“More treasure.” Garth said when he got back to his Phylactery, three days later. It had been an exercise in mind-numbing boredom, but he had managed to steal back into the valley once the sun was up and harvest a bit more spider silk from Tulesta’s corpse.
Garth slipped the oversized, silk-stuffed backpack off his shoulder and set it down against the stone wall of his lair, enjoying the fresh air of the indoor jungle.
Lair. Never thought I’d have a lair, Garth thought, detaching the sack of heartstones and conjuring a large wooden bowl for them.
He took the fifty-pound sack of spider-stones and turned it upside down, filling the bowl with thousands of thumb sized yellow stones
Yellow for senses, Garth thought as he began picking through them, searching for the ones with the best clarity. It made sense that a creature like that had a heavy focus on senses. Their sight was pretty damn good.
Haul wasn’t quite as rich as I thought it would be, though, Garth thought as he sorted them out by quality. Having them all be similar colors made it even faster to sort out which ones had good clarity and which ones were opaque, but Garth was having trouble finding the cream of the crop.
In a sack this size there should be fifty or so nearly flawless heartstones, but I haven’t found a single one.
“This is off,” Garth said, stretching his neck after an hour or so of picking through the stones had only gotten him a dozen ones that were good enough to eat immediately.
The rest of the stones could live in the little nook by the tree until Garth had something to-
He paused, staring at the gnarl of roots wrapped around the sack he’d placed beside his phylactery just half a week ago. Garth felt his eyebrows raise on his forehead.
Is that what I think that is?
The roots wrapped around the bag were blackened, with odd lumps on them, gradually turning green as they led back to the main trunk.
Garth dropped the bag and ran to the Garth-tree. Now that he was closer, he could see an odd dark smudge travelling up the side of the tree, and faint, sickly spots.
I poisoned my fucking Phylactery! Garth shoved his hand through the brittle roots and tore the shredded bag of heartstones out, scattering them everywhere.
The heartstones looked like jolly ranchers that someone had been sucking on for a few minutes, smaller, narrower than they had been before.
Crap, crap, crap… Garth didn’t know the first thing about his phylactery: He’d made it by accident! Needless to say he had no idea what to do when it got sick.
Best thing to do might be to let it recover on its own. Charlie was a tough plant.
Garth collected the half-absorbed heartstones, putting them in his pocket.
Okay, so looking past the poisoning thing, this means that the tree can absorb heartstones. The question then is, what is it using them for?
Garth’s eyes were drawn upward, toward the fruits laden with Garths in the fetal position.
Harder, better, faster, or stronger? Garth thought, standing and looking at the tree more closely. Or all of the above?
I need diagnostic equipment. Garth knelt to look at the discoloration on the side of his tree and sighed. That’s not good. Garth placed a hand on the bright green tree and cast Cleanse, keeping the spell running for a good fifteen minutes.
The junk mana in an impure heartstone was unwilling to be absorbed gracefully into the body, floating through the system and trashing it like carginocens. I really hope my lifeline didn’t just get magical cancer.
If only there was a way to filter out the bad stuff…
If my phylactery can do it, why not another plant? Trees fill their leaves with toxins and dump them at the end of the year, don’t they? There’s a framework for it.
But how do I get them to let go of the good stuff?
“Question for another time,” Garth said, glancing at the wall where his Mythic cores rested. For now I need to know what that unplanned fertilizer did to my me-tree.
Garth glanced at the strap of leather on his wrist. The one he was wearing wouldn’t work, it was designed only to work with thinking humanoids, and only to report values to the person wearing it.
What he needed was a tool that could read other creature’s statuses, and that probably wasn’t the sort of thing a civilian could get easily.
Luckily I’m not a civilian. Hmm… who would be the most likely people to have something like that?
Garth snapped his fingers. “Law enforcement!”
“You want me to do what?” Paul asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
“I want you to steal the diagnostic equipment from the Police precinct.”
“Any reason why?”
“Paul, you are a scary perceptive man, and I trust you with information about as far as I can throw you.”
“How far could you throw me?” Paul cocked a brow.
“Like, a couple hundred feet.” Garth flattened his hands on the café’s table. “You know what? It’s an old saying, from before people could throw each other very far.”
Paul didn’t say anything, just eyed Garth speculatively while downing the only source of caffeine on Earth.
“You know those things are huge, right?” he asked, taking the cup away from his face and handing it back to the serving wench, who gave Garth a smile and walked away with a fascinating sway to her hips.
I wonder when she gets off, Garth thought, admiring how limber she was as she bent over to retrieve a plate full of empty drinks.
When Garth looked back at Paul, he was watching him with a raised brow.
“It’s been eight hundred years, and this body is technically a virgin, all right?” Garth said, crossing his arms.
“…Like I was saying, the Scanner is used to read the comprehensive status on reprobates without I.D., Wildlings, the occasional nonhuman drifters.”
“Sounds perfect.” Garth said, manifesting an endless sugar fountain from his fist like a magic trick. Technically is magic. “That’s exactly what I need.”
With a bit of legerdemain, Garth’s ice water was pale pink with a soft fizz to it. He threw the drink back and drank down every ounce of it before anyone else could see.
“God, I needed that. Good thing the FDA isn’t around to keep me from putting weird shit in my energy drinks, am I right?”
“The Scanner is huge, there’s only one, and it will be missed.”
“Damn.” Garth tapped his fingers on the glass, considering making himself another when he thought of something.
“All I really need is to see its guts. I could make a new one offsite.”
“Guess I could arrest you,” Paul said. “But you’re not exactly a nameless drifter or offworlder.”
Garth glanced around and made sure no one else was looking before he used an illusion to change his appearance to that of a Thrask and tried to punch Paul in the face. Without missing a beat, the aging detective pushed the punch away and slammed Garth’s face on the table.
“Oh, right now?” Paul said while Garth groaned. The commotion had startled the serving wench, and she was staring at the two of them from where she was hiding behind a booth.
Paul glanced around and yawned.
“Yeah, I guess I got time.” He said, wrenching Garth’s arms behind him and slapping cuffs on them.
“Those new recruits you wanted?” Paul whispered to him as he hauled him out the front of the diner.
“Yeah?” Garth felt the patter of blood on the front of his shirt as he was guided down the steps of the fancy coffee shop, but couldn’t stop it without any hands.
“I got five of them on the hook. They’ll be In Old L.A. by Friday.”
“Awesome,” Garth said, wiggling one of his front tusks with his tongue. “I think you knocked my tusk loose.”
Paul snorted and guided him to the police station, where he brought Garth into the Scanning room, a little dark office with a box for suspects to stand on while the machine read their status.
The aging detective was his lookout while Garth opened up the machine’s case and figured out what made it tick.
The Scanner was a tall metal case with an odd lens at the front that reflected onto a mana sensitive plate. It was a lot more sophisticated machine than his status band and it kind of reminded him of an old camera. What is the lens even for?
I wonder if it’ll do what I want it to do?
Garth took the nearby stool for very short suspects and summoned a potted plant on top of it. The plant would naturally accumulate in little potato-like grenades under the soil.
Garth situated them directly in front of the Scanner, then went back to the operator side and flipped the switch.
There was a silent explosion of mana bouncing off Garth’s ‘Tater ‘Nades that stung Garth’s eyes.
“Freakin’ warn people,” he muttered, while the screen on the operator side of the machine populated
Mutant Explosive Tuber
Full sun, water twice a week.
Delay : 5 seconds
Kill Radius: 25 meters
A rare Species of tuber that forms high explosives inside the root. When one is detached, a chain reaction will begin that detonate the explosive shortly afterward. The tubers themselves create uniform round green shapes, and are much harder on the outside than typical tubers. Some varieties employ shrapnel as well as concussive damage.
First introducer on Sphere 892 by the phytomagus Corlia Saperadus, these ‘Tater ‘nades first achieved notoriety for their effectiveness at supplying the small rebel army, however, many thousands of years later, children still occasionally die to finding them in the wild and mistaking them for natural ‘taters, causing their current infamy.
“Yeah, guess there’s nothing new under the sun,” Garth grumbled. Pretty sure I’m not the first person to invent anything. The machine worked well enough though. Garth carefully used telekinesis to disassemble the entire machine in a matter of minutes before reconstructing it, committing each piece to memory as he did.
On the back of the last plate that held together the entire machine, Garth spotted the Mcdonnell family crest.
Hm… I am going to need tools. I should probably pay them a visit. Garth levitated the last plate onto the front of the machine and drilled all four bolts into it simultaneously, finishing his three-minute examination.
“Get what you needed?” Paul asked as Garth approached, glancing behind him to make sure the Scanner was still there.
“’Course,” Garth said, dusting his hands before glancing over his shoulder at the ‘’Tater ‘Nades.’
“You’re gonna wanna read what the Scanner has to say about that plant, and…” Garth winced. “Don’t keep it too close to your desk.”
“If you say so,” Paul said, Leading Garth back out to the street. I could probably make some improvements over the store bought version, Garth thought to himself, lost in his thoughts as he left the Precinct.
“Take care, Ed,” Paul said, waving him off and stepping back inside.
Garth listened closely for the telltale sound of a grenade going off, but nothing.
What was I hoping for, death and destruction?
Garth shrugged and set off down the street. Well, that was work taken care of for the day, now to take it easy for the rest of the day.
Where did Linda say people were hooking up nowadays? The Fighting Pits?
Who do I know who could show me where the fighting pits are?
Garth’s feet stopped, and he glanced up at the evening sun. There was plenty of time left in the day, and he knew exactly who he needed as his wingman. Someone solid. Someone dependable. Someone his age. Someone male.
Tad was laying on his recliner, reading a book as his scabs from the last expedition healed. Another day or two, and he’d be good to send back out again.
The very thought of going back out there to hunt Wiretaps again gave him a cold chill of dread.
Being lightly wounded was practically a vacation, and Tad was milking every second he could out of it. No working out, just reading books and relaxing.
Sara Conner, the hero of the story, was crawling through a massive vice powered by the Forge-Gods, while the tireless undead being crawled after her, still going despite being blasted down to a mere skeleton.
Lyle was dead, and things were looking bleak.
Then the vice began to close. It moved slowly at first squeezing in around the wounded woman. Eventually, she felt both sides of the vice pressing down, suffocating her like a silk cocoon. Wrapped up in their silk and baking to death…
Tad slammed the book shut, and took a deep steadying breath, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Vices don’t even have silk, you idiot.
Tad wanted to open the book again. He wanted to…But what if I’m actually dead, and all this is a fever dream before I die? Sometimes for no reason at all, Tad felt like he was going to open his eyes again, and he’d be there, the spider looming over him, unable to move a muscle and knowing the end was coming.
Read the book.
What if it’s the end of your story hiding in those pages? Don’t walk into that.
It’s just a book. You are alive.
Tad glanced back down at the book, his heartbeat skyrocketing again.
“Shit.” Tad watched his body as if from a distance as he opened the book and began reading again. You’re really here in the couch. It’s fine.
“TAD!” Edward’s voice echoed through the courtyard, snapping Tad out of his anxiety.
Tad stood and walked over to his window, opening it and glancing out into the hot air of the William’s practice yard.
“What!?” he shouted back.
Edward put his thumb and forefinger together then passed the index finger of his other hand through it in what was obviously a vulgar gesture.
“Let’s go meet girls at the Fighting Pits!”
What the hell is this kid thinking? I’m not going anywhere.
Tad was about to tell him to fuck off when he glanced over his shoulder and spotted his book on his recliner. Suddenly the room looked a lot smaller, pressing in around him.
“Give me a minute!”