Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 16: The Most Dangerous Game

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Reporter Cassandra True has met a nerdish game designer named Byron Sanders at a party thrown by Byron's employer Melchior Aesermann. Sanders begins to tell her terrifying secrets about Aesermann, but before he gets too far, they both find themselves trapped in a virtual reality game which is about to turn deadly.

Nazi Orcs! She was looking at Nazi Orcs! Seven foot tall, grey-skinned goblins with pointed ears, fangs and claws carrying battle axes and wearing SS uniforms.

"Shoot 'em! Shoot 'em!" Byron shouted and opened up his rifle at their attackers. The bullets tore huge bloody holes in the orcs. Cassandra fumbled with her own rifle and fired a spray of bullets into the floor and the kneecaps of the oncoming orcs. The orcs spasmed under the impact of the fire and then began to disintegrate as if burning up from the inside.

"Okay! Run! Run!" Byron grabbed Cassandra by the hand and pulled her along as he dashed out the door and down a long hallway.

"What's happening? My God, what were those things?"

"I told you, this is a shooter game. The object is to get through the castle without being killed."

"But this is just a game, right? We can't really get killed, can we?"

"Like I told you, this game isn't quite ready for commercial release."

The end of the corridor opened up into a huge chamber, at least thirty meters across. The floor dropped off and Cassandra could not see the bottom, but several stone platforms about two meters in diameter hovered in mid-air approximately level with the floor of the corridor. "Jump!" Byron said.

"Are you crazy?"

"Jump! We don't have much time!"

Shadows moved on the chamber's high ceilings and Cassandra saw giant spiders, a good hundred and fifty centimeters long, lowering themselves on dark cables.

"Jump now! I'll cover you!" Byron fired into the air, killing the spiders as they came within range.

Cassandra screamed and jumped for the first stone platform. The platform recoiled as she hit it and for a moment she thought it was going to tip her off..

"Keep going!" Byron yelled. She jumped for the next platform. As soon as she was safely across, he followed, one jump behind.

The spiders kept descending and Byron couldn't jump and shoot at the same time. With one jump separating Cassandra from the far end of the chamber, Cassandra heard him shout a warning and spider came down on top of her. She screamed again and fired at the spider. It thrashed and rolled off the platform and plunged into the abyss below.

Cassandra scrambled to safety and Byron quickly followed her. "Okay," she gasped. "How do we win the game?"

"We have to clear all twenty-seven levels."

"And this is?"

"The first."

"Oh, hell." Cassandra could feel herself growing hysterical. "Can't you pause it? Like you did the bunny game?"

"I'll try," Byron said. "Cover me." He frantically worked at his phantom keyboard, while Cassandra watched out for the next wave of attacks.

They weren't long in coming: Skeletons with nunchaku sprang from the darkness. Cassandra closed her eyes and fired until her rifle began clicking instead of belching lead. She opened her eyes. The skeletons were dead, but her rifle was out of ammunition.

"Look for a blue box; that's where you pick up extra ammo!"

She saw one, about ten meters away on top of an ornately carved stone pillar. She slung her rifle over her back and began climbing. As she placed her hand on top, she felt a pain as something bit her fingers. A skull with robotic spider legs had chomped onto her hand. Without thinking she shook the beastie off and it smashed on the floor below. "I've got the ammo!" she shouted.

"Good! Get down quick!" Cassandra scrambled down the column as he commanded. "I've punched in a cheater code," Byron explained. "They let you skip over the lower levels when you replay the game. This will take us to the very end."

He entered the code and the environment shifted again; now they stood before a large imposing gate flanked by burning braziers. "Oh, bugger."

"I wish you'd stop saying that."

"We still have to fight the big boss monster yet."

"Do we have enough ammunition?"

"No, we can't kill him without the thermonuclear device from Level Twenty-Five; he's too tough."

"There are nukes in this game? Don't answer that!" Cassandra's gave another shriek. "Behind you!"

A scaly lizard-man with a centaur-like body and carrying a crossbow advanced towards them and fired. Byron pushed Cassandra aside and the crossbow bolt struck him in the chest. Byron fired wildly at the lizard-taur and bolted through the gate with Cassandra close behind him.

Inside the gate an intense white beam like a spotlight struck Byron. He threw up his hand before his eyes and screamed. Before Cassandra's eyes, his bones began to glow through his skin and his body disintegrated. Within seconds Byron had been reduced to a pair of smoking boots.

Cassandra turned and faced the source of this new threat; a huge purple beast, three times the height of a man, with moist, glistening skin, four arms and tentacles hanging down from its face. It's eyes glowed ominously.

"Cassandra!" a voice cried out. She barely heard it. The rifle slipped from her fingers and she sank to her knees. She was toast.

A blaze of light like a rip appeared in the air next to her and to her amazement she saw Strephon stride through the rip. He held out his hand to her. "Come out! Quickly!"

Cassandra gaped at him, paralyzed with fright. The Boss Monster rose from its skull-decked throne and drew a gargantuan scimitar.

"Oh, bother!" Strephon muttered. He gestured and a blazing sword appeared in his own hands. Steel met steel in a crackle of lightning. Incredibly, Strephon met the beast's attack and responded with a flurry of blows that forced the Boss Monster to step back. The monster's eyes flared and beams of energy poured from them. Strephon blocked the beams with his sword. "Hurry! Go!" he shouted.

Cassandra shook her head and scrambled for the rent in reality. She passed through the tear and darkness engulfed her.
* * * * *
She woke up to the sensation of pressure on her chest. Three sharp thrusts on her breastbone. Then lips closed over hers, puffing three breaths of air into her lungs.

She opened her eyes and saw Strephon kneeling over her, his wheelchair tipped over. "Are you all right?" he asked.

She tried to get up. How did she get on the floor? "What happened to Byron?"

"Don't move. He's alive, but unconscious. Whatever you were experiencing in that game gave him quite a psychic shock.

Detective Masey came into the room. He must have followed Strephon. "Good God," he said, "what's happened?"

"Call an ambulance," Strephon said grimly. "This young man needs medical assistance."

The detective nodded and drew his cell phone from his pocket. "Mister MacKenzie, when we have a chance I think you and I need to have a serious discussion."

NEXT:  Questions in a Cubicle

1 comment:

kurt wilcken said...

This one got me in trouble.

At the very end I brought in Detective Masey. I thought it was a logical development. The police would no doubt want to question people about what happened and a police detective happened to be at the party.

Problem was, I didn't consult with my wife before writing that bit. Masey was her character and she had plans for him and her main character Lucinda. (Plans which involved going back to Lucinda's apartment for lots of frisky furry fun).

Since she couldn't do what she originally planned with Masey, she instead took her story in a completely different and dramatic direction. Which worked out okay, but she was still sore at me for hijacking her character's chew toy.