It was time to stop my many projects for a while and go fight.
I had a high-speed rail system installed just to transport Blackjack Six to the cannon FOB. I needed to cut down on the communications lag. I don't think Dungeons were intended to extend for dozens of miles like I did.
Standing on an observation tower (this time with my mechanical feet, thank you very much for asking), I surveyed the horde. The first and faster stragglers sensed the Mana infused in my Dungeon walls and rushed straight at the FOB.
"Point defense weapons, standby."
The wall was decked in SPLINTER launchers and the top of the walls had three rows of ballistae and crossbows, packed as tight as they could be and still remain operational. My mental speech was completely needless. These weapons were extensions of my Dungeon. The monsters entered crossbow range.
"Aim and snipe."
The crossbows shot only when they had a "lock" on an enemy Infernale. The faster monsters, mostly Spinehounds and Newton's Boars, crumpled and died as they were struck by the aimed shots. That lasted for a minute as the first wave of the horde detached from the main group and rushed at the FOB.
"Pao Che mangonels!"
From behind the walls, small Chinese trebuchets that could be used from the back of a cart shot clusters of grapeshot bombs in the air. Then landed and exploded, breaking the horde forerunners' momentum and their bones too.
The Korean rocket arrow war machine was an ancient one and lacked precision but it could put hundreds of arrows in the air in just a few seconds. The rockets whistled as they propelled the arrows in the horde's general direction. Meanwhile, the crossbows started swiveling and shooting as fast as Dungeon Automation could reload them. The same was true for the mangonels and the hwachas.
With the point defenses taking care of the faster monsters, waves upon waves of the horde became aware of the FOB's existence. I couldn't see the ground a mile away from my walls. I had mile upon mile of monsters before the Jabberwock, twenty miles away from the FOB.
"Artillery, fire a volley from a tenth of the weapons."
Three rows of cannons fired with a five-second interval between rows. The kickback was within the expected parameters and I quickly absorbed the smoke from the blasts. Two, three, and four miles away, the shells struck the ground and exploded into ribbons of flames and debris.
"Fire!" Rows one, eleven, and twenty-one (my cannon rows were zero-indexed) fired. Five, six, seven miles of range.
Before another three gashes made out of fire and gore were ripped open in the horde, I issued the command again. "Fire!" Rows two modulo ten fired. Then the next. I picked up the pace. Every three seconds, three rows of cannons fired. By the time the ninth row had fired, the zeroth row was rearmed. The cannons shifted a bit because of the recoil but I fired anyway. The projectiles suffered some scatter. But it didn't matter. Anywhere they landed was guaranteed to be packed with monsters.
The other weapons kept shooting. While the cannons were winnowing the horde far away, those two miles closer to the FOB were a problem for my point-defense weapons.
Replicating ammunition for all these weapons burned through my Substance reserves. I had caches of matter everywhere in my Domain, though. The cacophony of three thousand cannons going off every three seconds drowned the noise from the close-range siege weapons. Things were so crowded the mangonel bombs knocked a few arrows out of the air.
"Initiate Operation Angry Birds!" I commanded. Small repeating hand crossbows, easy to aim and quick to reload, the same model used by Marshall's outriders started picking out the flying Infernali from the skies before they could mess with my weapons. One cannon shell struck a relatively big bird and exploded, several hundred feet from the FOB wall, killing dozens of fliers at once. I absorbed the smoke, debris, and corpses before they hit the ground. Every corpse inside my Domain range was absorbed in the earliest opportunity.
But no matter how many thousands I killed, I couldn't see a gap in the horde. On one hand, they had too many monsters. On the other hand, visibility was down to zero because of all the smoke and dust I was kicking up.
I sat on a chair by my command desk and had Blackjack assume pose number nine. Elbows on the desk, fingers crossed, covering the mouth right under the nose. The weapons kept firing.
Monsters approached enough to enter the SPLINTER dart launcher's range. Volleys of three darts flew at each one of them. Rolling explosions dug trenches miles wide and changed the landscape as the repeated volleys from the cannons struck the same general distance over and over.
I kept them firing at the same spot. The Infernali knew not the concept of morale and having these furrows and baby crevices dug meant they needed to waste time climbing down and then up, time in which they were in the perfect spot to be mashed into monster pulp. I also noticed the cannon shell explosions seemed to be growing bigger and bigger with every subsequent volley. Maybe it was because the debris was getting softer by the blasts or because I had already earned some weird Perk.
Marshall wept when I told him what I was going to do with the horde. I think it was both because of the Exp and the magic stones that were being destroyed along with the corpses. But going down there to harvest magic stones was suicide even for him.
The SPLINTER launchers became empty, reloaded, and fired again. The cannons sang their war song. A wall of black smoke clouded the skies ahead of me. They were soon reaching the sky where they became clouds. I couldn't see Jabberwock anymore. Which was kind of a relief.
Monsters overwhelmed the dart launchers. "Moat, open!" I commanded just to sound cool. A section of the ground opened up, forty feet wide, revealing a moat two hundred feet deep, walls covered in SHREDDER panels, the ground littered with spears forty feet long and packed close enough for some Xianxia protagonists to stroll over at their own leisure. You know who I'm talking about (most of them, of course).
The monsters lucky enough to not have enough momentum to become hung on the hooked prongs on the walls sank deeply into the spears. I quickly absorbed those corpses to keep them from clogging, a lesson I learned well. I let the magic stones fall to the bottom where a layer of tall grass hid some pokemon... no, I mean cushioned their fall and stopped the crystallized Mana from breaking.
"War, war never changes..." I mused.
This went on for hours. The System built pressure inside my head (what head, I ask, Mr. Ichabod?), begging me to see the notifications. I did.
[...] 2,672 kill messages suppressed.
Mass Murderer! 2,672 Extra Experience points awarded.
> You gained 31 levels in Mecha Pilot. You gained +31 Intelligence, +62 Wisdom, +31 Willpower, and +31 Hardness.
> You are no longer under Exp distribution restrictions. You now need 10,000 Exp per level.
> You learned the Perk, "Let's Gekiga In!": When your Mecha starts Gattai with other Mechas, the process is 100% smoother and faster. For every 10 times you perform the same fusion, this bonus increases by a linear 1%. Each fusion keeps its own tally.
> You learned the Perk, Lone Mechanical Ranger: When you fight alone, piloting a Mecha, against five or more enemies, your Mecha gains a 20% combat bonus.
> You learned the Perk, Unbreakable Transforming Sequence: Add 25 points of armor to your Mecha while it transforms or combines.
> You learned the Perk, Red is Always Faster: If you paint your Mecha red, it gains 20% Efficiency in both Dexterity and Agility.
> You learned the Perk, The Chosen Child: When piloting a Mecha, you have a 20% combat bonus if your age is lower than 18 years.
> You learned the Perk, Ginga no Taazan: When meeting a new community, you adapt and mingle as if you had a Charisma score equal to half your Wisdom.
Damn nice Perks. What if this was my main Class? Wait, what happens to that one Perk when I grow older than eighteen?
[...] 25,471 Kill messages suppressed.
Mass Murderer! 25,471 Extra Experience points awarded.
> You gained 19 levels! You gained +209 Intelligence, +190 Wisdom, +209 Willpower, +114 Clarity, and +152 Hardness. You have 190 Attribute Points.
> You learned the Perk, Anode/Cathode Purity: Your battery cells have 80% less internal resistance and suffer 80% less degradation from the discharge/recharge process.
> You learned the Perk, Nutritious Fruit: Fruit produced by trees in your Dungeon contains 20% more nutrients. Each fruit portion also grants an adult human at least 5% of their daily nutritional needs, including proteins and fat.
> You learned the Perk, Eternal Ground-Pounding: Every time the same AOE weapon type strikes the same general location, the blast AOE increases by a linear 10%.
> You learned the Perk, "Do you Like Gantt Charts?": Projects you manage with the use of computers proceed with 25% fewer delays.
> You learned the Perk, Biodiversity Completion: When you spawn a batch of animals, some other ancillary animals that are necessary for ecological balance may be spawned for free. These free animals cannot be despawned and yield no other benefits to you except for their biomass upon dying.
> You learned the Perk, "It's a Gundam!": Whenever you design a new model of humanoid giant mecha, there's 25% of it being a Gundam. All of its parameters are 20% higher if this happens.
> You learned the Perk, Mana-Hardened Cables: If properly shielded and encased, your electronic cables have ( 5/50% ) extra armor. Cables exposed by design have no extra protection.
> You learned the Perk, Multiplexed Frequency Pulses: Improvements in transmission technology allow for an increase in the data capacity of all data cables by a factor of 10.
> You learned the Perk, Haunted Woods: Enemy warriors that find themselves within 50 feet or less of at least five trees suffer a loss of 50% morale and mild dendrophobia. This is a mental effect based on Wisdom, resisted by Willpower.
> You learned the Perk, Blood for the Blood God: Enemies wounded by hurtful things you designed and created bleed 100% more and 100% faster. No actual worship is involved. Unless you are that much weird.
> You learned the Perk, PMI Certified: Projects you manage with the use of computers suffer 50% fewer delays.
> You learned the Trait, Rocky Hills DLC: You now include Hills and rocky formations-inhabiting animals to your spawn roster.
> You learned the Perk, Finisher Pose: If your Mecha strikes a pose and remains immobile after you deliver a massive attack to an enemy, that attack deals 100% more damage and ignores 25% of the enemy's armor.
> You learned the Perk, Mana-Reinforced Circuits: Your properly shielded and encased circuits, Integrated circuits, and circuit boards suffer 40% fewer spell damage and have ( 5/50% ) extra armor. Circuits exposed by design have no extra protection.
> You learned the Perk, Healberries: Once per day, you may infuse 10 DM points into an adult berry bush to instantly grow between 10 to 40 berries that can heal an adult human 10% of their maximum health. Each person may benefit only from 4 berries against a set of wounds.
> YOU HAVE A FREE SUB-CLASS SLOT. PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THIS MESSAGE.
> You learned the Perk, Skulls for the Skull Throne: Enemies wounded by hurtful things you designed and created suffer a 20% morale penalty if they are within your personal Domain. No actual worship is involved. Unless you are that much weird. This is a mental effect based on Wisdom, resisted by Willpower.
> You learned the Perk, Coding Trance: If you are working on software without the help of other creatures, your productivity increases by a multiplicative 5% every half-hour you go without interruptions.
> You learned the Perk, "Everything the Light Touches is our Domain": Your Domain extends 100% further (or 30 feet, whichever is higher) if it's daylight and the terrain counts as plains.
> You learned the Perk, Infinite Propulsion Jump Jets: Your Mecha's Jump Jets (if it has any and are strong enough to lift the Mecha), allow it to fly in the air for 10 seconds. This Perk has a cooldown of 5 minutes.
> You learned the Perk, Telekinetic Typist: You can push up to 3 buttons per second.
One obsolete Perk was removed. You gained 5% Attribute Efficiency to allocate.
> You learned the Perk, Helpful bugs: When tending to your orchard, you have a 50% chance per minute to spawn bugs that are helpful to the plants for free. These bugs cannot be despawned and yield no other benefits to you except for their biomass upon dying.
> You learned the Perk, Superconductive Vegetation: You can transmit electrical impulses through plants. All friendly or neutral plants in your domain enjoy 75% lightning resistance and do not ignite if struck by it. Domain commands suffer no delay when traveling through vegetation.
> You learned the Perk, I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning: You Replicate Napalm and other incendiary compounds with a 50% discount. The incendiary ordnance you deploy burns 25% hotter.
> You learned the Perk, Domain Area Network: Computers inside your Domain may share data with one another.
> You learned the Perk, "Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti": You may count one mountain that borders your Domain as Plains. Your Domain extends to cover the whole mountain.
> You learned the Perk, Deep Diver Mode: If designed to be pressurized, your Mecha's pressure resistance is 25% or 15 bars (whichever is better) higher. You suffer 50% fewer penalties when operating underwater or in the vacuum of space.
> You reached the second Threshold. You gained 20% Attribute Efficiency to allocate.
> The acquisition interval for all Perks is now doubled.
I remembered the advice Marshall gave me before I came here, regarding leveling up too fast. I hastily opened my Sub-Class menu and picked the first acceptable Class I could find. I also set the System to not display the Perk messages. I could browse them later.
> You became an Arcane Librarian (Very Rare, Spellcaster)
> Keeper of tomes long-forgotten, the Arcane Librarian swears to safeguard humanity's knowledge.
> You gain +1 Intelligence, +1 Wisdom, +1 Willpower, +2 Clarity, and +1 Base MP per level.
> You gain the Skill, Liber Magus. You can cast spells directly from a written medium without damaging it.
> Rank I Benefits: Spells cast from written medium are 5% more potent per rank.
> You learn the spell, Repair Tomes: Channel (# of pages) MP per minute into a written work. It repairs 10% of the damage suffered each minute. You have an sqrt(Intelligence + Wisdom)% chance of restoring missing text. Further applications of this spell to the same written work do not reroll this test.
> You have a free spell slot.
[...] 9,852 Kill messages suppressed.
Mass Murderer! 9,852 Extra Experience points awarded.
> You gained 80 levels of Arcane Librarian! +80 Intelligence, +80 Wisdom, +80 Willpower, +160 Clarity, +80 Base MP.
[...] 4 Arcane Librarian Perk messages suppressed.
[...] 67,294 Kill messages suppressed.
Mass Murderer! 67,294 Extra Experience points awarded.
> You gained 40 levels! You gained +480 Intelligence, +440 Wisdom, +480 Willpower, +320 Clarity, and +320 Hardness. You have 400 Attribute Points.
[...] 10 Electronic Apple Orchard Perk messages suppressed.
[...] 4 Architect of Destruction Perk messages were suppressed.
[...] 4 Computer Engineer Perk messages suppressed.
[...] 4 Plains Master Perk messages suppressed.
[...] 4 Mecha Pilot Perk messages suppressed.
[...] 4 Arcane Librarian Perk messages suppressed.
> You reached the third Threshold. You gained 20% Attribute Efficiency to allocate.
> From now on, you gain Main Class Perks every 5 levels. Sub Classes above level 120 grant one Perk every 20 levels.
> YOU HAVE A FREE SUB-CLASS SLOT. PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THIS MESSAGE.
I had a lull in the wall of messages as the System calculated the Exp for the next 40 levels. I suspect that after the level 300 guy, the admins updated the way levels were granted to stop that kind of abuse. I was level 120 now and had another Sub-Class slot in 5 levels.
> You became a Wayfaring Dungeon (Epic, Dungeon)
> Combining disparaging concepts, the Wayfaring Dungeon is both Dungeon and Nomad. They migrate after opportunities, abandoning their haunts like discarded husks after them.
> You gain +1 Wisdom, +3 Clarity, +1 Hardness, +1 base DM, and +1 base Substance per level.
> You gain a perk every 10 levels.
> You gain the Skill, Dungeon Architecture. You can better plan and design your Dungeon.
> Rank I benefits: You can set a piece of Dungeon (Rank) acres in size as a template. Recreating this template later costs 5% fewer Resources per rank. You can have one such template for every 100 points of Wisdom.
[...] 84,123 Kill messages suppressed.
Mass Murderer! 84,123 Extra Experience points awarded.
> You gained 120 levels of Wayfaring Dungeon! +120 Wisdom, +360 Clarity, +120 Hardness, +120 Base DM, and +120 Base SP.
> You learned the Perk, Mobile Dungeon Walls: You can now create Dungeon Walls that can move. All other constraints remain. Moving Dungeon Walls that move out of your Domain lose any special properties stemming from being invested as Dungeon Walls.
[...] 7 Wayfaring Dungeon Perk messages suppressed.
What the hell? I think most monsters stopped giving Exp now that I was level 120. I needed 120,000 Exp to level my new Sub-Class and 84,000 of these came from Mass Murderer.
And the weapons were still firing, and monsters were still dying by the thousands.
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.