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APoc Now – Chapter 35 - Captured (4)
Shin landed on the ground, smoothly straightening up as he looked around. He had just warped into Paris, France, in Europe. The night air was full of noise as the nightlife in the city rose to prominence. Shin checked his watch, noting that it was around 12 pm.
Shin was currently standing in front of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, a luxurious hotel near the Eiffel Tower in France. Several people walked by on the sidewalk around him, with a quiet but noticeable background chatter.
Shin reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white headset, putting it on as he walked inside the hotel. A quiet whirring sound went off as the headset turned on and began functioning.
The chatter around Shin suddenly became understandable as the headset transformed what people were saying into English. Shin tapped on the headset again, bringing out a small microphone that rested near his mouth.
The headset and mic was one of the many purchases Shin had made over the past three weeks. Ever since David had disappeared, Shin had begun preparing for the worst. He had immediately sold all of the Lottery Slots he had gained from the various Crates and the special Crate in the System Auction, amassing a small fortune in points that he had quickly spent.
This headset was something he had purchased through the System, known as a “Translation Apparatus.” It automatically translated everything Shin heard into a language of his choosing, and had the ability to translate what he spoke into another language as well. It was one of the many marvels of the System, and something that had come into great use as he searched the European continent for information on David.
Shin walked into the hotel, breezing past the lobby. He turned down a corridor and took the stairs, walking briskly up them. He exited on the third floor, seeing no one as he walked down the lonesome corridor. He heard the sounds of people talking behind several of the doors he walked past.
Soon, Shin came upon his destination, stopping in front of the Room 341. He knocked twice and paused, waiting for the owner to answer the door.
After a few moments, the door opened up, revealing a man completely covered in camo. The man had his face partially obscured by a camo eyemask. He also wore camo trousers, a camo shirt, even camo gloves. He looked rather odd in Shin's opinion, especially considering they were in the middle of a populated city. The man motioned for Shin to come inside, quickly locking the door behind him as Shin walked in.
The insides of the room were a mess, with various mechanical devices scattered about. Several large tin foil wraps covered the windows, obscuring the outside view. A large set of computer monitors was set up where the desk was in the room, flashing brightly. Where a bed should be was a set of couches, one on each side of a long coffee table.
Shin turned to face the room’s owner, giving him a nod. The man faced Shin saying,
“Let’s make this quick. Gladius right?” Shin heard the man speak in English thanks to his translation headset, once again appreciating its usefulness. Shin nodded. He had gone under the assumed name Gladius when he checked the forum. He felt it best to keep his identity a secret.
“I have the information you seek. You know my price.” The man looked at Shin expectantly, waving at the coffee table behind Shin.
Shin walked over to the table and sat down one of the couches. He reached into his pocket, withdrawing a small wallet. He tapped on the wallet, willing it to open.
Immediately, a small blue screen flashed opened in the air.
Dimensional Wallet – 25 Cubic Meters
Open Stored List
Shin tapped on the Open Stored List, bringing up a large list of things.
Dimensional Wallet – 25 Cubic Meters
Gravity Gun (Model 3)
Laser Assault Rifle (Well Worn)
Handgun (Ice Element)
Handgun (Fire Element)
Corringer Black Delta Hoverbike
Ethera Crystal (Medium)
Ethera Crystal (Small)
Shin withdrew the Ethera Crystals, both the medium sized one and the small sized one. Immediately, two glowing crystals appeared in Shins hand.
Ethera Crystals are powerful rocks that, in the futuristic world of Zel, are used to fuel nuclear fusion and fission reactors. While the rocks themselves were not radioactive, the elements they were made of allowed practically free energy to be created through fusion in a Core Reactor.
Shin was currently talking with a man he only knew as Snake. On the online System Forums, Shin had searched for days to find someone that could help him find a clue of where David was. He had come across Snake in one of the threads he had read in his search for missing people near the Special Crate spawn.
Snake had the ability “Information Gatherer: Master,” the highest class of the ability that existed. There were only 4 other people with the same power as this Super in front of Shin. While Shin wasn’t 100% sure what Snake would find, he knew it would be of use to him regardless.
Shin had messaged Snake privately, asking for his aid. Snake had responded in turn demanding payment for his services. Because of the uniqueness of his power and its many uses, Snake’s skills were in high demand by practically everyone. Therefore, the man charged an absolute steal, demanding that Shin provide two Ethera Crystals, with at least one being Medium size or greater.
The two Ethera Crystals Shin had purchased cost him 70,000 points, 20,000 for the small one and 50,000 for the medium one.
Shin gritted his teeth silently as he set the crystals down on the coffee table. The air around the small blue rocks shimmered, a result of the aura the stones gave off.
Snake walked over, his camo trousers dragging slightly on the floor. He picked up the two glowing rocks, taking them over to one of the mechanical contraptions laying on the various counters in the hotel room.
Shin watched as he placed the two rocks in what looked like, of all things, a coffee maker. After a few seconds in the machine, a green light appeared and beeping quietly. Snake turned around to face Shin quickly.
“Excellent! Exactly what I asked for, thank you thank you!” The information gatherer gave a little dance, stepping backward and forth as he walked up to Shin and shook his hand. Shin could feel the happiness the man gave off.
“It is so difficult to gather those crystals you know. So very few people win them in the Lottery, and no one is really willing to spend the points in the System.” The man abruptly turned around and walked over to the couch, sitting down. He waved at Shin, gesturing for him to sit down as well.
Snake looked at Shin expectantly. Shin cleared his throat, saying,
“Well. As I requested, I am looking for information regarding a missing person.”
Snake nodded. The man tapped the air for a moment, clicking on a screen Shin couldn’t see. From out of thin air Snake withdrew a futuristic looking tablet. The man tapped on the screen, looking through some documents. After a few moments, he looked back up at Shin.
“A man named David Care, correct?”
Shin nodded, his heart tightening. Everything he had worked towards the past several weeks had led up to this moment.
“I also provided you with the information regarding the anit-tank rifle shells, and the other attacks that are connected.” Shin said, staring at the man intently.
Snake nodded, and looked down at his tablet again.
“Yes, you are correct. Let’s take a look at this.” The camo covered man began reading the tablet in front of him. He spoke aloud as he read off the screen.
“Your friend is in a rather interesting scenario, Mr. Gladius. On December the 2nd, approximately three weeks ago, at 6:24 pm GMT, a user with the Physical Modification ‘Life Orb Master,’ as well as the ability ‘Store/Expand Energy’ was killed. The location appears to be a few miles out of former Russian ‘House of Soviets.’ However, after he was killed, he revived again roughly a second after this death. Again, he was killed instantly. This went on for nearly a minute, with the Super dying more than 50 times and subsequently reviving. All of this occurred just moments after the Monthly Lottery ended.”
Snake looked up at Shin. He waved his hand in the air, withdrawing one of the anti-tank bullets that Shin had sent him.
“Normally, I would lose the trail here. Even with my ability, I cannot track a person indefinitely. However, this shell changes that.” Snake explained, tossing it in the air.
“I managed to trace this bullet to a PTRS-41, a semi automatic anti-tank rifle. This specific rifle belonged to former Russian SAS elite, a soldier that has been missing.”
“Missing for three weeks.”
Shin shot up from the couch, standing and leaning forward. His heart beat out of pace as excitement filled his veins.
“Where?! Where did he go missing?!” Shin said hoarsely, staring intensely at the Information Gatherer.
“Thanks to my ability, I was able to trace this soldier to an abandoned mental hospital in Russia. There was a very faint sense of the soldier being their, his last known location. With that key location in mind, I was able to pick up the trail of your missing friend, and gather a mental image of him as he was taken inside the same abandoned hospital.”
Snake responded, unperturbed by Shins excitement. A tinge of excitement filled his tone as he continued speaking.
“This is where it gets really interesting, however. Thanks to the mental image I gained from your friend passing through, I have discovered the identity of his kidnappers. Or, to be more exact, I discovered what they were.”
Snake paused dramatically, the excitement in his voice rising.
“Your friend was taken by beings not from this world. I have a clear image of them carrying your friend, as well as several other humans, all inside the hospital.”
Snake smiled triumphantly, gesturing at Shin proudly.
Shin stared at him incredulously.
“Aliens?” He said in disbelief, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Blood colored Shin’s vision as he teleported next to Snake, slamming the man into the wall behind the couch.
“I’m not fucking playing around here, Snake. You will tell me where my friend is, and what happened to him, or things will not end well for you.”
The air around Shin trembled slightly as he held the man up against the wall with a single hand, holding Snake’s entire weight.
Snake gave Shin a rictus of a grin, patting his arm lightly.
“My friend, my friend. I am not lying. Carrying your friend inside were creatures enshrouded in metallic armor, armor that appears to tightly woven in with their flesh. These creatures give off some sort of aura, empowering their movements as they walked through the front entrance of the mental hospital. The majority of these creatures wore simple grey plate armor and give off a strengthening aura. Four of the creatures were wearing a fiery red plate of armor that gives off a burning aura, and one of the creatures wore a solid black plate, giving off a deathly aura.”
Shin felt something slam into his chest and was suddenly thrown backwards, blasting away from the wall. He teleported mid flight, landing back on the couch. He stood still, staring at Snake intensely.
Snake continued talking as if nothing had happened.
“Your friend is not the only one being carried. I can see several other humans slung across the backs of several of the grey armored creatures. I can also see several of the creatures wearing the skins of humans, using some sort of transformation device. Unfortunately, as soon as the creatures walk inside the entrance of the mental hospital, I lose the connection.”
The excitement that had been inherent in the man’s voice suddenly overflowed as he starting talking excitedly.
“Do you know what this means, Mr. Gladius? This is the first interaction between humans and aliens. If we can successfully establish contact with these creatures, we will usher in an era of newfound wonder! Can you imagine it? The dreams we could share, the social interaction, the knowledge!”
The man’s voice had taken on a fanatic fervor, his eyes glazing over slightly.
Shin took in what the man said, responding,
“Why are you so certain these creatures you say are… aliens?”
Snake smiled at Shin.
“My ability. I simply know. I can peruse information gathered through the System. Any creature that would be found in any of the powers or abilities in the System would be listed here, and I can find nothing about these creatures. Therefore, they must be 1) naturally forming and 2) not from this planet, or beings that have remained undercover for tens of thousands of years.”
Shin’s mind raced ahead of him as he planned on how to respond. He asked aloud,
“Tell me the location of this mental hospital.”
Snake smiled again, a fanatic gleam entering his eyes.
“I can do better than just tell you, Mr. Gladius. I’ll take you there myself.”
The Plane of Va, 5th Overlord’s Domain, 4th Heliosphere
David looked around nervously as he continued mining away at the Pon rock in front of him. It was the appointed day of their escape attempt and he felt woefully underprepared.
He had only been in the prison camp for a few weeks, but leaving already seemed like a dream. The volatile Wardens along with the backbreaking daily work made life a hellhole in the camp. David had been whipped multiple times for not swinging his pickaxe with “enough vigor” by the Foreman, and nearly killed when one of the Wardens accidentally ran into him. His experiences here had, overall, been negative.
He hadn’t, however, gained nothing while here. His body had grown use to being in a near permanent transformation state, and while David couldn’t see the energy counter, he felt like he used much less stored energy to affect his transformation. It felt almost natural to remain in his transformation state.
David’s body had also adapted to his constant state of transformation. The muscle fibers in his body had thickened overall, adding on a layer of strength and power. If before David could lift thirty pounds with ease using his regular body, now David could easily lift a hundred.
The unique thing, however, about this change was that while David had grown much stronger, his body’s physique hadn’t changed much. This was mainly due to the fibers in his muscles simply thickening, instead of expanding like normal growth. David likened it as a result of his transformation state, happy with his newfound strength.
David fingered the necklace he wore around his neck nervously, glancing around again. He was currently waiting for the evening mess gong to ring out, signaling the prisoners to leave the mine.
Off to his right, David could make out Soldier 1 and Soldier 2 hewing away at the rocks. They didn’t look up at all, seemingly fully concentrating on their job. David could also make out Jaeger, just a few spots down from the two soldiers. Jaeger gave David a significant look when they made eye contact, nodding at him. Kieron was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately being placed further down the mine in todays work.
David looked down at his pile again, double checking. He had met his quota around an hour earlier and had only been making an effort at mining the tough Pon rock. While the guards would eventually discover he was missing, it would take them at least a day. By that time, he swore to be long gone.
A few minutes passed by in silence from David. Several thousands of miners worked in the background around him, smashing away at the Pon rock. The tinkle of the crumbling rock echoed in the dark cave light.
The evening gong suddenly rang out, drawing all the mining to a stop. David looked back at Jaeger and the two soldiers, his heart racing.
He turned off from the wall and slowly began to make his way up the winding cave stairs. He walked slowly, allowing the other miners to overtake him.
David felt someone latch on to his shoulder, pulling him backwards. He ducked his head down, turning to look backwards.
“Keep looking forwards.” Jaeger's rough voice said, pushing him forward. David felt the man’s power go to work, felling a layer of some substance flow onto him. In less than a second, David’s entire appearance changed, now donning the look of an elderly Three-Eyed. David felt at his face in wonder, feeling the mask around him as if it was his actual skin.
“Alright kid.” Jaeger whispered in his ear. “Don’t fuck up.”
Jaeger pushed David rudely forward, disappearing into the milling crowd. David restrained himself from looking backwards, trying to look natural as he walked forward. He saw the cave entrance perhaps 50 meters away.
Abruptly, David heard a bestial yell of rage come from the front of the entrance. Another yell responded in turn and suddenly a vicious fight broke out at the cave entrance as David’s allies, the two soldiers, transformed and attacked each other. David admired their fighting skills as the warriors managed to launch vicious attacks that did absolutely nothing to each other, but looked brutal. The two soldiers had transformed into their Steel Clawed Bear form, becoming huge hulking behemoths with dark grey fur and steel claws.
The crowd around the fighters spread in a panic, everyone trying to get away from the two Supers causing an incident. David took the opportunity while the crowd was in chaos to run forward, getting closer to the fighting Supers.
Out of the corner of his eye, David saw several Wardens flying over quickly, converging on the fighting Supers location. Before they got there, however, David managed to reach the first soldier. Looking as if he had been pushed, David ran into the giant bear.
Immediately, the soldier responded by flinging his transformed arm backwards, smashing into David and sending him flying out of the cave into the Heliosphere. David felt his ribs shatter under the force of the blow. His lungs had imploded as well, leaving him with a choked feeling as pain overwhelmed his senses. He felt his transformation slip away as his powers receded. Blood bubbled from David’s lips as his vision began to give out, a consequence of his ruptured spleen and heart.
The last thing David saw before he died was a red armored Warden, a Controller, floating over, with several other Wardens in tow…
David woke up to whiteness.
He grabbed his head, feeling woozy as he looked around. He felt a sense of nothingness as he floated in the air. He settled back, feeling at peace and one. It was a pleasant feeling as he floated onward. He wondered if he was in some sort of soul realm, having passed away through their failed escape plan.
Abruptly, David felt something tap into his head and then fly off. He twisted his head around, staring as what looked like a rumpled book flew upward. He blinked, looking around again. He was still surrounded by whiteness, but he could now make out several other things in the whiteness, all of them floating upward. Most of what he could see looked like old articles of clothing, old books, or broken belongings. He wondered what they were doing floating with his soul.
The whiteness surrounding David vanished abruptly, dissipating into nothingness. As his vision improved and he could finally see, David came to a horrifying realization.
He wasn’t floating. He was falling. And the whiteness he had seen all around him wasn’t some mystical soul sea. It was a cloud.
David stared at the ground beneath him in horror as his body hurtled downward at a breakneck speed, falling thousands of meters through the sky.