The sun had gone down already by the time Garth finished with the negotiations, making sure each of the farmers had land they wanted, a different product that didn’t step on any of the other’s toes, and setting up a business account with the Inner Spheres where they could deposit 5% of their profits, which would then funnel into his personal account after taxes.
Along with signing contracts, Garth spend an agonizing amount of time making sure that the sudden influx of cheap products wouldn’t ruin anyone on this side of the Gate. His greatest fear was that the market would collapse, leaving all the work he’d done today pointless, and more importantly, causing a lot of suffering to a lot of innocent people.
The biggest headache was explaining why these new farmers shouldn’t flood the market with their product right away, and instead dole it out sparingly for the first few years as the Outpost expanded into a proper City. Garth was pretty sure he got through to them, but he gave himself veto powers, just in case.
It was a good deal for everyone involved, as Garth’s five percent was barely noticeable, and skipping a generation of cultivating land was more than worth it. In the end, the deal essentially made Garth the owner of five farms worth of yearly profit with none of the work.
Most of his start-up money had gone to the lawyers that made the situation truly hands-free.
Starting tomorrow, the farmers would bring the first harvest that he’d provided to the market to start making the money they would need to build more solid infrastructure on their plots, and the money would start streaming in.
Cheaper prices would allow more people to settle. More settlers would mean more profit.
Garth couldn’t believe he’d finished in a single day.
It made him realize that so much of life’s frustrations, interruptions, and slowdowns was a result of making mistakes and learning from them. He hadn’t done any of that.
The plan had flowed out of his mouth like it had been beamed into his head by an expert who’d been haggling farming contracts and balancing commodities his entire life. The entire arrangement had fallen into place as if each and every alien sitting there listening to him had been waiting for it to happen, and already knew what they were supposed to do.
If this is thinking, Garth thought, shaking his head as he walked back down main street. I don’t know what I was doing before.
Garth was walking down the lamplit street, heading for the Adventurer’s guild, where at the crack of dawn, he’d posted requests for a few choice plants with juicy rewards for completing them, along with hand-drawn pictures of what the plants looked like, so the aliens could identify them.
Garth’s artistic skill had improved tremendously, and he was able to draw accurate representations of the plants he was looking for, while Wilson looked on, interrupting him every now and then to demand some more jerky.
As he walked down the street, Wilson tugged his ear, pointing toward a meat stand selling venison caught and stove-dried in the last few days. The kind of jerky you could break your teeth on.
“You don’t want that.” Garth said. “It’s super hard, and you’re a psychic construct. You can’t even eat.”
An orc walking towards him on the same side of the street crossed over, giving Garth a wide berth.
Wilson opened his mouth, pointing at his tiny row of sharp teeth.
“No,” Garth said. “It’s just… no!”
Wilson bit his earlobe with the aforementioned sharp pointy teeth.
“Ah! Son of a bitch!” Garth shouted, tilting his head and trying to pry the little bastard away from his ear. The few people remaining on the lamplit streets stared at Garth as he tugged on his own ear.
“Fine!” Wilson released his ear as Garth changed direction, heading for the stand. He was kind of hungry. Was Wilson hungry because he was? If Wilson existed to safeguard his Id from the overwhelming amount of superego that had been shoved into his mind, would Wilson embody those desires? He had been eyeing Sandi something fierce this morning.
Maybe he was still suspicious of her?
Maybe if his high school course of psychology was right, he’d just figured everything out, but Garth was pretty sure there was a lot more at play than could be explained by a semester of studying Sigmund ‘Daddy Issues’ Freud.
“Why did you choose to be a lizard, anyway?” he asked as they approached the stand. Wilson polished his claws against his chest in a gesture that said ‘because lizards are cool’.
“Excuse me?” The matronly dwarf said, putting her hands on her hips with a scowl.
“Wasn’t talking to you,” he said. “By the way, can you see him?” Garth pointed at the lizard riding shotgun.
“That about sums it up, you’re not real, therefore, you can’t eat jerky. Hey!”
Rather than listen to him, Wilson had already climbed down his shoulder and begun gnawing on one of the pieces of dried meat, his eyes rolling back in his head while he tried to cram the treat into his tiny mouth.
“You gonna buy something or not?” she asked, frowning at him with a cautious look.
Garth glanced between the woman and the lizard gnawing on a piece of meat directly in front of her. If there were any good evidence that no one else could see him, he supposed that was it right there.
“Fine, you can have your meat.” Garth said, rolling his eyes and taking out gold. “But only because I’m in a good mood ‘cuz we got all five things crossed off our list today, including get fabulously wealthy.”
“How much?” Garth asked.
The woman glanced at the sign that clearly said ‘2 credits’ and back at Garth. “Fifteen credits.”
“Damn, walked into that one,” Garth muttered as he took out cash. “Ten pieces please.” Still in a good mood, still rich.
“How’d you get rich in one day?” the woman asked as she bagged up Garth’s order, including the lizard, who dangled from one of the slices of meat she dropped into the paper bag. “Did the Mythic cores come down without me hearing about it?”
“You know, the dungeon cores that fall from the sky? Worth insane amounts of money if you can pry them out of their dungeons and absolutely priceless if you can get them on the first night. You look like an adventurer Didn’t you come out here for that?”
The woman looked at Garth’s long leather boots and sturdy wool clothes.
Garth had been tempted to buy a robe, because it’s what wizards wear, but again, he was more of a pragmatist than a traditionalist. The bandolier over his shoulder and a few inner pockets in his vest were more than enough. It was nice wearing clothes again. Garth had been relying on Temperature Resistance for so long that he forgot what being warm felt like.
“That’s what all the adventurers are here for, to bring Mythic Cores back to the Inner spheres! To strike it big!”
Garth’s mind reeled. He had heard of it before, in bits and pieces. ‘you’re not exactly going to have time to prepare yourself before the Dungeon Rush,’ Sandi had said. One of the classes had made reference to surviving a dungeon solo.
Dungeon Cores falling from the sky.
“Crap.” Garth said, snatching the bag out of her hands. “Thanks for the meat.” Wilson poked his head out of the paper bag, crawling up to his shoulder.
It’s a goddamn gold rush! Garth thought as his heightened memory played back everything he knew about resource acquisition.
Every gold rush, every oil discovery, every massive mineral deposit that everyone wanted, had one thing in common.
From the Mayans with their gold and the conquistadores that took it, to the native americans’ reservations on oil bearing land, to the Alaskans with all of the above.
Every time, the natives got the shaft.
Garth was a native. Ergo, he too would receive shaft.
There were very few exceptions, and that only happened when one of the natives learned the law of the other lands and worked within their system to demand a share.
Humans were weak, spread out, disconnected, and ununified. There were most likely less than a billion left on the planet, and they would probably trade one of these priceless cores for a blanket and a safe place to spend the night.
Garth felt his teeth clench together as he headed for the adventurer’s guild. he needed to get more information from Sandi, but his mind was already putting together a plan for tomorrow.
- Get a book on Inner Sphere Law
- Hire some expensive bulldog alien lawyers to argue the human’s case.
- Find out what messenger service the Inner sphere used to deliver all its notes to every living human.
- Spread the word to hoard that shit.
People were easy to rob when they didn’t know the value of what they held.
Garth figured his newfound wealth might only be enough to send a message to one out of every thousand people or so, at best. But if they spread the word, Earth might stand a chance at retaining its independence a few hundred years from now.
He wasn’t exactly the type to show rabid allegiance to his country. Garth had never been a patriot or considered joining the military, but this was on a different scale. He held the ability to change the direction of the entire planet’s fate. That kind of responsibility couldn’t be ignored.
“Damnit,” Garth muttered as he walked, breaking off a piece of jerky for Wilson. He didn’t know where the lizard stored those things: Most likely Garth was wide-eyed and drooling while dropping bits of jerky on his shoulder.
The question now was, how long did he have before the Dungeon Rush to get the word out? According to Sandi, it was less than a month, at least. The tone of her voice suggested it might be a lot less than that.
Important shit to know! Garth thought as the adventurer’s guild came into view. After he talked to Sandi about the Dungeon Rush, he could see if anyone had come through on Garth’s posted quest.
He’d specifically put up bounties for the retrieval of:
- Venus fly traps
- Squirting cucumber
Since it was spring, Garth wasn’t exactly holding any high hopes for anything soon except maybe some Dodder. Most likely if someone had found some, they would look dead, but Garth was sure he could revive them. He’d turned a knot on a log of darkwood into sixty tons of the stuff, after all.
Bearing that in mind, Garth had suggested trying to check the houses of amateur plant-growers in the local towns, along with a convenient picture for each. Garth wasn’t sure if they were drawn from memory or the new Plant Analysis that seemed to give him encyclopedic knowledge on plants he’d seen or handled. It didn’t matter.
Garth didn’t think he’d get any takers on the first day, but it never hurt to check. The only thing on his list he was fairly sure he wouldn’t ever get was the squirting cucumber. Those lived on the other side of the ocean.
Once he had those plants, he could breed them to be some real nasty Kipling eating strains.
Garth was picturing an enormous Venus fly trap that snapped shut around Kipling, dissolving them in a matter of hours, only to open again and let their Heartstone roll down the center stalk for Garth to come by and retrieve at his leisure.
And dodder. Once he bred it to eat Kipling instead of other plants, he could throw one seed with a double Fertilize, and it would leap out of the ground, ensnaring the closest Kipling in a horde before sucking it dry, releasing hundreds more seeds that would fly toward the rest and drain all their fluids, leaving them dead, rather than entangled.
It would be like a plant-based Chain Lightning spell. What the hell would Garth call it? Chain Dodder?
Whatever. He had other things on his plate at the moment.
Garth’s gaze caught the Adventurer’s guild sign, and he took a left turn, pushing open the swinging wooden door with one hand.
“Hey Sandi, I was-“ Garth’s word’s died in his throat.
In front of the Receptionist’s desk were a group of five rough-looking human men leering at the succubus. What bothered Garth wasn’t the overtly sexual way they were studying her faux body; Garth and everyone else in the Guild had absolutely no doubt that Sandi could defend herself. What seized his guts with icy fingers was something else entirely.
It was the one-eyed, grey haired man with the Olympian body leading them, wearing a steel breastplate over a black leather jacket stretched tight with muscle, a suspension spring-steel recurve bow strung over his shoulder, and a sword that looked like it weighed as much as Garth’s leg on his hip. Why does Harold look so much cooler than me??
Harold Turner glanced over his shoulder as the door swung shut.
The two made eye contact.
Garth reached for his bandolier.