never seen Tim begg before, but now it had met my eyes. Tim was in utter despair. Nick only offered a laugh as he took out a walky-talkie and spoke into it loud and clear; "Begin the attack."

Aftermath:

Before we knew it, Tim began to receive calls on his walky-talkie, which faded in and out like ghostly voices, screaming in the distance. "We are under attack!" "Please help us!" "The Brotherhood of Death is here!" Immediately, George, Tye, and Samantha all sprinted out the way we had come. They had to help. I looked back at Night Riser, expecting him to be charging at us, but he had vanished. Then it was just Tim and I. Alone. It was so quiet. So hopeless. Tim tried to speak, but couldn't manage it. Before I could say a thing, Tim ran off, leaving his walky-talkie behind him. I was now all alone. I finally got the answer I was looking for... the answer I had spent all this time trying to uncover, but I still felt empty inside. George had been right the entire time. If I wouldn't have gotten so carried away in the Corruption mystery, then maybe I could have discovered the truth sooner. This was all my fault. All this time I was walking right into Night Riser's trap. I sat down next to Specter's Tree. How could Tim have never told me this? What did he hope to gain from not telling me? I stood up with some new hope. I wasn't going to let Tim get away with this. I was going to track him down and find out why he didn't tell me, no matter what. The battle between the S.S.C and the Brotherhood needed to go on without us. We had to come up with a plan... and fast. 

War:

Meanwhile, George, Tye, and Samantha were heading into the thick of a battle they knew they could not win. The S.S.C and the Brotherhood were now engaged in a huge, all-out war. There were people everywhere. It was nearly impossible to tell anyone apart. Deep down inside, the trio knew that THEM lurked in the distance, waiting to bring the hammer down on everyone. All they could do now, was fight. George stayed behind with Samantha for a moment. Even though she knew how to fight, George didn't want to lose her. The falter was of no use though, they were immediately jumped by five attackers. George punched one in the face and tripped the other one. Samantha then stepped on the fallen attacker and kicked the other in the jaw. Tye was surrounded as soon as he broke through the front line. The apprentice was accompanied by a few regular soldiers and briefly managed to push back the enemy. The group kept punching their way through the crowds as they made it towards the back. Tye's soldiers were taken down one by one around him. Acting quickly and remembering his training, Tye picked up an attacker and threw him into four others. The S.S.C members didn't stand a chance out here. They had never fought against this many foes at once. Tye then saw George and Samantha in the distance, being taken down just as quickly. "This isn't going to be easy!" George yelled as he kneed a kid in the stomach. "But we can't back down, we must keep fighting," Samantha replied with some hope. George was immediately hit hard in the side and thrown down to the ground. Tye jumped in to help, but was quickly pushed down along with George. Samantha was left standing. She hit one in the face and pushed him into the incoming legions. Tye was stepped on from all directions and although George tried to help, Tye was knocked out within seconds. Ignoring the punches to his back, George stood up and hit a kid hard in the face. Only then did he hear the cry. The cry of another force approaching. Gazing into the distance, the S.S.C and the Brotherhood could only watch as a wall of THEM troops advanced in their direction. As George was about to speak to Samantha again, she was tackled from his side to the ground. As the attackers got off of her, George could tell that she was falling into unconsciousness. Now growing angry, George began punching all of the attackers in the face, showing no bias to either side. George immediately punched one in the stomach as the other attacker was able to get a hold of George's arm and twist it. George yelled out in pain and let out a final punch to the kid he was headbutting. George continued to stand his ground despite the pain in his arm. He charged at the kid but was strangled and thrown against a tree. Before George could move, a horde of attackers kicked George further into the tree and finished him off with pounds to the head. George tried to keep his eyes from drooping, but his body wouldn't let him. The last sounds he heard were the fading cries of his comrades.

The Lost Story:

The sky was pitch black. Only the light of the stars and the dull shine of the moon lit the path I was walking down. I wanted so desperately to run, to sprint and find Tim so that we could put an end to all of this quickly, but I realized such energy would only throw Tim further into this new depression. I knew Tim well enough to know where he would go after a confrontation like that. Whenever Tim was down, he would go to the old park and sit under a certain tree he seemed to like. When I got there, I found that I was right. Tim sat there under the tree and seemed so silent. I sat by him and looked up into the starry sky above. "Why?" I finally managed to ask. "Why didn't you ever tell me about Nick?" Tim didn't respond at first. He once again seemed to be in another world. "I'm sorry Brett," Tim mumbled at last. "I just..." his voice trailed off. He started to speak again. "I thought he was really dead," Tim continued. "I thought that because of me, a life had been lost. That is why I always gave you what wanted." I gave a confused look before Tim continued, "I let you fight Machine quickly, I let you battle anyone you wished, I didn't want to return to you because I was afraid I'd get in your way. I was too afraid to lose another apprentice... I was blinded by what I thought you needed to stay happy." Tim looked back down at his feet and said, "It seems like all of my old friends are against me now. It's to much... it's to much. I can't take them both down... I couldn't bring myself to do that." I continued to look at him, "What should we do?" I asked. Tim paused and seemed to be in deep thought. A branch above us rocked about, due to the wind. The noise seemed to instill some hope in my master. Tim stood up as he spoke. "We cannot let our comrades fall just because of my old demons. So I guess there is only one thing to do," he said. "Fight back."

Demons

We all knew what we had to do. Everyone mattered in this final plan. It what sort of an unspoken plan. No words were necessary in order to understand what needed to be done. There were brief plans discussed, but overall everything revolved around hope and confidence in the abilities that had gotten us this far. But if something went wrong, anything, it could spell a swift ending to everything we fought for. Storms were scheduled to come by soon. I hoped that this entire war would be over before the storm even got a chance to come by. The fighting seemed so different from what I was used to. Don't get me wrong, it was still just punches and pain out there, but there was a silence to it all. As I watched over the battle from above, all I could hear were mumbles occasional cries. I was too far away to see in great detail, but I knew we were not in good shape. I wasn't in the battle, I was on the outskirts of the Death Pit, hoping that I could catch Night Riser if he came this way. I wanted to help my troops fight, but I could not risk being wounded. Tim and I had reasoned that Night Riser had to pass through this field if he was moving from Specter's Tree to the battlefield. That is assuming he had not done so already. All I could do now was hope. Hope that Night Riser would appear. Hope that the war would end. Hope that George, Tye, and Samantha were alright. Hope that the S.S.C could recover from such disastrous effects. I worried about what I was going up against. Tim had trained Nick without mercy. Tim had not been afraid of losing an apprentice back then. Nick knew no mercy. He was only a shadow of his former self. Tim was tasked with an even tougher mission though. Tim was to meet up with his old friend James and put a stop to this war before more people got hurt. It wasn't much of a plan really. It seemed pathetic that the S.S.C had stooped so low in such a short period of time, but as Tim and I had agreed on before, this was something that we wouldn't give up on.

The Escape:

George woke up with a jolt. He tried to move his arms and legs, but found them to be tied up. He looked to his sides and saw Samantha and Tye also tied up. George began to panic as he struggled to recall what had happened. Eventually he recalled watching as his girlfriend and apprentice were knocked out and that he too had met a similar fate. George rested his head against the wall. He thought to himself for what seemed like eternity. He felt horrible. How could he have been knocked out so easily? Tye and Samantha eventually woke up around the same time. They remained in a steady state of silence as they remembered what had happened. George looked around and found that they were in a small room with no guards in sight. "Now is our chance to make our move," George quickly said to the others. Tye seemed amused. "How are we going to get untied genius?" he asked. George looked at the ropes they were tied up in. Their hands were procured in front of them, but the rope was much to tight to untie with ease. George then looked to his legs and found them to be very poorly bound. George quickly spoke up. "Samantha," he whispered. "I need you to untie the knots on my legs." Without saying a word, Samantha went straight to it as some brief footsteps met their ears before disappearing. Carefully, she began untying the loose knot. When George's legs were freed, he was slowly able to untie Samantha's feet and Tye's as well. Tye still wasn't happy. "What about our hands," he asked nervously. "They're still tied up." "Just go with it," George said as he was able to open the door. "We need to get out of here before they try and question us." George was the first one to leave the room. He quickly looked around but saw no-one. Most all fighters were still at war. George motioned for the others and they came out just as he had done. As the trio got to another door, they immediately heard voices and hid around a corner. They waited in silence, and listened. "With James at the Death Pit," one voice said. "It looks like Blade will be in command for now." "Think he can handle that kind of pressure?" another asked. "No idea," the first voice replied. "The war will be over soon. Blade just has to hold himself together and continue managing troop locations and captures. He already recognized the three prisoners from his brief run-in at the warehouse." George realized they had been captured by the Brotherhood of Death, not THEM. Though this was hardly a blessing. The two soldiers talked some more and then went silent. Just when George thought it was safe, the two soldiers came around the corner and reeled in surprise at the escaped prisoners. One was about to yell, but George quickly hit him upside the head with his bound-together hands, resulting in only a brief cry. The other soldier immediately kicked Tye in the stomach and hesitantly pushed Samantha out of the way. He came running at George and hit him in the stomach, not even thinking to call for help. George ignored the pain and kicked the soldier in the face just as he stumbled back. As the soldier tried to get up, George kicked him again, sending the soldier to the ground where Tye steadily held him. By now, the other soldier had gotten back-up. Five soldiers were all running at them at once. Tye ducked, missing an incoming fist. Now having a slight advantage, Tye head-butted the perpetrator in his face. Samantha was able to do the same thing before she was knocked down and nearly trampled by the hoard rushing at George. George quickly dashed into one soldier, causing him to knock down the one behind them. Before the troops could get back on their feet, Tye was able to kick them hard in the side, sending them toppling over each other like dominos. George was eventually hit hard in his back and then slugged harshly in the face. He felt himself swaying from nausea, but kept fighting. Tye kicked another attacker in the shoulder and pushed him against the wall, causing severe strain on his bound hands. With no time to react, Tye was quickly ambushed by two more attackers. Though succeeded in knocking one down with a kick to the shin, the other one began to choke him and elbow him in the forehead. As Tye yelled out in agony while sliding down to the floor, George was continually hit by multiple people surrounding him. In a final effort, he swung his arms in hope that he would hit something, but he found that he had simply became to slow, and that the figures around him were showing no signs of slowing. George was immediately struck in the back of his head, sending him down and into a world of blackness.

Found:

Back in the outskirts of the Death Pit, I continuously looked around for any sign of life. The only thing I could see was sky beginning to become sickly gray color. Every movement I made, I knew I had to be stealthy. As I have said before, Night Riser was no joke. He had been waiting years to get his revenge and power, and he wouldn't let me get in the way of either of those things. A chill went up my spine. Even though I couldn't see him, I knew Night Riser was there. "There is no use hiding," I called out, trying to keep the fear out of my voice. Nothing seemed to respond but the low sound of the wind as it hit my back. To my surprise, the silence was eventually broken. "Who's hiding?" Night Riser said as he came over a tall hill. "I was just making my big entrance." I could feel my heart thumping. He knew I was scared. I spoke up, "You didn't have to do all this you know. You could have trusted in Tim. You could have believed that he was making the right decision about you." I continued to talk, "Everything that Tim did for you, he did out of care. He was only trying to mold you into the S.S.C soldier he saw fit." The being once known as Nick, seemed to chuckle at this. He spoke up. "Brett," he said calmly, as if talking to a friend. "You and I aren't so different. You once craved power, just as I do now. You realized how using your anger could make you stronger... much stronger. Not just of the body, but of the mind. If you focus on what you want and refuse to take "no" for an answer, how can you lose?" I was getting angry. "No we aren't!" I yelled. Night Riser seemed just as amused as before. He spoke one more time, "Of course you are... I can see it in you. You wanted to be a hero. You wanted respect and power. Have you really achieved either of those things?" He must have saw the loom of confusion in my face, for he continued. "You hold meetings which relay the same information every single week. There is no more excitement, only the speaking of news that no one cares about. Does that sound like being a hero? Your commander of elite forces as well as your own apprentice didn't trust you in your attack on the Death Pit. Does that sound like respect? You share authority with Tim - a man who does nothing but lie and keep secrets from you. Does that sound like power? You. Have. Nothing." With those words, I finally lost it. Night Riser had lied, hurt people, and betrayed his own friends to get this power. And now he was telling me that I would do the same! I couldn't fight back the hatred I felt towards him. I forgot my fear and yelled as loud as I could, "We are nothing alike!" And I charged at him with all the speed I had.

The Fight Begins:

I ran up to Night Riser extremely fast with my fist raised high in the air, ready for the first punch. Night Riser seemed to see it all coming though. He grabbed hold of my hand and threw me harshly to the ground. He began to kick me in my head and step on my chest. Ignoring the pain an blocking a few blows with my forearms, I grabbed hold of Night Riser's leg and caused him to lose his balance long enough for me to stand. I lunged at him but Night Riser swiftly ducked and elbowed me in my neck as he lept easily aside. Gasping in pain, I still managed to tackle my foe again but only succeeded in getting hit harder in the nose. Night Riser summoned up his energy and kicked me hard in the stomach, followed by a strong hit to my back as I twisted violently to the left. My anger began to swell up some more. Quickly, I shook off the pain and twisted Night Riser's arm before punching my foe hard in the face. Night Riser stumbled back smiling as a fair amount of blood dripped from his mouth. He knew that he still had the upper hand. Now stopping his incoming lunge, I began to elbow him in the face, but Night Riser continued to block these hits and head-butt me with ease. Truly he had been training for this moment and his fighting styles were incredibly similar to both Tim's and Machine's making for a deadly combination of speed and power. Night Riser began to advance on me now and strangled me for a short while, until I got loose. Not losing any of his speed, Night Riser ran up to me as I staggered backwards and managed to wrap his arms around my head once more, putting me in a tight headlock. I could do nothing now but wince in pain as he began to repetitively pound me in the face with his spare arm. My nose began to bleed, but I freed myself just before he could throw a sixth punch at me. With few options left in such close range combat, I began attempted to push him down as use the spare time to catch my breath. Night Riser continued to try to throw me back, but I wouldn't let him. As I was about to corner him against a lone tree, he kicked me hard in the stomach, waited for me to stumble back, and jumped at me. While still in mid-air, he hit me in the neck and the resulting fall sprained my left leg immediately as I stepped into an unnoticeable groove nearby. I staggered back to my feet and proceeded to cry out in pain as I jabbed Night Riser briefly in the chest. Night Riser only snickered as he lunged at me again with both hands raised high. Before he could cause more damage, I grabbed both of his hands. Now we began to try to push each-other to the ground by distributing our weight forward, but we seemed equally matched, one stumble and he would win. As we continued to cancel out each other's energy, Night Riser began to talk some more. "Do you really think you can beat me?" He asked with a grin. "I was Tim's first apprentice. He taught me moves that you were too weak to learn. I have learned every major THEM members fighting style as well. You are crazy to think you can beat me!" I wasn't giving up, but Night Riser was starting to overpower me as my arms grew increasingly tired. I tried desperately not to show it. "There's something good about being crazy," I said; out of breath. "You never know what to expect next." Upon saying that, I used my remaining strength to twist both of our arms behind us before kicking the surprised Night Riser in the back while maintaining my grasp of his hands. And with a sudden lurching hop backwards, landed on top of the being once called Nick.

Deadly Meeting:

Meanwhile, George woke up once again, but this time he heard talking all around him. He didn't want to open his eyes. As far as he was concerned, he had failed the S.S.C. Samantha nudged him and he gently opened his eyes. To his surprise, Tye was awake too - looking at his master in hopes that he had another plan. George looked back at his tied up hands and feet. They were both tied as tightly as possible, and their hands were behind their backs now. There was no escape this time. There were beat-up guards surrounding them, each one looking at George and his friends in disdain. Even though they were trapped, George felt a small amount of happiness, knowing that he at least put up a fight. The door eventually opened and all Brotherhood of Death members stiffened up before silencing themselves. Blade had just walked into the room looking as if he had just had rocks thrown at him from all directions. He got behind a make-shift desk and spoke to one of the soldiers. "What is the status on the war?" he asked, placing his head in his hands. "Not good," the trooper to his left replied. "We are far too outnumbered now." "How did you get such a large army?" Blade demanded as he looked towards the three of us. George was confused, the S.S.C barely brought an army at all. It then hit him. Blade and the others didn't yet know that THEM had returned and had entered the fray. It shouldn't have been a surprise really. When you are in the heat of battle, these details tend to be overlooked. Everyone was only concerned with fighting now. George paused for a moment. He had an idea, but it was a crazy one. Then again, most of his plans were. George sighed, he had to try. "We've all been tricked," George said honestly. "All this time, the S.S.C and the Brotherhood of Death have been getting messages from a person calling himself Night Riser." Blade's eyes lit up. He knew what George was talking about, it was most likely him and Rick who had received Night Riser's messages in the first place. George continued, "Night Riser has been sending us both information on how and when to attack and counter each other. His plan was to get us to weaken each other... and he succeeded. He is now coming back with THEM at his side and if we don't do something, they will destroy us both." Blade stared at George, expecting more. "What's your point?" he demanded at last. George took a deep breath. "As it stands, there is no way for either of us to win this war, Nick has already damaged the both of us well enough to know that. But if we want to stop playing the parts of pawns, we'll do something that even he won't see coming. The S.S.C and the Brotherhood of Death need to work together." Everyone in the room laughed simultaneously as if it were the greatest joke they had ever heard. George spoke up. "I am serious," he stated, over the laughter. "If we don't do this, then both of our organizations will perish for good. THEM has more training, more strength, and more soldiers than any of us alone. But if we combine, if we work together for just this one day... we can make a difference." Blade had stopped laughing. He seemed to be in deep thought now. The soldiers surrounding them still smirked at the insane plot. Samantha cut in. "It is your decision. We can't do anything to stop you now. Whatever you decide, will be completely of your own choice. Just be prepared to face the repercussions of your actions." Tye nodded silently as Blade looked them all in the eye. Now in deep thought, the other soldiers paused and mumbles amongst themselves. In a distant room, we all heard the faint voice of a Brotherhood of Death soldier trying to call in for help in the battle. Finally, the temporary leader took a deep sigh and removed a walky-talkie from his waist. Blade hesitated a moment, but put it back up to his mouth with seemingly trembling hands. He spoke slowly and clearly. "Attention all Brotherhood of Death members," he stated. "Today... we fight along-side the S.S.C. I need every single one of you to help the S.S.C take down a new threat, THEM. After all this fighting, all this hurting, all this suffering; today... we help."

The Fight Continues:

With Night Riser under me now, I elbowed him in the back and then in the head. Night Riser began to roll over and did the same thing to me, now replacing his casual grin with angry glares and gritting teeth. Once I tried to roll again, we immediately went tumbling down the aging cornfield. As we rolled, large pointed pieces of cut-down corn stabbed at our backs and arms - ripping our shirts and causing us to bleed profusely as some stalks remained stuck in our flesh, but refraining from going to deep. When we reached the bottom, Night Riser let go and backed away as he attempted to catch his breath a rib a few stalks from his body. I tried to get up, but I couldn't. I just stared up at the sky. It was much darker now. The clouds looked as if all the rain they had been storing, was finally going to be released soon. Night Riser kicked me once again in the side just as a large gust of wind carried my blood a few feet behind me. Night Riser looked down at me, laughing. Things started to get blurry. Every time I blinked, there seemed to be more of him. Everything was becoming dark, but I couldn't tell if it was the sky or my eyes. Night Riser kicked me again and I rolled into some more prickly corn stalks. Things got even more blurry, a blackout was imminent. I started seeing flashbacks of my friends and all that we had been through. The high times and the low times. I remembered my fights with Machine, my battles with Eliminator, my encounters with Jack, the showdown with Corruption, the defeat of Darkness. It was all there in my memories. The memories of friends, enemies, and family. It was all peaceful in some way. As I tried to move my body, the rain finally hurtled down at us. I could tell it was going to be a huge storm. The wind was picking up and distant cracks of thunder echoed through my head, but I couldn't give in. It occurred to me that I had been fighting all this time with anger, but that was all going to stop now. I felt another sharp kick to my head followed by a strong punch to the face. I fought away the darkness that was shrouding my vision and stood. Quickly, I kicked Night Riser in the face. Before he could react, I offered two swift jabs to the chest. The rain continued to come down harder. He grabbed my head and kneed me in my face aggressively as I started to black out again and the world spiraled awkwardly around me, constantly offsetting by sense of balance. More blood was dripping from my face and back. He was getting too strong for me, but I could be stronger. Fighting the pain, I continued to hit Night Riser in the stomach and was able to pick my enemy up. Night Riser started to yell, but I didn't care. I threw Night Riser into the ground, causing him to be stabbed in the back by the shards of corn stalks. "You can't stop me!" he shouted while crawling backwards on the muddy ground. "You are too weak, to powerless." I now stood above Night Riser and held him down with my foot. "Strength and power blind those who don't know how to use it," I stated. "But there's always one thing I can count on... control." Upon saying that, I finished Night Riser off with a clean swing to the head. Night Riser was knocked out. Now it was up to Tim to finish the rest.

Old Friend:

Tim approached the Death Pit with the rain as his only companion. The sky seemed pitch black even though night had yet to fall. Everything was dimming. Even though Tim and James didn't arrange to meet each-other, Tim knew where to find him, James realized that as well. Tim eventually found the crippled old building, swaying in the wind. Tim would try to make peace with James, but he doubted it would work. James didn't really care about the war or his soldiers. All he cared about was getting his revenge. Tim got to the entrance of the building and lightly opened the door. Inside, standing a few feet away, was James. "You're late," James stated harshly in a grizzled voice that hardly sounded like the James he once knew. Tim stopped and spoke with all his courage, "Just my style." "I've been waiting a long time for this Tim," James said calmly. "You realize that don't you?" James was facing the wall. Tim changed the subject. "James it doesn't have too-" "Quiet Tim!" James interrupted in a roar as he peered slightly over his shoulder; revealing the good half of his face. "I know your strategy. You think you can just talk to me and I will learn my lesson and come running back to you like nothing ever happened?" James finally turned around. The side of his face which had been badly scarred was now wrapped up in ominous blood stained bandages. "THIS happened," James uttered as he pointed to the bandages. Before Tim could say another word, James removed a hidden E-stick from his side, which he proceeded to slug Tim in the face with. The final battle had begun.

Final Showdown:

The rain was hitting the roof of the building hard. Everything was creaking and shaking around them. Tim missed a few punches and tried to hit James in the forehead, but the swift enemy grabbed his fist and nearly broke it by kicking Tim's arm back at him. Tim took out his own E-stick and the two of them clashed. James spun his E-stick and quickly hit Tim's face again, leaving a bright red mark which stung with a distinguished pain. Tim blocked a few moves before he was able to hit James's leg. As Tim was about to swing his E-stick hard on James's temple, the foe held his E-stick up in the air and blocked it. Now countered, Tim was thrown to the wall by a harsh kick to the gut. The entire place shook. James got ready to slug him again, but Tim kicked the E-stick out of his hands with masterful precision. This victory was short lived, James did the same thing to Tim's weapon and the fight continued without them. James quickly jabbed Tim in the jaw causing Tim's mouth to drip with blood, before James began to choke him fiercely. As Tim tried to free himself, James spun around and threw Tim into yet another wall. Part of the ceiling fell on Tim's hand, causing tremendous pain and splintering down the back of his neck. James showed no sign of slowing down. He kicked Tim in his face and pushed him to the cold and unforgiving ground. Tim was able to kick James in the stomach as he was down before hurriedly tackling James to the floor. Tim realized how angry James was getting. James's face was frozen in a permanent scowl and his eyes remained cold and distant, yet hot with anger. He wasn't going to give up until Tim was dead. The hatred was that strong, and James had nothing more to lose. Tim hit James hard in the shoulder and stepped on his leg as he got up. Not to be outdone, James was able to quickly roll out of the way and tear a large piece of wood off the building's interior. Without even looking back, James swung the sharpened fragment at Tim, causing a major cut on his stomach. James struck Tim again with the sharp board, causing another painful gash on his chest and ripping his shirt considerably. Tim dodged another swing but was quickly stabbed in the back in the process. Tim now fell to the ground gasping for air. He couldn't seem to find any. James hovered over him and pushed him to the ground. "You are weaker than I thought," James mused. Tim tried to move, but was quickly picked up and thrown once again into the wall. By then, James picked up his E-stick and began to whack Tim in the face. Blood was dripping from his mouth. This was not about fighting, this was about torture. Tim couldn't take much more. James swung again, but Tim used all his strength to catch the weapon and use his knee to suddenly break it in half in one smooth motion. Tim's heart was pounding. He could feel his body giving up on him. James threw the broken stick to the floor and picked Tim up by his shirt. "Getting tired?" James said as he threw Tim into the wall again. "I am just getting started," Tim lied, hoping James would believe it. Tim, now shaking all over, stood up as the two head-butted each-other simultaneously to avoid another hit to the body. Tim took advantage of this free moment and punched James in his shoulder. Tim then began to hit him over and over in the face, finally causing the foe to stumble backwards as he tried to gain some kind of footing. The rain came down harder and leaks began to appear, sending random drops of rain hurtling into their eyes, randomly blocking vision occasionally. James tried once again to tear yet another board off the wall, but Tim busted it before he had a chance. Now thrown into a fit of rage, James dashed over to Tim and proceeded to knock him into the ground with his speed alone. Tim was losing his energy every second. James began to step on Tim's chest harder and harder. Tim tried to struggle, but James just kicked him in the jaw as he slowly distributed more of his weight into this concentrated area of Tim's chest. As James got closer to finishing off Tim for good, Tim was able to trip him, but sprain his leg badly as a result of the hard hit. James fell forward in shock and tore some of his bandages. Tim couldn't get up, his muscles were aching, his lungs couldn't grasp enough air. James was getting tired to, but not nearly as devastatingly. As Tim grasped at his side to ease the pain, James used this moment of weakness to take him by the shirt and drag him upstairs until the two eventually got to the second floor where James proceeded to throw Tim into the center of the chicken loft. Tim felt sharp splinters and the cold wind hit his face. He felt what he thought to be rain on his back, but it could only be blood. "So this is how it ends," James said with pride in his voice. "J-James... d-don't," Tim said in a whisper. James ignored Tim's words and began to kick him towards the edge. Cold rain began to hit Tim's face unforgivingly. All Tim could do was listen. He heard the wind raging and the rain pouring down. There was no-one there to help him. Tim was at the very edge now. It was almost over, his hand now hung like a rag doll's just over the side. Tim's head was spinning. He began to laugh softly as he remembered all the good times he had with his friends. His laughing soon turned to sobbing. Not with fear, but with joy and happiness at recalling such memories. He would never forget them. One last kick was all it took. Without a word, without hesitation, without looking back, James finished it. Tim began to fall.

Last Chance:

Tim wasn't quite sure what it was. What was keeping him from letting go and simply falling to a quick demise. But something was there. Just in the split second he had made this thought to survive, he grabbed onto the edge of the chicken loft and hung there hopelessly. More rain hit his back. The wind seemed to be trying its best to blow Tim away. Part of him wanted to be blown away, wanted to be free of all this pain. But he knew that wasn't his destiny. With all of his strength Tim flipped onto the ledge again and kicked James hard in the stomach. The incredibly surprised James, fell down as Tim was able to jump at him and punch him in the face in a grand twisting motion. James head-butted Tim, hit him in the head with his spare fist, and kneed him in the neck, but Tim wasn't giving up. While working James back with his constant movements, he threw James down the stairs, picked him up, and tossed him to the cold flooring. James arose and began to choke Tim again while kneeing him in the stomach and face. Tim fought through the pain and whipped him out of the way. James stood up and hit Tim in the face as hard as he could with the back of his hand, but Tim was un-detoured. James tried again and again, but Tim continued to fight back the pain. James tried one last, quick stroke of his fist... Tim caught it. Upon catching it, Tim began to push James back. Every step he took hurt. Every movement he made hurt, but he kept going. With the last of his power, Tim kneed James in the stomach, punched him in the face, avoided the on-coming fist, and head-butted James to the corner of the premises. Before James could move again, Tim grabbed hold of part of the sharply pointed E-stick and held it too James's neck. Tim was down on his knees now, only staying slightly more aware than James. He knew he pushed himself too hard. Any minute now, he would black out. He was running out of time. Tim positioned the pointed stick closer to James's neck. Any second now, Tim could finish off James right there. James spoke again, "Go ahead... do it... I know you can't... you know you can't." Tim was nearly doubling over in pain. Tears flooded his eyes. James continued to speak, "I know you can't kill your best friend." Tim spoke through his pain, "Y-you are not my friend, the James I once knew is long gone. Y-You have become a murderer and a power-hungry monster. The old James wasn't like that. The old James would have never stooped so low." James seemed to be getting angry. "Then do it!" he shouted as the muscles in his face bulged and stretched at the bandages. "Show me that I am no-longer your friend! Show me that you have the strength!" Tim looked at the stick and back at James. It was one way or the other. Kill James and end the possibilities of anyone getting hurt again. Or keep him alive, but risk that James would continue to hurt others. He chose.

Finished:

Tim dropped the stick and began to walk away. "What are you doing?" James yelled from behind. "Finish it! Are you even listening to me?" "You're not worth it," Tim said as he staggered closer to a corner. Then... it all happened so fast. Everything happened in such a blur, that it was nearly inconceivable. James had managed to pick up the broken stick and jumped at Tim, ready to stab him in the neck and finish it. But the split second before the attack could truly be carried out, Tim; sensing the situation at the last second, spun around and kicked James as hard as he could in mid-air. Time practically froze as all of Jame's forward power was halted and overcome by Tim's tremendously strong attack. Before Tim could even realize what was happening, James had already went flying backwards and hit the wall with a loud thud. Suddenly, the entire barn began to shake. Tim could tell that it had reached it's limit. Two snaps were heard in the distance and a larger one from upstairs sounded as well. Then it happened... the entire roof collapsed, bringing the second level of the floor down with it. James was immediately hit with a fallen section of the roof, crushing his legs immediately and pinning him to the floor. Tim looked into James's eyes. He was in pain, but tried so desperately not to show it. He tried so desperately to lie to himself that everything would be alright. Without hesitation, Tim reached out to his fallen friend, trying to haul him back up as more debris came tumbling down from the collapsing ceiling above them. James didn't take Tim's hand. He only sat there in shock, looking at Tim as if he were from another planet entirely. Perhaps he saw something in Tim which he hadn't seen for a long time, for it was then that James said two words. Two words that Tim seemed to be able to hear throughout all of the chaos around him. "I'm sorry." Immediatly, the entire place started to come down even harsher. Tim once again reached out to James, but instead of taking his hand, James leaned forward with all of his remaining strength in order to push Tim away, just as a large piece of the second floor fell just in front of Tim. James had just saved his life. More and more of the building began to fall and there was no time to look back. Tim ran as fast as he could, but the door was too far away. The falling ceiling was descending faster now as the first-floor walls began to give-way. Tim was cut by falling objects and was eventually hit hard in the head by an unknown object. He fell to the ground and stumbled to get up. The door seemed to be missing now. There was only one option left. He had to jump. Tim ran as fast as he could to a glass window that was already broken. With the rest of his strength and speed, Tim jumped out the window just before the whole place came down in a storm of wood chips, dust, and hay. The moment he landed on the ground, Tim blacked out.

The War's End:

I had arrived at the Death Pit just in time to see it all collapse. The look of horror on my face was indescribable. I saw Tim jump out of the window and black out. Even through my pain, I was able to carry him back to an S.S.C base and wait for him to get better. There were very few members around to help Tim heal, but eventually some elite troops with bruised up faces and cuts began to enter the premises. After what seemed to be countless hours of waiting, the war finally died down. I suppose even after the head of the war was defeated, you can always expect some movement from the rest of the body. I honestly don't recall much else that day except for the first words I got out of Tim once he had healed to some degree. "He's gone," was all he could say to me. "He's gone." We eventually met up with George, Tye, and Samantha, who looked just about as battered as us. "It is good to see familiar faces," George said with pleasure as he rubbed some left-over dirt from his elbow. "It looks like you did a great job," I said. Tim was starting to wake at this point and finally asked the question that was burning at the back of my mind. "But what happened?" Tim asked with some nausea. George explained. "To make a long story short," he said. "We worked together with the Brotherhood of Death. With all of us working as a unified force, we defeated THEM. I personally saw them run for the hills. It was really something ya know? asked skeptically. George grinned. "I saw the looks on their faces... and I saw the flames go out. And really... they've been out for some time now. THEM was never meant to last this long. The fires that started it died a long time ago. It was just the embers that needed to be put out." "Poetic," Tye mumbled with a laugh. George didn't allow us much time to smile. "We have a lot of injuries on our hands," George said solemnly. "I've already received over twenty resignations. Our forces simply were not prepared to enter a real fight such as this one. The S.S.C is practically destroyed. No way of sugar-coating it." It was distressing news. I was unsure what to say at first. Could I continue? Could I really build the S.S.C back to what it once was? I then looked around the room. Surrounding us was Commander Delta and his troops. They stood tall and strong. They refused to give up. We needed more members like them. Members who were no strangers to danger. Members who would still fight the good fight. Tim, George, Tye, Samantha, and I still had a lot of fight left in us, today's events had proven that. "We can't give in though," I said at last. "The S.S.C never quite. Right Tim?" Tim gave a slight grin. "Quite?" he reiterated. "Don't know the meaning of the word." "Then what are we waiting for?" said George as he wrapped his arm around Samantha's shoulder. "Lets get going." Tim propped himself up and began to limp towards the door. He was in no shape to move. "I'll catch up with you guys later," Tim said. "What for?" asked Samantha. Tim looked at us with pain still in his eyes before saying, "There is something I need to finish..."

Loose Ends:

Tim entered the S.S.C prison just in time to enter an interrogation room. Truly this building was hardly ever put to loose, but it now held a very special prisoner. Tim immediately gave orders that every guard exit the building for the time being. Now seemingly alone, Tim walked into one of the rooms. Slumped over a desk with hands and feet bound was none other than Nick. "Coming to gloat?" Nick asked; sensing Tim's presence. "Oh what am I talking about?" Nick answered to himself. "You are too good for that aren't you?" Tim found it difficult to find words and simply stated "All I ever did when you became my apprentice was treat you with the kindness and respect of a brother... and yet you betrayed us simply because I wouldn't allow you to go on a mission... now look at us..." A tear fell down Tim's face as Nick became enraged, "It wasn't just that!" he yelled; leaning forward and staring at Tim with fiery eyes. "You forgot all about me! You found a new apprentice practically a month after I was presumed dead, you left me with THEM as my brother, THEM as my only friend! My transition to THEM was never intended to be permanent. I couldn't have always had this plan concocted. But after watching you and seeing your reactions... seeing you turn your back on me, I couldn't do anything but loathe you EVERY day for what you did... or rather... what you didn't do!" Tim thought upon this for a moment as he dried more tears from his face. "Eric once... g-gave me a second chance..." Tim stuttered. "James did too. I've done terrible things and lost friends along the way... I don't want to lose you to." With that, Tim approached Nick, unbound him, and then handed over the broken E-stick to the very shocked Nick. "All the doors leading out of here are unlocked and unguarded," Tim promised. "If you can't find it in your heart to forgive me... then end your suffering now by ending me." With that, Tim closed his eyes and put his hands behind his back. Only silence could be heard as Tim made no movements of deception. He heard a slight fluttering noise, something quick and instantaneous. And then there was silence. Tim waited for a few moments. When he opened his eyes again, Nick was gone. On the table laid the E-stick.

The Ending:

After everything that had happened, most people would expect that things would go from bad to worse. But they would be wrong. THEM was finally destroyed for good and the Brotherhood of Death was in even worse shape. Blade had realized that the S.S.C was fighting for what was right and decided to quite the Brotherhood of Death and be a normal kid again. Without leadership, most Brotherhood of Death members quite. The ones that remained would be taken down by Commander Delta and his remaining elite S.S.C members. As time passed, Tim did heal from his external wounds, and returned to being his old charismatic self again. Granted, he was much more humble now. We continued to get more and more S.S.C members as time passed, but it would take a while before our organization was fully functional again. However, if we had kept the S.S.C alive and well for so many years, we could do it again. It is hard to explain, but if anything, I learned a lesson from the whole experience. That lesson was to never take for granted what you have. In truth, my life had become boring since the fate of Darkness, but now I realized where my place was, and I respected it. As for me and the others, we truly felt that for the first time in a long time, we were finally safe. All this evil was gone and the fighting was all over. We respected one-another, we cared for one-another, we fought for one-another. Maybe thats what being a hero truly is - respecting others and doing everything in your power to make those wishes come true. And even when things get tough and everything seems like its falling apart, we will always be there to help. We are the S.S.C.

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