When life gives you oranges, you... question your sanity, because where the hell did those oranges come from?

I was of the same mind, because where the hell did this System come from? And what about the Grey alien? Those were all questions I wanted to be answered in the future.

But right now, I was lazying in my hammock.

Yeah, you heard it right. The issue of horizontal stability was solved the same way spiders make their homes. I could Replicate any material I absorbed once. That included thread and plastic. After some long time wasted in trial and error, I added hooks to the inside of my sphere and then spun thread between them. More like I materialized the thread in place. That cat's cradle allowed me to weave a bag around the center where I now rested. I also thickened my sphere until it was two feet thick. It made the sphere plummet to the bottom of the crevice but who cares? Not me.

The landfill was still around me. It really couldn't be helped, the amount of garbage in here was staggering. We were talking about millions of tons, enough to fill the crevice and then some.

I slowly infused my sphere with Dungeon Mana, turning it into super-hard Dungeon walls, stronger than tempered steel. Someone intending to get inside would need to use a few Javelin anti-tank missiles to crack this bitch open. Feeling safe, I decided to start on my Dungeon proper. Before I started, I felt more trash around me. It was as if my Domain had suddenly expanded. What? The culprit was the sphere. My perceptions extended through the walls of my Dungeon, which it counted as.

I also noticed I was now regenerating 0.5 Dungeon Mana per day. It seemed that having a proper Dungeon allowed me to capture Mana and use it for myself. Who would've thought that? No. I'm getting distracted.

Dungeon. I started to shape and dig a tunnel (at the same time, hooray) along the bottom of the crevice. It was a slow business, infusing the walls with Dungeon Mana was hard. Each cubic foot of stone took 10 Dungeon Mana to infuse and I needed to keep converting the garbage above into Mana and Substance to keep the process going.

With fifteen feet of Dungeon tunnel, six feet wide by seven tall and a foot of walls, my Dungeon Mana regeneration climbed to 1 per day. That's reassuring. Not because I had a way to restore some resources but because I could keep a count of the days. The timelessness of this Dungeon life was making me crazy. Also, the return rates were murderous. I had spent 330 Dungeon Mana to increase my regeneration by 0.5 per day. Two years to recover that much Mana. What if I ran out of garbage?

But without anything else to do, I kept on building my tunnel. Every thirty feet, another Dungeon Mana per day. Oh, a day has passed. And another. A week went by and I had 150 feet of tunnel. My Domain now extended a lot further, 36 feet away from the walls. Half-decomposed garbage everywhere I looked, both above and to the sides. Below me, it was solid bedrock.

So, this is now a "Solar-punk" story. I recycled the landfill, and everything and saved humanity. As if. But I got one good and one bad news.

The good news was that I found my first electronic component. An old radio. The System gave me a slew of new messages.


You learned how to Replicate electronic components!

A new Tab named Components was created in your Status.

> Insulated Copper Wire: 30 Substance and 50 Dungeon Mana per pound.

> Ceramic Resistor: 1 Substance and 0.4 Dungeon Mana per 20k Ohm.

> NPN and PNP Transistors: 2 Substance and 1 Dungeon Mana per 25.

> Capacitors: 1 Substance and 0.5 Dungeon Mana per every 10 microFarad.

> Potentiometer: 2 Substance and 1 Dungeon Mana per unit.

> Circuit Board: 1 Substance and 2 Dungeon Mana per 5 square inches.

> LR44 batteries: 1 Substance and 2 Dungeon Mana each.


"System, Can we abbreviate these terms. Like SP for Substance "points" and DM for Dungeon Mana?"


> Affirmative.


The bad news was, my Dungeon was being invaded by rats. Mutated rats.





I panicked for about twelve minutes, then I noticed the rats were just exploring the place. They walked up and down my tunnel, inspecting it. They reached the end and went back. These rats were a foot tall and two feet long. I bet a pack could kill a person.

They sensed my Mana and became frenzied. The rats started trying to chew the sphere at the end of the tunnel. With each bite, the walls lost a little Mana and Dungeon Automation took some from my Dungeon Mana pool to fix the wall. More rats came, attracted by the mad chittering, and attacked the walls. After being discarded by that woman, I was going to become rat food. Even if they didn't breach the walls, I would still need to keep gathering Dungeon Mana (DM) to keep them from breaching the wall.

This could not go on.

If only I had a monster to spawn and fight the rats. But no. All I had were a bunch of hobby electronic components. But what about collapsing the ceiling on the rats.

Terrible idea, Skip. That would bring the whole landfill into my tunnel. I created rocks above but the rats were very sensitive to Mana. They moved away before the rock finished materializing and falling on an empty floor. All I did was create a bigger mess for myself.

That wouldn't do. I needed something that was not inherently magical. What if...

I Replicated a bunch of LR44 batteries inside a plastic casing. Each should be 1.5 Volts, so six of them yielded nine Volts. I then added a large capacitor that cost me 12 DM and a resistor to make a simple circuit. The batteries would now charge the capacitor. Next, a switch and two spools of copper wire. The one with fewer loops was connected to the switch and capacitor, and the big one with a thousand times more loops was connected to two copper plates.

The idea was simple. The capacitor would charge, then discharge whenever something pressed on the switch, closing the secondary circuit. The charge would then run through the transformer, increasing its voltage and delivering a nasty shock through the copper plates. The nine volts from the LR44s would become nine thousand volts. Bang.

Wait. I added another LR44 to the array, for very obvious reasons... >.>

Also, I am not liable if someone is stupid enough to try this at home. This is your one and only warning.

I wrapped the circuit in a steel box, with rubber insulating the contacts. The shock trap would've cost me 35 Dungeon Mana to create and the first one did.


> You designed a new Trap. Bubblegum Shock Trap: 22 SP and 18 DM.

You gained 200 Experience Points.


But after it was done, the discount I had for traps kicked in. The only downside was that reabsorbing the trap just refunded me what I spent on it. I couldn't use this as a loophole to create Mana out of nothing.

I placed a handful of traps along the corridor, by digging a depression under the stone floor and then Replicating the trap. The contacts were obvious on the outside and I had no doubt the rats would soon learn to stop stepping on the shiny orange metal. But that was a problem for later. While I waited to see how it would fare, I started to consume garbage above my Dungeon to replenish my Resources.

A curious rat tried to sniff the copper plates. And... BAM. The trap exploded. These weren't ordinary electronics. As the System hinted earlier, they were modified to withstand magic. So get off my back. The trap exploded, period. Hey, look, the System is a'callin'!


> For killing level 4 Giant Rat, you earned 225 Experience. You gained 3 Dungeon Mana.


Turns out my capacitor was too weak, or my trap was too powerful, for it delivered over 9,000 Volts. But still, it was a net loss of 15 Dungeon Mana. That wasn't too much but a loss was a loss.

The rats panicked and scrambled back to the exit. Three more traps had their capacitors blow up, killing five rats. Perhaps my approach was wrong. I should go for the shrapnel version if that's how things went down.


> Your experience and knowledge improved your Engineering Skill to rank II.

> Rank II benefits: Your contraptions are 5% sturdier per rank.


The remaining rats fled my tunnel. I had no way to keep them from doing so. I absorbed the demolished traps, recovering about 4 or 5 DM from each, and the rat bodies, which gave me another 3 Dungeon Mana per corpse. That reduced my loss to around eight to six DM per trap but I wanted a net positive.

What I needed was a sturdier capacitor, perhaps a less heinous transformer, and to put my damn Skill to use. I activated Engineering and checked the issue. The blueprint for the shock trap appeared, and it showed me the problem. The rat touched the plates for both the switch and the delivery, causing the whole thing to short. What killed the rats wasn't the explosion, it was the shock as intended.

I carefully reworked the project, adding a bit of rubber insulation around the switch contacts, to keep it from shorting again. I also changed the shock contacts configuration, to turn it into a mesh instead of plates. I also doubled the stack of LR44, two rows of seven in parallel, to give my trap better endurance. I also added another capacitor in parallel, to share the charge but not raise the voltage. Perhaps not more endurance, then. Just more Amps.

Then I added texture to the Dungeon floor, making it appear to be made of thousands of tiny stone squares. The pressure plates were loose, and any weight on that section of the floor would trigger that trap. Burying the shock traps again, the contact meshes were alternated, and putting pressure on the stone would trigger the discharge. And the contact meshes made the area of effect much bigger.

To lure the rats back, I Replicated some bananas at the end of the tunnel. I injected Mana into the bananas to make them more enticing than the buried mountain of garbage above. I also aired the tunnel, removing the scent of dead rats.





Three days passed and no rats came. Fuck. I created another Mana Banana (hey, it rhymes!) at the mouth of the tunnel, wondering if the rats would come. I wanted some Exp and I wanted to level up!

The banana went from yellow to black as bananas ought to do, and then a curious and starved rat approached. My heart (didn't really have one) beat fast. My eyes (also, don't have those) were peeled in the rat.

An idea came to mind. I should disable the traps and let the rats get inside, steal the bananas, and then go away to tell the tale and bring all of their filthy brethren (look, we were in a landfill). A thick sheet of rubber between the contacts disabled the switches.

The rat devoured the banana and then stared with glowing red eyes (creepy) down the tunnel. It sniffled and squeaked, then dashed through my Dungeon like a mad speedrunner. The pressure plates clicked but the rat didn't mind it. It reached the bananas and ate most of them. Then it grabbed the last one and ran back.

Okay. Bait taken, I guess. All that's left to see is if more rats would come to their doom. I assumed a Gendo Ikari pose (no hands, chin, or table, though).



About the author


Bio: The author would like to reinforce for the umpteenth time that the characters' opinions are their own, may be intentionally wrong, do not reflect my (MDW's) personal viewpoints neither are included in this work to further any political agenda (I don't even live in the same hemisphere or country as you, whichever those are. I'm writing from the Earth-Sun L3 point for all I care). My works serve no purpose other than to tell stories with conflicting viewpoints. Use of the reader's critical sense is highly advised.

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