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BIT 29: UNHOLY COW

     

My heads-up display showed the words, 'Message Sent'. I hovered, watching, and knowing by the time they received it, I might have vanished forever.

    “Something wrong?” Zimea waved her hand through my menu, making it ripple.

    I closed it and faked a grin. “Nope. Everything is peachy keen.”

    She raised her brows and stared at her menu. Orion, Joker, and Susie-Q were doing the same.

    “Let’s go.” I shook my head. “The sooner we leave, the better. I don’t know about the rest of you, but blood red isn’t my color.”

    Orion looked through the door's windows. We moved to join him, and he lifted a hand.

    “What is it, bro?” Joker cocked her head.

    He pushed his nose against the glass. “It’s the next room.”

    “And what about it?”

    “It looks empty.”

    We each exchanged glances.

    I walked beside Orion. “It’s likely a trap of some sort.”

    The Sniper sighed. “This is a dungeon!”

    “And this dungeon won't beat itself.”

    Orion opened the doors, and I walked through, sword and shield ready. This room had grates for flooring, without a waste grinder. Instead, beneath us was a bottomless abyss. Chunks of meat hung from chains on the ceiling. Only one remarkable trait caught my eye, the second belt running across the upper part of the room. The same mutant livestock were transporting across it but they were alive. Each creature gave squawks or moos, panicking. At the end of the belt, they disappeared into a hole in the wall leading to the slaughter.

    I stepped into the room's center as everyone came inside, and the doors slammed shut.

    “Why do doors always slam?” Joker groaned. “I mean sure, lock us in, force us to fight a boss, but do they have to slam? It’s so rude! Don’t you think?”

    I kept my eye on the belt above while the others looked around the chamber. The holy star-eating cow might pass through the room. If so, we needed to intercept it.

    Susie-Q stayed by the doors but watching the conveyor.

    I regarded her. “Got any ideas?”

    She shook her head. “Maybe Casey could pull himself up there with his vines, but we’d need to stop the belt.

    “Hey!” Joker sang. “I found something!”

    I jogged to where she stood, just below the belt. A small section of wall held a rusty looking panel with a small switch. The words 'On' and 'Off' appeared above and below it.

    “Good job, Joker!” I threw my hand for a high five.

    She smacked my palm. “Do I get a reward?”

    “What kind?”

    Zimea approached us. “How about I don’t put my foot in your ass?”

    “You’re as rude as the door!” Joker leaned forward and blew a raspberry.

    The Sniper waved off the childish Necromancer. “When we see Bessy, we’ll flip the switch and then somehow save her.”

    Orion's eyes darted around the room. “What do we do for now?”

    “I guess we wait.” Susie-Q shrugged.

    A deafening horn blew and shook the building. We glanced at each other, fear in everyone's eyes.

    Our Sniper brought out her rifle. “What the hell does that mean?”

    The horn blew two more times in quick succession and then silenced.

    “Work shifts are changing!” Joker nodded.

    “That’s silly.” I rolled my eyes. “No one works here.”

    “Except Minotaurs,” Susie-Q whimpered.

    A huge form banged to the floor before the conveyor. I frowned and readied my sword.

    “Speak of the devil,” Orion muttered. “And the devil shall appear.”

    This Minotaur differed from the others, and as it stretched out its enormous muscular arms, I realized it wasn’t one.

    “Lv18 Meat Devil,” I read the name aloud.

    Wicked horns twisted from its skull, and its barreled-chest heaved in a great breath. It stared at us with the face of an enraged bull, and a long pointy tail protruded from its backside.

    “So this thing is a devil?” Zimea chuckled. “Orion, take care of this.”

    “What the heck do you expect me to do?” The Priest shook his head. “I’m not the Blader!”

    The Devil's fearsome eyes looked deep into my soul, and my heart told me not to fight with this great creature.

    A greatsword materialized into its hands, and it snorted flames.

    “Zycuh, I choose you!” Orion stepped back.

    I glared. “Excuse me?”

    Before we argued further, Meat Devil attacked. It came charging in, wielding the sword as if it weighed less than a twig. It thrust the weapon, and I took a step back. My eyes popped wide as I looked at the blade from the tip.

    “Block!” Joker cried.

    It spun, bringing the sword in with tremendous momentum. I snapped back to reality and raised my shield arm in the nick of time. The sword grazed my shield, but it sent violent vibrations through my arm.

    Meat Devil continued its spin, striking my shield again. I inched back, as it spun again, and again. Each time, it struck my shield, and sparks flew. It continued to pick up speed until it became a whirlwind of utter death. I couldn’t keep blocking, so I leaped back.

    Susie-Q was behind me.

    I glanced over my shoulder. “Run!”

    She held her hands by her mouth. “W-Where?”

    The whirlwind attack left little room for her to escape. We continued to retreat until her back hit the wall.

    “We’re out of room!” Susie-Q's voice carried pure terror.

    “Guys, a little help, please?” I shouted.

    Zimea fired her rifle, and the bullet struck the shoulder of Mr. Meat Devil. Twenty points subtracted from its hit point total, but it still had six hundred forty-six hit points remaining.

    “This game sucks!” I lifted Morpher and braced for impact.

    The Devil’s sword struck Morpher over and over until my arm almost gave. With each blow, I shrank back, pressing into Susie-Q, squashing her.

    A huge spider landed in the center of the chamber, out of the Devil's reach.

    “Casey!” Susie-Q's voice muffled against my back. “Slam him!”

    The Grape Vine’s tendrils snapped out, over the spinning Devil and grabbed its head. With a great heave, the spider brought the enemy into the air and slammed it back onto the grating. We witnessed the spider’s wrath. It crashed into the Devil and smacked it dozens of times in only a few moments. The HP of the enemy lowered as it writhed.

    A huge chunk of red, bloody meat landed by the Grape Vine. The spider ignored it, and another piece of meat slammed. They continued to fall, and we looked to the ceiling. We should have kept our eyes on the floor. After the sixth meat blob landed, they shook and trembled.

    “They’re enemies!” I tried to shout, but the one near Zimea exploded into a giant, fiery cloud of red. The Sniper slammed into the wall, and fell, reduced to only a tenth of her health.

    Orion pressed against the far wall, watching instead of helping.

    Another Meat Bomb trembled by Joker, and her eyes widened. Orion broke from his fear and dove at his sister. The Holy Shield of light burst into existence, and the explosion went off, leaving a small dome protecting the siblings.

    Three of the Meat Bombs surrounded the Vine spider, and they each trembled at once.

    “Oh no...” Susie-Q' whispered.

    I darted for the first bomb, and swung Avenger, slicing it in half. It shattered, and I made a mad rush for the next, destroying it, too. I turned to the third, and the Meat Bomb exploded.

    Launched from my feet, I crashed into a wall, landing hard. My hit points dropped to fifty.

    “Ow.”

    I discovered a gory scene when I lifted my eyes. Pieces of spider lay splattered everywhere. Susie-Q stood back, her hands over mouth.

    The final Meat Bomb rolled toward Susie-Q. She turned as the meat stopped a few feet away. It trembled, and I leaped to my feet. Joker’s Firebomb crashed into it, triggering a small explosion. I breathed a sigh of relief.

    The Devil climbed to one knee, but Susie-Q appeared before it. She put her magnum to its forehead and fired.

    CRITICAL!

    She continued pulling the trigger.

    CRITICAL! 

    CRITICAL! 

    CRITICAL!

    Each bullet took one hundred hit points off the creature. Before she could pull the trigger a fifth time, it seized her hand. It twisted hard and cracked her arm. Susie-Q’s hit points plummeted, and she screeched.

    “Hold on, I’m coming!” I charged in, but the Devil's tail whipped and struck me, sending me tumbling. I struggled to get up, my HP hanging by a thread.

    Susie-Q growled. “He’s mine!”

    My entire body ached as I stood. “You can’t beat it!”

    “I said, no!” She faced the Devil, switching gun hands—the magnum clicked empty. The Devil held onto her arm as big Meat Bomb landed next to the struggling foes.

    I heard myself screaming the Creature Tamer’s name, but everything seemed so far away. Then came the explosion.

    When the red mist cleared, I dared to look. No more Meat Devil; only the downed form of Susie-Q.

    “No!” I screamed as we rushed to the girl.

    Orion kneeled over her and placed his hands on her back. He whispered a prayer and white healing light came from his palms. Susie-Q’s life bar didn’t rise.

    “She can’t be dead,” Joker whispered.

    “She is.” Zimea’s voice cracked, and tears poured, streaking the drying blood.

    This time, I knew she was dead.

    “It’s my fault!” I fought my tears. “I lied and told her I'd keep her safe!”

    “You almost died, yourself...” Orion tossed a Healing Orb into my chest.

    Joker grabbed my arm. “There's nothing you could've done.”

    Zimea and I met eyes. I couldn’t tell if she hated me for failing, or if she felt sorry for me. Either way, I didn’t want those emotions in my direction.

    Before any words came, a golden light shined from the ceiling. A pure white cow with glowing fur appeared on the conveyor belt. Orion ran to the controls and hit the stop button. With a screeching groan, the belt halted.

    “There it is.” Orion lowered his head. “The holy cow.”

    “Now what?” Joker swallowed hard and glanced at me.

    The doors opened, and the old man, McGregor stepped through them.

    “You saved my Bessy!” He beamed with a few missing teeth. “I have to thank you!”

    A brown sack appeared before McGregor, and he leaned over ripping open the top. The stink of manure wafted around us. He reached his hand inside and pulled out a long golden shaft.

    “Here's your reward.” He approached Joker.

    Orion looked to his sister, who waved her hands. “I am not touching that crap.”

    The ebony Sniper took it without another word and she moved to retrieve the Teleport Heart.

    I lifted Susie-Q in my arms. “Let’s go.”

    Orion frowned. “She can’t leave the dungeon.”

    I furrowed my brow.

    “We had a party member die in a dungeon...” A tear fell from Orion's eye. “We couldn’t take her body with us. It stayed after we teleported out.”

    Devastated, I let my head drop to my chest, and the tears fell. We’d reached the point of our final goodbye.

     

Bit 29: Unholy Cow
That is a cow, all right.


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