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Before I could make a computer, I needed levels. I had to be at least level 30 to use these new components, bless the asshole managing the System.

My wish was to fortify the building, hunker down, and do as every Dungeon ought to do, create my own tortuous maze. But no. I had to check on the adventurers, and then the Infernali. I rode Bad Bet out into the streets, noticing how easier it was to pilot this one. The next model would hopefully have stabilization and aiming software to help but that was a long way away.

My first contact with the Infernali was a nest of mutated rats. They had humongous pustules growing in them that were filled with some sort of sickly-looking gel or pus. It wobbled and jiggled as they walked and I was pretty sure they were suicide bombers. That shit had to be acidic or flammable or corrosive to the flesh. I couldn't see how to hit them without bursting one of those bags.

My Domain reached an extra 84 feet after my last round of levels. That was a 20% increase in range but almost half as much area. One of the advantages of being a Dungeon was that I didn't have to fight stuff from up close. Anything that died in my Domain by my "hands" was fair game.

I stopped and opened my design mode. I took my blade trap, changed the blade into a thin spike about six inches long, multiplied the spikes by nine for each unit, then removed the stops that kept the blade from going out. Also, the reload mechanism. That made this trap cost half as much as the blade, delivering nine times the hurt. I put some plastic wings like those on darts to make the spikes more aerodynamic. I also added buttons to release each spike individually or all at once. That didn't cost too much.

 

> You created a new contraption. Spike Launcher Trap. For this level 20 (Uncommon) creation, you gained 150 Experience Points.

 

Meh, I'll take it.

The Pustule Rat warren was in a basement garage somewhere near where the Adventurers' bunker was. The access ramp was the only way in or out and I installed dozens of spike launcher traps around the door. The flow of Mana didn't go unnoticed by them. They seemed to have better senses than the dogs or perhaps they weren't expecting it. Anyway, that kicked the warren into a frenzy. The pups went to the back while the adult males rushed forward. I had 360 vision inside my Domain so don't ask how I knew they were males.

I shifted my focus to the traps, and then I remembered I had a power I seldom used. Dungeon Automation. I set a rule. "Fire a spike every time a rat enters the firing line of a trap. Do not fire if the rat has been fired upon in the last two seconds." That ate two rules out of the five I had available. I felt a small pressure in my mind, like a very mild migraine after a day of honest work. But that was still better than the tension of waiting to fire the traps or shifting my focus from trap to trap to shoot them manually.

Ten of the rats came and the traps fired. "Boing Zip" the contraptions went as the coils unloaded and the darts ripped through the air. They were struck in random places as I hadn't specified where to aim the spikes or which one of the nine to choose from. The damn Dungeon Automation went from the top-left and onward.

As the darts came into contact with the sacs, they burst. No matter if it hit one or two, all sacs in each rat struck burst open in a shower of... stuff. A smell of putrescence and rot, worse than a thousand sunless landfills spread through the garage ramp. The damn rats were fine, though. The gel had absorbed most of the force behind the spikes and the bursting gel pushed it away. Then the rats started eating their own gel.

I was baffled. They took the second round of spikes as they ate, this time sinking deep into their flesh. It was rather comical how they dragged the flaps of the burst sacs but I stopped chuckling in my mind as I saw why they were eating that.

The rotten gel started to buff the rats, pushing my spikes out of their flesh as their muscle mass doubled, then doubled again, then doubled a third time for good measure. The third and fourth volleys punched into their buff muscles (which had octupled, for the math-challenged) without any visible effect.

Then the rats screamed. The building shook, causing loose debris and dust to fall all around. Cracks formed in the concrete. They stood on their hind paws and their bodies shifted, becoming more human-like. The fifty and the sixth volleys of spikes drew some blood.

Then the rats sang a dissonant chord. Their forelimbs popped and twisted, becoming arms and their paws gained opposable thumbs. The remaining three spikes from each trap aimed at them killed some of the ridiculously muscular man-rats.

 

> For Killing level 33 Frankenrodent, you gained 2,690 Experience points.

> For killing level 31 Frankenrodent, you gained 1,722 Experience points.

> For killing level 29 Frankenrodent, you gained 1,103 Experience points.

[...] 3 similar messages were suppressed.

> You gained 8 levels in Computer Engineer. You gained +16 Intelligence, +16 Wisdom, and +8 Will.

> You learned the Debug Console Perk. You can see the register values in computers you crafted and own.

 

But the effect of their sonic attack triggered all the other traps, sending hundreds of spike darts flying into the garage ramp and beyond. More rats in the back had their sacs burst open. The entire buffing process started all over again.

The surviving rats pulled the spikes out of their flesh and walked out of the garage. I counted seven bodybuilder rodents with floppy skin from the former bags dangling from their bodies. There they sniffed the air and screamed again. I noticed some Infernali birds flying away from the sound.

They picked some scents and then ran. Toward the Adventurers. In a flash, they were outside my Domain.

If Bad Bet had a jaw, I would slack it. If it had eyes, I would widen it. Inside the garage, more and more buff rats were coming out. A few females stayed behind with the young that didn't have well-developed sacs but after the second wave of buff rats sauntered out of the garage, the ones left behind rushed to devour their dead brethren and what gel they left behind.

What the hell were these?

I broke into a jog, the sound of metal on metal punctuating my hurry as Bad Bet ran to put the adventurer bunker in range of my Domain.

Fuck, wait. Domain Beacon.

A cone of Domain extended my perception for another 900 feet starting at the edge of my domain. I saw the seven buff rats running on two digitigrade legs toward the unsuspecting Adventurers.

They had left the bunker and were searching the streets. The scream from the Frankenrodents was loud enough to alert them.

"We got incoming." DPS warrior warned.

"Damn, I think it's frenzied Frankenrodent, by the scream." Mage cursed.

"We need to go back to the bunker. Go!" Shieldbearer commanded.

They wouldn't make it. The rodents were too fast and the men were too far away from the bunker. I doubt the steel would hold against those piles of muscles. I had to act.

I entered design mode for a couple of seconds and then started to implement my new creation. It was Substance-heavy but I could eat buildings all day to make up for it.

Walls of steel covered in hooked spears heads sprung to block the street. Each ten by ten feet wall segment cost me 200 Substance and 30 Dungeon Mana. I had to add some dart mechanisms to make it count as a trap, otherwise, that cost would be doubled. I also gained a little Exp for creating it but that stationary, obvious thing wasn't considered high-level. All you had to do to not get hurt was to stay away from it. Also, the walls had braces on the back and were anchored five feet into the ground

Four sections closed each street. I blocked the direct route to the Adventurers and the frenzied rats ran straight for the walls, trying to bash them down. It didn't work for them. Hardened Casing and Glistening Blades did their work and punched right into the rats as they stabbed themselves.

The monsters screamed sweet murder and tried to climb the wall. Hearing the screams, the adventurers went into a panic and rushed back to the bunker, with the DPS warrior leading, then the mage, and lastly the tin can shieldbearer.

I stared in horror as the buff rats tore their own flesh climbing the spear wall. They were caught on the bladed hooks but still pushed, bleeding all over the pristine steel wall and stabbing their arms and hands on the spears as they went. Strips of muscle and skin were left in their wake and one of the rats even yanked an arm out of its socket in its mad attempt to overcome the obstacle.

I spawned some dart traps aimed at the top of the wall. My previous Dungeon Automation rules were active and the rats who reached the top took spike after spike to the head. That did the trick. I earned seven kill messages and a sweet, sweet silence. Then I absorbed the corpses just to clean them up and leave the magic stones behind, which I collected in a leather bag I Replicated. Just like the dogs, the rats' bodies were worth shit.

 

> For killing level 31 Frankenrodent, you gained 883 Experience points.

[...] 6 Messages suppressed.

> You gained 6 levels in Computer Engineer. You gained +12 Intelligence, +12 Wisdom, and +6 Will.

> You learned the Insulated Circuits Perk. Computers you craft are resistant to liquids and cool down 50% better.

 

Right in time, because the second wave of rodents reached the wall. I reset the spike traps and watched as the dumb buff rats did the same thing as their forerunners. This time I added more spike traps to the buildings on either side of the street, angled to catch them mid-climb. It was more humane than to let them tear themselves apart on the walls. Five more kill messages dinged in my mind.

 

> For killing level 28 Frankenrodent, you gained 291 Experience points.

[...] 4 Messages suppressed.

> You gained a level in Computer Engineer. You gained +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom, and +1 Will.

> You learned the Silicon Sense Perk. Your Domain can perceive the layout of a silicon wafer chip.

 

Oh, the diminishing returns from leveling up. They break my heart. The Perk seemed to be useful to learn more complex chips. Also to see defects in the ones I would create in the future.

This time I took down the walls and traps, recuperating my spent resources. Then I went back to the warren and took a page from the Spinehounds playbook, turning every rat in there into pincushions remotely, including the not-so-cute pups. Who am I lying to? They were disgustingly ugly. The rats that didn't mutate were called Blistermice. The ones in the warren were of a lower level than the berserking males that came out. With levels Ranging between 23 and 26, they gave crap Exp but it was still enough to advance my new Sub-Class another 3 levels.

 

> You gained 3 levels in Computer Engineer. You gained +6 Intelligence, +6 Wisdom, and +3 Will.

 

Analysis of the gel showed it contained steroids, carcinogenic components, and some magical stuff I had no idea what it was. I'm going to call it Mutagen-Rat. But the feeling I had was that this gel would be a deadly poison to anyone but the rats. In a sense, it was poison for the rats too. Their berserk state couldn't be very conducive to a long and healthy life.

You see, they could have chosen a different path in life. They could, dunno, learn martial arts and then train turtles, but no. They had to do a horrible reenactment of the "Beat It" trailer mixed with Attack on Titan. I hate this city.

 

*

 

*

 

The next morning, the Sun found Bad Bet sitting on the top of a building, meditating. Yeah, no. The damn puppet didn't even count as a robot, no way it couldn't meditate. But it was the thought that counted. I opened my Status and tried to see what I was missing among my abilities. In the frenzied state of survival and looting, I was in, many things passed straight through my head. I didn't even have a head.

One of the things was my sign. I was a Gemini, it seemed. And I had the power to glimpse the "truths of the universe" once a day. Was it any good? I wouldn't hold my breath about that, not that I breathed either. I used it.

My perception expanded. It was like how you know where the walls are around you, but then the things behind the wall, and the next wall. it expanded until I felt like a grain of sand against the marvelous backdrop of the cosmos. It was a sublime experience, one that vanished and left me with a sense of want, of lacking, of ignorance. But a nugget of wisdom remained.

I scratched my chin. Didn't have one of these but the thought was what counted. "Oh, so that is why quantum entanglement can't be used for superluminal communications. You cannot tell when the other side has triggered the entanglement unless you learn the people holding the other entangled particle did it through another means. And if you measure the particle, it collapses the entanglement anyway." [1]

It was a profound and utterly useless nugget of wisdom. But it was wisdom nonetheless. I pulled up my Status and darn! I didn't gain a point in the Attribute.

Anyway. I added two racks of sixteen spike traps (that's 144 spikes each, lots of hidden buttons to push on the inside) to Bad Bet's shoulders. Then I went to meet the Adventurers. It was time to get them to leave this accursed place.

 

Name: Skip May Neming Species: Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)
Level:  28 Exp/ Level: --- / 8,000
Main Class: Electronic Apple Orchard (L)
Sub-Classes: Architect of Destruction (V) Computer Engineer (E) - Level 23
Attributes Base Score   Efficiency Modified Score

Intelligence (In)

278 (200%) 556

Wisdom (Ws)

278 (200%) 556

Willpower (Wp)

249 (220%) 547

Clarity (Cl)

221 (220%) 486

Hardness (Hd)

285 (220%) 627
Resources Base Current   Maximum

DM (Cl)

380+20 2,343 2,343
SP (Wp) 380 2,458 2,458
Materialization (Ws) 140 --- 918
Armor [sqrt(Hd)]:  25 --- (10 / 75%)
Traits Puzzle Dungeon Dungeon Automation Replicate Electronics
Sanctuary Orchard Dungeon Domain Rock Hard
Skills Engineering V Implements of Demise IV Computer Sciences I
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
Glistening Blades Chink in Armor Wind-Gliding Bullet "Oops, I was in range"
Mad Volley
Keyboard Basher Debug Console Insulated Circuits Silicon Sense

[1] (https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/78130/48721)

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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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