Mark felt like he wasn’t being properly appreciated. He thought the Mist Clone plus Sneak and Falling Step was the best, but no one else seemed that excited about it. Okay, sure, it was kinda annoying when he did the ‘poof’ thing and then a flying Mark suddenly slams into your head only to turn into a puff of mist, but really, isn’t that cool also cool?
On reflection, maybe he had been going a little overboard. He continued contemplating this as he walked around the house, having been told to get out after the third flying Mark ran into someone’s head. He probably should not antagonize everyone else in Camp Randall either. Mark was also going to have to talk to his dad about naming the place because Camp Randall was an awful name. It sounded like a post-apocalyptic summer getaway. They should call the place ‘The Citadel’ or ‘Sanctuary’ or something cool like that. He knew that if he didn’t act soon someone would come up with an uncool name and then BAM! Stuck with it forever.
Mark took a deep cleansing breath and the cool Colorado air helped clear his brain. There was just too much stuff to do and not enough time to do it in. Sure, he said that before when he had a bunch of school projects but it was different now. Time had never been this much of an enemy before. It annoyed him so much that Mark wanted to punch time in the face. Naming, training, developing abilities, learning about the system. Everything was just getting to be a bit overwhelming and Mark wasn’t sure what to do next.
“George. We’ll see if George is ok. That a good next step.”
Mark was happy with his to do list as he spoke it out loud. It would keep him busy and focused. Liz wasn’t the only one who could make lists, darn it.
Mark thought about it for a bit and wasn’t able to a way to complete the first item on his list. He shrugged it off and would tackle it again soon. In the meantime he looked around the tents and waved at the new martial art dude who was patrolling. The dude had replaced his pipe with a legit looking Bo staff with steel tips and looked much less haunted than he did yesterday. Mark went over to say hi.
“Heya. Uh, you know, I don’t think I ever got your name.”
“S’okay kid, a few things were going on. Its Lyon.”
“Oh cool like giant cat thing?”
Lyon laughed. “No, not so much. It’s with a ‘Y’ and more about a city where my parents had a good time.”
“I don’t get. Oh. OH. Ok, uh well…” Mark was suddenly embarrassed by his outburst.
“Don’t worry bout it. I seen you dashing round the past few days. How you been doing that?”
“The Falling Step? I got this ability called Chi and it lets me do all sorts of cool stuff.”
“That is hella useful. Maybe you could try and show me what’s it about. I’ve been told I should be able to do some super power stuff, but so far it’s a bust.”
“Sure, you know martial arts or something, right?”
“Ok, so you start there, and for me, it’s about spreading out your senses and feeling the mana around you, and then have it flow it into what you want it to do. Then again, Liz kinda does this thing where she gets super focused on one thing and it works for her. Oh yeah, and I think my dad just gets really angry and uses frustration to explode out or something. Wait, is that helpful at all?”
Lyon smiled as he laughed and shook his head. “I think what I’m hearing here is that I need to find my own way into this. I gotcha. I think maybe I’ve been too worried about how to do it instead of just doing it, you know?”
Mark didn’t, but when did that ever stop him? “Yeah! That’s right!”
Lyon thanked Mark and wandered over to the camp to help people get ready for the day. His dad had already went out to scout the area while the rest of the house crew got breakfast ready. Looking around at all the new faces Mark realized that was a pretty big job now, especially since the house had the only working stove on site. Mark knew that it would eventually run out of fuel but hopefully they’d have a solution to the problem by then. In the meantime he should go in and help.
Mark had an epiphany as he reached for the handle to the front door. “Oh! I get it!” They kicked him out because he had been driving everyone crazy. That meant he’d need to kill an hour or two until breakfast was finished.
Finding himself with much needed free time he went through a bunch of different options on what would be cool to do next. Mark was overall happy with his kit of abilities, but he realized that he was lacking one thing in particular. Actually two things. Maybe three. Nope, there was a fourth thing now that he thought of it. Regardless, the first thing he needed to do was figure out a way to get more knives. He started this apocalypse with ten really nice throwing knives, and now he was down to four. He had been able to recover a lot of them, but sometimes he just couldn’t figure out where they had flown to. It would be really great if they would come back.
That seemed pretty straight forward. Mark focused on his Infused Strike as a starting place and instantly felt the connection form. He was getting good at this one, even his skill level said so. It was the only active ability he had at level five. Mark pondered the five for awhile. If this was like AAO that meant he was really good, since he knew the scale didn’t really go above a seven in the game, and seven was just ridiculous to have a skill at. What was he doing again?
“Knife retrieval” Mark repeated to himself. He stopped infusing his knife and shifted around his flow a bit. Instead of a string that controlled the direction, he pictured an elastic thread that would pull back. The image was powerful in his mind, and he could almost see the item he was trying to emulate as he threw out the knife.
Ability Gained - Chi : Yo-Yo
“Well that was easy.” Mark pouted his lips a bit in slight frustration. Well, it wasn’t really frustration. Mark was having a hard time putting into words what he felt. It just felt like he was cheating or something with this one because it had been so easy. He glanced over to where Lyon was struggling to find a way to activate whatever it was he was trying to activate. Mark sheepishly walked away. He had enough abilities for now, maybe he’d find someone else to help. He hoped it would get that annoying taste of guilt in his mouth that he had right now.
Liz finished mixing up the last batch of pancake batter and looked over to Mom and Jocelyn.
“Ok, this is ready to go, enough mix for a about a hundred pancakes. You got it from here?”
“Thank you love. You go do what you need to go do. I can tell you’re antsy. We don’t have room for more people cooking in here anyway.”
“Thanks Mom, I really want to check a few things out.”
“Be careful and tell your brother he can come back inside if you see him. We’ll start making these.”
Liz waved at the brave duo who was about to battle with several gallons of pancake batter and walked over to the living room. Sam was there sitting with the other house guests. First thing first then. “Hey Sam! I have a favor to ask.”
“Sure sweetie. What do you need?”
“Can you make a little harness for me?”
“Well, I don’t have much material here with me, but I can probably pull together something.”
“Wait, that came out wrong. I mean, it’s for me, but not FOR me. You know what, let me just show you.”
Liz held out her hand and Natasha, her new mouse friend, hopped off of her shoulder onto the outstretched hand.
“This little gal here needs an outfit.” Liz grinned.
“Oh, well then, I guess I definitely have that much material around. Dare I ask if you have a design in mind?”
“I want her to be able to carry messages and things, so something that could accommodate that.”
“That should be easy enough. Can I, uh, get her measurements?”
Liz mentally prodded Natasha and she complied, standing up with her arms stretched out. Liz had to forcibly stop herself from cuddling her new friend. It was the most ridiculously adorable thing she had ever seen.
Sam took on the practiced air of a professional and whipped out some measure tape seemingly from nowhere. With fierce concentration she measured the little mouse all over and nodded to herself, satisfied.
“I think I can whip something up pretty quick. I can make it adjustable too, as I’m not exactly sure what makes for a comfortable outfit for a mouse. You’ll have to ask her how it fits when it’s done.”
“Thanks Sam! You’re the best!” Playing off the pleasure Natasha felt from Liz, the little mouse gave two thumbs up to Sam.
“Uh, I didn’t know mice had thumbs.”
“They don’t.” Liz replied helpfully, not having looked at Natasha’s response.
“You know what hon, I’m just going to make this harness. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
Liz just smiled happily and went on to the next item on her list.
She left the house and started looking for Paul, the furniture maker turned wood mage. He wasn’t hard to find. He was in the middle of the camp preparing lumber that was being used to frame out little houses that would soon replace the tent city that had been sprung up. Eddie, the construction worker they had rescued on the first day, was there with him. As soon as the lumber was ready to go, Eddie and a small crew would take the supplies to a newly laid foundation, he’d apply a few zaps of whatever ability he had, and voila! A roughed out little house would appear. Liz was glad to see the skeleton of a small town popping up. She had been feeling guilty about having a room in the house knowing there were kids outside. Liz wouldn’t have to worry so much about room sharing if this was the pace they were working at.
“Hey Paul! Nice progress. This is amazing!”
Paul smiled at Liz as he ran his hand along another misshapen trunk, instantly transforming it into a perfectly plumb plank. They had bonded while creating the platform on the bus and developed a respect for each other's work ethics. “What can I do you for Liz?”
“I was wondering if you could make me some dowels about the length of an arrow.” She handed him one of the numerous carbon fiber arrows she had on her person. She was loaded up with as many of the modern composite arrows as possible to preserve them. Paul looked over the shaft, grunted, and grabbed a small log. Running his fingers through the wood, it parted and turned into spaghetti like strips under his direction. A few more shakes and liz had a pile of perfectly straight wood rods that would be perfect for her experiments.
“Thanks Paul! This is perfect!”
“Care to tell an old man what you’re planning on doing with those?”
“Maybe after I see if I can actually pull this off.”
“Be sure you do it soon then, I’m curious to see what our resident magic archer manages next.”
The furniture makers face crinkled into a smile as he turned back to his work. Liz hoped she would be able to show Paul something cool soon.
Liz setup in a quiet corner of the property away from the construction of the camp. Her experiments had revealed some interesting aspects to the system. First and foremost among these was that it was much easier to modify something slightly than to create something new from scratch. At least, that seemed to be the case now. If she had only know more on the first day she totally would have more abilities than Mark. Focus. That wasn’t important right now. Getting some security in her ammo supply is what mattered.
Focusing on one of the wooden rods, she felt around her Power Shot ability. She knew it coated her other arrows in a shell that launched it faster and stronger than a regular shot, but she was counting on another property for her experiment.
The rod accepted the Power Shot infusion readily, but Liz could tell that the thing was just stick shaped. There was no way the thing could be shot out of a bow. Tossing it aside she was pretty impressed with the force it hit the floor with. It wasn’t what she needed but it was good to know. She fired up her ability again, except this time, before the Power Shot got to the critical point in encompassing the wooden shaft in it’s shell, she pushed at it. She focused on an image of an arrow, complete with fletchings, an arrowhead, and a notch for her bow. She pushed this image onto the rod and slowly but surely she felt the power taking shape. Feeling a familiar click she held up her piece of wood and smiled. The wooden shaft had an eerie blue glow around it now.
She placed the ghostly arrow into her bow and fired. The rigidity of the makeshift arrow was consistent with her best carbon fiber equipment. It flew straight and true, embedding deeply into the trunk of a tree. She let loose a small yelp of celebration before she quickly clamped it down looking around just in case someone saw her. Yeah, she was a badass, but it wasn’t good form to let everyone else know that.
Going to examine the target she saw that the dowel had fallen out of the tree. Apparently, it was about as effective as a regular arrow, but after hitting something the thing sorta disintegrated. The rod was still usable though so she placed it back in her quiver.
Still, there was no notification yet, and Liz felt like something was still missing. This definitely solved a big part of her concern with ammo, but she felt like it could go further. This time, Liz didn’t even use the wooden shaft as a guide, and just poured her mana into the image of an arrow. Within moments a glowing ethereal arrow formed in her hand. She definitely felt more of a strain this time, and using her newly available displays saw that this took pretty much the same amount of mana as her base level powershot. It was easily twice as much strain as what it took to form something around the rod, which made sense to Liz. After all, this was just as rigid as her other arrows and she literally made it out of thin air.
Pulling it back for a shot she felt that the arrow was way off. It just didn’t weigh enough. Adjusting her aim, she fired, her keen mind easily accounting for the lack of mass. The arrow flew really damn straight, like gravity didn’t touch it at all, and embedded itself much higher than she expected on the tree. After impact, it faded from sight, but Liz was pretty pleased with herself.
Ability Gained - Archery Arts: Mana Arrow
Her next bullet on her list accomplished, Liz started walking back towards the house. She could smell pancakes and she was very much looking forward to taking out a stack or two. Mouse gear, pancakes, and magical arrows: a pretty good way to start the day.