4872 words (19 minute read)

Chapter 1

Title: A Soldier’s Crest: Imperium

Galaxy: Ursa

World/Planet: Threah

The Lost Bears of Cydonia(LBoC):

  1. Felix Armara - FlexArm5
  2. Jest Brule - Callisto
  3. Nyliss Velterion - NylaKnows17
  4. Johne Errins - EverAfter719
  5. Brina Armara - Brincess
  6. Varen Graves - Varity

The Dogs of Dogma(DoD):

  1. Arus Bark - Barkrus25
  2. Francince Gomera - HearHearsMe33
  3. Wilmore Long - TheBeastExists
  4. Petra Prook - Prooky88
  5. Rance Grays - DieAgain
  6. Matthew Harold - DogmaU77

Chapter 1:

“Watch my flank!” The raspy voice came from a burly marine running through a desert. His helmet covered his entire face and a red visor crossed the middle where his eyes would be. A large assault rifle was held close to his chest as he brought his head up to survey the area.

“I got you covered, Flex.” Another marine answered as he ran up beside him. The tag above his head simply read “Varity.”

“What’s your status, Brin?” The man giving orders was known as FlexArm5 on the field. Along with Varity, they made their way to the center of the battlefield where there was hardly any cover.

“Worse than yours!” A high pitched voice answered on the comm. “I got Bark and Hera closing in on my six. I know Beast is around here somewhere too.”

“Hold tight, Varity and I are on the way. Ever, take the sky ramp down to cut off the Beast.” Flex motioned with his hand and Varity ran on ahead. Varity’s marine was much smaller and faster than Flex’s but not nearly as powerful. Varity’s marine used a rifle for precision but it lacked in damage compared to Flex’s assault rifle.

“EverAfter719” hovered above the marine tasked with foiling the plans of Beast, his marine was of a different sort from the others. Much larger in size but shockingly nimble, it had no ranged weapons what-so-ever but instead a large double-sided battle axe. Each side of the blade was charged by electricity to inflict more damage.

Their opponents were much larger compared to their marines. While Flex and his comrade’s marines represented that of normal humans, across the map were foes of a different kind. None of them were human, each one took on an animal-like form with most resembling that of a dog.

“Bark is in range,” said Brin. “I have cover but they know I’m here. I’m going to press Bark before Hera gets here.”

“No! Hold your position until we get there!” Flex screamed over the comm, but Brin wasn’t having it. She vaulted over her cover and initiated a fight with Bark. His entire tag read “Barkrus25” which was a combination of his first and last name in real life. Arus Bark, known for his pro-circuit run during the high point of Imperium he was the dangerous leader of the Dogs of Dogma. A complete mismatch for the up and coming Brina Armara, whose first real skirmish was this one. Going by the tag “Brincess,” she was determined to prove herself to the rest of her team.

Activating her secondary ability, “dash,” her stylish pink marine avatar bolted in on Bark. His experience quickly showed as he out maneuvered her on the battlefield. Armed with only a pistol, Bark planted three shots on Brina and depleted her shield completely.

“Should I end your sister now, Flex? Or should I wait for you to get here?” He taunted over the shared comm between teams and added a chuckle at the end. But his fun was cut abruptly short by three bullets in the back. With his quick reflexes, Bark got out of harm’s way and into cover. He peered around the corner to see who had damaged him.

Across from where he battled Brina stood another marine, though this one was a dark red color and carried two pistols instead of one. Out of the top of her helmet was long blond hair that cascaded down to her shoulders. She ran beside Brina and lifted her up, dragging her back to the cover she originally vaulted over.

“Thanks for the save, Callisto.” Brina said, holding her right arm. “I was a little too aggressive.”

“No worries,” responded Callisto. “Any sign of Hera yet?”

“I saw her on my radar, she has to be close. Probably didn’t want to kill steal Bark.” Brina’s shield was back so she pushed herself up against her cover.

“I don’t care what happens in this fight, when Hera shows herself - she’s mine. Understand?” Callisto looked over the cover and no longer saw Bark.

“I understand. Is he still there?” Brina was afraid to look.

“No. They’re on the move, stay ready. Let me lead and you cover me, ok?”

“Ok.” Brina waited for Callisto’s signal. She raised her right hand and counted to three on her fingers then activated her secondary ability, “sky jump,” shooting her up and over the cover and back into the middle of the battlefield. The moment she hit the ground, a blast came from her right that she quickly avoided. It was finally her rival, HeraHearsMe33, joining the fray. Brina put her gun out and blind-fired a few shots in Hera’s direction causing her to retreat for cover.

“Brina, regroup with your brother. I’m going to pressure Hera!” Callisto sky jumped again, this time out of Brina’s view. Brina stood up, dusting herself off but staying cautious knowing that Bark can’t be far behind. She used the binoculars on her visor to inspect the sky ramp. She couldn’t make out the marines, despite their size, but she could see the names of her teammate Ever and his opponent, “TheBeastExists.” She never got to participate in a skirmish on her brother’s team before but she watched enough of his matches to know that Beast and Ever were always battling off to the side somewhere. Most of their epic encounters would last the entire match, either forcing a draw or leaving the remaining fighter left to take on the entire opposing clan.

“Looks like they’re at it again,” Varity said slowly walking towards Brina. “Pretty amazing seeing it in game, huh Brin?”

“Why are you always so casual during a fight? You don’t even have your weapon ready. Aren’t you afraid someone is going to sneak up on you?”

“I guess I never showed you my build, my secondary is active. It’s called ‘Counter-Eye’.” He tapped the back of his head as he said it.

“Basically gives him eyes in the back of his head,” Flex explained it for him as he approached from behind. His assault rifle was ready to go. “It also counters the first shot fired at him from behind.”

“That’s really cool. I need to get a few levels so I can get a better secondary.” Brina double checked her gun to make sure it was fully loaded.

“Hey, don’t underestimate dash,” Varity finally readied his rifle. “Ask your bro, I’ve gotten out of plenty of tough spots and scored some extra kills abusing that thing.”

“That’s enough. It’s too quiet with no kills on the board for this round. The Dogs are planning something.” Flex pressed against the cover that his sister was using, Brina and Varity did the same.

“What are you thinking?” Varity asked. “You want me to lead?”

“I think we should wait,” he nodded to his sister. “Any progress over there, Ever?”

“Nope,” the sound of his axe swinging was heard through the comm, “nope,” another swing, “and more nope.”

“Callisto, any sign of Hera?” Flex waited for her response but took another peak in hopes of seeing Bark.

“I’m still in pursuit, this could be a trap. I lost her somewhere over the Bone Bri---” her comm cut off and the static noise that followed caused Brina to hold her ear.

“Shit,” Varity stood up and pointed his pulse rifle out towards the battlefield. “Her hatred for Hera is gonna cost us one day.”

“Let’s not make it today,” Flex pushed over the cover and ran in. Varity ran up on his left and his sister, though further behind than them both, followed on his right. “Brina! You just watch my right side and shoot anything you see! Varity, you got my left and my back.”

“Let’s do this.” Varity activated his secondary again and caught up to Flex with his lighter frame.

They didn’t make it far before a bone wall formed around them, trapping them inside.

“This is what they were preparing that whole time?” Varity turned to face Bark for a second, but was forced back by a grenade blast.

“Flex, I’m outside the trap!” Brina ran to the right side of it trying to find a way to bring it down.

“Brin, fall back! Get to cover!” Flex ran over to her side. “There’s no way to bring it down, it stays up for a full minute.”

Brina stepped back but the back of her head met the forearm of Bark’s dog. The melee attack immediately dropped her shield.

“I didn’t think I’d find myself in this position a second time this evening.” Two more dogs appeared behind Bark. One had the tag “Prooky88” and the other was “DieAgain.” “My dogs have been hungering for some fresh meat for a while. What do you say we give the young lady her initiation?”

“Leave her alone, Bark.” The trap dropped and the boys were all at a stand still. Flex and Varity on one side, Bark, Prooky and DieAgain on the other. Brina tried to push herself up but Bark put his foot on her back. “Welcome to the big leagues.” He pointed his pistol at the back of her head but his weapon was shot out of his hand by Callisto.

“This girl is always interfering! Put her down already!” Bark backed up as Flex and Varity seized the opportunity to put shots on the dogs. Die and Prooky stepped in front and returned fire of their own. Before Callisto could join the fight, Hera tackled her to the ground and the two began to wrestle each other.

“Nyla, Nyla come in! What’s your ETA?” Flex took a shot to the arm but traded places with Varity to buy his shield time to recharge.

“About 20 seconds! You know how hard it is to get into position when you have to run the entirety of the sky ramp and avoid those two buffoons battling each other for the 100th time?”

“We’ll buy you enough time to set up.” Varity activated his secondary again, he turned around on purpose to counter the next shot fired by Die, then returned some shots of his own. Die and Prooky were now on the defensive and used a similar tactic to Varity and Flex as they took shots for each other to buy time for their shields.

Brina was now back on her feet, she took a shot at Bark but missed and hit Prooky in the back. When the two dogs switched positions again, Prooky was already weak enough for Varity to completely drop his shields. Varity swooped in for the kill, but Bark pushed Prooky out of the way and switched weapons to a shotgun in enough time to drop Varity’s shield in one shot. Varity stumbled backwards from the impact and DieAgain finished him off with an ‘End-Move.’

“Damn, that looked sick!” Shouted Prooky. “They really outdid themselves with this game.” Prooky went to high five DieAgain but the entire battlefield echoed as a long gun-shot filled everyone’s ears. Prooky got blasted in the side of the head by a sniper rifle’s bullet and immediately fell to the ground, shield and all.

“I was wondering how long your ace would take to get ready. Sky ramp, huh?” Bark looked up past the two big brawlers. NylaKnows17 was hardly even visible from where he was standing. “Nyla, I remember when she was still a rookie. I can’t fathom how you convinced such a talent to join your squad of losers.”

“An awful lot to say for someone who should be seeking cover,” Flex pointed out. “A well-positioned sniper can turn the tides of any game.”

“Hera, quit toying with Callisto and remove that pesky sniper from the game. You too, Beast.” Bark dropped the shotgun and pulled out a rifle similar to Varity’s. “We each have a kill on the board now.”

Hera got up and activated her secondary, her dog’s back opened up and grew wings allowing her to fly up onto the sky ramp.

“Callisto!” Flex yelled. “Don’t let her stop Nyla!”

“She’s mine!” Callisto chased after her again.

“I trust you’re already after Beast, Ever?”

A muffled and out of breath “Yup” followed on the comm.

“Then I guess it’s just us.” Flex dropped the assault rifle and took out a small dagger. “Let’s settle this like men.”

“Do you really think I would let Die sit this one out? Where is the fun in that?” Bark and Die both aimed their weapons at Flex. “We’re also not going to use knives.”

Both boys began firing at Flex but he rolled out of the way before running in the opposite direction.

“Shield buff in front of you, Flex.” Nyla called out.

“Thanks, how about a little evening of the odds?” Flex rolled again, this time in front of him and grabbed a glowing shield off the ground in one motion. This gave him an extra shield and turned his knife into a sword.

“Getting a little heat up here from ol’ beasty, but I think I can work something out.” Flex could hear Nyla was on the move on his comm, so he knew a shot wasn’t coming anytime soon.

“A little extra shield isn’t going to help you.” Bark shot again this time connecting with Flex’s shoulder. The impact disoriented him momentarily but he was able to gather himself to block the next shot with his shield. He turned quickly to block another incoming shot from Die. “Do you really think you can keep this up, Flex?”

Die moved around behind him with Bark continuing to press the advantage in front. Before they could complete the pincer attack, Flex turned around and caught Die with his sword depleting his shield. With Bark pressing from behind, Flex was once again forced to roll out of harm’s way but he no longer needed to worry about Die as another sniper shot boomed through the battlefield and Die collapsed.

“Thanks Nyla,” Flex said through the comm as he tried to catch his breath. “Maybe I shouldn’t wear as much armor next time. Finding it a little hard to move.”

“Yeah, maybe. That’s kinda your thing though.” Nyla laughed. “Whoa, beasty!”

“Be careful up there!” Flex yelled but Bark noticed he was struggling to move in his armor and shoulder tackled him hard enough for him to lose the shield. The attack gave Bark a huge advantage as he once again switched to his shotgun weapon, but Brina stood in front of Flex as the blast came. At such short range it was a one-shot kill.

“Brin!” Flex shoved Bark backwards but his sister’s avatar vanished before he could check on her.

“Was only a matter of time before I got that pest of a sister of yours. Now it’s time to wipe out the whole fami--” Before he could finish, another sniper shot caught him in the chest.

“Nice shot, Nyla!” Flex grabbed his dagger for the finishing blow but TheBeastExists leapt off the sky ramp, fell out of the sky and landed between them. With a back hand he killed Flex’s avatar.

“Flex!” Nyla shouted, watching the whole thing happen from her perch.

“Ha, well played, Beast.” Bark got back to his feet.

NylaKnows17, the shortest marine on the field picked up her large sniper rifle just in time to see Callisto running towards her. The rays of the setting sun glistening off her shiny black armor from way up on the sky ramp.

“Flex is down,” Callisto said.

“Yeah, I saw.” Nyla replied. “What’s the plan?”

“I was hoping you had one,” Ever added as he walked up to them. “Usually don’t fight many skirmishes where Flex dies in the middle of it.”

“It’s one of the longest skirmishes I’ve ever been in, that’s the problem with games that have no time limit.” Nyla picked up her sniper and entered her scope to make sure the dogs didn’t move.

“That’s what happens when you have good opponents.” Callisto looked down at her pistols then tapped the side of her helmet. “Not a whole lot of bullets left here.”

“I think I fired… Three? I’m good.” Nyla scoped again. “Still there, they’re not moving. Hera is where?”

“I thought you offed her? I didn’t see her up the ramp.” Callisto looked all around them. “We should make our way down, she could be anywhere on the path so keep your eyes open.”

“One more scope before we go,” this time Nyla didn’t see anything. “They’re gone!”

“Get behind me,” Ever stood in front of them.

“Nyla watch the back,” added Callisto.

“Here they come,” Ever readied his axe. “The Beast is mine.”

The Beast was the one that led their charge, Bark close behind.

“A lot of secondary abilities flying around so far,” Nyla said. “Maybe we should change that?”

“Yeah… Ever?” Callisto peaked over his shoulder. “You’re up!”

EverAfter activated his primary ability and his avatar’s entire body lit on fire. He rushed in towards Bark and Beast.

“I got this,” Nyla turned and dropped down onto her stomach, lining up a shot between Ever’s legs. The heat emitting from Ever’s body began to do damage over time to Beast as Bark backed away. The damage was just enough to drop Beast’s shield half way, Nyla took her opportunity and blasted a sniper shot through Ever’s leg, striking Beast in the thigh. The shot removed the rest of Beast’s shield and Ever went in for the killing blow.

“Woo! Nice kill, Ever!” Nyla raised her arm to cheer Ever on.

“She’s here,” added Callisto. “This is too good of an opening for her not to show up now.”

Right on queue, Hera emerged behind Nyla and shot her in the back of the leg. Callisto spun around and began firing at her with her pistols. Hera also used a similar style to Callisto and the two began to shoot at each other with their pistols. Each one trying to sidestep the next shot. Hera was the first to land a hit which stunned Callisto. Nyla rolled over onto her back to line up a headshot but Hera’s next three shots landed consecutively on Callisto’s head, killing her and forcing her body to fall onto Nyla. The distraction was enough to disrupt her shot, but Nyla blind-fired a sniper bullet and lucked out. The no-scope blast removed the head of Hera’s dog.

As Callisto vanished and Nyla was able to turn over, she was just in time to witness Bark deliver the finishing attack on EverAfter. His axe hit the ground first and rolled away from him as his large frame vanished. Bark looked past his last kill and right at Nyla who was still on the ground.

“Can you ready your sniper rifle in time to end me before I can shoot you from here?” Bark took another step toward her, his rifle pointed at her head. “Doubtful. Though, I’m shocked your team didn’t utilize more than Ever’s primary ability. We took it easy on you and didn’t use any of ours.”

A moment of silence fell over the battlefield. Nyla started to ready her sniper and anticipated the first shot from Bark and rolled out of the way before she brought her sniper up and aimed it at his head. Before she could line up the shot she wanted, Bark shot another bullet from his rifle and forced Nyla to roll again. As soon as she finished this roll, she followed it up with another and rolled backwards launching herself up and over onto her feet. Another shot from Bark’s rifle forced her to drop down to one knee and all in one motion she scoped and fired. Her shot was meant for his head but caught him in the chest instead. Her next shot missed as Bark spun out of the way. She quickly stood back up and tapped the side of her visor as he ran in the opposite direction.

Gotta reload… She thought to herself. Need to find cover, quick.

“I suppose I can’t have all the glory.” Bark said out loud in her direction. “OK, Hera. You can finish her now.”

Hera emerged behind Nyla and put three shots in her back which forced her to the ground.

“I lied about not using any of our primaries.” Bark walked over to Nyla. “It really was a mismatch in levels and experience the whole time, wasn’t it, Hera?”

“My primary allows me to resurrect with a brief invisibility. You had no chance of winning this, Nyla.”

“Do it.” Commanded Bark.

Hera pulled the trigger.

Nyliss Velterion removed her headset, which covered her entire head except for her mouth, and slammed it down onto the table in front of her.

“Damn! We were so close!” She yelled even though no one was in the cube with her. She put her controller down. The room she was in was often described as a pod, but known to professional gamers as a cube. A small rectangular room with a gaming station in the center. A small controller and headset often chosen by the player would be provided in front of the station. Stairs would lead up to the platform they would play on and the room would be closed off completely from outside noise and interference. Not even your own teammates would be in the room as every interaction was designed to happen over the comms provided in game.

Nyliss was a young girl, one of the youngest trying to break into the pro circuit. She was only thirteen when videos of her play serviced online. She was one of the top players on Planet Secure, a spaceship battle game. Though she became known for dominating in a real-time strategy game, or RTS, she would later become known for her high-level play in the first Imperium release. Though she was not part of a clan and had no interest in going pro at that time, her videos of her pro-like sniper kill streaks became extremely popular. But making videos of Sniper kills became stale after a while and she began to change her play-style, becoming one of the best players in the game at utilizing multiple weapons to her advantage. This eventually led to her realizing that there were 17 different known ways she could kill someone in Imperium. She changed her online gaming tag, or OGT, to NylaKnows17.

Nyliss walked down the steps in her cube and inserted a key card into the door in front of her. The door slid open and her team was waiting on the other side.

“Tough loss,” a tall muscular boy with spiked-up blonde hair was the first to speak to her. “We’ll get them next time.”

Felix Armara, also known as FlexArm5, was the leader of their clan. The only one among them to have had the chance to play pro in the first Imperium, Felix used to run with a clan known as the “Heroic Bandits.” As if there name wasn’t any indication that it wouldn’t work out, they disbanded after the third season of competition in the first Imperium. Though his teammates went on to bigger and better things as part of other teams or going professional in other games, Felix was unable to land a spot on another team. At first he was depressed that he couldn’t find a new team, but he knew that his experience, however small, in the pro-circuit could help him build his own clan. His fascination with Bears and the planet Mars in the Milky Way Galaxy helped him think of the name: “The Lost Bears of Cydonia.”

“I know but… I should have had that, Flex.” Nyliss walked over and embraced her leader. “I didn’t do enough research on Hera’s primary.”

“Meh, Felix is right. We’ll just get them next time.” The boy behind the OGT, Varity, was even taller than Felix and extremely skinny. His light brown hair was shaggy and came down to cover his acne covered face. “Besides, I’ve done plenty of research on Hera and I’m pretty sure this is the first time she’s used that primary. Jest could probably verify that.”

“It is. I’ve definitely never seen that.” The voice behind Callisto answered. “She must have just acquired that before this match.”

Jest Brule, the nimble and quick-triggered Callisto, was an extremely popular make-up artist online at an extremely young age. As a less attractive and less developed teen, Nyliss often looked up to her and her success. After she picked up Imperium, the first game she ever played, she began to play that more than focusing on her make-up career. Her videos stopped being about the newest mascara to make your skin less blue and more about kill streaks and multi-kills. After being discovered by Felix just before the release of Imperium II, she began to dive even deeper into the gaming scene. The only girl with more views and followers than her at the end of the first Imperium was Francine Gomera, the player behind HeraHearsMe33. This led to their hatred for one another and one of the most heated rivalries on and off the game.