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A note from MDW
If Our Rains Never Return

If Our Rains Never Return

 

There are a few undeniable truths in the city of Felsia: Babies fall from the sky on the New Year, Father's knowledge is only matched by his hunger, and The Ratchet of Horror deserves utmost respect and fear.

Unluckily for Ald and all of his contemporaneous siblings, they were born just in time to see the baby rains stop. To make sure his little sister (an energetic child he caught on the city walls as her wooly cocoon descended from the firmament ) can one day tutor a sibling of her own, Ald will strike a deal with the Felsian sages, venturing past the city walls, into the lands of the exiled and misshapen, to discover why The Celestial Mother has stopped giving birth to his people.  

I had the chimpanzees learn to type while being controlled. The others had their pencils, thousands of sheets of paper, and fake keyboards to play with. To my surprise, the chimpanzees liked the keyboards even when not being directly controlled.

We were coding the telemetry analysis dashboard for Blackjack Six. I spent the last week working on a super secret project on floor half, which was half a mile above floor one (the one where the maple trees burned) and two hundred feet wide by a mile long, facing away from Jabberwock.

I also sparred with my animals, piloting Blackjack Six. I wrestled gorillas, traded slaps with bears, learned to dodge wolf bites, and how to prowl like a jaguar. After each session, I downloaded the telemetry data (via data cable, as we still didn't have wireless abilities) and added it to the growing database of files in the core room. After the analysis software was ready, that data would be processed to fine-tune Blackjack Six.

Jabberwock moved at a speed of one mile per day. Two hundred and twenty feet per hour. Three feet, eight inches per minute. I can see why Marshall said a sexagenarian with a limp leg could outrun it. The issue was not its speed. Jabberwock destroyed the land behind it. Anyway, let's rotate in a fresh chimpanzee team and continue with the telemetry analytics software. While the monkeys typed, I kept going in and out of design mode, working on a solution to our Kaiju problem.

The lake floor was already earning me dividends. I added some aggressive tropical cichlid species that loved to eat as much fish as they could. They ruined many a water body back home. But here, they were a godsend. The trick was to spawn a lot of adult fish and emulate the weather of their spawning season. They would start breeding almost immediately, laying thousands of eggs. After they were done spawning, I would then open a gate and let them go into the bigger lake, and get eaten by the cichlids. After the fries hatched, in about a week, I was already repeating the process with another batch of freshly-created fish that was ready to start doing the funny fish business again. I let the fries swim into the lake with the second batch of adults because they were big enough to count for the Circle of Life Perk and to my shock, most of them were eaten by the predators. More Exp for me.

I was raking in the Experience points.

Six weeks after Blackjack Six was created, we had the telemetry software ready. I started sampling the voice audio files and preparing them for the text synthesizer project. But I was about to go to the surface. I adjusted the mecha parameters, then used an elevator I had just created to climb the shaft. While Blackjack Six (with me inside) climbed the shaft, I reviewed my gains.

 

> You gained 20 levels in Mecha Pilot. You gained +20 Intelligence, +40 Wisdom, +20 Willpower, and +20 Hardness.

> You learned the "Stay in the Fucking Robot, Shinji!" Any attempt to forcibly remove you from your Mecha makes damaged systems come back online, allowing the Mecha to ignore damage equal to 20% of its maximum health. This Perk has a 1-hour cooldown.

> You learned the "Get in the Fucking Robot, Shinji!" You take 80% less time to board and startup your Mecha. After the startup is complete, this Perk is automatically replaced with "Stay in the Fucking Robot, Shinji."

> You learned the Before Creation, Destruction Perk: Every time your Mecha's health drops 10%, you gain (10x)% combat bonus for 1 minute, where x = (1 + % health lost/20).

> You learned the A Gundam Has No Ejection Seat Perk: If your Mecha is destroyed, it immediately explodes. Unless it is a Gundam, you are launched 200 feet up in the air. You are invulnerable while ascending after an ejection.

 

What the? Did these aliens base all the Perks in this Class after mecha anime memes? I bet 10 bucks my next Perk makes my Mecha be considered a Gundam for some stupid benefit.

 

*


*

 

I walked the streets of Pitsmouth with a greatsword floating behind me. The sword was seven feet long and was made of the finest steel by yours truly. Strolling in my mecha body, I enjoyed the reaction the people had as they saw Blackjack Six for the first time. My movements were smooth after training, and I earned two Skill ranks while sparring and testing my weapons with the animals.

 

> Your training and knowledge improved your Mecha Operations Skill to rank II — Gain a 3% evasion rate per Rank.

> Your training and knowledge improved your Mecha Operations Skill to rank III. — Ranged weapons' rate of fire improves by 5% per rank.

 

The Attribute bonus jumped from 5 to 15% and it showed. Blackjack Six was imposing, taller than almost everyone here. The lack of proper nutrition during the development stages stunted people's growth.

Reaching Marshall's castle walls, two guards stopped me. "Who goes there?"

I couldn't answer. So I did what I always do, and threw some fruit at Marshall's front door. He must've set some early warning system because he threw the door open and caught the pears before they struck the door.

"Dungeon?"

<Come to the front gate. Shake the hands of the metal man. His name is Blackjack Six> I wrote on the wall with light.

Marshall raised an eyebrow but followed my instructions. Soon, I was face to face-plate with the man. Marshall was six-two with his boots so Blackjack Six was more than three inches taller.

"Blackjack Six. I don't recall you on any refugee lists. Fancy armor."

<That's because I came from below,> I wrote on the LED display in my chest. Then I scrolled the words, <Partner.> Followed by the icon of an apple core with two bites.

"You came from below?" He glanced at the two guards. "Come inside." I followed him. "Are you here, here? Can you even leave the underground?" He glanced over his shoulder to read my answer.

<I never left the Dungeon, did I?> I waved an arm to point at the mansion grounds.>

Marshall grunted, "Isn't this a risk? How good is this armor you're wearing?"

<That's one thing I want to find out. We need to talk about Jabberwock. I need to know everything about it.>

"Do you have a plan to kill it?"

<Not really, no. But I might make one.>

"Say no more. Come inside."

<I would rather do this in the gardens. I don't know if your wards will disconnect me from the Dungeon or if my presence will disrupt them.>

"Fine. I'll need a couple of mages to keep sound and light from escaping our conversation."

<I don't sense any spies. Unless they have any who can beat 3,000 points of difficulty.>

"Three thousand? Damn, you must have some excellent Perks."

He didn't buy it was all from my own Attributes. Then again, If I had one Attribute in the three thousand... I couldn't fool Marshall when the subject was System information. He knew a lot. Probably from his upbringing.

We sat under a garden gazebo and his mages cast some magic on us. It didn't block my Domain so I wrote, <This is fine.>

"Let's start with the Jabberwock. What are your plans?"

<I told him about the cannons to thin the horde of monsters crawling around it.>

Marshall scratched his chin. "That's Jabberwock's first power. It can summon Infernali. It summons Infernali even when asleep. When it is active, the beast summons them infinitely. Then his second power. Jabberwock can eat anything. Rocks, people, even his own Infernali. The more it eats, the more active it gets. Only if it eats a lot will it go back to sleep. That's why I asked you to send several of those gray beats to feed the monster."

<Elephants.>

"Elephants, right."

<What about its three heads?>

He sighed, "Used to be four."

<Do they breathe fire, spit acid, venom, or anything?>

"Not that we observed. They just bite dozens of people at once. Each one of those heads is seventy-five feet long."

<How precise is that measurement?>

"Quite. We had a Tactician who could measure things with his sight."

I extrapolated the monster's size from the images engraved in the steel plates and video footage. <Are you telling me Jabberwock is eight hundred feet tall and four hundred feet wide?>

"Yes, that sounds correct. But he's only like that when moving. When he stops using his tentacles to crawl overland, its reach is double that. Some tentacles can reach eight hundred feet away."

<Can it regenerate wounds?>

"Also yes. Jabberwock consumes the flesh it eats to heal its wounds. Some wounds take time. Like the fourth head which hadn't yet grown, by what you said."

<And it can eat the Infernali it spawns. And the chunks of flesh that fall from its wounds.>

"Exactly."

<Is it resistant to fire?>

"Not that we know of. But most spells deal so little damage it is hard to tell."

<Physical damage? Piercing damage? Explosions?>

"Same thing. It can be cut. Arrows sink into its flesh. But to Jabberwock, an arrow is less harmful than a mosquito biting me."

<In a week, the first monsters in its horde will reach the firing range of my weapons. I will start shooting at the horde, to thin it. But if I cannot damage Jabberwock, what will we do? Will the monster come to the underground Dungeon?>

"Already thinking of dissolving our partnership?" He inquired, attempting to sound confident and funny but I could sense his concern.

<No, Marshall. You are a snake and a chameleon. I have no doubt you are a man without any sense of morals. But I do not wish to end our partnership. But does our treaty allow for evacuation?>

"We have two hundred thousand people in here right now. How are we going to evacuate everyone?"

<In a massive caravan. They arrived here somehow. The children and their mothers, as well as the infirm and elderly, will receive special care from me. You don't need to worry about people slowing you down. But if the two of us decide to abandon this place, city, and Dungeon, what of our treaty?>

"I see. It needs to be amended. We can do this if we negotiate the terms. Can you have your beasts transport us? Those elephants may not seem fast but boy, do they look strong."

<Yes, I can see the need to arrange transportation for everyone. Would most people be satisfied living in guard barracks for a few months?>

"They must. If they don't, they can hike in the wilderness and try their luck."

We amended the agreement, wasting hours to get the language right.

 

  1. If either the Dungeon or the Lord breaks this treaty, the offending party shall lose 25% of their levels. An equivalent amount of Exp shall be granted to the offended party, up to the Exp cap limit per day.
  2. This treaty may be dissolved by any party by issuing a formal 120-day notice. It remains in effect during that time.
  3. The Lord or the Dungeon may call for evacuation of the city. In that case, the Dungeon shall provide means of transportation for at least 75% of the population, both civilian and military.
  4. If the other party agrees to the evacuation, the Dungeon's obligations regarding the defense and protection of the city will be lifted after at least 75% of the population is already evacuated and safely inside the transports.
  5. Transportation must be protected from outside attack and have accommodations for all people on board. Such accommodations will have the same conditions of living as a guard barracks or better. The Dungeon shall make sure the transportation and living spaces are dry and warm.
  6. The Lord shall have no less than two thousand square feet for him and his retinue. The Lord may ward this area for privacy.
  7. The Dungeon shall put in place a credit system where people can purchase food, water, and basic necessities. Such supplies shall not be poisoned or otherwise made improper for human consumption by the Dungeon.
  8. The Dungeon shall provide opportunities for leisure while on the road. The Dungeon shall take care of sanitation while on the road.
  9. Neither the Lord nor the Dungeon shall force anyone to get on board the transports.
  10. Every person who boards one such transport must take a vow to abide by the bylaws of this treaty, regarding both city inhabitants and delvers of the Dungeon. This includes the penalty clause.
  11. People who reject to board the transports or take the vow above count against the 75% that must be on transports for the start of the evacuation provisions.
  12. The Dungeon will protect the transports from Infernali and monsters.
  13. The Dungeon will ensure the transports can move at least ten times as fast as Jabberwock's last known speed at the time of this amendment.

 

Marshall wanted faster transports but ten times as fast as the thing chasing us was good enough. With the treaty amended, and evacuation firmly as plan C, I had a sparring session with Marshall.

 

*


*

 

He had a training courtyard for guards. We stood ten paces apart, Marshall with his rapier and me with my floating greatsword now by my side. I also had two wrist blades popped out.

"I will start with five hundred in each Attribute," Marshall said. "You come at me. If I shout 'Duck!', you stop."

I charged. Marshall went into a deep combat focus. I struck with my wrist blades, and he parried each blow. The greatsword came in from the side and he dodged by leaping backward.

"Duck!" He shouted. I halted. "Okay. Someone with five hundred across the board will be no match for you. You can take on any warrior under level fifty without breaking a sweat. I'm going to fight at seven hundred and fifty now. I'm the attacker. Defend twenty blows from my sword."

He dashed. Though he was fast, I could keep up with his every move without a problem. I parred his blows, feinted with the greatsword to break his rhythm, and jabbed to force him to dodge, but he had me on the back foot through sheer skill. Then Marshall leaped backward faster than he should. Some Perk or Skill broke his forward momentum instantly. Physics-Chan huddled in the corner of the courtyard with red glistening eyes.

"Duck." We did the same thing as before. "I'm getting close to your level of power but not yet there. You might have some difficulty fighting people near but below the second threshold. Against those in the eighties, you might take some wounds but you will prevail unless they score a critical hit. Do you even have weak spots? Don't answer. {Detect Weak Spots}. Oh. I'm now fighting like a level one hundred (Rare) warrior. In three, two, one!"

He kicked a plume of dust as Marshall dashed five or eight times faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m track. I could still follow but he started to feint and stab me in the joints. I tried to block and parry but I was totally overwhelmed in the skill department. I could see with my Domain the damage he was causing to Blackjack Six. One of his strikes cut a control cable that ran too close to the armor plate, making me lose computer-assisted mobility from the left knee and below. I could still use the buttons near the actuators as a failsafe but it degraded performance and took more of my focus.

All in all, Blackjack Six took about eight or nine percent of damage before he broke off again.

"You panicked there," Marshall smirked. "Should you fight a level 100 warrior with about a decade or more of experience and Skills, you will lose ninety percent of the time. But I can see you are not yet used to this armor of yours. Given time and training, you can turn this prognostic on its head."

<Agreed,> I wrote on my LCD display.

"Do you want to continue?"

<No. This is enough.>

"I agree. You won't have any problem walking the streets of Pitsmouth even if some ruffians try to pick up trouble. I also see that your armor has some toughness enchantment. That is good."

We talked a bit more and then I went back to the underground. Blackjack Six got a minor overhaul, to better protect the weak spots Marshall pointed out and to move most cables to the middle, to avoid having them cut like that.

I also downloaded the telemetry and footage data, to feed it to the analytics software and see if we could improve Blackjack Six's performance.

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A note from MDW

Errata:

Two Perks are missing in "Operation Blackjack Six".

> 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, half of the damage taken was not as serious as it seemed.

> You learned the "Keep on Digging!" Perk: Repeated effort causes 50% less wear to your mecha.


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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