There are at least seven defining characteristics of life, and growth and reproduction are two of them. If I got the blessing of another god who matched some of the remaining ones, would I get that much better at creating self-replicating life?
Swordfish was basically Garth’s Magnum Opus from before he died, a self-renewing endless supply of air-to-ground missiles.
I bet if I did, I could make some pretty amazing shit…
Theoretically he could make creatures that produced heartstones, but that would mean he’d have to make sentient life with no purpose other than to accumulate energy and die for him.
Every time he used Create Life, it always worked best when he put passion into it.
There was simply no way he could be emotionally invested in something he’d created only to suffer, so the premise was flawed. It was basically like asking him to raise a puppy for six months and then strangle it.
But I could make some kind of underground system that traps, processes, and filters heartstones, and delivers the good stuff to me in a sludge.
But I’d have to worry about it eating people, pets and livestock. The biggest problem with designing stuff to work on its own is not knowing when a five year old is getting eaten by your venus flytrap.
Magical Von Neumann Probe.
Garth tapped his fingers on his knees, when a thought came to him.
What if it only hunted goblins?
A self-replicating strain of hunter-killers keyed to specific creatures, with a bit of psychic ability, a hive-mind or some other kind of ability to scan each other for mutations in their prey preference. If they find mutations in the replication of other hunter killers, they destroy them.
Package that together with a method of controlling them, also self-regulated, and Garth had the makings of something interesting.
We’ll start small, do a bunch of trial runs with only goblins, but eventually it could be good enough to move up to much more delicate issues like wandering monsters, rabid animals, serial killers, and elves.
Garth considered for a moment. Okay, fine, I won’t launch a genocide.
It made Garth wonder. There was no way he was the first phytolich in all of the 2859 layers of the sphere to think of self-replicating hunter-killers to control wild monster populations. He should have seen some, either on Earth or the places he’d visited.
Garth could only think of two reasons why that was the case:
- They were against the magical Geneva Convention.
- Nobody cared enough to bring them to Earth because it was more convenient: After all, the wild goblin population alone made land incredibly hard to homestead, keeping humanity’s re-expansion incredibly slow.
Garth’s jaw dropped, and the hair stood up on his neck and arms.
What if the goblins are the hunter-killers? They’re aggressive, Check. They reproduce quickly, check. They serve a valuable function in population suppression in conquered worlds, check.
So maybe the things he’d been seeing all along and taking for granted were some ancient magus’s brainchild.
It made sense. Goblins were highly adaptable, small, strong for their size, required no upkeep, and cared for themselves.
When designing a self-replicating probe, efficiency was key, so the goblins were quite the achievement in that regard.
Without the assistance of magic, the Swordfish had a rather long gestation time of five years, and they needed a controller, whereas goblins were self-sustained, self-directed, and only took a month per batch.
Perhaps Garth could piggyback on that efficiency and create a T-1000 Goblin hunter-killer, that looked, smelled, and acted like a goblin until it followed some back to their lair, at which point it would massacre them and shove their heartstones through a portal in its stomach, that would deactivate upon death, along with a suicide switch in case it got caught by a rival mage.
Guess I’ll have to figure out if monsters really are engineered species. It’d be tough to separate them from regular living creatures, since without a prime directive, or access code, that’s all they really are.
If self-replicating engineered life-forms exist out there, some mages would probably put backdoors that would allow them to be controlled, while others would just fit their creations with a predilection for one specific behavior.
Perhaps I could make a plant that tries to broadcast psychic frequencies and codes at a high speed until it found the backdoor, then transfer that information to me. like brute forcing a password.
Magic is fun.
“What are you thinking about?” Linda said, waving her hand in front of Garth’s face to grab his attention, bringing him back to their conversation in the isolated booth at the back of the rowdy bar.
Men’s shouts, beer splashes and the occasional squeal covered the sound of their conversation, and someone would have to be standing right beside their table and staring at them to have a good view of it.
Just to make sure, Garth waved his hand through the air beside them to double check.
Always expect invisibility.
“Thinkin’ ‘bout life.” Garth said as he pulled himself out of the rabbit hole of his burgeoning intellect and refocused on the old woman and pitcher of cider in front of him.
“So you want me to waltz into the church. The church, which is home to the only branch of people in Santo Descanso capable of detecting magic, who are so lazy they haven’t pulled their heads out of Jim’s ass long enough to take notice of all the strange occurances going on.”
“They’ve noticed,” Linda said. “They’ve just been looking for me, and not you.”
“And you want me to go in there, and kick the hornet’s nest by smashing one of their most precious idols, an orb given to the city some six hundred years ago by Cuntbag Jim himself, which is spawning self-replicating curses – which are not technically alive, by the way – so that you can be queen of Earth again?”
“Pretty much,” she said, sipping her drink.
“Why can’t you do this again?” Garth asked.
“It repels me. The orb is a strong enchantment that keeps me from getting close. The spell is reinforced by collecting the passive mental energy of the people it’s cursed. In order to destroy it, I’d have to nuke the city from orbit.”
“It’s the only way to be sure,” Garth said with a shrug.
“So why me, specifically? I’m sure you’ve got plenty of goons who could do it for you.”
“I need a royal.”
“The spell holding the curse together is a real piece of work. Only someone with Jim’s blood can get close enough to destroy it.”
“You think being his brother counts.”
“It might.” Linda ran a hand through her hair and itched a scar along her scalp. “It’s been eight hundred years, but finding one of Jim’s progeny that hasn’t been brainwashed is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“Brainwashed?” Garth asked, thinking of Gloria, the Highly Motivated To Assist.
“There’s a place in the church where every child is taken on their sixth birthday to be tested for Jim’s blood. If they have even a drop, they’re carted off to join his army and be indoctrinated for the next fifteen years.”
Linda took a deep breath. “They say it’s to protect the country, and to have them raised to match the divine potential in their blood.” She spat on the wooden floor of the tavern. “But it’s just to keep control over who has access to the royal blood, seeing as so many things in their empire are keyed to it. case in point.”
“So you want me to try my hand at smashing the orb because I’m the only one you could find, huh? I hate to tell you this, but there’s a good chance I don’t have ‘royal blood’. I’m not Jim’s kid, and this isn’t even my original body.”
Linda looked him up and down. “You don’t say. In any case, I’m willing to pay you to make the attempt, and if you actually steal it, I’ll pay you even more.”
Garth shifted in his seat.
“What kind of payment are we talking here?” he could basically make his own money at any point in time, so whatever she had to offer probably wasn’t going to be worth it.
Linda reached into the pocket of her vest and pulled out Sandi’s seashell necklace, the mother-of-pearl as pristine as the day it was infused with Sanatite. She laid the token on the table and met Garth’s eye.
“Where did you get that?” Garth demanded.
“Do you know how she died?”
“She got caught fighting against the Dan Ui clan and was executed, about forty years after you died. Jim passed the sentence.”
Anger and icy hopelessness writhed through Garth’s stomach. Maybe it would have been better not knowing.
“Fine, I’ll try. Dick move.” Garth snatched up the necklace and looped it over his head before she could take it back.
“And if you succeed, this.” She pulled out a notebook bound in poorly cured leather. The title was stitched into the cover, drab brown thread forming strange characters. The paper wasn’t paper, but vellum.
“I hear wizards like old books,” She said, brandishing it in front of him.
“What language is that?” Garth asked, but he already knew the answer.
“Ancient Elvish. It’s deliberately omitted from the translation enchantment in our status bands. A spy of mine used a spell to make a precise copy when they broke into a Clan library three hundred years ago, so no one will come looking for it. Unfortunately they died and the library was locked down, so I haven’t been able to get reference books.
“That’s more like it,” Garth said, practically drooling as he reached out for it.
“Ah,” she said, pulling it away. “Not until you smash.”
Garth painstakingly read the cover of the book with the skill he’d gained from Cass’s lessons. Ancient elven was a minor subject he’d been forced to absorb as most of the old man’s diagrams of enchantments and spells had been written in it.
Starfall: A Treatise on the Origin of Gods.
Oh yeah, I want that, Garth thought to himself.
“Yeah, I’m in.” Garth said. “I’ll have your church defiled one way or another, but probably no sooner than a month out. I got a lot on my schedule.”
“Good, that gives me time to be somewhere else when it goes down.”
“Speaking of being somewhere else…”
Garth pulled out the Crownkiller bolt and showed it to Linda.
“I got shot with one of these the other day, would you happen to know where you were when it hit me? I hear these are all the rage in the Prima Regula.”
She took the adamantium bolt out of Garth’s hands, and inspected it, her lips pressed into a severe line.
“And you’re still alive?” she asked, giving him a piercing look.
Garth smiled and wiggled his eyebrows.
“I didn’t have anyone shoot you if that’s what you’re asking. We have a fair number of suppliers across the globe, but this particular one came from the Dentons, I can tell by the shape of the fin. They either shot you themselves, or sold it to the person who did.”
“Methinks it was the former.” Garth put the expensive bolt back in his Status Band. Not a particularly surprising piece of information. Gotta follow up on that. And if Alicia was in on it, I’ve got the perfect excuse to spank those hams.
Wilson, alive and well.
“You think I can get them to send a few more my way? I made a hell of profit off that assassination attempt.”
Garth’s first instinct was to take the bolt and use it to nail Kyle or Benedette to the wall of the Denton mansion like a butterfly exhibit, in plain view of the road so that Maggie could see what happened when she fucked with him.
Calm, calmie calm.
The moment you start killing people in gruesome ways to make statements, you lose the moral high-ground…probably…unless it works.
Garth really didn’t want to wake up one day as a monster who thought killing people over a perceived slight was okay.
“How did you do it?”
“What?” Linda asked.
“Get people on your side. Almost become Queen of Earth. Deal with politics, that sort of thing.”
“Simple, I didn’t have enemies.”
“You must have had enemies.”
“Listen, Edward. I put a lot of effort into making trustworthy people my friends, but if I couldn’t trust them, I put a lot of effort into putting them in the ground. Don’t half ass it. If they’re not on your side, hit them so hard they can’t hit back.”
“Machiavellian tactics then, huh?” Garth said.
“I’m surprised you knew that.”
“I fell into the Wikipedia rabbit hole more than once, and with the Mental attributes…” Garth shrugged. “I remember everything crystal clear all the way back until about ten months old, then it gets a little fuzzy. Still working on unlocking soul-memories, since everything I did while I was dead is kinda of dream-like. Comes to me in bits and pieces.”
"There's an afterlife by the way, and yes, they have a foosball table." Garth said, downing the rest of his drink.
Linda frowned, but didn’t comment.
When the meeting with Linda was over, Garth went back to the Bergstrom manor and got to work, aiming to knock each task out as quickly as possible, but quickly came to the realization that he needed some extra manpower.
Okay, let’s organize our thoughts. The Phylactery needs an overhaul, I’ve gotta deal with Paul’s new recruits, buy some tools from the Mcdonnell’s, deal with the Dentons, teach Alicia magic, smash an orb in the church, set aside the drug trade for until I can smush the Gonzalez family, keep the principal from jumping my bones, attend classes…. Am I missing anything?
Oh right, and refine heartstones.
Guess I better multitask.