Mike came to in a cell.
He was laying on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed, wearing a tshirt and pair of shorts.
He remembered stuffing them both into the bag of holding. Meaning they’d found it on him when they searched him. Not just found it but opened it and emptied the contents.
Some soldier was probably wearing his knife and carrying his ax to kill zombies right now.
Life was full of ups and downs, but Mike was having trouble seeing any ups coming from his current situation.
The cell he was in felt fairly large, about ten by ten, with no front wall just a framework of bars, including a door made out of the same. Figuring he had nothing better to do, Mike got up and tried his strength on them.
They were laughably resistant to his efforts to bend or otherwise remove them.
Defeated for the moment, Mike retreated to his bunk, and sat down.
He went over what he knew in his mind.
Soldiers had surrounded them looking hostile.
While he’d been considered trying to fight their way out, the big guy, the lieutenant, Dirk, had shown up.
He’d placated the men with guns, acting like he was their friend or something..
Mike had instantly gotten a bad feeling from him.
He’d been there to figure out if they could trust the military though. A feeling wasn’t exactly proof. So he’d taken their offer of safety, and a ride back to base camp.
In the truck Dirk had kept up the act of being a good host for less than two miles down the road before ordering one of his men to put them to sleep.
The man had had control over electricity, or maybe lightning if it was magic based. Why was that detail important? Because it meant that Dirk wasn’t the only strong player among the soldiers.
The fact they all carried guns had made him let down his guard. He’d subconsciously looked down on guns since the troll.
Before the troll had shrugged off a hail storm of bullets, he’d considered guns a decent weapon. He’d just thought buying them from the system store was a bad investment considering they were so common.
In his mind, it made more sense to get a bloodline or magic item that was unique to the system. But he’d still thought of them as viable weapons right up until the troll. He figured most players surviving alone or in small groups had probably had similar experiences and felt the same way.
Was that why the soldiers were carrying the guns them? To lower the guard of survivors they met beyond their “perimeter?”.
No that’s giving them too much credit, Mike thought, in answer to his own paranoia.
It was more likely that only one or two of the soldiers had really adapted to the system. Like electricity guy. The rest were probably just more effective with weapons they were familiar with, than with magic and the other new things that came with the system.
What did that mean for Mike?
It improved his confidence in dealing with them in the future. Assuming he found a way out. Other than that, Mike wasn’t sure. He had no clue why they’d wanted him and Nikki. It didn’t make any sense.
What could they be using survivors for?
Maybe they got experience for killing them?
If that was true, then why didn’t Dirk just kill them right then and there?
Then Mike remembered. The giant had said something about the higher ups wanting information. Maybe he really did still have superiors somewhere. If he did, then collecting survivors to kill for experience in order to make the boss stronger, while twisted, made perfect sense.
Assuming, instead, that the whole information thing was actually true. What information could he give them that they didn’t already have though? And what was the point in making him a prisoner to get the information. He would have just told them anything they wanted to know…
Well, anything that didn’t involve admitting that he still had friends out in the city waiting on him.
Mike forced himself to get out of his own head.
Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself that he was being paranoid. He had no proof of anything. All he knew is the soldiers had kidnapped him and put him in a cell. He didn’t even know what had happened to Nikki.
Maybe she was perfectly fine.
He’d broken the corporal’s nose.
Maybe he was being confined for that, and it had nothing to do with the rest. Maybe it was part of their protocol to knock people they rescued unconscious, so they didn’t know where the base was at when they got there. It would be one means of protecting themselves from spies and scouts for any group that might want to attack them…
But that logic was flawed to a certain extent. It assumed the military was threatened by civilians. The apocalypse had happened around two days ago. Since he wasn’t sure exactly how long he’d been unconscious, he couldn’t be more specific with the time.
Was that enough time for an organization that rivaled the military to even form?
Mike didn’t know. He thought it was possible, but it seemed less possible that the military had already adjusted to the idea that regular civilians were dangerous enough to warrant such extreme measures when bringing them in.
Going round and round in his mind without getting anywhere, Mike took a deep breath.
A decision firmed in his mind.
He was stuck in a cell. He couldn’t do anything about that for the immediate moment. But he could meditate. He could integrate the martial arts he’d just learned, and improve his cultivation level. In a few days he’d be stronger and more dangerous unarmed, than the guy who’d been running around splitting zombies in half with his ax.
Even with his mind made up, it took a while for Mike to calm down and enter the void state required for meditation.
Falling inwards, Mike found himself standing in a large open expanse, darkness extending in every direction. It was a little intimidating, but a simple reminder that it was all under his control calmed him again as he imagined the basic movements of Krav Maga.
In the distance a large man with blurry features, that was clearly supposed to represent him, appeared, and slowly began to repeat the very blocks, strikes and kicks he’d been imagining. The man ran through them in slow motion, exaggerating the movements.
Mike thought to himself that seeing it full speed would help him more, and just as easily the blurry faced figure jerked forward into full speed movement. His hands and feet blurring with the speed, obscuring the subtleties of the actions taken.
Maybe a little slower, Mike thought and was pleased to see the figure’s speed decrease until it had settled between the two extremes.
Taking one last deep breath, Mike began to follow along.
At some point he heard a rattling from the front of his cell and the voice of a soldier saying, “here, eat up.” He didn’t open his eyes, or stop meditating for a moment. The food, whatever it was,would likely still be there when he was exhausted.
Time passed differently in the space in his mind, as hours passed in the outside world days, even months seemed to pass inside. All of it spent seeking to master fighting.
As Mike learned more about the space he found he could split his consciousness, creating another Mike who could then practice another martial art under another blurry master.
He could only create two clones in this manner, but having all three focus on the same martial art tripled the rate he integrated it. Likewise learning three separate arts allowed him to master them simultaneously.
It was a serious cheat. Had Mike not caught a glimpse of what the world was becoming, he might have been tempted to label it a broken level cheat. But he had seen the world that was coming. His rate of progress was barely adequate in the face of that. Reminding himself of this fact, he kept his ego in check and his rate of improvement steady.
Four more times Mike heard the sounds of a meal being set out for him. His lack of appetite confused the guard, though not enough for him to actually enter the cell and give Mike a chance at escape.
Finally, giving no warning, from one moment to the next, Mike stood.
His joints popped and his bones cracked as he stretched. Then with a flash he began to preform the basic movements he’d integrated. They flowed smooth and fast, like he’d known them for years, his hands and feet blurring as his increased Quickness came into play.
Somewhere in the back of his mind Mike knew that in the old world, before levels and skills, there was no one capable of standing against the current version of him. He would have been unbeatable, a veritable titan of the martial arts community.
Now though, in this new world, without finding a weapon first, he had little confidence of being able to survive long enough to make it back to Troy and the others. Much less have a chance at rescuing Nikki, wherever she was now.
I’m so tired, and I have no idea why. If I hadn’t wrote about half of this last night I might not have been able to finish it. Since I did finish I think I’ll just go ahead and give it to you guys early.
In the future, I’m probably going to push back posting time to around 5PM Central US time zone though, to give myself more cushion for sleeping in. I’m going straight from posting this to taking a nap. Thanks for reading.
Author : The Steve