OTC 9.1 – Night Dread

Healer didn’t sound quite happy when he asked that. I was originally going to refuse, but at the current moment, I couldn’t move the Blackhawk and I wasn’t going to let it fall into anyone’s hands. “Since this baby.” I paused as I patted the scratched up underbelly of the helio. “Can’t move, I might as well jump into the fight since I’m already involved.”

Healer looked at me grimly before his eyes traveled to the beat up hunk of metal behind me. They lingered there momentarily, his eyes expressing some sort of emotion I couldn’t decipher before his attention dragged back over to me. “If you’re going to jump into the fire knowing it’s there, that’s on you.” He let out a tired sigh like I wasn’t the first person to disregard his warning before he stared up to the sky. “It’s a nice night. You might want to keep an eye open tonight.” He said softly before leaving me by myself.

I felt the hair stand on the back of my neck an ominous chill washed over my body. After remembering the fight with the goblins, I wasn’t in the mood to go to sleep any time soon. I was tired though. A yawn escaped me as I shook myself to fight sleep as I looked out at the direction healer took off in. After a good amount of time had passed, I spoke to Lily. “How likely are we to be attacked tonight?” I figured since Healer was so kind as to give me a warning, it wouldn’t hurt to be vigilant.

“I estimate that likelihood of an attack at 60% by humans.” Lily answered immediately. “I do not have enough data on these ‘monsters’ to give an accurate prediction, I recommend to stay vigilant.” The night sky twinkled with trillions of stars, far brighter than my own world as I pulled my XM17 from its holster. I pulled the slide back slightly, saw a live round in the chamber and released the slide. “Clack!” The slide went into battery with a comforting sound. “Lily, can you keep watch so I can get some sleep?”

. . . . . .

A loud beeping rang in my ears from the headset, causing me to jolt awake. My eyes darted side to side, looking for the danger only to calm down once I noticed I was still in the cabin of the Blackhawk. My heart thumped in my chest as I took several silent long breaths to calm myself. After I cleared up my thoughts, I thumped the microphone four times to acknowledge the alarm. “Four confirmed equipped with ranged weapons approximately 30 yards away.” Lily’s synthetic voice reported followed by the sound of muffled voices as moonlight poured in through the upturned side entrance.

“Three more hostiles confirmed. They are approaching the tent from the forest side.” I double tapped the microphone as an acknowledgment as I shook my shoulders to loosen my stiff shoulders before I climbed out as quietly as I could out of the cabin and onto the motor housing. Thankfully, I didn’t have my brother’s bear-like body or the entire world would have known I was there. “Just walk up to the fucking tent!” A gruff voice roared out. “What’cha scared about? Ya shot six damn arrows into the boy’s tent.” he added.

“Well, I might as well just fucking walk up to the tent and ask for a morsel of fucking chicken now, right?” Another voice erupted in the distance and sounded like it belonged to a younger man as he shouted back before more voices jumped in and it quickly turned into an argument as five more people jumped in. “Hostiles are converging on the tent.” Lily chirped a strong wind pushed against my small body and I braced against the helio’s side. The wind was fresh and chilled my body. I was still in the tunic and pants I had been given the other day, but the material itself wasn’t made from quality material. Aside from the plate carrier and where the holster was, everything was airy.

I glanced over my shoulder only to see the sea over the edge of the cliff as the stars and moon reflected on its calm surface. As breathless as the view made me, I wasn’t that taken by the view that I forgot the task at hand. The task of giving my late-night guests a very warm welcome. My eyes landed on my extended left forearm – bare forearm. The tact-link was a few feet away from me on the edge of the toppled bird with its onboard camera facing down the mountain.

It was the plan Lily had thought up as a way for me to at least get some rest while we waited to see if Healer’s warning would come to fruition. The original plan, thought up by yours truly, was to dig a fox hole a little higher up on the slope where I would have had a perfect view of any incoming threats. That was quickly plan was sunk quickly when Lily reminded me that I did require sleep and waiting for hours in the dead of night in a hole would probably end up with me falling asleep.

When I asked if she could just detect anyone getting close, she kindly reminded me that she did not have the functions she had before due to the lack of back end support. Basically, because I did not have any gear that allowed her to see, hear, or sense anything outside of the onboard camera and microphone. My headset was connected to the tact-link and that slightly extended her detection ability, but only enough to hear words clearer when I was speaking or someone was speaking directly to me. I would need to unlock her relevant functions in the shop if I wanted her to be more helpful than just this and that would cost a pretty penny.

Back to the situation at hand, I made it on the edge without alerting our guests and peeked over the edge to see seven men in leather armor. Three of them had bows and arrows while the rest held short swords in their hands. The archers were skinny and looked nimble while the men with the short swords were big and burly. The Archers directed their attention to the hillside away from me, probably to keep a lookout for anyone while the three swordsmen stalked up to the empty tent by the nose of the bird. “Come out here you little bitch.” One of them said with a sinister growl as he ripped the tarp away.

Or at least he tried to. The tarp was made from that durable micro fabric material and not that cheap stuff easily found at your local Walmart on sale. Mix that with the paracord tied to the metal hoops and the muscle head wasn’t making any progress. “What the…?” The man toyed with the tarp a little more, probably questioning his existence now. “Get out of the way you weakling!” The other walking muscle sack behind him pulled him aside before he peered into the makeshift tent while he thrust his sword in where “I” was laying.

I heard the metal shortsword dig into the dirt and a disgruntled muscle head hit the hawk’s underbelly with his fist. “You idiots! There’s no one here!” He bellowed in rage. “You said the little shit was here, but he’s not!” He roared some more and the archers quickly scrambled over to him. “I swear I saw him crawl into the tent! He went in after he put out the campfire!” A man with a higher octave voice hurriedly spoke indignantly before Lily chimed in over my headset. “All hostiles are within range now. I recommend launching your counter attack now.”

After Lily gave the green light, I didn’t waste a moment as I popped up into a crouch. The metal below me whined from the sudden weight shift and caught the people’s attention below. The surprise was evident on all their expressions, but I didn’t give them time to react before I squeezed off several rounds into the closest archer. The first round didn’t flash, but the shot rang out. The three muscle heads who were directly below me flinched from the sudden thundering roar of the 9mm and flinched away. The three archers were already notching arrows when their friend dropped dead.

It wasn’t until the third or fourth shot did flames begin to flash out, stunning the archers momentarily as the bright lights burned into their retinas. The fourth archer lowered his bow before dropping it all together to wipe away the flashes. The second archer released his arrow just as I jumped to him and gifted him with a heavenly third eye. Unfortunately, he released the arrow and it sang through the air then punched me in the carrier. It barely missed my arms by a hair.

The arrow’s force wasn’t enough to knock me over since the force was displaced by the armor plate in my carrier but I did grunt from the force. Before I jumped back into the fight, I had the pleasure of witnessing the third archer release his arrow slightly off course at the swordsman who was unlucky to choose that moment to peek out from the cover of the Blackhawk’s underbelly like a curious little chick. The arrow sang momentarily before it bit into the swordsman’s side and stuck out the other end.

In turn, the swordsman bellowed in rage and swung backward at the archer who was just coming out of his blinded state only to see the bear of a man swing his sword at him. The archer screeched and jumped backward. He tripped over the helicopter’s self-made trench and toppled over down the slope. I took the opportunity to finish off the wounded swordsman with a quick double tap just as he was going to stalk after the archer. The man crumbled eerily to the dirt, sending dust up as his massive body smacked the floor with a dull thud.

I peeked over the edge to find the last two swordsmen only for a sword to almost graze me. Sparks flew off the bird’s belly as the sword disappeared down below. “Fight me like a fucking man!” It was the angry muscle sack that kept yelling earlier. “Okay!” I bellowed back with an obviously less manly voice. I peeked my head back out only to dip back as another strike skimmed the edge again. I quickly leaned over with my pistol aimed and emptied the rest of the magazine into him. The man roared as the bullets ripped into him, blood splattering as I managed to group all the rounds into a fist size area just below his collarbone until he finally dropped.

The swordsman next to him squealed and booked it. Not wanting to let him go like the last remaining archer, I got up and reloaded. I then kept unloading rounds down range until the slide locked back with a click and the man disappeared into the night the moment I looked at the slide. I cursed under my breath even though I knew I wasn’t likely to hit him with my less than stellar firearm handling skills. Regardless, I had to have maimed him at the very least or I seriously had to rethink my approach.

“Two targets escaped. Recommending you commence Search and Destroy of remaining targets.” Lily’s monotonous voice lulled into my ear as I reloaded the XM17 with a sigh. “In the dark? Isn’t that asking for trouble?” I asked as I gathered the tact-link up and reattached it to my arm before tapping the screen. The screen was occupied with that familiar loading symbol before it went away and Lily’s voice came back up. “Just take your time.”

My face twitched. I really didn’t want to go down the slope with limited visibility. With all the sudden changes in degrees and sudden drops, it was dangerous during the day. I didn’t move long enough to prompt Lily to come back onto the comms. “Leaving two hostiles alive is dangerous. This is the safest course of action. The people of this area use cold weapons while you have hot weapons. It is believed the others do not know you have these weapons so it is recommended not to leave witnesses or they will come up with countermeasures.”

With such an argument, I didn’t have to choice but to chase after them. My firearm was my only advantage along with my plate carrier so if they managed to counter it, I wouldn’t have any other way defend myself. I didn’t need any more problems when I had a target on my back. I climbed off the Blackhawk with reluctance to get into a pursuit during the night. With caution, I made my way down the slope following the path the muscle head and Archer went down.

The way down was riddled with sudden changes in degrees with some sudden flat lanes and the sudden slides. A few spots were rock outcrops that grass had grown over on top and was dangerous if you weren’t paying attention to your path. About a quarter of the way down, I heard pained groans from my left. I circled about till I was able to locate it and found the muscle head sprawled out below a large rock outcrop with his right leg and arm broken.

His arm was twisted violently in ways a human arm shouldn’t be angled with sharp bits of bone protruding from the stubs. I could tell he had fallen off the large rock above him and tried to catch himself, only to fall on his limbs. With his massive body, it was the only outcome aside from dying from the fall. His chest heaved with effort as his leather armor was drenched from in his blood. His pained and pale face was illuminated by the stars above and his eyes widened with fear as he spotted me approaching him with my pistol at the low-ready. “P-Please! Be merciful! I, I was paid!” He took in a large gulp of air while winching and holding his stomach with his good arm.

“I-” I didn’t let him finish as I executed him with one shot. While I would have loved to be the saint, I didn’t wish to dilute myself into thinking I could reason with someone who would have killed me for money. They came off as sadistic before they were one-sidedly wiped with the last two being hunted down like dogs so I planned on killing on sight before they could try and sway my resolution with lies.

I wasn’t going to pretend I didn’t want to spare them. I was considered the peaceful one in the family dispute all my faults and outbursts. I didn’t like war. I didn’t like fighting. That didn’t mean I couldn’t do it though, but it also meant I was more likely to let people live. I couldn’t do that though. I was out here in this strange place, definitely not on my world without any support aside from Lily and the strange store.

Si vis pacem, para bellum or if you want peace, prepare for war.

Pushing my useless thoughts away, I quickly searched him. I found neither coins nor paper money. There wasn’t anything aside from his sword that I stripped him off and attached its sheath to my belt. “Registering new weapon to you.” Lily’s voice chirped. I nearly jumped from fright at the suddenness of it but bit back my curses. I should have told her I also wasn’t good with the night with all those horror movies I had seen for the kicks.

“Iron shortsword registered to you now. You’ve opened up the inventory function by completing hidden challenge ‘Loot the Dead’. You may now store your loot in the tact-link via thought. You also may resummon it via thought. Inventory is not useable during combat.” Lily’s long-winded explanation was a godsend for me. “So I can store anything?” I asked with excitement as I made my way down the slope again. “Nothing living.” She responded without excitement.

My steps thumped against the grass as I made sure to keep a sure footing wherever I went. After a little bit, I was reached the bottom of the mountain where I spotted the last archer slumped against a fallen tree with one of his legs bent oddly. I could vaguely see his shoulders rising and falling rapidly. He was resting, probably assuming I wasn’t chasing him. I kept my pistol trained on him as I moved closer to get a better shot. To my dismay, I neglected my footing for a moment and slipped on a sudden sharp decline – falling on my ass.

“Oof!” I grunted as I slid down and my aim trailed off. I, unfortunately, wasn’t quick enough to keep the rest of me in check and I popped off a round into the air as I held onto the pistol with a death grip until I hit the flat ground. The man jumped like a startled rabbit and whirled around to see me sliding down a few feet. He hobbled away in a frenzy towards the tree line nearly twenty meters away. I recovered from my stupidity and took my stance and started taking to squeeze round after round in a steady cadence.

With my arms jugged forward, I only fired around until the sights aligned with his the back of his receding figure until the sidearm clicked, signifying it was dry. The man was still on the move so I jogged after him while my body screamed in protest at my sudden requirement of it having to carry me down the mountain and still having the expectation of it being useful. Regardless of how my body felt, the fight was still on and one more hostile was alive, even if he was retreating with his tail tucked between his legs.

To my surprise, the man slowed and embed side to side before he eventually dropped to the grass a few feet from the forest’s thicket. I cursed in relief as I dropped to a steady walk as my feet burned. I was several meters behind him as I walked at my leisure.

However, fate had a different outlook to my streak of good luck tonight as I felt every hair on my body stand up and fear course through my body with each pump of my heart. I stood still mid-strut as my eyes scanned the tree line. The thick forest canopy didn’t back away from the star-filled night and held the moonlight at bay. There were several beams of moonlight that broke the canopy, yet these beams were too far and inbetween to make a difference in the void of the midnight forest.

Just when I when I began to believe I was being irrational, a pair of eyes reflected in the darkness of the forest close to the forest’s edge. Its eyes were similar to that of felines at night. The glimmer stood out like in the darkness. When I looked into those eyes, I felt a deep-seated fear that felt instinctual. I wanted to run, I wanted to hide, but my body stood still as a pale white slender but elongated arm broke out from the void and grabbed the man’s leg. Muffled groans broke the silence and my trance as I blinked and brought the pistol up to the pair of eyes. “Lily? What’s going on?” I didn’t know whether to shoot or run, or both.

“Extreme danger detected, magical monster detected. Please retreat, quickly!” For once, Lily’s voice sounded in my eyes with heavy concern. Just as she finished the statement, the archer was dragged into the darkness as his muffled cries were cut short followed by the sound of bones being crushed and what I believed to be dismemberment following the circumstances. “Got it” My voice squeaked back in fear. Just when I was about to turn, my body stiffened again as a voice whispered in my ear. It wasn’t Lily, but my mother’s voice that whispered into my ear.

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