Upgrade Apocalypse– Update

So if you’re seeing a few chapters, I wanted to talk about it for a minute. The thing that’s happening at the moment is that my buddy, Ramon Mejia, and I have been working for well over half a year on this new book series: Upgrade Apocalypse. We’re up to 2 books now, working on book 3, and we hope to release them on amazon soon. I thought I’d give a tiny sample though if you guys were interested.

Anyway, I can’t wait to hear more from you guys after the books finally publish. It’s been a super fun process writing them, and I hope you guys appreciate the co-work of Charles Dean + R. A. Mejia.

Upgrade Apocalypse – C4

Chapter 4 – Archimedes

“Slap her again. I’m not waiting for her to calm down on her own,” Brad complained as he tapped his dress shoe at the foot of the hotel staircase. 

Nguyen glared at him, but lightly slapped Maryam’s face as she sat on the floor sobbing hysterically.

Maryam shook her head as she came to her senses again. She looked around, tears still running down her cheeks and gave a weak smile. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I’ve never seen anyone die before.

“Don’t worry about it, sweetie,” Stephanie said as she held a hand for the woman. “ I don’t think any of us have. We’re all probably in shock and you’re probably dealing with it much better than we are.” 

Maryam gave Stephanie a small grateful nod as she took her hand and was helped up. The woman brushed off her bottom and was a little unsteady as she followed the rest of the group through the door to the staircase that would lead them up to the conference rooms where their reunion was being held. 

They walked up the stairs in silence, each contemplating the near death experience they’d had and the horribly gruesome departing of a man they’d known. About half way up to the next floor Maryam stumbled and almost fell backwards but was caught by Stephanie.

“Ugh, this is the last time I’m wearing heels to impress some guy,” Stephanie said, breaking the silence as she pulled Maryam forward and her shoes slipped on the floor slightly.

“The event is on floor forty-two. It’s only four freaking floors. Just calm those stuffed pads you call tits and deal with it,” Lucy snapped back.

“You know, you can just take the heels off till we get there.” Archimedes had no idea what the use of complaining was when a solution was easily at hand. 

Lucy continued her derisive comments. “Oh no, you can’t suggest that to her. If she takes off her heels, her butt won’t look as big. God forbid Mrs. Prom Queen be caught flat-butted and flat-footed in a stairwell with us peasants.” 

“Hey, bro, don’t be giving chicas any fashion advice. You’ll only end up dead before you can say cappuccino latte,” Chedderfield advised Archimedes.

“I do not drink cappuccino lattes.” Out of everything said, Stephanie chose that one point to deny.

“Right. Not enough edible gold flakes for you?” Chedderfield snickered.

“Ugh, sorry,” Stephanie said, looking at Chedderfield as if he were someone pitiable. “I . . . I didn’t realize I made you feel that way. I know not everyone has the same opportunities in life. I’ll do my best not to make you feel ‘lesser’ in the future.”

Archimedes, who knew how proud Chedderfield could be, felt the burn down to his bone. He knew Stephanie didn’t even mean it like that, but he couldn’t help but watch the group’s expressions change three or four times as they processed that ridiculous statement.

No one even bothered saying anything after that as they trudged up the stairs, Brad in front, the man acting as if he were leading an expedition through the wild. 

“Ha! Made it!” Brad bragged as he opened the door to the forty-second floor. “And Steph, if you want to ride home in a gold Lambo after this party, just come find me. I’ll give you a lift after I finish tying a few on with the other Tri-Alpha bros.”

“Oh, umm. Thanks!” Stephanie said as she followed up behind Brad. 

“Hey, is that Danielle on nametag duty?” Chedderfield asked as he exited the stairway with Archimedes and Lucy, seeing a table for name cards far down the hallway and people handing them out.

“Oh, you mean that cheerleader you had a crush on senior year? The one whose pom-poms you kept wanting to cheer with?” Archimedes said, remembering how flustered Chedderfield had gotten on Fridays when she came by to say hello to them.

“Don’t act like you’re better, Mr. Never Asked Out Stephanie,” Chedderfield shot back, stabbing Archimedes right through the chest verbally with such an open and public betrayal.

“Aww, you liked me?” Stephanie teased. 

“I . . . it was just . . . Umm, you know what? I was young and dumb.” Archimedes managed to form the words despite his nerves nearly seizing up his tongue.

“Ah, so you have to be young and dumb to like me?” she asked, her tone taking a sudden drop in friendliness.

“Et tu, Chedderfield?” Archimedes, not being able to handle being put on the spot, only turned to face his betrayer, the social wound still bleeding out all semblance of dignity as the character assassination left him dead in the hallway. 

“Never asked her out?” Brad, who had been outpacing everyone, couldn’t miss the opportunity to turn around and laugh at Archimedes. “Figures. At least you were smart enough to know where your place was.”

Before Archimedes could say anything to squash Brad’s taunting laughter, one of the four elevator doors near the stairwell dinged, opening to reveal a sight more gruesome than their own experience with murderous conveyances. There, in the middle of the elevator, was a lanky six-foot-five-inch-tall man bent over, his skin a diseased shade of green. He was standing on the bodies of multiple people but clawing and biting at a woman beneath him, his teeth filled with blood, his hands still inside her abdomen ripping and tearing at her guts.

“H . . . He . . . Hel . . .” she said as she saw the group of them. Her expression was flat, her face pale, her eyes barely open.

“Oh shit! That guy’s Hannibal-Lectering that lady!” Lucy yelled as she pointed.

“Ugh, freaking gross,” Brad said before yelling out to no one in particular, “SECURITY! SECURITY!”

While he was calling out, Stephanie kicked off one of her heels and grabbed the other,  rushing forward while holding her fancy shoe, which probably cost a thousand dollars, like it was a lethal weapon.

Archimedes recovered his wits the moment Stephanie sprinted forward, and he followed her lead and outpaced her as he did. 

“Freaking savior complex,” Chedderfield mumbled in annoyance as he followed Archimedes towards danger. 

Archimedes put his shoulder forward and threw his mass at the guy like a human bumper car. He crashed straight into the man, the two of them slamming into the elevator wall.

“WOMEN DESERVE TO FEEL SAFE!” Stephanie yelled as she rushed in behind Archimedes, heel in hand, and swung her shoe at the man’s face.

To everyone’s surprise, the heel broke through the skin much more easily than expected. It penetrated the temple of the man’s skull, but it broke off halfway in before it could fully sink into the brain cavity. As soon as the weapon was gone, Stephanie backed up, shocked that the man didn’t even yell or flinch.

Instead, the large bloody man just swiped at Archimedes, who had been holding him against the wall. His nails ripped and tore the sleeves off Archimedes’ cheap borrowed suit. “Little . . . Little help here!” Archimedes squirmed, shifting his body so he could avoid getting cut by the nails.

“Hadouken!” Chedderfield said as he pulled Stephanie back from the brawl and swung his meaty fist at the head of the man trying to bite his former best friend. His fist connected with a crunch of bone, and the man’s head snapped back with the force of the blow. The man went still as the broken heel, which had been embedded in his temple, was forced completely into his brain when his head slammed into the elevator wall with a thud. 

The blood-soaked beast of a man stopped twitching under Archimedes. 

Congratulations, humans of the 19th space quadrant’s 32nd zone, you have managed to kill the first monster in your region. Each of you has been awarded a card for your participation. These cards are the purified version of a dead person’s abilities and essence, distilled in such a way that you can absorb them and grow stronger. Though death is inevitable, struggle on for the sake of glorious battle.

Archimedes didn’t even get to finish reading the message before three bronze-colored cards popped up in front of the three of them.

“What the . . .” Archimedes felt his jaw drop as he tried to take in everything.

“Frak . . .” Chedderfield finished Archimedes’ hanging statement. 

The three people in the elevator stood perfectly still as the cards rushed toward their bodies, one entering each of them.


Current Classification: Bronze

Current Level: 01

Ability: Can assemble and create a single turret. The turret will automatically defend the user from threats so long as the user is within 5 feet of the turret. After the turret has been created, the user may move it from its original location once every hour. 

There, in front of Archimedes was a blue box of text. He looked over to Chedderfield to ask him what the hell was going on, only to see Chedderfield staring at a similar wall of text in front of him, the same as Archimedes’ but with a different ability described. 


Current Classification: Bronze

Current Level: 01

Ability: Able to purify a small space of all negative traits. Usable once per hour.

“What . . . What was that?” Brad asked, looking past the three brawlers into the elevator. The doors were trying to close, but they kept running into one of the corpses’ legs and opening again, the elevator making a cheery ‘ding’ sound with every attempt to shut its doors. It was like the elevator kept revealing the gruesome murder scene again and again. Brad put a hand to his mouth, rolling his eyes in annoyance. “Oh my god, that’s horrible. Did you murder that guy? What are people going to think? Do you realize what you’ve done?”            

“It was self-defense, Brad. He was hurting other people, and we tried to stop him. He just ended up dying,” Stephanie said as she briefly looked back at the twisted body of the crazed man. “But I think something was wrong with him. He was sick or something. He was gnawing on those people he killed.”

 Archimedes put a hand on her shoulder. “Steph— You didn’t do anything wrong . . .”

            “I hate to interrupt, but what about those floating cards and those words? Don’t tell me we were the only ones that saw them, Steph,” Chedderfield asked in a whisper as he stepped in close to Stephanie.

“What are you whispering about?” Brad asked, a suspicious look on his face.

Stephanie’s eyes darted to where the cards had floated before returning to Chedderfield, and she said quickly, “I don’t know . . .”

“I asked you what you are talking about,” Brad interrupted, grabbing Stephanie’s arm. “You’re not thinking of suing me for what that guy did, are you? You’re not going to tell people I didn’t help, are you? I know you’re desperate for money, but you’d never win a lawsuit against my family’s hotel.”

“Brad, could you not? Could you just not? Not everything is about you,” Stephanie yelled as she tried to pull her arm away. 

“If you weren’t a girl, I’d smack you for that,” Brad snarled, his anger at Stephanie’s continuous taunting becoming palpable.

“That’s good ‘cause I can’t think of a single girl who would want you to smack her ass,” Lucy fired from behind the group.

“Don’t test me,” Brad snarled before turning back to the three in the elevator. 

“Everyone must be a litt-t-t-le freaked out, Brad,” Maryam stuttered, the silver jewelry hanging from her ears clinking as she shook her head and frowned at the aggressive rich boy. “Maybe j-j-just give them a moment. Even I-I-I’m feeling a bit upset-t-t.”

“Who cares how you’re feeling?” Brad growled.

“We just watched another person die,” Nguyen explained in a calm voice, placing her soft hand on his chest since it seemed his shoulder was too high for her. “Relax, big buddy.”

Brad still looked a little angry that no one had answered his question. His face had turned red. Archimedes had no desire to go first. Even if he wasn’t feeling like Stephanie, he wasn’t going to share anything he didn’t have to with Brad.

“Stephanie, if your dad wants to keep his job, you won’t ever speak to me that way again,” Brad threatened, causing everyone to go quiet.

“I . . .” she gulped.

“You can piss off with your threats to us,” Chedderfield snapped when Brad’s eyes turned to him. “After all, neither of us have families that are high-class enough to work for your greedy ass. Right, Archimedes?”

Archimedes nodded even as he gulped down his anxiety. He hated being put on the spot, but he also agreed with Chedderfield. 

Brad stepped right up to Archimedes, stood inches from his face, and said, “This doesn’t concern you, Oil Spill.” Then glancing at Chedderfield he added, “Or you, Ricotta.”

“Uhh . . . I’ve informed security of what happened. I think you three will need to wait around, but I’ll be here to testify on your behalf and get you anything you need,” said Danielle, Chedderfield’s curvy crush who had been handling the name tags, as she approached the group from behind. Brad stepped away from Archimedes and turned toward the woman.

“Oh, thanks . . .” Chedderfield replied, scratching the back of his head as he avoided her eyes and looked over at Archimedes.

“As for the rest of you all, if you’d like to stay around and make a statement for the police, you can. Otherwise, feel free to enter the party. We’ve got your names and phone numbers already registered, so there won’t be any issue if we need you.”

“Tch. At least some people know how to act,” Brad said, roughly snatching his name card from Danielle’s outstretched hand as he started walking toward the double doors that led to the reunion venue, Maryam and Nguyen following after him.

“He sure isn’t one of those people.” Chedderfield’s anger was apparent from his tone.

“Don’t sweat him,” Archimedes said, half to Chedderfield and half to the mortified Stephanie, who was staring wide-eyed at the floor.

The people in the elevator, who had been killed by whatever it was they’d fought, proved a gory sight. Limbs lay severed, and parts even looked like they were half eaten. Stephanie pulled her gaze from the bodies with a shudder and turned towards Chedderfield. “What was that thing, and what did those floating words mean? Why could we see them, but Brad couldn’t?”

Archimedes answered, “We don’t know what it all is either, Stephanie. But it has to be over. I mean, how many of those creepy guys could be walking around? Why don’t we just go enjoy the party? I’ll buy you a drink.”

Stephanie snorted, and the melancholy expression shifted to a small smile as she shook her head. “The drinks at these things are free, but that was a nice try.”

“It’s the thought that counts, right?” Archimedes replied, his eyes darting to Chedderfield for support. 

“Don’t look at me, bro. You’re on your own if you’re trying to score,” Chedderfield said and turned to walk away. He took the cheap sticker on the table that said, “Hello, my name is Manuel Chedderfield,” peeled off the backing, and slapped it onto the breast of his dress shirt before hesitantly speaking to Danielle, who had been watching the exchange between the three. “Danielle, maybe later I could get down with you.”

“Huh?” she asked, clearly uncertain of what he was saying.
“I mean, dance floor, me, you . . .” Chedderfield said quickly, jumbling his words in embarrassment. 

“Real smooth,” Lucy mumbled behind Chedderfield’s back. 

Chedderfield gave the blue-haired woman a quick glare. He then turned back to Danielle, took a deep breath, and slowly said, “I would like it if I could dance with you later. Would that be okay?”

Chedderfield’s meaning finally got through. The brunette woman’s cheeks blushed slightly, and she nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that. I’ve been looking forward to catching up with you, Manny.”

“I’ll see you inside later then.” Chedderfield could feel a bit of heat on his cheeks at the use of the nickname only she’d used with him, “Manny.” He turned and walked through the double doors because part of him worried that she’d change her mind if he stood there any longer. He heard more than saw footsteps behind him, but his mind was racing at his success, and he didn’t look back. 

Still, Archimedes’ voice caught up with him over the music playing, and he turned to see both his former friend and Stephanie right behind him. 

“Good job, amigo. I didn’t think you had it in you to make a move on Danielle,” Archimedes said, his hand raised for a high five. 

Chedderfield almost lifted his hand to high five the man, his memories of their friendship almost overriding the memories of what happened after high school had ended. “Don’t think that I’ve forgiven you for what you did just because I sided with you against Brad. I dislike that douche only slightly more than I do you. Now that we’re away from all that business with the elevator and that crazy guy, why don’t we just stay out of each other’s way?”

Before Archimedes could reply, Chedderfield turned away and walked into the crowd of dancers and former classmates.

Archimedes sighed as he watched the man who’d been his best friend walk away. He didn’t know what he was expecting. He didn’t know why he had hoped things would magically change overnight. Their friendship ended at the funeral, and he couldn’t change what happened. He shook his head to clear his thoughts from the memory and forced a smile back on his face.

“What was that all about?” Stephanie asked. 

Lucy opened her mouth to answer, but Archimedes spoke first.

“Nothing,” he said cryptically. “Nothing. Not worth the time.” With a shake of his head, he flashed Stephanie a smile that was only half forced and added, “But we shouldn’t let that stop us from having a good time. Why don’t I get you that drink I promised?”

Stephanie smiled back, glad to take her mind off the corpses and horrid violence that she’d seen that day and anxious for a drink to calm her nerves. “That sounds like a great idea.”

“Woo-hooo! Drinks!” Lucy yelled, raising her arms excitedly and pushing herself between the two as the three awkwardly went into the party.

Upgrade Apocalypse – C3

Chapter 3

This song again? Archimedes thought as he mashed the button for the forty-second floor and took a deep breath. Even though he had heard the song probably a hundred times, the nameless tune that seemed to play on repeat in every elevator across the city for the last year wasn’t actually that bad. Rather, he was grumpy because of all the people that had gotten on the elevator after him.

He had rushed ahead and gotten on the same elevator as Chedderfield, Lucy in tow, thinking that it’d just be the three of them, and the forty-plus-floor climb would give him a chance to at least start clearing the air before Chedderfield huffed off and avoided him the entire night. Unfortunately, as soon as he got in the elevator, he noticed it wasn’t just Chedderfield. Rather, Brad, who’d been a general rich asshole bully and Archimedes’ rival on their soccer team, was already there doing his best to chat up another person: Stephanie. She was the preppy goody two shoes who had signed her name twice on every volunteer list back in the day.  

Just as soon as he told himself that two extra people wasn’t too bad, he could stand a little embarrassment, and that Brad wouldn’t even pay attention to them anyway, Jeff, the short wannabe musician that used to play guitar in the cafeteria every day, threw his hand between the closing elevator doors and forced them open again.

“Got room for three more?” Nguyen, the old high school gossip asked as she walked in behind Jeff. Archimedes could see Maryam, a girl he couldn’t remember ever talking to for more than a sentence, sitting at the entrance of the elevator, hesitating for a moment. 

“They got room. Stop taking your time and either get on or get off,” a short rotund man that Archimedes didn’t recognize at all said as he pushed past Maryam into the elevator, giggling at something on his phone with one of the most dirty-old-man smiles Archimedes had ever seen. The guy put away his phone and leaned against an elevator wall. “What? You getting  in or not? I got places to be.”

“Oh . . . y-yes,” Maryam mumbled as she pushed her way into the now tightly packed box.

“You wanna hit the damn close-door button before anyone else decides to get on this clown car of a damn elevator? I swear . . .” Brad huffed as he made a point of moving his hand in just the right way to show off his incredibly expensive—like more than most people on the elevator might make in a year expensive—brand name watch to everyone in the elevator.

Yeah, so much for getting a chance to clear things up with Chedderfield . . . Archimedes sighed as he leaned his head back and listened to the unknown song for the thousandth time this year. He could see exactly how mad Chedderfield was getting thanks to Brad and knew it wouldn’t be the right time.

“What’s with that look, Oil Spill?” Brad demanded indignantly as the elevator finally began to head upward.

Oil Spill. Archimedes couldn’t help but grit his teeth tightly and force a smile as he did his best not to show how much that nickname Brad had given him in high school bothered him. While everyone else except Chedderfield and two other kids in their high school had come from money, Archimedes had toiled night and day at the family garage like a dying workhorse to help pay for their fancy, snobbish school and put money away for college—yet for some reason, that was something everyone mocked, calling him names to belittle his hard work.

        “No need to go there, pendejo,” Chedderfield said, using the Spanglish insult that he and Archimedes would call Brad, who never took the time to google what it meant but knew it was a foreign word, which was enough to still make him turn red when he heard it. 

         “Oh my god, did you guys hear about those four million trees planted by the BluTubers?” Stephanie cut in, trying to diffuse the situation by changing the subject. “I mean, isn’t that amazing? I can’t imagine having such a large impact, can you?”

         Jeff sighed. Archimedes already knew why too. That half-Indonesian musician wannabe had always hated Stephanie’s type, the BluTubers, and anything charitable at all. 

Before Jeff even began to open his mouth, Archimedes already knew what he was going to say too. If those people down there would just yada yada . . . He began formulating a way to stop that when, all of a sudden, the elevator started to vibrate before it lurched to a halt.

         The elevator shook, and the lights flickered as if something had hit the building. Even the repetitive song skipped a note and restarted.

         “What in the—” The words fell out of Archimedes’ mouth as he looked over at Jeff, the five-foot-three pineapple-pizza-loving, turkey-bacon-eating monster that had ruined the cafeteria’s menu more times than he could count.

         “I mean, if those freaking people down there would just stop burning the . . .” Jeff began, the elevator blip only delaying his rant. He was oblivious to the fact that the elevator lights were flickering like a monitor with a graphics card trying to render faulty code, but then the whole elevator shifted, falling an inch and locking for a moment as everyone tried to recover their balance. For a brief second, it felt like the elevator was going to drop, and they were about to be sent falling toward their deaths.

“Don’t worry,” Lucy said while putting a hand on Archimedes’ shoulder as if reading his mind and answering a question he hadn’t even asked. “The elevator has a secure locking system. It’s not going to—”

Lucy couldn’t even finish her sentence before a giant pipe crashed through the wall of the elevator and impaled Jeff, transfixing him to the wall behind him as it punched right through his sternum, exploded out his back, and continued for several inches before eventually coming to a stop. 

For a brief second, no one moved. No one breathed. No one even blinked as they stared at Jeff, his upper torso ripped to shreds, his eyes strained. His whole face looked like it was about to pop like a stress ball that had the middle squeezed too tightly. “I always hated you all,” he managed to sputter.

         “AHHH!!!!” Stephanie screamed as the light left Jeff’s eyes and he died. She wasn’t the only one. Every girl except Lucy screamed as well, and Archimedes had to admit that he had the urge to do so too. He might have if his ears hadn’t been left ringing by the shrill shrieking because the elevator acted as a sound-insulating box of horror.

Maryam, who had been hiding in the corner of the elevator until that point, put a hand to her mouth as she retched, small driblets of vomit escaping between her fingers as she did her best to hunch forward and not get any on her dress.

“Breathe. Breathe,” Nguyen said as she put a hand on Maryam’s back. She then produced a wet wipe from her bag.

“Don’t you dare get that shit on me,” Brad warned despite not being anywhere close to Maryam.

Chedderfield stared at what was left of the mutilated body of the pineapple-pizza-loving musician. “Oh my god.”

“I don’t think he did it, but if he did, maybe I’ll have to consider going to church,” Lucy snorted, seemingly immune to the horrendous act in front of them.

“Fuck, this suit cost more than he did,” Brad said as he looked at his overly expensive, brand-name suit and tried to wipe the blood off. “What the hell? Someone is going to have to pay for this. I am not going to be out a few grand because some cheap, corner-cutting immigrant couldn’t do their fucking job right!”

“Calm down, Brad. I’m sure you have more shirts in your bridal suite,” Chedderfield said with a scowl.

“Yeah, I bet you’ll just use it as an excuse to take off your shirt anyways,” Lucy added loudly.

The elevator shook, and everyone stumbled as the lights in the elevator flickered and went out. There were curses from the dark as people tried to get to their feet and regain their composure. There was a snick sound and a brief flash of sparks, which repeated until a single flame gave some light to the suddenly confining metal box. The short, barely five-foot-eight ball of dough, who had sat in the corner of the elevator quietly until now, held his lighter in his hand, the flame illuminating the worn Led Zeppelin T-shirt he was wearing even as its light struggled to reach the walls and ceiling of the tiny space.

         While everyone else was stuck staring at the light, Archimedes watched as Stephanie’s eyes went from the hole in the elevator to the still shaking walls, back to the hole, and then to Brad. He could see her mouth moving without words for a moment before something finally came out, once more breaking the persistent silence: “The doors! We . . . We need to get those doors open!” she exclaimed, grabbing Brad’s bicep with both of her hands.

         You little . . . Archimedes thought, looking over to Chedderfield to see if he had noticed it too. 

         Brad’s lips pulled upward, his eyes lighting up as if Jeff hadn’t just been turned into a human shish kabob right in front of him, and he beamed a full-toothed grin at Stephanie. “I got it, babe,” he boasted, pushing past the stunned Archimedes and Chedderfield as he made his way to the door. 

         It didn’t take him long to get his fingers in and begin pulling the doors apart, centimeter by centimeter. His muscles strained, and the veins on his neck started to look like the cables on a suspension bridge as they bulged outward. After half a minute of looking like a constipated version of the Hulk, his efforts were rewarded as the crack became just wide enough for everyone to see the T-shaped junction in the hotel hallway in front of them, the room numbers all in the 3800s.

         “Give me a second, and I’ll get the rest,” Brad assured them as he paused to take a breather, supporting his tired upper body on his knees as he bent over, winded from the exertion. “I didn’t spend all those damn days in the gym for nothing.”

Lucy, who had been watching the whole show with a rather peculiar expression, waited for Brad to expend himself before remarking, “Real smooth there, Brad . . . real smooth-brain, that is.” Then, turning to Chedderfield, she said, “Give me a boost, and I’ll show you how a real woman can do this.”

Chedderfield looked to Archimedes, who smirked and nodded. The two shared an unspoken desire to make Brad look bad. Chedderfield squatted down a little, placing one meaty hand under each of Lucy’s armpits and slowly lifting her up and she reached between the slightly open doors, doing his best not to drop his classmate.

“And ta-da!” Lucy exclaimed proudly as she flipped a latch. The two doors shot open as much as they could, stopping halfway on one side as the beam stuck through it prevented it from opening any further.

The moment the plan was complete, Chedderfield quickly and unceremoniously plopped her back down, leaned back, and wiped his forehead.

“I don’t have my own orbit, you ass,” Lucy quipped, smacking Chedderfield’s gut.

“What?” He looked confused and wronged.

Archimedes didn’t know whether he wanted to explain that the way Chedderfield had set her down and the motion he had done after had made it look less like the years had gotten to him and more like the pounds had gotten to her.

Brad, for his part, looked even more wronged than Chedderfield as he stared maliciously at Lucy. “You couldn’t have done that earlier? Like, before I spent all that effort trying to pull apart the doors?”

“And deny you the chance to flex those arms for the ladies?” Lucy snickered back.

“Umm, I’m just gonna . . .” the guy with the lighter muttered as he scooted past the petty squabbling of old classmates. He hobbled to the elevator door, making a big scene of having to lift his knees up high enough to reach the hotel floor as he climbed out of the elevator while everyone watched. “There we go. That wench is on her own if she still wants to see the damn meteor shower at 9:00. I am not walking up the damn, freaking stupid, freaking stairs or taking a damn elevator again tonight,” he grumbled before starting down the hallway. 

“Welp, it’s a new age. I suppose we should get used to saying, ‘gentlemen first,’” Nguyen remarked, extending a hand to usher Archimedes out of the elevator as if she were a man opening a car door for a lady.

         Archimedes, not being one to argue with any situation that got him off the death trap faster, just shrugged. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said, stepping up and out of the elevator only to turn around and offer a hand to Nguyen.

         “Don’t mind you do either,” Nguyen replied as she took Archimedes’ hand. He pulled her out of the elevator just as it shook ominously again.

            “It’s falling! Let me through, plebeians!” Brad yelled as he pushed his way past the women, knocking down Stephanie and Maryam as he tried to pry the elevator doors open further. 

            The elevator shook again and dropped another foot. “Move it!” Chedderfield yelled as he helped the two fallen ladies to their feet. The rest of the elevator passengers scrambled for the exit, and, between Nguyen and Archimedes, they were pulled out of the death trap. Chedderfield was the last out, and, just as his feet cleared the elevator doors, there was a loud snap, and the elevator dropped down its shaft with a deafening clatter.

          “That was close,” Chedderfield said, still lying prone on the carpeted hotel hallway.

          “Closer than you know.” Archimedes had a wide-eyed look on his face as he pointed to the bottom of Chedderfield’s shoes.

           Chedderfield turned and sat up to examine what Archimedes pointed at to find the entire sole of one of his newly bought dress shoes missing. The dropping elevator had shaved off the layer of shoe as it fell.

          “Damn, I just bought these too,” Chedderfield griped as he poked his feet through the sole-less shoe with his finger. 

           “I-I-I-t could have been worse if you hadn’t moved faster,” Maryam said as Chedderfield got to his feet.

        Brad nodded and added, “Yeah, you could have been that stupid guitar freak.”

        The reminder of Jeff’s gruesome demise sobered the mood immediately. They’d joked in the grim moment, and Archimedes had played along as a way to deal with the immediate threat to his life, but once the threat passed, the death hit him with grisly realism.

         “Someone should t-t-t-ell management about their elevator and Jeff’s death,” Maryam said, staring at the dark hole where the elevator had once been. She then looked up at the rest of the group with saucer eyes that reminded Archimedes of a child who had broken something valuable and didn’t know what to do more than a person who had just seen someone die. After a few moments of silence, she added, “We should . . . We should wait for someone, right? For his mom? Or his dad? Or . . .”

Brad shrugged. “It’s not my problem.” 

“I thought this was your family’s hotel. How is it not?” Chedderfield said.

“Whatever. That’s a construction worker’s mistake, not mine, and I think they’ll have noticed the elevator issue since the thing crashed into the ground,” Brad remarked sarcastically. “Since, as you pointed out, my family owns this hotel, I can assure you the day manager will be hearing from me about the faulty upkeep of the elevator.” He looked at the people around him, smiled, and continued, “But that doesn’t have to stop us from having a good time at our reunion, does it?”

         Archimedes blinked in shock as he tried to process how nonchalant Brad was about Jeff’s death. Even if Brad didn’t care about Jeff and probably never thought of him as being in the same social stratosphere, Jeff was still a person. A person had just died, and Brad was worried about whether his high school reunion would be ruined and whether they were going to have a good time. 

Upgrade Apocalypse – C2

Chapter 2

“Damnit!” Archimedes cursed as he failed once again to get the tiny, little button through the equally tiny buttonhole on his collar. He went to try for the fifth time to get the annoying thing through the overly starched hole when the sound of a text message on his phone distracted him, and the button slipped through his fingers again. Screw it. I don’t really need a tie for this thing, do I? Archimedes thought as he pushed the collar flat against his neck, pulled his phone from his dress pants pocket, and read the notification.

“Sorry I wasn’t there when you got into town. I’m out drinking with Mary and the girls. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave. You know your father always throws such a hissy fit over silly stuff like that,” read the text from his mom.

Even though Archimedes should have known not to even have enough expectations to be disappointed, it still cut him a little to see the message. He knew his mom, and he knew what it really meant: I don’t plan on bothering to see you this entire weekend, and your father is busy at work paying for my hobbies. You’ve wasted the trip.

“Yeah, what was I expecting?” Archimedes mumbled to himself as he went through the rest of his text messages. There was one from his highschool and college friend, Lucy, whose plane ticket had gotten her into town earlier in the week. She wanted to walk to his parents’ place so the two of them could take a cab together to the high school reunion.

As he was typing out a “sure, that sounds good” reply, his phone rang. It was a call from an office friend.

Archimedes just sighed as he took the call. “Hey, Adam, what’s up?” he asked.

“Poker night in thirty minutes. We’re over at Sessler’s place, but I still got this damn ‘not going to make it’ in my inbox from you,” Adam said. “What’s the deal? How are the rest of us poor bastards with a proper social life going to afford our girlfriends if you don’t show up with your terrible poker face and a pocket full of cash?”

“Ah . . . yeah . . . sorry,” Archimedes replied as he held the phone tightly with his neck and started his attempt at getting the damn button through the hole one more time. “I can’t make it. I’m not even in town. Got a reunion.”

“Oh . . .” Adam’s tone went from chipper to morose in a single moment. “Okay, but you gonna be okay, man? This is, like, the fifth poker night in a row you’ve canceled.”

“Huh? Oh . . . yeah,” Archimedes wasn’t sure how to pretend like the accident at work wasn’t still bothering him. “I’m fine, man. I just haven’t seen my parents in forever. Thought I’d come home and connect with old friends . . . That’s all.”

“You know what happened to Kevin wasn’t your fault, right? That kinda shit just happens, man,” Adam said. “I know how close you two were, practically built the damn company together, but . . . it wasn’t your fault, man.”

“Yeah . . . of course it wasn’t.” Archimedes gulped, trying to swallow the anxiety he was feeling before it bubbled up and into the conversation. “Look, I just needed a breather. Gonna catch up with some old friends while I’m here. I think Lucy is dragging me to some damn microbrewery,” he said with a chuckle.

“Lucy? That horrible stand-up comedian you dragged us to twice?” Adam asked, snickering while Archimedes gave an affirmative grunt. “Well, if you got your buddy Lucy there, I won’t nag you too much, but don’t let her spend all your money on booze. Or just stop buying her drinks, man. She could use a day of sobriety from the stories you’ve told.”

“Ha!” Archimedes laughed at the idea of a sober Lucy. “That won’t happen this weekend. The reunion we’re going to will have an open bar. I think that’s half the reason she agreed to come.”

“Alright man, well, don’t forget to watch the meteor shower too. I hear it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime show, and it’s supposed to be massive. Like a thousand-plus meteors are supposed to soar by us,” Adam went on. “It’s so big it’s even got those end-of-the-world weirdos out in full force like it’s 2012 all over again.”

“Didn’t your girl tell me that you were one of those 2012 believers back in the day?” Archimedes asked, causing Adam to quickly throw up a defensive lie.

“What? No? Of course not. All logic here. I just said that to, uhh, get her in the mood with some ‘end of the world, and I don’t want to have any regrets’ romance . . . whatever . . . and, uhh . . . I gotta run, man. Don’t you dare bail on us next week though. I need that money from your shitty poker skills. Ha.”

“Have you ever actually won at poker night?” Archimedes had to ask.

“With that type of talk, I can tell you need some space. Later, boss,” Adam quickly spat out with a laugh before hanging up the phone.

“Yeah . . .” Archimedes grumbled as he failed once more with the button, but he couldn’t get himself to give up. The tips of his fingers were already bothering him, but at this point, he had tried for too long to admit defeat.

After a minute more of trying, he finally got the button, and for some reason, it felt like the biggest accomplishment he’d pulled off in a long time. “Boo ya!” he shouted like he was back in high school and not just an adult ten years older on his way to a reunion.

Staring at himself in the mirror, he adjusted the Double-Windsor knot of his tie once more, straightened his blazer, and puffed out his chest. Ever since Kevin died, Archimedes had told himself he would stop letting opportunities pass him by. Even though selfish introspection felt somewhat wrong, like he was profiting off his close friend’s death, Kevin dying before he even hit thirty had shown Archimedes exactly how temporary life could be and exactly how little time he might have left. He was going to spend more time with Lucy, and he was going to reconnect with his friend Chedderfield, even if the apology he was going to have to give would be humiliating. This reunion was going to be the perfect opportunity.

Hearing the doorbell ring just as he finished adjusting his attire, he flipped the lights off, grabbed the fancy golden tie clip that had been custom made with his own unique maker’s mark Lucy had given him last year, and headed downstairs to open the door and find Lucy waiting with an ear-to-ear grin. She looked gorgeous. Her normally wild shoulder length blue hair was combed down and styled in a layered medium shag with bangs instead of going in all directions like it usually was. She was wearing a beautiful silky black sundress that looked far classier than anything he’d seen her in before. 

“I can’t believe you actually agreed to come, Arc!” she exclaimed happily as she gave him a hug. “And, man, you clean up real nice. Though . . .” She leaned back, held both his arms, and looked him up and down.

“What? Do I have something on my suit?” he asked, looking down at his clothes as he tried to think what could be off with his look. He’d double-checked every detail.

“No, just this doesn’t suit you at all,” she opined as she leaned in and undid the button on his collar while yanking off the tie he’d worked so hard to make look nice. “You are a lot of things, Arc, but I’d be surprised if you were the type of guy to even wear a tie to your own funeral.”

Son of a . . . Archimedes had to stop himself from cursing as his right hand unconsciously touched the button he had struggled with for so long, which she had deftly undone in a single movement.

“Alright, enough waiting. Let’s get going. It’s an open bar, Arc! An open bar!” Lucy squealed excitedly as she pulled Archimedes by the wrist toward a waiting cab.

But without the tie… I don’t have an excuse to wear the clip you gave me last year… he thought, but chose it wasn’t worth arguing about as he let himself be dragged off.

Upgrade Apocalypse – C1

Chapter 1 of Ramon and Charles’s Upgrade Apocalypse

Chapter 1

Daphnixe drummed her fingers on the table as she and the rest of the high council stared at the holographic projection in front of them. It was a picture of the Exoterron solar system, though more specifically, tens of thousands of asteroids carrying the hell spawn and their accursed rift shards flying through space.

She studied the image in silence, then she finally asked the question that was likely on the mind of everyone at the council table: “How long before it reaches our quadrant and touches ground on planet 446?” 

“About five cycles and two hundred and four rotations. The rate at which they are gaining momentum is too varied to give a more accurate prediction,” Ikats, the chief astrophysicist of the high council answered. Even though Daphnixe knew for a fact that Ikats wasn’t capable of calculating how long it would take him to get to work in the morning, much less the time it would take for this doomsday set of asteroids to crash land into the newly colonized planet, she also knew the women he kept as slaves were the best scientists cards could buy, literally, and he was too cautious not to have double-checked the numbers. 

“Five cycles?! Unacceptable! It will be at least ten cycles at the earliest until the planetary defense system comes online!” Fulzeed, the head of colonization defense, exclaimed as he stood up, slamming the table between them with his large meaty hand.

“Please calm yourself and act rationally, Fulzeed,” Ikats replied neutrally, his tone hiding the anger building at Fulzeed’s outburst. “I am only reporting the facts. If my report could change the time it would take for the hell-cursed to reach their destination, I would have written five hundred cycles, not five.”

“Yes . . . yes . . .” Fulzeed sighed. “I just cannot help but be enraged knowing how many resources we sunk into finding a planet with a rich dimensional crystal deposit only to have those filthy bastards discover us and launch an attack before we could even get a basic gateway and planetary defense set up.”

“The hell-cursed don’t seek the same mineral resources as us; they seek life. They don’t concern themselves with mineral deposits and standardized energy sources. All that matters is whether or not there is a planet with people to kill and life to consume,” Ikats noted. “That we spent so much effort trying to discover dimensional crystals to create more rifts won’t matter at all to them.”

“Ikats is correct,” Phe’bix stated. She was the chief astrological surveyor who had been the one to discover the planet in the first place. “They aren’t interested in our findings, nor the crystals. They will just kill everything on the planet and use the bodies and souls of the dead to form whatever they need before they return through their portals only to repeat the process.”

“While broadcasting the mass extinction of their victims, the natives on the planet and our people working with them, to every quadrant and planet through the S.A.N.E. network,” Fulzeed practically snarled as he sat back in his chair helplessly.

“I assume then that you take their victory for granted?” Daphnixe asked, looking over at the giant of a man. She was used to him complaining that he didn’t have enough time to build a defense, that he didn’t have enough soldiers to fight, or that there weren’t enough resources to work, but she wasn’t used to him predicting the enemy’s victory before the battle had even begun.

“After the last planet we lost?” Fulzeed replied. “Yes. Yes, I am, and you should know why. Ever since they developed the ability to manufacture hell conscriptors before their main force even reaches the planet they’re infesting, they’ve gone from an indiscriminate plague of destruction spilling out in all directions to an organized invasion that’s far more efficient than the rabble we’ll be able to muster from the locals on that colony.” 

“They’ve always had super conscriptors. How is this any different?” Daphnixe asked, leaning in as she studied the look of anger and agitation that was written on Fulzeed’s face.

“Those towering monstrosities created from the genetics of an infected dvixian queen, the overseers of their army, don’t usually fit in their meteors of destruction. However, after the battle of planet 44781, we noticed that several of the local populace had been . . . morphed, changed into something that acted like a much smaller version of a conscriptor. They weren’t nearly as deadly and were much more vulnerable to being killed by even the most basic S.A.N.E.-utilizing weapon, but they were still capable of organizing and weaponizing any and all newly infected hell-cursed around them,” Fulzeed explained.

“And you wrote this in your report?” Daphnixe asked, frowning as she realized this was a detail she hadn’t noticed.

“Yes, he did,” Ikats said as he pulled out the very report in question. “Which is why, before this meeting even began, I drafted an alternative proposal to our usual methods. If you would be so kind and forgive this humble scientist for speaking of military matters, I would like to present it.”

Daphnixe leaned back in her chair and tapped her fingers on the table once more as she stared at Ikats. What game are you playing now? she wondered as she stared at him. He was, after all, not one to ever stick his neck out more than his job required. He held his position so firmly due to the fact he never risked saying more than he had to and never undercut anyone that was his equal or above him. Yet, here he was, doing both of those at once.

Before Daphnixe, the Archon of the high council, whose job it was to permit such things, could speak though, Phe’bix had already stood up and, in just as risky of a move as Ikats was making, permitted the grievance: “If you have a plan to save my efforts and our hard work and further the cause of the species, then even if it isn’t my place to say so, I would implore you to speak now. Clearly, no one else here has a solution.”

“Then I will beg your forgiveness if my words are not to your liking,” he began, exchanging a mischievous grin with Phe’bix as he stood up to champion his cause. The grin likely went unnoticed by anyone else but Daphnixe in the council room. “But . . . There is, around three cycles from now, a large gaseous planet that the hell-cursed are set to pass on their way to our colony. If we were to . . . take advantage of the gas that makes up the majority of the planet and induce a detonation as the hell-cursed pass by, we believe that this could alter the gravity enough to cause the hell-cursed attack to shift by a little over a single degree.”

“How will that help?” Fulzeed asked from his chair as he leaned in. “We’ve always had the ability to shift their course by a degree or two, but the end result is always the same: they simply re-adjust course and continue their attack. You’d be investing heavily in a payload that wouldn’t do anything more than buy us a minute or two at best.”

Daphnixe couldn’t help but feel like she was being played as even she pondered the same question in her head that the oaf Fulzeed had just blurted out. 

“They always re-adjust because they are beasts that search for life. They will, without a doubt, head toward the closest planet with the most life at any given moment,” Ikats explained. “However, if we create that detonation at the right time and do our best to hide the signals of life on the colony planet at just the right moment . . . our colony will just barely escape notice. Instead, another planet will meet their requirements, and they’ll fully adjust course toward that planet instead.”

“So you mean to sacrifice another planet teeming with life to those hell-cursed instead of ours, just so that we can gain enough time to build the planetary defenses and create the gates needed to transport our armies?” Daphnixe asked the man. “Won’t they just be an even deadlier threat once they have all the resources and S.A.N.E. energy deposits that an entire system has to offer?”

“Forgive my insolence for presuming to know anything of military matters, High Archon Daphnixe,” Ikats replied, “but I think the plan could go further.”


“The planet that will meet the qualifications after our colony is taken out of harm’s way will be close enough to reach from our colony. Once we have finished setting up the portals and building the defenses, we could then summon our army and eradicate the hell-cursed while they’re still harvesting the water and carbon the planet has to offer.” 

“And how do you plan to stall them for four cycles? I doubt any native population alone could resist them.”

“Let’s not forget how the hell-cursed and the system function: as long as they survive the initial mutation phase, the moment the natives kill a creature with their curse, they’ll inherit it themselves and be inducted into the S.A.N.E. system. Even if most of them die during the initial invasion, the remnants might be able to use that system to survive,” Ikats explained, defending the native population’s ability to stall.

“Ha! As if they’d be able to scrape together enough levels to fend off even one portal’s guardian,” Daphnixe laughed.

“Maybe not by themselves . . . but if we reach out to the other factions and let them know which planet the hell-cursed are going to land on. While the natives might not offer any real resistance, if the other factions set up there, then even if they don’t stand a chance against the onslaught of the hell-cursed, they’ll still be able to stall them from complete victory for at least a dozen cycles. By then, we will have plenty of time to build the necessary forces and capitalize on our exhausted foes, wiping out multiple potential threats in a single move,” Ikats explained.

At the conclusion of this plan, Phe’bix stood up again, practically grinning from ear to ear as she proclaimed, “I have never heard of such a beautiful opportunity before! If this works out, we may be able to build three or four colonies before the hell-cursed recover from their defeat!”

“I am loath to say it, but even I could not have come up with a more effective countermeasure,” Fulzeed grumbled.

Feeling betrayed by Phe’bix conspiring with Ikats, Daphnixe felt even more reluctant to admit she didn’t have a better idea. “Fine,” she grumbled. “Do it. But first, have you made sure the natives of the planet you’re sacrificing aren’t going to be useful DNA for the hell-spawned morphologists? That they won’t turn out creating the next hell conscriptor as their species is assimilated?

“Yes, I checked first. The sentients on the planet, the ‘humans’ there, as they call themselves, are the weakest and most pathetic race we’ve come across. They have no temperature, radiation, or damage resistance; their musculature is nearly non-existent next to even the local animals on the same planet; and they cannot even provide the basic necessities for themselves without crafting and technology. They are the lowest ranked species we’ve ever seen before. Even though there are several billion of them, without notifying the other factions of the hell-cursed plan, we do not believe the species would even last a single day against the hell-cursed. They will not produce any future genetic threats.”

Daphnixe stood up. “I see you’ve done your homework. Then, as high archon of the high council, I order you to commence the operation.”

“I will begin immediately,” Ikats said as he bowed before turning to leave, Phe’bix hot on his tail as she came up next to him, and the two began exchanging whispers while leaving the room.

Daphnixe sat down as she watched the other council members file out in pairs or groups of three as they talked about the recent development. “Just what are you playing at?” Daphnixe asked no one in particular as she replayed the interaction in her head. “Even if it is successful, there are no more promotions to be had . . . and if it’s unsuccessful, you could be stripped of rank and honor. Why are you making such overt moves then?” She felt anger boiling inside her at the fact she had no answers to this mystery, only the certainty that, whatever scheme Ikats was working on, she would not like the outcome if it were successful.