‘Scout, we have to move.’ Artillery commands as my staggering body continues to trip and collapse upon the wet vines. His gas mask releases an aggravated sigh whilst I resume my slowed limping, his manoeuvring through the jungle so flawless and elegant in contrast to my irregular hobbling. As I regain momentum to my wound-riddled legs, my pupils adjust to the plant-infested battlefield.
Corpses are the only decoration to the crimson leaves and the unforgiving jungle floor. A museum of carcasses. My figure recoils each fleeting moment my eyes perceive the warping shadows, the outlines of bodies. Once again, I crumple to the ground, caught by a pair of shattered goggles. I glimpse the frayed rope of an undetonated explosive, covered in scratches and decaled with a skull. His maniacal laughter rings in my ears. I can barely contain a small shriek as tears begin to well up, dripping down my bruised excuse of a face. Artillery looks back to see my shaken figure, his reaction sympathetic as he recognises the emblem of the skull.
‘I’m broken Veigar,’ my shiver of a voice whispers to his ears, ‘I can’t take this anymore.’
He is silent.
‘The headhunters,’ I lull, ‘All those innocent souls.’ My stature is frigid as I glance up.
Veigar empties his pocket. A small keyring drops to the ground. It’s a picture of a female yordle with a small pixie floating beside her. I can barely make out the look of contempt on his face.
‘Everyone suffers Scout. Even me,’ He hesitates for a second, ‘But you must stay strong. Strong enough so you return to Bandle City with your head high and your chest out knowing you saved the few left out there, wherever they are.’
‘How can I stay strong when I’m fighting for nothing? Bandle City is in ruins. Everything is gone Veigar. Everything. Nothing is left.’
Veigar pauses, his eyes for a split-second show reaction of mourning.
‘The Omega Squad has no purpose Teemo. We fight for nothing until we find something to fight for.’
I seep into the furthest realms of memories when life remained pristine. When the alien predators attacked. When the head hunters were the symbol of hope for Bandle, before the slaughters. When I was inches away from death, with the grim fate of a kama.
Before the Omega Squad came.
I wipe the grit off my fur.
I’ve had enough.
I stand up, one foot at a time. Each fleeting moment increasing my bloodlust; each second fuelling my rage. Artillery hands me his goggles, all cracked and dusty.
‘You’re going to be a spectacular soldier.’
I still don’t know how he thought that back then.
I can’t deduce how long we’ve been pacing. Artillery gestures me to halt and stay low.
‘Alpha. Romeo. Tango. Yankee. Oscar. Sierra.’
Saboteur materializes from the shrubs. I can sigh with relief; It’s a rendezvous point. He gestures to look east. Our vision perceives Commander tinkering with the radio, visibly aggravated. She spots us.
‘Operation Save Scout is a success.’ She gleams. Her grin radiating hope into my feeble heart. ‘Medic is still out there with Titan.’
Commander beckons Artillery to follow her. They pace a few metres away and begin fixing the radio.
Saboteur and I are the only ones left. A hearty conversation about our lives before the war is exchanged. One thing to live for in this desolate reality. I can hear the tinge of grief in his growly voice as he unfolds his tragic story, suffering losses greater than I can imagine. The ocean of scarlet red, the screams of marine life that haunt him, the agony that Chomper suffered. In comparison, I am only a small-time yordle. With a small family I would kill for.
The whistle is blown. We crouch down. The audible sound of footsteps, the scraping of a knife dragging across the floor.
I brace myself. I’ll kill you headhunter. Just you wait.
‘Mike. Delta. Charlie. Oscar. Sierra.’ Medic’s voice snaps me out of my fury.
We rush to Medic, a bloody Titan on his back wheezing out more blood than I’ve ever spilt. He places Titan on the floor and begins operating. The pain is viewable in Titan’s eyes; where his mouth is sealed shut, his eyes open widely to show us the suffering. His arms dig into the ground, a plea for help as Medic continues to work vigorously, knowing full well the consequence of slowing down.
I barely contain my vomit.
Commander takes control of the situation.
‘Destroyed by Rengar. Don’t expect to see it anymore.’
Commander nods with acceptance.
‘Saboteur West. Scout East. Artillery North.’
We rush to our positions.
Titan needs us. You only get one life. No respawns.
Minutes pass. Or maybe a few seconds.
’Thirty seconds and I’ll be done.’ Medic assures us. Titan’s silence reinforces this.
Ten seconds pass.
Artillery’s goggles cause an itch on my head.
Twenty seconds pass.
I’m scratching the itch on my head.
Thirty seconds pass.
I glance back toward Medic for a second. His grin shows success. Titan is pumping his fist in the air.
And the monster, finding its perfect opportunity, leaps.
It was only for a goddamn second. Everything happens in mere seconds.
Rengar digs its claws into Titan. His blood oozes out. His head tilts to the side.
Saboteur throws his trident. Commander shoots electric volts. Medic stabs it dead-centre.
I can only watch in terror and regret.
The monster drops to the floor, twitching with pain until it comes to a halt. Fangs bared, eyes closed. I can’t believe my eyes at the sight of Titan. His lifeless eyes, motionless body, his final memories seared with the gruesome glare of his killer.
What a horrible way to go.
‘Rumble’s a goner.’ Medic whispers. His words ring in our ears. The dread climbs into our frail hearts, our powerless minds. Commander closes his eyes and orders us to move westward. My legs are immobilized, I can’t move. So, I stay, still terrorized by the experience, filled with a sense of regret that I was the sole purpose of Titan’s demise. I’m useless. I only cause trouble. I should be dead instead of Titan. Why am I alive? I can see the squad rushing back. My soul is still heavy.
I hear a bellowing growl. I turn around to the sight of Rengar, bloodied claws out, sharpened fangs striking.
I’m going to die.
Isn’t that what I had wanted all this time?
So why am I feeling remorse?
It’s only in these last few moments of my existence that Artillery’s words resonate with me. I don’t have anything to live for anymore. But I still have a purpose, however small it may be. There will be someone or something out there that I will fight for.
The Omega Squad needs me. The fate of Bandle City relies in my hands.
I don’t want to die.
I can’t die.
Not after all this.
Help me please.
My wish is granted. Artillery leaps in front of me. A white light flashes my eyes and blinds me. Shrapnel and dust fly past my figure as blood covers me from head to toe, painting my fur red. I can only grimace as I collapse to the ground, trying to shield the explosion damage.
I only realise what has happened after I spot the keyring, miraculously unscathed. I pick it up and put it in my pocket.
Tears began to well up in my eyes.
Or that’s what I thought would happen. I don’t react.
Artillery prepared me for this.
I can’t be weak, or I’ll die.
I need to be strong, or I’ll die.
I’ve learnt my lesson of being the shitty little scout I was.
Commander, Saboteur and Medic wait for me as I slowly limp back, my outfit a bloody mess.
We walk on.
Four remain for now.