"I knew it was a good idea to buy that quest system, but how the hell do we stop a sinkhole big enough to swallow the whole state from forming?" a muscular dark-skinned man asked his three companions.
Of them, one was a short girl with skin like his who had long and obviously dyed blonde dreadlocks. She adjusted her glasses and then seated herself on a small boulder. "I've got no clue. I can tell when it'll form thanks to my class, but yeah, how do we stop something like that? By the way, we've got 2-hours before the sinkhole appears."
Of the other two people present, an elderly woman with pale white skin and a hunched back hummed lightly. "I think it might be wise to ask for help. Didn't that young man from the auction, Daz, was it? Didn't he say that he was in Waterford? Maybe we could endear him to lend us a hand or a dozen."
The last of the four, a young girl who looked to be about eight, tugged at the old woman's tucked in floral-pattern shirt and pouted. "That's so far though! We can't go there and come back before our home is destroyed!"
The tall man nodded. "Right. We might have more luck asking the Legion of Hearts, though I can't imagine they'd believe us without any proof."
The girl sitting on the rock pulled out a pack of gum from her hoodie pocket and shoved a stick of it in her mouth after unwrapping its foil covering. "They're a bunch of idiots obsessed with money anyway, so I wouldn't be surprised if they asked for, like, a million merit points each to bother helping us."
The child sulked even more. "I don't want Las Vegas to disappear! Do you think it'll be fine even if we don't stop the hole? I like the pretty lights!"
The elderly woman smiled warmly and gently stroked the girl's hair. "I'm sure it'll all be fine, Sweetie."
The young woman on the boulder scoffed. "As if. Sasha's seen plenty of death and other shit, so why're you sugar-coating it? We should just move down to Waterford. Daz seemed like he wanted new citizens, and he's pretty good-looking, so that's what I think the smart move here is."
"For once, Becca, I agree with you," the muscular man said.
The old lady scowled and raised her walking cane then used it to smack the gum-chewing girl, Becca, over the head. "I'll have no more pessimism out of you, Young Lady!"
"Hehehe," Sasha laughed cutely before she ran over to Becca and gave her a hug. "Does your head hurt? I'll heal it if it does!"
Becca grimaced but tried her best to force on a smile. "I'm fine, even if your granny does pack one hell of a punch."
Peeking out from underneath her cowboy-styled hat, the old woman yelled, "That's 'Mother' or 'Jesabelle' to you, Young Lady!"
Suddenly, darkness covered the four's visions and the only light that they could see was a faint purple glow.
"What on Earth..." The muscular man used a skill of his, Night Lens, and as soon as his eyes had adjusted to the green that overwhelmed his eyes, he broke out into a cold sweat. "Is... is that a base? No... a city?"
The old woman - Jesabelle - narrowed her eyes even further. "Let's hide. We have no idea if that belongs to a survivor or if it's something system related. Rebecca, I'm counting on you telling us everything that you know about that thing in a few minutes. For now, Antoine, disguise us."
The two both nodded seriously, then did as they were told.
A few miles away, in a now-abandoned town, three men were standing on the rooftop of the old town hall and watched as Fort Sky moved through the air and slowly placed itself directly over the Great Basin's centre.
"Hey, Jeremy," the shortest man, one with green skin, tusks and four arms, spoke to the fellow at his left, a young gentleman with rainbow-dyed hair. "Do you think that thing has anything to do with the sinkhole?"
Filing his nails and without even bothering to look up at the sky, Jeremy replied, "Nope. It belongs to the most famous survivor. Don't you have Lower Identification as a part of your class? Just look at it."
"Hmm. So Daz owns that, does he?" the third man, a person that would easily be mistaken as a snake oil seller 200-years-ago, said as he played with his large moustache.
The four-armed orc let his face's natural frown sink even further. "What do we do now? Aren't we fucked if we stand in his way?"
Jeremy laughed. "Don't be stupid, Bruce. We'll see what he wants. If he's here to fix the sinkhole, well, we'll watch him for a bit then approach him and negotiate. I'm sure he's in need of merit points, right? Like he'll care if a state disappears so long as we line his pockets a bit further than the auction already did."
"Boss won't like that, no, she won't like it all," the man endowed with glorious upper lip hair stated as he smiled and adjusted his circular glasses.
Jeremy shrugged as he pulled out a mirror and checked his make-up. "The dry air here really makes my lips crack... Anyway, get inside my mirror, m'kay? I'd rather that we were the ones to contact Daz, not the other way around. Hell, we might even be able to fall under his rule."
The four-armed orc, Bruce, nodded. "He certainly seems nicer than Boss does."
"I find myself inclined to agree," the snake oil salesman-lookalike added.
Jeremy just giggled as he activated one of his class skills, bringing his two companions into his mirror before his figure shifted and faded from view.
Daz asked the four ordinary-looking people several questions, but it seemed that they were just scavengers out to find something valuable in the nearby town, but saw Fort Sky so wandered over to it in hopes of loot.
Upon realising that it belonged to Daz, they asked if he'd be willing to take them in.
Naturally, he checked all of their alignment at that point and saw that they were all neutral like most people were. After asking them a few questions to confirm their motivations and seeing that they genuinely just wanted to stop fighting for their lives and hunting for useful tools and gizmos, he ferried them all up to Fort Sky.
Once they were there, he ordered a few of the strong looking avianoids to guard and monitor them until Daz and Mu returned.
With that out of the way, the two reapers found a good spot to sit in Fort Sky's shade and talk.
Mu bought a five-litre jug of water from the system for a single merit point and took a few chugs from it before he asked, "May I have those people as my citizens when we go back to Waterford?"
Daz raised an eyebrow. "Sure. They're scavengers, so they might have some talents in taking stuff apart and building things. One of them has a crafter class, so take advantage of that. Get him to buy the upgrade that'll let all of his self-built buildings count as real base ones with the points he'll get from the bank by being my citizen."
"Ah, yes. All of my citizens are yours by proxy, meaning they will earn 100,000 merit points. Handy. I shall do as you ask," Mu replied as he finished his water in one clean chug then bought another jug and poured it all over himself. After that, he purchased an ice-cream. "How will we stop the sinkhole?"
Daz tapped his chin thoughtfully a few times, not minding Mu's questionable actions and the fact that he was sucking away on an ice-cream, as he replied, "Well, the only real way would be to strengthen the ground so it's impossible for one to form, but considering that a sinkhole big enough to sink all of Nevada is gonna appear here, it can't be natural, right? I've got a couple of ideas."
"Oh? Such as?" Mu questioned with an interested look on his face.
Daz glanced over his shoulder at nothing in particular as he replied, "I'll let you know just as soon as we're alone," he said coldly and without emotion in his tone.
Mu's eyes narrowed. "Oh? The people you mentioned before are here?" He jumped off of the Cloud of Tartarus and held his war scythe firmly in one hand as the other clung to his ice-cream. "Should I destroy this whole area, or are we going to talk to them?"
Daz walked next to Mu and calmly put his hands in his pockets. "We'll talk for now. We've got some time before the sinkhole appears." He willed Hamson out of its brand and used his shovel arts to make Hamson point its blade in one particular direction. "Reveal yourself, or we'll be talking to a headless corpse pretty soon."
'Those four cactuses are definitely disguised people as well, but my instincts seem to think they're harmless, so I'll leave them alone for now. This person who's invisible though... They're dangerous,' Daz silently said mentally as he patiently waited for the person he had addressed to reveal themselves.
With his hands in the air, a man who looked to be in his late twenties wearing a purple robe over his tailcoat suit appeared. "Hi."
Daz made note of this man's unique rainbow-coloured hair as he immediately got to the point. "Tell me who you are, why you were sneaking around, and what you want. If you don't, I'll just use Master Identification on you, so choose what you wanna do."
"Not scared I'll lie?" the man said with a high-pitched inflexion in his voice as he smiled coyly.
Daz shook his head slowly. "Not even slightly."
"I see... An ability to detect lies? That's not something you can just buy without it being attached to an item, so it must be a species thing? I'm jealous," the flamboyant man expressed with a pout.
Daz didn't reply, but he instead chose to use a racial trait of his for the first time since he'd earned it; Soul Vision.
Immediately, hundreds of grey souls filled his vision, no, perhaps thousands. All of them were underground, which was a bit disorienting. However, his instincts proved to be right once again. The four suspicious cactuses had bright white orbs inside of them, meaning that they contained living souls.
Oddly enough, the man in front of him had a partially black orb at his core while the hand mirror hanging at his hip held two similar orbs wedged inside of it. These two souls were a bit tough to see, but his Soul Vision allowed him to peer into the mirror when it would have been difficult to do so otherwise.
The man lowered his hands slowly and held his cheeks as he blushed. "Oh, my. Now those glowing eyes... those are sexy."
Daz, not seeing any other souls besides the grey dead ones for roughly 3-miles in any direction - the apparent range limit of the racial trait, cancelled the ability, returning his eyes to their normal listless grey.
Mu continued to enjoy his cold and refreshing snack as he muttered, "Cool. So that's what that looks like..." He then used the trait himself since he was also a reaper. He kept his active unlike Daz though as he looked around all over the place happily.
The rainbow-haired man smiled. "An interesting friend you have."
"Quite. Now speak, or I'll learn your entire past, which I'm sure you wouldn't like," Daz ordered.
"It's not fun if you're not affected by my charm magic skills," the man huffed. "Is that also a reaper thing? Boring... Anyway, I'm Kyle."
"No, you're not. Tell me your real name or a name you truly believe or want to be yours," Daz calmly told him as he crossed his arms over his chest. "One more lie and I'm smashing that mirror of yours."
'This guy's too playful. I need to be hard with him, or he's gonna try to walk all over me. I've met thousands of your type before, 'Kyle',' Daz commented internally.
For the first time in their conversation, the purple-suited and robed man wore a serious expression. "I'm Jeremy Glove. My companions and I are from a group known as the Black Jacks from Vegas. I want you to tell me what you plan to do when the sinkhole appears. I'm hopeful that you'll be reasonable and let the state fall, and if you're not, I'm also hopeful that I can persuade you to change your mind, Daz."
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