I opened my eyes and found myself looking up at a starry sky. At first, I thought nothing of it thinking it was some kind of dream. Of course I was laying outside. That made sense. But actually it didn’t. What was the last thing I remember?
I was sitting on my bed typing on my lap top. I was watching the latest Good Mythical Morning YouTube video. I was finishing off the latest touches of Pokémon Adventures #22. I was looking back and forth between the Word Document and the video. Document. Video. Document. And now where am I?
I sat up and looked around. In every direction there were large, deciduous trees rising up into the sky. Through holes in the forest’s canopy I could make out stars. I wasn’t a huge astronomy nerd, but the stars seemed to be a little off. They had a reddish glow. I looked around and saw nothing much more trees. I was laying on a small clearing of grass, leaves, and twigs. My clothes were partially soaked by the wet grass around me and the small droplets of water that fell from above. A small breeze rolled through the forest and I felt a chill run up my spine.
I stood up and brushed some dirt off of me. This definitely isn’t a dream. I’ve had lucid dreams before, but this seemed almost hyper-realistic. More real than real life almost.
Another breeze blew by and a few more rain drops fell from the tree tops. I contemplated yelling out, but something kept me from doing it. Was there someone watching me?
I turned around and looked at the trees behind me, but nothing was there.
“H…hello…?” I said. My voice was hoarse and I cleared my throat.
“Hello?” I said a bit louder.
Nothing answered me. The forest was incredibly silent. I heard no birds or insects. Just a small breeze and a vastly empty forest.
“Hello!” I yelled and it echoed.
The air around me seemed to shimmer for a little bit. The trees became blurry and I felt dizzy. I fell to one knee and put my hand out to keep me from falling over. The wind picked up. It blew faster and faster and I tried to block the wind with my other hand. Suddenly there was a louder and louder uproar.
I heard a woman’s voice ringing into my ears and the shimming stopped. The wind stopped and the leaves above stopped rustling.
The voice rang again and suddenly I found myself in the midst of chaos. It looked initially like the forest I was just in, but it was not calm and silent. There was a serious of loud explosions and I found myself lying on the ground.
A woman stood over me and shook me. I did not recognize her but something in her eyes made me trust her. She looked strong and determined, but I saw a bit of fear behind the eyes.
“Who…who…” I stuttered.
“I can’t believe it worked,” She muttered to herself.
Another loud explosion rang out and bits of dirt and mud showered both of us. She coughed and then lifted me off the ground. The woman was covered in a black armor with red highlights from the neck down she held a large futuristic rifle in her right hand. Others ran by wearing armor from head to toe with guns pointed forward. The forest was now some kind of warzone with fires burning and trees toppled over. The clearing was now a pocket of small craters and scorched earth.
“Hey listen to me,” The woman said to me. Her face was incredibly close to mine, but her voice still seemed far from mine. “We need to get you out of here. They want you.”
“Who…who is they?” I asked.
“This is not the time. You need to come with me, ok?” The woman asked but I had a feeling it was more of a command.
I nodded my head.
A mortar of blue energy soared overhead and there was a large flash of blue. The heat and the light was almost too much, but the woman steadied me.
“Come with me, Allen,” The woman grabbed my hand and dragged me forward towards the newly created crater. Blue flames littered the ground and hundreds of people laid dying. I was dragged along unable to take everything in.
This has to be a dream.
The woman leading me then turned around and let off a few rounds from her riffle. There was a series of small blasts and red energy shot out of the front of the gun into the dark forest before us.
“I think they have us surrounded,” The woman looked around and then held her rifle with both her hands.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“The cards. A robot army commanded by R. They must have found out our plan to summon you here,” The woman said.
“Robots? Summon Me? What?” I shook my head. “What is going on?”
“I can’t really explain right now, but just know that we’re the good guys and they are the bad guys. We need to get you out of here. If they find us, they will capture you and kill me,” The woman explained.
“My name is Red,” The woman said.
“Right. And you already know who I am, right?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yeah we all know who you are.”
There was a large rumbling nearby and Red whipped around.
“Duck down,” She said.
We both walked backwards and we ducked into a nearby crater.
Three robots emerged from the smoke and fire. They were large and heavy. Easily 10 feet tall and made from slick armor. Two had large red hearts painted on their chests while the other had a large clubs symbol, like a three-leaf clover, on its chest. The one with the club on its chest looked older and more damaged and it was missing one arm. The heart ones had a large cannon arm which radiated a blue glow.
My eyes grew large and I looked over at Red. She looked back and placed one finger over her mouth to indicate we should be quiet. My heartbeat was in my ears and I was breathing heavy, but I did my best not to make any noise. I closed my eyes and wished for it all to be over. I focused and I concentrated and I felt this warm feeling come over me.
“Holy crap,” Red said.
I opened my eyes and glanced over at Red. She was staring straight ahead.
I glanced over and the robots seemed to shimmer. It was just like before. The air seemed to shimmer and the robots slowly crumpled together. One of the heart robots lifted its arm and a blast of blue flames grew from the cannon arm. However, the flames immediately curled back on the robots and the shimming air seemed to form a sphere around the robots. The sphere grew smaller and smaller and the robots were compressed together. A terrible scraping and crunching sound ran out and echoed throughout the forest.
“Come on, let’s go!”
Again Red was dragging me through the forest.
She reached up and grabbed a small device of her left shoulder. It looked like a cellphone mixed with a credit card. A flat plastic disk as thin as a card but it displayed a series of numbers. She tapped a few numbers and it lit up.
“Come in, Green Fox. Come in.” She spoke into the device. “Red Wolf checking in. I have the package. It’s him this time. We have him.”
There was a moment of silence and then crackle of static.
“Green Fox checking in. Bring the package to the rendezvous point and we will meet you there.”
“Affirmative, Green Fox. We are a few minutes out.”
Red shoved the device back into the pocket on her left shoulder.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Don’t worry, Allen, we will be at the base soon. Then we will explain everything to you,” Red said. “I’m just glad we got the real one this time.”
I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I felt like I shouldn’t ask. Plus all of this running made my body hurt. Red could probably run marathons, but I wasn’t her.
We eventually made it up a small hill and into a clearing. I stood there bent over breathing hard. My head was dizzy.
Red stood there looking about. She held her gun with a tight grip.
I looked up and saw the forest behind us. The path where we just were seemed like a giant blaze of blue flames. Large billows of smoke rose up from several spots in the forest.
“How many people were in there?” I asked through shallow breaths.
“A few hundred. They knew what they were doing. They knew the sacrifice it would take,” Red said. Hot tears rolled down her face.
“You did this for me? I don’t understand. I’m just a regular guy. I’m not even in the army. I majored in English for Pete’s sake!”
Red continued to stare ahead. “Robin had his doubts…er… Green Fox. Whatever. But I knew that you would be here. You’re going to be the one that turns the tide of the war.”
“I…I don’t…” I stumbled to find my words.
“He is here,” Red said pointing to the sky.
Up above I heard a roar as the air whipped around us. Emerging from over the forest were two large helicopters. The blades whipped up the air and I tried covering my eyes once again. One stayed high in the sky as the other descended towards us.
“Is that the good guys?” I yelled to Red.
“Yes. That’s Robin,” Red said with nod.
The helicopter landed on the hill. The blades continue to whip up the air around us.
There were a few men stationed on the outside of the helicopter with large machine guns in front of us. A man hoped out of the helicopter and started to walk towards us. He wore armor similar to Red’s but it was black with green highlights where Red’s were…Red. He didn’t wear a helmet. He had large, blue eyes and a blonde beard.
“I can’t believe it,” The man said. “Red actually found you in the forest like she said she would.”
The man came up to Red and I and I just stood there standing. I didn’t know what to make of him. He threw his arms around Red and squeezed her tightly.
The man spoke with a slight British Accent like someone who was born there but moved to America as a young adult. Actually Red kind of spoke with an accent as well. Maybe Eastern European or German.
“Allen, this is Robin. Robin, this is the one. He’s the one we were looking for,” Red said.
Robin stepped back and looked me up and down.
A voice called out from the helicopter.
“Sir, we need to get going. Eagle 2 is spotting movement coming this way.”
Robin gave a nod and grabbed my shoulder.
“Ok let’s go, we’ll talk more on the way home,” Robin said.
Red and Robin exchanged smiles and then directed me to the helicopter. They helped strap me in and they put a black, helmet on my head. It was thicker and heavier than a bike helmet and I could tell it was some kind of armor.
The helicopter rose up and joined the other in the sky. Looking around I saw many trees move back and forth and a series of fire. Gun shots and blasts of red and blue light littered the forest.
“What about everyone else?” I yelled over the sound of the helicopter.
“We’ve given orders to them to retreat, but we don’t want them leading R’s army to the base,” Robin said.
“Right. R. And who is that again? Actually can you just explain to me what is going on?” I asked.
Robin and Red exchanged a look.
Then Red turned back to me. “To put it simply. We have been in an ongoing battle between the forces of evil. There is an evil dictator named R who wants to take over the world and you are the key to stopping him.”
“We are sure of it, right Red?” Robin asked.
Red turned to Robin. “When we used the Bookmark and summoned Allen, I found him in the clearing like it told me. He was enwrapped in some kind of light, blue energy shell. It shimmered like an illusion. I didn’t think he was real. I thought it was some kind of trick. But I reached out and touched him and he was solid. He was real.”
I looked at the two of them really confused.
Red continued to talk, “I called out to him and the shell faded. His eyes opened. Then as we were running through the forest, two hearts and one club almost discovered us.”
“The giant robots?” I interjected with my question.
“Right, members of R’s robot army,” Red nodded and then turned back to Robin. “Allen here was able to crush him with his mind. It was truly amazing.”
“Wait, I did that?” I said pointing to myself.
“What do you mean? Of course you did,” Red said.
“I…I… I thought you did that,” I said.
Red and Robin exchanged another look.
“Red, you said that this was Allen,” Robin said with a flat tone.
“It is. This is Allen,” Red said. Her voice quivered with nervousness.
Robin looked at me with intense eyes, “You’re a writer, right?”
“I…well… I do write some stuff for a website, but honestly it’s just little things. Short stories that give a few views,” I said.
Robin looked over at Red and gave her a stern look.
“I know he’s the one,” Red said.
“We will talk when we get back to the compound,” Robin said.
The helicopter became silent. The awkward silence filled the entire helicopter and you could cut the tension with a knife. I thought about saying something, but what would I say? They thought I was some special person. Some chosen one. I was just a normal guy. A 22 year old who works a boring job and writes occasionally on the side. Not some warrior or military strategist. I wasn’t going to hope anyone win a war.
But Red was so sure. She looked so happy when she first saw me. She spoke about me like I was some myth she had read about in books or drawn on cave walls. Maybe I really am some kind of hero.
I shook the thought out of my mind. No. I’m not some mystical being or hero of old. This isn’t’ some fairytale. This is real life. At least I’m pretty sure I’m not having some drug induced coma.
Eventually our helicopter started its decent towards a landing pad. The ride seemed long because of the awkward tension, but we were not in the air for very long. We touched down and soldiers hoped off of the helicopter onto the pad. Red went first and then Robin followed by me. The blades were spinning and I could barely hear what Red and Robin were talking about. My guess it was me, but all I could do is see their lips moving. The helicopter then picked up back into the sky.
“They aren’t coming with us?” I asked loudly, interrupting their conversation.
Red turned to me, “No. They were just our escort. There are others they need to pick up.”
“Right,” I said.
“Red, take Allen to his quarters. Get him situated and then come fine me in my office,” Robin said with a stern look.
“Yes, sir,” Red said.
We walked forward from the landing pad to the entrance of the base. It was built into the side of a mountain. It reminded me of the Rebel Base on Yavin in Star Wars.
Large metal doors opened letting us inside. The whole area looked like an airplane hangar and there were Humvees and other military equipment parked inside. The few people inside slowly turned their head towards the three of us. Robin went up ahead and started talking to a group of soldiers.
“Come on, Allen,” Red said grabbing my arm and leading me towards the other side of the hangar.
Red and I didn’t say much as she led me down a hallway. A few people passed us and turned to look at us.
“Are they starring at you or me?” I asked Red.
“Probably a little bit of both,” Red said.
Eventually we turned down a different hallway and then to a room. She punched in a pass code on the door and it opened.
“Here, this is your room for the time you stay with us. I’ll come get you when we need you,” Red said.
She began to turn away, but I stopped her.
“Hey wait. You said you were going to explain everything to me,” I said. “So start explaining.”
Red let out a sigh, “Yeah, you’re right.”
I walked into the room and she followed me. The room was big and spacy. There was a bed, a desk, and not much else. It looked pretty bare.
“Quite roomy,” I said.
“Yeah. Not all the quarters are this nice. This was an officer’s room, before we kind of ran out of officers to fill rooms. It should do for you,” Red said.
“Yeah it’s great. Thanks,” I said.
I sat down on the bed and Red stood in the doorway.
“Do you mind if I go change first?” Red asked.
I just noticed she was still in her full body armor and she still had her gun.
“Oh yeah! Sorry. Go do that and then you’ll come back, right?” I said.
She gave a nod and then left the room.
I sat on the bed waiting for her to return. Looking around I quickly realized that I had nothing to do and that I was exhausted. Whatever adrenaline was running through my veins had worn off. I laid my head back and pulled the blanket up around me. I stared up at the ceiling and my thoughts began to drift. Slowly my eyes grew heavy and I found myself sound asleep.
I awoke with a knock on the door. I was disoriented for a second as I found myself in the captain’s quarters. To be honest I thought I was going to wake up in my own bed, but that was not the case.
The door opened and Red stepped in. She was no longer in her body armor. She wore a red tank top and black pants with matching black boots. Her black hair was down and a little wet at the ends.
“Can I come in?” Red asked.
“What? Huh? Oh yeah. Come in,” I said while rubbing my eyes. “How long have I been asleep?”
“A couple hours at least,” Red said. “I’ve spoken to Robin and I came back to explain some stuff to you.”
“Yes please. I’d appreciate it.”
“Well I’m not really sure where to start,” Red spun some strands of hair with her finger.
“Well. What’s going on with the people staring at me? Why do you think I’m special?” I asked.
“Well Robin isn’t as sure, but I believe you are special. I think others can tell as well. You’re not from our world. Your world talks about ours like it’s some kind of story found only in books.”
“I think I’m more confused,” I admitted.
“Let me try again,” Red said. “This world is not the same as your world. In your world, we are only known as book characters. But this world is very real to us.”
“What do you mean ‘book characters’?” I asked.
“You know of me through German folktales and Robin from British Literature,” Red said.
She took a deep breath and continued. “I am…Little Red Riding Hood. Never liked that name. Robin is Robin Hood.”
My eyes grew large.
“Wait what? You’re who? What?” I jumped out of my bed, nearly tripping over the blankets.
“Allen, calm down. There is way more I need to tell you,” Red said.
I stood there confused.
I had so many questions, but all I could mutter was, “Why are there giant robots?”
“That is R’s army. The Red Queen built a robot army to protect the land of Wonderland from dark forces threatening her kingdom. R managed to infiltrate Wonderland and laid waste to the land. No survivors. He then took the army and reprogrammed them to fight for him.”
“W-w-wonderland. That’s real too?” I asked.
“A lot of the stuff you’ve read is true. Wonderland. Neverland. The Kingdom of Far Far Away. All real places,” Red said.
“Right. Sure. So you’re Red from Little Red Riding Hood and Robin is Robin Hood. The whole stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Robin Hood,” I shook my head.
“Well actually Robin stole from corrupt governments and gave back the tax money to the average citizens. But he’s one in the same,” Red said.
“I’m not sure if I believe any of this stuff, but let’s just assume I’m following what you are saying. Now what does any of this have to do with me?” I asked.
“You are a writer. A creator with words. But you are also something much more important. I believe that you are the key to stopping R and his destruction across the world. I used an ancient relic we nicknamed ‘the bookmark’ and it summoned you here,” Red said.
All of this was way too much for me and it began to hurt my head.
“Look. Red. I know that you think that I’m some special person, but I’m not. I don’t really know if you’re telling me the truth or if this is just some elaborate joke or a really vivid dream. I’m really not sure about a lot of things right now. What I know is that I’m just a basic guy. Nothing special about me and no magical powers.
Red shook her head. “That is what Robin believes as well. That I made a mistake. But you stopped those robots in the forest. You did that.”
“I think that was a fluke. Maybe you did that. Maybe you’re the chosen one,” I said.
“No Allen, you did that. You have abilities to change reality. You can stop all of this from happening. I know you can,” Red said.
I began to interrupt, but Red cut me off.
“Come with me. I will take you to the Bookmark. Maybe that will help you unlock your abilities,” Red said.
“Ummm…ok,” I said.
Red and I walked down the hallway we had already walked down. However instead of going back to the hangar, we took a right and walked down a different hallway. We passed a few people who looked Red and I up and down, but they didn’t say anything. We made our way to a door where a set of 8 guards stood around in full armor with their rifles raised.
“Stand down, everyone,” Red said raising a hand.
The soldiers looked from Red to me.
“What about him?” One guard pointed to me.
“He’s with me, Beast,” Red said.
“Is this the man Robin was talking about? Doesn’t look very special to me,” Beast said.
I looked down at my feet unsure of what to say.
Red took a step forward.
“We’re here to see the Bookmark,” She said.
Beast mumbled something underneath his breath.
“Fine,” Beast said.
He turned around to the door and punched a code into a display on the wall. He then placed his hand on the pad and then the door opened.
“There you go, Princess,” Beast said. I’m not sure if he was talking to me or Red.
“Thanks,” Red said.
We both moved forward and into the room. It was a barren room with low lights coming from the ceiling. The door shut behind us and Red and I were alone in this dim room. In the middle there was a small, metallic podium. Underneath a glass case sat a two foot long, stone rectangular prism. It looked old and dusty. Like it was a relic of ancient Egypt or Greece or something.
“This is the Bookmark,” Red explained. “We’re not really sure what it means or how it got to us, but we were sure that it would be the turning point of the war. We had Daedalus looking at it, until he died in an ambush. Unfortunately most of the research was lost with him.”
“So what does it do?” I asked.
“We’re not really sure. But I come here every day and concentrate on it. Sometimes I hear whispers from it. It told me how to find you.”
“Really?” I looked at it with a look of confusion and awe.
“Yes. Robin doesn’t believe me, but even he couldn’t deny that it was amazing that I found one in that forest.”
“Yeah. I guess it is lucky,” I said my voice dropping.
Red looked from the Bookmark to me. “Why don’t you pick it up?”
My eyes grew large, “Pick it up?”
“Yeah, this relic brought me to you. Now I brought you to it,” Red said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s in a glass case and I don’t want to break it,” I said.
Red rolled her eyes. She picked up the glass and set it aside. The Bookmark was now exposed to the air around it.
“Well go ahead, pick it up,” Red insisted.
“I…I…don’t think I’m comfortable with –”
I was interrupted by a series of alarms right outside the door. The door opened and Beast stood in the doorframe. The alarms grew louder.
“Red, we got to go. R has found us!” Beast yelled.
“Oh crap,” Red said.
Red grabbed the Bookmark and forced it into my hands.
“Come on, Allen. We have to go,” She said.
“Uh…right,” I said.
She grabbed my hand and dragged me through the door into the hallway. I held on to the Bookmark with my other hand trying my best not to drop it.
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Beast said looking down at me and the Bookmark.
“He is the chosen one, I am sure of it,” Red said. “Allen will use the Bookmark to destroy R. Right here. Right now.”
Beast laughed as he noticed my nervous sweat. “I sure hope you’re right about that.”
I was not sure. This seemed crazy. I was just holding this rock in some kind of fairy tale world. I wasn’t a hero, but Red was keen on believing I was.
As we ran down the hallway, Red and Beast led the way. I was in the middle, and the other seven guards trailed behind. There were explosions and gunfire from ahead of us.
We reached the airplane hangar to see a war raging. People were hunkering behind walls. Many laid dead in pools of blood. Large robots stood in the large doorway of the hangar. They blasted streams of blue fire engulfing soldiers running about and firing at the robots. Each had large spade symbols on their chest.
“There!” Red pointed out to an overturned Humvee with a few soldiers kneeling behind it. One I recognized as Robin.
Red started to pull me forward and then there was a large explosion and we were launched forward. A few of the soldiers standing behind me were burnt to a crisp without a scream. Other fell consumed in flames, but Beast, Red, and I fell forward mostly unscathed.
“Come on!” Red yelled pulling me along.
Beast raised his rifle and shot a few bolts of bright, orange energy at the robots. One turned to him and raised his cannon. There was a blast of blue energy and the blue flames completely consumed Beast.
I try to scream out, but my voice was lost.
Red and I slammed into the overturned Humvee. Robin looked at us and his eyes grew wide.
“I’m glad to see you,” Robin said. His eyes seemed sincere.
“Love you too,” Red said.
In this moment I picked up that maybe there was something going on here. Were they in love? Dating? Married? I didn’t know, but I definitely picked up on something between them.
“What are we going to do?” I yelled.
Robin looked over at me.
“What are you doing with that?” Robin yelled eyeing the Bookmark.
There was another large explosion behind us and a few more soldiers were launched into the air with screams. They landed with a crunch and I flinched.
“He can use it, Robin,” Red said.
“We talked about this, Red,” Robin said. “He’s not some chosen one.”
“The Bookmark told me where to find him. And he took out those robots in the forest,” Red said.
“Red, I’m not special,” I yelled silencing both Red and Robin.
I continued, “I know you think that I’m some kind of special person. But I’m not. I’ve stumbled into this war and I don’t even know if any of this is real. I’m not a hero. I’m not a savior. I’m not a fairy tale creature. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t want to be a part of it.”
“Ummm…Allen,” Red chimed in.
“No Red, you need to hear this, ok? I am afraid and tired and I don’t want to be here anymore! I just want to go home and forget about all of this. I don’t know what you dragged me into, but I know that I don’t belong here.”
I finished and Red and Robin were both staring at me. Actually they were staring at my chest. I looked down and the Bookmark was now glowing with a dim, blue light. Symbols all over the stone structure was now glowing.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” Robin said.
Red smiled, “I knew it. You’re the chosen one!”
There was a loud scraping sound as the Humvee in front of us was lifted off the ground. One robot was lifting it up.
“Oh crap!” Red reached for her gun, but it was nowhere to be found. She had left it in her room when she came to retrieve me.
Robin pulled out his rifle and launched a series of red energy blasts towards the robot.
“Go!” Robin yelled.
“I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the party!”
A new voice entered the room and it echoed around.
“R,” Red said her voice quivering.
“Very good, Red,” The voice said again. “I’m glad you brought the boy to me and the relic as well.”
Red and I took a step back. The robot threw the Humvee aside and there was an explosion where it landed. The smoke began to clear and it became apparent we were vastly outnumbered. A few robots laid slain but there were dozens more mostly unharmed.
A man stepped forward between two large robots. He was dressed in black like a mix between Darth Vader and a Black Knight. He wore armor that was a mix of Dark Age’s armor and futuristic military armor and he had a helmet covering his face. Green smoke seemed to surround him, obscuring his lower legs and feet.
“Allen, is it?” The man asked, his voice still echoing throughout the hangar. “Nice to meet you.”
I looked back and forth between R and Red and Robin.
“You leave him alone!” Red yelled.
“Silly girl. There is nothing you can do to stop me,” R said. “You’re army lays dead around you and you are completely outgunned. The only reason you are alive right now, is because I halted my assault. I will soon put an end to your puny resistance force and take the relic for my own.”
Red looked at me with pleading eyes.
I looked down at the Bookmark and then back at Red.
“What do I do?” I whispered to Red.
“Try something,” Red whispered back.
“We shall never let you have him or the Bookmark,” Robin said and R directed his attention to him.
“Very well, Robin, prepare to die like the rest of your army,” R said.
He raised his hand and the robots raised their laser cannons at us.
“NO! Don’t!” I waved one arm above my head.
R’s attention went back to me.
“This is not your fight, Allen. You are obviously in over your head. So, if you hand over the relic, I will allow you to return home, unharmed. You can forget all of this and go back to your normal life. This will be nothing but a dream,” R said.
“Don’t listen to him, Allen! R is evil!” Red yelled.
R gave her a sideways glance.
“Allen, you don’t belong here. You’re just a human in a world of magic and folktales. You coming here was just a mistake that I can fix,” R said. “Just give me the relic.”
I held onto the Bookmark, holding it to my chest. I looked back and forth between Red and Robin. I didn’t really know these people. I’ve been with them a few hours. But I also felt a responsibility to them. Maybe I was a hero. Maybe the Bookmark did choose me.
I raised the Bookmark out towards R. My arms were shaking so badly, I almost dropped it.
“Very good, Allen. You are a smart man,” R said.
“NOW!” Robin yelled and then he ducked out of the way.
Up from above large, red spheres of energy started raining down from the sky. They fell downwards and collided with the robots. There were flashes of red light and then explosions as the robots were berated with the red energy bombs.
Red grabbed me and pulled me back towards the hallway. The robots turned their attention upwards where hundreds of soldiers fired down energy blasts from riffles while others dropped more of the red energy bombs.
There was a series of explosions and screams as the robots blasted the ceiling with their laser cannons and people fell to the floor.
“We have to go,” Red yelled as she pulled me along.
“What’s going on?” I yelled.
“This was an ambush. We knew R would come after you and the relic. We thought we could take him out here and finish this,” Red said.
“You used me as bait!?” I yelled.
Red’s expression changed to a mix of shame and fear.
“Yes we did, but I still believe in you, ok? That’s what Robin and I were arguing about. When I saw you there, I knew that this plan was going to be risky. I was sure you were the chosen one. That we needed to protect you,” Red said.
I felt angry, but I didn’t know what to say. All of this was just too much for me.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“We get you out of here, with the Bookmark,” Red said. “We have a helicopter waiting for us on the roof.”
“What about everyone else?” I asked.
“Either they will kill R and we can return in a moment, or they will all die and you will not be safe here. Either way we must get you out of here,” Red said.
I had no words. I just followed her as I held onto the Bookmark.
We found a set of stairs and we began to climb. The adrenaline of the battle began to wear off of me and I grew tired. I thought of all the people down there who were dying for me. Dying for some relic and a person who they had blind faith in. Or maybe they just died defending one another from an evil dictator. I’m not sure.
We made our way higher and higher and eventually we emerged onto the roof. Just like Red said, there sat at helicopter. A few soldiers stood nearby and waved us forward.
“Come on, Allen,” Red said pulling me forward.
I pulled back out of her grasp.
“You’re just going to leave people to die, down there?” I asked.
Red turned to me, “Allen. We don’t have time for this. If R catches you and gets the Bookmark, it’s all over. You’re the most important thing right now.”
“He said he could get me back,” I said.
“R said he could get me back to my world.”
“Allen, R is a liar and he’s evil. He’s murdered hundreds of thousands of people. He’s destroyed countless kingdoms. All he cares about is himself and amassing more power,” Red said.
“How do I know that?” I asked. “I don’t know anything about anything. I just want to go home.”
Red’s face became softer as tears started to well up in my eyes.
“We will get you home, Allen. I promise,” Red reached out her hand. “Right now we have to get you out of here. After R is defeated, we will find a way to return you to your home.”
“Ok,” I reached out my hand to meet hers.
“Now let’s go,” Red said and I nodded in agreement.
As we turned back to the helicopter there stood R. The two guards lay dead at his feet.
Red let out an audible gasp.
“Nice to see you two again,” R said.
R’s armor was covered in scratches and burn marks. It had more dents from before, but R seemed unharmed.
“How did he…?” I began.
“It’s not so simple to pin me down,” R said with a laugh.
Red stepped in front of me shielding me from R. “I’m not going to let you take him.”
“Oh I’m counting on that, Little Miss Riding Hood,” R said. “I like the challenge.”
R straightened his shoulders and cracked his neck. Green smoke seemed to form around him covering the bodies of the soldiers.
“You have to get out of here,” Red said.
I turned back and saw the green mist was forming all around us, blocking the way we came.
“How?” I asked.
“Try the Bookmark,” Red said. The nervousness resonated in her voice.
Neither of us had weapons and it looked like neither of us could escape.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” R’s voice echoed and seemed like it was coming from all around us.
Red raised her fists, “Come and get him.”
“Gladly,” R said.
He sprang from the gas cloud with tremendous speed. He moved much faster than I had seen someone move. R seemed almost weightless as he moved over the ground.
Red and R were locked into some kind of fist fight. Red tried her best, but R was able to move out of the way of her fists with his quickened reflexes. R would dodge an attack and land three on Red before she could react. He punched with his metal gauntlets and did some real damage to Red. Her lack of real armor didn’t help her chances. Red launched a fury of blows, but R was able to side-step out of the way. He swept out a leg and Red fell to the ground.
“No!” I yelled out.
Red laid there with the breath knocked out of her.
“I thought that would be harder,” R said picking up Red with one hand.
He began crushing her windpipe and she reached out trying to stop him. Red clawed at her armor but it was no use. The lack of air made her weaker and she was only moments away from death.
“Let her go!” I yelled raising the Bookmark. I was hoping it would do something. Anything. But it didn’t do anything different. It was still glowing with a dim, blue light.
R turned back to me for a moment and released Red. She fell back down breathing shallow breaths and coughing as her hands went to her throat.
“The chosen one doesn’t know how to work the artifact,” R laughed. “I guess you aren’t so special after all. Well it doesn’t matter. I’ll kill you anyway and then I’ll take the artifact for myself.
“Run. Allen.” Red said through a series of coughs.
I looked around but there was no place for me to go. I was cornered.
“Come on, thing, get me out of here!”
I took a step back and the green smoke touched my skin. It immediately started to burn and I yelled out in pain.
“Nowhere to go, Allen,” R said. “Hand over the artifact and I’ll make both of your deaths painless.”
R took another step towards me with a hand stretched out.
I closed my eyes and thought for a second. Really concentrated like I did in the forest. I focused all my attention on an escape plan.
“Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.”
A warm feeling washed over me and I opened my eyes to see that the Bookmark was now shining more than ever. It was glowing so bright that I could barely see it. Blue tangents of light spun around me.
“No!” R yelled.
He began running up to me, but the light seemed to keep him at bay. Apparently the thing was shielding me from R and the green smoke.
“Red, what’s going on?” I yelled out.
I couldn’t see much as the blue light became thicker and thicker. It spun around me going faster and faster.
I could barely make out R standing there, pounding his fists on the blue sphere and Red still laying on the ground, unmoving.
“Red!” I yelled out.
And suddenly everything was gone. The battle around me. R. Red. All of it. Gone.
The blue light continued to spin around me, but the spinning became slower and slower. The blue sphere became more and more transparent until eventually. The blue light stopped entirely. The Bookmark’s glow became less and less strong, until it was back to its normal self.
I looked down at it and it had changed shape. It was no longer a long, stone rectangular prism, but now it looked like an old scepter of some kind. It was still about two feet long with a rounded handle and a sphere at the top of it. It was a little lighter but still made from old-looking rock.
A chill blew over me as I looked around. I was no longer in the forested part of the rebel base. I was surrounded by snow. It was a few inches deep and it felt really cold against my exposed legs. I was not dressed for the winter weather.
I wrapped my arms around myself trying to stay warm as I held on to the scepter.
“Red!” I yelled out.
Nothing but my echo replied.
“Red! Red!” I continued to yell but the cold and exhaustion both zapped my energy.
I fell to my knees.
“Red,” I tried to yell it, but I was just so cold.
My thoughts became dizzy and my vision began to blur. I was unable to hold myself up and I fell into the snow. My whole body was sore and felt heavy as I laid there.
“Red,” I said, my voice soft.
Wherever I was, it would not be my saving grace. I would die here. Cold. Alone. Without hope. I wasn’t sure where Red was or R or anyone else, but none of that mattered now. I was dead.
My eyes began to close as I prepared myself for death. But my vision began to fail me, I noticed a blotch of movement on the horizon coming towards me.