Garth rubbed his aching neck, groaning in pleasure. Taking care of three teens for a weekend was a harrowing experience, no matter how powerful you were.
When he got back they started asking him pointed questions about his life before ‘prison’, trying to figure out his secret identity by puzzling out who he knew and where he was when the world went to shit.
Seems like they got nine-tenths of the way there, Garth thought, putting the finishing touches on his magical laser cutter. Still, no one wanted to believe that the amicable nine-hundred year old wizard who gave them candy and soda was the antichrist.
Well, as long as he doesn’t kidnap them and take them to a secure location and run experiments.
“That looks nothing like a Status Reader.” Caitlyn pointed out.
Garth’s laser cutter was a boxlike object with a large disk on two pairs of floating rails on the top, able to move in any two dimensional direction while projecting a variable strength laser through a gemstone in the bottom. The enchanting was all exposed on the disc, the rails and box were just to hold the thing up.
“I’ll have to take your word for it,” Tad said, sipping a slurpee.
“To quote one of my favorite games as a child,” Garth said, standing back to admire his creation. “Technological advance is an inherently iterative process. One does not simply take sand from the beach and produce a Dataprobe. We use crude tools to fashion better tools, and then our better tools to fashion more precise tools, and so on. Each minor refinement is a step in the process, and all of the steps must be taken.”
“So, what are you saying?” She asked.
“I’m using your family’s tools to make a better one, and I’ll use this one to make the status reader.
Garth took a step forward and opened up the CAD portion of the laser-cutter.
“So I was thinking to myself how freaking hard it is to pack so much detail into such a small area with just my hands, when I remembered that people before the fall of man didn’t make much by hand, we had robots in factories do that for us, especially incredibly delicate things like CPU’s.”
“What’s a SeePeeyou?” Catilyn asked.
“Central Processing Unit.” Garth began the process of entering the data into the simple interface.
“What’s a robot?”
“What’s with all the questions?” Garth demanded over his shoulder.
It took Garth thirty minutes to finish programming the cutter, consulting his written version, rife with eraser smudges and notes detailing exactly what went where, and the depth of each individual line.
“What got me thinking about this was the fact that Caitlyn’s parents sent me way more materials than what I needed to make the enchanter. At first I was thinking they were just generous, then while I was erasing one of my flawed designs I remembered this cool tool a friend of mine used a couple years ago that could restore mistakes.”
Garth grabbed the biggest sheet of quarter inch Core material and placed it under the box.
“I realized that I’m gonna make a mistake or two and the pieces I mess up on are just gonna get tossed out. I don’t really know how that jerk made a tool that literally backfills material that’s been erased from existence, but the concept of a laser is pretty familiar to me, so I decided to do it the human way, by making a tool to get it right the first time.”
Garth considered the large core slice again, slowly looming bigger in his vision.
“Actually, let’s test it first.” Garth pulled the pristine slice out and took a bit of scrap out, fixing it beneath the laser and flipping the switch.
Aether crystal came down and completed the circuit, and the air between the gem and the core sample glowed a brilliant blue.
It seemed to be working, the laser cutter humming along at an incredibly rapid pace, putting detailed work into the sample piece. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the laser cutter itself, it didn’t seem to be loose or jerky: Everything had to be precise.
“And once it’s done, we should get a – “
The table caught fire, then a section of it fell out in front of their eyes, landing on the ground and sending smoking bits of sharply cut wood clattering every direction. Caitlyn yelped and jumped backward, while Tad sucked on his slurpee, watching the SNAFU with amusement.
Then the laser began carving into the floor.
“Abort, abort!” Garth cried, leaping forward and flipping the switch off.
“Looks like I need to make some adjustments, dial it in a little.” Garth chuckled. “I was totally expecting that.”
Caitlyn bent down and picked up one of the table’s chunks, along with the core piece that had been resting above it.
It was supposed to be a dual channel with two spots for inserts, and it had instead made a semi-curved flat piece of wood cut against the grain with two holes drilled in either side.
“This is amazing.” She breathed.
“It is? Looks like scrap to me.” Tad said.
“If you were trying to make this on purpose, how long would it take, hours? His machine did it in seconds, along with a dozen others.”
“This girl gets it.” Garth said, snapping his fingers.
After a few minutes of calibrating Señor Laser, Garth had the power down where he wanted it, and the table fixed.
“Here we go.” Garth said, flipping the switch.
The laser hummed, sending a tiny blue beam through the air as it carved through the core, creating the pathways for the CPUs of his Garth-Tree interface.
Garth had briefly considered enchanting it with a Lure and calling it the Slutty Operating System, but that seemed counter productive and distracting, especially since it would look like Sandi
Once the laser was done Garth lifted the outer edge of the core away to reveal nine perfectly identical chips, about two inches wide. All they needed now was Aether crystals and logic gates in the appropriate places.
“By all the gods!” Caitlyn shouted before prostrating herself before him. “Teach me! Please!”
This must be how all those Isekai dumbasses feel after introducing rice to the ignorant masses, because nothing solves otherworld problems like introducing rice and hot springs.
It briefly occurred to Garth that he was still on Earth, and that being groveled to felt pretty good. I mean, I still shouldn’t go out of my way to have people grovel, but there’s no sense not enjoying it when it happens….
Garth enjoyed it just a moment longer before telling Caitlyn to stand up.
Must not…be creepy perv…
“I’d be happy to teach you…” Garth said, “If I get to take a peek at your assets.”
God, I fucked it up already!
“Your Attributes.” Garth clarified quickly.
Caitlyn’s bright smile when he said he would teach her became guarded.
“Something about your behavior tells me your Mental stats are above ten.” Garth replied. “That, and I haven’t seen very many clear heartstones from the last field trip….and when you cast Force Shield, you left a distinct line of dead spiderlings.”
Garth silently, motionlessly, gathered an ominous cloud of mana behind himself, big and scary, but ultimately harmless.
Caitlyn went pale, but her eyes didn’t leave Garth’s face. Garth didn’t know whether it was the cloud of mana or the accusation of using magic.
Let’s see, if she’s never seen the heal spell before, which is likely…
Garth formed the heal spell into a spear-shape and jabbed it toward Caitlyn, slow enough for her to dodge, if she wanted.
Caitlyn reeled backward, falling onto her butt, eyes locked on the spear.
“And lastly, you can see mana.” Garth said, gently pushing the heal spell through his hand to show it couldn’t do any damage.
Caitlyn sighed and nodded. “I’ve been eating heartstones, one a week, to give my body a chance to process them.”
“That stuff builds up in your system. Hold still.”
Caitlyn flinched as Garth reached out with the poison-filtering spell and began raking it through her body, wicking out black, chunky mana and tossing it aside.
I wonder if that just goes back into the atmosphere and we simply breath it in again. I might have to think about safe disposal. What a headache.
“You weren’t feeling it yet because you’re still young, and you weren’t going too fast, and you were picking the purest gemstones, but sooner or later it was gonna catch up with you. How’d you get Mana Sight and live, by the way?”
“I snuck some heartstones back to my room a few years ago, ate them out of curiosity, threw up, had the shakes, got really sick and dizzy, then fell asleep. When I woke up, I could see mana.”
Garth glanced at Alicia, who was busily meditating in the Mana Chair, beginning to create organization out of the chaos. I guess some people have a better reaction than others. At least she’s making progress.
“Will you teach me magic like her?” she asked with upturned eyes.
Of course, if she could see what Alicia was doing it would have become fairly obvious pretty quick.
Tad glanced at Alicia, realization dawning on his face.
“I get the feeling I was part of a conversation I shouldn’t have been.”
“How about you, Tad, you wanna learn magic?” Garth asked, turning to him.
“Nah, I’d rather not live my life in fear of the Inquisition, thank you.” He waved his hand. “Now if you’ll excuse me, Batch twenty is coming out in a minute.”
“How about you?” Garth asked, turning back to Caitlyn. “Aren’t you afraid of the inquisition?”
“Terrified, but I’ve already got Mana Sight, and that makes me as damned in their eyes as Garth himself. Why not learn what I can before I die? You must know things no one could imagine. I want to know how big the world really is.”
Garth chuckled a bit at the reference to himself. It always tickled him when he came up in casual conversation as a curse or standard by which Evil was measured. Sometimes it blinded him with white hot anger, but usually it was funny.
“Okay, that’s a pretty good sell. Gimmie a second.”
Garth walked up to Alicia, who took the wax plugs out of her ears as he approached.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m teaching Caitlyn too, don’t kill her.”
Her blue eyed flickered to the side, studying Caitlyn for a second before returning to him, brows furrowing.
“Do you just teach any pretty girl that asks you now?”
“So far, yes,” Garth said with a shrug. “Because Tad turned me down and your aunt is evil, and no one else has expressed an interest.”
Alicia scoffed and put the earplugs back in, closing her eyes and shutting him out like an angry teen.
Oh wait, she is an angry teen. How do you deal with one of those? Garth had no idea, because he’d never had one, and when he was one, he was thinking about other things. Mostly video games and getting laid.
“Seriously. Don’t kill her, or have her killed, or anything like that. I know you wanna protect your monopoly on the whole magic thing, but that’s just the Denton in you talking.”
Alicia opened her eyes and gave him a glare that could melt steel. “I won’t mess with her, damnit. Now leave me alone.”
“Thanks,” Garth said, laying a hand on the top of the notebook. The reference to a copying spell gave him an idea.
With a thought, he made a book-copying plant that sank its microscopic roots through his notebook, destroying it completely before blooming into two identical copies. Garth ashed the clinging tendrils and flipped through the pages to make sure it took correctly.
“Excellent. Don’t be afraid to put your heads together when you don’t understand something. Study buddies are proven effective.”
Alicia gave him the finger. Aw, she’s sulking because I’m teaching someone else.
Garth leaned close and whispered, “Don’t worry, I like dangerous women.”
Alicia reddened, and Garth turned away, handing the notebook to Caitlyn.
“There you go, it’s got the basics, and if you don’t understand anything, put your head together with Alicia, and if there’s anything you both don’t understand, come to me.”
“Thank you!” she said, clutching it to her chest. It’s a little bigger than Alicia’s isn’t it? Garth thought, Taking care not to get caught staring.
***Later that night***
Once the kids went to sleep, Garth was able to assemble the pieces of the interface, a clunky wood and core control panel about four feet wide and three feet tall. It reminded him a little of those big screen control panels that people have in futuristic movies.
He glanced around, used scry to make sure everyone was in bed, then picked up the clunky 8-bit computer and bid the wall in the back of the room to open, revealing his Phylactery in all it’s kinda-gross glory.
Garth situated the magical computer in front of the bright green tree, and got the cord pooled in the front cabinet and connected it to the back of the machine before snapping the enchanted band around the trunk. Garth took the opportunity to inspect the dark swath in the bark. It had retreated an eighth of an inch from where he’d marked it with a grease pen a few days ago.
Very good. Garth took a deep breath. Here, we go.
The panel beneath him hummed to life.
Garth had decided to substitute a traditional interface for commands via Clarion call. It made it much more difficult for any random people to mess with things they shouldn’t.
The panel lit up and text too fast for the eye began running down the screen as it preformed it’s first start up. Once it was done, the screen went blank and a single word popped up in DOS-like white on black text.
Garth-Tree, AKA Phylac-tree
Advanced Phylactery Variant – Type (Plant) Subtype (nature)
Overall Health 96% positive, minor discoloration, 8% slowdown in functions.
A decrease in airflow has caused a 12% slowdown in functions.
Ambient temperature within tolerance, 2 degrees below ideal, causing 6% slowdown in functions.
Recovering from minor poison. Complete recovery estimated time 4 weeks.
“Stats,” Garth said, curious to see what the result of eating the heartstones was.
These are the Attribute values of the Garth-tree, Vessels born from the tree share these. By default they are the same for all Vessels, however you may change this from the Options menu.
Incubation time: 15.6 years *affected by Endurance, Speed, and environmental penalties.
“No freaking way.” Garth murmured.
Screw starting from scratch over and over again, let’s pump this thing full of heartstone fertilizer.
Make a golf-ball sized portal, linked to a literal processing plant. The energy to process and recover from junk mana supplied by a Mythic core, with self-replicating goblinoid hunter-killers with portals in their tum tums that connect. Garth glanced over his shoulder toward the workshop.
Here’s a good use for a mythic core.