Back at the truck it didn’t take long to hammer out a plan. Wilson agreed the rescue was worth the risks involved. He was quite enthusiastic about breaking the goblins power, before they could find the base and put it under siege too.
Especially considering the fact the goblins hadn’t appeared on satellite imagery.
Mike had assumed it was some sort of test or something from Wilson right up until Radio called it in and the base was surprised. Wilson himself didn’t seem too concerned, he’d just said something along the lines of, “I figured magic would negate technology sometimes.”
That wasn’t an explanation. But pressing him for a better one didn’t help things. So with a melodramatic sigh, Mike had filed it away as yet another mystery of the system and gone back to planning the attack.
The overall plan was simple.
HQ would send out two rescue teams and a heavy weapons team. All told that made thirty five men, all players, and something like two heavy machine guns, five or six SAWs (squad automatic weapons), a mortar and a couple rpg launchers.
The mortar and the heavy machine guns were roof mounted weaponry, but the rest was completely mobile. Further, each man carried a semi automatic rifle and at least one system grenade for emergencies.
It all made for quite a bit of firepower.
Unfortunately they lacked any sort of armor.
Mike had seen a light armored vehicle (LAV) in the garage, but it was old, early 80s old, and in the process of being overhauled.
There were no tanks, just a couple of Humvee, a truck, and a handful of commercial type Jeeps.
Not that any of it mattered to Mike.
His job wasn’t to be part of the attack. At least not from the front anyway.
No, Mike was going on a lovely jaunt through the sewers and into the shopping center to make contact and coordinate things from their end.
Someone back at HQ had pulled up city plans and noted there was sewer access from the basement of the building. Why? Nobody knew, but since it was there, it only made sense that someone make contact.
Mike had volunteered.
He had no experience in “war.”
A mission to fight his way through whatever he’d find in the sewers and into the besieged stronghold…
That sounded more like what he’d been doing lately.
He told himself he wasn’t running away from being put in charge of the siege breaking attack. It might have even been true.
After all, he was the only one who had the ability to enter the sewers alone. Anyone else would need a minimum of a three man team to attempt it.
Which was precisely why Mike was going in the first place.
Every gun would count in the attack.
Mike was a lousy shot and his abilities wouldn’t make up for the missing gunmen until he was in close combat. A scenario the attack was built around avoiding. They were planning on attacking from vehicles and staying on the move.
The idea was to draw off as many goblins as possible. Giving the people inside a chance to break out.
Mike was taking a radio with him inside. In the case breaking out wasn’t an option, he could contact everyone to rework the plans. That necessitated him making it through the sewers in the first place.
Once through he’d be relying on Jessica’s word that he was who he said he was to get people to listen to him.
If worst came to worst, he’d just go barbarian and beat up their leader. That kind of thing was bad for morale, but it was better than everyone getting killed cause they refused to work with him.
With time on the line, Mike gave Nikki his book on goblins and headed toward a nearby manhole.
He’d already read enough of the book to understand goblins came in six major branches, grunts, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, orcs, and trolls, each bigger than the last.
Orcs and Trolls were more offshoots from the base, extremely distant cousins, than anything.
Trolls especially, were strange. They were capable of extreme adaption to an environment.
For instance a troll living near a volcano might become a fire troll. On the other hand a troll living underground would almost certainly become a cave troll. Once adapted from the base troll they could never revert, but it was still strange when looked at with the mindset of biology and science.
Maybe Nikki could figure out some specific weaknesses, or learn some of their common tactics for preparation of the attack. If nothing else, she wouldn’t be surprised if some of the goblins turned out to be larger and smarter than the others.
* * *
Stepping off the old metal ladder onto the concrete walkway, the first thing Mike noticed was the lack of smell. He’d been expecting an overpowering port-a-potty level stench.
All he smelled was a subtle dankness, like old, stagnant water.
The ground was more or less dry too.
On either side of the tunnel were several long pipes and cables. Overall the sewers looked more like a science fiction movie’s secret base corridor set than anything.
His natural darkvision kicking in Mike was able to see quite a ways in either direction.
There was nothing to cause alarm.
No zombies, no goblins, not even a crocodile.
Mike didn’t let down his guard.
He’d gone down into the sewers from the manhole nearest the truck.
Entering considerably before he actually needed to, he had two blocks and a little more to cover before he could come up in the shopping center’s basement level. There was plenty of time to run into unexpected trouble.
Mike set out at a slow jog. Making sure to keep the map of the tunnels in mind, he ate up the distance at a steady pace.
The tunnels weren’t really a maze. He could, however, see how someone relying on a flashlight to get around, might miss the various small signs that indicated where exactly they were at any given time.
It wasn’t long before Mike noticed trails of dirt and rock along the ground. Like someone or several somethings covered in dirt, had passed through a few times, inadvertently marking their trails.
Mike retrieved his ax from his ring. The system had trained him not to ignore his instincts, and he was getting a bad feeling.
Keeping the ax loose in his hand he paid special attention to the a trail that followed the same route he was taking. Eventually it led him to a hole in the tunnel that looked like something big had dug its way into the sewers.
The hole was rougher than the poured concrete of the sewer, but packed tight, making similar sized burrows.
Curious, but on a timeline, Mike filed the information away for later.
In particular he thought about how similar the burrows were to the hole in the floor of the hotel basement. He had no proof, but his gut said he’d found the monster responsible for the mysterious deaths.
The fact there were goblins in the area made him wonder if there was some connection.
It wasn’t exactly a stretch to think system monsters might be capable of working together.
If it was true, it meant bad things for the future.
Continuing along the route he’d memorized to the shopping center, Mike found several similar gaping holes leading off in various directions with no obvious rhyme or reason.
Ignoring his growing curiosity Mike continued onward.
The deeper into the sewers he got, the more frequently the holes appeared.
Eventually Mike couldn’t take it anymore. Using his ax to make marks along the burrow, he ventured down one of them.
Moving at a down slope for several hundred paces the tunnel suddenly opened up into a small circular cavern. A nexus of sorts, it was full of branching tunnels of various sizes.
The smallest was just tall enough for a man to walk upright down.
The largest was easily wide enough to allow for two way vehicle traffic.
Whatever had made the larger tunnels was something Mike was not eager to meet.
Retreating back the way he’d come, he picked up his pace. He suddenly found himself eager to be out of the sewers.
Hurrying along, Mike hadn’t made it far from the tunnel when a strange loud, tink tink tink, sound startled him, causing him to stop walking.
The noise came again almost immediately. The second time he was able to pinpoint it as coming from the tunnel wall to his left.
Inexplicably curious despite his fears Mike stood stalk still as the sound rang out a third time followed by a small hole appearing in the wall.
Dirt fell from the hole like sand from an hourglass for several long moment before the sound came a fourth and final time. A long crack branched out, splitting the hole down the middle.
The crack continued to grow as dirt and concrete broke off in chunks. The dirt and rock poured out from the ever growing hole, until, with a shudder, the wall gave way, revealing a long burrow on the other side.
Suspecting he was about to be in serious danger, Mike ran back to the last burrow he’d passed and ducked inside. Holding his breath he peeked out of his hide-y hole to watch as the tunnel digger revealed itself.
Seeing it the only thing Mike could think to describe it was to call it a bugman.
Nearly nine foot tall it moved all hunched over at the waist with it large front arms dragging along the ground like a great ape, as two smaller human sized arms stayed tucked against its chest. Its head was a mass of compound eye and overgrown serrated mandible, like some monstrous combination of fly and ant.
A mottled green, flexible chitin covered its body. Thicker chitinous plates overlapped the flexible “skin” on its chest, back, and forearms, leaving its joints more or less unprotected.
Thick elephantine feet completed the picture.
Considering Mike had been half expecting mole people, he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or not.
On the one hand it was alone.
On the other hand, it looked like the worst of fringe science gone horribly wrong.
He was leaning towards unrelieved.
Mike wasn’t an expert on bugs by any means. What he did know was enough to suspect the monster in front of him would be terrifyingly strong.
That wouldn’t mean much if it was slow. Unfortunately, he’d seen enough roaches scurrying away from a sudden light, to assume it was half as lumbering as it looked.
All in all he was more than glad to be hidden.
Or at least that’s what Mike was thinking right up until the big ugly thing’s head swiveled in his direction. Its finger thick antennae began to wag and letting out a strange clicking screech, it dropped down to four limbs.
Mike wasn’t stupid. He realized that he’d been spotted, the second it started moving.
Activating his ghost phase he raised his ax and breeze stepped to the bugman’s side.
Without so much as twitching its bulbous head, the monster’s right arm shot out, connecting with Mike’s shoulder. Combining with his momentum the blow sent him flying into the far wall where his back crashed through several pipes and into the concrete.
Pain washed over Mike as he pulled himself out of the wall.
His back felt wet. He could feel his shirt sticking to his skin.
He was definitely bleeding.
He didn’t get time to check his wounds.
The bug man was already turning towards him, revealing a slight weakness with its clumsy, jerking movements. It wasn’t capable of changing directions easily.
It was a weakness Mike couldn’t easily capitalize on given the impressive speed and range of motion its arms apparently possessed.
Raising his ax again, Mike breeze stepped in a zigzag pattern, circling around the beast’s front at high speed, attempting to confuse it with an overload of input.
It seemed to work as the creature skittered backwards, chittering nonstop as it placed its back to the wall. Whether cautious by nature or truly threatened, its antennae constantly twitched as it tracked Mike’s movements.
Seeing what appeared to be an opening Mike rushed in at an angle.
Taking a massive two handed swipe, he aimed for the joint of the monster’s big front-right arm.
At the last possible moment it jerked, as if anticipating his attack.
His ax rebounded off chitin.
The natural armor chipped, but his blade didn’t bite into flesh.
Off balance for a moment his life flashed before his eyes as the bug creature spat a wad of sticky green goo towards his chest.
Without time to think, Mike dropped down.
Banging his knees against the hard against the concrete, he winced, ignoring the pain as he rolled to the side.
Getting unsteadily to his feet he glanced down at the attack that had just missed him.
The concrete was smoking as it ate through it. The glob was some kind of acid, not all that powerful, but powerful enough considering it would have stuck to his chest like glue.
Backpedaling to open up some room, Mike pulled a grenade from his ring and with a smirk he pulled the pin. Feeling particularly clever he added, “Here, try this,” as he tossed it.
Retrieving a clear plastic riot shield from the things Wilson had put in his ring, he covered himself.
The grenade’s arc was perfect. It landed a couple of inches from one of the bug’s legs before exploding with a deafening bang.
Mike’s cheer was quickly strangled as the bug man lumbered out of the smoke.
He had just enough time to curse and brace for impact before it crashed into him, sending him sprawling for a second time. This time with the audible crack of bone.
His left arm and at least one of his ribs had taken the brunt of the force.
They hadn’t been able to handle it.
Letting the shield slide off his arm as he rolled, he just missed getting stomped on by the bugman’s furious charge. Swinging out he watched as his ax jerked from his hand, wedged in the joint at the back of the monster’s knee.
It screamed bloody murder as Mike scrambled backwards, frantically searching his storage ring for another weapon.
He had several to choose from, but none of them were magic in nature.
He’d given Radio his last future grenade too.
Luck was not on his side.
Swearing like a sailor, Mike forced himself to stand.
He was tired.
He hurt everywhere.
But he wasn’t beaten just yet.
Concentrating inwards for a moment he gathered his remaining qi in his right fist.
Absently he noted he wouldn’t have enough qi for a second chance if his idea failed as he breeze stepped to the bugman’s side.
Its arm shot out.
Mike sucked in as he spun with the blow, absorbing the smallest possible force with his uninjured side, as he crashed his fist into the side of the monster’s head.
His hand went through its eye like it was made of gelatin, pulping its brain and destroying its entire head in a shower of brilliant green ichor.
Before he could so much as whoop the monster’s flailing body sent him crashing into the wall.
Mike sat there, trying not to whimper as he watched it flail around.
He’d killed it, but the body refused to acknowledge it was dead.
A system ding rang out and an announcement popped up congratulating him on leveling up.
Without much thought he put the points into Strength. His attack hadn’t been able to cut off the monster’s arm in one strike. That was probably normal considering how thick its armor was, but Mike wasn’t okay with it.
|Name: Mike Tanner – Race: Half Orc
Occupation: Monk – Level: 9
Purse: 770 Credits
STR: 5.3 / QUI: 4.7 / BOD: 5.8 / SPI: 4.3 [AP: 0.0]
Waiting until the tunnel digger finally collapsed, Mike pulled himself out of the wall.
Everything hurt, like he’d been run through a meat grinder, but he was more or less fine.
he was a cultivator and had the skill of [lesser regeneration]. he’d only have to meditate for six to eight hours to repair his broken bones. Everything else would heal in far less time, Including his back and the chunk missing from his side.
If he had a healing potion, his wounds would simply disappear like magic.
Considering that, his cultivation wasn’t that much of a cheat. Unfortunately he didn’t have a healing potion. He hadn’t been the greatest about spending his credits wisely, and every time he’d thought about getting one just in case, he’d been tapped.
Mike walked over to the bugman’s corpse.
Leaning down with a wince he retrieved his ax, only to start swearing.
The monster’s flailing had broken the haft.
There wasn’t enough left to hold it by the wood, much less use it in battle. Putting the pieces in his ring he took out a machete and a combat knife.
Strapping the combat knife to his leg he sighed and headed back down the sewer tunnel.
He was almost to the shopping center’s sewer access point.
As long as he didn’t run into another bugman, he’d be able to get his ax fixed at a vending machine.
Everything would be fine.
I just wanted to acknowledge that I owe two bonus chapters; One for the sponsored chapters and one for a patreon goal that was reached. I’m working on them. I don’t think you will see them this week, but the next two weeks should see you getting three chapters each week. Or in other words eight chapters in the next three weeks… I think I’ll cut this note off here. I just wanted to let everyone know I haven’t forgotten.
Author : The Steve