The last warrior of a fallen civilization fights the monster responsible for its demise.
|Cronus moved closer to the doorway, holding his gun prone. Known affectionately as the ‘Artillery Gun’ by Crusaders since its inception, the weapon was like a magnified shotgun. He had fired five Portalic globes already, and his last seven were in the magazine. With some sorrow, he realized he would never be able to acquire more ammo for it. The Demons always preferred cube shots as a rule.
Outside, the sky swirled violet and green, a sick mockery of the once beautiful blue sky he had fought so hard to defend. The war was over, the Demons had finally won, and Quattro Roma, his home planet, had finally fallen.
But there was still one battle yet to be fought. As he moved through the former capital building, his combat overlay was ablaze with information, stimulating his brain with signatures of Demonic magic pouring through the area. His bio-computer, deciphering this energy, could see flashes of what had happened here: broad humanoid monsters with burning red eyes growling in the darkness, Abominable Fireballs streaking furiously through the area. He could see still shots of the shadows of men falling to the ground and being torn to shreds. Faintly he heard their screams and the almost gleeful slicing that antagonized them.
The once-noble building was now deserted and bereft of light, save for the sickly green light which entered through a massive crater in the side wall. Junk littered the ground, and like a cat Cronus avoided the debris, knowing that sound was perhaps his greatest threat in this place. Midway through the room, he stepped to avoid a hole in the floor. A floor down he could make out the faint glimpse of a Xentritium knife. He shook his head. He had told them he didn’t think the buildings could sufficiently withstand magical weapons. They ignored him.
A lump rose in his throat when he reached the doorway. He had a good idea what he would find on the other side. The room opened to his left, and so he sidestepped in, holding his gun up to his face.
He heard a snarl issue from the darkness as he entered, followed by a shadow-like projectile which snaked through the air, disrupting the very fabric of space and time as it moved. Cronus dove to his left, firing a round toward the darkness where the shot had originated.
He heard a satisfying grunt, and then a terrible roar. Soon he could make out the humanoid silhouette of his attacker as it pounced toward him. He scampered to his feet and backed up through the doorway, firing off another shot at the creature. The monster held up its arm in front of itself as it landed, and a firey energy shield absorbed the Portalic fragments.
The monster now struck forward, slashing with a grunt at Cronus. The hit was successful, and Cronus was nearly spiraled by its force. The monster attacked again with a backhanded slice, sending Cronus to the ground. The monster swiftly dove ontop of him, readying to land a death-blow. Cronus, while badly hurt, was far from defeated . He mashed the stock of his Artillery Gun into the abdomen of the monster and fired a round directly into its skull.
The force of the hit sent the creature back through the doorway and its blood across the room, yet before it had even hit the ground it was already flinging its black projectiles toward Cronus. He twisted out of the way of the projectiles and out of sight of the door. He fired another shot at the monster, which spiraled out of the way in time to see the wall behind it crumble as the fragments of the Portalic Sphere smashed into it. The sick green light of the sky poured into the room, and Cronus could see the monster's faint shadow on the floor.
The monster was called a Doppelganger, because their appearance was so like to Satan that nothing save the Demons knew the difference. They were slender monsters, yet somehow their forms were immensely solid. Their skin was light red, and their eyes burned deep crimson. On the ends of their hands were long hooked claws which distorted space and time.
A normal Doppelganger alone could consume galaxies, but this was no ordinary Doppelganger. This was Maloreum, a creature so frightening that among the echelons of Hell who walked on the Mortal Plane he was the undisputed master.
“Do you like what I’ve done with the place?” Maloreum shouted at him, his voice as abrasive as a truncheon. Immediately Cronus fired a round at the wall where he guessed Maloreum to be hiding. The shot was absorbed into the wall, which surprised Cronus.
“You’ve fought me all these years, and you thought I would barb you from behind inadequate cover? This is why you lost.” Maloreum said.
“If we’re gonna talk, let me see your face.” Cronus answered, holding the gun at the door.
“Not just yet.” Maloreum said. “It’s over, Cronus. I’ve won. Your civilization lies in ruins, and humanity will follow. Even you know this.”
“And yet, you may not leave this building alive.” Cronus said.
“Maybe not.” Maloreum said smugly. “But I’m willing to risk it. Your carcass will be the feather in my cap. I even have the spot picked out where I shall hang your skull...right across from my throne.”
“Then let’s get it over with.” Cronus shot back.
“All you have to do is round the corner.” Maloreum said. “And place a good shot. But neither of us will move yet. We’re both more hurt than we’re letting on, and we’re healing. We might as well play our little mind-game.”
“We’ve done it often enough.” Cronus replied. “You want me to get pissed and round the corner, so you can nail me.”
“Oh nothing could be further from the truth! I earnestly enjoy our repartee. Isn’t it ironic, Cronus, that we both had so much working against us? After all, you had Congress, and I had the Power Lords to deal with. I find it interesting that where I triumphed over my adversities, you floundered. Some attribute the failure of humanity in this galaxy to the incompetence of the leadership. I would attribute it to your weakness of spirit.” Maloreum said.
“This is the point where I’m supposed to say, ‘damn you!’ and strike out angrily?” Cronus asked.
“Not yet. We’ll get there in a moment.” Maloreum replied. “At any rate, you can understand why I am so satisfied with myself. I’m going to give myself a hug, actually.”
“I eagerly await the moment you do.” Cronus said. “Of course, hug yourself all you like, Satan won’t respect you. You’ll never be an ancient.”
“Oh, I don’t do this so the cool kids will accept me. I like the hours of my job.” Maloreum said.
There was a period of silence. “You never gave yourself that hug, did you Mal?” Cronus said.
“Are you still on that?” Maloreum replied. “You’re getting literal in your old age.”
“It pays to be literal with you.” Cronus said. “You never do anything you say you will.”
“I think once I said I was going to gloat over the destruction of your home world. Here we are.” Maloreum said.
“You’re keeping your word. How un-demonic of you.” Cronus said.
“Oh I have never once told a lie.” Maloreum said. “Like remember the time that—“
Instantly, Maloreum was around the corner, jumping at Cronus with a loud snarl. The wound in his head, Cronus could see, had healed over, and the small talk was not necessary any longer. But Cronus had fought him long enough to know his opponent, and he fired another round at his charging enemy. Maloreum tumbled through the doorway deftly, evading the shot, and sent a black projectile back at Cronus. Cronus tumbled away in time for the projectile to take out the floor where he was standing, and pumping his Artillery gun he fired another round at Maloreum, which Maloreum blocked with his fore-arm shield. Dropping the now-empty gun, Cronus tugged his auto-fire pistol from his belt as two more projectiles snaked toward him.
One of these hit him dead on, sending him flying back with such force he crashed through the floor and landed on his back. He was now on the floor which housed the Portalic Gateway, the interdimensional travel device which had once been the key to the success of this civilization. Clicking off the safety on his gun, he emptied a clip of beams on the floor above him, rewarded by two or three grunts of pain from Maloreum as the floor beneath him fell apart and he collapsed to Cronus’ level.
He could see that he had nailed Maloreum’s foot, but his own chest had no feeling and he guessed his lungs had been destroyed. He was relying purely on magic to keep him alive, which was always a dangerous proposition in a fight this intense. He tugged a new clip from his belt as Maloreum shook off his fall.
Maloreum could always recover from hits quickly, and he somersaulted to Cronus, who was now on his feet. As he landed, however, Cronus connected with a punch to the head, and Cronus slammed the fresh clip into his pistol as Maloreum fell backward. Maloreum rolled to his side, and sliced at Cronus’ already damaged midsection. The hit probably would have killed Cronus, but he was able to dodge backward and fired off his pistol again at Maloreum. Despite Maloreum's fore-arm shield, Cronus was able to connect with several hits, and Maloreum dove forward in frustration, slicing at Cronus furiously.
Cronus stepped aside in time to avoid Maloreums snarling fangs and deadly claws, and Maloreum landed against the Portalic gateway. As Cronus punched the control panel on the wall to his right, the Portal lit up with its standard white disorder. Maloreum turned snarling, but Cronus kicked him stoutly and he tumbled through the portal, vanishing into some unknown pocket world.
Sighing, Cronus scanned the room. There was nothing here of use, except for an old cabinet with a single container of black liquid. Smiling, he recognized it to be Liquid Medic, which he tugged free and drank. Instantly he realized how much pain he had been in, and he remembered how wonderful it was to be able to breathe.
He looked over the portal, realizing that Maloreum was undoubtedly waiting for him on the other side. He looked over at the empty cabinet, wishing there was another Liquid Medic inside. He looked out the window at the pale green sky for a brief period, then steeling his resolve he dove through the portal after his enemy.
...To be continued...