“Are you ready to do this, Wilson?” Garth asked, taking a deep breath. “I need you to keep calm and cover my back, because this could get hairy if it goes badly.” He grabbed Wilson and settled him on his shoulder, facing backwards.
They were standing on top of a crate, directly underneath a slice in the wagon covering, ready to burst out like a facehugger and ruin everyone’s day.
Garth squeezed the sapling in his left hand, and the plant began rippling under his skin as it thickened, sending roots into the crates beneath it as the vines began growing outward inches per second. Once he’d made several handfuls of peas, he dropped the plant to the floor.
“Hoy there!” Garth heard the outpost sentry say. The faintly glowing canvas went dark as the shadow of the wall crossed over it.
“Show time.” Garth muttered. If Wilson responded, he missed it, because the lizard was too busy watching his back. Garth supercharged the peas and launched himself up through the wagon’s covering, standing on the frame and looking down at the people around him.
“By the authority vested in me by…erm, the Inner Spheres I guess, I’m arresting these slaving assholes!”
The wiggling patterns momentarily blinded him, but Garth could make out the fifty-odd Thrask looking at him with expressions ranging from astonishment to outright rage.
Garth gave them the peas.
The earth shook and peas started flinging everywhere in a cascading wave of green, tying up anything and everything in the vicinity, including Garth.
The defenders of the outpost were blue humanoids with skinny limbs who would be seven feet tall if they weren’t so hunched over. They grabbed their weapons in alarm at Garth’s arrival, summoning more of their kind to witness the spectacle.
Feeling the none-too gentle vines around himself, Garth withdrew Beladia’s power from them suddenly, making them turn to ash against his skin.
Garth climbed down from the wagon, cutting a path through the forest of vines until he reached the edge nearest the gate.
The outpost itself looked a bit like a castle, if a castle had been poured out of pure concrete rather than stones, with smooth, rounded walls, and steel buttresses that seemed as though they had been anchored into the very flesh of the earth by a giant’s hand. Beyone that, there was a beam of blue light rising up into the sky, marking where the Gate connected the Spheres together.
A crowd had gathered around, where aliens of every shape and color had paused their coming and going from the outpost to gawk at the spectacle he had created.
From the massive gateway, a troop of defenders rushed out, forming an impenetrable square in front of Garth and leveling their spears at him.
Garth stood still.
One particular blue alien stood out in front of the others and spoke. Their language sounded like the chittering of a squirrel interspersed with pig grunts, but the translator it wore seemed to do the job just fine.
“Put down any weapons you have on you, druid. We will escort you to holding and verify your claim.”
Once they had verified the Thrask were slavers and arrested them – they had found other humans and even some aliens in the cages – Garth had pressed for any kind of reward he could, up to and including claiming that the entire caravan minus the illicit goods had belonged to him, and the slavers had stolen it.
Use every part of the bandit.
His temporary alien lawyer had haggled them up to a fifth the price of the wagon train and the entire remaining sack of Heartstones. He’d given him a funny look when Garth had added Wilson to the agreement, but he wasn’t sure if that was because he was an alien or not.
Logistics completed an entire day later, Garth stepped out onto the streets of the outpost, a sack of Heartstones over his shoulder, and a heavy purse of Sphere Credits on his waist, wandering until he found what seemed to be a market.
Calls in languages too various to keep track of resounded throughout the courtyard, and the street was lined with stalls displaying objects of every shape and size, from armor and weapons – little of which would fit a human – to food, jewelry, books, and those universal translators that everyone seemed to be wearing.
Every stall seemed to be hewn out of rough wood and pegged together. Garth recognized the wood as ash. The entire set-up struck him as a wild-west boomtown. It must be expensive to bring stuff back and forth across the gate, so rather than bring lumber, they brought saws and made their own. Interesting.
Garth walked up to a grumpy looking, pale, wrinkly shopkeeper that seemed to be displaying heartstones with unusual shapes and pure colors, and dropped his bag on the man’s table.
“What can I get for these?” he asked.
The shopkeeper opened the bag. His eyes widened for a telling moment before he grunted. “These aren’t refined yet, so they’re no good to anyone. I’ll liquidate the whole thing for you and give you three hundred Sphere credits.”
“I guess we’re done here.” Garth said, turning away.
“Wait, five hundred credits, a’right?”
“How about five hundred credits and a bit of common knowledge, just off the top of your head?” Garth asked, turning back.
“Whaddya wanna know?” the shopkeeper said with a guarded expression.
“What do you mean by not good to anyone? The letter said to use these to fuel your growth.”
“You’re from round here?” The shopkeep ‘tsked’, knowing he could have lowballed Garth far more than he had.
“Congratulations for getting this far I guess.”
“Thanks, what do you mean by unrefined?” he said, trying to pin the man down.
The shopkeeper sighed, sending another covetous glance at the bag.
“Impure, low grade Heartstones’ll poison you. In small doses, it’s not bad, but if you eat a lot of em, it builds up in your system. That’s why we refine them, so that customers can choose the stat they want to raise without risk o’ death.”
Garth looked down at the pure gemstones on display, red, yellow and blue gemstones, with middling clarity, as well as clear stones with bumpy surfaces, smooth, teardrop shaped rocks, and ones with spiderwebbing cracks on the inside of the stone. There were stickers next to each of them, ’99 credits each!’.
“You didn’t eat a bunch, did’ja?”
“a few.” Hundred.
“If that’s the case, head down to the Adventurer’s Guild, they got physicians that can take a look at ya, make sure you’re all right. The poison stays in your system until you can get a cleric to pull it out.” The man pointed down the street, toward the beam of glowing blue light.
“Thanks. Five hundred credits for the sack.” Garth said, trading the stones for cash.
Credits were gold pieces on the metric system, with the smallest denomination being about the size of a nickel, the largest being about a U.S. half-dollar.
“I’ll be back, old man.” Garth said.
“Sure.” He waved Garth away as he dumped the bag of Heartstones into some kind of sorting machine in the back of his stall. It kind of reminded him of a coin sorter, actually.
Garth strolled on until he came across a stall selling universal translators, ‘Status Bands’ they called them, ranging from simple steel bands all the way up to fancy gold embroidered black leather with studded Heartstones. They were a bit like the cell-phone of the Spheres, everyone Garth saw on the street had one, except his poor self.
“Hey there, how much will these run me?” Garth said, motioning to the status bands that ranged in size from a friendship bracelet, to full on armguards.
“That depends,” the bloblike creature said, rubbing it’s pedipalps together with eagerness. “we have the simple Status Band that will allow you to keep an eye on your statistics and little else, hardly fit for an adventurer of your, umm…” the creature paused as it took in Garth’s ragged appearance. “Skills?”
It shook itself, returning to its sales pitch.
“All the way up to the Black Gold model here, that can boost a specific stat, empower magic, store a limited amount of gear, psychically inform you of another’s rank and do the same for them, with a connection to the Ethernet, a banking function that can connect you instantly to the Inner Sphere bank. I use one for my own transactions!”
The blob took a black band out of its goopy folds and dropped a Credit into the largest flat gemstone atop it. The coin disappeared into the gemstone, re-appearing at the blobs command.
“How much for the Black Gold?”
“Three hundred Sphere Credits, sir.”
“Got one that enhances plant magic?”
“I’m sorry, those are only available by special order. It would take a week and an extra two hundred credits to order one in the next shipment.”
Garth took out eight hundred-credit coins and put them down in front of the blob. “I’d like a sense boosting one for now, and I’d like to order a plant-magic enhancing one as well. Can you do that?”
“Yes sir.” The blob said, bobbing in agreement. “Do you want a box?”
“Nah, I’ll wear it, Garth said, accepting the gem-studded black leather armguard and sliding his wrist into it. The armguard tightened itself down on his forearm, making his hair stand on end for just a moment, before it began pumping information directly into his brain.
|Garth Daniels||One Star Iron Soldier||Blessings of Beladia||Photosynthesis, Temperature resistance, Empowered Plant Magic, Pheremones, Hyper-fertility.|
|Senses||13+3||Inner Sphere Bank Account||112 Credits|
He pulled out one of his credits, and dropped it into the gemstone. In his mind, the count went up to one hundred and thirteen. When he put his fingers over it and pictured a hundred credit coin, it rose to meet his hand.
“Awesome,” Garth said, putting his credits away and checking the total.
|Inner Sphere Bank account||5632 credits|
“Thanks for your help.” Garth said, to which the blob wiggled in acknowledgement.
“If you need a tailor, my brother in law runs one on the corner of fifth and main.” The blob called out as he walked away. clothes were a priority, but the first thing he needed to do was hit this Adventurers Guild and make sure he wasn’t dying of poison. And what the hell would a blob know about tailoring?
Garth headed down the main street, the signs now readable. A few hundred yards down the road, he spotted the ‘Adventurer’s guild’ sign and walked in.
The conversation lulled for only a moment as Garth walked in, then the various aliens turned back to their tables, and Garth was ignored completely.
There was a man who could only fit the definition of an orc sitting up against the wall, chatting with a dwarf. There was a party entirely composed of ant-people, their conversation mostly composed of silently wiggling their antennae at each other.
Garth spotted a Thrask, along with what he could only assume was the female of his species. Her flat face had finer features and most tellingly, the cleavage window of her shirt opened three times to reveal six breasts the size of watermelons. Garth’s first instinct was to grease that shit up and go through it like a waterslide.
Gotta have life goals, Garth thought, adding Thrask-tit waterslide to his mental bucket list as he continued looking around the main hall. Maybe he could be a pioneer in more ways than one?
After working his way through the crowded building, Garth found the main desk, and his eyes widened in surprise.
Behind the counter was a blonde human woman in a tightly packed black top, pushing generous breasts up and into the face of the blushing orc doing paperwork in front of her. From Garth’s side view, he could see how her blue jeans could barely contain her ass, that glorious curve nearly making his mouth water. If he leaned over a bit further, he could probably make out the lines of her vacuum sealed camel toe.
She can’t be real. There was no way a human woman that attractive had made it here, then had gone on to work as a receptionist in the adventurer’s guild, and chosen to wear a bodice-jeans combo. Wilson seemed leery of her too, giving the product of men’s lurid fantasies a suspicious sideways look.
Once the orc was done, Garth walked up and took his place.
“I’m Sandi, How can I help you sugar?” she said with a southern drawl. While Garth’s mind thought that was suspicious, his eyes thought her breasts were fantastic.
“Um, yeah…are you real?”
She giggled, touching her succulent lips and looking Garth up and down with a gaze that promised a sweaty night in her bed.
“Of course I’m real,” she said with a wry grin. Garth rolled his eyes internally at his misphrasing.
“Sorry, are you human?”
“I always wanted to be one.” Sandi leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Maybe you could show me how it’s done.”
Garth swallowed. Stay focused, she can’t have always wanted it, the aliens got here a week ago. Don’t be fooled by plastic!
“You’ve only been here a week, and you always wanted to be one?”
She pouted, crossing her arms and cocking her hips, somehow looking even more attractive. “Get to the point, What do you want?”
“Alright,” Garth said, willing to let the matter drop. After all, she had admitted she wasn’t human, and he didn’t think she was obliged to tell him anything more.
“I swallowed a lot of unprocessed Heartstones and I think I need a doctor.”
“Oh, The physician is only available to guild members, but it’s an easy fix. Here, fill out this paperwork. Use this pen.” She handed him a paper and a rather large silver pen with a pure red gemstone on the back of it. The style was odd, but Garth didn’t see a reason to point it out.
With a shrug, he got to work. Garth was done quickly, as the paper mirrored the contents of his Status, with the exception of Beladia’s blessings.
“You certify that everything written here is true?” Sandi asked. Garth nodded, and she performed a quick signature at the bottom of the page, before turning to file it in the back.
She bent at the waist, affording Garth an incredible three quarters view of her shapely ass, arched back, and the curve of her breast, her top just barely keeping them from swinging free right then and there.
Maybe it’s not a problem that she isn’t human, Garth’s addled mind began to erode his caution as she had trouble making the files fit, taking a bit longer to put everything away. Once she was done, she turned back to Garth with a smile.
“There, it’s all taken care of. Now, Garth, I’m sorry I got mad at you. I know you’ve probably had a rough time since the Kipling came. I’d love to make it up to you. What do you think? You’re a native of this planet, do you think you could show me around sometime? I’d love to see the sights.”
“That could be fun, sure.” he said, a grin coming to his face unbidden.
“Looking forward to it.” She said, tilting her head in the cutest way. “Doctor Kine is down the hall and to your left.” She pointed. “After you meet with him, he should refer you to the Guildmaster to address some of the problems with your status.”
“Thanks.” Garth said, casting one glance back at Sandi as he walked toward the hall. Damn, those lips could suck the chrome off a-
He almost walked into the young orc that stepped in front of him. The brute was wearing a leather armor cuirass that extended protection up to his neck and down to his groin. He looked serious about killing things for a living.
“New guy!” he roared, making Garth tense up. Was this the archetypical hazing ritual? Might as well get it over with.
“Take this!” he forced a mirror about the size of his palm into Garth’s hand, shattering his expectations.
“Look at her!” The orc shouted, pointing at the girl behind the counter. Garth glanced over his shoulder at Sandi, who looked pissed.
“With the mirror, numbnuts!” the orc shouted again.
Garth oriented the mirror so he could see her through it.
“Holy shit!” Garth flung the mirror away, dropping to the ground.
What he saw there chilled him to the bone. Some kind of worm-mantis looking thing with legs galore and long scythe-like appendages below human-like hands covered in chiten. The monster’s eyes glowed with flickering light, as though it were burning inside. Sandi towered over the desk, seven feet tall and four feet wide. There was more of her beyond what he could see hidden beneath the desk.
Long story short, Sandi was a terrifying killing machine.
The entire Adventurer’s guild burst into raucous laughter.
“You guys are so mean!” Sandi shouted, cutely stomping her foot. The floor creaked.
“That’s what you get for flirting with an ambush predator, buddy.” The orc clapped him on the shoulder.
Garth climbed to his feet, sheer terror surging through his veins. He’d been standing well within Sandi’s range. She could have grabbed him, bit his head off and eaten him in a matter of seconds.
But she didn’t.
That gave Garth pause. If she was doing a job here, that meant she could presumably control herself and not eat people. He glanced over to where Sandi was sulking in the corner of the desk, looking away from Garth and the jeering members of the guild.
Worth it? Maybe not, but what the hell...
Garth took a deep, fortifying breath and marched back up to Sandi as all the eyes in the guild followed him.
“What, are you gonna yell at me now?” She asked.
“You promise not to eat me?” Garth asked, holding out his hand. Sandi’s face lit up with joy.
“Holy shit, this moron’s gonna die!” he heard someone shout.
“Of course!” Sandi said, shaking his hand. Her skin felt unbelievably smooth and soft against his own. Who knew what the hell he was actually shaking right now, but whatever.
“Then I’ll make some time to show you around.” Garth said with his best womanizing grin.
“Awesome!” Sandi said, bouncing up and down, her breasts wobbling while the floorboards underneath her creaked dangerously.
Garth turned to face the stunned crowd and puffed out his chest, jabbing it with his thumb.
“Garth Daniels has NEVER reneged on a date!” Garth scanned the room, meeting each and every one of their eyes.
“And he’s not about to start now!”
The guildhall erupted with cheers and catcalls.