❯ .hack//CHECK – Jam ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

The snow fell like a gentle wash in the darkness that enveloped the night. Three beams of light flashed and extinguished themselves immediately.

« No welcoming party. We’re clear! », stated Deacon.

Naomi used speed charms on the party. « I guess ‘no portals’ means that Fairy’s Orbs are useless in the field… », remarked Naomi.

« Do exactly what I say when I say it. », said Nash, « Got it? » Nash extended his arms in front of his chest. Her eyes began to glow. « We move! Forward! »

« What is she – I mean he doing? », asked Naomi as they began to move.

« One of the characteristics of the ‘Armless’ class is the ability to detect everything on a field. What Nash is doing is spotting enemies. », Deacon Blue explained.

« Right! », cut Nash, « Left by 45 degrees, then right by 45 degrees. Two second delay in between! »

Deacon and Naomi did as they were instructed.

« The monsters in this field use a zone defense. They patrol a set area. STOP! », yelped Nash.

Deacon and Naomi stopped.

« GO! »

They all moved. « With you two here, I’m not quite as concerned about an encounter, but… HARD RIGHT! »

They all ran to the right. « In this field, it’s best to avoid encounters. We’re almost there! », shouted Nash. « LEFT! »

Nash and Deacon Blue went left. Naomi stepped right.

#SCREEEEECH#

A giant crab-like creature rose from the snow, and swiped at Naomi with its claw. A red 1000 appeared above her head as she flew skywards from the force of the hit. Naomi smiled and recovered in mid-air. « PHOENIX BARRAGE! », she yelled as she began to descend upon the crab. At least it matches Stan’s move… Not that it matters., she thought. Suddenly, nothing could be seen in the darkness but a red, vertical streak as ten blows landed, each sounding more painful than the next. Naomi, crouched behind the creature, looked over her shoulder to see that the creature still stood. According to the damage counter, she just did well over five times the damage done to her (for it was an elemental hit). The crab pivoted around, and readied its claw to crush Naomi.

« Papa’s gonna get some EXP! », yelled Nash as he rushed in and landed a punch in the center of the monstrosity’s back. A red 1059 rose above the spot where the crab-creature once stood. It skidded along the snow, rolling and flipping. It must have gone a good fifty meters.

« WHAT?!? », shouted Naomi

« No time! Into the dungeon! » called Deacon.

Naomi and Nash rushed in.

Naomi used a Fairy’s Orb, as Nash extended his arms again. « No portals… Huh? »

« There aren’t any enemies on the inside. », explained Deacon. « You’ll see… »

« You mind telling me what happened back there? », inquired Naomi

« Another attribute of the ‘Armless’ class. You must have noted his level one armor when you checked his stats, right? », explained Deacon, « The amount of damage they can inflict multiplies based upon the level of the armor they wear. Since higher level armor tends to weigh more, you won’t see an Armless in it. It slows them down and reduces their attack power. »

« Wait a second. That makes sense. », replied Naomi, « Too much sense. I thought this was a RPG! »

« Yeah… Well, you also saw his magic stats and physical defense, right? A basic magic attack, or the slightest tap can kill Armless. Not to mention, they have crappy evasion. », continued Deacon, « As one would imagine, they aren’t very popular in parties… »

« They just consume reses, eh? », said Naomi.

« Found him! », exclaimed Nash, « He’s on the second floor, like I said. »

« Okay. Let’s do the Jailbreak Jam. », directed Deacon, « Maestro… » Funk music began to sound from Deacon Blue’s person. He began to hum the baseline as they stepped into the first room. The room was cylindrical, and green in tint. Hundreds of characters were chained to the stone walls, lifelessly hanging there as mold began to form on some of them.

« Freaking creepy. », commented Naomi as they ran towards the stairs for the next floor.

The room on this floor was cylindrical as well, but was much larger. This time, thousands of characters were bound to the walls. The three looked around for Stan.

« I see him! », shouted Nash. « Level 84 Long Arm, Stan. Fifth row up. »

« Okay. Here’s what we’re gonna do. », started Deacon, « I’m gonna cut him loose. Nash, you ready a Hanged Man. Naomi, since you are the only one with his member address, prepare to deliver the final blow… On three… »

« What the-« , began Naomi.

« THREE! », Deacon leaped to the fifth row, and cut the shackles holding Stan in place. The character landed on both feet, and readied his spear. « NASH! NOW! », he yelled. Nash’s hands clasped together in front of his mid-section. Suddenly, a bolt shot from the woman’s hands and hit Stan. MISS. Stan began to charge Nash.

« Damn it all… », began Deacon. #whoosh# #CLANG# Deacon had managed to place himself between Nash and Stan, and block the blow. « ‘Bout time I got some action… », smiled Deacon Blue. He pushed Stan back. « Let’s see if I still got it… One, Two, Three… » The music emanating from Deacon Blue changed in an instant. Deacon was playing jazz music. Stan rushed Deacon with a feint from his spear, which Deacon quickly dodged. Deacon’s movement was different. More like what Naomi had remembered. As Stan pressed his attack, Deacon kept evading. He was light footing, ducking, bobbing and weaving. Like the music, he was mellow and smooth. He was bebopping. He looked somewhat comical holding that huge blade in one hand, and moving the way he was. Stan spun his spear at Deacon, but Blue slid out of harm’s way and brought the blade around in a wide arc. 550. The cadence changed, as did Deacon’s bebop. Stan attacked with a thrust, and Deacon Blue spun around behind him, slashed his back, and did a short hop backwards to avoid the blunt side of the spear as Stan brought it around. 932. Stan began to rush towards Deacon when he stopped in his tracks. Nash had connected with the Hanged Man. « All right. Let’s finish this job. », said Nash. « Okay. Now, Naomi, knock Stan off! », commanded Deacon Blue.

Naomi proceeded to do as she was told. When the final blow had landed, Stan’s body pixelized, and disappeared. She checked her member address list. Stan’s name was there again.

« Looks like we didn’t need to use the Flash-bombs… », began Nash.

Suddenly, they heard approaching footsteps from the stairwell. A strangely familiar voice began singing as it got closer.

« They’ve got a name for the winners in the world.

I want a name when I lose.

They call Alabama the ‘Crimson Tide’,

Call me… »

From the shadows of the stone steps crept the man with white hair.

« …Deacon Blues. »

.hack//CHECK – Deal
.hack//CHECK – Out