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A note from Mirrored

 Too sick to do anything else this holiday. So bonus chapter!

 He woke up in a hospital tent, exactly the same as the last one, down to the pile of his stuff neatly arranged beside his bed and white fluid being pumped into his veins. This time he was alone and unrestrained though, which was a change for the better.

He was in pretty serious pain. That was less nice. Every once and awhile his muscles would shudder painfully.

Almost instinctively, he activated regeneration. He felt the Auril ability quickly kick in, reducing the pain, if only a little.

He took a few minutes to just relax, noticing a notification on the edge of his awareness after a few minutes of dozing.

You are now level 1.7!

Thank you, mysterious white healing fluid. Maybe he could borrow a couple packs? There was no one around to ask though and he'd guess just grabbing one would end badly for him. The nurses and doctors were hardcore here.

Reluctantly, he got out of bed and equipped himself. He frowned when he noticed only a single chunk of Aurilin among his stuff. It was the one he'd had in his pocket, the other two were missing. Weird.

He noticed the bed next to him had a pair of broken restraints on it. That was a bad omen. Kate may be taking her cousins trampling more poorly than he would have thought.

He cast a suspicious look around but saw no signs of ambush or angry doctors. Somewhat relieved, he snapped open his phone and sent her a text asking if she was OK.

An answering tone informed him that her phone was in fact, still beside her bed. She'd made her escape without it. Apparently, she wanted some alone time. He felt a pang of regret as he contemplated the missing woman. Hopefully she was doing fine. If not... Well he had no idea.

This was silly, she could take care of herself.

He tried Jenny next. She informed him that she was doing a mission, helping survivors in the city. She invited him to help, but he could tell that both of them knew he wouldn't. She hadn't seen Kate but she'd been told Blake was expected to make a full recovery in a little over twenty four hours.

He frowned, the band had broken up it seems. First Blake was injured, then Jenny was recruited to protect the city while he was sleeping and now Kate was missing. That really was too bad. They'd been an effective team, if pretty rough around the edges.

He really didn't want to form a new one. Good thing that wasn't his plan. He had a different idea of how to spend the next couple days. First part of his strategy to survive the second phase, it was time to do some shopping.

Upon exiting the tent, he saw things had changed once again.

Firstly, a two-story building was being constructed beside the hospital. One, that was clearly of alien design. Human Users were using cranes to build steel supports for the building but parts of it were clearly growing along those beams. It reminded him of flesh and nerves growing over a skeleton.

Whatever the building was for, it was clearly important. He looked around and finding a nurse nearby asked her about the building. She just replied that Administrators had asked the same question and been told it was for bringing resources in to defend the Enclave. He looked over the building but couldn't get even guess its purpose.

Secondly, once he left the hospital camp. He saw that teams of people who were probably not even Users were working to loot buildings. Loading food and essential items into trucks and vans. They had System technology masks but nothing else. This part of the city must be very safe, if they were allowing non-Users to just walk around.

It was weird to see so many people walking around again. It was even weirder to literally feel their gazes on him. It made him uncomfortable. Thanks Quantum Awareness. Just what he needed, to be even more unnerved by large groups of people than ever.

Ignoring the off-putting sensation, he approached one of the teams, noting the others’ wary gaze and asked what was going on.

“Shelters are overflowing with people,” one of them explained somewhat reluctantly. He didn't appear to like talking to Derrick or even being seen talking to Derrick. That was obvious by the way his eyes flickered to Derrick and back to his friends warily. “It's a waste to just have people sitting around, so they have people going out and gathering supplies.”

“Huh,” grunted Derrick. “I didn't think that would be a problem. City seemed pretty empty to me since.”

“The System crammed peopele into the shelters fast. More people were saved than you would think was possible,” the man explained. “It did an almost too good of a job saving lives. Too many mouths to feed now, so they have to stay down there.”

"Where they don't need to eat?" Derrick questioned.

The other man seemed surprised by the question. No doubt, he assumed a User would be more informed than himself. If only. 

"It put them into some kind of stasis," he explained with a hint of bitterness. "Not actually frozen, in a kind of deep sleep where they are barely alive. Cheaper to feed them that way. Not that we aren't going to have real problems with that anyway." 

He seemed more annoyed than worried. Like he might need to skip a few meals, not be trapped in a city full of thousands of starving people and surrounded by an ever-growing horde or alien invaders.

Derrick thanked him and continued on. The man seemed relieved to have the conversation over with.  Which caused Derrick to frown. Something had been going on there. Was it jealousy, fear, or some macho thing? Meh, maybe a User kicked his dog.

The fun fact that the System had stored what must be tens of thousands of people in 'stasis' below his feet, was frankly creepy and fascinating. It was exactly the kind of solution they needed though. If there were hundreds of such facilities around the world, a lot more people would surive than he thought. With that many people saved and the support of the System, it was possible civilization might bounce back in his lifetime. He wondered if it had given people a choice in the matter. Probably not, it would have been too ineficient to explain things while the world burned. They were probably just shoved in pods as fast as possible, willing or not. It would be interesting to watch them released, assuming the city survived. 

His mind busy, he arrived at his destination. Once again, the Support Station had grown. A half dozen white vending machines now dominated a plaza with a metal pavilion hanging over the top. There was even new benches in convenient out of the way locations. Both the original store and parking lot were gone, as if they never existed.

Which hardly merited a double take these days. What did though, was the Users themselves, something seemed different about them compared to the people he had passed to get here. He stared at the half a dozen Users using the Stations for a good ten seconds before he got it.

They were colourful. Where the non-users wore muted colours and worn clothing, the System's chosen seemed to have adopted a common style. All their clothing; jackets, hoodies, heavy boots and cargo pants all were decorated with bright strips of colour. Both System made clothing and patched older clothes.

They also had a pride to them that he hadn't seen in the others. Even the non-combat Users stood tall and cocky. A side affect of gaining System access when most people were just losing everything. Well, at least his mask wasn't going to stand out much. In fact, there was a mask vendor right there. Sitting in a little kiosk by the Support Stations with a dozen masks and a pair of coats on display.

Curious he walked up to the stall.

The owner of the stall, an androgynous punk wearing an actual mohawk, didn't seem to notice him. Or anything really, he was just staring into space in a way that before the arrival of the System, would have marked you as a crazy person.

“Hehem,” Derrick cleared his throat and spoke. “You make clothes?”

The punk very slowly blinked before focusing on Derrick. A notification appeared.

User Tag

Name: Sam Willst

Title: Industrious

Role: Tailor

Level: 1.4

 

“I'm a Tailor, yes.” the younger person said like they thought Derrick was an idiot. “In exchange for USSP.”

What the fuck. His role was Tailor? Derrick had the privilege of being sent from horror to horror, watching his fellow Fighters die brutally and this kid sat around and designed custom clothing? He thought this was the kid’s hobby or something, not an actual Role.

The System refused to acknowledge his amazing programming skills at all, but this person's ability to design masks and shirts earned him a Role.

He felt his eye twitch. Deep breaths, anger solves nothing. It wasn't even the kid he was angry with, you couldn't punch the System.

Well, you could, but it was basically a bunch of neigh indestructible metallic boxes that would taze you. So, it was a bad idea.

“How much for a coat,” he asked. He already had a mask.

“Both of these are 250 USSP,” the... person said.

He eyed them, one was a blue blazer and the other was a grey jacket with a hood. Both were thick and padded in an almost military style. Neither were his sort of thing. Well, the hoodie might have been a couple of days ago. If he wore it with his mask now, he'd look like a rioter.

“Got anything that would go with this,” he asked and held out his mask. The Tailor's eyes snapped onto his mask with laser focus.

“No,” the Tailor said and then smiled. “But I can make something that does. Won't even charge you extra, seeing as how I made that too, for a couple of foxy ladies. Like rawwr, but with respect.” the Tailor finished with his/her hands curled into claws.

He was going to ignore that.

“Sure, sounds great.” he replied.

“Just give me two hours.” the Tailor said and held out his hands in front of him, framing Derrick between his fingers. “Any like, requests?”

Derrick considered the last few days and what the future held for him. He thought about the Scourges, his team and Kate.

“Make it stab proof please,” he replied. “Like Esthisium knife proof. Proof against acid would be great too but blade proof please.”

The Tailor smiled at him and nodded knowingly.

“The blonde right? She seemed like a real hellcat, with like respect.”

“No comment.” he replied, deadpan. Kid's these days. Get off his lawn and out of his head.

“Use these if they are any good,” Derrick added and reaching into his pocket, threw a bunch of small armored plates onto the counter. They were pieces of armor carved off of Legion Vanguards.

“I can work with those,” the Tailor said with a smile. “Tougher than the System's cheaper stuff anyway.”

A notification appeared, asking him if he wanted to transfer 250 USSP. He confirmed that he did and the Tailor settled back with a smile. No doubt doing whatever it was that Tailors did. The lucky little fuckers.

Done with that, he wandered to the System Station and offered it the auril heart he still had, the one he'd taken from the first dog Vanguard.

As soon as he held it out, a small round slot opened in the front of the machine. Once he dropped it in, it gave him two selling options. The first, receive an increase of 1.2 Auril Capacity. The second was just 90 points.

Both were kind of a let down. Considering the effort that went into it, defeating and then carving up a Vanguard.

“How much are Auril capacity upgrades?” he asked.

Not for sale. Resource limited. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Huh, well that made the choice clear. He selected the capacity upgrade and after a second of humming, a soda dropped into view. Without hesitation, he opened the can and downed it.

Aurilin tasted like cherries.

Once finished, Derrick licked his lips and began shopping, separating the useful from the useless till he had a list of possible options. He was pleased to see some new stuff on that list.

Universal Support Station

USSP: 1424

Weapons and Weapon Upgrades

Scavengers Sidearm

(220 USSP)

A cheap but dependable firearm of mild power that is accurate up to 1000 meters in the hands of a skilled shooter. It's most sophisticated system is its Forge Magazine; a device that can process metals and turn them into 11mm ammunition in seconds, ensuring it's owner never runs out of ammo.

More advanced metals such as Esthisium can be processed to create bullets with higher penetrating power that can be used on advanced threats at short ranges.

Small Weapon Reinforcement

(Axe) (185 USSP)

An upgrade to a hand weapon made out of the smart material Esthisium. Adds Admantium to spines and edges. It has safety, anti theft and self repair features.

Weak Auril medium.

Can be upgraded with a Manna Core

Minor Auril Stun Battery

(160 USSP)

Adds an Auril battery that stores and converts Users Auril energy into a single charge stun attack. Requires physical contact. Effects vary. May be resisted by advanced enemies.

Requires Auril Heart

Can be applied to melee weapons.



Tool and Equipment upgrades

Scout's Vision

(24 USSP)

Add the ability to view distant objects through zoom and a night vision mode to a Fighter's mask.

Sensor Web Hub (35 USSP)

Four small passive sensors and a signal hub. Capable of identifying Scourge units and natives and reporting location through mental beacon. Gathered info will be shared with the System.

Reinforced Undershirt

(453 USSP)

Add a layer of Admantium mesh to an undershirt.

 

 

Traits

Breathless (F)(Survival)

124 USSP

Modified blood increases oxygen carrying capacity, decreases muscle fatigue and allowing the User to hold their breath for longer periods of time.

Allows cutaneous gas exchange from the neck, chest, and back, enhancing Users ability to oxygenate blood.

 

Basic Combat Drug Package (E) (Offensive) 200 USSP

An improved gland in the spinal column that allows controlled release of powerful drugs. Increases potency of drugs. New drugs available:

Weld: Stops bleeding, grants resistance to pain.

Torch: Grants a burst of increased focus and expanded senses.

Curative Blood © (Defensive) 917 USSP

Defensive Trait. Modified blood cells and plasma give increased resistance and healing speed.

 He dismissed the Scavenger’s Sidearm, he needed something that hit harder, not at a distance. The Esthisium Barbs and Auril Stun Battery seemed unnecessary. The Pseudo Momentum Core did increased damage but worked on a battery he couldn't recharge.

A quick scan of the explosives section revealed nothing new. There were a couple new options dealing with armor though. Items that covered more skin and even the ability to reinforce existing items with Admantanium. As comforting as armored underwear would be, he just bought a coat, so he decided he didn't want to invest the points at this moment. Boots, though... Yes that would be a good investment.

He queried the System Station about armored footwear.

Universal Support System Station

System Soldiers Boots

(173 USSP)

Basic armored boots designed for human use. Guaranteed to fit any human foot.

Carbon threads with Esthisium and Admantanium micro mesh, it has limited self repair and security features.

 

Sold. Honestly, he was surprised he hadn't been stabbed or bitten in the foot yet. Between murderous alien dogs and tentacles that burst from the ground, some good shoes seemed like a safe investment.

Next, reinforcement for his axes seemed like the way to go. Not only would they cut armor, but he looked forward to finding out what Auril medium meant. Having Auril was the only real advantage he had, might as well go all in.

He ordered both axes reinforced, leaving him with points. He panel opened up on the side of the machine, revealing two slots that were obviously for the axes. He inserted them and a second later a familiar hum filled the air.

Two minutes till upgrade completion.

Really, it had taken less than that to make them in the first place. He pulled them out and took a good look at them.

They were mostly the same, but had gained the same blue edges that Blake's sword had. Derrick spun them around and juggled them, they were just a little bit heavier too. He was going to have practice throwing them now that the balance had changed.

What to get next? He was eyeing the next level of Curative Blood, but his gut told him it was too expensive for what he'd get out of it. It was a useful trait for healing him overnight and keeping him healthy, he doubted upgrading would change that much. It was already good enough and unless it let him heal mid-fight, unlikely, he wouldn't really gain anything from upgrading it.

Better to spend points on some sort of goal or vision. With Blake wounded and Kate missing, Jenny was his only available ally. Yet, it was probably time for them to part ways.

Auril was his goal, specifically the Red Law. The quickest path to power for him was increasing his Auril Capacity. It had started at seven point two, with the Scrappy II bonus and his scavenged Aurilin, he'd bumped it up to eleven point four.

The two ways he knew to increase the capacity was the Scrappy trait and taking Aurilin from the corpses of his enemies. Both meant fighting powerful enemies but the later was easier to accomplish. Where would he even find a new type of advanced enemy?

So, he was going to find and kill Grey Legion Vanguard. Not only for their Aurilin but for whatever secrets of Auril cultivation he could learn from them. His style was only rated E, that meant there was room for growth. Like, a lot of room for growth. It would probably be harder to make it worse.

Killing Vanguard was less crazy than it seemed. With upgraded weapons, a few levels to pad his strength and his Auril tricks, he could match a Vanguard in a fight or retreat safely. Even one of the once human ones.

It was either that, do easy missions, or just wait around for the next phase, neither of which were good options. The next time he encountered some new alien horror, he needed to be ready.

Because there was no doubt he would be running into fresh horrors.

He decided to purchase both the Scout's Eyes and two sensor webs. Vanguard were tricky, and he'd need all the help he could get to find them. Besides, the scouting tools were cheap.

Throw in a half dozen Tanglers and that added up to six hundred and ninety-one points. Which would leave him with seven hundred and thirty three points.

Some traits perhaps?

Breathless was odd.

It had a really weird focus on allowing him to hold his breath longer. Which was a very a random and not very useful thing to focus on. A quick internet search told him cutaneous gas exchange was just a fancy way of saying breathing through your skin. That was of dubious value as it seemed like a very minor boost to his ability to oxygenate his blood. Probably just a fraction of what his lungs achieved.

Not to mention, to use it, he might have to stop wearing shirts or something stupid like that. Which was not going to happen. He pictured himself, shirtless but wearing his red mask and carrying an axe in both hands. He shivered and drove the picture from his mind.

Increasing the oxygen his blood carried seemed like a pretty good trait by itself though. Essentially Doubling the amount of fuel that his blood could hold and that reached his muscles. If it wasn't a System trait, he'd be worried about horrible consequences. He was pretty sure the System wouldn't cripple him by making his muscles explode or destroying his white blood cell count.

He supposed he could take the next level of Drug Package. It was cheap for a trait... Sure. Even a small increase to lash was probably worth two hundred points, even if the new drugs were underwhelming. Lash had saved his life a half dozen times already.

Well that was it, he'd sit on the rest of his four hundred and nine. If he unlocked something later, it would be great to have some spare points.

Hmmmm. Best to check what the System recommended. That had worked out pretty well for him so far.

The answer was not what he thought it would be. Well mostly it was predictable, one thing stood out though.

Universal Support System Station

System Soldiers Ration Bar x12

(65 USSP)

A dozen bars designed to replace a meal while supplying the body with what it needs to level quickly. Ration bars independent effect on level cap growth is minor.

Fruit mix, peanut butter and beef flavoured

 

Huh, that would actually be very useful. He ran into the level cap a lot. While the effect on levelling was minor, it would cement his lead on other Users in the city. That could allow him the chance to snap up any bonus missions that had high level caps.

If he was lucky he might get to level two.

Wait. That was it!

He felt like smacking his forehead. Level two changed your Role. Oh, that was totally his goal now. Before phase two started, he was going to change roles. Who knows? Maybe the right Role would get him out of that suicide mission or ending up as some barbarian warrior wannabe.

 

 

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A note from Mirrored

 V2


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Mirrored

  • Canada
  • Font of Dissatisfaction

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