"Yer lost, admit it."

""I'm telling you Engy, this is a fake map planted by a damn dirty BLU Spy!"

The Engineer would have slapped his forehead in annoyance were he not driving. The Texan had been driving a RED standard-issue truck for well over five hundred miles North from the Grand Canyon so as to arrive to Alaska as part of a team transfer. That's what the map navigator thought at least.

"We're not even following North Solly," the Texan stated in an annoyed tone, "we've been goin' East fer at least sum hundred miles or so."

The 'map consultant' was sitting next to him, checking a large map of the US, shaking his head at the persistant Engineer. The Soldier, the Engineer thought, was easily the only American who didn't know the geography of his own country.

"Are you kidding? Didn't you know that if the sun rises in front of you means that you're heading North?"

The Texan gave a hard look at his companion. "Sun dawns East pardner."

The Soldier went quiet for a moment, looking at the Engineer, then to the Sun dawning in front of them, then to the map and then back to his companion. "Damn," he finally admitted "I hate it when you prove me wrong."

With a groan, the Engineer brought the truck to a stop. Suddenly voices rose up from behind the truck.

"Yo, why we stoppin' now?" asked the young Bostonian, "we're in da middle of frickin' nowhere."

Another vehicle – a camper van – came up behind the truck and stopped as well. From it came out the Australian Sniper and the German Medic and the former .

"Did ya wankers finally figure out that we were goin' East fer the la-"

"What? East?" the big Heavy behind the pickup truck boomed, "I was told Alaska is North!"

The Engineer brought up his hands to calm everyone down. "Alright, we git it; tha Soldier is now no longer in charge of tha map," he stated despite objections from the Soldier, "we jus' need tah find our bearings so we can git back on tha road."

The Scout sneered. "What bearings?" he asked mockingly, "dere's nuthin' but sand an' dirt fer miles."

The often-irritating Scout did provide a very well-founded point: barring the vehicles, themselves and some distant mountains, nothing was in the horizon. The road was the only interesting feature in this landscape since it broke the monotonous dirt-brown terrain.

"So now vat do vee do?" the Medic enquired, "We're running out of fuel und water und the last town we saw is ein day avay."

"How 'bout those buildings up ahead?" the Sniper asked, pointing West.

Everyone turned to see structures which seemed little more than dark spots which at first gave the impression that they were part of the mountains.

"How do you do that?" asked a French voice emanating from the camper van; it was the ever-formal Spy.

"Ya'd be surprised what a few years in the Outback can do to ya."

"Alrighty then," the Engineer began, bringing his hands together, "how 'bout we head on there and ask fer sum supplies an' where the heck we are?"

With everyone in agreement the convoy got moving once more.


My God the pain, it was unforgiving.

It had probably no more than half-an-hour, but the pain made it seem as if it had been hours since they came, took my loved ones and broke my leg. They mocked me, sneering and jeering at my crippled self, occasionally kicking at me as they had their sadistic fun.

I felt so helpless, so useless, as if I were the smallest thing in the world. I couldn't do anything but watch Muriel and Eustace scream in horror as they were dragged away into the abyss from where those…things came from.

After having their perverted fun, they left me for dead, all alone, with no-one for miles. My mind repeatedly yelled at my body to make a move, to do something than just lie there. It was all in vain; all of my energy was gone and the pain sapped my muscles. I cursed myself at being so weak and my inability to do anything.

Through my sobs I got the impression of hearing noises from outside. What did it matter now? Not even the best doctors could save me.

I kept crying away, in pain, all alone.


The group stopped by the 'structures' that the Sniper had spotted earlier: a barn, a two-story farmhouse with a bent antenna on top, a windmill by the latter, and an old dark teal pickup truck parked by the barn. It seemed to be a typical farm with its boundaries marked by an intermittent wooden fence.

"Whatta dump," the Scout said as he jumped off the RED truck.

The Engineer felt somewhat offended. "'S not a dump," he replied in a defensive tone, "'s jus' humble; reminds me of mah ol' property back at Bee Cave."

"Roight," the Sniper began, looking to the team, "who's gonna go in there an' talk to the farmers?"

"I'll go," the Engineer answered with no-one objecting.

The Spy, blowing out a puff of smoke, nodded, offering himself as a volunteer. The Engineer shot his offer down however. "No offense or nothin', but if yer not gonna take that there mask of yers off, they might think yer a thief."

The Frenchman opened his mouth to put together a rebuttal, but after a moment's thought, he nodded once more. "Very well," he answered.

"It has gotta be more interesting dan jus' standing out heah waitin'," the Bostonian declared, and before anyone could argue with his decision, he added, "an' no-one's gonna say anyding else."

"Alright," the Sniper interjected, "but yer leaving yer bats an' Scattergun in tha truck, an' I'll come along as well."

The Scout was visibly annoyed, but he agreed, "Fine."

Thus the trio walked to the front porch, and being the courteous one, the Texan knocked at the door.

"How do dey grow anyding heah?" the Bostonian asked, observing the cracked dirt, "dis soil's dryer dan a desert."

The Sniper shrugged; "Maybe they don't farm."

A few seconds passed without any response from inside the house. The Engineer knocked again, albeit more forcefully. When this also went unanswered the Texan tried looking inside through the door's net screen and asked in a loud voice, "anybody home?"

The inside of the house was silent. He could make out that the room opposite of them was a living room, with two chairs, a television set, but no people.

The Scout groaned. "Dun tell me dis house's abandoned."

"Can't be," the Sniper answered, "I can smell fresh coffee from inside."

Growing impatient, the young man from Boston pushed the Engineer aside – the Engineer letting out an audible 'hey!' – turned the door knob and opened the door.

"Ya can't jus' burst in somebody's home like that!" the Engineer warned the Scout, "if this were Texas, ya'd be shot on sight!"

The delinquent waved off that wise piece of advice as he seemed more interested in the room: as the Engineer saw, there was a bulky television with a rocking chair and sofa facing it, an oval green rug tied the three together. To the right was a set of stairs leading up, and further ahead was another room.

"Why does dis look more comfy dan our common room?" the Scout asked in a cynical tone, observing the television set with heightened curiosity, "sweet! Dey even have a frickin' TV!"

The Engineer, still worried about the possibility of being caught by the owners, asked out loud, cupping his mouth, "hello? Is there anyone in here?"


This time I definitely heard a voice. Despite the basement door dampening the voice, I could hear a distinct Texan accent. Hearing this person's voice both raised my hopes and my fear. Was this friend or foe? Seeing as how the last Texan that I encountered was washed away in a waterfall in the desperate attempt to complete his perverted experiments on my loved ones, I had good reasons to not give this Texan the benefit of the doubt.

I was, however, interested in the voice and I wanted to at least see who was up there in the living room. Driven by curiosity, I mustered what little strength I had and tried to drag myself towards the stairs leading up.

No good, the pain of my broken leg soared and I yelped in shock. I almost began to cry, but then stopped; realizing that whoever was up there might've heard me I kept quiet. I didn't want to be found.

Yet.


The Sniper's head jerked towards a door beneath the stairs. "Did ya hear that?"

His companions turned to the Aussie. "Hear what?" the Engineer asked, "I didn't hear nothin'..."

"I thought I heard somethin' like a dog's cry or yappin'."

The Bostonian dismissed the Sniper. "Yer hearin' things," he said, waving a hand for emphasis, "yer paid fer seein', not hearin'."

The Sniper stared at the door for a few seconds, as if he was expecting that it would open suddenly when, finally, he turned his attention to the source of the coffee aroma which he had smelled earlier. He found himself in the kitchen, a wooden table in the middle of the room. On the table there were two plates with half-eaten eggs and bacon, two cups of coffee and a newspaper folded hurriedly.

Whoever was eating here left in a hurry the Sniper realized.

He was tempted to have a sip from one of the cups or eat some of the left-over food but instead limited himself to take a look at the newspaper. There were no particular headlines that jumped out to him, no pictures describing any of the articles, this newspaper had nothing interesting.

Then he looked at the name of the newspaper and, as he read it out loud, cocked an eyebrow: "Nowhere News?"

Taking a quick peek besides the paper's price and publication date, the Australian saw that it was sold in Nowhere, Kansas.

He couldn't keep it in. "We're in bloody Kansas? How did that idiot screw up this bloody much?"

The Scout heard him and answered casually, "dat's what we get fer lettin' Solly be our navigator." Entering the kitchen and seeing the Sniper holding the newspaper, he asked, "does it say anythin' 'bout baseball in da sport section?"

Ignoring the Scout, the Sniper asked a question of his own: "Ever heard of a town called 'Nowhere'?"

The Scout gave a surprised look. "Yer askin' me about geography? Dat's like askin' Solly a history question. Never heard of a 'Nowhere' though."

The Engineer joined his friends in the Kitchen. "I remember readin' somethin' 'bout a small town named 'Nowhere', but I reckoned it was jus' a joke." He looked at the plates left on the table and frowned: "Now who in tha right mind would leave perfectly good bacon on a plate tah git cold?"

Both of his friends ignored the irrelevant question. "So what do we do now?" the Scout asked, "we gonna check da rest of da house or go back to the othars?"


As much as I was afraid to meet the strangers upstairs I realized that if they left I probably lose the only chance to not only save myself, but Eustace and Muriel.

So, despite what all of my instincts told me, I yelled out for help. With any luck, they would be friendly enough to help me outside of the basement.

But knowing my luck, they'd just finish me off.


"You hear someone yellin'?" the Scout asked his companions.

"I hear something," the Australian responded, "sounds like it's comin' from downstairs."

"Is there even a downstairs?" the Engineer wondered.

Moving fast, the Sniper reached the door underneath the stairs leading upstairs and opened. There he saw a relatively dark hall with a set stairs leading to an even darker basement. Whatever had been making the noises had suddenly stopped. The Engineer came up from behind. "See anythin' Snipes?"

Pulling out his kukri from his sheath, the Sniper began his descent into the basement, wary of any possible threats down there.

That was when he saw the dog.