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Borne out of the landfill, always of the landfill. The next day started with Marshall's goons dumping another half dozen cartloads of debris and dead Infernali down my shaft.

I used Inspiration. I welcomed the feeling of expanding and sailing the cosmos. My worries felt small. I plucked a nugget of the truth on my way back.

The System is artificial and mass-produced. It is often installed in magical worlds as a means of helping the masses develop magic and also as means of control. While it allows many to gain some power, it keeps the few from truly ascending.

That was horrifying and sobering.

Anyway, time to experiment. I created another corridor leading to a dozen rooms next to the village wall and added a sign. "Only enter with permission from Garfield Babbage." It read.

Inside each room, I spawned two dozen chickens, two roosters, six cows, one bull, a dozen sheep of each gender, and the same amount of pigs. All of the animals were in cages with stocked feeders and water.

A second set of thirty-two-acre rooms had fields were filled with mature corn, wheat, flax, Japanese sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and tomatoes.

Then I rang a bell in the village square. A large billboard allowed everyone to see what I had to say, I mean, write.

<To the north, there are crop fields with fresh-grown crops. Harvest and stock the food. You are responsible for replanting the fields. The room to the west has livestock. Form groups of ten people. Each group may take the animals in one room. You must make sure the animals are well cared for and bred. If you slaughter all of them, you won't get replacements. Grow your own food, and tend to your own animals.>

"Animals?" A man asked.

"Peaceful monsters from before the end of the old world," an older man explained. "Edible too. Most were delicious."

"Can we eat them?"

"Can't you read, dumbass? We are supposed to breed them."

That wouldn't work. I hastily added, "If someone has the Farmer or Rancher Classes unlocked, I suggest changing. It will greatly help you."

"We don't have no (Very Rare) Classes unlocked, Mr. Babbage, sir." The charismatic man replied to the billboard.

"Otherwise we wouldn't be here!" The older man chortled.

I understood. A person's worth was defined by personal power. Much of that hinged on rarity. I changed the sign.

<A challenge to you, then. Go and unlock those Classes. I shall grant a reward if you can prove you did.>

I noticed some of them staring with unfocused eyes. Then they cheered. Then they cheered more. "A QUEST!" The people exulted, not all at once.

While I stood (metaphorically) confused, they rushed to collect their bounties. Many animals were slaughtered and barbecued outright but I expected that. That was the reason I had multiple sets of each.

 

*


*

 

I went back to planting and growing trees. My new sub-Class only needed 250 maples to level and I could grow about that much per day. Floors four and five came alive and each tree that reached maturity was more Mana to invest in more trees.

Marshall sent another group of people. A hundred exactly. Before they reached the shaft, I already had the stairs and handrails in place. But something was odd. A few of the convicted refugees carried themselves with a more dignified stance. I cast a beacon and saw why. Their auras were an order of magnitude bigger than the others.

I would counter that later on. I kept my focus on the shaft, to see if any stealthed individual would attempt to come down. But it seems that after the first two infiltrators, he changed his plans.

The people started climbing down. This group had about twenty-two women and the same number of children. Mother and child, I was sure of it, by the way, they behaved. As usual, I led them to the chamber with beds and split them into the two adjacent sets of rooms. The women and children went into one while the other two received twenty-eight men each, seven to each room. More than enough room to give everyone space. But that also allowed me to better scrutinize their auras.

The women were in the clear. I quickly ushered them into the baths, then fed them fruit after they agreed to the rules. I let them descend at their own pace, with plenty of bedding at each rest stop. It meant leaving the men to their own for a couple of days.

They drank the water, talked to one another, and even ate the herb and berry bushes (and the berries too). I witnessed the high-leveled people use their sustenance Perks. It caused a shift in their aura. What I heard was true. Everyone needed to do some sort of ritual and after they repeated it at the same time while the others didn't, it became very obvious.

 

*


*

 

The next day, I remembered to use Daydream.

 

> You received the stdio C package.

 

Oh. Something very good came up. Yeah, yeah. I can work with this. The code package went automatically to my Algorithm Encyclopedia.

 

*


*

 

Then I had a sign sending people to the baths without showing them the rules. The men all complied but the high-leveled ones refused to dump all their possessions in the chute. It was obvious why. Some of their equipment was enchanted. I shut all the shower stalls with Dungeon walls. The chutes met the path-to-core requirements. I let the innocent men put on their new clothes and took them to the rules placard that was right before the mess hall. While they debated the rules, I focused on the six adventurers that were trapped in the shower. They hadn't undressed.

When they tried to leave the stall without showering, they noticed the door was missing. They attacked the walls, dealing fuck all damage. Their weapon strikes might have been a handkerchief flapping against a steel sheet. They shouted for help but the stone was thick enough to let no sound through. I let them go through the stages of grief until they reached bargaining.

I put a sign behind them. The corridor was almost too short to let me do so. Shifting the lighting, I drew their attention to it.

<What deal did you strike with Marshall?>

"What deal?" One of them tried to misdirect. "That bastard imprisoned me and dumped me here to die!"

The others gave too similar answers, hinting at it being a rehearsed answer. I shifted the sign.

<What is your main Class level?>

"I won't say that!"

"That's absurd!"

"Twelve!"

"Too low, mighty Dungeon!"

The variety of answers told me this one wasn't expected.

<I can find out if I kill you. Do you wish that?>

They begged and threatened. Selecting one of them at random, I created more tunnels, this time completely dark, behind their shower stalls, then removed the shower wall. At the end of this tunnel, I installed a ballista. The SPLINTER was nice and cheap but lacked the punch to penetrate good armor.

<You won't ever return to the surface. Whatever Marshall promised you, I can double. But lie to me another time, and you'll die.>

"Shit!" One of them said, staring straight at the hidden ballista bolt. "If you kill me, you are dead."

I fired. A magical shield flared to life in front of this man, deflecting the bolt but cracking in the process. The projectile actually punched through but with so little force it wouldn't seriously hurt a level zero person. I reloaded the ballista. He ran, crossing a hundred feet of tunnel in the blink of an eye. So that's the speed of a high-level person. The bolt fired and he drew his sword, deflecting the projectile but grunting as his wrist took the shock. The man tried to break the ballista but this one was made out of solid steel. He still left some inch-deep dents where he could.

Then a second ballista fired from behind. He took the bolt to his flank. Meanwhile, the other men were trying to negotiate for their lives.

"Please don't kill me! I was just hired to scout this place!"

I didn't reply. This person had broken the rules. Did I need to kill them? Was the amount of information gained this far too much of a liability? I decided that yes, it was. The ballista fired again, this time aimed at his head.

 

> For killing level 54 duelist, you gained 5,078 Experience points.

> You gained 5 levels of plains master. You gained +10 Wisdom, +10 Will, and +5 Clarity.

> You learned the River and Lake DLC Trait. You can now spawn fish species that live in lakes and rivers adjacent to plains.

 

Damn. I absorbed the body but left the head. A mechanical arm like those in 60's cartoons picked it up.

 

*


*

 

> You gained 12 levels of plains master. You gained +24 Wisdom, +24 Will, and +12 Clarity.

> You learned the Genetic Diversity Perk. Animals you spawn have improved mutation rates. These mutations increase genetic diversity and are usually not harmful.

> You learned the Weather Patterns Perk. You can set a weather pattern for your Dungeon biomes. Each distinct pattern takes one slot of Dungeon Automation but patterns may be shared among several rooms.

 

I killed three more of them, collecting the heads. I also forgot to use my Omae wa mou Shindeiru Perk on them. But the fifth was promising.

"I will dump all my items in the chute, don't hurt me," he said.

Then he did comply, standing naked in the corridor. I absorbed the items he dumped. Too few magical items as compared to the others. He was hiding something and I saw enough prison movies to know what was going on. <Get the stuff out of your butt too.> It was a kind of wild guess. But he capitulated too easily. When the guy panicked, I knew I was right on the money.

<I already killed four of your companions.>

"You lie!"

The ceiling opened. A glass panel, magically reinforced as Dungeon wall descended. I could close off a tunnel section if no people were there. Actually, glass walls were a pretty nice idea. They had less resilience than the stone but the armor was what mattered. It gave me an idea for a mirror maze. But I digress. After the glass, I set spotlights and lowered the arms with the heads.

<Recognize anyone?> A sign on the other side of the glass asked.

The man raged. His fists lit up with white fire and he started punching the glass furiously. "You bastard! You killed my son!" He didn't seem old enough to be a father to one of those others. But his rage was real. The glass bounced and vibrated with his mighty blows but it held. "FUCK, FUCK, FUUUUUUCK!"

Blood welled from his bruised knuckles. The man intercalated roars and sobs. His punches lost potency. He slid down the glass, falling to his knees. I wrote with light on the glass.

<It is Marshall's fault. He sent you here to die.>

"Fuck you!" He raised a bloody fist in defiance, glaring daggers at the glass. "Fuck you!"

Marshall and I were in a kind of cold war. The dragon's words rang in my mind. Cooperation. Would this have happened if I went and talked to Marshall? I spawned a ballista behind the man.

"You won't get my Experience, asshole," he said and then sunk his glowing fingers in the flesh of his neck like he was choking himself in reverse. With a mighty grunt, he ripped his own throat out.

 

> A delver died in your Dungeon. You gained 3,872 Experience points. You gained 41 Dungeon Mana.

> You gained 4 levels of plains master. You gained +8 Wisdom, +8 Will, and +4 Clarity.

> You learned the "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" Perk. Unprovoked attacks on your animals may send them into a frenzy, doubling their combat abilities for 1 minute.

 

I lamented yet another needless but inevitable death. I bet Marshall was sending these people down here for basically free. They weren't carrying any magical stones with them. Whatever advance payment they got was surely confiscated after they didn't come back. Disgusted, I left the sixth man to his own devices. But I changed the chute. It was made out of smooth stone for 200 feet, then it changed into circular SHREDDER walls all the way down for another five hundred. I wished him good luck crossing that and wrote him off.

 

*


*

 

The lion Perk seemed useful to set predators as guards.

At my charging station, between tree-growing sessions, I decided to create a computer. Hundreds of DM flowed and exerted my will on the matter spun out of whole cloth from my Substance pool. A circuit board was formed, with the imprinted wires. Then integrated circuits, components, sockets, memory banks, a processor, an SSD connected through a plastic cable, graphics card, and sound card. It was an old-school PC from before they shoved everything in the motherboard so you had to get a new one if any of them failed. A metal vase, a big-ass Li-ion battery, and peripherals. LCD screen, mouse, and keyboard. All in their black plastic cases.

 

> Your training and knowledge improved your Computer Sciences Skill to rank II.

> You code 5% faster per rank.

> Your training and knowledge improved your Computer Sciences Skill to rank III.

> You find 10% more opportunities to copy and paste code per rank.

 

The computer and the System window floated in front of me, the former held in the air by my Flight Perk. I landed everything in place as a desk and gaming chair appeared on the grass.

Oops, little blooper there.

I moved everything to a stone platform in the middle. I had to remove four trees but who cared?

I turned the computer on. Nothing happened. No beeps, no screen lights, no BIOS message. No press F10 for setup. No press delete for superpowers.

The hardware was there. It was powered, but it had no soul. Like a comatose body whose owner was brain-dead, it lacked what made it animate. It lacked the software. It lacked software on such a profound level it had no BIOS. No OS. Even if those existed, the peripherals' controllers had no drivers.

I had a monumental task ahead of me. I needed to recreate everything from scratch. Burn the EPROM chips. Write DOS or whatever I would use. I replicated another processor, on its own. I used my Perk to speak its language.

"Beep!" I said.

Then I flipped the table. Bloody motherfucker of a System! Why the fuck did they make "Speak Binary" an actual LANGUAGE Skill?

"Breweeweep, bon bon bon kshhhhh, don bon don, kreeweewee,!" I cursed in 14,400 dial-up modemish.

At least I now knew what R2-D2 was saying behind Luke's back. It added so much depth to the original trilogy. Also, the trashcan droid was an asshole.

How hard is it to write a BIOS from scratch?

Very. I spent a week just to find out where to start. At least flashing the EPROM chips wasn't an issue; I knew enough about the circuits to hijack and send the right pulses. Speak BInary also gave me fluency in the chipset's language. Assembly came as easy to me as English.

I needed first to code the monitor's BIOS, which was also missing. A computer has computers inside of it, who would've imagined. Calibration, brightness, contrast, all of these monitor controls were managed by a small (compared to a computer) chipset. I had a lot of work ahead of me.

 

Name: Skip May Neming Species: Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)
Level:  51 Exp/ Level: 257 / 8,000
Main Class: Electronic Apple Orchard (L) Effective Level (temporary): 43
Sub-Classes: Architect of Destruction (V) Computer Engineer (E) Plains Master (V) - Level 21
Attributes Base Score   Efficiency Modified Score

Intelligence (In)

518 (200%) 1036

Wisdom (Ws)

512 (200%) 1024

Willpower (Wp)

535 (230%) 1230

Clarity (Cl)

384 (220%) 844

Hardness (Hd)

540 (240%) 1296
Resources Base Current   Maximum
MP (Cl) - regen (Wp) 180 64 1699 (2394/day)
DM (Cl) 610+165 4,770 7,316
SP (Wp) 610 3,157 8,113
Stats Base Modifiers Current
Materialization (Ws) 265 ---- 2,978
Armor sqrt(Hd):  36 ---- (21 / 75%)
Control (Wp) 10 ---- 133
Traits Puzzle Dungeon Dungeon Automation Replicate Electronics
Sanctuary Orchard Dungeon Domain Rock Hard
Algorithm Encyclopedia Spawn Explosives DM to SP Conversion
Demiplane Collapse Spawn Plains Animals River and Lake DLC
Skills Engineering V Implements of Demise IV Computer Sciences III
Plant Sorcery I Landscaping I
Grimoire Plant Growth Empty Spell Slot
Perks Flight 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 Green Energy
Glistening Blades Chink in Armor Wind-Gliding Bullet "Oops, I was in range"
Mad Volley Premeditated Murder Omae wa mou Shindeiru Animate Weapon
Keyboard Basher Debug Console Insulated Circuits Silicon Sense
Third Fork Coffee in, Code out Gnu's Not Unix Knuth Check (8 Exp)
Genetic Diversity Weather Patterns The Lion Sleeps Tonight

 

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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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