It always took the Administrator a few minutes before she could bring herself to flick on the hundreds of screens before her, each carefully lining the wall like the world's most grand window display for the glory of television. Turning on those security cameras was one of the few utterly satisfying moments in the otherwise steady tediousness of her profession - the kind of thrill that they don't pencil into the job description but really should since the rest was essentially just paperwork and babysitting. Watching those screens light up, flickering on all at once to show a overwhelmingly comprehensive view of each base in its respective glory, it was a majestic moment. It was best, she thought, to put it off - to save it then savor it like a glass of fine wine at the end of a cheap meal - but when she finally could settle into her Eames lounge comfortably enough to bring on that flick of the switch, the entire room buzzed to life with a flickering fury. All at once mess halls were emptying out, barracks were draining of sleepy boys, Heavies were picking up their guns and Scouts were lacing up their shoes, every tiny moment captured by calculated cameras now projecting their findings back in crisp black and white. The Administrator, nestled in front and center amongst the sound and the fury of a sudden war room, couldn't help but crack a smile, despite how uncharacteristic it may have been for her notoriously sterilized disposition. Flicking another switch, she leaned in close to the panel before her, a grotesque smirk playing on her lips. Oh yes, she thought. Let the games begin.
"Mission begins in sixty seconds."
Bend down, arms loose, knees sturdy underneath you like the marble columns of the ancient world, holding the bat gently, lightly, evenly, arch back, and on one, two, three, take the swing. Throw your whole body into it, pivot, arch, and as soon as you hear that thunder crack of wood hitting leather you do what you do best - you run.
"This ain't no time for batting practice, mate." Scout swung his eyes away from that invisible ball - from the perfect swing - and stared evenly at the Australian to his left. Rifle strapped across his back and cup of coffee in hand, he too was ready for a battle. Gun powder and coffee grounds. It was just your average, typical day in The Suck. Scout scoffed, tipping the bat in his hands to rest evenly on his shoulder.
"There's always time for a little swing here 'n there, gunslinga. You should try it sometime." Sniper cracked a smile, swirling a finger in his cup of coffee nonchalantly before licking it clean.
"Not when the Queen over at HQ calls there ain't. Come on, kid - I'll walk ya to your post."
"Nah." He took another swing - this one sloppier, but still a home run. Damn, he thought, he was technically out of practice but he still had it. "I'll catch ya later. No point goin' all the way to the locker room when I'm just gonna shoot right out there," he swung his bat swiftly towards the bridge between the bases with an even swoop, "and take their fuckin' intel anyway." Sniper gave a bemused shrug, taking a sip of Joe for the road.
"Suit yourself, slugga. I'll see you on the 'field, then." With a tip of his hat he treaded up the steps to the second story, leaving Scout swinging loosely in the courtyard.
"Mission begins in ten seconds." With a heavy sigh he holstered his bat, kicking scornfully at the loose clay at his feet, and with a quick snap he whipped out his Force-A-Nature. Flicking the mic on his headset down into place and giving it a quick tap out of habit, he dallied around the courtyard lazily as the Administrator's voice buzzed with bloodlust in his ear.
"Five, four, three, two, one..."
And he was off.
"The enemy has taken our intelligence!"
"Our intelligence has returned to our base."
"The enemy has dropped our intelligence."
The Administrator flicked back and forth between RED & BLU microphones, eyes carefully scanning the color-coded screens before her. Only a few seconds in and the battle was already in full swing, bullets ripping through the air and tearing into opposing teams. The beauty of the carnage was staggering - the way such a simple objective could convince grown men to transform into true animals. The fact that the mercenaries had more in common with the men they fought than not never escaped her - in fact, it furthered the thrill of the game. Ask a man to kill his friend and he'll shudder with fright, but tell him that there's twenty thousand dollars in it for him and he'll start lining up the shot before you've finished your sentence. That, she thought, was the real charm of human nature - how easy it was to convince people to kill. Not that it hadn't crossed her mind that these men were killers by nature. No, each of their files and personal records always showed a particular penchant for murder, whether it be extensive dabbling in military affairs or just an affinity for cold-blooded hunting. They needed her as much as she needed them, and most appropriately for the same reasons. It was a sweet little bond they all shared - the kind that only extensive bloodshed could forge.
One of the tiny screens shuddered briefly, sizzling with static before flicking to an electric shade of black. The Administrator's attention shot back to the wall of screens before her as she stood up to read the tiny pressed label printed underneath the monitor. "RED INTEL. RM" - of course. It was Murphonian luck at its finest that one of the two most important cameras out of the hundreds out on the field should fail her now.
"Miss Pauling!" She hissed, slamming her hands down on the control panel before her. A petite, mousy looking woman scurried up from the darkness behind her, a noteworthy stack of papers and manilla folders in hand. She spoke with a soft British accent that only helped secure the immediate impression of unquestionable submission that she gave off.
"Camera 89 is not transmitting a signal and we're in the middle of a goddamn match! Rectify this immediately!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Miss Pauling scooted off with a weak whimper, dropping her papers where she stood and tripping towards the polished red rotary phone hung neatly on a nearby wall. The engraving on its dial read "EMERGENCY" in brash black letters that, unsurprisingly, did nothing to comfort those who needed assistance, but Miss Pauling knocked the handset from it's precarious position atop the phone nonetheless, fumbling to place it against her ear. It clicked to life almost immediately.
"Hello? Yes, this is Miss Pauling from HQ. I need a discrete maintenance worker to the Western fort's RED intel room immediately. That's fort 2207b..." She squinted hard over her glasses, running a slender finger down the code list pinned halfheartedly above the rotary phone. "...It's a code 10-15. Yes, yes, a battle is in progress... What? Safety? I don't care about your silly safety regulations! This is of dire importance! ...I don't know! ...I told you, I don't know!...Fine - send whoever!" With an exaggerated huff, she slammed the phone down against its cradle and hastily jogged back towards the Administrator in an awkward kind of run-walk that far too busy people often do, slipping on her earlier abandoned papers in the process.
"They're sending someone right now, ma'am. An intern, I believe."
"Who they send is of no importance," she seethed, taking a deep drag off of her cigarette. "As long as the job gets done without interference." The smoke rolled from her nostrils in hazy streams, exacerbating her bony features into a dragon-like fierceness. "We have a show to run."
He took the steps to the second floor two at a time, bolting through the throng teammates getting to work building sentries or checking the propane levels on their gas-tanks, and whizzed out onto the roof of the bridge with one slick double-jump. The shingles were already littered with sticky bombs that he skipped his way through, laughing to himself with each dodge.
"Way to aim, cyclops!" He spat, spinning around on his heels in a full-speed game of hopscotch. A grin plastered onto his face, he took a breath to shoot out another string of insults and spun back around, coming face to face with a Soldier's rocket exceedingly close to his face.
"Oh shi-" Without so much as a second thought, he threw himself out of harms way and into the moat below, the heat of the explosion pulsing to life behind him clawing at his skin. He could feel the shot of pain pulse to life as his arm burned with a crisp crackle, halfway between a third degree burn and a sunburn from hell. The rush of cold water raked over this newfound handicap and he yelped without hesitation, his scream muffling into mere gargles in icy depths of the water. It took no time at all for him to right himself and splash up above the freezing river, grasping at his scorched arm, and despite the thrilling call of the opponent's intelligence he wearily dragged himself back through his own base's sewer system. Tapping once more at the microphone on his headset with a hope and a prayer that the water had left it relatively unscathed, he tried his luck.
"Hey hardhat, you got a dispenser 'round here? Goddamn psychopath gave me some serious rugburn." He was greeted with static, most likely from the pool party sloshing around inside the circuits, but within seconds a mellow Southern accent cut in between the senseless fuzz.
"Sure do, pal. Check the intel room. Be on your guard, though - there's no sentry in there. That arm still functional enough to hold a gun?" Scout couldn't help but smirk. Oh, how his teammates underestimated him.
"You friggin' bet. I'll be there in a flash." Engie chuckled softly.
"Don't we all know it."