That liquid, that in hindsight must be a magical potion, healed the mage really well. I mean, one moment he was down, bleeding from a hundred puncture wounds, the next he was on his feet plucking needles out of him like a cartoon that had a close call with a cactus. Okay, there might have passed a minute or so between both moments, but it was surreal. But then again, I was a crystallized rotten fruit. To each their own, I guess.
I had a dead monster on me and my first impulse was to absorb the body. I might not be the smartest ever but even I figured out that doing so would be bad. Those guys were coming after the beast and I needed to show I was on the side of the angels.
The archer's body was there too, up for grabs. I was pretty sure it was worth another 35 Dungeon Mana if I consumed it. But hey. Wait a second.
The monster didn't give me any Mana. Don't the Infernali give Mana? Damn. I absorbed the spines stuck to my joints anyway. Nothing. They just vanished into thin air. At least that.
They took the stairs like Olympic parkour athletes. In less than a minute, they found me. I slammed a fist against the dead dog, then turned my head to face them.
"Oh, hello there!" The DPS fighter guy waved.
I waved back. Then I started pushing the dead dog from over Kid Sick.
"Hey, let me help you." The helpful warrior approached and shoved the Infernal monster away. "Here, take my hand." I grabbed the offered hand and he pulled me back to my feet. "Nice armor, by the way. Where's your weapon?"
"Cool. Now, what is a kid like yourself doing here?"
A mechanical hand waved in the dead dog's general direction.
"Hunting? Do you already have the System?"
His reply was a nod and more shadowboxing.
The others caught up.
"Oh, thank the Patriarch, it's dead," the mage sighed in relief.
"Kid here killed him," the DPS warrior proudly boasted.
The rogue appeared next to the corpse. Damn, I forgot to track him again! "Nice gash. A critical hit," he examined the wound.
"The others below had levels in the forties," the shieldbearer came last. "What level was this one."
I tilted my hand back and forth.
"The same, probably." The helpful DPS said.
"You have my respect," the shieldbearer proudly declared. "You avenged my brother," I answered with a thumbs up. "That's the spirit."
I sensed the rogue approaching. This close to me, his stealth power was no match for my empowered Domain. He tried to grab my arm and I flinched away.
He chortled as he turned off his stealth. "Kid is the real deal. Sensed me! A real find. What village are you from?" he slapped me in the back, then feigned a hurt hand. "Oh, solid steel."
Villages? Didn't they live in the city? What happened to the world and civilization since I died... for the first time?
While I mused, the rogue lifted one of my arms. "Hidden blades! I like it."
The DPS warrior nodded sagely. "Hey, kid, want me to harvest the beast's magic stone?"
The what? I nodded on instinct. He drew a dagger and went over the carcass, opening the monster's throat near the collarbones. He poked and prodded, then removed a brown gem the size of a thumbnail.
"Damn. A brown one," he whistled. "No wonder it was so smart."
He returned and placed the gem in my hand. "Don't waste it all in one go, kid."
"We should go back." The dour and grieving shieldbearer said. "We still have a job to do."
"Oh, right." The mage used his sensing device. Widening his eyes, he smiled. "It's close."
"Hey, kid," rogue poked me. With a finger, at least. "Did you see any other weird crystals around?"
I shook my head.
I would sigh in relief. It seems their detection spell only reveals ethe distance. That would explain the way they moved and pinged frequently. If it also showed direction, then... fuck.
I really needed to work on a speaker system.
The adventurers climbed down, leaving me to my thoughts. Did I really fool them, or were they waiting for me to drop my guard?
Anyway, I didn't have a storage compartment to keep this stone. I created a cloth bag inside the head, lifted the faceplate, and put it there.
They collected the dead archer's body and the stones from the other Infernali dogs. Walking into a basement, the adventurers stripped the archer naked, then placed some firewood they took from their backpacks around and under his body. The shieldbearer said a prayer to that Patriarch of theirs, then the mage ignited the firewood. It burned without smoke and consumed the flesh faster than it should.
I noticed the backpacks shouldn't hold that much wood. Some enchantment was clearly at work there but I couldn't sense it this close to their auras. They watched the body turn to ashes (even the bones) in silence, then climbed back out.
Death must be a constant threat for them to carry the means to dispose of bodies on the run. I had so much to learn about this new society, and I had to find a way to speak. That was my top priority now.
I opened my Status window and spent my points. I put eleven on Hardness to reach the next Armor threshold, then the remaining nineteen in Clarity that was lagging behind. I needed a bigger DM pool.
|Name:||Skip May Neming||Species:||Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)|
|Main Class:||Electronic Apple Orchard (L)||Level:||20|
|Sub-Class:||Architect of Destruction (V)||Exp/ Level:||1,471 / 7,000|
|Attributes||Base Score||Efficiency||Modified Score|
||500||Armor:||21 (6 / 75%)|
|Traits||Puzzle Dungeon||Dungeon Automation||Replicate Electronics|
|Sanctuary Orchard||Dungeon Domain|
|Implements of Demise II
|Perks||Minor Levitation (2ft)||Telekinetic Button Pusher||Domain Beacon|
|Sturdy Domain||Extra Crystallization||Tough Capacitor||Hardened Device Casing|
|Speak Binary||Green Thumb||Rapid Growth|
I climbed down to ground level, sweeping the underground as well. Not many electronics but I still gathered a bunch of very important devices. Such as an optic fiber repeater. You can't imagine what it unlocked. Unless you looked at the next message.
> You unlocked a new component. Laser emitter. Cost: 10 Substance and 75 Dungeon Mana per 100 mW of output, scalable. Your level is too low to create this component.
> For unlocking this level 35 (Epic) component, you gained 14,308 Experience.
> You gained a level! You gained +8 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +7 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.
> You gained a level! You gained +8 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +7 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.
> You gained the Pesticide Aura Perk. Inside your Domain, mold, weeds, and bugs only thrive if you allow them.
Holy cannoli, two whole levels. But damn. Lasers. Also, fucking expensive. In other news, another useless Perk. Twenty points went into Clarity.
I withdrew to a basement and promptly entered design mode. The emitter came with the control schematics but I still needed to supply most of the other parts, like a damn power supply. My LR44s were stronger than they should but still wouldn't cut it. My only choice was to find a better power supply. And I had an idea of where to find it.
Disappointed, I left the basement and started to go toward the next high-rise building block away from the tower I fell in. The buildings around it were all ransacked by me already and I needed more electronics. Always more electronics.
The adventurers were still on their wild goose chase. I hoped whatever they were looking for wasn't me but I didn't set my hopes too high.
I sensed more Spinehounds prowling as they entered my Domain and paused. A pack of twelve, led by a stronger dog. While the normal Spinehounds were sleek, agile, and stealthy, this one was a bruiser and a tank all in one nasty spiky muscle package. It might as well be that the first pack of dogs were scouts for this larger one. They were coming fast. I had to think of something. There was an odd chance they would ignore me if I remained still but I doubted. The other dog came straight toward me from eight floors away. These were no different.
I was so low on Dungeon Mana that I could spend all my pool in less than a minute. My Materialization Speed had really come along. It was also the speed of dematerialization and I started to devour the ruins around me to stock up on DM.
I dedicated three-quarters of my Materialization Speed to gathering resources, and the remaining one-quarter to setting traps. No way I would fight a pack of Spinehounds with an alpha bruiser on my own. I ran the risk of alerting the adventurers of my position and nature but survival came first.
I opened holes in the street where I supposed the Spinehounds would prowl around to get to me and materialized blade traps just like the ones mounted in Kid Sick's forearms. Each trap cost me 75 DM and I could create one every thirty-six seconds.
The dogs sensed the fluctuation of Mana flows and sped up. I had installed two dozen such traps on the street and another six around me on the sidewalk and wall. Kid Sick wasn't an agility bot, it was slow and tanky. I also didn't want to trust my piloting abilities too much.
Then the dogs were upon me. The adventurers were at the edge of my 400-foot-radius domain and didn't seem to notice it. They fired several volleys of spines toward me. I materialized a sheet of steel with a handle, let's call it a tower shield. Bracing, I felt the needles striking and sinking into the steel. Because I created it in a hurry, I'd forgotten to equip Hardened Device Casing. Showers of spines fell all around me, digging into the concrete half their length.
The dogs split and used their tried-and-true tactics of prowling around obstacles while the alpha remained in the back, staring at me. At the shield. That's when I started triggering the traps. I let the first ones pass unchallenged past the first layer of traps, then triggered them at the rearguard. The dogs ahead were startled as they heard the whines of their brethren but the Infernali didn't care much about their survival. Getting a kill and eating a soul was more important than living another day.
None of the dogs I struck died but most also couldn't climb out of the blades impaling them, bleeding out slowly and whining loudly. The ones who did get out did so at a heinous cost. They had to slough off the blades, leaving half their insides behind. These bled even faster as they limped away.
Then I started triggering traps as the dogs went around. I got about nine of them but the remaining three wizened up. I also forgot to hide my traps, focusing on speed. The shiny metal boxes inside the pavement were a dead giveaway. They skirted around the traps and I held them back without triggering them.
Then the game was on. It was three healthy Spinehounds against Kid Sick and its inexperienced pilot. I saved the traps around me for the boss and prepared to stab with the forearm-mounted spring blades. I shoved the shield against the first, leaving my arms free. The second jumped at me and I rotated Kid Sick's torso further than a human body should. I didn't constrain my bot with such limitations and its waist could do a full 720-degree turn or more.
That surprised the dog mid-jump and I stabbed at its belly with my spring blade. Grabbing the hind leg with the free hand, I pulled both arms to opposite sides, cutting the dog open from belly to butt and butchering a leg away. Then I tossed it down.
But the third dog jumped on my back. Its claws latched onto my armor as the dumb beast started to chew on Kid Sick's helmet. The first dog recovered from the impromptu shield bash and joined his comrade. I sprung the second blade on it but only managed to cut a gash across its hideous face.
The alpha decided it was a good time to go and claim the kill. He sauntered down the middle of the street, where I had no traps. When he was twenty feet away, his body glowed green and he blurred the rest of the way, barreling into both me and his subordinates.
Panicking, I triggered all the traps around me. The blades sheared the alpha spines and cut his skin and some muscle but those were mere flesh wounds. With a nasty headbutt, the alpha knocked Kid Sick to the ground and broke three blades off their mounts. One of the dogs was almost crushed.
None of the Infernali let go, though. The three dogs bit and chewed on my armor, trying to pry the arms away and get through the head armor. I thrashed and fought but Kid Sick wasn't made for grappling. Its round design at least meant the dogs didn't have anywhere to latch on. But their teeth shorn spirals of steel swarf off my armor. It was only a matter of time before they breached it.
Without the mobility of my bot, I was doomed. So, if I was about to fall, I would take them with me. It was time for a TPK.
I spent 1,000 points of Substance and a few Dungeon Mana to create a gigantic boulder in the air, 400 feet above us.
Rocks fall, everyone dies.
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.