“Bloody hell, Artie ! Is it demon shagging time again ?”
“I believe so, Alfie ! Why ? Are you sick of it ?”
“Hell no !”
The two armored figures were in a small room with two huge bulkheads on either side. They were waiting for the all clear to be given from the outside so the doors could open and they could start their rounds.
“Control ! Should we expect any trouble tonight ?”, Artie inquired from the command center.
“Nothing bigger than Stalkers, guys ! We have your lifesigns on the monitor and are tracking your position. Lots of luck !”, the center replied.
“Thanks, Jubilee Station ! Be back in a few hours !”
The airlock opened and the two men walked outside, into the darkness. There was a sharp contrast between the luminous colors of the interior and the bleakness and desolation of the exterior that always got to Alfie. For this reason, they always talked while on duty, to help pass the time. Tonight was not going to be any different.
“So what’s your request from God tonight, Alfie ?”, Artie asked.
“It’s not so much a request from God as it is a bit o’ cursing the Templars for not saving too many supermodels. I would’ve liked to bone one right about know. “
“A couple of years underground will do that to you, aye ! I feel the same itch in me bagpipes and waxing the saucy bishop just doesn’t hold too much appeal anymore.” They both laughed at each other’s fake accents.” You shouldn’t be badmouthing the Templars; if it weren’t for them, neither of us would be here right now, enjoying the good life.”, Artie replied in a serious tone.
“What ? You actually like this post-apocalyptic shithole ?”, Alfie interjected.
“It’s a lot better than our past lives, I’ll tell you that. Of course, it’s not the same for the rest of the world but, for some people, even if the shit does hit the fan, being at rock bottom means that you can only go up.”
The two adventurers were philosophing hobos before the war began, men who stood on the street corner and discussed the gods while begging for a pence to buy something to eat. When God decided to flush the world down the can and the demons invaded, they were sure that their time had come. However, they were rescued at the last minute by a group of templars who were saving people indiscriminately off the streets.
That’s how they had ended up in Jubilee Station. While the scientists researched new technologies and the soldiers were being trained as templars, these two didn’t have a clue about making themselves useful. That is, until large scale military operations started taking place. Command decided that they should have a safe zone a quarter of a mile in radius around the entrance, to provide a breather for any wounded party. Since the templars and the cabalists had their hands full with taking back the world, they looked for volunteers to do the job. Artie and Alfie jumped on the occasion : it meant a lot of fun for them, relative safety due to the fixed defenses and possible reinforcements and the opportunity to make themselves useful. A little basic training was all they needed before being put to work.
They hadn’t looked back ever since.
“What’s wrong with our lives ?”, inquired Artie.
“What’s wrong with them ? Everything ! The world has gone to hell, evil demons stalk us and want to exterminate us and you’re asking what’s wrong ?”. He stopped and turned around to face Artie.
Both men were wearing older generation armor, still effective but not as good as that of the regular troups. They didn’t mind, though. They found looking like frogmen very amusing, with the big , round vizor slots and the patched look of the armor. It was very retro. As long as it afforded them some protection, they had nothing against it. Their weapons, however, were state of the art : Alfie was wielding a firebrand and a Vulcan, while Artie had a tempest rifle and a shockblade for closequarters.
“Alfie, for the first time in our lives, we actually have a purpose and people are counting on us.”
“Do you mean to say that the death of billions pales in comparison with the tickling of your ego ?”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it like that …”, but he didn’t have time to finish the idea, because a few stalkers emerged from a dark alley. Artie started picking them of one by one with the tempest rifle that left the charred and incapacitated, while Alfie opted to keep them away from Artie with the firebrand. With the skirmish over, the proceeded onwards, weapons at the ready and all the other teams warned.
“Artie, life is screwed up here. It used to be that life had a beginning, a middle and an end, with the middle significantly longer than the others. Nowadays, the life expectancy is way down. What can we expect from life other than being cooped up in a bunker until the day we die, unless the Burn manages to asphyxiate us ?”
“Alfie, Alfie, pessimism is not a survival trait. Life is what you make of it so, it is still possible to make the most out of it even in these God-forsaken conditions.”
“Tell that to the billions who died.”
“Is it my fault they’re dead ?”
“No, but it’s not theirs either !”
“How can you be so sure ? Remember that old idea that luck is hereditary ? That fact that they were unlucky simply made them not up to the task of surviving.”
“That’s the most idiotic rationalization I’ve ever heard and serves to show how little arguments you have to prove to yourself that you aren’t a hypocrite and a jackass for resting your ass on a pyramid of skulls.”
“If the templars could’ve saved more, they would’ve . I know I feel safe around them, and that mission of theirs is gonna lead to some serious car …” but he didn’t get to end that as more stalkers and a few blood angels came out of the woodwork. Making short work of them and reporting the incident back to base, they trudged onwards on their route through the dilapidated buildings.
The stalkers had begun to arrive in pairs, making them easy targets for the two guards.
“Let’s hope that trap works, otherwise they’ll have a lot of angry demons on their hands”, Alfie said.
“The templars and the cabalists will find a way. They always do. I mean, if they could build all of this and keep its true purpose a secret for millennia.”
“I don’t know, I don’t trust the templars. What’s in it for them if they risk their lives out on the battlefield ? Do they go to Heaven ? I’m starting to believe Nietzsche was right and that God really is dead.”
“What do you mean ? They want to survive, don’t they ?”
“Yeah, but why go through all of the trouble during peace time? These people are fanatics. Have you seen the way they look at us ? If gazes could kill…”
“Are you suggesting that they have some ulterior motives ?”
“Maybe. They seem to try a lot to control information and the archives that are left to us. It is getting increasingly harder to find something to read or pictures of art. Although I suppose they are trying to save us.”
“Maybe they will, maybe they won’t”, Artie said, having assumed the role of the contrarian.
“Have you seen what they do to demons ?”
“Yes, but there are a zillion demons to one human. Besides, the Burn might kill us first. Can you even remember how clean the air was before the war ? And we actually complained back then.”
“Maybe they’ll find a way.”
“And if they don’t ? Look at the demons : they kill one, a bigger, stronger one assumes control. It’s like this entire thing is rigged.”
“If they won’t, then we’re all going to die and it’s Bye Bye to this “great life” of yours.”
“I’ve lived it to the fullest so, I’d be ready to go.”
“Never had you pegged for a fatalist. You shouldn’t be, with all these guns.”
“The novelty of the guns and armor wears off after a while, and what you’re left with then is the unshakeable claustrophobia you get in the Underground.”
Alfie clutches his firebrand like it was his baby and says : “We are longer living in Omar Chayam’s age, when a woman and a bottle of wine are enough to ensure decent living. These days, we make do with what we’ve got at our disposal. Those that don’t like it can smuther themselves in gravy and throw themselves to a stalker.”
He didn’t get to continue his rant, as both of then were taken aback by a series of very powerful explosions. Looking at them, their sun-thirsty eyes made them fall silent with admiration.
“Looks like their special plan has been set into motion.”, Alfie commented.
“Yes. Let’s see what becomes of it and then we’ll praise them.”
As they were walking they began to notice that more and more demons were mad and in the area, and not just stalkers and blood angels.
Retreat was the last thing on their minds, so they trudged forward, until they were being covered by a solid looking concrete wall.
“You really didn’t answer my question”, Afie said. “Do you think we’ll get out of this alive.”
“And I told you that I don’t know what to think anymore.”
They both shut up at the same time, at the sound of paws and something big approaching. From behind the cover of the cement wall, they stood in waiting until the source of the noise became apparent. An entire menagerie of demons had emerged from the darkness and was headed towards them.
“Holy Shit ! What’s going on here, Artie ?”
“I don’t know. I think they were diverted the wrong way, the demon herds.”
“Let’s get out of here. Call Jubilee Command, Alfie. Tell them about the freaks and that we’re on our way.”
“So are they (he gestures towards the demons), on their way to he Station.”
“Yeah. I’ll get on the horn with them to start evacuating. You hold them off.”
Artie took out his tempest rifle and started mowing the demons down. The air had started to smell of ozone when Alfie joined in the fray.
They fought furiously, but were eventually separated by the onslaught of the hellish armies. They still maintained radio-contact through their helmets:
“The Station is already evacuating civilians, but they need more time. We have to give it all we’ve got, otherwise everything will be in vain”
“Agreed. Let’s focus on wipping out as many of them as possible, so that those who make it past us will be mopped up by the point defense lasers.
The battle, at one point, seemed almost settled in favor of Artie and Alfie, but a creature that instilled them with dread emerged from the shadows : Arachnida Bastardae, a huge spider with plasma cannons on its back.
It went after Alfie, who was closest, but was in a position that didn’t allow Alfie to see him. Artie was desperately giving it everything he’s got : the air was almost unbreathable due to the ozone stench, but the tempest didn’t inflict too much damage on it. The huge spider came forward and had one of its legs cut off by Alfie’s shockblade.
Still, it was a losing battle. The spider fired a jet of hot plasma straight at Alfie, who tried to dodge it and take cover. It hit his left arm, which was burnt off and cauterized in a matter of seconds. Alfie was in shock, which made him an easy prey for the spider who rushed up to him and ripped him to pieces with its mandible.
In the meantime, Artie was fighting hordes of relentless demons. His armor was covered in blood and was cracked in severall places.Not noticing the static coming from his friend’s equipment, he continued to talk.
“We will climb out into the light eventually … you will see “, Artie said before being overwhelmed by minions and torn to shreds.
No one noticed, in the middle of the evacuation, that two men were still out there, fighting for their lives, nor did they notice when their blips disappeared off the motion sensors and the lifesigns monitor.