Chapter 24: Traitors
Wednesday, March 29th, 9:25 PM
I sent the remaining crickets skittering and hopping along the road beside Nita’s silken line. Nicolas and his friends noticed and followed, swearing angrily and trying to stomp them to death as my crickets dodged in a random zigzag pattern.
The last of my Twilight crickets perished less than ten seconds later.
“Yeah, it’s gotta be the dungeon’s bullshit,” Nicolas spoke loudly to get the others’ attention as his shoe crushed the final cricket.
Nicolas continued, “That’s exactly why we’re here. There’s some kind of magical crap going on. That prick Joe can heal people. Power like that didn’t just crawl up inside his ass while he slept.”
There were some nervous chuckles.
“You notice he’s the only one? The greedy fucker’s keeping it all to himself!” Nicolas spat.
Some of the men grumbled.
“Somewhere under our feet, there’s a real-life motherfucking dungeon. If that fascist piece of military shit could find magic here, then we can, too. Let’s go.” Nicolas headed back toward where Joy had been shot.
“But Nico, didn’t you say the entrance was down where there’s some fruit and—” one started to ask.
Nicolas cut him off. “Tonight, we’re going in the back door.”
“I checked, and it’s locked up tight. The bleeding amazon hag is in there, but we can just shoot the fucking lock.” Nicolas grinned.
His obnoxious words reminded me to check on Joy, and I was amazed to see her seated on the couch as her body expelled the deformed bullet on its own. She had stopped bleeding.
Joy ate some fruit from a bowl I’d shaped, and color returned to her face.
My logical, human mind, averse to the idea of murder, searched for reasons to let the attackers live, but I just couldn’t think of any.
Moreover, the Dungeon in me had vetoed that thought.
They shot my baby girls and one of my beans. These bastards will not survive the night. If I am going to catch them, my Dungeon has to be a proper trap.
I closed down the exit leading to my tide pools from below the Crow’s Nest, leaving only enough space for my Nemesis crabs to pass through.
While the fog rolled in, much later than usual, Nicolas and his friends wasted eleven rounds of rifle ammunition in a vain effort to break through the back door to my basement. Their bullets hardly scratched the compressed-metal surface.
“What the fuck is this made of?” Nicolas beat the side of his fist against the door, winced, and shook his hand out.
They tried shooting at the concrete surrounding the door frame by the lock, but five more bullets only chipped a tiny bit away.
Nicolas sighed. “Fuck it. Front door it is.”
“Mm... you know how Mama likes it, Nico.” Clemen turned away, winked back at the men, and smacked her right butt cheek. The others laughed.
By the time Nicolas and his group neared the Crow’s Nest entrance, the fog had shrouded the edge of the coastline and my preparations were complete.
“When do we get Ivan’s reinforcements?” Nicolas asked Adrian.
Adrian replied, “Ivan still has pockets of resistance to deal with in Scotts Valley, and Watsonville’s worse off than we are. There likely won’t be any more coming for a while, so we gotta make do with what we have. Just be thankful those dumb fucks at Genomics fell for the distraction so we could bust your ass out.”
“Yeah. Those bastards will get theirs soon enough. They killed Mitt, Javier, and a bunch of the others—even some we just recruited. That means I fucking owe them.” Nicolas’ fists tightened as he let his rifle hang by its strap.
With a frown, Adrian turned to look at Nicolas in the darkness. “You said that prick Joe can heal people. That shit’s for real?”
“Yeah. He healed me too… stupid prick.” Nicolas laughed.
“Shit. We need to get rid of that asshole and his friends ASAP, or the plan might fall apart for Santa Cruz. If they get organized—”
Nicolas cut him off. “The Order ain’t giving us our own state to govern unless we make it happen, Adrian. Nobody said this shit was gonna be easy. And don’t you fucking worry. I’ll kill them all myself if I have to. But not Sha-vonny-von. That little bitch is gonna suffer. I’ll keep her alive for months before I’m done with that ass. Gonna kill those freakshow dogs, too.”
I saw red, and it was all I could do to keep from sending all my minions out after what had been said.
You will die slowly, Nicolas.
“God damn, Nico, you’ve hated that girl for years. She’s cute as hell. Nice ass, too. What the fuck happened there?” Adrian asked.
“Bitch ratted me out to campus security for getting freaky with some of her useless friends. Decent pussy, but they didn’t wanna put out, so I had to persuade ‘em.” Nicolas smacked his right fist into his left hand.
“Heh. You always liked a challenge. I wonder if we can trust the One World Order's leadership. I know Ivan’s for real, but what about the big picture? This shit was all online, to begin with.”
“Yeah, I know. But they told us about the bombs the night before they hit, so we could get to safety while the useless masses died. And they were right. It gave us a huge advantage since the system keeping us down got turned to powder.”
“True.” Adrian shrugged.
Nicolas smiled. “But even if it is bullshit in the end, or if the Order doesn’t win, we can still carve out some space for ourselves. We take enough land and hold it—that means we’re rich once everything comes back online. Being rich means going wherever we feel like and pussy any time we’re in the mood, from any girl we want. That’s the way shit works, no matter who’s in charge. Wealth is the key. We just need to get rid of anyone who stands in our way, while there are no consequences.”
“Amen to that, Nico!” Clemen took Nicolas’ right hand and brought it to the front of her sweatpants, biting her bottom lip. He reached inside and kissed her as the others cat-called.
“See? This is the kind of pussy the world needs more of!” Nicolas pulled his hand out of Clemen’s pants and licked three fingers clean as they arrived at the Crow’s Nest.
“Shit. There’s a light inside. Someone’s in there.” One of the men whispered.
They all got quiet and approached with weapons drawn.
I had already reshaped the stone around my lightstones to dim the interior, leaving my Dungeon just bright enough so they could enter, but dark enough that it was difficult to see my minions or any webs.
To make certain the bastards went where I wanted them to, I’d blocked every path but the one I wanted them to follow—underneath the harbor, to the caverns I’d made below Seabright Beach—the opposite direction from my residents and my core.
After everything those people just said, I will kill them all, no matter what. They had outed themselves as mortal enemies of my new friends, my pups, my beans, my values, and even my country. Aside from my values, any of those reasons were good enough to justify their deaths, even in my human mind.
As they descended to the left down my curved, corkscrew ramp leading to where the fruit orchard and other tunnels usually branched from one another, I had Dire Widows enter silently behind them. Their orders were to seal the entrance and subdue any who tried to escape. As soon as the humans passed out of sight, the Widows set to work on nine massive webs.
Ahead of the invaders, my Devilflies perched in their hiding places.
Those people had pissed me off and then walked straight into the lion’s den.
For the first time ever, I was happy to be a Dungeon.
Nicolas sniffed his fingers and smirked as he strained against his jeans.
Damn, Clemen smells sweet. Like ripe oranges. She’s not all that pretty, but damn, what a pussy.
Nicolas pictured Clemen’s shapely, gaping crotch and bared his teeth.
If we find a side tunnel, I’ll bend her over for a few minutes.
The dungeon’s walls were smoother than Nicolas anticipated, and he ran his hand along the stone as he walked beside Adrian at the head of their group. The surf’s muffled rumble reverberated through the tunnel.
When we find whatever that son of a bitch Joe is hiding down here, I’m stealing that power for myself.
Something made a tapping noise ahead.
“Wait. I hear something.” Nicolas held up his right hand.
The noise faded.
Probably just an echo. It’s just a fucking hole in the ground. If any of those damn dragonfly things come at us again…
Nicolas sneered as he palmed the canister in his sweatshirt pocket.
Another, louder noise came from up ahead, like something with claws was clacking across the stone. Nicolas looked at Adrian as they all stopped at the sound.
“Time for target practice.” Nicolas grinned, and everyone chuckled.
Another sound came from behind the group, like the clicking of bearings in a bicycle wheel, but louder and more percussive.
They all spun around to look, and some almost knocked their comrades over when the barrels of their weapons hit the others.
“Fuckin’ watch it!” Clemen hissed.
Nicolas felt something cling to the back of his neck for an instant and he spun around, clapping his left hand where it hurt, but whatever it was had gone. Only a slight stinging sensation remained.
“The fuck?” Nicolas spat, rubbing the spot.
“You’re just jumpy, champ!” Adrian smacked Nicolas’ shoulder.
“Fuck off, Ade. Let’s keep moving. We find whatever’s down here, steal it, and get the fuck out.” Nicolas shook his head, noting that the pain was fading.
Probably just nerves.
They continued deeper for a few seconds before Nicolas heard Marcus swear, “Ow, sonofabitch!”
A loud clank rocked the tunnel when someone fired their rifle.
“The hell are you fuckwits doing?” Nicolas let his rifle fall to its carry strap while he rubbed his ears.
“Some shit just stung my ankle!” Marcus screeched.
“It’s all in your head. I thought something bit my neck, too, but—”
“NO! It fucking hurts, Nico! Something really stung me!” Marcus wailed.
Nicolas pushed past the others. Marcus had his back against the tunnel wall as eased himself to the floor on one foot.
“Get the fuck back on your—” Nicolas grabbed Marcus by his camo windbreaker and hauled him back to his feet.
“NO,” Marcus screamed.
He released his hold on Marcus, and let him fall to the stone floor.
“Fuck!” Marcus’ hands shook as he pulled his pant leg back to reveal angry redness and swelling, visible even in the darkness of the passage. Nicolas scrunched his eyebrows as the damage spread visibly up Marcus’ leg.
“Oh, hell. Fuck this shit. I’m out of here!” Joel stepped over Marcus and trotted back the way they’d come.
Brandon followed Joel and the others aside from Nicolas, Clemen, and Marcus who convulsed and retched on his lap as they passed.
Clemen put her hand on Nicolas’ shoulder. “I don’t like it, Nico. Something’s down here.”
Nicolas stared in fascination as Marcus foamed at the mouth, his wails transitioning to a gurgling, guttural choking sound, interspersed with gasps for air.
More screams echoed down the tunnel from where they’d entered, and Clemen clung to Nicolas.
“We need to leave, Nico!” Clemen pleaded with him.
“Y-yeah.” Nicolas stepped over Marcus and almost fell to the ground.
His head felt funny like he’d been drinking.
“Nico! What’s wrong? Nico!” Clemen’s panicked yells barely registered in Nicolas’ ears as the world went black.
Side by side with Michael, Rihelah ran over the scorched railroad ties on the San Lorenzo Railway bridge. She was high on adrenaline because of Joy’s injury.
We have to reach Joe. He’s fast—he’ll save her.
They came alongside the ruins of the Boardwalk, running faster than Rihelah ever thought she would. Orange barrel fires lit Beach Street ahead of them, near additional makeshift barriers that hadn’t been there before.
“We should go around. I don’t like the look of this.” Michael slowed and she matched his pace.
“Joy’s been shot, Michael. It’s a risk, but she’s worth it. Even a minute could mean the difference between life or death. Let’s go.” Rihelah looked up at him with determination.
Michael chewed his lips for a second, then nodded and sped back up.
Rihelah followed. A pit grew in her stomach, and she questioned her decision when shadows moved behind some of the barricades.
I’m scared, but we have to. She’s one of my best friends.
They were halfway past the main parking area when a woman’s voice shouted, “Fire!”
Jeering followed gunfire and the sound of bullets whistling past them from up ahead.
“Fuck!” Michael grabbed Rihelah’s hand and turned into the parking area to their right.
“Ah!” Rihelah cried out raggedly as her left leg gave out, her knee bending in the wrong direction as pain exploded through her as she fell.
When she rolled upon hitting the ground, Rihelah spotted Michael collapsing forward like a rag doll beside her, blood gushing from a hole through the side of his neck.
“MICHAEL!” Rihelah screamed.
The terrifying cacophony of gunfire and savage cheering continued, and Rihelah felt the numbness of shock wash through her when her torso was hit three times in quick succession.
She never felt the bullet that pierced her skull.
<Rihelah has been slain. Respawn in 1 hour.>
[RIHELAH! NO!] I fought to restrain my minions from murdering my two remaining captives as both halves of my mind raged.
“Professor?” Siobhán and Joy asked in unison, with fearful voices.
[Mommy, what wrong?] [Sandy fix!]
KILL! My Dungeon mind snarled.
Not yet! We need the last two for information!
<Michael has been slain. Respawn in 1 hour.>
[NOT HIM, TOO!] The Dungeon in me ordered my minions to bite the surviving captives, and I barely managed to avert that order in time to avoid more venom being injected.
“Professor, what’s happening?” Siobhán sounded terrified.
It took a moment before I could speak without screaming.
[Someone or something… has killed Michael and Rihelah,] I growled.
[No! Ryebean!] Sunny trembled as she gave a forlorn howl.
[Sad.] [Sandy so sad…] Sandy laid down with tremendous hurt in her eyes, covered her face with her paws, and whined.
“What?” After standing for a moment with her mouth hanging open, Siobhán choked that word out through a sob, releasing a guttural wail as she fell to her knees in front of the basement couch.
Joy stood silently with a shocked expression while tears welled in her eyes, sniffling erratically until she, too, fell to bawling beside Siobhán.
Rage surged and coursed through my core like a relentless tsunami.
Whoever they are, they will pay.
Every. Last. One of them.
“…ake up. Hey, asshole, wake up!” A familiar voice that Nicolas hated resonated in his aching head as something impacted his side. His whole body ached like he had the flu. Nicolas’ eyes felt heavy and loathe to open.
Something struck the side of his face. The blow didn’t hurt directly, but the aching in Nicolas’ head tripled and he squinted hard, but it didn’t help.
“Sha—fuck-you—von.” Nicolas slurred. He opened his eyes to find the girl he hated most staring down her nose at him.
Nicolas willed himself to move so that he could subdue Siobhán, pin her down and force her legs apart—make her beg for him to stop. But his body didn’t respond.
Something crawled up the front of Nicolas and across his face. Sharp feet pressed into his skin as it moved, stabbing the same places repeatedly. His head ached worse with every step the thing took.
The creature had a long, segmented body and far too many of those piercing legs. And they just kept coming. After a moment, Nicolas understood what it was and flinched. But his body didn’t move.
The centipede’s tails dragged across Nicolas’ face while it climbed down his back until it stopped, and the tails curled up—far enough away that his eyes could focus.
Nicolas’ breath caught.
Scorpion tails on a centipede? Is this some kind of nightmare? It must be a nightmare. That bitch could never dominate me.
Siobhán spoke to Nicolas. “That’s right, asshole. You pissed off a Dungeon. We also know that you and your friends—okay, Prof. Yeah. No, it’s fine. You’re right. They’ll both be back soon enough, and we have plenty of time.”
Is she talking to herself? Stupid cunt.
“F—ck… you,” Nicolas responded.
“You wish.” Siobhán chuckled at him, then bent and whispered by his ear, “You’ll never fuck again.”
Nicolas felt the warm humidity of her breath, and he saw red.
I’ll shove a cactus up the bitch’s filthy little hole, then make her bend over for me! I’ll—
Something struck Nicolas’ face from the other side. A stabbing pain shot through his head, making his vision blur. He squinted hard, but it didn’t help. Nicolas opened his eyes, but his vision was still fuzzy. He blinked away tears.
No! I mustn’t show weakness in front of her! I—
“Are you the one who gave the order to shoot at me?” Another voice. Nicolas looked to his left.
The tall, flat-chested blonde who always hung around with the bitch.
He spotted a tear in her dark gray shirt, and blood-soaked the ruined garment. But her skin behind the cloth was unbroken.
How the fuck? I know we got her!
Uncertainty faded in the face of anger when Nicolas saw a hint of pity coloring the frown on the blonde’s forgettable face. Nicolas longed to end her existence.
What was her name? It doesn’t matter. Worthless trash.
“Die in… fire, ugly.” Nicolas croaked out.
Another blow hit Nicolas from Siobhán’s side.
“You want to suffer in here forever, asshole? The Dungeon can drag this out as long as she wants.”
“Hah. She… hole in—ground. Try harder, bitch,” Nicolas replied.
“Nita, if you please?” Siobhán said sweetly.
“Who the fuck is Ni-aaa! What the fuug.” Nicolas recoiled when long, thin legs appeared over his face and gripped his head at various points. Tiny claws sank into Nicolas’ skin, and he felt a slight tug from all those places as something appeared rapidly in front of his face. A sticky sensation brushed against the tip of his chin, then pulled upward as whatever it was climbed and the claws repositioned. A second glue-like patch adhered to his forehead, pulling down toward the first.
Nicolas tried to swear aloud, but the spots where something had stuck to him hurt, tugging toward one another as his jaw muscles fought against whatever was on his face. All Nicolas could manage was a frustrated groan.
Over the next few seconds, the pull between those points grew worse, like a cable was tightening between them.
The creature stepped off his face, toward Siobhán. He saw a huge red hourglass glowing beneath its belly.
He finally understood what had happened, and uttered a scream through his nose.
Nicolas couldn’t pull through the pain to open his mouth—the agony inside his head was already too much.
Usually, Nicolas would just let his skin tear and deal with it like a man. But this pain was so terrible, he was afraid of aggravating it.
Worst of all, Nicolas could hear his own voice whining uncontrollably through his nose.
That sound rang like a judge’s gavel in Nicolas’ mind, but no matter what he thought or how hard he tried, his whining wouldn’t stop.
Never show weakness… he begged his body.
But Nicolas had, and he couldn’t stop.
The shame eclipsed even Nicolas’ fear of the massive centipede-scorpion that crawled over his face and the gigantic spider that had glued his mouth shut.
When Nicolas looked up, he saw the spider clearly for the first time. Long, spear-like black legs with yellow bands and too many knees, and a body almost as big as his fist.
The spider’s face was silvery, with large black eyes that seemed to stare holes through Nicolas.
Its body looked longer than it should be—the wrong shape for a Black Widow, and the black and yellow bands across its back felt out of place. The mark on its belly radiated that deep red glow as it perched on Siobhán’s shoulder, making Nicolas shudder.
Siobhán pet the horrid spider, radiating fearless contempt as she glared down at Nicolas. He sat helpless, in pain, with his body unable to respond.
Nicolas trembled in the dark subterranean passage. His apprehension spiraled out of control and became pure, untarnished terror.
Dread overwhelmed Nicolas as the world around him faded.
Max Those Traps, day 1