Disclaimer: We don't own SAO or any of its characters. We do however own the Hellbound concept and our own characters. Please support the official release. This (currently) one-shot is inspired by the latest SAO arc.
Also, spoilers if you're not up-to-date with the series.
Consider this a tease for Hellbound, for those of you who liked our other story, War-Torn. - SirStonewall
Sorry about the super lack of updates… adult life sucks. Guess what flag Nguyen is flying? - Goodalwayswins98
The Armored Cavalry… or the Great Virtual Boogaloo of 2026
Liz stood with Sinon and the others behind her. Unlike the great gathering hall of ALO, the Alliance's base was far simpler. Tents surrounded a large plaza of sorts, with players standing around casually or sitting on anything ranging from the ground to chairs to tanks. There were no great faction leaders here but instead a mismatch of unit commanders, from players commanding small squads to veterans leading regiments of men and machine, many friends of Nguyen and Stonewall.
The Hellbound community was far different from the ALO one.
"So what the hell is going on, Liz? Don't know why but it sounds bigger than Kirito coming back if you told us to get as many people as we could," Nguyen says, sitting on the front of his M48 Patton tank.
"Yes. We've found out what happened to Kirito and we need your help to save him. What I'm going to tell you is going to be hard to believe," Liz explained seriously, "He's trapped in another VR world called the Underworld where he's supposed to be healing. But the thing is, that VR world is filled with A.I. that are living beings and have souls and emotions just like us."
"Souls and emotions? What the fuck?" Dick muttered as he and Tony shared a look of disbelief, "That's actually possible?"
"Shit. Sooooo are they under attack or something?" Stonewall asked, from the hatch of his Stridsvagn 103.
"Yes, there's gonna be tens of thousands of players logging from the United States thinking that it's a game where they can kill anything without consequences. We need your help to save these people. "
"How are we going to do that? Stonewall asked seriously.
"We need you to convert your existing player data to the Underworld so you can come and help us but there are many difficulties with the conversion."
The Hellbound players started looking at each other, muttering their disbelief to each other. Liz hoped that her words would have the same impact as they did with the ALO players.
"So you want us to go save a bunch of AI's from the US government and a bunch of dumbasses because they have souls and because the dumbasses think it's fun but they're committing genocide without knowing it, right?" Nguyen asked, disbelief evident on his face as he summarized everything.
Liz nodded confidently. She had already convinced the ALO players. She just needed to do it again.
"Yes, you've got to believe me."
"I heard, read and saw a lot of messed up shit in my life… but what are we fighting exactly? They coming in as the Nazis? The Communists? They have tanks and shit?"
"No, well it's a world with swords and magic. They'll be dark knights," the engineer explained, "Maybe they'll have magic."
Nguyen suddenly stood up straight and tall.
"Motherfuckers…" he said, grinning slowly, "What are we waiting for?! We have tanks and they don't! We gotta stop this fucking genocide!"
"Hold up, Nguyen," Stonewall suddenly interrupts, "Liz, What's the issue with conversion exactly?"
"The Underworld doesn't have a U.I so we can't log out when we want. We have to die to log out and if we die, we'll lose our player account data. They also only speak Japanese."
"Hm….. give me a minute, I think I might be able to back up all our player data…." Stonewall muttered as he opened his player menu. "Mikey's better at this shit than I am…."
"You do realize that you are talking to a game dev with his own game company right?" Nguyen pointed out, "And we have translation software for conversation."
"Let me get Dex and Mikey here. We'll do a full player game file backup." Stonewall chuckled as Liz's eyes started shining at his words.
"What are the other issues?" Dick asked lazily.
"There's no pain absorber."
"So we keep our distance and don't get diced up." Amy shrugged. "I'm not too enthused about getting trapped in another game, but we've gotta prevent a genocide."
"Just batten down the hatches on our tanks," Nguyen added, "Unless if they have lightsabers or RPG's, we'll be fine."
"That and a lot of Hellbound players play on Hardcore mode, remember?" Stonewall added, "So pain shouldn't be an issue either."
"If anything, they'll run when they'll see tanks appearing on the horizon," Roscoe added, "I don't think getting blown to pieces by tanks is in anyone's definition of fun."
"Think we can bring air support?" another familiar face asked, followed by various players murmuring excitedly amongst themselves, "Any thing flying at Mach 2 will outspeed anything."
"Good idea Tcat! Don't think they have SAM's in there either."
"Liz, I think we'll need some more info and time so we can plan out this boogaloo," Nguyen stated with a huge grin on his face, "But I'll be the first tank in!"
His crew groaned in annoyance behind him.
"Goddammit Nguyen," Lou sighed, "I'll get the tank ready to go."
"And I'll get a different tank. This thing isn't very flexible." Stonewall said with a grin, patting the roof of his Stridsvagn. "Liz, Sinon, come with me. We got some planning to do before we hit the Underworld." He also began typing and sending messages to various players and devs.
"Any volunteers for the first wave?!" Nguyen shouted, waving around a yellow flag with three red stripes, "Rally to me!"
"Logistics! I need logi drivers!" Amy yelled as players began gathering around her and Nguyen.
"What do we know about this Underworld place?" Stonewall asked. He, Liz and Sinon all stood around a planning table with other leaders in a command tent. "I want some sort of intel."
"Well… not a lot," Liz admitted uneasily, "We know that it's called the Underworld."
"Any maps or anything?" another player spoke up.
"We could send in some people to do some scouting early on," Roscoe suggested, "Get a quick idea of what the place looks like."
"How would they communicate? We don't know if we can send messages back to Hellbound."
"Well, if the bad guys can send in more players… then there's gotta be a way."
"We don't know," Sinon said, "To be honest, we're going in blind."
"Well… that's a risk we've gotta take then." Stonewall muttered, adjusting his USMC tank crewman coveralls.
"If there's no U.I., does that mean that we're going in with whatever we got on our backs?"
"Hellbound has an optional setting for no UI. We've got people setting up logistics as we speak," Stonewall remarked, "We'll be able to do good. How much time do we have?"
"A few hours at the most," Liz reported, "If Agil's calculations are good, they've set everything up so that they'll have the most American players possible."
"30 000 at least but Klein thinks they'll have 100 000 coming in." Sinon answered, "How big is the Hellbound playerbase?"
"That's alot of meat for the grinder." Stonewall chuckled. "Hellbound has a total player base of over two hundred thousand people, but due to time zones only a hundred and thirty thousand people are online on average."
The tent's flap moved, revealing Amy and Nguyen.
"I got enough volunteers to constitute an armored company for the initial force," Nguyen stated, "What's the situation look like?"
"We're going in blind, but it should be a target-rich environment." Stonewall responded with a grim chuckle. "Amy, how's our logistics doing?"
"Enough ammo and fuel to last us a week upon arrival, and we should be able to bring more later via the company."
"How target rich are we talking about?"
"Possibly a hundred thousand."
Nguyen let out a whistle.
"Shit. They're really putting in the package on this," he said, "Think we'll get enough people?"
"We should. If not, we've got a force multiplier in the tanks and planes."
"We should be able to rotate people in and out as well," Nguyen pointed out, "Player base is big enough so…eh! On another note, I even got a speech written down for whoever we're saving over there."
"Let me go over it before you read it." Stonewall sighed.
"Sure me what you think," Nguyen said as he handed his friend a paper, "I'll head back out and help everyone double check their stuff one last time."
"Okay. Just remember, when you get there, your goal is to secure an area so we can set up a FOB. Don't immediately go headhunting." Stonewall reminded the other tank commander, beginning to read the speech.
"I'll join him in the first wave." Amy said with a grin before she looked at Liz and Sinon. "You look like you wanna talk to me."
Both Japanese girls had serious looks on their faces as they looked at Stonewall and Amy.
"Are you sure about helping us?" Liz asked nervously.
"Let's talk outside." Stonewall responded with a jerk of his head, leading the way out of the command tent. "Get everything packed up and ready to roll people!"
The four players exited the command tent before Stonewall led them to a quiet spot of camp.
"What's on your mind?" he asked seriously, lighting a cigarette.
"We're asking a lot of you already," Liz stalled as she fidgeted, "Are you really sure you want to help us?"
The American looked at her nonchalantly, an eyebrow raised.
"We're asking you to fight against your own country," Sinon finally said.
"Well…" Stonewall sighed, taking a deep drag before continuing. "As an American myself, I feel like it's my duty to make sure my countrymen are behaving themselves."
"I feel the same way." Amy giggled. Both Japanese girls had tears in their eyes but a small smile was etched on their faces.
"Thank you so much," Liz finally said.
"Siblings in arms take care of our own." Stonewall simply replied with a grin, offering a hand, as did Amy. "I know it's not custom in Japan to shake hands, but it seems appropriate."
Both girls raised their hands.
"Thank you very much," Sinon said as she shook Amy's hands, "You have no idea how much this means to us."
"You'd do the same for us." Amy replied, grinning.
Both girls nodded tearfully.
A large crowd had amassed around a column of tanks and armored vehicles. There were even 'reporters' that covered this moment. Stonewall had arranged this event to be streamed across Hellbound. They would need every tank, gun and player they could get. Standing at a podium, the red-haired American found himself staring out over the crowd in awe of how many players had attended, but that elation quickly disappeared as he activated the microphone and addressed the world.
"Ladies and gentlemen, today marks a milestone in video game history. Amassed before us is the first expeditionary unit, soon be sent to another digital world in the name of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These hand-picked players have selflessly volunteered their time to make this excursion possible, knowing full well the difficulties ahead of them."
Looking down the line of armored vehicles he smiled when he saw Nguyen's tank proudly flying a yellow flag with three red stripes.
"These players, these men and women, all of them come from different ways of life. Teachers, construction workers, fast-food workers and lawyers. Like their ancestors before them they have heeded the call of liberty. Let them feel calm and collected in their battles to come, guided by those who have bravely gone before them."
With the inspiring portion of his speech finished, he smiled and straightened up.
"All units! Prepare to move!"
With a rumble of engines starting and the whine of hydraulic doors closing, the convoy prepared to embark on their journey, the troops mounted in their armored transports and eager to get to the fight.
The sound of swords clashing, cries of pain and of men dying filled Asuna's ears. She saw soldiers from the Human Empire Army and the Dark Territory Armies being cut down and hacked to pieces by the Dark Knights. Alice and the Integrity Knights were putting up a solid defense but the newfound enemy far outnumbered them. The Dark Knights killed freely without remorse, not knowing that they were slaughtering other living beings.
It was just a game for them as Asuna heard their shouts of glee and pleasure. It sickened her every time that a Underworlder fell, his blood spilling on the cold, barren ground of the Dark Territory. At its worst, SAO was nothing compared to this.
"Stop… stop… STOP!" she shouted at the top of her lungs as she dove back into the melee. Her sword flew through the air, each swing finding its mark and slaying a Dark Knight. Her foot suddenly slipped on a pool of blood. Before she could find her footing, a massive Dark Knight appeared before her.
His terrible axe fell true and sliced off her arm.
She was surrounded but a blur of light suddenly appeared as the knights surrounding fell one by one, hit by lightning fast balls of fire. She saw a red-skinned, blond man, barely older than her standing fiercely between her and the Dark Knights.
"They're all weak."
The next moments passed in a blur for her as the man effortlessly took down all the Dark Knights surrounding them with a blast of his powers, sending them flying away in a powerful conflagration. After their defeat, Asuna struck a deal with the man, Sheyta confirming his honesty, creating great bridges across the chasm she had made earlier in exchange for his Pugilists' help against the Dark Knights.
As soon as the bridges finished materializing, the Pugilists rushed across with a mighty roar, their thirst for vengeance carrying them into the Dark Knights' ranks.
At the same time, distant thunder and whistling could be heard from behind the Human Empire Army, followed by a series of explosions that shook the battlefield. Rumbling noises soon followed, and the battle fell silent for a moment, everyone in shock at what had just happened.
Asuna, still covered by Sheyta and Iskahn and already impressed at the Pugilist's fighting ability, finished healing her injured arm before looking in disbelief at the source of the explosions.
"What's going on?" Iskahn asked as he looked, "What are those things?!"
Large metal monstrosities had appeared on the horizon, firing fireballs into the ranks of the Dark Knights. Men dove prone to the ground alongside the metal beasts before red-hued fireflies zipped across the open expanse, faster than the eye could track, cutting down the enemy troops like wheat to a thresher.
"Tanks..." Asuna muttered in disbelief, "How…"
Music suddenly filled her ears, coming from the tanks.
'Này Công Dân ơi! Quốc gia đến ngày giải phóng...'
She squinted at the lead tank. A single yellow flag with three red stripes was held up by a man, flying proudly in the wind.
"People of the Underworld! Hold fast and do not despair! I, Colonel Nguyen of South Vietnam and my warriors shall bring hope and aid against the darkness that threatens you on this day! Rejoice, for salvation has arrived!"
The Dark Knights froze in horror at the sight before them.
"What-what the fuck?!"
"Why do they have tanks?!"
Asuna's jaw almost dropped as she saw the tanks blast holes into the ranks of the Dark Knights.
"What kind of friends do you have?" Iskahn asked incredulously.
"It's a long story," Asuna replied as she stood up. Before she could go on any further, an injured messenger ran up to her, bearing bad news. Alice had been taken prisoner by Emperor Vecta and Bercouli had gone off after her. Just as the messenger finished his message, Asuna was greeted by a familiar voice.
"Yo! Sorry we're late! Wish we were here earlier!" Nguyen shouted from the cupola of his M48A3.
"How did you get here?!"
"Stonewall and Yui worked their magic, I guess?" he shrugged, "What the hell's going on right now?"
"Emperor Vecta kidnapped Alice and plans to take her to the World's End Altar."
"That sounds bad." A familiar feminine voice spoke up from the back of Nguyen's tank, Amy jumping off and walking over, saluting Asuna. "It's good to see you again."
The American was dressed in woodland MARPAT and had a large rucksack on her back. Draped across her shoulders, an M240B completed the look, which looked nothing less than alien in the Underworld.
"So why do we have to save this Alice?" Nguyen asked as he scanned over the horizon. Tank and infantry fire still resonated across the battlefield.
"Vecta wants the Priestess of Light, which must be Alice," Iskahn explained, "That's what he told the Dark Territory armies before the battle but he never told us why he wanted or what's going to happen once he gets her."
Asuna had a grim look on her face.
"If he gets her to the World's End Altar, this world will be destroyed, both the Human Empire and the Dark Territory will be returned to nothingness."
"How far is it and how long do we have?" Amy asked, adjusting the large machine gun on her shoulders.
"Dragons can't fly forever," Sheyta said calmly, "The most they can fly without rest is half a day."
"Then it looks like you'll have to put your spirit into it and give chase, right?" Iskahn said with a grin, hitting his fists together.
"Smart idea there man," Nguyen praised.
""Give chase?" But aren't you with the Dark Territory Army? Why would you say that?" Asuna asked, perplexed by the man's proposal.
"Emperor Vecta told us, the council of ten, in so many words, that all he was after was the Priestess of Light," the Pugilist leader explained, "The moment he flew away with her, the Emperor's goal was achieved. In other words, whatever we do now, even if it's helping the Human Empire Army steal back the priestess from the emperor, it's our choice. Isn't that right?"
Iskahn clenched his fists.
"I… we… can't defy the emperor directly. If the emperor gives another order to fight all of you, we have to obey. So we, the pugilists guild will stop the red soldiers here. I want you and the Human Empire Army to go after the emperor. And then tell the emperor… that bastard… Let that bastard know! That we're not his damned puppets!"
At the same moment, the Human Empire Army pushed through the largest gap in the Dark Knights' ranks, courtesy of Nguyen's forces. However, another group of Dark Knights charged into their exposed flanks.
"Alright! Everyone! Hold those flanks!" he shouted before turning his attention to Asuna and Sheyta, "And you two get out of here. We can only hold out for so long."
"We'll help clean up these bastards," Nguyen added, "And we'll set up a base so that our reinforcements can link up with us. We got medical personnel for the wounded so ship them to us."
"Thank you." Asuna said to both men.
"I will remain here too," Sheyta declared flatly.
"Understood, Please take care of the rearguard then."
"Hey Asuna, mind if I stick with you?" Amy asked. "As much as I wanna stick with the tanks, you may need my firepower."
"Sure. We've got extra horses."
Very soon, Amy and Asuna were on their horses, dashing as fast as they could to meet up with the Human Empire Army. The surviving 700 soldiers and the rest of the Integrity Knights were easily caught up to. Asuna took the lead as the army moved as fast as it could. The road suddenly dropped into a crater. Still, they pressed on.
Suddenly, long, red streaks descended from the heavens, surrounding them. More Dark Knights materialized, as far as the eye could see. The outnumbered army drew their swords, ready to cut their way through. A lone, green haired knight, riding on his dragon, flew forward, ready to sacrifice.
But it was not to be.
A bright light engulfed the battlefield as a lone silhouette descended from the heavens. A mighty burst of energy materialized from the newcomer before unleashed in a series of explosions that vaporized the Dark Knights in one mighty hammerblow.
"It can't shoot rapid fire? That's fine. Single-shot weapons are more fitting for me, anyway. "
Asuna recognized the silhouette that hovered above with a massive bow, the figure slowly descending to terra firma before smiling at her.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Asuna."
Asuna ran up to Sinon, hugging her tightly.
Amy watched the whole thing unfold, having not gotten a chance to unwrap the belt from around the receiver of her 240B. "You have awesome timing Sinon. Nice shooting."
"Thanks Amy. How long have you guys been here?"
"Less than an hour. Just long enough to get stuck in."
Four hours later
US alliance/pact cease-fire zone
"That should be the last of the upgrades. Dex, did the team finish the item I requested?"
"You bet they did. I knew I hired you for something. This thing is brilliant."
"Hold the praise until we know it works. I'd hate for us to go through all this trouble just to have it not work." Stonewall muttered, lighting a cigarette.
"I suppose that's true." Dex grunted, "anyway, how's the initial round of logistics looking?"
"Looking like they're complete. Everything Is loaded in trucks." Stonewall yawned as he stretched.
"Has everyone practiced enough?"
"I sure as hell hope so. We gotta get in there. Part of me is nervous about leaving the unluckiest bastard around in charge of our military."
"What about the other part of you?"
"The other part of me is wondering if this is considered treason or not…."
"While I'm thinking about it, why the fuck are we hacking someone else's game from our office?"
"Because…. you wanted to help them, your wife would kill you, and I don't have the space at my place?"
"... Whatever bro. Let's get everyone ready to roll."
Starting towards a psy-ops HMMWV, Stonewall noticed a redheaded woman with a radio pack walking towards him.
"Alice, what's up?"
"I've been doing some data mining on the Underworld. I found what the main color of foliage is gonna be, so you can camouflage your vehicles better."
"What's the verdict?" Dex asked.
In response, Alice removed a strip of dark purple cloth, looking like it was stained by an exotic fruit. "The ground looks like this."
"So Nguyen's force sticks out like a sore thumb." Stonewall concluded.
"Fuck. Can we get uniforms in this color quickly?"
"We already have them. Everyone in your army group already has them in their inventory. Just equip it." Alice replied to Stonewall with a grin.
"And what about the tanks?"
Opening her inventory, the redhead tapped on a tab and activated a line of code, turning all the vehicles' camouflage into that same one-tone maroon.
Stonewall's quickly developing grin spoke volumes about his opinion before he even opened his mouth.
"Oh yes. This will do."
Hope you guys enjoyed this and, hopefully, we'll be able to update War-Torn soon. As for this fic, we'll wait until the end of the next SAO arc to update it.