Robbery. Burglary. Whatever
“Well, here’s the plan.” Vale laid out a piece of paper on the table that his team surrounded. He had a grease pen to write with. It’d been two days since Minerva had joined the group, and she was still sore about it.
“I really don’t see why you need me for zis…” began Minerva.
Brutus snapped, “Give it a rest, sister. You made the rule. You and Vale both won the duel. You set no rule for you winning, and you agreed you would join this group if he won. It was a good fight and you both won. Just deal with it.”
“More like we both lost.” Minerva crossed her arms before looking at Vale and shrugging.
Vale hid a smile. For all her grumbling, he knew the green-eyed swordswoman was secretly pleased. She had already signed a contract with Vermillion Entertainment and was preparing to move to the Rainbow Ranch. Brutus was practically doing flips about it.
The whole group had taken the last couple days to rest, refit, and prepare for the upcoming attack. This was the end of the legendary weapon quest. It looked like Vale couldn’t share the full quest with Brutus and Minerva, but they still got the portion the group was currently on.
“Okay,” said Vale, marking the paper. “Basically, this is a robbery first, then a boss fight.”
“Burglary, actually,” said Abigail.
“It’s a burglary. We’re trying to steal something without being seen. A robbery implies force or threat of force.” Abigail shrugged.
Vale eyed her for a moment. “Yes, you’re right. But why does that matter?”
“Words have meaning, Vale dePardon,” said Minerva.
“I agree with the ladies,” said Bart with a grin.
Vale pointed at Brutus. “If you say a fucking word, I’m going to <Gust> you out the window.” Brutus wisely kept his silence.
The whole group was doing their planning in an abandoned house in an old ghost town. Vale had wanted to make sure nobody could overhear them. The fact that getting rowdy wouldn’t draw attention was an added bonus with this group.
“Ahem,” Vale cleared his throat and began drawing again. “As you know by now, the burglary portion of this quest will be the easy part. The hard part will be destroying Lord Hygon and escaping.”
“Can we run through that part again?” asked Bartholomew.
“Sure. Okay, so we know we are going to this shrine and stealing something.” Vale pointed his pen at a little box he’d drawn. “After we steal whatever it is, by my best guess, me, Bart, and Abbey will get legendary weapons. Brutus and Minerva will get something, but I’m not sure what—the quest isn’t really clear.
“Anyway, this will piss off Lord Hygon, who should be sleeping in the sea over here.” Vale pointed to the crude waves he’d drawn to represent water. “We will need to kill him in order to keep our legendary weapons. As if that is not enough of a problem, all of this is going to take place within spitting distance of Innsmouth, the capital for the new Abyssal Ones players. The area should be crawling with them.”
“Do we know much about them?” asked Abbey.
“Good question.” Vale nodded. “I’ve been doing some research, at least as much as I could do in the time we had. Most Abyssal Ones streamers are trying to be quiet, but a few players have anonymously posted some details.
“Basically, from what I can tell, Abyssal Ones get five fewer starting stat points than humans. They use more or less the same class system with different names. However, they can breathe underwater, and they have a resistance to blunt damage and fire. They also respawn in 2 days instead of a week.
“At high levels, they can get unique golden weapons that sound pretty badass. One of the Abyssal Ones players found a high-level quest with some really cool-looking quest rewards.”
“Wow, that sounds kind of terrifying,” said Bart.
“What do they look like again?” asked Abbey.
“They’re like fish men with frog features. They’re kind of ugly. They don’t blink. They’re kind of a nasty green color with light stomachs. Their hands and feet are webbed.”
“So sexy,” Abbey groused.
“Yeah, they’re like messed-up reverse mermaids,” Bartholomew chuckled. “Plus, in the original lore, they got it on with human women. Bow chicka wow wow!”
“No way! That’s gross!” Abbey slapped Bart’s shoulder.
Vale noticed how the two acted together. Seriously, when are they just going to admit they’re dating? He said, “Bart’s actually correct. Apparently, players that make an Abyssal Ones character can choose to look more human, like a hybrid, or go full-blown fish monster.”
“Yuck. I hope we don’t see any.” Abbey had her face scrunched up and stuck out her tongue.
“Well, unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen,” Vale sighed. “I don’t know if it’s because of my high Intelligence or Luck stat, but I’ve gleaned some more about the encounter from the journals we’ve found. When Lord Hygon attacks, a bunch of his children will drop out of sacks from his back. They’re basically miniature, weaker versions of him. Thing is, they’ll be ravenous and will attack anything that moves.”
“Okay, how is this a problem?” asked Bart. “Won’t they also go after any nearby Abyssal Ones?”
“Hygon Spawn are faster than a horse.”
“Oh. I see how that could be a problem.”
“Exactly,” said Vale, rubbing his forehead. “Escaping on horses is not an option. The thing is, if we go in on foot, we’re all gonna die and we might not finish the quest. If we don’t get swarmed by the Hygon Spawn or killed by Hygon himself, we’ll be overrun by the Lords of Finality and other Abyssal Ones players.”
“Indeed, I see your logic. Do you have a solution?” asked Minerva. She was still acting aloof, but Vale noticed her hand resting on her sword hilt as she studied the crude drawings.
“Actually, yes,” said Vale. He smiled and drew a cross-hatched line along the coast. “This is a railroad. It’s active, and I have the times that trains usually run on it. They go slow since it’s by the town, but it’ll be moving and it’s defensible. What I’m proposing is that we hit the shrine and time our move so we can hop on the train as it’s passing.”
“Okay, that’s well and good, but what about Lord Hygon? We need to kill the boss, right?” Abigail asked.
Vale nodded. “Yes, we also need to get away. You’re forgetting that bosses in SOO don’t despawn or stop trying to kill you unless it’s logical they do so. There is no despawn range or anything like in old games. I think once we piss off Hygon, he’ll be playing for keeps.
“Plus, he’s huge. Keeping up with a train going ten miles per hour or whatever should not be too difficult for anything that big. We’ll be able to fight him while we’re escaping.”
“There’s an assumption there,” pointed out Bart.
“Sure, but if I’m wrong, we can just jump off the train. This is the best solution I’ve got.”
Bart looked up and scratched his head. “Okay, makes sense.”
“So are we all on the same page?” The rest of the group nodded and Vale grinned. “And Brutus, you got good gear again?”
“Yes, no thanks to you.” The big man glowered, but he twitched aside his oversized trench coat to show his fancy new armor. Vale would bet the armor and weapon were both enchanted like his old gear had been.
“Minerva, you’ll be helping the group with SAN attacks and assisting with general ass kicking.” Vale grinned.
“Yes, yes, I know.” The blonde swordswoman looked bored, but Vale noticed one side of her mouth twitch.
“Now, everyone, is there anything else I should know before we start?” Vale asked.
Bartholomew raised a hand. He said, “With the reagents we found the other day in the rat tunnel, I’ve been able to make some powerful new potions and bombs, two things I’m not usually very good at. I also discovered a faster way to reload my little pistol with potions.”
“That makes no sense, but I’ll take your word for it. Anything else?” Vale asked. Nobody moved or said anything. “Okay, that’s a wrap. We’ll meet here in about ten hours, real-world time. Everyone come alert and ready to throw down.”
“Should we find an in-game place to rest before logging? You know, for the XP bonus?” asked Abbey.
“You can. It’s up to you. I’m not going to bother, since I’m expecting most of our XP will be from finishing the quest, and quest XP is not affected by bonuses.”
Abbey nodded and Vale logged out.
The real world returned and Trent decided he was going to get some sleep. He wanted to be at his best for the last portion of the legendary weapon quest. He hadn’t told the group, but he was nervous about the upcoming boss fight. He’d never tackled such a huge opponent in SOO before.
Trent closed his eyes to sleep and instructed his persocomp when to wake him. He had strange, troubled dreams.
In one dream, he was running from a giant squid in a parking lot. There were people on its back with guns. He couldn’t run fast enough to get away, and the bad people on the squid kept shooting his friends. In the dream, Steve said, “Stop being an idiot. I got shot, see?”
Trent woke up in a cold sweat.
Vale peeked over the hill, the rest of his group beside him. All of them bristled with weapons. They all had as many potions as they could cram into their internal inventories and hanging off their gear.
“Okay, everyone,” Vale said in a loud whisper. “This is it. The target is right down there across the railroad tracks.”
The shrine looked like a hideously creepy art piece made from coral and bones. It stood right at the side of the water and almost seemed to pulse with disturbing colors. The town of Innsmouth, the Abyssal Ones capital, was distressingly close. The day was overcast and dark. The sea breeze kissed the back of Vale’s neck from time to time, making his skin cold and clammy.
“God, that thing is ugly,” whispered Bart. Everyone nodded.
“The boss is going to be even worse,” said Vale.
“What does this Lord Hygon look like?” asked Minerva.
“He’s got a giant crab claw on one side, a huge tentacle on the other side, and a large tentacle on the back, too. His back tentacle has a tooth on the end.
His head looks kind of like a giant shark with too many eyes. He’ll be covered with short tentacles that have poisonous barbs on the ends. He moves on crab legs, with more pairs of legs than a real crab has. His underside has what looks like a giant penis with a second mouth on the end of it. Lots of teeth.”
Minerva grimaced, her nose crinkled in disgust. “Zat sounds disgusting. Forget I asked.”
Brutus softly chucked. “We will be seeing it soon. Prepare your SAN management skill, sister. We will need it. Otherwise, we will die.”
“That’s a good point,” said Vale. “It’s very possible we may die anyway, though. Keep everything you can’t afford to lose inside your internal inventory so it can’t be looted if you die. It’ll be great if we can all live, but our primary goal is killing the boss so we get the quest rewards and the XP. If some of us live and some of us die, whoever is alive, try to grab a dead person’s weapons if you can.
“We can’t afford to sandbag this, so we have to use our best gear. It’s going to really, really suck if we die and lose our stuff, though.”
“Yeah, it would be a shame if that were to happen to you,” said Brutus. He glowered and fingered his sword hilt. Vale ignored him.
“Okay, we ready to go? Everyone clear on what they’re supposed to do?” The whole group nodded. “Okay, good. The train is going to come by in about five minutes. As soon as we see it in the distance, we’ll go down to the shrine, I’ll grab whatever it is we’re supposed to get, and then we’ll get our happy asses on the train.
“We have a stagecoach I rented for the day waiting for us about a mile past Innsmouth. Whoever survives—hopefully all of us—just needs to hold on until then.”
“And kill all the Hygon Spawn and make sure Hygon is dead too,” Bartholomew added.
“Yeah, that too. Simple,” said Vale. He settled in to wait the last few minutes. His heart pounded, and he tried to hide how nervous he was.
He wasn’t sure how successful he was, but he tried not to worry about it. He was sure the others had their own nerves to deal with.