Hello anyone reading this! This is a story I have been wanting to write for a while and finally was able to get around doing. I don't want to clog this top section with too much, so I just wanted to inform you that this page will change from time to time, including format as well. There will be a nifty little changelog section below for convenience, and updates to the title to show the current progress on this story. I honestly love feedback of most kinds, so reply below with anything you'd like to say about this thing I made, tear it apart if you want (but at least give me a good reason as to why my writing sucks). I am usually quick to respond, so questions won't be left hanging for too long. Welp, have fun reading and I hope you enjoy what I make! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Every memorable story has two sides: Light and dark, day and night, good and evil. It is simple to understand, and even more simple to follow along with. When the universe and its inhabitants were created, the Cultivator, a benevolent entity, was the light in a grand story spanning millennia. But, for these types of stories to work, there needed to be the darkness. A destroyer, the Ruin, filled this gap quite nicely. A being who only wanted to see the end of everything combated the entirety of the universe, extinguishing any of those who were not the Ruin. The Cultivator, in an attempt to save the universe from this nightmarish creature, sacrificed its power to seal the Ruin away, where it cannot do any more harm. This was only a temporary solution, sadly. The Ruin began to break free one day, it’s prison weakening, and the universe was once again in peril. With no Cultivator, there was no light to combat the dark, and all seemed lost. Until a long-standing organization, the Protectorate, came along. A symbol of intergalactic peace and cooperation, the Protectorate was a beacon of hope for some and a fearsome foe to the evil and benign. It was one of the first the Ruin massacred. Thought to have been destroyed when the Earth fell victim to the Ruin, fragments of the Protectorate survived and continued their mission to protect the innocent, and restore peace once again. The Ruin and Protectorate, it was like a story of fantasy. It was a story of travelers bounding across the universe, fighting monsters, finding artifacts, solving mysteries. It checked all the boxes, even the Happy Ending that every story deserves, with the Protectorate destroying the Ruin once-and-for-all. But, that was the end of that story and, with almost every story, it was retold. Again and again, across the stars, the adventure was transmitted to anyone willing to hear it. Every detail was told either by the heroes and those involved themselves or by people wanting to gossip. With these details, the universe only seemed more mysterious and more questions came. How did the prison weaken and let the Ruin see the light of day again? Why were there individuals wanting to let the Ruin continue its own quest? How was the hero resurrected? Was it from the mercy of the Cultivator? Was the Cultivator still out there? For the most part, these questions seemed to bother the majority, but the minority of the universe who heard these stories found something even more interesting. During the Protectorate’s travels, Gates were found and exploited for mysterious weapons and loot. Gates: a new challenge for those with bravery and skill, a pocket of space left behind by a long-dead forerunner with the promise of power, fame, and fortune for those who find them. With that unholy trinity of greed, many have come to answer the call to this unknown glory. Gate Hunters answered that call. It was once a hobby taken up by the insane, but now a full-fledged career. These glorified mercenaries come with a number of cliche wants, too numerous to even mention. This story doesn't start with a wannabe legend, but rather a desperate man. A man named Doug Gains, who had nothing left to lose. TERMINAL_ID : Staff_Terminal_79 >>ALIAS : N_POTTS ... Welcome! Please Enter this Unit's ID and Most Recent Security Code. ID : **************** SC : ************************* … CHECKING_AUTHORIZATION: >>ACCEPTED : THANK_YOU ... SECURE_THE_FUTURE ASSIT_IN_DISCOVERING VALIDATE_OUR_SURVIVAL ERRADICATE_OUR_PREDATOR ... POWERING INTELLIGENCE UNIT >>ALIAS : THE_OBSERVER CONNECTING UNIT TO DATABASE: PLEASE WAIT… … CONNECTED : RUNNING DIAGNOSTICS … CURRENTLY OVERSEEING: ... Station 102: Moira Class: Industrial/Construction >> WARNING: PERMITS_EXPIRED Currently Orbiting: "YUKA" Station Time: 02:48 SPT Registered Staff: 12 >>UNCHANGED Current Residents: ~89(?) >>WARNING: DRASTIC_INCREASE >>WARNING : FACILITY_CAPACITY_OVERLOAD … CHECKING SYSTEM FUNCTIONALITY: ... Devices Currently Connected: UNIT_1:OPERATIONAL UNIT_2:OPERATIONAL UNIT_3:OPERATIONAL UNIT_4:OPERATIONAL UNIT_5:OPERATIONAL UNIT_6:OPERATIONAL UNIT_7:OPERATIONAL UNIT_8:OPERATIONAL UNIT_9:OPERATIONAL UNIT_10:OPERATIONAL NODE_2:CONNECTED NODE_1:CONNECTED … DIAGNOSTIC COMPLETE … ACCESSING CAPTURE UNITS … ACCESS POINT : UNIT_5 ... UNIT CONNECTION SECURED ... TRANSFERRING CONSCIOUSNESS TO UNIT: 1%... 25%... 44%... 45%... 79%... 88%... 93%... 97%... 99%.... "...NY TREASURE HUNTERS GET TO BAY 13. REPEAT; ANY TREASURE HUNTERS GET TO BAY 13. WE'VE LET YOU STAY HERE LONG ENOUGH, KEEP LISTENING AND I WON'T HAVE A REASON TO SPACE YOU ALL WITH THE NIFTY LITTLE BUTTON I GOT HERE." The speakers of Station 13 boomed. This had been going on for the past half-hour. It was especially loud in some of the mess halls, rattling some of its inhabitants awake. The owners of this place weren't so glad when there had been a Gateway located on the planet they were orbiting. Not for the fact that there was a weird, alien doorway that whisks you away to another dimension, but rather the people it brought. Gate Hunters. Why couldn't they think of any other name? Up and down the halls of this station, they hollered, whooped, prayed, and even danced at the mere thought of getting a chance at entering a Gate. Some were more, enthusiastic, about possibly dying in a Xeno's broom closet, but whatever gets them out of bed in the morning. These hunters came in all shapes, sizes, and forms. They even brought people like- "GAINS. GET UP, I DIDN'T LUG YOU ALL THE WAY UP HERE TO HAVE YOU DO NOTHING!" From inside the mess hall, someone stirred from his sleep. "WHAT? DID I DISTURB LIL' DOUGIE FROM HIS DREAMY TIME?" Doug Gains. He had arrived here mere hours ago and thought he might get some sleep. He was wrong. Doug grumbled as he got up from his bench. "Up, I’m up." He yawned as he stretched out his limbs. "What do you even want? Did some little girls arrive with cookies?" The man-strosity that awoke Doug was named B. Nothing else, just B. If you tried to ask what his name was, he would answer with a combat boot where the sun doesn't shine. B adjusted his long, red headband, "Well, I just thought you wanted to know, there is some complimentary foodstuffs in the lounge downstairs.” Doug got the idea that he was joking, but it still made him uncomfortable at how quiet B got. Thankfully for Doug, B resumed his regular screaming volume, “THAT GATES GONNA OPEN SOON, AND WE NEED TO GET. IN. LINE.” That removed some of the tiredness from Doug's eyes. B continued to fasten, buckle, and hype himself up with enthusiastic chest pounding. "IF YOU WANNA GET SOME LOOT, YOU GOTTA GET UP AND GET YOUR TINY BODY TO THE LINES! WOO!" Doug started to grab his few things. "You said it wasn't even active!" B had finished getting his gear situated and ready, and he looked like some old Earth soldier. If he just had an extra layer of sweat and maybe a knife between his teeth, he could pass as an extra from Earth's classical movies about Vietnam. "WELL, ONE OF THOSE NUTJOBS STARTED TO GET REAL PANICKY AND STARTED SCREAMING, SO WE CAME TO TWO CONCLUSIONS..." B lifted one of his meaty hands and began to count them off, "ONE, PEOPLE WHO SCREAM ARE QUITE ANNOYING. TWO, THAT MEANS THE GATE IS DOING STUFF." Doug would've argued that maybe it was one of those old Gate Hunters having a heart attack, but he didn't want to get pounded into the floor. Doug threw all of his things into a duffle bag and shouldered it. "Well? Where do we go?" --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Number 32 for you! Make me proud!" Doug had received a ticket from the universe's sketchiest booth. He pocketed it and gave a quick sideways nod to booth-dweller and walked away. Gate Hunters usually gave out these tickets to make it "fair", so that at least some hunters get loot. It usually wasn't, but it made it sound like it was fair. Doug had lost B in the crowd of people in Bay 13, not that he missed him. Now, he just had no idea what to do, someone would probably scream about what to do next, but until then Doug had nothing to go on. He opted for doing the one thing he had perfected over the years. He sat on a nearby bench. Doug might as well have done something, so he did yet another check of his supplies. He had done it again and again, but he counted one handheld shotgun of unknown origins, two mag-boot covers which may be functional, an outdated oxygen mask, some energy bars, and a second-hand PDA, and a bland leather jacket. This was it, his life savings, all of his efforts put into one bag. It didn't even add up to 500 pixels. Doug sighed, reminding himself of what got him here. He didn't have to do this, he could've just enlisted, they would've given him food, a place to sleep, and a reason to live. No, he just had to prove that he was better, and that he could make something of himself… CLANG CLANG CLANG! The sounds of boots hitting the metal floor made Doug cancel his pity party. "Come on! Someone told me there's a ship that jus’ docked! It seems like easy pickin'!" Nobody would get excited when a ship docks unless it's a bandit. These guys were here before the Gate Hunters showed up, and were happy to see the new opportunities. They didn't even have a leader like most gangs do, they worked in complete unorganized anarchy. They were always buzzing around and had at least a couple guys with one another. They only tried to mug stragglers, and usually, the victim was smart enough to give them a few pixels or a shiny bracelet. There isn't much that actually happened. By this point, the bandits were long gone, and distant footsteps were the only things heard. Yeah, there may be a bit of shouting, maybe a gun would be pointed at the poor guy, and then that would be that. BANG. Wait, was that? BANG. BANG. There was some wailing coming from down the corridor the bandits entered, and what was definitely a few gunshots. Doug perked up and straightened his body in alert to the firefight. He snapped his head towards the crowd of maniacs. None of them noticed, not a single one. The noise was too great, that of course only Doug could hear those guns. Doug turned his head quickly back to the corridor. He became uneasy to the fact that someone is possibly being murdered just a few dozen yards away, and only he knows it. He looked back to the crowd, then back to the doorway. Back and forth. Doug made sure to punctuate his annoyance with feeling obligated to at least check out the scene with a groan. He grabbed his bag, unzipped it yet again, and grabbed the small shotgun, and the leather jacket. He didn't even zip it back up before he stood back on his feet and made his way towards the corridor. He maintained a brisk jog while trying to put on his newly acquired leather jacket. Which is pretty hard to do when you have a bag on one shoulder, and a shotgun with no strap in your left hand. It looked like a carnival act that no one would pay for. BANG. BANG. Doug picked up the pace. He secured his jacket by its top two buttons and readied his shotgun. He rounded a corner, the doorway to the firefight was right there! But, the janitor of the station seemed to be doing his job that day, a bit too well. The floors had been freshly waxed, polished to the point where you can see your reflection perfectly on the floor! But, Doug did not know this and would have been greatly appreciative of a warning, because as soon as he touched the smooth floor he fell. He smashed his back against the floor, almost firing his gun into the ceiling! His momentum stayed with them, as he was gaining speed down the waxed corridor. He was going dangerously fast towards the doorway, too fast, way too fast. Doug was hoping to, if a guess could be taken, silently observe the shootout and determine what to do. No, instead, he slid right into the open, and in the open, he saw huge ships with cargo stacked next to each one, either being unloaded or loaded onto each respective ship.And he was heading straight for a well-stacked pile of crates. Any attempts to stop made his body turn slightly, he wasn't going to stop without something else stopping him first. He was mere moments from hitting these crates. He braced himself Ten feet. Seven feet. Three feet. One- CRASH! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Traveling is bad. You have to pack, you go somewhere that you may not like, or the place may not like you. For Daniel Gamma, the feeling seemed mutual between him and the place he traveled to. Well, forced to go to. It wasn't even ten minutes before these guys showed up and started shouting at him. It seemed like no matter where there always seemed to be outlaws. They shouted at him, asking for his 'Cash' and loot. Honestly, he didn't know what to give him that was 'Cash', but he almost certainly didn't have any loot. Unless scrap counts. He tried to calmly explain what he had, "I d-don't got nothin'! I jus' got here! Mah' ship's f-fulla' nothin' but junk!" The outlaws weren't having it, they wanted something. So one of the three muggers went up to Daniel and started to search him. This wasn't hard since he was as stiff as a statue, with both arms reaching for the sky. The lead bandit searched with their free hand, the other arm holding a little pistol. They patted down the victim's legs, arms, even boots for some odd reason. Nothing. All that was left was the backpack. So the baddie unbuckled the top of the bag and started blindly rummaging around. "Hey, did ya' find anything?" "Nah, all I am feeling is some glass and- Woah, Woah, woah, hold on a momento…” The blind rummaging got a bit more focused, something was there. "Well, what is it?" "Dunno, something smooth and round-like? Does this Nova have some gold for us?" At the thought of gold, the bandits get a bit closer, wanting to see the loot, "Come on, lemme see! I ain't never seen any gold before!" "Give me a sec, I still need to-." CLICK. "What in the-?" BRZAP! From the bag, a brilliant blue light flashed, and the bandit searching the bag and his annoying friend suddenly flew violently backward. "WAHAAAA!" The two flew towards a support railing. The annoying one grabbed the railing before he was pushed over it. He hung to the other side for dear life. "NONONONONONO! JIM!" 'Jim', wasn't so lucky. He was unconscious for the whole trip and was pathetically thrown off the edge, past his worried friend. A tiny thud was heard far below seconds later. The bandit worried for his friend began to hoist himself up and called out to his other friend, "KILL THAT NOVA!" The helpful bandit obliged, and pointed his rifle towards the Nova, and fired. BANG. The shot connected, right into the Nova's right arm. The exposed arm cracked where the bullet hit, and a mixture of hot, green plasma and volatile gasses burst forth. The Nova quickly brought down his arms and did a 180 in the opposite direction of the outlaw engaging him and ran for cover. The assailant fired a couple more shots towards Daniel. BANG. BANG. The shots missed and whizzed by Daniel's head. He ducked, feeling the bullets fly by. He used the last of his momentum to dive forward onto the ground. A slight crack could be heard from the Novakids body. The outlaw shifted to the side, heading towards a metal support for cover. He fired a couple more times. BANG BANG. Daniel was lucky to have been missed again, and he scurried on all fours behind a couple of metal barrels. This is great, the first time that he's seen humans will probably be his last. Yeah, he had a revolver, but he was scared stiff, he wouldn't be able to get a shot in before that rifle tore his brand apart. All he could do is wait until they closed in and-. CRASH! -New plan. Find out where that noise came from. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Doug was not having a good day. He could've sat and let the mugging go on. They were probably scaring their victim for some extra pixels. Instead, he destroyed someone else's property, probably bruised something, and now he just has a bunch of crap on him. The Cargo he hit was just some wooden boxes, but even then they splintered way too easily. There were wood chips everywhere, and the insides of the box covered him. He was buried underneath what seemed like baseballs. Baseballs? They weren’t exactly like baseballs. They felt like cold metal with some kind of resin on them. This resin acted like a type of adhesive because when Doug went to move the objects off of him, they stayed in place. They were all over his face, arms, jacket, the little balls were adamant on staying stuck. Doug wasn’t happy about this, of course. He tried to raise himself up off the floor, despite the cargo weighing him down a bit. “Hey, jus’ leave! This isn’t your problem, I just want to see what happens when a Nova gets shot!” One of the bandits yelled at Doug, but his voice was a little shaky. His surprising and graceful entrance must’ve spooked the low-life. Doug finally got up and steadied himself as he was now fully upright. “I am serious! I got a gun, and I see that you don’t. I already know this Nova may have some gold on him, but I won’t think twice ‘bout taking your stuff!” Doug, in a brilliant stroke of bad luck, was only able to see out of his right eye. One of the balls stuck to his left eye and acted like a stupid modern interpretation of an eye-patch. Doug had to swivel his head to find out where the bandit was speaking from. He found them, two of them. One was hiding behind a large, vertical beam of the hangar’s structure, while the other took refuge behind a standard metal barrel. He even saw the ‘Nova’ they were talking about. Glowing a bright green, a metal shape called a ‘Brand’ stuck in his or her face, and in the shape of a ‘Y’ to boot. The Nova also looked like it was taken out of the wild west, with its outdated clothing and white canvas hat. It didn’t fill the stereotype of being a gunslinging, rowdy, and loud cowboy that most Novakid seemed to be like, but this one looked more like someone who no one would remember or care for in the old west. The Nova was cowering behind some crates, down low and in no way trying to fight back, just hiding. It did, however, seem to glare at Doug from his defensive position. It was hard to tell if it was glaring because Nova’s have a blank face, with no other features than their brand showing. It was a poker face a mannequin would be jealous of. “This is your last warning, go away and don’t think of being a…” The Bandit’s voice trailed away. Doug didn’t think anything of the bandit’s sudden halt in his sentence, but that didn’t stop him from coming to conclusions. “Don’t think of what, a hero? I am not anything like a hero, I just don’t like the idea of having someone being shot and knowing about it. Just leave. You already got enough pixels from the guy, probably.” Doug actually got his whole thought out and wasn’t interrupted. That doesn’t seem right. The bandits were just staring at him from a distance. He couldn’t make out what faces they were making, but they didn’t look angry. “What? You were so talkative before! Are you two going to leave?” After Doug questioned them, he took a step forward in order to better make out the two. The bandits suddenly reacted and retrained their guns on Doug. Doug also heard the Nova near him scurry somewhere. “Dude, get back! W-we’ll kill ya’!” “What’re you thinking?! You wanna blow us to hell?” Doug didn’t get it. “What are you two talking about? I just stepped forward because I couldn’t exactly see you two…” Doug took another step forward. The Bandits freaked out. “Stay back, please!” “We’ll go, just leave us, freak!” Doug didn’t take the whole ‘freak’ notion lightly. What were these two suppose to mean by calling him a ‘freak’? He was human, same as them, in fact, he was probably better in stature than these two bandits. “Listen here, you two are the ones mugging a glowstick.” Doug made sure to have his words drip with anger. He wasn’t entirely angry, but he seemed to have these bandits scared stiff. He wanted to take advantage of that. He walked forwards, knowing well that the bandits won’t shoot him, for some reason. The bandits acted regularly to this situation, with the added benefit of losing their marbles as they realized Doug was now continually moving towards them. The two hastily turned and ran the opposite direction of Doug. “JUST RUN! HE’S GONNA KILL US!” “HELP, SOMEONE! THIS DUDES GOT GRENADES AND WANTS TO KILL US!” The two bandits soon left Doug's view, and their screams weren’t audible to him anymore. He can now say he won a fight against two bandits on his own. Nothing for Team Bandit, and one point for Team Grenade. Grenade… Doug Tensed up and snapped his head to his arms. They were still covered in those balls from before, but now after actually looking at them, he can see why those bandits did the smart thing and ran. The balls were actually grenades. Sticky Grenades. They had a casing over either side of the ball, with a small button on a ring encompassing the ball. Now, these grenades would only stick after being armed, but Doug must have cracked the protective casing stopping the grenades from just sticking to anything. That should’ve relieved Doug, but then he noticed something else. Some of the grenades were glowing blue, almost blinding Doug from being so close to them. That meant they were primed and ready to be thrown. He was just one button press away from arming the grenades. And that was only from the ones he could see. He could have one already armed on his back, and he was seconds away from being torn apart by some stupid, explosive baseballs! Doug froze on the spot and held his breath, waiting for his life to flash before his eyes and to see if going to church paid off… --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Humans were always scary to Daniel. He heard stories of how they waged war from his dad, how they were made of meat and then also still ate meaty things like them. They had mouths, with teeth, that grew, but sometimes they messed themselves up and looked like some kind of monster from a comic book! This though, this refreshed that fear. So this guy, who Daniel is appreciative for stepping in, did a few things that were mind-boggling to Daniel. He slid into the hangar like a madman, smashed into some crates for no reason, took some sticky grenades and covered himself with them, and then threatened to blow up the bandits! Daniel never would have done that, and up to this point, he thought no one in their right mind would ever think of actually thinking that was ever a good plan. Well, maybe this human wasn’t in their right mind in the end. He was still thankful! Scared, but he wanted to at least tell the guy he helped him out. Daniel crawled out of a downed, empty barrel, stood up, and brushed himself off. He saw the human a little bit away from him, standing where the bandits once stood. Daniel saw the grenades weren’t all armed, it was genius on the Human’s part, the bandit never even knew! The human stood there, unmoving. Daniel walked a bit towards his savior, and ‘cleared’ his throat. “Uh, h-hello? I jus’ wanted to thank ya’ for helpin’ me out here.” No response. The human seemed frozen, did humans just freeze? “Hey, uh, ya’ alright there?” The human made a noise, but it seemed so quiet. Did the bandits do something to them on the way out? “S-sorry fer’ botherin’ ya’, but could ya’ speak up jus’ a bit?” “Help.” “What was that?” “Can’t. Move. Grenades. On.” “I am still really sorry, but I can’t make out whatever yer’ sayin’.” “I have, grenades, on me and they are ON!” Daniel jumped at the outburst. Of course, he had grenades on him, he knew that, right? “Get them OFF ME.” Daniel was cautious, but this guy did save him, and it was a simple request, “Alright, alright. Give me a s-sec.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It took a while, and a lot of yelling from Doug and reassurance from Daniel, but the grenades were off. Doug was grateful that he didn’t explode, and Daniel’s feelings weren’t too hurt from how many times he was called a ‘bastard’ or a ‘motherfucker’. The grenades were lined up in neat rows next to Daniel, 32 in all. He plucked each one off with caution and unbelievable precision. The membrane that surrounded his inner liquids and gasses was pliable enough to encase the grenades and safely remove them from the Human’s clothes. Doug was moving again, not having to fear the thought of possibly exploding eased his mind. Daniel was on his knees, making sure all the grenades were off and deactivated. Doug was brushing off his arms and legs from the residual membrane left on his clothes. “What’s this stuff anyway?” “My shell, I used it to get tha’ things off of ya’.” “Your shell, you mean all of that stuff?” Doug was gesturing to Daniel’s entire body, but he got the message anyway. “Yup, t-tha’ shell stuff is my casin’. Helps keep all my innards in.” “Okay… Is it bad for me to touch?” “Dunno, ya’ feel weird?” “Um, no?” Daniel shrugged and brushed his hand against one of the grenades. It rolled away but Daniel was certain it wasn’t going to go far. “I think yer’ gonna be jus’ fine.” “Whatever you say, but I better not have my skin melting off of me because you’re radioactive or something.” Daniel took his focus away from the conversation and back to the explosives. All 31 grenades were there and finally deactivated. He also felt like he forgot something. Something important… Dink! Clang! Daniel heard some distant noises, maybe someone heard the commotion from earlier and came to check out what happened. “Hey, what were those noises? The grenades are off, right?” “Yeah, I think I heard someone coming over-” Ka-BOOM! Daniel covered his head with his arms and curled up on the ground, and Doug got into a fighting stance. A distant explosion rung out from below the walkway they were on, and a burst of light overcame both sides. “The hell was that?!” Doug looked upwards and around trying to see if he should start running. Maybe those bandits were waiting somewhere and were taking shots at the two on the walkway. Daniel, knew otherwise and crawled over to the edge of the walkway and looked over the side sheepishly. Down below, while being almost entirely dark, there were some blue flames and red-hot metal. But, without fuel, the fire was dying down, and the metal was cooling off. A grenade must have fallen down and scorched the very bottom of the hangar. Thankfully, it seemed like nothing important was hit. Daniel still wanted to make some distance between this cursed hangar and himself, “Uh, we best be goin’. I think somethin’ happened with a grenade.” “What happened? I thought you turned them all off!” “I didn’t see t-that one roll away!” Even though Daniel had no facial tells showing he was lying, that slight stutter didn’t help make him any less guilty. “Alright, look, you can come with me. I have this room that I was able to use. You can stay there for a bit. But, I need to do something first.” “A-alright! I’ll follow ya’. Let me jus’ get my bag.” Doug harrumphed in acknowledgment and made sure to collect his things from the ground. BWEEP! BWEEP! Large and red lights turned on, and a siren wailed through the hangar. “What’s that? Why’re tha’ lights on and who's makin’ that God-awful noise!?” Over the PA system, some voices screamed, “What’re you doing, get out of my office! I swear, I’ll space you all if you don’t-” “Shut up old man!” One of those Gate Hunters must have made it into the manager’s booth of the station. “Listen, everyone, get off your butts and GET TO THE TELEPORTERS! THE. VAULT. IS. OPENIIIIIING!” Doug wished that these guys had quieter voices, but the PA system was right, he needed to get going, “Okay, new plan, we need to go now.” “Huh, but I t-thought you were havin’ me somewhere else?” “No time. Just. Follow me!” Doug gripped his small shotgun and held his bag close to him as he began to run back towards the teleporters. Daniel hurriedly shouldered his backpack, “Hey, w-wait up!” Daniel sprinted away after Doug, heading through a corridor towards… Towards... Towards... ... ERROR: WARNING >CHANNEL_UNAVAILABLE ... ERROR: WARNING >NODE_3 >DAMAGED ... STANDBY: PLEASE_HOLD >CREATING_TEMP_CHANNEL >ACCESSING >NODE_2 TEMP_CHANNEL >STATUS >COMPLETE … ATTEMPTING_ACCESS >U_1 >U_7 … COMPLETE >RUNNING_EZDIAGNOSTICS >EZDIAGNOSTIC_COMPLETE … RESUMING_OBSERVTIONS… … Bay 13 was a mess. It was a mess before, but not to this extent. All the Gatehunters were running around, grabbing last minute munitions and supplies before running to some makeshift teleporters. Lines must have been a myth because it was a free-for-all just to make it to the Gate! Daniel and Doug arrived in the bay. Doug was huffing and puffing, and Daniel was holding something to his right arm. “Where did B go?” Doug couldn’t find the screeching dude he was with before. He was hoping that he could tag along with B, but that didn’t seem to be an option at this point. “Uh, w-what’re we doin’?” Daniel was still lost in the situation, and it showed with his frantic looking at everything that was going on. Doug stomped on the floor, B must have gone down to the vault already. He was just going to have to make his way to the vault alone. “Ow! S-sorry didn’t see ya’ there.” Okay, maybe not entirely alone. “Uhm, okay, cowboy-guy-thing, you are going to come with me instead.” “Alrighty! But, where are we goin’?” “Through that teleporter over there, past these guys in front of us.” There was a wall of guys blocking Doug and Daniel from the teleporters. He just had to wait for the right time so they could slip in… “Okay, I’m followin’ ya’, but then what?” Doug kept quiet, he needed to wait for an opening. He would then grab the Nova and book it to the teleporters. Just another second and maybe they can start squeezing their way through and make it safely. “COME ON MAN, WE GOT SOME LOOT TO GET!” “H-hey, put me down!” Doug snapped back to Daniel who was behind him. Emphasis on was. He was now being lifted into the air by a large man who was ripped out of a cheesy war movie. “B! What are you doing to the Novakid?!” “I AM SO READY TO GET SOME LOOT, I JUST WANT EVERYONE OUT OF MY WAY!” “I’ll get outta yer’ way! Jus’ p-put me down and I’ll leave, I swear!” B pushed forward into the crowd of large Gatehunters. Doug followed close behind his ‘plow’. Daniel kept yelling to be put down on the ground. Doug wasn’t expecting this to work, but he wasn’t going to question it while this was working. “WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING STANDING AROUND, MOOOOVE!” B continued pushing through the last few lines of Gatehunters. “P-please! Stop! I don’t like this at all!” Daniel was having a blast. “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN DOING NOTHING COWBOY! IF I HAVE TO CARRY YOU JUST TO GET SOMEONE MOVING TO THE VAULT, I WILL!” B finally broke through the lines, and there sat five teleporters. They were recently put up and weren’t meant for dozens of guys to go through at once. But, I don’t think that personal safety was the priority here. “ALRIGHT LAVA LAMP, I RESPECT THAT YOU WERE STILL IN FRONT OF ME EVEN THOUGH I CARRIED YOU TO THE TELEPORTERS! SO…” B readjusted his grip on Daniel, and got into a stance to support himself leaning back until… “YOU FIRST!” B reeled forward, launching the Novakid forward towards the nearest teleporter. Daniel flew straight towards the teleporter, screaming all the way until he vanished in a brilliant white flash! BZIP! Doug watched this all happen and was hoping that there wasn’t going to be a dead or distorted Novakid on the other side of that teleporter. He was currently betting himself on whether or not being thrown through a DIY teleporter would cause significant damage to the user. “YEAH! YOU’RE NEXT SMALL FRY!” Doug didn’t like the sound of that. “No no no, wait a minute B…” B grabbed Doug by the collar of his jacket, and his other free hand grabbed his lower back. Doug was lifted into the air. “B! Hold on a second, I am alright with walking into a teleporter my-” B forcefully tossed Doug towards the nearest teleporter. “-seeEEELLLFFFF!” Doug was moving straight towards the sketchy teleporter, only having enough time to lift his arms up to protect his face from hitting anything. A bright white light enveloped his vision and he suddenly felt nothing. CHANGING_OBSERVATION_NETWORK: PLEASE_HOLD … TRANSITIONING_YUKA_FRAME … RUNNING_DIAGNOSTICS … Yuka - Glacial Wasteland >Current Temperature: -34 Degrees Celsius >>WARNING: INCOMPATABLE_TEMP >>WARNING: SEEK_ALTERNATIVE_HEAT >Flora: Minimal >Fauna: Minimal >Current Gates: 1 >>Current Active Gates: 1 >>Current Activity Lifespan: 0 Hours, 34 Minutes, 54 Seconds >>WARNING: GATEWAY_ACTIVITY_SPIKE >>WARNING: PRESENT_HAZARDOUS_MATERIAL … DIAGNOSTICS_COMPLETE >TRANSFERRING_CONSCIOUSNESS … “-EEEELLLLLFFFFFF!” POOF! Doug had safely flown through the teleporter and landed in a soft pile of snow. His arms stopped a good portion of the snow from getting, into his face, but most of the snow slid down the front of his jacket and shirt. Doug quickly jumped up and tried to shake the snow out of his clothing. “Ooh! Ooh! Cold, very cold snow!” Another flash of light appeared behind him and made its presence known the only way it knew how to. “YEAAAH! I AM GONNA MAKE YOUR VAULT MINE, YUKA!” Doug got a reasonable amount of snow out of his clothes, he hugged himself tightly and chattered his teeth as the cold started to set in. “D-d-damn it! Why is it s-s-so cold?” “YOU DID GET AN EPP? RIGHT, SHRIMP?” “Yeah! The guy who sold me this jacket said there w-w-was one built in.” “SOUNDS TO ME YOU GOT CONNED MAN, BY A CONMAN!” “G-g-great…” Doug rubbed his arms and hands, trying to heat himself up with some friction. He also took a quick glance around. There were large snow banks on either side of him, but the visibility was so poor from the snowfall, he could barely see in front of him! On top of all of this, he didn’t see that Novakid anywhere. “B! You d-d-didn’t kill that Nova, right?” “HUH? THE SPACE COWBOY SHOULD BE FINE! IF HE WAS SMART, HE WOULD HAVE WALKED TO THE GATE BY NOW!” “W-w-where’s the gate?” “IT IS IN FRONT OF US SOMEWHERE! LET’S GO!” Before Doug could ask any more questions, B jogged off into the whiteness of the snow and disappeared. Doug was going to curse at B for leaving him, but he decided that would waste too much energy. He trudged through the snow, going forwards and hoping B was right about the Gate. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Daniel had heard of snow before. It was a blast he heard some people say. You could make creatures out of them, throw it, even eat it! It was a small collection of crystals that were seemingly unique from each other. It was supposed to be beautiful for anyone, really. Daniel hated it. It felt weird on his shell, it looked weird, and it was just making a mess. It just kept coming down as well! He had to brush off his clothes and shake his hat so the snow wouldn’t collect too much. Thankfully, he followed a few strange men saying something about gates and he found some tents with heaters in them. Usually, Daniel never would have even thought of how practical a heater was, but it was great at melting this snow, so he fell in love with it. He hasn’t seen that human anywhere, and thankfully he hasn’t caught sight of that larger human as well. Humans are crazy, and even crazier when they get bigger apparently. He didn’t even know the guy who saved him! It was rude in Daniel’s mind to not, at least, know the person’s name. Then again, he wasn’t quick to tell him his own name… “H-hey! The gates doing something!” There they go again. Gate this and Gate that. When Daniel got here, that hunk of rock wasn’t doing anything more than just sitting around. It looked like a fancy piece of art, and Daniel didn’t like wasting things to make ‘art’. Still, at least that ‘art’ allowed Daniel to take a whole tent to himself, most of the humans that were in here kept running in and out, but eventually never came back in. There was just too many of them in one area. Daniel liked to have some room to move if he wanted to, and being crammed next to a bunch of maniacs didn’t help at all. “I-it’s glowing! Guys, guys! IT’S DOING SOME MORE STUFF!” Daniel didn’t buy it. Nothing was going to get him out of his tent unless that Gate started doing backflips. Or maybe give him some food to eat. Or became a giant heater. Or could get him back home. Nope, nothing was gonna make him budge from his warm friend here. “It’s glowing! This is awesome! Now it seems to be-” VWOOOOOOOOOM. That got Daniel to think about running from his precious heater. He felt some large and loud hum flow through him, and shake his whole tent. That gate was doing something now, and Daniel knew it was doing something more than being ‘art’. “WE MADE IT LITTLE MAN, AND JUST IN TIME BECAUSE THAT GATE IS OPENING!” That was the large man that threw him on this stupid planet. But, that also meant the other human was nearby. Hopefully. Daniel reluctantly walked away from his heater, and towards the entrance to the tent. He unzipped the flaps and took a look outside. What he saw was chaos. Tons of humans were running around. Some were breaking down tents, while others readied any weaponry they had. Most of them were guns. Large guns. Guns that were the size of Daniel! These humans are insane. Daniel scanned the frenzied humans, looking for one specific human. It was a bit difficult, but he found his guy, and he looked like he wasn’t enjoying the snow. Daniel thanked nobody in general that he wasn’t the only one who thought snow was stupid. Daniel made sure his stuff was either on his back or in his pockets and mentally prepared himself to go back out into the snow. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “WE MADE IT LITTLE MAN, AND JUST IN TIME BECAUSE THAT GATE IS OPENING!” Doug could barely hear B. He was more focused on not freezing to death. He craned his head upwards, his teeth chattering and his eyebrows frozen over. He saw a giant Gate. It looked just like the ones the Protectorate encountered in those stories, but this one was sunken into the snow somewhat. A giant door frame, made of brownstone etch with weird runes and imagery. It had to be at least 15 feet tall, and possibly 10 feet wide. There was snow piled up on either side, but the center was cleared out. Cleared out and glowing with a grand spectacle of purple energy. Gate Hunters were spread out in front, with various size tents pitched in certain areas. There were hunters doing different things, cleaning rifles, selling last-minute supplies, sharpening… ...Swords? “H-hey, guy!” Doug turned to his right. The Novakid seemed okay, thankfully. “Thought I lost ya’ fer’ a moment.” Doug would’ve acknowledged the Nova in some way, with a nod or affirmative grunt, but he couldn’t feel his face anymore. He should’ve checked that his jacket actually had an EPP in it because that would’ve been nice to have right about now. “Hey, guy? Yer’ lookin’ a Lil’ stiff.” Doug tried to keep walking forward, but his legs weren’t listening to him. They were frozen just like the rest of this planet. Doug couldn’t keep himself upright, and he slowly leaned forward. “W-woah! Human, you feelin’ alright?” Before Doug could completely fall forward, Daniel rushed forward and tried to catch Doug on his way down. That didn’t work as well, Daniel acted more like a small armrest than support for Doug. “Ack! G-God, yer’ a biggun!” Doug could hear the Cowboy Cliche, but he lost his sight a few seconds ago. “Uh, hold on, I just need to move ya’.” Daniel readjusted his ‘helping’ hand and opted to drag the freezing human. Doug wasn’t happy, he had a feeling he was going to die right before he had a chance to go into that gate he gave up everything for. Well, he at least wanted to die in there rather than his pathetic circumstance. He couldn’t feel anything other than a painful stinging sensation throughout his body, but even that was fading away. “Jus’ give me a sec guy! I almost got ya’ to yer’ gate thingy…” Daniel kept dragging the popsicle towards the glowing gate. Trying to lug the human as quickly as a sentient star-person could. The gate was just a few dozen feet away, Daniel could make it, that is the least he could tell himself. Doug was losing his grip, all because he didn’t pay attention. He didn’t pay attention… Pay attention... ... LOSING_CONNECTION >>SWITCHING_MOBILE_U13 >>CONNECTION_STABLE … EZDIAGNOSTICS_COMPLETE >>TRANFERRING_CONNECTION >>STAND_BY … “PAY ATTENTION KID, YOU STICK THIS STIMULANT RIGHT INTO THE SMALL BONY PART HERE!” “Wouldn’t that hurt ‘em?” “IT’D HURT EVEN MORE IF YOU ASK ANOTHER QUESTION AND MAKE ME DO IT!” “A-Alright! I’ll jus’ jab this guy, into. This. Guy…” Doug felt everything all at once, from top to bottom he felt like his atoms were on fire. He yelled out in pain and confusion because he didn’t know why his atoms would be on fire in the first place. He launched upwards, his arms outstretched, ready to do something to anything that made him feel on fire. He grabbed hold of whatever was in front of him, it felt like, a leather of some kind. Whatever it was Doug had a death grip on it. His eyesight wasn’t back yet, but he could make out something green and brown in front of him. Was some kind of tree attacking him? The ‘Tree’ seemed to have gotten spooked by Doug’s sudden movements because it was trying to break free of his grasp. Doug kept his grip on the tree’s limbs. His body was beginning to cool down, at least. “H-hey! Get offa’ me!” The tree was trying to convince Doug to let go, but he wasn’t having it. But, now that his eyes are starting to clear up, he saw the tree’s hat, rough looking jacket, and glowing head. … Tree’s don’t glow. … Doug relaxed his hands and let the tree go. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Daniel had just about had it with this place. He had been here for what seems no more than thirty minutes and he was mugged, shot at, almost blown up, thrown, snowed on, and now shaken like a fancy drink. Daniel wanted to get up and just leave if he knew how to do so. And if he knew where he was. His human friend was doing a bit better than earlier. He was stiff and frozen at one point, then started to act crazy at one point, and now the human was walking around and doing things that weren’t trying to shake the Nova. That means that the human was probably getting better. Daniel sat on the floor, watching the human get some gear out of his bag. A shotgun, some ammunition, a few vials of red liquid, a small, glass pad… “Hey, what’re ya’ doin’?” Doug secured all of his stuff to himself and was doing a final once-over to make sure he had everything he needed. He didn’t make eye contact with the Nova but still acknowledged his question. “Huh?” “What’re ya’ doin'? With the stuff and things on ya’?” “Getting my gear ready so I can hopefully not die in here.” Doug gestured to the room they were in. The scenery changed from the great snowy tundra to an eerily lit cavern. The gateway had allowed them to enter an ancient vault built by an unknown forerunner race, long gone. While the expansive room they were currently in looked like an undiscovered cave, upon closer inspection, chiseled brick and stone line parts of the wall. Lanterns also adorn some of the walls, but are broken in a few spots, or are just unlit. Gate Hunters have already made a smaller camp inside the cavern. It was mostly a way for some of the hunters to park their extra gear so they wouldn’t have to dig them out of the snow later. Only a few nervous hunters stayed in the cavern, probably scared of what could be down the corridors and tunnels of this vault. “Uh, what’cha gettin’ from here?” “Something to sell, hopefully.” “This place looks like it has already been r-ransacked.” “Well, there has got to be something…” “A somethin’ in tatters m-maybe.” The human exhaled from his nose forcefully. Daniel didn’t really understand what that meant coming from the human. “Why’re you even here then?! We’re Gate Hunters, practically the whole galaxy knows we just sell random magical crap in these vaults regardless of whether it is broken or not!” The human shook his head, “I bet you are gonna tell me that you aren’t here for this vault, which is the only thing out here even worth mentioning!” The human finished his sentence and was ready to start his way through the vault. He took one step, then another, and finally stopped. “You?...” The human turned to Daniel. His voice lost it’s anger and was replaced with something else, “You really aren’t here for the vault, are you?” It was replaced with guilt, “And I dragged you here, didn’t I? To answer both of these questions, Daniel nodded. The human put a hand to his head and sighed heavily. He did a sad chuckle as he held his head, “What am I doing?” “Hey, I-it ain’t yer fault entirely.” The human removed his hand and looked back to Daniel. Daniel gestured to himself, “I shoulda’ said somethin’. I mean, what’s yer’ name? I didn’t even bother askin’ ya’ that!” The Nova laughed for a second at his own absurdity. The Human joined in as well. It was only interrupted by some loud yelling down the cavern that stopped the human. He readjusted the gear on his belt and straightened his jacket. “Okay, I gotta hurry and get something before all those jackasses get the good stuff.” The human did a once-over of the room, “Uh, you can stay here and you should be fine. I will come back to get you in a sec.” Daniel gave a thumbs-up to the human, “S-sounds good ta’ me!” The human nodded and began to walk away again, but over his shoulder, he yelled something to the Nova, “Oh! My name is Doug by the way!” Daniel perked up at this. He finally knew the guy’s name! … That still didn’t change the fact that Daniel thought this human was crazy. … And the Daniel still didn’t tell the Doug who he was. ... “I would be fine with anything, a pot, a coin, a lamp…” Doug has trekked on this long, winding cavern. Vines and cracks adorn the walls of the cave, overgrown for who knows how long. The ground was recently worn and the dust was disturbed from the foot-traffic of the Hunters. Pots were smashed all around, old fixtures were wrenched from the walls and various bits of trash and rubble were scattered all around. “...I would even be good with a nice chair! Maybe these aliens have some kind of recliner I can pawn off…” Being half-frozen set Doug back a ways away from the pack ahead. He was glancing over the aftermath of the hunter’s rampage. They didn’t leave anything that looked remotely intact. “...But no, I have to fight for scraps with a bunch of maniacs!” Complaining, sadly, wasn’t giving Doug any more luck in finding something to sell. The tunnel he was currently it seemed to go on forever, he couldn’t see the end of the tunnel, he couldn’t see where he came from, he had no idea where he was going. It was a long walk in a dangerous vault trying to look for something that he can sell off and never do again. It had been almost 10 minutes, and there was absolutely nothing. When the protectorate encountered these vaults, they said it would be chock-full of treasure and wonders for anyone willing to explore them. Guess it would be a full vault for a handful of people. Doug did feel lucky that he didn’t have to encounter any creatures, as it was said that these vaults housed fauna that was either dangerous or harmless. No, Doug came too far to end up empty-handed. He would rip the gateway out of the ground just to show he didn’t come here for nothing. Some yelling came from the direction Doug was heading. That told him he was catching up at least. They weren’t as loud as before, so it was confusing as to why they were shouting now. “Heh, guess someone found an ancient tea set or something.” Doug chuckled at his own joke, looking downwards and shaking his head. He couldn’t make out what they were yelling about, but he had some ideas. “Guys, Look! An ancient tablet charger, and it is even a convenient ten feet long!” He tried to imitate one of the Gate Hunters, he figured that he was a reasonable distance away to properly make fun of them behind their back. “If you examine the markings on this, you can see that this vault housed a genuine cutting board! Maybe there is a matching knife set that these ancients left behind!” He was having fun with this and judging from how far he was from the yelling, he was able to think of another thing a Gatehunter would say. “This vault is actually a great department store! That must be why this vault is so empty, they must’ve had a sale and all of the cool things began to-” “rrrRRRRUUUUUUUUUUNNNN!” “-Out?” Doug stopped his mindless wander forwards due to the incredibly rude interruption. Some light ahead of him began to glow a bit brighter and some heavy footsteps were heard coming towards him. “What in the…” Doug's voice trailed off as a group of Gatehunters rounded around the far corner of the tunnel Doug was meandering through. They weren’t just running back, they were sprinting. It was like their lives depended on it or something. “JUST GO! GOGOGOGO-!” They were heading a bit closer now, Doug decided it would be better for his health if he hugged the wall on his right and let these guys run by. They stamped pass Doug, most had their weapons holstered so that they could focus entirely on their maniac sprinting. As they started to go on by Doug, he noticed with some of the maskless that they lost color in their faces, and their expressions were stiff. One even looked almost literally frozen with fear! Doug was almost beaten back by some of the hunters scraping against the wall, but he stood his ground and anchored himself to some rubble. He couldn’t focus on most of the hunters, but he saw a few go by with bags and pockets full of random junk to sell. They really did take everything they could find. It only took five minutes for them to run by, and the tunnel became quiet once again. The lights and noise from the fleeing hunters made Doug’s ears ring from the silence and squint in the darkness. Doug continued down the path once again. It didn’t matter to him that everyone else left in terror. He wanted to find something, he needed to find something. He couldn’t bear the thought that this was the end of the line. If he could find one piece of garbage he could sell, he’d be fine. He just needed something to make it to the next week, and then he can worry about what to do for the week afterward. He just needed to worry about this week. He made it this far, he just needed to worry about this week. Just this week. After he gets his garbage and sells it for some sum of pixels, he can then start to worry about what to do next. He just needed to focus on stepping one foot in front of the other. Doug at that very moment had his masterful walking interrupted and his one foot did not get to go in front of the other. He fell forwards and his arms shot up instinctively. He hit the ground hard, he could feel pebbles dig through his jacket somewhat. His head snapped towards the floor, but his arms stopped him from outright hitting the floor. Doug wasn’t paying attention to the ground in front of him. He thought that he must have been way up in the clouds because whatever he tripped over was raised to at least below his knee! Maybe those hunters left behind an ancient step-stool. Doug groaned and rolled onto his back, he didn’t feel anything scraped, but he may have just gotten a bruise or two. He didn’t hear any other cracks or creaks, so he most likely didn’t break any of his stuff. He craned his head upwards, hoping to see that he tripped over something worthwhile. He didn’t. It was just a blue-ish, white hunk of something. It was so lumpy and irregularly shaped that it couldn’t have been a piece of furniture. Doug tapped the hunk of material with his foot, and he could feel the warmth being robbed from his foot through the sole of his shoe. It was a piece of ice! Doug rose from the ground and gathered his bearings of where he was. When he spaced out, he must have walked to the end of the tunnel. The room was much more open, it’s ceiling was higher and the walls were further apart. The tunnel turned into a cavern of sorts. There was more rubble scattered around, but now there were hunks of ice also scattered around just like the one he tripped over. They were various sizes, shapes, and had different locations. There weren’t any clear reason as to why they would be here. Doug brushed the pebbles off of his clothes and took a glance behind him. There were some stone steps, they were large, bulky, and reached both sides of the cavern. They lead upwards, toward a large stone door. It looked brand new! Doug guessed that the door was almost twenty feet tall, and ten feet wide. It looked flawless compared to the rest of the room. Odd symbols decorated the door with their incredible design and craftsmanship. Of course, the significance of these designs was lost to Doug. He didn’t understand any of it. Doug didn’t like how clean the door was, but that probably meant it has been used recently. Maybe some other, less jumpy, hunters were rummaging pass that door. He only saw a good sized group run by earlier, but he didn’t see every hunter run by. There were probably some guys right behind that door getting something before Doug can. Maybe B was yelling some kind of nonsense at the remaining hunters. Maybe he was fighting the Vault Guardian! Maybe he already fought the vault guardian and was receiving some sort of super-weapon! Doug didn’t want to think about that last scenario. He steeled himself, he was probably going to have to fight someone to make this trip mean something. He checked his shotgun, making sure it was loaded. He re-adjusted his jacket and flipped the collar up. He took a few deep breaths, he was as ready as he could be. One foot in front of the other, he walked up the stone steps leading to the door. He had to really lift his legs to make sure they clear the steps. By the time he made it to the top, he was huffing and puffing. The door was even more monolithic up close, these forerunners must have either been huge or loved oversized features. Doug looked around for a door handle, maybe a button of some kind, but none could be seen. “Okay, let’s try this…” Doug extended his right arm forwards and placed his hand on the door. … Nothing happened. … “Oh come on! Aren’t these doors suppose to be advanced or something? I’ve seen the movies, the door is supposed to become all glowy and dramatic.” Doug removed his hand and wanted to show this door what a shotgun shell looks like, but it had other plans. With incredible speed, the door shot straight up. And with a loud boom, it halted and seemingly disappeared into the stone above. Doug almost fell back down the large, stone steps as he let out a very unmasculine shriek. Doug took a second to recompose himself, make sure no one was watching, and readied himself (again) to enter the strange doorway. He looked into the opened doorway to see nothing but… Black? It was entirely dark, not even the light from the cavern he was in helped in any way. Maybe if he had a flashlight, that would help. Instead, he opted for another snack bar instead of a light source. This dark doorway wasn’t going to stop Doug! This vault already has a ton of screwy things in it, some infinitely dark hallway was the least of his worries. As long as his feet dragged across the floor, maybe he wouldn’t trip over any other bits of ice. He slid his shoes across the floor, one leg at a time. The ground was flat and smooth, and he didn’t feel himself brush up against any rocks. He was ten feet into the open doorway. He couldn’t see past his own nose. Maybe this ancient vault had some sort of motion lights installed. That would make life easier. Now he was fumbling around in the dark. “Uh, y-ya’ okay here buddy?” Doug spun around to the voice he heard. It was the Nova, peeking around the open doorway, “What are you doing here, I thought you didn’t want to be here?!” The Nova walked slowly out to the center of the doorway. He swiveled his head around, taking in what was possibly the largest door he’s seen. “Uh, those other humans came back and were b-bein’ loud and such. I didn’t see another way out, so I thought followin’ you were the next best thing.” “Well, I don’t think you’d want to be here. There may be some dudes up ahead that may not be so…” Doug looked down to the ground, a green light illuminated the floor. He was able to see the ground and his shoes, even if the light was still a bit dim. He looked back to the Nova, who was fiddling with his backpack straps. “Okay, I think you can help me.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Daniel didn’t know what he was scared of, this place was empty and not exciting in the slightest. These humans and Doug especially were absolutely crazy, but they must’ve also been afraid of all the wrong things! Was some dark doorway really the bane of these people? Maybe that is why Doug helped him. Was it all because he was literally like a flashlight? “Wh-where we walkin’ to anyways?” Doug and Daniel had been slowly making their way into the darkness, with Daniel’s glow keeping them aware of their immediate surroundings. That is if there was anything to be aware of. “I don’t know where we are going, but we haven’t hit a wall yet, so until then we should keep walking.” Daniel didn’t see any more rubble on the floor, or even damage to the floor at all! Unlike the rest of this vault, this had to be the cleanest, most well-preserved room in this place. Daniel didn’t like it one bit. “Ya’ sure there’s somethin’ here?” “There has to be.” “Yeah, but, what if there ain’t nothin’ left?” “There has to be someone here, I didn’t see B come back, so he has to be getting something from somewhere.” “Who’s ‘B’?” “Oh, um, remember that guy who threw you earlier?” “That’s B?!” “Yep.” Daniel halted his walking and looked to Doug, he almost walked off into the dark. “Why’re we lookin’ fer’ that guy?!” “He may still be walking around here, he’s a pretty big guy so most of the other hunters won’t mess with them.” Doug gestured between himself and Daniel. “That hopefully means no one would mess with us.” Daniel shook his head. “That doesn’t s-stop ‘im from messin’ with me and you in the end!” “Right, right, but at least I know him better than some of these other maniacs.” Doug sighed slightly at this sudden objection to his plan, “Can we at least try and find him? He’s my ride anyways…” Daniel took a quick glance around in the darkness as if he was expecting that hulking human (or ‘B’ as he just learned) to come leaping from out of nowhere, “F-fine. Can ya’ jus’ make sure he won’t toss me around again?” Doug nodded in agreement., “Sure. As soon as we find B you can do whatever.” Daniel visibly relaxed at Doug’s statement. He started to walk forward again alongside the Human. He still didn’t know where they were going to end up, but at least he didn’t have to worry about B. Doug and Daniel walked forwards a bit more, cautiously slow. “So, uh, one thing I know B will yell at you for is ‘Eyeballing’ him.” “Eyeballin’?” “Yeah, just don’t stare at him, for some reason he hates that.” “What? So jus’ don’t look at ‘im?” “No, you can look at him, just don’t stare at his eyes.” Doug turned to Daniel and pointed two fingers to show where his eyes were, “Just avoid looking at these for too long and B should leave you alone.” “That’s where you humans see?” “Yeah, where did you think?” “I thought it was that bigger hole in yer’ h-head.” “You mean my mouth?” “Jus’ whatever that bigger hole is.” “No, the little view-balls up above. Without these, I wouldn’t see anything.” Since Doug couldn’t see in front of himself, he hit something head-on. He reeled back in pain and surprise. Daniel jumped back at the human’s outburst. “Wha’ happened t-ta’ ya’?” Doug let out a string of obscenities as he clutched the right side of his head. His eyes were shut tightly and he gritted his teeth as a pained hiss escaped his mouth. “You’ve Got to be FF-! AUGH! Why is my ear ringing?!” “Well ya’ jus’ hit some big ol’ r-rock.” Doug still maintained a tight grip on his face, the pressure helped ease the pain a bit. He forced his eyes open and locked his eyes on the thing he blindly walked into. It was another piece of ice! Just like the kind that was scattered in the room just before this one. It was upright and seemed flawless compared to pieces earlier. There were no scratches on them and it wasn’t a mess of lumps. With Daniel’s glow, it became known that this horizontal figure also had a few ‘limbs’ protruding on either side. Both limbs pointed downwards and were simple stubs on the end. With Doug’s eyes tracking the limbs, he also noted that the base of the ice was narrower than most of the mass it was supporting. The figure from his hunched-over-in-pain perspective was slightly taller than he was, but he had no doubt in mind that the width of it was more than double his own. Daniel had walked around the right of the ice, trying to see it fully. Doug was left in the dark, as Daniel’s light was blocked out, leaving only a silhouette for him to see. “Huh, this statue ain’t pretty lookin’.” Doug flinched at Daniel choice in wording, “Statue?” “Yeah, i-it’s makin’ it’s face do somethin’.” Doug ignored the pain in his head for a moment to quickly step around the ice to get around to the front. Doug had to scan over the front with the Nova’s light. He looked over the ‘statue’ multiple times. He didn’t want to believe what he was seeing. The statue had a chiseled face, shorter hair similar to a crew cut, a band that stretched across its forehead with the excess length of the band draping over the statue’s shoulders. Its expression was that of defiance, it’s mouth was agape in what could easily be seen as someone mid-yell, the veins, and muscles on its neck tense. Its entirety was frozen in time and made out of ice that was primarily white with a blue-ish tint mixed in. It was a perfect recreation of the man who had brought him to this Vault’s Gateway. In fact, there wasn’t a doubt in Doug’s mind, this was that same person. It was B, the powerhouse of a human, completely frozen in his final form for the rest of eternity. Doug’s vision was robbed from him as he was only able to see a blinding light coming from every direction, and a nightmarish shriek clouded his mind.