Two weeks. Fourteen whole days and nights- that was exactly how long Xzavier Mace had been patrolling the grounds of this strange forest. At first, Xzavier had nothing to worry about. He was a soldier above all things, so his training had prepared him for any eventualities and unforeseeable circumstances such as this.
In fact, Xzavier welcomed situations like this for many reasons, primarily because it gave him the perfect opportunity to make ample use of his training, but also because he was hard wired for combat and overcoming difficulties. A part of him actually itched for adversity, but none came.
For a man of action, the worst thing that could happen to him was nothing. Unfortunately for him, his stay in the strange forest had been characterized by the one thing he hated the most- inaction. The first few days had been spent waiting for an ambush that never came.
Cut off from the rest of his squad, as the only soldier from his platoon in the forest, Xzavier Mace went through the forest on high alert. He combed the woods for booby traps, he scoured the ground for traces of any kind of enemy or friendly activity, he even searched for possible landmines, but he never found any. Not even the slightest hint.
Anyone would take this as good news. But not Xzavier Mace. He grew increasingly cautious over the next couple of days and often went many times without sleep.
By the end of the first week, Xzavier's worry was augmented by a very disturbing observation- he had discovered that the forest was a strange place.
Xzavier was well aware of his mental state and psychological condition. He factored all this in and anticipated in advance the effects that came along with it. But even he knew that his mind wasn't playing with him. The forest he had stumbled into was a very strange place.
Xzavier mulled over the events of the past few days, as well as the period that had preceded his arrival here. His original thought had been a very absurd one; he thought that for some odd reason, he had been abandoned by his platoon.
The thought didn't seem very likely or plausible, but given how it had happened, Xzavier knew that everything pointed towards that very fact. Xzavier belonged to a top secret and confidential part of the army.
They were the shadows in the dark that executed off the books missions. They were the division that consisted of the very elite.
They were the Special Forces; the crème of the crème of the armed forces. Of course there were contingencies for situations like this, his training dictated that if in any event he found himself separated from his squad, the first thing to do was to establish communications. This was the first thing that Xzavier had done, but he discovered much to his chagrin that there wasn't even the slightest signal.
It was extremely odd because the communication system handed to the Special Forces unit was state of the art. It was known to bypass all scrambling devices, it could even operate fully in the event of an electro magnetic pulse being detonated. This was the beginning of what sparked Xzavier's suspicion of the forest.
The rest of what followed astounded him even more. Xzavier was a very observant man, even before his army training. So, it didn't escape his attention that the irregular behavior and characteristics of the animals and even the plants were out of the norm.
A closer look at the wildlife told him that they all had strangely peculiar skills. It was uncanny.
"This can't be…"
Xzavier thought to himself as he trailed a rabbit through the forest on one of his hunting expeditions.
"It's almost like this is magic!"
He wasn't typically a TV person, but even he couldn't deny that the reality he was actively experiencing at the moment was similar to some of the magical shows he had seen on sets. The bunny he had been chasing had hopped gracefully into a borough in the woods. He tried to poke his head through but was repelled by an invisible barrier.
He ended up doubling over and crashed the base of his skull into a tree trunk behind him. The pain that followed was intense. Blood immediately began to spill as stars danced before his eyes. It took the whole of his will and his manliness to not cry out.
He winced and gritted his teeth as he endured the pain. Xzavier looked in the direction where his little friend had sought refuge and snarled;
"I am going to get you, you little punk!"
Almost as though it heard him, the rabbit chose that exact moment to poke its head out of its hiding place and shook its head like it was disappointed at Xzavier. The estranged member of the Special Forces was flabbergasted.
"Is this rabbit actually mocking me?" Xzavier thought in disbelief. It certainly seemed that way.
His wounded pride took over him and he lounged himself at it again, this time with calculated aggression. The rabbit didn't even move a bit. Halfway in the air, Xzavier smiled as he congratulated himself;
"That's right little rabbit. Be afraid…"
But his victory was short-lived. He didn't realize that he was about to be swept off by an invading force of nature. Xzavier was so occupied with his victory that he didn't see the huge branch of the tree (in which the rabbit was hiding) rushing towards him with full speed.
By the time he saw it in the corner of his eye, it was already too late for him to bring himself to a halt. It slammed into his sides and sent him flying in the opposite direction. Lying on his back on the rich loamy soil of the forest, completely flustered and shocked, Xzavier convinced himself finally that this was in fact a different forest.
As his mind began to deliberate on the fact that he had left his own world and was now in a different realm, the mechanical voice of the system's voice spoke in his head.
"Major Xzavier Mace, system reporting for duty."
Forgetting the pain, Xzavier jumped up at the sound of the voice. His eyes glossing over his surroundings, he barked;
"Who's there? Identify yourself this instant!"
The automated voice came again;
"This is the military system Alpha Centauri reporting for duty. Please confirm your identity Major."
Xzavier was still dazed and very unsure of what was happening right now. He had perfect situational awareness and wasn't almost always on guard, but this had taken him unawares completely.
He thought aloud in disbelief. Was it really speaking to him?
It answered him immediately.
"Affirmative, Welcome to this world major Xzavier Mace."
Xzavier was about to protest but he immediately remembered that he was in fact in a very strange land where weird things had already been observed. Still, it took him a while to fully come to terms with the fact that this was all in fact very real.
The system began to speak again;
"Major, the system has conducted a thorough assessment of your vitals and the results are as thus;
Blood pressure – normal.
Slight concussion detected.
Elevated heart rate detected.
You may choose to stay here or continue with your mission.
Xzavier listened with rapt attention.
"Well, this certainly just got real." He thought.