A note from Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Publishing this early due to plane transit, enjoy ;)

In a great forest, an army of elves stood their ground against overwhelming odds.

A terrible army of bloodthirsty dwarves surrounded them from all sides. Cruel axe-wielders progressed through the woods as terrible war machines bombarded the battlefield. Flames spread to roast the elves alive. They fought valiantly to protect their last commander, a mage queen, but alas, their time was up. There would be no mercy from the invading army.

At long last, dwarves would rule the world!

“Can’t you go easy on me, Basil?” Vasi asked as she pulled her elf swordmasters miniatures back. A good chunk of her territory had turned into fire tiles from the bombardment, which passively weakened her units. “This is my first time playing, you know?”

“Haven’t I told you that I’m a feminist?” Basil asked with a competitive grin. “I don’t pull punches with girls… and especially not at Board & Conquest.”

“What about pulling your punches with your girlfriend?” Vasi advanced her elf archers on his flank. “It’s only our second date.”

Girlfriend. The word made Basil look up from the large board between them and at Vasi herself. The witch looked quite cute when frowning in utter concentration. Although she hid it well, he could tell she was as competitive as he was deep down. They had things in common than Basil imagined. It felt… nice.

Still, he hadn’t considered this B&C match a second date. Not in the least because almost the whole party watched it.

Due to Rosemarine’s size, the group had been afforded a hangar in Bordeaux’s airport by the army. The tropidrake slouched next to a customized airbus modified with turrets and watched the game with rapturous attention. She was quieter than Bugsy, whose happy noises distracted Basil more than once. As for Plato, he slept on a cushion without a care in the world next to a pile of miniatures. Ben had been kind enough to ‘lend’ Basil extra stocks of them upon learning his team had slain the false Dionysus and saved the city. Basil appreciated the gesture. These miniatures would have cost thousands of euros before the apocalypse and it would help kill the monotony of the long journey ahead.

The army didn’t dispatch anyone inside the hangar. The thick metal walls isolated them from the noise of planes outside, affording the party a degree of privacy. From what Basil had gathered, the army used crafters to repurpose civilian planes for military use. Since the countryside was full of dangerous monsters, air travel might be the safest method to link up isolated European cities.

Basil took it as a good sign. Mankind was starting to adapt to the apocalypse after surviving the initial shock.

“I was going easy on you.” Basil could have won five turns ago by investing resources to summon Derro King Blutgang, but he had sworn off playing five-star units until Vasi could master the game. “But since you seem to have a natural grasp on it, I can’t afford to play nice.”

“Thank you.” Vasi summoned three elf wizards reinforcements at her left fort and sniped a war machine from afar. “Ah! Take that!”

“Good try,” Basil conceded.

“How about we spice it up for the next match?” Vasi suggested with a coy grin. “Each time someone loses a commander, they must remove a piece of clothing.”

“You’ve more than mine,” Basil pointed out, trying to ignore Bugsy’s excited noises. “And don’t give him ideas!”

“I’m sorry, boss…” Bugsy breathed heavily. Tears of magma rained down from his eyes. “I’m just so happy for you two…”

“And that’s not a no,” Vasi mused as she fortified her right flank. “I end my turn.”

“I’ll think about your proposal,” Basil replied evasively. He knew Vasi was just teasing him, but the idea of betting pieces of clothes made him uncomfortable.

“Think about what?” Shellgirl’s voice echoed in the hangar. Basil looked up from the board to see his teammate return alongside Little Nessia, her griffin, and a pair of bodyguards. The latter two were dressed in Greek-style hoplite armor. Their hands wielded spears and shields, their faces hidden behind masked helmets.

“What’s your world like, Nessia?” Basil asked. Considering she was an oracle of Dionysus and her bodyguards’ attire, he was starting to wonder if their population was made of ancient Greece cosplayers.

“The Sunsea?” the little girl asked with a raised eyebrow. “It’s wet.”

“Oh good, another place we won’t visit,” Plato grumbled on his cushion. “Ever.”

“Personally, I’m excited,” Shellgirl said. “A gal like me is always wet.”

“Most of Gaia has been submerged under Pontus since the Anthropomachia, when most of the old gods perished,” Little Nessia said with a beaming smile. “My homeland, Histria, is the most beautiful island in the world. You would love it.”

Gaia and Pontus… although Basil knew little of ancient Greek religion, he remembered the name as that of the earth and sea deities. It seemed her world had been heavily influenced by Greek mythology somehow.

“The old gods died?” Rosemarine asked with curiosity. Aww, she was interested in foreign cultures! “Did they taste good?”

Little Nessia winced, as if Rosemarine’s remark had woken up disturbing memories. “No,” she said with a grim face. “No, they did not.”

Basil wisely decided not to press her further. The subject clearly made her uncomfortable for an obscure reason.

Her words gave him food for thought though. Walter’s shop included relics from Norse mythology and his world was seemingly inspired by it from what Basil had gathered from their discussions. Could it be that all mythologies were associated with a specific dimension? Would Aztec gods invade Earth next?

“Anyway guys, look at what I bought today on the market!” Shellgirl unstored two items from her inventory: a small portable TV and a DVD collector's box whose picture showed an infamous avian warrior and his crew facing the viewers. Basil gasped in shock at the sight.

“No way!” Bugsy squealed in surprise and happiness. “Major Chicken DVDs!”

“And a portable TV to watch them!” Shellgirl showcased her wares with pride. “We can finish the season on the road!”

“Shellgirl, you have my utmost respect,” Basil said, his voice brimming with gravitas. “What Apollyon took from us, you have returned with honor.”

“Come on, it’s nothing.” Shellgirl grinned. “But I wouldn’t mind a larger share of the loot next time as a reward.”

“You will get your due,” Basil promised as Bugsy carefully grabbed the holy DVDs with his tiny legs. At long last, the artifact had been returned to its proper place.

Little Nessia, unaware of the true significance of the historic event unfolding before her eyes, looked at the board with interest. “Oh, what is this? A game?”

Board & Conquest,” Basil confirmed. “It’s a strategy game.”

“I love those,” Little Nessia said with a bright smile. “Aunt Julia used to teach me how to play board games. Can I join?”

“Sure, you can have up to four players,” Basil explained. The board was thirty tiles long and wide, enough to house an enormous amount of troops. “You can join a party midway through, but with only one commander and one resource point.”

“Like an Incursion?” Little Nessia asked with big wide eyes. The more she looked at the board and miniatures, the more they fascinated her.

“Uh, somewhat.” Basil gave her a dressing down of the rules. “B&C high-level tournaments usually involve teams of two. Two frontliners, and two back-ups who must choose the right place and moment when to deploy their reinforcements. Some choose to immediately summon the back-up army to seize an early lead, while others stay in reserve to pull off flanking maneuvers on the enemy army.”

“If you’re a starting player, you begin with a set of five commanders and three resource points,” Vasi continued. “If all your commanders are defeated, your army loses. Additionally, you can conquer forts and seize supplies to increase your resource pool. This helps you put more miniatures into play.”

“You’re sure this is your first match?” Basil teased her.

“I have a good memory,” his girlfriend replied.

“I want to try.” Little Nessia raised a hand to grab a dwarf berserker figurine. “Can I play–”

She stopped like a deer in headlights upon seeing Basil’s glare.

Nessia’s griffin hissed back and her bodyguards pointed their spears at him. Basil ignored them. When it came to B&C figurines, he was like a man possessed by a dragon’s greed. Still, he calmed himself upon realizing he was glaring murderously at a child.

“Please do not touch my dwarf figurines,” Basil asked with a smile. Yes, a big wide smile would calm everyone down. “I would kill for them.”

Upon sensing disturbed gazes staring at his back, Basil Bohen realized that he should have worded his sentence better.

Little Nessia pulled her hand back, but her surprise was swiftly replaced with a competitive spirit. In her eyes, Basil saw a kindred spirit; a vicious beast that slumbered in an innocent heart and only came out when challenged to a PvP game. Little Nessia glared back at him, pulled up her sleeves, grabbed the Aesir and valkyrie figurines from the pile, and sat right next to Vasi.

“Game on, old man,” she told Basil with the cold determination of a bloodthirsty conqueror.

Basil glared back, his heart filled with a resolute desire to win. Air distorted around the board from the sheer intensity of the tension between the players. “You’ve messed with the wrong Bulgarian, petulant child.”

And to prove it, he immediately sacrificed five resource points to summon Derro King Blutgang.

No more babysitting.

Nessia didn’t pull punches either. After being told the basics of the game, she immediately deployed her Aesir army on Basil’s left flank. Although the dwarves still held the advantage, Vasi’s position was no longer hopeless.

“So, Nessia,” Vasi said as her new ally observed the board with ungodly focus. “What are your plans? We’re leaving for Paris today.”

“I know, I talked to your general,” she replied. “I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Bugsy asked in disappointment. “Shucks.”

“Can’t you stay in the party a little longer?” Vasi implored her. “I would like to keep my Coven ability.”

“No!” Rosemarine, who had switched parties to leave a spot for Nessia, slapped her tail against the ground with a low growl. The shake caused a few miniatures to fall off the board, forcing Basil to scramble them back in place. Nessia’s guards raised their weapons at the tropidrake, but their mistress stopped them with a hand. “I’m always the one switching parties to make room for someone else! I've had enough!”

“But we’re all in the same Guild,” Vasi argued. “Come on, it’s like being one big party.”

“No.” Rosemarine set her foot down. “I’m in Mister’s party, now and forever! He needs me!”

“Aww, Rosemarine, you’ll always be a pillar of this party,” Basil reassured her. He petted his tropidrake on the leaf-scales, causing her to giggle. “Of course you’ll stay if that’s your wish.”

“I’ll eat everyone who threatens you, Mister,” she said warmly. “And their little dogs too.”

“Good girl,” Plato mumbled.

“But…” Vasi crossed her arms in disappointment. “My Coven spells…”

“I’m sorry,” Nessia apologized as she deployed her valkyries on the mountain part of the board. “I know my dad. If I don’t return home soon, he’ll send an army to pick me up. But I promised the general I would talk to him to secure his side of the Incursion portal. Dad won’t let any monster through.”

“Oh, is your father a big-shot king?” Shellgirl asked. “I’ve read about those! They’re rich, right?”

“Somewhat,” Little Nessia replied evasively. Basil could tell she wasn’t telling them the whole story, but he respected her privacy. “The barrier is weakening, so we’ll cross the newest portal soon. The one near this city will lead to the Sunsea.”

Basil bristled. “You think a new Incursion will happen soon?”

“How can you tell?” Vasi asked with a frown.

“My Oracle Perks told me.” Little Nessia gave Basil a smug smile. “I’ve high Intelligence too.”

The smug brat…

Vasi’s amused smirk indicated she had read his mind. “I date him for his Charisma,” she told Nessia with a giggle. “And the Vitality too.”

It took all of Basil’s willpower to keep his dignity and not say a word. He swore within his heart to let neither the elves nor Aesirs survive today’s battle. His dwarves would slaughter them to the last soldier and paint the board red with blood.

“The next Incursion will happen soon,” Little Nessia said. “I can feel it. I will return home then.”

“How soon?” Basil pressed her on. The more information he could gather on the event, the better.

“I can’t tell exactly. Weeks?” Little Nessia shrugged. “Soon. I promised the general I would tell him in advance, but I can’t make predictions until a few days before.”

Wonderful. Basil had hoped for a little relief after the Halloween event, but by now he was used to the world picking on him. “What else can we expect?”

When Little Nessia’s expression darkened, Basil realized the worst was yet to come.

“I hear bugs gnashing their teeth at the barrier,” she whispered. “A big one leads the swarm, hateful and vile. It will eat its way into your world.”

Basil glanced up at Vasi, and then at the rest of his party. Even Plato looked back at him with a determined gaze. The same thought had crossed all of their minds.

Estrid the elf mentioned that Apollyon was the weakest of the Horsemen. He had the lowest level of the Apocalypse Force’s leaders… and thus he was the one most likely to get through the barrier. It wasn’t hard to make the connection with Nessia’s words.

Apollyon would enter Earth on the next Incursion.

Most would have shuddered at the thought. But not Basil and his party. The Horseman of Famine had wronged them a great deal, and they had all sworn revenge on him.

“Good,” Basil said as he deployed his dwarf war machines. “I’ll bring insecticide.”

Basil won the game as expected, though he struggled more than expected as well. He had the slight suspicion that Little Nessia’s Oracle abilities gave her the ability to predict his moves to a point. It didn’t make up for the experience and lack of resources to summon high-level units, but it made the match a close call.

Basil questioned Little Nessia during the match. Although she couldn’t pinpoint the date of the next Incursion, her Oracle Perks granted her a degree of awareness of which worlds would align with Earth during the event. Her native Sunsea was connected to the Bordeaux region, while the portal to whatever hellscape Apollyon would crawl out would open in the north.

Basil had the sneaking suspicion that the breach would be located close to Paris. After all, it was the worst possible outcome in a post-apocalypse world; and hence the most probable one.

I’m really tired of this bullshit, Basil thought grimly as his team moved to the hangar holding the Steamobile. General Leblanc’s crafters were almost finished outfitting its top with a howitzer and reinforcing the wheels. By now the vehicle looked closer to a giant tank than the mechanical shell it started as.

As promised, the general’s men also gave away a small portion of their armory to the team. Shellgirl whistled as she examined a weapon case filled to the brim with rifles. “Nice…”

“Yeah, very nice,” Basil said in appreciation. The other crates included a flamethrower, four shotguns, pistols, four machine guns, and even a grenade launcher. All of them showed hints of being refined with runes and other magic. He grabbed a gun to better read its stats. On a closer look, it appeared bulkier than a normal handgun, and the barrel was rectangular rather than circular.

Plasma Pistol
Family: Weapon (Firearm).
Quality: B.
Power: + 14 SKI.
Crit: +10 %
Accuracy: 100%
Effect 1: Light Rune: Inflicts an additional 20% [Light] damage.
Effect 2: Inexhaustible: the plasma pistol generates its own projectiles at a rate of one bolt per minute (for a maximum reserve of 24).
Effect 3: [Unused].
The standard sci-fi weapon, cheap, reliable, and so easy to use that even a toddler can pull off a headshot with it (and they do).

“Forget the handgun,” Basil said with a grin. “Plasma pistol is my new sidearm.”

“Is there any gun big enough for me?” Rosemarine asked. “I miss the smell of gunpowder so much…”

“Not yet,” Officer Elissalde said as she entered the hangar alongside Zachariel. General Leblanc closed the march alongside two armored soldiers with heavy weaponry. Bordeaux’s leader carried a long black briefcase in his right hand. “But we’re working on one adapted to your morphology. It should be completed in three days.”

“We don’t have three days,” Basil said, causing Rosemarine to whine. “I’m sorry. Kalki can’t wait.”

“I agree,” General Leblanc said. His face was paler than usual. “It’s better that you leave as soon as possible. We’ve found a method to transfer supplies across long-distances, so we will send you the weapons as you travel.”

“You don’t look well, general,” Basil noticed.

The general clenched his jaw. “Our science team confirmed your space story from the data gathered on the flash drive. I’ve shared the information with Major Elissalde, considering she will be our liaison with you.”

“It’s…” Neria straightened up. “A lot to swallow.”

“Tell me about it,” Plato commented. “First time with existential dread, huh?”

“It’s all right,” Zachariel said with enthusiasm. “Our catechism therapy has a roughly seventy percent rate of curing the symptoms.”

“I have no time for dread,” the general replied with a frown. “I take solace in the fact that if it was possible to transport Earth into an enclosed space, then there’s no reason to believe the process can’t be reversed somehow. The data in the flashdrive also included satellite pictures of Earth, which will prove invaluable in future campaigns.”

“But there’s cause for concern,” Neria said. “According to astronomers, the ISS’ trajectory is changing.”

Basil groaned. He had expected something like this. “How much?”

“It still remains in orbit above Earth, but we suspect the Unity intends to make it fly over specific areas,” General Leblanc explained. “Most probably for the purpose of bombarding them from space.”

“Like Bordeaux?” Basil asked with a frown.

“We can’t say yet. If it does threaten us, we will blow it out of the skies.”

“Why not blow it up now?” Vasi asked with a frown. “Why wait?”

“Besides the fact that this could result in the ISS crashing down on Earth with unforeseen consequences, I suspect they do not intend to bombard us specifically. As sad as it sounds, we do not meaningfully threaten the Unity yet.” The general smiled. “The Apocalypse Force though…”

“You want them to fight each other?” Basil guessed.

“Considering the forces we are facing, encouraging our enemies to bleed each other out might be our only chance of beating them both in the long run.”

It was a good strategy on paper, but Basil found it risky. “The more one side kills, the stronger they get.”

“Actually, that’s only half true,” the general replied much to Basil’s surprise. “No matter how many soldiers or monsters they slay, the Unity’s machines do not seem to gain levels.”

“We suspect their goal is to keep levels low to maintain the barrier and prevent stronger foes from appearing,” Neria said. “They’ll instead flood the world with low-level machines and slowly establish control over its resources.”

“In short,” General Leblanc summarized it. “Where the Apocalypse Force behaves like a band of marauders, the Unity is an empire. They favor territory control over pillage and power progression. If their interest is in keeping levels low, then they will prioritize targeting the Apocalypse Force. We’ll leave them to bombard our mutual foes from orbit if they wish, wait for the right opportunity, and then strike.”

Basil could only hope the general knew what he was doing. Then again, Leblanc had more knowledge of military strategy than just board games. Perhaps a better option would present itself to him in the future.

“We’ll keep you informed of how the situation evolves over time,” General Leblanc said. “Zachariel and Major Elissalde will remain part of your Guild but stay here in Bordeaux. The System should allow you to communicate without interruption, unlike military radio, and the Guild inventory system will let us send you supplies.”

“Wait, Major?” Basil glanced at Neria. “You’ve been promoted?”

“Promoted, that’s one way to put it.” She smiled in embarrassment. “I was in the police, not the army. I’ve skipped so many steps.”

“That’s great!” Bugsy said with his usual enthusiasm, before frowning in confusion. “But uh, I don’t see any change. Where are the signs of metamorphosis?

“We are reorganizing our armed forces by taking into account police and civilian auxiliaries,” General Leblanc explained, ignoring Bugsy’s comment. “You have more than earned this grade, Elissalde. Major Grange himself recommended you before his untimely demise.”

Officer Elissalde made a military salute, though her expression betrayed a hint of sorrow for her lost comrade. “I will honor his trust in me… and yours, General,”

“I do not doubt it.”

“Shame though.” Vasi glanced at Zachariel. “We would benefit from more healers.”

“That’s the neat thing,” the angel replied. “From what I understand, Mr. Bohen can summon any monster in his Guild at will. I will keep treating people in Bordeaux, but I will answer your call for help in a pinch.”

Basil chuckled. “You’re in the storage system?”

“Is that a sub-System?” The angel glanced at him in puzzlement. “I’m not aware of it.”

“Forget it.” Basil briefly mourned his friends’ lack of pop culture. He wondered if the general and Neria ever played Pokemon. “How do you intend to send us supplies?”

“Simple,” Officer Elissalde replied with bemusement. “I’ll store ammo, food, and weapons in the Guild inventory. It should allow you to summon them even half a country away.”

“In fact, we will use your Guild inventory’s teleportation properties as a direct supply line between Bordeaux and your group.” General Leblanc carefully put his briefcase on the ground. “In return, I ask that you send us any extra resources you find on your travels. Fuel, abandoned weapons, vehicles… Anything is welcome at this point.”

“After we take a cut for sales,” Shellgirl insisted. Basil glared at her. “What? It’s a trade, we gotta think of ourselves too.”

General Leblanc glanced at Shellgirl. His entire body language changed. His eyes suddenly radiated an oppressive aura of authority that silenced Basil and caused Shellgirl to shut up.

“Allow me to put it in very simple terms.” The general’s voice was as cold as a Siberian winter. “Every weapon we give is marked. If you sell or lose one, we will know. Then we will track you. And we will deal with you appropriately.”

He loomed over Shellgirl, who suddenly shrank in spite of her higher level.

“With a guillotine.”

Shellgirl remained silent a moment, before looking down and mumbling “I’m sorry” under her breath.

“Now,” the general said with a lighter tone. “We have prepared an itinerary for you. Major, if you would?”

Officer Elissalde handed Basil a map of France. A path to Paris was marked in green, with two alternative routes in orange and red. According to the notes on the map, the colors indicated the danger presented by each route. Dozens of points were marked as dungeons across the country.

“The road to Poitiers is cut,” Neria explained as she pointed at various landmarks. “So your best bet is to go through the Massif Central and then up to Orleans. Paris will be right around the corner afterward.”

“The Massif Central?” Bugsy asked in confusion.

“It’s a chain of mountains in the south-east of France,” Basil explained with a frown. “That’s quite the large detour.”

“In terms of length, yes,” Neria agreed. “But the Poitiers region is teeming with monsters, whereas the mountains have fewer dungeons. You will save time by avoiding unnecessary fights and closed roads.”

“Aw, but we’ll miss out on the loot,” Shellgirl complained.

“We don’t have time,” Basil replied. Kalki might have already reached Paris by now. “And at our levels, I doubt we’ll win much from enemies.”

“Pointless fights are exactly that: pointless.” General Leblanc nodded in support. “We have established an outpost in the city of Limoges. They will host your team and show you the path through the mountains. Once you’re in Paris, I ask that you conquer a local dungeon if possible. This will allow us to teleport troops to the city thanks to your Guild feature and secure a foothold in the north.”

“You want to retake the capital?” Basil asked with a frown. “Do you really need to? It might take a lot of troops to do so.”

“More than its strategic location and resources, Paris is a symbol,” the general explained. “If we can reconquer it, we will show the people of France that we can turn back the tide. More pragmatically, it’ll help us deploy troops to help take over the UNESCO HQ. From what we know of Dismaker Labs, I doubt they left it unprotected.”

“And what about the server?”

“I’ve agreed to your demand. We’re willing to deliver it to your friend through Major Elissalde.”

Friend was a tall word for Walter Tye, but Basil agreed with a nod. “I think we’re good to go then.”

“Almost.” The general glanced at his briefcase. “After much consideration… I’ve decided to entrust your party with a Baguette.”

Basil raised an eyebrow, especially when the guards escorting the general exchanged a worried look. Even Neria seemed uneasy all of a sudden. Basil knew the French held bread sacred, but that kind of reaction suggested something more sinister.

His doubts were confirmed when General Leblanc opened the briefcase. Instead of a delicious piece of bread, it contained a strange metal device with a retractable antenna, a screen, and a keypad. The System wouldn’t reveal to Basil its true purpose, but the general enlightened him anyway.

“This,” he explained, “Is what we call a Baguette. It’s a top secret, French-made weapon system directly connected to a nuclear submarine.”

Basil’s heart skipped a beat. No way… was he serious?

“Once you activate it with a password, you can set a countdown.” General Leblanc pointed at the screen and keypad. “The Baguette will connect to the submarine and act as a homing beacon with near-perfect accuracy for a first strike missile. Once the countdown ends, it will launch a Mach 25 intercontinental ballistic missile straight at the device’s location. It should bypass all known forms of jamming and hit the mark with a precision of 99.98 percent.”

Oh God, he was serious. Basil could only stare at the device in disbelief. “You are giving me a nuke.”

“What’s a nuke, Mister?” Rosemarine asked, suddenly curious. “It sounds great!”

“Your assigned missile will contain a neutron bomb, which won’t cause as much property damage as a normal nuclear device, and it’s lent rather than given…” General Leblanc coughed. “But yes, you can order a single nuclear strike.”

Basil’s teammates glanced at him in confusion. They didn’t know about the significance of the device, besides Plato, who kept glancing back and forth at the device. The cat was as tense as his owner.

“Sir, umm…” Basil didn’t know what to say. “Are you sure you want to lend me this?”

“No,” the general replied bluntly. “But extreme situations call for extreme measures. This device was created to preserve our country from violent occupation, and that line has been crossed months ago. The situation has escalated beyond our wildest expectations already. So we’ll have to up our game too.”

“But I…” Basil coughed. Damn it, the situation made him utterly uncomfortable. He had jokingly dreamed about using nukes in the past, but now that he was being offered one in real life… it didn’t sound so casual anymore. “I’m not a member of your army.”

“Major Grange made you an auxiliary in our armed forces, did he not?” The general shrugged. “For whatever reason, the System has bound you to this Kalki. If he is indeed as important as we believe, then the factions warring for control of our world will do anything to capture him. Preventing that scenario might require use of excessive force.”

Basil grit his teeth. “You think they’ll send someone we can’t beat in a fight.”

“I’m more worried they will send an army after him, but yes, the possibility of a high-level monster like Tamura showing up also crossed my mind.” The general scowled. “The threats presented by Incursions have been exponential so far. The more time passes, the greater the chance that a creature immune to conventional weapons invades our reality.”

“He’s right,” Vasi whispered to Basil. “A few creatures in my world could tear through your cities like your miniatures. If anything like them shows up… you’ll need all the firepower you can get.”

Basil understood that, but he doubted his girlfriend understood just how much firepower the general was offering him. It was like moving from using a bow to an AK-47.

“What’s the password?” Basil chuckled, mostly because being entrusted with a goddamn nuclear device left him tense as hell. “Beret12345?”

“No.” The general glanced at Neria, who was tense as a bowstring. “Major Elissalde is the one with the password. You won’t be able to validate a strike without her agreement.”

“Wait, you give us a weapon that we can’t use?” Bugsy asked in confusion.

“Isn’t that a bit too much redtape?” Shellgirl asked with a frown.

“The bomb should kill anything within a few hundred meters of the impact point and flood a two-kilometers radius with a wave of neutron and gamma radiations.” The general’s words spooked everyone, with the exception of Rosemarine, who started salivating. “The area will be irradiated for years afterward, so I will stress this: using the Baguette is a last resort. I will hold you and Major Elissalde personally responsible for any misuse of it.”

“I… I understand,” Basil replied. His response surprised a few of his teammates, but he understood the seriousness of the situation. That the general would entrust him, of all people, with that kind of device was a telltale sign that mankind was already completely fucked. “I won’t use it unless all other options have been extinguished.”

“I know.” The general smiled thinly. “I will hold you true to these words.”

Rosemarine licked her fangs. “Mister–”

“I’m sorry, Rosemarine,” Basil said. He knew her all too well. “You can’t hold it,”

“Aww,” she complained. “I’m sad...”

“Now go, child,” General Leblanc said with a military salute. “You have a long road ahead of you.”

A note from Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

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About the author

Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending all his time writing tales and forbidden scrolls.

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