"I repeat, hands in the air, and weapons on the ground!"

"Shit," Baird said, his hands up in his face as he tried peering through the bright lights surrounding them.

"What do you see, chief?" Mark asked, not ready to lower his gun quite yet. The Spartan was turning slightly, scanning the tops of the buildings. Surrounding them perfectly it seemed were large spotlights, manned by several individuals. These men were all armed, and those not operating the lights had their guns all trained onto the group. They were easily outgunned again, and the men had taken much better spots than previously.

"Last chance, put your weapons down!" a man shouted.

"We're surrounded," the chief said, and placed down the chain gun.

"Shit," Marcus groaned, and threw down his own rifle. The group all followed, the rattling of metal hitting the concrete ending after a second or so.

"We are sending a group to meet you," the voice continued," stay put and don't go for your guns or you will be shot on sight!" once again they were ordered around.

"Strandeds," Baird nodded," gotta be Strandeds."

"Chill," Dom said nervously," the last thing we need is for you to piss off more of these guys."

From one of the buildings a glowing light started to grow, and finally emerge from the ruins. A group of five men in scavenged and shoddy looking armor approached, lined with glowing lights of the same type. The lead of the group was a tall, heavily built with a buzz cut. As he got closer, the chief noticed he was wearing welding goggles. His dark skin reflected little of the light coming off his armor and his comrades armor. Finally the group of five were feet from the eleven.

"So… what do we have here?" the tall and very large man growled, his voice deeper than Marcus's. "Some Gears all going for a joy ride?"

"We just love the area so much we couldn't help it," Taylor replied sarcastically. The man didn't seem to notice him, but responded non the less.

"That's our turf you're tearing up, and bringing in Locust shit as well. Goddamn… the amount of bullshit we had to do to keep them away… and you just undid…"

"We came here under the impression you could help us," Marcus said honestly, indicating the cars," we didn't want to cause any problems."

"Gears? Cause problems?" The tall man spat on the ground, and marched closer," I think you've just about got as close as you'll ever get to Rexington."

"Rexington!?" Mark barked in shock," we're going to Rexington?"

"New Rexington," Eric corrected him. The tall man did a double take, and stepped to the side, looking for Eric's voice. And looking past Dom and Marcus, he spotted the young blond teen.

"Well… didn't think I'd ever see this day. Maybe you'd come back crying and upset that you hadn't eaten for days, or maybe you saw some friends die-"

"Some did, Quinton," Eric said harshly," they were killed by a Locust ambush. You see me crying?" The tall man indentified as Quinton sneered, and flicked a switch on his armor, and the lights flickered off on his suit. He reached up and pulled off his glasses, revealing the massive tan the rest of his face had in comparison to his eyes, which were dark blue.

"Your dad was almost about to send a search party for you, you stupid son of a bitch," Quinton said, wiping his eyebrows," now get away from these assholes. We're taking you home."

"They're coming," Eric said firmly. Quinton laughed, his dark chuckle angering Eric further. "I mean it."

"You think we'd let these fascist pieces of shit in our town? For nothing?"

"No… they intend to sell these," Eric pointed a thumb above his shoulder to the Warthogs.

"Wait," Dom said, but Marcus turned to him, putting a hand by his shoulder.

"Let's let this kid do some talking," Marcus said quietly," better than us. These aren't our friend strandeds."

"I… okay, you're right," Dom nodded, and relaxed. Marcus turned back to the two stranded. The taller newcomer was grinning something wicked, glaring down the unflinching teen Eric.

"And you think I'd let these sons of bitches inside my town, for some scrap metal? You're out of your mind, kid," Quinton growled, and reached for the kid's shoulders. Eric stepped back.

"I'm not fucking around! They're offering a trade! My dad's rules are-"

"We're not in your daddy's town, are we?" Quinton stepped closer leaning down to Eric," this land isn't exactly in his control. We're in the wastes. I could have just as easily killed these fucks as well as let them live for their cars, now could I? Or, hell, I could have found El Mercados lost boy out here, just feet from the walls, all shot from a Locust attack while he returned home. So, just do what I-"

"Fuck off, Quinton," Eric growled quickly," you know more than I do that these men are more loyal to my father than to you. If you want to stick around, you know his rules."

"…So do you, boy," Quinton rumbled, standing up again. After a tense moment, he glared around at the others, and then his eyes fell on the Spartan. Maybe it was the prospect or seeing something taller than him in human shape that put him off edge, or it was the un-familiar look of the thing standing amidst the Gears, but he retired his anger, and nodded. "Follow us, assholes, and don't try anything. I'm very much in the mood to see someone die up close."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Taylor said quietly to Mark, who sighed quickly, as his squad dragged Howard with the others. Following the luminescent armored men, they started for the ruins where only minutes ago, Locust had been pouring out of. As Marcus scanned, he spotted where the E-hole had been, and where several grub bodies lay. Two of the other unnamed soldiers retrieved several of the weapons, and grabbed as much ammo still on the bodies as they could.

"So," Cole said, walking behind Marcus and Dom," Rexington. You ever heard?"

"Not me," Marcus admitted.

"I have," Dom said," it's sort of a Stranded city. They say that as long as you can keep working here, you are welcome to stay. Sort of like a stranded haven."

"I hear it's a crap slum," Baird commented quietly.

"Hey," Frank said, and Baird just looked at him.

"I mean, tell me it isn't crappy compared to a Coalition controlled region," Baird argued.

"We haven't been anywhere outside of the city until kinda recently," Eric admitted from the front," dad wouldn't let me."

"So that's what you were doing out there?" Marcus asked, looking at the blond, "Sight seeing?"

"I was looking for something to change things. I just wanted a taste of something new," Eric tried explaining, growing slightly impatient as they continued to climb through rubble towards an opening ahead. "Life get's boring around Rexington for guys like me."

"Restless bastard," Dom chuckled softly, reflecting a little about himself. However, as he watched Eric climb, he realized something that had been said earlier," hey… you're dad… he's El Mercado?"

"… yeah," Eric turned his head to look at Dom worriedly, continued through the underpass," what about it?"

"What's El Mercado?" Marcus asked.

"C'mon man," Dom gasped and gawked at Marcus," you spend half your life with me and you don't know shit for Spanish, do you? It means 'the Merchant'. And El Mercado is probably one of the strongest Stranded out here," Dom continued, explaining to the group behind him and Marcus as well," he's got the guns and from people say, the food and resources to get what he wants done."

"Wait… little Eric here has been working with us lowly grunts, but he's like… a prince or something?" Cole asked, a grin growing across his face. Eric flipped him the bird, and Cole laughed heartily.

"I'm no prince, and my dad isn't any King," Eric stated," he just likes organization and fair trade. Something about reputation got to him a long time ago…"

"What reputation?" Marcus demanded, squeezing through a low-hanging piece of the ceiling, scraping his bandana slightly, "Ow."

"Well… his. Maybe this will explain a little," Eric said as he stepped out into what looked like more bright lights, and turned, beckoning them to follow," welcome to our gates."

"Well damn," Marcus said in awe, stepping into the light. Dom whistled.

"What?" Mark said as he, Carey and Taylor followed out from behind and into the light," what are we loo- WOAH!"

A huge collection of welded metal sheets was before them, some fifty feet ahead, and easily a hundred feet tall. Bright lights glared over above them, illuminating the entire area in clear white light. Near the tops, fortified and supported balconies were manned by armed soldiers, each holding a rifle of sorts, peering down at the newcomers. The walls stretched and continued to either side, connecting with buildings to the side, being constructed into the broken structures. In front of them the Stranded Quinton lead them towards a large double-door, about fifteen feet high and thirty feet wide. From inside, loud mechanical buzzs and clicks started, and the two gates started to open towards them, revealing even more lights, this time of varying color.

"I guess this explains how they kept out Brumaks and shit," Taylor said, almost dropping Howard.

"How the hell did they build up this wall?" Baird asked as they started walking through the gates," this would have caught anyone's attention! All that welding that must have had to be done…"

"All from his dad and their crew," Frank said," people say Mr. Martinez started working on these walls almost days after E-day, trying to keep people safe and on the down-low."

"It wasn't just him and his friends," Eric sighed, shaking his head from such a myth," he just coordinated the construction well enough. I guess if he hadn't been there to begin with, they probably wouldn't have been able to get it as high as it is now."

"Something that stands out that much must get a lot of attention," Marcus observed, as behind them the gate started to close," they must get a lot of firepower from somewhere."

"Defected soldiers," Quinton interjected from the side, watching them all with cross arms and a bored look," men and woman who get fed up working for you cog shits or who get left behind… who don't get killed or raped by assholes out there, are sent here. Big Boss Martinez has good word with the surrounding gang leaders. They need something, he's good on his word, as long as you pay him back."

"Part time banker, part time rebel, part time merchant… busy," Baird shrugged after he thought of it, receiving a look from the others," what?!"

"Follow me," Quinton stated as he turned and started walking towards the city.

It truly was a different setting inside the walls of this town. Many shacks had been set up on what appeared to be another lost parking lot. Faint lights from the makeshift windows emanated yellow lights while the harsh white light cascaded into the sky, keeping away the Kryll. Past the shacks, and several disgruntled men and woman staring at the group as they passed, where larger, and surprisingly repaired buildings with similar yellow and orange lights. While the repairs were easily makeshift and often times unpleasant to see, they seemed consistent and sturdy. Past those, and what appeared to be the middle of this town, was a large towering building, complete with radio antenna.

"Shit," Eric groaned as they saw the large radio building.

"Close to home, huh?" Mark said, as Eric started to fall in pace.

"I… it's just… I'm not looking forward to this, I guess," Eric attempted summarizing.

"Well, it's not like he'll kill you, will he?" Taylor quickly said, which Eric quickly glanced to him, and then back to the tower. They had started walking past the larger buildings, just as many guards around as by the walls, by the doors of the buildings and on the floors above.

"They aren't kidding, are they?" Dom noticed, keeping an eye out from the men and woman in armor. One spat at their feet.

"Just keep walking," Marcus said. Several of the guards were starting to follow them slowly, curious with their large group, and their big green robot. A similar, but smaller gate stood around the tall radio building, and the most amount of guards were posted here, unflinching and heavily armored, some even with gear that matched the cogs current armor.

"Hey, Frank," Eric said, turning to his friend," you… I'll meet up with you later, okay? Just go to our hangout."

"Fuck that," Frank said," I'm not going back. It'd be weird without Reg or West, since… you know," Frank said uncomfortably.

"You don't wanna stick around man," Eric warned him.

"Shit… okay. I'll meet you by our usual spot," Frank decided and slid back through the group, and ran down the street, only being stopped by one of the guards momentarily, and then let by.

"Adios to you, too," Taylor snorted as Frank rushed past him.

Finally Quinton met the lead guard by the gate, who stepped out to him, a skinner, athletically built man in lighter armor, wearing dark goggles, like Quinton. "Wait here," Quinton said to the group. The guard he met nodded, and opened a door through the wall, and Quinton stepped inside. Once Quinton stepped inside, the lead guard stepped closer. Brushing back his slick brown hair and pulling up his dirty goggles, he tried to get a look at the men before him.

"Damn, and thought taking them off would make you less ugly," the man sighed, wiping his face," so, we got ourselves some Gears of War."

Several of the guards behind them stepped closer; getting better looks at the now ten men, as Eric had put himself as close to the center of the group as possible, minimizing his ability to be seen.

"I was told you guys are bartering something. What is it you come with?" the lead guard asked in more business like tones. Marcus stepped forward, and quickly several other men had their guns trained on him.

"We were led here," Marcus started," with some idea that we could get help."

The man laughed. "Just like that… so, what is it you're going to give us for… help? And what kind of help, be more specific, fascist." Marcus took a second, trying to let the words pass over him.

"We have someone who lives here, who told us we could get your help," Marcus tried, a little less friendly than he had previously.

"Let's seem him, then." Marcus stepped back, and turned, waving for Eric to step out. The teen hesitated, and finally moved, coming out into view. The lead guard's mouth dropped open and he wiped his eyes quickly. "Holy shit!"

"Hey, Luca," Eric said, stepped closer to the man.

"You… you're…" the guard seemed speechless to see Eric before him, and Eric was uncertain of how to react, looking back at the others for clarity, but before they could say anything, the guard stepped closer, turned Eric around, and punched him hard in the gut," you fuckin' asshole!" Eric fell to a knee, coughing. While the guard had struck him, he did not move to hurt him any more, instead backing off, and pacing frantically," you just decided to vanish one day- just pick up and leave- like nothing bad could possibly come from that, could it, you fucking idiot!?"

"Well…" Eric stood back up," I'm back?"

"I…" the man just looked at him, and then started laughing," you stubborn ass of a brother!"

"Brother!?" Baird said in shock as the man called Luca grabbed Eric in a strong embrace.

"You're slow with this kinda shit, aren't you?" Mark stated.

"They don't even look alike though!" Baird exclaimed. Baird, in his usual insensitive self, was right; the two figures were only similar in build. Their skin tone, their hair, and their builds all differed.

"I fucking thought you were gone for good when we couldn't find you!" Worth said excitedly," man, just to think we were a day away sending out scouts to see if we couldn't find a trace of you! Dad was an inch from desperate."

"So, basically sitting in his room, kind of worried," Eric grimly stated, receiving a look from Luca," it's true, dude."

"So… why the hell did you tell these guys they could get our help?" Luca asked to his younger brother, glancing to the gears.

"They… saved me, and I told them where I lived. So they said they'd bring be back, as long as I got a place to stay," Eric explained. Luca, giving them a final glance, looked at his younger brother incredulously. With an arm around his shoulder, he lead him out of earshot from the others, talking to him quietly.

"God damn it," Marcus growled," I hate it when they do that."

"He'll back us up," Dom said, looking at Eric's back," he's not just gunna dump us."

"Why not?" Baird said, agreeing with Marcus," he's home, we're surrounded by these guys, who I'm sure with a command from daddy will shoot us all dead, so why should he give a fuck?"

"Hey," Mark interjected," c'mon now. We fought with this kid."

"He ain't gunna leave us hanging," Cole said confidently. "It'd be a crime against humanity to shut down the Cole Train."

Mark sighed with a smile, and spotted movement to his right, on the other side of Taylor, also carrying Howard. Several of the guards were talking amongst themselves, pointing at him and Howard. After a moment, several of them smiled, and two approached, pointing to Howard.

"Is he dead then?" a pale looking one asked, moving closer to Howard. Mark's instincts lead him away from Howard, who was left for Carey and Taylor to support. Standing between the two newcomer guards and his men, Mark stared down these others.

"No, he's good. What's it to you?" he asked quickly.

"He looks dead to me," the pale guard stated.

"He's not. He's breathing. Why the hell do you care so much?" Mark asked again.

"See, in this town," the pale guy started saying," when someone has been pronounced dead, people get to use whatever that belonged to him or her. So, if you're just trying to keep those goods away from us, you better show us he's alive," he ended, sounding more sinister.

"Fuck. You." Mark said, stepping into the man's face. "You want to go grave rob, you can piss off. No one is dead here."

"No one is dead yet," the pale guard said, licking his teeth quickly," but that can change. Do you have any guns to protect yourself with?"

"Shit like you? I don't need a gun?" Mark retorted.

"Try something then, tough guy-

"That's enough," a louder, stronger voice intruded the conversation between the two, and the Chief stepped in between the staring contest. At first the guard's face contorted with rage, then shock as he stumbled back and sized up the huge man before him, totally armored in unusual armor. Aside from the bright visor on his face, the construct was more complicated than anything he had seen in his life.

"Back off… robot… man," he stumbled on his words, still trying to assert the dominance he had earlier, stepping towards the Chief. "This doesn't concern you."

"It does," the chief stated," it concerns all of us," the chief stated, looking at his nearby comrades," drop it. We'll be going soon."

The man's mouth twitched, and his eyes darkened. Looking around at his fellow guards, he took a moment. Then there was a flash of movement; the guard had grabbed for his pistol, and quickly pointed it at the chief. The Spartan reacted instinctively, slapping away the guards hand to the side. But the man wasn't done- with his other hand, he raised a knife from a holster and went for a stab under the arms, where it was less armored. With the same hand, the chief grabbed the hand quickly, and twisted it. The man groaned, and spun to avoid having his arm break, and was soon in an arm lock.

"Woah!" Luca's voice called out. Several of the other guards had raised their guns on the crowd," the hell are you doing to my men!?" he shouted, walking around to the chief, who had retrieved the dagger, and dropped it easily to the ground, and was pulling the gun out of the mans fingers.

"Avoiding a firefight," the chief stated, letting the man's arm go once he had the handgun in his hands. The guard spun quickly, eyeing the Spartan with contempt.

"This fucker attacked me," the guard grumbled.

"Bullshit!" Mark cried out as Luca came around," he wanted the shit off of my soldier."

"Him?" Luca pointed to the injured man," is he dead?" Mark groaned and shook his head," okay," he turned to the pale man," let it go." The aggressor eyed Luca for a moment, and turned, grabbing his disarmed weaponry, and stowing it away. Luca turned back to the Chief," don't fuck with my men." The Chief stared at Luca, who didn't wait for a response to return to the gates, where Eric stood. "And this is why we don't let gears past the gates!"

"They weren't doing anything!" Eric pointed out.

"They don't get us- they don't get our situation," Luca shouted," and they cause trouble. We don't want them around here, and you knew that!" He walked to Marcus," so… what are we going to do with you all then?" The moment passed where Marcus said nothing, letting his stare let him do the speaking, and Luca, while clearly upset at his guard being put in his place, stepped back, and took a breath. "Start trouble, and you're grub bait. It's as simple as that," Luca said, as he turned to his brother. Just on time, the large Quinton stepped out from the doors, and approached Luca.

"They… uh," Quinton started, eyeing the Gears uncomfortably," can stay."

"Okay. I figured as much," Luca said," dad does things fairly. Which place we putting them in?"

"He said we're keeping them here," Quinton slowly put, each word seeming to pain him," sounds like your boys are better at getting word to him than I am." Luca eyed him, and glanced to the Gears.

"What're you talking about?"

"We're giving you guys several armored vehicles," Marcus stated, catching Luca's attention," for the stay. Hope that's enough for a nights stay," Marcus added begrudgingly.

"What?" Luca turned, glaring at Quinton," you tried stiffing them out!?" Quinton growled, and marched past him and the Gears, several of the other guards following him. "Fuck… Asshole is going to start more fights than finish them."

"So, let's take them inside?" Eric suggested, and Luca nodded. "Sweet… c'mon guys."

They walked through the comparatively narrow doorway and into a small courtyard, the chief having to watch himself as he stepped through. Crates of weapons and ammunitions surrounded them as they approached the large steps leading into the tall radio building. A broken and worn sign of some sort of with the letters "C.T.I." hung in it's rusted image to previous glory. Luca lead them up the mostly intact stone stairs, and towards the large windowed entrance. There, the interior lights poured out, and shiny marble floors reflected much of the other light.

"Your going to be staying on the twelve floor. Stairs can get you anywhere, but buttons with tape over them mean they don't stop there. Dad will want to see you, so go to the top floor," Luca summarized. As they piled into the large elevators, the chief having to take an entirely separate elevator than the others, Luca mentioned as he walked away," and welcome to New Rexington."

"So, to floor seventeen," Eric said as the doors closed, loudly enough for both elevators to hear him," and the doors closed.

"Just… how the hell do elevators work after all this time out here!?" Baird said after a silent moment or two passed in the space.

"You'd be surprised what we lowly Stranded can do, Baird," Eric reminded him," we're smart people too."

"Smart people don't live in those kinds of shitholes," Baird spat, several of the others groaning at his continual bitching. A groan came from Howard, who rubbed his head gingerly, and then looked at Baird, and rolled his eyes.

"You think we want to?" Eric asked, his quiet voice shutting up Baird. Finally the doors opened, and they all piled out.

"'Course he'd be able to get me up," Howard groaned, taking his steps slowly.

"Good to see you back on your feet," Mark said," and off my shoulder."

"Me too," Howard commented," wait…" he looked around, and spotted windows, overlooking the large brightly lit area, and the fact they were very high up," where the hell are we, sir?"

"New Rexington," Mark explained," we're getting cover for the night here."

"New Rexington? Whoa," Howard said.

The group continued walking, Mark and Howard catching up with the others as they marched into the larger floor, decorated and almost lavish looking. There was clearly wear on the walls and several of the decorations had dust gathering on them, from the plastic plants to the old metal statues. Across from this large 'lobby' a pair of doors opened, and a man stepped through. He had tan skin with brown hair, and dark eyes, which seemed to quickly locate each one of the men before him, as he approached them. He wore a business suit, clearly sew together from various tears and rips, but still maintaining a rich appearance.

"So, these are the men who bring my son back to me," El Mercado said as he came to a stop, several feet in front of them," thank you. As for you," he spotted his son, and glared at him," we will finish our talk later. And some more, since you decided to go off an get your friends killed, I hear."

"I didn't-"

"They followed you, and from what I hear, they didn't come back. If you, you of all people came marching back to me, but Reginald did not, it's clear he died while out in the wastes with you. You were responsible for him, and it appears as you have failed. Go wait in your room," he spoke very quickly and precisely, his Hispanic accent coming out when he spoke quicker. Eric stared at him momentarily, and turned from the others, walking down a hall towards other doors. "Forgive me, and my son," he said to the others," we're in a heated debate."

"I can tell," Marcus watched Eric go back to his room, and shared a glance with the boy as he turned and nodded to the others," so, you called us up here? Why?"

"It's not every day I hear of Coalition soldiers offering me deals I cannot refuse," the man stated, a smile growing in his face," several working combat vehicles? For a night's stay? And the cherry on top- you returned my son to me just hours before I send word to my men to begin a search for him."

"Shit," Taylor whispered to Mark," that means all this time he hadn't started looking for him yet."

"None the less," El Mercado continued," I am in the deficit here. I run my operations with one global rule- fair deals, no matter what. And here I am, with a huge offer at my feet. Granted, you and your men, Sergeant Fenix," El Mercado added," are less than desirable in my community. But my reputation must continue to be respected. So… I will ask you all, aside from the room and food and drink I will be giving you this night, is there anything else I can offer, to balance this deal?"

Marcus stared at this man, uncertain of how to react. He could handle the world spitting and cursing at him, from superiors back at Jacinto to Strandeds here in Rexington, but he rarely was told someone owed him. He turned to his squad, and asked," any ideas?"

"I got something," Baird quickly asked.

"No bullshit," Marcus growled.

"No, I'm serious," Baird defended himself heatedly, and stepped closer to the front," that communications array on top of the building? It still work?"

"You mean the radio dish?" El Mercado stated," yes, I use it periodically."

"Okay," Baird said, and stepped back to Marcus and the others," how about we use the communications to update HQ?"

"I like it," Cole added, nodding.

"Same," Dom agreed.

"How about you guys?" Marcus added to the others, who were quietly watching them, and listening.

"Sounds good to me. Just can't believe they were serious about this guy being all about the fair deal," Mark said.

"Alright," Marcus said, turning back to El Mercado," we'd like to use your radio to update our superiors and let them know our progress. Uh… aside from that, when we leave, we'd like protected transport out of the city to the west. From there, we can call it square."

"Hmm… perhaps," El Mercado put his hands together in front of his face, thinking," I can live with that, as you are all Gears. I will ask this of you then. When you have the chance to speak to any of your superiors of this town, you will not speak unfavorably."

"You want us to let everyone know… what?" Marcus asked for clarity.

"Let them know that we do not discriminate a good deal," El Mercado said, and placed his hand before him," so? Do we have a deal Sergeant?" Marcus stared at the hand, and slowly took it with his own, and shook," very good! Now I would ask that you and your men rest in the rooms on floor twelve. And I don't know what kind of living conditions you have at Jacinto, but try to enjoy the view while you can."

Well, sorry action lovers; not much action in this chapter. But then again, if this story was nothing but a bunch of awesome fights, it'd become Deadliest Warrior, Video game edition.

Wait... does have something like that? Hmm...

Master of the Boot: (Glares at EZB)

Oh. right. :D

Anyway, next chapter won't be as much action packed either, which I know a lot of you come to this story for, but I assure you guys it will be there. So, there. An I would like to formally apologize with not responding to a lot of Reviews you guys have been sending me. First of all, a lot of you dudes don't actually have accounts, so there is no reply button D: HOWEVER I do see them, and really appreciate them.

And as for last week not having an update...


Barack Obama: Don't blame me, my friend. Procrastination is no joke. And neither is the secret service. Which should be here... now. (A dozen armed men charge into the room, and blast EZB full of holes)

Master of the Boot: Wow. Nice job, sir. (high five's Obama)