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Have At Ye, Mechanical Malingerer!

Have At Ye, Mechanical Malingerer!

I don’t ask for much in life, but if you gave me the option I’d probably ask for robots and swords. Probably some other stuff as well  (like world peace and an end to hunger), but mainly robots and swords.

Rather conveniently, Doborog Games’ Clone Drone in the Danger Zone offers both; a third person arena-combat game featuring human minds in robot bodies facing off against robot minds in equally robotic bodies.

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Filling the (Dark) Void – Episode 2 – The Forest

Filling the (Dark) Void – Episode 2 – The Forest

At this point the rules have largely gone out the window.  If I want to make this good, I’m going to need the ability to ignore some of the little points, so I am.  It’s still mostly true to the game, certainly recognisable, but certain embellishments will have to be made.  The following takes place during Chapter 1 Episode 2: The Crash Site.

Somehow, we survived the crash. Ava woke me up with her soothing screeching, and the world slowly flopped into focus. For a moment I saw the figure of a man clawing at what remained of the nose of the plane, but he was gone by the time my eyes focused, a stifled scream being the only thing that proved to me that he hadn’t been a trick of the light.

My head settled and, as if to punish me for deigning to regain some composure, the plane shifted violently. It was at that moment, as the wreckage plummeted another twenty feet, that I noticed we had been strung up in the foliage of a tree. Then the wreckage collided with the ground, my head collided with the instrument panel in front of me, and everything went fuzzy for a little while.

Ava, being the same spry devil she always had been, managed to avoid both potential concussions and was waiting patiently for me to wake up. Apparently British women are unwilling to kick open mangled steel doors when there’s a half conscious American around. Still, I persevered and opened the door with only marginal noise-induced head trauma, something not exactly improved by the environment outside.

The island, or whatever the place was, didn’t look right. It was beautiful and green, bathed in sunlight and had a tropical rainforest sort of a vibe to it, but it was all wrong. It shouldn’t have been there, not the trees or the sun or even the island itself. It stood against every map I had ever seen, and even my grade-school understanding of geography. I should also mention that bright sunlight does not mesh well with a crippling headache, but being a man I chose to conceal this fact from Ava. Not that she seemed too bothered by the whole ordeal in general.

The view was spoiled a little, however, by the corpse a few feet from the door.

I knelt down and looked at the man. Logically, this would have been the man I thought I saw on the nose as I first came too, but he injuries didn’t seem to fit. I’m no doctor, but that sort of a fall would break bones, not leave huge tears in the flesh. Oddly, there was little blood, despite the severity of his wounds, almost as if he had been drained. I can’t be too certain of this, you understand, as I’m not really trained to stare at corpses. Looking at him long enough to determine if he was dead is about as far as I was willing to go.

Given his terminal condition, and our situation, we did the only intelligent thing and wandered into the forest for some clues as to where we were. Ava claimed she had spotted a village during our crash, although how she had managed to see anything during the stomach-churning spin is something I probably should have asked. The woman had a remarkably good internal compass, although I suppose that comes naturally if you’re born in an imperial power, lots of countries to get lost in after all.

The forest was hot but not as humid as I had expected. The paths between the trees, somewhat well worn and thankfully shaded, were wide enough to avoid that terrible feeling of oppression you can get from nature. If you’re in a suitably isolated place, alone, it can be hard not to feel as though the trees are sneaking up on you, closing in. It’s a foolish fear, and not one I needed at the time, especially as something else was closing in.

There was something in the forest somewhere making a weird sound. It was like a rusty bell being played through a ancient horn, a metallic growl that made the ground shake and myself wince. There was no way of accurately telling how close it was, but we didn’t want to hang around to try and work that out, so we ran.

We ran in what Ava assured me was the direction of the village, deeper into the forest. The shade was more than welcome now but the sun never seemed to be too far away, peeking between the leaves. Our panicked flight caused us to trip and stumble a few times, once almost fatally as we crossed an imposing ravine via a fallen tree, but we had no desire to see the source of that noise. Ultimately we reached a small drop, a point of no return, and stumbled down it.

On reflection, it was the perfect place to set a trap. Had my wits been a little less scrambled I might even have noticed that. As I didn’t notice, we were greeted by the business end of the most ludicrous assault rifle I have ever seen, slowly emerging from the vines at the base of a nearby tree. The man behind the weapon was dressed similarly to the corpse at the crash site, although my cursory glance of said corpse meant that I hadn’t really noticed what he was wearing at the time. Tight fatigues and a strange sort of gas mask. He looked military, perhaps special forces, but I didn’t know of any initiatives that he would have slotted into. He looked us over for a moment, lowered his weapon and ordered us to take cover.

I think his intention was to ensure the area was clear, whether to shoot us or interrogate us or merely introduce himself I cannot say. His sweep ended abruptly when a creature dropped from the canopy above, snapped his neck as one would a cocktail stick, and disappeared back into the brush. The light glinted off of the creature as it vanished, and I realised that it was no animal but a metal man.

My mind shot into overdrive. We’d crashed into some sort of secret war between the West and the Fascists, it was the only explanation. Everyone knew all-out war was brewing, and you’d have to be foolish to think that the intelligence agencies weren’t already taking shots at one another. I’d been briefed on some of the fascist super-weapons before I was let go, mostly fanciful occult nonsense that would never get off the ground, but nothing like this. I couldn’t tell if the metal man was merely a well-armoured soldier or some sort of automaton, but the agile nature of his decent from the canopy did point towards the latter. Had we managed to blunder into a black op, government soldiers sent to secretly undermine this new fascist super-soldier? It seemed plausible at the time.

Either way, getting to the village was our only course of action. We didn’t know where we were and we had no supplies so any form of civilisation was a blessing really. The soldier had been well armed, so Ava and I grabbed a ludicrous rifle each and continued our trek. We could hear the automaton moving around in the trees, sometimes even catching a glimpse of the sun bouncing off his metallic body, but he left us alone for the most part.

Until he dropped a boulder on us.

I’ll elaborate on that. The path led us through a small rock tunnel which he collapsed on us halfway through. We were separated but again unscathed, and by this point I was beginning to think that the luckiest and unluckiest days of my life had managed to coincide. All sorts of life-threatening events seemed to have been squashed into this one day, and yet I was surviving them all.

We continued on our separate paths to the village, the automaton’s shrill metallic laughter following me as he observed my movements. The forest opened out into a series of ruins at one point, vast stone structures that looked faintly familiar, crumbling into dust as the centuries ticked by. Navigating them made the journey considerably longer, and the odd bullet hole and weird scorching kept me constantly on edge. I moved steadily but never too swiftly, not wanting to give the automaton chance to get the drop on me.

Eventually I reached the entry to the village, a giant stone door in the shape of a leering beast. It was vaguely draconic, long sharp teeth and evil eyes glaring down at the rather elaborate entry way. The entire journey up the steps to the door seemed to be designed to draw maximum attention to the already conspicuous door, and it worked like a charm.

I reached the door and pushed it open, although quite how I managed it considering its size and apparent weight I cannot be sure. Perhaps it had well oiled hinges, or some form of counterweight. Then the shrill laughter struck again, and the automaton landed on my back.

It clawed at my back and neck, tearing at the skin. I tried to throw it off, or slam it into a nearby rock or the ground, but the damn thing moved so fast I wound up only hurting myself. It might even be fair to say that I did more damage to myself than it did, winding myself in a mistimed attempt to get the damned thing off me, ending up on the floor with it staring into my eyes.

It definitely wasn’t a man. At this range I could see that there was no room for a man inside such a form, so thin were the appendages and joints, the neck especially. One electric eye crackled in its head, arcing off the socket in a weirdly hypnotic sort of fashion. It chuckled at me directly from the throat, lacking a mouth, and its hands closed on my neck.

Then a gunshot, and the grip loosened. The automaton slumped onto my chest for a moment, before being dragged free a little too roughly, the slack fingers still grazing my skin a little. Ava flung the body onto the ground and helped me up, a traditional British one-liner accompanying the act. I had a cocky reply all prepared, you don’t get far in the armed forces nowadays without knowing how to deal with the wit of an allied nation, but we were both stopped short when we noticed the village.

It had been well hidden behind the stone door but now, in full view, sat the single biggest ziggurat I have ever seen, and into its very walls was built the village.