I nodded at that and looked behind me “Your gear is below operational standards. Plate carrier had been cut to be removed. Your original clothing has been burned due to the blood on it…” Lil stopped talking as I watched the screen change as it gave me the rundown. “God also rewarded you with a loot box.”
“Seriously?” I said with a deadpan face. “A fucking loot box,” I repeated back.
“Is there… Something wrong with a Loot box…?” Only the whole damn gaming industry! I retorted in my head while giving Lil a different answer. “Yes, but let us go on with it,” I said with a sigh. I didn’t want to linger too much on this. “I will show you how to navigate the new feature then…” No one came by for a while as Lil, or rather Lily now for the sake of conversational flow, operated the Tact-link by itself. The shop function operated just like every other pay-to-win store I’ve ever seen in MMOs that it picked at my childhood traumas of inflicted upon me by the gods of RNG.
The shop had 6 blue squarish buttons on its main page. Loot boxes, which looked like some Orbital Drop Pod from an old video game with metallic gold paint; Weapon Systems, a rifle with a large sword crisscrossing; Armor and Clothing, which displayed a plate carrier along with shoes; Support with a Satellite with a Howitzer sitting beside it; Squad with three soldier silhouettes standing side by side and finally; Vehicles which displayed a bike with a Bradley behind it.
The overall layout was easy to understand as to which category held what, which was annoying to find all the good ones beside the heartbreak tile, Loot boxes, and Weapon systems were the only buttons without a grey lock over them with a mission “Unlock by completing missions.” I rolled my eyes at that as I clicked on the loot box button which had a red circle with a “1” in it and it opened up to display two buttons: Purchase Loot Boxes and My Loot Boxes. The latter option was the one with the “1” on it. I clicked it and the words “Please watch your head!” appeared in flashing red lights.
Three bright red dots appeared 10 feet in front of me. They each sat 3 feet apart from each other before circling around and tightening against each other. I heard something akin to thrusters like those on a missile and looked up only to see a small fireball growing bigger as it got closer. I stared at it for a few seconds, confused, before looking up. What I saw shocked the hell out of me as I saw a small ball of fire coming towards me and I scrambled backward. The sound of thrusters became louder as it came closer and a parachute deployed to slow its fall before it crashed into the ground, sending the fertile earth around it flying.
I looked at it in astonishment at how the loot box – or drop pod – resemble the ones in that video game. It was big enough to hold a human!
A blue screen lit up on what I could only assume was the hatch with an outline of a hand. A sign was painted above it in sloppy black paint that said: “Put your hand on it, idiot. -God” with an arrow pointing down to the hand scanner. I wanted to say something about the loot boxes, but now I didn’t even know if I wanted to meet this god that made the damn thing. I stood up with my unsteady feet, which burned from their earlier usage, and walked over to the overly gold contraption.
I pressed my bare hand against the screen, and it turned green once it registered my print, followed by the sound of the latch unlocking. The hatch opened up and air blew out under it as it lifted upward. Inside was an empty seat with two steel handlebars on either side. A screen sat on either side with one small viewing port on the upper latch. There were storage bays all over the pod, but most of them were empty. “I guess it’s an egg hunt?” I muttered. “2 minutes until loot box disintegrates.” Lily commented. I sighed and stepped into the pod and searched every nook and cranny for items.
. . . . .
Two minutes later, the pod fizzled away like a large termite grenade, leaving nothing behind. I found exactly six brand spanking new magazines for my XM17, 1 Fragmentation grenade, a surefire pistol mounted light for my pistol, and a new Orion war belt to replace the one they had cut off me. Now that I think about it, that actually kinda pissed me off now. The belt itself had the same equipment and layout as my ruined one along with more pouches to place all my new magazines on it.
I had also found a golden stone that resembled a small baton with a hexagon cut. There was a yellow sticky note attached to it with the words “Full Heal – Your only free pass”. Looking at the note I asked Lily “How do I use mana?”. The screen on my forearm turned into a loading screen as it seemed to think. “Feel for it?” Lily answered with an unsure tone before the loading screen went away. “Why do you not sound confident in that answer?” I asked.
“That was what God said. I am unsure what to do with God’s answer.” Lily said monotonously. I suddenly felt breaking God’s face with the butt of my pistol sounded like a good idea. “Okay.” I said as I closed my eyes and tried to feel around with my hands with the stone in my right one. “He said with your mind and then called you an idiot.” Lily chirped. Hitting god was sounding like an excellent idea now, but I couldn’t do that.
For a few minutes, I didn’t feel anything and just before I felt whatever I was trying to do was stupid – it happened. I felt something warm slowly start to trickle in through my lungs and eventually pour into my limbs. I picked at it mentally and I found it reacted to it. Connecting the dots, I channelled the magic through my arm and into the stone. It shined brilliantly before the shine engulfed me. I felt my entire body float up like a feather momentarily before the light disappeared and my feet – which felt great now – supporting me again.
“What the…?” I moved my body around, but I didn’t feel any discomfort. In fact, I felt amazing, like I had the best night’s rest in the world! “Vital signs showing all clear,” Lily commented. “I can feel it!” I responded in joy now that my body was feeling like a truck had just run me over. I collected my pistol off the old belt and the unused magazines for a total of 9 magazines. I tucked them into their new homes on the belt then watched in shock as the old carrier and belt turned to ash before my eyes.
“Lily, do you know what just happened?” I asked Lily for her take. There was a moment of silence before it answered. “I do not know.” It answered over the speaker. The only left was just the headset it all its bulky operator glory. Placing the headset on, I looked back towards the crash site with the intention of trying to scavenge anything of use when I saw a pair of wide eyes looking up at me from the mountain trail below.
“What the hell was that?!” It was a woman in a wizard’s robe with a long twisting staff in hand. I had waved at her awkwardly before she had yelled out at me. “Uhh…” Was the other thing I could must, unsure if I should speak truthfully or fib. Before I could decide, the doctor from earlier appeared from behind a large rock outcrop that was next to her “What was it?” He asked her before turning to see me next to a small crater. “Did you summon that ball of fire…?” He asked me.
Following this question, more people showed up. Their armor was neither uniform nor showy. They had shoulder protectors, gauntlets, breastplates, and grieves, or things similar to those – to varying degrees. At this point, if I had seen these people first rather than the goblins, I could have easily mistaken them as bandits rather than friendlies as they took up guarding the mage and doctor. “Y-Yeah.” I answered hesitantly, I felt my hand slide onto my sidearm’s handle with a finger on the holster latch.
“What did you do?” The girl asked. The mountain around me was clear aside from the obvious crater I was standing next to and there didn’t appear to be threats in the area. “Would you believe me if I side it was purely a test of power?” I asked with a weary smile.
. . . . .
I found myself looking out an open window with no glass, only two thick wooden shutters resting on either side. Outside, I overlooked the village’s western gate
Somehow, I managed to find myself sitting in an office where the only light source was the window I was looking out with curiosity from the third floor. In the DC area, there were trees and nearby forest, but nothing like what I was seeing right now. The main wall of the settlement was made up from cut down trees with their tops and bottoms cut off then staked down to form the wall that I assumed encircled the entire village. The gate itself was made from thick wooden planks with the craftsmanship of a hobbyist.
The buildings were built with more love, attested by how much finer it was compared to the wall and gate. However, the buildings weren’t that interesting to me, what took my breath away was the beautiful view of the forest. The tree line stopped only a few paces from the wall but after that, it went as far as I could see. Being up on the third floor, the window barely looked over the average tree height. However, there was a watchtower off to my right which stood about the same height. Further out was the mountainside was my father’s Blackhawk had crashed and I could see a few people mulling about it.
Aside from the downed bird off to the right on the mountainside, everything else was breathtakingly beautiful. There were no large buildings to show off American’s ego, no flags, no monuments, and no smog. It wasn’t that I hated the patriotic attitude my countrymen had, it was just you know, I get tired seeing all these massive buildings. I always wanted to see nature as untouched as possible and here it was. Aside from this village, there was only a small path leading outward. That path was swallowed by the canopy of leaves and branches the moment it passed the treeline.
From what happened on the mountainside? Detained. I didn’t question it at the moment since there I didn’t want to shoot other humans. If they had displayed hostility, I could have stomached that like I did back home, but they were being cautious. Given the circumstances, I’d be on alert to a freak too. However, the healer had gotten them to calm down when he explained I was the person who fought the goblins earlier. They searched me for weapons, but they never touched my sidearm – well, they did but they couldn’t pull it out, so they left it.
They had escorted me down into the forest and into the settlement. They brought me to the Guild, what kind of guild it was? They never elaborated on it so I was just as much in the dark. They escorted me to this office and left me. The room itself was appeared to be well used but kept orderly with no visible papers on the desk to my left. Two chairs sat in front of the desk with a large old chair behind it with a wall to wall bookshelf that reached up to the roof.
The door across from the window I was leaning against opened, and a slender man slightly taller than me with brown hair loosely tied back revealing a stern face walked in. He was flanked by the Healer, the mage girl, and a man dressed in only pants and leather boots colored light blue. “Please, take a seat.” The slender man said softly as he made his way to the desk and sat behind it. The mage girl took one of the seats, pulled it to the wall by the door and sat. Healer only stood next to her while the human hulk closed the door and guarded it with a menacing look.
“Of course.” I said with a smile, slightly understanding what was going on. I sat on the window ledge which caused the walking bag of muscle to frown. “I meant the seat in front of my desk.” The slender man said while keeping a pleasant smile, but his tone became more demanding. Normally, I was quite passive to authority. However, considering the current situation, I had to aim to protect myself as best as possible. This meant not putting myself in compromising situations if I could help it. That being said, I had already messed up and allowed them to bring me to the third floor of a building.
If I sat in the seat, I’d have my back to the incredible hulk and the seat would not allow me to draw my pistol. I was already a shit draw, I didn’t need to add any more factors into it. That being said, having my back to the window was my best option if I needed to escape. I had already looked down and there was a balcony below. It was small, but when push comes to shove, it was still an option. Another option was to shoot my way out, but after seeing the man guarding the door, I didn’t think my puny 9mm rounds were going to take him down without having to use a good amount of them.
The room went silent for nearly a minute before the man behind the desk. “Alright, we’ll do it your way.” He closed his eyes for a moment and took a quick breath. “Are you connected to the rift that opened up last night and what is that contraption on the hillside?” I looked at him for a moment, conflicted on whether to answer, but I guess being young meant you were so good with poker faces. “I can tell you don’t want to answer, but until you do, you’re being detained by us.”
I felt a little pissed off by that, seeing I didn’t know who this “Us” was. “And who exactly are you?” I asked with more hostility than I wanted to. “Calm yourself boy, or you and I are gonna have a real problem. You ain’t gonna like that much boy.” The two-legged muscle huffed, his voice deep and rough.