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A note from The Walrus King

Please note that next chapter is a survey that will affect a choice our little rat has to make.

There was business to be done in Section E, but Milo was anxious to get back to Genesis. He'd spent most of a week in the game, only coming out now and then to check on things. Once Kaminski was shut down, the amount of power being used by that area dropped nearly to zero. Milo did a thorough scan of the area before he went down there himself. Nothing showed on infra-red or UV scans. His bugs were picking up no sounds, and no transmissions coming out of the area.

He hadn't expected them to leave a guard, or set up sensors. This was the Habs, and no one really cared about deserted warehouses or industrial centers. Milo dropped down into the area. He was dressed all in a dark grey metallic cloth. Faraday Sheets were a useful way to insulate areas from unwanted radiation of all types. They were routinely used to insulate high tech equipment from picking up stray signals or un-invited visitors trying to enter the system through the air waves. Milo had salvaged some of the bulky cloth left behind by others and constructed a cumbersome full-body suit out of it. If he wasn't sure about an area, he wore it before going in. Cameras would pick up just a blur, active scans would reflect off of it, and at best someone might know they'd had an intruder, but no other clues.

All the computers were gone, of course. The authorities would go through them with a fine-tooth comb. Likewise, all the pods. But what hadn't been taken was all the new cooling units, tubing, and distribution system. It was stacked up on pallets, ready for shipping. Good pallets too! The type that used small steel wheels that used frictionless ball bearings. They were easy to move around on their own, without the need for a pallet jack.

Some of the machinery could be used to upgrade the decaying systems in Section E. Milo also loved the idea of adding state-of-the-art cooling to his computer systems. Getting rid of heat was always a problem. It took him four hours to rig the hoists he needed in the ceiling of that area, and in the nearest big drop. Then over the next sixteen hours he absconded with 30 pallets of high-tech cooling units, and hid them down in the bottom of the hab in a room he'd used for years to store his extra equipment.

A few months from now someone would come to clean the area out. The theft might be noticed, and a report might be filed. They'd wonder how someone opened and resealed the doors, but mostly there would be an utter lack of concern. Someone stole something left in a hab for a few months? They had more important things to investigate.

He was happy to run over to Section D and visit his new offices. Just because he had the codes to the outer doors didn't mean he was going to use them. He'd rather it shows no openings except for deliveries. The two new clog eaters had arrived. He'd move them over soon. What he was more interested in was the huge assortment of cheese in a fake wicker basket sitting on the counter of the empty front office. It was just as good as it tasted in the game. Sadly, he didn't get any upgrades from eating a half pound of sliced cheddar.

He made sure the pod was working correctly, re-filled the nutrient tanks, and headed back in.

                  Welcome to Genesis
-Your mentor, Sidney, is unavailable. If you have questions or problems, please leave her a message.
-Your Arcane Library is available.
-You may log into the game.

Milo selected the second option, and appeared on the steps surrounded by the howling void. He quickly entered the Arcane Library. Cichol was sitting by the fire still. "Ah, the apprentice returns. What interesting thing have you brought me?"

Milo summoned his storage chest, which got a raised eyebrow from Cichol, and pulled out a burlap wrapped bundle. Inside was the carefully cleaned and assembled skeleton of a rat-kin. "I went back for my old pal, Malskitter, and found all of his pieces. I was mostly going to use him for spells, but then I saw some odd things about his skeleton."

Upon close examination, Milo had realized that the skeleton had extra rib bones. The bottom rib on each side were shaped differently from the others, and had runes carved into them. Those bones were also much older than the skeleton himself. One being almost petrified.

Cichol stood up, leaning heavily on his cane. "Oh? How interesting. If he knew, he'd be howling in rage. I like that."
The old Bonemancer kneeled down, running his hands over the bones, and taking note of the two extras. "My, my, you certainly were a clever one. If only you hadn't let crippling megalomania and paranoia get in the way, you might have done something greater than become the slave of a damned overgrown lily."

Straightening, he looked Milo in the eyes. "This will do. I can think of several uses for this set of tinker toys. Come sit by the fire, and bring along that nice bit of Brie I see in your chest. We need to talk about your next spells. I see that you've managed to achieve level 3 in bonecasting. That's a good start. But let’s add a bit to your arsenal."

=*=

Milo spent the better part of two days in the library, discussing spell casting, and memorizing new spells for each of the levels he had gained. Cichol explained that he could call upon him for two new spells each level. Other spells he would have to find on his own, or trade knowledge with another mage.

"Your two beginning spells will continue to be useful to you. They will require you are always hoarding bones, but they do better damage than similar spells from elemental magics."

"For level 1, I will suggest the spells Extra Rib and Mend Bones. Mend bones can be used to cure injuries to yourself, or to others. It can also be used to heal skeletal allies. It only affects bones of course. It will become more and more useful to you in later levels."

"Extra Rib is a complicated ritual, and not a spell. I would not suggest it except for two things: You already have access to a runed rib bone with considerable power. No need to make one and Malskitter won't be missing it. The second advantage is that I can assist with the ritual."

Milo looked over at Malskitter's skeleton. It was currently animated by Cichol and refreshing their cups of tea. "I'm curious, what exactly does the ritual do, besides add to my ribcage?"

"Yes, we should go over that. The base spell simply adds a modest amount to your health. It is the runes carved into the bone before we add it to you that are the greatest benefit. Normally, a Bonecaster would have to progress in rune lore some ways, and then select and carve the minor runes he wanted onto the bone to gain some minor advantages. Or wait for a few decades and gain better advantages when he could carve more potent runes."

"Malskitter, for all his faults, had advance to Tier 2 and added the second 'extra rib'. The first rib is of his own work, the runes carved into the bones of an elven mage. The second I'm unsure of. It's quite ancient and mostly petrified. It could have come from many different races, but I note it is heavier and thicker than that of a human. Either rib has it's advantages, and may have surprises. It's up to you to choose one, or forgo the ritual altogether. I'll let you think on that while we go over your 2nd and 3rd level spells.

The level 2 spell, Brittle Bones, is a curse. For the next hour after it is cast, the victim will take extra damage from most physical blows, and the impact of blunt force will be break and fracture bones, causing quite a lot of pain. Grasp of the Dead calls upon the spirits lurking just beyond the barrier of this realm. They reach from the spirit realm and restrain the victim, attempting to pull them down into the earth. Quite handy when you need to put distance between yourself and an attacker.

At level 3 I suggest Whirling Bones and Bone Whip. The first surrounds you with a small chip of shattered bone that will sometimes deflect arrows and interfere with spells. It's also quite distracting to people trying to attack you. Bone whip creates a long flexible melee weapon made of a spectral spine. It means you will never be without a melee weapon, and it can be quite handy to be able to attack from a distance. I'm sure you'll find other uses for it."

Milo was excited to try all of those spells. He began studying the spells in the old grimoires that Cichol handed to him. The big question was whether he risk the ritual, and if so, which of the two rune-carved ribs he should take?

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The Walrus King

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