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The Return

Stories-

My father used to tell me stories of a club called the S.S.C. He told me of their fighting skill and ability to carry out a mission without looking back. He told me how strong they were and that no enemy could stand in their way of victory. But my father also told me about their love for one another. He told me how every person in the S.S.C respected and cared for each other in times of need. He would often bring up his days in the S.S.C and how he and his master Brett Blakley had stopped the most evil of foes through teamwork. Although my mother didn't always side with his stories, she too claimed to have been part of the elusive fighting squad. Honestly, I never believed either of them. I was certain that they were simply fairy tales that my parents whipped together just to make me confused. It didn't help my dad that he had no REAL proof that any of this existed. The others whom he mentioned in his stories had "disappeared years ago," he often told me. As for the club itself, my father told me that it too had disappeared as time went on. It was only until my father told me of their sad moments in the S.S.C that I truly believed him. He told me of how Brett had turned on them, how the great Tim Allender had to leave his old friend for dead, how Night Riser had tricked everyone into falling right into his trap. I guess it was the look in his eyes that told me it was real. Ever since that day, I trained with my father to find the S.S.C, join it, and become a legendary hero like him. Of course becoming a hero takes a whole lot more...

Awake and Alive-

"Wake up Gregory!" I heard my dad yell from behind my door. "You've got a big day ahead of you!" I slowly began to recall what today was just as he continued. "Today's the day that you join the S.S.C and prove I'm not crazy!" he said with a laugh. I heard my mom walk over to him, "Let's focus more on the fact that today is the first day of 11th grade". "Yeah," replied my dad, "that too...". I was honestly freaked out to go to school today and hunt down a club while simultaneously learning what is going on. But I had to get up eventually. I rolled myself out of my bed and prepared myself for the big day I had ahead of me. I don't think I've ever seen my dad with a bigger smile on his face. "You ready for this?" he whispered so my mom wouldn't hear. "I guess," I replied simply. "Don't take this lightly, if you weren't my son, they would probably not let you in at your age." "You don't even know their still around dad," I replied with a chuckle. "Oh I can tell; I can feel it in my bones... of course that might be the spaghetti your mom made last night." Mom looked over at my dad disdainfully and then called me over to her. In contrast with my dad, she didn't look to jolly. "Promise me you'll be careful today, okay?" I paused for a moment. My mom continued, "We will stick up for you if you get into any S.S.C-related trouble." "But we can't always be there to help you out." "That's okay mom," I said quickly before giving her a sappy hug and running out the door to my beat up car which I call Zombie because it should be dead by now, but it still runs.

Back to School-

Pulling up our huge school never felt so sickening as my mind raced with ideas on how to lure out the S.S.C. And what a terrible day to do it, considering the fact that it was like -20 degrees outside that day. Inside, everybody seemed to be just as worried as I was. Half of them looked like they were going to throw up. For most people, this was probably not because they didn't know what to do, but simply because they were in school again. Last year, my dad had pointed out a couple kids at a Football game that fit the characteristics of an S.S.C member. I had never met the kids or really seen them around the school to be honest. But now I was looking for them whether or not they knew a thing. I was hoping they would simply ask to see some of my moves and I would be let in. After all, I wasn't all that bad of a fighter. And everyone knew that, ever since I beat up the biggest jerk of the school: Steven. In fact, it was because of how well I beat up Steven that my dad decided to mention the S.S.C to me in the first place. I was hoping this would get me into the S.S.C; not just the fact that I have a dad that was a big part of it. My plan was already going wrong as the day nearly reached its half-way mark. I had not seen the two kids and my hopes were running low. Then lunch came around and everything changed.

Gregory Vs. Steven-

The entire school campus is open for lunch. As you can imagine, I wasn't all that excited about going into the freezing cold air. But sitting inside would just get me packed in with the freshman who have no choice but to sit inside and eat. While searching for my friends, my eyes came across a figure standing under an old oak tree, reading a paper of some sort. I immediately recognized this kid as one of the guys my dad had pointed out at the Football game. He had short, black hair and big blue eyes that almost didn't make you notice the small scar above is right eyebrow. He didn't glance at me although I got the feeling that he was incredibly alert to my presence. Just as I neared the oak tree, a brick wall stood in my way. I looked up at the unmoving giant and saw it to be none other than Steven himself. "Thought you could hide from me?" he said, trying to sound bitter. "I'm not hiding from anybody, you should really go Steven, we've been through this like, 8 times now." "Don't try to weasel your way out of a beating," he replied and then lunged at me. With his fist in the air, I quickly dodged the incoming punch and stretched his arm around his back in mid-air. Steven landed on both feet and sent me stumbling forward for a second. In this time, Steven had regained his footing and gave me a good side-swipe to the face. "I think you'll thank me for this," he said; laughing. Without a word, I head-butted him in the face and followed it up with a barrage of punches. Steven managed to dodge some of these and simply pushed me away while he tried to cool down. While hurtling to the ground, I looked around to make sure teachers or students weren't coming by. Our fray had gone unnoticed so far. Then I looked back at the kid under the tree. He was looking at me now, hardly moving. He seemed to simply be a stature. Before I could do anything else, Steven got me into a head-lock, which was a mistake. I pushed all my weight backwards and simultaneously jumped up to head-butt him in the chin while we fell. Steven took most of the damage and let me go immediately. "9th time I've beaten you now," I said, "You really need to work on that head-lock." Steven didn't answer and simply stumbled away breathing heavily.

The Beginning?-

As I rubbed away the pain on my face, I turned to the buy by the tree, only to find him looking directly at me now with what I believe to be the perfect poker face. "You're Gregory?" he said lightly. I was honestly surprised he knew my name, maybe my father was right. "Y-yes" I replied simply. The boy stood there staring at me as if he expected me to say something more. "I have been searching for a club..." the boys stare did not change. "It's called the S.S.C... have you heard of it by any chance?" The boy stood there probably more still than ever. He seemed to be thinking about something. I remember thinking in my head how pointless this was, surely the first guy I asked wouldn't know about the schools most secretive club. I guess that made his response all the more surprising, "Yes" he replied quickly. I could hardly keep from grinning ear-to-ear. Before I could say anything he spoke up again, "I guess you wouldn't ask about us unless you wanted to join, huh?" "Yeah, I've been training with my father for this" I replied with a smile. The boy did not seem satisfied, "Well if you want some REAL training, you'll stop by the barn off the corner of Hickory Street; tonight." With that, the boy turned his back and walked off slowly. I was not very happy with his response to this. My father had trained me for the very reason so that the S.S.C wouldn't have to do it. I decided to speak what was on my mind, "My father is George," I yelled to the boy as he continued his walk, "He trained me for this!" The boy stopped only for a minute and; looking over his shoulder replied "Things have changed..." With that, he left me alone wanting to say more but feeling as if it wouldn't do any good.

Meeting the S.S.C-

My first meeting with an S.S.C member stood out in my head as being very strange. I hadn't expected this boy to be so serious. My father had mentioned that some S.S.C members aren't too friendly, but this guy seemed to be a flat-out jerk. School was the least of my problems as I thought about what could possibly be at the barn. As far as I knew, the barn had been abandoned years ago. I had never seen anyone go in or out of it. Unfortunately, my gut told me to go anyways and once it turned 7:00, I walked to the crooked old barn as the sun began to set. It was just as quiet and eerie as it always had been. My hopes of anyone being inside were almost completely blown away by the time I opened the wooden door-way. My heart nearly skipped three beats as I peered inside, only to find 5 sets eyes staring at me. I tried not to look surprised. "I'm not late am I?" I asked hesitantly. One stood up, he was big and muscular, had bruises scattered over his face, and had blazing red hair. "Very late!" he yelled in anger. I took a few steps back as he stomped over to me, pointing his finger in my face. "You think you can just show up whenever you want around here and get away with it!" He pushed me against the wall as I struggled out the words "No-one told me what time I sho-" "Shut-up!" The kid replied as he raised his fist in the air. I couldn't help but cower in fear at this huge kid I had never seen before. As I waited to be knocked out, all I heard was silence then laughter! I uncovered my eyes only to find the kid laughing hysterically along with another kid with blonde hair that I had never seen before as well. Beside him was the very boy I had met that morning, a kid with glasses, and another who seemed just as freaked out as I was. "Stop messing around Patch," said the guy in glasses; putting an end to the laughter. 'Patch' slowly died down the laughter as did his blonde friend. "I was just messing with him," he said in an offended voice. "Chris is right," said the blonde kid to Patch, "his screams could probably be heard from across the block." the two broke out in laughter as I tried to hide the fact that I was extremely embarrassed and confused. Finally, the kid who I met that morning stood up and gestured back Patch to his seat surprisingly easily. "So you want to b an S.S.C member huh?" he said sternly. "Yes, my father as told me a lot about the S.S.C," I said as seriously as I could. "To what date?" said the kid in the glasses. "About 2013" I said honestly. "That was like 23 years ago!," said the stern kid, "Like I told you, things have changed... everything's changed..." I was honestly confused at this point. "What do you mean?" I asked, "What's changed?" Patch stood up quickly, "We don't have to tell you anything until you prove that you are even capable of putting up a fight!" "For once, I agree with Patch," said the stern S.S.C member, "fighting the local bully of the school isn't anything compared to what we're up against now." I decided it was best not to argue with any of them. I had gotten this far, I might as well not ruin it with more questions. "Where do I start?" I said energetically. "You start with Hawk," said the blonde kid. "What do you mean?" I asked quickly. The blonde kid continued, "Hawk was with the S.S.C for two years and was a trusted ally to us all. One day his obedience turned to our enemies. Hawk is now considered one of the most dangerous threats to S.S.C security." "So you want me to find him?" I asked. "Yes," replied the blonde kid, "and bring him to us." The serious S.S.C member walked up to me and handed over an envelope. "Anything you need to know about Hawk can be found in his biography," he mumbled. "Thank you sir!" I replied. The stern looking kid gave me a slight smile and replied, "Please... you can call be Commander Spike."

Mellow-Falls-

I decided it was best to wait until after school the next morning in order to find Hawk. In this time, I could learn everything about him from his biography and use this to my advantage. But really, that was on the back of my mind. I had successfully got into the S.S.C and met with the heroes of the school! It was like a dream come true. I told my father all about it in the morning and he seemed just as excited about it as I was. But he warned me to be careful finding Hawk and my mother told me the same thing except she said it about 200 times. That very day after school, I was on the hunt. Hawk had last been seen in town by a local gas station I was familiar with. If he had went inside, I could ask by buddy Edd if I could view the tapes. I waited until it was his shift and approached him just like any other day. After explaining my situation, Edd told me that he couldn't show me the tapes but did explain to me that a kid had dropped by the gas station multiple times for water and beef jerky. This led me to believe that Hawk was camping out in the woods. There were multiple wooded areas around our city but one that stood out to me was Mellow-Falls. Mellow-Falls was a tourist attraction due to the small waterfalls and good fishing lakes inside of it. Hawk would be easy to spot in any other wooded area, but in Mellow-Falls, he would blend right in. Later that night, I snuck into Mellow-Falls and avoided any contact with the campers there. Hawk wouldn't just be talking with everyone, he would be off on his own, trying to find a good hiding place from people like me. It's probably needless to say how worried I was, I had goose bumps all over my body and I couldn't tell if it was because of the cold; or the fact that I was scared out of my mind. Getting caught here would put me in big trouble if I didn't have a pass. But if Hawk could do it, so could I. After circling the Mellow-Falls more times than I could count, I found nothing and decided to go back home to think things out. I layed in bed for hours wondering what I did wrong and what I could have done better. I looked at the picture of Hawk in his biography. Once again, I had never seen this kid before and I suspected he was from a different school like the other S.S.C members I met.

Mudd's Clue-

In the morning, I was awoken to the unpleasant sound off my mother screaming for me to come downstairs. After dragging myself to the living room I found muddy footprints all over the floor and my mom looking very unhappy with me. "You tracked mud in here!" she yelled. "Sorry," I replied simply, "I stayed up late trying to find Hawk in Mellow-Falls." My mother looked at me and the floor disdainfully, "Don't do it again or you're going to be the one to clean it up!" Pleased by this, I ate my breakfast and went to another grueling day of school. It was only in 6th period that I realized something I had never thought of before. If I had tracked mud into the house, wouldn't that mean that I left footprints behind at Mellow-Falls? And wouldn't that mean the same thing for Hawk?

End of the Hunt-

The very moment school ended, I raced to Mellow Falls with the bulging backpack weighing me down. As I had previously thought, Hawk was probably hiding somewhere that no-one could see him. So his footprints would be away from any other residents of the falls. Still lugging my back-back with me, I stumbled across my old footprints and was surprised to see new ones surrounding it. My mind immediately jumped to Hawk; he knew I was coming for him! I followed the new tracks through the uncharted parts of the woods and eventually heard rustling coming from the bushes behind me. Without hesitation I dove behind the nearest tree I could find and tried to listen for more noise. But I was so worked up at this point that all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. Just as I peered from my tree, a fist came hurtling in my direction and hit my chest with an echoing thud. I fell back and realized that my book bag was still weighing me down and I struggled to get out of it. I came to the realization that it was on to tight and that my arm would get stuck if I kept this up. Just then, a tall figure stepped over me. His face matched the picture in his biography, this was surely Hawk. "Looking for someone?" he asked with a smirk. I tried to brush off the look of terror on my face. I had never fought anyone with a 50 pond back-pack on me! "I said; ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SOMEONE!" Hawk yelled. I slowly propped myself up and without saying a word, attacked.

Gregory Vs. Hawk-

My fist came in contact with nothing but air. Hawk dodged it and jabbed me right in the side with what felt like a rock. More horror came over my face when I noticed that it was only his hand. I did notice something odd though, Hawk had a long metal pole strapped to his back, I assumed this was simply armor and tried to spin-trip him. However, as soon as I bent down, the weight of the back-pack sent me down to the ground. "You're new at this aren't you?" Hawk said with a laugh. "As Hawk stood over me gloating, I reached into the back pack and lifted out two heavy books. Before Hawk could re-act, I through the first one at him and struck his face. Hawk's laughing died out instantly. He quickly reached over his shoulder and took out the long metal pole. Upon, throwing the second book, Hawk hit it out of the way with ease and rushed towards me. I only managed to stand up as he dashed into me and cornered me against a tree with the pole to my throat. "That was a mistake," Hawk told me in a grizzly voice. I looked at my still full backpack and noticed that if I rubbed it against the tree, it would un-zip all the way! "Looks like you just made the mistake," I said quickly. As Hawk prepared a bash to the face, I rubbed up against the tree just enough to un-zip the rest of my book bag and let all the supplies fall out. Now lightened up, I kneed Hawk in the stomach and elbowed him in the face just as he stumbled back. Hawk was so off-guard; he dropped the metal pole and was down on the ground long enough for me to pick it up. The pole was surprisingly light and move swiftly as well. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to figure out how to use it. With Hawk only now picking himself up from the ground, I gave him a quick whack to the side of his head and finished him with a sudden head-butt to the forehead. Remembering what the S.S.C members told me, I rushed towards the barn with Hawk beside me. I would have to come back and get my muddy books, later.

Tears of the Enemy-

It took me longer to get to the barn than I expected. Every time a car would pass by, I would have to throw the KO'd Hawk and myself to the ground and pretend like we were looking up at the sky. I can only imagine what the people driving by thought. It wasn't long before Hawk woke up and instead of putting up another fight, he walked with me. This had to be the longest, most awkward silence I ever had to sit through. I finally looked back at his face and saw tears building up in his eyes. "Something wrong?" I asked; trying not to sound like I cared. Hawk gave a few sniffles and suddenly burst into tears and dropped to his knees. My mind was racing, was this guy trying to trick me? or was he just insane? "I... can't go..." Hawk managed to say through the tears. "I have to take you to the S.S.C," I replied. "It is my mission." Hawk continued to sob and bury his face in the ground. "I didn't do the things that they said!" Hawk yelled. "I was framed by somebody!" Now my stomach felt like it had just gained a few pounds. Before I could say more, Hawk continued. "If... you take me there, they will beat... me up until I just admit...to a crime I didn't commit." As Hawk let out more tears, I slowly began to consider letting him go. The S.S.C didn't tell me much about what he had even done, maybe they weren't sure either. "Get out of here..." I said quickly. Hawk finally ceased his crying and looked up at me with confusion. "Go on," I said. "I'll let you go this once." Hawk gave me a genuine smile and as he ran off, gave a whisper that sounded like a thank you.

The Test-

I didn't know what I'd say to the S.S.C for what I had just done. How would they re-act? My father told me many stories of his fights with enemies of all kinds, but he never mentioned them crying, he never mentioned the punishments for letting a target go. My mind was buzzing with possible explanations or lies that might set get me off the hook. But each little idea I had was shot down when I realized that there would be no way they would believe a new recruit like me... if that's even what I was. I approached the old barn again with still no signs of life to be seen. However, just as it was before, the five members were sitting in the barn waiting for me. Commander Spike was on his cell phone speaking to someone when I entered. Upon seeing me, Spike told the person on the other line to come in, in a few minutes. I was practically trembling and I could tell the S.S.C member named Patch was going to pounce on this fear any minute now. "Well," asked Spike. "Where is your target?" I gulped and said "I... let him go... I think he is innocent. I know it sounds crazy but I just... couldn't bring myself to it. I swear I had him..." My voice began to trail off and most of the members looked at me distastefully. "Come on in!" yelled Spike to a figure I hadn't noticed was standing at the door. The figure stepped in and I was awestruck to see none other than Hawk standing in the door-way. I had so many questions but I couldn't find my voice. "This was all a test," Spike said bluntly, "Hawk is still an S.S.C member, and we told him what to do if you were to beat him. You may be strong, but you still need the heart to be in the S.S.C. People get hurt, and you don't always understand what's going to happen, but you have to pull through for the greater good." I nearly fell against the wall with shame weighing me down. "I guess you don't have room for a guy like me then..." I said sadly. There was a short pause before Spike spoke up. "On the contrary, half of your team made the same mistake when they were in training." "My...team?" I replied with confusion. Commander Spike gave the biggest smile I had ever seen on his face and gestured to all the other members who were sitting in the room. "Yep, your team, right here." All my anxiety stopped at once (as did my heart almost). "I'm an actual S.S.C member now!" I asked with happiness in my voice. "An S.S.C member in TRAINING," Spike corrected. "Gregory, welcome to Team Ice."

Team Ice-

The blonde kid stood up first and smiled at me. "I'm Luke," he said. "I am basically the leader of this team." I was shocked and sort of relieved that it wasn't Patch. The kid with the glasses was the next one to approach me. "And I'm Chris," he mentioned with a peaceful smile. "I am in charge of weapons, plans, food supplies, and all that other stuff that no-one really cares about." Both of us let out a short laugh and Chris motioned over to Patch. "You've already met Patch now I presume." I finally found the voice to ask a question. "Why is he called Patch if you all go by your real names?" Patch straightened up and stared at Chris and Luke with hate. "You better not tell him!" he grumbled. Luke just laughed and turned back to me, "When he first joined the S.S.C, he wore an eye-patch because he thought it would make him look tough. It took him about a week to figure out that we were making fun of him behind his back for doing it." I couldn't help but smile and look over at Patch who was refusing to look at any of us now. My attention was now drawn to the kid sitting over in the other corner. He was so quiet that I had hardly noticed him the first time I had come to the barn. He was either really shy or a top-notch spy. It turned out to be the latter one Chris spoke up. "Lastly, there is Guppy," he said. "We call him that because he was our newest member before you showed up." Guppy looked up at me briefly and managed to say a light 'hello'. "Does this mean that my new name will be Guppy?" I asked without fear in my voice. Just as Patch was about to speak, Luke cut him off. "Of course not, your George's son!" "Big deal," Patch mumbled. "He is still new." Chris stepped up to Patch and looked him square in the eye. "How will George re-act when he figures out how you've been treating his son?" Patch looked at me angrily one last time and then turned his back. I decided that it was time for me to speak up again. "Thanks guys, you all seem great..." "Glad you think so," said Chris. "Because Spike has something important to tell you tomorrow... unfortunately..."

The Dream-

I had gotten home late that night and my father repeatedly asked me how things went. I explained the situation and told him that Team Ice would tell me more after I had a talk with Commander Spike. I went to bed that night feeling happy to finally be part of the club I had spent my life dreaming about. I finally fell asleep and I suppose that is where things began to change. I dreamt that I was in another school, the room I was in was completely empty and I could hear arguing from the other side of a door. Peeking out the door, I saw that I was in a huge building that reached high up into the air and had multiple floors filled with bustling teens and even adults. I quickly came to the assumption that this was a college. Despite the hundreds of people, all I could hear was the sound of two guys arguing. There noises were jumbled up and as I pushed against the door to hear more, the whole thing gave way and I found myself at the feet of the two boys. They were both in their teens and something about one of them seemed oddly familiar. He had blonde hair like me, but it wasn't cut quite as short. He was a bit taller and reminded me of someone I had met. The sounds of the two arguing grew increasingly faint until almost everything was eerily quiet. Everything finally went black and just as I was about to wake up from this odd dream, I heard one of the boys shout "You don't have to do this!" I quickly shot up from bed and looked around. Everything was normal again, but what was the dream trying to tell me?

A Meeting with Spike-

After school had ended, I made my way to the barn where I was to meet Spike for our important chat. But that was the last thing on my mind after the dream. It was oddly old out that day and the barn didn't really make things any warmer. I entered the barn and as suspected, found Commander Spike waiting for me there. "Good," he said. "You're right on time." "What is it you wanted to tell me?" I said while taking a seat. We'll get to that in a minute," he said. "Why do you want to join the S.S.C Gregory?" A chill went up my spine and I realized that Spike wasn't just going to give me a little talk; this was going to be important. I spoke up, "I want to be like my father and fight off the bullies and other clubs who try to ruin student's lives...like THEM." Spike looked at me for a while in an odd face that seemed amused. "THEM was formed years ago when other students realized that if the S.S.C ever became too powerful it would end up endangering its own members and other student's lives. It was destroyed years ago around your father's time. Once THEM was defeated, the S.S.C didn't have enemies for the longest time." I contemplated this for a while and then spoke again, "Well you still fight bullies right? Where would the S.S.C be without some sort of enemy?" Spike sighed, "No, we don't fight bullies anymore either... that is why I didn't help you when you were being attacked by Steven." I was now getting confused and upset, why join the S.S.C if you can't even fight? I decided to raise my voice a bit, "Then what good is the S.S.C anymore? What do you do if you don't have enemies? Are you trying to say that I'm not good enough to join your club! Is that what this talk is for?!" I realized I was starting to yell and I slumped down in my seat as Spike starred e down. "We have enemies," he said. "And that is why we need your help. But you can only help us if you trust us... and we trust you as well. I suppose it's time I explain things to you, about why things can't be the way they once were."

A New Enemy-

"It started about two years ago," Spike said dreadfully. "The S.S.C was contacted by the long-retired Brett Blakely. Brett explained to us that a robbery was in session over at a local bank. The robbery was being performed by a gang we had our eyes on lately: Scythe. Some other guys and I rushed off to the bank to capture the gang members and get the money back." Spike paused for a moment to let it sink in. He seemed to look sort of sick to his stomach. Finally, he continued, "By the time we reached the bank, the robbery had ended and not only were the gang members gone, but they shot the tellers and any witnesses who were in the bank itself. It was only the next day that we started getting threats from Scythe. Somehow, they had lost the $14,000 they stole and even more strangely, they blamed us for its disappearance! We have been told to give back the money in what is now 5 days or else an S.S.C member would be killed for every day it is not turned in. Things got worse when we sent in a spy and he was caught almost instantly and sent back with the message, You are running out of time." Now Spike was leaning back in his chair and staring at the ceiling in grief. "Brett retired about 24 years ago," I said. "How did you even know it was really him?" Spike sighed and replied, "Our leader at the time was Rodrick, and he asked Brett questions and codes over the phone to prove it was really him... Brett got every answer correct," Spike continued. "After the news that we were going to be hunted down by Scythe, nearly every single S.S.C member quite... we only have three teams now, about 16 members, no leader, and fading hopes." Spike looked as if he was about to puke again and I was also beginning to feel sick to my stomach. How could I be a part of a club that could possibly get me killed?! I spoke up with another question, "If there is no leader, why don't you take the position, you already run most of the things around here?" Spike sighed again, "I don't want to be the one everyone blames when things turn sour, a leader would just present a bigger target for Scythe. They have 'hunters' who have already found other S.S.C members and given them brutal questioning on where the money is." "Just call the cops!" I yelled in retort. "We tried that once, but Scythe has figured out ways to escape the police and even make bribes with the officers themselves. It could also draw attention to the S.S.C.  We have been warned not to call again or we would pay the price. Scythe is a very dangerous gang but it is also very intelligent, it knows when something is wrong." Everything was silent after that as more ides of hope shot into my head but were sunk back with the realization that one faulty move could endanger a person's life! "I suppose you wouldn't blame me if I quite now..." I asked? Spike looked back into my eyes again and proclaimed "No, none of us could blame you for not wanting to get involved in this... chaos." I gave Spike a short smirk, "Well sign me up, I said. I'm ready to take on chaos."

Learning from the Pros-

I was sent to an old hill near town for some briefing by my fellow team-mates Chris and Luke. Imagine my surprise when I arrived only to find myself first to a meeting place for once. I layed down in the soft grass and stared up at the crystal blue sky, it looked as if it actually wasn't going to rain, which is a change compared to are usual pouring weather. "Enjoying the view?" called the voice of Chris from a distance. I got up and saw the two members walking peacefully down one of the steep hills, towards me. The two were different now and I soon realized that they were sporting black and red vests, a metal pole strapped to their backs, and brown belts, bulging with unknown items. I began to recall my battle with Hawk as I realized that I had seen him with these similar outfits. In fact, I was so caught up staring at the equipment; I forgot to respond to Chris and Luke who were now standing right in front of me. Luke spoke first, "I see you've noticed our gear." "It's hard to miss," I replied. "What is that pole thing?" Luke pulled out the long pole with grace and tossed it to me. "These are M-Sticks," he said as he gestured to some marks on one end. "For every opponent you KO with these things, you add a mark. If you get up to 30 you can receive another one." I felt the pole in my hands, it was surprisingly light and swift when moved through the air, the entire thing felt quit natural and I noted that Luke had 20 marks already chiseled into the M-Stick. "This is great!," I proclaimed as I gave it a swing. "Check this out," called Chris as he removed the black and red vest. Immediately, Chris tossed it to me and I was surprised to find it heavier than expected. I looked closely at the vest and saw that it had some sort of light-weight material on the inside. "What is in this thing bud?" I asked curiously. Chris's mouth shot into a smile and it was clear that he liked to explain this sort of thing. "It's two light-weight vests which have been sewn together and stuffed with fiber-glass sheets. This allows the person wearing to sustain less damage yet still keeps some flexibility intact. I didn't design the thing, but it was my personal idea to incorporate fiber-glass instead of metal sheets." "Nobody likes a bragger," Luke said as he pushed Chris aside and took the vest from my hand. We also have these belts; they are basically everything else you might need on or off the battle-zone." "Like what?" I asked eagerly. Luke quickly un-buttoning a few pouches and removed a few items. "We have water, food, poison ivy, rope, mini-binoculars, a flashlight, walkie-talkie, and marbles. Does that sound like enough?" I laughed as I asked, "What are the marbles for?" Chris walked up to me now and closely let me examine the 'marble'. "We just call them marbles," Chris replied. "They are actually a modified B-B Gun bullet for a special little project I am working on and Luke shouldn't even have them!" Chris reached for the other marbles but Luke pulled them away and kept them from Chris while laughing like a child. I stood there smiling for the longest time as I realized that despite the situation, the .S.C still had life in it, and hopefully it would continue to have life in it in the future. Chris gave up on trying to get the marbles away from Luke and instead took off a back-pack he was wearing and removed another vest and full belt! My heart skipped a beat as I yelled, "Are those... are those for me!?" Luke smiled as Chris gently placed them in my hands. "Every member needs some, just don't lose it. Chris doesn't like making more." I scanned my new possessions and put them on with ease. They fit me surprisingly well and it didn't take long for me to notice that something was missing. "What about an M-Stick?" I asked hastily. "You will get that when you prove yourself to be a good soldier," replied Luke. "And if you are REALLY good, then you can expect some medals in your future. After-all, your dad was and is regarded as one of the best S.S.C soldiers of all time." "Really?" I replied. "You think so?" "Of course!" Luke yelled. "Your dad was taught by the great Brett Blakley, fighting is in your blood! You could be just the guy to save us all from Scythe!" I gave a smirk but my insides were now starting to hurt. The thought occurred to me that maybe I was getting in over my head... a lot."

The Mystery of Brett-

It was later on that Saturday night that I decided to ask my dad about Brett once my mom went to sleep. He had often mentioned stories of Brett and how he could over-come any obstacle. The stories of Brett were so great that even when I began to believe in the S.S.C, I still wasn't sure that Brett was ever an actual person. Yet, my father never did tell me what happened after the fighting was over. He would end every story of Brett with happy endings; I just hoped that a new story wouldn't change things. "Dad, what ever happened to your master... Brett I mean?" My dad sighed and mumbled, "After me, Brett, Tim, Tye, and your mother built back the S.S.C, we a few troops and it didn't take long before Brett went off to college. I went to a different college and thus our lives went separate ways." My dad's voice trailed off and I noticed how sad he looked. This was odd seeing that my dad is usually smiling ALL THE TIME. And while I usually thought it was creepy, I think I'd prefer to see him smile rather than frown. He soon started talking again, "Only Tim went to the same college as Brett and Tye didn't go to college at all. Only your mother and I stayed in touch and as for everyone else... well I guess they must have forgotten my number... or they just don't care anymore." My father quickly straightened up upon saying this and corrected himself. "Actually, I suppose I would be wrong with that assumption. Those guys cared about the S.S.C more than it was probably healthy, Brett especially." "Why did he care about it so much?" I asked immediately. Do you remember the story I told you about a few years ago. When Brett embraced his hate and anger and became our ultimate enemy?" I nodded and my father continued. "I think that he never did believe that he could repay us for everything he had put us through. So instead he tried to make things right by doing everything in his power to help the S.S.C and make up for past sins." Chills went up my spine as I recounted the old tale. I soon said goodnight to my father and couldn't get much rest that night. As strange as it might sound, I felt as if I were being watched...

Scythe

First Day-

I had an odd mixture of pride and terror for what my first day as an S.S.C member would be like. I would have to deal with things that my father and mother never had to worry about before. Never-the-less, I went to base as usual and was greeted by Patch and Guppy who were packing their things into an already stuffed back-pack. "Where is everybody?" I inquired. "They're at the base," Patch replied hastily. "The real S.S.C base." Guppy cleared his throat and shyly mumbled, we are going to jog over there and show you around. Th-this base was just for new recruits." I smiled, "Well that's good, I didn't want to stay at this crumby shack to much longer." "The 'new' base isn't much better." Patch mumbled as he led us out the door and began to jog up-hill. We jogged for about seven minutes in complete silence before Patch stopped abruptly behind a couple trees and ushered us over without saying a word. With all of us hiding behind the trees now, Patch directed my attention to a wooded area about the same size as Mellow-Falls. Patch now spoke in a whisper, "over in those woods is where Scythe houses its main base. The woods are practically abandoned; no-one lives, hikes, or hunts there. But they do occasionally head over to the old section of town you visited earlier to get your vest." I stared at Patch with confusion, "Why are you whispering, we are miles away from there." Patch just stared back at me hatefully and pulled us away from the trees so we could finish our jog.

A "New" Base-

After about eight more minutes, we arrived at a lonely warehouse practically in the middle of nowhere. It didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that this base was in just as bad of shape as the last one, if not worse. To its credit, it was a bit bigger and could obviously house plenty of members. As stood still, taking in its ugliness, Patch shoved me harshly out of the way as he approached the front door. "What's his problem?" I asked Guppy. "I-I don't know," he replied. "Patch is like this with everybody, he doesn't know how to be kind." Just as Guppy finished his sentence, Patch approached him and stared him down. "S-sorry, I was just kidding." Guppy muttered as he walked briskly into the base. I followed and noted that the inside was bigger than I had expected. Old lockers collected dust over in the back of the base and large pieces of ply-wood sectioned off different 'rooms.' I noticed three S.S.C members who I had never seen before and even saw Chris walk don one of the make-shift hall-ways after giving me a wave. "I'm supposed to give you a tour." Patch said as he came up behind m. He sounded like it was torcher to utter those words. I sighed, "You don't have to if you don't wan-" "Great!" Patch yelled as he walked away, leaving me alone now. I approached the lockers and saw Hawk putting some of his gear NEXT TO a rusty locker. Hawk noted my confusion and explained, "These lockers were and are for documents. We can't put any of our stuff in it." I nodded accordingly and Hawk continued, "If you want a mission or something, visit Chris, he'll tell you what to do." "Thanks Hawk," I said as I left to the same room I saw Chris enter earlier. Once there I saw Chris with a laptop in front of him working behind a table with a fellow S.S.C member sitting across from him. The S.S.C member turned to me and stood up. He looked to be a bit younger than I was and shook my hand as if I were a superior officer. "Hey there," he said enthusiastically. "I'm Dominic, but most people call me Green." "I'm Gregory," I replied. "Are you new here or something?" "Yeah, I joined a few days ago." Chris now looked up from his computer, "Green joined a couple days after you did... and he didn't fail the training mission unlike some other people," Chris said, trying to get on my nerves. "That's not funny Chris, I said as I sat down across the table. "Green, I will catch up with you later," Chris said as Green left the room. "So," Chris said with a yawn. "What can I help you with?" "I would like to get a mission of some kind... I was thinking something... dangerous OH, and some stealth to." Chris chuckled, "WOAH, slow down there." I'm not sure if you are ready for anything big like that." "Then what?" I asked, "Do I just pick up groceries for the first few weeks?" "Well, no... but that would be nice." Chris replied. "Uh oh, hold on Gregory, I forgot to give Green something." With that, Chris fled the room, leaving his laptop on the table. I hesitated for a moment but decided to look at it. On the computer were files labeled mission 237, mission 238, mission, 239, etc. The mission list went on and on and upon clicking on a random one, I saw that the file contained instructions on how each mission was carried out and how they ended. It was impressive really. Many of these missions dated back to 1999! I scrolled to the newer missions and found that in order to keep these documents easily manageable, they gave each member their own documents with missions inside of them. Looking around to make sure Chris wasn't coming back; I clicked on my own and found nothing. I decided upon the next best thing: to check Spike's file. Tons of missions filled the page and I was drawn to the nearest one that had been created only yesterday. The file was labeled, BOD Spark. I now heard footsteps coming my way but I had to know what this was. I clicked on the file and pulled out my phone just in time to take a picture of the screen and sit back down in my own seat. Chris entered back into the room and stared at his laptop for a moment. My mind lit up, I had forgot to close the page I was on. I clenched my fists in fear as Chris stared at the screen for a bit longer and then dismissed it as nothing wrong. I breathed a sigh of relief as Chris sat down across from me. "Sorry, Gregory, as of right now there is no mission we can safely give you. I would suggest training or relaxing until we find something." I will not lie, I was depressed but there was one shimmering hope in my mind. I could take Spike's mission and complete it for him. This would earn the respect I had been waiting for. I didn't want to make it look like I was sad, so I brought up a quick question that came to my mind. "So Green was speaking with you, does that mean h is on Team Ice?" Chris shook his head, "No, he is not on any team." Suddenly an S.S.C member entered the room and called for Chris to help move something. Chris got up to leave but I still had questions. "How can he not be on a team?" Chris was now walking to the door but stopped to reply, "Commander Spike requested that he train on his own." I was still confused by this, "That's a bit crazy don't you think?" Chris was now half-way out the door, "I suppose so, but Spike is allowed to make these 'crazy' decisions... after all, he is Tye's apprentice." With my mouth now gaping open, Chris turned his back on me and walked out with his laptop.

Mission-

I found it hard to sleep that night, not because I was excited for the mission I had given myself, and not because I was worried either. I couldn't sleep because of how shocked I was the Tye himself had trained Commander Spike. My father mentioned Tye just as much as he did everybody else. But while everyone else had a wrap-up to their story once they reached college, Tye was one of the youngest and he stayed in the S.S.C longer than anybody. So to hear something new about a figure I had only learned about in little stories, was quite the shocker. Due to age differences, Tye would have had to of trained Spike when he was already a man. For all I knew, Tye could still be part of the S.S.C. But with that brain-bender aside, I checked the picture I had taken of the mission. The main biography stated: Drake Ballard, a 17-year old junior has been officially declared the son of Anthony Ballard who operated in The Brotherhood of Death before being captured by Commander Delta and his unit on June 8th. Drake has been notably trying to rebuild the club once again and will be holding a meeting with another member to discuss imperative future plans. The meeting will be held at The Death Pit at some time between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM. Capturing Drake before the meeting will cripple most any chance for the club's return. The rest of the mission was cut off from the picture but I could easily tell what I had to do. And where I had to do it.

Wreckage of The Death Pit-

The next day, I packed up my gear and headed towards the wreckage of The Death Pit. I had heard a few stories about the place and my father had told me that he had fought in it once. Of course fighting in it now was impossible seeing as the entire structure of the barn had collapsed and now layed still in a messy ruble. The broken base was quite a distance away from any houses that I was aware of and I found it likely that the destroyed barn hadn't even been discovered by anyone outside of the S.S.C and its rivals. I arrived early so I could take out Drake before anyone else arrived. It was eerily quiet as I sat hiding near a large pile of rubble. I sat there for half an hour before hearing footsteps and a faint voice. I quickly peered around the rubble and found it to be Drake on his phone. He was speaking harshly to whoever was on the other line, telling him to hurry and meet him before any trouble arrived. Drake then hung up his phone and stood cautiously still on the other side of the barn. I carefully made my way around a corner while remaining close to the wreckage. Suddenly, my foot hit a rotted piece of wood and it came crashing down on several other pieces, causing a loud scuffle. I immediately heard footsteps coming in my direction as Drake came wondering around the corner to see what the commotion was. Without thinking, I dove next to a small bit of the undamaged wall and covered myself with two long pieces of wood. Drake slowly walked along the side of the wreckage, checking very carefully if anyone was there. As he passed me, his body came to a halt as he peered over the horizon for a moment. I used this to my advantage and quickly grabbed his feet as I lept from my hiding spot. With a shriek of terror, Drake came tumbling down with his arms flailing. I tried to get him into a head-lock, but he fought himself back up with surprising strength. "You're going to regret that," Drake said harshly as he swung at my face. I was able to back up just in time to dodge this and follow this up by kneeing him in the stomach. As soon as Drake fell forward in agony, I dashed underneath him and tossed him over myself like it was some sort of acrobatics act. Drake flew through the air like a rag doll before landing precariously on top of some of the wreckage. While Drake was moaning in pain, I withdrew the walkie-talkie from my vest and began to contact Luke. As soon as I turned my back I heard sudden movement from Drake as he drew back his fist for a fearsome punch. I didn't even have time to react and just I I winced for the pain I was about to endure, Drakes fist was stopped in mid-flight by Commander Spike! Keeping full eye contact with me, Commander Spike slowly twisted Drake's arm behind his own back and let him fall to the ground in slow agony. Commander Spike now stared at me with a glare of unhappiness. "Look..." I stammered. "I know you're probably mad Spike... but I... I just wanted a tough mission... ya know... to prove myself to you g-guys." "And you did that by looking at my secret mission files?" Spike replied. I now stared down at my feat, feeling like I was Guppy against Patch. Spike stared at me for a bit longer before propping Drake back up and walking him back to base. "Meet me at the base at 5:00," he said over his shoulder. "I have a mission for you." I should have been happy with that response, but the way Spike said it made it sound more like a punishment.

Operation Explorator-

Spike dropped off Drake at Chris's door and motioned for me to follow him into his actual office. I sat down in a chair and Spike made himself comfortable at his desk. Out of nowhere, Spike pulled out a laptop and typed slowly without saying a word or giving me any eye contact. I worried that he would give me a death sentence or worse! He finally stopped and looked up at me. "You were so busy looking at my files, that you probably didn't notice the one called Operation Explorator..." "Is that even a word?" I said, trying to get on his good side. "Explorator is Latin for spy," he replied. "Do you just translate missions to Latin so they will sound cooler?" I said with a short-lived laugh. "It wasn't my idea," he replied. "But it is a smart thing to do so that no-one gets suspicious and clicks on it." Spike paused for a moment and checked to make sure no-one was outside of his office. "I do have a mission for you," he muttered. "And I think you would be the perfect person for the job if you're up to it..." I was surprised yet still worried about what this task would be. How could I be better at something than other members who had been training for years? Spike continued, "We have 17 more days until Scythe carries out its attack and attempts to kill one of our own. There is so much we don't know about them and TO MUCH they know bout us. We sent in a spy before... but as I told you... he was caught." I began to see where this was going now. My heart began to race as I realized what a death sentence this was actually turning into. "...Scythe has seen almost all of our members at least once... but you... you are new. If you were to infiltrate Scythe and gain their trust, you might be able to destroy them from the inside. You're previous training with your father and your training with us will serve you well while in enemy territory. I know this is a lot to take in... but after seeing you fight... I believe we have a fighting chance again... can you help us?" Spike cracked an uncharacteristic smile as he outstretched his hand to me. My mind was racing, all of this was happening so fast that I wasn't sure what to do. I always wanted to become a hero like my father... but at what cost? I suppose none of that thinking really mattered in the end... because I walked out of that office with a new mission... a mission to infiltrate Scythe.

Debriefing-

With 16 days left to destroy or at least detour Scythe, it was important that I got to my mission as soon as possible. Spike layed out the rules of the mission as clearly as he could without skipping a single detail. I would be dressed with a Scythe bandanna; the only one left in our storage. I would then proceed to enter their base in the small wooded area shown to me earlier by Patch, or as Scythe called it: Father. I would then say the password used by the previous spy in order to gain entry and then rise in rank until I could make direct contact with their leader Henry. It was important that I keep this information hidden from most of my team-mates so that no information would be accidentally leaked. Every other move would have to be orchestrated by me. With that, I told my father what was happening while Spike put together a cover-story on why I would be gone for a while. My father was hesitant of the mission, but agreed that if people's lives were on the line, someone had to defend them. This did not however keep him from crying and hugging me. The rest of the day went by as slow as possible and at 8:00 it was time for me to make my move. My heart was beating as fast as possible, but an undeniable calm was on my mind. Before I had left, my father told me something that kept me moving. "There are people out there who can stand up for themselves and people out there who can't , you can try to pick a side but it doesn't matter, true heroes are bound to the right path."

Negative-

The skies soon grew dark as I traveled farther away from civilization. However, the occasional car horns and crickets weren't the only things catching my attention. From time-to-time, I heard a light shuffling. The noise eventually died down until Father was directly in my sights. Suddenly, a hand appeared on my shoulder as I jerked away and turned around to punch the face of what I expected to be Patch or Luke, trying to scare me. My fist was stopped in mid-flight as I looked into the face of my visitor. Standing there was a figure in a blank red mask with darkened eyes peeking out from underneath. He wore a leather white jacket and a black cloth wrapped around the back of his head to keep me from seeing his hair. "What the-" before I could speak, he twisted my arm around my back until I was down on my knees. I prepared myself for a kick to the back or a head-lock, but all I got was my arm released from his grasp. The figure now backed up, allowing me to stand. "Luke, if this is some kind of joke, then now is not the time!" I yelled in anger. "You are going into the Father Base," he said in a raspy voice. "Are you a Scythe member?" I asked hesitantly. "You have to realize that going in there is a death sentence... once you start this mission, there is no backing out." he said softly. "Who are you!?" I yelled uneasily. Instead of answering the figure pointed towards Father Base. "They changed the password," he said. "It is now Black Crow... by the way you can call me Negative... we will be in touch." "What do you mean?" I said as I turned around, but he was gone, simply vanishing without a trace. I quickly pulled out my walkie-talkie and contacted Spike as I looked around for Negative. Spike answered and I quickly explained the situation to him. "Should I trust this guy Spike," I asked. "He seems pretty sketchy." Spike thought for a moment and replied, I recall hearing that a similar thing happened to Brett back in the old days." "The Night Riser Incident?" I asked. "Yup, if I were you, I would stick with the plan," Spike replied. "Until we know more about this guy, we will go through with our own plan, sounds like he will be coming back anyways." "...Understood," I replied. As I hung up the walkie-talkie, I thought for just a second that I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

Password-

I was now torn between listening to this masked man or Spike, the decision could change everything. I had barely got a chance to think before I reached the point of entry into the woods. I was to wait a few minutes holding my bandanna in the air to prove I was not an enemy. Everything was quiet and just as I was about to put it down, two figures came out of the darkness. Without saying a word, one of them yanked the bandanna from my hand and examined it for an uncomfortable amount of time. I held my breath as he began to speak. "Password?" he uttered. My mind suddenly raced s I realized the wrong move could cost me my life. It didn't help that I caught a glimpse of one of a gun strapped to their sides. "D-dark Crow...." I said trying to keep my cool. They both paused for a while as I struggled not to shiver. "Go on in," one said at last. I walked cautiously into the woods relieved that I had kept my head. But this was only the beginning.

Into Scythe-

I walked own an old biking route until I noticed light in the distance. Walking off the trail, my eyes soon fell upon a vast sea of tents sitting by a small stream in a clearing. Scythe members flooded the area, speaking quietly yet still behaving like teens. It wasn't easy to see, but I soon found older members with beards and bulging muscles, this gang had no age limit. I kept my cool... or however much of it I had left, and did my best to blend in. Many of the members had guns strapped to their sides; I even spotted a knife or two from time-to-time. The only thing lighting the night around now was a small fire and a few flashlights. "I'm beginning to hope Negative IS watching out for me," I muttered to myself. Despite my fears, I knew that I would have to speak to someone in order to make my way towards Henry. I came across a small group of tens around my age and decided to speak in a low, intimidating voice. "You guys know where Henry is? I gotta have a little discussion with'em." The boys looked confused for a second as one stepped forward. "You mean Big H?" he asked. "Uh... yeah, where is he anyways?" I replied carefully. "Probably in his office as usual," the kid said. "Are you new here or something?" Without a moment to spare I replied, "Yeah, I just joined the other day." The kid was about to reply but suddenly a low humming noise silenced all the members as they then proceeded to walk down a path I hadn't seen before. Following everyone, we eventually came to a halt at a large shack where members began to pour in, one-by-one. I proceeded inside and heard the word "meeting" get tossed around a few times, I now realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to see Big H. Seats were arranged around the moldy building, but many had to stand or sit on the floor. Luckily, I spotted a seat close to the front where I could receive a perfect view. Just as I sat down, a brooding figure stood over me. I looked up only to find a giant man looking at me in disdain. "What do you think you're doi'in?" he asked with a snarl. "Uh... sorry, didn't realize we had assigned seats," I replied as I began to stand. I don't know what it was about what I said, but it just seemed to make the man angrier. "You try'in do be funny kid?" he said as he gave me a shove. "No I-" "Shut it!" he interrupted with another shove. My heart was racing again and now people were starting to watch. Why did I have to pick that seat? Suddenly, a voice intervened. "He's new; he doesn't know the rules yet." I glanced over only to find a kid around my age. He had brown, short-cut hair and a few bruises. Standing behind him was the kid I talked to earlier. The big guy looked at them for a moment, then back at me. "Fine," he said. "Don't do it again." With that, the two boys called me over to a corner in the back of the shack. "Thanks for helping me there guys." I said. "No problem, Devin told me that you were a new guy looking for Big H." "Yeah," I replied. "But I'm assuming that is not easy to do." "You got that right," Devin said with a laugh. "You got to either win a reward or be promoted to Shadow Squad for that to happen." My mind filled with questions, but I was afraid that asking the wrong one would get me caught. What was important right now was that I had found some people who I could talk to and learn information from. Not bad for my first day. Soon, a teen about my age appeared at the front of the room and told everyone to quiet down. "Is that Big H?" I asked cautiously. "No," replied Devin, that's his little brother Trigger. He's pretty much second in command around here." I thought for a moment. "Is it possible for me to meet him?" Devin shook his head no, but the other kid stared at me strangely and then motioned me to come outside with him. I decided to follow him out into the dark where he then turned to me. "How come you want to meet with the big guys so bad?" he asked. "I... I wanted to show them my fighting skills... and become well respected nice and quick. I don't like waiting." This answer seemed to satisfy the kid as he then smiled. "My name is Justin... yours?" "G-Gregory," I replied quickly. Luckily, Justin found nothing wrong with this and proceeded to shake my hand. "Shouldn't we head back inside?" I asked. "For the meeting." "This meeting is really for the Hounds," Justin replied. "Hounds?" I muttered out loud. Justin seemed surprised by my confusion, "Didn't you learn this stuff in training?" he asked. I searched my mind for an answer. "I probably did, but I have a terrible memory," I lied. "It is my one flaw." Justin laughed, "Well, THAT, and picking one of the worst possible seats to try and sit in." Our laughter was soon cut short by the loudest yell I had heard all day. "What are you to Pups doing out here?!" I looked over, only to find a teen dressed in black, with two guns strapped to his side and a pocket knife gleaming from his pocket. Surrounding him were four guards who also wore black and some shades. "Sorry Shadow..." Justin replied with a salute. I copied Justin as this guy called Shadow proceeded to stare at me for a while. From the looks of it, he was a bit older than me, but looked pretty muscular and intimidating, with scars and bruises to boot. "Yeah, sorry Shadow," I echoed. Shadow stared at us with disdain, "Don't call me that!" he yelled. "You will address me as sir, is that clear!?" Shadow was about to speak again, but a sudden buzz interrupted him. Soon, every light in the entire camp was shut off. And not a whisper could be heard. I could no longer spot Justin, Shadow, or his guards, but I could tell they were close. We waited in silence for a minute or two before another buzz rand out and lights were turned back on. I looked around for Shadow and his guys, but they were gone. Justin remained at my side though. "What was that?" I asked. "What, Shadow or the lights out?" "Both" I replied. "Shadow is in charge of carrying out attacks. He leads the Shadow Squad which is pretty much the highest rank you can get. As for the lights out, whenever a cop car is spotted within a certain distance of the woods, we have to quiet down and shut off our lights." "How could you possibly know when a cop car in coming?" I asked. "Look around Gregory, there are spotters in the trees, they see everything inside and outside of Father Base." I looked up only to spot a couple of Scythe members camped in the trees, keeping a watchful eye over the road and the tents. It was only now that I realized why Patch was so cautious and why this mission would become much MUCH harder.

The Secret-

I decided to leave the base before it reached 12:00, and to do that, I had to find a spot in Father Base that wasn't under the watchful eyes from above. I searched the perimeter for a short time before coming to a small path covered by overgrown weeds and fallen tree branches. I made my way out while holding my breath because I didn't want anybody to hear me... and I was pretty scared. Once out of father base, I followed an old rail-rode back towards base. Everything was much quieter now but I still felt that Shadow's fearsome squad would jump out of nowhere and attack. Once I had put 3 miles in between myself and Father Base, I called Commander Spike and asked him to meet me so I could explain what I had learned. He agreed, and I finally found the bravery to start running. However, this was short-lived as a sudden hand on my shoulder pulled me back. I tripped and dazingly looked up at my visitor. Negative was standing above me again. The mask was the same, but he was now wearing black to blend in with the night. He really just looked like a floating head. He spoke softly to me in his grizzly voice. "So... you're not backing out after all. If that's the case then maybe you should start asking more questions." "What is that supposed to mean?" I asked as I stood back up. "Spike has been keeping things from you," he said. "You know almost nothing about what is really going on here... we will have to change that." "You just assume that I'm going to trust a masked man that constantly pops up out of nowhere!?" I asked. "You have to trust me; after all... you took my advice for the password..." It was hard for me to hide my surprise. "You... you knew about that?" "I'll be keeping an eye on you," he said. "If you don't trust me now... we'll have plenty of time to change that..." I was now at a loss for words. Negative then took a file from his jacket and threw it to my feet. "Here's your proof." With that, Negative dawned a hood and took a few steps back into the darkness; he seemingly disappeared completely, right in front of my face. Gazing at the file, I immediately noticed the word CONFIDENTIAL stamped on the front. I took out my flashlight and opened up the file. Multiple words, names, and dates, were marked out with sharpie, but the document itself was still intact. I began to read: ~With Scythe's attack on Menford Bank underway, seven S.S.C squads have been deployed to quell the situation and retrieve the money safely. Rodrick has solidified the theory that our call was indeed from Brett Blakely. He wishes to retrieve the money and then present it anonymously to the police to handle the situation from there. Conflict is not advised, but it is allowed if absolutely necessary. ~ The rest of the paragraph was marked out and I quickly flipped to the only other page in the file. Most everything was marked out here as well, but one thing remained unchanged, Commander Spike's signature approving the document. It didn't take me long to realize Spike had indeed tricked me, and now I was mad.

The Whole Story?-

By the time I reached our base again, it was 1:00 in the morning and the entire place was seemingly emptied out. But upon going to Commander Spike's portions of the base, lights were indeed on. I entered his office and found a half-asleep Commander Spike staring at me from the other side of the table. I was still burning with anger as I slammed the file on to the table. Spike jolted awake and confusingly took hold of the file to briefly read it. "Where did you get this?" he asked harshly. "Where I got it doesn't matter," I said. "What does matter is that you've been lying to me!" Spike was completely awake now as he slammed down the file and looked me square in the eye. "More like protecting you," he said. "If I had told you the whole truth, I was afraid you wouldn't take the job... the S.S.C isn't as innocent as I said before..." "Well I've already taken the mission so you might as well tell me now!" I retorted. Spike paused for a moment as he looked down at the file. "Spike, I NEED to know this so that I can understand what I'm dealing with; my life is at stake here!" "Fine," Spike replied as he got up from his desk and checked to make sure no-one was still around. He then sat back down in his chair as he confided in me the whole story. "From what I told you before, when Brett called the S.S.C, we attempted to take back the money but were unsuccessful in doing so. However, Scythe blamed us anyways for no reason. This is not entirely true. On the night of the robbery, Scythe split itself into groups so that one could distract the cops while the others transported the money. One of our S.S.C squads encountered this group and successfully took the money from their grasp. According to the squad, they were then met by an S.S.C member who claimed that our leader wanted all the money to be given to this one guy so that it could then be transferred safely. The squad handed over the money to this S.S.C member and it was only the next morning that everyone realized that our leader never gave those orders and that whoever took the money was no S.S.C member at all." Spike looked up at me, seemingly done with his story. "Where can I find this squad from your story," I asked. "They should know what the 'S.S.C member' looked like." Spike sighed, "That Squad quite years ago, I don't have access to them anymore. Besides, they said that they couldn't see is face very well anyways." I thought for a moment. "Is there anyone who could know anything more about this?" "Sorry," Spike relied. "Most S.S.C members don't know the full story, and the ones that do; still don't know as much as me." I kept thinking, "What about Brett?" "I suppose he might know something since it was him who sent us on that mission, but no-one knows where he is...except...never mind." "What were you about to say?" I asked. "My master, Tye would probably know where Tim Allender is, and since Tim and Brett went to college together, Tim could know where he went off to. However, Tye stopped training me when he heard about what's going on, and I don't know where he lives. He says it's our own fault for thinking we were powerful enough to take on a gang with such power... It's sort of funny... THEM became our enemies all those years ago, because it felt that the S.S.C would become too strong and put kid's lives in danger... I guess... in the long-run... they were right. Now look at us... we are a shadow of what we used to be. We don't fight to save kids... we fight to save ourselves." Spike looked down in defeat. I decided to lighten the mood, "We may have made a lot of mistakes, but these mistakes will turn into lessons that need to be learned. And it is because of these lessons that we will survive, through strength, teamwork,... and trust." Spike looked back up at me in approval and nodded in agreement. With this, I made my way to the door. Before I could leave, Spike stopped me with one last thing. "I never thought it would be a rookie to comfort me into thinking we will win this... I will tell any S.S.C member who doesn't know about the real robbery, the whole truth... because you are right, trust will save us in the end." "Glad to hear it," I said with a foot out the door. "Where are you going now?" Spike asked curiously. I smiled, "To find Tye."

Deeper

Lost-

The following day was one of opportunity for my new mission. All I had to do was track down a full grown- retired S.S.C member that no-one knows the location of or forms of contacting him with... easy right? Easy or not, though, I had to suit up again and make my daring infiltration into Scythe once more. I decided to show up earlier this time to keep things a bit less scary and also to get a better look at the place. With no sign of Negative and no problems getting in again, I had high hopes for what the day held. There were fewer troopers around the Father base this time and most tents were missing around now. I saw Devin approaching me from a distance and readied myself to ask some more daring questions. "Hey Gregory," Devin said. "Where were you yesterday? You just vanished after you had that chat with Justin." "I...uh... went back home." I said cautiously. Devin practically jumped out of his skin at the mention of the word home. "Wait!" he said with surprise. "You still have a home... what are you doing here then?" I was now just as confused as he was as I muttered softly "You don't have a home?" "None of us do!" Devin replied. "We have all either ran away, lost our families, or been dis-owned by those who loved us." "That's not entirely true," rang out a distant voice. We soon saw Justin coming up to us as he continued. "It is rare for many of us to still have homes, but there are a few guys who do this to provide for their families." "Provide?" I asked. "Provide what?" Justin spoke up, "Taking missions can sometimes lead to a small cash reward given by Trigger." Justin paused then looked at me with sudden surprise. "I get it now! That is why you joined isn't it? To get cash to support your folks." "Uh... yep... you hit the nail on the head Justin," I replied. "Follow me," Justin said. "I'll get you a mentor to get things started." I waved goodbye to Devin as I followed Justin through the base. "Is that why a lot of the tents are gone," I asked. "Because people are taking missions?" "Sort-of," he replied, but some people just take them down so that just in case someone wanders by our base, they won't get suspicious when they see so many tents. They will all be back by night-fall." I thought for a moment as a burning question slipped out of my mouth. "Justin... if you don't mind saying, how did you end up in Scythe?" Justin stood frozen for a moment as if I someone had glued his feet to the ground. After this pause he kept walking and began to speak. "Pretty simple really," he said. "My mom died when I was only five, and my dad was a trucker, so he was always on the road. When I was 12, he finally agreed to take me on a ride as long as I didn't interfere with what he was doing." Justin stopped for a while as if he had trouble remembering. "Unfortunately, I didn't listen to my dad and I ended up forgetting to lock the back of the truck before we left a pit-stop. We came through this very town and that is when tragedy struck. The supplies fell out of the back of my dad's truck... he was so mad that he pushed me out of his big-rig and told me he had to go cool off and that he would be back for me later." Justin stopped as he looked sadly at the sky with his eyes closed. "He never came back." I was practically crying at this point but Justin still had more to say. "I waited for my dad to return for about a week, but he never turned up. I was so angry at him that I swore I would never go back home... he must have always hated me. Luckily, I was discovered by Scythe members who took me in before I starved to death... I owed them my life for giving me a hand when I had none." "Wow Justin," I said in a shaky voice. "That's got to be one of the saddest stories I've ever heard. I'm sorry I made you tell me that." Justin cracked a grin, "It's no problem. You should here some of these other guy's stories... some of those will really make you cry; looks like we are here." I looked in front of me only to find a little house resting by the side of the creek. It would have looked beautiful if someone gave it a new coat of paint... or lifted the fallen, dead tree off of it. "You can meet you mentor in there," Justin said. "Just tell them that you want a mission." With that, he left me behind to carry out a mission that I didn't even want. "Maybe today won't be full of as many opportunities as I thought." I mumbled.

Danson-

I decided that entering the house and taking a mission would be the only way I would ever be able to make contact with Big H, his brother, or Shadow. I entered only to find a short line of Scythe members waiting in front of a table loaded with papers of all kinds. Each member approached the desk and stated their name. This was quickly followed by the guy behind the desk asking them to sign a sheet. I signed the paper and was told to sit in some fold-out chairs while the other guys and I waited for a meeting to start. A few minutes later, a tall and skinny figure entered the room. He sported a beard which made me believe he had to be about 20 or older. "Hello guys," he said as he glanced over the few of us. "To those of you who haven't been here before, I'm Danson. I'm here to hear your mission plans and decide which of you I will take under my wing this week yadda yadda yadda." Danson quickly turned to the kid beside me as he asked what it was that the Scythe member wanted to do. The member replied that he wanted to go on a sneaking mission of some kind in order to retrieve food from a local super-market. Sadly, the other Scythe members had similar requests. Stealing either food, supplies, or water. It was honestly sort of astonishing that the entire time I had been here, the word S.S.C had hardly been mentioned. Danson finally reached me and asked what I wanted to do. I was without words for a moment, how could I make myself stand out among the rest of these guys. After some quick thinking, I figured something out. "I'm here to get some help in retrieving some S.S.C documents." Danson looked confused. "I mean... if we are going to figure out where the money is, are best bet is taking some documents. We won't get are hands dirty and if we get the wrong documents, the S.S.C could give the money back in exchange for the ones we did take..." Now Danson looked happy. "Not bad, what's your name?" "Gregory," I replied. Danson turned to the other members in the room, "Usually I take time to think these things over... but I think that Gregory might be on to something here." A couple of the members shot me dirty looks while two more approached Danson about what a terrible decision he had made, but his mind was already made up. Danson finally got everyone to leave and then proceeded to talk to me. "I think you may have the right idea with this plan," Danson said as he sat down beside me. "Tonight I will figure out the best place to capture some files. And I am pretty fast a getting this kind of information," he said quickly. "I should be able to contact you tomorrow at 9:00 to start this. Something tells me that the more guys we bring in to capture these files, the louder and clumsier we will be. How about just the two of us? We could make two trips to get the files?" "Well," I replied. "I'm not sure if you should come with me when I g-." "Don't worry!" Danson said as he gave me a pat on the back, I have been doing this for years. We will be fine. Don't forget to meet me here tomorrow at 9:00." "Uh... yes sir," I replied with a hint of dread in my voice. As I left the shack, I began to realize what a poor decision I had just made.

Result of Lies-

Before the day was out, I ran back to base as fast as I could to warn Spike about what my terrible lies had gotten me into. Most members had already left by now which would just make it all the easier for Spike to kill me without any witnesses. I made it to his office and he could tell by the look I had in my eyes, that something was wrong. "What happen-" "Spike I'm so sorry!" I interrupted. "I ended up taking a mission because I thought it would get me closer to Big H, but I... I think I REALLY messed up..." "Slow down Gregory," Spike said. "What happened?" I stuttered for a few moments before being able to continue. "I...convinced Scythe to raid our base and steal files that they could use... against us..." I'm SO sorry; I don't know what I was thinking! Some guy named Danson and I have to get the files by tomorrow!" Spike looked down at his desk and thought for a few moments. "I agree," he said. "This could be a big mistake on your part... but I think that it's worth a shot." My spirit suddenly lifted as he continued. "Your plan might just work as long as no one gets hurt. I would be willing to replace our real files with fake ones. It won't be easy but Luke and I will get right on it tonight... you could help too..." "I don't know... maybe I should get some rest before we sta-" "GREAT!" Spike exclaimed. "Let's get started."

Plans-

The following day, I returned to Father Base and went straight to Danson's place. It actually felt good to have something to do rather than standing around and asking questions. Danson was already at the shack once I arrived. "I got some in-tell as promised," Danson said happily. "The S.S.C puts the majority of its files in a storage room at the back of an abandoned office building." I gave a slight smirk as I recalled Spike, Luke, and I setting the decoy files in that exact place. "We are gonna have to get to this mission SOON," Danson continued. "I'm thinking that we will get half of them over-night and the other half tomorrow night. We could leave at 12:00; there shouldn't be any guards around at that time. What do you think?" "An excellent idea Danson, anything you want me to bring?" "I suppose water, some flashlights, and binoculars couldn't hurt," he replied. "These documents are as good as ours; the S.S.C doesn't stand a chance." Danson stating this, suddenly made me remember my other mission: finding Tye.

Finding Tye-

I soon left Danson and thought long and hard about how to find Tye. I found it interesting that Danson was able to get in-tell on the S.S.C so fast. Maybe they could figure out where Tye is without taking much time either! Since Justin and Devin were the most trustworthy guys in the whole camp, I decided to confront them about it. I found Devin later that day at his tent and spoke with him about finding a guy named Tye who previously worked with the S.S.C. Devin asked why I wanted to know and I simply replied that Danson and I were looking for him so we could get answers. Devin said he'd look into it, but it might take some time due to other duties he was working on. And with merely 13 days until the attack, I needed to hurry up and get answers.

The First Mission-

Later that night I returned to Danson's place with the gear he requested. Danson was already packed and waiting for me at the door. "Good, your here," he said. "I knew you wouldn't chicken out." "I've been called a lot of things," I replied. "But a chicken isn't one of them." "Ha, let's get going. Take some duffel bags to carry those files." I picked up two of the bags and the two of us worked our way to the base which sat quietly as it should be. My only fear was that a member would stay behind and compromise the mission, but Spike had assured me that every S.S.C member was well aware of the mission and agreed to leave it un-guarded. Danson weaved his way through the trees while I stayed close to the ground and slowly shuffled my way towards the front doors. "You sneak well," Danson whispered from a distance. "Have you done this type of thing before?" "Yeah, a few times," I lied. "I'm surprised that you find me good though, after-all this is coming from one of the guys who snuck in and out of the Menford bank with 14,000 dollars in your hands." Danson managed to run near me and shuffle with me along the ground. "Well... actually, on the day of the robbery I was... late... to the meeting. As punishment, Shadow told me I couldn't go." "What is up with that guy?" I asked. We now reached the doors to the front and remained visual as Danson spoke. "No-one really knows. Everything about Shadow's past is completely unknown. The same goes for Big H and Trigger. Some people just don't like to tell personal stories like that... especially not people like Shadow." With that, Danson carefully opened the door and peaked around for enemies. The light of the full moon drew my attention to a small fire-arm at his waist. He motioned for me to follow and I stayed carefully behind him. Every step was done with absolute caution; nearly 15 minutes had passed before we had even made it to the file room. Eventually, Danson gave me the all clear sign and we proceeded into the fake office. "Okay," Danson whispered. "Go ahead and start stuffing the bags." I listened and we son had successfully obtained more than half of the documents. As we made our way to the door, the pocket to my jacket some-how un-zipped and my S.S.C binoculars fell out with a thud! The binoculars were inscribed with the letters: S.S.C. Danson began to reach for the fallen object, if he saw what it said this would be game over! Danson was already too close to the binoculars for me to grab them, and as I readied myself for the pain that would ensue, I instead heard a loud bang from nearby. Danson's attention was immediately diverted to the sound and he quickly pushed me to the side and pulled out his gun. "Stay here, I'll be right back." I used this time alone to my advantage and managed to put the binoculars back into my jacket. Danson returned a couple minutes later with his gun still drawn. "It must have been a raccoon or something," he said. "Let's get going while everything is still going according to plan." We quickly made our way out of the base and began the long process of crawling away. "I'm surprised how seriously you take the S.S.C," I said. Danson stared back at me as we continued crawling. "Are you kidding?" he asked. "These guys have been around way longer than Scythe has. They may not have guns, but they have experience with dealing with enemies. I'm not taking my chances with'em." I nodded understandingly as we quietly continued our crawling. Suddenly, I had the urge to look back at the base one last time before we made it over the hill. Standing vigilantly at the front door was Negative. Danson's raccoon theory wasn't as spot-on as I had thought.

A Scythe Meeting-

Danson and I reached Father Base around 2:00 am. I knew my mom wouldn't be happy when I told her how late I was staying up. However, Father Base was busier than usual and I found it difficult to find any place to escape. As I scanned the area, Justin approached me with a grin. "Danson is over at the house, talking about how well you did on that mission." I just smiled back, "Danson did most of the work, he probably could have done it all without me." "Quite being so modest Gregory!" Justin said. "We are having a little meeting by the fire tonight if you want to show up... but if you are too tired, I understand if you don't want to come." I thought about it for a moment but decided that it would be in my best interest to attend the meeting and learn as much as I could. And as I caught a glimpse of Shadow and his guys, circling Father Base, I was happy that I hadn't left.

Conclusions-

About half an hour later, a large fire was set up by some of the guys and about 30 people gathered around in all directions. I felt pretty puny when surrounded by all these people and hoped that nothing would go wrong. Danson and Justin found me and decided to sit with me as the fire was finally burning at its brightest. "When is Big H getting here?" I asked. Danson looked confused and then proceeded to laugh, "OH! Justin Probably forgot to tell you. This isn't an ACTUAL meeting, it's just a time for all of us to hang out, discuss what we did over the week, have some marshmallows, etcetera. But personally, I hate marshmallows." "I am fine with them," I replied. "But I could really go for some steak, I al-" Just as I was about to finish, a couple guys sat down with guitars and began to play a few tunes. I felt like speaking, but everyone else was so quite now that I decided too as well. The two initially began to play a tune at once and it was pretty good considering the fact that one of the guitars was missing a couple strings. Then they unexpectedly began to belt out music that was surprisingly soft and enchanting. They repeated the word believe throughout their lyrics and I noted that it was definitely original. Other member began to join in the singing until I was sure that the entire Father Base was filled with the harmony of... Scythe members SINGING. I was absolutely astounded by what was happening here, had I misjudged them? As I looked into some of their teary eyes, I finally figured something out that perhaps I should have understood before. Despite being a gang (a dangerous one at that) and also being the enemy of the S.S.C, they were still humans, humans with feelings and emotions. They believed that what they were doing was right, like how THEM had thought it was right when it began battling the S.S.C because they felt it would become too powerful and ruin others' lives. I knew that I still had a mission to do... but I wasn't sure I could follow through with it.

Warned-

My energy the next morning was EXTREMELY low and a wringing headache made me want to just topple over; onto my bed. Danson had scheduled the second the second infiltration of the S.S.C documents to be at 10:00 tonight. My dad made my headache all the fiercer by asking 100 or so questions about what was going on. I told him everything except about the dreams I had been having. They had lately been the same thing; I would walk up to a mirror and suddenly phase through it as if I were a ghost. I would then see Negative's mask hanging on a wall. Just as I would walk up to touch it, the room would give a sudden spin and I found myself in a darker version of the same room, this one also containing a hung mask of Negative. The dream would always end abruptly after that. After my father's involvement in the Night Riser Incident I knew he wouldn't be too happy when I told him I was taking advice from a complete stranger. "If at any point this becomes too much for you," my dad said. "I want you to back out of this. This is an issue that my friends and I never had to deal with, and I expect you to handle this seriously... I don't want you to get hurt." "Don't worry dad," I replied. "My partners know what they're doing. It'll be okay." I only wished that, that was true.

Caught?-

I left for Father Base at 6:00 that day and successfully made my way inside. I was starting to get used to these guys and I began to think that they began to get used to me as well. Granted, I still didn't poke my nose into other people's business, nor did I take a seat anywhere. Nevertheless, I was on my way to Danson's place when suddenly my phone began to ring. I had forgotten to silence it and now some of the Scythe guys were staring at me. I casually stepped out of sight behind a tree and answered. It was Luke. "Why are you calling me?!" I whispered. "You could get me killed if you're not more careful!" Luke responded quickly, "Yeah, yeah, I know. But Chris and I were having a meeting over here today and we wanted you to show up." "I am already meeting Danson at 10:00," I replied. "Can't this wait?" "It should only take an hour... maybe even less pleeease." "Fine," I replied. "I'll be right over." With that, I hung up the phone and just as I walked away from the tree, Shadow and his guys appeared out of thin air! "You have a pretty nice phone," Shadow said with a smirk. "How did you pay for something like that huh?" My mind was racing and I began to panic as it felt like my heart was about to burst out of my chest. "It... really isn't mine," I stammered. "I took it from this guy over at... Blue Point... I was able to bypass the password and everything... it... comes in handy." Shadow looked me closely in the eye and just stared for a while. I kept the straightest face I had as he spoke once more. "Alright then," he said slowly. With that, he motioned for his guys to follow him as they walked away into the crowd of Scythe members. Without blinking or even breathing, I snuck out of Father base and breathed a sigh of relief. I then hurried over to our S.S.C base to see what awaited me.

An Understanding-

I rushed into the base expecting to see Luke and Chris already there, but instead all I saw upon opening the door was a table sitting awkwardly in the center of the floor. I took a curious step inside and the door immediately slammed shut. Behind the door were Luke and Chris who pointed me to the table. "What's this all about?" I asked. "We're not... well... I'm not stupid," said Chris. "I know what you're going through over there at Scythe." Luke pulled up some seats and we all sat down at the table. "Our last spy was the same way. He went in ready to take on the world. But left with utter happiness when he failed the mission. He didn't want to see Scythe fall... and neither do you." I paused for a moment. While it was nice to hear that I wasn't alone, I still knew what was coming. "We needed to tell you that no matter how kind Scythe seems to be or how innocent, they have still committed terrible crimes and are threatening our lives... you have to do your job without any feelings for this gang," Luke said solemnly. "I... I understand," I said in a whisper. "Everything you said was true, and I know things won't get much easier, but I would like to thank you guys for talking to me." Just as Luke was about to open the door back up, Chris shot up in sudden excitement. "OH!" he yelled. "I almost forgot. I want you to have this." With that, Chris pulled out what at first appeared to be a gun! Upon further examination, I found it to be a B.B. gun that had been modified and spray painted to appear as an actual fire-arm! "This is the result of the project I've been working on," Chris said. "It fires with much more force than that of a normal B.B. gun and perfectly resembles a SIG Pro semi-automatic pistol... Treat it with care, it's the only one we have..." Are you serious?" I asked in surprise. "You trust me with this thing?" "If anyone deserves it, it's you." Luke replied as he handed me some of the "marbles." Suddenly, a figure exited Commander Spike's room as I scrambled to hide the weapon. It was Green who upon seeing us, left the base with haste. "Does that kid have a unit yet?" I asked. "Nope," Luke replied, "It's pretty weird really... he is always hanging around Spike." A thought rushed through my head that Green might be Negative. But this idea was dispatched when I noted that Green was too short. So with new weapon in hand, I left to head back to Father Base for the mission.

The Second Mission-

By the time I made it back, Danson was already waiting for me. "Ready to go?" he asked as he handed me a sack." "You bet, hopefully their base will be just as empty as last time," I replied. With that, I sent a text to Spike to clear everyone out of the base as me and Danson made our decent. Everything was working out perfectly by the time we made it into the base. Danson led the way as I covered him from behind. As he approached one of the cabinets and took the files out, Danson made the sudden mistake to slam the cabinet closed on his shirt and just as he attempted to dash to the next cabinet, he slipped and fell hard on the floor. He was now fighting back tears as I noticed he had popped a bone out of place in his foot. "Are you alright?" I whispered. "Just get those files and let's get out of here," he replied in agony. I wasted no time getting the files together and helping Danson wobble to the door. Suddenly, a small voice was heard approaching the room. "Is someone in there?" the voice inquired. To my horror, I recognized the voice as that of Green! Danson reached for his gun but I gently placed him aside. "I'll handle this. Sit tight," I said. Green then entered the room and with no time to explain, I got him in a head-lock and quickly threw him against the wall so that his head would hit a cabinet. Green didn't even have time to shriek before he was knocked unconscious. "Good w-work Gregory!" Danson proclaimed. "Let's get out of here."

Savior-

With that, we left and although the trip back to Father Base was slow, Danson told me we could take a short-cut through town. I walked him back in complete silence and we eventually got to the road where Danson proclaimed he was ready to walk on his own again. I hesitantly let him go and he made his way to the road where (with no cars coming) he began to make his trek across. I looked down for only a second to tie my shoe when suddenly I heard Danson shriek in pain and his body fall to the ground. Soon a car came screeching around the corner headed in our direction! In the darkness, it was nearly impossible to see Danson lying there. I quickly dropped the sack and jumped a Danson before the car could reach him. My tackle was successful and as the car sped away, we both sat in silence once more, with our breathing quite heavy. "Gregory..." Danson managed to say. "You j..." Before he could say anymore, some people from a local store popped outside saying that they just saw somebody nearly get hit. I picked up Danson and with all my strength, carried him and the sack to a near-by alley.

Praise-

Once hidden from the people, Danson finally spoke "You just saved my life!" he yelled. "I've been doing this kind of stuff for years, but never have I been saved by a rookie! Gregory, you are some guy ya know that, a real hero!" "You were in need and I helped you," I said. "There was no other option." Danson smiled as I made sure the coast was clear. "Let's get out of here," Danson said as I helped him up. "This place gives me the creeps... it's too cold, I don't like the cold." "Sure thing, but no getting on roads without me ya hear?" I said jokingly. We both laughed and made our way back to base.

Found-

When we returned, Danson was taken by some guys for whatever kind of treatment they had in mind. As I readied myself to leave, Devin appeared out of thin air with excitement. "Gregory, so glad you made it man!" he said. "Good news, I found the location of Tye!" I was too shocked for words. "He works as the manager of a mall over at Blue Point!" "Thanks Devin," I responded. "You've been a big help. I'll try and find him tomorrow." With that, Devin departed and I did as well. With time running short, Tye was my last hope. I was finally going to get to meet a legend... but would he want to meet me?

What Once Was

Preparation-

I decided to get some rest before traveling to Blue Point. For all I knew, Tye could be incredibly difficult to talk to. Not only had he abandoned the S.S.C and his own apprentice, but now that the situation had gotten even worse, he might just throw me out into the street. I would have rather stuck with Danson to make sure he was okay, but the risk of meeting Shadow again was just too risky. And so, when morning came, I boarded Zombie and left for Blue Point in hopes that I could track down the one and only Tye... before it was too late.

Tye-

I had a total of twelve days left before Scythe would make their move. It wasn't long before I reached Blue Point and approached the one mall in the entire town. Needless to say, It actually felt good to go on a mission that didn't risk my own life or the lives of others. One of the biggest issues was that I didn't even know what Tye looked like now. So as a result, I talked to a cashier and asked to speak with him. She complied and told me to go in a small waiting room. As I sat in silence, I wondered if I should tell him the truth... about the S.S.C I mean. Should I really tell Tye what kind of situation we were in? What if he failed to comply? What if my mission ended in failure after all this work? I didn't have too much time to think, because I soon heard footsteps approaching the door and I waited hesitantly. Finally, a tall figure with short and curly hair as well as a welcoming smile entered the room. "I'm the manager of this establishment," the man stated. "What can I d..." Tye suddenly stopped speaking and looked closely at me for a second. "I'm Gregory..." I said trying to ease the tension. "Perhaps you know my dad?" Tye's face suddenly lit up with joy as he shook my hand. "Aha!," he yelled. "I knew you looked familiar! In fact, you look just like your father did when he was your age... except your hair is shorter and a bit darker... you must have gotten that from Samantha. What brings you here?" It was great seeing someone smile again and not take everything so seriously, but I decided to tell Tye the truth about the situation. "The S.S.C... is in some bad shape," I began. "I need information on how to find Brett Blakley so that the S.S.C isn't obliterated in twelve days... I was hoping you could tell me..." As I suspected, Tye's face became that of despair. "My memory isn't what it used to be," Tye said. "But not a day passed where I would forget about the S.S.C... you probably already know how I felt about the scenario the S.S.C has gotten itself into... but that won't stop me from helping you. I'm afraid I do not know where you can find Brett... but Tim Allender lives far north of town. He went to the same college and everything as Brett... if you can find him AND GET HIM TO TALK, you will probably find Brett." Tye took out a piece of paper and drew a small map with directions to Tim's place. "What did you mean when you said get him to talk," I asked. Tye sat down and stared at his feet. Tim has become somewhat of a... hermit now. I've only talked to him once since we left the S.S.C, and he has changed... a lot. He may not want to tell you anything once he learns what is happening... nu don't lie to him. Tim can sense when he is being lied to... it's probably more of a curse than it is a gift." "You have no idea what's wrong with him?" I asked. "Not a clue," Tye said honestly. Before we could say anymore, a woman came into the room and began to beckon for Tye. "Looks like it's time for me to go," he said sadly. "By the way, is Travis alright?" I gave him a look of confusion. Tye slapped his forehead in embarrassment. "My bad!" he said. "Travis goes by the name of Commander Spike now." I smiled, "Yes, he is doing fine." Tye grinned and threw me a coupon. "There are plenty more where that came from if you don't die," Tye said jokingly. We both laughed and with that, he began to leave but looked over his shoulder one last time. "Be careful out there... be careful."

Tim's House-

I left the mall and began my pursuit to Tim's house. On the way, I contacted Luke to tell him where I was... and also to brag a little. My father had always described Tim as being level-headed and easy to get along with. But Tye made it sound as if Tim were some kind of lonely monster. Either way, I HAD to find him in order to get to Brett. For all I knew, maybe Tim and Brett were working together to retrieve the money. Why they would keep it to themselves is what was wrong with that theory. Soon, the houses in Blue Point began to become more and more seldom. According to Tye's map, Tim's house was located next to a farm. He had no neighbors anywhere close by. A small house soon came into my field of vision. No-one was outside and nor were any lights on. But a car in the yard meant that somebody had to be home right? Going on this theory, I parked and slowly approached the house.

Tim?-

I knocked on the door loudly and gazed around the yard while waiting for a response. After about a minute, there was no answer. I decided to knock again just in case. Upon knocking a second time, the door-knob began to click and the door swung open revealing a figure whose face was hidden by shadows. "What do you want?" the man said irritably. Going by Tye's advice, I decided not to lie. "I'm Gregory," I said. "My father is George... perhaps you know him?" The figure remained in shadows and stood quietly before quickly saying, "yes." The S.S.C is in trouble," I said. "A gang called Scythe is threatening to attack us if we don't supply them with money that they think we stole from them. We have reason to believe that Brett Blakley may know where the money is actually located and point us in the right direction... but no-one knows where he is... I was hoping you could tell me..." I finally got a chance to breath as the figure continued to stand still. Finally, he stepped a bit closer and his face was littered with worry wrinkles. He had dark brown hair and dark eyes to match. "I don't want any part in this," he said suddenly, and proceeded to slam the door shut.

A Deal with Negative-

I stood back; shocked. I hadn't expected such an answer. "Maybe you don't understand!" I yelled. Scythe has guns! They will KILL us if the money is not supplied! We have less than two weeks to comply! Don't you even care?!" At first there was no reply and I was about to knock once more. But Tim soon shouted from behind the door, "If you were smart you'd quit the S.S.C now!" I was nearly left speechless, had the great Tim Allender just told me to give up... after hearing all this? "They will find us either way!" I yelled back. Tim now replied in a much more controlled tone. "I didn't mean for you to quite in order to save yourself from Scythe... I meant for you to quite in order to save you from yourself." "What's that supposed to mean?!" I retorted. "Leave now!" Tim ordered aggressively. The sun was setting and I had no more ideas. It was over. Tim was going to be of o help it seemed. I would have to break it to Commander Spike that my plan was a failure... how would he react? How would he react upon realizing we were never going to find the money, and never be freed from these horrors? As I turned around to leave, I suddenly came face-to-face with Negative! He was wearing his white leather jacket and walked closer to me. "Leaving so soon?" he asked. Before I could answer, Negative walked past me and approached the door. Negative knocked hardly and Tim answered in frustration. "I told you to lea..." Tim cut himself off in shock of seeing the masked figure. "You are Tim?" Negative asked. "Yes," Tim responded. "Who are you?" Negative leaned close to Tim and began to whisper in his ear. Tim gave a sudden look of shock and immediately burst opened the door and smiled brightly! "Come in!" Tim said. "Both of you can come in." I as led through Tim's dusty house to a living room with lots of home-made furniture. Tim and Negative spoke in whispers out in the hall, listening was of no use as they soon entered with Tim still smiling. He seemed to look much younger now that he grinned. I realize your need to find Brett," Tim said. "So I will tell you everything you need to know... if you can prove to me that you are a trustworthy soldier who will end this dispute." "How?" I asked worriedly. Tim paused, "You'll fight me."

Gregory Vs. Tim-

"F-fight you?" I said with surprise. "That's right," Tim replied. "Negative and I both agree that you need to pass this test to prove that you have what it takes to finish what you've started." Negative silently stood in the corner and nodded at me. Without a response, Tim dug through a box and threw a wooden vest at me. "These training vests are used in spars, put one on. If you can successfully strike me three times in the back, I will tell you where Brett is... if not, then you leave." I began to become annoyed with both Tim and Negative at this point. Didn't they realize what was at steak? Was having this stupid spar really necessary? A thought occurred to me that maybe I was just afraid to spar against the legendary Tim Allender... and I completely agreed with this thought. I had been trained by a multitude of people, but Tim as far out of my league. "Get going," Negative demanded and both me and Tim stood on opposite sides of his practically empty living room. Tim was now in the zone, only focusing on me. Meanwhile, I was still trying to understand what was going on here. Tim suddenly made a swift movement and pushed me back in a single lunge. I nearly fell, but regained my posture and decided to dash at him. Tim was prepared for my attack, and just as he was about to stop me, I slid into his legs and wiped him out on the floor. As I stood, ready to strike his back, Tim kicked upwards and hit my chest. I became woozy just long enough for Tim to hit my back once. He was obviously just toying with me, and that only made me even madder. As Tim stood once more, I managed to get him in a head-lock and knee him in his back. I backed up in utter shock. I had just scored a real hit on Tim Allender! Would anyone even believe me if I told them this? "Not bad kid," Tim stated. But he suddenly flipped me over his back, causing me to land harder than expected on the floor. I looked around for something to use in the fight, but everything here belonged to Tim, I couldn't just mess up his stuff. Tim attempted to reach me, but I rolled out of the way and used all my speed to dash into Tim's side while he was lunging forward. Tim staggered for a moment, and I then dashed at him once more with the utmost confidence. But Tim saw it all coming as he dodged me, causing me to miss him entirely and for him to hit my back once more. I gazed at Negative who watched us intently, almost never moving. With Tim only one hit away from beating me, I had to step it up. So I waited for Tim to dash at me and succeeded in head-butting his stomach. Tim staggered back in sudden pain as I made my way behind him. Suddenly, before I could hit him, Tim leaped across the room and while still in mid-air, pushed himself away from the incoming wall, sending him flying back in my direction! I ducked just in time, but this was exactly what Tim expected. Before I could even realize his plan worked, Tim successfully landed a hit on my back while still in mid-air! I fell forward in defeat as I tried to comprehend the seemingly impossible stunt Tim had just pulled off. Age hadn't slowed him down one bit... either that... or maybe I really wasn't ready.

The Real Winner-

It soon dawned on me that I had just lost it all. Tim had won fair and square, now, thanks to Negative, I would never find Brett. I was soon greeted by Tim's hand that helped me up. "You're not bad," Tim said with a smile. "I can certainly see some of your father in you. Both in the way you look, and the way you fight. But unfortunately, you still lost, and I have to keep my word to Negative, that you have to go now." As Tim approached the door, showing me the way out, my rage finally broke free. "That's it!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. "You're just going to toss me into the street and leave the S.S.C to die?! Do you know how many people looked up to you, how many people COUNTED on you to help us win this?! And you're going to throw that all away just because some masked guy told you so?! Well I've got news for you, Tim, I'm not leaving until you tell me what I want to know, and I don't care if you beat me up in the process or not!" Negative stared at me from the corner as my rage died down. Tim's grin became wider and he looked over to Negative. "Is that good enough for you?" Negative nodded and Tim looked back at me. "Congratulations Gregory, you won."

The Fate of Brett-

I struggled to understand this sudden change of events. My confusion was so apparent; Tim didn't even wait for a response. "Negative came up with this entire fighting scenario," Tim said. "We needed to be sure that you would not back down on this mission, even when i seemed impossible." I nodded slowly as my anger faded and I shot Negative a nasty glare. "You will thank me for this," Negative murmured. "So... you will tell me about Brett?" I asked. Tim now regained his serious tone as he sat down on his sofa. "Here's the problem Gregory," Tim mumbled. "I... don't know where he is..." I now slouched in both shock and defeat. Before I could speak, Tim continued. "Brett spent nearly his entire childhood fighting THEM and The Brotherhood of Death, as well as boa-loads of bullies." "I'm aware of that," I interrupted. "That's why he is a hero... like you." "Tim now regained his depression. "No," he continued. "This was the problem. Not a day went by when Brett or I didn't have anything to do, we were constantly taking down enemies of all shapes and sizes...it became routine. Brett and I never realized what would happen once the enemies had all fled and when we were too old to continue our work. And that's when it hit us, we had spent so much of our lives fighting... we had nothing else to live for. Your father had Samantha, Tye had a multitude of friends and a caring family, but all we had was fighting..." Tim paused and stared at both Negative and I for a minute, seeing if we had anything to say. He soon continued, "Shortly after Brett and I got into college, Brett came to the conclusion that the only way to continue to do what he loved, was to join the military. I tried to convince him other-wise, but he was too far gone by then. Brett was quickly enrolled and shipped into the battlefields shortly afterwards. It wasn't long before Brett and 16 other troopers were ambushed my multiple attackers while on a scouting mission. Three men were killed, and Brett... Brett was registered "missing in action." I dropped out shortly afterwards, I realized that our drive for fighting had caused all of this... if we had something else to live for, maybe it all wouldn't have happened." Tim slouched down on the sofa and put his head in his hands in defeat. "You can't live life with maybes," I said. "Brett may not have moved on, but what's your excuse?" Tim straightened up as if my words had touched his heart to the core. He reached in a nearby drawer and pulled out a photo for me. I picked it out of his hands only to see Tim and Brett in college, sitting by a statue and posing like a couple of boxers. Suddenly, it occurred to me that these were the same faces I had saw in the repetitive dreams I was having! The two guys were Tim and Brett the whole time! Just before I could wonder any further on how this was possible, Tim stood up with new-found happiness. "Just because Brett's not here, doesn't mean I can't help you."

Secrets Revealed?-

Tim asked me to explain the entire situation to him and include any detail possible. I told him about the robbery, the missing cash, Negative, Scythe, Big H, Trigger, Shadow, Team Ice, the time-limit, and anything else that came to mind. Tim sat back in his sofa and pondered this for a while. "How strange," Tim mumbled. "What do you mean?" I asked. "It's just that... something about all this seems rather wrong... aha!" Tim nearly fell out of his seat with the thought he had just obtained. "Gregory, you mentioned that most Scythe members not only have guns, but also, tents, food, and some gear... am I correct?" "Yes," I replied anxiously. "Has the thought ever occurred to you of how they are affording all of this?" Tim asked. "Most of these guys have neither homes of jobs, how could they buy such materials?" I stood silently, pondering over such an obvious thing I had missed. "What are you getting at here?" I asked, still in confusion. "I believe that the only way Scythe could manage to afford all this is if they already had all or half of the money!" Tim shouted. "Assuming they do have half, they may believe that the S.S.C has the other... and that is why they are planning on attacking... not for all the money... but for the other half!" Before I could speak, Negative finally moved from his statue-like stance and began to clap. "Excellent work Tim," he said. "You are right, Scythe does indeed have half the money... you are smarter than you appear." This suddenly struck me with a sudden question. "If they believe we have the other half, why don't they just try and take it from us? What's the point in even giving us a time-limit? They could just attack now." Negative responded only with, "You have someone trying to look after you. But they can only continue to do so if you remain under the radar." Tim now spoke up, "He's right Gregory; make sure that you tell no-one that you talked to Tye or I." "Sure thing," I said. All of a sudden, a thought came rushing to my head like a speeding fist, when it hit me, I nearly screamed. Instead, I staggered back in dis-belief as I realized something terrible. "What is it Gregory?" Tim asked. All I could say was "Danson," before running to my car.

Rescuing Danson-

I drove like a maniac towards Father Base with sweat pouring down my face and my heart racing. Some of Scythe members had been there when I told Danson about finding Tye. If they figured out that I was an under-cover agent, Danson would be in BIG trouble for unknowingly aiding me. I had to stop my car a couple miles before reaching Father base so that I wouldn't stand out. I then broke into a total sprint as I raced to make sure Danson was alright. When I arrived, I snuck my way in through an unguarded sector and quickly, yet stealth-fully, snuck over to Danson's "house." But I couldn't go in, for inside the building was none other than Danson, who had been tied up and lying in the center of the room. Surrounding him were a dozen Scythe members. Three of which were Big H, Trigger, and Shadow. My heart was beating so loud that I was sure they could hear me. Never-the-less, I watched from a cracked window as Danson was taken by the throat by Trigger. "Where is he?!" Trigger demanded. "I-I haven't seen... h-him," Danson struggled to say. Trigger angrily threw him to the wall and dashed over to Danson in a split second, delivering a harsh blow to the stomach. I covered my mouth in terror and Danson did the same. Never had I seen him look so scared, not even when he was nearly hit by a car. Shadow chimed in, "We know that he told you he was going to Tye's mall, but he has to be gone by now... you MUST know where he is!" "I know nothing," Danson coughed. "I know nothing." Big H stood over Danson and forcibly moved Danson's face so that the two were staring eye-to-eye. "This is your last chance," Big H said calmly. "Tell me now and you shall not be punished." Danson's black-eyes darted quickly around the room and before I knew it, he was staring directly at me. No-one else in the room took notice, and I was too terrified to move. Danson held his gaze a bit longer and Trigger drew out his gun. I cringed as tears flooded my eyes. My legs became numb as did my hands. Before I knew it, I had fallen to the ground. All I could do was listen, and my ears were met with the sound of a gunshot.

What's Worth Fighting For?-

As I began to re-gain control of my body, I heard Big H speaking. "Put him in the basement and leave him there, he will be a little present for Gregory." Scythe members filed out of the building, giving me enough time to sneak in through the back entrance and run downstairs. I knew this had to be some kind of trap, but I didn't care. All I cared about was Danson. And there he was, lying still on the floor where his own partners had put him to die. I began to weep softly and somehow through all this, I heard Danson make a small grunt. I ran over to him and carefully rolled him around so he could face me. He looked even worse up-close. Danson had two black-eyes, multiple bruises around the face, and a large cut on his forehead. I nearly shrieked as I saw he had been shot in the chest. I could find no room for words, but Danson managed to speak through his pain. "G-gregory... sorry... ya... h-have to see me like this..." All I could do was cry harder. "Don't feel bad for me Gregory," Danson said. "I knew... the... r-risk when I first met y-you... I always had a feeling you were an S.S.C member." "Why didn't you tell anyone then?" I asked sheepishly. Danson began to whimper in pain. "The plain fact is... I don't agree with what Scythe has become... I- I joined Scythe because they promised to give me food, shelter, and friends when I had n-none... But... the d-day that they robbed that bank and waged war on you guys, I... I... wasn't sure what to believe in anymore." I began to put pressure on Danson's wound, but he just moved my hand lightly away. "Besides, I l-lied... to you too." Danson struggled to say. "On the day of the robbery, I wasn't l-late... I... didn't show up... because... b-because I was... scared." I didn't even try to talk at this point; my mind was racing with too much emotion to comprehend. "S-so I guess we're b-both liars," Danson said with a short laugh. "But you Gregory... y-you can be forgiven... G-gregory... don't make the same mistake I d-did... don't f-fight for a c-c....cause you don't believe in..." Danson's body soon fell limp and his breathing suddenly ceased as all I could do was sit and watch. With tears in my eyes, I gave Danson a pat on the back and only then did I hear the Scythe members coming back in!

New Plans-

With haste, I made my way to a large pile of wood stacked against the wall and quickly covered myself so that they wouldn't spot me. It was hard to try and not sob or breathe heavily, but I remained quiet as they came downstairs. "He's dead," one member said with no emotion. "Serves him right for betraying us," Trigger replied as he had five others circled the room. "We have yet to figure out who gave him information on where to find Tye in the first place," one member said. I breathed a short sigh of relief, at least Devin was okay. "Keep up the search," said Big H. "It doesn't look like he's here, Gregory must not have fallen for our trap... so how else are we going to get'em?" The room was silent as I held my breath for what seemed like five minutes. Shadow finally spoke up, "The only logical explanation for visiting Tye would be so that he could find Tim or Brett," he guessed. "Although we don't know where Brett is, I am aware of Tim's location... I could... reason with him." No-one answered and one Scythe member came dangerously close to my hiding spot before backing away. "Alright Shadow," Big H said. "Do what needs to be done." With that, Shadow called to some of his "hounds" and made his way out, with Big H and Trigger not far behind. I became un-able to move again as I was too scared to leave my hiding spot. But if Shadow found Tim, it wouldn't matter how much experience Tim had, Shadow still had guns and back-up. The only way I could stop them from hurting Tim was to beat them there. So with all the strength I could muster, I once more snuck out of Father Base and sprinted to my car. Tim's life was now in my hands.

Danger-

While driving, I simultaneously called up Spike who immediately recognized my fear. "What's wrong?" he asked. "What has happened?" I wasted no time, "Scythe has figured out I am a spy, they are heading after Tim to silence him!" "Where are you?!" Spike yelled in fear. "I am driving over there," I replied. All was silent as Spike paused and talked to someone. "I have alerted the S.S.C members," he said quickly. "We are ready if they attempt an attack... Gregory, are you sure you want to do this?" The option of not saving Tim had never crossed my mind, there was no way I could let him die. "I am certain sir," I said and then hung up just in time to see that I had veered into the wrong lane and was now in the path of an incoming SUV! It layed on its horn as I somehow managed to swerve back into my lane. My heart was beating even faster, if I couldn't save Tim, I was afraid it would burst! The drive seemed to take forever as I struggled to remember where Tim lived. I began to wonder about Justin and Devin, would they be accused of being traitors as well? After all, people had seen me with them. And what would happen to the S.S.C? Would Scythe attack us early for spying on them? I pushed these thought out of my head and finally reached Tim's house... which had a black car parked in front of it...

The Fate of Tim-

Suddenly, just as I stepped out of my car, a shot rang out, followed by another. No-one lived close enough to come to the rescue and I was all alone now! The mere thought of Tim dying brought me to my knees in the front yard. It was in this silence that I heard the voice of Shadow. "Take him to the location and bury the evidence... no-one can know about this." It was at that moment that I was certain of it, Tim had to be dead. Before I could cry yet again, Shadow and another Scythe member in a ski mask dragged a large sac out from behind the house and threw it into the back of their parked car with such un-caring force. I managed to dive behind a pine tree and watched as the two of them noted my car being there. "Who's is this?" Shadow said, frustrated. No-one offered a reply and Shadow then pulled out a knife and slit my tires. "Go," he said and the driver fled with the man I had only met this morning, but a man whom had such a great effect on my life... gone... just like that he was gone.

Balance

Caught:

I didn't dare make a noise or even bother to breathe as Shadow began to wonder around the yard.. I wouldn't stand a chance against Shadow and his guns. Soon, his footsteps fell silent and an eerie wind blocked out any other noise. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind hit me, causing me to lose my footing against the tree for only a split-second. My foot dragged across the ground loud enough to make my heart skip a beat. Suddenly, the sound of wind was broken by Shadow's menacing voice. "Gregory!" he yelled. "I was wondering if you'd show up, did you miss that little tussle between Tm and I?" I remained quiet, just in case Shadow was just bluffing that he saw me. "He hardly put up a fight," Shadow laughed. "Boy did he fall from grace." I became immediately frustrated. How was Tim supposed to stand up against Shadow and his weapons? "I would suggest coming out, don't worry, I'll give you a fair fight. Lets just see what the son of George has in'em." I still refrained from moving. "I would suggest coming out now, Gregory. Unless you want me to fight dirty." In an effort to see if he was really telling the truth, I peaked from behind the tree, only to find Shadow standing a few mere feet away, staring directly at me! I stepped out from behind the tree, trying to seem as strong and menacing as ever. Shadow dropped his guns and knife o the side and stood tall. "I expect a good fight here Gregory... Tim would want it that way." With rage coursing through my body, I attacked him.

Gregory Vs. Shadow:

With speed that I didn't even know I had in me, I sprinted towards Shadow and kneed him in the stomach with all my strength. As I prepared to kick him back, Shadow agilely leaped backwards and in my sudden confusion, he sent himself barreling towards me like a rocket. His fist hit me hard and I fell onto my back. Shadow ran at me again, but I managed to roll out of the way and trip him while I was at it. Before Shadow could react, I tackled him back onto the ground and trapped his arms beneath my legs. With all the strength I could muster, I delivered five strong left and right hooks to his chest and face. Shadow remained calm and quickly shifted his weight forward so that he could knock me off. It worked, and I soon found myself on the ground again. Shadow took me by the throat, and delivered to strong punches to my stomach; knocking the wind out of me. "I'm not impressed," Shadow said as he threw me back. I couldn't seem to find the words to speak to him, my mind was blank and all I could do was keep fighting. Shadow cam running at me as if he were going to tackle me, leaving me enough time to get up, outstretch my hand, and at the last minute, catch his face within the palm of my hand. Shadow now seemed surprised as I used this time to pick him up and hold him above my head. The wind now picked up, causing me to stumble a bit and lose grip of him, sending Shadow falling to the ground against my efforts. While lying there, Shadow spun his legs around and tripped me. I fell hard on my side and my walkie-talkie shattered instantly. He suddenly grabbed my shirt and yelled over the wind. "Thanks to you, Scythe is attacking the S.S.C early... TODAY! The only way you can save them before the attack is to kill me!" Shadow got me in a headlock and continued to speak, "But you won't do that will you?! You won't dive down to our level!" His headlock became tighter and all my attempts and breaking free were futile. I attempted to kick Shadow, but they were to week to any real damage. My punches were also to weak to cause harm. I became drowsy and could only hope that Negative was watching and could help me one last time, but there was no sign of him. I could hardly breathe as I began to remember Danson, my father, Spike, Luke, Chris, and everyone else who believed in me. Could it really end here. "No," I answered to myself out loud, and before Shadow could see it coming, I bent my legs and shot myself up, off the ground, sending my head right into his face. Shadow stumbled back, holding his head in his hands, with haste, I sprinted away with all my might. I didn't dare look back, I could only hope that I wasn't to late.

The Race:

As I raced to the S.S.C base, my mind was flooding with questions and my heart was still heavy with regret. But I could make up for my wrongful doings by saving the S.S.C. As I was running, I decided to take out my binoculars and look around for enemies, I was soon drawn to the general direction of Father Base where I was stunned to see multiple Scythe members leaving their base, and heading towards ours! A black van soon pulled up to them and the members piled in as the car continued its course. I put down the binoculars and began to sprint. "The S.S.C base is right around this hill," I kept thinking to myself. "You are almost there, you can save everyone, not much longer!" Eventually I arrived at the base and all was eerily calm. Fearing the worst, I broke down the door shouting for Luke. I was then relieved to see Hawk and a few other S.S.C members waiting for my arrival. I caught myself tearing up for a moment, I had made it in time.

Warning:

"Whats going on?" Spike asked in surprise. "Are they really going to attack?" "Yes," I replied quickly. "I have already spotted a black van carrying about 8 to 10 Scythe members." Spike punched the wall in fury as the members began to talk amongst themselves in fear. "Everyone out!" Spike demanded at once. "Go back to your homes as quickly as you can! Find a place to hide or a loved one to protect you; go go go!" No-one even bothered bringing their stuff with them, in mere seconds, everyone had evacuated the base. At first I thought is was only Spike and I who remained. But Luke soon stepped out of the darkness and threw me a new walkie talkie. Chris followed shortly behind him. "What are you guys still doing here?" I asked. "Spike has already prepared us for what needs to be done if an attack were to happen today," Chris said. Spike soon cut in, "Yes, we will need to capture Trigger or Henry in order for them to leave us alone... and we have to do it today... We simply can't risk anyone getting hurt or... killed." As I was about to explain the situation with Tim, we all jumped at the sound of a car coming to s stop in front of our base. "Everyone hide," Luke whispered in a shaky voice, and we all split up at once.

The Beginning of the End:

I hid myself between a cabinet and a wall and proceeded to cover myself in old files and newspapers so as to make it look like I was a mere pile of garbage... I already felt that way. I peered out for only a second to see what was going on, Spike, Luke, and Chris were already hiding and footsteps drew near the entrance. "Take a look around," an unknown voice muttered. "All we have to do is find one." The footsteps would grow louder and quieter as the Scythe members continued their search. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to my new walkie-talkie. This one was far more advanced and was blinking for some reason. I soon found that a message had been sent to it by Chris. It simply read: '"3 have guns, the rest do not." Chris must of had a better view than me, which I was a bit jealous of. This was cut short by a Scythe member coming closely over to my direction. His footsteps stopped and he opened up the very cabinet I was hiding beside. Finding nothing of interest, he closed it and began to walk away. I caught a glimpse of him for a second, attached to his waist was a gun. I became conflicted with sudden thoughts of attacking him and retrieving his weapon, we would have more of a chance at defeating them then. But this could also risk the safety of the others, who might come out of their hiding places to help me. Before I could come to either decision, and loud crash was heard and someone screamed, "I found one, get in he-" Another crash was heard as all the Scythe members poured into a nearby room. My heart skipped a beat or two as Luke came barreling out of the room, with a gun in his hands. He must have been thinking the same thing as me. The un-armed Scythe members stood with their hands up as Luke kept a steady aim on them. Suddenly, I saw a figure silently sneaking towards Luke as he was distracted. It was one of the other armed Scythe members and he was about to aim at Luke! Suddenly, I remembered the "gun" Chris had given to me! Before I was even sure what I was doing, I pulled out the fake gun and leaped from my hiding spot. I was now aiming directly at the attackers head. Luke smiled as he realized that I was holding a fake. "Drop your weapon now!" I ordered, trying to sound threatening. With no other option, the attacker dropped his weapon on the ground where I picked it up. I was still sweating bullets however; the other armed Scythe member was still un-accounted for. We ordered everyone from Scythe into a pack and cornered them to prevent any escape. I didn't want to leave Luke alone with these guys too long, but we had to locate this last guy. Suddenly, a scuffle was heard around the corner. "Spike," I caught myself muttering. Surely enough, Spike was wrestling the last attacker to the ground. I was relieved until I noticed that the Scythe member was still holding onto his weapon! A stray gunshot suddenly rang out as the bullet hit the ceiling. I drew my weapon at the last Scythe member, and realizing he was over-powered; he dropped his weapon. This one move was our downfall though. As soon as I turned my back one of the Scythe members tackled Luke and sent his gun flying backwards. Commander Spike reacted to this in a split-second and caught it before anyone else even knew what was happening. Before I knew it, They were coming for me to retrieve my weapon! Without thinking, I pulled the trigger and shot one of them in the head with the BB gun. Chris hadn't lied, the shots were indeed powerful, the unlucky Scythe member fell back in pain as I backed up and shot two more; with similar reactions. Scythe members were now confused and scared for their lives and descended into chaos as some fled from the building and others chased Spike into another room. I followed closely behind and shot two more in their backs while they were being distracted. It took more shots to hurt them, but it got the job done. Suddenly, a large hand came down on my shoulder and forced me to turn around. A beefy Scythe member began to fight me for the weapon! He had sheer strength on his side as he threw me about the room. Luckily I kept hold of the gun and managed to empty it of every "marble" before dropping it on purpose. The beefy teen leaped for the gun and (while still on the ground) attempted to shoot me. When nothing happened, he became enraged, but only for a second as I quickly kicked him in the side of his head, where he quickly went un-consious. Only then did I feel incredibly tired and weak. I had just gotten done running and fighting with Shadow. And now I was trying to take down an entire platoon of Scythe members!? My legs began to shake as I became even weaker. Suddenly, Spike bolted out of a room, still holding the guns and proceeded to slide them under a cabinet to prevent anyone else from stealing them. The Scythe members came barreling out of the room and suddenly began to stumble as the front-runner stepped on the "marbles" I had emptied out. Soon, our attackers were clumsily falling over each other is a desperate attempt to catch us. Luckily, everyone was without a gun now, or so it seemed, seeing as the third one had "magically" vanished. As I neared a corner in a frantic search for Luke, I ran into two more Scythe members who pushed me against the wall and struck my ribs with piercing blows. Spike tackled one and managed to toss me an M-Stick. I swung at my attacker and knocked him back long enough to whack more in-coming attackers. Luke soon appeared behind me with his M-Stick as we knocked down the incoming waves. Unfortunately, one member managed to catch my M-Stick and yank it out of my hands in a second. Luke and I were now being cornered as the Scythe members carefully closed in on us. There were still about six left and I was becoming even more weakened by my injuries and sleepiness. A fist suddenly nailed me in the side and I couldn't help but fall to the ground in pain. Suddenly, three of our attackers were shot down. At first I thought it was by a bullet, but it turned out to be Chris and the newly reloaded BB gun. As he attempted a forth shot, the gun jammed and he was forced to hit an incoming Scythe member with his bare fist. And then kick him down. Luke managed to kneel beside me "Get up Gregory!" he shouted. "Some are waking up!" "I can't do it!" I yelled over the chaos, "I don't have any fight left in me." I sunk down further into my corner of despair as the thoughts of Danson and Tim floated through my head like ghosts that refused to rest.

The New Plan:

All was quiet and I thought for a moment that Luke had left me, but he soon replied furiously, "Gregory! Do you see Chris over there!?" I didn't bother looking up, all I could utter was "I can't do it... I can't do it anymore." "DO YOU SEE CHRIS!?" he yelled once more. "He's fighting with all he's got, the guy who creates weapons and uploaded documents to our servers is fighting off Scythe members with his bare hands!" Luke continued, "Chris may think that it is all over too, but he is out their fighting till the end... We need your help Gregory, we can't do this without you..." Realizing that Luke was right, I stood up and stumbled towards Chris who was still in the heat of battle. I could hardly feel anything, but upon opening my weary eyes once more, I found my fist had already made contact with one of The Scythe members. It was almost as if my body were fighting on its own, or perhaps that my soul still had some fight left in it. Either way, by the time Luke jumped in to help, all of the attackers were taken out. Only 2 remained and they were beating Commander Spike like a dog. We quickly jumped in to aid him and managed to take out the final two with almost no resistance. I managed to take a breath and gaze around the room littered with knocked out Scythe members. "They will wake up soon," Spike said sourly as he wiped his face of blood. "We need to get out of here." "And then what?" I caught myself saying out loud. "If we just run away, Scythe will just come back with more troops and a whole lot more weapons... we can't continue to fight like this..." "What are you trying to say Gregory?" asked Chris. "We need to end this NOW before anyone else gets hurt... or worse... we need to find Big H." "That's practically a suicide mission!" Luke yelled. "Not if we we sneak in... I know my way around Father Base, we will be fine as long as you all listen to me." Chris and Luke began to throw more questions and retorts in my direction as Spike stood quietly aside from us. "Everyone stop!" he yelled. "Gregory is right, if we want to end this thing, we need to stop running... I don't know about you, but I'm going with Gregory on this mission." Chris straightened up, I can give you information and support over walkie talkies, but there is no way I can sneak into Father Base, I have no training on that." "Understood," Spike replied as he looked in Luke's direction. Luke seemed conflicted at first, but eventually shook his head in a silent acceptance. "Take these," Chris said as he handed us each a tiny camera. "Hide them around Father Base so that I can have some eyes in there and warn you if there are incoming troops... don't break them, I really don't have the money to buy anymore. We each took a camera and Chris departed to the old base. "Go on, Gregory," Luke said. "Lead us to victory."

Fighting Back:

As we made our way closer to "the blind side" of Father Base, I tried to cheer myself up with hopes and lies. "They probably think we are dead now, anyways, they can't see us coming from this side, we already took out some of their members, so there wont be many..." But these could hardly keep me from sweating up a storm as we neared the first few trees. We traveled through the thick brush but stayed near an abandoned path so as not to get lost. The path diverged and I decided the quickest way to get to Big H would be to go down the path with a fallen tree at the forefront... not necessarily a good sign. We followed this eerie path for a while as I realized I had never actually walked down this way. Too late to turn back now, I could only hope we were getting closer. Suddenly, the path gave way to a clearing where light shone from the heavens upon an ancient oak tree which touched the sky in all of its ancient glory. "Specter's Tree," Spike mumbled. We gave him a distant look of confusion as he elaborated. "Before it was abandoned and later taken over by Scythe, these woods surrounded an old S.S.C base at Specter's Tree. I've never seen it myself." We didn't have much time to marvel at the relic, for soon Luke spotted a distant light and we were drawn near a second shack which I had never seen so closely before. It was Big H's place and by the looks of it, he was still inside. We carefully crept up a steep hill and Luke placed his camera not far from the tree. Suddenly, another shuffle was heard that didn't seem to fit in with the motions we were already making, before I could give any orders, Scythe members dashed out from the brush, we were trapped.

Confrontation:

We were soon surrounded by 5 big looking Scythe members, none had any visible firearms, but one did carry a hunting knife at his side. No-one moved for an uncomfortable amount of time until one member pulled an un-seen gun out of his jacket. Before he even had time to aim at us, Spike leaped into action and kicked the weapon out of his hands with incredible force. The gun flew into the distant brush, and would be nearly impossible to find now. This was the least of our worries as the Scythe members closed in on us and one hit me in my back. Soon, we were all in a frenzy, rolling through the wet grass and falling into trees. I managed to kick one in the face and proceeded to punch him hard in the stomach. I was soon in a headlock as one member attempted to pin me against a tree. Luckily, Luke did a spin-trip and the attacker was forced to let me go. Commander Spike was close to Specter's Tree, fighting against two of the bigger attackers. He was holding his own quite well, but I suddenly spotted the Scythe member with the knife closing in behind him. I slid down-hill and yelled at the top of my lungs for Spike to watch out. Spike managed to turn around just as the Scythe member lunged at him. I winced as Spike cried out in pain. When my eyes opened again, Spike was on the ground and the three attackers were coming towards me! Luke was busy fighting the other two at the top of the hill, with little success. I backed up and then attempted to run, but I tripped over a root of a tree and was now at their mercy. I could do nothing now but wait for the end.

Mirror:

Suddenly, an un-seen figure dashed out of the brush and knocked out the knife-carrying Scythe member with a large stick. He proceeded to throw the fallen Scythe member at the other two as they fell back in surprise. To my astonishment, there stood Negative! He wore his white jacket and I wondered to myself how I hadn't spotted him. As I sat, awestruck by his fighting skill, I felt something touch my legs. Startled, I looked behind me, only to find an unconscious Scythe member lying at my feet. "He must have rolled down-hill," I muttered. Upon looking up, to check Luke's progress, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor. For there, helping Luke fight was... another Negative! This one woe a black jacket and fought with the same prowess and skill as the one fighting for me! When the attackers were knocked unconscious, the Negative in the black jacket and Luke came sliding down the hill-side to meet us. "Friends of yours?" Luke asked with a snicker. I could hardly speak as it occurred to me that my dream about Negative made sense with the two masks. The two of them were helping me from the start! My mind then jumped to something far different, Spike! Spike was still lying on the ground, making a few movements. Luke and I ran to him, nearly in tears. Upon checking him, Spike had managed to avoid a stab to the heart but had been stabbed on his right side. "I'll take him back to base for Chris to give him some medical attention," Luke said quickly. Spike mumbled that he was fine, but Luke picked him up anyways. "Good luck," he said before departing. I would need more than luck to stop this crisis, but the two Negatives helping me would be a start. "I don't suppose you two are go-" I was cut off before I could speak any more when one of the Negatives put his hand over my mouth. More rustling in the bushes could be hear nearby. "Get out of here," one of them whispered. "We will take this fight, just find Big H!" Without questioning them, I ran away, narrowly avoiding being caught by two patrolling Scythe members. Soon, I had my back back against the shack and slowly eased my way around the corner to get a good look around, no-one was around the building and now that darkness was creeping in, I would have a fighting chance at coming out victorious. I quietly slipped through the door and with trembling hands and feet, made my way to a place where I could hide for a moment and plot this out. It was a smart move seeing as a Scythe member with a large shotgun appeared out of nowhere before leaving the shack. Hearing no further footsteps I began to walk towards a rickety old staircase that looked as if it was at least 100 years old. A sudden noise nearby made me jump in fear and hide myself once more. At first I didn't know what it was, but I soon realized it was my walkie talkie. Chris's voice lightly shot up on the other line. "Gregory, just calling to tell you that Spike is going to be alright, the wound just needs some medication and some stitches is all, Luke wants to know if he can come back." I thought upon this briefly but decided against it. "I'll be fine Chris," I said. "I'll be... fine." Chris tried to speak once more, but the door suddenly flung open, only to reveal Trigger and Shadow who talked as they went up the stairs. "You know what to do," Trigger said threateningly towards Shadow. "This shouldn't take long," he continued. They soon went upstairs with me closely behind. "If Shadow was here instead of fighting, that must mean that our little scuffle with the guards didn't arouse any attention right?" I thought to myself. Trigger and Shadow entered the first room to the right and I could only catch a glimpse of Big H waiting for them. My eyes were suddenly drawn to a hole in the wall that would allow me to peep in and see what was happening. With darkness growing, they would never suspect a thing.

Betrayal:

Putting my eye up to the hole, I got a good look at Big H's office; or whatever was left of one. The room was a mess; with guns, papers, and food thrown about the place. Big H sat at a make-shift desk that was actually just a long plank being held up by a stump. There was another hols to the left of me that was big enough for the mini camera to see out of. I set it in place so that Chris could watch this as well. "Brother there seems to be a problem..." Trigger said as he walked closer to the desk. "I already know..." Big H said frustrated. "A hound called me earlier and told me about the S.S.C's evasion and the defeat of our unit." Shadow stood by Big H's side as he continued to grow angrier. "The S.S.C has no weapons, no leader, and certainly no place to hide and yet you still failed to take them out! God knows when well have another chance at making them pay! I expect more out of you my little brother, DO NOT fail me a second time!" Big H's yelling could certainly be heard from a distance as I heard birds fly away in fear of his ghostly voice. Without a word, Trigger turned around and began to head to the door, as I was about to make my way to a new hiding spot, I noted that Trigger was reaching into his front pocket which upon further surveillance, was a gun! My entire body froze, how could he have known I was there. My brain told me to run, but it was as if all my muscles had been frozen in place, leaving me standing there, breathless. There was a short pause and then Trigger swung around, only to point the gun at his own brother's heart! Shadow made no movements, neither did Big H. The only difference between the two was that Shadow was smiling, while Big H looked as if he had already been shot. "W-hat the-" he stammered, only to be cut off by Trigger. "Shadow and I have had just about enough of your leadership Henry," he said smoothly. " We are also aware that Scythe's half of the stolen money is beginning to run low." "Rumors!" Big H yelled, "Only rumors!" "Shut up!" Trigger retorted. "What did you think would happen when you ran out of money Henry? What did you think would happen?" There was only silence as Trigger continued. "Shadow and I are TAKING the rest of that cash for ourselves and only for ourselves, we won't have to worry about saving the others or giving them new lives, all we will have to worry about... is ourselves." Big H seemed utterly heartbroken now as I wondered if I was about to witness a murder. "Where is Scythe's half located?" Trigger asked sourly. "We have almost got the S.S.C's half!" Big H screamed, "Just wait!" "I'm sick of waiting," Trigger replied as he moved closer to the former Big H. With no options left, Big H blurted it out. "Its buried by the big oak tree in the clearing... it is near a uplifted root pointing this way." Big H fell onto his "desk" and began to weep. Trigger tossed his gun to Shadow. "Keep watching him!" he said. "He may be lying... and if he is..." Trigger gave a crooked grin and quickly fled. I began to debate with myself, wondering if I should try and capture Big H now, or follow Trigger and get the money back. I didn't have long to think though, the moment I heard Shadow make a swift clicking noise with the gun, I knew it would be safer to capture Trigger instead. With that, I left the life of Big H in Shadow's hands... did I care? I wasn't sure.

Gregory Vs. Trigger:

By the time I got outside and snuck back to Specter's Tree, it was pitch black outside. Perhaps it was merely my nerves, but I could have sworn that this was the darkest day of the year. Almost no sounds could be heard, and I wondered for a moment if Trigger had already dug up the money. But upon listening closer, the muffled sound of dirt being lightly thrown to the ground, met my ears. I took a quick glance at my watch, it was 12:04, most Scythe members would be preparing to go to sleep by now. The sound soon became louder and I took this to my advantage in order to run to the side of the freezing cold dinosaur tree. The shoveling stopped and for a split-second, Trigger peered around the tree. My dark shirt helped me blend into the tree and he went back to work. I gently withdrew my M-Stick and prepared for a quick knock out. With the speed of a cheetah, I swung the M-Stick with amazing force towards Trigger. My smile at an early job well done never came to fruition, for my M-Stick was countered with Trigger's shovel! The loud clang could was muffled by the shrubs around us, leaving just the two of us, staring at each other in surprise. "For a spy," Trigger said smiling, "you're not very sneaky." With that, Trigger jammed his shovel forward, into my chest. Although painful and distracting, I managed to rip it away from him. Trigger tackled me and tried to make a few hits at my face. I swiftly countered these with the M-Stick. Trigger, now furious, ripped it from my hands, as well as the shovel and threw them into the thick blanket of darkness. I used both of my legs to kick him off of me, and then managed to stand my ground once more. Trigger looked at me in an odd mixture of disdain and joy. He then proceeded to back away from me and enter the darkness. Now out of sight, Trigger spoke to me. "Your really somethin ya know that?" I remained quiet, if I couldn't see him, he couldn't see me. "Ya let your buddy Danson die, ya let Tim get a new house underground, and your gonna try and ruin everyone in Scythes' lives." I was confused and made my way behind a bush, where I crouched down. "That's right Gregory, when I get away with this money, by brother wont be able to tell the others that it was me who did it. How would that reflect on him? So who else would take all the blame huh? You. I held in my rage and opened my eyes as wide as I could to see something besides the darkness. Suddenly, a foot stepped a distance away from me. Upon examining it, the foot was connected to a leg, the leg connected to a body. I recognized it as Trigger, and before I knew what I was doing, I had leaped from the bushes and gotten Trigger in the tightest headlock I could muster. His hand slowly rose from his side awkwardly. I did a double-take, for sitting in his hand was a gun! Trigger had spun it around and was about to pull the trigger with his thumb! Without hesitation, I pushed Trigger away from me with such great force and speed, the bullet hit miles off target. Trigger was already picking himself up now, and my entire body screamed for me to run. I headed to a densely packed group of trees, where the mud began to pull at my feet, and the branches harshly poked me from all angles. Trigger pushed his way through the brush, making as much noise as he wanted, for a mere second, something near me moved, a shot was fired, all I could here was ringing in my ears, but I was otherwise unharmed. "C'mon out Gregory," Trigger whispered. "If you come out now, I'll put away the gun." For a while, I wasn't sure what to do; could I beat Trigger either way? And could someone like him be trusted? Not wanting to try either approach, I began to back up more and more, while still remaining silent. Trigger began to do the same and we were soon feeling our way through the trees, distinguishing what was a threat, and what wasn't. Twice, I thought I had bumped into Trigger, only to find out it was simply a tree. Unseen bugs flew at my face aggressively but I continued my long trek backwards. Finally, the sounds of angels met my ears. It was actually just the sound of the wind blowing, but that meant that I was nearly out of Father Base. Perhaps, if time permitted, I could race back to base and pick up Hawk, Luke, or even Patch to help get the money back. Then my walkie-talkie made a light beep, prompting another stray gunshot from the seemingly distant Trigger. "What?" I whispered as quietly as possible. "Gregory, that camera you left in Big H's room..." it was Chris. "What about it?" "Shadow just suddenly left Big H behind!" Chris replied. "What do you mean?" I asked. "He just put the gun away and left without a word." I turned off the walkie talkie as I made up my mind that Trigger had called Shadow, and now they were both coming after me. At long last, I stepped out of Father Base and began to sprint. Just when I thought it was all over, I heard a shot and dirt to my close left side, was blown up into the air. The moonlight made things much easier to see, and now Trigger had me right in his sights. I didn't even look back at him, instead I leaped to my right to dodge a not-yet fired bullet. It worked, as more dirt to my left was uplifted from the ground. I had now reached the top of a small hill, and decided to roll down it for a faster escape. Once on the other side, the lights of my town appeared from a distance! I began to sprint even more, as Trigger followed closely behind. He had trouble running and shooting at the same time, so he just began sprinting after me. I held my breath, thinking that every moment could be my last. What would my dad do without me, what would happen to Scythe, what would become of the S.S.C? I pushed these thought aside and focused on the bright lights, I was so close now, I could hear a car driving through."Just a little bit longer," I said to myself, "just a little bit longer."

Alone:

At last, I stepped upon freshly trimmed grass and the smells of exhaust fuel and wet paint met me. Never had I been so happy to smell such things. All the lights for the shops were off now. Leaving me with no place to run inside and hide. I spotted a nearby parked car and (with the doors being locked) hid underneath it. Everything was dead now, not a soul walked through those streets or peered out the windows. I was still alone. But at least I was alone in my element. Streetlights vaguely lit up a few corners, leaving me with an impression that Trigger would come out of the darkness instead. To my surprise however, I spotted Trigger standing menacingly under one of the lights. What did he have to fear? He was the one with the weapons. Worried that I might be visible, I began to scoot back while still remaining beneath the car. I tried to reach for my walkie talkie, but it was gone! It had to of fallen out of my pocket during the run. Suddenly, I felt something pulling at my back; my belt had become stuck to something underneath the car. Unable to roll over, I attempted to free it blindly. Then, as quickly as it had become stuck, the belt whipped back onto me, making a loud clang as it detached from the car's underbelly! I looked up in utter horror and shock, only to find Trigger peering beneath the car, and laughing silently at me. The hunter had found its prey.

Savior:

I could do nothing now but wait for the end, Trigger, who was apparently running out of bullets, freed me from the car by dragging me by the arm. He couldn't risk a stray shot hitting the car. Before I could stand, Trigger clamped his foot down on my back. Now lying in front of him, with no help or weapons, I felt so small, so insignificant. As I waited for the end, Trigger's foot was suddenly lifted from my back. I looked up only in time to see his body being tossed towards a large hill. "Spike!" I yelled gleefully before my vision cleared. Standing before me was not Spike, nor was it Luke or Chris, but Negative! This Negative was the one who wore black and as soon as he saw me look at him with confusion, he gave me a slight nod, and held up his hand, telling me to wait there. Shadow dashed from the spot, pouncing on Trigger just before he could stand. Trigger's gun remained firmly in his hand as he kicked Negative off of him and began to retreat uphill. Soon, they were both out of my sight, all I could do was listen has a few angry cries and punches could be heard. This went on for a few minutes as I prayed that Negative would come out victorious... two shots rang out... silence.

Final Confrontation:

I no longer cared what would happen to me. All I could think about was saving Negative and the rest of the S.S.C. I reached the hill, only to find what I had already come to suspect. Negative was lying face-down in the dirt. While Trigger stood over him happily. Negative had snagged the gun from Trigger, right after the two shots were made. He now had a death grip on it, so strong that even with a crowbar, Trigger wouldn't have got it back. Before Trigger could try to rip it from Negative's dying hands anymore, I tackled him and began to wildly punch at his face. Similarly to his short scuffle with Negative, Trigger kicked me off and sent me down on my back. Then, with a sudden kick, I found myself tumbling down the hill, into the road. Trigger began to run at me once more, and with the added speed of going downhill, he clothes-lined me with such force, I practically was flung to the other side of the street. Trigger tried the same trick a second time. But I was more concourse than he had presumed. I grabbed his arm as he ran towards me. I twisted his arm behind his back and followed this up by kicking his legs out from under him. I attempted to move this into a headlock, but Trigger pulled away to fast. Before he could turn around to face me once more, I kneed him in the stomach and elbowed the side of his head as he bent over in recoiling pain. His fist came out of nowhere with a swift uppercut. I fell to the ground and saw stars dancing above me. I soon found I was in the middle of the road. There were still no signs of life around, and anyone who did happen to see us would have surely run away. Trigger came sprinting at me as I managed to stand up. This was a bad move however, for he soon fell into a streamlined position and kicked my gut. I was about to throw up, but Trigger wasn't done torturing me yet. With one hand, he lifted me into the air and began to take random shots at my face and stomach. With my remaining strength, I used my legs to kick myself away and succeeded in knocking Trigger down as well. He shot up faster than I did and pinned me to the ground with his foot. My arms were the only things free from his grip, and I could only think to lift myself up with my arms only. I began to rise and Trigger exerted more force down on me. I did not cease and continued to rise. Trigger now hit the back of my head. My forehead hit the ground with great force, but I didn't give in. I continued by decent upwards as Trigger used his other leg to kick one of my arms. I had expected this, for this fall on one side allowed me to rotate my entire body so that it was my back against the ground. For the first time, I saw actual fear in Trigger's eyes as I sat up and gave him a swift uppercut. Trigger staggered back and I wasted no time running into him and repeatedly hitting his chest. Trigger coughed in pain and managed to punch my throat in his struggle. I coughed and momentarily ran out of air, giving Trigger enough time to pick me up above his head and throw me against a car on the other end of the street! The force of his throw knocked him over and knocked all air out of my lungs. We both struggled to stand as Trigger had hit his head and was dizzy and I had no strength left in me. Then I heard it, the sound of an engine growing close to us! I saw a car round the corner at high speeds; it had only one working headlight, and was heading in our direction now! The car drove madly in the middle of the road, and I noticed my legs would be in its path. I quickly grabbed hold of the car near me and tried to pull me legs out of the way. But by now, my muscles were aching, I could hardly stand, and I couldn't move! Trigger was in the way of the car as well, I tried to yell out to him, but no noise left my mouth! I was truly weak. Then I heard a sudden moan, it was Negative up on the hill above. He was not dead, and I would not let him die. With all the strength I could muster, I began to move as the car's color could now be seen. I stood and stumbled in the sudden breeze as I watched the car lights grow closer. For a moment, it was like I was a deer in the headlights. I couldn't move, I couldn't even think to move. Then a voice called out "G-Gregory..."I awoke from this daze and leaped out of the road just as the car flashed by. Trigger was not so lucky; he was flung into the air with dizzying heights, before crashing back down with great force. The car stopped for only a moment, then drove off even faster than before. I had saved my own life. But could I save Negative's?

An Unexpected Hero:

With all the strength I had left in me, I climbed the hilside and found Negative still lying face-down. He made no noises, nor did he seem to be breathing. But with haste, I rolled him over, only to find him still alive. The darkness made his wounds difficult to see. Though his arm constantly lingered closely by his chest. Negative's mask was broken near the bottom, revealing only part of his chin. Somehow, through the night, I could see Negative's dark eyes telling me to remove it. Being as gentle as I could, I removed the mask to see who my hero was. Under the mask... was Shadow. "Y-you?" I said in utter shock.I fell to my knees as my legs began to give out from exhaustion. My mind felt about the same way. "Surprised huh?" Shadow replied in a whisper. "Why would you save my life?" I pleaded. "B-because Gregory," Shadow replied. "You saved mine..."

Truth:

The look of confusion of my face was obviously notable in the dark. Shadow fought through the pain and elaborated. "Gregory, no one is born evil... no one is born a villain.... I was born to a pair of loving parents... parents who strived to keep me happy... to k-keep me safe." Shadow coughed and continued. "I loved my parents... but I never respected them... I n-never... knew how fortunate I... was. When I was 12, my parents were driving me to Blue Point for a day of sledding... they hit a patch of ice around a sharp turn... and just like that... they were... they were gone." Shadow's eyes filled with tears and his breathing became more of a struggle. I attempted to stand and help him, but Shadow shooed me back to the ground. "With no other family members to turn to, I was put up for adoption. That is when m-my outlook on life changed... I sat there, and watched as every younger child was taken by loving parents... just l-like mine... but I was not taken... I stayed there... for over three years... I grew to despise the younger children and the adults who always... p-picked them... everything was so unfair... so... imbalenced... When I decided I could take no more, I ran... and in the cold fury of winter... I met Big H. Big H knew what it was like to lose everything, he took me in and created... this." Shadow pointed to himself with a wobbly hand and then began to cough wildly. I began to hear sirens in the distance. "I came to the conclusion that if no one else was going to add balence to life... then I-I would... I neve questioned Scythe's actions... not until the robbery that s... not until I watched my "brothers" shoot and kill innocent people and make off with the cash... I knew then, that Scythe was becoming to powerful... b-balance h-had to be made... I soon met Negative, the f-first Negative that is... who was also attempting to stop Scythe... knowing that this was my chance to restore order, I demanded that I join him." Suddenly a question popped into my head that could not be stored. "Why kill Tim then? He was only trying to help! And you killed him for it!?" Shadow remained silent for a while, "Tim is not dead," he said at last. "What?" I replied. "Tim's death was staged. I knew that if I didn't pretend to kill Tim, then Scythe eventually would. The being who was with me while we dragged "Tim's body" out of the house, was actually Negative, everyone was in on it... that includes Tim." I briefly recalled seeing the guy in the ski mas, and felt like an idiot that I had never questioned it. My thoughts were broken by the sounds of the police sirens and paramedic sirens stopping where Trigger had fallen. Negative made no movement to escape, he wanted to tell me what needed to be said. "G-gregory..." Shadow whispered. "There was one problem with my plan of bringing balance... you would defeat Trigger and destroy Scythe... but at the cost... of your life..." I shook my head in scared confusion. "You couldn't have known that!" I said defiently. "Oh but I did," Shadow replied. "Trigger had a fully loaded gun, a knife, and darkness as his allies..." Shadow opened up his hand, revealing a knife he had snatched from Trigger during their scuffel. I could only sit in silence. "I n-never intended to break the balence..." Shadow said weakly. "But after seeing all you went through, the pain you endured, the utter darkness and isolation that would break any other S.S.C member... I-I couldn't let you die... I couldn't... I couldn't..." Shadow began to shiver and cough louder. The paramedics and police were directly below, a part of me wanted them to find us, but another part of me said that Shadow didn't want it to end that way. Words began to fly around in my head, what could I say to the person who had my back for so long? All I could find room for was, "Thank you, Shadow." "Don't... call me that," he retorted quickly." Remembering our having this conversation before, I saluted and repeated, "Thank you, SIR." There was a silence and Shadow mumbled, "No... I mean... call me by my real name... Brian Ward..." "Where do I go from here?" I asked teary-eyed. "That decision rests upon y-you..." Brian mumbled. Then he continued while trying to hold back tears and coughing of his own. "G-gregory... I don't know about y-you... but I want to live in a world worth fighting for... but I also want to live in a world... that doesn't NEED to be fought for..." And with those final words, Brian was gone.

The Meeting:

It had taken guts to be in the position I was in now. I had called for a meeting in which every S.S.C enacting S.S.C member had to attend. We were not hidden within a base, but rather, outside. We were no longer afraid of the forces which threatened us. Trigger had not died upon the impact with the car, but although he didn't lose his life, he lost nearly all of his memory... and a large portion of himself too. He would never be able to fend for himself again, a fact that, believe it or not, still sickens me to this day. Shadow's body was found a day after his demise. The media and police came to the conclusion that the two were a part of a nasty turf war that ended with Trigger killing Shadow, and then being hit by an enemy car. As for the money, when I returned to Father Base to find it, no trace of the loot could be found. My theory was that Trigger had hidden it, or perhaps another Scythe member had stumbled across the fortune. Big H... or, Henry as I should now call him, saddened by the betrayal of his brother, disbanded Scythe, leaving its remaining members to seek help from places that would not endanger their lives, or anyone else's. As such, Specter's Tree and its surroundings were claimed once more by the S.S.C. In fact, Specter's Tree was our meeting place today. I had already told my father what I would be saying, Commander Spike, Luke, and Chris knew as well. But everyone else was oblivious to what I was going to say. I was called up and stood, leaning against the old oak as a gentle breeze swept our way. Everyone, even Patch, stood at attention. I only wished that the other Negative, whoever he was, had been there to witness it as well. "Hello S.S.C," I began with a delicate smile and smooth hand gestures. "I will not waste your time with another victory speech over the defeat of Scythe. Nor will I stand here before you as a "hero". "For honestly, I come with news that may be surprising. As you all know, in the beginning, THEM turned against the S.S.C when it believed that at one point, it would become so powerful, it would put its members' lives at risk. Has this tiding come to fruition as it was premeditated to be? Yes, yes it has. I nearly lost my life at the hands of Scythe, as did many of you. And while I refuse to blame anyone S.S.C member, I firmly believe that the S.S.C's power has grown at a frightening rate... and will continue to do so unless..." My voice trailed off and tears filled my eyes as I looked upon the S.S.C, it looked so healthy again, so strong. "Let me just say it now..." I continued. "I... am quitting the S.S.C..." A look of alarm spread throughout the crowd like wildfire. Soon, everyone was talking and blasting questions at me from all sides, I could not speak loud enough to answer. Surprisingly, Patch and Hawk calmed everyone down, and motioned for me to continue. "This is not because I disagree with the S.S.C's purpose, nor am I angry with any of you... this reason is simply that, as long as I am here, as long as the story of me and my "incredible heroics" continues to circulate, more and more people will join the S.S.C... and more and more peoples' lives will be on the line... I ask of you all only one thing. After I am gone, do not spread the stories of me. Do not treat me like a legend or a hero. Make your own destinies, make your own choices. Maybe then... we can prove THEM wrong and live up to what our founders wanted us to be. What did they want us to be you ask? I dream that in time, you will all find out.

New S.S.C:

The crowd's reaction to my speech greatly varied from person to person. While some thought I was crazy, others applauded my humbleness. Either way, as I was leaving to hand my gear to Spike, the other members of Team Ice swarmed me. "You didn't think you were gonna leave without saying goodbye to us did you?" Patch said with a rare smile. "Take these back," Spike said gently as he handed me back the gear, "Just a little something to remember us by. "Thank you Spike," I replied. "Thank you all." I then noticed Green, approaching Spike. "You called, master?" he asked diligently. "Yes, one minute Green," Spike replied. It was then clear to me that Spike was afraid to have an apprentice while still be threatened by Scythe, not that our enemy had been eliminated, Spike would pass on his skills to another potential hero. "Now that Scythe is gone," Spike interjected, nearly reading my mind, there is nothing holding me back from becoming leader of the S.S.C and whipping it back into shape. I will lead with all of your intentions at heart Gregory." Guppy stepped forward to shake my hand, while Chris and Luke talked amongst themselves in a frenzy. Finally Luke shouted, "Does this mean I am commander of Team Ice now?!" Spike sighed, "Yes, it does, I expect big things out of you guys." All attention was then drawn back to me, Chris broke the incoming silence with a salute. I grinned and nearly began to leave, when suddenly Spike raised his hand in a salute as well, this was followed by Luke, then Guppy, then any other S.S.C members who were still left over from the meeting. And of course, always one step behind, even Patch saluted me for a brief second. I may not have followed in my father's footsteps, or Tim's or Brett's. But I knew in my heart that they agreed with my decision as well. And with that, I left.

An Unexpected Visitor:

I was about half-way home when a voice called out to me. I knew who the voice belonged to before even looking, it was Negative. My suspicions were correct, leaning against a tree was the white jacket Negative. "You have a knack for showing up out of nowhere." I said with a laugh. "Guess I've gotten pretty good at it." Negative replied. "If you want answers, I would suggest following me." With that, Negative walked leisurely into the woods behind him, with me close behind. When we reached a clearing, Negative asked, "I suppose you want to know who I am?" "I do," I replied honestly. "But if you would rather keep that a secret, I would understand." "You've become wise, Gregory," Negative replied. "Let's see if you are wise enough to see this coming." With that, Negative untied the back of his mask and removed it. I had many theories as to who Negative was, but nothing could have prepared me for his true identity. "Justin?" I asked as if speaking to an alien. Standing before me was indeed Justin, the very last person who I would have expected. This was only the beginning of my confusion as he spoke once more. "My name is not Justin. My name is Marcus. Marcus Blakley."

The Price of Balance:

"Wait, but... but you said..." my voice trailed off as I recalled "Justin's" story of losing his father. "It was a lie," Marcus said. "I suppose I owe you an explanation. My father Brett did in fact join the military, as a matter of fact, Tim was correct in everything he said to you. Your visions didn't lie either." I would have asked how he knew of my dreams, but I kept quiet. "But then my father did something that no-one could have saw coming. He purposefully went MIA." "B-but... why?" I stammered. "My Father finally realized the very same thing you did, that you couldn't spend your whole life fighting. He wanted to live, and to live, meant to stop fighting. But when my father caught wind of the Scythe robbery, he decided to call the S.S.C to stop them. Fearing that they would keep some of the money for themselves, my father sent me to retrieve it and bring it back to him so it could be returned. Everything went according to plan until I was caught with the money by Shadow. Shadow had lost faith in Scythe as well and demanded that I hand over half the money, so that it could be distributed to Scythe as well; in order to "keep the balance." The other half went straight to my father, but he was unable to return any of it until the other half could be recovered. This turned out to be a smart move, as Shadow told all of Scythe that the S.S.C contacted him, saying that they would only give them the other half if their attack was delayed to a certain point. While you fought Trigger, I took the money to my father. He is already trying to find ways to return the cash with as little questions asked as possible." "Why didn't you just get the other half from Trigger if you knew all along?" I asked. "Shadow claimed I was so well trained, the fight wouldn't be balanced enough for me to participate. So I was forced to join Scythe and adopt a fake name so I could keep tabs on Trigger and keep you in line. Shadow threatened to kill my father and I if either of us diverged from his plot. Shadow ran the whole show and played the rest of us like pawns. But his plan came further into play when you joined the S.S.C. He found you to be one of the only people strong enough to bring the perfect balance." "But... he saved me," I replied while gazing at the beautiful water-color sunset. "Not only did he save you, he sahi ved himself, and countless others. You did something that even Shadow couldn't have saw coming... you brought Marcus back to life." With that, Marcus patted me on the back and said. "Now that all this is over, I am considering joining the S.S.C... if it's alright by you." "Alright by me?" I asked. "You would care for my opinion?" "Of course," Marcus replied. "Shadow may have been wrong about one thing, and that was about me being better trained than you. You are a real S.S.C member, and weather your story is spread or not, that is what you will always be to me. We saluted each other. "Fight for a cause you believe in," I told him. "Fight for a cause you believe in."

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