Up above, a battle raged. The screeching of fire, the blasting of magic, and the thunderous cacophony of blows rumbled the vessel.
Up above, the wildfire of conflict burned bright.
Down below, a creature raged at the noise.
Burning vengeful anger radiated from the darkness.
Anger in his powerlessness.
The noise echoed along the dense walls.
He was mad.
“I am mad!”
His shouting rumbled below, his rage made known.
“I am mad and angry!”
The beast below rumbled with discontent.
Baxter was irreconcilable.
He barked furiously at the ceiling he had been dropped from. The chaotic din thundered up above.
“Gideon! Those are bad guys!” Baxter barked.
No one could hear him.
I may have lost my talky thingie, he surmised.
He continued to bark, hoping to gain someone’s attention. Gideon was hurt and he needed help. He saw Gideon get hit by the bad ink girl and fall over. He was so angry that he bit the bad ink girl.
And then that bad ink girl bit him! The nerve! She was a bad girl!
That had hurt a lot and then he somehow ended up down in this small room. He was angry and confused.
“You are bad! You are bad I will get you-”
A rumbling explosion rocked him to his haunches, pausing his barkfest.
He calmed for a moment, glancing around the tiny maintenance room. It was filled with pipes and glowing stuff, none of which he could eat, chew, or bury; which was to say it was all boring and not helpful. Baxter jumped, his stubby legs and newfound strength only getting him so far. He landed, feeling the metal grated floor buckling.
“Oh, Gid…” he whined.
He couldn’t let Gid end up like those new beast friends he met. Gideon said the demons got them even though he saved them.
It wasn’t fair!
He glanced straight ahead, seeing the reinforced bulkhead wheel door. He rushed the door and slammed into it head first.
He lay stunned on the floor, a tinny ringing echoing in his ears.
“Ow. Oh. It is a berry-light door.”
That usually meant it took two times to open. Except in this case the door sported only a skull-shaped dent.
Baxter stood up.
And then sat, thinking of how to get out of this.
“Oh, one of those beast friends had used the wheel.”
He lept, grabbing the wheel from the side and letting himself slide to the center. The wheel squeaked in protest. He lept again, then the wheel refused to budge, firmly tight.
He padded back to the floor, trying to remember.
“Righty-tighty… Lefty… Lefty-besty? Lefty-hefty? Lefty-lucy!”
Baxter was proud of himself for remembering. Then his ears went flat.
“But who is Lucy?”
A very important question; one without an answer.
He decided to find out as he reversed it, leaping and grabbing ahold of the wheel.
He felt the slow grinding as the stuck lock began to undo. He hefted his weight a tad and felt the wheel jerk loose.
He lept again, gripping the wheel and letting himself settle at six o’clock.
He didn’t know what that had to do with time, but he remembered Father’s lectures.
The door popped open. Baxter sat, sporting a doggy grin at his cleverness. He was a good boy. And when he got back to Gideon, he would beat and eat the bad ink person. And maybe the crow person. He liked chicken, afterall.
“Lucy must mean open. I wish I knew why,” Baxter chuffed idly as he pried to the door open with his snout.
It twitched at the new smells.
While the room he was just in smelled of hot metal, glowing stuff, and oil, this room smelled
He smelled gun oil, something he knew from Gideon. Gid had liked his powdery guns, they were loud and smelly. He smelled delicious rations, crate wood, dried herbs, medical equipment…
His muzzle pulled back as they gazed hatred at each other.
The bug-eye-guy. Or a Beg. He didn’t like Begs.
The demon slacked its flat-toothed mouth open, emitting a death rattle gasp.
Baxter did like that they made noise, it made it easier to deal with them as they all rushed to him. They were smart like that.
Baxter had found the easiest strategy after the hundredth one.
He rushed the Beg and clamped firmly on the leg. The demon reached down with its massive oak arm. And then Baxter death-rolled. The demon’s leg buckled and tore to pieces, wrapping around Baxter. The demon crashed to the floor and was then shredded to bloody pieces, splattering the room. Baxter had become a doggy blender of death, leaving only torn rubbery flesh and caked blood. He sat in the pile of forming ash, waiting for more. He sniffed.
And then sneezed, clouding the room with ash-dust.
He was really proud of Saddiffer for teaching him that. Saddiffer was a bad guy, but then Baxter beat him and made him his pet. After much encouragement and wrestling, Saddiffer had become a good boy. Baxter was proud of that.
The speckled diamond shaped stone glinted lightly on his chest.
He heard nothing in response. He must still be sleeping. What Gid did to him really hurt and made him really tired. That Monday girl was wrong, Saddiffer was not dying. He was getting better. Baxter felt Saddiffer was changing to something else. Once Saddiffer got better, he would come back and resume their wrestling. He remembered he had said something about cheese.
Baxter scanned the room, looking for an exit. While the smell of rations and herbs was tempting, he had to keep moving and find a way back to Gid. He would be a good boy and focus.
Another door, this one was already open. He snouted his way through, pushing the door open. A pale hand gripped the door, opening it up fully.
Baxter barked in a spook at the pale guy. He did not like those guys very much.
He steeled himself and stood still, allowing the demon to grasp him in its four hands. The demon gently pulled Baxter up towards its large zipper maw. He discovered this way after the second time. He had thought Gid had found him and struggled in a spook after finding out who was holding him.
The demon stuffed Baxter nose first down its gullet. And then Baxter pounced. He burrowed deep into the demon’s gullet.
And then struggled with all of his might. His vision had gone dark from the inside of the demon’s mouth, but he didn’t let that stop him. The demon gagged and choked as Baxter shoved himself down the gullet, the teeth doing nothing to break his hide.
And then the demon made no more noise as Baxter tore his way free, splattering to the ground in a black gorey mess. What was left of the demon looked like it was a suit that was unzipped, its thick legs stepped to and fro, trying to keep balance as the upper torso hung down as so much ruined meat. Baxter was soaked in black blood, dripping to the floor.
He shook it off, splaying the hall with black bloody spots.
He trotted to the demon, gently nudging the leg and sending it falling to the ground. They were like bugs and continued to move after being hurt. He did not like that. The legs thrashed about as the demon’s torso lay limp and ruined.
He did not have time to play and thus he trotted along the empty hall, a trail of ash traveling behind him as he moved.
“Gid!” Baxter barked, the noise echoing down the hall.
He sprinted to the end of the hall, sliding to a halt at the turn. He lept, crashing into a clicky demon. The crawler lay still, flattened by the intense and modular weight of the dog.
“You are bad!” Baxter barked an insult as he passed, leaving the demon to crumble to ash.
He entered another storeroom, filled with steel crates. He could smell only metal, implying they were sealed. He looked up, seeing the strange ceiling. It was made of dark metal, but mixed with that silvery steel he knew from the Rumblers.
“Popstop!” Baxter barked.
“I am Baxter and I am here!” He added.
Baxter sat, his ears twitching, trying to listen for a response.
There was no echo to his bark, meaning they might not be able to hear him.
“I need to get up there. They make everything so tall,” Baxter whined as he tapped to and fro.
Baxter scanned the room, finding no other entrance. He growled and grumbled. He spun on his haunches and scurried out of the room, running down the opposite fork in the hall he had missed. He scattered the pile of ash of the defeated demon, sending clouds everywhere. The door was wide open, implying someone had left it open.
Those bad demons must have broke their way in, based on the warped shape of the door.
“Gid!” Baxter barked.
No one responded.
He prowled down, hackles raised at dark doorway. He peeked his head inside for a brief second.
He could sense it.
A strong demonic presence emanated from the room.
“I am going to get help, Gid! But first…”
Baxter prepped himself, this wouldn’t be like the Begs, clicky guys, or pale guys. Or that pink guy.
This was different.
It better not be a breathe guy!
He hopped over the tall door lip, entering into the dark. His eyes quickly adjusted to the horror scene in front of him.
A strange twisted being was digging through piles of blood caked ash, in search of something.
It was staring at him while it continued its work. It appeared to be a deer demihuman, only discernible from half of its remaining body. The other half was a mass of twisted jutting black razor bone. It craned its imbalanced head, only one horn remained on the other demihuman half.
It stood awkwardly, its legs and feet mismatched.
The demihuman spoke, its guttural clicking voice pausing between words.
“You have it too. You’re just like me. Just like us. Brothers. Except… Royalty…”
Baxter raised his hackles, growling at the abomination in front of him.
“Will you aggress, oh my prince? Will you not let peace be your guide?”
It walked with a limp, the demihuman half dripped blood along the floor.
“You are bad, go away!” Baxter retorted brilliantly.
“Will you not allow this humble follower to assist?”
Another voice spoke. One he knew. The voice of the one he beat and then made as a pet.
Pheh, a poor attempt at lying. It is a possessed being. End him quick, master Baxter.
Saddiffer! You’re awake!
Not too loudly, by hell itself!
I am sorry… But I am going to fight this bad guy!
Saddiffer grunted at that.
Mm. Be cautious. He appears stronger than normal.
OK! You be a good boy and rest!
But I can still-
Saddiffer went silent, unable to disobey.
“It… It is not in control. It is subservient to the flesh? Why?”
Anger boiled out from the demon.
Baxter tensed, ready to strike. The demon only needed to get closer.
“wHy!?” The voice took a shrill edge to it.
It breathed out a black fog.
Baxter’s nose was instantly assaulted by the foul stench.
It stank, and that was it. Afterall, the demon he carried was specialized in miasma beyond anything one could imagine, unless they saw the remnants of Karmmrak.
Baxter rushed in, jaws snapping blindly in the dark fog.
“You stink and are bad! I will get you!”
Baxter paused, letting his ears work.
He heard the half trot of the demihuman prowling the edge of the room.
A strong oak arm slammed into him, skidding him across the floor. He was unhurt but this would get tricky if he couldn’t see them.
Baxter lashed out, gripping a rubbery arm and pulling it free. The tearing wet splatter indicated he struck home. He shook it furiously.
And then another large arm struck, crashing into him. This time he was ready as the arm rebounded off of his dense and heavy hide. Baxter scurried and jumped, pinning a demon down and crushing it from hip to chest splattering the demon in an outline of blood..
He heard more footsteps as demons advanced.
There are lot… What did Saddiffer teach me…
He had told Gideon earlier, right after the breather guy fight.
A large impact sent in sprawling. The possessed demihuman had struck, sending Baxter sliding to the entrance. A hoofed leg kicked out, slamming him to the wall.
Two strong hands gripped against his doggy throat, squeezing tight.
Baxter struggled, but was pinned to the floor.
Overall it was slightly uncomfortable. The issue wasn’t the demon he was fighting but the time he was wasting.
And then he remembered.
Oh! Yes. I can do this now.
Baxter felt the power flowing in him.
It built up inside.
And then released.
Black miasma flowed from his mouth and nostrils, billowing around the demihuman.
It instantly released and fell back, coughing and vomiting up black and red.
Baxter hadn’t seen anyone affected by it, but it appeared severe.
The room flowed with his own miasma, engulfing the lesser miasma and demon.
The demihuman fell to his side, writhing in its own liquefying body.
Baxter rushed, able to see through his own foggy smoke.
He slammed head first into the possessed demon’s own, splattering it to bone and matter. The body shuddered, going stiff as a statue. He glanced around the room seeing the other demons simply dissolve into liquid.
He liked his new ability, that meant he could fight many demons at once and save time for naps.
Except not yet.
“Gid…” Baxter whined, glancing back to the demihuman. It had fully dissolved, leaving only a brown soulmote and black stone along the floor.
Master Baxter, that is a demon stone and soul mote. I would collect them, Saddiffer interjected.
Baxter did like that Saddiffer gave helpful advice.
Oh. Yes. Hold please, Baxter replied as he touched the soulmote with his paw.
You need only think of it and it will store inside of me for safety.
Saddiffer was smart. Better they hold onto then letting other demons eat it.
The soulmote winked out of existence inside the gemstone. Baxter grunted in approval at that.
And for the demon stone, it will increase our power and make me strong enough to manifest again.
But won’t it make me more of a demon guy? I don’t like Begs!
Not at all, master Baxter. It increases your own power, drawing more of who you are out to the surface. Simply crush it and the power will be yours.
Baxter gingerly picked up the gem with his mouth, tasting it. It tasted like rock, which was no good.
But if this helps Gid…
Baxter bit down hard, cracking the gem to instant dust. He felt the power of his very being grow.
It was a tiny drop in a vast ocean due to Saddiffer.
He understood more of what he was now. He was tougher, able to take more punishment than before.
Worthless! We are already at peak toughness. A pebble dropped atop a mountain!
Saddiffer sounded grumpy.
It is just OK! We will find your pebble and everything will be OK!
Not that, master- you know what? I’m going to sleep. Do as you wish.
I will. OK sleep well!
Baxter inspected the room, finding the miasma cleared and the room was filled more than ever with ash. The door to the next room lay crumpled along the ground. Straight ahead was strange device that caught his eye. A vertical sliding door on the far wall. The glass had been shattered, scattering the area with tempered glass. Inside was enough room for several loaves of bread, or one loaf shaped dog. He jumped up to the edge, sniffing and inspecting the strange wall box. It smelled of glass and demon ash. The ash’s unique smell did cover most everything else. However the strong smell of onions tipped him off that it was used for food. Possibly moving food. Humans loved their food, just like he did. Where differences diverged was how they interacted with food. They loved creating food for other people to have; something that was foreign and strange to him. They created vast systems to make food and dispense it to other people, food Baxter got to enjoy sometimes.
This was one of his pastimes made manifest again; sniping food.
Baxter sniffed at the box, closing his eyes in thought. His mind sharpened, reaching a genius muse.
“Hm. A dumb-waiter. Modernized.”
He wiggled his rump at that.
“Federacy brand. Built in quantum computing apps with reinforced weight limit for large parties.”
He opened his eyes, his analysis complete.
“This is just great!”
The genius had vanished to the aether.
He hopped inside, making sure to keep his own weight low. And then the hard part.
“Oh. How do I get it to move?”
“Please move,” Baxter asked kindly.
A mangled jingle rang from the box, startling the dog.
“Voice commands activated. Which floor?”
“Uh, yes. I am lost. Which floor gets me to Gideon?”
“Uh, sir, I am unsure of what you mean by ‘floor Gideon’,” the dumbwaiter responded.
Baxter’s ears drooped at the unhelpful program.
“However I do sense there are individuals in three of our main event rooms attached to this SuperWaiter Deluxe.”
Baxter’s ears perked at the helpful program.
“In the theater club room, I have over five dozen guests. In the ballroom observatory, I have seventy three guests and ERROR UNKNOWN.”
Baxter flinched at the sudden blaring voice.
“And then I have over two hundred in our lower entertainment room. Which would you like to send to?”
Baxter thought hard. He had little idea what those rooms meant apart from that they were places where people went to eat special food and move around while making noise.
“Uh. Yes. Hold please.”
Baxter thought for only a moment.
“Let us go to the threat-er room!”
That room must be where Gid was, as he was fighting a threat. Only a threat-er room would contain such monsters!.
“You mean the theater room? Of course.”
“Ah, there is a blockage, please contact maintenance. Was there another room you would like to send to?”
Baxter chose the next on the list.
“The lower entertainment room!”
Except he didn’t.
You didn’t have so many terminals in that room unless you wanted entertainment. His logic was vacuum sealed solid.
“Of course sir, transporting now.”
The dumbwaiter clicked as the gears whirred, broken glass jingled as it was disturbed. Baxter needed to go up.
And then he began to descend.
His ears perked up as he let out a whine. This was the wrong way.
“Uh. No. Please go up.”
“I’m sorry, I do not understand what ‘room up’ is!”
Baxter began barking furiously.
“You are bad! Go up! Go up and help Gid!”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know-”
“YOU ARE BAD! Go up! Go up!”
Baxter was irreconcilable.
He barked a furious torrent of demands and insults.
“You are very bad!”
The dumbwaiter shifted, suddenly moving sideways. Baxter squeaked in surprise. While it was a good dumbwaiter, it was also a bad dumbwaiter.
Dim lights flashed in front of him as he traveled.
And then he descended again, feeling no jarring motion. And then the dumbwaiter stopped, leaving him to stare face to face with a pale jammer. It had bent down, inspecting the hole, curious of the loud barking.
They glanced at each other.
“Uh. yes. Hold please. Go up, please.”
“I’m sorry, I-”
Baxter was grasped by the pale jammer and tossed out of the dumbwaiter, with a whine-bark as he dropped to the sloped center entertainment aisle. The demon silently padded to him, the noise from the entertainment viewscreen continued on despite the initiated combat.
“-frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn-”
Baxter’s ears perked at hearing the ancient entertainment. A strange place where humans grabbed hot corn and watched other people talk. Sometimes it was relaxing.
Baxter didn’t have time for games or fun. Gideon needed help. Shindow needed help. He got to his feet, charging at the rushing demon. The demon swiped down with it’s hands, attempting to smack the dog away. Baxter lept, aiming for the knee. He plowed through it, snapping it in half and shearing through it like industrialized machinery equipment. The demon fell to its stomach, catching itself before touching the ground. Baxter spun and lept atop the demon and jumped with his front paws, splattering the demon in half. He followed up, gripping the demon by the neck and shaking hard. A satisfying series of crunches rang out. The demon’s arms and legs continued to gently move about but the demon was largely pacified. Baxter glanced to the viewscreen, seeing two people talking. It happened a lot in entertainment. He glanced at the seating, seeing all eyes on him.
“Oh. I am sorry,” Baxter whined.
The brawler and crawler demons shuffled about, turning to face the dog. They were scattered all throughout the room, with many watching the strange video, eyes affixed. And then one let out a gasping death rattle. Triggered by the voice, all of the demons turned and rushed.
Baxter barked with a growl.
“No! You are all bad and I do not have time for you!”
He breathed in, feeling his power build up.
He then breathed out death as a large plume of miasma expanded and blossomed, catching the front line deep within the sickening fog. Baxter turned and scurried back to the dumbwaiter, hopping back in.
“Please Mr. Waiter. Go up.”
“I’m sorry, I cannot-”
Baxter had a sudden brilliant idea.
“Please go to the room I have not been to!”
“Understood. Heading to the Ballroom Observatory.”
“Oh boy, you are a good waiter!”
“Understood, SuperWaiter Deluxe thanks you for your review!”
The dumbwaiter ascended from the bedlam of below. The dimly lit shaft strobed in front of him.
“Gid!” Baxter barked, unable to help himself.
He would help Gid. He would beat the bad guys; the ink girl, the crow robe, and the breathe guy. Then they would feast, just like Karmmrak.
He would rescue Gid and be a good boy.
The lift slowly peaked the exit to the ballroom. The room was dark. It was a blackness Baxter had never seen before. It was too black.
He couldn’t see into the room. He felt off. Something was wrong about everything he was feeling and seeing. his hackles raised, his growl changing into a whine.
Saddiffer! This is bad!
He heard no response.
“Gid!” Baxter barked, his voice muffled.
I need to help Gid!
Baxter steeled himself over the icky feelings and lept out of the dumbwaiter. He glanced back, seeing it too had vanished into the ever-Nothing. There was no returning.
“Gid!” Baxter bayed desperately in the dark.
He scurried along, showing no signs of going anywhere.
“Gid where are you?”
Baxter whine and howled, hearing no response. He dug at the blackness, unable to scratch it.
The child’s voice spoke, part innocence, part malevolence.
Baxter slowly turned seeing the staring face. The dead eyes and sharp toothy mouth. The massive large bigness of it overwhelmed him.
“Hi!” She crowed.
Baxter shivered, unable to control the fear he felt.
“You’re weird!” She added with a giggle.
“Who are you?” He asked, his desire to help Gideon overruled his fear.
“He didn’t tell you?”
“No… Uh. He didn’t?”
Baxter was confused by what she meant.
“It’s strange, you’re a tiny dog standing on the shoulders of a mountain.”
“I am not a tiny dog! I am Baxter!” He barked a retort.
“Tiny dog! Tiny dog!”
“No! No! No! Stop it!” Baxter howled in response to the teasing.
The being stuck out her tongue with a giggle.
“Where is Gid! I need to help him!”
“Gideon? He is alive, I guess?”
Baxter’s ears perked up as he sat. He cocked his head, staying silent.
“It’s hard to say, I’m not used to that. It’s all silly anyways.”
“Used to what?” Baxter asked quietly. The dark thing was scary.
Baxter’s ears drooped. He glanced left to right, avoiding eye contact.
“I do not understand,” he admitted.
She bust out laughing, Baxter went low to the ground, feeling as if he’d blow away into emptiness.
“You’re silly. I like you,” She stated plainly.
Baxter felt his rump wiggling against his will.
Traitor. He admonished his own fickle hide.
She was obviously a bad guy and he shouldn’t be friendly with her!
“My name is Void. What’s your name?”
“I said it before. I am Baxter,” he replied plainly, ears twitching at her name.
“Do you want to see Gideon?”
Baxter sat up excitedly, only to subdue himself.
“Oh boy- Mhm. Yes.”
“Here we go!” She crowed.
She opened her mouth wide, sucking Baxter in. He shrieked a howl at suddenly being tossed around. His vision stabilized as he spotted the group he was flying towards. The ink girl, crow robe, and breathe guy were standing near Gideon, luring over him. Baxter howled as he barreled right towards the group.
Ink girl spotted the howling dog and stepped back. Crow person only had a chance to lock eyes with him before he impacted her. His vision went white as he slammed into her.
He lay stunned, unable to comprehend what was happening.
“Baxter?” A familiar voice rasped.
“Ohh… My head… Again…” An angel whined.
Baxter felt himself being picked up, still dazed from the strange Void person.
“Oh. It’s that cute doggie again. I’m not saying because I like you; that’d be dumb…”
Baxter glanced up, seeing the angel blinking down at him. He was gently gripped in one of her large hands.
He glanced to Gideon, seeing him barely standing.
“Gid! Are you just OK?”
“Baxter? What the hell? Where did you come from?”
Baxter glanced to the ink girl eying him, her hands hidden inside her hoodie pouch. The breathe guy stood over them, statue sentinel.
He gazed to Gideon, face steeled firm as he nodded. He winked at Gideon, hoping he would take the hint.
He decided then and there, it would be his sacrifice. He would stall long enough for Gideon to flee and save Shindow.
I must do this. For Gideon.
Saddiffer butted in, admonishing.
At least have us survive more than a single year, master Baxter.
No. I must save Gid. I must do this.
The face of Void appeared monolithic above them, gazing down at him. All eyes were on him as he turned to address the crow robe and ink girl.
Gideon cocked his head.
Baxter did what he was best at. He would sacrifice himself for Gideon. It had to be done. He opened his mouth in a dumb doggy grin, doing his best puppy eyes. No one could beat him at it.
He turned to Gideon, winking again.
Then he said the words, initiating the conflict.
“Hi My name is Baxter and I love you.”
The divine beings squealed in delight as many hands blotted out his vision.