Chapter 17:

Chapter 17: Bounty Sentinel


It wasn't long before Mysha was ready to walk again. 

“I guess this is where we part ways, then, Wolf,” she smiled. “You’re still looking for goods for that patron of yours, right?”

“Yeah, but what about you?” Nyk asked, glancing at her leg. “Are you going to be okay? I could help you back to the surface.”

She laughed. “Please, I’d just slow you down. Besides, not like I’d be much good anyway, not with this piece of junk.” She tapped her rifle on the ground. It made a hollow ring.

“Wait, was that…”

“Out of bullets. Used the last of ‘em on a couple of Sentinels who came a-lookin’ for me after I fell.”

“So when you threatened me, that was just a bluff?!”

She smirked.


What was even more unbelievable was that she thought he would actually leave her behind. Bad enough she had an injured leg, but no ammo either?

Nyk sighed and began digging around in his pack. “MX-Scorpion 7 rounds, right?” He asked, tossing her a full clip.

Mysha let it clatter at her feet, not even attempting to pick it up. She just gave him an incredulous look.

“Are you serious?”

“I’ve been asking that question myself,” Lulu muttered under her breath.

“Medicine, and now ammo, too? I can’t accept this.”

“Please, just take it,” Nyk urged her. “Let me help you find your way to the surface, at least.”

As he offered, the ground beneath them began to shake.

“…It’s not safe here, after all.”

She loaded the clip without argument and the two set out, trying to find a path back to the surface. But Nyk’s light could only do so much. At least his scanner hadn’t broken in the fall, which helped them avoid the Sentinels. There were considerably less of them this far down.

The real concern was the tremors. They happened every couple of minutes, and every time it was like the ground threatened to rip itself open. This section of the Tower was nothing like the levels above. There was very little technology, more like the rundown walls of the slums.

Mysha was the one saving grace of this whole mess. She was just like he remembered, smooth and professional, ready at a moment’s notice to strike. The two of them moving through the Tower, working together as equals, it was like a dream come true.

…But she thinks I’m Wolf, he reminded himself. If I was Nyk…

No, he couldn’t think that way right now. He needed to keep his head in the game! The important thing was getting Mysha back to safety, everything else was-

Another tremor, but this time, it was followed by the sound of an explosion! An inhuman roar shook the floor and Mysha was flung into Nyk’s arms. For a brief instant their eyes met, and then the ground beneath their feet gave out.

Mysha clung to Nyk as they tumbled through the darkness and Nyk’s augmented vision was trying to register what was going on. He wrapped his arms protectively around her and let his suit take the brunt of the fall, bouncing against a hard metal surface. Then it bounced again, and again, and then they were rolling down a steep, rounded hill. Finally they came to a stop when they landed in something sticky and wet that smelled positively foul.

“Urrgh, what the hell is this gunk?!” Mysha groaned, standing up. Nyk did the same. Whatever part of the Towers they had landed in, it wasn’t pleasant. They were ankle-deep in a strange black liquid, which covered the floor of a chamber bigger than any Nyk had ever seen in the Tower before.

What had broken their fall? It was large and bulky, like a giant pile of scap metal, but smooth, too. Nyk placed his hand against it, and nearly fell back in shock.

The thing was moving. It wasn’t rubble! It was a Sentinel! A massive Sentinel the size of a house! Its body was like that of a giant snake, with segmented plates of metal shifting like scales. As it slithered around, the floor shook, and Nyk realized this… this thing was the source of all the tremors they’d been feeling.

“Shit,” Mysha cursed, and he couldn’t agree more.

Praying the beast hadn’t spotted them, Nyk grabbed Mysha’s hand and they ran the other way. He could see light at the end of the pond, and prayed there was a way out.

Unfortunately, the Sentinel spotted them.

“GYaaraghrgh!” The snake roared, lunging after them. It was horrifically fast for such a huge monstrosity, and it opened its mouth wide to swallow them whole.

“LIGHT IT UP!” A voice echoed from the shore, and suddenly the chamber was flooded with light.

Nyk and Mysha were flung forward as something exploded behind them, but neither wanted to stop and see what was happening. They dragged themselves the rest of the way through the muck before climbing up onto the metal platform, where they finally met their saviors.

“Well, look who it is…”

Nyk’s blood went cold. It was Dolem! And his partners, Rory and Janys! Dolem had his rifle while the other two were holding heavy-duty rocket launchers, and none of them looked too happy to see him.

“I told you!” Janys cursed. “He was spying on us! He followed us down here to steal the bounty!”

“Wolf, you know these guys?” Mysha asked, brushing her bangs out of her face.

“Wolf, huh? So that’s your name… and she’s with you?” Dolem growled, turning his rifle on Mysha. “Listen missy, that tin can attacked us on the upper floors, and my guess is it’s because he wanted to steal our bounty. So if you’re a friend of his, that means we’ve got a problem.”

“Bounty?” Mysha frowned, glancing over at the black sludge, and the snake. “So that’s a Bounty Sentinel, then.”

Nyk swallowed. No wonder they’d been so hostile before. Bounty Sentinels were a special classification of Sentinel issued by the Collection Office, identifying a particular creature as an active threat to Scavengers. While all Sentinels were dangerous, some proved to be more dangerous than others, perhaps due to their size, or some strange ability. If there were too many problems, the Collection Office labeled them a Bounty Sentinel, and placed a reward for whichever Scavenger brought back proof that they’d taken care of it.

“That thing’s been causing the lower floors to be unsafe for months,” Janys sneered. “And we’re going to take care of it. It’s a whopping 50,000 silvs!”

50,000… Nyk could only dream of a sum that high.

“Listen, there’s been a big mistake,” he tried to explain.

“Oh, you bet there has,” Dorem snarled. “And it was when you and your girlfriend here tried to snatch our prey! Now, I’m not a big fan of killing fellow Scavengers, but so help me I’ll put a hole in red’s skull if you so much as move a muscle.”

“I warned you,” Lulu muttered in his ear. “I fucking warned you that you should have killed them, and now look at the mess you’ve landed yourself in.”

“Listen, we don’t want any trouble,” Mysha said, reaching into her pocket. “I’m Mysha. Here’s my Scavenging License.”

Dorem took a look, and then did a doubletake. “Red Rifle Mysha? You’re fucking kidding!”

“The S-Rank?” Rory’s jaw hit the floor. Janys was the only one who looked unimpressed.

“Listen, on my reputation, we’re just here looking for a way to the surface,” Mysha said. “We’re not here to poach your prey or anything like that, I swear!”

“Well, too fucking late,” Dorem said, turning to the giant snake that was surging through the muck. He fired a few rounds that bounced off its scales, and tossed his gun away. “That thing already destroyed the fucking exit! You try and climb through that rubble, and it’ll eat you before you make it two feet! JANYS!”

“Roger!” Janys pulled the trigger on her rocket launcher, the missile shooting through the air and hitting the snake. The force of the blast knocked it over, but when the smoke cleared it the Sentinel looked completely uninjured.

It let out another roar, and the room began to shake.

“Fucking hell,” Dorem muttered. “How tough is that thing?! Load another!”

Rory fired a rocket of his own while Janys reloaded. His shell was just as ineffective.

“Let us help!” Mysha pleaded. “Come on, if we can’t get out of here, at least we can help you take this thing down, right?”

Dorem glanced at her, and raised his eyebrow. “What, with those peashooters? That thing just shrugged off two rockets without even flinching.”

“It’s better than nothing! Come on, we don’t give a damn about the bounty, but the way you’re talking, we’re all stuck down here until we take care of that thing!”

The snake reared up and flicked its tail. The huge appendage swept through the water, headed right for the platform. The five of them just barely jumped out of the way.

“She makes a good point!” Rory shouted over the Sentinel’s roars.

“The fuck she does!” Janys spat. “We can take care of this thing, old man!”

“We’ll need to try shooting with all three of us,” Dorem decided. “No way that thing’ll be able to handle that much firepower.”

“Loading all three rocket launchers is going to take a couple of minutes at least,” Mysha reminded them. “That’s time you don’t have! Wolf and I can distract it in the meantime, right Wolf?”

At this point, Nyk didn’t give a fuck whether they wanted his help or not. The Synchro Suit might not have the heavy artillery to match the trio, but he still had a decent arsenal. “Lulu, are you there?” He asked. But he heard only static from the other line.

Had the connection broken? Fuck. That meant he was on his own.

Mysha fired a few shots from her Scorpion, but the bullets didn’t seem to faze the creature. She didn’t have the firepower.

“Mysha!” Nyk shouted. He tossed his M40-J over to her. “You ever fired one of these before?”

“That a Long-Range?” Mysha asked excitedly. “Oh, now that’s what I like to see!” She dodged the snake’s tail with a roll, snatching up the rifle as she did so. Nyk was amazed she could do such a maneuver on her leg.

M40-J Long-Range rifles had much less accuracy this close, but with such a huge target it really didn’t matter. They fired armor-piercing rounds, which Nyk hoped would be enough to at least slow the Sentinel down if not kill it.

The crack echoed through the chamber and the beast roared, slithering backwards. Mysha had scored a direct hit! But its hide was barely dented. Fuck!

Luckily, that wasn’t the only gun Nyk had on hand. He grabbed his AK-C55 Armor-Piercer from his back and took aim, bracing himself for the recoil. The heavy-duty rifle’s kickback would have ripped his arm off without the Synchro Suit.

“GRUASHAAAA!” The snake flailed as the armor-piercing rounds rattled off its underbelly. But they were just dents. The massive creature just wouldn’t go down.

“-Boy! Slum Boy!” Lulu’s voice crackled in his ear. “Connection… -stable, need… second… bombs!”

He could only make out a few words, but he just needed to hear that last one. He thanked his lucky stars that Lulu hadn’t stripped down too much of the explosive ordinances from his Synchro Suit! The chest panel opened up, and a barrage of small bombs rocketed out, flying for the approaching Sentinel. They littered its face with explosions, its red eyes burning as it pulled away and hissed in pain.

“Whoa, nice work, Wolf!” Mysha cheered. She lined up another shot. “I think I’ve got… there!”

She pulled her trigger and a spray of black liquid filled the air. She’d hit the creature right in its eye!

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” She grinned, lining up another shot. But the Sentinel had learned its lesson. Turning its head, it lashed out at her with its tail again, forcing her to jump out of the way as the gun was smashed beneath the creature’s scales.

She landed in the muck and winced. She’d pushed her leg too hard!

“Mysha!” Nyk cried, and began firing at the Sentinel. He unloaded the whole clip trying to get the beast’s attention, but it was like throwing pebbles at the wall of the city. He didn’t have Mysha’s aim to target a sensitive spot.

“LET ‘IM HAVE IT!” Dorem’s voice echoed over the creature’s roars, and Nyk whirled around to see all three of them, locked and loaded. He had just enough time to duck for cover before they pulled the triggers, all three rockets flying through the air and smashing into the snake.

The chamber shook from the force of the explosions, and for a second Nyk thought the ceiling would come crashing down on their heads. But it held strong.

So did the snake’s armor, unfortunately. It was covered in black scorch marks and dents, but no serious injuries. Was it even POSSIBLE to kill this thing, he wondered?

Dorem was cursing like mad, deriding the rocket launches as “useless pieces of junk” and “not worth a tenth of what I paid” and Nyk began to feel futility setting in. He rushed to Mysha’s side and helped her back to the others.

“Sorry, your gun’s busted,” Mysha apologized. The snake’s blow had crushed it into scrap metal, and she was lucky she hadn’t been crushed along with it.

“Guns won’t do a damn to that thing,” Dorem spit. “And we’re out of missiles. Fuck! What else do we got?!”

“There’s always the secret weapon…” Rory suggested. He dug into his pocket and pulled out something that looked like a grenade.

“What’s that thing?” Mysha asked.

“It’s a charge grenade,” Dorem said. “A Volstgalph Industries special. Cost me a small fortune to get it. Fully charged, it releases a shockwave that could take down a house!”

“Perfect!” Janys crowed, reaching for the bomb. “I’ll get that thing!”

“No, we can’t,” Rory said, pulling it out of the way. “It’s too much of a risk. That thing’s skin shook of armor-piercing rounds, bombs, and rocket launchers, we can’t risk this, too.”

“Then what’s your bright idea then, huh?!” She spat.

“I don’t know, boss, what do you think?” Rory asked, looking desperately to the old man.

Dorem scowled, keeping his eyes on the snake as it slithered towards them. “…It’s bleeding,” he noted, glancing at Mysha. “You do that?”

“Hit it dead in the eye,” she said proudly. “M-40Js were made for pinpoint shots, after all.”

“If it bleeds, we know it can die,” Dorem noted. “Like any other Sentinel… just gotta make sure we hit it in the right place, that’s all.”

“What are you thinking?” Janys asked.

A wicked smile crossed the old man’s weathered face.

“I think we stick that thing right down the creature’s ugly throat.”

Nyk couldn’t believe what he was hearing. That sounded like the craziest idea he’d ever heard of. What, they were going to make the Sentinel EAT the bomb? It was insanity!

But he couldn’t think of a better plan himself.

“Rory, arm the bomb and get ready!” Dorem ordered. “That thing’s coming close!”

Rory nodded, his hand trembling as he armed the grenade. He stepped off the platform and into the sludge as the snake approached, mouth open wide.

But it was faster than he’d imagined. He didn’t have time to throw the grenade as the Sentinal shot towards him. He barely had time to jump out of the way as it bit his whole arm off.

“Aaaargh! My arm!” Rory screamed, stumbling back in the sludge. Everyone jumped out of the way as the snake’s head slammed against the wall, nearly tearing it down and the ceiling with it.

“Fuck! Rory, you okay?! Tell me you didn’t drop it!” Dorem shouted.

“My arm! It ate my fucking arm!”

That was actually rather pleasant news for Dorem. He grinned. “Well now… that certainly makes things easier!”

He pushed the detonator. The snake froze. Then, it reared back, its body shaking like it was having a seizure. It thrashed in the black muck, roaring like crazy, before falling still. Smoke began to rise from between its jaws.

No one said a word. They just stared at the creature, hoping the bomb had worked.

Then it let out another roar, shaking the chamber.

“MOTHERFUCKER!” Dorem exclaimed. “Are you KIDDING me?! Not even THAT was enough?!”

Nyk couldn’t believe it either. If that didn’t work, what would?!

“Fucking snake,” Mysha spat, grabbing her scorpion. She unloaded the rest of the clip at the Sentinel’s bad eye, drawing more blood. “Come on you lot! Are you fine with giving up and turning into snake shit?! Let’s get a move on here!”

Nyk swallowed. She was absolutely right. They couldn’t give up yet.

“Gyashsshaaaa!” The snake howled, slithering towards them. It opened its mouth wide, heading right for Mysha.

“Shit,” she muttered, preparing to jump. But a stab of pain in her leg brought her to the ground instead.

“Mysha!” Nyk cried. No way. Not Mysha. He couldn’t let the snake eat her, he couldn’t! With all the strength the Synchro Suit had he flung himself forward, slamming into her and knocking her out of the way.

But there was no one to do the same for him. Before he could react, the Sentinel’s jaws closed in tight around him and he found himself trapped somewhere dark and sticky.

“Oh, no…” He whispered. He scrambled to grab onto something, even as he felt himself slipping down the creature’s throat. It was eating him! He rolled down the bumpy surface of the snake’s jowls, landing with a splash in something he didn’t even want to identify.

Nyk was inside the Sentinel. It had swallowed him whole.

He laughed. He couldn’t believe it. Everything he’d done up until this point, and this was how it ended? Eaten by a giant snake? How could he not laugh at the absurdity of the whole mess?

The hysteria lasted for a few seconds, before he decided that there was no fucking way he was dying here. Mysha was out there. He’d saved her, but as long as this thing was still alive, she wasn’t going to be safe for long.

He didn’t have his rifles with him, but he still had the submachine guns on his waist, and the mounted guns on his arms as well.

With nothing left to do, he tried them all.

“Small bombs! Shoulder missiles!” He shouted liked a maniac, unloading everything the Synchro Suit had left on the walls of the creature’s stomach, lighting the dark cavern up with flashes of gunfire and explosives. He hoped Dorem was right, and it was more fragile on the inside than the outside. But if it had withstood that grenade, he doubted he could make much of a difference.

All in all, the barrage lasted for maybe a minute. He was crying by the end of it. Worthless. It was all worthless. All of Lulu’s tricks and weapons, the Synchro Suit, it hadn’t mattered one fucking bit! He was a dead man because HE had failed. Maybe, if he had been a better shot, like Mysha, he could have gotten the creature’s other eye. Or maybe if he’d reacted faster, like a professional, he would have been able to save her without getting eaten.

Or maybe if he had listened to Lulu in the first place, none of this would have happened.

He slumped back against the wall of the creature’s stomach and waited for the end to come. Then he heard a hiss in his ear. It wasn’t from the Sentinel, no, this was…

“You’re still alive, right Slum Boy?”


“Sorry. Had some trouble getting through to you. I guess there’s interference that far down. Good to know! I had to amplify the signal. But I have a pretty good idea of what’s happened. So, you got eaten, huh?”

“I… I didn’t…”

“Not ONLY did you disobey my orders, getting yourself killed, but you happened to get yourself killed in the ONE way that would ensure that not even a scrap of my masterpiece would be salvageable. I’ve gotta say, as far as failures go, this is a doozy of one, Slum Boy,” Lulu said. And yet for some reason, she didn’t sound mad.

“I-I’m sorry, I just…”

“Save it. Let’s focus on getting you out of there.”

“Getting me out?! But I…”

“Yeah, yeah, I was there for the light show. But while you were having your little temper tantrum, I was paying attention to what was going on. Turn on your searchlights again?”

Nyk did as she asked, filling the room with light. It was grotesque. The inside of the Sentinel’s stomach was made of throbbing black flesh and the stuff on the ground…

He wanted to throw up.

“There, at your feet. See it?”

Nyk reached down, pawing through the horrid liquid, wrapping his fingers around something metal. It was the charge grenade!

“There we go. Perfect!”

“What do you want me to do with this?” Nyk asked. “They already used it! And it didn’t even work!”

“Ah, you just don’t understand my brilliance, Slum Boy,” Lulu sighed. He could almost hear her shaking her head in frustration. “That right there? That’s one of mine. Straight from Volstgalph Industries!”


So, I build a good product, Slum Boy. Those charge grenades? They’re reusable, as long as they have enough energy stored.”

“But this thing’s drained.”

“I know. That’s where you come in. Open the panel on your right side, under your ribcage,” she ordered.

He did, revealing… a cable?

“I design all my devices to be compatible,” Lulu explained. “If the grenade’s out of juice, we’ll just… juice it up a little.”

She was going to take the battery from the Synchro Suit and use it to charge the grenade? “Can you really do that?”

“I’m telling you that you can, so you can! End of story! Now do it, before that ugly thing’s stomach acid melts my suit!”

“Okay, okay!” He grumbled, sliding the cable into the grenade and starting the charging process. It was strange. It felt like his body was getting heavier and heavier, and like he was getting weaker.

“You’re really going to want to drain out the battery on this,” Lulu urged him. “I’ll monitor your levels, and… okay, that’s enough! Take it out now!”

He pulled the cable free. He felt like he was going to collapse. The suit was barely supporting him at this point, and a whole bunch of lights were flashing red.

“Now, ready to go?”

“Wait, is this safe? I’m going to be standing right next to the-“

“Just detonate it already!”

Nyk pressed the manual detonation button and threw the grenade as hard as he could. With the Synchro Suit as drained as it was, it wasn’t very far.

Lulu hummed a tune to herself. “All remaining power diverting to shields, and… there we go!”

Right on cue, the grenade exploded. Nyk was flung backwards by the force of the blast, slamming into the wall of the snake’s stomach. He heard a sickening tear mix in with the shockwave and he fell forward, tumbling into the chamber’s pond as the remains of the Sentinel splashed around him.

Once again, he felt like he was going to be sick.