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(Possible Dungeon Site, Southern Continent, Star’s Reach)

Major Khan was not pleased. Here he was, trying to get his Marines organized and send them through an unknown dungeon to map as much of it as they could, and things were beginning to look pear shaped already. They had not even gotten inside the dungeon when they found their first problem.

Prototype Spacial Warp detected!

This area has been enveloped in a prototype special warp using technology that was in the earliest design phases and rushed into production. This has resulted in overlapping instances of space in the fielded area, with different capacities for new biologic entities.

Choose instance size: 6 or 30

Khan scowled at the blue screen that had appeared before them. Going into the unknown was part of what they did, but this was different from any other dungeon found so far, which did not fill him with warm fuzzies. His mood did not improve much when he heard one of his Marines give a low whistle nearby. Turning to look at the Marine in question, he said, “You have something to add about this, Tremblay?”

Tremblay, who was a gamer as well as a Marine in real life before an IED took his leg, nodded. “Yes, sir. If I’m reading this right, I believe we just found the first instanced dungeon in the game.” When Khan just looked at him (the new armor’s ability to have the faceplate go transparent was much appreciated for times like these), he said, “In ‘normal’ games, an instanced dungeon is basically individual copies of the same area that a party can go through. These copies are called instances, and the instance is usually locked to one party until it resets. This means you can have many groups running through the same dungeon without people running into each other.”

When Khan continued just looking at him, Tremblay continued. “According to the screen, this dungeon doesn’t just have instances, but it also looks like it has a raid difficulty! Raids are higher difficulty dungeons that have tougher enemies, harder challenges, and better loot. They’re generally seen as high-level content for the most skilled players in the game.”

Khan finally nodded, and said, “So, you’re telling me that not only did we find the first instanced dungeon, but it has a new mode that no other dungeon has?”

“Yes, sir. That’s what it looks like.”

“Will this affect our ability to map the dungeon?”

Tremblay paused, and then said, “Well, we’ll only be able to send in small groups into the ‘normal’ instance, and we’ll want to have the maximum allowed for the ‘raid’ instance. Unless things are really different, all the normal instances should have the same layout as each other, and the raid instances should all have identical layouts, but the raid and normal maps will be different, probably very different, with the raid being the larger map.”

“Suggestions?”

Tremblay took a breath, and then said, “If this were a ‘normal’ game, on a screen and not something we were living, I’d say go big or go home, and try and get a first clear on the raid, for ego’s sake, since the only downside of failing is some repair costs on your gear. Given that we’re actually here, and can feel the bullets hitting us, I’d say it would be a better idea to start with the normal dungeon. We probably won’t be able to communicate with the outside while in the dungeon, to prevent cheating, and each group that goes in will be on their own, with no backup, but if this is one of the dungeons that doesn’t let you out until you either die or kill a boss, then at least the enemies will be less difficult to overcome.”

Major Khan nodded, and then looked back at his men. “All right, people, LISTEN UP! We have a new situation. This dungeon is different from the other ones that have been reported. I know you’re all Marines, so I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will, because I know you’re all Marines, but ‘different’ means ‘dangerous’. Assume that everything inside wants you dead, and is capable of doing it. We are going to go in teams of six, so we can fully explore the dungeon. Have your systems generate a map and record everything you see, so we can compare afterwards. Squad leaders! The dungeon might not allow you to leave until you either die or beat the boss. You are each responsible for checking on that at the start of your run, since we may not have communications between teams. If you are trapped, then do your best to map the area and find the boss. Kill it if you can, and if you can’t, well, give him hell so he remembers what a Marine is like, even in defeat!”

“OOH-RAH!”

Khan nodded as the Marines shouted at him, and said, “Ooh-rah. Everyone, wait five minutes between groups, and move through as you can. First team, with me! Let’s go see what we’ve got!” After a moment to readjust the groups so that he was now in a group with five marines, rather than the whole platoon, they stepped through the door, into the six-man instance.

They found themselves in a mechanical-looking hallway, like you’d see in old sci-fi movies where the people were moving through the belly of a spaceship or industrial facility, with pipes and other things running along the utilitarian walls, and dim lighting interspersed through the area. After taking a moment to scan for immediate threats, Khan turned to look at the door they’d just stepped through. A quick analysis said that it would allow them out of the dungeon, but if the entire group either left the dungeon (either physically or by logging out) or was killed, the dungeon would be reset. So long as the dungeon wasn’t reset, members of the group would be able to leave and come back to this instance. Good to know.

Turning his eyes front, he used hand signals to designate a marching order. The Marines fell into place, with Sergeant Chavez taking point. Marines were not SEALs or special forces, and much of their training involved hitting people hard and fast, but that didn’t mean they didn’t get training in how to move quietly through enemy territory and set up ambushes and fire zones. The Boss had been hands off with the Black Star Marines’ training schedule, but the only thing he’d insisted on was that they get some of the training that Recon Marines got, so they could go behind enemy lines, if necessary, and fuck shit up so that the Navy could ruin someone’s day. Being a great fan of ruining the opposition’s day, Khan hadn’t had any problems with this, especially since he wasn’t working with raw recruits at the beginning.

The first real room they got to after the entrance hall was a hub of sorts, with three paths leading away from it, each at cardinal points to the North, East, and West, with them coming in at the South. Chavez raised her fist to get people to hold up, and crouched. Everyone got real familiar with the walls, their armor’s basic camouflage systems working to make them blend in with the surroundings. It wouldn’t fool someone up close, but it would do for the moment. Khan forced himself to breath, not wanting to use the team comms unless he had to, for fear of the transmission being detected. He certainly wasn’t going to use the suit microphone!

Instead, he put his hand on the shoulder of the Marine in front of him, and felt the Marine behind him do the same, and used the conduction transmitters this new generation of armor came with for the first time. It was the stealthiest way they had to communicate anything that couldn’t be easily said through hand signs, but it required staying in contact with the other person’s armor to form a datanet. There were no external transmissions, so it was almost impossible to detect.

“Chavez, what do we got?”

“Patrol, sir. Two, look like Imperial Army, but the armor’s different. It doesn’t match the files we have on known Imperial designs.”

Chavez’s view of the patrol from her suit cameras appeared in his HUD. They were definitely Imperial soldiers, all right. That armor was definitely in the Imperial Style. But the normal adornments and other trappings of the armor were missing. Instead, they had the image of a great tree on their fronts, green-grey against black. That was an odd choice for Imperial troops, to say the least. However, when he ran it through his command level database, that image got a match.

“I have a match to the symbol, from the intel files. That tree is the symbol of the AI, Deus. It is the… avatar, you could say, that it uses when it appears in virtual communications. Or it did, before the Empire chased it to Venus. We’ve got a confirmed presence of Deus Military, folks.”

“Orders, Major?”

Major Khan looked to the feed from Chavez, and used it to map the route the patrol was taking through the hub. In thirty seconds, they would be close enough to engage. If possible, he wanted to keep the alert levels low until it was absolutely needed, so they could explore more of the base, and give the analysts more to work with. Fortunately, they had weapons designed for the job of dispatching armored soldiers quickly and, more importantly, quietly.

BSM Mk. IV Marine Combat Blade

Type

Dagger

Rank

Uncommon Masterwork

Damage

100 – 350

Damage Type

Piercing

This weapon, designed and produced especially for use by the Black Star Marine Corps, is an improved version of standard combat blades, designed with a monofilament edge that increases penetrating power. It has been designed specifically for stealth takedowns.

+50 Attack

Armor Piercing – Attacks ignore 25% physical armor. Critical Hits and Sneak Attacks ignore 100% physical armor.

Silent Killer – Sneak Attacks always deal max damage, in addition to the normal damage multipliers.

Savagery – Critical Hits deal x4 damage, instead of the normal x2.

It was a solid desperation weapon, but it really shone as a way to take down an enemy without raising an alarm. Khan made his decision. “Chavez, wait for them to pass, and take the far one. Davis, take the close one. Try to get them in the first hit if you can. Silence them if you cannot.” With that, he broke the link, and let Chavez and Davis get down to business.

Both Marines drew their blades, but held them so that the weapons were pressed flat against the underside of their armor, so no telltale gleam from the lights could give them away. Fortunately, the area they were in had dim lighting, so that gave them some measure of cover, along with the camouflage. The two patrolling guards arrived at the hallway they were hiding in, and gave a brief look in their direction, but they were both about three meters away, and not really watching. With the Marine’s Stealth skills, they may as well have been invisible.

As the guards moved on, Chavez and Davis crept forward, silent as death, while the rest of them readied weapons in case an alarm was raised. A moment later, they heard the telltale sound of Marine Combat Blades piercing armor, and then the light music of two bodies being gently lowered to the floor. Chavez appeared in view, and gave them the all clear signal.

Moving forward, Khan turned, and looked at the two dead guardsmen. The kills had been perfectly done, with strikes to the kidney and the throat. The poor bastards probably didn’t even know they were being attacked until they were already dead. Looking to Chavez and Davis, he nodded silently, as they checked the bodies for loot.

That was something different in these dungeons from the rest of the game world. Outside, bodies would sit there until you did something with them, and what you took off their corpses was yours. In the dungeon, when you touched a fallen enemy, you had a screen come up asking if you wanted to loot it, and if you said yes, some loot would be added to your inventory, while the body disappeared into light. The two guards gave up some credits, ammunition for their rifles, and other such things. Nothing spectacular, but that was how it worked so that people didn’t just farm full suits of combat armor from the dungeons and completely wreck the economy.

Well, Khan thought, we’ve made contact. Now time to see what this dungeon has in store for us!

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A note from Mirikon

Be sure to read my published works!

 

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):

Frozen Soul https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B071R125QT

Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B06ZZ52G37

 

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):

Volume 1 - Tutorial

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Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rules-free-vrmmo-life-stuart-grosse/1128941349?ean=2940161995297

 

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4 

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Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):

Book I - Game Start https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B071LT5WGL

Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B077X2KR7Y

 

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):

Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B075SHXQS1

 

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):

Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B07BB34DHF

Omnibus 1 - Books 1-4 https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B07FBPF6HR

 

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B0739V6R6T


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