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Derrick, axe wielding slayer of alien horrors, let his eyes widen in an insincere show of fear as the three men approached him. He was quite enjoying this, maybe he should have been an actor? Their tags showed him that they were just level one point five, what was there to be afraid of?

Their leader arrived in front of where Derrick stood and grimaced at him.

“I see you remember us,” he announced cockily.

I remember beating the shit out of you, Derrick thought, but managed to keep his amusement off his face.

“Yes,” was all he replied, he didn't trust himself to say more. He should lure them into making the first move but was drawing a blank on how to do it.

“Not so tough without your big friend?” the nameless minion asked cockily.

Derrick took this opportunity to switch from afraid to insulted, his face took on an expression of mock outrage.

“Funny, coming from someone who only feels safe with two other dudes behind him,” Derrick replied with a slight smile.

The other scowled at him but didn't argue the point, instead he changed the subject.

“You think you can win” he said cockily. “Funny. You've already lost.”

“Oh?” Derrick asked. He wasn't scared of physical attacks but some kind of trick was a different matter. Thankfully these guys didn't seem that smart. 

“Want to know? Too bad,” the other said and poked him in the chest, an obvious taunt. “Let's just say your going to have less friends to back you up soon.”

Wearing his new super hard boots. Derrick kicked him in the shin. Minion one went down with a scream and perhaps a broken leg.

Derrick paused for a second, waiting for the System to interfere. Nothing happened and so he smiled at the other two.

Whatever they saw on his face caused them to flinch. One panicked and tried to draw a mundane pistol, only to fall down beside his buddy with an almost identical scream when he pointed it at Derrick.

Weapons were disallowed then, even none System ones. Good. Now for the last one. He'd handle this carefully in case the man lashed or had a trump card. Some more intimidation perhaps.

“You...” Derrick got out before the last remaining minion turned and ran away, leaving his buddies behind.

No trump card then. He looked around, in case there was more of them or some of the other Users wanted to interfere. A dozen Users were watching but none seemed the least bit like they wanted to stop him. Probably because of the loudmouthed minion’s threats, he'd clearly painted himself both the villain and an idiot.

He made a mental note to never be 'that guy'.

The creator of the Red Law kneeled down beside his victims.

“Care to elaborate?” he asked, talking loud enough they would hear him over their own pained gasps.

“Suck.. my...” The lead fool choked out before Derrick sighed and kicked him in the ribs. No scream this time he noted. Maybe he'd held back too much. He didn't like hurting people, but he wasn't going to let his allies be in danger if he could help it.

“You have another leg I could break,” commented Derrick casually. He was having a little fun with this, channeling his inner movie villain.

“The... System...”

“Heard, like everyone else, your intention to attack my friends,” Derrick interrupted. “I don't think it's going to stop me from doing what I need to do to save them.”

This was a bluff of course. He had no idea how far the System would let him take this. He certainly didn't want to find out. Like the would be pistol wielder had found out, the System didn't really go for warnings.

Words didn't seem to be working, so he met the other User's eyes and smiled again.

“I don't think anyone is going to help someone who's proven themselves to be as useless as you.”

He watched the other man consider that and felt it when he agreed. Just to keep things going, he slowly raised his foot above the man's knee.

“Blake... Hospital,” caught Derrick. Huh, that wasn't what he was expecting. He'd though Kate was a more likely target. He'd assumed the hospital was a safe zone. He had a hard time imagining that it wasn't.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the second minion stir. He'd forgotten all about that guy. Had he been pretending to be asleep? He scowled, annoyed that faking being asleep had worked on him.

There was something he wanted to try. He gathered auril energy into his hand and held it there.

He stealthily walked beside the seemingly unconscious man and poked him on the shoulder, unleashing the energy when his finger made contact.

Aha, Derrick mentally exclaimed, as the man began to spasm uncontrollably for a few seconds. He'd thought auril would rather move through flesh rather than air. So instead of a pulse through the air, he'd injected a stream of invading auril. The timing was hard to pull off though.

The effect was about as good as he'd hoped. It seemed foreign auril energy had a very different effect than that from one’s own body. It briefly rampaged before it dispersed, causing a few seconds of spasms in the local area.

New Auril Skill: Auril Strike

“Well, bye.” said Derrick as he broke away from his thoughts. “Thanks for the help.”

He'd check up on Blake just in case but while he was here, he'd grab his coat.

He moved back at the Tailor's stall and found him in exactly the same position as when he'd left, still staring off into space. Behind him hung a red shirt and vest.

It was a tight looking jacket with grey highlights that transitioned into a somewhat bulky vest. The vest part looked like a science fiction version of a police vest. Especially the series of small grey pentagonal plates that formed an asymmetrical pattern across one shoulder.

He realized there was no one to blame for this but himself.

It was the flashiest outfit he'd seen anyone wear since the System arrived. Part of him loved it, mostly he cringed though, knowing that anyone who saw him wear it with his mask, would think he was cosplaying an obscure anime character.

System Soldiers Legion Trophy Armor

 

A customized armored coat designed for human use. Guaranteed to fit any human.

Made from dense carbon threads and plates made of scavenged Grey Legion armor, layered over an Esthisium frame. It offers a slightly greater defence than a standard Soldier's Coat.

It has limited self repair and security features. Structural framing allows for the comfortable attachment of weapons to the back and hips as well as the ability to comfortably carry heavier loads.

 As series of emotions fought for dominance over his face, before settling on admiration. It was a good thing he planned to go solo for awhile. He doubted the Grey Legion or Tyrant Spores would care what he was wearing.

“Oh, hello.” the punk Tailor said with a sleepy smile. “What do you think?”

“It's exactly what I asked for,” Derrick admitted, causing the tailor to smile happily at him.

“It's my greatest creation,” was the reply he got. “The perfect meeting of form and function.”

“Yaaaay,” said Derrick. His obviously conflicted opinion failed to deter the Tailor's enthusiasm.

“The single best armor created in the entire city,” the other User continued. “The System itself gave me a title for creating the design. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone was wearing them soon.”

Derrick would, considering you needed to kill and skin a superhuman killing-machine to make it. The Tailor didn't seem to be really grounded in reality. Derrick wouldn't be surprised if the Tailor had spent the last few days deliriously happy because of the new opportunities in clothing design the System offered him and hadn't even really noticed the Scourges yet.

“Together, as barbarism claims our planet Earth, we have fought back by creating true art.”

So turning your enemies into fashion statements wasn't barbaric? Uggh. Whatever, he was done with this.

No wait, this may be an opportunity.

“You'll need more materials if you want to make more armor like this,” said Derrick slyly. “What would you pay for it?”

He planned on killing Vanguard anyway. He might as well get paid for it.

Sam Wilst, Tailor extraordinaire, tapped their chin in thought before answering.

“Fifty USSP a pound,” Sam said and cast a quick glance around before continuing conspiratorially. “Keep this on the down low though.”

That was less USSP than it seemed at first glance. The plates were very light, a pound of them would be more than one body could provide.

“Afraid of the competition?” Derrick asked. Would he get a better price from some other Tailor?

“No,” said Sam with deep frown. “I hear whispers of people going after businesses that are too successful.”

“Gangsters?” the Fighter asked incredulously. Who even had the time for something like that? Only civilians and he doubted they'd get far harassing Users.

The Tailor's frown deepened. “No, worse. Bureaucrats looking for mandatory donations of points to help 'alleviate the crisis'.” Sam continued before spitting on the ground. “Padding their pockets so they can pretend that they still run the city is more like it. The fucking parasites.”

Huh, once again no one seemed worried about the System taking over everything. He guessed it made sense, as aggravating as it could be, it was clearly the only thing that keeping the lights on and the people uneaten. It didn't even demand taxes for it. Even the punishments it handed out were pretty mild compared to what humans did to each other. Even the richest and most powerful countries in the world could conscript its citizens in crisis and this certifiably qualified as that. What was the punishment for treason these days anyway? Was cowardice in the face of the enemy still a crime?

He was going to find out when the next phase started, unfortunately. It had said it would be a military expedition. So far, he hadn't seen many soldiers. Just a few people that looked like they were off duty when Scourges first attacked. He wondered what the actual army had been up to?

He'd heard suspiciously little but had no idea what to make of that. The System was probably just using them hard.

No, he was going to get to level two and avoid that clusterfuck entirely. If he got good enough at Auril, maybe he could transition into some kind of student or teacher role? Hell, he'd open up a rival Tailor shop over being frontline infantry.

He said his goodbyes to the tailor and quickly made his way to the hospital, his coat tucked into his bag. He'd put it on when right before he entered the quarantine zone.

Dressed in ragged jeans and a t-shirt, he got a lot less looks from the scavenging citizens of the city.

Everything seemed the same at the medical area as when he'd last been here. Doctors and nurses running around the tent city without even sparing him a glance. He made his way about a hundred feet to Blake's tent and pulsed auril.

There was someone in there, someone tiny and sitting next to Blake's bed. Too short and stocky to be either Jenny or Kate. So, either it was an especially small nurse that had fallen deeply in love with her patient and was praying for his recovery at his bedside, or Greta was in there.

No one else but obvious patients was nearby though, maybe he got lucky and she'd been counting on escaping before anyone noticed. Why was she just sitting there then?

Sketchy. Quantum Awareness wasn't being set off though... He gave a mental sigh and made his way into the tent.

“Hello, Derrick,” Greta told him calmly as he entered and pointed a Scavengers Pistol at him. “Thanks for showing up.”

Oh good, it was a trap. He'd been right. He should have tossed a Tangler grenade in.

He eyed her weapon, assuming she didn't hit him between the eyes, he could probably walk off a couple bullets thanks to all the alien drugs he'd immediately flood his system with.

Unless of course she had some special type of ammo. Which was a serious possibility, Unfortunately. It was probably the Esthisium spikes thing. She'd shoot him, and the bullets would grow metallic spines that would tear him apart from the inside.

“Don't you have more important things to do?” he asked incredulously. “Like sending goons to harass merchants or kidnapping old men? Or here's an idea. Do something that helps prevent us from being subsumed by malevolent aliens.”

“Why don't you have a last name on your tag,” she asked and threw Derrick for a loop.

“It's not important,” he replied deadpan. That was not where he'd expected this to go.

“I’ll decide what's important.” Greta said with a slight flourish of her pistol. “Oh, in case your wondering. I'm a crack shot against even moving targets.”

He hadn't been, he'd just assumed that to be the case. He also assumed to the gun would fire because she clearly knew what she was doing and the room should have been flooded with angry doctors by now. This was a high security zone, the System watched everything here.

“No,” he said with a scowl. “It doesn't show up because it's not important to me.”

Greta eyed him.

“You were not hired to be Blake's bodyguard?” she asked.

“I was hired to be his ally,” he answered truthfully. “By the System, no one else.”

Greta seemed to consider this, then let out a sigh. The gun remained pointed at his heart though.

“Oops. I seem to have made a few errors of judgment. That's too bad,” the diminutive woman said wistfully. “You both need to die anyway.”

“Why?” he asked. This all seemed very dramatic and made very little sense to him. Neither him nor Blake seemed like they were worth... whatever this was.

“I worked for Blake's family, the Demnols.” She replied easily, “Then I arranged it so that they were torn apart by a mob. Caught them by surprise when the Scourges first arrived. The one thing they weren't prepared for.”

Derrick said nothing.

“They were monsters,” she said and a shiver rocked her slight frame. “You have no idea.”

Yes, he knew nothing about monsters. Nothing at all. He let her speak though, while she was talking, she wasn't murdering him.

“They still have powerful allies though, the most dangerous men and women in cities all across the coast. The Black sheep of the family, Blake could be used as a figurehead for them to come together and take away all the power I've managed to grab from the Demnol's corpses. A few innocent lives are worth preventing what these people would do with official power and access to the System.”

Here he had to get a word in.

“This seems paranoid,” he said truthfully. “And has nothing to do with me.”

Greta shrugged. “Administrator powers are rather disappointing really. I couldn't overcome the System's protection of its Users until something approached me with a deal.”

Something? Nice, that wasn't terrifying at all.

“I kill you and Blake dies in his sleep,” she said and shot him twice, once in the heart and the other in the gut.

It felt like getting hit with a pair of hammers swung by Bruce. He fell to his knees and grasped at his chest desperately, unable to breathe. A second later, he slumped forwards and was still.

“You are wearing a vest aren't you,” Greta said, annoyed.

Of course, she knew what someone getting shot in the heart looked like. Fuck, his luck with women was terrible. Scrambling, he leaped into a roll and threw himself towards the door. From the corner of his eye, he saw her fire twice more and flinched.

He stumbled agian but the expected pain never came. Did she miss? Was he in shock?

He heard the sound of two metal objects hitting the floor and saw two shiny and stil perfect bullets bounce against the ground, a foot away from him.

“And you have a force field,” Greta added sourly, as if offended by the injustice of this.

Did he? He was pretty sure he'd know about that. Had the System finally stepped in to save him?

“No, I do,” said Jenny from the door, her own pistol pointed at Greta.

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Mirrored

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