GOA Chronicles: The Portal

July 8th, 2049.

At the crack of dawn, Donald stirred from his sleep, an unusual ripple of anticipation coursing through his veins. Today was not an ordinary day. Forging a new routine, he prepared a hearty breakfast for his wife and daughters—a gesture both comforting and laden with unspoken words. Today, Donald and his team faced the unknown: they were tasked with defeating a formidable portal guardian and stepping through the veiled gateway it fiercely protected. What lay beyond was a mystery, and the possibility of no return loomed large.

Julia approached Donald with a tender embrace, her eyes glistening with a mix of pride and fear. “Thank you for the wonderful breakfast,” she whispered, her voice a delicate balance of gratitude and sorrow. As he left the kitchen, the gravity of the day pressed down upon him, each step toward his daughters heavy with the weight of the unknown.

The family breakfast was a tapestry of laughter and lighthearted chatter, a deliberate veil over the palpable tension. Afterward, with a final, lingering hug, Donald departed for the military base’s nerve center, the tension of the impending mission simmering in the air.

By mid-morning, the briefing room buzzed with an electric mix of anxiety and determination. Donald joined the assembly of team leaders, their faces etched with resolve. Admiral Silenski stood at the forefront, his presence commanding silence. “Today, we embark on a mission unprecedented in our history,” he declared, his voice firm. “To the north lies a guardian cloaked in flames and fury, a creature of lava and destruction. Sergeant Cagielski’s team has equipped themselves with dry ice—weaponized cold to quench fire. Their arrows and swords will carry this frosty vengeance.”

“To the south, we confront the icy sentinel. Our strategy? Fire in its purest form—arrows ablaze and swords searing with heat, complemented by torches fueled by portable propane. This elemental war, my comrades, will determine our fate.”

As the teams mobilized, Donald’s heart raced with the thrill of the challenge and the ache of potential farewells. Today, they would not only confront guardians of elemental fury but also pierce the veil of the unknown, stepping into a realm that could forever alter the course of their lives and history itself.

The room crackled with tension as Admiral Silenski’s gaze fixed on Commander Aargos. “For the aerial threat—the flying lizard—Team Alpha will employ specialized arrows designed to shred its wings, grounding it permanently. No advantage from the skies today.” His voice resonated with a steely certainty. “You are all leaders here. Innovate. Adapt. Overcome. The offensive begins at exactly 3:00 PM.”

Every team leader synchronized their old-fashioned wind-up watches—a silent ritual, affirming their readiness.

Post-briefing, Donald and his team gathered, the atmosphere thick with anticipation and curiosity. Donald looked intently at Roland, whose recent transformations had not gone unnoticed. “Roland, your abilities seem enhanced as of late—speed, agility—they’re remarkable. What’s the secret?” he asked, echoing the team’s growing wonder.

Roland smiled widely, “Well, I really wasn’t sure at first, but when I first killed that larva creature at your house, if you recall, I found this dark crystal.” Roland pulled out his souvenir crystal from his first Chthonian kill. “It’s as if I’ve been reborn. Sharper, faster, more focused.”

Russ tried to grab the dark crystal from Roland’s hand and it fell on his workbench next to his old useless phone that was now used as a paperweight.  The phone inexplicably lit up as the dark crystal touched it.

Russ’s eyes widened with astonishment. “An alien power source? You’ve been hoarding a game-changer and said nothing!” The frustration in his tone hid his shock.

Just then, his phone alarm went off. “And finally, my alarm goes off. The alarm that was supposed to wake me up in the morning before all this happened!” Russ grabbed his phone, looking at it as if he had never seen it before. “It’s fully charged, but has nothing to connect to, of course. Mind if I keep your crystal?” Roland snickered, “You can’t have it ’cause it’s my lucky charm, but you can have my extra ones… Not all of the creatures have one in them, but I’ve come across a few extras.” Roland tossed a dark crystal to Donald, Russ, and Private Adams (whom they’ve gotten a little more familiar with and now call Jesse now and then).

Russ looked at his crystal that Roland gave him, enthralled by its dark majestic design. “Now I wish I had more time to experiment with this. If we lose this upcoming battle, I’m going to blame you, Roland.” Donald interrupted, “We’ve been preparing for this battle for weeks. We’ll be fine. Now let’s get some lunch and into the jeep so we can get to our battle positions on time.”

On the way to the green portal, Donald went over what everyone was supposed to be doing and when. “Roland, you’ll be firing your arrows first at its wings. Its attention will be on you right as your first arrow hits. I’ll then try and come from behind and put my sword up its, you know, what… Once its attention is on me, I want Russ and Jesse to fire their revolvers from each side. If it lunges upward, go for the belly. Otherwise, go for the head. Beyond that, we’ll have to improvise.” Russ looked at Donald, “Great plan; we’ll just improvise halfway through and hope for the best.” Donald looked back and smiled at Russ, “Well, it has always worked for me.”

They all went to their attack positions several houses down from the portal, all at different angles. Except for Roland, who hid on a high rooftop on a nearby house. As the clock ticked closer to the hour of confrontation, they readied themselves not just for a battle, but for an encounter that might just redefine the boundaries of their world.

As the seconds ticked toward 3:00 PM, the tension became palpable. The air vibrated with the whizz of an arrow, promptly followed by the deafening roar of the massive lizard guarding the portal. Donald burst from his cover, adrenaline pumping, as he charged toward the behemoth. He spotted Roland perched atop a nearby house, desperately firing arrows at the creature’s wings, one of which now hung uselessly by its side.

Donald reached the scene just as the lizard began to demolish the front of an abandoned house, trying to reach Roland. In a daring move, he swung at the underside of the beast’s thrashing tail. The impact caused the lizard to whirl around, unleashing a furious roar that echoed through the desolate landscape.

Russ and Jesse raced to Donald’s side, unloading a barrage of bullets toward the creature’s neck, drawing small trickles of blood that seemed to only enrage it further. As Donald evaded its slashing claws, one swipe tore through his Kevlar armor, sending him sprawling to the ground. From his back, he managed to inflict a superficial gash on the lizard’s underbelly, shouting to Roland, “We need that ace up your sleeve, now!”

A moment later, Roland yelled back, “Get him to say Ahhhh!” He swiftly readied an explosive-tipped arrow, igniting a long fuse. Meanwhile, Russ braved closer to distract the beast, allowing Donald a moment to recover. The lizard, enraged beyond measure, focused on Russ, delivering a tail swipe that tore a gash in his ankle and sent him crashing to the ground with a painful thud! “Jesse, take care of Russ!” Donald yelled as he regained his footing.

Roland began his countdown, “Five… four…” With no time to lose, Donald charged, diving beneath a swipe and driving his sword deep into the creature’s foot. The lizard howled in agony just as Roland leapt from the roof, releasing the explosive arrow into its gaping maw. The arrow lodged deep, and a muffled “boom” signaled the end as the lizard collapsed in a heap.

Donald took his sword out of the lizard’s foot and stabbed it a few times throughout the body to ensure it would never get up. Next, Donald motioned everyone to quickly come to the mysterious green portal. “Russ, how’re you doing?” Russ limped over with a tall dead tree branch holding him up. “Good enough to go through that portal. I really don’t want to miss the opportunity to go into the unknown.” Donald nodded, “Jesse, if the other teams are successful, you should have a clear run back to the jeep and be able to bring it back here without any trouble.” Jesse nodded and saluted, “Yes, sir!”

Donald, almost fully carrying Russ, looked at the guys and asked, “Are we all ready to do this?” Russ smiled back and said, “Yeah, but don’t tell your wife you’re carrying another man over the threshold.” Roland gave a loud laugh, “Yes, let’s get on with it.” Donald nodded, and pretended to almost let go of Russ. Then they all stepped forward through the portal in unison.

It lasted just a few seconds, but as they entered the portal it made a sound similar to buzzing bees in their ears, and when emerging on the other side of the portal their ears popped as if from decompression, in addition to being blinded by a bright light. After their eyes adjusted from the bright sun above them, they finally took in the alien landscape that lay in front of them.

The sun blazed hot and high above them with two colossal moons above the horizon. The landscape was barren like a desert with scattered alien foliage and similar portals in the distance. A mysterious structure loomed in the distance, flanked by towering alien humanoids who seemed curiously occupied ignoring the three newcomers into their world.

Donald and his two teammates noticed on the side of the portal a large dark crystal, melon-sized and encased in a glass container with an intricate network of wires weaving around it. Donald whispered to Russ, “Well, that’ll be the power source, of course.” With that said, he let go of Russ and let him fall to the ground, then swung his sword, breaking the glass container holding the black crystal. At that moment, the two alien humanoids noticed them and began running faster than humanly possible toward the portal.

Roland looked at Donald, “Well, so much for our presence going unnoticed. Let’s grab that crystal and get out of here if we can.” Donald reached down and grabbed the crystal. “Whoa, this thing is heavier than it looks! It must weigh as much as Russ does.” Donald felt a rush of energy but dismissed it as adrenaline as he tried to cradle the crystal in both his hands while Roland took hold of Russ. All three turned around and rushed through the diminishing portal, and as they walked through the other side, the portal completely vanished.

Up ahead next to the dead portal guardian was Jesse waiting in the jeep. “I saw the portal slowly shrinking and was starting to wonder if you all were coming back. Then poof, there you all were,” Jesse remarked.

Donald carefully secured the heavy crystal in the jeep’s rear with a resounding thud while Roland helped Russ into the passenger seat. “Let’s head back to base,” Donald commanded, eager to regroup and share their findings. As the jeep roared to life, Russ, nursing his wounded ankle, couldn’t help but feel a spark of exhilaration. Staring at the crystal, a mischievous grin spread across his face. “Oh, the experiments I’ll run,” he murmured, his mind already racing with possibilities. “Time to play the mad scientist…”