With my Core Mechanics skill successfully advanced and my first test of core fusion complete it is time to move onto the next phase of my preparations!
I have already collected a small pile of cores that I have modified twice next to where my ape friend lies snoring soundly.
Formo indicated to me that there are a number of skills that relate to 'pets', which is the term the Sophos, and perhaps others in this world, use to refer to monsters that have been reconstituted from cores.
I honestly can't remember finding any such skills when I was last browsing the list, but then, I wasn't looking for them. With some skill points up my sleeve I want to take another look and see if I can find something that will help me harness the strength of Tiny to battle the upcoming wave.
Opening the skill menu with a few practiced thoughts I begin flipping through it, looking for anything that touches on the word 'pet'.
Naturally, armed with this new information I manage to find a ton of skills related to pets.
Running through the list I can see skills that make it easier to handle a larger number of pets, skills to help raise the pets more quickly… that must be referring the time and Biomass required to grow the monster back to full size, skills that allow you to monitor the pets stats, even a skill to accelerate the levelling speed of your pets.
No wonder the Sophos were able to utilise their engineering skills to survive so long living in this place with their weak physiques. By engineering such fearsome monsters and then controlling them with all of these skills, they would be a fearsome opponent indeed.
Most of these skills don't seem that appealing to me however. I don't really want a massive army of pets, it seems fairly redundant since I'm already surrounded by hundreds of monsters. Rather than that, a small number of strong pets seems more desirable. Allies that can protect me and the colony until it can better protect itself.
I didn't really mean to take any steps down this 'pet' path, reconstituting Tiny was an accident to begin with, but since I've had him I've found myself growing fond of the big lug. I had to raise him after all, from a little chimp back into the mighty gorilla he has now become.
Since I've got him I'm going to make sure that he becomes the best ape he can be!
Instead, the skill that catches my eye is this one:
[Pet communication: establishes a mental link between pet and master, increasing levels in the skill will improve the clarity of the link and the distance at which it can be utilised].
If I can speak more effectively with Tiny then he will become a lot more helpful, able to receive a few instructions rather than just running off and fighting everything he can see!
Learn this skill!
When I approve the skill point expenditure with Gandalf the now familiar trickling feeling shivers through my mind.
Whilst I'm at it I also check out the advanced version of Exo-Skeleton defence, since that skill has reached level 5 and can now be upgraded.
[Exo-Skeleton Defence - Advanced Exo-Skeleton Defence: Improves the ability to utilise the nature of an external skeleton to fend off physical damage].
I'll take that as well!
With a few skill points spend its time to commit to the next phase.
[Wake up Tiny!]
I try to use our newly established mental link to communicate with my sleeping ape friend.
A small presence in my mind pushes back like a petulant child. I don't think he wants to wake up….
[Wake up you ape! We have some stuff to do!]
Once again that presence in my head seems to roll over and wave me away, the mental equivalent of pulling a pillow over your head.
Going to be like that eh?
Eyes narrow I pick up a core and approach my drowsing companion.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Get! Up! Get! Up! With each word I smash down the core in my mandibles on his head.
Ignore me will you?!
It isn't long before Tiny has responded to my affectionate request to wake and is sitting against the tunnel wall staring at me reproachfully and rubbing his head.
A deep, sullen voice echoes in my mind suddenly.
The voice of Tiny! The skill is working well!
[We've got stuff to do buddy. A big day for you in particular!]
Tiny looks at me blankly before his eyelids slowly start to droop down.
[Take this core and use it!]
Impatiently I drop the core in front him. Trying to sleep in front of me again… I mean really!
Tiny looks down at the core and then back to me. I can sense the bubbling confusion in his mind as he ponders over what it is I want him to do.
[Use the core to reinforce your own!]
[Yes! Core! That thing there, on the ground!]
[Don't know how….]
Not the first time I lament that Tiny seriously struggles with a limited mental capacity. To put it bluntly, this ape is dumb. Strong, but dumb as a stump.
Last time I had to belt him over the head with the core until he fused with it instinctively.
Looks like I might have to repeat the process!
With an evil glint in my eye I retrieve the core from the ground and slowly approach my nervous ape pet.
[Will you absorb the core, Tiny?]
[Absorb it dammit!]
Ah! Different sound…
Quickly checking my mandibles I see that the core I'd painstakingly modified twice has vanished.
A pat Tiny on his sore head with my antennae!
[Good job! You did it!]
[Did … it?]
[Yes! You absorbed the core! It's gone, see?]
A light seems to have been lit in those dim eyes as he finally seems to understand what I want him to do.
Great! On to the next!
[Now absorb this one!]
[Make the stone vanish! Reinforce your own core!]
He just stares at me blankly.
[Absorb the core!]
Tiny is now sitting with both of his large gorilla hands covering his head. I almost feel sorry for him, my poor simple minded ape buddy, but this is for his own good. He must be getting close to evolving after that last battle, he went on a massive rampage! I have to max out his core as soon as I can.
I grab another of my modified cores. I plan to save the untouched ones so that I can continue to practice on them.
[Ok. Now this one!]
Tiny looks at me through his fingers with deep sadness and trepidation in his eyes.
[Why don't you just take it without me having to hit you with it then!?]
I pop it on the ground in front of my defensive ape friend.
[pick it up!] I order him.
Being able to communicate with him is so nice! I get the feeling that he might not be enjoying the experience much however.
He reluctantly picks up the core, the gem looks so small in his meaty, gorilla hands. I suspect he must have advanced his hands in some way, they surely look stronger and more powerful than they did before.
With the core resting on his massive palm he looks at me tentatively before concentrating briefly. With a short flash of light the core melts into his body and vanishes.
[Yes! You did it! Well done Tiny!]
I shower him with praise and repeatedly pat him on the head with my antennae until the silly gorilla is wriggling with joy, a broad smile on his bat face.
[Now this one!]
I continue to pass Tiny cores until, after the eighth one, he shakes his head, taps himself on the chest and says simply:
A wave of excitement rises in my chest. I can practically feel my eyes flashing with evil light as I turn to look at the massive snake core.
Time for dessert!