Phoenix Jones Rises

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The last time we heard big news from Phoenix Jones and vigilante superheroes for the most part was the arrest of the crime-fighter. That didn’t stop him though, he has recently come back and Sports Center is now going to do a feature about him tonight. The feature will show both his (Ben Fodor) MMA career as well as his super-hero identity and work. I personally am not a huge sports fan but I’m definitely interested in Martial Arts and of course vigilantism. Check out the feature trailer here: SC “Phoenix Rising” Trailer. And make sure you watch tonight to see the history of the masked hero.

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Chapter 3: Silent City

It’s been about a week of traveling since we left Quinn-Land and we have yet to see any civilization. We ran out of provisions about three days ago but thankfully Caleb has proven himself an exquisite hunter. We currently are making our way over a hill. As we reach the top our eyes grow wide in excitement. A village! And a large village at that! We feel our bodies rejuvenate with energy as we rush towards the town. Soon we’re at the front gates.

“Hello in there!” Ben shouts yet no one answers. “Wanna let us in?” But still nothing.

“Wait! Do you hear that?” Caleb places his head and hands against the doors and we all go totally silent. A thud can be heard from the other side, then another. I press my hand on the door alongside Caleb and can feel the light vibrations coming from the other side.

“What is that?” I ask confused and a little horrified.

“I don’t know, but we need to find another way inside,” Caleb takes a couple steps back looking up the wall trying to decide on a strategy.

“Michael would you please go around the east-side wall there and Ben could you go around the west and we can see if there’s another way in or a weak point we could take advantage of.” Michael grunts at receiving an order from the convict but complies.

It’s almost an hour before Michael and Ben make it all the way around and return to us.

“What’s the consensus?” Caleb asks them.

“Nothing on my side,” Ben sighs apologetically.

“Michael?” Caleb asks the quiet knight. Michael smiled.

“There’s a stable that reaches all the way up the side of the wall, we could climb up it and drop down inside.”

“Seriously? That’ll be perfect!” Ben shouts excitedly. Caleb nods and Michael leads us towards the stable. Within minutes we reach the rickety wooden horse-housing our gaze rising to the top of the stone wall with the peak of the roof just barely touching the battlement.

“That’s a long climb,” Ben says astonished at how tall the wall suddenly becomes when you realize that you’re going to have to climb it.

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Caleb says taking off his hood and thrusting his cape out behind him before leaping onto the bottom of the roof in one jump.

“Why does a stable have to be so tall anyways? I mean horses aren’t that tall.” Ben, Michael, and I stare in amazement as Caleb quickly and effortlessly makes his way up the structure.

“So are you guys going up too? I’d feel a lot more comfortable with someone else with him.” I state looking at the other two.

“I’m good, not a big heights fan to be honest,” Ben chuckles.

“Do I look like someone that climbs walls?” Michael sarcastically replies. I roll my eyes and mumble to myself deciding that it’s up to me.

“Volobu!” I shout and begin to float into the air. I reach the top of the wall and call out one further spell, “Dessoru,” causing me to slowly land on the top of the wall.

“And that’s the power of magic,” Ben sings jabbing his elbow into Michaels armor and retracting it in pain. I look back just as Caleb leaps to my side. I turn back to look below us, houses line the cobblestone streets but not a person in sight. I look at my companion with a confused look and he returns it.

“What’s the consensus up there?” I turn to see Ben and Michael intently looking towards us.

“Um, not a whole lot to report on honestly, there’s no one here.” I shout back.

“Well how about the tow of you head over to the front gate and let us inside maybe?”

“Yeah you got it.” I look at Caleb and the two of us leap down to a nearby roof of a small cottage and slide down it onto the ground. We look around each corner and move silently from house to house hiding behind each wall ready for any danger that might be hiding and waiting to pop out at us. Nothing. We make out the door in the distance and notice a figure standing in front of it.

“What is he doing?” I whisper to my companion.

“I think he’s…bumping against the door.”

“Do you think he’s blind?” Caleb doesn’t respond and rather disappears around a corner and reappears a few feet behind the man. Suddenly the figure spins around to face him, as if the professional assassin was as noticeable as an amateur, and starts to rush the rogue. I rush to my friend’s side just as he pulls out his dagger and with a quick sweep of his arm the being drops to the ground and his head, totally separated from the rest of his body follows close behind.

Chapter 2: On the Road

We walked down the dirt path outside of Quinn-Land; interestingly enough that’s literally the name of the town. We had stopped for about an hour in the village to grab supplies before we left, thankfully Quinn had managed to spare us some of his highly protected coin to pay for our general needs on this journey. He didn’t, though, give us enough money to get ourselves some horses which made me more and more annoyed with each tired step I take.

“You know what would be cool?” Ben suddenly chimes up.

“What’s that Ben?” I ask with a huff of exhaustion. Amazingly enough Ben carried a massive bagful of his wares along with us hoping to sell some weapons throughout this travel.

“What if we started a guild?” Ben states excitedly.

“What kind of a guild?”

“Like a mercenary’s guild, we could be soldiers for hire.” I nod lightly at this suggestion thinking it could be an interesting business to venture into.

“I like it,” I smile.

“Yeah? What about you guys?” he turns to Caleb who walks to the right of him and then looks back at Michael who is close behind. Ever since we left Michael has been closely watching and following the rogue keeping his hand on the hilt of his sword ready for Caleb to spring at any moment.

“What kind of money is in it?” Caleb whispers just loud enough for Ben and I to hear.

“Well it depends if we can make a name for ourselves,” Ben chuckles. “In fact if we really get going on this we could start making a reputation for ourselves during this quest.”

Michael clears his throat. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He states simply.

“Oh and why’s that?” Ben muses at the knight’s statement.

“Our mission is to find and capture this Jonathon and return him to lord Quinn, we should not be stopping for any other reason.”

“So you’re telling me that if you saw a child about to be viciously beaten by a plains troll, that you would just walk on by without helping him? Doesn’t seem very knightly of you,” Ben’s smile becomes an evil grin as he plays the part of the devil’s advocate.

“Well…I suppose I would stop in a situation like that…”

“And that’s exactly what I’m saying! Making a name for oneself can be easy and you can easily do it without taking too much time off your current goal.”

“Well I suppose,” Michael grunts.

“If there’s money in it then I’m in,” Caleb smoothly states. I swear I see a small smirk form at the corner of his lips.

“Well honestly I was planning on quitting as Quinn’s wizard anyways, so yeah I’d love to join,” Ben smiles proudly as I say this.

“That’s wonderful!” Ben shouts in happiness and turns back to Michael.

“Well sir knight, you’re the only one who hasn’t said anything yet what would you say to my offer?”

“My duties are with Lord Quinn,” he says dutifully not turning to even look at his addresser.

“Awe c’mon you can’t tell me that ole Quinn and you are that chummy,” Ben laughs.

“I am quite fond of the man,” Michael says not faltering his focus in any way.

“Oh? You say you’re quite fond of him eh?” Ben chuckles and glances in my direction with a wink causing me to burst out laughing.

“Now what is this?” Michael shouts turning towards Ben and I who are now both laughing uncontrollably. Michael stops and an angry frown erupts from his face.

“I’m sure you….and Quinn are just….best of pals,” Ben can barely make out his words between fits of laughter.

“Yes quite good buddies indeed,” I say with a wink followed by Ben and I toppling to the ground in hilarity. Suddenly Caleb himself begins to laugh a deep-throated booming laugh startling us all.

“HA HA HA I’ve changed my mind I definitely want to work with the three of you!” Ben and I pick ourselves up from the ground, this guy might be a little creepy but he doesn’t seem so bad. We continue to laugh at which point even the knight himself has cooled down and gives a little grin.

“I can see this journey being quite entertaining, and if we must stop then let us, but I can’t make any promises on your offer,” Michael says with a smile and continues walking.

“A maybe is good enough for me,” Ben states happily as we catch up to the armor-clad man and walk down the road with a slightly stronger bond than before.

Chapter 1: A Quest for the Best

“Bring me my wizard!” I can hear Quinn shout from the main hall. I sigh with annoyance, my research isn’t finished yet and I know that within seconds he’s going to send one of his knights in here to fetch me and Azorach knows they won’t take no for an answer.

As predicted my door burst open moments later, in steps a knight clad entirely in his armor. Slowly he reaches up and removes his helmet.

“Ah sir Michael,” I greet seeing the familiar face of one of lord Quinn’s most trusted soldiers. “I’m guessing you’re here to fetch me.”

“Yes I uh…” Michael stops in surprise. “You truly do have magic powers.” He states in amazement. I can tell what he’s thinking; he thinks I can predict things before they happen. Sadly, though, that ability does not fall under my range of magical powers.

“Yes well let’s get this over with quickly,” I say grabbing my cloak on the way to the door. Apparently the “master,” as he has so dubbed himself, gets frustrated when I do not wear the cloak that he claims makes me look more “wizard-ish.” I choose only to wear it so as not to be forced to listen to half-an-hour worth of complaining from him about looking more professional in his presence.

“Right this way,” sings the unusually tall knight as if it was part of a script. The man claimed he had giants blood inside of him and thus giving him his excessive increase of height. As he walks his metal armor clanks annoyingly, you might have been able to pick up on it but I really don’t like it here. Too big a place for one man and an army to simply live and rule over people whose needs are not being met. I don’t like being grouped in with this crowd when all I do is work for the man just like everyone else in this kingdom, only difference is that I’m in the same building as he as opposed to the fields or the mines. If it weren’t for the fact that I needed money to buy supplies to continue my research I’d quit.

It’s only moments before we reach the main hall where Quinn paced around looking furious. Behind him sits his gold throne covered in red velvet padding which he hated sitting in. Say what you want about the guy but I can totally relate with not wanting to sit around in a chair all day no matter how comfortable it looked.

“Oh thank Azorach,” Quinn exclaimed as I stand in front of him unenthusiastically awaiting whatever chore he is going to ask me to do.

“What can I do for you sir?” I ask trying to sound as interested as possibly. He takes a deep breath and I prepare for some long explanation, I might as well have put everything away in my study because I can tell this is going to take a while.

“Alright so here’s the thing,” Quinn begins his hands raised to his chest in preparation to gesture about to help emphasize his upcoming story. “You know the kingdom next door?”

“You mean the kingdom of Jordom? The King’s personal favorite and capital of the entire Jaaron region, as well as the primary weapons manufacturer and supplier of our military?” My tone of sarcasm is almost palpable.

“Yes, yes don’t make it sound so pleasant!” Quinn practically shrieks at me. “Anyways, by King Jaaron’s request a prisoner was moved from the kingdom of Jordom and placed under my care, a warlock going by the name Jonathon. Well in an effort to prank us the lord Jordom slipped the evildoer the key to his shackles and thus the warlock escaped our custody the moment he was brought in. Not only that, but he also managed to kill three of my guards and apparently put a curse on the woman who runs the royal clothing shop here in town causing all the clothes she makes to turn to the most awful shade of dull light blue you’ve ever seen.” He paused and noticed the robes I was wearing, the same ones he forces me to wear in his presence, and the color they exhibited: a dull light blue.

He looks back up and stares at me awaiting my reply.

“Well what would my lord wish for me to do?” I ask.

“I want you and a party of people of my choosing to go find him and bring him to me. ALIVE!” He practically jabs me in the eye with his finger as he shouts the last word, enunciating it to make sure it sinks deep within my brain. I roll my eyes, just what I needed a quest.

“Of course my lord,” I try not to sound too unenthusiastic. “When would you like me to get started?”
“Immediately,” he laughs as if it were obvious, he walks away and sits on his throne. “I’m guessing you’re wondering who I will be sending with you.”

“On pins and needles,” I mumble to myself.

“What was that wizard!?” Quinn shouts not quite hearing my complaint.

“Yes I would very much like to know sir,” I reply.

“Good, guards bring in the weapons maker!” The noble shouts to the back of the room where two of his armored soldiers stand on either side of his throne-room’s heavy wooden doors. They each reach towards each other and grab the handles in the center and swing the doors open revealing a dark figure from behind. In walks a short man but with a beard long enough to make up for his lack in stature. He walks confidently in each step a heavy one.

“It’s about damn time,” the man’s voice drips heavily with a gruff Scottish accent, yet quick and cool enough to make one think he must be a salesman.

“Ah Skyler this here is Ben a half-dwarf,” Quinn introduces. The short man bows to me his beard folding over itself as it hit the ground not far below him. “He is a weapons expert,” he continues.

“Any non-magic weapon you could ever want I’ve got it,” my new acquaintance explains with a smile across his face that one could barely make out if it weren’t for his happy tone. “Course you’re a magic user so I suppose that doesn’t do you much good,” the man jokes.

“Well I could always enchant one,” I suggest.

“Yeah? You can do that?” Ben states in surprise as if he’d never heard of such a thing.

“Sure that’s how all magical weapons are made all you need is a wizard or other magic..”

“Alright you two can we get back to the rest of the group before you end up discussing the creation of the galaxy and the meaning of life or whatnot,” Quinn interrupts hoping to bring the conversation back to himself.

“Your next fellow-quester is…well it’s a little awkward to explain.” Ben and I look at each other confused. Suddenly Michael and another knight enter the room holding a man bound by ropes wearing a hooded cape and mask. “This is Caleb a rogue who recently tried to steal from me and in the process managed to take out six of my guards.”

The man did not struggle but the two knights were very rough with him as they pushed him closer to the front of the room obviously unhappy with the fact they he killed six of their friends.

“Are you sure this is a good idea my-lord?” Ben asks and I nod in agreement. “Are you sure we can handle a convict?”

“Of course!” Quinn laughs as if it were a joke. “Let me tell you how our government system works boys. We lords have three things in this world: money, power, and people who want to take one of those two things from us. These people, once we manage to catch them, typically have a skill they are quite good at, otherwise they are dead by the time we catch them, these are useful skills that we want SO what we do is pay them to use that skill FOR us rather than AGAINST us.” The noble smiles as Ben and I look at each other slightly disturbed at what’s been going on in our politics inner-workings.

“Just watch,” Quinn turns towards his knights. “Michael would you please untie my new friend,” he smiles holding his hand out to the masked figure. Michael angrily pulls out his sword; the criminal does not flinch, and swings down slicing the rope from the man’s body. Suddenly the man, now freed, spins around and disarms Michael taking the knight’s sword for himself. The mystery man quickly kicks Michael to the ground before the knight can even look up leaving him unable to pick himself off the floor due to the heavy armor surrounding his body. The man turns to us and looks as if to jump towards Quinn, I prepare my staff and Ben pulls a mini-cannon from somewhere on his person aiming it at the assailant.

“Woah, Woah, Woah,” Quinn laughs nervously holding up his hands to assure us there was nothing wrong. “Caleb come here,” he motions to the man who walks silently to Quinn’s side. “This is Caleb he is a dark elf who has abandoned the rest of his race to become a mercenary assassin and a thief. I planned out this whole show as a way to impress you but I can assure you there is no need to worry he is completely loyal to me.” Suddenly the sword in the newcomer’s hand is at Quinn’s throat.

“I want you to get one things clear, I am not loyal to you or any other man but myself. I do this job for you simply for the money, got it!” The man’s voice flows smoothly from his mouth, his tongue giving the slightest hiss as he spoke.

“Well I’ll keep that in mind,” Quinn laughed nervously as he cautiously reached up and moved the sword from his neck. Michael was just able to pick himself up off the ground and glared angrily in Caleb’s direction.

“Will this be all m’lord?” Ben asks with a bow.

“Actually I have one more companion I’d like you to bring along,” the noble turns to his knights his hand outstretched towards them. “My captain of the guard Michael,” The knight immediately comes to attention and salutes.

“If I may ask m’lord, wouldn’t it be an unwise decision to let me go with them and leave your lordship unprotected.” Michael stammers as he tries to convince the man to let him stay.

“No, no, no,” Quinn assures. “I will be fine I can protect myself.” I stifle a laugh but a high-pitched cough manages to escape. Quinn shoots me a glare. He motions for Michael to step down and join us in front of him.

“Alright you four,” I realize Quinn is going to give us a sending-off speech and I roll my eyes. “It’s glad to know that even though there are men out there who want to see me dead and take my power from me, that I still have you four good friends to count on. Now go forth and complete this quest and I assure you that you will all return rich men!” Suddenly Quinn’s voice falls to a mumble, “if you make it back at all.”

“Wait what did you say?” But my voice was drowned out as Quinn’s guards hustled us out of the lord’s home.

“May Azorach go with you!” Quinn shouts after us as the big oak doors close behind us.

Chapter 5: The Ladies Changing Room

As we cruised through downtown making our way towards the gym where we hoped our missing friend was hiding out. Quinn lay at Ben and my feet as we rock back and forth to Caleb’s crazy driving. Quinn continued to whine but all we were focused on was the road. Suddenly an idea jumped into my head, I reached forward and hit the power button on the radio and on popped a familiar sound: music. Thankfully the radio stations hadn’t quite gone down yet. We all smiled as the music played on, and chuckled when each song ended and there was awkward dead time where the host was supposed to be inserted.

It wasn’t too long before we reached the gym which was pleasantly empty aside from a handful of cars making it easy for us to find the perfect parking spot. As we neared the front door we saw it, Michael’s car; the silver one with both back handles broken off. He claimed it was because he was just too strong for his own good, we really didn’t care. All of our hopes sprang up when we saw the evidence of Michael’s locale.

Parking the car we paused for 3 minutes looking intently out of each window to make sure nothing was coming, and by nothing I mean zombies. The time passed slowly and to be totally honest I started to get bored.

“Can we go now?” I huffed, sitting back in my seat. Ben slowly leaned back not for a second taking his focus from the window he was looking out.

“Yeah let’s go,” he replied but his mind was in another place. I slowly, and as quietly as possible, opened the door attempting to silence the click as I pulled the handle. It slowly swung open and I stepped out one foot at a time looking both ways as I did and pulling my sword out my short sword a little ways just in case. Nothing, I set the rest of myself on the ground and took three steps forward giving Ben some room to exit. Caleb crept out the front door and pointed his handgun out in case of danger while Quinn grunted as he sat up shotguns hanging by his sides and his hands in his armpits attempting to massage the pain away.

“Ow,” he cried as he pushed himself out of the vehicle. We all turned around and shushed him then quickly returned our focus to the matter at hand. The door was about 10 feet away, automatic doors that should still work, it was too soon for all electricity to have gone out. Sure enough they did and we entered the gym.

The first floor contained the information desk where one could set up their subscription to the gym and work out any other information. Behind that was stairs to get to the rest of the buildings floors; the gym didn’t offer elevators for the sole reason that stairs are better exercise, a clever concept I suppose. Behind the stairs was a brick wall with two open hallways leading left and right; the right one was for the ladies changing room, and the left for the guys because behind that brick wall was the pool.

“What’s the plan?” Caleb asks us as we find ourselves all standing in front of the info desk looking around as if expecting something bad to happen.

“It’s really quiet in here,” Quinn notes still holding his pits but based on his look of amazement it would seem that his pain has since subsided a little.

“Alright here’s what we’ll do..” Ben starts.

“I swear if you think we’re splitting up here and now…” I mutter.

“No no you’re right no splitting up,” Ben assures and we all sigh with relief. There are four floors in all counting the basement which would mean each of us would have to take one and I was definitely not planning on doing that.

“We’ll just take one floor at a time starting here, if anyone hears or see anything do NOT refrain from letting the rest of the group know it could mean life or death.” We all nod in agreement as Ben finishes his speech.

“Oh and one more thing,” he adds as we’re about to turn away. We all look at him intently knowing that whatever words come out of his mouth could lead to the success of this mission. “Be Quiet!” Again we nod and slowly start making our way towards the pool entrance.

“You go first,” Ben whispers motioning to me, causing my heart to leap into my throat.

“Why do I have to go first?” I complain trying to be as quiet as possible in concurrence with Ben’s recently made rule.

“Because you decided to be Mr. Melee and thus have the quietest weapons of us all, if anything comes out of there I don’t want to have to alert anything else around whilst killing it.” It was a valid point and I had no choice but to agree. We slowly made our way towards the wall and I began removing my shortest sword from its sheath, I started o slowly veer to the right but when I looked behind me the other guys were heading left paying no mind to the direction I was subtly moving towards.

“Guys where are you going?” I whisper rather loudly. They turn towards me and start looking around as if confused.

“Well, I mean it’s the guys’ changing room, it’s just habit.” Caleb states matter-of-factly.

“Dude everyone is gone, it’s our big chance to get to go into the girls’ changing room!”

“Yeah but if there’s no girls around here then what’s the point?” Quinn states.

“He makes a good point,” Caleb nods.

“Plus,” Ben starts to add. “Even if there are girls in there they’re probably zombies and I don’t think I wanna see a naked zombie chick to be totally honest.”

“Yeah but I mean it’s worth a shot right?” I ask practically begging for the chance to go inside. “Plus I hear they deck out the girls’ section really well.”

“What do you mean?” Caleb asks. By this point everyone is standing around without a care in the world simply having a conversation as if the world wasn’t ending.

“Like they put nice couches and stuff in them, I don’t know but I WANT to know!” I look around pleading with the others to join me.

“I mean maybe we find some nice smelling shampoo or something,” Quinn chimes in. We all turn to look at him our eyes sending judgment glares his way.

“What the heck, why not,” Ben finally agrees and the rest of the group faces my way. I slowly make my way inside my back against the wall being as sneaky and cautious as possible. I look around the corner; inside are the typical toilet stalls, shower heads, etc all looking just like the guys’ shower room. A mirror sits on the wall directly across from the stalls just above a row of sinks, all the stall doors are conveniently open and thanks to the reflection in the mirror I can see that they are all empty. I stretch my neck to see if there is any other notable detail before proceeding; nothing, no fancy couches or complimentary packets of makeup and conditioner, just a typical changing room.

“Well this is disappointing,” I sigh depressively as I pull away from the wall and walk straight in lowering my sword to waist-height. The others follow, each dropping a hint of their guard as they get a better look inside. We walk through quickly realizing there’s nothing special here and, at the end of the room and around another corner, we find the glass door leading into the pool.

Chapter 4: The Plan

Ben is the first to exit; being the most tactfully experienced it makes sense. Followed by him is Quinn, then Caleb, then myself. No zombies in sight. I figured the ones that had went for us and were hitting the door must have attracted the ones within hearing range to them so they were all in front. Focusing our hearing my theory was proven true, we could hear what sounded like a massive group around the corner still thumping on the window. Ben held up his hand, motioning to stop us, and turned to speak.

“Ok here’s the plan,” he whispered making sure to only be loud enough for all of us to hear him. “We should be able to sneak past them if we’re quiet enough, once we make it to the car I want Skyler and Caleb to get in first, Skyler you drive.”

“Why can’t I drive?” Caleb asks with a hint of whine.

“Caleb this isn’t the time,” Ben coughs attempting to cough down the frustration. “Skyler once you’re in the car start it.” Quinn hands me the key which I accept. “Once it starts that’ll make some noise which will obviously bring the zombie’s attention to us, so I’ll get in and Quinn you’ll get in last.”

“Why do I have to get in last!?” Quinn begs thinking about his potential fate if he doesn’t get in before the zombies get him.

“Because you’re the one with three shotguns giving you the ability to blow them all away if they get too close.” Ben reassures with a wink a smile as if almost jealous that Quinn will be the first to potentially take down some zombies. We readjust our line with Caleb and myself in front; my sword readied and he with a knife in his right hand held with the blade facing away and in the other a handgun cocked and ready. Quinn and Ben walked nearly back-to-back behind us Quinn facing towards what was about to be the large group of zombies, and Ben facing the other way ready to take any that might be coming from the other side. As we approached the corner we all took one last deep breath before Ben loudly whispered, “NOW!”

I took off speeding towards the front of the car my eyes and head quickly darting back and forth to each side checking to make sure there were no zombies in my immediate area. Behind me I could sense Caleb following my steps being as silent as possible and covering my back. Every part of me wanted to slow down and take a quick look around but I knew there was no time; my only focus needed to be starting this car.

As I came around the van I was thankful to see there were no zombies waiting to surprise me on the other side, I quickly opened the door and hopped in. Behind me the side door opened and I could hear Caleb breathing quickly partially from the run but mostly from the exhilaration. I reached out to close the door and cringed at the loud thud as it swung back into place. I had to look. I twisted my head around to include the passenger side window in my vision; a large group of zombies were mindlessly bumping into or slamming their arms against the shop, about four heard my door and turned around starting to head towards us. Quinn and Ben were still outside making their way around, I could see Quinn nudge Ben’s shoulder and motion so Ben would see the one’s starting to move towards the car.

I snapped out of my observance and turned back towards my job. I quickly slid the key into the ignition and the van quickly jumped to life, I jumped in my seat; things had been so quiet up until now, even the car door slamming wasn’t THAT loud, but the car booming upon startup was like a cannon going off. I quickly swung around to watch as every zombie began to awkwardly turn towards us, hungry intent clearly visible in what was left in their dull rolled back eyes. Ben and Quinn’s pace quickened and they were at the front of the car. Ben motioned for Quinn to wait till he had gotten in before swinging around and jumping into the car. Quinn slowly backed away as the zombies came closer and closer.

“What the heck is he doing?” Ben asked as he leapt over the front-seat divider. We watched as he stood outside the car, faced us, and giving us the thumbs-up.

“What the…” but that’s all I can get out of my mouth as Quinn quickly shoulders the two shotguns around his back and fired them both. It was a mixture of laughter and horror as Quinn flew backwards from the impact of two guns knocking him to the ground about 5 feet away. Ben and I barely stifled a laugh before we realize the danger Quinn is in. Looking back to the group of zombies we find ourselves fairly surprised, the number of still moving zombies was cut in half some of them literally cut in half from the shot. I busted out the door and Ben leapt back and pushed his way out the side one. As we rushed to Quinn’s side we could hear him moaning in pain.

“You dumbass,” Ben scoffed as he and I grabbed each of Quinn’s arms and started pulling him backwards back into the van.

“Uggghhhhh,” Quinn moaned as we lifted him in.

“Caleb! Drive the car!” I yell as we lay our wounded friend across the floor and get into our seats.

Chapter 3: Between a Shop and a Hard Place

I feared the worst as I was jolted backwards and a voice yelled, “Get in!” I saw Caleb rush towards me but lowered his stick as he raced past me. Why wasn’t he helping me, I cringed as I looked up expecting the end when a familiar face greeted me; it was Ben. The door to the shop was being held open by Quinn who I suppose had managed to get Ben’s attention, and Caleb was rushing past as Ben pulled me by my jacket collar into his store. He let go once I passed the door’s threshold and collapsed letting the fear leave my body in long deep breaths. I could hear the door slam shut and a click as the lock was re-initiated, I sat up.

“Why didn’t you radio me!?” Ben asked his hands flailing around in frustration.

“What radio?” I was confused.

“The incredibly expensive walky-talky I got for this exact reason!” Ben continued to shout but I still sat there confused. “The one in the cabinet above the stove in the apartment, I set it on the right channel and everything so that you’d be able to contact me while I’m in here in case the doors are locked!” Suddenly it came to me, it was a part of the plan Ben had recently added that I had totally forgotten about. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a terrible memory, and Ben never shared the information with the others because it was a somewhat complicated piece of equipment that he didn’t want to waste time re-explaining to the other guys.

“Oh yeah,” was all I could manage. Ben sighed with frustration and went back to prepping the guns. I looked around the shop; cabinets, shelves, and drawers all opened to the fullest extent and most of them absolutely bare. Those that weren’t empty featured only a few wood-chippings or empty ammunition boxes. One shelf remained completely stocked though; it was the non-lethal section that held the pepper-spray and Tasers. I looked over at Ben who was leaned over the counter, the one he as an owner typically stood behind while running the store, which was totally covered in guns and boxes of ammunition. He would set a gun in front of him with a pack on ammo directly under the butt of the gun, then removing the clip he would fill the magazine with the ammo form the previously mentioned box until the box was either empty of the magazine was full, then slapping that clip back into the gun he would set it on the massive pile of other firearms he had already made it through and move onto the next one following the same process as before.

“So what’s the plan from here?” Caleb asked always being the curious one. He sat eagerly on a display case while Quinn looked through the various munitions testing the sights and weights of the guns.

“Hard to say since we don’t know where Michael is at.” Ben stated not even for a second taking his eyes off of his process. “We could just wait here for him to show up, that is hoping that he thinks to come here and not try to leave town with everyone else.”

“Where IS everyone else,” I asked finally getting up off the floor and moving my way towards Ben and his work.

“As soon as the news went out for the first time this morning there was a large but very brief panic. Families immediately left to find a safer place and to seek out other loved ones, while others took the opportunity to grab some free stuff and run.” Ben relayed the facts to us like Captain Ahab did when telling the crew how the great white whale stole his leg.

“Wait so if this all was happening this morning why didn’t you call us sooner.” I asked with a hint of annoyance about not being informed of a world-wide happening sooner.
“I was busy!” Ben states, setting the gun he was loading down and finally looking up from his work. “First there were a bunch of people rushing into my store to buy, and in some cases attempt to steal, my guns. I sold some stock and to quell the masses started handing out my backroom reserves of the non-lethal stuff hoping that would get them out so I could lock up and wait for you guys. It worked on some but others were smart enough to realize that pepper spray won’t hurt zombies and were pushy about getting a gun. I didn’t want to sell anymore because for one I was out of crappy stuff I didn’t mind getting rid of and also because money isn’t going to be very useful once everything goes to hell so I told the people to go bring me useful things like knives or food or else there would be no sale. This got rid of almost everyone but then I had to deal with some thieves.”

“How’d you do that?” Caleb asked innocently.

“Take a look out back behind the shop,” Ben chuckled.  Caleb winced wishing he hadn’t asked that question.

“Anyways that’s the gist of it now we need to decide what to do from here,” Ben states finishing the last of the guns in his pile. He also had another pile off to the side full of bows and arrows, and a small pile even further down on the cabinet of knives.

“Well the main thing is finding Michael,” I state in all seriousness. The others nod in agreement and stare at me waiting for more information. “We can’t contact him through cell phone and the internet is down as well.”

“Not that it would really help if we DID have internet,” Quinn chuckles. “Since Michael got rid of his iDentityBook account.” We all chuckled, Michael was very specific about his social media and which ones he would and wouldn’t use, iDentityBook was one nearly everyone in today’s society was using but Michael, possibly in an attempt to seem hipster, had chosen to stop using the tool.

“Wait,” Caleb hopped up and raised his finger to illustrate that an idea had entered his head. “He’s probably at the gym!” Everyone’s eyes lit up at the same time this was a really good point Michael was always working out, since it was practically his job, so where else would he be but at the gym. The gym was a big place and in fact was a big feature to the city we lived in, people from nearby towns and cities actually drove all the way down here to go there and work out because of the physical health programs they offered, the equipment, and the smoothie bar. The only issue for us was that it was a ways away, and judging by the occasional thud from the window we could easily guess that the zombies from earlier managed to make it to the shop and weren’t planning on leaving.

“Ok so we go check the gym, but how do we get out of here?” I ask looking to each person for answers.

“Well we can always take the back door to avoid the ones out front,” Ben says pointing to the back of his shop. “The only tough part is getting to a car without running into the zombies.”

“We have all the guns and ammo we could possibly need why is it such a problem?” Quinn asks speaking for the first time since we made it inside.

“Quinn makes a good point; we can go out the back door shoot down what’s immediately in our way and then take the car from there.” Ben planned. We all nodded and Ben started packing away his guns. “We only have to take what we need now and we’ll come back for the rest once we get Michael.” Ben stated strapping three holsters to his belt; two on each side and one in the back each carrying a handgun in each. Quinn loaded up with two shotguns slung across his chest and one in his hand making him look like a suburban Rambo. He was about to shove an extra handgun in his pocket when Ben stopped him and pointed out how he should be plenty prepared with what he was already carrying.

Caleb and I took a couple hand guns each which we both strapped to our ankles. I can only speak for myself but I hate being weighed down by guns, my forte is melee and that’s what I’ll stick with the guns are simply for emergencies. Once we were packed and Ben had grabbed a bag with some things he decided were a good idea to bring along we were set. Ben pulled out his keys and we lined up at the door waiting anxiously for him to twist the key and turn the knob releasing us into the unknown alleyway behind his shop knowing that there could be any number of zombies waiting for us on the other side.

“You guys ready?” Ben asks flirtatiously knowing how nervous we are. We each give him the “hurry up and just open it already” look before he chuckles to himself and opens the door.

Chapter 2: Get to ‘The Gunner’

“So what exactly is the plan?” Caleb asked as we drove down one of the many backstreets attempting to avoid as many crowded areas as possible.

“We’re gonna stop by The Gunner, grab Ben and some guns, and then go look for Michael.” I repeat for the tenth time. I turned to look at Quinn to make sure he was doing ok, he was our designated driver because he claimed he was the best at handling a vehicle than the rest of us; we didn’t necessarily agree but we let him have his desire.

Caleb nodded silently as I re-adjusted the swords I had strapped to my belt. It was a collectible samurai set, with the three-differently sized blades, but I always kept them sharp specifically for this day. Caleb carried three large knives and a thick stick he called The Slammer that he had been training with for the last month and a half. Quinn had Alchmophobia, the fear of sharp objects, which in his case was specifically related to knives; being as the only things we had were knives and a couple useless blunt objects at the apartment Quinn decided he would just go without until we got to Ben’s and he could get a gun.

We had attempted to get ahold of Michael multiple times and were continuing every 10 minutes but we couldn’t get anything which made us want to move even faster, and eventually the phones gave out which we were expecting. We sped through seeing few survivors and so far none of the undead of course we were avoided populated areas as much as possible. Finally we took the left at the final intersection that takes us into town, as soon as we did so the apocalypse was evident; windows were smashed and looting was evident. Thankfully we had found out about an hour or two later than most others, because that’s when Caleb’s shift had finished and he was able to come tell us, so we avoided a lot of the initial chaos but that also means we missed out on some of the best loot. When I saw the mess around us my heart dropped a little thinking about what could have happened to Ben’s shop in the craziness, but thinking about how aggressive Ben can be if he’s pushed to it relieved my fears.

We drove a couple blocks before we pulled up alongside Ben’s shop. The sign across the top reading “The Gunner” was the same as always still featuring big teal letters and the businesses character: The Agent, standing next to the ‘r’ in Gunner pulling a massive handgun out of the inside of his tuxedo.

As we hopped out, Caleb and I quickly scanning the area for the undead, I turned to see Quinn putting change into the meter next to our car.

“Dude! What the heck are you doing!?” I whispered harshly trying not to be too loud and potentially attract any living or dead.

“Sorry dude, old habit,” he said realizing what he was doing. We turned towards the shop and I reached for the handle, locked. Of course it’s locked, Ben wouldn’t want looters and of course the zombies. I immediately went for my phone but replaced it into my pocket remembering that phones are useless right now.

“How are we supposed to let him know we’re here,” Quinn huffs with frustration as he begins to pace. I look into the window but no luck; he has the metal anti-theft blinds down. Caleb takes a long stride towards me and starts to slam on the door making a light thudding noise on the bulletproof glass.

“Dude stop!” I shout grabbing his arms and pulling him a couple steps away from the glass.

“What? I’m trying to let him know we’re here!” He shouts. I grab his mouth to quiet him and quickly look around, scanning for any invited danger.

“Dude you’re making more noise out here than you are inside, we don’t want to be stuck out here telling all the zombies that we’re here!” Caleb loosens his muscles and I remove my hand from his mouth.

“Ok my bad, but how are we gonna let him know?” Caleb asks leaning against another car parked in front of our van.

“Beep! Beep! Beep!” the car alarm begins to honk and the entire block of shops and other buildings causes the noise to resonate down the entire street. Caleb jumped off the car landing precariously on one foot nearly falling to the ground. I whipped out my sword and started frantically looking back and forth my blade following my gaze. Suddenly I saw them, about six, zombies coming around the corners of another shop about two blocks down. I quickly looked over my shoulder to make sure there were none behind me before focusing my attention towards the ones ahead of me. They were fairly clean for zombies, must be recently turned and each with only a little noticeable bite mark on either their shoulder or near the lower part of the ankle. They weren’t rotting and neither did they make much noise except for the occasional gargle in the back of their throat, probably their body continuing to reject the fluids that make up the rest of us living breathing people.

Quinn backed to the door and started to frantically beat upon the wood, pulling at the lock hoping maybe the lock would just remove itself. Caleb, after pulling himself from the ground, pulled out his stick and held it in the direction of the oncoming undead. As the dead slowly came closer with nothing else in mind except for reaching us, others would randomly pop out from various open buildings and from around dark street corners and alley-ways; I counted nearly twenty at this point.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my back, in horror I pulled away and fearing a bite attempted to twist myself to avoid being anywhere near any possible head causing me to fall to my knees. The hand was strong though and wouldn’t let go. I was scared, the zombie apocalypse had just started and here I was going to be the first to get bitten what a waste.

Chapter 1: The Beginning of it All

“Die, damn it, DIE!” Quinn was screaming at the TV again. His screaming had rudely awakened me and I slowly sat up from my bed rubbing the tired from my eyes. I looked over at the Spider-Man alarm clock my mom had gotten me just before I had started college a few years ago. 4 o’clock.  I suppose it was probably about time I got up anyways.

I walked over to the apartment’s only bathroom and closed the door behind me. It’s nice living with all guys because I rarely had to lift the seat. I released my liquid waste into the bowl as I stood patiently waiting for the stream to end. Suddenly, I heard the front door fly open and slam against the wall on the other side. Someone ran in and a second later Quinn started yelling, whoever was out there was messing with the TV and Quinn was pissed. I zipped my pants up and walked out into the hallway. Caleb lay on the floor, Quinn atop him, holding the remote and flipping through the channels on the TV while Quinn attempted to wrestle it out of his hand. Caleb pushed, his hand on Quinn’s face, fighting off his larger opponent his eyes focused on one thing though: the TV. He continued flipping through channels as if his life depended on it and Quinn was simply an unnoticeable obstacle.

“Dude what the h…”

“There! Just watch!” Caleb yelled throwing the remote across the room, pushing Quinn off him, and leaping to his feet all in one motion. I turned to look at what he had managed to accomplish with this whole fiasco. Disappointment weighed upon my face causing my eyebrows to droop in annoyance and my eyes to squint to match, the news. Caleb made all that fuss to watch the news; at least it wasn’t sports news but seriously. Quinn just became more furious and leapt for the remote, Caleb’s fast reflexes let him leap faster and snatched it up Quinn landing on his left shoulder nearly smashing his head into the wall behind them.

“Just listen!” He yelled as he narrowly dodged Quinn’s fist which landed a hard slam onto the carpeted floor.  He rolled towards the couch and Quinn and I sat down next to him, as the news reporter talked Quinn sat next to me giving up on his murderous intent.

“…I repeat an outbreak has occurred of the X1Z1 virus which causes the death and then reanimation of anyone infected. Please remain inside and do not attempt to leave your home at all costs.”

“I never understood why they think that’s the best decision,” I stated coolly.

“Dude be serious,” Caleb shouted with intensity in his eyes.”It’s the freaking zombie apocalypse! We’ve been preparing for this our whole lives! All the books…”

“And if you had actually read any of those books you’d know that the first rule is not to panic.” I said trying to calm Caleb down. We both turned to look at Quinn who stared at the TV, his face void of any happiness or positive emotion of any kind.

“Hey bro it’s ok we’re going to make it, we’ll be fine.” I reassured him. He slowly turned his head and looked at me, the horror in his eyes increasing causing them to grow wider.

“It’s not me bro, what about Michael.” As soon as he said it my mouth dropped open, he was right if there was anyone in our group that was less interested in the whole zombie prepping thing it was Michael. He had ignored our packing and planning and warning of his not packing and planning.

“Where did he say he’d be all day?” I asked worrying more and more for his safety every second that went by. Quinn was about to answer when suddenly my phone rang. We all turned to it the same idea running through our heads: I hope it’s Michael.

I pulled it from my pocket and looked at the caller ID; it was Ben, I answered.

“Dude did you hear the news!?” Ben excitedly shouted into the phone.

“Yeah bro, zombie apocalypse,” I confirmed. Ben was the one person that we had the least amount of concern for partially because he owned a gun shop but also because he had military experience and was the most prepared of any of us for a situation like this.

“It’s about time,” Ben replied. I could hear the sound of guns being loaded and cocked in the background.

“Sounds like you’re getting ready.”

“Yep, when you guys coming over?” He asked as if this was all part of his plan, which honestly it probably was.

“Well we were just freaking out because we have no idea where Michael is.” I inform him. I look around at the nervous faces of the other apartment dwellers unsure of what to do. Since Michael was never part of the planning and typically worked from home we never had thought to plan an emergency setup in case he wasn’t around when the virus broke out.

“How about this: you guys grab the car and swing by the store and pick me up, we’ll load up with the rest of the weapons I’ve got, and then we’ll go looking for him.”

“Alright sounds good bro, see you in 20 minutes.” I hung up the phone and turned to the other two both with worried quizzical looks on their faces. “Get your bags guys we’re heading out.”

My Top 10 Asian Foreign Films

I was hanging out with a buddy of mine last night, his name is Tyler and he is an international student from Korea. We don’t see each other often due to busy schedules on campus , but every now and then he’ll bust in my door and yell, “HEY SKYLER!” at the top of his lungs. Then we start discussing who knows what usually Tyler starts, and many of the things he’s told me about are simply fascinating. He’s been all over the world so I’ll ask him what it’s like back in Korean and he will tell me, and then follow up with a story about when he was in say Egypt it’s fascinating. Last night we got into a discussion about martial arts due to the fact that he has a black belt in Judo and I in Tae-Kwon Do. From there we started discussing martial arts films, now if there’s one thing America isn’t very good at it’s serious epic martial arts movies. Granted we have our Jackie Chan stuff, but in the end none of that compares to some of the incredible stuff made by China, Japan, and Korea. After showing each other a couple of our moves, though, Tyler and I started discussing other foreign movies, which gave me the idea to compile this list of my top ten Foreign Asian films (most of which are martial arts films)! Check it out!

                             

                            10. War of the Arrows                              

War of the Arrows

This film follows the character Nam Yi who is the greatest archer in all of Korea, but he is forced to flee for his life when the Qing Dynasty sends in troops to attack his people. His sister is taken captive and he must go rescue her. If you like archery then you’ll love War of the Arrows.

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Oh and the guy is so good he can curve his arrows!

9. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Legend of the Fist

I don’t know a whole lot of Chinese actors but I can quickly recognize Donnie Yen if he’s in a movie. Donnie Yen is one of my favorite actors of all time and that will be reflected in a lot of this list. In Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Chen Zhen gets shot down and is thought dead, seven years later he resurfaces as a masked vigilante. It’s got some cool martial arts scenes and of course if you’ve read some of my other articles you’ll know I love vigilante-ism.

8. Kung Fu Dunk

Kung Fu Dunk

I figured I should add a comedy in here somewhere. Kung Fu Dunk is about an orphan, Fang Shijie who is found in the garbage and raised by martial artists at an academy. He manages to get into basketball and because of the skills he developed at the academy becomes very good at basketball. It’s like Annie but with basketball and martial arts.

7. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee

So the original reason I wanted to see this movie is because when I ran across the trailer there’s a brief scene where one of the characters full-on side-kicks a deer (which you can see in the gif below). I’m seeing this and I’m like, what the heck I wanna know the context here! I watched it and it was a pretty cool movie, a martial arts meets Sherlock Holmes kind of thing with a side of fantasy elements. Check it out!

Detective Dee

6. Shaolin

Shaolin

If you look closely enough you might be able to notice differences in the martial arts styles in the movies. In Shaolin, since the whole movie is based on monks who are typically a peaceful group, it’s very easy to see. In Shaolin the warlord Hou Jie kills his rival but in the process loses everything he loves including his family. This leads him to join a nearby monastery of shoalin monks, learning their ways and changing his own in order to become a better man. But all doesn’t end well, warning: this movie has a sad ending.

5. Ip Man 2

Ip Man 2

Almost as good as the original, Ip Man 2 is a phenomenal martial arts experience. Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and sets up his own school to teach Wing Chun to anyone willing to learn, but times are tough and there are other groups not too fond of the man’s teachings. We also get to see a lot of interesting interaction between the Americans and Chinese of this time-period.

Ip Man 2

A little bit far-fetched but still really awesome!

 4. Ip Man

Ip Man

Obviously the original Ip Man is going to be before the sequel, though both were great movies. The form of martial art featured in this movie is called Wing Chun is incredible to watch in action. The movie follows the story of Ip Man during the time when the Japanese were invading China. Yip Man must protect his family and his people from the Chinese soldiers.

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OH MY GOSH SO MANY PUNCHES!!!!

 3. The Raid

 The Raid

Possibly the most epic movie of all time, the only movie I could possibly rank above it is its sequel. The Raid follows an agent part of a S.W.A.T. team tasked with taking down a building run by a high-ranking drug lord. What happens inside, well, you’ll just have to watch it for yourself. And for those of you out there who hate reading subtitles, there IS an English dubbed version.

The Raid

One of my favorite moments of the raid (way more epic in context).

2. Let the Bullets Fly

Let the Bullets Fly

One of the first foreign Asian films I had ever seen, Let the Bullets Fly tells the tale of the bandit Pocky Zhang set in 1920s China. The bandit manages to shoot down a train car carrying an official who is about to start his work at a nearby town. Zhang takes him prisoner as well as takes his position but must deal with the towns crime-lord if he wants to make a profit of the situation. The movie features a really intriguing storyline with some comedy, some action, some sadness, and a decent amount of drama; all in all a fun movie to check out.

Let the Bullets Fly

Here’s a little chunk from the trailer.

The Raid 2

The Raid 2

As if the first movie wasn’t already almost too much epic to handle, the creators made a sequel that is even more mind blowing than the first. The movie continues on from where the last one left off so I’m not going to say a whole lot about the plot-line to avoid giving anything away but seriously it’s incredible. I managed to see it with my brother and it was so intense it had me sweating and on the edge of my seat the entire time.

The Raid 2

The words and thoughts of the intriguing Skyler Gorsett on his walk through life from college and beyond.