School is a bitch. So is senioritis.

There isn't anything I could possibly say that could excuse me for my unbelievable slowness. I'm not even going to try. All I can hope for is that people still care, and that the Easter holiday has put those people in a good enough mood to continue reading.

P.S. A special thank you to writtenrhythm for always telling me about my evil little errors I always seem to miss. The last chapter would have remained forever incorrect without her :)

P.P.S. School's getting rough now that softball season is here (the thing my life revolves around.) I swear I'll never stop updating this, and I won't say that all updates will take this long. But I don't think they'll come as fast as I want them to. Please stick with me! It's about time I start to wrap this baby up!

Chapter Seven: The Mitchell Twins (Part Two)

Berserker? Did I hear him correctly? A Berserker? The monstrous creature I'd heard so many stories about? That same thing I've heard grown men talk about with fear in their eyes? Grown COG men? Didn't these things kill you with a simple swing of their arm? Or by stepping on you? I mean geez! What did Delta ever do to deserve this? Ever since I started to tag along with them, we were literally followed by hell. All the time. Couldn't they just for once in their crazy, fucked up, unfair version of a life CATCH A BREAK?

Maybe I should start thinking before saying yes to my dad when he innocently asks me to "tag along."

But that was another problem. I'd save that bridge for a rainy day.

Slowly, very slowly, my dad slid in front of me as silently as he could. So it was true then; Berserkers couldn't see. They relied only on their hearing. But then once they picked up even the tiniest scuffle of your boot, they roared and charged at you like a raging freight train.

Fear struck my heart and I reached out to stop him. But he ignored my desperate tugs at his wrist, squaring his shoulders, staying put between me and the monster.

We couldn't just sneak out the back door with this one. Leaving a basement filled with Wretches for the next morning was acceptable. Leaving an angry Berserker was not.

The Lieutenant whispered as softly as she could into the radio. "You can't avoid it?"

"Don't think that's an option," Marcus said. "We need the Hammer."

The Hammer? As in the Hammer of Dawn? Holy hell, we were in for it big this time, weren't we? "Marcus, the fastest I can get a Raven with the Hammer of Dawn to you is five, ten minutes tops. Can you keep it at bay until then?"

"We can sure as hell try," Marcus murmured, his eyes fixed on the beast. It hadn't noticed us yet, stomping around on the opposite side of the plaza. The thing was absolutely terrifying. Fuck, it didn't need to see if it just pulverized anything it walked over.

There was a slight tap on my shoulder and I turned, looking at Brent and Kent. Each of them shrugged their shoulders with their hands raised, as if to say "What now?" I shook my head at them and shrugged my shoulders as well. Hell, I didn't know and I most certainly wasn't going to ask.

"If we just stay over here out of its way, then we should be fine," whispered Bernie. "But if it decides to check out this side of the building too, then we're fucked."

"Well then shouldn't we make a plan for that or somethin'?" Cole asked. "Shit, I've never had to wait for a Hammer before."

"We can't just shoot it?" Brent murmured.

All of Delta turned their eyes on him, including Bernie. "No," they all hissed in unison, terrified of the thought.

"Maybe we should wait outside," I suggested. "It's gotta be safer than this." It sounded like an easy plan to my ears, but all of the experienced ones glanced down at their boots and the shattered glass beneath them. I remembered the crunch we'd made while entering the building.

"What do you think, Marcus?" my dad asked, eyeing the beast across the room. It was just pacing now, grunting and breathing at nothing. Marcus watched too, and I could almost see the gears turn in his head as he tried to make a decision that wouldn't kill us all.

"Alright," he sighed. "Let's move. Quietly."

We all nodded, and turned around to start walking. I tried to make my steps as light as air, moving all my weight onto each foot as gently as possible. The glass still crunched slightly, making me flinch with each step. It seemed like it took us forever to reach the frame of the entrance, but we did, and I cautiously stepped over it and onto the concrete of the sidewalk outside.

To my left, there was rolling clink as something metal skipped across the floor. I flinched as though the innocent sound was the loudest thing I'd ever heard, and glanced over to find Kent giving a terrified look at his boots. He had accidentally kicked a screw across the ground.

And then behind us, there was a roar, and Kent brought his hand up to his face. "Oops," he muttered. We all glanced over our shoulder to watch as the Berserker lowered into a crouch and then charge at us from the other side of the plaza.

"Scatter!" Marcus shouted, and we all took off into the street in different directions.

I felt the ground quake as the Berserker charged after us, but I was too scared to look behind me. Who was it targeting? Me? Where the fuck did one go when running from these bastards? There was a rumbling crash as the monster trampled a car somewhere to my left, and I cringed and covered my head as I ran.

When the screech of crinkling metal ceased, I skidded to a halt and whirled around, squaring my shoulders towards the beast. It was bent over the remnants of the car, snarling and listening for its next victim.

"Delta, this is KR Unit Twelve. We're on our way to your position, over!" Oh Goddamn it.

The man on the radio could have screamed while waving a red flag and gotten the same reaction from us. There were a couple of curses in my ear piece, and an extremely sharp "Shut the fuck up!" from Marcus. But it was too late now, and guess who was closest? The Berserker roared, turned and charged straight at me.

My muscles screamed as I waited for the right moment. I could see the grime in the monster's teeth before I quickly launched myself to the right, sloppily rolling across the concrete and scraping my elbows. Then I started scrambling like an animal, forcing my legs to keep going as I jumped back up and ran down the opposite direction of the street towards the others.

As I distanced myself from the Berserker, I lightened my footsteps from a panicky stomp to a cautious jog. Baird glared daggers at me, but Cole welcomed me with a quick pat on the shoulder. I took a moment to glance around. Kent still stood near the entrance of the building, muscles tensed like he may never move again. Brent stood directly in front of him on the other side of the street. My dad and Marcus were side by side, a few feet behind, their eyes never leaving the Berserker as it thrashed and screeched down the road.

It wouldn't be long for the beast to come back towards us for more so I turned around and gave Marcus a questioning glance. "KR-12, how much longer?" he murmured into the radio.

"Four minutes, Sergeant Fenix. Think you can last until then?"

"Do we really have a choice?" Marcus mumbled, more to himself than the man on the radio.

The Berserker's rampage had crept closer to us and it backhanded a parking meter that landed a bit too close to me for comfort. I gave the crinkled piece of metal a terrified glance and then brought my eyes back to the beast. Could we last until the Raven reached us?

With Delta backing you up it was hard to think too negative, so I easily batted my worried thoughts into the back of my mind. It was sort of like a game. A deadly combination of hide and seek, and dodge ball. All I had to do was keep quiet and avoid the raging monster. How hard could it be?

"Hostiles," something behind me hissed, nearly too low and rough for me to understand. The menace behind the statement rose the hair on the back of my neck, and I forced myself to take my eyes off of the Berserker and turn around. About fifty yards down the street stood a group of Drones, maybe six or seven of them, and they were coming for us with their guns raised. Marcus had spotted them as well, and he grunted out a low and simple "Well…fuck."

I, on the other hand, was not able to keep myself as calm as he did. As loud as I dared, I let out a hiss of my own, stringing together as many cuss words as I could think of in a long sequence of fucking annoyance. Despite the situation, I still received a very disapproving glance from my father.

The Berserker threw its head back and roared, ready to charge again. It braced its weight back on its heels and then sprinted forward, blazing past us all without a bit of hesitation. Where the hell was it going?

The beast swung its arms wildly, striking one of its own and hurling it through the concrete wall of another building. The damn thing took out a Locust! The rest of the Drones roared and hissed at the monster in a scolding way, like a mother would do to a child who couldn't get a hold of his temper. Then one of them pointed a gun at us as angrily and opened fire.

"Get down!" my dad cried, and we were all behind something in an instant. Brent and Kent had moved up closer to us, but continued to stay near the back as they nervously loaded their guns.

"Do we shoot?" Kent asked, not even bothering to whisper.

"Oh yeah, sure. Bring the damn thing right towards us." Baird scowled at him and rolled his eyes.

Ammo pelted off the upside down car Cole and I had our backs braced against. "Well then what's the plan, baby?" Cole asked.

"Two minutes, Delta. We are closing in on your location."

Marcus narrowed his eyes down the street at the approaching Drones. I could see the muscles in his neck move as he grinded his teeth together. "Alright," he sighed, rolling his shoulders back. "Let's do this."

I immediately turned and opened fire, spraying more than actually aiming. They came at us in some sort of formation, walking in a straight line. Why not take them all out at once? The others opened fire too, and I knew it wouldn't take long for us to drop them all.

The Berserker screeched and gripped its head with both hands. It suddenly charged again, but instead of coming towards us it simply turned and smashed into another building that lined the sidewalk. The damn thing must have been confused by the gunfire. But the beast's sudden disappearance made me unexpectedly nervous. Now I couldn't see the monster, and I didn't know where it was.

But it was quickly forgotten when another round of Drones emerged, climbing out of an E-Hole I had yet to spot. It was located farther down the street, and I doubted I could get a Frag in it from my current position. I glanced over at Cole, who gave me a nod in response and charged forward from his spot behind his barrier.

I kept as close as possible to him as I could, providing cover fire while he sprinted and danced in between slabs of concrete and crushed cars. I had a moment of astonishment as I watched him move forward with extreme courage and confidence, something I didn't think I'd ever be able to achieve. Cole suddenly stopped his advances and grasped a grenade at his belt. "Back in your hole, bitches!" he cried, then he launched the grenade into the E-Hole, and we watched it explode and make the opening cave in on itself.

"Nice arm, Cole," Marcus commended through the radio. The remaining grubs gave dissatisfied turns of their heads and began to fall back.

"These things are insane," Brent commented in a detached voice. I turned around and put my back into a corner created by a concrete building next to me and the sand bags I was currently crouched behind. Brent and Kent were jogging over, side by side with their Lancers cradled to their chests.

Bernie took out the last two Locust and stood from her cover. "Damn right they are," she said, rolling her shoulders back and cracking her neck. "Ah. Think I pulled something."

"You should retire, Granny," Baird called from a few feet away. "Then maybe we wouldn't have to deal with you slowing us down all the time."

Bernie braced her hands at her hips and leaned backwards with a groan. "Careful, Baird. You almost sounded like you cared for a moment."

"Forgive me," he snidely replied.

"Anyone know the position of the Berserker?" Marcus asked, cautiously lowering his gun and walking over with my dad. "KR-Twelve is inbound." To answer him, the thumping sound of chopper blades slicing through the air filled my ears and I turned my eyes skyward.

"Delta, this is KR-Twelve. Where the hell do you expect us to land?" The Raven hovered and circled about us. "And where is the Berserker? I know you didn't take care of it by your-"

The Berserker suddenly burst through the concrete wall to my left with a deafening crash, creating a storm of rock and debris. I screamed and covered my face with my arms. Its roar pierced the air and its booming footsteps shook my frame. Peering around my arms, I could only catch a glimpse at the monster before it charged towards Kent and backhanded him from Brent's side. I wildly scrambled to my feet and gasped in horror as Kent skidded across the street, landing with a sickening thud.

"Brent!" I screeched, trying to get the other shocked and frozen brother's attention. "Brent MOVE!" After an entire second, he did, lurching forward in the wrong direction as he desperately stumbled towards Kent's still body.

"No, damn it!" I brought up my Lancer and fired off a couple rounds into the Berserker's back to stop it from taking out Brent as well. The ammunition simply pelted off the monster's skin, but I got its attention. It turned away from Brent and ran another direction, furiously confused.

Marcus's demanding voice lit up the radio in my ear. "KR, get the Hammer down here now!" he ordered. "Control, this is Delta! Is the Hammer online?"

"The Hammer of Dawn is now operational. You have a very limited window, Marcus. Make sure you go as quickly as possible."

Before I could go to Brent's side, my dad appeared to my left and swept me backwards. "Stay back," he ordered, and I almost screamed at him. Now wasn't the time to cower behind daddy's legs. Kent was down, and his brother needed help.

Brent crouched over his twin's body and pressed his ear to Kent's chest. Adrenaline hammered through my system and I could taste it. My mind couldn't even keep up with my instincts. I had the sudden urge to fall to the ground and close my eyes; to shut out everything around me. "Just drop the fucking thing!" I heard Baird scream from behind, and I turned to find him waving his arms at the Raven that circled above.

"KR!" Marcus shouted with his finger to his ear. "Get as low as you can and lower the Hammer! We're running out of time! And once you do, prepare for medevac!" The Raven circled once more before it steadied and began to lower. I watched it for a moment, and then I shifted my eyes to Cole, Bernie and Baird as they kept the Berserker distracted. My dad was running over to the twins, and Marcus was standing under the Raven, squinting up against the wind of its thumping blades as is crept towards the ground.

I then realized that I wasn't doing anything.

My hand gripped a pocket on my right leg and I sprinted after my father. Before I reached him and Brent, I was already digging out my scarce pack of medical supplies. I roughly fell to my knees next to Brent with my med kit in hand, fingers shaking uncontrollably. "What can I do?" I heard myself saying.

My father's hands, steady and sure, moved up the Kent's neck and his fingers pressed down for a pulse. I just stared at his hands and nothing else, observing the roughness, the calluses and the dirt under his fingernails. I was zoning out, and I couldn't get a hold of myself.

"Melanie," my dad said. I just continued to gaze at his hands. They were now braced against his knees. "Melanie. Melanie."

I brought my eyes up, but let them land on Brent's ashen face before I shifted them to my dad. "Melanie, he doesn't have a pulse." I allowed my gaze to skim over Kent's body for a single moment, making me wish I hadn't. Blood pooled in his hair, draining from each of his ears. His hair took on a brilliant crimson color from an awful chunk of scalp missing on the right side of his head. Kent's mouth was opened wide, and his lifeless eyes gazed upwards at nothing. My dad gave an empathetic look at the other twin. "Sorry Brent," he said, trying to express as much compassion as he could in the pair of words.

Sorry? That was it? Just sorry? There wasn't anything else we could do? Get the Raven on the ground, call medical over and revive him? My fingers continued to rip open a package of gauze until my father reached out and stopped me. I squeezed the package tightly in a fist, my hand shaking. "Damn it," I whispered. Kent had just joined the endless list of casualties.

On autopilot, I slowly got to my feet, and my father did as well. Brent stayed, kneeling next to his dead brother, his eyes locked on a spot of concrete next to my boot. My body was numb. Anything and everything ceased to make an impression in my mind. For an embarrassing, private second I secretly wished that Justin was with me.

My father extended his hand towards Brent, and I found myself gazing at his weathered fingers again. "Come on," he urged, nodding his head. "Fight for him. Don't quit now."

Brent blinked his eyes, still motionless in his crouch. But then a sudden inhale of breath shook his frame, and he brought his brown eyes up to mine, watery and desperate.

What did I say to him? I didn't even know how to get a handle on myself. But Delta was still fighting. We were still fighting. It was a damn war, and it was time to grow up. My right arm came out, my hand shaking only slightly. I looked Brent Mitchell in the eye, challenging him, urging him to stand. After another moment, he reached up with his own hand and I grasped it, tugging him to his feet.

"You ready?" I asked, giving him a level gaze. Brent nodded wordlessly, readying his gun at his chest. I looked over at my father and nodded once. "Let's go."

We all switched into battle mode again, going into low sprints as we ran towards the Berserker and the others. The monster charged towards Bernie and Cole, and each of them dove in opposite directions, leaving the Berserker a clear path in the middle. Baird kicked a rock at it, loudly scuffing his boot. "Come on!" he shouted, firing off a few rounds at the beast's back. "Come at me, you bitch!" The Berserker roared furiously at the sky, momentarily stopping its disoriented war path.

"Stand clear, Delta!" Marcus came running over with the Hammer in his hands, and the Raven climbed back towards the clouds behind him. I gave a quick, meaningful glance at the deadly weapon in his arms and felt my heart rate speed. I'd never seen how the Hammer of Dawn operated before.

My dad appeared at my side and tugged at my right arm. "Stand back," he murmured in a low voice. I guess we were back to whispering, not that it mattered. The Berserker was too busy screeching to even bother listening to us. The others began moving backwards as well, and then there was a beep, beep, beep as Marcus carefully aimed the Hammer at the beast.

And then suddenly, the sky was ablaze. The Hammer of Dawn fired, sending down an explosive, fiery beam straight down at the Berserker, scorching its skin and making the ground quake. Cracks scattered across the surface of the rock at our feet. I could feel the heat radiating from the energy beam on my face, stinging the tip of my nose. During my short, war-filled life I'd never witnessed something capable of such destruction.

Then as suddenly as the destructive beam appeared, it dissipated, leaving us back under the influence of only the sun, and the Berserker's thick skin scorched and charred.

"Fire!" Marcus ordered, startling me.

"What?" I foolishly asked.


Lancer ammunition began flying past my ears, and I reflexively opened fire with the others. But instead of bouncing off, the bullets sunk into the Berserker's glowing, red-hot skin. I was frustrated and amazed at the same time. The monster wasn't down, but it actually had a weakness. It didn't stand a chance all lit up like a melting candle. I emptied a clip and a half on its rough hide before Marcus cried out "Stop!"

And then the process started over. The Berserker threw its ugly head back, Marcus aimed the Hammer, and then the blazing beam was back, rigorously raining down on the beast's back again. Then the beam disappeared, the order was given, and we were firing again. It took a couple of more rounds and the rest of my ammo, but after an eternity of gunfire the Berserker finally crumpled to the ground, defeated.

There was a moment where we all just stared at the monster's motionless body, our breathing labored and our shoulders hunched over.

Brent moved first. He dropped his Lancer to the ground and ran back over to the body of his dead brother. My dad slowly came to stand at my side, and Baird, Cole and Bernie grouped together before joining us. I could hear Marcus somewhere behind me, murmuring into his radio about finding a good spot to land and casevac.

"Shit," I whispered, watching Brent kneel over his twin. "Shit, shit, shit." Fighting back tears, I hesitantly jogged over to Brent, motioning for my dad to stay back and wait. "Brent?" I said quietly when I reached him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Brent, are you okay?" As I stood directly behind him, I thought about how stupid my question was. But what else was I supposed to say? Doing my best to keep my eyes up and away from Kent's body, I crouched down next to Brent and scanned his features. Expecting anguish and tears, I was shocked to find that his face was absolutely blank. Lips pressed in a thin line, and eyes unmoving, locked on something very far away that didn't exist.

My fingers gripped his shoulder tighter and I gave him a slight tug. "Brent," I tried again, shaking his stiff figure. "Brent?" He wouldn't even look at me. But his shoulders suddenly quivered as he gave a shaky breath, and I took it as an acceptable response. Then keeping my hand on his shoulder, I stood slowly and turned around to glance at my dad. He stood about fifty yards down the street, too far for me to make out his expression. Even further down the street the Raven had found a spot to land a couple blocks away. I saw my father put a hand to his ear.

"Are you going to stay there and wait for casevac?" he asked, his somber voice imbedded with radio static. I nodded and murmured "Yeah," in return. He stood there for another moment before turning on his heel to jog and catch up with the others. And then as two soldiers I didn't know leapt out of the Raven with a stretcher in between them, I felt my throat tighten.

Brent stood up and silently moved to my side. I looked up at him, but he kept his gaze forward, watching the two soldiers run over with a scrawny stretchers covered with a gray blanket. Instead of asking another dumb question like "Are you okay?" again, I stayed silent and grasped Brent's gloved hand in mine. Then we took a step back and watched as Kent's lifeless body was retrieved.

The first person I found when we returned was Justin. Fighting back thoughts of pride or embarrassment, I pushed him through his barrack's doorway, closed it behind me and buried my face in his chest. I'd already showered and changed, now comfortably clothed in a t-shirt and sweats. Hayman stitched up the bite on my arm-nearly forgotten about until my father urged me to medical as soon as we stepped off the Raven-redressed it and sent me on my way. Other than that, I only had a few cuts and bruises from being clumsy.

My dad and the rest of Delta went back to their apartment, Bernie following behind. They'd probably be there for the rest of the night. I reassured my father that I was fine and that I just wanted to sleep when he asked me to go. I didn't see where Brent had gone.

Shocked and confused, Justin hesitantly wrapped his arms around my shoulders. "Melanie, what's wrong?" he asked, getting straight to the point. I squeezed my eyes shut and gripped his thin shirt in my fist. I wished he just knew. I wished I didn't have to go over everything in my mind again just to tell him the story. I just didn't want to think about it. All I wanted to do was stand here with Justin and forget it all.

He gripped my shoulders and softly pushed me back. Then he took my hand in his, and extended my arm out to examine it. "What happened?" he asked, more urgency in his voice this time.

"Wretches," I simply muttered, my eyes falling to the floor.

"Wretches?" Justin put a finger under my chin and tilted my head up. "Are you serious?" I nodded, still not looking at him.

Justin pulled me over to his bed and made me sit down on the thin mattress. I loosely folded my hands in my lap and watched as he turned from me and began digging in a plastic bag tucked away in the bottom drawer of his tiny dresser. After a minute he pulled out two palm-sized, cloth bags. A smirk turned up the corners of my lips. "You don't have to break out the tea," I told him, a bit sarcastic. "No point in wasting it."

Tea, like coffee, was another thing no longer readily available like it used to be. The small box that Justin had hidden in his dresser had been won in a poker game. The man who put it up for bet didn't like tea, but he did like Justin's knife. Strange how the two items ended up on the table at the same time, each worth more now than they'd ever been before the war. Justin and I had agreed that we would only drink it on the worst of days and make it last as long as possible. I felt bad that he thought it necessary to make some now, even though I had yet to tell him a thing about my day.

"I'll be back," Justin said, shaking the tea in front of him with a careful smile. "There's bound to be a coffee pot with hot water somewhere in this place." I gave him a nod and then he was out the door, shutting it with an echoing click.

The remaining silence left in the room after Justin left was deafening. Almost suffocating. It wasn't long before I was writing a quick note on a napkin for Justin and out the door myself.

The sun had fallen completely below the horizon, leaving a very low, purple glow of light peaking over its edge. A breeze was picking up, making my down hair a quick annoyance. Pausing at the steps just outside the entrance I'd walked through, I stopped and sat so I could finish sloppily lacing up my boots. No point in doing an efficient job if I was about to slip them back off.

Once I was finished with my laces, I stuffed the ends of my sweats into my boots and stood with my arms crossed over my stomach. Gazing across the base, I noticed that things were starting to die down for the night. The front gates were being shut and bolted and automatic lights began flickering on. That's when I spotted Brent, standing stock still at the edge of a gravel training ground, his back to the rest of the base as he stared out at nothing.

Reaching the training ground, I tried to make my steps as light as possible as I cautiously approached Brent's left side. His arms were crossed in front of him, and he still wore his combat boots and pants. The only thing he'd dropped from earlier were his upper armor plates. His eyes locked on something unmoving and far away, hidden in between the abandoned buildings and rubble that surrounded the base. Minutes passed in silence. I had no idea what to say.

After a while, I almost returned to Justin's barrack without saying anything at all until I heard a soft jingle of metal. I turned and watched as Brent pulled his COG tags up from around his neck, and then he held them out to show me. Kent's tags now hung from the same chain as his.

With tears in my eyes, I just nodded, struggling to fight the lump in my throat. Brent gripped the tags in his hand and let his arm fall to his side.

"I don't know what to do," he murmured, his lips barely moving as he spoke.

Say something. Say something intelligent. I took a deep breath, then let it out. "Fight," I told him, proud that I kept my voice even. "Just keep fighting. It's what he'd want you to do."

It was another minute before he answered. "I don't know about that. Kent hated fighting. Training and patrolling he could do. But fighting…it always made him nervous."

"But that's not…" I stopped, choosing my words carefully. "That's not why he's gone. What happened was just…unlucky. We couldn't have stopped it."

Brent laughed once without humor. "Yeah. Right. But I didn't try my hardest. I'm sure there's something I could have done."

"Like what?" I asked, furrowing my eyebrows. "No one can be blamed for this, Brent. So don't blame yourself."

Brent's eyes fell to the ground, and he waited a long time before he started speaking again. "You know I'm the older one," he said, his voice sounding hollow. "Or was. By five minutes. But it was enough to make me feel like an older brother." Brent kicked the gravel at his feet and took a couple of aimless steps to the right. "I was protective," he continued. "Really, really protective. All the time. And that's how mom used to see us. Kent was Kent, and I was the protective, big brother that made the smarter decisions."

Brent started laughing, with real humor this time. "Kent used to do the stupidest stuff sometimes. And then I'd get in trouble for it for not stopping him. 'Why me?' I'd always say. 'We're the same damn age!'" He suddenly stopped laughing, and quicker than the blink of an eye his face fell, his expression turning to one of intense anguish. He had stopped his walking, leaving a distance between us that made it difficult for me to hear him speak.

"Melanie," he whispered very quietly, raising the fist with his and Kent's COG tags up to examine them. "I don't know what to do."

"What do you mean?" I asked, sounding a little desperate.

"Without Kent," he answered. "What am I supposed to do with him gone?" He gave me a pitiful look. "I was able to handle mom and dad dying because he was there. But now…" He paused, and his eyes glazed over as he stared at the ground without emotion. "Now I just don't see the point."

A small chill seeped into my heart and I took a step towards him. "Brent," I said, willing him to look at me. "You can't just give up. You can't just…stop fighting. What about Kent? If you give up, then he died for nothing."

"Everyone is dying for nothing," Brent said, shocking me with anger. "We're fighting a losing battle, and for what? What's the point? Our world is dead, Melanie. And our race doesn't have much longer."

"Don't say that, Brent." I softened my voice, trying to sooth him.

"You're a good soldier, Mel," he told me as he began toying with the COG tags in his hands. "You follow orders and you fight. You survive. But you're good at this kind of thing. You're good at surviving. Me?" He shrugged his shoulders and dropped his arms to his sides again. "I'm tired of fighting. And I don't want to do this anymore."

I took another step towards him but stopped mid-stride when he tossed the COG tags through the air. Reflexively, I caught them with both of my hands and cradled them against my stomach. I gazed down at them for a moment, perplexed, turning them over with my fingers.

"Why-?" I began as I looked up from the tags. And then my heart almost stopped when I saw Brent pull a pistol from his belt and cock it back.

"Brent," I whispered, my breathing shallow and short. "What are you doing?"

He twisted and turned the pistol in his hands, giving it look no different from the one he'd given his and his brother's COG tags. "The only thing I can do," he said in an even voice, looking up at me with watery eyes. His hands trembled slightly.

My heartbeat sped to a rate that hurt. "Brent-"

"Thank you, Melanie," he said. "Take care of my brother's tags."

I forced my frozen body to move forward, trying to stop him, trying to do anything. My free hand reached out, helplessly grasping at nothing.

Brent put the pistol to his chin. And then he fired.

I crumpled to the ground and started screaming.

Sad chapter, I know. I wasn't ever expecting to write one like this. But then it sort of happened.

Again, forgive me for the terrible wait. But I'm already writing the next chapter. I really started rushing this chapter, especially the end, because I was so hurried to get it published. I just wanted to finish the damn chapter already and get it on the site. So if it needs something done, isn't all that great or whatever, please oh please let me know. Any and all reviews are highly appreciated. They truly are what keep me moving forward!