Kaleb stopped short at Farrah’s words. “Do what?!”
“Yeah, the Quinica are just small sentient organisms that a person swallows. They resemble a small rubber ball when they are first imbibed. Afterward they form a symbiotic relationship with their host. They can survive just fine without a host but they have a life span of maybe ten years. But if they find a host, they can extend their lives and the lives of their hosts for centuries.” Farrah explained laughing.
Kaleb started walking again as he asked. “How do they get hosts?”
“People volunteer to drink blood for longer lives?!” Kaleb asked incredulous.
“Not really. The Quinica feed on the blood of their hosts. All the host has to do is increase their own fluid intake. For that they get increased speed, strength, and minor magical powers.” Farrah explained.
“Sunlight?” Kaleb asked as he pushed passed what looked like a human fly.
Farrah made a noncommittal noise. “Eh, yes and no. The sun doesn’t hurt them but the joining seems to flip their internal clock. They can fight their new nature with some success, but mostly Quinica are nocturnal.”
“Huh, space vampires. Are they a playable race?”
Farrah laughed. “As far as anyone knows players can be every race we see in the game. At least that's what AGE is saying.”
Kaleb shook his head as he thought about how playing a Quinica would work. He weaved his way through the throngs of people. He tried not to look a family of humanoid black rats in the eye as he walked past. As he continued down the dirt street, he heard the roar of a crowd and he saw the top of a round building.
As the arena came into view Kaleb couldn’t help himself. “Holy shit!”
“Yeah.” Farrah agreed.
Kaleb gaped at what he assumed was a metal reconstruction of the Roman Colosseum. The thing looked like they built it out of iron beams, sheet metal, and chewing gum. But, it was an amazing sight, Kaleb had never been to the real Colosseum, but he figured it was a faithful reproduction. Vendors hocked t-shirts and other wares near the entrance emblazoned with images of combatants.
Kaleb didn’t realize he had stopped in the middle of the street until someone bumped into him. Lifting his jaw off the ground, Kaleb approached the structure. He gauged it at least 10 stories tall, seeing it at the center of Under-Town he finally had a sense of how big the cavern the town sat in was.
“I did not know this was here.” Farrah admitted.
Kaleb laughed. “Really? How does something like make it through the beta without someone saying something?”
“Hmph, the testers played from home and we had little contact in the game.” Farrah gripped.
“Why?” Kaleb asked as he stood next to the large arena. This close to the building the vibrations from the screaming crowd shook his teeth.
Farrah explained as Kaleb walked around the huge structure. “There wasn’t that many of us, really. Besides, I was focused on joining the SPPD and only a few of the other players wanted to be a part of the police.”
Kaleb stifled a laugh. “So YOU didn’t play with others.”
“I had my fun.” Farrah sniffed indignantly.
Kaleb chuckled quietly and walked around the iron monstrosity. He kept an eye out for any Basilinoids. He had circled the building before he spotted their small community. They lived in some of the nicer metal and wood shacks facing the arena. Several groups were hanging around a large pot of food above a roaring fire. Basilinoid children ran around playing with wooden swords and shields. Six armed guards formed a half-circle guarding their little community.
The first thing Kaleb thought was that they were huge. Kaleb thought he was fairly tall at 6-feet, but the smallest of these Basilinoids had to be 7 and a half feet. She stood guard facing out with a long metal pipe on her back. She caught Kaleb’s eye and seemed to freeze for a second before she sneered baring her sharp teeth. She shouted something over her shoulder which seemed to make the whole camp turn and stare at Kaleb.
“Whoa.” Kaleb muttered to himself as he took a hesitant step forward.
Farrah giggled at him. “Good luck, tiny.”
Grumbling at his Handler Kaleb made it to the ring of guards and stopped unsure what to do. The looks he was getting were not exactly friendly, but no one seemed to be openly hostile. As he went to walk into the camp however, one of the large males with a pointy metal club stepped in his way. It brought Kaleb up short, and he stared up at the larger lizard. He was about to say something when an elderly lizard rushed out of hut speaking breathlessly.
“Oh, we are sorry. I am the overseer of this Brute Clan, Wulkun Irden. We didn’t know the clans had moved out to this part of the countries. Am I to be called before your clan leader?” The old lizard rasped.
Kaleb blinked up at the bent over lizard. He wore cloth pants and no shirt and even he was armed. He wore a sword on his hip that was caked in rust and chipped from years of use. As Kaleb looked around he realized all of their weapons and clothes seemed in disrepair. He realized he was staring when Wulkun coughed awkwardly.
“I… uh don’t represent a clan.” Kaleb said as he looked around the camp.
Kaleb felt the tension around the camp drain away. Several of the lizards around the camp looked at Kaleb with varying degrees of pity. Still more looked at him with open hostility as Wulkun blew out a relieved breath.
“So you are not here to chase us out?” Wulkun asked.
Kalebs eyes bulged in surprise as he shouted. “NO! Why would I do that?”
Wulkun snorted. “It wouldn’t be the first time.” he said warily as he waved Kaleb toward the campfire.
Kaleb glanced around as he stepped into the camp and nodded at several of the guards as he followed Wulkun. He joined the old lizard by the fire and sat down on a threadbare lawn chair. Wulkun poured himself a bowl of soup then filled another one. He handed the second bowl to Kaleb and sat down on a wooden stool.
“So you are clan-less?” Wulkun asked as he sipped at his soup.
Kaleb took a tentative sip of the soup. It was a little bland but not disgusting. He took another sip before he answered the Over-seer.
“Yeah, I left my clan when I decided to be a Super.” Kaleb blew on his soup and took another sip.
Wulkun froze in surprise and then his body shook as he chuckled. “Really?! One of the lab-lizards decided to run around fighting crime?”
Kaleb shrugged his shoulders and nodded as his mouth was full of soup. He figured the Brute Clan would be find his vocation humorous. He got the picture that few of the Basilinoids joined the HLO. He noticed several of the nearby guards smiling.
Wulkun wiped the tears from his eyes and asked. “You do well for yourself then? Mr…?”
Kaleb gave another noncommittal shrug as he stuck his metal hand out. “I do ok, and it's Professor. Professor Pack Rat.”
“No Clan name?” Wulkun asked seriously.
“Not anymore. I gave it up when I left.” Kaleb said finishing his soup while it was still hot.
Kaleb noticed that several of the lizards had moved to listening distance. Wulkun saw where Kaleb was looking and chuckled softly again. Kaleb sat his bowl on the ground and watched several kids roll around in a mock fight. At least, he thought it was a mock fight. Wulkun patted his shoulder and was about to say something when an angry voice spoke up.
It was the female that had spotted Kaleb first. “Send him away Wulkun. We don’t need his kind or his problems.”
Kaleb sighed, he knew this would come up, eventually. The Elder Clans had forced this clan underground by their own people. And here he was an outlet for their anger. He was just happy that no one had randomly attacked him, yet.
“Oh calm down, Aqwen. He is a clan-less, same as us.” Wulkun sighed as he rolled his eyes.
The female guard, Aqwen, didn’t leave her post, but she hissed at the Over-seer’s words. “He is nothing like us. His kind forced us to leave and struck our names from the Chronicles.”
Wulkun stood abruptly and turned to Aqwen angrily. “You ignorant child. Were you there when they closed us off from the Walled City? Were you there as they separated the Brute Clan families? How about when they turned the plasma turrets on those who wouldn’t leave?” Wulkun whirled around looking at the gathering of Basilinoids. “Were any of you? The only one with a right to be pissed is me. You bunch of children have inherited a ridiculous hatred that is not your own.”
Aqwen tried to stare down Wulkun for a few seconds before she cast her eyes downward. Wulkun stared down several others before he returned to his seat and looked at Kaleb. Kaleb for his part kept his mouth shut and watched when Wulkun sat back down Kaleb asked.
“And how pissed are you, Wulkun?”
Wulkun grinned toothily at Kaleb and shrugged his shoulders. “You are also free from blame. They made the choice before you were hatched. Besides you have left the clan and you have even found work as Super.”
Kaleb heard Aqwen snort as a small lizard child walked over asking. “Really mister? You’re a superhero?”
Kaleb realized that the lizard children had stopped wrestling and were now being served soup by some other members of the Clan. Wulkun’s words seemed to catch the attention of the whole camp. Looking into the lizard child’s eyes Kaleb smiled and nodded.
“I’m trying to be. Although it's been a rough few days.”
Aqwen snorted even louder as she yelled over her shoulder. “What could you accomplish in a few days, Lab-Lizard?”
Kaleb turned to look at the female lizard and decided to let Farrah brag for him. “Farrah?” He asked.
His Handler seemed to be ready for his question as she rattled off. “Several of the villain Cog’s robot minions, a 3rd tier robot minion, a vigilante, waves of zombies, a low grade sorcerer, several large mutant rats, a rat humanoid with super-strength, hordes of Lesser Ifrit, 3 Ifrit soldiers, a Greater Ifrit, a magical bodyguard, a mid-tier wizard, two mundane thugs, and a Ciliaton.”
Kaleb felt ‘hordes of Ifrit’ was a little much, but that was a complete list. Hearing his exploits being summarized he realized how little time had passed and how much he had been through. When he looked around again, he was greeted by wide-eyes and slack mouths. Suddenly he was assaulted with several questions.
“You fought robots!?”
“What’s an Ifrit?”
“What’s a Tier?”
“You fought a Ciliaton?!”
Kaleb was happy to see that Aqwen had asked about his fight with the Ciliaton. Out of spite he spent several minutes answering the other questions to the people who asked. He saw out of the corner of his eye that Wulkun seemed interested in his answers. He shared his adventures with the group for a while. When he had answered the first wave of questions he got around to answering Aqwen.
He went into detail about his fight with Rokka. He tried hard to be brutally honest. He explained that if not for almost ripping the smaller lizard's tail off, he probably would have been killed. As he described it he noticed several of the nearby lizards, including Aqwen, tuck their tails close to their legs. For the first time he realized he was the only lizard at the camp without a tail. He found it odd that no one seemed to mention his lack of a tail.
When he finished his story he said. “… and when I asked about where to learn a little more about fighting he sent me here.”
Aqwen snorted again as another lizard tapped her on the shoulder and took her place as a guard. “So you got lucky and now you want us to protect you?” She asked as she grabbed soup and sat nearby.
“Did I say that or are you jamming words in my mouth? I don’t recall saying I was looking for bodyguards. I am looking for someone to teach me how to fight close quarters.” Kaleb said annoyed.
Aqwen seemed ready to retort when Wulkun interrupted. “No offense, professor, but our way of fighting is not exactly designed for you.”
“How do you mean?”
Wulkun scratched his face awkwardly. “Well, you're small. Our fighting style uses our larger size and power to overpower our foes and crush them. Besides, we don’t exactly have many trainers.”
Kaleb was crestfallen, he had hoped to adapt the larger lizards fighting style. But, it looked like no one here to train him. He looked between Aqwen and Wulkun and tried another line of inquiry.
“Do you know anyone who could teach me?”
Aqwen looked thoughtful as Wulkun coughed awkwardly. “We could probably help, but…” said the old lizard.
“What is it?” Kaleb asked worriedly.
“We are a community. We all work for the benefit for us all. But it seems you are doing well for yourself and you even have home…” Wulkun stopped looking at a loss for words.
“Why don’t you all go above ground, anyway? I’m sure plenty of you could do well as Supers.” Kaleb wondered aloud.
Aqwen sneered as answered. “And let the Elder Clans find out we are here? They would chase us out just for being too close to the Walled City.”
Kaleb twisted his head in confusion. “Why not send one up then?”
Wulkun answered this time. “That works for a while but then they die or get greedy. That is why we fight in the arena. Here we have no chance to be caught, we can still make money, and we can keep an eye on any greedy bastards.”
Kaleb nodded slowly as he agreed with the old lizards reason. He looked at Wulkun and said. “You were saying?”
Wulkun looked pensive so Aqwen answered for him. “We all work for the community. You have no ties with us. Wulkun wants you to do something for us before he helps you.”
“I wouldn’t put it as rough as that, but yes.” Wulkun seemed to gather himself as he continued. “You are another clan-less like us. You may not live down here but we can still help each other thrive.”
Kaleb nodded as he looked around the camp looking for things he could help with. The housing situation seemed handled to a degree. The food could be a little better and he could fix up their equipment.
“What if I repaired and upgraded your weapons?” Kaleb asked looking between Wulkun and Aqwen.
Several of the guards looked interested, so did Wulkun and Aqwen. “Not what I had I mind, but that would be a big help.”
Create or upgrade weapons for the Brute Clan. Find out what to build by speaking to the Brute Clan. The grade and type of weapon will determine the reward.
Reward: Increased Affinity with the Brute Clan,???
Damn it. Kaleb thought. Somehow his week was filling up with making equipment for other people. This one was something he had generated himself too. Smiling widely trying not to show his annoyance Kaleb asked.
“What did you have in mind then?”
Wulkun smiled widely and glanced at Aqwen. “We have a team match in the arena coming up-”
“No! Absolutely not, Wulkun!” Aqwen screamed leaping to her feet.
Kaleb hung his head, a little disappointed in the system. Of course, he found an arena, so the system would make him fight in it. He sighed loudly and looked back up prepared to accept their invitation to fight on their team.
“What could we learn from sparring with him?”
“He doesn’t fight like us, Aqwen. He could prepare us for more inventive opponents.” Wulkun was explaining to an irate Aqwen.
Kaleb blinked, surprised. Apparently all he had to do was spar with their arena team. Kaleb sat back and watched Aqwen sputter and try to find a good retort to Wulkun’s reason. At a loss for words the female lizard looked between Wulkun and Kaleb before stomping a foot and marching away huffing angrily. Kaleb smiled toothily at Wulkun.
Wulkun shrugged his shoulders. “The young’uns need to understand that they can’t just rely on their size. If your stories were true, you should be able to handle Aqwen’s team.”
Kaleb nodded good-naturedly. “Not exactly battle tested?”
“Little experience, really. They could do with an ass kicking and I could use the time to hunt down a trainer for you.” Wulkun explained.
“I could catch a beating, you know.” Kaleb said looking around at the bigger lizards.
Wulkun shrugged and smiled. “Then some of their misplaced hatred will have an outlet.”
Kaleb shook his head and stood with Wulkun. The old lizard said his goodbye and walked off. Kaleb decided to find Aqwen and get the beating over with. One way or another.