A note from MDW

Errata: In "Cultivating Trees", I added the third line in the following system message:


> For killing level 48 Hookaraptor, you gained 13 Experience points.

[...] 27 similar messages were suppressed.

Mass Murder! 28 Extra Experience added.


In Soviet Russia, Money Chases you.


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

> You learned the Domain Multimeter Perk. You can measure circuit voltage and current with your Domain. This Perk does not work in areas under the influence of another creature's aura.

> You learned the Sharp Shrapnel Perk. Explosions you cause send a shower of sharp shredded materials, Increasing AOE and damage by 20%. This extra damage is mitigated by physical armor.

> You learned the Transpilation Perk: You can rewrite software to another programming language 300% faster but with 50% more incidental, unintentional bugs.

> You learned the Light Woods DLC: You can now spawn creatures who live in lightly wooded areas adjacent to plains biomes.

Humiliated and dispossessed, the nobles and merchants quickly capitulated to Marshall's demands. They cared not to go into a Dungeon that had a 0% delving success rate. Everyone who came down never returned.

I ate the wards in the secure containers and checked the insides. It was exactly what I expected. Money. Piles upon piles of magic stones, gemstones, and jewelry. I could live like a Lord on the surface with this kind of wealth. But they didn't have the LINUX kernel source code and that saddened me. At least I had a list of DOS commands and what they should do. That gave me a good idea of what an OS needed. Norton's book also detailed the file system and I had already some code ideas in my mind.

Leaving the humans on the surface to their own designs, I used Daydream before the day ended.


Fate is a real entity. Not a deity and not a person but much more than either. Even the mighty Norse Norns, favored by Fate as they are, can only read Her whims. Fate is a cosmic consciousness, the ultimate voyeur. To toy with Fate is to place oneself at the mercy of Her whims. Fate is the ultimate equalizer but still plays to Her favorites. But please, do not flatter nor curse Her. There is a school of magic that deals with Fate's magic. Dabble not in it, unless you are willing to pay the ultimate price to entertain Her.


Okay, warning received. I won't dabble in Fate magic.

The next morning, I used Daydream again.


That which you call Jabberwock is not a unique monster. It is a whole species of Infernali creatures, all with the same size and appearance.


Fucking hell. Go foreshadow your mamma's next one-night stand, you asshole of a System.

I didn't spend the night idle. I read every book that could help me get better at creating software, machinery, or... gardening.


> Your training and knowledge improved your Computer Sciences Skill to rank VI. — You have a 10% higher chance of success when attempting to reverse engineer an electronic component.

> Your training and knowledge improved your Computer Sciences Skill to rank VII. — When cataloging large amounts of data, your models and algorithms are 5% per rank more precise.


Two Skill ranks in a single night. I felt my Core's tiny seed brains almost bursting with ideas and motivation to finish this damn computer. I called the monkeys and we started coding.

On the side, I was also running an experiment. An evolutionary experiment. With my Genetic Diversity Perk, I could spawn animals that sometimes came with different traits. Mutations, so to speak. A more aggressive tiger, a bear with larger claws, or a wolf that grazes grass. All of these were within the realm of possibility. With minimal losses by reabsorbing animals I spawned, I started a project on the twelfth floor. Chimpanzee evolution. I would spawn chimpanzees until I found some that had better mental traits. Fixing that one as a pattern, I would then apply Genetic Diversity to that chimpanzee to get variants that were even smarter or better able to display emotions. I wasn't expecting results anytime soon. The tests I applied to determine intelligence and emotional response were as failed as they could be, based on a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Dutch Academy of Applied Psychology.

But unless I started to grow trees on the thirteenth floor, I had nothing better to do with the Dungeon Mana I was getting. I could make Marshall some magic stones but I rejected the idea on principle.

People came to retrieve their books. I gave them each an orange and a peach, along with an invitation to come live in the Dungeon. Nobody accepted that. Poor fools, they were already living inside my Dungeon the moment they came within two miles of the city walls.





Another week passed. I checked on the Jabberwock daily. The monster kept writhing but it didn't seem to be closer... No. it was still beyond the horizon but it was taller now. The damn beast was climbing the planet's curvature as if it was a hill. I started to record the mental image of the monster on steel plates down in the Dungeon, to compare the daily snapshots.

But yeah, back to coding. Going to the pillar and back took the effort of a single thought so I never left the Core room and the chimpanzees. I noticed that some of them were stealing pencils to draw or scribble during their rest time. It seemed some of the memories of when I was directly controlling them remained. Perhaps it would give the expression "code monkey" a new meaning. I made sure they had boxes of pencils and reams of clear paper available, so they wouldn't sneak into the working room to steal the pages with the actual code.

We started flashing our BIOS candidate software on different machines and testing them. They had varying degrees of failure but some of them actually displayed some messages on the screen. I taped the papers with the source code next to each Z-80 computer (The motherboard, CPU, and circuits were on the back of the keyboard so they seemed to be just a collection of keyboards).

We were close. Knuth Checks rained like confetti on the fourth of July as we started debugging and putting together the pieces of different versions that worked. I got another level. This one w entirely kill-free. The wolf-rabbit floor was giving good dividends and I even had a couple hundred rabbit births for my Circle of Life yearly Exp bonus. I checked and saw that it had skyrocketed. I didn't have a couple hundred, I had several thousand births.

The culprits were the fish in the training room rivers. Fish fry counted as births. I was also getting a lot of Exp from the alligators feeding in the rivers and lakes. That settled it. Floor 13 would be a huge lake with marshlands. Lots of fish to breed and get eaten. Or die of old age. Fish lived short lives, right?

All this effort would be ruined if Jabberwock couldn't be stopped.





A month passed. Jabberwock now was entirely in sight, being closer to Pitsmouth than the horizon. Closer than 150 miles. A carpet of Infernali prowled around the huge monster, I only knew they were Infernali and not foot-tendrils of the bigger beast because I had a very good telescope now. Jabberwock didn't need to destroy the city, those Infernali there would do the job.

But that was a wonderful opportunity. Kill monsters, farm Exp. Kill monsters in large batches, farm lots of Exp. The level 300 man came back to mind. I had nobody alive between here and there. I could work with that.

I send a probe forward. it was a rod of stone Dungeon wall one inch in diameter that increased the reach of my Dungeon by hundreds of feet every minute. I was so far away that I began to feel a lag when sending commands down the pipeline. Forty-four miles away from my Core was the absolute maximum. The delay was almost twenty seconds. Anyway. I broke to the surface and formed a rectangular fortress with walls. Inside, I started building many types of cannons.

While I designed the cannons and the ammunition to shoot at the horde, my Core watched the yellow team of monkeys playing pong on the computers. Yes, I have finally finished the z80 BIOS and a rudimentary operational system. It ran assembly code, read and wrote data in the SSD disk, executed file directory operations, and displayed data on the LCD monitor.


> You completed a great achievement. You restored the ability to use computers on planet Earth. For this achievement, you gained a bonus Sub-Class slot.


What the hell? Damn, this was huge. I opened the list of available Classes. There was one in particular that I wanted. I begged the System for it, without any misheard words this time.


> Your new sub-Class is Mecha Pilot (Epic).

> The dream of every young boy, in body or heart, everyone digs giant robots. They don't even need to be giants. Only to be made out of metal, wires, blinking lights, and imagination.

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

> You gained the Trait: One with the Machine. Enemies cannot perceive your magical aura from inside your machine. Instead, the machine projects the aura as if it was your body. Increase your Mecha's Dexterity and Agility Efficiency by 20%.

> You gained the Skill, Mecha Operations.

> Rank I: You can add 5% of your mental Attributes per rank to the physical Attributes of a Mecha you pilot. Intelligence adds to Agility, Wisdom adds to Dexterity, Willpower adds to Strength, and Hardness to Hardness.


It seems I had my next project spelled out for me. It was a good year we spent together, Bad Bet. But it is time for your retirement.





> Your training and knowledge improved your Engineering Skill to rank VIII. — Circuits you design are 5% more efficient per rank.


Another month passed. I managed to work out a triple-barrel cannon design that could fire at a target 15 miles away with a fire rate of one shell every thirty seconds, courtesy of a collaboration between Dungeon Automation and Replication. Jabberwock and his horde were now 120 miles away from the city, sixty-one miles away from maximum cannon range. The land behind the monsters was left completely barren and blackened. I started extending the forward fortress to the sides and laying out rows upon rows of cannons. Thirty rows of triple barrels, six hundred artillery pieces wide, all of them angled 45 degrees up. A barrage of 108,000 shells per minute upon the monsters.

In exactly two months, they would start raining death and fire upon the horde.

Inside my Dungeon, I was working on another two projects. A humanoid robot, based on a male this time, six-five in height, two hundred and fifty pounds of armored steel, and an array of six Z80 computers controlling movement, balance, and positioning. That allowed me to use fast servos and get a better response time than the physical buttons and electrical contacts Kid Sick and Bad Beat used. I could also use a wider range of movements than the buttons would allow me. This mecha had sixty preprogrammed hand movements.

Unfortunately, I couldn't add a transformation mechanism. I wanted this mecha to have a motorcycle mode to allow me to drive really fast over the ground. It would be a project for a later date. But one addition I could manage to squeeze in were audio and video recorders. One of the Z80 computers was running a streaming software that dumped the input from the cameras and microphones straight to an SSD drive.

I also convinced more than half of my dwellers to start a video log gig. They each got a device very similar to a tablet, but with a keyboard. Touchscreens were still beyond me. They were tasked with recording videos of their daily lives in the Dungeon. Playing with the children, farming the fields, and tending to their livestock. They could take pictures, shoot videos, and watch them on the screens. I even gave them waterwheel chargers to replenish the batteries.

My idea was to get a large database of audio clips that I would later use to train a text-to-speech neural network. The Python books were all about that. I needed to write a Python interpreter, though.

I also installed hundreds of CCTV cameras on the hunting grounds and in the city. Four in every waste disposal pit. I didn't put them inside people's houses because I decided to respect their privacy. I also had ten computers with cameras attached to the telescopes (I made more telescopes) at the top of my three-mile tower, recording video footage of the horde. Dungeon automation made the telescopes turn slowly, getting panoramic shots of the throng of monsters poised to devour us all.

Feeling giddy, I floated my Core and entered the new Mecha's pelvis, which locked and sealed me inside. I powered the computers and typed in the commands. The capacitors of the fast-movement circuits charged, giving it that powering-up buzz that every Mecha should have. The robot, now a real robot, stood from its tilted maintenance platform, which existed just to make the scene look cool. LED lights shone underneath its plexiglass faceplate. I went with a Japanese Tokusatsu aesthetic, from the bootleg series I watched in my childhood because they weren't licensed in the USA at that time.

The movements weren't as smooth as I wanted and the robot felt a bit jittery. That would improve as my Skill gained ranks, as my pilot proficiency also improved, and as I calibrated the damn parameters in the control computers. It was digital, not analogical! And we were collecting telemetry data! Live!

I needed to name my new creation. "Bad Bet Sick" I decided, based on the previous two models.


> For creating the level 60 Humanoid Cyborg Mecha "Blackjack Six" (Legendary), you gained 10991 Experience Points.

> You gained 10 levels in Mecha Pilot. You gained +10 Intelligence, +20 Wisdom, +10 Willpower, and +10 Hardness.

> You learned the "Believe in the me who believes in you" Perk. After the tenth time your mecha takes damage after starting the fight with full health, 1 minute later, some damaged systems have a 50% chance to come online. If they do, it means half of the damage taken so far is written off. It was not as serious as it seemed.

> You learned the "Keep on Digging!" Perk: Repeated effort causes 50% less wear to your mecha. Enemy weapon attacks suffer from a cumulative 1% damage reduction.


The System got the name wrong again but I don't care! Whoo hoo! Now, play the theme song! By Akira Kushida!


Refer to for the full description of all Status items.

Name: Skip May Neming Species: Dungeon Core / Plant (Apple)
Level:  61 Exp/ Level: 1,247 / 8,000
Main Class: Electronic Apple Orchard (L) Effective Level (temporary): 50
Sub-Classes: Architect of Destruction (V) Computer Engineer (E) Plains Master (V)
Mecha Pilot (E)
Attributes Base Score   Efficiency Modified Score

Intelligence (In)

628 (200%) 1256

Wisdom (Ws)

678 (200%) 1356

Willpower (Wp)

742 (230%) 1706

Clarity (Cl)

522 (220%) 1148

Hardness (Hd)

634 (240%) 1521
Resources Base Current   Maximum
MP (Cl) - regen (Wp) 235 2885 2885 (4201/day)
DM (Cl) 720+280 12280 12280
SP (Wp) 720 12873 12873
Stats Base Modifiers Current
Materialization (Ws) 320 ---- 4531
Armor sqrt(Hd):  39 ---- (24 / 75%)
Control (Wp) 71 ---- 1269

About the author


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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