In a flash of light, Brittany found herself back in MMO mode of DarkForce. An alert popped up in her augmented vision.
DarkForce Servers detect a shortage in your armory inventory. Would you like to begin a Weapons Quest?
Yes | No
Brittany sighed. It seemed there really wasn’t much choice, so she selected “Yes”. A virtual map suddenly appeared in her augmented field of vision. She could see the entire layout of DarkForce, and a zoomed-in map identified her location with directions to what appeared to be a nearby city called Sariel.
Considering the placement of the city on the map, she was acutely aware that only hours earlier she had seen a strange plume of smoke rise into the atmosphere from that direction. Had she not known better, she would have thought it was a jet or a rocket. But that seemed highly unlikely inside this fantasy setting. But then again, guns were rather out-of-place too.
The game had certainly taken on some strange new characteristics. In fact, in the corner of her augmented screen she could see that her Class had also changed from Warrior to Ballistics Expert. Upon purchasing the virtual versions of her recently acquired weapons, she could now see the Saiga in her hand and the 1911 holstered to a belt that was wrapped around her waist. It looked rather odd, and clashed with her armor. She felt silly, and wanted nothing more than to find some standard medieval weaponry as soon as possible to replace the awkward belt.
Glancing back at the map again, a looming icon in the top-left corner of the screen caught her eye. In all the many times she had studied the map, never before had it identified the location of the legendary Tower of Babel. Her most recent quest had bequeathed the secret location to her, and she had been only seconds away from claiming a Legendary Class when the server malfunctioned and whisked her away to a faraway beach on the southern continent of Zion. Of all the places she could have respawned, the southwestern shoreline was about as far away from her desired destination as she could get.
Staring at the icon, she grinned mischievously.
Maybe I can still get there before Doug and claim my Legendary Class!
Reaching her palm up, she pressed on the icon. Instead of being transported however, an error buzz sounded, followed by the brief flash of a red X on the icon. She tried again, and got the same error. Raising an eyebrow in consternation, she pressed on the icon of the nearby tribal camp of Naphtali instead. The same error occurred.
What’s going on here?
Transport Portals are offline. Please try again later.
Brittany cursed under her breath and stared out at the path that lay before her.
I guess I better start walking.
A few minutes later she reached some rocky hills where several Non-Player Characters (NPCs) were gathered. From her HUD she could see their stats, and all of the potential targets were easy kills. It didn’t appear that any of them were carrying weapons, so at a meager reward of only 5 XP each she’d have to kill at least four of them to satisfy the PvP Penalty and another six of them to Level Up. She cringed at the thought, knowing her total arsenal contained only 16 rounds of ammo.
I need my broadsword back!
Toggling her screen, she confirmed that her martial arts skill set was still intact.
At least I’ve got a fallback. I’m not wasting my bullets on these losers.
Brittney strode cautiously forward, being extremely careful not to make her presence known. It was common knowledge that lower-level NPCs like these would often scatter like rabbits upon seeing or hearing an approaching player.
Suddenly a spray of bullets filled the air and Brittany dove for cover. Peeking over the edge of a rock, all of the NPCs she had just seen were now dead. A lone man carrying an AK-47 walked smugly into the clearing toward the bodies.
Sweet! A worthy opponent.
The man was no match for her prowess. She pulled the 1911 from its holster and aimed. Despite the distance, in an instant she took him down with a single shot to the forehead.
Brittney smirked but didn’t venture out into the clearing yet.
-15 XP Penalty Tax
She hovered there for several minutes, and as she anticipated, another player entered the clearing.
She aimed carefully, and took him down with a shot through the back of his head.
A medium-level opponent. Figures.
-5 XP Penalty Tax
Well, at least I’m out of the penalty box.
Brittany waited several more minutes to ensure there weren’t any more stragglers, and then cautiously entered the clearing. Stooping down over the bodies, she admired her new loot.
22 rounds expended, 8 rounds remaining in the loaded magazine, 30 rounds per magazine, 6 spare magazines.
Her first fallen opponent was wearing a utility jacket with 6 extra magazines in the pockets. The magazine clipped to the gun was fully expended, so she chucked it aside and loaded a new one. The man didn’t have any other weapons on his body, but she found a wallet in his pocket – which seemed extremely out-of-place.
Is this RL?
She shook the absurd thought out of her head and began rummaging through her other opponent’s pockets. She found a small folding hunting knife, and he too was carrying a wallet.
What’s going on here?
Serrated blade, instant kill when twisted inside a chest.
A sneaking suspicion entered her mind that somehow the NPCs she saw earlier might have been actual people, and the thought made her stomach turn sour.
It can’t be…
Just then, her thoughts were interrupted with the flash of a giant shadow. Squinting in the sunlight from the two blazing solar giants, her status bar quickly recognized the massive flying creature as a Level 12 medieval-styled dragon.
“It’s just a game!” she scolded herself.
With a deep sigh of relief, she grabbed her loot and took off at a dead run. The last thing she needed was a battle against a creature well above her skill level. But then again, she’d likely get some serious kill points off of the beast…
What’s the worst thing that could happen, anyway?
Brittany weighed out the options in her mind. Really, her only risk would be that she’d lose the meager 5 kill points she’d recently gained and would respawn back at the tower by the beach.
“Why not?” she shrugged as she crouched behind a boulder.
The ground shook as the massive beast made a landing. It quickly went to work shredding the fallen bodies of the NPCs with its razor sharp teeth. She knew the Saiga would be her best weapon at taking the beast down, but it’d have to be at a close range. Worse yet, she’d have to be facing the dragon and aiming for its chest.
Brittany took a deep breath, and quietly entered the clearing again. The beast’s back was to her as it ravenously feasted on the fallen victims. She creeped ever closer with the shotgun shouldered. She knew she’d likely have to expel all 8 of the slugs in rapid succession, but the kill would be totally worth it.
She was almost in position when the beast suddenly stopped eating and raised its head into the air. It sniffed twice, and then turned its menacing head toward her. Their eyes locked. Fresh virtual blood dripped from its scaly chin, and its teeth were stained in red. Its massive jaws opened wide and the roar was deafening.
Brittney reacted quickly and dove to the left as the whip of its tail barely missed her. She regained her stance and fired off the first two rounds. Both slugs penetrated, but only served to anger the beast. It roared again vehemently, and slashed an arm toward her with its mighty talons. Ducking for cover again, she rolled out of the way and quickly re-positioned herself. She shot off three more rounds, and the dragon staggered backward.
Keeping a close eye on her prey’s life bar, she did a mental calculation and realized that the 8 slugs would be insufficient to take down the beast. She shot off the last three rounds, and swung the expelled shotgun over her shoulder.
< 26% >
Brittany removed the 1911 from its holster and charged at the beast. It reared forward, and she took careful aim. As it’s gaping jaws came crashing down at her, the dragon’s left eye suddenly exploded while 3 hollow points ricocheted through the beast’s skull. She jumped out of the way just in time as the massive body crashed into the ground.
“That was an easy kill?!”
Brittney beamed. Had the opponent been a Level 1 creature, the maximum kill points she could gain would have only been +15 XP.
A wisp of darkness swirled at her feet and a chime sounded from the sky.
Another chime sounded as her character quickly ascended to Level 3.
You have subdued a Level 12 opponent. In addition to your gained XP, for your bravery and prowess you will be rewarded with the following skills:
Warfare (DarkForce: A GameLit Saga)
Copyright © 2021 R. M. Mulder
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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