Kaleb laid on the hangar floor and went over his skill updates while Jar-lock and the others filled Vivienne in on what happened. He saw nothing he wasn’t expecting.
For repeatedly stabbing your enemies, you have unlocked the Knife Fighting skill. Small, concealable, and pointy. You can now slice and dice your foes with increased skill. Combinable skill.
*Knife Fighting Beginner Level 1*
Increase damage with all knives by 2
Decrease stamina used while fighting with knives.
*Gadget Mastery Skill Level up*
Current Gadget Failure Rate decreased by 4%
Current Blueprint Drop Rate Increased by 6%
*Toughness Skill Max Level*
Health increased by 10%
Incoming physical damage decreased by 5%
*Endurance Skill Max Level*
Stamina increased by 15%
Your Toughness, Endurance, and Dodge skill are all max level. Each of these skills is combinable and the player can combine them in several ways. The player can also level the skills up to the intermediate tier. Leaving a skill at max level means that it will waste all future skill experience. We advised you to either combine or level your skills at your earliest convenience.
Kaleb sighed and read through his notices. He was waiting for something else to reach max level before he combined Dodge with it. But now he had two skills to combine with it. Opening his interface he noticed that he couldn’t combine Toughness and Endurance again. So his choices were: Dodge + Endurance, Dodge + Toughness, or Dodge + Endurance + Toughness.
Kaleb mentally clicked through his options multiple times. Unfortunately, the system didn’t tell him what the different combinations would create. So it was a crap shoot, and his instincts were screaming at him to place his bet on combining all three. He didn’t know what it would create, but he wanted to find out. Clicking on confirm Kaleb waited for his next pop-up notification.
You have created the In-Fighter Skill. Your Toughness and Endurance skills have been reduced to level 2. Your Dodge skill has been reset to level 1.
In-Fighter Skill Beginner Level 1 – You prefer to get up close and personal with your enemies. Bobbing and weaving with fancy footwork, throwing uppercuts and kidney punches with, and occasionally getting knocked around.
Dodge skill increased when the player is in Melee range.
Melee strength increased by 1
Stamina increased by 2%
Kaleb exhaled loudly as he read through all the notifications. His stamina and health had taken huge hits again, but the In-Fighter skill would hopefully make up for it. If the fight with the ants had proven anything it was that he couldn’t just rely on his guns. He needed a melee weapon. He also needed to outfit their team. Mass and D34d-I seemed okay with their Ifrit equipment, but the others probably needed an upgrade.
He could still hear the others muttering so Kaleb opened his eyes and stood up. The others spared him a few glances before going back to their conversation. Kaleb walked over and listened in as Jar-lock was explaining something to everyone with Vivienne nodding along.
“… He told us the HLO was on it. I didn’t even remember it until Vivi brought it up.” Jar-lock was saying.
Two Gun lifted his hat and wiped his brow asking. “So some snot-nosed Sorceress gets pissy at an ex and she unleashes a damn giant ant queen on him?!”
Jar-lock shrugged his shoulders and nodded. “That’s what Varlin told us. I just assumed that the city had a handle on it.”
Abby glanced out the open hangar doors snorting. “I don’t think they do.”
“So what do we do?” Claire asked.
“we can’t do anything for now. At least officially.” Kaleb said. “But once Farrah comes back, we should at least have a temporary permit to work our district. But even then we don’t know if the HLO will let us work the Ant Queen case.”
Vivienne chuckled. “Ant Queen case?”
Kaleb shrugged. “I like the name. Besides what else are we going to call it.”
The others just nodded at that and Kaleb glanced around, looking for Daivor. He found the Gnome hanging off the D-Net dish with his rigging vest. The Gnome was working on the electronics at the bottom of the D-Net dish. Daivor had set the dish near Farrah’s computer setup. As he Watched Kaleb remembered that Farrah would need a few drones and they would all need a means to communicate.
Feeling a tapping on his shoulder, Kaleb turned and saw Abby watching him. “What are you thinking?”
“Just all the crap I have to build.” Kaleb said.
He heard Jar-lock laugh from behind him. “Yeah, you have got to take these flies off me at some point.”
Kaleb turned back to the group and nodded. “I know, I’m just trying to prioritize the important stuff. I’m gonna be in the Mechanics Room for a while. Let me know when Farrah gets back.”
The others all nodded and Two Gun stepped forward. “Don’t worry about getting the hangar set up. The rest of us will pitch in and get things good to go with food, water, things like that.”
Kaleb nodded his thanks and moved over to the Mechanics Room, Roy following behind him. Kaleb turned to smile at his assistant and almost tripped over something in the pile of K-Tech junk. Looking down, he saw the black armor of the K-Tech security. Kaleb grinned wide and yanked out the various pieces he and Shaggy’s crew had collected.
“Are we working on your armor first?” Roy asked sounding happy to help.
Kaleb shook his head. “No, but I just remembered that I pulled three ear communicators from the K-Tech guards. They are all linked in to these minicomputers on the wrist. I want to take a few apart and see how they work. Maybe I can replicate them and give us a way to communicate in the field.”
“How can I help?” Roy asked.
Kaleb waved a hand at the pile of junk while lifting and showing the minicomputer to Roy. “Just find the other two of these.”
Roy sighed loudly but nodded and dove into the pile while Kaleb took apart the minicomputer. He found that it was a standard minicomputer. Power supply, touch monitor, mini-R-Wave emitter for communication, all plugged into a mini-circuit board. Unfortunately, Kaleb had fried a few things when he sent his Mana through it, but he could still guess at how a few things worked.
The R-Wave Emitter signaled the earpiece which signaled the voice coil set in a magnet which then vibrated a plastic diaphragm creating sound. He would have to do the same thing, but with D-Net. Which meant setting up a team frequency and adjusting the various ear pieces to that frequency. Each ear piece will need a small D-Net transceiver. Kaleb thought as Roy returned with the other two minicomputers.
Kaleb nodded. “We need small magnets, copper wire, and thin plastic that can vibrate.”
Roy smiled. “Ha! Could you make it easier? We have tubs full of all that stuff.” He waved a hand at the green bins near the Mechanics Room wall.
“Well, bring them over. Honestly, the hardest part is finding a D-Net transceivers for every earpiece.” Kaleb said.
“Another easy one, Doc. Dad sells those in a pack for 30 credits. They are not big sellers. No one uses D-Net anymore, not since The Arrival. So we can probably find a bunch of D-Net equipment dirt cheap in junk yards and stuff.” Roy explained as he moved the bins closer to Kaleb’s workbench.
Kaleb nodded slowly as he looked through the three bins. “Well, sounds like you’ll be taking a trip then. Say hi to your mom for me before she kills you.”
Roy sighed. “Hopefully, dads calmed her down by now.”
Kaleb just shook his head and went back to work. He took a while to find the right-sized magnet and wiring, not to mention plastic with the right flexibility. But eventually he did, and he and Roy crafted tiny tubular ear pieces that the team could all wear. For Farrah and her giant rabbit ears, Kaleb decided to just use some old-fashioned headphones he had found in the miscellaneous bin from his old garage.
It took several hours and in that time Farrah had returned and passed out everyone’s temporary work permit. Once they all had them in hand. Jar-lock and the other almost raced out of the hangar. But Farrah stopped them.
“Before you all run off, there’s something you should all know.” The others all just stared at her until she continued. “There have been ant attacks throughout the city. So city hall is counting on everyone to monitor their districts carefully until the HLO has things under control.”
“They don’t want us helping?” Abby asked.
Farrah shook her head. “You can defend your district if they attack it. But actually hunting down the queen will be up to the professionals.” Farrah raised little air quotes around the word professionals and her voice became nasally and annoying.
Two Gun shook his head smiling. “So what the hell are we supposed to do?”
“Go out and make our little LLC look good. Show the neighborhood that we are here to stick it to the HLO and that we will fight not just for them, but with them. Hearts and minds, people.”
Everyone nodded at the ducks words while Kaleb turned to Farrah and asked. “What about the ants?”
Farrah grinned as the others all groaned. “The city is being overrun with ant clean-up. So if anyone wants to keep the ant parts they are more than welcome to. At least that’s what the city says, the HLO is offering a reward for any parts sold straight to them though.”
“Why would they do that?” Claire asked.
Jar-lock answered her. “It makes them look good if they can report that they sold the most ant parts back to the city. It shows that they are working the hardest for the city and it only cost them money.”
“Maybe.” Kaleb said. “But, it could be something else.”
“Like what?” Vivienne asked.
Kaleb just shrugged unable to answer. Abby shook her head and waved her new temporary permit. “Ignore him, he is just being paranoid.”
“Just cause your paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!” Kaleb yelled as everyone except Two Gun, Claire and Farrah left.
Farrah moved to help Daivor as Two Gun and Claire moved to Kaleb. “We will buy some things for the base. Food, fridge, things like that.” Two Gun said.
Kaleb nodded still concentrating on his work. “Sounds good, need me to pull some cash from the terminal?”
Claire shook her head. “D34d-I already covered us. We were just wondering if you needed anything?”
Kaleb thought about it for a short while before he shook his head. “No, I think I’m good. If anything comes to mind I’ll head out and buy it myself.”
Two Gun and Claire gave each other odd looks before the turned back to Kaleb with half-hidden smiles on their faces.
“What?” Kaleb asked.
Claire just shook her head and walked off, but Two Gun cackled loudly. “Do you know where your car keys are?”
Kaleb nodded before he patted down his pockets and found nothing. “Oh, damn it! That group of bastards took my car, didn’t they?”
Two Gun just nodded, the grin on his face warping into a huge smile as he waved goodbye and walked toward his own car. Kaleb swore for a couple of minutes until he decided to just let it go and went back to work.
Now several hours later, Roy had taken a taxi home, Farrah was programming something into her command center computer and Daivor was puffing away on his pipe. The others hadn’t returned, But Kaleb didn’t hear loud explosions either so he figured everything was ok. Kaleb had most of the earpieces completed all he needed were the D-Net transceivers from Roy’s store.
As he waited for Roy, he was tearing into the flies that Jar-lock had dumped on the hangar floor before he left. He spread out an old lab coat and was cutting the flies open. Kaleb was pulling out their ‘energy gland’ at least that is what Kaleb was calling it. It was a three inch long bulbous gland that pulsed with red energy. The fly guts covered his hands in blood and he had a large pile of glowing glands that was getting bigger and bigger.
As Kaleb made another cut into another fly, he felt a sharp tug on his metal shoulder. Turning to look he saw Daivor landing on his shoulder. The Gnome had swung himself over to get a look at what Kaleb was doing. The gnome waved his pipe over at the pile of pulsing 'energy glands’ and said.
“I’d be careful with those.”
Kaleb tossed another gland on the pile and asked. “Why? They don’t seem all that powerful and it doesn’t look like they interact with each other.”
Daivor sighed. “Boss, those things are pure, condensed, energy. That pile you have there could take out half of this hangar.”
Hearing that Kaleb stopped wiggling his knife into the fly’s abdomen and stared at Daivor. He slowly removed his knife while he calmly asked Daivor.
“This was something you only told me now because…?”
Daivor shrugged his shoulders. “I thought it went without saying. These guys store energy in their body. You should want to be careful with that kind of stuff.”
Kaleb sighed and put his knife down. He wanted to rub his face, but his hands were full of fly guts. Kaleb stood and moved to get something to wipe his hands with. As Kaleb moved toward where he kept his spare lab coats, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning toward the hangar doors, Kaleb saw a middle-aged man holding a large grotesque-looking spear and wearing large green goggles.
Kaleb drew his Sun Gun and aim at the old man while shouting. “Whoa! Who the hell are you?”
The man gripped his green goggles and placed them on his forehead before he took a step into the hangar. He surveyed the interior of the hangar, ignoring Kaleb’s question completely. Kaleb groaned and checked the charge on his Sun Gun. The gun hadn’t charged enough to burn anything, but it would probably give someone a nasty shock.
“Last time, asshole: Who are you and what do you want?”
The man finally turned toward Kaleb and snorted in derision. “Just came to see the competition. Looks like we have nothing to worry about. You kids won’t last a week.”
“So longer than you did against the HLO.” Farrah said from the back of the room.
The man’s eyes widened, and he stared at the back of the tall Rabbit women. Farrah hadn’t even deigned to look back. Kaleb saw the man’s grip tighten on his spear and he was sure that the man would do something. Farrah also seemed to have sensed the man’s intent, because she spun on the chair she was sitting on and smiled at the man.
“Julius, if you want to do something stupid here, then let me warn you: it won’t go well for you.”