The track to level 6 was quite dark and you pulled Ægir right back to a standstill so you could look for some kind of light in your inventory.
Digging around in your storage, you found a light orb and pulled it out, holding it up so that it could illuminate the track to level 6.
Ahead, you could see that there was some kind of cave, or tunnel, and then a bright light at the other end.
“Should we go?” you asked Ægir rhetorically.
You looked back over your shoulder at the rock bridge behind you, and remembered that there had been something back there that Ægir hadn’t liked so going back to the teleport pad on level 5 was out of the question.
“Guess we can fight the monster for level 6… then get through and get to the teleport pad there and go up to level 44,” you mused to yourself, nudging Ægir on.
You could hear him taking deep breaths in and out, still recovering from his gallop, but he stepped purposefully forward, at your request, and picked his way through the orb illuminated darkness towards the start of the tunnel.
As you got closer you saw sand ahead and the track through the tunnel turned from rock to sand beneath Ægir’s feet.
“A desert level?” you asked out loud as you approached the opening at the other end, as the tunnel had been quite short.
One more step forward and you heard a loud scurrying sound which maked Ægir jump slightly and pull back.
“Easy, easy,” you called to him, watching his ears flick forward and back as the scurrying sound echoed around the cave.
You were waiting for the [ENGAGE] sign to pop up as he shifted around under you, the cool of his watery body keeping you from getting too overheated and worked up.
“Steady, Ægir,” you coo’d calmly, urging him forwards again.
He took two steps and that all too familiar [ENGAGE] sign jumped up, alerting you to the fact that you had come too close to the boss of level 6 and you had unwittingly engaged in combat.
From your right, a HUGE black and green scorpion appeared, that loud scurrying and rustling coming from under its needle sharp legs as it raced out from the shadows to take you on.
“Back! Back!” you yelled to Ægir, still holding your light orb up above his head to see the scorpion.
Your steed flattened his ears back against his head and roared at the giant arachnid, baring his teeth at the level 6 foe as it rushed towards you both.
“Woah, boy!” you shouted as Ægir bounced on his front hooves and reared up a little, lashing out at the scorpion- who stopped when Ægir screamed out again.
You were clinging onto your water beast for dear life, one hand wrapped into the base of his mane as you clamped your legs harder around his girth to stop from slipping off as you held the light orb up.
Trying to figure out how best to take on the scorpion boss, you were contemplating jumping off Ægir to fight but noticed that the advancing creature had stopped and there was a fierce stare down happening between your stallion and this giant scorpion.
“Come back, Ægir,” you said in a low voice, “back up.”
Ægir’s ears flicked back to listen to you but he refused to step back and the scorpion made a hissing noise, which angered your horse and he flattened his ears back and screamed in defiance.
To your surprise, the creature stepped back and Ægir took a step forward.
“No… not forward,” you said to Ægir, “go back… we have to go back…”
It was clear that Ægir had heard you but as the scorpion moved back, your horse stepped forwards again… forcing the creature to retreat back into the shadows and let you pass.
You held your light higher to scare the scorpion into retreating completely and it did… backing right back and scurrying away until you had entered into the next level without having to fight it.
“What on earth?” you asked in awe as you and Ægir entered the next level.
You put your light orb away and looked around as Ægir headed out into the sands of the new level, raising your hand to shield your eyes from the blinding sun as you moved out into the open.
“What is this?” you asked atop Ægir, “a desert level?”
He snorted and you smiled. “I’m assuming desert creatures exist on this level then… just like the scorpion.”
Ægir shook his head and mane and you grinned again and patted his cool, watery neck.
“Thank you for back there. I don’t know why the scorpion backed down but I owe you a huge thank you.”
Ægir whinnied in response and you smiled then asked him to take you to the teleport pad ahead.
“I would love to stay in game longer but I don’t want Hansu to find out I’m doing this without him,” you said out loud to your steed.
Ægir approached the teleport pad and hopped up onto it, stopping for you to call to be teleported back to level 44.
Back you went, making your way from the teleport pad on level 44, up to Butterfli3 and O/N’s house, then inside and to the lounge.
“Wow,” you breathed as you awoke back in the dark lab, “that was a good trip.”
You packed everything away and headed for home and once safely in your bed, you sighed and thought ahead to how much longer you had before the mission wound commence.
“Only a few more trips in game before I can surprise Mirio with my progress.”
You smiled as you drifted off to sleep, your brain pulling forth the image of the scorpion and another black figure that was under a waterfall.
Was it your imagination, making up shadowy figures? Or had you seen someone hiding on level 5 that you didn’t process at that time?
Either way, you didn’t like what you had seen and your sleep was a little broken and interrupted.
When you woke the next morning to your alarm going off, you groaned.
“I did not sleep well at all,” you thought as you rolled over and rubbed your eyes, “but I’ve got a few more levels to go before mission time. Best I make the most of it while I have the opportunity.”
You pulled yourself out of bed and headed for the shower to get ready for the day.
That night you met Hansu in the lab.
“How many more dives are you going to do before mission time?” he asked.
“I’m not sure?” you replied, “but if I make it to level 10 at least, I’ll be happy.”
“What level are we at now?” he asked, pulling the nervegear headsets out.
“5,” you replied with a smile.