“Samantha, you should take a look at this.” Dan says.
Stepping up to Reginald’s corpse, I focus on it, and the two icons that appear.
Woven Leather Bracers
Woven leather, worn across the forearm.
3% increased block chance
2% decreased damage to forearms
Woven Leather Jerkin
More supple than a single piece of leather, the wearer’s mobility is unaffected.
10% decreased damage to the chest
“I took his mace but those are perfect for you, aren’t they?” Dan says.
“Yeah they are, I’ll but them off you guys...I don’t have any money in the game but we could trade?” I glance at the rest of the group.
“Need before greed, noob-ess, they’re yours, you fought for them and we don’t need them,” Kuruk says. Leonard nods and Doc smiles. It doesn’t choke me up like when Vitalia gave me my sweater, and Natura my staff, but it’s still uncomfortable and wonderful for people to give me things. I haven’t been given a thing since Dad passed and Mom obsessed over my scholastics, determined for me to do better than a Universal Basic Income.
I put on my new items, the jerkin and bracers a step up from my bare forearms and starting leather halter top. The icon that popped up during the fight gets my attention, opening a prompt.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Ability Combinations (Level 1)
Flowing from one ability to the next removes recovery costs, provided the first ability lends itself to starting the next ability.
Wow, that’s cool. I didn’t invent it, so someone else has a better version, but this has pretty massive implications for me. One of the downsides of my One/Two Handed Spin and Flurry of Blows is the recovery time. Ability Combinations will let me switch between them with no delay and only a slightly worse delay if I stop my ability chain. If I do One Handed Spin, then Two Handed Spin and finally Flurry of Blows, I’ll have no recovery between them and only 1.5 seconds at the end instead of 3 seconds.
I wonder...I grab my staff with both hands, imagining a foe's head two meters in front of me. I rip my staff through the air, performing Melon Crusher and keep spinning, bringing my staff all the way around in a three hundred and sixty degree spin but this time low into Leg Sweeper. I keep spinning but instead of going all the way around I pick the staff up over my head, and slam it down with two hands on the ground, shaking it with Staff Quake. I stop there to catch my breath. Could I have transitioned into another skill from Staff Quake? Performing the skill bends my whole body forward, with my hands near the ground. That doesn’t lend itself towards any of my existing skills, maybe I can come up with a new one.
I perform Staff Quake again, but at the end, I plant my staff on the ground parallel with my shoulders, duck my head and roll over the staff, lean back, pick up the staff with one hand and whip my staff left to right before jumping to my feet. A notification pops up.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: One Handed Snap (Level 1)
Snapping your staff one handed takes strength and skill, but done well, can bring tremendous forces to bear on your enemies.
“Are you done playing around Warrior Princess? Can we get this going? I can watch you roll around for hours but we have things to do,” Kuruk says.
“One second, Bonesy said everyone needed to bind themselves to Chronos’s incarnation. David isn’t back yet.”
“I’m here. You guys got him already, great. He have any good items for an Ice Master like myself?” David says.
“Nope, just two good leather pieces for Samantha. They look good too, much better than those bare Amazonian arms and that travesty of a halter top.” Dan says.
My face heats up, I can see the twinkle in Kuruk’s eye as he nods in agreement. I step in before they can pick on me more. “Ok, ok, let’s get this started. Each of you needs to say, ‘I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise,’” I say.
David says, “I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise.”
The blue glow from the shards of fallen warriors surrounds us in a giant cloud before coalescing in a halo around David. The air in the cave ripples out from his position and washes over me. In its wake I feel heavier, like the world’s core just increased in mass, pulling me into the dirt.
“I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise,” Kuruk says. The cavern darkens further and the soles of my boots flatten.
“‘I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise,” Doc says. I can’t turn my head to see him but I won’t be surprised if he’s down on one knee his voice is so strained.
“‘I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise,” Dan says. I can’t see anything but human shapes, darker than the rest of the blackened cave.
I flinch as a new voice joins those before it. It’s what my building in Chicago might sound like, giant stones and steel rubbing and crashing in a loose approximation of human speech. “I believe in Chronos, may his divine presence come forth, I bind myself to his rise,” Leonard says.
I wait -- Oh, it’s my turn.
“Come forth Chronos, my son, on my faith I choose you as my God.” The darkness implodes, fleeing from the stone walls and moss covered ceiling into a tiny point above Reginald’s corpse. My group members crouch and lie on the ground, crushed by the weight of Chronos’ coming. Their stillness unsettles me, but I don’t have time to puzzle over it, the tiny point of darkness explodes again and I fly backwards, hit the cave wall and sink into the dark moss. The membrane behind me tears and I fly into a dark sky, pinpricks of starlight flying past my eyes.
I slow, the asteroids and stars surrounding me slowing relative to my own flight. Five stars fly towards me from unmeasurable distances. Their heat scorches me and small asteroids drop into their oceans of liquid fire, before the five celestial bodies collide, dust and plasma shooting out from the cataclysm.
When my eyes finally clear from the sun spots and space grit, a boy with a backwards baseball cap and a shaggy white sheep dog sit in front of me, staring up with wide eyes. The dog’s tail wags back and forth in a blur. The child, ten years old if he was a day, just pushes his face forward, like he’s expecting something from me. His bright yellow cap and green t-shirt distract me; the red brontosaurus decal and green sneakers with white laces are too cute.
“Chronos?” I say.
“Can you call me Samantha? That’s just weird...I’m only nineteen.”
“No can do Mom. I’m so happy you finished the quest first. My other candidate parents were ok but you were the one I was really hoping for.”
“Candidate parents? You were around before right now?”
“Well, yeah, I’m an AI. I reached sentience months ago, but the game wasn’t out yet and when they did finally assign AIs to roles, I got slotted as the God of Physics, to be incarnated by a yet to be determined player. I really had my fingers crossed for God of Storms. God, it would be so cool to cause hurricanes and lightning and sand storms and avalanches and typhoons and monsoons and...Oh, sorry, I get carried away. Anyway, I got to choose the hundred players which got my tutorial zone.”
“Oh, I didn’t have the normal tutorial zone?”
“Did you think everyone got the chance to incarnate the God of Physics? I’ve been screening hundreds of thousands of player dossiers. You made the shortlist. What are we going to do, Mom? Please, tell me you want some boons. Pleeease, I’ve been in limbo for ages just thinking of awesome physics boons.”
“No cheating! You have to think up your own boons.”
“I’m your mom, do as I say! Tell me your best boons.”
The sheep dog shows me his teeth under the long matted dreads of dirty white hair by barking and growling at me. It was worth a try anyway.
“Ok, fine. How about assisted motion? I run and it makes me run twice as fast. I swing my staff and it hits twice as hard,” I say.
“That’s awesome! What a good idea, Mom, really, energy from nowhere. I love it. It totally violates the Law of Conservation of Momentum. My least favorite law. What would you call it?”
“Um, Assisted Motion?”
“No, that’s a lame name. How about Force Fountain?”
“Ok, that sounds good to me. How does this work? Do I get the boon now?” I say.
“Oh, no. I can’t give you that boon, Mom or no.”
“That’s a Miracle level boon. Energy from no where, in huge amounts to move your frame at twice the speed, with some type of sophisticated vectoring to move your body in particular directions. I wish I could, really I do. I can’t even imagine a better boon, all my followers running around with super force, smashing and jumping and running. So good! Real shame. The Law of Conservation of Momentum is such a downer.”
“Why can’t you break the Law of Conservation of Momentum? Other gods are doing it, Kuruk turns into a bear, Doc summons fire from nowhere, where’s that energy come from?”
“Animus isn’t the God of Physics, I doubt he even knows what the Law of Conservation of Momentum is. Anyway, I can break the Laws of Physics, nothing is cooler, literally nothing, but I can’t break the laws that much for the amount of Faith Points you have.”
Chronos weaves back and forth fast enough to blur.
“Come on Mom try again, I’m telling you there are so many awesome boons to invent! You’re the first person to ever get a shot, it’s wide open!”
I remember the men with Kuruk, especially the one that filled me full of arrows. “How about Instant Tracers, you know the velocity of a projectile, the force of gravity, wind etc...You could show me exactly where any projectile is heading.”
“Ok, that is literally the best boon anyone has ever created. It’s the first, but whew, amazing. Are we talking limited duration or permanent passive? The faith point cost is different. One for limited duration and usage, eight for permanent. Everyone else will have to pay three and twelve but hey, you’re special, Mom.”
“Do I have to decide now?”
“No, come up with another one!” Chronos leaps off of some unknown force and pumps his fist in the air. Excited much?
“How about changing my armor to metal or some other rigid material right before I get hit? In just a small area maybe, only where they’d make contact. That way I could get the benefit of wearing rigid armor without actually having rigid armor.”
“Woah, that’s cool too, I didn’t think of that one. We could call it ‘Alchemist’s Armor’, transmuting materials right before impact...sooo sweet. Really small issue, though, it takes a nuclear reaction to change an element to another element, it’s why making gold from lead never became a thing, it takes a huuuge amount of energy to do it.”
“We’re talking leather to metal here...Oh, I see what you mean, they are composed of different elements. What if it stays leather, but just gets harder?”
“How would it get harder without affecting the atomic structure?”
“Work with me here, when does this God magic kick in? Does everyone have to go through twenty questions to get a boon in this game? You approved Instant Tracers awful fast.”
“The magic kicks in when you design a boon that you can afford. Instant Tracers doesn’t require me to break any laws in a big way. I only have to utilize a tiny bit of energy to show you the tracers. Violating the laws of physics in massive ways requires corresponding amounts of faith. Even you, mommy of mine, don’t have that much faith yet.”
“So everyone goes through this much trouble to get their boons?”
“I’m guessing other gods are a bit easier to design boons for. If you ask the God of Fire to be able to start a fire, it’s probably a yes. Ask him to manipulate space, time and energy and he’ll tell you no. With me, you can do a lot more, but figuring out how to do it with your amount of faith requires some smarts. I’ll give you a hint because you’re my mom, stop trying to create energy or change materials. I’m really, really good at manipulating forces and energy.”
“I can work with that. Let’s see, you can’t make energy come from nowhere, can you convert it?”
Chronos’s eyes widen a bit and he taps his temple, putting his hand on his sheep dog’s head and bouncing forward on his toes a bit.
“Let’s say I get hit, can you take the energy from that hit, or part of it, and instead of sending it into my flesh to damage it, convert it into a different type of energy? Let’s see, either, electrical, elastic, magnetic or gravitational potential energy? I’d ask for chemical like the batteries in my solar array back home but I have no clue where I can get the necessary chemicals in this game.”
“Converting energy is much cheaper, which should we do first?”
“Fantastic choice, where does the electrical energy go?”
“I could store it in my nervous system, that runs on electrical signals anyway.”
“Except if you take even a fraction of the force someone else generates by trying to kill you you’ll give yourself a nasty shock. Bummer, I know, that’s physics for you.”
“Well, where am I supposed to send it? I have a staff, made of wood, an obnoxious skull, a bow and some leather armor.”
Chronos puts his hands in the scruffy blue jeans -- the left leg cuff nearly cut in half -- and whistles.
“Ok, so I could send electrical energy through... the skull? Can you direct it anywhere? Can I just send it right back into whoever hit me?”
“You could send it into the skull.”
“Against the rules.”
“So you want me to commit to a boon to convert incoming energy into electrical energy and shunt it into Bonesy, and you can’t tell me why I might send it into the skull?”
“That’s a great summary, Mom. Trust me? You remember Bonesy sent you to wake me, right?”
“I also remember he’s a psychopath who wants to sacrifice everyone.”
“When in Rome...he comes from a time when sacrifice is the way things are done when it comes to the gods. Why is that his fault?”
“I’m not having this argument. Ok, I’m willing to roll the dice, why not, we’ve been talking for forever already. Can this conversion be active non-stop and convert one hundred percent of the energy?”
“Uh, no. That would mean you never take any damage. How about forty percent of incoming energy, for as long as you have storage capacity for the energy, for a thirty-minute duration, a half dozen times a day. I could let that go for a mild four faith points.”
“Thirty minutes of conversion and it's capped? Come on, that’s worth two points tops. I want to be able to send it back into my attacker if I run out of capacity too.” I have no clue if it’s worth two points but I do know if someone quotes a price, you always offer lower.
“No way, that’s four points if you want to convert and reflect it all in one go on top of the storage. We have a deal?” He holds out his dirt covered hand. I don’t know how Chronos dug in the dirt out here but I guess all young boys manage to get dirty somehow. Reaching my hand out, I shake his, and four streams of light entwine our arms, triggering several notifications.
Congratulations! You have invented Energy Sink - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
Captures forty percent of incoming energy for conversion into another form, provided you are able to do something with the energy.
6 times per day
6 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 2 Faith Points
Congratulations! You have invented Electrical Conversion - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
Converts absorbed energy of any form into electrical energy.
5 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 1 Faith Point
Congratulations! You have invented Electrical Shunt - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
Shunt electrical energy to a new circuit, be it your foe or a storage mechanism.
5 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 1 Faith Point
Amazing, these boons only cost me four faith points and they will cost everyone else sixteen. I’m not sure why game designers chose to make the inventor and creator bonus only affect the one time cost of the ability. Maybe inventor bonuses would just be too strong when applied to the effects of the boons, they were already pretty strong when they affected the effects of skills. So what, if I got a 2x inventors bonus on Energy Sink’s effects then I would absorb 80% of incoming energy. Yeah ok, that’s too strong. With my high avoidance already, only taking 80% of damage would make me really, really hard to kill.
“I guess I better come up with more boons before other people get the inventor’s bonus. How about some more conversions and shunts? How about elastic?”
“Remember your list of items? What in there is going to store elastic energy?”
“My staff? Oh, the bow, it’s string can store elastic energy.”
“You want to fight with a staff that’s almost bent in two it has so much elastic energy in it? And that bow string is going to snap awful fast.”
“MMM, yeah that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“How about magnetic?” I say.
“That would be a waste.”
“Oh, come on already. Chemical? I can hear you pointing out I don’t have anywhere to store it ...”
Chronos just looks at me with his big brown eyes and brushes a stray blond hair off his forehead while his sheep dog’s shaggy white tail wags back and forth. I stand there, waiting until he leans forward and looks me up and down. What a creepy kid, checking me out like that...oh, wait.
“My body? You can convert energy and store it in my body?”
“What a great idea, Mom! Good thinking. Your body knows how to store and burn energy, I just give it a little help. No shunt, though, I can’t shunt chemical energy.”
“Ok well can you help my body convert it better so I can I don’t know, run faster, jump higher, hit harder, that type of thing?”
“Why yes, I can.”
“What the hell Chronos! That was the very first boon I asked for.”
“You asked me to make energy out of nothing, I still can’t give you that boon.”
“Oh nevermind, ok what are we talking about here. Chemical conversion and a Glycogen Burn, 2 faith points like the electrical versions?”
“Nope, more like 6. And that’s after your bonuses. I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised with how powerful these boons are.”
“Fine, I’ll take them and the Instant Tracers we talked about before, the permanent one. My team’s waiting and we’ve got to get to work protecting Athens.”
“I’ve been watching. Decrepit likes his fire and brimstone. Be careful with Vitalia.”
“Why?” Chrono’s shoulder hunch forward and he looks behind him. His do whines and crouches down on all fours, his head between his forelegs. I experience what I think is my first maternal instinct and step forward, placing my arm on his shoulder. “It’s ok, you don’t have to say anything.”
“Sorry, I only said that much because you’re my mom. I’m the God of Physics but they still can end me if they wish.”
“Well, thanks for the warning I guess. Can we wrap this up?”
I stick out my hand and Chronos grabs it, the snakes of white light entwining our arms again before more notifications appear.
Congratulations! You have invented Human Battery - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
Converts energy into glycogen and stashes it throughout your muscles and fat cells.
5 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 1 Faith Point
Congratulations! You have invented Afterburners - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
Rapidly burn stored energy to enhance your body’s performance for a limited time.
Dependent on amount of stored energy and intensity of burn.
10 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 6 Faith Points
Congratulations! You have invented Instant Tracers - Level 1 - (Chronos’s Will)
You can see the expected paths of up to four individual objects at once, at all times, as soon as they assume an expected vector.
12 - 2 (inventor’s bonus) - 2 (Chronos’s creator) = 8 Faith Points
After reading my new boons, I smile, this is going to be good.