CHAPTER 3 - The Looking Glass (3)
Alex shifted direction, and ALICE’s voice dug into his psyche.
“This counts against your time, you know. 56 minutes, 47 seconds. 46. 45…”
“You aren’t helping, darlin’. Speaking of not helping…”
He lifted the weapon and dropped to a kneeling position, his body acting on muscle memory as he drew her scope to his eye.
“Always the savior…” There was a light giggle in ALICE’s voice.
“Never the bride.”
Through the scope, he saw the ‘assailants,’ larger than ordinary wolves with pitch-black fur and faint… Were they on fire? He grasped a magazine and slammed it into the receptacle beneath the weapon. A thousand and a half thoughts rushed through his mind in that split second of action before he pulled the charging handle and passed his hand over the chamber.
ALICE’s voice was more severe than before, and Alex picked up on her tone. “Do you have the right to interfere?”
He smiled, and his index finger comfortably rested on her trigger. “Can I afford not to?” His steadying hand passed over the magazine and the chamber. The blue liquid within the rifle sank a small amount before his free hand returned to the steadying position under the barrel.
He waited a second. Then another. His breathing slowed, pausing completely at the apex of exhalation. The scope enveloped the entirety of his consciousness. His finger flexed slowly, tugging on the trigger.
He saw the lead wolf, the largest of the group, fall to the ground. Through the scope, he observed calmly as the defenders looked around in shock and fear.
He pulled the charging handle and resettled his stance before repeating the gestures over and over.
One after another, the wolves collapsed, each shot leaving a corpse covered in ice from the shoulders up. Alex scanned the area with trained precision before standing up and lowering ALICE as her voice rang out.
“29. 28. 27…”
“Do me a favor and shut it.” He began running once more, this time towards the caravan he had just saved… hopefully.
ALICE didn’t seem to care for his words. ‘26. 25. 24…’
The noisy AI had counted down another four minutes before Alex reached the wagons, slowing his approach a hundred meters out. As if on a verbal command, ALICE drained some of her mana reserves, and Alex’s tactical gear took on an appearance resembling the guards around the caravan.
‘OPTICs activated.’ Even ALICE herself mirrored a longbow seen held by the guard atop the lead wagon. Her voice was directly in his mind now.
Alex himself didn’t respond as he neared the wary travelers. With a cordial wave and naught a care for his own well-being, he strode right up to the nearest person. A human over a foot taller than his six-and-a-half-feet and with faintly green skin turned toward him from one of the wolf corpses. The man’s hands were bloody, like he had been digging inside the body.
The man stood and brought an enormous greatsword to bear. Alex couldn’t help but notice the trained stance the man took while wielding the weapon, but his guard didn’t raise in the slightest.
“Whoa, buddy! No threat, just a passerby. Hope I helped; it seemed like you needed it!”
Others soon joined the guard, and they traded words in a strange language before looking back at Alex. Just as the soldier was wondering if he’d need to learn yet another foreign language, the initial guard spoke in unbroken English.
“You are saying that it was you who dispatched the Flare Wolves?”
Alex paused a moment before nodding, not sure if he should have revealed his hand just yet. His reply seemed to evoke a measure of distrust from the assembled guards as the frontrunner spoke once more.
“Bullshit! Why would a nomad take so long to appear if they were really such a help? Are you just seeking to claim the reward?!”
At this, Alex frowned and shook his head. A hand raised, jerking a thumb over his shoulder as he sighed. “I mean, I ran here as fast as I could after the commotion. What more do you want from me?”
The guards looked at each other, confusion apparent on their faces as they broke into chatter in that same foreign language full of guttural grunts. The conversation didn’t last long before they all turned towards him and raised their weapons like he was a threat.
At that point, ALICE’s voice invaded his thoughts once more, unheard by the others.
‘Way to go, Fenrir. Not even 3 hours in wherever the fuck we are, and you’re going to die.’