“Let’s see… muscle tissue density vs. oxygenation.” Garth said, rubbing his chin as he studied himself in a cheap full-length mirror raided from a shopping mall.
“White meat or dark meat.” Wilson said.
The age old problem. Garth could make his muscles denser, in exchange for being short of breath that much faster, or he could increase endurance by expanding the total area his circulatory system took up. It was all about surface area.
Or he could just leave well enough alone.
For someone like Garth, who took days to design a character from first level to twentieth, the joy was in the tinkering. There was no way he would pass up on the opportunity to optimize himself.
“Maybe we’re thinking about this wrong.” Wilson Said. “Maybe pair the physical changes with chemical ones? If you had some chemicals that stored and released oxygen more efficiently coursing through your veins, you could afford to pack the muscle cells closer together.
“Not just that,” Garth said, leaning over to scribble a note on his sheet of paper beside ‘octopus eyes?’. “Don’t forget inefficiencies in bone structure. I mean, the human foot has way too many bones.
“Graphene laced bones?” Garth said out loud, making another mark in his notebook. The longer and stronger the molecule chains he could produce, the stronger it would make his bones.
“Maybe, but not too much. Don’t want you to pass out and die when your blood stops getting made.”
“Heh, yeah.” All this stuff was theoretical, and any one mistake could lead to a health problem that simply made him pass away in his sleep, without any chance to correct it.
“You realize that all the plant design we’ve done so far haven’t been too in detail, and yet your creations come out fine despite not knowing your biology as well as you should. This universe seems to be about intent more than cold hard facts.
“I know, but do you really wanna be that guy?” Garth asked, turning to look at Wilson before adopting an arrogant stance.
“You cannot destroy me, Captain Obvious, I’ve laced my blood with nannites that instantly heal me!”
Garth raised his hands upward, curled into claws. “Oh, no, the nannites are taking over my body! It was so obvious!”
“Just playing devil’s advocate. I’m the part of you that likes to disagree with yourself.”
“Great.” Garth snorted and leaned back over the paper, jotting down a few more ideas. ‘Pain tolerance, respiratory system overhaul…
“Sweat glands!” Wilson shouted, causing Garth to look over his shoulder.
“How long has it been since you sweated? Seriously sweated?”
Garth looked down at himself, and paused to think about it. they lived in a pretty damn hot local, and yet…he didn’t remember sweating, even when training with Cass.
“…before the Kipling.”
“Before you got Temperature Resistance.” Wilson said.
“Ah.” Close enough. “Where you going with that?”
“My guess is you still have ‘em, so why not put them to good use?”
“Spore factories?” Garth asked, reading the lizard’s mind. Make the idle sweat glands serve a secondary function. They were even conveniently placed with microscopic tubes that lead to the surface of the skin.
Wilson booped his nose.
“Not a bad idea.”
That might raise Garth’s appetite to fuel the creation of said spores, but that would probably just bring his appetite back up to the normal human amount. Garth had eaten that much before.
‘Spore sweat glands’, Garth wrote down and underlined in the notebook, beside all his other doodles focused on eliminating the weaknesses of the human body. To the side, there was a little diagram of a human head with a miniature heart buried inside it.
Garth didn’t intend to get his head cut off anytime soon, but it never hurt to be prepared. If he tweaked his skin to reabsorb the oxygen created in photosynthesis, he could probably keep his brain running for a few minutes longer than otherwise, even without a set of lungs.
“Arterial gates.” Garth said. “I know arteries can close themselves off to a certain extent but what if we put structures inside me that could completely shut them off indefinitely, at a moment’s notice?”
“To prevent bleeding out?”
“Pretty much.” Cass had a penchant for tough love, which included lopping things off to make sure Garth was taking his lessons seriously. Bastard. It did however, lead Garth to consider losing body parts as within the realm of possibilities.
“I like it. Works well with your burning need to get decapitated. Just make sure you can unplug them too.”
“I don’t ever want to be a detached head,” Garth said, jotting it down. “But better safe than sorry.”
Garth put the pencil down, and looked over the notebook. “Alright, OSHA requirements for mad scientists limits them to one body enhancement a month for safety reasons. Let’s start with some of the least invasive, least dangerous changes, and work our way up from there.”
Garth looked through his list, discarding any that touched on his circulatory system or any other system absolutely vital for life. So many of Garth’s changes were invasive alterations to major body systems, he easily narrowed the choices down to three.
“Sweat glands, foot bones, or eyeballs?” Garth said aloud.
“Foot bones are the least likely to cause a problem in your daily life since you can fly, but my vote is for the sweat glands, since it was my idea.”
“Sounds good to me,” Garth said, pulling up memories of the all-purpose spore from every angle and magnification, superimposing them on his vision and deconstructing their mana pattern before he began to weave a sheet of mana around himself.
Alright, me, you’ve got some sweat glands that haven’t been doing much of anything these last couple months, what I want you to do is to output a steady stream of something. I’m not talking gushing constantly, I don’t want to be a sweaty bastard. Just the normal human amount of passive perspiration, laced with these spores. Garth brought the recipe for the stem cells to the forefront of his mind as the mana sank into his skin.
Do a good job and we’ll be kicking Cass’s ass before long. Garth thought, giving himself a thumbs up.
The mana tingled through his skin for a moment before disappearing, and Garth waited for himself to have a heart attack or sudden change in the chemical balance of his brain that made him go bat-shit-crazy.
Garth tested his resting heart rate.
Same as before.
“How many fingers?” Wilson said, holding up two claws.
“Any murderous impulses, difficulty speaking, strange cravings, or unusual changes in behavior that might indicate a stroke?”
“None so far.” Garth said, taking a deep breath. “I feel fine.”
Garth held out his hand and grew a tiny flower from the air above it. The delicate purple and yellow flower fluttered down out of the air and landed in his palm before turning to solid wood, and then a pale white ash.
“Is it time to do the laugh?” Wilson asked.
“Muahahahah!” Garth laughed uproariously, with Wilson joining in.
“What are you two doing?” Sandi demanded, entering the Laboratory level of Garth’s tower. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”
“Right, date night.” Garth said, snatching up his pants and stumbling into them as quickly as he could.
“This isn’t exactly what I was thinking when you sold me on the idea of date night,” Garth said, hands in his pockets as he pinned a lumbering ogre against the wall with ironwood stakes. Nearby, Sandi leapt on the other one that was distracted by her Lure, sinking her scythe-like talons deep into the giant’s chest cavity.
“Not to say I’m not enjoying myself.” Garth clarified as he stepped backward, leaving an illusion of himself behind. Gotta practice that illusion skill, now that Pala was watching him closer. Gotta be mysterious. Garth was currently pondering what kind of intersection the god…ess? of enigma and a goddess of fertility had.
Ogre number three spun around and slammed his tree-club down on the illusion, before Garth directed its club to grow roots into the creature’s hand.
The ogre let out a pitiful squeal, thrashing the club around in a desperate attempt to free its hands from the roots sinking into it’s flesh.
Garth took several more steps back as Sandi leapt from the fallen ogre onto the thrashing one, wanting to stay out of the splash zone.
The ogre toppled to the ground, bloody bubbles emerging from where Sandi had stabbed all the way through to its lungs.
It was true, with three Ms. Banyan watching the kids, Garth was able to take his mind off of things. Even more so because he wasn’t even on Earth at the moment.
Sandi had booked a trip to a planet a few dozen layers in and booked them for a dungeon run.
Since Garth’s military I.D. had been expunged, the only thing that remained was his Adventurer I.D. and apparently the suspension on his license had recently expired. Garth was good to preform random tasks of heroism for chump change.
Sandi decided to take Garth out on a date and get them both citizenship in one fell swoop. Gold ranked adventurer? That qualified one for citizenship just as a gold ranked military I.D. did.
Garth didn’t feel the need to mention he probably could have bought them a citizenship if she really wanted one. That wasn’t what she was really after. Sandi wanted to be a mighty adventurer more than she wanted citizenship. Getting him a piece of paper was just the icing on the date-cake.
So here they were, testing in for Gold rank before they were allowed to venture into the Perianore dungeon, one of the only places on the planet that spawned Sanatite crystals. Sanatite being a curious mineral that was able to heal itself. Sandi wanted some for a necklace and maybe some baby presents, and Garth was interested in making interesting alloys. People gave them funny looks when Sandi explained they were there for their honeymoon.
Well, sort of. Did having kids and spending all your time together count? They hadn’t had a ceremony, but whatever. It was good enough.
“What’s next?” Sandi asked, glancing back to the summoner. The orc grunted and made a pulling motion with his hand, and a twelve-foot tall drake surrounded by dozens of three foot kobolds stepped out of inky darkness.
They oriented on Garth and Sandi, baring their teeth in anger and hissing.
“Big one or little ones?” Garth asked, sending roots into the ground from spores around his feet.
“I’ll take the big one.” Sandi said, jumping up and down and waving her arms to attract the drake. Her curves slipped out of her tight clothing as she bounced, giving Garth a tantalizing view of her hips, nearly distracting Garth.
The summoner was distracted, too, but luckily his creations had more presence of mind.
Half the kobolds rushed forward, their lizardlike muzzles able to draw back like a snarling wolf. The rest aimed bows at Garth, and a couple more began waving bone fetishes, surrounding their compatriots with a crimson glow.
At least until roots the size of arms burst out of the ground, ensnaring them all and plunging blood-draining thorns into their bodies. In a matter of seconds, the creatures turned grey and stopped struggling, mummifying visibly.
Sandi’s real body leapt up on the drake, who seemed to be able to see her, somewhat.
Her bladed limbs threw up sparks as they slid off the drake’s scales, searching for purchase on its body. The drake screeched, sending a blast of acid across the walled off testing room before trying to turn its head and bite at her.
Garth wasn’t a perfect witness, only barely able to see her, but what he was was impressive.
Using four of her lower legs to clamp herself onto the drake, Sandi wrestled its head away from her like Steve Irwin, rest his soul.
What she did next was definitely not from of the nature lover’s playbook. Sandi’s maw opened up wide enough to swallow a man whole and bit down on the drake’s head, her jaws pressing against the creature’s impenetrable scales until something gave. The creature’s skull collapsed, squishing blood and brain out of its nose and mouth as it collapsed to the ground.
“Guess its scales were stronger than its bones.” Garth murmured, wiping a bit of brain off his bare foot. It helped get the spores out to wear less clothes.
I imagine that would be the same excuse to force a woman to wear a bikini, Garth thought. He was simply wearing a T-shirt and comfy shorts. That filled the air around him with plenty of his seed. Hah.
“Is there another one,” Sandi said, panting, her breasts rising and falling in a very appealing way. She idly reached down to pull up her jeans, but they kept slipping down, showing Garth where her hips dipped into her thong. Maybe they could take some time between tests and TCOB.
“That’s enough to qualify for silver rank.” The summoner said, watching them with a bit of disbelief. “I can hardly believe a two person party managed that, but Gold rank requires an interview from the Guildmaster, along with another combat test.”
“Is there time to take a break between-“
“Mr, Daniels and Ms. Dakuum, If you’ll come this way.” An aged corio said, the greying, Addax horned man motioned them to follow him.
Garth sighed. Of course when Garth realized how much he liked watching Sandi kill things, They had to drag them out of the moment.
“Pretty fun date so far, though,” Garth said, linking arms with her and following. He could wait.