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The following excerpt is from Michael R. Underwood’s urban fantasy e-novella, Attack the Geek. This D&D-worthy “side quest” features fan favorite characters from Underwood’s UF novels GEEKOMANCY and CELEBROMANCY. And the best part? If you love what you’ve read, you can buy it for just $2.99 by clicking the buttons at the bottom of this post.
excerpt from ATTACK THE GEEK:
The beast emerged from the shadows, lit by lightsaber and flare alike. It held an axe that made Grognard’s polearm look like a toothpick.
“Fuuuuck,” Ree said, and they all fired. Fire, laser, and lantern light hit the creature, but it kept coming, hunched over to fit its giganticness into the tunnel. The creature snorted out, and Ree realized that the thing wasn’t going to stop.
Ree knelt to add her lightsaber to the pike formation. From over her shoulder, she saw another beam of green energy, and then the sewer was filled by a half-opaque green-colored brick wall.
“This won’t work. Everyone back inside,” Eastwood said.
The Minotaur hit the wall, and she saw the construct crack. Eastwood was sweating, his teeth gritted so tight, he was risking lockjaw.
Grognard stood, backing away. “You heard him. Everyone inside. We need bigger guns for this thing.”
“The way is clear!” Wickham said, pointing left. We can go!”
Drake said, “It’s a ruse. The gnomes will only be waiting for us around the next bend. This is the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis,” he said as the Minotaur hammered away at Eastwood’s wall.
The cowboy clasped his free hand around the other. His face was drenched with sweat.
“No time,” Ree said, grabbing Wickham by the wrist and pulling her back and into the gap that opened when Grognard pulled on the door.
The group rushed inside, and Ree ducked back into the tunnel to haul a sweat-slicked Eastwood after them as his construct crumbled and dissolved.
The Minotaur’s horn bounced off Grognard’s wards on the door, but the hammering continued even as the brewmaster closed the last latch.
Two sounds echoed at once as the Minotaur hit: the thud! of impact and the zot! of Grognard’s wards hitting the Minotaur back with the magical equivalent of a Mack truck. Ree wasn’t sure which was actually harder.
Ree pushed herself off the door and hunched over, resting her hands on her knees. Eat your heart out, Insanity. Action Hero is the new extreme exercise system. Guaranteed to keep off the pounds, just as long as your life stays consistently perilous.
The others collapsed to their knees or onto chairs. Eastwood splayed out on the ground, his chest heaving.
“Well, that could have gone better,” Ree said between gasps. She stood up and went to the bar to draw a pitcher of water. The pitcher went on a tray, along with several glasses. Ree balanced the tray against her hip and brought the water back to the group. This was something she could control, a chance to do something useful and distract herself from the totally-not-ominous-please-make-it-stop pounding at the door.
Grognard took the mug with a nod, then poured glasses and handed them out. “The wards will hold. Not forever, but long enough to put together some heavier weaponry and take that thing out. With preparation and this arsenal”—he gestured to the room—“we should be able to take on pretty much anything.”
Several heads nodded, muttering agreement. Eastwood just kept breathing. Ree had never tried to use a lantern power ring, but if their rules applied, it would be a herculean task to make and maintain a construct like he’d done. It just might have saved their lives.
Ree took a glass of water and went over to the scruffy man. She leaned over to get his attention.
Eastwood lifted his head and opened bloodshot eyes, then set his head back down and lifted himself up to a sitting position. He took the water and chugged the whole thing in one go. When it was all done, he sighed and said, “Thanks. You?”
“Didn’t get touched. That’s a hell of a feat you just pulled off.”
“Had to be done.” He turned to the group. “Don’t think I could do it again anytime soon, though.”
Drake set his rifle down against the table. “Perhaps we should reexamine the office exit, then flank the creature.”
“No. The wards work best when I’m in the shop,” Grognard knocked on his chest. “Proximal resonance. We’ll have to take it head-on. Joe, you’re the artillery here. What can you do?”
Uncle Joe was wrapped tight around his binder, shaking. He didn’t respond.
“Joe?” Grognard said.
“Nope. No. Not me. I’m no hero,” he said.
Chandra knelt down next to Joe and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Joe, we’re all in this. We all get out or no one gets out.”
Joe was shaking, his hands wringing, eyes downcast. “I’ve already lost too much. I just spent five hundred dollars in singles, and for what? We’re still screwed. We should just reinforce the door and wait until they give up.”
Grognard shook his head. “Turtling might work in V:TES, but I’m not going to just sit on my ass and buff the door all night.”
Wickham said, “If there’s such an arsenal in here, why do we need to worry about the door? We hit it with everything when it comes inside, then we dust our hands off and walk away. It’s not complicated, people.”
“By all means, then, give us your plan, Lieutenant,” Drake said. Ree could hear the hint of anger in his voice, though he hid it with all the skill of a nineteenth-century-esque gentleman. Ree still wasn’t 100 percent sure whether his home world was an alternate Earth, a parallel Earth, a subcreated Earth, or just an Earth specifically designed to be confusing.
Wickham crossed her arms, striking a cover-ready pose as she thought. “It shouldn’t be hard to create a field of cross fire, then lay down wards to channel it into a kill zone.”
“Why even let it inside? Can’t we put the wards on the threshold, open the door, and take pot shots from in here?” Ree asked.
“We could,” Drake said, walking back into the group. His head was bandaged up, making an odd sight with his goggles over a covered eye. “But the ward lines will disrupt any magical offensive, even with monodirectional wards.”
“So what will work?” Ree asked. “It’s not like we don’t have options,” she said, gesturing to the store side of the room.
“I’m not letting those things in my store, Ree. Discussion over,” Grognard said.
Talon continued, “Anything associated with Theseus will give us a boost, or barring that, something Greek will work a bit better than normal.” She went to the sword wall and pulled down a simple one-handed sword. “This Greek or Babylonian?”
Grognard shook his head. “Phoenician. Don’t have any Greek in stock.”
“I have a whole Greek kit set up . . . in my shop,” she said, setting the sword back on its hanger.
Talon said her magic was still Geekomancy, but from where Ree stood, it was a whole different animal. Where Ree connected with characters for superpowers or skills with her magic, across her full range of fandom, Talon’s Geekomancy drew directly on the fighting styles and weapons. If Ree was a Geekomantic Bard, Talon was All-Fighter, All-The-Time. Talon could match weapons and the armor to a movie or show to min-max her way to godly Fighter status. But she was more than dangerous enough with any weapon that she could tie to a film.
“So, barring that, just heavy-duty magic,” Ree said, trying to keep the conversation rolling in the get-shit-done direction, since the pounding on the door wasn’t letting up, though she noted that the zot sounds were a lot softer and the gaps between thuds shorter.
“The combined efforts of a half-dozen blasts and blows rolled off of that creature like it was an afternoon drizzle. Merely repeating our previous folly stands little chance of success. We must think smarter, not bigger,” Drake said, adjusting a gauge on his rifle.
“So why are you talking?” Wickham said.
Something inside Ree snapped. That’s it.
“You know what? Fuck you, you worthless piece of shit. You belittle my friends, you can’t be bothered to pick a real weapon for a fight, and you’ve got your head stuck so far up your own ass that you can use your boobs for goggles.”
Wickham’s head snapped back like she’d been slapped. Another minute, and Ree might just do that anyway. Fuck with me is one thing. Fuck with my people and you can bleed out in a cold alley right in front of me while I keep sipping my cappuccino.