The Mitochondria near-silently zoomed over the battlefield. Giant exploding shells thundered in the sky as the Abyssal Ones frantically tried to adjust fire to hit them. Gusts of wind from the flak would have blown Vale off of his feet if he hadn’t been hanging onto a rail. It felt like all the enemy players were trying to shoot down the ship.
Meanwhile, the human defenders took advantage of the chaos, bombarding the Abyssal Ones with artillery. On the radio, Bart asked them not to charge out of the trenches yet. Hopefully, their flying enemies were waiting for the humans to do exactly that. Maybe they could be tricked into not moving yet.
So far, so good. No Flying Eels or First Things in sight.
“If you haven’t already cast your buffs, do it now!” Shouted Vale. Constantine nodded and his skin glowed briefly. Vale felt lighter. Minerva cursed a few mostly insulting, but somewhat encouraging lines, activating her [Embolden] skill to protect the group against SAN attacks. Brutus produced a consumable from somewhere, some kind of feathered fetish that he broke. Vale’s eyebrows went up as he realized he’d gotten an extra 10 HP. Bart threw a potion on the ground, and Vale watched his stats. The smoke that briefly swirled around the ship resulted in a +1 to his Dexterity for half an hour. That must have been an expensive potion to make!
“Are you going to do anything?” Vale asked Abbey.
“No, don’t have group buffs. What about you?”
Vale shrugged. “Pretty much the same boat.”
“Guess we better DPS the shit out of everything, huh?” She held up a pistol and grinned.
Vale mutely nodded and felt grateful for his [Elemental Magic: Air]. Without it, his damage dealing abilities in a situation like this would have been pretty bad without some of the creative solutions other Occultist players had experimented with. One Occultist streamer even used a bow! Using [Ancient Body Magic], she could use spells to buff her strength stat and shoot an incredibly powerful metal bow that a Technician had made for her. The play style was risky, and she wasn’t as accurate as a dedicated DPS class, but it definitely gave her extra utility on top of her normal magic and map-reading skills of her class.
Once the airship was deep over enemy lines, the attacks just stopped. The Abyssal Ones were trying to turn their guns. In the meantime, there was a respite. Speed was everything for this operation.
Above the enemy gun emplacements, both air ships split up, heading opposite directions. Below them, behind the Abyssal Ones trenches, were the huge, protective berms made of dirt. Behind them were the enemy’s big guns. They were normally protected from human fire by their earthen shields, but right now, Vale’s team was directly above.
The game’s airships had guns that couldn’t directly kill players, but they could destroy equipment and emplacements.
“Now!” Vale ordered, and the Herterz brothers cut loose. Half the guns on the Mitochondria fired downwards, ravaging the enemy’s artillery guns and big cannons. From up above they were all sitting ducks. The destruction rippled outwards as fast as the Mitochondria could fly. Then the ship turned around and began to descend.
The original plan would have utilized Vale’s wind magic to help the team descend, but Abbey had suggested rappelling as an alternative. With her class, she could make a rig for everyone in very little time. Then after the team hit the ground, they were going to kill at least one or two handfuls of enemy players who’d been manning the artillery guns.
Keeping it simple was good. Allowing Vale to conserve mana was even better.
But now Vale called Abbey and Bart over. “New plan. Do you still have that grappling hook launcher thing?”
Before she answered, Abbey leaned over the railing to empty every cylinder of a big pepperbox revolver. The last few weeks had been profitable for her, and with the extra money she’d made a lot of new weapons. “Yeah.”
“Can you shoot any of Bart’s potions out of it? Or better yet, can he?”
She thought for a second. “No.”
“Shit.” Vale mentally changed his plan and asked Bart, “Can we throw your potions?”
“Yes, but they will be less powerful if anyone but me throws them.”
“Okay, that’s fine. Quick, give everyone as many poison gas potions as you have. And then give us explosive potions.” He raised his voice, making sure his team could hear him. “Get ready! We only have a couple minutes max, I think!”
Overhead, a few shells whizzed into the empty sky, but some of the bigger enemy guns had almost already been adjusted to target them. So far, there still weren’t any flying enemies, either. The small arms fire from below was only dangerous if one of them stuck their head over the side.
Abbey was being clever and watching down below using a handheld mirror in one hand. Her position next to a speaker was allowing her to give instructions to George Herterz, placing the ship directly above her target. She’d figured out her role without being told.
Meanwhile, Bartholomew ran around the deck, handing out potions as the ship continued to lower. Vale helped guide George right over one of the largest hills with a single hole in the center. By this time, the entire team had figured out what he was trying to do. Vale was grateful that everyone was quick on the uptake. It saved a lot of time.
“Throw the gas into the hole!” yelled Vale. Without hesitation, everyone threw their bottles below. Before the caustic projectiles even landed, he ordered, “Now toss the explosives!”
At least two gas bottles made it into the hole. About five seconds later, the explosion vials went off.
The team had figured a long time ago that using Bart’s potions from the air as bombs would usually be a waste of resources. The explosions were just not large enough to actually hit anything from high altitudes, and even if they did, it wouldn’t do enough damage to kill players before they got away.
Critical hits in SOO could result in instant death, at least for now. Game analysts had been speculating for the last year that at high levels, single hit KOs would no longer be possible. But explosions almost never killed players outright–especially not as relatively small as Bart’s.
This situation was completely different, though.
Peppering the hole with the little bombs was just enough to collapse the verticle tunnel after the vials were already down inside. This resulted in a cloud of poison covering the entire collapsed bunker.
Now Vale just had to hope his plan worked. “Go go go!” he shouted. The Mitochondria began to rise at the same time as Flying Eels boiled up out of a distant mound. Below them, the bunker they’d attacked continued to smoke with noxious gas.
“Gun it, George!” screamed Abbey.
“Balls to the wall!” ordered Vale. “Everyone go all out! We need to get out of here!”
The Mitochondria was picking up speed. Abbey drew her gigantic Howdah pistol, her legendary weapon reward from the Hygon quest. Then as fast as she could, she fired shot after exploding shot into the closing mass of Flying Eels. Each projectile cost mana so she unfortunately couldn’t keep it up forever.
Vale delivered massive [Air Slash] attacks. Brutus had gotten a crossbow from somewhere and was shooting it as fast as he could. Minerva carefully aimed before delivering rock spikes that she generated above an open palm. Bart launched a giant fireball.
None of the Flying eels died, but they fell back in waves, presumably to heal. Vale gritted his teeth. As the air ship made its escape to friendly lines, it passed over the line of guns that had been frantically trying to turn to bear on them. A terrible wave of thunder came from below as the Abyssal Ones crews tried to take down the air ship, but it was moving just barely too fast. Giant explosions rocked the ship’s bow as it sped back towards safety.
The Niven was almost directly abreast of them two hundred years to one side. It took a bit of damage, but still moved forward under its own power. The ship’s hull belched smoke.
“Someone tell our allies to attack! The guns are down and that one nest or bunker thing we just took out is still out of service!” crowed Vale.
“I will tell zem,” announced Minerva.
Suddenly, notifications popped up for Vale. He closed most of them so they wouldn’t block his vision, but he’d caught a glimpse of them. He checked his combat logs and smiled. Several enemy players had been killed. They were First Things! Vale was earning a butt ton of experience. The gas idea had worked!
A new notification and a ring caught his attention. He’d just leveled up. “Holy crap!” he whispered.
And he still had an XP buff from his bandit quest!
Vale grinned. The battle wasn’t over yet, but this day was already off to a great start!
Fire from the humans began peppering the sky again behind the Mitochondria. XP notifications kept flashing, popping up. It was absolute chaos.
Vale loved it. He hadn’t had this much fun playing the game in a while.