I look at the military man across from me with a smile, despite the bumps on the road, his hands stay steady on his gun.
After speaking with someone on the radio, the soldier I had first seen invited me into the back of his vehicle. Two men had been sitting back there already, both of them armed with scary looking guns.
And so I found myself in a small staring contest with one of the men. He watched me wearily, my cheerfulness obviously unnerving him.
“So…” I say to break the silence of the car. “How’s your day been? Anything interesting happen?”
The man I spoke to, looks over to the other person in the car, who just shrugs. After an unsure moment, the man just continues his staring contest with me.
With a sigh, I reach into my pocket and pull my phone out. It shows no signal, but it has a few minigames downloaded for moments like these.
Thankfully, it isn’t long before we arrive at wherever we’ve been going, likely the barricade leading to the city.
The door is opened by someone I don’t recognize. A younger man about my age greets me, unarmed unfortunately, something about a man with a gun makes me excited. Not something I was expecting, but maybe I should try seeing Rose with her gun more often.
“Excuse me? Miss Paladin?” The young man asks, his tone polite and brisk.
“That’s me.” I answer, putting my phone away. “Now that I’m actually hearing that name, I’m realizing how awkward it sounds.” I muse as I leave the vehicle with a skip, ignoring the soldiers who still watch me cautiously. “I suppose it’s too late to change it now, right?” I smile at the young man.
“Er, yes I suppose.” The young man responds, taken aback by my demeanor, “If you would follow me? The colonel is waiting for you.” He starts off, before waiting for my response.
I let him walk, and study the wall in front of me with with some surprise. It had been what, a week?
Already, the barricade around the city was taller than I was, and more soldiers than I could count were walking around with purpose. I could already see the development of some more permanent structures being created, but most of the army were using tents, or the few buildings this side of the wall.
It only takes a minute for the young man to realize that I’m not following him, and he hurriedly jogs back to where I stand.
Some of the older soldiers chuckle as he reappears in front of me, obviously annoyed. “Excuse me miss, but the colonel is waiting for you.” He says, his tone a little less polite.
“I heard you the first time.” I say, feeling a little playful. “I just didn’t like the way you expected me to follow you. So I decided to enjoy the scenery a little bit.”
“Miss, if you would please follow me?” He says stressing the please with impatience.
“Of course! How thoughtful of you to ask.” I respond, stepping in front of him to walk towards the large tent he’d started walking to, before running back to me.
I hear him grumble something at my back, while a few of the soldiers who’d been watching us laughed quietly.
We enter the large command tent, where three older men, and a man about ten years older than me are waiting around a large map of Salt Lake.
All of them look up as I walk in, the young man my age a step behind me.
“Thank you for bringing her here corporal, you can leave now.” The most important one in the room says.
The young man who’d walked with me salutes before leaving the room.
Everyone in the room studies me, but I ignore them as I unzip my jacket in the warmth of the room. “I hope you guys heard that I’m hoping to enter the city?” I ask, adjusting my mask slightly, and pulling my gloves tighter.
“We heard that you mentioned something about the end of the world. I presume that you are a Beta Tester?” The colonel motions for the youngest one in the room to come closer to him as he speaks.
I look at the younger man, grinning as I feel the chi slowly flowing through his body. I turn back to the colonel to respond “If I was a Beta Tester, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question.” my eyes turn back to the other Beta Tester, “Who is your sponsor?” I ask him directly.
The Beta Tester looks at the colonel, who nods, “My sponsor is Anhur. Yours?”
Anhur is a warrior god if I remember correctly from the little bit of internet research I’ve been doing.
I hold my finger to my lip, “It’s a secret.”
The Beta Tester looks unhappy with my response, but the colonel speaks before he can. “What brings you here Beta Tester?”
“Somewhere in Salt Lake, there is a big baddie that the other Beta Testers are trying to wake up. Him waking up is a bad thing, so I’ve been asked to stop it.”
“Have you accepted a quest?” The Beta Tester asks.
The men in the room frown. “You’re not the first Beta Tester to pass through.” The colonel says. “Some weren’t as polite as you are. You’re the first one to actually tell us what this is about.”
“I’m surprised Anhur hasn’t told you?” I say questioningly to the Beta Tester.
“It’s complicated.” he responds, not elaborating.
The room is quiet as the men seem to think about something.
“I’ve seen the video of your fight at the museum” The Colonel finally says. “We will let you through the barricade. Just be careful, the other side isn’t safe.”
“I didn’t believe it was.” I respond with a smile.
It doesn’t take long for them to escort me to the other side of the wall. Once there, I look over the edges of an abandoned city, which looks surprisingly normal, considering the lack of people and some destroyed cars. I can’t see any movement in the buildings right next to me, but the soldier that had escorted me told me to expect that. The undead wouldn’t appear until I was somewhat past the barrier that the military had set up.
I walk down the empty street, not sure what I should be expecting. It’s actually a good five minutes before I get my first glimpse of a human skeleton.
I’d expected to see a shambling creature that stared dully at its surroundings. The skeleton betrayed my expectations. It walked carefully down the street, it’s grey bones clicking only slightly on the road. It held a wicked looking knife, and watched it’s surroundings carefully, the orange fires that sit in its eye sockets burning menacingly. .
It noticed me at the same time I noticed it. Immediately, it broke into a sprint towards me.
It moves at the speed of an athletic human, so I’m not too worried as I move into a ready stance.
The thing swipes at me with its knife in a swift movement. Twisting around it’s strike, I grab it’s wrist, and pull it into my punch. The power in my gloves punches through the skeleton’s skull, ending its life. The strange fires in its eyes disappear as it collapses to the ground.
One down. Millions to go? The skeleton seemed pretty intelligent, maybe I should try talking to the next one I come across.
I wonder what skeletons talk about to pass the time of day.
Why hello there Mrs. Bones, have you polished your bones today?
Why yes! I’m so glad you noticed,
Your skull is looking especially fine today.
Don’t make me blush.
I have to make sure to compliment the next skeleton I meet on the color of their bones. They might appreciate it.
I pull the Compass of Zizerat out of my inventory, then start walking in the direction it points me to. I wonder what Rose and the others are doing right about now.
Hopefully Rose is taking the time to relax.
It doesn’t take me long to encounter another skeleton. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take the time to talk to me as it runs at me, this time with an actual sword in its grip.
It slices at me with a surprisingly accurate attack. I deflect the blow with my glove and step forward to hit it.
To my surprise, the skeleton steps back with a skillful movement that I hadn’t seen in the last skeleton I’d fought.
I’m forced to dodge out of the way of the blade, letting the skeleton cut my arm slightly. My gloves quickly heal the damage, but I watch the skeleton with more care now that it’s shown that it’s somewhat capable.
This time, when it strikes at me with it’s sword, I cast [Unmatchable Speed], the poor skeleton doesn’t even have time to react as I punch a hole through its head.
The skeleton collapses into a pile of bones at my feet, and I shake it’s skull off of my fist. If the creatures in the city follow this pattern then its likely that the closer I get to where I’m going, the more skilled the creatures I’m facing will be.
Not that this is- my thoughts pause as I’m covered in a shadow.
I look up into the sky towards the center of the city. My eyes widen as a giant flying creature passes in front of the sun. Sleek muscles move inside of decaying flesh covered in graying scales, while the creature’s terrifying reptilian head looks over the city.
It’s a Dragon.
A fucking Dragon!
Oh my god, I have to see that thing up close before I leave. Who hasn’t wanted to see a real Dragon?
I mean, it is a zombie Dragon, but that’s close enough for me. Maybe the Dragon can speak? That would be awesome.
With renewed excitement, I continue towards where the compass is pointing, this time keeping an eye out for the Dragon.
I don’t see the Dragon again, but my careful watching of the skies rewards me when I see a large bird drop from the tall building next to me. The bird is twice my size, with beady eyes and a mean looking beak.
Metallic claws extend from the zombified bird as it dives towards me.
I roll out of the way, dodging the creature’s extended claws.
After missing me, the creature returns to the skies.
I really wish I had some kind of magic missile right about now. I can tell that the bird is just mocking me with its flight.
Two can play that game, you know?
I curse the fucking bird as the pain from my wings exploding out of my back hits me. Blood spurts onto the walls of the building next to me from the force of the wings expanding.
“You’re going to pay for making me do this you fucking son of a chicken.” I mutter as my gloves quickly heal any leftover pain.
My wings gently extend, and with barely any warning, I shoot into the sky. The bird’s beady eyes widen as I appear in front of it.
“You messed with the wrong Beta Tester, you idiotic chicken.” I say to it. I punch the bird’s head, using the powerful force of my gloves to send it shooting towards the ground.
The thing hits the ground, and I hear the sound of its bones breaking.
A smile appears on my face as the sounds of wings beating reaches my ears.
I look up from the dead bird to see a flock of the things around me.
These demon wings better be worth the pain I’m feeling to use them.
The birds start diving at me.
I put a little too much into my wings sending me flying back into the building behind me. I cough as I reorient myself, and look back at the birds which are staring at me in confusion.
“I just wanted to make you feel overconfident.” I say to them. “Flying into the building was part of my plan.”
Thankfully, the birds ignore my commentary as they all start flying towards me.
I dance through them, as I get used to the power of the demon wings.
It only takes me a few seconds for me to mess up, when a bird I didn’t see lands a scratch on one of the wings with its metallic talons. I wince, expecting to see a nasty tear in the wing, but to my surprise, the talon doesn’t even scratch it.
“Ha! Take that you dirty chickens. You can’t even scratch me.” I taunt them, before diving back into them, happily punching them into the ground.