Mark was bored. This was lame. The office guys said they hadn’t actually seen anything, just heard some monkeys. He was pretty sure they couldn’t be as scary at the ice wolves, beak bears, and other things they already dealt with, and going around would take too much time. George could be bleeding out right now! Well, other people could be hurt too, and regardless, they needed to get to the high school as soon as possible.
As his dad and the tired looking office guys continued to drone on, he decided it would be best to scout out the park. They had plenty of cover, and he bet he would be able to tell at a glance how tough these things would be. Quietly, not drawing any attention to himself, Mark proceeded to slip off to the side. He moved silently and made sure to keep out of the line of sight of everyone else. It was surprisingly easy, as everyone was focused on the boring things the office guys were saying. After he got enough distance from the group, he turned his attention to the park. There were large fences of a baseball diamond separating him from the open areas of the park and it provided the perfect cover for him to sneak close.
He continued to creep quietly around the block and he saw a strange scene. One large monkey was making gestures to a bunch of smaller ones who were imitating the large one. Mark wasn’t an expert, but he thought these were actually some type ape. They were four to five feet tall, around the same size as the camo-squirrels, and the larger one was around six feet. Their golden fur was way to shiny for a standard animal though, and the large horn on their head was definitely not normal. Taking care to not make any sudden movements, Mark backed away to update everyone else.
As Mark sneaked back he saw his father rubbing his temples and muttering something to himself. Mark immediately recognized this behavior and knew he was in pretty deep trouble. The last time he saw his dad doing that he had borrowed (without asking) one of his dad’s favorite guns and then accidentally (totally forgot about it) left it out in the rain. Trying to head off the issue before it exploded Mark spoke softly “Uh, dad, I did a little scouting and, I, uh, have some updates and stuff and I’m fine please don’t kill me?”
Jason’s eyes snapped up and drilled into his son. “That would be pointless as I’m trying to keep you alive. I thought that you went off and died all on your own, so no need for me to help. So, go ahead and tell me what was so important that you would risk your life without backup to go and do.” he said through clenched teeth. Mark could see Liz with her half smile that she reserved for those circumstances where he was in deep trouble and she was not. Before Mark could say anything he was saved by the system.
System Core Notifications Enabled
36 Core Notifications - Open now?
“Heck yes!” Mark shouted as the new notice appear in the HUD. If it followed the same patterns as AA Online The highlighted color meant it was selectable. This was the first time he had seen it since the system came into place. He quickly navigated to the notice and did the mental gymnastics needed to open the notifications. Seeing his dad scrunching up his face in frustration, he called out some instructions on how to use the interface. His dad seemed to get it because his frown vanished shortly thereafter. Mark breathed a sigh of relief as his dad quickly moved on from anger to analyst.
They spent a good ten minutes reading the updates and scrolling down the list. Between everyone present, they were finally able to answer some questions about what was going on. First off, it seemed that Stats, Skills, and Abilities were the first thing to come online that day. They all compared notes, and even though Jason knew he certainly had a wide variety of skills available, none of them seemed to register until he used them post System start.
Jason, Mark, and Liz had all unlocked Martial Arts pretty early on. Liz and Jason got Archery shortly after, while Mark got Crossbow and Improvised Weapons. Mark also noted he had unlocked a skill called Sneak at some point, but figured he would try to keep that to himself for a while long. It sounded like it could be fun.
Stats were even less informative. When the system first initialized everyone had gotten four Main Stats: Physical, Mental, Influence, and Magic. Another notice came right after saying that Pools were unlocked for those Main Stats. While they had a pretty good idea what they could mean, the lack of detail was more than a little frustrating. The other Stat related item that popped up wasn’t terribly informative either. Jason had gotten the first Sub-Stat, called Toughness, when Liz had shot him with the arrow. Around the same time, Liz got gotten something called Perception and Mark unlocked Agility.
Their abilities were equally opaque on details, but they at least had names for some of the things they had done. Mark had unlocked Mana Manipulation when he played with his phone, and his sister had done it during her ordeal with the beak bear. Mark and Liz took turns trying to talk people through how they managed to unlock that ability. No one else seemed to be able to replicate their methods with the mana cores they had on hand. Everyone stated they would keep trying but Mark imagined it might be something that was more difficult to unlock than they figured. Hopefully Mom would figure out the trick of it, it seemed like something she would do.
Moving on, the group started to look for more clues in the data. After reviewing how things were unlocked for a while a pattern seemed to emerge. The order seemed to be:
- Unlock Skill
- Unlock Mana Manipulation
- Unlock passive Ability
- Unlock active Ability related to the passive
For Liz, there was a progression from the Skill Archery, to the passive Ability Archery Arts, and finally the active Ability Archery Arts: Power Shot.
Mark went from the Skill Improvised Weapons, to the passive Ability Chi, and the active Ability Chi: Infused Strike. They weren’t sure if it was the weapons or martial arts that unlocked Chi, since they were both were available around the same time. Also, even though Liz had Martial Arts, she didn’t seem to develop Chi. It wasn’t much, but it was a heck of alot more information than they had to go on prior.
The other ability of note was something called Technomancy. Everyone had unlocked this right after the Ability system came online. Best as they could figure, it probably had to do with the fact that tech didn’t deteriorate if it was near a person. Jason, on learning this, tried to contain his excitement, but ultimately failed and blurted out “If we can improve that ability, maybe we can use pistols, or cars, or rifles, or shotguns, or...”
“Yeah Dad, that would be awesome, but we can’t do anything but read notifications for now,” Liz said pulling him back to the present. She swore he was as bad as Mark sometimes.
Jason took a deep breath and regained his serious demeanor. Mark knew he had a reputation to maintain, but past the harsh survivalist exterior his dad was an excitable goofball at heart, just like him. It was good to see some things hadn’t changed. Everyone quietly returned to analyzing their logs.
From the number of notifications, it seemed people who were actively out and fighting monsters were unlocking things a lot faster than those who were just scavenging like the office guys. They would have to check in with Mary to see if her efforts had yielded anything. The last item of note they were able to piece together was that Core Notifications seemed only to cover initial unlocks and major events. All the System components that came online gave a notification, and all the events that were system initiated seemed to appear: like the Sky Crystals and Mana Storm. Nothing around fighting monsters or gaining levels seemed to make it into the Notices. That of course assumed they were gaining levels, but Mark was pretty sure there was no way he had gotten that much better with his crossbow in a day without some sort of magical assistance.
The only other notice type they found was on Liz’s logs. She managed to get two warning notifications when she was fighting the beak bear. She had:
Warning! Magic Pool Critical Levels!
Warning! Mental Pool Critical Levels!
They figured she must have drained herself dry to accomplish her shot. On reflection, Liz recalled continuing to pull energy into the shot well past what was comfortable. Next time she’d go lighter, and maybe she wouldn’t get knocked quite so badly out of commission.
With the data shared among the group, the office workers excused themselves. “We really appreciate the info, but we need to get back. Everyone else is probably freaking out right now. If you’re running close to storm time on your way back through you’re welcome to crash with us.”
“We’ll do that. Stay safe. We’ll come by to check on you tomorrow when we can.” Jason said as they turned to leave. As Frank and David turned the corner Jason faced the group.
“So we have two choices here. We can try to take out the golden apes with an ambush of our own, or we can head around back up north to Alameda. Time is starting to get to be an issue though, so that’s a pretty big consideration. We could shelter here, but I know I’d feel a heck of a lot more comfortable making it all the way back. What are your thoughts?”
Bob and Sam glanced at each other and she spoke first “I don’t think I could be part of an attack like that” Bob nodded in agreement, he was no fighter. “So I think it’s your call with the kids.”
Mark looked over to his sister and gave a pleading look “Those things weren’t half as scary as the wolves, and who knows what’s going on at the High School. I say we go.”
Liz knew Mark was incredibly concerned about George, and quite frankly, she was worried about the people there too. “I agree, let’s keep moving. We have surprise as an advantage and we have some new tricks to use as well.” Mark grinned with his sister at the thought. This time, they were going to get the drop on some monsters and kick their butts.
Bob and Sam stayed by the carriage and kept the horses still as the trio crept over to the park. They had good tree coverage and the dugouts next to the baseball diamond got them close and unseen. They peeked around the corner and saw the same scene of the lead ape miming things and the smaller apes following along. They were standing about where second base was, and were completely exposed in the open. Mark thought that it looked like they might be practicing martial arts. Well, it didn’t matter now. Unless they were learning how to catch arrows this should be finished shortly.
Mark nodded to Liz and his dad, and they prepared their attack. He focused on connecting to his throwing knife and felt the flow of mana almost immediately. I guess it was Chi, according to his abilities. This was much easier now that the System had registered his ability. He grinned as he saw a faint glow appear around his sister’s arrow. His dad drew his compound bow back as well, and gave the signal to start the attack.
This was going to be epic.