Hartley came up the stairs of the warehouse to where Lyra was sitting. He knelt down next to his sister and set the bag of snacks down and handed her one of the water packs.
“I got your favorite, BBQ potato chips and a bag of gummy bears,” he said, smiling as he took out his sister’s snacks and set the rest of the bag down. He dug through his backpack for the small camp stove.
“What did you get?” she asked, poking through the bag to find a bag of marshmallows, a few chocolate bars, and some sweet crackers. She smiled and rolled her eyes as Hartley setup the stove.
“What, it’s been years since we’ve had ‘em,” Hartley said as he set the filled stove down and lit it, “shame we can’t have an actual campfi-” he said but was cut off as he heard footsteps approaching from his left side by the stairs. Step by step he heard the person approach. Lyra’s eyes went wide as she tried to get up, but Hartley put his hand in front of her. He quietly reached into his bag for the survival knife he bought. He unsheathed the blade and flipped it in his grip, standing guard over his older sister.
“Try to take them alive…” Lyra whispered to Hart as he nodded in agreement.
“Knock knock, assholes,” Maxine’s voice rang out as she stepped up to the doorway at the top of the stairs, her weapon drawn and trained on the siblings. Hartley’s grip on his knife tightened as he heard the woman’s voice, recognizing it from the brief words she spoke earlier. He glared into her eyes and snarled.
“Where’s your friend?” Hartley asked, never breaking eye contact with his attacker.
“Oh, he’s around~” Maxine said playfully, waving her gun a bit before Hartley speaks up.
“So, the other two aren’t here?” he said, smirking, “interesting.” Hartley’s pupils tightened up as he bolted up from his position, rushing Maxine and catching her by surprise, only then realizing she gave away how small her team was. Scared, Maxine fired off a shot, missing both Hartley and Lyra as Hart quickly grabbed the gun and Max’s wrist and bringing the knife up to slash at the tendon in her inner arm, slicing through it like butter and causing her to yell out in pain. He managed to wrench the handgun away before getting kicked in the stomach. Hartley winced and brought the gun up and saw Max charging at him, her right arm incapacitated. Hart fired a round which grazed her side and another that hit her leg as she leapt for him. The second shot throwing off her balance as she fell to the floor. Dante looked around for another entrance up to the second floor as he heard Maxine hit the ground, dust falling from the rafters above. He found a ladder that extended up into a chute to go between the two floors, climbing up and drawing his weapon.
“Drop it, Harms. You’re cornered,” he said as Hartley had the pistol trained on Maxine’s head. She growled, clutching her leg with her good arm, “I won’t miss this time.” Hartley looked over to Dante before kicking Max in the head, knocking her out and bringing the gun up to Dante instead. Lyra watched as Hartley took charge and began to fire on Dante, forcing him to take cover behind a stack of pallets. Lyra winced and crawled over towards Max. She took the knife Hartley dropped in place of the gun and grabbed Max’s mane, dragging her up and holding the knife to her throat. She felt Max slowly come to after the kick, shaking her awake.
“Any sudden moves and I cut your throat, got it?” she said as Max looked up at her, nodding quickly, “Good, now tell your friend to stand down.” She pressed the knife tighter to Max’s throat as she struggled a bit.
“D-Dante… s-stand down! Stand down and they’ll let us go!” she called out, her voice cracking.
“You’re giving up the mission that easy?” he called back, “You fucking cowa-” Dante was cut off by Hartley reaching over the cover he took and grabbing him by the back of his shirt. Hartley reeled back and slammed the butt of the handgun into Dante’s face as hard as he could, grazing him but slamming his hand into the wood below.
“WHERE IS HE?!” Hartley yelled out as he grabbed Dante by his hair, dropping the gun, and swinging his fist down into the side of his face. Dante swung his hands around and knocked the gun away as his face was pummeled, “WHO SENT YOU?” Hartley screamed out, adrenaline pumping through him. As Hart swung down violently again, Dante managed to catch the punch before headbutting Hartley, sending him back against the far wall opposite of Lyra and Max. They both watched as Dante climbed on top of Hartley, pinning his arms down with his knees before punching back. Dante laughed and cackled as he swung away at Hart who began spitting blood with each strike.
“Gah, you fucking prick!” he let out as he swung, “Just die already! I’ve killed little shit kids like you before, you’re no different! You’re not special!” he yelled as he grabbed Hartley by the neck, squeezing as he got up and shifted his position. Hartley grabbed Dante’s hand with both of us, unable to muster the strength to get him off as Dante began to sock him straight in the gut, “Come on, bleed you little freak!” Hartley coughed and choked as he felt each punch pushing his guts in. Hartley’s vision began to fade as his head was knocked around and his stomach was punched in, even taking a few knees to the groin for good measure. He could hear his sister calling out to him to keep fighting as even his hearing faded into a blurry ring. He lay limp on the warehouse floor as Dante stood up and gave him a swift kick to the head before stumbling over to Lyra and max. Lyra tightened her grip on both Max’s mane and the knife.
“One down, one to go,” Dante said, grinning as blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. He limped over, slowly approaching the Lyra and Max.
“C-come any closer and I’ll kill her!” she threatened as she held the knife up, pointing int inward to Max’s throat.
“Kill her, I don’t care,” he laughed as he kept walking forward. Max’s eyes went wide, and she gasped. She looked back up at Lyra whose gaze was firmly affixed to Dante. He inched ever so closer to the two, laughing like a maniac as his hands and fingers twitched, “God-DAMN that feeling never gets old,” he let out with a sadistic, bloody grin across his face, “Come on, Lyra, beg me to let you live. Beg me to stop~” Dante said, almost whispering as he started laughing. He reached down and grabbed the knife in Lyra’s hand, who was too steeped in shock and terror to react. He slowly guided it along Max’s neck, scoring the flesh beneath her pale, blue fur. Maxine cried out in pain as she bucked and squirmed. Lyra tried to pull hear away but Dante persisted.
“Wha-what are you…” Lyra got out, almost sobbing as she felt Dante’s almost soft, warm grasp.
“Lets kill her together, you know you want to~” he said, grinning and baring his teeth. Maxine looked up at him in horror, shuddering and shivering, “Come on, it’ll be fun. She helped kill your mommy and daddy. Just…” he paused as he forced Lyra to drag the serrated edge of the knife across Max’s neck, blood dripping as she screamed and twitched, “that’s it, nice and smooth. Get it over with and we can have some REAL fun. Why don’t we cut up your brother over there?” he suggested, looking over in Hartley’s direction, noticing his feet weren’t visible from where he knocked Hart out. Dante turned to look behind him, seeing Hartley standing there before Hart bent down and wrapped his arm up and around Dante’s neck, pulling him back in a choke hold. Hart grabbed the knife from both Lyra and Dante and thrust it straight into Dante’s back. He gasped as all of the air was pushed from his lungs, going limp in Hartley’s arm as his arms and legs twitched. Hartley snarled and ripped the blade from Dante’s back and let the man slump back against him.
“You like cutting people up, huh?” Hart asked as Dante looked back up into Hartley’s eyes, noticing the deep, rich blue had turned into a bright, bioluminescent cyan. Dante’s mouth hung open as he looked upon Hartley, “How about I give you a taste of your own medicine?” Hartley tightened his grip around Dante’s neck, pushing his head back with his chin before he brought the knife down and stabbed straight into Dante’s abdomen. He shuddered as Hart wiggled and jiggled the knife around before ripping it out and plunging it back in again over and over. Dante’s shirt stained dark red as he gasped with each and every stab. Hartley groaned and ripped the knife out one last time before tossing Dante to the ground. He rolled over onto his stomach, blood pouring and pooling beneath him. Hartley grabbed his shoulder and flipped him onto his back before climbing onto Dante just as he did with Hart, “Nooo no no no, you can’t die yet. We haven’t gotten to the fun part…” he said coldly as he pushed Dante’s bangs back, making sure they locked eyes. Hartley cracked a smile just as Dante did before lowering the knife down and dragging it across his neck, scratching and scoring the flesh as drops of blood pooled. He turned the knife and pointed it down before plunging it straight into Dante’s throat. His look of abject horror turned to a grin as blood began to spurt up from his mouth. His eyes rolled back as he stopped breathing, blood draining from the gaping wound in his neck. Slowly, Hartley got up from Dante’s corpse and stumbled over to Lyra and Max.
Falling to his knees, Hartley slumped his face into his sister’s lap as she let Max go. Max squirmed away a bit and stayed a safe distance away, still clutching her leg while drops of blood dripped from the shallow wounds on her neck and on her arm. Lyra couldn’t make heads or tails of what she just saw her brother do. All she could do was hold his head as he slipped out of consciousness from exhaustion.
Maxine stared at Dante’s lifeless body, the image of his wide eyes burned into her memory, the sound of his voice, the smell of blood on his breath. She couldn’t believe what the just witnessed, slowly and quietly pushing herself away from the Harms siblings as Lyra began to sift through their backpacks for the first aid kit. Max managed to gather herself and get to her feet. She clutched her injured arm and looked down at them, knowing that Lyra was in no position to move. Her heart rate climbed as she thought about what to do. She looked over at the knife buried in her partner’s throat, then over to the guns across the room, but she simply closed her eyes, took a deep breath and made her way down the stairs of the warehouse. Lyra looked over and saw her leaving. She laid her brother down and crawled to the stairs.
“Wait! You can’t leave!” she called out, crawling to the door to the stairwell, seeing Max stop halfway down and turn to her.
“His name’s Tharin Hawkwood,” she said as she started walking again, “good luck, kid.”