Not long after voting the twelve survivors crouched down in the west stairwell, just outside the door out onto the third floor.
A bundle of nerves, Mike tested the edge of his ax against the cinder block wall, in an attempt to distract his mind from negative thoughts. The blade slid through the coarse stone smoothly, leaving a clear, thin line behind it. He smiled grimly. At least his weapon was up to the task ahead.
Their plan was simple. Ranged attackers, specifically Jessica and the four gunmen, would stay in the rear. Their mission was to alternate between cleaning up stray zombies and laying down concentrated fire on the troll itself.
Amy and Troy would hold the middle. Amy would use her magic to heal and bless at her own discretion. Troy on the other hand would offer offensive support with well timed, fire-based, distractions.
Yuki, the only player in the group with any sort of stealth or scouting abilities, volunteered to test her new skills. Her basic mission was to find the troll, then to get behind it for a back stab attack, the game world rogue’s bread and butter.
That left Mike with Dan, Vanessa, and Rajesh who would actually close to close combat.
Mike was less than thrilled about his role in the plan.
He considered telling everyone to screw off. He could meditate now, sleep wasn’t absolutely necessary to him anymore. Surviving alone wouldn’t be easy, but at least he wouldn’t be forced into crazy fights like attacking a troll with a group of level one and two players for backup.
He shook the idea off. He liked Troy and Jessica. Neither of them would leave with him if he went. He couldn’t turn his emotions on and off at will. He felt something for the group as a whole too. If he ran away, more people would die than if he stayed. He didn’t want that on his conscience.
Mike knew it was arrogant to think he was so important to the group’s fighting power. But it was the simple truth. He was stronger than everyone in the group. Yuki was a bit faster than him, but she’d spent all her attribute points into raising Quickness. Even then she was only marginally faster, and she lacked both his endurance and his punch.
Since he was meant to lead the charge anyway, Mike took up a position by the door. Looking back over his shoulder he explained what he was going to do.
“When I open the door I’m going to bang on the metal to draw any zombies nearby towards us. If it works like I hope then we won’t have to fight the troll and a bunch of walking dead at the same time. There’s a chance that the troll will come investigate too though, so be ready.”
Everybody nodded their heads or readied their weapons by way of agreement.
Mike took a long deep breath and then pulled open the door.
Leaning out he smacked the flat of his ax against the door’s frame.
Then he waited.
A long, strained minute passed, but nothing came to investigate.
Looking over his shoulder he shared a confused look with Troy who’d seen him work the same trick several times now.
Mike grunted then turned to Jessica.
Jessica motioned moving forward.
Mike shook his head in the negative.
She insisted with a glare, pointing at the hallway through the door. They’d voted. She was going to honor that vote. Mike’s caution be damned.
Mike grunted then spoke in a low voice, doing his best to imitate the confidence and commanding advice of the captain-type character in any action movie ever, “We’re moving in. Everyone keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel. We don’t know enough about this troll, it might be capable of surprising us.”
“Yeah like a troll could sneak up on us,” one of the gunmen snickered and the other three laughed.
Mike hissed, “Quiet.”
Throwing a glare over his shoulder he noticed Jessica rolling her eyes at their stupidity.
Mike completely agreed with her apparent evaluation of them. As if judging by the common sense of the old world made any sense in this new one. There were no trolls in the old world. How could the laughing gunner possibly know they weren’t sneaky?
Scientist used to think tyrannosaurus rex was slow and plodding, walking upright with its tail on the ground. Eventually they discovered they’d been completely wrong, instead of slow and plodding, it was a mass of sleek moving muscle that was likely capable of running at impressively high speeds given the length of its stride.
The connection was a little distant, considering trolls were now apparently real and living and t-rex was an extinct dinosaur. But that’s how Mike’s mind worked, it never played by conventional rules. His underlying thought was easier to see though, It was worse than just stupid to underestimate something they’d never seen, based on some imagined image, it was potentially dangerous.
The four with guns had become increasingly annoying to him since they’d decided their new toys made them invincible.
Now that they weren’t cowering in fear, hoping others would save them, they seemed to think themselves superior for having bought guns in the first place. What kind of idiot would take an ax or a “job” over a pistol with live ammunition?
At least that’s what their attitudes seemed to say.
Maybe they were right. Maybe guns would have been the smart choice.
Mike didn’t agree.
Improving himself would be infinitely safer in the long run. He wasn’t adverse to carrying a gun, just to spending credits on one when they could be better spent making him faster, stronger, or more durable.
The difference in philosophy was grating, and their little group was showing signs of the strain already, with less than twenty fours hours together.
Moving slowly through the halls, following a silent, shadowy Yuki, Mike couldn’t help noticing the lack of undead. He’d seen corpses, both previously living, and those that obviously belonged to zombies. But he’d yet to see a single, moaning, shuffling, upright, and moving, zombie.
He was beginning to feel him feel paranoid as they made their way down the central hallway between the square towers.
With more than sixty percent of the floor searched, they had yet to see any sign that anything still called the floor home.
There was also a distinct lack of evidence that the troll had left the building. The intact stairwell door, and noticeable lack of a giant hole in the outer walls suggested it was still around, somewhere.
The tension began to wear thin and Mike considered demanding they retreat and take a break. They could come down the other stairwell with the same plan, after a rest. They didn’t have to give up the hunt completely, just take a breather and readjust their tension levels.
He never got the chance to suggest it.
Right as Yuki stepped past the corner of the long hallway into the east tower, a blur of movement shocked everyone, as huge fist collided with Yuki’s side, sending her flying through the air and into the far wall.
“Yukiiii,” Amy’s screeched, her voice cracking as her friend slid down the wall, falling limply to the ground.
Mike stood there, his mouth hanging open and his heart pounding as the troll turned the corner, grinning mischievously.
It wasn’t as big as he’d imagined.
At seven feet, it was built like a human man.
A big man to be sure, with rippling purplish muscles, and long curved tusk-fangs. But it looked more like a professional athlete in a high-end costume, than an actual monster.
In the back of Mike’s mind, he was a bit disappointed. Way in the back, behind the panic and the fear the troll brought out in him.
Mike was not the first to recover.
As the troll barreled forward, its shoulder lowered in a posture Mike himself often used when hunting zombies, Jessica shouted out.
“Wake up, its coming, don’t just stand there, attack.”
Firing her plasma pistol to put action to her words, she roused the group into moving.
The troll slammed into Dan with a sickening crunch of breaking bone. As Dan’s body bounced off its shoulder the troll reached out, grabbing him by the ankle and swinging him round like a club, crashed Dan into Mike. Releasing its grip on Dan’s leg, it smiled as Mike flew backwards slamming into the wall, Dan’s weight on his chest.
In pain, but not out of the fight, Mike, shoved Dan’s now lifeless corpse to the side, as he struggled to his feet.
In the same moment, Jessica’s energy blasts struck the troll on the chest.
The troll’s skin burned.
The air filled with the smell of rancid meat.
The damage was superficial, its skin already beginning to knit back together under the troll’s extreme regenerative powers.
The following bullets of the four man militia proved even less effective, as they failed to do more than pepper the trolls skin.
The troll roared out in annoyance as it smashed its fist into the wall, pulling away a several chunks of cinder block which it hurled down the hallway with terrifying power.
Troy, one of the last to recover swore as he dove out of the way, letting his fireball spell fade unfinished as he scrambled backwards.
Amy standing next to him sent a healing spell toward Mike filling him with warmth even as tears streamed down her face for her friend Yuki laying still where she’d fallen at the far end of the hallway.
Mike watched as Vanessa darted in, her sword held tightly, and stuck the troll with the sword’s pointy end just above the thigh. It did little damage, and Vanessa was forced to retreat to avoid retaliation in the form of a backhand blow from the enraged troll.
Before the troll could follow up, Jessica’s pistol struck it again, a three round burst to the shoulder, again burning but doing little real damage.
Moments later, a fireball careened into the troll’s face as Troy finally got off an attack of his own.
The fireball struck the monster full in its ugly face, scoring the first serious damage against the troll of the fight, as its eye shriveled, turning to ash, blinding it on the left side.
Mike, back on his feet, rushed in, ducking under a wildly swinging arm as the troll tried instinctively to compensate for its new blind side.
Feeling the breeze created by speed of the trolls arm as it passed within an inch of taking off his head, Mike swore, bringing his ax around in a two handed chop with his full strength, cutting deep into the meat behind its knee, almost severing its left leg entirely.
The troll screamed in pain, staggering into the wall, and grabbed at another loose cinder block.
Hurling the brick down the hallway it turned and moving quickly, drag itself into the hole.
Troy sent another fireball after it, eliciting a scream of rage and pain, followed by a string of debris being thrown out the large hole in the wall.
Through sheer bad luck, or incredible aim, a large hunk of metal struck Troy full in his chest, sending him spiraling onto the ground, a fountain of blood gushing up from the wound.
Mike looked over the scene, struggling to catch his breath.
At least two of the four gunmen were down, one was missing completely.
Yuki was clearly out of the fight as was Dan and Troy.
Rajesh had curled into a ball the moment the troll’s fist sent Yuki flying. His hands covered his head and he was shaking. The puddle under him indicated his terror was genuine.
That left Jessica, Amy, Vanessa… and him.
Jessica’s gun was ineffective on it.
Vanessa’s sword hadn’t been much better, piercing the troll’s side less than an inch.
Amy was useless too, her spells were for support not attacking.
Sighing he realized the obvious truth. If the troll was going to die, he had to be the one to kill it.
“See to the wounded,” Mike said to Amy, nodding at where Troy had fallen, hoping maybe the mage had survived. “I’ll finish the troll, you guys see if you can get everyone out of here… in case I can’t kill it.”
Mike moved to the side of the hole the troll had crawled through. His heart was pounding out of his chest.
Absently he noted the blood on the ground was green.
Peeking his head over the lip of the hole, Mike briefly saw the troll sprawled out, seated with its back against the back wall. He couldn’t see much more than that, before he had to duck back, as a brick sailed by his head.
Taking a long deep breath Mike counted to three.
And then as quickly as he could possibly move he jumped through the hole, using the momentum to roll to the side, away from the hole. Another brick flew out, but he hadn’t stopped moving for a second and he took to his feet running, the brick missing him by scant inches.
Closing the distance between them in a handful of steps Mike met the troll’s fist with his ax, splitting its knuckles and nearly dislocating his own shoulders from the force. Not having the leisure to take it easy, he ignored the pain, drawing his ax back for a second strike, this time landing his blow on the wrist of the troll’s right hand as it made to grab at him.
The troll roared as its hand flew off, its wrist spurting green blood as its heart kept pumping full force.
Instinctively the troll pulled its damaged hand back, into its chest, allowing Mike to follow without thought as he stepped forward and slammed his ax down between the trolls eyes.
The troll spasmed, knocking mike back even as the life drained from its body.
A familiar *ding* rang out in his mind and the detached feminine voice spoke to him.
|Congratulations! You have successfully killed an elite monster.
Achievement: Player killed an elite monster.
Reward: 500 Credits
|Congratulations! You have successfully reached level five.Achievement: Player reached level five.
Reward: +0.2AP + 500 Credits
Bringing up the status menu Mike split his new AP between Strength and Quickness.
|Name: Mike Tanner – Race: Half Orc
Occupation: Monk – Level: 5
Purse: 1130 Credits
STR: 2.0 / QUI: 1.9 / BOD: 1.7 / SPI: 1.2 [AP: 0.0]
Setting a foot up on the troll’s chest, Mike wrenched his ax from its skull with a squelching sound. Taking a single deep breath to calm his nerves, he swung the ax over his shoulder and walked out into the hallway, determined to see exactly how bad things were.
Author : The Steve