FAN Archive

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This article contains unreleased, cut, or non-canon material.
Any changes to the article's canonicity or general status should reflect consensus.

The FAN Archive is a series of slice-of-life short stories and snippets centered around Sicario’s members. They were written on Discord by Matthew Nguyen to exercise his picture of Project Wingman’s World on Fire. These stories, transcribed verbatim for posterity, are non-canon;[1] all material from these stories is to be kept within this article.

"Hitman Team watches a documentary on turtles."

By: FlyAwayNow

It's not often that anyone in Sicario, or Hitman, comments on each others vices. Prez has her sweets, Diplomat has his unsustainable financial endeavors which has made him half-owners of half-closed restaurants and bars up and down the Periphery, and Comic, perhaps most plainly, has the drink.

"You see," Dip is half sunk into a beanbag chair that's been made up of puffed trashbags[sic] as Hitman sits before the abandoned drive in theatre not more than five minutes away from their current FOB. "That's what you do every time you drink."

Dip is half-drunk himself off of the local vodka as he's more focused on the stars overhead. Prez is more pleased with the fact she has rigged up the rusted projector as Monarch is more than willing to use his data tablet to provide the showing tonight: Republic of Albion Broadcasting's Planet Blue.

It's a nature documentary out of Albion's public service, lovingly shot footage of the more naval nature of that fire-cursed world.

The scene that they gloss over is that about pollution. Turtles, off the coast of Daegu in the Federation, getting caught in the plastic packaging of the drink.

"You take me for a pussy you snob!?" Comic is indignant tossing a little nip of more local flavors at him. The glass dinks against Diplomat's forehead. "If it's worth getting drunk, it's worth getting drunk fast."

She is. Perhaps it is the particular inebriation that keeps Hitman warm as the cool air of the plains wash over them, but all of them have to be distracted by something.

"Unfortunately, the litterings[sic] of the Pacific Federation are irreversible at this point, as no one can hold them accountable, no less the Pacific Turtles."

The water is hardly crystal clear, foggy particulates bump into the camera lens as divers are under water, desperately trying to calm said turtles with plastic rings around flippers and necks.

Monarch is totally captivated, and for a moment, Prez is glad, neglecting to tell Monarch that her family eats the creatures. So she sips her own tin of drink and lets the movie night play out.

"Quit littering!" Dip mockingly says to Comic. Comic can only intensify her efforts, for she has no supply shortage of nips.

"Hitman’s Leisure Flight"

By: FlyAwayNow

It's not everyday that Dip can rely on the experiences of a former life, but he is more than willing to lay back in reclining leather seats as a warm towel flows over his forehead and he is, for probably the first time in a year, wearing something not meant for utility, warfare, regulation, or of the such. Comic, she can't keep bouncing her leg up and down as, at once, the window she looks out of reveals they are indeed at 20,000 feet, and she is not in control.

She slams it close.

"It's a leisure flight!" Dip says as if obvious. "Relax!"

Comic reaches over and pinches Dip's cheek, holding onto it. "We're being smuggled! How the hell am I supposed to relax when half the god damn Byzantium air defense network is right below us!" She whisper yells as Dip winges in pain.

"So you do this often?" Galaxy, Prez, and Monarch are up in the cockpit of the civilian pilots in that civilian plane over blue skies. Galaxy is the most personable one there. His job is literally to talk and the pilots don't mind as Sicario's closest thing to a married couple are in the back trying to snuff each other out with hot towels.

The pilot nods as Prez looks at the mahogany lining of the aircraft's dashboard. Premium wood craftsmanship back in her home city in the Federation would cost... well, an entire sortie with Monarch, which isn't nothing to scoff at.

The civilian pilot nods. "Yeah, Kaiser used to smuggle himself this way all the time a few years back. They never flag down the expensive looking aircraft."

The pilot looks at Monarch, silently hovering over them all, eyes fixated on the controls of the aircraft. It's the understanding of one pilot to another, and after a nod and a smile, easily acquiesces and allows Monarch to take the controls as Galaxy tries to remember the local stations.

"Kaiser’s Daily Routine"

By: FlyAwayNow

Galaxy is Kaiser's secretary in all but name. What is an AWACS but an overglorified secretary? So it is with that Galaxy knows of Kaiser's morning routine. It's not some great secret or something arcane as people might assume; the younger, fresher recruits into Sicario often theorize as such, however Kaiser is a lot more like them than they realize. Kaiser is the sleep in type of guy, even if he knows that he should be doing PT. He's also the breakfast at 10 kind of person; coffee and bacon and bagels before anything else, even freshening up. He's of that ethereal age where he's both young and old and going with it.

The only particular thing about Kaiser that Galaxy knows is something that he has to confront him about.

"What're you writing there? A journal?" Galaxy asks one day, many years into their working contract.

Kaiser shakes his head, hand through steel black hair that matches the color of the ink that Galaxy sees before the leather bound book closes. "History." Kaiser responds, and that is that.

"Sicario DnD Night"

By: FlyAwayNow ""This is the lamest shit ever." Galaxy's insistence on DnD night is among one of the worst ideas that he's had since he had since putting a mini-fridge on his AWACS aircraft.

Diplomat is a Dragonborn, because he has taken his love of spicy food really to heart, and having heard that Dragonborns are able to breath fire he is fully committing to the bit. Except that he can only use it once per short rest, which bothers him greatly. "Let me roll perception to see if there's any hot sauce in the tavern. And I should roll with advantage because Comic is causing a scene."

Comic's a Human called Jester. Jester looks exactly like Comic. Jester is also a fighter. Jester is also currently about 2 failed death save rolls away from wiping and Monarch's Tiefling is more than handling the tavern bar fight Jester started because someone asked her to tell a joke.

Ignoring Dip's request. "You know, this is a roleplaying game. You're supposed to play roles. Preferably people DIFFERENT than you!"

"NAT 20!" Comic yells out shaking the table and the miniatures. "Or wait. Is that a dirty 20."

"Doesn't matter."

"I get up and bite this asshole's face off!" Comic points at one of the painted miniatures. The one that just so happens be outside of her range.

Galaxy only palms his face as Monarch, finding out that if he uses this rushing action right, will be able to kill half the bar as a brawler, throws 4 d20s onto the table. 19, 18, 18, 20. "You're literally the same people. What the fuck. What the fuck!"

"Diplomat’s Favorite Book"

By: FlyAwayNow

"Do you remember Mei?" Dip and Monarch are taking a look at each other's aircraft. Not that they don't trust Prez, but in the end it is up to them to make sure that their aircraft are in top condition. Dip has given up halfway through out of boredom however, and is laid out on Monarch's plane's wings. Monarch, checklist in hand, tilts their head at Dip. A flash of a memory from the academy returns to Monarch. There was a window of time where both he and Dip did go to the academy together, so naturally Dip thinks that Monarch knows everyone he ever did back out in the Kingdom of Ulaanbataar[sic]. Monarch gives no answer but Dip imagines he says yes.

In his hand, being red as he lays on his back, is a Federation staple for pilots: The pocket sized hand guide. Chock full of information ranging from how to say "I am a Federation pilot." In twelve major languages to signs of mercenary activity. His is special, and he shows Monarch. In the paper thin margins are scribbles. Not his.

"She was always sweet on me, I mean, who wouldn't be, with me being me?" He says in his usual cocksure disposition, though he nods to himself, back of his head knocking on the metal of Monarch's wing. "I miss her."

The scribbles are notes this woman has imparted on Diplomat, advice from a pilot to be to a trainee about to flunk out. He reads her words and, distantly, Diplomat tries not to think that he's probably the better pilot now.

Monarch tips their head at Dip, picking his wingman's brain. Why'd you ask?

Dip believes Monarch asks. "I was uh, you know, wondering what all those people back then would think of us now. Don't think there's anything in this book that would've given us advice to be mercs, I think."

Comic, the valedictorian, and Dip, the dropout. Monarch thinks to himself of the contrast the next time they see Comic scribbling in her own copy of the book, and maybe, as team lead, he thinks to mention that maybe Dip wouldn't mind a two-man book club.

"Confiscated Shirts"

By: FlyAwayNow

"They wear a shirt just to wear a shirt, sweat and grime for another battle fought and won dabbed up and soaked in by fabric. The ground crew makes a silent game, guessing what type of shirt she wears from one day to the next as they send her up on sortie. They wonder if she'll die in the Cascadian Little League jersey (Fighting Lions Go!) or the fishing tee-shirt from the 338 Sea of the Scar Annual. They wonder if she even knows how ridiculous she looks: (I'm with stupid.) (Hi with stupid, I'm Dad). But no one asks her and no one cares in the end, because the washing machines are the least of anyone's concerned to get fixed and all of the clothing ends up being burned anyway after enough cordium exposure.

One day, a reporter approaches her. From Albion. Five cameras on him, three smart phones, and one might've mistaken them for a soldier with how decked out their kit is. Sitting on a foldable chair by her plane, he speaks to her in an unfamiliar accent, taking a knee. Her plane's to her back: "Hey, ma'am, you mind if you..." The reporter brings one arm about chest level, and she raises an eyebrow. "Really can't take a photo of you like this if you've got that on:" He finally points, and she realizes what shirts she wears today: A novelty. (I LOVE TO FUCK, AND FISH. In the middle breaking those two subjects is a giant bass jumping out of water.) It's a surreal request, this random reporter showing up out of nowhere as she waits for the Independence Force to let her live or die out there in the skies, so, without thinking, she does, leaving AND FISH, the only words visible. The click of two cameras going off is heard, and like a ghost, the reporter disappears before the spots in front of her eyes dissipate."

"Diplomat's Taxes"

By: FlyAwayNow

Petri's a half-bald, too young, educated type pulled out from a country he may or may not have been pulling a little extra cash from as a CPA for a not-insignificant telecom company. He's a mercenary only be association, he used to be a teacher, and of course all his fears come true as Hitman 2, wingman to HIM, Monarch, approaches him in the dark, seizes his shoulders, and asks:

"Please, man, teach me how to do Cascadian taxes."

So that's where they are in Petri's station on Galaxy, a cubicle shoved in between electronic warfare suites as Petri hangs over Dip. "Before I became a merc, I had a friend growing up. Another political kid like me. He said he was going to make a giant charity fund where he could store his money, and, assuming he still likes and or remembers me, if I can navigate Cascadian tax code and deliver the right amount of donations to that fund, I can start an actual savings account in Cascadia, with money I understand."

"Huh, right... You know most of your cash right now, Dip, is in literal gold? The Value conversion tax on that alone will halve it, unless we convert it to, I dunno, Dinars, and you don't want to do Baghdadi taxes."

"It's what I must." He holds a fist up defiantly, and Petri looks along with his glasses which are his namesake, seeing if anyone else is seeing what he is. Galaxy is dead asleep in his leather chair and the rest of the staff are busy punching in records from the last contract. "Now do you think Kaiser has uhhh W...."

"No we do not have W anythings. We're mercs." Petri rubs the back of his remaining hair.

"Then why do we keep you around?"

"Because Kaiser doesn't trust anyone else with actually handling the cash."

Dip scrunches his face. "Hey. I'm sure Kaiser won't mind me. I can do my own taxes dammit!"

"Where? To who?"

"I don't know!" Dip whisper yells even as he sits in the chair. "Isn't that adults do? Pay taxes? I never got that far along before I became a merc."

"Kaiser Goes Fishing"

By: FlyAwayNow

There is something to the way he sits at the edge of Rowsdower's lake. The other mercenaries peg it immediately. They peg it in the bounce of his leg, the furrow of his brow, and the way his eyes keep tracing the Federation ship which is half-sunk out in the middle,

He's not as old as he leads people to believe and the mercs that are older, fishing along with him that one day when the Independence Force does have its shit together, ask him.

"What can I say, I've got one of those timeless faces." Kaiser says, looking at the pole of his fishing rod stick up and out like the dozens others that day. "Why are we doing this?"

A mercenary from a sandy Periphery state shrugs. "I'm down for trying anything once."

The hours go on, thirty minutes at a time, and what has become a morning misty outing has turned into a noon prayer session for lunch. All of them are mercs, it's out of pride that they at least catch something.

"Anyone opposed?" Kaiser fishes out the hand grenade he keeps taped to his stomach,just in case. All the mercs there are more than willing to abide.

When the patrol towers at the edge of Rowsdower see a bunch of mercs running off the pier a little ways away, they almost radio it in when the grenade explosion goes off.

The guards are halfway loading in fresh mags for an attack before they hear the cheering as the fishes start floating to the icy surface.

"Diplomat’s Model Tanks"

By: FlyAwayNow

"I have many hobbies. It's what makes me so cultured and great Eve." He whispers to her one quiet night, during a contract that is more ground forces than air oriented.

"Sure you are." Comic sleepily rubs a circle between Dip's shoulder blades once as she slouches back in the chair over a borrowed workbench in the hangers. She's not quite sure why she's awake with him right now, the scene set by lamp light, but Monarch and Prez's tools are being used right now and Comic feels obliged for her flight lead and her crew chief to make sure Dip doesn't break anything and try to sweet talk his way out of implying she was at fault.

He's putting together a model. 1/72 scale. Fits in his hands. An older tank, century and them some old. A different war in a smaller world, named after the kings of the jungles. An 88mm gun sits on top of a rather square frame, and she is reminded of her childhood at the public schools.


"Hm?" He responds as he has a hot glue gun slowly tracing over the bezel between turret and hull, not moving his eyes from it.

"Is there a reason middle school boys are so interested in tanks and shit?"

As an adult Major in the CIF, many a career day at schools nearby her base were filled with young children naming off aircraft and military equipment better than her own wrench monkeys. As a child, fifth grades compared one tank to another like a game, and she was always perplexed as she threw herself through the jungle gym during recess.

"Tanks are cool, and stuff.... Shit!" Dip picks up a dab of hot glue on his finger, and his recoiling dishevels the entire kit on the newspaper he has used as a work base. "By the Dust."

Eve can only chuckle as she scoots her chair to the other end of the table and simply lays her head down and grabs shut eye, waiting for Dip to finish.

"Monarch Removes his Helmet"

By: FlyAwayNow

Peter Kennedy doesn't have a tacname yet, and Comic barely has earned hers at this point. But they're Hitman 5 and 4 appropriately, and, given the rules of Sicario, they should be interested to know who is 3.

They find out now, a day after their first full team sortie. Hitman 1 is talking it over with Kaiser about what went wrong and why half of Gunsel is now out of action for at least three months, and he has brought along 3 to explain why. 3 was the one that made sure Gunsel made it home at all, even if limping.

As 5 and 4 remove themselves from their airplanes, habitually coming together after climbing down their ladders to the tarmac, winded, sweaty, spent from a high contact engagement, the haze of the post battle high almost tricks their eyes as Kaiser runs up to Hitman 1 with 3 behind him.

A few moments pass, wordlessly, the 5 and 4 look on from afar in the shadow of their shared hanger space, and as Kaiser speaks unknown words with Hitman 1, Titan, Titan refers to 3, and then, all at once, 3 takes off his helmet.

It comes to Kennedy before Comic, but in the split second he has, he uses it to turn to her, double take at Hitman 3, and say this softly aloud: "He's Cascadian."

"Monarch Wonders about his Wingmen"

By: FlyAwayNow

Low maintenance. Prez pokes that phrase at him over breakfast one day. Monarch tilts his head as the coffee Chef has thrown together out of miracles and desperation from literally no food supply line.

"Before I got assigned to Hitman I was with Gunsel. And jeez, GP was always trying to corral her pilots like it was some sorta drama. What's your team building secret?"

To Monarch, team is an overstatement. It really is just him and Dip and Comic, and they are missing from their table at the moment. He wonders why they are low maintenance, just for one moment. He doesn't need to wonder long as he looks across the mess hall to the two of them in line, side by side, their backs to them.

Dip is always talking, always chatting, to someone, if not her, and she always is posed a certain way when he does. An ear is always toward him, all she could admit to give is her side profile, but she remains there by his side and perhaps it is for the good of Sicario that she is the one soaking him up.

Dip grabs three bagels, depositing them not on his tray, but hers as without even looking deposits the cream cheese packets. He's too distracted by himself that he doesn't notice how Comic slips his mug of coffee onto his tray, and, for a moment, Monarch realizes that he wasn't the one who got his own coffee that day.

Process of elimination was that it had been Prez that somehow slid one into his reach, but he doesn't think too much about that in that second as, for a moment, Comic does slightly pivot to Dip to look at him as he points at Chef and makes some hand motion feigning a chopping of a knife. He leans a little closer to her, as if making sure she understands exactly what he's saying, and they pause at that breath-wide distance in between taking each other in, the extra head and then some he has on her factoring in.

They don't freeze up, they don't acknowledge it; it is something that simply is, for Monarch has seen them like that before.

Sooner rather than later they're both walking toward him and Prez now, as they had for the last few years, and Monarch realizes that maybe low maintenance isn't the word for it.

Maybe it's that they just know how to take care of each other the same way they know how to fly, how to fight, how to be mercenaries.

It is something so terrible that he could never admit it, so he just bides his time, as he usually does, and Dip arrives to make conversations of them all.


By: FlyAwayNow How easily most things that aren't bolted down are able to be kicked out of the way is an idea of force and violence that Ronin has dialed down to a T, years into their Deal with Kaiser. It's why the stainless steel prep table is able to very loudly scratched across tiled floor and over its side as the final gunshots ring out and before the table can stop rattling a man's body hits the ground with a wet slam, two shooters approaching him, IR lasers burning a hole through the man's sucking chest wound.

"Fucking shit." Crystal grits through teeth before the report from his rifle stops rolling through pots and pans and the indoor of a kitchen turned into a final standoff place for someone who got way too comfortable hiding in towers and had a bounty on them.

"Fuck shit!" Less gracefully comes the words from Strelok, who immediately falters to the side to the serving window, plates crashing as his rifle drops limp against his plate carrier, hanging by his one point as he claws at his chest and the steaming bare plates that has been bitten through by bullet.

"Voodoo?!" Kelleher yells out as nearly six men and women stand with their guns pointed. The Captain of SOG Ronin calls out as he also follows the two shooters in to the man utterly eviscerated by six different types of ammunition.

"On it!"

New Meat and Legion are already over the man as he reckons with death coming mere seconds from now, red pooling through his shirt, arm cranked up and out and frozen as if petrified in such a position. The smoking gun that was able to go off once is by his side by Legion kicks it away.

"Galaxy! Lights!" Kelleher yells aloud and the world is no longer illuminated by gunshots alone. The building's blackout by Sicario's favorite hacker/electronic's warfare op/AWACS is brought back, and all at once the horns of Ronin are assumed as night vision goggles are sent back up on their mounts.

New Meat's not used to these type of hit and runs, these bounties that Sicario takes from time to time, and so as he stands over a man not quite dying yet, twitches from a man trying to expel blood from his young fighting, he hears the click of two flashes as Legion has traded out her DMR for a camera.

Click, click.

"Jackpot on HVT Stingray."

"Verifying." Galaxy comes over the radio.

"I'm fucking fine get that magic hocus pocus shit away from me you creep!" Strelok's accent and hysteria at being shot dead center makes it hard for Voodoo, the team's medic, to actually take what he says seriously, but push comes to shove and again pots and pans go flying. "Fuck off!" He stands up, pounding the chestplate with bare knuckles as a single pistol calibre bullet rattles out onto the ground. "Fucking piece of shit."

Voodoo only shrugs as he looks at Kelleher. "Adrenaline. He's fine."

Crystal is already celebrating as he pats down his pockets, the sound of a good luck baggie of "don't you worry about it" crinkling. "I got just the thing when we're out."

"Shut the fuck up and hold down an angle all of you!"

Strelok spits the pain literally out as the door leading to the kitchen is kicked in again, the other Sicario securing the mess hall of that skyscraper getting the message and flowering out again, aimed at doors, aimed where they came. They can feel the building rushing up to meet them but it's okay.

"Galaxy what have we got?" Kelleher says again, now adding himself to the two standing over the man bleeding through a million dollar suit. He bends down, ripping some jewelry off the man's hands and collar. He's not going to need it. Legion, she doesn't make the mistake as she waits for Galaxy to confirm a positive HVT hit. She looks at the dead through her camera's screen, not her eyes. It is something that New Meat does make the mistake, Kelleher notices before it's too late. "Hey kid, look at me for a second."

New Meat's eyes are as wide as dinner plates. Somewhere in that kitchen a teapot boils over. "HVT confirmed jackpot."

"Copy all." Legion nods, putting her camera back, putting her rifle back in her hands. Two more shots ring out and the world still continues its cacophony of crashes. Two more bullets for the body to really confirm the kill and the bullet breaks something below. Sirens ring out like fire alarms.

"What was he again?" Strelok is still taking in breaths from the bullet. "Fucking politician? Where the fuck am I going to get new plates?"

Legion walks out, leaving New Meat and Kelleher standing over the drip drip drip of blood dripping from a spray that comes from shotgun pellets and battle rifle rounds.

"You mean where the fuck am I going to get new plates you inbred?" Legion's already changing out a new mag, taking care to deposit hers into a dump pouch unlike half the other idiots on this team.

"Fuck you lady I pay for it."


At the window two Ronin are already primed as something akin to a tape measurer is dragged across the windowed wall, providing a view to the city out there.

"Gunsel and the Circus's on station in thirty." Galaxy rings out again as backpacks are thrown on and lines are attached to each other. Usually fifteen man extractions aren't normal but the Circus has a new method that, probably, won't kill them all.

The sound never stops. The ringing. Kelleher sees the cymbals in the center of New Meat's eyes, distantly looking through him. In this Kelleher gets the rope attached between them at their belts tight. "Hey New Meat, just what we do. Ain't clean, but it pays."

Glass shatters as popped explosives go off at the window. "We're good!" One of them reports. "Hook up."

Crystal with his launcher, brought just for this, waits as he takes a knee before the broken window now, exposed to the night air, another Ronin shoving a round into the loading gate. "Clear?!"


Ronin is heads down as Crystal's launcher blows out to the open skyline, a balloon popping and inflating and catching from rope connected to his belt.

"Let's go." Sooner rather than later Kelleher smacks new meat's helmet, bloody palmprint on the side as he shoves a diamond into his plate carrier's admin pouch. The two run, only for Kelleher to attach themselves to a seemingly quaint conga line that Ronin has made as people are knocking on barred stairwells and elevator doors.

"That fucking bitch from Hitman better know what's she's doing." Strelok is still sour as Legion bats his own head with the butt of her rifle just hard enough to tell them that she, as per the briefing, worked on this system too.

The drone of a full fledged cargo aircraft comes in the distance as the balloon launched by Crystal inflates and moves up, the doppler of jets going off as sirens ring out not only from the building below but the city around.

In his haze, New Meat can only look down at his hands, and in the foreground by a table with a dead gunman on it, his dinner. A sandwich. He reaches out for it, as if just to fully realize where he is, but that is robbed from him as the slow jerk, and then sudden flight beneath his feet takes him as half of Ronin screams, and Kelleher in front of him is laughing.

"Interview with Prez"

By: FlyAwayNow

He's a photo-traveling-journalist, so they say, but he appears with Sicario at random times, across different continents, across different contracts, at different times. Those in Sicario know him as a raggedy ass reporter, which is rare, because he is a character that many recognize as he bounces around Sicario during their missions or on base asking them questions, picking their brains, and somehow being in Kaiser's good graces whenever he's around.

Prez flinches when she hears a photo go off behind her, her hands deep inside Comic's plane and trying to service her gun. She almost always melts it down. "Hey-?! Oh. It's you. I've heard about you."

"All good things, hopefully. You're new. What you some type-ah tomboy type? Hitman needed equal representation or some shit?"

He handles his cameras like he does a machine gun, slicking back jet black hair kept in place by a swirly bandanna with various data drives taped on.

"Hey I'm here because- Wait tomboy?" She catches herself in the middle of her deceleration “She's here because she's competent.”

"Yeah you look like one. Act like one too." He takes another photo of her and it comes out as her threatening him with a wrench. "Ay' ay' ay' easy I'm the press. I'm with a journalism post out of the Fed, our motto: Stories so captivating you'll fly away now. And trust me, people love seeing and reading about tomboys out in the Periphery. They just eat up that strong and able type."

"How does being strong and able make me a tomboy bucko?" She's getting a little closer with the wrench and the reporter is barely phased.

"I dunno, people got this idea that cute women can't be when they're in situations like this." The wrench is thrown and he ducks as he backs up more, taking more pictures. "Hey! I've covered wars you know, I know how to dodge that kinda shit."

Prez in a roundabout way, knows she's been just called cute, a certain type, but for it to be boiled down like that into a picture, a frame, it's weird... demeaning.

"Dip’s Car"

By: FlyAwayNow

It's not everyday that a former life intersects with the current. For Diplomat, it happens somewhere near December 25th.

Kelleher leads the Hitman pilots through the cargo ship, moored to an airship which performed a less than graceful hijacking of it. Lots of wires, lots of anchors, and a lot of splashing. Normally airships aren't in Sicario's repertoire but, for some reason, Kaiser knows how to drive one, even right into an ocean.

"Well Dippy boy, now officially I don't know who you are but we took a look at the supply manifests when we were all done here." Captain Kelleher gestures to body bags being stacked, the three pilots and one crew chief grimace, not used to being this close to the fight, but the fight has long been done at this point. "This might interest you."

Three Ronin open up a large shipping container. There's no drama or pomp to the fact a Krueger 1911 Sports Coupe is sitting in it.

Diplomat's jaw is to the floor. "That's my frickin' car!"

16th birthday gift, more specifically. Diplomat is on his knees with the realization of what has sat before him, and Comic can only give the rich boy her evil eye as Monarch and Prez think of the opportunities presented.

"Fic With Oni"

By: FlyAwayNow

"I don't like her." Diplomat and Monarch look down from the stands of the stadium turned military expo. They're donned in the dress blues of another country. Another facade of theirs. If any nation needs to look like they have their shit together in a military expo or conference, especially those adjacent with the more legit armed forced[sic] in the Periphery, they hire groups like Sicario to stand in for them. It's so much of a tradition Kaiser has been catching up with a few other merc group leaders on the show floor, also representing other nations.

Monarch looks over to his wingmate, eyebrow raised.

Diplomat shuffles in his dress blues, golden rope wrapped around him in the tradition of their host country. "She's, what, about a year younger than us? No one our age has the right to do that shit she's doing."

That shit the person they're talking about is doing is down on the show floor, in a section of the expo turned into a kill house. Force on force, barely non-lethal with how gunpowder still sticks heavy in the air.

"What's her name again?"

Oni, Monarch answers.

In the gear of their host's SOF she weaves through a door way, hunched over as two men holding it down are blinded by a flash grenade thrown by her. She's pressed forward like lightning, muzzle of her PDW used to swipe the defender's gun away, offering his torso fully as chalky round blast out from her into their chest.

As he falls in dusty mayhem she tilts her whole self, gun in her shoulder as she angles an aim as the other fires blindly at the doorway she's no longer in.

The first shot connects with his shoulder, and the man spasm's. Two breaking into his helmet as he twitches to the ground.

Chalk dust is in the air, caked into her hazelnut hair as she twists her head back where she came and, in one smooth motion she falls to the floor, shoulder first, aimed at the door way.

Four shooters have followed, presumably hunting her down. No such thing happens as the trick of preconceptions have them looking to where she isn't:

From the floor, gunshots impact their necks and chins as the crowding only saves one. Running forward blindly the remaining shooter almost steps on her as she grabs the man's legs and, in a flurry, like a dancer, she swings like a pivot. With the momentum the shooter goes down onto the ground, face first, and before he can do anything the newest Ronin is crushing the man's head with her legs as she keeps her gun up.

The tapping of his hand as he tries to call uncle is heard all the way up in the stands as Monarch crosses their arms and sees Diplomat's point.

Azure eyes from her, looking up through the open ceiling of the kill house, and they find Monarch's.

As if paused, she winks, one hand brought up off her PDW as she frames her face with a peace sign.

She has fangs, her mask painted with that of a demon.

In a snap a delayed shooter comes through the door and her gun is up and aimed again. They didn't have a chance as the man she's holding down finally gives and she is off and away for more fun.

"You see, because I'm a morally righteous mercenary, I don't look like I'm having fun when we do what we do."

All Monarch can do is nod with Diplomat as he sees the mercenaries that come after him regard him with a certain reverence. Whether or not he thinks of what that means doesn't matter as an Oni fights in his name.


By: FlyAwayNow

"One of my brothers he was a videogame streamer." Diplomat hangs off the wing of his MG-29 as Monarch and Comic rest beneath the shadow of it, their resident crew chief somewhere in the intake trying to figure out what type of animal has gotten its way into it now.

"Like, was he a real-type or did he have an avatar?" Prez's voice is muffled beneath metal. "Hell, back in the Federation more people watched streamers than played videogames.

The conversation comes up because Comic is clicking away at a handheld console. The game she plays isn't the most exciting thing based on the tinny sound effects coming from the small device. Some sort of truck driving simulator.

Monarch, his eyes are shut, asleep.

"Real face, camera up and everything. He was a real gamer... and somehow I was the family fuck up." Diplomat drops down onto the concrete ground onto his own recliner. "Think about it 'Mick. If you ever stop being a Merc, you could become one of those type of people. You've got the face for it."

Comic goes to open her mouth in protest, but says nothing as the depot she's at in-game has finished loading her load of electronics for a two-hour, real time truck driving session.

In a world where they do the extraordinary, and their normal are combat extremes, the escapism provided by videogames are sometimes the normals of people who live regular lives.

"Bumpy APC Ride"

By: FlyAwayNow

To them, pilots, their lives are not so easily kept between airbase barracks, bases, and the sky above. Even pilots like them need time to stretch out their legs and go walk the world again. That being said, as they discover, the very gall of the idea comes with the fact they are in the Periphery.

"Your drive train is messed up, dude." Of all the things that Hitman can say as they're in the back of an APC, currently under fire by distant rifle shots, Prez makes comment [sic] on the ride. "When was the last time this thing saw any servicing?"

"Eight years ago when we bought it off the lot in Pursat. Fuck you expect lady?" One of Sicario's APC drivers bellyaches as he's craning his head to look through the commander's slot of the turret before he yells out in a slurred tongue bearing and range. The GPMG of the APC opens up, and Diplomat in the back flinches as Comic has a PDW aimed out one of the firing ports, taking pot shots as well.

"FUCK! FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD!" The driver yells out to himself, and the whistling, the tell-tale sound of an ATGM's thruster burning puts the fear of god in all of them as the entire machine lurches forward on that mountain road.

"Hold on!" Gunner braces, but he is the only one really prepared as everyone in the back of the APC collapses to the floor in a painful metal tumble.

The vibration of a vehicle which has its wheels on the ground are unfamiliar to the pilots, and it jitters them as Prez, walks over, hands on stabilizing bars, and drags them up to the seating on either side. It's days like this where she reminds them in some way that she once did a tour with the Federation.

"Oh yeah, Dip, great 'frickin idea. Come join Prez for a trip out to the market, nothing bad will happen." Comic is indignant as she picks her rifle up the floor, grease on her cheek as she wipes it off, only to smear it on Diplomat's groaning face.

Prez, all she can do is giggle as she has her goggles back on and her dust mask on, catching the eye of Monarch, only once as the man, after shaking off the banging around from an immediate drive forward, maintains his cool beneath the distant explosion of what was probably aimed at them.

The gunner, he clambers down, looking at Monarch too, bringing his two hands together as if in prayer. He's a new one to Sicario, not yet learning of the Lingua Franca, but the driver, after parking the APC in apropriate[sic] cover as the rest of the armored column moves up behind them, translates as the gunner speaks in an exhausted tone.

"You were born lucky, comrade Cascadian, a missile just went right over our head." Monarch, he puts on a grim face, adjusting his sunglasses as all he can do is nod. "You are a good luck charm, yes." The translation isn't as excited as the originator, but it gets the point across as the driver pops his hatch with a pistol, staring out at the incoming fire, only to mutter out his own swears and popshots, just for the hell of it.

"Lucky... Is that what you are, Monarch?" Prez asks her pilot. Monarch opens his mouth, but no word can escape before Comic lets loose another burst down range

"The Disgraced Squadron Leader"

They don’t give her a rank, but they refer to her as the one she once was: Major. She doesn’t have a callsign yet. Not a new one that is, but the one that she was once called is history.

History like the scars of her homelands and the idea that this world was a normal one. What they do give her though is a position: 7. She is now Hitman 7 in the Sicario Mercenary Corps.

So those are her names now: her position, or a rank. Real names are a taboo in the business. In sketchier outfits, it’s a matter of plausible deniability if the Federation or the bounty hunters get their hands on them. However, in Sicario, as professional and clean cut as they are, it is a matter of aesthetic in a way, and of a comfortable distance. She knows no one’s real name save for the Arnold Frenken. He freely tells any who would ask, for better or worse.

“Commander.” She finds him in the shadow of Galaxy’s aircraft, with “Galaxy” himself. The wing provides shade on the runway and most of Sicario too is hiding the shadow of their aircraft or transports. No one wanted to pay rent that day on the airbase for an actual bay, and the plains, as pleasant as they were, felt more of a desert on that clear blue Spring day. She salutes, and something within Frenken instinctually pops a salute back, however he cringes at himself as Galaxy, lounging on a lawn chair, smirks and adjusts his visor to cover his eyes more. A man as pale as he dares luck every time he sunbathes, but he tries as Frenken sits on a weapons crate and reads some ancient, pre-Calamity book.

“What rank did you actually have back in the day, Boss?” Galaxy rattles off, lazily rubbing his thick brown beard.

“Not one that mattered.” Kaiser stands from the crate he was sitting on, toiling over a book from Albion, a colder nation further north. It’s a book about a thief who lived in the woods and gave to the poor. “What can I do for you Major?”

It is her turn to cringe as she is referred to a rank stripped of her over two years ago.

Her tenure in Sicario is no more than a few weeks old at this point.

“Can I talk to you privately, for a moment?”

She has an accent, southern-eastern Cascadian. It’s very much similar to Ronin Actual, and the SOF leader very much confirms as such. Though it's suppressed, beaten down by the proprieties of what she used to be: Commander, much like Frenken is now.

More prim and proper, perhaps, but she has a unique perspective. She was the exact opposite of what a mercenary was.

The Major sweats, her dirty blonde hair actually dirty as she shudders, just a little bit by an offending breeze. Going cold turkey from her vices of nearly two straight years. She is suffering beneath the heat of the airbase, but she doesn’t complain. Any comparisons that one might make to her carrying herself like a drug addict isn’t too far off the mark. The bottle had been her anchor to sanity after being cast asides by the closest thing to religion she ever had.

Kaiser nods, unbothered as he takes the book along with him and Galaxy snores off again. The rest of Sicario, from ground troops to pilots and the supporting personnel in between are taking advantage of a rare, truly lazy day... Most of Sicario that is.

The two of them walk parallel to the aircraft parking, parallel to the airstrip itself. Sicario takes enough space that some open-air positions are necessary to keep all of the inventory on one airbase. Her aircraft is there, there’s some battle damage, shared with the rest of Hitman as the maintainers do their best to pick out pieces of shells from flak cannons, raised up by an enemy way in over their head when facing down Sicario.

Archaic, compared to SAMs and automatic cannon fire, but they still did a number.

“You did well on the last sortie.” Kaiser is the first to speak as the walk far enough away from anyone else. “Not bad for only having a dozen hours prior with that airframe.”

It’s her plane. Her plane. Not one designated to her by a military, but rather one that she put a down payment on with an arms dealer. It’s not an airframe that she’s particularly familiar with, but she has enough historical education to understand that it’s a reliable one. It’s a step down from the plane that she once flew, that’s for sure.

Though the feeling of flying one, of flipping on the master arm switch, pulling the trigger... it evokes in her a high that almost cleanses her then and there. This was what she was missing.

It scares her to her bones as, finally, she speaks.

“I’m not sure if I’m cut out for this type of work, respectfully.”

Kaiser stops in his stead, his free hand not holding his book going to stroke his black goatee once. “Oh? Is there something wrong with our contract?”

The Major shakes her head immediately. “No, sir. But it’s just the nature of... what we do.”

Kaiser wears a bomber jacket, even on today of days, dark brown hair and the cloth he wears soaking in all that heat that, somehow, he beats back in the name of looking like a commander. The Major knows the type. Many of her cohort out of the academy were the same. She’s only wearing a bomber jacket because she is going through the shakes.

“And what is what we do, Major?”

Gunsel is returning from a regular presence patrol. Gunsel 1 and the Major know each other by name; they saw each other’s names in the academy that they both saw at some point. Gunsel 1’s aircraft coasts in with the rest of her flight cleanly, and there is skill and routine to it that the Major admires. She stares at them as they taxi in and off to their section. It gives her time to formulate an answer as the Kaiser entertains what she sounds like she’s going through.

“We carry out security contracts to paying clients.” It’s like she’s reading something.

Kaiser only frowns as she says it. “You’re not wrong, but if that’s what’s bothering you, I think I’ve been misunderstanding your character.”

It took her long enough to answer that, and it is as he knows: Beating around the bush.

“We’re mercenaries.” She admits, finally. “And what we do is kill for the highest bidder.”

“Right,” Kaiser agrees. “Is something about that disagreeable to you?”

They walk along on the tarmac, and Kaiser can’t help but kick rocks away from the runway as distant engine sounds promise safety to them, their clients, and danger to those that they’ve been paid to hunt. Poachers this time, oddly enough. If the client, the state government, wanted to use combat jets to take on smugglers and poachers in this region, Sicario wouldn’t say no. It’s a noble enough cause.

She breaths in the air here before she speaks again. It’s nothing like the air of her homeland. It’s not as fresh, sweet. It rots of an old world. “How much did the background check into me dig up?”

He scratches behind his ear before running fingers through his well-cut black beard. “Well, Gunsel 1’s Academy contacts did most of the work. The rest of it came from a net search which brought up your name real fast. Why? You withholding on me?”

Her name, her real name, is Evelyn London III. She’s just about a dozen generations removed from a writer that she bears the name of, and in her is instilled with that author’s regard for the land. It’s not something she likes to bring to bear often in her mind’s eye, but when she looks at the horizon dusted by grassy flatlands, she is reminded of the horizons of her home and how they sit a little better. She’s the middle child of foresters and rural types, and, social mobility wise, she was to be the one who elevated them.

That wasn’t how it turned out.

She starts slow like a rolling aircraft, but she gets there. The last two and a half years has degraded her vocabulary and social skills, but they come back to her in the familiar air and fit of a military uniform. “I don’t think you’d get the reason why I became the pilot I was.”

She doesn’t think he’d get it because he is a mercenary. It’s an argument that Kaiser can’t necessarily take part in with her framing, but he implores her. “Go on?”

Top of her class, in consideration for Cascadia’s Peacekeepers, and when she did fly beneath the CNG banner she did so with skill that betrayed her age: She fought as if she had been to war. “I believed that Cascadia deserved a pilot that I tried to be. I’m not Cascadian, at least, not a born one, but my family moved in-country when I was young and from there, I tried my best to live up to our new beginnings.” Even quieter: “I was proud of my country.”

Kaiser starts before she can go on any further. “Now, forgive my ignorance Major, however it’s been quite a while since I’ve rubbed up against the Cascadian National Guard. What did you do with them?” Dangerous words, but she says them anyway. “I hunted down mercenaries on our borders.” She says with almost a painfully distant wist. “East of Cascadia is the Dustlands, where the Yellowstone super volcano deposited its ash on the American continent. Most of North America is still uncivilized except along its coasts, and even then, Cascadia’s the only real nation on it. The rest are Periphery-tier states.”

“So, naturally, it leaves a lot of places for mercenaries.”

There’s a beat before she answers, remembers. “Yeah.”

Kaiser knows of the Dustlands: the wilderness of America, born from the ash of the end of the world. It is one of the last true natural wilds left on Earth. In South America he knows the nations there have been waging an almost eternal war over the fate of the Amazon and the Pantanal wetlands, and in the vast majority of the Periphery elsewhere nations destroyed the lands while fighting for them. He also knows that their people hide, people stew, and people, every once in a blue moon, cross the borders into Cascadia to raid its cordium deposits or other resources.

“I can see the irony of your situation, Major.” It’s written on her face as Kaiser speaks. “Does it detest you so much that you are a mercenary yourself now? Having flown out on sortie already with us?”

Quietly, so very quietly. “Yes.”

The wind is shy of still today, rolling over plains and runway. These days are the worst for Kaiser: when Sicario is bound to a contract and cannot keep moving.

“I dunno about you, Major, but when the Cascadian National Guard came to Oceania during the war there wasn’t an awful lot to be proud of.” London looks at Kaiser with a raised eyebrow after this. The combat pilots and troops from Cascadia that had gone to Oceania during its war had been a different sort of soldier when they came back.

“Were you there?” She asks. He definitely doesn’t look old enough, and he shakes his head, but she can’t tell if it was in response her question or some other nebulous, vague thing.

His free hand chops the air toward her with two fingers. “Point is, if you joined, and served, for the altruism of the state, you might’ve been mistaken in the first place.”

She doesn’t disagree, she doesn’t fight, but she has to say something. “And how about us, you? Sicario? At least in the national guard we helped people.”

She remembers organizing flights to combat wildfires and relief for earthquakes, career days for kids that she used to be in order to find a good career in life. Cascadia was known for many things, but an exacting egalitarianism wasn’t one of them; people fell out of favor, economic conditions for more than a few were hard. She was almost among those beaten down masses.

“We help people out here too.” Kaiser nodded. “Heck, we’re helping people now.”

“Animals, you mean?” London is less than indignant about it.

“Oh aren’t we all animals in the end?” Kaiser chuckles in his usual pomp.

The Cascadian National Guard tribunal had called her that: an animal. Super focused on what she did regardless of anything that might’ve come from above. She was overzealous, irresponsible, and worst of all, unsaid, a scapegoat.

“Do you know, exactly what I did, Kaiser?” She calls him the name that Sicario usually refers to him by, if not “Boss”.

Vague details had made it out on the public net, but the mercenary network was more inclined to speak on it. Major London had done the mercenaries a favor, the last day she ever flew as a Cascadian National Guard pilot.

It was routine strike against a bandit camp in the Dustlands gone wrong. A community had reported raids recently and London’s base had been the closest in the vicinity to do something about it. She designed the operation, she carried it out with her squadron.

She killed someone who Cascadia didn’t want to die: an inside-man; a spy amongst the mercenaries. A case of lethal blue-on-blue had been put on Major Eve London’s shoulder, and for that she was dishonorably discharged.

Kaiser shrugged as he recounted the details himself. “You killed someone accidentally. It happens in this world, especially with what was going on when it happened. Here at least you get paid either way. Get over it.”

Said straight to the point, just like that, its sharp against her ears and yet calming all the same. His voice softens and she imagines a breeze rolling over the plains they stand before. “I- I just... I just thought I was better than that. That I served something better than that. I don’t know if I was set up, or if someone else was to blame, or... I don’t know, some sort of stupid conspiracy. Though in the end I killed an innocent man when I was on the job. I don’t want to be put in that position again.”

Kaiser still holds onto his book, weighing it in his hand. Literal history. It weighs a bit more than his newest pilot’s words, but in that history, he knows people like her.

They became the very best of people like him.

“This world is not fair to people who let it happen to them: The innocent or the unlucky.” He looks out to the horizon, same as her. “The only sane way to be in this life is to become what we are.”

“And that is?”

“Dictators of our own destiny.” He says with as much pomp, with as much drama as anyone can expect saying that sentence unironically, arms out, as if displaying a whole new world. “You are only as much to blame as the world is, and it’s unfair to hold yourself to it.”

There’s a suspicion within London that Kaiser is only so much older than her, but she gets the impression that he pretends to put maybe thirty years onto what he might be.

Still, it’s very much opposed to how she presents. She’s over half-way through her twenties with the rest of her life still ahead of her, and only now, after having done so much, is she told that she wasn’t in control of her life before. It’s annoying, both in content and presentation, but she lets it slide. Another version of her would’ve already been conferring with the on-base HR rep about how to kindly tell Kaiser to shove it, but this is the world where Kaiser took a chance on her.

She cocks her head, unused to his personality for what time she’s had in Sicario. “How is being a mercenary anything like that?”

He speaks to the land, to the Earth, to the sun and sky; whoever would listen. “We are the freest people on this fire-scorched Earth. We were so free that they tried to kill us all, fifteen years ago. Nowadays they try to put us on a leash and tell us how to work.” And Kaiser seems almost happy that the world tried; for they failed.

Failure. It’s on London’s mind. It was on her mind ever since that day. Who did she fail? The state? Her country? Her people?

Kaiser had an answer:


“We are all in service to something, Major. I will give you that.” She perks her head up, desperately wanting an answer that might be there. “If nothing else, we serve ourselves. That is the peak mercenary creed.”

She looks up at the sky. The sky she calls her workplace, her bread and butter, her domain. She knows why she’s been hired, and what she trained to do with Sicario. “It all boils down to one thing though, doesn’t it? Killing people for money.”

Frenken cracks a sympathetic look on his face, softly nodding, the book in his hand held as he fiddles with it, slapping its leather covers with his palms. “Greater minds have gone insane from simpler thinking, Major. You can boil almost everything in life down to Cain and Able. That is the path of the Human disposition. Think of ourselves as more Human than most.” He speaks foreign names and she doesn’t quite understand.

The names of olden gods and religions exist in the vernacular of the world’s lingua franca, however the content behind them, the knowledge of what they are, is missing.

The God she knows is of Dust.

Wrapping her arms around herself once, she confides in the fact Kaiser tells her, nodding, looking to the airplanes of Hitman to the side of the aircraft lot. Hitman 1, Titan, he’s an older pilot with an older aircraft to boot. An old school gunman who believes in the cannon over an IR missile. It makes sense however. Cheaper that way.

Kaiser considers for a second, tapping fingers against his book. “You could be Hitman 1 you know. Challenge Titan to a duel for it. It’s not how we usually do things but he might be up for it. The old dog needs to have something nipping at his heels.”

It’s something within London which makes her twist her face in disgust and shake her head. “I ain’t fit for command, sir.”

“That what you think? Or is that what the Cascadian Generals thought?”

Another question to consider, and not one she’s ready to answer as she puts it away in her mind and just gestures for the two of them to rejoin the rest of Sicario, but not before pointing at what is in Kaiser’s hands.

“What are you reading, by the way?” She flicks a finger to the book, the one held on to, his thumb defiantly keeping the page.

“Oh this?” He holds it up. It’s a blank cover, but along its spine there’s text she can’t quite make out. “It’s an old story. The oldest story in fact.”

She looks again at the cover, and there is form and picture there where she didn’t see. A trick of the light maybe. She sees dreams on it. In a flash the writing in it is not one of print, but of hand. His writing.

“I come from a long, long line of people, Major London. We exist only in the stories we tell each other, passed down from generation to generation, and I’d like for mine to be as big as it can be.” There is a character to the Kaiser. He’s young enough to live for a very long time, and yet old enough to hold that command of age. Any picture taken of him is a picture fit for some blurb in a history book, and his entire essence melts into the idea of either a classical hero, the captain of a unit, or the mercenary in all of its most vile, yet dramatic, elements. He is a mystery to Sicario and to the mercenaries that have crossed paths with him before.

All Evelyn London III can see is an earnest man, and she laughs for the first time in her new life. “You’re a funny guy, you know that?”

Kaiser shrugs. “What? And you’re such a comic relief yourself that you can judge me?”

She hangs on a word he says, and she remembers when she was in his place.

“I wasn’t a commander for long, but I was able to be a part of some rituals... and well, one of them-“ She stops herself, but she’s already too far in to not continue. “One of them was that every week or so the pilots would all go out to the nearest tavern and we’d make a night of it. Now the tavern we went to had comedy nights on the days we went, so naturally I got voluntold to go up there more than once.”

The commander only raises an eyebrow in curiosity. “How’d you do?”

“Well they’d only tell me to go up there after a few shots so you figure it out.” She shivers again at the very idea of the bottle.

“You must know a joke, don’t you? You’re not that far removed from what you once were.”

It’s embarrassing how easy a routine comes up for her as she stands a little straighter and pretends the mic is in front of her again. She doesn’t look at Kaiser for this, turning away, loathe to admit she is entertaining his proposition.

“What did the wizzo tell to the pilot before they got in the plane?” London is very good at deadpanning, that serious voice of hers in moments when the rest of Sicario put upon themselves to her and she has to throw a little more into her back to compensate.

Kaiser, in his infinite wisdom, does try to figure it out. Nothing comes up however, he relenting with prepared go-ahead. “What?”

“Get in the plane.”


“Tough crowd.” She relents, rubbing the back of her neck.

“Don’t quit your day job.” Kaiser can only assure himself that he hired her for a good reason. Though, he realizes, it is up to him in some way that she remains. So he rolls his shoulders, cracking his neck, finding the breath within him to bring himself down to her level. In a plain and stupid language, up front, to the point: “We don’t smuggle drugs, we’re not moonshiners, we don’t trade people as property, and we try as hard as we can to make sure the people we kill either are others like us, or people who deserve it. I swear it to my blood, and my name. Is that going to be enough for you to continue flying as a Hitman?”

It centers her, far more than she would admit. She is given the reason, the excuse, and the dream that what she is doing is somehow a little more noble, a little cleaner, than what she expects and perhaps knows to be. Though for her it’s enough as she nods, and she turns and leads him back to Sicario.

"Prez Deals With Her Mortality"

Mission after mission, sortie after sortie, she should be used to the non-feeling that has her wobble out of her aircraft and collapse against the chair that one of the Circus logistics crew rolls out as they all come running to aircraft returned from sortie. She is the only one that needs it out of the aircraft that she flies with, and Sicario understands it.

Ancient history calls it shellshock: the process of the body and mind trying to process inhuman damage to itself, offloading it to the brain. It’s the only thing that anyone can say of Hitman 1’s WSO as she time after time as his WSO comes out, having kept up with the flying of Sicario’s top ace and survived.

What she gives up each time, she doesn’t know, but she know she loses something.

Today is the day where the aircraft’s engines spin down inside of the hangar as crews are rushing to them, and her mind returns to herself. The last few hours of mission time all have blurred out, and instead, there is a black hole in her vision as her skin is painfully cold. It’s not a metaphorical one, not a hypothetical, but a real hole that she can’t keep her eyes off of as she looks to her 11 o’clock high and see right in the canopy of their aircraft a neat, spidering glass hole. She can see right through it.

Her neck is stiff, the stiffest it ever has been, because if she leans back for even a second her helmet will touch and emptiness made by an unlucky-lucky shot.

She cannot bare to even look behind her. She cannot bare to imagine what that hole looks like, because it might’ve been in her head instead of her seat.

“Hey!” There are fingers in front of her face, snapping. She knows this man, having climbed up the ladder that the ground crew rolls out for them to get out of their aircraft. He is the closest thing that Sicario has to a doctor, and right now he is looking at her like a ghost. “Wallah, Malak,” He looks over to the front seat. A man rises, and to Prez, that man is also a black hole, face dimmed behind impossibly shaded visor glass. He’s looking down on her and she has never felt so small from a gaze of a man she barely believes is real. “You might’ve lost another one.”

She can only hear the murmuring through her helmet as the world becomes dizzy and her eyes become blank. She still hasn’t let go of her control stick. She still hasn’t stopped shaking.

And she won’t, not as she tries to rip her fingers off of it and rise as she comes off her harness.

“Easy there.” The doctor’s name is Voodoo. From a country none of them understand the language of and an even lesser idea of its medical practices. “Are you good?”

She thinks words come out of her mouth, but she doesn’t know; she can’t, not as she rips her oxygen mask off of herself and rips her helmet away, vaguely aiming for the seat behind her as she gets out. It only careens out of the plane, onto concrete grown, resounding thuds. It’s like glass, but nothing breaks. Nothing physical that is. Corner of her eye: hand signals, more muffled sounds. Voodoo nods as he climbs down, letting Prez out on her own as sweaty hair burns against her own skin.

Unlike every other time she descends that ladder, she does not shake, she does not quiver.

More and more, pilots, crew, and every random mercenary who have heard of the Crown has come to see them watch and fly off on sortie as if wanting to see it for their own eyes and believe that mercenaries like him exist again. Because of that. They see her now. They see someone oh so very Human, and she damns herself every single time she thinks about it. If only she were a machine. Stress tolerances, breaking points, weaknesses. They were so much easier to read in machines.

When her boots hit concrete flooring she feels nothing, her eyes still wide but taking in no sight as she turns away from the plane and tries to repeat the motions she knows she does after sorties like this.

The only difference between then and this one was just one shot, had come far closer than she could ever known enemy fire to do so.

Dying was for other people.

That was the feeling that was given to her by flying with Him.

But she is not Him.

Had it not been for the fact she was leaning in to use the MFD...

Flight gloves try to touch her face, and for the first time in her life, Robin Kuo has discovered how she would’ve reacted if she were to die.

The numbness in her fingers betray her as she walks forward, toward the back of the hangar, to the hallways to their bunks for that contract. She tries to touch her face, but she cannot feel it.

She swears that there is a hole through her head, the size of a 23mm cannon round, and she stops cold.

The façade breaks at once and the shaking begins, and they begin so violently her legs are taken from her and she collapse to her knees on the ground as her hands try to feel her face. She’s screaming, and the sweat she feels on her face she swears is her grey matter, her blood, and she’s trying to put it back in but it’s not working and it’s only coming out more and more and Dear God, she is going to die on her knees in a Periphery nation, a long way from home.

The last thing she feels that day as real is the hand of her pilot, grabbing her, tossing her over his shoulder, and depositing her onto her bunk to stew and to rest in the horror of what it means to die alone as exhaustion takes her.


She’s not old. She’s barely a few years past twenty-one and it horrifies her to no end that each day, each month, each tour in Sicario feels like decades by the pure amount of life she lives in each moment. It’s a blessing, some days, that feeling of freedom that comes along with being a merc. It makes her believe in her Boss when he sits down with her and tells her “I want to live this life forever.” Some days, she believes it as well. For all the gold, all the travelling, all the stories she finds herself living, it is a life she knows is worth it. It’s a life that she knows is worth looking the other way when, at the end of the day, kills define how much she makes in the air.

She has killed people.

Why is she so horrified that she might be the one to die one day?

When she wakes up two days later, her first thought is that she is alive, and she doesn’t know why. It’s a violent and confusing thought and she groans awake, shooting up from bed, from the blackness of nothingness that comes with a dreamless sleep.

Three people are in this room and the ghosts of the IFF’s targeting is over each of them and she cannot help see it like that as she blinks a few times.

Friendlies. She’s in her shared room. Normally it’s two in a room with most airbases, divided, by, usually, gender lines. Some contracts she bunks with her pilot, some contracts, it’s with the other mechanics. This contract she has spared Comic, the “pain” of cohabitating with Diplomat, and she is there sitting on her bed across that not-so-big room. Closer to her are two other people, one standing, one in a chair: The sudden realization that she has been changed into her skinnies and off-duty uniform is highly apparent, but it’s not the first time she’s been changed with her knowledge. Before anyone says anything, she catches Comic’s own gaze, sitting there in her black tank top politely waiting for her to wait up. She winks, and Prez nods in recognition. She has not known Comic long, but she trusts her with her life. A consequence of her being Monarch’s wingman, yes, so it leaves her with little choice in the matter, but nonetheless she believes much of the woman.

“Most of our ailments can be cured by a good meal, Zaeim.” He speaks in the lingua franca, but slips in his own native tongue. It’s Voodoo again, holding a tray out, talking to the imposing man that Sicario as a whole believes in to death: Kaiser.

Kaiser ignores Voodoo’s comments as he crosses his arms, fleece jacket straining. “President.” “Boss.” She says past dry throated pain.

He nods, beard bobbing. “Good to see you up. According to Comic you sleep like the dead.” It’s a cruel joke, but Kaiser doesn’t know what she’s reckoning with inside her own head. She feels herself sweating already. “You feeling alright there?”

“Rr- Ripe as rain, sir.” She stutters, and this time it’s Voodoo’s time to cringe, leaving the tray of food, wonderfully smelling to his credit, at the end of her bunk. “Thank you.”

“Good. Given the circumstances, being that Hitman pounded the hell out of that airbase the other day, I’ve given the team rest for the duration of the contract. Not like there’s going to be anymore aircraft on the enemy’s side to deal with now, is there?”

It was another raid, led by the Hitman team, against an airbase not unlike the one they were assigned for their time there.

“No, uh, I guess not.” Prez tucks her legs in.

“Get some rest. Monarch needs his WSO.” Kaiser smacks the bed post of her bunk, and the orange juice that Voodoo has provided shutters in its glass just a little bit as he walks his way out, door left barely open as he walks through.

Voodoo is a little more on the level with her. Kaiser’s just always like that, with the way he always speaks from his authority, trying to see eye to eye with his mercenaries. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and quite frankly Prez doesn’t know how to take it as she rests her chin to her knees. “Near-death experience huh? The first?” She nods silently. “How close? If I can ask.”

“Few centimeters.” She answers. “Not more than...” She drags off, but the motions of her hand, indicating it’s not bigger than the distance between her thumb and pinky, it makes Voodoo nod. “I see. Real lucky, you. But go ahead and eat. The soul wears itself thin in times like this, and I’ve always found this type of food, I believe the Creole call it “Soul food” works in the recovery process.”

“It’s not literally soul food, Voodoo.” Comic says in her usual annoyed. He shrugs, looking back to Comic as she finally walks over as well. “If it works, it works. I’ve never had anyone complain about my methods after they’ve healed. I’m sure you remember what I prescribed during your withdrawals.”

“Go on, git you creep.”

“Thank you, Voodoo.” Prez is still herself. She’s still trying to be kind as she remembers where she is, who she is, and what has happened to her as Comic replaces Voodoo after he nods in recognition. She waits until he can hear the footsteps of Voodoo disappear down the hallway before she says anything, reaching out. The WSO is hardly concerned about the food as Comic gently seizes her hands.

“Sorry. Me and Dip should’ve coasted in with you and Monarch on that run, but, Dust,” She says a swear that Prez has never heard before. “Monarch just flies in a way that we can’t and... I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Comic,” Prez grits to herself. “I don’t expect you to follow Monarch. It’s insane, and we’ve taken worst damage before... Only one shot actually landed.”

“But...” Comic releases her hands, sighing to herself as she drags the food tray up to Prez, right next to her. Eggs and bacon and toast and hashbrowns. “Look I owe you for tuning my aircraft last week after my flare dispensers jammed up. I can do some of that mechanic stuff you do. Give you time to decompress. I mean I know how many times I go head on with some poor bastards and-“

“Evelyn.” For the first time in her career with Sicario, Prez invokes the name of her. She uses it as an order but it’s needed as something like anger coils. “Stop. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll go take a look at our aircraft.”

Comic is quiet as Prez goes through a process that she might’ve done, a long time ago with Sicario. She remembers the first time she snapped at Dip because of a near death experience and his worry about her. She remembers the vice versa. She remembers the hurricane in their minds dealing with their mortality after flying with Monarch. How easy they tricked themselves into thinking that they could not be hurt, harmed, killed.

It’s a battle that she cannot take from Prez as she nods, and she stops, and she returns to her side of the room as Prez shakily forks her food into her mouth, concentrating on reality, and not the beyond she might’ve been to.