Incrementum

by

Countabbot

Chapter 17 - Francine - Present

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I sit down on the top of my raised hill in the middle of Athens, the first town in my budding empire, and take a deep breath, smelling the faint hints of ocean salt, pine and freshly turned dirt. The smells are refreshing, much better than the flavored scents masking decades of oil and metal layered in modern cities outside of Incrementum.

I’ve had enough money to go anywhere on earth for the last two decades, but even that money could not make a wilderness like the one surrounding Athens come back from the dead. This digital transportation, that allows my consciousness to reside in a brand new world, free from the trappings of modern society by utilizing those very technologies, bends my mind, not painfully, but in a new, glorious way, like when you finally discover the answer to a problem you’ve been struggling with for a week.

I take a deep breath and let it out, looking at the barely visible water vapor solidify in the night air. I mentally pat myself on the back again for insisting we build each family's home first while smoothing the bunches in my long homespun wool dress. Resource production is very important but so is morale.

My chest feels warm, not from my clothing but from my pride. We built all of this from nothing. No machinery, no factories; just our hands, simple tools, and determination. The work ethic of these villagers astounds me. Perhaps it’s just the game skills I’ve unlocked or winning the AI lottery when my villagers were allotted, but what my people accomplish every day inspires me.

It’s becoming harder to remember that the townspeople are just programs in a machine. When I see Raul and Valeria lock warm smiling eyes over plates of forest chicken, laughing at another inappropriate joke from Carl Sr., I don’t feel like I’m having a meal with computers. It seems like eating with my dearest human friends. Their love echoes in the cave inside of me, not filling, but at least livening where James’s daily presence once was.

And Null wants to try and take all of this away from me. The thought kept me up all last night. I never slept much, and a barely slept as I built Incrementum, but last night I slept not at all.

I see Gloria Jorgdaughter beating a red woven carpet against the side of her home at the base of my hill. She stops, eyes downcast as she glances my way before continuing on her quest to remove all dirt from the inside of her new home. I wonder if she wove that carpet here or brought it with her? Did Mary make it?

It has been only been a day since Null left the town, Mary Jorgdaughter in tow. I had to let him take her. What choice was there? It’s either that or sign everyone’s death warrant at the end of the week. It took me a half hour to answer the questions of the villagers after I called a town meeting. Gloria Jorgdaughter and her husband Feir slumped when I told them what happened to Mary. I could have taken angry, but the resignation, the defeat in their bodies on hearing an unknown man took their daughter cut me.

These people don’t stand up to abuse. They’ve known it for their whole lives, dealing with this God’s wrath or another God’s whimsy. I want to do better for them, for everyone here; instead I’ve left them defenseless and daughterless. I know Null will bring her back when he returns to confirm our blacksmith upgrades and my dedication to Enchantress. What I don’t know is if we can keep her alive when he finds out I’m not fulfilling any of his wishes and never planned to.

I look at my queue of notifications.

Ye Of Little Faith

Allowing an invader to take one of your homesteader’s children without even a fight upsets your people. Their minds are choked with fear. If you give up one, will you not give up another? Return Mary Jorgdaughter to her parents to allay their fears.

Effects:

-15% Productivity
-20% Loyalty

 

Congratulations! You have leveled up skill: Lead by Example (Level 2)

Working with your people at their respective jobs increases your people’s morale and regard for you as a leader, as well as inspiring them to work even harder.

Effects:

  • 10% increased loyalty from your laborers
  • 4% increased productivity.

 

Congratulations! You have leveled up skill:  Organize the Pack (Level 2)

Increases productivity of each townsperson by actively directing their efforts. Beware, this effect will fade by 25% each day you have not been seen by at least one townsperson directing and contributing to the town.

Effects:

  • 6% (3% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster resource gathering
  • 6% (3% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster building speed
  • 6% (3% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster production

Requirements:

  • Daily direction of your town. While the Cat is away the Mice will play.


The skill level ups are welcome but my productivity bonuses are completely negated by the
Ye of Little Faith effects. Damn. This changes my calculus. I need Mary back unharmed. I need Null Division on my team. I need to continue on my current building plans, not Null’s.

I have to figure out how deter him without force; or recruit enough players to fight him and quickly.

I refuse to put out any advertisements in the real world; leveraging my real world assets. James didn’t want to retire and build another Empire using the gains from our first business empire, he wanted to start from scratch. I know I technically went against that wish already by purchasing a Homesteader Package but that was the only way to pursue his dream at all in Incrementum, not a way to get an unfair advantage. And a game like Incrementum is the only place the Athenian Empire could exist.

That leaves me with the option of trusting Dan’s ability to recruit good people or trying to build some other defensive structures to prevent Null from massacring my people. Mitchell, seated beside me, continues on with his report.

“We are up to seven planted fields, thanks to Carl Sr. and his family. Matteus Larson continues to build with impressive speed, along with the other eight men and boys which we assigned to help him. That brings us to ten family homes, a Smith, Tavern, Tannery, Stables and our Weavery.”

I smile at his mention of the Tavern. Doc built the tavern in record time, referencing his past jobs as a contractor and day laborer several dozen times as I worked beside him. He conscripted Matteus and anyone else he could find to assemble the notched logs as fast as the lumber crew could chop them down. Doc kept prattling on about the virtues of this grain variety or that for the mash that starts his whiskey distilling process.

I look at the crudely carved name above the entrance to the tavern, Don’t Mess With Texas Saloon. No matter how hard you try to ignore Texas, there it is.

“Do you have the latest resource production numbers, Mitchell?”

“Yes, you should have all the latest numbers.”

It’s nice to have the game interface instead of having to rifle through the papers Mitchell gives me or verbally discuss the numbers over time. Thinking about the resources interface bring it into my view.

Resource

Stock

Gain Rate

Burn Rate

Grain

465

5/week

15/week

Vegetables

200

5/week

15/week

Meat

65

10/week

15/week

Wool

45

0

1/week

Leather

45

5/week

1/week

Lumber

35

10/week

5/week

Iron

23

0

1/week

Clay

23

0

1/week

Bronze

23

0

1/week

Silver

0

0

0

Gold

0

0

0

Unknown

     

Unknown

     

Unknown

     


“Do you think we will exceed our burn rate on Grain and Vegetables in the next week?”

“Unfortunately not, m’lady, I would expect it to even out in two to three weeks. Our meat production should only go up. Raul and Valeria are doing a great job hunting for boar and other meat rich animals. They are teaching several of the young men the skills of the huntsman. It has increased their own skills, yielding more successful hunts every day.”

That means I should be able to so support an increase in population soon but I’m still not sure how to go about that. I suspect the icon on my map labeled “Forest Settlement” leads to the opportunity to recruit the NPCs that reside at the settlement but I will not risk an excursion until my A-Team is fully functioning. And with this new threat from Null, I will probably not be able to explore at least until next week.

“You might not like this Mitchell but plan for doubling our population in two weeks. We must grow to handle any encroachments from visitors. We only have one more week before we are no longer protected and must deal with Null. Dan assures me he will have the fourth key piece for our elite defense team shortly -- hopefully that is enough to stop Null and retrieve Mary. Please make sure everyone knows I am doing what I can for the Jorgdaughters, but Athen’s progress can and must continue.”

Mitchell ducks his head and says, “Very well, m'lady. As I have told you before, we need to complete a Sawmill and a Clay Workshop in order to support a larger population, given that we do not yet have a rock quarry. We need the Clay Workshop for Piping and Sewers to support bigger houses as well as more of them without causing disease to spread. The Clay Workshop will be simple to build.”

“We need the Sawmill to produce planed lumber without using hand tools. With the advanced lumber we can build a better Family Home, Farm, Weavery, Tannery and Stables. To complete the Sawmill, Norman has to work a day, maybe several days on crafting the circular saw blade you showed us. That will consume at least five units of our iron reserve.”

I nod my head. We had discussed it in the days prior while waiting for the Stables and Tannery to be completed. If I invested Norman’s time into improving his own tools and forge he could increase the Blacksmith to level 2, which would allow us to make important gains on defense and offense as well as partially appease Null, but it would slow down our population gain plans dramatically by delaying the Sawmill and Clay Workshop. I discovered the game interface stored all the information about my current buildings, their limitations and the opportunity to upgrade them in the “Town” tab of my management interface.

Building

Count

Current Level

Next Level Unlocks

Next Level Requires

Family Home

10

1

Family Manor

Sawmill

Blacksmith

1

1

Armory

Town Wall
Weavery Level 2

Glassblower

None

Farm

1

1

Grainery

Sawmill

Stables

1

1

Mounted patrols

Tannery Level 2
Sawmill

Tannery

1

1

Leather armor
Saddles

Sawmill

Weavery

1

1

Loom

Sawmill

Barracks

0

0

Archery

Practice Ground

None

Glassblower Workshop

0

0

Temple Level 2

Blacksmith Level 2

Temple

0

0

None

None

Armory

0

0

 

Blacksmith Level 2

Piping

0

0

Baths

Family Manor

Clay Workshop

Sewers

0

0

Family Manor

Clay Workshop

Clay Workshop

0

0

Piping
Sewers

None

Family Manor

0

0

 

Family Home Level 2

Sewers

Piping

Quarry

Sawmill

0

0

Farm Level 2

Tannery Level 2

Weavery Level 2

Stables

None


“Mitchell, please have Sopha and the rest of the Karlson clan stop logging and start working on the Sawmill. They have already logged more than we can use. With Matteus’s help for building and Norman’s help for forging the saw blade and table, I hope they can finish it within a few days. Speak with the other families to see who is best suited for running and building the Clay Workshop. Perhaps whoever helped make the clay oven for our original forge plates. Please direct me to assist them if that will complete it faster. Now are there any other pressing issues?”

“You are forgetting something, we are building this circular saw you drew for us -- a brilliant invention no doubt -- but how does it spin?”

I close my eyes and rub them. How could I have made such a mistake? I never miss details like this, ever.

“I apologize Mitchell. I’m overtaxed. We will need another structure, a water wheel. I will draw the designs. The basic idea is that the river spins a large wooden wheel that has buckets all along the outside of it. The buckets get caught in the water, which forces the wheel to turn. The wheel has a log bolted to its middle, so that when the wheel turns, the log turns. At the other end of the log, is an iron gear...”

Mitchell raises his hand. “This is beyond me Lady Francine. It is sufficient to know that we will need more iron work, timber and manpower.”

I nod my head. “Yes, it will likely be another several days of Norman’s time perfecting the parts, and several more days of Matteus’s time constructing the water wheel. The benefit to us, will be a much faster rate of lumber production.”

I shade my eyes from the early morning glare, noticing a welcome distraction in the form of a dirt plume off to the west, the wispy cloud the only thing obstructing the yellow and reds of the sunrise out past our farm fields.

I stand up and tell Mitchell, “Get to it. Looks like Dan might be back with the answer to our problems.”

Walking past the family homes, and planted fields I review the same offer I made to Doc and Leonard. Profit sharing, free time, free food, free board and goods at cost, unrestricted access. It should be a gamer’s dream if they realize how much the profit sharing could be worth.

Dan’s cart stops several meters from me. He hops down, dusting off his brown leather pants before approaching. I look into his eyes and he shakes his head slightly, making a stop motion with one hand, and then a talking mouth motion. I take it to mean I shouldn’t lead with my offer to the other occupant of the cart and we would talk soon as to why. I glare at Dan, I don’t have time to wait.

As a giant woman steps down from the driver’s bench, I cannot help but raise my eyebrows at her physique. I sincerely doubt her body back on earth looks anything like this. Perhaps the exact opposite, but her shapely hips, calves, broad shoulders and perfectly symmetrical face are a sight to behold. Her long brown hair is pulled back from her face. The glowing white knitted sweater she is wearing makes me want to hug her, which is extremely odd because I do not hug.

What’s stranger is her lack of armor. I specifically instructed Dan to recruit a tank. Tanks wear armor. Who is going to distract and absorb blows from Null’s giant sword? Tiny Leonard with his daggers? Doc the giant flaming teddy bear? The giant staff strapped to her back does not appear to be a shield. And who knows what the skull belted to her waist -- the one looking at me and the town behind me -- signifies. I can feel a vein in my forehead throb when the skull speaks, “Why, call me a dunce and put me in the corner, what a lovely town. And look at all the lovely humans walking to and froe, I’m sure I could get a quick snack off one of them, perhaps take them along for a quick bite and then a little sacrifice once we get to Chronos’s cave.”

The giantess shakes her head. “No sacrifices, no human snacks Bonesy. So, this is Brighthollow Dan? Not much to look at. Who’s this?” She asks, not moving forward to shake my hand, as her eyes lock with mine. I can feel my face still and my mouth moves into a flat line. Did she just insult Athens? That is not a polite way to introduce yourself. Let alone her pet skull threatening to eat and sacrifice my people. What has Dan done?

Dan glances at me and tries to salvage the situation. He learned to read my facial expressions well over the years. “Samantha, this is my employer, Francine. In Incrementum, she is known as Lady Francine the Sharp. Francine, this is Samantha, and her questionable companion Bonesy. Don’t pay him any mind, we don’t.”

Samantha claps her down over Bonesy’s jaw. I hear muffled sounds coming from between her fingers. I continue to stare at Samantha. She shuffles her feet after several seconds of the uncomfortable silence.

“Um, nice to meet you? Dan said you are looking for partners?”

I can’t take it anymore and turn to Dan, raising my voice slightly.

“Was something unclear Dan? I specifically instructed you to find a tank for our Elites. Instead, I see a staff wielding giantess with only a sweater as protection. Beyond that, her familiar, or whatever that creature is, is threatening my people. I already had one visitor this week threatening to destroy Athens -- I don’t need another disaster on my hands! I trust your work but this is deeply troubling. Please tell me there is a good reason for this.”

Dan’s mouth turns down as I speak and Samantha’s eyes widen.

“Threats? Someone threatened us? Look, I know Samantha is unconventional, and that skull should likely be thrown in the river but she can work Francine. She’s quite agile with that staff and has already discovered several skills that I think will allow for our A-team to gain levels rapidly. We just need to experiment with a few new tactics...” Dan says.

My vision is narrowing and I can hear my heartbeat speed up. I know this means I probably shouldn’t speak until I’ve calmed down but I just can’t control my passion sometimes. It’s a fault I’ve come to understand over the years and I don’t try to fight it this time.

“A tank. I requested a tank. My plan demands a tank. Do you understand what is about to happen, Dan? In one week’s game time Athens will be raidable by any player. The any player part doesn’t matter because there is already one very powerful, very motivated player who is likely to destroy the town all by himself. Our strategy of starting in the corner of the known world has failed, and I’m staring at our other strategy’s cornerstone and it appears to be riddled with holes.” I take a deep breath and say, “A God has placed a price on our heads. We will be attacked and your task, the task of gathering the A-Team, is our only defense against the coming trials. And forgive me, I know I’m upset right now, but to me it appears as if you have failed. This girl -- and she is obviously a girl otherwise she would have had the graces to introduce herself to me like an adult -- is not a tank. She is some sort of monk or priest or whatever other hair brained archetype that took her fancy.” I notice I have my index finger pointing at Samantha. I must be mad, I only start pointing when I’m really ,ad.

I look at Samantha. “I am sorry, Samantha, but please forget whatever Dan has told you. We do not require your services.”

I fix Dan with my gaze again. “My people, the innocent, hard-working citizens of Athenia require protectors, not girls playing dress up and skulls with a taste for flesh. Get back out there immediately and find us a tank before we are all destroyed.”

I stop and take several deep breaths. Samantha is still looking at me with a wide open mouth and her hand absently covering the skull’s jawbone. She blinks, turns to Dan and says, “Bye Dan” before turning around and heading for the treeline to the north.

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Countabbot

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