“Holy shit. Ooooh, my god..” Garth groaned, throwing his head back.
“Garth!” Bel shouted as she barged into his room.
Garth yelped and drew the covers over himself with a howl, causing Bel to halt in the doorway, frowning at him.
“Yes?” he fixed her with an accusing glare designed to stop the deity’s avatar in place and hopefully prevent her from asking any questions. At all.
“We… matched speed with the asteroid. We can go mine it now.” Bel’s eyes wandered down his lumpy covers in confusion.
“Wonderful! I’ll meet you at the airlock in about…fifteen minutes. If I don’t finish my morning cultivation, I tend to get a little cranky.” Garth gave his best innocent grin.
“Okay!” she said cheerfully, turning and leaving, closing the door behind her.
“I don’t think she would have cared.” Alicia’s voice emanated from beneath his covers.
“Quiet, you,” Garth said, telekinetically spanking her hams.
“All right, this will be your first space walk,” Garth said as he and Alicia climbed into their suits. Do me a favor and try not to get PTSD and/or obsessed with it like Natalie Portman, aright?”
“I feel like commenting on how rarely you make sense would only encourage it.” Alicia said as she put one foot after the other into her suit. She was wearing a tight black undersuit designed to provide a final layer of protection against extreme pressures and slight decompression.
It was also designed to look fabulous, and Garth snuck a few peeks at her rounded bottom the couple seconds he had before she drew the suit up over her waist.
Once the show was over, he got back to work sliding into his own.
They checked each other’s seals good, and walked into the airlock. They’d had an entire week of deceleration and another week of adjusting to the asteroid field’s speed to allow them to get Alicia ready to handle zero G.
Which included a lot of trips into the vomitorium. That’s what Garth called the adult jungle gym with no gravity, as it was best first introduced to people on an empty stomach, as they found out the hard way.
The training mostly covered safety and handling Space Mana to navigate by hand or patch a hole in one’s suit. Alicia was a lot…squishier than he was, in most respects, and he didn’t want her to die out in the middle of nowhere if he could help it.
I wonder how a body with four times human toughness would fare in the vacuum of space. At a certain point we just gotta be like tardigrades, right? Something to try out on prisoners of war.
Does the Inner Spheres have the Geneva Conventions? Nah, probably not. They’re assholes.
He could have had her stay inside, but what kind of monster would force a girl to stay inside the entire time you’re in space? Almost nobody gets the chance to space-walk, and denying that to someone is the lowest of crimes. The absolute lowest.
That and he had use for Alicia’s talents.
Garth flipped the switch and the fertility’s heavy stone door slid behind them. Garth spotted a bit of the sealing goop oozing from the door as it swung past. It was leaked out by the biology of the ship itself, which was laced with thousands of different biomes of symbiotic plants that preformed various tasks, from waste reclamation to creating a tight seal on the airlock. The ship was one part stone, two parts biological, one part mechanical, and Garth loved it.
The massive stone slab sealed off the rest of the air behind them, then the air in the airlock was rapidly sucked out. This was the point in time where any fault in their suits would be revealed, and they would have to smash the emergency button, but neither he nor Alicia was leaking.
At least, not from their suit.
“Alright, can you hear me?” Garth asked.
“Loud and clear.” Alicia said, giving him a thumb’s up.
“I hear you.” Bel said from the command center at her core. “Hey, cut it out.” She started giggling. “Not here, I’m busy.”
Garth and Alicia shared a glance. He should probably establish some kind of radio discipline and fraternization laws. Business hours were for business.
“Bel, unless you can make multiple bodies, I want you to kick out whoever is trying to get you to grab their junk. We want you to be focused… so we don’t get left to die in the vacuum of space while you’re fooling around.”
“That’s a great idea!” Bel’s voice came through the microphone. A moment later, her voice came back. “Done! This bridge is now for business-y stuff only sir! I hung a sign and everything.”
Garth could practically see her jiggling salute, full serious face on.
“Is it just me or is your goddess…”
Garth made a quick cutting motion in front of his neck and Alicia’s words trailed off. Bel was a tough cookie, but not a smart one, and calling her out on it didn’t really do anything but hurt her feelings.
“Alright, we’re heading out.” Garth said, pulling the man-sized lever that released the outer door. The organic sealant cracked and shattered off as they exposed it to space, leaving the groove in the stone door ready to be refilled when they came back inside.
Together they pushed off the airlock door and out into nothingness.
They checked to make triple sure that no one was leaking, and then tested Alicia’s powers.
“It feels weird, but I can do it. It’s less like there’s wind moving me than there is a small explosion behind me as the air expands.” Alicia began flitting about in space with substantially more grace than him, channeling her deity’s mana to create wind behind her to push her along, mixed with Space mana to stop on a dime.
That would be useful.
“Alright. The asteroid we stopped next to is the furthest afield,” Garth said, pointing toward the distant hunk of rock. “So hopefully, as long as our sensors were correct, there won’t be any others within spitting distance. We’re not interested in exciting chases through asteroid fields, or nearly getting eaten by a giant worm.”
Garth pointed his Grappling hook at the rock and pressed the forward button. This was his solution to navigating in space being a bitch. The Grappling hook was inspired by the old batman cartoons that had little guns that could carry full grown men up the side of walls at ridiculous speeds.
The Mythbusters disproved it, but the idea had stuck in young Garth’s head. What the little handle did, was create a force latticework in the direction it was pointed, just a couple inches ahead of the flat barrel of the gun, then pull itself along said latticework, as well as whatever happened to be holding onto it. As it passed the latticework, it tore it apart, diffusing the mana into the environment.
It was more like a space zipper than a grappling hook actually, but it did what Garth wanted it to do, and that was good enough for him. Once he was moving at a comfortable speed, he glanced over at Alicia who was following beside him, staring around them in awe.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” She pointed at the brightest star burning in the distance. “Is that where we came from?”
“That’s the sun, anyway. The planet is off to the left somewhere, I think. Yeah, there it it.” Garth pointed at the tiny blue dot.
“By all the gods! That’s the whole planet? That’s everything on that entire world?”
“Kinda puts the scale of things into perspective, doesn’t it?” Garth said.
“I think I’m gonna throw up.”
“Don’t you dare,” Garth barked, peering through his clear resin helmet at the young woman who was shaking in her suit.
She took three deep, shuddering breaths and nodded her head inside her big helmet. “Okay, I think I’m fine.”
“Good, because we’ve got a lot to do today.”
A couple minutes later they arrived at the asteroid, which appeared to be standing still relative to the enormous ship. It wasn’t. Both the Fertility and the asteroid were circling the star at mind-boggling speeds, but relative to each other, they were still.
The lumpy rock gradually came into view as they got closer, fully one third the size of the Fertility, a couple miles in diameter. Here and there, Garth saw shiny metal peeking out, and he nearly rubbed his hands together in glee, but decided against it as he currently looked like the stay-puffed marshmallow man.
All they had to do now was carefully tow this bad boy a couple thousand miles away from the danger zone of the asteroid belt, then take their time separating the iron from the less desirable metals to create a Gate.
It would take a little time to process all that rock and generate that much core-substitute using Halo, but it wouldn’t take more than…a couple months, maybe?
Garth glanced up at where Halo was doing crosshatching on the fertility’s exterior, a tiny point of light against the bald mountain range in the distance. To save time and energy, the little vunderkind was reinforcing the outer hull in criss-cross, with the intention of going back and filling in the blanks later. It was a third of the way done.
Freaking astronomical numbers.
Simple scale was what Garth was battling with now. He had a cute little tool that could make something do nearly anything…as long as it wasn’t the size of a mountain range.
I need to make more Halos…as soon as more Practice stones are grown to the right size.
Practice stones, hell, all of the Law stones that grew out of the dungeon’s chambers, were particularly finicky and slow growing. They took years to get big enough to do anything with, and trying to use a time accelerating Law messed them up. They didn’t grow in all the rooms, and the rooms they did grow in, they did it sporadically, at best. The Practice stones probably grew as reliably as they did from some kind of slight positive feedback effect from their own Law.
The Law Stones reminded Garth of vanilla. An incredibly finicky cash crop, totally worth exploiting the native population for.
Garth turned himself in midair and landed with his feet on the asteroid, his stomach flipping as down became up and visa-versa.
“I claim this celestial body in the name of Garth Daniels, and I officially name it: The Turd.” That’s what I was forgetting. A flag.
“You have no class,” Alicia said.
“What would you name it, then? It looks like a turd.” Garth glanced over at where the girl was landing on the giant asteroid’s pockmarked surface. The dusty stone they stood on had been battered by runaway rocks presumably for several billion years, forming it into the lumpy poo shape it was today. It was destiny.
“Kenaan, after the god of plenty’s ship that bears treasure from a thousand lands through the sky while people sleep.” Alicia said.
“Turning the Fertility around, please start pushing the Kenaan toward it.” Bel said as the Fertility began to ever so slowly list to the side, spinning in place with all the speed of tree sap. It was probably rather fast at the edges, dozens of miles per hour, but once again, size was slowing everything down.
“I’ll do no such thing.”
“You’re not actually Beladia and you know it!” Garth shouted through the speakers, pointing at the slowly turning giant dome.
A raspberry came through the microphone in front of his face.
“Unprofessional, is what this is,” Garth grumbled, enjoying the banter as he motioned for Alica to navigate to the other side of the enormous rock. They were going to push it forward, dock it with the bottom of the Fertility, and retreat from the asteroid belt before they got hit by some unaccounted for debris.
“Al, in position?” he asked, sitting down and watching his very own spaceship turn and glitter in the sunlight. Ultimate wet dream.
But am I a Picard, or a Kirk? Garth thought back to Sandi. Probably a Kirk.
“Give me a minute,” Alicia’s voice came through his helmet. “The dark side of this thing is pretty lumpy, and it’s several miles wide, so don’t expect me to…what is that?”
“If it’s a giant egg, leave it alone, those facehuggers can melt through our helmets in no time.”
“There’s a pocket on this thing filled with mana. Too dark to see where it’s coming from.”
Garth’s eyebrows shot up, and he grabbed his tethered Grappling Hook and aimed it after Alicia, navigating the rough terrain.
After accelerating for a minute, he began to crest the lit parts of the asteroid and head into the thing’s shadow.
“I’m gonna check it out.”
“Said every horror story victim ever.” Garth said into his microphone as he chased Alicia down. “I’m not saying you can’t, I’m just saying weigh your risks.”
“Got it. I pulled in closer. It looks like just another crater, filled with mana.”
Crater, filled with mana? That kinda sounds like…
“Oh, hey check it out!” Alicia came into view, standing in a pit of rapidly evaporating mana, proudly holding a Mythic Core above her head, mana of every type swirling around her hand. In space.
Mana of every kind in space.
“Emergency meeting on the Fertility.” Garth said through his microphone.
“And these three points on the whiteboard detail why we are in such a unique postion to profit,” Garth said, using his pointer to gesture toward his three main reasons. He was standing in front of the entire crew, which consisted of a couple dozen shirtless, grass-skirt wearing villagers, Bel, Halo, and Alicia. There were a couple dozen children as well, but they were off playing at the BBQ.
“Reason one. Space is difficult and expensive. It takes an inordinate amount of resources to build any kind of spaceship, let alone something long-term like ours. The sheer value of the hunk of rock we are standing in is incalculable.”
“Thank you.” Bel said.
“It would not surprise me in the slightest if it were simply far more cost-effective to slap another reality onto the Spheres and harvest their planet-side cores than it would be to send people into space.”
“Reason number two. Space is big and alien to our psyche. We as planet-bound monkey people tend to think of everything in two dimensions, forward, back, side to side. But when you add the third dimension, everything suddenly gets real complicated for us to understand. I’ll try to explain.”
“If there were a billion Fertilities, and we all started out into space from the planet behind us, each going a slightly different direction…” Garth met each one of their eyes in turn. “By the time we got to this asteroid belt, we could each harvest Cores from it for the rest of our natural lives and never run into each other. Space is big. Even if the skies were teeming with ships, they’d never make a dent in it, and there are two thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine layers, each with thousands upon thousands of planets, all of which have their cores, which would be a necessary ingredient for space travel, brutally torn away from them.”
Garth was starting to think that might have been at least a small part of why planets cores were snatched up with such fervor.
“And lastly, sheer, fucking ignorance, courtesy of your alien overlords,” Garth said, pointing at the picture of an ape scratching his ass.
“Kurt, what is a star?”
“I’ve never seen a star.”
“Okay, bad example. Alicia, what is a star?”
“A pinhole in the veil of the night,” she said as a matter of course.
“Boom!” Garth pumped a fist.
“So, at the rate of one new layer every nine hundred years for a grand total of two million, three hundred and three thousand, one hundred years…give or take, assuming a healthy, growing space-fleet, and accounting for their incredibly low rate of reproduction and indolence, I calculate that the elves have explored about….”
Garth’s pointer snapped down on a tiny speck on the bottom of his whiteboard. “That much space.”
“So what are we gonna do?” Alicia asked. “Like you said, even if we harvested them for the rest of our lives, we’d never get them all, and what would be the point?
“The point is always power.” Garth said, clenching a fist. “We’re going to get the Earth back from those fuckwads, and we’re going to do it in style.”
“What’s Earth?” Kurt’s wife Jaela said, raising her free hand. Her other was cradling the ship’s first space-baby while she nursed.
Halo made a question mark in the air.
It had slipped his mind that only he and Alicia were native Earthlings.
Garth groaned and put his face in his hand.
Apostle of Beladia & Pala
Blessings: Photosynthesis, Temperature resistance, Empowered Plant Magic, Pheremones, Hyper-fertility, Unscryable, Empowered Illusion Magic, Deceitful, Shadow Guidance
Class: Journeyman Phytolich
Skills: Mana Boost, Mana Channel, Mana Wielding, Spell Theory, Delayed Spell, Recursive Spell, Enchanting, Divine Lantern Style, Create Life, Divine Channeling
Spells: Control Plants, Design Plant, Force Armor, Forestwalk, Create Fire, Haste, Plant Growth, Teleport, Polymorph, Fly, Shrink, Summon Nature Spirit, Force Shield, Fireball, Telekinesis, Magic Jar, Heal, Illusion, Floating Eye, Scry, Stone Shape, Wall of Stone, Create Water, Warding, Charm, Clarion Call, Operant Conditioning, Bark Skin, Fusillade, Cleanse, Greater Invisibility, Lineage Keys, Weal and Woe
Evolutions: Mana Sight, Resilient Mind, Mind palace, Memory Lane, Plant Biology, Control Weather, Racial Advancement.