“How much is your teleport spell?” Garth said, leaning on the old shinta woman’s counter. Over the last two days of preparing to leave and watching over his shoulder for Harold, he’d gotten to know Kinetha and her business quite well.
“Thirty five thousands credits, and a background check.”
“What’s the range?”
“About five hundred miles average if the destination is known. Otherwise line of sight.”
Well, shit. Garth probably couldn’t eke out another 35k in another couple days, the well that was Earth Outpost 3517 had finally run dry. Not to mention a human would basically fail a background check without some kind of record of their existence on file. All Garth had was his soldier ID and getting suspended from the Adventurer’s guild for starting a fight and causing property damage. Frigging bureaucracy.
“How about something that can speed up overland travel?”
“Forestwalk costs four thousand credits, doesn’t need a background check, and best of all for you, it’s plant-based.”
“Gimme the rundown.”
“It creates a cloud of mana around your feet that compels plants to push you forward, raising your walk speed by a set amount.”
Garth thumbed his chin. “Can I use it on other people or animals?” he asked.
“Yes. You can even use the spell as a debuff, making the plants in the environment actively move the target away from you.”
That sounded awesome.
“What kind of set amount of speed are we talking here?” Garth asked.
“It varies based on talent, but someone like you, once you’ve mastered it, would most likely be able to add an extra fifty miles an hour to your walking speed.”
Garth exclaimed, “Jesus.” He could hurt himself good at that speed, which made him want the spell even more. Once his endurance was higher, (if that ever happened) a lousy sixty mile an hour collision wouldn’t bother him.
“How about someone just learning it?”
“Maybe three miles an hour, if you’re lucky.”
It was about the speed of a leisurely mosey, but if it was tacked onto a ten hour hike across country, it could turn a thirty mile day into a sixty mile day. Or if he added it to a jog, he might be able to pull a hundred miles in a day or more, like the Native Americans were rumored to be able to do back in the day.
“Ring it up, along with Create Fire, OGarth’s Force armor, the endless lantern, the mana stone, and a comprehensive book about succubi if you got one.” Garth said, taking out the last of the money he’d made supplying every artisan in town with basic goods, along with the first handful of payments from his quick-start farms around the city.
Kinetha raised an eyebrow, but she didn’t say anything about his last order. “Sure.” The business woman went into the back of the store to retrieve the spellbooks with an efficient manner. The blue aliens were all pretty skinny and quick, but this one made the others look like they were just being lazy.
Garth had been waiting for a just a moment when the door to the shop opened, and Harold, sporting all his gear plus a jeweled earring that he hadn’t had two days ago. Wilson, who had been idly chewing his own foot, stood up and glared at him, his scales standing on end. Could lizards even do that?
“Fancy meeting you here, shrub-man,” Harold said, coming to dominate the center of the room as his cronies flooded in behind him. The men didn’t look like homebodies he’d pulled from the neighborhood like Doug and Roger, but people who thrived on the anarchy brought on by the apocalypse, covered in scars and bearing swords as well as side arms.
They fingered their weapons, recognizing Garth instantly.
“Hey Harry, where’d you get your goons this time, a day care? They know what happened to the last guys who ran with you, right?”
“Got killed by kipling cause they were fat and weak…like you.” Harold said, taking a step closer. To be clear, Garth wasn’t fat, he just didn’t work out four hours a day like Harold.
Garth reached into his bandolier, and the one-eyed old man stopped, holding up his hands with a grin.
“Let’s not start that again.” Harold said, the scar Sandi had given him broadening his smile.
“Yes, let’s not.” Kinetha said, dropping the spellbooks and items on the countertop with a thud. “Because the person who starts a fight in my shop will spent a week as a hen, being raped by my pet rooster and laying eggs which I will then eat in front of them.”
“You have a spell that can do that?” Garth asked.
“What’s it cost?” Garth and Harold demanded simultaneously before they glared at each other. What a prick, the sick bastard was probably going to use it to turn people into little girls. Garth was thinking of using it for the totally legitimate purpose of making Sandi a human woman incapable of literally biting his head off. Totally different.
“Twenty thousand and a background check.”
That sucks, all the fun spells always require background checks. Make a mental note to find the right people and bribe them to facilitate a better spell selection when filthy stinking rich.
“Why do all the fun spells require background checks?” Harold demanded, and Garth found himself hating whatever part of himself was similar to the old man, just a little.
“Whatever, that’s not what I’m here for.” Harold said, waving his hand and leaning on the counter. “We’re…hunting a monster out there that uses plants as a medium, so I need something that can kill them quick, along with some darts that can cause crippling pain, something to speed up pursuit, and a way to keep the slippery bastard from running away again. It’s slipped through my fingers a couple times now.”
Harold sent Garth a wicked grin, glancing at him with his good eye as he spoke. His cronies chuckled evilly, obviously expecting him to flee in terror.
Crossing his arms and leaning against the wall, Garth asked, “Anything else you wanna tell me about your plan, ya dumb old bitch?”
Harold scowled and Garth saw his knuckles whiten on top of the counter. Unfortunately, he didn’t rush Garth and get turned into a hen. Garth really wanted to see that happen.
“That’s too bad,” Garth sighed, shaking his head. “And you looked like such a fan of cock.”
Harold spoke slowly, “When I get you alone I’m gonna cut your balls off and shove ‘em in your mouth.” Silence hung in the air between the two of them for a handful of tense heartbeats before Kinetha interrupted.
“Whatever is between you two, I don’t want it in here.” Kinetha pointed at Garth. “You. Take your purchases and go.”
“Ma’am,” Garth said, nodding to her as he swept the items into the Status Band’s storage and left.
Once he was a block away, Garth stepped into an alleyway and leaned against the wooden wall of the building, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Garth’s vision spun, and he felt like he was about to throw up.
“Oh, my god, I thought I was gonna die.” Garth moaned between panting breaths. Harold was a predator, and the last thing you wanna show a predator was weakness. Garth knew it in his head, but putting it into practice? That felt downright unnatural. They both knew the only thing standing between the two of them were repercussions from the city guard and possible transmogrification.
Without that, Harold would kill the shit out of him at the drop of a hat, let alone Garth’s provocations. But Garth had kept poking the bear. Why? Because the last thing he would ever do is give the asshole the impression that he intimidated Garth, even a little. That would just make things worse.
If there was worse than getting your balls stuffed into your mouth.
Garth sank down, squatting against the wall with his head in his shaking hands while Wilson patted his shoulder comfortingly. Now the question was, how did he get out of the outpost without getting tracked down and killed?
Raw speed might be the simplest answer. If he could use Forestwalk to outrun Harold, he could get to the safety of an outpost and expand his business, adding to his power and influence. But if the bastard bought something that sped him and his pals up too, that might not work.
That brought another question to Garth’s mind. How did the old man afford anything from Kinetha’s shop? It’s not like he had any unique or marketable skills other than being really good at killing peop-
“Oh!” Garth shouted, slapping his forehead. “He’s killing people and taking their shit. The oldest bastard trick in the book.”
Garth’s attention was caught by motion further into the alley, where he spotted Sandi coming out from behind a stack of crates.
“Sandi?” Garth asked incredulously. “What’cha doing here?”
“Oh, Garth…Um…I was just cleaning up, trying to keep the city looking nice, you know?”
Garth stood up and walked to the back of the alley where Sandi was fidgeting. He saw blankets with a healthy layer of dust on them bundled up in the corner.
“Are you sleeping here?” he asked. “Is the guild not paying you enough?”
“Technically they’re not paying me at all because I quit?” she said, squirming uncomfortably in a way that Garth found very distracting.
No, that’s not it, Garth realized. It’s my fault. The fight at the Guildhall had gotten Sandi into enough trouble to get fired and she didn’t want him to feel bad, so she hadn’t told him over the last couple days he’d been preparing to leave, carrying on as if everything was fine.
There’s another gut-punch. She’d been fired.
“But you don’t have enough to stay anywhere?” he asked.
“Well, some people must have talked to the guy I was renting from, so I’m kinda in between places to live at the moment.” She gave him a wistful smile. “It’s fine though, succubi are tough!”
“I’ll go talk to the guildmaster,” Garth said, standing up. Sure, the guy would probably snap his neck, but Garth had to clean up his mess.
“No!” Sandi said, grabbing his arm with a soft, delicate, utterly unyielding hand.
“I gotta fix this,” Garth tried to pull away from her grip, accomplishing approximately nothing.
“It’s fine!” She insisted.
“No, I fucked up, cost you your job, and now you’re stuck,” Garth grimaced, wildly gesturing at the crate-curtain set up at the back of the alley. “here! While that murdering bastard lives it up all over fucking town!”
He tried to pry himself away, but Sandi’s grip was as strong as Harold’s, completely unbreakable.
“I did need the job to get here, but now…now I can do what I like.”
“What do you mean?”
“This isn’t exactly how I wanted it to happen, but everyone comes to the Outer Sphere to make a new life for themselves.”
Garth looked her up and down, and sensed an opportunity. Sandi was currently between jobs, stronger than Harold, and more trustworthy than a merc. She had lost her job for him after all. She had to have had some attachment to it if she hadn’t ditched it immediately after getting to Earth.
“Sandi, do you have a Class?”
“It’s recently come to my attention that I need a bodyguard while I travel across Earth, a very specific Succubus bodyguard that wants to tour Earth.”
Sandi blinked a few times, and a slow grin spread across her face. “That sounds fun.”
|Sandi’kuthala Dakuum||Carnophage Succubi||One Star Iron Soldier|
|Speed||17||Skills:||Restraint, Unarmed Combat, Battle sense, First aid|
|Memory||10||Racial Abilities:||Succubus Lure, Greater Invisibility|
|Senses||20||Inner Sphere Bank Account||584 credits|