Hell Beneath Clear Skies

A fallen world. Corrupt men staying in power. Never-ending wars. Circulating wealth and power amongst the uneven masses. Society has never been so blind. For some, paradise has been found. For most, Hell has been unleashed.
For two of the world's finest, Paradise is meeting again after annihilating Hell to rubble.

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6. How Monsters Act

     If you had enough rubles on you, the Siberian Hub was the place to waste them. Pass a corner on the cobble-stoned streets, the smokestacks generating artificial clouds of grey, and you make it to the bar that's considered a national landmark. Friendly bartenders that, if paid rightly under the table, can tell you the latest news in back-alley happenings.  All your wants displayed on neon screens, proudly donated from China's technological market. All the poison to drown your problems, displayed on shelves and served with glistening mugs. A poster promoting entry into the army hung above the main counter, hanging from a corner and smeared with soot.

     This building was always in the sights of Bouncin' Betty, the "most psychotic firecracker to light up the battlefield". Her powerful legs took her to the smoggy pub, its varied mixes of electro-rock music blasting through the windows, and she would pull up a seat. The Tele-Wall, one massive television on one wall for the whole bar's enjoyment, passed the latest hit "Only We Remain". Betty's foot tapped on the floor to the song's beat;she would have this song playing as she fired rounds at the range.

     "Heya there, Betty." The one-eyed senior Seymour looked at her as he wiped glasses clean. "Will you have the special?" She turned her head towards the old man, and smiled widely. "Yeah, sure. I'm gonna drink to this song. Last I heard this, shards of a tank rained around me. My MP3 busted, though. Never should have taken it with me on that mission into Saudi Arabia." She pulled out a smashed recorder, the tape tangled like a mass of oily hairs. "Can ya fix it for me?" Her hand reached into another pocket, and she unveiled 20 rubles. "Alrighty, Betty." Seymour poured the money into a jar labeled FUNDS, placed it next to a shrunken head on the counter, and poured her a steaming beverage.

     Betty's eyes widened with delight as the drink frothed over the brim of the mug. With a spoon, she stabbed into the broth and lifted a dripping golden goop, shrouded in steam, and sipped the drink away. "Whooooooo," she tilted her head back and howled. "That's GOOD!"

     The world around her was a blur of excitement, the people getting buck-wild, her smile being the biggest it ever was. It has to be bigger than it ever was. She always had to smile. Always.

~~~

     City Block CHICAGO experienced a major economic spike when Detroit's corpse was revived in 2020, due to the financial aide that swept through the nation. The Second Manifest Destiny granted much cash as spoils, and no stone was left unturned in the materialistic rise of a new America. It is currently the only City Block in the former United States that has the nation's only gun-building facility. Any gun you found on the street was branded with the Free-Of-Arms logo, as well as the branch responsible for the weapon's birth. Nobody complained about the monopoly, as long as they were rewarded cash to buy the latest plasma-screen.

     The Reaper walked through a littered street in CHIGACO, kicking a crushed can into the chilling air. He was heading towards his usual, the Lame de guerre swords shop. His slender suitcase reflected the sun's brightest waves, repelling the warmth from the cold darkness within. An aura arose from his presence, an aura that even the coldest crime lords feared.

     An aura of complete desolation, of emptiness.

     His strong hand opened the reinforced glass door, a brass bell swaying into the wind. "Welcome to Lame de guerre," an autonomous voice echoed in the store. Enthusiastic humans wandered the wide aisles, keeping an eye out for a fine piece of weaponry. A kid held a Glock 17 in gusto, telling his father for shooting lessons. An old man eyeballing a wide shelf of assorted shotguns. An entire family of hunters were at the counter, purchasing the new "Family Pack" of ammunition.

     The Reaper gently tapped a silver bell on the counter, and a red-suited man with brown swept hair emerged from double doors. "Hello there, sir. May I help you?" The Reaper laid the suitcase on the counter, and clicked it up. Reaching his hands in, he pulled out a dark-colored PSG1. In the background, a few customers expressed their joy at such a specimen of a firearm.

     "I would like to sell this," the Reaper slowly spoke. "For an XM500."

     The store slowly grew silent, and all eyes were on this stranger, this empty-eyed man. "You want... a military-issue firearm?" The red-suited man looked him over. "Why would you need such a weapon like that? I mean, sure, we have it. But I need a reason as to why."

     For the first time in his bleak life, puzzlement flooded the Reaper's mind at the question. Why did he wish to buy this powerful rifle? Why did he wish to buy weapons? Why did he wish to exterminate men whose goals interfered with the corrupt? Why did he slaughter innocents on command? Why did he choose to live this life, to abandon a portion of his humanity?

     The Reaper straightened himself, and unveiled a wad of cash from his jacket's pocket.

     "I need it... for my job," he responded with a voice as empty as air.

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