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Less than five seconds later, it crashed. A fall from 400 feet takes exactly 4.9881 seconds (disregard the fact that G fluctuates wildly across the world) but the boulder's far end was at 400 feet. I had to create the thing entirely inside my domain.

Suffice it to say, none escaped. The brutish Alpha Spinehound actually helped me by cushioning the rock with his not-so-squishy-but-it-doesn't-matter body. His back spines dug into the rock and created several points of failure. But he was crushed nonetheless. The two dogs biting into Kid Sick's chassis didn't stand a chance.

I spent those long five seconds hardening my casing inside Kid Sick's pelvis. The boulder crashed at a hundred miles per hour and shattered, sending a hail of shrapnel and debris everywhere. More than four megajoules of kinetic energy, a bit more than two pounds of TNT, turned the crash into a small explosion.

 

> For killing level 47 Spinehound Alpha, you gained 6,347 Experience points.

> For killing level 41 Spinehound, you gained 1,103 Experience points.

[...] 11 similar messages were suppressed.

> For killing level 45 Darkstalker Rogue, you gained 4,063 Experience points. You gained 49 Dungeon Mana.

> 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 Orchard Mana Perk. You gain 1 base Dungeon Mana per day for each adult tree in your Domain.

> You gained a level! You gained +8 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +7 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.

> You have a new Sub-Class slot. Your next Sub-Class slot is at level 50.

> You learned the Mad Volley Perk: When firing 6 or more projectiles at the same target, gain a linear +1% accuracy and critical chance for each projectile above 5, up to a +10% bonus.

 

Oops, someone was where they shouldn't be. Too bad for Mr. Stalker. But wait. Was he coming to rescue me? Oh, now I felt bad for him.

 

> You suffered major damage. Dungeon Automation is automatically repairing the damage.

 

Now I feel bad for myself.

 

> Your knowledge and training improved your Implements of Demise to rank III.

> Rank III benefits: Hurtful things you design or build deal 1 fewer points of damage to you per rank. This is cumulative with armor.

> Your knowledge and training improved your Implements of Demise to rank IV.

> Rank IV benefits: Hurtful things you design or build have a linear 2% higher critical chance.

 

These benefits came too late. I would have a headache if I had a head. But it was aching nonetheless. I was in a sort of daze.

The Mana from the rogue and then some were spent fixing me. I reabsorbed my traps, the corpses, and then dug a diagonal shaft underneath me, taking me thirty feet underground. No reason to stay there even if under a few tons of debris.

Despite losing Kid Sick, that was a very profitable stunt.

I kept watch. the Adventurers fled the site of the explosion and for a good reason. The noise stirred every single Infernali monster in the neighborhood and they went into a frenzy like someone kicked a hornet's nest. I saw demon birds, demon dogs, and demon hogs get out of their hiding spots and ran in every which direction. The Adventurers would be boxed in and die. On one hand, I could let them die. I stood to gain a smidgen of Exp if they died inside my Domain. On the other hand, they were nice to me. But helping them would expose me.

Fuck that.

I created a sign with Kid Sick's helmet carved on it and the words "go down this basement" right in their path. Then I added a steel door with a heavy bar at the end of the stairs. The back of the door had my helmet engraved.

"Is this the kid?" The DPS warrior conjectured.

"We're dead if we stay in the streets. Go, go!" Shieldbearer decided for them.

The trio ran down the stairs.

"Look, a metal door!" Mage exclaimed with a sudden burst of relief.

"Shut it down!" The DPS shouted. Both warriors collaborated. The door shut close and they placed the bar on the arms on both sides.

I couldn't alter the room with them inside. It was now up to their luck.

"Is this the kid's hideout?" Mage wondered as he lit up a torch made of the same wood as the funeral pyre. It let out no smoke and I sensed no carbon monoxide either.

"I don't see any supplies." The grim Shieldbearer remarked.

"Maybe he has a sustenance Perk." the DPS warrior hypothesized. "Look, it's his helmet at the door."

"Where is that damn rogue?" Mage whimpered.

"Outside. He's on his own. Now, sit down, drink some water, and rest. It's going to take a while for the monsters upstairs to calm down."

 

*


*

 

It took them two days. The infernali didn't seem to need food or water as the monsters kept moving around in a frenzy. Some even went away from the ruined downtown district in search of prey to kill.

I didn't sit idle like the adventurers. No, sir. I installed several hidden blade traps and nabbed some kills. Too bad the diminishing returns on earning levels reduced what I earned from the kills drastically. But the blade traps were essentially free if I retrieved them; I even made them cheaper by removing the withdraw piston and circuit. Now they were single-use but I would just reabsorb and respawn.

Between trap respawns, I delved into design mode and added some improvements to Kid Sick. Rubber soles, gloves, protection at the joints, slightly stronger servos, and a multi-layered spring-mounted casing for my Core.

The concept was simple. A smaller sphere of metal inside a larger sphere of metal, with the gap between them filled with springs in all directions. It gave a lot of shock absorption. The inside of the smaller sphere was packed with cotton balls, I kid you not.

The forearm blades now had a faster reload mechanism. I could stab once every seven or eight seconds. I also added a rubber strip to remove the gunk from the blade, to keep the insides from getting dirty in combat. I could always remove debris and replace damaged components on the fly if no other creatures were nearby.

After the bulk of the monsters went away, I climbed out of my hidey-hole on Mark III mechanical body, "Blade Bot".

 

> You created a new contraption. Mark III mechanical body, "Bad Bet".

> For this (Very Rare) level 35 contraption, you gained 1,378 Experience points.

 

I was pretty sure they were doing this on purpose. But hey, Bad Bet was not a bad name. Though it had a racing horse or poker feeling to it.

This model had better balance, fast and slow actuators that could be activated independently for more agility, a wider range of movements, and faster-acting weapons. I also added blade traps at the elbows, forehead, and ankles. The latter popped up at an angle from under the knees

Anyway, the skyscraper awaited me. Dead people, computers, and smartphones galore.

 

*


*

 

Along the way, I found a parking garage that was half-collapsed but with all the cars inside. I didn't care how smashed and rusted the cars were. Only if their electronics survived the decades of abandonment. I started absorbing them and learned more components. An LCD screen. Throttle control. Autopilot. GPS navigation, for all the good it would do to me. Were the satellites up there anymore?

And then I found the real treasure. Eleven electric vehicles died in those charging parking spots at the corner of the building. Absorbing them granted me a key element I needed.

 

> You learned how to create Lithium-Ion batteries. Cost: 5 Substance and 6 Dungeon Mana per 2,000 mA/h.

> For unlocking this level 30 (Epic) component, you gained 1,538 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 the Ambient Light Perk: Dungeon rooms you infuse with your DM while using this Perk can have innate lighting. You can control the illumination level or even set a pattern. Each pattern uses one slot of Dungeon Automation.

 

They really want me to plant a garden. What was the previous Perk? Trees now give Dungeon Mana? How did I miss that? Anyway, batteries. A normal cellphone battery would cost 15 DM then. But if the LR44s were any basis of comparison... hum... Anyway, with these, I no longer needed stack upon stack of LR44. I had the power to create Li-ion batteries from those that went on earbuds to car-sized ones.

Only one thing kept me going toward the skyscraper. I needed more computers to unlock the ability to create a proper PC with CPU, memory, and HDD storage.

As I reached the office buildings, the basement hosting the Adventurer went out of my Domain reach. They were on their own now.

I picked the tallest building in the middle of the district. With my mastery over piloting the mechanical bodies improving, I split my focus to start designing a series of destructive devices that were, as the Japanese anime liked to say, "full of romance."

I'm gotta fire my Laz0rz!

The ascent was uneventful. Everything became energy to fuel my resources, and when my Matter pool became full I started dropping large steel blocks in my wake. Whether they would be considered a treasure by those who came behind, or if I would come back for them later, I didn't know.

Climbing the middle building allowed me to also raid all the nearby buildings a block away through my domain. I took my time to check each computer, trying to learn the schematics for those complex silicon chips.

Finally, the expected notifications came.

 

> You learned how to create ARM microprocessor.

> For unlocking this level 35 (Epic) component, you gained 3,752 Experience.

> You learned how to create Z-80 microprocessor.

> For unlocking this level 30 (Epic) component, you gained 1,231 Experience.

> You learned how to create DRAM chip.

> For unlocking this level 30 (Epic) component, you gained 1,231 Experience.

> You gained a level! You gained +8 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +7 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.

> You learned how to create EPROM chip.

> For unlocking this level 30 (Epic) component, you gained 1,231 Experience.

> You learned how to create NAND Flash chip.

> For unlocking this level 40 (Epic) component, you gained 11,447 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 the Peace of the Forest Perk: Creatures (other than you) who attempt violent acts closer than 50 feet to one of your trees or target them lose 50% of all Attributes' effectiveness unless they beat you at a Will contest. You gain a bonus of +10 in this contest for each tree in your orchard. The penalty lasts for 24 hours or until you forgive the offender.

 

> You still have an open Sub-Class slot, you know?

 

Damn this passive Aggressive system. I opened the list and selected the one that would grant me the power I needed.

 

> You became a Computer Engineer (Epic)

> A lost and forgotten art whose tools became inert with the advent of magic, the Computer Engineer can design, build, and program computers. What else did you expect?

> You gain +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom, and +1 Will per level.

> You gained the Class Skill, Computer Sciences. You can research, design, build, and program computers and algorithms.

> Rank I Benefit: Your debugging sessions have a linear 5% higher chance of success per rank.

> All your experience gains are directed to this Class until it matches your level. Your overall level for Exp gains will be averaged until it does so.

> You gained 5 levels in Computer Engineer. You gained +10 Intelligence, +10 Wisdom, and +5 Will.

> You gained the Keyboard Basher Perk: You type 100% faster. Buttons you push react 100% faster as well.

 

My effective level dropped from 28 to 20, including those five levels from burning the leftover Exp I had. This was a big boon. As usual, this sub-Class required 1,000 Exp to level up and that would be added to my Exp-to-level. I needed to gain another 23,000 Exp to equalize my levels now.

I placed five of my free points in Hardness to reach the next armor threshold. That shit saved my ass. Know what? With another 23 points, It would add another level of Armor. I had eighty to spend, so there. Survivability improved. Willpower was rather important now, with these contested checks. I added twenty points there to push it closer to the others. The remainder went to Clarity.

Now I needed to overhaul Bad Bet so it would enjoy the benefits of my improved Armor score.

 

Name: Skip May Neming Species: Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)
Main Class: Electronic Apple Orchard (L) Level:  28
Sub-Class: Architect of Destruction (V) Exp/ Level: 233 / 8,000
Computer Engineer (E)
Level 5
Attributes Base Score   Efficiency Modified Score

Intelligence (In)

242 (200%) 484

Wisdom (Ws)

242 (200%) 484

Willpower (Wp)

231 (220%) 508

Clarity (Cl)

221 (220%) 486

Hardness (Hd)

285 (220%) 627
Resources Base Current   Maximum

DM (Cl)

380+20 2,237 2,343
SP (Wp) 380 2,310 2,310
Materialization (Ws) 140 --- 817
Armor [sqrt(Hd)]:  25 --- (10 / 75%)
Traits Puzzle Dungeon Dungeon Automation Replicate Electronics
Sanctuary Orchard Dungeon Domain
Skills
Engineering V
  • You can visualize a blueprint. Doing so reduces the chances of mishap by 5% per rank.
  • Your contraptions are 5% sturdier per rank.
  • Discount 5% per rank to repair traps.
  • Moving parts experience 5% less friction, wear, and snags per rank.
  • The deviation in your measurements are 5% smaller per rank.
Implements of Demise IV
  • When designing a new project meant to cause harm, it deals 5% more damage per rank.
  • When attacking with an unexpected weapon or from ambush, you deal 10% more damage per rank.
  • Hurtful things you design or build deal 1 fewer point of damage to you per rank. This is cumulative with armor.
  • Hurtful things you design or build have a linear 2% higher critical chance.

Computer Sciences I
  • Your debugging sessions have a linear 5% higher chance of success per rank.
Perks Minor Levitation (2ft) Telekinetic Button Pusher Domain Beacon
Sturdy Domain Extra Crystallization Tough Capacitor Hardened Device Casing
Speak Binary Green Thumb Rapid Growth Pesticide Aura
Orchard Mana Ambient Light Peace of the Forest

 

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About the author

MDW

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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