Disclaimers 'n' crap: Haihai peeps! Wow, I actually got back to this quicker than I thought! Yeah, I know I said last time that I might update the next day, but, trust me, this is a lot better than some of my other gaps. I apologize for the shortness of this chapter. Also, something important to take into account: I've been doing a lot of philosophical thinking about how ethics differ from story to story (and from the real world) in fantasy fiction. I've used this to create more motivation behind a lot of my major characters and it's also something I want to at least TRY to tweak in Last of the Cliffhanger's Unit because I can't help feeling that I made Elaine a little too one-dimensional in that. Of course, that fic wasn't meant to have much in the way of villain development. Okay, now I'm just rambling. Still own The Crystal Journeys, still own E-Max, still don't own any Higher Ground characters. Enjoy!

(About 24 Years Later)

The echo of silence. The stench of blood. The carnage of death. The light footsteps of eight people walking across the battlefield. The E-Maxen Special Forces Unit. Codename: Cliffhangers.

"Remind me why we're out here again?" said Shelby, looking at the ghastliness of war that surrounded them on all sides "I thought the main recon units picked this area clean of survivors hours ago."

"Don't forget all the dead people," chirped Daisy, her voice bathed in dark sarcasm. It was true. While no bodies littered the ground, assorted weapon discharge and dark stains of blood in the evening light did.

"We need to reflect," said Scott "This is what war is like. People die. Even people like the E-Maxens who don't die just like that need to remember that life has its limits."

Is it just me, or is he stealing my dialogue? Daisy thought.

Wow, thought Juliette "Scott, you've really changed. You've become so serious about the philosophy of life. It's almost scary. Is this all because of that immortality mark?"

"Mostly, yes," said Scott "Because of it, I can't die like these people can when the pain and suffering become too much. Also, because she's the one I have to kill to die, it binds me to Elaine in the strangest way, now that she also bears the seal. All those times I was in great pain, she's felt it too. It felt good to know that, but it isn't quite enough to make me want to deliberately hurt myself." He cracked a brief smile.

"So, basically," said Ezra "We could all die at any second, but since your evil ex-stepmom is still alive and kickin', you're just gonna suffer the whole time." Scott scowled.

"Not quite," said Scott "The seal keeps me going. Destroying Elaine is my ultimate goal. It's almost become my only purpose in life, getting my chance. Queen Hannah was actually the one who killed Elaine the first time…but that wasn't where I was going with this. Yeah, I'm protected by the seal. Yeah, Solidus once said 'We're all born with an expiration date. No one lasts forever.'. Yeah, that's true. But until then, we're all protected by something…until it's time."

"Okay," said Kat "Protected by…what?"

"It's one of the facts of living in this kind of world, animation-based, I mean," said Scott "Characters go through a crapload of hell, a lot of which should kill them, and then they eventually get killed off by something. While this seal indefinitely keeps me from dying, in a way…I think part of it could be protecting you, too." He stood there, lost in his own words. Just…gazing. This happened to him sometimes.

"Well, if that's true…" said Shelby from a few yards behind him. Scott listened for the rest of the sentence for a couple seconds, but it didn't come. He turned around.

Shelby was holding a knife to her throat.


There were several simultaneous gasps.


And blood spilled everywhere.

Just to clarify, the only reason that Elaine has the seal too is BECAUSE she's the one who has to die to fulfill Scott's vow. That's it. She's not immortal or anything. She's just marked. Another thing, for those of you who don't know, Solidus is from Metal Gear Solid 2. Believe me, I WANTED to try to get through this one without doing any major crossovers, but his input is important in the next chapter. At least, I hope it will be when I write it. Some random love for Solidus kinda bloomed out of nowhere and he's become one of my alltime favorite MGS characters. Yeah, I ended this with a cliffhanger (is shot for horrible pun). Maybe I'll go write the next chapter now…