haxx0rgunman and the Double Dare

Ishpeck sweated nervously. He had just finished preparing a meal for Admiral MAGGOTT, one of CWAL's most decorated officers, and had quite a reputation as a loose cannon. Though overly-violent and seemingly wreckless, his war expertise was largely responsible for most of CWAL's expansion in the early 21st century. MAGGOTT was just raising the first bite to his mouth, and Ishpeck was well aware of what happened to young chefs who displeased the admiral, largely due to the fact that their skulls lined the walls of the crazed warlord's innermost chamber. Ishpeck winced involuntarily as MAGGOTT chewed and swallowed.

"Ishpeck, my boy, you've done it again!" The admiral slapped him hard on the back as he laughed heartily, and Ishpeck let out a sigh of relief.

"O-of course, sir, I, er-uh, I told you my astrosagna was the best in the galaxy."

"So you did, Ishpeck, so you did. Well, for this fine meal, I am promoting you to the rank of Lieutenant Commander Assistant Admiral Major." Ishpeck did his best to look thrilled.

"Wh-why thank you sir. I'm honored." This was Ishpeck's third "promotion" since he had taken on the position of MAGGOTT's assistant, but other than the name change, he had no change in duties or time spent on the job. The only difference he could think of was that if MAGGOTT ever decided that Ishpeck was guilty of treason, as he had with so many other assistants, then the punishment would be all the worse for a Lieutenant Commander Assistant Admiral Major than it was for a mere Admiral's Assistant.

Such was Ishpeck's life, though. He was almost sure to die if he continued on in MAGGOTT's service, but was guaranteed death if he ever tried to leave. So he kept on, doing his best to keep the admiral happy and hoping that somehow, one day, he could be liberated from his seemingly inescapable earthly inferno.

When MAGGOTT was finished with his dinner, Ishpeck expected him to retire to his chamber for the night, as he so often did. But to his surprise, his commanding officer stood from the table, and moved to the security console jutting from the wall on the north side of the room. After entering a series of long and cryptic passcodes, he was able to shut off the video and audio receptors in the room, which he promptly did before beckoning Ishpeck to come stand by his side. His assistant wasn't sure what to think, but he knew that anything the admiral would turn the receptors off for couldn't be good. Ishpeck also knew that the admiral didn't like to be kept waiting, and hurriedly shuffled over to where he stood.

MAGGOTT wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him close. He began to speak in a hushed yet crazed voice. "Now, Ishpeck, my most trusted advisor, tonight we prepare for war!!!"

"W-war, sir!? B-but I, I thought that relations between CWAL and the New U.S. government were at an all-time. . ."

"Don't be so dense, lad! If there's one thing I would've expected you to learn from me by now, it's don't buy everything that the used-starcruiser salesman tries to sell!"

Unsure of what to make of such a statement, Ishpeck did his best to ignore it. "So we're . . . we're not going to war with the New U.S., then, sir? I don't see many other opp-"

The volume of MAGGOTT's voice raised, though the tone reflected more frustration than his trademark anger. "No, no, NO!!! We're not going to war with a country, or an army, or anything like that! We're going to war with . . . a man."

Ishpeck still wasn't sure where MAGGOTT was going with all this. "A man? Sir, surely our forces are quite adequate to deal with any one man."

"No, not just any one man, Ishpeck. The one man. The gunman." In that instant, Ishpeck knew exactly what the admiral was talking about. It could only be . . .

"haxx0r gunman? Sir, is that what this is all about?" MAGGOTT only nodded in reply. Ishpeck had heard of this man, this gunman, before. A man who came from the dark of night, lone gun blazing, annihilating entire armies in one fell swoop. As far as Ishpeck and many other of CWAL's rational officers were concerned, haxx0r gunman was nothing more than a rumor, some insane cover-up made to hide CWAL's weaknesses from its own men. But there was always at least one in every bunch that believed.

"I know what you're thinking, lad. You're thinking I must be crazy, that there's no such thing as a haxx0r gunman. Well, there is, lad, and I know because I've seen him with my own two eyes!"

Convinced that the admiral had lost all of his wits, Ishpeck's only concern was freeing himself from any immediate danger. "W-well, sir, if it's to be a full-scale war, shouldn't we rest up for the night, and get an early start on preparations in the morning." MAGGOTT stared deep into Ishpeck's eyes, as if piercing his very soul, for nearly a full minute before he burst back into his hearty laughter.

"A better idea I haven't heard in a long time, my boy! I'll see you in the morning, you're dismissed." Ishpeck saluted him as he turned and trudged off into his sleeping quarters, then returned to his own quarters to think about the admiral's strange rantings. Before he could make much sense of them, however, he drifted off into sleep.

He was woken up, hours later, by the sound of an alarm beeping on his personal wall terminal. It could mean only one thing: someone had managed to bypass the security system and enter MAGGOTT's sleeping chamber. Fearing the worst, he rushed towards the admiral's room.

When he reached it, the metasteel blast door to MAGGOT's sleeping quarters was closed, and what should've been the appropriate passcodes would not open it. Unable to reach his commander, he rushed to the security console and brought up the video and audio from the room beyond the door.

MAGGOT stood in front of his bed, facing a man that Ishpeck had never seen before, but that seemed to perfectly match the description of haxx0r gunman. The man held some kind of gun, leveled at MAGGOTT's midsection, but instead of fear, MAGGOTT's face showed what seemed to be some twisted mockery of determination. He was, at the moment, mid-sentece.

"-but where all the others have failed, I shall succeed, haxx0r gunman. I shall lead CWAL into a new era!"

So it is haxx0r gunman, or at least MAGGOTT seems to think he is. I don't know of anyone else who could've gotten past our security systems . . . His thoughts were interrupted by the seeming haxx0r gunman letting his cold, harsh voice fill the air. It was somehow even colder and harsher than MAGGOTT's.

"Yes, you shall succeed in bringing a new era to CWAL. But for you, it shall not be an era of victory, but an era of death!" With that, he let fly 2x haxx0rbolt after 2x haxx0rbolt. The first connectecd with MAGGOTT and killed him instantly, the rest took out the room's audio and video receptors, thus leaving Ishpeck effectively deaf and blind.

He knew he only had a few seconds before haxx0r gunman would be on his way out, and didn't particularly wish to stick around for when he was. Then the reality of what had just happened sunk in, and a look of glee spread across his face.

MAGGOTT's dead. He's dead! At long last, freedom. If I leave now, I could probably escape without alerting anyone, and they'd never see me again. However inevitably, Ishpeck's desire for freedom was overwhelmed by his desire for power. But wait . . . what have you got here, Ishpeck old boy? The unique opportunity to put an end to haxx0r gunman once and for all. I could make Admiral with such an achievement under my belt . . .no, I could make High Commander. Confident that it was at long last his time in the sun, Ishpeck drew his trusty laser-blaster. Then he pushed himself up against the wall beside the door, and waited.

Within seconds, haxx0r gunman stepped through the door and began to make his way out of the room. Ishpeck took a step forward and aimed his laser-blaster squarely at haxx0r gunman's head. He tried to come up with some clever pun or wise statement as he knew MAGGOTT would have, but nothing came to mind. So instead he simply shot. It was a single shot, but as it made direct contact with the back of haxx0r gunman's head, it was all too fatal. His lifeless form crumpled to the ground, and Ishpeck couldn't belive his eyes.

"I've done it," he cried aloud. "haxx0r . . . haxx0r gunman is dead!" He laughed then, a hearty laugh.

"That's a laugh I've heard before." Ishpeck spun around to see that haxx0r gunman was somehow standing in the doorway behind him, 2x haxx0rgun in hand. "Your . . . Admiral laughed quite like that before he died. As did you."

Ishpeck was stupified. "Wh-wh. . . but that's . . ."

"Impossible? Impossible for you perhaps, but not for a haxx0r gunman. For you see, where you thought to have struck me down, you struck down only my shadow, and now I shall strike down you, shadow and all!" The second he finished speaking, haxx0r gunman fired one final 2x haxx0rbolt, which bored it's way right into Ishpeck's heart before detonating him in a gruesome explosion of flesh and bone. With a shake of his head, he spoke his last words of wisdom for the night.

"Like father, like gun."

With that, he was gone.