#37 was getting impatient. It was only a few minutes past the time, but until now everything at the organization had been extremely punctual. There was no reason this- her first mission- should be any different, yet here she was, waiting… forever…
She sighed and watched the entryway, expecting the heavy wooden doors to open at any moment but nothing happened.
Bored, #37 felt the outlines of the mask she was now required to wear. It still felt odd and cumbersome, but master had promised she would get used to it in time. He said the same of the dark, heavy robes- but somehow, those felt almost natural and familiar.
#37 sighed again, her irritation growing. She couldn’t fathom what could possibly take someone this long to simply exit the building, other than maybe a fight to the death or something. Her mind began to wander, conjuring up all kinds of terrible fates for the person she was supposed to meet.
Perhaps they drowned in the big fountain in the lawn. Or maybe they were decapitated in an early-morning weapons training exercise. Or perhaps they had managed to get stuck in a permanent time freeze. It had had happened before, the unfortunate victims being relegated to hat stands or scarf holders.
#37 nearly jumped out of her skin at the sudden interruption of her thoughts.
“You’re late.” She said, turning around to meet her visitor.
“Oh, my apologies. Had to finish breakfast you know.”
#37 stared at the black clad figure. “Breakfast?”
The figure nodded. “Its Bakery day.”
#37 decided not to question that. It still annoyed her that someone would risk being tardy to something so important for the sake of breakfast, but at least she was here now.
“Yup. Personally I liked my old name better but… you know.” #62 shrugged.
#37 considered mentioning that none of them were supposed to remember things like that, but decided to ignore that too.
“You got the assignment?”
“Right here.” #62 fished a small piece of paper from her robe pocket and examined it.
“Says we’re supposed to take out this guy with this RIDICULOUS name. Who even names a kid that? I mean I once knew this kid across the street named-“
#37 cut her off abruptly, on account of the fact that 62’s obnoxiously bubbly attitude was giving her a headache.
They had met just once before, during their partner assignment shortly after #37’s arrival, but the silent curly-haired thug she had encountered then seemed an entirely different person than the cheerful, giggling entity in front of her now.
“Alright so we’ve got the target and the address. Did master specify…uh… how we are to do the job?” #37 asked, wanting to be sure of their plan.
#62 shook her head, then suddenly grew concerned. “Do you… think…we’re actually supposed to kill this guy? Like…’permanently end his life kill him?’”
#37 was baffled. Here they were, in an organization dedicated specifically to training assassins, and she was asking if they’d have to kill anyone. It was almost laughable. However #37 got the feeling she had not properly laughed in a very long time.
“What did you THINK we were supposed to with him?!”
“Dunno, take his shoes?”
#37 sighed again. “Let’s just get this over with. You took the time-travel-training course?”
“Sure did! I fell asleep though and woke up five hours earlier.”
#37 blinked, unsure whether or not this was a joke. “Nevermind… Let’s just get going before our target runs off or something.”
“Right-O! ALLON-ZY!” #62 said cheerfully. She then proceeded to wander off in a random direction, into the endless fog that surrounded their institution. #37, for the third time that morning, was utterly bewildered.
“Where the cheesecake does is she GOING?” She mumbled, running after her directionally challenged partner. “Hey wait up stupid, we have to… use the time…thing!” #62 stopped, then began to wander back sheepishly.
Muttering rather unkind things under her breath, #37 grabbed the other thug’s wrist and then activated the small time pendant they both wore as part of their attire. Seconds later they were gone, and the entry area sat silent and empty once again.
After a few minutes of unnerving darkness, #37 and #62 found themselves once again in bright sunlight… but not exactly where they had intended to go. At least, #37 was fairly certain this wasn’t where Master had intended them to go. “Where ARE we?” She wondered aloud.
The place they had ended up in appeared to be some kind of bus stop or train station; a small dingy building sat next to a small dingy waiting area, with a few decaying benches and transport schedules. However there was no trace of a road or train tracks. Just grass and dirt and sky for miles.
“ITS SO PRETTYYY!” #62 shouted, spinning around in circles.
“That ugly shack over there?”
“No you silly goose, the weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous out today!”
#37 ignored this embarrassing show of joy and scanned the station, her disgust growing rapidly. However to her relief, there appeared to be no one else present to witness her partner’s stupidity- it was just them and the grass and the way-too-bright sunshine. “Hey let me see that address again.” #37 asked, receiving no answer. “#62! Stop acting like a drunk fairy and hand over the stupid paper!”
#62 finally stopped spinning and produced the now-crumbled scrap of paper, which #37 snatched and examined carefully.
No, this definitely wasn’t their intended destination, that was for sure. “Master’s gonna kill us…” #37 muttered. “Hey, idiot-“ She swore aloud when she realized her partner was not listening in the slightest. “If you don’t your stupid sun-shiny butt over here right now I’m going to leave you in this stupid station and finish the mission by myself!” #37 shouted, beyond irritated now. She couldn’t actually do that, of course. They had both received explicit instructions to never leave the other unattended.
#62 skipped over, perhaps a bit too happily. “I wouldn’t mind that actually…I got lost in a subway once when I was six… I made friend with the local rats and lived off vending machine snacks until someone found me.”
#37 resisted the urge to smack the giggling thug. “We need to get where we’re supposed to be before someone finds or we run out of time.” Without waiting for a reply this time, she grabbed #62’s wrist and once again activated the time device.
And nothing happened.
They were in exactly the same place and the same time. #37 swore again. “What the heck is going ON here…?” She tried again, only to achieve the same result.
“Maybe we should try-“ #62 began.
“SHUT UP!” In a rage, #37 ripped off the time device and flung it to the ground. #62 picked it up calmly and examined the dull pendant, noting that its normal blue glow had vanished.
“I think it ran out…” She said, turning it over in her hands.
“What do you MEAN it ran out?! We only made one stupid trip!” #37 shouted. And then it dawned on her.
Trying very, very hard not to murder the thug, she turned to her partner. “#62, what… exactly… were you focusing on when we made the jump?”
#62 scratched her head and thought for a moment. “Donuts.”
#37 let out a scream of agony.
“Wonder where we are anyway?” #62 said aloud, looking at the dilapidated station with new interest, while #37 muttered about being sent to organization kindergarten.
“Hey, since it looks like we’re gonna be stuck here for a while, do you mind if I go look for snack shops?”
“You can set yourself on fire for all I care.”
“Kk!” #62 skipped off to look for snacks and #37 threw herself on the nearest bench and cursed everything.
#37 greeted this joyous announcement with a scowl of deepest scorn.
“Good news! I found the in-station bakery and coffee shop!” #62 shook the bags in her hand to prove her point.
“Oh goody. We’ve completely failed our first assignment, we’re stuck in Toto-knows-where for all eternity, but at least we have pastries for breakfast.” #37 said acidly.
#62 beamed. “Now you’re getting it! Want a donut hole?” She plopped down next to her partner and opened one of the bags.
#37 didn’t even bother to reply.
A tense silence filled the space, interrupted only by the howling wind and the sound of donuts being eaten with gusto.
#37 sighed and glanced up at the sun, her scowl turning to a concerned frown. “#62, what time did we get here?”
“Hmm… around 3:00, I’d say.”
“And what time is it now?”
“5:30, why do you ask?”
“The sun… hasn’t moved… all afternoon.”
They both looked up at the sky, bewildered.
"Well…Isn’t that just funny.” #62 mused. “Somebody broke the sun!”
“What is WRONG with this place…” #37 muttered. There was a sudden strange noise from the station behind them, and their attention was momentarily distracted from the frozen sun. Before either of the thugs could comment, the station doors burst open releasing a host of the most grotesque creatures #37 had ever seen.
Not a single one possessed a trace of arms or legs, and there were more togas than a greek theater party. And as far as #37 could tell, every single individual was smiling like it was their birthday.
“OMG they’re so cute!!” #62 squealed, standing up on the bench so she could see the throng. “I just LOVE armless chibis!”
“WAIT HOLD ON THEY’RE WHAT?!”
#37 unfortuantely never received an answer, as a new sound caught their attention: The sound of a rapidly approaching train. The limbless creatures began to cheer loudly, and #62 along with them much to her partner’s chagrin.
Despite the sheer lack of rails, the massive steam engine managed to come to a crashing, screeching halt in front of the station. The entire thing was violently pink, and smelt faintly of burning strawberry shortcake, a fact of which #62 was quick to point out.
“Eeeee I bet they have some on board! Let’s go!” #62 hopped off the bench and began to mingle with the crowd moving towards the train door.
“Hey! Get back here, what do you think you’re- We’re not gonna- Ugh, you know what, nevermind.” With a look of extreme reluctance, #37 followed the curly-haired thug onboard on the train. At this point she didn’t have much choice- it was either this or staying in that horrid station for the rest of eternity.
Once inside, #37 found the train’s interior not too unpleasant, minus the disgusting creatures filling every available space (#62 included). #37 jumped as the doors slammed shut, with enough force to remove an arm or leg if someone was unfortunate enough to be stuck in the door at the time.
“All aboard the Never-Ending Despair!” An unseen conductor shouted. He then repeated the phrase about fourteen times in a dozen or so other languages, one of which was composed entirely of screaming.
Finally the train began to move, though at first it went so agonizingly slow #37 wasn’t sure they were really moving at all. #62 evidently didn’t share the same sentiment.
“Wheee!” She cried, and #37 seriously considered the possibility of pushing her off the snail-paced train and leaving her on the tracks forever.
And then everything was quiet, save for the rumbling of the train and #62 offering chocolate-chip muffins to the armless chibis crowded around her.
“Perhaps… perhaps this won’t be so bad after all…” #37 mused. “Sure I’ve lost every privilege the organization possesses and I’m trapped indeterminable on a train full of idiots but… it could be worse.”
However, she would soon regret thinking such things, and would later blame them for jinxing the entire rest of the trip.
A static-y, crackling voice erupted from the a loudspeaker mounted on the wall, startling #62 and causing her to drop chocolate-chip muffins all over the floor. “Oh, fishflakes and sprinkles.” She muttered, though it was unlikely anyone heard her with the rambling coming from the loudspeaker.
“Welcome aboard the Never-Ending Despair! We’re glad you’ve chosen us and we hope you have a fantastic trip through the most desolate and disturbing reaches of our beloved Ahmlos Cheebee Lahnd!”
#37 swore aloud, causing a look of sharp disapproval from the other passengers.
“My name is Snibblemibblesmartencorpse and I’ll be your humble host and tour guide for the duration of the trip, provided the train stays intact through some of the more inhospitable regions of our beloved home. Any questions? No? Good, let’s begin.”
#37 sighed and stared out the window, watching the endless miles of yellow grass fly by. Boring as it was, anything was better from staring at the ugly smiling mugs of the armless… whatever they were.
“If you’ll look to the right….” The loudspeaker drawled. “You can view the beautiful expanse of the Field of Irreparable Cowardice! Not to be confused with the Field of Deadly Toxic Fumes, which is located in our eastern region.”
#37 blinked. What kind of country pointed out “a field of toxic fumes” as a national landmark?
“Now, directly in front of us is what we call The Line of Laceration. If you look closely, you may catch a glimpse of the skeletal remains of its many, many victims!”
#37 was appalled. That was just disturbing, even to an battle-trained assassin like herself. #62, as usual, seemed to have a differing opinion.
“Hey! Uh, Mr. Smibblemibblesmartencorpse?” She tentatively put her hand in the air, though there was no one there to physically receive her question.
“Ah yes the little masked thug, I see you have a question?”
“Yeah! Uh, how many victims does the Line of Laceration have exactly?” She sounded genuinely curious.
“Exactly 23, 471 and going up, counting those who have not yet died or are currently in the process of doing so. The Line of Laceration is very proud of its accomplishment! Any other questions?”
“Yeah! Do we get snacks on this trip?”
#37 glared at her. “This is not a cheescaking field trip, this is an assassination mission. THERE ARE NO SNACKS!”
“Snacks are available upon request once maximum vehicle speed is reached.”
The static-filled intercom then continued its mortifyingly vivid description of the surrounding country, while the passengers ooh'd, ahh'd, and fell asleep.
Several hours passed; #37 spent most of it gloomily reflecting on their failure as well as trying to come up with the least messy way to get rid of #62. There was no way she was returning to the organization- if she even could- with that obnoxious perky ray of sunshine in tow. With her gone, perhaps Master would allow her another chance at a mission. #37 also couldn’t risk ruining her thus far nonexistent reputation as the nastiest assassin in the history of the organization.
“Hey 37…” #62 said.
“What do you want?!”
“Uh… do you want to come sit down? You’ve been standing like, the ENTIRE time.”
“Not all of us are so weak as you. I can stand perfectly fine thank you.” #37 scoffed.
“Kk, suite yourself…” Just as #62 uttered these words, the train lurched violently, throwing #37 and a number of armless chibis every which way.
“Oops, sorry about that folks, I’m afraid crossing The Soul Slicing Springs is a bit bumpier than expected!” The intercom said cheerily.
#37 picked herself up, swearing and looking extremely disgruntled. “Move over.” She grunted. #62 willingly obliged and moved over a seat so her partner could sit down.
“We will now be passing through The Valley of Bloodthirsty Backhoes, one of the most popular vacation spots in the entire nation!”
#37 thought she heard screaming from outside the train; she stole a quick glance out the window and then immediately looked away. There was so much carnage it was impossible to tell the difference between what was alive or dead or in-between.
“Want a muffin?” #62 asked cheerfully. #37 didn’t answer. “They’re chocooolaaaate!” #62 said temptingly. #37 seemed to consider it for a moment, then without another word snatched a muffin from the thug’s outstretched hand. #62 laughed. “I told you they were good….The chocolate ones are my favorite.”
She then leaned back and put her arms behind her head in a casual, relaxed manner. “My favorite kind of chocolate is the kind they serve in the Ibari temple though. You ever been there?”
#37 shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t care. We’re not supposed to remember that stuff anyway.”
“Aww… That’s too bad. It’s a really neat place. I went there once as a kid- they gave us a free tour and free chocolate and free informational booklets on what to do if you’re attacked by a vampire.”
“Sounds dumb. How do you even remember all this @!$#?”
Now it was #62’s turn to shrug.
“I’ve always had a really good memory… I used to remember everything, from the prices at the bakery to conversations from years ago.” #62 sighed. “After Master wiped my mind though, all I can recall is random stuff, like the first time I ate a caramel donut or the day I lost my shoes in an industrial blender.”
#62 then smiled. “But I like being an organization thug! Its fun! So…” She paused for a moment. “Do you remember anything? About your old life?”
#37 shook her head. “No. Nothing at all. My memory’s completely gone, like its supposed to be.”
“Oh, okay. Well, maybe someday we’ll get to be higher-ups! And then you’ll remember everything.”
Oddly enough, #37 got the feeling that she didn’t want to remember. Whenever she tried to recall the past, something about it hurt so much she immediately ceased the attempt.
The conversation then lapsed into silence, the train wheels making screeching horribly.
“On either side of the train, you can get a clear view of The Hills of Undead Mailmen. Aren’t their ghastly faces just incredible?! Our trip will soon take us briefly through the civilian sector, where you will see our people out and about their daily lives.” The intercom said delightedly.
“I wish that thing would just shut up already. Who cares about the “bush of pointy fangs” or “massacre meadow?!” #37 said angrily, glaring at the crackling box on the wall.
“I think Mr. Smibblemibblesmartencorpse is an amazing tour guide.” #62 replied, looking out the window.
“How long does this stupid train ride last anyway?” #37 muttered.
“Forever.” Replied the nearest armless chibi, his expression completely serious.
“Why thank you!” The armless chibi responded, believing her comment to be a compliment.
#37 just facepalmed.
“Attention travelers! We will be making a brief stop at the infamous and ever-popular Mall of Angry Demons. Please take this time to take a bathroom break, shop, or kill that one person who’s been getting on your nerves all day. Have a great time, folks!”
The train stopped almost immediately, once again coming to a violent, jerking halt. And, once again, the passengers were thrown every which way. #37 ended up being crushed by #62, who in turn was crushed by a large number of cheering armless chibis.
“GET OFF! ALL OF YOU!” #37 growled. “BEFORE I CHEESCAKING KILL EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IDIOTS!”
#62 hopped up, scattering the limbless creatures everywhere. “WHOOO I LOVE THE MALL!” She shouted, moving with flow of the crowd towards the door.
“WE ARE NOT GOING TO THE CHEESECAKING MALL!!” #37 shouted in reply, grabbing #62’s hood and hauling her back into the train.
“Awwww but the mall is AMAZING! They have a full course breakfast 24 hours a day!” Despite all #62’s protests, #37 managed to get her partner to stay on the train until the announcement for departure was made again.
“Welcome back aboard The Unending Despair, we hope you had a nice break and committed all necessary murders. We will be embarking on the next part of the tour in just a few seconds.”
“Speaking of murder-“ #37 turned talk to #62 and found she was no longer present. “You idiot where-“
“What is THAT thing?!” #62 said breathlessly, her face pressed against the window. #37 looked as well and was thoroughly confused by what she saw.
A gigantic, metallic beast was roaming not far from the mall complex, clanking and growling and making some other very strange noises. As they watched, the creature approached one of the smaller buildings and proceeded to cleave it in half with one of its giant, knife-like arms.
“Well, we’re dead.” #37 said simply.
“Its kinda pretty…” #62 replied.
“Well! What a surprise, folks. It appears we have been joined by a magnificent Lost Dinnerware Beast. Please keep all appendages inside the train to avoid severe maiming or loss of life. Thank you for your cooperation!”
The creature turned, finally noticing the presence of the train, and began moving in their direction. It also crushed several small buildings in the process. For the first time in a long time, #37 felt a sudden pulse of pure fear.
“That cheescaking conductor better get his butt moving and get this train back on the road or we’re all mincemeat!” She hissed, trying very hard not to let the fear in her voice show.
The terrifying metallic beast marched closer and closer to the train, the ground rumbling under its feet. #37 closed her eyes, then immediately snapped them open again. If she was going to die, she was going to die fighting every moment.
“All aboard!” The Conductor called, and within seconds everyone was once again jerked off their feet and thrown about the train car.
“Bye mall!” #62 called cheerfully. #37 picked herself back up without much complaining for once, happy to simply still be alive.
There was a sudden scraping, crunching noises, like metal being apart; all the armless chibis in the train car ran to the windows to see what on earth was going on. #37 shoved them all out of the way and also looked outside, just in time to see an entire section of the train disappear into the air.
“Holy… did that thing just…“ #37 was speechless. Having lost a good part of itself and quite a lot of weight in the process, The Unending Despair shot forward onto the horizon.
Though she was terrified to even consider the thought, for fear it would prove false, #37 thought for a moment- just a moment- that the recent of the trip might actually turn out halfway decent and they would get off this stupid train in one piece. And, of course, once again she was dead wrong.
“Hey- Hey #37-“
“STOP. TOUCHING. ME.” #37 growled groggily, waking up from a brief and restless nap.
“I ran out of donuts.” #62 said sadly.
“DO I LOOK LIKE A GIVE A FLYING CHEESECAKE?! Now let me sleep before I throw you off this stupid train.”
“I’m gonna call for room service.” #62 replied, walking off.
“Fine. Do whatever the heck you want. Wait… Room service?” #62 had already gone, however. #37 sat up, casually letting loose a few unpleasant curses. The train was still going full speed, they were still stuck in it, and the tour guide was STILL going with no signs of stopping. #37 jumped as an obnoxious beeping noise echoed throughout the car.
“Hmm…Doesn’t seem to be working… Oh well I’ll just try again!” #62 said to herself, hovering over a small panel of buttons near the front of the car.
BEEEEEEP. “#62 what are you-“
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.”
“FOR THE LOVE OF THE GODS STOP IT!”
Despite #62’s insistent button pushing, the change was a strange clunking noise somewhere in the ventilation system. “Ugghh I’m so hungryyyyy!” #62 muttered sadly to herself, punching the button one last time.
The next few moments were consequently by far the most terrifying and chaotic of the entire horrid journey.
First: An announcement that the tour would soon be ending and that they were about to enter The Wormhole of Man-Eating Garden Flowers.
Second: Seventeen grinning, bowing armless chibi servants entered the train car at the exact same time, summoned by #62’s psychotic button pushing.
Third: The entire train achieved light-speed.
#37 was certain she had never screamed so much nor would she ever scream that much again in her life.
“We would like to ask all passengers to please fasten their seatbelts, glue themselves to their seat, or otherwise prepare for landing. We will be arriving shortly in one of Amadok’s most prosperous agricultural regions, in the vicinity of the town of Jantia. And so concludes our tour of our glorious nation of Ahlmos Cheebee Lahnd. Thank you for choosing The Unending Despair and have a nice day folks!”
With that announcement, the train smashed painfully into the ground and at last lay still. #37 stumbled out in a daze and nearly threw up, while #62 skipped out like nothing had happened. In the process of getting her bearings, however, she managed to trip over the threshold of the car and faceplanted into the soft ground. Something metallic and shiny flew off as well. Ah! My amulet!” #62 cried, immediately running to retrieve it.
“Well… Would you look at that…” She mumbled, examining the glowing necklace carefully. “All my time energy’s still in there! Whoops!”
Hey, 37, you’ll never guess what-“
“What’s that?” #37 said absentmindedly, pushing past 62 to look at something near the front of the destroyed train. “It … looks like a body.” #37 said after a quick examination, her voice devoid of emotion. “Looks like he got crushed by the train…”
“Hey… Wait a second…” #62 said, looking at the massacred corpse more carefully. “Isn’t this the guy we were supposed to uh…end?” #37 quickly pulled out the scrap of paper and compared, looking in amazement from the target’s description to the mangled corpse under the train and back again.
“Yeahh… Yeah I think it is.”
“WHOO! We got our man, now we can go home and eat real donuts again!” #62 cried in triumph.
#37 stood up and looked around, taking in their surroundings.
On the far side of the train were endless fields and trees. On the other, some kind of hulking, dark structure. Upon closer inspection, it revealed itself to some kind of exotic, fenced-in mansion, no doubt the home of some snobby rich family. For some reason it gave #37 chills to look at it.
“Shall we go?” Said #62, noticing #37’s discomfort.
“Yes. Let’s go home.”