And here's the grand finale. I can't tell if the last part is sort of sweet or really creepy. You decide.
Finally something from Captain's perspective, which I'm terrible at writing. I'm always concerned about making him too nice, but I think I've just about managed to avoid that.
Snippy reached the top of the mound of scraps and scanned the street. He was looking for the Captain, who had been unusually absent from his minions' lives. Snippy had seen him a few times when he was out looking for supplies, but he didn't seem to want to talk. He was just wandering the city, sometimes carrying pieces of the debris that covered the streets. Today Snippy scoured the streets till he found him, and followed him.
He stopped when he got to some larger piles of rubble and added the dented oil can he was carrying. Snippy realised that these piles were not simply left over from the strike, but had been put there – apparently the Captain had spent the last few days moving scrap metal from one place to another.
"Yes, Mr Snippy?" he replied abstractedly, adjusting a piece of wreckage.
"What are you doing?"
"Ah, I am glad you asked. It occurred to me during our recent battle with zee cyber-zombies zat we are insufficiently defended from monstrous life-forms."
"Huh. That's… surprisingly lucid of you."
"So as you can see, I am building a fort." He stretched out his arms to encompass the barricades of junk he had amassed.
Snippy's impressed feeling vanished as quickly as it had come. "This is a fort?"
"Is zat not obvious?"
"Captain, we don't live here."
"Not yet, Mr Snippy." The Captain was looking at him like he was the one being stupid. "We will move in when zee fortifications are complete."
"In there," said Snippy flatly.
Snippy stared at the abandoned underground station which the scrapheaps encircled. He had been into the tunnels of the old underground only once, and to this day couldn't really believe his luck in getting out alive. The monsters that lurked down there were on a whole other level. Literally.
"You don't see a possible hole in the defences of this place? A building which links the surface to a maze of subterranean passageways, home to god-knows-what?" he asked, hinting heavily.
The Captain thought for a moment. "Hmm, I see what you mean." He looked up at the sky. "It is rather exposed to aerial assault."
Snippy resisted the urge to facepalm. At this rate he was going to do permanent damage to his forehead.
He decided to just get to the point. "Are you going to come and see Pilot? You haven't been back to base in days and he can't exactly follow you around at the moment. Not that he doesn't try."
"Yes, where is Pilot?" the Captain asked, apparently only just reminded of his existence. "Why has he not been helping me with zee fort?" he demanded, sounding rather put out.
Snippy gritted his teeth. "He got hurt, remember?"
Based on his blank look, the Captain did not see this as a valid reason for failing to help him build his scrap-fort. After the length of time they had been travelling together Snippy knew it was futile to get angry, but the sheer egotism of the man still had the capacity to make him boil over.
"He could have died! Gromov had to sew his head shut with dental floss and all because you showed up and blew our cover! All he thinks about is trying to please you, and you don't even care if he lives or dies!"
"Mr Snippy! Do not say such things!" The Captain brought his hands to his heart in a melodramatic bid to appear wounded. "I care deeply for zee welfare of all my minions."
"No you don't," Snippy muttered, but in his heart he couldn't be entirely sure this was true. The Captain had turned up more than once when he himself had been in jeopardy and the upshot had always been that he survived, no matter how incidental it might seem to the Captain's havoc-wreaking insanity. After all, he would currently be in several jars in an alien laboratory if it hadn't been for the Captain's timely intervention, even if he did insist he had left Snippy there as "collateral"… and Pilot certainly wouldn't have made it without him.
"I would not be zee marvellous Captain I am without minions to Captain over, now would I, Snippy?" the Captain asked triumphantly, evidently seeing this as a winning argument.
"That's so far from what I meant it's not true." Snippy sighed. "Just come and talk to him, OK?"
As they approached the doorway to the infirmary Snippy could hear raised voices and some disconcerting crashes from within. Pilot was presumably making another break for freedom.
The view that met them was more or less what he had pictured. The engineer was lying on the floor, held in place by Pilot's good foot while the aviator expounded loudly on the subject of some manner of conspiracy concocted by him and Snippy.
"You're looking better," Snippy commented. Pilot turned and brightened when he saw who was behind him.
While he was distracted, Snippy took the opportunity to extricate the engineer from underneath him.
"Well, it's nice to know my parents were wrong; I would not have had a better time of it if I had gone into medicine," he remarked as Snippy helped him up.
"Yeah, sorry for leaving you with him. I thought it was his turn to deal with him for a while."
They looked at their companions. Pilot and Captain were having a spirited discussion of the merits of a fortified base, this apparently being the best idea Pilot had ever heard.
In unspoken unison, the sniper and the engineer quietly edged out of the room. On leaving the building they broke into a run and didn't stop until they were far away, in a different quarter of the city. They passed a pleasant afternoon sniping mutants from the top of a tower block.
And they barely argued at all, until Snippy raised the subject of the engineer losing a fight to an invalid.
In a little over a week Pilot's ankle was on the mend and the stiches were ready to come out. The engineer muttered darkly about how this would be much easier if they knocked him out again, but had to settle for Snippy doing his best to hold him still.
"This would be much easier if you helped. You could order him to stop wriggling."
The Captain sucked his straw urbanely. "Wriggling is a form of self-expression, Engie. Who am I to crush such a passionate spirit?"
They were standing on the balcony of the base, a balcony which may not have been originally conceived as such but which, being a room with no roof and half a wall, served the purpose. The engineer had ordered a respite from surgery with only half of the sutures removed in order to try and enlist the Captain's help and let the sniper nurse his black eye.
"This is for his own good. You got him out of there safely, you can't pretend you don't care. Why not help him a little more?"
"I think I will leave zee medical matters to those better qualified."
"I hope you aren't referring to me. I keep telling you, I'm not a damn medic."
"Really? Zen tell me Engie, who was it who sewed mein Pilot up so neatly?"
The engineer growled in frustration and stamped back inside.
Captain drank his tea, peaceably ignoring the mingled yells coming from the operating theatre. He leant over the wall, thinking back to another time he had carried Pilot like that… out of the wreckage of a burning plane, the screaming voices that issued from the communications panel fading away behind him, becoming quieter both with distance and with loss of numbers. Unimportant. The aviator muttered and sighed but did not wake. There was burning all around, flames licking up the towers, eating up the city, but the path before him was diamond-clear. It always was.
Content with the completion of another successful mission, he smiled down at the man cradled in his arms. Now he had a minion of his own, a faithful companion to serve him and aid him in his rule over the new kingdom. His injuries would mend and he would take his place beside his Captain with the obedience he had already demonstrated so agreeably. Christophorus Hatchenson… a good subordinate, but he would need a name that was a little more - snappy. That was it! Snappy! No, wait… Captain pondered, and then shook his head decisively. That was a stupid name. How about… Pilot. At once, he walked with renewed vigour, grinning under his mask. It was short, descriptive and to the point. Perfect. "Pilot." he tested the name, uttering it aloud for the first time, and as if in response his new underling opened his brilliant green eyes.
He gave a low murmur, trying to get his voice back. "Captain?"
"The – the plane – the mission… did we crash?"
"Not to worry, Pilot! All is well. We finished the mission." He came to a halt after emerging from a covered walkway onto a bridge which offered a panoramic view of the burning city. What a glorious night! The polluted sky reflected the angry red glow; it was like a bonfire, like fireworks, like a birthday party.
The Captain set Pilot down against some railings, making sure he could admire the view. He turned to the burning city and took in a deep breath through his respirator, spreading his arms wide.
Thanks for reading.