Chapter 26
...34 years ago...

Gregory Tong nervously clung to his ANK-68 assault rifle: its worn frame creaking in his hands as his skin dug into its finish. He was plainly dressed in a rugged brown coat with a hundred or so other men wearing the same thing, all jam packed in a underground shaft as the ceiling above them shook and rumbled. They were in a shaft just below the mall.

A man next to Tong whispered to him in Chinese, his voice laden with obvious anxiousness:

"What's going on up there?"

"I don't know... But it sure sounds like we aren't winning."

The shaking above them stopped after a while and a scrawny soldier came down the slope before them.

"Move! Move! They are retreating out of the mall!"

Tong's heart was now thumping hard against his chest: from what he understood there was a full blown attack above him. He already had one too many narrow escapes from street skirmishes and Tong did not fancy his chances this time.

Along with the battalion, Tong ascended the slope into a car park, and went up a few flights of escalators to reach the top. The hazy air stung his eyes as he looked around: the front of the mall was in tatters and everything else was riddled with bullet holes. Not one square inch of furniture was left unscathed from the scars of war.

Some officer was at the front ordering for the bodies to be cleared up and the entrance fortified. Tong saw machine guns being set up around him and decided to assist them. Idly standing around in Qiang Cun just made one seem like an important personnel and a hot target for Gedan or San Xing snipers.

"Sir! There's something here!"

Everyone turned to the entrance to see a lone figure walking towards them. The afternoon sun reflected brilliantly on its silver armor it glared at them with clear purple eyes. What stood before them looked like a human in a suit of armor, but Tong could tell something was off. The creepy way it hunched over... those piercing eyes...

"What is that thing?!"

"Shoot it!"

The next few minutes were a blur to him: Tong had raised his gun but his forefinger was locked away from the trigger. From the moment he saw the being launch its volley of rockets and devastate his allies, he was overwhelmed with the realization that it was futile.

This was where he died.

Blood spattered onto his face as his comrades got slice clean in half. Limbs and heads flew all around him and all he cold do was stand there, paralyzed with fear.

"Kill it! Don't stop shooting!"

The remaining men were all firing inaccurately from their hips now, focusing more on running away from this monstrosity.

Tong managed to squeeze the trigger of his ANK-68 and the recoil almost jolted the rifle out of his hands. A few men joined him and opened fire at the thing, but their rounds harmlessly bounced off its armor. Tong almost fainted when he saw the beast look in his direction.
The thing whipped its hand sideways and he saw bolts of electricity hurl towards him.

Tong instinctively threw himself backwards and fell on his back, the men by his side disintegrated into ash before his eyes; burnt flesh speckled his face as he suppressed his urge to scream for help.

Panicking, he crawled behind a row of sandbags and lay prone on the rough ground. There were more blasts above him and he saw men disappearing in purple flames.

The heavy footsteps of the monster drew close and Tong saw its toes just poking out from the edge of the sandbags; the thing was right next to him but it did not see him nestled between a pair of dead bodies. Tong wanted to cry: upon death, his comrades had defecated on the spot due to shock and the smell of it made him want to tear off his nose. He wanted to rush out, arms out to accept blissful death.

Tong saw it raise a pair of arms and beams of purple erupted from its back like it was on fire. The ground around him shook and a small ball of sheer light generated at its finger tips. The ball grew in size as the ground shook more and Tong could only stare at the blinding light. His eyes widened as he realized what it was going to do.

And then there was a blast so thunderous and so bright that it burned Tong's eyes right out of his sockets.