Part One: I am Char
His mind was in a haze, as was his vision. The consternation within him rose with each fleeting second he remained in the plasma bubble. Yet, as the haze of his existence cleared, his dismay subsided. He realized he was in a safe place. His senses adjusted and a sense of complacency soon took over.
Still, one lingering question stubbornly stayed within him: Who am I? He pondered this for a moment, until there was a disturbance from beyond the bubble.
“Are you ready?” a discombobulated voice announced.
“Oh, yeah!” said another voice.
The bubble crackled, hummed, and sparked. It peeled away until it was a speck light above him. Before he could get his bearing, he crashed onto the hard gray earth below him.
He waited for the sensation of pain to travel through his naked body. But that didn’t happen. He rose and patted himself, hoping to find any wounds. That was when he discovered that he was not naked.
Where did this body armor come from? He wondered.
He felt a sensation of something heavy in his hand. He held it out to see a service revolver was in his grip. He gleaned at it for a while trying to recall how he managed to get this weapon within a split seconds after patting himself down. Reactively, he dropped the gun. But the gun, seemingly with its own mind “fell” into a holster on his hip.
He glared at it, trying to make some sense of it. But, he didn’t have time to solve this mystery.
“We’re getting slaughtered!” a voice screamed. “We need help now!”
It didn’t come from some ethereal place as the other two voices. This one was crackling in his left ear.
He jumped and, instinctually, slapped his palm against his ear. Another discovery was made. He had an armored helmet with a headset.
The chatter continued, unabated. He heard screams, shots fired, and explosions. He pulled the piece out and let it dangle over his shoulder. Then, he heard the explosions in the distance.
He peered toward the vicinity. It was then he realized how gray and shattered the surroundings were; there were no trees or foliage of any kind. It looked like the surface of the moon.
The source came from beyond a pale hill. He ventured to it and discovered it was the lip of a giant crater. Inside it was a base, shattered and burning. Soldiers, dressed like him, lay scattered on the gray dust, contorted, slashed and ripped to shreds.
Instinct kicked in (although it felt like an invisible hand); he retrieved his gun. But, it wasn't the service revolver; it was a double-gauge shotgun. He was aghast. But his surprise and perplexity was soon replaced by another notion that crept into his head; he'd been here before. It wasn't just once, but numerous times.
"Come on, man, there's something there." said an urgent voice. He looked around, confused. Was he alone, he thought? Was somebody with him? He scanned to his left, right and behind him. Nobody.
"Char!" a voice buzzed from the headset, "Get to base, now! We need....no!" The frequency ended with blood-curdling screams.
"Char?" he mumbled. The name sounded familiar.
Then, he came to a realization: He was Char. He glanced at the tag on his breast plate. It was Sergeant Char Shockem, to be more precise. The memory flood-gates further opened. All the pieces were starting to float together to form a firm island in his sea of confusion: Sgt. Char Shockem; galactic warrior of the Pegasus quadrant; currently stationed at Legion 5 of the Aesir planetary system; at war with...
The name was bizarre; it was on the tip of tongue. Then it finally revealed itself.
"The Demtrons," He whispered.
Part Two: Command From Beyond
"Man, what's wrong? Get going!" the urgent voice yelled, again. It didn't come from the headset.
Suddenly, without hesitation - or the control of his own freewill - Char jumped into action. He sprinted to a standing wall on the outskirts of the base. It's a trap, he thought; he sensed something was wrong. But, how did he know?
He switched from shotgun to his heavy nail-gun - a portable Gatling gun that spewed sharp, nail-like projectiles with deadly results. He remembered the weapon. It was better to have than the shotgun (in the back of his head, however, he wondered how did this gun "magically “get into his hand?).
He rounded the corner with the barrel pointing the way. If anything was there, it would get the business end. His finger danced upon the trigger. Fortunately, nothing -- but a debris pile -- was there. He relaxed for a moment. That proved to be a bad move.
Two demonic humanoids emerge from the debris. Instantly, Char reacted, pulling the trigger. To his horror, nothing came out! Char pulled the trigger again and had the same result. The ping in stomach became more pronounced.
The demons, on the other hand, had no problem finding their weapons of choice. One hissed, raised his open palm and shot a fireball at him. The other one did the same thing.
The first fireball missed. Char shifted to the left and avoided it. The other one, however, grazed him. He winced in pain.
“Oh Damn!” A voice shouted. This time, Char didn’t bother to search for source of that mystery voice. The arsenal was coming in fast. He ran to the nearest barricade, and found something he truly needed: a full ammunition box. Immediately, he retrieved it and put it good use.
His nail-gun came to life. The nails tore through the two. The first one crumpled to the ground, parts of him exploding into a crimson mist. The other, however, stood and took the nails until its head and body parted ways.
"Yeah!" that disembodied voice cheered. "Down those Scazoids!"
A bullet ricocheted off the wall in front of him. He swung around, looking for the perpetrator. Another bullet hit his armor. A red light on his wrist watch indicator started blinking (well, that’s new he thought)
Part Three: Scazoids Attack!
Scazoid? The name triggered his memory, again. He started to remember. They were the demon soldiers of the Demtrons. Basically, they were merely foot soldiers. He shuddered when he realized that there were other more powerful adversaries out there.
A bullet ricocheted off the wall in front of him. He swung around, looking for the perpetrator. Another bullet hit his armor. A red light on his wrist watch indicator started blinking (well, that’s new he thought). He peered at it, realizing that his shield was at 1% power (plasma shield? he thought for moment). The situation just got worse; he was virtually vulnerable before the enemy. He gritted his teeth.
"Double Damn!" said the voice. Still, Char had no time to figure out where that voice came from. Either way, the sentiment expressed by this mysterious voice was shared by him.
He spun around and he spotted the enemy. They were half man, half robot. The faces were expressionless; their heads were metal chrome partially covered by skin and hair. The name came to him and he remembered: cyber-zombies. The Demtrons had a peculiar way of raising an army. They captured human soldiers, lobotomized them and planted computer chips and wiring that had these "things" permanently switched to "kill".
Due to close quarters, he switched to shotgun, fired and scored a direct hit; the zombie's head vaporized in a spray of red. It teetered and crumpled to the ground like discarded clothing being stripped off by someone
Char didn't have time to savor the victory; more shots rang out. He turned 180 degrees: three cyber-zombies and a scazoid.
He switched from shotgun to grenade launcher and pulled the trigger. The two cyber-zombies went down. Injured, the scazoid stumbled before composing itself. It let loose a fireball at Char, hitting him in the chest. A sensation of burning pain shot through his system. He winced and writhed for a moment. Then, out of instinct, fear or anger, Char fired another shot. The hollow sound of the grenade leaving the barrel was soon followed by a blast. The scazoid's remains became a fireworks display, spreading through the air.
"Oh!" the disembodied voice roared in victory. "Yo! You nailed that one!"
The pain was intense. Blood was trickling from his arm and chin.
He glanced at the red light blinked violently on his wrist indicator. The screen flashed 1%. It didn't take him long to realize that this was a major problem. He tapped the screen and more data emerged. To his dismay his armor strength was at 1%; health at 20%.
Without control of his own faculties, he turned to the left. The sudden jerk intensified the pain. He wanted to scream. Instead, he gritted his teeth. He jerked to his right, then back to the left. There, in the distance, he saw an entrance to a storage depot. He knew something was there and to go there. But, he was jerked to the right, again, like a puppet on invisible strings.
This time, however, Char summed up his power of freewill and quickly moved to his left and started running as fast as he could. He wanted to make it to that depot before that invisible force and the voice could catch up with him.
“Hey!” the voice complained. “What the…”
Intuition served him well. He entered and saw an armored vest spinning in one corner. Perplexed, mouth agape, he stared at it before making a straight swath toward it. To his surprise, he didn't grab the armor; he absorbed it.
A light on his wrist indicator flickered green. He sighed with relief when he glanced at it. He was at full armor strength. He blew a sigh of relief. Best yet, the voice and entity that seem to have a grip on him wasn’t reacting to this act of independence.
The elation, however, was short lived. That unknown forced him to move. Now he was sprinting toward two dangers. The Demtron legion bled out of every corner and entrance, armed and ready to annihilate him.
That wasn’t going to happen. He ran down the corridor, guns blazing with deadly accuracy.
The name came to him: Demonzoid, the biggest and nastiest of all the Demtrons, combined.
Part Four: Enter the Domain
Char ventured further into the warehouse. Or to be precise, he was lead further into the warehouse. Char struggled, but it was to no avail. Even the choice of weapons was taken out of his hands. He – or that strange force – kept changing weapons in the most indecisive way possible.
"Settle on one!" Char uttered, agitated by this lack of control.
In the midst of this juggling act, something caught Char's – and the entity – attention. He heard a low, but ominous growl not too far from his position. He stopped near a stack of crates and peered at them. They shook!
Char didn't have to say what he thought. The disembodied voice expressed it well: "Oh man! This is it! Man! This is the big one!"
Suddenly, the crates exploded. A giant, hideous beast made its presence known. The armor barely held back the massive muscles on its monstrous frame. It was well armed, too. The right hand contained a massive metallic claw, stained with blood. It growled, flashing four-inch fangs within its wolf-like snout. It raised its clawless arm.
The name came to him: Demonzoid, the biggest and nastiest of all the Demtrons, combined.
Char shuddered when he saw how well armed this beast was. It had a rocket launcher attached to its massive wrist; Gatling guns near its claw. On top of that, The Demonzoid was fortified by thick armor.
Nobody – including the voices – had to tell him that this was his penultimate moment. Despite the anxiety within him, he knew what had to be done --- and it was not going to be an easy choice all involved.
After a moment of pause, Char threw himself into battle, firing his shotguns until empty. The Demonzoid didn’t hesitate. It fired a rocket and started pounding away with the Gatling guns. Char took the hits. And with each hit, his armor deteriorated. But Char was determined.
If this was going to end the horror, the voices, and controls over his faculties, then so be it! Best of all, if it was going to give him an answer to his lingering question of self-identity, it will be worth it. Death or victory, he wanted things to be on his own terms, once and for all.
Char switched to the nail-gun (which was now full, thanks to the cache of ammo he “stumbled” upon during his charge) and fired at the beast until all the nails were gone. The beast stumbled. He hurt him, he realized, he could win this. He willed the arsenal upon his greatest advisory.
But, there was no quit in this beast. In a final gesture, the Demonzoid conjured plasmatic energy from his palm and slammed it down onto Char.
Char recovered, barely. The voice from beyond, however, was frantic, screaming all kinds of profanity.
Char was vulnerable. His armor was weakened, and his ammo for all weapons – except a knife – was depleted. The Demonzoid rushed him and swung its claw at him.
Char was knocked off his feet and flew backward until he slammed into the gray earth. This time, Char couldn’t get up.
He strained to observe the beast. It flailed its arms and roared with delight before leveling its final rocket at him.
Char vision became fuzzy. Death was near. .
At the moment, an answer to his “lingering question” appeared to have an answer.
“Who am I?” he murmured as he heard the swish of the rocket being launched. “I am…”
A brilliant, blinding light encapsulated Char’s final vision.
“Game Over” flashed across the screen
Part Five: Game Over?
The boys stared in disbelief.
"Man, you were so close," said Toby Adams, the small fry at one end of the couch.
Charlie Mann, cringed. He tossed the game control onto the coffee table He stared at the TV screen, watching the Demonzoid do its victory dance over Char's body.
"What happened?"Charlie pouted.
"What are talking, about?" Toby chuckled. "You died. The claw dude got you. End of story."
"No," Mann replied. "That's not it. I didn't have any control over him. He chose that last weapon. I wanted the grenade-launcher!"
"What are you talking about?" Toby said. He scooted down the couch and snatched the controls from the coffee table.
"I wanted to kill him with the launcher. Instead, it was like Char took over and decided to fight it with the weapons I was trying to keep him from using in this level. I wanted to save the ammo for the final level which was on the other side of the warehouse."
"Yeah right," Toby scoffed. "You just don't have the skills to beat the Demonzoid, like I do."
Toby hit reset.
Char came to his senses. Things were not looking good. He was approaching a corner along the blasted walls of the fortress. He switched from shotgun to grenade-launcher.
Strange, Char thought. Wasn't I just down this section? He approached the edge and peered around the corner. He wanted to go, but he was prevented from doing so; a mysterious force was preventing him. Finally, he was forced around the corner, and confronted a scazoid and two cyber-zombies.
"Yeah," a voice said, "Let's kick some butt!"
The grenade-launcher in his hand fired.
© 2016 Dean Traylor