A/N: Thanks again to my wonderful editor Becky. She also wrote the wonderfully eww-inducing passage. You'll now it when you see it.

Drip drop.

I wake up where I first blacked out on the cold, hard sidewalk. My head is throbbing again which I guess is a side effect of the traveling. I get up and stretch. A yawn escapes my lips. Without much fanfare, I readjust my hat and scarf before heading on home.

Drip drop.

It takes me about a half hour to walk home. When I reach my front porch, I notice no one else is home.

"Seems like they've already left. I grab my keys out of my pocket and unlock the front door. I step through the threshold and disable the alarm before heading upstairs to my room. I throw my hat, jacket and scarf on the black couch in the corner and sit down at the desk where my computer lies.

I boot it up.

Beep beep.

The screen flashes the maker's logo before fading into a picture of a giant silver mech, its over the shoulder railgun pointing at me, the words Lockheed carved on the side. A few seconds later and all the shortcut icons pop up. I click on one titled Wastelanders. A screen appears saying there's a new update that'll take about an hour to download. I sigh in disappointment and decide to take a shower.

Drip drop.

After 10 or so minutes, I emerge from the shower feeling like a steamed lobster. I grab a towel and wrap it around me. I look at the mirror across from me and stare into my dull hazelnut eyes. My curly brown hair is starting to look a little overgrown.

"Time for a haircut," I muse before going back to my room.

I take a quick note of the etchings on my door frame. I lean up against it and see I'm still at 5'6.

"No girl wants a guy who's barely taller than them," I grumble.

I check my computer and see the update is at 30%.

"An hour my ass," I grumble.

I put on a white t-shirt and some pajama pants.

I climb down the stairs and walk into the kitchen. I open up the fridge and spy last night's leftovers: spaghetti. I put it on a plate and pop it in the microwave for half a minute.

Beep beep.

I grab my dinner and sit down in the living room. I turn on the T.V. It's the weather man.

"Today's forecast predicts a fifth straight week of rain entering April. So for those on-"

I flip the channel to that cartoon about the boy and his yellow elastic dog.

Drip drop.

After it is over, I head back to my room and sit down at my computer. The update is finished, so I click on the Wastelanders shortcut. The screen fades into the login screen. The background is now a pitch black tower that's tall enough to pierce the heavens.

Or at least, that's what I've been told.

I type in my username and password.

Beep beep.

The world loads in slowly at first but then speeds up tremendously. I find myself on the outskirts of The Black Sands, that same tower from the login screen a darkness on the horizon. I'm sitting atop the tip of the railgun on my mech Lockheed. I inspect my character's attire in the equipment screen out of boredom. He's wearing pilot goggles, a red scarf and silver fatigues with combat boots. I click out of it when I'm done then I pull out a revolver and begin to clean it. It's all I can do while wait for the others to arrive.

Vroom vroom.

"Hey Fin! I see you're first as usual!" a voice calls out to me. I look over and its Wyvern Driver-21, our hooded assassin clad in dark blue arriving on her motorcycle. We call her WD for short, because its easier that way, just like how no one calls me Finis Magnus XIII.

"Of course. Like my Pops always says: early is on time and on time is late," I reply, holstering the revolver and switching to my auto shotgun for a check up.

"So how's your part of the world?" she asks, dismounting her bike.

"Same as usual. The weatherman predicts a fifth straight week."

"Jeez that's rough. It was so hot today, my shoes got stuck on the black top."

"You are just really unlucky, aren't you kid?"

"Yeah," WD says glumly before pulling her twin knives and bow out for a sharpening.

I go back to my shotgun and strip it. I'm in the middle of greasing the mechanisms when the rest of Heroes of the Heart show up.

There's Baron Grinning Neko, the rainbow hair techno ninja and all around otaku. Space and Meteor Entity, or SaME, the gun loving, trigger happy, soft spoken sniper from Texas. Sainty Rescuer, or SR, the pyrokinetic masked samurai. DayKiller, the ironically nocturnal fencer with the elemental swords. Shuudawg, the snarky, tonfa wielding martial artist. Riddlefication, the mutant wolf girl who was the second command. Then there was Formerly Chilltown, who was well…

"Hey SR, we should start a dating service for the homeless. We'll call it HomeMakers."

Last to arrive was our leader, Skarlet. She was the only one besides me in the guild who owned a mech. She dismounted from her machine Red Soul, with a giant claymore in hand.

"Hey crew, ready for the raid? Everyone knows the plan right?" Skarlet says, sticking her huge blade in the ground and leaning on it with her arms crossed.

I raise my hand.

"Fin, you've been with us for the past year and you still don't know the plan?" Shu says, facepalming. "Baron, you know the plan right?"

"Of course. It's killing anything that looks at us funny," Baron replies, unsheathing his data katana and striking a pose.

"I've always loved the sound of that. It's so poetic," Riddlefication comments, flashing a toothy smile.

SaME cocks back her outrageously large rifle. "So I thought we wanted to be the first ones to conquer the Obsidian Citadel. It won't happen if we stand around yapping!"

"I concur..." Day was a man of few words.

"Good point SaME," Skarlet exclaims, climbing back into her mech. "C'mon guys, General Apocalypse won't kill himself."

"Hear that SR? The big bad general won't kill himself. Maybe we should we give him a reason to," Chill says rubbing his hands together deviously.

"Then there wouldn't be any loot for us Chill," SR says back. "And then what would be the point?"

"The view of course. I bet the sunset is great."

"Why did I even ask…" SR mutters.

"Seriously you guys, we should get move on it. We didn't come all the way out here to contemplate our navels!" Skarlet yells.

The guild all shouts "Yes mom" in response before racing off to our target. I stand up and walk down the railgun. I look at Skarlet with a side glance under my goggles.

"Are we ready for this Skar? I call out, a tinge of caution in my voice."

"I hope so. It would suck if we weren't. Good luck," she replies before taking off.

I crack open the cockpit and jump in. I start up Lockheed, my heart beginning to race at the sound of its motors roaring.

"Alright Lock, time to kick some ass…"

Bang bang.

It is just Skarlet, WD, Baron and I left as we face off against Apocalypse at the top of the Obsidian Citadel.

Apocalypse's giant mutated form is rife with cuts and bullet wounds. Grey ooze drips out from each of his pores, forming massive puddles at his feet. He's breathing hard, but there's still a fire behind his eyes.

I charge at the monster, Lockheed's left drill fist spinning rapidly. It stabs him straight in the chest with enough force to go through to the other side.

Apocalypse falls. WD and Baron begin to cheer but something tells me it's not over yet.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

With renewed vigor, Apocalypse rises from the floor and mutates one last time. He sprouts many barbed tentacles which lash out and spear WD and Baron, killing them instantly.

Skarlet and I weave around the tendrils and retreat back to the edge of the arena.

"Hey Skar, got any idea on what to do?" I say over the radio.

"Not really."

"Serious?"

"Of course. Why would I lie to you?"

I consider our options, knowing that one last attack will take Apocalypse out for good.

Then I remember I have a giant gun that can shoot tiny ICBMs.

"Skar, do me a favor and keep that bastard busy!"

"If you say so. Make it count," she replies before jetting forward, cutting down huge swaths of tentacles with each swing of Red Soul's giant jet powered sword.

I begin to activate the firing sequence for the railgun. It's a thirty second charge time and I need to line the shot up just right at Apocalypse's head.

"There is no room for error, Lock!" I order.

5.

I see Skarlet getting swarmed by tentacles.

4.

I see her eject out and run towards me.

3.

Apocalypse roars loudly and turns his attention to me. He begins to charge at me, a fist priming for a massive punch. Skarlet climbs up the top of Lockheed.

"What are way you waiting for?" she asks impatiently.

2.

"It's not fully charged yet!" I yell back. Apocalypse was halfway to us now and I can see droplets of drool falling from his maw.

I close my eyes.

1.

"LOCKHEED, VANQUISHER CANNON FIRE!" I scream at the top of my lungs. A giant missile slams into the mutated general's head, knocking him back and launching him through the tower's wall. Skarlet and I watch as Apocalypse explodes in a brilliant shower of gore.

I exhale as the results screen pops up on my monitor. I'm ranked number one.

No surprise there.

As I read through it, I hear my dead guildmates respawn in.

"Look at that, he actually did it," Baron says, leaning over the hole. "I think I see big ugly's head over yonder that hill. Hey Shu, up for reclaiming it and making it trophy? We have to have something commemorate the first successful completion of the Obsidian Citadel."

"Sounds like fun," Shu replies. He looks up at me and says "Good job Fin. I like that whole 'Vanquisher Cannon' line you said. Very anime of you."

"Thanks...I guess," I say, not knowing whether it was genuine compliment or not. I pop open the cockpit and jump out. Behind me, I hear Skarlet leap off Lockheed's shoulder and I turn to see her walking to Red Soul.

"Fin, you owe me repair money," she states as she inspects the mech's damage.

"Oh cut the poor boy some slack!" Riddefication yells. "Sure he used you as a meat shield, but it worked didn't it?"

"Fine. Fin, you owe me half of the repair money."

"I just can't win, can I?" I say, facepalming in real life.

Clank clank.

Evening passes into night and it's just Skarlet and I left after the raid's after party. We've spent the last couple of hours talking about life and working on our mechs. Topic of discussion tonight: my eventful day.

"Are you sure you aren't taking drugs?" Skarlet asks as she fixes up one of Red Soul's legs.

"Skar, I swear I don't," I reply, stuffing a warhead into Lockheed's railgun. "I mean it was so freakin vivid."

"That's what people on LSD say."

"I am not on LSD!"

"Maybe it was a side effect of your insomnia. You have been losing a lot of sleep lately." I hear her yawn loudly. "And so have I. I'm calling it quits for tonight."

"But Skarlet, it's only one A.M."

"Fin, you know what time it is here."

"Okay, four for you."

"And you know what I have in the morning."

"I'm sure Jesus, God, and the angels in Heaven will be okay with you falling asleep during Mass. I mean, you're helping a poor soul out."

"Did you try the hot chocolate trick?"

"Yeah but it doesn't do anything for the nightmares."

Skarlet sighs. "Fin, just think happy thoughts. I'm sure they'll get better. Seriously though, I have go to bed."

"Alright, but only because don't want you drown during your Baptism."

"Do you even...nevermind. Goodnight Fin."

And then there was one.

Bang bang.

Three hours, three hundred kills, and three railgun missiles later I finally feel my eyes begin to sag. I take one last look at the beautiful destruction I've caused before logging off. I power down my computer and hop into bed.

I close my eyes.

Whoosh whoosh.

The sound of waves crashing against the shore greet my ears.

Not this again.

I open my eyes.

I'm sitting, knees tucked into my chest on a pearl white beach with an ocean the color of the cloudless sky outstretched in front of me.

And there she was, the apparition that haunts my dreams.

My memories.

My life.

She stood facing the blue abyss, right leg behind her left. She wore a dark gray hoodie with matching jeans and black boots. There was a black headband resting on her brown hair, parting it back. She turns around, her emerald green eyes complimenting her light chocolate brown skin. Her gaze meets mine and we are locked.

"Don't tell me you plan on sitting there all day."

I look down, trying to break eye contact but she crouches in front of me.

"This isn't like you to be silent. Are you still mad at me?"

I nod yes.

"Look I'm sorry, but it has to be this way. Why can't you understand that?"

I shrug.

"I guess I can't really blame you, can I?" She extends her hand out, holding a red scarf.

My red scarf.

"I made this for you because you're always complaining how cold your neck gets. Of course if you want it, you're going to have to take it from me."

I hesitate for a moment.

Then I reach for her hand.

And then, we're underwater.

I see her sinking rapidly and I try to swim to her. But the current is too strong and I'm helpless.

She's smiling.

I reach out and call her name.

"AMBER!"

I jump out of bed and run to the bathroom, hoping that some cold water will calm my nerves. I turn on the light and look into the mirror.

My eyes.

Oh god, my eyes.

My irises are red. Red crosses.

That isn't right. Not right at all.

Something within me begins to surge like earlier today and I feel dizzy.

Crack crack.

I think I just slammed into the mirror.

I feel blood begin to seep out from the fresh gash on my forehead. I slide down against the wall, holding my hand against the wound. My eyes begin to sag again despite how much I want to stay awake. But I can't fight it…

And the whole world fades to black.

A/N: So I'll try to post a chapter every week, but no promises. Thanks for reading, and if you can, leave a review.

See you later~