“Hey, I’m talking to you.”
Mike stopped walking.
Looking behind him he saw Dirk walking toward him, an annoyed look on his face.
Mike didn’t like the big man. He owed him a punch upside the head. Until he got a chance to pay him back, that was all he’d be able to think about when he saw him.
Now that they were supposedly on the same side, he knew he needed to suppress those sort of feelings. The boss was unlikely to be the forgiving type. It was safer to ignore his existence.
Dirk didn’t seem to feel the same way.
“You didn’t hear me call you back there?” Dirk asked, catching up to him.
“Guess not,” Mike said.
It was a lie, he’d heard someone call, “Hey jackass.”
He hadn’t acknowledged their call for the same reason he would have preferred to avoid Dirk; he didn’t want to get in a fight. Even taking the Boss’ reaction ouf of the equation, there were too many reasons not to fight. Dirk was an ally now, together they should be rescuing survivors and protecting the ones already at the compound.
Besides, there were enough things in the city looking to kill him, that if he did want to fight, all he had to do was step outside.
So he’d ignored the angry man clearly looking to start something. He hadn’t even realized the person who’d yelled at him had been Dirk. If he had it wouldn’t have made a difference though, it would only have been one more reason to pretended momentary deafness.
“Whatever, just tell me what the you talked about with the Boss.”
Mike wasn’t in the greatest mood. He really was hungry, but his bad mood came from more than that. His arrangement to lead a field team for Mr. Wilson annoyed him.
If he was forced to admit it, he liked fighting. It made him feel alive.
He didn’t like leading though.
Having other people’s lives depending on his decisions didn’t sit right with him. In the more serious moments it kept him from enjoying the fight. But he wasn’t willing to sit back and watch other people lead poorly, anymore. Keeping even one more person alive, was worth the pressure.
The Boss hadn’t asked him if he wanted to lead the team though. Not really. He’d told him he would. Mike didn’t feel like he could say no. Not after feeling his aura and hearing his story.
A level forty something vampire who’d been inside a monolith and destroyed its core? How could he do anything but listen to a person like that?
But that was between him and the Boss. He had no reason to share his doubts with Dirk. Just telling him what they’d talked about was already giving him more information than he needed to give him.
“The Boss wants me to lead a field team to do more than just look for survivors.”
In his mind Dirk should have been grateful for for the information. So when the man’s big meaty fist was suddenly swinging at his head, Mike was momentarily confused.
“You bastard. What’s so good about you? I should be leading that team. I’m bigger. I’m stronger, I’m better than you in every single fucking way,” the giant punctuated each new sentence with another swing. His fists were big, and his punches quick, but Mike was twice the man he’d been when Dirk caught him off guard the day before.
Stepping in Mike caught his wrist and twisted, driving Dirk to his knees. As the big man struggled to find leverage to extract himself, Mike, almost gently, chopped him on the back of the neck. Dirk crumpled into a heap.
Looking at him curiously for a long moment, Mike shook his head and turned back to the cafeteria, only to hear a faint whispered, “Where are you going, this isn’t over yet,” coming from behind him.
Turning back, Mike watched as Dirk’s already huge size, seemed to swell.
His fists grew larger, turning into shovel sized claws. His skin thickened and then turned scaly, boney growths covering his joints and replacing hair. Even his spine elongated, accommodating for an extra foot and a half of size.
Where there had once been a man, there was now a monster. A dinosaur looking man thing of nearly eight feet, and half a ton of muscle.
Rather than scared, Mike smiled. He’d wanted to test his new abilities.
Still it was better to play it safe than discover this new Dirk really was a monster. Mike invoked the first phase of his demonic transformation.
In an instant his hair turned white, growing out and down until it was loose, unruly mane, gathered midway down his back. His nails hardened into thick talons, and his skin grew desiccated and leathery. His canine teeth grew into fangs. His ears tapered into points. And the color of his eyes became a deep, bloody red.
The two monsters faced each other across the length of the hallway, neither the least bit intimidated by the other. Both spoiling for the fight, they stared each other down.
The slow, drawn out pause in the action, lasted half a ten count, before smirking, Mike shifted his weight, and breeze stepped to Dirk’s side.
Launching a massive right to the jaw, his blow caught the bigger slower man off guard, and slipped through, connecting.
Dirk sailed through a side wall from the force of the blow, sending up a cloud of concreted dust.
He was down for only a moment before, roaring, the giant appeared from the hole in the wall with his arms outstretched.
Mike dodged a hay maker and a short combination, twisting at the waist to avoid each blow with the slightest movement. Then satisfied with his bodies speed and flexibility he tested its strength.
Reaching out the clamped down on the bigger man’s wrist and twisting he flipped him over his shoulder.
Dropping he brought the weight of his knee down, into Dirk’s shoulder, causing him to cry out.
Mike leaned down, close where Dirk’s ear would have been before his transformation, and whispered, “I’m faster. I’m smarter. I’m stronger. I’m better than you in every single fucking way. Don’t you forget it.”
And just like that Mike let off the pressure and stood.
Releasing his demonic state, Mike breeze stepped back to the end of the hallway, still intending to get something to eat in the cafeteria.
Dirk, still in his monstrous form, growled deep in the back of his throat. He’d been manhandled. He’d never lost a fight in his life. He was formally trained in both boxing and the MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program). In his mind there was no way he should have lost against the weaker, smaller, Mike.
He couldn’t take it.
Springing to his feet he sucked air and with a strange gurgling noise, he spit a wad of noxious grey gunk.
Mike hearing the noise, moved instinctively, spinning he dodged to the side, pulling his ax from the interspatial ring, he hurled it down the hallway even as he slammed into the carpeted floor.
The grey wad passed through the space he’d been standing to splatter on the far wall. Moments later a faint popping sizzle could be heard as the substance ate through the concrete like acid, forming a weird shaped hole looking into a empty tiled bathroom.
Turning back to yell at Dirk Mike paused. His ax was embedded in the man’s skull, and his form was rapidly returning to human with cracking pops of bone sliding back into place.
For a moment Mike just stared, not knowing what he was feeling. He’d never killed a living human. There had been dozens and dozens of zombies, wolf-dogmen,a troll, and a spider gorilla, but no living humans.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d assumed he’d be feeling a sense of loss when this moment inevitably came. But he wasn’t. If anything he felt justified. Dirk had obviously been trying to kill him with that last attack. He’d reacted without conscious thought, ending the threat.
Looked at objectively, he was in the right.
The fact that he didn’t feel bad about killing Dirk actually made him feel worse than anything. What was the system turning him into exactly? A killer?
Mike wasn’t sure it mattered. If he could survive and protect the people close to him when it mattered, then he didn’t care if he became a monster. But realizing that forced him to acknowledge once again, that the old world was gone, and even if it came back, he wouldn’t be the same person he’d been before the system anyway.
As Mike was lost in his head, debating ramifications and lost innocence, a mechanical click sounded above him and the familiar deep raspy voice of the Boss sounded out.
“Congratulations, you passed my last test. I knew you were the right choice. Don’t worry about Dirk there, I’ll have someone dispose of his body. If you want to leave you ax, I’ll have someone clean it and bring it back to you. There’s no telling what his blood is doing to its finish. It is acidic and mildly poisonous if handled incorrectly.”
Mike felt himself growing angry at the detached way Wilson was talking about Dirk.
“What do you mean final test?” Mike demanded.
“Exactly what it sounds like. I set Dirk up to think he would lead the field team. Made it sound like the most prestigious job, only the best need apply, all true, but also all intended to stoke his ego. Then I gave you the position. I knew in his caveman mind that he wouldn’t be able to accept that. He’d have to prove he was better than you. Whatever happened, I’d get the strongest player around here, running the team.”
The way Wilson laid out his plans actually comforted Mike somewhat, against all common sense. It felt like if Wilson was willing to admit to something shady, like maneuvering him into having a fight with another player, what wouldn’t he be open about. There wouldn’t be any dark secrets waiting to destroy their trust.
Not that it wasn’t annoying to be played. He’d just killed a man so Wilson could see which one of them was stronger. Mike didn’t condone that at all. He was pissed. But he also understood it. If Dirk had killed him, then he wasn’t worthy of leading the best team. It was a barbaric system, stone age level even, but it made sense.
He’d never have fought Dirk so seriously if he hadn’t been maneuvered. That much was fact. He’d have avoided starting something, the threat of Dirk always looming in the background.
As sick as it was, a little part of Mike was glad he didn’t have to go through all of that.
“Get to the cafeteria and get something to eat. I want you on the road by this afternoon. The longer you sit around the stronger the system grows and the more people die.” the mechanical click sounded again as the Boss hung up.
Mike sighed, looking back at his ax, and consequently Dirk’s corpse, he took a deep breath. Turning he forced himself to put it all behind him, and once again, he headed to the cafeteria.
I used a swear word in the following chapter. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I did try others in its place. They didn’t feel right. Dirk doesn’t feel like the kind of angry man who would yell freakin’ effin’ or any other lesser or made up curse words. Sorry.
Also it should be fairly obvious, but in case it isn’t, ads are back. Someone in the help forum got around to listening to my problem, instead of posting a generic list of things to try. They reactivated my old account manually for me. So I used the ancient adsense account that I set up for mother in like ’08, to set up some new ads and posted them on the site. They may take time to pop up or may only be visible on mobile, not sure yet.
Sponsored chapters will still be possible, or at the very least they will until the first one is fully sponsored.
Author : The Steve