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Anya hurried across the park as fast as she could. Granted, it wasn’t very fast considering she had used up almost all of her energy on that last attack, but it was enough to keep her moving. She ran past the Picnic House and exited the park onto Prospect Park West, across from a number of brownstones.

People stared out their windows or from their doorways in search of what could have caused all the noise in the park. A number of them looked at Anya as she emerged and gasped. She realized she must look horrific: blood had dried on her clothes, she had twigs and leaves in her hair, dirt everywhere else, a huge pole arm covered in alien juice, and she had a wild look in her eyes from the adrenaline. She had also just emerged from the place that had been filled with fire and gun shots and screams.

“Shit,” she said and turned away as she strode up the sidewalk. Nobody followed her, and the farther she got from the park, the less people there were. Still, she had to find some way home. She didn’t see any cabs but 7th Avenue Station wasn’t too far. She just needed to get out of the area.

Anya crossed the street and froze when a pair of headlights illuminated her and a car came to a stop.

Carl’s Rolls Royce.

Anya darted to the driver’s side and knocked on the window.

“Shelly, open up!” Anya snapped and prayed the android had enough programming power to respond or do anything besides drive and fool around with Carl. She sighed as the window rolled down and Shelly cocked her head to the side with a soft whir of internal motors.

“Hello,” Shelly said, her voice cheerful but still monotone somehow. “I recognize you. Where is Carl? Should I stop circling Prospect Park now?”

Anya got into the back seat with her glaive and slammed the door behind her. “Carl’s uh, he’s busy. He said to drop me off and come back here later.”

“Okay then,” Shelly replied and Anya sighed again. Thank god the android was susceptible to requests. “Can you take me to Bushwick?”

“Yes,” Shelly said and drove away from the park. Anya leaned back in her seat and felt her muscles begin to relax. It was warm in the Rolls, and quiet, and the motion of the car was rocking her to sleep.

Anya slapped her cheeks and sat up. She couldn’t rest just yet.

“Felix?”

“Yes!”

“Uh, what do we do about Shelly and the Rolls and the plasma pistol?” Anya asked.

“What do you mean?”

Anya looked at Shelly in the rear-view mirror, but the android either couldn’t hear her or didn’t care.

“I mean, she’s a fucking super-advanced android and this is a car worth a lot of money and their owner is y’know, kinda not around anymore. We can’t just leave it out in the open or have Shelly circling the Park until the cops stop her. And I don’t want to be carrying around a useless ray gun.”

“Ah,” Felix said. “I can see your point now. Very smart of you! Well, upon expiration, a host’s property remains where it was, unless it is claimed by another host.”

“So, his stuff is mine now?” Anya asked.

“That’s correct! If you had stripped Carl of all his clothes and jewelry as well, that would also be yours. We can go back and do that if you want!”

“Hell no!” Anya snapped. “Even if I wanted to loot a corpse, that place is crawling with cops and firefighters by now. And anyway I don’t want his stuff. I want to get rid of it.”

“Yes, and now that you’ve claimed it, you can sell it back to the RAC store at a reduced rate. The items will be returned off-site and an amount of RAC will be deposited into your account based on how much use the item has received. For example, you’ve completely drained the plasma pistol of its energy and it is therefore not as valuable as when it was first purchased, but it still has significant value,” Felix said.

“Okay,” Anya said. She looked at Shelly again and bit her lip. “Is Shelly an AI, like you? If I return her to the store would that be like…murder?”

“No. I found that android model in the store. It seems they run complex algorithms and programs rather than truly sapient AI. You’re super nice for being concerned about that sort of thing though!”

“Yeah, great,” Anya said and took out her phone. Tori had texted her several times while she had been in the park.

TORI: You ok?
TORI: Nothing on the news about aliens
TORI: Anya? Please?

That had been a while ago. Anya typed a quick response letting Tori know that she was fine but exhausted and that she’d had a horrible night but would talk with her later. Anya didn’t have it in her to relive the night again by explaining it all to her friend. It was too much. By the time Shelly arrived in Bushwick and Anya directed her to her apartment, she was ready to pass out.

“How do I sell this stuff?” Anya asked Felix.

“Here you go!” Felix replied, and Anya’s menu sprang up in front of her. It showed the RAC store, and three items in particular: the Rolls Royce, an android without any skin that revealed its metallic interior, and a plasma pistol. Each item had both “BUY” and “SELL” options next to them. Anya stepped out of the Rolls Royce and pressed “SELL” for all three and then confirmed her choice.

There was a sucking sound as air rushed in to fill the space the Rolls and Shelly had filled a moment ago, and Anya felt her pocket empty as the plasma pistol followed.

“You’ve been credited a total of 158,920 RAC!” Felix said. “With the additional 75,000 RAC you got from eliminating the enemy alien,you now have a total of…701,220 RAC! You’ve also risen to level 33. Congratulations!”

“Yeah, great,” Anya said and turned away from the empty space where the Rolls had been seconds before. There and gone in an instant. Just like Carl. Just like those cops. Just like she had almost been. “Damn.”

Anya slumped her way up to her apartment and collapsed into bed. She was too tired to contemplate the fragility of life. That was one of many problems for tomorrow.




Anya woke up to a dozen messages from Tori and several missed calls. All of them asked if she was okay, if she had heard about some kind of terrorist attack in Prospect Park, if it was her, and more.

TORI: Sound like a broken record but I’m worried about what you said last night. What’s going on???

That was the last message Anya had received around nine, just before she woke up. She texted back that she was fine physically, and would tell her everything, but not over the phone. It was too much to relay through a text or a call. Anya turned on the TV to the news channel and was unsurprised to see Prospect Park.

A news reporter bundled against the cold stood on Flatbush Avenue in front of a web of yellow police tape and several squad cars. Cops, firefighters, and some people in blue jackets with “FBI” in big yellow letters on the back milled about in the background.

“——plosions and gunfire were heard from inside the park by multiple witnesses. I haven’t gotten any details, but at least one police officer was killed along with one civilian injured or dead, but the NYPD hasn’t released an official statement yet. As you can see, the FBI is also here, leading some to speculate that this was an act of terrorism. Multiple eye-witnesses have confirmed that there were at least two large explosions last night.”

The camera moved around her and focused on the park behind her. Most of it looked normal, but several burned trees could be seen in the distance.

Anya shut the TV off. She didn’t need to see anymore. She made herself some coffee and sipped it as she sat in her big armchair. She hadn’t even thought of going into work today, hadn’t called in sick or anything. It seemed like such a trivial detail now. Her boss would be mad at her, how dreadful. What was her boss throwing a tantrum when compared to the nigh-immortal nightmare she had fought last night? Four people had been butchered.

Four.

She had managed to help save the young officer, Ramierez, but Carl and the other three cops had all been snuffed out.

“Felix!” Anya snapped as she dragged herself away from her thoughts. Felix appeared on top of her knee with a flourish and a theatric bow.

“Ready to go!” they declared.

“The data stream that happened last night,” Anya said. “What the hell was that?”

“I’m not sure. Some kind of automatic response, maybe? An effort to transmit as much information to the other aliens before death would be my guess,” Felix said and shrugged. “A lot of it was encrypted, so the data I got is fragmented, but I got some good stuff!”

“So spill,” Anya said.

“The most complete data I was able to retrieve was a reading of enemy alien locations in the milliseconds before its death. Look,” Felix said and displayed Anya’s menu screen in front of her. It was zoomed out far enough to show the entire planet, and all across it were tiny red pinpricks of light, along with much larger, dimmer circles of orange. There were hundreds of the precise red dots, and thousands of the dimmer orange circles, with a few of them being brighter and smaller.

“The red dots are the enemy aliens. Unlike menu hosts, they are able to accurately locate each other’s positions down to a few centimeters, so these readings are very precise! Gotta admire their attention to detail!”

“Hell no I don’t,” Anya said. “I’m guessing the orange circles are us? Hosts, I mean.”

“Got it in one! The circle sizes and the intensity of their light indicate the estimated area a host is in. The larger and darker the circle, the less precise the reading, while the smaller and brighter the circle, the more accurate.”

“So this was last night?” Anya asked.

“Yup!”

“Can you show me what it looked like from the time the aliens entered the atmosphere to the time the puppet alien died? Like enemy alien movement and such?”

“That’s a swell idea! I sure can,” Felix said. The map flickered and a clock appeared in the upper right corner from the time when the aliens appeared last night and began to fast forward. As it did, the tiny red dots moved around on the map, always toward the orange circles. When they got closer to an orange circle, it began to shrink and brighten until it was a precise point of light.

Most of the orange lights vanished.

Hundreds of them.

“What the fuck?” Anya breathed. “Are they…dead?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. It appears the enemy aliens searched for the nearest hosts, closed in on their locations, and terminated them.”

“How many?” Anya asked.

“Well, the last reading I had at the time of initial host integration was 10,608. At the time of the enemy alien’s death late last night, I can confirm through enemy data that 2,792 hosts were terminated.”

“Two…thousand?” Anya gasped. She had Felix rewind the display. The red dots all appeared near as many orange circles as possible, often near clusters of three or more.

Dots and circles, Anya thought, That’s an easy way to think of it. A lot easier than monsters and humans.

She shuddered.

Almost three thousand people murdered by monsters like the one last night, and in the span of a few hours. Felix had said that not all the host menus had been activated. How many people had been killed, not knowing how or why, or with any chance to really defend themselves? How many of them had been killed after the puppet alien died, or were dying right now?

“Casualties were highest in North and South America. Over 80% of terminated hosts happened there,” Felix said.

“Why?” Anya asked.

“I’m not sure. There wasn’t a lot of movement from the enemy aliens on other continents, but in the few hours I have from this alien’s atmospheric entry to when you killed it, the aliens in North and South America were far more active.”

“Huh,” Anya said. “And the enemy aliens, were any others killed?”

“Yes. Twenty-one enemy alien signals were lost, presumably upon death, prior to the death of the one in Prospect Park. You did a really amazing job of blasting it by the way. Very impressive!”

“Yeah, great,” Anya mumbled. Not good enough to save Carl or most of the cops. She and Ramierez had barely made it. She took a deep breath and refocused. Wallowing in survivor’s guilt wouldn’t help her any right now. It wouldn’t help her survive or figure out how to get out of this mess.

She looked at the map again. Felix had set it on a loop, repeating the time of the puppet alien’s activity. Most of the orange circles moved around too, indicating the hosts there going about their business, but several of them never moved. One of them, a particular small, bright orange circle all by itself was in Columbia, South Carolina. There were dimmer, larger orange circles in Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Havana, Los Angeles, Nassau, and more just in North America, but the one in Columbia, South Carolina was the brightest and the most still, and it was alone.

Two thousand, seven hundred and ninety-two people.

Dead.

She had panicked last night. She had watched four people get butchered in front of her. The police had fared no better than Carl, and hundreds if not thousands of people around the park had been in danger. She couldn’t be everywhere at once and she couldn’t rush around aimlessly searching over an entire continent for hosts.

But she could at least go to one, for a start.

“Felix, bring up the vehicles sub-menu of the RAC store,” Anya said.

“Sure thing!” Felix said and a selection of hundreds of thousands of vehicles fit for air, land, sea, and space appeared in front of Anya. “What’re you going to buy? Something to celebrate your victory?”

“No,” Anya said. “Something to go save somebody’s ass.”

ARC 01.Invasion//VOLUME 01.The Menu from the Stars//END

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A note from JayAck

So ends Arc 01 volume 01. Arc 01 volume 02 will start some time next week. If you've made it this far, I'd like to thank everybody who has read, rated, commented, and critiqued (even if those critiques were a bit blunt sometimes). I've been taking notes of all the feedback and this first volume will be getting some pretty significant changes made to it (most significantly, the pacing of the first 7-8 chapters). Updates to volume 02 and beyond that will continue at a rate of 1-2 per week.

This chapter has been edited.
This is my first time publishing my work directly online and it's a learning experience, but I appreciate everyone who has taken any small amount of time to help me out.

On a more fun topic, I've seen some comments and gotten some PMs about what sort of powers Anya might choose in the future. While this isn't a CYOA-type story, I am curious about suggestions or ideas you'd like to see. Some style of alien kung-fu? Rhythmic gun kata? Dinosaur necromancy? Whatever! I can't promise that those things will be in Anya's future skillset, but as has been revealed, other hosts exist, and I need some background characters filled out with interesting abilities.

Anyway, thanks for reading, thanks for feedback, and thanks for hopefully sticking around for whatever comes next. 


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About the author

JayAck

Bio: I enjoy cosmic horror and cozy things. I have called this combination "C'thygge."

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JayAck @JayAck ago

On a semi-related note, I've noticed a definite upswing in traffic this week, shortly before I published 01.01.10. This story is currently at #13 Trending on RR, and I'm not sure why. I mean, it's really cool! Just not sure when/where/why the shift happened. It's nothing hugely dramatic, but I went from maybe getting 3-7 followers per chapter, and maybe 100-250 views, to suddenly getting 2-3 tmes that this week alone, prior to updating (so not even on the front page of RR). Just wanna know if I owe somebody a big "Thank you!" for linking or referring or anything. Regardless, cheers.

Zyrox @Zyrox ago

Hey this isn't an ability but it'd be cool if she could buy more energy cores. Just as a thought

puppetgoestututut @puppetgoestututut ago

hey epic read love the story be pretty epic if you had a summoner buld that summons soldiers or something would be pretty cool they could be like really tiny at the begining like plushies before theyget badass in later levels

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    JayAck @JayAck ago

    Thanks a ton! Glad you enjoyed it thus far. Summoning is a really cool skill!

      Konrad50 @Konrad50 ago

      Maybe not plushies. The summoner could start by being able to summon one soldier, and instead of the soldiers becoming more powerful, they would instead get like a battalion of tanks at level 100

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      JayAck @JayAck ago

      Well now I'm just thinking about somebody summoning plushies.

      puppetgoestututut @puppetgoestututut ago

      im thinking being able to summon millitary units like normal soldiers would be kinda unoriginal what with stories like limitless lands besides this story has alot of potential for different power combinations like a guy that summons angels instead of demons that are overlly sarcastic with niceness compared to snarky demons or a cuthuluesqe wizard who gets more insane the more spells he casts

Spookdragon @Spookdragon ago

Thanks for the chapter!

Gratz on the first arc, waiting for the second :)

cyberskull @cyberskull ago

How much of a building fire could she suck up before getting full?

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    JayAck @JayAck ago

    Would depend on the size of the building and consuming fire and how much energy she had in her at the time.

    that said, she could just redirect a bunch of heat (like raising the air temp a few degrees over a wide area) that would consume a lot of energy but be harmless, and suck up the fire’s heat until she was topped off and the fire was out.

Filipzajac @Filipzajac ago

Poor menu users are practically getting butchered.

Hope they get used to the attacks and learn to survive. And of course there must be one guy that just has to buy a nuke.

Thanks for the chapter.

Btw. Once she gets sufficent level in that flame dominion thingy she should be able to bring the temperature of a thing to the absolute zero, a state in which nothing moves. Of course gradually so she wont be too op

pato @pato ago

Can't wait until we get into the reason why these recent events have occurred, who the aliens are, etc.

    Belial666 @Belial666 ago

    Personally, I'd like it more if we never get an explanation at all. Fantastic things can lose all of their mystery and appeal if they are explained.

      pato @pato ago

      Really? That doesn't seem to be the way this is going, by the looks of it. If you've ever read or watched Mahou Tsukai no Yome, that's a story I wouldn't mind not having explained, because there are no definite rules to the world. When certain arbitrary restrictions exist, as they often do when RPG systems are involved, it begs the question as to why those restrictions exist, and moreso the identity of the rules' creator. Things like the stat menu don't simply come into existence as the result of a cosmic anomaly.

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      JayAck @JayAck ago

      Coming from you, this is surprising. You've asked a lot of questions (which is fine! I've enjoyed them!), regarding powers X, Y, Z, if the scaling of the system is linear or exponential, how aliens would know what to call certain galaxies and use terms, etc. All pretty specific, demystifying things.

      That said, I won't spoil anything here but respond with a more general statement: I agree that 100% explaining a mystery takes a lot of the fun out of it, like a magician explaining his trick. Part of the fun is putting puzzle pieces together on your own. However leaving nothing but question marks and enigmas behind is frustrating, as it means nothing is solved, no progress is made. I prefer to explain most things but still have a few questions left over.

Belial666 @Belial666 ago

Is there any sort of personal forcefield or proximakinesis skill like Superman has to protect from damage, boost strength, and allow for flight? It would be pretty cool.

Is there an Adaptive Regeneration skill to make Anya tougher the more she's exposed to a given attack type?

Is there a Kinetic Absorption skill that turns a portion of the force from incoming blows into energy to replenish power reserves and stamina?

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    JayAck @JayAck ago

    I'm doing a rewrite of the first several chapters of volume 01 here, and in the early menu discovery stages, the idea of "specializations" is introduced, so her skills adapting or being refined over time is a thing that will be happening.

    Personal forcefield and kinetic absorption would be either their own skills and/or items that had those properties from the RAC store. Also if your question is "Is skill X available?" the answer is almost always going to be yes.

KingofThorns @KingofThorns ago

It’s on trending because a month has passed since the first chapter was released.