Once More unto the Beach
Post Number 1203 was coming. With it would come the last Fehler, my final target. Its imminent arrival had signaled itself in my bones for hours before the call finally came. “onmode-ky here,” I answered as I began suiting up already.
“Hi, onmode. Ops Control here.”
I paused. “Pixel, is that you? How is the Life of you?” I continued getting myself outfitted for the mission.
“I’m doing all right,” replied the square. “My first night manning the Con, and we’ve sighted the final Fehler. We have a live video feed set up by the Guardian of Earth. He detected it from orbit. I’m patching it through to you now.”
“The Guardian of Earth, eh? I’m surprised he wasn’t too busy showboating to notice, heh.”
“Well, uh. He actually noticed while showboating.”
“Ah, of course.” I opened my weapons closet.
“He would have given chase himself, but he came under attack from Commander P. Jefferson.” I could sense Pixel shaking his head as he spoke.
“Yeah, it’s a shame he considers the Guardian of Earth to be an alien.” I sighed. “Man, he sure likes shooting aliens. The Guardian just thinks it’s kind of funny, at least.” My screen showed the video feed ready, and I turned it on.
A writhing, twisting creature charged through the streets of a city thousands of miles away, its liquid-like black fur undulating as if made up of tentacles of ink. It snarled as it ran, its massive body nonetheless agile thanks to ten powerful legs and two pairs of gargantuan, though tattered, wings.
“Ah, so the final Fehler’s a mutated future passive periphrastic pseudo-subjunctive construct. A Class VI, no less!” I turned back to the weapons closet. Hmm, Alta’s magic wand could flip him inside out, but its effects could resonate with the grammatical anomaly’s unstable guts and rip open a spatial distortion. How about something a little lower tech? I picked up Rana’s sword. Perfect for fighting giant bugs.
“Our team’s giving chase now!” Pixel’s voice called me back to the video feed. “Target is heading toward Sanuk Sands. I guess he likes the seaside.”
I squinted at the screen. “Is it raining over there? But there are no clouds.”
“What? No, no, that’s hamster spit.”
“Newton’s on his 6,” continued Pixel, “but he’s managing to evade pretty well. Just a few seconds ago, he actually dodged a surprise attack from the Ninjamurai. The sucker’s huge eye clusters and fast legs sure are making things tough.”
I picked up the Gravitor and equipped it on Rana’s blade, tuning it to open up a small crevice in the Fehler’s dense fur shielding. “They can run-on all they want,” I deadpanned, “but no Fehler ever escapes me.”
“Ugh,” came the not entirely unexpected response from Pixel. “Are you trying to get me to do a facepalm? I’m just a face and nothing else, and you want me to facepalm???”
I chuckled as I added Thor’s hammer to Rana’s blade. The composite weapon was ready; it would slice into the Fehler and then electro-roast him from the inside.
“Ace Armstrong is nearly in range.” Pixel was back to all-business mode. “Wait, where’s he going?”
I turned to the monitor. Ace was piloting his fighter toward . . . a prehistoric isle off the coast, harboring dinosaurs. I arched an eyebrow as Ace engaged his Recycl-O-Ray and sucked up a tyrannosaur. “What the . . . ?” Ace turned back toward the beach as the ray transformed the dinosaur into—a laser rifle?! “That,” I pointed at the screen, “that is just weird.”
Pixel spoke up again. “Ace and Newton are successfully hitting the Fehler now! He’s gotten a bit tired and slowed down, but the shots aren’t breaking through that fur-ink shield stuff!”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m pretty sure we have a good grip on the situation. Maybe even a nifty encoded leaderboard implementation.” I turned on my comm channel to all team members. “This is onmode-ky. The Debugger is ready. I repeat, the Debugger is ready. Steer the target toward the northern end of the beach.” I switched on my backpack black hole reactor and strapped it on.
Hamster spit and laser beams pelted the Fehler’s right eye clusters, and he swerved left. A trident suddenly crashed upward from underground and stabbed at him, forcing him to leap over a beachside restaurant, onto the sand. I checked the reactor’s power status. Not there yet. “Come on, come on!” I muttered.
An innocuous-looking cloud in the otherwise clear sky suddenly began firing divine energy bolts at the Fehler, diverting him toward the northern end of the beach— but then he charged right into the ocean! “Damn it!” I cried, “We’ll lose him in there!” The reactor was so close to ready, too!
Suddenly, the Fehler shot back out of the water and high into the air. The monitor’s speakers crackled with the sound of a voice angrily yelling about protecting the milk, and I spotted a small submersible piloted by a kitten, firing on the Fehler. The cat’s firepower wasn’t enough, though, and our target again dove back down toward the water. Three more seconds to reactor nominal power!
As I prepared my thumbs for the final engagement of my nearly 3 years as master copy editor, the Fehler once again neared the dark waters. All of a sudden, a giant crab wearing a Viking helmet crashed up through the waves. The Fehler slammed right into him and was deflected into the sky, out of control and confused as multiple allies fired on him. A beep sounded in my headset. Go time!
With expert skill, I entered my precision teleportation course in the blink of an eye: holding R, I pressed a perfectly timed sequence of directions and Square, jumping into meticulously carved chambers deep below ground, through the center of the Earth, and finally arriving above Sanuk Sands, right in front of the eyes of my last enemy. His eye clusters, reflecting the spectacular light show of firepower dancing around us, caught a glimpse of me for just an instant. In the next instant, I was slicing cleanly through the full length of his gruesome body, burning every ounce of wretched, rank, misspelled flesh, organ, and bone into vapor and ash. I completed the cut and landed hard on the sand, while arcs of high voltage clashed in the air behind me, obliterating the Fehler’s final remnants and sending deafening thundershocks for miles in all directions.
It took a few minutes, but the turbulence eventually died down, and my comrades joined me at the beachside restaurant.
“Sorry I was almost late,” Clawrence sheepishly apologized as he sipped from an open coconut. “I lost track of time chatting with my new coworker. She’s a test pilot in space!”
“Late? Dude, what are you talking about?” Ace swallowed a bite of his cheeseburger. “That was great timing! You, too, Freek! This poor restaurant almost got demolished.”
“Oh, thank you muchly, Arm of Strength!” The little demon beamed at his non-hellish friends. “But my aim cannot compare to the aims of you and the New Tom here.”
Newton’s brow furrowed, but he said nothing, being busy drinking from a large canister of milk brought up by the kitten. The hamster needed to replenish a whole lot of moisture.
“You, too, onmode! Great job with the final blow!” Pixel’s voice was in everyone’s headset. “And I do mean final. So now that your work here is done, what are you, Chris, Jasper, JeremyR, and O going to do? Where are you going to go?”
I chewed slowly, swallowed, and took a deep breath. Looking out over the ocean, I pondered our last few years. We had done quite a bit. 1203 published posts. Hundreds of games reviewed. Incalculable numbers of commas inserted, moved, and removed. It had been quite the memorable experience out in the sea of the Internet, and I had made some good friends and shared it with them. My gaze turned upwards. Where will we go? “Second star to the right. And straight on . . . forever.”
Everyone turned and looked into the sky in silence. An era was ending.
“But don’t worry.” The team turned back to me. “I will, naturally, make sure we set a new course before we get too close to the star and burn up. That would really suck.”