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A note from puddles4263

16/23

Hank Howard regarded the three individuals in front of him, feeling a headache arriving with a vengeance. As an official Sheriff, and as a Tier Three citizen of their Zone, he ostensibly had the authority to settle their dispute. However, when he saw that the injured party had a probationary citizenship card, and the other two were Tier Two citizens, his jaw clenched tight.

In terms of citizenship, he outranked them, by official decree of Ghost, the AI that controlled most of Zone 1. However, he received that ranking early on after the System arrived, before the hierarchy had truly established itself. These Tier 2 citizens would likely know that, and that since then, he had been basically excommunicated from any true avenues of influence. He was a Tier 3 citizen in name only.

Although Ghost had never adjusted a citizenship ranking downward, many had made the joke that Hank Howard would be the first. Then they paused, and usually wondered whether his brother, another Tier 3 citizen, had something to do with his current ranking…

The woman’s cold words brought Hank back to the present. “I was here the whole time, I saw everything. This fool drove his vehicle in front of the area that Jay was practicing some Skills. It’s his own fault his car is damaged.”

“That’s not what happened!” The kid bellowed, fuming. And he was a kid, really. A 15-year-old with a shock of orange hair on his head, probably driving mommy or daddy’s Manatech car. Still, as the kid’s fury mounted, Hank’s eyes narrowed as he tasted the air. “You jumped in front of me while I was driving! You said if I didn’t give you the car, you’d destroy it!”

He might be young, and a probationary citizen, but he had a Class already, and something with some heft.

That was shocking in and of itself. The probationary citizenship was only created 6 months ago when the edges of their Zone opened up. So he had enough potential that some Village gave him a Class.

But his opponents were Dungeon Divers, and from the look of it, good ones. The group was standing on the side of a road leading into a nearby C Class city and were starting to draw a bit of a crowd of lookie-loos. Still trying to keep his cool, Hank raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Alright guys, be civil, how about we just-”

“Pah,” The man who caused the whole thing said, unfolding his arms. Then, to Hank’s surprise, he turned and spat on Hank’s shoes. “What does it even fucking matter what happened. We are Tier 2 citizens, you little shit-”

In a smooth motion that was so fast that people with less than 150 Perception and Reaction couldn’t even react to it, Hank Howard drew his Colt revolver and put a bullet through the man’s mouth. Something had snapped, and Hank was done playing nice.

He had chosen his shot carefully, and the bullet hit the man in the cheek while he was turning, so it burrowed into one cheek, through his shit slurping tongue, and then out the other side, spraying blood everywhere. Hank had empowered the bullet with his Mana Reinforcement, giving it a bit of extra oomph, in case this guy spec’d defense Stats, but it seemed he needn’t have worried.

That crack of the gun was loud and sharp, and Hank loved it, that moment of harsh reverberations. That’s why he still used the revolver, even when there was much more efficient plasma weaponry on the market. They just didn’t have the same… renaissance feel of an old style pistol.

For a long second, nobody moved.

It was extremely strange, Hank reflected, savoring his hot fury’s satisfaction, how it seemed that improving people’s Intelligence and physical reaction speed only seemed to make them react more slowly to things that truly surprised them. Take this fool of a man for example. Since he hadn’t put points into Endurance or Vitality, he had to have either Reaction or Intelligence, right?

Finally, the man reacted, releasing a gurgling wail that continued far beyond what was comfortable to listen to. Hank bit back a grin.

‘You’ve got your violence,’ He told himself, specifically the hotheaded half of himself. ‘Let it go.’

Grumbling, that part of him settled back.

“What the fuck have you done?!?” The woman said, gasping as she rushed over to her companion. “We…! We….”

15-year-old was almost drooling, his eyes moving from the gun to Hank’s face, to the wound on the man’s face. Coughing slightly, Hank holstered his pistol, with the same smooth, greasy movements. Ever since he had obtained his Gunslinger Class, getting weapons in and out of things was no problem for him, even though none of his Skills seemed to be directly related to it. Perhaps it was due to Gunslinger’s Instincts?

“We will be fucking lodging a complaint.” The woman said, her eyes red as she glared at Hank. The wounded man had produced a Healing Potion and drank it. Very quickly, the flesh grew back, and he joined her to glare at him.

Hank couldn’t help it now, a grin spreading across his face like a wildfire on a dry prairie. “Be careful you don’t threaten me too much now, lest you end up scaring me into lodging a bullet into you two. I won’t be nice with my aim this time, neither.”

“Hah, you might be a Tier 3 citizen, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the law.” The man said, his eyes narrowed. “You’re lucky that I wasn’t seriously injured. We will both be heading out with the secondary expedition in thre days, when the Zone opens up and connects to the wider world. Colonel Radford is our commander, and if he-”

Snorting, Hank turned away. This wasn’t worth his time. Honestly, it would save him the trouble of tracking down that little shit Radford if these punks would send him Hank’s way, but he doubted Radford would take the bait.

Grabbing the kid’s elbows, he steered him away, over towards the cracked and dented vehicle. After muttering threats at Hank’s back, the two left, clearly somewhat spooked by the dozens of people recording their actions on their cellphones. Although it wasn’t much, videos of Hank easily wounding the man would go online, where Ghost could access it.

Once that data was entered into Ghost’s evaluation, the man would have a much harder time raising his citizenry tier. Adding more pointless arguing would be doubly harmful. Smart like a smelly fox, he was, Hank reflected.

“This is bullshit,” The kid whispered, looking at his car. Apparently, some of the wonder from seeing Hank’s revolver had worn off, and he was back on to the damage to his Manatech. “I had to save up for so long to buy this. And now-”

“Don’t worry, kid.” Hank said, offering a small object to the kid. “Those two decided to kindly drop this over yonder. Must be as repayment.”

“My name isn’t kid, its- huh!?” The kid started in a huff, then his eyes widened when he noticed the cube that Hank was offering him. It was heavy and glossy, clearly an expensive material, something that could only be obtained in a high Level Dungeon. Even Hank didn’t know what it was, but he knew enough to guess that it would be probably worth enough to compensate the kid for the damage.

“How-” The kid began, taking the cube of metal, and Hank just waved his long, graceful fingers.

“Fast hands. And anyway, these are just small fries. They might be Tier 2, but they are fresh promotions, or else they wouldn’t be in the secondary expedition under Radford. Careful where you sell that though, both because they might be on the lookout for where they lost it, and because other people might take advantage of you. Good luck kid.”

Hank turned and began to walk away, fully intending to go home and take a long bath, but of course, life wasn’t that simple for Hank. It hadn’t been for years.

“Hey! Wait! I’m not a kid, my name’s Tony. What’s yours?” The kid had to hurry to catch up with him, hovering around his elbow as he walked.

“Hank,” Hank said simply, lengthening his stride to leave him behind.

But it seemed that Agility was a part of the kid’s Class, and a lot of it, because he was surprisingly capable at keeping up with Hank. And although it was annoying, it wasn’t so bad that Hank was gonna launch himself into a dead sprint to lose a kid-

His cell phone began to buzz, causing Hank to stop up short. The kid didn’t react in time, and slammed into Hank, bouncing harmlessly off with a loud grunt. Hank looked at his phone.

Alan Howard.

Hank answered the phone. “Heya brother. How about you fuck off?”

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puddles4263

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