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A note from MDW

It is not my fault if people can't read chapter titles.

We traveled for months. It was already October and the chill was coming back. We spent this time visiting every settlement we found, one after the other. We stated our purpose, and showed them the upgraded promotional video, I brought Marshall to use his 5,000 points of Charisma on people (not really 5,000 but I estimated it was around that much). Róta beat humbleness on those who needed it, and people were given a choice of either moving to Speranza or staying with the defensive grid base.

I had two dozen of them, spaced 10 miles from each other. Despite the steel balloons reducing the land train's weight, it was just not designed to go fast. But putting the bases this close to one another allowed the upgraded howitzer cannons to give fire support to help other bases in case of a siege. With my Beacons, I could set rules to stop the bigger Infernali from doing something nasty, like what I did with Jabberock's darkness spell.

Wanderers and traveling merchants availed themselves of the facilities. I offered the merchants an APC truck with four mounted autocannons and 50,000 rounds of .50 Cal munitions if they agreed to enter a pact with me to advertise the bases in the best light they could. They traded in their worn pack beasts for the APC in a flash. Each truck could hold more than two wagons worth of goods, and travel twice as fast. So long as the merchants and their crew used the bicycle chargers to keep the batteries going, they could travel the world. But not really because the trucks couldn't float. They worked fine underwater, though.

I needed to wait for the occupants of these bases to complete the one-year mark to see if they counted for my Quest. If not, I needed to backtrack and get them into Speranza.

Róta got used to her Grilled Tex-Mex power armor. Hers was 50% taller than the ones meant for teenagers. She went ahead to scout and gather what souls she could for Fólkvangr. Valhalla was kept rather empty despite my insistence. The Valkyrie didn't shirk her duties. Her time was split between training the few she elevated to Einherjar and her own pursuit of the three Sub-Classes I wanted for her. Mecha Pilot, Power Armor Marine, and Minuteman Ranger. The ten teens had already earned their Class and were training with the giant Raindrop Mechas as they stomped their way through the wasteland beside the land train.

Between each cluster of bases, I let one dirigible high up. 20,000 feet up, to be precise. These dirigibles weren't as big as the Hugging Mommas, serving only as DCSC jump points and observation points. Each one of them had a line of sight to the land below up to 170 miles in all directions and enough DCSC to last a decade, just like the bases.

I had one of them watching the Armahgellykulls. The Jellifish Kaiju had scattered around the land at a lazy pace, some of them floating west while a few remained in the general location Speranza and Pitsmouth used to be. Somewhere in Texas, according to an old USA map we found buried in the NASA files. The ruined city I was dropped in was probably Dallas.

We had crossed Arkansas, Northern Mississippi, and Alabama, and now we were in Georgia. The blimps had detected the ruins of Atlanta ahead of us.

I sent one of my scout machines. It was also a dirigible but much smaller. It basically had the propulsion systems, battery, DCSC, and the balloon, along with some small, 5kW PD lasers to kill or scare away Infernali fliers long enough for one of our artillery pieces to take the boogie down. But from the scout blimp, I could cast a scanning Beacon and survey the ruins.

A smile formed on my Core (not really). I had found the jackpot. These ruins had a lot of people living in them and some ruined buildings even had gardens at the heights where people tended to their food. They had chickens, pigs, and also some cows. Most people lived on the buildings and had barricaded the ground-level access as well as formed rope bridges across the half-demolished skyscrapers. Bringing the dirigible lower, I scanned the ground. Hundreds of Spinehounds, Blistermice, and Arsohlebambis dominated the surface. Their only hope was to keep the Infernali at ground level and live above ground.

Some people on the rooftop of a tall building with a steel pyramid spotted the blimp. I didn't fear an attack as the dirigible was more than 5,000 feet above-ground. Then they did something I hadn't expected. They started flashing morse code at the blimp. Fluent in all binary languages, I understood what they were trying to say.

"We need food and medicine."

I had my work cut out for me. Thirty thousand people to add to my... refugee haven.

 

*


*

 

I few alongside Róta (she was a demi-Goddess with wings, for crying out loud. Of course she could fly) to that rooftop. I was impressed with people armed with AR-15 rifles. I didn't expect modern weaponry. We landed and they aimed their guns at us.

"Stop right there!" Their leader, a woman with straight, raven black hair shouted. "What do you want?"

I raised BlackJack Six's arm to stop Róta from escalating the conflict.

"You were the ones who signaled you needed food and medicine. I'm here to negotiate."

"I know who you are. You are the demon Dungeon that's keeping people hostage!" She shouted.

Again I had to stifle Róta's reaction.

"Let me guess?" I focused BlackJack Six's LED eyes on her. "Some guys who came this way on wing gliders told you that? Those traitors, mutineers, and/or deserters? Will you trust the word of Oathbreakers?"

The people next to her balked at my accusations. The seeds of dissent were sowed. "I'm willing to make an oath under the System that I'm telling the truth. Those people that spread false information about me were liars and traitors. If you do not know their status as oathbreakers was because they refused to enter any other agreements. And they used their strength to keep anyone from learning their dark secret. I would stake 25% of my levels that I am not lying."

I extended my robotic hand to the dark-haired woman. Róta was biting her lower lip.

"So be it. I won't accept any penalties, but I will make a deal with you," the woman took my hand and squeezed. The reinforced steel didn't bulge but it gave me a clear reading of her Strength. It was close to fifteen hundred. "I shall hear your side of the story unbiasedly. Should you be found lying by the System, 25% of your levels shall become mine. State your truth."

We sealed the pact.

"I was tasked with a mighty Quest by the System. One that required a thousand defenders to stay by my side. One that could solve our world's plight. These men on the wing gliders were one such Guardians. They lived in my domain, ate the best food I could offer, and were respected by my people. But they wanted more. The rewards from the Quest they swore to uphold were deemed too low. They joined some like-minded guardians and attempted a coup. A mutiny. They broke their oaths and fled in our time of need. Cowards, deserters, traitors, all of them. Their words contain poison and lies."

Nothing happened. The woman stared at my metallic faceplate. "You speak the truth. Our deal is done. Welcome to Atlanta, Dungeon."

The System dismissed our oath. She knew a lot more about me than what she let on.

I threw a feast for the Atlanta leadership. Cattle barbecue straight out of the cow's hindquarters, fruit, vegetables, and some fine cuisine the people of Speranza could cook. I didn't bring out Marshall for this one. It could backfire if they had something against that man.

Róta didn't join us in the feast. She jumped straight down to the surface, intent to fight the Infernali to hone her skills and improve her System Skills as well as to find dead souls to usher into Fólkvangr. The odds of finding an Einherjar that met her standards were too low.

"At least what they said about your machines was right," the woman said. She gave me her name but I didn't bother committing it to memory. "What do you want for us? I doubt you are doing this out of generosity."

"I want to change our city. Make it a safe place for your people. One where you can grow food, and live in peace. I also want to offer your people the chance to move into Speranza. A city where no Infernali has ever set foot in the last four years." I wasn't counting the breach of the wall because they didn't get into the city proper.

"Why? And don't give me the charity bullshit. Keep your honeyed words for the foolish and ignorant."

"The System tasked me with a mission to keep as many people as I can safe from harm. Right now, I have more than two hundred thousand people living in peace. They only need to fight if they want to."

She was incredulous. "Show me."

 

*


*

 

I had the scout blimp bring me the SSD with the promo video. I could Replicate the equipment but the actual data had to be carried along. I created a room inside Blackjack Six to keep some data in the Mecha. The land train was out of sight for the moment.

We played the improved promo video, showcasing some testimonials from people on the streets, part of a tram ride that went through a tunnel of greenery, and the kids going to school. I also showed some footage of the teenagers riding on their giant Raindrops Mecha and our fight against a Jabberwock.

All that against a backdrop of baying and growling Infernali that were still fighting my Valkyrie. Some people were watching her fight through binoculars.

"Can you cleanse the streets of Infernali?" She asked me.

"Easily. Do I have your permission to use my powers here? I can have all of them gone from the metropolitan area in a week. And in another week, I'll make sure no demon ever sets foot in this city again. But you have to promise me you'll let anyone who wants to move to Speranza go. We will show them the video and let them make their choice."

"And what if I say no? What about the people who betrayed you? Will you hunt them?"

"They are irrelevant. A bunch of level seventy people can't even scratch my armor. Much less hinder my plans. If you keep them out of my sight, I will ignore them."

"Are you willing to swear that before the System?"

"Sure. If they keep themselves away from what I have to replace normal sight, they will be unharmed. And if they do, you won't put that against me. A quarter of our levels. This oath will not be valid if 25% of your levels do not grant me at least a single one."

"If they don't, then let me lose enough levels to give you one." She scoffed.

"Agreed," I replied. We shook hands to those terms, sealing them through the System. Immediately after, I killed all the deserters.

"They are all dead. They were seen by me."

She jumped away and drew her sword. "You betrayed me!"

"No. The System hadn't punished me. I'm a Dungeon. I can see everything around me."

She swung. I didn't move. The sword shattered against Blackjack Six's armor without leaving even a scratch or dent. I was glad Róta wasn't around to see that.

"You killed them!" She screamed.

"Yes. They were traitors. Their lives were forsaken the moment they broke their oaths. I didn't break any of mine."

"You cheated!"

"No. You entered an agreement without enough information. You thought you knew everything about me. That was your undoing. And now, you broke your own oath."

 

> Melinda Pastor broke an oath and lost 37 levels. You were compensated with 16,000 Exp.

 

The woman fell to her knees. "I lost a Sub-Class," she gasped. Then she started to weep.

I found that odd. Larry violently slapped his tail against my Core, doing zero damage. "You fruity moron! She was in love with one of your deserters!"

Oh.

Oh. That explained a lot.

"Are you weeping because I killed your paramour?" I asked with my monotonic emotionless robot voice. I only had one.

Larry slapped me again with his tail, then clawed at his own face. "You have thousands of points of Intelligence. Use them."

She screamed and wailed. People watched us, clearly uncomfortable but also unwilling to leave.

I went back to the woman... Melinda. "Take my hand. Believe in me. I deliver punishment to sinners and rewards to believers. Abandon this world of strife and become a new person."

She snarled. Well, can't blame me for trying, but plants aren't social creatures. Then she attacked again. Her fists almost struck my chest armor. Almost, because...

A white flaming blur went past my senses. Róta had flown up and into the room through a window. The Valkyrie stopped on the other side of the room with a flaming sword in her hand, straight past Melinda's... corpse. The head of the woman hit the ground a second after that.

"BLASPHEMY!" The Valkyrie shouted as the corpse's heart sent a spray of blood up like a fountain and finally remembered it should fall. With her eyes literally on fire, she stared at the people trembling in fear around us. "You will respect my Lord, or you will suffer the same fate as that woman!"

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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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