The stairs seemed to descend forever, never curving or breaking off into separate pathways. Just one steady direction, down into darkness. Finally, Milo spoke in a hushed whisper.
“I think I hear something,” he said. “We must be getting close.”
He was right. Several minutes later, the stairs finally ended and they arrived in a massive chamber. It looked like a subway station in many ways, but one that had been warped by time. It was incredibly dark, lit only by red fluorescent lights that hung sparsely from the ceiling. The walls were covered in layers of graffiti and black vines of sludge which Charlie swore he could see slithering and pulsating as if they were alive. The room extended far past where the flashlight could reach, and in the center of it all was a derelict old subway car that looked like it had been sitting there since the early 1900’s.
“Well this is the most terrifying place I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said Charlie.
“Agreed,” said Juno.
“What is that?” asked Milo, pointing off to the side of the room. They all looked over to see an exposed wall panel. Rust colored copper tubing ran along the wall and seemed to give off a faint glow. They approached, and Charlie leaned in to inspect it. He couldn’t help but think that the glowing was the tubing’s way of getting his attention.
“I wanna try something,” he said, pulling the backpack off his back. He reached in and pulled out the pickaxe, returning the backpack to his shoulder.
“Since when do you have a pickaxe?” asked Milo.
“I made it to break the boulders on the roof.” He lifted the pickaxe and brought it down onto the tubing. Light burst from the point of impact. When the light receded, he could see thin cracks running along the tubing, just like the boulders he broke on the roof. He hit them two more times before they broke off from the wall and fell, clattering to the flooring in several smaller pieces. Charlie reached down, took one of the tubes, and placed it in his backpack.
+ 1 Copper Units
“It’s copper,” he announced. “Did they really use copper to build these old subway stations?”
“I’m pretty sure this place stopped being a subway station a long time ago,” said Milo, panning his eyes around the room. “It’s something else now.”
Suddenly a new notification popped up on the screen of the backpack.
New Creation Upgrades Unlocked!
Copper Pickaxe – Upgrades a Basic Pickaxe
Copper Axe – Upgrades a Basic Axe
Copper Scythe – Upgrades a Basic Scythe
Copper Water Can – Upgrades a Basic Watering Can
Copper Hoe – Upgrades a Basic Hoe
Copper Sword – Upgrades a Basic Sword
Charle tapped into a couple of the new recipes to find that each one required the basic version of the tool in addition to several pieces of copper, in order to make an ostensibly better version of the tool.
“It looks like I can use the copper to make my tools stronger,” he said.
“Great, I’m so glad we’re risking our lives down here so you can build a better watering can,” said Milo.
“We haven’t risked our lives yet,” said Juno. “It’s just dark and creepy.”
As if on cue, a roar echoed from somewhere far off. They all looked into the darkness ahead of them, freezing in place.
“What the hell was that?” asked Charlie in a whisper. Bear whimpered beside him.
Charlie stood slowly, pointing the flashlight into the distance in order to see if he could spy what had made the sound.
“It sounded pretty far away,” said Juno.
“It also sounded big,” said Milo.
“What should we do?” asked Charlie.
“Maybe we head back up for today?” asked Juno.
“We just got here,” said Milo. “How bad could it be? I bet we could take it.”
“Are you kidding me?” asked Charlie. “That sounded like a Tyrannosaurus rex!”
“It also sounded far away,” said Milo. “We knew we were going to run into some nonsense down here. Are we seriously gonna turn around and walk back up ten miles of stairs after the first sign of trouble?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t seriously consider the possibility of getting eaten before we came down here!” snapped Charlie. “But now that I have considered it, I’ve decided it doesn’t sound that great!”
“I should have known you would give up on us at the first sign of trouble,” growled Milo.
“I’m not giving up, I just—” started Charlie, but he was cut off as a glob of green sludge, about the same size as Bear, fell from somewhere above and landed with a loud flop on the ground in front of them.
“What the—” said Milo.
Bear started barking at the green slime ball as it began to pulse and undulate on the ground in front of them.
Without warning, the slime lunged from the ground towards Bear, wrapping itself around him and began to drag him away into the darkened room.
“Bear!” yelled Charlie.
Milo whipped his umbrella off his back and took off towards the slime. “Don’t let it get away!” he yelled. Juno ran after him, pulling her ukeytar into her hands. Charlie reached into his backpack and pulled out a sword. It had a smooth wooden handle and a sharp metal blade. He took a deep breath, securing the backpack on his back and sped off after the others.
Milo lunged into the air and came down on the slime, stabbing it with the umbrella. The umbrella pierced the gelatinous creature, but the slime quickly reformed and kept moving. Bear barked, flailing in the slime, attempting to get free.
“It’s immune to physical attacks!” yelled Milo. “We could use some firepower, Juno.”
“I can’t light it up with Bear in there,” she yelled. “I’ll set them both on fire!”
“You can light things on fire?” asked Charlie, catching up with them.
“Get the dog free. Ask questions later!” yelled Milo. “Help me pin it down, Charlie.”
Together, they ran after the slime, moving on either side of it, doing their best to block it every time it tried to run off in a different direction. “On three, stab the thing, and we’ll get sir barks-a-lot free!”
“Got it!” yelled Charlie.
“One, two … three!” Charlie and Milo lunged at the slime and stabbed into it, then immediately pulled in opposite directions. Bear squirmed and clawed at the ground. Suddenly, the slime broke apart, setting Bear free but jumping as two separate slime balls towards both Milo and Charlie. The slimes slammed into them, throwing them backwards. Bear ran towards Juno as fast as his paws and wheels could go and hid behind her legs.
Her fingers flew across the strings as both Milo and Charlie slammed into the ground.
Now playing Salsa Playlist.
After a few quick notes, two fireballs sprung out of the ukeytar and hurtled towards the slimes, colliding with them, before they could launch another attack. The slimes screamed in pain as they melted into the floor.
“And to think,” said Juno. “You two didn’t even want to bring me, and here I am, saving your asses.”
“Hey, we were fine! It’s not our fault the first monster we saw couldn’t be stabbed!” snarled Milo.
Charlie pulled himself up from the floor and ran over to Bear, checking to make sure he wasn’t hurt. “You okay, buddy?”
Bear barked and licked Charlie’s hand.
“Uh oh,” said Milo.
Charlie looked up from Bear to see another slime drop near them. Then another and another. Within seconds, they were surrounded by slimes. Charlie stood as he and Bear pulled back into a tight circle with Milo and Juno.
“Juno, I’m sorry I said you shouldn’t come with us,” said Milo. “Please kill the scary slimes so they don’t eat us.”
Juno rolled her eyes. “Step aside.” She lifted her hand, ready to strum down on the strings, but before she could, another much louder, much closer roar echoed behind them. The slimes froze in place and then quickly slid off into the darkness, terrified of whatever much worse thing was the source of the roar.
“Well that’s not a good sign,” said Charlie. Slowly, they turned to look back into the darkness, waiting to see what was so terrifying that it had scared off an entire family of slimes. There was a loud thump on the ground and then another. Charlie realized, much to his dismay, that it was the sound of footsteps approaching them. Very loud, very large footsteps. Shakily, Charlie held up the flashlight and aimed it into the darkness.
They saw its face first. It was the face of a rat, but it was massive, hovering high above them. Boom. The rat creature took another step towards them, revealing a large body. It was walking on its hind legs. Its fur was black and missing in some areas where the creature was covered in the same black slime that covered the walls. Boom. It looked as though the skin on its face and body were rotting. One of its eyes was missing, and its paws were home to long dagger-like claws. Boom. The giant rat dropped its front legs to the ground and opened its large toothy mouth, roaring so loudly that it shook the ground around them.
“On the upside,” said Milo, pulling his hands from his cat ears. “This one looks much more stab-able.”
“Are you kidding me right now?” asked Charlie. “It’s a giant mutant rat monster! It’s gonna eat us!”
“Don’t be a wuss, Charlie. We can take him!” growled Milo.
“That thing is three times the size of us!” Snapped Charlie. “We can’t fight something that big! I’ve never even swung a sword before today! You expect us to take down a friggin bear rat!?”
“I’ll keep you healed,” said Juno.
“You can’t heal us if we get cut in half by its teeth or its claws … or its teeth!” Charlie was spiraling.
“On my count, we jump it,” said Milo, ignoring Charlie’s hysteria.
“No!” snapped Charlie. “We are not doing this! No counting. No jumping. We need to run!”
“One!” started Milo.
“Just stop and listen to me for a second!” Yelled Charlie.
“Milo, I am begging you to—”
Bear took off ahead of all of them at a sprint and lunged off the ground and slammed, head first, into the rat’s skull. There was a loud crack as the rat toppled, howling in pain as it clawed at its head.
Charlie’s jaw dropped open.
“I take back everything bad I said about that dog,” said Milo. “He’s a badass.”
“Quick, before the rat recovers!” yelled Juno.
Milo lunged forward, umbrella at the ready. The rat lashed out with its claws, flailing in every direction possible. Milo dodged the blows with his cat-like reflexes. He passed by the claws and ran up the side of the reeling rat to clobber it atop the head. Bear rolled around and took off again at full speed, bashing the rat across the side of its face.
The rat spun and whacked Milo with its leathery tail, throwing him into a wall. Juno was already playing.
Now playing Lo-fi Hip Hop Playlist.
She strummed a soft jazzy tune as a pink flower which looked as though it had been pulled off the screen of a children’s animated movie, caught Milo, and wrapped him up in a hug, healing the wounds in seconds. He shook off the hit and jumped back into the fray.
“Okay Charlie, you have to help them out,” said Charlie to himself. “You can’t just sit back here and do nothing. That’s what you’ve done your entire life and look where that got you.”
Bear ran in for another attack but the rat batted him away with one of his massive paws. Milo also attempted to attack and was slapped across his midsection with its tail, sending him back again. With the two fighters pushed back, the rat roared and charged towards Juno.
“Shit,” she said. There was a sudden jingling from her ukeytar and she looked down to see golden letters scrawl across the wood.
Level 3 Unlocked!
New Playlists Unlocked!
Prelude – 2 Bars
Shields the user in a protective bubble
Prelude – 1 Bar
Summons two gloved hands which are able to assist in an assortment of ways. Hands are, after all, quite handy.
Actions which grant experience towards Level 4
– Continue playing shows to lift hearts and minds
– Heal wounds
– Shield yourself
– Use Flamenco at least once, even if it’s only to clap for a job well done
Her fingers flew across the strings and keys.
Now Playing Piano Rock Playlist.
A huge golden bubble popped into existence around her. The rat chomped down on the bubble with its whole jaw, its teeth embedding themselves in the bubble’s surface. It bit down again, and again. And though Juno continued to play, the rat was slowly cracking through her defenses as its teeth chipped away at the bubble’s surface. Milo worked to steady himself, but the blow had caused the breath to leave his body and he was having a hard time standing up straight. Bear was attempting to shake off the attack, flopping his head from side to side and sneezing.
“I can’t hold him much longer!” yelled Juno as the cracks in the bubble grew with every bite the rat took out of it. The bubble began to splinter, pieces falling from it as the rat clawed away at the weak points it created. The rat pulled back, preparing to take the final bite that would shatter the shield, a long wooden ladder shot straight into its neck, throwing the huge beast backwards across the room. It slammed into the derelict subway car in an explosion of steel and dust.
Juno turned to see Charlie holding the backpack in his hands like a Gatling gun.
“Aimed creations,” said Charlie. “Something new I got.”
“I love it,” said Juno.
The rat shook violently, pulling itself free of the massive dent it had left in the side of the train car.
“Distract it while I get the other two back in the fight?” asked Juno.
“Sure,” said Charlie, who was anything but sure at this point. “But if you hear screaming, I’m probably being eaten.”
Charlie ran towards the rat, his sword in one hand and the backpack fixed under the opposite arm. The rat shook its head and roared at him. Charlie swung the sword, with terrible form since he had absolutely no practice with it, and managed to slice across the rat’s face. The rat swung out at him with a claw, which he dodged. He aimed the backpack and shot out the first thing that came to mind. A wooden chair crashed into the rat and shattered on impact.
Juno ran to the others, playing a soft lo-fi song to heal their wounds and get them back on their feet.
“Thanks Juju!” Milo yelled, running past her, preparing his umbrella for another attack.
“No problem Kitcat!” she yelled back.
“I told you never to call me that!” he growled.
She laughed, turning to Bear, but , but was cut short as she was bewildered by what she was witnessing: Bear’s wheelchair was reconfiguring itself right before here eyes. It was like watching a car turn into a robot, like a transformer, but on a much smaller scale. The wheels became thicker, reinforced by shimmering metal. But that wasn’t all. Something new was starting to form on the back of the wheelchair, near Bear’s small fluff of a tail.
Juno grinned. “Looks like someone’s relic just leveled up.”
Milo jumped in front of Charlie guarding against the rat from taking a bite out of him with the umbrella, pushing the rat back and whacking it across the face.
Charlie cut into the rat’s side and then shot a pickaxe into its stomach. The rat lashed out, pushing the two of them back with chomping jaws. Its eyes were wild like it had gone into a killer frenzy.
“I think we pissed it off,” said Milo.
“You think?!” Charlie asked as he shot a fence that bounced off the rat’s thick fur.
There was a sudden sound like a race car revving up behind them.
“Get down!” yelled Juno.
Charlie and Milo ducked as Bear rocketed over them. Two small jet engines somehow had appeared on the rear of his wheelchair. Bear slammed once more into the rat’s head, this time with far more force. The crack of the rat’s skull echoed through the station.
The rat reeled with a deafening screech. Milo saw an opening, ran up and lunged into the air, coming down on the rat’s chest with his umbrella. The umbrella found its mark and buried itself deep. Blood spurted out of the rat like something out of an anime that Charlie used to watch late at night when his ex wouldn’t be able to judge him for watching them.
The rat let out another scream and crumpled to the ground. Black smoke began to roll up from the body. Its fur, claws and carcass disintegrated into thin air, leaving behind several small canvas bags tied at the top with little crude drawings of rats on them.
They all stood frozen, watching as this strange transformation occurred.
Finally, Milo spoke. “I’m just gonna say it. What in the actual fuck?”
Charlie approached one of the bags, picked it up and then placed it in his backpack. He checked the screen for the details.
+ 5 Monster Parts
“Well that’s disgusting,” he said, worried that he might actually vomit.
“What does it say?” asked Milo.
“It says they’re monster parts,” said Charlie, swallowing the bile in his throat.
“Gross,” said Juno.
“Awesome,” said Milo. “Do you think we can cook it?”
“GUH!” exclaimed Charlie and Juno simultaneously. Bear growled disapprovingly.
“Hey, rats are delicious!” said Milo defensively. “It stands to reason that giant rats are delicious…er.”
“Not a word,” said Juno.
“Maybe I can use them for a creation?” asked Charlie.
“Hey, we all fought the rat beast,” said Milo. “We should split the Beast Bits.”
“I am actually good on … beast bits,” said Juno who looked as if she was turning a bit green in the face. “You two can have at it.”
“Us three,” said Milo. “The dog gets a share. I mean, did you see that head butt?”
Bear backed up, practically shaking his head as if to say that he too, was all set when it came to beast bits.
“Fine, Chuck and I will take the beast bits,” said Milo. “He can make a monster reinforced shovel or something, and I can make rat stew.”
“Yep, I’m gonna be sick,” said Juno, turning away from them and holding a hand over her mouth.
They agreed to place all the monster part bags into Charlie’s backpack for the time being just to make carrying them easier and quickly collected them all. Milo opened the umbrella and spun it several times to whip off the black blood from the rat’s heart.
“Now that we cleared out that monster, what say we see how far this room goes?” asked Milo.
Charlie and Juno agreed. Together, the four of them worked their way down the length of the station. A few times they came upon more exposed copper tubing, that Charlie mined to add to his bag. They met a couple more slimes, but Juno made short work of them with a fireball or two. Eventually they made their way to the other end of the station. From there, they could see the train tracks move into a narrow tunnel and disappear into the darkness.
“Looks like after this room we’ll be heading into the tunnels,” said Milo.
“It’s getting late though,” said Juno. “I say we stop here for the night and head back upstairs so that we can regroup and get some rest.”
“I agree,” said Charlie.
“Yeah, I guess that’s fine,” said Milo. “I’ve got some work to handle tonight anyway.”
“You work?” asked Charlie, and then realized what a rude question it was. “Nights?” He added quickly. “You work nights?”
“Yeah,” said Milo. “In my line of work, the shadows come in handy.”
“What line of work is that?” asked Charlie. “Are you Batman?”
“Bats are assholes,” said Milo. And that was the end of the conversation.
The four of them turned around, making their way back across the station and started the long walk up the stairs to the apartment building. Each of them had a few more bruises than when the night began. Bear had a new pair of jet thrusters that could retract and protract from his wheelchair at will. Juno had two new playlists. They also had a bag full of monster parts and copper. More importantly, they each gained a new-found resolve and connection with one another.
They had braved the catacombs, fought several monsters, and won. It occurred to Charlie, as they worked their way back up the stairs, that together, they just might be able to hold back whatever it was his grandfather had been so concerned about down in those tunnels. Perhaps together, they could fulfill whatever crazy dream his grandfather had set out to achieve so many years ago. And with this thought, Charlie felt just a bit closer to the old man he never got the chance to know.
This is such an action packed chapter! We get to see how each of them battles and we get to see the first transformation of Bear’s relic! There’s much more to come for the catacombs below Darkmoon Drive but I hope you enjoyed this first outing!