The roar reverberated off of the slick stone walls around me. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I shivered in my armor. It wasn’t cold here, but the sheer menace and rage in those roars puckered my ass like a prune. For the millionth time I questioned the stupidity that led me to volunteer for this mission. Who says, sure, I’ll go find the demonic bullmen that dare to defy deities? I’ll go fight them and take back what’s been stolen, no problem. An idiot, that’s who. A pure goose-brained simpleton. A soldier with a death wish. A guy with something to prove.
I took two more steps down, then halted, bringing my rifle up. I check its levels…yep, still fully charged. Lot of good it would do. These minotaur-like critters were 12 feet tall, weighed in around a ton, and moved like greased lightning. What would my piddly LR-65 do? Tickle them and warm their toes? I sighed. Nothing to do but press on. Maybe they would all fall and hit their heads on sharp rocks the moment I approached, dropping a large bag of armor at my feet, and magically a portal would open and send me home to receive my heroic accolades.
I moved forward slowly for the next hour, carefully turkey peeking corners, maintaining an eye on my six, and occasionally pissing myself. Luckily the survival system in my suit kept me clean and dry, but not for lack of effort on the part of my emotional constitution.
With the slimmest margin of warning, a Moloch stepped around the corner directly in front of me and let out an ear splitting, soul rendering roar of such deep rage that my bowels immediately evacuated. I whipped my rifle up and frantically jerked the trigger, sending hot plasma shots directly into the beast. It howled in pain and wildly swung at me with impossible speed, its massive white fists slicing the air above me as I twisted away. I felt my ankle pop when I went down, sending a jolt of pain up my leg Yep…that’s sprained now. No time to care, move! I rolled left, avoiding the giant furry hoof that just cracked the stone where my head was, and fired a flurry of shots up at the underworld creature. It responded by kicking me across the hallway. Three ribs cracked, and I began to contemplate early retirement. Very early.
My survival suit began a healing matrix, and I flung myself around the corner, pretending it was a tactical retreat. This proved fruitless, as he bounded around the corner and slapped me like I owed him money. I felt my jaw snap, and my orbital socket crumbled under the power of the blow. I slid to the far wall, my legs weakly pushing to stand, to no avail. Through a mask of blood and spit I could see him turning to charge. My rifle was in my arms, aimed at him, and as consciousness slipped from my grasp, I pulled the trigger…
When I woke up, I could hardly breathe. My world was white, soft, and smelled like moldy cheese wrapped in urine. I realized that the Moloch had fallen on me, or was trying to mate with me. You’re not my type, Moloch, get off.
My survival system had done its job, containing my bleeding, beginning the healing process on my ribs and face, and resuscitating me. It seems as though my final shots had finally pierced the demon’s tough hide, and it fell at me in death, luckily not crushing me completely. So I’d live for a bit more.
A glint of gold peeked from under the Moloch’s arm. I reached down and pulled free a white and gold treasure. This is why we come here. This is what we fight for. This is what they stole. I smiled in exhausted relief. The smile faded though, as another roar bounced off the walls around me. Another Moloch wasn’t far. My day wasn’t done.