The announcer's game

It has been 113 years, 3 months, and 16 days since the Announcer trapped us down here. The only reason I know this is because she likes to remind us gleefully of how long we have been her prisoners whenever the occasion arises, which is far too often for my tastes.

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4. part 4

I get up, and walk around her, looking over her smooth surface. I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m looking for, but I think I’ll know it when I find it. She’s laughing at me. She doesn’t expect me to find anything at all. So many times, I have dreamt of killing her. So many times, I’ve dreamt of finally being able to die. She knows this.

I hear screaming. The others have followed me here, into this cold, dry room, and Soldier has gone berserk. As far gone as he is, he knows the Announcer when he sees her, and charges at her with Shovel, before clobbering at her uselessly, trying to break her hull. Her mirthless laughter does not deter him, as he wails upon her, babbling and screaming. I try to drag him away, but he shoves me onto the floor, and walks around her, to her back. There are massive cables coming out from her, and looking at them I guess that they must weigh tons. They are coated in thick, treated black rubber, and Soldier is gnawing upon them like a deranged squirrel. The rest of us come around to watch him.

“Do you zink ve can unplug her?” Medic asks Heavy.

“Is too big,” Heavy says.

“Could you try?” Medic pleads, looking up at Heavy, and his eyes are watering. Heavy sighs, and he and Medic grab onto one of the wires and start tugging. Suddenly the Announcer isn’t laughing anymore.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” she asks. “STOP THAT. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.”

Neither of them are listening. Demoman grows bolder; he can hear the fear in her voice, tugging on the thing. It’s not budging, but that doesn’t stop them. Pyro staggers over to help them, and Scout jumps atop the thing. As for myself, I am too frightened to move. She’s going to do something terrible to us, send those Things after us. It occurs to me that they may all simply be suicidal, hoping to goad the machine into killing them all permanently. Sniper, too, seems to think this, and he gives me a look before he goes to join them. Spy just laughs.

What happens next is so fast that I hardly had time to register it. Soldier runs up the wires and drives Shovel against the machine where the socket plugs in, and a surge of electricity goes through him, flash-frying him instantly. His clothes catch on fire and he slumps forward, and falls to the ground, smoldering. Nobody else seems to care at first. I walk over to his body, and notice it’s not disappearing. As I wonder what’s going on, the plug is pulled out just enough, and Heavy laughs triumphantly.

“I think Soldier’s dead,” I say.

“Ach, he’ll be back,” Demoman says dismissively. Tha’ banger’s always getting’ ‘imself killed.”

The gears in my head are turning now. Spy is creeping up beside me, and he’s taking deep breathes over his charred corpse. He hasn’t had a cigarette since the End, but the nicotine cravings never stopped. Nowadays he’s happy to settle for the smoke alone. I look at Shovel, and I know what I have to do.

Before Spy can react, I grab Shovel, and I smack Spy in the side of his twisting face with it. Everyone else stops what they’re doing to look at me. Spy is on the floor, and his body bubbling and melting and reforming, and it makes me sick. I take out all the hatred and anger that I feel towards the Announcer, what she did, what she has been doing, and I stomp on Spy’s chest so that he can’t crawl away, and I bring Shovel’s blade down on his neck, over and over, until his head rolls off his shoulders. It’s still changing shape.

I am covered in his blood, and I look to the others, who are staring at me in horror. Soldier’s body is still on the ground and they suddenly realize that respawn has been disabled. Of all the dumb luck, I think. It’s almost as if Soldier knew which one was the right one. I bet Shovel told him.

And for a moment, I swear I can hear Shovel talking to me know. Kill them, he says. It’s the only way to set them free. And now that I know this, I can set out on my grim work.

I walk towards them, holding Shovel. “Now, boys, it ain’t what ya think. We all know there’s only one way outta Steel, one way to beat her…”

Scout makes a weird, horrified chirping noise. Heavy brings Medic in so close to him he looks like he’s going to hug the doctor to death before I can kill either one of them. Demoman looks nervous, Pyro is starting to panic, and Sniper, who I thought would understand, just gives me this look of disapproval. I take one step too close to all of them and they start to flee, going through the jungle of wires behind the Announcer.

Pyro is the easiest to catch up to. Poor Pyro. Suffering like he… no, she… did. I tackle her to the ground, get a good grip on her head, and twist her neck. Her struggles cease instantly. I know that she would be grateful.

Sniper doesn’t make it too terribly far. He’s tangled in the wires, and is trying to extricate his ankle. When he sees me, he frowns. “Was kinda hopin’ t’ do this meself, mate,” he says. “But I guess I ain’t gonna try an’ stop you.”

“So glad you see it my way,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

“Just get it over with, ya twit,” he says.

It’s hard to properly stab him, so I take a much smaller wire and I strangle him to death with it. He dies much too slowly to be comfortable, but he doesn’t struggle. And when he goes limp, I feel bad about leaving him there. But I have work to do. There are four of them left, excluding myself.

Heavy and Medic are not very far from the other side. Medic is panicking, and Heavy stops running, blocking the doctor from my view with his body. I have seen him kill men with his fists alone. Just as well, I suppose. But I doubt that they’re going to go through and kill the others.

“You touch Doktor, I keel you, leetle man,” he rumbles.

“So, you wanna be down here forever?” I ask. “With her running your lives, for God knows how long?”

“No,” Heavy admits. “I do not. I just vant to be vit Doktor.”

Medic peers around Heavy, and looks at me. “Und you vant to be a murderer, zen?” he asks me.

“I’m doin’ y’all a favor,” I say. “‘Sides, you ain’t really one t’ talk, Doc.”

He looks just about ready to kill me. He doesn’t have to. Heavy comes charging towards me, and I’m ready for him. I dodge, and he grabs at me. He gets a few good punches in, sure. I let him. But I managed to catch him off guard, and drive Shovel’s blade between his ribs. Blood dribbles out of his mouth and Medic is screaming, and Heavy collapses. Medic rushes over, farther away from Heavy than he had ever been in years, and cradles the Russians head. He’s crying and snot is running out his nose and he’s screaming at me in German. I look over both of them, and I feel saddened. In a place where hate was so prevalent, where it ruled over every aspect of our lives, they were the last two people on earth who remembered how to love. I come closer to Medic, and he doesn’t run away. He kisses Heavy on his lips, one last time, tells him he loves him, and I apologize before I twist his neck. Heavy dies a few moments later, drowning in his own blood, but not without first giving me the single most hateful look I’ve ever seen.

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