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I had now close to half a mile of range. 2,100 feet, to be precise. Cast a beacon, spin it around the edge of my Domain, scan the surroundings, and expand the map. It was a 1:500 replica of the city and was already almost 7 feet in radius. But it was all in my mind.

The Algorithm Encyclopedia was actually a glorified notepad. As any programmer would tell you, that's all you need to program, anyway. I kept the map in there, as ASCII art. I noticed it could even run a script to modify the text, so it was not even just a notepad. Probably a very primitive IDE.

It's been a week since the Adventurers... erm... died. I wasn't proud of that but I was also still free. I needed power. I needed to reach level 40 to start producing lasers and computers, and something to defend myself against higher-leveled people.

This week, I walked in a spiral pattern, hunting monster nests. Raiding the buildings for useful electronics. I still had some components I needed to complete. Like the higher-generation computers. I was hanging at level 39. As I approached the monster's levels, each kill started giving only a few hundred Exp. I believe people would hunt monsters below their level, and that meant they would need to kill literally hundreds of beasts to earn a single level.

 

> You learned how to create 32-bit Pentium™ processors. For learning this (Rare) component...

> You learned how to make 32-bit x86 processors. For learning this (Rare) component...

> You learned how to make 32-bit AIM PowerPC™ processors. For learning this (Rare) component...

> You learned how to create LCD screens. For learning this (Uncommon) component...

> You learned how to create G-Force GPU. For learning this (Rare) component...

> You learned how to create HDD drives. For learning this (Uncommon) component...

> You learned how to create WIfi transmitter/receiver. For learning this (Uncommon) component...

> You gained 4 levels. You gained +40 Intelligence, +24 Wisdom, +32 Will, +20 Clarity, and +28 Hardness. You have 40 Attribute Points.

> You learned the Magical Sap Perk: You can infuse excess Mana into plants, and later retrieve it. While infused, plants grow 50% faster and yield 50% better produce.

> You learned the Tree Trap Perk: Traps you install on plants are 50% harder to detect and deal 50% more damage.

 

The System was leaning heavily on the plant aspect. I could get a hint but it was not the right time to start an orchard or even a forest.

 

I reached Another Spinehound nest. This one was inside my spiral and the monsters had moved into another nest I'd cleared two days ago. The damn beasts were spreading back to areas I'd already cleared and I didn't know what I could do that would both keep them out and not scream that I was around. Anyway. Back to work.

I couldn't complain about earning fewer Experience points. The monsters were much easier to hunt now. The SPLINTER darts were nice but too short-ranged. I focused and spawned my newest creation. A metal tube, with a bigger dart inside, on a swivel tripod mount. Then I issued the orders to Dungeon Automation.

"Move the tube so the front end is aimed at the entrance of the Spinehound nest. Fire the weapon."

The motors on the swivel mount moved on their own. The tube's rear end ignited and the bazooka's payload flew toward the nest. Boom, boom, bakudan.

 

> For killing level 38 Spinehound, you gained 120 Experience points.

> For killing...

 

Yeah, Greg. Gimme that sweet garlic. Skip. Skip.

The Exp from these beasts used to be ten times larger or more. Oh, well. The only issue with using the bazooka was that I lost a lot of DM points. Explosives, as they probably should be, were non-refundable. But the best part was that the explosion created no smoke column or debris flying around. I had another rule set on Dungeon Automation that captured all smoke and flying shrapnel and then absorbed it.

 

*

 

*

 

Three days after, I finally reached the dreamed milestone.

 

> You gained a level! You gained +10 Intelligence, +6 Wisdom, +8 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.

> You learned the Hardened Dungeon Walls Perk. Your Dungeon walls have an extra ( 100 / 90% ) armor, so long you leave a path open to your Core.

> You learned the Lingering Wounds Perk. Wounds heal 90% slower if caused by you, using a weapon you created.

> You learned the Overclock Perk. You can increase a computer's performance by 50%. Doing so doubles the wear on the machine.

> You reached a major milestone. Select one Attribute to increase its efficiency by 20%.

 

I added the efficiency to Hardness. The reason was simple. Survivability. If push came to shove, I wanted to make sure nothing would hurt me to the point I expired. I also put thirty-five points in Hardness, to increase my armor to 32. The remaining fifteen went into Willpower to increase my resource regeneration.

There it was. The System was sneaking some mixed blessings to force me to keep things "fair". Where is fair when people treat you like an object? Like some sort of prize?

But I swear I would use that Perk well in my future Dungeon. it also gave me a benchmark of what the System considered to be "invulnerable". Actually... I erected a 10x10x10 cube of "Dungeon wall" and infused it. Then I fired the bazooka at it, letting the Automation remove the smoke but not the debris. When the dust settled, I saw the block of stone with a comically charred starburst pattern painted on it with soot. No damage whatsoever.

Yeah, I could work with that. Nobody would ever reach my Core if people couldn't break my walls. But wait. More data points were needed.

I set a pound of TNT (it cost me 75 Dungeon Mana) to explode next to the wall. Nothing. Two pounds. Ten pounds. It scratched the wall. I shielded myself inside one huge block of reinforced Dungeon two hundred feet away (it had a 30-foot tunnel facing backward to be compliant with the rules) and detonated a charge of twenty pounds of TNT. I had to wait a few days to gather that much Mana but I had to know.

The buildings in the adjacent blocks were reduced to rubble. Okay, finer rubble. Well, more rubble. The pressure shockwave even found a way inside my bunker as the air inside was sucked out by the differential.

The block of Dungeon wall... Cracked in half. The explosion would be stronger inside a contained environment but fuck. The blast wrecked everything inside my Domain.

I absorbed back the blocks. Okay, my Dungeon plan was a go. I would spend a lot of time experimenting anyway, better get started.

 

*


*

 

I dug a shaft leading straight down, a mile underneath the city. The shaft was round and twenty feet wide, with fifteen feet of Dungeon wall all around. I spent a month digging and reinforcing that much stone. But the Dungeon Mana regeneration was exhilarating. The shaft alone gave me 704 Dungeon mana per day. Since it was my Dungeon, I could sense everything up to the edge of the shaft. If I wanted to sense further, I needed to use the beacon. The shaft had a blade trap every two feet on average, set at random. I wanted to see who would attempt to climb down. I even installed some SPLINTER launchers to catch flying intruders. I could absorb the falling projectiles before they reached the ground below.

At the bottom, I opened a massive square room a thousand feet on each side and a hundred feet tall. I had to set some pillars here and there but that didn't matter. Digging into this room took less time than I expected. Again, it had fifteen feet thick Dungeon walls and I set the roof and walls to shine like summer noon with no cycles. The room yielded 800 Dungeon Mana per day, naked.

But I didn't want it to be naked. No. If they wanted me to plant trees, they would get their wish. First, I layered ten feet of fertilized dirt on the whole room. Then I had grass grow on the dirt.

I planted a hundred and fifty red maple trees on each acre, every twenty-two of them. That gave me 3,300 trees that should convert into that much Dungeon Mana once they grew to adulthood. Which, according to one book I found lying around, would take five years. Half that because of my Rapid Growth Perk, then a third off because of Magical Sap. All I had to do was to put one DM point in the sapling. Finally, I had the Plant Growth spell. I regenerated 1,100 MP every day and which was equal to 897 days of growth per day for a single tree. The amount of MP I needed to get one of those maple trees to start producing DM for me straight out of the seed was 745 MP.

The first tree to reach adulthood gave me a surprise.

 

> For growing a level 15 red maple tree, you gained 4 Experience points.

 

I was wondering if low-level kills gave any Experience and it seems this is the answer. I only needed two thousand trees for each level. Save the world, grow stronger. That put me in a good mood. I also found out that I could convert my normal MP to DM at a rate of ten to one, and convert DM to MP one to two. The DM I was receiving from my hole in the ground allowed me to grow three and a half trees every day. I set it to only three, keeping the remaining 300 Dungeon Mana to dig and make more tunnels.

Two months of work gave me more than five hundred adult red maple trees. As they matured, the amount of Mana available grew. Also, the Mana the trees gave was "base" Dungeon Mana. Which was then multiplied by my Willpower Attribute. That sped up the growth of the rest of the maple forest immensely. I had to spend a few points of Dungeon Mana every day to replenish the nutrients in the soil but that was an insignificant expenditure.

I occasionally got some Infernali monsters who were kind enough to send sacrifices down the shaft. It allowed me to test the SPLINTER traps and they worked as intended. Whenever an enemy walked in front of one of the traps, the Dungeon Automation fired eleven bolts at them from each launcher. The poor kinetic boars and rats didn't have a chance. Any debris and corpses vanished before they reached half the shaft's length.

On each side of the massive room, a tunnel with ten feet thick walls went for a hundred and fifty feet (every thirty feet gave me 1 DM per day). The tunnels formed a maze going around the main chamber to confuse delvers. If they found the correct path, which took two complete loops around the maple chamber, they would reach another shaft that went down for another three hundred feet (ten points each), then moved back and into another massive tree-growing chamber. The maze gave me 400 Dungeon Mana per day.

Rinse, repeat. Another room for trees, but this time I mixed up several fruit-bearing trees. Apples, mangoes, peaches, oranges, lemons, and so on. I found that climate was really not an issue. My Perks granted more than enough vitality to compensate for that. The only problem was that I had no way to go back to the maple room. Anyway, I could work on the fruit trees in the meanwhile.

 

*


*

 

"By the Patriarch, I can't believe it," the mage gasped. "It is a massive funnel of Mana, sucking in all the corrupted Mana around it."

"If it is only the corrupted Mana, then I have no complaints," the priest next to him jested. "Is that the place?"

"Yes. This is the last known location of the Timberwolves and the source of the Mana surge. They came here half a year ago and never came out." A steel-clad knight replied.

"These cities give me the creeps," the mage said. "Did people really live in these tall towers?"

"Yeah. And they rode in these cars. I heard it was a really good method of transportation back in the day."

"My grandpa used to tell me stories from before the Apocalypse," a rogue girl clad in black and wearing goth makeup commented. "Cars were nice. Everyone had one."

"You can have one. There, take it," the priest joked as he pointed at a rusted tin can. The girl sneered back.

"What level were the Timberwolves? By the Infernali we met so far, this is a level fifty zone."

"They were in the forties from what I knew. But they were desperate for money and Lord Marshall's bounty was huge."

"Still is," the mage said, without taking his eyes off the massive hole in the ground. "And the artifact is probably down there."

"We'll be rich," the girl cheered.

The group approached the shaft, walking over fifteen feet of polished smooth stone. Then they peeked down.

The fools had no idea. They were already inside my Dungeon.

 

Name: Skip May Neming Species: Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)
Level:  40 Exp/ Level: 2,527 / 8,000
Main Class: Electronic Apple Orchard (L)
Sub-Classes: Architect of Destruction (V) Computer Engineer (E)
Attributes Base Score   Efficiency Modified Score

Intelligence (In)

408 (200%) 816

Wisdom (Ws)

380 (200%) 760

Willpower (Wp)

355 (220%) 781

Clarity (Cl)

308 (220%) 677

Hardness (Hd)

427 (240%) 1024
Resources Base Current   Maximum
MP (Cl) 125 971 971 (1101/day)
DM (Cl) 500+115 4,770 4,778
SP (Wp) 500 3,157 4,405
Materialization (Ws) 210 --- 1,806
Armor sqrt(Hd):  32 --- (17 / 75%)
Traits Puzzle Dungeon Dungeon Automation Replicate Electronics
Sanctuary Orchard Dungeon Domain Rock Hard
Algorithm Encyclopedia Spawn Explosives
Skills Engineering V Implements of Demise IV Computer Sciences I
Plant Sorcery I
Grimoire Plant Growth Empty Spell Slot
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 Shield Plants
Plant Shield Pacifying Grass
Glistening Blades Chink in Armor Wind-Gliding Bullet "Oops, I was in range"
Mad Volley Premeditated Murder
Keyboard Basher Debug Console Insulated Circuits Silicon Sense
Third Fork Coffee in, Code out

 

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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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