The Chosen One
The Seventh Day Post Apocalypse
World Population 3 billion.
Night of the Apocalypse
“Last time I had a nightmare, debt collectors were hounding me while I was standing in front of my class wearing nothing but underwear,” Maxwell said. “This is a step up.”
“I assure you, Maxwell Durham, you are not having a nightmare,” Beginner's guide said. “Billions of monsters are being released into your world. Human boys like yourself are their favorite prey. Fight hard young human!”
“Any chance you could make monsters that go after debt collectors?”
“Because you are young, you may choose the type of character you wish to become,” Beginner's Guide continued. “Perhaps a warrior from your past.”
“I like the Red Baron,” Maxwell said. “I have models of his planes hanging from my ceiling: The Halberstadt, Albatros D-III, the Fokker Dr. 1. Me and my dad used to work on them before Dad... died. If I have a choice, I want to fight off aliens from the air. The German WWI fighter planes were excellent for their time... but if I'm fighting off aliens, I want to do it in a star-fighter.”
“Fascinating,” Beginner's Guide said. “Maxwell Durham, I am very sorry, but issuing humans star-fighters is against the rules. It is very unfair and I apologize. If you like, I can issue you a solar-powered fighter plane with a machine gun, to eliminate alien filth from the air. Because I cannot issue you a star-fighter, I will reduce the price of this fighter plane and make it a permanent part of your inventory for ease of transport. I am also prepared to augment your physical stats to improve your flying abilities and download some basic flying lessons into your brain. I will even duplicate the markings of this Red Baron's aircraft on your own so you will look good, and not like a loser human who doesn't kill aliens.”
“I'm afraid there is no other option, Maxwell Durham. All galactic market machinery is powered by the sun. You may think of it as fusion-powered if you prefer.”
“How fast is this plane? What are its capabilities?”
“I'm afraid your new plane will be slow by the standards of your human aircraft, but if you kill lots of alien monsters, you will upgrade your airplane and increase its speed and maneuverability. If you fail to kill alien monsters, or you get eaten, I will have to take your plane back.”
“So as long as I kill alien monsters, I get to fly around in an airplane. Cool! I've always wanted to fly, but we don't have any money, and Mom thinks I'm too young.”
“I suppose you would like me to name your character after the Red Baron?” Beginner's Guide asked.
Maxwell Durham woke up.
That was a strange nightmare, he thought, looking out into the darkness. Night lights were for babies.
He saw writing in the air.
Removing your airplane from your inventory in an enclosed space can cause injury to yourself and others, as well as damaging your plane. Fight hard, Red Baron. Your people need you.
“The Crunchy--aka Giganthropus Cockroachus, resembles a giant cockroach, and has been observed up to 3 feet long, 6 inches tall, and can weigh up to 50 pounds. This is a level 1 monster. They move quickly, and their bite, though painful, is non-venomous. A solid blow to the body will kill or disable this alien monster. Do not run away screaming like my idiot brother.
Correction. after conferring with my father, and my idiot brother Ian Anderson. Retreating quickly and making loud noises to startle a Crunchy is an ineffective strategy of defense, and is not recommended.
—Notes from the Anderson Monster Manual—a work in progress.
Seven Days Post Apocalypse
“No would be an infinite understatement, Stacy. In fact, if you take the 'can I play in the zoo enclosure with hungry lions? No', and factor it to the infinite power, you will have the level of no I'm giving you now.” Dad said.
“So that's a big no?” Stacy asked.
“That's an over-my-dead-body, no,” Dad answered.
“But Dad! I'd be with other people. I'd be safe!” Stacy protested.
“All we know about MonsterMart is people go in, they do not come out. I don't know what's in there. Until we do, you are not going near it.”
“It seems like easy money,” Stacy protested. “I'd like to pay off my pistols before hell freezes over.”
“Fuck your pistols!” Dad shouted. His family shrank away as he stormed off.
“It's okay, Stacy, your dad's worried,” Ellen said, putting her hands on Stacy's shoulders.
“I'm sick of being cooped up in this place,” Stacy said. “I have half a mind to go by myself. It's only ten blocks.”
“Our new neighbor, Robert, is planning to drop by MonsterMart to look around, and maybe do some shopping,” Ellen said. “Wait until he comes back. If he says it's okay, we'll all go. No matter what your dad says.”.
In the days after they'd rescued the Crabtrees, it seemed Ian's gloom and doom predictions were failing to come to pass. On the fifth day post-apocalypse, motor vehicles were spotted, filled with armed volunteers, men and women, hunting and killing every alien they could find. A small, blood-red biplane, with black iron crosses on its wings and body, started clearing the sky of the pterodactyl-like flying things; only to be driven off in turn by two larger, more modern planes covered with American flags. These planes dropped flyers.
“HANG IN THERE FELLOW HUMANS
HELP IS ON THE WAY!”
“So where are they getting trucks and planes that run?” Dad wondered as he and his family watched it all from the front porch. They felt safe enough to do this for the first time since the apocalypse. Ian felt like cheering.
“Where do you think?” Uncle Ben said. “The Galactic Market. Super-Awesome, Bad-Ass, Solar-Powered, All-Terrain Vehicle, 80,000 credits.”
Gabe laughed. “BG loaned someone 80,000 credits for a truck? Stacy still hasn't paid off her 250 credit pistols. How many aliens would you have to kill to pay off a truck?”
“If we're lucky, all of them,” Ellen said. “That evil monster BG is up to something, though. The question is what?”
The next day, they got bad news from volunteer alien hunters. Three volunteers dropped by the Anderson house for some water. Someone had seen Sabrina's parents leave their home soon after the apocalypse. Nobody had seen them since. Sabrina said nothing, but she looked closed off and miserable. Her grandmother Ellen held her for a long time.
It was odd how quickly Ian was getting used to this new world. Avoid ground aliens, keep an eye out for flying aliens, and if something big shows up, run like hell. Ian would give his eyeteeth for a cell phone, though.
That night Stacy got her first official quest from BG.
“You, Kid Barbie, are the chosen one.” Stacy read to them over breakfast the next morning. “Chosen for the sacred quest of cleansing the beautiful MonsterMart of alien filth, and making it safe once again for humanity! To encourage this, I've created a super-ultra-Friday-madness sale! All aliens killed as part of this quest will provide triple the rewards and extra bonuses for the one killing them! Yay!”
It's Friday, isn't it? Ian thought. Easy to lose track of time during an alien apocalypse.
“Couldn't we let them have the MonsterMart?” Ben asked.
Before Stacy could respond, there was pounding on the door. “It's the Dorkhead Twin's house! How are the Dorkhead Twins? Hey! Are you guys okay?”
“Shit,” Ian said. He looked at Gabe. Dad opened the door. Chris Tyler burst in like an excited Labrador retriever puppy. He was a large fifteen-year-old muscular jock, two years older than the twins, and one grade ahead of them.
“Hey Dorkheads! It's good to see you're alive!”
“I was hoping he'd get eaten,” Gabe said quietly.
“Ian!” Chris said. “You remember our baseball coach, Mr. Benson? He still talks about you. 'I've been coaching over fifty years, and that Ian Anderson is the worst player ever to try out for the little league baseball team!' But I told those other kids, you be nice, Ian can't help it, he probably has cerebral palsy or something.”
Kill me now, Ian thought.
Alien apocalypse seemed to do well by Chris Tyler, he looked even more buff and muscular than usual.
“BG really loves me, Mr. A,” Chris told their father. “I told BG, you turn me into an alien killing machine! And BG kept saying, 'I wish every human was like you!' So I'm Chris the Killing Machine Tyler. I got a truck with an awesome sound system, I got an entire arsenal in my inventory, I'm ready for anything! And I got a working cellphone. Check it out, I can text, I got instant messaging, game apps. Oh, here let me get a selfie.” He ran up to Gabe and Ian. His phone let out a loud click as he took a photo of himself standing next to the twins. Then he typed something on the screen keyboard.
Ian heard laughter from the street.
“I looked up your cellphone on the galactic market,” Dad said. “Costs a thousand credits, and it's got a half-mile range.”
“Yeah, like I said, this cellphone is great!” Chris said. “We're actually here for The Chosen One. Kid Barbie.”
Ian went to the front door and looked out at a big red pickup truck pulling a trailer. Both truck and trailer were filled with people carrying weapons.
“Oh yeah. You're going to hear it from other people too,” Chris said. “But anyone in the city who isn't a total pussy (no offense, dorkheads) was chosen by BG to clean up MonsterMart. Should be an easy mission. With a bunch of extra credits, and bonuses when we're done. Like when we took out the tumtum that was raising hell in the business district. Also, the mayor is hosting a wake-memorial service this evening in the MonsterMart parking lot, to mourn our dead.”
There were at least fifty well-armed people hanging around the pickup truck and trailer. They had guns of every kind, swords, and even something that looked like a flamethrower. All of them waited for Chris to finish so they could go. An older guy in an army uniform looked like he was their leader. He smiled at Ian and gave him a half salute. Ian saw a few people he'd seen around school but hadn't met, jocks, and popular kids mostly. They all seemed to have cell phones.
“Andrew!” Ian shouted. His large, overweight video-gamer friend from high school had lost at least thirty pounds and looked different without his glasses. He wore a dark suit of armor. The armor looked heavy and solid but didn't slow him down when he jumped out of the trailer and walked through Ian's front yard. A sand-worm (squirmy) shot out of the ground and tried to bite Andrew. He grabbed it below the head, pulled it out of the ground, and tossed it onto Ian's porch.
“Here you go, Ian, I get nothing from killing level 2 aliens,” Andrew said. “And you look like you could use all the help you can get.” He jumped onto the porch and put his foot right below the thing's head. He held it there while Ian lashed out at the squirmy with his baseball bat. Ian was getting better. The morning training sessions in the smelly garage hitting crunchies were paying off. It took five solid hits, and three misses before the squirmy vanished. Five more credits showed up on his internal display. Ignoring the laughter from people in the vehicles, he sat down on the porch bench, putting his hands in his pockets to hide their shaking. That squirmy's movements had been limited by the cement porch, but it had still come close to biting Ian's kneecap off before Andrew had intervened.
“You went with a psychic build, didn't you?” Andrew said, adjusting his sword and long-barreled pistol so he could sit down next to Ian on the bench.
Ian nodded. “I thought I was dreaming.”
Andrew laughed. “Sorry, but you are such a nube. I considered a special build, but for the first year, they're worthless. If you go as a warrior, you kill aliens immediately. You need to kill aliens to get credits and stat points or you're SOL. You can always get into a special build later. I spent a lot of time talking to Beginner's Guide. I couldn't think of an existing character that matched my needs. So I made one up.” Andrew grinned and started laughing. “I'm a Paladin of New Terra. A warrior order from the future. It's my life's mission to protect humans from alien scum infesting our planet. If I'm fighting aliens, I get combat bonuses, if I'm protecting humans from aliens, I get huge combat bonuses. This alien apocalypse is the best thing to happen to me. I got laid last night, me. Can you believe it?”
“I fucking hate you so much,” Ian said. “Is there any way for me to redo my character?”
Andrew laughed again. “I don't think so, sorry. I know too many people who've tried.”
A big shaggy dog, of a breed that could only be mutt, wandered over. Aliens mostly left animals alone. The dog walked across the yard without incident.
“Hey boy,” Ian said, petting it. The dog panted and wagged its tail. It was nice to meet something that didn't feel sorry for him.
“That's our mascot, Fergi. We have to tie her to the truck, or she'll try to lick aliens to death while we're killing them. You're the most worthless dog in the universe, yes you are,” Andrew said to the dog, patting her head. The dog let out a loud woof! And wagged her tail. “I hope whatever is infesting the MonsterMart is a challenge. I've gotten so good, the aliens around here are a waste of my time.”
“You look hungry, Fergi, I'll get you something,” Ian said. He went back inside the house to get some food. The morning events had cost him his appetite.
“Stacy should really come with us, Mr. A,” Chris was saying to Ian's dad. “She's the reason we came by, after all. We get a special BG bonus if we get all the chosen ones on our list. We'd look after her, I promise. My little brother Kyle could use someone to hang with.”
“Come on, Dad, I want to go,” Stacy said.
“Absolutely not, Stacy,” said Dad. “I think it's time for you to go, Chris. Have fun cleaning out MonsterMart.”
“Okay. Your loss. You'll know the party's starting when you hear and see fireworks,” Chris said. “It'll be like Independence Day, only better.”
“Sure,” said Dad.
Ian grabbed some Spam for Fergi. He was sick of Spam. He jumped when he heard a voice next to him. “If you use your mind control to destroy Chris, I would support you completely,” Gabe said. Chris Tyler was one of the few things Ian and Gabe agreed on.
“Would if I could,” said Ian. “Likewise if you put a wizard hex on him.”
“Ditto,” Gabe responded.
Ian went outside again and fed spam to Fergi until Andrew grabbed the dog and rejoined the others in the trailer. Andrew was with an older girl, who wore a black jacket, despite the warm weather. They passed something back and forth between them. They'd put it to their noses, inhale, then pass it back.
“Bye, Dorkheads! See you at the party!” Chris shouted as he left. “Let's kill some aliens!” There was a loud cheer from the volunteers.
Nothing's changed, Ian thought. The popular kids were still running things. While people like him got all the shit.
“Chris and his siblings are okay,” Dad said, “but their mother has to be the most loathsome person on the planet. Six months after she got a job with a health insurance company, she divorced her husband and married the company's CEO. Mr. Wilcox, a man twenty years older than she is and richer than God.”
“She's not exactly working her way to the top,” Ellen said. “But she's doing something.”
“Exactly,” Dad said.
After Stacy's argument with Dad, they waited... and waited... They were all expecting something. But instead of shooting and fireworks, things were quiet. At sunset, Robert came by with a shopping cart full of groceries. He spoke quietly to Dad and the other adults, then left. Stacy tried to find out what was going on from Ellen, but Ellen shook her head, and wouldn't tell her anything.
That night Ian heard a whimpering and scratching sound at the door. He knew it was Fergi, so he opened the door and let her in.
“Hello, Fergi. Where are your stupid owners?” Ian asked. The dog slunk around looking frightened, sniffing everything in sight. Fluffy yowled and hissed when he saw the dog. Fergi just wagged her tail until Fluffy ran off. The dog dragged a ten-foot rope with a knot and loop on the end. When Dad saw it, he looked sick, then turned around and left.
“So not only do they ditch us for the party,” Gabe said, “but they dump their dog on us too?”
“The dog's rope is still knotted,” Ian said. “Like Chris's pickup truck vanished. If BG took his truck because he forgot to make payments, I'll die laughing. “
“You know how BG plays favorites,” Gabe said. “Hard to believe BG would take his truck like that.”
“Yeah, but what else could have happened?” Ian asked.
It seemed unlikely BG would take Chris's truck, unless Chris had been killed. He remembered his friend, Andrew, talking about how he hoped cleaning out the MonsterMart wouldn't be boring. They'd brought a small army, for god's sake. What could have happened?
If Chris is dead, Ian thought, what happened to the others? He shivered. “See you at the party, Chris,” Ian said, quietly.