I leave my [Uber] driver a nice tip and step out of the Ford Fiesta, one of the grandest of the horseless carriages I have come to known as cars.
Francis, still, is crying off somewhere in another part of Los Angeles. I can feel his sadness, his fury, but I cannot sense his location or distance with any certainty. I merely know that he is out there, and I am too.
I can’t even sense the Clone Eryk, believe it or not. He’s out there too, doing his own thing, and very lucky for me, not consuming my remaining Destiny Cards. Our shared Life Points pool is very disconcerting to me, when I lack the Destiny Points to adequately level up, but so far he has not done much to help or hurt me.
In the meantime... I’ve just been here to process my own emotions. My own failures. And, to appease that part of me that wonders if Francis is right, that I merely have used his affection towards me as a tool for self advancement, I have taken an unexpected plunge:
With my smartphone, I have downloaded the brand-new mobile game known as Dungeon Core Saga Tactics II. And I have been playing it ever since the [Uber] found me.
For a game that prides itself on tactics and strategy, there is surprisingly little of it in here. The combat is based on a rock-paper-scissors style system, and a portable base building effort. You have a caravan of soldiers to care for and many nomadic herd-like carriages that are supposed to be built to withstand even the deepest of dungeon dives. But the actual game battling is not very sophisticated.
These soldiers you recruit, that Blaze Blitzer recruits, are almost universally females. Many women, most of them wearing armor that would absolutely see them killed in battle, and many simply wearing nothing at all beyond a bikini and tight pants. But you must use great effort to find these new women, take them, and bring them into your caravan. Isn’t it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon? That is what I would have thought, but the game encourages it greatly.
It constantly asks me to spend money on it, which truly puts me off the whole concept of it. But I’m doing this to gain a closer connection to Francis, so I must persist!
Even as I walk the nighttime streets of Los Angeles, this wasteland of a city, I continue to play the game and feel mildly underwhelmed by it.
I am quite unsure of where I am or how far I am from Taylor Bacall’s residence. I know it is near that Griffith Park area somewhere, so I have headed in that general direction for a while; I had decided to ask a local if they know the home of Victoria Bacall, because of her celebrity status, but then realized that that was likely to come off as more serial killer than I wanted.
If only there were some sort of special map I could access at any time to find my location and the location of my preferred destination. If only that existed, I could surely find my way home quickly.
“Stop right there, pink!” a rough voice barks.
I look up from my phone and turn off the screen in the middle of a cutscene where Blaze Blitzer watches an orc girl strip tease. (Blaze Blitzer truly does look just like me; it’s uncanny.) Five thuggish figures surround me, each of them carrying baseball bats or crowbars.
Oh, it’s going to be another one of these nights.
“You’re Eryk Solbourne,” one says. “Aren’t you?”
“Indeed I am. What have you for me?”
“You don’t remember us?” he asks. “We almost killed you in San Fran.”
“Oh! The Persian mob, correct? I have been awaiting this day for some time, but I will admit I am quite tired, and my skills are significantly higher than they were last we met. There is no point in this event.”
“You’re going to pay for what you did to our underground fight club. You humiliated our entire organization!”
“Please, can we do anything but this? Maybe a rain check for tomorrow?”
“No!” They advance towards me with great speed...
And I can’t help but sigh.
In just minutes, all five of them are on the ground, unconscious or wishing they could be.
I’m quite bored by this. A large number of unskilled warriors attacking me at once, and then I handily dispose of them. Earth has never given me a challenge truly worthy of my power, and at this point I doubt it ever will. At least I received Destiny Points for it, but I am more tired than ever.
The Persian mob does not scare me.
The Paso Robles wine cult does not scare me.
The might of Brett and the Santa Barbaran rebels does not scare me.
Despite my middling C-Rank [Adventurer] status, I am so strong now that Earth poses little threat. It is still a fertile ground for me to grow in my skills, but it is not one that will give me a true challenge.
At least... That’s what I think.
My thoughts vanish completely just a moment later, though.
For, after just a few more seconds of walking and playing my Blaze Blitzer game, I am now surrounded by a dozen more men in black suits and sunglasses—even in the middle of the night. One of them grips me in a choke hold. Another holds up a damp piece of cloth to my nose.
I struggle for just a second before, suddenly, my consciousness goes out.
I’ve been kidnapped, and I never saw it coming for a second.