The kids dropped their Classes. They were (Rare) and now I needed to get them an (Epic) rarity Class, at least. But since they would be the first ones to get it, I believe they would get a bump in rarity.
We started with gun safety drills. Assembling and disassembling the space-age rifles. Reloading. Posture. A week after we started, they went to the shooting range. Humans were amazing at learning new things. The rifles were ergometric and had very little recoil as they were intended to be fired in microgravity environments. Side vents compensated for the recoil with compressed air.
In the second week, the kids fired 250 rounds every day each. One might think 250 rounds was little and they would be mistaken. They received the same treatment as the Defenders. Then I built a new floor in the training grounds just for them, one where they could snipe fake wildlife from afar.
The snarky teen was the first to unlock the Class. He became a Minuteman Ranger (Epic, Warrior). He shared the details of his Class with me. His Class Skill was called Marksmanship, the same name as the Skill some variants of Archer or Bowman received. But the first rank was already personalized.
- Increase fire and reload speed of guns you wield by (5*Rank)%.
It was very good. It used the word "guns" which meant not only rifles. Machineguns and pistols were also included. The Class gave them 25 Attribute points per level, 10 more than the (Rare) he had before. He picked Deadeye (Rare, Warrior) as his sub-Class, to improve his long-range accuracy.
The others asked to double their daily ammunition allotment, eager to unlock the same Class. They all did but they picked different sub-Classes. The only girl in the sausage party, for example, selected Ammunition Enchanter (Very Rare, Spellcaster) as her first sub-Class.
With (Epic) mains, their next sub-Class slot would come at level 30. Time for the training montage to really start.
The five teenagers spent a month hunting in the safari floor. Marshall got some complaints about the exclusive floor but he reminded people that the Dungeon was mine and they could fuck off into the demon-infested wilderness if they didn't like it. That didn't go well but quelled the dissent. Anyway, the teenage Rangers. They spent four hours everyday hunting animals which I instructed to behave like Infernali, then rested for three hours and spent another four in the shooting range, training with the weapons they would use.
The NASA assault rifle was their man weapon, with a 3-D printed 9mm pistol whose schematics some joker hid on GitHub with some obfuscation, and finally a .50 Cal heavy machine gun. Their Skills and Perks applied to all three weapons and any other in-between.
After they reached the first threshold (Level 40), I let them go on the walls and sweep a corridor. It was like shooting fish in a barrel or demons in a funnel. Enhanced by their personal magic and System abilities, these literal magic bullets were as lethal on the low-level Infernali as common bullets were on creatures’ pre-Apocalypse.
I gave them modern body armor. Just because I could, they had stylish helmets and were also color-coded. Red, black, green, blue, and yellow. The girl was the green one, of course. The only thing I didn't do was to make them wear spandex. Nope. Their armor was functional, form-fitting, and as tough as I could make them. They had sandwiches of aero spatial ceramics and steel designed to deflect micrometeorites flying at relative speeds of kilometers per second. In Spayyyce!
Six months passed since we first noticed the hordes. I sent more surveillance planes, with more cameras and better lenses, flying at higher altitudes. The Jabberwocks were in the same spot, five dragon heads concentrating on keeping the portals open. I also noticed the number of other Kaiju had increased. A dozen more Boboyotes, six new Wobby Dicks. I didn't bother to count the Damniablos. At least they didn't have cat features. I would hate to have to name them Damnyablos.
The exciting incident at the six-month mark was that I noticed two dozen Defenders climbing the outer wall when they should be asleep. I have no idea why they thought I wouldn't notice them under the cover of the night when I didn't need light to "see" inside my Domain. They climbed the wall, ran over the breakwater wall, jumping over my "dormant" weapon emplacements.
I woke Marshall up and explained the situation over a videocall.
"Do you think they are deserting?" He asked.
"Probably. Will the contract trigger?"
"Yes, it will definitely trigger unless they found a loophole. But the Exp will be divided 976 ways, so we won't gain any levels. They are too low-level to be worth anything after the conversion."
They ran over the breakwater wall, skipping part of the horde being chewed down by the automated weapons. Then they jumped Hella high and deployed wing gliders along with some Wind spell to Breath of the Wild their escape.
> Twenty-four deserters broke their oaths. The remaining Defenders shall share Experience equivalent to 25% of their levels.
> You gained 96 Experience Points.
"It happened." Marshall said. "And those were a few of our highest-level warriors."
Though we didn't know actual levels, measuring the people's levels by comparing their battle prowess with their peers allowed us to build an unofficial ranking.
"I earned ninety-six Experience Points," I reported.
"Same here. told you the split and scale would kill the reward."
"Can people abuse the contracts to power level the youth?"
"No, there's a cap on that. They can only get at most the same number of levels the other party lost. Many a grandfather tried to bequeath their levels to their scions through ritual murder. It isn't worth it. The youth get scarred for life. Then they become psychopaths down the line and are put down. It is a good way to sabotage their own bloodline, though."
My knee-jerk impulse was to put a bullet in those deserters. But they would forever bear a mark from the System that they broke a major contract. Anyone entering such agreements with them would get a message from the System. They broke the honor system and paid the price.
Nah, let them live. They would never be allowed to come back or receive any aid from us, though.
We found who supplied them with the wing gliders but the craftsman swore he didn't know they would be used to run away. The Wind spell was an original one too. They apparently gained inspiration from my winged drones.
Magic. I had two spellcasting Skills, one exclusive for magic that affected plants, the other more generic but constrained to magic contained in books.
I also hadn't enchanted my Grimoire yet. A whole sub-Class, complete with its full allotment of Perks, gathering dust at a corner of my Status page. I could use another 1,600 points of Willpower... converting sub-Class slots into efficiency was getting more and more enticing. But not yet.
Blackjack Six went to meet with Marshall's mages, to see what services and spells I could trade with them. Spellcasters weren't averse to trading their spells if they thought the trade was fair. They would teach each other a spell for a spell and then move on. The problem was that the myriad of different traditions and specializations of magic made the interchange almost impossible. It was hard to find a Mage or a Wizard that had a spell you both wanted and could use.
If I had only Plant Sorcery, I was fucked. I could only learn magic that affected plants using that thing. But Liber Magus was one of the most versatile spellcasting Skills around. Its only constraint was that the spell needed to be on a written medium.
Sitting across the table from the flesh-and-bone spellcasters, I explained what I wanted straight out, "I need to learn more spells. Name your price." My Incantation vault Perk could store 67 spells and I needed only four hours of study to swap an active spell for any in the vault. Made me a bit of a Vancian mage but who cared? It worked for tabletop adventurers for decades.
"What can you offer us, Mr. Babbage?" The lead mage asked. "You don't have any interesting spell to trade."
The other fifteen spellcasters in the room nodded.
"Have you heard of the new warriors I'm training?" I asked.
"Are you going to offer us the same weapons they are using?"
"No. I am going to offer you better weapons. And light armor you can use. Here is my proposal. Let's go to the firing range and test the two new weapon models you'll get with exclusivity for a while. I think you could use a side weapon to fight without using your MP."
"I want to see what the Dungeon has to offer," one of the mages declared. The others caved in and agreed.
We moved to the firing range. The teenage Rangers were in the hunting ground right now so we had the place entirely for ourselves for the next few hours. I replicated the body armor. It was a Kevlar vest with ceramic plates, no metallic parts to mess up with Mana flows. I remembered when one of the Adventurers who kidnapped me from the landfill said I was manipulating millions of points of Mana. Dungeon Mana is much, much more condensed than normal spellcaster MP.
The Kevlar vest had shoulder pauldrons and neck guard, along with an attached skirt to protect the hips, buttocks, and groin region. Leg and forearm guards were separated but added more protection. Finally, a non-magnetic combat helmet designed for starship marines. Man, those engineers at NASA were surely weird. I even found out one of them quit the JPL to draw stick figure comics. Randy, Random... Randall something.
I skipped the futuristic look and draped the modern armor with fake woolen fabric, giving the helmet the impression of being a pointy hat and the armor suite was disguised as robes. From the outside, it looked like the classic wizard clothes. I also showed them all the different patterns and stamps they could put on the clothes. I had thousands for them to pick from and I could even make more.
Among the 28 million projects (a lot of clones), I found a copy of an image generating AI. We could generate more patterns and even illustrations from a text prompt now.
I let them test the armor with their magic. They shot spears of ice, balls of fire, lightning. The Kevlar armor was fire-retardant and very resistant because of my Hardened Device casing. The outer robes not so much but they were just fluff.
Next, I showed them the new weapons. A gauss rifle and a machinegun-sized laser emitter. The gauss rifle could shoot at targets up to two miles away and the laser emitter had 6kW of potency. Ten percent of my military lasers' output but that was still enough to put a hole at a charging kinetic boar.
"Each one of you who agrees to participate in this exchange will receive two sets of armor and one each of these weapons. I have metal dummies you can shoot at. Let's test them."
I created plate armor replicas with wooden dummies inside and let them try the weapons after some brief safety drills. The Gauss rifle could fire slug shells or flechette cartridges. The former delivered one single piercing dart, while the other sprayed a cone of thin steel needles with fins. One was good against big, armored targets, the other against soft, small, or numerous ones. For example, against a pack of Blistermice, you would use flechette, then...
Then you would be fucked because the sacks would burst, the rats would eat the mutagen, become buffed Frankenrats and then charge at you until they died. Okay, bad example. Against Blistermice, you want to use the laser. The mutagen is quite flammable. Erm. You would probably end up with flaming rodents charging at you. Just shoot them in the head.
The mages negotiated and I ended up throwing two 9mm pistols and a lot of ammunition and extra standardized battery packs for the ranged weapons. Finally, to seal the deal, I made the following offer.
"For each one of you that agrees to sell me a spell, I'll give two scrolls of every spell I learn. If five of you sell me spells, each of the five will receive ten scrolls. If ten of you join, each of the ten will receive twenty scrolls. Here is a sample scroll I made with my Plant Growth spell. A nice gift for anyone who like plants."
I handed out the Plant growth scrolls. They were infused with only 100 MP each but would grow a plant the equivalent of 47 days. Boosted by my Perks, that was more than an entire season of growth.
The tests also gave me useful data to compare. The laser guns had a power output equivalent to a mid-grade Firebolt spell. The gauss rifle, however, dealt damage on par with a high-level caster using an Earth Bullet spell. But the laser guns didn't have to reload and the hassle of ammunition logistics. Just replace the battery with a charged one and you were good to go.
We closed the deal. I got sixteen new spells, delivered sixteen equipment kits, and promised to deliver the scrolls in two weeks after I had time to cycle through the spells.
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.